Momentum: Keep On Keeping On

The plethora of hysteria about Momentum over the past week has felt like history repeating. On the left, these issues have had a habit of becoming self fulfilling prophecies‎. It’s imperative that the same fate does not befoul Momentum. Quite simply, it’s the best hope we have of creating a modern, positive English Left. Having been involved in many political organisations, I can attest that I found none more welcoming than Momentum. Especially on a local level here in Waltham Forest.

For many people Labour died after the Iraq War. For others, it was before that. As someone who grew up in Scotland and saw the disrespect and, at times, utter contempt successive Labour councils displayed towards the Scottish public, I found it very hard to forgive. Jeremy’s campaign gave me the faith to believe again.

This summer, after getting involved locally with Momentum, I met many Labour Party members. Members who shared my goals of supporting state schools and the NHS. Decent humans who wanted to defend our local communities in the war against savage cuts (those same cuts that were supported by a shameful number within the Parliamentary Labour Party). To my surprise, I found myself the only person on the stalls and at local meetings who was a Momentum member but yet not in the Labour Party. ‎Contrary to the media hysteria, the stalls and meetings were not filled with entryists. They were an invigorating mix of Labour members (ranging from six months to forty years), newcomers to politics of all ages and converts like me. I had an epiphany: it was time to join Labour.

For me, local campaigning and organisation is the only way to make a dent in a system whereby we hold very limited power. Whether that be campaigning against local academisation by joining forces with parents, teachers and NUT (like Waltham Forest Momentum) or ‎organising against closures of hospitals, libraries and essential services. If Labour is being impotent on these issues and closing its ears at a Constituency Labour Party level, then it’s up to Momentum to hold them to account and engage locally. If we believe in a fairer society then it starts on our doorstep.

Momentum is not an anti-Labour organisation. It is a positive force within Labour. It has reinvigorated a sloppy and flabby party that has been taking our communities for granted for too long. Long may it continue!

On Billy Bragg, Corbyn and Murdoch’s Evil Empire

As you may have noticed, The English Left is a big fan of Billy Bragg.

There have been few Brits able to mix politics and pop with such energy and commitment as the Bard of Barking. Of course, The Clash, The Specials, Madness and The Smiths must be hailed for perfect slices of agit pop but few have actually got their hands dirty in way Billy has; knocking on doors, speaking at rallies etc etc.

Unfortunately, this die hard activism leaves Mr Bragg with a huge problem in alienating potential listeners and becoming easy pickings for the political elites who control the media. I commend Billy for his continuous enthusiasm and downright hard graft for the English Left (the movement, as opposed to this blog).

He doesn’t need to put himself out there but he does. It would be easier to write a song speaking to his fanbase and take the plaudits in his own talking shop/cottage industry.  He doesn’t. That’s too easy. He gets himself out there. Whether that be on picket lines, at rallies or canvassing to keep fascists at bay. Whilst I don’t always agree with him (tactical voting for the Lib Dems, recent comments on Morrissey), at least he doesn’t just sit about moaning. He tries. He acts. I wish there were more like you, Bill.

Anyway, enough of the love in. Today I read this so called article by a so called journalist from the Murdoch press. Normally I wouldn’t stoop so low as to read the rag but as a few comrades were discussing it and becoming upset about Billy’s stance, I thought I’d better dig deeper to find out more. By the time I’d read the article, it had already been rebuffed by Mr Bragg.

For those not in the know, The Times were claiming the Barking boy had denounced his support for Corbyn at an event in Edinburgh last night. Except it didn’t tell us that he had been speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival until halfway down the article. In fact, to Generation Twitter, this was direct from the comrade’s mouth.

I scanned for quotes. Here they were:

“I worry about Jeremy that he’s a kind of 20th century Labour man.”

Couldn’t agree more. He is deadly loyal to Labour. He believes in Labour even if it writes his suicide note. For evidence: rejecting ideas for a progressive alliance, refusing to deselect troublesome MPs, inviting haters on to the shadow cabinet.

“You can see what happens when a political party becomes tribalist. We can’t afford to go down that route if we are to retain the ability to represent ordinary working people.”

Absolutely. Embracing a proportional voting system and a rainbow parliament is probably the only way now to keep the Tories out. Jeremy hasn’t been strong enough to convey this message to the electorate as yet. Mind you, it has been near impossible with all the coups in the Labour Party kitchen.

Er, that was about it in terms of his comments on Corbyn. 

The Times lambasted Bragg as a “previously loyal supporter” and called him a tactical Lib Dem supporter “since 2001” (untrue, he voted Labour in 2015). Even more worryingly, The Times claimed that he stated that Corbyn is “unable to reach the parts of the electorate needed to build a political force.” Strange that they didn’t supply a quote to back that up or emphase that his opinion may well be linked to earlier comments on tribalism and proportional voting systems. Why let facts get in the way of an anti-Corbyn headline though, eh?

