time to vote labour?

a letter to The Commune by Bill Butlin

The impending public expenditure cuts look like being a key issue for trade unionists at the next general election.  The Labour Party and the Tories both maintain that cuts are unavoidable and that no alternative exists to their implementation.

In an interview with Andrew Marr at the beginning of January the Tory leader was gung ho on this issue. He maintained that the cuts identified as necessary by New Labour were not stringent enough. Clearly any pretence by Cameron that he represents the acceptable One Nation face of the Conservative Party, and one that has left Thatcherism behind, is challenged by this professed policy objective. An objective that will not only see public expenditure cuts but further privatisations and a parallel attack on public sector trade unionism. Continue reading “time to vote labour?”

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a class war in westminster?

by Adam Ford

When Gordon Brown claimed the Conservative Party’s inheritance tax policy was “dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton”, he must have thought he was scoring an easy political point. However, he had touched off a storm which would fascinate politicians and commentators for days, by alluding to the great unmentionable: social class.

David Cameron responded by complaining that the “petty, spiteful, stupid” line marked the start of a Labour Party-led “class war” against the wealthiest in society, and pundits speculated that Chancellor Alistair Darling would use his pre-budget report to launch swingeing attacks on those at the top of the tree. In the event, he merely proposed a one-off tax on banker bonuses over £25,000. Considering the government has already spent £850 billion bailing out the banks, the £550 million he forecast this would bring in amounts to just a drop in the bucket. Even so, he provided sufficient loopholes to protect bankers from even this puny infringement on their enormous wealth, and increased VAT, which disproportionately hits the poorest. Normal service had resumed. Continue reading “a class war in westminster?”

where is the labour party going? london forum, monday 23rd

The next of The Commune’s London public forums is on the subject of the social role, degeneration and future course of the Labour Party. The meeting takes place from 7pm on Monday 23rd November at the Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, near King’s Cross.

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With some on the left turning back to Labour as the 2010 general election nears, and others predicting the party will turn ‘left’ in opposition to a David Cameron administration, it is important to understand the underlying characteristics of Labour in British capitalism and challenge the arguments that the workers’ movement should try and ‘reclaim’ it or create a Labour Party mark II. Continue reading “where is the labour party going? london forum, monday 23rd”

voting labour is not a fall-back option

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in…”***

by David Broder

The bitter chill of winter is never more harshly felt than at a labour movement conference with grandiose ambitions but limited prospects. This was much in evidence at the Labour Representation Committee last weekend, which marked a step back from any meaningful idea of renewing working-class representation.

Of course, the joke that the left is so keen on unity that it has sprouted a dozen competing unity projects is no longer particularly funny. But this problem is political, not merely organisational. For even worse than factionalism is simple retreat into the Labour Party. Continue reading “voting labour is not a fall-back option”

gordon brown’s workhouses for single mothers

by Zoe Smith

“That’s better for them, better for their babies and better for all of us”
Gordon Brown on his proposal to house single mothers in state-run supervised homes

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September was an exceptionally rough month for many mothers. They took a further beating at the hands of the state with the Labour Party’s stultified attempts to kick into motion its lumbering electoral machine, in the mad rush to outdo the Conservative Party’s social conservatism. During his mid September speech to the TUC on spending cuts the Prime Minister revealed that New Labour had decided to drop its manifesto pledge to increase paid maternity leave for mothers to one year. In a qualification to this decision Gordon Brown added that this would be counter-balanced by granting fathers the right to take three months of paid paternity leave during the second six months of their child’s life. This was on the condition that the mother returned to work. Following this announcement Brown proceeded to make a pronounced and very hostile attack on teenage mothers during his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference. The scale and seriousness of this attack can be seen as a new departure in the state’s attempt to control female reproduction, and to penalise and control some of society’s most vulnerable women. Continue reading “gordon brown’s workhouses for single mothers”

tuc: another wasted opportunity?

by Gregor Gall

This was by far the highest profile Congress of the TUC in many years, most of that being to do with the pre-general election period of more frenzied official politics. The Congress began with Brendan Barber suggesting that big public service cuts by any future government could not only create a ‘double dip’ recession but also bring about social disorder. But by Tuesday most of the affiliated unions had rolled over when Brown told them Labour’s cuts wouldn’t be as big, quick or bad as those of the Tories.

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Then there was a bit of attention over a motion which had the temerity to suggest that the mandatory wearing of high heeled shoes by women was not good for their health. But the biggest bang was over a motion on Israel/Palestine from the FBU. And on the last day the motion on the People’s Charter was passed. Continue reading “tuc: another wasted opportunity?”

purnell’s new ‘old labour’ is just new ‘new labour’

by David Broder

American conservatives’ televised attacks on the National Health Service erupted onto the British political scene in August, with the great and good of the Labour Party leaping to the defence of the system which this government is itself undermining with its privatisation campaign. Gordon (and Sarah) Brown joined the “#welovethenhs” Twitter campaign, as did Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who also took time away from tweeting to criticise Tory MEP Daniel Hannan as “unpatriotic”  for taking part in the American right-wing crusade. Here the Labour Party was very much fighting on its traditional home turf: but is it turning to the left?

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With such a revival of enthusiasm for national healthcare, countering David Cameron’s incredible claim that the Tories are now “the party of the NHS”, and with Royal Mail privatisation plans stalled for now, some in the labour movement believe that the government is shifting leftwards. Given Brown’s attempts to expose the fact that the Tories are going to make harsh cuts, such people have wasted much ink on grand predictions that recent Keynesian measures to shore up the economy show that the Labour Party is opening up clear red water between itself and the Conservatives, and indeed that when it loses the next General Election, the party will become a fulcrum of resistance to Cameron. Continue reading “purnell’s new ‘old labour’ is just new ‘new labour’”