Exposing the Corporate Hypocrites

20150807_100728A key concept in modern marketing is that of Brand Promise: the commitments made by a company that seek to align it to the expectations and preferences of its target market, to provide competitive advantage.

In particular, some companies seek to position themselves as “ethical”, whether in relation to avoiding controversial business sectors, such as guns, tobacco and alcohol; or by making commitments to avoid exploitative abuse of workers, either their own direct employees or in their supply chain.

Of course, any employer should be congratulated and encouraged in treating its employees with fairness and respect, and in ensuring that similar fairness and respect is observed in its supply chain. However, all too often we see the phenomenon of companies masquerading as ethical, while actually tolerating exploitation and abuse of workers, either by its own managers or by its contractors and sub-contractors.

In my personal experience one of the worst at pretending to be angels while actually behaving like sharks is Marks and Spencer. GMB has issued an open letter to M&S CEO, Mark Bolland over the issue, and we await his response. A recent BBC Radio Four  programme (17 minutes 40 seconds in) exposed the abuse of the so-called Swedish Derogation at M&S’s Distribution Centre in Swindon. This legal loophole allows employers to avoid their obligation under the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) to give equal pay to agency staff. The legislation derives from the EU, and member states have legally binding treaty obligations not to allow avoidance techniques, and Britain’s implementation of the AWR is already subject to a formal complaint to the EU commission that it promotes such avoidance. As such, no genuinely ethical employer would push down costs in their supply chain by contracting out their distribution chain to companies who exploit agency workers through use of such a contested loophole. Yet that is exactly what M&S do in the UK, and GMB is currently assisting 240 members in taking cases through Employment Tribunals, all of whom work in M&S’s supply chain.

Another particularly pernicious example of a company hypocritically claiming to be an ethical employer, while actually acting in an exploitative manner is the Nationwide Building Society, and GMB recently staged what will be the first of many protests outside Nationwide high street branches.

The Living Wage campaign admirably seeks to ensure that employers pay a sufficiently high wage to allow their workers to live in dignity, which is calculated to be £7.85 per hour outside London. Nationwide Building Society advertises itself proudly as one of the Principle Partners of the Living Wage Foundation. Yet cleaners and security staff at Nationwide, who work for Carillion, have been refused the living wage, as Nationwide declines to provide the necessary uplift to the contract to allow their contractors to pay the living wage. In fact, these workers are paid little more than the national minimum wage of just £6.50 per hour.

Stephen Uden, Nationwide’s Head of Corporate Citizenship, who cut his teeth at Microsoft, wrote in 2014 “In lots of companies there are these almost invisible staff who serve you a coffee in the morning or the cleaner I see when I get into the office at 7am. And it is those people that work for Nationwide that we feel should be appropriately rewarded whether they are directly working for us or not.

Let us be clear: Nationwide is accredited as a Living Wage company, but does not in fact pay the Living wage to those who do not directly work for it. They advertise themselves as a Living Wage employer, and consumers would therefore be misled into thinking that Nationwide has no employees – direct or indirect – earning less than the Living Wage.

Nationwide makes a weasel argument that in the small print of the Living Wage Foundation code of practice, employers have three years to introduce the living wage for contractors after signing up for it. Nationwide follow the letter of these rules and  yet act completely outside the spirit, because they could afford to pay the living wage to contractors, and yet they simply choose not to. (It is also worth questioning the “ethical” stance of Nationwide in even employing Carillion as a contractor, who are a company who have been up to their necks in the scandal of unlawful blacklisting)

Surely the Living Wage Foundation should not allow any employer to misleadingly claim to be a Living Wage employer until they actually are paying the Living Wage? Surely consumers would be surprised that an employer can proudly advertise that it is a Living Wage employer, and pontificate about the plight of “invisible” workers, while still choosing not to pay those same workers the Living Wage for a whole three years?  In fact declaring themselves to be a Living Wage employer, but not extending that to contractors, was arguably a largely empty gesture by Nationwide, as I am informed that the overwhelming majority of their directly employed staff were already paid that amount, or more.

This also raises the question of what role trade unions should play in bodies that support companies in claiming ethical credentials. For example, Marks and Spencer subscribes to the Ethical Trading Initiative, which also includes international trade union bodies, and at this year’s GMB Congress I successfully moved a motion that GMB would seek – through its own international affiliates – to challenge the possible misuse of companies like M&S of so-called ethical endoresments to provide a rubber stamp, while their actual activities may be questionable.

