Friday, 21 October 2016

'I was so much older then,I'm younger than that now '

A short wallow in nostalgia, with all the appropriate cheesy cliches to record the latest Nobel Literature laureate.The fact that Bob Dylan,who  was awarded the prize last week has been the recipient of so much abuse and rancour is good reason to celebrate his award.
Indeed if Bob had been of a nervous disposition, or a shy retiring Labour MP he would have probably reported the critics to the National Executive and sold his story to 'The Sun'
Crowds of mournful critics have bleated out of every orifice that Bob is no poet ot writer and should never be allowed into the world portals of 'literature'
Most prominent amongst the arbiters of literary taste has been the Scots born novelist Irvine Walsh- whose claim to fame is the semi-literate novel 'Trainspotters' or some such tome.
Well,can you remember a single word the numpty has ever written ?
If he is the measurement of modern literature then indeed we've need for the zeitgeist !

I can measure my cultural awakening (classy huh!) to my early encounters with Dylan.The cliche 'soundtrack of my life' is something more than another banality.
I grew up in London in a Scots working class Communist household.The earliest 'soundtrack of my life ' was the curious eclectic discordance of Paul Robeson,the Red Army Choir, Jimmy Shand and his band and because my Mum liked his voice Jim Reeves.
It was ever so ,there is a curious bit of the psyche of all Scots  that they appear to have an unhealthy affection for country and western music.
Now it could of course be the simple affinity between Celtic fiddle music and the tunes and stories that the early settlers took across to the mining communities in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky,a style we romantically describe as 'blue grass'.
Or of course it could just be an attachment to slushy sentimental pap,after all.Consider the stirring airs of Irish popular music and what passes for the same in Scotland.How can you compare 'A Soldiers Song with Andy Stewart singing 'A Scottish Soldier' -FFS! 

But as I grew older whilst still enjoying Paul Robeson I was moving into political activity,and that meant going to YCL socials where everything was sedate and almost genteel-a scratched recording of the Red Army Choir was often on offer or a visit to a smoky back room in a North London pub where bawdy folk songs were wailed by bearded blokes with their fingers stuck in their lugs in the style of Ewan McColl or American union songs in the style of Pete Seeger.
Interesting how smoky back rooms are often depicted as the backdrop to revolutionary conspiracies-we know Uncle Joe liked his pipe-but did old LD Trotsky puff away on a cheroot ?

Of course in my more proletarian incarnations a tacky scout hut on the Holloway Road was a venue where we swirled around like demented hornets singing 'I'm 'enery the eighth I am,'enery the eighth ...' whilst a mediocre four piece played out of tune.
Around the age of fifteen or so I forsook much of my musical heritage when I found Dylan.My Saturday job was in Islington Central Library, a much coveted Saturday number where we were paid handsomely-35/6 a day,a rate for schoolkids that the union Nalgo negotiated for us (in those days unions even protected part time schoolkids and we weren't even members)
The average Saturday wage at the time in grim North London was £1.00 a day so my  £1.75 was a cut above.
I also learned how to carry an armload of books that went over my head and found out the hard way what it was to be bawled at by a head Librarian (to this day I can remember Bob Crumpton's unique command of the English language)
Across the road was a record shop, and with my first 35/6 in a wee brown envelope I went in and invested in my first wholly owned LP of my own choice , and for 15/6 I possessed Dylan's second album 'Freewheelin' Bob Dylan'.
The soundtrack of my generation.
I suspect there are few of my age who are unaware of so much of his repertoire and who cannot forget the inspiration that Bob gave us, through the civil rights fight,the Vietnam war,the fight against apartheid and all the domestic and international struggles we lived through and fought through.
Of course there were others that followed,Phil Ochs,Joan Baez,Tom Paxton  McColl and Seeger and then the generations that followed.
There were other styles and genres that followed and arguably have also changed people's lives.
But like Bob:
"I was so much older then,I'm younger than that now."

Perhaps 70 is the new 25!
And Irving, if you think your a writer......up yours!   
 
    

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Agitate,educate and organise!


