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Politics

Can the Labour Party Offer Any Solutions to the Crisis of Capitalism?

NEWLRClogoA major part of the NHS is using young people under the guise of the Government “apprentice” scheme to trash terms and conditions for fellow full time adult workers. By forcing young workers to “study” for an NVQ which which they describe as “not being worth anything”, they are not obliged to pay the minimum wage. Instead these workers are renumerated at the princely rate of £2 per hour. In addition they can be called upon to come into work if there are not enough full time workers on the rota. This is meant to be be “voluntary”, but there is a clear agenda from management because, despite all this privations the young workers are not guaranteed a job. And they get to be alone, one on one with people that the managers cannot say aren’t putting these young people in danger.

Welcome to the UK 2014 style.

You can guess what came next in the conversation when I asked, “Who can put this right?” “I don’t know, its just the way it is” The Labour Party? Eloquent and with interesting opinions on a variety of issues, this worker looked askance at me. I may as well have said the People’s Front of Badger Protecting Nebraskans for Free Sherbet Fountains.

Another worker, aged 21 and on for a first class degree. (Debt currently £28,750). Working to try a keep it together and made to ignore basic health and safety on a routine basis. “Ed Miliband… Hmmm. Not sure. Lib Dem? Clegg, oh I know this one. Tory. I won’t vote because I don’t know enough about it and might get it wrong”.

None of this is the fault of our young people. They know what they are going through is wrong, but they have no means to fight back because politics is so completely and utterly irrelevant. It beggars belief and is the fault of the political class and those of us (guilty) who facilitate them. This shocking state of affairs must end, and end now.

Yes, I agree X, Y, and Z are decent human beings and are MPs/ Councillors for the right reasons. But it’s not about that any more. When I look around my B/CLP/ Union/ Campaign Group meetings I see committed and genuine people and that phrase from a century ago springs to mind. Lions led by donkeys.

For 29 years I have argued that the only way to affect lasting change has been through the Labour Party. Campaigning and agitating for bottom up pressure, the sort of pressure that delivered a Labour Government elected by a landslide on a socialist programme in 1945. That built the NHS, that ingrained collectivism so far into the psyche of the British people that even the Tories had to accept it. Norman Tebbit warned Thatcher of the dangers of messing with the NHS due to the, “love the British people have for it. I am a strong NHS supporter, the only member of my family to get private sector medicine is the dog.”

But the voices of the members, the activists, the local councillors and even perhaps the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party has been reduced to a background hum. Ed Miliband was elected leader because the Party wanted traditional Labour values restored, and a Front Bench that reflected the needs and aspirations of the everyday silent majority across the UK. But the cancer of Progress (sic) and the Blairites has become so deep rooted that even Miliband’s speech to Conference in 2013 where he set out his vision met with a resounding “meh!” from his Cabinet colleagues. Where was energy secretary Caroline Flint regarding the price freeze policy. No where because as David Miliband’s Yorkshire campaign manager during the leadership race, she along with many Cabinet colleagues wants Ed Miliband to fail and for Labour to lose the next election. That way the union link can be broken and the political class can be even more unaccountable and we get the privilege of paying for it via central Party funding.

Back in the New Year there were some straight choices facing the Labour Party at local and a national level.

Was the Party going to accept the deficit lie and as a result the politically and ideologically motived attacks on working people? Was the Party going to unveil a programme for Government which grass roots activists could get stuck into, or was the Labour Party going to vacillate with Ed Miliband being stymied by Progress (sic)? Locally how would the Labour Group’s respond to the savage cuts being foisted on Local Authorities? What leadership would MPs show to fight back or would they trot out the old chestnut, “not our problem guv, I’m not a councillor?”

Ed Balls has accepted the deficit lie and called on Cabinet to come up with “zero spending” ideas for Labour to campaign on in 2015. “We can expect to inherit plans for further deep cuts to departmental budgets at a time when the deficit will still be large and the national debt rising.” (December 2013). Tosh. £375 BILLION has been pumped into the economy by the Bank of England and sits, moribund, in pension and hedge funds plus insurance companies and Banks. This is explained by the BBC, not the SWP in case you were wondering. Then we have mass tax evasion plus the scandal of zero taxation on land (the rest of us pay it, its called Council Tax) so the money is there. But because New Labour got so close to big business and fell in love with money, (“I am intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, said Peter Mandleson) they are never going to challenge the status quo. They have too much to lose.

If the deficit lie morphs into truth in the minds of the Labour leadership, then as surely as night follows day they will offer only token resistance to the cuts. It just becomes a case of re arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Take the Bedroom Tax. This exemplifies the basic nastiness and cruelty of the Tory Party. Yet when the National March protests were organised by the Hull LRC and Labour Left, MP’s were only instructed at the last minute to attend. It took SIX MONTHS for the Cabinet to decide they didn’t like the Tax and would repeal it if elected. One MP even told a public meeting that, “we are stuck with it” during the summer.

The Labour Group in the Guildhall have accepted what the Tories want for local government. They had the chance to mobilise a mass campaigning strategy in the run up to the Budget in February. They could have joined with the Unions and community groups to organise events on the streets as a twin track approach to complement their defiance in the Guildhall. They could have sent a clear and unequivocal message to the people that Labour was the Party that stands up for working people. Showing such leadership could have galvinised campaigning all over the North, as Labour councils could have forced a weak coalition Government to the table. Thatcher had a huge majority in 1984, and that year her environment secretary was forced to write Liverpool City Council a cheque for £35 million.

Three councillors went with their values and moral conscience and voted against cuts, not matter how “compassionate”, (a Labour councillor actually said that) they were. We must continue to rally around their example. But the prospect of loss of allowances and kudos proved too much for many, and the Kangaroo Court surrounding the suspension of the whip from the three, was clearly done to intimidate.

Despite this there are Labour councillors who are moving towards a position of fighting back. But this won’t mean anything unless the cabinet members decide that enough is enough, and mobilise to stand up to the Government.

Responding to the fact that 25% of Hull City Council’s budget is to be axed the following was said by a Cabinet member, “ It’s just tragic, far worse than anything we experienced in Margaret Thatcher’s period. It’s unprecedented. You’re talking about a dramatic reduction. As a rule, we will be doing 25 per cent less of everything.” A sound and honest analysis from a Labour perspective.

But…… “Everything is up for grabs. I don’t think there’s anything that’s protected. We’re having to look at everything from children’s services to leisure and library services…. there will be reductions in jobs.”

No mention of a fight back or opposition. Just acceptance.

Where Labour councillors or candidates follow this line, would it be anti democratic for them not to face opposition at the ballot box? Would it be right for the voters to be presented with no choice to cuts?

Would it be right to only stand against such candidates, and campaign for Labour people who are anti cuts?

Vital questions which demand a debate and discussion.

As someone said, “We can’t go on like this”.

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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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