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The ILP: preparing for an anniversary

In A.Graham on June 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

In January 1893, the Independent Labour Party (the ILP) was formed at a conference held in Bradford. It chose its name deliberately, to distinguish itself from those who’d sought political representation through an alliance with the Liberals. Such MPs were commonly known as “Lib Lab”.

Thus the ILP proclaimed itself as the party of Independent Labour. Its first MP was Keir Hardie, who had won a seat in the Commons in 1892. and he became the ILP’s first president.

The ILP still exists today – though now as “Independent Labour Publications”. It no longer sees itself as an electoral body, but it continues to campaign for the principled Socialist beliefs shared by its members through the Labour Party (which it helped to found in 1900). And it’s preparing to celebrate its 120th anniversary at the beginning of next year.

PHASES:

In many ways, the ILP is a very different organisation from that of 1893. Then it sought working class representation through a political party that would fight for the interests of labour. In 1900, together with other Socialist bodies and the trade unions, it helped to found the Labour Representation Committee, that went on to become the Labour Party.

During those early years it was effectively the organisational backbone of the Labour movement. Members flocked to join. It fought for trade union rights, and backed the campaign for votes for women. It embraced the Clarion movement – and when the First World War enveloped Europe and beyond in carnage it took an anti-war stand.

In many ways these were the years of growth, and of optimism that the ideals of Socialism would triumph. To quote the words of Edward Thompson, “The ILP grew from the bottom up: its birthplaces were those shadowy parts known as the provinces…. When the two-party political system began to crack, a third party with a distinctly socialist character emerged…. amongst the mills, brickyards and gasworks of the West Riding.”

DISAFFILIATION:

But by the beginning of the 1930s, much had changed. The Labour government elected in 1929 collapsed, and the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, had joined the Tories and Liberals to form a “National” government.

The Labour Party went in to opposition – but faced with the divisions caused by MacDonald’s defection, it insisted that all its MPs (including those elected under the ILP banner) should be subject to the Labour whip. The ILP resisted – and finally under the leadership of Jimmy Maxton, it took the decision to disaffiliate from the Labour Party and go its own way.

The ILP’s Parliamentary representation shrank significantly. Many of its MPs were defeated in the ensuing election as the Labour Party put up candidates against them. Others decided to stay with the Labour Party anyway. But though in retrospect these were years of declining influence for the ILP, its principles remained and it continued to campaign vigorously for its Socialist ideals.

It joined the campaign against Mosley’s Blackshirts, and its members were active in the “Battle of Cable Street” in East London. Members of the ILP fought for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War, joining the POUM militia. And it supported the hunger marches in the bleak depression years of the 1930s.

Two attempts were made to re-affiliate to the Labour Party – in 1938 and again in 1946. These came to nought, and as the ILP lost its representation in Parliament, it also seemed to lose its relevance. But old comrades soldiered on, keeping the ILP flag flying – though often it seemed as though it was at half mast. A trickle of new members joined, and the organisation trundled on.

THE FINAL CHAPTER??

Until, in 1975, the decision was taken to “re-brand” and re-position the ILP. It changed its constitution to become Independent Labour Publications (thus keeping its initials ILP). A few months later, the Labour Party agreed that those in the ILP could once again join. And thus ended a rift that had lasted over 40 years. Today, the ILP is a much smaller body than it once was, but it still maintains the same principles and ideals on which it was founded.

ALISTAIR GRAHAM

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Blairism: the final years

In A.Graham, Reviews on June 29, 2012 at 10:23 am

“Decline & Fall”, the diaries of Chris Mullin. 2005-2010. Profile Books, £9.99.

The rise of “New Labour”, “Cool Britannia” and all the other cliched slogans heralded the end of the grim, bleak years of Thatcher and Major. At first the change of Government seemed like a breath of fresh air. Many Labour loyalists may have resented all the re-branding that accompanied the rise of Blairism – but nonetheless at the time they still cheered Labour’s poll victory on May Day 1997.

