The difficult coming weeks

On the eve of the general election it seems clear that, discounting any last minute, game-changing surprise, we are headed for a hung parliament. If the polls are right, and they may not be, the Conservatives may be the largest party, and receive more votes than Labour.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have fought cautious campaigns, and in marginal seats in England the two parties are grinding out every vote in a ground war, based more upon contact rates and organisation than on vision.

That is not to say that Labour have not engaged with voters’ concerns, and the millions of doorstep and telephone conversations have benefitted from a manifesto that makes a number of detailed and beneficial commitments, from ending the bedroom tax, to abolishing zero hour contracts, cutting tax for small businesses, the energy price freeze, reducing tuition fees, etc.

Nor have these policies been presented in a technocratic way. Ed Miliband has outlined a simple and compelling proposition that Britain only succeeds “when working families succeed”; that we need an economy and a society where prosperity is not built upon the exploitation of ordinary people, but by allowing everyone to share in prosperity, security and success. This is a message founded upon traditional labourist values of mutuality, solidarity and reciprocity.

It is important to understand that incumbent governments rarely lose an election after a single parliamentary term, and for Labour to get this close to the winning line is itself a success. Ed Miliband has been a remarkably successful leader of the opposition, setting the terms of the debate on bankers’ bonuses, on press regulation, on energy prices, and refusing to endorse ill-conceived military action over Syria.

He has shown that he will be an outstanding prime minister, unafraid to stand up to powerful interests, and he has kept the Labour Party united and focused upon the task of defeating the Conservatives. The next few weeks may require tough leadership, facing down a possible Conservative attempt to squat in Downing Street, backed by the Tory press, despite the fact that David Cameron will have neither the moral authority to continue after failing to win a general election for the second time; nor will Cameron have enough MPs to command a stable Commons majority.

The election aftermath will also require toughness in steering through the uncharted waters to achieve a Labour government. Ed Miliband is the man to do this, and the party and the wider labour movement, will need to stand united in its determination to back him.

Nevertheless, Labour’s election campaign has been weaker than it could have been, because we have failed to sufficiently challenge the narrative from the coalition parties when they have said that the financial crisis was Labour’s fault. Objectively, it should be the economic failure of the coalition that should now be under scrutiny from the electorate. It is a tragedy that George Osborne has been allowed to present himself as a competent chancellor. The BBC may have failed to effectively screen out Catherine Shuttleworth, from the Question Time audience, but her question was only damaging because Labour had failed to neutralize that line of attack in advance. The difficulty is adopting a more coherent stance on economics seems to be the coalitional nature of the Labour Party itself, and the legacy for some in the party of preferring to triangulate over minor differences, rather than set our own, distinct, Labour, agenda

Scotland has also had an entirely different election from the rest of Britain. Not only due to the enthusiastic legacy of political engagement from the Independence referendum, which has fed into a bizarre boosterism around the SNP, but also due to a toxic mixture of Scottish Labour’s historical sclerosis, a poor decision by the Scottish Party to elect Jim Murphy as leader, and strategic and tactical errors in the Labour camp. Whatever has happened in Scotland, needs to be understood in its own Scottish context.

The scale of Labour’s woes in Scotland are not yet known, but had we done as well in Scotland as we are doing in England, then Labour would clearly be set to be the largest party. What is more, the rise of the SNP is based upon arguing a sectional interest, and misrepresenting the SNP’s own political purpose and governmental record. To put the SNP’s potential clout in perspective, they are likely to achieve around the same number of MPs as Labour will have in London alone. At the time of writing, Labour is 13% ahead in the polls in London, and that is just as valid a surge of support as that being celebrated by the SNP. (The relative strength of the SNP’s bargaining position may anyway be overstated, as Colin Talbot argues, they will have no standing in parliament to block a Labour budget)

What the rise of the SNP (and UKIP) does show however, is that the political system is broken. A functioning party system requires that the major political issues of the day find expression through different competing parties, which themselves of course provide their own internal mechanisms for resolving the coalitions of interests that coalesce within parties. For this to work in a functioning democratic system, then the parties need to articulate alternative programmes of government, and for there to be scrutiny and debate.

Political parties are complex social institutions that comprise more than just their membership. They also have their own institutional interests and networks of patronage, they have ideological and iconographic traditions, they have relationships with other institutions that can either be transactional or based upon shared aims, they are shaped by think tanks and pressure groups, as well as their own supporters in the media, and they have an evolving relationship with the aspirations of their voting base.

Political parties therefore have an institutional resilience that can normally weather short or medium term fluctuations of the electoral cycle. However, where the major political debates and issues in society do not find reflection in the mainstream party system, then there can be ruptures. These ruptures may be localized and time limited, for example, there have been examples of minor parties with broadly labourist politics giving electoral expression to major issues that did not find an opportunity of expression through the Labour Party (Common Wealth with its wartime demand for an immediate second front, for example, or Respect giving expression to opposition to the Iraq war).

However, there can also be entire paradigm shifts, for example the dramatic collapse of the American party system in the 1850s, where neither the issues of non-protestant immigration nor that of slavery found expression through the existing party system of Whigs and Democrats.
Rather less combustible, but nevertheless equally transformational, was the eclipsing of liberalism by the Labour Party in the British political system, and the quiet, slow-burn demise of traditional Toryism within the Conservative Party. In the post war period all the mainstream British political parties have converged towards a model of economic and social liberalism, though with Labour constrained by its trade union and social democratic heritage, and the Conservatives constrained by its social traditionalism. This convergence to the liberal centre, combined with increased professionalisation, has led all the mainstream parties away from sharing the experiences of their voters.

The rise of the SNP and UKIP – in their rather different ways – seem to express an exasperation with a political system, and what is perceived as a political class, that has become professionalized and technocratic. In this general election neither Labour nor the Conservatives have approached the 40% or so traditionally regarded as the threshold of electoral success.

Too many people see politics as no longer being something that engages them as voters, but rather it has become something that happens to them, and which they may even feel the victim of. Voting for the SNP and UKIP – in different ways – becomes a mechanism that gives voice to people who feel taken for granted, whether because they have a perception that Scotland is disadvantaged or because they feel uncomfortable that Britain has changed in ways that leave them behind.

What the SNP and UKIP share in common is that their proposition to the electorate is not a programme of government to be scrutinized and debated, but an emotional pitch based upon sectional interest. The SNP’s actual economic programme does not match its “anti-austerity” rhetoric. And those seeking to present Labour’s actual policy and programme in Scotland have been presented by a wall of irrelevant noise about sharing platforms with Conservatives during the IndyRef, being “Red Tories” or the Iraq War.

For sure, Scotland has been ruled by Conservative governments that they did not vote for, but equally the South West of England has never in history returned a majority of Labour MPs, but folks here have not challenged the legitimacy of past Labour governments, even those sustained by Scottish and Welsh Labour MPs.

A politics based upon horse-trading between competing sectional interests will leave us all impoverished. Although a large part of the electorate may have tuned out and stopped listening, this general election has presented a very real choice between different sets of values. On the one hand the values of a Conservative Party that combines the naked self interest of the rich, an agenda to dismantle or privatize cherished institutions of social solidarity like the NHS, and a race to the bottom of pay, working conditions and employment rights. On the other hand a Labour Party that seeks to ensure that the rich pay a fairer share of taxes, that will seek to build social solidarity, and that will raise the minimum wage, abolish zero hour contracts, and abolish employment tribunal fees.

The next few weeks will be hard. There will be pressure on Miliband from some quarters that Labour should have won an outright victory. There will be pressure to accommodate to a Tory press seeking to legitimise Cameron staying on power. There will be pressure from those who cannot understand why a coalition with the SNP is impossible. We need to hold our nerve.

