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A new dawn has broken


I’m 42 – and I’m a lifelong Labour voter.

And I’ve also never known a leadership election like this.

At his victory speech at the Labour election-night party, Royal Festival Hall, London, 2 May 1997, Tony Blair uttered the now famous words, “A new dawn has broken, has it not?”

However, the way in which this particular #LabourLeadership election was run was dreadful.

As Dr Éoin Clarke had tweeted,

I’ve known Liam Young, who supports Jeremy Corbyn, for a long time. His recent piece in the Independent details in full gory detail how, despite his best efforts otherwise, he ended up not voting. I can vouch for Liam’s commitment, having known him for years.

“I have been a member of the Labour for the last six years, and involved with the party for as long as I can remember. I remember heading to party conference in 2010 at the tender age of 15, and my grandparents often fondly remind me of the times they used to take me out canvassing in my pushchair – my grandfather was the leader of the local city council and mayor at one point. I had countless unrelated “aunties” who I grew up with, assimilated into my extended family by virtue of the Labour work they did with my relatives.

So this month, I was surprised when I didn’t receive my ballot in the normal timeframe for this leadership contest.”

The comments to this article make for desperate reading. Most authors, especially ones for The Guardian newspaper, never read the submitted comments, but I strongly suggest Liam has a look.

Here is a typical comment.


The whole Owen Smith campaign was a fiasco.

Buzzfeed charted the entire car crash of the anti-Corbyn camp brilliantly.

In fact, what happened from the time at which Hilary Benn threw his early morning temper tantrum was a full blown disaster.

Believe it or not, I had not intended to blog much about this #LabourLeadership election, though I’ve doing some sort of Labour political blog for about 7 years now.

Looking back on it now, the entire anti-Corbyn campaign imploded from the very beginning. The ‘challenger’ was implausible, the policies half-baked, the campaign sodden with gaffes, and, put simply, an insult to the wider Labour Party membership “electorate”.

I charted some of this mess in various blogposts including “Saving Owen Smith“, “The inevitability of death, taxes and Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election as leader of Labour“, and “Owen Smith MP must surely have been aware that the NHS is being rapidly privatised?“.

Some of my time had been taken up the desperate moves of the NEC to thwart people voting in the law courts, and that was before the #LabourPurge2 had gathered full momentum (pardon the pun).

The mainstream media were reluctant to cover the bare essence of the illiberality of the legal manoeuvring, astounding given the overwhelming ‘liberal’ press.

Such blogposts included “The Court of Appeal judgment was profoundly illiberal, and the issues need scrutiny notwithstanding“, “Nobody is above the law not even in the Labour NEC“, and “Tom Watson MP says he doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, and nor do I“.

Ed Miliband MP, like other failed leadership contenders Liz Kendall MP, Lord Neil Kinnock and Gordon Brown (2010), stuck the boot in, possibly even adding to Jeremy Corbyn’s credibility, viz. “The overall incompetence of Ed Miliband’s opposition should still raise alarm bells“.

But there was no doubt at all, that if Owen Smith MP was the answer, the question was not even worth thinking about.

The Owen Smith MP candidate was the talk of the town – for all of the wrong reasons.

It never gained any credibility.

For example, I wrote on “Why has Owen Smith MP lost all momentum in his leadership campaign?“, “Owen Jones’ interview reveals Owen Smith MP is dangerous for the nation’s health“, “The Parliamentary Labour Party cannot cope with the decline and yet further decline of New Labour“, “Owen Smith’s campaign blowing up on lift-off is not a good look“, “Owen Smith is ‘reconstituted Labour’, but still a disastrous recipe“, and “Owen Smith MP is swimming in the deep end with armbands. We can’t go like this.”.

And it seems now that Angela Eagle MP’s leadership was merely now a ‘bad dream’.

This is where it all started:  e.g. ““Saving Labour” or “Crushing Corbyn” – that is the question?“, “Why the level of vitriol against Jeremy Corbyn?“, “Angela Eagle’s “Contrived Leadership” was overbranded and under authentic“, “The emphasis of Hilary Benn on “winning” ironically explains a lot Labour’s failure“, “For me, Angela Eagle is part of the problem for Labour’s electability, not the solution“, and “If Labour can’t unite behind a democratically elected leader, it doesn’t deserve to be in government“.

I feel hugely excited about this morning. I have had enough of trolls suddenly popping up on Twitter, and lying to me – I don’t have to waste hours trying to work out why they are shilling on behalf of a certain lobby any more.

I don’t have to think about reasons why Corbyn would be a ‘disaster for Britain’, or why Jeremy Corbyn ‘does not believe in winning’, or how Labour ‘has become the party of permanent protest’, or how Labour is now full of far left Trotskyist individuals allegedly, and so on.




For me, it feels as if a noose has been finally removed from my neck. There’s about 10 or so Labour MPs I think their local constituencies should examine as to their suitability for parliamentary election. I don’t think any candidate should be renominated under duress if (s) he disagrees strongly with party policy. Democratic re-selection is very healthy for the party. As in all good teamwork, it’s a question of give and take. I don’t see a case for the parliamentary Labour Party having bullied their way into this all-consuming leadership election, detracting attention from the split and division within the Conservative Party, to call any shots. Most scandalous of all, the entire NHS is collapsing, grammar schools are on the way back, the foreign policy with Libya for example has been utterly discredited, and Owen Smith MP is obsessed about talking about he (not the House of Commons or Lords) ‘won the PIP debate’.

Too many people in the Labour parliamentary party love themselves, especially the ones who are now acting like spoilt brats having been to one of the big 4 accountancy firms.

I don’t mean him…












Or Andy – who has been utterly brilliant throughout.













The other bunch of loudmouth talentless Labour MPs, the “deplorables”, rather need to step up to the plate, contribute policy – or else get out of the party.

They should stop fanning their own egos in TV studios with vitriolic bile against Corbyn.

They need to do  some actual work in making Labour look like a serious political party. The membership are overwhelming sick of their narcissistic putrid selfish self-centred behaviour, rotten to the core.

Some journalists, especially at the Guardian, should stop preening their feathers, and stop spewing incessant negative junk in their low circulation papers.

Basically – anyone who is not up to the job of helping Jeremy Corbyn has overstayed his or her welcome -…

and should get out now.

And what have we learnt from all of this?

We now know that this man












doesn’t want Seumas Milne’s job now, nor in the future, here or in any other parallel universe.

As was in the statement to the press on arriving at Hillsborough Castle for the Northern Ireland talks, 7 April 1998, Tony Blair said, “A day like today is not a day for, sort of, soundbites, really – we can leave those at home – but I feel the hand of history upon our shoulders, I really do.”

Wherever Labour goes from this point onwards, today is a very special day.




Democratic reselections and representation on the shadow cabinet are the only Labour way forward

















Whoever is ultimately responsible for the definite purge which is going on within Labour, it is clear that the purge has backfired on a number of levels. As Paul Mason identified, Bristol has now lost control of the council due to centrally-driven suspensions. Secondly, many longstanding campaigners for Labour who have given decades of their time have been ‘purged’ and lost the democratic right to vote. Thirdly, it has been a PR disaster of enormous proportions, of a centrally driven Labour NEC appearing to be incredibly vindictive against their own members, many of whom are not financially well off. Fourthly, its actual basis was very dubious, when it is known that the number of extremist ‘entryists’ are in fact very small, whereas the usual people (e.g. Old Holborn) have claimed it’s the best £3 they ever spent.

Whichever way you look at it, Labour is a joke. And it is telling of the state of Labour as it is that this is held as default as an abusive comment, rather than freedom of expression. When a mature Asian Labour voter told Owen Smith MP that he as a MP was wrong, Smith called it out as abuse. Channel 4 presented last night a documentary based on undercover filming, a textbook hatchet job on Labour, featuring a family relative of Alastair Campbell providing legal opinions. And the number of migogynist, antisemite and bullying events shown was nil.

BBC1’s Panorama fared better. Jon Pienaar did what he could to present an establishment view of ‘we’re stuck with Jeremy Corbyn with a landslide – but now what?’ Cumulatively, BBC1 and Channel 4 added to a long list including the Guardian notably of totally distorted mainstream media. The Guardian’s reporting does not even make the grade of toilet paper when printed out, though Suzanne Moore did a brilliant balanced piece on Momentum Kids only yesterday. BBC’s Panorama uncomfortably yo-yoed between Lisa Nandy MP and Peter Kyle MP, before referring to Owen Smith MP for an opinion.