When we left beautiful Dubrovnik on Saturday morning we were fairly sure what the result would be from the conference in Liverpool.
we were not disappointed and I suppose we have to thank Owen Smith for confirming what many of us knew, that the Labour Party is no longer a snivelling collection of careerists and policy light clones but is emerging as a Socialist party, indeed now the largest one in all of Europe,and is becoming less and less the 'hollowed out shell' that Jason Cowley described last week in the New Statesman.
That's a bit ironic really given that the NS, along with it whinge-mate Progress  and all those other New Labour types has been the cheerleaders for 'moderate' politics, or to be more precise 'do as little as possible to rock the boat' politics of the last three decades.
However there is still a great deal to do if the Party is to be turned into one that can give leadership and hope to millions who are being crushed on a daily basis by austerity and the laughable pretensions of the so called 'political class'.
There is no such thing as a political class, it is a creation of wishful thinkers who believe if they say it often enough then we will get used to the perpetual rule of an elite.The one that the NS called the 'golden generation'-you will of course remember them, Douglas Alexander,James Purnell, the Miliband Brothers and of course the all dancing Ed Balls.
it is now up to all those thousands of new members to move on from hoping for change to creating change.
But some stable cleaning has to take place.The first and most important is that the witch hunt against members by the Party officials must end.It cannot be right that the thousands of new members subscriptions are being used by officials to trawl facebook and twitter and websites to find something someone once wrote eons ago and rehash it as being evidence of 'bullying' or 'deviation' or somesuch old tosh.
I guess when the thought police come to look at my scribblings over the years there is enough to cast me into the outer darkness several times over.(I forgot they already did that,at my last appeal they found stuff I had written ages ago on this blog-strangely enough it was a comment I made about Dennis Skinner becoming a parliamentary character-I'm glad by the way I got that wrong!)
However if these latter day heresy hunters had been around a few decades ago, well old Nye would have been slung out for calling tories 'vermin' .
So the first thing that happens must be the muzzling of the heresy hounds.
Then the Party needs to understand that endless bleating about unity means nothing other than offering a cover for plotting and scheming to go on with endless pious references to 'taking on the Tories'.
You don't take them on by wagging a petulant digit and then having a pop at JC.Neither does it mean stuffing inane leaflets in letterboxes,asking people what they want or offering to collect their litter or empty their dustbins.
In every area people have issues that confront them daily, some are small irritants, others are major problems,caused either by austerity or lousy Tory administrations.
What is required is for Labour Party branches to get involved in local struggles,to play a leading role, ina word to AGITATE.
There are many good examples, the best and most obvious one in Northampton at the moment is the plans by local Tories and big business to construct a highly dangerous and polluting incinerator in the St  James area.All the sophistry and preachy resolutions about creating business plans or understanding the problems of waste disposal and blah blah will not help the people living in the potential shadow of the monster.
I am delighted to see some Borough Councillors notably Gareth Eales taking a lead in the campaign, but it i9s just the sort of campaign that the Party should be organising townwide-that is real leadership within the community.
Which leads on to the second strand of what the Party needs to do-EDUCATE.
Every campaign that the Party participates in,if not leads should be about explaining in clear terms what is happening and why.Far too often, Councillors and indeed MP's get caught up in the management speak so beloved by bureaucrats at every level.If you want to know why people are turned off by politicians, can I suggest to those who are the public face of the Labour Party listen to themselves sometime, instead of preening in front of a camera,listen to what you are saying.
The reason why JC so resonates with so many people is that he speaks people-not jargon!

Lastly, if the Party is agitating and educating it needs to ORGANISE.That is the first lesson of the history of our movement.Even those farm labourers in Dorset understood that they needed to organise their workmates in the village-of course they got deported to Van Diemen's Land for their trouble, but at least they knew what had to be done.
Everyone talks about winning the next election, but to put it simply,stuffing semi literate leaflets in letterboxes is not organising, it's political drudgery at it's lowest level.The trade union movement learned what to do 150 odd years ago.
If Labour is to win council or parliamentary seats it won't be achieved by having a top heavy bureaucracy that spends its time sifting through members Facebooks and studying rule books like racing form books.As a simple suggestion with all the new money in the party,why not deploy Regional staff and indeed head office grand poohbahs into local constituencies, not simply to prepare for elections and design leaflets but get out into neighbourhoods and act as political organisers throughout the year.As a matter of fact as well as union officials on picket lines,LP organisers should be there too, offering to workers in struggle facilities to support their actions.
Labour Party organisers,activating and education within the communities,supporting members actions, supporting trade unionists,supporting tenants ,supporting claimants at the Job Centre.
"Where workers strike and organise,it's there you'll find......"  
Now wouldn't that be grand.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Farce repeats itself,first as farce and then as farce

Regular readers of my ramblings will be aware that I have a deep affection for the party of my youth-no not the Communist Party,or more precisely the Young Communist league) but rather that old warhorse of democratic socialism,the Labour Party.
One of the reasons the YCL threw me out,well amongst many, was that I found the notion of 'democratic centralism' irksome.
I could well understand in times of revolution and violent upheaval the need to maintain what leading party cadres used to call iron discipline.I understood why for instance during the Spanish Civil War each batallion needed a Political Commissar, after all in those times every comrade needed to trust each other,their lives depended on that trust.
That I understood, I knew instinctively that in a revolutionary situation discipline was everything, and each unit of the party was responsible to the one above, from the branch to the district to the Central Committee to the Political Committee.

But I found it difficult to relate that to the task of selling copies of 'Challenge' on a Saturday at the Nags Head.Would the revolution falter if I missed selling my quota ? Would those capitalist exploiters rub their fat hands together and polish their top hat if I failed to turn out on a demo. ?
Democratic Centralism was a futile activity in nineteen sixties North Islington, the proletarian masses of the Holloway Road were not buying into revolutionary change, indeed they were not even buying 'Challenge', and it was only a tanner!

Of course I might have got myself expelled even quicker if I had known that I shared my revolutionary aspirations with Peter Mandelson and David Aaronovitch !

So for a few years I pottered around left politics of sorts, whilst some movements held my attention and enthusiasm, like the Yellow Star Movement, CND,Anti-Apartheid and of course the huge anti-Vietnam War campaign, I was for much of the time a sort of political dilettante. 
For a time I thought I was possibly a Maoist,and whilst a student was almost 25% of the total membership of the Sussex Communist Caucus (M-L) Apropos of nothing in particular it was during that time I made a brief acquaintance with a very sharp guy called Alan Woods, who was a founder of what we now know as 'Militant'
But then he was a 'trot',the mortal enemies of us 'Stalinist' Maoist.
this by the way has all been a bit of a preamble to my main point.By the time I got to Northampton I had done the whole gamut, from the street newspaper of the 'Stoke Newington Peoples paper' to the intense study group of 'Theoretical Practice'-an Althussarian sect.
in Northampton there was very little left political activity, a few members of the old SLL,a smattering of anarcho-syndicalists and a tichy branch of the CPGB.
It was our next door neighbour,the redoubtable Doll Pickering who heard us ranting a bit in the garden and invited us both the the Castle Ward labour Party.
Now Doll was what you might describe as one to the right of the party.He was a great admirer of Reg Paget the then Labour MP (frequently described as being to the right of Attila the Hun)
But our fierce leftism did not phase Doll and she and the other older members made us welcome.
It was then a party in transition, and meetings at Charles Street were to say the least rumbustious.Every month branches and unions submitted resolutions and the debate was fierce and partisan.Ideas were explored,positions taken and defended and everyone was encouraged to engage and participate.
Of course there was endless plotting and counter plotting,voices were raised and tempers frayed.But as far as I can recall nobody burst into tears if the temperature got too high, and strangely enough everybody came back the next month.

It was as far as a party could get from the authoritarian discipline of a democratic centralist organisation.it's true that Northampton got a bit of a reputation with the Regional Office,we were the District Party that was frequently on the naughty step, Yet when that happened it wasn't about personalities but about principle.When the SDP was created we were almost suspended because we refused to endorse as candidates people who were involved in defecting to the SDP.
The NEC were furious with us and even sent no less a figure than the late and very left wing MP Eric Heffer to reason with us.
Didn't work, and we would have been locked out of the party had a general election not intervened.

what is happening now is too tragic for words.Jeremy Corbyn was elected last year with a huge popular vote of party members.He was elected,we are now told he is unelectable !At the next General election it will not be those 170 odd MP's, or those geriatric time served peers or even the wealthy donors who will win the election, it will be the hundreds of thousands of party members who will go out in their communities and persuade their neighbours that the Labour Party is not 'New Labour' but the sort of party that Doll and her democratic socialists fought for all those years ago.

