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For Labour to succeed it must get real

red labourThe Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and later developed into a federal structure of local constituency parties, trades and Labour councils, and socialist societies. The link with the trade unions has always been under attack, either legislatively by successive Tory governments, or by the right wing of the Labour Party.

As we move into a period of post-election examination of the reasons for Labour’s loss — despite having had five years of austerity under the coalition government — there are those who think the way back for Labour is to move further from the centre ground, and that the election campaign was too “left wing.”

Ed Miliband tried very hard and certainly presented a very convincing argument on zero-hours contracts, rights at work, the Health and Social Care Act as well as abolishing the non-dom status on taxation.

The party’s ill-advised and unpleasant journey into the territory of immigration certainly was very harmful in the many inner-city constituencies and in areas where Ukip were pushing very hard — it actually fed into the ridiculous arguments, being advanced by Farage and others, that immigration was the cause of all problems.

The left votes in the election as a whole were either for Labour or for the Greens (who secured a million votes), with very few for left parties such as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Tusc).

The Greens presented an anti-austerity image, which undoubtedly attracted some support by those disillusioned with the prospect of a Labour government that would implement an austerity package to rebalance the debt within one parliament — albeit with significant changes in some areas of policy.

There’s no question that we also lost votes to Ukip regarding the general cynism of politicians, which has been an increasing factor in public life for a long time.

In Scotland the SNP also presented an anti-austerity message even though their financial proposals for fiscal independence would appear to mean there would be even greater cuts in Scotland than there currently are.

In the new parliament the Tories have launched themselves with a flourish, attacking in the Queen’s speech trade union rights, the supply of council housing and reducing the benefit cap even further which will have a devastating effect on high rent costs in inner city areas.

The idea that anyone renting in London can afford to pay more than they already do is unthinkable.

This parliament will also be expected to vote on the replacement of the Trident nuclear missile system in 2016 thus committing £100bn of public money on our very own WMD.

London’s anti-austerity march and demonstration on June 20 is expected to be huge. Many on that march will not necessarily have voted Labour in the election, but certainly would not have wished to see the Tories in action, nor a continuation of the economic strategy of the last five years.

Much is made in the analysis of the election of “aspiration” and this is usually defined by the armchair commentators as being an individual rather than a collective phenomenon.

Maybe it’s time that we dedicated ourselves much more to ending the gross inequality in Britain, the homeless and housing crisis, and the need for a million people to use foodbanks just to survive.

We should never be ashamed or afraid to stand up for the poorest and most marginalised. That, after all is what brought socialists and trade unionists together.

Let us dispense with inappropriate words like “handouts” in this debate. Welfare is a right that is about each and everyone one of us being housed, educated, fed and kept in good health — the hallmarks of a civilised society.

This article previously appeared in the Morning Star


  1. Iain gillespie says:

    We live in Morley ,Ed balls one time constituency, here a one time Labour councillor ,now standing as a independent was actively promoting the Tory candidate, which I’m sure went a long way to the loss of eds seat.
    The reasons why he was promoting such a ridiculous move I acan only speculate on.

  2. David Pavett says:

    I agree with much that Jeremy Corbyn says. In particular his points about renting in London, and Trident seem to me to be established on very strong arguments made in many different places by people arguing from different viewpoints.

    I am also glad that JC is standing in the leadership contest. His purpose, as I understand it, is to inject issues into the debate that might otherwise be missing. That is worth doing even if we all know that he is not going to be the next leader.

    All the same I have doubts about some of the things that he says. For example he shows the characteristic left-wing inability to talk about immigration objectively. Yes, of course it is something that the right try to capitalise on. But that does not mean that the left should simply dismiss it as a non-problem.

    Jeremy C says

    The party’s ill-advised and unpleasant journey into the territory of immigration certainly was very harmful in the many inner-city constituencies and in areas where Ukip were pushing very hard — it actually fed into the ridiculous arguments, being advanced by Farage and others, that immigration was the cause of all problems.

    It is true that Labour’s “journey” into the immigration debate was opportunistic and even ugly (just thing of the “control immigration” mug).

    But does that mean that there is no problem to be discussed? Jeremy Corbyn seems to think so.

    That leaves the impression that he thinks that all immigration at any time and for whatever reason is a good thing and that no control is needed. In other words it means that in terms of population movement the free market must be allowed to rule supreme.

    That is a position that, it seems to me, anyone who thinks about it for a bit is not going to accept. The left needs to break out of this self-imposed straitjacket in which what the right says determines what the left can or cannot say. We need to be able to discuss each issue on its merits and the idea that the net transfer of population into the UK of a quarter to a third of a million immigrants each year is not a problem is simply absurd. Of course it is a problem. Maybe it is resolvable without tighter border controls and maybe it isn’t but to pretend that it is not even a problem to be discussed is to betray a lack of contact with reality that undermines the credibility of the left.

    This inability of the left to break free from sloganised thinking and to enter into the details of the problems in question is something that it needs to put behind it.

    Jeremy Corbyn has declared his support for the EU doctrine of the free movement of labour. I think we should discuss the extent to which this is the natural counterpart of the parallel doctrine of the free movement of capital and that both should be discussed in a critical manner and not as if they were some natural result of our “human rights”.

    So Jeremy Corbyn’s entry into the leadership stakes is a good thing but let us not take that to mean that we should not question the things that he says. All candidates need to be subject to critical examination whatever our personal preferences.

  3. David Ellis says:

    I’m not sure what is worse cynical realism or cynical idealism. Tony Blair managed to combine both with his neo-liberal mantra that there is no alternative to a rampant consumer corporate capitalism and his mission to spread democracy at the point of a bayonet.

