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The ‘moderate tendency’ and the entitlement delusion

Spot on!

Ramblings of an Ordinary Man

mcnicol

A terrible affront to democracy has taken place in full view of Britain’s ‘free press’ and they have turned a collective blind eye. Estimates suggest that as many as 180,000 Labour Party members have been denied a vote in the leadership election, either as a result of suspension or expulsion, or because they joined the Party after January 2015. A further 60,000 simply didn’t receive a ballot paper. It is widely accepted that the overwhelming majority of these are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.

For the print and broadcast media to ignore this gross injustice is bad enough, but it goes much further than that. They have actually been complicit in it. The BBC in particular has been at the forefront in laying down covering fire for bureaucratic attempts to nobble the election. They have routinely peddled unsubstantiated stories about plots, intimidation, misogyny and anti-semitism.

During a recent episode of the…

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Peace Ships From Barrow: Scrap Trident Not Jobs!

Guest post by Peter Doyle:

My name is Peter Doyle. I was a NUPE/ UNISON organiser in the North East and Cumbria from 1977 until 2005.

I worked in Cumbria and Barrow from 1987 until 2005. I actively supported strike action on a number of occasions in the Barrow ship yard and knew at the time a number of ship yard workers and shop stewards. I was personally devastated when we lost Barrow to the Tories in 1983, over the issue of Trident. Albert Booth MP was a good comrade, who voted against Trident and as a result, an 8000 majority was turned into a 4500 Tory majority (on a reduced turn out). It would be terrible if Labour were to lose Barrow because of Trident.

On the whole of the West Coast of Cumbria, we have right wing Labour MPs: extremely vocal (possibly even leading the charge) against Jeremy Corbyn and the new emerging Left Wing movement. We have to come up with a robust socialist alternative to Trident: keeping 7500 ship builders doing what they do best- building ships.

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The workforce in Barrow do not choose to build nuclear submarines that have the potential of reigning death down upon millions. They choose to work. They are a highly skilled work force, who in the past have built war ships, aircraft carriers, luxury liners, container ships and cargo ships. You name it, they can build it.

We have to offer a real and genuine alternative to Trident: an alternative which offers pride in the job, and a belief in the future. A genuine alternative to Trident could also represent a major sea change in Britain’s foreign policy. Instead of sending aircraft to bomb anything that moves; selling arms to both sides of every conflict, and at the same time declaring that we want peace, we could be the first nation in the world to proactively and explicitly bring peace to those areas that are experiencing war and natural catastrophe. We could do this through a fleet of ships that support peace and give aid in a massive way, to every war zone and every area suffering from natural catastrophe.

Prior to working in NUPE/UNISON, I worked in Swan Hunter ship builders, at the Neptune Yard, in Walker, Newcastle. The very first ship that I worked on was a Royal Navy Supply Ship. It had already been built and was being fitted out at dockside.
To say that I was impressed is an understatement. It had huge cargo capacity. It had workshops, capacity for helicopters and engineering shops etc. That image, as well as knowledge of that ship, has stayed with me for years. Because of the technical detail of this ship, it took more ship wrights, platers, draftsman, electricians, ships’ joiners, etc to plan and build, than any other ship. I saw the possibility then for an alternative to war ships in particular, and also believe there is an alternative now, which provide a viable alternative to nuclear submarines.

A fleet of Peace Ships – 6-8 in total – could and would be regarded as a first responder in the event of natural catastrophe, and in war zones; providing help and assistance. These Peace Ships would have the ability to carry mobile hospitals and displaced persons camps. They would have on board medical laboratories with trained scientists, doctors and surgeons, nurses –  every form of medical and humanitarian assistance that could be needed.  What impact could this fleet have had in the Ebola outbreak in Africa or the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti?

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What was needed in Haiti, was urgent medical assistance: hospitals, doctors and more than that, fresh water and food. These ships would have desalination plants, food, and medical expertise and supplies and would have been an effective and rapid response to this crisis. Instead, it is still today paying the price of an ineffective response from the UN and interested parties.

In the Ebola outbreak, the Cubans got their medical teams there first, but in most of the areas there was no power, no refrigeration, no hospitals, no clean water, no untainted food. All of these barriers would disappear with this proposal, because all of the requirements would be on board.

The refugee camps in Jordan, would immediately cease being a burden to the Jordanian government. Prefabricated hospitals would be built; schools would be built; roads would be laid; electricity would be supplied via large diesel engines carried in ship’s holds and solar panels transported in the holds. A safe refuge, where families can be cared for, where children can access education would massively reduce pressures internally within Europe. Instead of talking about something, we would actually be doing something.

This fleet could be use by the UN, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and would be the first point of call by everyone who wants to bring aid, assistance and peace in the world.

Because of the technical nature of these ships and the size of these ships, the workforce at Barrow would have to be increased, and a programme of building would last for at least 20 years. Maintenance, modernisation and repair would last at least another 20 years, giving the workforce a longer period of job security than they have with Trident.

