Category Archives: Labour

Tony Blair, New Labour And Selective Memorization

Tony Blair has become a knight of the realm and for many of his followers, it was a long time coming; a moment of pure joy. The same people have misremembered the New Labour years and if you ask them what the party achieved under Blair in the 10 years he was in power, they can only come up with three things. The first is “he won three elections”. The second is “Sure Start Centres” and the third is “he beat the Tories”. Those of us with clear memories of the period remember Nu Labour for not only rushing into an ill-advised war in Iraq (Blairites brush this aside), but failing to respond adequately to Michael Howard’s racist dog-whistling in the 2005 General Election campaign.

Howard: I'm a one nation Tory | Conservatives | The Guardian
Blairites conveniently forget the Tories’ racist dog-whistling of the 2005 General Election campaign

If you remind Blair’s supporters of his inadequate response to Howard’s racism, watch how quickly their eyes glaze over. Yet, it was this lack of a response from him and his ministers that opened up a space for far-right discourses on identity, nationality and citizenship to thrive. Those discourses have now become mainstream and can be heard on a daily basis on talk radio stations and on the BBC. It’s also worth remembering that, two years after the 2005 General Election, Nigel Farage was elected leader of UKIP.

However, a year earlier, the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett. put forward a bill to cut benefit payments to ‘asylum seekers’ and curb their appeal rights. Far from being a left-wing government, Nu Labour actually adopted the immigration policies of the Tories, if not the far-right. The Guardian said:

The vote preceded publication today of a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research by Alice Bloch of City University, London.

She argues that the current ban on work deprives the British economy of much needed skilled labour and contributes to the perception of asylum seekers as “undeserving” benefit claimants. Lengthy periods of forced unemployment which accompany an application for asylum make it harder to find work and integrate when finally granted refugee status.

And

Dispersing asylum seekers around the country contributes to the problem, as they are frequently sent to areas of high unemployment and separated from the “informal networks that have historically been so important in terms of job seeking and employment within refugee communities”.

Meanwhile, a lottery funding body was severely criticised yesterday by the Commons public accounts committee for giving cash to an asylum group that attacked Mr Blunkett for “colluding with fascism”. The MPs said that the Community Fund handed more than £336,000 to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns without properly monitoring what the group was promoting. The group took a “political and doctrinaire stance”.

1998, Nu Labour introduced detention centres for ‘asylum seekers’ and as Rachel Shabi points out in this Guardian article, 3% of the public cited immigration as a burning issue. The 1998 Asylum Act was followed in 2002 by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act. Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that these measures were taken after a series of outlandish claims in the right-wing press. Shabi again:

By the time Labour came to power in 1997, newspapers were routinely scaremongering about the new arrivals: that year the Daily Mail ran a story about a “flood of bogus asylum-seekers swamping Dover” while the Independent warned: “Gypsies invade Dover hoping for a handout.” The actual numbers were tiny. There were 32,500 overall asylum claims in 1997, with 81% refused asylum. In the decade to 2000, the UK accepted 1.9% of asylum claims from Sri Lanka; in France that figure was 73.6%.

It wasn’t just immigration where Nu Labour aped the Tories, the language of government ministers like Blunkett, Straw and Reid contributed to an upsurge in racially motivated violence and police harassment of Black people. as well as an increase in Islamophobia.

New Labour also failed to address structural inequalities and this resulted in a growing divide between rich and poor. Under Blair, Labour failed to reverse Thatcher’s disastrous Right To Buy, which continued throughout the 13 years the party was in government.

Workfare and the cruel Work Capability Assessments had their genesis in the second Blair ministry and were fully implemented when Gordon Brown assumed the leadership.

Sure Start Centres were great, but if that’s all Blairites and Labour right-wingers can offer in his defence, then it’s thin gruel. Sure Start Centres had their funding systematically cut when the Tories took power with the help of the Lib Dems in 2010.

Blair’s supporters have nothing to crow about.

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Filed under Blairites, immigration, Labour

Gordon Brown’s Selective Anti-racism

Remember Gordon Brown? Who could forget him? He was dubbed the “Iron Chancellor”, who would “hit the ground running” as soon as he came into government. He was also the man who seemingly channelled every British right-wing politician who ever existed, when he said, without irony, “British jobs for British workers”. This is the same Gordon Brown, who said nothing when Phil Woolas, the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, got kicked out the Commons for distributing racist leaflets to his constituents. “Scare the white vote” he was told. Brown was also happy to adopt anti-immigration rhetoric rather than challenge Michael Howard’s dog-whistle racism during the 2005 General Election campaign.

Now he’s back and he wants the world to know it.

In yesterday’s Guardian, Brown wrote:

The Labour party owes the Jewish community an unqualified apology. But that is only a starting point in rebuilding the trust that has been shattered.

