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! 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

There are elites,and then there are other elites....

One of the big concerns of Brexit (and that's the last time it gets a capital) was that it was against non-elected elites.Now leaving aside the Commissioners were appointed by their governments) we are now faced with the extraordinary spectacle of a bunch of Tory MP's an elite if you will,selecting two candidates to be offered to their membership and then appointed Prime Minister.
A hideous spectacle of a power elite at work.
Not to be outdone, 200 odd Labour MP's (an elite if you will) will attempt over the next few hours to remove a Leader elected by hundreds of thousands of members and he/she will be offered to the members who voted for Jeremy Corbyn less than a year ago!

Is it possible that the Labour Party, or rather a section of the Labour party has not learnt the lesson of Scotland.Remind me how many MP the party has in Scotland now ?
There is of course a reason for that abysmal failure, the first is that the SNP,despite losing the referendum was seen by most Scots to have more progressive policies than the Labour Party.Secondly the Scottish labour Party had become moribund and had taken its electorate for granted for too long and frequently parachuting candidates in regardless of local feeling.In the backwoods where I come from that's called elitism.
Of course that feeling of alienation was enhanced during the independence referendum when all over Scotland people saw Cameron and Brown and Murphy and Alexander all sharing platforms.
Even if they didn't vote for independence, the sight of them all being big mates had an effect.
"What's the difference ?" was the view of many.
Fast forward to the brexit debacle.When Scots voters in the old Labour heartlands saw austerity,poor housing,poor health care,and all the rest,and saw at least an alternative on offer-what else could they do ?

Now the North East of England is not much different from industrial Scotland,as well as austerity,poverty,unemployment and all the other features of deindustrialisation they had for decades the experience of a Labour Party taking their votes for granted.Think of the seats where Labour grandees with homes in London and second constituency pied-a-terres in places,oh at random, Hartlepool,Doncaster,South Shields and that old mining town whose name I've forgotten-probably as has its once illustrious member-a bloke called Blair.
it all adds up to a picture of neglect and ,a strong word,betrayal.The parachutists were of course supported by a party machine that was weak and timid.
So when the dreadful UKIP came knocking, it was hardly surprising that many workers felt
"What has the Labour Party done for us!"
I believe the message Jeremy Corbyn has be giving has been principled and correct.The EU is not the biggest issue in the world,it needs reforming, and we need to defend workers' rights across Europe.And importantly it was a distinctly Labour message,no shared platforms with the Tories Labour was supposed to be fighting every day in Westminster.
In order to appease his right and the further right Cameron tried to divert attention with a referendum stunt.For weeks the far right have taken the initiative with Farage lying on TV every night and the focus of the brexit lot moved from 'getting back our sovereignty to blame it all on foreigners.
I'm sick of hearing brexiters bleating about how the really,really like foreigners and blah blah..
I understand how some on the left believed that it should have been an all encompassing fight against neo-liberalism and the free market.I really do get that, but sadly Socialist Revolution was not the third option on the ballot paper,and we had to operate within the parameters we were given.
"Concrete analysis of concrete situations"
I know pragmatism sucks, but sometime we have to opt for the lesser of two evils.

What is interesting is that the people of Scotland,Ulster and London all saw through the bluster and lies,and given that the people of the North East are not that different from the people in those other areas-what went wrong ?
One thing is sure, it wasn't the realistic politics of Jeremy Corbyn,they were not fawning around the joint platforms of Tories and Lib-dems, it was those on the right of the Party, the elitists who cannot bear the idea that the Labour Party has become a mass party once again with a popular left wing leadership.
If the wreckers get their way, and Dan Jarvis or Andy Burnham or Hilary Benn take the leadership, several things will happen.
The Tories will call a snap election, and all those thousands of activists will not just knuckle down and work for Blair Mark 2 or Mark 6 ,they will feel cheated,as indeed will all those who have been beyrayed for decades.The Blairites are right that Labour will lose hundreds of seats,but it won't be the leadership that has offered hope and a better way forward who will have destryed the party, it will be those who want to go back to the future.
remember when Cameron said of Blair:
"You were the future once !"

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

An open letter to Norman Adams and a PS to David Huffadine-Smith

Dear Norman. We have been acquaintances for many decades.I remember you as a fierce AEU member forever agitating and organising.I salute the work you have done in Northampton in Defending Council House tenants and as part of SOS.
Yet just lately you appear to have lost your mojo-has the gargle finally got to you,or are you an impostor masquerading as the Norman Adams we know and love ?

On the aborted visit of Nigel Farage you wrote on Facebook:
"UKIP are bigoted,nasty and slightly eccentric but not fascist" and then went on to say:
"Hope nor Hate and its supporters should stick to its valuable work fighting the real thing."
Now I realise that you,along with a small section of the British Left think that Brexit is a solution,I get that although I think a grouping made up of the CP,SWP,and george Galloway, along with Kate Hoey,Frank Field and Gisela Stuart makes for an unusual set of left travelling companions.I know that RMT are on board,but I suspect that is more a romantic gesture to the memory of Bob Crow  than anything else.,and of course even Bob could be wrong sometimes.
As I have written elsewhere I am no fan of the EU, and indeed in 1975 I suspect like you voted not to join the EEC.We understood quite clearly then what was happening, it was a European Employers Confederation that would not help organised labour.
It still has the characteristics of a bosses conspiracy,but of course times have changed.The union movement is far weaker,the Labour Party has been systematically weakened from within, and the media has dismantled step by step,day by day, the confidence of working people to defend their rights.
Every fight is harder and every step we take is slower and more painful than before.
However as capital has become more transnational,what remains of the labour movement has to operate in the same way.
We have to be pragmatic and at the same time look for optimism and hope where we can find it.I believe for instance that at last the Labour Party may be moving back towards an internationalist agenda that seeks to build on what solidarity that now exists.
That's why the in/out battle is largely irrelevant and the battles ahead will not really matter in or out.However what will matter is who else is on the road with us.
You are in my view profoundly wrong about UKIP. It is not a one issue outfit with a charismatic leader and a populist appeal,well it is populist and it has a leader,but it is far more than a single issue campaign.
It is as you rightly point out,bigoted and nasty, but slightly eccentric it is not.
it is unashamedly of the far right,it works in the European Parliament with some of the most dangerous parties in Europe.It is admired bt Le Pen and Donald Trump, and is seen by people like them as part of an axis of right wing xenophobia and racism.
It is no coincidence that as it has risen with it populist anti-immigration,little englander,patriotic flag-waving nostalgia for the Empire,so the BNP and EDL and others have declined.
But of course their views haven't declined or vanished,they have been subsumed into the ranks of UKIP.
UKIP are not dotty eccentrics who yearn for a quieter,peaceful,all white England ,with church bells and tea on the lawn.
They are fiercely anti-trade union,passionately pro-free enterprise,austerity,the breaking down of the welfare state-in fact they are Tories with knobs on!
Of course they will sell the single issue,because anti-Europe is easier to sell than unadulterated full blooded fascism,But think of the history of fascist movements throughout the last century.
Some even came with the added ingredient of pretending to have a socialist message,Mussolini came from the Socialist Party, Mosley and his wife were Labour MP's.

UKIP have latched on to fears about the economy,healthcare,housing and employment and have found a convenient scapegoat-Europe,Europeans, Johnny Foreigner.
Hope not Hate are absolutely right to point out on a daily basis the danger of allowing your 'slightly eccentric' any space to develop.
Finally a short paragraph on David Huffadine-Smith and his increasingly shrill outbursts.David ,your quite a nice man,and after several conversations it would seem that politically you fit nicely into Norman's 'slightly eccentric' category.Not that I'm saying you are UKIP,you've made that clear that your not.However a few days ago you published a checklist about all the reasons you gave for Brexit, and it all added up to a pile of jingoist rhetoric with a pinch of piety thrown in.
You endlessly plead for democratic debate-yes you can have democratic debate with anyone who is willing to debate.But did you really think Farage was coming here to 'debate'?
No he was here to rant at his faithful,trot out his usual tropes and get some media coverage.If you've bothered to read this far you will see that I consider UKIP, a self acknowledged far right party,to be the base of an embryonic fascist movement of the sort we are seeing in many places.
You know my background,I've written about it endlessly, and you know I believe that fascism could have been stopped in 1936 if the world had rallied behind the democratically elected government of Spain.
And what was the slogan in the defence of Madrid ?
Non Paseran- they shall not pass!-later adopted in the East End of London when Mosley tried to intimidate the Jewish community.
They shall not pass has a long and honourable part of the Socialist response to the emergence of the fascist hydra.had the world listened then, maybe 20 million lives could have been saved.
I'm happy to debate anywhere,anytime with people who want a genuine debate,why I'll argue with Tories,Liberals,anarcho-syndicalists,why even Evangelicals like you David....well maybe I have to draw the line somewhere!