I got love for you

26 11 2010

The last month has been giving me a bizarre sense of deja vu.

There’s a government carrying out cuts which harm the oldest and poorest

In the face of massive cuts and personal hardship grotesquely out of touch Lord Young says people ” never had it so good”

New Tory Peer Howard Flight says the benefits reforms will cause the poor “to breed”

There’s conflict on the streets

and odd bod former SDPers jettison values and show that they are happier with a Tory Government of massive cuts rather than Labour investment.

It was acceptable in the 80s but is it now?







Flip flop flip flop- Lib Dems on Tuition fees

12 10 2010

The abysmal and waffling performance of Bristol West’s Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams on Radio 4 and constant flip flops proves why Nick Clegg must be rubbing his hands over the Browne Review

Lets be clear. Nick Clegg and other Orange Book Lib Dems aren’t being overpowered by the Tories or economic circumstances on tuition fees. It’s something Williams and Clegg wanted since 2008 in order to win the votes and donations of wealthier voters and big business by cutting their taxes. The coalition allows them an escape from their internal party decisions.

So here is a very brief history

In 2005 Williams  promised to “axe all tuition fees by introducing a 50% rate of tax on income over £100,000.”

In 2008 Clegg & Laws decided to drop the 50% tax rate to make his party more appealing to the upper middle classes and big business. For that policy to be affordable the pledge to axe tuition fees had to go. The Times Higher Education supplement stated unequivocally

“Mr Williams said that Nick Clegg, the leader of the party, had come to this conclusion (to ditch the fees policy) after “long internal discussions” and stated

“We will not be going into a general election suggesting any overall rise in taxation”

Williams having promised to oppose all tuition fees was put in charge of the Lib Dem reversal of its policy.  He willingly jumped at the opportunity and surprisingly asserted “we did NOT promise free tuition for ALL students at the last election

It became more and more apparent that the March 2009 Lib Dem conference was going to defeat the Orange Bookers over tuition fees and so they decided to flip flop on their flip flop on opposing tuition fees …

Williams then said

“Bright young people are potentially being put off going to university by the thought of being saddled with £10k in tuition fee debt.”

“The Liberal Democrats believe that everyone deserves the chance to develop the skills and knowledge that will give them the best opportunities in life.”

So internal party democracy triumphs! The Federal Executive and Conference succeed! The party leadership that wanted to be the party of high earners and big business remains as the party of students… ish

The triumph of Lib Dem party democracy and the student lobby seemed to be confirmed when Williams went into the 2010 election pledging to actively oppose all increases in tuition fees.

Shortly after the Coalition agreement was signed the line toutedLib Dems would abstain on any increases to tuition fees. As early as May 2010 it was clear the Tories were not going to lift a finger to try and ensure that by the next election there can be a move to abolish tuition fees as the Lib Dems promised.  Quite the opposite.

A promise from Williams and the Lib Dems is worth very little.

Tuition fees now look like they will double. On the 11th October 2010 Williams was asked to clarify his position on tuition fees and whether he would vote against an increase.

His waffled answer “we’ll have to wait and see.” He’d also like a “progressive system.”

In my opinion Stephen is a triumph of careerism over honesty. A fairly embarrassing example of the new ruling elite in the Lib Dems. Promise what you can to get elected but really court the votes of the wealthy minority. When it comes to delivering on their promises all they can do is blame the Tories or economic crisis and acquiesce to their “Coalition” superiors.

Have no doubt. Williams and Clegg are delighted with the Coalition and the “out” the Browne review gives them from their own party’s internal democracy.





Time for the Sisters to organise

2 10 2010

Yesterday twitter was abuzz with self congratulatory back slapping. “We’ve passed the Equality Act 2010”. “It’s in force” “We’ve ended discrimination”.

The Equality Act 2010 is an excellent piece of legislation. An admirable attempt to codify the law of discrimination and stengthen existing law and provisions.

But there’s something you’ve all missed.

We have a ConDem government which has often shown it cares little for protecting women.

