Liz Kendall

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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Labour in decline?

Ok, so i haven’t posted in quite a while and recent news coverage of Osborne’s budget and Labour’s response (or shall we say Harman’s support) of the cuts to child tax credit for working families ignited a new post i needed to put out there so here it goes.

HOW CAN HARRIET HARMAN SUPPORT THE TORIES BUDGET, ESPECIALLY THE CUTS TO CHILD TAX CREDIT!? (Apologies for the caps, but i’m sure you can tell that really angered me). Labour, a traditionally left-wing party, are meant to be a party for WORKING PEOPLE. Now, how does supporting a policy that penalises families for having children, support working families? If anything, it will put more and more working families into the poverty line. But let’s also remember, Cameron and Co recently changed the meaning of poverty as recent statistics show the rate of poverty in the UK has increased significantly since the Conservatives were elected back in 2010. If we rewind back to May, just before election day, Cameron said on a special edition of Question Time that his party had no plans to cut child Tax credit. Here’s a little reminder…

Fast-forward a couple of months, and already the Prime Minister (elected by only 24% of the electorate!) has broken that false promise. Many spectators, including Harriet Harman, have said Labour lost the election because they are not trusted by the electorate to protect our economy but what about the lives of working people? Many don’t trust the Tories to protect the services that REALLY matter to ordinary people such as welfare, education and the NHS. Meanwhile, Harriet Harman has succumbed to the palms of the Tories and just accepted their plans to cut child tax credits for millions of families who have more than two children. This leaves me wondering as to why Harman has just accepted defeat?

This is the moment where she should be standing up for those who didn’t vote for a conservative government and oppose the budget announced by Osborne. But instead, she fails to oppose the cuts proposed with many now wondering what Labour stands for. Is Labour a party for working people or is it a party that succumbs to the voice of the minority, abandoning its historic roots? And the inevitable question, is socialism dead? Even the Tories are saying they are in fact the party for working people, so surely there’s nothing more for the Left movement?

There is a question over whether there’s going to be a rebellion within the Labour Party after Harriet Harman’s shocking support of the proposed cuts by the Tories, including those standing for the leadership contest. The whole Labour leadership is what inspired the headline of this post. Personally, i don’t think any of the Labour MPs standing for the leadership are really what Labour needs (apart from one – i’ll discuss this in a bit).

Let’s start with Liz Kendall. She’s too Tory (you’re probably thinking that would be a good thing) but its not. You see, Labour needs a leader that can oppose and advocate the needs of ordinary folk, not a copy cat Cameron. Some have gone as far to say that she’s in the wrong party. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with using the strengths of your opponent to your advantage, but whether that’s enough to convince a great number of Labour supporters, i’m not entirely sure.

Next up, there’s Andy Burnham. Where do i begin? I was put off by him when i saw this so for me, there really isn’t much to say. If it was a Tory, i would react in exactly the same way so bye bye Burnham, you’re not getting my vote.

Then we have Yvette Cooper. Now, this one really got me thinking. Married to Ed Balls, notable MP, quite possibly the underdog within the leadership contest. Personally, i could definitely see her as leader of the Labour Party, particularly if it is modernisation and re-direction to centre-left that is required.

But, Jeremy Corbyn. He entered the leadership contest at the last minute and boy has his campaign taken off! He’s the only candidate that truly has a movement which attempts to redefine the party and take it back to its roots. Not in an attempt to go back to a time where Trade Unions were the life of the Labour Party but to a more modern era of where true working people are at the core of Labour’s values. Where austerity is challenged by a true opposition party and a leader who has the guts and bravery to not succumb to the trickery of the Conservative Party. Whether Labour win or lose in the next general election, Labour needs a leader that will gear it in the right direction, a direction which consists of listening to the people – its supporters and non-supporters alike – as well as mapping out its economic agenda. Most importantly, Labour as a whole need to learn to adapt the tactics of its rival – that is embracing its past achievements, being confident to tell the story of the financial crisis back in 2008 (and how it was the BANKERS AND NOT THE PARTY ITSELF) that caused the crash, but finally not biting more than it can chew. What i mean is that the party needs to be able to identify the key aims it wants to establish whilst also not giving too much away. It seems this is a tactic done all too well by the Tories and in order to win, well it needs to start taking notes.

Many of you who may have studied politics would know all too well that time and time again, the question of whether socialism is dead always arises. What is socialism? A leftist movement? An attempt to overthrow capitalism and return the means of production to community level? Welfarism? All these are issues which we deal with everyday and i don’t think its a matter of ‘socialism is dead’, but more a case of whether ‘elitism has become too powerful for us to control’. I’m going to leave that for you to think about.

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about Osborne’s budget and the Labour Leadership contest. Whilst your thinking, here’s a little video of the (quite) recent Labour Leader’s debate in case you missed it like i did. Enjoy!

Reflection on the General Election

So since my last post, Britain (well 24% of the electorate) voted for a Conservative government, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband both resigned as party leaders and Nigel Farage didn’t win Thanet (Oh and he stepped down as leader too, but only for 3 days). With all that happened, many questions emerged like why did Labour lose the election? Why were the opinion polls so wrong? Many politicians and observers have given their opinions since the election results were announced but its fair to say, there are things which need to be investigated, particularly within the Labour Party. Did they lose their sense of direction? Is socialism dead?

It’s worth reading this commentary on Labour’s defeat.

To be fair, the campaigning Labour did throughout the course of the election was overwhelming, but as the results have shown, it didn’t extend beyond London. The party most importantly failed to defend their role in the 2008 financial crisis and allowed Cameron and crew to spit all over them. That is important because Labour is traditionally seen as economically incompetent. However, the message that Labour failed to deliver was that the financial crisis occurred on a global scale, and most probably would have happened if there had been a Conservative government in office at the time.

After the party’s defeat, many turned to Ed Miliband as the cause of the party’s failure, but that may have been a but too harsh. The thing is, everyone (including Labour party supporters and politicians) were quick to come up with the reasons why the party failed to win a majority, but if we all noticed these issues, why weren’t they addressed sooner rather than later? Whether it’s Miliband’s lack of persona or the awkward #Edstone, the party’s failure, it seems, lay at their inability to emulate their predecessor, Tony Blair. Now, i know many do not like to talk about Blair because he led us into the Iraq war and all, but you cannot question his leadership style. It was under Blair that the Conservatives had to go through three leaders (William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith & Michael Howard) before it found David Cameron who tried and succeeded in emulating Blair’s style, politically and charismatically. Let’s also not forget Blair’s ability to get Murdoch eating at the palm of his hand. But seriously, Blair is the only modern political leader in Britain who had been able to resonate with everyone, irrespective of social class. Miliband on the other hand created a campaign based on an ‘us vs them’ which could have worked, but there is the small issue of people wanting to appear better off than they actually are. In short, in order for Labour to be a successful opposition party, it now needs to learn how to emulate the Conservatives (not by being an upper class snobbish party) but by recognising why the electorate seem to stick to the devil they know, and how they would create change for everyone, not just the working man.

We’ve all voted. We know who’s in government, but what now? What does a Conservative government mean for all of us? Well, for starters we no longer have Nick Clegg and the liberals to halt the passing of legislature that would be detrimental to ordinary folk like the axing of the Human Rights Act which would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights according to the party’s manifesto. If this specific mandate were to become law, it would mean that citizens would no longer be able to go to the European Court of Human Rights to appeal a court decision made by the UK Supreme Courts, giving legal sovereignty to UK courts. The idea of the UK Supreme Court having the final word has also evoked fear of corruption between politicians and judges.

Other Conservative Party policies that are likely to go ahead include:

  • Referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU
  • More devolved powers to Scotland – ‘The Scotland Bill’
  • Reducing the annual benefits cap by £3,000 to £23,000 and removing housing benefit from under-21s on jobseeker’s allowance
  • Taking out of income tax anyone working 30 hours a week on minimum wage by linking the personal allowance to the national minimum wage
  • New education bill to “force coasting schools to accept new leadership”
  • A housing bill to extend the right to buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants
  • A bill to double free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

One thing’s for sure, Labour and other anti-Tory individuals and groups have to become more united than ever over the next five years as more cuts and austerity measures are expected to be rolled out. It will also be interesting to see how the Labour leadership contest plays out. It is disappointing that Chuka Ummuna pulled out of the contest as i think he would of been a great candidate, but what Labour now needs is someone who can shake things up a bit like Tony Blair. The leader of the Labour Party needs to be able to know what direction the party is going in, defend its economic history and fight for the people – the working and middle classes. Does it need to be centrist? Possibly, considering the left stance Miliband had clearly didn’t resonate. In short, Labour needs to redefine its political position in terms of what and who it stands for. And fast.