What Happens When Labour Is In The Wrong?

28th October 2016

-By Paddington Baby-

What Happens When Labour Is In The Wrong?

So the moratorium on Labour party meetings ended with the leadership conference and the sense of dread began as to what came next.  At least I made it to the London Labour reception up in Liverpool on the same day, and found reassuring evidence that Jeremy Corbyn was not universally fawned over.  He arrived and got up to speak and only a handful of those present bothered to come forward and pay attention.  The rest of us carried on with our conversation, leaving the newly re-elected leader to try and be heard over the top of all the talking and laughter as he was widely ignored!

“Would this be happening if Tony Blair was speaking?” someone asked me.  Perhaps not.

A couple of weeks later I went to the first meeting of my CLP and there were difficult matters to address as we made our way through the agenda.  The chair invited comments on the leadership election and inevitably there were calls for members of the party to desist from criticism of the leadership as some present regarded that to be against the interests of the party.  In their eyes it was those of us making the criticism on social media who were at fault for destroying our electoral chances.

But hang on a minute!  When were we expected to go along with all the words and actions of our previous leaders without question?  Surely even in the case of our greatest and most successful leaders such loyalty would be disadvantageous to those who need us most: the people.


On the 21st October this year the people of Wales and the rest of the UK united to remember the tragedy of the Aberfan disaster.  One hundred and forty four people died, mostly young children, under the slurry of pit waste being stored on the hillside which fell upon the school and surrounding houses.


“Not a single NCB official was ever sacked or reprimanded over Aberfan.”

The whole nation joined a tiny Welsh village for a minute’s silence – to remember the lives of the 144 people who died when a rock slide hit Pantglas Junior School

Excuse my ignorance, as I was born some years later, but before now I had never heard of the terrible events of 50 years ago and I was struck by disbelief that waste was being stored this way in the first place.  But then the full story came to my attention.

A disaster fund was set up with generous donations coming in from around the world, and after many protests prior to the disaster that the waste tip be cleared, the work would finally be done.  However, the then Labour government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson should have forced the National Coal Board to foot the cost. Instead, they took the money from the disaster fund.

The first ever full academic study of the Aberfan Disaster – which claimed the lives of 144 children and adults – is published.

To my mind, this new discovery for me is perhaps the most shameful act of any Labour government.  The people certainly did not come first, but it was justified on the basis that as the National Coal Board was nationalised the taxpayer would then have to bear the expense.  I could add that such reasoning was not the best advertisement for nationalised industries either, so hardly helpful to support Labour party policy.

Then was certainly the time for the Labour membership to criticise the leadership.  And I say that as someone who admires so much of what Harold Wilson achieved as a leader and someone who could actually win elections and improve the lives of people. That makes this episode all the more disappointing.

Ron Davies was a Labour member at the time and remembered the taunts he endured as a result of the actions of his party in government.  He went on to become the Welsh Secretary in 1997 under Tony Blair and he ensured that the money was returned as he recognised the cruelty that the action had inflicted on the families of Aberfan.

THE parents could hardly believe their ears. Still fighting to come to terms with so many deaths, so many children, they were given the news that from the thousands …

I remember when Margaret Thatcher died, and receiving another revelation.

Tories appeared on television to say that Labour from Harold Wilson’s time onwards had closed more coal mines than Margaret Thatcher’s government.  I checked and it was true.  For all I have read about the miners’ strike of 1984-85 I’m left at a loss at to why the National Union of Mineworkers didn’t do more to protest at Labour, especially in the light of Aberfan.

Statistical data set. Historical coal data: coal production, availability and consumption 1853 to 2015

I have read and understood why mines were closing and it is a difficult case to argue with.  Some suggest that the fury was rightly directed at Margaret Thatcher because she was swiftly killing whole communities.  Well, many of those who lived in one particular community were killed in just one morning, and the National Coal Board and the Labour government should have been held accountable for anything they failed to do to prevent it, and for any actions they took afterwards.

