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Voting intentions are changing – as more is seen and heard about Boris Johnson

Two days is a long time in pre-election politics

On 28th November Francis Elliott’s triumphalist article in the Times heralded a seat-by-seat analysis based on polling by YouGov for The Times.

But two days later, a BMG poll which questioned 1,663 voters between 27 and 29 November showed that the Conservative lead had ‘narrowed sharply’ (Reuters) – halved when compared with last week’s poll.

Robert Struthers, BMG’s head of polling, said “If this trend continues, this election could be much closer than it looked just a matter of weeks ago.”

Rob Merrick (Independent) points out that the results come at the end of a week when Mr Johnson has faced further criticism on several counts, compounding earlier allegations, including:

Photograph from article about Trump’s visit in PoliticsHome, which set up by former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Ashcroft 

Robert Struthers said there was growing evidence Labour is “starting to build momentum” ahead of the election on 12 December. 73% of those who backed the party at the 2017 election now planning to do the same on 12 December – up from 67% a week ago.

The change in direction is shown above and BMG’s headline voting intention figures take the Conservative lead from a likely majority into possible hung parliament territory. Will this continue and take the Labour Party into the lead?

 

 

 

 

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183 economists and academics say the Labour Party deserves to form the next UK government

CityAM, London’s most-read financial and business newspaper, reported (“Economists give Labour a boost by backing spending plans”) that Professor David G Blanchflower (below, right) headed the list of signatories to a letter (25 November 2019). It added under an illustration: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would markedly increase the size of the state to roughly German and French levels”

Summary of the economists’ letter which opened: “The UK economy needs reform”

For too long, it has prioritised:

  • consumption over investment
  • short-term financial returns over long-term innovation,
  • rising asset values over rising wages,
  • and deficit reduction over the quality of public services.

The results:

  • ten years of near zero productivity growth,
  • corporate investment has stagnated,
  • average earnings are still lower than in 2008,
  • a gulf has arisen between London and the South East and the rest of the country
  • and public services are under intolerable strain – which the economic costs of a hard Brexit would only make worse.

We now moreover face the urgent imperative of acting on the climate and environmental crisis.

Given private sector reluctance, what the UK economy needs is a serious injection of public investment, which can in turn leverage private finance attracted by the expectation of higher demand.

Such investment needs to be directed into the large-scale and rapid decarbonisation of energy, transport, housing, industry and farming; the support of innovation- and-export oriented businesses; and public services.

It is clear that this will require an active and green industrial strategy, aimed at improving productivity and spreading investment across the country. Experience elsewhere (not least in Germany) suggests a National Investment Bank would greatly help . . .

As the IMF has acknowledged, when interest payments are low and investment raises economic growth, public debt is sustainable. At the same time, we need a serious attempt to raise wages and productivity. A higher minimum wage can help do this, alongside tighter regulation of the worst practices in the gig economy. Bringing workers onto company boards and giving them a stake in their companies, as most European countries do in some form, will also help. The UK’s outlier rate of corporation tax can clearly be raised, not least for the highly profitable digital companies.

As economists, and people who work in various fields of economic policy, we have looked closely at the economic prospectuses of the political parties. It seems clear to us that the Labour Party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them. We believe it deserves to form the next government.

 

 

 

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Labour guarantee: a guard on every train will attend to passengers and help the frail or disabled to board safely

If a Labour government is elected, years of struggle against the privatised railways’ attempts to remove guards and have driver only operated (DOO) trains will come to an end.

It is alleged that government has made the removal of guards a condition of private operators’ franchises and has also included a clause in them stating that taxpayers will underwrite any losses the operators incur by provoking strike action.

In 2016, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg derided this cause as making a ‘fuss’ and described the protesting unions as indulging in a power play; She explained the motivation for removing the guards: “One former senior minister tells me that “successive secretaries of state” in charge at Transport have wanted to “get rid of guards on trains”. The ambition is to bring down the cost of rail travel for the tax payer and the train passenger”. She forgot to mention

  • the companies’ desire to avoid paying for these guards, swelling profits and payments to shareholders,
  • incidents where guards have been needed to cope with disruptive passengers; as an RMT report said: “Only a fool would suggest that drivers can drive a train while sorting out drunken and/or antisocial behaviour in the carriages behind them”
  • or ‘lifechanging’ incidents such as this: ITV reported that at West Wickham station south London, in April 2015, a passenger was dragged along the platform at West Wickham station, south London, when the 11am Southeastern service from London Cannon Street to Hayes (Kent) – driver-only operated – while her backpack strap was trapped in the doors of the train. As the train moved off, she fell onto the platform and then through the gap between the platform and train, suffering life-changing injuries.