By the time we reached 2005, the gloss had departed from “New” Labour, Britannia was no longer cool – and party membership had slumped drastically. And the party’s rich donors were deserting in droves. Blair had led us into war in Iraq, playing second fiddle to a US president whose ineptitude was only matched by his own sense of complacency. As for the Government, it was beginning to look as though it had at last outstayed its welcome.

MULLIN’S VIEW:

These last five years of New Labour rule were recorded in the diaries of former Tribunite and MP for Sunderland South, Chris Mullin. His diaries are a refreshing antidote to the exercises in self glorification that pass as memoirs of many former political leaders. Indeed, I’d venture to suggest that they stand alongside those of Tony Benn – himself a noted diarist who recorded events with honesty and candour. .

Although Mullin had served as a junior Minister in the Foreign Office, by the time this volume of his diaries begins he had returned to the back benches. – which perhaps gave him a certain freedom to view the unravelling of New Labour. And might also account for a certain cynicism.

Having said that, his warm affection for his family and indeed many of his parliamentary colleagues still shines through. This is no hatchet job – but it does serve to remind us of many events that marked New Labour’s final years in power.

Throughout, he refers to Tony Blair as “the Man”, and outlines his practice of preferring to rule with the aid of an inner cabal rather that through full Cabinet, of making up policy on the hoof whilst launching political initiatives out of the blue. One case in point was the decision to renew the Trident missile system. There seemed general agreement that a brand new Trident system would serve no useful purpose. Mullin suggests that it was political – a case of “keeping up with the Joneses” – in this case, the French.

He seems to have more time for Brown, who he refers to as Gordon. He sees him as a person of integrity – but he’s dubious about his temperamental ability to lead a government; pointing out his obsession with micro-management, and his somewhat erratic temper when under stress.

MIGRANT WATCH:

One area, particularly amongst his own constituents, that concerned Mullin was the fate of the migrant community – facing harassment and bigotry on the one hand and the threat of deportation on the other. He worked hard to try to persuade Government Ministers to halt deportation orders, and to prevent immigration families being split up by bureaucratic decree. Sadly he wasn’t always successful.

And he continues his watching brief on Africa, paying frequent visits with parliamentary colleagues.

Amongst those he counts as a friend is Tony Benn (by this time, of course, no longer an MP, but instead “devoting his time to politics”). There is an amiable dialogue between the two of them, but Mullin confesses to being a bit hurt when he is accused of “selling out” in Tony Benn’s diaries. But this doesn’t impede the continuing friendship.

As for whether he could be said to have “sold out” is a moot point. Mullin certainly seemed to have accommodated himself to the cross currents and intrigues of Parliamentary life – though a certain weariness becomes evident as we reach the final years of Blair’s premiership.

THE LAST DAYS OF BLAIR:

On the 10th May 2007, Mullin records in his diary that “the Man flew to Sedgefield to announce the date of his re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. It is to be 27 June.” And so on the allotted date, Mullins records Blair’s final appearance as Prime Minister in the Commons. It was, we’re told, mainly a subdued affair.

And so we come to the brief Brown years, highlighted by the collapse of the banks and the big bail-out. In 2010 the “New Labour” years came to an abrupt end – and Chris Mullin left Parliament for good.

ALISTAIR GRAHAM


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THE NHS: A guide through the wreckage

In Guest Feature on June 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

JOHN LISTER looks at the bureaucratic jungle thrown up by the Health & Social Care Act.

Andrew Lansley’s Act eventually passed through Parliament in March – despite massive and growing opposition, not only from health unions and campaigners but also from GPs and hospital doctors. It’s set to change the landscape of the NHS. The changes won’t be instant , but will be imposed as a forced march, with most implemented within a year.

It will sweep away the 150 or so Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) that currently hold the budgets to commission services for defined population areas, and also carry out duties such as protecting patients’ rights.

