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Open Letter To Amol Rajan – Editor Of ‘The Independent’

Dear Amol,

What can I say in response to your wonderful open letter dated 23/1/16 in your oh so balanced ‘we back the coalition’ ‘Independent’ newspaper.

I’m just in awe over your brilliant wisdom. Let me assure you, the impression left by your condescending pat on my head will stay with me for quite some time. I’ve been well and truly told. Silly old Corbyn supporting me, thinking Labour wasn’t in a mess and performing badly in those oh so reliable polls (except I didn’t). In fact truth be known, I’m amazed we haven’t been usurped by the lib dems. Ok you can scoop your jaw off the floor now, because I can read your mind from here.

‘A Corbyn supporter who hasn’t got their fingers in their ears with their eyes scrunched shut; do they really exist?!’
Well yes, actually we do, in our thousands.

We are not the naive little muppets you think we are (that’s when we are not being voracious online trolls – rolls eyes). We were well aware what we were letting ourselves in for when we voted for Corbyn. Look at what happened when we voted for ‘not very red’ Ed. Research showed he got an even worst roasting by the right wing press than Kinnock, and that’s saying something, and Corbyn was always going to get worst. At least under Ed there was a semblance of discipline within the PLP. Currently Labour look more like a pub brawl than a political party.
Why would anyone vote for chaos over order?

So no need to point out the obvious. We get it. It’s all a bit of a mess. But let me ask you one question – was the transition from Old Labour to New Labour a smooth one, over in a matter of months? No? Really? Well the impression you are giving in your letter led me to think it was.
You also lead me to believe you think things never change; that public opinion is set in aspic and must be adhered to at all costs, despite the fact that only recently, harrowing pictures of a little drowned toddler on a beach led to a softening in attitudes toward refugees. A week is a long time in politics, and sometimes the best you can do is set out your stall and hope.
After all, Thatcher was considered to be a liability by her own party for some of her tenure as leader of the opposition, and look what happened there.

 

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So there you have it. A not very detailed response to your letter admittedly, but seeing as you missed the bigger picture I didn’t feel it deserved one.

Ultimately Amol, we knew voting for Corbyn was going to be a car crash in the short term. You can rubberneck all you like. You can even take pleasure in it, but please don’t pat us on the head and point out the obvious. We knew this was going to happen, but we are not panicking. We’ve got four years to turn things around.

Like my nan always used to say, ‘you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.’

Regards

 

Michelle Ryan

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Don’t Judge Jeremy Corbyn Until The Dust Thrown Up By His Leadership Win Settles

Wherever I’ve lived I’ve always had an open fire; until this last house.

There is a real flame gas fire in the lounge, which is convenient and cosy, but it’s not the same as building up a fire yourself, throwing on logs, and roasting chestnuts in the embers.

The second reception room had a chimney breast but the fire had been closed up at some point.
Ten years into my occupancy, about two years ago, I had a moment of madness. Well it was a joint madness really, because my twenty four year old son egged me on. It started with me tearing some wall paper off the chimney breast to see if I could see an outline of a fireplace in the plaster. It ended with me prising off plaster with a screwdriver. My poor husband came home to a slowly emerging hole in the chimney breast, and a sheepish looking wife covered in dust.

Fast forward three days and the fireplace looked something like this (picture from google due to not having the foresight to take before pics), but sootier and messier. The initial elation I’d felt over starting the job had well and truly worn off and

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I was cursing myself for my ‘crazy spontaneity’. The house was shrouded in a fog of dust, and we discovered the opening was being held up by some dodgy looking brickwork, which meant we were going to have to instal a concrete lintel to stop the wall collapsing.
I probably should explain at this point, I embarked on this job when we were really skint, so there was no calling out a builder to finish the job, and neither I nor my husband are particularly handy. Basically I had created chaos out of order, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth it.

Fast forward a week or so and a lintel was in place (thanks Youtube), and I was re-plastering the wall; a ‘skill’ I’d acquired after my shower leaked through the kitchen ceiling. My husband and I designed a wooden mantel piece and put it up ourselves, albeit with a crookedness that would drive some pedantic people a bit crazy, but for a non pedant like me, adds to the charm of it. Here is the finished fireplace, complete with my long suffering husbands slippered foot in the foreground.

