Category Archives: Labour

Democracy’s A Bitch

Democracy’s a bitch. That’s what the Labour Party’s right-wing is currently getting to grips with. Having changed the rules to elect a new leader, the Blairite postmodernists are now crying foul because Jeremy ‘Juggernaut’ Corbyn’s campaign is leaving the rest of the field in the dust.

The rules were changed, mainly because of pressure from the Tories and their media allies to end the Labour Party’s relationship with the unions,  and when the Tory press says “jump”, the Labour leadership not only asks “how high”, it adds “can I kiss your boots too, sir”?

So far this leadership election has reminded us of the following:

  1. The Westminster elites are contemptuous of democracy and the people they’re elected (or appointed) to serve. John Mann’s call for Harriet Harman to suspend the leadership election is the latest example. Mann is a right-winger who once worked for the right-wing Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union led by the right-wing Ken Jackson. Need I say more?
  2. The last thing the Tory government wants is a strong opposition. It prefers a weak or non-existent opposition, such as that under the current leadership. You can have any opposition party you like as long as it’s right-wing party posing as a centrist party. Even Francoist Spain had token opposition parties that lent a democratic veneer to the authoritarian regime.
  3. The lack of tolerance on the part of the neoliberal consensus (Labour-Tory-Lib Dem-UKIP) for dissenting points of view
  4. There’s a preference on the part of the Tories, the Labour right and their media allies for a revisionist take on history, which has been coupled with a morbid obsession with selectivized moments from the past. For example, the claim that a Corbyn leadership would be just like Michael Foot’s leadership of the party in 1983, and the constant referencing of “the longest suicide note in history”. It is interesting, though not surprising, that the Labour right and the Tories both do this. Neither party is fresh and each copies the other in the hope that no one will notice.
  5. Soundbite politics and presentationalism are no longer viable. Voters pay attention to someone that has a message and speaks with conviction and passion. Many people, especially those who have never really engaged with politics, are starting to see through the superficial crap from Labour and the Conservatives.
  6. According to the mainstream media, the Labour leadership, and the Tory government, anyone who opposes austerity, cuts to public services, wage freezes, the selling off the NHS, fracking, neoliberalism and corruption in public office (Hello, Dave) is an “extreme left-winger”. This term was once used to refer to real left-wingers rather than liberals, social democrats and the unaligned. It’s yet another reminder of how far to the right public discourse has been pushed over the last 35+ years.

Politics is too important to leave to career politicians. Take politics back from Westminster!


Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Labour

United In Loathing

The Labour right is in a spin (in more ways than one) and can’t for the life of them fathom Jeremy Corbyn’s growing popularity. In the eyes of these Blairite fossils and their allies in the Simulated Thatcher Government, Corbyn is a “dinosaur” ; a “relic from the past”. These tropes are based entirely on the arrogant assumption that the political positions espoused by the Tories and Blairite ‘modernizers’ are modern and fresh. They’re not. These people manage the circulation and recirculation of stale ideas. That is all they do.

At a time when fresh ideas are called for, the ‘modernizers’ are indulging themselves in a great deal of self-flagellation and name-calling. Having lost the election in May, the party’s ‘modernizers’ are incapable of understanding why they lost so heavily in Scotland and continue to blame the SNP for their failure to win seats that they’d once taken for granted. Entitlement, eh? It’s a bitch. But nothing compares to the nastiness dished out to Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party for having the temerity to be more popular than the three ‘modernizers’.

Today, one of those ‘modernizers’, Tristram Hunt, claimed that Corbyn was “politically and economically bankrupt”. This coming from a man who willingly crossed a picket line to give a lecture on Karl Marx! This is a measure of how far to the Right the Labour Party has moved over the last 30 years. Constantly in denial, they complain bitterly that they’re described by their critics as “Tory-lite”. Here’s a tip, Labour: change your ways.

A big deal was made of Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s interview with Corbyn on Channel 4 News on Monday, which was described by the doom-mongers as a “meltdown”. KGM demanded to know what he meant when he used the word “friends” when he referred to Hamas and Hizb’ullah, who had been invited by Corbyn to a meeting at the Palace of Westminster. The Cat thinks KGM’s “do you still beat your wife” style of questioning was tediously sensationalistic but Corbyn asserted himself. He’s not media trained like some PR bloke. He’s human. How would Cameron respond? Well, he’d lie of course.

Nonetheless this interview prompted the inevitable yelps and squeals from Corbyn’s detractors. “He’s an anti-Semite” screamed Nick Cohen. Others harked further back to the 1980s, “Look, I told you, he supports terrorists! Did you hear  he invited Sinn Fein to the House of Parliament”? Sinn Fein are now in a power-sharing government at Stormont. I suppose Corbyn should have referred to these elected representatives as “enemies” and “scum” instead just to please BICOM or the Tory-supporting press? Unsurprisingly, nothing was mentioned of Labour Friends of Israel’s continued and unqualified support for the current Israeli government, which includes racists like  Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Hypocrisy much?

Speaking of Labour Friends of Israel, Luke Akehurst, the little big wheel in Labour First, a Blairite ‘pressure’ group (party within a party, actually), yesterday urged party members to give their second and third preference votes to anyone but Corbyn. This article on the BBC website says:

Group secretary Luke Akehurst said: “We clearly do not share Jeremy Corbyn’s politics and believe these would destroy Labour’s chances of electability.

“We would therefore encourage supporters of Andy, Yvette and Liz to transfer votes to each other at CLP nomination meetings so that as few CLPs as possible make supporting nominations for Jeremy.”

As well as being a former  local councillor and an unreconstructed Blairite, Akehurst also works, rather unsurprisingly, for BICOM, whose website tells us:

Luke, who has just stood down after 12 years as a Labour councillor in Hackney, spent 11 years as a lobbyist for a PR company and worked with Weber Shandwick, largely for the defence industry, as well as for property companies and local authorities.

Akehurst (or Lukehurst) is another reason why people have been turning their back on the Labour Party. Here’s a Powerbase article on Weber Shandwick.

The attacks on Corbyn from the Labour Right are practically indistinguishable from those coming from the Tories and other right-wingers. First, the Tories considered registering as Labour supporters to vote for Corbyn, then they realized that wasn’t working and have now decided to join the Nu Labourites in a chorus of condemnation of the man whom they describe as an “extreme left-winger”. Pish and vinegar.

At the New Statesman (don’t get excited, it’s pretty right-wing these days), Stephen Bush cites a recently conducted private poll of rank and file Labour members, which has Corbyn apparently leading the race, much to the chagrin of the naysayers and doom-mongers in the Westminster bubble. Commenting on the poll, CapX editor , Iain Martin, advises his readers:

Now, private polling must be treated with some scepticism but there is no doubt that sensible Labour types are deeply worried.

What? Just private polling? He closes the paragraph with this by now familiar claim:

If Corbyn wins it will be the equivalent for the Tories of winning the Wold (sic) Cup three times. They will get to keep Downing Street for ever

Martin continues:

Splendid, say the Tories, who seem to be joining Labour in huge numbers just to vote for the fanatical Corbyn.

I heard Labour was weeding out suspicious applications, Iain. Didn’t you get the memo? Your mate,Tobes, recently got rumbled and threatened legal action because Labour refused to return his three quid.

Daft git… and I’m being unusually generous today.

This article in the Dictator Spectator claims:

By contrast, the Tories are trying to win over new voters. They have moved to the political centre, as the announcement of the national living wage made clear, and this week David Cameron announced a campaign to close the gender pay gap. The Tory plan is clear: occupy the centre ground and force Labour to the political extremes.

Delusional tripe. The Tories do not, and have not, occupied the mythical centre ground since the days of Heath. And the much fussed about “national living wage”? It’s just the national minimum wage rebranded. But that’s what postmodern politics is all about: image, branding, straplines and the right amount of lighting. It’s a former PR man’s dream career should they ever fancy a change of job.

But voters are sick and tired of politicians who behave like sloganizing PR types (cabinet) and salespeople (junior ministers) selling knock-off designer labels in a dodgy pub. Voters have responded well to Jeremy  Corbyn and the 56 SNP MPs because they look and sound like real politicians who believe in something. The same cannot be said of Tristram Hunt or Chuka Umunna.

Regular readers will know The Cat is not a member of the Labour Party and has no intention of registering to become a supporter just because he prefers Corbyn to the three automatons.  He wishes him luck because he’ll need it. Should he win, then the Akehursts, Hunts, Perkinses and Kendalls will demand a recount.  They’ll complain that the Tories and Trotskyists had formed an unholy alliance to “destroy” the Labour Party, when it was their own members and their new electoral system that worked against them.

