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The Church of England and the welfare state? February 24, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, Culture, The Left.
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Useful piece on Analysis from the BBC recently (available from as a podcast on iTunes) from Andrew Brown on the situation of the Church of England which examines different aspects of issues it is engaging with from same sex marriage to the welfare state, which – and I wasn’t really aware of this consciously – the Church of England was and remains a very strong proponent and supporter of same.

Brown picks apart some thinking on whether belief equals growth, and comes to the conclusion that specific beliefs, whether conservative or liberal, don’t map onto increased growth in popularity for individual churches. There’s some mention of the rather curious evangelical – and conservative – Alpha church at Holy Trinity Brompton, which Jon Ronson had an encounter with some years back. Apparently there’s some crossover into Catholicism. Interesting.

Austerity as politics… December 17, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, The Left, Tories.
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William Keegan in the Observer at the weekend asked a very sensible question about the direction of UK economic policy and its political meaning. Keegan notes that the general reception of the autumn statement has been that it had two key aspects, one being the rise in the pension age and the other being the problems Ed Balls had in responding to it. But as Keegan notes:

The real significance is that – as the statistics in the statement itself and the report from the Office for Budget Responsibility confirm – George Osborne’s strategy has proved a lamentable failure, and that, not content with that, we are in for more of the same. Instead of attacking the economy’s broader problems, not least its debilitated manufacturing sector and associated weak overseas trade position, this government continues to be obsessed with balancing the budget and not the economy.

And that’s a fair point. And he notes that this it is the internal contradictions in Tory/Liberal policy, though heavy on the Tory in that equation, that are generating problematic outcomes for them. Or, are they problematic?

Of course, it is taking a long time to do that, not least because its de facto anti-growth approach actually limits its ability to raise revenue and reduce the deficit – a deficit, incidentally, that the Debt Management Office has no difficulty in financing, with average debt maturity of 14 years or so.

And Keegan reminds us of one very pertinent fact:

The story so far is that George Osborne supported Labour’s spending plans in the runup to the crisis in 2007-08, opposed the 2008-09 economic stimulus that prevented the economy going into freefall, then withdrew his support as soon as he became chancellor.
His withdrawal was rationalised by the almost laughable argument that the state had to draw back in order not to “crowd out” a revival of private sector investment that, of course, never came. Somehow or other, monetary policy was going to support the economy, despite the fact that the banks had forgotten that their primary function is to lend money and give credit.

And he quotes some astounding figures are regards the UK fiscal contraction, which was the largest in the G7. This was a political, not an economic decision, and as Keegan continues, this was shaped for a very particular purpose, even if it is only now that that purpose is being publicly admitted:

But the real significance of the autumn statement is not that Balls had an off day but that Osborne has dug in and set the seal on a policy of years of further contraction of the public sector, with all that means for the poorer sections of the population.
A leading Conservative summed up the true significance of Osborne’s promise of yet more austerity in the second term – if, that is, this disturbing coalition is undeservedly returned to power. It was Andrew Tyrie, the MP for Chichester, whom I have long admired for his impartial chairmanship of the Treasury committee, but who came out in his true-blue colours with a fawning tribute to the chancellor and a plea for a small state and tax cuts.

As Keegan continues:

You see the point? As far as the right is concerned, the austerity policy that held back growth for three years, and is particularly directed at the poor and vulnerable, is not really about the need to cut the deficit; it is about making the room for tax cuts.

And that’s it really. Austerity isn’t a glitch, it’s the feature. This is the purpose of the exercise, not an unfortunate, but unavoidable, catalyst for recovery. Keegan has a few pertinent thoughts for Osborne, not least being that for all the rhetoric the eurozone remains the UKs ‘biggest export market’. But it is the central point that austerity is a political policy, directed in such a way as to maximise as best as can be achieved, political outcomes for the Tories.

That it appears to be failing even on its own terms is ironic, but one few will take any great satisfaction in given the trail of human misery that it represents in relation to unemployment, changing labour market conditions and so forth.

It seems clear that in some respects the Coalition in London is perhaps the worst possible government to have arrived in power at this particular historical juncture. And despite the bullishness of the Tories, one wonders if they realise that as it stands there is a very real disconnect with much of the British electorate (though it is also apparent that a significant divide has widened in relation to the geographic support for Toryism in Southern England in particular).

It’s always worth keeping a close eye on UK Polling Report, from YouGov’s Anthony Wells which has a good, and dispassionate overview of British polling data (and also some useful material on the winding path of the current Scottish referendum in relation to support or otherwise there for the central contention).

Well’s polling average is telling. Tories on 33%, Labour on 39%, LD’s on 10%, UKIP 11% and others 3%, and an overall Labour majority forecast of 78 seats. Polls demonstrate a consistent LP lead since 2011 (bar a number of outliers) and an absolute lead since 2012.

It seems to me that Osborne’s plans were long in the making, but it is possible that given the resilience of the LP vote they were given a more emphatic push as a bid to claw back support from UKIP. In some ways that has worked, UKIP is generally down from the high teens votes it has enjoyed at various times across the last number of years, but it’s not worked well enough, because it hasn’t consolidated in an enhanced Tory vote.

And there’s always the danger of a backlash. Miliband has had a good year, there’s little reason that can’t continue. The fact of coalition in some respects undermines Cameron and Osborne’s ability to craft an entirely coherent message to attract voters. Does that mean a Labour government is inevitable? No, absolutely not. Indeed a lot of political analysis points to Labour being the largest party and being dependent upon the Liberal Democrats, what remains of them. Should that eventuality come to pass…

Speaking of anniversaries… July 5, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, Culture, Economy, The Left.
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…July 5th is the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS, as noted in this post from 2008.

 

 

* just adding this wonderful clip (IEL)

Aneurin Bevan speaks about NHS

That British Labour Party 1983 Election Manifesto March 25, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, The Left.
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Tony Collins on Socialist Unity has posted up the 1983 Labour Manifesto – the supposed ‘longest suicide note in history’. Well, yes, but one wonders absent the Falklands conflict and the rupture of the LP with the departure of the SDP whether history would look much more kindly upon it than is currently the case.

I can’t say I necessarily agree with all of it, but there was a lot of good radical material in there, though I was half-amused by this…

Indeed, the logic of the case for the nuclear deterrent, presented by British Conservative Ministers, is that all peace-loving countries should equip themselves with the same protection. It is a logic which would intensify the race and destroy the universe.

The whole universe?

Britain and Europe… January 22, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, British Politics, European Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
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I was listening to the Guardian podcast on the issue of Europe and the Tories from last week and was surprised to hear some of those commenting suggesting that on a straight stay or go referendum public opinion would tend to swing to the former. But then, checking out the always interesting ukpollingreport, run by Anthony Wells of YouGov (which has information about individual polls and a poll aggregator) and what do I read about new data on voting intentions in a referendum on EU membership. For the last number of months the figures were solidly enough in the OUT camp, as Wells notes:

At the start of the month YouGov was showing people would vote to leave the EU in a referendum by 46% to 31% who would vote to stay in – figures that were pretty typical of YouGov’s polling on EU referendums for the last year.

But, lo and behold, as the prospect of an actual referendum has become more concrete those figures have shifted, and bloody radically too…

Last week those figures had shifted to 42% get out to 36% stay in. This week they have moved even further and now 40% of people say they would vote to stay in compared to 34% who say they would vote to leave.

Wells explains this as being the result of the following:

What appears to have happened is that normally people use an EU referendum question to express general disatisfaction with the EU, with the European Court of Human Rights (I know its different from the EU – most people don’t!), Eastern European immigration, bureaucracy, bans on straight bananas & bent cumcumbers and all the general media perception of the EU. In the last fortnight some will obviously have thought a little more about it as a referendum becomes a more likely possibility, as people like Richard Branson, the US Embassy, Ed Miliband, Vince Cable and David Cameron have all spoken of the importance of Britain being in Europe… and it has changed views.

And he makes an interesting point which is that it’s not that euroscepticism has decreased – as such, but rather that support ‘for leaving’ has reduced. That’s a very very important distinction to make because while the latter is the harder edged position, the former is much less so and much more contingent.

Haven’t we seem something of this in our own polity over the years, although here the more regular use of referendums has offered examples of decisions being made and the state returning to them again in order to overturn them. But the underlying dynamic is not unfamiliar, of a broader disquiet which is trumped, usually – but not exclusively, by the orthodoxy. http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/6886

BTW, ukpollingreport is a good site for an overview of the situation, for example, they currently project the LP on 41, Tories on 31 and LDs on 10 – by polling averages, and they found nothing in yesterday’s Guardian/ICM poll ‘to get excited about’, despite that showing Con 33, LAB 38, LD 15 and UKIP 6. And there’s a projection for an LP majority of 112. All moonshine of course in the sense that there almost certainly won’t be an election for a couple of years, but… not at all moonshine in the sense that that the dynamics are well embedded currently and this allows us an insight into them.

The British Labour Party & Twentieth-Century Ireland – Conference NUIG, 8-9 March January 17, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
7 comments

BLP CONFERENCE

Full details in attached file – please click on link.Conference Programme

Looks like it would be of significant interest to many of us.

A reminder of social democracy’s ambitions in times gone by. January 9, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in British Labour Party, Capitalism, Social Democracy, Workers Rights.
6 comments

Earlier this week I started reading Capitalism Unleashed: Finance, Globalization and Welfare by Andrew Glyn (Oxford University Press, 2006). I’m not in far enough to offer any thoughts on the book as a whole, but there is a passage at the end of Chapter 1 that shows just how limited the ambition of current social democratic parties is.

On top of the seemingly inexorable rise in government spending came proposals from the Labour movement to restrict the prerogatives of capital within its own sphere — private business. A range of plans emerged in the later 1960s and 1970s going well beyond the customary collective bargaining issues of jobs and working conditions. To give a flavour of what was involved a brief discussion follows of German co-determination, Swedish wage-earner funds, the British Labour Party’s ideas for planning agreements and finally the French Socialist government’s plans for extensive nationalization in the early 1980s.