A few months ago, I joined hundreds of other non-Jewish Labour party members in signing up as an affiliated member of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Instead of Jewish members leaving Labour, Labour members joined the Jewish community.

That’s the same Jewish Labour Movement that accepts non-Jews into its ranks and which has spent the last four years smearing left-wing Jews and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as “anti-Semitic”. Notice also Brown’s suggestion that the JLM and the organizations which share their ideology and loathing for anything left-wing, is definitively representative of a homogenized, Jewish community (sic). But he goes further, even misrepresenting the words of Chris Williamson, who was farcically suspended again after having the whip restored less than 48 hours earlier.

For somewhere along the way it became possible for a Labour MP, close to the leader, to suggest that in dealing with antisemitism we were being “too apologetic”. 

Counterfire provides the context to Williamson’s speech here.

In an effort to show that he’s being even-handed when it comes to racism, Brown adds:

Of course, this poison is not restricted to the Jewish community or to Labour. Islamophobes who use social media to condemn all Muslims also exhibit a racism that disfigures more and more of our society – especially now that a populist nationalism, which needs enemies, is on the rise.

All well and good, but there’s not a single mention of people of colour, who have seen the biggest rise in hate crimes against them, nor is there, predictably, any mention of the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. It’s as if, by our very visibility, we’ve become somehow invisible to Brown’s one good eye. He flourishes his credentials, which are, to adapt Baudrillard, a flaunting of his collection of signs.

And while I gave the go-ahead under the last Labour government for the establishment of a post-Holocaust envoy, it is now clear we need to go much further. The next Labour government should announce it will appoint a designated minister, backed up by an ambassador. This role should be to combat antisemitism – by monitoring and reporting on its evil presence and pressurising governments everywhere to eradicate it.

Hundreds of thousands, around 25% of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population were exterminated in the Nazi death camps, but Brown doesn’t see them, let alone even mention them. The use of the word ‘Holocaust’ suggests that it was only Jews who were killed by the Nazis and the reader is left to assume that’s what Brown means. A proper history lesson for Gord wouldn’t go amiss.

More lip service is paid to anti-racism as a sign in the following paragraph:

When, in 2016, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission reviewed 50 years of anti-racist legislation and enforcement, it called on the government to formulate a comprehensive anti-racism strategy fit for new times. The need is more urgent now and, in preparation for the next Labour government, we should consult on a new and broader strategy that begins with better education in our schools – for example, we should do more to support the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust – and include stronger laws against racism in all its forms.

There is a hierarchy of racism (and race) in the United Kingdom and Brown and the others have either consciously or unconsciously accepted it as fait accompli in their speech and in their actions – though they would deny it. If you’re Black, for example, the racism that you experience comes a distant second, third or fourth place behind the smears. Even genuine cases of anti-Semitism come a long way behind the confected accusations. For example, while the following story may appear on news websites, it wasn’t mentioned on any of the national television or radio news bulletins that I watched or listened to yesterday.

Far-right extremist Tristan Morgan, who set fire to a synagogue on a day commemorating the Holocaust, has been locked up in hospital indefinitely.

He laughed after he set fire to the synagogue in Exeter, Devon, the Old Bailey heard.

Morgan, from the city, was set on fire by the blast after he poured petrol into a window of the 18th Century building on 21 July 2018.

He had previously admitted arson and two terrorism-related charges.

A genuine case of anti-Semitism, you would think and one which certainly deserved more attention than it actually received. You’d be right.

I’m not racist, but…

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was found to have deliberately lied about his opponent in some racist leaflets he’d sent to his constituents in order to “galvanize the white S*n vote”. Gordon Brown and no less a figure than Cherie Blair came to his defence, as did his close friend, John Mann.

For those who say, in the words of Howard and Crosby’s 2005 dog-whistle posters that “it isn’t racist to be concerned about immigration”, I would argue that may or may not be the case, in and of itself, but behind such concerns often lurk the unpleasant discourses of racism, xenophobia and eugenics. Opposition to immigration provides a useful rallying point that also provides cover to deeply-bigoted sentiments.

Just over a year ago, Brown made speech in which he oversimplified the reasons that impelled many voters to use the EU referendum to send a message to Westminster. True to form, he reduced those reasons into a single anti-immigration discourse. The Guardian’s Larry Elliott wrote:

Brown presented a six-point plan for dealing with concerns about migration: no undercutting of wages by migrants; registration of jobs to give local people a chance to apply; registration of migrants on arrival in the UK; possible removal of migrants if they failed to find a job within nine months; a ban on employment agencies advertising jobs abroad that had not been advertised in the UK; and a bigger fund to help mitigate the impact of migration on local communities.

Indeed, last month, in his speech to an event organized by the Fabian Society and Hope Not Hate, the latter of which pretends to be an all-encompassing anti-racism campaign group, but which in reality, has become little more than a vehicle for anti-Semitism witch hunters like Ruth Smeeth, Brown suggested that in order to combat the far-right, one needed to adopt their positions or, at least, listen to them more. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?

The ‘Go Home’ vans, Hostile Environment and the Windrush Scandal didn’t appear from nowhere, they are ontologically related and have their roots in Nu Labour’s 2005 anti-immigration discourses. Gordon Brown would have you believe he’s on the side of the anti-racists. He isn’t. He’s part of the problem.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Racism, smear campaigns

Lisa Nandy And Me

I’ve told this story many times on Twitter and Facebook, but it needs to be repeated here. Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, is the broadcast media’s pet faux lefty. She often appears on television programmes like ITV’s godawful Peston and rocks up on the BBC’s Politics Live and Question Time. Sometimes, she’s mentioned as the media’s pick to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, along with self-publicists like Jess Phillips (far and away the right-wing media’s choice) and dull careerists like Yvette Cooper. But Nandy’s supposedly left-wing credentials are moot at best. She makes some nice noises but beyond that, I believe her grasp of left-wing politics to be weak. It certainly lacks class analysis.

It was the 2005 General Election when I met Nandy. In those days, she was a councillor for the Hammersmith Broadway ward on what was then the Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The Iraq War was still raging and millions of voters were starting to turn their backs on Labour. Worse, the party, rather than challenge the dog-whistle racism of Michael Howard’s election campaign (Directed by Lynton Crosby. Who else?), constructed its own anti-immigrant rhetoric, and it is that failure to meet Howard’s racist campaign with a head-on rational argument in favour of immigration, which gave the far-right space to thrive. We are in this place because of Blair and New Labour was very much a racist endeavour

Like those millions of voters who had turned away from the Labour, I felt let down by the party. Nandy, who was canvassing on behalf of the Labour candidate, Melanie Smallman, herself a member of Progress and a Blairite, turned up on my doorstep after climbing the seven flights of steps up to my flat. She asked me if I was going to vote Labour in the election. I told her “No” and added that I’d been let down by Blair’s rush to invade Iraq on a faulty premise, to which she appeared to nod in agreement. I then finished by telling her that I was a socialist and at that point she turned around and headed back down the stairs. I’d never seen anyone move so fast upon hearing the word “socialist”.

Yesterday, Nandy donned her hair shirt, grabbed her sword and joined Wes Streeting, Margaret Hodge et al aboard the passing anti-Semitism witch-hunt bandwagon with this ill-considered tweet, in which she appears to suck up the accusers and accept their baseless allegations at face value.

My reply to her was to the point.

Somehow, I don’t think Nandy will deign to reply.

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Tory MP, Paul Beresford: ‘Travellers Are A Disease’

When it comes to racism, some forms of racism are clearly more equal than others. In our currently febrile social climate this has never been more true a statement. Our present public discourse has become polluted by notions of free speech absolutism, put forward by zealots like the right-wing libertarian outfit, Spiked and their associates on one hand, and the self-appointed anti-Semitism language police in the Labour Party and their media allies on the other. Anyone with a brain in their head could see where the weaponization and cheapening of anti-Semitism for political ends would lead to: a sharp increase in attacks on minorities – especially people of colour. Indeed, those who spend much of their time complaining about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party tend to be, for the most part, white and they’re not too concerned about other forms of racism within and outwith the party.

Anti-Semitism witch hunters will scoff at any suggestion that, through their words and deeds, a hierarchy of racism now exists in which weak claims anti-Semitism are prioritised over genuine cases of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. What passes for anti-Semitism these days is more often than not, a conflation with anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Other claims are the product of lazy thinking. One such incident involved the right-wing Labour MP, Siobhan McDonagh, who in an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4 deliberately conflated anti-capitalism with anti-Semitism. This anti-Semitic trope, which is heavily reliant on the knowledge of the Other, was allowed to pass unchallenged by Humphrys. Worse, the usual witch hunters kept schtum. Meanwhile, stories of anti-Semitic attacks like the one in Islington in February of this year, are rarely, if ever, afforded national airtime nor are they mentioned by our supposedly objective broadcast journalists. Furthermore, the media focus on anti-Semitism gives the impression to other ethnic minorities that the racism they experience is either imagined or of no importance (this has happened to me quite recently when I complained about racism directed towards me). Other forms of racism simply aren’t sexy or cool enough, and don’t possess the same emotional value as anti-Semitism.

So it is with the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT), one of the country’s most marginalised and persecuted socio-ethnic groups, not just in the United Kingdom but across Europe in countries like Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia among others. So normalised has anti-GRT racism become that even our elected representatives are given a free pass to air their obnoxious racist views on the floor of the House of Commons. In April, the Conservative MP and former leader of Wandsworth Council, Paul Beresford, said in an adjournment debate to the House of Commons.

