Our nation needs new council houses

council houses1_v1

“The cost to the taxpayer of directly supplementing private landlords through the Housing Benefit system was £9.3 billion last year. Much of that has gone directly into the pockets of some of the most wealthy people in our country. Ten members of the Sunday Times Rich List received a total of £2,032,000 in Housing Benefit in 2014.”

For a fully referenced version of this article please go to: http://hub.me/akDKb

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From The Whitstable Gazette, 25/08/2016

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
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Letters in response to my column about Jeremy Corbyn

scan0003The following letter appeared in the Whitstable Gazette in response to my column of the 28th of July: It’s easy to explain why Corbyn proves popular:

I agree with C J Stone that the future of the Labour Party is uncertain if Jeremy Corbyn were to be re-elected as leader. Sadly for those of us who have supported and worked for Labour over the years, one serious possibility is that the Party ceased to exist in its present format and eventually split along its ideological fault lines.

It is clear that Corbyn cannot command the support of a majority of his Parliamentary colleagues;  rightly or wrongly, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) passed a motion of no-confidence in him by a majority of over four to one. Prior to this vote, many Shadow Ministers had resigned, leaving some portfolios unshadowed and others sharing their ‘shadow’  – e.g., the Scottish and Northern Ireland departments – such that it had become practically impossible to muster a full and viable opposition.

It is difficult to envisage this changing after the leadership vote; it is simply fanciful to hope or imagine that Corbyn’s re-election would somehow dispel all the doubts and anxieties about his competence as a leader amongst the PLP.  In reality he would surely still struggle to assemble an effective opposition team capable of challenging  and holding  to account a newly-refreshed Conservative government, invigorated by the seamless and painless coronation of Theresa May.

 This would be serious enough in normal times, but with the complications and uncertainties surrounding the Brexit negotiations it would be  nothing short of a crisis of representative democracy for the Parliamentary opposition to be so ‘unfit for purpose’ at such a crucial time. At this point, it is suggested that the majority of the PLP who did not support Corbyn could  ‘semi-detach’ themselves from the rest of the party and form a separate parliamentary group  which, as the second-largest grouping in the House of Commons, would qualify it to assume the role of the official Opposition.

If things had got that far, the stage would have been reached where the differences between the pro- and anti-Corbyn groups had become irreconcilable and it is not impossible to envisage that the separation would then morph into a permanent divorce.

So whilst I agree with C J that Corbyn is almost certain to be re-elected in the Autumn as leader, the question that we have to ask is: leader of what, precisely?   Maybe Labour Party members should be careful what they wish for!

It was signed by Peter Halfpenny, a well-known and respected figure in the Whitstable Branch Labour Party and an ex-Labour councillor. Peter then circulated the letter to prominent members of the Party and to myself with the following note:

Hi,

I’ve submitted the attached letter to the Gazette in reply to Chris Stone’s article last week.  I’m neither seeking – nor expecting – universal popularity!

Peter

What followed was a fascinating debate on the purpose of the Labour Party and its future, which I reproduce here in full in the hope that it may help to enlighten other Party members and supporters in the forthcoming leadership election:

Anne B.

Thanks for letting me see your letter Peter. I think that Owen Jones’ concerns that he has expressed in his blogs sums it up for the left – almost no hope at the moment of gaining power. I can understand the PLP opposition to Corbyn setting up an alternative opposition (dreadful thought that is), but can’t understand some wanting an early election. With the polls showing so badly for Labour they will be like the proverbial turkey! They may see the end of JC that way but many will be out the door by then. If you are on the left or the right of the party it is depressing for all. Best wishes, Anne

Brenda B.

Thanks Pete – very interesting.

You have put into words what I felt but couldn’t clearly express.

Also, what baffles me is that if I express anything that is not in accord with JC’s thoughts or statements friends elsewhere often (not all) go into missionary mode and try to convert me.  They really seem to think JC is the Messiah.  Most of his statements/policies are basic Labour principles but many of the followers think he invented them.   It’s this blind loyalty to one man that I fail to grasp and I dread to think of after-election because I’m sure he’ll be re-elected and then what?!!

Brenda.

Chris Stone.

Peter, it isn’t Corbyn who has sought to split the party as far as I can see. He tried to be as inclusive as possible, and to call on all wings to participate in the shadow cabinet. Unfortunately, it seems that members of the shadow cabinet were less collegiate in their style than Corbyn. They have consistently tried to undermine him. They have bullied him, cut across him, attacked him, employed underhand methods, undermined him, tittle tattled to the right wing press, grandstanded around him, plotted against him, whispered about him behind his back: used every method they could to remove him, obviously because he is “not one of us”.

But that’s precisely why we like him: because he’s not a career politician who would vote for anything in order to get ahead, even a war. A war Peter. A war in which possibly over a million have died (according to the Lancet). In which millions have been made homeless. Which gave rise to Isis, to the mass spread of terrorism in the region, and around the globe. The greatest foreign policy disaster possibly of all time. Lead by that great “leader”, Tony Blair.

So Corbyn isn’t much of a leader. So what? I’d much rather someone with an inclusive world view than that emotionally deformed sociopath and serial liar, Tony Blair, for all of his leadership qualities.

If the point of the Labour Party is to get elected, you have to ask: elected for what?

If it is only to implement the same policies as the Tories, then there really isn’t much point, is there?

Austerity is a lie perpetrated by the elites in order to continue to shift the balance of wealth away from the population, and into their own pockets.

As Adam Smith (that great icon of the right) once said: “The vile maxim of the Masters of Mankind: all for ourselves, and none for other people.”

Using the state as an instrument to defraud the people.

Communism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

How many yachts does Philip Green actually need?

“Sir” Philip Green, knighted at the behest of Tony Blair.

Is this what a Labour government is supposed to do?

Happy to meet and talk about this if you like.

Chris.

Linda K.

Dear all

The Labour PLP should accept the results of the democratic LP  leader election,  and work with him to achieve an effective opposition.  They have never tried…

Best

Linda

Peter Halfpenny.

Hi Linda,

If 80% of UKC’s academics had expressed a lack of confidence in the Vice-Chancellor, and he/she were re-appointed regardless,  how should they reasonably respond?

Peter.

Barbara W.

I absolutely agree. You can’t lead if you can’t unite and inspire your PLP. We need an opposition more than ever but Corbyn retreats to his bunker. You can have a million followers but you won’t win an election. Wilderness awaits. Barbara

Peter Halfpenny

Hi Chris,

Interesting, as ever, to read your take.

As I see it, it all boils down to whether we continue to respect Labour’s primary traditional – indeed, foundational –  role as a method of getting elected representatives into Parliament  with a view of forming a government.  When not in government, these representatives have a constitutional duty  to assemble an effective opposition capable of challenging and holding to account the government of the day.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, whatever the perceived ulterior motives:  if 80% of these representatives have no confidence in their leader then this simply cannot happen.

 I believe that Brexit has changed our politics irrevocably: holding the Tory Government to account over the Brexit negotiations is arguably the single most crucial issue of our times.   Would it have inspired confidence in this regard to have called for Article 50 to be triggered immediately after the referendum – even if this is now being denied?

Patrick C.

Peter,

Thanks for this.  I now have a touch of Corbynitis.

Do the Corbyinites know where you live?  I’d board up my windows if I were you.

Cheers, Patrick.

Julie W.

Hi,

Thanks for sending me a copy of this, Peter.

I respect your right to reply to Chris via the Gazette and I did actually read your letter in the newspaper but I’m afraid I do not share your views on this issue and, instead, in complete contrast, I totally agree with Chris.

Frankly, I am disgusted by the conduct of the “representatives” (as you put it, Peter) who chose to resign from their positions in the Shadow Cabinet in order to take matters into their own hands and attempt to depose the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party, and, by so doing, showed no respect for “representing” party members like Kas – or supporters like myself. This was a unilateral decision on their part.

I am also disgusted by the decision taken by the NEC to withhold the right to vote (in the upcoming leadership elections) of party members who have joined (or re-joined in Kas’s case) after December, and that of supporters too – unless they all now pay an extra £25 to do so. Outrageous! So…. Kas has paid £3 as a supporter – £40 odd to become a member – then he has had to fork out another £25 in order to get a chance to vote in the upcoming election – as there’s no guarantee that he will pass the vetting process that is clearly in place to prevent as many Corbyn supporters as possible from voting for the man they recognise should be our “representative” as party leader. This is also the same vetting process that in fact denied Chris, himself, a right to vote in the last leadership elections – even though Chris is an affiliated Labour member due to his membership of the CWU. How disgraceful.

Personally, I found the NEC decision so undemocratic, unjust and downright wrong in every way (after all, if this was a product we were purchasing, we would surely be able to sue the Labour Party under the Trades Descriptions Act for repeated demands for payment with no guarantee of a product at the end of it…?) that I actually consulted a barrister about the possibility of taking legal action against the Labour party. Thankfully, I didn’t have to pursue this, as today there has been the welcome news that 5 other party members were found by Justice Hickinbotham (coincidentally, the same judge who recently found in our/Whitstable  Society’s favour for a Judicial Review in respect of the local Oval land purchase campaign) to have had their legal rights to vote in the Labour leadership elections wrongfully withheld by the Labour NEC.

That legal action was taken on those members’ behalf by Kate Harrison (coincidentally, the very same excellent QC who acted for me, pro bono, in the Network Rail campaign in 2012) – and who (also coincidentally) is the former wife of the playwright, Alistair Beaton, who wrote The Trial of Tony Blair amongst other works, including the play, Fracked, which I saw on his invitation recently at the Chichester Festival before I took part in a debate on fracking whch Alistair chaired at the Festival – so there seems to me to be a good sense of justice about all this, finally, thank God.)

When you write ” representatives have a constitutional duty  to assemble an effective opposition capable of challenging and holding to account the government of the day”, I think, Peter, that those rebels who decided unilaterally not to serve under Corbyn might do well to remember that, when it comes to electability, Kinnock certainly proved himself to be wholly unelectable as did Brown and Miliband during all the general elections in which they stood  so, instead of aiming for more of the same in terms of “unelectability”, let them instead rise to the role of being proper “representatives” by respecting the democratic choice of the party members – that choice was,  is and, I suspect, will remain Jeremy Corbyn.

If they have an ideological problem with that, let them go off and join the Lib Dems or form another party of further unelectable centrist politicians who have little to do with the central ethos of the Labour party these days as demonstrated, in the main, by their voting records. I shall not miss them and neither will Kas.

Thanks for copying me in.

I’ve also copied in Kas too.

Best wishes.

Julie

Kevin W.

Peter,

Well done on writing a response so eloquently. You have my support with your views and hope that you will not get shouted down with unfounded nonsense, on the same way that others have recently when opposing Corbyn.

Best regards,

Kevin

Stanley W.

No idea how I made onto your newsletter, but to be clear on my own position, I’m a Labour supporting business owner, long standing member and activist who has been totally inspired by Corbyn. Like tens (hundreds?) of thousands of other younger folks in the UK I’ve never really believed in or trusted Westminster until his leadership campaign came along. I get what you’re saying and I accept there are a number of facts quoted, but my understanding is that you and the PLP are simply on the wrong side of history and you / they need to take that on the chin, stop being such an unnecessarily destructive and reactionary force within the Labour Party and listen to the membership. We’ve lost 2 general elections using the current model and the forecast – Corbyn or not – is that the next one will be even harder to win. It’s going to be an epic project that might take longer than one election cycle, but one that I and the largest group of talented and enthusiastic young people to ever join a UK political party in a 1 year period (by miles) seem ready for.

Everything about the campaign against Corybn has been undemocratic, childishly executed, ill conceived and ultimately a total embarrassment for the Labour Party. If you strip back your letter to the paper it basically says ‘I don’t like party democracy, I’m scared of the future, I’ll try to undermine it’. Get a grip of yourself man.

Stan

Chris Stone.

Hi everyone: I’d like to publish these letters if everyone agreed, as a supplement to the original column.

Might help to make up people’s minds in the coming election.

Chris.

Bernadette F.

Hi Chris,

Trying to work out why this didn’t get through to my inbox (or trash) but thanks to Peter for CCing me in on his reply and his acceptance of a robust response to his letter.

It’s really sweet of you to check I’m ok with stuff but don’t delay anything for that.  I think if anything is a real reflection of views in the party then it should be expressed, provided the expressing is not in any way abusive.  Let’s hope that over time we can recapture the party’s inherent unity, despite our differences.  Clearly, the people desperately need us to do so.

This one is an excellent statement of a view that I think is of incalculable value to the party.  It’s our job to welcome and foster it and its proponents like Stan.  I agree that the PLP is, predominantly it seems, on the wrong side of history but am hopeful that when Jeremy wins (again) most of them will see the light and focus on trashing the Tories and recovering the lost legitimacy of their role in representative democracy.  It’s a shame that, most of the time, the Westminster bubble forgets that local party members and local government matter.

So, Stan, it would be good to capture your interest and participation for the party locally if poss.  Apologies if we have met already:).  Linked in with that, we’re trying to put together ideas about how Labour can work with business in an imaginative way locally and it would be great if you could get involved.

Stanley W.

‘we can recapture the party’s inherent unity, despite our differences.’

I know this is possible for a fact because I did not choose to vote for Corbyn last year – he is/was hardly a typical figurehead of the business community. Like all sensible, decent Labour people should, I have since chosen to be accepting and magnanimous in the face of his frankly super human achievements. In any case, it’s clearly not about the man, but about a huge, unstoppable undercurrent of frustration, dreams and more – especially among the young – that cannot and should not be ignored.

For many years the UK has borne witness to the struggle between a reactionary establishment and progress, it’s helped make us such a dynamic place over the years. It’s no small irony that an older (elderly?) person of such limited conventional political talents became the rallying point for so many young people. That’s what makes the Labour Party establishment look so foolish, so badly positioned on the wrong side of history. Social and political trends cannot be planned, organised, structured, contained or owned on any well intentioned corporate spreadsheet, they are messy, illogical even contradictory at times. They are rare, incredible and spontaneous. They are made of the human energy and engagement necessary to achieve progress.

