Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Sale is cancelled...

"Potential privatisations worth more than £6bn have stalled or been ruled out by the government because of difficult markets, regulatory concerns or political problems, analysis by the Financial Times has shown."

Apart from the venture capital company, CDC, items in the sale were to include :-
- Urenco, the uranium enrichment company
- the UK Atomic Energy Authority
- the state’s one-third stake in the Atomic Weapons Establishment (who owns the other two thirds?)

"The government’s main cash-raising focus is now on selling land and property, rather than businesses. Gordon Brown, as chancellor, set a goal of raising £30bn between 2004 and 2011 by selling off fixed assets. A further £6bn is due to be raised by selling off student loans, once legislation now going through Parliament allows this."

Selling the family silver is hardly the action of sound financial management and is a Tory trick. Oh sorry - yes, we are a labour government.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Crisis in Caracas?

There is a major referendum today in Venezuela, granting Hugo Chavez the opportunity to stand for election beyond a fixed number of terms. Many see this as a step toward totalitarianism and students in their thousands came out to protest "Not like this" on Thursday. Reuters

But there is also a document in circulation claimed to be from a CIA operative in Caracas to CIA Director General Michael Hayden, uncovered yesterday, outlining a plan for interfering with a Venezuelan referendum set for Dec. 2, and laying out the steps for instigating and backing a coup. The plot, called "Operation Pliers," and laid out in the letter to Hayden by an undercover operative named Michael Steele, who reportedly works in the US Embassy as a "regional affairs officer," was intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence and released publicly on state TV yesterday. Associated Press. Another blog that has reported this in the peak oil forum has, by some coincidence, been hacked. Peak Oil Forum. I would point out though that the veracity of this document is yet to proved. operation-pliers. For more detail on the memorandum see :- IndyMedia Belgium

In response Chavez is threatening to cut-off oil exports to the US and possibly elsewhere thus creating the shortage that will fuel a massive price increase in black gold if there's evidence of interference in the referendum. He is also joining a call to price oil in the more stable Euro rather than US Dollars.

No doubt Bush and his cohorts will be fully aware of this power that Venezuela has, and they may react badly when they are cornered. A mistaken image mix-up by the CNN Spanish service ask a question "who killed him" under an picture of Chavez, how predictive is this?

Friday, 30 November 2007

The Criris (reposted from 'Labourhome'_

It is time for us to be pretty blunt and self-critical as a party, and some big decisions and changes are necessary. The crisis in the party and the government has reached a critical point, and waiting it out is no longer an option.

Let us be absolutely frank about the origins of this crisis.From 1994 onwards, people in the Labour Party have sought to move away from our traditional reliance on money from our members and from trade unions (money that is clean, democratic and public) to money from wealthy individuals (money that is too often dodgy, questionable - at best - and secretive). The reason for this move has been political and ideological. Part of the New Labour project was always to break the link with the unions, and the Blair team felt that replacing a reliance on union funding with a reliance on private funding was the future. Becoming a party that, like the Tories, was funded by wealthy individuals, would help it distance itself from its past and its position at the heart of the labour movement, into being a new, one-nation party, friend of big business and capital.
This caused problems for us from the outset. Remember Bernie Ecclestone? But in Blair's early period the memory of Tory sleaze and the Teflon Tony phenomena meant that the mud didn't stick. It is only in the context of policy errors and disasters that this fundamental ideological funding error has begun to prove disastrous for us as a party.As confidence and trust in the government was shaken by a series of events - Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction; the breaking of manifesto pledges (just how had we "legislated to prevent" top-up fees?); an increasing number of blunders and competence questions - the spotlight was thrown on funding and first the cash for peerages, and now the dodgy donations scandal have left the Labour government we have spent our lives working for in very serious danger.
Even if it were to be shown that people acted in good faith in this business, and nobody knowingly broke the law (something which it is actually quite hard to believe) it is the culture at the centre of the party which needs to be revolutionised if we are to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again.There needed to be a much more fundamental change at the end of the Blair era. As such it was an historic mistake - one which the PLP must bear responsibility for - to avoid a leadership contest and facilitate the much-yearned-for 'dignified handover' - a process which signalled to people inside and outside the party: 'business as usual'. That's in the past and cannot now be put right, but there are things that can be done:A cap on spending at elections is essential.
A very low cap on individuals' donations should be examined very seriously as well.
Jon Mendelson and anybody else associated with this big money culture needs to go.
Any undeclared issues about funding must come out now, and not be allowed to drip out over the coming weeks. There does not have to be a general election until 2010; this situation CAN be recovered, but it is not going to be easy, and there may have to be more bloodletting before we can start the rebuilding.
As for the rebuilding - this can't just be on party funding issues. Brown has got to put a stronger and more diverse team around him: if he continues to be the only dominant figure in government then he risks bringing the whole government down every time he opens his mouth. We have a much greater reservoir of talent on the Labour benches than the Tories or the Liberals have, but we are currently using it very ill. A major reshuffle is required.
We can't afford too many more weeks like the last few.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Which way forward for the left?

There has been a serious debate going on about an aspect of last Saturdays Labour Representation Committee conference (17th November in Holborn, London).

The question has arisen over the support of non labour candidates at future elections.

My view is that this really is the type of storm in the tea cup issue that mars the development of many left wing organisations and therefore I would like to demonstrate my particular view and adding a few other thoughts.

People may or may not be aware that the LRC is open to non labour party members. Non LP members of the LRC have voting rights at LRC conferences .The proviso being that it is agreed not to stand against Labour at elections. A LP member campaigning against the Labour Party would get expelled.

All Labour lefts want to preserve their position that the LP will once again be the voice for working people and social change even though the climate at the LP top over the last 20 years has been one opposed to this view. The low to non existent level of workers participation in the CLPs, the drop in over 200’000 members since 1997 and the virtual elimination of democracy in the party, have given the right wing Labour Party bureaucracy an incredibly strong position.

Therefore ‘Reclaiming’ the party, a sensible demand put forward notably by some of the awkward squad of TU leaders and previously pushed by many on the LP left, is not on the agenda at this stage.

The appraisal of the work of the Labour Left, expressed in the LRC, the Grassroots Alliance and the Campaign Group needs to begin now and a realignment of how they organise and orientate themselves with a view to reaching out to the huge layers of discontent amongst our natural allies in the UK working class. It will be a long and patient process.

Once the working class starts to challenge the power that the bosses have built for themselves in the last period, we could then see a shift that could develop the LP into a fighting organisation.

The organic link to the Trade Unions in this case has to be preserved in order for the effect of class struggle in the workplace to echo in the LP. Incidentally this process has historically happened before and there have been frequent filling up and emptying out of the mass Labour party with the pressure of workers pushing the party to the left.

It will be a slow process ,but while the debate on workers representation develops there seriously is a case for cutting the money supply from the TUs to the LP while protecting the affiliation and bringing TU sponsored MPs to account to implement their Unions policies. Simply leaving the party would be a disaster.

The direction of the LRC and demonstrated by John McDonnell in recent Morning Star articles is that the left should look outside of the structures of the Labour Party as it stands now, to reach out to broad based campaigns over environmental, trade union and local community issues. This is an entirely laudable and sensible approach with the huge potential of uniting large sections of the left from both inside and outside the LP. It will focus attention on the issues that matter to working people rather than the tired old method of trying to form a ‘new electoral initiative’ that in every attempt over the last 15 odd years has failed to gain votes or imploded into sectarian division.

My view is that we should unite and campaign around the serious issues that unite us 99% of the time and work separately the 1% of the time, in this case at elections, where we have disagreement over the role of the Labour Party.

This is not a contradictory position. I fully respect the Socialist Party or the Socialist Workers Party or any other group, in their attempts at forming new workers parties. Many good socialists and trade unionists have chosen this route and again I respect that.

I am not a syndicalist and totally support participation in elections where the vast majority of working people demand it and participate in it but I am tired of the debate that surrounds this issue of standing in elections, especially at a time when the interest in elections by working class people has fallen and will continue to fall, to an all time low. Consider the turnouts at local elections. Is it worth all that work?

I’ll tell you what. Can we agree to disagree and get on with the real task of supporting our communities, our public services and fellow trade unionists in their struggle against the dominant neo liberal agenda.

