Why Tories won’t mind losing 1 election & why all eyes should be on Labour’s PR stance

It’s the day after the next General Election here in the UK and progressives are seemingly in a majority, if you mistakenly assume that all Labour MPs are progressive which of course they’re not. There is a lot of celebrating as the Conservatives have finally lost their majority but it will take a ‘coalition* of willing progressives’ to create a workable left of centre government. Here are a few reasons why that ‘progressive alliance’, for want of another term, is likely to fail in short order leading to another populist government of the right.

Firstly, Labour, who have won some extra seats, really aren’t looking much like progressives at all, having run a campaign based on a centre-right platform. The SNP are more progressive but their independence or bust approach to working with other parties is a big stumbling block when you consider that both Labour and, sadly from my perspective, the Lib Dems are firmly unionist in their outlook.

The Lib Dems, who have won a significant number of seats from the Tories, are in reality two differing types of Liberals – Economic Liberals (Nick Clegg was one I guess) and Social Liberals. Whilst they share numerous Liberal values the Social Liberals tend to be very much of the left in UK political terms although many of them baulk at being seen as of the left. However, they’re the ones who realised early on that that Nick Clegg’s negotiated coalition with the Conservatives back in 2010 was going to be a disaster. Of course, they were right as Clegg backed out of the Lib Dem’s flagship policy of opposing Student Tuition Fee increases. It was pretty much all downhill for the Libs from there onwards for the next 10 years.

Would the SNP, having seen what Clegg did to the Lib Dems, even for a moment, contemplate watering down their independence for Scotland stance to make working with unionists in other parties easier or even possible. Frankly, they would be mad too, so how can a multi-party progressive government be formed in a way that brings an independent Scotland to the fore?

It’s proportional representation stupid

And then there’s proportional representation, which for generations Labour has opposed; a position that’s exposed it as being anti-progressive. Labour’s pretty much on its own amongst all left of centre parties across Europe and beyond over its heel-dragging with regard to PR. They got close to backing PR in 2021, of course, and now seem to be in a position where they no longer oppose PR but don’t really back it with any great enthusiasm either. The problem is they can’t be trusted to see through a PR agenda by progressive parties who probably look upon Starmer’s party as being akin to Justin Trudeau’s Canadian Liberals. They, having previously backed/promoted PR, pretty much ran away from delivering it. The SNP, Lib Dems and Greens think Starmer’s lot will pull a similar trick, and they’d probably be right to fear such an outcome.

Labour’s still a Brext party?

Too many of Labour’s MPs continue to be right of centre or they represent white, working-class, right-wing leaning constituencies even when they’re progressively inclined themselves. This was of course the very bind that drew Labour into at best sitting on its hands and at worst enabling a Brexit which has probably damaged poorer areas of the UK more than anywhere else. Of course the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens were utterly opposed to Brexit so here’s another big sticking point which creates barriers to progressives being able to work with Labour.

And look who Labour will probably want to be Chancellor, one Rachel Reeves who’s infamous, with this progressive anyway, for her 2013 utterance that Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing benefits, or words to that effect. She’s going to go down well with progressives in the Greens, SNP and Lib Dems NOT.

So can a Tory opposition so disparate and so very different from each other really carry the day? It could but only on a very limited agenda and proportional representation would very much have to lead that agenda. A further Scots Independent referendum would clearly need to be part of it together with an unbreakable commitment to devolve many more powers to Scotland, N Ireland, Wales and the regions of England, whether the Scots referendum delivers independence or not. This latter point should get the Lib Dems onside as they have long proposed powerful regional governance for the whole of the UK as opposed to the very limited and messy decentralisation which presently exists in differing ways in different parts of the UK. The only other potential issue for this limited agenda could be an emergency financial NHS rescue package. Surely, all progressives could get behind such an initiative? But that’s about it and of course, if Labour will not implement PR then all bets should be off. Certainly, Ed Davey would not survive any brokered deal that simply props up a Starmer Government; he won’t get away with what Clegg did!

And the alternative for anything like a progressive way forward? A minority Labour Government which progressive parties would back but only on matters/policies, they agreed with. On that basis, Starmer’ would be thrown to the wolves if he tried to pursue any right of centre agendas. I’m sure there will be other barriers to non-Conservative parties working together, I’ve just picked out the obvious ones here!

A UK version of Trumpism, that’ll probably be our future

No matter which way you cut it the Tories may only be out of power for one election (under our warped First Past the Post system that is) and they could live with that outcome. Without proportional representation being enacted we’ll be back to Tory Governments most of the time and they’ll probably not be of the benign John Major-type either. Right-wing populism has taken over the Tory Party of old and putting it back in its box will be the devil’s job. No PR Labour? Then settle back for a UK version of Trumpism because that’ll probably be our future.

* Oh and one last thing the Lib Dems have previously ruled themselves out (under Tim Farron’s leadership) of participating in any future coalition government and who on earth could blame them after they were Clegged!

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?

Brexit – Why are our political leaders prone to embarrass us?

Today I woke up to hear that the Tories had nearly lost a couple of Brexit votes last night but that they had scraped home with majority of just 3. But it turns out that a handful of Labour MP’s had voted with the Government and 2 Lib Dem MP’s were missing in action during the vote.

The Tory Government was there for the taking, the Labour Leadership had finally sobered up and decided to do what they should have been doing months ago i.e. be the Official Opposition, but even then 3 of their MP’s went into the Government lobby (whilst other Labour MP’s abstained) to vote for the Tory Brexit plan. Then to put the tin lid on it 2 anti-Brexit Lib Dem MP’s, who should have known better, were absent on other business.

Frankly, along with many other progressive politicians, I am livid with those Labour MP’s who were not willing to kill off the Tory’s Brexit and indeed sided with the Government! I’m also livid with the two missing Lib Dem MP’s for not ensuring they were in the House of Commons Chamber to have their votes counted.

I have no worries that the two Lib Dem MP’s (Cable and Farron) would have voted against the Government had they been there but not being there was a big, a very big error of judgement. I also realise that had they recorded their votes the Government would still have had a majority of 1 because of Labour’s Brexit 3 but none the less they should have been there.

I’ve been in politics for 38 years now and have been a elected local councillor for 33 of those years but rarely have I felt so angry about a matter as I do today with regard to these 5 MP’s.

Employee Ownership – This needs Liberally promoting yet again

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/budget-liberal-dog-that-hasnt-barked.html

Iain Brodie Browne has the opinion piece on his blog site – Birkdale Focus -accessible via the link above

This cause together with the promotion of cooperatives and mutuals is what made he realise I was a Liberal back in 1979 when I was wondering as a young lad where my true political home was.

The us and them approach to work by both the Tories and Labour seemed so negative to me and it still does now. And having spent 42 years years as an active trade unionist in the public sector (22 of those as a Branch Secretary) I have not seen a more positive way to re-balance our workplaces, our economy and our society.

So thanks to Iain for running this up the Liberal flagpole once again because its time is now and it will always be so.

Gulf between UK rich and poor and does anyone speak for the poor anymore?

The generally widening gap between the rich and the poor (the haves and the have nothings) in the UK has been a worrying issue for many years now, but just take a moment to read the document accessible via the link below from the Institute for Fiscal Studies:-

www.ifs.org.uk/publications/9539

I think you’ll agree that this is a matter which is deeply worrying and one that is seemingly out of control; its a gulf between the richest and poorest in our society not a gap. And no amount of comforting ourselves by be being mid-range in the international comparators of such matters is any good either as we complacently slip further down the league.

Soon after I read the IFS report (and actually by coincidence) I also became aware of a very recent report from the Rowntree Trust which raises concerns about the poorest in our society increasingly feeling that no political party speaks for them any more. This has been an issue on my mind for a long time now.

Yes, of course Labour traditionally spoke for the poor but I bet I’m not the only one who has gained the impression in recent years that this is something it would rather not do any longer. Under Miliband we started to hear his people saying things along the lines of ‘we represent working people’, whilst they joined in the Tory attack on those needing to rely on welfare/benefits. And the line has not really changed much under Corbyn as significantly Labour did not pledge to reverse many of the working-age Conservative welfare cuts at the last election. What’s more Labour is fully behind Brexit and it’s the poor who will suffer the most from that act of national madness.

Of course the reason politicians don’t really want to represent the poorest in our society is that often the poor don’t actually vote. The cynical political managers and strategists, who of course run our political parties, simply point this out to those seeking high office and the effect is clear. The politicians then either ignore the poor or even attack them for relying on welfare because that’s a message the tax paying people who do vote have been trained to want to hear.

My own party has a preamble to its constitution which says this:-

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Unsurprisingly as a Liberal I agree with the statement but can the Lib Dems hand on heart really say that campaigning to improve the lot of people being ‘enslaved by poverty’ has been a top priority in recent times? Having said that Tim Farron the last Lib Dem Leader clearly did get it to give him his due.

Yes we went into the last election pledging to address poverty and the causes of it and our pledges probably went further than Labour’s, but should we not have gone further again? The Lib Dems said they would reverse cuts to child tax credit and the plan to freeze most benefit rates for example but despite railing against Tory welfare cuts over the years, Labour did not plan to reverse most planned cuts to working-age benefits.

But, few of the poor voted for what the Lib Dems were proposing, even though to have done so may have been to their advantage from what was on offer across the political parties. Then again they probably didn’t vote for any of the main political parties, if indeed they even voted at all.

Yes I know this latter argument virtually justifies the positioning of the political managers but it is still a sad reflection on our broken society in my view.

So we have a society where the rich have become bloated whilst the poor have to keep tightening their belts. What’s more we have an underclass of poor people whom the major political parties have all but abandoned. Could you think of a greater reason for us to be concerned about civil unrest never mind that we should be utterly ashamed of the state we are in.

By the way the objective of many politicians is to keep those in the middle on side because if they get upset politicians lose seats. So if our economy is being run to keep those in the middle and above happy you also have to feed that large group propaganda to ensure they resent welfare payments to the poor and the press step in to provide that propaganda of course.

Oh and as a slight aside, with talk of a rise in interest rates just think who will benefit from that. It certainly will not be the poor so take a look at this piece in the Guardian from Polly

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/31/taxes-interest-rates-mark-carney

With thanks to Roy Connell for his contribution to this posting.

Brexit big shot now says it was a bad idea! Who would have thought it?

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-vote-leave-director-dominic-cummings-leave-eu-error-nhs-350-million-lie-bus-a7822386.html

This is one for all you Brexiters out there to ponder on as you followed the line put out by such folk and you got us into the mess that the UK now finds itself in.

Yes I know that 80% of the electorate voted for a hard Brexit in the recent General Election as both Labour and the Tories promised such in their manifestos. And yes its more than the 52% you Brexiters gained in the EU Referendum so I am sure you feel you have won the argument hands down. But what exactly have you won?

A stable economy – No, a stable Government – No, an opposition (Labour) that will oppose Teresa May’s headless chicken Brexit – NO, more opportunities for future generations – NO (in fact less as their rights to travel in the EU will be restricted), Getting rid of faceless EU bureaucrats who make laws we have to obey – No (there weren’t any), an extra £350m a week for the NHS – No (you were lied to about that one). I could go on but you get my drift. You won for us nothing worth having whilst chucking away things that were worth having. Wow and thanks very much!

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting