Friday, 22 January 2016

Why the anti EU far left are wrong

There's one eurosceptic argument which completely annoys me. You can make the arguments about sovereignty, from an English nationalist perspective, or immigration. That's fine. 

Those arguments are ones that I have disagreements with, but they are perfectly valid and deserve respect.

But the argument that we should leave the EU because of TTIP is complete and absolute nonsense. Let me tell you why.

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the EU-US trade deal, commonly known as TTIP. The trade deal itself is designed to find a middle way meeting point between U.S and European regulation levels and standardise regulations across both sides of the atlantic, which would lead to more jobs being created, cheap U.S produced goods flosing into E.U markets and stimulate economic growth.
The biggest controversy is around one particular clause thought to be included in TTIP, called ISDS. This clause acts as a guarantee of investment protection for private corporations and allows them to sue a government if a court determines that a government acted in a way that prevented said corporation from making a profit.
Rightfully, there has been a lot of outrage over this particular clause, particularly on the left wing of British politics. However, a closer look at the situation shows that things are not quite as they seem to be.

Firstly, we don't even know if ISDS is going to be in the deal. The thing with trade deals that are negotiated behind closed doors is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Secondly, the clause is likely to be dropped due to opposition from the PES (Party of European Socialists) and many elements of the European public. Thirdly, there are treaties already on the statute books that have ISDS included (A prime example is the energy charter deal which the UK is a signatory to). There are rules and regulations enshrined in EU law that have prevented dubious lawsuits being brought against governments, lawsuits similar to that brought against the Australian government over plain cigarette packaging (Which the government won). Why have we suddenly started caring about it now?

Probably the most important point to be made from this is that there is no "Stop the world, I want to get off" option. Nearly every developed nation outside Europe has signed a treaty called the TPP, which is far worse than TTIP and includes provisions for privatisation of public services (Unlike TTIP). If we leave the EU, without the protection of EU law (Because we are stronger facing globalised capitalism together rather alone) we would quickly succumb to the pressures of world capitalism and globalisation.

Monday, 4 January 2016

The art of Clegg Baiting

Clegg (Pictured above) is an unpopular figure

Recently, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across an ad by the self styled "Vote leave" anti EU campaign. Seeing the ad in itself was not something that was unusual, but once I actually stopped to take a look at it, I found something very interesting.

The image above shows the ad from "Vote Leave" it pictures Clegg holding up the infamous pledge he made to vote against tuition fees, with a caption by the Vote Leave campaign implying that we should vote to leave the EU because Nick Clegg voted in favour of tuition fees,

This is not the only instance of the new phenomenon that I like to call "Clegg Baiting".  There are numerous instances of various organisations using Nick Clegg as the ultimate image of dishonesty. Nick Clegg is used by political organisations whenever they want to discourage members or supporters from doing something. It seems to have become an art form....

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Osborne: A slick snake oil salesman

Credit to the Telegraph
Sometimes, you just have to admire George Osborne. Not for his ruthlessly pursuing an ideological shrinking of the state. Or his push for welfare reform. What is to be admired about Osborne is his political nous.

Yesterday was yet another example. The Telegraph claimed that the autumn budget was the "End of austerity" and one of its online articles compared Osborne to Blair. The Daily Mail claimed Osborne was increasing spending. The Financial Times said that Osborne was moving towards "The center."
Yet, this is a chancellor that has just proposed to cut government spending by 50% over 5 years. He is slashing local government into irrelevance and winding up the department of business. His shrinking of the state is ideological and has been derided by various economists. Despite all of this, there is not one mention of this in the newspapers.

This isn't necessarily because the press is predominantly supportive of the Conservatives-They are, but they have highlighted cuts made by the chancellor in the past, such as during the omnishambles budget in 2012 when the press were incredibly hostile to the budget. The real reason is the genius of George Osborne.

Osborne is very good at media presentation. This is why he is such a massive asset to the Tory Party in the same way as Blair was for many years for Labour. Yesterday, Osborne announced some sweeteners alongside the cuts that got the press raving, for example cheaper deposits for people who want to buy their own homes, or an announcement that the government would now start to provide postgraduate loans. These announcements were accompanied by brutal cuts, but the press focused on the former rather than the latter, as naturally that is what their readers want to hear, and what will sell the papers.

Yet, looking at the policies themselves, they don't seem particularly noteworthy. The housing policy itself only builds on another policy that was introduced in 2014, and so far that does not seem to be leading to better results when it comes to home ownership and housing prices. The postgraduate announcement was first made in 2011 and then was not implemented. Yet again, Osborne shows his genius through the clever use of spin that seems to have brought a focus on policies that are actually not particularly radical.

