Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Why I am supporting Liz Kendall for Labour Leader?

On election night, I was making my way to the count after a solid day of campaigning in Birmingham Yardley (Lab Gain). In all honestly, I thought the Labour Party could make a return to power tonight through a minority government. It wasn’t in my wildest dreams or even of Labour Party strategists apparently that the Conservative Party could be returned with a majority. When the BBC exit poll came in, my heart sank and from that point, I knew a lot of the hard-work activists had put in up and down the country would have been for nothing. As the night went on, I saw seats I campaigned in and candidates I knew fail to make headway against the Tories in seats like Nuneaton, North Warwickshire, Cannock Chase and Pudsey. The election was won for the Tories up and down in very normal English towns, where Labour’s message and rhetoric just didn’t resonate with hard-working people and families throughout the country. Election night for me was however a bittersweet night. I saw the all our hard-work swept away in a sea of blue. However, in my own seat Yardley we benefited from the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the hard-work of our campaign team and brilliant candidate. I saw this in other seats, such as Ilford North, where Wes Streeting overturned an 8,000 Tory Majority. Labour did win where we had hard-working candidates, who really engaged with the local community. However, in too many seats despite how hard-working the candidate was, the voters just didn’t trust the Labour Party.

The crux of our problem was the view of Ed Miliband, lack of trust on the economy and a coherent and convincing vision for the country. To quote Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid!”. At the end of the day voters want to know what your government will do to improve their lives and the lives of their children. We had campaigned on some important issues, such as abolishing the cruel bedroom tax. However we forgot the silent majority of British people who aren't in dire poverty but aren't rich either. These are the people who want to work hard and put a bit away for their kids. They don't have old boys’ networks, just a bit of grit and hard-work. This silent majority won the election for the Tories. We have to win back the silent majority of Middle England, so Labour can build a winning coalition once again like Tony Blair did in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

One of the key failures of the Miliband leadership was that he incorrectly apotheosised that the centre-ground had moved to the left. To put it bluntly, it has not and any candidate who believes by going left Labour can win again is a danger to the continued existence of the Labour Party. The Labour Party is at its best when it applies our values to the challenges of the present and the future. Labour Party revisionist intellectual heavyweights, such as Anthony Crosland and Anthony Giddens recognised that. I’m backing Liz Kendall because she recognises that we can be true to our values while at the same time addressing the challenges of today. The Labour Party cannot prescribe the same solutions as it did in the 2015 General Election and expect the general public to be any more positive towards it.

The redistribution of wealth is quite frankly an obsession of the statist left and Milifans alike. However, it is simple economics that if you want to even think about redistributing wealth you must first support the creation of that wealth. The Labour Party at the last election quite frankly came across as anti-business. I never want a Leader of the Labour Party again to stand up and refer to businesses as predators. This leads me to a very simple principle, the Labour Party must recognise that it can be both pro-business and pro-worker. An economy with strong business, which pays its workers a living wage or more is the heart of a fairer and more just society.

The Labour Party in the years ahead faces challenges on the economy, immigration, Europe, welfare reform and devolution. I want to see a Labour Party at the forefront of radical change in Britain. I want a Labour Party focused on what works for working people and not what is dogmatic or ideological. Liz Kendall has shown she is the fresh start candidate and the candidate who will say what is right even if it is uncomfortable for the Labour Party. We cannot afford to simply end this Leadership Election with a Female or Northern Ed Miliband. We cannot afford to carry on with the politics of failure that will now characterise Miliband. Lets not idolise the leader who lost us the election. Lets have turn over the page and have a fresh start.

Throughout the Leadership Campaign so far Liz Kendall has stood out as the fresh start candidate, the candidate of fiscal responsibility, and the candidate of radical reform, not radical spending and most importantly the candidate of Labour values. I am supporting Liz Kendall for the leadership of the Labour Party because she understands that fiscal responsibility isn’t the opposite of our values, it is in our values. I was delighted to see Liz has thrown her weight behind devolution recently and has proposed to devolve the Work Programme to devolved local government.

Liz’s campaign clearly has great ideas behind it. However, I think it is imperative we stick to the path of reform and leave the comfort zone of left-wing politics. We shouldn’t just propose small trinkets of reform, we need to offer a radical vision for the future. We need to go all the way of the devolution and we should never shy away from talking about welfare reform. One of the greatest mistakes of Tony Blair was certainly sacking Frank Field as Minister for Welfare Reform because he was simply too radical. Most importantly, we must move away from the state solutions of the past. The state has a role to play but we need to look at radical non-state solutions and that starts with devolution. To that extent, I hope If Liz was to be elected Leader she would listen to all corners of the party, especially including Blue Labour, which in the recent book of the same name has presented a clear and radical vision of a new politics of the common good. 