The Tories, on the other hand, may tell you that Corbyn will make Labour unelectable and how they “fear” a Kendall leadership. But this is entry level reverse psychology. It’s the basic stuff of PR campaigns and black propaganda. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being manipulated? Secretly, the Tories and the Labour ‘modernizers’ don’t want popular discussions of economic policies and political transformation. The very idea of a politically conscious electorate frightens the ever lovin’ shit out of them.


Filed under Labour leadership election 2015, Media, propaganda, Tory press

The Labour Leadership Contest Just Became Much More Interesting

Ed Miliband’s resignation as Labour leader was a classic case of bad timing. Just when the newly elected Tory government is about to force through some of the deepest cuts to public services since the Thatcher era, the Labour Party was forced to engage in an internal dialogue rather than turn and face their apparent enemy. A week after the end of the election, the candidates who put themselves forward for the vacant position of leader were some of the blandest, most right-wing MPs in the party. Liz Kendall was the first to announce her candidacy. Kendall, a self-confessed Blairite, believes Labour came across as “too left-wing”. Hilarious. She was followed in short order by Chuka Umunna (withdrawn), Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Mary Creagh (withdrawn). The words “fag paper” and “between them” came to mind. What a dreary slate, I thought.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, to the surprise of everyone, Jeremy Corbyn threw his hat into the ring. Most political commentators believed that Corbyn, a veteran campaigner, had no chance of getting onto the ballot paper but it happened. Here’s Corbyn making his pitch on Newsnight on 8 June.

Now the Tories are lining up to tell anyone who will listen that Labour has done the wrong thing by allowing Corbyn onto the ballot. By doing this, they reckon, Labour would suffer a massive defeat in 2020 at the hands of the wobbly Tory government. Some Tories, like Ruth Davidson of the nearly defunct Scottish Conservative Party claims that she will join Labour as an affiliate to vote for Corbyn.

Yeah, you go and do that, Ruthie. You’re only in the Scottish Parliament because you’re on a party list. However, The Cat believes the Tories are deluding themselves and in their arrogance, they believe their message of never-ending cuts to public services, anti-working class hatred and fear is a winner with the public. They believe this because they won a slender majority on 24.3% of the vote. Hardly a mandate in anyone’s book. But I think the Tories are secretly frightened that a new narrative will emerge to challenge the primacy of neoliberalism. They under-estimate people’s anger and seek to dismiss it as the rantings of the “extreme left”. This is desperate stuff from a desperate, arrogant and out-of-touch government that is little over a month old.

As Vox Political points out,

You can always tell when Tories are afraid of someone – they produce newspaper articles saying that he’s rubbish.

Let the character assassinations and hatchet-jobs commence, eh? Dan Hodges, who’s become a sort of cross between a pantomime villain and Norma Desmond, was first out of the traps; his kecks round his ankles and shite on his hands, with this smear job titled “Jeremy Corbyn proves the lunatic wing of the Labour Party is still calling the shots”. Jeez, what is it with this guy Hodges?

So he made it. Jeremy Corbyn is on the leadership ballot. Bats––t crazy Labour is alive and well.

The opening paragraph encapsulates the article’s tone. From there it’s a sharp descent into melodrama and paranoia. Halfway down the article, Dismal Dan cites this Tweet from Dizzy Doug Carswell, UKIP’s only MP.

Douglas Carswell MP on Twitter- -Please let_picmonkeyed

Things must be getting pretty desperate for Dan (geddit?) if he has to quote a Kipper for support. Who will he quote next? David Starkey? Paul Kagame? But Carswell’s getting ahead of himself. His party isn’t exactly in the best shape at the moment.What with the infighting, the resignations that aren’t really resignations and the defection of the suspended MEP, Janice Atkinson, to the Euro Parliament’s far-right grouping. Remember her? She called a Thai constituent a “ting tong”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s presence on the ballot paper means an alternative discourse can at last be heard. The media outlets will continue to do their best to smear Corbyn and those who support him, but there is a large body of voters who simply aren’t being represented by the Tories and the Kippers; the two butt-ugly faces of capitalism. Fleet Street and the rest of the mainstream media zombies don’t seem to understand this. Now there is a chance. Now there is a glimmer of hope. Even if Corbyn doesn’t win the leadership of the party, the rest of the candidates will have to listen. If they don’t, they can kiss any chance of a victory in 2020 goodbye.

