The Labour membership should listen to the PLP.

July 24, 2016

The chamber of the House of Commons erupted at mid-day on Wednesday with the arrival of the new Prime Minister to her first PMQs. The Tory Party, torn apart by the EU referendum, was now seemingly united behind its leader. By contrast, the chamber fell silent on the arrival of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. His own backbenches, ignored after a no confidence vote, threatened with de-selection for disloyalty, constantly attacked as red Tories and Blairites for daring to criticise the leader, were understandably quiet. And yet, Diane Abbott took to the airwaves immediately afterwards to express surprise that the PLP isn’t dancing around like cheerleaders with Corbyn tattoos and unveiling massive statues to him around the World. Abbott, Corbyn, McDonnell, and members are unable to understand that the Labour leader cannot command any Parliamentary support, and that in itself is a massive problem.

Let’s quash the myth immediately that the Parliamentary Labour Party is in any way acting undemocratically in opposing the Labour Leader. It isn’t. When Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench MP and sought to dethrone both Kinnock and Blair, he was well within his right to do so. In 1988 when supporting Tony Benn’s campaign to oust Kinnock, Corbyn said:

“By having an election, we will force a debate about the direction of the party in which it will be more difficult for Kinnock to make everything an issue of loyalty to him.”

– Quite. One when or two Labour MPs rebel against the leadership, it’s easier to put down. But think of this recent rebellion as an entire Party of 1988 Jeremy Corbyn’s. The leadership simply cannot secure confidence in that environment.

Four years later, Corbyn was supporting a challenge against the next Labour leader he had no interest in supporting. In 1992, Corbyn insisted that John Smith had shown “no real opposition“. 10 years later in 2002, he did the same when asking for a challenger to Blair to come forward. In 2003, he demanded an annual leadership election. At no point did the hard-left accuse him of undemocratic disloyalty. Now that he has hold of the strings of power, their demand is loyalty or leave. Jeremy Corbyn was not undemocratic then, and the PLP are not undemocratic now.

Let’s also quash the myth that Labour MPs are not representative of Labour Party at large. Those Labour MPs were selected, cleared, and elected by constituents for the 2015 general election. They represent the Party as it was voted on by constituents. That is the epitome of Parliamentary democracy. Members were not trying to deselect those MPs when they were winning constituencies for Labour. New members may not represent the view of the 2015 Labour Parliamentary Party. They can change that in 2020 if they want. But right now, Labour is not a hard-left Parliamentary Party, it wasn’t elected as the main opposition party on a hard-left platform, and MPs should not be betraying the message they were voted on, to suit new members.

To be clear, the PLP’s first commitment is to maintain a Labour Party in Parliament as ready for government at any moment as the only way to legislate in favour of Labour principles. This means appealing to a broader coalition of voters, than simply the hard-left. This means being able to produce a full shadow cabinet with a reserve pool of talent as well. This means a leader that the PLP is willing to fully support. Everything the PLP has done has been democratic and with the aim in mind that in order to change the country, it needs to win an election. It has used a perfectly acceptable Parliamentary procedure to issue a vote of no confidence in its leader. Shadow Cabinet members tried to work for Corbyn, and it didn’t workout. For that, his supporters have abused and attacked them. The PLP then sparked a leadership challenge and asked for clarity on the rules. It will now run a leadership challenge on the basis of those rules. That’s it. That isn’t undemocratic.

On election of the leader, I would agree that the Parliamentary Party should listen to its members. The members vote for the candidate put forward by the PLP. Indeed, at that point the members haven’t challenged the idea that the PLP decides who can stand for leader. Their lack of challenge implies acceptance. They accept that the PLP has to have a form of power over the process of electing their leader in Parliament. I’d presume they accept this premise, because the Labour Party is a Parliamentary Party within a Parliamentary democracy. So clear is this, that The Labour Party’s own rulebook, Clause 1.2 says:

“Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.”

– It would seem clear to me, that if the Parliamentary Party that must be maintained and ready for an election cannot work with the leader nor has any confidence in the ability of the leader to win that election, it would relay this message back to the membership in the form of a vote of no confidence, and the membership then have a duty to return a leader that the people in Parliament – not the hard-left Parliamentarians they hope make up the majority of MPs – the ones elected on a far more moderate platform in 2015, can work with. At that point, it becomes the responsibility of the membership, to support the Parliamentary Party with a candidate they can rally behind. Continuously sending the same leader that the PLP decidedly cannot work with, implies that the membership care very little for actual political power – where societal and economic change happens – and only care for flexing hard-left muscles with the illusion of power.

At this point, it is the Labour membership that must return a Parliamentary leader the Parliamentary Party can support and unite behind. If the membership does the opposite, the membership is entirely to blame for handing the 2020 general election to the Conservative Party.

