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?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Brown's Budget

Like the anorak I am, I've downloaded the full budget and may spend "some time" reading it. He had a deficit of GBP37.2Bn and expects this to increase "slightly" over the next 3 years or so.

Next thing I'll do is download the LRC version and compare and contrast and then attempt to come up with our strong arguments about its feasibility. The fact that Brown has a growing deficit makes things difficult as we have less room to manoevre - but it also means that the argument about a left deficit is lost! All comments/thoughts welcome!


Chart 1.1 presents public spending by main function. Total managed expenditure (TME) is expected to be around £587 billion in 2007-08. TME is divided into Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL), shown in Table C13 of the FSBR, and Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), shown in Table C11 of the FSBR.

Chart 1.2 shows the different sources of government revenue. Public sector current receipts are expected to be around £553 billion in 2007-08. Table C8 of the FSBR provides a more detailed breakdown of receipts consistent with this chart.

Do Not Feed Trolls

If there is one thing guaranteed to slow down progress on the re-development of the Labour Left, it's taking time out to entertain right-wingers in the party who will take every opportuinty to ridicule, oppose and generally annoy and undermine us.
The blogosphere is a prime are for such activity, and certain names spring instantly to mind.

Can I suggest that we utterly ignore them, unless they actually have a decent point to make, which is very very rare.
It isn't to concede defeat, or to be undemocratic to ignore these people - most of the time they will be posting simply to goad us into responding so that they can then respond to our responses with more insulting / inane / irrelevant / utterly missing our point (on purpose?) rubbish Which they just know we'll respond to again, thus perpetuating the idiocy and making us look like knobs as much as they do. They don't care about looking like knobs - it's just a bit of Leftie baiting and they'll have a good laugh at our expense. But we DO end up lookng stupid by being drawn into stupid arguments about toss all.

And notice - if they're losing an arguement or can't perpetuate it easily, they don't concede or anything. They simply stop posting on that thread and start again on another topic on another thread...

If we all simply refuse to reply to them at all, they won't have the exscuse to keep their threads going - unless they talk to themselves! I've seen it work on other boards, so let's just try and ignore their crap wherevever they spout it?

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Which way forward for the Left

Mikael asked me to post something I put on my Blog earlier. Under the title 'The Long March' I thought I would share some of the discussions I have been having amongst Socialists in my part of the world (Southampton).

I mentioned in an earlier post about the need to evaluate the john4leader campaign and the undoubted success it had of bringing together the layers of the Labour and non Labour left behind what was a brave effort to challenge the ideas of New Labour. There have been a number of discussions started , on blogs in particular but also in the wider movement as a whole as to the ways forward. I thought I would add my own piece to consider in what will be a tense but crucial debate.

Over the last 5 years it has become increasingly apparent that the left both inside and outside of Labour is weak and disunited. This lack of unity has certainly damaged the cause of socialist ideas in the eyes of many workers conscious of the need to transform society.

The non Labour left have stubbornly refused to accept the Labour Left , deriding its aims as futile and its influence small or even insignificant. They see them as a spent force locked in the late 70s , early 80s (oddly sharing a view with many Blairites today!!)

They see the Labour Party as a dead end.

Meanwhile the non labour left organise around election campaigns as a socialist alternative with very few successes hoping that certain conditions will prevail sometime in the future that will enable them to be a challenge similar to movements in the Netherlands, Germany and Scotland (Mind you I think it might be wise to lay the Scottish experience to rest for the moment)

They have proved unsuccessful in wrestling traditional working class support from the Labour Party.To be blunt they have proved that they are not 'up to the job' and will remain so.It is mainly for this reason that organisations such as the CNWP and Respect will fail in bringing the Labour Left to their banner.

But what of the Labour Left?

To be associated with the Labour Party is a bummer!! The left take a hammering because they are wrongly associated with the Blairite leadership who boldly continue where Thatcher and Major left off.There is a way forward.I mentioned before about the success of the john4leader campaign. Not success in challenging Gordon Brown in a leadership election, that got clearly kicked into touch by some seriously unprincipled MPs, but success in getting out to the the layers of socialist activists all over the country , in particulat the activists in the Trade Unions in a way that the non labour left could only dream of achieving.

It became apparent quite early on that the campaign was tapping into something that showed potential for growth but most important , potential for unity.John McDonnell challenged the existing order of things by bringing to the attention of trade unionists in particular that Privatisation can be opposed politically as well as industrially, the War in Iraq can be opposed and stopped, that there are alternative views to the housing problems workers face and the full scale assault on our NHS can be reversed.

He showed socialist ideas were realistic and affordable.

But in my view , most importantly, his campaign brought a unity that showed that the challenge can come from both inside and outside the party as long as the left as a whole organised together to achieve these common aims.

The debate now centres on what kind of 'organisation' should exist in order to make this unity effective?

How do we bring socialists together who work in the trade unions, community groups and progressive single issue campaigns under a common campaigning banner?

At long last it is a unity debate that I am happy to take part in.

I will return with my proposals in a later posting.

Deputy Leadership: The Case for Hain.

This is as much a thought-experiment as anything, to mark my joining the LLF and to perhaps stir up some debate in the comments.

Peter Hain has so far been neglected by the Labour left, and I can't see the reason for it. I have seen the strong supporters of John McDonnell pledge their support to Jon Cruddas, Harriet Harman, Hilary Benn and even Alan Johnson, so I would like to make the case for the most neglected "lefty" (by New Labour/Dep Leader contest standards) on the ballot.

First, he has something which Cruddas lacks: experience in the Cabinet and the respect amongst MPs which comes with making that position work. The personal credibility and influence which he has gained from his contribution to peace in Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. Moreover, the addition of a mandate from the Labour left and Unions would make him a force for Brown to reckon with on the left: his CV guarantees that he can't be totally ignored.

Second, he has a genuinely moral outlook: a commitment to genuine democracy at home and human rights abroad. If we are considering our nomination for Deputy Leader by virtue of what weight they have in the Cabinet for socialism and for good, I would suggest that Hain has it right. His adoption of the Alternative Vote system might jeopardise Labour's future electoral success by smashing the two-and-a-half party system, but it will energise and enfranchise the left as a whole, and it shows that he is willing to put people before party.

Thirdly, Peter Hain would genuinely be able to curb Brown's rightist tendencies in a way that no other candidate could. There is a strong statist consensus (right and left) in the Labour Party at the moment which I believe is extremely damaging to our popularity with the public. If Peter Hain could begin introducing a 'Libertarian' Socialist element to domestic policy, then the Party can finally leave behind Old Labour's unquestioning statism (sometimes at the expense of the people); leave behind New Labour's restriction of liberties and rolling-back of Old Labour's gains and begin a new movement to revitalise the grass-roots of the Labour Party.


Procedure is dull but it has to be done right if we're ever going to get anywhere. Rule changemotions are currently the only way to make things different and avoid another stitch-up like the recent leadership fiasco.
June 8 is the deadline for CLPs to submit. If your branch or GC isn't meeting before then, circulate to anyone else you know who can help get this through. . Calder Calley CLP has already done this, ticked all the boxes, and our delegate will be arguing our case at Manchester in 2008 - yes it takes a year to get on the agenda. You will need a Constitutional Amendment Form . Labour Party national Contact Renee Finan 0207 783 1374.Can I also urge all CLPs to affilate to the Campaign For Labour Party Democracy - CLPD. Their main man, Pete Willsman, iso on the NEC and knows the rule book inside out!

Proposed rule change:
4B Procedural rules for elections for national officers of the Party.
Paragraph 4B.2b(1)
Nomination reads as follows
In the case of a vacancy for leader or deputy leader, each nomination must be supported by 12.5 per cent of the Commons members of the PLP. Nominations not attaining this threshold shall be null and void."
Amendment: Delete 12.5 and insert 7.5

Points to stress: This isn't about individuals, it's about democracy.Party members have just been denied a vote and a candidate reflecting a significant strand of opinion within the Party. They have been disenfranchised.In effect, the MPs have had a political veto.
The original 1981 threshold was a modest 5 percent which was raised in 1988 by Neil Kinnock ( to stop the Left, basically) . Ensuring a a contest engages the wider public and gives the Party more credibility .....Gordon Brown's coronation will not exactly help his case come the next Election.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Past "Labour Left" Campaigns - guest posts by Comrade Harry Barnes