The steel that would need to be procured and would be significantly greater than that required for Trident. Now unfortunately as we are out of the EU, all of that steel could be procured from within GB without having to put it out to EU competition (Stephen Kinnock eat your heart out!).

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All of the material required in such ships could be fabricated and built in Britain. For example, the diesel power plants that would be needed for desalination plants and to provide electricity, could be built at the Ford Engine’s plant in Dagenham. In the process, saving steel workers jobs (hopefully nationalised) and a boost to the British motor car industry. Helicopters, small cargo delivery ships, all would have to be built, still at a fraction of the cost of Trident.

A decision along these lines would massively assist Unite in convincing its members to vote in favour of abolishing Trident. A 40 year job guarantee would undermine right wing unions like the GMB, and would enable us as a country to proudly to declare that we are not just for peace, but we deliver peace, aid and sanctuary.
The impact of such a fleet would transform foreign relationships. Barrow would end up with a full order book, for Ships of Peace, from other nation, such as Norway and Sweden etc.

We would deal a blow to the right wing of our party; confronted with a massively credible and binary foreign policy option. Do they vote for bombs or peace?
More importantly, what would the average working Joe in Barrow think of it? Work guaranteed; something to be extremely proud of; the possibility of their children being employed as part of the civilian staff on ships saving lives.
What would the people of the West Coast of Cumbria make of it? Instead of being a dumping ground for nuclear power, their workshops in Whitehaven and Workington (i.e. Copeland and Allerdale), could feel pride in working on something that’s saving lives and not potentially killing them.

The youth of the country would flock to the Party if such a policy was pursued.

Open Letter To Alan Johnson

Alan,

You say moderate party members must sieze the party back from middle class left wingers who see winning elections as a betrayal of their principles. Now how do I say this politely. What a load of tosh! Corbyn supporters want to win elections as much as you do. We simply don’t believe you have to sacrifice your principles to win them. It was that way of thinking that lost Labour five million voters during the Blair/Brown era – which greatly contributed to the rise of the SNP and UKIP – and fanned the flames for a brexit vote. We became the triangulation party, trying to out Tory the Tories on some policies and out UKIP UKIP on others. The public just got confused and gave up on us.

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Our approach is different. We believe Labour should be a sign post party, not a focus group obsessed, weathervane party, so that every voter in this country knows exactly what we stand for and who we are are standing up for. Prior to the coup, Labour won every by-election and mayoralty it contested, and saw a healthy swing of 8% in the local elections from the GE result. And if you are one of those people who still have faith in polls, we had been on the up in those too. All this, despite a hostile press who revelled in every anti-leadership briefing your colleagues threw their way. Those successes were largely down to inspired Corbyn supporters knocking on doors and manning the phones to sell the Labour party to the wider electorate. So please don’t tell us we don’t want to win elections when we clearly do.

What is questionable is how much you want to win elections, because right now it looks like you’d rather sabotage any chance of Labour winning an election if your leader of choice isn’t at the helm.

Let’s face facts here: you have been plotting to overthrow Jeremy from day one, if not before. Which means every electoral success we’ve celebrated, you’ve cried over, because it weakened your excuse to have that coup. In the end the brexit vote was the only excuse left to you. And it’s a pathetic excuse too, given the fact two thirds of Labour voters voted remain, many of them convinced by Jeremy Corbyn’s unpatronising honest case for staying in.

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I should know because I was one of them. I’d been so disgusted by the treatment of Greece I was seriously leaning toward a leave vote. Jeremy changed my mind. If he’d told me Europe was perfect with bells on I’d have voted leave. I needed honesty about the problems in Europe, counterweighted with an argument for solidarity and reform, to convince me to vote remain.

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But you probably haven’t spoken to many people like me. You’d rather sum us up from a distance because it’s easier to smear and stereotype people you don’t know. Take your strange assumption about us being predominantly middle class. Are you aware that in the last leadership contest, research revealed that Corbyn supporters earned less than all of the other candidate’s supporters? If you want to bring class into it, what class do the MPs so keen to oust Corbyn belong to, on their seventy five grand a year salaries plus expenses? I’d respectfully suggest they are far less representative of the electorate than hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who come from a wide range of backgrounds and earn a wide range of incomes. And even if you are right in your unresearched assumption, and the majority of Corbyn supporters are middle class, isn’t that a positive sign for the future? Isn’t this the group most likely to vote Tory? At the end of the day, growing inequality and austerity is hurting everyone on low and middle incomes.

Even people who are reasonably comfortable have children, and nieces and nephews who are being exploited on zero hours contracts, and can’t leave their childhood home because of the shortage of affordable housing. Even those who got their degrees thirty years ago, are angered by a system that sees young people saddled with debt for the same degree they got for free; especially when todays degrees are much less likely to boost a graduate’s life chances. And even middle class people are forced to rely on harassed, underpaid carers to make sure their mum or dad doesn’t end up sitting in their own faeces for hours on end. And it’s often middle class public sector workers who’ve have had their pay and pensions cut to pay for a debt they didn’t create. And many of them care deeply about the environment and people less fortunate than themselves. So it would not surprise me in the least if many of them, recognising the need for real radical change to right these wrongs, supported Corbyn.

Instead of being so scathing about Corbyn supporters, maybe you should talk to us and engage with us and actually ask us why we turned our backs on Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in 2015 and now look set to reject Owen Smith. Maybe you will learn something you didn’t know? Maybe you will stop seeing us as the enemy within, and see us as ordinary human beings who simply want to live in a fairer world. Whatever our class or background, all Corbyn supporters share that hope and aim in common. We just wish you’d listen to us, instead of trying to smear us as either hard left militant trots reawakened from a thirty year sleep, or naive hippy idealists who blame Blair for Labour’s demise, when they should just forget about the demise and focus on the three election wins instead.

Sadly, after reading your contribution to the Times, that looks highly unlikely. You’ve set your face against Jeremy and us. You see us as the enemy; which is so deeply tragic because all we ever wanted is your help and support to defeat the Tories. All the anger and frustration you’ve picked up from us since Jeremy won stems from our despair over coup threats and incessant negative briefings. But that anger and frustration would wither away pdq if the PLP threw their weight and support behind the leadership. The overwhelming response to any change of heart would be thankfulness and relief. You only had to see the response to Sarah Champion’s unresignation on twitter to know that’s true. She was welcomed with open arms; her decision celebrated with a heartfelt and spontaneous #welcomebacksarah hashtag which trended for a day.

Being realistic, trust has been broken and it would take a very long time to repair, but I’m sure most Corbyn supporters would try to move forward in good faith. We are sick of this tug of war which is tearing our party apart. We don’t want a custody battle over the party’s name and assets. We don’t want to deselect anyone. We just want MPs to respect the mandate we gave Jeremy. It really is that simple. And then we want to turn all our fire on UKIP and the Tories so we have a fighting chance of winning the next General Election.

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And before you say you want that too and know how to achieve it, I’d say this to you….do you? Do you really know how to win? How for instance, are you planning on winning over Tory or UKIP voters without alienating existing Labour ones? Because I presume you’ve seen the polling data which suggests that Jeremy Corbyn is the preferred leader with 52% of 2015 Labour voters and 66% of current Labour voters when asked to choose between Smith or Corbyn? Were you planning on taking them for granted in your quest for these Tory votes as is the New Labour way? Or do you think they will change their minds once you’ve managed to entice David Miliband back from the States? Because if that’s the case, I think you’ll eventually discover David Miliband is not the panacea you and your colleagues think he is.

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Maybe you should ask us how to win elections? Maybe we’ve got something to say that might prove helpful?
If you asked me, as one Corbyn supporting individual I’d say 1. Have a distinctive, inspiring offer that speaks to the majority. 2. Have an inspired grassroots movement to sell that offer to every household in the country. And 3. Have a unified party.

It’s 3 that we are missing and that’s where you come in. You say in your piece you will ensure we never have 3; that your mission is to overthrow Corbyn no matter how long it takes. I hope you reflect on that.

I hope you decide the Tories are the enemy, not us or Corbyn. Because that’s the truth. Just talk to us and you might find that out for yourself.

If however you decide to go ahead with your plans to break Corbyn through a long drawn out war of attrition, expect our defense of his leadership to strengthen. You see here’s the thing you need to understand fully before you go down that path: when it comes to standing up against injustice, we are as stubborn as mules and tough as old boots.

Rather like Corbyn himself.

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The Establishment Smear What The Establishment Fear – And Right Now That’s Us!

Please read the tweets and messages below:

So what point am I making with this display of unpleasantries aimed at Corbyn and his supporters? Am I trying to insinuate that people who are opposed to Corbyn are a nasty bunch? No, of course not. Amongst the many thousands who oppose Corbyn these tweets only represent a small percentage of individuals who struggle to debate without resorting to insults. Or maybe those responsible have a nasty streak, and social media is their chosen forum for venting their nastiness.

Either way, I won’t be asking Owen Smith to condemn the abuse on display and I certainly won’t expect him to put a stop to it. How on earth could he stop something that has nothing to do with him? He hasn’t put a call out for people to be abusive anymore than Corbyn has.

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If these people are already lacking the wherewithal to debate without getting nasty, they are certainly not going to obey a command from anyone to ‘play nice.’ They probably enjoy their rants and feel proud of their rather pathetic put downs. They might even get a kick out of chastisements they receive and reactions they provoke. If they weren’t trolling Corbyn supporters they’d soon find something else to troll about. These people haven’t been sitting there dormant, waiting for Owen Smith to activate them. Their nastiness was in circulation long before the leadership campaign. The target of their venom just happens to be Corbyn and his supporters at this particular moment in time.

The bottom line is this: Owen Smith is no more responsible for the abuse we receive than the abuse spewed out in Corbyn’s name. To reiterate, these are individuals. Some may not even be Smith supporters, but even if each and everyone of them is, it doesn’t change the fact they are nothing to do with Smith. They are just your regular unpleasant twitter trolls, plain and simple. And before anyone says, ‘there are far more examples of Corbyn supporters using abuse’ I’d say that’s probably because there are a lot more of them. Regardless, far more Corbyn supporters debate civilly on Twitter and Facebook than don’t, and like the trolls displayed here, they have simply latched onto a campaign which most of them probably care very little about – rather like the inevitable trouble makers who latch onto peaceful political demonstrations, or football hooligans who go for the fight not the football.

Even if I wanted to use these examples to smear all Smith supporters – which I don’t because I have too much integrity – I wouldn’t be able to because I don’t have the ‘magic formula.’ Without the establishment and their propoganda media machine on my side, any smear campaign I tried to launch would very quickly fall flat. The establishment are experts at demonisation and smear, and have all the levers at their disposal to do serious damage. Look at the way they have demonised immigrants over the years, which undoubtedly contributed to the brexit vote; or trashed the reputations of people who rely on social security.

They could pick on any group they wanted and demonise them if they so chose. They could demonise single mothers for instance. All it would take is for the press and politicians to target them as a group, then seek out every horrific story of child abuse and neglect at the hands of a single mother and emblazon it on their front pages day after day; stories which would then be regurgitated by the tv media, until single mothers were thought of as the lowest of the low, viewed with suspicion and scorn by many.

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Maybe next they could go after NHS nurses. They could dig out every distressing story of abuse, neglect or poor care and hold it up as an example of NHS nurses in general. They could sow seeds of mistrust in the public’s minds to such an extent, people would eventually avoid going into hospital or choose to go private.

By now you may be thinking you’d never be taken in by these smear tactics, and maybe in your case that’s true, but many would be and the outcome could be catastrophic.

That’s why smear campaigns terrify me, whoever is the target. They terrify me because they work. Smear campaigns have lead to immigrants being thought of as a burden; the poor and disabled as work shy and devious; public sector workers as greedy and militant. Smear campaigns are dangerous. I’ve always thought that. The fact I’m now one of the hundreds of thousands who are being targeted as part of a smear campaign, where honest, decent, sensible Corbyn supporters are being labeled as a Trotskyite, hard left, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, deluded rabble, just confirms what I already knew.

The establishment use smear to steer public opinion against a group; either because they feel threatened by it, as in the case of Corbyn supporters or trade unions, or to distract attention from their own nest feathering agenda. If people are up in arms about immigration rather than corporate tax avoidance, that’s just how the establishment like it.

The fact so many Labour MPs are at the heart of the anti-Corbyn smear campaign says a great deal about them and their establishment ties. As does the selective nature of their outrage. A sexist tweet from a supposed Corbyn supporter is ‘a shocking and disgraceful example of the type of people Corbyn is attracting to the party.’ But when their own preferred leadership candidate let’s yet another sexist remark fall from his mouth, tumbleweed blows through the same MP’s Twitter accounts. I did read the mildest of chastisements to one remark Smith made from Jess ‘Corbyn is a misogynist’ Phillips but that’s as far as the outrage has gone.

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When is a sexist remark not a sexist remark? When it’s not useful to the anti-Corbyn smear campaign it seems. And that really does tell you everything you need to know about the integrity of those doing the smearing.  And that’s what we have to remember when we hit our inevitable low ebbs. It hurts to have our character dragged through the proverbial mud day after day, but it tells us an awful lot about the character of those  prepared to engage in these smear tactics. It tells us how unprincipled they are, and how ruthless!

We are currently backing a leader who undoubtedly receives death threats and the vilest of abuse on a regular basis but barely ever mentions it, even though he could make political capital from it. Using the actions of the few to demonise the many to further an agenda takes a crafty, manipulative, unprincipled character. Jeremy Corbyn is as far removed from that character type as it’s possible to be. And that’s why he’s under assault, and it’s why we are under assault for supporting him.

And it’s why he’s the right leader for the Labour Party if it’s going to be the party of principles we want it to be.

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One Year On From Corbyn’s Win And We Have Bloody Toughened Up

A year ago today Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of our party.
I remember that day with joy, but it was a joy that was soon to become marred by the anger and bitterness of a large group of Labour MPs who couldn’t accept this seismic shift. Their put downs started during the campaign. We were told to end the madness, get a heart transplant. Our passion for change was attributed to nothing more than an emotional spasm in response to the election defeat.

After Jeremy’s stunning victory several experienced MPs invalidated his leadership by refusing to serve in his shadow cabinet. In doing so they were invalidating us, and the choice we had made.

Then came the smears. Female MPs pointed to sexist tweets from unknown and clearly idiotic individuals, then pointed at all of us. “Sexists” they said. Ironically these same MPs seem unperturbed by the sexist remarks that fall from their preferred candidate’s own mouth; a silence that confirms what we knew all along – their outrage is selective, only to be deployed if it proves useful to their anti-Corbyn agenda.
Then came the anti-semitism, trotskyite arm-twisting and thuggish rabble smears.
It has been relentless!

Just as relentless have been the attacks on Jeremy himself by the PLP, always gleefully reported by a hostile media, and I include the BBC in that. We have spent the last year either defending Jeremy or defending ourselves.