The Labour Party, meanwhile, had a P.R disaster when shadow chancellor John Mcdonnell quoted Mao Zedong, a dictator who was responsible for the deaths of 40-70 million people. The joke that he made was sound in itself, but it was just the fact that he gave the newspapers and press ammunition to avoid the uncomfortable subject of cuts and focus on Mcdonnell and his supposed Mao apologism.

Chairman John?
Unless Labour vastly improve their media presentation skills, they risk being swept away. It now seems inevitable that George Osborne will be the next leader of the Conservative Party, and, as we saw during the last parliament with the so-called "Edstone" that was widely mocked, and Miliband failing to eat a bacon sandwhich, how you act and present yourself in public has a massive effect on how the electorate views you and deems your party to be suitable for elected office. Labour must learn the Osbornian way fast, otherwise it risks repeating the mistakes of the 2010-2015 parliament.

Monday, 12 October 2015

"We've got to move on!" Thoughts on the future.

By 2020, it will have been 23 years since the 1997 Labour landslide.
There are a few things from #Lab15 that struck me as being interesting, particularly in the light of the future direction of the Labour Party. I shall discuss them here as well as my broader thoughts on the future of moderates within the party.

On the penultimate night of Labour conference, which was the Labour List karaoke night, me and a few friends went to the karaoke. We all had some good fun. I then played a cruel prank on a friend which meant that he had to sing "Things can only get better" (The song is strongly associated with Tony Blair and New Labour within the Labour Party, and activists naturally chant "Tony, Tony"). When the chanting started there was a significant amount of booing and jeering, with half the room instead choosing to chant "Jez we can!". On the last night of conference we had the NOLS disco. The same thing happened, except this time even some of the senior blairite MPs who were at the disco refused to chant "Tony!". Steven Twigg MP, someone who I have known for a while and a key figure of the Blair-Brown era, turned around to me and said "We've got to move on!". 

Though Steven did later on turn around and join in with the singing and dancing, this peculiar moment had a profound impact on me.

 It is clear from the result of the leadership election that New Labour is dead. The election of Jeremy Corbyn with 60% of the vote is the most severe rout of moderates in the history of the party. It is also clear that a profound, and probably nearly permanent realignment is happening within the party. The "Left" now includes only people who subscribe to the full hard line left wing doctrines of comrade Corbyn, Mccdonnell, and the campaign group. This group form only a small minority of the PLP but have mass support among ordinary constituency activists. Then you have the "Right", which includes people who would generally have been considered to have been on the left wing of the party 10 years ago, such as the Brownites, lumped together with blairites, some of the less left wing elements of the soft left and the "Old right" of the party. It is also clear, that with this sharp realignment within the party, that no "New Labour continuity" candidate will be able to win a leadership election for the foreseeable future, because the most blairite of the candidates managed only 4.5% of the vote in this leadership election, and the new, young, idealistic and generally left wing members are still going to be there in 5 years time. 

Regardless, a revival of unreconstructed New Labour ideology is undesirable as well as impractical. By 2020, it will have been 23 years since "Things can only get better" played on that famous `97 election night. Calling yourself a blairite by then would be like calling yourself a Gaitskellite in the Foot era, or a Kinnockite in the Blair-Brown era, or a Bennite today. Ideologies evolve and societies evolve. If they do not, then they decay and fail. The same will go for the revisionist tradition of social democracy.

This is what we now have to look to build. Together. We must look forward, not backwards. There is room for a social democracy that is inclusive, supportive of business and the middle classes as well as the traditional Labour vote, and recognizes that to spread the wealth you must also create the wealth. Let us end this feud, between blairites, brownites, social democrats and otherwise, and work together to create a new revisionist tradition fit for the challenges we will face in 2020 and beyond. This is the challenge for the moderates of the Labour Party. And I look forward to playing my full part in this challenge.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister?

Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister?

The far left MP has confounded expectations so far
The far left MP has confounded expectations so far

This post was originally published on the Graduates of Democracy blog. You can read the original post here.

It feels like an exciting time to be involved in the British Labour Party. We are seeing something that none of the old parties of social democracy have experienced in recent times: A left wing revolt from the inside. In Britain, the radical left has taken over the party while other European countries saw the emergence of new radical leftwing parties, like SYRIZA in Greece and PODEMOS in Spain. Jeremy Corbyn, an MP from the hard left of the party who was not expected to win when he stood for the leadership, is now leader of the Labour Party.
I have been to many European countries over the summer on political endeavours. Everywhere where I went I was asked about Jeremy Corbyn. There seems to be a great deal of excitement over his election all across Europe. The leader of the PES, Sergei Stanishev, has already said that he supports the anti-austerity politics of Corbyn, and the PES, led by British Labour MEP’s, has distinctly taken a left turn with its recent proposals to ban zero hours contracts across Europe.
However, many pollsters and media experts in the UK believe that Corbyn is destined to fail. Opinion polls so far have not shown any real improvement in Labour’s fortunes, although this can take time. There are concerns over his ability to win over Tory voters and if he can win back Scotland. It is clear that the party is taking a massive gamble with Corbyn. So, why did he win in the first place if he was the least safe option?
The answer lies in Scotland. The Scottish National Party (SNP) and its anti-austerity rhetoric, as well as its pretences to be a far left party and the subsequent thrashing of Labour in Scotland at the general election where Labour were reduced from 41 to 1 seat, hurt party activists very deeply. It was in Scotland where Labour’s beloved first leader, Keir Hardie, first built the party up. Labour had dominated Scotland for over a century and the pain of losing it cannot be underestimated. Labour activists believed that a more firmly anti austerity message than what was promoted by Ed Miliband, the previous leader, would help to win back left wing voters who defected to Nicola Sturgeon and her nationalists. The other 3 candidates, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Liz Kendall, all promised a platform that was to the right of Miliband, talked about the need to cut as well as spend and said the party needed to win over “Aspirational” voters and cut the top rate of tax. After a bruising election defeat, this was not what the party wanted to hear, and many “Soft left” social democrats ended up going for Corbyn because they felt there was nowhere else for them to go.
For now, the Corbynomics experiment will go on. His first major test will be crucial midterm elections next year, on a local level in which I am standing as a candidate, the mayoral election in London and parliamentary elections in London, Wales, and Scotland. These elections will be the first tests as to whether or not Corbyn can win a UK wide general election. For now, I remain very sceptical. Even if Corbyn does somehow manage to win most votes, he will not be able to win the most seats due to how the British electoral system works.   In 2015, the Conservative Party of PM David Cameron would still have won a majority if Labour had all of our Scottish seats. Also winning over Green votes (The only other significant left party in England) is not going to be enough to beat the Tories in most seats.
It is clear, however, that politics in the UK and Europe will not be the same for some time. Anti austerity politics are now going to be mainstream. The only question is if it will win elections.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A message to the anti-EU far-left: No one cares that the EU is a capitalist organisation

The big political news today is that Harriet Harman has said that the Labour Party will support a referendum on the EU, making an EU referendum in the next 2 years certain.

Over the next two years, we'll hear a lot on the news from the Out campaign, no doubt led by Nigel Farage and containing such charming supporters such as the BNP and National Front, about how the EU is an institution that promoted mass immigration, leading to evil Romanians "Taking our jobs".

However, there is another kind of Euroscepticism, primarily coming from the far-left. This Euroscepticism denounces the EU as a capitalist institution that somehow "Prevents" socialism from occurring and leads to-you guessed it- evil disgusting foreigners ruling over us.

How dare they? Why should a supranational organisation based on co-operation rather than competition allow evil, non-Brits to rule over this glorious former empire??!?!

I'm going to try and address some of the dubious arguments of the far-left when it comes to Europe. First of all, the belief that Europe is a capitalist institution that "Prevents" socialism. Well, duh. Of course it's capitalist. The UK is a capitalist state. Everything is capitalist. It's not hard to work out. Secondly, this whole idea that the EU "prevents" socialism. They're forgetting about Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, all EU members, and Norway and Iceland which are not part of the EU but have to comply with EU regulations. Definitely ultra-capitalist plutocracies, then.

Plus, I'm sure that nations outside Europe are such socialist paradises. Just look at America, where you have to pay for healthcare, or Australia, or New Zealand, currently ruled by an administration that is considering the privatisation of public buildings. Definitely socialism in our time.

But just look at Greece, I hear them cry. Surely that's proof that the EU is an evil right-wing institution???
In reality, the situation is much more complex. Basically, the European Central Bank (ECB) has been dolling out massive subsidies to the collapsing Greek economy, saving it from total economic collapse. It's the IMF, the international monetary fund, that is demanding problematic "Reforms" and repayments for its loans to Greece. Contrary to popular belief, Herr Merkel the dark lord isn't controlling the IMF, or its actions.

But what about TTIP? Here, the far-left may have a point. Until you consider that numerous trade deals with similar clauses to the infamous clause that supposedly allows corporations to sue public bodies have been included in free trade agreements that have long been in the statute books, signed with nations such as New Zealand and Canada. Once again, this argument falls down like a pack of cards.

Then comes perhaps the most convincing arguments from the loony left. It is that the EU is an undemocratic organisation. On this, they have a serious point. The European Council is unelected. The commission is unelected and has the power to initiate legislation (Though only the proportionally elected parliament can approve it). This is where the pro-EU reform argument can come in.

