Tag Archives: Neil Kinnock

The Miliband speech: one crumb of comfort in amongst the neoliberal detritus

Picture courtesy of the Daily Mirror

Well, it’s really nice of Ed Miliband to stand up for tenants who are being screwed by unscrupulous private sector landlords. Thanks for the warm words, Ed, they mean so much. And yes, I’m being sarcastic. That is my wont.

Labour has not pledged to reverse any of the Tory cuts, indeed if they won the next general election they will continue cutting, slashing and capping. I had a look at Miliband’s speech he gave to the Fabian Society (the fact that he spoke to the Fabians should tell you all you need to know) on Saturday and there was nothing to get excited about. In his speech he apparently fleshed out his “One Nation”, er, vision.

I will quote some of the speech, starting with this extract.

New Labour rightly broke from Old Labour and celebrated the power of private enterprise to energise our country.

You will notice how he uses the Tory-coined phrase “Old Labour” here. It’s as if to say that anything the Labour Party did before the arrival of Kinnock and Blair was bad or wrong. What about the National Health Service? I could list other achievements but the NHS is certainly a great achievement for a country that was, ostensibly, broke. The celebration of “the power of private enterprise” led to the disastrous reliance on the Private Finance Initiative, which effectively led to the wholesale destruction of the NHS. It licensed carpet-bagging on a massive scale. In short, it was a failure. The only thing it “energised” were greedy businessmen.

It helped get people back into work, and introduced the minimum wage and tax credits to help make work pay.

And it used tax revenues to overcome decades of neglect and invest in hospitals, schools and the places where people live.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) was seen as a great achievement by the New Labour government but it wasn’t a living wage and was never going to be. Of course, the Tories opposed the NMW and continue to do so. Many Tories, especially of those of a free-market bent want to scrap the NMW altogether and force people to accept sweatshop wages with no workplace protection.  Speaking of workplace protection, New Labour refused to reverse the draconian anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Thatcher government. Workers continue to find themselves under attack by a ruthless and venal government that pits worker against worker and dares to offer them pitifully worthless shares in return for compliance. if it could get its way, the Tories would take us back to the 19th century… and Labour would let them.

The word “responsibility” appears several times during the speech. This word is much beloved of neoliberals and is, more often than not, applied to those at the bottom.

To turn things round in Britain, we all have to play our part.
Especially in hard times.
We are right to say that responsibility should apply to those on social security.

This language is no different to that used by the Tories. The suggestion here is that those on social security are universally “irresponsible” rather than victims of circumstance – which is often the case. But he throws in the following decoy to distract those who would seek to pick holes in his argument.

But we need to say that responsibility matters at the top too.

That’s the essence of One Nation Labour.

It shares New Labour’s insight about our obligations to each other.

And it learns the lessons of what New Labour didn’t do well enough, ensuring responsibilities go all the way through society from top to bottom.

Here, Miliband appears to suggest that his One Nation Labour brand is an extension of the New Labour brand. If you thought Miliband’s Labour Party was any different to Blair/Brown, think again. The ingredients on the label are exactly the same but with a couple of new additives… and the new brand name.

New Labour began with a bold agenda for the distribution of power in Britain.

And it stood for a Labour party not dominated by one sectional interest, but reaching out into parts of Britain that Old Labour had never spoken to.

Again, Miliband distances himself from so-called “Old Labour”, that’s the same Labour Party that legalized homosexuality and abortions under the rather right-wing Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins. It’s been said that if such proposals were put to the Commons today, they would be voted down.

Miliband came from a relatively a privileged background. He went to Oxford and like many of those who were intent on a career in politics, he read (they don’t study at Oxbridge) Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). He tells us that the Labour Party will be

Recruiting MPs from every part of British life: from business to the military to working people from across every community.

With most of Britain’s mines and factories closed, it’s hard to see how Miliband can recruit more Dennis Skinners. It sounds like a load of guff to me.

All in all Miliband’s speech was crafted to appeal to the Fabians and placate those so-called floating voters whose  political allegiances change with the wind. Fabians believe that they can reform capitalism. They are mistaken and have been wrong for more than 100 years. Their gradualism has led them to betray the working class and the labour movement time and time again.

