Labour’s problem isn’t the unions – it’s the leadership

Enemies of the people? Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and the entire Labour shadow cabinet have created a strategy that will lose them the next election and could plunge us into decades of servitude under Tory 'austerity'. THIS MUST CHANGE. If they refuse to adopt policies in line with the wishes of the majority of Labour members, they'll have to go.

Enemies of the people? Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and the entire Labour shadow cabinet have created a strategy that will lose them the next election and could plunge us into decades of servitude under Tory ‘austerity’. THIS MUST CHANGE. If they refuse to adopt policies in line with the wishes of the majority of Labour members, they’ll have to go.

The way things are going, we all need to reconcile ourselves to the possibility that the Labour Party won’t win the 2015 election.

This will not be because the Conservative Party has better policies (it doesn’t) or because it has won the ideological argument about austerity (it hasn’t – the state of the economy clearly demonstrates this).

It will be because Labour’s leaders are doing their absolute best to distance themselves from everything that makes the party a distinct political force.

They seem to think turning Labour into a pale copy of the Conservative Party will win over voters from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, while retaining the party’s current grass roots. It will do neither.

Considering the situation as it stands, one has to ask: Is it time for a ‘no confidence’ vote in the entire Labour front bench?

Look at the cock-eyed way they are handling the row over candidate selection in Falkirk. This is a silly sideshow that has been blown out of proportion by the other Parliamentary parties in an attempt to capitalise on discomfort that Labour did not have to endure.

On the face of it, the problem is that a union (Unite) allegedly tried to rig the selection process for a candidate in the next election. Unite’s stated strategy, according to the BBC, is to “shift the balance in the party away from middle-class academics and professionals towards people who have actually represented workers and fought the boss” – in other words, away from the career politicians and so-called ‘Blairites’ who currently occupy every noteworthy position in the shadow cabinet.

Why is this important to the largest union in the country? Well, let’s look at the reason the Labour Party was formed in the first place – to provide a voice in Parliament for the unions’ aim, which has always been to improve conditions for workers and working-class people in the UK.

It has become transparent, over the last few weeks, that the current Labour Party’s shadow cabinet has no interest in that ambition. If it did, it would not have given up the argument over austerity, saying it would continue Coalition economic policies if elected. Instead, it would abandon austerity in favour of a programme of investment in employment-generating, economy-boosting programmes that would bring a greater return into the Treasury than it would cost.

It would also be announcing policies to change the direction of the Coalition’s murderous – thousands of people have died because of it – attack on people receiving benefits, particularly the long-term sick and disabled. Instead, incredibly, Labour supports this policy.

In return, according to this article from the Welfare News Service, “disabled voters, who have supported Labour in past elections, are abandoning the party in droves”.

Clearly Labour’s leaders will not retain their voter base if they continue in this fashion.

I’ll come back to the Unite situation in a moment, but let’s stick with the WNS article because it features revealing comments from ordinary people about the cack-handed way Labour is handling cuts to social security benefits, following the leaders’ admission that they will not promise to reverse any coalition policies.

One person described it as “Labour’s cowardly cop-out on welfare”.

John Currigan of Tipton said: “Old Labour values have been consigned to the political scrapheap.”

Neil Anderson of Machynlleth said Labour’s “now-Tory attitude to social security means I will definitely never vote for them again”.

Phillip Hurley of Pontyclun voiced a fear that has been growing in many minds: “I think they wanted the Tories to get in, knowing they would make these cuts that they [Labour] were afraid to implement.”

At a time like this, with former supporters openly voicing their disgust with a Labour Party that has been gleefully running to join the right wing of the political spectrum ever since Tony Blair became leader, is it any wonder that dismayed union members may have tried to stop the rot?

(We must be honest with ourselves; Labour is rotting from the inside, and will continue to rot, as long as right-wingers who do not support the party’s original purpose are sitting around the shadow cabinet table.)

Len McLuskey, leader of Unite, says he personally had nothing to do with any attempt to influence the vote on a new Falkirk candidate by signing up 100 or more members to the constituency party, and at this time I am prepared to believe him.

The dissent against the Labour leadership’s wrong-headed, potentially-disastrous, and above all, STUPID policies has come from the grass roots; the working classes; the people they are – on the face of it – supposed to be representing. That is why it seems likely that, if this plan was carried out, it was hatched by people in the grass roots of the union and not its bosses.

There is hope; it seems that our political commentators are aware of the problem, and serious questions are being asked in Labour’s backbenches.

Owen Jones, that paragon of principled left-wing opinion, wrote in The Independent on Sunday, under the headine What’s killing Labour? A thousand failures to oppose the cuts: “Labour’s leaders… fail to challenge myths, and even occasionally feed them. It is utterly self-destructive.

“They think they are buying back credibility, rather than shoring up policies that should be seen as sunk, ruinous, shredded. By failing to offer a coherent message, they risk a sense of ‘at least you know where you are with the Tories’ bedding in.

“But the cost is not only to Labour’s electoral prospects: it will be to the working, disabled and unemployed people whose pockets will continue to be emptied.

“Our futures and those of our children are at risk. That’s not hyperbole. It’s the appalling truth.”

And in his blog, headlined Labour members in the country are crying out for policies they can believe in, Michael Meacher MP wrote: “I have just attended my party’s monthly General Committee meeting in my constituency and the mood was more despairing than any I can remember. They simply cannot understand how the party leadership can be accepting time after time whatever callous and unjust cuts Osborne throws at us – bedroom tax, withdrawal of benefit for the first seven days of unemployment, and now a welfare cap which even the Tories themselves haven’t yet defined.

Is there no limit to how far this surrender goes, they ask?

“They don’t want to talk of betrayal, but they are bewildered, hurt, disoriented and despairing.

None of them want Labour to out-Tory the Tories over cuts. They want three things: that Labour has a positive vision for the next Labour Government that they can believe in, that Labour has a plausible alternative to endless austerity, and that Labour campaigns across the country with bold policies to build the alliance to throw out the most vicious Tory government in modern times.”

I DO want to talk of betrayal – because that is precisely what we are all facing: Betrayal by party leaders who claim to be on the side of the workers and the working-class, but whose leaders have cheerfully joined the Westminster Gravy Train and are lapping it up as though this nightmare ‘austerity Britain’ is a party that will last forever.

Here in the country, Mr Meacher is quite correct: We ARE crying out for policies we can support. Labour’s leaders aren’t simply failing to give us those – they are actively REFUSING to mount any meaningful opposition, in the face of the overwhelming wealth of weaponry they could use.

The fact is, the vast majority of Labour members do not support the policies being foisted on us by the leaders. They are a shambles; they will be a disaster for the country, whether Labour is returned to office at the next election or not (and on these policies, as mentioned above, I don’t think they will). While the leaders persist, stubbornly, in forcing these policies on us, we have a classic case of “the tail wagging the dog”, and we cannot allow this to continue.

I have no confidence that they can win the next election. Even if they did, I have no confidence that they will pursue any policies that will benefit the UK as a whole. We will be swapping one gang of self-interested gangsters for another.

So I repeat: Is it time for a ‘no confidence’ vote in the entire Labour front bench?

If so, who wants to put the process in motion and how soon can we get it done?

46 thoughts on “Labour’s problem isn’t the unions – it’s the leadership

  1. Big Bill

    Phillip Hurley, above, has it rght, Labour’s neoliberals are more than happy to sit back while the Coalition’s neoliberals do the dirty work for them. Then if elected insted of changing anything we’ll hear nothing from them but that they inherited all their problems from the previous administration, just as we hear now from the Coalition. They really are all in it together, hence the need, as I keep saying, for a shift away from central government towards local autonomy.

  2. Big Bill

    At the moment, it’s time for a no-confidence vote in the entire so-called democratic process. When the ordinary man in the steet whether left or right-leaning cannot find anyone they can elect to represent them, it’s over.

    1. Nick

      couldn’t agree more bill the clap trap by nick clegg Gordon brown and David Cameron at the last general election when they stood up on TV and delivered their speeches was proof it was all spin and deception

      Most people in the country need to wake up fast that this country is changing beyond recognition for the worse and until they do things will just get worse

      i personally see this country of no hope for all of the average younger generation and for these people along with the sick and disabled these words will be hitting home loud and clear

      Look down, look down
      You’ll always be a slave
      Look down, look down
      You’re standing in your grave.

    2. Peter Lowe

      At the moment, it’s time for a no-confidence vote in the entire so-called democratic process. When the ordinary man in the steet whether left or right-leaning cannot find anyone they can elect to represent them, it’s over.

      1. Mike Sivier

        So you agree with Bill, then?
        You didn’t really need to quote him verbatim; I, for one, would have liked to read your own opinions as well.

  3. Tam Hunter

    Having spent my entire adult life supporting the Labour Party, even when Tony Blair took the party to the right of some Tory Front Benchers. I can no longer justify giving my support to a Right Wing version of the Party I have supported for so many years.

    I will be looking for another Party that shares at least some of my views, I find it sad that the Party of Kier Hardie and Nye Bevan has been killed off not by the Conservatives, but by their own leadership.

    1. Nick

      The main problem we have in this country is that the public by and large don’t even understand politics as an an example they would vote labour when all on the front bench are not labour but wannabe conservatives
      Dennis skinner is not on the front bench nor is Michael meacher so why are people voting labour?

      If the people cannot get this logic in their head there is no hope for the uk and in years to come all hell will break loose
      I never had an education but I know a conman when I see one just as lord sugar does

      1. Troy

        I still can’t understand why the likes of Dennis Skinner and Michael Meacher are still in the Labour Party? They should ditch Labour and join Left Unity. Or any other left-wing party will do.

  4. Monty

    I just got my; We’re sorry you are leaving the Labour Party letter…

    Why should I pay towards any party that fails to protect the people who vote for them?

    The last straw was Ed Milliband and Ed Balls who are going OUT OF THEIR WAY to OUT TORY the TORIES!

    I like millions of others want a Tory Alternative not a slightly watered down version.

    I am beginning to think that it is better to elect a Tory Government next time so that they will cause a revolution in the country!

  5. hilary772013

    Totally agree, I am desperately trying to find someone to vote for, as I do not trust any of them to put the common working man/woman first. I have no faith in any party and do not trust anything any one of them say, apart from Michael Meacher and a few others and I am struggling to find the few.. God help us all, we are going to need it.

    1. Nick

      as i say the public by and large are ok but for groups like the long term unemployed the sick and disabled things in going forward are going to be grim

      The last labour leader was Michael Foot IN 1980 who mentored Tony Blair but owing to the fool running the USA at the time Blair got side tracked and mucked everything up and the rest is history

      Those sick and disabled today aged 20 and under are never going to make like i have done to age 60 as for me it’s been a living despite the fact i have good support

      i just cant see anyone else in the country lasting as long with the constant testing for benefits restrictions on what you can and cant do

      hell who’s needs Burma when I’m already living it

  6. Nightingale

    I too have been in despair at this Labour Leadership. The voices of Michael Meacher and Dennis are beacons in the night.

    The last time a group of right-wingers ganged up in Labour, they at least had the decency to leave, to form a party in their own image. This shower is trying to steal the party from underneath the people.

    I think as you do, Mike, that the membership / selection issue in Falkirk is in fact business as usual for an active CLP. I do not have any problem with Unite trying to recruit new member to the LP, or to seek to position their candidate in the lead. I thought, in fact, that’s how it all worked, having been a Union member all my working life.

    Can we not get the unions to help organise a reclaim the Labour Party campaign?

    And why do It get the creeping feeling that the ConDems attempt to get Unions finance of Labour included in their bill for other purposes is just so spot on to illustrate this need by the Falkirk (non)issue?

    I am loath to suggest it, but as Ed & Ed seem to also have issues with local party democracy, then perhaps they can be counted on to support the tory legislation? Am I alone in asking if the 2xEd could not just be decent and honest, and cross to the other party, and leave labour to it’s actual supporters?

  7. Colin Taylor

    I believe that the Labour Party ceased to exist on 12th May 1994, with the untimely death of John Smith

    1. Thomas

      Me too. When he died and as buried on Iona the Old Labour party died too and was buried with him. If Labour continue wearing Tory clothes, the left wing vote will be fracture away and be lost supporting several small parties, none of which can get any seats under the first past the post system. And we will end up with a Conservative government or a Conservative/UKIP government which would be a disaster.

  8. Linda Thomas

    I just hope that “Left Unity” get themselves organised in time for the next election – then there might be a party worth voting for. At least it would prove that there is a popular groundswell of opinion away from existing parties.

  9. HomerJS

    It is hard to believe that Ed Miliband would act like this when he is still seen as a liability. He is just adding to the reasons to replace him as leader.

  10. Graham

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,if the unions were so up in arms because Labour were just basically adopting Conservative policies, then the unions that support them should withdraw their funding, pure and simple! That would have a devastating effect on the Labour party and might just result in removing the Blairites and just maybe, allow the party to reorganise and return to their grass roots. So begs the question, why don’t they and why haven’t they? Am I the only one that suspects the the union/Labour relationship has a more sinister side to it? Michael Meecher for party leader,………. if only!

  11. Troy

    At some point before the next election, it would be nice if someone with a bit of political nous were to point us disillusioned in the right direction. We can’t vote for Labour who are now Conservative. Some small left-wing parties might stand a small chance in some places. Because most right-wingers are fanatical, I think they would always vote, which means that most of the non-voters would be left-wing. There are so many of us who are not capable of organising, but who badly want to be organised. If only Labour could see that.

  12. ireallymeanthis

    It was devastating when the leadership announced they would imitating the Tory spending plans.
    Until that point I thought there was a chance they’d begin to carve out an alternative.
    Owen Jones is threatening to the main parties as he articulates a workable alternative to the consensus. We should take some comfort from that ; they are scared that such ideas will catch on.

  13. Nick

    most people in the UK are selfish and in reality play a conservative hand they don’t like the sick and disabled (fact) they don’t like the unemployed(fact) they don’t like crime (fact) they don’t like foreigners(fact) they don’t like anything whatsoever that will cost them money (fact) they don’t like social housing (fact) they don’t like the EU(fact)

    What David Cameron has done is that he’s turned the don’t like into hate a very subtle but big difference

    labour and the unions days are well and truly over the unions have no voice but think they have

    at the next election mostly all those who own their own house will vote conservative and everyone else by and large will vote labour and in a nutshell that’s how the next election will pan out

    all the unions will do is to increase the conservative vote had Nigel fraage for ukip not been a maverick then he would do very well kicking out the liberals as in reality ukip are conservative although more extreme when it comes to the EU Which underpins the conservative philosophy that the overall view point of the country is to look out for oneself only and to hell with everyone else

    For decent people thow however the politics of today is just garbage and only they will suffer in the long term as it’s their unique ability to think of others which will be their mental downfall

  14. guy fawkes

    Those that are supposed to be on the side of selflessness i.e. the charities are nothing but puritanical moralists to those they consider to be the fallen i.e. the sick,disabled,unemployed,ex offenders,single parents etc. They use and exploit them via the work programme, yet when needed they are selective about who they will feed as in the case of the food banks.

    There are enough people from all of the above categories to join a party that is really going to cater for their needs.

    I know it’s a generalization but the pseudo middle class are the turncoats of the working class in most cases and have sold labour down the river by adopting Thatcherism when she allowed them to buy their council houses, largely because she did not want central government to pay for the updating and refurbishment of them from coal to gas central heating etc. Ask them what else she did for them and they will not be able to answer.

    Owen Jones and Michael Meacher need to break away from the labour party and start their own, dragging the unions with them. I’m sure where they lead, plenty will follow.

  15. jolly_angelina

    Been staunch labour all my life. Now feel sadness & anger at the predicament New Labour has placed me & obviously many others in. Hate Blair + Mandelson with a passion. Always felt Milliband unelectable at time of leadership challenge but he was up against an equally weak + bad bunch at the time. Hate them for what they did to Gaming & Gambling legislation. I believe rise in payday loans & pawn shops not unrelated to some extent to High St betting shops in targeted deprived areas. They feed of each other creating a cycle of despair. Gambling is a tax on the poor and as destruction an addiction to the individual and families as booze or drugs. Tacky TV ads for free money for bingo + poker are endless & super casinos even sponsor progs like Big Brother. National Lottery out of control. Rise in ticket costs pending. Around 48 games on website. Scratch cards at tills grown from a couple to dozens & you can see how compelling the are to people who obviously can’t afford it. Is data being captured anywhere of human cost? Rant almost over but cannot forgive Millie for attacking Galloway, not supporting Bercow to stop early recall of House for Maggie tribute at our expense, & Balls for attending Bilderberg. To say they won’t reverse some of the most cruel & callous Tory cuts is hideous. How can they not see where they are going wrong?
    Off to take my blood pressure tabs & iron my “I love Dennis Skinner” teeshirt

    1. Nick

      labour is tacky no doubt about that and the conservatives don’t give a damn
      if all the poor people the sick and disabled were to die next week the government would say how dreadful for a couple of days and then just drop it never to be spoken about ever again

      those over the age of 50 will never again in their lifetime see this country at ease with itself as the younger generations that have gone into politics don’t understand or have the skills of leadership and in reality it’s that simple

  16. guy fawkes

    Despite all of the mud thrown at George Galloway, I still think he is a force to be reckoned with. The Scots and the Welsh have had some fine orators and statesmen, I was particularly sad when Robin Cook died also, I hope they don’t all go independent leaving the North East out on a limb, because we have had no-one worth listening to since Manny Shinwell but that is largely down to the selection process and securing safe seats for southern labour party members.

  17. chazzo15

    Time Ed Milliband and Ed Balls WENT. . . WE need fairness and equality of treatment for ALL, that is everyone, the young, the old, single mums, the unemployed and the unemployable, the sick, the disabled,, legal immigrants and everyone on lower or low pay that is a proper Left Wing ordinary people’s Labour Party..

  18. Sean Fleming (@flemingsean)

    I have some sympathy for these latter-day Blairites. You can argue the toss about Blair’s rights and wrongs until you go scarlet in the face, but one thing he got consistently right was his narrative… he could communicate.

    Who has come in his wake? Gordon Brown and the lesser-impressive Miliband. They’d part with a kidney to be able to put an argument together the way Blair could.

    But neither of them could sell an offer of help to drowning man, never mind construct a set of policies that the whole country (not just the party) could get behind.

    It’s as if someone snuck up on the cosy cohort at the top of the party and surgically removed the courage of their convictions.

    They’ve all become overly concerned with trying to say the right thing, without knowing what the right thing to say is.

    They should all go.

    1. Colin Taylor

      The ‘Right Thing’ is apparently whatever the Daily Mail and Sun want to hear, since they now control who ends up in Number 10

      1. Mike Sivier

        That’s interesting, though, isn’t it? Because their combined readership is only a few million and yet the number of people voting is still dozens of millions.

        Are they affecting swing voters? If so, how – when they are both avowedly right-leaning publications?

        I’m not sure we should be so quick to accept this power that the right-wing press claims for itself.

      2. Ulysses

        Are you confusing copy sales with readership, Mike? an entire household or van full of builders can read just one copy between them.
        Then they start to talk and conversation turns to issues portrayed in that media and the emphasis is on the direction its swung.
        We’re very social animals
        If there is no one in that social group to counter the prevailing argument, the lies and myths propagate freely

      3. Mike Sivier

        This is a very good point. It may be a failing of mine that I live among people who enjoy a good debate and don’t mind alternative points of view being presented to them – so I tend to assume that the same attitudes prevail elsewhere.

      4. Ulysses

        Lets use a very large sweeping statement and use the builder analogy, or old heavy engineering, where i’m from, you need a pretty strong personality to go against the grain of popular opinion in those kinda jobs. Present an opposing view and be prepared to have the p*ss very robustly taken out of yourself, or at worst go home with injuries you didnt sustain at work, regardless of the validity of your argument.

      5. Mike Sivier

        One response to that is to say that if someone else has to resort to violence, they’ve already lost the argument. If you’re going home with bruises anyway, you might as well say it.

        Also, if they’re going to hit you for pointing out the bloody obvious, you might as well drop a brick on them – it might knock some sense into them!

        (No, I’m not being serious with that last comment, as those of you who are familiar with my non-violent belief will hopefully be aware).

      6. Ulysses

        Agreed…(and obviously agree on not resorting to violence yourself)
        I’m one to stand up for my principles, vocalise them, weather they make me popular or not.
        Some though, will bite their tongue for want of a quiet life, and i see no wrong in that either, if they know they cant stand up to what is tantamount to bullying

      7. Mike Sivier

        I’m afraid I DO see that as wrong. Nobody should ever have to put up with bullying (and I know that this is an unrealistic point of view in the world where we live).

      8. Ulysses

        Poorly worded, i should have said i can understand why folk would not want to put their head above the parapet to avoid a scene.
        Bullying is unacceptable, but it does and will go on.

  19. Colin Taylor

    Don’t forget; under the current system, Elections are won-or lost by whoever captures the ‘marginals’. In reality, it is those voters in those constituents who hold the balance of power-only a few million at most

      1. Colin Taylor

        I’m not so sure-just look at the average Newsstand – virtually all of them,post Leveson, are toeing the Party line – the only vaguely socialist title seems to be the Morning Star

  20. Ulysses

    Has anyone considered that Labour (or the current Neo-Liberal front bench at least ) actually want to lose in 2015?
    To allow the dismantling of the welfare system and the NHS, the selling off of the family silver?
    They still get a pay check in opposition, and are in receipt of income streams from directorships, consultation and the speech circuit

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