Labour Isn’t Working in many ways lays the foundations for the Alt-Left. It establishes fundamental principles like the importance of group identity, the need to restrain the free market and rejection of radical social justice.
It’s my view that whether your interest in politics is keen or fair-weather, you’ll be intrigued by the book , though I do recommend it particularly strongly to Labour party members and to those interested in the Alt Left and what it stands for.
The transcript can be read in full below, or alternatively downloaded for free here
If you’d like to purchase the text in E-book format you can do so here
The modern Labour party is out of touch with the working class whom it exists to represent, and many of whom turn increasingly to the Tories and UKIP for answers. Labour has been too scared to address immigration, too complacent to address jobs and too divided to address Europe.
The working class is dead. Long gone are the days of the Welsh miners’ choir and the workplace union meetings. The flat cap is worn now by avant-garde members of the rural middle class, men too old to shake a habit, and metropolitan hipsters. Black face isn’t the inevitable consequence of a day spent hewing coal from the centre of the earth, but is now a racial faux pas. Where once a hard day’s work involved forging world-class steel, for many it’s now manning a call centre in order to best resolve Mrs Smith’s broadband issues.
The modern economy necessitates that even the bricklayer has his own local advertising, Facebook page and website. He doesn’t consider himself part of a homogenous working class, but instead an entrepreneur, and rightly so.
The production and harvesting of real resources has been shamelessly outsourced to third-world countries. We allow the rest of the world to grow our food, forge our steel and sew our shirts, and in doing so, we not only deprive our own people of work, but we impose it on others without the benefit of health and safety, a minimum wage, regulations or any semblance of automation. Britain’s economy is overly reliant on the financial sector, leaving us vulnerable to the next U.S.-born crash. Where people once took pride in their work as builders, now they are resigned to employment in this coffee chain or that.
Nationalism now rises in tandem with uncontrolled migration leading to names like Le Pen, Wilders and Farage taking the establishment by storm. What appeared to be a consistently declining level of global violence has begun to reverse itself in recent years, as the wildfire of extremism continues to ravage the Middle East, prompting the worst migrant crisis yet seen in human history.
Humanity is on the precipice of upheaval, there are new questions, and few answers. Left-wing parties across the West are struggling to rally support, caught between the relentless march of globalisation and the toll it takes on workers the world over. The British Labour party is no exception to this trend, and its inability to mount a competent opposition to the government is enabling a period of unchecked Conservative rule. Exerting scrutiny on the executive is essential to ensure that its policies reflect national needs and not self-serving ends. Thus, it is in the interests of both Conservative and Labour supporters that the Labour party resurface as a government in waiting, and not persist as a party of protest.
In the wake of the 2015 shock general election defeat, long-time backbencher and maverick, Jeremy Corbyn, assumed power in the Labour party. Propelled by an anti-establishment appeal and left-wing policies thought to have been consigned to history, he easily defeated his three opponents. His unprecedented victory prompted a surge in party membership, from some 200,000 to over 500,000, making it notable for being the largest left-wing party in Europe. It appeared that the man to reverse Labour’s fortune had made himself known.
Yet at the time of writing, far from arresting the party’s decline, the Corbyn administration has only exacerbated it. Polling shows Labour now trail the Conservatives by as much as 18%. The 23rd of February 2017 marked a historic by-election defeat for Labour, not just because they had held the seat of Copeland since 1935, but also because it was lost to the governing party. Owing to resignations, the shadow cabinet is more of a skeleton crew, much of it manned by newly elected and inexperienced MPs. The vast membership, which was seen as the formation of a campaigning vanguard, has since been shown to be in large part idle, indicative of a niche opinion in the country and a thorn in the side of the parliamentary party.
That’s not to say that Jeremy Corbyn killed the Labour party. He merely sits atop its coffin. The party has been in a state of managed decline since de-industrialisation stripped it of a clear reason to exist. The programme detailed herein will therefore not lay blame exclusively at Corbyn’s door, though it will do so where appropriate, but instead will lay blame where deserved, and offer remedies where needed.
It’s not enough to insist that the electorate are deficient, or suffering from a false consciousness, when they reject you time after time. Nor is it good enough to abandon the values upon which the party was founded, in order to pursue public opinion at the expense of all else. Instead the party must align its core principles with the will of the people, conceding ground on either side where necessary. It’s essential that, in order to recover, the party enter a period of reflection, and in doing so it must produce a meaningful answer to the question so many are asking: “Just what is the Labour party for?”.
If it’s to defend the NHS, then that’s an insufficient reason for the electorate to eject a sitting government. No doubt the creation of the NHS was Labour’s finest hour, but to relentlessly invoke its name at every public rally like a war cry, is to cement in the mind of the public the idea of Labour as a one-trick pony. If it’s to be a nicer version of the Tories, this too is inadequate. Aside from the fact that the Liberal Democrats already occupy that ground, the public at large will always opt for competency over compassion.
It’s vital that, should Labour ever seek to win again, it must first re-discover its identity. It should re-forge its raison d’être from an anti-Tory think tank, to a government in waiting, able to steady the nation through what promises to be a turbulent future. Drawing from various tendencies within the party, significant research, personal experience and observable reality, what follows is a detailed roadmap for Labour’s return to government.
Labour once had a core demographic on which they could rely: the working class – a monolithic block who worked almost entirely in heavy industry. Commonly united in tightknit communities centred on a factory or pit, they were class conscious, and proudly so. To inherit one’s father’s job was not just an expectation but a de facto right. The membership of the Labour party, and consequently its leadership, still holds to these antiquated views of what it means to be a worker. So long as they fail to recognise the nature and needs of modern workers, they will fail to produce policies that appeal to them.
This isn’t a failure exclusive to the left of the party. After all, Blair did once assert that, “we’re all middle class now”, a view still manifest among those of his ilk who exist in substantial number within the parliamentary party. It’s not so much that this view denies the existence of the poverty stricken or the manual worker, but that it sidelines them. It relies on those people to vote for Labour consistently, and is unconcerned when they stay at home, since most such people live within Labour safe seats won on a minimal turnout.
This leads us to a divergence in approach: one that caters to a romanticised and now largely deceased working class, and the other which overlooks it entirely. To portray the party as these two schools of thought and nothing but would be disingenuous. but they do have the most to say on the subject. The so-called ‘soft left’ offers little thought on the matter, and the Kendallites have been too preoccupied with plots in recent times to set out any clear views at all.
In order to identify those whom Labour must bring into the fold, we must first establish those who vote for it currently:
Old Labourites. Blue-collar chaps for whom the memories of Thatcherism are still all too vivid. Formerly miners and manufacturers, many now live in the deprived post-industrial communities of Wales, the Midlands, the North and Scotland. Increasingly, their inherent social conservatism and scepticism regarding immigration has led them to vote Conservative and UKIP in increasing numbers.
Londoners. Labour enjoys ever-growing support within London, a crowd often misidentified as being part of the ‘metropolitan elite’. While much of this demographic could be characterised by the sort of person who hangs a picture of Marx in their parents’ Kensington 4-bed, such people are a minority. Labour’s London support base can be differentiated by its social liberalism, particularly in its concern for LGBT rights, feminism and police practices.
