Thoughtcrime and Newspeak: Shades of 1984 as PLP plotters launch part two of a purge to quash the Corbyn vote

The Labour Party’s guidelines for barring members and supporters from voting in the leadership election, as obtained by The Huffington Post, speak volumes about the sorry state of its internal rights and democracy.

We learned that party workers have been trolling through the social media accounts of members and supporters in search of damning words and phrases to pass on to the ‘Compliance Unit’ for further investigation.

Moreover, members are being encouraged to send in the names of other members with ‘proof’, including “Facebook posts, photos or messages, tweets, texts, notices of polls or other expressions of written support for a group other than Labour, or opposed to Labour”.

Troubling list

A list of flagged words and phrases has been put together to weed out undesirables. These range from the unremarkable (e.g., ‘bitterite’, ‘backstabbing’, ‘war criminal’ and ‘plastic/red Tory’) to the hateful (e.g., ‘nignog’, ‘spaz’, ‘Zio’, ‘Paki’ and ‘faggot’).

The words ‘Blairite’, ‘Corbynite’ and ‘Trot’ are deemed to be abusive only when accompanied by ‘offensive’ words e.g. ‘Blairite scum’, ‘Corbynite vermin’, ‘Trot bastard’. The names ‘Leanne Wood’ (Plaid Cymru leader), ‘Natalie Bennett’ (former Green party leader) and ‘#Portland communications twat’ are also listed for scrutiny.

People who posted messages in support of another party and/or ‘threatening’ Labour MPs have been barred from membership. Examples include:

“What a disgraceful excuse for a Labour MP you are – you’re a sneering traitor.”

“If my local MP is anti-Corbyn I will vote Tory.”

“Momentum Scum should be expelled.”

“I would cut Tony Blair’s eyes out and set him on fire the murdering cunt…”

Channelling Big Brother?

This Orwellian strategy of proscribing ‘offensive’ language and messages and establishing teams of people to search for them in the social media accounts of members is deeply troubling. It will almost certainly have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, causing party members to self-edit, consciously or unconsciously, on social media and in meetings.

Information and ideas – and the right to express them – are essential for political debate and to ensure accountability and transparency in party governance.

In correspondence suspending members or rejecting membership, General Secretary Iain McNicol states: “The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society. However, for fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect.” But the right to free expression is meaningless if it only protects certain types of expression. Indeed, it can only be effective if it protects both popular and unpopular articulation, including speech that might shock others.

In any case, who sets the standards for ‘acceptable’ language and behaviour? On what basis are they chosen to do so? And who gave them permission to examine the social media accounts of members?

Double standards and punitive measures

It appears no one who supports Corbyn is safe from the NEC panel. Councillors and union members who’ve been Labour members for decades have been suspended, while new members have had their membership rescinded.

There was the unsettling suspension of Ronnie Draper, the general secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, which has nearly 20,000 members. Draper, a strong Corbyn supporter, was left “disgusted and in shock”. Sophie McKeand’s application was turned down because she tweeted support for Green Party policy back in May 2015, even though the tweet in question pre-dated her acceptance as a registered supporter in the 2015 leadership election. Catherine Starr was denied full membership for ‘inappropriate’ Facebook entries on a day when she posted about the Foo Fighters, cosmetics and veganism. Rosie Collington still doesn’t know why she was deemed unsuitable to be a member of the party and had her vote withdrawn.

One group of suspended members has written to The Guardian questioning the NEC’s tactics, methods and double standards. All plan to appeal.

 The hypocrisy is clear to see

On creating an atmosphere of respect in political discourse, McNicol states: ‘People … shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated, and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.’ How ironic when one wing of the PLP has been doing nothing else but shouting down, bullying and abusing the Party Leader since the day he was elected.

The Party’s plotters appear to have disenfranchised tens of thousands of Corbyn supporters for using perfectly legitimate terminology such as ‘Tory Lite’, ‘backstabbers’ and ‘whingers’ in ‘lively political debate’ with some PLP members. Such terms are deemed ‘offensive’ but they are certainly no worse than Deputy Leader Tom Watson calling Momentum ‘a bit of a rabble’, MP Jess Phillips declaring she would knife Corbyn in his front not his back, Owen Smith calling Corbyn a ‘lunatic’ or party donor Michael Foster labelling Corbyn’s supporters ‘nazi stormtroopers’.

In fact some prominent Labour figures line up on Twitter to malign Corbyn and his supporters, e.g. Alastair Campbell, “Have you always been a twat or just since Corbyn?”; MP Tom Blenkinsop, “Corbyn and his acolytes spread lies about … our armed forces”; former special advisor John McTernan, “A traitor to our nation’s values will never ever be Prime Minister and is unfit to lead the Labour party” (there’s a whole Twitter account, @LabourAbuse, set up to highlight examples of this).

But none of them are being sanctioned, far from it. A triumphalist Cllr John Ferrett, who called Corbyn a ‘traitor’ and Corbyn supporters ‘lying Trots’ tweeted: “Finally received my leadership vote today – the 500-page dossier on me rightfully ignored – voted for @OwenSmith2016.’

After the purge

 What will be the likely result of the purge – especially if Corbyn doesn’t win, as previous polls had suggested he would do by a large majority? There could be increased disenchantment with the political process among many who had become involved in politics for the first time as well as long-term Labour supporters who felt their views were finally being listened to. But, as Corbyn says, building the movement is not about any individual. Many who seek a democratic bottom-up alternative to the Tories will fight on.

Those who have been purged can be expected to appeal, and some will win. All of us must prepare for the skirmishes ahead including the PLP’s announced intention to take back the power to select members of the Shadow Cabinet.

On the Home Stretch to Begin Changing the Political Landscape. Don’t Waver…

11873764_10153006596411975_2006740219491115952_nThe mainstream media’s talent for orchestrating anti-people politics knows no bounds. But they’ve not been having much luck trying to halt Jeremy Corbyn’s front-runner status in the Labour leadership race.

Indeed, all the dire warnings of Labour going over cliff edges, never winning another election and becoming a party of protest would appear instead to be galvanising support for Corbyn.

So this week they decided to go all out with the anti-Semitic card (though the story never got real traction, probably because it was hard to make it stick against a lifelong anti-racism activist).

The Jewish Chronicle kicked off with seven “Key questions Jeremy Corbyn must answer” accusing him of choosing “to associate with racists and extremists”. It was then forced to go on the defensive when dozens of prominent Jews took the paper to task in an open letter that stated: “Your assertion that your attack on Jeremy Corbyn is supported by ‘the vast majority of British Jews’ is without foundation.”

Corbyn subsequently offered the paper a measured response to each of the questions asked. He has also said calling him anti-Semitic is “ludicrous and wrong”.

In the meantime, Channel 4’s Cathy Newman asked Corbyn the same questions …  over and over again, refusing to accept any answer, interrupting, goading and putting words into his mouth. Having failed to get the answers she wanted from a steadfast Corbyn, she tweeted about his “anger” during the non-angry interview that had just been aired.

Then, faced with a Twitter backlash, she told The Independent that after the interview Corbyn took her to one side and was shaking with rage. That would seem, to say the least of it, extremely unlikely since he was remarkably calm during the interview and almost immediately went before a large crowd to deliver a considered and hopeful speech.

The Telegraph jumped on the bandwagon to suggest Corbyn was “under growing pressure” for his “links to controversial figures” such as the leader of Hamas (who, incidentally, Blair has had four meetings with since April). And the Daily Mail as usual went over the top to call Corbyn “a ‘cheerleader’ for a controversial fanatic who glorified the murder of British soldiers…”

Given the last few weeks of low-grade bile and vitriol we have witnessed, Owen Jones has warned of a “firestorm” if (dare we say, “when”) Corbyn wins. Attacks will no doubt come not only from the media and the Tories but also from his own party. So we do need be aware of the nefarious machinations and ready for the coordinated attacks.

The real story is about hope

But we should not allow ourselves to be diverted from the best story of all; the one that the polluted mainstream wants to go away – the thousands of people who have been filling halls and meeting rooms north, south, east and west, bearing new hope for the future.

