Category Archives: Labour Party

Last week in Parliament the Labour Party was united in attacking the latest Tory attack on the NHS. The mechanisms of the attack are technical-sounding Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). In reality these are Secret Tory Plans to decimate the NHS and Labour is determined to fight them.

There is no dispute in Labour about the importance of the NHS, which remains the most cherished in the country. Labour established the NHS. It needs defending from this Tory Government like never before.

STPs are primarily financial mechanisms to impose cuts, “control totals” in the Tory jargon. STPs will bring together trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). In part this is an unavoidable repair to the damage caused by Andrew Lansley’s own Health and Social Care Act, which all the Tories supported. But the new STPs will inherit the debts of all the trusts and groups. Typically these run into hundreds of millions of pounds. In a few STPs the projected debts are more than £1bn and for Greater Manchester STP the deficit is expected to be £2bn by the end of this Parliament.

STPs have to close these deficits with cuts. Except for a few leaks the plans themselves remain secret, without publication or consultation or evidence, but the consequences of the plans have already become apparent with announcements of the closure of key departments and hospitals throughout the country.

The plans are based on expectations that veer from the ridiculous to the scandalous. We are told a mobile phone app will reduce the growing demands on the NHS caused by obesity. The most vulnerable and elderly are expected to use Skype in doctor consultations, risking humiliation and misdiagnosis. In the case of one plan in north west London which has been leaked, there will be fewer acute beds in six years’ time than now despite a projected increase in population and its ageing.

The NHS is a universal service and can only survive if it stays that way. But we know that the poorest, the most vulnerable and the elderly are the biggest users of the NHS.  They are the least likely to have smartphones or Skype access, or be comfortable with using them. They are going to be the biggest losers from the latest Tory reorganisation of the NHS. Everyone will lose in terms of waiting times and access.

As shadow Secretary for State, I led the assault on these hugely damaging plans in parliament. Campaigners such as 38 Degrees and Open Democracy are raising public awareness and making life uncomfortable for Tory backbenchers. Colleagues from all wings of the party were united in flaying the Tories for the effects of these ferocious Tory cuts.

This is only the beginning of this battle. Public anger about the closures of beds, units, departments and whole hospitals throughout the country will only rise. A united Labour Party will stand up for them and stand against Tory plans to decimate the NHS.

Tagged | 2 Comments

I would like to see a Leader of the Labour Party who can deliver the vision for a fairer more just society articulated by Jeremy Corbyn – achieved through a kinder more honest form of politics.

The aims and values of the Party are clear in the rules1. The party is a democratic socialist party, committed to change through democratic means not through revolution or mass action2. All members should support the aims of the party and obey the rules including to accept and conform to the constitution, programme, principles and policy of the Party.

The role of Party Leader is difficult and can only realistically be delivered through a team. So the first requirement for a Leader is the ability to build and lead such a team. The Leadership team has to be seen as supportive of the Party as a whole not just the Leader.

The key role for the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is specifically emphasised in the rules3. The Leader has to command the respect of the PLP and support them in their roles – as front bench or backbench MPs and Lords (whilst we have them).

The Party is more than just its members and true to its history the Party retains important roles for Trade Unions. The Leader has a key role in managing this difficult but necessary dynamic. The party also has elected representatives outside Westminster and respect and support for councillors should be another vital goal.

The Leader and Leadership team do not make policy. The Leader does however set the direction and must be clear about the aims and principles behind any policies. The work of policy development is set out in the rules4 and relies upon the National Policy Forum (NPF) and Party Conference. The Leader should act to deter any temptations for ad hoc policy making by the Leader, the Leadership team or Shadow Cabinet Members. The Leader should oversee policy development and adapt the processes be effective when in opposition.

The Party can only implement policies if it wins sufficient electoral support. The Leader has to help balance the tension between radical progressive policies and a platform that will have enough electoral support. And balance long term objectives against a short term programme for changes.

Radical and progressive policies currently may not have sufficient support amongst electors. The Leader has to ensure that a radical programme can be credible and easily comprehended by electors. A single overall view, simple messages, relentless communication through many channels.

Many electors are influenced in part by their perception of the Party and the Party Leader as much as by policies and manifestos. The Leader has to be credible with electors as a potential Prime Minister.

Finally, to make all of this possible requires party structures and party staff, in Westminster as well as in the rest of the Country. The Leader has to ensure that the party staff have the huge range of skills and capabilities required and they are supported and valued.

To do all these things is difficult and the party, under various leaders, has been dysfunctional for some years, unable to articulate clearly policies that the electors will vote for or to look like a potential government.

So I will vote in any leadership election for the person I think can best heal the divide in the party and build a team that will win elections with policies that allow Labour in government to progress its aims and values.

1 Labour Party Rules 2016.

2 Rules Chapter 1 Clause IV Para 1

3 Rules Chapter 1 Clause I Para 2

4 Rules Chapter 1 Clause 5

Tagged , | Leave a comment

An election for the Leadership of the Labour Party has been formally triggered. The National Executive Committee has met and agreed the procedures and timetable for the selection and these are set out below.

Procedural Guidelines

1. The election of the Leader will be held under the constitutional rules as detailed in Chapter 4 of the Labour Party Rule Book, ‘Election of a leader and deputy leader’.

2. The National Executive Committee (NEC) has constitutional responsibility to ensure that procedures, including the length of any contest, are laid down in advance of any such contest and that these procedures are adhered to throughout the campaign. These general procedures are set out below. In addition, there shall be a Code of Conduct, including any spending cap, for Candidates. The General Secretary will issue a Code of Conduct, or ‘Purdah rules’, for all Labour Party Staff.


3. There shall be a Procedures Committee to oversee the election process. The Procedures Committee will comprise of:

General Secretary (Returning Officer)

NEC Officers (Ann Black, Keith Birch, Diana Holland, Jim Kennedy, Paddy Lillis, Ellie Reeves, Mary Turner, Tom Watson)

Margaret Beckett MP

Glenis Willmott MEP

4. The election will commence the day that the National Executive Committee agrees with the publication of notice of election.

5. The Labour Party will supply to all eligible electors a candidates’ statement booklet along with a postal ballot paper at no additional cost to candidates. Candidates will need to provide a photo and a statement up to the 

maximum of 250 words. The distribution of the booklet and postal vote packs may be by electronic or print versions.

6. The national party will arrange a series of hustings which all candidates are expected to attend.


7. Nomination papers will be provided for all Members of Parliament (Westminster and European). The closing date of PLP and EPLP nominations is set out in the timetable. Nomination papers may be received by hand or signed and scanned back to the Returning Officer before the deadline. In exceptional circumstances, and at the discretion of and with verification by the General Secretary, nominations from members of the Commons PLP and the EPLP will be accepted in a format other than the official nomination paper.

8. Individual members of the Commons PLP may nominate themselves or one other member of the Commons PLP for the position of Leader.

9. Nominees who achieve 20 per cent (51 nominations) support of the combined Commons members (currently 231) of the PLP and members of the EPLP (currently 20) will be declared validly nominated and go through to the One Person One Vote (OPOV) ballot of the contested position.

10. All nominations must be received by the General Secretary of the Labour Party by the time and date detailed in the timetable.

11. Valid nominees must formally accept their nominations, once declared by the Procedures Committee, in writing to the General Secretary by noon on the day following the close of the nomination process.

12. All aspiring candidates or their agents must attend the compulsory PPERA briefing organised by the Labour Party. The General Secretary will invalidate any candidate(s) who fails to attend the PPERA briefing.

13. All nominations will remain valid once submitted unless the nominated candidate fails to meet their obligations set out above or has withdrawn in writing to the General Secretary. MPs and MEPs who nominated a candidate who withdraws or is disqualified will be entitled to submit a further nomination prior to the deadline. Nomination forms will be re-issued to affected MPs and MEPs. If at the close of nominations there is only one validly nominated candidate s/he will be declared elected.