Public sector workers. Over 56.5% are unionised and the Tories have been slashing their wages for 7 years. They vote Labour consistently, although they do so in worryingly declining numbers. Guarantee a wage rise above inflation and increased expenditure on our public services, and these voters are locked down.
Ethnic minorities. This demographic can be more or less divided between those of African and Asian descent. The black British demographic is concentrated predominantly in London and Birmingham, the product of a generation who were invited to the UK to rebuild in the wake of the Second World War. Now living in overwhelmingly deprived communities, over 70% vote Labour. Similarly, Asians of both Islamic and Sikh denominations vote by a substantial margin in favour of Labour[i] , despite having (in common with the Black British community) a deep social conservatism and entrepreneurial spirit that would perhaps more naturally put them in the Conservative camp. As these groups continue to move out into the suburbs and expand their businesses, it’s likely their transition from being staunch Labourites to reliably Conservative will only accelerate.
Entryists. Often hailing from Trotskyist outfits, their influence is at a peak within the Labour party since the days of Militant expulsions. Such people are self-professed associates of groups such as the Alliance for Workers Liberty, and the Socialist Workers Party. Though not great in number, it seems Tom Watson had it right when he suggested there are some “Old hands twisting young wrists”.
This coalition cannot win elections; it lost in 2010, 2015 and it will do so again in 2020, if not before. Where previously Labour had a clear platform that spoke directly to workers the country over, they have so far failed to adapt to the new nature of work in the 21st century. Talk of workers’ rights to the 4.6million self-employed[ii] means precisely nothing. When Jeremy Corbyn gives speeches about Keir Hardy, he might as well be reading from Istanbul’s phonebook for all the relevance it has to the voters he’s attempting to reach.
This sort of rhetoric would suggest that Labour now stands on a platform of reviving heavy industry, when in fact no such plans exist. It’s evident that such populist polices are not incompatible with electoral success in modern times. We can look to Donald Trump’s rise to power as evidence of this. A campaign punctuated with the cry – “We’re gonna put the miners back to work!” – roars which carried the rust belt states and Trump himself to an electoral college victory.
While such an agenda should never constitute the headline of a Labour campaign, there is room for it to form a fractional element of a wider economic plan. With the benefits of automation and clean coal, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t create new jobs in coal, steel and manufacturing: industries whose revival would be predicated on a new regime of tariffs and public infrastructure spending.
Though Labour are often happy to ingratiate themselves with the attendees of events like the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival and the Durham Miners’ Gala, they have nothing substantial to offer on the issue of heavy industry, yet are content to bask in the romanticism of it.
While the decline of the British steel industry predates recent governments, it now faces a crisis that threatens to end its very existence. The proximate cause of this crisis is China dumping its own steel at below cost price on the world market. This is comparable to a supermarket opening next to a corner shop and offering loaves of bread for 10p. Inevitably, the former will put the latter out of business, and then, when it’s free of competition, it is able to raise its prices with impunity. Similarly, if we surrender ourselves to a reliance on Chinese steel, we’ll face higher prices in the long run. Failing to protect them would deliver a coup de grâce to the last bastions of our national manufacturing industries, prompting the decline of communities and our capacity for self-sufficiency.
It’s for these reasons Labour would do well to adopt policies to the effect of the following:
- Introduce tariffs on Chinese steel to such a point that it becomes unaffordable in the UK.
- Lobby other European nations to form a steel block, not dissimilar from the Common Agricultural Policy, which will allow for free trade in steel amongst nations with comparable wage levels and health and safety standards.
- Legislate that all public works must use British steel with appropriate caveats (e.g. certain types of steel are not produced in the UK).
- Cut the disproportionately large foreign aid budget from 0.7%, and put some of that money into retraining post-steel communities and investing in new technology for existing plants
As the supply of steel drops, the free market will necessitate investment leading to the construction of new steel plants, not only in the UK but across Europe. It’s an excellent example of triangulating socialism with capitalism and reaping the rewards of the free market in the 21st century. Now, I don’t suggest that such policies should be the focal point of a Labour manifesto by any means, on the contrary, they should be towards the bottom of the list, but they most certainly should be on that list.
Such a policy, though necessary, is not an election winner, and speaks only to a specific group of people. It should be brought about in tandem with policies that resonate with the 4.6 million self-employed individuals who are in dire need of strong representation. These people are more inclined to identify as entrepreneurs than as part of the working class. Mechanics and carpenters are now business people not proles. They don’t care about the history of struggle, or talk of how the EU is essential because it ‘protects workers’ rights’ which is nonsense in its own right, but they do want to have constant work with good pay, and little else.
Indeed, until pressure from the Tory-supporting press prompted a U-Turn, the Chancellor meant to levy upon self-employed people an even higher tax rate. In the wake of such a clear display of contempt towards the self-employed by the Conservatives, no better opportunity exists for Labour to launch an appeal to white van men the country over.
So, what problems do self-employed people face, and what policy platforms can appeal to them?
By definition they don’t have an employer from whom they can claim sick pay, maternity or paternity pay, their work can be inconsistent, and they must continually reinvest their earnings to facilitate the survival of their trade or business.
Such policies should include:
- Cutting taxes for the self-employed, allowing them to free up income they can use to cover the cost of sick pay and other work-related benefits (alternatively, introduce self-employment working tax credits where feasible)
- Lowering VAT so that consumer spending increases, thus pushing up demand for new wardrobes, landscaped gardens, vehicle modifications and so on.
- Forcing the banks that we taxpayers bailed out to provide loans where feasible to self-employed individuals at a special low interest rate for the purpose of buying tools, refurbishing workshops or taking on trainees.
- Sending apprentices to work with the self-employed rather than with huge multinational chains, where they exist as little more than wage slaves.
Again, such policies won’t provoke a landslide electoral victory, but they are essential to attract to the Labour cause the sort of voters who are not only needed to win an election, but whose interests lie in the Labour camp; the clue is in the name, after all.
But policy isn’t enough. We can’t expect people who work two jobs and maintain other responsibilities besides to read complex manifestos and pay attention to policy documents, to do so would be an unreasonable burden. Instead we need to talk in a language that ordinary people understand. That is to say: we should speak like normal people. In 1917 the Bolsheviks condensed a complex economic programme into three simple words; ‘PEACE, LAND, BREAD’. It was a message that was understood by every echelon of Russian society without exception. This is no means to advocate Bolshevism, but it serves to demonstrate that exactly 100 years ago, without the benefit of social media, YouTube, spin doctors and hashtags, it was possible to create easily digestible slogans that summarise a policy platform. Yet somehow the modern Labour party is entirely incapable of developing a slogan, sentence, paragraph or message of any length or format that appeals even remotely to its core vote, or to those it needs to incorporate into it.