Reconnecting with those voters whom we have not yet convinced, means that we have to learn the right lessons from this election campaign. Where Ed Miliband has spoken about the real life struggles that people have in their daily lives, we have connected. But we have failed to challenge the Conservative’s over their economic record, because we hesitated to defend the economic record of the last Labour government, and that means that many voters are not convinced that a Labour government will address the problems in their lives caused by the coalition’s austerity measures. Labour can do better than that, because as someone once said, we are best when we are bold, and best when we are Labour.

Gordon Brown: our aim is a fair economy

BrownFormer PM Gordon Brown spoke this morning about the choice facing Scots on Thursday, and set out Scottish Labour’s determination to fight for social justice whatever the odds. From Labour Hame.

I am here today with one aim, one goal, one mission:

To stand up for the 71,000 Scots who have to depend on food banks. To speak up for the 80,000 Scots on zero-hours contracts. To speak out for the 180,000 Scots on waiting lists who need the most basic of necessities, a decent home. And to give a voice to 200,000 children living in poverty, and to the millions of Scots whose living standards are falling and whose NHS is suffering from neglect.

Let me say this. Even if the SNP talk only about deals, coalitions, pacts, tie-ins, hung parliaments and backroom negotiations, we will continue to speak about what really matters to the Scottish people: an end to poverty, an end to injustice, an end to inequality, an end to deprivation, an end to the neglect of our health service and a better future for the young people of our country.

And even if the Tories’ campaign is to divide and rule – to set English nationalism against Scottish nationalism – we will stand for the unity of our country. For it is only a Labour Government that can:

Prevent five more years of food bank poverty;
Prevent five more years of Bedroom Tax poverty;
Prevent five more years of payday lender poverty;
Prevent five more years of zero-hour contract poverty;
And prevent five more years of NHS neglect, Tory austerity and the miseries they impose.

Let us be clear: whatever way you count it up, and whatever calculations you try to make, the only Government that can deliver this change is a Labour Government. You know, even the SNP admit that the only way we can deliver change is through a Labour Government.

So instead of waking up with 59 SNP MPs and a Conservative Government, we can have a Labour Government that:

Within a few hours and days secures money for food banks and to end food bank poverty. Delivered under a Labour Government with Labour MPs. Undeliverable under a Tory Government, even with 59 SNP MPs.
Within a few days and weeks secures money for 1,000 more nurses and 500 more doctors. Delivered under a Labour Government with Labour MPs. Undeliverable under a Tory Government, even with 59 SNP MPs.
Within a few weeks and months secures money for jobs through the youth employment guarantee. Delivered under a Labour Government with Labour MPs. Undeliverable under a Tory Government, even with 59 SNP MPs.

And if you need proof or evidence of this, just look at the eve of poll SNP leaflet I was handed yesterday in which they said vote SNP and SNP MPs will demand more money for the NHS.

“Demand” more money? Labour MPs will deliver more money for the NHS in Scotland.

That’s the choice on Thursday: the SNP making a noise, or Labour making a difference. And I tell you we can achieve more in a few short minutes with Labour MPs in government than anything the SNP could achieve in five long years in opposition.

I say all this not because I misunderstand the mood and what is happening in Scotland, but because I understand it. I know my fellow Scots are, like me, patriotic and proud of our country. I know also that my fellow Scots are, like me, desperate for change. And I know too that the change that my fellow Scots and I are demanding is the greatest change of all – social justice – and that we are impatient and cannot wait for it: we want change today so we can live in a more socially just community as soon as tomorrow.

And the question now is who will deliver that change. Not who shouts the loudest but who can deliver the most. Not who makes the most noise but who makes the most difference. Not who wills the ends but not the means to achieve social justice, but who will deliver both the ends and the means to achieve social justice.

And I say to you, there is only one party that has written into, enshrined and engrained in its DNA the three qualities necessary to secure the change Scotland needs. Not just a love of Scotland and a devotion to the Scottish people. And not just a dedication to the cause of social justice. But a commitment to the means to deliver social justice for Scotland.

