Monday, 31 August 2015

Letter to Observer on Corbyn and refugees

In the spate of a few months three brilliant editorials in your paper have rightly criticised the government for its "self-interested approach to migration". The more recent one focused on Cameron`s failure to "see the bigger picture", seemingly convinced that the UK`s "pull factor" was the problem, and ignoring totally the unprecedented "global refugee crisis" (Stop our shameful retreat from the world and share the refugee problem, 23/08/15). In June the "widespread and gross human rights violations" prevalent in Eritrea emphasised one of the many "push factors", whilst back in April, the subject was the government`s failure to rally "around Italy`s admirable Mare Nostrum search and rescue programme" (Observer views on Eritrea, and the human tragedy in the  Mediterranean, 14/06/15,19/04/15). 
  Why is it then that, when it comes to Tory domestic policies, criticism is more muted, and editorial preference in the Labour leadership contest is given to the Blairite candidates, whose opposition to the government is made more moderate by their own policies being so little different from those of Cameron? William Keegan, at least, sees through the "compassionate Tory" nonsense, and realises Osborne`s basic aim is to "harm the poor in order to finance tax cuts for the better off" (At last Labour remembers why austerity must be opposed,23/08/15). Instead of ridiculing Corbyn as the "Pied Piper of Islington" and such like, perhaps it`s time for the Observer to give the obvious popular appeal of his policies the respect it deserves? After all, his leadership would guarantee a more sympathetic approach to the refugee crisis, as well as exposing the need for austerity as the "con trick" it most definitely is!

Oxbridge connection and education

Carole Cadwalladr is absolutely correct to state that "the Oxbridge connection is more invidious" than its simple prevention of more working people becoming members of parliament (Whatever the party, our political elite is an Oxbridge club,25/08/15). The fact that it "dominates an entire political class", including "thinktankees", was demonstrated perfectly by the recommendation from the Policy Exchange thinktank that schools should be fined when their pupils fail to achieve grade Cs in either GCSE Maths or English (Fine schools if pupils don`t get grade C - report,24/08/15). Such a suggestion, based on ignorance of both state schools and education in general, can only have come from people with no idea whatsoever of life in an average comprehensive school. Should members of an education advisory unit really need to be told that some pupils, despite possessing other skills and abilities, simply cannot grasp what is required for these grades,and would benefit from studying either functional Maths and English, or different subjects altogether.
     Like Labour`s Tristram Hunt, thinktank members, with their cossetted education and "homogeneity of experience", only see teacher failings as reasons for lack of C grades. This, too, explains the recent government announcement that schools with less than 60% pupils gaining 5 A*-C grades, are "coasting" and must "academise" (Education secretary raises the bar with new "coasting" criteria,30/06/15). Anyone with knowledge of, and experience in, state education knows that there are many excellent schools, with good leadership and brilliant, hard-working staff, with results nowhere near 60%. Sadly, such understanding seems beyond the comprehension of our so-called "political elite".

Friday, 28 August 2015

Rent controls and high pay

Although politicians are calling for "New York-style controls on landlords" because the rents in London are so high, it appears that they are again missing the point.
Why recommend rent controls, which restrict more "in-contract rent increases and lease conditions", when rents are already too high, having risen, in the case of one-bedroom flats, for example, in Greater London, "by an average of 22% in the last five years"? Rents need to be reduced. How can paying approximately 50-75% of take-home pay on rent benefit anyone but the greedy landlord? It certainly does nothing for the economy, especially when, as Aditya Chakrabortty reported last year, one in three of rented properties in the private sector is officially classed as "non-decent", whilst on in five present "a health or safety risk" to the occupier? The government`s right to buy scheme has been exploited by landlords wanting to add to their property portfolios, whilst the Tory promise to replace every home sold is clearly a nonsense; of the £1.54bn generated through the scheme since discounts increased, just £558m has been spent on replacement. 
 What could be the solution is the setting-up of an Ofsted-type inspectorate, which could classify all rented property, including student houses and flats, into bands, and set a maximum rent based on the condition and size of the property, and the area in which it is situated, for each band. Politicians with such a proposal might get attacked for their "Venezuela-style rent controls" from the Tories, but they might also get the gratitude of millions! 

With the information from the High Pay Centre revealing that "renumeration for bosses in FTSE100 companies" is up to "184 times the UK median earnings", your editorial did well to compare this to the situation in Germany (Moderates must confront excess, not cede the issue to others,18/08/15). There, the "equivalent ratio " is less than 100, largely as a result of the "consultative capitalism" which was imposed on the Federal Republic by the west in 1951. The system of co-determination, with workers` representatives sitting on the boards of large companies, and having a say in the pay of all employees, has clearly much to recommend it.
       If introduced in this country, it could also have a positive effect on productivity. Whilst lack of investment in new plant and machinery is frequently identified as being important in the recent "collapse in productivity growth", is not the method of paying bosses and managers hugely significant? Not only are they paid by an over-generous monthly salary cheque, but with "supposedly performance-related" company shares. If CEOs can only be motivated by the prospect of their share options rising in value, their focus will inevitably be placed on the firm`s profits in the short-term so that their renumeration increases. Productivity is not a priority.
     Is it any wonder that the neo-liberal "third way" has "become a more difficult sell", and that New Labour`s idea of being "intensely relaxed" about the filthy rich has led to the situation where Corbyn is a shoo-in for the leadership?