Below are two guest posts written by Comrade Harry Barnes. In them, he deals with past Labour Leadership elections and the lessons which they represent for members of the Labour Left. The original articles can be found here and here. Many thanks to Comrade Harry Barnes for allowing the Labour Left Forum to re-produce his insightful articles.
Beyond Our Ken

John McDonnell's Role ModelJohn is not the first member of the Socialist Campaign Group (SCG) to fail to gain sufficient nominations to stand for the Leadership of the Labour Party. Ken Livingstone went down that path in 1992.

After Labour's defeat in the 1992 Election, Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley bounced the Labour Party into elections for Leader and Deputy by their premature resignations, which gave the Party little time to give the matter much thought.

We can hardly plead that we were unprepared this time - although what is
happening is again devoid of questioning and analysis.

Trying To Talk Ken Out Of Standing

As soon as Neil and Roy announced their intention to resign, SCG weekly meetings were dominated by how we should respond. Opinions differed strongly, with some keen to push Ken Livingstone's candidature. After all, Ken enjoyed a high media profile.

Yet there were strong voices arguing against running any candidate. For a while no-one sort to test the water by moving for a vote on the matter. But time started to run out and those supporting Ken needed to move. This was done at a poorly attended meeting which was held as a parliament was either moving in or out of recess - I forget which.

There were only seven MPs present for the crucial meeting. These were Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, Ken Livingstone, John Austin (who was newly elected and was then known as John Austin-Walker), the late Bernie Grant, the late Bob Cryer and myself.

Crunch Time

At that time, Ken and Bernie had been at loggerheads over the best way to pursue anti-racist activities. Ken was fully involved in the work of the Anti Racist Alliance, whilst Bernie was active with the Anti Nazi League. Ken and Bernie barely seemed to be on speaking terms.

It was, therefore, something of a surprise when Ken informed us that if he stood for the leadership he was in favour of Bernie standing as his running mate for the post of Deputy. Thankfully for Ken, Bernie liked the idea.Dennis Skinner and Bob Cryer were strong supporters of the notion that the Group should run candidates, so they supported the proposal for a Ken-Bernie ticket.

Tony Benn was probably chairing the meeting, as he did not vote. John Austin-Walker and myself opposed the proposal, as we felt that it would be counter-productive both inside the newly elected Parliamentary Labour Party and throughout the wider movement.Otherwise tied at 2-2 (Skinner and Cryer vs Austin-Walker and Barnes), the outcome was determined by the votes of the would-be candidates.

Needless to say without Ken and Bernie even having widespread support amongst the missing members of the SCG, they failed badly to obtain the required number of nominations from Labour MPs.

Tony's Contribution

The last time the SCG moved successfully to secure a nomination for the Labour Leadership was in 1988 when Tony Benn challenged the then incumbent Leader, Neil Kinnock. Tony obtained only 11.4% of the vote. (This contest is not to be confused with his famous narrow defeat by Dennis Healy for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party in 1981, during the high-water mark of Bennism.)

Before Tony's name went forward, there were again lengthy weekly debates in the SCG. I remember Red Dawn's reaction (i.e. Dawn Primarolo) in particular. She was a strong supporter of Tony Benn's political position and initially she argued forcefully in support of him standing. But when she discussed the situation with left activists in her Bristol Constituency (the very people who she thought would support her line), she was shocked to find them repeating the same warnings that some of us were putting to her at SCG meetings. She then changed her stance. Perhaps this was the start of her move into the Gordon Brown camp.

An immediate consequence of Tony's failed candidature in 1988 was that the Labour Party raised the hurdle for MPs' nominations beyond the then 10% level - a move that was unhelpful to John McDonnell in the long run.Yield Not To TemptationThe SCG and the left generally need to learn the futility in current circumstances of running their own candidates for top Labour positions. It takes activists to the top of the hill and lets them roll down again - as will be seen in John4Leader's comment box and on many a blog.

