Posts Tagged ‘USA

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

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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.

06
Mar
12

Super Tuesday, Why this time it’s actually going to be super! – a guest post from yael shafritz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Super Tuesday, and this year that is an extremely exciting day for anyone following the US Republican presidential primary. This year Super Tuesday is actually going to be super as for the first time in any recent elections it may well decide exactly which Republican is going to face Obama in the autumn.

To really understand why this Super Tuesday is so special we first must understand exactly what Super Tuesday is. In the US for parties to nominate a presidential candidate, the candidates must go through a series of primaries and caucuses throughout the 50 states. Some of these are purely for members of the party to vote in, whereas others are open and any registered voter can cast a ballot for their chosen candidate. Famously the first contest is always the ‘Iowa Caucus’, quickly followed by the ‘New Hampshire Primary’ which both take place almost a year before the general election. After that there is an informal order for which the states hold their caucuses and primaries. Super Tuesday is called so as there are the most states holding primary elections on the same day. These states range in size, geographical location and importance. The order of the primaries for later states and Super Tuesday are often seen as less important in the presidenti

al primary system as by then a frontrunner has often been established and the majority of other candidates have already dropped out. And what is the aim of these primaries and caucuses? It is to gain to delegates so that when the convention for their party is held, one candidate will have enough delegates from various states to be voted in as his or her party’s nominee.

This Super Tuesday is really exciting because the guy everyone expected to be the Republican party’s frontrunner by this point is, not! So far Mitt Romney has 180 delegates, Rick Santorum has 90 delegates, Newt Gingrich has 29 delegates and Ron Paul has 23 delegates. Although it may seem like Mitt Romney has a large lead over the other candidates, when the goal is 1,144 delegates needed to be nominated, it’s easy to understand why Mr Romney is still a way off. This is why Super Tuesday is so important. With 10 states holding their primaries today there are a lot of delegates up for grabs and in the case of Mitt Romney, he needs all the delegates he can get so as to establish his position as frontrunner before going into the remainder of the primaries. For Rick Santorum this day is also key as a win for him will either blow the whole contest wide open, disproving the notion that Romney was ever the established frontrunner, or in a best case scenario (and I mean that for him and the rest of the world) puts him in the lead and establishes him as the frontrunner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So which states are important, well Ohio is seen as the key state today as it has a lot of delegates and is also a big swing state in the general election. Whoever carries Ohio today will be given a delegate advantage but also show themselves as a viable candidate to beat Obama in the general. Georgia is also a key state with the largest amounts of delegates, however Gingrich is likely to win here as it’s his home state, but Romney and Santorum will surely be in a fight for a close second. Ultimately the states in the south and Midwest will decide this Super Tuesday as any Republican presidential candidate needs to be able to sweep these states in the general election. Santorum’s chances to do will in some states is severely limited due to the fact that he wasn’t able to get on the ballot in several key constituencies and states, something that Romney’s campaign has blamed on incompetence. This means that in a state like Virginia where Santorum had a real chance for a key win he will not even be on the ballot.

Not since the Democratic primary season in 1972 has there been such a contested primary so this Super Tuesday could provide several outcomes. By tomorrow we will know a lot more as to the political landscape for the rest of the year in the states. Either Romney will sew up the nomination. However, this seems unlikely. More likely is the notion that the process will once again be kept open and 2 of the 4 remaining candidates will be left fighting for delegates. Hopefully, for our entertainment, this battle continues all the way to the convention where we will be able to witness a gridlocked convention and a party rip itself apart trying to find one viable candidate.

Yael Shafritz is a dual UK and US citizen studying at Sheffield University and is a Labour and Democrat activist.

