Archive for January, 2012

19
Jan
12

The Future of the Labour Party? Hopefully….

On the 17th of April last year, the previously quiet think tank GEER (standing for Gender Environment Equality and Race) became LabourLeft and began to use Facebook much more as a way to communicate with its members. Since that time it has become an incredibly impressive grassroots movement which is now able to call itself “Labours biggest think tank”. Lead by the MP Grahame Morris and by Dr Éoin Clarke it has gone from strength to strength as a body for promoting Ethical Socialist values at a time when we need them most.

In November an Ebook version of Labour Left’s “Redbook” was published. With its authors drawn from all heights within the labour movement it is rapidly becoming a standard text for anyone seeking to prove that labour still has very strong socialist roots. THIS should be the manual for all Labour Party activists and leaders.

LabourLeft has also had many events both in Westminster and at the Labour Conference. Now, though, this movement is going around the country, using their 17 regional committees to organise a Redbook tour.

For more information of LabourLeft go to their website or Dr Éoin Clarke’s site.

The Future of the Labour Party? Hopefully…

HB

18
Jan
12

(CENSORED)


I love the internet. Everyone else at The Redblog loves the internet. Chances are, you love the internet, too. The badly written ‘Stop Internet Piracy Act’ (or ‘SOPA’), if made law, will cripple it. Stopping piracy is a noble endeavour; prohibiting free speech via an overly broad and imprecise, poorly articulated act, is the opposite. On the day that Wikipedia and other notable, reputable websites go offline in protest, we implore you to support the opposition to such a bill.

Thank you.

17
Jan
12

David Cameron: the humanitarian?

Last week our Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia on a trip, as we were told, to ‘boost relations’ and ‘strengthen ties’. This poses many significances which have gone unreported in the media; instead the focus has been upon how this trip and others like it provide a basis to extend ties with other nations in order to increase our trade and better our economy. There are however much deeper significances in relation to this trip which highlight the true nature of the UK’s double standard towards the Middle East.

The first key significance in relation to this trip is the fact that new arms deals will have been negotiated during this trip. Shamefully, Britain has a history in supplying arms to Middle Eastern dictatorships because, when the protests began in Egypt, it was revealed that Britain had been selling arms for years to Egypt which means British weaponry was used to oppress the people during those protests. Despite this David Cameron still went to negotiate arms deals with Saudi Arabia; this is a disgrace because not only have they been quashing protesters fighting for democracy in their own country, they have also been doing this in Bahrain as they sought the help of the Saudi Arabian army to oppress protesters in that country too. The significance here then is that it appears British made weapons will yet again be used to quash those who are still fighting for democracy today.

From this a further significance can be found in that it demonstrates the hypocrisy of David Cameron’s foreign policy. David Cameron lobbied the UN for intervention in Libya to support the proresters fighting for freedom, but now he’s selling arms to Saudi Arabi without any consideration to the human rights abuses taking place in that country. This is a double standard due to fact that he supported the uprising in Libya and rallied to their cause but is now selling arms to a dictatorship which is oppressing it’s people in just the same way as Gaddafi did.

Similarly this is happening alongside our governments lack of interest in the growingly desperate situation in Syria. Many protesters in their heroic fight for freedom have been shot down, tortured and killed by the government forces here and despite this there has been a clear lack of enthusiasm for the Syrian protesters from this government as there was for the Libyans. This absence of compassion demonstrates the true intentions behind the Libyan intervention which was to protect the supply of oil Britain receives from Libya; oil contracts in Libya were secured by Tony Blair through his complicity to Gaddafi’s brutal dictatorship and such complicity to other dictators appears to be now encapsulated by David Cameron.

Tony Blair (stood to the left) with BP securing oil contract in Libya.

David Cameron’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia poses many significances which cannot be justified by arguments of improving trade or boosting the economy; a lack of media scrutiny about this trip has allowed for these significances to go mostly unnoticed by the public. This trip highlights the hypocrisy of this government’s attitude towards the Middle East alongside our continued and shameful support of Israel and their aggression against Palestine and the Palestinian people. Our Prime Minister’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia brings to light the true shameful nature of Britain’s foreign policy and highlights the extent to which this country exports arms and weapons around the world.