One thing that you can’t deny is that the Labour Party leadership election just became much more interesting.

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Filed under Labour leadership election 2015

The Labour Leadership Contest: Who’s Voting? The Party Members Or The Tory Media?

Whose leadership contest is this? The Labour Party’s or the right-wing media? First, the Blairites tell us who they want as leader of the Labour Party (as if we didn’t know already), then the Tory-controlled press pipes up to tell us who should be leader. I always thought the members decided by secret ballot who becomes the next Labour leader. It seems the media gets in on the act too. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the word ‘modernizer’ prefacing a candidate’s name. For example, James Landale, the BBC’s Old Etonian and contemporary of David Cameron, will claim that “Yvette Cooper is a modernizer” and Chuka Umunna “is known as a modernizer”. It seems to me that the word ‘modernizer’ is a euphemistic way of claiming “this is a candidate who has the approval of Britain’s Tory-dominated media” but which also suggests “they won’t be beholden to the unions”.

The BBC said of Chuka Umunna.

He’s always been seen as smart and ambitious, metropolitan and a moderniser – he appeared alongside Lord Mandelson on Andrew Marr’s sofa on Sunday.

Appearing alongside the undead Mandelson was seen by the BBC as both an anointment of Umunna and a vindication of Blairism. Fuck off.

The British press has been hysterical in its coverage of the leadership election. Take this thinly-disguised hatchet job in the Daily Mail. Or this one that stokes the fires of “Red Len” paranoia.

The hardline Socialist boss of Unite – Labour’s chief paymaster and sponsor of more than 60 per cent of its MPs – has a visceral hatred of Blairite ‘modernisers’, who seek to reconnect the party with aspirational middle England following its humiliation in the general election.

And he’s doing everything in his power to drive them out.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy – a prominent Blairite – is the latest casualty.

He resigned on Saturday over what he described as the ‘poisonous’ war being waged by Mr McCluskey and his supporters against the modernisers.

It’s almost like reading a Daily Mail article from the 1920s. “The hardline Socialist boss of Unite” it screams hysterically. Notice how the word socialism is emphasized using an upper case ‘S’. Oh, scary. I’d better look under my bed to see if Grigory Zinoviev’s corpse is lying underneath. If you manage to get to the end of the article, there are a few paragraphs about Cameron’s former ‘adviser’, Steve Hilton too.

With the Labour party in deep disarray, Mr Cameron has a chance to lead one of the most reforming – and longstanding – Governments of recent times.

As the Situationist graffiti once said, ” Reform, my ass”. Hilton’s only telling us what we already know. Fuck off.

A day later, a slightly cheerier Mail article breezily declares that “Unions will not get to choose Labour leader”.

Modernisers in the Labour party want to avoid what happened when Ed Miliband beat his brother David for the job with the support of the unions.

It left the Tories able to claim the unions picked the leader, chose the policies and bankrolled the Labour party.

Ah, the damned dissembling Daily Mail, where would we be without your version of the truth? Of course, there’s no mention here of the hedge fund managers and construction companies that bankroll the Conservative Party. Unions are bad, yet JCB is good. Fuck off.

Over at the Daily Telegraph, Dan Hodges thought he knew who should be the next Labour leader, so he picked Dan Jarvis, who ruled himself out. Then Dan plumped for Chuka Umunna (with caveats), who then dropped out of the race last Friday. Poor Hodgie must be in bits. I can’t see any candidate in the race currently who’d appeal to the irredentist former Labourite, well, Blairite. Oh, hang on, there’s always Tristy. He crosses picket lines, so he’s bound to get Hodgie’s support. But then Tristy then ruled himself out of the contest and pledged his support for the Blairite, Liz Kendall while plunging the knife between Andy Burnham’s shoulder blades. Fuck’s sake.

From The [barely] Independent,

Tristram Hunt has decided not to enter the race to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader and has thrown his support behind fellow moderniser Liz Kendall.

There’s that word “moderniser” again.