However, the belief that the EU campaign will be run primarily by people who want to leave the EU because it is undemocratic is absurd. A quick look at some of the parties touted to join the Out campaign gives you an idea of the kind of campaign Out will fight. UKIP. The DUP. The BNP and National Front. These are not parties who are concerned in the slightest about the EU being undemocratic. In fact, they oppose the EU because they see it as a communist institution that allows excessive immigration! I will bet any ultra leftist who challenges this assertion that the main arguments for leaving the EU won't be "Because it's undemocratic". To be frank, ordinary people couldn't give a rats arse about it being undemocratic. Therefore there's no votes in it. The main argument will be "Immigration is too high and Romanians and Bulgarians are coming to steal oue jobs, so let's leave the EU so we can somehow stop immigration and go back to a utopia that never existed in the first place".

In a democracy, during a referendum campaign, it is vital that all views are heard. However, this does not mean dubious views based on misinformation and hearsay should go unchallenged. It is the duty of the mainstream, sensible left to challenge and refute these views.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

So, what next? An analysis of Labour's defeat.

So, what next?

It's been nearly 2 weeks since the dream of nearly every Labour Party comrade across the country was shattered.

How do we recover from this?

First of all, we need to be honest and frank about why we lost.

On May 7th, we asked people to choose between a Tory government that has destroyed the pension system, created a massive housing crisis, privatised the royal mail, driven millions into poverty, cut welfare benefits, and attacked the vulnerable, or the most radically left-wing Labour Party in 2 decades. This was an electorate ravaged by 5 years of austerity cuts, with many people who had hitherto been better off now struggling to pay the bills.

We lost. And lost really badly.

I have been reflecting on this defeat for the last two weeks, examining arguments from right and left and seeing if they stand up to much scrutiny.

The truth is, both the claims from Labour's far-left, that Labour lost because it was too right-wing (They often point to Scotland to try to support this very dubious argument) and from Labour' far-right, who say Labour lost because it wasn't right-wing enough (Listen to Mandelson's attacks on social democratic policies such as the minimum wage as being "Anti-aspiration") are dubious. Both have elements of the truth, but the truth isn't quite as simple as that.

There are many conflicting theories for why Labour lost. Here is my take on why we lost the election.

In Scotland, the reason was obvious. Discontent with Labour has been brewing for a very long time. Labour's period in government only made the situation much worse, as well as the assumption that Scots "Had nowhere else to go", an assumption that was comprehensively destroyed by the social democratic SNP.

Many articles have been written about the hypocricy of the SNP, and how they only recently dropped policies such as cuts to corporation taxes and income taxes for the rich that Alex "Oil baron" Salmond championed for years. However, in politics, reality matters for little. The perception that the SNP were/are more labour than Labour has turned them into an unstoppable force, capable of rallying both their core voters and disenfranchised Labour voters. Labour's alliance with the Tories and big business during the Better Together campaign against Independence only reinforced and strengthened these perceptions. The way back for Scottish Labour is tough. It will require an independent Scottish Labour Party free to set its own policy.

As for Wales, the struggles of the Welsh Labour government, particularly on the state of NHS Wales, need no introduction. Perhaps what happened to Labour in Wales was the least surprising element of election night, because Labour was already suffering from its unpopularity as a party of government in Wales. It's another Scotland waiting to happen.

And, finally, we come to England. Labour's defeat in England was so poor that the Tories would still have won a majority and ended nearly 50 seats ahead of Labour if it had held all of its Scottish seats.

Labour's problem in England is that it had nothing to say to English voters. It had nothing to say to middle class voters, who were terrified of the tax and spend proposals of the party, though the policies weren't actually that left-wing (Though, as I said before, perception is everything). It had nothing to say to the working class voters who had traditionally voted for it, but have now abandoned it for UKIP. It had nothing to say to the Greens who quit the party because of its positions on immigration. And, finally, it had nothing to say on the English question, allowing the Tories to portray themselves as "The party of England", saving England from the horribly anti-English, pro-Scottish Labour and SNP parties.

The party suffered from a terrible lack of a coherent vision. Ed Miliband changed his campaign themes more times than I could count. It was led by a leader who, though he had a lot of conviction, was always disliked by the electorate, who could never, as the Mail put it, "See the millionaire, two kitchen owning, bacon sandwhich eating socialist as a prime minister". If the leader who is supposed to be the public face of your party doesn't represent the party competently, you've got a problem.

Labour's future in England is bleak. Barring a miraculous recovery, I can see no way back for the party in 2020. Labour now needs a swing larger than Tony Blair achieved in '97 to win a majority of one seat. Unless the party can respond to conflicting demands in Scotland, Wales, and across England, its days as a party of government may be numbered.