Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reason For Hope?

On Saturday, I addressed a session of a day school run by Independent Labour Publication (ILP) at the Leeds Beckett University. This was part of a series it is running entitled "Unbalanced Britain". It was followed by a lively discussion. What I had to say was basically drawn from the past 20 items which I have placed on this blog. These items go back to last November. The basis of my contribution at Leeds can be found here on the ILP web-site.

In the short time before the General Election, why not join in their debate?

This about the ILP

"Independent Labour Publications (ILP) is an educational trust, publishing house and pressure group committed to democratic socialism and the success of a democratic socialist Labour Party.

The ILP was formed in 1893 as the Independent Labour Party, which became a co-founder of the Labour Party at the beginning of the 20th century. Today we remain committed to Labour's aim of creating 'a society for the many, not the few' and seek to engage with others in discussing how this vision can be turned into reality." 


Here is the tradition

Image result for ILP cartoons

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Yet Another Missed Opportunity



Image result for "One Nation" Labour

Labour have recently sent a new 32 page edition of its "One Nation" magazine in the post to its members.  It was an expensive and time consuming exercise; although it is also being used as a fund raising mechanism. In fact, fund raising may be seen as its key purpose.


It is a glossy publication containing 35 coloured photographs and a variety of coloured diagrams. It includes a message from Harriet Harman, an interview with Ed Miliband and a piece by Douglas Alexander in his capacity as Chair of Labour's General Election Strategy - in which he actually manages to come up with just over a hundred words on "Labour's Plan For Britain's Recovery". There are snippets with photos from some new Labour Parliamentary Candidates, something similar from a number of rank and file activists, a fuller interview with a Labour supporter who is said to be a celebrity, an interview with a "tireless campaigner" from the House of Lords, plus many other similar bits and pieces. All this is mainly trivia. But those with advertising expertise may say that it is effective.

But what a glorious opportunity has been missed. Why was it not used to spread the word amongst Labour's membership as to what its policies are for the coming General Election? After all, these are the ground troops we are depending upon. They need to be given the tools to do the job.

What could have been achieved is shown on pages 14 and 15 of the document. It is the document's saving grace. But I hope that as members flip through the glossy bits and pieces, that they do not miss or skim this single isolated item.  It shows four key areas of the Coalition Government's failings and then lists Labour's alternative proposals. In all it offers 13 bullet points on Labour policies.

If this just happens to wet the reader's appetite, they are then asked to undertake some research of their own to find what else Labour is promising. Whether they are into computers or not, they are asked to turn to labour.org.uk/issues; where they will then find that they need skills to be able to jump from one category of interest to another. Many might just find it easier to turn to Labour's document "Changing Britain Together" which can be found on Labour's alternative web-site "Your Britain" at http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/  This document extends the 13 policy points in the "One Nation" booklet into no-less than 114 items.

Labour's policies might not all be perfect, but it would help if at least its members knew what they are. Labour misses opportunity after opportunity to tell its members where it stands. In January, new membership cards were sent out to those who had paid by standing orders, whilst renewal reminders were sent out to others. But the opportunity to included a key selection of policy proposals was completely missed.  Then emails fly around from my own Regional Office for members to send them donations or to buy expensive tickets to attend dinners with the high and mighty. Why not add a few policy proposals to these? They might even help to whet our appetites. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Co-operative Party Manifesto

The Co-operative Party is Labour's sister party. There are 31 MPs in the current Parliamentary Labour Party who were elected as both "Labour and Co-operative".  The Co-operative Party has recently issued its Manifesto for the coming General Election entitled "A Co-operative Agenda for Britain".  Its pdf version can be found here.                         leadimage

Monday, January 05, 2015

Ed Opens Labour's Election Campaign

Ed Miliband



This morning Ed Miliband addressed a rally in Manchester at which he launched Labour's General Election Campaign. He said -

"...A victory for our Party is not nearly enough.

We’re fighting for something much bigger. We’re fighting for a Britain where every day working people are properly rewarded once again. We’re fighting for a Britain where every young person, whatever their background, can begin their working lives with a future that promises to be better, not worse, than their parents’. We’re fighting for a Britain where everyone plays by fair rules, including the most powerful - like energy companies and the banks. We’re fighting for a Britain that deals with its debts responsibly, without shredding our NHS and vital public services. We’re fighting for a true recovery and real, enduring prosperity that extends to the kitchen tables of all working families across Britain. We’re fighting to be the kind of country that we all know we have it in ourselves to be. More just, more equal and more prosperous. And we’re going to fight that fight in the right way.

