On 10 years’ Membership…

…this piece was originally posted on LabourHame on 8th September 2018.


I am a child of the Labour Party. My Mum was CLP Secretary and my Dad was CLP Chair, and they spent their honeymoon leafleting for Donald Dewar in Glasgow Garscadden. So I suppose it was inevitable that politics would be in my blood. But it was my decision, not theirs, when I joined the Labour Party on 8thSeptember 2008.

But much like Trigger’s broom or Theseus’s Ship, that Labour Party has changed so much that, at times, it can feel as if I am a member of a completely different party 10 years on. Today’s Labour Party – Corbyn’s Labour Party – seems almost proud of that fact, but I think that it is a great shame.

The party I joined was led by one of the political giants of the early 21st century. It had a record in government to be proud of and worth defending. It had cut child poverty across the UK by almost half, devolved power to the nations (and was trying to do the same with English regions); increased human rights protections in the UK and moved women’s, LGBT+, BAME and workers’ rights forward in the face of great opposition.

The party I joined never forgot that it wasn’t some exercise in academic Marxism but existed to further the interests of the people who put it in power, even when that involved imperfect compromises or uncertain solutions. It didn’t strive towards some hypothetical perfection at the expense of achievable progress.

And the party I joined was not perfect. At times it lacked ambition and could have afforded to take an electoral hit for political efficacy. At times it made terrible mistakes, the most obvious of which has had lasting effects in the Middle East and only history will tell just how much of a mistake it was. It was when it refused to listen to different views and the leadership blustered on ahead with its plans that it made the biggest mistakes.

But most importantly, the party I joined knew that it couldn’t remain the same forever, it needed constantly to change to meet the challenges of the times it was in. It knew that the best way it could achieve this was to listen to different views and reflect their ideas in its politics.

The party I’m a member of today is different. It feels very different.

The party I am a member of today is not proud of the party it was 10 years ago, to the extent that it cannot even seem to accept it was ever the same party. It cannot acknowledge that the party of 10 years ago did any good; nor can it acknowledge that the party today can do any bad. And that is a great shame.

The last 10 years have been a time of massive change for our party, as were the 10 before that and, particularly, the 10 before that. The Labour Party has always been party that changes to create a change in the country. In the 1990s and early 2000s that meant New Labour – because “secur[ing] for workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry” didn’t really work in a country whose industry was killed the decade before.

So in the 2010s and the early 2020s that must mean something new again – but to establish what that is means we must look at the world around us and deal with what is in front of us, not what we wish was there. We will have to deal with the issues and situations that face us, and, most importantly, convince the electorate that we are worth trusting again.

But for that to happen we have to show that we’re trustworthy. We have to show that we allow a plurality of ideas and views and that, even if you don’t agree with our leader or manifesto on everything, we can work together to make the country better. We have to show that we’re able to represent not just “the many” but everyone, and we need urgently to start demonstrating that we are a party that allows everyone to come together “freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect” for all.

The last year or so has been very difficult for our party. Just this week, our members decided to re-elect someone to our most powerful committee who questioned the widespread existence of antisemitism in our party. Yesterday, it emerged that the Iranian state broadcaster Press TV had live-tweeted and had pictures and video from a members-only CLP meeting covering a vote of no confidence in a Labour MP who has challenged antisemitism in the party.

These situations, the decisions members of our party have taken, make it more difficult to demonstrate that we deserve that trust to govern. The fact we have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism is a step on the right path, but it is only the first step. Saying we will not tolerate active hatred, is not the same as saying we will promote active inclusion.

10 years after joining this party it is still, beyond doubt, my political home. But, like any home, it requires housekeeping. I hope that on 8th September 2028 we will be looking back on this period where we were unable or afraid to face up to our internal challenges as the point where we renewed ourselves, like we did 20 years previously, to meet the challenges of our time.

Just now, that means Brexit, the housing crisis, renewing the constitution across the UK, and dealing with the ever-rising cost of living and unstable and precarious work. But in a country where being working class now more likely means you are the means of production, the challenge to our party is to re-examine our traditions and offer solutions that are right for now.

I am proud to have been a member of the Labour Party, our party, for 10 years. In that time I have followed in both my mum’s and my dad’s footsteps in being both CLP Chair and Secretary. But this is a dark time for our party, and I do not think history will judge it kindly. It is in our domain to change that and show we do not represent merely ‘many’, but all who seek fairer work and a better life.

I hope, in 10 years’ time, to be reflecting on that – and on the achievements of the next Labour Government.