Also disappearing are Strategic Health Authorities, whose role included co-ordinating PCTs, overseeing NHS Trusts and organising the education of medical and professional staff.

Neither of these were especially popular with the public, nor were they a model of democracy. But they currently plan and control budgets of around £80 billion, and are set to be wound up by April 1st next year. Their replacement will be far worse – a new and even more complex, many layered bureaucracy, including:-

* A new National Commissioning Board. This will have 3,500 staff, nine national directorates and a “national network of local offices”. It will work initially to oversee the establishment of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). The NCB will be the body that commissions primary care services, specialist health services and oversees CCGs, with extensive powers to select their leaders, to intervene and to decide whether or not to agree CCG proposals.

* Clinical Commissioning Groups will be the local level commissioners, composed largely of GPs with the token involvement of a hospital consultant and a nurse from outside the area – and in many cases management roles taken by non-GPs. CCGs need to seek authorisation from the NCB.

* Clinical Support Organisations will advise and in many cases shape the commissioning work done by the CCGs. Initially these will be hosted by the NCB – but no later than 2016 these will be hived off as commercial concerns selling their services to CCGs. GPs’ clinical decisions on where to refer patients for treatment will also be second guessed by a growing network of “referral management” organisations, some operated by the private sector.

Those NHS trusts that have not made the transition to Foundation Trusts are now on a forced march towards Foundation status – or face the threat of dismemberment and mergers by 2014.

* “Any Qualified Provider”: a register of organisations deemed to be “qualified” to deliver health care will be drawn up. GPs will be required to offer patients the option of any “qualified provider” in an increasing range of services from September this year.

“HEALTH AND WELLBEING”:

There will also be up to 152 Health & Wellbeing Boards run by local councils. In theory board members will collaborate to understand their local community’s needs, agree priorities and encourage commissioners to work in a more joined up way. In practice, they can be composed of as few as six people, only one of whom may be an elected councillor, and their actual powers will be limited.

* MONITOR: This body regulates Foundation Trusts, but it is to have new powers. It is required to “exercise its functions with a view to preventing anti-competitive behaviour in the provision of health care services”. So its task is to ensure a maximum private sector challenge to existing NHS providers.

However the Act also says that it is free to “exercise its functions with a view to enabling health care services to be provided in an integrated way”. Nobody expects this token, toothless amendment from the LibDems to happen.

The “Co-operation & Competition Panel” is a grim relic of New Labour’s eagerness to turn the NHS increasingly into a competitive market. It lingers on under the chairmanship of fanatical privatiser, Lord Carter of Coles. It will continue to act as a complaints panel for aggrieved private sector companies demanding the right to a slice of NHS budgets in profitable services, and will serve as an advisory panel to Monitor.

The Care Quality Commission was formed in 2009, and is supposed to regulate the quality and effectiveness of care providers. But according to the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee it has “failed to fulfil this role effectively”.

Meanwhile, Healthwatch England is the latest, even more toothless, incarnation of a “patients’ voice”, and follows a growing list of inadequate and marginalised bodies set up after Labour scrapped Community Health Councils and stripped away their extensive statutory powers.

Abridged, and printed with permission from John Lister and the Socialist Health Association 

BLUE SKY THINKING? Recommendations for Labour’s education policies

In R.Richardson on June 29, 2012 at 10:05 am

a discussion piece by RUTH RICHARDSON

The Socialist Education Association was founded as the National Association of Labour Teachers in the 1920s. It is affiliated to the Labour Party and acts as a “think tank” on educational matters.

Last year, the SEA made a submission to the Labour Party recommending ways in which the party should develop its education policy. That policy, said the SEA, should be founded on four key principles: equality, democracy, freedom and solidarity. It must address the issue of how our public education system should be controlled and made accountable.