We will offer hope, not falsehoods. We know the depths of our values matter more than the depth of our opponents’ pockets. We will win this election, not by buying up thousands of poster sites, but by having millions of conversations. I am going to be leading those conversations in village halls, community centres, workplaces right across the country, starting this very week and every week from now until the election.

I want you to be doing the same. This year we will be making our case, explaining our vision, house by house, street by street, town by town. Our campaign is setting the goal of holding four million conversations with people in just four months about how we change our country. That is almost twice the number we’ve ever done before. It is more than any British political party has ever done before. And in every single one of those conversations, we will be talking directly with people on their doorstep. And we will be reminding people what is at stake. In this election there is a choice not just between parties but between two competing visions of how our country can succeed. A Tory plan that believes we can succeed with just a few at the top doing well. Or a plan – Labour’s plan for Britain’s future – that puts working people first.

1. The Tory Failure

For five years, the Tories have shown us their idea. If we just strip the Government to its bare bones, give in to the powerful interests and give huge tax cuts to the very wealthiest, then all of Britain will somehow benefit. And judging from what David Cameron said last week, they really think it has been a great success. But that tells you all you need to know about what they think success looks like.
Because think about what has actually happened. Millionaires have reaped huge benefits from the Tory plan. There is no doubt about that. But working people in our country are worse off. Much worse off. For the first time since the 1920s, working people will be worse off at the end of a government than they were at the beginning. Zero hour contracts have exploded, driving wages down across our country, and have allowed some firms to play havoc with people’s lives. The energy companies have doubled the profit they make from each family and the average bill has gone up £300 a year.

And most inexcusable is the shortchanging of the greatest hope for our future, our children, who this Government is failing to prepare for the challenges of the 21st Century. At a time when education and training are critical to the chances of earning a decent wage—and to the long-term success of our country– tuition fees have trebled and apprenticeships for young people are actually falling. And they call all of that a success.

We’re a country of food banks and bank bonuses. A country where social mobility goes backwards and privilege is rewarded. Where millionaires have had their taxes cut and millions pay more. And they call that a success. Well, I don’t. And the British people don’t either.

And think what has happened to our NHS. Longer to wait to see your GP.  Longer to wait in A&E. Longer to wait for an operation. An NHS without time to care. The Tories have damaged the NHS in these five years. Give them five more and the NHS as we know it just won’t be there. Well, we won’t let that happen.

They’ve even failed on the one thing they claim to care about most. The deficit. David Cameron promised to eliminate the deficit by 2015. Well, 2015 is now here. And so is the deficit. And the deficit is still here for a very simple reason: because it turns out if you depress wages and lack any real economic plan other than tax cuts for the wealthy, it doesn’t just fail working people, it fails to balance the books.

So this Tory experiment has been tried. And the verdict is in. By the measures of household budgets, prospects for our children, preserving the most vital public services and dealing with our nation’s debts, the Tory experiment has failed. Theirs is not a record to run on. Theirs is a record to run from.
And what is their plan for the next five years? We learnt that on Friday. More of the same. Keep driving along the road to nowhere. But press down on the accelerator. Imagine what another five years would mean for you and your family. The Tories telling you about the good economic news.
But you and your family not having enough to pay the bills at the end of each month. The Tories telling you that there has never been more opportunity for young people. But your son or daughter can’t afford to go to university and the only other option is a zero hours job. The Tories telling you there is a housing boom. But you not being able to afford a home of your own. The Tories telling you that the NHS has been protected. But you not being able to get your operation in time, and the only choice on offer is to go private.

And it’s not just short-term calamities that their policies will wreak. It’s the long-term impact on our country, as well. As sure as night follows day, an economy built on the success of a few will never prosper for long. Britain can do better than this. Britain must do better than this. And Britain will do better than this. And we will show in the coming months that it doesn’t need to be this way.

2. Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future

Our plan is based on one simple truth – a truth so different from the Tories’ idea – that when your family succeeds, Britain succeeds too. That’s why it is a plan that puts working people first.
It is a plan that makes real those principles that I talked about at the start. The principles we’re fighting for. It is a plan that says that all those who go out to work are as important and valuable to our country as those who get the six figure bonuses. That means raising the minimum wage to over £8 an hour and dealing with the scandal of zero hour contracts. It means supporting the wealth creating businesses of the future, in Green industries, that create those good jobs that reward hard work. In an era of hard choices, it means putting cuts in business rates for small firms that will create most of the jobs of the future, ahead of further tax cuts for large corporations. Ours is a plan also that says there is nothing more important for our country than opportunities for the young.