Sharp suits and soundbites don't win elections, surely Jim Murphy and his mates in Scotland proved that-what wins elections is sincerity and a programme that resonates.Clement Attlee was a PR disaster on legs-and yet....
What worries me most is the dubious behaviour of so many, the labelling of thousands as 'trots' the influence of large financial backers,the hysteria about intimidation and bullying,and the description of thousands of young and new party members as followers of a 'cult'

even here in sleepy old Northampton things don't look too good, former PPC's write a letter,using party membership lists to members urging them to support that Welsh bloke.The nomination of JC by the two parties by 78 to 13 strangely doesn't reach the Party nationally, three members are still suspended,with no charge brought against them for almost a year,some members are told of meetings,others are not.

 
There is as far as I can see an atmosphere if mistrust and suspicion,why has it changed ? Thirty years ago we would argue and disagree upstairs in Charles Street, in that big smoky room for hours, then we go for a drink together afterwards and plan what Tory ward we were going to hit at the weekend.There are big campaigns waiting for Labour party leadership in this town, and I don't mean collecting litter.
we have two Tory Councils whose incompetence and arrogance is exposed every day, Northampton Labour Party I am told has thousands of members.
Where are they ? maybe their not getting the e-mails ? Who knows ?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

When is a movement not a party ?

I'm getting a little concerned about the state of mind of some leading figures in the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Only yesterday it was announced that Shami Chakrabarti, the distinguished civil rights advocate and long time leader of Liberty,the international human rights organisation( that the Labour Party has been associated with for many years, and indeed some of its leading members like Harriet Harman worked with) has been nominated by Jeremy Corbyn for a peerage.
She was the only Labour nomination in Cameron's retirement honours-and you would have thought the roof had fallen in!
Dear old Tom Watson got himself in a right two and eight.Whilst admitting that she was a superb candidate and would make a distinguished contribution to the Lords he bleated about the timing,the fact that it was Cameron's list and that JC had not told him!
then there was a flurry of criticism, the Chief Rabbi complained that her report on anti-semitism in the Labour Party  was not sufficiently robust, that is to say she didn't find hordes of anti-semites lurking in the shadows.
And of course St.Keith Vaz complained that he didn't know what day JC first told  Shami she was being considered.
This by the way is the same sainted Vaz who agreed to a new Zealand judge copping £500,000 a year for working three quarters of a year and then quitting on the child abuse enquiry.
Motes and beams seem to be the appropriate comment! 
But it seems at the moment elements of the PLP are trying to find,quite unsuccessfully to find any crime,real or imagined ,to nail on Jeremy Corbyn,to persuade Party members to vote for the immensely popular and well liked MP-Owen....?
What i find so difficult to comprehend,and maybe amongst me readership at the Labour Party Regional Office is why, if JC is so hopeless,the big beasts of the PLP were not queuing up to take him on ?Why was the challenge left to two middle ranking members of the PLP,one slightly better known than the other and she dropped out, leaving the Welsh bloke to campaign on a platform a pale shadow of Jeremy's!
What can you say about a Labour candidate who proposes a minimum wage Lower than the one the Tories are proposing !
I  feel a bout of Kinnock coming on, remember his outrage at Militant in Liverpool:
'A Labour Council (voice rising dramatically) a Labour Council scuttling round Liverpool and blah blah blah...'

however the strangest critique going round at the moment is the view that mass meetings are somehow not part of the project anymore.
A handful of people mincing around an ice cream van is somehow OK. but thousands standing in a square listening to a political speech:
'Well it's not cricket !'
Now I guess those right on Blairites (sorry that word may now be illegal) have never seen those old photographs of an earlier beared Labour leader haranguing a huge 'crowd' in Trafalgar Square objecting to a war (WW1 as it happens)
But then J Keir Hardie was always a bit of a dangerous subversive old premature hippie wasn't he.
then on top of hating mass meetings there is a resentment that such activities may just be part of a #movement', whilst so many of the PLP do not want a movement, they want a number of well behaved leaflet distributors who don't raise difficult questions, don't want a conference that might ask those difficult questions.Indeed it would appear that most of those distinguished Members would rather not bother with a party structure at all.Better not to have CLP meetings other than to reselect the sitting member.
Although to be fair when you see Westminster on TV there are few of them sitting there anyway.
All my life I have wanted a mass party, half a million members of a left wing political party.I'm so bloody excited.
But we need much more than a party that responds to parliamentary dog whistles.We need a party of the streets,of the workplaces,of the housing estates.We need a party of tenants and residents,patients groups,youth activists,anti-racist activists,anti-semitic activists,refugee supporters,disabled rights activists- you name the progressive cause then Labour Party activists should be taking the political initiative.
And that in turn will build the community activists,who will become the local councillors and the local MP's.
In building such a movement we expect it to work in parallel with building a trade union  movement.That means agitating, organising and educating (sorry for the old proletarian slogan there-it slipped in)
We need to see the union movement organising where unionism is weak,with the unemployed,the young,migrant workers.As part of that movement we need to see bigger unions, that elect their leadership and end the nonsense of small unions with big numbers of full tim staff.
As an aside the Labour Party also needs tom elect its full time staff too,no more 'appointments' for life.
Such a strategy will not just be for the next General Election,although of course you never know in these strange times.
Remember Socialism is not just for the next election or even Christmas- it's for ever! 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Is Trump really that bad ?