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By now you must be thinking this is a D.I.Y blog, but it isn’t. I got the idea to write it a few days ago, after I picked my husband up from the station because he’d been forced to get the train to work after his car battery died. As soon as he got in the car he started letting off steam about the latest anti Corbyn story in circulation. Then he sighed a deep sigh and fell into a long reflective silence. Often it’s me having a rant, or staring off into space as I try to process all of my Corbyn associated stress, but today it was his turn. He looked weary, and a bit despondent, and it suddenly reminded me of how he looked when we were up to our eyes in bricks, soot and dust. I found myself smiling to myself as the metaphor took shape in my mind.

When I dived into opening up the fireplace, it seemed to come out of the blue, a bit like when Jeremy Corbyn surprised everyone by winning the leadership. But it hadn’t. For years I’d been discontented with that smooth plastered wall where I thought a roaring fire should be, in the same way ordinary Labour members had been brewing a growing discontent with the managerial, technocratic, top down, wishy washy, bland, passionless, uninspiring Labour Party they found themselves members of.

And here’s where the metaphor really makes sense. To create my vision of a better room, in the short term I had to create chaos. I couldn’t have one without the other. I had to tear down walls, and then stand back bemused wondering why I’d brought such mess and stress upon myself and my family. Was it really that bad before? I asked myself a hundred times a day.

Whether you’re opening up a fireplace, or opening up a political party to new ideas, new members and greater democracy, it will at times be a messy stressful business. How long the Labour Party will be immersed in chaos is anyone’s guess, but to say months instead of years, is overly optimistic in my view.

In a recent radio interview, Len McCluskey said Jeremy should be given two to three years to prove himself, and he probably thought he was being generous considering some members of the party say Jeremy’s got till May if local elections don’t go Labours way.
But I think Jeremy doesn’t just need a few years to prove himself. I say he needs the whole term and beyond, and when I say beyond – yes – I think health and his own personal preference allowing, Jeremy should stay in situ as leader even if we lose in 2020.

Before anyone accuses me of being an ideological pie-in-the-sky-lefty who doesn’t care about winning or losing elections, I want to assure you that’s not true. I desperately want to see this cruel, damaging Tory government turfed out on their ear at the next election – and preferably sooner – it’s just that I believe Jeremy Corbyn, and his clear brand of democratic socialism, offers us our best hope of winning. If we don’t win under him, we are not going to win under anyone.
There’s a caveat to that statement. Jeremy Corbyn offers us our best hope for 2020 if the PLP start attacking the Tories rather than the leadership. If they plan to undermine him indefinitely then it will never be clear to what extent that effected any election outcomes.

So to go back to the fireplace metaphor; we can’t judge Jeremy, or the effect he’s having on Labours electoral chances, until the dust thrown up from his leadership win, settles, and that will take as long as it takes. After all, Neil Kinnock led the party for two terms in opposition. The party cut him some slack because it was undergoing a major change of direction, and that’s exactly what’s happening now, except this time the party is steering left not right. If the PLP stop trying to grab the wheel off Jeremy, they just might be pleasantly surprised by where they end up.

So fellow Corbyn supporters out there; whenever you’re feeling drained and despondent, and wondering if this chaos will ever come to an end please remember my fireplace.
It may be slightly crooked, but when there’s a big roaring fire in it you’d never notice, honest. It really is everything I wanted it to be.
The chaos was worth it.

I even chuckle to myself whenever I remember tearing that first piece of wallpaper off the wall.

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Corbyn’s Britain Will Be An Entrepreneurial Britain

Written By Paul Leatham

This may surprise you to think of it like this, but I would argue that the idea of a national education service, as put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, is actually a pro business proposition – as in the old adage, you speculate to accumulate.

In 1945 we made another huge speculative investment, when despite huge national debt, we created a free at the point of use health service. Ever since then our national health service has been a huge engine of growth and productivity for our country. People who are healthier and less financially stressed, are more productive and live longer. Knowing there is a safety net of healthcare for them, people are freer to be entrepreneurial and take risks. They know if their health goes wrong, they will be taken care of. They don’t need to keep savings aside for healthcare provision, so they can plough it into their business.

