Gordon Brown

Labour needs to be a movement, not a copycat

This week, Labour party members and affiliated supporters have been receiving their ballot papers; as a result, there has been last minute campaigns and continued fighting talk over who is best to lead the party and win the election in 2020.

Labour Leadership Candidates. From l-r: Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn

During the campaign period, Jeremy Corbyn has received a lot of support from young people as well as the support from older voters. However, the surge his campaign has created has also received criticism from Blairites and those who sit on the right side of the political spectrum. All this back and forth between the ‘lefties’ and the ‘right-left’ have caused me to consider that actually, the momentum Tony Blair received can actually be compared to the current Corbynmania. Maybe this explains why the other contenders feel threatened by this surge of support. Food for thought eh?

Surely the way Corbyn’s campaign is engaging young people into the political debate is a good thing? Surely bringing something that is different to the status quo opens up the electorates eyes and ears? The fact that so many people across the country support Jeremy Corbyn and what he hopes to offer if he wins the leadership contest proves the electorate is done with ‘New Labour’. I  just don’t understand why so many New Labour supporters and right wing media are smearing his name and doubting his ability to move the party forward. Surely the amount of young people he’s been able to engage and the debates he’s opening speaks for itself? Rather than circumnavigating over the old dilemma of whether socialism is dead, maybe we should be asking ourselves whether New Labour is dead. It certainly may be the beginning of the end of the Thatcher-inspired branch of socialism as in recent weeks, we saw Blair and Brown trying to hold on to their creation, urging supporters to vote for someone other than Corbyn.

Jeremy is the only contesting leader that is providing an alternative, the only one who seems to be listening to what Labour supporters actually want, rather than making the choices and decisions for us. Let’s think about this in another light – why aren’t the media smearing the names of the other candidates standing for the leadership? It’s not because the other leaders haven’t got dirt of their own that’s for sure. Jeremy isn’t pro New Labour. Never has been so he’s seen as the slayer of something these Blairites are trying to hold on to. New Labour had its moment but the moment Tony Blair decided to go to Iraq, it went into cardiac arrest. New Labour is now in a coma, and if Corbyn is elected in a few weeks time, it’ll surely be dead. In a way, i kind of feel sorry for those at the top of the party who have been trying to preserve the foundations of New Labour. I think because it’s been a custom of the party for so long, people who support that branch of socialism have become to fear change. But it’s ironic isn’t it? I mean you hear from politicians that we need to be pragmatic as well as progressive but Jeremy Corbyn enters the contest to do just that and the media and those who oppose him are first to criticise. I guess its the fear talking within them.

It seems people across the country are pleading for an alternative, a party that actually stands for something, a purpose other than solely seeking election victory. You see, because before you can even set a goal, you need to grasp what your purpose is, what you hope to achieve and how you will do so. In order to win the hearts of the people, it doesn’t help by smearing someone’s name in dirt which is what i admire most about Jeremy Corbyn. It must be very hard trying to run a campaign and gain the support of people (hasn’t failed there) when the media and other fellow Labour Party members keep using your views and portraying them in a negative light.

Corbyn’s stance on foreign policy and international relations has also been highlighted and debated. From calling Hamas ‘friends’ to his connections with controversial figures in the Palestinian movement. The backlash against Corbyn’s campaign has gone as far as to base his credibility as leader on the people he knows. Firstly, i’m sure many of us know people with radical views who we talk to and probably consider as our friends, doesn’t mean we hold the same view as them. Secondly, how do we ever expect to achieve peace if we don’t speak to our enemies?! Peace isn’t achieved through endless wars and terror attacks, that’s for sure. This nature of not negotiating with the other side is completely ridiculous. Everyone has to be part of the peace process, including those we consider as the bad guys. That’s how we come to common ground. Wake up people!!!

Rather than dig up dirt on a genuine candidate who speaks his mind regardless of instructions by party whips and so on, why don’t we listen and partake in this new, open and honest politics Corbyn has ignited?

As someone who has worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn many a times, i know he’ll offer something different, something we’ve been wanting for a very long time. A movement. Corbyn’s politics hasn’t been the norm for over 20 years and that my friends is the real fear amongst anti-Corbynites.

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Scotland Votes No

For the last two years, both the Yes and No campaigns have tirelessly tried to persuade the people of Scotland to either back independence or the union. From numerous debates and watching polls with tension, in the last few weeks before the announcement of the results, it looked like Salmond was to achieve his lifetime goal of independence. However, it was all too good to be true as the referendum result was a No majority, with only 3 cities in Scotland, including Dundee and Glasgow, backing the Yes campaign. Could the last minute intervention from Gordon Brown have helped? Possibly.

End of an era: Alex Salmond looking defeated as the election results were announced on Friday morning

But at least the Queen is happy. I mention HRH because last week  (or should i say for quite a while), there was a debate as to whether she should state her views on the Scottish independence issue or not. Of course many thought she shouldn’t as she is not elected by the demos (that’s us) and thus can not influence such a political matter. However she did make a slight comment in which it was interpreted as her backing the No campaign as she hoped voters would “think very carefully about the future”. Of course she would make some intervention. Protecting her role as Queen and the 300 year old History between the two countries, how much more traditional can you get!?

So what happens now? Well firstly Alex Salmond has announced he is to resign as First Minister 😦

My first thought was why resign? I mean yes, his campaign didn’t succeed but is that the message of a leader – when we fall at the first hurdle we should give up? His resignation also shocked me because as a man who has always stood up to the ‘demons’ of Westminster, by resigning is he not just giving central government the satisfaction, Cameron included? It may have been inevitable that a No vote would have resulted in Salmond not returning to Westminster, especially after all the backlash which occurred during the tv debates, but isn’t that what politics is all about? Like i said, i was very shocked and to some extent disappointed in that Scotland’s First Minister has decided to reign in the ropes but with Nicola Sturgeon, his second in command, being his most likely replacement, i’m sure she will be a great person for the job.

Now back to Scotland as a nation. Well, since they ditched the idea of independence, the No campaign did promise more devolved powers and it seems that’s what they’ll get – devo max. What this means is that Scotland can control its own affairs in terms of policing, and taxes, including its economy. But what is devo max exactly? It is being posed as the biggest constitutional change since Ireland got home rule as Cameron promised an extension of powers to Scotland over taxes, spending and welfare policy. However, this also opened up the ‘West Lothian’ question – that is whether English MPs should only vote and make decisions on matters on, you guessed it, issues primarily concerning England. There has also been an expanision of this idea if you like to cities such as London. That is whether City Hall, the body which represents the capital, should be given more powers to better represent the ever-growing population in the capital city. Although in theory it may sound like a good idea, there comes a point where one may debate the need for Westminster politicians. Could this be the way forward for British politics? Despite huge focus being on Scotland in the last few years, there is no doubt that the referendum result has got people thinking about the way we demonstrate our democratic abilities, both us normal folk as well as politicians alike.

Unsurprisingly, Salmond disagrees, believing No voters had been ‘tricked’ by the Better Together campaign.

Whether it’s the sound of a desperate man or an attempt to tell the No voters ‘I told you so’, it may seem the SNP leader has a point. This is because at present, all three main political parties still disagree over the process in which devo max will be laid to Scotland, but do agree that it will happen. So not another empty promise it may seem? Let’s hope so anyway, for the Scots sake.

If anything, the referendum has showed Britain that political participation is still present today, despite austerity and lack of representation. With the stakes high for politicians as the general elections looms, i’m sure we will be hearing much more about devolved powers being transferred not just to Scotland but major cities as well such as London.

British politics and our constitution could change, possibly for the better but will it be sustainable? Is the union as safe as we may think despite the No vote? Just a penny for your thoughts.

For more information on devo max, click here and for latest developments on Scotland post referendum, click here

Policies v Presentation?

Last Friday (25th July), opposition leader, Ed Miliband, held a Labour party conference ahead of next year’s general election. One of the topics discussed was people’s position on him being prime minister.

If you’re a regular viewer of Prime Minister’s Question Time, you will know that David Cameron is never too shy to attack Mr Miliband on his leadership abilities. When Ed decided to confront this issue at his conference, he stated “big ideas and principles are more important than image and Labour had the right policies on dealing with “the cost of living crisis”.

My question is: Does presentation REALLY take priority over policies? It has been evident in the past with previous PM’s such as Tony Blair, who gained a massive landslide in the 1997 general election and Gordon Brown who had less charisma and lost the 2010 general election to Cameron. But should this take sole priority in today’s politics? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about our housing crisis or the lack of employment opportunities for young people and the long-term unemployed alike?

Even a former Tory cabinet minister has cautioned  Mr Cameron and his fellow  Tories to stop taunting Ed Miliband, arguing if he [David Cameron] fails to treat Mr Miliband with respect, the party could lose respect from their own voters. But this ‘lack of respect’ goes further than the Tories – even internal Labour party members and supporters have mentioned their lack of confidence in the Labour leader. Many within the party fear that the constant negativity from the  conservatives could deplete their chances of becoming the governing party.

The debate over the two P’s (Policies v Presentation) caused me to wonder why the election of Ed Miliband as party leader in the first place? I mean, if i’m being biased here, i always preferred his brother David as party leader. But then i asked myself, aren’t i favouring presentation over policy? You see, David Miliband is charismatic, better looking and a better speaker. But would he have introduced policies right for Britain? Being biased, undoubtedly. How can i be so sure i hear you ask? Well,  i can’t, but i hold on to some sort of hope. Just stay with me here. The point i’m trying to make is that maybe we’re so consumed by image, which goes beyond politics itself, that we fail to acknowledge what’s important; their policies and beliefs that will influence everything we do as a nation.

Another issue which was raised in the Labour conference was political transparency and involvement. What do i mean? Well, in simple words, public involvement in PMQs which takes place every Wednesday in Westminster. Ed Miliband believes it would “let the public into our politics” and “change our political culture”.

Of course a political maniac like me, it’s fab news, but how easy would it be to introduce? There has also been some debate amongst voters who say the public PMQ should not only be held in London, creating concern in terms of accessibility. Would this make our government more transparent and accountable? Who knows, but it isn’t a bad idea Ed.

So if you haven’t learnt anything, take this: What do you desire from the leader of your country? Their charismatic persona or a person who can do the job regardless of their personality? I know what i’d prefer, but hey! as a wise tutor once told me, let’s not exploit your vulnerability…