There is a sort of louche acceptance,particularly in the British press that despite the fact that Trump has captured the Republican Party that it's not really that bad.
Already clever pundits are making asinine comparisons with earlier presidents and are generally saying that he will probably grow into the job, and really he'll just be in the mold of Nixon and Reagan,and after all the world survived them didn't it.

Trump claims that Nixon was his hero, well i guess they share the same venal political outlook, Like Nixon Trump thinks he's above the law,and like Nixon he uses every evil device he can find to gain power.
Nixon is frequently given credit for starting to open dialogue with China,and I guess it can be argued that during his administration something moved-but it was all too little too late and all his life he remained what he started he political life as-another stooge of McCarthy,as well of course the state security machinery,and the powerful military-industrial complex that protected him and prevented him standing trial for crimes against the American people and indeed the people of the world.
When Trump forgets that Nixon was his great hero he always claims that Ronald Reagan was really his great hero.
In that respect he reminds me of Bruce Forsyth on 'Strictly Come Dancing' who told every couple that they were his favourite.
There is a habit amongst liberals the world over of thinking of the faded movie actor as some sort of genial chuckling uncle figure, the sort of dude who would appear in a check shirt,astride a horse saying:
"Aw sucks !"
Nothing could be further from the truth, he was an egomaniac, determined to develop the 'Star Wars'  first strike nuclear 'defence' system that would target anyone and anywhere he didn't like.
No wonder Thatcher thought he was her soul-mate.
You sense that she didn't send the whole paraphernalia of war to the Falklands to save a few hundred people and a load more sheep-it was a sort of love offering to 'Dear Ronnie'

Trump is of course not a new sort of politician as the press are trying to spin, a rough uncut diamond of a guy, an unspun 'good old boy' from the rocky canyons of Old Manhattan.
Trump is a cynical product of clever product placement, he is in a direct line of cheap and nasty populism ,the sort you see all over the world, Le Pen,Farage,Wildeers,and all the rest Their mood music is all the same, that the old politics are dead,centre left or centre right are all the same,and of course their solution is the same.It's not monopoly capitalism or global capitalism or any of the characteristics of the capitalist mode of production.
Oh no, that's all fine, what is the problem is poor people,lots of them and they come in many guises-there are those who seek to avoid bombs and desperation in their home countries,to break away from the causes of poverty, low wages,poor education,inequality and exploitation and all that stuff.

The message is the same,and it's repeated on a daily basis in our media -you stupid people are to blame,all you need is to elect strong,charismatic ,media-savvy leaders and with them you can follow them:
"Right into hell"
Trump is not the answer,he is the problem,just as all the soothsayers argue that the answer is a slow moderate road to hell rather than a fast track to far right oblivion.

just think,there is a solution staring us straight in the face,in America it's going to take longer,we will have to bite our tongues and put up with the Clinton years,but there is an anger starting to roar on the horizon and it's Bernie shaped.
And here in Britain there is also an anger building, and sure as hell it ain't May shaped,or Farage shaped or even Smith shaped.
You know what I mean.
  

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Another week,more conspiracies threats and skullduggery.

It's hard to know what will happen to the Labour party next. This morning someone called Stephen Kinnock claimed he was already in discussions with Lord Ashdown of Failure about the possibility of creating a new centrist part called hilariously 'Continuity Labour'.
Given I read that in the 'Mail on Sunday' ,rapidly becoming the house journal of the terminally frustrated middle ground it of course must be true.
Now where have I heard the name Kinnock before ?wasn't he that brilliantly successful bloke who led the Labour Party to a stunning victory-or maybe he didn't !