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Getting back onto Jeremy Corbyn’s idea for a national education service, this really inspired me. The opportunity for people to become more skilled, qualified and educated without fears of debt could truly revolutionise our perceptions of how and when we are educated. Lifelong learning would become the norm. As a result our economy would expand and grow. I believe that the initial costs would be dwarfed by the eventual increases in national income generated by a population who are introduced to educational opportunities never imagined before.

There is a crime in our country. A resource that is neglected, and that is its people. There are so many, with so many talents, that never get liberated. There are many Einsteins and Steve Jobs out there who have been lost due to our restrictive education system, which expects people’s potential to be discovered no later than age 20, at which point you are written off.

If we take another strand of Jeremy’s thinking and find the money to invest in free university education, rather than cutting corporation tax, there is a strong probability the financial returns would be far greater from the former than from the latter. The indebtedness as a result of student loans, has a huge psychological impact on young people, which hits people from a poorer background harder. Starting life after education, with a debt of tens of thousands of pounds, dampens down entrepreneurial instincts. You are less likely to take a leap of faith with a lead weight tied to your back. And that’s what a heavy debt feels like to a young person. When a graduate weighs up the options between setting up their own high tech business using their technology or engineering degree, or the safer option of a secure job in the city in a bank, they are going to choose the latter over the former. We are going to squash down the creative energy of our brightest minds, and the whole of society will be the poorer for it.

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The irony with the 1945 Atlee government and the proposals put forward during the Jeremy Corbyn campaign, is they are portrayed as anti business, when in fact the opposite is true. The welfare state, the NHS and the potential new education service, all provide the freedom and opportunity for people to take the risks necessary for a successful and growing economy. So while there may be some truth to the governments claim that student numbers are still high amongst poorer students, despite the increase in fees, it is the stifling effect on their entrepeneurial instincts later down the line which is being ignored.

The left need to promote how our policies liberate the individuals potential for creative entrepeneurial fulfillment, and loudly and proudly state how this will make us a wealthier nation.

Indeed, speculate to accumulate. A message of hope, not despair.

It’s the left that believes in our people, not the Tories.

 

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Is Jeremy Corbyn’s Win A Sign We’re Breaking Through The ‘Class’ Ceiling?

Last week an ex journalist friend suggested I send some of my favourite blog posts to the editor of the Guardian comments section. “They really are that good,” he said enthusiastically.
I said thanks of course, and assured him I would, but I haven’t, despite some prods and pokes from my husband and adult children. It doesn’t matter how much others believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

I may not have sent off my blog posts, but I have at least wallowed in a bit of self reflection to determine why I haven’t followed my friends advice. Yes, there’s the simple truth I don’t think they are good enough, but it’s why I think that way that is the most revealing. Before I share the answer let me tell you something about myself…

My mum worked as a hospital cleaner for most of my childhood, and my dad as a meter reader for the electricity board. Our home – ‘our’ being my parents, older sister and I – was a terraced two bedroomed council house. My republican mum voted Labour, my royalist dad voted liberal. My mum – whose parents voted liberal and Tory – became a Labour voter after reading the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist. It was my mum who instilled in me an awareness of politics, and a certain degree of pride in my working class heritage. “No ones better than anyone else!” she used to say defiantly. “We all play an important role in society.”

I did ok at school, but I wasn’t driven to achieve, partly because I had no idea what I wanted to do. My parents never pressured me in any way. They didn’t discuss my O’levels, and I would say there was an opposite of an expectation on me to do A’levels or go to Uni. I got 6 mediocre O’levels, but I was surprised and pleased I passed that many. When I asked the head of sixth form if I could switch from the secretarial course I’d signed up for, to take some A’level subjects, she scoffed. “You didn’t study at all Michelle. What makes you think you’d study for A’levels?” Duly chastened I did my secretarial course, left school and got a job as a secretary. I lasted 3 months, and never worked in admin again. I later worked as a cleaner, an auxiliary nurse, a support worker, a welfare assistant in a state nursery, and now I’m a holistic therapist.