Labour wins when it applies its values to the challenges of today and the future. Labour will win again when it presents a radical vision of the common good. Labour wins when it speaks to Middle England. I believe Liz Kendall is best placed to deliver this and ensure Labour is returned to power in 2020. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Blair: Twenty Years On

On the 21st July 1994, Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party. He would be the leader, who would lead the Labour Party to victory in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Blair’s passion, energy and statesmanship propelled Labour to victory and kept Labour in power for an unprecedented three consecutive terms.  This radical Labour government would be tasked with rebuilding a Britain broken over a decade of Tory rule.

The new Labour government would be not be a government of dogma and ideology but a government of principled pragmatism. From the principled and pragmatic of New Labour’s radical Third Way, the Government forged ahead with dynamic and radical policies from public sector reform to equalities legislation. New Labour understood that neither the state nor market is perfect; therefore new partnerships were needed between the state, private and voluntary sectors. This understanding can be seen in the education, where Lord Adonis created the Academies Programme. The latter meant that the private and voluntary sectors could sponsor schools. Throughout our public services, Labour increased standards and quality of service through forging dynamic and radical partnerships between the state, private and voluntary sectors.

Beyond our public services, New Labour worked to ensure people could make ends meet. New Labour introduced a minimum wage, tax credits and a myriad of other measures. The measures taken by Labour radically reduced poverty among the child and pensioners of Britain. This is an achievement that we would be immensely proud of. It is clear, these are measures that would have not been taken under a Conservative government. It is clear a Conservative government would mean slower progress on civil equalities, widening inequality and crumbling public services.

New Labour was firmly a Third Way government, which governed from the radical centre. Tony Blair understands that to govern successfully, there must be a political understanding starting with an evaluation of the world, as it is, not as we want it to be. Therefore we must disregard dogmatic ideology, look at what works and apply that to the country and world, we find ourselves in. The politics of the Third Way is fundamentally one of the radical centre and cuts across the traditional boundaries of left-wing and right-wing politics. The dogma and ideology of right-wing and left-wing are not productive to forming radical and dynamic policies to solve the issues of Britain today.

Ed Miliband’s Labour Party have certainly been radical in areas. The Labour Party today has pledged a mass house-building programme, reform of the energy market, public-sector bidding rights for the railways and devolution to cities. Labour must go forward and stay true to the principled pragmatism of the Third Way. If the Labour Party wins the next election, it have pragmatic solutions to the issues we face today. Furthermore these solutions must be workable, when the Government will have to make further cuts to balance the books. Therefore we must look at solutions, such as the integration of health and social care and further devolution to the countries and regions of Britain. This is of more importance now than ever before, as we are the brink of the United Kingdom being broken up.

The Labour Party must resist the temptation to resort to dogma and the policies of tax and spend. This is crucial, if Labour is to create lasting and sustainable solutions to the issues in Britain. The Labour Party will therefore have to present a package of big reform, not big spending, such as devolution to our regions, which will involve devolving budgets from Whitehall to ‘city-regions’ where money can be spent more efficiently and focused towards the unique needs of that part of the country.

New Labour was a government of the third way and so must Ed Miliband’s Labour Party. Britain needs solutions that can cut past the traditional boundaries of left and right, which can bring lasting change to Britain. This does not mean, we must adopt the same policies as the New Labour. That would make us conservative and clinging to the past. The Third Way is about policies, which work in the world as it is today. Ed Miliband must show strength of leadership in this and not give way to those in the Labour Party, who want to retreat to a dogma and ideology, which will only herald defeat for Labour and another term, where the Tories and their lapdogs can do greater damage to Britain. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

A One Nation deal for rural Britain

An unlikely Labour/Tory marginal; North East Somerset.
For too long, the rural shires have been a no-go area for the Labour movement – vast swathes of Britain have been written off from centre-left politics with whom the rhetoric doesn’t resonate. Even in the success years of the late 1990s and early 2000s, progressive politics didn’t fully make inroads into the hearts and minds of rural voters; this is perhaps fair enough when looked at in context. The big issues when Labour came to power in 1997 were lack of investment in key services like the NHS, inner-city schools, greater transparency in politics and the minimum wage.