14. Nominations (including the names of individual MPs and MEPs) will be recorded and published daily on the Labour Party website.


15. Supporting nomination papers will be sent out to all eligible stakeholders. Only supporting nominations received on the official form, signed by the appropriate authority (CLP Secretary/TU General Secretary/Responsible Officer in Socialist Societies) will be accepted.

16. Each fully paid up affiliate (trade union, socialist society, etc.) may submit one supporting nomination for the position of Leader.

17. Each CLP may submit one supporting nomination for the position of Leader. CLP Supporting Nomination meetings shall be open only to those eligible members who are entitled to vote in the leadership election. All members shall face a membership verification check at the door. No registered or affiliated supporters may attend CLP nomination meetings unless they are also an eligible member.

18. All supporting nominations must be received by the General Secretary of the Labour Party by the time and date detailed in the timetable.

19. Supporting nominations will be recorded and published on the Labour Party website daily.


20. Labour Party members on the national membership system and not lapsed from membership at the date set on the timetable will be eligible to vote. Affiliated supporters and Registered Supporters, as defined by the NEC, who have been registered with the Labour Party at the date set on the timetable will be eligible to vote.

21. CLPs have the opportunity to check on-line through Members Centre the membership in their constituency for those that are in arrears.

22. No abuse of any kind by members or supporters shall be tolerated. All eligible members and supporters must conduct themselves in a calm and polite manner and be respectful to each other at all times. Behaviour including, but not limited to, racist, abusive or foul language, abuse against women, homophobia or anti-Semitism at meetings, on social media or in any other context will be dealt with according to the rules and procedures of the Labour Party.

23. Any disputes as to the eligibility of individual members must be raised by the date set on the timetable. The NEC have designated the Executive Director of Governance to rule on eligibility of individual members and his/her decision will be final.


24. The National Executive Committee has appointed an independent organisation, ERS, to conduct the One Person One Vote (OPOV) ballot.

25. The party will conduct a ballot of all eligible electors for the contested position using the OPOV process, single round preferential voting system. This ballot will take place by post and secure electronic voting. Details will be contained in the voting package or voting email. Details will be sent to the address or electronic address registered on the National Membership System. During the actual ballot ERS will provide a helpline should an individual member have a problem.

26. Ballot papers for Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament will be sent to the address registered on the National Membership System unless otherwise indicated to the General Secretary.

The voting package sent to all members will consist of (or the electronic equivalent):

Covering letter

Ballot paper

Return envelope

Candidates’ statements and lists of nominations and supporting nominations

27. The procedure for preference voting in the ballot is shown below.

28. All validly nominated candidates must supply a photo and a statement of a maximum of 250 words to the party. This will be included in the booklet of candidates’ statements and details of nominations received which will be sent out to members. The statement must not exceed the stated word allowance.

29. Contact details for up to five channels may be supplied in addition to the 250 words.

30. The last date for reissuing ballots that have been lost or not received will be set out in the timetable.


31. Will be by counting of preferential votes.

32. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote in the first round, the result will be recalculated eliminating the candidate with the lowest number of votes and redistributing those votes according to expressed preferences until one candidate exceeds the 50 per cent threshold.

33. The result will not be published prior to its formal declaration.


34. All normal party meetings at CLP and branch level shall be suspended until the completion of the leadership election. The only meetings which shall be organised while this timetable is in place are:

  • Meetings solely for the purpose of making a supporting nomination
  • Campaign planning meetings for by-elections or devolved mayors
  • Any meeting agreed with the explicit permission of the Regional Director (General Secretary)


35. Qualifications

  • Must be over 18
  • Must be on the Electoral Register with a valid polling number
  • Must supply a valid email address, home address and date of birth, and able to pay fee online.
  • In all other respects must meet the qualification criteria of membership of the Labour Party.
  • Pay a fee of £25.
  • Must be validly registered by the date shown on the timetable.
  • Must agree the following Data Protection Statement.
    1. By supplying personal data to register as a supporter you agree that the Labour Party, elected representatives of the Labour Party, and any candidates in internal Labour Party elections in which you are entitled to participate may contact you using any of the data supplied.
    2. By entering your email address and/or phone number you agree to receive communications from us, from which you can opt-out using the unsubscribe link in each email we send. Text messages can be opted out at any time using the appropriate stop message.
    3. We will not share your details with anyone outside the Party.


36. Affiliated supporters already on the party’s membership system will be eligible to vote, subject to affiliates reconfirming their eligibility and that:

  • They remain a member of the trade union or socialist society (and pay the political levy where appropriate).
  • They remain on the electoral register at the address provided.
  • In all other respects must meet the qualification criteria of membership of the Labour Party.

37. Affiliates will have until the date on the timetable to reconfirm these details for existing affiliate supporters.

38. New affiliate supporters may be recruited within the deadline set out in the timetable.

Timetable and Freeze Date

The Special Conference at end of the Collins Review concluded that all selection timetables should be, once started, as short as possible. The Collins Report also states: “The NEC should agree the detailed procedures for leadership elections including issues regarding registration, fees and freeze dates.” The Party requires members to hold six months’ continuous party membership on the freeze date to be eligible to take part in a selection.



Tues 12 Jan

Join the Labour Party on or before this date to vote in the leadership election.

Tues 12 July

Timetable agreed. Freeze date for membership eligibility

Thurs 14 July

Timetable published

Mon 18 July

EPLP and PLP briefing, followed by EPLP and PLP hustings

Mon 18 July

Registered supporters applications open

Mon 18 July: 7pm

EPLP and PLP nominations open

Wed 20 July: 5pm

EPLP and PLP Nominations close and supporting nominations open

Wed 20 July: 5pm

Last date to join as registered supporter

Thurs 21 July: Noon

Deadline for validly nominated candidates to consent to nomination

Fri 22 July

Hustings period opens

Mon 8 Aug: Noon

Final date for membership arrears to be paid in full.

Mon 8 Aug: Noon

Final date for new and updated affiliated supporter lists to be received

Mon 15 Aug: Noon

Supporting nominations close

w/c Mon 22 Aug

Ballot mailing despatched

Wed 14 Sept: Noon

Last date for electronic ballot reissues

Fri 16 Sept

Hustings period closes

Wed 21 Sept: Noon

Ballot closes

Sat 24 Sept

Special conference to announce result

Tagged | Leave a comment


For all I know, the Social Democratic Party (“SDP”), which was founded on 26 March 1981, never actually formally died. The SDP was founded on 26 March 1981 by four senior Labour Party ‘moderates’, dubbed the ‘Gang of Four’. The four left the Labour Party as a result of the January 1981 Wembley conference which committed the party to unilateral nuclear disarmament and withdrawal from the European Economic Community. They also believed that Labour had become too left-wing, and had been infiltrated at constituency party level by Trotskyist factions whose views and behaviour they considered to be at odds with the Parliamentary Labour Party and Labour voters.

Last week, 172 Labour MPs voted ‘no confidence’ in the leadership of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP. I’ve voted Labour all my life. In fact, my 42nd birthday was on June 18th 2016, four days before what would have been Jo Cox’s. I was devastated at Jo’s murder. It was a reminder how brilliantly MPs work for their constituents in such a devoted way, not seeking media publicity, but driven so strongly by values such as social justice.

I’ve been fortunate to attend the Labour Party conference on-and-off since 2010. I’ve had good memories of the event too. I remember once asking Jim Naughtie about how once he accidentally had used the C word in introducing the current Secretary of State for health on the Today Programme. Even to this day, I am intensely proud to be a low-down-in-the-foodchain member of Labour. A few years ago, I met Grahame Morris MP, MP for Easington, for the first time. A wonderful man, clearly a devoted constituency MP, and also who served meticulously on the Health Select Committee.