In 2015 Labour produced “A Better Plan for a Better Future” as it’s campaign slogan. This inspired precisely nobody and means exactly nothing. Given that unemployment in 2015 was 1.9 million[iii], how about this: “Labour will give you a high-paying job”. Or with a little more finesse “Higher Pay, More Jobs”. At the end of the day, despite the Twitterati’s various obsessions, jobs are the primary concern of most voters, and they have been and should continue to be at the forefront of any Labour campaign. Moreover, nobody speaks the language of the 60s union bosses, or the Marxist Politburo; talk of ‘comrades’ and ‘struggle’ should be consigned to the dustbin of history, unless in the context of a historical discussion.
This chapter has thus far dealt with the need for and the avenue by which the traditional northern post-industrial vote can be shored up, and how best the 4.6 million self-employed can begin to be brought across to Labour in greater numbers, as well as a brief mention of language and communication which will be dealt with in greater depth in a subsequent chapter. With all that said, there remains one ever-growing and crucial voting block who cannot bring themselves to vote Labour for reasons easily condensed into one word.: Immigration.
Blue-collar blokes are sick of being called racists for daring to criticise immigration. There is nothing left wing or liberal about the free movement of people, to the contrary it’s a right–wing, neoliberal idea that disproportionately favours employers. The Labour party has no need to become radically nationalist, but by God it should be patriotic. It should fly the Union Flag and St. George’s cross at every speech and at every office, and the same for the Welsh and Scottish flags. But above all, Labour should call for a points-based immigration system, that guarantees people the world over get a fair shake at entering the country, on the basis of having the skills we need in the economy. Let’s take India’s best scientists and China’s best students, and do so on the understanding that they will commit themselves to the country for a specific amount of time. Let’s not feel obliged to take unskilled workers, of which we already have a surplus, in order to further drive down the wages of construction site labourers, baristas and private hire drivers. So, here’s a ‘radical’ suggestion for a slogan “British Jobs for British Workers” the words of one Gordon Brown as recently as 2007. This is the sort of slogan that should be plastered so thickly on the walls that they begin to be structurally integral to the building they occupy. Like communication, immigration will be dealt with in detail in a subsequent chapter, but in relation to appealing to the forgotten working class, it must be a cornerstone.
Over 900,000 people are apprentices[iv], mostly young people, and mostly women – an ideal demographic for Labour voters. Since an apprentice in their first year is entitled to a below-subsistence wage of £3.40 an hour, and those most likely to enrol in an apprenticeship are poorer to begin with, it’s a total no-brainer: Labour should be promising every apprentice in the country a pay rise. To those who suggest this would be irresponsible spending, we’ll be enjoying the benefit within two years of not having to send the EU hundreds of millions of pounds a year, of which a fraction could be spent on improving apprentices’ pay. Here’s another ground-breaking slogan “A Pay Rise for Apprentices”. It’s time the Unions, with their multimillion bound budgets and 6-figure wage packets, stopped resting on their laurels and actively began unionising young apprentices the nation over, an offer of free membership for a year would be hard to refuse.
Others talk of an ‘anti Boss’ brand of populism, but as well as being counterproductive, since we absolutely want bosses to vote for Labour, time has rendered it irrelevant. We now live in an age where peoples’ bosses are oftentimes a relative or a friend, where this isn’t the case, it’s rare that employees don’t know their manager or supervisor outside of the workplace on a casual basis, at the very least as acquaintances. Any anti-business or anti-boss talk cannot be part of a modern Labour party’s rhetoric or policy. Where there is room for populism, it’s anti-corporate populism. Let’s make sure Google, Starbucks and Facebook pay the taxes they’re duty bound to, given that without a taxpayer-funded education system they would have no employees, without the NHS they would have to provide insurance, without public roads they would have no means of haulage and without internet and phoneline infrastructure they would have no means to even exist. From the gains made by appropriating the correct levels of tax owed by such corporations, let’s move these profits into delivering tax cuts for small business owners, incentivise them to take on new employees and expand their trades. It’s by means such as these that Labour can successfully convert traditional Conservative voters, simply by offering them a better deal.
We can also reach the middle classes. For the first time in their history, junior doctors went out on strike, and did so on several occasions in the wake of Jeremy Hunt’s punishing reform proposals. Legal professionals are in the process of a mass exodus from the legal aid programme, with Scottish wages having dropped over 20% from 2007/8-2013/2014 and trainee barristers earning salaries as low as £12000 per anum (with training costs of £17000)[v]. While an opportunity clearly presents itself to launch an appeal to traditional middle class Conservative voters, the Labour party is too embroiled with internal affairs to mount any effective effort.
On this point of traditional Conservative voters, it’s time to speak to farmers once again. We will soon have control over farming subsidies, let’s outbid the Tories on this issue and in addition offer an innovative rural apprenticeship programme in order to train future generations in the ways of agriculture, while also aiding overworked and beleaguered farmers. Furthermore, let’s force supermarkets to pay a fair price for dairy, meat and vegetables, while subsidising the cost to the consumer, paid for by an equivalent tax on sugary foods in order to ensure farms thrive while still protecting consumers and simultaneously improving the health of the nation.
Once free from the Common Fisheries Policy, let’s put our fisherman back to work and become the fishing capital of Europe. It makes no sense to subsidise corporations through working tax credits, Labour should promise an increase in the minimum wage and use the welfare savings to fund new infrastructure in our now decrepit seaside towns. Through this dual approach, we can not only increase the quality of life of those left behind by globalism while once again making British seaside towns worthy tourist attractions, but also bring back into the fold voters who have long since deserted Labour for UKIP.
Through these methods, we can expand our ever-shrinking coalition to include people from all walks of life, while still staying true to Labour values in a modern and relevant way. Let’s go forward in lockstep with farmers, fishermen, carpenters, shopkeepers, labourers, dockers, lorry drivers and lawyers.
Some may ponder, then, might this not alienate the metropolitan middle classes, who as of this moment form the last bastion of the Labour bloc vote? Well, the biggest genuine issue for such people is the absurdly high house prices, which keep people off the property ladder through to middle age, and some of the highest rents in the world. All the while we spend £25 billion every single year on housing benefit[vi], money which goes straight into landlords’ pockets, (not that we don’t want landlords to prosper). It’s time to announce a national house building programme that takes the money straight out of the housing benefit budget and puts it into building 250,000 homes a year until the housing shortage becomes a surplus, at which point the free market will dictate rents, house prices will return to affordable levels, and the UK will once again become a home-owning democracy. This is how we can offer concrete solutions to clear issues that will resonate with the 8 million people who live in London. Such a programme would also lead to the employment of hundreds of thousands of people, prompting a higher tax revenue, and increased spending in local economies throughout the country.
In summary, in order for Labour to properly construct policy that appeals to the working class, it must first understand how the working class has evolved over the past century. It should adopt a dual approach that halts the decline of traditional manufacturing and shores up our export market, while simultaneously engendering job growth in emerging markets, with an eye to appealing to those whose new nature of work leaves them without a natural party to vote for. This programme should incorporate the good work done by Ed Miliband in formulating policies to re-introduce security into the workplace, particularly in dealing with ‘zero-hour’ contracts, while also acknowledging that such policies do not have a broad enough appeal amongst swing voters. Labour must push for full employment, proud employment and secure employment. By these means, Labour will rally all elements of the modern working class to their cause.