The Tories have largely had a monopoly on countryside constituencies, with a naturally conservative culture and lifestyle being flippantly transposed to the ballot box. But slowly our villages have been on the decline throughout recent decades; in truth, the Conservatives have let these people down.

In this political void is a space for ‘One Nation Labour’ to fill. Indeed, with that very slogan, Ed Miliband has set out a vision for a party which has popular appeal with all voters in every corner of the country. It’s an appeal that should include people who live in rural areas and wouldn’t normally ever even consider voting Labour, giving us a real mandate for change.

That’s why I’m calling for a rural tourism fund, worth around £50 million, to be made available to rural Local Authorities to spend encouraging visitors to enjoy more of rural Britain and promote the countryside it has to offer. The shires are a truly unique place; the scenery and environment that we have in this country are undoubtedly amongst some of the best in the world.

However, at the moment, we aren’t taking full advantage of our seaside resorts, national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). There is a lot of potential for greater levels of tourism in rural areas from people who live in cities and urban areas. There are pragmatic benefits for everyone with this approach.

Getting more city workers and families into the British countryside for weekend breaks or summer holidays would improve quality of life. Spending more time in quieter, relaxed environments like Somerset and Devon reduces stress and mental health problems. Rural areas like the one I live in are notorious for having poor signal and slow internet; but for many office dwellers, a weekend away from emails could do a lot for improving general happiness.

Furthermore, many young people in villages and small towns feel that in order to find work they have to migrate to cities like London. This increases pressure on public services and particularly housing stock – again, this is a significant problem for London, as well as places like Birmingham and Manchester. If there were more jobs in tourism in rural areas, then this would not only alleviate the stress on our big cities but significantly reduce youth unemployment along too.

There is even a case to be made that there would be fewer immigration strains if there were more jobs available in sparsely populated communities. A migrant worker from abroad might not be chasing construction jobs in Peterborough, for example, if there’s work at a campsite in Cornwall.

Moreover, increased visitors would mean better investment in transport links. This could be incredibly useful for some of the most remote areas where a bus service is as frequent as a sensible Ukip policy.

Critics of a rural tourism fund might argue that it would merely provide weekend trips for wealthy people with disposable incomes, and that the new jobs for young people would be insecure and require unsociable hours. However, holidays in the countryside are perhaps more attainable for struggling families from London, compared with a summer break in the Bahamas – our Great British countryside would be truly inclusive.

As for younger workers who may have to work unsociable hours, the reality is that there simply aren’t enough jobs in our cities anyway. A job in tourism in a village is far more attractive than being one of over a thousand applicants for a job at a coffee shop in Nottingham.

If more people are spending money allocated for seasonal holidays in Britain, rather than overseas, it means that more money stays in Britain – this is good for economy. There are environment benefits as well, with fewer long-haul flights needed. A robust tourism industry would draw more tourists from other countries too. For example, an American who lives in an apartment block and works in a skyscraper could easily be drawn to the charms of the English countryside.

The list of recurring rewards from boosting rural tourism goes on. A basic investment in advertising and signposting of countryside attractions could have incredible knock-on effects. This is the sort of policy that Labour should be shouting about from the rooftops in order to be genuinely One Nation.

It would outflank the Tories in their heartlands, and send out a message that Labour has real ideas to get Britain moving and govern creatively. Tony Blair once talked about boosting arts funding to enable “the liberation of human potential not just as workers but as citizens”. Ed Miliband should be arguing the same for rural Britain.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Young Tories are hardly a protected species

There's a general rule with headlines on right-wing newspapers which are phrased as a question - the answer, no matter the question, is always "no".

Indeed, the article featured on The Tab entitled 'Don't hate me because I'm a Tory' begun with the killer questions: "Is it time to give Conservative students a break and stop using outdated stereotypes? Could it be damaging democracy?", both of which have an obvious reply.

Though what really exacerbated me most about the article was the sense of victimisation that many Conservative students seem to exemplify; some young Tories believe that they are a special but oppressed group, a protected species which is 'vilified' by the student populus.

I very much admire the wit and humour of Yamir Ash, the author of the piece, however I can't help but think that it fundamentally misunderstood attitudes to Conservative Futures, especially from our friendly Labour Students lot. Some radical people do indeed intensely dislike Tory policy - there is a genuine and often unexplored ideological argument that their policies seriously deplete the opportunities of the poorest in our society. Alas, you'd be unlikely to find a single Labour Club which is sponsoring the sort of verbal attacks that are claimed in the article.