In Germany workers had achieved a system of co-determination in the early 1950s with equal representation of employees and shareholders on boards of iron and steel companies. They secured lesser representation within other companies but had the right to appoint the labour director responsible for personnel affairs. In the 1970s there was strong pressure to increase co-determination rights, which resulted in an extension to cover employment contracts and training, and in 1976 the proportion of worker representatives was increased from one-third to a half for larger companies (though with a shareholder-appointed chair having a casting vote). These extensions were strongly resisted by employers, politically and in the courts. German co-determination may have had fairly modest effects on managerial freedom, but a comment in 1984 by a prominent American economist, Armen Alchian, shows how it was viewed by advocates of shareholder sovereignty: ‘The campaign for … codetermination on boards of directors appears to be attempts to control the wealth of shareholders’ specialised assets … a wealth confiscation scheme’. (more…)

“Equality of Sacrifice” January 8, 2013

Posted by irishelectionliterature in British Labour Party.
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Great poster tweeted by David Miliband
1929 Labour poster demonstrated the Tory understanding of “equality of sacrifice”

Left Archive: Northern Ireland – The Unsolved Problem, Alistair Graham, From Civil Rights to Sectarianism, Independent Labour Publications (formerly the Independent Labour Party), UK c. 1976 September 10, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, Independent Labour Publications, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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To download the above file please click on the following link: ILP UK DOC NI GO

This document is of particular interest because it comes from the Independent Labour Publications which is what the Independent Labour Party became when it merged with the British Labour Party in 1975. The ILP had a long and at times illustrious history positioned to the left of the BLP and once it was within the Labour Party it sought a role as a sort of lobbying group.

This document states that:

‘Nothern Ireland, The Unsolved Problem’ by Alistair Graham provides a descriptive introduction to the present risks in the province. Its purpose is to supply background information on the situation. It is not a statement of the collective view of the Independent Labour Party.

The Introduction argues that:

However it is hoped that any views expressed in it will be shared by many on the left who wish for a peaceful, and progressive, solution to the conflict; and that it will help towards an understanding of the complexity of the problem. There are no clear-cut answers to what has been happening in Northern Ireland. Confused or simplistic analysis is no less wrong when it is cloaked in Marxist jargon.

There is an overview of the ‘Road to Partition’ and later it provides an overview of the political forces extant in the North during that period. One notable aspect is the analysis of the Provisional IRA is as follows:

The Provisionals split away from the official wing of the republican movement at the end of 1969. Ostensibly, the cause of the split was disagreement over the Socialist, and increasingly Marxist, philosophy being adopted by the republican movement, together with its abandonment of physical force tactics in favour of political involvement. But, in fact, the split has its origins within Fianna Fáil (which was at the time Ireland’s governing party).

It continues:

Alarmed at the direction in which SF (the republican party) was moving during the sixties, elements within FF made contact with republicans, particularly in the Six Counties. An offer of money and arms was made, on doncidtion that activity was concentrated in the North, and that there was an abandonment of any political activity.
As a result, the Provisional ‘Army Council’ was organised, its first press statement appearing on December 29, 1969. In January 1970, at Sinn Féin’s annual conference, Provisional supporters walked out and the break was complete.

The document dismisses approaches grounded in ‘British Imperialism’ as a means of explaining the conflict though it notes:

This is not to deny the continuing economic control exercised by British capitalism in Ireland, North and South, or the growing influence of British and multinational firms, but this hardly necessitates direct political or military control.

And it sets out a series of demands which include the following;

A Bill of Rights, on the lines suggested by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association
A reconstituted police force, to replace the R.U.C. to eradicate the sectarian image of the police
A drastic reappraisal of the Army’s role in NI, and its withdrawal from patrolling duties which have provoked much of the violence.

These demands are quite similar to those of Official Sinn Féin at that time. It would be interesting to assess how influential this document and those from other formations both external and internal to it were on Labour Party policy during this period.

Cutting Edge: Comrades (1992) – Documentary on Liverpool’s Militant Tendency March 13, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in British Labour Party, British Politics.
3 comments

Stumbled across this recently. Thought it might be of interest.
The blurb about the documentary…

Documentary on Liverpool’s Militant Tendency, following former Labour party MP and Militant member Terry Fields on his general election campaign. Militant members encountered are Mick Daley (who runs their creche), Julie McCann (the Housing Benefit Officer) and Mike Morris (organiser of the Anti-Poll Tax Federation). Labour MP Frank Dunne, who investigates Militant infiltration into the Labour Party, and sends incriminating photographs to Labour’s National Exectutive, states that Militant is a dangerous political influence in Liverpool. On the campaign trail for Terry Fields, Labour candidate Jane Kennedy’s campaign literature explains that she was partly responsible for ridding Liverpool of Militant, and Paddy Ashdown is seen getting a rough ride in a derelict housing estate when he accompanies Liberal Democrat candidate Rosemary Cooper. Fields comes third in the election behind the official Labour candidate. Militant members sing the Internationale at a rousing post-election party.

When it was originally uploaded youtube only allowed ten minutes, so its in six parts. Well worth watching though.

(more…)

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