Posts Tagged ‘Labour

10
May
12

A Word on Blair – Alex Hylan

A poll on the Guardian’s website found that only 33.7% of respondents would welcome Blair’s return to British Politics. I guess this is unsurprising, even though Blair remains one of our most charismatic leaders at a time when apathy towards politics is so populist.

Guardian comments such as “I would prefer to see him in the dock at the Hague”, thanks ‘Paddy01’ and “I’d welcome his return, if only to remind us how loathsome and disgusting our politicians can get”, keep up the dream, ‘LabourStoleMyCash’, seeming to be quite representative of general opinion on our former prime minister amongst my friends and other people I’ve spoken too.

Myself? I’ve always liked Blair. Look at him, look at that steely determination on his face, isn’t that just likeable?

I recently read Blair’s memoir, A Journey (available from all good Book shops, but get it from a library because it’s so much cheaper). I did this not because I’m a Blairite, but because I’m a Labour supporter and I always think it’s interesting to hear from people who have had such a massive influence on our party. I particularly wanted to hear about things from his perspective, because I feel as if Blair’s absence from British Politics has allowed others to define him instead of him defining himself.

A passage I particularly like comes early on, when he’s talking about his Dad (who you may remember, stood as a Conservative but had to back out because of illness):
“What Dad taught me above all else, and did so utterly unconsciously, was why people like him became Tories. He had been poor. He was working class. He aspired to be middle class. He worked hard, made it on his merits, and wanted his children to do even better than him. He thought – as did many others of his generation – that the logical outcome of this striving, born of this attitude, was to be a Tory. Indeed, it was part of the package. You made it; you were a Tory: two sides of the same coin. It became my political ambition to break that connection, and replace it with a different currency. You are compassionate; you care about those less fortunate than yourself; you believe in society as well as the individual. You can be Labour. You can be successful and care; ambitious and compassionate, a meritocrat and a progressive.  Moreover, these are not alien sentiments in uneasy coexistence. They are entirely compatible ways of making sure progress happens; and they answer the realistic, not utopian, claims of human nature.”

I’ve always believed passionately in the idea that, just as the demographics of our country has changed over time, so too should our Labour party. Our party is the party of the people, and while we should always remember that we strive to protect and shelter the poorest in our society, we should aim to govern for the country, not any one sect of it.

I’ve also always felt that Blair is the political figure that has most clearly articulated the notion that ambition and compassion are not diametrically opposed ideals, as Blair himself said: ‘You can be successful and care; ambitious and compassionate, a meritocrat and a progressive.’ The fact that we ever allowed the Tories to claim that they were the party of ambition is beyond me, what a fanciful lie that turned out to be.

Simply put, I think Blair has done a tremendous amount for the Labour party, in terms of making us a governable force again and bringing a lot of our polices in to government. Just as we praise the Nye Bevan’s and Clement Atlee’s of our history, we should also praise Blair; who, let’s not forget, won three elections in a row, two of them ecstatic landslides. We should be thankful for that.

A quick paragraph on Iraq, which I don’t want to go too much into, purely because I think it’s a whole different debate that has structural factors as well as personal ones:

In hindsight it’s very easy for us to criticise the decision to go to war in Iraq, sit here with our laptops and our social media and commenting from 9 years hence. Iraq has proved itself to be a war we should never have got involved with, I’m not disputing that, but Blair did not know that at the time. He was operating in a climate that was both paranoid and uncertain, and had to make a decision whether or not to take a risk and trust that there were no weapons of mass destruction. It was a risk he was not prepared to take that chance on. I don’t think we can name any other high level figure in British politics that, given the same circumstances, pressures and constraints, would have taken a radically different course of action. I don’t mean to gloss over the issue of Iraq and, rightly, it has become part of his legacy; that’s just my two cents and I’m no expert on the subject.

If you disagree with me, as I’m sure many people will, or just have an opinion on this issue, then please comment- I will endeavour to answer as many points as I can. I don’t acquiesce to Harry’s requests to write these blogs in order to be populist, and I’m always more interested in other people’s opinions that my own. The only thing I’d ask is that the comments aren’t completely Iraq centric, as important as that issue is. The reason I ask this is because, as I’ve said before, I’m no expert on the in’s and out’s of the subject, I was 10 at the time.