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Why I joined the Liberal Democrats.

July 20, 2016

Two weeks ago I joined the Liberal Democrats. I thought I’d explain my reasons.

Let’s start with today. Today was Theresa May’s first PMQs as Prime Minister. I understand the frustrations of those loyal to Jeremy Corbyn, that Prime Minister’s Questions is an embarrassment, having nothing to do with holding the Prime Minister to account, and everything to do with grandstanding, and getting memorable digs in that make the next day’s papers, and fill up Sky News’ political talking points. It makes me squirm any time a Conservative MP is laughing uncontrollably after a question from a struggling member of the public is read aloud. The lack of decorum is a shame on the prestige of the building and its history. It’s not how it should be, but it’s how it will continue to be until genuine Parliamentary reform is undertaken.

So, with the framework being as it is, an opposition leader needs to outsmart the Prime Minister in a battle of wits, before the serious topics can be put to her. The PM needs to be backed into a corner and not let out. Jeremy Corbyn does not do that. Today, he was slapped down, and his important questions got lost, only to be ressurrected online by his supporters who cannot find an audience, judging by today’s poll numbers showing the Tories on 40% and Labour way down on 29%. Corbyn’s inability to grasp the workings of PMQs allowed Theresa May to stand at the dispatch box and announce unchallenged how much she cares for the well being of the least privileged, how much she devotes her time to services like domestic violence. Both points are wholly and easily discredited by her actual appalling record. She should be easily challenged, but she wont be.

The Tory Party abandoned the centre-ground of British politics long ago. When its Chancellor alluded to the idea that the concept of welfare played a role in the Philpott murders – a grotesque use of psychopathic killings, for ideological nonsense. When the former Prime Minister aided the rise of Saudi Arabia to the head of the UN’s Human Rights Council and Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski is given the nickname the MP for Riyadh. When the current Foreign Secretary believes President Obama can only possibly support a Remain vote, because he hates the UK for ancestral reasons; the colour of the President’s skin falls under suspicion in a way that the colour of my skin never will. When theyworkforyou.com ranks Theresa May’s own voting record as “in general, voted against laws that promote equality and human rights”. When the line that properly funding services like mental health services would be to burden our children with higher taxes, as if burdening them with poor quality essential services and no housing is perfectly fine.

So there’s a gap in the centre. Similarly, The Labour Party abandoned the centre-left of British politics the moment it elected a leader who suffers from the Stop The War Coalition mentality, of supporting, defending, and excusing the most illiberal regimes on the planet, if those regimes happen to dislike the US or Israel. The Shadow Defence Secretary will eulogise Chavez as a working class hero despite Human Rights Watch criticising Chavez as an autocrat who violently censored criticism, and – ironically on the subject of justice – imprison judges who didn’t do as he demanded. Corbyn will refer to Hamas as “dedicated to peace and social justice and political justice” despite their goal of a far-right theocratic state that sacrifices all Palestinians who do not happen to be male, heterosexual, Islamists.

In short, whilst Corbyn is uncompromising in his socialist values, liberal values are quickly abandoned in order to stand in solidarity with illiberals. Conservatives are uncompromising in austerity politics over the past few years, whilst liberal values are quickly discarded for some sort of trade benefit with Saudi Arabia. Both of those do not sit well with me.

Liberal values, values that ensure we treat each other as individuals not to be conflated with ill-defined ‘groups’; values that ensure we are free to express thoughts, to criticise holy books that for centuries has been off-limits and can still end up with you being shot at the headquarters of a satirical magazine; values that ensure that ideas have no rights and remain open to criticism, scrutiny, dislike, support, and that censorship not only limits the right of the individual to express and inquire, but limits my right to hear; values that ensure no institutional privilege is granted based on wealth, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or belief, but all are given an equal right to participate; values that insist that education and health are rights not luxuries; values that promote the right to stand for election, to vote, to express discontent, to organise, to pursue our own goals without molestation, nor told what to say, think, dress, or believe at the point of a gun; values that ensure that my right to myself and my happiness and my life does not end, where someone else’s ideology or religion begins; values that do not condemn the most vulnerable as worthless scroungers but provides a caring and understanding springboard for those people to be what they want to be; And we must robustly defend these principles, we must be clear domestically that humanity progresses when society is open, and we must be clear in international affairs that we will not abandon our values to be spectators of great injustice for the sake of trade deals. We must defend liberal principles, and not be scared at any point to express the superiority of liberal, secular, democracy.

Indeed, we base our liberal principles not on ideology, but on the fundamental truth that no human being is born naturally attached to any man-made ideological framework of power, nor permitted natural privilege over fellow humans. We are free at birth, and so the burden is on those who seek to restrict our natural liberty to explain the benefit of doing so, rather than on us to explain why they shouldn’t. Our ideological moment begins when we seek to protect those natural liberties through civil rights, that others would seek to restrict or abuse. Across the World, we must seek as the objective, the removal of barriers to individual liberty where that liberty harms no one else. This includes condemning regimes that work toward the opposite.

I confess to being new to the area I now live in, and so local issues are somewhat alien to me at the moment. Echoing my newness to the area, I am new to the Liberal Democrats, and so whilst I have a rudimentary grasp on the history of the Liberal Party and the Social Democrats, I’m more interested in values and giving them an active, political voice. As such, the Liberal Democrat constitution confirmed to me that if I am to join a political party in the UK, to be politically active, to have any sort of say over its policies and ideas in a Parliamentary democracy that (rather regretfully) relies on parties, it must be the party that states in its opening declaration, that it exists to:

“… build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.”

– So whilst a lot of new members to the Liberal Democrats seem to have been attracted as a response to the Brexit vote, for me it was more the case of seeing a real opportunity to fill the gap left by a cultural relativist regressive left that is paralysed and cannot scrutinise a government moving further to the right every day, and a market fundamentalist right that will simply erase the desperate pleas of the most vulnerable and replace them with false promises of a better future, and to strongly promote and defend liberal values when in the past few years, that voice has been severely lacking. This is why I joined the Liberal Democrats.


Canary, Corbyn, and Kennedy.

July 19, 2016

Fresh, fearless, independent journalism” is the roar you hear from The Canary. An online publication that seems to exist with the sole purpose to defend the Corbyn side of the Labour Party until its dying breath, with uncritical tales of sinister conspiracies that don’t exist, and words like ‘coup’ to describe a perfectly reasonable Parliamentary procedure in a Parliamentary democracy of a vote of no confidence in a leader seeking a Parliamentary majority to govern.

Around a week ago, The Canary published a story that has since disappeared. Owing, I’m guessing, to its utterly absurd premise:

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– That’s right, The Canary compared Jeremy Corbyn to John Kennedy.

The article tells us that the ‘establishment’ tried to stop Kennedy. I’m immediately suspicious of anyone telling me that an ill-defined ‘establishment’ acting as a coherent unit are working together to defeat an unpopular candidate. It stinks of a refusal to accept any responsibility. And when it comes to Kennedy, well, the establishment line simply doesn’t fit the same line they’re trying to apply to Corbyn. We should perhaps remember that Kennedy’s dad Joseph was the establishment. A high ranking member of the Democrats, Jo Kennedy was appointed chairman of the SEC, and Ambassador to the United Kingdom under FDR. His extreme wealth allowed him untold influence within Democrat Party politics. Joseph’s father Patrick also had great influence in the Democratic Party and held a lot of stock in a bank. John Kennedy himself had been in the House and the Senate, and easily won the nomination in 1960, his brothers had similar lives, with Edward Kennedy the Lion of the Senate for decades.

The article then presents a video of Kennedy giving a speech on the negative effects of censorship, govt secrecy & withholding information from the public, and that an enemy (he’s talking about the Soviet Union) who rely on subversion instead of elections are to be opposed.

Now, If we are to bring that speech into the 21st Century, we might apply it to the censorship, the threats to journalists, the imprisoning critics, of Chavez’s regime in what is now the failed state of Venezuela. The same regime that Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Richard Burgon has such fond feelings towards:

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– This is the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice mourning the loss of a man who, according to Human Rights Watch, wasn’t too keen on justice:

“Lower-court judges have faced intense pressure not to issue rulings that could upset the government. In 2009, Chávez publicly called for the imprisonment of a judge for 30 years after she granted conditional liberty to a prominent government critic who had spent almost three years in prison awaiting trial. The judge, María Lourdes Afiuni, was arrested and spent more than a year in prison in pretrial detention, in deplorable conditions. She remains under house arrest.”

Indeed, Kennedy’s speech, when brought into the future, might even refer to Mao’s regime, who, ten years after Kennedy’s death, had the support of Corbyn’s then teenage spin doctor, Seumas Milne:

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– So similar is Corbyn to a Kennedy Administration that dedicated its entire foreign policy framework to anti-Soviet activities, that he appointed as his Justice Secretary a man who mourns the loss of a left wing leader who used the justice system to protect his position, and a press secretary who happened to once be a dedicated Maoist and went on to become business manager of a publication made by the publishing arm of the Communist Party of Great Britain (a publication – Straight Left – that supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s). The same Milne, who a couple of years back insisted that Stalin’s murders had been “exaggerated” and Nato was to blame for the violence in Ukraine, not Russia. I’m not entirely sure Kennedy would have approved. Though just in case you’re unsure, here’s Kennedy speaking in 1960:

“The enemy is the communist system itself — implacable, insatiable, unceasing in its drive for world domination.”

