Jeremy Corbyn is not leading a campaign he is leading a movement

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For far too long we have been accustomed to a political culture shorn of compassion, decency, and solidarity. We’re all familiar with the script: a leader, or prospective leader, is someone who isn’t afraid to ‘make the tough choices’, ‘tell us how it is’, ‘be unpopular’, ‘take the hard rather than the easy decisions’, etc, etc.

We are also by now well acquainted with the real message being delivered in these over-used and cliched soundbites – namely that if elected I will govern in the interests of a tiny economic minority at the expense of the majority and pledge to demonise, attack, hound, and hurt the poor and most vulnerable among us more than my competitors at every opportunity in order to do so.

It is a narrative, a discourse, tantamount to the equating of political power with callous indifference to human suffering, transforming cynicism and cruelty from vice into virtue, while pretending that there is no alternative. In the same inverted morality words such as compassion and decency are equated with weakness and idealism, the last qualities we should expect in a politician who is serious about governing the country or occupying any position of influence within the political mainstream.

Jeremy Corbyn has rapidly become the antidote to this lie: this Daily Mail-Tory-New Labour-City of London-benefit sanctioning-foodbank proliferating-migrant bashing-minority ‘othering’ conception of what a successful and rational society should look like. Not that Corbyn is Ghandi in a beige jacket – far from it. In fact what he represents connotes real strength and grit, the sort needed to be able to swim against the prevailing tide to mount a serious challenge to the Thatcherite, neoliberal juggernaut that has decimated the lives and communities of far too many.

Over the past month this man has come to symbolise everything we’ve been missing in our politics, a candidate for leadership who is as unassuming as he is humble, who lacks vanity, ego, and who refuses to be anything other than himself. This as much as the message he is delivering to packed audiences up and down the country is why he has shone so brightly, and why despite the welter of column inches to the contrary, they fear him.

At a time when we have a government that sends sniffer dogs and policemen to Calais rather than doctors and nurses to deal with desperate human beings fleeing war, persecution, and unimaginable privation in countries we have helped to destablise and destroy, we need an alternative. At a time when we have people living in disgusting ostentation while all around us homelessness, destitution, and poverty is growing exponentially, we need an alternative. And in a country that places a priority on spending billions on replacing weapons of mass destruction in the form of Trident rather than spending it on building affordable homes, investing in the NHS, schools, and on making sure that everyone who works receives a wage commensurate with a decent quality of life, we obviously and desperately need change.

Those, particularly within the Labour Party, who’ve issued warnings over the dangers of ‘lurching to the left’ behind Corbyn are standing on the shoulders of the siren voices who warned Clement Attlee and the men and womwn who helped transform British society after the Second World War that the creation of a national health service was a utopian pipe dream – unafforable, unworkable, and delusional. They are standing in the tradition of those who warned that the goal of full employment as the key objective of economic and social policy was contrary free market doctrine and guaranteed to end in disaster. Indeed, whether they know it or now, they are the modern incarnation of those who preferred a society divided between the deserving rich and undesertiving poor, fueled by the belief that individual wealth is evidence of moral virtue while poverty is due to moral degeneracy, the former rightfully rewarded and the latter justly punished.

We’ve had enough of these Cassandras in our political culture, just as we’ve had enough of being told that the summit of human happiness and fulfilment is a massive salary and the ability to buy anything we want whenever we want it. We’ve had enough of happiness being confused with excitement, of being assured that competition is more compatible with our nature than cooperation, and that the poor man who steals a loaf of bread from a supermarket belongs in jail, while the rich man who closes a supermaket because it is no longer profitable, thereby consigning hundreds of people to poverty, belongs in the House of Lords.

What they don’t get is that Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign is not driven by what ‘can’ be done but by what ‘must’ be done, by the necessity of reintroducing sanity and humanity into a political culture that has become captive to the needs of the rich and big business. It is this cult of business that has so distorted and perverted our understanding of what constitutes a viable and sustainable economy. To put it another way, no business or businessman or woman has ever created a job in this country. Not one. It is not businesses that create jobs it is consumers who create jobs, by spending money to create the demand for goods and services to which businesses respond by expanding their existing business or in the form of new businesses being created and with them employment. And when it comes to this creation of demand, it is an empirical fact that people on lower incomes will spend more of any extra money they receive than people on higher incomes, as their needs are correspondingly greater.