GALLOPING PRIVATISATION:

The first priority is to save state maintained education from privatisation. Here the private sector has taken over, then sold back to schools, a range of services from school meals to inspection services. The large scale creation of Academies and Free Schools need input from private companies to meet the tightened application criteria. The next Labour government should conduct a full review of the governance and regulation of these private providers.

Labour should expose the fact that schools converting to Academies are bribed to do so. As well as their normal funding they receive a proportion of the money allocated to their LEA (Local Education Authority) for central services. The LEA is so much the poorer, and indeed in some cases its very survival is under threat. It should be remembered that part of the LEA’s role is the democratic expression of the local community. Academies are accountable only to the Secretary of State.

COMPREHENSIVES:

Comprehensive education has been an overwhelming success, says the SEA, and only Tory ministers denigrate the achievements of teachers and learners. Michael Gove’s nostalgia for a “golden age” of education is totally misplaced. The SEA urges Labour to reassert its commitment to comprehensive education. The curriculum should be broad, balanced and inclusive. Most importantly, co-operation between local schools should be encouraged, not league-table driven competition. Schools in deprived areas don’t need to be described as “failing”. They need generous resources and the freedom to teach according to the specific needs of their pupils.

FAIR AND BALANCED INTAKE:

The SEA considers a fair admission system is essential. All schools should have intakes that are as balanced as possible in terms of ability, class and ethnicity. Covert selection should be exposed and eliminated. And Labour should re-introduce the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) – the grant that poorer students used to receive to allow them to carry on with their education beyond 16. Also on the agenda should be plans for a phased return to a fully publicly-funded system of higher education and the abolition of tuition fees.

VALUING TEACHERS:

We shall get the best from our teachers if they have good conditions of service and feel valued. It is not helpful to have comments thrown at them like that made by Sir Michael Wilshaw (head of Ofsted) that “teachers don’t know the meaning of the word stress.” Teachers, says the SEA, need time to work together and share good practice, and should be entitled to regular sabbaticals to refresh their knowledge and skills.

The SEA is also concerned about the growing privatisation of teacher training, based on organisations such as “Teach First”, which has recently overtaken the Institute of Education in the number of teachers trained. “Teach First” is a charity, with corporate sponsors such as the Canary Wharf Group and Citi. Its website is worth a visit. It seems to be exactly the sort of set-up that David Cameron would champion. Reason enough to distrust it?

THOUGHT PROVOKING:

The SEA’s submission is comprehensive and thought-provoking. It was produced after extensive research and discussion and has contributions from a number of eminent educationalists.

As Professor Richard Pring, president of the SEA, writes:

“The Labour Party needs to be reminded of the profoundly ethical nature of educational policy in terms of values and personal wellbeing… We should make sure that the provision of educational opportunities begins with the needs of the learners not with the interests of the providers.”

 

 

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on June 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

No silver spoon for Gove

Many folk must have blinked at least twice when they read that Michael Gove had hit out at the dominance of those from public schools in top positions – including, of course, his own government. He seemed to have hit on the point that privilege rules in our society

But surely Gove is one of them? One of those who had a privileged eduction and slipped easily into government? But it seems that’s not quite the case.

I did a bit of digging, courtesy of Wikipedia, and discovered that our Michael was actually adopted at the age of four months by a “Labour supporting family” (albeit middle class) living in Aberdeen. Initially he attended a state school, before winning a scholarship to the independent (and posh) Robert Gordon’s College. From here he went on to Oxford to study English.

So Michael Gove, unlike the Camerons and Cleggs of this world, wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was a product of what used to be called our “meritocracy”. It’s just a pity that he didn’t stick to journalism, where he was doing so well; instead of seeking a career in politics. Then he wouldn’t be in a position to create such havoc with our schools.

Some Old Lags’ Delight, please

A new wheeze dreamed up by government minister Ken Clarke, is to turn our prisons into residential factories, where the inmates can pass their time producing goods for retail companies. They would “learn a trade”, and then it would be a case of hey ho, hey ho, it’s off to work they’d go.

Already Timpsons, the shoe repair chain, has set up what it calls training academies in prisons. The prisoners learn to repair shoes and watches, and cut keys (though not the get out of prison free variety!).

Amongst the companies quoted as having a possible interest is Marks & Spencers. Other retail firms are also being approached. The breezy Mr. Clarke describes it as a “more intelligent way of running the prison service”. But GMB union spokesman Paul Kenny retorted that “Ken Clarke has taken leave of his senses.”

I can see his point. It’s a way of using cheap labour, at a time when some two million are on the dole and looking for work.

Inmates would be earning as little as £10 a week for their labour. In the world of work outside, there’s such a thing as a national minimum wage which employers are expected to pay their workers. I’m sure there are plenty of companies out there who may be tempted to opt for cheap prison labour.

OK, teach prisoners a trade, by all means. In more enlightened days, this was done as a matter of course. Inmates could take courses, and learn skills which stood them in good stead when they were released. This approach still continues, but in recent years too many in authority have seen our prisons as somewhere where we could just lock up miscreants and throw away the key (unless it was one cut for Timpsons of course).

Your health in their (private) hands

I got a leaflet through my door the other week. Well, I’m always getting unwanted leaflets – indeed, you could paper a good size room with them. But this particular one was from the privately owned Winfield Hospital, just up the road from Gloucester.

Would you like to experience the many benefits of private healthcare it asked? Well, no, not really – but with a weird sense of repugnant fascination, I found myself reading on, anyway.

On offer were a range of “fixed cost packages for a wide variety of treatments”. And then it went on to quote some of its prices.

Just to give a few samples, treatment for cataracts, varicose veins or a hernia would set you back £1,800 a piece. The same price is quoted if you want your vasectomy reversed, whilst “lumps and bumps” (up to three) can be treated for a mere £600. A knee replacement costs £9450 and replacing a hip would set you back £8450.

Easy payment options are available, it says, but will be required prior to admission. So, come on, treat yourself!

A sign of our times, perhaps? I’ll refrain from further comment, though. I’m sure folk will be able to draw their own conclusions.

Dinosaur

EDITORIAL COMMENT: the Local Elections – a Double-edged Victory for Labour?

In Editorial on June 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm

The local council elections at the beginning of May were an encouraging sign that voters are now increasingly turning against the Tories and their junior partners in coalition, the Liberal Democrats.

Labour gained over 800 seats, whilst both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems lost heavily. It wasn’t quite the wipe-out for the Lib Dems that one might have expected, but they were still left battered and bruised by the voters who deserted them in droves at the ballot box.

Labour supporters had every right to be encouraged by the result. The party gained control of seven more councils and won hundreds of seats throughout the country. Of course, we in the Forest of Dean had no elections this year, so we can’t tell for sure whether the same patterns might have been repeated here.

For other progressive parties (like the Greens for example), the results were rather more patchy. It was only in Bradford, where George Galloway’s victory in a by-election encouraged a surge of support for “Respect”, which resulted in the gain of five seats for that party on the city council.

It could be claimed that (apart from areas where special circumstances applied) Labour was just the beneficiary of a general anti-ConDem swing, which followed a disastrous couple of weeks for the Government. Fair enough , if you follow the “swings and roundabouts” theory of politics. But Labour still has some way to go before it succeeds in establishing a new sense of identity that its natural supporters can relate to. At leadership level it still hasn’t altogether broken free from the cloying legacy of Blairism. And, it seems, there are divisions in the shadow cabinet between those who believe that the party should spell out its policies in specific detail, and those who feel that at this stage Labour should merely indicate its general approach when it comes to opposing the damage done by the ConDem coalition government. Meanwhile, it still has to learn to campaign vigorously on the issues that really matter to people affected by the cuts imposed imposed by the Government and its supporters at both national and council level.

