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…….

Little Twittering for Europe morphs into ‘let’s save Labour’

I don’t know about other progressives and Remain Alliance (Lib Dem, Green & PC) supporters but I’ve noticed that many of the Facebook Groups I subscribed to before the General Election who were backing Remain and also encouraging progressives to vote tactically are now little more than recruiting sergeants for trying to turn the Labour back into a Social Democrat Party.

My thoughts on this are:-

* Why did the centrists, moderates & social democrats leave Labour in the first place?
* Isn’t Labour now a Socialist Party which has thrown off its Blair era past to be a narrower church of the far left?
* Why do moderates, centrists and social democrats think they can return Labour to Blairism?
* Isn’t it better that Labour is a socialist party rather than a generation by generation see-saw party sometimes of the middle ground and sometimes of the far left?
* Haven’t we been here before when Kinnock ‘rescued’ Labour from the far left only for it to return there under Momentum/Corbynism?
* Why do moderates think they can get the left to relinquish power within Labour so it can become akin to Blairite again?
* If Labour is ‘rescued’ again how long will it stay moderate?
* How long will it take to ‘rescue’ Labour again?
* Is it even realistic to try to save Labour?

Being of the left and as someone who thinks of himself as a bit of a leftie I’ve often found that many Labour voters, supporters and indeed members are to the right of me as a Liberal and that’s both when Labour is moderate and when it’s left! My view has always been that Labour is too broad a church, ranging in support from working class ‘Tories’ to posh privately educated socialists and everything in between. I use the word ‘Tories’ quite deliberately but not in a derogatory way as many Labour factions talk about each other. What I mean is at heart they are actually quite right wing but they ally themselves to Labour because it’s their tribe; they’re no more progressive than I’m a Dutchman so to speak. Of course it was this section of the Labour family that the Labour leadership was pandering to prior to GE 2019. It led them to be all things and no things to most women and men on Brexit the biggest issue of the day; indeed their leader was neutral! That was never going to inspire anyone and of course it didn’t.

So Labour whilst being very much of the left under Momentum and Corbyn was actually singing the tune (well mumbling it quietly really) of its right wing supporters many of whom then promptly deserted Labour to vote for a far right alternative! You could not make this up but that’s what happened in GE 2019.

My point here is why are moderates, centrists and social democrats trying to save Labour? Is it because it’s a tribe they were born into and they feel they have to try to save it? If the motivation is tribalism then no good will come of it as tribalism is the fault-line in UK politics not its saviour. Labour’s ‘our way or no way’ approach to politics has bedeviled it and progressive politics over generations except for a brief period when Blair & Ashdown tried to promote inclusive center left politics. If Labour does swing back (and that presently is a very big if) towards social democracy it needs to want to work with other progressives in other political parties. If it pursues the mantra of everyone else on the left is a Tory then nothing will be achieved.

If you want to save Labour for it to become moderate, centrist and social democrat again then good luck to you but I fear you’ll have to keep doing it every 15 years or so, even if you do succeed, because fundamentally Labour is probably more comfortable as a socialist party. Remember in the Blair years when Labour activists often chimed in with the chorus of ‘we are old Labour’? Well they were and they’ve gained control of the party machine this time far more firmly than Michael Foot’s supporters or Militant ever did.

My advice is don’t waste your time if you think you can return Labour to centrist politics, that ship sailed a long time ago.

Why People’s Vote (and other tactical voting orgs/sites) got so much wrong

Tactical voting, so much talked up amongst progressives before and during the 2019 GE campaign, was in the main a failure as it did not deliver what those running the the sites expected/wanted and all but promised.

I think the first failure was a lack of understanding of the mind set of voters. Yes at face value if say Labour were the best/2nd placed in a particular constituency then the third place Lib Dem voters could be asked to support the Labour candidate. But being asked is one thing, what the voters actually do is another. Some would follow the advice, others would not and they’d either stay with the Lib Dems, not vote or even vote for the Tory if Labour being elected was their worst nightmare. Also, particularly in the case in the 2019 GE, where the Labour candidate was not an obvious and well known EU Remain campaigner there would be a big issue for Greens and Lib Dems. Of course the other issue not being picked up, although I fail to see why, was that Labour was itself leaking votes to the Tories mainly because of electors dislike of Jeremy Corbyn.

There were clearly some seats, particularly where the Lib Dems had either come close or won them in the past where the 3rd place Libs were probably the best punt to topple the sitting Tory. I say this as some ‘soft’ Tories may well be persuaded to vote Lib Dem whereas they could not pushed to vote Labour.

Secondly, what was going on where the tactical voting recommendation was to support a known Labour, sometimes very well known, Brexiteer candidate. Progressives be they Green or Lib Dem were never going to back them. Those constituencies where at face value Labour were the best placed to take the seat from the Tories but the Labour candidate was a Brexiteer needed far more careful thought.

Thirdly, Labour’s intransigent and stubborn refusal to engage with the Remain Alliance parties, Lib Dem, Green and PC should have triggered alarm bells. Yes, Labour were shouting from the roof tops that other candidates should stand down to give them the best run at various seats but their response to Labour being asked to do the same thing to assist Lib Dem, Green or PC candidates was ‘NO’ every time.

My feeling some time before the election was announced was that People’s Vote were too concerned with pandering to a Labour Party who would not cooperate with anyone else instead of challenging their ‘our way or no way’ dogma.

My final thought is this, it’s all well and good crunching all kinds of polling data but without sensible feet on the ground the individual factors that affect how real people will actually vote in a constituency can’t be understood and indeed it was not understood. This to me was so obvious from those seats where those recommending tactical voting changed their minds about who to back part way through the GE campaign. When I first heard they may do this more alarm bells rang with me as to my mind if they did it those seats would all but be handed to the Tories on a plate because of the confusion it would cause. Of course they did it and my present understanding is that the effect was just as I had thought it would be i.e. the seats were all but handed straight to the Tories!

PS. In some seats where the Lib Dems were within touching distance of beating the Tories Labour canvassers were quite obviously and deliberately being sent out to tell voters that Labour was in fact the real challenger in that seat. The ploy was to get them to vote Labour so the seat could not be taken off the Tories by the Lib Dems!!!

Ode to Lisa (and other supposedly progressive MP’s tempted by Brexit Deals)

Oh Lisa I’ve heard and seen your Bexit agonies on TV many a time
but being progressive means Brexit should be a straight NO every time

Being a progressive means rejecting making the poor poorer
but you know Brexit in any form will make the poor poorer

Being a progressive means standing up for your constituents jobs
but Brexit will mean the loss of some of your constituents jobs

Being a progressive means promoting workers rights
but Brexit as you know will reduce workers rights

Being a progressive means going and being green for future generations
but Brexit will undermine environmental protections for those generations

Being progressive means putting ever greater resources into the NHS
but Brexit will reduce the money from taxes available for the NHS

Your constituents voted to Leave the EU amidst many lies they were told
but they didn’t vote for what’s on offer now – you know that you’ve been told

Your progressive even socialist seat in the HoC may well be important to you
but backing a regressive Brexit will mean that folks won’t fondly remember you

So please remember you’re a progressive who should oppose any Brexit Deal
you should be explaining to your constituents why you reject Johnson’s Deal

Oh Lisa I’ve heard and seen your Bexit agonies on TV many a time
but being progressive means Brexit should be a straight NO every time

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?