So rather than focusing on cutting benefits and incomes, we should be talking about raising benefits and incomes. And rather than listening to those who tell us that businesses can’t afford to pay their employees a living wage, we should be telling them that any business than cannot afford to pay a living wage is not a viable business and has no business being in business in the first place. We need, in other words, to reassert the primacy of the state and government over the economic forces that are in truth the real government under the status quo, a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

The ideas and vision that Jeremy Corbyn represents, for so long buried beneath a ton weight of Thatcherite ideology, have risen from their slumber and are now part of the mainstream political discourse again, breathed new life by thousands of young people who demand a real and humane alternative to the thin gruel that passes for reality today.

It is why when they those same siren voices continually shriek that Jeremy can’t win, what they don’t realise is that he already has.

It is time to dispel the myth that Labour’s ’83 manifesto was too left wing

1983One of the most enduring and longstanding myths of British politics is that Labour lost the 1983 general election because it was too left wing, fighting it on a manifesto that ensured it was unelectable. In words that have become engraved in the nation’s history, Labour’s own Gerald Kaufman described the ’83 Labour manifesto as ‘the longest suicide note in history’, which is how it is still regarded over three decades on.

It is a myth that has been doing the rounds in the context of a Labour leadership campaign that has seen a surge in support and momentum for Jeremy Corbyn on a platform of anti austerity, wealth redistribution, and the role of government that has succeeded in exciting and energising people who’d long become accustomed to a Labour Party that had surrendered to right wing nostrums on the economy, welfare, and foreign policy.

In 1983 Labour put forward a manifesto that drew inspiration and direct lineage from the transformational programme of the 1945 Labour government, the most ambitious of any Labour government ever. Back then, despite the parlous state of an economy exhausted after the Second World War, Labour came to power committed to governing in the interests of a working class that had been accustomed to unemployment, povery, and destitution prior to the war. The subsequent rolling out of the welfare state, NHS, and a commitment to full employment laid the foundations of the most sustained period of economic stability and prosperity in the nation’s history.

It combined investment, planning, and intervention that was a radical departure from the laissez faire policies that had led to the Depression of the 1930s, condemning millions of working families to penury and poverty with little if any prospect of escape.

Likewise, by 1983 working families and communities had suffered the consequences of four years of Thatcherism. The country was mired in recession with unemployment reaching a record 3.2 million, as Thatcher set about decimating the nation’s industrial base in favour of turning a deregulated banking and financial sector into the motor of the economy, in the process ensuring the transferance of wealth from the poor to the rich on a grand scale.

The result was a spike in inequality, crime, and public spending on welfare as tax cuts added further downward pressure on public funds.

In this context, Labour pledged to embark on a programme of investment in industry, eduation, council housing, jobs, and the NHS. Along with an increase in child benefit and pensions and the renationalisation of those state assets that had already been sold off and privatised under the Tories, it offered a truly progressive alternative.

It would be mostly funded by an increase in government borrowing rather than tax increases, on the argument that borrowing to invest in the economy is more productive than borrowing to pay for an over-inflated welfare budget, given the record rate of unemployment that obtained under Thatcher’s government.

The scourge of poverty wages would also be tackled through the strengthening of the Equal Pay Act in consultation and cooperation with the unions. Currency controls would be re-introduced in order to counter currency speculation, thereby guaranteeing the stability of sterling and interest rates.

Rather than focus on the budget deficit a priority would be placed on tackling the nation’s trade deficit, which under Thatcher had regressed to the point where Britain, once the workshop of the world, had become a net importer for the first time in its history, a direct result of the destruction of British industry. Labour’s plan of placing controls on imports and bolstering exports via investment in industry and manufacturing was designed to reverse this trend, creating jobs in the process.

The expansion of democracy was also planned, especially at the local level, which had suffered under the government’s policy of reducing the role and power of local government in its determination to railroad through its structural adjustment of the economy and, with it, British society with minimal opposition.

On defence unilateral nuclear disarmament was a bold initiative designed to tackle the scourge of weapons of mass destruction on the understanding their use could never be countenanced and were a crushing waste of public funds that could be better spent and invested.

The objective of the government’s foreign policy, as set out, would be based on “the urgent need to restore détente and dialogue between the states and the peoples of the world. We will actively pursue dialogue with the Soviet Union and China, and will urge the American government to do so. We will work consistently for peace and disarmament, and devote all our efforts to pulling the world back from the nuclear abyss. Labour will dedicate some of the resources currently wasted on armaments to projects designed to promote both security and human development.

