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Is progressive patriotism possible?

27th January 2020

Armed Forces

UK Armed Forces – not to be criticised….

The idea of progressive patriotism is being raised as one of the issues the Left needs to grapple with following Labour’s General Election defeat in December last year.  It is certainly the case that by the measure of patriotism used by the BBC and right wing media, Labour in general, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, do not measure up.

The new patriotism test, against which Labour fails, has evolved by degrees following the defeat of the Soviet Union; the post 9/11 war on terror, resulting in UK troops being deployed following UK backing for the US invasion of Iraq; the deployment of UK troops, supporting the US once again in the unwinnable war in Afghanistan; and the four years long commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.

Replacing the International Workers’ Day May Day Bank Holiday, with an 8th May Bank Holiday to mark 75 years since the end of World War 2, is just the latest occasion to glorify the armed forces.  It is ironic that across much of Europe both 1st May and the 8th May, marking the end of WW2 and the defeat of fascism, have been public holidays for many years, the two not being seen in opposition to each other.

The UK was in a different position to much of Europe as World War 2 approached.  The British Empire was still a tangible reality and the ruling class were desperate to keep it that way. The role of the UK in colluding with the Nazis in their re-armament programme; the free hand given  to the German and Italian invaders of Spain in the so called Civil War (1936-39), due to the policy of non-intervention; and the desire to see either Japan, Germany, or both, attack the Soviet Union, are conveniently airbrushed out of the popular histories of the 1930’s and the build up to war.

On the contrary, the popular assumption is that Britain won the war, which in one sense it did but not without the help of allies in the United States and more significantly, in terms of damage done to the Nazis, the Soviet Union.

In the bid to win hearts and minds in Labour’s traditional heartlands these historical facts will not cut any ice.  By the same token, in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Qaddafi and tackling the Taliban, ‘our boys’ have been doing their bit to keep the free world safe.  The reality for many working class communities is that ‘our boys’, and increasingly girls, are just that, family members who have signed up to the armed forces as the best career option, in areas where the run down of manufacturing and the public sector have gone hand in hand to create virtual ghost towns.

The winning of hearts and minds on the Left has for too long focussed upon the second part of that equation.   For example, it is altogether rational to equate the estimated £150 billion cost of renewing Trident nuclear submarines with so many roads, schools or hospitals which could be built instead.  When the response to that however, is that scrapping Trident will leave us defenceless, it is clear that the debate is not necessarily about the rational.

While it is intellectually self evident that Trident weapons will not stop someone in a suicide vest,  a cyber attack or a knife wielder on London Bridge, there is still a strong emotional appeal for many in the idea of a ‘strong’ defence of the UK and that includes nuclear weapons, with all of the international status and prestige they confer.

In the North East of England, one of the areas hardest hit by the Tories’ austerity programme, traditional Labour seats tumbled in the 2019 election.  Labour’s ambivalent position on Brexit was undoubtedly a factor.  The unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn came high on the list of reasons not to vote Labour.  Why was Corbyn so unpopular?  Scratch the surface for many North East voters and it was not the Labour programme or the issue of anti-Semitism, it was that Corbyn was perceived as ‘unpatriotic’.  The drip feed smear campaign of the right wing press and BBC had made an impact.  Combined with the other factors undermining Labour’s position, it proved fatal.

Whether progressive patriotism is the right phrase or not the Left needs to reassess how it projects its position in relation to the armed forces.  That does not mean simply playing to the lowest common denominator.  It could mean redirecting some of the projected spend for Trident into conventional forces, while still retaining some for socially useful production.  One or two Generals may even be persuaded to back such a position.

The commitment to peace is so deeply engrained in many on the Left that voicing any support for the armed forces may seem anathema.  However, a socialist Britain will still need to retain some form of defence capability.  In the longer term it need not be deployed in support of adventurist US wars.  It need not be a vehicle to shore up the post colonial ambitions and greed of the minority.  It need not be allied to NATO.

If the Left is even to get close to these possibilities it needs to be thinking now about its own strategy for the military and how we build bridges to neutralise the ‘anti-patriotic’ smear campaigns in the meantime.

 

 

Picking fights with the establishment

18th January 2020

Kuenssberg

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg – more lazy journalism

The field of candidates for the Labour Party leadership is not a hugely inspiring array but it is becoming clear, even this early in the race, who the political and media establishment do not want to see win; Rebecca Long-Bailey.

The relatively modest platform of reforms aimed at taming some of the worst excesses of capitalist austerity, otherwise known as the Labour Party 2019 election manifesto, has been branded as a template for ‘Corbynism’ by the lazy journalists of the BBC, including Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg.

There is of course no such thing as Corbynism, as Jeremy Corbyn would be the first to point out.  As a shorthand however it allows the likes of Neil and Kuenssberg to use the term as a trope for anything, or anyone, they regard as being remotely left of centre and, by implication, a threat to the established order.  In this way Rebecca Long-Bailey, before she says a word, is caricatured as the ‘continuity candidate’ of Corbynism.

Needless to say, in the world of Neil and Kuenssberg, Corbynism is a failed project and therefore anyone associated with it must be defending the indefensible.  After all, does the 80 strong majority enjoyed by Boris Johnson not signal the death of Corbynism?

In their usual shoddy approach to the issues Neil and Kuenssberg make every effort to undermine the intelligence of their viewers and characterise the Labour leadership according to the lowest common denominators.

Summarising on the Andrew Neil Show on the BBC this week Kuenssberg casually referred to Long-Bailey as “the party machine’s preferred candidate”.  Kuenssberg went on to offer her assessment of the desire of Labour Party members to “move on”, something she regarded as unexpected “given how strong Jeremy Corbyn’s teams grip has actually been on the levers of power inside the machine”.  Neil then chipped in to suggest that, “continuing Corbynism without Mr. Corbyn looks to be more difficult than they might have expected….”; Laura couldn’t agree more….

The programme had featured an extended interview with leadership candidate Lisa Nandy, who performed reasonably well and kept some of Neil’s usual excesses in check, but fell well short of being convincing.  Nandy wobbled on selective education and devolving power to communities.  She failed to address the need to halt the obsolete Trident nuclear weapons programme.

On the question of anti-Semitism she regarded characterising the Board of Deputies of British Jews as Conservative backing, and asking them to condemn Israeli atrocities in the Gaza strip and West Bank, as anti-Semitic.  Nandy’s shallow grasp of the issue was alarming.

Long-Bailey meanwhile secured the backing of the Momentum pressure group inside Labour, a further red rag to those looking for more evidence of her ‘Corbynist’ and hard left credentials.

Outlining her position in The Guardian this week, Long-Bailey stated that,

“The next Labour leadership team must not junk our values, or abandon plans to deal with the big challenges of the age.  Instead we must plot our path to power then deliver it.”

Seeing the need to galvanise Labour’s grass roots and the communities it should be representing Long-Bailey calls for,

“…a government for and by the people…a popular movement to turn the British state against the privatisers, big polluters and tax dodgers that have taken hold of our political system.”

It is a bold recognition of the need to combine extra-Parliamentary action with action in Parliament to bring about change, stressing the need to “pick a fight with the political establishment.”

It was such a break with the political consensus which saw Jeremy Corbyn rise to such levels of popularity before the 2017 General Election.  It is exactly what gave the political establishment such a fright that it unleashed the systematic campaign of vilification, which went right through to the 2019 General Election.

For Rebecca Long-Bailey, the fight with the political establishment is already underway.

 

 

 

Pressure builds on Iranian dictatorship

12th January 2020

Plane crashDebris from the Ukranian plane crash just outside Tehran

The death toll following the assassination, by the United States, of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, General Qasem Souleimani, currently runs at over two hundred, with over 60 civilians being crushed in scenes of grief at Souleimani’s funeral and 176 deaths in the shooting down of the Ukranian civilian airliner, which the Iranian regime has admitted was a tragic mistake.

Neither of these events would have taken place without the assassination of Souleimani and both are examples of the unintended consequences which can follow on from significant political and military decisions, taken outside the norms of international law.

Souleimani, was the loyal servant of a theocratic dictatorship, unpopular with its own people, as recent demonstrations in November 2019 against corruption and political cronyism across Iran illustrate.  The Iranian regime will never admit it but his assassination came at a time when uniting the country against a foreign enemy could have been a useful distraction from domestic pressures.

While the regime may have been hoping that the death of Souleimani would provide a distraction, the shooting down of the Ukranian passenger aircraft, with significant loss of life, has refocussed the Iranian people upon the incompetence of the regime.

Over the weekend massive demonstrations have taken place in Tehran and other key cities, in protest against the IRGC forces shooting down the plane killing 176 passengers, 82 of them Iranian, on their way to Europe and North America.  The Iranian authorities had for three days falsely claimed technical difficulties as the cause of the crash.  However, early on Saturday morning they announced that an IRGC air defence system had shot down the airliner minutes after leaving Tehran international airport.   Protesters have been demanding the regime’s resignation, including that of Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei.

While political assassination as a tool of foreign policy is not a new tactic for the US, the assassination of Souleimani still came as a shock to the Iranian regime and a blow to its adventurist foreign policy in the Middle East.  With responsibility for the IRGC Quds Force, in charge of overseas operations, Souleimani was instrumental in extending Iranian influence throughout the region, across Iraq, into Syria and in Lebanon and Yemen.  His military and tactical acumen is widely credited with having turned around the prospect of a Western led victory in the war of intervention in Syria.

The assassination of Souleimani followed a sequence of events going back to the 27th December, when an Iranian backed Shia militia attacked an Iraqi military base, killing a US contractor.  Reports from the US indicate that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, suggested the killing of Souleimani at that point but the tactic was rejected in favour of air strikes against the militia responsible for the attack.

The air strikes led militia supporters to attack the Green Zone in Baghdad’s diplomatic quarter, overrunning the gated US embassy compound, before Iraqi forces arrived to break up the intrusion.  It would seem that the event was sufficient for Pompeo to win over Trump to his viewpoint and Souleimani’s fate was sealed.

The political balance in the region, already precarious, has become even more volatile since Souleimani’s death.

Iran is using the opportunity to call for the complete withdrawal of US troops from the region, a demand echoed by the Iraqi Parliament, but one with which the US is unlikely to comply.  An estimated 5,500 US troops are in Iraq and the US is in negotiations with NATO about an increased non-US NATO contribution.   This is added to the fact that the United States has moved 14,000 additional troops to the Gulf region in the past year.

The volatility of US foreign policy, the ideological objectives of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the geopolitical ambitions of Russia, do not lend themselves to any degree of regional certainty.  Added to that the increasingly unstable position of the theocratic dictatorship in Iran, under intense pressure from its own people for democratic change, will continue to be a major factor for instability in the regional balance.  Resistance to US troops in Iraq continues to be an issue, political instability in Lebanon continues and the ability of the Syrian people to recover from seven years of war will, no doubt, continue to be tested.

Much of this uncertainty is also due to the pressure for democratic change coming from the people of countries suffering under dictatorships of one form or another, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, or suffering under US occupation or influence such as in Iraq.

The Middle East remains a complex web of alliances in which there is no obvious or easy route to navigate.  However, solidarity with the people of the Middle East, in their efforts to reshape their nations and the region in their interests, rather than those of Western corporations or the military industrial complex, will be more vital than ever in the coming period.