We are told by this Government that they are pro-business. Yet we know that our country is hundreds of thousands short of the number of engineers businesses demand. And we see this problem throughout our economy: well paid jobs, gone wanting, for people who have the necessary education and training to fill them. So we will have a revolution in vocational education, so that as many young people leave school to do an apprenticeship as currently go to university. This, and not slashing wages, is how you win the jobs of the future. Britain won’t succeed with a Tory race to the bottom. We need to run a race to the top. And under a Labour government Britain will win that race.

Our plan is a plan that says that everyone should play by fair rules, and the most powerful interests in our country should be held to account. Businesses large and small are the lifeblood of our economy. But the banks and the energy companies have had things their way for too long and need to serve Britain properly. We will require these businesses to operate in a competitive way, and Britain—all of Britain—will be the better for it. No more broken markets that work for a few but undermine our economy.

And ours is a plan that will preserve our most vital public services. Knowing that our NHS is our nation’s greatest treasure, to be protected and nurtured for generations to come. A guaranteed GP appointment within 48 hours. A one-week wait for cancer tests. And a £2.5 billion Time To Care fund to support more midwives, care workers, doctors and nurses. Yes, assuring decent, timely health care has a cost. And that’s why we have proposed a Mansion Tax for the very richest to protect and improve the NHS for our entire country. Something the Tories would never do. Because we believe that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden. And that is just one example of our plan making different choices than this Government.

And it is by making different choices that we will deal with the deficit responsibly and still meet the obligations to our country’s future. Ours is a plan to cut the deficit every year and balance the books as soon as possible in the next parliament. And until that happens it does mean, outside protected areas, spending will be falling, not rising, department by department. With no proposals in our manifesto funded by additional borrowing. Not a single one. Those of us who believe that government has a positive role to play in our nation’s future, know we have a special obligation: To challenge government to do its work and deliver its services in innovative and more cost-effective ways. Showing we can do more with less, just like great Labour councils are doing across the country. Making better decisions, making sure that every pound really counts. And giving power back to local people. Ending a century of centralization in our country.

And our plan will also confront other hard truths. Three million British jobs rest on commerce and trade within the European Union. Exiting the EU would damage British jobs, British families, British businesses. I understand the politics that has led the Prime Minister to play risky irresponsible games on the European Union, allowing his party to drift towards exit. But I won’t. If you want to know what chaos and a threat to prosperity looks like, just imagine a Tory government riven apart after the next election on Europe. We must demand reform from Europe—a European Union that works better for Britain. But make no mistake: exit from the EU would be a dramatic mistake for our country and our economy. So, whatever the politics, I will not join those who cynically offer exit as a realistic plan for our future or the future of Britain’s working families.

And confronting hard truths extends to the challenge of immigration. I am the son of immigrants, who came here with nothing. They benefited from the opportunities that Britain had to offer and built a life for our family. And their story is not unique. For generations, hard-working immigrants, eager to make their way, have helped build our country. But this party will never again dismiss people’s concerns about immigration. Britain should not—cannot— close ourselves off from those who can contribute to our economy and our country. But people want to know that there are fair rules. Fair rules so that benefits should be earned, so people must contribute before they claim. And fair rules to prevent businesses from recruiting at slave wages, exploiting migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions.

So this is our plan:

A. Rewarding hard work and tackling the cost of living crisis.
B. Providing education and opportunity for all our young people, upon whom Britain’s future relies.
C. Fair rules for everyone in our country, from top to bottom.
D. Protecting our NHS.

All built on solid economic foundations. A plan that puts working people first. And this plan is not simply about a fairer society. It is also about a more prosperous one. Because only by putting working people first can we use the talents of all and succeed as a country. The Tories think we succeed with a few at the top doing well. We know we prosper together.

3. The Choice and the Campaign

In the next four months, there will be the usual sound and fury. But it will all actually come down to something rather simple. Who we are. How we want to live together. And how we succeed as a nation.

This is nothing less than a once in a generation fight about who our country works for. It is a choice between a Tory plan where only a few at the top can succeed and our public services are threatened. Or a Labour plan that puts working people first, deals with the deficit and protects our NHS.

We have a Government that will say: stick to their plan. They really think this is as good as it gets. That’s because they’re the pessimists about what is achievable for Britain and the British people. And between now and the election, they will find all kinds of ways to tell you that change isn’t possible. Just as the pessimists have always done down the years. That change that puts working people first can’t be done. But I don’t believe them. And I don’t think you should believe them either.