PS- Did you know that when you do a Google image search for ‘Blair’ three out of the first five images are of Blair Wardolf, a character from Gossip Girl? If that isn’t a sad indictment of our political times I don’t know what is.

Oh wait, that’s right, a Queen’s speech at a time when unemployment is set to rise to 9% that makes not one single mention of the word ‘jobs’. Now that, that is a shocking indictment of our political times.

Alex is a 19 year old Labour party activist and member of Sheffield Labour Students; studying Politics & Sociology at the University of Sheffield.

09
May
12

The Living Wage needs to be a central plank of Labour’s economic narrative- Darrell Goodliffe

Image

Labour needs a strong and coherent economic narrative which tells a story of a new economy, one built out of the ashes of austerity and the financial crash. Of course, it is not enough to string pretty words together, we must practically show how we will do this through eye-catching policies which encapsulate and embody the vision we want to put to the electorate. If you look at the French election, Francois Hollande did this well by pushing the 75% top-rate of tax on earnings over  1 million euros. This embodied his insistence that the rich shoulder the burden of rebuilding France’s shattered national economy.

Ed Miliband has already expressed the view that it is the toiling mass of people who are society’s real wealth creators and therefore they are the ones who should be most rewarded. Ed is correct in this point of view but he has yet to substantiate it with a policy that makes his point in a clear and unequivocal way. However, the living wage fits the bill perfectly, coupled with real controls on top incomes it would send a clear signal that Ed is prepared to back his fine words with equally as fine deeds.

We will be assailed with all the traditional arguments against, ‘it will lead to unemployment, it would be bad for business’, etc, etc. However, put lightly, these arguments are economic hokum. J K Galbraith deals with some of the arguments here in a US context:

Would prices go up? Some would. But rich people can afford it — and workers would have extra income to pay the higher prices, so most of them would come out ahead. Women in particular would benefit because they tend to work for lower wages. With more family income, some people would choose to retire, go back to school, or have children, making it easier for others who need jobs to find them. Working families would have more time for community life, including politics; Americans would start to reclaim the middle-class political organization that they once had. Because payroll- and income-tax revenues would rise, the federal deficit would come down. Social Security worries would fade.

Not only that, but households would be able to, slowly but surely be able to make headway into the personal debt mountain which blights our economy; here Ed will need to offer other support, like the extension of Debt Relief Orders and action against high prices (something he has already muted). However, a living wage would be a huge boost to struggling households and therefore to our flagging economy.

Up to this point, Ed has only mooted a ‘voluntary’ living wage (in return for which companies would receive tax incentives) however, this is pointless and misguided. If it is voluntary it would introduce two-tier wage system (with a clear division between companies that only offer minimum wage and those that offer a living wage)  which would run the risk of increasing rather than tackling social inequality. Also, the benefit to the state would be limited because it would be paying out money to the private sector in the form of tax breaks (as well as presumably footing the bill of increased public sector wages).

Simply raising the minimum wage to the level of the living wage, which is what Galbraith advocates, therefore is more economically sensible and beneficial all round as opposed to a half-baked voluntary scheme. Ed needs to be brave and not fight shy of the ideologically motivated but economically illiterate opponents of a living wage; he needs to take them head-on and make the living wage a central plank of Labour’s narrative which espouses a bold and radical vision of a new economy created out of the ashes of the old.

Darrell is an ex-intern and Labour activist and blogger and a candidate for NEC.

08
May
12

Time to enfranchise the great ignored. A guest post from Liam Young.

For over a year now I have been stating the case for a campaign that is close to my heart; lowering the voting age to 16. When I was a young boy, at roughly the age of 6, I told my family that one day, I wanted to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Ten years on, I still hold that dream.

In ten years I have attended events ranging from local party meetings to national conferences, I have spoken at events that ranged from local council chambers to conference halls and I have spent hours of every day reviewing the latest political gossip and checking up on the political scene. If they were to mean test me and judge whether I was of a ‘sound mind’ to vote, then I’m pretty sure, and hopeful, that I would pass.