 

 

Trump shoot to kill outrage

3rd January 2020

Soleimani  

Qasem Soleimani – assassinated by US airstrike

The assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, on the order of US President Donald Trump, marks a massive escalation in the undeclared war on Iran, which has been waged virtually from the moment Trump took office.

Soleimani was killed by an air strike on Baghdad airport early on Friday.  As the leader of the Quds Force, an elite unit of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Soleimani was widely regarded as second only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the pecking order in the Islamic Republic’s hierarchy.

Khamenei has said that “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack and three days of national mourning have been announced.  Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called the attack an “act of international terrorism”, going on to say that,

“The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

Condemnation has come from Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who described the killing as a “dangerous escalation” and from Russia where Vladimir Putin warned that the assassination would “seriously aggravate the situation in the region”.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo stated that the strike was “lawful” and that it “saved lives”.

In the UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, issued the following statement,

“The US assassination of Qasem Soleimani is an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict with global significance.  We urge restraint on the part of both Iran and the US and we call for an end to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the US.”

The Stop the War Coalition have called a protest outside Downing Street for Saturday, 4th January at 2pm.

In the wider context of the ongoing interventionist war against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and the fact that the United States has moved 14,000 additional troops to the Gulf region in the past year, there is every potential for wider conflagration.

A wave of protest has been sweeping the Middle East in recent months, with demonstrations against unpopular regimes unfolding in Iran, Iraq and the Lebanon.  The protests have resistance to government corruption, mass unemployment and plunging living standards in common.  All three regimes have reacted with increased violence and repression.

In Iraq at least 400 people are reported to have died since protesters took to the streets in early October.  Amnesty International estimate that at least 208 people have died in nationwide protests in Iran since protests erupted in October.  The true figure could be much higher.  Protests against new taxes in Lebanon brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets and forced the resignation of Prime Minister, Saad Hariri.

While the protests across the region have been the result of internal repression and government incompetence, key players have been maximising their efforts to link the protests to wider regional tensions.  The Intelligence Ministry in Tehran for example claimed to have arrested eight “CIA operatives” accused of inciting riots.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) chief commander, General Hossein Salami, suggested that the riots were conducted by “thugs” with the backing of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.  Salami went on to link the protests to the US policy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran, following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year.  Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has talked of a “dangerous conspiracy” implicating the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The US, on the other hand, has characterised the protests in Iraq and Lebanon as part of a region wide insurgency against Iranian power.

At least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested in 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces since mass protests broke out on 15th November, prompting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to state that she is “extremely concerned about their physical treatment, violations of their right to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offences that carry the death penalty, in addition to the conditions under which they are held.”

While protests continue to sweep Iran, underlining the unpopularity of the Islamic Republic, the regime continues to try and bolster its position and circumvent US sanctions.  Excluded from the US international interbank payment system, SWIFT, Tehran is looking to link with alternative systems in China and Russia.

Oil sales continue, primarily to Syria and China in order to generate income for the regime, prompting Khamenei to state recently that,

“The US policy of maximum pressure has failed.  The Americans presumed that they can force Iran to make concessions and bring it to its knees by focussing on maximum pressure, especially in the area of economy, but they have troubled themselves.”

In countering the US “maximum pressure” approach Iran has upped the ante by participating in joint naval drills with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean in late December.

However, the assassination of Soleimani gives the whole “maximum pressure” policy a dangerous new twist.

The danger of external intervention in Iran is one which has been in the wings for some years.  With the Iranian regime itself increasingly under pressure the possibility of a major strike, in a desperate attempt to divert attention from its domestic problems, should not be ruled out.  Soleimani’s assassination may just give the clergy in Iran the excuse they need.  Such an outcome would be disastrous, not only for the region, but for world peace.

Trump may have ordered the killing of Soleimani in order to look tough at home in an election year but there is every danger that, this time, the international consequences may far outweigh any perceived domestic benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

The Roaring Twenties?

30th December 2019

“All over people changing their votes

Along with their overcoats

If Adolf Hitler flew in today

They’d send a limousine anyway.”

(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash (1978)

RLB

Rebecca Long Bailey – already the focus for right wing fury

There is no reason why Prime Ministers, politicians or pundits should take notice of the observations of a rock n roll band but the words of The Clash from 1978 ring true over 40 years later.  Back then the Thatcher government was imminent, with the rolling back of the progressive post war gains of council housing, comprehensive education, an NHS free at the point of use and the privatisation of key strategic industries all within the Tories’ sights.

Those goals have largely been achieved, and more besides, as successive governments have either pushed further down the road mapped out by Thatcher, or done nothing to reverse the setbacks initiated by her administration.  For an entire generation of young people the struggle to find decent work, affordable housing and consistent healthcare has become the norm.  The burden of university tuition fees can be added to that list.

The massive protests against nuclear arms, which immobilised cities across the UK in the 1980’s, have been replaced with an almost unquestioning acceptance of the need for Trident nuclear submarines and, through successive anniversary commemorations of the two World Wars, an almost craven acceptance of the virtues of the UK’s armed forces.

It has become accepted wisdom for many that the City of London is integral to the UK economy and that any challenge to its role would simply bring sterling crashing down with a recession to follow.  While the evidence for this is scant successive governments, including Labour administrations under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have formed a ring of fire around the City, making it untouchable in any economic discussion.

Stringent controls on the operation and function of trade unions have been absorbed into the new ‘consensus’ with the Blair/Brown period of Labour government making no difference to the restrictions placed upon trade union activity.  Local government has been consistently under funded and its role undermined, once again, long before the Tories introduced ‘austerity’ into the political lexicon.

Across Europe there is a rise of the right wing, with governments in Poland, Hungary and Italy being the most extreme, while political parties such as Vox in Spain, National Rally in France and Alternativ fur Deutschland in Germany are all gaining ground.

The effective disappearance of the Brexit Party in the UK does not buck this trend.  On the contrary, the newly branded ‘One Nation’ Conservative Party, that nation being England, is providing a home to former Brexit Party members as well as succour for members of the far right Britain First faction.  Even Tommy Robinson has reportedly become a member.

Against this background the selection of a new leader for the Labour Party becomes even more important.  No one will expect them to stem the rising tide of right wing activism across Europe.  However, they may acknowledge that there is also opposition to this and may even support a rejection of the economics of exclusivity that go with it.  The Labour manifestos of 2017 and 2019 provide the framework for such an approach and their essence must be maintained if Labour is to move forward.

The mobilisation against this position has been high profile and fast, with interventions from Yvette Cooper, David Miliband, Tony Blair, Tom Watson and Roy Hattersley to name a few, stressing the need to break with so-called Corbynism quickly and decisively.  Hattersley, a former Labour Deputy Leader, has taken a particularly hysterical position, calling upon MPs not to support Rebecca Long Bailey if she is elected in the forthcoming leadership contest.

Hattersley imagines that the majority of the 500,000 plus membership of the Labour Party, many of whom supported Corbyn, are made up of ex- Communists, Trotskyists and members of the Militant Tendency, all of whom have been waiting in the political wings to seize their moment and gain control of Labour.

Quite where Hattersley thinks so many disaffected left wingers have been hiding in the whole of the UK, never mind the Labour Party, is hard to credit but such is the paranoia of the political establishment. What Hattersley and his ilk refuse to acknowledge is that the policies which ensured that Jeremy Corbyn won two leadership elections, may actually be popular, if fought for and argued for on the doorstep.

The fright which the 2017 election result gave the political establishment in the UK was a recognition that the Thatcher based consensus had broken down and people wanted a Labour Party that could oppose such policies.  The systematic demonisation of Labour and its leader in the intervening two years undoubtedly played a part in the disastrous 2019 result.  The consistent sharpening of knives from his own backbenches did Corbyn no favours.

The new Labour leader will face the opposition of the Tory press, the BBC and even large sections of social media.  If Labour is to roar back in the 2020’s the new leader should not face the opposition of their own MPs, their own party, or the trade union movement in trying to argue the case for progressive social change in the UK.

Labour needs to build trust from the grass roots and persuade voters that social change is in their interest.  Simply being an electoral machine, which appeals to a notion of consensus on terms dictated by the political establishment, will change nothing.   Boris Johnson already has an 80 strong majority in the House of Commons, we do not need the disaffected Labour leaders of the past, or the opportunists of the present to help do his job for him.

 

Fightback Friday!

13th December 2019

People's Gov

The Tories – not for the many but for the few

To suggest that the British working class collectively took a gun and blew its own brains out in yesterday’s General Election may sound melodramatic but is not far from the truth.

Faced with the opportunity to properly fund the NHS; embark on a major programme of Council house building; start a green industrial revolution to invest in new jobs and industries; take back control of the inefficient, privately run water, rail and postal services, the UK voted simply to, Get Brexit Done.

This virtually meaningless and indefinable slogan was a major factor in returning the Conservatives with a 78 majority and, in effect, the capability to negotiate whatever form of Brexit they choose.

The other major factor in Labour’s defeat was clearly, from a wide range of reports, dislike of Jeremy Corbyn.  At least, it was dislike of a version of Jeremy Corbyn crafted by the media, the Tories and many in the Parliamentary Labour Party over the past two years, terrified by how close Labour came to victory in 2017, with Corbyn as leader, and determined to make sure there was no repeat.

It is remarkable that the position Labour were in after the 2017 election could be turned around so dramatically.  Having effectively robbed Theresa May’s government of its majority, and pulled off the biggest swing to Labour since 1945, the obvious thing to do would be to build upon that success, based around the 2017 manifesto For the Many, Not the Few, as well as Corbyn’s personal popularity.

The policies, based around the core values of public services, the NHS, state control of key industries, abolition of tuition fees in the 2017 manifesto were not significantly different in the 2019 manifesto, It’s Time for Real Change, so why the shift?

The vilification of Jeremy Corbyn by the UK press, in particular, and media in general has been sustained and systematic over the past two years.  This has been both personal and political but in particular has focussed upon leadership ability, past political associations and personal integrity.  The latter has been particularly sinister, accusing a man with a lifelong record of anti-racist activism of being anti-Semitic takes some nerve.  Throw enough mud for long enough however and, for many people, they will take the view that some will stick.

The past two years has also seen the erosion of a clear Labour position on Brexit, which in 2017 was to honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and leave the EU.  For much of the Parliamentary Labour Party this position was unacceptable and they have consistently agitated against it.  Support for the so called People’s Vote campaign, a significant Remain faction within the Parliamentary group and splits, by the cabal around Chukka Umunna for example, have both undermined the Brexit position and fuelled the debate around Corbyn’s leadership.

The culmination of this process was the policy position of Labour seeking to negotiate a new deal with the EU, then put that to a second referendum, which would also have Remain on the ballot paper.  Faced with the simple and systematic onslaught of Get Brexit Done this was an almost impossible position for Corbyn to sell.  It was further exacerbated by the position that Corbyn as leader would remain neutral in the referendum process.

If anything was setting Labour up to fail, this was.

The Labour right wing will no doubt paint themselves as moderates and point the finger at the ‘hard Left’ Jeremy Corbyn as the fall guy for the election defeat.  The media are already spinning this narrative.  Even though Corbyn has already said he will step down as leader there are those sharpening the knives to get him to step down sooner, rather than later.  The only thing preventing them stabbing him in the back may be the number of knives they already find there and the lack of space for more.

The battle to maintain the core values in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos as the basis of Labour’s programme in opposition begins now.  Siren voices will call for restraint and moderation.  The issues facing the people of the UK, however foolish they have been in this election, require radical solutions.

Labour needs to regroup and find a way of getting its message across.  Just because it failed to do so in 2019 does not mean that the message is wrong.  Whatever the working class thought they voted for in getting Brexit done in 2019 will soon unravel, as the Tories revert to type.  The working people of the UK deserve better than Boris Johnson and they need a radical, committed Labour Party, which is on their side, to come home to.

The fightback is underway!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tories – not for the many but for the few

To suggest that the British working class collectively took a gun and blew its own brains out in yesterday’s General Election may sound melodramatic but is not far from the truth.

Faced with the opportunity to properly fund the NHS; embark on a major programme of Council house building; start a green industrial revolution to invest in new jobs and industries; take back control of the inefficient, privately run water, rail and postal services, the UK voted simply to, Get Brexit Done.

This virtually meaningless and indefinable slogan was a major factor in returning the Conservatives with a 78 majority and, in effect, the capability to negotiate whatever form of Brexit they choose.

The other major factor in Labour’s defeat was clearly, from a wide range of reports, dislike of Jeremy Corbyn.  At least, it was dislike of a version of Jeremy Corbyn crafted by the media, the Tories and many in the Parliamentary Labour Party over the past two years, terrified by how close Labour came to victory in 2017, with Corbyn as leader, and determined to make sure there was no repeat.

It is remarkable that the position Labour were in after the 2017 election could be turned around so dramatically.  Having effectively robbed Theresa May’s government of its majority, and pulled off the biggest swing to Labour since 1945, the obvious thing to do would be to build upon that success, based around the 2017 manifesto For the Many, Not the Few, as well as Corbyn’s personal popularity.

The policies, based around the core values of public services, the NHS, state control of key industries, abolition of tuition fees in the 2017 manifesto were not significantly different in the 2019 manifesto, It’s Time for Real Change, so why the shift?

The vilification of Jeremy Corbyn by the UK press, in particular, and media in general has been sustained and systematic over the past two years.  This has been both personal and political but in particular has focussed upon leadership ability, past political associations and personal integrity.  The latter has been particularly sinister, accusing a man with a lifelong record of anti-racist activism of being anti-Semitic takes some nerve.  Throw enough mud for long enough however and, for many people, they will take the view that some will stick.

The past two years has also seen the erosion of a clear Labour position on Brexit, which in 2017 was to honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and leave the EU.  For much of the Parliamentary Labour Party this position was unacceptable and they have consistently agitated against it.  Support for the so called People’s Vote campaign, a significant Remain faction within the Parliamentary group and splits, by the cabal around Chukka Umunna for example, have both undermined the Brexit position and fuelled the debate around Corbyn’s leadership.

The culmination of this process was the policy position of Labour seeking to negotiate a new deal with the EU, then put that to a second referendum, which would also have Remain on the ballot paper.  Faced with the simple and systematic onslaught of Get Brexit Done this was an almost impossible position for Corbyn to sell.  It was further exacerbated by the position that Corbyn as leader would remain neutral in the referendum process.

If anything was setting Labour up to fail, this was.

The Labour right wing will no doubt paint themselves as moderates and point the finger at the ‘hard Left’ Jeremy Corbyn as the fall guy for the election defeat.  The media are already spinning this narrative.  Even though Corbyn has already said he will step down as leader there are those sharpening the knives to get him to step down sooner, rather than later.  The only thing preventing them stabbing him in the back may be the number of knives they already find there and the lack of space for more.

The battle to maintain the core values in the 2017 and 2019 manifestos as the basis of Labour’s programme in opposition begins now.  Siren voices will call for restraint and moderation.  The issues facing the people of the UK, however foolish they have been in this election, require radical solutions.

Labour needs to regroup and find a way of getting its message across.  Just because it failed to do so in 2019 does not mean that the message is wrong.  Whatever the working class thought they voted for in getting Brexit done in 2019 will soon unravel, as the Tories revert to type.  The working people of the UK deserve better than Boris Johnson and they need a radical, committed Labour Party, which is on their side, to come home to.

The fightback is underway!

 

 

 

 

 

Week Five: Which Side Are You On?

7th December 2019

logo

The final leadership debate in the UK General Election has once again laid bare the question which is at the heart of the election; which side are you on?  That question is not one of whether to leave or remain within the EU.  It is a question of the direction which the country takes after the 12th December.  That is a choice between the continuing chaos, cutbacks and austerity of a Tory government or the prospect of real change under a Labour government.

The bluff and bluster of Boris Johnson continues to attempt to mask the fact that poverty and homelessness have increased over the past decade, the NHS is in crisis and billionaires in the City of London are on the increase.  The Labour Party programme sets out a clear agenda for change which would address these issues, tackle child poverty, invest in industry, peg back the runaway profiteering in the City of London and tackle the issues of climate change.

For Johnson the mantra, Get Brexit Done, has become the hollow cover for a campaign short on any significant ideas for change and in denial about the damage a decade of austerity has inflicted upon working class communities.  Where the Tories do make specific commitments, such as putting more police on the streets or increasing NHS funding, they are usually stealing Labour’s clothes, having recognised that the Labour manifesto has identified key issues affecting the daily lives of people in the UK.

More than actual substance, the Tories have focussed upon a series of smear tactics, aimed specifically at Jeremy Corbyn, such as the anti-Semitism campaign, questioning Corbyn’s ability to secure a Brexit deal and, on matters of national security, branding the Labour leader an enemy of the state.

The Tory campaign has been aided and abetted by the usual suspects in the right wing press and significantly by a distinct bias on the part of the BBC, which has caricatured Labour’s position and colluded in the assertions that Labour’s programme would be bad for the country and the economy.

Inevitably, social media has played a different role and Labour has used this channel to get its message out where traditional media are failing.  Whether this is enough remains to be seen but the battle will certainly intensify in the final week of the campaign.

The latest tactic from the political establishment has been to attempt to undermine the credibility of leaked documents, showing collusion between the Tories and the US in carving up the NHS, by suggesting that they are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.   The intention here is twofold.  The first is to raise questions about the authenticity of the documents and therefore the validity of Labour’s claims.  The second is to imply Labour collusion with an outside State, interfering in a UK General Election.

Consistent with the entire campaign against Labour there is no evidence to back up these claims but they are made, and reported as headline news, in the tried and tested expectation that if you throw enough mud, some of it is going to stick.

The biggest fear of the political establishment and the billionaires which the Tories represent is a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour government.  It is not that such a government would be revolutionary.  It would not transfer power from the hands of the rich and powerful and into the hands of the poor and disenfranchised.  It would not initiate State control of the commanding heights of the economy and nationalise without compensation.  It would not even cancel the obsolete Trident nuclear weapons system or withdraw from the equally obsolete and strategically brain dead NATO military alliance.

However, a Labour government would stop the free run at privatisation and profiteering which are characteristic of every Tory administration.  It would constrain the tax dodgers, the dodgy landlords, the low paying bosses and the economic gambling houses of the City of London.  It would shift the emphasis in how the country’s wealth and resources are used away from individual gain and shareholder dividends and back towards collective community investment.

Far from being a manifesto for revolution Labour’s programme is a series of baby steps but steps in the right direction.  They are steps which, if delivered, may just make people realise that more significant change is not only possible but is desirable.  For the political establishment, that is the dangerous thing.

As Labour’s manifesto states, it is time for real change.  It is ironic that whatever the outcome of the vote on Thursday there will be change.  However, only Labour offers the prospect of that change being positive and beneficial for the many, rather than more years of the few having their snouts in the trough at the expense of us all.

A vote for Labour is the only vote that makes sense on Thursday, in order to send out a clear message to the political establishment that we know which side we are on.