JW

16
Jan
12

On the current drive for Scottish Independence


I’m not going to make the case in favour of the union here. Those arguments should be apparent enough, and have been reiterated ad nauseam recently by men much more qualified than I, as well as by more unsavoury, less qualified ones. If Scotland is to be led to an independence referendum by a nationalist leader, then this individual must truly believe in not just the cause, but also his/her own people’s ability to be decisive, and definitive on the matter. The incumbent First Minister appears to, unfortunately, place faith in neither.

Alex Salmond has, of late, demonstrated that he is willing to manipulate, and ultimately dismiss the will of the Scottish people, merely for his own ends.

This is most evident in the SNP’s newest proposal for the form the referendum should take. Aware that if he were to lose a vote on independence, the consequences would be calamitous for both his party and himself, Salmond is essentially advocating a three-option ballot including, along with the necessary yes and no choices, an additional one for the thus far ill-defined ‘devolution max’. Now, this isn’t just indicative of the fact Mr Salmond is completely unconfident in his ability to win, but of something far more repugnant.

A three-way referendum of this nature may allow the SNP to achieve independence without an outright majority, which is in itself reprehensible. Moreover though, the presence of the ‘devo max’ option would minimise the chance of the nationalists facing a fierce, party-destroying no vote. Perhaps it’d even ensure that result would definitely not occur; the concept of devolution has already proven immensely popular in Scotland. This means that Salmond will effectively be able to walk away with his legacy, party and reputation intact, irrespective of the public’s disposition at the time of the referendum. The issue of independence will have been at best clouded, and at worst belittled, by Salmond’s determination to guarantee his escape from any outcome of the polling with his political survival.

Again and again, we hear the same justification for this referendum format from SNP stalwarts: because a sizeable chunk of the public have expressed a wish for devolution to the fullest extent, falling short of independence, it should be present in any plebiscite. As almost anyone could inform you, however, independence is clearly an altogether isolated and, well, independent issue. Devolution is something that takes place domestically within the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, and cannot be debated directly alongside an alternative to leave it. Such a referendum would appear opportunistic, almost a demand of the UK government – a ‘give us this or we’re off’ – without any real kind of detailed internal UK debate on such further devolution. This does not do people north of the border justice; Scots have never been fair-weather friends.

The SNP are marketing the three-choice referendum as ‘better for Scotland’ – but in reality, they’re promoting it because they fundamentally do not trust the country they claim to be the ‘nationalists’ of, with a truly conclusive question. The only politician I know to have properly pointed this out via mainstream media is Labour’s Douglas Alexander on the Daily Politics, when he referred to it as ‘Salmond’s get out of jail clause’ – so kudos to him. His articulations of the primary unionist arguments on The Telegraph site earlier this week are also worth a read; you can find them here.

The way in which Alex Salmond and his SNP are being deliberately divisive is another reason why these people do not give the impression of being worthy to steer Scotland to, and through, its most important vote ever. They are in essence toying with Westminster over the referendum date and constitutional matters, pretending to dismiss its obvious, unavoidable legal role as a poking of its nose into Scotland’s business, drawing it out into an inevitable conflict. The best case scenario here for Salmond is to succeed in creating such a dichotomy between himself and Cameron so that each become, in the mind of the electorate, Scotland and England incarnate respectively, as they argue. In this way, the SNP could utilise national pride, and ride the wave of animosity it would generate towards the UK, amongst the people of Scotland, to a victory. A very unscrupulous, exploitive way to achieve their favoured result – it doesn’t primarily aim to let Scots consider and focus on the pros and cons at the core of the issue.

The date dispute currently being thrown into the spotlight is twofold in its advantages for Salmond and his party. Not only does it draw Westminster into a debate about Holyrood’s mandate to set it, exacerbating tensions, but if the SNP wins the argument, and the referendum is called later rather than sooner, said tensions will be at their maximum when it finally occurs. Salmond’s thinly veiled justification – that a delay until the Autumn of 2014 will allow Scots more time to decide and evaluate the matter in question – is visibly weak.

The way forward should be clear: the SNP either grant the Scottish people the straightforward, two-option referendum that they deserve as soon as it is possible for them to deliver it, or they stand aside from the matter, letting Scotland face this aspect of its future with a different leader, who is affirmed in purpose, with enough integrity and honesty to let Scots decide directly whether they want independence, or not.