As RAIL concludes: there remain (even in the eyes of the most ardent DOO supporters) security risks for the train’s passengers without another member of staff present, be they called guards, conductors or train managers.

A list of incidents given in a 2016 government dossier ended: When there is an emergency the guard can take charge especially if the train driver is incapacitated”. But this link, cited in 2017, no longer leads to the dossier.

Racheal Maskell, Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister, said:

“The railway should liberate people and enable everyone to play their full role in our society and economy, but the Conservative Party’s expansion of DOO has knowingly degraded the rights of older and disabled passengers in the face of protests from passenger and disabled people’s groups. It is remarkable that the Government and private train companies have pursued this discriminatory policy even when it provoked fierce industrial disputes resulting in significant strike action.

“Labour’s publicly owned railway will be for everyone, not just the able-bodied, which is why we will enable staff to deliver a safe and accessible railway for all.”

Earlier this month, West Midlands Trains workers staged a weekend stoppage in their continuing campaign against the removal of safety critical guards from trains. An RMT spokesman said:

“The safety and accessibility of the travelling public is this trade union’s priority and should take priority over the profits of the train operator and we believe that this is an important election issue for the people of the West Midlands. “We will not allow the drive for profit to override the core issue of safe and accessible services for all on West Midlands Trains and we stand fi rm on that very basic principle. We will never compromise on the issues of passenger safety and accessibility.”

The union remains available for talks with West Midlands Trains, which is a subsidiary of Dutch state-owned rail operator Abellio.

Will common humanity prevail: the record indicated that it will not unless a Labour government is elected.

Further reading:

2015: The appalling risks which can arise on a DOO train were outlined convincingly here: http://www.railmagazine.com/trains/current-trains/the-pros-and-cons-of-driver-only-operation/page/2

2017: https://www.railway-technology.com/features/featuredriver-only-trains-and-safety-whats-the-big-issue-5769231/

2018: https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/govt-advisors-warned-doo-trains-are-toxic-for-disabled/

And many issues of Private Eye over the last four years have covered the issue and several DOO related accidents in detail .

 

 

 

 

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“Don’t write off Labour”, warns Robert Shrimsley, Editorial Director of the FT

“Mr Corbyn comes to life on the stump”

Above: Corbyn in Trafford, May 2019

Mr Shrimsley estimates that a vote share above 30% may be enough to prevent a Tory majority adding that, given likely losses in Remain strongholds, Mr Johnson needs 40-50 gains.

Other points made include those summarised below.

Having alienated the Democratic Unionists, the Conservatives have no natural coalition partners and face the ‘potentially wrecking impact’ of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Several other parties might support Labour or at least tolerate an anti-Johnson administration. The early evidence is that Remainers may be reconciling themselves to voting Labour where necessary.

Labour has a coherent narrative. The last three years have been no advert for Tory efficiency and the last nine have not left most people feeling better off

It has a raft of policies with appeal to core groups. It has baubles for young and old, tenants and workers. It will not be outbid on public services.

Voters’ current experiences are of austerity and cuts. Labour can, for example, note that Mr Johnson’s promised 20,000 extra police will only restore numbers to their 2010 level.

Plans to nationalise water and rail companies will play well, as will promises to give workers more say and more pay.

Labour also has a radical agenda on the environment, perhaps the most salient issue for younger voters.

And the wild card? As Camilla Cavendish (former No10 adviser) points out: “Mr Corbyn comes to life on the stump; Mr Johnson doesn’t always seem to do his homework”

 

 

 

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Media 99: Anti-semitism campaign a fabrication – Norman Finkelstein charges the British elite & its media

Richard House has drawn attention to the latest Media Lens report: ‘Suspending Chris Williamson – The Fury And The Fakery’ – which includes a comment in a forceful and eloquent video by American political scientist, activist, professor and author, Norman Finkelstein (right), whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps and whose father was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. He writes:

‘Corbyn . . . did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign . . . this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.’ 

Media Lens points out that more than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the “infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party have added to the propaganda blitz by protesting against the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson”. 

A recent blog on the Jewish Voices for Labour site also stated that a “hostile, personal campaign is being waged against Chris, who is a hard-working and diligent MP with great standing in his constituency and a strong record of anti-racist campaigning”.

It adds: “This country stands in desperate need of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, aiming to unite people around protection and promotion of hard won rights and services, the party needs the dedication and principled commitment of Chris Williamson and others like him”.

In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign: ‘The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.’ (Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018).

He commented on these issues again this month in correspondence with journalist Matt Kennard:

‘The way charges of anti-Semitism are being used in Britain to undermine the Corbyn-led Labour Party is not only a disgrace, but also – to put it simply – an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The charges against Chris Williamson (right) are a case in point. There is nothing even remotely anti-Semitic in his statement that Labour has “given too much ground” and “been too apologetic” in defending its record of addressing “the scourge of anti-Semitism” beyond that of any other party, as he himself had done, on public platforms and in the streets.’

Media Lens’ challenging conclusion asks what sanction the Labour Party should put on those politicians who personally voted to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – acts which did not merely offend but killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn has made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory

The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

With a general election possibly on the horizon, the Establishment propaganda assault on Jeremy has already started. Odious right-wing propaganda sheets have been noticeably upping their anti-Corbyn smear-ridden stories over recent days and weeks. The last thing we need at this critical time is sniping at the leadership from the left!

Over the months we have repeatedly witnessed Jeremy’s extraordinary will and courage being tested in the most extreme of ways — and we are hard-pressed to think of any present-day politician who would have been able to withstand the ferocious onslaught that the Establishment has unloaded on to him — and continues to, as we write.

Let’s be clear: Jeremy would be the first to admit — I’m sure with characteristic modesty — that he’s not a perfect party leader

But the very idea of a “perfect” leader always was a fiction and every mortal human being will have weaknesses.

This allegedly “weak” leader has inspired a huge, unprecedented surge of new party members (who else could conceivably have brought hundreds of thousands of new members into the party? — Chuka Umunna; Dan Jarvis; David Miliband?); forced embarrassing U-turns from an arrogant, uncaring government; shifted the political centre of gravity in Britain significantly to the progressive left; brought morality, fairness and peace into previously moribund political narratives; performed very well in local elections before the putsch last summer by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) elite; has consistently out-performed Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions in recent weeks; has had the courage to take a nuanced, thoughtful view of Brexit — rather than adopting a tabloid-esque, grandstanding “pro” or “anti” position — and has remained dignified and calm in the face of daily vituperative attacks from the media, the entire Establishment and even his own party.

Rather than using any weaknesses Jeremy might have to criticise him from the left, everyone around him should be doing everything possible to complement the brilliant and unique qualities that he does possess.

He has been bullied, betrayed and ridiculed, and yet he carries on with the same grace and care he always shows to others — however objectionable their behaviour and treatment of him might be. The genuinely warm send-off Jeremy recently gave to resigner and serial Corbyn-critic Tristram Hunt is a case in point.

We also know no other politician in this country who possesses the maturity and dignity to have walked out of the unprecedented PLP meeting of June 27 last year with all its scarcely believable bully-boy nastiness directed viciously at him and to immediately urge his many thousands of supporters in Parliament Square to act respectfully, even to those we disagree with.

In the months and years to come, it is our strong conviction that it will increasingly dawn on more and more people that in Jeremy we’re looking at a deeply powerful and courageous human being.

No other Labour leader would have had the strength to withstand the relentless assault that Jeremy has had to endure from all quarters since he became party leader. Nobody else in the PLP could have rescued the Labour Party from the jaws of neoliberalism as Jeremy has; and his proud place in our class’s history is already assured for having made a genuinely socialist party electable for the first time in our living memory.

This post interlards a letter by Richard House with paragraphs – purple font – from an article by Richard and Skeena Rathor

 

 

 

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Desertions are good for Corbyn

This is Richard House’s challenging assertion as anti-Corbyn Labour MPs deserted the party in recent days. He continues:

“It’s too easily forgotten that the deserters are the same people who never accepted Corbyn’s leadership of the party from day one, and who’ve continually done everything possible – eagerly aided by their establishment media friends – to undermine him at every turn, so making his leadership job quite impossible.