Hodges was clearly tearful when arch-Blairite, Jim Murphy sort of announced his resignation as leader of Scottish Labour. He blames Len McCluskey for Murphy’s in-out-shake-it-all-about resignation. Truth be told, rank and file Labourites were fed up with him, because Jim Murphy only cares about one thing: Jim Murphy. He can fuck off.

Hodges claims with a straight face,

For the past week it looked like the wheels were coming off the Labour Party. Right now it looks as if the whole car is about to be dragged to the junk yard and pounded into scrap.

Remember this is the man who has spent the last five years kicking the shit out of the party he claims to support. This is the man who is a friend of Lynton Crosby. If the car is “about to be dragged to the junkyard”, then it’s partly due to hacks like Hodges spending so much time and effort slagging the party off in papers like the Torygraph.  In fact, the day after the election, Dan wasted no time putting the boot into Ed Miliband.

And so Ed Miliband began to grow before our eyes. He was doing all right. Actually, you know what, he was doing quite well. Blimey, he was doing very well. OK, you’re not going to believe this, but Ed Miliband could actually be our prime minister.

When I say “our eyes” I mean the media’s eyes. The eyes of his own activists. The eyes of some his own MPs.

That reminds me, Dan. Have you actually left the Labour party yet? Isn’t it time you fucked off and joined the Tories?

In this article, Hodges borrows his title from the infamous S*n headline of May 1992. He even has a ‘quiz’ that asks the truly daft question:

Quiz: can you tell the Labour manifesto from that of the Communist Party?

I saw nothing in the Labour Party manifesto that could vaguely be described as “communist” (sic) . Clearly Hodges is playing to his rabid right-wing readership that views such things as equality and tolerance as ‘communist’. Three days ago, in the same paper, “Telegraph View” claimed:

The Labour Party is in trouble. There is a battle for its heart and soul raging – and it is unclear who will win. On one side stand union leaders and Left-wing activists, who refuse to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. On the other are modernisers with their eyes on a more moderate future. Yesterday afternoon, Jim Murphy, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, became a casualty in this war.

What exactly is meant by “moderate future”? The one envisaged by the current extreme right-wing government that has Michael Gove as Justice Secretary? Fuck off.

Yesterday, The [Hardly] Independent claimed:

Allies of Ed Miliband accused Britain’s biggest trade union of trying to keep modernisers off the ballot paper in the Labour leadership election amid fears that it could be limited to a two-horse race between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper.

The bitter row between senior Labour figures and Unite intensified as it was claimed that the union was putting pressure on Labour MPs not to nominate modernisers Liz Kendall, Mary Creagh and Tristram Hunt in the election to choose Mr Miliband’s successor.

The Cat doesn’t recall the British media getting so involved in the Conservative leadership contests, yet the press barons and news editors seem to believe that they have the right to decide the outcome of the Labour leadership election. Free press? In this country? Fuck off.

The insane British media caravan rumbles on. But seriously, it can fuck off.


Filed under BBC, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Ideologies, Labour, Labour leadership contest, Media, propaganda, Tory press

Pusillanimous: Labour’s Opposition Style For The Last Five Years

Pusillanimous is a good word and it’s a useful word. It sums up Labour’s last five years in opposition. The definition of pusillanimous is:

showing a lack of courage or determination; timid

Either through cowardice or weakness, the Labour Party failed to counter the absurd allegations made by the Tories that they had created the recession and had driven the country to bankruptcy, because they “crashed the economy”. One ridiculous statement put forward by the Tories and the Lib Dems claimed the United Kingdom was in a similar situation to Greece. Not a single Labour politician that I saw on television or heard on the radio bothered to counter these accusations. Instead, they rolled over and let the Tories get away with murder.

Governments don’t create or cause recessions: these happen because of external factors, like banking collapses and stock market crashes. The current recession (What? You think it’s over?) was caused by a combination of factors, the most notable of which was the subprime mortgage crisis, which was triggered by the collapse in house prices and an increase in mortgage foreclosures. Mortgage companies lent money to people who didn’t have the means to repay the loan. Household debts like these were bought by unscrupulous companies hoping to capitalize on debts. Unfortunately the high rate of default meant that these debts were ‘toxic’.

The other factor in the recession story was the banking crisis, which was caused by the light touch regulation of the financial sector that has its origins in the 1980s under Thatcher and Reagan, and was continued under Blair and Clinton. The banking crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis are interlinked. Both crises were created by unabashed greed and a lack of regulation; the very cornerstones of neoliberalism.

