‘Labour Yes’ should promote a post-austerity message for Europe.

euAs a pro-European I welcome the formation of a ‘Labour Yes’ campaign group. However, I note that it is being:

“… jointly chaired by Pat Glass, Labour MP for North West Durham, and Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield. The group will co-ordinate Labour MPs to speak up in European debates in parliament, make the case in constituencies and reach out to businesses, trade unionists, universities and other organisations who have an interest in Britain’s future position in Europe (Source: The Guardian 14/6/2015) .”

Those limited words are sounding alarm bells in my head. They read like a top-down promotion and seem to imply that ordinary day-to-day members and activists within the Labour Party are going to be peripheral to its activities. They imply that business leaders matter more than party activists.

This is worrying, because we all have an interest in Britain’s future position in Europe. The pro-EU argument needs to be taken into the communities. The Labour Party needs its activists to be speaking at the local church, in the local community centre. In discussions in the workplace, in the canteen, and in the trade unions. They need to debate on the internet, Twitter etc. Party activists need to go into sixth form classes. Labour need to take the debate to the people of the United Kingdom.

The Labour Party has an e-list of its own political activists and the ‘Labour Yes’ campaign should be communicating its message to those foot soldiers.

The ‘Labour Yes’ message will need to be distinctive from any ‘Conservative Yes’ campaign. They need to explain how Labour intend to work within the European Parliament to challenge the austerity message of the right. Indeed, ‘Labour Yes’ needs to look beyond the needs of today and talk about what is needed in Europe tomorrow. They do need to discuss the negative impact leaving the EU will have on the UK. However, they also need to promote some of the benefits that the EU has brought to workers in the UK. How the discrimination laws have helped make the UK a better place.  How the Transfer of Undertaking regulations have helped save jobs.

‘Labour Yes’ also need to start looking forward to 2020 and the fact that the austerity policies of today will not be relevant in 2020 (the Tories say the deficit will be clear by 2018). Austerity is in the DNA of Conservatives – it is not in the DNA of socialists.  ‘Labour Yes’ need to make a clear and pro-European message to people living and working in our communities. That should be a distinct and socialist post-austerity message over Europe.

Also published in GrearBritishPolitics GBP.

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Let’s make a tenants ‘right to buy’ a human right.


Let’s make a tenants ‘right to buy’ a human right.

The Government seem intent on drafting a British Bill of Rights. Obviously, such a Bill must include freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination etc. Indeed, it seems inevitable that all of the civil rights currently included in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) can be expected to be included in the British Bill of Rights.

 For my part, I would like to see political parties campaigning for an expansion of human rights. The ECHR was drafted 65 years ago and it is now old hat. What we need is a new Civil Rights charter that reflects British rights and values, and expands into economic and social rights. We need to look to the future, not to the distant past. So, for example, I would like to see the British values of free NHS care and welfare included. I would also like to see a right to food, to water, and to housing.

 I would also like the much-heralded Conservative tenants ‘right to buy’ his/her home included. That being said, the libertarian conservative right to buy was/is designed to erode a citizen’s dependency on state provision. It is all about turning people into independent citizens who operate as a form of mini capitalist – operating within the limited boundaries of asset owning.

 For me, the right to buy does not go far enough. As a libertarian socialist, I would like to see that right extended equally to all tenants. Indeed, I would argue that all tenants – irrespective of whether they are Council, Housing Association, or Private, tenants – should have the same equal right to buy the homes that they live in. If a discount of up to 70% is to be provided for one form of tenant – it should equally be applied for the others! Such an approach may worry some private landlords, but that is the price they must pay for a property owning democracy. Obviously, accompanying such an extension of a right to buy must be some significant legal protections against eviction – with only non-payment of rent being a basis for eviction. There would also need to be a firm control on rents, in order to ensure that any increases were consistent with inflation etc.

 Yes, some capitalist landlords will squeal at the prospect of giving their tenants such a right to buy. But, for me, the position is clear – we should see all tenants treated respectfully and equally. Indeed, data for a English Housing Survey for 2011-12 showed that the rising number of private tenants, 3.84 million, outnumbered the 3.8 million in social housing (source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21357841 ).

 Let the Conservative Government openly disagree – i.e. if they wish to upset the 4 million or so private sector tenants. This ‘right to buy in the private sector’ proposal would not impact upon the Chancellors finances, since the private sector discounts would not be deriving from public funds.

Let’s stand up and argue for the rights of private tenants. Let’s make a tenants right to buy a human right.

Also published in GrearBritishPolitics GBP.

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Is the PM trying to hoodwink the electorate?

  EU       Is the PM trying to ‘hoodwink’ the electorate?

The Prime Minister David Cameron is to “get tough on immigration”. That, at least, is his claim. In reality, net immigration is at 318,000, of which a significant proportion derive from the free movement of EU workers.

The problem for the government is that in order to reach the PM’s promise of lowering immigration to the “tens of thousands”, they may need to somehow limit the number of EU citizens migrating to the UK. To do that, there will need to be a change to the free movement of workers rules that are central to the EU Treaty. Continue reading

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A quote worth thinking about …


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Please sign the petition …


The government wants to meddle with our human rights. Sign the petition to save the Human Rights Act: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/human-rights-petition

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One ‘United Kingdom’…

From left, the Union Jack, St George's Cross and the Saltire fly at Adderstone, England, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. The British government plans to offer Scotland more financial autonomy in the coming days as polls predict a very close vote in the September 18 on Scottish independence. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)A major problem for the Labour Party is the split evident between Scotland and England/Wales. Indeed, in the General Election it was clear that the anti-austerity message of the SNP had appeal to the more left leaning Scottish electorate. At the same time, the electorate of England and Wales were evidently more prepared to accept a government that wanted to utilise austerity as a means of tackling the deficit.

Such an inconsistency created no problems for the Conservatives. The electorate of Scotland had turned its back on them decades ago. For the Labour Party, however, it was a major problem due to the rise of an SNP that could promise the earth – while knowing that they could never have enough seats to establish a Westminster government. In effect, the SNP could promise anything, and then blame others if they could not deliver.

A major problem for the Labour Party was its election banner of ‘One Nation’. Indeed, that description was also used by David Cameron in his ‘we won’ speech after the 2015 General Election.

To my mind therein lies the problem. We are not one nation. We are four nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Instead of an aim of one nation. our political leaders should be striving for an acceptance of ‘four nations’ in one ‘United Kingdom’.

By taking such a constitutional approach, the Labour Party could/should accede autonomy to the Scottish Labour Party. Indeed, they could accept the freedom of the SLP to establish an entirely distinct political programme that responds to the more left leaning demands of the people of the Scottish Nation.  Obviously, the national parties of Labour would need to unite under the banner of a ‘United Kingdom’ for the purposes of government in the House of Commons. In a sense, that would mean the different nation divisions of the Labour Party would then need to operate as a grand coalition of national labour interests.

Over the next few months the Labour Party will be looking within itself, as it seeks to find and unite behind a new leader. In my view, before they start such a process, they should look at changing the constitution of their party to one that recognises the independence of the different nations that make up the ‘United Kingdom’.  By taking such an approach, each division of the Labour Party could produce policies and a political message that is tailored to address the differing political demands of the electorate that live in each of the four nations.

Labour needs to move from a ‘One Nation’ party, to a coalition style party that fully accepts the autonomy of the four nations of the ‘United Kingdom’.

Also published in GBP GBP.

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A voting lottery …

ballotWith opinion polls suggesting that the General Election is too close to call, there is a real possibility that the election could be decided by the Russell Brand’s of this world. Indeed, people failing to vote could help determine whether David Cameron or Ed Milliband will get into Number 10.

Davis Winnick MP called for voting in elections to be made a “civic duty’. He introduced a bill before the House of Commons and argued that: “The right to vote is the most fundamental tenet of democracy and yet millions do not exercise it.”

In Australia, where a similar law exists, 93% of the public voted in the last General Election. This compares to just 65% in the UK – when 16 million registered voters did not vote.

Personally, I do not favour making it illegal to fail to vote. I would give everyone who votes five lottery tickets – with a chance to win a million pounds. Such an approach would encourage voting.

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The EU and freedom of movement …

European-Union_240-animated-flag-gifsOver recent years a number of my wider family have migrated to other EU Countries. I have relatives now living in Spain and Portugal. I also have friends and former work mates living in France and Spain.

These relatives and friends have taken advantage of the EU free market and migration rules that encourage the free movement of capital, goods, and people. Continue reading

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Great British Politics

GBPGreat British Politics is a very interesting politics blog.  It’s aim is to provide contemporary political debate, offering space to writers of all political colours. Accordingly, the GBP blog invites readers to peruse its articles.

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The PM should focus on the ‘fat cats’ …

obeseThe Prime Minister, David Cameron, has hit the headlines with arguments that sickness benefit should be stopped for obese people. He should be careful about such an approach because it could end up with himself or government ministers being brought before Tribunals and/or the European Court of Justice on the grounds of obesity/disability discrimination. Indeed, many obese people are now classed as suffering from a form of disability. Discrimination on the grounds of disability is both unlawful and immoral. Instead of focusing on the obese, the PM would be better employing the tax inspectors to focus on the ‘fat cats‘ who have been funding political parties – while avoiding taxation.  

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