I use this background to front load how let down I have felt by the behaviour of a ‘gang of 172’ Labour MPs. I am not a “Trot”, nor a member or activist within “Momentum”. I am ambivalent about Momentum. I can see the merits of a grassroots ‘organising’ movement within Labour, but I happen not to be part of it. I am not counting the number of Momentum posters at Jeremy Corbyn rallies. I understand Paul Mason’s argument that some people who feel politically motivated encourage friends to pop along if they happen to be around, such is the depth of feeling. And, after all, we wanted people to become politically engaged didn’t we? I remember going to meetings in the fringe of the  Fabian Society talking about “lost voters”, at roughly the same era the Fabians were looking into “Southern Discomfort” And of course, this Southern Discomfort soon became Scottish Discomfort, and North East Discomfort, and so on.

I was once given some advice by John Prescott, which turned out to be very good. In that same year, his son David Prescott helped me across the street in Manchester, as he recognised me, and saw I was physically having difficulty. That is either manners, or solidarity, as three years’ previously I had come out of a coma due to meningitis. It’s why I fundamentally believe that anything can happen to anyone at any time. It’s why I think the welfare state is important – not an albatross round the taxpayers’ neck, but an essential lifeline for some. I am physically disabled, and remember when my DLA was taken away for no reason overnight. I understand why some of my disabled Comrades committed suicide, allegedly, under the pressure of it all.

There is an argument that austerity is a political choice, not an economic one. To give you an example, Stephen Dorrell, previous Secretary of State for Health under a previous Conservative administration, felt that the ‘Nicholson efficiency savings’, first proposed by McKinseys, would be unprecedented. And we have seen the pressure of these savings in the context of budgets negotiating, for example, private finance initiative loan repayments. Jeremy Hunt has never implemented the NICE safe staffing guidance, and some hospitals are able to hide behind a cloak of lack of transparency in freedom of information ‘for commercial reasons’.

There’s some of us, who are not Trots, or ‘Momentum activists’, but who are Labour voters, and are not particularly happy the way things went in New Labour. New Labour ‘successes’ are substantial in number, such as the introduction of the national minimum wage, introduction of human rights legislation to harmonise us with Europe, drastic improvement in performance of the NHS early on, to name but a few. But clearly Tony Blair, whom I respect, may have become dazzled with personal ambition to become EU president in 2008, and helped to introduce a raft of legislation such as the NHS Act and Public Contracts Regulations, and so on, which helped shore up the notion of economic competitive entities and a free market in the NHS. The late great Tony Benn used to warn that once such legislation was laid down in parliament it was subsequently hard to get rid of it. And also he used to warn that if you really want neoliberal policies to be introduced with relative ease in parliament it’s a good idea to get a Labour government to do it.

Tony Benn’s argument was that he became disillusioned with government once he realised that government was about doing things more efficiently rather than fundamentally doing it better. And of course Tony Benn was involved in not an inconsiderable number of policy disasters himself, such as the wages policy of the Callaghan government. But even Tony Benn had his moments.

Believe me, I am not a Trot when I say that the work of Barbara Castle on equality, which predates our membership of the EU, was brilliant. Or that I agree that the money potentially we could get in tackling tax avoidance and evasion, which arguably Dame Margaret Hodge has not been that successful at, could help to fund parts of our infrastructure rather than help to subsidise tax cuts for the high income or corporations? Or that the ambition to build social housing, rather than see the State organise a small supply of ‘affordable housing’ to flog off to the private sector, to solve a housing crisis, is much needed.

These for me are not particularly ‘left wing’ policies. I never felt that Heidi Alexander made much headway as Secretary of State for health in clarifying clearly policy on the NHS ‘free at the point of use’ – in other words no clear policy on the use of PFI, the argument against alternative funding apart from general taxation (e.g. copayments). I never felt Alexander was particularly vocal about insisting on the NHS being funded on a more solid footing, but the argument against this is that this is a Treasury matter. I felt there was some populist posturing, which did not, expectedly, include the picket line, but I don’t wish to go down this route. So when she resigned I was not devastated.

I continue to adore the work of Andy Burnham on the other hand. I am not air brushing Mid Staffs out, to which I felt New Labour’s target driven culture, market ideology, and the rush for Foundation Trust status may have contributed. I am confused about the privatisation of NHS Logistics. But the introduction of the NHS Preferred Provider policy, whilst a big no no for me in simply tinkering with a market philosophy I don’t agree with, was at least part mitigation against a free for all liberalisation of the market which was subsequently to come with bells on with section 75 Health and Social Care Act 2012. But social care continued to suffer, as it had done in the 1990s, under New Labour. Privatisation was clearly not the answer – and if it had been the solution, what had originally been the problem? Above, whole person care, as advanced for the UK, in my professional view, was the right policy in the right place at the right time.

I must part company with the recent commentary from Westminster lobby journalists about the ‘wilting’ of Jeremy Corbyn. I think, for a start, when a seleb journalist chucks the boot into Jeremy Corbyn, rather than it being a “deal breaker” it becomes a “badge of honour”. I think Jeremy Corbyn’s mis-speak when he says “I have a mandate”, a worse version of the “I have a dream” of the charismatic leader Dr Martin Luther King, was a vague attempt by Corbyn to establish himself as a leader. But of course some people are as fed up with the perception of Jeremy Corbyn’s followership as a personality cult, not a social movement, in the same way some of us look at the followership of Tony Blair at Progress with an equal sense of bafflement.

But the ‘wilting of Jeremy Corbyn’, a framing of the problem by Westminster journalists, is as unclear as the general criticism of Corbyn. There is a strong consensus that Corbyn’s leadership and teamwork skills could be much improved, along with overall strategic direction. The communications, including the famous ‘Seumas, I don’t think this is a good idea”, could be better. But many people like me buy into the vision of , say, tackling social housing problems, and so on.

And take last week for example. The argument from the Conservatives was that the UK economy is doing well post Brexit. As a result of Labour MPs being whipped to tour the TV studios and to cry on camera at their disgust of Jeremy Corbyn, nobody put up the ‘in the alternative’ argument. And that was Sterling was at a 31 year low, and that £ had been artificially sustained due to massive recapitalisation from the Bank of England. This, reasonably foreseeable, had shoved up temporarily the national debt, which meant of course there was no way on earth that the Conservative Party could meet their fiscal surplus economic rule. So – surprise surprise – Osborne scrapped this rule.

For all the sense of bereavement about the EU membership, blame laid at the foot of Jeremy Corbyn, more % wise voted remain in Labour than in the Conservatives,  and possible future Conservative leader to be, Theresa May, campaigned for remain with equal magnificence an Jeremy Corbyn arguably. And there is a concern, unaddressed by the #Labour172 resignations, of immigration – repeatedly said to be a “good thing” by Corbyn – lead to a perception of insecurity amongst some Labour voters. It’s notable how so many Labour areas voted in favour of Brexit, including Dame Margaret Hodge’s constituency of Barking and Dagenham. The implementation of Brexit, in terms of the demands of free movement of people and the single market, may address this in part, but if the Conservatives and  Labour effectively adopt the positioning of not opposing the result of the EU referendum not opposing a drastic limit to immigration could become legitimised for short-term political gain.

These are problems which a future Labour Party, whoever leads it, must face. The economic benefits of EU membership were made, but to give Corbyn credit Labour unlike the Conservatives had made a case for social merits of immigration too. The starting point must be surely that, particularly if Gove and May don’t want a ‘snap election’, the Fixed Terms Parliament Act must play out such that there’s an general election on the first thursday of May 2020. It will suit the Conservatives to have this national election then as the full boundary changes will have been implemented to their benefit.