We live in strange times, here at home and globally, the young and the energised must be trusted to continue to challenge the establishment and continue to make Britain an amazing place. Everyone else should not fight them or pack up and go home but lend them their skills and support to best ensure the best outcome of something that is going to unfold and affect us all whatever.

Peter Halfpenny.

Hi Julie,

I really appreciate your thoughtful reply to my letter, and to my subsequent exchange with Chris, and I do apologise for taking so long to respond.

I actually agree with most what you say about the NEC.  While there’s maybe nothing intrinsically wrong as such in having a  ‘breathing space’  between members joining and being able to vote, the rules should surely be consistent, transparent and able to be clearly understood so that nobody like Kas feels.

that they have been misled.

The issue of the Shadow Cabinet hangs on how we perceive their role.  Are they primarily delegates there to do the bidding of Labour Party members or are they more the parliamentary representatives of their constituents?  Either way, the House of Commons is their workplace and rightly or wrongly they have taken the view that they have no confidence in their boss.

You would argue, I think,  that they should set aside their reservations as the boss was elected by Party members.  But they might reply that it’s them, not Labour members, who are on the front line and have to have day-to-day dealings with the boss. If 80% of the production team behind East Enders had no confidence in the abilities of the programme director would they be able – or willing – to continue to work with said director if he/she were re-imposed by the BBC regardless of their reservations? Even if they ‘grinned and bared it’ would it make for a successful programme in the long-run?

This is how I see things although I respect the fact that you and Chris may well disagree.

I am in the process of an e-mail exchange with another correspondent and will copy you and Chris in.

Best wishes,

Peter x

Julie W.

Hi Peter,

I take your point about: “The issue of the Shadow Cabinet hangs on how we perceive their role.  Are they primarily delegates there to do the bidding of Labour Party members or are they more the parliamentary representatives of their constituents?  Either way, the House of Commons is their workplace and rightly or wrongly they have taken the view that they have no confidence in their boss.”   but I don’t remember seeing a mass exodus of the Shadow Cabinet when ‘leader’, Tony Blair, prosecuted an illegal war in Iraq or pursued policies more in line with the Tory party than Labour, so I’m afraid I think there is something far more worrying going on at the heart of  the party right now (beyond your assessment, Peter) – and I am sure it is the usual Establishment forces trying their damnedest to ensure that we do not have a left leaning opposition in power the idea of which, far from being unpopular amongst the electorate, is gaining ever more popularity.

The same forces were at work against Wilson in the 60s and I’d recommend you read Thatcher’s Secret War by Clive Bloom on that.

There are distinct parallels with what went on behind the scenes in the 60s , Peter. Pressure is being applied, in the media, particularly on and from the BBC, to try to stop Corbyn. I was shocked by a particular interview by Cathy Newman on C4 News the other evening and will include here a Neuro-Linguistic Programming assessment of that particular interview:

Some people are inclined to believe the media – I’m not one of them – I worked in BBC World Service News for long enough to know that even the “impartial” BBC is certainly not impartial – particularly since at the time I was there (during the Falklands War and during the Troubles in N Ireland) World Service news was funded by the Foreign Office. It knows its master…

Here’s the short piece from C4 News and the NLP assesment of it.

Don’t believe everything you read in the press (especially re Corbyn at the mo’)

Best wishes,

J x

Peter Halfpenny

Hello Stan,

I appreciate your thoughtful and passionate response to my letter and also note your subsequent exchange with Bernadette Fisher.

I guess to some extent trying to conduct this debate is like chalk and cheese because as Bernadette will know I tend to see politics primarily as a way of getting things done, rather than as a secular belief system as it seems to have become in some circles.

I make no apology for this for I believe I am following in the great tradition of our founder.  Keir Hardie didn’t set up a socialist debating society or a late Victorian social movement.  He didn’t found the Labour Party merely for workers and suffragettes to leap up and down at outdoor rallies in his honour yelling ‘Keir We Come’.  He too wanted to get things done so he set up the party to put elected representatives into parliament with the eventual aim of forming a government capable of putting aims into practice and achieving change.  When not in government, a convention has evolved in which these representatives have a constitutional obligation to challenge and to hold to account the government of the day and to scrutinise their actions.  This is the essence of representative parliamentary democracy, but it simply cannot work effectively if 80% of their number have no confidence in their leader.

It is simply naïve wishful thinking to imagine that the 80% will somehow ‘see the light’ if Corbyn is re-elected – and indeed why should they?  Several former shadow ministers have given clear and graphic accounts of what they feel to be the lack of support, and actual undermining, by the Leader – the most balanced and poignant in my view being that of Lillian Greenwood, ex- shadow transport spokes.

What is truly ironic about all this is that in any other circumstances we would all as Labour Party members instinctively tend towards solidarity with the workforce rather than with their ‘boss’.  For instance, just imagine how we might react if 80% of the teaching staff in a local school expressed a lack of confidence in their head teacher through lack of support etc., only for the head to be re-instated regardless of their concerns.   Bernadette would not have lasted five minutes as a trade union official had she dismissed her members as being ‘on the wrong side of history’ for having no confidence in their boss.

The reason for this is, I suspect, that we see the PLP almost entirely as LP delegates to do our bidding.  We do not sufficiently respect either their broader – and arguably fundamentally more important – role as representatives of all their constituents, or their function in the process of parliamentary democracy to which I alluded earlier.

You both use the expression ‘on the wrong side of history’ quite freely.  Surely this is an expression that can only be used with the benefit of hindsight after the event? Not being in the Marxist mould, I believe that there is nothing inevitable about human historical development that can be confidently predicted in advance; it’s just that stuff happens and all the ‘unknowns’ – whether ‘known’ or ‘unknown’ (!)  – kick in with unpredictable or unexpected consequences.   Corbyn’s rise to fame itself and Brexit are but two major recent examples.

Having said that, however, the fallout from Brexit might just put Corbyn himself on the wrong side of history. I’m trying to be as dispassionate as I can, but I don’t think he has handled the aftermath of the referendum well.  It was crassly stupid to call for Article 50 to be triggered the morning after the result, after apparently tweeting his congratulations to Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey (both of Labour Leave).  And he is now showing neither the capability nor the aptitude to hold the May government rigorously to account on this issue.  Meanwhile, a gaping hole is opening up in politics between a right-wing  Eurosceptic Tory Party and a left-wing ‘euro-neutral’ Labour Party – and many of the ‘48%’ are going to start wondering who’s going to be able to stand up for them and speak their language!

It is good to have these exchanges of ideas even if we do not agree.  Perhaps we should compare notes on 24 September?!

Magdalen M.

‘Keir We Come’

That’s so funny. Made me laugh.

Wes McL.

It is possible to conclude that there is a problem with the 80%. A suggestion not an assertion.  Indeed to this could be added the possibility itself that the upper levels of the Party both locally and nationally have also become disrupted.  I will not even start on a complex discussion of how this occurred though obviously consideration must be given to an extended period of power as well as a leadership that controlled influence based on commitment to the “project” rather than selection through democracy. If additional talent was required it was frequently sought from outside the Party by appointment based on project enthusiasm.  PPI and related “business friendly” policy priorities were thrown into chaos by 2009 and adherents of “the project” headed off to directorships and other interests.

The organisation of the Party long before Corbyn had become pretty unfocused and lacklustre best demonstrated in “Donate” buttons and a PLP largely made up of the reserves. Come Corbyn and the declaration of a message that simply had its time but a Party in no condition to respond.As Stan stated message is “not about the man, but about a huge, unstoppable undercurrent of frustration, dreams and more – especially among the young – that cannot and should not be ignored.” And for me the emphasis is on “not about the man” and I suspect the man would agree. The clear relevance of that message does not by definition make him one of the greatest leaders the Party has ever had.  Saying that there is no reason for changing to someone who simply parrots the same message with a couple of what could be seen as pragmatic adjustments.  The job now is to get this message out and if necessary at some future point revisit the issue of our leadership.

Chris Stone

OK Peter, here are some of the ways you are wrong.

“Chalk vs cheese”, “secular belief system” vs “getting things done”.

You’ve set up a false dichotomy there. In fact the majority of the PLP also subscribe to a secular belief system, namely neoliberalism, the idea that the market knows best and can be left to its own devices, and that we can all be “intensely relaxed” along with Peter Mandelson, if the rich get filthy rich.

In fact wealth has a corrupting influence on politics: Witness Tony Blair himself, or any of his acolytes (I’m thinking Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon as examples here).

Which brings me on to the next point where you are wrong: the idea that politics can be reduced to managerialism and that the 80% of members of Parliament who took a vote of no confidence in Corbyn (and who have been undermining him from day one) are in some way like a work force, or a management team. They are not. They are meant to represent their constituents but proximity to the seats of power can also have a corrupting influence, and there has, for a long time now, been a revolving door between big business and government, meaning that for a lot of ex ministers there’s a lucrative job waiting for them after their stint in office.

So this is no innocent bunch of workers taking a vote of no confidence in their boss because he is merely incompetent. No one gave him an opportunity to show his competence in the first place, and there was always going to be a period of bedding in to the job. The party grandees have had it in for Corbyn from the beginning and have been actively undermining him at every opportunity. Why? Because he’s not “one of them”. He’s an outsider. What’s more, he’s an outsider who is challenging the way things have been done in the PLP for more than 20 years now, and who, by his very presence, shows them up for the self-serving careerists they are.

Another problem with the managerial analysis: sometimes some people can be just plain wrong, regardless of their long years of experience.

My favourite economist Steve Keen (not a Marxist) said an interesting thing on Hard Talk recently. He was talking about economists, not politicians, but politicians are informed by economists, so you can lump the two together. He pointed out that in any other profession being so consistently wrong over such a long period would have meant the sack for all of them. You get on a plane expecting and believing that the people who built the plane know what they are doing, and that you are reasonably safe, but in the case of the economy it’s obvious that no one has a bloody clue what they are doing. Witness the crash of 2007: not just a matter of gross incompetence, but of institutionalised corruption on a grand scale. You don’t have to be a Marxist to see this.

What’s worse, no one got the sack for what they did. No one got arrested. No one got put in jail. The same people who made all the decisions that wrecked the economy (while enriching themselves) and that forced austerity on the whole world, are still making the decisions, still taking the benefits, still ruling the world and all the politicians in it, still taking the big bucks while plying the same failed narrative. The big banks are still “too big to fail” and the world is still paying the price for their greed and incompetence.

So we have to ask who our politicians serve, and when it becomes clear that they are serving the wrong masters, we have to be able to get rid of them.

The tide that put Corbyn into power in the Labour Party is the same rising tide that carried Bernie Sanders almost to becoming the Democratic Party nominee in the US, that put Syriza into power in Greece and Podemos in Spain, to name but three. There are many more. It is also, unfortunately, fuelling the rise of Donald Trump and the populist right generally. That’s what we mean by “the right side of history”. Conventional politics has failed. We are back in the 30s, and the choice isn’t between one set of managers and another, its between democracy itself and the looming spectacle of fascism rising up on the same tide.

So neoliberalism (for want of a better word: you can call it Thatcherism, if you like, or Monetarism) is indeed a secular belief system that has got into the very bones of the PLP and which needs to be challenged on every level.

Who gave us PFI? The Labour Party. Who bailed out the banks? The Labour Party. Who oversaw the continuing shift in wealth from the less well off to the very wealthiest, while maintaining a stance of “intense relaxation” at the process? The Labour Party.

We need a new economic outlook, one similar to the one the Labour Party took in 1945, when, despite the huge deficit (many times greater than the one we have now), we borrowed into order to build and invest, and which saw, paradoxically, a consistent fall in the National debt in the following years: unlike the austerity narrative which has seen the economy stagnate and both government and private debt continuing to rise.

Finally Peter, I have to say your characterisation of Corbyn supporters as a bunch of thoughtless idiots is frankly insulting. With reference to Keir Hardie: “He didn’t found the Labour Party merely for workers and suffragettes to leap up and down at outdoor rallies in his honour yelling ‘Keir We Come’.”

Do you think that’s what we are?

Doubly insulting when you attach it to the name of Keir Hardie, who also, like Corbyn, spent most of his career arguing against the prevailing orthodoxy of his day.

Hardie was a socialist and he wouldn’t have given any time at all to Blairite managerialism or neoliberal lies.

To quote from his famous “sunshine of socialism” speech:

“These cruel, heartless dogmas, backed up by quotations from Jeremy Bentham, Malthus, and Herbert Spencer, and by a bogus interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, were accepted as part of the unalterable laws of nature, sacred and inviolable, and were maintained by statesmen, town councillors, ministers of the Gospel, and, strangest of all, by the bulk of Trade Union leaders. That was the political, social and religious element in which our Party saw the light. There was much bitter fighting in those days. Even municipal contests evoked the wildest passions. And if today there is a kindlier social atmosphere it is mainly because of twenty-one years’ work of the ILP.”

Remind you of anything Peter? Sounds like Hardie was struggling with the same forces we are fighting today.

Chris.

Anne B.

Hi Peter, Makes interesting reading. I (like most LP voters, not particularly members) am in despair at the state of the party. I joined in 1956 at the time of the Suez crisis but I feel that this is the worse  time of all that the party has been through. I do not not like the type of adoration that is being given to JC it has become rather like a pop star and although I want something far different from the previous Labour Government I don’t think that we will ever win an election with Jeremy as leader – let’s hope I am wrong. Anne

Rita O’B.

Chris

This is a good analysis of what is happening – particularly the response of the PLP. I haven’t heard one of the rebels consider publicly why the other three 2015 candidates were so comprehensively rejected. None of them have engaged with the policies, which are the real reason people support Corbyn!

I think your point “he’s not one one us” is at the heart of it; many of the MPs who have been in leadership positions just cannot accept it – it wasn’t meant to happen! Possibly if they had, most of the others would have fallen into line.

We don’t know what might have been achieved if this little revolution had been given a chance!

Rita

Julia S.

Hi Peter,

Of course we understand and appreciate Keir’s aims and his philosophy and of course we understand how representative parliamentary democracy works – some of us have even studied it closely.  However, people have lost faith and trust in successive politicians who say one thing and do another. People like Jeremy’s honesty, his values and his unwavering consistency in terms of living and speaking up for them.  Rightly or wrongly they believe him rather than others who they feel will let them down – again.

You and I have often talked about pragmatism and what it is like to be in a position of power.  It isn’t easy but so often pragmatism turns into compromise – or worse still – adoption of policies that deny what socialists stand for – simply to appease the powerful elements of the right who so often are faceless and unknown to the masses.  Time and time again this has happened – not just in opposition but in power. I believe that many good Labour politicians with good intentions of which we would approve have gone into  power thinking that they will achieve what we want by stealth but inevitably have compromised and large swathes of people have been let down as a consequence.  People have had enough.  They are looking for a new kind of politics which is honest, true and straightforward.  You and I know that will be very hard to achieve in the face of powerful rich opposition but people are prepared for a leap in faith – wanting someone who is prepared to take on this challenge.  Who is there to do this?  Do you think that person is Owen Smith with his history of bewildering u-turns?

Whoever wins, I will be supporting Labour and piling pressure on him (as it will be a him) to promote socialist principles and policies – working to have them implemented.  Whoever wins, the membership of the LP, the PLP and all the Labour movement should stop bickering and be united in this effort. It’s pure self indulgence to do otherwise.

If the people at the helm have difficulty in working with each other they must strive to overcome this.   Jeremy has shown that he wants to be inclusive and if the PLP believes this hasn’t worked in practice they must hold him to account on this.  He isn’t a dictator.

Julia xxx

Chris Stone

And finally, as a last word from myself, the man who initiated this interesting debate by my column, I’d just like to point out to visitors how respectful and comradely this exchange has been. Not at all as we have been characterised in the press.

It’s a genuine historical document and shows, I think, a pretty good cross-section of opinion in the Labour Party at this crucial time in its history.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in politics, The Whitstable Gazette, Uncategorized, Whitstable | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Money and Magic

Part 1 of an extended essay on the Magical Origins of Money

moneyI’ll start with a dream. It’s as good a place as any.

I was skiing down a slope in a place not unlike Poiana Brasov in Romania, a kind of cut-price version of the Swiss Alps. It was an ecstatic, joyous, whirlwind descent, full of exhilerating energy, swishing and swooshing and swerving across the snow, with the kind of breathless excitement I’d not felt since I was a child.

There were two children on the slope, a boy and a girl holding hands, looking scared as I was sweeping passed.

It’s all right,” I shouted, “we’re not going to buy and sell you as slaves as they used to do in Rome.”

Then there was an image of a market, of people buying and selling their wares in a bustling place of exchange, while a portentous voice resounded around the deepest heavens, like the voice of prophesy itself.

In ancient times,” it said, “the currency of exchange was considered to be the Breath, also known as Dharma or the Dao.”

You have to listen to the voice of prophesy when it speaks to you.

So that is the starting point of our magical excursion this day: the idea that the often dry, jargon-filled and deliberately confusing terms of the economic debate can be addressed by something completely outside itself. By magic. By prophesy. By Dharma. By Dao.

And that it can encompass the buying and selling of human beings into debt slavery, as well as offering them the means to escape.

Julian Vayne said something which sparked my interest the first time I met him. He said that the meaning of the word “occult” is “hidden”.

In other words, occult practice is a means by which we can open up a dialogue with that which is presently hidden from us.

I took that to mean the hidden realms of the mind. The unconscious. In other words, magical practice is a way of opening up a space in the mind to allow hidden processes to be revealed, to encourage other possibilities into view and other forgotten or neglected thought-forms a place of entry into the circle of consciousness.

We are talking about money: what it means, what it does to us, how it affects us, how it changes us, how it rules us and how it rules our world.

It’s strange isn’t it, that this apparently man-made entity has such power over us? It controls our lives. It forces us to do things we might otherwise never dream of. We give away a portion of our lives in the endless pursuit of it. For some – the lucky ones – there is a degree of creativity in the process; but for most it is a drudge, an hour-by-hour selling of our souls for the means to pay the bills and to subsist in some half-hearted way on what remains of our time, which we fill up with distractions, with TV and supermarkets, and Friday nights down the pub.

It also does peculiar things to us emotionally and spiritually: to our sense of self, to our sense of self-worth

We internalise it as a way of understanding ourselves. We externalise it as a way of comparing ourselves to other people.

But what is it really?

Superficially it is a measure of value. It the measure of the equivalence of values. How many loaves of bread would it take to buy a lawnmower? How many lawnmowers to buy a car? It simplifies the means of exchange so you don’t need to recalculate values every time a different product comes up for exchange. It allows you to exchange what you produce in your daily work for what other people produce, without having to go through the tedious process of renegotiation every time.

It goes back to almost the beginning of history. Some of the earliest writings were promissory notes written in cuneiform script on clay tablets, used as a means of exchange in ancient Mesopotamia.

That’s exactly what our paper money represents. It’s a promissory note, an IOU. It doesn’t have value in itself. It promises the bearer value in exchange.

So it is a measure. A measure of exchange in the same way that an inch is a measure of distance, or a minute is a measure of time.

It is also, unfortunately, a measure of our value as human beings.

This is where things start to go seriously awry

Most of us live about the same number of years on this planet: four score years and ten, as the Biblical phrase has it, or just over twenty five and a half thousand days.

Some people die young, while others can live to a grand old age.

Most of us, though, live broadly similar lifespans, and there’s not a huge difference between the age of the average person when he passes away, and that of the oldest person on the planet.

Hardly anyone makes it to over a hundred, virtually no one to a hundred and ten, and the ones living longer than that are mainly creatures of myth and legend.

The difference in pay scales, on the other hand, is disproportionately large. Unimaginably large. It is beyond the capacity of the average person to properly comprehend.

So the average annual pay in the UK is about £26,500 a year.

That of the top 100 FTSE CEOs, about £4.3 million.

That’s over a hundred and sixty two times greater.

To make the comparison with people’s lifespan: that would be like some people living till they were eleven thousand years old.

Rupert Murdoch earned around £21 million in 2015 ; that’s 803 times greater than the average: 56,258 years old in age terms.

This is clearly insane.

Is Rupert Murdoch really 803 times more valuable than you and I? 803 times more valuable than the average Briton?

As a measure of wealth, money tells us who is rich and who is poor: as a measure of value it is monstrously out of proportion.

So money is something other than a measure of actual value, of true value. It is also a measure of how we value ourselves, and how the world values us.

