In July Peter Hitchens wrote: “Globalisation hasn’t worked but our elite have not yet been held to account”. As he said, the EU referendum result was a heartfelt protest, but is Brexit likely to enhance the lives of those who made that protest? He continued:
“There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security”.
But people are re-engaging with politics
Hundreds of thousands have joined Labour. Tens of thousands have joined the SNP, Greens, Tories and, since the EU referendum, the Lib Dems – and this, in an age when we have been told that people no longer want to get involved in politics. The growing adherence to Sanders, Corbyn, the SNP and radical parties in Greece, Spain, Italy and Iceland suggest that the existing order is being challenged and new hope is emerging.
In a different article Hitchens said: “If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap. Millions are weary of being smarmed and lied to by people who actually are not that competent or impressive, and who have been picked because they look good on TV rather than because they have ideas or character”.
Is it just a matter of time before parties regroup?
Some Conservative and Labour voters are moving to UKIP, some to the Liberal Democrats – and others are listening to calls for a cross-party progressive alliance.
In July there was a “Post-Brexit Alliance” meeting with speakers including the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Amina Gichinga from Take Back the City and the Guardian’s John Harris. This month, a statement calling for progressive parties to work together for electoral reform was published; it is signed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Steven Agnew, Leader of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party and Alice Hooker-Stroud, Leader of the Wales Green Party.
‘Principled, grown-up politics’ indeed.
Calls for a progressive alliance are coming in. Today, a Green House alert included news that the case for cross-party working and why it could be a game-changer will be examined on 2-4 September at the University of Birmingham (Edgbaston campus) at the Green Party’s Autumn Conference, when Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, will be joined on the panel by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Chris Bowers, Neil Lawson, Chair of Compass, and Rupert Read, Chair of the Green House think-tank.
Professor Paul Rogers has reflected on the shifting of the tectonic plates:
“Within the Labour Party, ward after ward is witnessing the impact of new membership but, more importantly, seeing a remarkable degree of anger at what the government has enacted since the election and the palpable lack of opposition by Labour in the midst of its protracted leadership campaign. Many Labour members (Ed: and many not in the party) are angry at:
- the intended review of NHS funding involving accelerated privatisation,
- the sell-off of housing-association stock,
- the constant blaming of the “feckless poor”
- and the renewed assault on labour rights.
At the same time, inheritance tax is reduced, bank bonuses are rising, tax avoidance is the order of the day, and the Financial Conduct Authority looks set to relax even its modest regulatory grip. Among these and many other indicators of a move to the right, no wonder the Tories’ claimed long-term aim of a “living wage” is treated with deep suspicion.
Journalist and documentary producer Peter Hitchens sees the need for a new approach as “both major parties have been taken over by the same cult, the Clinton-Blair fantasy that globalism, open borders and mass immigration will save the great nations of the West”.
He continues: “It hasn’t worked. In the USA it has failed so badly that the infuriated, scorned, impoverished voters of Middle America are on the point of electing a fake-conservative yahoo businessman as President”.
Many will agree with Hitchens’ reflection that – so far – we have been gentler with our complacent elite, perhaps too gentle. He sees the referendum majority for leaving the EU as a deep protest against many things and forecasts:
“If Mr Corbyn wins, our existing party system will begin to totter. The Labour Party must split between old-fashioned radicals like him, and complacent smoothies from the Blair age. And since (Blairite Labour MPs) have far more in common with Mrs May than with Mr Corbyn, there is only one direction they can take. They will have to snuggle up beside her absurdly misnamed Conservative Party.
“And so at last the British public will see clearly revealed the truth they have long avoided – that the two main parties are joined in an alliance against them. And they may grasp that their only response is to form an alliance against the two big parties. Impossible? Look how quickly this happened in Scotland”.