So there was no hurry to register the ‘Angela for Leader’ or ‘Saving Labour’ websites, arguably, in fact. Or no hurry to ring around to activate a coup which had been planned for months. A party, had it been big on the socialist principles of planning and solidarity, might have changed gear from carping and demoralising to one of improving massively teamwork and leadership of the Corbyn organisation. The argument that the Corbyn office is impossible to work with is totally negated by the continuous plotting and criticism since day one, even with resignations of Labour MPs who had not even been invited to serve in the shadow cabinet.

No – apart from some names which spring to mind, I’m pretty disgusted by the current bunch of Labour MPs, but the membership historically is more important than the MPs in parliament. It’s a given that MPs represent all the constituents, but it’s also a given that the party is supposed to represent in parliament the working class needs of society, as explained here by Prof Geoffrey Alderman.

We in the membership feel as if it’s our party – so please forgive us if we cry if we want to.





In one of many recent TV interviews, Alastair Campbell claimed that he didn’t know the current scene well enough to nominate the next Labour leader. The problem is that Alastair Campbell has been touring the TV studios like an arsonist, determined to pour petrol on the flames of an already badly out of control fire. The irony is that Campbell often argues on not confusing tactics with strategy. The putsch is high on tactics: e.g. “The staggered series of resignations, leaks, letters, and carefully calibrated statements, ensured that there was such a crescendo of chaos and condemnation that any other leader would be gone by now.” But the strategy is non-existent – what would a stalking horse like to followthrough to government which would address concerns such as austerity, housing or immigration? And who even would the preferred successor to Corbyn be strategically, and why?

Jeremy Corbyn turned up an hour late for his rally in SOAS, part of the University of London. Corbyn was determined to emphasise that it was not, as such, “his” mission. Presumably this comment was to address the quite common belief that the social movement is essentially a personality cult, a notion exacerbated by answers such as ‘I have a mandate’. The irony is of course that many people talk of Tony Blair in glowing terms akin to a personality cult, at worst religion. One word, in the war of words, rapidly takes the momentum out of attacks on “Corbynism” – relating to a report about to be published next Wednesday – Chilcot. Corbyn is highly principled, but given the state of the current parliamentary party is not a ‘unity candidate’. But it’s a miracle he’s still hanging on by his fingernails onto the edge of the proverbial cliff – and, unlike many members of his parliamentary party who do not view being MP with the same genuineness as Jo Cox, Corbyn does not view this “as a game”. The good news for Corbyn is that there is NO unity candidate. And having waited this long to ‘get their party back’, it’s unlikely Corbyn and his inner circle are going to let go without a fight.

Interestingly, Corbyn made reference to the privilege of being educated in such institutions as SOAS. The identity of education as a right or luxury in English culture is an interesting one. Increasingly, identity has been much of a focus in contemporary debate. For example, does “your” opinion of whether you should be “in” Europe depend on your identity of being Scottish or English, assuming that the identity of Europe is the same whether you’re English or Scottish. The name “Labour” will be assumed by whichever faction ‘wins’ the Labour Leadership debate, whether that is in the hands of a mainly socialist or mainly social democrat function.

But some identity is clearly in a bit of a confusion. For all the talk of Tony Blair being a ‘strong leader’, mistakes arguably were made in international foreign policy, for example in Iraq. And the motives for taking particular decisions remain open to speculation, if only bordering on conspiracy. Around 2008, it became a widely reported aspiration that Blair might become EU president. It is hypothesised that harmonising the NHS with EU competition and procurement law was a good way for Blair to be ‘reforming public services’ and getting into the good books of Europe. And this should have been seen, perhaps, in the context of a wide adoption of competition by Alan Milburn in the birth of policy of NHS Foundation Trusts. This was a brave new world where Darwinian survival of the fittest govern which Trusts financially fail. The legacy of this is of course a vast number of Trusts being in deficit, with PFI loan repayments an exacerbating factor. PFI was turbo-boosted under Blair as soon as he came into office or power. Such decisions have, for all their advantages, brought the NHS to its knees now – and all due to ‘strong leadership’.

The caricature of Corbyn as an osteoporotic Billy-no-mates stuck in the 1970s is a convenient one, with the arguments that he is not leading on anything.  Admittedly, Corbyn does not have the same dynastic powerhouse support structures of the Kinnock or Benn dynasties. But he clearly has been leading on various attacks on environmental misfeasance, the lack of social housing, tax avoidance and evasion, abuse of zero hour contracts, enhancing workers’ rights, and, of course, the attack on austerity. Corbyn presents this all as insurgency, which gives the project energy – but what Corbyn is talking about in fact is not hugely “radical”. In this media soundbite age, Corbyn miscalculated when he opined about Europe as 7 or 7.5 out of 10 in such a reductionist and ineffective way. Corbyn, I assume, like Cameron, Corbyn expected the country to vote #remain comfortably. It is up to the public to come to their own opinions, like a buyer making appropriate investigations in buying a car (hence the term ‘caveat emptor‘).  That someone didn’t buy a car could be that the salesman was insufficiently convincing. Or could be that the defects in a competing car were not unearthed. It does not help if the competing salesman is telling a barrage of lies, but as such he is not actually responsible. The accusation  is that Corbyn couldn’t be arsed to mobilise many  Labour members to vote  #remain, but whatever this particular criticism he managed somehow to mobilise about 20% more members than David Cameron for his party. Turning threats into opportunities, or weaknesses into threats, as indeed any good strategic analysis should do, one of the fundamental questions for Labour must be to consider how to attract pro-Brexit voters back into the Labour fold.

And so the criticism is that Jeremy Corbyn did not fully immerse himself into a campaign which was by everyone’s admission “ugly” and “unpleasant”. More concerning is that pro-EU lines were redacted from the script, but if Corbyn is as Eurosceptic as we are meant to believe it is quite generous Labour was allowed to have a pro-EU opinion at all. One could argue, for example, that if the Labour heartlands were predominantly unpersuaded by the value of European immigration, low hanging fruit would have been for Corbyn to campaign actively in a dog whistle manner “to combat immigration”. This, whilst more in touch with the views of Labour grassroots voters, would be opposed to official Labour policy.


That of course is entirely discordant with his views evidenced by the fact that in his original leadership hustings Corbyn went out of his way to promote the benefits of migration. For all the huffing and puffing of Dame Margaret Hodge, it is an open secret that many residents in Barking and Dagenham feel there has been too much immigration – and Hodge has as much responsibility for inefficacy in correcting this in her own constituency as Corbyn does for the national picture. As the coup plotters well know, the EU referendum was never actually a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn.

But what overall is driving the talented Jeremy Corbyn? Seeing education as a human right would be in keeping with Corbyn’s general demeanour of everyone having fundamental rights. If disaffected Labour MPs were not spending so much time in TV studios, slagging off Corbyn, they could be there instead discussing the dismantling of the Human Rights Act, or national debt further going through the  roof as a result of Brexit, or such like. As it is, Corbyn is the innocent hapless victim of the City not getting their return on investment with Labour a glorified lobbying group through their MPs, to protect the interests of multinational corporates. If the Unions cumulatively act to help, and the membership vote for a Corbyn candidate, Corbyn might well make a comeback. And then there would come an uncomfortable situation of Labour MPs morally having not to assume the whip as they had previously voted ‘no confidence’ in Corbyn.

The problem was that it was clearly highly unlikely that over 150 of MPs would suddenly choose Friday morning to become disaffected about Jeremy Corbyn, having sat on a number of by-election successes, Mayoralty successes in London and Bristol, and even some forced manoeuvres in policy against a beleaguered Cameron government. And it was quite unlikely they would orchestrate their opposition in appearances in TV studios with such high definition. The rumours of how the coup came about with the help of PR are well rehearsed elsewhere, but make for extremely unsavoury reading. At a time when mistrust in politicians is not good, it is really not helped with senior MPs being so economic with the truth – e.g. claiming Hilary Benn was ‘sacked in the middle of the night’ when it was in fact Hilary Benn who instigated the phone call to Jeremy Corbyn at that ridiculous time of day.