Rupert Murdoch isn’t going to live 803 times longer than than me. But he has hundreds of thousands of people who work for him, tens of millions who are influenced by him, and maybe half the planet – around three and a half billion – who are directly affected by him in one way or the other, by things they have seen on the internet, or have watched on the TV, or read in a newspaper somewhere.

Such power has a profound affect upon a person’s psyche. The quantitative difference makes a qualitative change.

The rich are much less empathic than the rest of us. They care less about other people. If they see a poor person on the street, they are more inclined to blame that person for their predicament. So what if they are poor? It’s obviously something they have done to themselves.

They are also more inclined to view themselves as entitled to their status: to think that it is a god-given right, born from their innate nature.

So money isn’t just a measure: it is a means.

It is the means by which the ultra rich have dispossessed the Earth.

It is a dark spell cast upon the heart of all humanity.

It is the hidden process by which the human race is being enslaved.

And while the process of getting money to pay for the necessities of life is a daily drudge for most of us in the West, for large parts of the globe it teeters on the edge of survival itself.

It can mean the difference between eating and not eating that day, the difference between feeding and not feeding your kids. It means you may be forced to make unspeakable choices. If there are too many kids and not enough food, sometimes, in extreme circumstances, a parent might be forced to sell a child into bondage. This really does happen: yes, even in the modern world.

How terrifying is that? And who knows what horrors that bondage might bring?

The teeming millions of the world’s poor in their shanty towns and cardboard hovels crying out for some escape, some route out of the torture, where drugs and gangs and prostitution abound, and life is bought and sold on the cheap.

This isn’t some accidental by-product of the economic system. It is what lies at its very heart. For only by pushing life to the very edge can the system be enforced. Only by ensuring that there is always someone poorer than us can they force us to endure the pointless drudgery of their economic method. There is always someone in more difficulties than us, so some reason to hold onto our meagre income, however dreary it may be. Some reason to give up on our dreams. Some reason to buckle down and fester in our hollowed out lives. Some moment when we make the choice between what we truly want, and what we are forced to do. To bow down to the masters, to feed their insatiable lust for power, for wealth, as we sell them our devalued time, and give away our energy, our imagination, our poetry and our life’s blood.

And bit by bit by bit by bit the whole world is being sold into bondage. And bit by bit by bit by bit we are all being enslaved, while the rich luxuriate in their unimaginable wealth and expect us to serve them.

Making a world in their own image; a mirror for their insanity.

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Wrecking ball ends sorting office hopes

wrecking ball_v1

Delivery office

olddeliveryoffice

The old delivery office on Cromwell Road

So the old delivery office on Cromwell Road, has been demolished at last. One of my colleagues told me. He said that that they were starting work as he began a loop, and that they were finished by the time he got back.

“It took about 35 minutes,” he said. “They don’t hang around that lot.”

It’s the end of an era. Three years and three months since we moved: three years and seven months since our strike.

Another of my co-workers told me that as long as the office was there he still held out a secret hope that we could return one day.

He said that he had been talking to one of the managers who had admitted that costs had increased substantially since we moved.

It’s exactly what we said would happen. You can’t add forty minutes’ journey time to our day and then expect the same amount of work. The irony is that now we are privatised, that is precisely what is expected.

There’s an ever increasing pressure to get more work out of us for the same pay.

Sustainable industry

Many things have changed in the intervening years. I used to be proud of the fact that we were a sustainable industry, using bikes, and working from a local office. Nowadays we work in pairs from the back of a diesel van, and drive upwards of 20 miles a day.

We are supposed to use these trolleys but they slow us down, which means that most people sling their bags over their shoulders. I predict an epidemic of back problems in the coming years.

The old Whitstable office was small and intimate and generally upbeat. You could hear everyone’s conversations. There was a constant banter, which was highly entertaining at times.

The Canterbury office, on the other hand, is cavernous, and we share the building with the sorting machines, which rattle and groan like a tribe of demented lawnmowers, making it impossible to hear your own thoughts.

A number of respected colleagues have since left.

I suppose the one positive note is that the new building will house a Crown Post Office.

So that’s one campaign we haven’t lost.

© 2016 Christopher James Stone

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
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Are we living in an Age of Terror?

bombing Vietnam

Bombing Vietnam back into the Stone Age

Have you noticed that, with all the turmoil in the Labour Party, the Chilcot Report has completely disappeared from the news agenda?

The question is no longer: should we try Tony Blair for launching an illegal war, in which possibly more than a million people have died, and countless others have had their lives destroyed, with disastrous consequences both for the region and for the world as a whole?

No, the question now is: is Jeremy Corbyn a good leader of the Labour Party, given that sometimes his delivery at Prime Minister’s Questions can be a little lacklustre?

This, after only ten months in the job, and with constant attacks from all sides, including his own.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. They say that Corbyn is “unelectable” and then, by making that claim very loudly and persistently to a hostile media, while undermining him at every opportunity, making sure that it does, in fact, come true.

Do you think it’s a coincidence, given that a large number of the 172 MPs who voted for the motion of no confidence, owe their jobs directly to the patronage of Tony Blair?

I was listening to Charles Clarke—Blair’s Home Secretary from December 2004 to May 2006—on Any Questions on Radio 4.

This was on Bastille Day when a lorry had ploughed into the crowds in Nice, France, killing 84 people and injuring many more.

The question was, are we living in an age which will be defined by future generations as “the Age of Terror”?

Clarke was thrashing round trying to find an answer. He suggested there was no precedent for the ideology behind the increasing violence of our times.

He referred to the National Liberation struggles of the 20th Century, such as those in Ireland or South Africa, but said that, while you might disagree with the aims of people like the IRA, you could at least understand their motivations.

He said that he thought the closest analogy was with the anarchists at the end of the 19th Century “who went round blowing up people because they felt that blowing up people was the thing to do.”

In other words, the Islamic State is nihilistic.

“They are talking about creating a society in which all the fundamental experiences of our society are destroyed. All sorts of fundamental freedoms, the position of women and so on, wouldn’t be allowed.”

He was also very clear in stating that the perpetrators of such attacks weren’t responding to international events, such as the wars in Iraq or Libya. In other words, he was exonerating Tony Blair from any responsibility for the current state of the world.

“They may be provocations at particular points,” he said, “but that’s not fundamentally what this is about.”

It’s strange that Charles Clarke can’t find a precedent for these barbarous acts. He’s about three years older than me, so you would have thought he would be able to recall one of the defining events of our era: the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War is a prime example of what happens when you start bombing a region “back into the Stone Age” as Gen. Curtis LeMay threatened in May 1964.

That’s a cute expression, and has been used many times since, most recently by Ted Cruz with reference to Islamic State—or “so-called Islamic State”, which seems to be the preferred formula for describing them in the media at the present time.

The consequence of such barbarity is more barbarity, as anyone with half a brain should be able to understand; and the exact analogy to the Islamic State during the period of the Vietnam War was the Khmer Rouge.

I won’t go into a history lesson here. You can read up on it if you like. I just think it is clear that the attempt to portray the activities of Islamic State as unprecedented is a gross violation of the truth.

Islamic State aren’t nihilistic: they are insane. They are insane, just as the Khmer Rouge were insane, but the circumstances which gave rise to that madness is the same in both cases: the large scale bombing and destruction of a region and a people by a technologically superior power, the United States.

It’s noticeable that, once the bombing stops, the insanity goes away.

The Khmer Rouge have long been consigned to the history books, and Vietnam, despite its communist ideology, is not averse to embracing the pleasures of the modern world.

The United States, it has to be noted, is also insane, and while there has been a wave of mass killings sweeping the world, from the UK to Norway, from Belgium, to Germany and France (but not South East Asia) the vast majority of those paroxysms of mad violence occur within the borders of the United States itself, often without any discernible ideology being attached.

John Donne said that no man is an island. He was referring to the presence of death in our lives. But it’s not stretching the point too far, I think, to say that the actions and beliefs of any one of us can affect us all. When murder and violence are the preferred options of the most powerful nation in the world, is it any wonder that the citizens of the world are inclined to take a lesson from that?

When you terrorise people the consequence is terrorism.

Corbyn knows that. Apparently, Blair does not.

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It’s easy to explain why Corbyn proves popular

scan0003On the day that David Cameron went to see the Queen before he left number 10 for the last time, a Radio 4 journalist, speaking in hushed, reverential tones, compared it to when Winston Churchill left office.

The previous day another Radio 4 broadcaster was considering the Corbyn phenomenon.

He mused out loud that there must be a personality cult around the figure of the Labour leader; why else was he proving so popular?

He didn’t mention Stalin, but he might as well have done.

This is the means by which propaganda is instilled in us, in the form of images which we absorb almost unconsciously, and which then frame the debate.

That such a radical reconstruction of the truth was taking place in the context of the news – a supposed source of objectivity – shows how insidious the process is.

Corbyn is almost always described as “hard left” while his rivals in the Labour Party are referred to as “moderates”.

Well I have news for the reporter who was unable to figure out why Corbyn remains so popular, despite the media’s best efforts to undermine him: it has nothing to do with his personality. It’s his policies.

I read somewhere that the Labour Party under its previous leadership would have been incapable of creating the NHS.

And there’s the point. A Labour Party that is not committed to public services, to public ownership, to public investment and to redistribution of wealth, isn’t really a Labour Party at all.

It’s just a re-branded Tory Party with a red rose for its logo.

John Nicholson of the Scottish National Party, describing the way Corbyn was treated by the Parliamentary Labour Party, referred to their “visceral hatred from the word go”.

He said, “If I was a young Labour voter, I think I would find the behaviour of Labour backbenchers utterly frustrating: surely there has to be some sort of respect for the duly elected leader.”

It seems almost certain that Corbyn will be re-elected in the autumn.

It is also fairly obvious that the war of attrition from the backbenches will continue. What this means for the future of the Labour Party is unclear.

****************

Letters in response to this column from members of the Labour Party

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
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The Gateway Between Two Worlds

The following film was of a performance called “The Gateway Between Two Worlds” which took place on the 4th June 2016 on the spit of pebbles known as “the Street” near Tankerton in Whitstable.

The piece was organised and performed by Helene Williams and Mark Fuller and featured the work of  local wicker maker Sonia McNally, with music by Jowe Head & the Demi-Monde, and a poem by CJ Stone.

CJ Stone’s part begins at just after the 17 minutes mark. You can read the text of the poem here.

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Blair’s practised apology was painful to witness

scan0002

By some strange trick of fate I ended up watching Tony Blair’s press conference in the wake of the Chilcot report last week.

The word that came to mind was “hubris”.

It’s from the Greek. It means “arrogance before the gods”. It refers to a person in a powerful position who, deluded about his capabilities, and with extreme arrogance, performs an act that offends the natural order and who is then punished for his crime.

Such a man is Tony Blair. Vain. Conceited. Ambitious. Over-burdened with a sense of his own self-importance, serving power rather than questioning it, a stooge for the global ambitions of the neoliberal elites.

His performance before the TV cameras was painful to behold. The tremor in his voice, the look of practised sincerity as he made his apology and then retracted it immediately, saying that he would do it all again, made me sick with anger.

It was obvious that he had prepared his defence in advance, having had access to the report for many months. In fact it was probably Tony Blair’s interference that was partly responsible for its long delay.

He had clearly laboured long and hard over his speech: not just writing and rewriting the words, but working on every inflection to get exactly the right tone into his voice.

Chilcot had exonerated him, he said. The report showed that he had acted in good faith.

In fact, Chilcot says no such thing.

Here is an actual quote: “The judgements about the severity posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”

I remember quite clearly Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme on the 29th May 2003, a few weeks after the invasion, quoting a senior intelligence source saying that the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been, in that unforgettable phrase, “sexed up” by the government.

The intelligence source turned out to be Dr David Kelly.

Later that day Alastair Campbell was doing the rounds of radio and TV stations, just as he was on the day of the Chilcot report, vigorously defending Blair.

As a consequence of this Gilligan lost his job and Dr Kelly lost his life, but Blair and Campbell remained in place to continue their relentless spinning of the news.

Does that sound like “good faith” to you?

Coincidentally, while I was researching the notion of hubris I came across another word which is indelibly linked to it. That word is “nemesis”.

Nemesis is the spirit of divine retribution carried out on those who succumb to hubris.

In modern terms a nemesis is someone who is a long-standing rival: an arch-enemy.

How apt. It’s almost as if we are watching a Greek tragedy unfolding before our eyes, as Blair meets his nemesis, in the form of Jeremy Corbyn.

The two men couldn’t be more different. Blair is charismatic, duplicitous, manipulative and deeply dishonest; Corbyn is mild, uncharismatic, a little bit boring perhaps, but fundamentally honest.

It’s almost certain that Blair is behind the attempt to remove Corbyn from the leadership of the Labour Party.

We will just have to see how the drama plays out next.

****************

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
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The difference between leave and remain

Boris Johnson with a brick: can you tell the difference?

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I voted to leave the EU.

That wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy to come to my decision, and it hasn’t been easy to deal with the fallout either.

I’ve been vilified, sworn at, called a racist, attacked, scorned. I’ve been labelled with any number of insulting names, and been unfriended by several people on Facebook, including by some who have known me for years.

I also have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to be on the winning side. Mine was a protest vote directed against the institutions of the EU and the political establishment, as I imagine it was for most leave voters.

We just wanted to tell them how pissed off we were.

The country was divided almost down the middle: 52% to 48%.

Interestingly, this is the exact figure that Nigel Farage gave for not accepting the referendum result had there been a win for remain, and the petition calling for a new referendum was set up by a leave supporter anticipating a win for the other side.

Isn’t irony delicious at times?

I’m also happy to agree with remain voters that it may still be too close to call. It’s not that I disagree with the result: it’s that I think the campaign itself was based upon a false dichotomy.

Both sides lied. Both sides used scare tactics. Both sides twisted information to suit their agenda. If the referendum shows anything, it’s that we are very badly served both by our media and by the people who claim to represent us.

In fact, virtually the whole of the establishment was in favour of remain: the government, the civil service, the financial institutions, the banks, big business, the corporations, the White House, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, the Liberal Party, half of the Tory Party, most of the Labour Party, the majority of the Cabinet and all of the Shadow Cabinet.

The voices we heard from the leave side were entirely disingenuous. The campaign for them was a platform for their own personal ambitions. Take Boris Johnson. Before the campaign he was making pro-European statements, and famously wrote two columns for the Telegraph: one in favour of remaining in the EU, the other against. In the end it was the latter that was published and it makes clear that whatever deliberations he was making prior to his decision were based entirely on what was good for his career, not on what was good for the country. The leave campaign for him was a strategic maneuver in some Machiavellian ploy to take over leadership of the Tory Party, and the half-arsed way he stepped out of the leadership contest once he knew he was facing opposition shows just how detached he was from the result. He was obviously not interested in it or he would have made a point of staying on in order to finish the job he started.

All of the main spokesmen for the leave campaign have now stepped down, which shows the disdain with which they hold those members of the public they were previously claiming to speak for.

So who is left to speak up for the leave voters now, many of them from the poorest and the most deprived parts of the UK?

Do remain voters really think that all seventeen million, four hundred and ten thousand, seven hundred and forty two of them of them are racists?

In fact a recent poll by Lord Ashcroft, shows just how untrue that is.

Nearly half (49%) of leave voters gave the reason for their decision as “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.”

Only 33% said that immigration and control of borders was their main reason for voting to leave, and even this is by no means an indication of racism. People are concerned about jobs, and mass migration from the EU is having a depressing effect on wages. Itinerant workers from Eastern Europe are able to take low-paid jobs that British workers with a mortgage and a family cannot. If there is simmering resentment at people from other nations and other cultures, it’s not because people are racist: it’s because they are being priced out of work.

It is also notable that the areas in the UK that voted to leave are the among most deprived parts of the country, while areas that voted to stay are among most privileged. By a large margin – 61% to 39% – leave voters think that children growing up today will be worse off than their parents; they see more threats to their standard of living and believe that life in Britain is worse now than it was 30 years ago.

Needless to say, remain voters think the opposite.

And there you have it: the real divide that the referendum has laid bare for us. Not racists versus anti-racists, or socially liberal people versus socially conservative people: it’s between those who have fared well out of the last 30 years of EU membership (or at least haven’t lost out from it) and those who have felt the pinch of austerity, who have seen their communities decimated and their prospects destroyed, who have been finding it harder and harder to get a decent job or to make a living and who, for whatever reason, decided to lay it all at the door of the EU.

Of course, not every remain voter is well off, and not every leave voter is poor, but the divide is all too real. It doesn’t help that some remainers have been accusing the other side of racism and stupidity. If there has been a surge in support for the far right, it’s partially because millions of people in this country feel completely let down by the political process.

So I have one last question to ask of remain voters: how many of you were 100% behind the EU? How many of you are really convinced that the European Union has been beneficial to the people of Europe as a whole?

If you read Yanis Varoufakis or Paul Mason, and other left-wing remainers, they were perfectly clear that the European Union leaves a lot to be desired. Varoufakis said that, despite it’s many shortcomings, we had to remain in the EU in order to reform it from within. Mason said that there was a good case for Brexit, just not right now.

The decision to remain was a strategic one. Most remain voters that I spoke to were no more enthusiastic about the institutions of the EU than were leave voters, they simply had a different opinion about what to do about it.

Both sides had their extremes. For the leave side it was those racist elements on the far-right who have been emboldened by the result and who have been attacking foreigners on the streets ever since: for remain it was the neoliberal consensus, also right-wing and still effectively in power.

Most people disagree with both.

In other words, the differences between leave and remain are nowhere near as great as the results of the referendum campaign would have us believe.

 

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Corbyn and the Left Exit argument

Jeremy Corbyn on Channel 4's The Last Leg

Jeremy Corbyn on Channel 4’s The Last Leg

The sheer, brazen, nerve of the man: David Cameron telling Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions “For heaven’s sake man, go.”

It has nothing to do with David Cameron who the leader of the Labour Party is. It has nothing to do with the media, with Laura Kuenssberg or the Daily Mail. It has nothing to do with the electorate until such time as there is an election, and while Labour MPs, of whatever stripe, have a right to voice their concerns, it is not, finally, down to them either.

It is down to the membership, and most of us want Jeremy Corbyn to stay exactly where he is.

Unlike the EU, the Labour Party is a democratic organisation.

It is remarkably convenient, isn’t it, that this news about the Labour Party is distracting attention both from the splits within the Tory Party, and from the grave mess that the country finds itself in? None of this is down to Jeremy Corbyn. He didn’t call the referendum. He didn’t hand the racists a platform from which to speak. He’s not responsible for a disastrous and divisive campaign that has ripped the country in half, turning friend against friend, brother against sister, father against son.

48% to 52% is still too close to call. The country is in turmoil; the markets are jittery; nasty, febrile racism is on the rise. People are being attacked on the street simply because of their race or nationality. None of this is down to Jeremy Corbyn. All of it can be laid at David Cameron’s door.

Meanwhile Corbyn is being undermined by his own side in what looks remarkably like a prearranged coup.

In an earlier article I described Corbyn’s position as “win-win”. I now think that it may be the other way round.

Everyone knows that Corbyn is an instinctive Eurosceptic. He’s a Bennite, Tony Benn’s favourite MP. It’s a matter of record that it was Benn who called the last EU referendum in 1975, and that Corbyn has always spoken out against it.

So the Blairites had him in a pincer movement. Had he come out against the EU prior to the referendum campaign, they would have laid into him then. Had the remain camp won, they could still have berated him for his lacklustre performance, while waiting for another opportunity. As it happened, remain lost, and they were able to trigger their coup attempt on the back of that.

Whatever happened, Corbyn was always going to be the target.

I love Corbyn. He seems constitutionally incapable of lying. Thus, on the Last Leg, when asked how much, on a scale of one to ten he was in favour of the EU, he wavered and said, “about seven or seven and a half”. Any other politician in his position would have blustered and lied and said 11.

But I think that Corbyn made a tactical error by agreeing to be the main spokesman for the party in the remain campaign, albeit for entirely understandable reasons. He was trying to keep the party together. Recent events have shown that this was doomed to failure.

Meanwhile he let down many Labour voters who were always going to vote leave.

The media campaign made it look like it was racists versus anti-racists, right versus left, conservative versus liberal, nice people versus nasty people – but it was never as clear cut as that.

There were always good, sound, democratic left arguments for leaving the EU.

By kowtowing to the right in his own party Corbyn failed to speak up for the millions of Labour and ex-Labour voters who, worried by the effects of mass migration, crushed by austerity, seeing their living standards being eroded, and their public services in crisis, decided to give the whole political establishment a good kicking on the back of the referendum campaign.

Corbyn has never been part of that establishment. That’s why we voted for him.

We needed someone in a position of power to articulate the Left Exit argument.

That person should have been Jeremy Corbyn.

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