Vested interests rule as Blairites attempt to replace their elite-free, increasingly ‘in tune’ leader
Ever since devolution and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in the late 1990s, there has been a growing vibrancy to politics in Scotland. Energised by the 2014 independence referendum, boosted further by the election of the estimable Nicola Sturgeon as SNP Leader and First Minister, Scotland appears as a young, optimistic, politically engaged country . . .
Around two-thirds of under-25s voted Remain, the opposite of how middle aged and older people acted. The feeling that those generations which had enjoyed free education, a free health service, an abundance of affordable housing and triple lock protected pensioner benefits were limiting the life chances of the nation’s children and young adults was palpable. ‘Grandma, what have you done?’’ read one on-line headline.
Two decades and more of unforgiving, neo-liberal economics and globalization saw the export of jobs and the import of cheap labour and even cheaper raw materials; nearly a decade of austerity and the decimation of public services and the societal values which they underpinned; local pride sapped by a London-centric economy and an unprecedented and growing wealth gap. All this within a moribund political system where the First Past The Post electoral process locks in a two-party hegemony whilst awarding UKIP and the Green Party, who collectively amassed around five million votes at the 2015 General Election, a mere two parliamentary seats.
The impact of all this and more reached a crescendo in an outpouring of anger and frustration, although given the myriad warnings of the economic consequences of a Leave vote the response of electors seems as illogical as rioters attacking their own community.
The political elites voters so often complain of are not about to be replaced, our political infrastructure alone makes this a near-impossibility.
Because leaving the EU addresses none of the above grievances and if there is any taking back of control, to quote the slogan used relentlessly by the Leave campaign, then it will be done by those such as super wealthy, Eton and Oxford educated Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith, supported by a coterie of hard-right Europhobes rather than by the 17 million others who voted Leave.
And Labour’s Blairite wing, despite public rejection of their strong pro-EU stance, are attempting to replace their elite-free leader
Blairites – despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn’s more conditional support for the EU and reformist agenda arguably chimed more closely with that of many Remain voters than he has been given credit for – are trying to replace him with yet another business-friendly, corporately connected, ‘Britain is open for business’ espousing candidate.
And whilst it would be pleasing to see increased calls for greater transparency and democratic accountability resulting from the UK’s EU referendum, the debate itself could have achieved this. Regrettably however, the more tangible outcome of our Leave vote is the empowerment of UKIP’s (often more extreme) nationalistic and sometimes fascistic counterparts in mainland Europe, most notably Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale in France but also the Freedom Party in Austria, Law and Justice (Poland), Golden Dawn (Greece) and Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland, have received succour in their never pleasant, sometimes odious, desires to break up an increasingly multi-cultural EU and wallow in their insularities. Their rise means additional fear and hardship for immigrant communities.
The law of unintended consequences writ very large – sometimes people really should be more careful what they wish for.
Monbiot points out that the Leave campaigners have scarcely mentioned the European Union’s great bonfire of banknotes – not expenditure on quangos or relocating and running the institution but on farm subsidies at €55 billion a year.
Why? The leading Brexiters . . . denounce the transfer of public money from the rich to the poor but are intensely relaxed about the transfer of public money from the poor to the rich
Continuing “The leaders of the Remain campaign are no better”, Mr Monbiot points out that the payments would more accurately be described as land subsidies, as they are paid by the hectare. The poorest farmers who own or lease less than five hectares are excluded: “The more land you own or lease, the more public money you are given, so the richest people in Europe clean up. Oh, not just in Europe. Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes and Wall Street bankers have bought up tracts of European farmland, thus qualifying for the vast sums we shovel into their pockets”
These payments are not related to food production and surprisingly, though they are supposed to act as an incentive for environmental conservation, Monbiot comments that, in Westminster’s version of the European rules, ponds, wide hedges, reed beds, regenerating woodland, thriving salt marsh and trees sufficient to form a canopy are listed as “ineligible features . . . which need to be destroyed if farmers are to claim subsidies for the land on which they grow”. He describes the Common Agricultural Policy as “a €55bn incentive to destroy wildlife habitats and cause floods downstream”, noting that across Romania, farmers are beginning to realise that they can make money simply by mass felling of trees and destruction of wildlife, not for any productive purpose, but just to meet the European rules.
