Labour hopefuls booed and Jeered

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The Labour leadership frontrunners have been booed and jeered by union activists as they refused to condemn Tory plans for a £23,000 benefits cap.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow health minister Liz Kendall indicated they did not oppose the limit in principle during a hustings organised by the GMB in Dublin.

The rough ride came as the three confirmed their places on the ballot paper for the contest by recording support from at least 35 MPs. Figures published by Labour show Mr Burnham has been formally backed by 53 Commons colleagues since nominations opened this morning, ahead of Ms Cooper on 40 and Ms Kendall on 36.

Left-winger Jeremy Corbyn has been endorsed by 11 MPs, and shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh just five. Nominations are open until June 15.

The candidates faced questions over the Labour-union link, MPs’ pay, the benefit cap and the party’s election manifesto at the hustings.

Everyone except Ms Creagh said they would not share a platform with Prime Minister David Cameron in the run-up to the promised referendum on the EU. Many believe part of the party’s implosion inScotland was down to Labour politicians joining Tories at meetings and rallies during the independence referendum last year.

Ms Kendall said the party was under “mortal threat”, adding: “The scale of the defeat means we must change or face irrelevance.”

Mr Corbyn, the most left-wing of the candidates, told delegates his purpose in standing was to raise issues about how to face austerity and the way the Government will treat people over the next five years.

Mr Burnham said Labour had lost touch with many supporters and was seen as a “Westminster elite”, talking in “political code”.

“I will take Labour out of the Westminster bubble and will lead a party that people can relate to,” he said.

Ms Creagh said Labour was trusted to run the NHS, councils and schools, but parts of the electorate did not trust it to run the economy.

“Labour needs a fighter – and I am a fighter,” she said.

Ms Cooper said Labour’s election campaign was too “narrow”, adding that the party should reach out to win back voters “left behind”.

Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper were heckled by delegates for failing to give a yes or no answer when they were asked if they backed Conservative plans to reduce the cap on household benefits from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.

Both Ms Kendall and Ms Creagh said they were in favour of the change – to ensure it was impossible to receive more in welfare payments than the average family earned from work, though they warned it could cause localised problems.

To cheers, Mr Corbyn was the only one to declare himself opposed, insisting that in the absence of regulated private rents it would result in “social cleansing” in central London.

But while Mr Burnham said he backed the principle of the cap, he insisted it was “unfair” to expect such a direct answer.

“I am not setting my face against changes to the benefit system but it depends how they do it and I am not going to give you an answer like that to a question that complicated,” he told Mirror journalist Kevin Maguire, who was chairing the session.

Ms Cooper also faced dissent from the floor as she declined repeated requests to answer yes or no, despite saying the current policy was “unfair” and warning of damaging implications.

“I understand that everybody wants a yes or no, but we need to reform the legislation. As it stands, I think it is unfair. “It is our job in the Labour Party to try and argue for change and to try and make changes, whether that is in Parliament or anywhere else and that is what we are going to have to do.”

All five candidates said they did not believe Labour’s election manifesto was too left wing, with Mr Burnham praising former leader Ed Miliband for the policies the party fought on.

Asked by Scottish delegate Duncan Walker how Labour could win back votes in Scotland, all five agreed the party needed to re-connect with voters.

Ms Cooper said Labour had to be a party for the whole country, adding: “We have to rebuild – but it will take us time.”

Mr Burnham said: “I would say that it is the best manifesto that I have stood on in the four general elections I’ve stood for Parliament for Labour.

“I pay tribute and give credit to Ed Miliband. I believe he did something important in re-focusing our party on inequality.”

Ms Creagh stressed the need for major investment in the transport infrastructure.

“We had a huge row about High Speed Two. I want High Speed Three, Four and Five. I want Crossrail Two, Three and Four. Physical mobility is key to social mobility,” she said.

North West and Irish delegate Kevin Flanagan asked the candidates – to loud applause – if they were in the toilet when Labour’s election manifesto was drawn up.

Mr Burnham said he was not as involved as he would have liked.

He repeated that he had decided not to accept any donations from unions for his campaign because he believed it would put him in a stronger position to defend the Labour/union link.

In contrast, Ms Creagh said she would be happy to take donations from unions.