Foreign policy is not an election winner. Even when Blair’s hated decision to invade Iraq prompted the largest marches ever seen in the UK, the Labour government comfortably held on to power in the 2005 elections. However, it’s important to remain principled and strive always to do what is right and what is best, both for the people of our nation and for those abroad, but never at the expense of either. Moreover, Labour faces challenges from the left, notably the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, whenever it assumes an overtly pro-war posture.
There is scarcely a sentient being on earth who still believes Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan were successful interventions, and for all the times it’s been said, it’s clear we haven’t learnt the lessons of the past. The Labour party should make it clear that they will not involve themselves in foreign military entanglements that do not directly concern the security of the United Kingdom and its allies. British blood should not be expended to remove a foreign dictator, only for that nation’s people to find liberation give way to an unimaginably worse kind of tyranny, as has happened when ISIS filled the vacuum that Western bombs created.
Having said that, it is crucial that Labour demonstrate that it does not take security lightly, and its commitment to having first-class armed forces should be clear to everyone. We have a Conservative government that has sacked soldiers before they could claim their full pensions, moved hundreds of thousands of positions into the reserve army, has aircraft carriers that we can’t land aircraft on and now, most bizarrely, is offering troops the option of not serving in combat zones in return for a pay cut. In uncertain global times, Labour should put itself forward as a patriotic party committed to the primary duty of the state: the protection of its own people. It’s essential that a commitment to at least 2% of GDP on defence be made in line with NATO requirements, as well as a commitment to nuclear weaponry. The latter is contentious, particularly within Labour circles, but there are some universal truths on this matter. Firstly, Trident has been commissioned, and should Labour win power, they will inherit the system no matter what their policy is. Secondly the majority of the population are in favour of nuclear weapons, and confusion on the issue only allows the Tories to portray Labour as a threat to national security, philosophical arguments about MAD aside.
It’s also right that we reverse the horrible mistreatment suffered by our veterans. No individual who has laid their life on the line for the nation should be allowed to sleep on the streets, and as part of the aforementioned house building programme, there should be guaranteed homes for veterans with subsidised mortgages, a cost to be taken from the 2% of GDP mentioned earlier. There should alos be jobs in the public sector reserved for them, particularly in the police and border forces. It’s my view that the treatment of veterans is a legitimate use of the term ‘military spending’.
Our foreign aid spending is disproportionate, badly allocated and unsustainable. We are running a budget deficit of £40 billion, and continue to borrow more money to spend abroad, often sponsoring foreign militaries in proxy wars, or putting money into the pocket of despots to secure exploitative trade deals. After the United States of America, we are the second biggest foreign aid donor on the planet, in real terms. We spend $18 billion compared to the U.S. spending of $31 billion[vii], that is over half of their expenditure, despite being significantly less than half the size of their economy. There are many cases in which it is not only right but morally incumbent upon us as a nation to send funds and resources abroad, to combat Ebola as a recent example. But setting an annual target of 0.7% of GDP and dispersing that money across the globe, borrowed money in the first place, only exacerbates the economic conditions this country currently faces, and in the long run will prevent us as a nation aiding other countries to our fullest capacity, since our economic growth is constantly hampered by this gross cost. Foreign aid does a lot of good, and where it does so it should continue to do so, but where reasonable savings can be made, this is exactly the course of action that should be pursued.
The liberal, Guardian–reading, mocha-sipping elites will tweet furiously in response to such a suggestion, as if there’s something essential about the budget being set at 0.7% rather than 0.6%. It’s important to ignore these people, whose numbers appear more significant online, as they represent a minority as has been shown time and time again, with only 1 in 4 supporting the current foreign aid policy[viii].For those who suggest that giving money to space-programme-pushing India will somehow engender good relations with developing countries, I’d suggest we could better build relations by ceasing to hinder their economic growth through climate regulation (with caveats) and ending the practice of Western and Chinese companies exploiting the developing countries’ natural resources.
We currently face the worst refugee crisis the world has yet known, and as a party, as a people and as a species we have a duty to help those in need. In the immediate future, we should accept lone child refugees and house them with willing volunteers in the UK. Subsequent to this, we should quiz every local council in the country and see what facilities they can spare to house other refugees, prioritising families. However, there are 60 million displaced people globally and counting. The UK cannot effectively double its population by accepting every single individual, even 5% of that number would bring the country’s infrastructure to its knees. Thus, longer term solutions must be found, and they begin with rich middle eastern countries which have so far allowed the burden to be shouldered by their neighbours like Lebanon, as well as Western nations, namely Germany. It is time we lobbied Saudi Arabia, to whom we sell jets and whose pilots we train in order to better fly them, to whom we gave a free ride when they invaded Bahrain, and continue to do so as they fight in Yemen killing civilians with British bombs, and whose disgusting head-chopping record gives ISIS a run for their money. This is not a suggestion to cut ties with Saudi, or the UAE, but given the support both militarily and diplomatically that we provide for them, it’s reasonable to assume we can make demands of them: and if ever there was a need to, it is now. These countries should be taking in great numbers of refugees, they have the infrastructure, they just lack the will.
Further to this, the foreign aid budget should be used to contribute to a wider transnational programme to build U.N.-protected safe zones across the Middle East, to prevent refugees making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean which in itself will save thousands of lives, but also to keep them safe from terrorism, and keep them fed, watered and sheltered until such time that they can return to their country or region of origin.
The geopolitical landscape has suffered a seismic shift in the past year alone, and upcoming European elections look to continue that trend. The long and the short of the matter is that we have distanced ourselves from our European neighbours, so long as their current rulers last anyway, and thus we must move closer to our historic allies in the U.S. However, Jeremy Corbyn (perhaps out of some need for the adoration of the echo chamber of his cult of no personality) is making a frequent habit of attacking President Trump vocally, viciously and publicly. He’s joined in such attacks by other high-profile liberals, notably the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
When the Cameron government shamelessly courted the Chinese into buying out our public infrastructure, John Bercow was front and centre in welcoming Xi Jinping to address both houses of Parliament. Yet in a stunningly hypocritical fashion, which must require Olympic levels of mental gymnastics to justify, Bercow has come out against Trump addressing Parliament, and intends to block him from doing so, all the while being supported in these efforts by the leader of the Labour party. Part of the problem is the disingenuous hysteria around Trump that you’ll find in the Guardian, Mirror or indy100. But putting that aside, even a blind man can see that it’s absolutely within British interests to foster closer cooperation and trade with the U.S.A., the biggest economy in the world, which also has in common with us in language, culture and history. In fact, for anybody who considers themselves on the left, a closer relationship with Trump can only be a good thing for world peace, given his thus far successful moves towards détente with Russia. On this point, there’s no need to paint Putin as the eternal bogeyman. There are elements of his governance which we can all criticize from one angle or another, but to invoke the words of a separate J.C for a moment, “Those without sin should cast the first stone”. The domestic policies of Russia are entirely an issue for the Russian people, and continuing to burden Russia with ever worsening sanctions not only destroys diplomatic relations but is mutually harmful for both our economies. Let’s work with Trump and Putin to defeat ISIS, and in doing so we will position ourselves closer to their ears, to best influence them on any human rights issues we find significant.