Why am I telling you all this? Because it all ties into why I don’t think I’m good enough to write for the Guardian. Despite the fact I tell myself I’m as good as anyone else, deep down I don’t believe it. People who write for the guardian are not daughters of cleaners and meter readers who only got a c grade at English, and never went on to take A levels, let alone a degree. Their parents read the classics and listened to Brahms. They are cleverer than me and actually understand the rules of grammar. Or at least this is what I tell myself. If they read my work in the Guardian they’d think the editor had had some kind of a breakdown. Why else would he let something so simple and unpolished slip through the net? Deep down I see them as my betters.

What a shocking and uncomfortable revelation this was. But it’s a revelation that really got me thinking. Do other  working class people feel like this? Is there an inherent feeling of inferiority running through my class, in the same way a feeling of superiority runs through the upper classes; that’s if the Tories are anything to go by?

Is it any coincidence that at a time when working class pride was at its strongest, in 1945, when working class soldiers where being hailed as heroes, a radical Labour government swept to power on a landslide? In light of my recent revelations, I don’t think so. And is it this subconscious feeling of inferiority that leads our class to bow to the ‘wisdom’ of the newspapers we read when it comes to deciding how to vote? After all they are written by ‘clever’ people. And is it this sense of inferiority that was exploited so effectively by Thatcher with her right to buy scheme and her focus on rising above your class not with it? I suspect so. If deep down, some of us feel slightly inferior, we are more likely to strive to shed ourselves of whatever it is that makes us feel that way. This lies at the heart of the Tories divide and rule strategy. If they can whip up a frenzy of anger toward immigrants, skivers, or single mums – often using their friends in the media as the whip – they tap into a feeling of inferiority which makes it easier to divide us as a class. Even New Labour played a role in shaming the working class when John Prescott announced ‘we are all middle class now;’ as if it was the most natural and understandable thing in the world to want to jettison ourselves of our working class identity.

So what is the antidote to this feeling of inferiority, if it does indeed exist? Pride; that’s one antidote. If we take pride in the achievements of the working class, we are less likely to feel inferior. History lessons should therefore focus as much on the birth of the Labour movement, as they do on the kings and queens of England.

Camaraderie is another key piece of the puzzle. Over the past several decades, our society has become more and more atomised. Gone are the manufacturing industries that not only provided work for entire communities, but gelled those communities together, both socially and emotionally. Non unionised call centres have taken their place, where people are watched every second and timed when they go to the loo. How can working people bond in an environment like that?
So the trade union movement needs to extend its reach as much as possible into the private sector; an agenda I believe they are working on, and having some success with.

The Establishment are well aware of how important a role working class pride has in politics, and it’s not in their favour. That’s why they are so disturbed by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.
Research conducted during the Labour leadership, exposed the demographic fault lines running between each candidate’s supporters. The study concluded that Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters were more likely to be working class than the people supporting the other three candidates. In contrast Liz Kendall’s supporters were the most well heeled. That fact alone gives me hope things are changing.

But my hope is the establishment’s fear. Despite all the levers at their disposal to try to steer the leadership onto the track they wanted it to run along, we pulled against them even harder. There was no changing our mind. And that explains the hysteria to which Jeremy’s win has been greeted; a hysteria that exposes a deep seated fear amongst the establishment that they are losing their grip. Social media played a huge role in Jeremy’s successful campaign, at a time when right wing newspaper readership is on the decline.

And democracy played another major role. With the introduction of the one member one vote rule, this was the most most democratic leadership election in British history. The outcome? We voted in a leader the establishment despise. Could this be a sign it’s time to campaign for PR?

Jeremy Corbyn has become a beacon of hope the working class can rally around. The term comrade has been dusted off by his supporters. The word socialist has been taken out of the closet and is again being said with unadulterated pride. No wonder the establishment are running scared.

Maybe I will send off a few pieces to the Guardian comments editor.

Maybe they will spilt their sides laughing, but at least I’ll know I didn’t reject myself.