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It’s not all been bad of course. We won 4 by-elections and 4 mayoralties and performed far better in the local elections than many expected, but even then none of the credit was given to Jeremy Corbyn or the party’s new anti-austerity position. It was either down to the ‘centrist candidate’ or the fact Jeremy was barely mentioned. On the local election night tv specials, Labour MP after Labour MP was wheeled out to bemoan the ‘terrible’ results, with no mention of the 7% swing to Labour from our General Election results just a year before. So even our victories were tainted by the bitterness of others.

Despite how hard this year’s been I am celebrating Jeremy Corbyn’s first anniversary as leader because it’s worth celebrating. I just don’t feel like popping open a bottle of bubbly when my messenger inbox is filled with messages from devastated friends who’ve been purged from voting with no clear explanation given. I’ve even cried over them; overwhelmed by a feeling of impotence, frustration and anger.

This party – so beloved by many of us for all its incredible achievements over the years – has scoffed at our choice of leader, smeared us all in revenge for voting for him, and then revelled in its power to strip away our democratic right to vote. This year has been a real eye opener but not in a good way. Except maybe there is something good in having our eyes opened if you subscribe to the view it’s better to have the truth out in the open, than to believe things are ok when they are not.

This past year has revealed one truth above all others. The Labour Party is NOT a broad church.
It’s a nice label, but it only holds true if all sections of the party are treated with equal respect; and I don’t mean a respect that’s reliant on them staying on the back benches. If Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott were considered too far left to lead the party, the party should have expelled them all years ago. The only reason they didn’t is because these ‘political dinosaurs’ served a purpose. They were essentially the party’s token lefties. Expel them and it would have killed both the concept of Labour as a broad church and a democratic socialist party in one fell swoop.

The illusion of a broad church was an important one to maintain because it helped the party hold onto those tribal working class voters New Labour love to take for granted. They knew that as long as Dennis Skinner was being irreverent to the queen and Jeremy Corbyn was speaking at a stop the war rally, people would assume Labour couldn’t have moved too far from its roots. The premise of the broad church wasn’t enough to stem the haemorrhage of five million voters under Blair and Brown, but it will have stemmed the flow. But then the membership went and did something that exposed the illusion for what it was. We voted for Jeremy Corbyn. And the PLP have been trying to restore ‘order’ ever since.

So yes, our eyes have been opened. That’s not to say many weren’t aware of this state of affairs long before now. I know many were. But I also know many weren’t, and have been genuinely shocked and horrified by the way the PLP have behaved since Jeremy’s win. Thankfully most of us understand the motives driving the actions of the PLP. Break the membership and you break Jeremy, and vice versa. That awareness might not be enough to spare us from feelings of frustration, depression and even occasional bouts of despair, but it is enough to stop us from breaking.

Gone is the optimistic joyful membership of a year ago. In its place is an angry determined membership, under no illusions they have the respect of most of the PLP, some of whom hold us and our politics in contempt. It’s a painful truth, but it’s a truth nevertheless, and it’s a truth that will better prepare us for what lies ahead should Jeremy win again.

But what if Owen Smith wins? What then?

That depends on the size of the win. Any margin smaller than those disenfranchised by the vote freeze or the purge will be a Pyrrhic victory. The only way it becomes a real victory is if we respond in a way that brings our movement into disrepute – which I trust us not to do – or if we left the party in disgust.

Jeremy Corbyn has attracted hundreds of thousands of socialist members into our party. Now we are here we must stay. Why? Because with the numbers on our side, we can change our party from the bottom up. We can stand as councillors and MPs in the future; we can elect our preferred candidates to the NEC in the way we have just done, and send our delegates to conference.

Jeremy was the beacon that drew in that new enthused membership. We must never let the legacy from September 2015 go to waste. Nothing would play into the plotters hands more, and no ending could be more tragic.

So one year on we should make this pledge. What ever happens on September 24th 2016, we stay.

As the late great Tony Benn once famously said, “There is no final victory, as there is no final defeat. There is just the same battle. To be fought, over and over again. So toughen up, bloody toughen up.”

The Privatisation Con – Guest Post By Rick Evans

Beginning as far back as the early 1980’s the Tories sold us a lie.

Nothing unusual there you might think and you would be right. But this was a very big one; in fact a massive one and it was one of the cornerstones of the Thatcher Revolution. Thatcher and her government told us privatisation was the solution to many of the countries problems.
We were told that more wealth would be created so investment could go up; that bills and fares would go down; that everything would be more efficient; that somehow the magical profit motive would revitalise the whole country, and that competition between a range of providers for customers would force them all to provide a better value service.

So what has happened? Well according to Corporate Watch, just the Energy, Rail and Water Privatisations alone cost each UK household on average £250 extra a year. So we are paying more for something that the Tories claimed would be cheaper. In the case of the Railways, we the Taxpayer put £3.8 billion into subsidies in 2014. Yet Rail fares are the most expensive in Europe. But soaring prices are only a part of the problem of privatisation.