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Letters in defence of Corbyn

It`s disappointing to see Martin Kettle jumping on the bandwagon of political commentators, and, of course, the Blairites, taking delight in predicting the downfall of the Labour party by misusing history, and comparing election results (The strange death of Labour Britain has a worrying precedent,15/08/15). The common comparison made is the apparently inevitable election disaster for Labour under Corbyn in 2020 and the 1983 defeat for Foot`s left-wing manifesto, even though the context and circumstances are obviously completely different, and the so-called "suicide note" was far from being the only reason for Thatcher`s victory. Without the ideological motive, it is equally logical to compare 2020 with the 1945 election. Now we have Kettle seeing parallels between Labour`s "great victory in 1997" and "the Liberal landslide of 1906", when it makes just as much sense to see links between 1997 and 2020; new leader, new direction, party galvanised by groundswell of support for policies, nation tired of Tory misrule, continued inequality and decreasing social mobility.
 Kettle also wrongly includes the "democratic parallel" to justify his "claim of Dangerfield`s pertinence". It is logical to assume that on Corbyn`s agenda will be proposals which extend democracy, by reforming the House of Lords and modernising the voting experience, by moving polling stations to town centres and university campuses. After all, his hopes for victory depend on winning support from the young and the previously indifferent, so a long term objective will be to trial electronic voting, and, contrary to Kettle`s opinion, "industrial and corporate democracy" can also be "energised" by the introduction of co-determination.

 To say that Kettle exaggerates Labour`s problems is something of an understatement! History can be used just as persuasively to claim that the rejuvenated Labour party has re-discovered its raison d`etre!  

Probably like thousands of others, I am getting increasingly fed up with the nonsense about Corbyn`s programme being "a throwback to the past", as the pollster, James Morris insists, taking his turn to dissuade us from supporting the Islington MP ("Pettiness" attacked.19/08/15). Strangely, none of the other candidates` policies, which take Labour back to the days of Blair, are similarly described, whilst proposals from Corbyn, like the introduction of the Financial Transaction Tax, not operational in most of the EU until January next year, and a "people`s Quantitative Easing" programme, where extra funds are created for infrastructure, rather than banks` recapitalisation as in 2009, are deemed as backward looking! Of course, nationalisation of railways and energy providers, and increased taxation of the rich, are not new policies, but that does not mean they are misguided or "ideological obsessions" (Train fares are too high. but the answer is not nationalisation,19/08/15). Corbyn argues that rail companies get so much in the way of government subsidy, they may as well be state-owned, and it was only last month that the Guardian devoted pages to analysis and criticism of the huge amounts of taxpayers` money going on "corporate welfare" (The £93bn handshake: businesses pocket huge subsidies and tax breaks,07/07/15). Much of the £14.5bn spent on subsidies and grants went "to train operators to run services", as well as "corporate tax benefits" to the same companies, which also benefit from a "lower duty on fuel". Yet your editorial now argues against re-nationalisation, mainly because of the "huge rise in rail use".Could this not have something to do with the state of the road network? 
    As for taxing the rich, shadow minister and supporter of Kendall, Jonathan Reynolds might think I am feeling "romantically" about it, but I don`t believe in the myth that is the Laffer curve, and I do want a government that will tackle inequality (Cooper calls truce in clash with Burnham,19/08/15). I disagree with Monbiot about the 2020 election, and believe we should start comparing it, not with 1983, but with 1945, or even 1997, when a new leader with a passion to take the party in a different direction did rather well (It`s Corbyn`s rivals who are chasing an impossible dream,19/08/15)!

As usual, Larry Elliott makes some valid points,especially on the "political blitxkrieg" the Tories will unleash on the new Labour leader, but does he really think Corbyn is wrong when proposing a more robust attack on tax avoidance and evasion (Corbyn has the vision, but his numbers don`t yet add up,21/08/15)? Elliott defends Osborne`s feeble attempts by saying that "every chancellor wants to reduce the tax gap", and that if there was a "magic money-tree", the present incumbent would "have shaken it by now", but there is little evidence to support these claims. The feeble "Google tax" which was introduced by Osborne, is only expected to raise £355m a year by 2019, whilst cutting thousands of jobs at HMRC, including those of tax inspectors, makes no sense, when the man responsible supposedly views tax avoidance as "morally repugnant".
Allowing the government`s tax agency to make "sweetheart" deals with companies like Vodaphone and Starbucks, excusing them from billions owed in tax bills, is hardly the action of a chancellor intent on reducing the tax gap, whilst the insistence on what the CBI boss, John Cridland, calls "going it alone" , at a time when the finance ministers of Germany, France and Italy are urging "tax harmonisation" to control the aggressive tax policies of multi-national companies, is clearly ludicrous.
     Elliott doesn`t usually let the chancellor off so lightly, especially when the rhetoric fails to match the policies, but as he failed to mention Corbyn`s support for a Financial Transaction Tax, which most of the EU countries start implementing in January 2016, he must have been having one of his anti-Corbyn days! 

Your editorial rightly stated that the Scottish National party persuaded voters that it, rather than Labour, is the party of "social justice, nuclear disarmament, anti-austerity, defence of the welfare state and redistribution of wealth", but sadly omitted to state the obvious (Kezia Dugdale takes the poisoned chalice of British politics,17/08/15). These principles form the very basis of Corbyn`s programme, and clearly, if many of the 49.97% of Scottish voters who supported the SNP in the general election are to return to the Labour fold, they are much more likely to do so with Corbyn at the helm.
    You may describe Corbyn`s campaign, with your usual derision, as "playing to packed and sold-out events" as if it was a show or circus, when the truth is that his very serious political and economic message  illustrates the UK`s public`s longing for the transformation of our grossly unfair society.
       According to the Blairite agenda, the Labour party must not have a leader who approves of re-nationalising railways and the greedy energy companies, but one who is "intensely relaxed" about the fact that, as the Guardian recently reported, the taxpayer subsidises private business to the tune of £93bn a year in "corporate welfare", and that the CEOs of FTSE100 companies have an annual payment approximately 183 times the average paid to their employees. Presumably, private landlords should continue to be allowed to charge exorbitant rents, whilst social housing is gradually phased out. The Tory government can, not only continue with its policy of privatisation, but can get away with selling at knock-down prices to City investors, costing the taxpayer billions, whilst austerity, with £12bn of welfare cuts, has to be imposed to save the country money! Brown, like the others, failed to explain why a party promising real change is neither "credible" nor "electable" (Brown:anger is not enough",17/08/15). Is it not time Blairites, and indeed, many Guardian writers, stopped comparing the 2020 election with the one in 1983, and began thinking of how a radical Labour party, with a new leader and direction, galvanised by a groundswell of support for policies, with the nation tired of Tory misrule with continued inequality and decreasing social mobility, can win, as in 1997 and 1945?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

12 cons from the Cons. party

When the "Conservative party" is abbreviated, usually due to convenience or laziness, to the "Cons party", notice is rarely taken of how much more appropriate the reduced version is. The truth is that the Tories are past-masters in convincing the country of so-called "facts" which have absolutely no evidence to substantiate them whatsoever. We only have to recall this year`s election, and how much influence the nonsense about Labour`s mis-spending causing the economic crash had on the electorate, to appreciate this. Buoyed by this success, they are currently persuading the UK to accept something in the range of a dozen untruths. We are being "conned" by a party very suitably named!
1. How can austerity be so vital to the country`s future, when the chancellor sees fit to throw away overnight £1.1bn in an RBS sale? Where have imposed austerity measures resulted in economic growth? Greece?? Tories apparently "care" about the next generation`s debt, but clearly intend to raise tuition fees further!
2. Tories are very keen for tax avoiding companies to "smell the coffee", and to reduce the tax gap of at least £50bn a year. At least, this is what we are told, but they have cut thousands of jobs at HMRC, whilst their so-called "Google tax" is only intended to raise £600m, and not until 2019!
3. A tax rate of 50% on high-earners is self-defeating, we are again informed by the Tories, because it raises less income for the government, in line with the "Laffer curve". This, of course, is nonsense; the curve is an invention of a Reagan advisor to justify the Republican government`s lowering of taxes for its rich supporters. Its de-bunking by modern economists has coincided with the suggestion by Piketty that the top rate should be around 80%.
4. Within weeks of becoming Education Secretary, Gove was mis-using data to warrant his assessment and examination reforms, and the Tories are still mis-informing us about state education. All schools must academise if they fail to get 60% pupils with 5 A*-C grades, brainwashing us with the inaccurate notions that academies provide better education, and that there are no excellent state schools and hard-working teachers in poorer areas with results nearer 40%. Comparing test results using the Pisa system gives a hugely misleading impression, when other countries exclude from the testing "certain types of children to boost their scores", as reported in the Guardian last year.
5. Tories even have the nerve to suggest they are the party of "the working people", yet their claim to make people better off by raising the living wage does nothing of the sort, when they reduce tax credits, and refuse to regulate rent-raising landlords.
6. The election result clearly took the Tories by surprise, as now they are lumbered with Osborne`s electioneering promises relating to the "Northern Powerhouse". Most ludicrous of all is the idea of HS3, when electrification of the Manchester-York line, promised back in 2011, has not even been started yet, whilst the HS2 line will only create more dormitory towns for London employees. Giving powers to elected mayors to control hugely reduced government grants will do nothing to boost local economies.
7. As it suddenly sees itself as the "compassionate" party of working people, the Conservatives cannot possibly be the party in hoc to the bankers and the City. As if! When HSBC threatened to move its headquarters out of the country because it could not pay large dividends to its shareholders due to that nasty bank levy (nothing to do with fines for money-laundering drug money or interest-fixing or mis-selling?), what did Osborne do? The bank levy was duly reduced, as requested. HSBC was saved £700m a year, with similar savings made by Standard Chartered, another institution threatening to move.
8. Another "con" favoured by the Tory propaganda machine is that private ownership beats public every time, but again, with absolutely no supporting evidence. Are we really meant to believe that when completely privatised, Lloyds and RBS will change their business cultures, caring for customers and giving them satisfaction will become more important than profit? There will be no more mis-selling or corruption of any kind, no more obscene bonuses? Will privatisation even lead to new CEOs being appointed? Similarly, would programme quality at the BBC or Channel 4 be improved by their sale? Didn`t the East Coast railway prove state ownership works, whilst private companies benefit from £93bn a year in "corporate welfare"?
9. Tories support and, indeed, revere, that "British value", democracy, but whilst they remain very content to maintain our electoral system which provided them with a majority government from just 37% of the vote, they want to change union voting procedures for industrial action. They clearly, on the other hand, do not want to increase the turn-out at elections; if they did, they would insist polling-booths moved into town centres, supermarket car-parks, and university campuses, and even experiment with electronic voting.
10. Tories are desperately worried about the country`s low productivity. Really? They do nothing about the short-termism of CEOs and business managers, whose renumeration depends on company profits, and who consequently prefer not to invest in new plant, machinery and technology, or even in training staff with the necessary specialist skills. As a result, pay for bosses of the FTSE100 companies is around 150 times their average worker`s pay!
11.So-called "compassionate" Tories apparently care hugely about the Mediterranean and Calais migrant problems, which explain why they refer to them as "swarms" and "marauding millions", why fences and dogs are their only solution, and why HMS Enterprise has failed to save any lives in the Mediterranean in over a month`s "search and rescue" operation. Shouldn`t our "world leader" Cameron be insisting on an EU summit to reach a fair solution?There are so many examples, from "bedroom tax" to withdrawing the Education Maintenance Grant and the grant for the poorest students, which prove that compassion is yet another myth the Cons. party expect us to accept. Does anyone really believe the NHS is safe in Tory hands?
12. The Tories also love to help sustain the Blairite propaganda that a left-wing party can never win an election in this country; doesn`t a Blairite-led party offer the least in the way of opposition, accepting much of the Conservative mythology outlined above. Its a party with left-wing proposals which the Tories fear, challenging their ideological nonsense about austerity, privatisation and "compassion".
   How the current Labour party allows these "Con-tricks" to exist without opposing them is usually explained by the leadership contest taking precedence and centre stage, but without every Labour MP taking every opportunity to tackle these Tory myths head-on, there is a real danger that too many of the electorate will swallow them!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Letter on House of Lords

The fact that "unelected peers claimed £360,000 in pay and expenses just for attending" the House of Lords is disgraceful, but far from being the only complaint that can be made about this political anachronism (Morning Star,17/08/15) The inability of some members like Lord Sewel to behave what some commentators call "honourably" is another, but there are much more fundamental problems than the occasional scandal, even though their code of conduct fails to define "honourable behaviour", preferring instead waffle about it being "inherent in the culture and conventions of the House". The Lords clearly fails to give value for money, with £300 a day attendance payment, plus expenses and allowances, and for some, like Sewel, taxpayers`subsidised housing and payment of well over three times the average income for committee work. In a time of austerity, with cuts in vital services, such generosity seems absurd.  According to Parliament`s official website ( the Lords has three main roles, "making laws, consideration of public policy, and holding government to account", but even its most ardent supporters fail to provide much concrete evidence to prove its worth. Why didn`t it see the obvious flaws in the so-called "bedroom tax", for instance, or object more strongly when disability benefits were cut?  
   With the upper chamber filled to the brim with "lobby fodder" already, and because the Tories cannot command a majority of peers, Cameron is set to create another sixty, or so, mostly Tory ones, of course. What does this have to do with "democracy", that so-called "British value" about which the prime-minister boasts so much? Does any country in the 21st century need its legislation, which has been introduced, debated and amended by the elected assembly, checked by unelected peers and Church of England bishops? Some suggest reform is needed to complete the so-called "constitutional jigsaw", but why bother, when its abolition most certainly would?

Friday, 21 August 2015

New Statesman letter on Mourinho and PFA

Excellent choice for one of the "quotes of the week" from Jose Mourinho, especially as he is probably right (Speakers` Corner,14 August)! His medical staff clearly "have to understand the game", as played at Chelsea and many other football clubs; just because players roll theatrically in apparent agony after a collision, or throw themselves to the ground when near an opponent, does not necessarily mean medical attention is required, even if the referee thinks so. The official, of course, cannot afford to make a mistake in such situations. Imagine what Mourinho would have said if the referee had ignored the "injury" if it turned out to be real or serious, and, no doubt, the Professional Footballers Association would find itself unable to resist adding its criticism too.
 Unsurprisingly, Gordon Taylor, the extremely well-remunerated secretary of the PFA, with reputed earnings last year of £3.3 m, has limited the interference of his organisation in the Carneiro affair to a bland statement about "responsibility". As the PFA does nothing about the huge amount of "diving" to gain unfair advantage over fellow professionals, one can hardly expect it to complain when medical staff are punished for daring to attend a patient when far more important league points are at stake! Clearly, the PFA "understands the game" perfectly!

Morning Star letter on Corbyn`s socialism

John Ellison`s excellent analysis of the reasons for Corbyn`s "campaign takeoff" correctly concluded with the comment that "the little socialism left in the bank vaults of the Labour Party after its sell-off is being replenished" (Morning Star,01/08/15). That this appears to have taken the "three centrists" by surprise emphasises the truth of the July 6th editorial, quoted by Ellison, about the "gulf " between Labour MPs and "the people they represent", so the response from the other candidates is to be expected: Corbyn is "taking us back to the 80s". What utter nonsense!
 Corbyn`s policies are 21st century answers to 21st century problems! His proposals for the re-nationalisation of railways and water and energy companies, and for greater regulation of the financial and private rental sector  alone could transform the lives of millions!  
      Is it not possible that the public, the young especially, are fed up of being repeatedly told the lie that economic growth leads to better jobs, and that wealth will "trickle down"? "Profit at all costs" is the motive which drives most companies, as can be illustrated again last week by the announcement by Barclays that, despite first half-year profits being up 25% to £3.1bn, more job losses are expected on top of the 19,000 cut last year. Branch employees, it seems, must be punished for the bank`s huge string of mis-selling scandals, rate-rigging, and consequent fines, whilst the outgoing chief executive, the recipient of a unanimous vote of no confidence, gets a pay-off worth at least £2.5 million, plus, no doubt, a very generous pension. Meanwhile,the government`s attitude is revealed by Osborne`s sacking of the Financial Conduct Authority`s chief executive, Martin Wheatley, responsible for a record level of fines on financial firms!
      Similarly, a doubling of profits by British Gas residential power supply business, and the accompanying announcement by the parent company, Centrica, that it is to cut 6,000 jobs, only reinforce Corbyn`s arguments.

      It comes as no surprise that Corbyn`s socialism is resonating with the public, when 21st century capitalism continues to thrive on inequality and exploitation, supported by a majority of fawning politicians. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

RBS sale a disgrace!

Osborne`s shameful sale of 5.2% of RBS demands a question be asked of Labour`s feeble response. The chancellor`s blatant misuse of public money beggars belief, and must surely verge on being fraudulent. Yet the response from the Blairite shadow chancellor is merely to question the timing of the sale, when the bank`s sale price was so much lower than back in February this year.
Osborne gave advance warning of his intention to sell the shares to his City friends at the Mansion House speech early in June, even though the shares were worth £13bn less than the state paid for them. The effect of this pre-sale notice was to lower the share price further; why would they trade in RBS and raise its value, when traders knew they would all benefit from a lower price later? Please don`t tell me that Osborne did not know exactly what would be the result of his warning! Even worse, on the evening of the sale, share prices closed at 337p, yet the sale price was 330p, meaning that the 630m shares were offered to the City at a discount! Talk about selling the taxpayer short! No surprise that demand far exceeded supply, nor that 60% of the shares were sold to hedge funds. Why hasn`t the Labour opposition been shouting about this from the rooftops, or would it encourage the voters to get even more behind Corbyn?  
    The sale netted £2.1bn, meaning a loss to the country of £1.1 bn. This, by a chancellor who tells us he is so keen to balance the books, and reduce the deficit, that £12bn must be cut from the welfare bill, wages frozen and thousands of jobs cut in the public sector.

    What the sale proves beyond doubt, is that the majority of the Labour party has fallen for the Tory nonsense about the need for austerity. How can austerity be justified by a government which is willing to throw away over one billion pounds overnight, in an unnecessary sale?

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Letters on Blairite scaremongering

According to the likes of Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, the Labour party apparently, must not have a leader who approves of re-nationalising railways and the greedy energy companies (You Corbynites out there should be careful what you wish for,13/08/15). The new leader, presumably, must ignore the fact that, as was recently reported, the taxpayer subsidises private business to the tune of £93bn a year in "corporate welfare", and that the CEOs of FTSE100 companies have an annual payment approximately 150 times the average paid to their employees. Presumably, private landlords should continue to be allowed to charge exorbitant rents, whilst social housing is gradually phased out. Government can, not only continue with its policy of privatisation, it can get away with selling at knock-down prices to City investors, as with Royal Mail and RBS, costing the taxpayer billions, whilst austerity, with £12bn of welfare cuts, has to be imposed to save the country money! 
  Whilst Campbell rightly says that one of the reasons for the 2015 defeat was the failure "to rebut the idea that Labour caused the financial crash", he neglects to blame all those around Miliband giving their "expert" advice, perhaps because many of them were Blairites. Corbyn`s "silly positions" and "bizarre alliances" are criticised, with Campbell seemingly blind to the toxic effects of his and Blair`s roles in the invasion of Iraq.
     Blairites are keen to exaggerate the idea that if Corbyn gets elected, because he is apparently "hard left", he will support industrial action, and call for ministerial resignations. But aren`t they exactly what the the leader of the opposition should do, and something that exploited public sector workers like nurses and teachers would really appreciate? Did Tristram Hunt`s crossing of a picket-line of university workers requesting a living wage line endear him to Labour voters, or illustrate the little difference there is between Labour and Tory politicians?
 Scaremongering Blairites like Campbell fail to understand that there is a greater chance of "chaos being unleashed" in the Labour party if one of the centrist candidates wins, because their main idea is to tinker, alleviating slightly the effects of Tory austerity, when the country is crying out for a transformation of our grossly unfair society. If, as Campbell suggests, there is a "gulf between members in the country and the PLP", it behoves the MPs to adapt their policies accordingly.

So Tony Blair wrote his piece only for "longstanding" members of the Labour party, and "those who have joined without an agenda" (Even if you hate me, please don`t take Labour over the cliff,13/08/15). How patronising can he get? He can only mean traditional Labour voters, who want to vote for a new leader but, in his mind, have no real political opinions, and are simply waiting for advice from the likes of him, Alastair Campbell and Alan Johnson (Victory for Corbyn could kill Labour, warns Campbell, 11/08/15)? Blair and his acolytes simply cannot accept that it is because the party has moved to the right (not sufficiently "pro-business", not "aspirational") that voters are demanding change, and supporting the only candidate offering a real alternative to New Labour.
According to the Blairite agenda, the Labour party must not have a leader who approves of re-nationalising railways and the greedy energy companies The new leader, presumably, must ignore the fact that, as the Guardian recently reported, the taxpayer subsidises private business to the tune of £93bn a year in "corporate welfare", and that the CEOs of FTSE100 companies have an annual payment approximately 150 times the average paid to their employees. Presumably, private landlords should continue to be allowed to charge exorbitant rents, whilst social housing is gradually phased out. The Tory government can, not only continue with its policy of privatisation, but can get away with selling at knock-down prices to City investors, as with Royal Mail and RBS, costing the taxpayer billions, whilst austerity, with £12bn of welfare cuts, has to be imposed to save the country money! 
  Campbell even suggested that if Corbyn gets elected, he will be so "hard left" he will "back strikes" and call for "ministerial resignations"! But isn`t the latter exactly what the leader of the opposition should do, and the former something that exploited public sector workers like nurses and teachers would really appreciate? Did Tristram Hunt`s crossing of a picket-line of university workers requesting a living wage line endear him to Labour voters, or illustrate the little difference there is between Labour and Tory politicians?
 The scaremongering Blair and Campbell fail to understand that the Labour party is far more likely to face "a car crash" if one of the centrist candidates wins, because their main idea is to tinker when the country is crying out for a transformation of our grossly unfair society. Blairites don`t even realise that their constant interfering, and condescending hectoring, make a Corbyn victory much more likely.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Pro-Corbyn letter in New Statesman

Your Leader (31 July) suggests that the "more open process" of choosing the new Labour leader could lead to "chaos and discord" in the party because, if Corbyn wins, he would "not command the support of most of his parliamentary colleagues". You appear to view this as a "flaw" in the system rather than in the research carried out by MPs, and see the "Conservative model" as a better way of electing a new leader. Stephen Bush, (Observations,31 July) similarly sees the future, following  Corbyn`s leadership, full of "Tory victories and Labour splits", and blames Brown for spiking the careers of "would-be heavyweights".
      What is probably nearer the truth is that Corbyn`s massive popularity is revealing the huge distance between the the moderate policies on offer from a centrist Labour party, and its "Stepford" candidates, and the wishes of a populace fed up with austerity, faked compassion and sincerity from politicians, and Labour policies far too similar to those of the Tories. A parliamentary party led by Corbyn should incorporate the left-wing policies which are clearly popular with Labour voters, ignore the nonsense from the right-wing media about 1983 "suicide notes" and such like, and show a united front. After five years of Osborne`s austerity and state-shrinking measures and ever-increasing inequality, the country will be ripe for change by 2020, something that will only come with Corbyn.
       Peter Wilby (First Thoughts,31 July) reckons the "glass floor" can be broken by so-called "elite" universities being given "upper limits" on numbers of privately educated students, but questions whether "even" Corbyn would "dare to advocate" such a thing. Only 7% of the country`s children are educated in the private sector, yet they dominate up to 70% of the top jobs, so to think that Corbyn would not "dare" has to be mistaken. In fact, it`s one of the many reasons why thousands, like me, will be giving him their vote.


Letter to Indy on Corbyn:no need for schism

Steve Richards is absolutely correct to say that Corbyn`s popularity can be explained by the fact that his supporters "have ached for a voice that questions the stifling consensus in England about economics" (Independent, 11/08/15). Why should inequality continue to increase, why should private tenants have to pay 50-60% of their disposable income in rent to greedy landlords, why should the state subsidise private business to the tune of £93bn a year in "corporate welfare, why should tax avoidance and evasion go unpunished? The list appears endless!
       As Richards also says, the Blairites emphasise Blair`s three election victories as if they "provide precise navigation towards the future", but fails to mention that this rider also applies to the 1983 election, which all anti-Corbynites use as so-called evidence to prove a left-wing Labour party cannot win elections. Past election results cannot be used in this way, especially when some important factors are ignored: a study of post Stresemann Germany`s elections would suggest coalition governments there would never be successful; elections in the States in the 1960s would never point to a black or female president. When history is used irresponsibly, it is little better than blatant propaganda!
     That is why Richards is mistaken in his belief that Labour`s selectorate "must opt for another candidate" as Corbyn would inevitably "disappoint those cheering now". There is no need for a "schism" in Labour ranks, simply a requirement for Labour MPs to grasp what exactly the people are telling them, that centrist tinkering to ameliorate Tory policies is not enough, when transformation of a grossly unfair society is urgently needed.


Saturday, 8 August 2015

M Star letters: Cameron`s "swarm" and "hatchet job" on Foot

Well done for devoting so much space in your paper to the disgraceful comment made by Cameron about the "desperate and vulnerable people" in Calais. (Morning Star,31/07/15)  When such words are spoken by a prime minister, and, no doubt, a man who considers himself a world leader, they deserve as much criticism as possible. This "awful de-humanising language" reveals a lack of compassion, which is well known, but also a complete lack of understanding of the situation, giving the impression that all refugees are heading for Britain, when the truth is much different: not only did the UK receive 24.000 "asylum applications last year" , as you reported, compared to Germany`s 175000, it ranks mid-table when comparing asylum claims relative to population.
    Instead of using such "emotive" and dangerous language, it would be far better if Cameron stuck to giving the public the facts. For instance, there is no invasion threat similar to 1940, which is the impression given by the "gutter press". Similarly, the claim by Eurotunnel that 2000 migrants tried to enter Britain in just one night is incorrect, because many repeated attempts were made by the same, desperate group. 3000 were rescued in the Mediterranean in two days last week by German and Italian ships, whilst HMS Enterprise has rescued no-one in over a month.

    He hasn`t the bottle to admit that dogs and fences at Calais will not solve the problem, or that the country over which he purports to rule has to follow the example set by poorer countries like Italy and Greece, and adopt a more humanitarian approach to the situation. Helping fellow humans escape war and torture should never be deemed a problem.

Keith Flett`s analysis of the election defeat for Labour in 1983 rightly includes mention of  the "1981 SDP split from Labour" which significantly split the anti-Tory vote, but it surprisingly omits a number of other important factors(Morning Star,29/07/15). The majority of 144 gained by Margaret Thatcher`s Tories had much to do with the "hatchet job" done on Michael Foot, by the right-wing media. Who will forget the criticism he received because he wore, at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day in 1981, a short blue-green overcoat, bought for him by his wife, "at  considerable expense" at Harrods according to Foot`s official biographer, Lord Morgan? His enemies, many of whom were in the Labour party, had a field day, saying how he looked like an "out-of-work navvy" in his "donkey-jacket", even though the coat lacked the necessary leather shoulders.
       Is it not true, also, that Thatcher had to resort to an unnecessary war in the Falklands to bolster her own, and her party`s, support, so badly was she doing in the polls prior to the election? Such factors strengthen Flett`s argument that it is wrong to blame the defeat on the "manifesto dubbed the longest suicide note in history", and it is also worth remembering that the same manifesto included pledges to raise living standards by a minimum wage, and to introduce a National Investment Bank, with a commitment to "attract and channel savings, by agreement, in a way that guarantees these savings and improves the quality of investment in the UK". 
      Many of the 1983 pledges were enacted, such as the Freedom of Information Act, a ban on foxhunting, and devolution to Scotland and Wales, 

     A Labour party misled into mimicking the Tories by its own right-wing, because it fails to understand its own history, could well be writing its own "suicide note", but this time, for real!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

New Statesman letter

George Eaton concluded his article with the statement that many feel that "Labour has regressed several decades in the space of a few weeks", but it is quite obvious that many more think the party may be coming to its senses (The Politics Column,34July). The view from the pressbox, generally, is that a Corbyn-led Labour party has no chance of electoral success, using as evidence the mistaken view that the "suicide note" manifesto of 1983 was solely to blame for the party`s election defeat that year. Other equally significant reasons, like the Falklands effect boosting Thatcher`s support, the personal hatchet-job done on Michael Foot by the right-wing press, and the effects of the Labour/SDP split, are all conveniently ignored. The result is that the Blairite propaganda against Corbyn`s more radical proposals is being used to sway voters towards the other centre-right candidates.
   Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in the You-Gov poll, which Eaton uses to make his case against Corbyn. Not content with surveying voting intentions, the poll asked about the importance of the leader understanding "what it takes to win". The reason for such a leading question`s inclusion in a poll of party members can only be to create further ammunition for the anti-Corbyn propaganda campaign about a left-wing Labour party`s unelectability!
    It is evidently not just Corbyn`s "ideological distinctiveness" which is causing him to lead the race, as Eaton suggests. His policies are neither "hard left" nor "revolutionary", like many on the right claim, but they do offer, to a vast majority of the population, opportunities for change and hope, and an end to a society based on unfairness and injustice. Isn`t that what a Labour leader is meant to do?


2nd letter to Observer about Corbyn

Not content with his rant against Jeremy Corbyn the previous week, with repeated, snide comments about his "Lenin cap" and "endorsement of the Trotskyites" and such like, Andrew Rawnsley clearly couldn`t resist dishing out another dose of his Blairite medicine (Labour downs a deadly cocktail of fatalism, fury and fantasy,26/07/15). Particularly noticeable this time was the careful selection of information from the You-Gov poll, where he totally ignored the fact that 62% of those polled said they wanted a leader who was in touch with the concerns of ordinary people, presumably knowing how important this would be, come election time. Instead, Rawnsley concentrated on the 27% who said they wanted a leader "who understands what it takes to win an election", and unbelievably reached the conclusion that "a big chunk of the Labour selectorate knows Mr Corbyn is a loser". Even Michael Gove, when Education Secretary, was not so adept at the misuse of data! The "timely analysis" of this year`s election by the Smith Institute, and its point that Labour needs to win another "100 seats to secure a parliamentary majority", was deemed worthy of a mention, but an unsurprising omission was its recommendation for the party`s strategy to be "based on the values it believes in". Similarly, he shows how Labour`s problems will get worse because of the  "boundary changes", but fails to mention how much more discontented the majority of the electorate will be after the Tories have attempted to return government spending to 1930s` levels, and how even more attractive Corbyn`s policies will then appear.
       Rawnsley has the audacity to patronise his readers by claiming that those who, basically, agree with his views  are "more serious" than those of us who regard Blair as "insufferably smug". He can ridicule Corbyn as the "Pied Piper of Islington" as much as he likes, but millions of us support the attempt to offer the electorate a real alternative to neoliberalism.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Letter on right`s abuse of history

Michael Meacher is absolutely right to criticise the Blairites for their "breathtaking arrogance and intolerance" (Morning Star,27/07/15). How often have they and their allies in the press repeated their mantra that Labour with a left-wing leader cannot win elections? They see the 1983 election, with a manifesto ridiculously described now as a  "suicide note", as being sufficient evidence to prove their point. Such superficial analysis of the past is bound to be misleading: would not a study of post-Stresemann Weimar Germany suggest the country could never be successfully governed by coalition governments? Similarly, the political events of the 1960s in the States would never intimate the slightest possibility of a black or female President ever being elected. Using some rather dubious "facts" about the 1983 election to predict 2020 voting behaviour is simply propaganda.
Perhaps the time has come for all Blairtes and political commentators to ask what a Corbyn-led Labour manifesto would actually look like. It would almost certainly include some proposals to re-nationalise the railways and energy companies, to introduce more regulation of the financial industry and of the private rented sector, increase taxation for the rich, align corporation tax with current EU levels, reduce the £50bn of annual tax avoidance, and to reverse the decrease in social mobilty, opening up the top professions to more young people educated in the state sector. Repeal of the odious anti-union legislation would be proposed, and there would be an element, no doubt, of copying the practice, long-established in Germany, of co-determination, with union representation on the boards of big companies, a policy apparently supported by Liz Kendall, as well as other measures to ensure inequality was reduced, and the weak and vulnerable protected. 
      Is such a manifesto likely to cause disunity in the party, or lose elections, when its clear aim would be to share more equitably the benefits of living in the 6th richest economy in the world? 

      As the Smith Institute`s report on the 2015 election defeat recommended, Labour`s strategy has to be "based on the values it believes in", not on the result of a misguided analysis of history!

Disappointment with Guardian

 As you included two excellent articles, by Alan Travis (Forget migrant madness.This is tabloid media pretence on a massive scale,31/07/15), and by Daniel Trilling (Europe could solve the migrant crisis if it wanted), and first-rate reporting by Matthew Taylor and Josh Halliday (It`s easier if you say we`re bad, not human) on the Calais situation in one edition, it was disappointing not to see any editorial criticism of Cameron`s crass comment. Lack of space clearly could not have been the reason, nor fear of being too "tabloid-like", as both excuses are countered by the whole page, for some strange reason, being devoted to publicising Clarkson`s deal with tax-avoiding par excellence, Amazon.
     The Refugee Council head, Dr Lisa Doyle, rightly described Cameron`s remark as "awful, de-humanising language from a world leader". A prime minister using such irresponsible and odious language about desperate people deserves widespread criticism, including from the Guardian. Admittedly, Thursday`s editorial  did call for "more partnership with Europe and less posturing" on all matters, including migration, but Cameron`s "swarm" remark was so disgraceful, it was worthy of a leader comment, all guns blazing!
      This arrogant Tory government is still clinging to the ridiculous notion that it is the "pull factor" which is responsible for the crisis, and that the people must be sent back. Surely there is someone in government who has read the report on Eritrea by the UN Human Rights council, which concluded that the Afwerki regime was committing  such "gross human-rights violations" that they constituted "crimes against humanity"? Is it surprising, then, that hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are joining the refugees from the Middle East`s wars in their quest for safety in the UK and EU countries? The idea of sending people back to countries where bombings, executions and torture are rife should never be on the table. Why isn`t a summit meeting of European leaders being called this weekend to deal with the refugee problem, as happened over clearly what was deemed far more important, Greece`s financial troubles? Perhaps more pertinently, why isn`t the Guardian demanding one now, instead of waiting until the inevitable catastrophe happens at Calais?