On the one hand, Miliband is a hostage to the Blairites and on the other, he’s running scared of the Tory press (ably assisted by Hatchet-job Hodges in the Torygraph), who pore over his every word, hoping to find a way to paint him as a closet Commie. It’s quite laughable and, at the same time, it’s tragic.

There really is nothing Red about Ed.

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Maude exposed as Tory plan to smear the public sector founders

Francis Maude - a chip off the old Mekon block?

The government tried its damnedest to get the public on their side on Thursday. The carefully constructed enemy within – the public sector workers – was little more than a strawman. Some ministers went on the charm offensive: Gove popped up at a school that was still open (and no doubt staffed by scabs) and Francis Maude, the son of a man known as “The Mekon” was horribly exposed by Evan Davis, who is himself a scab of some standing. Maude tried desperately and repeatedly to ram home the point that the government’s plans for public sector pension ‘reforms’ were “fair”. He reiterated the lie that public sector workers enjoy “gold-plated” pensions (the majority of public sector pensions are worth little more than £3000) and that is was “unfair” for the taxpayer to pick up the bill.  First he claimed that the pensions were “unaffordable”, then he said they were “untenable”. Maude, not being in possession of a great deal of logic or intellect, managed to overlook the glaringly obvious: public sector workers are taxpayers too and none of them avoid tax…unlike many of Maude’s millionaire cabinet colleagues and Tory party donors. Incidentally, Maude’s personal wealth is estimated to be around £3m.

Yesterday, Telegraph blogger, Ed West produced an article with a title that looks as though  he found a few words lying about; crammed them into a pestle and mortar, mashed them up and smeared them paste-like onto the blog. Here, he treats us to a glimpse of his childhood.

I bitterly remember that in one year in the 1980s my teacher was almost alone in our school in not being a member of the NUT, and so when strikes occurred, which they seemed to do every week, our class had to traipse in while everyone else went to the park. So I just hope the kids who get a day off today appreciate it, and enjoy their time drinking cider or sending pornographic text messages to each other, or whatever kids get up to these days.

The strikers in one sense have a point; teaching is, in many ways, an underpaid job, not just in the sense that most work very hard for not very good pay, but also because a good teacher can have a hugely disproportionate effect on society compared to, say, a good plumber. A good headmaster even more so.

In terms of sensible investment a society can’t do much better than education spending.

On the other hand there are a lot of bad teachers around and, thanks to the strength of teaching union, their influence on a community can also be significant. These two issues – bad pay and virtual unsackability – are not unrelated.

So the upshot of this is that teachers who happen to be in unions are bad teachers? Lazy thinking.  As with the Hon Tobes and Katharine Burbling Thing, he attracts the usual spittle-laced rage of the Telegraph commenters, all of whom are unanimous in their condemnation of Thursday’s strike. This one is fairly typical,

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Give it 12 months and the left will hopefully be a spent force in this country and someone on the right will have the courage to step forward and bring this once great country back to normality.
“John Pierre”, eh?
Anyway, back to Maude. Yesterday, Mekon Jnr decided on a slight change of tack.  He suggested that public sector managers who have been made redundant can work for free.  Remember, this is the man who, when asked if he gives up his time freely to volunteer, said that the question was “unfair”.
 
Mekon Jnr has had a tough couple of days. The government tried and failed to convince the people that the public sector were parasitical and responsible for the budget/structural deficit (notice that I didn’t say “national debt” as is the wont of too many Tories and Lib Dems). I’m not a big fan of Polly Toynbee but she comes up with a couple of insights in this blog. Here’s a snippet,

This week the Tories tried to resurrect fears of the bad old 1970s – but it didn’t work. Cameron tried to paint Miliband as the creature of the unions that elected him: he sidestepped that trap and rightly castigated the government’s behaviour over the pensions issue. A bit of history may help: as far as I can discover, no Labour party has ever officially supported a strike, not the General Strike, nor any miners’ strike. Shirley Williams was pilloried for joining the Grunwick picket line which later turned violent, but it wasn’t Labour policy. Neil Kinnock was tormented for not backing the miners against Margaret Thatcher in 1984, or the six-month-long ambulance strike in 1989-90.

It’s both laughable and tragic that the Tories consider Ed Miliband to be a “creature of the unions” when it is quite clear that Milly Band did a “Kinnock” and declared the strike to be “wrong”. The Tories are so desperate to land a fatal blow on their opponents that they will come out with any old nonsense in the hope that someone is listening. But no one is….apart from the lunatic fringe that reads the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

In Britain, public support for strikes is split with many of those against strikes taking their views directly from the mouths of government ministers and the Tory-controlled press. In France and other countries (apart from the USA), there is much more solidarity; most people support striking workers. Why is this country so different?

Mekon Jnr has been quiet in the last 24 hours. Let’s hope it stays that way. Perhaps he’ll go the same way as Mekon Snr: he’ll resign and then be kicked upstairs to the Lords.

Finally, this picture from the Daily Mirror sums it up: Milly band is no friend of the unions, let alone a creature of them. The Tories are going to have to rethink their strategy of painting him “Red Ed”, bacause he looks more like a “Blue Ed” from where I’m standing.

Post script

From the Telegraph

  • Francis Maude, the shadow minister for the cabinet office, attempted to claim the mortgage interest on his family home in Sussex. This arrangement was rejected by the Fees Office. Two years later, Mr Maude bought a flat in London a few minutes walk from a house he already owned. He then rented out the other property and began claiming on the new flat: the taxpayer has since covered nearly £35,000 in mortgage interest payments.

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A word about Labour…

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not a fan of the Labour leadership and I haven’t been since Kinnock delivered that speech. This does not mean that I am against working with individual Labour members to fight the cuts.  I am prepared to work with anyone who is fighting the ideologically driven cuts that this Tory-led government (whose own mandate for such cuts is dubious)  is currently implementing. Indeed my local Labour MP, Andy Slaughter, is pretty decent and the local party is doing the right things (though, some years ago, I had a serious disagreement with the former Labour MP, Iain Coleman, over the Iraq invasion).

In recent weeks, the Tory press has printed stories about how unions are planning to go on strike during the royal wedding.  We know why these papers have printed such stories and the word that I have in mind begins with the letters “s” and “m”. Last Sunday, Ed Miniband chipped in with his twopenneth worth on the Andrew Marr Show,

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he is “appalled” by the idea of trade unions planning strikes to disrupt Royal Wedding celebrations.

He told the BBC such a plan of action would be “absolutely the wrong thing to do” and a “sign of failure”.

The Daily Mail led the charge with this article on 30 December 2010. They quote Mark Serwotka of the PCS union as saying,

Unless you look like you want a fight, they won’t negotiate. The Government has to see we are serious.’

He added: ‘Actions around Easter have quite an effect because so much is happening at that time of year.

‘The end of April, beginning of May would be best. The royal wedding would not be a factor in our planning but nor would it be a factor to avoid.

The wording here is vague, yet the pair who wrote this claim to have some kind of ability to see into the future as well as the hearts of men.

No union leader has actually called for strikes during the royal wedding. Yet, Miliband appears to have fallen into a trap laid for him by the Tory press by condemning the action in advance.

This article from the Press Association says,

In a warning shot to union bosses, Mr Miliband said that strikes were a “legitimate last resort” in industrial disputes, but he did not want to see them used in a co-ordinated attempt to undermine the coalition Government, insisting that this was not the way to bring about a change in power.

It’s that last sentence that sticks in the mind like a splinter. What Dear Ed seems to forget is that parliamentary opposition is limited to what the Labour front bench decides or doesn’t decide to do. What Miniband wants us to do is to submit to their [lack of] leadership. Here he summons up the ghosts of the 1980’s.

He insisted there must be no going back to the divisive and politically-driven disputes of the 1980s, such as the miners’ strike led by Arthur Scargill, which divided the nation and presented Labour with a hugely-damaging challenge to its credibility as a potential government.

The Labour leadership offered tepid support for the miners and others who went on strike during the 1980’s. Kinnock was more concerned with pleasing the Tory press than with supporting those people who had voted for Labour. It seems as though the current leader is thinking along the same lines. This comes as no surprise to us here at Nowhere Towers because of Kinnock’s endorsement of Mister Ed during the leadership contest.