A commitment to the only means we can today deliver social justice. A commitment to the sharing of resources across these islands – from each according to his capacity, to each according to his need.

And our commitment to the principles of cooperation and solidarity that underlie this sharing is at the heart of everything we do.

And you know why it matters so much to us? Because it was Scottish Labour that pioneered the principle of sharing. It was Scottish Labour that led the way in cooperating across the UK. And it was Scottish Labour that called for solidarity between the nations.

The Tories don’t care about social justice or about finding a route to social justice. If they claim we are lying about benefit sanctions then let us tell them the truth about the scale of poverty they are creating.

And while they talk about social justice, the SNP can never bring themselves to accept the sharing that is the means to secure social justice, because nationalism is the imperative they serve.

And nowhere is the reason for voting for Labour clearer than in this election. Jim Murphy is proposing 100,000 new jobs and an end to youth unemployment, paid for by Ed Miliband’s plans for sharing across the UK with the proceeds of the Bankers’ Bonus Tax. So the Scottish road to full employment is paved on the cooperation we have forged as part of the UK. And I say build on it, don’t break it up.

Jim Murphy is proposing a radical anti-poverty programme to end the need for food banks, funded by Ed Miliband’s proposal to share resources across the UK by reducing pension tax relief for high earners. So again, the Scottish road to eradicating poverty is built not on the shifting sands of expediency but on the solid foundation of sharing across the whole of Britain. And I say build on it, don’t break it up.

Jim Murphy is also proposing immediate action to get NHS waiting lists and waiting times down, including cancer waits and accident and emergency waits – and he can do this because Ed Miliband is proposing a UK-wide Mansion Tax, something that the SNP could never obtain under a Conservative Government even with 59 MPs. The Scottish road to a reborn NHS stands on a partnership across the UK. And I say build on it, don’t break it up.

And so if you want a party that will fight Scotland’s corner every day, a party that will serve Scotland’s values of social justice, and a party that will deliver social justice by embracing UK-wide sharing and thus securing for Scotland the resources we need to change lives, then you only have one option: Scottish Labour, Scotland’s party of fairness and social justice.

While for the SNP it is nationalism that is the imperative they serve, nationalism that drives them on and nationalism that inspires their every decision, we believe in sharing across the whole of the country. So it never could have been Scottish nationalism but only Scottish Labour that led to the creation of the NHS, giving rights to free and universal care to all who are in need irrespective of nationality or ability to pay – an NHS that today for the very same reason is safe only in Labour’s hands.

While for the SNP it is nationalism that dictates their every decision, we believe in solidarity across nations. So it never could have been Scottish nationalism but only Scottish Labour that led the way to building up the UK-wide welfare state – a welfare state that for the very same reason we will build up and not allow to be destroyed.

While for the SNP the pursuit of nationalism is their goal, we believe in partnership, and that real progress is not some progressing at the expense of others but all of us progressing together. So it could never have been Scottish nationalism but only Scottish Labour that led the way to a minimum wage across the whole of the UK, to stop the good region undercutting the bad and the bad nation undercutting the worst in a cut throat race to the bottom – and it is a minimum wage that we will convert into a £8 an hour minimum wage

And that is why there can be no deal, no tie-in, no arrangement and no compromise with an SNP for whom nationalism is the imperative they serve. Not because we are taking the low road of electoral calculation. But because we have taken the high road of supporting the very principles of cooperation that the SNP want to break; the principles of partnership that the SNP would smash; the principles of sharing that the SNP would bring to an end; and the principles of solidarity that the SNP would throw into the dust.

And that’s the difference. The nationalists wake up in the morning thinking of how to advance the cause of a separate state. We wake up in the morning thinking of how to advance the cause of social justice.

Their aim is a second referendum. Our aim is a fair economy.

And we are seeking a mandate to deliver social justice by drawing on the resources of the whole of the UK to benefit those who need them the most. It is only a Labour Government that can now deliver. And the surest and safest way of securing a Labour Government is by electing Labour MPs.

