Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan.
(Judges, Chapter 12)
A shibboleth is a splendid way of identifying your enemies. But it has little to recommend it as a way of conducting first-past-the-post-politics. Why single out and alienate those not of your tribe?
I ask because it has become a practice of many Grand Men of the Left. The frequent epithets: “Blairites,” “neoliberals”. They are so protean, so bereft of content, as to shrink to little thing more than a desire to articulate a loathing of some other.
It’s foolish politics. Bad enough to hate Conservatives who, like it or not, form a large part of the voting public. But also, deliberately, to alienate those who are not your political enemies? When last did Left Labour harvest so rich a bounty of votes that it could afford to leave some lying on the ground?
The latest iteration – the spat slur “centrist” – illustrates the point well. What might cause you to highlight your extremism and call it virtue? To choose to forego a broad appeal for a narrow one is, for a political party, to take a silk purse and fashion a sow’s ear.
Ultimately these are questions for those in the habit. For the rest of us, it’s enough to remember that we can succeed only by avoiding the trap ourselves.
Nick Clegg’s disastrous pitch “We will bring a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one” ended the LibDems as a political force. A new Party must be more than ‘not them’. It is only when we say who we are and what we are for that the electorate can ask itself: ‘are they for me,’ ‘am I for this’?
Brexit is not enough. Brexit will not be the last crisis the United Kingdom faces. An ageing population, the forces of globalisation, the concentration of wealth, intergenerational fairness, the evaporation of trust in politicians, a capitalism that does not serve the people, climate change: unless a Party can speak of these issues, it will not win, and it will not deserve, the trust of the electorate. But win trust on them and perhaps you will be heard on Brexit too.
Over the coming days and weeks I will offer some thoughts on what a new Party should offer, and be. I hope others will too – here, or elsewhere.
Let those who want to, with their shibboleths, divide. A new Party must with ideas unite.
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Frustrating – it certainly is.
This list though;
” An ageing population, the forces of globalisation, the concentration of wealth, intergenerational fairness, the evaporation of trust in politicians, a capitalism that does not serve the people, climate change: ”
If a new Party has progressive & workable ideas on these (& other) issues, it’ll likely be the first.
The sole benefit of Brexit being Party-polarization:A thing that each of the big2 seem certain will advantage them over the other. The final battle will have to be won on the field of tribalism. And a weapon to defeat the coming ‘vote for me or you effectively vote for them’ argument will win that battle.
-Well, as long as the big2 remain hot-to-trot for Brexit.
First and foremost, the message from ‘this’ new Party has to be a retrenching of our Democracy:The primacy of Parliament, the rule of law and a working purposefully for the common good. For, indeed the first casualty of Brexit has been the only Democracy any of us have known.
[Good luck with it all – just the same.]
What should a new party offer?
As far as I’m concerned, it should offer a manifesto consisting of a few relatively simple, but radical, constitutional reforms that would address the most glaring deficiencies in the current system, along with a commitment to dissolve itself once those reforms have been implemented.
The four primary reforms in my own manifesto are Spontaneous Democracy (a jury-moderated petition process to allow the public to trigger referendums and dismiss elected representatives); Local Autonomy (through integration between different levels of elected representations); Ranked Voting (but preferably not the additional step of entrenching the dominant role of parties, which PR would do); and – possibly the most powerful of the four –Coherent Law (a requirement that laws be consistent, where possible, with uncontroversial principles, such as equality of opportunity).
1) Anti Westminster – move Parliament to the midlands/north
2) mass devolution to the regions, more power to the mayors in the cities.
3) Close the lords – but ensure non-politicians are involved in the cabinet – have leaders from NHS, teachers, pensioners, union leaders, police and business leaders in the cabinet.
4) start a trial of minimum national income.
5) Support free broadband in all city centres, for students, unemployed, pensioners and stay at home parents.
6) Progressive taxation for all – abolish NI.
7) Tax breaks for companies encouraging home working and 4 day weeks.
8) Tax breaks for companies who invest x% of profits into innovation.
9) Rejoin EU, start to encourage closer working on defence, security and policing – we need a EU wide war on Cyber Crime and political interference from rogue states.
10) Turn UK into a forward thinking country – one the world respects because of our high standards, commitment to ending poverty, fight again climate change.
Thanks Robert. Several of those absolutely on my own personal list as well…
Thanks Jolyon. I look forward to reading your list as it emerges and evolves. Might I suggest however that since Pandora’s box has been not just opened but blown to bits, top of your list should be the only thing left: Hope.
Also one point – James Chapman has been great fun but worry this is some type of a media stunt.
This isn’t necessarily connected to James’ initiative. I want to learn more about it.