“Remember the attempted MPs’ coup led by these people in their unconstitutional attempt to get rid of Corbyn? – this was long before the Labour Party anti-Semitism hysteria had ever been heard of.

“And having failed to displace Corbyn with their spiteful coup attempt, their fall-back was to concoct a carefully choreographed plan: namely, create a hysterical (but fictional) media storm about anti-Semitism; allow it to rage for a few months; then re-kindle it (literally making it up as they went along); and finally, when the fire was raging again, use this as a baseless pretext for splitting the Labour Party so we can have another five years of heartless Tory rule. Establishment job done.

“These “courageous” people have discharged their quasi-Tory bidding very well.

“Oh, and of course it’s just a coincidence that these deserters are all virulent Remainers who’ve never accepted the democratic result of the EU referendum, and will continue to do anything possible to reverse it.”

“One thing that May and Corbyn do have in common is that at least they’re trying to stay true to the democratic result of the EU referendum.

He concludes that – rather than having to devote huge amounts of time and energy defending themselves from relentless attacks from ‘serial underminers‘ within their own party – Corbyn and his team can now spend all their time on exposing the nation’s headlong social disintegration under Tory austerity.

 

And above all “inspiring us with their stellar policy portfolio”.o

 

Dr Richard House

Stroud, Gloucestershire

 

Source: Western Daily Press, 25 February 2019, p. 16–17

 

 

 

 

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Williamson is right: Labour has done more – and spent more – to address anti-Semitism than any other political party

In Sheffield last week, MP for Derby North Chris Williamson said that the Labour party, and in particular the leader, have been ‘demonised’ as racist. He continued:

“I have got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic. We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party.”

Read the 40 reasons listed by Anna Boyle illustrating the truth of his statement.

Those who have difficulty in accessing them may ask for an attachment, using the Comments facility.

After describing actions taken before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader – including his leadership of a clean-up and vigil at Finsbury Park Synagogue which had been vandalised in an anti-Semitic attack – Anna points out Jennie Formby, after her appointment as general secretary of the party last year, selected a highly-qualified in-house Counsel.

By 2018 the size of the party’s staff team handling investigations and dispute processes had almost doubled. The entire backlog of outstanding cases was cleared within 6 months of Jennie taking up her post.

MP Margaret Hodge – a leading critic – said that she had submitted a dossier of 200 examples of antisemitism. Ms Formby commented that those complaints referred to 111 reported individuals, of whom only 20 were members.

Smaller panels of 3-5 NEC members were established to enable cases to be heard more quickly and every complaint made about antisemitism was allocated an independent specialist barrister to ensure due process is followed.

 

 

 

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MSM fails to mention the crowds who turn out to hear Jeremy Corbyn

Below in Broxstowe last weekend


 

And young supporters are also not swayed by media, career-minded ‘independents’ and deputy leader

 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:

“I’ve had a very interesting week in politics. I’m obviously very sad at some of the things that have happened and very sad at some of the things that have been said. Walking away from our movement achieves nothing. Not understanding where we have come from is a bad mistake.

“Because when people come together in a grouping, in a community like the Labour Party, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together for everybody . . .

“Labour, for me, is my life – and I’m very sad at people who have left our party. I really am. I say this to them: in June 2017, I was elected on a manifesto, Emily was elected on a manifesto, Richard was elected on a manifesto, Gloria was elected on a manifesto – it was the same manifesto . . . the Labour Party believes in equality and justice, that is what was the centre of our manifesto, and that will be at the centre of our next manifesto . . .

“When the media talk about the bravery of those who walked away, Anna Soubry voted for austerity and said it was a good thing. Almost immediately after leaving Chris Leslie tells us that we should not be ending university fees … and we should be cutting corporation tax and increasing the burden on others.

Mr Corbyn also addressed the anti-Semitism issues within the party, which MPs Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan both cited as they quit Labour this week:

“When people are racist to each other, then we oppose it in any way whatsoever. If anyone is racist towards anyone else in our party – wrong. Out of court, out of order, totally and absolutely unacceptable. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any form and in any way whatsoever, and anywhere in our society.”