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Most Privatisations have occurred within our Public Services and herein lies the biggest problem of all. When a Private Company runs a Public Service it’s overriding number one objective is to make a profit for the companies shareholders, not to run the service in the best possible way in the public interest. For those who think you can achieve both it simply doesn’t work. Invariably corners are cut to get the job done in the cheapest way and investment is reduced so the bulk of the profit can be paid to the shareholders. The Tories said we would become a shareholding economy but that hasn’t happened. Only 11 per cent of the total value of UK traded shares is owned by individuals today, compared with 20 per cent in 1985.

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Something else that is a major problem is that in many instances, the terms, conditions and pay for staff have been eroded. Often there are job cuts or people aren’t replaced leaving less people to do the same amount of work. Qualified staff leave and are often replaced with casuals on less money. One of the intended by products of this whole project was that it was another way to attack Trade Unions as they had always been strong in the Public Sector. Another problem is that private companies aren’t democratically accountable to us the public. Again it’s the shareholders who they are accountable to, and the voices of the public are all too often ignored.

So let’s get to the crux of why it was done? To put it simply it was another way for the Tories to help their rich friends by making these services and industries open to the market. So our money is siphoned from the Public to the Private Sectors so certain individuals/companies can get richer off the backs off us, the Taxpayers. An elaborate Con Trick. The vast majority of the Public Corporations that were privatised were profitable. They had to be to be sold. All that public money that could have benefitted us all is now in private hands. Do you see why I call it a Con? As I said at the beginning we were sold a lie.

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Now to me this is really important stuff but I appreciate that not everyone thinks the same. But I think this question of Privatisation or Social Ownership is fundamental to how we view society and therefore how we run it. Not everything in life can be made a profit out of. Does that mean it’s useless or not needed? Can everything always be left to the market and will the market right the wrongs in society? If say an unprofitable Bus route is axed is that right or inevitable? Do we just say ‘ah well that’s a shame but it was losing money it had to go.’ What about the people who relied on that service? What are they supposed to do? These are usually country routes and they are some peoples only access to the outside world. As the late Tony Benn said “the Tories know the price of everything but the value of nothing”.

For Public Services, I would always argue that there is more to running a quality service than just making a profit. That’s not to say you let something lose money indefinitely but to look at it just one way misses a big part of what life is about. Surely some things have value in other ways? Not everything can be just measured by the cash that it’s worth. Also in some public service like Royal Mail, Bus Services, Railways etc there are some remote areas that could never make a profit in a million years. That’s the whole idea – the more profitable parts balance out the other places so everyone – no matter where you live – can have the same service from London to Manchester, from the Yorshire Dales to the remote parts of Scotland.

Most people would agree there shouldn’t be a profit motive in Healthcare and Education but the Tories have been doing that for years via the back door. But it’s not just the NHS and Schools that have changed. Energy, Water, Rail, The Royal Mail and many other services have been privatised in the last 30 years. Locally, many council services, including such essential things like care services, have been put out to tender and are run by private companies. I honestly cannot think of one example where consumers or the workforce’s are better off. The whole thing has been a rip off.
Well you might say that’s the way of the world now and nothing can be done. And you would be right to say changing some of this will be more than difficult. But it’s not impossible. What we need now is a debate about how society is run. We shouldn’t shy away from the big questions. Also it’s not just public services I’m talking about, but basically how everything is owned and run. We need to argue there are alternatives to Casino Capitalism.

Over the last 40 years transnational companies have got even bigger and more powerful. We aren’t run by governments or even the EU; it’s global corporations that call the shots. Their power is immense. But we have to regain some control in regard to ownership of the economy because decisions made in boardrooms don’t help ordinary people. In fact this is a major way inequality has been increased. We have been told it’s the wealth creators that help society and benefit us all when in reality they are mainly helping themselves. Profits go up but do wages? Do the people at the bottom gain? Do they heck! They are probably told be grateful you have a job.

While the power of capital gets ever bigger, inequality will continue to increase. We have been sold “competition, greed and deception” and it only benefits the few at the top. We need to reorganise society so the wealth benefits us all. All of us need to have a say in this. This would be real democracy in action and what socialism is about.

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So what are the alternatives? I would argue that Social Ownership is the answer. It’s not just Public Ownership, although that should be part of it. The old Public Corporations used to be heavily criticised – with some justification – as bureaucratic and top heavy. If anyone has seen the brilliant film ‘Spirit of 45’ they will know that the Attlee Government made a massive mistake when they started taking things into Public Ownership. They pretty much kept the same people running things so not enough changed. It was almost the same old same old, and in some cases the workers and public were disappointed with the results. Public or State Ownership on it’s own doesn’t add up to Socialism. What it needs for that to happen is for the whole of society to benefit when it makes a profit. Also we need it to be more accountable so everyone can have a say. All this is about giving more power to ordinary people so power is in the hands of the many not the few.

The other main form of Social Ownership is Cooperative Ownership where everyone is a member and has a share in the company so sharing the dividends. There are many different sorts and they all need to be extended and encouraged. For example, for our Gas and Electric we use ‘The Cooperative Energy’. One of the things everybody can do is look into alternatives like this which are available now. Of course this only goes so far but it’s a good first step. There are other models of Social Ownership that we need to look into as well such as Employee Ownership.

The ideas behind Social Ownership are not new but we need to get them back into the public arena. The rise of what was called Thatcherism (which was really Neo Liberalism) took them off the table. What was particularly disappointing was the way the Labour Party gave up any aspiration for it, and took up the Tory Consensus. So it has been especially pleasing to see Jeremy Corbyn saying Labour would take Rail and the Royal Mail back into Public Ownership. This is more than a welcome development. Taking the Railways back into Public Ownership is a very poplar policy, and even a majority of Tory voters are in favour of it.

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But we do need to debate this more and we mustn’t be afraid to get the idea out that we can have a different way of doing things. That profit doesn’t always have to be the number priority: that workers and consumers can both gain instead of private shareholders. In my view this is an essential way of moving forward. I don’t see this as old fashioned but rather an exciting way to go, and to make sure we do it right this time. Privatisation has been proven to be both morally bankrupt and a con. It can only help the rich minority. By changing the ownership of some of society we can lay the road towards a more equal society where power and wealth isn’t so concentrated in so few hands. Of course these things need to be done worldwide to be fully effective. But we can make a start here. The right wing would like the debate to centre on immigration so that immigrants can be the scapegoats for all that is wrong here, when really it’s the obscene level of wealth in so few hands that is really the main block on progressive change happening. This is something that will take time, so we must be patient. But by the same yardstick we have got to get the message out there. That we can all profit from everyone’s endeavours.

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I know some will dismiss this as pie in the sky rubbish but i say to them, do you really think everything is Hunky Dory? That increasing inequality is ok or there isn’t another way? Because we have to change the direction of travel we are in. Because if we don’t where is it all going to end? It is an illusion to think Capitalism can be a fair system, so why should we put up with it’s gross unfairness and inbuilt exploitation? But the only way we will ever improve things is if we fight for them because the powers that be will at best only give us crumbs. Movements can and have changed things before. The establishment want us to be apathetic and demoralised. That’s why united we are so much stronger. Together we have more power than we realise.

As one great man said once ‘You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.’

 

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I’ve Had Enough Of Hearing About Jeremy Corbyn.

A must read!

Kate Prothero

Right, that’s it, I’ve had enough. I’ve sat on my hands for long enough. I’ve spent months looking at conversations and threads on the internet about Jeremy Corbyn, about how he’s not a leader, about how all his supporters are lunatics, about how he’s the messiah and about why he’s unelectable. I still have no idea about what is truth and what is fiction from both sides of this really rather tedious debate. 

In 20 days, Jeremy Corbyn will more than likely still be The Labour Party’s democratically elected leader. I like him, not because I think he’s a great public speaker or because he has all the answers I’m looking for. 

committee-meeting-366x251Over the last ten years or so I’ve been to meetings. Committee meetings, business lunches, board meetings, political meetings, community meetings. Loads of them. At committee and community meetings, quite often there will be one guy that gets really…

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Eco-Council Housing: The Way Forward

(Guest post by David Carr)

With a building programme of 1 million new homes, half of which are to be council houses, among Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 pledges there has been much discussion as to what that ought to look like. The pledge resonates with those struggling to have a place of their own. It addresses an acute need across the country and also kick starts an economic revival – starting with the construction sector and cascading down through other supporting industries and businesses. But what caveats should there be on new builds in the 21st century?

In July, Sevenoaks Labour Party Executive adopted and put forward a Momentum Swanley proposal: “Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing where all properties have solar panels and other green technologies.” It is fundamental that the environment is considered in a huge building programme, but it should also be embraced and positively exploited. Photovoltaic cells (aka solar panels) have become more commonplace on our homes and buildings, wind turbines and rainwater harvesting systems less so. There is a golden, and very necessary, opportunity sitting before us in the construction of these 1 million homes.

Future Energy

The Tory mantra of “shop around for the best energy deals” is a glib phrase when addressing energy prices. The stranglehold of the ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers has seen a rise in energy costs with shareholders seemingly more important than the bill paying public. With the spike in energy use over the past few decades showing no sign of diminishing, green energy and technologies need to be at the forefront of any new building programmes. The household bills can be reduced, widening fuel poverty lessened or eradicated plus excess green energy can be sold back into the National Grid and, in the case of council housing, paid into the local authority coffers.

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(Pic above: Roof mounted turbine)

Water Rates and Protection

Utilising rainwater harvesting systems more effectively along with flood prevention construction and landscaping measures will also help arrest the insurance premium hikes, make the new homes more robust to the challenges of climate change and reduce water rates too.

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(Pic above: Rainwater (underground) collection and distribution system)

Clean Green

The green think-tank – Environmentum – was established to encourage the Labour Party to adopt a mass eco council house building and refurbishment programme. When challenged on the costs of these additional green measures, Nick Southgate, a spokesman for them said: “The initial outlay is recognised as adding more financial cost at the beginning; however, some of this will be recovered and our environment right now – and in the future – should not bear the brunt of our excesses. Fossil fuel needs must be reduced and clean green technologies embraced. Some of the possible avenues for financing this housing revolution include a Land Tax, for those corporations and landlords strategically sitting on land (such as supermarkets blocking rival competition); removing the cap on National Insurance and making it progressive; a tax on companies that have failed to mitigate against pollution and continue to pollute our environment, a second home tax comparable with that used in Iceland.”

