The usual suspects are lilkely to say that the Oldham West and Royton by-election is a test of public support for Jeremy Corbyn, especially in the light of yesterday’s Commons vote on air strikes. It isn’t.
It’s simply the election of a representative to succeed the hugely-respected left-wing Labour MP Michael Meacher.
This Writer has seen comments saying Labour will hold the seat comfortably, or UKIP will take it, or that the Monster Raving Loony candidate has a chance. They’ve all been made by representatives of the same organisations, so I hope they’ll forgive me for taking those claims with a pinch of salt.
I have also seen commentators claiming that any reduction of Labour’s majority will be an indictment against Mr Corbyn. That suggestion is nonsense.
Michael Meacher was hugely respected, if not loved, by many of his constituents. It is only to be expected that much of his vote was personal support for the man, rather than the party.
By contrast, although he is a councillor, Jim McMahon has not (yet) built up such a stellar reputation. He’ll have a following, and there will be Labour tribalists, but it would be foolish to suggest that any reduction in the number of people voting Labour is a comment on anything other than the support of the late Mr Meacher.
Voters are going to the polls on Thursday in a by-election to elect a new MP for Oldham West and Royton.
The election was triggered by the death in October of Labour’s Michael Meacher, who had represented the constituency for 45 years.
Mr Meacher held the seat with a majority of 14,738 in May’s general election.
The result of the first by-election of the current Parliament is expected to be declared early on Friday morning.
This Writer did not stick around for all the punditry after Jeremy Corbyn’s history landslide win of the Labour Party leadership. I went shopping with Mrs Mike instead. Times may be hard but groceries won’t wait.
Judging from the BBC’s coverage, I wasn’t going to miss much. Norman Smith – who managed to make Ed Miliband look good and be branded a “pillock” with a silly question during the general election campaign – showed he hadn’t learned any lessons by spouting babble about Corbyn being out within a year. If that was the quality of the immediate reactions, then Yr Obdt Srvt was better-occupied buying toilet bowl cleaner.
On my return, I found that some social – as well as mass – media commentators had started to express opinions. The first I saw was by Corbyn’s fellow left-winger, Michael Meacher MP: “With four contestants in the running, to achieve 60 per cent of the leadership vote in the first round is an outright landslide.
“Jeremy Corbyn has secured a higher percentage than Blair got in 1994. Even more significant, Corbyn’s electorate at 554,272 was more than double Blair’s, and no less than 76 per cent of them actually voted, a higher percentage turnout than Blair got. And another pointer to the overwhelming inspiration that Corbynmania achieved – no less than 160,000 volunteers were recruited to the Corbyn campaign – far, far bigger than in any similar campaign in the past.”
Why this fixation on Tony Blair? Because Blair’s arrival marked the beginning of huge – and controversial – changes in the Labour Party, changes that were famously applauded by Margaret Thatcher (think on that). Corbyn’s landslide gives him a mandate to change Labour even more radically than Blair – back to what it should be.
No wonder Mr Meacher was delighted: “This is a seminal day in British politics, marking the coming together of the two great conditions needed for transformational change – radical new ideas and a burgeoning social movement on the scale required to push through major change.”
The Daily Mirrorwas next to attract This Writer’s attention, claiming that the Tories were salivating at the thought of Corbyn as leader: “They see a serial rebel who will not be able to command any loyalty, a man whose foreign policy interventions involve greeting Hamas as ‘friends’ and a leader who will drag his party further from the centre ground.”
The reference to Hamas is of course to a term he used as a matter of politeness, rather than as a description of his feelings – as anybody who has researched the issue will know.
“You can add to the charge sheet his stance on Trident (against renewal), his association with anti-austerity organisations and, horror of horrors, his Republicanism.”
But the Mirror added: “Voters in the Labour leadership were attracted to Corbyn because of his authenticity. His views are obviously not to everyone’s taste but people admire the way he articulates them with sincerity,” before saying he needs to show he can reach out beyond Labour’s reservation(if this means the Labour Party itself, that party is now greatly expanded, thanks merely to his candidacy).
Tories who think Labour moving left will allow them to take the centre ground should think again, the paper says, as “when one party moves further towards its heartlands, the other finds itself pushing equally forcefully, like two repelling magnets, in the other direction”. A far-right Tory Party is unelectable, of course.
Also: “David Cameron, while he is Prime Minister, will no longer have the comfort of working with a leader of the opposition pliable on issues of foreign policy and military intervention.
“Cameron and Osborne will also have to make the case anew for their anti-austerity agenda against an opponent who has been surprisingly articulate when it comes to setting out an alternative agenda.”
Telling it as it is: Michael Meacher has more to say about the current Labour Party than yesterday’s man, Tony Blair.
Michael Meacher has it right (as usual). In the same Guardian article that publicises Tony Blair’s latest attack on Jeremy Corbyn, he explained why the former Prime Minister and his followers are so disgruntled by the return to real Labour Party values he represents:
“Understandably,” he said, “the Blairite faction is disconcerted by their abrupt loss of power.”
That is the meaning of everything that has been said by these people – by Tony Blair, by Alastair Campbell, by Simon Danczuk, by John Mann, and by all the others who are bleating that the democratic system of electing a new leader – that they all supported – should be halted because it might mean they’ll have to follow a real socialist instead of a Tory in a red tie.
Blair’s comments aren’t worth repeating because they contain nothing of substance at all. “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below,” is it, Tony? What makes you say that? What particular policies of Corbyn’s will cause the catastrophe you have made up inside your mind? You don’t say, so we shouldn’t pay any attention.
Blair appears to support calls for New Labour hangers-on to split from the party in the event of a Corbyn win: “This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes ‘disunity’.”
This, of course, runs against party discipline and Mr Meacher was right to counter it: “They have a duty to remain loyal to the Labour party as the left has always done.”
Again, Meacher is right; Blair is wrong.
Let’s have a bit more of Meacher. Referring to the rise of Corbyn, he said: “It is the biggest non-revolutionary upturning of the social order in modern British politics.
“The Blairite coup of the mid-1990s hijacked the party to the Tory ideology of ‘leave it all to the markets and let the state get out of the way’, and when asked what was her greatest achievement, Mrs Thatcher triumphantly replied, ‘New Labour.’
“After 20 years of swashbuckling capitalism, the people of Britain have said enough, and Labour is finally regaining its real principles and values.”
Blairites in the Parliamentary Labour Party have a stark choice, if Corbyn is elected by the party membership they claim to serve: They can knuckle under and toe the party’s new line, as the left-wingers have been forced to do – in the name of party unity, Tony Blair – for the last 20 years…
Or they can sling their hook.
That doesn’t mean resigning the Labour whip and sloping off to the Liberal Democrats (or wherever), as Shirley Williams has suggested.
It means resigning their position as MPs and making way for the election of somebody who will support Labour’s new direction.
The behaviour of men like Danczuk and Mann is nothing less than treachery against their party – meaning the people who voted them into Parliament, a majority of whom – it seems – want Jeremy Corbyn to be the new Labour leader.
The people are speaking. They want the New Labour dinosaur to go into extinction. Let us hope the hangers-on get the message.
Evil… or perhaps he’s just confused. George Osborne doesn’t seem to know that his government doesn’t try to influence the way private companies set their prices. (But then, he doesn’t seem to know that his own name is really Gideon.)
Michael Meacher’s latest blog article is really amusing if you think about it in relation to the recent Commons vote on energy prices. He writes:
“It’s really rich that Osborne has tweeted: ‘Vital this (drop in the oil price) is passed on to families at petrol pumps, through utility bills and air fares’.
“He’s spent the last 5 years lambasting Labour in support of the Tory free market mantra that the State should get out of the way and leave it all to the markets.
“Now rather pathetically he’s pleading with market operators to show a dose of fair play rather than exploit a windfall for their own interests which is the natural instinct of capitalism.”
It’s doubly rich when you know that almost his entire Parliamentary Party (Osborne himself wasn’t there, for example) voted against a measure that would force private energy companies to pass the benefits of supplier price drops on to customers by cutting prices.
What is Conservative policy on this, exactly?
Note: Mr Meacher also suggests a future Labour government may take at least one of the Big Six energy companies into public ownership. Naysayers may start queuing up now to get their derisory comments published.
Michael Meacher’s latest blog entry raises concern that the outcome of the 2015 election may depend solely on speculation about the state of the national deficit in 2020.
If this is true, then Yr Obdt Srvt doesn’t think Labour should have any problem securing victory; in the last nearly-five years the Tories have made excruciating cuts to public services that have reduced the deficit minimally – and now the gap between what the government takes and what it spends is rising again.
Mr Meacher points to history for the answer. “The British Establishment’s commitment to fiscal famine and monetary necrophilia in the 1920s-30s, which is being reproduced by Osborne’s policies today, had disastrous consequences,” he writes. By contrast, the Labour government of the 1940s faced a much higher national debt, but “the very high level of the deficit was subsumed in the much more important political objective of post-war national recovery” (as was pointed out recently by Labour leader Ed Miliband).
“The lesson that cries out to be learnt is that whilst the level of the deficit is not unimportant, it is much less important than other objectives, notably sustained economic growth and rising incomes and productivity, paying our way in the world through a revitalised manufacturing sector, and the restoration of full employment,” writes Mr Meacher.
“Do we need a repetition now of the 1930s to learn that fundamental lesson?”
Campaigning group 38 Degrees’ response to the announcement that Circle Holdings is withdrawing from its contract to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
The failure of Circle Holdings’ management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital has one serious consequence for all political parties – but particularly Labour – and it is this: The British public will no longer tolerate any suggestion that private firms should participate in the National Health Service.
The reason Labour is singled out for special attention in this regard is that Labour has made the repeal of the Conservative Party’s Health and Social Care Act a key campaigning pledge (yes, it was passed in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but Andrew Lansley – Conservative – was the MP who spent around seven years working on the legislation in secret while his party leader promised all and sundry, with his ‘sincere’ face on, that the NHS was safe in Tory hands).
Unfortunately for Ed Miliband’s party, such promises are being met with scepticism by the people who should be Labour’s core voters. Only a couple of days ago, Vox Political posted this image to its Facebook page:
Here are some of the responses:
“Labour are just another neoliberal party serving the financial elite,” wrote Max Anstey. “The economic ideology ‘neoliberalism’ involves the privatisation of things. As Labour are neoliberal, they will not renationalise the NHS. A claim to ‘restore’ the NHS is not good enough from a neoliberal party. We need our public services back in our hands.”
Here’s another, by Gareth Jones: “I would love to see an honest resurgence of socialist ideals in this country. I’d love Labour to be Labour again. However, I just don’t see Ed Miliband being the one to bring it about. Ed is no Tony Benn.”
And Janet Kaiser added: “Labour (if it can still be called that) are going to do bugger-all. You can hope as much as you want, but the fact is the party has been taken over by venture capitalists and shouting the contrary is not going to change anything.”
That is the attitude Labour has to overcome. What’s sad is that it is an attitude that, in many ways, Labour has created. Only today, this blog posted a link to an article by Labour MP Michael Meacher in which he criticised his own front bench’s failure to attack the Conservatives over the economy – and much of what he said there can be applied to the NHS as well.
“Why doesn’t Labour hit out against the Tories where it could so easily secure some significant breakthroughs?” he asked. Why indeed.
The voters didn’t want private companies interfering in the NHS when they went to the polls in 2010. Now that they’ve experienced what it means – and don’t forget the Tory NHS crisis that is most clearly being seen in Accident & Emergency departments is also a symptom of this – they are vehemently against it.
Hinchingbrooke is a perfect opportunity for Labour to lay its cards on the table and promise that all of the expensive, bureaucratic and utterly pointless measures imposed by the Tories, to ensure that private firms get preferential treatment in the awarding of NHS contracts, will be removed – and to vow that the NHS will be restored as a state service providing the best care along with the best value for money.
The general public had a field day with the Conservative Pary’s first election campaign poster; now Labour MP Michael Meacher asks, why has the Labour Party been quiet?
The Tories’ first election poster depicts a road wending its way through the countryside till far in the distance, with the motif below: continue with the Tory-led recovery of the economy which the Labour party wrecked, writesMichael Meacher MP.
It’s a theme which will be repeated endlessly up till the election which Labour, astonishingly, has made no attempt to refute – astonishing when it’s not only damaging but completely untrue. Labour has so far confined its presentation of economic policy to demonstrating at great length that whilst the Tories have been offering £7bn [of] unfunded giveaways, Labour is scrupulously sticking to its pledge that it will only promise expenditure that is fully funded. That may well impress the right-wing Tory media (not that they’ll ever give us any credit for it!), but it’s a self-imposed ordinance that will not persuade many voters in the Labour heartlands, who feel fed up and abandoned, to turn out against UKIP.
So why doesn’t Labour hit out against the Tories where it could so easily secure some significant breakthroughs? Take the Tories’ favourite motto of the road to recovery. What the Tories say is flat wrong, big time, on at least three counts. Labour didn’t cause the economic mess, the bankers did – the Tories’ closest friends. Labour wasn’t profligate with the nation’s accounts, the Tories were – the biggest deficit in Labour’s 11 pre-crash years (1997-2008) was 3.3% of GDP whereas the Thatcher-Major governments racked up deficits bigger than that in 10 out of their 18 years. And once the bankers had created the deficit, Labour chose the right way to reduce it; the Tories chose the wrong way. Alastair Darling, the last Labour Chancellor, brought in two stimulus budgets in 2009-10 which dramatically cut the deficit by £40bn in two years; Osborne’s austerity budgets then slowed deficit reduction to a trickle which has now, in this fiscal year, come to a dead stop… To cap it all, the deficit, which is supposed to justify the last 6 awful years of austerity and now the 5 next years when Osborne has declared he will make £30bn more spending cuts, is actually increasing!
The Tories have fired the first shot in the 2015 general election campaign – and it’s a dud.
Their brand-new campaign poster shows a road stretching out through the (presumably British) countryside, and bears the slogan, “Let’s Stay on the Road to a Stronger Economy”. It’s eerily reminiscent of the poster for the 1978 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind – and there’s about as much chance of our economic chances improving under the Tories as there is of alien visitation.
Perhaps the Tories are trying to evoke another image from popular culture:
Either way, they are definitely trying to promote a fantasy.
For comparison’s sake, here’s the actual poster:
The claims beneath the slogan are questionable at best; at worst, outright lies.
“1.75 million more people in work.” Are they? Is that just the number thrown off Jobseekers’ Allowance? Or is it the number of people claiming to be self-employed and claiming tax credits, rather than go through the sanctions minefield that is a JSA claim under the Tory-led Coalition government? Is it the number of people in part-time or zero-hours work?
How many of these people are actually able to pay Income Tax – and thereby contribute to the Coalition’s stated main aim of deficit reduction – as a result of their employment?
“760,000 more businesses.” Are there? As above, how many are people claiming to be self-employed in order to receive tax credits rather than claim JSA? And how many businesses have been ruined over the course of the current, Tory-led, Parliament? Here’s a clue:
That doesn’t look too good, does it?
(Admittedly this graph only runs until 2013 but if one considers the number of new self-employed enterprises – 408,000 in the year to August 2014 alone – and the fact that self-employed income has dropped by 22 per cent since 2008-9, it is possible to work out the facts behind the Tory spin).
“The deficit halved.” Even the BBC have had a go at this! Radio 4’s Six O’clock News contained a segment in which this claim was examined and found wanting, in strict mathematical terms. This is because the deficit stood at around £150 billion when the Tory-led Coalition took over, and is likely to be around £100 billion on election day, May 7. This suggests that just one-third of the deficit has been eliminated.
The claim that the deficit has been halved is justified with reference to economic growth; because the economy has grown, the deficit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is smaller. But this means the Tories have used a fallacious argument to make their point; having referred to the deficit in money terms for the last four and a half years, they have had to try ‘moving the goalposts’(that’s the actual name for this fallacy) in order to make it seem that they have achieved more.
Releasing this poster on an unsuspecting population at a launch in Halifax, David Cameron made it clear that he wanted the Conservatives to be judged on their economic performance. Perhaps he is forgetting that the Tories’ economic performance has been absolutely awful.
Together with George Osborne, he promised in 2010 that the Coalition would eliminate the deficit within its term of office. That time is almost up and it is clear that any government formed after the election will inherit a deficit of at least £80 billion. This government has failed to keep its promise.
Not only that, they promised that the national debt would begin to reduce by the end of the current Parliamentary term, and this has not happened. The national debt is still rising. It currently stands at more than twice its level when the Coalition took office. Mr Osborne is responsible for more debt than every Labour chancellor in history – put together.
And the national debt is still rising!
In fact, all the financial pain endured by ordinary people over the years since May 2010 has been for nothing. Most working households have suffered a real-terms income drop of £1,600 per year – increasing beyond £3,000 per year for those on benefits.
But life has improved for some, hasn’t it?
The richest people in the UK have doubled their wealth since 2009. They have enjoyed huge tax cuts – both in Income Tax and Corporation Tax – the tax companies pay on their profits – while changes made by Osborne to tax law have opened up huge new tax loopholes, allowing them to turn the UK into another tax haven and – again – pay fewer taxes. As pointed out on Charlie Brooker’s ‘2014 Wipe’ (and visible in the video posted on Vox Political yesterday), the current Parliament has seen a transfer of money from the poor to the rich, the like of which is unprecedented in recent years.
That’s right – rich UK citizens have benefited from the Conservatives’ policies. Debt reduction hasn’t had much to do with their plans.