This means that every voter in every seat in Scotland should vote Labour to see the back of this Tory Government. It cannot be right to argue that the easiest way to get Labour into government is to vote against the Labour candidate. It is a perversity of logic to claim you want a Labour Government, when in the SNP’s case you urge people to vote SNP in Scotland, Green in England and Plaid Cymru in Wales.

And it is an even greater perversity of logic to claim you have ever wanted a Labour Government when you urged people in England to vote Liberal Democrat in 2010, and when the one time you used your bloc vote in Westminster to effect change was not to save but to destroy a Labour Government in 1979.

We know that the SNP prefer people dissatisfied under a Conservative Government than people satisfied under a Labour Government.

The SNP’s deception becomes even clearer to see when you look at what the Tories are planning. For things have changed in the last few days of this campaign. For weeks the SNP have been saying elect a bloc of SNP MPs on Thursday and they will determine who governs the whole of the UK on Friday. But on Sunday, and then yesterday, the Tories stated and repeated that, irrespective of the share of the vote of the SNP or indeed of any of the third parties, fourth parties, fifth parties or sixth parties, if they have just one more MP than Labour on Thursday they will try to hold on to power on Friday.

The SNP have got it wrong. Elect an SNP MP and you may make the Tories the largest party on Thursday and this may help them try to stay in power on Friday.

But elect a Labour MP on Thursday and you will make Labour the largest party on Friday, and make possible not a Conservative Government but a Labour Government.

So I say elect Jim Murphy, who will be a fantastic Scottish leader. I say elect Douglas Alexander, who will be a brilliant Foreign Secretary fighting for justice around the world. I say elect Margaret Curran, the most compassionate woman you will ever meet, who will become the first female Scottish Secretary from Glasgow. And I could go on and urge you to elect Labour MPs everywhere – for the more Labour MPs we have the more we have a chance of being in government.

Of course this is a difficult election. It is not just about the future of the UK but about the very existence of the UK. It is not just about what kind of future there is for our country, but whether we continue to be a country at all. It is not whither stands Britain but whether Britain stands at all.

But I say this to the SNP. Don’t equate our patriotism with your nationalism. Don’t assume you have a majority for independence. And don’t think that the desire for change is a desire for the constitutional and institutional change alone when it is a desire for social and economic change.

Yes, we are up against the odds. But let us not forget our history as a Labour Party.

We were born against the odds. We grew against the odds. We created the NHS against the odds. We created the welfare state against the odds. We created the right to work against the odds. We delivered a minimum wage against the odds. We have spent our whole lives fighting for people whose lives are lived against the odds. And we will fight, fight and fight whatever the odds.

Scottish Labour have never left it to others to deliver the social justice we need. From Keir Hardie to John Smith, from James Maxton to Donald Dewar and from John Wheatley to Robin Cook, we have never asked others to do what we are not prepared to do ourselves.

And so I say to those of you who voted Yes – we have learned from you and from your desire for change. Join us and let us all play our part in Labour and Scotland’s fight for social justice.

I say to all those who feel proud and patriotic Scots who thought that a Yes vote was the only way to stand up for Scotland – we are no less patriotic Scots for voting Labour. Join us and let us all play our part in Labour and Scotland’s fight for social justice.

I say to those wanting more powers for the Scottish Parliament – we have championed them and they will come with new laws in 100 days. Join us and let us all play our part in Labour and Scotland’s fight for social justice.

I say to those who feel Labour grew old and tired – we have a new and vibrant young leadership in Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy that is dynamic and committed to Scotland. Join us and let us all play our part in Labour and Scotland’s fight for social justice.

And I say to those who feel the pain of others and who believe in something bigger than ourselves: we know that when the strong help the weak it makes us all stronger. I say there are millions like you who cannot be truly happy when others are sad, who cannot be at ease when millions are ill at ease, who cannot feel fully secure with so many insecure, and who cannot be comfortable when so many are without comfort.

And so I give you my view. The independence people really want is independence from poverty. The liberation people really want is liberation from deprivation and unemployment. And the freedom people really want is freedom from all forms of injustice and inequality.

Yes it’s an uphill battle, but the battle is for the mountaintop of social justice. Join us and let us all play our part in reaching that mountaintop.

And the starting point is on Thursday: voting Labour, electing Labour MPs and securing a Labour Government.

Nick Clegg – an obituary

By Ian Drummond

There is a party leader called Nick, a former MEP, called the “most loathed man in Britain” by the press, who has led his party first through “modernisation” to new heights, then to years of disaster and diminishing returns. In fact there’s two – Nick Clegg and Nick Griffin. And while the BNP have now sacked and expelled their former fuehrer, their wipeout at last year’s Euro elections being the final straw, the other Nick now faces his own reckoning, both the collapse of his party and the loss of his seat.

The Ashcroft poll now predicts, somewhat ironically, that both Clegg and his bête noir Nigel Farage are unlikely to be elected, and Parliament would be a better place without either of them. And in one of the most student heavy seats in the country, if Clegg does lose it will be clear what the issue behind his defeat was. The National Union of Students’ Liar Liar campaign targeting him and other LibDem oath breakers is both predictable and inspired. If it tips the balance in his and other seats then, alongside last month’s defeat of the Blairites and election of a fighting leadership in the NUS, it will represent a spring of great victories in the fight for free education.
Such a humiliation for Clegg could not be more richly deserved. His volte-face on fees stands as one of the most shameless examples of politics at its worst even in this age of mass alienation, itself a feeling to which his own conduct has contributed so much. His whole persona exemplifies the out of touch smugness that people have come to despise in our identikit political leadership, while his pitch of representing a position dead centre between the Tories and Labour is almost exceptionally inapt in a period where both major parties are still seen as two cheeks of the same backside, with similar policies and an almost interchangeable personnel Oxbridge educated former special advisors.

The truth is Blair was Thatcher-lite, Cameron was Blair-lite and Clegg is Cameron-lite. No wonder the Tories feel they could benefit from a change in style if not substance and look longingly to the fatuous Boris Johnson, a master debator in favour of bankers. But as for Labour, to the extent Milliband does try to break from the Thatcher-lite ratchet, Clegg promises to block him!
His new slogan is to give Labour a brain and the Tories a heart – who does he think he is, the Wizard of Oz? But his boast of how much influence he’ll wield in the next Parliament if given a second chance rings exceedingly hollow, especially compared to his pathetic excuses for his capitulation on fees. Of course all coalitions involve give and take, but it must be concluded that Clegg and his MPs never cared all that much about the one pledge they actually filmed themselves putting their signatures to.

Clegg says he was in a situation where he had to go into coalition with one of two adamantly pro-fees parties and therefore couldn’t carry out his pledge. But in fact there were no unmovably pro-fees parties in Parliament in 2010, only shaky recent converts to the whole idea. Even the Tories under Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard had opposed fees and David Cameron had brought the party round to supporting them as a fait acompli, in his own words reluctantly. Labour had brought them in, then raised them in 2004 (breaking an explicit manifesto promise) but only in the most controversial of circumstances, by 5 votes and thanks to Scottish MPs whose own constituents then as now enjoyed free education, thus raising the Scottish national question in British politics at a time when it was otherwise dormant on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall and would be for a long while to come. The vote was actually one day before the Hutton Enquiry was published and Blair had been widely expected to fall under the twin blows of a report that few expected to be quite the whitewash it was and defeat in the Commons, hence the last minute bottling of the Brownites to allow the unloved policy through. Thus much of Labour had always opposed fees and Labour in opposition along with some rebels from the government side would vote against the ConDem policy of tripling fees in 2010, meaning LibDem votes were decisive in getting it through.

I am not now nor have I ever been a liberal, I believe much of the LibDems’ spinelessness and mendacity is perfectly explicable from a socialist perspective, but it should be noted that this is not even in the best traditions of Clegg’s own party. Gladstone, the most towering figure of the old Liberal Party, once resigned from the Cabinet after voting for a law which he personally did believe in but contradicted a point of view he had previously held and expressed in a book, to show that he did not vote for personal gain. Clegg immediately and completely sold out the people who had been decisive in putting many of his MPs into Parliament in the first place all in fvour of getting his ministerial Mondeos, not only not negotiating around the softness of both parties on fees to abolish them but not even sticking to the letter of his agreement and not raising them. For a leader in love with compromise he seems to have been remarkably blind to that compromise, and to the half way position of abstaining rather than swinging the vote the government’s way, even getting his usually more respected party colleague Vince Cable to write the bill.

As well as the chance of power at which the LibDems were palpably salivating, the only other thing Clegg seemed keen to get out of the coalition was some form of electoral and constitutional reform. Here he even played hardball (putting the lie to the idea he couldn’t have done the same over fees), performing the Underwoodian manoeuvre of persuading Labour to topple Brown to make it look to the Tories like they weren’t his only option even while he had already made up his own mind to go with them. All to get out of them an agreement to hold a referendum on AV – an offer Labour had already made and which he wheeled out Shirley Williams to denounce as totally unacceptable. In fact the AV referendum was already in Labour’s manifesto and if Clegg had negotiated as seriously with them as he did with the Tories its most likely he could have got something more out of them – but then the former FT journalist and Thatcherite Orange Book Liberal was always more sympathetic to the right.

What’s amazing is that no-one in the Clegg camp predicted how the “great achievement” of the AV referendum would turn out. With a proposal so modest it could easily have been brought in without plebiscite, in fact an electoral reform that is in some ways less proportional, certainly less hospitable for small and new parties, than first past the post, a ruthless coalition partner willing to block with the opposition in a relentlessly negative campaign and supporters of real electoral reform divided over whether to vote Yes or No it became a vote of confidence in Nick Clegg’s toxic political personality and the votes split accordingly. The pro-AV campaign Clegg and his party ran didn’t help matters, relying more on celebrity endorsements from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter than any popular enthusiasm or street campaigning. Helena, by the way, was in the amateur dramatics society at university with Nick Clegg – she became an actress and he went into politics; well, they do say politics is acting for ugly people…

The rest of Clegg’s constitutional reform package has fared no better. The Tories voted down Lords reform while the LibDems voted down a redrawing of constituency boundaries that would have favoured the Tories, their original price for the AV referendum and one of the better reasons to have voted No to it. The only changed that actually passed was a minimal amendment to the Royal succession, to make the firstborn of the Sovereign the Heir to the Throne whatever their gender. Prince George was born soon after, so provided he lives as long as his great grandmother and assuming (as the law does) that we remain a stable monarchy that long, it will be the 22nd century and everyone who can read this article now will almost certainly be dead before Clegg’s reform has any practical consequence – and then only if George’s firstborn is a girl! Even more glaringly, the change didn’t even address the sectarian iniquity that the Monarch and Heir are banned from marrying a Catholic.

From there on in it’s been even further downhill for a man once, fleetingly, as popular as Winston Churchill. His decision to debate Nigel Farage may have been brave in the abstract, but the arguments he used in the debate, and the personal comparison he effectively invited everyone to draw between Farage and his very unpopular self, looked almost calculated to play into UKIP’s hands. To defend a tolerant, non-racist vision of Britain but predicate that on support for the Westminster and Brussels elites, especially the latter and at a time when it was breaking Greece on the wheel of austerity and stirring up civil war and a far right revival in Ukraine, is simply to help UKIP spread xenophobia among the masses of people alienated from those elites.

Now he ends his campaign effectively stumping for the Tories, in the knowledge that he can only survive by remaining in power with them. If he remains an MP and party leader then he looks set to do all he can keep this appalling coalition in place, possibly propped up by the DUP and his old sparring partner UKIP, a prospect that would both cause untold misery across the land and put the future united existence of our country in sharp jeopardy. For this nightmare to be averted, the electors of Sheffield Hallam, many of them students, have a heavy responsibility and a great opportunity.