We claim ownership of an island over 7000 miles away from our shores on the basis that its citizens voted in a referendum to remain British. This is no bad thing and we should continue to respect the right to self-determination. However, when those in Crimea, who are 65% Russian by ethnicity[ix], vote overwhelmingly to join the Russian state, the Western political class sees this as grounds for a proxy war in Ukraine. This is made even more bizarre by the fact Crimea was part of Russia as recently as 1954, when Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine, and now over 60 years on, it’s reasonable that its inhabitants would rather unite themselves to a superpower, rather than a failed state. Some will surely cry ‘appeasement’ to the idea that we should improve relations with Russia. To those people, I say: compromise is essential in international relations, we can’t preach to the world how they should live and operate, and it’s arrogant and pseudo-supremacist to try and push our liberal democratic model on every culture and people of the earth. That’s not to mention that Putin did little when we invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, supported French action in Mali, and imposed sanctions against their Iranian allies, yet liberals appear indignant at any suggestion that the Russians be allowed the same freedom in their international actions. That’s not to say we shouldn’t assume a strong posture, we absolutely should, which is one of the reasons this text has hitherto advocated the maintenance of Trident and the spending of 2% of GDP on defence. Working closely with our American allies, we should aim to maintain peace through strength, but this is by no means mutually exclusive with closer cooperation with Russia, with whom we should be seeking to strike trade deals, closer ties, and better relations. In short, we should make allies, not enemies, wherever possible.
Most people aren’t concerned with international relations. They want food on their table, a roof over their heads, and enough disposable income to live a good life. However, it will never be the case that Jeremy Corbyn could be elected Prime Minister on an anti-American ticket, it’s a simple truism that the U.S. is a crucial ally, and to worsen our relations in the context of Brexit would leave the UK essentially isolated. Trump’s lewd comments about women are not a hill Labour should be dying on, nor a hill they should have even assumed a positon atop in the first instance. Instead Labour should have a foreign policy that doesn’t indulge itself in 3-dimensional chess and virtue signalling, but instead sends a very clear message. Labour will be second to none in defence of the nation, second to none in rebuilding relations, and unwilling to expend British blood or treasure in foreign wars that do not concern us. In Europe, let’s form bilateral trade agreements and maintain the same standard of intelligence sharing as exists today, both of which are perfectly possible without power sharing in a technocratic bureaucracy.
The upshot of this in messaging terms is that Labour should state loud and clear that Labour will keep you safe, prioritize our own citizens, and maintain a humanitarian outlook on global affairs. Little else is necessary, and Corbyn’s famous hand-holding with the IRA and Hamas are enough to set him up for a decisive defeat in any British election.
Immigration became a taboo subject in the realm of political discourse with the dawn of the Blair Age. Conversation on the matter was shut down, and dissidents were branded racists, outcasts and forced into silence. A mixture of concern and outrage boiled up amongst those left behind by New Labour, leading to the return of two British National Party Candidates in the European Elections of 2009. Fortunately, both of those vile individuals have since lost their seats and faded into obscurity, with those voters now opting to side with the far more moderate UKIP. Nigel Farage single handedly put immigration at the centre of British politics, and his influence led to a vote to leave the European Union, within which the primary concern amongst Out voters was immigration. This had been a sleeping giant for some time, and Farage was able to awaken it. However, even now in a post-Brexit world, the issue of immigration is still taboo for many, particularly on the mainstream media. It’s rare that anyone advocating a merit-based immigration system, as opposed to no controls at all, isn’t branded a racist by a ‘Question Time’ panellist or political opponent. It’s an issue that’s particularly pernicious on university campuses and in inner cities. In the former, anyone to the right of Chairman Mao on the issue is considered Hitler’s earthly avatar, and in the latter, it’s a common occurrence to find your trip through central London punctuated with stalls of the Socialist Workers Party distributing leaflets that read along of the lines of ‘Let all refugees in now! Stop racism!’. Speaking of the SWP, Labour seems curious about its own credibility gap, meanwhile its own shadow chancellor is giving interviews to the SWP[x], whoever is running the Labour PR machine should enjoy the ‘benefit’ of instant dismissal.
The fact that the views of a tiny vocal minority are over-represented on television and online media makes people scared to air their true opinions, only taking action within the security and anonymity of the ballot box. Over 70% of the country believe immigration controls are not tough enough[xi], and this is a figure Labour leaders should be more concerned with than the number of retweets a platitude about multiculturalism can receive online.
Overwhelmingly, the country is dissatisfied with current levels of immigration. This includes Black and minority ethnic voters of all stripes, who believe the number of immigrants should be reduced, and they do so by sizeable majorities[xii].
It’s pertinent to mention that immigration is disproportionately a concern for the working classes, and many of them have fled Labour, leading UKIP to be the main challenger to Labour in a great many constituencies in the 2015 election. Although it’s proven difficult for UKIP to directly take seats from Labour, there are two problems that this bleeding of voters poses. The first is that it will lead the Labour vote in northern communities to be split with UKIP, thus allowing a Tory candidate to take a seat with as little as 30% of the vote. The second problem is that these UKIP voters distance themselves so far from Labour when they look at its middle class-centric tone that they jump ship to the Conservatives, and if that happened in large enough numbers, a Labour general election victory would be inconceivable for a generation.
We are in the process of leaving the European Union, and thus we will no longer be shackled to the free movement of labour, which has given every citizen of the EU the right to live and work in the UK. However, neither the Conservatives nor Labour have made clear the path ahead. What better opportunity then for Labour to appeal to its forgotten voters, take back the defectors and win over Conservatives, by proposing a strict points–based,Australian-style immigration system. Let’s legislate in order to ensure that only immigrants who possess the skills and resources we need have the ability to settle and work in this country. Let’s mandate that immigrants should have an excellent grasp of the English language, not just because such a skill is essential (particularly in the medical profession) but also because it will ensure universally beneficial integration. At the same time, we should make it clear that this country already has enough unskilled workers, unemployed and disabled people who are struggling to cope as it is, and it should not be incumbent on the country to take more such people in. It’s here the points-based system comes into its own: for example if there is a shortage of unskilled labour, we can adjust the requisite points for entry, and mandate that people who enter under such circumstances have jobs waiting for them. Some suggest a migration system based on merit is xenophobic, and to those people it’s worth mentioning that we’ve applied a points-based system to non-EU citizens for years, and as members of the EU we were giving preference to European migrants who were predominantly white, over Indian and African migrants. A points-based system is totally equitable and accepts people based on ability, irrespective of skin colour, creed or nationality. This is entirely in keeping with the sort of values that led to Labour’s foundation, and should remain at the forefront of any respectable left-wing movement.
There is a myth that there is something ‘left wing’ or ‘progressive’ about uncontrolled migration, or that it would be desirable to have an unlimited number of unknown individuals entering the country every year. Let’s be clear: the free movement of labour is a right–wing, neoliberal, capitalist policy, not dissimilar to the free movement of capital. It’s a symptom of an anarchical free market system that serves the elites extremely well; it drives down the price of labour for corporations, affords the middle classes cheap gardeners and nannies and perpetually rigs the job market in the employers’ favour. It’s a fundamental leftist belief that the free market is not infallible, that it requires regulation, and that this regulation should pertain not just to levels of taxation and regulation, but also to the distribution of workers.
