Labour members are guilty of prejudice and discrimination

The Labour Party has always fought for equal treatment, and against prejudice and discrimination, but, in their desperation to steer the Party in a certain direction, and get their favoured leadership candidate elected; many Party members are now betraying their own ideals and values.

Those on the left continually decry the prejudicial stereotyping of people; such as those who rely on benefits, who are universally labelled as ‘scroungers’ or cheats’. We hate the lack of opportunities available for young black men; who are labelled as criminals, gangsters, thugs and muggers, harassed by the police and discriminated against by educators, employers and politicians. We favour positive discrimination in our candidate selection procedures, as a way to address gender-bias and the under-representation of women in politics.

Equality and fairness is our rallying cry, but we are failing to practice what we preach.

We have created a negative stereotype regarding one group within our Party. We have turned them into the ‘Other’ and the unwelcome outsider, tarring them all with the same brush, failing to treat them as individuals who deserve to be judged on their own actions and merits.

The group I am talking about; is ‘Blairites’.

‘Blairite’ has now become an insult, or term of abuse.

The term ‘Blairite’, now has incredibly negative connotations attached to it, with anyone labelled as such, somehow seen as ‘not really Labour’, or even a traitor to the cause.

Blairites are castigated for the desire to take Labour onto the centre-ground, therefore supposedly abandoning left-wing values, ideals and aims. In short, Blairites are criticised for compromising; for making deals with ‘the enemy’.

Those who criticise Blairites for this are forgetting the fundamental axiom of politics: the entire point and goal of politics is compromise– to reach agreement between different factions and interests, so as to come to some kind of ‘middle-ground’ that all can accept and agree with.

That’s how society functions– through compromise and agreement.

Politics exists purely for this purpose; to reach a compromise and agreement. To reject compromise, is to invite strife, conflict, revolution, or even civil war.

Therefore, centre-ground politics is not only intelligent politics; it is also moral and ethical politics.

That’s why Blair was so successful, because he understood this fundamental point; to unite the nation, we must reach a centre-ground between hugely diverging opinions on what is considered to be the right, fair and just approach to organising our society.

That being the case, the only person who ever really earns the right to govern and lead the nation, is the person who is willing to compromise- to take all views and interests into consideration, so that all parties can feel in some way represented by the country’s government. Anyone who can’t, or won’t compromise is therefore not fit to lead or govern.

Without the willingness and ability to compromise, there is no peace and unity- in a political party, or in the nation as a whole; there is only conflict. For the perfect example of this, we need look no further than the troubles in Northern Ireland, whose intransigent politicians and fundamentalist militant groups doomed their country to years of violence and strife.

Crucially, it was Blair himself who played the key part in bringing some semblance of peace to that country, bringing opposing groups to the table, to reach some form of compromise and agreement.

Blair’s ‘Third Way’ was the perfect example of centre-ground politics, that not only sought to unite competing interests, but also sought to combine the best elements of competing approaches, to create a synthesis- in which oppositional approaches and interests are brought together and reconciled.

Blair united the interests of business, with the social movement for a fairer society; seeking to use the rewards of a thriving economy to enable massive investment in public services, particularly education. This then brought outcomes that were pleasing to all, as, for example: a better-educated society meant not only more equal opportunities and greater social mobility, but also a much more productive workforce.

This is how politics should be conducted’; it is the ‘holy grail’ of politics- a true ‘One Nation’ approach. Political movements or parties that only seek to advance their own ideology or cause, without thought for opposing interests, doom the country to an eternal cycle of political and social conflict and strife.

David Cameron’s government is a perfect demonstration of this, as its policy of pursuing ideological goals and factional interests, without thought or concern for those disenfranchised by our electoral system, has led to continual protest, unrest and conflict. The recent austerity marches are not only a clear illustration of the Tories’ flawed approach, they also provide incontestable proof that the Tories are not fit to govern.

Therefore, we can see that Third Way, centre-ground, Blairite politics; that seeks to compromise, unite and synthesise, should be applauded, not castigated.

The problem we face within our Party; is that many people have misunderstood the meaning of the term ‘Blairite’. Unfortunately, people have come to perceive those politicians labelled as ‘Blairite’, as being politicians who would agree with, or do, everything that Tony Blair did. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. Just because Tony Blair took us to war in Iraq, does not mean that all Blairites would do something similar.

We have to disentangle and disassociate Blair, from ‘Blairite’.

To be Blairite, is to share his approach, not to copy all his actions.

To be a Blairite, is to be a Third-Way, centre-ground politician, who seeks to unite opposing interests, factions and classes; to promote both wealth creation and social justice; seeking a strong economy for a fairer society.

To be Blairite, is to be intelligent, moral and unifying.

And in case we forget:

To be Blairite, because of these things, is to be successful.

This being the case, we should see that an insistence on a no-compromise, ideologically-pure approach, is to choose ignorance (of the purpose of politics) over intelligence.

It is to choose division, over unification; and conflict, over harmony.

It is to choose defeat, over success.

So let’s look again at those who we name, and seek to shame; as ‘Blairites’.

The truth is; they have not sold out, or abandoned their ideals.

They have instead understood the fundamental principle and purpose of politics.

They have not shown themselves to be ‘Tory-lite’, or a traitor to the cause.

They have instead, shown themself to be fit to lead and govern.

Brian Back.

The 2020 General Election campaign has begun!

Whilst fighting this battle, we’re losing the war

– The ‘Air War’ in the media.

All the post-election post-mortems and leadership campaigns have been so caught up with the desire to push the Party to the left or right, or back ‘this’ candidate, rather than ‘that’ one, that they have completely missed the most important point:

Labour didn’t lose the election on political direction; it lost because of poor communication.

Here’s what they lacked:

A clear, straightforward message: the Conservatives won because of their simple and clear message- you can’t trust Labour with the economy. Whilst Labour may have had much more to offer the electorate, the message was garbled and unclear, so it didn’t connect.

An effective media strategy: elections are won in the media, not on the doorstep. From the very beginning of their time in government, every Conservative politician in every media appearance made sure that they repeated the same key point – Labour crashed the economy.

Labour never refuted this and it was this, more than anything else, which lost them the election. It has been shown time and time again: if you say the same thing often enough, people will start to believe it. Labour’s belief that it would win the ‘ground war’, due its greater number of activists, was always misguided, as the voters’ minds were made up long before campaigners knocked their doors.

So, what the Leadership candidates and the whole of the parliamentary party must remember; is that the media campaign for the 2020 General Election has already begun.

All Labour politicians must use their position in the public eye to broadcast a strong clear, unified message, that ‘brands’ and labels the Tories as the party of the rich, and Labour as ‘The Party of the People’.

This media campaign must begin immediately, because we are already in danger of losing the war before we have started fighting, by letting the Tories dominate the headlines with their message and their lies, while we dominate the headlines with our in-fighting.

The Tories have come out fighting and are taking advantage of our focus on the leadership contest. They have announced policies which are grossly unfair and made statements which are grossly inaccurate.

We must fight back immediately and oppose the government– that’s our job- we are the opposition. We should be doing all we can to protest and fight against the unjust and unfair policies of the Tories.

We have to get our message out and make people see that the Tories are making life much worse, for all but a tiny percentage of the population.

This is where the leadership candidates must play their part. It is time that they demonstrated that they are fit to lead the party, by leading the fight against the Tories and providing some real opposition. They are now in the spotlight, so they are ideally placed to make use of their position, so as to highlight the unjust and unfair Tory policies, and paint a clear picture of how life could be better under a Labour government.

We must drum our message home, again and again, ensuring that it is repeated in every media appearance, by every Labour politician, until it has become accepted wisdom and the common-sense of our time:

The Tories are the party of the rich, Labour are the Party of the People’.

So, let’s learn the most important lesson of the last election and beat the Tories at their own game

The Conservatives didn’t win because they were more popular.

They didn’t win because their policies were more appealing.

They won because of better communication.

So let’s get our message out there.

Yes, the leadership battle is important, but let’s remember what we are here for:

  • To oppose the government
  • To win the next election

The war has begun…

Brian Back.

Labour Leadership: Why it can’t be Corbyn, but has to be Kendall

Now that the dust has settled after the leadership debate, we can review the main talking points, and consider what we have learnt, since the leadership contest started.

So, firstly, who won the TV debate?

The general consensus seems to be that Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall had the most impact.

But, having watched the TV debate, and followed the resulting arguments, the two most important questions for the Labour Party, and the answers to them, have become really clear:

What do we want?

  • We want a fairer society

What do we need?

  • We need to convince voters that we can create a strong economy.

I know, I’m currently just stating the bleedin’ obvious, so let’s break that down a little:

We want a fairer society.

We have always wanted a fairer society.

In the TV debate, the audience’s reaction to Jeremy Corbyn demonstrated that it is not just Labour supporters- most voters want a fairer society.

Jeremy Corbyn’s focus on inequality and injustice has been really pleasing to many Labour supporters, as these issues seem to have been neglected by many Labour MPs (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1dqn4TO ).

The popular impact of Corbyn’s call for a fairer society has led many of his supporters to claim that he is therefore the leader we want.

But, what do we need?

If we want a fairer society, we need to win the next election.

Unfortunately, to win an election, arguments for a fairer society will not be enough on their own; the recent election result has proved that- as the saying goes: ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’

It has now become accepted wisdom; that Labour lost the election because they didn’t manage to refute the Conservatives’ claim; that Labour’s overspending caused the financial crash (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1drc6NS ).

What we need, is a leader who can convince the electorate that Labour can be trusted with the economy. Is that Jeremy Corbyn?

For many Labour supporters, Jeremy Corbyn represents the true heart of the Labour movement (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1AYjVFA ). His excellent speech and the ‘rock-star’ reaction it received at the austerity march in London demonstrated this and showed that the left is still a hugely popular and important force in British politics. However, all that really shows about Corbyn is that he is very good at preaching to the converted. That stirring speech may have wowed the crowd, but would it have changed the mind of those swing voters who doubt Labour’s economic competence? Whilst Corbyn’s values and politics are undeniably admirable, he is not known for having a strong economic plan.

But more importantly, Jeremy Corbyn is just not electable.

Think about it: many people thought (Red) Ed Miliband was given a hard time by the right-wing press. Corbyn is seen as being far more radical and left-wing than Ed Miliband, how do you think he will be portrayed in the media?

Communist Corbyn?

They will slaughter him.

In fact, the slaughter has already begun, with suggestions of his links to the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah already made public.

No, although we can definitely admire Corbyn, he is not the right choice for leader. Corbyn would instead, be a great choice for a key shadow cabinet role, so as to ensure that traditional Labour values remain an important focus for the parliamentary party.

What we need in a leader, is someone who will not only pursue Labour’s traditional goal of a fairer society, but will also be convincing in their claim to be able to create and manage a strong economy.

A strong economy and a fairer society, that’s what we have to be all about, that’s what has to be our focus and our ‘brand’, isn’t it?

That being the case, there is only one candidate who is convincing on both of these issues- Liz Kendall.

Liz Kendall is convincing, and most importantly, credible, in her desire to balance the books and create a strong economy.

She is convincing, and most importantly, passionate, in her desire to reduce inequality; to create equal opportunities and greater social mobility.

Not only that; Liz Kendall is a convincing and dynamic public speaker, who has the all-important charisma that Ed Miliband lacked, which cost him so dearly and lost Labour so many votes in the election.

However, despite this, Kendall is still struggling to win over the left of the Party, because she is seen as being too right-wing. This is mainly due to poor reporting from the press.

The media have sought to pigeon-hole Kendall as the Blairite candidate, for her focus on wealth creation and deficit reduction. She has even been accused of being ‘Tory’ for this reason. These labels are both lazy and inaccurate.

Liz Kendall’s focus on wealth creation is seen as right-wing, but this right-wing focus is based on left-wing goals; her aim is wealth creation, for wealth re-distribution. She wants a strong economy, so as to enable greater investment in the public services that benefit us all.

As for being ‘Tory’- for her desire to reduce the deficit, this ignores the huge difference between the Tories and Liz Kendal:

The Tories aim to reduce the deficit, by cutting public services.

Liz Kendal seeks to reduce the deficit, in order to invest in public services.

She points out that we are currently spending more money on servicing our debt, than we are spending on education. Reducing the deficit will free up huge amounts of money, which can then be used to repair the devastating damage done to our public services by the Tories.

I previously stated that our message and our ‘brand’ should be: ‘a strong economy, and a fairer society’.

Liz Kendall’s approach improves on that. If Liz Kendall was our leader, Labour’s message, and it’s ‘brand’ would be: ‘a strong economy for a fairer society’.

With a message like that, she can appeal to the left and right of the Party, and also the left and right of the electorate: to all of the Party, and all of the country.

‘A strong economy, for a fairer society’: that’s a brand and a banner that the Party can unite behind.

That’s a brand and a banner that can unite the country.

This piece began by asking what we want and what we need.

What we want and need; is a convincing and charismatic leader, who can unite the Party and appeal to the whole of the country.

Only one candidate answers this description, it’s obvious;

It has to be Liz Kendall.

Brian Back

Liz Kendall

I watched Liz Kendall speak for over an hour last week (16th June), at a meeting in Cardiff.

I have to own up; when I went in, I was feeling sceptical and was struggling to remain objective and neutral.

I am the most left-wing person I know: I read Marxist theory almost exclusively through university, and as a Sociology lecturer, I now teach Marxist ideas and theory almost every day. So, the prospect of going to see someone who has been labelled pro-business, Blairite, and right-wing did not fill me with much excitement or hope.

However…

The meeting was a real lesson, in a number of ways:

Firstly, don’t rely on the easy sound-bites of the press to give you any real idea about any of the candidates. Liz Kendall is nothing like the person you have been made to think she is, by the reports in the media.

Secondly, it is important to avoid the almost automatic prejudice that many of us have against anyone considered to be Blairite. It is an easy assumption to make; that if a politician is Blairite, then they cannot possibly hold ‘real’ Labour values.

Liz Kendall faced a much more difficult and diverse set of questions than Andy Burnham had to face at his meeting the night before, but her responses were much more intelligent, well thought out and well-informed.

Her response to the (deliberately?) difficult and diverse questions was impressive. It was also eye-opening, because she is much more of a ‘real’ Labour MP, with very strong Labour values, than she is made out to be by the press.

Yes, she is pro-business. But that is because she knows that the only way we can solve the problems of poverty and deprivation is through doing all we can to ensure that our wealth-creators create wealth, so that this wealth can be used to solve our social problems. But make no mistake; although Liz is pro-business, she wants the rewards from successful businesses to be much more equally shared across our society. She very convincingly used the example of the manufacturing sector in Germany to demonstrate how strong unions can bring greater productivity and greater prosperity to both employers and employees, as well as greater security to both parties.

Liz Kendall very strongly believes in equal opportunity and social mobility. She also showed great understanding of how inequality starts at birth and must therefore be addressed long before children reach primary school, through interventions such as Sure Start.

As for the big question of austerity, or ‘balancing the books’: is she too right-wing? Liz Kendall’s answer is that the massive investment into public services that we would all like to see, can only happen if we first stop paying out so much money to service our debt, which currently costs us more than we spend on education. Therefore, despite this desire to balance the books being broadly touted as clear evidence of her position on the right of the party, she has definite left-wing aims that she wishes to achieve through this seemingly right-wing position.

At this meeting, Liz Kendall very effectively addressed the two big concerns regarding a potential Labour Leader:

Is she credible on the economy?

Does she hold ‘real’ Labour values?

The answer to both of these questions was a very convincing yes.

And, in the last statement, lies the answer to my biggest question- is she convincing- convincing enough to persuade the public to vote Labour?

One of our biggest problems in politics has been the perception that politicians are all the same, and that they are ‘only in it for themselves’. People are struggling to believe in politicians, because none of them seem authentic or genuine.

Liz Kendall spoke with real passion and conviction, she really seemed to care about the state of our country and the problems we face.

Liz Kendall was convincing. She was convincing in her answers to our country’s problems. She was convincing in her approach to repairing Labour’s record for economic competence.

Most of all, she was convincingly sincere and passionate about her reasons for being in politics and what she wanted to achieve.

Liz Kendall was more convincing than Andy Burnham.

She was more convincing than Ed Miliband.

If Liz Kendall had been leading the party at the last election, I believe that we would have been more successful.

Being as Marxist as I am, I am incredibly surprised to find myself saying this; but, of all the candidates for the leadership, I currently find Liz Kendall to be the most impressive by far and I believe that if she becomes our new Labour leader, we have a very good chance of winning the next election.

Brian Back

Andy Burnham

I saw Andy Burnham talk for over an hour last week (15th June), at a meeting in Cardiff.

He spoke of his impressive career and voting record.

He spoke on a wide range of issues, offering solutions for the problems of immigration, inequality, Labour’s economic credibility, and also discussed the reasons for Labour’s defeat. This last was the most interesting. He stated that Labour needs to demonstrate that they could see beyond the ‘elite Westminster bubble’ and to regain its emotional connection with voters.

He then demonstrated why he wasn’t the man to do this.

On all these issues, he spoke intelligently and eloquently.

But, he didn’t speak passionately.

He discussed a range of issues, which it was obvious that those present felt very strongly about. But, most of the time, he discussed them in the same calm, dispassionate tones that one might normally use for explaining one’s preference for digestive, rather than bourbon biscuits.

It was only when he talked about the NHS, that any feeling, conviction and passion came through.

At that point, he suddenly seemed like a ‘real’ Labour politician, who cared deeply about things that were important to us.

At that point, he was beginning to show that he ‘got it’.

He was beginning to convince.

He was beginning to develop an emotional connection with us.

Then he stopped talking about the NHS, and I think he started talking about ‘biscuits’ again.

Andy; you spoke of the need to connect with ordinary voters, to talk in a language that people understand. But, it’s not what you say; it’s the way you say it that counts.

You said all the right things, but all in the wrong way. Try showing us that you feel our pain, that you care, that you are genuinely angry about the things the Tories are doing.

Try showing us that you are a ‘real’ Labour politician.

Try it once more, but with feeling!

Andy; when you talk to your next group of Labour supporters, imagine they are voters who we lost to UKIP, because they felt that Labour was no longer representing them.

Convince them that you really care about what’s happening in their lives.

Don’t change your answers; say exactly what you said to us at the meeting, but show that you really mean it.

Then, do that in every media appearance you make, from now on.

Do that, and you might be the kind of politician we need.

From now on, you have to show that you ‘get it’:

Get passionate, get angry, or get out of the race.

Brian Back