MH

12
Jan
12

Prime Minister’s Questions…

Above is a video of yesterday’s PMQs…

We think that this was a success for Ed Miliband and this is why…

Ed’s questions resonated with ordinary people

We had questions on train fares, after peoples’ frustration was clear with the most recent rise. This prompted a long disagreement regarding who did what with Cameron half admitting Miliband was correct by the end. (We particularly liked the way Miliband pronounces “wrongue”)…The More Ed frustrated Cameron, the more ‘Flashman’ (the part of the PM we see when he turns bright red and his neck expands to fill the commons chamber) came out. Ed also mentioned the clear fact that the money was going to increase profits for companies rather than increased rail investments.

We also saw angry Ed yesterday; with Miliband showing how his irritation mirrors that of people up and down the UK.

Luciana Berger showed her fight as well yesterday asking about the adoption on Labour’s ‘cheapest energy tariff for the old’ policy. Cameron’s avoidance of the question again showing his weakness and anger.

It wasn’t just punch and judy though. Ed’s Second set of question showed his support for the union of the UK. On a side note, does anyone else HATE when Cameron uses the word “separatists’? It sounds like something from star wars.

It was clear to see that whilst Cameron was using slogans and words like “neverendums”, Miliband was a lot more statesmanlike, showing calmly setting out the case for the union.

On the whole, from yesterday’s PMQs it is clear to see that Ed is getting better at this and Cameron is getting, well, angrier…

HB

11
Jan
12

Guest Post: DLA is my lifeline, PIP would mean life gone.

Over the last few days on Twitter, Facebook and now some newspapers have drawn attention to a report on the reform of Disability Living Allowance which had become known as the Spartacus report (it can be viewed here). Here at the Redblog we thoroughly support this report and to show that support we have a passionate guest post from the “allbigideas” blog, which can be viewed in the link above. For more information on the Spartacus report here  on a blog from one of its authors.
 
Over the last few days there has been incredible support from all sorts of different people, organisations and the media about the spartacus report. This blog will explain what it actually is, and then what a difference it will make to my life if the government are allowed to press ahead with the welfare reform bill without proper consultation with disabled people (by proper I mean asking, listening and acting on what disabled people and our supporters are saying we need). The hash tag on twitter is #spartacusreport. We are fighting for our lives, and some are literally fighting with their lives, causing them sickness and ill health because of this report. We need support, This report is 100% disabled people from inception to delivery. Our main aim is to get the government to at least pause their plans for PIP.————
Freedom of information requests were used to gain access to responses to the consultation on replacing disability living allowance with personal independence payments. The response (and subsequent report) showed that:
  • The government said that the responses support the reforms. They lied. The consultation showed that only 7% do.
  • The consultation did not meet the government’s code of practice. It was too short and it ended two days AFTER they wrote and presented the bill to parliament.
  • The government has consistently claimed a 30% rise in DLA claims. It is 13% and they admit they know this but still claim 30%

In short, this report says that the government broke the rules, LIED, are still lying, and we can prove it. They are lying to force through legislation that will affect millions of people, and could one day affect you. Anyone can become sick or disabled. We simply ask that the legislation is paused and given proper scrutiny.
Facts courtesy of latent existance: (http://www.latentexistence.me.uk/responsible-reform-report-in-simple-terms/)
——–

At the moment I use my Disability living allowance for private treatment. Treatment that isn’t available on the NHS because its deemed to costly. I also use it to remain independent which for most people are little things. This includes being able to have ready meals, my dishwasher and kitchen gadgets (my blender, grill and rice cooker means I can can do it myself). I also use it for getting shopping delivered, and those unexpected things. When I am depressed I can’t focus or budget properly so knowing I don’t have to stress about money is one less thing to stress about. Basically it keeps my life going.

my life? I am currently a student studying for a degree at university, and I am in my third year. I took the decision to do this final year over 2 part time years because of my disability, and knowing I had the security of DLA was a big factor in my decision. I am also creative and enjoy photoshop and taking photos.

So, Thats me and my life with DLA. If the proposals for PIP go ahead you might think I am safe enough as I am disabled and clearly using the money appropriately. No, you would be wrong.

I try not to dwell on it, but the criteria for PIP are vastly different to DLA and the fact that I can use my microwave and rice cooker, and blender negates me from the cooking test. Ironic, the things I have spent my DLA on to enable me to be safe in the kitchen means I wont qualify. I don’t know what would happen if they break down? I do know that without them I was living on takeaways and eating from paper plates.

