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Birmingham Press – Corbyn: a man of integrity with decades of experience outwith the political zeitgeist

Author and Birmingham Press contributor, Steve Beauchampé, assesses Jeremy Corbyn’s chances

Title & headings added:

My only surprise is that anyone was surprised. From the moment Jeremy Corbyn received sufficient nominations to qualify as a candidate in the Labour Party leadership contest, it was clear that here was someone who could articulate and represent the opinions of a considerable number of left leaning voters, both within the Labour Party and without.

After two decades of Blairites, Blair lites and the worthy but unelectable Ed Miliband, Labour voters were being offered the choice of more Blair/Brown in the form of either Yvette Cooper or the unspeakably vapid Liz Kendall (strategy: ‘the Tories won the last two elections, so let’s adopt policies that are indistinguishable from theirs’) or decent, honest and likeable Andy Burnham, a slightly more radical version of Ed Miliband but without the geeky visage and voice.

That Corbyn has forged a sizeable and potentially decisive lead over his rivals under Labour’s new ‘one member one vote’ electoral system has caused a mixture of consternation and outrage amongst many of the party’s grandees (most of whom are backing either Cooper or Kendall) and demonstrates how disconnected with a large section of potential Labour voters they have become (the more so with opinion polls placing Burnham second).

Corbyn has fended off the criticism and caricatures with ease

Meanwhile Corbyn, demonised and subjected to vitriolic attacks by some within his own party, and inaccurately dismissed as a 1980s throwback from the hard left of the political spectrum by Tories and most sections of the media, has fended off both the criticism and caricatures with ease, as befits a man with decades of experience of being outwith the political zeitgeist.

A politician with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’

However, following several weeks of lazy, ignorant mis-characterisation of him across the press (not least by the BBC), a realisation finally seems to be dawning amongst the more thoughtful political commentators and scribes that Jeremy Corbyn is no joke candidate, no passing fad, but is instead a serious politician, and one with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics. No cartoon firebrand Marxist he but a man of conviction and humility with a track record of being on the right side of the argument years before those in the ‘mainstream’ adopted the policies he espoused (Corbyn opposed Britain’s arming of Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s, supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC when the British Government was helping South Africa’s apartheid regime, held talks with the IRA nearly a decade or more before the Major and Blair governments did likewise, campaigned for gay rights when it was unfashionable to do so and voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003).

A politician with an agenda appealing to many voters previously disengaged from party politics

And just as in Scotland, where the rise of the SNP, under the charismatic leaderships of first Alex Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon, have helped invigorate politics, particularly amongst the young, so Corbyn’s leadership hustings have been passionate and at times electrifying affairs, populated by a sizeable number of youthful voters.

A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics

A victory for Corbyn on September 12th could energise and transform British politics, providing a narrative with which a substantial number of the electorate – many of whom currently feel disenfranchised and perhaps don’t even bother to vote – can feel comfortable and might coalesce around. Because, with every media appearance, every public speaking engagement, all but the most politically jaundiced can see that Jeremy Corbyn is at least a man of integrity, putting an argument that has long been absent from mainstream British politics. Agree with him or not, but here is a politician to be respected and reckoned with, who is shifting the terms of the debate.

The Conservative agenda will be thrown into sharper definition

Thus those in the Conservative Party and its media cheerleaders who view a Corbyn victory as almost a guarantee of a third term in office may be in for a shock. Because, whilst the opprobrium directed at Corbyn from his opponents both outside and inside the Labour Party will only intensify if he becomes Labour leader, with a coherent and plausible genuine alternative to the Cameron/Osborne ideology and its attendant relentless tacking to the right of what constitutes the political centre ground, the Conservative’s agenda will be thrown into sharper definition in a way that a Labour Party offering merely a less extreme alternative to the Tories never can.

So could Jeremy Corbyn win a general election for Labour and become Prime Minister?

Well, despite his current sizeable lead in opinion polls Corbyn’s campaign could be scuppered by Labour’s second preference voting system, whereby the second choices of the lowest ranked candidate (who drops out) are added to the cumulative totals of those remaining, this procedure being repeated until one candidate has over half of the votes cast, a system expected to benefit Burnham or Cooper the most.

If . . .

If Corbyn can overcome that hurdle, and any subsequent move to oust him from the New Labour wing of the party, then don’t write Jeremy Corbyn off for Prime Minister. Few of life’s earthquake moments are ever foretold and by May 2020 who knows how bloodied and riven the Conservatives might be following the forthcoming EU referendum. Public appetite for the Tories and in particular George Osborne might have waned after two terms and ten years (and barely a quarter of the eligible electorate voted for them in 2015), with the Conservatives needing only to lose eight seats for there to be hung parliament. So a Corbyn prime ministership is not out of the question.

Perhaps the most likely – and intriguing – scenario to that coming to pass would be a coalition between a Corbyn-led Labour, the Liberal Democrats under the auspices of social democrat leftie Tim Farron, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. Now that really would scare the Daily Mail readers!    

 

Read the Press article here: http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/08/the-john-peel-of-politics/

Steve Beauchampé, August 5th 2015, adds:

Jeremy Corbyn’s policies include:

Re-introduction of a top rate 50% income tax

Tighter regulation of banks and the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis (George Osborne is currently proposing to loosen these controls)

Substantial increase in the number of affordable homes being built

Re-introduction of rent controls to reduce the amount the state pays to private landlords

Support for Britain’s manufacturers rather than the financial services sector

The establishment of a National Investment Bank to pay for major public infrastructure programmes such as house building, improved rail, renewable energy projects and super fast broadband

The minimum wage to apply to apprentices

Removing all elements of privatisation from the NHS

Taking the railways, gas, water and electricity back into public ownership

Bringing Free Schools and Academies under the direct control of local authorities

Budget deficit reduction, but at a slower rate than that currently proposed

Scrapping Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent (Trident)

Support for significant devolution of power from London and opposition to unless voted for in a referendum

An elected second chamber

 

On the EU referendum, Corbyn has said that he is likely to vote to stay in, and then fight for change from inside.

 

Canny Scots politicians act in the interests of their people – the rest of the UK hands food safety over to Capita

Public health minister Maureen Watt is celebrating the launch of Food Standards Scotland, which “will be a trusted source of food safety advice and nutritional guidance”.

capita fera logoNews broke recently that Capita has taken over Britain’s Food and Environment Research Agency, after paying £20m for a 75% stake and despite a string of privatisation scandals and has outlined plans to almost double sales by making the unit’s work more commercial; Professor Tim Lang warns that no one will pay for evidence about food and biodiversity, or food and pesticide residues.

Professor Lang, who heads City University London’s food policy unit and advises Westminster and World Health Organisation, said: “I think it’s absolutely scandalous. This is selling the state, and the moment a state loses its access to science it’s in trouble.” He claimed many food policy experts shared his view but were unwilling to speak out about their concerns.

scottish government header

The Scotsman reports that the primary concern of the FSS is consumer protection – making sure that food is safe to eat, ensuring consumers know what they are eating and improving nutrition. It will also provide policy advice, keep consumers informed and ensure the enforcement of food regulations.

A new YouGov poll had shown shows that other than costs, the Scottish public is most concerned about making sure they and their families eat a healthy, balanced diet. This was followed by worries over food authenticity and concern over food safety.

Executive director of Which?, Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s important that Food Standards Scotland builds on the work of its predecessor and operates transparently as a strong, independent consumer champion. It’s vital that the new food agency tackles the challenges facing Scotland, including obesity rates, food poisoning and food fraud, putting the interests of Scottish consumers at its heart.”

FSS chief executive Geoff Ogle said that the new body “will provide a regime responsive to Scotland’s needs. Our focus will be on making decisions based on the food safety, labelling and nutrition issues that affect the Scottish public most directly.”

Another count on which Scotland is offering a more beneficial example to the British government.

Smaller parties: Mebyon Kernow – ‘progressive left-of-centre’

In an earlier post, there was a reference to the possibility of a coalition of the left involving Labour, the Liberal Democrats and possibly other smaller parties as the most likely outcome of the 2015 election, according to Citibank’s analysts.

mk logoHaving covered the Greens and NHAP, we now turn to Mebyon Kernow, a progressive left-of-centre party in Cornwall.

MK has a good presence in local politics and is putting up an able candidate in the general election: Councillor Richard (Dick) Cole – below. MK is working to build a confident and outward-looking Cornwall with the power to take decisions which direct affect the people of Cornwall, locally.

mk conf dc

Its policies are founded on three core values:

  • Prosperity for all
  • Social justice
  • Environmental protection

Read more here: https://www.mebyonkernow.org/policies/

Policies include:

mk flyerA poll undertaken by Survation for a research and film documentary project at the University of Exeter (Penryn) sampled 500 voters in the Camborne and Redruth seat.