Find out more here: https://swanleydistrictlabourparty.org/eco-council-housing-program/

(Feature pic: Freiburg, German the green eco-housing development)

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Why Owen Smith Is The Disunity Candidate

If I hear Owen Smith referred to as ‘the unity candidate’ one more time, I’m going to have to bury my head under a pile of cushions to let out a long stress busting scream.
I just don’t get it you see. The majority of labour members and trade unions back Corbyn. Not only that, according to recent polls, the vast majority of labour voters do too. Only the PLP don’t. But somehow, if we make the 171 happy at the expense of literally millions of ordinary people, unity will follow.

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The 171 are basically taking us all for granted. That’s exactly the kind of thinking that cost us Scotland and once safe Labour constituencies in the North. This group of MPs, all doing the same job, earning the same income, often mixing in the same circles, of similar ages, and limited ethnic and cultural diversity, sharing political views a cigarette paper apart, have their finger on the pulse of the electorate to a much greater degree than millions of ordinary people.

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This eye watering arrogance beggars belief. It would be like everyone in my family wanting to go to Spain for our annual summer holiday, except me, who for the sake of ‘unity’ decided we should all go to France, my favoured destination. If I overruled everyone in that way, my family would call me out for my selfishness, and rightfully so. If my ego had inflated to such gargantuan proportions I believed my wishes now surpassed those of everyone else in my family, they’d soon prick it with a big figurative pin until it deflated to a normal healthy size. What they wouldn’t do is go along with my decision, thereby fuelling my grotesque sense of grandiosity.

If I put this argument to an Owen Smith supporter I usually get the same response, ‘9 million people gave them their mandate.’ But this just fuels their grandiosity even more. Most people vote for a party, not an individual. And besides, as I previously mentioned, the majority of Labour supporters/potential voters back Corbyn for leader over Smith. This will probably surprise some of you because most poll related headlines screamed, ‘Voters think Smith would be a better leader than Corbyn!’ You had to dig deeper to discover the voters being referred to were Tory or Lib-Dem voters. The usual response to this inconvenient nugget of information is something along the lines of ‘but we have to win over Tory voters to win a GE.’ To which I fire back, ‘At the expense of Labour voters who prefer Corbyn?’

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Which brings us back to this ‘New Labour’ habit of taking existing Labour voters for granted. This is a grave mistake to make. For every Tory who’d switch to Labour simply because Smith was at the helm, another two might take their votes elsewhere. And the only reason Smith is getting a relatively easy ride from the media right now is because they favour him over Corbyn; a lifelong socialist who is seen as a real threat to the tax dodging millionaire press barons. Once the Corbyn threat has passed it will be business as usual, and Owen will be mocked and vilified just as Corbyn is now. As a result, those Tory voters will soon change their minds. But the Labour voters who are strongly for Corbyn, despite a year of press and PLP vilification, might well give up on Labour if Owen wins; particularly if he wins by a margin slimmer than the number of voters disenfranchised by the vote freeze and an over zealous purge.
Democracy would have to be seen to have been served if an Owen win was to stand any chance of winning over these Corbyn backers. But how can that be, with well over a hundred thousand voters disenfranchised, many of whom were likely to have voted Corbyn? A ‘unity candidate’ who only has the power to unify 171 MPs who are already nicely unified is not a unity candidate in my book, or many other’s books I don’t doubt.

Smith is the disunity candidate. A win for Smith has immense power to turn off hundreds of thousands of Labour members and several key unions, but potentially millions of Labour voters too. The message a Smith win sends those voters is ‘You don’t count! Only Tory voters count! You like Corbyn? Well too bad. You must be mad or bad to like him. Besides, we are sure when push comes to shove you’ll back us once Smith wins. It’s not as if we’ve had a mass exodus of Labour voters in the past…erm…apart from the five million who stopped voting Labour under Blair and Brown..cough…err…but that won’t happen this time, we are sure of it. And we are ALWAYS right.’

Except their arrogance would have dire consequences for our party, which is why we must work hard to deliver Corbyn a resounding mandate to make sure those consequences never come to pass.

But what about unifying the PLP if Corbyn wins? That is a fair question and one I grapple with all the time. The PLP may be small in number in relative terms, but they are big in power. In the short term there isn’t an easy answer. My family would be limited in their power to stop me screaming and shouting and making everyone’s life a misery if I didn’t get my way over France in the hypothetical scenario I described earlier. But does that mean they should let me get my way to avoid such unpleasantness? Of course not. Wrong is wrong, and it’s never wrong to stand up against it.

As someone once wisely said to me, sometimes all you can do is take the first right step, then trust the next right step will make itself clear.

Step forward comrades, and stay strong. ✊