Thursday, July 21, 2016

Meanwhile in the real world...

The HMRC investigation into Sports Direct exposes the nature of the "jobs" created in recent years almost as well as the legal action being take against Uber by drivers seeking to show that they are not self-employed.

As a public sector trade union activist, representing (mostly) workers with the few employment rights the law gives us as employees, I - and my colleagues at branch level - have the luxury (though it does not feel like that) of defending trade unionists who still have some rights, and some collective strength and organisation with which to defend them.

The three quarters of the workforce now working beyond the reach of collective bargaining do not all work under the petty tyranny of management like Sports Direct, nor do they all suffer the chronic insecurity‎ of faux self-employment - but many suffer all this and worse.

I will resist the urge to compare the real-life plight of real workers with the "insecurity" of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party "threatened" with reselection (how is it a "threat" to be reminded of the need to be elected into an elected position?).

‎What workers need in these days, more than anything else, are fighting trade unions which can defend our interests. The first task of trade union activist is to build such unions.

Our unions do also need a political voice‎ however - and Corbyn's Labour gives us this as we have not had it in my working life. That's not to say that Corbyn is perfect, far less that all those around him are worthwhile, but the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn does represent an opportunity for trade unions to be represented in Parliament (and elsewhere) as we have not been for decades.

Therefore, this summer, one key task for serious union activists is to sign up members who pay the political levy as affiliated supporters and to encourage them to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

At the same time we need to be developing ways of organising the fragmented, diversified and - in many cases - atomised workforce of the twenty first century.‎ All that was solid has already melted into air.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

UNISON and the Labour leadership election

Now we know.

The Eagle has (crash) landed and Labour Party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters now face a clear choice between our current Leader (elected overwhelmingly last year with UNISON support) and some bloke I\'ve barely heard of who has worked as a lobbyist for a pharmaceuticals multinational and expressed (at best) equivocal views about the Iraq war (although he is, at least, \'normal\').

I could go on and on (and on) about the irony of professional Parliamentarians who can wax lyrical about how Jeremy Corbyn isn\'t a convincing alternative Prime Minister and choosing to support an \'anti-Corbyn\' candidate with a chequered past and the charisma of a stale cream cracker.‎

But I won\'t.

Because few things are less important at this precise moment than the Parliamentary Labour Party (and no you can\'t register that as a name for a breakaway party from the actual Labour Party).

One thing that does matter is how UNISON will decide whether, and if so to whom, to give a supporting nomination.

This doesn\'t matter because UNISON members can, should or will be told who to vote for. All UNISON members whose voting rights come from their status as an affiliated supporter of the Labour Party will make their own minds up about how to cast their vote.

No.

Both the procedure by which UNISON arrives at its decision, and the substance of that decision, will be important in showing UNISON members what our own trade union is like and how we view our members and their views.

Last year UNISON backed Corbyn by a decision of our National Labour Link Committee (who will also decide what we do this year). Their decision was informed by consultation with members who pay into the affiliated section of our political fund - which demonstrated the overwhelming support for Jeremy Corbyn which has recently been expressed once more at our National Delegate Conference and our National Labour Link Forum.‎

In current circumstances the National Labour Link Committee would not appear to be misreading the views of our members if they were to give a supporting nomination to Jeremy Corbyn once more.

As regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris left-social-democrat) will be aware, I am a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

One might think therefore that I would support a decision of the National Labour Link Committee to nominate Corbyn once more without further consultation.

However.

Whilst I do think that a supporting nomination for Jeremy Corbyn is the only permissible decision that could be taken in the absence of further consultation, I also think that further consultation would be a good thing and could usefully inform the decision of the National Labour Link Committee.

UNISON members who choose to pay into the affiliated section of our political fund should surely be asked whether we should give a supporting nomination to a former NUPE official with a lifetime track record of supporting trade unionism or to a former lobbyist for a pharmaceutical multinational who has equicovated about the Iraq war.

If this is to happen preparatory steps must be taken immediately - and the consultation must commence promptly.‎ 

I hope and believe  that friends and comrades on (and every other member of)‎ the National Labour Link Committee are on the ball about this.

In the mean time every UNISON branch with WARMS access can write to every APF payer explaining how to register for free as an affiliated supporter.

You can\'t say UNISON is supporting Corbyn in this election (as no such decision has been taken yet by the National Labour Link Committee).

But you can say that Jeremy Corbyn is a UNISON member, that UNISON nominated him last year - and that our General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said that Corbyn\'s agenda is UNISON\'s agenda.

As it is.‎
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Monday, July 18, 2016

The ultimate insurance policy?



Our Prime Minister has described UK weapons of mass destruction as “the ultimate insurance policy”.
As a longstanding policy holder with UIA I can see that the traditional approach of my mutual insurance company is outmoded.
Rather than pay premiums in order to be able to claim in the event that I suffer a fire or a burglary at my flat I will now adopt the new Theresa May approach.
In the event of a break-in, or the toaster setting fire to my kitchen, I will not rely upon a fuddy duddy insurance claim. Instead I will aim to lay waste to several neighbouring streets, slaughtering my neighbours and poisoning their properties for  generations to come.
Why do so few of us see that this is nonsense?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Keep Calm and Support Corbyn

http://www.labour.org.uk/pages/labour-party-leadership-election-2016

The retrospective imposition of a six month membership requirement (disenfranchising all those members who joined in response to the "chicken coup"), the eightfold increase in the cost of registering as a registered supporter (transparently designed to deplete that section of the electorate which last time voted most convincingly for the incumbent) and - parochially for a moment - the unjustifiable administrative suspension of Brighton and Hove District Labour Party (denying to the largest unit of membership in the Party the right to make a supporting nomination) - all of these are outrages against Labour Party democracy.

The last thing anyone on the Left must do in response to these outrages is to be outraged however. There will be more to come.

More members will be suspended. Applicants for registered supporter status will be excluded - even in some cases if they have been accepted as Labour Party members (after the January cut off date). Other local parties will face unjustified administrative sanctions.

All of this has a dual purpose. First - and vitally - to diminish Corbyn's support in the election. Secondly - and this is not unimportant - in the hope of provoking an angry response which can feed the narrative that the left are vile bullies.

Our best response is to redouble our efforts to win support for Jeremy Corbyn from existing members, to encourage supporters who will otherwise be unable to vote to register as supporters next week if they can afford it - and to register as affiliated supporters as many trade unionists as we can.

Political levy paying trade unionists who were trade union members as at 12 January will be able to register as affiliated supporters at no cost (because they already pay affiliation fees via their political fund contributions).

The single most important contribution which trade union officials and activists can make right now in order to fight attacks on democracy in a democratic way is to identify all eligible members and encourage them to register as affiliated supporters. 

Many thousands of members of my own union, UNISON, registered as affiliated supporters in order to vote in the last election - but the great majority of eligible members did not. 

I am livid at the conduct of those who are attacking and undermining Party democracy because they are obsessed with ousting our leader - I will express that anger in encouraging maximum democratic participation in the Party.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

What now?

I was honoured to speak (twice) at a mass rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn in Brighton yesterday (once in an overcrowded Brighthelm Centre and once to those outside who had not been able to get in).

The rally preceded the Annual General Meeting of the Brighton and Hove City Labour Party. Towards a thousand of our 5,900 members (two thirds of whom have joined since the General Election - and over 500 since the Referendum and subsequent machinations against Corbyn) attended a meeting which had to be organised in three shifts to accommodate the numbers.
Candidates supportive of Jeremy Corbyn swept the board in contested elections for the ruling Executive of the City Party (the largest single membership unit of the Party in England I believe).‎

Since I first attended a meeting of the Labour Party Young Socialists in a dingy basement on the Lewes Road in 1979 I have not experienced such energy and enthusiasm at a meeting of our Party. A social movement is moving into, and through the Labour Party and we all need to come to terms with the changes which it is bringing.

Regular readers of the blog (Sid and Doris Progress-Momentum) will know that I offer here no more than my own random thoughts. So here are a couple of those.

First, elements of the right-wing who are uncomfortable with the growing membership of our Party (because it contradicts their received wisdom that socialism is unpopular and that Labour must ever chase the (rightward moving) political \'centre\') will stoop to almost any depths to resist the tides which \'around their heads foam\' because they don\'t want to accept that \'the times they are a-changing.\'

Yesterday on social media the first response of those whose candidates had failed to be elected to leading positions in the Brighton and Hove City Labour Party was to obssess about an isolated incident in which someone (who may or may not have been a Party member) allegedly spat at a member of staff at the City College.

Just as the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove is a microcosm of the wider Party, so this episode showed (on a tiny scale) the tactic of slander against the left being employed nationally through allegations of abuse levelled at Labour Parliamentarians. ‎

This represents a strategy of denial on two levels. First, rather than confront and engage with the popularity of socialist politics, the right-wing change the subject and seize on anything they can find to develop a narrative about \'extremists.\'

Secondly - and vitally - this strategy of denial operates within the minds of the right-wingers themselves, some of whom did get involved in politics to do good for working class people but have spent many years convincing themselves that they have to advocate privatisation at home and imperialist war abroad (because that is the \'realism\' that allows us to deliver tax credits and a minimum wage). Otherwise decent people have to obssess about limited evidence of isolated incidents which they can describe as \'harassment\' because - if they did not - they would have to confront the lack of necessity for a lifetime of political compromise and retreat.

From the point of view of socialists, our understanding of the dilemma of some of the right-wing cannot mean that we do anything other than rebut unfounded allegations. We do also have to come down like a ton of bricks on any idiots who think that the cause of socialism can be advanced by intemperate and unreasonable behaviour.

This is part of what we also need to ensure - which is that all those who (justly or otherwise) are vulnerable to criticism and attack step back from the front-line at this crucial time.

Ken Livingstone - who has a claim to be described as one of the greatest socialist politicians alive today (and who would not necessarily be considered self-effacing) stood down from the NEC because that was the best way to support the cause in which he believes and the Leader we support.

Anyone else who has potentially damaging \'baggage\' needs to follow that fine example and step aside. Attacks will be made upon Corbyn and all those around him. None of those attacks will be genuine or honest - but the left must respond intelligently and offer no hostages to fortune.

The second thought which comes to me is that members of Labour\'s National Executive face a challenge now almost without precedent in the history of our Party. Any sound reading of the Party Rule Book puts Corbyn on the ballot paper in a leadership election - but it is clear that the right-wing, knowing that they cannot defeat socialism in a fair fight, are contemplating a manouevre to keep Corbyn off the ballot paper by requiring him to secure nominations from Members of Parliament.

If the right-wing can convince a majority of the NEC to misread the Rules in the hope of excluding our current Leader, under whose leadership we have recruited more new members than anyone could have imagined, from the ballot paper in a fresh election, they will ignite a war within the Party which will make the early 1980s look like a vicarage tea party.

The unity of the Labour Party hangs by a thread - and this is not because Corbyn supporters would walk away were he excluded from a ballot (and were those who ab‎used our rules to achieve this fortunate enough to find a malleable judge). Some fainthearts might leave - but Jeremy Corbyn has given us an example of strength which the majority will follow.

We are here, in the Labour Party, in our hundreds of thousands. 

We will‎ make the policy of the Party.

We will select Labour candidates at every level.

We will have our say.

The NEC can accommodate the changing composition of the Party membership and build unity by ensuring that Jeremy Corbyn\'s name is, as it should be, on the ballot paper in any election.

If they fail to do this then the PLP (or sufficient of their numbers) can come to their senses and ensure the same outcome. 

Neither the NEC nor the PLP wish to contemplate a world in which they fail to do this. 

And I am confident they won\'t make such a mistake.‎
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Monday, July 04, 2016

Where Eagles Dare?

http://www.itv.com/news/update/2016-07-04/eagle-warns-corbyn-she-will-resolve-labour-crisis/

This has now become boring Angela.

If someone else wants to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party let them stand for election.

An ideal candidate would probably not be someone who could show more decisiveness when backing a bloody imperialist war than when promoting their own candidacy though.

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Sunday, July 03, 2016

Democracy is on the line. Time to do all we can to Keep Corbyn.

It is not as simple as "Jeremy Corbyn ought not to resign." Nor is it as straightforward as he is an admirable and brave man (though he is) and that those who stand by him in Parliament are the best of the political representatives of our class (though they are).

The point is that Jeremy Corbyn has no right to resign. Were he to do so he would betray his mandate, our members, our Party and our class.

At this moment, when Brexit has unleashed the forces of the political right who seek ownership of the anti-establishment spirit engendered by austerity, such a betrayal would be most dangerous.

The first half of the twentieth century saw the final achievement of the franchise - and the working out of its consequences, culminating in the postwar Welfare State. For a generation after 1945 a state beholden to workers' votes (and facing a global alternative to capitalism) offered some social and economic security 'from the cradle to the grave.'

The second half of the twentieth century saw capital's fightback against the democratic, social and economic gains of labour. This fightback culminated not so much in the political victories of Thatcher as in her subsequent conquest of our Party through Blair.‎ A key element of this conquest was the 'professionalisation' of politics.

Our Party, and our movement, were built by self-taught activists and we chose to lead and represent us people drawn from our own ranks. By the end of the last century however we had developed a 'political class' of full-time career politicians, the 'progressive' wing of which led us in opposition to the Tories.

Whether or not these people had a degree in 'PPE' from Oxford they were our 'experts' and they knew, better than we, what was in our interest - which turned out (according to them) to be accommodating to the political triumph of Thatcherism by swallowing privatisation at home and imperialism abroad.

It is this caste of career politicians who are now in open rebellion against the Leader who was the overwhelming democratic choice of the Party membership less than a year ago.‎ They rebel not so much because they fear that, under his leadership, we may lose an election.

In a two party system (which we almost still have) elections are won, and lost, and won - and those whose career is in politics carry on more or less regardless.

No.

They are in rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn because they fear that he might win an election and, in so doing, rewrite the rules upon which their 'political' careers are predicated.

If the coup plotters oust Corbyn they will succeed in distancing the Labour Party from any hope of influence or control by Party members for at least a decade - and in this decade the populist genie created by austerity and unleashed by the referendum vote will, without doubt, be controlled from the political right.

Hilary Benn can't resist this.

Angela Eagle can't resist this.

Tom Watson can't resist this.

If we want to avoid the mistakes of past we need a socialist leader of the Labour Party who will lead real resistance to austerity and racism now, when we need it more than ever.

For all our futures it is essential that we Keep Corbyn.

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