This is not advocacy of immigration control on the basis of electoral populism, or economic philosophy, though it would indeed be popular, and it does follow philosophically, but it’s an advocacy on the grounds of basic mathematics. Plainly, the UK cannot sustain the number of immigrants coming into the country every year.
300,000 is the rough annual net migration figure to the UK per annum. Many point out rightly that a large number of these people are students, and they’re right to do so. However, whether student or worker, they still take the same toll on transport, health and social infrastructure. As a nation, we are building around half the number of houses we need every single year, at around 135,000[xiii], creating a clear deficit in housing availability. That’s not to mention that our own domestic birth rate is over 800,000 per year[xiv]. We already have a dangerous housing bubble which threatens to collapse at any moment, pulling our entire economy down with it, and it’s only exacerbated by such migrant numbers. Of course, part of this problem is that we don’t build enough houses, and issues pertaining to that were detailed in the first chapter. However, the costs of building such enormous numbers of houses, and providing the associated infrastructure, would be to say the least prohibitive, and even if it were feasible, it would not be desirable.
Aside from housing there are huge costs associated with the NHS, when people who have never contributed arrive able to take full advantage of it without question. This is one of the factors that has led to a record NHS deficit of £1.85 billion[xv]; although of course underfunding remains the direct cause of this crisis, immigration serves to aggravate it. You’ll hear from Labour politicians, and often to the thunderous applause of their echo chambers, the following platitude; “you’re more likely to see an immigrant working in the NHS than using it”. Aside from being disingenuous, since it’s entirely determined by happenstance and geography, the point they are trying to make is that because immigrants work in the NHS, we should allow an unlimited number of immigrants to enter the country, as if the former warrants the latter, which is a total non sequitur. Yes, we have a large number of migrants working in the NHS, and a good thing too, let’s keep them there, and continue to allow medical professionals into the country in line with demand. Having controlled immigration and having Indian doctors are not mutually exclusive, in actuality an equitable points-based system will incentivise and drive up the number of highly qualified migrant workers, relative to unskilled workers.
The people are crying out for a credible party to come out strongly on immigration, and if Labour did so, they would take the country by storm.
As of the time of writing the most commonly seen Labour slogan is “Working together for real change”. The problem is the party is not working together, and presents no change. The conflict within and between the constituency and parliamentary Labour parties is wreaking havoc on Labour’s public image, and as the well-known adage tells us, voters don’t vote for divided parties. However, this text will not indulge in an attempt to dissect the intricacies that have led to this point, suffice it to mention a couple of key issues.
Jeremy Corbyn will never receive the support of the current MPs, and therefore must go. The only alternative would be to begin a process of deselection across the country, a sort of Trotskyist night of the long knives, which would only leave the party’s reputation in tatters and replace experienced MPs with amateurs.
There is a divide within the parliamentary party, between those representing constituents who are socially conservative working class, and middle class social liberals. While Labour has always been a broad church that has incorporated numerous factions, the divisions now seem to be intensifying like never before. Party loyalty is at record low rates, and people are now more likely than ever to throw out of office the candidate of their forefather’s choice, and often on the basis of a single issue. This is more contentious than ever post Brexit, given some Labour MPs represent constituencies that voted overwhelmingly to remain, and others the reverse. Inevitably MPs jostle with one another to represent their diverse constituents.
The remedies are imperfect for both issues. For the first, Corbyn must go, which is easier said than done, and secondly the Labour party must support the will of the people and push for a real Brexit, that rejects freedom of movement. Neither solution is ideal, but both are necessary, not least because the majority of the country hate Corbyn, and the majority of the country voted for Brexit.
On to the second, and more important, element of the slogan. “Real Change”. The most obvious change that has taken place in the last couple of years is the transformation of the Labour party from a party of government to one that wallows in political oblivion. Change is an important message to transmit, but the kind of change needs to be clear, and Corbyn’s Labour has thus far advocated very few changes indeed. In fact, in my research for this work, I wanted to see exactly what policies Jeremy Corbyn had promoted in order to deal with them individually. However, when I tried to access Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘priorities’ on his website, it returned an error page reading “Unfortunately the page you were looking for was not found”, which is so patently ironic no explanation is needed.
Further hunting will lead you to an article in the Mirror listing several flagship policies, which range from unpopular and bizarre, like abolishing the monarchy, to leftist clichés like ‘tax the rich’ and standard Labour talking points like renationalising rail. An eager hunter will find a more exhaustive list in a Telegraph article, which is pretty damming for the Labour party PR machine when the right-wing pro-Tory paper gives more policy detail than Labour themselves do.
Eventually, one will stumble upon the ‘Jeremy for Labour’ page, detailing ten broad policy positions. A brief glance is enough to know it’s a slight rewording of Ed Miliband’s 2015 manifesto, combined with some broad meaningless jargon.
“We will build a progressive tax system so that wealth and the highest earners are fairly taxed, act against executive pay excess and shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid – FTSE 100 CEOs are now paid 183 times the wage of the average UK worker, and Britain’s wages are the most unequal in Europe. We will act to create a more equal society, boost the incomes of the poorest and close the gender pay gap.”[xvi]
Do we not already have a progressive tax system? What rate should the highest earners pay? Will you cap executive bonuses? How will you boost the incomes of the poorest? How will you close the gender pay gap?
Such questions could be the only reasonable response to reading such general non-offensive meaningless milk-and-honey talking points. Anyone who feels the media hasn’t given Corbyn’s Labour a fair shake, and has undertaken to do their own research will only be doubly disappointed when they discover that in the two years of his leadership there’s scarcely a new policy to speak of.
For those who seek out concrete information, they should be rewarded with definitive and detailed policy proposals, signed off by renowned economists, think tanks and financial organisations. Such policies should include pledges to build huge tidal power stations, taking advantage of the fact that our nation is surrounded by water, to build offshore wind farms (including specifications on how many of them, at what cost and where the money is coming from), and to build new motorways, detailing how many people such a project would employ and projecting the economic benefits it would bring to this city or that. Alas, nothing of the sort exists.
Not to harp on about political antiquity, but Harold Wilson talked of the ‘white heat of the technological revolution’. It’s not something that was ever truly delivered on, but it’s a phrase that stuck. What better time than now is there to renew the scientific and technological revolution? In the age of drones, self-driving cars, nanotechnology and interstellar rovers, the modern Labour party has very little or nothing to say about it. As a people we have the potential, and as a country we have the need, to host research and development facilities for the world’s leading technology firms, and to have factories producing technology for the modern age. Labour Shadow Ministers should be meeting with Tesla and Microsoft, putting out press releases and winning support amongst the firms of the future, letting them know Britain is open for business.
In tandem with this we need new and forward-looking training schemes. The youth vote is overwhelmingly Labour, but also the least likely to turn out. Labour councillors, MPs and its half million members (where are they?) should be knocking on every door of every council estate, meeting the unemployed, disenfranchised youth, and giving them a clear, concise piece of paper offering them a world-class training programme that Labour guarantees to introduce if it wins the election. Give these people something to aspire to, and something to vote for, outside of the Blue and Red tribal dichotomy, which means very little to most people.
