Sunday, 24 May 2015
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?
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.
Saturday, 2 May 2015
In 5 days time, I will be going out and voting Labour in the general election. It'll be the 2nd time I have ever voted Labour (The 1st was the Euro and locals last year.) Today, I'd like to share my journey with you and how I decided to get into politics.
I was born, and have lived, in the same working class council estate all my life. My mum and dad have bought the house we live in via a mortgage, and it's a fairly comfortable place to live. But it wasn't always like this. I remember when I was a little boy and we lived in a cramped, smelly, cheap and smaller flat. My dad had come to this country during the Thatcher era, and my mum came from a poor family as well. In the early days, it was a struggle for them. My dad found insecure work that never lasted, ranging from being a painter to a waiter and then eventually finding more secure work as a taxi driver, so we could move out of that house. But it wasn't always the way it is now.
Then along came the Tony Blair government. It changed my parents' lives (And my own) overnight. Suddenly, we had tax credits to give us a leg up when things didn't go right. Suddenly, the NHS was back on its feet, schools were functioning again, the economy was moving and my dad's wages started to increase. Which is why I often refrain from outrightly condemning everything New Labour did (Though I was and always will be a firm critic of Iraq, and I am very critical of the Blair government on many issues). But this enabled me to grow up with opportunities that I fear are being taken away from this generation of people who are my ages.
That is what made this working class kid from a minority background get involved in politics. The one decision that probably tipped me over the edge was the decision by my local Tory council to close the AandE at my local hospital (Trafford General) endangering the lives of many of the residents. If they were willing to cut AandE and put lives at risk, what else might they be willing to do? In a way, I'd like to thank the Conservative party for radicalising me. Imagine the kind of fury and anger required to turn an apathetic idiot into a politico/geek. I didn't come into politics because of some ideological attachment to the left or right, though I do consider myself to be ideologically on the left. I only read "The communist manifesto" by Marx for the first time 2 years ago (And to be honest, I'm not a massive fan!) I didn't come into politics because I want a career in it, heck, I don't think I could ever could, nor would I want to, become an MP. I'd much rather concentrate on writing and trying to influence people's opinions that way. The reason I am in politics is because I want to play my part in making people's lives better. So no one has to struggle ever again in the way we had to in the early days. On May 7th, as the country goes to vote, I believe Labour is the only party which can do it.