We’ve done it before as a country in the face of even greater challenges and we can do it again. It is seventy years this year since Britain won the Second World War and went on to win the peace. Think about what they were facing. That generation didn’t sit back and put up with what it had seen before. With the dark days of the depression. The negativity that said there was no other way. Instead, they started to rebuild. Rebuild with an economy that works for all working people. Rebuild by honouring everyone who works hard. Rebuild by standing up to the powerful forces, those who need to be held to account. Rebuild by dealing with our debts responsibly for the good of the next generation. Rebuild by protecting our vital public services, including our NHS. That’s what our plan for Britain’s future will do. That will be our task again.

Let’s go out and fight for the chance to make it happen."

What is your verdict about Ed's speech, and why?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Labour : Great Minds or Fools?



Changing Britain Together

It is good to see that the Labour Party has now caught up with the approach I have been pushing in the 16 items which appear below this one.  They have published their own popular and usable version of bullet points and arguments taken from the policy document "National Policy Forum Report 2014", which was adopted at its recent Conference. It will shape their General Election Manifesto and needs to be accessed and used by Labour's rank and file. Hopefully it will find its way into the hands of Constituency Labour Parties, their branches and affiliated bodies; with encouragements for them to push its messages to the electorate.  It can be found here. You will then need to click into the PDF Download shown at the bottom of its page.

They have not, of course, done this because I have been peddling it. It is either a matter of great minds think alike or fools seldom differ.

If you are into this, you can now scrawl down from here.





Thursday, November 20, 2014

Labour's Electoral Programme (Part 16, the Summary)

Ed Miliband acknowledges the faithful after his speech at the Labour Party conference in Manchester

In the previous 15 parts of this series, I have taken 180 points from Labour's Policy Document, called its "National Policy Forum Report".  For presentational reasons these are not direct quotes, but are near-quotes. My intention has been to retain the original meanings.  I have also, however, been selective as nearly twice as many points can be found in the original document; but hopefully I have not missed out on any of the major areas which are covered.

A reason that I started to summarise these points was that I felt that the Labour Party was missing key opportunities to spread its ideas in the run up to the General Election. The earlier version of its proposals were missing from both the European Election Campaign and the Scottish Referendum Campaign. Then when Labour finally adopted its proposals at its recent annual conference, this was done in a very low key fashion.

I had two main fears. First, that we were only going to start pushing the programme in the period of the short election campaign after the Commons itself was dissolved - and this would be too late. Or secondly (even worse), that the broad sweep of the proposals would just be ignored and had only been worked upon to keep the active rank and file quiet. But things have now started to improve. Even Ed Miliband's speech at the CBI drew from what is now my final category on the Private Sector; then he came out with a strong line with an earlier point against Zero Hours Contacts.  This week the section on Immigration has been stoutly pushed by Yvette Cooper. Then tomorrow we can expect the section on the NHS to be strongly pursued in a Common's debate on a relevant Private Members Bill. On top of which there are also signs that Labour will initially seek to begin to galvanise its members first through a planned series of Regional Meetings; as shown here.

Not only do we need to push the points I cover using the media and then counter any flack they come up with; but we need canvassers and candidates to be pushing our programme. It moves us beyond New Labour and opens the door for clearer democratic socialist advance at a later stage.

This is what is covered in the previous 15 sections - 

For part 1 "Improving Wages and Working Conditions" see  here

For part 2 "Fair, Sustainable and Responsible Economic Growth" see here

For part 3 "An Equitable Tax Structure" see here

For part 4 "A Charter For Young People" see here

For part 5 "The National Health Service" see here

For part 6 "Education, Education, Education" see here

For part 7 "Local Democracy" see here

For part 8 "Political Reform and Equal Rights" see here 

For part 9 "Energy and Climate Change" see here

For part 10 "Disability. Transport" see here 

For part 11 "Policing and Security" see here


For part 12 "Europe and Immigration" see here

For part 13 "Rural and Cultural" see here

For part 14 "Our Global Role" see here

For part 15 "Pensions. Private Sector" see here 

ADDED 6 DECEMBER  - There is also this, which I have just discovered on a Labour Party web-site. How many CLPs are aware of it ? And how many are making use of it ?
 http://action.labour.org.uk/index.php/cost-of-living-contract/

Labour's Electoral Programme (Part 15)


Pensions

1. Protect the value of the state pension with the triple lock, rising annually by inflation, earnings or 2.5% whichever is highest (page 37)