Perhaps politicians in 1966 were not as forward-thinking about public relations as we are now, but there is no excuse for Labour party members now to fail to understand.

What our leaders say and do really matters and we have a duty to always remind them of that.

By Paddington Baby

Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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A Moderate Proposal

24th September 2016

 -By Steven Duckworth-

A Moderate Proposal

Today Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as the Labour Party’s leader.

A challenge to his leadership by Owen Smith has allowed the incumbent leader to spend the summer re-energising his significant support base among the party’s membership in a series of rallies and events. Corbyn’s success in the contest has strengthened his position as head of the party and has temporarily weakened the hand of those moderates within the party who oppose his leadership.

It has become clear that the ‘remove Corbyn’ strategy is no strategy at all, rather just a tactic of aiming some poorly aimed jabs at Labour’s leader and those who support him with the outcome that his position has solidified. What is also clear is that while Jeremy Corbyn and his closest allies see the party as expendable in the pursuit of a more ideologically driven goal, most moderates do not want to see the party disappear.

This leads to a standoff where the stakes are uneven, offering a clear advantage to the leader. It is also apparent that any ongoing war of attrition allows Corbyn to dictate the terms of the debate as it becomes a battle over the man himself and at present this is a standoff he can quite easily win.

STRATEGY for Moderates

Centrists within the Labour Party need to lift their heads up and take a longer term view beyond the current maelstrom and to the future. The one goal of a moderate strategy should be to see the centre left forming a government once again. Of course this couldn’t be delivered by a Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, but if a credible centre left prospectus was developed that appealed to both members and the public, then an opportunity to successfully challenge the current leader would present itself.

But, I repeat, the strategy should be to return the centre left back to power; deposing Corbyn should not be the sole aim itself, it would cloud thinking and lead to wasted energy. Of course the key to any winning strategy is in the operationalisation of it and in particular being clear about what will be required from the people signed up to delivering it.

So how can moderates get back on the front foot?

Labour’s parliamentary party (PLP) have set themselves out as the strongest block in opposition to the Corbyn leadership witnessed by a unanimous vote of no confidence (80%) following mass shadow cabinet resignation in the fallout from the EU referendum. There is no doubt that the PLP are to the right of the leadership, but it would be a mistake to view them as a homogeneous group in terms of policy etc.

Developing a common approach to doing business will be key in stabilising the parliamentary wing of the party. There is a phenomenal amount of talent on the Labour benches. The battles between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown held back the succession of strong Labour MPs, but the 2010 and 2015 intakes have refreshed the talent pool. It is key that the PLP operate as a tight group despite the lack of leadership from Jeremy Corbyn. It will be down to individuals to weigh up the pros and cons of serving in a shadow cabinet, but all MPs must get on with being active representatives willing to take on the government (Jess Phillips, Caroline Flint and, yes, Angela Rayner have been impressive in this respect in the early days of this parliament) and seek to represent the party through select committees and other parliamentary processes. The impression must be set in the minds of both the general public and party members that these are professional and competent individuals showing real political leadership.

It is highly likely that this will contrast favourably with the party leader’s often shambolic parliamentary performances. MPs should also signal that they will support  Jeremy Corbyn where he is on sound footing such as grammar schools, but oppose his more dangerous policy positions on defence and security, for example. What is clear is that the PLP must hold together. Talk of a split and a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) while exciting in theory crashes painfully against the rocks of both MPs’ loyalty to the party and the unforgiving nature of our first-past-the-post system of parliamentary elections. Splitting the vote and losing talented and committed moderate MPs will not help the strategy of delivering a future centre-left government as the Labour still is by some way the most likely vehicle for delivering such a government.


So much for MPs, but how should moderate members of the party approach this period following Corbyn’s re-election as Labour leader? One major decision will be whether they should remain in the party at all, given the direction of travel under the leader and the general hostility and toxicity that surrounds the party at present. It is critical for people to stay and work for a credible Labour government, but it is difficult to blame anyone for leaving. One only hopes they will fell able to re-join the party in future.