In those local authorities where Labour has now gained a new influence in the council chambers, they also face a dilemma. Cuts in council spending are now virtually dictated from above with little control by councils over their own budgets. So how does Labour react? How will they be able to save local council jobs and services? It may be that all they can do is wring their hands – or try to ameliorate Government-imposed cuts by re-directing them as far as possible elsewhere. But even that approach is dubious, to say the least.

But so far, the local election results are an encouraging sign that maybe – just maybe – we’ve got the Government on the run. And on a wider, European scale, there are now signs that people are finally turning against the “slash and burn” approach that’s been imposed throughout the EU. The victory by the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, in the French presidential elections indicates that voters there have had enough of austerity packages. Like their new president they now want to go for growth.

But as Harold Wilson once said, a week in politics can be a long time. We’ve a rough ride ahead of us, and there’s still plenty of campaigning to do. On other pages we look at what’s in store for the health service. And there’s still a need to try to co-ordinate opposition to local authority cuts.

Bradford: THE GALLOWAY EFFECT

Meanwhile, the House of Commons has seen the return of George Galloway as the new “Respect” MP for Bradford West. Following his victory in the recent by-election, his party has now gained seats on the Bradford city council. When the by-election results were declared, much was written about his victory, and how this enfant terrible had “trounced” Labour and rubbed its nose in it, to boot. But whatever we think of Galloway, his success needs to be put into perspective.

First, “Respect” already had a presence in the constituency. The party fought West Bradford in the 2010 General Election, and gained over a thousand votes – so it already had some level of organisation in the area. Second, back in 2010, the Tories had put the constituency down as a “winnable” seat, and indeed came a respectable second. But in the by-election , Conservative support just melted away. So, who then was being “trounced”?

Having said that, Labour needs to give some thought to why its candidate in the by-election failed to hold the seat – and why it was snatched by an (albeit charismatic) outsider. There are obviously roots of discontent that Labour simply isn’t addressing – in Bradford, at least..

The Euro-Crisis:

As we prepare this issue of the Clarion for the printers, the Euro Crisis has been deepening. In Greece, the country worst effected, people are now showing that they are no longer prepared to accept the so-called “austerity” imposed on them. At home, Cameron wades in with a speech that is not only uncalled for but unhelpful.

To tell those in the Euro-zone that they have to get their act together not only seemed to exhibit a degree of smug triumphalism but also seems designed to alienate him yet further from those in Europe facing up to their currency problem.

Or, is it possible that there was a note of panic in Cameron’s  outburst? After all, he should realise that the fate of the Euro is something that ultimately affects us all. After all, these days Europe is a major trading partner (involving some 40 per cent of our exports). And UK banks are also big in Europe. Indeed, thanks to policies pursued by successive governments since the Thatcher years, we’ve become increasingly dependent on finance capitalism. Whilst once upon a time we manufactured goods we now make money instead. Which, of course, makes us particularly vulnerable.

In Europe (as elsewhere of course) it was the greed of a banking system out of control that caused the crisis. But it is the victims of this greed who have had to pay the price. In Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere, the “austerity” packages have been imposed specifically to prop up a corrupt and unregulated banking system

It’s true, as Robert Peston pointed out on television (BBC2, May 17), that the Euro was introduced on extremely shaky principles.

Disparate economies with very little in common, were yoked together in a single currency, with no overall political direction or control. But ultimately it was the international banking collapse of 2007-2008, spreading like a plague from the USA, that finally kicked off the Euro-crisis.

European banks (many of whom had indulged in dodgy practices when times seemed good) were bailed out – but little of the money involved trickled out to the economies of the Euro-nations. And the people of the financially weaker countries, such as Greece, Ireland, Spain and Italy, were expected to pay the price.