For all the talk of him being of such weak moral fibre, Corbyn has done well to last this long without batting an eyelid. And he has done so without launching into a tirade of personal insults – even when publicly heckled as he was outside SOAS or on the London PRIDE march. Sure – this can be identified as “narcissistic”, or “deluded” – in that Corbyn is not communicating with anyone in his Party – or it could be a legitimate form of self protection. For instance, if 170 people told you you were crap, your motivation for engaging with them might be somewhat diminished. And it’s not a good look if a Flashman type person says, playing to the gallery, “Oh,  man, please go!” – English people rarely like bullies. From Jeremy Corbyn’s standpoint as a victim of bullying from his parliamentary party Corbyn can get a true measure of friendship as he goes through these difficult times.

As Corbyn himself said yesterday outside SOAS, “we live in interesting times”. So it’ll be the case that Corbyn, if leader of the Labour Party, and if so reluctant in articulating EU free market concerns, is unlikely to act as chief lobbyist for the multinational corporates for Europe in parliament. Furthermore, if Boris Johnson takes the throne for the Conservative Party, EU lobbyists will prefer a different Labour candidate, as Boris stands for Brexit and is fundamentally (now) internationalist. And these things matter if the aim of the game is to privatise or outsource at the least public services such as the NHS. This goes a long way to explain the outrage at Jeremy Corbyn, even though Corbyn managed to mobilise about 20% more supporters in Labour for #remain than David Cameron for the Conservative Party. As such the free market is still breathing, even if there are riots on the streets, as probation and prisons are highly profitable growth areas.

What is going on is extremely acrimonious even by the historical standards of the Labour Party – e.g. Bevan vs Gaitskell, or Tony Benn v Healey.  The ludicrous situation is that if legally Corbyn’s name automatically appears on a fresh ballot, and supporters in Momentum mobilise enough troops, and the Unions ‘back’ him, Jeremy Corbyn could in theory be re-elected even if he doesn’t want to be re-elected. Such is democracy? It would be akin to an author being forced to keep writing on the pretext of his millions of fan letters. The Talented Mr Corbyn, I dare say, might have sympathy with the OPPOSITE of the adage, as per The Talented Mr Ripley, “it is better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.” For many people, the Blair administration, marketed as “New Labour”, was a missed opportunity. The problem for Mr Corbyn is not going down in history as a ‘real nobody’ after Tony Blair politically was a rather successful ‘fake somebody’.

And the upshot of all this – the parliamentary party may have to split off the main party. This would be incredibly sad as the point of the parliamentary Labour Party was to give working class persons democratic power.

But that would be interesting.



Tagged | 3 Comments


It is hard to know where to begin with this. There has never been an end-point to the criticism of ‘poor leadership’ from Corbyn in the same way that the Iraqi or Syrian conflicts have never been completely finalised, or there has never been a stop to free movement of people to the UK from EU or otherwise. The day lurched from farce to tragedy pretty quickly, with Andy Marr introducing Hilary Benn as  “Hilary Benn was only sacked overnight,… and he joins me now.” You could have understood why Tom Watson might have preferred to stay at Glastonbury Tor given the circumstances. But the long awaited coup happened today. This is the coup which has been signposted ever since Corbyn became elected as leader with a stunning mandate. It happened of course merely to be a coincidence that this coup would temporally precede the reporting of the Chilcot Inquiry exposing motives for the Iraq War by about a week.

The victory was indeed uncontroversial, and yet some MPs such as Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Rachel Reeves had already decided to resign ahead of day one even depriving Corbyn of their cooperation. Tristram Hunt was later to have extensive footage of him shaking his head vigorously at John McDonnell on the TV package covering the coup.


To be clear, I myself found Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning for the EU referendum pretty underwhelming, but it was not actually Jeremy who mandated this referendum. As I understand it, this referendum legally was supposed to be advisory, and not to produce a cognitive dissonant answer with the policy of the majority of MPs elected in 2015. Alan Johnson was supposed to be in charge of the campaign, and in fairness Corbyn managed to mobilise about 60% of Labour voters to vote remain in comparison with Cameron’s 40%. But Jeremy had his ‘7 out of 10’ moment, akin to the Gerald Ratner moment. Akin to saying his jewellery was crap, Corbyn picked his enthusiasm for staying in the EU as seven out of ten.

And as far as I see it Corbyn does see a good case for remaining in Europe. Migrants add to the gaiety of life and in  particular add to the social capital and economy of the UK. Free movement of people comes with the single market as a package,  and without migrants various sectors of life, for example the NHS and social care, arguably might implode. The argument that EU law had a beneficial effect was ambiguously argued, with rights attributed to Barbara Castle being argued as EU successes. And if Margaret Hodge was so successful in arguing the case for why immigrants should feel valued in Barking and Dagenham, how come her constituents largely appeared to resent immigrants and thus voted ‘out’? The counterpoint of ‘immigration is a good thing’ has been claims such as migrant families being propelled allegedly to the top of the housing ballots, bringing up children and sending their tax credits or unemployment benefit back home. Arguments such as migrants contributing a net amount to the economy gathered short shrift, and it is assumed that all people have to be contributing some sort of revenue to be a valued member of society?

Forgetting for a moment whether people felt ‘duped’ by lies, such as the figure on the bus of how much money we give per week to the EU or the amount we could be giving to the NHS, it’s clear the final result at 4.40 am came as a bit of a shock.


A shock maybe as the result was not expected, evidenced by the fact that there subsequently seemed to be no Brexit plan. The FTSE went into free fall by 500 points to a level akin to 1985, and the £ dropped against the Yen by about 13%. But the recapitalisation of Sterling was nonetheless held as a success, despite the huge volume of money pumped into the ‘free market’ thus exacerbating further our woeful national debt. But it was a shock not least because the difference between in and out was huge.

Corbyn per se is not responsible for the fact that 52% of the public prefer to leave the EU. This does not make 52% of the country racist. But it is the case the number of racist events has gone up since the referendum, and most of us know someone who feels ‘uncomfortable’ to live in the UK due to ethnicity. But is it right that the shadow cabinet blame Corbyn in such an unequivocal manner? After all, it was not Corbyn who made Lucy Powell produce such a massive fiasco communicating the #EdStone, or Heidi Alexander being utterly unable to articulate a policy on what to do about PFI or junior doctor whistleblowing. And I can’t even remember the name of the shadow transport SoS. No – it’s clear that this coup has brewing for months, and getting rid of Corbyn  will not in itself necessarily restore faith to Labour voters that they’ve ‘got their country back’. With the lack of EU funding, industry in Wales might implode, and certainly scientific and medical research will suffer.

But the mood music has been Farage whipping up xenophobia with a poster saying ‘Breaking point’. Or Boris Johnson or Theresa May becoming the favoured candidates for leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. And fundamentally the MPs are stuck with the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, unless between them the MPs can mount a case for an accelerated renewed mandate. But it’s not clear what this mandate will even be for – whether MPs might use a snap general election to deliver a mandate for not exiting the EU. But with the Hilary Benn manoeuvre, is Labour ready for a snap election? The answer really depends on who will produce the bounce  and when – it might come from Boris or Theresa in October, or could come even from Jeremy again provided he makes it onto the ballot paper and his supporters don’t leave in droves. And yet the criticism has been ‘poor leadership’ all along, when the undermining of Corbyn has been virtually on a daily basis.

Whatever, we cannot go on like this. There’s the practical detail of whether Jeremy Corbyn can find a sufficient number of Labour MPs to form an effective opposition, or whether there is simply insufficient support for Corbyn within the party. The depressing scenario nonetheless remains that the parliamentary party is actually at war with the grassroots members, at a time when Labour voters and members really need a parliamentary party they can have faith in. The alternative of course is a lurch to the extreme right, which would be disastrous especially given the parlour state of the financial markets.

