Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Posts Tagged ‘UKIP’

LEFT INSIDE: Labour Wobble

In C.Spiby on November 11, 2014 at 1:14 pm

An early un-edited edition of my next Clarion article (in print in the Dec 2014/Jan 2015 edition, if not pulled before then!)

It’s time for One Nation Labour to set out its electoral stall for real now. Scotland has force the point, chased hotly by doubts over Ed Miliband’s ability to lead our party or being a suitable Prime Minister.

Scotland – and in particular the huge turnout of the Independence referendum – has given Westminster-based politics the kick up the arse voters knew it desperately needed.

Now there’s a leadership contest there and it proves to be shaping what Scottish Labour ought to look like and represent. Is it just a branch of Parliamentary Labour or something distinct in the Labour movement in Scotland?

Clarion readers will probably agree that the latter might also prove the kick up the arse our Parliamentary Labour Party needs to become meaningful for the electorate.

Given a meaningful choice on Independence, the voters demonstrated they are hungry to engage in proper change. Indeed, I doubt whether a remote branch in Scotland was what John Robertson and Jim Sillars had in mind when they first set-up the breakaway the Scottish Labour Party back in 1976. Instead they sought to be a voice distinct from Westminster.

I believe there’s appetite for more of that kind of independent thinking within Labour, and furthermore we can have that without having to abandon our Party. In fact, I’d wage it might be a way to electoral success.

I certainly witnessed this desire for local distinction among some of our number in the 2015 District Council Forest of Dean CLP Manifesto Drafting Group which I had the honour to lead. But this doesn’t have to be a binary thing: you can follow Labour Party principles and rules and still have a distinctive voice in local politics. In fact, I rather think it’s what the electorate expect of us.

Difference and choice are vital to voters. I am reminded of what George Monbiot once told me in an interview…

“Its mainstream parliamentary party politics we’re all pissed off with. You can choose between the party of big business and bombing, or the party of big business and bombing.”

It’s in looking for new choices that some have been persuaded by the shadowy repulsiveness of UKIP. We need to demonstrate that our Party and our local candidate, and indeed local and country councillors offer the electorate meaningful choice, not just more of the same.

The defence for the leadership of Milliband is mostly characterised by the principle of having to stick with the choice made a couple of years ago at the Leadership Election. But by that logic we would allow Ed Miliband to do virtually anything to destroy our movement before we’d kicked him into touch. Although I’m not saying he has or will destroy Labour, I’m just questioning the principled stand of permissiveness just for the sake of a principled stand. To me that’s not much of a defence.

The argument also goes that ‘we’re only 6 months away from an election!’ Agreed, not a desirable time to switch leadership. But again, says who? Based on what? If there’s evidence that the leader is not polling well when actually he should be at his strongest (into the final term of opposition) then that is an argument for decisive change not capitulation. If total unity isn’t the current, it won’t appear just because we’re running out of time. What you’ll get instead is internal maneuvering for the post-defeat Labour Party. Put another way, sticking with an unelectable leader just because we’re running out of time is not a good reason to stick with an unelectable leader.

The final argument appears to be that there’s no willing or able candidate to replace Miliband. Is the shadow cabinet really so moribund to not one capable shadow minister willing to stand up for our movement? I don’t think it is. So that too is a false defence.

If the NHS is the one binding element of our campaign which universally moves British people of voting age, then clearly the robust, capable and comparatively natural leader is the person leading that part of campaign: Andy Burnham. I’d support that move in a second, and I think the British people would too.

Voters would see a Labour Party willing to listen to the public (in their dislike of Miliband) and make meaningful change. If Burnham is seen as the saviour of the NHS in austerity, then he might just save our movement and the legacy of Labour. It should also guarantee us success at the next election.

True, a Burnham Labour won’t take us back to the manifesto of Michael Foot in 1983, but it wouldn’t be New Labour either.

Those who agree with my general argument might also take heart that when asked during the local Parliamentary candidate hustings as which member of the current shadow cabinet did he/she most admire or ally themselves with, our chosen candidate – Steve Parry-Hearn – cited Andy Burnham.

Andy BurnhamNOTE: The views expressed in this column are the personal views of C. Spiby and not the Forest of Dean Labour Party or Steve Parry-Hearn.

DINOSAUR: Modern Times

In Dinosaur on March 31, 2014 at 12:09 pm

dinosaurThe Bonus culture:

Aren’t bonuses brilliant? You work in a London bank for a nice salary – and then you have it topped up for you at the whim of the bank’s directors. Indeed, you can end up with even more than double your salary – if you’re lucky.

And the beauty of it is that it’s got no connection with how much money you’ve made for the bank – or, indeed, how much money’s been…er… how shall I put it? .. mislaid. It’s their way of saying thank you , just for being there. And it pays for the new Porsche and one or two little extras. So let’s lay in another crate of bubbly and celebrate!

And, of course, since your bank got bailed out by the taxpayers, it doesn’t even have to make a profit to give you that bonus. It’s a kind of incentive, we’re told. A sort of encouragement to carry on doing what you’d been doing during those heady days before it all fell apart.

Well, so much for the bonus culture, which seems so ingrained in the banking system that this particular dinosaur wonders whether he should just stash his cash in a tin box under his bed. But financiers and even politicians seem wedded to it. The world of investment banking seems to exist in a bubble, divorced from the reality of life as lived by the rest of us.

Surely it’s time to burst that particular bubble.

Celebrating the slaughter:

It’s difficult to get to grips with exactly how Michael Gove wants us to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War. He’s denounced such “negative” images as those shown in the musical Oh What a Lovely War or that portrayed in the final instalment of Blackadder. By implication he seems to see us fighting to defend democracy, free speech – and our British way of life – whatever that may be.

In fact in 1914, less than half the population had the vote (about 40 per cent, I believe). “Free Speech” became an expensive commodity as the war progressed. It’s always one of the first casualties of war. And even today historians are arguing about what actually caused the war to erupt.

It became effectively a war of attrition – with generals in charge still using the tactics of the Boer War. If it had lasted longer might well have become a case of “last man standing”. It had a devastating impact on an entire generation. It led to the collapse of four imperial powers, and ultimately to the era of dictators and demagogy across Europe.

So are we going to see displays of the iconic poster bearing the words “Your Country Needs You”? Are the organised tours of the war cemeteries going to be accompanied by sanitized homilies on how the dead gave their lives for us all? Maybe we could have an allocation of white feathers for those who wish to hand them out to folk with a more cynical take on the conflict. Or would that be going too far?

Perhaps. A rather more sober, maybe even sombre, approach is needed, Mr Gove.

A punishment from above:

It must be difficult at times keeping control over a party that seems to have more than its normal share of fruitcakes – whilst at the same time trying to claim the same level of sanity as the rest of us.

I’m talking about UKIP of course, that collection of oddities that wants to take us out of the European Union, close the drawbridge and put paid to all those Romanians and Bulgarians that are poised to flood in, in an ever increasing trickle.

The latest member to raise his head above the parapet is a UKIP councillor from Henley-on-Thames. He’s declared in an interview on his local radio station that the wet and windy weather that we’ve been enduring is a sign that God disapproves of Government legalisation of gay marriages.

David Sylvester (a former Tory turned UKIP) said that we had been “beset by storms” since Cameron had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel”. Now an embarrassed Nigel Farage has decided to suspend Mr Sylvester.

He also added that all candidates standing for UKIP in the Euro-elections in May are being vetted – and five of its sitting MEPs won’t be standing again. Well, no doubt that’ll weed out those who openly declare their belief in “Bongo Bongo land.”