Under DLA the fact that I need supervision to go out in unfamilar places qualifies me for lower rate mobility. Under pip, it is no longer about mobility but cognition. I can plan a journey and follow it through so that again negates me from the benefit. However, the way I plan a journey is in itself disabling. I have to plan and plan and plan every possible route to get me somewhere. I get stressed if the bus gets too busy, or noisy or it might even be something random that triggers me into getting off the bus. It is the rigorous planning that keeps me safe. But it means I can’t just go to a place, I need to exstenively look into it and consider all the risk factors before i decide if its worth it.

As I mentioned I have treatment, which isn’t covered in the new criteria. Without this treatment it would make me seriously unwell again, and I would go back to relying on police, ambulance, crisis team etc etc. not somewhere I want to be thanks.

Quite simply DLA is my LIFE and with PIP I wont have one.

10
Jan
12

David Miliband takes one step closer to returning to Ed Miliband’s Cabinet.

Dr Eoin Clarke is the Founder of the LabourLeft think tank and the editor of the recently published Redbook. We are hugely honoured to have another of his most recent posts; this time in praise of David Miliband. You can see more of Dr Clark’s views in his posts on his blog here.

David Miliband has put in an excellent 8 months as a Labour MP. In my view it is a matter of when and not if whether or not he will return to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. If the press had had their way in May 2011 the story would be very different.  Remember, the leaking of his conference acceptance speech (had he been declared party leader) as well as the leaks about Ed Balls’s involvement in the plotting (or not) of Tony Blair’s downfall? These coincided with a guest appearance by the former PM Tony Blair at a Progress event in May where the former PM strongly undermined Ed Miliband in several ways. It threatened to rupture the Labour Party.

But credit should go David Miliband that it did not. David has worked hard to discourage Blairites from perpetuating disunity within the Labour Party and his recent words will be music to his younger brother’s ears. The elder Miliband has worked closely with his brother in crafting a speech on the Libya crisis that struck a balanced tone. He also came out strongly in support of Ed Miliband’s decision to change the Labour Party’s position on Palestine. Henceforth, it is Labour Party policy to pursue the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state by the UN. David Miliband also struck a strongly anti-Blairite tone in his caution not to use bluster against Iran but instead to pursue a path of diplomacy. Thus, David Miliband disagrees with Tony Blair strongly on the two major foreign policy questions of the day. On Iraq, David Miliband will probably never accept that the decision to invade was wrong but that is no barrier to him playing a key role in a future Labour government. The Iraq war will be taught and examined on A-Level History curriculum by the time of the next election. This positions him perfectly to return to the Shadow Cabinet as a ethical shadow Foreign Minister in time for the next election.
On domestic policy David Miliband has also praised his brother whom he said has led with ‘courage and conviction’. In addition, David Miliband has said his brother deserves ‘huge praise’ and that we in Labour should work hard to ‘put Ed in No. 10’. Tonight in his most recent comments he urges Blairites not to view David Cameron as stealing Labour’s progressive centre ground values that were pursued under New Labour but instead to view the Tories as ‘pretty hard right’. This will be seen as a blow to the leading Blairites who had been urging Ed Miliband to realign the party closer to the Tories economic policy which David explicitly states would be a mistake. He also urged Labour activists to look to the future in a clear signal that he is willing to accept that New Labour was an outdated model. In perhaps his strongest statement in support for his brother was the advice from David Miliband that Labour should be ‘humble about its mistakes’. This will also be greeted with dismay by opponents of Ed who had strongly criticised Ed’s willingness to accept past failings.
These timely interventions by David Miliband show that he is working hard to support his brother key economic, foreign policy and strategic political goals. In return, it appears Blairites will gain key concession in public service & welfare reform but the stage is set for David Miliband to return to the shadow cabinet before the next election. I expect it will take the same format as William Hague’s time in the wilderness where he was able to build his personal wealth and business interests before returning to play a full role in Cameron’s cabinet.
Polling wise the advantage to Ed Miliband of his brother returning would be significant. It would enhance the extent to which voters view Labour as united & competent and will provide a timely polling boost at a key stage in the electoral cycle when it occurs. In the short term this will come as a welcome boost to Ed Miliband as his brother seeks to rally Blairites behind his young brother.