It was the above reasoning which led me to press for Peter Hain to stand for Leader and not just for Deputy. I judged that for the left he was a plausible candidate who would clear the nominations hurdle, run a campaign we could associate ourselves with and give us an opportunity to have a marginal influence on the future direction of the Party. I did not expect him to win, but to have some influence on Gordon Brown via his campaign.

As Peter did not stand for Leader (and few saw the significance of pushing him to stand), I eventually moved at the 11th hour to support John McDonnell - as (given the eventual lack of choice) I would have nominated him if I had still been an MP. Which is more than I did for Ken Livingstone in 1988.

But none of us should be placed in such a position. When it comes to issues as key as the Leadership of the Labour Party, the left and its MPs should make coherent moves to seek out feasible candidates. Unfortunately, that position has never won through in the SCG - except as below.

1988, 1992, 2007 Or 1994?

Although I know what went on in the SCG over the 1988 and 1992 Leadership contests, I'm not privy to what happened this year. But I am keen to find out.

There has, however, been one Leadership election where the SCG adopted the approach I favour. In 1994, I actively campaigned alongside Ken Livingstone and others for Margaret Beckett in the contest which Tony Blair won. Margaret might not seem to be a standard bearer for "left of centre" politics in current circumstances, but she did in 1994 (and for periods afterwards). At the least she would have maintained the Labourite stance of John Smith and would not have propagated a New Labour line - she was the Peter Hain of her time.


In Defence Of The 1994 Margaret Beckett

Here is a criticism of those of us on the Labour Left who supported Margaret Beckett in the 1994 Labour Leadership election campaign. Below, I give my response.

Why A Margaret Beckett Ticket in 1994?

(1) Unless someone had foreknowledge, the pros and cons of Margaret's actions since the 1994 Campaign are irrelevant to this assessment.

(2) Overwhelmingly in her favour - she was not Tony Blair.

(3) There was no-one to her left who could have obtained the nominations, unless the 1994 John Prescott (who also stood) is considered to have occupied that position.

(4) If anyone to her left had by magic gained the nominations, they would not have been able to mount a feasible campaign. The bulk of the Party members did not wish to upset the apple-cart after 15 years in opposition.

(5) As Deputy Leader under John Smith then Leader after his death, she first followed and then sustained his stance. Although John Smith was no left-winger, he was in the Labourite tradition and he did not seek to ditch Democratic Socialism and Labourism as being illegitimate parts of the Labour tradition.

(6) She had a sound grasp of the Democratic Socialist case. Including -

* In 1970 she became a Researcher to the Labour Party on Industrial Policy and worked closely with Judith Hart and Stuart Holland on the proposals which emerged in Labour Programme of 1973 and the 1974 General Election Manifesto which reflected and included Tony Benn's famous formula of making "a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families".

* When looking for a left-wing candidate in 1973, the Lincoln Labour Party first approached Margaret (then known as Margaret Jackson) at the Labour Party Conference. In February 1974, she stood against their former candidate Dick Taverne - the right-wing dissident.Although she lost, she took the seat during the later October General Election of that year. She moved straight into Government positions, but was seen as being on the Left.

* She lost her seat at the 1979 General Election, but she was successful as a left-wing candidate for the National Executive Committee in 1980 and actively supported Tony Benn's famous but narrowly unsuccessful campaign for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party (against Dennis Healy) in 1981.

* She returned to Parliament in 1983, as MP for Derby South. She joined the Socialist Campaign Group and only resigned in 1988 over Tony Benn's counter-productive decision to stand for Party Leader against Neil Kinnock, the incumbent. Three other women MPs resigned with her and the Group became more isolated than ever.

(7) Although she moved away from the Hard Left from 1988, within the confines of a front-bench position she had a good democratic socialist record as Opposition Spokesperson on (a) Social Security (held since 1984 to 1989) (b) Treasury matters (Shadow to the Chief Secretary 1989 to 1992) and (c) Deputy Leader 1992-1994). Although I was one of those who remained in the Socialist Campaign Group, I never considered myself to be part of either the Hard or (what used to be called) the Soft Left - but I attempted to work on both elements to show them that there was (and are still) socialist alternatives. Although confined by office-holding, I felt that Margaret had a similar approach.