There is another part of this piece which I find quite interesting:
"Louisa Townson added that many student Tories are ‘incredibly liberal people’ with the UCL Con Soc, ‘overflowing with feminism, pro-immigration stances and pro-gay marriage sentiments’."
The premise of this point is essentially that not all Conservatives are anti-feminist, racist and homophobic; in other words, the subtext is: "hey look, we've got women, foreigners and non-bigots too!" In the Labour party, we don't feel the need to point out that there are liberals who support these stances, since they are naturally good attitudes to maintain.

It's also unfair to decree that Tory students are 'feeling intimidated and endangered simply for their beliefs' - this too seems a bit beyond belief.

Though the sort of stigmatisation that they talk of concerns others too; I am sometimes brandished as a 'commie' because of my support for the Labour party. However, to be completely honest with you, I don't take the accusations of being a vegetable-eating, Guardian-reading Waitrose-shopper to heart. As such, I completely reject the notion that 'such predilections in the electorate could surely be decreasing the level to which people are being politically represented.'

In fact, it merely represents a desire by all human beings to categorise people - it's what we all do. Characterising people by their beliefs is not uncommon, whilst caricatures like Boris Johnson don't exactly help the stereotypes. On the other hand, the same could very much be said about a certain Marxism-influenced intellectual from North London, who happens to be the leader of a very major political party.

The irony of the Tab piece is that it reinforces the Tories' position as class conscious and constantly being defensive of their ideology. Tory students have simply stopped making the positive case for Conservatism, rather resorting to attacking the most radical of people who strongly disagree with them - as a result, the Progressives will win the arguments in the world of student politics.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Left Unity is doomed to fail

There's certainly debate
Last Saturday a new socialist party, Left Unity, founded on the call for a new voice for leftists, met for it’s first policy conference. By all accounts it was as productive as all left wing splinter groups tend to be; the day before the conference the party still wasn’t sure who would be attending, whilst they debated on policies to disband the army in favour of ‘arming the people’; the conference itself was an omnishambles of unorganised motion debates and internal elections.

There is an unwritten rule in politics that nothing is inevitable until it happens, however I think it’s necessary to make a special exception for Left Unity – this organisation is doomed to fail. Despite pretense of being modern and dynamic, Unity is merely a hangover of Militant Tendency, which plagued the electoral efforts of sensible left in the 1980s and thus paved Margaret Thatcher’s path to power.

Indeed, you only have to look at the 1983 election to understand why the left faired so dismally when divided. The vote was divided between a variety of parties whose names were permutations of the words ‘revolutionary’, ‘independent’, ‘communist’ and ‘militant’. Certainly no way to do politics.

In an interview on Daily Politics, one of Unity’s principle speaker, the ever charismatic Salman Shaheen, was asked whether the party’s aim was to fight against the Labour party or pull it to the left. His reply was an exacerbating “both”, ignorantly defying a paradox; in the Labour party, there’s no room at the table for those who stand candidates against it. This was why the RMT union was expelled from the Labour family. If Left Unity take Labour voters who are further on the left, then it will simply make the party more centre-ground. In my opinion, this isn’t so much a bad thing though.

The reason for the founding of Left Unity goes back to the film director Ken Loach’s call for a new political party of the working class to compete against the Labour party for those votes. I’m a big fan of Loach’s work; a particular favourite of mine is a film called ‘Land and Freedom’ on the Spanish Civil War (an area in which I have intense interest), about a fictional young socialist from Liverpool who goes to Spain to fight for the Republic against the right-wing rebels.

As such, Ken Loach should understand better than anyone else how damaging it is when left-wing groups splinter away from each other. The reason the progressive forces in Spain lost the Spanish Civil War to the Nationalists was because of division amongst left and centrist groups. The main groups included the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party) who were in tense coalition with the PCE (Spanish Communist Party) and the left Republicans (also in conflict with liberal Republicans), but opposed the POUM (Marxist Unification Worker’s Party) as well as the Anarchists, who didn’t like the POUM also. Confused yet? Most of Spain certainly was at the time.

There’s a particularly poignant part in the film where PSOE and POUM militants are fighting each other in Barcelona. An old woman gets caught up in the crossfire and, exacerbated at the infighting, shouts at the militants “shouldn’t you be fighting Franco?”