Monbiot ends, “I will vote In on Thursday, as I don’t want to surrender this country to the unmolested control of people prepared to rip up every variety of public spending and public protection except those that serve their own class . . .
National Health Action Party executive condemns influence of corporate sector and recommends vote to REMAIN
The executive of the National Health Action Party – formed by health professionals deeply concerned about the state of the NHS – decided that they would not actively campaign in the debate when the referendum was first announced.
The party policy on democracy in both the UK and the EU has not been fundamentally affected by the referendum and it remains the case that they want to see substantial reform of our democratic processes.
However, at all levels, local, national and supra-national, the democratic process is being subverted by the undue influence of the corporate sector.
This enables industrial scale tax avoidance, legislation which is skewed in the interests of those with most financial influence and our elected representatives vote on issues from which they benefit personally or politically. The message continues:
“As the current investigations into Tory electoral expenses shows it is clear we are in danger of allowing those with the most money to buy elections. We have, in effect, a two party system. This makes it very easy for corporate influence to be maintained as it will always be one or the other in government (with the exception of the occasional Coalition). In the EU the corporate sector meets the negotiators from the Commission to discuss agreements such as CETA and TTIP behind closed doors with very little access given to representatives from campaign groups. These exceed the remit of ordinary trade agreements. Not only do they cover the traditional ground of tariffs (import and export duty) and quotas but also contain substantial deregulatory conditions. As even Peter Lilley, Conservative MP, has noted, this is not the proper business of a trade agreement. These are areas which national governments legislate for.
“In short, at both national and supra-national level, we have neo-liberal government and we have had for the last 30 years at least. In the current context what we are seeing is a lot of jockeying for position from the right wing over the leadership of the Tory Party and the political opportunism of UKIP, but neither side talks about the political reality of the situation. It is not in the interest of neo-liberals to discuss the faults in their own ideology. So the real issues around the EU are never aired, despite the fact that it is the only debate we should be having. Indeed if the EU and our relationship with it had ever genuinely been on the agenda surely the negotiation of the Lisbon Treaty, in 2009, would have been the appropriate time, not now.
“The NHS and how-much-or-how-little is or will be spent on it has been the subject of much speculation. But this is a simplistic notion. The NHA is well aware that the de-funding of the NHS, whilst improving the private sector access to contracts and to the running of the commissioning system itself, is a political choice not an economic one. ‘Austerity’ economics is an ideological commitment to shrinking the state, not a genuine lack of money in this, the fifth richest country in the world. Our services are under threat in or out of the EU. The decision we have to make is about how we can best counter that threat. CETA, TTIP and TISA create additional pressure for the further privatisation of our public services and adds a ‘locking down’ element which will make it very difficult for any future progressive UK government to restore them to public ownership and delivery. But this is where the debate hinges for NHA.
“Across Europe there is mounting opposition to these agreements. Not only campaign groups but governments have begun to question them. Here in the UK, however, it is very possible that in the event of an exit vote on Thursday the UK government would start its own negotiations, unimpeded by the progressive voices joining ours across Europe. In these circumstances it appears that the best counter weight we can have to international corporate power is international cooperation.
“There is another counter-democratic strand that runs through this debate. It says, ‘this is your one and only chance to vote’. No, it isn’t. The whole point of democracy is that you don’t just get one shot at something. We debate – and vote – on that basis.
We should be under no illusions about the task to counter the There Is No Alternative mantra of the neo-liberals. If the vote on Thursday is to remain, Cameron’s government will no doubt insist that their ‘mandate’ to destroy the welfare state and continue austerity has been renewed.
“If the vote is to leave we face truly dangerous times as Farage will claim it validates him and his odious politics. But progressives should be clear. If we tear each other apart after Thursday in an avalanche of blame and recrimination then we will not be equipped for the fight to come.
“If it is ‘remain’ we must prepare to stand the best candidates we can for the European elections in 2019. If it is ‘leave’ we must prepare for a possible early general election. It is in this context that the NHA executive recommends to the party that they vote to remain in the EU in the referendum this Thursday. The NHA Executive Committee.”
Stripped of unjustified sneers, the article begins with Jeremy Corbyn’s invitation to Ed Miliband to return to the shadow cabinet in a reshuffle this summer. (Left, facing interviewer Laura Kuenssberg)
Sources quoted: ‘senior Labour source’ and ‘one MP’
These anonymous commentators allege that there are plans to overhaul Labour’s frontbench team after the EU referendum, removing leadership critics who were given jobs in the early days and promoting “true believers”. They imply that this is a machiavellian plot, rather than an obviously sensible course of action.
Innuendo directed at Miliband:
The Times quotes an allegation that figures from Mr Miliband’s leadership also stand ready to help the ‘Corbyn project’, naming only Lord Wood of Anfield, a former adviser to Gordon Brown and Mr Miliband. So? Umpteen millionaires are ready to help the ‘Cameron project’ and quite a few would back any Labour challenge to Corbyn – they have so much to fear from honesty and an emphasis on the common good.
No: Blairite politicians were rejected by the electorate
The Times continues by focussing on the allegation in MP Jon Cruddas’ report, Why Labour Lost in 2015 and How it Can Win Again – that Labour is becoming dangerously out of touch with the electorate.
Positive news from the Independent: refreshing to see an emphasis on issues
It announces that Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband will publicly join forces to warn that Britain’s membership of the European Union is vital in the fight against climate change.
“At a time when the Government has scrapped funding for green projects it is vital that we remain in the EU so we can keep accessing valuable funding streams to protect our environment”.
“Leaving the EU would mean the green spaces, clean beaches and fresh air we want to leave for our children could be at risk. It would risk investment in new green technologies and the jobs that accompany them, and would leave us open to the Tory agenda which has been so damaging to our environment.
“Pollution and climate change don’t respect national borders so we can’t hope to deal with these issues if we withdraw into our shell. We must vote to remain on the 23rd and continue to work with our European neighbours to stop climate change and protect our environment.”
The Times reports that Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state, is among those who have warned that Britain’s “place and influence in the world would be diminished” if voters choose to leave the EU in next month’s referendum.
Scott Donovan: “Isn’t it hugely ironic that the country that led us with Blair’s connivance into the disaster of the Iraq war which has led directly to the emergence of Isis and the current disintegration of stability in the mid-east is now lecturing us again in their own self interest. Then the disaster of the extended stay in Afghanistan and the adventurist regime change in Libya all encouraged by the US. What a litany of failed foreign policy achievements!”
In a letter to The Times, 13 former US secretaries of state and defence and national security advisers say that the country’s “place and influence in the world would be diminished and Europe would be dangerously weakened” after a vote to leave in next month’s referendum:
Geoff Loughborough’s comment: “This from people who gave us Vietnam and Iraq”.
“In our globalised environment it is critical to have size and weight in order to be heard,” say the group of 13, which includes Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz; the former CIA chief and defence secretary Leon Panetta; and Madeleine Albright, the first woman secretary of state.
After President Obama warned on a visit to London of the dangers of Brexit (‘back of the queue’), five former secretaries-general of NATO — Lord Carrington, Javier Solana, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer and Anders Fogh Rasmussen — wrote to The Daily Telegraph supporting Britain’s continued membership of the EU. They said: “Given the scale and range of challenges to peace and stability we collectively face, the Euro-Atlantic community needs an active and engaged United Kingdom . . . Brexit would undoubtedly lead to a loss of British influence, undermine Nato and give succour to the West’s enemies.”
Zovido: “OMG, if ever there was a reason to vote out it is when these people say stay in. Albright et al have brought the world nothing but misery”.
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.