In assessing whether it was reasonable for the Left to back Margaret Beckett those 13 years ago, we must remember that this was a decade before the invasion of Iraq (and many other mistaken New Labour moves.) I happen to think that few of these major errors would have occurred if she had won that Leadership vote, even though I am sorry that she stuck so closely to office from 1994.

End of posts

Why I won't be backing Cruddas.

Jon Cruddas had my vote until Wednesday May 16 at around 8.30pm. That was when John McDonnell had to concede it was "mathematically impossible" to get the 45 nominations required to get on the leadership ballot. One of the major reasons why that just didn't happen was down to the ambivalent and, frankly, shameful attitude of the soft-left MPs in the Compass Group. These are the people who have shared platforms on anti-Trident demonstrations, walked into division lobbies against top-up fees, supported measures like the Trade Union Freeedom Bill and defended council housing. Yet when push came to shove off they marched again - into the lemming-like rush to sign Gordon Brown's nomination papers. In Cruddas's case, this particular signature might well be his political death warrant.
Read this week's Tribune. Cruddas says the Deputy Leadership election is " an unrivalled opportunity to refresh and renew our Party structures and our policy direction." Yes, the reason it is "unrivalled" is that the PLP, Cruddas included, has just performed the most undemocratic act in the Labour Party's history - and denied the membership a vote on the leadership.
And here he is again:""We have to examine why it is that half our members have left in the past 10 years and what we can do to build the party again as an active, community-based and campaigning organisation." Yes, Jon, a leadership contest would have been a start, wouldn't it? Just take a gander at the John4Leader website and read the posts from distraught members thinking of tearing up their cards.
In the past seven days I have thought about this long and hard. And others on the left will take a different view.But I'm still not falling into line with the Morning Star, which today said we should put aside "hurt feelings and ruffled feathers" and vote for Jon Cruddas.
This is not a trivial spat, nor the Schadenfreude of factional in-fighting . The fact is that Jon Cruddas based almost his entire campaign around grassroots involvement and Party democracy. He has helped deny us both. I think that is dishonourable. And the non-event of the Deputy Leadership just doesn't make up for that. Sorry

Friday, 25 May 2007

Some publishing guidelines

The aim of this blog is to function as a forum. In order for this function, some "publishing guidelines" apply. I will - hopefully during the weekend - create some internal links, where readers of this blog will be able to find the different subjects up for discussion. The internal links will make sure that no post "expires" and allow members to find what they are looking for quickly/easily (i.e. without having to go through "archives").

So, here are the general "publishing guidelines":

  • Please "tag" your posts with the following labels as appropriate - "Trade Unions", "Common Ownership", "J4L" (for lessons of, and reflections on, the J4L campaign), "Manifesto" (for posts concerning the "programme" of the Labour Left", "SYN" (for posts related to the Socialist Youth Network), "Events" (for upcoming events and LRC/Labour Left meetings).
  • You are of course more than welcome to suggest "tags" and "internal links" of your own, but please do not create any other "label" in addition to those I have stated without telling me in advance - that would make the forum pretty difficult to organise.
  • All on the Labour Left can join this forum, so please don't hesitate to provide me with your e-mail address in any of the "comment" boxes - I will delete once I have invited you to join, so do not worry about privacy.

Now, the general "commenting guidelines":

  • Anyone is welcome to express his opinion, but please stay on topic (or ask me to create a new "tag").
  • Comments posted by Agents-Provocateurs of the Labour-Right will be deleted, if, that is, they are added only for the sake of provocation.
  • At the moment, a "google account" is necessary in order to publish comments. I may change this in the future.

These guidelines have been set up for the benefit of all readers, please stick to them in order for this forum to remain organised, as well as to maintain discussions as relevant, productive, and, of course, Comradely as possible.


Mikael, Labour Left Forum administrator

What are the lessons?

Okay - a controversial one, I guess (judging from some of the debates that are going on around the blogosphere); but what lessons should the Labour left take from the John4Leader campaign? Obviously people can discuss what they want, but I'd like to avoid this being a thread about 'if only...' or 'what if...' - there are plenty of other threads for that: I'm looking entirely at the positive lessons we can take from it for the next couple of years (a couple of years in which there is unlikely to be another leadership election).

My own fourpenn'th:

  • There is a large constituency in the party and the movement (some of them newly recruited) who rightly feel disenfranchised; they also feel under-represented in the PLP

  • The New Labour clique has not successfully colonised the Labour Party outside parliament: it has hollowed out the party of its activist base in many places, but - given the prospect of a proper debate where socialist views can be aired - 'Real Labour' people are there in force and are ready and able to get involved in campaigns

  • The left can make excellent use of the internet and, just as Tribune was invaluable to the Bevanites of the 1950s, so internet forums, etc. can be a key organisational tool for the left today

  • In John we have a champion who can communicate left ideas and priorities, and lead campaigns in the mainstream media, and help us drive the left out of a 'usual suspects' ghetto: his performance at the one leadership hustings and in various media outlets during that brief time when a contest looked likely underlined that point very well indeed

  • That future campaigns (whatever they may be - and that's an important thread for another time) should, like the John4Leader campaign, begin outside parliament in the grass roots, because that is where our power base is.

I realise that some will think that I appear to have forgotten that the campaign was 'unsuccessful'. I'm sure others may disagree, but - in the end - the defeat of the campaign beneath the Brown steamroller was out of the left's hands; as - this time - was the political make-up of the PLP. It's worth bearing in mind that even those on the 'centre left' (such as El Tom) have expressed doubts that the 'soft left' could have delivered the 16 votes we were missing. My one bit of 'what if' 'if only' is that, had John got 30 plus nominations in the first public declaration, then I think that could have put the brakes on the Brown steamroller, and those people that had previously suggested that would have liked to ensure a contest may have maintained that position. So rather than debating 'what went wrong' (though I'm sure others will) - let's look at the positives. The left is stronger in the movement (outside the PLP) than for any time in the last 20 years, and we are building, growning, and our confidence is developing. There is an appetite for organisation, and there is a determination to build our role and our voice in our movement.

Of course there's got to be some reflection, but let us be clear that we are reflecting from a position of increased strength.


For the invite to contribute - looking forward to building on the work weve started at J4L.

From the youth perspective SYN (socialist youth network ) will be campaigning for a Real Living Wage and building on the launch of the youth wing of the LRC.

We definitely have not gone away and just keep getting bigger and stronger so any of you under 30's please come along and join up! (anyone under 30 who's already a member of the LRC is automatically a member of SYN so join in!)

We have a SYN exec meeting on the 2nd of June so I'll publish our concrete plans for the campaign after that!

Onwards and upwards comrades.

21st Century Socialism

So glad to be part of this initiative. This is where we consolidate the work started with the J4L campaign and begin to present a case to those in the left of the party - be they hard, centre, soft, PLP or CLP.

Our next campaign begins now!

I want to be part of the forum - what's to be done?

Dear All,

Duncan and I set up this forum hoping that it was going to be a collaborative effort. We would very much appreciate people on the Labour Left to leave their e-mail addresses in the "comment" box of this post in order for you to take part in the debate and for us increase the number of participants - your e-mail address must be linked to your google account/you require a google account to be able to participate. Your e-mail addresses will be deleted as soon as you have been added to our list of authors; so don't worry about privacy!

If you have any suggestion concerning subjects up for discussion, don't hesitate to bring it up. All help is welcome!



Thursday, 24 May 2007

Welcome to Labour Left Forum

This new forum for people on the Labour Left has the potential to be an invaluable addtion to the blogosphere! We have good comrade Mikael to thank for setting it up and designing it. It will undoubtedly be 'finding its feet' for a few days, but I'm hoping it will develop into an essential stopping place for lefties on the net! The idea is that it will be a collaborative effort with a variety of writers from the Labour Left offering their thoughts on various issues, raising awareness of campaigns and co-ordinating activities. It also offers every opportunity for comments/discussion/debate.

Also see the Labour Left forum Facebook group if you use Facebook (and if you don't, it's quite easy to join and a good way to make and keep contacts on the left).