By any reckoning, Owen Smith MP’s campaign was an unmitigated wholesome disaster. In a leadership bid which was in part supposed to have been precipitated by sexism and misogyny, Smith is reputed to have made a laddy joke about his 28″ inside leg measurement. The descriptions of his long term debt financing of infrastructure were so far fetched that ‘no economist disagreed with him’ (an achievement in itself) and, more’s the point, nobody in the mainstream media including the Financial Times, Mail or Times bothered to opine about it.

For all the criticisms of Corbyn and team, and there are many, the orchestrated hourly appearances of MPs in TV studios was vile. Episodes such as the staff of Seema Malhotra MP not leaving her office in a timely effect spun in such a way as to discredit a longstanding member of John McDonnell MP’s staff, were vile too. Alastair Campbell siding with Anna Soubry in her attack on John McDonnell, despite Campbell appearing to not make up his mind on which policies he actually disagreed with, was pretty ubiquitously reacted to on Twitter as vile; with many of the Twitterari commenting on how a Labour grandee got away with using the ‘twat’ so often on Twitter, when ordinary party members, maybe who had campaigned for the Green Party but who had now re-joined the Labour Party, had been ‘suspended’ according to the NEC’s ‘make it up as you go along’ rules for retweeting Caroline Lucas a few years ago, perhaps on taking back the railways into state control (now a Labour Party policy aspiration).

Ed Miliband MP himself in his resignation speech had asked for ‘people to disagree without disagreeable’ – and yet this is precisely what he and Neil Kinnock then did par excellence. They laid into the currently democratically leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP, as if he had no mandate at all, completely ignoring the fact that they themselves had between them had lost more general elections than most of us have hot dinners.

Secondly, their remarkable achievement was completely to ignore the implications of the Brexit vote. There are some very basic level interpretations of how Brexit came about, including being ‘lied to’ (although lies are not a novel idea in election campaigns, if one remembers Nick Clegg’s ‘I’m sorry’ for example), the impact of immigration on local services, the notion of ‘taking back control’, and so forth. I voted as a Labour voter of 26 years for #Remain, being a ‘reluctant remainer’.

For me, a willingness to be part of the European Union goes way beyond the single market, but goes towards a feeling of genuine solidarity with our European neighbours in fighting on public policy issues, such as public health, data protection, employment rights, etc. But there are aspects of being in the EU which I do find difficult – such as the impact it has on state aid of public sector industries in stress, the way in which Greece had been forced down a path of austerity to the detriment of its citizens, the possibility of the EU-US free trade treaty which would have given a carte blanche to multinational takeover of parts of the NHS, the undercutting of wages happening during free movement of labour, and so on. So for me, it can’t be 10/10 for being in the EU. And Article 50 will probably have to be invoked sooner rather than later, if only because our European neighbours won’t want us to delay on this. It was not Jeremy Corbyn’s direct wish to have a referendum; he did not even stand on a manifesto pledge to have one.

Neil Coyle MP at the weekend was asked how he might win given the summer of discontent of Labour. Bear in mind, I went down one morning, with no expenses paid, to support his bid to become a MP in Bermondsey and Southwark. I was disgusted to hear that people like me who support Jeremy Corbyn are merely part of a ‘fan club’. He then had the gall to say he would be re-elected because of the ‘strong Labour brand’, given the monumental efforts he had made to rubbish the Labour brand, such as our leadership and teamwork, all summer. Good riddance.

I had never heard of Peter Kyle MP until he started TV studios slagging off Jeremy Corbyn MP – in other words, he had made absolutely no impact on me on the national stage in terms of policy.

Not everyone who disagrees with Jeremy Corbyn is though ‘disagreeable’. I differ with Karl Turner MP’s views on some things, but I feel he is fundamentally a very bright and pleasant man (having also briefly met him). I’ve met Tom Watson MP – I don’t think calling Momentum a ‘rabble’ as he allegedly did is crime of the century, and he probably was distressed at this summer’s events too. But I think strong arm tactics for the Labour PLP to ‘get their way’ are a mistake, Tom.

In a completely different category though are Margaret Hodge MP and Margaret Beckett MP who did not offer a coherent narrative on where Jeremy’s policies were ‘wrong’, why millions voted ‘Brexit’ and launched into highly personal attacks on Corbyn.

I don’t think people who disagree with Labour’s policies or dislike the leader intensely should be forced to be members of parliament for Labour. It should never be forgotten that the party is totally dependent on the grassroots activists who go round delivering leaflets, manning phone banks, door knocking, and so on. Momentum has never asked for deselections. I think, however, it would be very healthy for a democracy for our Labour CLPs to look at reselections. MPs who are unable to oppose tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, PFI, the lack of social housing, or the market failure of rail should not be ‘forced’ to MPs under duress, particularly this is in asynchrony with our membership’s views.

And John McDonnell MP is right, though he didn’t phrase it this way. Too many of our Labour MPs love themselves. There are a few who’ve done brilliant work such as Andy Burnham MP on Oregreave, or Debbie Abrahams MP on disability welfare, or Grahame Morris MP on local communities; and there is patently room for improvement in the operations of the top team.

We are where we are. Some of the 170 MPs who have previously had ‘no confidence’ in Jeremy Corbyn will want to campaign on behalf of saving their own seats, despite the mess they caused this summer. It is not far right to oppose that the NHS is now being destroyed at accelerated pace. It is not far right to oppose the savage cuts in social care. The only way forward I feel is for there to be   a ‘hybrid’ shadow cabinet, with members put forward by both the Party and membership.

Members of the Labour PLP over criticise the ‘delegate’ argument of the membership I feel. I think what is rotten to the core is the rotten spectacle of Labour MPs behaving like independents not representing their party’s membership. It is not true that all of the Labour Party membership, for example, supports Trident as a weapon of mass destruction.

Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be re-elected this week as the leader of the Labour Party.


As Corbyn says, “Things have to change – and they will.”




Jeremy Corbyn might even win in 2020, so get over it.


And so, as Mahatma Gandhi said once, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I remember watching the BBC Newsnight Labour leadership hustings when they first happened, quite some time ago. I recall Jeremy Corbyn MP being introduced derisively as the old candidate who’d only just managed to make it onto the ballot sheet. And yet as I listened to Jeremy’s responses it became clear to me that his answers were addressing that significant electorate; those people who felt totally disenfranchised by Labour in the last ten years.

The odd thing about ‘choice’, so exuberantly espoused by both the Conservatives and Labour Party, in recent years is that you come in for rather heavy abuse, some of it of a rather personal nature, if your choice disagrees with someone else. I really can’t rationalise how Tony Blair came to think it was acceptable to state that if your heart is with Jeremy Corbyn you need a heart transplant. But as the campaign has progressed, things have been increasingly desperate. Every man and his dog from New Labour, including Alastair Campbell and David Blunkett, have been wheeled out to deride Corbyn. I am particularly puzzled how David Blunkett came to think he could produce the deal maker for the Blair era, when he has been happy being paid as an advisor on corporate social responsibility for the Murdoch operations.

That the main Union leaders wish to support Corbyn does not surprise me.  That Keynesian heavyweight Lord Skidelsky has produced a coherent argument to explain why ‘Corbynomics‘ is not as extreme as some present does not surprise me either. That serious heavyweights in economics wish to lend their support to Corbynomics is not a shock, in addition. This was to be expected with the huge social movement which accompanied the work of Prof Kate Pickett and Prof Richard Wilkinson, for example “The Spirit Level”. 

What I was seriously caught out by is how wise leading commentators, particularly at the Guardian, were so keen to sneer at Corbyn. I can understand the thing about not wanting to jump on the bandwagon, but their position was totally untenable. There was little attempt to engage with the actual policies, or to query why so many members of the general public had engaged in what was patently more than a mass hysteria ‘Corbynmania’. This does disappoint me, as some of the commentariat included bright people, sympathetic to the aims of New Labour and the Blair governments, who really could not meet half way with Corbyn.

If it happens that Jeremy Corbyn wins, and let’s face it the polls have been wrong before, I am hoping that members of Labour will pull ranks to help Corbyn. I as it happens have voted in this election, as I was entitled to as a Labour member. Not being offensive, but it might have helped that I haven’t left tweets and Facebook posts banging on about how wonderful the Greens are.

Rupert Murdoch commented in a tweet that Murdoch seems to be the only one who seems to be very clear about what he stands for. Corbyn has had plenty of time to rehearse the arguments in the front of the bathroom mirror, but I dare say he has thought exactly why he felt unable to support tuition fees, Iraq, or the private finance initiative, even having been elected on the same ‘disastrous’ Michael Foot manifesto which first saw him elected together with Tony Blair.

The arguments are very well worn. If there is money for war, why is there no money for social care? The criticism should not be why Corbyn is able to go over the same territory as the 1980s politically, but why these arguments have particular traction now. It is simply the case that the opposition from Labour has been unacceptably weak on the destruction of social care, which is a calamity in itself, but also disastrous from the perspective of how the National Health Service functions.

Repeated apologies for misdemeanours and misfeasance from the past have their place, but only if correct and authentic. The candidates for the Labour leadership have clearly been unable to settle with united voice on the actual reason Labour should be criticised; despite ambitious spending on public services (such as Sure Start or the infrastructure of hospitals), it was unable to regulate the City of London stringently enough. It happens that the Conservatives agreed with this light-touch regulation, and levels of public spending too, but that is not really the point as they were neither in office nor in government at the time.

Labour has never ‘apologised’ for the Iraq War, despite the sequelae, presumably on the basis that it feels it has nothing to apologise for. But there were screw ups in decisions from Labour.  Many in the general public find it inconceivable that the Labour leadership, apart from Jeremy Corbyn, aren’t making more of a noise about the destruction of the Independent Living Fund; and abstaining on the welfare reform bill is testament to how some feel there is no alternative to austerity.

Currently a large proportion of NHS Foundation Trusts are in deficit. Many feel that some Trusts, in chasing targets and wanting to become Foundation Trusts,  became extremely dangerous from a patient safety perspective, and this legacy from New Labour must not go unchallenged either. Whether or not Jeremy Corbyn can actually win in 2020 is in a way irrelevant to the huge strides forward in re-establishing socialist principles back on the political map. It could indeed be the case that Sir Keir Starmer QC MP is parachuted in just before the 2020 general election, but the ‘political left’ should not by this stage feel disappointed about their progress here. This progress might not have been what Progress wanted, but giving disenfranchised people a voice is a meritorious goal too.

And he might even win with the clarity of his arguments, even if you disagree with them. So get over it.


Labour leadership pains: It’s not where you’ve come from, it’s where you’re going to



I must admit that I was taken aback when Gordon Brown quoted a former ‘successful’ Labour Prime Minister thus, “And, in Harold Wilson’s words, Labour is “a moral crusade or it is nothing”. I wasn’t so much amazed that Brown had decided to name drop a Labour Prime Minister who was well known for making policy up on the hoof, and possibly more into style than substance, but the fact that Brown had quoted one of Tony Benn’s favourite quotes ‘of Harold’. To understand the general approach of Jeremy Corbyn, you could do no worse possibly than to watch the film ‘Last Will and Testament’, where like Brown, Benn sets out the historical events which have inspired his quest for social justice. Brown’s penultimate line of conclusion was “And follow what Bevan called that decent instinct to do something that will help the lives of people most in need”, but I think that it is through looking that through this prism you can begin to understand the pain at the lack of efficacy of Labour’s so-called ‘opposition’. For example, Labour has never committed to reversing the destruction of the English legal aid system and the network of English law centres, claiming that such plans would not be possible given austerity. Austerity itself is the reason the NHS is being driven to do ‘more for less’, except the whole world and his dog knows that hospitals get by with the basic of staff on on-call cover, and idea of stretching out existing resources into a seven day way is laughable for most professionals within the service. It is therefore easy for me to understand the immediate popularity of Jeremy Corbyn; that he is defying the neoliberal doctrine, ‘there is no alternative’, with an alternative to austerity. This indeed is not an unelectable formula – look at Scotland (even though one can rightly moot whether SNP policies as actually legislated are particularly left wing). One can argue about whether Corbynomics will work, but the sheer defiance of the ‘there is no money tree’ with quantitative easing is worth raising an eyebrow at least. I have no idea whether Corbynomics is pro-inflationary, but then again no one else unless he or she happens to be an astrologer.


I went up to the Labour Party Conference in 2010 in Manchester. I got to Manchester Piccadilly precisely at the time that they were announcing the Labour Party’s new leader – who was Ed Miliband. Ed Miliband had defied the critics, and had come from nowhere to ‘seal the deal’. This was to much happiness of those who at that stage hated the Blairite wing of the party. I as such do not hate Blairism in the same way that I do not hate any corporates. I do not see Blairism as a social movement, but as a group of some extremely bright people but also some rather sanctimonious disparate people who can see no wrong in Tony Blair. I think many people use Chilcot as an excuse to hate Blair personally rather than a reason, but then again whether the UK went into war legally is a serious issue. I was greeted accidentally by Michael Meacher MP as I entered the ground floor of a pub in 2010 for the Socialist Societies meeting. I asked Michael if he was happy at Ed Miliband’s election: he said, “Not happy – ecstatic.” But he then added, “We’ve got our party back.” And I was to hear this phrase often during conference. And yet he struck me for the remainder of his term as leader that Ed Miliband was never a socialist, but a social democrat. That’s why I thought that the attacks of Red Ed were deeply fraudulent – but clearly not as ridiculous as the bacon butty jibes. When Gordon Brown referred continually to ‘Labour values’, this inevitably was a ‘fist pump’ moment for many, but it is essential to deconstruct whether Labour values, as espoused say by Keir Hardie, have been at the heart of the private finance initiative, where you end up paying for state assets through unconscionable loan agreements, or whether it is particularly Labour values to flog off the State’s infrastructure which you’ve invested in for decades. Lord Mandelson was one of the principal architects of the Royal Mail privatisation, so was it really possible for Labour to ‘oppose’ this when the time came? Is it a Labour value to remain relatively supine about the relative lack of nurses’ wages for many?


What has been incredible for me has been the sheer vitriol aimed at Jeremy Corbyn MP. Representing a different part of North London to the one I’m in, I ‘get’ his views on social housing. When you consider that the Mayor of London, currently Boris Johnson, does not have qualms about selling ‘new buys’ in Paris, making property prices unaffordable for residents of London, you get his point. When you also realise that without any forms of rent controls, landlords are regularly receiving state subsidy to provide accommodation at a huge profit, you see where Corbyn is coming from. However, there are substantial problems with Corbyn’s pitch in various areas, such as possibly exiting NATO. I remain unconvinced whether he really wants the Labour Party to stay in Europe. We all know his ‘friend and mentor’, as indeed he has called him himself, Tony Benn said ‘No Non Nein’ in the original EU referendum. Benn’s socialist reasoning was that he didn’t want everything to be run from unelected people in Brussels, which saw his logical reasoning go into an unholy alliance with the late Enoch Powell’s. But there is a substantial grouping within the Labour Party who do not see Europe as the great competitive nirvana that multinational corporates espousing free movement of capital and labour can do. They see it as a body which does not protect adequately workers’ rights. Corbyn may wish to take the EU negotiations from first principles with Labour. The attack on Labour during the Scottish referendum was that it was indistinguishable from the Tories – the scope for history repeating itself with the EU referendum is there too.


Harriet Harman MP was adamant that Labour should not be opposing for opposing’s sake, and that Labour had to have a moral drive and logic to its opposition. And yet it is Labour which perpetually gives the impression of being utterly toothless and taking it regardless. Its response to the Budget was pretty unmemorable, apart from Chris Leslie for all the wrong reasons. Andy Burnham MP somehow seems to arrived at losing from the clutches of victory, in no way helped by Harman’s stance on the Welfare Reform Bill. Burnham in ‘abstaining’ instead of giving an impression of firm opposition in the form of a ‘reasoned amendment’ which accounted for ‘collective responsibility’ looked instead as if he didn’t give a shit about the devastating effect of welfare cuts, including for the disabled community. Prof Germaine Greer in BBC’s Any Questions unsurprisingly therefore arrived at the conclusion that she expected HM’s ‘Loyal Opposition’ to oppose. There is clearly a feeling now that Labour should not oppose in a long-winged convoluted fashion. It is pretty hard to escape the conclusion that if you want to afford the NHS (not fraudulently articulated fraudulently in neoliberal language as ‘unsustainable’), you have to be willing to pay for it through general taxation. And yet Andy Burnham wants to set up a ‘Beveridge style Commission’ to arrive at this answer. His reasoning for this was presumably because his cherished National Health and Care Service, a great idea which would do much to make a ‘parity a reality’ (one of Burnham’s slogans before he railed against slogans), did not receive its democratic mandate. But there are vast swathes of NHS policy which seemingly do not operate on the basis of a democratic mandate, take for example the suggestion from McKinsey’s of £2 bn or so efficiency savings, or PFI. TTIP is yet another policy arm which, to give him credit, Burnham has been to Europe to oppose. Labour was not in government during the negotiations, but there is a general feeling that Labour did much to put in place the market infrastructure which made subsequent privatisation of NHS relatively easy.


clunking fist

(Cartoon by @BarkerCartoons)


As for Gordon Brown’s ‘Labour values’. where was tub thumbing Brown given the precipitous and disastrous privatisation of social care? It is a honest and settled view of many that social care funding is now on its knee, having not been ring fenced for the last few years. This simple fact makes Cameron’s view that England is the best place to live with dementia frankly delusional. A lot of reasoning behind Labour’s stance has been that it’s been ‘austerity lite’. Whilst socialism does need lots of money to succeed, or as the critics say ‘someone else’s money’, the state infrastructure does need a modicum of investment – even if the return of the investment is later to the City of London, as will inevitably occur when CrossRail or HS3 are flogged off. Tuition fees is another golden example of where a universal right  to higher education has been marred with a requirement of an ability to pay. They say that somebody can easily land himself or herself a £60K debt bill at the end of university education, and I can well believe that. I am grateful for my university education, but equally I understand that university education is not the ‘be all and end all’ (for example we might wish to extend legal apprenticeships). I don’t like the A level system, as it’s my opinion it reflects more how well you’ve been taught than anything else, but there is so much mileage to be gained from my ‘I wouldn’t start from here’ arguments.


I do not happen to agree with the ‘savage’ attacks from the BBC in framing Gordon Brown’s speech as a devastating attack on Jeremy Corbyn MP. For example, Brown quoted Mandela in reference to the notion of the need for hope especially after years ‘in the wilderness’. My interpretation of what Brown was trying to say, albeit with a twang of ‘Don’t blame me if it all goes horribly wrong’, was that any Labour leader must receive the popular vote to get elected in the first place; but once elected it will require a huge effort from all sides to make Government work. I think this is particularly the case for Jeremy Corbyn. At one level, the popularity for him is not the same as left populism, it might be argued, and that the echo chamber Corbynmania and packed out lecture halls are not representative of the Labour voting public at large. We’ve been there before with a heightened sense of optimism, for example Milifandom. You don’t have to go far back in time to get constructive knowledge of polls which have been totally wrong – it could be all the ‘hard entryists’ into Labour do not vote for Corbyn at all, though I have no idea what a million Toby Youngs or Dan Hodges are like. There is a huge risk that Labour is about to enter an extended period of mockery, but you have to remember that Labour had relatively little hope of winning 2020 in any form anyway. Tony Blair is to blame in my opinion definitely for not having done the ‘succession planning’ properly; or you can argue that he is in fact an incredibly successful politician for having pulled the ladder up from underneath him. I think Blair has left in many areas a very formidable legacy as a social democrat, for example LBGT equality, public services reform, devolution, national minimum wage, but the essential problem with all of these policy planks is that we remain utterly clueless about the destination of travel. But the same can be said of Gaitskell or Wilson. But not Attlee – and therein lies some of the trouble.  And as Nye Bevan said, “It’s not where you’ve come from, it’s where you’re going to” – or “If you remain in the middle of the road, you’re bound to get runover.”

“I dreamed a dream” – why the quest for a new leader cannot be merely a popularity contest


Instead of a complicated voting procedure, some have called for the Labour leadership to be decided by a popular one-off vote like ‘X factor’.

The candidates might be ‘dreaming the dream’, but are any of them the political equivalent of Susan Boyle? That is, a humble person from a modest background, with remarkable talents, with a unique offering. Someone who can click with the audience?

It is likely that Labour is throwing itself full speed into something it doesn’t actually need. That is, to choose a leader before it has chosen (or written) any of its policies. It would probably have been sensible to choose a ‘caretaker leader’ before asking people to choose the new leader.

Already, the search for a leader seems to have made certain assumptions. The leader has to have appeal to ‘voters’ rather than ‘people’. This market segmentation was last tried in Miliband’s hugely unsuccessful “35% strategy”. Again, one assumes the emphasis will be on ‘hardworking people’, and the rest.

In yesterday’s Question Panel, very succesfully chaired by Kevin Peel, who is undoubtedly a future successful Labour MP, a question came up which asked for which car Labour would be if it were a car. I suggested on Twitter, a “lemon car” – this is a car which is defective, with the back soldered onto the front, but with a lick of paint hoping that nobody notices. This was my analogy to Labour embracing the market into socialism, to make a new hybrid economy which is equally defective. A tweep remarked simply: “a bad one”.

The Question Time panel then were faced with the question how to stop the social media preaching only to the converted. None of the guests actually answered the question, but it was a good one. I felt this with the numerous “tweet storms”. Don’t get me wrong. They were hugely successful, and got various memes trending. But there were always a sense that there were there to make the activists feel happy, rather than reaching out to new voters.

But some people in Labour do have very strange ideas. Tristram Hunt MP, who may or may not be known to you as the Shadow Education Secretary, wanted to reach out to the granola buying voters in Waitrose (he didn’t actually say ‘granola’ but he did say ‘shoppers in Waitress’). This might have been Tristram Hunt saying the first thing that came into his head, as he offered a much more sensible answer on Question Time on another occasion.

The broad consensus is that Labour now has to be a “broad church” or a “big tent”; except one gets the  impression that Len McCluskey is doing the proverbial in the tent. Labour’s problems are not simply a ‘Southern Discomfort’ as identified by the Fabian Society after the 2010 general election. The results indeed represent an ‘All Round Discomfort’, with voters to ‘the left of it’ in Scotland (going to SNP), and voters to ‘the right of it’ (going to the Tories everywhere but particularly in the South West), “stuck in the middle of you”. But there’s also the UKIP contingent in the North East who are not ‘taking a second look’ at Labour.

Labour wants now to have a ‘radical change’ akin to the Philip Gould ‘Unfinished revolution’ which gave birth to New Labour. Labour is unable to implement any of its policies, left or right, if it is not in power. Tony Blair was the last Labour leader actually to win a General Election; but he was also the one, for many, to take men into an illegal war allegedly.

But many still feel uneasy but what happened in the very recent past. Jon Cruddas seemed to spend ages commanding the development of a new prospectus, along with Ed Miliband’s various thought leaders. The prospectus was generally thought to be ‘good’ but, as Jessica Asato commented yesterday, “did not have winner stamped on it”.

With Ed Miliband’s Labour rejected by the electorate, various members have booked themselves into the radio and TV studios of England. They include Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke, Peter Mandelson, David Blunkett, and Alan Johnson. Yes, a group of “has beens”, or “also rans”, from New Labour, who were themselves ‘the future once’.

But in picking over Miliband’s political grave, they have provided the incorrect analysis. They have produced nostalgia over the word ‘aspiration’, presumably thinking of the white van driver Labour seems difficulty in tweeting to. But they all seem to miss the point – is it particularly aspirational to have introduced tuition fees, was it aspiration to or introduce the policy of NHS foundation trusts which meant that hospitals were seeking gongs ahead of an ability to deliver patient safety?

Labour I feel was rightly criticised for offering a good critique, but not offering the ‘sunny uplands’. The Conservatives, on the other hand, offered a ‘sunny uplands’ which was devoid of any truth. George Osborne missed the majority of his own self-set ‘targets’ in his last term of office. He has urged voters to ‘stick with the successful long term political plan’, and yet in a bravura of cognitive dissonance is about to present yet another ‘emergency budget’.

The lack of vision means that Labour gets fixated on the problems, albeit problems which do matter to many voters. To take as an example, Andy Burnham MP is keen not to let go of the ‘NHS is being privatised’ campaigning theme still for leadership, even though this received a hostile reception from the Tory press. There’s talk too about failing A&E targets for the 30th week in a row, et cetera. But the fundamental issue still remains – what does Labour wish to do about it? The Conservative Party really now are in a fix, having pledged not to put up taxes, but it really is in trouble in that it has no public mandate to increase taxes to fund public services. The Labour Party, on the other hand, could say that it wants to integrate finally health and social care.

Integration of health and social care is in the Conservative Party manifesto and probably is not going to happen. The repeal of the Human Rights Act, popular with Daily Mail readers, is on the other hand about to happen. And guess what? A leading political editor for the Daily Mail has just been appointed to run George Osborne’s communication strategy. Amazing.

Not even the Conservative Party were expecting to win the election outright, though they probably thought they were in a chance when it became obvious that the English electorate were indeed terrified of a Ed Miliband run government only supported by Nicola Sturgeon. It’s pretty likely the Conservatives were hoping that some of their pledges would be lost in political negotiation in a ‘likely hung parliament’. The English probably felt as comfortable about being run by the Scots, as, as we are led to believe, they were as comfortable as being run by the welsh Neil Kinnock.

But the man upon whom Ed Miliband waged war, Rupert Murdoch, was clearly a winner. Murdoch has helped to further the meme that ‘a political party only wins when it leads from the centre’, which has left many in shock knowing that ‘the centre’ has drifted progressively ‘to the right’. The meme may itself as successful as Ed Miliband’s “Britain only succeeds when its hardworking people succeeds”, which might be on a good day described as ‘aspirational’.

But how can hardworking people succeed? They might not be in abusive zero hour contracts. Or their cost of living might be good? This should sound familiar as it is. But furthermore there is nothing more aspirational for people in employment than securing employment rights. It is difficult to be aspirational when faced with overwhelming insecurities. In other words, whether or not you believe in ‘left wing’ or ‘right wing’ is a bit immaterial, but it’s perfectly possible to adopt a left wing narrative on aspiration, if you so desire. Aspiration is not simply about amassing material wealth; it is very much to do with furthering one’s own wellbeing.

Labour may be ‘dreaming the dream’, but there’s no Susan Boyle on the horizon, so to speak. I am not even sure that the current leadership candidates can ‘talk a good talk’, let alone ‘walk a good walk’. But history is certainly repeating itself, with the Tory supporters talking of ‘turmoil’ and ‘crisis’.

But it is indeed a crisis entirely of its own making. There is a curious strong sense of denial which continues to engulf Labour, which means that it cannot engage with opposing points of view. This explains why, despite its target of a million conversations, it seems more stuck in transmit mode and centralist, than wishing to learn.

Take for example the assumption that Scotland voted SNP because the Scots want another referendum soon and they are simply nationalist. I dare say that if the UK were to reject the renegotiated settlement of the EU that would trigger another referendum, but that surely is not the point.

Scottish voters did not in the majority vote SNP because they’re nationalist; but because they’re not in the ‘centre right’ ground – they’re quite socialist. And if you think about the SNP have in fact on the whole drifted to the ‘left’ – and a landslide to show for it.

The general election isn’t a referendum about a bacon butty. It’s a referendum on the NHS.


The 2015 general election isn’t a referendum about what exactly someone eating a bacon butty looks like. It’s a referendum on the NHS.

The Tories think the general public is utterly stupid. They think that if they subject Wales to an intense smear campaign about the NHS discussing the English NHS will be ‘out of bounds’.

The Tories must think English voters were all born yesterday. They think nobody will care about the £2.4 billion disastrous reforms which propelled competition law and costly admin into the NHS. They think nobody will care about these reforms which nobody voted for.

If the Health and Social Care Act (2012) was the solution, what was the exact problem? It can’t have been patient safety, even though Jeremy Hunt has repeatedly referred to Mid Staffs since becoming the Secretary of State for Health. Cheap political point scoring has been vulgar under this Government. Labour never cited Harold Shipman’s style as a Doctor as a failure of a Conservative administration.

It’s perfectly correct that Labour should ask about what has happened under the lifetime of this Government in units such as Colchester. There the “major incident” is not an outbreak of Ebola, but an outbreak of dangerous staffing. What is not reasonable to do is to engulf the hardworking nurses and Doctors in a culture of blame and shame, vilifying them for not having been given the tools to do the job.

The Health and Social Care Act (2012) cannot have been the solution if patient safety was the solution, as there is only one clause in this Act regarding patient safety. And that clause was in fact to abolish the National Patient Safety Agency. The real petrol in the tank of this Act is the mechanism which puts contracts out to competitive tendering, meaning that NHS services had a way of being aggressively pimped to the private sector.

It’s simply utterly fraudulent to say that this is how it’s always been under Labour. For a start, Justice Silber in the Lewisham judgment gave clear reasons how the law had changed under this Government, and why Jeremy Hunt’s decision was unlawful in the High Court. It was not only unlawful in the High Court, but it was also unlawful in the Court of Appeal. And was that a good use of hardworking taxpayers’ money? To pay Hunt’s lawyers for this dead-duck case, money was used which could have been used to give a pay rise to the majority of nurses, a pay rise which they were denied yet again.

Furthermore, this Government at shotgun notice legislated for a torpedo hospital closure clause, with the Liberal Democrats on the accelerator pedal. None of us are Luddites, but it’s utterly vulgar to present cuts under the cover of reconfigurations.

Things have fundamentally changed, in that people are now genuinely scared about the direction of travel. The  National Health Service should be run for people, not profit. It should offer integrated health and care, not competitive tendering. Before the last election, the NHS was not an issue. Now people are taking to the streets over hospital closures and GP surgery closures. The record all-time high in satisfaction before the last election has now disappeared following the top down reorganisation which nobody voted for.

A&E waits have been disastrous. The length of time it takes to see your GP for a ‘routine appointment’ has become a joke in some parts of the country. And yet the current Government seem utterly divorced from reality – while Rome burns, Jeremy Hunt is fiddling away another sham policy in the guise of a 24/7 NHS.

What is clear is that Lynton Crosby wants to make the general election of May 7th 2015 a referendum on Ed Miliband eating a bacon butty.

It’s not that. It’s a referendum on the state of the NHS.

“All it takes for evil to succeed is for a few good men to do nothing…”

“All it takes for evil to succeed is for a few good men to do nothing…” is the famous saying by Edmund Burke.

Burke despised the abuse of power, so one can only wonder what he would have made of the enactment of the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

It’s often forgotten that the original name of the Liberal Democrats Party is the ‘Social and Liberal Democratic Party’. Nick Clegg worked for Tory Grandee, Leon Brittan, so is bound to have been the recipient of right-wing ideological stardust. David Laws, Nick Clegg and others like them don’t like to describe themselves as “social democrats”, they prefer to describe themselves as Liberals favouring ‘the smaller state’ in the tradition of J.S. Mill.  David Laws has described previous Labour governments as having too many collective social democrat experiments, and possibly feels as much hostility towards Labour as is probably felt towards ‘the Orange Bookers’ by Labour members.

The idea of Labour voluntarily wishing to go into a Coalition with the Liberal Democrats in May 2015 should frankly make you wish to throw up down the nearest toilet. Lord Andrew Adonis explains his version of events in the account in “5 days in May”, and from it emerges a clean narrative of how the Liberal Democrats only used their abortive negotiations with Labour to try to improve their bargaining hand with the Conservatives. The brilliant Matthew d’Ancona is consistent with his account too. Nick Clegg clearly wanted to ‘go right’, and not go left. Clegg had reached a judgment, despite policy overlap with Labour, that a Lib-Lab coalition was not going to work. To explain, in his book ‘In It together’ D’Ancona describes a tight social circle running the Tory side of the coalition – “old friends, their wives, ex-girlfriends, all joining each other for holidays and dinner parties and sharing childcare, now all ministers or Downing Street staffers.”

There were no negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and Labour on the ‘economic plan’. Vince Cable was not even on the LibDems’ negotiating team. Nick Clegg signed up to ‘faster and deeper’ cuts, and the full ‘Go large’ offer of welfare reforms. Clegg’s promise that he would negotiate first with the party which achieved the most seats had no constitutional precedent. This move was clearly to legitimitise an opening to the Conservatives, and to his own party.

The writing was always on the wall for the NHS too. Nick Clegg’s wife was formerly a partner in charge of competition law work for the large corporate firm DLA Piper. This global legal partnership has been heavily involved in European competition law is DLA Piper, who provide lobbying, public affairs and trade policy services, as well as advice on how to get access to public service delivery contracts. One partner of the firm who is part of the Liberal Democrat Peer who ended up being highly influential was Lord Tim Clement-Jones, in seeing new the competition regulations reach the statute books this year.

“Neoliberalism” is an updated version of the classical liberal economic thought that was dominant in the US and UK prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s. From roughly the mid 1930s to the mid 1970s a new “interventionist” approach replaced classical liberalism. It became the accepted belief that capitalism requires significant state regulation in order to be viable. And we are seeing Labour returning to the idea that unregulated markets do not act to the benefit of the consumer, in his attack on ‘energy prices’. The “cost of living crisis”, whilst not directly about the NHS, is entirely about the dialogue between the State and the markets, which has become so essential for the UK Labour Party to negotiate.

In the 1970s the Old Religion of classical liberalism made a rapid comeback, first in academic economics and then in the realm of public policy. Neoliberalism is both a body of economic theory and a policy stance. Neoliberal theory claims that a largely unregulated capitalist system (a “free market economy”) not only embodies the ideal of free individual choice but also achieves optimum economic performance with respect to efficiency, economic growth, technical progress, and distributional justice. This idea has lingered on in the neoliberal policies of all three major parties, in “personal health budgets” which should be more accurately described as “individualised” budgets. With the combination of health and social care budgets likely to form a thrust of Labour’s “whole person care” policy, the neoliberal concept of choice is potentially very much alive and well, but it will be for Burnham and colleagues to swing the pendulum back towards the inherent socialist (and left populist) notion of putting a ‘national care service’ on an equal footing with health. In this narrative, which Labour had thus far been reluctant to question before Burnham noticeably started making strong ‘anti-market noises’, the State is assigned a very limited economic role: defining property rights, enforcing contracts, and regulating the money supply. State intervention to correct market failures is viewed with suspicion, on the ground that such intervention is likely to create more problems than it solves. If Ed Miliband’s concept of the relationship between the State and markets is anything to go by, and this itself represents a marked departure from Tony Blair’s viewpoint, Andy Burnham is likely to be able to make inroads into this socialist agenda.

The definition of socialism is in fact well known to all members of the Labour Party, by virtue of their membership card. It is worth noting that recent policy decisions have been promoting neoliberalism, and the net effect has been that the Socialist Health Association has been asleep at the wheel. Competition is a massive shoo-horn into neoliberalism.  Nearly exactly one year ago, I described how section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act (2012) would be exactly the sort of legislative mechanism which would impose competition like never before on the NHS. As Lynton Crosby himself says, “You should lock in the base, and then go for the swing?” In my view, the base is competition, the swing is the free movement of capital.

My article on the Socialist Health Association website is here, long before Polly Toynbee and David Nicholson were reporting as thinking that competition was a problem. Once capitalism had become well established in the US after the Civil War, it entered period of cutthroat competition and wild accumulation known as the Robber Baron era. In this period a coherent anti-interventionist liberal position emerged and became politically dominant. Despite the enormous inequalities, the severe business cycle, and the outrageous and often unlawful behavior of the Goulds and Rockefellers, the idea that government should not intervene in the economy held sway through the end of the 19th century.

What explains this political difference between large and small business? The mood music appears to be that Labour is intending to refine its pledge of ‘being the  party of business’. Ed Miliband in his conference speech of 2013 made quite a big play of ‘standing up to bullies’ rather than ‘the weak’. It would therefore make no intuitive sense for Miliband to become very pro-corporations and ignoring SMEs. And this makes complete sense when you understand the relationship of the symbiotic relationship between the State and big corporations. When large corporations achieve significant market power and become freed from fear concerning their immediate survival, they tend to develop a long time horizon and pay attention to the requirements for assuring growing profits over time. They come to see the state as a potential ally. Having high and stable monopoly profits, they tend to view the cost of government programs as something they can afford, given their potential benefits. By contrast, the typical small business faces a daily battle for survival, which prevents attention to long-run considerations and which places a premium on avoiding the short-run costs of taxation and state regulation. This explains the radically different positions that big business and small business held regarding the proper state role in the economy for the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. It is no particular surprise that some of the G8 dementia summit agenda has had textbook ‘corporate capture’, in going down the road of personalised genomics medicine rather than care.

To some extent, this “horse has bolted”, and it is to his credit that Andy Burnham MP has vigorously said the marketisation of the NHS went far too far. For example, in his first ever Healthwatch Conference speech,

“I think we let the market in too far. The time has come to say that and to draw a line and make a break with it. If you let this market in too far, I believe, in the end, you will destroy the whole, what is so fantastic about the NHS, that ethos that Danny Boyle captured so memorably at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.”

Andy Burnham, as Shadow Secretary of State for Health, has pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012), which will go some way to discredit the extremely poor arguments for competition which have emerged from prominent healthcare analysts in recent years. There is no doubt, for example, that the merger involving Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals NHS foundation trust and Poole Hospital NHS foundation trust was a particularly low point. All the people whom I have spoken to in private think that Andy Burnham MP and all members of the Shadow Health Team really firmly believe what they’re saying, in standing up for the NHS. This should in theory be low hanging fruit for Labour as Labour is consistently many % points ahead of the Conservatives on the NHS. It should also be in theory low hanging fruit for the Socialist Health Association.

Having failed so triumphantly in having warned about the threat posed by this pro-competition legislative instrument, the Socialist Health Association is at risk of being asleep at the wheel yet again over a second and equally crucial matter. Some analysts argue that globalisation has produced a world of such economic interdependence that individual nation-states no longer have the power to regulate capital. Free movement of capital is described as being “at the heart of the Single Market and is one of its ‘four freedoms'”. According to the European Commission,

“It enables integrated, open, competitive and efficient European financial markets and services – which bring many advantages to us all.”

Tony Benn has described graphically how he considers “free movement of capital” to be a threat to basic democracy in socialism. Benn argues that this particular free movement imperialism under a new form: only the agents of imperialism are companies rather than countries. To this extent, the media excitement as to whether you should provide NHS treatment for migrants bring something to mind: “smoke and mirrors”.

And what about the EU-US Free Trade Treaty? This is the second big issue nobody wants to talk about, as it is the “swing” part of neoliberalising “our NHS”. The aim of the Agreement, according to the Commission, is to remove ‘unnecessary obstacles to trade and investment, including existing NTBs, through effective and efficient mechanisms, by reaching an ambitious level of regulatory compatibility for goods and services, including through mutual recognition, harmonisation and through enhanced cooperation between regulators’. (Art 24) It is mooted that the EU-US treaty would set in stone all liberalisation and privatisation measures already achieved at the time the treaty is signed and bring all future regulations within the restrictive provisions of the agreement. This treaty, if passed, would represent an enormous challenge to public-owned health services across Europe. There was very little awareness in Europe, even among those wanting to defend public services, to the implications of the EU-Canada agreement. Debbie Abrahams has become a lone voice virtually in discussing this in parliament.  It would now be very desirable that campaigns in Britain pay serious attention to the US-EU negotiations and link up with campaigns in other EU states, and the Socialist Health Association as a national entity affiliated to the Labour Party should have a clear view on this. It would be even more helpful for its members if this settled view were consistent with a definition of socialism ‘as we know it’.

Whatever one’s precise definitions of privatisation and nationalisation, in the context of the NHS, it is clear that the public have some views about national identity and state ownership of assets. This is borne out by the electoral successes which are widely predicted for UKIP int the European Elections next year. So far, we’ve had the debate, but with no thanks to the BBC, of how the NHS is being outsourced and privatised without anyone’s knowledge. It is essential that the Socialist Health Association is fit for purpose in influencing Labour policy in 2014, in having a view on whether it wants to see primary care as well as services in NHS hospitals being run by private domestic and multi-national companies for maximisation shareholder dividend. This of course would be a tragedy in a year in the run-up to the General Election on May 7th 2015, though this is as much about a battle for the soul of the Labour Party as it is  about winning an election.

In 1945 Herbert Morrison was given responsibility for drafting the Labour Party manifesto that included the blueprints for the nationalsation and welfare programmes:

“The Labour Party is a socialist party and proud of it. Its ultimate purpose at home is the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain – free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organized in the service of the British people.”

But also – all it takes for evil to succeed is for a few good men to do nothing.


My blog on ‘Living well with dementia’ is here.

Are the media right to concentrate on Ed Balls' red face?

Every week, David Cameron turns bright red, and he doesn’t answer any questions properly at Prime Minister’s Questions. This never gets reported in the media.

And yet suddenly Ed Balls is said to turn red in the Autumn Statement, and this is big news. More than the explosion in numbers of food banks. More than the astronomical energy bills.

The demeanour of David Cameron still brings considerable unease to those people who call themselves Conservatives. Even they see David Cameron as ‘nimn’ – “not in my name”.

At prime minister’s questions, he finds it hard to rein in his Flashman reflex. His infamous ‘Calm down dear!” was a notorious low point in the manner of such exchanges. His answers are ever more sneering and personal, determined to characterise his rival as weak and useless. Worryingly, there has been a tendency to pick on a characteristic, like a stammer, and to home in on it like an Amazon drone. It is not pleasant to watch the jabbing finger and the reddened face, especially when the Tory backbenchers behind him join in with bullying jeers. It’s bullying, David Cameron does it every week, and the media don’t bat an eyelid.

There are a number of different causes of blushing. This is characterised by feelings of warmth and rapid reddening of your neck, upper chest, or face. Flushed skin is a common physical response to anxiety, stress, embarrassment, anger, or another extreme emotional state. Facial flushing is usually more of a social worry than a medical concern.

It’s unlikely that Ed Balls had ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ that morning. Chinese restaurant syndrome describes a group of symptoms that some people experience after eating food from a Chinese restaurant. He would have had to have eaten a Chinese meal for breakfast. This is unlikely unless it happens to be a particular domestic habit of his, and his wife Yvette Cooper MP.

A food additive called monosodium glutamate (MSG) is often blamed for Chinese restaurant syndrome, but scientific evidence has not proven MSG to be the cause of the symptoms. However, there is currently not another scientifically proven explanation for the symptoms. Most people can eat foods that contain MSG without any problems. A small percentage of people have bad reactions to the food additive. Because of the controversy over MSG, many restaurants, Chinese and otherwise, now advertise that they do not add MSG to their foods.

The accusation is that Ed Balls is appearing like a ‘aggressive cry baby’, rather than ‘conceding defeat’ on the economy.

Balls famously said on May 24, 2012, “Our complacent and out-of-touch Prime Minister and Chancellor have spent the last week claiming their plan is on track, but?.?.?. Britain’s double-dip recession is even deeper than first thought. What more evidence can David Cameron and George Osborne need that their policies have failed and they now need a change of course and a Plan B for growth and jobs.” And yet there is considerable debate as to whether we had a double (or triple) dip recession at all.

Balls had further said on October 12, 2011, “We were also told the public sector job cuts would be more than outweighed by the rise in private sector jobs?.?.?. It has been a complete disaster.” The Government currently claims that three jobs have been created in the private sector for every public sector job lost.

Ed Balls’s much-panned response to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement has renewed the speculation about whether he will be replaced as shadow chancellor before the general election. Among commentators, Alistair Darling is again being touted as the ideal replacement. He’s done the job before and has indicated that he’d be open to a frontbench role.

However, this flies in the face that Darling has clearly put all his energies into his ‘Better Together’ campaign against Scotland becoming an independent country of the UK.

Unless you’ve met Ed Balls in person, it’s easy to underestimate how much gravitas he has as a member of the Shadow Cabinet Team. He also has a considerable personal following amongst Labour MPs. As a graduate of both Oxford and Harvard, he is well recognised as somebody who understands his economics, and is able to apply a sense of realism to economic policy.

Whilst the replacement of Balls with Darling would win plaudits from the commentariat (who revere him for his battles with Brown), it is less certain that it would massively enhance Labour’s election prospects. Switching Darling for Balls would bring with it a whole suitcase full of problems, such as Miliband appearing ‘weak weak weak’ over the direction of his economic policy. He has previously ‘disposed of’ Alan Johnson in that job.

In this regard, the appointment of the man who was Chancellor at the time of the financial crisis would be a real political gift to the Tories. Osborne and Cameron make much of Balls’s Treasury past, but how many outside of Westminster know that he was City minister from 2006-07, or that he previously served as Brown’s special adviser?

And it could be a genuine problem that Balls has ‘The Brown Touch’. That is: every policy pitch turns into Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown was notorious for being fastidious about making sure the argument was correct, rather than making sure that the presentation was very swanky. This is one of the several arguments used to explain Brown’s personal style of the ‘election debates’ of the last election.

The red face is certainly easier to spread as a meme on Facebook or on Twitter, than the deficit. However, entertaining though it is, it’s simply a diversion tactic to stop people talking about ‘the cost of living crisis’. It’s smoke-or-mirrors to those who criticise the Conservative Party for producing an environment disproportionately friendly to their people in ‘big business’, whether it’s in the realm of NHS privatisation, the Royal Mail privatisation, or tax cuts for ‘hardworking hedgies’.

The red face is even more bogus than the attack on Labour for an emergency cash injection into the investment banks, as even inspired in the US; or the money spent on Labour which contributed to a ‘record level of satisfaction’ in the NHS. But we are three years into five years of a desperately incompetent Government, so it’s probably expected that Tory spin doctors spread their toxic shit everywhere.


My blog on dementia is here:

The article by Rachel Reeves MP is a 'two fingers' at disabled citizens, and will lose Miliband the election








It is actually massively upsetting.

For many citizens, hardworking or not, Ed Miliband was finally beginning to show ‘green shoots’ in his leadership. His conference speech in Brighton was professionally executed, and it largely made sense given what we know about his general approach to the markets and State.

Amazing then it took fewer than a few weeks for his reshuffle to ruin all that.

Parking aside how Tristram Hunt MP had changed his mind about ‘free schools’ such that they were no longer for ‘yummy mummies’ in West London, Rachel Reeves MP decided to come out as a macho on welfare. She boasted on Twitter that she was both ‘tough and fair on social security’.

Rachel Reeves’ article was immediately received by a torrent of abuse, and virtually all of it was well reasoned and fair.

Yes, that’s right. In one foul swoop, we managed to conflate at one the ‘benefit scroungers’ rhetoric with an onslaught on ‘social security’.

Being ‘tough and fair’ on the “disability living allowance”, in the process of becoming the ‘personal independence payment’ is of course an abhorrent concept. I only managed to be awarded my DLA after a gap of one year, after it had been taken away by this Government without them telling me. At first, it was refused through a pen-and-paper exercise from the DWP. Then, it was successfully restored after I turned up in person at a tribunal in Gray’s Inn Road.

This living allowance meets my mobility needs. My walking is much impaired, following my two months in a coma. It also meets my living requirements, allowing me to lead an independent life.

I don’t want to hear Reeves talking like a banker but as if she doesn’t give a flying fig about real people in the real world.

For once, the outrage on Twitter, and the concomitant mobbing, was entirely justified. I had to look up again what her precise rôle was – yes it was the shadow secretary for work and pensions, not employment.

Many members of Labour were sickened. A spattering of people, would-be Councillors in the large part unfortunately, didn’t see what the fuss was about. They reconciled that ‘the sooner we face up to this problem, the better’.

The media played it as ‘the hard left of the Labour Party are upset’.

The “Conservative Home” website played it as a sign that the Labour Party were belatedly adopting the Conservatives’ narrative, but it was too little and too late.

Like Ed Miliband being booed at conference, a backlash against Reeves’ article can euphemistically be indicative of Labour’s success at ‘sounding tough’.

At yet, this is ‘short term’ politics from a national political party. The social value of this policy by Labour is not sustainable. In the quest for instant profit for headlines, it will actually find itself with no income stream in the long term.

For all the analysis with Labour marketing must have done through their ‘think tanks’ and ‘focus groups’, it is striking how Labour have missed one fundamental point. That disabled bashing in the media is not populism from the Left, actually.

Conversely, it could LOSE them votes from their core membership.

If they learn to love disabled people, they could WIN votes.


So what’s the fuss about? She didn’t mention disability. Well – precisely. Disabled citizens of working age are known to form a large part of the population, as Scope reminded us this week in their session on ‘whole person care’ with Liz Kendall MP, so why did Reeves ignore them altogether?

Is it because she has only been in a brief only a few days? Some of us in life have taken the bullet for incidents in life which have lasted barely a few minutes.

What will it take for Labour to ‘get it’ on disability and welfare? Possibly, the final denouement will be when Labour finally realises it can’t ‘out Tory’ the Tories.

The Twitter defenders of the indefensible cite that ATOS are being ‘sacked’ – well, yippedeeeday. ATOS, who were appointed by Labour, are finally being sacked. When negotiating a contract in English law, the usual procedure is to ensure that there are feedback mechanisms in place to ensure the contract is being performed adequately? You can bet your bottom dollar that Labour wishes to do a ‘Pontius Pilate’ on that, like it does on all its crippling PFI contracts it set up for the NHS.

This is a disastrous start by Reeves, but ‘things can only get better’. It’s not so much that Rachel Reeves is Liam Byrne in a frock that hurts. It’s the issue that shooting the messenger won’t be the final solution in changing Labour’s mindset on this.

It is all too easy to blame the ‘subeditor’, but the subeditor didn’t write the whole piece. Any positive meme from Reeves, in a ‘well crafted speech’ to “out-Tory the Tories” (such as scrapping the ‘Bedroom Tax’), has been instantaneously toxified by the idea of people ‘lingering on benefits’.

The most positive thing to do was to explain how people might not be so reliant on benefits, such as work credits, if we had a strong economy.

Reeves chose not even to mention pensions, which is a large part of her budget.

Because the article was hopeless from the outset, it could not even get as far as how to get the long-term unemployed (or the long-term sick) safely back to work.

It was an epic fail.

It is, in fact, an epic fail on all three planks of Ed Miliband’s personal mission of ‘One Nation': the economy, not recognising the value of disabled citizens of working age to the economy; society, not recognising disabled citizens as valued members of society; and the political process, totally disenfranchising disabled citizens from being included in society.

It is no small thing to wish the Labour Party to fail as well as a result. But this may now be necessary, and Reeves should take the bullet for that if she doesn’t improve.

Nick Clegg is bound to defend the Tory record, as he's a Tory. It doesn't matter to us.


It is beyond delusional that Nick Clegg is proposing to the voters of Britain that British voters are better off with a coalition government, with him as a permanent fixture as the Deputy Prime Minister. It may be spun that ‘behind the scenes’, he is known to favour David Cameron as he has worked with Cameron, but seriously? You must have surely worked with people that you’ve come to hate? It is, rather, well known that Nick Clegg is a Tory. He is utterly spineless, and has no liberal principles of his own. That is why many people serious about Liberal values have left in droves – or rather hundreds of thousands. Liberal does not mean snoopers’ charters. Liberal does not mean control orders. Liberal does not mean secret courts. Liberal does not mean propelling competition to be the overriding principle of a NHS which outsources as much as possible to the private sector, when the Liberal Democrat’s own constitution emphasises the principle of collaboration.

The question is: what will it take to get rid of Nick Clegg finally? Thanks to the legislation of the fixed term parliament, we already know that he will have to honour his promise to go the full distance. Vince Cable may offer sunny uplands in the form of the Coalition early, but it is merely a mirage. Many activists are worried about armageddon, which is widely predicted for the European elections. Oakeshott will be there to tell you he told you so, and Nigel Farage will yet again be the new messiah. However, none of this fundamentally changes anything. Nick Clegg is a Tory, and what he wishes to do after May 8th 2015 is utterly irrelevant.

Do people really care whether he wants to be in a Coalition with Ed Miliband? I strongly suspect Ed Miliband doesn’t wish to work with Clegg in a million years. The practical issue is inevitably how Nick Clegg is going to lead his party to vote with Labour to reverse a series of legislative steps from the present Coalition. It is inevitable that Labour will have to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and given the strength of feeling one cannot conceivably imagine LibDem MPs will now be whipped to vote against the legislation they originally delivered. Whilst it is common currency that most politicians are ‘professional’ and do what they are told, irrespective of what the country feels, Norman Lamb had no problems in implementing a £3bn top down reorganisation of the NHS when the political priority should have been to implement as soon as possible the Dilnot recommendations over the future of social care.

Say you’d submerged the Concordia, would you attempt to take credit for lifting it out of the waters? Say you’d driven a high speed train in Spain off the tracks, would you attempt to take credit for finding the ‘black box’ recorder? Nick Clegg incessantly criticised the economic policy under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in the dying days of the the final recent Labour government, and did his best totally to misinform the public. It could be the case that Labour did a dreadful job in explaining how the £860 billion was deemed ‘necessary’ in keeping the banks afloat, whilst maintaining a record level of satisfaction in the NHS. However, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes and Danny Alexander did a splendid job in a coalition of lies with George Osborne and David Cameron in arguing that Labour had bankrupt the UK and we were close to the Greek situation. It is therefore not a great achievement that we have a feeble recovery. The argument that ‘Ed Balls does not even agree with Ed Balls’ has not reached lift off despite the best peddling from Tim Farron and Nick Clegg, and the BBC, because the facts speak for themselves. Whilst they proudly boast that the UK economy did not have a double dip or triple dip, it is incontrovertible that the UK economy had actually been recovering in May 2010.

So what Nick Clegg wants is irrelevant. In as much politics can be politicised, Clegg has become a figurehead for anger amongst a wide variety of issues important to Labour voters. While Clegg maintains his stuck record mantra of ‘lifting people out of poverty’, the list of cock ups from Clegg is truly lamentable. It is impossible to know where to start – but you could try the UK economy, the scrapping of the employment support allowance, the shutting of libraries, the scrapping of Sure Start, the scrapping of ‘Building Schools for the Future, and the destruction of the network of legal centres in England. Clegg’s horrific, even if he is a ‘great reformer’ of sorts. He represents all that is fundamentally sick with unprincipled, undemocratic politics. He is a sickening ‘career politician’ who built a brand of ‘no more broken promises’, while breaking a promise he publicly signed a pledge for regarding tuition fees.

Ed Miliband continues to be slagged off by the Liberal Democrat hierarchy, though less so by some on the left of the Liberal Democrat Party. Why should he particularly wish to embrace them as part of the progressive left? The reason he might is that Ed Miliband is a social democrat who doesn’t particularly mind standing up for principles he believes in, even if this means antagonising the Blairite press such as David Aaronovitch or John Rentoul. He called out ‘irresponsible capitalism’ in an universally panned conference speech in Manchester in 2011, much to the ire of the Blairite critics (surprise surprise), but nobody can dismiss how this important concept, passported from the seminal work of Prof Porter at Harvard, has taken root. The ‘transformation’ of ‘reforming’ the public sector in outsourced services has been incredibly unpopular with the general public, who are much better informed than the Coalition politicians would like to believe. You’d have to be on Mars not to be aware of the fraud allegations of A4e, Capita, Serco or G4s.

The public will not give credit to the Liberal Democrats for the economy. They might conceivably give some credit to the Conservatives. And yet the picture of the UK economy is not clear. The total number of people in employment has been rising consistently for many years now, irrespective of who is government. The Conservatives will have real problems in establishing living standards, as the cost of living has risen exponentially due to privatised utilised creaming off profits in the utilities industries. These utilities industries are typical ‘oligopolies’, where the product is virtually the same for the end-user whoever the provider is, prices are kept artificially high by all the providers (but proving collusion by the competition authorities remains virtually impossible), and shareholder profits are shamelessly high. Norman Tebbit have dug out a trench in no foreign ownership of Royal Mail, but there is no such legislation about foreign ownership of the utilities nor indeed the NHS.

Nick Clegg may have been the future once. But he’s now finished.

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