Ms Kendall said she would have liked to see the manifesto contain pledges to help elderly people.

Mr Corbyn said there was an issue about democracy in Labour since the role of the party’s annual conference been reduced in favour of policy forums.

Ms Cooper said many policies in the manifesto were good, such as the planned changes to zero hours contracts, and pledges to scrap fees for taking cases to an employment tribunal.

The five candidates were asked a series of specific questions to test their knowledge of the price of goods and services.

Ms Creagh correctly answered how much a TV licence cost, saying she paid by direct debit; Mr Corbyn thought a prescription in England cost £7.60, rather than the correct figure of £8.20; Ms Cooper thought the minimum wage for apprentices was under £3 an hour (it is £2.73).

Mr Burnham incorrectly guessed a litre of petrol was £1.60 rather than £1.16 and Ms Creagh knew how much she paid for a loaf of bread (£1.25).

Mr Corbyn received the loudest applause in the hall, such as when he pledged to attend an anti-austerity rally in London on June 20, but delegates said later there was no stand-out winner during the two-hour-long hustings.

The result of the election will be announced on September 12.

FC Barcelona



”Barcelona is my life…my heart is with Barcelona, always.” 
Lionel Messi

While the crisis that has engulfed world football over the indictment of fourteen FIFA officials by US lawmakers, on allegations of corruption, may cast a shadow over this year’s European Champions League Final in Berlin, the history of one of the clubs involved, FC Barcelona, will forever stand for all that is beautiful about the beautiful game.

In Europe there are a number of football clubs whose names conjure up a certain aura of magic, consistent with histories that are rich in drama, excitement, and meaning. In England there is Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool. In Scotland Glasgow Celtic with their fantastic fans – the best in Europe according to none other than Messi – fit the bill, while in Germany we have Bayern Munich. Meanwhile in Holland Ajax of Amsterdam possess it, and in Italy who could fail to put both Inter and AC Milan on the list, along with Juventus?

Eastern Europe also has its share of such clubs: Dynamo Kiev, Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow, Partisan Belgrade, Red Star Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb, and so on. Meanwhile in Spain there is Real Madrid, Athletico Madrid, and the most famous of all, FC Barcelona, better known simply as Barca.

In fact when it comes to magic Barca easily eclipses every other football club not just in Europe but the entire world. Their stadium, the Nou Camp (or Camp Nou), exudes a magic of its very own as football’s equivalent of the Roman Coliseum. It is the centre of the universe of this most universal of sports, where the excitement regularly demonstrated and generated on the pitch is replicated in the stands by fans whose passion and knowledge of the sport is unsurpassed.

In their famous blue and maroon striped shirts, the players of Barca, past and present, have given us some of the most wondrous and exquisite displays of footballing artistry. For years now they have embodying the game as the “working class ballet” it is when at its best.

Futbol Club Barcelona were formed in 1899 by Hans (Joan) Gamper, a Swiss national who’d moved to the city and fallen in love with both it anjd the Catalan people and culture. Catalonia’s determined assertion of independence from Spain has been a constant source of upheaval and unrest throughout its history, and FC Barcelona has consistently been a symbol of that independence. This was most evident during and after the Spanish Civil War, when Catalonia was a bastion of anti-fascist and republican resistance to Franco and his nationalist/fascist forces. FC Barcelona became an expression of Catalan pride and identity during the most repressive period in Spain’s history, after Franco prevailed and the country and its people entered a long period of authoritarian and fascist rule. The club’s stadium (up until the move to the Nou Camp in 1957, the club played at Camp de Les Corts) was for many years the only place the Catalan language could be spoken without fear of arrest.

During the civil war the club’s president, Josep Sunyol, was murdered when he made the mistake of venturing into a nationalist zone of the country sporting a Catalan flag on the car he was travelling in. Fans of FC Barcelona have never forgotten nor forgiven his murder, which today still informs the deep hatred and rivalry between the club and Real Madrid. Matches between them are known as ‘El Clasico’ and are the highlight not only of Spanish football but also European and world club football.

General Franco adopted Real as his preferred team in an effort to extract as much political capital as he could from the sport’s popularity in the country. Real from then on was considered the establishment team, the club representing the monarchy, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and the rich, while FC Barcelona was and remains a club associated with Catalan independence, republicanism, and anti-fascism. This identity informs its unique ownership model, comprising some 180,000 subscription-paying members (socios) rather than a single wealthy owner. The members elect the club’s president every four years, and the maximum a president can serve is two four-year terms. This co-operative model is also responsible for the club being associated with good causes through the club’s charitable foundation, such as Unicef, to whom it donates 1.5 million euros annually.

However in 2010 the club succumbed to market pressures and entered a controversial five-year sponsorship deal with Qatar Sports Investments worth £125 million. In 2011 the club broke with 112 years of history when it agreed to carry the name of a commercial sponsor – initially Qatar Foundation followed by Qatar Airways from 2013 – on the team shirts as part of the deal. Qatar is a particularly controversial sponsor given the mounting scandal over its selection to host the 2022 World Cup and its brutal treatment of migrant workers involved in preparing the infrastructure and stadia for the event. The reputational damage to the club’s ethos has not been lost on its board, which it was reported in January 2015 was reconsidering the sponsorship deal with the Qataris. However at time of writing the partnership remains very much in place.

In terms of value, Barcelona came third in the 2013-14 football rich list, compiled by the US-based accountancy firm Deloitte, behind Real Madrid and Manchester City with £407.5 million (574.21 euros) in revenue.

On the pitch, meanwhile, the total football that Barca have perfected and are famous for began with the arrival of Johann Cruyff, the legendary Dutch player and star of the famous Dutch international side of the 1970s. He joined the club in 1973 to team up with his old Ajax manager, Rinnus Michels, and made an immediate impact, inspiring the Catalans to a 5-0 thrashing of their archenemy, Real Madrid, en route to that season’s league title, the club’s first in 13 years.

Cruyff returned to the club as manager between 1988 and 1996 and continued to exert his influence on the club’s playing style and philosophy, leading them to four La Liga titles, one European cup, one Cup Winners’ Cup, and a Copa del Rey in that period.

The Barcelona style that places an emphasis on possession, movement, and the fast transition from defence to attack in waves with short, quick passing. Former Cruyff player, Pep Guardiola, modernized the style when he took over the reins as manager in 2008 with intense and aggressive pressing of the opposition when they have the ball. The style came to be known as ‘tiki-taka’, though it’s a description and a label is one that Guardiola – who left Barca in 2012 and now manages Bayern Munich – loathed as reductive and simplistic.

Some of the world’s greatest players have worn the famous maroon and blue shirt; however Barcelona is known for its outstanding youth academy, through which it develops and nurtures talent from a young age. Lionel Messi, currently the best players in the world, joined the club at 13 from Argentina before progressing through the ranks. Describing the experience, Messi said: “The Barcelona youth programme is one of the best in the world. As a kid they teach you not to play to win, but to grow in ability as a player. At Barca we trained every day with the ball, and I hardly ever ran without a ball at my feet. It was a form of training aimed very clearly at developing your skills.”

When the players of this famous old club take to the pitch at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on 6 June to face Italian giants, Juventus, in the Champions League Final, they will do so in the knowledge that they represent not just a football club but a history and an idea of how the game should be played that resonates with people all over the world.

Why the Labour Party needs Jeremy Corbyn in the contest

Let us be clear. Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to win the leadership contest, and may not be the potential leader most likely to win a general election. Anyone judging his candidacy on those bases misses the point.

The Labour Party, and the broader labour movement, needs a wide ranging, and evidence based debate about why we lost the last two general elections. Up until now the leadership contest has been dire, with all candidates seeking to occupy similar narrow ground, based upon the political perceptions of those who spend too much time in the Westminster hothouse of Portculis House.

Jon Lansman is exactly right when he says:

Jeremy Corbyn may not win this election but if he gets on the ballot paper, he’ll widen the debate and change [the other candidates’] campaigns. Candidates will talk more about austerity than aspiration. If they mention party “reform”, they’ll be more likely to mean democracy and less likely to mean new ways of excluding trade unions.

When the “left” candidate [Burnham] says he won’t take trade union money and wants to downgrade the role of party members in picking candidates, the contest needs a shake up. I hope that MPs, new or old, won’t rate any commitment they may have made last week to a fellow MP above the right to choose of those that put them there.