Governments may not cause recessions, but they can make them worse through inertia, complacency and sheer incompetence. The latter includes handing out tax cuts to the rich; attempting to stimulate a property boom and basing a notional economic recovery on inflated house prices. All of these things happened under the Coalition government and look set to continue under the Cameron regime. Labour did little to challenge these things.

One more thing: the country wasn’t and isn’t “bankrupt” as the Tories and their erstwhile partners, the Lib Dems, have claimed. If the country was “bankrupt” it would not have been able to pay its civil servants or even its MPs. If the country was “bankrupt” it would not have been able to borrow money at preferential rates of interest on the international bond markets. Another Angry Voice comprehensively debunks these myths and others.

Instead of opposing the coalition’s fiscal imprudence, Labour actually walked through the Aye lobby with the Tories and Lib Dems and condemned the nation to more austerity by committing themselves to Osborne’s spending plans.

This is from the Morning Star,

LABOUR MP Diane Abbott accused her party’s leaders yesterday of doing working people a “great disservice” by backing Tory plans for permanent austerity.

The London mayoral hopeful was among five Labour MPs who defied their whips to vote against the Con-Dems’ budget responsibility charter.

Katy Clark, Dennis Skinner, Austin Mitchell and Roger Godsiff also opposed the charter alongside 13 MPs from other parties.

But support from shadow chancellor Ed Balls saw the charter, which includes plans to slash public spending by a further £30 billion, passed by a whopping 515 votes to 18.

The Star reported that Green MP Caroline Lucas called his position “feeble and inconsistent” during Tuesday’s debate.

It’s little wonder those who would have ordinarily voted Labour decided to give their vote to another party or stay at home. I mean, why vote for a party that’s going to do exactly the same thing as the party in power? It doesn’t make sense.

And Ms Abbott yesterday revealed her dismay at watching fellow Labour MPs ordered to troop through the lobbies with Tories and Lib Dems.

“I was hugely disappointed yesterday to see the Labour Party vote in favour of further austerity and in doing so we have done hardworking people a great disservice,” she told the Morning Star.

“Instead of simply mimicking current practices we should be offering a solid alternative through investment in public services to create real and sustainable growth.”

Yet Labour apparatchiks denied this ever took place and here’s an MP saying that it had. Only 13 Labour MPs could be bothered to vote against Tory spending cuts. That’s pretty sad, but it’s also a disgrace. It’s as if Labour actually wanted to lose the election.

Whatever you think of George Galloway, he’s got the two main parties bang to rights. They are indeed “two cheeks of the same backside”.


Filed under Conservative Party, General Election 2015, Government & politics, Labour

The Labour Party And The Mythical Centre Ground Of British Politics

Chucky: the Tory press’s choice for the Labour Party leadership.

As I was watching the post-election coverage on the BBC, I was struck by the number of Blairites who appeared in the studio to give their ‘analysis’. All of them, without exception, either claimed that Labour had moved “too far to the left” (laughable) or needed to “take the centre ground”. The Blairite vultures are now circling the party’s mortally wounded body, ready to pick the flesh clean off the bone.

This idea that Labour needs to “move to the centre” is based entirely on the notion that such a space actually exists in British politics. Since 1994 and Labour’s decision to remove Clause Four from its constitution, the centre ground has shifted inexorably to the right. It has got to the point where the centre is now barely distinguishable from the right-wing of British politics.

It’s an absurd notion that is perpetuated by the soi-disant political cognoscenti of the British media, which claims that most of the electorate sits within the mythical political centre. These people are usually characterized as ‘floating  voters’ who need to be wooed by Labour to win a General Election. However, from The Cat’s experience, these floating voters; the apolitical, the ideologically clueless, whatever you want to call them, often tend to default to the political right. These are the people who internalize the rubbish they’re told about the economy and the workings of the government and Parliament. They’re the ones who repeat lines like “We have to cut something. The country’s broke” in vox pop interviews. They’re the people who claim they haven’t “made up their minds” in the moments leading up to polling day.