So I am not against the Labour Party per se, just the leadership that has consistently failed to er, lead.

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If you’re looking for leadership, look away from the Labour Party

Some people say that the post war consensus ended in the 1980’s with the election of the Thatcher government. I’d agree with that. The Labour Party in the 1980’s under Neil Kinnock was a pale shadow of its former self. Kinnock as Labour leader sought to make the party electable by expelling from it the dissenters and the socialists. It first witch-hunted and then expelled members of the Militant Tendency from its ranks at the behest of Thatcher and the Tory-supporting press. Then it embarked on a period of internal ‘reforms’ to make it less social democratic and more business-friendly.

By 1997, the party had done a complete volte-face. Now it welcomed big business. Now it adopted corporate-speak as its new tongue. Now it cut its own heart out in order to please Murdoch and the rest of the Tory press. It became a new party. It joined the new neoliberal consensus. As Labour leader, Tony Blair told us how he was “beyond ideology”. Often when people say this sort of thing, they are making an effort to conceal their true right wing selves.

What Blair offered the country was a weak compromise between social democracy and neoliberalism. The two were and are mutually incompatible. First the Public Private Partnership (PPP) was introduced as Nu Labour’s concession to neoliberalism. Then came the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which was introduced to provide a means for investing in hospital improvements. It too was a concession to neoliberalism.

By the time Brown came to power, the Labour Party looked like it had run out of ideas. It looked like a party marking time. It could offer nothing of substance to its core supporters who were deserting the party in their droves. Whilst in power the party had failed to reverse Thatcher’s anti-union laws. It also failed to build new council homes and continued with the disastrous Right to Buy scheme. It did the spade work for any future Tory administration.

Brown lost the election and the party took months to elect a replacement leader. When it eventually elected Ed Miliband, some thought that the party would change direction and draw a line between itself and the New Labour years. Even Miliband told us this. But he was just saying that for the press. A couple of months as leader and he sounds just like his mentor, Neil Kinnock.

Miliband has failed to offer real support the student protests though he said “I was tempted”. So what stopped him?  Three words: the Tory press. He was afraid of how the papers would portray him. Most of the mainstream media have been against the student protests, many of them concoct scare stories about “dangerous anarchist groups”. Some even went as far as to accuse a wheelchair-bound student, Jody McIntyre of using his wheelchair to attack the police. While the BBC and others reported on Prince Charles and Camilla’s car being attacked by protesters for days after the event; Aflie Meadows lay in hospital with bleeding on his brain, after being hit by a police truncheon. The journalists were unmoved and unconcerned. The opposition Labour Party said nothing about Alfie meadows or Jody McIntyre.

When Miliband gave his speech to conference in September, he said,

So they looked to their union to help them. They weren’t interested in going on strike, they loved the kids the worked with, they loved their schools. But they wanted someone to help them get basic standards of decency and fairness.

Responsible trade unions are part of a civilised society, every democratic country recognises that.

But all of us in this movement bear a heavy responsibility. We want to win an argument about the danger this coalition government poses to our economy and our society.

To do so we must understand the lessons of our own history too.

We need to win the public to our cause and what we must avoid at all costs is alienating them and adding to the book of historic union failures.

That is why I have no truck, and you should have no truck, with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes.

The public won’t support them. I won’t support them. And you shouldn’t support them either.

But it is not just from trade unions that I want to see responsibility.

We’ll take the last paragraph first, what does Miliband mean by “responsibility”? Caving in to pressure from the tabloid press? But what did he mean when he talked about “irresponsible strikes”? I would like to know what an “irresponsible strike” is. This section of the speech was intended to placate the rabid journos of the Telegraph, The Sun and The Daily Mail. What Miliband has done here is to play to the right wing press by agreeing that unions go on strike because they’re “irresponsible” and enjoy inconveniencing people. Unions go on strike because it is the last resort. In fact, it is harder to go on strike because of the laws that were left in place by Blair and Brown.