For me, two issues have been raised as a result of this article. Firstly, the increasing ineptitude and general laziness of once coveted broadsheets and secondly, the belief that any Corbyn supporter has to agree with the words of Jezza implicitly or otherwise be labelled a defector. God forbid that anyone uses their own brain. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic.

You see, the media are truly 20th century. They don’t understand the new media and free movement of information from a wide range of sources. They are lost. An analogue watch in a digital age.

 

 

Our treatment of disability

Something has been plaguing my mind for the last few months and it coincides with the ‘No Go Britain’ feature that has been on Channel 4 News over the last few evenings: disability and our attitudes towards it in modern Britain.

I’ve had my eyes opened because a loved one is temporarily in a wheelchair. Perhaps I too have been guilty of taking the basics for granted. Head in the clouds, enjoying the very basics of going to the pub toilet or skipping down a street. I’d like to think, however, that I’ve always helped where I’ve seen someone in need.  My experiences over the last few months have left me bewildered and somewhat saddened. Three main issues have struck me:

People’s lack of self awareness- Yep, you’re on a train, yep you’re engrossed in a chat but why on earth don’t you realise that you are severely encroaching on someone’s space as a human being? I’m not even talking on busy trains either. I witnessed an incident at a gig recently where two drunken buffoons stood right in front of a woman in a chair. Side by side, leaning over with her as the middle of their sandwich. Beers in hand, fat guts in her face, shouting, spitting, ruining her experience. In the designated disabled area. Were they even aware of their belligerence or would they feel different if it was them sat down?

The staring- Yep. That’s a person coming up the road who is being pushed. Let’s stare. Let’s stare and forget offering help when a troublesome door flies open and the wheelchair is being rammed and rammed and rammed until enough force is used to complete an exit. Why? Why would you not offer to help? Has it really come to this?

Accessibility- The disabled toilet is not working. There is no ramp to get you up those steps. The curb has not been lowered enough so now you need to go on the road. Some moron has parked their car over the access point. People tutting and refusing to move when you are squeezing a huge metal frame down a tiny corridor. Accessibility? Where?

Of course, I’m not even the one who’s had to suffer the humiliation of all of the above. How can we expect people to want to take part in public life when we don’t make it available to all of the public?  I’m afraid to say that it seems a great deal of life at the moment is not for the public at all.  Just for selected, able bodied sections.

I don’t want to end this all on a sour note. I must add that there have been many incidents whereby human compassion has shone through. We are all guilty of a lack of mindfulness at times. That what makes us human I guess. Next time you are in a pub or on public transport or even just walking down the street, have a think; how accessible is this to all of us?

 

In response to Mr Jones

Owen Jones has been worrying. Worrying about the future of Labour. It doesn’t seem that there’s a way out of this ever growing cesspit of hatred and division for the party and Mr Jones wants answers from Corbynistas and the Left on how we will solve this. Of course, there are no easy fixes and anyone who has been involved with the Left in this country will know that consensus is a struggle at the best of times.

Owen outlined nine questions which must be answered. Concisely (as we are living in Generation Twitter), I am going to give my perspective:

1. How do we turn around disastrous polling?

No simple answer on this. I’ve been speaking to people all week on the streets for Momentum and many have told me they don’t even know who Corbyn is. They turned off after Blair and Brown. However, of those set against him, many highlight the fact his party cannot stand him. If Corbyn wins this leadership battle then anyone who is not willing to fully support him must be deselected. No one will vote for a divided party.

2. What’s the vision?

Well, we know he’s anti-austerity, anti-Trident etc but Owen says that the message is not clear enough. Plans on a new Green economy should be outlined with the promise of actual stable work for the disaffected who have switched to UKIP and indeed other parties.  If people feel they have the hope of jobs in a new, revitalising industry then they may just sit up and listen.

3. The policies are the same as the last election.

Well, some are and some aren’t. It has been near impossible to change policy or talk about what the membership want with that pesky PLP on his back. See point one on tackling this issue.

4. What’s the media strategy?

I agree with Owen here. Something needs to change. He needs help here. Someone to bash off the criticism and vitriol for the mainstream press outlets.

5. How does he win the over 44’s?

My instinct would be to say that he must talk more about pensions and how the state will provide and make corporate forces pay their way. Make an example of Philip Green. He is now loathed even by his fans on the right. Force him to pay up and sort out the BHS pensions or call for a jail sentence and recovery of monies from his personal wealth. Furthermore, perhaps there needs to be a rethink on Inheritance Tax. A huge issue for the over 44’s.