None of the coup participants could identify a clear successor to Corbyn. Given that he who yields the knife never gains the crown, the options for the successor are not that limited actually. But possibly Keir Starmer or Sadiq Khan could be encouraged to stand – but it is unlikely Sadiq would want to given his recent promotion to London Mayor. There is a feeling that this coup is ‘better late than never’, but failure to expel Corbyn now as leader will mean the inevitability of him leading the Labour change in the next general election. And Labour have been here before – when it was too late to get rid of the leader – Gordon Brown certainly, Ed Miliband possibly.

Tonight’s Question Time is a testament to how bad things are. We are a country divided with possibly even a further constitutional crisis to come with breakup of the UK.  One can have some sympathy for events engulfing David Cameron MP, but this is a pledge he wanted to keep, say unlike tuition fees hikes or the famous ‘no more top down reorganisation of the NHS’. Now might be the time for a united national government, but such a government might not necessarily safeguard against certain interests such as privatisation of the NHS. Whilst over ten or more MPs, and about the same number of juniors as ministers, can inflict further humiliation to Corbyn, Corbyn appeals to a ‘basic instinct’ of humanity nonetheless: that is a resistance against being bullied. Corbyn historically, even if from an aristocracy of socialists, knows when his back is up against the establishment, which makes him a formidable opponent. Finally, Corbyn appeals to those who rail against the putrid stench of the self-entitled class of the media around the Westminster bubble, especially in ‘establishment broadcasters’.

Sadly, we live in interesting times.




Tagged | 5 Comments

Sadiq Khan

I am very excited actually.


Today’s the day it’s likely one of my Twitter followers becomes Labour’s new mayor. Time to draw a line under Boris Johnson’s suffocating air quality, and the perennial roadworks on the embankment meaning it takes me hours to trek across SE1.

I am loath to use the word ‘radical’ in relation to something about Sadiq Khan, in case it looks as if I’ve taken a leaf out of Zac Goldsmith’s dogwhistle divisive offensive rulebook. But Sadiq Khan has a chance to help as London’s new mayor (and the result has not been announced yet at the time of writing) with dementia policy in London: a ‘radical system innovation’.

The Alzheimer’s Society, to which I am not in any way linked, have made great progress in ‘Dementia United’, in producing a Manchester-based coherent dementia policy for the working people of Manchester.

It is easy to get totally tangled up in the discussion about whether services for working people should be owned in entirety by the working people, in the true tradition of “socialism” (howeversodefined). Or whether there is a rôle for any private sector involvement at all, ranging from small social enterprises to large global multinationals.

But the political climate is changing, and this has to be taken into account by policy strategies nationally for dementia. For a start, it’s been widely briefed that, even though endorsed by David Cameron, Hollande is vehemently opposed to TTIP as presently drafted. This means that moves to sell off the NHS to corporate investors in the US might be severely hampered after all.

The late great Tony Benn used to argue consistently that the Labour Party was great for introducing right wing policies under the RADAR, some even which would have been too ambitious for the Conservatives to introduce.

The Act of parliament was much despised, and the Socialist Health Association were ‘late to the party’. The Health and Social Care Act (2012) was different to previous legislation in launching “section 75”, in making competitive tendering in private markets a must unless there was only one bidder. This made the NHS into a free for all market, with the Secretary of State for health no longer  responsible for it.

And the facts speak for themselves – the outsourcing of NHS services has been given a massive turboboost following this legislation. But Labour, it is argued, helped to set the mood music quite early, in talk about the private sector ‘increasing the capacity’ of the NHS through independent sector treatment centres, accelerating PFI contracts, privatisation of NHS Logistics, and the NHS legislation of around 2006.

Devolution of dementia services in London is a golden opportunity for Sadiq Khan MP, but it is also a threat. The state of play is that social services funding is on its knees, despite Cameron’s cuckoo land aspiration to make the UK ‘the best place to have dementia by 2020’.

There are many who will concerned that devolution is yet another ‘trojan horse’ for transfer of assets from the public to the private sector, aka privatisation. This would be one of a complete portfolio designed by Letwin, Redwood and others, including PFI, selling of property, outsourcing and personal budgets.

But there is actually no justification for the arbitrary distinction between “health” and “social care” for dementia. The social care profession have a pivotal position in enabling and protecting people with dementia. Improved health is essential for improved wellbeing, and improving wellbeing is the first statutory clause of the Care Act (2014).

And yet the distinction can have profound implications for people living with dementia after their diagnosis, and their closest.

The ‘new models of care’ in the Five Year Forward View from NHS England are simply an experiment. Some vanguards will work, others won’t. Somewhere there’s an in-between to be decided between letting a thousand flowers blooming and ‘one size does not fit all’.

I think London is far from ‘socialism in one city’, but this discredited phrase from Stalin is perhaps best forgotten about in any case. At the moment, many of us are simply hoping that England does not become one country operating against strong headwinds in a ‘global market’ where some markets can undercut England and generate an unfair advantage, whether through dumping or sweatshops.

But there is scope for improved planning in a place-defined way, i.e. London. There is a case for pooling resources. Also, there is a case for pooling risk across the entire local population, or else we run the risk of impaired equity based on, for example, social inequalities. We need a well funded NHS through general taxation to make it work.

I hope Sadiq Khan can rise to the challenge in an open way with all stakeholders, not excluding anyway. It’s important for co-production that “all people are in the room”.

This is now a great opportunity for Sadiq Khan. And I wish him well, of course.

Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Consultation document April 2016: Please put your comments on the Health and Care Policy Commission page by 8 June 2016 if you want them to be considered by the Labour Party Commission.  Put them below if you want them to be considered by the SHA.

The Labour leadership has made a firm commitment to making mental health a priority and ensuring that parity of esteem between mental and physical health becomes a reality. The creation of a dedicated Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health in September 2015 ensures that the Government is being held to account for its actions, and also signals that mental health will be a key priority for a future Labour Government.

The Challenge

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year and mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK. The economic and social cost of poor mental health is estimated at £105 billion a year – roughly the cost of the entire NHS.

Mental health affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. In 2014/15 nearly two million adults were in contact with specialist mental health and learning disability services; one in ten children and young people suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition and there has been an increase in the number of employees reporting mental health problems. Those from under-represented groups in society such as those from the Black and Minority Ethnic  and Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender communities, disabled people, veterans, older people and those who have had contact with the criminal justice system are also at greater risk of suffering from mental illness.

The challenges facing mental health are immense and have been exacerbated by this Government’s failures over the last five years.

The Government committed to spend £250 million on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services  in 2015/2016. However, we now know that it will fail to spend the full amount this year. Making sure the Government honours the mental health funding commitments they have made is a constant challenge.

Transparency in spending has been made even more difficult following the Government’s decision in 2012 to discontinue the annual National Survey of Investment in Mental Health Services, which provided information on national investment in mental health services and monitored expenditure for 11 years. Without the important measures contained in this survey, it is almost impossible to make an accurate assessment of the level of spending on mental health services. Since 2010 the situation for mental health patients has deteriorated across the board. In 2013 the rates of male suicide were at their highest since 2001; the number of people becoming so ill they have been detained under the Mental Health Act increased by almost 10 per cent between 2012/13 and 2014/15; and the number of people being forced to travel hundreds of miles for a bed has increased year on year between 2011-12 and 2013-14.

The state of affairs for children and young people is particularly poor with insufficient investment in services. Despite the fact that 75 per cent of people who have mental health problems in working life first experienced symptoms in childhood or adolescence, just six per cent of the mental health budget is spent on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The failure to invest in services has meant that there are now double the amount of children turning up to A&E with mental health problems compared to 2010/11.

The number of people under the age of 18 being admitted to hospital as a result of self-harm has increased and there has also been an increase in the number of children being treated on adult wards.