I understand we have another leadership election in the Labour Party for those grand men and women in Westminster to get the result that they want.I think I've quoted Brecht's lines before when the German people didn't quite do what the ruling Politburo wanted them to do.
Brecht suggested that maybe it was time to dissolve the people and elect a new one.

So despite the wishes of hundreds of thousands of people ten months ago, it's time to reshuffle them and try to get a different electorate.
Interestingly when asked what their new policies will be to contrast with Jeremy Corbyn the two 'Unity' candidates are remarkably vague.Smith the Welsh bloke talks about £300 billion investment in infrastructure and oh yes,probably Wales, and that seems to be it.
Eagle on the other hand promises that she will reveal her policy strategies in speeches,sometime soon.
However both have one USP-they are not Jeremy. 
But the over riding core of the analysis from everyone on the right is that what this is all about is bullying and intimidation and the tactics of those hundreds of thousands of Trotskyites who joined the Labour Party to get Jeremy elected.
I bet the late Tony Cliff didn't know the SWP was so big and influential-Cliff passed on without knowing his real strength.

For the next two months it will be all about 'intimidation'.Strangely enough I had a taste of what this intimidation is all about.A couple of months ago I reapplied to join the Party.I was quite rightly expelled in 2007 -it was called auto-exclusion for supporting an independent candidate in the local elections.The fact that the candidate was Tony Clarke,former Labour MP and his selection had been unanimously endorsed by the ward party cut no ice with the Regional masters.
Fine,that was history, but I appealed and had an interview.The refusal to allow me back in was a decision of the local executive committee,not the local party, and the letter opposing my membership came from the chair of the party who I don't think I had ever met but she knew I was 'divisive'
What was interesting was that my 'trial' was conducted by the Regional Chairman, a supporter of Labour First called Andy Furlong And the appeal panel were three other members of the regional executive.

I use the word trial very deliberately, because the event had a lot in common with McCarthy's House of Un-American Activities hearings.

At one point I was shown a photograph of me with comrades from Left Unity, and Furlong had circled the tree women in the photograph and demanded their names.
Intimidating or what !
Then he went on to claim that when I was Council Leader I had 'bullied group members and officers'-of course he offered no evidence, no names,nothing! I have since spoken to one of the two Councillor still on NBC and he denied any bullying, thr other colleague was a group whip.As to the officers,well the Borough Solicitor confirmed there had never been any complaints against me,and Mr Furlong had not contacted them.
So my conclusion of this rambling anecdote =that there was no evidence of bullying and Mr Furlong lied.
(I now there are some in Nottingham who are avid readers of this blog, so Mr Furlong,feel free to refute my comments)
So in essence we already know the strategy that is going to be employed over the next months.Now let me make it clear that I do not endorse intimidation of bullying of any sort, I know what it feels like, over the years we've had a brick through our window and burning paper through the letter box, death threats and nasty phone calls, even photographs of Marie and I getting into an official car.
But that's what happens in public life.Of the recent incidents two stand out as curious.Kevin McKeever got a beautifully typed death threat, unpleasant certainly, but as a result of that he claimed the Police advised him to keep a low profile.That was perhaps convenient as he was facing difficult questions from 'The Canary' website about his activities as an employee of Portland Communications.
Then of course the notorious 'Wallasey Brick' handily coming just as Eagle was starting her campaign.Leaving aside the office window in Sherlock House where six organisations operate out of,and that 'office' window was in fact on a communal stairwell  what surprises me that if the perpetrators were local left wing activists wouldn't they have known that her office was round the back with a Labour sticker in the window !
Of course we know they were left wing activists, Sally Keeble the local authoritative  voice on all things trotskyite,commented that CCTV cameras caught the perpetrators Momentum t shirts.  
Bloody obvious really, so when you see a bloke passing your window in a striped shirt and a bag with swag written on it-you know whats happening.