    Level headed realism right now requires an understanding of the fact that the capitalist system is in rapid decay from which it will not recover whilst our idealism must be shot through with a faith that another world is most definitely possible.

  4. the analysis of the election has still not been attempted, but the key factors on the day are increasingly looking like (a) Labour did not get its vote out and (b) Labour did not appeal to the young and the changes in the registration system worked against all parties so the election was an old fogey election
    In Newcastle, it was only 6 weeks to the election that it was realised 2000 voters had vanished from the keele ward.

    That has the keele university halls of residence.

    Analysis continues, but at this stage it looks more likely that with a tight poll the factors on the day were who voted and age was crucial.

    Why Labour lost a poll position that at one time was at 42% is however a bigger issue to fight.

    The Labour Party was not founded by the trade unions and later became a federal party. It was a federal party from the start with socialist societies doing the leg work. It is not just poor history, but ignores the difficulties of getting the unions to be radical which have dogged us ever since.

    The miners did not affiliate initially and the reluctance of unions to put up any money till after legal decisions went against them nearly broke Keir Hardie’s heart. Time the Labour Left understood why from the very start with the Labour representation committee it was on the back foot

    trevor fisher

  5. Billericaydickie says:

    Look at the logo above, and that is why you lost. Start again.

  6. Sue says:

    Ed said that he wanted a “one nation” approach but didn’t actually deliver that? This approach would illuminate for everyone the sense of all of us being supported when in need etc. Labour needs to stop dividing people into groups they target. Produce an over all story of a collective UK and not millions of self interested individuals. I hope The Divide, a documentary based on the book The Spirit Level, will illuminate what I mean.

  7. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    I seldom agree with Blair, (about anything, I too marched against the war in Iraq) but I do agree with him that the Tories didn’t so much win the election, (and I actually thought that even Cameron looked a bit stunned, even bewildered, by the extent of their success,) as labour threw it, they, (the Tories,) won as Blair puts it; only, “by default,” and in the complete absence of any serious or credible opposition.

    I don’t know about Labor’s economic policy; although even at the time I was skeptical about the unending Blair/Brown largess that was only really possible because of the ultimately unsustainable financial bubble that preceded the crash; and by, (after the pattern of Lehman brothers which is now universally condemned,) moving much public debt off balance sheet using financially ruinous instruments such as PFI deals and mortgaging future tax revenues to the private sector on terms that would make a Loan Shark blush.

    Circumstances can indeed change radically overnight; but even if the same Tory government that somehow manged to survived all the graft, malfeasance and the other abuses, (sometimes blatantly criminal,) of the wretched coalition were to fall; what would post Blair Labor, (I’m sorry, Progress,) have to offer the country?

    Nothing really, which is why they lost.

    Miliband, (a multi millionaire property speculator and the American educated son of Jewish immigrants to the UK; seriously?) Harman (tried to cover up the expenses scandal in which she was personally involved,) Burnham, (more expenses shenanigans, up to his neck in privatization program for the NHS and implicated and not only by association with the, “appalling abuse,” at Mid Staffs,) Leslie, (clearly thinks that the interests of rentier parasites such as himself trump those of tenants,) Straw, (last seen soliciting favors for cash,) Cooper, (just yet another sticky fingered thieving spiv,) Reeves, ( right wing low life and a failed lobbyist, who like most of her colleagues would really be far more comfortable in the conservative party,) etc…………..

    It’s no so much that most of these people are not in any meaningful sense socialists, (and since not, of what real use are any of them,) as that too many of them would, and arguably should, be facing serious criminal prosecutions were they involved in any other sector of our society.

    “Physician heal thyself.”

    In fact I could make a convincing argument that the current state of the British Labor party now looks more like a false flag operation; intended to deflect and distract the electorate away from this country’s strong and vigorous socialist traditions, than a serious political party.

    As I’ve commented previously the Christian Democrat party in Italy was financed and supported for decades by the CIA, in order to thwart, frustrate and hinder the real political left.

    In cold light of the Tory dawn the Labor party in the UK now look much the same.

    1. James Martin says:

      You really are an odious little trolling toad aren’t you Weston? When you write “Miliband, (a multi millionaire property speculator and the American educated son of Jewish immigrants to the UK; seriously?)” you are being both anti-Semitic and ignorant. Ralph Miliband was both a very good socialist (from a working class Polish family) and someone who not only was a holocaust refugee but who then volunteered to fight for this country against the Nazis.

      Why are you even on this site anyway? You are clearly not a socialist and do not support the Labour Party (with a U you prat), so do us all a favour and do one.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:


        As it happens I’ve already clarified that cheap, utterly predictable and unbelievably tedious line of non argument elsewhere; but still, if it makes you happy?

        Nonetheless and just for the record:

        On brief addendum to my comment above; not least because I was recently harangued by a young Muslim gentleman of my acquaintance about the Equalities act, the principle of which I completely respect and did not, in fact need reminding about; thank you.

        My points about Miliband’s background and ethnicity are absolutely not made out of any kind of closet bigotry or prejudice, but simply to illustrate just how completely unrepresentative of and how utterly divorced from; the lives, experiences and values of the vast majority of people living here in the UK he inevitably was, (and also by extension and implication all the other people within the Labor party who supported him,) .

        As I say most I know personally people though he was supposed to be some kind of joke.

        1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

          Incidentally what exactly has his dad got to do with anything ?

          You’ve lost me completely with that one mate.

        2. Robert says:

          You say that your not racist but my god it sounded it.

      2. Matty says:

        Well said James

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