For those who do remain, becoming an engaged and active member of their local party is important as is making common cause with other members on issues that all party members can agree on. While some members of the pro-Corbyn camp are hard left entryists, the vast majority aren’t and working together at a local level is important in keeping a strong community base.

Where Momentum are strong at a local level it will be down to moderate members to oppose them on issues such as deselection, appealing to the wider constituency in support of an MP where necessary. Moderate members must also make clear that they regard Momentum as detrimental to the long term well-being of the party and vocally refusing to canvass and campaign on behalf of Momentum members. Seeking election under a Labour banner will highlight this point.

Most of all moderate members, whether they be MPs, councillors or ordinary members need to network, whether it be on policy or just for mutual support. Politics can be a lonely business and Labour’s centre-left needs to start making connections both within and beyond the party.

I suspect that this call to action will strike some on the moderate wing of the Labour Party as a capitulation and they may argue that there isn’t time for a more gradualist strategy to be allowed time to work, but the centre-left in the country has taken a series of knock-backs and needs time to consolidate and then build. A series of attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will see him strengthened and will impose a form of democratic centralism by stealth on the party; annual campaigns were Corbyn gets to attend rallies while further strengthening his mandate. Despite talk of the world turning upside down, we still have a right-wing conservative government and an electoral system that doesn’t favour small parties.

The UK political scene has gone through a febrile period over the past eighteen months. Moderates, better than anyone, know that this state of affairs won’t hold and that things will slowly return to a slower, more recognisable pace. Centrists need to stop flapping, get on with business and hold their nerve.

By Steven Duckworth


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Letter to Owen Smith

23rd September 2016

-By Paddington Baby-

Letter to Owen Smith

Dear Owen,

All I can do now is wait until tomorrow when I will be seated in the leadership conference, knowing before the results are read out, just what they are likely to be.

I suspect many of us are in the same boat.

I wanted Corbyn out before he had even achieved the required nominations last year.  Interesting that he was the final one to be picked to stand after McDonnell and Abbott; even the left knew they were scraping the bottom of the barrel with Corbyn.  But nominated he was, and I joined the local phone bank for Liz Kendall.

One of our members told me that Corbyn would not become the prime minister but they would vote for him because we needed to be true to our socialist principles.  I was stunned.  I quickly reported this peculiar utterance to the Labour leader of the council and the MP. However such assertions would soon become the norm in the world of Corbyn mania.

I didn’t manage to get a ticket to last year’s leadership conference, but I sat outside in the foyer watching the television and hearing the shattering result even before those seated inside.  Corbynistas were triumphant, whilst I just cried.

Local members told me that we should give Corbyn a chance and that we must unite behind the new leader.  I was even told by a new member who never bothered to show her face again that I do not belong in the Labour party .

Most of us in the party despaired at the EU referendum result, and I resolved that Corbyn had had his chance and had failed us miserably.  The vote of no confidence gave me hope, however that was short-lived, as the hysteria of Corbynistas made it possible for the man with the so called mandate to put himself above the party and those who desperately need a Labour government.

Then the challenge to Corbyn’s leadership came, and I had no idea who you were, Owen!  Nonetheless, this time I joined a local phone bank for you as you had won the support of so many MPs who I respect and admire, including Heidi Alexander (who will make a great health secretary one day if ever we can get back in) and Kerry McCarthy (likewise at DEFRA).

I then went to your first rally in London, and my friend couldn’t make it as he was abroad.  I wanted to text him everything that was happening, atmosphere and all.  Then you went on to policies, and there were so many that my texting thumb couldn’t keep up!

Policies are not what Corbyn’s Labour is all about, and your passion and ability to answer difficult questions won me over.  I was a committed member of Team Owen from that day.

I spoke to Labour members about your British New Deal pumping money into our schools and hospitals, and I saw the anti-austerity nod to Blair’s Labour government, and you provided costings to the £200 billion too.  The wage councils would treat our care workers with the dignity they deserve and you had ideas to preserve Sure Start.  I used to promote Liz Kendall on the basis that she wanted to provide opportunity to all our children and I was pleased that you stood for that too.  I also directed members to the videos where you tear the Osbornes and Duncan Smiths of this world apart.