“We’re now in what we call the summer traveller season, it’s like a disease.”

That something like this can be said in the Commons without fear of censure, either from the Speaker, his party leader, the usual Labour MPs or the national media, speaks volumes. The fact that Beresford used the word ‘disease’, a word associated with the Nazi and BritFash discourses to refer to people not deemed as “Aryan” reveals to us the extent to which racism has become normalized in everyday political discourse. The Surrey Live website was one of several sources to carry the Beresford story, the other was Show Racism The Red Card. There is nothing on the BBC News site or any of the other national carriers, nor did the national press mention it. Beresford has been pressed to make an apology, but has, thus far, not done so. Moreover, the most vociferous anti-Semitism witch hunters in the Labour and Conservative Parties have said nothing.

Beresford is by no means the only Tory MP to openly express hatred towards GRT people. In 2017, when asked what he want to see more than anything else, Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross told reporters:

“Tougher enforcement against gypsies and travellers”.

In 2017, Tory MP, Julian Knight also attacked GRT people.

The Tories aren’t alone when it comes to anti-GRT bigotry, Labour MP, John Mann, himself a self-appointed anti-Semitism witch hunter, sent an anti-GRT booklet to his Bassetlaw constituents and yet, national news broadcasters said nothing and his fellow MPs said nothing. Instead, broadcasters like the BBC eagerly provide him with plenty of airtime to denounce someone, usually a left-wing figure, for anti-Semitism, or pronounce them a “Nazi sympathiser”. The interviewers, for their part, will always entertain his rants and his poorly-reasoned judgements without a semblance of criticism. Why? Because he makes “good telly”.

So where’s the outrage? The media’s silence appears to indicate an often casual complicity in the perpetuation of anti-GRT racism,which is both structural and institutional. GRT people are discriminated against in terms of access to education, medical treatment and even the law as this research paper from the London School of Economics makes clear.

On Twitter, recently, I had someone purporting to be a Corbyn supporter tell me that he “didn’t like Travellers but the old-fashioned Romanis were okay”. I blocked them. These kinds of views aren’t unique nor are they limited to one political party or another. They are informed by a knowledge of the Other, and further serve to illustrate the role in which myths and stereotypes play in shaping many people’s views of, not just GRT people, but people from other ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, it also reveals a fundamental ignorance of GRT history and, in particular, the Porajmos, the Romani Holocaust.

When it comes to anti-GRT racism, some of the worst offenders are the self-declared, hair-shirt wearing, anti-racist politicians, especially right-wing Labour politicians, who ignore anti-GRT racism while pursuing phantom claims of anti-Semitism. Their anti-racism is selective and no one, whether they are a member of a minority group or not, should be fooled by the calculatedly cynical flaunting of their flimsy credentials. If your anti-racism is selective, then you’re not an anti-racist but a person with an agenda: in other words, you’re someone who uses a selectivized form of anti-racism for political motives. That means you’re no better than the people of whom you’re accusing of anti-Semitism. In short, you’re a racist and you’re no good to those of us who are involved in the daily struggle against racism.

Anti-racism, therefore, must be intersectional. Since the EU referendum and the ensuing political turmoil, much of it the making of the professional politicians themselves, few MPs are capable of fathoming, not just the complex political situation they’ve found themselves in, but are reluctant or just too stupid to understand the powerful and dark forces that they have unleashed; forces for which they clearly lack the intellects and philosophical nous to defeat. Instead, they would rather blame anyone but themselves. Not only that, they show no concern that the fallout from their baseless accusations will hit other minorities, namely people of colour and GRT people.

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Filed under Labour, racism, Society & culture

Hero or villain? The Livingstone question

A thoughtful and refreshing analysis of the Livingstone Affair. Ken’s a goshite and that’s something on which we can all, hopefully, agree. He is not, however, an anti-Semite. David Rosenberg was there at the dawn of the GLC Rainbow Coalition under Livingstone and is witness to some of the key events that have helped to shape the discourses surrounding Livingstone Affair.

rebel notes

My favourite political image among the protests and street activism that has marked the first three months of 2017 is a banner held on the St Patrick’s Day parade. It proclaimed:”More Blacks! More dogs! More Irish!” – mocking the daily racism of the 1960s when people looking for homes were confronted by openly discriminatory window signs rejecting applicants from these categories. The first Race Relations Act of 1968 finally knocked that appalling behaviour on the head, but not the sentiments behind it. It took another 20 years of grassroots campaigns led by victims of racism, finally aided by another layer of government, to normalise anti-racism and explicitly promote multiculturalism.

58e42cc61500002000c7dfa7 GLC leader Ken Livingstone addressing  GLC London Against Racism rally 1984.

That layer of government was the Greater London Council (GLC). Under a visionary Left Labour leadership from 1981 it railed against continuing inequalities and discriminatory practices and the mindset supporting…

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Streeting’s Twitter Tantrum

Wes Streeting, the nominally Labour MP for Ilford North doesn’t like critics. Apparently, they’re “oxygen thieves”. That’s nice. I guess it could be worse: they could be ‘anti-Semites’.

Streeting's twitter tantrum

And you’re reading the previous tweet correctly. He really did ask someone “Why don’t you support our leader”?

He has no sense of irony.

I’ll probably be accused of anti-Semitism (sic) for typing that.

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If You Missed The Last Smear Story, Another One Will Be Along In A Moment

Whenever the government is having a tough time, you can guarantee that within days a story, often a non-story or a smear about Corbyn, Momentum or the Left, will appear in the media.  This is one of those non-stories rather than a smear. Such is the predictability of these anti-Corbyn smear stories that you can actually set your watch by them.

So it is with Tom Watson, the Stalinesque Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, who yesterday announced, somewhat predictably, that he had heard an audio recording of Jon Lansman of Momentum telling an audience that the group was forming a pact with Unite and that the union was planning to fund them. That’s how it was reported.  It was also suggested that there was a “left-wing plot to take over the Labour Party”, which is weird for a  party that’s generally perceived as a supposedly left-wing party. I mean, do we really need two right-wing parties?  The market’s kind of crowded. Unite, for its part, rejected the claim and issued a press statement to the effect. Whenever an ‘entryism’ or ‘Trotskyite’ infiltration story appears in the media, you’ll find Watson at its centre of its production.

Unsurprisingly, the line being sold to the public – again – is that Momentum is an entryist group. This is what Watson suggested on the Today programme. In fact, he sounded like a little kid telling tales to John Humphrys’ relationally adult figure. It was an unedifying listening experience. Remember that most of Corbyn’s supporters aren’t actually Momentum members.  No matter.  He even added a dramatic embellishment to the story by warning that Momentum “risked destroying Labour’s electability”. Really? Isn’t that what you’re doing already, Tom?

Predictably, The Daily Politics led with the story, and the show’s producers even invited Blairite poseur, Caroline Flint (I guess Watson, Jess Phillips or John Mann were unavailable), to share studio space with Eric Pickles and pass comment on the non-event. Pickles stayed strangely quiet. Rachel Godfrey of Momentum was permitted to defend the organization but Coburn’s interview style and the presence of Flint combined to create the mise en scene of a hastily arranged kangaroo court.

Flint, for her part, repeated the same spiel The Cat has heard a hundred times or more about “far-left infiltrators”. She tutted and scoffed at Godfrey’s responses to Coburn’s questions and her demeanour and use of language suggested that she was at least partly involved in this latest smear along with Jess Philips. That reminds me, Flint’s a member of Progress, the Blairite ‘think-tank’, which has been accused by its critics of being a ‘party within a party’. Progress is also bankrolled by millionaires like David Sainsbury, a former member of the SDP. Momentum, whatever you think of it as an organization, is actually funded by its members. Progress, on the other hand, looks like a millionaires’ club run by public relations types. Cash for peerages? Yes, please. Where do I sign?

Watson’s support for Gerard Coyne, a self-styled moderate (read right-winger) in the Unite leadership election was never once mentioned by Norman ‘Guru’  Smith, John ‘Walrus’ Pienaar or any of the other television and radio journalists (sic). Yet this is an important aspect to the whole story, since Len McCluskey, who is seeking re-election, is known to be a Corbyn supporter. Therefore, he is seen as an obstacle to the Blairites’ plans to recapture the party and return it to its hollowed-out state.

There are times when I find myself briefly entertaining the notion that certain members of the PLP, Watson included, are either in the pay of a Tory front group or the State.  How can so-called Labour MPs be so hell-bent on destroying the party they claim to be saving?  It doesn’t make sense. But entertaining such notions is often tantamount to conspiracy theorizing. Yet, in 1976, the Labour Party was actually infiltrated by a Tory.  His name was Julian Lewis and he was bankrolled by The Freedom Association.  Lewis’s objective was to support the deselected right-wing candidate, Reg Prentice, and to steer the Newham North East CLP rightward and thus influence the wider party.  If this kind of infiltration happened once, it can happen again. It makes you wonder. No?

As I finish writing this, BBC News is now adding that Watson is “appealing for unity”. Funny that. Tomorrow, the story will vanish like a puff of smoke.

You can read more on this non-story on the Skwawkbox blog.

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The Class Disgust Of The Blairites

The Blairites only tolerate the working class, but only just. Like Victorian children, they should be seen and not heard. In the past, the working class performed an important function by supplying Labour with votes in the 1997, 2000 and 2005 General Elections. But over the course of 20 years, Labour has been losing working class support in its so-called heartlands. The Blairites’ answer to this is to claim that the party was “too left-wing” and must attract Tory voters to win elections. It’s nonsense. In the entire 13 years they were in power, Nu Labour refused to repeal the most pernicious of Thatcher’s legislation – especially the anti-trade union laws, which directly affect workers.

It’s no secret that the Blairites through their think-tank, Progress, are more interested in chasing billionaires and their money than appealing to working class voters; the same voters the party was founded to represent. If they do speak of the working class, it’s to claim that they’re ignorant, illiterate and racist, while they use them as a justification to out-UKIP UKIP by mimicking their immigration policies. As far as the Blairites are concerned, the working class is more interested in keeping foreigners out than decent homes, jobs, healthcare and educational opportunities.

Now to the point of this blog. I was alerted to this article on the Progress website by this Tweet on their official Twitter account. It speculates on who among Jeremy Corbyn’s close allies will ‘seize the crown’ – so to speak.

It not only repeats the by now familiar line that Corbyn and his supporters are “hard left” and “Trotskyists”, it also adopts a sneering tone towards prominent working class members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

The article’s author, Paul Richards (who’s he?) opens with this paragraph:

One thing you can guarantee, like rain on a bank holiday, is splits on the hard-left. The old Monty Python joke is funny because it is true. For the all the calls for workers’ unity, disunity is the stock-in-trade. The Trotskyist parties are all fragments of one another. The vanity parties such as Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour party, George Galloway’s Respect or Ken Loach’s Left Unity are all the products of splits, which have themselves split.

This, from a party-within-a-party that is so far to the right that it’s perfectly aligned with the socially liberal fractions of the Tory Party and the Lib Dems, who were themselves formed from a merger of the Labour splitters, the SDP and the Liberal Party. This from a faction that’s done more to undermine the party leadership than any left-wingers have done in Labour’s history.  Just to correct Richards, Left Unity wasn’t the product of a split; it was created in response to the lack of a left-wing alternative as well as Labour’s inertia under Ed Miliband. As for “vanity”, Nu Labour could be seen as Blair’s vanity project. He hijacked the party for his own ends and used it as a platform for personal greed once he left Parliament. The party lost thousands of members and 5 million voters but there’s not a peep from the Blairites or Progress about this. Instead, they live in a bubble, isolated from reality with only their delusions and nostaglia for company.

Here Richards  indulges himself in a little intellectual masturbation.

You might think the widening schisms amongst Corbynites are linked to his dismal personal ratings as the most unpopular leader ever, net loss of council seats, inability to appoint a functioning frontbench or the growing Tory lead in the opinion polls.

For Richards and his ilk, the polls are sacrosanct. Yet, as many of us already know, the Blairites brief their pals in the Murdoch press, a negative story is written by someone like Blair’s former speechwriter, Philip Collins, which is then followed by a poll to confirm their biases. Oddly enough, the bookies disagree with the pollsters. How did that happen?

Here, Richards demonstrates a glaring lack of self-awareness:

Remember those posh kids who discover socialism and sell papers outside Tesco? Think Rik Mayall as Rick in the Young Ones. Richard Burgon is that kid. Educated in the leafy suburbs of Harrogate, followed by St John’s College Cambridge, where he studied English Literature, he went on to become a solicitor. Burgon adopted a leftwing persona as a teen, and has never grown out of it.

The not-so-subtle discourse here is that left-wing politics is for teenagers. Grown ups apparently adopt more ‘sensible’ positions: like sneering at working class people and demanding the government step in to crush the guards’  strike on Southern Rail.

The Blairite disdain for protest, which is derided as a student pastime, is itself a notion that swerves around the fact that people of all ages protest. Moreover, protest is a legitimate form of political expression. The Blairites and the Tories seem to believe that the public’s engagement with politics should begin and end at the ballot box.  It’s as if to say “You’ve voted, what more do you want”? Protest for them should be either crushed or ignored – so much for the will of the people, eh? Remember the millions that marched against the Iraq War? That’s how much Blairites regard protests. Making war against weaker nations on the basis of non-existent evidence is supposedly more ‘adult’ than protest.

Once elected in 2015 (following a helpful phonecall from uncle Colin to Ed Miliband ahead of the selection process, denying Leeds a second all-women shortlist), the T-shirt wearing, placard waving student protestor has become a T-shirt wearing, placard waving MP. Feel the Burgon

Richards’s claim that Burgon only became an MP because of his uncle ignores the fact that, in 2015, the so-called ‘red princes’  Euan Blair and Will Straw were being lined up for safe seats.  Only Neil Kinnock’s son, Stephen, was successful in getting  selected and won a nice safe seat. No nepotism there. As you were.

Of Angela Rayner, Richards writes:

Rayner was a direct beneficiary of the Tony Blair-led Labour government, especially sure start, and understands more than most why we need a Labour government. Her thirst for power is political not personal. Oh, and she likes Star Wars.

