What kind of Momentum conference?

Momentum icon smallMomentum, the organisation created to advance Corbynista ideas within the labour movement and beyond, presents a tremendous opportunity. With 20,000 members, it provides a framework for organising discussions and activity that can take socialist ideas to a far wider audience than has been possible for generations.

Yet, reading the left media, a huge amount of energy appears to be focused less on turning outward to engage this audience than on turning inward to debate internal structures. Obviously, internal democracy is important and there have been serious concerns raised, that should not be underplayed, about controversial decisions taken by the organisation’s Steering Committee, at meetings convened at very short notice. Continue reading

Rahman wins right for judicial review on “undue spiritual influence”

lutfur-rahmanBack in August 2014, the Times ran a screaming headline saying Muslims told to ‘vote for mayor or be damned’. The quote marks in the headline might have led a reader to assume that the Times were referring to someone who had actually said this, but sadly journalistic standards at the Thunderer are not what they were.

Earlier this week, Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor of Tower Hamlets twice elected by the voters, but judicially removed last year, failed on appeal to get his exclusion from public office overturned. But significantly, Rahman did gain permission for a judicial review of the ruling that there had been undue “spiritual influence” due to a recommendation by a number of Muslim clerics to vote for him. Regretably, this update to the story did not make it into the Times. Continue reading

What Labour now needs is informed debate

Jeremy Corbyn Whose PolicyEveryone, even people who opposed him, understand that the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was a signal of a deep desire for change among Labour members and supporters. I have never agreed with all Jeremy Corbyn’s views but I was pleased to vote for him and, on reflection, I am glad that I did so. After all, the alternatives promised at best no change to Labour’s received wisdom about “electability” (Burnham and Cooper) or even a regression to undiluted Blairism (Kendall).

Corbyn’s election announced the possibility (but little more than that) of a new path for Labour. One of the keys to that new path was to be the full involvement of the mass of party members in policy formation. The view that Party members were to be regarded as a resource rather than something to be manipulated to get support for policies decided in advance was something of a breath of fresh air. Continue reading

Really rotten boroughs – the case of Robin Wales

Newham's one party stateby Robin’s ‘Hood

Many of us have had concerns about the executive mayoral model, especially in unitary councils run as one party states with no effective opposition. Recent events in Newham, East London, illustrate what can go wrong. Three councillors (5% of the total) have currently been placed in administrative suspension by the national Labour Party, including one who is known as being a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and who recently helped launch Momentum in Newham. Perhaps not a great career move if your local party leader was a well-known supporter of Liz Kendall!

It might turn out that the allegations against these Councillors are justified. However, it makes you wonder exactly what these three backbench Asian councillors have done when you consider that recent findings against leading Newham Labour political figures, who were not at any stage suspended by the party during investigations, resulted in no action being taken against them whatsoever by the group or the Labour Party – despite serious misconduct being established. Continue reading

Who will speak for those who lack any meaningful political voice?

Voiceless person  (gagged) One of the most disturbing aspects of the election a few weeks ago was the large and rising number of voters who felt disenfranchised and voiceless. Not only those who felt abandoned by Labour in Scotland, nor even the 9% who deserted the main parties to vote for UKIP, but the untold hundreds of thousands who felt alienated by current politics and refused to vote, yet were burdened by grievances they couldn’t offload. They include:

  • those who are the victims of a tax exile who wants to bulldoze their homes to make way for luxury property;
  • a single mother who finds herself penniless on the back of a non-performing zero hours contract;
  • a young jobless man sanctioned because he didn’t attend a job interview even though he had informed the DWP beforehand that he would be having an operation in hospital that day;
  • countless persons who once again didn’t vote because they never have because it’s pointless and ‘they’ always win.

Continue reading