We Ladies were lucky enough to witness this exuberance first hand. Ealing Town Hall was one of the many venues that were totally over-subscribed, and Corbyn took the time to speak not only to those in the overflow room but also to the crowd outside before moving into the meeting proper.

The energy in the packed hall was palpable – with a crowd of different ages, races and genders. Enthusiastic young people were particularly visible in the audience, among the volunteers and even on the platform, given an equal voice.

Corbyn’s sensible and honest stand on issues from anti-austerity to housing to green jobs to Trident was exactly what we have been waiting to hear, as was clear from sustained applause throughout and a final standing ovation.

And truth to tell, this kind of rare excitement in parliamentary politics is hard to ignore.

Sensing the way the wind’s blowing?

Writing in The Guardian, Ray Greenslade observed that Corbyn was beginning to attract some positivity from the press, as “even the pro-Burnham Daily Mirror and the anti-Labour Daily Telegraph carry articles that reflect the growing enthusiasm for Labour leadership’s front runner”.

Some of that positivity may be spreading to the Labour party as well. Tom Watson, perhaps hoping for a boost in the deputy leadership race, adopted a “conciliatory tone” towards Corbyn, insisting the front-runner was “no Trotskyist” and the four contenders had more in common than not.

Andy Burnham, meanwhile, hedged his bets, saying he’d serve in Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet and accusing senior Labour figures of “circling the wagons” against Corbyn and creating “bad blood” (though his campaign director continued suggesting they might challenge the outcome of the election “on the grounds of infiltration from other parties”).

Voting with heads and hearts

This week We Ladies voted for Jeremy Corbyn to be the next leader of the Labour Party. We did so without hesitation, as soon as we received our ballots. We see it as a lifeline to build a movement that can pull Labour out of the neo-liberal hole it has been digging for far too long.

As Seamus Milne so excellently put it: “A democratic eruption is transforming Labour. If it continues, it can change the electoral landscape too.”

Scaremongering Plumbs New Depths as Blair Prophesies Labour “Annihilation”

a3-posterThe hysterical railing against the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn being voted in as Labour leader is now embarrassingly over the top. Blair has become the voice of doom, seeking to ramp up fear among the Labour rank and file. According to him, if we vote in Corbyn, “it won’t be a defeat” at the next election but “will mean rout, possibly annihilation”.

The Guardian front page manages to juxtapose Blair’s mad rantings about precipices and destruction with photos of a world in flames (actually a fire at a Chinese port).

The Telegraph, of course, has also jumped on the bandwagon with the Blair ‘story’ as its headline and added a quote from Jack Straw attacking “the hard-Left candidate’s (sic) ‘economic illiteracy’”.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has decided to launch an attack from another angle with its “exclusive” story supposedly revealing Corbyn’s “‘long-standing links’ with notorious Holocaust denier and his ‘anti-Semitic’ organization” (note that even in its own headline the DM has to use quotation marks for these bogus claims).

And, given that Corbyn’s ‘rivals’ are the three callow automatons, Burnham, Cooper and Kendall – who represent the very worse aspects of New Labour – even Blair’s ex-spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, is hard pressed to make a choice and can come up with nothing better than “anyone but Corbyn”.

And what of these other contenders?

Really you’d think the Labour Party would be thrilled with all the new members and the energy they are bringing to the contest. 21,000 people joined the party shortly after the election, appalled that the Tories had won, but the BBC tells us numbers have since leapt up to reach “299,755 [full members], with a further 121,295 people paying £3 to become registered supporters and 189,703 joining up through their trade union”.

Alas, there hasn’t been much of a welcome for them.

According to Channel 4 News, the three muppets have written a joint letter of complaint about “the integrity” of the leadership process. Apparently alarmed by its democratic bent, they find it “unreasonable” for an election to be taking place “without the provision of a full list of voters” – which they won’t get for another five whole days.

It’s unedifying (but hardly surprising) to find those supporting the candidate lagging way behind in fourth place being the most vociferous. Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale who nominated Kendall, made the incredible claim that up to a third of the new supporters who signed up in his own constituency should not be voting and that the election probably isn’t “tenable” because of “horror stories from around the country in terms of entryism”.

However, the BBC reports this issue is being dealt with and “about 1,200 people have been banned from voting in Labour’s leadership contest because they support rival parties”. The Beeb also points out that the “sheer scale of the surge” in membership “and the relatively small numbers of people … in fringe left wing parties suggest entryism fears may be overblown”.

The purge itself may be overzealous, in fact, with it sometimes being hard to know why someone has been struck off the list. Anti-Blairite “comedian and writer Mark Steel”, for example, tells The Independent he has been barred despite his only other memberships being Crystal Palace and a snooker club.

Returning to real Labour values after the Blairite coup

In response to Blair’s article, a spokesman for the Corbyn campaign very sensibly said: “We are keeping our campaign positive and remain focused on our policies that offer the sound economic choice of investment and growth, not the politically driven agenda of austerity and cuts preventing economic recovery.”

As Michael Meacher, a Labour former minister, says, “The Blairite coup of the mid-1990s hijacked the party to the Tory ideology of ‘leave it all to the markets and let the state get out of the way’”. In fact, he points out, Thatcher claimed that ‘New Labour’ was her greatest triumph.

Corbyn is not only refreshing, he has set out policies that fit the times and needs of the majority and puts them forward in a straightforward manner that will surely cause Cameron problems at PMQs.

Can Corbyn and his camp sustain the surge of hope and optimism he has brought to the leadership race in these past few weeks? Or will Blair et al. succeed in scaring Party activists into sticking with the despair of austerity under Burnham, Cooper or Kendall?

We ladies are standing firm for the policies we agree with. Will you?

About that Cruddas Poll… The Guardian joins hands with panic-stricken Labourite “moderates” to stem Corbyn’s anti-austerity tide

As highlighted in our last blog, Tony Blair recently emerged from the dark side to warn Labour supporters against taking “a lurch to the left” in the leadership contest and to advise “people who say their heart is with Corbyn (to) get a transplant”.

He reflected the shock and horror of the party’s “New Labour” wing at the unexpected insurgency of Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-austerity outsider candidate. The Blairites of New Labour, disdainful as ever of everyone veering from the “centre ground” mire, have heaped a torrent of condescension and abuse on Corbyn supporters inside and outside the party. Corbynites apparently run the gamut from being “petulant children” in the midst of a temper tantrum to “morons” suffering from mass delusion and emotional spasms. They are scolded, told to end the Corbyn madness and get behind “anybody but Corbyn”.

A suspect “poll” – a new low?

And just when we thought the whole sorry mess couldn’t get any worse, the Tory-lites opted to plumb new depths with (it must be said) a pathetically transparent attempt to manipulate the findings of a poll on Labour’s election loss. The Guardian was quite happy to donate column inches to the “story”, which read like a poor piece of propaganda for the austerity-loving candidates, Burnham, Cooper and Kendall.

The first clue was in the awkwardly worded headline and the clunky accompanying sub-head: “Anti-austerity unpopular with voters… Independent review shows abiding concern over economic deficit, and may fuel doubt about policies of Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn” [our emphasis].

According to Labour MP John Cruddas, who commissioned the report, for Labour to “reconnect with the electorate” to win in 2020 “will mean accepting some difficult truths. The majority of voters in England and Wales supported the Tories’ austerity measures”. (Really?)

Campaign Company, the polling firm that conducted the research, confirmed the message and who it was for: “the unpalatable truth for the left is that the Tories did not win despite austerity, but because of it”. The difficulty we had was in understanding how Cruddas and Campaign Company had deduced these “truths” about the public’s view of austerity in a poll asking “groups inside the party” a question that didn’t even mention “austerity”.

Who could blame us for being suspicious when The Guardian went out of its way, with no prompting or cause, to assure us that Cruddas is “respected across the party” (though no “truths” like his support for austerity and the Blue Labour tendency of the party). Or when we checked out Campaign Company (which we’d never heard of) to find it is not a member of the British Polling Council and from its website looks like a marketing company driven only by what messages its clients wish to communicate.

Truth to tell, The Guardian seems to have been the main pusher of the poll. The Independent sought Corbyn’s view and grouped comments from dissenting voices on social media under the headline: “Jeremy Corbyn – Poll that claims voters are pro-austerity actually shows the opposite” and RT News reported on a number of economists who “rubbished the poll”, but the rest of the media didn’t really take it on.

Guardian readers take issue with bias

The Guardian is letting down its readers on the issue of the Labour leadershp. In fact the day before the offending poll article, the so-called “liberal” paper ran an analysis of the balance of its Jeremy Corbyn coverage. Apparently “a sense that The Guardian had been unfairly dismissive” about Corbyn’s candidacy had “generated powerful feelings among some readers”.

Chris Elliott, who conducted the analysis, conceded that “in the early days of Corbyn’s charge, the readers rightly got a sniff that on occasions we weren’t taking him seriously enough” but he said that has changed. Elliot couldn’t find any evidence “that the negative pieces outnumber the positive pieces by as much as ‘five to one’, although that view is strongly held by some”. He further asserted that “tallies of positive and negative pieces are a dangerous measure, as The Guardian should not be a fanzine for any side.”

But what’s really going on?

Meanwhile, the “children” have refused to heed the “mainstream Labour figures, who fear that Corbyn would veer even further to the left than Michael Foot”. If anything the abuse and patronizing finger wagging has galvanized Corbyn’s supporters to new heights of enthusiasm. Despite reiterating the tired old tropes that Corbyn is “causing alarm among established party figures” and asking “if he wins, can he hold his party together?”, Nicholas Watt in The Guardian’s Saturday interview hits the nail on the head when he suggested that Corbyn’s “unspun approach appears to be cutting through to new voters who are tired of the soundbites and perfect presentations of established figures”.

Corbyn tells him: “This is about hope. … It is opposition to economic orthodoxy that leads us into austerity and cuts. But it is also a thirst for something more communal, more participative.”

Now who can argue with that?

The Labour Leadership Contest Brings Out the Worst in Almost Everyone

66e21bd6-8b71-4ebd-8da1-1c10a5276b29-2060x1236Tories, Blairites and the media (right-wing and otherwise) are getting their knickers in a twist about the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn might win the Labour leadership contest.

Under the inspiring headline “Corbyn too clapped out for election race”, The Sun suggests that the man it refers to as a “firebrand pensioner” looks more like a “refugee from a … picket line” than a leader and is a “torchbearer for the loony left”. The Telegraph, on the other hand, went with “pseudo-Marxist grammar-school boy” as its epithet of choice.

Red scare anyone?

Another Sun article headed “Trots for Corb-win” (witty!) announced that “hard-left activists are infiltrating Labour” in a bid to get Corbyn elected. The Mail echoes this with the similar claim that what it calls even-more-extreme “hard-left militant tendency activists” (what the hell?) are “using a loophole” to infiltrate Labour.

Funnily enough, there was no such protest when The Telegraph called on Tories to sign up as Labour supporters and vote for Corbyn on the grounds that this would be a disaster for the party. However, the newspaper changed its mind on realizing he might actually go on to lead the opposition as this would – horrors! – “shift the entire political debate to the left”.

What of those who are fighting for the “centre” ground?

According to The Telegraph, “Shadow cabinet sources” have suggested that “Corbyn would never be allowed to remain” as leader for the 2020 election. (Not exactly what you’d call “democratic”, but hey…). Of course, these “top Labour MPs” who are calling for a coup remain unnamed.

However, famously ‘centrist’ Tony Blair had no problem offering his two pennies worth, mocking those who say their ‘political heart’ wants to support Corbyn by telling them to: “Get a transplant”.

Going further, former Blair adviser John McTernan went ballistic on BBC 2’s Newsnight and accused MPs who had nominated Jeremy Corbyn to ‘open up the debate’ of being “morons”. Asked if this applied to her, Margaret Beckett put up her hand on Radio 4′s World at One: “I am one of them”. But, she added, “at no point did I intend to vote for Jeremy – nice as he is.”

David Blunkett, in the role of Wise Elder Statesman (we jest), called Corbyn “the candidate of the Old Left” in The Mirror and argued that his language about austerity would be out of date by 2020 (whatever that means!).