I would replace the word ‘Franco’ with ‘the Tories’ and say the very same to Loach’s Left Unity group. With so much at stake in 2015, we can’t risk losing like we did in 1983 because we weren’t really sure what strand of socialism we wanted to offer the public. Labour has already pushed the boundaries of palatable left populism – with policies like the energy price freeze – so that we can still appeal to the middle classes, whose vote are so crucial for victory. Left Unity’s constitution looks more like a new ‘longest suicide note in history’ than a genuine political program for change.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Is this the most condescending budget ever?

Budget Day is rarely an exciting day for anyone outside of the Westminster bubble, but this budget surely was as bizarre as it was boring; despite having very little content, it was still a shambles for the government and for the Ed Miliband, who had been refused an embargoed copy of the full budget. This was dirty politics from a desperate Chancellor.

I’m sure that many hard-working families in Britain struggling with the cost of living crisis, choosing between heating and eating, will be absolutely delighted to know that the tax on bingo has been halved to 10%. What better way to get the economy moving than cutting tax on bingo? This is certainly the jewel in the crown of the long term economic plan (which is starting to feel very much long term).

Though I’m probably a cynic, I’m not without alternative solutions. Rather than this perverse bingo tax cut, the money should’ve been ploughed into business rate cuts for small businesses.
The budget was also tightly targeted at UKIP supporters. Nigel Farage will be ecstatic to hear that the pint which he is usually photographed holding will be 1p cheaper (a whole penny!) though he might be disappointed to learn that the cigarette which he usually holds in the other hand will be 2% more expensive, and continue to rise.

The government’s plan to waive inheritance tax for emergency service people who die on the job seemed fair enough. However, as someone pointed out to me on twitter, most police and fire officers would probably prefer to have their pensions restored and the closure of police and fire stations to be reversed. When you take into account that vast majority of emergency service workers probably don’t have enough savings to even be eligible for inheritance tax – even if they’re not married – it becomes clear that it’s merely posturing.

Of course, following the budget speech by George Osborne, it was quickly noticed by commentators how Ed Miliband didn’t actually respond to any of the points raised in the budget. Whilst the ‘cost of living’ message is important, it’s hardly a full economic policy. Labour have to talk about the cost of living in the context of real peoples’ lives if it is to connect with voters.

Soon after it transpired that the opposition hadn’t even been given a copy of the speech by the Treasury, as is the political courtesy – George Osborne always received copies of the budget before budget day when he was in opposition.

As if the government didn’t already look shrewd, Grant Shapps tweeted: “Budget 2014 cuts bingo & beer tax helping hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy.” This was patronising, condescending and ridiculous to those of us who aren’t keen on drunk bingo.

It wasn’t surprising that many people thought the advert that soon followed was a spoof. Even the co-creator of The Thick Of It, Simon Blackwell, dismissed it as ‘too far-fetched’, though he might as well have been talking about the budget as a whole. If the Tories really want to turn themselves into a “Workers’ Party”, they still have a long way to go.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Why the walkout at Labour Students was wrong

There has been much debate with the Labour community – and indeed mainly in Labour Students members – about whether One Member One Vote would be better for our democracy and credibility in the youth structures of the party.

Whilst OMOV is a controversial issue that needs to be addressed, it is also fair to point out the issue with the way the issue was addressed by its main supporters. The walkout, though noble, was detrimental to their campaign and bad for Labour Students as a whole.

The debate started long before the Labour Students National Conference when the Steering committee blocked three motions supporting OMOV put forward by York, Salford and Hull from even being debated at conference. The Labour clubs which supported this – of which there were 11 in total – then published an open letter on LabourList threatening to disaffiliate if there was not a proper debate on OMOV.

Following this, a motion was submitted by Hull’s Labour club criticising the National Committee, saying that they should not have the right to vet motions and control what is debated at conference. The proposing debate was put forward and opposing debates ensued, at which point delegates and other attendees from OMOV-supporting institutions staged a walkout. After the vote was held, the motion fell by only a small majority.

The irony for me, as a non-delegate who agreed with the motion, was that had the walkout not taken place, the motion would probably have passed – the sheer numbers of those who walked out were more than enough to win the motion.

Those who walked out were supposed to be trying to empower me and other non-delegates who didn’t have a voice on motion debates and officer elections. But I felt let down on behalf of the 6000 Labour Students members who can’t vote by the OMOV-supporting delegates who chose not to vote at all. Publicity stunts have their place, but not in this instance.