There is now a growing revolt against the imposition of “austerity” packages. Austerity has nothing to do with the banks adopting more rigorous, or even ethical, practices. It’s to do with cutting the public sector to the bone, of cutting jobs and wages – of impoverishing people who had nothing to do with causing the crisis.

In Greece, and of course in France, people have shown by their votes and their actions that they have had enough. In Spain and Italy, they have taken to the streets in growing numbers.

That is the background to David Cameron’s speech. But like it or not, we are all in this together. We have common cause with those across Europe whose lives have been blighted by the overweening greed and hubris of bankers and financiers.

LEFT INSIDE: Why an Independent candidate will lose

In C.Spiby on June 22, 2012 at 10:41 am

Coalescing around the Save the Wilderness, anti-cuts and Save Our NHS/Local Hospital groups is the noise in the webosphere of standing an independent anti-cuts left candidate against our incumbent Tory MP, Mark Harper, in the next General Election.

To analyse this, we need to contextualise just who elects our MP. While activists and Party members also vote and push the debate, their numbers pale against the sheer size of the wider voting public. It is the voting people who we are to convince, whoever our candidate is.

And so, it is in my experience that there are two things that inform the vote of the wider, non-activist population. First, the national question: what does the Party stand for? By extension this will be a judgement of their performance if they are in Government, or, in opposition, their proposed programme and policies.

Then, secondly, there is the reputation of the Party locally. This will be communicated by policies adopted by the local Council (car parking charges, refuse collection etc.) and the strength and validity of the opposition.

On both of these, the Tories have a poor standing that any opposition would do well to exploit.

Nationally, there have been the cuts as well as a range of Bills to reform the public sector, the NHS, student fees and even welfare. These are a gift to any opposition candidate to the left of the ConDems.

An independent candidate will say they oppose and stand to reverse all of these things. But will they have the power to do so? No. Currently there are 23 members of Parliament who do not belong to one of the big 3 parties. They hold no majority and cannot even form a coalition strong enough to yield control. They are virtually mute.

But a Labour Candidate – that’s different. As the only other potential Parliamentary power, Labour has already said that it would repeal the Health & Social Care Bill at the first opportunity. An independent may have the same desire but there’s no way they’ll ever have the support and therefore the power to take the opportunity.

By the time the election comes around, the bite of the NHS reforms will begin to filter through. On that alone the public should rightly support the most realistic way of repealing this terrible Bill. And so should SOS and NHS campaigners, if they really want to change things.

LABOUR AND THE CUTS

But on the other issues, the ground is a bit murkier.

For sure, I for one am not at all comfortable with the Parliamentary Party acknowledging the need for the cuts. But at least their mantra is both more logical and liberal, with the ‘not so deep and not so fast’, and backed up with a plan for public works.

Of course a Labour candidate has to balance the national policy of his Party with his own conscience.  But let’s face it, the Labour approach HAS to better than the alternative: another 4 years of Toryism. To deny this is to gift the win to the enemy.

But that does not mean our Labour candidate or their supporters have to accept the cuts as a premise. Indeed, publicly you can support the national line and use that public platform to qualify your own scepticism of the policy – as people like John McDonell do well – while privately joining in anti-cuts activism within or out of the LP. I reject the idea that to oppose the cuts you have to be out of the LP. It makes no sense.

As for the independent? They’ll have the moral high ground for sure, but still no power to form bills and create legislation, let alone implement their policies. A Labour government would at least slow the cuts and not make them as deep, as a minimum. Then it is up to the Trade Unions and LP members to push harder to compel the Parliamentary Party to go further still with their reversals and repeals, whilst taking stock of where the international economy lies there and then.

Let’s not forget, it was Milliband who observed that the 2012 budget gave to millionaires while it took from millions of pensioners. The Labour Party is the party that truly represents a realistic chance of halting the progress of the Tory agenda. The voice of the independent is lost even locally. All that they achieve is a split in the vote for the left, endangering the very policies that could reverse what they fight to oppose.