2. Place a legal requirement on all pension scheme providers to prioritise the interest of savers over those of shareholders (37)

3. Explore how to reduce the minimum earnings threshold or auto-enrolment from the current level of personal tax allowance (currently £10,000) to the Lower Earnings Limit currently £5,772 (38)

4. Defined Contribution Schemes to have meaningful employee representatives on governance boards (38)

5.  Review the Local Government Pension Scheme, exploring the merits of merging funds to improve performance (38)

6.  Consider the case for a specific cost of living index relevant on the spending of pensioners (38)

Private Sector

7. Manufacturing is of strategic importance to a sustainable and balanced economic recovery. We will reduce energy costs for businesses via a price freeze, support science, research, development and technology and promote advanced apprenticeships; with access to funding coming through our British Investment Bank (23)

8. We will work actively with business, trade unions, communities and regions to build the economy of the future (23)

9. We will support social enterprise, mutuals, co-operatives and the not-for-profit economy (24)

10. On the Royal Mail we will keep its remaining 30% in public ownership and secure its public service obligation beyond 2015, whilst investigating the process by which it was privatised and ensure that Royal Mail services continue to be provided through Post Offices (24)

11. Tackle the monopoly market for rail rolling stock and bring Network Rail together with a new representative passenger rail body to contract routes, co-ordinate services and skills in the industry, oversee stations, fares, ticketing, and ensure customer satisfaction (45) 
   
12. Require water companies to publish full annual information which a revitalised Ofwat will then use to evaluate whether they should cut bills (49)

Labour's Electoral Programme (Part 14)


Our Global Role

1. On human rights we should lead other nations by example - for women's rights, an end to bias and ill treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. This should involve the enhancement of workers' rights (page 127)

2. Being appalled by the human rights abuse in Qatar sponsored by the Kafala employment system, we call for Qatar's right to hold the World Cup to be removed (127)

3. We support access to Syria for the full implementation of the UN Security Council's Presidential Statement on humanitarian access (128)

4. Seek a comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of a two state solution for Israel and Palestine, recognising the illegal nature of the West Bank and support the end to the blockade of Gaza (128)

5. Will enshrine in law the UK target to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas development assistance (129)

6. With the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals expiring in 2015, we will support a post-2015 development agenda seeking to eradicate global poverty, promote sustainability and end aid dependency based on humane conditions (129)

7. Sharing tax information must be extended to developing countries, requiring large multinational companies to publish key information needed to assess the amount of tax they pay (129)

8. Ensure that the UK, Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories share tax information with other countries to allow developing countries to deal with the transfer pricing challenge and improve tax collection capabilities (129)

9. In supplying relief in emergencies, seek to be timely and effective and press to improve the coordination of the global response (130)

10. Campaign for an international Financial Tax covering major financial centres to curb the volatility of financial transactions (130)  This also appears in Part 2, item 12.     

11. Help to ensure that an effective and enforceable agreement to cut global carbon emissions is effective by 2010 (131)

12. Work with our partners to achieve a low carbon energy supply and create more green jobs (131)  This also appears in Part 9, item 9.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Labour's Electoral Programme (Part 13)



Rural and Cultural

1. Work with employers to challenge low pay in rural areas, freezing business rates and energy bills for small and medium size enterprises - SMEs (page 51)

2. Raise the profile of career opportunities in rural areas and help SMEs and food businesses access the investment they need to expand (51)

3. Pay Winter Fuel Payments earlier for pensioners using off-grid energy (often in rural areas) allowing them to purchase their energy at lower summer prices and store up supplies for the winter (51)

4. Restore trust in the food system by enhancing the role of the Food Standard's Agency (51)

5. Tackle cruelty in the breeding policies of the pet industry, promote responsible pet ownership and address the trade in exotic pets (52)

6. Eradicate TB through the vaccination of badgers and cattle and not via a misguided and unscientific badger cull (52)

7.  Protect Britain's natural environment, right to roam and wildlife for future generations (52)

8. Develop a regional strategy to support the arts in all parts of the country (52)

9. Ensure adequate funding for the BBC, protect community libraries and ensure that all homes and businesses have access to reliable broadband services (52,53)

10. Establish a low-cost arbitration service as recommended by Leveson to provide justice for victims of libel and other press abuses (71)

11. Ensure that bona fide supporters clubs are recognised and given statutory consultation rights over the future of sports grounds (71)

12.  Encourage the development of community marketing co-operatives to encourage the development of tourism (72)