Today, Peter Mandelson and Chuka ‘Chucky’ Umunna appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to give their views on how Labour should move forward. Mandelson talked about how union members intending to vote in the leadership election needed to be “validated” (sic). He also hinted at ending  the party’s historic link to the unions. This is just what the Tories have always wanted. Umunna spoke of Labour’s need to appeal to “aspirational” voters. ‘Aspirational’ has become a codeword for the middle class (presumably middle England) voters and the self-styled ‘wealth-creators’. In other words, “Fuck the poor and the disenfranchized. What have they ever done for us”? You can watch Mandelson and Chucky spout their inanities on the BBC iPlayer (available for the next 30 days).

If a Blairite wins the leadership election, as is likely to happen, then Labour will go into a death spiral. It’s clear that they have no intention of learning from the debacle of their Scottish branch’s belated efforts to roll back the SNP tide by offering a thin gruel of leftish-looking policies.

I would urge any left-wing Labour supporters to join Left Unity. You can’t change Labour from within. It’s 35 years too late for that. If you believe it’s still possible, then you’re clinging too tightly to a rotting corpse.


Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Labour leadership contest

Housing, the 1968 Rent Strike and What We Face Today

Can’t pay your rent? Then we’ll come for your children.

When the Tory-led government announced that social rents should rise to market levels, there was anger but nothing happened. That anger wasn’t channelled; forged into a weapon to attack the government and the local authorities and greedy Housing Associations. Instead, people just rolled over and took it.

When the same thing was proposed by Wilson’s Labour government (a LABOUR GOVERNMENT) in 1968, there was righteous indignation.  But instead of sitting and fuming, people actually did something about it. They organized rent strikes. So far, few people have advocated rent strikes and, as far as I know, I am one of those few.

In London, the Greater London Council (GLC), which was controlled by the Tories (hard to believe but the Tories only liked the GLC when it was run by their fellow travellers), was particularly zealous in implementing the rent increases. I found this article by Ian Macdonald on in which he says:

The Greater London Council is Britain’s biggest landlord. There are about 242,000 tenants involved. On 7 December last year, the chairman of the GLC Housing Committee announced the Tories’ new rent scheme. Under the scheme, GLC tenants can expect their rents to increase by 5s in the £ in October 1968, a further 5s in the £ in October 1969, and an extra 4s in 1970. A tenant now paying £4 per week, will be paying £6 16s in 1970, and tenants in some of the newer flats will be paying as much as £10 per week. In addition, lodger charges are to rise, and central heating and car parking will be more expensive.

That is not all. In future, less money is to be spent on repairs, and tenants will have to do their own interior decorating. In this way, the Council hopes to save £850,000 on repairs, and £500,000 on decorating. It also means the sack for some of the Council’s 6,000 electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and other maintenance men.

The GLC have made much of their intended rebate scheme. But the only way to get a rebate will be to go through a means test; no tenant, say the GLC, need disclose his income to the Council unless he is applying for a rebate. In fact, very few of the 240,000 GLC tenants will benefit. Here is an example of a family which will not benefit. The tenant earns £12 per week, and his wife £5. They have a child and a lodger, both over 21, and now pay a rent of £2 16s 8d per week. In 1970, they will pay £4 16s 4d and get no rebate.

You can see this happening right now. All Housing Associations have increased their rents above the rate of inflation and, furthermore, they have duly bowed to the government’s diktats and are letting out properties for market rents. Local authorities, too, have increased their rents. One of those councils is Hammersmith and Fulham – Cameron and Pickles’s favourite council – which has palmed off the management of its stock to Pinnacle and placed income restrictions on those people applying for or living in one of their properties.

Last year Hammersmith & Fulham announced:

Trailblazing Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council is to be the first local authority in the country to simultaneously introduce fixed term social housing tenancies and a maximum income cap for people wishing to access the housing register.

The flagship council will be ripping up the social housing rule book from April 2013 when it will introduce a number of radical policies which seek to increase low-cost homeownership, tackle the social and economic divide in the borough and give a far greater priority for council housing to people who are making a community contribution.

H&F, has the fourth highest property prices in the UK and one of the highest proportions of social housing in London as a proportion of total housing, with around 34 per cent social rented.

That compares to a London average of 25 per cent and a West London average of 21.5 per cent. Just over two per cent of the borough’s housing is intermediate.

H&F is also one of the first councils in the country to get back into building homes, after a 30 year absence. These properties are sold at a discounted market rate to those on low to middle incomes who live or work in the borough and might struggle otherwise to get onto the property ladder.

Notice how this article tells us that the council is “trailblazing”. As for its claim that it’s “building homes”, it is building homes but not for those on low incomes.  Last year the council announced  that it would be building 25 new (yes, 25) homes for those foolish enough to buy them. But there’s worse to come in this article:

Those households earning above £40,200 will generally not be eligible to access the housing register. Instead, they will be offered advice on other housing options including joining the Council’s HomeBuy Register.

This new way of working will replace an antiquated and inefficient system that created false hopes and expectations.

The council and the government’s solution to the housing crisis (and let’s face, it is a crisis) is to stimulate a potentially disastrous property bubble. The HomeBuy scheme aims to achieve this, in spite of the council’s denial. Ian Macdonald:

Instead of directly attacking this problem, the GLC and the Government talk rubbish about ‘well-off Council tenants’ being subsidised. In fact, every penny that is contributed to housing out of rates or from the Government goes straight into the pockets of the money lenders, landowners and builders. If this element were removed, Council rents would be cut to less than a quarter of their present levels without anything coming from the ratepayers or the Government.

Who says history doesn’t repeat itself? H&F Council wants to go further and bases its approach on the widely-discredited and evidence free report produced by its former leader, Stephen Greenhalgh and his partner John Moss:

Currently most social housing tenants have the right to stay for life unless the tenancy is brought to an end because of a breach. Once the tenant passes away, the right of succession passes onto a family member even if the housing need of the individual is less than other potential applicants.

The council believes that this does not promote personal aspiration or provide tenants with any incentive to try to move into home-ownership and fails to take into account the fact that a household’s need for social housing may be temporary.

From next year, the council will issue fixed-term tenancies of five years for new social housing lettings. This would be reduced to two years in certain cases.

Existing tenants will be unaffected by the new proposals. New tenancies in sheltered accommodation and for those with special housing or health needs will still be on a secure basis.

Two year tenancies will be issued for those with a history of antisocial behaviour and for those between the ages of 18 to 25.

So what Wilson’s Labour government failed to achieve in 1968 has now been enthusiastically adopted by the Tories. The only real difference between then and now is that the classism is turbo-charged and more blatant than ever.

As for those who doubt the effectiveness of rent strikes, Macdonald writes:

It is true that badly organised or isolated rent strikes are usually defeated. But where the tenants are properly organised and show determination, they have in the past succeeded. In Glasgow in 1915, the strike was completely successful. In 1938-9, there were over 30 strikes in the East End of London demanding cuts in rents. All were successful. In 1939, 50,000 Birmingham municipal tenants defeated a differential rent scheme similar to the present GLC scheme after a 10-week strike. In the 1950s, Luton tenants managed to defeat a similar scheme. The GLC tenants can do the same, but there is no doubt that the battle will be tougher than anything in the past, since the Government’s whole prices and incomes policy is at stake.

The key, as always, is organization. These days, organizing rent strikes may be harder because of Housing Benefit. Yet, these payments have been replaced by something called the ‘Local Housing Allowance’. The Tories also want people on low incomes to pay Council Tax. This is nothing less than a form of economic feudalism, in which the poor, the vulnerable and those earning less than £40,000 are forced into a 21st century version of serfdom.

John Grayson, writing for Inside Housing says:

The campaigning of tenants between 1968 and 1973 had an effect. Many councils began negotiating with tenants’ organisations for the first time. The Association of London Housing Estates drafted the first tenants’ charter in 1970. Three years later Dick Leonard, a Labour MP, introduced (unsuccessfully) the Council Housing (Tenants’ Representation) Bill.

Unfortunately the proto-neoliberal Labour government of Wilson and Callaghan decided to have another stab at crushing council tenants:

Between 1974 and 1979 the Labour government continued a policy of cuts in housing. There were often confrontations with councils and the National Co-ordinating Committee Against Housing Cuts organised a national campaign in 1975. In Liverpool the Tenants’ Co-ordinating Committee emerged as a federation for tenants and rent strikes were organised in protest at the council’s policies. The tenants were excluded from all council meetings.

Rents are increased, people are threatened with having their children taken from them and there’s the Bedroom Tax, another half-baked government idea to ‘solve’ the housing crisis. Yet there is no evidence to suggest that such a draconian measure will do anything other than hammer those who are already being squeezed by a high cost of living and stagnating incomes.

We want homes, not property ladders.

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