Why is a ‘leftie’ like you not a member of the Labour Party?

One of the major reasons a ‘leftie’ like me can’t support the Labour Party is because it’s fundamentally a class based party. A party which encompasses such a broad range of political opinion is bound to be riven with sects perpetually at war with each other; that’s Labour’s burden which has bedeviled it and held it back from being a truly progressive party for as long as it has existed.

Yes Labour’s so called middle class supporters are often progressives who’re for example anti-Brexit and they’re predominately of the left/left of centre. However, many of the party’s core working class (you could even say their white working class) supporters drag on the party like an anchor. They’re often far from being progressive with racist/antisemitic views and with a reluctance (or damn right objection) towards real social reform.

Karl Popper’s ‘paradox of tolerance’ comes to mind: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

To my mind Labour tries to manage and suppress the intolerance within its core vote but it must be like squeezing a balloon in that for every part you push in an equal part pops out. Indeed, if you look at Labour’s political sects they’re seemingly set up to be intolerant of other political sects and I don’t just mean sects outside of Labour here!

I became an active trade unionist in 1975 when I started work some 5 years before I became a Liberal Party member, or you could say until I realised my views were ones of a leftie, radical and Liberal nature. In my early days as a trade unionist I often scratched my head when hearing some folks in the TU movement who said they were socialists and/or members of the Labour Party but who seemed to hold views of a right wing nature. It took me a while to realise that they were invariably white and they would often refer to themselves as working class*. The Penny dropped when it dawned on me that anyone within a social class could hold any kind of view within the political spectrum and they certainly did! So to base a political party on a class of people means that some very intolerant and racist folk belong to the same political movement as folks with progressive and left wing views. That the right wingers are clearly tolerated within Labour despite their views has long troubled me; the rule of thumb seems to be if you say you’re working class you’re one of us, if you’re not you’re a Tory.

So I rejected Labour as a party for me and I signed up with the Liberal Party which seemed to be a better fit for my leftie, radical and progressive views. And anyway I had difficulty (and still do) with seeing the world or our UK society via the prism of social class. Us and them politics has never done much for me yet I realise that it can be a hugely motivating factor in the Labour and Tory Parties who seem to thrive on it. I find it most odd when someone from a self proclaimed working class background makes a few bob and then becomes a Tory or even a champagne socialist. It’s a world I simply can’t relate to.

I found that the collectivism of the trade union movement fitted well with my Liberal views although others in the TU movement found it hard to understand my politics. However, when Labour lurched towards the centre ground of politics under Blair and the majority of my fellow TU officers (those with left wing views I mean) had left it in disgust they seemed to look upon me as a genuine leftie. The paradox for me as a Lib Dem councillor though was hearing Labour councillors shouting out ‘we’re old Labour’ whenever Blair got a mention at council meetings. You see I saw the Lib Dems as being more to the left than most of the Labour councillors who were shouting it! Where each of them really stood on the political spectrum always baffled me as they seemed to me to cover the whole political range from left to right whilst uniting under the working class banner of Labour which they felt, at the time, had been hijacked by moderate/centrists. Yet the those same moderate/centrists who were so despised within Labour were probably more to the left of politics than some of the shouters of ‘we are old Labour’. Get your head around that if you can…….

I’m certainly not a political moderate or centrist. My happiest political times were during Charles Kennedy’s period as Lib Dem Leader when often our policy positioning, particularly with regard to social issues, was significantly more progressive than those of Labour. My fervent hope is that Layla Moran becomes the next Lib Dem Leader as to me she seems to show the progressive instincts which are very much required in UK politics particularly since Labour is seemingly moving back to the moderate/centrist ground again.

That the Lib Dems lost their way after Kennedy is a statement of the blindingly obvious to me. Saying we’d oppose Labour’s imposed Tuition Fees, for example, and then not doing so was a massive political miscalculation by Clegg. It precipitated a big decline in the Party from which it has only recently started to recover.

For me the Lib Dems need to be politically radical, be a voice for the poorest in our society, be unashamedly socially/environmentally progressive and willing to take risks by taking on all those issues which the Daily Mail will hate us for. Being timid and centrist, no thank you, I’ll leave that to Starmer. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work with the likes of Starmer, indeed we should work with them where we have common policy interests and that goes for the Greens too. What I like about Moran is her willingness to work with others to try to forge common politically progressive goals…….

* And in far more recent times I’ve come across so called socialists who’ve backed parties such as UKIP and the Brexit Party at the ballot box! When they tell you they usually vote Labour, because they’re working class, but then trot out to vote for right wing candidates makes my point. Clearly, this happened by the spadeful in the 2019 General Election.

Progressives need to stop blaming the Tories for acting like Tories, it’s the failure of prgressive politics that has handed them power

There’s every danger that we progressives i.e. Libs, Greens and much of the Labour Party will continue to fall into the trap for the next 5 to 10 years of calling out our awful Tory Government for well, being Tories and doing what Tories do.

What we have to accept though is that because we could not put forward a credible progressive alternative to the Tories (and because our warped electoral system helped the Tories to win as usual) we invited the electorate to say to themselves ‘the Tories may be bad but they’re not as bad as the alternative/s’!

Corbynism has been an abject failure as it was always going to be and anyone still batting for it is in effect saying ‘we’d rather have a Tory government than sort ourselves out to become credible’. And those social democrats within the Labour Party who sat on their hands and said nothing whilst their own party was systematically ruining the chance of a progressive government your guilt is, in my view, the greatest. When Labour fails in the UK progressive politics usually follows it, Scotland being the obvious exception as Labour’s demise became the SNP’s chance to shine.

And of course we progressives love to kick lumps out of each other and blame other progressive parties for the failure of the left when actually we jointly hold the title of champions of delivering yet another Tory government because of our common unelectability cause.

The key to gaining an electable left of centre government is actually quite simple – progressive politics needs credible leaders that means no Corbyns and no Swinsons with their common hatred of each other seemingly being greater than their supposedly common cause against the Tories. And both Labour and Lib Dems need to sort out a credible working arrangement with the SNP by putting the issue of an independent Scotland to one side.

Then all the left of centre parties, including the Greens and Plaid Cymru, need to push for electoral reform and stand together on a pledge to implement it when a progressive government comes to power – no half hearted well maybe or squabbling about which form of PR brings the best advantage for each party, just do it. Oh and no Trudeau pledges on it either just to turn around and drop the pledge because no one can agree how to do it when it’s been in manifestos and power has been won. We’ll get one shot at it and if we fail it will be gone for another generation and the Tories will continue to be the party of government for at least two thirds of the time for ever more. Fair votes has to be a common cause for all progressives, those who claim to be progressives but who continue to back FPTP are actually not progressives at all but Tory enablers.

2019 in 12 postings – And what a sad year for progressives

2019 must go down in politics as a really sad year for anyone who describes themselves as a progressive. That the UK has become more isolationist and racist is regretfully a given but for me as a passionate internationalist our frankly bizarre decision to become at best semi-detached from our European neighbours both economically and politically is profoundly depressing. I’m reminded of the play ‘Brick up the Mersey Tunnel’ as 2019 could easily be the start of us, at least in the abstract, bricking up the Channel Tunnel.

Anyway here’s my year; some big issues, some matters close to my heart and some personal reflections:-

January – Elected Mayors – too many and too costly tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/20/metro-mayor-tax-another-call-on-your-pocket/

February – Why we have a housing crisis on our hands tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/02/20/council-housing-social-housing-housing-associations-whats-gone-wrong-and-why-we-have-a-housing-crisis-on-our-hands/

March – HS2 the Brexit of the railway world tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/03/16/being-anti-hs2-is-a-bit-like-brexit-its-all-about-the-rose-tinted-past/

April – Rotten Boroughstonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/04/23/local-elections-are-rotten-boroughs-creeping-back-into-out-creaking-democracy/

As an aside I still remember a remark made to me on the day that I became Leader of Sefton Council in 2004. It was in the form of a question to me along the lines of ‘what’s the most important thing for the Leader of Sefton Council to do? Answer – Keep the Council out of the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ page of Private Eye!

Michael Portillo with Frank Hornby Trust Chairman Les French as seen on TV.

May – Time to celebrate in 2020 – 100 years of Hornby ‘O’ Gauge trains tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/05/27/maghull-2020-will-be-100-years-since-the-towns-most-famous-resident-brought-his-o-gauge-trains-to-the-market/

June – Still getting the local housing market wrong! tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/22/sefton-council-draft-strategic-housing-market-assessment-update-2019/

I realise that the link within the article no longer works

July – Co-option is not democratic, just stop it tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/07/14/melling-theres-a-price-to-pay-for-democracy-but-surely-its-better-than-co-option/

August – Air conditioning in shops and cafes an environmental disaster tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/08/26/supermarkets-cafes-shops-turn-down-or-even-better-turn-off-your-air-conditioning-shut-that-fridge-door/

September – A look back at New Heartlands in Bootle tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/09/04/bootle-newheartlands-pathfinder-housing-initiative-a-look-back/

October – The late great Isaac Hayes with Donald Byrd tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/10/25/isaac-hayes-the-master-jointly-cut-a-track-id-missed-back-in-1981/

Norman Lamb

November – Norman tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/11/06/norman/

December – Tactical voting (by progressives) did not work tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/12/16/why-peoples-vote-and-other-tackical-voting-orgs-sites-got-so-much-wrong/

So that, for me, was 2019 – a year when housing policy/practice remained far removed from the reality of our housing crisis, when the very real crisis of climate change took a back seat to the made up crisis of Brexit and when the crisis within progressive politics was exposed as much by our warped electoral system as by the lack of leadership from progressives. A year to forget unless of course you back the politics of the right and far right…….

Cable – has he hit the right notes here? What future is there for the center-left in UK politics?

The Guardian has a comment piece by Vince Cable on its web site – see link below

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/12/wealth-inequality-liberal-democrats-economic-reform

The left of British politics has struggled in recent times to put forward a credible alternative to the popularist right wing policies of the Tories/DUP/UKIP and this despite this same right wing cabal trying to drive through a Brexit which will hurt us all, make the poor poorer and lead to job losses and reduce investment in the UK. You would think this nightmare scenario would galvanise the left into action but sadly that has not happened.

Socialism and an economy based on private capital being invested in it never mix well

Yes Corbyn has his social policy agenda which could look good to voters at face value, but of course he is also wedded to the the right wing policy of Brexit! He’s in that rather bizarre political fix because many of his so called ‘working class’ supporters voted for a Brexit that will sadly shoot us all in the foot (but the poor more so) if it is followed through. So Labour is not presently credible because its policies of the left will be knocked out by Brexit. What’s more socialism and an economy based on private capital being invested in it never mix well. On that basis Corbyn’s lot would probably be a very unhappy one if he was given the opportunity to implement his policies. Indeed, he would be unlikely to be able to deliver his agenda other than in the very short term because economic trouble would surely be stalking him.

Influence the thinking of those across the left

So how do the ideas of Vince Cable stack up? Well he’s leading a party with a low support base so being able to implement his agenda looks to be a significant challenge. I suppose his best bet is to try to influence the thinking of those across the left, but not of the hard left of course. His agenda seems liberal, progressive and even radical. I particularly like his ideas to try to tackle the area of land value as it is of course the basis of the huge imbalance in wealth in the UK.

Back to the days of fascism?

British politics has been turned on its head since the 2016 Brexit vote. The Tories are all but UKIP under a Conservative flag these days and worryingly they have people amongst their leading lights who hark back to the days of fascism. Bluntly a political party with only around 100,000 members, many of them of the elderly, rich and far right are running this country into the ground because they will benefit from such a move. Brexit is the vehicle to achieve their aims and the left has not found a way to combat them because there’s no one of stature (with widespread credibility) on the left to lead that charge.

Breadth of support across the political spectrum

It’s as though our two major UK political parties have both gone into crisis at the same time and this really has not happened before. Labour under say David Miliband would be widely credible, Labour under Corbyn is hugely popular with a section of the British public but it does not in my view have the breadth of support across the political spectrum as Blair did to carry the day it seems.

Realignment of the left

Now don’t get me wrong Blair made some huge mistakes. Iraq obviously and trying to bring private companies into the NHS come to mind as examples but there was a much softer issue of huge importance which he let slip. It slipped ironically because of the huge majority he was given by our rather warped electoral system. That result made him think that realignment of the left need not be pursued further. His talks with Ashdown came to nothing because he thought he did not need to pursue them any more and his party was far from keen on those talks too. That was a huge error of judgement and an easy way out in my view and it probably started the decline (although no one realised it at the time other than a few enlightened folk) into the mess we presently find ourselves in.

The super rich will indeed become more wealthy at the expense of the rest of us

I have deliberately written this posting in a reasonably even handed way as I am convinced that progressives across all the parties of the center and left (although this would almost certainly have to preclude the hard left) need to find a reasonable common agenda which they can coalesce around. This needs to be done to face down the the rich and presently all too powerful right wing. If the left fails the right will reduce workers rights, environmental protections, food standards etc. on the back of Brexit and the minority of the super rich will indeed become more wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

Put tribal politics to one side?

So having gone though these sobering issues is Cable on the right track? Will anyone be listening to his ideas to re-balance our fractured society? Or will the center and left continue to beat itself up whilst letting the need for great reform in the UK flounder on the back of Brexit? My view is that Cable is putting a credible progressive plan out there which others could work around and build upon if they could just put tribal politics to one side.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Better Days Ahead – Well there has to be surely

www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMr3_5bO8fU

Above is a link to a most wonderful tune by jazz guitarist Norman Brown.

Hey things are more than a bit grim at present. The NHS is falling apart at the seams, the police are so under funded they struggle to protect us from crime, our schools are at breaking point with budget cuts, Northern would rather run buses than trains, Government is all at sea and their Official Opposition doesn’t seem to know how to oppose them. Trump keeps going bonkers, global warming is going to create a living hell for future generations and Brexit is going to see job losses, an economic downturn (yes we can keep going down!), less environmental protections…………. But you get my drift, as a progressive times have never been so tough – Thatcherism and Reaganomics were grim but we are are potentially on the road to far far worse.

So what do you do in the face of all this misery? You realise that there will be better days ahead as the electorate are sure to slam the brakes on whose they put in power and U-turn the political juggernaut away from the march towards fascism back to a progressive way forward. Well we’ve got to hope so because staying on the course the UK is presently on means a very poor outcome for us all but for the poor it does not bear thinking about!

But until May is put out of her misery and until Corbyn learns to oppose try listening to this tune by Norman Brown entitled Better Days Ahead, it will lift your weary soul…..

It’s about time that the Liberal Democrats really did propose radical solutions to poverty

‘We are remarkable but so helplessly stupid’ was a remark made to me by Jen Robertson the other day. The context of the remark was in relation to the UK being able and willing to design and build the magnificent new Widnes – Runcorn bridge whilst we are at the same time incapable, or is that unwilling, to tackle poverty effectively.

And it got me thinking because you know that whilst many of us are reasonably well provided for many others, in our supposedly civilised but less so every day country, are not. At the same time our government is turning its back on refugee children, along with anyone from the EU, and they are in effect all but cheerleaders for that nasty brand of racism which tells people who have come to live here and work for our vital public services to go home.

I don’t know about you but I am rather ashamed of where our country is going as its steps towards some kind of fascist state where alternative opinion is shouted down and the rich and powerful increase their grip on our economy.

It’s time we fought back because Labour will not as they have inexplicably backed Teresa May’s hard Brexit government and all the right wing dogma that goes with it. Labour is an embarrassment as our official opposition.

So what do radicals, Liberals and progressives do to turn the tide, because if we don’t turn it no one else will. I start with the preamble to the Lib Dem Party Constitution where it says ‘no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.’ Well hey many of our fellow citizens are enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity and every step of this wretched government and their Labour lackeys takes us further down that rather sickening road.

No one benefits from the 3 things above apart from the rich and the powerful yet our society seems to be moving ever nearer to belittling the poor, valuing ignorance and demanding conformity. If we are to ever again consider ourselves civilised in any meaningful way this has to be reversed.

Firstly, we need to seriously consider promoting a citizens income/universal basic income policy as opposed to the pitiful minimum wage that underpins an underclass of the poor and keeps them from rioting in the streets.

Secondly, we need a first class education system that teaches our young people real skills for work and life, not a box ticking bureaucratic, form filling system that brings academic successes for the middle classes and failure for that troublesome under class whilst driving teachers around the bend.

Thirdly, we need a fully functioning health and care system that values those who work for it as much as those who depend on it. Instead, we have a barely functioning health and care system that the well provided for can skip via their ability to buy the kind of care we all deserve but only they can afford.

And whilst doing this we need to be putting the environment we live in at the heart of all we do because it will create meaningful jobs, clean up the places where we live and work and mean that we are passing progress onto future generations, not pollution and illness and death.

And for those who say ‘this is too radical an agenda, no one will support it or vote for it’ I say well go out and fight for it and against the vested interests who promote poverty, fight for our struggling NHS, our crisis ridden elderly care services, fight the poisonous air we breath, the inadequate education that poor children get. Things will never change unless progressives, Liberals and radicals grab the agenda and promote it.

We have been through social revolutions before but we probably need one now otherwise the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer. And don’t kid yourself that this is a socialist agenda that can easily be dismissed; it’s not, because our so called socialist party of opposition will never take it on as they are part of the problem not the solution. They need enslaved people to support them, their Councils have presided over too many poverty ridden communities without making much if any headway. They are the politics of the past where poverty ignorance and conformity was how things were and like the Tories they have all but accepted that such will be the case forever.

It’s time for radical thinking, not moderation and muddling on. We can address poverty, ignorance and conformity if we really want to. So do we want to?