The mental health of new mothers and fathers is also a real cause for concern and something which, despite commitments from the Government, we have seen little progress on. Since 2010 the number of specialist perinatal mental health units and beds has fallen, and the Government has failed to spend the full amount set aside for perinatal mental health in 2015/16, spending only a third of it.

Our mental health system is struggling due to a lack of appropriate workforce and our current workforce is under increasing pressure. We are seeing high vacancy rates for psychiatry consultant posts and for mental health nurses. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, more than 18 per cent of core training posts in psychiatry are currently vacant, and psychiatry has the slowest rate of growth and the highest drop-out rate of any clinical specialty. In addition, figures show that there has been a 10 per cent reduction in the number of nurses working in mental health since 2010–nearly 5,000 nurses. Staffing shortages have also meant that children are not getting access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services appointments, and that patients are not getting appropriate continuity of care.

Under this Government, patients are being failed. The current system is chronically underfunded and understaffed, skewed towards dealing with crises, rather than prevention and early intervention in mental health. If these trends continue, the system will be under extreme pressure by 2020. Put simply, it will be impossible to meet the needs of a growing number of people who need support from our mental health services.

The Issues

Ensuring that mental health policies work for all parts of society If we want to improve the lives of people suffering from mental illness it is vital that we ensure the system works for everybody. Mental health affects people of all ages, from all parts of society.

Making sure that our schools, colleges and universities are equipped to promote good mental health; ensuring our criminal justice system protects the 9 out of 10 people in our prisons who have a mental health or substance misuse problem; and understanding the impact that supportive workplaces, stable employment, poverty, isolation and housing can have on people’s mental health is crucial if we are to improve the lives of the millions affected by mental health problems. We do not solve the challenges facing our nation’s mental health solely from the Department of Health. In order to address mental health issues we need to think about what effect policies in all key areas can have on improving people’s mental health. Underpinning this must be a wider shift in our society’s attitudes and behaviour towards mental health, so that no-one with a mental health problem has to face stigma, prejudice or discrimination.

Prevention and early intervention in mental health

If we want to move away from a culture of dealing with mental health issues as crises, we must promote prevention and early intervention. Too often we hear of people in desperate need being turned away from services. This has been a particular problem for children and young people, many of whom have been unable to access help when they need it due to failure to meet high thresholds needed in order to qualify for support.

We need to consider how employers should be best equipped to support their employees to cope with work related stress.

Ensuring people have access to help early on, including through adequate funding to public health, is critical to preventing people from becoming more ill. Many people suffering from mental health problems are not getting the help they need at an early stage and it often means that help will only be offered when the situation has reached crisis point (for example, a suicide attempt).

If we are to ensure our services are sustainable into the future, we must do so much more to prevent people from becoming ill in the first place and here we must look to our places of learning, our workplaces and our communities.

Guaranteeing parity of esteem in mental health services

If we want to achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health, we need to ensure that mental health receives sustainable, long term investment.

According to NHS England’s mental health taskforce report, The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, just £34 billion is spent on mental health support and services each year, across all Government departments. Poor physical and mental health are often connected, yet are more often than not dealt with independently of one another. Despite the fact that mental health problems account for 23 per cent of the burden of disease in the United Kingdom, spending on mental health services account for only 11 per cent of the NHS budget.

In 2011/2012 investment in mental health fell by £150m. This was the first fall in investment since 2001. Analysis by the King’s Fund also shows that 40 per cent of mental health trusts experienced reductions in income in 2013/14 and research by Community Care and the BBC last year showed that funding for mental health fell by eight per cent in real terms over the course of the last parliament. These figures show that the Government is failing to ensure mental health is placed on an equal footing with physical health.

Furthermore, if we want to achieve real parity of esteem between mental and physical health we need to make sure we have a mental health workforce that is ready to cope with the challenges it is presented with. Adequate staffing levels, awareness and training across the health service are key.


  • In your view which Health and Care policies and key messages in the last manifesto most resonated with voters? Which policies did not resonate so well? Was there anything missing from our policy offer to voters on this issue?
  • Given that half of all mental health problems begin by the age of 14, what steps should be taken to improve early intervention in mental health? What other measures can be taken to transform our current mental health system from one driven by crisis to one focussed on prevention?
  • How can we ensure that parity of esteem between mental and physical health is achieved? How do we guarantee that mental health receives its fair share of funding?
  • How can we best identify and address the root causes of mental distress in our society? What measures can we take to promote awareness of mental health in our society and ensure it works alongside policies in other areas? What action should be taken to ensure that those groups which are at greater risk from suffering from mental health problems in our society are given the help they need?
  • How can we share best practice across local/ devolved authorities in policy development?

Speech at the RSA on Labour’s approach to the economy:


Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here at the RSA on Labour’s approach to the economy.

George Osborne will be presenting his Budget to Parliament next week. As is usual, much of its content has been trailed in the press. Or, rather, much of what will not be in it has been trailed.

Osborne is not, we are told, now considering changes to pensions tax relief. Osborne would like to, but will not, be cutting the top rate of income tax, we are told. He is too scared about his future career prospects to risk it. And then, in news he snuck out late on a Friday evening, Osborne announces that the “economy is smaller than we thought” and that as a result further spending cuts or tax rises may be needed to hit his own target for a surplus. What an astonishing about-turn from a chancellor who had, just a few months before, declared that we had arrived at the sunlit uplands. Osborne claimed at the time of the Autumn Statement his economic plan was producing “better results than expected”. Now he has to admit, shamefaced, that the results are worse than he expected.

When George Osborne said the sun was shining, what did he do? He cut flood defences. He cut policing. He decimated local authority spending. Women in Britain are now facing, according to the Fawcett Society, the greatest threat to their financial security and livelihoods for a generation.

The truth is that George Osborne’s recovery is built on sand. Business investment is falling. Exports are falling. The productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 is the widest it has been for a generation. Without productivity growth, we cannot hope, over the long term, to improve living standards for most people. The truth is that we are failing to meet our potential. Failing to reach our potential means failing to meet the aspirations of our people.

It means a gender pay gap that is still wedged at 19 percent. It means seeing a 22 percent fall in earnings for the self-employed in just a few years. It means those wanting to grow their small businesses deprived of the loans they need by a failing banking system. It means another 100,000 people pushed into the insecurity of zero-hours contracts. It means a whole generation of our young people for whom the security of home ownership is rapidly becoming an impossible dream.

George Osborne will be presenting his Budget next week. It could be an opportunity to begin to turn things round. Instead, we can expect more of the same from this Chancellor. More wheezes. More short-term political fixes. And in defiance of the growing consensus in the economics profession he will continue to pursue spending cuts. At a time when the IMF and the OECD are insisting on the need for increased government investment, George Osborne is planning for government investment spending to fall as a share of GDP.

He claims that a “cocktail of threats” elsewhere in the world means that now is the time to hunker down. He couldn’t be more wrong. Now is the time to break with the failed approach he has taken that has left this economy more exposed to shocks elsewhere in the world. George Osborne’s Budget should be about safeguarding the economy, and equipping it for the future. Osborne’s policies do neither.

Austerity is a political choice

Austerity makes little sense in economics terms. But it is a politically easy choice for the UK, since it works to the benefit of powerful vested interests.

Maurice Obstfeld, currently chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, wrote a fascinating paper on this back in 2013. In it, he describes perfectly the logic driving Osborne’s cuts agenda. When countries have very large financial systems, Obstfeld argues, they must have small governments. This is because large financial systems are prone to spectacular collapse, as we saw in 2008. When that happens, governments are expected to step in, arranging bailouts and propping up the economy. So government must be small today in case of a major financial crisis tomorrow. This is exactly what Osborne has aimed at since 2008. Cutting the state down to size, in case of a further financial risks. Behind this is a limited, cramped vision of what this country could achieve. Instead of arguing for a financial sector that serves society, Osborne is arguing for a society that serves the financial sector. That is his political choice.