The subtext of this paragraph is that because Rayner apparently benefited from Sure Start, she should get down on her knees and kiss Blair’s purple buskins. The Star Wars quip is throwaway.

Rebecca Long-Bailey comes in for this sideways sneer.

Her frontbench career was unimpaired by a series of uncertain early performances on television, notably being duffed up by Andrew Neil over Brexit. She learned economics on the job, as shadow chief secretary to the treasury, with the same diligence that earned her her sociology degree from Manchester Polytechnic.

First, Manchester Polytechnic hasn’t existed since 1992 when it became Manchester Metropolitan University. Second, Sociology is a real subject that deals with the politics of everyday life. Richards seems to think that only those educated at Oxbridge and in possession of PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) degrees should be in the shadow cabinet. But Miliband’s shadow cabinet was full of PPE types: Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and Miliband himself were all Oxford PPE graduates, who had also served as special advisers and researchers. The lack of imagination among them was palpable and the absence of meaningful policies was glaring. Miliband’s Labour was a Cowardly Lion of a party: too afraid to challenge the Tories’ empty claims that “Labour crashed the economy” and “bankrupted the nation”, and too feeble to raise a fist in anger. Instead, it adopted what Miliband called “constructive opposition”.

According to Richards, Clive Lewis has

… a rich back story. Not rich as in wealthy, like Corbyn, but rich as in fascinating. He grew up on a council estate as the son of a single father. As a student unionist he stood against the Labour candidate for National Union of Students president in 1996.

The claim that Corbyn is fabulously wealthy is repeated here. Indeed, the section on Lewis is used as cover to attack Corbyn and repeat the same lies printed in the Tory press. The only word Richards left out when writing about Lewis was ‘exotic’.

Richards saves all his bile for John McDonnell, who is described in the caricature as “The Trotfather”. It’s juvenile stuff from an allegedly adult Blairite.

Even in a roomful of Corbynistas, McDonnell is the most leftwing person in the room. He was sacked by Ken Livingstone as deputy of the Greater London Council in 1985 for wanting London to copy the glorious resistance of Militant-led Liverpool; even Livingstone thought it a bit extreme. In 2003 he praised the ‘bravery’ of the IRA. He then apologised ‘if he had caused offence’.

Notice how Richards recycles the old “McDonnell appeases the IRA” smear. What’s perhaps worse is his repetition of the mainstream media claim that Militant was evil and hellbent on destroying Liverpool. The idea behind this is that the Militant-run council should have submitted fully to the will of Thatcher and her henchmen. Militant improved the lives of thousands of Scousers. It built much-needed homes and fought against a government that was intent on the city’s destruction. The Cat doubts Richards is old enough to remember the 1980s, such is the juvenile tone of this article and its cavalier approach to history.

Labour right-wingers are granted immunity when it comes to smearing members of their own party. They are permitted to indulge in their class disgust. Yet Labour left-wingers are suspended on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism and CLPs are suspended on the basis of lies and baseless allegations of intimidation. Will Iain McNicol take action against Progress? Don’t hold your breath. Not even the mainstream media has reported this story.

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Filed under Government & politics, Ideologies, Labour, Media, propaganda

Let’s Talk About: Those New Labour Achievements

If you’re a Corbyn supporter, you’re probably more than familiar with the rebuttals (such as they are) deployed by Blairites and Nu Labour sympathizers to the discourse that insists their prescription for governing the country is the wrong one at this time. As you may already know, such minds are closed to all reason. For them, facing backward is always preferable to facing forward. Nostalgia is just so, so much better than real life.

Perhaps you’ve heard the oft-uttered defence: “When we were in power, we achieved” to which the speaker will go on to produce a list of the Holy achievements. This line of defence recently appeared as a Twitter rebuttal to the critiques of Ken Loach and Paul Mason, and has been reproduced on the otherwise interesting Political Scrapbook. As arguments go, it’s pretty weak.  Why?  Because the repetition of the “our achievements” line is little better than a curmudgeon opening their front door and shouting at some little kids playing football in the street , while at the same time leaving their back door open to all and sundry. “I fought several wars for the likes of you”, shouts the old duffer as bigger kids ransack his house and steal his valuables behind his back.

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, Blair swerved around the structural problems that had been accumulated by nearly two decades of neoliberal economic and social policies. The notion that only the market can provide solutions was accepted as fait accompli by the Nu Labour policy makers and apparatchiks. Blair and his acolytes internalized the Tories’ economic arguments and accepted them as Truths. For them, the economic orthodoxy formulated in the Thatcher years, which has been responsible for untold miseries, can and could never be challenged. It has become holy writ. Set in stone – so to speak.