Kennedy himself was of course nothing like Jeremy Corbyn. Kennedy – in the context of the 1960s – flowed between liberal and conservative, he governed from the centre, he was slow on civil rights (his brother and his Vice President were far more liberally minded on that issue, far more progressive, and far more correct), but he defended and empowered unions, and took on big business when necessary. But he wasn’t dogmatic, indeed he took on unions and defended free trade when he thought it right to do so too. His Federal budget was lower than Eisenhower’s, yet he increased military spending. He was neither left nor right, he was a pragmatist, and a liberal.

The Canary article says of Kennedy:

“He alone dared to stand by principles of peace and equity at a time when the rest of the world seemed determined to self-destruct.”

– They must be wholly unaware of the Bay of Pigs, and the sanctioning of the overthrow of Diem. But I expect nothing more from an article that seems wholly unaware that the UK Prime Minister actually resigned as a result of the Brexit vote:

“This latest and most officious coup to topple Corbyn was supposedly born of disappointment – his alleged inability to galvanise Labour voters in the recent referendum. Hang on. Has nobody noticed our new Prime Minister was also of the “remain” camp, and barely uttered a word during the whole campaign? Why is it not our actual leader and governing party that are having to defend against votes of “no-confidence”, and being held accountable for the opening of Pandora’s Box?”

Back to Kennedy. In 1963 just two months before his fateful trip to Dallas, Kennedy signed a tax cut that slashed tax rates across the board, including the top rate of tax for the wealthiest and a 5% cut in corporation tax. David Rockefeller and Henry Ford II fully backed his plans. Indeed, when Kennedy’s US Ambassador to India – the Keynesian John Kenneth Galbraith – opposed the tax cuts, Kennedy called him into his office and told him to “shut up”. Kennedy was listening to Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Walter Heller on the idea of tax cuts. The more left-leaning Democrats in the Party where complaining that the tax cuts were too beneficial to the wealthiest.

A year before the sweeping tax cuts, Kennedy proposed tariff reductions. In a speech in 1962 on the Free Trade Expansion Act, Kennedy said:

“This act recognizes, fully and completely, that we cannot protect our economy by stagnating behind tariff walls, but that the best protection possible is a mutual lowering of tariff barriers among friendly nations so that all may benefit from a free flow of goods. Increased economic activity resulting from increased trade will provide more job opportunities for our workers. Our industry, our agriculture, our mining will benefit from increased export opportunities as other nations agree to lower their tariffs. Increased exports and imports will benefit our ports, steamship lines, and airlines as they handle an increased amount of trade. Lowering of our tariffs will provide an increased flow of goods for our American consumers. Our industries will be stimulated by increased export opportunities and by freer competition with the industries of other nations for an even greater effort to develop an efficient, economic, and productive system. The results can bring a dynamic new era of growth.”

Whilst Kennedy – in a letter to Ben Gurion – is critical of Israel developing nuclear arms, because it might push hostile Arab states to leap to the Soviets, – his entire foreign policy was a framework of suspicion of the Soviets – he was especially and publicly supportive of Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. Kennedy says:

“For Israel was not created in order to disappear – Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom; and no area of the world has ever had an overabundance of democracy and freedom.”

– This insistence that Israel will not be broken is in stark contrast to our old friend Seumas Milne, who in a video not too long ago, insisted that Hamas – a group of far-right Theocrats who want Israel to be eradicated – wont be broken.

Above all, Kennedy was a liberal. He believed in freeing individuals up to pursue their own goals; In the Senate he worked to eliminate the enforcement of oaths of loyalty from aid recipients; he opposed the sort of censorship we see from those Corbyn & his loyal following swoon over, he opposed Soviet influence across the World; he promoted free and open trade in the hope of encouraging struggling businesses; he was proud of his plan to lower tax rates for people across the board; he supported social security that protected individuals from soaring healthcare costs that rendered them less free; he believed workers have an inherent right to collective bargaining; and he advocated a Jewish right to self determination in Israel.

For The Canary to imply that Corbyn is at all similar to Kennedy, to have to use Kennedy’s memory as a great progressive to try to win over centre-left liberals who admire Kennedy, is to subtly and perhaps subconsciously accept that they cannot simply win a general election by preaching to the Socialist Workers Party, they have to win over the centre and centre-left, and that maybe, just maybe dismissing those people as red Tory, Blairite establishment, isn’t going to win over anyone.