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The best of Left Futures in 2013

Thatcher & Union Jack PosterAnother year, another decent conference speech from Ed Miliband, an entirely needless battle with the unions, a false recovery from Gideon, and the deaths of two of history’s most significant figures. Left Futures has also once again gone from strength to strength to strength. 2013 in fact saw over 100,000 more visits than the previous year, so we thought we’d share the most popular below:

Top of the list is Jilly Luke’s critique of media narratives on the deserving and undeserving poor. It prompted a fiery response from Jack Monroe, the popular food blogger who was mentioned in the article. Several days after, we published this follow-up piece from our editor, Jon Lansman. The debate continued to rage, with Richard Seymour at the Guardian arguing that ultimately, Jilly was “bang on the money”.

The bedroom tax was the subject of a massive campaign of protest and direct action this year – and quite rightly too, as the Labour party did not commit to repealing it until September’s conference. That they got there in the end is a result of the huge pressure exerted by activists both inside and outside of the party. Sometimes, it seems, massive unpopularity is not enough to convince the party leadership. Our second most popular article was Jon Lansman’s run-through of various demonstrations against the tax.

2013 will probably also be remembered as the year of the food bank. As the state has washed its hands of responsibility for society, just like in Victorian England, the poor have become reliant once again on charity. Michael Meacher wrote this powerful article on “The re-emergence of absolute poverty in Britain”, dealing in both statistics and heartbreaking first-hand accounts.

In at number four from Ruari Lynch, this worrying account of the antics of Milton Keynes Labour candidate Andrew Pakes. He made a cheap caricature of working class shop stewards he had met in the West Midlands, and ridiculed their “Noddy Holder accents”. His supporters on Twitter said Pakes only laid into them because they were in the Socialist Workers Party. We think class prejudice is unacceptable, no matter to what use it is put. “Milton Keynes just became a target for the SWP,” quipped the Guardian’s Hugh Muir.

Back to Michael Meacher for number five, and one of his biggest campaigns has been against the brutal and fatal work capability assessments that the government has subjected disabled people to – via the private contractor ATOS. Hits soared when activists won in the courts.

And at number six is, yes, you guessed it, another worrying account from a Labour Students political weekend, and fairly recently too. Michael White recounts how Labour Students hacks bullied delegates to join party-within-a-party Progress. Nice!

Now, she wasn’t as popular as some of these subjects above, but we couldn’t forget about Margaret Thatcher altogether. Here’s a piece from Bryan Gould on something that has yet to die: her legacy and influence over British politics. When we’re free of that, then we’ll celebrate.

And then… well, 2013 was also the year that the extent to which our work culture is dominated by zero-hour contracts came to light. So check out some compelling first hand accounts from regular contributors Megan Davies and Holly Ashby. Professor Keith Ewing of King’s College London then set out to propose some solutions.

And we couldn’t forget the books. Patrick Diamond and Phil Burton-Cartledge both gave glowing appraisals of Michael Meacher’s new volume The State We Need, from very different perspectives. Frances Docx was impressed by a short Brazilian novel called K, which dealt with the “disappeared” of the 1970s. Mark Perryman has continued to give his regular round-ups of political and sport books: most recently here. Jack Dunleavy says the man on the way up is one Sergio de la Pava.

So here’s to another year of covering Labour party machinations, our political culture, the best books and everything else we give time to here. If you’d like to write for us in 2014, let us know.  Happy new year.

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