He added: “I’m proud to lead a party that was the first ever to introduce race relations legislation and also to pass the equality act and the human rights act into the statute book.”

 

 

 

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The Financial Times offers two perspectives on the shadow chancellor’s economic proposals

Earlier this month the FT warmed to the shadow chancellor. Following Jim Pickard’s first respectful report on any aspect of Labour policy, an article, by Jim O’Neill, chair of the Chatham House think-tank and former Treasury minister, had the headline, “The UK opposition steps into an economic void left by a government grappling with Brexit”.

 

Following a couple of caveats, O’Neill writes: “In at least six policy areas, which Mr Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell are treating as priorities, businesses and the government need to catch up (detail here)”.

  • The first area on which Labour sees clearly is Britain’s productivity crisis.
  • Second is the orthodox belief that lower corporation tax will magically boost investment spending.
  • Third, risking large amounts of money on fixed investment no longer appears attractive.
  • Fourth, businesses need to rediscover profit with purpose.
  • Finally, there is the housing crisis.

But today there was a decided change of direction – had the editorial board been leant on?

THE EDITORIAL BOARD: Labour’s economic plans have serious flaws: shadow chancellor John McDonnell is ignoring the realities of modern business. The following – mainly speculative – points fail to convince:

  1. Mr McDonnell’s most eye-catching announcement was a compulsory share ownership scheme. Employee ownership and other profit-sharing schemes are by no means outlandish. Many businesses already choose to run them in order to recruit and motivate their workforce. There are also sound political reasons to give employees a greater share of ownership and a bigger voice on boards after a decade in which wages have remained stagnant in real terms. But companies should not be coerced into taking such action.
  2. Mr McDonnell claims these proposals are designed to tackle Britain’s productivity crisis – the evidence for this is sketchy and outdated.
  3. It could increase the cost of capital and deter investment.
  4. As the scheme would bear only on employers with more than 250 workers, it could also disincentivise growing businesses.
  5. There is a real danger that Labour’s prescriptions may end up only harming the patient.
  6. Businesses (and many voters) are concerned that the proposals on the table may only be the tip of Labour’s interventionist ambitions.
  7. With Brexit representing a step into the unknown, however, the UK needs to preserve business and economic stability, not further radical experimentation

Then a reversion to something approaching approval

“Nationalisation, dilution of shareholdings, workers on boards, sweeping trade union powers — John McDonnell’s economic prospectus for Britain is the Labour party’s most radical in several decades. The shadow chancellor further developed the party’s socialist credentials in his address to its conference in Liverpool on Monday. He senses that the appetite for change is great enough to take Labour into office on a hard-left ticket at the next election”. And: “Labour’s policies do speak to the mood of many voters. Many Britons believe inequality is growing, public services are collapsing and the excesses of capitalism need taming”.

Though not as wholehearted as the conclusion of former Treasury minister O’Neill:Dealing with the UK’s deep-seated economic problems requires sustained thinking and attention, not just occasional lip service. The Labour Party has stepped into the vacuum left by the government and appears to be offering the radical change that people seek.

End note: email from Moseley hit harder than the editorial board: 

  • Looking forward to a rise in the number of companies with 249 employees, if any stay in the UK, should the nightmare come about at the next election ( Ed: as share ownership proposals apply only to companies with over 250 employees).
  • The shadow Treasury team admits that private, unlisted companies could not be compelled to hand out dividends to workers. In theory that could incentivise public companies to delist from the stock market.
  • The next problem is that foreign-listed companies will not be obliged to hand equity to their UK workforces. Again, that could provide an incentive for London-listed companies to switch their listings to an alternative financial centre such as New York or Frankfurt.
  • Nor is it clear how the British government could force an overseas company with a London listing to comply with the scheme if most of its workers are abroad.
  • One group of workers who could feel aggrieved by the proposals are those in the privatised utilities such as rail and water. Labour is determined to nationalise the utilities, and admits that — as state workers — staff would no longer be eligible for the share scheme. At present a third of employees in United Utilities participate in their employee share scheme, as do two thirds of South West Water employees and 70 per cent of Severn Trent’s UK employees.
  • Another complication is that some companies could find alternative routes to rewarding shareholders, for example by carrying out share buybacks instead of dividends.

 

 

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