If the RMT, an affiliate of the LRC, choose to stand a candidate at the London local authority/ Mayor election that will be up to them. It shouldn’t be an issue that divides the LRC. There will probably be some LP members that will vote for ‘the socialist candidate’ while not outwardly campaigning for them. Similarly would the non Labour left support progressive socialist MPs like John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn where they stand because of the excellent role they play as socialists in Parliament. Would they campaign for them?

The class struggle doesn’t and shouldn’t stop at election times.

You can follow all aspects of the debate here at these excellent blogs.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Labour: A Broad Church and A Good Thing.

In conversation at the Labour Students political weekend, I had to dispel some misunderstandings about the Labour-left, which ranged from a prosaic idea that we hadn't changed our policies since 1983 to the more interesting canard that John McDonnell was a member of the AWL!

But the biggest question I was asked was what incentive I had to support a party which wasn't implementing policies anything like those I would choose for myself. There are a number of reasons, which I will try to lay out here:

First, my answer must be tempered with political pragmatism, since if I wasn't seriously interested in changing anything I would join or start a micro-sect, and be perfectly happy calling for the heads of MPs from my party newsletter.

Secondly, the longer I am in the UK, the more Labour members I meet - both activists and people who are fairly inactive members - and the more I learn about why or why not they support this or that policy; why they believe in or feel comfortable stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors for the party. And you know what? Even in the most stalwart Blairite lies a pure heart. A desire for good change; a need to know that the party's policies will produce better results for the least well-off and the most marginalised in our society.

I have spent most of my life outside the Labour Party, and now I'm inside it, I haven't stopped criticising its policies or talking about political scandals on our side of the fence. Politics is a game where even a slight change in legislation or policy can make an enormous amount of difference, and the party democracy of the Labour Party allows good people who believe that progressive change can be exacted in all different kinds of ways to remain within it with clear consciences and to try to campaign for a better future.

Thirdly, this is more than just a feelgood project where everyone must agree - as a party we want to hold power in order to exercise it for the good, and the new ideas required to stay in power will always come from the margins, whether they're the party's left, right, liberal or radical margins. If we want to have a party which stays in the same place and never innovates, we may as well get that micro-sect started.

Finally, I think we all like to see the Tories getting a good kicking now and again, don't we?

"Labour is the place where the greatest impact can be had today. I remain convinced that it is a workers' party and that it is the job of any socialist to be a member and fight for it." - Tami Petersen

"So here's vow number one: holding a Labour Party card won't shut me up." - Dave Osler

"No, I still think the Labour Party offers us the opportunity of a mass workers' party. But at the same time my campaign was completely non-sectarian, working across political campaigns and that's the future. We want to see a broad united front on a whole series of issues and industrial struggles will be part of that." - John McDonnell

Monday, 29 October 2007

Protest Against The Saudi Visit

Socialist Youth Network
Youth Wing of the Labour Representation Committee

Wednesday 31st October 6pm – 8pm
Saudi Embassy, 30 -32 Charles Street, W1J 5DZ
For directions, see:,-0.145741&spn=0.008641,0.010235&z=16&om=1

Speakers include: Yahya al-Alfaifi (Saudi trade unionist), Katy Clark MP, John McDonnell MP, Marsha-Jane Thompson (SYN Co-Chair), Sandy Mitchell (former British prisoner in Saudi Arabia), Murad Qureshi AM, Peter Tatchell

The Saudi dictator King Abdullah al Saud has been invited by the British Government on a 3-day visit from 30th October to 1st November.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive societies on earth. It has no political parties, free elections, independent media or trade unions. Human rights violations are rampant – including the lack of basic rights for women, the repression of gays, the widespread use of torture, amputations and public executions.

This protest has been called to oppose British support for this repressive tyranny – and to stop our foreign policy being dictated by the oil and defense industries. Just recently, Britain sold 72 Eurofighters to the dictators in Riyadh .

Please spread the word far and wide – and make sure as many people as possible speak out against these murderous thugs.

John McDonnell MP has also tabled Early Day Motion 2102 opposing the state visit. Please ask your MP to sign it by getting in touch with them at - it only takes a couple of minutes of your time but will make a huge difference.

For more information, please contact the co-chairs of SYN:
Owen Jones – / 07870331835
Marsha-Jane Thompson – / 07983592998

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Respect Implodes Shock!! Why the left needs to organise itself

I expect I could get me head kicked in for this but here goes.

The whole left blogging world seems to have fallen into a morass of self destructive navel gazing over the latest episode to engulf the Galloway/Respect project. Only, it would really be sad if it wasn’t for the fact that in reality Respect doesn’t have any, growing or otherwise, any influence on the wider working class. More of that later.

The SWP tactic of creating a reformist organisation for them to be a faction in had ‘doomed to failure’ written all over it from the start. For example, while I disagree with using the word ‘ communalist’ I think it was apparently obvious that the main orientation was to the Muslim population in the inner cities. This non class approach became obvious when it pandered to sections of the Muslim community that had far from socialistic/working class ideology. I believe this became a problem for many genuine SWPers who could see the contradiction.

The other problem was the man Galloway. While I could only applaud his stand against the war as a Labour MP and his confrontation with the US senate which received world wide attention, I believe the guy is a complete maverick and not a good left wing maverick at that. Compared to Left Labour MPs, John McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn, the guy was a light weight and someone I would position on the soft left. You could arguably understand the need to focus the left around this character but it would always have to be short term.

Before Respect supporters start going on about their so many councillors and the fact that they have one MP lets try and attain a sense of proportion. This was no new start for the left; never was. It was an attempt to very roughly arrange certain tendencies within the anti war movement into a coalition that could absorb the millions of disaffected Labour voters and members that have haemorrhaged out of the Labour Party. It cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination, a launch of a workers party similar to what became the Labour Party in the early part of the 20th Century.

Anyway , that is only my humble opinion and I feel it would be completely counterproductive to go over the ground that our excellent blogging comrades are currently doing (links below)

Now, I am not going to condemn any socialist in making an effort to unify politically, independently, to the left of Labour. Indeed I have applauded the few socialists who have achieved remarkable election results in council elections north and south of the border.

Where I have to drawn the line is over the question of the validity, at this stage anyway , for any socialist independent, standing in elections, considering the complete hammering they will undoubtedly receive. Of course there are quite valid arguments for this; downturn in class struggle, fall of the old soviet union, lack of class consciousness amongst workers, we have heard them all.

But why do socialist have to beat themselves up orientating around an election, with all the time and money spent , and only achieving, at best 6 or 7% of the vote? There are surely more fruitful areas of work where all socialists can unite and fight together ?

The left as a force in the UK is much too weak to face the massive election machines of the three main parties. We must orientate ourselves to areas where we can and are strong. Trade Union struggle, the anti war movement and the defence of public services. I would also strongly recommend getting involved with international solidarity movements such as the Hands off Venezuela campaign (which coincidentally is headed by John McDonnell MP, he gets everywhere these days!!).

Posted earlier was John McDonnells comments about where the left has to direct itself if it is to become relevant to the UK working class and indeed the wider movement that involves community groups, environmentalists and most importantly, the Trade Unions. It is of utmost importance now that those sections of the CNWP and Respect get together with Socialists still remaining organised in the Labour Party to create a new movement that can attract support around the 99% of issues that do unite us and not fall out over the 1% (ie elections) that doesn’t.

So, cant we start talking? Hold up your own banner by all means but there is no reason why we couldn't organise under the banner or the LRC (which incidentally is the only part of the organised left that has affiliations from the FBU, RMT and the CWU, unions involved in struggle against New Labour over the last 6-7 years. I haven't noticed any of them affiliating to Respect or the CNWP) and work together against the war privatisation and supporting workers in struggle with their employer.

As an aside, I just want to briefly comment on the type of sectarianism that puts a complete brake on any progress towards socialist unity. The Organising For Fighting Unions and the Shop Stewards Network are both bold and correct attempts to organise amongst our re awakening trade unions.

Why haven't we got one organisation? Is it because the SWP runs one and the SP is dominant in the other? Come on comrades, do you want me to bang your heads together? This division only benefit’s the Bosses who thrive on a divided working class.

Links with loads of debate about the Respect issue can be found here

Saturday, 6 October 2007

An Early Election?

