More from Meadway

More from Meadway

I went to one of the local labour political education workshops at which James Meadway was speaking. Odd, since I had been reading of his views, in particular with respect to his contention with MMT; I wrote them up on this blog. but it was good to hear him in person.

I have written about MMT and its contention with the Labour front bench a couple of times and summarised my understanding of the MMT position on International Trade. A couple of years ago I wrote on their views on Monetary vs. Fiscal policy, this latter article also summarises and links to articles critical of MMT.

Meadway emphasised two things, “Not all Currencies are equal”, the dollar is still the international trade denominator. The second point is that making debt default the policy tool to deal with private sector foreign exchange debt is not wise as the biggest FX debt holders are probably HSBC and Barclays. While the UK public sector FX debt is tiny, this private sector debt is not and it’s questionable if we could bail the banks out a second time which since the ring fencing of retail and investment banks is mired in the swamp would jeopardise the people’s savings.

He also emphasised the importance of ownership, investment and universal services as socialist agenda items and thus the creation of an irreversible shift in power; not so sure my memories of Thatcher selling off the Mutuals is evidence that this will work but it will be a powerful manifesto. …

And back home

And back home

I have been told of resignations over this in my own CLP. Our delegation voted in accordance with the mandate issued, in favour of the NEC statement, against the Remain & Transform (C13) motion and for the Stop Tory Brexit (C14) motion. I accept that this is a reasonable interpretation of the mandate as those of us arguing for Remain & Transform lost the vote by 4 votes at a barely quorate General Committee meeting. I am sure that the timing of the meeting, i.e. a week before we undertook our trigger ballot meetings and the state of exhaustion from the faction fighting were part of the problem.

If you are a member of Lewisham Deptford Labour Party and not a member of the General Committee, ask your delegates why they weren’t there and let them know what you think, attend your branch AGMs coming in Oct. and elect pro-remain delegates who will turn up. This is critically important as should we win the coming General Election, Labour will call a special conference to determine its position between its new deal and a remain position. I will be seeking, with allies to establish a remain position and nsure we elect a delegation that will support the mandate.

My experience from canvassing is that many Labour voters are deeply concerned about, by which I mean vehemently opposed to, Labour’s ambiguous position despite our local MP‘s vigorous & courageous pursuit of a remain.

 …

An amazing coincidence

An amazing coincidence

I sat down to watch Conference, this morning and in practising my friendship skills spoke to the woman in the seat beside me and when we exchanged names, I discovered that she was Emmanuelle Avril, whose paper, “The (Unintended) Consequences of New Labour: Party Leadership vs Party Management in the British Labour Party” had caught my eye several years ago. (See below/overleaf for cross references to the paper and to my previous articles.)

So we had a coffee and talked about the coincidence that in a room of 3,500 people that we should sit together as she observed, the number of people who will have read the paper is very limited, which is a shame.

We talked about the answer as to why the stupidity of the previous afternoon had occurred.

The leadership is at the least bi-polar, as in it has two poles. One is Jeremy Corbyn and the other is the staff and dominant politics in the Leader of the Opposition’s office (LOTO). Their shared politics was formed in the 1980’s prior to Blair’s ascendancy but throughout the whole of the history of the Labour Party, the Unions have got what they wanted. The question now is what do they want and to what extent are they united in that vision?

There are three political currents in Labour’s Brexit Policy majority. The first, made of mainly rump Bennites or exiles from the Communist Party wish to leave the European Union, either because they think that defeating British capitalism is easier than defeating European Capitalism or because they believe that the EU treaties will inhibit a Corbyn Government pursuing its manifesto. The second consists of psephological illiterates who think that we can’t win back the seats lost north of Watford if we argue to remain, ignoring the fact that even in the north of England the majority of Labour’s voters, our baseline, voted to remain. The third consists of Leader ultra-loyalists, who seem not to have noticed that Corbyn has been moving towards remain albeit at a glacial pace since last year. We can assume that Corbyn is in third group and that much of LOTO, and the left’s leadership, whose politics were forged in the late 70’s and 80’s remain in the first.

And that’s the problem, too many of the current left’s leadership cut their teeth at a time when the left was strong and in particular strong in the Unions; too many of them just think, “it’s our turn now” and ignore the political revolution brought about by the 2008 economic crisis. The Unions voted with the left over this period and then they stopped but many of the Left’s leaders still think that the old tactics and old politics work.

In contrast to this, it delights me when working with Labour for a Socialist Europe that the average age of their activists is so obviously young.

In my article, the Death Agony of Social Democracy, I select some quotes that reinforce the paradox of control, that closing down debate kills innovation and renewal and in fact toxified the party and drove activists away.

… the way the newly created policy forums functioned, where minority opinions struggled to even be recorded. Vladimir Derer, founder of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, expressed the view, echoed by many party members, that only political debate can keep activists, whom the leadership relies on to run the local parties and campaigns, interested. Participation to the political debate, which “wine and cheese evenings” could never replace, is an essential motivation for partisan engagement …

When they, i.e. Blair and Brown moved on, they had no platform and no ideas to renew themselves or the Party. Labour selects the most left wing candidate that it thinks can win, and in 2015 there was no confidence that any of the candidates could do that! The ideas of the “three wise monkeys” were weak and so Corbyn won, but he can’t build the party he needs reusing the Party control tactics of Blair. …

Not yet decided!

Not yet decided!

Labour Conference failed yesterday to take the opportunity to declare itself a remain party. I am of course deeply disappointed. I am told of resignations already.

The debate was conducted in the best traditions of the Labour Party which means lots of games were played. The quality of the debate was not good but one or two speeches shone out.

The Party Leadership, which does not want to declare for remain, at least not for now had been so frightened of the result that it sought to agree a statement; this would and did allow them to insert new words onto the Agenda, although the fear that they would repeat the 2016 trick of ensuring that an NEC statement supplanted member’s motions was not repeated. Otherwise only the words proposed by member organisations can be debated. They had great difficulty getting their statement carried, convening two meetings, cancelling one and eventually agreeing by email.

Jon Lansman documented his dissatisfaction with the means, at least, if not the content of the decision but strangely Momentum changed their mind, and I believe asked their supporters with “listen & decide” mandates to oppose the Remain position (Composite 13) Composite 13 Brexit lab19 and support the NEC Statement NEC Statement Brexit( basically the Harold Wilson position) and Composite 14 Composite 14 Brexit lab19 which is basically, No Tory Brexit. This advice was obviously not meant to be taken by CLPs with strong mandates although I am not sure everyone that got the memo understood that!

The Composite meeting was long, although not as long as the meeting on the Green New Deal; the Leadership firstly tried their tactic from last year arguing the only one motion should be put and that the Composite should be agreed by consensus, which since they were in a minority again, wasn’t going to happen this time. The huge problem the platform had is that the large majority of the members of the composite meeting had mandates to support the words that ended up in the “Remain Now” motion. The other problem that Remainers have is that much of the Leader loyalists are actually Lexiters influenced by the Communist Party and economistic Trotskyists, places from which their leadership came. WRT to the composite meeting, the lesson from 2018 had been learnt,

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!

The debate can be seen on Youtube; the Party have published the whole afternoon session.

It was not a high quality debate as there is little meeting of minds, but to give you a taste, here’s Simon Hannah moving Composite 13.

The bulk of the pro-leadership arguments were straight forward personal loyalism; there was a bit about losing our already lost heartlands, but not so much and some arguing we are the party of the 99% we need to bring the country together. To my mind the argument that we have more remain votes to lose was not made powerfully enough but there is more than sufficient idealism in Urte Mackene’s speech.

There can be “no socialism in one country;I wonder when that became true?

Kier Starmer summed up the debate, you can see his speech here and then in the best traditions of the Labour movement the vote was stitched up and a card vote denied! It interests me that Jennie Formby arrived on the platform 10 minutes before the end of the debate and played a critical role in guiding the Chair, who first called Composite 13 carried, on advice seemed to change her mind, and then denied a Card Vote.

Card votes are more accurate than one person’s judgement, and a show of hands overestimates the power of small CLPs and underestimates the power of the Unions. It was wrong  to deny it to conference and the membership and reminds me of the bad old days of 2016. In my mind this was done to demoralise those who had campaigned to see Composite 13 carried, to prove that they’re in charge but as others have said, the effort exhausted them.

But we’ve come so far … is it one more push. …

Unions & Brexit

Unions exist to fight for the rights of their members. Brexit is a calculated move, cooked up by the Tory right, to undermine workers rights and attack migrants and free movement. The whole trade union movement should be united in opposing it. By standing with Labour members, we have an opportunity to unite the party and move on with a clear policy.

NB I am a life long Trade Unionist, currently a member of the GMB. …

Reform of Labours Candidate Selection

Reform of Labours Candidate Selection

On Saturday, Labour Conference changed the rules as it pertained to the Local Campaign Forums now named Local Govt. Committees, the Rule changes were published in CAC 1 and I have made a copy that exclusively refers to Chapter 12, LCF Rule Proposal extract from CAC1

The key reforms are,

  1. Voting power on the LGC will be ⅓ for the Council Group, ⅓ for the CLP Reps, and ⅓ for delegates from Trade Unions. This is voting power it is not dependent on the number of delegates.
  2. Councillors may only sit in the Council Group class of delegates
  3. The Leader/Deputy Leader are to sit on the LGC Executive.
  4. There are strong, or maybe weak, but at least some rules to constrain Councillors from impacting seats they are interested in, but obviously not swapping favours.
  5. CLP’s delegate numbers will be representative of the number of wards represented in the LA area.
  6. The authority for the manifesto remains unclear.

This does not increase the accountability of the Labour Group.

Have a look and make a comment if I have missed anything. …

but democracy!

but democracy!

As we approach Brexit Ground Zero, Labour’s leavers, at least those too embarrassed to talk about immigration are pinning their hopes on the “but Democracy” argument.

In March 1975 Margaret Thatcher described referendums as “a device of dictators and demagogues” but she got a lot wrong and I ask myself if this is true.

Britain is run as a Parliamentary Democracy but there is no basic law and Parliament can do as it pleases. Many if not most of the checks on the Executive or on Ministers are based on convention not statute. We have an unelected upper chamber in which both hereditary peers and Church of England bishops have votes and we have a hereditary Head of State. I thought and wrote about the UK’s Democracy last year and found it wanting.

A democracy must exist under a rule of law; Britain does not because Parliament, which means the House of Commons can do as it pleases. Our only Human Rights guarantee is two Acts of Parliament, which can both be repealed. We should note that Government impunity is increased as the Coalition Government took away legal aid for judicial review and while this was designed to stop benefit claimants suing the Government when it broke the law, it also makes it much more difficult to defend more political rights.

Political systems must be designed to resolve priorities either by building a consensus or by articulating a majority view when the issues are such that there is a polarisation in society. We have furthermore the need to define and defend basic Human Rights which the world has developed a consensus around the UN Declaration of Human Rights, although in Western Europe we tend to ignore economic rights, such as freedom from poverty.

The problem of a dual mandate is not uncommon. Presidential systems based on the US model have this built in, as does the French system and on a smaller scale our system of Executive Mayors.  It should be necessary for a President to build a wide-ranging coalition to win, which should be a protection against the degeneration of Democracy, but history would suggest this is not the case. Where a society is split on critical social & economic issues, or religious[1] or national identity issues, the “winner takes all” nature of Presidential systems and Plebiscites is a centripetal force on the unity of the polity. (This is powerfully identified in Juan Linz’s paper, Democracy: Presidential or Parliamentary, Does it make a difference?) I say,

Only a Parliament can represent the breadth of interests[2] in a complex society, only a Parliament can negotiate popular compromises based on 2nd choices and changing priorities.

Presidents and plebiscites pose a tyrannical threat to the nuances of the people’s will, only a Parliament has a mandate and capability to resolve & negotiate these complexities and we should note its mandate is comprehensive and current. The issue of developing a compromise may be critical, particularly in the terms of the Brexit debate where a number of advocates of Leave have changed their minds from seeking a deal to opposing one. I was of the view that the advocates of Leave should negotiate the terms of exit and then as Unions do, ask if the deal was acceptable. This allows people to change their mind, and consider their opinion when the detail of the proposal is concrete.

The history of the degeneration of democracies, most recently and obviously in Turkey, is one where a Parliamentary system is transformed by plebiscite into a Presidential one, and then bit-by-bit the checks and balances are removed, starting usually with an attack on the independence[3] of the judiciary.

We are sleep walking along a similar path.

While I cannot find an inexorable proof that plebiscites[4] are the tools of dictator’s and demagogues, their history would strongly suggest that this is the case.

ooOOOoo

[1] For a short period, Bosnia & Herzgovina had a multi-ethnic/faith presidium and the Lebanon had an ethnic/faith power sharing convention sharing the President/Prime Minister/Speaker roles.

[2] This needs small-ish constituencies and fair voting systems, and in the UK the abolition of the House of Lords

[3] Although the only independence that the UK judges has is indefinite tenure; another area we could do better.

[4] I am of the view that Presidential systems based on the US model are also less capable of representing the breadth and nuamce of the politics of the nation and are fundamentally less stable. …

A week to remember

What a week it’s been for British Politics! Prior to the re-opening of Parliament after its summer recess, Johnson announced he planned to ask for the longest prorogue of Parliament since 1945. On his 2nd day in Parliament as Prime Minister, he lost control of the Parliamentary timetable, the following day he lost his majority after one of the Tory’s crossed the floor to the Lib Dems, he then threatened his Party with expulsion if they supported the cross bench bill to ban a no-deal Brexit, which they did and so did he! This put his working majority at -41. The Bill passed both the Commons and Lords. Johnson asked for an election, which is now in the hands of the House of Commons and they said No! All this within five days, thus proving what I said, that its possible he should not have been appointed as he does not command the confidence of the house. To cap the week, his brother resigned for the Government and announced he would not seek re-election and Amber Rudd, finally found her backbone and resigned from the Government and the Tory whip, with an excoriating letter.

In exchange John Mann, the semi-detached alleged Labour MP has resigned from the Labour Party and agreed to take up the role of “Anti-Semitism Tsar” (sic).

A couple of wits, put Parliament to the words of Monty Python, one of the Romans, the other on self defence from being attacked by  fresh fruit.

A week to remember! …