This blog has argued in the past that the current government has been about selling off state assets to private enterprises, in order to create gratitude to the government of the time that is expressed in the form of donations to party funds. The Conservative Party has certainly benefited from this, and has a huge ‘war chest’ of cash to spend on the upcoming election as a result.
And we must also consider the number of millionaires in Cameron’s cabinet, and the Conservatives’ wider circle of acquaintances. Have you ever heard of a kleptocracy?
It’s a form of political corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often with the pretense of honest service. Doesn’t that remind you of the Conservative-led Coalition government?
Voting for the Conservatives is the last thing anyone would do, if they want a more prosperous United Kingdom.
And one last thought: Who wants the Tory version of a stronger economy at the cost of human lives? It’s only money, but more than 10,000 people have died because of Tory policies aimed at enriching their friends. It is a price that nobody should be forced to pay.
This writer got all of the above from the Tories’ new election poster.
David Cameron said it was “firing the starting gun” for the election.
It was the political equivalent of shooting himself in the head.
What should be the 10 pledges that Labour should make to maximize its vote for 7 May 2015? asks Michael Meacherin his latest blog piece.
If you want to know what he says about them, visit his blog but the 10 points can be summed up neatly as:
1. End austerity.
2. Revive British manufacturing.
3. Revive full employment.
4. Introduce the Living Wage, across the whole of the UK.
5. End in-work poverty.
6. Tax excessive wealth.
7. End and reverse privatisations and outsourcing within the NHS.
8. End the ‘Free Schools’ project.
9. End tax evasion.
10. Build more social housing and impose rent controls on private landlords.
Some of these – like the Living Wage, wealth taxes, NHS re-nationalisation, ending Free Schools and the social housing plans – are already Labour policies, built into the party’s plans for government following the general election on May 7 next year.
All of them follow the rough outline of the problems facing the UK that Ed Miliband sketched out in 2012 or 2013: That the decline in living standards must be reverse; that the economy must be properly re-balanced to create a fairer and more equal society (David Cameron and George Osborne lied when they claimed they were going to achieve this; they never intended to do anything of the kind); and that the tax system must be overhauled to ensure that, in a tough economic climate, everybody pays their fair share into the Treasury, and everybody receives their fair share in return. We have seen, recently, how the poorest pay the most in taxes and receive the least in return, thanks to the machinations of the Tories and Liberal Democrats; this proposes a restoration of a fairer society.
This blog is often criticised for defending the Labour Party above all else, or in the face of the facts about it. A commenter did so only today, in fact (Boxing Day).
But here’s the thing: UKIP has turned the European Union into its great enemy, claiming that leaving the EU will make everything all right. Living standards will not improve one iota as a direct result of such a move; in fact they’ll probably decline.
If you’re in Scotland, the nationalists have turned Westminster into their great enemy, claiming that leaving the UK will make everything all right. Can you guess what effect that would have on living standards? None – or more decline; they lost a referendum about it but still they persist.
The Conservative Party has turned the Welfare State into the enemy, claiming that cutting public spending on the benefits that help keep many people alive and well will make everything all right. That argument doesn’t even stand up to the most superficial examination yet still they make it. Perhaps they want to discover if we really are gullible enough to accept it.
Labour is the only party to have correctly identified the real problems facing the country, and to be actively seeking real solutions, it seems.
But is Michael Meacher proposing the right solutions? Is Ed Miliband?
Let’s have your opinions (but please support them with some reasoning; we laugh at unsupported, bald statements here).
“Despite being ahead of the Tories on every policy area bar one- the economy, where the Tories now lead by a full 25% – Labour now seems transfixed by trying to outdo them in promises of austerity, a bigger turn-off for voters than it’s possible to imagine,” writes Mr Meacher, echoing words published in this blog only days ago.
“Labour has allowed itself to be outflanked by Tory claims that
It was responsible for the financial crash (as though the bankers had nothing to do with it),
Osborne’s recovery has repaired the damage (as though the ‘recovery’ isn’t fragile and unsustainable, with no demand to promote growth), and
Austerity is the only way forward (when it has failed on every count, including the crucial one of rapidly reducing the deficit, which is now actually rising).
“Why should disillusioned electors vote for Labour when it insists it’s going to be at least as tough as Osborne in enforcing austerity for another five years?”
Why indeed. Any answers, Mr Balls? Mr Miliband?
“Voters need hope: why doesn’t Labour get behind a policy of public investment to expand the economy, create jobs, raise incomes and government revenues, and thus pay down the deficit far more quickly and effectively than endless spending cuts?”
Vox Political has been saying this since the blog was founded back in 2011.
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