A New Year message from Kia Strummer – Leader of the UK’s Supportive Opposition

Well, where to start? OK, probably best to term this an apology rather than pretending to be upbeat.

Labour has been in a mess for a long time now but we do like a good bit of internal warfare as it helps the Tories and frankly, they need all the help they can get presently. If you look back we’ve helped the Tories with Brexit by trying very hard not to oppose them whilst taking our place on the Brexit fence leaning both ways at the same time. I think we succeeded in that aim very well but that fence was very uncomfortable.

Our real battle with the Tories (the only one really) is for those pesky white, right-wing, working-class voters who used to back Labour but who deserted us in their droves because of our Brexit, or Lexit as we like to call it, stance. We’ve been seen as the ‘muddle in the middle’ by those Brexit backing voters, stuck between the pro-EU Libs and Brexit loving Tories. But we want those right-wingers back where they should be within Labour and we’re prepared to do all that’s required to get them back.

So here are my questions – Do we need to sound more right-wing, even more than Labour does already? We could get Rachel Reeves to re-run her 2013 idea to be harder on benefits than the Tories if that would do the trick? Or how about Labour going back to its socialist roots in a right-wing way? Jez Corbyn tried that in a left-wing way and it went down like a brick budgie with the right-wingers who beggared off to the Tories. Please, please, I’m begging you; let me know your ideas to get right of centre voters back in their Labour home.

And speaking of Jez Corbyn, it was a huge laugh for Labour right-wingers when we were trying to look like we were backing him whilst we were actually trying to do him in as our leader. There were many social democrat-type MPs singing the Jez/Momentum tune so as not to be deselected and constituency Labour parties across the UK were pretty much all fooled by some terrible acting. But seriously the right is back in control of Labour again, at least until the next round of left V right which may well be just around the corner. So Labour needs to look and feel Tory whilst not being seen as Tory at all, maybe we could aim to be One Nation (Tory) Labour? Someone dig out Ted Heath’s policies, please.

So Labour is clear, in 2022 we’ll be swinging more to the right and less to the left, in fact, if we can drop anything remotely leftie from our policies then so much the better. Yes I know, Labour is always stuck in the past, refighting old battles with Thatcher and Blair but by becoming One Nation Labour we can go back to the halcyon days of the 3 day week and put the 1970s to rights. If that doesn’t get the white, working-class, right-wingers back nothing will!

So that’s Labour’s plan. Like it? Got any right of centre policies you think Labour should adopt? Why not drop me a line via a handwritten letter, very 1970s!

PS. I recently thought of that iconic 1979 Liberal poster, the one with David Steel (he was a bit of a leftie I’m told) in the middle of Thatcher and Jim Callaghan. Well, a remake of that classic poster could have the Labour Leader (not sure how long I’ll last in the job) in the middle with Tory and Lib Dem leaders on either side. Those Libs are still lefties so Tim Farron tells me, so with a new Labour slogan – Go muddle in the middle – all will end well for our reinvented Ted Heath-type Labour Party. What could go wrong?

1979 – My political awakening

The Liberal Party leaflet scanned above is from the period of my party political awakening and as I’ve said before on this blog site I ended up joining the old Liberal Party on New Year’s day 1980. I mention it now because my dear friend Peter Gibson presented me with the leaflet a few days ago as he thought I’d like and appreciate it. He was right.

My original grasp at politics was with a small ‘p’ when I decided to become an activist in my trade union IRSF (Inland Revenue Staff Federation) in 1978 and it was only after this that my thoughts turned to politics with a big ‘P’. I was sure I was not a Conservative as at the time I lived with a sometimes card-carrying one (my Dad) but frankly I was not particularly well versed in party politics. This pondering was brought to a head by my old friend Andrew Beattie who sadly died back in 1999. Andrew obtained the 1979 GE manifestos of the 3 major political parties; well he did work in a book shop! Anyway, we set about reading and debating them; him from a left-leaning household, me from a right-leaning household. In the end, we both concluded we were in fact Liberals by instinct and joined the party of that name together, at Peter Gibson’s house, on the 1st day of 1980.

It soon became clear to me that the Liberals were streets ahead of Labour in terms of worker rights and and worker participation in companies. I recall listening to policies outlined by the likes of Richard Wainright MP and thinking that’s what I think too. Richard saw Labour as a party tinkering around the edges of employment issues but without the courage to really empower workers in the workplace. I liked the idea of worker cooperatives, mutuals, and meaningful worker participation in companies as opposed to the ‘us and them’ approach to industrial relations offered and indeed promoted by Labour and Tories.

It’s interesting that this old political leaflet talks of a ‘A new industrial partnership that gives workers equal rights with shareholders, joint decision making, employee ownership and profit sharing’ and those ideas are still needed over 40 years later!

I met Steel once in Liverpool and saw him on many more occasions. He was a good political performer although having developed my true political opinions to one of being a Social Liberal I must admit he was actually selling a moderate centrist outlook which with hindsight (always a wonderful thing) lacked a truly radical Liberal edge.

So interesting memories were brought back to mind by a historic political leaflet.

Lib Dem Leadership Hustings – Manchester event – Swinson shaded it for me

I attended the Lib Dem Leadership hustings event held in Manchester yesterday evening to help me decide whether to back Jo Swinson or Ed Davey. I came away more impressed with Davey than I expected to be but Swinson shaded it for me because of her engaging and down to earth way of connecting with her audience.

Those who know me well will realise that I had wanted Layla Moran to stand for Lib Dem Leader but probably for all the right reasons she decided not to. I’m guessing that she wants to get more experience under her belt before taking such a step.

I thought Davey was very good on the issues of climate change and the economics of switching from fossil fuels to renewable ones but Swinson was better for me across the whole range of questioning she came under at the event. And that range of questioning covered saving the NHS, stopping Brexit, investing in rail transportation in the north, equalities, education, climate change and other issues too.

I do however subscribe to Jonathan Calder’s view that this contest is between two Steel’s with no Pardoe. And for those not well up on Liberal history, when David Steel became Liberal leader his opponent was John Pardoe who was seen as being a more radical alternative for leader. It’s that more radical approach that I want to see from both the present Lib Dem leadership candidates. I don’t do Centrist moderation, it’s too comfortable – be more Pardoe please and challenge us all, whether we be Lib Dem members and supporters or not, to back a more radical and socially progressive Liberal movement.

Oh and by the way whilst backing Swinson, I will be content with either winning the contest so long as they embark on a radical agenda of course…….

The Waverley Route & David Steel MP

When the Waverley Route (Carlisle to Edinburgh) was down for closure in the 1960’s a young Liberal MP stood alongside his constituents and fought to try to save it. Alas the dirty deed was done anyway, only for some of it to reopen earlier this year.

A trip to the National Railway Museum in York recently and what do I find but a graphic panel all about the closing of the Waverley Route and photos of that young MP and his fellow campaigners. Here it is:-

David Steel and the Waverley Route

Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

The writing on the bottom of the photo is too difficult to read even when expanded but it says ‘Lord David Steel MSP leads a protest against Beeching Plan closures in 1968’. Of course back in the day he was just David Steel MP with both a Lordship and being a member of the Scottish Parliament being many moons away. Indeed, a Scottish Parliament was very far from being a reality back in 1968.

Just goes to show how words can mislead even when they are intended to be informative, as in this case. The reader, without any background political knowledge would think that Lord David Steel MSP led the campaign.

What David Steel thinks went wrong for Nick Clegg & the Lib Dems

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/11/nick-clegg-liberal-democrats-disaster-coalition

250px-David_Steel,_October_2007

The Guardian newspaper has the story – see link above.

There are clearly going to be many people giving their opinions on what went wrong for the Lib Dems and indeed Labour in the recent General Election but I quite like this piece from David Steel who was the Liberal Leader when I first joined the Party in 1980.

With thanks to Roy Connell for leading me to the article.

An unnatural coalition that had no choice

Read the excellent short piece ‘Unnatural Coalition’ on Iain Brodie Browne’s Birkdale Focus Blog Site

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/

and then my comments below:-

Unnatural certainly. This Coalition without the dire financial situation of the UK would surely never have happened. But it was that dire edge of a cliff financial meltdown that was the overriding priority. It made us very strange partners of a party that has within it some of the worst right wing folk you can think of.

Then again there was no alternative of course. Labour had too few seats to form a government without adding in all kinds of weird and wonderful political oddities from across the UK. It would have been a Coalition from hell with an opposition Tory Party pulling it apart day by day. Last 5 years? I would have given it 1 at the most.

I often wonder what would have happened if Labour had not lost so many seats and a coalition with them had been a runner. Firstly, I don’t think they would have wanted it and would rather have stayed in opposition due to being politically shot full of holes and exhausted. But what if they had been up for it? Is it possible that they could seriously reign in their tax, borrow and spend approach to Government? I seriously doubt that they could.

Clegg had no alternatives despite this Coalition being one of the oddest political partnerships of recent history. How do we work with a Tory Party that has no heart or a Labour Party that always loses its head and this despite the fact that there are people within Labour, on the social democratic wing, who think at times as we Lib Dems do.