My reasons for supporting One Member One Vote are same as Ed Miliband’s, who is doing the very same for the Labour party as a whole. It’s important for our democracy that everyone has a say in the organisation they belong to; it will turn the Labour party into a community party in which leadership elections have the same energy as primaries in the US. It makes more people want to join the party.

I understand why OMOV was removed from Labour Students, in the 1980s, when entryist Trotskyites (who don’t really stand for the same values that we do) tried to infiltrate the Labour party and take it over for their own arrogant means. But we have a different Labour party now, especially since the era of New Labour, in which that is no longer a worry.

One Member One Vote is backed by people like Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson and opposed by the likes of Tony Benn. Not having OMOV in Labour Students allows any clique – not just anti-Trotskyite moderates – to dominate the party.

The problem with the walkout at conference was that it was counter-productive, self-defeating and

Jake decided not to finish this comment piece as he chose to make a stand against his own article. He felt a literary walkout was the best and most effective way to actually persuade people that the content of his article was interesting, although some may argue that he would have actually made a better case if he had been there to write it.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Thoughts on Labour Students and Young Labour Conference

Labour Students conference began after a coordinated effort by several clubs threatening disaffiliation over the issue of One Member One Vote (OMOV) for elections to the Labour Students National Committee. The exact reason for the letter was the decision by Steering and the National Committee to block 3 motions asking for a further debate on OMOV at conference. However as delegates had already voted on this issue at National Council and agreed not to discuss it until after 2015, the 3 motions were blocked. This tension continued into the conference with a mass walkout by several clubs over this very issue and their poorly worded motion in favour of stopping censorship and inference from National Council. However the motion as a whole would have done nothing to progress their aims and was rightly voted down by the remaining delegates after the walkout. It is important to note that the walkout was by supporters of Tom Phipps for National Secretary, though Tom did not walk out himself.

To be brutally honest, I cannot see what the walkout or the whole disaffiliation threat will achieve at all, other than dividing us in the crucial run up to 2015. I cannot understand what we will achieve as a divided organisation. On the back of our membership cards, it said “Through our common endeavours we achieve more than we achieve alone.” We should honour this and pull together for 2015 to remove a reactionary right-wing Conservative government with a distain for all of us. I deeply hope we can move past our differences and focus on what matters to all of us and pull behind Fin as she leads to us into 2015!
I have little time for those who will not stand with us and choose to leave strongest political student organisation in the country other than NUS. It is petty and undeserving of the some of the great clubs which have threatened to leave. Politics and history is made by the people in the room and those not in the room will be left out.

In other matters at Labour Students, we elected our new national committee to take us into 2015 and coordinate us in delivering a Labour Government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. We also got through a raft of motions, my particular highlight was the motion to renationalise the railways, which is a pragmatic solution for Blairites and Bennites alike.

As a dramatic Labour Students drew to a close, we moved swiftly into Young Labour and what would prove to be a weekend with some interesting results. We were addressed by Harriet Harmon, much like Angela Eagle at Labour Students,she gave us a rousing call to arms to make history and deliver a Labour government in 2015.

The most contentious issue at Young Labour was certainly the debate on the Collins Review and the vote on how we should mandate our delegates to vote at the special conference next week. The debate was opened by the Labour Representation Committee’s Youth Officer, Tom Butler giving a passionate speech against these reforms. While I can certainly comment that this debate was passionate, it was one of the worst and inaccessible debates I have ever taken part in. It was factional and on the whole disrespecting to people of an opposing opinion. I commend Simon Darvill’s cool in the face of difficult circumstances. I was truly shocked by the attitudes of some people in this debate. I was shocked that they believe it is okay to intimidate people to vote against these reforms and it was the anti-Collins faction which in the most part was disrespectful and caused several delegates to break down and not return to Young Labour. The whole atmosphere of the debate and the subsequent vote and recounts was toxic with delegates attacking other delegates on twitter simply for who their employer was. I would not have appreciated it if anyone used my membership of particular internal pressure groups as a means of attack on me for supporting these reforms. The vote eventually ended at 109-107 in favour of rejecting the Collins Review and mandating our delegates to vote against it next week at special conference. The issue of the atmosphere at the debate was debated further at the liberation caucuses the next day. I firmly believe that this vote should have been completed through a secret ballet to truly allow for a ‘safe-space’ for people to vote in a way which they want to and not be subject to disgusting intimidation from other delegates in the room.