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It’s Time To Stop Babying The Bitterites

When I first started writing this post, I used ‘Blairites’ in the title. I didn’t change it because Blairite is an insult. I’ve even consulted with MP Mike Gapes on this in the past and he assured me it isn’t. I changed it because as soon as you call someone a Blairite they accuse you of making assumptions. Mike Gapes for instance, refers to himself as a Kinnockite. Other MPs prefer to think of themselves as Brownites, or ‘moderates’ or ‘modernisers,’ and so it goes on. Besides, not all Blairites are seeking to wreak havoc on the party. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader some have just put their heads down and got on with it. The cynic in me says they are waiting quietly in the wings whilst their less restrained colleagues bring the party to its knees, and then they’ll make their move, reputations intact, but right now I’ll settle for them staying in the shadows.

In the end I decided upon Bitterites, because if there is one thing this particular group of MPs have in common it’s bitterness over the direction the members have steered the party in; a bitterness they love to leak into the ever eager receptacle that is our main stream media.

And now its time for me to make a confession. When it comes to babying the Bitterites I’ve been one of the worse offenders; an epiphany that came to me at four in the morning when I was abruptly woken by an inexplicable one sided head pain; a nagging pain that brought to mind certain MPs. I can already hear the howls of disbelief as the Bitterites read this. ‘We haven’t been babied!’ They’ll cry. ‘If anything we’ve been trolled mercilessly.’ And it’s true that some of these MPs have been subject to online abuse, and I condemn anyone who has engaged in it. Not only is it out and out wrong, it is often used by the targeted MP to tar all Corbyn supporters with the same brush; weakening our case whilst strengthening theirs.

So when I say babied what do I mean? Let me give you an example. A few months ago I started a petition calling on Sky News to apologise for referring  to Jeremy as ‘Jihadi Jez’ in one of their headlines, and to remove the article. According to the article, the nickname was leaked to the reporter by (bitterite) Labour MPs. But instead of turning my fire on the MP’s (and I never doubted they existed), I turned my fire on Sky News. If I’d called for an investigation into the offending MP’s identities it would have most likely proved fruitless – whereas at least Sky News took the article down – but that’s beside the point. By focusing my rage and disgust on Sky, I let these MPs off the hook. At the very least, a 56,000 strong petition calling on these MPs to be named and shamed, would have shone a whopping great spotlight on their disgraceful and disloyal behaviour.

Now I come to a more recent example – the Stephen Doughty on air resignation. While Doughty has no doubt received a fair amount of flack for the timing of his resignation – which was calculated to inflict maximum damage on Jeremy Corbyn and the party he is paid to represent – he’s not received as much flack as he deserves. That’s not me advocating online trolling. That’s me saying we should be calling for Doughty to step down as an MP. Yes, Laura Keunssberg and Andrew Neil behaved abysmally and unprofessionally, and we should complain in the strongest terms, but they are not Labour MPs – Stephen is.

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I’ve read Stephens protestations on Twitter; something to the effect of, ‘It’s ridiculous to suggest the BBC coerced me to resign. I’d already reached the decision to resign.’

No one is saying they did Stephen. You made the decision alone; and you decided to resign live on air, just prior to PMQs, handing David Cameron; the prime minister who is presiding over one of the cruelest, most regressive governments in modern history, a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with. Let me say this in the least abusive way I can. Your actions disgust me. I can’t even look at a photo of you without trembling with rage. And the same goes for your fellow bitterites, so clearly and obviously trying to set the timer for Labour to self destruct.

And you know something. That’s how I should be feeling. There are people suffering, even dying, because of this government, yet you chose to help them humiliate your leader. You are not a Labour man. You should not be an MP, and I urge anyone who feels the same to email the parliamentary commissioner for standards to complain about your conduct.

mailto:standardscommissioner@parliament.uk

So now you know what I mean when I say we need to stop babying the Bitterites.

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Am I A Pat McFadden Sympathiser?

Obviously by framing Jeremy Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, McFadden was hoping to inflict serious harm on his leadership. The bit I struggle to understand, is how he thought he could take such a cheap shot at his leader and still keep his job.