“An essential difference between the Labour and the Tory approach is that we have a foreign policy that will help liberate the peoples of the world from oppression, want and fear. We seek to find ways in which social and political progress can be achieved and to identify the role that Britain can play in this process.”

So why, given the aforementioned, did Labour lose?

There are two key reasons: i) the bounce in personal popularity enjoyed by Margaret Thatcher in the aftermath of the Faklands War the previous year, and ii) the split in Labour’s vote by the breakaway SDP faction.

Mention must also be made of the campaign of demonisation that was carried out in the pages of the right wing popular press against Labour leader, Michael Foot, who was treated disgracefully and venomously by a tabloid press that had fallen behind Thatcher and extended itself in fanning the flames of the reaction and jingoism that had swept the land.

Here it is worth noting that Labour intended to place controls on press ownership, understanding the danger posed by the concentration of newspaper ownership in the hands of a few rich media barons to democracy, thus inviting their enmity.

In an era when social media and the Internet was a distant dream, this aspect of British society was key in shaping public attitudes and opinion.

Taken in the round, the 1983 Labour Party manifesto offered a truly progressive, redistributive, intelligent, and eminently realisable alternative to the cruel and desolate reality of Tory Britain. Defeat in 1983 not only meant another four years of Thatcher, it set in train the process of turning Labour into the Tory-lite party it became.

Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 represents not only a change in direction for Labour but for the country as a whole. It is why they fear him, and why the forces of hell have been unleashed to try and stem the groundswell of support his campaign has unleashed.

Where Tony Blair is the poster child of Labour’s loss of principles and integrity, Corbyn offers the chance of making it a party and an institution to be proud of again, thereby reigniting belief in a politics shorn of callous indifference to suffering and injustice.

A Corbyn victory is not only possible, it is our only hope

Let us be clear what the Tory welfare bill will mean.

If the parents of more than two children are precipitated into claiming benefits through a change in circumstances, like redundancy, a partner leaving them or being bereaved, then their children will suffer. If you are a women with, say 4 children, in a violent abusive relationship, you might be unable to leave and still feed your children. If you already have two children and get accidently pregnant, you may feel coerced into an unwanted abortion.

These are measures that are deeply, deeply wrong, and it is a moral requirement to oppose them.

What is more, concern about an equitable welfare system and social safety net has not historically been the preserve of only the left of the party, but also of the traditional right, of the revisionists, and even of the Blairites. It was Tony Blair himself who championed the reduction of child poverty.

So the twitterstorm outrage of opponents of Jeremy Corbyn about the 48 Labour rebels is ridiculous.

Let us point out that half of the rebels are newly elected, and are therefore MPs most recently connected with the real world outside the Westminster bubble.

In contrast, Liz Kendall – the only candidate to actually support voting for welfare cuts – got the lowest number of nominations from newly elected MPs, and her CLP nominations come overwhelmingly from safe or unwinnable seats – where activists are least attuned to swing voters. What sort of sense of entitlement inspires someone who has led such a disastrous campaign for the leadership, to think that any campaign they might wage towards a general election would be successful? What makes politicians who have had a career as special advisors, and working for Labour aligned think tanks or charities, believe that the years they have spent in meetings in Portcullis House makes them well suited to judge the mood of ordinary voters, struggling with precarious employment, unaffordable housing, and benefit cuts?

It was clear that there would be a rebellion as soon as Harriet Harman backed the Tory proposals, and was later pressurized into abstaining, but not opposing.

The responsibility of leadership is to manage the differences of opinion within the party. Instead Harman took a course of action that seems to have been calibrated to create division. The fault for the fiasco over the welfare bill lies squarely with Harman, and her supporters in the PLP.

Was this a miscalculated plot to adapt to an indefensible Tory policy, perhaps hoping to deter Corby supporters from joining Labour, or becoming supporters, and seeking to provoke a small rebellion, with the objective of showing Corbyn isolated? If that was the plan it has massively misfired.

Yesterday I spoke to three former Burnham supporters, two of them Swindon councilors, another the chair of a CLP, who have now switched to Corbyn.

The right wing in the Labour Party are desperate, when John McTernan, who presided as chief of staff of Jim Murphy’s utterly routed Labour Party in Scotland is wheeled out on Newsnight to give advice to Labour on how to win! (Let us remember that McTernan spoke at 2014 Conservative Party Conference fringe, where he gave advice to Cameron on how to beat Labour)

A Jeremy Corbyn victory is not only looking possible, but like it is our only hope.