I’ll add to my comment above that what a new party *shouldn’t* offer is perhaps as important as what it should: glib promises to fix long-standing, intractable problems with unspecified reforms; boasts about the integrity of the new party and the ‘new politics’ it heralds; broad-brush promises of more genuine democracy, without any details of how that would be achieved, alongside detailed solutions to a long list of secondary problems which might well disappear if the more fundamental structural problems were properly addressed.
What will be the difference between the ‘Democrats’ and the LibDems, who have so sullied themselves in coalition government, sitting in cabinet with the Quartet carving up the country to a Tory agenda?
Little is my guess and don’t believe for a moment that the new party will attract any different supporters, thinly spread around the country, diluting the opposition to the unified right wing. It will merely ensure the continued destruction of the country by the Tories for the next 50 years. A bad idea designed as click bait.
It is far better to influence Labour so that the new mass membership has a real voice on policy and practice rather than let them be decided in (formerly) smoke-filled rooms.
I don’t agree with all Corbyn’s policies but he is on the right lines.
But the one change that is desperately needed is to replace FPTP by simple AV to respect the voter. Labour should back that.
Corbyn is on the right lines, if you are white, male, middle aged, probably a graduate and living in London and the South.
The new mass membership is very self centred and out of touch with those for whom the Labour Party was founded. 77% of the membership are ABC1.
Labour dominated now by people like Seamus Milne, John McDonnell and Andrew Murray, dinosaurs of the Hard Left, is as much part of the problem as the Conservative Party.
Labour went into the last General Election committed to providing free tuition for 40% who go to university whilst saying it could not fully fund Sure Start and could not afford to end the benefits freeze and scrap the benefits cap.
Corbyn is now diluting the opposition to the unified right, simply by remaining leader of the Labour Party and committing to Hard BREXIT.
When voting Labour means getting Tory austerity for the many and Hard BREXIT for all then why not cut out the middle man and just vote Tory?
The attractions of a new party would remain mostly theoretical without reform of the electoral system. The first past the post system creates an enormous incentive for major parties to try and win absolute majorities, which results in a narrowly focused political agenda. Major parties can also be hostage to, and be captured by, extremist elements because there’s always a potential threat of minor breakaway parties gaining just enough support to deprive a major party of a majority. This is why David Cameron co-opted UKIP’s demand for an EU referendum.
Thanks Jolyon. Funnily enough this was all stuff I was imploring Labour to discuss in those far off innocent pre Brexit days when Andy Yvette and Liz were battling to win the centre ground. The reason at that time I felt the only choice was ‘none of the above’ was because I felt Corbyn didn’t get that either. Those important issues should be comfortable ground for the radical left, but at the moment they choose to ignore it.
My fear about creating a new party is that however well-intentioned, or soundly based in analysis (and clearly this blog is where the correct thinking is happening), it isn’t ready in time to confront Brexit head on, which needs to start now.
I think at this stage the best idea would be to create a Momentum style group, that doesn’t so much say Stop Brexit, more to lay out the reality across the country. So we would have people in Yeovil, say, or Boston, or towns in East Midlands , laying out in simple terms what hard, soft or no Brexit may look like for local people. Lost EU subsidies, cuts to services, what parts of the world cheap labour will be coming from if FoM is curtailed.
I know, at the moment it’s poorly thought through. And I am about to go away for 2 weeks. But come September I am determined to give it a go.
To anyone trying anything in an effort to regain the centre ground – from wherever you’re approaching, the best of luck to you.
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I am certainly interested in a new political party. I have never joined a party, and am in fact living proof of the efficacy of democracy in that I have voted for different parties in different general elections (only between two, I should add). I strongly identify with the Blair/Osborne view that the two major parties do best both for their electoral results and the electorate they serve when they pull to the centre rather than wallowing in idealistic doctrines. Pragmatism should be the main ingredient, with a dollop of idealism to allow one to have a sense of identity and of direction.
But it seems that the appeal of the ‘centre’ derives, perhaps, from having a doctrinal hinterland which can be pragmatically moulded to form the centre-ground policy. Parties do better pulling towards the centre when they have somewhere to pull from. One could say that the ‘centre’ does not exist, save to be a moderated version of the less pragmatic ideal.
That seems to be the crux of an issue with a centre party. It does not define itself readily as having a core ideology or doctrine. It is merely an amalgam of moderacy, whatever that may be. So, the party would have to have a raison d’etre somewhat removed from just being moderate and central. It has to have a theme.
But I agree that it is difficult to see how a party that is predicated on one objective can be a party in British political terms at all. It cannot gain traction without a general philosophy and cannot provide what is needed in a parliamentary system. UKIP has tried to broaden its policy offering, but that has not, apparently, stopped it being hoisted on the petard of being a single-issue pressure group.
And I also have sympathy with the view that a party dedicated to resisting Brexit has rather a lot of catching up to do in the current circumstances, in addition to the problem of effectively being an ‘anti-UKIP’ – the opposite, but otherwise similar, alter ego of that failing party.
But I do think there is a theme that can be developed into a party that many would recognise as ‘centre’, but with an ideology and a basis for an agenda. That should be a party that believes in using available structures to pursue an internationalist and outward facing role for Britain (not as a ‘beacon for free trade with no strings attached’). This role emphasises co-operation with others and includes pooling sovereignty to bring influence to bear on fellow members of the relevant structures. Those structures need not be regarded as articles of faith in themselves (such as to support the EU whether right or wrong) but should espouse the greatest international co-operation possible through the best structural arrangements that can be created, with a final aim (albeit ambitious) of having a fully international structure of such co-operation.
And the reason for this should be that only by coming together internationally can this all be achieved with a reasonable level of decency, in terms of the conditions of workers, how the world affords and provides basic welfare, and what we find acceptable as regards environmental and wildlife care standards. By looking beyond the borders of Britain to participate in a joined up world, the population of Britain should benefit, in line with the benefit created by and for all other populations. This is the antithesis of hanging on to the self-determination rights of an ad hoc group of 70m people who happen to be born or otherwise connected with an island location and which thereby fool themselves that they should pool sovereignty only with fellow islanders and not with the world with which they are inextricably linked.
Such a party has to put pragmatism first. It cannot be swayed by emotional values such as patriotism (though the result is certainly not anti-patriotic per se). It works with what we have, and what we already are, rather than fooling itself that breaking the mould, or exerting a further ‘mighty heave’, will engender a utopia. It must realise that well regulated commerce is a must for material success, and material success assists in laying any foundations for spiritual satisfaction. It cannot be anti-intellectual, or anti-education, or anti-foreigner. Although it represents the people within a nation state, it must appeal to a vision far wider than that nation state. Essentially it is an internationalist party that disagrees with ‘splendid isolation’ or raising of drawbridges.
Such a party could campaign to stop Brexit, or to re-join the EU, but these would be policy details for a certain point in time, and would arise from, not supplant, the philosophy discussed above.
The Liberal Democrats inspire and adopt the very tribalism your post refers to, so it seems difficult to see a time when they could be the vehicle for the above, aware as I am that many of them would identify with the ideas.
As to whether any of this is necessary, I now think it really is. The ‘centrists’ of both the major parties have a massive challenge pulling towards anything similar to the above outcome and need to have a new force that holds their own toes to the fire and which creates an incentive for their more hide-bound colleagues to make concessions. There must be a lever to pull, and a new party would be that lever.
Some of the high-minded ideas here are a bit out of place in the actual political world. What most voters and party funders are interested in is *outcomes* as to their interests, and principles are for them mostly means to achieve those outcomes.
In practice the main practical political divide in the UK today is between southern property owners and the City financiers who fund them, and workers everywhere plus property owners in the north; then divide is between very loose credit policy for asset owners, and tight fiscal policy for low income workers; with the middle-income voters, because of often having a dual status, in between, but firmly on one side or another depending on personal circumstances.
Corbyn’s centre-left hattersleyte Labour is very much the party of renters and workers, and the new centre party would be the party of small property speculators and pension fund beneficiaries, that is the natural ally of the Conservatives.
Constitutional reform and other beautiful policy ideas are very much secondary details.
Clearly you have not read Labour’s Manifesto and worked through the implications, in terms of impact on income. Those with incomes of less than £27,000 per annum, 60% of the population, would have not been much better off under a Corbyn led Labour Government than a May led one.
Those with incomes of less than £27,000 per annum would actually have been much better off waking up under a Liberal Democrat Government on June 9th than either a Labour or Tory.
Labour only committed to reverse £2bn of the £9bn of Social Security cuts over which IDS resigned, leaving in place the benefits freeze and benefit cap. Labour, under Corbyn, puts free university tuition for mostly middle and upper class youth before unfreezing the benefits of lone parents. Incidentally, the Liberal Democrats pledged to reverse all £9bn of the cuts.
Labour committed, without caveat, to the Pensions Triple Lock that benefits most affluent pensioners, like one J Corbyn and many of his supporters within the Labour Party. His current pension income is £35,000 per annum, putting him in the top 40%, calculated by income. Should he ever retire from Parliament, it has been estimated that his pension income would be £85,000 per annum, putting him into the top 5%.
The Corbyn Boys used the same policy formula that won Corbyn two leadership elections, one pitched to a mostly ABC1 electorate, to try and win a General Election and lost. Winning Canterbury by 197 votes is no substitute for not winning Thanet South, a bellwether constituency, wherein Labour’s vote share did rise, but not by as much as the that of the Tory Party. Even in Canterbury, the Tory Party’s share of the vote rose.
They show no signs of grasping that the formula does not translate from Labour’s narrow selectorate to the wider electorate of Great Britain.
I think Hattersley would not be amused by being bracketed with Corbyn.
Before the election was called I started a new party with very limited aims, because no one was talking about it and it seemed so necessary. I’m glad more people are talking about it now and I can hopefully jump on someone else’s bandwagon. But Chapman’s idea is a nonsense. As you say here, this cannot be about Brexit, and must stand for something positive.
My thoughts here: https://medium.com/@florapage/why-am-i-so-wilfully-homeless-b55b56bc39b3?source=linkShare-4dd425d369b-1503160052
The Just Party was registered in the last couple, of years to fill a vacuum between LibDems and Conservatives to provide a Caring Society througb a Thriving Economy. Also now fighting against a hard Brexit, as that would undermine those aims.
Here’s a comparison of emerging parties against established ones. Take a look, and if The Just Party suits you, then do join us:
Furthermore: “The Just Party in a Nutshell”
Representing the majority. Where we stand on #Brexit and other issues
Offering proportional representation could attract a lot of support. All those 22 million wasted votes for example. As for a name for the new party, how about Social and Liberal Democrats – SOLID?
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Proportional Representation, in the form of Alternative Vote, was put to the UK electorate as recently as 2011. Rejected by over 2 to 1 on only a 42% turnout. The clear majpority of people don’t want it. There’s more important things to fight for!
Very thought provoking Jolyon – thank you. The trouble is though that these shibboleths you speak of are more than ideas – they have people who follow them and practice them. They live.
I’ve just read Nancy MacLean’s book ‘Democracy in Chains’ where she exposes the planned growth of libertarianism as espoused by James Buchanan and supported in the shadows by billionaires. Is this an example of yet another shibboleth? Maybe it is but I for one take them seriously.
Where your point has particular relevance is to the many of us who are not remotely interested in political science. Trying to make a connect between these shibboleths and the trials of ordinary people’s lives is where the labels break down and people turn off. You are correct about that. But this is also down to poor education, a biased media and press/internet freedoms tested to their limits of decency and honesty.
Again I say – people talk about the centre but the centre of WHAT in particular? The Right? I do not want to live in a UK so far to the Right as this. Because to me being centrist in such a context is not enough. The whole pace – social policy, economic policy, infrastructure etc., needs to be dragged Left to the real center in my view.
A real centrist politics would balance traditional left and right views and not keep creeping to the Right as it has been doing since Blair. The Right are renowned for one thing in history: they always want more. What they have is never enough. That is why we a need a strong Left to make politics work for the people. It’s rather like tuning a drum properly – keeping the skin tense enough on each side to create a sound is the purpose. If one side of it is less tense then the drum fails to work properly and our politics has no rhythm, no output.
And I agree with others here. Never mind talk of parties (we have enough of them) – what about the electoral system? PR is the key. I believe that PR was rejected because (1) people did not really understand what it is because they were given too short a time to acquaint themselves with it and (2) it is given a bad rap in a time when people are told that bureaucracy is useless (especially if that bureaucracy is made to work badly by market-biased politicians who have got into politics simply to manufacture the consent to get rid of it – which is the case).
I look forward to your further musings and insight into the issue. Thank you.
Labour, under Blair and Brown, put tackling child poverty at the heart of their Governments.
Corbyn has now taken Labour well to the right of both of them.
Labour’s General Election 2017 Manifesto, enthusiastically endorsed and promoted by Jeremy Corbyn, would have kept £7bn out of the £9bn of planned Tory Social Security cuts over which Iain Duncan Smith resigned.
Labour in Government, under Corbyn, would leave in place the benefit cap and the benefits freeze.
To put the benefits freeze into context, the basic rate of Income Support for a lone parent, over 18, has been frozen at £73.10 per week since April 2015.
There are currently 401,630 lone parents on Income Support in Great Britain.
Whilst Labour in Government, under Corbyn, said it would not be able afford to end the benefit cap and benefits freeze, it did say it would keep in place the Pension Triple Lock.
The Triple Lock guarantees all pensioners, regardless of income, at least a 2.5% increase in their State Pension, even if inflation is rising at less than 2.5%.
Corbyn is saying now that when savings are made in the Social Security budget then, and only then, will the benefits freeze be ended.
Corbyn is expecting savings to eventually occur through the introduction of a real living wage of £10 an hour and by the building of affordable homes.
In the mean time, as rising inflation continues to erode their income, those on benefit, for example lone parents, must just grin and bear it, Mr Corbyn?
Corbyn has yet to pledge to scrap the benefits cap.
Had Kinnock or Smith or Blair or Brown or Miliband gone into a General Election not committed to ending the benefits freeze and scrapping the benefit cap then Corbyn and many of his most committed, vocal supporters would have been all over them like a rash.
And rightly so …
Who are these ordinary people of whom you speak Mark?
The ABC1s who make up 77% of Labour’s membership and put free university tuition for mostly middle and upper class youth before all else?
I can feel the frustration dripping from your comment and totally understand your point.
Yes – Labour still looks timid. It is cowed by populist ideas such as a Government being like a household that can only spend the income it has or go into debt and get further into trouble. All this is tosh – a lie promulgated by the Right and inculcated by some on the Left – just like austerity – the biggest lie of all – still dominates the debate in our post-truth polity.
Labour needs to be cautious. Here’s why. On Sunday we were being told of a ‘break through’ as Labour laid its BREXIT hand on the table and this was being lauded. We were encouraged to feel happy. We’ve woken up on this Bank Holiday however to find that those in Labour now warning that a mistake has been made in Corbyn doing this. So, what is the truth here? My view is that ALL of it is the truth – because it is all in the mix, all at play.
Labour therefore still has to be very cautious about how it goes forward. If Corbyn introduces too much change, too quickly that runs against popular perceptions then the risks are huge. So, let us try to replace negative words like ‘caution’ and ‘timidity’ with say a word like ‘incrementalism’ for example.
John – you have to understand who owns the context of these economic fibs. They have been put out there by neo-lib, libertarian politicians and media and they are now owned by the public – the voter, John.
We’ve has 40 odd years of neo-liberal (sorry Jolyon) economic lies and mysticism rammed down society’s throat unquestioningly (2008 being the year that reified the lies by the way) and all progressives need to realise that change will take time.
I have to live in hope and I hope that Corbyn and Co are indeed being incrementalist in their approach. This means holding back and even dare I say it telling some of their own fibs as they move forward slowly.
A hate to say it on a blog hosted by a barrister at law, but a white lie for more equality is better than one for more inequality in my view.
But such is our politics today. This is what it has come to. It is sad but progressive have to come to terms with it.
Rest assured, Mark, when I want to be patronised and condescended to then I will definitely attend a Corbyn rally.
You divine frustration from my previous comment. You are, in error, I was actually expressing contempt for Corbyn and many of his supporters.
Corbyn plans, on day one in Government, to spend £10bn plus on free university tuition for mostly middle and upper class youth. A pledge he made on the day he launched his first leadership campaign.
You may not recall, but Corbyn launched that campaign after coming over all holier than thou with regards to how Labour voted on a Social Security Bill in 2015.
Back then, Corbyn 2015 would have (sanctimoniously, as we now discover) criticised Corbyn 2017 for saying Labour could not afford, on forming a Government, to end the benefits freeze and scrap the benefit cap.
Alongside only reversing £2bn of the £9bn of the Social Security cuts over which IDS resigned, Corbyn has only pledged at most £500m for Sure Start that will not fully reverse the savage Tory cuts in that programme since 2010.
Corbyn is robbing the working age poor to fund free university tuition. I thought it was the prerogative of Tories to cut social programmes to fund tax cuts or their equivalent for middle and higher income earners?
The Economist endorsed the Liberal Democrats at the 2017 General Election, in part, because they would reverse all £9bn of those Social Security cuts. The Economist thought it was good economics and morally the right thing to do.
I think, therefore, Corbyn has, perhaps, now passed your neo-liberal litmus test?
As for neo-liberalism, well, it has become like patriotism, the last refuge of someone losing an argument.
One reason why some middle class (and even some working class) Corbyn supporters seem to hate Blair and Brown so much is that they feel they were not sufficiently rewarded for voting Labour in 1997.
They have never forgiven Labour under Blair and Brown for going into a General Election on a platform of improving the condition of the working class, winning on that platform and then going on to deliver the policies on which they had campaigned.
This year Labour under Corbyn went into the General Election on a platform of improving the condition of the middle class and lost.
Team Corbyn lost after making an unashamed pitch for the middle class vote by pledging free university tuition, free universal childcare, free universal school meals (the equivalent of a tax rebate of £437 per child per academic year), a write off of (some) student debt, cheaper rail fares and so on. And, if you earn less than £80k per annum, John McDonnell said, you will pay no extra Income Tax and National Insurance for five years.
Unlike Corbyn, unlike much of the Labour Party’s membership, these days, I was born into the white working class. I was born in 1966, only months before Corbyn left a prestigious grammar school with two Grade Es at A Level. However, I do know my Til Death Do Us Part. The working class had risen by 1967.
Corbyn is a throwback to the Labour Party membership of the 1930s before Attlee, Bevan, and Bevin came to the fore. Back then, middle class folk, like Corbyn, were styling themselves progressives and speaking for the working class, whilst spending as little time conversing with them as possible. You will find Labour’s membership under Lansbury described in some detail in the second half of Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier.
The world has moved on, but Corbyn and the mostly white, middle and upper class males, many ex grammar/private/public school and Oxbridge, with whom he has surrounded himself, have not. For example, a progressive in 2017 does not fill vacancies through a family, friends and associates appointment process.
Labour proposed in its 2017 Manifesto to raise £2bn of Corporation Tax to provide free childcare for those who can afford it. A policy that would actually increase social and economic inequality, given many of the beneficiaries would not pay increased tax to recover at least some of the benefit of taxpayer funded childcare.
Is this the right time to raise Corporation Tax for such a trivial purpose? Surely it would be better to raise such revenue to invest in, for example, improving the broadband network of Great Britain, which compares poorly with those of other industrialised countries?
The resulting Multiplier Effect (copyright, John Maynard Keynes) of such an investment would yield significant social and economic returns for individuals and business. The DUP have earmarked £150m of their £1bn for upgrading broadband in Northern Ireland.
Labour has a vague target of doing something about broadband by 2022 in its current Manifesto. Compare and contrast that with committing from day one in office £10bn plus for the minority of those at 18 who go to university. Incidentally, I have yet to find £15bn in Labour’s Manifesto earmarked for the majority who do not go to university at 18.
There is an inspirational pukka progressive, born in Manchester, Mark, and later buried in a grave in Llanystumdwy. Go to the museum hard by his grave, pick up a telephone receiver and hear him, in his own words from 1929, call for money to be invested in his country’s telephone network, which compares poorly with those of other industrialised nations.
That progressive thought it wrong that people were being paid to do nothing when there was so much that they might do to the benefit of themselves, their families, and their country.
Labour won in 1997, in part, because it put forward policies some of which had an appeal across boundaries of demography, geography, religion etc. I would hazard that a policy calling for serious investment in broadband would be one such.
I am a Labour Party member. I have never not voted Labour since I turned 18. I campaigned for Labour this June. I will do neither, again, at a General Election whilst Corbyn continues to lead Labour.
Finally, that man, buried by the River Dwyfor, was David Lloyd George. In 1909, he ended his Limehouse Speech with these words,
“We are placing burdens on the broadest shoulders. Why should I put burdens on the people? I am one of the children of the people. I was brought up amongst them. I know their trials; and God forbid that I should add one grain of trouble to the anxieties which they bear with such patience and fortitude. When the Prime Minister did me the honour of inviting me to take charge of the National Exchequer at a time of great difficulty, I made up my mind, in framing the Budget which was in front of me, that at any rate no cupboard should be barer, no lot would be harder. By that test I challenge them to judge the Budget.”
I judged Corbyn’s Manifesto. I found it wanting. I have relatives who claim the benefits that Corbyn would leave frozen. In so doing, he would leave their lot harder for years to come, should he ever win power.
Lloyd George was a Liberal; a reformer, who helped found our system of social security; a politician who advocated, wherever possible, a bi-partisan approach to government and before 1914, DLG was seriously talking about forming a party of the centre …
If you are suggesting that I am being patronising then nothing could be further from the truth I assure you.
On this blog we are invited to comment and I did and what you have read is how I see things – I am not condemning for your views. I am offering an alternative way of looking at things. Having it suggested that I am being condescending will not keep me away.
I would ask you to consider that policy making is not just about redistributive tax – it is also about utilising the Government’s power to print real money (especially when it wants to bribe another party into supporting it of course). Yes I know that the DUP will ‘invest’ that money but the principle of bribery is there for all to see. But so is the principle of printing money. The Government printed money for the banking sector too in 2008. So where’s the printed money for everyone else? The electrification of the railways, green energy – jobs?
Read Jolyon’s later blog about the analysis of the Labour performance in the last election and it seems that the perception of Labour being anti or soft BREXIT is what won them friends. Not their anti-austerity stance (such that it is). Labour still has a lot of work to do.
I say again to you John that this country is more right wing than ever before. That is what 40 years or so of neo-liberal grooming gets you. Corbyn and Labour’s task is the same as any progressive’s: it is Herculean. It’s how to go back to the idea that as Lloyd George says the broadest shoulders take the burden.
The broadest shoulders are the wealthy but also the Government itself John. That is a Government with politicians in it that want to help the people. Parliament is too full of ‘special advisors’ and lobbyists to do that at the moment.
For your information I was born a year earlier than you and have voted Labour all my life except after Iraq where I started to vote Green. I am now a member of a progressive alliance in my area pushing for proportional representation (PR) and anti-austerity.
Aneurin Bevan once observed, “”Fascism is not in itself a new order of society. It is the future refusing to be born.”
Some weeks ago, Blair made the same observation about Corbynism and Mayism.
The last General Election was a contest between the outdated Toryism of the village rector’s daughter and the old fashioned, paternalist socialism of the youngest son of the people who own the big house at the end of the village.
Corbyn is rightly opposed to selection at eleven, but is relaxed about selection at eighteen. On Planet Corbyn, the right sort of people go to university, it is just wrong that they have to take out a loan to pay for their tuition.
Corbyn will, of course, do something for the offspring of the working class, as set out here in the words of Zoe Williams:
“Finally, the promise of investment in adult education is a platitude – who could possibly want adults to be less skilled, less fulfilled, than they could be? – that masks a huge shift in priorities. Further education, known in the political class as what happens to other people’s children, has been underfunded for nearly a decade.”
Mark, you cite something called neo-liberal grooming. It is a lazy argument. Labour under Blair and Brown enacted policies that not only levelled up, but improved the life chances of those born into relative and absolute poverty, for example lone parents and their children.
Angela Rayner has much to say about how she would not be where she is today had it not been for Labour in Government between 1997 and 2010.
Labour under Corbyn now only offers levelling up. Seeking to improve social mobility has now been deemed a bad thing. There have been some appalling letters and articles in the Guardian, of all places, welcoming Labour focusing solely on levelling up. That they are written by those who have most to fear from greater competition from the proles and plebs for university places and graduate jobs is, I am sure, purely co-incidental.
No one would dare say that improving the life chances of women, the disabled, black and minority ethnic groups etc. was not worth attempting, because it is very difficult, but that is now being said about addressing the inequality, the limited opportunities facing those born into the working class. There has been a sea change under Corbyn and I, as a Labour member, was not consulted.
Gone is the target, set by Blair and Brown, to eradicate child poverty by 2020. Now if that goal was neo-liberalism, then bring it on, Mark, and save your progressive politics for discussions around the dining table.
Corbyn is not a progressive. Judge him by his actions and not his years of virtue signalling.
Corbyn displays all the hallmarks of an employer discriminating on the grounds of race, sex, and class. He has waxed lyrical for decades about the untapped talent amongst women, the working class, and black and minority ethnic groups.
On taking up office as Labour leader, Corbyn did not introduce open recruitment practices to fill paid and unpaid positions within the Labour hierarchy, but within days of winning office appointed his own son to a well-paid position as chief of staff to John McDonnell.
Many of Corbyn’s other appointments have been family, friends and associates, mostly drawn from a very narrow faction on the Far and Hard Left. You say, Mark, that, “Parliament is too full of ‘special advisors’ and lobbyists …”. You are right and there are many of them within and around Corbyn’s own office.
I do not know about you, Mark, but I think white, middle, and upper class males need to budge up a bit and allow the rest of us a hand in running the country. Would that not be the progressive thing for them to do?
A progressive does not tell lone parents, whose benefits have been frozen at £73.10 a week since 2015, “that policy making is not just about redistributive tax” and that the freeze will only end, their benefits will only rise, when savings are made elsewhere in the Social Security budget. Were you one of those, Mark, who derided Gordon Brown when as Chancellor of the Exchequer he used the phrase, when resources allow?
Labour in Government bailed out the banking sector in 2008, because it is hard for our society to function if two major clearing banks cease trading overnight. You may indeed print money for this or that capital project, but at any given point in time there is only a finite amount of land, labour, capital, and enterprise. In the short term, you risk increasing inflation, like the wage inflation seen in parts of the construction sector in recent years. Yes, Corbyn in using the racist language of Farage on Marr was being economical with the actualité in that regard.
Is it the really act of a progressive to adopt the language of a fascist and lie whilst doing so?
BREXIT is already making investment in capital projects more expensive, before we ever get to the series of proscriptions on contracts and autarky measures beloved of John McDonnell. Corbyn only put up token opposition to the Tories pruning back of subsidies for renewable energy. He is more interested in intervening in the energy market to cap prices than implement measures to improve energy efficiency that would create jobs and business opportunities whilst reducing bills for individuals and businesses. His latest wheeze would be for Labour, on taking office, to set an emergency cap of £1,000 per year for duel fuel bills that, I am sure only co-incidentally, would benefit the most middle and higher income earners.
You say bribery, the DUP say leverage. Will you be equally high minded if Labour has to provide the SNP with a similar package of goodies to form a coalition, if the next General Election produces another hung Parliament?
Are progressives absolved of charges of playing politics, if they are the ones doing the ‘bribing’?
Incidentally, what is neo-liberalism?
For forty years, Corbyn campaigned for the UK to leave the EU on the grounds that there would be no serious downsides in doing so. The rising inflation since last June that has squeezed fixed incomes, like those of people on benefits, has to be scotch mist, because otherwise Corbyn would be attacking May over it at PMQs, would he not?
A progressive does not put at risk the poor, sick and needy at any time, but an ideologue, who has not had an original thought in decades clearly does.
Corbyn lied about his new found commitment to both the EU and NATO to win the Labour leadership first time out. He then did everything, but overtly campaign for Leave.
I imagine, Mark, you were not at the national launch of Labour’s Remain Campaign. I was. Corbyn was not. He was too busy elsewhere, attending yet another anti-war meeting. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?
As a consequence of the Labour leader being elsewhere, the launch event got little media coverage. Corbyn began as he meant to go on.
Corbyn has for two years now refused, point blank, to unequivocally commit Labour under his leadership to the spirit and letter of Article 5 of the NATO Charter, the principle of collective defence. No Labour leader since Attlee, including Foot, has been unwilling to make such a statement. But then no Labour leader has ever had such close links with the Kremlin and has been so forgiving of the acts of a fascist like Putin. Corbyn is, forever, finding the good within homophobes, misogynists, racists etc.
Are such lies, associations, and obfuscations the acts of a progressive?
You mention Iraq. Corbyn never once took a principled stand on the issue. He did not resign the Labour whip over the issue. He did not apply for the position of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, so that he might fight a by election. When push comes to shove, Corbyn is rather more of a whisky priest than his words might first suggest.
By the way, Dr Stephen Kelly in his last report said Iraq possessed no battlefield ready weapons of mass destruction, but that it was close to being in a position to manufacture the same, when resources allowed. He reluctantly came to the conclusion that only regime change would prevent Iraq building up an arsenal of WMDs.
I contend that there were other ways of addressing the issue than Corbyn style virtuous hand wringing or an all-out invasion with no exit strategy, but then I recall Bevin’s words on such matters:
““Foreign policy is a thing you have to bring down to its essence as it applies to an individual. It is something that is great and big: it is common sense and humanity as it applies to my affairs and to yours, because it is somebody and somebody’s kindred that are being persecuted and punished and tortured, and they are defenceless. That is a fact.”
Is it the act of a progressive to turn the cheek of someone on the receiving end of persecution, punishment, and torture in order to avoid making difficult choices to aid them? If so, Jo Cox was not a progressive.
“Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones. But you still have to choose.”
I am afraid that the membership of the Green Party has always struck me as the most precious and middle class of all the major parties in UK politics today. Hard to take seriously the joint leader of a party, when she agonises so much over an issue like the rules on frozen overseas State Pensions, an invisible import, or thinks only the jobs of 3,000 people would be affected if the contract for the new Dreadnought submarines was cancelled.
If the intellectually challenged, spoilt youngest son of an affluent, white middle class family, a poster boy for the benefits of attending grammar school, really is the best hope of progressives then we really are in a mess. For only in a rigged society would Corbyn now be leading the Labour Party.
Corbyn is no Hercules, because for him to be so then he would have to threaten to topple the very system that put him where he is today. The Old Boy Network that nodded through Corbyn placing his own son, a Cambridge graduate of 25 and the brains behind the Little Red Book Incident, into a well-paid job.
I fear, Mark, that you and are do not share the same the definition of progressive that I learnt at comprehensive school?
Finally, in order to enact proportional representation, you have to win power through the ballot box under the current electoral system. That means middle class ‘progressives’ not telling the working age poor to take a ticket whilst they reward themselves with tax free goodies. They might think, “Sod it; I might as well vote Tory cos at least I won’t be paying the university tuition of other people’s kids …”
Linking anti-austerity with proportional representation sounds all very well, but if you are saying the latter has to come before tackling the former than you will be setting yourself up for an indefinite period of principled impotence. Is that perhaps your definition of being progressive, all good intentions, and no chance of action that might lead to you having to make compromises and hard choices?
Lloyd George once said, you may keep your principles shining bright and not get your hands on the levers of power or get them a bit tarnished, get your hands on the levers and do something. In all his years of a well-paid career in politics, Corbyn has done nothing to improve the condition of the working class. Blair only had to enact the National Minimum Wage, originally meant to have been the first Act of the first Labour Government, to permanently eclipse Corbyn.
A centre party should be one adopting and enacting policies for the many not the few that chime in with the principles of the majority of the population of the UK. A party that engages with the proles and plebs and, well, asks them what they want, rather than only seeking the views of the usual suspects …
Now that would be progressive!