 

When I was growing up my mum often had a disturbing looking book about serial killers in her hand. “They fascinate me,” she used to say when I asked her why she read them. It wasn’t just their unspeakably horrific crimes that fascinated her. She was also interested in their childhoods. I’d frequently hear her say things like, “His mother used to put cigarettes out on him and then ignore him for weeks on end. His father used to rape the mother in front of him. His uncle sexually molested him for years. No wonder he turned out the way he did.” Did this way of thinking make my mum a serial killer sympathiser? Some people might think so. They might argue – not unreasonably – that far more child abuse victims live productive law abiding lives, than go on to become serial killers. However, I would argue that my mum was simply recognising how complex and individual human beings are. What will break one person, might make another person stronger.

When my daughter was sixteen she started dating a seventeen year old from Palestine. He’d been sent over to live in the uk at the age of twelve after he lost both his parents, and his younger sister – his only sibling – to an Israeli bomb. When my daughter met him, he lived alone in a one bedroom flat provided by the council, having been let go by his foster family the year before; and when I say let go I mean really let go. Eager to maintain ties to his foster family, he took cards and gifts to his ex foster parents on their respective birthdays, but when his 18th birthday came around it went unacknowledged. Their work was done.

If this untethered, rejected, and desperately sad young man, had later gone on to become radicalised, and even committed a terrorist atrocity, part of me wouldn’t have been surprised. To my way of thinking, such immense trauma and loss at such a young age, made him fertile ground into which to sow seeds of hate. Or maybe it would be fairer to say germinate seeds already there, because who of us wouldn’t feel rage and hatred toward those who’d killed, or aided in the killing, of our entire family?

Would my lack of surprise make me a terrorist sympathiser? I don’t think so. I would still have roundly condemned him for any atrocity he’d committed against innocent people, and fervently wished he’d chosen another way of dealing with his anger. But no doubt Pat McFadden would say I was. And if I’d been leader of the Labour Party who’d openly expressed my lack of surprise, Pat would probably out me as such in the commons. ‘May I ask the prime minister to reject the view that sees terrorist acts as always being a response or a reaction to what we in the West do?’ he’d say glancing pointedly my way. ‘Does he agree that such an approach risks infantilising the terrorists and treating them like children, when the truth is that they are adults who are entirely responsible for what they do? No one forces them to kill innocent people in Paris or Beirut. Unless we are clear about that, we will fail even to understand the threat we face, let alone confront it and ultimately overcome it.’

How can I be so sure this would be Pat Mcfadden’s response? Because that was the statement he chose to make to the commons after ‘Stop the War’ posted a now deleted blog with the title, “Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East.” McFadden made this statement in a bid to embarrass Jeremy; making hay, not just from Jeremy’s close ties to ‘Stop the War,’ but also from Jeremy’s openly expressed view that a series of disastrous western military interventions have prepared the ground for extremism to take root. Indeed, considering that both Blair and Obama have now admitted as much themselves, this view can hardly be considered radical, or as a sign of terrorist sympathy.

But according to McFadden, when Jeremy Corbyn explores the links between western foreign policy and terrorism, he deserves a public shaming. The fact Jeremy has repeatedly condemned all acts of violence, whoever perpetrates them, must be swept under the proverbial rug. To avoid a Pat McFadden shaming, Jeremy would have had to make an unequivocal statement saying that terrorism just springs up out of nowhere; and that no amount of bombing by the west of thousands of innocent people; or western sanctions that have left millions in dire poverty; or blind eyes cast by the west to contraventions of UN resolutions when it comes to their allies; can ever cause an increase in terrorism! The last line of the statement could be, ‘It’s not as if we put the bombs and guns in the jihadists hands….they just took them from the groups we’d chosen to arm.”

Except such a statement would have exposed Jeremy Corbyn to have the thinking capacity of an amoeba. While this might make him popular with the Sun – and Pat Mcfadden – it would make him a huge disappointment to those of us who want a thoughtful, honest, and intelligent leader; one who’s prepared to speak the truth, even when it can be twisted by his enemies.

