I used to vote Labour consistently. I’ve never voted SNP. I believe in devolution, not independence.
I wrote a detailed takedown of one particular Labour MP, Douglas Alexander, who quite evidently has more loyalty to his party than to any left-wing principles, but this is a general complaint: where are the Labour MPs who are willing to show they stand for something other than just the status of being an MP?
Sixty-four years earlier Aneurin Bevan said:
Referring to Mr. Churchill’s “set-the-people-free” speech, Mr. Bevan said that the result of the free-for-all preferred by Churchill would have been cinemas, mansions, hotels, and theatres going up, but no houses for the poor. “in 1945 and 1946,” he said, “we were attacked on our housing policy by every spiv in the country – for what is Toryism, except organized spivery? They wanted to let the spivs loose.” As a result of controls, the well-to-do had not been able to build houses, but ordinary men and women were moving into their own homes. Progress could not be made without pain, and the important thing was to make the right people suffer the pain.
He knew Labour’s policies would be attacked in the right-wing press, and his answer was:
“After a while the newspapers in the hands of our enemies will give the impression that everything is going wrong. Don’t be deceived, it is then that they will start going right. We are the people to whom the people can complain. I shall be unmoved by the newspapers, but moved by the distress.”
Where are the politicians with this kind of courage and principle today?
[Iain Duncan Smith] “They are incentivised, many of these families, to find more children so that they can stay out of work. This is utterly wrong and it’s a benefit system which desperately needs change.”
The Standard’s headline was: ‘IDS says families have babies to claim benefits’.
Of course, you can imagine that NewNewLabour would get stuck into IDS on this one. Well, you might imagine it, but that’s not the Party spirit of the moment. Here’s how the Standard reported it:
‘His comments sparked an immediate backlash. Labour frontbencher Karen Buck said: “Iain Duncan Smith needs to think with great care before making these crass statements.”‘
What?! He needs to think about it?! That’s the problem, Karen Buck. He did think. Then he opened his mouth and the poison fell out. Don’t you get it?
Yesterday, the Tories declared themselves “very disappointed” that they wouldn’t get to cut child benefit for some of the poorest/most vulnerable families in the UK. Where are the Labour MPs standing up to declare themselves appalled and disgusted by this? To firmly commit their party, when in government again, against this attack on the welfare state?
Tomorrow, the consultation on the legislation for the referendum in autumn 2014 is being launched. Today Alex Salmond is giving the Hugo Young lecture:
“An independent Scotland can be a beacon for progressive opinion south of the border and further afield – addressing policy challenges in ways which reflect the universal values of fairness and are capable of [being implemented] within the other jurisdictions of these islands, and beyond. That, I believe, is a far more positive and practical Scottish contribution to progressive policy than sending a tribute of Labour MPs to Westminster to have the occasional turn at the Westminster tiller.”
Only a few days ago, Dr Éoin Clarke (loyal Labour Party member and editor of The Green Benches) was pleading with left-wing members of the Labour Party not to abandon the party just because the leadership is endorsing Tory policy. (He was nicer about it.) But yesterday he wrote:
The central pillar of Blairite strategy is that you can take the Labour Party as far right as is needed to win an election because the core vote/grass roots will have to accept it because they have nowhere else to go. This is the reason they will not say that the Welfare Reform Bill is wrong in principle.
I have news for those Blairites. While I, to my death, am going nowhere, increasingly many Trade Union friends, Labour Left colleagues, or grass-roots voters are leaving our party to go elsewhere. This is because they think we are too soft on Tory cuts, too authoritarian, too committed to regime change or simply too Blairite.
Look, regardless of what the tabloids say, it’s not that voters don’t want the kind of universalist-welfare-hippy-dippy-socialist kind of policies that the left-wing governments we elect in Scotland pursue: a survey of English voters for an IPPR report The dog that finally barked: England as an emerging political community found that
An even higher proportion, 45%, think devolution-led financial distinctions, such as free prescriptions and university education only for Scots, mean public money is unfairly distributed. Similarly, more than half of those asked said they think Scotland’s economy benefits more than England’s from being in the UK. Fewer than 25% believe the advantages are shared equally. (Guardian, 23rd January)
Look, if I were doing Labour Party strategy – that’s the key. These people have been told the reason Scotland gets free prescriptions and doesn’t make university students pay tuition fees, is because there’s an unfair share of public money going to Scotland. (There isn’t. Scotland’s a net contributor to the UK economy. London has the overspend, and Londoners don’t get free prescriptions or a pass on tuition fees.)
This is your chance. Tell them the truth. Tell them that Scots get these things because we elect left-wing governments. There’s no reason England can’t elect a left-wing government – indeed, it has: no Labour government since WWII has depended on Scottish Labour MPs for an overall majority. Let Labour be Labour. Forty-five percent of voters plainly want the advantages that left-wing government brings Scotland.
Why not campaign for that? Why run to the right? About this time last year, Avedon Carol, an expat American who’s been watching the Democratic Party in the US going ever right-ward trying to catch up with the Republicans had this to say:
The revolution has not been in technology. The revolution has been that the immorally rich have finally rebelled against the very possibility of democracy and equality and are making sure to nail down any hole in their walls against the rabble, eliminate any possibility of clever “little people” being able to better themselves with hard work or clever ideas. It has become increasingly difficult for any small business to emerge or survive, for poor kids to work their way up to a decent living. And it’s not an accident.
A government’s policies determine who lives and who dies, who earns and who starves. Government makes the money and decides where to spend it. It can give to rich people and buy nothing in return, or it can give it to the rest of us and give us roads and jobs and a stable base of government-employed public servants whose steady income results in steady spending in the real economy and thus creates the private sector jobs. A government can set policies that protect its workers, or one that forces them to compete with the worst, most corrupt slave economies.
Obama has chosen to give our money to the Malefactors of Great Wealth and make up excuses about technology and international competition to convince us that we should survive on subsistence wages in order to “compete” with China and India. Compete for what? Why, compete to make our rich people richer than their rich people. Whoever’s behalf we are working for, it won’t be for us.
US Senator Bernie Sanders warns that politics in the US have become plutocratic – “corporations must be treated as if they are actual people under the Constitution when it comes to spending money to influence our elections, allowing them for the first time to draw on the corporate checkbook – in any amount and at any time – to run ads explicitly for or against specific candidates.”
We aren’t as bad as that yet, though Patrick Harvie‘s warning is well worth heeding (February 2011, about the huge amounts of money Brian Souter – Scotland’s best-known bigot millionaire – is giving the SNP) :
“It’s no wonder that this economically and socially conservative administration has such appeal for a millionaire with attitudes to gay Scots which should have gone out with John Knox. The message this sends out is that the SNP is for sale to the highest bidder, and it’s no surprise that the same day they unveiled this donation they’re also on the record opposing equal marriage. Last time he gave them this much money, a long-standing commitment to improve bus services mysteriously disappeared from the SNP manifesto. I wonder what he wants this time. [Ans: Sir]
David Cameron and George Osborne and Nick Clegg and Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith are all part of the 1% – the very richest people in the country. Labour shouldn’t be standing with them or endorsing their policies or allowing their lies to go unchecked. We are not in a recession because Labour spent too much on social policies: we are not going to get out of the recession while the Conservatives are busy cutting away at the national economy, starting with the poorest and most vulnerable.
Why won’t Labour Ministers and MPs say flat out they’re against the Tory attacks on the disabled and the working poor and the poorest children, and applaud the SNP for so unswervingly opposing the Welfare Reform Bill in Scotland? Why not keep calling on the LibDems to return to their former status as a progressive party, and stop propping up these literally inhuman policies? Why not go all out like Aneurin Bevan and declare that you’re going to raise taxes and enforce them, do away with tax-dodging, you’re going to re-invest in the UK and un-do the Tory cuts and restore pay freezes? Why not campaign for social justice, and condemn the brutal millionaires of Cameron’s cabinet?
That’s the only way to get ordinary people to vote Labour again.
And by the way, if you did that, you’d be giving me and a load of other Scots who believe in devolution but hate what the Tories are doing to our country, a real reason for staying in the Union.