Tag Archives: Labour Party

Labour and Article 50

Jeremy Corbyn is coming in for a lot of criticism over the three line whip on MPs to vote for the Government motion on Article 50. But what was the alternative? Corbyn has stood by the democratic principle that Parliament should honour the result of the Referendum from the beginning. The type of Brexit has been the subject of debate. Here some of Corbyn’s critics in the Labour Party have been making conflicting demands. On the one hand they understand the importance of the Single Market. But they are also trying to appease the anti-immigration feeling that has helped UKIP make inroads in the Labour heartlands.
Corbyn’s consistent response has been to oppose immigration controls. He argues that the important thing is for UK to continue to have unfettered access to European markets to defend jobs in this country. Free movement of goods presupposes free movement of labour. But free movement of labour should not be used to undercut wages and conditions in this country. Nor should communities that take a disproportionate number of migrant labourers suffer because of pressures on local infrastructure. You could argue that he has been ineffective in getting this message across. It would have been easier perhaps if he did not always have to answer media questions about splits in Labour’s ranks over immigration whenever he was interviewed on the subject
Labour is facing by-elections in two constituencies where the core Labour vote is overwhelmingly pro-Brexit. These by-elections were prompted by the resignation of two high profile Labour remainers, Tristram Hunt in Stoke and Jamie Read in Copeland. UKIP are the main challengers in Stoke and the Tories are hoping that a similar UKIP surge in Copeland will split the Labour vote and let them in. For Corbyn to be seen undermining the referendum result now would spell electoral disaster.
There are a lot of Labour MPs in a similar position in Labour’s heartlands. Many of them are from the centre and right of the party and have been highly critical of Corbyn throughout his leadership. This three line whip lets them off the hook over Article 50. Just asking MPs to vote to trigger Article 50 would have given the nod to a rebellion that would be seized upon by Labour’s critics to exploit their divisions on Europe. A free vote would have given them all the dilemma of following their principles at the risk of alienating still further their electorate or else appearing hypocritical. Even Labour MPs whose constituencies favoured remain are not immune to these pressures. The Lib Dems have an open strategy of appealing to Remain voters. They do not expect to get any Brexit voters any time soon. Labour MPs need both because the Labour electorate is divided on this issue and at present UKIP presents a greater existential threat to Labour than the Lib-Dems.
Now Corbyn has given them all a way out. Without a massive rebellion by Tory MPs Article 50 is going to be invoked anyway. Why split the party for the Tories’ benefit when a united Labour Party is needed to push for the best possible deal that defends jobs and living standards in a post-Brexit world? I find it ironic that the MPs who once accused Corbyn of gesture politics want a gesture of their own now that he is trying to practice some realpolitik.

Yet Another Baseless Labour Party Scare Story

jeremy_corbyn-1Labour Officials warned to be on the alert for violent behaviour at Labour Party Conference.

This is a headline in today’s i paper. Apparently there is a memo, we are not told who wrote it, that warned Labour Party officials to be on the lookout for “aggressive and potentially violent behaviour” at the conference this weekend.

I am sure the Labour Party will be able to handle anything that comes their way. After all they had no problems 11 years ago when a Stop the War Coalition member was forcibly ejected for heckling the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw during a speech supporting UK military intervention in Iraq. According to the Daily Telegraph

The Foreign Secretary was telling the conference that Britain was in Iraq “for one reason only” – to help the elected Iraqi government – when Walter Wolfgang shouted: “That’s a lie and you know it.” Mr Wolfgang, was immediately surrounded by security staff in full view of the television cameras and ejected from the hall in Brighton as officials revoked his pass.

When he tried to re-enter the secure zone, he was stopped by a police officer citing the Terrorism Act. At first Sussex police denied that Mr Wolfgang had been detained or searched but a spokesman later admitted that he had been issued with a section 44 stop and search form under the Terrorism Act.

Mr Wolfgang said: “We have reached a situation where freedom of expression has been threatened. I am not surprised, because the Labour Party has been taken over by a gang of adventurers who are on their way out.”

Mr Wolfgang was just as left wing as Jeremy Corbyn. He was a founder of CND who wanted to nationalize the land, ban nuclear weapons and leave NATO. And for that he was ejected from the Labour Party conference and arrested under the Terrorism Act. But the next day he was back in the conference and Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly apologised on national radio and television.

So when politicians like Chuka Umunna claim that levels of abuse, intimidation and vitriol in the Labour Party are worse than he can remember in the last 20 years, perhaps someone should remind him of the time the Blairites had to apologize when their “thugs” (with thanks to my MP, the Blairite John Woodcock for legitimizing this term of political analysis in a recent article in the Daily Mail) picked on an 82 year old Jewish socialist who escaped to Britain from Nazi Germany before the Second World War and joined the Labour Party in 1948.

Speaking of John Woodcock, his article ended with an invocation of the name of Clement Attlee. This showed an unfortunate sense of timing given that Atlee’s great nephew and great niece recently came out in support of Jeremy Corbyn. And then one of them, John MacDonald, was suspended from the Labour Party for activity on social media that does not exist. 160912-john-macdonald



 This is old style Blairite spin in action. Feed the press with a scare story about potential bullying and intimidation that has not happened yet, while conveniently ignoring what did happen when you were in charge. Raise up the spectre of a hit list of MPs facing potential deselection while ignoring the fact that thousands of members have already been deselected by the Labour Party’s Compliance Committee removing longstanding members’ right to vote. Complain about abuse while subjecting Corbyn and his supporters to unremitting abuse, questioning their capability, their honesty and their political and moral fibre while studiously avoiding any reference to their policies. Unless your name is Owen Smith. In which case you lay claim to the policies while launching personal attacks on a leader whose policies you claim to support.

Never mind. Jeremy Corbyn is going to win the leadership election AGAIN. Will his opponents in the Labour Party remember their democratic credentials and get behind him. What would Clem Attlee think of it all?  160912-clement-attlee


A Tale of Two Headlines

 

Frontpage1On Tuesday 19th July the Northwest Evening Mail was dominated by the news that the renewal of Trident guaranteed the future prosperity of Barrow-in-Furness, where BAe Systems will build the Successor programme of Trident submarines.

The project, which is estimated to cost £31 billion, will bring new buildings and roads to Barrow. 5,000 extra jobs are expected on top of the 7,000 people who already work in the shipyard and the knock on effect for property prices and other businesses in the town will make life better for many people.

But the day after the announcement anFrontpage2other front page headline in the Northwest Evening Mail suggested that not everybody  benefits from the Trident programme. The Borough Council are facing another round of cuts in the service of the government’s austerity programme. These cuts will inevitably fall upon the poor, the sick, the disabled; all those people who depend upon council services. As well as a food bank we also have a soup kitchen for those who cannot always afford the energy to cook a hot meal.

When I first moved to Barrow, thirty-three years ago the shipyard dominated the town even more so than today. 14,000 people worked in the yard, including thousands of white collar workers who drew up the plans and drawings for the vessels the yard built. There was a thriving apprenticeship scheme. It was hard to find a household without at least one family member employed by Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd, the company that ran the yard in those days. When the whistle sounded for “Vickers Out” thousands of workers would stream out on foot and on bikes filling the entire road.

Since then computer aided design has devastated the prospects for white collar employment. High tech production techniques and new employment practices such as subcontracting rather than direct employment have affected the blue collar workforce. The closure and demolition of the apprentice school may have been more symbolic than real in its consequences but the message to young Barrovians was clear. You could no longer rely upon the shipyard for your future.

House prices tumbled as Boom Town Barrow went into decline. My wife and I were trapped by negative equity for years as skilled workers were selling up and moving on in search of employment. Young people who could get to university did not return to bring their skills and enterprise to the town.  The 2011 census revealed a 4 per cent decline in population at a time when the overall population of England and Wales was rising at record rates.

Throughout this time the shipyard has survived and prospered thanks to the government funded Trident programme. It is now a profitable part of aerospace giant, BAe Systems. And those Barrovians who were able to keep their jobs or acquire the skills required for the new jobs have benefited from the Trident programme. But I am left with the feeling that, where once the shipyard was a unifying influence that brought prosperity to the whole town, now it seems to divide the town. The shipyard is booming again thanks to massive government expenditure. Meanwhile government cuts are devastating the lives of those least able to benefit from this boom. The high street is dominated by charity shops, Poundsavers and Poundstretchers, and other discount stores. And it could be argued that the people who use them are in effect subsidizing the jobs of their more fortunate neighbours via cuts to social care budget.