It found that voters in the constituency supported the devolution of more power from Westminster to Cornwall, with 60% in favour and only 19% opposed. It also found that 49% of respondents supported the creation of a Cornish Assembly (similar to that in Wales) with 31% against.

dick coleCllr Cole (right) told conference delegates: “The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond described the whole process as a ‘triumph for democracy,’ while even the Better Together campaign acknowledged that there was a ‘cry for change,’ which was likely to be ‘echoed in every part of the UK.’ “Friends, it is up to us to ensure that the echo from Cornwall reverberates across the length and breadth of the whole United Kingdom, and we must – with confidence – put our case for Cornwall into the political spotlight, and build the momentum to bring home significant political and economic powers to our local communities.” 

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As the polls tighten it’s been a week of charm and threats in the Scottish Referendum campaign

Steve Beauchampé’s Birmingham Press blog, reproduced with permission

“Darling, I know can be dominating, but I promise to give you more space and be less possessive, I can change, we can make things work, we’re a team, better together. Please, please, please just don’t leave me!”

“But woe betide you if you do leave…I’ll ruin you financially, you’ll never work again, I’ll take all of your friends, I’ll make your life hell, I’ll see you in court – and remember I can afford a better lawyer than you!”

The British Establishment can be a thoroughly unpleasant bunch when cornered.

Right now they feel cornered, horrified, terrified, panicking that the sureties of power and control that they have held for several centuries, and which they complacently expected to hold on to after the referendum on Scottish independence, might be less certain than they believed.

So on one hand, and with all the sincerity of Jimmy Savile in a children’s hospital ward, they turn on the charm.

Firstly, the three main English political parties belatedly confirm offers to devolve a limited package of powers to Scotland (even though many Scots have already passed judgment on independence via postal voting).

Prime Minister David Cameron demonstrates his love of Scotland by flying the Scottish Saltire above Downing Street (and urging everyone else to fly it too).

Meanwhile the mainstream parties bring out every political big hitter they can muster (other than toxic Tony) to plead for national unity. Move over Darling indeed!

And pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world threaten the Scots.

Yet at the same time most other arms of government, supported by their pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world rapidly up the ante by threatening the Scots with all manner of grief if they dare to break with Britain; a run on Scottish banks, a financial crisis lasting years, exclusion from NATO, the EU, the Olympics, the introduction of border posts, immediate withdrawal of some parliamentary representation.

Then there’s the ratcheting up of emotional pressure and use of the ‘Blame Scotland’ card, with claims that a Yes vote would downgrade Britain’s status, power and prestige on the world stage, threaten our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, provide a boost to our competitors and – almost treasonably – offend the Queen something rotten.

Destroying the Union, alarming and upsetting the Queen, it’s a campaign of intimidation and shaming that may yet work. Or perhaps it will result in enough Scots thinking, like many who instigate divorce, that they’ve had enough and while sure, things may get tough for a few years, this is a price worth paying for the freedom to determine their own future, make their own mistakes and prove to their ex, and anyone else who doubted them, that they can and will survive.

We’ll soon know, but whilst the three mainstream party leaders head north today to love bomb Scotland, SNP Leader Alex Salmond and his colleagues increasingly play the anti-politics, anti-Westminster elite card so successfully deployed in recent times by UKIP

Whatever the referendum result it seems that significant change to the United Kingdom’s acutely centralised, London-dominated political, economic and cultural structures could follow. I hope so because the British Establishment has had this coming. Keeping everything of national importance in London, siphoning off billions for South East public infrastructure projects, the arts and sport whilst starving other regions of investment by comparison, has helped foster resentment and turned the capital into something increasingly akin to a city-state.

Even the use of terminology such as ‘the regions and ‘the provinces’ insults and patronises us, creating a divisive and superior mentality.

Whichever way Scotland votes on September 18th both Wales and Northern Ireland will seek further devolution, whilst calls for an English parliament will increase. In all of the hoopla caused by the sudden realisation that Scotland and England really might be on the cusp of a divorce, and whilst acknowledging that Whitehall would cede its powers only reluctantly, perhaps the more federal governance structure that Britain so urgently needs may soon be several steps closer.

And a stylistic contrast, in serious, scholarly vein, Steve’s latest book: ‘Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths