Posts Tagged ‘David Miliband’

Spice Girls Call on People to Support May in Brexit Negotiations

November 13, 2018

Here’s another story from the I, simply reporting a piece that was in another newspaper. Yesterday, the I was repeating a piece from the Sunday Times that David Miliband might come back to England to lead the new ‘centrist’ Blairite party that’s been debated for months now. Today, 13th November 2018, the I ran a piece about an article in the Scum, in which the Spice Girls called upon the people of Britain to support Tweezer in her Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

The article on page 7 of newspaper ran

The Spice Girls have called on Britons to back up Theresa May in her Brexit negotiations.

The band were known for their girl power message during the 1990s, but Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice, told The Sun of a change in message more than 20 years on. She said, “It’s people power. We’re about equality and bringing everyone together.”

Bandmate Geri Horner also backed Mrs May, saying the Prime Minister did not have an “easy position”.

She said: “We don’t have to agree on politics, it’s bigger than that. You can just support a woman doing the best she can and that’s it.”

Er, no, you don’t have to support May. She might be doing the best she can, but she’s the head of a party that has single-handedly done its absolute and level best to reduce ordinary working people, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed to grinding poverty. While at the same time depriving them of employment rights, privatizing the health service and stripping back the welfare state to make benefits as difficult and as humiliating to obtain as possible. As a result, something like 14 million are in poverty, a quarter of a million at least are using food banks, and homelessness has shot up. And there is an ongoing genocide of the disabled which is largely ignored by the mass media. Her predecessor, David Cameron, by calling the referendum did more to split the UK than Sinn Fein and the Scots Nats, because everyone in Northern Ireland and Scotland wishes to remain in Europe. It’s only we English, who swallowed the xenophobic rubbish and outright lies of the Leave campaign.

And whatever Tweezer says, any deal she makes will not benefit the vast majority of this country’s people. Despite her party’s rhetoric, there have no interest in doing anything to improve conditions for the rest of us. Quite the opposite. The Tory party is the party of the rich and affluent, the aristocracy and the business classes. Thanks to austerity, their wealth has massively increased while Britain’s working people have become much poorer. Any deal May will want to make with Brussels will be intended to benefit them, not us.

The best thing in the circumstances will be for Tweezer’s negotiations to fail, an election called and the Tories kicked out and replaced with a proper, Labour government that can actually do the job of rebuilding our economy, welfare state, NHS and relationship with Europe.

As for the Spice Girls themselves, I don’t hate them, but I was never a fan. They always struck me as Conservatives, and a number of my friends didn’t think much of them, regarding them as a manufactured band. As for their slogan ‘Girl Power’, the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror film website, Moria, in its review of their film, Spice World, said it was meaningless. It was a kind of ‘post-feminist feminism’, and so was essentially as meaningless and empty as their music. The video for ‘Spice Up Your Life’, in which the girls fly through a dark, twilight city of towering skyscrapers, drenched in rain and given occasional illumination by a distant searchlight on high-tech surf boards seems so much based on Los Angeles of the SF film Blade Runner that I’m surprised Ridley Scott didn’t sue them for copyright. Blade Runner is one of the great classics of SF cinema, not least for its striking cityscape and Vangelis’ synthesizer score. It’s a downbeat, depressing movie, in sharp contrast to ‘Spice Up Your Life’, which is just a piece of inconsequential fun. But the movie had something deep to say about humanity and our assumptions of moral superiority over the biological machines we may create to serve us. Plus the fact that it had that awesome speech by Rutger Hauer as the Replicant leader, Roy Batty, to Harrison Ford’s Rik Deckard at the end: ‘Now you know what it’s like to be a slave. To live in fear. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe, seen ships on fire off the shores of Orion…’ etc. Seeing the Spice Girls’ video of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ the other day on YouTube reminded of just how great a piece of cinematic art Blade Runner was.

As for ‘people power’ and the rhetoric about equality and bringing everyone together, that’s very rich coming from the Scum. The Scum’s the mouthpiece of the Tory party, which has done everything it can since it was founded by Murdoch to divide Britain, not least through its strident, persistent racism. It’s thanks to the Tory party and their imitators, New Labour, that there is now a yawning chasm between rich and poor, while the Tories have exacerbated and created further racial divisions by whipping up hatred and fear against immigrants and asylum seekers. Quite apart from the general hatred and fear the Tory press incites against the unemployed and disabled, whom they despise and denigrate as ‘scroungers’.

The Spice Girls are planning a comeback, and if people like their music, that’s fine. They gave people a lot of pleasure back in the 1990s. But this time, their message in the Scum is definitely best ignored.

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‘I’ Newspaper and Sunday Times Claim David Miliband May Lead Blairite ‘Centrist’ Party

November 12, 2018

Today’s I newspaper for the 12th November 2018 also ran an article following a piece in yesterday’s Sunday Times, which suggested that the launch of the new, Blairite ‘centrist’ party is coming nearer, and that David Miliband, the brother of the former Labour leader Ed, may return to Britain to head it. The article by Richard Vaughan stated

David Miliband is mulling a return to frontline politics as head of a new centrist party, it has emerged.

Plans are under way to launch a fresh political party, with speculation mounting it could be just months away.

Labour MPs, unhappy with the direction of the party under Jeremy Corbyn, are believed to be in talks about forging a breakaway party from the centre ground and looking at Mr. Miliband to lead it.

According to the Sunday Times, the former foreign secretary is eyeing a return to London, having spent the last four years running the aid charity, the International Rescue Committee in New York.

The newspaper also reported that Mr. Miliband met prominent Labour donors Sir Trevor Chinn and Jonathan Goldstein.

His decision to leave UK politics followed his unexpected defeat to his brother Ed for the Labour leadership in 2010. Mr. Miliband sparked rumours of a return in the summer wyhen he said in an interview that he brought PG Tips and Marmite back to his home in the US, adding: “Of course I’ll come back. It’s my home. I’m British.”

Centrist Labour backbenchers still view Mr. Miliband as the “king over the water”, harbouring hopes that he will step back into the political limelight under a new party.

It comes amid persistent reports that Tony Blair is in discussions to create a new party, with suggestions that his one-time political apprentice could take on the job of leading it. Another favourite to lead such a party is the former business secretary Chuka Umunna, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the Labour leadership.

Should there be any chance of a new centrist party being established in time for a general election before Britain leaves the EU, then it would have to be launched before the end of January.

Under parliamentary procedure, 28 January is the latest possible date that an election can be called before Brexit day on 29 March. (p. 15).

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s get started. Firstly, the source of this bit of speculation – and speculation is all it is, rather than news – is the Sunday Times. This is the entirely trustworthy establishment paper, owned by the honest, deeply moral newspaper magnate, Rupert Murdoch, that libeled Mike as an anti-Semite last year. And it is this paper, which is repeating the nonsensical smear that the former Labour leader, Michael Foot, was a KGB spy. Despite the fact that when they ran this story 20 or so years ago, Foot defended his name in the courts, sued ’em for libel, and won. One of the reasons the rag is repeating the smear is because Foot’s dead, and the dead can’t sue for libel. But there is no further corroborating evidence, the charge is still malicious nonsense, and the editor publishing this is still a complete slimeball. In my opinion, of course.

Now let’s attack the claims about the proposed ‘centrist’ party, which might have members from ‘centrist’ Labour MPs. Firstly, there is nothing centrist about the Labour right. They are Thatcherite infiltrators, who follow their former leader Tony Blair, in rejecting socialism and embracing Thatcherite neoliberalism. Thatcher hailed Blair as her greatest achievement. The Blairites thus stand for more privatization, including that of the NHS, and a similar attack on the welfare state and workers’ rights. Blair and his cronies continued Thatcher’s policy of ‘less eligibility’, taken over from the workhouses, to make applying for benefits as difficult and humiliating as possible in order to deter people from claiming them. And I personally know people who didn’t sign on when they unemployed, because of the degrading way they were treated. It was the Blairites too, who introduced the work capability tests for those applying for disability benefit. This was on the advice of the American insurance fraudsters, Unum, based on spurious medical research, which has been criticized as scientific nonsense. Again, this was following the Tories. Unum had been advising Peter Lilley, when he was their health secretary in the 1990s. Lilley introduced the Private Finance Initiative as a deliberate policy to open up the health service to private enterprise. And this was following Thatcher, who would have liked to privatise the NHS wholesale, but was only prevented by a cabinet revolt. As for the unemployed, the Blairites’ contempt for the jobless was clearly shown more recently when one of them – can’t remember whether it was Rachel Phillips or Reed, said a few years ago that if Labour got into power, they would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories. Which is a very good argument for making reselection of MPs in the party mandatory.

The Labour centrists are nothing of the kind. They are actually extreme right. The real moderates are Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left, who are a return to the Social Democratic politics of the traditional Labour party. They are definitely not ‘Communists’, ‘Trotskyites’, ‘Stalinists’ or whatever other insults Joan Ryan and the press hurl at them.

Now let’s analyze this ‘centrist’ party that the press have been speculating about for nearly a year. At the moment, it has zero policies and precious few members. One of those, who was part of the project, fell out with the others and left. The early newspaper reports stated that it was being launched with the aid of donors. This should ring warning bells with everyone concerned with the corruption of today’s corporate state. Blair’s Labour party was a part of the corporate takeover of politics. They took funds from corporate donors, like David Sainsbury, and put them into government posts, where they influenced government policy to their benefit. George Monbiot describes the way this corrupted the Labour government and its policies in his book, Captive State. It looks like the centrist party, if it is ever launched, will be intended to maintain the dominance of corporate power over the political parties, against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, which has actually expanded its membership to become the largest socialist party in Europe and which actually represents the wishes of grassroots members. Its other policy seems to be that Britain should remain in the EU. I believe this, but the party otherwise represents too much of a threat to ordinary people’s lives, health and livelihoods to ever be worth voting for.

The party’s Blairite foundations also mean it is going to be Atlanticist in geopolitical orientation. That is, it will support America and American policies. Blair and the other architects of New Labour were members of BAP, or the British-American Project for the Successor Generation. This was a Reaganite project to recruit future political and media leaders, give them sponsored study trips to America, so that they would return staunch supporters of the Atlantic alliance. Blair’s pro-American stance could clearly be seen by the way many of the companies lining up to run Britain’s privatized industries or manage what was left of the state sector, including the NHS, were American. Miliband is part of this. I really don’t think it’s any accident that he scarpered off to America after he lost the leadership contest to his brother. And Blair’s own extreme right-wing views is shown by the fact that he accepted an invitation to attend an American Conservative convention at the request of former president George Bush.

The other policy is likely to be staunch support for Israel and its continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. I don’t know who Jonathan Goldstein is, but one of the possible funders of the new party, Trevor Chinn, was revealed a few months ago as one of the big donors to the Israeli lobby in the Labour party, giving money to Labour Friends of Israel. He’s one of the people behind the Israel lobbyists and their smears of anyone standing up for the Palestinians as anti-Semites. These smears are vile, libelous and deeply offensive. Those smeared as anti-Semites include not just non-Jewish anti-racists, like Mike, but also self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews, like Jackie Walker, Martin Odoni, Tony Greenstein and so on. Some of those they’ve smeared are the children of Holocaust survivors, and people, who’ve suffered real racist and anti-Semitic attacks.

If launched, this supposedly centrist party will represent nothing but corporate greed, especially of transatlantic multinationals. Oh yes, and support for the Likudniks and other members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s increasingly Fascistic government coalition, and their persecution of Israel’s indigenous Arabs. It will not support the welfare state, the NHS or the rights of British working people to decent jobs, working conditions, dignity and pay.

That’s if this wretch party ever gets launched at all. It’s been debated for about year now, and the Labour right have been threatening to desert the party and found a new one for even longer. So far, fortunately, they haven’t done so. And it’s possible they never will. Mike over at Vox Political published a piece a little while ago pointing out that new parties find it very difficult to establish themselves as major forces in politics. UKIP was founded in the 1990s, and despite decades of hard campaigning, it’s still -fortunately – pretty much a fringe party. And some of us can remember the Labour party split in the 1980s, when the right-wing rebels left to form the SDP. There was much noise then about them ‘breaking the mould’ of British politics. The result was that they had no more than a handful of MPs, and after forming an alliance with the Liberals then merged with them to become the Lib Dems. Which remains smaller than either Labour or the Tories.

As for right-wing Labour MPs splitting off on their own, Mike showed very clearly why they wouldn’t really want to do that, either. Independents also struggle to get themselves elected. If they ever left the party to run as independents, they’d almost certainly lose their seats at the next election.

The centrist party will thus very likely be a complete non-starter, funded by businessmen to maintain their power over British politics at the expense of the NHS, the welfare state and working people, and preserve British alliance with right-wing parties and business elites in America and Israel. But it is being touted by the newspapers like the Sunday Times and the I, because they fear and hate Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, and see it as a way of destroying it and the chance of real change for working people in this country.

The Blairites and Middle Class Entitlement

August 14, 2016

Mike today put up a couple of pieces on the latest plans by the Blairites to hold on to power against Jeremy Corbyn and the majority of Labour members. One was to try and resurrect David Miliband as a challenger to Corbyn’s leadership. This is a sick joke, considering how unpopular Miliband was before under the old rules. He’d fare even worse now. And it shows how utterly cynical and manipulative they are about trying to insert him in Jo Cox’s vacant seat as the PLP’s preferred candidate, over the wishes of her constituency.

The other plan is a new, internal Labour party group, called Tomorrow’s Labour, which intends to set up an astroturf – fake grassroots movement – against Corbyn using spambots. This is pretty much against the rules of the internet as it is, and make a mockery of their claim to be fully transparent, and compliant with all existing rules.

I wonder how far the Blairites’ determination to hang on to power, no matter what the cost, is due to their sociological origins. I was talking to a friend of mine the other week, who remarked on the very middle class backgrounds of the Blairite politicians. Old Labour was largely, though not exclusively, working class. Many of its politicians had come into politics as members of their trades unions. These were people like Ernest Bevan, Nye Bevan, and the veteran Labour left-winger, Dennis Skinner. Obviously, there were even then members of the middle class involved in Socialist politics, like Clement Atlee, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and the Fabians. This began to change in the 1960s, as the Labour party deliberately set out to attract a more middle class membership, as advocated by Tony Crosland. In order to attract them, it played down and minimised its advocacy of nationalisation. The Labour leader at the time, Hugh Gaitskell, wanted to drop Clause 4, the section of the Labour party’s constitution which advocated nationalisation. He failed. Despite this move to the Right, the Labour party still remained committed to the national ownership of the utilities and certain other important industries, such as mining and steel. Crosland himself was responsible for the introduction of comprehensive schools. Although this has been very loudly decried, the old system of schooling did reinforce class divisions and prevent children from working class backgrounds rising upwards. The party was also committed to a planned economy, something that also went very much against the principles of free marketeers like Milton Friedman and von Hayek.

All this went out the window with the 1979 election victory of Thatcher and the continued electoral success of the Conservatives. This convinced the Labour Right to adopt all of her policies – privatisation, the destruction of the NHS as a public service, the dismantlement of the welfare state and increasing criminalisation of the poor. They also turned away from the working class, and concentrated on trying to win votes from middle class voters in marginal constituencies.

And the party’s demographics also changed. Many of the New Labour MPs were like Harriet Harman. She’s a millionaire. They tend to be very middle class boys and girls, privately educated, with the advantages that accrue to the members of those classes. They sit on the boards of companies, various quangos and are active in the charities. This is all very well, but it makes me wonder how far the Blairites are motivated by purely ideological convictions, and how much of it comes from instinctive class loyalty? These are people, who have never had to work hard to get into their current position of power. They don’t have much contact with the working class, and apparently share the middle classes’ hatred and fear of them. You can see it in their determination to cut down on welfare benefits for the unemployed and for their support for workfare, as well as the unchallenged belief in the sociological myth of mass pockets of unemployment where nobody in a family has worked for generations. And there’s the instinctive hatred of the privately educated businesspeople for the trade unions.

As a rule, the middle classes uncritically accept that they have a privileged place in society, which is theirs by right. A little while ago Secular Talk did a piece, reporting on a study that found that the richer you are, the more likely you are to believe that the existing state of society was just. I don’t doubt that. Now I don’t deny that some of them are genuinely concerned with enlarging democracy through campaigns against racism and for female empowerment. They may also sincerely believe in Thatcher’s twaddle about making conditions worse for people in order to encourage them to try to rise above their station. But they do so through the middle class assumptions they have inherited as part of their background, including their belief that they have an innate right to rule. This might not be articulated or even conscious, but it seems to be there.

Hence the determination to hang on to power whatever the cost, the wild, stupid denunciations of Corbyn’s supporters as hippy Trots wearing donkey jackets. The great unwashed are trying to take their party back after good, Blairite middle class types have tried to make it respectable. How dare they! And so we come to their attempts to clean out Corbyn’s supporters through denying them a voice, in order to retain their middle class supporters and appeal to a middle class electorate.

Vox Political on David Miliband on the Hilarious and Saddening Desperation of the Blairites

August 14, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has today put up a piece commenting on an article in the Mirror Online about a plan by the Labour rebels to shoe-in David Miliband into Jo Cox’s constituency as a challenger to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Mike points out that Miliband lost under the old electoral college system. Under the present, one man, one vote system, he’d fare even worse, as this has shown that the grassroots Labour membership are far more left-wing than the parliamentary Labour party, who reformed the system.

Mike notes that the people putting forward Miliband as a potential leadership contender are anonymous, which probably means that even they know the idea’s unworkable.

He finds it hilarious that the Blairites are so divorced from reality that they think David Miliband will somehow be a popular leader.

At the same time, he finds their cynical attitude to using Jo Cox’s old seat deeply saddening. The other parties, with the exception of one of the Nazi fringe groups, have said that they will not contest Cox’s seat. This means that any Labour candidate inserted into it will automatically go to Westminster. The people behind this plan are considering doing just that to get Miliband into parliament, and therefore into a position to challenge Corbyn. It’s a nasty, cynical and utilitarian attitude to the horrific death of a colleague. Mike says of it:

The suggestion that, after all their previous attacks on party democracy, these power-hungry wretches will spit on the memory of a much-lamented colleague to attack democracy again, is actually worse than heartbreaking.

It is humiliating – for them.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/14/miliband-plan-to-topple-corbyn-is-both-hilarious-and-heartbreaking/

This really does show how desperate the Blairites are, and the more they carry on like this, the more tempted I am to buy one of the books exposing just how deeply corrupt, cynical, manipulative and unpleasant Blair and his court were. Like Andrew Rawnsley’s Servants of the People. This apparently did an excellent job of portraying the vile reality behind the spin and carefully stage managed media events to show the Dear Leader as a popular politicians with mass approval. The reality was that, thanks to Blair, Labour lost five million votes between their election victory in 1997 and their election defeat Thirteen or so years later. Why would I want to put myself through the ordeal of reading up on these deeply unpleasant people, who have continued Thatcher’s disgusting legacy of privatisation, including that of the NHS, and welfare cuts? Because Rawnsley’s book, and others like it, would provide excellent ammunition against the Blairites and their pretensions to represent the mainstream left, their corruption, double-dealing, and slavish kowtowing to big business and the right-wing media, and the immense harm their policies have done to ordinary, working people.

They don’t represent the majority of Labour party members, nor the traditions and ideals of the party’s founders. They are Thatcherite entryists, who represent only middle class interests and middle class entitlement. It’s high time they went.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 3

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

Academies and the Curriculum

There are also major concerns about what academies actually teach. Beckett writes from a secular viewpoint, and is very sceptical about the involvement of the churches and evangelical groups in running schools. He states that there may be a democratic argument to be put forward in favour of handing schools over to religious organisations, but this has not been made. Instead, he cites quotes from Peter Vardy and the Roman Catholic spokesman for education in Scotland, McGrath, who regret that the churches have relinquished schools to the state. He shows how the churches, including the Church of England, are trying to get into education with the aim of indoctrinating a new generation of believers. Beckett isn’t entirely opposed to religious involvement in schooling. He has nothing against the traditional compromise, in which schools offered religious education and an act of daily worship, but were otherwise left to get on with things. But the religious character of some of these schools does become a problem, such as their refusal to employ staff of a different faith, or when most of their pupils are non-Christians, such as Muslims. Or when the Christian ethos is expected to get down into lessons like pottery. Peter Vardy and his organisation are a matter of considerable concern, because of Vardy’s determination to teach Creationism as an acceptable scientific theory, which has been criticised by the Royal Society, amongst others.

It is not just the religious organisations that present problems with the subjects taught at academies. Sponsors are also able to set the curriculum, and so this reflects the particular interests of the businessman or organisation sponsoring the academy. In academies run by particular firms, the emphasis may be on those skills the firm requires, even though several of them have denied that they are in fact doing so. Beckett makes the point that these firms are effectively training ‘the worker bees of industry’ for tomorrow. Where the sponsor is a sports club, the academy, naturally enough, specialises in sport. The result is that subjects like technology and business are favourite subjects with sponsors, but ordinary, valuable subjects like English, Maths and languages, for which there is also a need, are much less well represented.

Driving Down Other Schools

Beckett also describes how academies also work to drive down the other schools in their areas. Academies may received massive funding from government – like £37 million – while something like £2 – £6 million may be granted to maintain the other state schools in the area. Academies thus may become the favoured choice for parents. They are also highly selective. There is evidence that very many of the academies expel difficult pupils, thus passing them on to the conventional state sector. Many of them also opt to select 10 per cent of their intake according to ability. Or they may choose to take them by banding. In this instance, children are divided into three bands of above average, average, and below average educational performance/ capacity. Schools following this method of selection take equal numbers of all the above bands. However, as academies were designed to raise standards in areas where there may be considerable deprivation, the lowest bands may fill up very rapidly, because of the way poverty brings down educational performance and expectations. So the new academy doesn’t take on all the ‘failing’ pupils in its deprived areas. Several of the academies in deprived inner cities targeted not local parents, but those further out in the leafy suburbs, who could be expected to be more affluent and send brighter, more capable pupils to their schools.

The Poorer Performing Schools Doing well In Spite of Disadvantages

And some of the schools that were declared ‘failing’, and slated to be turned into academies, actually were performing very well under circumstances over which they had no control. One of these schools, for example, was in an area where there was a large number of refugee children, none of whom were fluent in English. This school, however, had high staff morale, and provided value for money in the considerable improvement it made on these children’s grades from a very low base. This was before ‘value’ was taken into consideration, however, and Blair and his minions decided that the school wasn’t performing well enough.

No Improvement over State Schools

It is also very unclear whether academies provide any value for money or improvement over conventional state schools. Beckett presents a number of stats, which show that at one time, 11 out of 14 academies were in the bottom 200 schools. Where they did improve, it was quite often through transferring the less academically able pupils from GCSEs to GNVQs, which count as four GCSEs in the stats. When this is accounted for, the supposed superior performance of academies simply vanishes. And some of the improvements are simply achieved because vast sums of money were thrown at a failing school. Any school would have improved under these circumstances, and it’s a good question whether these schools would have improved more, if they had been under proper LEA control.

Academies and Cash for Honours (and Tony)

One of the book’s chapters is on the individuals, that Tony Blair took on board to sponsor the academies. As with so much of Blairite New Labour, there was more than a whiff of corruption about this. Money changed hands, so that sponsors could get a seat in the House of Lords or some other honour. One member of the department dealing with setting up the academies found the full force of the law, when he was caught in a sting operation by the Sunday Times. He had supposedly offered a lady journalist, posing as potential sponsor, the possibility of various honours. He was then arrested at 7.30 in the morning, and flung in jail on potential corruption charges, his career in government at an end. Meanwhile, the Blairite spin machine went into overdrive, with various Blairites, including David Miliband, declaring that no such sale was taking place. But politics was deeply involved, as many of those sponsoring academies had made generous donations and loans to the Labour party. Several of these were under investigation by the rozzers.

Fabian Perspectives on Trade Unions and Labour from 1989: Natural Allies: Labour and the Unions

July 18, 2013

The connection between the trade unions and the Labour was again under attack last week, when Cameron stood up in parliament denouncing it. Concerned about the attempts to manipulate elections to the Labour party in Falkirk, Daivd Miliband apparently agreed, announcing plans to reduce still further the influence of the unions in the Party. This runs in face of the fact that the Labour Party was founded by a mixture of trade unions and Socialist societies. In fact, the representation of organised labour in parliament predates the formation of the Labour party. It began in the late 19th century with the election of the ‘Liblabs’. These were working class trade unionists, who entered parliament as members of the Liberal Party.

Debates over the Connection between Labour and the Unions in the 1980s

The deep connection between Labour and the unions has been under attack by the Tories since Thatcher’s administration. In the ten years up to 1989, the government had passed ten acts designed to curb the unions’ power. The result was a debate within the Labour party over the proportion of the trade union vote in the Labour Party. In 1988 the Party launched a consultation suggesting that the proportion of trade union votes at the Labour Conference from 90 per cent to 75 per cent. This followed the ‘Kitson formula’ proposed by the Transport and General Workers Union. The GMB union went even further, and suggested reducing the Union vote to under 50 per cent. This prompted the publication of the Fabian pamphlet, Natural Allies: Labour and the Unions, by Martin Upham and Tom Wilson. They argued that despite appearances, trade union membership was not declining, nor was it a liability to the Labour party. Instead, they argued that the trade unions were vital for working class and left-wing activism, and that despite concerns over their power in the Labour Party, most British people still wanted the unions to continue protecting and campaigning for the working class. In the quarter century since the pamphlet was published, much has doubtless changed. But as the debate returns, much of it also has retained its relevance.

Little Change in Union Membership in the 1980s When It Was Attacked by Maggie

The authors began by arguing that the decline in trade union membership had more or less bottomed out by 1988. In 1985 the UK was eighth in a table of 17 developed nations in the percentage of its workforce that belonged to a trade union. This was 52 per cent. The most unionised workforce was in Denmark, where 98 per cent of workers were members of a union. The lowest was America, with just 18 per cent. Moreover, trade union membership was largely unchanged between 1980 and 1984. The closed shop had declined from 23 to 18 per cent, the percentage of workplaces with manual shop stewards had fallen from 70 to 65. On the other hand, the number of non-manual shop stewards had increased from 63 to 67 per cent. In fact there was a slight overall increase in shop stewards from 317,000 to 335,000. They also gave the comparative membership figures of a range of non-political organisations, such as the British Red Cross, NSPCC, National Trust and RSPCA from 1981 and 1986. These showed that despite the 1980’s being dubbed the ‘me generation’, the British were still keen on joining charities and other worthy causes. They also attacked the argument that trade union membership would fall as employers switched from full-time to part-time employees and those on temporary contracts. In fact the statistics demonstrated that the number of part-time workers, and those from agencies or on short-term contracts had actually fallen. Moreover, the arguments that these workers could not be unionised was similar to those from the forties and sixties that argued that changed patterns of employment in those decades would mean that the workforce could not be unionised.

Fewer Strikes Does Not Mean Weaker Unions

The authors also pointed out that fewer strikes did not necessarily mean weak union membership. There were practically no national disputes in the 1950s, yet this was a time when union membership in Britain grew. They also argued that one reason for the lack of strikes, despite some notable exceptions, in the early 1980s was because wages were largely rising in real terms. They argued that these increases must have been negotiated by someone, despite the lack of industrial action. The authors went on to argue that if the unions had not collapsed during the 1980s, then it was extremely unlikely that they would so in the 1990s. In fact they believed that the unions could enter the 1990s reinvigorated. Union leaders were consulting their membership more, and pioneering new, and successful ways of recruiting members. They concluded that the trade unions were not in decline, and Labour did not necessarily have to suffer from their connection with them. They did, however, recognise that as unions changed, so should their relationship with the Labour Party.

Union Contribution to Broader Political Campaigns Beyond Labour Party

They then considered the issue of the unions’ affiliation to the Labour party. They noted changes in the number of unions affiliated to the Labour party, members paying the affiliation levy and the rise in the amount levied by the Labour party from the trade unions’ members. Despite a fall in the number of unions affiliated to the Labour Party and members paying the affiliation fee, the income of the trade unions affiliated to the Labour party had risen by 61 per cent. Furthermore, the proportion of the trade unions income destined for the Labour Party had remained stable at 40 per cent. The funds raised for non-party political purposes also were not wasted. The Tory administration’s attack on the unions, public section and their abandonment of a prices and incomes policy had resulted in increased battles on a variety of general left-wing and working class issues. There was also increased trade union activity and support for other left-wing organisations, such as CND, Amnesty International, Anti-Apartheid, War on Want, the NCCL, and the solidarity campaigns for Chile and Nicaragua. In fact the number of members paying the political levy actually rose slightly from 1979 to 1987, despite this being a decade when the unions were increasingly viewed as weak.

Union Power Actually Strengthened by 1984 Trade Union Act

Far from weakening the unions, the authors found that the 1984 Trade Union Act, which forced the unions to canvas their members when establishing fund for political purposes, actually led many to set one up for the first time. All of the unions that set up a political fund for the first time were public sector unions under attack from the Conservatives. These set them up simply for the purposes of ‘business as usual’, rather than to give them a voice in parliament, as had been the case with the older unions. They authors proceeded to argue that the perennial debate whether parties should receive state funding had declined due to the power of the unions to continue raising money for the Labour Party. They also argued that it would be a mistake for the Labour Party to demand such funds to escape having to use contributions from the unions.

Trade Unions Need a Voice in Labour Party; Have Voted to Reduce their Influence in It

The authors then considered the highly confusing situation regarding the rules governing union affiliation to the Labour Party at the local level. There was also the problems of unions not affiliating to the local parties, and those that did not send delegates to the local party. Those that did were not always punctilious in attending meetings. The result was that less than one in forty trade union activists was a Labour Party activist. The authors believed that the new mass membership proposals then being introduced would actually lead to a rise in trade union members at the local level, but would not affect the union block vote at Conference. They noted that workplace branches of the Labour Party had been a failure, and so stated that for trade union members to continue to play their parts in the party, they needed rights to a voice and a vote. The authors also discuss the complex and confusing rules governing the number of delegates from trade unions to which they were entitled. They then examined national ties. The votes of local trade union affiliates and socialist societies for the local selection of parliamentary candidates had a ceiling of 40 per cent. The amount of votes from trade unions and other affiliated organisations for the election of leader and deputy leader of the Labour party was also limited to forty per cent. Far from being an increase in union power, this was the result of the trade unions voting to reduce their influence.

Block Vote Example of Devolved Democracy; Needs To Be Reformed, Not Abandoned

The pamphlet also discussed the union block vote. They considered the way a series of mergers and alliances had left the vote concentrated in a small number of large unions. This would result in greater agreements between the large unions, who held the vote, than had previously been the case when the number of unions had been greater. They note that there was a greater need for individual votes in the party, rather than treating branches, regions, districts and unions as whole units. These include official government policy regarding the holding of ballots, as well as the party’s own rule for them. These required them to be held for union officials and strike action. The result was that union turn out for the elections had increased from ten to twenty per cent for the election of national figures in the forties and fifties to about 75 to 85 per cent for strike action. This democratisation raised further questions about the legitimacy of the block vote. This was shown in the 1981 deputy leadership contest between Denis Healey and Tony Benn. Although the membership of NUPE and the TGWU were divided between the two candidates, each union as a whole voted for one single candidate. This raised the question of whether the Labour Party was a federation of completely autonomous constituent bodies, or a mass party of individuals in which trade unions and other bodies are only the channels through which they entered the Party. They argued that the Labour Party existed to represented the interests of the working class, and this went far beyond membership of a party. The trade unions also needed to be represented. The federal structure of the Labour Party was an example of devolved democracy and collectivity. The block vote therefore needed to be reformed, but not abandoned.

Criticism and Reforms of the Block Vote

The authors criticise suggestions for reforming the block vote, such as the TGWU/Kitson proposal, and Nye Bevan’s suggestion that unions should only be allowed to affiliate at the constituency level. They reject these as unrealistic when much of the Party’s income comes from the unions, and consider it unreasonable to deny the national unions the right to speak with a national voice. Another suggestion, which is criticised, is the view that the block vote should be reduced over time as individual members join their constituency Labour parties. They reject this proposal due to the immense amount of time it would take for individual unions members to join the Labour party so that the latter had the voting strength the unions have today. It would, for example, take half a century for one million trade unionists to join the Labour Party. They therefore argue that the block vote will not wither away, but it did require reforming. These should improve democratic representation, while retaining union influence. They welcome the Kitson proposal for financial parity, but make further suggestions. These are the NEC should issues guidelines on union decision making, just as the do for Constituency Labour Parties. Where there is a large minority of union members, perhaps over 20 per cent, the union should split its vote proportionately. Unions may also be monitored to ensure that they did not affiliate over their number of levy payers, while being absolutely free to affiliate under that number. They would also be asked to submit an annual report to the Labour Party Conference on their political activity, at least as it applied to the Party.

Importance of Unions in Campaigning for the Labour Party; Future Course of Joint Action

They then consider the immense role the unions have played in campaigning for the Labour Party, especially since the 1979 election. Trade union involvement in campaigning for Labour had actually grown, despite attempts by the Party at the national level to dissociate itself from the unions, especially in the 1987 election campaign. They discuss the formation of Trade Unions for a Labour Victory in the 1980s, and their innovations and development of greater levels of organisation in campaigning for Labour. The TULV moved to the sidelines after the failure of the 1983 election. The Trade Union Act of 1984 produced another trade Union group, the Trade Union Coordination Campaign (TUCC). This was successful in providing a central bank of argument and resources. The TUCC was dissolved in 1986 having served its purpose. Both TULV and the TUCC were then succeeded by Trade Unionists for Labour (TUFL). The Labour Party on its part established a Trade Union Liaison Office. These efforts helped reverse the slump in support for the Labour Party among trade unionists, but made only a very modest increase in the amount of support for the Party amongst trade union members. They note that there are other issues that show the need for trade union activity, beyond the issue of ballots for political funds. These are local authority election, green issues, privatisation and health and safety for employees and the public. They believed that there is a danger that unless campaigns were developed around these issues, the TUFL would be left with no clear role. It would have no idea what to do beyond its activities for the Labour Party in 1987, there would be an absence of any issue that would refresh and revive the spirits of union campaigners, and a perceived desire to distance the party from the unions. They suggest that the best was to revitalise union and TUFL activity would be to use the Charter of Rights for Employees contained in the People at Work Policy Review Group report. They believe that this would also have the effect of preventing the Tories from exploiting the ‘winter of discontent’ propaganda.

Union Sponsorship of MPs

They then consider the problems of union-sponsored MPs. The drawbacks to them included unclear or hostile perception by the public of the MPs’ links with their sponsoring unions; out of date financial limits, and the lack of incentives for unions to sponsor candidates standing in marginal constituencies. They consider that what is needed is a clear rationale for the sponsorship system to avoid charges of tame MPs, or constituencies that belong to a particular union. They state, however, that

It remains reasonable for a Labour candidate to seek support from a union or group of unions as a means of demonstrating commitment to the rights of employees in general. Far better that the interest-group lobbying of MPs (not only inevitable, but essential in a pluralist democracy) should be carried out openly and with financial support going to the CLP (Constituency Labour Party), rather than, as with some many Conservative MPs, discreetly, and by personal reward.

They also suggest a number of other reforms, including joint union sponsorship of MPs, and extension of sponsorship to cover European and local authority elections.

Reasons Why Only Minority of Trade Unionists Vote Labour

The authors then discuss the reasons why less than half of all union members actually vote Labour. They suggest that part of the reason is that union members are more likely to own their home than the rest of the population. 73 per cent of trade unionists had their own house, compared to 66 per cent of the rest of the population. Only 20 per cent lived in council houses, while nationally the figure was 27 per cent. People in rented accommodation, and particularly council houses, were more likely to vote Labour than those owning their own home.

Question of Whether Voters and Trade Unionists Really Put Off by Connection to Labour Party

They then consider the results from the 1985 MORI poll showing that people would not vote Labour because the unions would dominate a future Labour government, as well as other factors such as disunity, defence, the leader and fears of damage to the economy. They consider the wording of such statements to be misleading. The statement that a Labour government would be dominated by the unions is contradictory, as the unions are integral part of the Labour party. A party cannot dominate itself. They note that most people want their MPs to be independent. A 1985 MORI noted that only 30-40 per cent of trade unionists wanted their political funds to be used primarily to sponsor Labour MPs. A 1988 Harris poll found that 27 per cent of non-Tory voters cited their obstacle to voting Conservative was that the party was ‘too controlled by big business’. They concluded that there is as much hostility to company links to MPs as there is to unions.

Other polls, however, suggest that the links between the party and trade unions are not a big problem for voters. In a MORI survey after the 1987 general election, only five per cent of 1,300 people, who had not voted Labour, stated that the party would have to reduce the power of the unions before they voted for it. This is way behind unemployment, health, education, defence and the economy.

People Still Want Trade Unions; Labour Party still Expected by Trade Unionists to Back Union Campaigns

Similarly, polls suggest that people still value the trade unions even when they don’t want them to be involved in party politics. A 1977 MORI poll found that 67 per cent of people believed that they party should not be so closely linked to the trade unions. 76 per cent of people in the same poll, however, declared that trade unions were essential to protecting the interests of workers. The authors believed that in fact Labour had also managed to alienate is own natural supporters by not backing trade union campaigns, such as in the miners’, printers and seamens’ strikes. This did not stop the general public from identifying Labour with the unions, but it did increase hostility to the Party from the unions involved in the disputes. They concluded that on this issue attempts by the party to distance themselves from the unions would fail, because of the identification of many Party and Union members with the link, and the very name and nature of the Labour Party itself. They also noted Labour’s apparent inability to challenge Tory propaganda about the Winter of Discontent in the closing weeks of the 1987 campaign because up to that point, the Unions simply hadn’t been an issue. They argued that if union links with Labour really are only a minority issue, then Labour were free to develop an alternative view of the unions.

Labour Should Concentrate on Work-Related Issues

The authors recommended that the Labour party should concentrate on work and employment issues. They note that, despite the perception to the contrary, free time had not overtaken time devoted to work and essential activities, like cooking. They note that overtime is rising, and more women were working the ‘double shift’, and there was a growth in travel to work areas. They note that a few opinion polls underlined the importance of work-related issues. The 1986 British Social Attitudes Survey found that trade union members were particularly concerned about low pay. Among ex-Labour voters and those, whose commitment to the Party was not firm, the most appealing policies were protection against unfair dismissal, training, women’s rights and the statutory minimum wage. The general employed public were also interested in job security, wages, hours, pensions, health and safety and physical conditions at work. They also note the vast differences amongst employees on these issues, for example between male and female employees and blue and white collar workers. Yet employment issues were not prominent in the 1987 general elections. Speeches on employment rights did not get the same media attention as those on defence. The Labour Party itself chose not to highlight its policies on rights at work and pay. The authors considered that the low importance most voters gave to work issues was partly due the fact that very few politicians actually mentioned such issues.

Labour’s low profile on industrial issues is due to the existence of trade unions and the TUC, which independently represent these issues for the working class. There was also the British ‘voluntarist’ tradition, which wishes to keep industrial relations as unregulated as possible. This tradition has, however, disappeared. The majority of unions now believes that the legislative framework governing them is permanent. Labour and the unions had also produced broad range of items that should apply to all workers. These would become increasingly important in 1989 with inflations, earnings expectations and strikes all rising. Most industrial dispute are about management practices and conditions as about pay, and voters will want Labour to address them with clear, well-presented policies.

Employment Issues Potential Vote Winner for Labour; Need Not Necessary Impede Productivity and Competiveness

The authors recommend that Labour should use employment issues both as a potential vote winner and also to show that the real purpose of trade unionism is to advance its members interests. In order to avoid the accusation that the Party was only looking after the interests of its paymasters, it would have to pay particular attention to issues affecting those groups that are not in trade unions – the young, the low paid, ethnic minorities, part-time workers and women. They would also have to show these policies actually aid competiveness and efficiency. This would mean showing that better health and safety would mean less sickness and absenteeism, and disasters like the Zeebrugge ferry and King’s Cross rail disasters. Ending discrimination would give employers a larger pool of talent on which to draw. Some policies would have the opposite effect. Industrial democracy would probably slow down decisions and decrease profits. The minimum wage would cost money in the short term, while proving cost effective in the long term. The authors also recommend that Labour should show that it is adopting such policies because they are fair. They consider that the Charter of Rights for Employees would make an excellent starting point. They note that its demands for flexible hours, holiday rights, minimum wage, and that workers should not be penalised by loss of employment rights for working part-time or for less than five years, would be particularly appealing to women. This is important as female voters may be particularly repealed by the masculine, apparently undemocratic nature of the unions connection to the Labour party.

Pamphlet’s Conclusions for Reform of Relationship and Cooperation between Labour and Unions

The pamphlet concludes that far from seeking power, the unions have actually given up large areas of it. They note that greater union organisation means greater visibility, and the party should not be afraid of this. ‘It is impossible and wrong for the party to loosen its association with the unions’. Evidence that union links harm Labour’s electoral prospects is actually mixed, regardless of what the journalists say. They note that work issues are crucial for Labour, and are of particular concern to women, who are the main victims of society’s tendency to undervalue and underpay it. They therefore recommended the following policies:

1) The Charter of Rights for Employees should be made the focus of a major campaign to publicise Labour policies on work. This would also act to promote Labours positive attitude to the unions.

2) The campaign should also stress the great importance to the direction of the economy of the involvement of employees.

3) The campaign should highlight particular issues of concern to women, paid worker and potential voters.

4) The campaign should act to allow TUFL and the unions to persuade more union members to join the Labour party and build up links between the unions and labour at the regional and local level.

5) The Labour party and its affiliates should show that the unions have a place as autonomous bodies within the overall structure of the Labour party.

6) A code of conduct for the unions should be drawn up, setting out a broad framework of democratic principles involved in union activity and management.

7) The block vote should remain as the legitimate expression of the unions’ collective decision making. Where the NEC felt the issue was sufficiently important, they should call for ‘recorded votes’ among the affiliated unions. These would be proportionate to the number of people voting for or against over a particular threshold, such as twenty per cent.

8) The Hastings agreement should be revised, so that it meets the unions’ desire for parliamentary representation in regions where they have an interest, and allow the Labour Party to direct scarce resources to areas where they are most needed.

My Conclusion: Connection between Labour and Unions Should Remain, both to Cooperate to Defend Workers and those not in Unions

Now I don’t whether or how far these proposals were ever implemented, or what the current situation between the Labour Party and the Unions actually is. The decision by two of the unions to support Miliband’s proposals is actually in line with the unions giving up large sections of their influence in the Party for its greater good. My own view is that, whatever the nature of the individual, specific proposals, certain principles advanced in the pamphlet still stand. These are:

Most people want the unions to remain and defend the rights of employees.

Despite the propaganda, most people aren’t actually that worried about Labour’s connections to the unions.

Labour should show greater commitment to defending the working class and employees, and particularly those, who are not covered by the unions, regardless what Dacre, Murdoch and the pornographer Richard Desmond say or do.

New Labour and the Abandonment of Socialism and the Working Class

July 11, 2013

Yesterday Ed Milliband announced that he was ending the automatic contribution to the Labour party from the subscriptions of individual members of the trade unions. It marks a continuation of the New Labour policy of distancing the party from its origins in the unions. Way back in the 1990s, Tony Blair threatened to end the party’s ties to the unions altogether if they did not toe his line. It’s also part of the New Labour campaign of presenting itself as more middle class party. This process began under Neil Kinnock. The satirical British magazine, Private Eye, satirised Kinnock’s new middle class direction for the party by showing him shouting ‘Ich bin ein shareholder!’ Other spoof photographs on the same theme showed Kinnock shouting declaring, ‘I am an estate agent, and the son of estate agents’. Later Tony Blair was shown next to John Prescott saying, ‘We’re all middle class now’, to which Prescott replied ”appen I am, you middle class ponce’. Or words to that effect. We’ve come a long way since the Fabian Society published the pamphlet Natural Allies: Labour and the Unions, by Martin Upham and Tom Wilson in the 1980s.

New Labour and its Pursuit of the Middle Class and Increasing Alienation of the Working Class

The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has published a series of pieces charting and strongly criticising the rise of New labour and its abandonment of socialism and the working class. Simon Matthews in his review of Anthony Selden’s biography, Blair notes that the core of New Labour was a group of ‘modernising’ Labour MPs, the Project, consisting of Blair himself, Peter Mandelson, Margaret Hodge, John Carr, Jack Dromney and Sally Morgan, amongst others. It was essentially a response, shared by many other demoralised Leftists in Britain, the US and Australia, to Reagan and Thatcher’s electoral triumphs and the apparent victory of Neo-Liberal economics. Matthews considers that at the heart of New Labour’s political philosophy are the following ideas:

1. Middle class support is absolutely critical at every level. They must not be alienated through raising direct personal taxation.

2. The immense power of the media means that it is impossible to challenge them. They are therefore to be flattered and given good stories. The press are to be allowed to work in a deregulated market place.

3. If extra money is needed to pay for domestic projects, this may only be raised through the importation of cheap foreign labour. This increases the working population and lowers labour costs, so allowing an increase in tax revenue. This last policy has led to the increasing alienation of the White working class, that feels that Labour and the other mainstream political parties has abandoned them. The result is a resurgence in right-wing parties with anti-immigration policies, such as UKIP, or the English Defence League, which campaigns against radical Islam. This alienation has been noted by the BBC. A few years ago the BBC ran a series of programmes devoted to the issue of race in contemporary Britain. The trailer for this showed a White, working class man standing in front of a black background, slowly having his face covered in black ink until he became invisible. A gravelly voice then asked if the White working-class were being written out of Britain today. American critics of Neo-Conservatism have noted much the same attitudes in both the Democrat and Republican parties. The middle-class White members of these parties support affirmative action programmes, so long as they do not affect their children. See the volume, Confronting the New Conservatism.

American Commercial and Political Interests

Critical to the New Labour project has been collaboration with the Democrats in America, and the Australian Labour Party, but not with the Centre-Left European socialist parties. In the summer of 1993 Blair and Brown visited America, a trip arranged by the British embassy. There they met Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserved, who recommended that the Bank of England should set the interest rates in the UK. This was put into practice four years later when they gained power. Blair, and many of the other leading figures of New Labour – Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, David Miliband, Mo Mowlam, Patricia Hewitt and Tessa Blackstone, amongst others, had extensive transatlantic connections. They studied at American Universities, and/or worked for American companies.
Robin Ramsay, Lobster’s editor, has noted that New Labour represent American interests, and those of the British Foreign Office, determined to preserve both the ‘special relationship’ with the US and British commercial interests overseas. Blair himself stated as much in a speech he gave to Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

‘The Americans have made it clear they want a special relationship with Europe, not with Britain alone. If we are to be listened to seriously in Washington or Tokyo, or the Pacific, we will often be acting with the rest of Europe … The real patriotic case, therefore, for those who want Britain to maintain its traditional global role, is for leadership in Europe … the Labour government I hope to lead will be outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade, not an outdate and misguided narrow nationalism’.

The Primacy of the Financial Sector over Manufacturing

The privatisation and deregulation of the economy under Mrs Thatcher resulted in British companies having the largest overseas investments after the United States. The Blairites supported continued American power and international hegemony because it offered the best global protection to British commercial interests. Manufacturing industry and the public sector became merely special interest groups, which were simply taken for granted and ignored. Gavyn Davies in his comments supporting an independent Bank of England stated that the ‘one quarter of the economy that is affected by the exchange rate’ – in other words, manufacturing, could not be allowed to ‘take precedence over the inflation target’. In others, it should not prevent interest rates being kept high to attract capital to London.

A major part of the New Labour programme was the promotion of the interests of the City of London. The first draft of the Labour Party policy document, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain by a committee chaired by Bryan Gould stated in its section on finance:

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the City of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’. It further argued that Britain’s economic policies had been for too long ‘dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who hold assets rather than those who produce’.

Seven years later, however, when New Labour had become dominant, the power of the City was seen as a source of economic strength. Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book The Blair Revolution, published in 1996, claimed that

‘Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retaining and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.’

The Blind Trusts, Labour Finance and Industry Group and Commercial Donors as Alternative Funding Sources to Traditional Membership Fees and Union Contributions

Tim Pendry, another contributor to Lobster, has described his experience with the Labour Finance and Industry Group and its use by Labour to construct an alternative source of funding from the trade unions and constituency activists. He considers that the party deliberately constructed an opaque and highly centralised funding system. The idea was that this would remove the party’s reliance on its traditional supporters, who as a demographic were considered to be aging and declining. The constituency system was believed to be costly and impossible to police. Moreover, it was vulnerable to being captured by the activists, who would make the party once more unelectable. The funds raised could be used by the Party to fund the kind of mass marketing that the Tories had achieved with Saatch and Saatchi. This policy was to result in the scandalous creation of a series of blind trusts. Pendry notes that the scandals surrounding New Labour and business came from their complete ignorance of the Puritanical ethics of the business community. He considered that many business leaders were horrified by the type of conduct that was considered acceptable in politics. Pendry wrote this in 2006. After the near collapse of western Capitalism under Goldman Sachs, Lehmann Brothers and the other major banks, these comments now seem somewhat ironic. Pendry himself has strong affection for the members of the Labour Finance and Industry Group. He describes them as decent, clubbable people, and notes that they themselves tended to be very much Old Labour – Gordon Brown, rather than Tony Blair. The result of the current parties’ reliance on funding from rich donors has resulted in the membership of both Labour and Tories plummeting. He estimated that Labour had about 200,000 members, while the Conservatives are around 300,000. The Conservative parliamentary leadership has also had problems recently with the apparent contempt with which it holds its members. Yesterday Cameron delivered a speech stating that grassroots Conservatives were highly valued by the party. This followed previous comments by senior party figures describing them as ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

Conclusion: Labour as Centre-Right Pary; Alienation of Working Class

The result of all this is that the Labour party has been transformed from a Centre-Left to Centre-Right party, keen to promote Neo-Liberal economic policies and distance itself from its roots in the 19th and early 20th century trade union movement. The result has been the gradual erosion under Labour of worker’s rights and the encroachment of the market through the Private Finance Initiative. Apart from the continued legacy of Mrs. Thatcher’s destruction of Britain’s manufacturing economy, the British working class has felt disenfranchised and alienated. A minority of its White members have been turning to more extreme nationalist organisations, such as UKIP, which are perceived as far more receptive to their interests.

Sources

Simon Matthews, ‘Our Leader’, in Lobster 48, Winter 2004, 34-5.

Tim Pendry, ‘The Labour Finance and Industry Group: A Memoir’, Lobster 51, Summer 2006, 3-9.

Robin Ramsey, ‘Contamination, the Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’, Lobster 33, Summer 1997, 2-9.

A Note on Lobster

I’ve described Lobster as a conspiracy magazine, which makes it sound like one of those magazines devoted to insane, and frequently dangerous theories about secret governing elites like the Freemasons, Jews and now Reptoid aliens from the Pleiades. It’s not. It’s devoted to what its founder and editor, Robin Ramsey, describes as ‘parapolitics’. This is the study of politics as affected and influenced by genuine covert groups, such as funding lobbies, think tanks and the intelligence and security services. It bases its material on published studies and memoirs from the various groups involved, newspaper articles, and the personal experience of its contributors. It’s also on the web, and has an archives of some articles on-line.