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Paul-itical Ideas: Education

What works about Education?
There are some things in the current school-age education system that work. Local Authority delivery with National Co-ordination works.
Universities’ educational independence needs to be fiercely protected and the current model does that. Continue reading Paul-itical Ideas: Education

Labour and Anti-Semitism…

…or why it’s still worth fighting for Labour


Now is not a great time to be a Labour Party member. Yes, we are ahead in the polls – though nowhere near as ahead as we should be given this shambolic government – but it is still a difficult time to be a Labour Member.

The Party now is markedly different from the party I joined almost 10 years ago (my 10th Anniversary is 8th September 2018). That Party was committed to fighting all forms of inequality and discrimination, of whatever kind, where it existed, as fully and as forcefully as it could. Recently that difference has shown itself clearly in the Anti-Semitism row, and the NEC’s decision not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA’s) Working Definition and Examples of Anti-Semitism in full.

Continue reading Labour and Anti-Semitism…

Your Concerns are not Legitimate…

…or how we lost the Windrush in 2010.


“I’m not a racist”, it begins. It always begins that way. A Statement of being. If you misunderstand what the meaning of what I am about to say, that is your fault, because am not racist.

“…but…”, of course, there is a but. ‘But’ means I am about to say something contrary to what I just said, but ‘but’ doesn’t mean I’m a racist. Because I just told you that, remember.

“but…there’s a lot of foreigners about now, isn’t there? Lots of Immigrants”. Is there? I mean, probably – but is that a problem? I mean, is it affecting you?

“I have legitimate concerns about the effect of increased immigration is having on my country”. Do you? Or do you just not like people who look different?


This kind of attitude or justification for casual racism is accepted now. And it has to stop.

The idea that people “aren’t allowed to talk about Immigration any more” is a situation of which I’m well aware, as Nigel Farage seems to raise it every time he appears on the BBC’s flagship Political discussion show Question Time, becoming its most regular guest in its past 5 years. The people who dare to broach this subject, and raise the common sense legitimate concerns they have are labeled ‘racists’ or ‘old-fashioned’.

But, when these attitudes aren’t challenged. When parties like UKIP dominate the airwaves during the biggest national debate of the modern era and produce posters warning of hordes of immigrants who can come into our country – our political system changes. When a major British Politician can stand in front of a poster of refugees or immigrants declaring that the country is at “Breaking Point” because of it – we have lost our way.

Farage.png

But I don’t blame Nigel Farage. He’s open about his dislike of immigration. He seems almost proud of his race-baiting at times. So no – at least he declares what he is.

I blame Gordon Brown.

In 2010, during the General Election campaign, the then Labour Leader was at a campaign stop in Rochdale. Enter Gillian Duffy, a 60-odd year old woman who has worries and concerns. Concerns about hospitals and schools and the deficit. Concerns, she raised about ‘people on the dole’ and when Mr Brown, consummate politician that he is, explains that a life on the dole is a thing of the past she asks:

“You don’t say anything about the immigrants…all these eastern Europeans that are coming in…where are they coming from”? [1]

Mr. Brown accepts that, but then talks about the important of Helping people and, as Ms. Duffy is a Labour Supporter, she will appreciate that is the overriding principle. The importance of investment. “but what about all the students coming over”. Deftly, if awkwardly, handled.

Then – the infamous hot mike – “what a bigoted woman” he remarked from the safety of his car, while wearing a live microphone. He heard his remarks back on the radio…live…and his face says it all.

And then, he apologised. He had been caught, out-of-touch with ordinary working people. Why didn’t he share the legitimate concerns of those people? Why didn’t he listen to them. Why wasn’t he thinking what they’re thinking? How dare he call an ordinary woman bigoted just because of her concerns about “all those Eastern Europeans coming in”!

Immigration.jpg
The Tories, on 2005.
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…just in case the first one was too subtle for you.

 

But what if he didn’t apologise. What if he asked Ms. Duffy and her supporters – none of whom are racist or bigoted, of course – what they meant. What their concerns were. If it was underfunding, whether we should be demanding the richest people and businesses to pay their proper taxes and not, ironically enough, move their money off shore?

What if he – we – challenged how legitimate these concerns were.

Ms. Duffy voted Leave in the EU Referendum in 2016. Partly because she was frightened about us “losing our identity“. English Identity, she later clarifies.

It started in 2010…or 2005. On National TV, in the age of rolling news and the cusp of social media. It brings us to 2018, where thousands of people from the Windrush Generation – a moment so important in our National Consciousness that it was part of our 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony – are facing deportation, withdrawal of health care and even losing their jobs because they can’t prove that they have lived here!

But it’s OK. When they landed they had to give Landing Slips which will have been retained by the Home Office. They will confirm the exact date they decided to cross the world to Britain, make the country that so many Windrush travellers felt they belonged to, their home. Except 8 years ago, against Legal Advice, the Home Office decided to destroy them. They say it was due to Data Protection rules where information cannot be kept past the point it is useful – and it’s not useful any more…unless you need to prove how long you’ve lived in the country under the Immigration Rules. Set out By the Home Office. Who have just destroyed the only way you may be able to prove how long you’ve lived in the country for.

I’m telling you, when the Prime Minister Theresa May gets a hold of the Secretary of State for the Home Office who presided over this mass destruction 8 years ago, I’m sure there’ll be trouble.

Except there won’t be, of course. The Current Home Secretary hasn’t resigned and the then-Home Secretary has said she is sorry, so that’s that then. Sorted. Unless you’re deported of course. Or lose your job and lose your livelihood. The Windrush Generation abonded by the law an country that promised to look after them if they came.

Nothing will happen because why should it? We’re allowed to have legitimate concerns about immigration. And these, after all, are immigrants (even though they’re UK Citizens). And it’s not racist to talk about Immigration.


“But they’re not really Uk Citizens” – except they are and were promised all the protections and rights that British Citizenship promises.

“But they’re not really British. You know. Like you and me. You know”.

‘You know’. What begins with “I’m not racist, but…” ends with “you know?”.

“You know what ‘you know’ means. It’s obvious isn’t it? You know. You’re like me, and I know, so you know.” Is it that they’re black?

“WOW. Don’t bring race into this!” – what else could you mean?

“You know”.

Nah – I don’t. not any more.

From now on, I’m gonna need to ask you; and you’re gonna need to tell me exactly what you mean.

But, of course, it won’t be racist.


[1] The answer, for people playing along at home, is “Eastern Europe”.

 

2017: A Shanky Retrospective

…or, applying the lessons from Cadogan Estates Ltd v Morris and Jacobellis v Ohio.


2017’s been some year. That’s true in many respects, and for most people. For me, though, it has definitely been the case. So much has happened this year that the traditional “Hogmanay look back on the year” isn’t a search for the high points (of which there are many) but more an attempt to make a conscious attempt to reflect on everything that’s happened to me, and around me, in the past 12 months.

Continue reading 2017: A Shanky Retrospective

The Ern Malley Christmas Quiz 2017

Good Afternoon everyone! Welcome to the “PAShanky ‘Ern Malley Christmas Quiz’ 2017” Live Blog. It’s been on the go since 9am this morning and the live blog starts at midday.

We’re looking for the 8th word in the 27th line on the 3rd randomly selected page of the 23rd book in the 2nd horizontal stack of the rear-left hand pile in Room C which was upstairs in @GeoffShadbold’s home!

Good luck and remember, there’s #NaePrizes!

Continue reading The Ern Malley Christmas Quiz 2017

Wealth Tax 2: Revenge of the Blog…

…or why context is everything.


So, my recent blog post on Richard Leonard’s plans for a Wealth Tax had an audience, which is nice. I mention this, not to brag about #numbers, but because at least one of the members of the audience was a senior partner at Thompsons Solicitors, Patrick Maguire. He disagrees with my view, so decided to produce a rebuttal blogpost on Unison’s Dave Watson’s website (albeit without linking to or describing the post he was rebutting). Continue reading Wealth Tax 2: Revenge of the Blog…

On Taxes and Turmoil…

…or why reading the interpretation section is always important.


I haven’t blogged (yet) about the Scottish Labour Leadership Race. I probably won’t (until it’s over anyway) – though I did go on a short twitter rant last week about how dreadful the race had been up to that point. It ended with a call for both candidates to  improve themselves and their campaigns, and noted that Anas Sarwar had, just that day, released his tax plan, which is the substance that the campaign had long been lacking. Continue reading On Taxes and Turmoil…

Thanks Kez

…and how quickly things can change.


This will not be the first Scottish Leadership Election I have written about. When I looked back on Johann Lamont’s leadership I said that there were two things that the Scottish Labour Party had to face up to and change if we were to improve and succeed with going forward: We must be Scottish Labour and we must be Scottish Labour. Under Kez Dugdale, we have done both. Continue reading Thanks Kez

Back to Blogging…

…a summary exhortation on the Summer elections.


I’ve been off the blog for a while for two very different, but equally important reasons:

  1. I changed phones in March and I forgot to change my phone number on WordPress, so my two-factor Authentication wouldn’t let me in and I needed to hunt on old laptops for the back-up codes.
  2. Elections got in the way.

Continue reading Back to Blogging…

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