Tribute to Jack Ely

Sad to see that Jack Ely has died, singer with the Kingsmen, whose recording of “Louie Louie” in 1963 somehow better than almost anyone captured the inchoate rawness of adolescence. So much so that the FBI launched an investigation to discover whether the song contained hidden political or pornographic content.

Ely’s work was affectionately sent up a bit, by the great Todd Snider’s compassionate and humorous tribute here:

Hope Not Hate – fundraising CD

goodnight-x

Fundraising CD for HnH. Buy it here:

The full track listing

Disc One

Los Fastidios – In 1968
Inspiral Carpets – Our Time
Section 60 – Champion of the Underdog
Louise Distras – Stand Strong Together
Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six – The Tell Tale Hound
The Lottery Winners – Elizabeth
Tracey Curtis – Raising Girls & Boys
Spanish Class – Sven
The Barefoot Bandit – Blue Lights Flashing
Briana Corrigan – 15 Wonderful Love Songs
Attila the Stockbroker – Looters
Rawfolds – We Are the Underclass
The Wonder Stuff – Last Days of the Feast
Disc Two

Billy Bragg – The Battle of Barking
Chumbawamba – The Day the Nazi Died
Paddy Nash – Laughter and Love
Siobhan Mazzei – Courage of Your Convictions
Target By Numbers – Part of the Truth
Terry and Dead – Ballad of the Necrophiliac
Angelic Upstarts – Red Flag
The Rainkings – Nothing Set in Stone
Blossoms – Cut Me and I’ll Bleed
Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards – Bones
Joe Solo – No Pasaran!
The Hurriers – Britain Last
Paul Heaton – Everything is Everything

Keith Vaz in Swindon speaking to GMB members of Goan heritage

keith vaz in swindon

Keith Vaz gave an inspirational speech in South Swindon to around 100 GMB members , mainly of Goan, heritage last Saturday.

He spoke movingly of his parents’ own experience, working hard as first generation immigrants, and by their sacrifice, gave him and his sisters the opportunity of a better life. He said he could tell that our GMB members had hard working lives, he could see it “etched in their faces”, he had joined Labour when inspired by Harold Wilson, saying that Labour would welcome people from every culture and give them equal opportunity.

Labour and GMB are working with the Goan community in Swindon, and they need to help themselves by voting Labour , and returning Anne Snelgrove to parliament, where a Labour government will abolish zero hour contracts and raise the minimum wage.

Swindon takes the lead in removing parking restrictions for Cash in Transit vehicles

GMB, the union for security staff and the cash in transit industry, welcome the unanimous vote, with cross party support, of Swindon Borough Council last night to remove yellow line parking restrictions for cash in transit (CIT) vehicles making deliveries.

The motion was moved by Labour leader Jim Grant, and seconded by Gary Perkins for the Conservatives.

Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said “GMB welcome the decision. The removal of parking restrictions on CIT vans in town centres has been a long standing GMB demand.

“The motion allows security staff making cash deliveries to park on double yellow lines, in order to both shorten the length of time and distance that they have to carry cash, and also to make their movements less predictable, making robbery less likely.

“This move has been the result of effective and persistent lobbying of our local politicians by GMB. We congratulate the Labour group of councillors, and Jim Grant in particular, for skillfully guiding this through with cross party support.

“Up until now, GMB members in the cash in transit sector have had a choice of lawfully parking some distance from the bank where they are making the delivery to, and therefore exposing themselves to the risk of violent attack while they walk to the delivery point, or parking on a yellow line nearer to the bank and risking a parking fine.

“These workers are typically low paid, and have been required to personally pay the parking fines themselves. GMB is delighted that they can now park safely and near to the delivery point, without fear of being penalized by a fine they can ill afford to pay. GMB call on other councils to follow suit on this.”