Other than the Collins Debate, there was the first ever written motions debate at a Young Labour conference, which it can be fairly assured the left reasserted themselves with a series of extreme proposals. One such proposal was the idea of a 10% one off super tax on the wealth of the 10% wealthiest in the country. While I can see the principle behind this it is completely unworkable and requires Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, as we cannot withdraw nor should we withdraw from the free movement of capital. Other motions, included a proposal for a mass house building programme, which included the abolition of the Right to Buy. Due to the failure of an amendment to not abolition Right to Buy, I was forced by my conscious to vote against the motion, as I do not believe that abolishing, such a popular policy will deliver a Labour Government or even the ‘bold socialist policies’ which some delegates whish to see implemented. I took a certain amount of comic value from the 'bold socialist policies motion'.

The weekend as a whole was a turbulent affair. I am deeply displeased with the unpragmatic move to the left by those who want to repeal the progress made under the last Labour Government. In order to win in 2015, we must have a united and strong Labour Students spending money on campaigning and not bureaucracy. We must have a Young Labour campaigning from the progressive centre-ground and supporting Labour in securing a majority in 2015. We must have a Labour Party, which seeks to govern for all our people with a One Nation manifesto for progress from the centre-ground which appeals to all our of people.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

To save the NHS vote Labour, not NHA

I’ve always quite liked Rufus Hound’s comedy. He had always had a particular talent for mocking the establishment in an entertaining manner and has a brilliant way with words.

It is difficult to tell, however, whether his planned move into politics is out of vanity or a genuine sense of purpose, but it certainly isn’t funny. Indeed,  Hound has announced his intention to stand for the European parliament for the National Health Action party, a single-issue party of politically minded doctors who don’t like the contracting out of some health services because they think it destroys the ethos of the NHS. Quite how he intends to prevent the privatisation of the NHS by the Westminster government as a member of the European parliament in Brussels is unclear to me.

In fact, Hound himself called the NHS ‘one of the single greatest achievements of any civilisation ever’ even though he campaigned for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, rather than the party which founded it in 1948 and has defended it ever since – Labour. Moreover, the entirety of the NHA leadership seem to act as if the NHS was their idea rather than Beveridge’s.

Its co-leader, Clive Peddell, reckons that the NHA is the only party which can ‘defend the NHS and its values’ but demonstrates a lack of understanding of what those values actually are. The health service shouldn’t simply be run by doctors, with no one else getting a look-in; it’s right that it is under proper democratic control, rather than with only doctors making decisions, as the NHA suggests, so that necessary reforms can’t be implemented. It is, after all, the people’s health service.

Furthermore, it is the Labour party which can drive through the changes which are needed for a transparent NHS. So when Hound talks about the secret privatisation of our hospitals and says, ‘I’m looking around for who is stepping forward and telling people about it and nobody is’, I suggest he speak to Andy Burnham. Right from the beginning of the health and social care bill, there hasn’t been any compromise in Labour’s assertion that there should be no tendering of core NHS services. Burnham, alongside Ed Miliband, has been shouting this message from the rooftops, alongside campaigns and rallies by local party activists. In contrast, Hound seems content that, in his words, ‘tweeting endlessly’ about the matter will eventually change the world.

Labour has a commitment that one of the first things it will do in 2015 is remove the clause in the Health and Social Care Act that introduces competition in the NHS. Peddell also thinks that ‘the Labour party was complicit’ in privatisation during the New Labour years – of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown created thousands of new doctors and nurses, introducing NHS foundation trusts to drive up standards to make sure the very best standards and value for money were achieved. When Labour left power in 2010, NHS approval ratings were at the highest they had even been.

Of course, Hound isn’t the only comic to have waged into the political sphere in recent months. Russell Brand went on Newsnight to call for a revolution, though the reaction from its roughly 100,000 viewers – mainly from the ‘wonk world’ – was slightly less rousing. In Italy, the so-called ‘Five Star Movement’ gained 25 per cent of the vote in last year’s elections under the leadership of controversial comedian Beppe Grillo, to, apparently, rid the political system of corruption and hypocrisy.

One year on, is Italy a better place with Grillo in politics? Not really. For all his populist messages and media attention, the Five Star Movement achieved very little; Der Spiegel awarded him the unenviable title of ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’, likening his movement to a fascist cult. It is the second largest party in parliament, but has no role in the Italian government.

The NHA would need 200,000 votes in London in order to put Hound in Brussels – he might make a comfortable fit among Grillo’s chums, but he certainly won’t achieve anything for London, or indeed anywhere else. It’s unlikely that the NHA would take votes from the Tories, so, were they to have enough popular support, it would be at the expense of other progressive parties like our own. He claims to despise Jeremy Hunt, so surely he should be standing against him in South-west Surrey in the 2015 general election?