I went to two more rallies and I met you twice as well.  You just got more and more effective, praising Labour government and opposing Tory destruction, showing Corbyn just how it’s done.  No wonder he went with grammar schools at PMQs the following week. He must have had a spy in place to see what you were doing!

The phone banks were amazing and provided me with the only social life I would have time for during August and much of September.  Members united, some of us were Blairite, some of us were Milifans, but we all saw your potential.

Now it’s over, and I have to thank you for being so brave to do this in the first place.  You have inspired me, and we moderates are now organised and we know who really cares about this country.  It is time for the next stage.

May this conference provide the genesis for a movement that will rid us of the peril of the far left, and may we never be naive enough in the future to let them find an entry point and destroy our great party again.

With my best wishes.

By Paddington Baby

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What is progress?

13th September 2016

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-By Cllr Sean Woodcock-

What is progress?

On 12 September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn won a long-drawn-out contest over the summer to become leader of the Labour Party.

Fast forward one year and the aftermath of the EU referendum and subsequent narrow victory for Leave, mass resignations from the shadow cabinet and a few appearances in court, Labour is drawn into another summer leadership contest which many polls predict that Jeremy Corbyn will win.

The response from ‘moderates’ has chiefly been divided between despair with talk of abandoning the party, and defiant talk of future, continuous challenges to Mr Corbyn.

Groundhog day, all over again.

The removal of Corbyn has become an obsession for many of his opponents in much the same way as his safe re-election has for his supporters. Almost nothing else matters.

Policy development; scrutinising the government; developing and building the party… with a few notable exceptions, these things have fallen by the wayside or at least have taken on significance as a weapon to be used in the leadership battle.

This is part of the problem.

I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn last year and I have not this time around.

This is because I genuinely do not believe he is the right leader to take Labour into a general election.

But, having talked to a number of them, I understand his appeal to many party members.

A previous contributor to this blog wrote that Corbyn is a ‘blank canvas’ and that is why he is so popular with members. I agree with this. But I also believe that just as much of the blame for Corbyn’s popularity lay with the ‘moderate’ wing as with anyone else.

“I voted for Corbyn. I didn’t expect him to win, but I wanted him to shake things up and help take the party leftwards. Away from the Tories where we have been for 25 years”, one local member told me.

I have no time for the view of the last Labour government as ‘Tory’ but the fact that this view is held by members is largely a result of the deliberate policy of the Labour leadership during the last parliament to criticise the Blair/Brown governments. Corbyn’s Labour Party has taken this even further so that is now held as a badge of honour to view that government and its key figures almost with a higher level of contempt than members do the Tories.

But this view, and similar views across the membership of the party, should show ‘moderates’ where we have failed so spectacularly as well as a way out of our current predicament.

‘Moderates’, always keen to talk about their capacity for and commitment to winning elections and gaining power in national elections need to reconsider how they communicate with members so that they can do so when it comes to internal, Labour Party ones.

Firstly, ‘moderate’ candidates need to realise that leadership elections are very different to Westminster elections. It is no good ‘moderates’ complaining that members of the party are out of touch with the electorate if in internal party elections ‘moderate’ candidates are themselves out of touch with the ‘membership’.

Most people who vote in Westminster elections may not be idealistic or politically motivated but, almost by default, members of a political party are. This means appealing to them and talking about the issues that matter to them. For Labour members that means talking about health, housing and education.

More than that though, it means appealing to their left-wing ideals even when sticking to your own centrist policies.

Another Labour party member, one who is very anti-Corbyn, told me that no-one else in the Party is explaining things in a progressive manner. And I think that there is some truth in this.

The focus of ‘moderate’ candidates in all of the leadership elections that I have seen, has been a clear effort to triangulate on some policies so as to appear ‘credible’. Credibility and electability DO matter. But this still remains the wrong approach. We can criticise Labour Party members for being ‘self-indulgent’ if we believe that they have voted for ideological purity. But equally, it should be obvious that party members want a ‘credible’ candidate who has a chance of getting Labour into power, to actually do things that they agree with when they get there.

That means at least showing where your views and theirs converge. Winning hearts and minds, not just lecturing in an ‘I know best’ fashion.

The focus on electability has seemingly blinded many ‘moderates’ to the need to make sure that they are not just thinking about how they are credible but also about how they are progressive. This is the same for their policies.

  • There is a progressive case for maintaining our independent nuclear deterrent beyond it being electorally sensible to do so. Explain it.
  • There is a progressive, rather than a conservative case to be made for the government committing to deficit reduction and cutting the national debt. Make it.
  • There is a progressive case for a sovereign country having an element of control on immigration. What is it?

Otherwise, if there isn’t a progressive case for it, why should a progressive, political party advocate it? Even if it is popular with the public (Capital Punishment springs to mind).

Jeremy Corbyn being popular with Labour members is meaningless if he will never be in a position to implement Labour policies in government. But equally, being more trusted by the electorate than Jeremy Corbyn is no good to ‘moderates’ if they have no prospect of ever leading the party. That is why this matters.

So before embarking on a course likely only ever to cause déjà vu, ‘moderates’ need to go back to basics and start convincing the party that not only are they credible, but that they are also progressive.

By Cllr. Sean Woodcock

Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Banbury GE2015. Leader of the Opposition & Labour group on Cherwell DC. Banbury Town Councillor & ex-Mayor

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Jeremy Corbyn is a Blank Canvas. That is his appeal.

The Blank Canvas

7th September 2016

 -By Steven Duckworth-

The Blank Canvas

What does Jeremy Corbyn stand for; what informs his political and moral beliefs; where does he stand on the political spectrum and what is it about him that enthuses thousands of people to support him?

These are all reasonable questions that I suspect most people who follow politics could answer reasonably easily. He’s a socialist, for sure, and quite left wing and he’s offering a prospectus based on true Labour principles. Pushed a little further people will probably say he believes in human rights, a peaceful foreign policy, nationalised public services and above all he is anti-austerity. But is that enough to fully understand his appeal to many within the labour movement?

While it is demonstrably unquestionable that Corbyn is ‘of the left’ there is nothing that he has written or said that suggests he has a reasonable grasp of anything approaching a sophisticated view of what socialism is and what it might look like in practice in early 21st century Britain.

He has said he wants to see a society where “nobody is left behind” and the wealthy have obligations towards the poor. I think most people would sign up to those beliefs. In fact a ‘one nation Conservative’ would not quibble with any of it. It doesn’t however reflect anything that is overtly socialist or particularly left-wing. In fact Corbyn’s radical credentials seem to stem more from his associations – various hard left protest movements over the years – rather than any coherent intellectual base he has developed for himself.

On foreign policy his views are framed by anti-western rhetoric rather than any commitment to an ethical foreign policy. On public services his reach doesn’t extend beyond an instinct that anything that isn’t the state doesn’t pass the sniff test. And on austerity his shadow chancellor’s plans do not challenge the austerity narrative of ‘a balanced budget’ which has put off former economic advisors such as Simon Wren-Lewis and Danny Blanchflower. In practice Corbyn has not proposed anything – defence and security issues aside – that would sit outside the sentiment or detail of Labour’s failed 2015 manifesto.

So far so good, but it doesn’t get us any nearer to understanding Corbyn’s appeal to people who are not only self-declared left wingers (the Trotskyites we continually hear about) but also the many of the Labour leader’s supporters who would define themselves as nothing more than ordinary people who are dissatisfied with how society is run and would like to see more of an emphasis on social justice; those that are often dismissively referred to as ‘the soft left’.

I believe Corbyn’s popularity is exactly because of his lack of concrete ideological platforms, but more importantly that he is relatively unknown and, bizarrely for a career politician of four decades standing, a fresh skin. Prior to 2015 not many members of the Labour party will have heard of Corbyn. Far less so the general population.

