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Politics

Why 2013 is a Watershed Year for the Labour Party and the Country

EdM2013 will be the most important political year for a generation as what occurs in the next twelve months will determine the lie of the land for a very long time. 

If the Tories are able to force through their brutal regime of cuts, nasty legislation and remain fundamentally unchallenged, then they will be emboldened to cut faster and deeper. The Rubicon will have been well and truly crossed. 

Ironically this will be of benefit to the reactionary Progress entryist extremists in the Labour Party as they will be able to blame the Tories for wrecking the Public Sector, argue that it’s “unrealistic” to take back control, or “turn back the clock”, as voiced by Stephen Twigg at a recent meeting in Hull. He refused point blank to restore the lifeline of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for working class families. He declared that it was up to individual, devolved institutions to see if they had any spare cash. Offensive claptrap, which shows Progress does not share our Socialist collectivist values or approach to politics. 

Ed Miliband is being held hostage by Progress and he must clear his Cabinet of these backward looking dinosaurs. The private/ public partnership has been a massive failure due to the stunningly naïve belief that private capitalists would get involved in providing public services for altruistic motives. The clue is in the term; capitalist. Those who accrue wealth from exploiting the sweat and labour of others. David Sainsbury bankrolls Progress to the tune of £2.7 million whilst giving nothing to the Labour Party. That tells us all we need to know. 

The presence of this group in the Cabinet is the reason why Labour Ministers and the majority of Back Bench MP’s refuse to support the anti cuts campaigning taking place across the UK. We have three Labour MP’s here in Hull. One is actively seeking to undermine anti Tory campaigners, one is mildly sympathetic but lack the guts to engage and only one has really supported what is going on, but then hangs back when the crunch come along because (we assume) of pressure from above. On a national scale Andy Burnham has proved to be a massive let down, refusing to support what is happening at the front line here in Hull, and Ed Miliband himself was obviously leaned on to swerve an NHS Rally in Hull at the last moment, instead he went to watch City as a guest of Labour hating harasser of the disabled, Assam Allam. 

Ed Balls seems to be a major roadblock which is a bit of a surprise given his record at the Treasury where he helped Gordon Brown to oversee a massive re distribution of wealth via the tax credit system, and tied Middle Class families into the welfare system meaning that universality as principle of welfare was extended. Balls is determined that we will not at any price undertake to reverse Tory cuts, meaning that campaigns against NHS, local Government and welfare cuts are not supported by MP’s and some Councillors. So we have the ludicrous position where companies such as Seven Seas have come under heavy criticism (rightly) from Labour MP’s in Hull over their decision to leave the City, “ this is the wrong decision at the wrong time” and “we think this shows Seven Seas had no intention of staying in Hull and had made its mind up to leave before the consultations even started.” 

But when it comes to £1/4 billion in cuts facing the region, with massive job losses at Hull City Council the silence from our Labour MP’s has been deafening. 

Hull Labour MP’s have been similarly silent on local NHS cuts; only voicing opposition when it was revealed that nationally spending was down. Only one spoke out against the £99 million local cuts announced in the summer and not one has asked a question on the floor of the House about this scandal. 

Therefore it has become blindingly obvious that something has to give in the Labour Party. Why? Because when cuts are delivered with no opposition the public will blame all politicians with that oft heard lament, “They are all the same, what’s the point of voting?” And here in Hull when those families are paying Council Tax for the first time, having their bedrooms taxed and seeing their welfare payments slashed they will blame a Labour Council for letting it happen and for just rolling over. When they don’t hear Labour Cabinet Ministers and MP’s standing up for them, the temptation to turn to “closet racists and bigots” (Cameron on UKIP) or even worse the BNP will become apparent. The EDL and the such like will turn around and ask, “Where were the Labour Party when you needed them?” And that way the door is being left ajar. 

There is an obsession with putting Party unity above all else. Whilst it is true that voters don’t like disunited Parties, what they like even less is Parties that don’t appear to listen and act on the concerns facing them in everyday life. It is hard not to conclude that many MP’s and Councillors value their careers, their expenses (still a disgrace), and their seats on Committees above the needs of the people they are meant to serve. We hear day after day at street stalls from harassed NHS staff and patients the refrain, “Well, these people don’t really have a clue what our lives are really like”. I would add that in some cases (Liam Byrne) they don’t want to know. 

This inertia has to stop. There is an abundance of talent locally and nationally in the Party, but it is being strangled by a fear of speaking out and that if you do, it will be held against you forever and a day. Virtually all the Labour politicians that I speak to are decent folk and on the side of the people, but don’t vocalise it to those who matter. Tension provides rigour of argument and ultimately (sic) Progress.  

There are three things Labour need to do. 

Firstly nail this lie about the deficit. It isn’t a deficit crisis; it’s a tax and Banking problem. Tax assets and land. The rest of us have to cough up, it’s called Council Tax, and savings account tax. The deficit is wiped out with a massive £700 billion to spare. That way we can oppose the cuts and produce an alternative. 

Secondly implement real democracy in the Party. The National Policy Forum is a stupid joke played at the member’s expense. The Cabinet treat us with contempt and take not one jot of notice of our real life experiences. We must have a Special Conference where CLP members are elected to make policies, which are voted on. We can then write a Manifesto that relates to the voters, rather than the embarrassing claptrap that was produced in 2010. It was so awful that we had to write our own, and produce our own pledge cards. Danny Marten took a swing TO Labour of 25%. This set the foundation for us to come from fourth place and take Tranby in 2011. Not rocket science but sensible politics rooted in people’s everyday experiences of life. 

Thirdly let Ed Miliband lead the Party. His values are sound but he is being deliberately sabotaged by those who are “irrelevant to the needs”, and are ok with, “playing politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services”, and in the case of the NHS, with people’s lives. 

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About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.

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