We may hear today whether Gordon is going to opt for an early election: the BBC News is suggesting as early as November 1st.

What impact might this have on the left? On a practical basis it could mean that out-standing selections could be rushed through, with the possible result of parachuting in people where otherwise left-wingers might have been selected. I speak personally indeed - as I have put my hat in the ring for Skipton and Ripon, but couldn't possibly be the candidate for 1st November. It could prevent Tony Benn getting Kensington, and there must be other similar cases elsewhere. Okay, these won't be in Labour's safe or even target seats, but it is still an important thing to consider.

If we win with a big majority, then we have to take the opportunity to put forward socialist policies and try and pressure Gordon Brown to implement them. I think we would have to acknowledge that Gordon Brown would then remain leader for 4 to 5 years at least, and our efforts would certainly not be concentrated on the next leadership election.

We don't like to think about it, of course, but what if David Cameron is Prime Minister before Christmas? That would obviously be an enormous challenge for everyone in the party, not just on the left, to ensure that he was Prime Minsiter for as short a time as possible, and that we were swept back into power. A lot needs to be said about that.

The final possibility is that Brown is returned as Prime Minister but with little or no majority. Clearly not desirable (apart from the obvious disadvantages it would probably have meant us losing some very good MPs): however it is another scenario that requires a strategy.

I said that was the final possibility, but of course Brown could decide (perhaps this is still the most likely) not to hold an election until June next year (or later, indeed). After all, we know from the leadership debacle that Brown likes to eliminate all risk: why risk losing his long-longed-for prize any earlier than he need do? The scenario also requires a strategy.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

John McDonnell in the Morning Star

Very interesting article written by John in yesterdays Morning Star (Sat 29th September)

I think it is crucial that the points he makes and conclusions he draws are debated in the wider movement. The issue of Labour Representation is not going to go away. Far from it, as workers move into struggle, more and more will be drawing Political conclusions and the Labour Left will have to think a little more 'outside of the box' when it comes to trying to attract the workers to the ideas of Socialism.

There is a debate over at Socialist Unity blog ( )

AFTER the events at the TUC and Labour Party conference, it is time for the left to take a hard-nosed look at where we go from here.
First of all, we have to face up to the harsh realities of the new political world in which we are operating.

The historical path of the left stems from working people coming together in the workplace and discovering their strength through solidarity. Nourished by socialist ideas, they recognised that, if they wanted to exercise power beyond the workplace, they needed political representation. So the Labour Party was born.
Democratic party structures were established to develop the policy programmes to be implemented when power was achieved.

This week’s vote to close down democratic decision-making at the Labour Party conference and Gordon Brown’s first speech as leader demonstrated that the old strategy is largely over. The conference is now virtually irrelevant and its replacement, the National Policy Forum, is a behind-closed-doors exercise of centralised control of party policy-making.

Brown’s speeches at both the TUC and Labour conference demonstrated decisively how much he fundamentally believes in the principles of neoliberalism - the dominance of the market, flexible labour and privatisation.
Even if there was the potential to use what is left of the party’s structures to attempt to influence him, it is clear that the overall political direction of the Brown government is non-negotiable.

The left has the difficult task of accepting and explaining to others that the old routes into the exercise of power and influence involving internal Labour Party mobilisations and manoeuvres have largely been closed down. We have to face up to the challenge of identifying and developing new routes into effective political activity.

The contradiction is that the more undemocratic the Labour Party becomes, the more it cuts itself off from the real world at a time when new social movements are emerging.
People may be increasingly giving up on political parties, but they haven’t given up on politics. They still want to challenge the injustices they meet in our society and they are devising a multitude of mechanisms to do so, from independent media and climate camps to affinity groups organising direct action.

New social movements have mobilised on a vast array of issues ranging from climate change, asylum rights, to housing and arms sales. Many trade unions have also rediscovered their roots as social movements themselves in their new campaigns on everything from private equity to the exploitation of migrant workers.

New alliances are being forged and, where trade union leaderships have been incorporated as supporters of the status quo, rank-and-file activity within their unions is re-emerging and organising.

The difficult task for the left now is to appreciate that new strategies, new coalitions of forces and, above all else, a new dynamism are needed to deal with the new political environment where the traditional routes have been so narrowed.

The left needs to open itself to co-operation with progressive campaigns within our community, learning from them, treating them with mutual respect, rejecting any patronising or sectarian approach and, where needed, to serve as the catalyst to instigate and facilitate campaigning activity. Creativity is also needed to stimulate the analysis, debate and discussion of the ideas and principles which we may share in our wish to transform our society.

The main political parties are increasingly seen as irrelevant to the real-world issues facing our communities, resulting in declining participation rates and election turnouts and deepening scepticism.

This doesn’t mean that people are apathetic. Far from it.
There is a growing radical nature to our times and an opportunity for a period of exciting, frenetic activity capable of creating a climate of progressive hegemony which no government could immunise itself from no matter how ruthlessly it closes down democracy in its own party.

John McDonnell is Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington. His book Another World is Possible: A manifesto for 21st century socialism is available to buy online, price £2.50 inc p&p at or by sending a cheque payable to LRC to PO Box 2378, London, E5 9QU.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Milliband's sentence on Branches and CLPs

From his speech on

So local parties will get more support to hold their own discussions on policy and be able to invite in people from the community who can help. Every member will be invited to a regional policy forum with ministers. Every member who takes part will now be kept informed as policy develops.

And now there will be one member one vote.
Not just for selecting candidates
Or electing the leader

But [also] one member one vote on the programme they will stand on.

Reading this I can only see that OMOV will only be granted to those members who can afford to take time off work to attend these forums. How will they be informed of them? If there's a snap election then once again an opportunity to vote on something will be removed from a large proportion of members - so why should we trust this new OMOV? He goes on :-
So what are these programmes?

How we engage people beyond our membership.

Political change, whether it is local, national or international, doesn't happen because of politicians or political parties alone. Debt relief for the world's poorest countries happened because we campaigned and reached out beyond our party. And if we think about the coming years, we need a Labour Party that can reach out again, changing minds and attitudes on issues from child poverty to climate change.

And we need to recognise that real change in communities only comes when people are part of it. Whether it is a new zebra crossing, getting drug dealers off the streets, or better youth services, we can only do it by being rooted in communities we serve.

As a local MP I say to people: I can't solve the problems on my own. I need your help.

So local Labour parties need to be --- as many already are---community organisations showing people the difference we can make by working together.

And there will be new support for local parties to do that. And that's how we will recruit new members and build a stronger party.
At the start of this section he talks about national issues and policy, but when he gets to the grass-roots - the only discussions appear to be about LOCAL politics. This to me heralds the end of CLPs - putting all the power into either the PLP - who will no doubt be funded and supported by the party/big business; or by those elected councillors - who are solely focussed on battling with the opposition in council on local issues only. When will they have time to focus on local forums about national policy?

Parliamentary selections will be controlled by who? Head Office? Where does the ordinary supportive member get his say on national issues in a local forum with friends, comrades and experienced executive committees? Without this backing new members will never develop - or indeed ever understand the machinations of the party.

Is ignorance bliss?

IMHO this is the most dangerous attack on democracy I've yet to witness.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Tony Benns comment in the Guardian Today

Grimmupnorth refered to this in her blog this am. I thought I would reproduce it in full for comment and discussion.

My last real conference?
Delegates must veto New Labour's bid to reduce the party membership to a glorified fan club Tony BennThursday September 20, 2007The Guardian

Next week's may be the last real Labour conference I shall attend after 65 years membership of the party. For if constitutional amendments put forward by the leadership are accepted, delegates will no longer be permitted to pass any resolutions on any policy questions.
The argument put forward is that when there is a Labour government it is unacceptable for members of the party, at conference, to be able to vote for policies that are in conflict with government policy. This process began in the 90s, when New Labour came to power and most proposals were referred to the national policy forum in which the government had a permanent majority.
But it was agreed that eight resolutions could be put to the conference every year - four from constituency parties and four from the unions. The conference was able, for instance, to vote for a restoration of the link between pensions and earnings. The government did, however, succeed in preventing discussion on other sensitive issues like Iraq and its decision to go ahead with Trident.
If the new proposals - now endorsed by the NEC and apparently some major trade unions - are accepted, delegates will only be allowed to identify issues they want looked at by the policy forums, and the manifesto that emerges will be put to a referendum of party members to accept or reject in full, with no possibility of amendment. This would complete the New Labour project under which the conference becomes a platform for ministers and a few handpicked delegates - and, of course, a big trade fair. There would be no point in joining the party locally or affiliating as a union in the hope of discussing policy.
In short, party members will only have one campaigning function - to get councillors and a government elected with policies which they have played no part whatsoever in formulating. If this divorce happens, policy campaigning will revert to those outside the party and parliament. This would be a tragedy, but it would indicate clearly that the New Labour leadership's attitude to the party and the movement is not only that they don't want certain policies passed but also that they don't want any decisions reached they do not control.
Of course this would also affect MPs, who would become elected "civil servants". I very much hope conference rejects the change, and makes clear that it intends to strengthen its role in policymaking; this the delegates in Bournemouth will have the power to do. But those who want to deal with issues not on the government's agenda will have to campaign vigorously outside parliament and build a body of opinion so strong no political party would be able to ignore it. Since I left parliament, all my work has been along those lines - against the Iraq war, privatisation, student loans; and for comprehensive education, union and workers' rights, civil liberties and public housing. The focus of these campaigns has hitherto been the conference, but if that opportunity is removed, the party will deprive itself of the support of activists when polling day comes.
Conference will then be an annual meeting for the fan club of the parliamentary bigwigs and their business friends. Even the fringe meetings which are now so vibrant could disappear, because those who attend them will know the issues they are interested in will never get on to the conference floor.
That is the choice that has to be made in Bournemouth - and it is the biggest decision since the party was founded, for it could also end the role of parliament as the buckle that links the demonstrations on the street to the legislation on the statute book upon which democracy itself depends.

· Tony Benn's latest book, More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-07, is published by Hutchinson next month

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Bush setting America up for war with Iran

No, I don't read the Telegraph, but I picked up this link from a Peak Oil blog.

Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran's nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail.
Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran....The intelligence officer said that the US military has "two major contingency plans" for air strikes on Iran. "One is to bomb only the nuclear facilities. The second option is for a much bigger strike that would - over two or three days - hit all of the significant military sites as well. This plan involves more than 2,000 targets."

This guy reminds me of my eighteen month old nephew - once he's knocked over one pile of bricks he looks for another.

Other discussions indicate Bush's fear is over the Straits of Hormuz. The US fears that, in retribution for their invasion of Iraq, other countries in the area will block exports of oil to the US through this route

It's going to happen folks - he's already got the new French foreign minister to rattle sabres in tandem with the US. - Iran scorns French warning of war: BBC News

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Twigg ousts Wareing

Another Campaign grouper has been ousted - this time it's Bob Wareing who failed to get reslected by his constituency who chose Twigg instead.

The Campaign group looks like collapsing to about a dozen at this rate.

Is the Labour really saveable anymore?

Friday, 7 September 2007


Hi Everybody. I'm just writing this to inform you of some recent changes and updates that I have made to this forum. These include:

-Updating the link to John McDonnell's blog (and removing the double link);

-Removing the the double link to Grim up North;

-Merging the "Left Blogs" and "Interesting Links" sections

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

To our brothers in Parliament: unionise!

Mike earlier began an excellent thread on how Labour High Command are picking off troublesome backbenchers one by one.

There is only one solution: an agreement between today's backbench 'mavericks' in the name of protecting the diversity of opinion which will lead to future election victories. The oldest left trick in the book: a union.

Monday, 6 August 2007

BAA wins injunction

Big business still in control

The annoying thing is that they have banned the local group NOTRAG - which comprises all those people severely affected by the third runway and thus would have the highest support.

Instead of queuing at the check-in - why not enjoy the workshops being held nearby:-

Monday, 30 July 2007

Gordon in the Washington Post

Partnership for the Ages By Gordon Brown
Monday, July 30, 2007; Page A15

"....I have come to the United States to affirm the historic partnership of shared purpose that unites our two countries.....our Atlantic partnership is rooted in something far more fundamental and lasting than common interests or even common history: It is anchored in shared ideals that have for two centuries linked the destinies of our two countries. Winston Churchill spoke of what he called "the joint inheritance" of Britain and America. ...The joint inheritance he wrote of was a shared belief in what he called "the great principles of 'freedom and the rights of man.' " Values that started with the British idea of liberty -- from our bill of rights to English common law -- found their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence....

...And when today, at my meeting with President Bush, I speak of a joint inheritance not just of shared history but shared values founded on a shared destiny, I mean the idea that everyone is created equal, that all faiths should be free to express their beliefs...It is these ideas that bind us and give us strength to work together to face down every challenge ahead -- from the danger of nuclear proliferation, global poverty and climate change to, today, the biggest single and immediate challenge the world has to defeat: global terrorism that is hostile and hateful to all the values we this generation we defend together the ideal of freedom against the terrorist threat.

In this century, it has fallen to America to take center stage. And let me acknowledge the debt the world owes to the United States for its leadership in this struggle....It is our shared task to expose terrorism for what it is -- not a cause but a crime. A crime against humanity....So today the struggles of the 21st century are the battles that engage military might which we have been fighting together in Iraq and Afghanistan and through NATO -- and they are also the battles of ideas....during the Cold War, the united front against Soviet communism involved deterrence through large arsenals of weapons and a cultural effort also on an unprecedented scale, deploying what Roosevelt called the "arsenal of democracy." ...Foundations, trusts, ...universities, museums, unions... -- were all engaged. ...newspapers, ... the arts and literature sought to expose the difference between moderation and violent extremism.

...the way ahead is to support all communities in developing a strong identity resistant to violent extremists trying to recruit vulnerable young people....We must expose the contrast between great objectives to tackle global poverty and honor human dignity, and the evils of terrorists who would bomb and maim people irrespective of faith...

And just as we are united in tackling global terrorism, so we are united in our belief that globalization should be seen as an opportunity and not simply a threat. This is why I know that by working together we can restart the Doha round of world trade...And ...we cannot stand by and watch the humanitarian crisis in Darfur without taking action to speed up the deployment of U.N.-African Union troops, call for an immediate cease-fire and, following America's lead, impose sanctions if necessary. ...

Monday, 23 July 2007

Frank Cook MP

One of the few decent MPs left, Frank Cook has failed to get automatically reselected by his constituency and now faces reselection in Stockton North. It will now go to an open contest.
According to another forum, likely runners alongside Cook are Unison President Norma Stephenson and the Brownite former Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Barbara Roche.

Any thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Poverty in the UK

This morning's report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will come as no surprise to those of us who have repeatedly raised the issue of poverty and the damaging effects of free market economics on the population of the UK.

However, they are useful in isolating a few key points.

The first few things which leap from the page on reading the report are:

  • how the much-maligned 1970s saw a reduction in both the very poor and very rich
  • how little has changed since the 1980s to redress the damage done by Thatcherism
  • what Will Hutton called the 30-40-30 split is more accurately a 25-50-25 split between the poor, middle and wealthy.

One interesting point is how, since the 1990s, the number of very poor ("core poor") has declined but the number of breadline poor has increased. One persuasive explanation put forward for this is that the numbers of unemployed have fallen as the number of people working for a pittance has increased i.e. people are moved off unemployment benefit onto low-wage jobs.

This confirms what we have learned both anecdotally and statistically about the effects of the minimum wage. The Labour Government of the past few years ought to be congratulated on its introduction (and the lack of recession) but substituting "breadline poverty" for "core poverty" is hardly the great step forward which many of us might have expected from ten years of a Labour Government.

The urgency of the COFUP campaign has never seemed greater.

As a final aside, this report interested me particularly as, by coincidence, I started reading some of Charles Booth's reports on poverty in 19th century London this morning. The improvements to working people's lives made by the welfare state need hardly be remarked on again. What is so shameful is that which has not changed. Immigrant workers in particular are still overworked and underpaid.

Neither Charles Booth nor the Rowntree Foundation (both well intentioned middle-class reformers) offers much in the way of solutions. Those solutions must be presented and fought for by us in the Labour Party and the trade unions.

Any thoughts?

Monday, 16 July 2007


Utterly stressed out after five-hour journey from Llangollen ( third of three trains broke down at Rochdale) so not much coherent thought today. Saw Jose Carreras last night and he was fab....truly in a different League from all the pub singer wannabees who currently hit the headlines. A great experience. Soaked in the Welsh rain and atmosphere and spent some time finishing the second volume of Michael Foot's famous biography of Nye Bevan ( which I picked up in Oxfam the other week) .The trials and tribulations which Bevan suffered at the behest of the right of the Party (almost getting expelled at one point) make for strangely familiar reading. And bit depressing to note that Bevan, who died in 1960 when I was a baby, would I wager still be pretty unimpressed with Party policy , the right-wing bureaucrats and trade union leaders' timidity when challenging the staus quo. Bet he would have loved Carreras , though.....

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Peak Oil

With oil set to reach $80 per barrel in the next few days, this topic will affect our international politics in the coming months. With the US government finally producing a report admitting the potential of Oil depletion in the near future and it's impact on world economy, parliament have started to act.

U.K. Parliament Members Form `Peak Oil' Group to Study Reserves

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. parliament formed a group to study peak oil, the theory that world oil production is approaching its zenith, as British lawmakers face up to the country's future as an energy importer.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, which held its first meeting June 26, comprises 32 members of the House of Commons, or lower chamber, and seven from the House of Lords, or upper chamber.
It aims to collate predictions for when production may peak and consider the implications for energy policy, rather than push a particular view, said the group's chairman, John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, central England.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas (APPGOPO) now has a website:

They are holding an open meeting at Portcullis House on the 24th (see website) with a presentation from David Strahan author of a recent book on oil depletion - he doesn't appear to be the most conservative of the ever-growing group of authors on this topic - but perhaps a shock is what is needed - or will it turn-off the audience? If anyone can get along to it I would love to hear about it.

I could argue that Peak Oil is imminent or that's it's a ploy by BIG OIL to push up prices. But I think policies for reducing car use must be implemented in the very near future - something for NEC to consider.

Why do many people commute when they could just as easily work from home in this telecommunications age?

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Brown's First Government

Okay... What do we think?
Here's a link to the full list (all positions).

Personally I think it's a dog's breakfast of a government: a bizarre array of Labour 'moderates', Tories and others heralding an apparent 'new politics'. This is the next stage of the New Labour project, and another attempt to bury the Labour Party. Digby Jones? I mean... honestly!

Brown has probably missed a trick. Blair managed to weaken the left in '97 by giving some people who were at least reasonably leftish government positions, weakening the parliamentary position of the left in a way which still effects us today. Brown hasn't bothered. The parliamentary left might be a small base at present, but it's been left intact by this set of appointments, and there are plenty of us outside parliament. It's interesting that he appears to have kept the compassite 'centre left' out too, despite their rush to join the mad nomination party.

So I don't think we should be depressed; but I do hope that any people who still had illusions that Brown was somehow going to be a little better than Blair have had the scales removed: the 'project' - rather halted by foreign policy disasters - is back on course and it's almost as if we're back to fighting the arguments of ten years ago. Or maybe 75 years ago...

Monday, 25 June 2007


Well, it didn't take long. Less than 24 hours into his official Labour leadership, Brown is already on the warpath against the trade unions. Last year, Dave Prentis (pictured) had his mike switched off by New Labour stooge Gary Titley MEP in a controversial debate on NHS privatisation. Now Brown wants to go the whole hog and end the block vote at Labour conference - and the unions' right to put forward contemporary and emergency motions. Instead, there will be "general debates" by members.
Now to the naive, this may sound perfectly reasonable.Indeed, it will be spun as an extension of democracy. It is anything but.
CLPs can already choose four key issues of their own they want to debate ( the bar was raised from 2 in 2003 with help from the UNIONS) to debate at Conference. Yes it should be more but were it not for the unions in the past few years, none of the following issues would have been debated: Iraq, social housing and the fourth option, NHS privatisation, the plight of agency workers. railway re-nationalisation. And, because the unions do vote in blocks, all these issues have a) got through the right-wing gerrymandering ofthe Conference Arrangements Committee and b) been passed by Conference with support from the CLPs. Some of you may recall a similar idea on curbing the unions' influence was once floated by Jon Cruddas. It will be interesting to see where he stands now. One thing is clear. The NEC MUST oppose this move . And so must the Party.See John McDonnell's blog for more details.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Can the Left start thinking out of the box?

For the last two years workers in Britain - especially in public sectors - have faced some of the most devastating attacks on their conditions and pay that has been seen since Thatcher. In the Civil Service tens of thousands of jobs have been decimated, working conditions have been savaged, and stress levels have soared as fewer workers are forced to do more and more work as they try and cope with new systems that totally fail to deliver.

They haven't been alone in these attacks, as Pension rights have been slashed across the public sector, and now we have the prospect of imposed pay settlements at way below inflation rates.

Privatisation and outsourcing are creeping across the board in every wake of life.

Rarely can there have been such concerted attacks on workers since Thatcher - and yet where has the reaction been? Where has the resistance been?

We have the usual ineffectual day strikes, the small rallys and lots of big talk from Union leaders who try and lead their troops up the hill before leading them back down again battered and demoralised.

In the meantime the multi-nationals, the financial institutions and the Labour leadership sit pretty raking in profits and presteige at our expense.

Just how much can be attained by the current craven union leadership aproach to this struggle, and how many one day strikes and rallys will it take for the govt to concede that they are wrong?

If they can laugh off 250,000 people marching on a Stop the War March with its attendent big rally and speeches, will it be able to resist a fraction of that number marching to complain about cuts in working rights?

How should the looming Autumn of discontent be presented in a way that can actually produce results rather than empty rhetoric and sell out?

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


Last night Tony Woodley was on Newsnight speaking out against private equity companies who are aiming to snap up Ford 's Jaguar and Land Rover operations .Union leaders are now seeking urgent talks with the US-owned car-maker to warn against any takeover by "asset-stripping" private equity buyers. John McDonnell has just tabled a parliamentary EDM motion against the sale of the two marques to a private equity company. Woodley has disappointed many of us in the labour movement by not backing the Left in its bid to challenge the Brownite acceptance of global capitalism and all that goes with it. But nowthe fight must continue.
Jaguar has 10,000 workers in Coventry, Birmingham, and Liverpool, while Land Rover has 9,000 in Solihull, West Mids, Halewood, Merseyside, and Gaydon, Warks.These jobs are now at risk
As John McDonnell said in today's Daily Mirror: "Private equity business have no interest in the workforce and descend like locusts to asset-strip.I'm calling on the Government to intervene to prevent this sale, which could result in huge job losses." Moreinfo :

Friday, 8 June 2007

Faces of Bevanism (Part Two): The Parliamentary Bevanites

The term Bevanism or Bevanite first emerged in the House of Commons as a word to describe the supporters or followers of Aneurin Bevan. Who initially coined the term is not known, although an early use of the word is from Dick Crossman on the 8th March 1951 (on a Keep Left paper on 'The Cold War in the Cabinet': 'each of us will be compelled to decide whether he is a Gaitskellian or a Bevanite...' The first meeting of the Bevanite Group took place the following month and Crossman was present, suggesting he had made that decision reasonably easily. The Bevanite Group came into being in April 1951 after Bevan, Wilson and Freeman resigned from the Government over the budget. When the three dissenting Ministers left the Cabinet they attended Keep Left Group meetings and the group quickly expanded. It is difficult to say when the Keep Left Group changed its name to the Bevanite Group as their papers were filed under 'Keep Left' until 1953, but 'Bevanite' was in wide circulation by 1952.

Any analysis of the parliamentary Bevanites must first consider the Keep Left Group which came into being as a small self-conscious entity in Parliament in 1946, expanded in 1950, and transformed into the Bevanites in 1951. From the start it included those who were later to be leading Bevanites such as Crossman, Foot and Mikardo. They came together to oppose what they saw as a retreat from socialism - particularly in Ernest Bevin's foreign policy. One of the primary ways in which this group operated was via the circulation of policy documents. These often concerned a full range of issues from foreign affairs to home policy matters. Certain Bevanites would specialise in certain matters (Thomas Balogh on the economy, Fenner Brockway on colonial matters, Crossman on the Cold War, etc.) Ian Mikardo would appear to have been the primary organiser, especially when Keep Left expanded to be the Bevanite Group. There were also admisitrative secretaries, Rose Cohen and Jo Richardson. While some have suggested a sexist division of labour here, later Barbara Castle and Jennie Lee went on to play key policy and propagandist roles in the group.

Links between Keep Left and Bevan did exist beefore the resignations of 1951. Donald Bruce (an author of the original Keep Left manifesto) had been in consultation with Bevan and others in the Cabinet over the Korean War and re-armament. While before 1950 Keep Left had been a rather small group of MPs (averaging perhaps ten regular attenders) it rapidly expanded when it began the Brains Trusts. These were meetings which were organised firstly by Keep Left and later by the Bevanites with the support of Tribune, where Keep Left or Bevanite speakers would form a panel at various meetings around the country. The organisation and success of the Brains Trusts really belong to another chapter, but they were part of the what caused Keep Left to prosperin the period leading up to the ministers joining its ranks. By the time those three rejoined the backbenches, Keep Left was the obvious focus of parliamentary left-wing organisation.

Did the nature of Keep Left dramatically change in the Spring of 1951, from the policy discussion group outlined here to Bevan's leadership campaign committee? While there would appear to have been an escalation in organisation to meet the expansion of the group's membership, it sees that the same sort of policy questions occupied their time both before and after the resignations. The first example of escalated organisation was the 'Plan for Mutual Aid' which Mikardo drew up in order that Keep Left/Bevanite MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates could assist each other during the 1951 General Election campaign. This plan includes a map of Britain with the location of all Bevanite or prospective Bevanite seats with the name of the candidate and his or her majority or minority written next to it. From there it goes on to organise who should go and speak at which constituency. The 'plan' was highly organised with the talents of those candidates defending a safe majority being re-distributed to the marginal seats. Mikardo also noted that 'there are a number of our friends outside the House who might be willing to help us in this plan'. At this stage this was not constituency foot-soldiers but well-known figures like A.J.P. Taylor and Lord Stansgate. While some might criticise this apparent reserving of many of the party's best platform speakers for the re-election of Bevanites rather than specifically for the return of a Labour government, the two are not mutually exclusive. There were occasions where group members seemed to put the group before the party. Richard Acland, in 1951, considered whether it might be in the group's interests to bring down the government in order to prevent Labour involvement in World War III, in a confidential paper (this was his feared consequence of the Korean War). While Acland did not emerge from a Labour tradition (he had been a Liberal Party member, then a leading light of the Common Wealth Party) even Crossman considered the benefits to be gained from losing the 1951 election. He feared the government were going to make three 'surrenders' on foreign policy issues, which he felt - if they had to be made - would be better made by a Tory government. In each case the offending sentence in his paper was crossed out.

There was some discussion at the start of 1952 as to whether the Bevanites should organise with the Left in other countries. This was an idea about which both Mikardo and Brockway were very enthusiastic. In a paper on the subject, Mikardo exclaimed his fury about the Party's xenophobic tendencies (particularly criticising Hugh Dalton, but also criticising some in the Bevanite group itself). He declared that what he was proposing was not 'a seventeenth International' but just some meetings with socialists from other countres. Brockway suggested that there was a lot of international interest, hope and enthusiasm for Bevanism, and there was a proposal for an international monthly review. Not much appears to have come of these suggestions.

Other examples of parliamentary Bevanite organisation are documents produced by the secretaries about finances and Brains Trust matters. There are income and expenditure accounts in the archives. In the 51/52 financial year 29 MPs paid their membership fee (£1) and all £29 was spent (mostly on stationery).

It is not always clear who the group members were. 15 MPs attended the famous 'first' Bevanite meeting in April '51, 23 atttended their first conference in December '51. By summer 1952 there were around 30 regular attenders. Some, like Jennie Lee, wished to see group expand and become a much larger faction, but the majority preferred the idea of an exclusive group with new members by invitation only (there would be occasional 'open' meetings for all PLP members).

Although Brains Trusts are of more interest for a later section, they did form part of the parliamentary organisation too. The two secretaries produced a list of the large number of towns which had had Brains Trust meetings between 1950 and 1952 (42 towns in total and some had had more than one visit) and which had requested meetings that had still to be scheduled. There was than a list of Keep Left/Bevanite speakers and how many Brains Trusts they had spoken at. Although the period is divided in half (before and after April 1951) there is clear general organisational continuity between Keep Left and the Bevanites. One reason for dividing the list in half was not to do a disservice to newer members who could not have spoken at as many Brains Trusts. However, by Spring/Summer 1952, Bevan had spoken at NO Brains Trusts (compared with Mikardo who had spoken at 46, 34 of which as a Bevanite rather than a Keep Lefter). By the start of 1954 there had been 150 Brains Trusts and there were 40 still pending organisation.

Bevan's poor record with the Brains Trusts raises another question: just how centralwas Bevan to the Bevanites? It is quite clear from the records that Bevan's role in the group was not one of circulating policy documents. Some, like Balogh and Crossman, were extremely prolific writers of policy documents; there is not a single such document from Bevan in the Keep Left/Bevanite files or the Crossman papers. Bevan was frequently absent from Group meetings. He was a 'shadow' leader of the party, but by no means the leader of the group. Mikardo was the first chair of the Bevanite Group, a role later taken by Harold Wilson. Effectively the Bevanite Group was the Keep Left Group, but with the additional prestige and notoriety which the inclusion of a top parliamentarian like Bevan gave.

Another aspect of parliamentary Bevanism was a social one. Thomas Driberg once quipped that the Bevanite group was 'not so much a "party within a party" as "the Smoking Room within the Smoking Room"'. Brian Brivati described the group as 'a hard-drinking group... a drunken night in Soho, ...a pub crawl during the party conference... ending in a row and a hangover.' John Campbell has described them as 'not much more than a group of congenial friends' but that is clearly an understatement.

What were the main issues for the PLP during the Bevanite period? There were the resignations of April 1951 (already mentioned). Then a rebellion of 57 MPs over Churchill's defence programme (they were whipped to abstain) in March 1952. There was the PLP's vote on German rearmament, Bevan's resignation from the Shadow Cabinet in 1954 over the creation of SEATO. 65 MPs rebelled to support a motion demanding parliamentary approval before the manufacture of the H-bomb. There was a showdown between Attlee And Bevan over the H-bomb in 1955, the rebellion (62 MPs) led to Bevan having the whip withdrawn (fairly briefly on this occasion). But the Bevanite Group began its slow disintegration from this time on, dividing into a number of factions, mainly over the issue of the bomb.

Critics on the right of Labour accused the Bevanites of being exclusive and disciplined, but the parliamentary rebellions mentioned abovle saw some Bevanite MPs being 'loyal' to the party whip, and involved temproray alliances with non-Bevanite MPs. For example, the 65 MPs who demanded parliamentary approval before the manufacture of the H-bomb did not icnlude a unanimous vote from the Bevanites (though it did include the leading lights such as Bevan, Mikardo and Crossman) but it did include a large number of other left-leaning MPs or those with strong views on the bomb, such as Tony Benn, Tony Greenwood and Maurice Edelman.

To consider, briefly, the collapse of the parliamentary Bevanites, one must consider what some have referred to as the defection of the centre-left and also Bevan's return to the leadership, which left the left-wing Bevanites leaderless. The new centre-left accused of defection from the Bevanites were characterised by Richard Crossman and Harold Wilson. After Bevan's resignation from the Shadow Cabinet (1954) Crossman complained to Wilson of Bevan's 'death wish' fearing 'they're going to try and get us expelled'. This was when the group was still at the height of its strength: the rifts that were to lead to its disintegration were already apparent, and they were more than just left vs. centre left (Mikardo, very much a 'left Bevanite' was cross that Bevan's resignation had not been discussed with the group).

In 1955, Crossman wrote (to his CLP EC) of a 'rift' which had opened out between him, Freeman and Wilson on the one side, and Bevan on the other. This was over the issue of nuclear weapons (Crossman believe Britain should have 'a small independent nuclear deterrent'). He later wrote to Bevan, declaring that his aim was to 'restore a proper balance between Right and Left in the Party by strengthening the Left' saying 'insofar as my "piddling little aim" as you would no doubt call it, coincides with yours, we work happily together'. He concluded that Bevan had decided to end the group in its old form and therefore 'each of us on each occasion has to think and act for himself'. The group had been formally disbanded in 1952 (it had been operating in a clandestine way from that time on, as one of the worst-kept secrets in the PLP!) Bevan had also denied any role in the organisation during the expulsion crisis in '55. Crossman said that Bevan entered a 'psychological semi-retired' in 1954.

People like Mikardo, Driberg and Castle were morally opposed to nuclear weapons, some - like Bevan - had no moral objection, but opposed the 'multilateralists' on tactical grounds. There was a significant realignment of the left in 1955, even though the group existed in some form until at least summer 1956. Crossman blamed Labour's 1955 defeat on an 'Anti-Bevanite vote' (signalling that he had well and truly changed camps).

The parliamentary Bevanites then divided amongst 'Victory for Socialism' and the higher echelons of the Party (most notably Bevan himself whose split from the Left was a very public confrontation with left-wing delegates at the 1957 Conference). As Shadow Foreign Secretary, Bevan did change his views on some long-argued issues (although he was never a declared 'unilateralist' so his comments in '57 were uncharacteristic rather than inconsistent). His support for Gaitskell's compromise over nationalisation that same year is less clearly explicable. He said he no longer wished to 'rock the boat', but he had done so in the past on issues of degree, rather than this issue of principle.

The 1955-59 parliament was described as 'a period of remarkable unity and concord within the PLP' (Victory for Socialism did not have a big impact). In fact it was in 1960 that parliamentary rebellion began to increase (again, particularly on defence), with many of the old Bevanite faces involved (Richard Crossman had to resign from the Shadow Cabinet). In June of that year, 81 MPs supported a Victory for Socialism motion of no confidence in Gaitskell. This was a bigger PLP challenge to the leadership than at any time during the height of parliamentary Bevanism. Nye died the following week, on the 6th July, 1960.

Was the Bevanite Group of MPs a 'party within a party'? How extraordinary was the anti-Bevanite discplinary reaction it met? There is no evidence that the Bevanites exercised any kind of internal discipline even though accusations of them having whips were common. In fact, a record of how Bevanites voted on the various divisive issues of the period, as we have seen, shows that the group rarely acted as one and while some difted away from the group there is no evidence of anyone being asked to leave. How broadly it was felt that the Bevanites used disciplinary measures can be seen in Tony Benn's letter to Fenner Brockway of 22nd November 1951, following an invitation to join the group:

Dear Fenner,

Just a note to let you know that I would prefer to postpone any decision on the question you asked me on Tuesday.

Though I share many of the views held by the group, as a new member enjoying a little independence for the first time I don't want to bind myself in any way at present

Yours ever,

Tony Wedgewood Benn

The combination of this feeling that members were bound somehow, coupled wit hthe rather exclusive way in which MPs were invited to join, helped fuel the notion of a 'Party within a Party'. Parliamentary factions were not uncommon and it was not beyond the memory of 1950s politicians when the Labour Party had been made up of official Parties within the Party in a political confederation (e.g. the ILP, which included Jennie Lee amongst its number). The Bevanite Group in Parliament never came close to having the independent political organsation of the ILP Group of MPs. However, Michael Foot suggested that, from 1950-1960, the leadership 'operated a system of discipline in the Labour Party of almost totalitarian proportions'. The most 'totalitarian' tactics were exacted not on MPs but on members outside Parliamentm which will be considered later. But Party managers certainly did seem to over-react to rebellions. The whip was constantly being threatened to be withdrawn (and occasionally was) and there was talk of expelling 'ringleaders'. R. K. Alderman has said that the leadership could not have 'ignored the challenge' of the Bevanites, which is true: but they presumably were not aiming to be ignored!

But this 'major organised rebellious group' in reality never had the whips and discipline which it was accused of having. Even at its height its membership never reached 50 MPs. Whether the party's managers really believed that the Bevanites were as organised as their publicly expressed fears suggested it is difficult to say. As Crossman said: 'the fact is that Bevanism and the Bevanites seem much more important, well-organised and Machiavellian to the rest of the Labour Party, an indeed to the USA, than they do to us who are in the group...'

As a faction it was only out of the ordinary because of the high profile of some of its leaders, but primarily because it reflected a growing tendency in the Party outside Parliament. One can only really understand the influence of the Bevanite Group of MPs through an understanding of extra-parliamentary Bevanism, and particularly the 'rank and file' Bevanism in the constituencies.

Sunday, 3 June 2007


Good news for the Labour Left in a YouGov poll published today by the Sunday Times. Around 1100 Party members and 833 trade union members were recently questioned about their voting intentions for the Labour leadership and deputy leadership.
With only a few days of proper media coverage, support for John McDonnell still doubled from the last YouGov verdict - from 9 to 18 per cent of Labour members and an even better 26 per cent of trade unionists said they would vote for a left candidate. Interestingly, Jon Cruddas, the much-hyped "soft left" alternative, is an unimpressive fifth out of six with only 10 per cent support among Party members and 12 percent of trade unionists. It's pointless now to indulge in endless "if onlys" but with six weeks of a proper debate ( not the Albanian nonsense we're having now) it seems to me John would have got about 30 per cent of the vote.Which, coming from nowhere, would have been pretty damn impressive.
But let's look at policy, which is where it really gets interesting in terms of where we are now. A majority of Party members clearly support the policy platform outlined by John McDonnell.
Only 37 per cent of Party members support keeping Trident. 58 per cent want to scrap Blairite reforms of the NHS and education, and 66 per cent of Party members are in favour of increasing the top rate of taxation. 58 per cent want to bring the railways back into public ownership. 57 per cent want to see tax also increased on car use and air travel.And 68 per cent were in favour of distancing ourselves from George Bush's policies.
Basically , almost EVERY key policy John stood on is supported by a majority of the members and even more of the trade unionists. Real hope for the future......which I will point out next time someone tells me I am "extreme left" and living in the past.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Conservatives endorse Blairism

The link below is self explanatory and as far as the left is concerned confirms everything we have been saying for years. What people like Brown have to realise is that the majority of voters cant see any difference between the policies of New Labour and Cameron. I frequently get the view expressed on the doorstep that 'all you politicians are all the same'. This is further backed up by the low turn outs at both local and general elections. Labour do little to attract working class voters which benefits ulta right loons such as the BNP.

New Labour's blind obsession with winning the 'centre ground' and keeping in with this mythical middle england idea is a short cut over a cliff for the Labour Party.

This is some of many reasons why Brown is likely to lose us the next election to a hung parliament or a Tory government, a worse prospect.

Still the way things are at the moment is there going to be a difference between the two?

Mind you, help seems to be on hand for Brown. Dave's Part blog identified this yesterday. The New Stateman carried this article in the link below

Blair first raised this idea pre 1997 I believe when he flirted with the inviting Lib Dems into the cabinet (Paddy Ashdown I seem to remember) Blair was preparing for a minority Labour government in 1997 . (How wrong was he!! He completely misread the hatred the electorate had for the Tories!!)

Blair is on record back in the 90s of saying that the formation of the Labour Party was a 'mistake'. His natural home in my view would have been the Liberal Party of old.

The idea of a progressive coalition, maybe including left wing Tories perhaps will be on the cards.

All Brown has to do then is kick the Unions out of the party and the dream comes true!!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Industrial Development

British industry has continued to suffer under New Labour as much as it did under the Tories.

As the 'market' place opens up, British workers are forced to accept huge job losses, tighter wage rises, and worsening conditions whilst the shops are flooded by cheap goods produced in foriegn countries who allow working conditions that would have been a disgrace in the 19th Century, and poverty wages.

Is it time for an element of protectionism to reintroduced to enable British industry to recover, and to force other governments to improve worker conditions and wages.

Several suggestions -

1) If tariffs were imposed on imported goods to bring them up to a level where British industries could compete, would this work?

2) Only allow imports from countries with acceptable human rights records and acceptable levels of pay and working conditions.

3) Invest govt money in building up British industries to reduce the need for imports and the environmental consequences that go with global trade?

4) Apply similar terms to food produce, to encourage us to grow more of the food we eat ionstead of sending the best produce abroad, whilst importing food that European countries know is too crap for their own consumers.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Answering Critics of the Labour Left.

Derek Wall

"...The ordinary Labour Party member, concerned, opposed to Blair, wanting peace...ultimately you have each taken a gun and shot a child in Iraq. Are you going to stop the killing? Love to see you all sat in the road with the rest of us opposing the arms trade...but I guess I will have to wait a long time to see you put your weapons away and stop the killing."

My Response

"The ordinary concerned Labour member: done nothing more nor nothing less than the average Green to prevent this. We were on the anti-war marches alongside you. We disrupt the EXCeL conferences alongside you. We are at Faslane and the G8 alongside you. We struggle alongside you, and if you don't know we're left Labour, then that's because it's hardly a badge of pride at the moment.

The 251 Labour MPs who voted for the Iraq War are no more or less responsible than the other few hundred MPs who voted for it.

The people who lied about WMDs, from Hans Blix (if the report they cite in the debate on intervention in Hansard is correct) to Tony Blair to anyone who was in on the truth, must bear a heavier moral burden than anyone, IMO. Being sectarian about this helps no-one."

Haifa Zangana

"The entire Labour party shares blame for Iraq's horrors...
The Labour party should not be relieved of its responsibility just because Blair is leaving. It is the moral responsibility of its members to question the party's role in the destruction of Iraq, and whether its new leader will listen to them and to the people of Iraq."

My Response (via e-mail)

"Dear Haifa,

I read with much interest your article of May 28th which was titled "The Entire Labour Party shares blame for Iraq's Horrors". As a recent addition to the left of the party, as part of John McDonnell's short-lived revival of grassroots activity, I have to question to what degree the Labour Party as a corporate entity shares the blame.

Most Labour MPs believed the lies of its leader and were led to war: this is true. But there were 85 Labour rebels who voted against the war as opposed to only 2 Conservative ones, and 139 Labour members who voted in favour of the amendment to the effect that "the case for war was not proven", as opposed to 39 Conservatives. Large numbers of Labour MPs abstained from both votes. There were enough Labour rebels and abstainees that the leadership of the Conservative Party had the power to stop the Commons vote. Surely, by the logic with which you condemn the entire Labour Party for Blair's failures, the Conservative Party should recieve an equal condemnation for its eager support of the action?

Further, since most Labour members opposed the war and many actively expressed their opposition by quitting the party or joining Stop The War's many protests, you condemn them for remaining in the party and for not forcing Blair and Brown to apologise: "The Labour party should not be relieved of its responsibility just because Blair is leaving. It is the moral responsibility of its members to question the party's role in the destruction of Iraq, and whether its new leader will listen to them and to the people of Iraq." Believe me, if grass-roots members of political parties had the direct influence you attribute to us, the Labour Party would never have gone to war in the first place.

Any attempt to spread the blame from Blair to his party in general may as well include Parliament as an institution: did that not fail when two thirds of our elected representatives voted to enter an illegal war? How about blaming the electorate which elected these thugs, or those who did not even bother to vote against them?

The Labour Party has seen a staggering amount of action against the war: not only the thousands who left in 2003 or the stalwart voters who now take their votes elsewhere because of the international solidarity they still feel, but members acting within the Party; members acting within the Trade Unions; members acting within NGOs and anti-war groups and members acting as individuals. Clearly neither the Members of Parliament for Labour or for the Conservatives could foretell the consequences of their actions in 2003, but I believe that, despite Blair's rhetoric, not many of them would describe their decision as "right" in the knowledge of what has happened.

Clearly none of this will be any consolation to millions of Iraqis who have been affected by this morally indefensible conflict. I remain convinced both that the War in Iraq was deeply and intolerably wrong and that it is better to be actively opposed to illegal war in one of our imperfect political parties than to sit on the sidelines away from the blame.


John Angliss
SOAS Labour Students"

The Rural Issue

Down here in Kent we have an (ever diminishing) amount of rural areas. These tend traditionally to be seen as Tory safe spots, and in many parts Labour don't visit them at all.

Yet we really do need to be breaking into these areas and presenting not only a Labour vision, but also one that reflects true left-wing values. They are areas that have largely been ignored by the party, and could prove vital areas in picking up new recruits - but which of our policies are most likely to appeal to these areas, and how can we broaden our appeal in these areas?

I have spent the last two local elections working in some rural areas, and picked up quite a few votes - but these were largely due to local concerns and the fact that I've a record in Parish politics. They probably will not transfer en masse to Labour in other elections...

Yet I think there is a constituency in these areas that would vote for us if they had positive reasons to do so...

Any ideas anyone?

FACES OF BEVANISM: Organising the Labour Left, 1950-1960

(Part I: Introduction)

"...a band of cheeky, irreverent and irresponsible outlaws merrily challenged a humourless party establishment... they were anti-upper class, anti-public school, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and anti-American. The Bevanites delighted in being dangerously equivocal about Communism at the height of the Cold War, and they basked in the knowledge that not only the they have in Aneurin Bevan the most inspiring leader in British Politics, they also had an enthusiastic following among the rank and file in the still flourishing constituency parties" (Pimlott Wilson 1992)

This picture is similar to that often painted of the Bevanite Group of Labour MPs. They were a group which emerged from the meeting of minds between an existing group, Keep Left, formed in 1947 to urge the Labour Government not to retreat from its programme, and three members of that Government who resigned in the Spring of 1951: Nye Bevan, Harold Wilson and John Freeman. Bevan and Wilson, when threatening their resignations in the Cabinet, already talked of backbench supporters before the Bevanite Group came into being. They resigned over Gaitskell's 1951 budget which proposed health charges to pay for a large rearmament programme (the continued campaigns against the extent of the expenditure on armaments and in defence of the social services were important pillars of Bevanism throughout its turbulent existence). They declared then that their backbench supporters would not vote in favour of such changes. (Cabinet Minutes, 1951) Bevan was already a famous figure and something of a hero in the labour movement - the architect of the National Health Service - and to the eyes of observers he assumed the leadership of the dissenting group in Parliament. In fact, while he was a figurehead and a potential leadership candidate, he took a back seat in the organisation of this parliamentary faction. It is for that reason that this study does not begin in 1951 with Bevan's resignation from the Cabinet and end in 1957 with Bevan's inclusion in Gaitskell's leadership team. The 'Bevanism' in this study is the broad, organised Labour Left of the 1950s.

Although Bevanism came into being while Labour was in government, the 1950s was a decade when Labour saw a declining popular vote (from a peak in 1951) and a revival of fortunes for the Conservative Party. Bevanites wanted the Labour Opposition to use arguments based on socialist analysis to provide radical opposition to the Conservative Government's policy. However, certainly regarding economic policy, there was a degree of consensus in the arena of 'high politics' and the House of Commons, leading to the media invention of Mr. Butskell (a mixture of the Chancellor Butler, and his Shadow, Gaitskell). This was not a suggestion with found favour with many Labour Party members. The 1950s saw Labour in turbulent dicision and some of the issues that were fought over continued to recur as they Party's greatest controversies of the latter half of the twentieth century: nuclear disarmament, the power of the trade unions in the party, nationalisation and Clause Four of the party's constitution.

There is a considerable literature on the activites of this Bevanite 'band' although it is mostly in the form of autobiography, biography and diaries. The group that has not recieved so much attention is the 'enthusastic following among the rank and file'. It is my assertion that the legacy and impact of this group of MPs, who never numbered more than 50, cannot be understood without some consideration of Bevanism outside Parliament, and particularly in the CLPs. Through a study centred around the minute books of four chosen parties (Coventry North, Rugby, Pudsey and York) I attempted to uncover something about the organisation and motivation of left-wing constituency activists in the 1950s (the Constituency Bevanites). These were not chosen because they were necessarily consistently Bevanite CLPs - they are a mixture.

Minutes are not always satisfactory (a motion of censure in the Coventry North CLP officers for leaving something from the minutes was defeated, therefore the historian will never know what it was that was left out!) The other concern was that - then as now - there are a lot of 'silent members': the constituency Bevanites were clearly the activists (and at that time activists had rather more power in the party structures than today).

This is a reappraisal of Bevanism as a whole, putting the rank and file centre stage. The Bevanites were variously described as: 'a party within a party', 'no more than a nuisance', 'a major organised rebellious group', 'not much more than a group of congenial friends' or 'half vague emotion, half Mikardo's cunning organisation' (the last attributed to Hugh Dalton). Are any of these descriptions close to being accurate? What lessons can we learn as far as Labour left organisation in this decade is concerned?