Jeremy Corbyn is a Blank Canvas. That is his appeal.

Jeremy Corbyn is a Blank Canvas. That is his appeal.

So in essence Jeremy Corbyn represents the blank canvas that both the far left (because of his previous left wing associations more than particular ideology) and those interested in social justice can paint their hopes onto, because there is nothing in terms of the man’s political philosophy or his public profile that will resist their daubs onto the canvas.

What those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership from within the Labour Party seem to dismiss are the human factors that drive his appeal. His supporters view him as a kind and principled man who dares to look beyond the machinations of party politics and policy-making towards something more meaningful. He is a standard-bearer for those who are sick of the inequality that they believe is perpetuated by the media in the interests of the elites. They also welcome the fact that he’s not a smartly attired political salesman with a winning smile and a soundbite at the ready.

What is powerful about the blank canvas is that it means that people aren’t buying into the politician’s views and vision so much as projecting their own aspirations onto the person. Therefore any attack on the man feels like it is a personal challenge. This in part explains why the mass rallies we see the Labour leader addressing are adorned with Corbyn paraphernalia, not Labour placards and leaflets. Older members of the party often feel frustrated at the inability of Corbyn supporters to concede even the most minor point made against the leader, but this is wrapped up in the personal connection the supporters feel they have with him.

Criticising a politician is easy; self- reflection is much harder. The difficulties the Owen Smith leadership campaign has run into have often been related to the fact that trying to get to the left of Corbyn is not especially useful, when the attraction to Corbyn is not rooted in any concrete policy platform, but in a vague collection of individual hopes and aspirations painted onto the current Labour leader. At this stage, taking on Corbyn and his supporters in a seemingly rational debate about his policies and his competence will be frustrating for his opponents and ultimately pointless. In fact the more he is attacked, the more his supporters feel it justifies their belief in him. We are left with two groups talking over the heads of each other, seemingly unable to agree on the terms of the debate, let alone resolve it.

Of course the blank canvas also allows people unconvinced by Corbyn to paint their anxieties and fears onto him unopposed too and the current opinion polls suggests that the vast majority of the general public are doing just that. If Corbyn is to have any chance of reaching beyond his base and start to change the perceptions of the electorate, he will have to start filling in the blanks in order to reassure them. That would mean also confronting his supporters with the reality of who he is as a politician and as a person which in return threatens to weaken his support base, something which he is unlikely to want to do.

So Labour is gridlocked between a leader who can’t win a general election and any challenger who can’t win the party leadership. This spells an electoral meltdown for Labour in 2020 or before, but it is difficult to see how that can now be avoided.

By Steven Duckworth


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What therefore Hardie hath joined together, let not Corbyn put asunder

19th August 2016

-By Paddington Baby-

What therefore Hardie hath joined together, let not Corbyn put asunder

The neighbouring CLP to me held their Labour leader nomination meeting last week and did me proud by nominating Owen Smith (I used to be a member there and still keep in touch).  My own CLP decided not to hold a meeting, much to my disappointment, but if we did, what might I have said?

I did not vote for Corbyn and I have never been a fan.  I often think about why that is and how I would explain it to people.  I can easily bring to mind Venezuela, Press TV… but then I wonder how best to explain what is wrong with Corbyn’s domestic policies and why people won’t vote for them.

I went to see Owen Smith speak and decided to text policy announcements to a friend who couldn’t be there.  There were so many announcements I simply couldn’t keep up!  Then it hit me.  The reason why I had trouble criticising Corbyn’s policies is because he just doesn’t have any!

Like most of us here I was heartbroken at the outcome of the referendum.  I worked hard to win, and I thank so many of us here who worked hard to win. I do not believe that Jeremy Corbyn gave us all the support we needed.  Midway through the campaign I went to our rally when Alan Johnson came to talk to us.  The night before Leave had shot up in the polls and Jeremy Corbyn had appeared on TV to say that he was only 7 out of 10 into the EU and he had fooled around embarrassingly.  This was how he addressed the terrible news of the poll ratings.  I complained to our MEP at the rally about it all.  The two of us concluded then that we were going to lose.

