Posts Tagged 'labour'

Three key lessons from Labour’s campaign – and how the party needs to change

Originally posted by Democratic Audit UK  12/06/2017

Patrick Diamond

Jeremy Corbyn has confounded his critics and increased Labour’s share of the vote in the General Election. But the party is some way from being able to command a parliamentary majority, says Patrick Diamond. Labour has articulated a vision of society which appeals to many young people and ‘left behind’ voters. Now the party needs to get over the intellectual defensiveness which has afflicted it for decades – and reach out to people in English constituencies who have no tribal loyalty to Labour.

Politics in the Labour party will never be the same again in the aftermath of the 2017 general election. Only six weeks ago many commentators, most Labour MPs, party members and even Jeremy Corbyn’s allies feared he would be humiliated at the ballot box.

‘Politics in the Labour party will never be the same again’

It didn’t happen. Labour fought an insurgent campaign in which Corbyn deftly exploited his status as the underdog; the Labour party appears to have excited young people as well as so-called ‘left behind’ voters in ways not seen for decades. Criticisms of Corbyn’s leadership style focused on his inept approach to internal party management and estrangement from his own parliamentary party; where Corbyn exceeded expectations was his ability to fashion a distinctive, eye-catching political agenda that captured the imagination of the electorate, and distanced the Labour party from its potentially ‘toxic’ legacy (one of the historian Stuart Ball’s key criteria for effective opposition party leadership).

Of course, it has not been plain sailing for Corbyn’s Labour. Arguably, the leader’s greatest vulnerability has been his reluctance to acknowledge the place of other traditions in the Labour party beyond his own heterodox brand of socialism. Corbyn’s weakest moments during the campaign were his defensiveness over the nuclear deterrent, as well as controversy over his previous reluctance to condemn IRA terrorism. There are still major questions about the viability of Labour’s manifesto, for all that its ideological clarity inspired the faithful. Still, there can be little doubt that the campaign Corbyn fought marks a decisive shift in the politics of the Labour party to which all sections of the party will now be obliged to respond.

So what strategic lessons can, and should, we glean from the Corbyn leadership project in the wake of the general election result?

The first lesson is that Corbyn’s politics evidently appeal to many younger voters, as well as the social groups that have increasingly abstained from voting in the UK since the late 1980s. The dynamic here was that Corbyn projected ‘hope’ because his programme was not constrained by conventional electoral calculation; Labour’s prospectus offered a different vision of society after nearly a decade of spending cuts, tax rises, and missed deficit reduction targets. Corbyn’s views on policy articulated a rare combination of clarity and conviction. The Labour leader offers an innovative politics of participation which is about doing things ‘with’ people rather than ‘to’ them, sweeping away anachronistic institutions and inherited privilege; if carried forward this might be the platform for a resurgence of British social democracy.

The challenge ahead for Corbyn’s project will be to construct the electoral alliance between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ that is required to win greater numbers of marginal seats, enter government, and deliver policies like progressive redistribution and public investment. Another general election appears likely to be called relatively soon. A Labour victory will mean winning in English constituencies like Reading West or Thurrock that Labour was unable to carry last Thursday.

‘There are still major questions about the viability of Labour’s manifesto’

The second lesson of the Corbyn leadership project is that Labour needs to get over the intellectual defensiveness that has plagued the party since the late 1980s. Corbyn says he now wants an open debate about policy; he ought to be taken at taken at his word. In the past, some modernisers behaved as if the best approach to making Labour a party of government was to give the entire PLP and party membership an intellectual lobotomy. This risked denuding the Labour party of the capacity to think and revitalise itself. The ascendency of Thatcherism convinced many that Britain had become an inherently conservative country, and that the Left could only win by accepting the basic parameters of the Thatcher settlement. In this election under Corbyn, Labour made its most audacious attempt since 1945 to shift the centre ground of politics towards the Left.

The Corbyn leadership project’s third lesson is that when effectively presented, measures that are widely perceived to be traditionally ‘left-wing’ are still popular with mainstream voters. Among the most important issues raised in the Labour manifesto was the question of public ownership in a post-industrial economy geared towards the production of information and knowledge. For the last 30 years, the assumption in the Labour party has been that whether ownership is public or private no longer matters. It was thought that utilities and public services delivered through the private sector could still be regulated effectively in the public interest. Nationalisation in the 1990s was rejected by Labour because it was believed to be too costly to bring major public utilities like water, gas or rail back into public ownership. Yet it is clear that since 1997, public opinion has become more hostile towards private ownership of the utilities, especially rail. Previous assumptions ought to be interrogated: many privatised industries in the UK are natural monopolies; the privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s have been detrimental both to consumer welfare and economic efficiency.

None of this ignores the fact that Labour is still some way from winning a parliamentary majority at a general election. The party has made significant progress since 2015; but to defeat the Conservatives Labour has to be capable of winning seats throughout Britain. It is not enough merely to rouse already committed supporters: the party has to be capable of reaching out to ‘non-Labour Britain’ where there is little tribal affiliation with the Labour party. It is clear from the election campaign and the terrorist atrocities in Manchester and London that national security is likely to remain a major issue in British politics. Offering voters social justice without addressing their basic concerns about physical insecurity in a world of borderless crime and terrorist threats is a recipe for future defeat. To help the most vulnerable and marginalised in Britain, Labour has to be a party of power rather than a pressure group of social protest.

‘To defeat the Conservatives, Labour has to be capable of winning seats throughout Britain’

Corbyn has spectacularly demolished Theresa May’s hopes of securing a decisive Tory majority. The ‘moderates’ in the Labour party will have made a grave error if they dismiss Corbyn’s approach to strategy and policy as outdated and destined to end in failure. Yet it remains doubtful as to whether as things stand Corbyn has an electoral or governing project that can end the latest phase of Conservative hegemony in British politics. That is the next crucial task of revitalisation for the British centre-left.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Compromise, sacrifice and confusion: why I didn’t vote

Lisa McKenzie

Lisa Mckenzie

by Lisa Mckenzie, author of Getting By; Estates, Class and Culture in Austerity Britain.

“I didn’t vote in this election, which for me was the right choice, and a choice that is seldom given debate to within the national media.

My reasons were this: our political system asks us to vote for members of parliament to represent us in Westminster. I didn’t want any of the people on my ballot paper to represent me.

I also don’t think the system of parliamentary political party politics is truly democratic. It serves the greater good, it compromises what individuals believe in order to serve a middle, a mainstream, and a mediocre. It always has to sacrifice something, and someone, and the sacrifice is usually those with least power. I cannot endorse that.

“…the sacrifice is usually those with least power.”

The Labour Party have annoyed me for a long time (forever actually) but especially over the last two years.

I have been involved in many grass-roots organisations and campaigns and I know how difficult it is to keep people’s confidence up when they are having all kinds of institutional power thrown at them from all spectrums of political ideology.

However over the last two years this situation has become much worse, with the internal fighting of the Labour party. Many Labour supporters as well as politicians have taken sides and instead of being an opposition to the Government that has caused so much misery to the poorest people in the UK, they have opposed each other.

Continue reading ‘Compromise, sacrifice and confusion: why I didn’t vote’

A General Election to challenge – or intensify – neoliberalism?

Bryn Jones and Michael O’Donnell, authors of Alternatives to neoliberalism, argue that a ‘hard Brexit’ under a Tory government would strengthen, not challenge, the neoliberal agenda.

Mike O’Donnell

Bryn Jones

Public sector retrenchment, deregulated markets and corporate takeovers of public and civil society spheres are contested topics in this election. Yet the protagonists do not directly acknowledge that these arise from the disruptive effects of the generation-long, neoliberal system.

Neoliberalism still underlies the current social unrest and political crisis; but its ideological hegemony is under threat. Trump, neo-nationalist populism across Europe and Brexit, all express popular angst caused by neoliberal processes: de-industrialisation, public sector austerity, worsened living standards, insecure and/or poorly paid employment.

“Trump, neo-nationalist populism across Europe and Brexit, all express popular angst caused by neoliberal processes.”

Continue reading ‘A General Election to challenge – or intensify – neoliberalism?’

Election focus: Manifestos on welfare should be about engagement, dignity and respect

DSC_1268

Ruth Patrick

In this blog post, part of our Election Focus series, Ruth Patrick offers suggestions for what should be included in party manifestos on welfare reform, based on the six years of research into individuals’ experiences of social security and welfare reform in her book, For whose benefit?

Too often General Election campaigns seem – yet another – opportunity for politicians to talk ‘tough’ on ‘welfare’ as they compete to be seen as the party who will finally rid Britain of its supposed problem of ‘welfare dependency’. 2010 featured billboards with David Cameron finger pointing as he pledged: ‘let’s cut benefits for those who refuse work’.

In the run up to the 2015 election, Rachel Reeves, then shadowing the Department for Work and Pensions brief, was quoted saying: “we are not the party of people on benefits” disowning millions of potential voters.

And now another election. With the dominance of Brexit, as yet we have not heard much on ‘welfare’ and it may well be crowded out by policy debates in other areas. Corbyn’s Labour can be expected to offer up a more egalitarian social security agenda but the scope for this to gain traction and support from the public may be limited.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: Manifestos on welfare should be about engagement, dignity and respect’

Tax reform and a Corbyn-led government will save our local services

Peter Latham, author of Who stole the town hall?, argues that the Spring Budget highlighted the Conservative Party’s allegiance to the City of London, not the small businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed they profess to support.

He says that, to resist Tory-driven austerity policies and save our public services, we need a resurgence of social democracy and a reformed tax system.

“The Chancellor’s decision not to increase self-employed national insurance contributions (NIC) by £2bn, in a U-turn following the Spring Budget on 8th March, showed that the Tory government is ‘imprisoned by a minority of its backbenchers and by the Daily Mail’ according to The Guardian, 16 March 2017.

Moreover, as Aditya Chakrabortty noted, the government’s policies ‘hit the just-about-managing harder than the rich’. For example, the 2016 red book lists reductions to taxes on big businesses worth £18bn over the next five years.

Conversely, Jeremy Corbyn’s devastating assault on the Chancellor’s provision of just £2bn over three years to cover the crisis in social care – just a third of what the Local Government Association calculates is necessary – was slated by the mainstream media for not mentioning the Tory manifesto: even though he attacked the decision to raise the NIC rate.

Many Tory MPs fight shy of acknowledging their party’s first priority to the City of London, preferring to pass themselves off as the voice of small businesses, entrepreneurs and the self-employed. Increasing Class 4 NICs for the self-employed stuck in their craw, leading many party members to inform Philip Hammond and Theresa May that they would not support it.

Continue reading ‘Tax reform and a Corbyn-led government will save our local services’

Has the #Labourleadership contest changed British politics?

By tomorrow all the votes will have been counted and we will know who is the next leader of the Labour party.
Over the summer, traditionally the ‘silly season’ in news coverage, we have been inundated with stories about the Labour leadership contest, especially around the surprising emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as the frontrunner.
With the final votes having been cast on Thursday and an announcement due tomorrow, some of our key authors share their thoughts and views on the contest and the potential outcome…

Patrick Diamond

Patrick Diamond

Although there have been many critics of the Labour Party leadership selection process, it has resulted in one of the first genuine mass participation contests in the history of British party politics. We wait to see whether it will herald a wider revival of mass parties.Patrick Diamond, academic and author of forthcoming publication The Crosland Legacy

 

Roberts

John Roberts

“Let’s face it, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham are all still constrained by Blairism, although, admittedly, Burnham sometimes shows signs of trying to move beyond Blairism. So, Corbyn, perhaps ironically, is the candidate who is the most modern of all the Labour candidates in trying to map a new ideology and set of policies for the Labour Party, which escapes the straitjacket of Thatcherism.” John Roberts, academic and author of New media and public activism: Neoliberalism, the state and radical protest in the public sphere

 

Lisa Mckenzie, author of 'Getting by'

Lisa Mckenzie

Jeremy Corbyn is a parliamentarian, he is a Labour man, he believes in Westminster politics, he is very far from a threat to parliamentary democracy he is as we might have said back in the day ‘a company man’.  The media, the Labour Party and everyone else appear to have got their knickers in a right old twist about a man who won’t have very much power, and essentially doesn’t want to change very much. Imagine if they got me.” Lisa Mckenzie, academic and author of Getting by: Estates, class and culture in austerity Britain

 

Simon Parker

Simon Parker

Corbyn will likely be a disaster, but his victory ought to shake the Labour party out of its complacency and force them to create a new progressive politics that is less paternalistic, more plural and which seeks to share power rather than to hoard it. The best thing that could come from the next few days is a new progressive politics aimed at the mainstream.” Simon Parker, director of  New Local Government Network and author of Taking power back: Putting people in charge of politics

 

Nathan Manning

Nathan Manning

The notion that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable [as British Prime Minister] highlights just how far we’ve drifted to the right and just how entrenched the neo-liberal orthodoxy has become.” Dr Nathan Manning, academic and author of Political (dis)engagement: The changing nature of the ‘political’

 

Mary O'Hara

Mary O’Hara

Bearing in mind the onslaught of austerity policies over the past five years – and with billions pounds of more cuts to vital services and benefits to come – what really matters is that a fully functioning Opposition is in place. Without a coherent and consistent challenge to the current government’s policies many thousands of people across the country including disabled people will continue to suffer.Mary O’Hara, journalist and author of Austerity Bites: A journey to the sharp end of the cuts in the UK

 

#labourleadership #labour #corbyn

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Hain: ‘Public investment is key to regenerating economy’

Peter Hain’s Back to the future of socialism publishes today. In his guest blog post to celebrate the launch of the book Hain questions how we got into the current financial situation of cuts and austerity. He shares his views on the need for a radical response from all politicians, but most especially the left, to take us back to a fairer future…

Labour MP Photocall

Rt Hon Peter Hain, MP

Did Big Government or Big Banking cause the global financial crisis? And what should be done?

Go for cuts and austerity, or investment in growth and jobs? Give market forces a free hand, or harness and regulate them for the common good? Forget about fairness or share the proceeds of growth?

And, one of the key questions for me is, quite simply, is democratic socialism outdated or the answer to today’s challenges?

Sense of purpose

In 1956 Anthony Crosland’s classic text, The Future of Socialism, furnished the democratic left with a new sense of purpose. By freeing Labour from past fixations, and by giving traditional Labour values a contemporary appeal, he gave the party a controversial fresh focus, reviving its spirit and restoring its impatience for progress.

Crosland’s approach – essentially one in which the state sought to spread the benefits of economic growth within, and without challenging the capitalist framework – underpinned Labour’s approach until the global economic crisis of 2008.

But the kind of capitalism we have faced since is a more internationally and financially integrated, more unstable and a more unfair system than Crosland’s generation ever anticipated: productive but prone to paralysis, dynamic but discriminatory.

It is a capitalism whose self-destructive tendencies require far more radical responses than the neoliberal, right wing orthodoxy of the post banking crisis era could ever provide. Responses that pose acute challenges to a Labour Party intent on getting the economy growing again whilst putting the public finances back in order. Responses to be made against a constant, and seemingly resonant, message through the media for more cuts to cure ‘the deficit, stupid’.

“Governments across the world allowed the financial system…to become a law unto itself”

I strongly dispute this, and believe that public investment, not ever more austerity is the answer – both to regenerate our economy and get the deficit down. It is a case for faster fairer greener growth where an active role for Government holds the key.

In truth – at the very least in terms of banking – governments were too small and too passive, not too big and too active as the right repetitively insists. Governments across the world (including Labour’s) allowed the financial system over a 30-year period to get out of control and become a law unto itself. Takeovers and mergers led to banks so big they couldn’t be allowed by government to fail. Bankers bent rules to lend ever more riskily without anything like enough capital cover, until it all unravelled to catastrophic effect.

The real choice facing Britain should be between the right’s insistence on minimalist government and the left’s belief in active government; between the right’s insistence on a free market free-for-all, and the left’s belief in harnessing markets for the common good. Politics has to change, with Labour becoming a different type of political party. And Britain’s future must be at the heart of Europe, leading a new progressive internationalism.

Back to The Future of Socialism aspires to be a defining book for the democratic left in this era, just as past generations saw Tony Crosland’s seminal book in his era. You can be the judge of whether it meets that test!

Follow @PeterHain on twitter and for latest news on the book search #backtothefutureofsocialism

Back to the future of socialism [FC]Back to the future of socialism publishes today and copies can be purchased at a 20% discount from the Policy Press website – here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.


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