The TUC also sits on the Living Wage Foundation advisory council, alongside Stephen Uden of Nationwide. While it is important that trade unions encourage companies who seek to act ethically, trade unions also need to ensure that we are not co-opted into what becomes a whitewash industry, and that means that we need to be prepared to act independently and call out hypocritical employers.

Corbyn is the antidote to Scottish independence

scotland_2715100bScotland has been the glaring and conspicuous omission in the predictions of doom and disaster being offered by a parade of New Labour voices in the event that Jeremy Corbyn ‘dares’ win the Labour leadership election. In fact so glaring is this omission you would think that Scotland had vanished from the map.

The reason Scotland has been so conspicuously absent from the shared analysis of doom being proffered is of course because Labour’s dire predicament north of the border utterly refutes it.

For it is in Scotland, specifically in former Labour heartlands, that the appellation Red Tories is now firmly attached to the party and its members and supporters. From once holding a position north of the border so dominant it was said that Labour’s vote was weighed rather than counted, it is now a brave Labour canvasser who dares chap a door in a typically Scottish working class community, knowing they are more likely to receive verbal abuse than a smile.

And little wonder, as Labour in Scotland is currently a pale shadow of the party it was, a consequence of Blair and his New Labour project driving a stake through the heart of its founding principles in an abject surrender to Thatcherite free market nostrums. Welfare reform, PFI, a minimum wage which became entrenched as a de facto maximum wage, deregulation of the banks, failure to deal with the housing crisis, and crippling inequality – this is New Labour’s legacy in Scotland, and this is without even mentioning Iraq.

The consequence in 2014 was a referendum on independence that came perilously close to ending the union, followed by a general election in May of this year that saw Labour decimated, leaving them with just one MP at Westminster where just five years earlier they had 41. With the SNP taking 56 out of Scotland’s total of 59 constituency seats, the over-used word ‘historic’ not only applied to Labour’s decline in fortunes and the SNP’s corresponding surge in support, it was an understatement.

Ed Miliband found himself caught between two competing nationalisms as a result of the Tories’ successful ploy of whipping up fear in England of Sturgeon and the SNP pulling the strings at Westminster in the event of a Labour minority government coming to pass.

A rise in English nationalist sentiment followed, benefiting the Tories and also UKIP, both of whom took votes from Labour south of the border. This is why the idea that Labour’s defeat under Miliband was due to it being too left wing is completely fallacious.

On the contrary in ceding ground to the Tories on the causes of the financial crash, Ed Miliband found himself struggling to combat their attacks on Labour’s economic record, forced to emphasise the importance of bringing down the deficit via cuts, albeit less draconian than those of his opponent, while to his left he came under pressure to resist the rise in support in Scotland for the SNP with their astute positioning on anti austerity, forcing him here to emphasise more progressive policies on tax, investment, and wealth redistribution.

A mixed message and the lack of a clear and convincing direction of travel was the result, leaving Labour mired in the worst of both worlds with the disastrous denoument there for all to see.

Jim Murphy’s leadership of Scottish Labour was an additional factor in its demise. The party had already made the terrible decision to join with the Tories in the Better Together campaign against independence and afterwards desperately needed a leader who could restore a semblance of credibility among thousands of former Labour supporters who had voted Yes in order to break from Westminster.

That leader was not Jim Murphy, who at once embarked on a woeful rebranding of Scottish Labour as Scottish first and Labour second, completely or conveniently misreading the support for independence as a resurgence of Scottish nationalism as an end in itself rather than a means to an end.

This is where Jeremy Corbyn comes in. He is real Labour in the 21st century, leading a movement committed to shifting the priority of the party and a future Labour government away from the rich, big business, and the City of London over to the needs of ordinary working people, those who’ve been forced to pay the price of an economic crisis caused by the greed and excess of the banks and financial sector and not by the spending of the last Labour government on welfare and public services.

Corbyn also calls for the scrapping of Trident, with the billions saved to be spent on investment in manufacturing, housing, and improving public services. In addition he advocates an end to the scourge of poverty pay, foodbanks, and an exploitative private rental housing market. And he stands for a foreign policy underpinned by diplomacy and the universal application of international law rather than might is right.

In so doing he will reverse the trend of separating working people across the UK on the basis of nationality and instead unite them on the basis of class, making a Labour Party led by him the antidote to Scottish independence.

Socialism or barbarism. Too many people and communities across the UK already know what barbarism looks like. Given the growing and unstoppable momentum of Corbyn’s campaign, they are more than ready for a little socialism.




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


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 Gandhi 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 destabilise 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 women 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 undeserving 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 supermarket 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

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


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