Back in the 1980s the left in the party lost sight of the need to adapt as society and the electorate changes, and therefore argued both a programme, and a style of politics that was out of touch, and could not lead to electoral victory. The danger in the current leadership election is that the centre-right of the Labour Party are making a similar mistake, assuming that the policies, campaigning methods and attitudes that led to electoral victory in 1997 could be successfully replicated today.

The changes made in the party’s constitution following the Collins review have consolidated the gatekeeper role of MPs. They must use that power wisely to enable a serious debate. Jeremy Corbyn is a substantial political figure, who will bring into the debate opinions and arguments which would otherwise not be heard. Labour is a coalitional party, and in order to reach a new election winning consensus, the voices of all parts of the party need to be heard in the debate.

GMB challenges M&S boss to try living on £45.50 per week

M&S Swindon workers challenge Marc Bolland, who got big bonus yesterday, to try living on the £45.50 he pays them for a week to find out what it’s like to get a text in the morning telling them they have no work that day says GMB

GMB, the union for staff at Marks & Spencer (M&S) Distribution depot in Swindon, commented on the Board awarding a £2.1 million bonus to chief executive Marc Bolland, £1.4m to Steve Rowe head of food, £1.1 m to John Dixon clothes boss and £1.04 to another manager Laura Wade-Gery on the back of sales rising 0.4% in a year.

Last month GMB commenced legal proceedings for 240 members employed by an agency at the Swindon Distribution on £6.50 per hour minimum wage compared with direct staff paid up to £2 per hour higher. Under the Agency Workers Directive this is illegal after 12 weeks. GMB’s claim is that M&S is improperly using a loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation and that this should cease. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release dated 29th May.

Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said “Marc Bolland has been handed this enormous bonus due to an increase of the profits from Marks and Spencer, a Company that trades on its Ethical stance.

These profits have been earned of the backs of workers in their supply chain who work on precarious contracts for minimum wages, and never know from one week to another if they will be able to pay their rent or feed their children. They get a text in the morning telling them they have no work that day, or come in to work only to be sent home after 2 hours. Workers at their distribution centre in Swindon are only guaranteed 7 hours work a week on minimum wage -a total of £45.50. This is how Marks and Spencer have made these profits, by using exploitative, precarious contracts and unethical treatment of workers in their supply chain.

We challenge Marc Bolland to try living, just for one week, on the £45.50 he expects these distribution workers to live on. Take up this challenge, and find out what its like to work in your supply chain.”

Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary, added “There could be no stronger illustration of how M&S behave like sharks while hypocritically pretending to be angels, than the huge bonus paid to their chief executive, Mr Bolland and other managers when M&S’s profits have been boosted by the unethical exploitation of agency workers at their Swindon distribution centre.

Hundreds of agency staff are paid on minimum wage, and guaranteed only 7 hours per week, and have the indignity of anxiously waiting every day to see whether they get a text message indicating whether they are needed for work, or whether they will lose a day’s pay. The agency workers are paid up to £2 per hour less than other staff doing exactly the same work.

GMB has launched 240 Employment Tribunal claims, as we believe that the contracts are not only unethical but also unlawful. M&S cannot wash their hands of moral responsibility here, as M&S’s own “Global Sourcing Guidelines” indicate that they not only supervise their supply and distribution contractors, but also states that M&S must pre-approve all sub-contracting.

At the Swindon M&S distribution centre, hundreds of vulnerable and low paid workers have been exploited for years through unethical subcontracting to employment agencies, and M&S should have known. GMB calls on them to conduct a full investigation, and to address the injustice.”

Charles Kennedy’s speech against the Iraq War, 22nd February 2003

“Ladies and gentleman I am delighted and privileged to join with you here this afternoon on what is without doubt is this historic occasion. And given the events at the United Nations in New York yesterday when they spoke, today across the world the people are speaking and the Prime Minister and the President have got to start listening. That is our message to them.

“For months now I have been asking questions in the House of Commons of the Prime Minister and I have not been getting the answers.

“What’s come back has been confusing, alarming and you are all here because like me you think it lacks persuasion. So it is no wonder that so much of British and European opinion is not convinced but neither is a lot of American opinion convinced either and that is all too often overlooked in the reporting that we see.

“Now my party has consistently argued from the outset for four principles. First, the mandate of the United Nations must be the one that takes the decision and gives the legitimacy. And secondly that those decisions have got to be based on adequate information. That means full compliance with the weapons inspectors.

“So I have joined you here today and I have been asking these questions for months in Parliament because I am not persuaded by the case for war. The arguments have been contradictory and inconsistent and the information has all too often been misleading as well as inconclusive.

“It’s no wonder that people are scared and confused. I say this to you quite seriously as somebody who personally happens not to be a pacifist but has the utter respect for anyone for grounds of conscience who is.

“As somebody who is not actually anti American but is deeply worried by this Bush administration. And as someone who is under no illusions about the brutal dictatorship and the appalling regime which is Saddam Hussein.

“But I conclude by returning to the United Nations. If the great powers of the world ignore it then great damage will be done to the world order and the best hope of international justice for everybody in the world.

“And without a second United Nations resolution based on authoritative fact from the weapons inspectorate I can assure you there is no way in all conscience that the Liberal Democrats either could or should support a war and we will not.

“International justice also requires a serious restarting of the middle east peace process. I wish the United Nations was able to devote its time and energies to that constructive process rather than the destructive process that we are seeing underway at the moment.

“That absence of a middle east process can only fuel extremism and international terrorism. This is the riskiness moment for Britain since Suez.

“Our country has a principled and a responsible role to play on the world stage but to do so we have to pursue international justice through the United Nations and our government has got to take its people with them. It’s patently failing and that is my message for you today. Thank you.”

hat tip: huffington post

Sepp Blatter’s re-election

Sepp-BlatterThe arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich at the best of US lawmakers, two days before the football ruling body’s annual congress, casts a harsh light not so much on the way FIFA is run but on the assertion by the US of its right to police the world.

The manner and timing of the arrests eclipses the gravity of the corruption allegations that have been levelled against the seven officials concerned, indicted by the US Justice Department and arrested at a Zurich hotel by Swiss authorities working in cooperation with their US counterparts. In total fourteen individuals have been indicted on charges of corruption in connection with the investigation, with the seven arrested in Switzerland now facing extradition to the United States. None of the seven is a US citizen.

Putting this event into some sort of context, just imagine for a moment the international backlash if either Russia or China decided to organize the arrest of citizens of another country in a third country, without first taking the trouble to consult the appropriate authorities of the countries in which the individuals concerned are nationals and/or citizens. The resulting backlash would be off the scale, especially in the US, adding more fuel to the Russophobia and Sinophobia that is already prevalent there, as well as throughout the West among its allies.

The question a world interested in the right of national sovereignty, independence, respect, and international legality is entitled to ask is this: exactly where does this assertion of the right by the US to run its writ anywhere it sees fit stem from?

The answer of course is obvious. The astounding arrogance we have just witnessed on the part of the United States is a malign product of the unfettered power it has enjoyed and abused for too many years by now, evident in the chaos and crisis it has sown across a globe that has been plunged into a perennial cycle of conflict and instability.

Unsurprisingly, almost as soon as the US FIFA arrest operation was mounted, the call to have Russia stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup grew to a crescendo. There were even calls to have it moved to England instead. How convenient.

The resulting re-election of Sepp Blatter as FIFA president at the congress, which continued regardless, came as a rebuke to a clear attempt to undermine both it and him, with the objective of bringing about an end to his leadership. This is not to assert that Blatter is completely without fault in the way the organization is run – indeed there may well be serious and legitimate questions in this regard – but this ‘stunt’, for there is no other way to describe it, was a crude and transparent attempt to seize control of one of the few international institutions that remains truly democratic and independent of control by the West.

Sepp Blatter may have many faults but kow-towing to the writ of the powerful nations within FIFA is not one of them. In fact the only thing the US and its friends in Europe have succeeded in doing is to solidify support around him as a symbol of resistance to their tremendous arrogance. For what we saw with the arrests in Zurich resembled less a demonstration of the long arm of US justice as an example of US imperialism.

Under Sepp Blatter’s stewardship, FIFA has made great strides in developing football throughout the developing world. This has taken place under football ruling body’s Goal Programme, which since its launch in 1998 has put in place modern pitches, training centres, youth academies, infrastructure, and equipment, thus providing the foundation upon which football has flowered across the southern hemisphere over the past two decades.

Blatter has played a key role in driving forward these efforts, which is why he’s earned the respect and loyalty of FIFA member associations throughout the developing world, and is why they refuse to participate in the campaign of demonization that has been waged against him over the past few years, What ‘they’ dismiss as patronage, others call the redistribution of resources and funds from the developed nations to the undeveloped nations, providing the latter with the ability to compete on the international stage. Even more important is how it has kept alive the dream in the hearts of millions of impoverished kids of a route out of poverty for them and their families via football.

The growing controversy over the decision to grant Qatar the privilege of hosting the 2022 World Cup cannot be denied, giving rise to legitimate questions over the bidding process and procedures. The abuse of migrant labour, employed on the construction of stadia and infrastructure for the 2022 tournament, is a matter of deep concern and unless strong action is taken by FIFA in response will undeniably leave a stain on the organization and international football. But here the West has little credibility also. Qatar, along with the other Gulf States, has long been guilty of such human rights abuses, while remaining close allies of the US, Britain, and France. The word for this state of affairs is hypocrisy.

What took place in Zurich was an attempt to seize the leadership of FIFA. It was an attempt driven less by justice and more by geopolitics.

Sadly for them, however, it failed. Sepp Blatter was re-elected. In the end democracy won.









GMB lodges legal claim for 240 members at M&S Swindon depot

Rogue employers should not be allowed to abuse their staff, and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts says GMB

GMB, the union for workers in the Marks and Spencer (M&S) distribution supply chain, has commenced legal proceedings on behalf of 240 members employed at the Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre in South Marston, Swindon.

Marks and Spencer own this Distribution Centre. They contract the running of the site to logistics company, DHL. They in turn recruit several hundred workers through the recruitment agency, 24-7 Recruitment Services. These workers have an employment contract through yet another company, Tempay Ltd.

DHL took over the contract to run the site in January 2015, which was previously run by another logistics company, Wincanton.

Workers employed by Tempay Ltd are employed on the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour. Directly employed DHL workers doing exactly the same work, are paid up to £2 per hour higher than Tempay staff. Many of the Tempay staff have worked on the site for several years

The legal claims brought by GMB, on behalf its members, are against all four companies: DHL, Wincanton, 24-7 Recruitment Services, and Tempay Ltd.

The claims relate to the Agency Worker Regulations, which came into effect in 2011, and which guarantee equal pay for agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks. A loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation, allows employers to evade these provisions for equal pay, by guaranteeing a few hours of work each week.

Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said

“GMB has always argued that getting round the law relating to equal pay by the use of the Swedish Derogation is unethical.

On examination of the specific contracts of employment of our members used on this M&S site, we believe that the terms of these contracts seeking to avoid equal pay are unenforceable, and the attempt by the employers to evade their responsibilities to their staff is not only unethical but also unlawful.

Our members argue that over a period of years, the employers on this site have played fast and loose with the law, not only failing to follow the Agency Workers Regulations, but also failing to follow TUPE regulations that protect workers when they are transferred between businesses. GMB will not allow rogue employers to abuse their staff, and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts.

The South Marston site is operated wholly for the benefit of Marks and Spencer. It is clear that the treatment of these workers is in breach of both M&S’ Code of Ethics and Behaviour and also in breach of M&S’ Global Sourcing Principles. The Global Sourcing Principles require each of M&S’ suppliers, whether of goods or services, to comply with all relevant laws and regulations relating to terms of employment.

The use of so-called Swedish Derogation contracts is also seemingly in breach of the Global Sourcing Principles which states that temporary labour arrangements must not be used to avoid obligations to workers under labour laws and regulations

M&S must question whether they have an ethical supply chain, when within their own UK distribution chain, unethical and unlawful employment practices are used. Particularly as M&S’s own policies demonstrate that they exercise oversight of the practices used in their supply chain. GMB has previously raised with M&S the practices at this site, in order to give them the opportunity to resolve them, but these malpractices continue.

The GMB call on M&S to investigate the working practices at the South Marsden site. As a matter of principle GMB believes that all staff at South Marston site, who are doing the same work, should receive equal pay, whoever they work for.”

Democracy requires a real choice: Jon Trickett must stand for leader

by Jon Lansman

Following its executive meeting this weekend, leading centre-left Labour grassroots organisation, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), has today called on Jon Trickett MP to stand for the Labour leadership, and has urged party and trade union activists to join the call.

CLPD members have reported that there is widespread dismay amongst party activists at the uninspiring nature of the leadership election campaign, with candidates queuing up to apologise for the alleged overspending by the last Labour government, and still failing to challenge publicly the neoliberal narrative on austerity which is the primary reason why Labour was ultimately judged wanting in its handling of the economy.

Those on the Blairite wing of the party may well believe that narrative but, like Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper might not. And yet, with no left candidate putting an anti-austerity case, there is no chance of them showing any more courage than their predecessors, nor of properly exposing the reasons Labour lost this election. They will do nothing more than espouse right-wing policies in order to chase right-wing votes. A left candidate is essential to changing the nature of this election.

The Labour Party desperately needs a candidate who:

  1. is working class – we are rightly concerned about the numbers of women and black people amongst our leaders, but we routinely underestimate the importance of leaders who are genuinely working class and not merely capable of pointing to “working class roots”;
  2. is an active trade unionist – not just a union member to get the union’s backing in their selection – who sees trade union rights and organisation as something a Labour government should positively encourage rather than something which can only be discussed in private;
  3. is against austerity and will commit from now on, whether they win or not, to present the case against austerity, whether it comes from a Tory government, a Labour government, or for that matter an SNP government.
  4. will commit to turning Labour into a movement again – not just a voter ID army but a real insurgency, the sort that can’t be run from the leader’s office in Westminster, that utilises the vitality of street protest, of trade union mobilisation, of the anger of tenants and disabled people whose lives are threatened with devastation by corporate greed and Tory cuts, that speaks with passion of a message it believes;
  5. will commit to ending the centralisation of power within the party – with no effective internal democracy, no serious challenge or questioning through a democratic structure, it is easy for the policy wonks, spin doctors and focus group facilitators to fall for their own propaganda.

There are two obstacles to having a candidate who fits the bill: the first is that too many MPs, including MPs on the Left, have already declared their support for other candidates. The second is the absurd requirement that only those who are nominated by 15% of the parliamentary party (currently 35 MPs) are permitted to stand – a barrier to standing which CLPD opposed from the start.

In 2010, when the threshold was only 12½ %, candidates had to be “lent” nominations in order to stand, which provided clear evidence that the threshold was already too high. But in the Collins report, an increase was proposed to 20%, later reduced to a still higher 15%.

Nevertheless, the party must have a real choice. Shadow cabinet member Jon Trickett, in CLPD’s estimation, is the one best placed to fit the bill. Join the campaign now. Help us urge Jon to stand, and then help him to win.

Healey and the UKIP threat

by Bob Pitt

Labour MP John Healey has an article on the Guardian website entitled “Why Labour must win back working class voters from Ukip”. He argues that the Tories won the general election at least in part because Labour lost many of its voters to the xenophobic right, and he outlines polices he says can regain their electoral support.

Healey wraps up his anti-Ukip message in progressive-sounding language, for example by referring to the need for “active trade unions to protect the pay and conditions of workers” in order to combat Ukip. He also talks about “an entrepreneurial industrial policy that creates good jobs”. Maybe I’m being unduly sceptical, but that strikes me as mostly window dressing.

Healey is hardly going to support the repeal of the anti-union laws that have contributed to the weakening of trade union organisation, is he? Nor is he likely to advocate the level of state intervention in the economy that would be necessary to restore the UK’s manufacturing base.

In practice, I suspect, Healey’s anti-Ukip strategy will concentrate on stepping up Labour’s anti-migrant rhetoric. By giving legitimacy to Ukip’s stance on immigration, that would have the effect of strengthening Ukip’s appeal to voters, not undermining it.