Addendum – I have returned to this section to note that shortly after the time of writing, the Conservative government has unveiled so called ‘T-levels’, which promise to train youngsters in the practical and technical fields of the future. Once again, Labour has been too slow on the draw, and attempts to do so now would appear to be a derivative imitation.
Put before people a plan that they can understand and offer them a future: through training programmes, scientific advancement, industrialisation, automation, pay rises and tax breaks. Talking points must give way to the tangible.
What matters to most people when all is said and done is the food on their table, the money in their pockets and the roof over their head. Naturally, a sense of community drives many voters, but elections cannot be won through street marches in aid of the NHS. It’s an established truism that Labour will best serve the NHS, and people understand that all too well, but it cannot rely on this one-trick pony to carry it through to government.
Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime
Possibly the best thing to come out of the Blair era was the acknowledgment that the great mass of Labour voters were not ultra-liberal, as the Westminster establishment would have you believe, but are in fact deeply socially conservative. As such, it’s crucial not only for the execution of justice, but for the electability of the party that Labour are seen to come down hard on criminals, and serve justice to victims.
This should come in tandem with core Labour values about alleviating poverty, which we know to be the leading cause of crime, since the devil will find work for idle hands to do. Any attempt to crack down on crime must do so heavily and stringently on perpetrators, while simultaneously delivering a revolutionary jobs programme to put those idle hands to work. As a consequence, such people will be able to sustain a family and home, thus giving people a stake in society they would be unwilling to discard with wanton criminality.
The Tories have shamelessly cut back the numbers of police to levels last seen in 2003[xvii]. Prisons are being sold to private companies and the conditions that occur within them as a result is nothing short of disgraceful. Prison guards are striking, and criminals are forcibly taking control of their own prisons, if such a thing could be believed to be true in 21st century Britain. Not only is this a national crisis that warrants an urgent response, but it’s a political opportunity Labour has thus far made no move to exploit. It should call for, and develop, credible plans to introduce an increase in police numbers, prison reform, and higher wages for those on the frontline keeping our streets safe. Labour should be tough on crime because it’s the working class who suffer disproportionately at the hands of criminals, without the benefits of gated drives and suburbia to protect them. The Labour party has thus far failed to make political capital from any of these issues. It should go forth hand in hand with the police unions and declare that Labour will be second to none in its commitment and strength of purpose to cut down crime and clean up our prisons. Labour will serve the interests of victims, and not criminals once again. Corbyn’s irreparably damaging comments that he was ‘unhappy’ with the shoot-to-kill policy have done nothing to reduce the idea that Labour are soft on crime. The party needs to push the message night and day until it’s accepted as a truism that under Labour the streets will be safe again.
Speaking to the people
Many in the Labour party have become totally removed from the voters they serve. Famously, Emily Thornberry poured scorn on a white van man for daring to hang the English flag on his own home. She was roundly attacked by people living outside the ultra-liberal Westminster bubble, and was forced to resign from her then position as Shadow Attorney General, though since then Corbyn has secured her promotion to even greater heights.
It’s no surprise that working-class people continue to turn to UKIP in such numbers, when Labour’s North London elite mocks anyone patriotic, or traditional in outlook. The voters of Rochester and Strood, where the comments were made, had nothing in common with Emily Thornberry and the beliefs she manifests, yet she felt perfectly entitled to go there and belittle the very people whose support she should have been trying to secure. Unsurprisingly, Labour came 3rd in the constituency, losing over 10% of their vote share on the 2010 election. Seats like these are essential to take in order for Labour to have any hope of winning a general election.
Such events are symptomatic of a wider problem, which at the moment is embodied within the Labour leadership. The public watched in outrage as Jeremy Corbyn failed to sing the national anthem during a Battle of Britain commemoration. The papers made hay when Corbyn made a half-hearted bow at the cenotaph, and did so, by the way, in a tatty suit. When the Red Flag is sung, it brings a smile to activists’ faces, but confusion to the country at large.
Corbyn is known to be a republican. There is no problem with that. But he must understand that the vast majority of the country are in favour of the British monarchy, because it speaks to their patriotism, is synonymous with their British identity, and is associated with the wars from times gone by and those lost in them. Any leader of any party should sing the national anthem with gusto, and do so in the finest black suit with the boldest red tie. A refusal, or failure to engage in the traditions that venerate the nation and honour our war dead, sends a clear signal to the working class of this country that Labour is not the party for them. Indeed, many in the country view Corbyn as directly ‘anti-British’ given his close ties to IRA figures and his now infamous comments calling Hezbollah his ‘friends’.
Some will suggest that the aforementioned are merely superficial issues. In many ways, they are an issue of presentation, but the image the Labour party and its present leadership is not a secondary or tertiary concern, it should be the primary concern for any party seeking to win power. It’s all well and good having an excellent manifesto, but if no one reads it or gives it credence because they believe its authors are intrinsically unpatriotic, then the manifesto is entirely useless. Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader is essentially a job interview with the British people at large, he must win their approval in order for them to grant him power. Yet he can’t be bothered to wear a decent suit, which in the opening days of his leadership campaign was endearing and charming, but at this point marks him out as an unprepared amateur. The Labour party has a war coffer of funds at its disposal, including membership subscriptions of over 500,000 individuals, a long list of big private donors, and a great deal more cash donated by Trade Unions. Yet for all these resources, there isn’t a single advisor who can tell Corbyn not to wear black suit trousers with a blue suit jacket during Prime Ministers question time. When members of the public go for a job interview, they dress to impress, and they expect their leaders to do the same.
We need a leader of the Labour party flanked by the Union Flag, bellowing the national anthem, and embracing patriotism the same way the people do. Sadly, it appears the liberal elite feels shame and embarrassment at any suggestion of national pride.
There are people who understand this. Andy Burnham makes a particularly good example. A working-class lad who graduated from Cambridge, he returned to his home town to represent Leigh as a member of parliament, where he notably worked to secure justice for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster cover-up. From a cold reception in a speech at the Anfield football grounds in 2009, he returned after 5 tireless years of fighting for justice to a well-earned hero’s reception. He wasn’t afraid to speak about that which for so long Labour had considered taboo, namely immigration, and during his bid for the leadership in 2015 he did just that. Burnham rightly acknowledged all the good that immigration brings, from economic growth to cultural enrichment, while at the same time talking about those left behind by uncontrolled immigration. He talked of a factory worker in his constituency who sat alone during lunch times as he was the only English-speaking worker. He rightly identified that immigration had disproportionately taken a toll on Labour’s industrial and post-industrial heartlands, and since his failed campaign he has become even more vocal on this issue. Alas, for some reason he lacked a certain spark during the campaign, though that aside he spoke directly to the country, but yet it was the niche Labour party membership who had for the first time the total say on the new leader. Consequently Corbyn won. Burnham has moved out of the front line of national politics towards a campaign to be the mayor of Manchester. Let’s hope that he and his fellows plan a return in the near future.