You may think that my story is unique and one that is not often unheard of; but you’re wrong. I think it is possible to accept that not many people want to be the Prime Minister, and I believe you’re probably right in thinking that no one would exclaim it at such a young age; but young people are interested in politics. At the age of 16 many people undergo tutorials in politics at sixth form, and from the age of 12, when compulsory citizenship education comes into effect, we begin to learn about government and our political surroundings. Young people become aware of what they believe in, but they cannot voice their feelings through the ballot.

The bulk of people involved in last years rioting belonged to that ‘youth’ category. Maybe one reason that they voiced their anger against society through brutality and destruction is because they had no other way to do so. Maybe if they were taught that they had the ability to make a difference, then they would have pursued different avenues.

If I can legally sleep with my MP, if I can legally marry my MP, if I can pay tax to my MP and if I can go to a distant land and fight for my MP, why shouldn’t I be able to vote for my MP?

David Cameron spoke about the ‘great ignored’ during his election campaign in 2010, when he promised to ‘engage and represent’ this group of people in society. By disenfranchising young people, he fails to keep this promise. He called this group of people, “the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding majority.” Maybe he should think about the 1.7 million 16-17 year olds who work hard, often pay some form of tax and abide by the laws of the country, but are denied the vote simply because they are deemed too ‘immature’ to be given the right to vote.

In the local elections just passed, over 70% of adults who were eligible to vote decided against doing so. Let’s give young people the chance to show that they can accept the responsibility of voting and can build on the dismal turn out of the already so called ‘mature’ population. It’s time to enfranchise the great ignored, it’s time for votes at 16.

Thanks go to Harry Barham and the Red Blog for the publication of this post.

Liam is a 16 year old Labour activist and blogger. To follow his campaign or his political trails, follow him on twitter @liamyoung.

10
Apr
12

“What’s your policy?”: Max Bell-The nationalisation of the Utilities

I can hear the ghost of Michael Foot’s donkey jacket screaming in delight in the background….

In all seriousness – with half of Britons anticipated to be in fuel poverty by 2022, it is absolutely scandalous to envision an expansion of the current situation whereby pensioners, young mothers and the just plain working poor are forced to select between eating & heating.

Only with the re-nationalisation of all those who pump the simple elements into our homes – heat, water, light, power, electricity, gas – can we truly decide once and for all that people are more important than profit.

British Gas & the other “Big 6”, (*expletive deleted*), pushing another billion or so here and there on to their profit accounts make me sheet-white with anger considering the pain they force literally millions and millions of Britons into.

The idea that this magically restricts growth is an illusion: and the model of nationalisations provided by the post-WWII Clement Attlee Labour governments is the perfect model, irrespective of economic libertarianism bleating. Nationalisation occurred along side, and was a key player in, the longest period of growth that Britain has ever seen. The Victorians can eat their heart out.

Post the traumatic event of the Second World War, society came together and universally decided that “Never Again” would the ravages of the market be directed at the weakest, as the political class turned its nose in disgust. See parallels on how we must react to the financial crisis perhaps then?

This clichéd choice agenda being pushed by the bastardised hostages that is neo-liberal fortune, is completely and utterly flawed. This is not the phone market, or indeed: the airlines – no wide scale infrastructure investment ever occurs without the government deciding once and for all that the electorate are too important to throw under a capitalist bus.

There is no low-cost, low-carbon agenda from any big energy supplier. Re-nationalisation would be the perfect catalyst for that.

Thus, only when the Government takes control of the industries – which web together poisonously as a plague on all our houses and our governing class’ consciousness. We can set the price structure depending on who & where you are. Enforce energy efficiency standards nation-wide, and improve infrastructure: all without the need for a profit.

And as we place money back into the pockets of our nation – just think of the growth.

We owe re-nationalisation to our children, and their children – and history will judge us all the poorer if we chicken out now.

Max Bell is a Proud working class socialist and Northern political nerd. Currently reading Law at University of Sheffield whilst being an active member of Sheffield Labour Students. He is also, probably, Scunthorpe United’s most obsessive fan.

If you could choose one policy to implement now if you could, what would it be? get in touch and we will post your ideas!

13
Feb
12

3 Policies for a better Britain…

We’re all quite depressed right now aren’t we? The Coalition are ruining our country. Cheer yourself up! what policies would you put in if you were in government? These are just three of mine…

Nationalised railways

It has become abundantly clear over the last decade that the privatisation of the railways and more crucially the way in which this was done, has resulted in the UK having a overly complex, overly wasteful and completely unaccountable rail system where the public purse  pays for the vast majority of the investment and the private companies reap the rewards.

Whilst I welcome the Government increasing the lengths of franchises in order that private companies will hopefully invest more, I do not believe that this companies can truly be relied on to do so as the increasing overcrowding, increasing ticket prices and increasing overall dissatisfaction in the railways shows that profit is clearly the only aim of these companies and they know people will still use the railways so long a they do eventually get them from A to B.

Clearly the simplest solution is to nationalise the railways (at least initially) in order to secure the accountability that is lacking so much currently. it is obvious that a situation where the track, rolling stoke and stations are owned by different companies is incredibly problematic and only solution seems to be to nationalise. when my train is late I currently have three entities who may be to blame; the train company? is it transpenine’s fault for not building a correct timetable around passengers (or customers which we are now referred to), is it the track maintenance? is Network Rail to blame? Or is it the company that runs a station for a particular bottleneck at a particular time?.

With a nationalised system the blame game, which now costs the railways an extortionate amount, is ended. British Rail would also not have to negotiate with different companies to run an improvement program or create a timetable or fix problems in the system. British Rail should be re- created as a unified body with the sole aim of improving the passengers experience. No longer should the taxpayer be pitted against the rail passenger as they are all to often one and the same, increase the standard of transport and you perform a vital service for both.

Robin hood tax

I can’t explain this better than Bill…

for more information click here.

National living wage

For some time in the uk there has been an argument about benefits. There is agreement (not always a universal agreement) that often the benefits system does not result in an adequate incentive to go back into employment as often wages can be worth less than the benefits one can derive from not working. It seems to this humble observer that the left and right both pose plausible resolutions to this situation, but that the left’s solution is superior by virtue of its moral worth.

The Conservatives (as well as many of their lib-dem) lapdogs seem intent on what is essentially a race to the bottom with benefits being lowered and given to less people in order to effectively force them to work for whatever wage they can get with the only alternative being destitution.

Labour’s introduction of a minimum wage reversed this and set in play a race to the top. The problem now is people are again arguing that benefits are too high and don’t act as an incentive to work. The next and only logical step is to introduce a Living Wage. The Living wage is currently calculated at £7.20 per hour outside london and £8.30 per hour in London and is aimed to let “every worker in the country…earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life.” (more information can be found here).

One very important caveat, however, is that, small businesses must be given as much help as possible to be able to afford such wage.

HB
02
Feb
11

Labour lovely of the week #5

Its been a rocky ride for this week’s Labour lovely, with recent polls showing that one of the view things the tories still have over Labour is that this man is not seen to be as effective as David Cameron. However, his performance in Prime Ministers Questions this week showed his ability to appear the statesman, making a PMQs where the usual verbal fist fight and was calmed in favour of a more clear and calm session involving the asking and answering of…wait for it…Prime Ministers Questions. Hopefully he’ll give Cameron a bloody nose next week but for now lets all respect the seriousness of international situations and salute this weeks Labour Lovely:

Ed Miliband

HB

29
Jan
11

Labour Lovely of the Week #4

Last week’s LL was Alan Johnson who we were all sad to see leave front-row politics for family reasons. Ed Miliband swiftly decided on this week’s labour lovely to step into his position of Shadow Chancellor. Since then, he has not paused in attacking the ridiculous and clearly ideological tory cuts to everything in site. This man has both lectured on economics at Harvard as well as writing for the Financial Times, so he is clearly very qualified to speak on Economic issues, unlike a certain Mr Osborne

So for this week our Labour Lovely is:

Ed Balls MP