You have all missed that the commencement order leaves out the most important protection of all.

The most powerful provision in the Equality Act is S 78 which permits Government to draft Regulations requiring certain employers to publish earnings data showing there is a difference in pay between men and women.

Employment lawyers will tell you great as that first industrial action was as dramatised by Made in Dagenham. Great as the Equal Pay Act 1970 is. It is often very difficult to find a male comparator for a woman in the workplace and many Equal Pay Act claims either fail or are never made because of this.

The Government has the power to implement  Regulations requiring this data to be made public. On searching I can find no evidence that they have or intend to.

So can I suggest that instead of congratulating ourselves we recognise that there is a serious task left to accomplish and that political sisters and brothers start organising and protesting to demand the necessary Regulations?

You can start by asking Lynn Featherstone to say whether she has any plans to implement Section 78 by contacting her here





Why I’m backing Burnham. A plea to last minute voters

21 09 2010

A couple of people who are still undecided have asked me to explain why I’m backing Andy Burnham.

This is only a briefly thought through post because I’m stupidly busy (no time to debate either) and as Churchill said I haven’t time to write a short speech so I’ll write a long one. Hang in there.

Also forgive the grammar and spelling. When I’m feeling passionate I write with a Welsh accent!

General

Andy Burnham has travelled a similar journey to me. He’s come from old industrial communities, fought through the poverty of aspiration which exists in such places (the most malignant part of the class system) and worked hard to achieve success in his chosen field. I think he best represents a vast and important tranche of Labour voters. Many of whom didn’t switch support but are just staying home on election day. These are people who live or lived working class lives struggled to or have seen families struggle to make ends meet but aspire to more than they were “born” to. Some feel Labour just got a bit too metropolitan a bit to full of itself to represent them properly.

Style

I’ve met Andy twice in small group meetings and saw him speak at the husting (both in Bristol and on TV) and I think he’s a very good public speaker. Whilst he doesn’t have the brilliant boxing style of debate that Ed Balls has or the capacity to raise the hairs with a passionate pitch to the left that Dianne Abbot possesses, he sounds like a Labour leader should. He is self deprecating, engaging and intelligent without seeming academic or too polished.

In short I think he would do brilliantly in a debate against Cameron and Clegg. We have to realise this is now an essential skill. There will always be TV debates from now on. We need someone who can do it just as well but offer something different.

I also understand from people close to him in his constituency that he has always got stuck in with his campaigning from the grass roots up and I think that shows.

It also explains why he doesn’t have a vast army of young London based careerists behind him tweeting and RTing his every move. He realises that the strength of our party, the best future MPs, the most valuable contributors are not young upwardly mobile “politics as a career” Westminster bag carriers or policy advisors. The strength is in the mad brilliant sods who give up their time, money and warm beds to trudge around housing estates leafletting until our socks are soaking and bits that should not shiver are shivering.

In short I believe he will pass Labour party power out to where it belongs- our oft neglected members in the rest of Britain.

Substance

Andy Burnham was never the front runner and fortunately this has forced him to be more frank than others. I think the “manifesto” document he put out entitled aspirational socialism is the most thorough description on principle of any of the candidates. Some have criticised the idea as marketing but I don’t think it is.

I think it speaks to people like my family back home who think socialism in one form or another is the way to best cure society’s ills and protect them. People who think that we should break down existing power hierarchies of wealth and privilege but have a working class pragmatism that small steady victories are better than none or one big one and years of Tory roll backs. It also speaks to people like me and some of our parents generation. My generation is not content being born and dying in the same class. Some might be more consumerist, some might be less communitarian but crucially we’re also much less deferential to our “betters”. As we slowly occupy more positions of power and influence we can break down the old class systems. That said we do want a better life for ourselves and out children but not at the cost of other people and their children. We recognise that others still suffer and want to make it better. I think recognising the growth of working class aspiration is something Blair and Brown seized on and was essential to past success.