08
Apr
11

Stop the Shutdown: quit the blame game and think of the people


Politics has always been very polarising in the United States. While budgets may pass without hindrance in other countries, at the moment in America, the Federal Government risks total shutdown as an agreement cannot be reached upon one, and if no successful compromise is achieved by midnight tonight, Eastern Time, the administration in Washington will cease operations; this will precipitate a crisis for government workers, the country at large, and indeed, as a result of the US’ extensive influence and various campaigns across the globe, the world as a whole. Although such an event has in fact happened before multiple times, the disruption is normally prevented by an eleventh hour deal, but the sad truth is that, in all probability, that window of time is now either upon us or has passed, and no deal has been negotiated.

The Republican House Speaker John Boehner, notable for being a rather overly emotional individual has stated that, primarily, the cause for such a delay is a disagreement over the level of cuts to be carried out on spending. This is however quite clearly not the overarching case- US politicians are overwhelmingly patriotic, and in order to spare those workers who are at risk of being labelled ‘non-essential’ from the hardship that now looms over them, a discrepancy over figures, while still acting as an instigator for much furious ideology-driven debate, would have not proven such an enduring obstacle to the process. This goes much deeper. In order to discern the true reasons for most recent extended failures in finding a happy medium, one must traverse the complicated and often incomprehensible network of differences in fundamental principle between the Republican dominated House of Representatives and the Obama administration. In this instance however, it is really quite simple to see where the real dispute lies. The quarrel’s source is of an ethical nature. It’s about abortion funding.

This has come to prominence not simply because of what currently constitutes the House but ultimately what constitutes the Republican majority in the house. The (in)famous Tea Party candidates that swept to power during the last midterm elections as a result of the perceived failure of the President on some occasions, and his proposals of vaguely socialist bills in others, see the current circumstances as the optimum time to push their far-right radical agendas and wreak as much havoc as possible by being as uncooperative as is possible- they have made it abundantly clear that the impending shutdown is very much their objective now. This loony wing of the Republican party that has charged its way into congress seeks to exploit the situation to the full for their own philosophical reasons in a narrow-minded fashion, much to the detriment of the people at large.

So while it is doubtful the Tea Party congressmen and women will capitulate to avoid a government closedown, the task is up to more mainstream republicans to think of the results for the government workers in the States and those around the world that are effected by the work they do, that a powering down of the Washington machine would generate. This is however looking increasingly unlikely, as John Boehner has already stated his defiance by saying that while he does, unlike the Tea Party politicians, not wish for a government shutdown, he was not willing to “roll over” to prevent one.

Both sides claim it is the incessant rhetoric and stubbornness of the other that is preventing a completion of a budget; Democratic leader Harry Reid insists that an agreement has been reached on overall spending itself, the Republicans won’t budge on various specific issues, predominantly abortion. Boehner conversely says the Democrats aren’t being flexible enough regarding their own cuts program to get close to a universally accepted settlement. It is plainly obvious that both parties are too preoccupied with holding each other responsible while not thinking about the people they represent.

The consequences will be regrettable should the shutdown come to pass. Not only will world affairs be thrown into chaos by a ceasing of the US government to administer the many areas it is responsible for, but, needless to say, ordinary people will be effected in a terrible way. Not only may 800,000 staff be suspended, many of which will be modestly paid public sector workers– which will be made all the worse by the current economic situation- in which many people are already struggling, but basic services provided that aid those even less well off, such as the unemployed, will in many cases stop functioning. Some of the aforementioned areas the Washington administration controls will surely experience negative effects as a result of troops stationed oversees not receiving their wages. Men and women will be asked to continue risking their lives for no compensation while the predicament continues. In addition to all of this, swathes of people across the USA will be forced to endure hits to their confidence, for as mentioned previously, the government will be forced to decide which workers are classified as ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’. Those branded as the latter will be told to stay at home, unpaid, and understandably upset.

The negotiating teams must consider all of these fallout effects of a shutdown when undergoing talks. At time of writing, we are entering crunch time, and we can only hope for the benefit of all a resolution is brokered, soon.

MH

EDIT (4:10 BST): With only one hour left before the government arrived at closing point, John Boehner announced that a deal had been reached with the Obama administration, averting the shutdown. Close run thing folks, but we should be grateful that politicians put people before petty politics and formed a compromise.