6. How does he win over Scotland?

Scotland is lost. There is no way he can work a miracle of getting the electorate back over the border. If he could encourage the party to support independence, he may win back some support.

7 and 8. How does he win over Conservative supporters and how does he tackle fears over immigration?

The big problem for anyone on the Left. Answers on a blog post please.

9. How do Labour mobilise the new joiners?

Labour need to get more involved in grassroots change. Whether that be saving the local hospital, campaigning against academies or just getting a zebra crossing up and running nearby. For me, that’s the key. Get people locked in locally and show them how effective you can be. Labour have become a centralised machine-driven entity. Let’s get the party back on the streets.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think there are three ways forward for Labour:

1. Change party policy to support a PR electoral system. First Past the Post is never going to return a Labour government in the near (or perhaps distant) future.

2. Adopt Clive Lewis’ plan for an electoral alliance with the Greens, SNP etc until this is a reality. After that, PR would take care of a rainbow parliament and progressive coalition politics.

3. Get the party out of the council chambers and  back on the streets talking about local issues and listening once more. People feel they cannot connect with the current Labour machine.

These, of course, are just my feelings and ideas. Let’s hear yours. Let’s have a debate.

 

 

Who is Jeremy Corbyn?

“Jeremy Corbyn? Who’s he?”

What? You mean you don’t soak up all the language and broadcasting of the political class? Don’t you watch the news, QT,  Daily Politics, Newsnight? You don’t read the papers?  You don’t know who Laura Kuenssburg or Andrew Neil are? Political. Brain. Can. Not. Compute.

It’s hard to realise when you’re tucked safely in your politico bubble but to yer man and woman on the street,  politics is neither engaging nor inviting. Messages do not get through easily and to many, Labour is still just devious old New Labour as opposed to a fresh and  invigorating new Old Labour.

On Newsnight a couple of nights ago, I listened to a Burnley woman tell the reporter that she’d stopped listening after the fated Brown years. This echoed what I heard  whilst out leafleting for Momentum. Passers-by told me that they were once traditional Labour supporters but they had switched off before Jezza babes had even been elected.

That’s the inconvenient truth for the political establishment. Large swathes of the general public just don’t know who he is or what he stands for. Or if they do, it’s because they have heard that the PLP and the media dinosaurs hate him, ergo he must be awful. One woman told me he had to go. I asked her why she felt that way. His policies? His leadership skills? She pointed to his lack of leadership as highlighted by the vitriol within elements of his own party. However, when we actually got chatting, she detailed how passionate she was about affecting change in society. Bottom up, grassroots action.  I told her that is exactly what Corbyn stands for. She was taken aback. The sheer hatred from within the PLP and the mainstream media had drowned out any positive message from getting to her.

There are undoubtedly millions who are ready for a shake up in English politics. If Corbyn’s message is allowed to get out there, it might just be more popular than the comfy political establishment are willing to accept.

Free Eggs (or how a 14 year old can show us old cynics the way)!

Animal welfare is horrendously overlooked across the political spectrum in this country (the Green Party and Animal Welfare Party are notable exceptions). Despite England claiming to be a nation of animal lovers, fox hunting and badger culling are accepted as just ways of treating living things.

However, the idea of animals as food is slowly losing support. The Telegraph (hardly a friend of lefty veggies/vegans) reported in May that Veganism in the UK is up 360% in the past ten years. It’s evident up and down the UK that moods are a’ changin’. I remember a time when a veggie had to sprawl the streets looking for an option, only to end up in some hippy’s front room or with a plate of chips in a pub. In the last few years, I’ve had a veggie sausage supper in Inverness, a veggie sausage roll in a Cardiff bakery and lots of other non-sausage related veggie options up and down the land.  In Sheffield, you can’t move for veggie options and not just in the studenty areas.

You get the point. Almost every restaurant now has a decent veggie option. Bravo!

Which takes me to the point of this post. A girl from the above mentioned and wonderful city of Sheffield (they’ve got morals up there; must be how they raise them, love), called Lucy Gavaghan, has taken on the supermarkets over eggs. She wants all supermarkets to stop selling eggs from caged hens and started a petition to highlight her case. Amazingly, she has won part of the battle! After a meeting with Tesco (stop the booing at the back) they agreed to stop stocking them by 2025. Furthermore, as of two days ago, Morrisons have agreed too!

A fantastic result by anyone’s standards and life affirming to know that a 14 year old has achieved this. Lucy you are an inspiration to all! Especially us old cynics. You can sign Lucy’s petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/sean-clarke-david-potts-end-the-sale-of-eggs-from-caged-hens-in-morrisons-and-asda?recruiter=346830728&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=sms