But Owen Smith gives me hope.  He behaves like an opposition leader, fighting the Tories on tax credit cuts and calling for better from the Prime Minister.  I believe that, unlike Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Smith has what it takes to become Prime Minister himself.

I do not pass the Andrea Leadsom test.  I am not a mum, only an auntie.  But I love my niece with all my heart, and I am determined that she will not be a kid who grows up under a Tory government like I did.  I’m fighting for Owen Smith because I’m fighting for a Labour government, and there is no way that that is going to happen unless Owen becomes the leader of our great party.

The thing is that I can see that we are a divided party.  And that division is not just between the Corbynistas and the rest of us, but also between the Corbynistas themselves.  One half of them is convinced that Labour will win the next general election and all signs to the contrary are wrong; the other half doesn’t think that Corbyn will become the Prime Minister – but that is not a problem, so long as dearly-held socialist principles are kept in place!

If the Corbyn supporters can’t make their minds up about whether power is attainable for Labour, then how can they complain about the moderates who KNOW that Corbyn will not become the Prime Minister?

A leader may have adoring fans, but that is no guarantee of anything.  Ann Treneman wrote about events in Scotland in September 2014 in her book “All in this together”:

“We were standing more or less in a field, outstanding as they say, just beyond the rather rundown town of Kilmarnock in the west of Scotland, waiting for Alex Salmond.

“‘He’s delayed’, says one Yes man who looks about twelve.  ‘Everybody wants a selfie with him!  Everywhere he goes!  It’s like Beatlemania!’

“Love, love me do, as the Yes campaign tells Scotland: you know I love you.  Maybe it’s just good planning, but wherever Mr Salmond goes, except at press conferences with pesky journalists, he seems to be greeted with open arms.  Yesterday, on the final Yes tour, there were hugs and kisses, backslaps and arm squeezes…”

Remind us of anyone?

Alex Salmond did not win the Scottish referendum and Jeremy Corbyn will not win the general election.

“‘I don’t know why you say she’s my boss,’ grumbled Boris.  ‘She’s simply the Home Secretary.’

Ah yes, simply the Home Secretary.  I do hope Theresa was listening.”

Against the expectations of most, Theresa May well and truly IS the boss of Boris Johnson now.

The tide is turning with GMB votes, positive results from the phone banks and fine, individual members changing allegiances in such a humbling manner.

Jeremy Corbyn has inspired change in Labour, now Smith should be trusted to carry it forwards

The previously unanticipated can happen, and Owen Smith can become the next leader of the Labour Party.

So we’ve reached the end of the supporting nomination stage of Labour’s Leadership

Impossible to know for sure, but I did have my hopes for Mrs May and my wish for a female Prime Minister came true there.  Now I want my wish for Owen Smith and a radical and progressive Labour government to come true as well.

By Paddington Baby

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Crash, Recession, Austerity, Blame… and more Blame!

17th August 2016

By Keith Nieland-

Crash, Recession, Austerity, Blame… and more Blame!

In the final scene of the movie “The Big Short”, the leading characters turn to each other and one says, “Who will get the blame for this?” to which the reply is, “The poor and immigrants as usual.” The “this” is the economic crash of 2008.

In the UK politicians took the blame initially with Gordon Brown paying the price and losing the 2010 general election. He had not seen coming what nobody else had seen either and was accused of not regulating the banks effectively, although nobody was calling for that, least of all Cameron’s Tory opposition. Brown had a plan for dealing with the downturn but the Tories described it as inadequate and criticised him for not balancing the national books nearly quickly enough. Brown and his Chancellor, Darling, must be quietly chuckling to themselves as the Tories, after 6 years of trying, have yet to reach the targets set by Brown and Darling which the Tories thought too timid. The new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has for all purposes kicked balancing the books into the long grass following the Brexit vote. The slings and arrows of politics!

If we go back to 2010 the incoming Chancellor, George Osborne, was quick to characterise the blameworthy poor. He painted a picture of the hardworking family man setting off to work in all weathers while his benefit-dependent neighbour snored on with curtains drawn. So any early morning window with curtains still closed was a hiding place for the lazy, workshy and benefit-dependent. Of course, everybody knew one of these people or, at least, knew somebody who knew somebody else who lived next door to such a person. The media helped the characterisation take hold in the popular imagination by helpfully offering us Benefit Street TV programmes.

The reality was that the economic crash that began in the US banks and spread worldwide had the effect of reducing the UK government tax take and as the economy shrank who better to blame than those most in receipt of services funded from the tax take – the poor, those most dependent on publicly funded services and those who worked in that sector? So benefits were reduced, libraries closed, Sure Start centres closed, rural bus services cut, elderly personal care cut… and the list goes on. All this justified on the back of ‘no more feather-bedding the unworthy’.

After 6 years the books are still unbalanced despite all the cuts and service reductions. Blaming the poor has not worked. Having spent so much effort on pinning the blame, politicians and those who subscribed to their world view with a vote, were not just about to hold up their hands and say we got all this wrong and we need to think again. It was time to blame the other group… immigrants… and the EU referendum provided a perfect opportunity.

The invective of 2010 that was turned on the poor and public servants was now targeted on immigrants. The country was being flooded with them, they are living off benefits, they are taking our jobs (it seemed possible to do both!), they were responsible for NHS queues and the shortage of school places, they depressed wages… and the list goes on. As with the previous attack on the poor, little of this was evidence-based but was more about creating and capturing a public mood. The UK voted to leave the EU (well England and Wales did) and the key reason for doing so was to gain control of immigration.

I am pretty sure that controlling immigration (whatever that may mean) will not address the various grievances that some voters carried into the EU referendum, but expectation is high. I really dislike those vox pop interviews that TV news programmes are full of, but they do, to some extent, hold a finger to the national pulse. Two recent ones I recall vividly. The first was a woman in Stoke-on-Trent who saw leaving the EU as an opportunity to start again and we should get on with it. The second was with a man in Thanet who, with a trace of anger in his voice, wanted departure from the EU sped up so we could do something about the immigrants. Hopes are high that doing something about immigrants (what is not quite clear) will lead to better times (again not defined).

If attacking the poor did not resolve the challenges of 2010 and doing likewise with immigrants does not solve the challenges of 2016, what happens next?

The omens are not good. We have seen the rise of Trump in the USA using rhetoric focused on grooming a sense of grievance amongst voters. Muslims and immigrants once again a target but this time laced with a return to the politics of isolation. Nigel Farage is promising us a new career as the spreader of discontent amongst EU capital with the aim of breaking up the organisation. Australia has seen the rise of One Nation which promises trade protection and banning Muslim immigration. In addition One Nation want discrimination laws changed as they claim they limit free speech.

So it looks like the hunt for somebody to blame will now be focused on Muslims, global free trade and human rights.

This is all very depressing for those on the centre left. But there is a ray of hope from what is an unlikely quarter – the United States. The Democratic Party conference was by and large a joy to watch. There was no blaming and apologising for any aspect of the Party’s progressive agenda. The talk was of working together, tolerance and acceptance. The Democrats firmly set their gaze against isolationism, racial intolerance and attempts to divide society. Progressives across the world must be hoping for a Hillary Clinton victory in November with the expectation that she will be a leader of progressive politics and that other progressive leaders will rally behind her and carry the progressive cause in their own countries.

In the UK the Labour Party is best positioned to be a beacon against intolerance, isolationalism, racism and those who seek to divide society for political gain. It should be possible to address voters’ concerns about immigration, welfare and lack of opportunity within a progressive agenda.

It is urgent business for the Labour Party to come to terms with the UK of 2016, including the Brexit vote, and get down to business with developing a progressive response.

Perhaps Hillary could send over that chap David as he has the experience and skills to reinvigorate a truly progressive Labour Party.

By Keith Nieland

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