Obviously by framing Jeremy Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, McFadden was hoping to inflict serious harm on his leadership. The bit I struggle to understand is how he thought he could take such a cheap shot at his leader and still keep his job.

Maybe to answer that I’ll need to delve into his childhood? Or would that make me a Pat McFadden sympathiser?

 

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Open Letter To Jess Phillips

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You accuse Jeremy Corbyn of engaging in non violent misogyny, despite his having appointed more women than men to the shadow cabinet. Why? Because there are no women in the ‘top jobs’.

Now I am a proud feminist, so why aren’t I cheering you on as you make these remarks?
I suspect you will say it’s because I’m a Corbyn supporter. I however, will say it’s because I don’t understand your point. Firstly, who has decided these are top jobs? Could it possibly be men? Maybe you can explain what makes the role of foreign secretary more important than education secretary? Isn’t the MP who fights for a decent education for all our children on a par with the MP who argues for or against airstrikes? Or are matters of war and peace considered more macho and therefore more important? The same goes for Health versus Home Secretary. Why is the MP who fights for greater security at home more important than the MP who fights for our precious NHS?
There is another reason your remarks rankle with me. I don’t pretend to know the ratio of men to women who voted for Jeremy Corbyn for leader, or Tom Watson for deputy for that matter, but I suspect it’s at least half. These women chose men over women. Were they too engaging in non violent misogyny, or were they focusing on politics and values when they made their choice, rather than genitalia?

Had there been a female version of Jeremy Corbyn standing for leader, I don’t deny, casting my vote might have given me an added thrill, but as it stood there were no female equivalents – or at least none prepared to stand at this time – and therefore it wasn’t an option. Jeremy won my vote because I believed he would be the leader who would fight for a fairer Britain. I believed that women, as well as men and children, would be the beneficiaries of that fairer Britain.

When it came to Jeremy’s appointment of John McDonnell into the post of shadow chancellor, I was thrilled. It was more important to me to have a shadow chancellor who was passionately anti austerity, than to have a female in the role. Does that make me a misogynist?
I would like to add, I voted for Angela Eagle for deputy. Not because she was a woman, but because of her strong trade union links.

While I am a strong believer in removing any barriers that hold women back from reaching their potential, and believe there is a need for all women short lists, I can’t see how it is misogynistic of Jeremy Corbyn to appoint MPs he believes to be best suited to these supposed ‘top jobs,’ especially when several female MPs ruled themselves out of serving in a Corbyn led shadow cabinet; any more than it was misogynistic of hundreds of thousands of women to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Watson or Sadiq Khan, over their female counterparts.

In 1979, millions of women voted for Margaret Thatcher, solely because of her sex. They mistakenly believed a woman would fight for women’s issues. How wrong they were. I consider it a positive that women based their choice for Labour leader and deputy, on who they thought would be the best person for the job. It demonstrates a growing confidence in our place in the world. To then have women, like yourself, shouting misogyny because there are not fifty fifty women in such a narrow choice of jobs, feels like a step back to me. It rings of lack of confidence. It says, if a woman’s not in charge of war and peace or home security, women are not important.

Well Jess, I respectfully disagree. We are extremely important. Far too important to panic over the lack of appointment of women into two roles left available after women voted men into the other two. We do ourselves a disservice to suggest otherwise.

Best regards

Michelle Ryan

 

 

Aping The Tory Agenda Was Always Going To Be A Vote Loser

If someone had told me last May that the general election defeat would be the catalyst for everything that’s happened since, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

Like many others, I thought the left was a dwindling force within the Labour Party. I bet Jeremy Corbyn did too — especially if you think of the Parliamentary Labour Party as the party.

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When the red-faced polling companies conducted a post-mortem on the reasons their polling predictions were so awry, I was not the least bit surprised when they said it was due to “lazy Labour voters” rather than “shy Tories” — except I’d replace the word “lazy” with uninspired, confused, or disheartened.

While Labour under Ed Miliband finally started to talk about growing inequality, the party doubled back on itself by signing up to the ideologically driven and economically illiterate austerity agenda so beloved by the Tories — albeit a slightly less nasty version.

Someone hit the nail on the head in a tweet that stayed with me to this day.

“Why vote for the echo when you can vote for the shout?” — if people want a party that talks tough on immigration, they’ll vote Ukip. If they want a party that bangs on about strivers and skivers they’ll vote Tory. The gap in the electoral market was for a viable centre-left party that stands up for the vast bulk of ordinary people, and Labour didn’t seem to realise it.

The Blairite wing of the party certainly didn’t realise it.

“We didn’t say enough to the John Lewis shoppers,” was their hasty analysis.

“What decade are they living in?” I thought when I heard them spout on about aspiration for the hundredth time. Don’t they realise most young people, like my 26-year-old son, are up to their eyes in uni debt, in insecure work, on low pay and can barely aspire to rent nowadays, let alone buy their own home?

And don’t they understand how those of us who are old and lucky enough to afford to buy our own home, and perhaps shop in John Lewis, want the same for our kids?

Yet even the lucky ones have had their pay frozen and their pensions cut to pay for a banking crisis they didn’t cause, while they struggle to care for elderly and disabled loved ones who would otherwise fall through the gaps in a social care system coming apart at the seams? What planet were these MPs living on?

The MPs who stood for the leadership all sang from this same aspirational hymn sheet.

Only Andy Burnham seemed to offer anything different. But then he snuffed out the barely flickering flame of my support when he said: “The mansions tax is the politics of envy.” He too had joined the “aspirational” bandwagon.

Shortly after this I read an open letter on LabourList, signed by 10 newly elected labour MPs, calling for an anti-austerity leadership candidate to stand.

That’s it, I thought excitedly — ordinary Labour members and supporters also need to write an open letter calling for an anti-austerity candidate to stand.

When I shared the idea on a Labour-supporting Facebook group, one of its fellow members, Beck Barnes, immediately volunteered to write it.

We sent it to Naomi Fearon from Red Labour, who converted it into a petition on our behalf.

From that point on, Naomi, Beck and I — three women who had never met — were like the three musketeers, spending every spare moment sharing the petition on Twitter and Facebook.

The response it received was heartening. Jeremy signed it. John McDonnell signed it. And thousands of ordinary Labour members and supporters signed it. But as each day passed we started to lose heart.

“No-one’s going to stand, are they?” was the despondent message I sent to Jeremy’s friend and fellow MP Clive Lewis. “Don’t give up hope,” came his intriguing reply.

A few days later the news broke — he had thrown his hat in the ring. My fellow campaigners and I were ecstatic.

All our hard work had paid off. But that was only the start. Then came the campaign to get Jeremy on the ballot, followed by the leadership campaign itself.

I’d imagine most of us will forever remember where we were and how we reacted when you won.

I was at home with my husband, three children, my little granddaughter and my son’s best friend.

I was sitting between my eldest daughter and husband on the sofa, holding their hands tightly in mine, eyes squeezed shut, hunched over with anxiety, waiting for the result.

By the time Yvette Cooper’s and Andy Burnham’s vote tally had been announced, my husband was telling me Jeremy had won.

Still I waited to hear it with my own ears before letting out an excited scream and then promptly bursting into tears of relief and joy. Not only had Jeremy won, he won a landslide in all categories.

Since that ecstatic day it hasn’t been easy. The anonymous briefings and sniping from some members of the PLP have filled me with anger, frustration and despair in equal measure, so I can’t imagine how it affects Jeremy himself.

Then there are the daily attacks from the media, which make the daily assaults on the much maligned Ed Miliband look like compliments in comparison.

Has any of this given me pause for thought? Any regrets over starting a petition calling for an anti-austerity candidate to stand? On the contrary. Three major U-turns on tax credits, police cuts and the Saudi prison contract would not have happened had any other candidate won.

Jeremy has saved thousands of lower-income families from untold hardship. He has made us all safer and more secure on our streets. And he’s managed all this while in opposition. Imagine what he’ll achieve when he becomes prime minister.

So thank you, Jeremy. Thank you for letting yourself be persuaded to stand. You have given us the best Christmas gift of all. Hope.

by Michelle (Chelley) Ryan

Originally published in The Morning Star on 24/12/2015