The Labour Party has been tepid in its support for the anti-cuts movement. It has offered no leadership at all. The NUS President, Aaron Porter also provided no leadership. His candlelit vigil on the Embankment became an even more laughable glowstick vigil (sic). He condemned some protesters as “a hardcore of activists” and played directly into the hands of the media.  Porter then backtracked after, it appears, he had taken advice from Labour Party Hq. His leadership remains weak and there are calls for him to be removed from office.

History has shown us that when leadership is required, the Labour Party is nowhere to be seen. It’s more concerned in maintaining its profile in the Tory press. Too cowardly to rock the boat, the Labour Party will always abandon those in real need. It even supports some of the government’s welfare reforms. In fact, when it was in power, it advocated pretty much the same reforms.

If you’re looking for real opposition to the cuts, don’t bother with Labour. They’ll only cut your throat and leave you in the ditch to die.

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Ed Miliband becomes Labour leader. So what?

So Ed Miliband has won the Labour Leadership election. Please forgive me if I don’t get excited but this is all something of an anti-climax. Given the number of Blairites in the party, I do not expect Labour to suddenly lurch to the left. It will not happen.  In fact, I don’t expect Labour to come up with any truly socialist policies. Ed and David Miliband’s father may have been a Marxist theorist but that doesn’t mean that the brothers  share Ralph’s politics…even if Ed was pictured during the campaign wearing a pair of work boots.

The question on my mind is whether or not, older brother David, will work with kid brother, Ed in a shadow cabinet or will he fume on the backbenches? What about the other failed leadership candidates? Will Diane Abbott finally get her hands on a portfolio? Unlikely.  She’s got her media career to think about. How about Ed Balls? What’s in store for him? Shadow Chancellor? As for Andy ‘Aspirational Socialism’ Burnham maybe he’ll just become a shadow. Serves him right for being such a tosser.

Nick Robinson is on the telly now saying how the right will try to paint Ed Miliband as a left-winger because of the support he received from the unions. The Tories are supported by a variety of millionaires and private interests, yet this oft-repeated accusation of Labour ‘being in the pay of the trade unions’ does not strike them as hypocritical. Besides, which is the more democratic? Trade unions or unaccountable millionaires?

Kinnock is on BBC News talking about how he supported Ed Miliband. Is that the kiss of death or what?

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There’s a bad smell around here. Oh…it’s Peter Mandelson!

Peter Mandelson is like Banquo’s ghost: he’s always hanging around making trouble and stirring things up.  Today, he fired a warning shot over Ed Miliband’s bows by telling the Murdoch media that Labour risked heading down an “electoral cul-de-sac” if the party turned its back on its recent Nu Labour past. He also gave his blessing (or Mafioso kiss of death) to David Miliband.

He said Ed, the younger of the Miliband brothers, would take Labour back to the past by appealing to only the party’s “core” supporters.

“If you shut the door on New Labour you’re effectively slamming the door in the faces of millions of voters who voted for our party because we were New Labour,” he told the Times.

To be honest, Mandelson is deluded: the party turned its back on its core support the moment it abandoned Clause 4 and began to woo so-called Middle England. When it did this, those people who voted Labour felt alienated and betrayed; the party was continuing the policies of the Thatcher government by refusing to build new council homes and refusing to repeal the anti-union legislation that was enacted in the 1980’s.

Of all those associated with the Nu Labour neo-liberal project, Mandelson was seen as one of its chief architects. Alongside Tony Blair, it was Mandelson’s job to schmooze the wizards and alchemists of the Cittie of London, the captains of industry and  the Murdoch press (he still has quite a fondness for Murdoch). Indeed, the Nu Labour project has Mandelson’s fingerprints all over it.

What is richly ironic is this from Sky News,

Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour, criticised former leader Neil Kinnock and former deputy leader Roy Hattersley for attempting to “hark back to a previous age” by supporting the more left-wing of the brothers.

It was Kinnock who welcomed Mandelson into the party as a spin doctor in the 1980’s. This marked the very beginning of Nu Labour. It is ironic that Mandelson should attack Kinnock and then have a swipe at Hattersley, who was never seen as a left winger by anyone. Though, in fairness, Hattersley for all his sensibilities,  was pretty much to the left of Blair. Of course that isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do; even the very dead Ramsay MacDonald was to the left of Blair!