This divide was succinctly illustrated by the front page of the Evening Mail on Wednesday 7th September. This issue celebrates 30 years of submarine production at the Devonshire Dock Hall, the largest structure in Barrow and soon to be dwarfed by the buildings that will house the Successor programme. But the main headline tells a more shocking story.frontpage3

Crimes of violence against the person are as bad as Manchester and worse than Liverpool at 20.5 per thousand people. Self-harm is also way above the national average at 358 hospital admissions per 100,000 people. Problems with alcohol and smoking related deaths are also above the national average. There is a well-established link between figures like this and poverty. Barrow, despite thirty years of prosperity based on the Trident Programme and looking forward to a similar period of prosperity during the Successor Programme is one of the poorest, most deprived boroughs in England.

Personally I am opposed to Trident. Weapons of Mass Destruction are immoral whoever wields them. And there are plenty of other infrastructure projects around transport, renewable energy and carbon capture that would benefit from similar levels of investment and guarantee jobs for years to come. There is also an argument that being obsessed with great power status and possessing a so-called independent deterrent detracts from a proper debate about the role of Britain in the world and the sort of armed forces we need to carry out that role. For now that debate is over. Parliament has approved the Successor Programme. Even if we get a Labour government committed to abolishing our deterrent, it will be well nigh impossible for them to extract us from all the contracts, deals and agreements, never mind the horrendous penalty charges that would entail.

We can still learn from the past thirty years. How could such massive expenditure in Barrow lead to increasing poverty and a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots? We may not be in as position to stop the renewal of our nuclear deterrent. But we should strive to ensure that this new tranche of government investment serves to narrow that divide rather than exacerbate it. That is a discussion that ought to find favour with all wings of the Labour movement.

Cameron Blew it Over Brexit. So Lets Blame Corbyn

One narrative that is emerging to explain the outcome of the EU Referendum hinges on the claim that the Labour Party did not deliver the vote in its traditional northern heartlands. Or rather, Corbyn did not deliver because his brand of metropolitan socialism did not resonate with the concerns of traditional, socially conservative labour voters, in particular around the impact of largescale immigration from the EU on their communities.

And younger city dwellers who are fast becoming the natural demographic for Corbyn supporters are alleged to have failed to vote in sufficient numbers. According to a tweet by Sky Data that quickly gained acceptance on social media only 36% of 18 – 24 year olds voted.  Writing in The New Statesman, Barbara Speed was not convinced.

Sky isn’t claiming this is collected data – it’s projected, and a subsequent tweet said it was based on “9+/10 certainty to vote, usually/always votes, voted/ineligible at GE2015”. I’ve asked for more information on what this means, but for now it’s enough to say it’s nothing more than a guess.

On Sunday the Observer provided some more reliable data from Opinium, the polling agency that came closest to predicting the outcome of the EU Referendum.

OPINIUM Poll published on June 22nd

graphgraph 1

According to the Observer, Opinium pollsters, working for the LSE after the referendum

found turnout among young people to be far higher than data has so far suggested. “Young people cared and voted in very large numbers. We found turnout was very close to the national average, and much higher than in general and local elections.

“After correcting for over-reporting [people always say they vote more than they do], we found that the likely turnout of 18- to 24-year-olds was 70% – just 2.5% below the national average – and 67% for 25- to 29-year-olds.

The original Opinium poll published on the eve of the referendum also demonstrated the extent of the split in the Labour and Conservative parties. And the split was more pronounced for the Tories.

graph 2

The figures suggest that the Labour vote for Remain held even in the North, where their core vote was already under pressure from UKIP. This is borne out by post a Referendum poll by Lord Ashcroft.

Remain % Leave %
Conservative 42 58
Labour 63 37
Lib Dem 70 30
UKIP 4 96
Green 75 25
SNP 64 36

Source: Ashcroft polls Get the data

TO SUM UP

The Tories, not Labour promised a referendum on Europe.

The Tories, not Labour negotiated the new terms to keep Britain the EU.

The majority of Tory voters voted to leave.

The majority of Labour voters voted to remain.

But it is Labour, not the Tories who are to blame because they did not deliver a big enough vote for Remain. The Parliamentary Labour Party have accepted this and decided that they are going to blame Jeremy Corbyn. That is the justification for their leadership coup. There may be good political reasons to question Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. But the Referendum Campaign is not one of them.