In his article Healey heavily hypes up the threat Ukip poses to Labour, asserting that “Ukip hurt us in Tory-Labour marginals by eating into our working-class support”. That possibility cannot be excluded – it may be, for example, that an increase in the Ukip vote contributed to Ed Balls’ defeat in Morley and Outwood – but in the absence of an empirical study of voting patterns in those seats all Healey can offer to substantiate his claim is anecdotal evidence and guesswork.

He finds it significant that “the Ukip share of the vote was higher in Labour-held seats than in Conservative-held ones”. But that is what you would expect, given Ukip’s appeal to C2 and DE voters, who tend to make up a larger proportion of the electorate in Labour constituencies. It does not follow that Ukip drew more of its support from working-class Labour voters than it did from Tory voters.

It is in fact a well-established feature of Ukip’s rise that its votes have been “overwhelmingly stolen from the Conservatives”. Of those who voted Ukip in 2015, according to Lord Ashcroft’s figures, only 14% had voted Labour in 2010, whereas 43% had voted Tory. More of them had voted Lib Dem in 2010 (18%) than voted Labour.

Healey writes ominously: “I saw this rising Ukip threat in my own South Yorkshire constituency”. He fails to mention that he coasted home in his Wentworth and Dearne seat with an absolute majority, winning 56.9% of the vote. It is true that Ukip finished in second place, having increased their vote by 16.7% compared with 2010. But their candidate still finished well behind Healey, with 24.9% of the vote.

In order for Ukip to pose a real threat in Healey’s seat, they would need to make serious inroads into the Labour vote. But there is little evidence they are doing that. Ukip’s advance in Wentworth and Dearne was at the expense of the Lib Dems and Tories, who lost 13.5% and 2.7% of their 2010 vote respectively. Healey, by contrast, increased his vote by 6.3%.

Healey’s views presumably carry some weight within the parliamentary party, as he was appointed to the Labour taskforce set up last year to address the electoral threat from Ukip.

As part of his campaign to alert Labour to the Ukip menace, Healey tells us, he “got Dr Matthew Goodwin, one of the co-authors of the excellent Revolt on the Right, to discuss Ukip with Labour MPs”. But Goodwin is the last person Labour MPs should be listening to, given his record of grossly exaggerating Ukip’s popular support and electoral prospects.

Here is Goodwin being interviewed by the Telegraph in March:

Basing his forecasts on visits to Ukip’s target seats, he said: “My view is that Ukip is likely to win six Parliamentary constituencies. They have pretty much got three or four seats now in the bag unless there is a monumental mistake and a car crash before May 7.”

Prof Goodwin – one of the most widely respected experts on the rise of Ukip – said national polls, which show Ukip’s support on around 14 per cent, tended to underestimate support for the Eurosceptic party….

Prof Goodwin forecast “a far more convincing win for Farage than people currently acknowledge” in Thanet South, where his campaign was being run in below the radar ward by ward public meetings.

This all turned out to be complete nonsense, of course. As we know, in reality Ukip got 12.6% of the vote nationally and just a single MP, while Nigel Farage was easily defeated in Thanet South, gaining 32.4% of the vote compared with 38.1% for the victorious Tory candidate.

One of the Labour-held seats that Goodwin repeatedly warned was under serious threat from Ukip was Great Grimsby. Based on the 2010 general election result this was a highly marginal constituency, where the incumbent Labour MP Austin Mitchell had just held on with 32.7% of the vote, only narrowly ahead of the Tory candidate on 30.5%.

In April last year Goodwin went so far as to assure the local paper that “Great Grimsby is probably the most favourable seat for Ukip” and helpfully offered his advice to Farage that the Ukip leader should consider standing there. Austin Mitchell dismissed Goodwin’s comments as a “joke”, and he wasn’t far wrong. Ukip in fact finished in third place with 25% of the vote, well behind the successful Labour candidate Melanie Onn who got 39.8%.

If he takes his inspiration from Matthew Goodwin, it’s no wonder Healey’s analysis of Ukip’s challenge to Labour is flawed. I’m all in favour of an objective assessment of the effect that the rise of Ukip has had on the Labour vote, but Healey’s evidence-free, Goodwin-inspired scaremongering is certainly not it.