Finally,

Asked if he would want Lord Mandelson in a future shadow cabinet, Ed said he believed in the “dignity of retirement”.

Yep, I agree, it’s time for Mandelson to climb back into his coffin and leave us all alone.

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Labour: a socialist party?

Not in my mind! It makes me laugh every time I hear some right-winger describe the Labour Party as ‘socialist’ when they are quite clearly a capitalist party.  The Labour Party lost any pretence of being a socialist party in 1987 when Kinnock embarked on his witch hunt at the behest of the Tory press. The migration to the right was completed under the leadership of Tony Blair – who cut the heart out of the party, held it high over his head and drop-kicked it into the bin. Hey presto! No more Clause 4. It was good for the new voter-friendly brand image of the party, thus it became a newer version of the Tory Party – this is/was New Labour; a sort of Tory-lite. The age of postmodern politics had arrived: ostensibly free from any ideological discolouration; new, shiny and clean, Labour under Blair embarked on two disastrous wars – one of which was based on a lie; refused to build new council homes and placed The City at the heart of their economic thinking. So instead of creating more manufacturing jobs (in other words having the capacity and infrastructure to create tangible products to sell on the international market place), more jobs in the City were produced and the financial sector expanded as a consequence. Almost everyone, it seemed, was more interested in taking money for producing nothing. Telly programmes like Homes Under the Hammer encouraged people to buy properties at knock-down prices at auction, fix them up and sell them on to make a profit. Apparently anyone could be a property developer or a speculator; an entrepreneur, though the reality was less romantic than the image portrayed. These are the people whom Marx described as the rentier class: stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, buy-to-let property owners and so on who take their money from rents, shares and dividends.  This is the effect of financial deregulation that was initiated under Thatcher but continued under the last Labour government.  The spivs and the casino capitalists were even more free to do as they wished and dream up any ‘product’ they liked – this is creativity. Remember how Brown spent a lot of time schmoozing the wizards of Ye Olde Cittie of London before the 1997 General Election? Yeah, he was convincing them of the merits of socialism. That’s why they were genuinely pleased with New Labour throughout the 13 years they were in power.

Having lost the election, the Labour Party now has to choose a new leader but the field of candidates as I mentioned in an earlier blog is dominated by Blairites and sub-Blairites. Only the late inclusion of Diane Abbott as a candidate makes the field appear interesting.  Let’s have a look at the leadership candidates:

David Miliband, studied PPE at Oxford. He sounds like Blair and has even adopted some of his mannerisms but, so far, he has resisted the temptation to use Blair’s famous phrase, “Listen to the argument”. He is political careerism personified.

Ed Milband, like his brother, he studied PPE at Oxford. He made a very moving speech about how Labour needed to get back to its core values and derided Blair’s decision to make war in Iraq. He talks a good talk but does he have the will?

Ed Balls, another Oxford PPE graduate, is a slippery character. A friend of Gordon Brown, he sounds like a continuation of the Calvinist One.

Andy Burnham is portrayed as a ‘Merseysider’ (Scouse by implication) and working class but I fail to see his appeal. Another careerist, he is sub-Blairite and offers nothing different – save for the fact that he went to Cambridge and didn’t read PPE.

Finally there’s the late arrival,  Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP to be elected to the House of Commons and a Cambridge graduate. Her decision to send her son to a private school has attracted a good deal of criticism from the left and has been mocked by the right. Abbott seems to be the Tories preferred leadership candidate which tells us something about the Tories: they see her as a soft target – maybe it’s her relationship with on-screen hubby Michael Portillo on This Week? Remember “Chat Show Charlie”? But chat shows weren’t Charlie’s undoing; it was his fondness for uisge beatha that finished him off…well, that and his back-stabbing chums led by Brutus Clegg. It’s hard to see how Abbott can win, given the numbers of New Labour types in the party and the sheer adoration some members have for Miliband 1.

I can’t see Labour discovering socialism soon, let alone social democracy. But with PR who knows what could happen? We could witness the rise of a party that is more in tune with left-thinking voters. It can only be a good thing for the left as well as democracy: the compulsion to hold one’s nose and vote Labour when they’re working against you would disappear forever. No more contradictory consciousness…yeah, well, we’ll see – eh?

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