Mixed feelings on the “left”

 One ‘grandee’ wasn’t having any of it. John Prescott came out swinging at Blair et al. when asked on The Today Programme if a Corbyn win would be a disaster for Labour: “Let’s get real, calm down, it’s the party’s decision; not MPs … Tony, on the doorstep it was Iraq that stopped a lot of people voting for us.”

Guardian columnists veered all over the wide spectrum of views called ‘left’. A concerned Polly Toynbee warned that “emerging splits over Jeremy Corbyn” could drag the party back to the “bitter” 1980s (a time akin to Armageddon, it would seem). “This is summer madness,” she wrote, although she doesn’t believe the majority of Labour members would “take leave of their senses”.

There has been plenty of patronizing finger-wagging too. Depicting Corbyn as a man of “vivid positions and beige jackets (both circa 1983 in their vintage)”, Jonathon Friedland tut-tutted that “for a lot of those taking part” choosing a party leader is “not about winning power or even making a change in society. It is about identity”. And while Andrew Rawnsley claims to understand that “the Piped Piper of Islington can sound like a refreshingly idealistic change from the robotic mantras of besuited career politicians” to younger audiences, he also termed it, “a terrible delusion”. His sympathies obviously lay with “alarmed” senior Labour figures “who would like to see their party back in government some time before they die”.

 On the other hand, Owen Jones chided Blairites for their attacks on the party’s left wing. By abstaining on the Tory Welfare Bill they had been “perversely in denial over their record on child poverty and public services”, but the truth is that “it is the left that is championing New Labour’s legacy”. Harking back to headier days, Zoe Williams pointed out that “while Corbyn’s grassroots popularity has rattled his colleagues, he offered his own version of the hope that swept Labour to victory in 1997”.

The woman question

Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper complained that she’s not doing well in the leadership polls because of sexism, while Anne Perkins asked in the Guardian, “How bad must it get before Labour elects a woman?”, as though Liz Kendall should be given a chance at power just because she’s female, despite being to the right of many in the Tory party.

But who was it that said: “The time for timid measures is over. Women deserve fair pay, fair chances and unflinching support in the face of violence and abuse”? It was Jeremy Corbyn, probably the most feminist among the contenders! He’s also put forward an ambitious proposal entitled ‘Working with Women’ and intends that half his Shadow Cabinet be female.

What’s not to love!

He Said What!? “Call me Dave” gets down with “working people”

Cameron has been at his pathologically lying best this week. Launching the Tory manifesto, out on the hustings, in interviews … the pledges came thick and fast, glib and superficial, and he kept a straight face throughout it all!

Stung by accusations that his Nasty Party’s hate-filled campaign against Ed Miliband and Labour, orchestrated by Dark Maestro Lynton Crosby, was turning off the electorate Cameron did a perfect 360-degree turn into the land of smarmy sincerity.

He gave us hope!

“At the heart of this manifesto is a simple proposition: We are the party of working people, offering you security at every stage of your life… a brighter, more secure future for you and your family.” (On zero hours, food banks and the bedroom tax?)

“The next five years are about turning the good news in our economy into a good life for you and your family.” (The trickle down begins?)

He waxed poetic!

He’d had a dream (a “Conservative Dream” no less) of creating a country “where a strong economy means good jobs, worthwhile careers and excellent public services like hospitals and schools that are there for you and your family.” (Er, Dave, you already ran public services into the ground … and the worst is yet to come in terms of cuts.)

And he talked tough!

He told the BBC some people did not pay tax “WHO DAMN WELL SHOULD!” and that accusations the Conservatives are “the party of the rich” make him “MORE ANGRY THAN ALMOST ANYTHING ELSE!” (Oh my …)

Tory press gleeful

There are those who were mightily turned on by Cameron’s deceptions, after all the 1% and their enablers are making merry at the trough. Gleeful Tory press front page headlines were all over “the good life”. It was not edifying:

Daily Telegraph Return of the good life; Times I’ll bring the good life back to Britain, Cameron promises; Financial Times Tories break with austerity policies and promise ‘good life’ to voters; Daily Mail Cameron pledges good life for all; Daily Express I’ll bring back the sunshine and the good life.

So there you have it

Forget food banks, the working poor and zero hour contracts, rent and housing crisis, the beggaring of the NHS and mental health and legal aid services. Forget the evil Tory policies that deliberately target the poor and the least able. Forget the bankers’ bonuses and the tax cuts for the rich who are already dodging the taxes they should be paying.

The sun is shining and life is good…innit?

Desperate days require ever more fantastical lies, it would seem.

Ed Wrong-Foots the Tories on the Economy: Labour’s manifesto lays bare the hollowness of the government’s “long term economic plan”

With the launch of Labour’s manifesto, Ed Miliband has once again taken a bold step and rattled the Tory ranks.

For decades the myth of Tory superiority in managing the country’s finances has endured, with polls consistently showing Conservative governments with higher approval rates than Labour on the economy.

The manifesto addresses this issue head-on. It begins with a “budget responsibility lock” that guarantees funding for every policy, with no additional borrowing, and promises to cut the deficit every year, reduce the national debt and achieve a surplus on the current budget “as soon as possible in the next parliament”.

Mythical fiscal management

The myth of “Tory Good, Labour Bad” at managing the economy has grown under David Cameron and George Osborne as the Tory machine ramped up its mantra that Gordon Brown’s government caused the 2007/2008 global financial crash (aka “The Mess”) in an orgy of borrowing and irresponsible spending. Given the chance, they have reiterated, any Labour government would do the same again.

Never mind the internationally accepted evidence to the contrary – that the crash was caused by the US subprime mortgage crisis, the neglect of governments worldwide in regulating the bankers and the failure of economists to detect the early signs.

Never mind that Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, has stated categorically that Gordon Brown’s government was not responsible. Or that Labour governments have consistently kept down deficits and borrowing whereas Osborne borrowed more in five years than Labour did in 13.

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Role reversal

In stark contrast to the Labour manifesto with its clearly costed policies, Cameron, Osborne et al. appear to be making up policy on the hoof with no idea as to how said policies would be funded.

For example, on The Andrew Marr Show, Osborne refused at least 15 times to answer the simple question of where a Tory government would find the £8 billion a year he has said would be put into the NHS if they come back into power. This shameless attempt to sway voters was mocked on BBC Daily Politics, where Culture Minister Sajid Javid was asked where the Tories were hiding the money tree.

For the past five years the Tory/LibDem government has been brazenly shifting government services into private hands, taking from the poor and vulnerable to enrich their friends in the 1 per cent, under the guise of an austerity programme that is apparently the cornerstone of its oft quoted but never elucidated “long-term economic plan”.

Employing tactics of obfuscation, outright lies and vicious personal attacks enabled by the right-wing press, bully-boys Cameron, Osborne and their cohorts have succeeded in fooling many of the people for much of the time, while presiding over ever-widening levels of poverty and pain – attacking the jobless, the disabled, the carers, while flip-flopping all over the place to keep right-wing rebels on board.

A leader in waiting

In contrast, as Labour back bencher Michael Meacher points out, Ed has achieved in opposition what no other previous Leader of the Opposition – including Thatcher or Blair – managed to do. That is, changing the course of events in ways hugely important to this country without any direct executive power to do so.

Ed has also promised to tackle tax avoiders and scrap the non-dom tax status, which he has said is part of a discredited belief that “what is good for the rich is always good for Britain”. Cameron, on the other hand, plans to remove inheritance tax from homes worth more than £1 million, which independent economists say would ‘disproportionately’ benefit well-off families and drive up property prices.

Key policies in the Labour manifesto to help ordinary people include:

  • Raising the minimum wage to more than £8 by October 2019 – accelerating increases to guarantee they reach this level before the end of the next Parliament
  • Helping train passengers and commuters with a fully funded fare freeze
  • Supporting the squeezed middle with a firm commitment not to raise the basic or higher rate of income tax, National Insurance or VAT
  • Protecting tax credits in the next parliament, to back working families
  • Introducing a new National Primary Childcare Service to help working parents.

A clear choice

There’s a mountain to climb to shake off the negative perceptions of politics and politicians among the general public. The question, “Why should we trust you?” and the assertion that “all politicians are the same” are commonplace and often used for making mischief.

But Labour and the Tories are plainly not the same.

The choice of who to vote for is a no-brainer.