For me Burnham’s master stroke was something I was complaining no candidate in the Bristol hustings was talking about: allying both social housing AND getting on the property ladder for first time young home buyers. Andy then got up to speak and spoke about just that.

Which either means Andy’s reading my tweets… or more likely he’s the right candidate for me.

I think allying the working class who are in the most need and the middle class who are the most politically active and also most likely to change votes is sound and smart politics. Marrying the need for more council housing with the genuine annoyance and frustration that many  young professionals  (me included) have with difficulties of getting onto the property ladder is political genius.

Andy found a way of “universalising” a seemingly non universal issue. This is important. Just look at the comparative safety in the recession of the NHS (which the middle classes use) vs the shabby treatment of Legal Aid (which the middle classes don’t use.)

As someone who spent my GSCE and A- Level years as a part time carer for my grandmother I also really liked his national care service idea.

Conclusion

So Andy isn’t the front runner or the favoured number 2. He doesn’t have so many CLPs backing him but he has a lot of ordinary Bristolians backing him. He doesn’t have big endorsements from the Unions but the conversations I’ve seen him having with Trade Unionists has been moving. He’s not part of some media constructed side show but has the capacity to play that media game shrewdly.

So if you haven’t yet decided who to vote for. Make sure you give Andy Burnham your number 1 vote. He’s straightforward, articulate and you know what he stands for.






Political virginity

1 09 2010

My Ex's book

I bloody loved Tony Blair. I loved him.  From 1994 he took us through the wilderness, and we made it through. Tony we didn’t know how lost we were til we found you.

We’d been beat, incomplete. Britain had been had, it was sad and Tory blue but Tony made us feel… well he made us feel… shiny and new.

Which was the problem really. After years of expecting very little from our leaders we finally found someone to wrap their arms around us and tell us it would be ok. He made us strong and bold.

To the world Blair was a rock star but to us in the Labour Party he was the guy who’d come home to us and make us feel just dreamy. So we gave him all our love.

We built him up and he let us. Then came the first disappointment and then another and then another, we’d make up and it would happen again.  My main concern with Blair was how marginalized the Unions had become, then members, then PLP and finally much of the Cabinet. We weren’t invited to the sofa style government, we had to do all the hard work in the heat of the kitchen.

The response of Labour members and supporters fall into three categories. 1. The left walked around baying like an old Country singer telling any and all that their man “done them wrong”, it just wasn’t going to work out and walked out of the door heartbroken. 2. The vast majority of us who stayed in the party (including me) stood by our man though all the good and bad times or like gullible souls kept saying “he’ll change he’ll change it for our own good”, 3. Finally the Blairite Ultras got their kicks out of the experimentation presented by the bad romance. It was freaky and they loved it, though they knew it was wrong.

All three responses spell out one thing. We all loved him, even the people who hate him now loved him at one point or another. Whilst each of us have been trying to move on we all have that nagging memory of the good times. Remember 1st May 1997? A new dawn. Oasis in Downing Street, signing the Social Chapter, ahhh an ethical foreign policy,  the Good Friday agreement,  even preventing genocide in Kosovo, HAMMERING the Tories on Section 28, the Human Rights Act and Minimum Wage.

But it’s over. It’s been over for a long time and we have to move on.

Ever had trouble with an Ex? Ever got that night time call? They want to talk about the old times. Then they gently allude to the person you were with after them?  How were things between you two these days? The subtle criticism of your new flame. The gentle inference that things were better back then? Of course you have.

That’s what we got last night when Tony’s book release was being reported by the media. That’s what we’re going to get tonight when he appears on our TV screens. All the Labour tribes will react in the patterns they have fallen into and no one will say anything new on the subject… but we’ll all remember that we all loved him but we have to remember that its over.

We’re now out looking for a new leader. Someone to put  a smile on our face and a spring in our step. We’re looking for someone to love again. But as democratic socialists we should wonder whether we need to look to a leader to inspire us. We can and should find someone new but doesn’t heartbreak teach us the most important lesson of all? We don’t need to rely on someone else to make us complete. The capacity to be strong and bold is in each of us already.