Democracy requires Jeremy Corbyn to win.

Yesterday marked a turning point in the Labour leadership election.

Neither of the trade unions with a leaning towards the Blairite wing of the party backed Liz Kendall. Community announced that they were backing Yvette Cooper, and Usdaw announced that they were backing Andy Burnham. This follows Kendall’s relatively poor performance in gaining nominations from the parliamentary Labour Party, indicating that the reach of the party’s right wing is surprisingly weak.

It is of course wrong to describe Kendall as a “Tory”, and the jibes about “Blairite Taliban” were ill-advised. The party is a broad church, and the strand of liberalism which Kendall represents has a long tradition within the party. As I have written before, it is wrong to compare Blairism with Conservatism.

Blair did have a distinct social agenda, which was both ideologically and practically progressive, compared to the Thatcherite governments which preceded it. The value of David Halpern’s 2009 book “The Hidden Wealth of Nations”, is the way he details the inherently radical nature of Blair’s social policies, though they were not necessarily derived from traditional social democratic influences. In 1997, NHS spending was at around 5% of GDP, and the conditions had been created by the Tories for an expansion of insurance based private sector; instead NHS spending rose to be around 10% of GDP in 2010. Early years intervention, such as SureStart centres for the parents of potentially disadvantaged young children has been a great success; and working tax credit has enormously increased prosperity and independence of parents in work. Labour repealed Clause 28, and introduced civil partnerships. None of these policies could have come from the Tories. […]

Blairism was founded on the idea of creating a fairer, more harmonious society through an empowering partner state that provides conditions for individuals to help themselves. For all its weaknesses, it is a distinctly different agenda from Thatcher’s ideology of regarding the state as inherently problematic, and that individuals needed to be liberated from its influence.

Indeed, far from being Thatcherites, Tony Blair’s supporters in the party have invested considerable effort to establish ideological continuity between themselves and the more traditional Labour revisionists; for example, Patrick Diamond’s 2004 anthology “New Labour’s Old Roots” selects extracts of centre-right thinkers in the party from Evan Durbin to Giles Radice, and editorialises them into a specious narrative leading inexorably to Blair.

Superficially, Blair’s emphasis on community and mutuality, divorced from any commitment to social ownership is indeed resonant of traditional Labour revisionism. But in truth, Blairism was distinct from both Thatcherism and traditional right wing social democracy.

If we compare Blair’s record with the most authorative statement of revisionism, Crosland’s “The Future of Socialism”, we can see that addressing the inequality of power that follows the inequality of wealth is a concept completely central to even centre-right Labourism; whereas in contrast Blairism falls foursquare within the limits of political liberalism, whereby all individuals are regarded as citizens, and the horizons of government are only to remove obstacles to individual liberty and choice; and empowering citizens to benefit from good choices.

To understand the politics of Liz Kendall we need to recall that there were two characteristic attributes of Blairism; which was only partly a distinct social agenda of boosting social capital while embracing the private sector; because it was also an electoral strategy predicated upon triangulating around the concerns of swing voters in marginal constituencies. This resulted in an inherent conservatism that militated against the radical solutions necessary to address the concerns of working class voters.

It is important to understand that these two aspects of Blairism could work against each other; and therefore that the current seeming abandonment of the policy agenda of Blairism by the right wing in the party is itself an attribute of the electoral strategy of Blairism, which is calibrated to exploiting minor differences with the Tories, and cannot cope with the paradigm shift created by the financial crisis, and Tory austerity. Blairism is no longer fit for purpose, even in its own terms. Tony Blair set targets for the reduction of child poverty, Harman, Kendall, Cooper and Burnham capitulated to the Conservatives over measures that will push children in disadvantaged families into desperation and hardship.

Indeed, the utter failure of not only Kendall but also Cooper and Burnham to oppose the Tory welfare bill shows a fundamental misunderstanding not only of the political situation, but of the demands for opposition in a parliamentary democracy.

Democracy is not only about elections, it is also about the contested evaluation of ideas and strategies for the governance of complex industrial societies. Ideas that are generated not only, and not even especially, by politicians and political parties, but also by think tanks, universities, faith groups, employers associations, NGOs, trade unions, single issue campaigns, magazines and journals and by public intellectuals. Indeed, significant paradigm shifts of political and ideological consensus often occur between elections, and are therefore not necessarily presented as a choice to the electorate. This is of course a point made by the Eurosceptic right, not without some purchase on reality.

The mantra from the right is that Labour needs to be in power to effect change, and therefore has to follow the electorate.

Of course any electoral party needs to address the need to build a potentially election wining coalition, but the Tories only gained the support of a minority of voters, and Labour also lost support to parties presenting themselves as to the left of Labour: SNP, Plaid and the Greens.

Of course, real and lasting change does require winning a general election and forming a government, but that cannot be done by wearing the political and ideological clothes of our opponents. British parliamentary democracy is built upon the foundation that the opposition parties will scrutinise, and force debate upon the government.

By so doing, opposition parties feed the broader democratic debate in civil society, and contribute to a culture of accountability and engagement.

Opposition parties are morally obliged, and by constitutional convention expected, to present a choice to the electorate, and indeed the danger for democracy is that if the mainstream parliamentary parties don’t reflect the actual political divides and debates in our society, then this promotes disengagement with our civic and social institutions.

Liz Kendall’s approach would be to isolate the Labour Party on the same narrow ground as the electorally rejected Liberal Democrats. Andy Burnham is presenting himself as the Greencross man “look right, look left, look right again”, and both he and Yvette Cooper are the continuity candidates with a political strategy that has now lost two elections. None of these three will win back the votes we have lost in Scotland to the SNP, or to UKIP in England.

As Harold Wilson once said “This Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.” Only Jeremy Corbyn will relight labour’s fire.

Met Police forced to issue apology to Cuba Solidarity Campaign

Rob Miller
Cuba Solidarity Campaign 33-37 Moreland Street London
EC1V 8BB

7th July 2015
Dear Mr Miller,

I am writing in response to your email dated 1st July 2015, regarding associating Cuba with Terrorism during Operation Strong Tower.

I was the director of Operation Strong Tower, which as you are aware, was an exercise simulating an armed terrorist attack in Central London.

This operation was planned in detail for over six months and was the largest of its kind that has ever been carried out. The media were invited to observe activities at one of these venues, which was the disused Tube Station in the Aldwych.

I have viewed the footage which has concerned you and others. Photographs and film do show one of the role actors wearing a T-Shirt under their jacket, which shows the flag of Cuba. This was clearly a regrettable error, which I take full responsibility for.

This has been investigated and the role actor has been spoken to. He genuinely did not think of the significance and implications of wearing a T Shirt with a national flag on it. The impact has been explained, he is genuinely sorry and states there was no intention to cause offence or associate the Cuban people with Terrorism. As a result he has been given advice regarding his actions. I will also ensure that the learning from this will be incorporated into future exercises.

I offer a sincere and unreserved apology on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service.

Yours sincerely,

DAC Maxine de Brunner QPM Specialist Crime and Operations
Room 1026

New Scotland Yard Broadway

London
SW1H 0BG

Tel: 020 7230 4048 maxine.debrunner@met.police.uk

The Greek people vote ‘Oxi’

B1C3rezCMAIo8HjThe historic significance of this vote cannot be overstated. Despite the huge external pressure levelled against Greece by the Troika – the ECB, IMF, and the European Commission – with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, particularly aggressive in demanding the imposition of austerity on a population and society that was already on its knees, the Greeks have delivered a resounding message of defiance via the ballot box.

Regardless of the ultra left voices that have extended themselves in attacking Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza government, at a time when the stakes involved demanded solidarity, they have delivered a masterstroke with this referendum, successfully and magnificently counterposing democracy to the tyranny of global capital. In so doing, they have provided people across Europe with an education in where true power resides.

The demands made by Merkel on the Greek Government have been astoundingly irrational and almost biblical in their cruelty. Greece’s total debt of 317 billion euros is clearly unsustainable and the only realistic and humane solution is its cancellation. Of the 252 billion euros lent to Greece by the Troika since 2010, only 10% has actually reached the Greek people. Most of it has left Greece again in repayments to lenders, mostly European banks, primarily German banks, which lent more money to Greece than any other country during the boom years.

As for what happens now, it is unconscionable that the Troika will not step back from the brink. The notion of an advanced European country being ejected from the eurozone due to indebtedness is hard to conceive. Merkel and the ECB have overplayed their hand and exposed the iniquity of the EU and its role as a servant of neoliberalism and global capital.

But this is for another day. Today belongs to the people and to Syriza. The forces of reaction have been delivered a message of defiance that will resonate across Europe.