In an era where people are more wary of politicians and sceptical about politics, some comedians seem to be exploiting that very sense of mistrust. The danger of this is that politics quickly becomes treated like a joke. I have no objection to comedians becoming politicians – Eddie Izzard, for instance, is a great example of someone from this arena bringing energy and positivity to democracy. Hound articulates the politics of pessimism.

In times like these, we can’t afford to split the left, and divide the vote among a plethora of centre-left parties. If you really want to save the NHS then vote Labour, not NHA. Because if we don’t watch out, the Tories could well have the last laugh.

This article was originally published on ProgressOnline: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2014/02/11/to-save-the-nhs-vote-labour-not-nha/#sthash.QF9VXf8v.dpuf

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Do we really need a Monarchy?

At the dawn of 2014, Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne for little over 60 years, we have been graced by the birth of Prince George to Wills and Kate and like his father before him who proceeded to Cambridge with BC at A-Level, Prince William to set to receive a pricey Cambridge education on the merits of his 2:1, ABC at A-Level and his membership of the Royal Family.
The Monarchy is riding high and recent polls by Ipsos Mori have shown 80% of the population is in favour of keeping the Monarchy. However the sizeable pressure group Republic has argued that the Monarchy is unacceptable in a democracy. I can sympathise with the position of Republic based on the clear preferential treatment that Royals receive from institutions, such as Cambridge. If the Monarchy is to continue we must move to legislate that they are equal before the law and subject to the laws of the United Kingdom.

The main argued made by Royalists for keeping the Monarchy is that it is good for tourism. I do not welcome tourism as a principle of idea behind the constitutional nature of Britain. Therefore I will keep it this. According to Visit England, the top tourist attraction in the England is the Tower of London, which is not operated by the Crown. No royal residences or estates appear on the top 10 list and imagine if we abolished the Monarch there could be an economic boost from tourism due to the further opening up to the public of Buckingham Palace and other residences.
The arguments for and against the Monarchy are well known. In favour of keeping Liz, we have a completely pointless arguments about tourism, no harm done by the Monarchy, they serve the nation and its value for me. On the other side, Republic argues that the Monarchy is elitist, expensive and undemocratic. The can be seen through Prince Charles’ meddling in political affairs and his dubious entry to Cambridge. The key argument is the Monarchy is unaccountable, undemocratic and untouchable and there should be moved to rectify that situation. However I do not believe there is currently a will for the abolished of the Monarchy by the British public.

However I do have a series of reforms that could be mapped out for a more democratic Britain. Firstly, there should be a referendum on the established of a British Republic. The public have a right for a referendum on our membership of the European Union and therefore they should have a say on whether we elect a Head of State or continue the tradition of the Monarchy.
However if that fails, I believe there could be a half-way house. The Monarch holds royal prerogative powers, such as the appointment of the Prime Minister, dissolving Parliament and declarations of war. However I propose that these core powers will be transferred to a regent, a president by another title, elected by the people of the United Kingdom. An elected regent would have more legitimacy than the Monarch in acting on constitutionals crisis and the appointment of the prime-minister in the case of a hung parliament.

Furthermore I propose the Privy Council is abolished and replaced by a Council of State, which would include key figures from the Government and the Opposition from the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Council of State would advise the Regent on matters of state and the appropriate measures to take. Under these proposals the Monarchy would become a completely ceremonial role with powers acted upon or otherwise officially transferred to an elected regent or co-president.
I would also propose that the affairs of the Monarchy and their expenses are made public and subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Furthermore there should be steps taken to monitor communications between the Monarchy and British government officials due the recent behaviour of Prince Charles. The Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster should also be brought into public ownership with profits going to the British government and not lining the pockets of the Royal Family. The Royal’s budget shall be set by Parliament and they will be expected to use public services, such as the NHS and our state education system.

I believe that this half-way house offers concessions to supporters of the Monarchy and supporters of a British Republic. However I remain committed to the belief that people of Britain should be able to hold a referendum on the future of the British Monarchy. I also implore any progressive party which believes in democracy to give the public their chance to decide the future of the Monarchy. I also do not believe we can be a One Nation Britain, while we have this elitist relic in place. If we abolished the Monarchy, Britain would move forward without much difficulty and operate more in a more democratic fashion.