What is so sad about all this is that for the first time in my life the Labour Party is growing thousands of new members, young people who will knock doors,canvass,enthuse others,become candidates,work in their communities.They will create a Party that can take power and will make real changes.
The Labour Party is on the cusp of getting it's mojo back.Yet all some want is to keep power in a small number of paws and rely on a smaller bunch of rich donors to fund them

many of Jeremy Corbyns' critics say he not a charismatic performer with sharp sound bites and clever PR men. You know, just like that other bloke......Clement Attlee! 


Thursday, 30 June 2016

The politics of fidget !

Do you remember back in the days of primary school when your teacher,usually a tall lady with grey hair,glasses and a smile,used to fix her icy glare on you and very loudly tell you:
"Stop fidgeting !"
Whatever you were doing, usually moving about ,you looked up guiltily and stopped whatever it was you were doing.
I've never really been clear what fidgeting was all about, and it came in a variety of guises and sometimes you didn't even know you were fidgeting, but you stopped whatever you were doing,or thought you were doing until it was safe.
Perhaps it was just doing wee things to keep yourself occupied during a dull story,or waiting, for your milk,or a bit of plasticine or trying to take your mind off needing to pee- whatever!
'Doing we things to keep yourself occupied', that seems to be at the core of the modern political system these days, governments have little to do of any significance so they fiddle about with small things to give the illusion of being busy.
It was not always so.
The Attlee government of 1945 did not fidget around trying to find something to do, they had big plans,big ideas and a lot to do.They built a welfare state,a national health service,rebuilt a destroyed infrastructure,took failing industries into public ownership,built thousands of houses,schools,hospitals and did it all in six years!
Everything after that seems to have been downhill.The boldness of that government has been replaced with a lot of tinkering round the edges, a little tweak here a little fidget there.It has for most of my life seemed as if governments just didn't want to frighten the horses.
Now for the sake of brevity, and to save your eyes from drooping and you starting to fidget uncontrollably,I will miss the Tory years,they all appeared to do a great deal of nothing-well apart from the Thatcher years, when they did a great deal of wrecking and turning clocks into sun dials,so a quick canter through the Labour years.
The Wilson years were as about as interesting as watching paint dry, the only thing they may have taken into public ownership may have been bits of the car industry and bits of the ship building industry,but that was generally under pressure from the unions, and was frequently short lived.
They did introduce comprehensive education, but that was in a half hearted way, a sort of fidget round the edges again, and the system started under resourced and of course the private sector was allowed to flourish.
It's true Jennie Lee created the Open University, and they did build a few new universities, but it was all a bit patchy.
To his great credit Wilson did keep this country out of the Vietnam War, but as the nuclear submarines lurking in Holy Loch remind us-there was a price to pay.

But most people will rememver with a degree of nausea the glories of Blair.Lets get the significant fidgets out of the way first, a national minimum wage(tichy but something) Sure Start (tiny but something) and a few other things around the edges, worthy no doubt but not the sort of thing you put in your memoirs.
Then there are the other features of the era, Foundation schools, Foundation hospitals,probably Foundation prisons too. PFI initiatives that saddled local authorities and health authorities withy debts far into the future.
And the endless need to measure and report and tick boxes and report again and when all else failed re-organise.
The politics of fidget is the politics of re-organisation.When your civil servants have nothing much to do,appoint a Tsar and get on with another restructuring.
A party that once had a great vision for a new sort of world  was reduced to cheering to the rafters the arrival of civil partnerships, a desirable advance in human relations, but hardly on the same scale as nationalising the railways.
And of course there was always the Iraq war.


I suppose we have reached the apex of fidgeting with the Cameron years, andv the one big idea,:
"Lets have a referendum on our membership of the EU"
To be honest it was never the biggest issue in the world, but Cameron needed to keep his right wing happy and the further right fidgeting away on the margins.
The big deal was his 'negotiations',which were about as significant as a cold sore on a giraffes' lip.
He even managed to lose that, but it will allow an entire ministry of civil servants to fidget around for five or six years at about 20 billion a year unravelling tons of legislation and agreements that may or may not have been any use.
While all this fidgeting is going on, austerity,growing inequality,growing poverty,a housing crisis,a crisis in training and a failure to create real jobs is going on.

This is the moment that the Labour Party should be recreating the big ideas that made 1945 such a success.
What is it doing ?
The numpties are fidgeting about trying to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn,the only leader for decades who sees the big picure and knows what has to done.
Oh for that grey haired old teacher with the icy glare to yell quietly at the fidgeting PLP!