So why do Blairites insist on listing Nu Labour’s achievements as words of power to ward off all and any criticism of the party and, particularly, Tony Blair? Well, it reveals their lack of a relevant vision for the future and in failing to offer a real alternative, they have become prisoners of their past. Moreover, their constant reproduction of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ betrays their lack of a big narrative and policies that will transform peoples’ lives for the better. Nostalgia is and always has been a very poor substitute for history as it was really lived. Slogans and headline-grabbing gimmicks have become a replacement for ideas for the PR-driven Parliamentary Labour Party, itself the true offspring of Nu Labour. Today’s crop of right-wing and flaccid Left Labour MPs, who were produced by the machine created by Nu Labour, are not only devoid of imagination and ideas, they are incapable of learning from history and can see nothing beyond the status quo.

The paucity of meaningful ideas was brought into sharp relief during the last two leadership elections: in contrast to Corbyn, the Blairites and their allies could only offer more window-dressing and empty soundbites. Hope as both a concept and a word was noticeably absent from the vocabularies of Burnham, Kendall and Cooper; while Smith, who was/is emptiness personified, thought he could steal Corbyn’s policies in the hope (sic) that no one would notice. But they did and he lost. Badly. It is only Corbyn who has offered an alternative discourse to the prevailing socio-economic orthodoxy and it is only Corbyn who has articulated anything resembling a vision. The others offered nothing and in this, they are little better than the managers of expectations and the destroyers of dreams. There is no hope and there is no future. Only more misery. But hey, what about our achievements when we were in power?  What about them? What about the future? We’re not asking you to be scryers.

Those who follow the Nu Labourites, Progressites, Blairites or whatever, never bother to ask the questions about what kind of country they would like to see. Instead, like those they worship, they are at once fixated on the past and are insistent their leaders and they alone should be in power. The Bitterites haven’t cottoned on to the fact that if they can’t articulate a vision for the country that is original and distinct from the Tories’ empty promises and Newspeak policies (National Living Wage), they will be consigned to the dustbin of history. These people are nothing if not romantics. They are also megalomaniacal; inured in the Westminster system that cossets them and provides them with a handsome pension – even the failed MP and right-wing troll, Louise Mensch, gets a parliamentary pension.

Voters need hope and they need to see something that at least resembles a vision from a political party that purports to be on the side of the weak. What voters don’t need is someone in an expensive suit telling them “we have to deal with the world as it is, not how we’d like it to be”. The economic crisis depression that began in 2008 needed radical, bold action. Instead, what we got was inertia, weakness and a craven mentality that allowed the Tories and UKIP to control social, political and economic discourses in the public sphere. This is what happens when political parties become complacent and that complacency continues to dominate the discourses of Smith, Kendall, Reeves, Austin et al. Hands up! Who wants more misery and an extra helping of pain? Not me.

If you want a better future for yourself, your family or for society, you will not get that from a reanimated Nu Labour Party. The Blairites and their pals will simply hand you another shit sandwich on artisan bread and tell you that’s all you’re getting. Society deserves better than that.

 

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Labour leadership contest, Labour leadership election 2015, Let's Talk About

The Manchester Gorton By-Election

The long-serving Labour MP, Gerald Kaufman, died last night, aged 86. His death has prompted yet another by-election. As sure as night follows day, the Blairites and assorted plotters will be looking to sabotage this election or impose an anti-Corbyn candidate on the constituency.

The selection process is usually the responsibility of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP), but Manchester Gorton was suspended last year for alleged bullying. The Manchester Evening News reported:

Police have been called in by the Manchester Gorton Labour party amid fears for the safety of members – following claims of bullying, intimidation and voting impropriety.

MP Sir Gerald Kaufman’s riven constituency party has now been suspended by party headquarters after reports of abusive behaviour by local members.

According to a letter from Labour head office, the CLP is now in discussions with Greater Manchester Police after members raised concerns over their safety.

If this sounds familiar to you, then cast your mind back to July last year, when the Wallasey CLP was suspended on trumped up charges of intimidation.

With Manchester Gorton CLP suspended, the job of selecting a candidate will fall to the Iain McNicol-controlled National Executive Committee (NEC), which will undoubtedly impose a candidate on the constituency. This is what happened at Stoke-on-Trent Central with Tristram Hunt and the St Helens South constituency with Shaun Woodward.

The NEC is quite happy to suspend CLPs that are accused of bullying and Labour members on hokey charges of anti-Semitism. But the NEC’s actions are selective. Recently, Ella Rose, a member of the Jewish Labour Movement and former employee of the Israeli Embassy, threatened violence against Jackie Walker. Nothing happened. Rose is still a member of the party. It makes you think. No?

UPDATE 28/2/17 @ 1125

The Cat understands that Manchester Gorton CLP is no longer suspended but has yet to hold an AGM. This means that Lavrenty Beria Iain McNichol can still impose a candidate on the CLP.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour