Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Winning in 2020

The heading of the Star`s editorial summed it up nicely; compassion and caring are "not in the Tories DNA" (Morning Star,22/01/16). The trouble is that this does not stop them winning elections, so Corbyn`s Labour party has to get its act together soon, and start winning over the electorate. There is no need to pay a fortune to an election guru, as getting the right message across is not rocket ecience. As the last election showed, it`s not always enough to have the right policies, as the Tories are good at creating false impressions, like the one where they help the "aspirational", or care about workers. Of course, such nonsense is easily repudiated, but relying on Corbyn at PMQs, or McDonnell`s lecture tour is not enough; the whole party has not only to be on the same page of the same book, but has to be saying the exact same phrases repeatedly! Many Tory backbenchers hate Cameron and his pro-Europe policies, but they all repeat the mantra about "long-term economic plan" and such like. Labour need to develop some repeatable sayings, along the lines of:
                 "Austerity measures have failed to reduce the deficit", or
                  "Tories borrow more than Labour", followed with the very latest figures to prove it.
                  "The Trade Union Bill shows that the Tories are the enemy of working people", or
                  "By attacking the doctors, the Tories show they are the anti-NHS party".
    These could be coupled with a denunciation of Cameron`s "sink-estates" proposals, as their destruction will almost everywhere lead to private housing developments and the creation of more non-affordable homes.
       Labour`s proposals have to be repeated too, with the clear message that they are what the majority of people support, and that together, they create a vision for a fairer and more just society. 
 Those who still claim that Corbyn is unelectable, and that his party is out of synch with the people, are simply not thinking of what damage the Tories will have done to the country by 2020. Are we expected to believe that the vast majority of the country won`t want our over-expensive railways to be re-nationalised, cruel austerity measures, aimed at those least able to defend themselves, to be halted, and the rich to pay more in taxes? 
      Will voters really be "intensely relaxed" about bosses taking home 183 times the amount of their average worker, and content with a "national living wage" which, even by 2020, will be way below what a London living wage is today! Presumably, Corbyn is wrong to suggest that this government has done next to nothing about the billions lost through tax avoidance and evasion, or that its attacks on workers in the public sector are both morally and economically misguided? Unlike John McDonnell, voters will think it perfectly acceptable for firms like Google to make tax donations to the Treasury, after yet more "sweetheart deals", unlike the thousands of smaller firms and millions of employees who pay their full whack.  
        By 2020, unless there are major U-turns, there will be even greater shortages in the teaching and nursing professions, and hundreds of doctors will have left the country for more appreciative climes. Osborne will still not have reduced the deficit significantly, and the Tories` shrunken state will be suffering from reduced security at home, and increased industrial action, regardless of the Trade Union Bill being passed, in all areas of employment. Infrastructure will be starved of essential funds, yet over a hundred billion will be available for nuclear weapons and wars in the Middle East. More businesses, in true Sports Direct form, will have been discovered to be breaking employment rules, scam-riddled banks and City accounting firms will still be avoiding the scant regulations government has imposed, inefficient security firms like G4S will still be given government contracts, energy firms will not have stopped over-charging consumers, all businesses will still will be paying one of the world`s lowest rate of corporation tax, and the CBI will still be moaning about their employees` lack of skills. Housing availability for first time buyers will be at a minimum, whilst private rents to greedy landlords will still not be capped, and thousands of Tory voters` offspring will be paying through the roof for uninhabitable accommodation, as well as having to repay their student loans. Social mobility will still be restricted, with the places in the so-called "top" universities, and the best jobs, going to the privately educated.
      Of course, victory in 2020 is possible, but unity is essential; MPs need to rally round their leader, support him in his attacks on the Tories, and endorse the policies he proposes.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Solution to "rogue landlords" problem

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning is right to say that there are too many "rogue landlords that exploit vulnerable people and force tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid accommodation", but the new £5m fund to help councils is derisory (Cash boost to crack down on rogue landlords,22/01/16). With rents rising much faster than inflation, and many tenants paying over half of their disposable income on rent to greedy landlords, or having to rely on housing benefit, it is clear government intervention is needed; taxpayers cannot be expected to provide, as they did last year, £9.2bn to private landlords in housing benefit, especially when so many rented properties do not meet the basic standards of health, safety and habitation.
 All rented accommodation needs to be inspected, and then graded into bands according to location, size and condition, with the level of rent to be charged set by the government for each band. For many tenants, this would mean a big reduction in rent. Landlords will not walk away, as opponents on the right will inevitably suggest, as easy profits will still be available, but will, instead, be forced to improve the quality of their properties. Students would be included, too, so their halls of residence, as well as the private houses and flats they rent, would be inspected. Furthermore, all tenants would then have more money to spend, thereby benefiting the economy as a whole.
      With so much expertise in this area at Westminster, drafting suitable legislation should prove easy! The number of MPs earning extra income by renting out properties rose by a third in the last parliament, increasing to 153, and of course, including Cameron, Osborne, and the present Minister for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis!

Osbornes and trade unions

Labour`s failure to warn the electorate about the devastating effects of Tory long-term policies was an important factor in the 2015 election result, Why the leadership and candidates didn`t explain in full what shrinking the state back to levels last seen in the 1930s, would entail, instead of messing about with pink mini-buses and "Ed-stones", is beyong the understanding of most Labour supporters. 
    Since the election, the Tories have amplified their policies in such a way that even the Lords have been stirred into action, especially during the tax credit debates, and now against the "partisan Tory changes to party funding" (Morning Star,20/01/16).  Government intentions for trade union legislation make it totally clear that, when it comes to taking the country backwards, the 1930s appear modern. Labour is bracing itself for "a £6m fall in trade union funding" because of the return to the "opt-in system", which takes us back to the first decade of the 20th century!
     A very similar proposal appeared back in 1907 when the Secretary of the Walthamstow branch of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants claimed it was illegal to impose a political levy on union members. With the approval of the House of Lords in 1909, the Judgement was given the same title as the surname of the union secretary.........Osborne! You couldn`t make it up!
    The Osborne Judgement was a serious threat to the financial position of the Labour party; not only would the ensuing reduction of funds prevent payment of salaries to successful parliamentary candidates, it would mean little or no funding to support election campaigns.
Fortunately, with the then Liberal government in need of Labour`s support, and willing to introduce payment for MPs in 1911, and with a 70% increase in trade union membership between 1910 and 1915, the effects of the Osborne Judgement were not as disastrous as its supporters hoped. The Trade Union Act of 1913 got rid of it.
 What makes that Tory boast of taking us back to the 1930s really pale into insignificance, however, is the section of their Trade Union Bill which relates to picketing, and all the diverse attempts to make it ineffective. This is similar to Gladstone`s Liberal government, as far back as 1871, passing the Criminal Law Amendment Act; the devious Tory, Disraeli, saw that a pledge to repeal it would win their votes. After his victory in the 1874 election, the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act in 1875 legalised peaceful picketing .
     This Tory government clearly not only wants the role of the state to be taken back to the 1930s, it wants trade unions firmly back in the 1870s.

  And the Tories still dare to claim they are the party of the workers! 

Friday, 22 January 2016

Anti-privatisation letter

How many more examples are needed before the mainstream media starts to question the government`s propaganda about privatisation being preferable to public ownership? How refreshing it would be to see a debate on the subject on a TV channel at prime-time, or on one of R4`s political programmes, or even given a full page analysis in one of the popular newspapers. At least we can rely on the Star to give us the facts (Morning Star, 08/01/16).
     The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported the "loss of hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers` money" because of the government`s inabilty to manage health and disability assessments through its outsourced privatised companies. Each employment and support allowance test now costs £190, rather than £115, since Atos pulled out of its contract, and there are thousands of benefit claimants having to wait over six months for their test, during which time they are denied full payment.
    The NAO also found problems with the American firm which has replaced Atos; Maximus has the contract now, but only half of all the doctors and nurses carrying out the assessments completed their training! Staff costs have risen from £26000 in 2014 to £44000 last year. Even the government`s own quality assessment threshold is not being met.
     The government department must be held responsible for this shambles.
    Now, not only can it be seen that such cruel attempts to reduce the benefits bill is morally wrong, not that this would bother the Tories, it is even economically misguided as well! Handing over £1.6bn in the next three years to private companies to carry out tests which will save less than £1bn should even strike a chord with our chancellor. Mind you, he was the one who failed to answer a child`s question about eight times seven!


New Statesman letter on education

Not all of the government initiatives mentioned in your Leader were responsible for the improvements made in London schools, and whilst you are right to say that "educational inequality in England remains a disgrace", too much blame for this is always attributed to the teachers (The education divide,15 January,2015). The London Challenge succeeded because teachers from different schools worked together, and shared ideas. Politicians, very few of them with any experience of education in state schools, continue to have far too much influence on educational attainment in the state sector. Low pay and morale are fundamental reasons for staffing shortages, whilst 60 hour weeks and constant criticism and "advice" from the likes of ex-corporate lawyer, Nicky Morgan, and the duplicitous Nick Clegg, are driving thousands out of the profession every year.
   Over 40 years if teaching in comprehensive schools showed me how divisive is a system whereby some teachers are paid more than others for teaching the same pupils, whilst morale is always low when the headteacher is paid four or five times that of the average classroom teacher, yet never faces the constant pressure of actual teaching. Teach First is seen as the way forward, but how many of these "talented graduates" will still be in the profession in four years time? 
  The leader alluded to the Finnish system, with "the best school results of any country in Europe", which relies on teacher training colleges to prepare teachers, suggesting our PGCE courses should be retained. Giving student teachers time to assess and evaluate their own performance in the classroom, and discuss lessons with each other, is essential, and it prevents the likelihood of burn-out later.

   You say that "no option should be considered too radical" if it could help "improve social mobility". How about restricting universities to taking only 7% of their intake from private schools, in line with national figures?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Fat cat days

The fact that it now takes only 22 hours for FTSE 100 bosses to "pocket more than the average yearly salary" is a national disgrace (Morning Star, 06/01/16). It is not only morally wrong, adding to the huge inequality in our society, the 7th richest in the world, but with only six other countries in the OECD having more inequality in terms of income, but it is economically unwise to over-pay these professional managers, who owe their positions to having climbed the greasy pole. This can be seen to be especially true when one considers not only how many British companies do their utmost to avoid paying the correct amount of corporation tax, despite its extremely low rate, but how many fail to pay a living wage to their employees; in August, 2015, only a quarter of FTSE 100 companies were living wage accredited! The economy is in dire need of an increase in demand for its products, without the buyers having to resort to more borrowing.
      Furthermore, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently provided results of its research, showing that high pay for chief executives demotivates the rest of the workforce, which then is reflected in productivity levels. This is hardly surprising when the High Pay Centre`s research shows that CEOs are being paid 183 times more than their average employee, compared with 47 times in 1998.
      Of course, as the High Pay Centre suggests, workers need "to be represented on the company renumeration committees"; such consultative capitalism, or co-determination as it became known, was imposed on the Federal Republic of Germany by the west after the second world war, with remarkable results for the German economy. In the meantime, a government not in cahoots with the City, would pass legislation to ensure the pay ratio between the CEO and the median employee was published, as the Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled in the USA. Further legislation would then be needed to limit the ratio to around 70% maximum, and also to increase substantially the income tax rate for the obscenely paid.
     Being "intensely relaxed" about people getting filthy rich isn`t always the best move, economically or politically!


In defence of Corbyn

No doubt Peter Wilby was pleased with his comparison of Jeremy Corbyn with Mrs Jellyby`s "telescopic philanthropist", but the fact that it was based entirely on what he "suspects", without any evidence to substantiate it, rather diminishes its cleverness (First Thoughts,08/01/16). Apparently, the Labour leader does not care "as much about such issues" as the damage inflicted by the Tories on the NHS, on social housing, on "in-work benefits", on "flood defences" and the threats to state schools, as on "nuclear disarmament and liberation struggles across the globe".
    Yet in an interview with Nick Robinson on the Today programme, on Radio 4 this week, despite the presenter`s efforts to divert him, Corbyn was emphatic in his criticism of the government for its handling of the junior doctors` dispute, and rightly asked how many doctors would be leaving the country to work elsewhere as a direct result of Hunt`s actions. He also promised a "different approach to economic problems", and highlighted how government policies are making the housing situation worse, creating a "more divided Britain", and developing an education system which has decreased prospects of social mobility.
     In the same interview, and in various newspaper articles, Corbyn has rightly claimed credit for government U-turns on cuts to "in-work benefits" and police numbers, whilst in PMQs he attacked the Tories for their appalling record on "flood defences".

 What is clearly required is for respected political commentators, like Wilby and Eaton, to listen to what Corbyn actually says, and not hear what their suspicions tell them what he is saying. He is appealing, as they admit, to "idealistic young people", and given a fair chance by the media, he can lead Labour to an election victory in 2020; it is not only young people who are anxious for transformation of our society!  

Matthew d`Ancona won`t approve, but as a Guardian reader of too many years to remember exactly, I confess I am not "unburdened by anti-Tory prejudice" (Hunt can take on the doctors by showing he`s for the NHS,11/01/16). My bias is not the result of blinkered asessment of Tory policies, but of first-hand experience of, and observation over many years.Teaching in  state schools under Conservative governments, with the consequent shortage of teaching materials, low pay and morale, whilst observing the unfairness of Tory policies, unnecessary and inequitable austerity measures, and the failure to apply a fair system of taxation and regulations to prevent inequality increasing by the day, gives me every right to take an anti-Tory stance. I do not need to be told, by a Guardian writer of all people, that I am unable to view "the junior doctors` strike" without prejudice.
    d`Ancona would do well to take heed of the basic message in Zoe Williams`s column; David Cameron already has his "detractors" silenced by the Barclay brothers and Rupert Murdoch, and by contraventions of "the BBC`s duty of impartiality", so another pro-Tory article in a left-leaning newspaper is hardly necessary (Labour`s disputes should not always be seen as chaos,11/01/16). Bring on Williams`s "meaningful reporting", which solicits "both sides of the argument"; anyone who can seriously suggest that this government will "bulldoze the worst sink estates", and provide "decent housing " instead, simply has not been studying the empirical evidence, a symptom, I believe, of being burdened with a very severe case of pro-Tory prejudice!

Tristram and inequality

Tristram Hunt makes some valid points regarding the importance of Sure-Start centres, "high-class technical and vocational education", and "extracurricular activities", as well as the need for less interference from, "a compliance-based inspectorate" (Inequality: a problem schools alone can`t fix,12/01/16). The problem is that he fails to address the fundamental problem in education at the moment, which most certainly is not the lack of "character and resilience" in our schools; the more Hunt rattles on about this, the more evident it becomes that he needs to meet more state educated pupils.
 The major problem which has to be dealt with before the societal problem of inequality can be tackled is the shortage of teachers, which even Ofsted chief, Michael Wilshaw, has described as leading to a "two-tier system", with "one group of schools more able to recruit than another"; not exactly the best platform from which to launch an attack on inequality!

 Of course, Hunt is right to stress that the problem of inequality cannot be solved by schools alone, but until the teachers in the classrooms are rewarded with a significant increase in pay, and have their workloads reduced, all talk of "disadvantage and social mobility" for all is, sadly, pie in the sky. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Saudis` blank cheque

Is Emma Graham-Harrison being totally accurate when claiming that the execution of "47 people for terrorism" actually "forced the west publicly to shore up its recently strained alliance with Saudi Arabia" (Iran`s fury at the Saudi killing of a cleric has heightened tensions,10/01/16)? Has our politics reached such a nadir that the only comment the British foreign secretary can make about these killings is that they are "regrettable"? Is our government so bereft of any backbone that it refuses to condemn them in case it upsets the major purchaser of British arms in the Middle East? As the British government in 2011 apparently left Saudi Arabia off a list of 30 countries to be challenged over their use of the death penalty, and, of course, gave its support for that same country to chair the UN human rights council panel, it would appear that the Saudis have been given a judicial "blank cheque"! This, however, has not been "forced" on the western powers.
       Understanding that Saudi Arabia is enduring economic problems because of oil prices, and being threatened politically because of both IS, and the Iranian nuclear deal, should not eliminate the need for condemnation. The west should ban all military sales to the Middle East, and if this hurts Saudi Arabia the most, so be it; by allowing the export of British-made missiles and military equipment to Saudi Arabia, to be used against civilians in the Yemen, the UK government has already been put on notice that it is in breach of international law. Neutrality can be shown by insisting on the addition of extra measures to the nuclear deal, such as banning Iran from missile testing.
        If the British economy is in such a perilous state it has to rely on arms sales to countries like Saudi Arabia to balance the books, and as a consequence, the government is too frightened to complain when atrocities occur, the effectiveness of the Tories` "long-term economic plan" has to be questioned, as does their self-penned economic "competence". Any claims to an ethical foreign policy also have to be rejected with disdain.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

d`Ancona a disgrace

Matthew d`Ancona won`t approve, but as a Guardian reader of too many years to remember exactly, I confess I am not "unburdened by anti-Tory prejudice" (Hunt can take on the doctors by showing he`s for the NHS,11/01/16). My bias is not the result of blinkered asessment of Tory policies, but of first-hand experience of, and observation over many years.Teaching in  state schools under Conservative governments, with the consequent shortage of teaching materials, low pay and morale, whilst observing the unfairness of Tory policies, unnecessary and inequitable austerity measures, and the failure to apply a fair system of taxation and regulations to prevent inequality increasing by the day, gives me every right to take an anti-Tory stance. I do not need to be told, by a Guardian writer of all people, that I am unable to view "the junior doctors` strike" without prejudice.
    d`Ancona would do well to take heed of the basic message in Zoe Williams`s column; David Cameron already has his "detractors" silenced by the Barclay brothers and Rupert Murdoch, and by contraventions of "the BBC`s duty of impartiality", so another pro-Tory article in a left-leaning newspaper is hardly necessary (Labour`s disputes should not always be seen as chaos,11/01/16). Bring on Williams`s "meaningful reporting", which solicits "both sides of the argument"; anyone who can seriously suggest that this government will "bulldoze the worst sink estates", and provide "decent housing " instead, simply has not been studying the empirical evidence, a symptom, I believe, of being burdened with a very severe case of pro-Tory prejudice!


M Star letter on Osborne`s "incompetence"

Your editorial was absolutely correct to emphasise how "the holes in the Chancellor`s strategy are becoming more apparent" by the day (Morning Star,08/01/16). How typical of George Osborne to divert blame from himself and find the reasons for British economic growth stuttering in a "cocktail" of Chinese economic problems, falling oil prices, and conflict in the Middle East; it`s not as though these problems are a sudden phenomena. A decent chancellor would already have reacted to these problems when they first arrived, or even were forecast, and have modified policies accordingly; a small increase in fuel duty, for example, would not have gone amiss, and actually have been in line with a greener environmental policy, apparently supported by this government since the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
    If "the threat of conflict" between Saudi Arabia and Iran is of such concern, one might have expected wholesale condemnation of the "senseless assassination" of the Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whose only crime was to support that so-called "core British value", democracy, during the Arab spring. Instead, we get the fawning Tory Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, pathetically refusing to "condemn the Saudi Arabian execution of 47 people",and dismissing the victims as "convicted terrorists" (Morning Star,09/01/16).
    Osborne`s speech of impending doom, which has nothing to do with his austerity measures and City-favouring policies, of course, was clearly a warning to the people of the UK that the worst is yet to come, prosperity is far from being around the corner, and his plans to reduce the deficit are way off the mark. As the possible, future leader of his party he cannot be seen for the economic incompetent that he most certainly is. That description, according to the Tory propaganda machine, and its media allies, belongs only to one man, and he, again according to their gospel, is unelectable! At least that is what they keep telling us.
 As the Tories appear to have a sudden fondness for everything Shakespearian, judging by last week`s PMQs, it seems appropriate to quote a line from Hamlet back at them: they "doth protest too much"!


Dan Jarvis feared by Tories?

Is Dan Jarvis really "seen as the leader the Tories fear most" (Saturday interview,09/01/16)? Even a "former major who has fought in several war zones" has to have policies and ideas more likely to appeal to an electorate clearly fed up with, as Jarvis himself said, "more of the same".
It is precisely because Corbyn "represents something quite different" that he is being attacked so viciously by the right-wing press; his proposals would actually transform our society. Why are the Tories so intent on reducing the franchise, with their individual registration requirements which will affect non-Tory voters principally, if they do not see Corbyn`s Labour  as a real threat? Why are they openly attacking what Cameron calls a "core British value", democracy, with their constituency boundary changes, and reductions in "short money" to rival parties, when the Opposition is so "unelectable"?  

 The answer is obvious, and it`s clear from the interview that Jarvis is beginning to realise that a Labour party under the leadership of Jeremy Cobyn has a real opportunity to "renew itself", and win in 2020.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

1009 runs - really heroic!

Rather than sing the praises of the teenager in India who scored "1009 not out while batting for KC Gandi School", perhaps the press should be concentrating more on an analysis of the actual details (Morning Star,06/01/16)? At least the Star only reported the facts, though it did omit some important ones.
      Is it really such a fine achievement when one considers that the opposition team from Arya Gurukul school, in an under-16 league, had to put out a younger team, because the older boys were taking examinations? Should this have become one of the headline sports news of the day, featuring on television and radio programmes, and even in the Guardian editorial, the day after? In the first day`s play, Pranav Dhanawade had scored 652, already breaking the record set way back in 1899 of 628, off a mere 199 balls; by the end, his score came off only 327 deliveries, nearly a four a ball.
 What was the point of inflicting such punishment on little boys? What were the teachers thinking of, when they should have announced a declaration much, much earlier?
Imagine if your son was one of the many bowlers, obviously a victim of bullying, not by the batsman, but by the teachers in charge! Even in boxing, the referee can step in to avoid further punishment! Hopefully, those parents will all complain, to whatever authorities they deem culpable.
    This is one so-called "sporting" record, of which no-one can be proud, including those in the media who have marvelled at the performance; what is there to marvel about in such a "turkey shoot"? The Guardian may describe Pranav as "the thousand run hero", but many will disagree.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

M/Star article on Corbyn`s unelectability

We are still being told by the Tory-dominated media, and sadly by the Guardian and Observer too, that a Labour party going into the 2020 election, with Corbyn as its leader, is unelectable. Since the leadership election, Andrew Rawnsley, chief political commentator of the Observer, has written about little else!
     The articles in these newspapers, which invariably repeat the description, “hard-left”, and for the same purpose, ensure “Trotskyite” or some such revolutionary-emotive words, are used frequently, tend to be assertive, without substantiating the argument with facts or figures. They still mention the strange idea of “threat to security” which this Labour party now apparently poses, and almost without fail, never detail any of the policies which Corbyn supports, and which have shown themselves to be popular with the electorate. Huge exaggerations are inevitably included; differences in opinion among Labour MPs will be inflated to “civil war” status; perfectly normal shadow cabinet changes become “revenge reshuffles”; a need for more unity suddenly leads to a “one-party state”!
      If Corbyn is really so unelectable, why do Murdoch`s minions and the rest go to all this trouble? And perhaps, more significantly, why do Cameron and his cronies adopt a similar approach?
    If the election in 2020 is going to be such an easy landslide victory for the Tories, why are they hell-bent on changing electoral rules to benefit themselves? Is there really any need to go to so much trouble to reduce the number of non-Tory supporters eligible to vote, by rushing through Individual Electoral Registration? What are the Tories frightened of? Indeed, there can be no need to change constituency boundaries in their favour when they face no real opposition, or to cut “short money” going to opposition parties! No need for precautions like these when they`re only up against an “unelectable” Labour party!
   Then there`s the small matter of televised debates between the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition; Corbyn has suggested this could become an annual event, enshrined in the constitution, but the response from a PM, faced with the prospect of debating with someone so unelectable, has been rather surprising. Why would Cameron not relish the idea, winning argument after argument against such a feeble opponent?
    The truth is obvious: this “unelectable” nonsense is just Tory propaganda, in the hope that either the duped Labour MPs will try to remove Corbyn, or that the electorate will become convinced of his suitability only to protest but never to govern.
      Of course, Corbyn is electable, and the Tories know it; his policies alone set him apart, as a politician who cares about the well-being of people, and the need for fairness in society, with all paying their fair share; and his character and personality make Corbyn different from the usual stock of fantastically rich, Eton/Winchester-educated, uncaring Bullingdon bullies, imposing unnecessary austerity on those least able to defend themselves,
        He is the one to whom the millions of private tenants will turn, when the greedy landlords impose another rent increase; he will be there for the millions of public sector workers when their pay rise falls below inflation yet again; there too, for the millions of trade union members, whose rights are attacked and reduced back to pre-1875 levels, the millions whose work as carers goes unrewarded, the millions disgusted at the greed of bankers, FTS100 CEOs, tax avoiders and evaders, whose fair contributions could pay for the country`s transformation. Students, whose chances of getting the top jobs, and paying off massive loans, are diminished with every year of Tory government, are bound to look to Corbyn for change, as will teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, all forced to work unimaginable hours for scant reward.

  Unelectable? Don`t believe a word of it; the Tories clearly don`t!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

M/Star letter on Tories` "hard choices"!

Osborne has been saying such nonsense for months, and now Cameron has seen fit to come up with the same. It`s all part of the Tory strategy, of course, which is to repeat the propaganda over and over, Goebbels-style, until enough people swallow it to win them another election. Along with their imagined success of the so-called "long-term economic plan", and Labour`s apparent inability to manage the economy, and being a threat to national security, we are now told, by way of the prime minister`s New Year message, that the Tories should be respected for taking "the difficult decisions in order to defeat these social scourges" (Morning Star,02/01/16).
            The choices Cameron is referring to are, in fact, the easiest decisions a Tory prime minister and chancellor can make. Cutting benefits for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, shielding his party`s key supporters from the effects of austerity, refusing to make the wealthiest pay their fair share, and ignoring the need for financial institutions to be strictly regulated are all default positions for Tory governments. What was difficult about selling RBS shares a few weeks ago for £1.1bn less than their real value, just to benefit their hedge-fund friends?
          What would be really "hard choices" would include ones which increase fairness in the taxation system, like an increase in income tax for the wealthy, and which deal effectively with tax avoidance by increasing co-operation in Europe, forcing multinationals to file a single European tax return, and thereby offending the eurosceptics in his own party. How can protecting pensioners, the majority of whom vote Tory, from austerity be possibly thought of as a difficult decision? Joining the majority of EU members in imposing a Financial Transaction tax this month might be judged a difficult decision for them, but only because it would offend many Tory donors. "Difficult decisions" for Cameron and Osborne would entail commitments which have the potential to upset Tory voters, something that they are clearly reluctant to do; imposing austerity measures on people traditionally regarded as Labour supporters, or non-voters, cannot be described as such. 
Every time the Tory leaders speak, whether about their "successes" or Labour`s failures, assertions, exaggerations and downright lies can be guaranteed. It is essential that Labour does not allow them to get away with it; the Tory propaganda machine cannot be given such an easy opportunity to brainwash the electorate again. Perhaps someone on Corbyn`s staff could be given the task of analysing and evaluating every Tory statement and announcement, and exposing the nonsense undoubtedly included?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

2015: A Year of Missed Opportunities for Labour

 2015 will almost certainly be judged by historians as the year the Labour party missed its opportunity, not only to replace one of the most noxious governments of modern times, but to restore its reputation as the party of the working people. Chance after chance went begging, with the general election giving the Tories the overall majority they certainly did not expect, and the newly elected Labour leader being vilified by dozens of his own MPs.
     Yet the year began optimistically, with many of the proposals of Ed Miliband going down well, and seeing an uplift in the polls for Labour. His ideas on more regulation of business, and of responsible capitalism, suggested that with a sensible election campaign, Labour would at least end up sharing power in May. Of course, Miliband and the parliamentary party should have shown more solidarity with those taking industrial action, and not have been so reluctant to insist on a living wage for all workers. The trouble was that the right-wing Blairite elements in the party were themselves reluctant supporters of their leader, who then appeared to lack the prime-ministerial qualities some voters require, especially, it seems, the ability to eat a bacon sandwich genteely.
    Instead of a united party, preparing for the May election by making the most of the opportunity to expose and attack the cruelty of the Tories` ideologically and politically-driven austerity agenda, Labour made obvious gaffes; Cameron and Osborne consequently escaped ever having to explain the dire consequences of their pledge to shrink the state back to levels last seen in the 1930s, not least the threat such cuts would make both to the nation`s security against terror attacks, and its infrastructure.
      Somehow, the female vote was going to be won prior to the election, not by blaming the Tories for ignoring the ever widening gender pay gap, or promises to ensure glass ceilings would be removed,  but by some female Labour MPs in a pink mini-bus! How could any politician, or anyone calling him or herself a political adviser in the 21st century, actually think for longer than a mini-second that this gimmick was anything other than downright patronisation of women? They even compounded what was already a massive problem by saying it would enable them to discuss politics with women "around the kitchen table"!!Then, with only days left before polling, Miliband gifted the Tory press with yet another gem for their propaganda machine: the so-called “Ed-stone”. The fact, later disclosed, that the decision for Labour`s six main election pledges to be carved into an 8ft 6in slab of limestone only got through 10 planning meetings because the advisers "were all distracted" by the Tories` tactics, beggars belief.    
      The opportunity to form, or even be part of, a government was lost in May, much to the glee of many Blairites, who could not hide their pleasure, as they put their knives into Ed`s back, blaming him for being too tough on business- that same business which refuses to pay workers the living wage, preferring zero-hours contracts for them, and pays 150 times the average for themselves, which avoids tax and which bank-rolls the Tories!!
       Not content with missing that “open goal”, Labour then refused to cash in on the massive surge of public support it received with its election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Too many MPs swallowed the nonsense from the Tory press and the Blairites about Corbyn making the party unelectable and taking it backwards, when they should have realised the obvious popularity of a principled man, capable of winning over the young and non-voters, returning lost supporters to the fold, and leading Labour to victory in the next election. Missing this opportunity to dent Tory confidence, and wipe the smirk off Osborne`s face, was typical of Labour throughout the year, culminating in the depressing Syrian bombing vote. We can only hope that their success in the tax credit affair, and the excellent Oldham by-election result, will be the spurs needed to drive the Labour party to forge a more united and effective opposition in 2016. The alternative is too dire to contemplate; History can be a cruel judge!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Time for Mandelson to move on

In another article packed full of assertion, like Corbyn`s apparent failure to "respect or understand the fact that Labour is a broad church", and exaggeration, such as Corbyn`s ambition "to see Britain becoming a one-party state", arch-Blairite Mandelson offers Labour his new year`s message (A Corbyn-led Labour will divide and fall into the abyss,01/01/16). Omissions abound, too, as in the important role played by Momentum in the recent by-election victory at Oldham, and, whilst very critical of Momentum`s alleged association with "hard-left networks outside the party", conveniently the article fails to mention Progress`s funding by Lord Sainsbury, who also bankrolled the SDP in the 1980s, and its meetings in Labour conferences sponsored by the Advertising Association, Hitachi and Santander, to name but a few.
     Mandelson would be better advised to apologise, not only for missing the many opportunities the New Labour government had to regulate industry and the financial institutions, but for that government being "intensely relaxed" about people getting filthy rich, and all the subsequent problems still haunting us today. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently provided results of its research, showing that high pay for chief executives demotivates the rest of the workforce, which then is reflected in productivity levels (Workers demotivated by executives` high pay - survey,18/12/15). This is hardly surprising when the High Pay Centre`s research shows that CEOs are being paid 183 times more than their average employee, compared with 47 times in 1998. Median pay for CEOs in FTSE100 companies has risen from £1.4m in 2003 to £3.3m in 2014. Yet Mandelson still claims that Corbyn and his followers are the ones out of "tune with Labour`s traditional value of equality"!
    Election results have repeatedly shown that Mandelson`s version of the Labour party has already fallen "into the abyss", and that a party intent on actually taking steps to decrease inequality, and to close the so-called "tax gap", can win votes. It`s time for Mandelson to move on.


Sunday, 3 January 2016

Corbyn can`t win!

It seems that Jeremy Corbyn simply can`t win; your editorial admitted that no leader could make "more than fledgling progress on the long road to electability in 100 days", and then criticised him for making announcements "on process, not ideas" (The key question: what is Labour for? 27/12/15). In the wake of the outrageous media attacks on him since his leadership election victory, most would view "fledgling progress" as a considerable achievement in such a brief period, whilst had Corbyn dictatorially enforced the adoption of his ideas as Labour policies, the Observer, rightly, would then have lambasted him for lack of consultation. 
    More unreasonable criticism arose because detailed answers have not yet emerged to such problems as "employment rights", graduates` employment prospects and "life chances of children in inner-city schools taught by an endless string of supply teachers". The Observer, however, is well aware that Corbyn`s Labour is totally opposed to the Tories` Trade Union Bill, will support any attempts to increase social mobility, and favours returning more powers over education to local authorities. Instead of condemning the government`s housing strategies, which have led to most young people being either priced out of ownership[, or exploited in the rental sector, the editorial complained of Labour lacking a coherent policy, when it is quite clear already that a Corbyn-led administration would introduce more regulation of Rachman-like practices, and build more social housing. 
 Corbyn`s Labour is even attacked for failing to solve the problem of "the growing influence of Islamic State", as if the rest of the world`s powers, who have faced the issue for a number of years, have any answers, other than bombing!
     If the Observer really does oppose increased privatisation in the health service and elsewhere, is against austerity measures which hit the most vulnerable the hardest and the richest not a jot, and supports taking action which will reduce inequality and tax avoidance, and increase social mobility, why does it continually criticise a leader of the Opposition who actually is developing policies along these very lines? It doesn`t make sense!