There absolutely is a place for social liberals within the modern Labour party. The Labour party has a history of pushing through excellent liberal reforms, from Barbra Castle legislating equal pay for equal work between the genders, to the introduction of civil partnerships under Blair. Throughout its history, Labour has been at the forefront of liberal reforms that have liberated people of all stripes, and a good thing too. It’s also right that the Labour party platform deals with discrimination against transgender, gay, and black and minority ethnic individuals, but it should not do so at the expense of all else. Too often, Labour party circles have discussion dominated by issues that (while important) effect 0.01% of the population or less. The cry of ‘racist’ or ‘transphobe’ is too often an excuse to shut down freedom of speech, particularly on university campuses and by individuals associated with Labour at a student level. How can it be that lifelong gay activist Peter Tatchell, feminist icon Germaine Greer, and the left-of-Labour George Galloway have all been no-platformed or attacked on our university campuses. The attitudes that lead to such absurd action are rife among Labour party members, and less often to be seen amongst the general populace, for whom these individuals would be considered far left, not something-or-other-ophobic.
There’s a false equivalence between parties like UKIP, a liberal, isolationist organisation, on the one hand, and fascism or racism on the other, and the comparison between them is consistently pushed by groups like Momentum, the Alliance for Workers Liberty and the Socialist Workers Party, all of which are groups operating with or within the Labour party.
Here’s an excerpt from the SWP publication the ‘Socialist Worker’, which I have seen distributed by Labour party members outside meetings and talks;
“And in Stoke Central the racist UKIP party, which came second there at the last general election, wants to whip up racism to take the seat from Labour. Socialist Worker is calling for a vote for Labour in both elections. They will be seen as referendums on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour—and Corbyn could be forced to resign as leader if Labour does badly. The racist right will feel ecstatic if UKIP leader Paul Nuttall wins in Stoke. Labour has rightly attacked Nuttall for his previous statements supporting privatisation of the NHS. But Labour’s official campaign has not challenged UKIP over its racism. Labour will be most effective if it both attacks the cuts and also confronts UKIP divisive racism.”[xviii]
It’s simply not enough to shout ‘racist’ and expect to win an argument. In fact, at this point it’s no longer even a case of diminishing returns, but it’s actually backfiring, making people more inclined to vote for UKIP when their concerns about migration are met with insult by leftists. We on the left should be trying to win debates, not shut them down.
This isn’t an appeal to the SWP to change their tactics, those guys are free agents and can do as they please. But the fact that the Labour party leadership meets with them, gives them interviews and is commonly seen marching alongside them is indicative of the sort of attitudes that fester in Labour and also appears to be a soft endorsement of such views.
It’s part of a wider problem where certain social liberals are going so far in their anti-racism campaigns that they shut down free speech within the media, on university campuses, and on the streets, more often than not targeting people who were never racist in the first place. In short, these liberals have become the very illiberal people they believe they’re fighting against. Such people are fooled into believing the rest of the country is on their wavelength, buoyed up by thousands of retweets and Facebook likes, yet they do not appear to understand that their online presence is an echo chamber. The more their preaching is welcomed by the converted, the more steadfast they become in their initial beliefs.
Most people in the country are not anything close to this level of ultra-liberal, and such attitudes do not resonate with them. The great mass of people are patriotic and socially conservative, and their concern with politics extends to ensuring the system provides them with a safety net and the opportunity for employment. That doesn’t mean the country at large doesn’t have a sense of, and desire for, social justice, of course it does, but the best way to ensure it is to first establish economic justice. When Labour party figures engage in extended diatribes about intersectional feminism, which to most people of both genders means nothing, it turns the public off. Liberalism is a welcome element of the Labour coalition, but it cannot continue in such an extreme form, nor can it override concern for the economy and for jobs. Labour need to talk less about rules surrounding transgender usage of bathrooms in North Carolina, and more, much more, about jobs.
Corbyn’s position is untenable. He has had second chance upon second chance and failed to rehabilitate his image, or reform his party. His name is toxic and his leadership destructive, and for these reasons, he must go. In his place, we need a strong man or woman, who understands the patriotism that stirs within Labour’s core vote, who understands the nation’s deep social conservatism, and who is prepared to meet the electorate’s demands for homes and jobs. Perhaps an Andy Burnham, perhaps a Gisela Stewart, a Dan Jarvis, a Richard Burgeon, or someone else entirely.
Labour must overcome its misconceptions about the people’s wants by breaking free of both Westminster and its online echo chambers. The public are not shocked or angered about cuts to the benefits bill, in fact it’s a popular position[xix]. On this, let’s deliver the biggest benefits cut yet seen, and let them fall on the corporate welfare that now costs over £50 billion a year, between working tax credits and housing benefit alone. Let’s force corporations to pay a living wage, and put the working tax credit savings into a jobs programme that will mop up any collateral unemployment. Let’s build houses until prices fall and housing benefit drops to record lows. Let’s cut old-age benefits for the very richest pensioners who have no need of them, and distribute that money to the needy elderly according to their ability and means.
Over a million food parcels were distributed by food banks to hungry citizens throughout the country in 2015[xx], evidence if any more were needed that our infrastructure, welfare and employment programmes are totally failing the British people. Unfortunately, the people accessing these food banks are the least likely to turn out in a general election. Let’s take Labour’s mass membership and send it to deprived communities to knock on doors and win support from those who have never voted before. Such an effort should be supported by its hundreds of MPs, thousands of councillors and hundreds of thousands of trade union affiliated members. Labour’s war coffers are full enough to help out its members when they sacrifice their time for the party, and travel and other associated costs should be subsidised in such campaigns.
Let’s take a strong message into the heart of the country, into Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and the North that Labour will deliver British jobs for British workers. It will carry through to the agricultural areas which the Tories presume to sit upon since time immemorial and deliver a programme to get British farms working again. Let’s go into London and make clear that Labour is the party for social justice, and that begins with housing. Guarantee the construction of at least 250,000 homes every year, and provide credible plans on how it will be done, because whether you’re black, white, trans, gay, straight, male or female, your primary concern is shelter, of which there is currently a dire shortage. Let’s spark off a renaissance in 21st century manufacturing, now with the benefits of automation and renewable energy. Take to the public a message that cuts in the foreign aid budget will deliver a programme of nuclear, tidal, wind and solar energy expansion that will not just create innumerable high-paying jobs, but will have the added advantage of saving the climate. Let’s wade into the realm of the intelligentsia and say loud and clear that Labour is the party for true liberals, those who believe in rationalism, freedom of speech and tolerance. Let’s talk to those who face the prospect of a life behind bars, and deliver to them a place behind a college desk, a workbench or the wheel of a JCB.
Let us go to the people and promise them; Jobs, Homes and Health.
[i] Khan, O. (2015 May 15) Race and the 2015 General Election Part 1: Black and Minority Ethnic Voters. Retrieved from http://www.runnymedetrust.org/blog/race-and-the-2015-general-election-black-and-minority-ethnic-voters
[ii] Monegan, A. (2014, August 20) Self-employment in UK at highest level since records began. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/aug/20/self-employment-uk-highest-level
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