His choice, and the choice of too many past governments, imposes a real cost. The Bank of International Settlements have argued that these financial expansions have resulted in a serious misallocation of investment. When capital is misallocated, it means that whilst giant chain stores can always grow, the small, family-owned business looking to expand can’t get the finance its needs. Capital is flowing the wrong way.

We can see this today, after the crash. Society’s resources have been diverted away from productive use, and into low-productivity investments. The underlying economy was weakened by excessive financial expansion, even if, during the boom years, this was disguised by comparatively rapid economic growth. We chased the illusory gains of financial expansion, and neglected real wealth creation. Our boom was bigger, but our bust was all the greater.

Labour’s alternative in outline

Labour’s alternative has to be nothing less than a radical break with the past. There can be no turning the clock back, whether to 1997 or 1945. In the words of our Economic Advisory Council member Joseph Stiglitz, we must now “rewrite the rules” of how our economy operates. The old rules have failed too many. They have meant extraordinary rises in inequality, and falling social mobility. They have meant low investment, low productivity, and low pay, even as a lucky few have done extremely well.

Rewriting the rules today means three things.

First, an absolute commitment to responsible financing by a future Labour government. The old rules meant relying too much on tax revenues from financial services, and too much on expensive funding schemes like PFI. We didn’t do enough to clamp down on tax avoiders. We should show how we can account for every penny in tax revenue raised, and every penny spent. There is nothing left-wing about ever-increasing government debts, or borrowing to cover day-to-day expenses. Borrowing today is money to be repaid tomorrow. With a greater and greater portion of our government debt now held by those in the rest of the world, government borrowing increasingly represents a net loss for those of us living here. The public, rightly, want a government that is responsible with its finances. We in the Labour Party have to show them how we will act as a responsible custodian. We shouldn’t be the Party that only thinks how to spend money. We are the Party that thinks about how to earn money. The clue is in our name. We are the party of labour – the party of the wealth creators, of technicians, designers, machinists, entrepreneurs – the party of workers and small businesses. We need to get back to the best of our own tradition.

Entrepreneurial state and the reviews

Second, we need to use government’s capacities wisely. Another Economic Advisory Council member, Marianna Mazzucato, has written brilliantly about the role an “entrepreneurial state” can play in establishing new industries and driving innovation. I can give you an example. Just last week it was announced that the United States’ Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E had made a major breakthrough in battery technology that could hugely accelerate the spread of renewable energy. ARPA-E was established by Barack Obama as recently as 2009 to promote blue-sky research in new energy technologies. It is kind of innovative approach we could be drawing on here. Britain has an extraordinary heritage of scientific research. We can and should be doing more to draw on this, and to improve the application of this research. Instead, real spending on research and development has fallen by £1bn under George Osborne’s watch. If we want to create the economy of the future, we cannot have a government that stands idly by. The state should be making the long-term, patient investments that are the foundations of long-term prosperity. That should be prosperity shared across the whole country. And it should be aligned to a functioning, twenty-first century industrial policy.

There’s a glimmer of what this might look like already, in the extraordinary turnaround of UK motor manufacturing. Prompt action by Government and the Secretary of State for Business in the aftermath of the crash stabilised the industry and laid the foundations for its recovery. Today, Britain’s car industry exports more than ever before. It is the most productive in Europe. There are still problems here, of course. There is not a single domestically-owned motor manufacturer. Its supply lines, like those across much of manufacturing, are hugely internationalised. But it is crucial example that effective government intervention, carefully applied, can produce results.

This is about more than a few policy changes. We need to take a close look at how the institutions charged with overseeing the economy function. So we’ve launched reviews, led by experts, of the major institutions of economic governance. Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, is reviewing the Treasury. Accountancy expert Professor Prem Sikka is reviewing the role of HMRC. Danny Blanchflower, former Monetary Policy Committee member, is reviewing the MPC itself. In each case, we want to take a forensic approach to understanding how these core institutions can best deliver the prosperous, fair economy of the future. This isn’t about making the state bigger or smaller. It’s about making it smarter.

Socialism from below

Third, we need to unlock the potential of the wider economy. The figures are clear. The potential of this economy is being held back by the weakness of the supply-side. George Osborne’s policies have held back demand. But it is on the supply-side that, it is now clear, we need the biggest shake-up. This is what the slump in productivity indicates. There is a growing coalition of economists, unions, and businesses who will support government investment in infrastructure. That is one part of the solution.

Another is in the provision of skills. Latest figures suggest that 22 percent of all jobs vacancies are going unfilled as a result of a lack of candidates with the right skills or experience. Here, too, government can intervene directly. But it must do so effectively. The present Chancellor’s solutions are inadequate. Ofsted was damning in its report on the many new apprenticeships being offered. The surge in numbers had led to a slump in quality. We’re not just failing our young people if we fail to provide them with the skills they need. The entire economy suffers as a result.

But government action alone is not enough.

I’ve said before that our watchwords on the economy will be democracy and decentralisation. We need a far more sophisticated argument about ownership that does not just fall into the caricature of either pure privatisation, or monolithic state control. Decentralised ownership of electricity production, as we see in Germany or Denmark, must play an important part in the shift to low-carbon production.

But we can go further than this. Government can clear the barriers that hold back entrepreneurship and innovation. This doesn’t just mean blind deregulation. It means taking on the vested interests that hold back aspiration. The potential is there. If we mobilise the potential of our small businesses, giving them the opportunity to match the productivity growth of small businesses across Europe, we can boost GDP by £140bn. We need to clear barriers to their financing, and think creatively about how to fund their expansion.

For instance, Britain has an extraordinarily concentrated banking sector that is not serving customers properly, particularly small businesses. We need a network of regional and local banks, in tune to the needs of their local businesses and communities. A Labour government should not be afraid of taking on the big monopolies where they are failing the rest of us.

We are moving into a world in which more and more people are starting businesses, or becoming self-employed. We must welcome genuine entrepreneurship, and extend employment protection to the self-employed. And we should be unafraid to support new models of business ownership and management, like worker-owned enterprises and co-operatives. Worker-owned and managed enterprises are typically more productive and are less likely to fail in a downturn than those in more conventional ownership.

I’ve spoken before about creating a Right to Own for employees, giving them first refusal on taking over a company when it changes hands. Over the next few years, many small business owners will be looking to retire. Yet two-thirds of family businesses face being sold off for the lack of anyone to take over. Employee ownership, supported by government where needed, can be an important part in safeguarding their future.

Fiscal Credibility Rule

I want now to return to my first point on sound finances. Sound finances are the foundations on which everything else is possible. We know a rule for spending is needed. It should make clear the framework in which a future Labour government will make its spending decisions so that the public can trust those spending decisions. We also know investment is needed. Others in my party are in agreement with me on the case for investment and jobs, but the public need more than platitudes from our party. At a time when major international organisations and central banks are calling for a rethink in how economic policy operates, we need clarity and a vision.

Following discussions with our Economic Advisory Council and expert advisors we have decided to recommend a Fiscal Credibility Rule which will underpin Labour’s fiscal position. We believe that governments should not need to borrow to fund their day-to-day spending. And that is why we would commit to always eliminating the deficit on current spending in five years, as part of a strategy to target balance on current spending over a target five-year period. While there are exceptional times when shocks from the private sector mean that government has to step in to help, everybody knows that if you’re putting the rent on the credit card month after month, things needs to change.

Alongside this, we recognise the need for investment which raises the growth rate of our economy by increasing productivity as well as stimulating demand in the short term. That is why our target for eliminating the deficit excludes investment.

And because we want to ensure that the Government’s debt is set on a sustainable path, we will commit to ensuring that, at the end of every Parliament, Government debt as a proportion of trend GDP is lower than it was at the start.

It is essential for our future prosperity that we retain the ability to borrow for investing in capital projects which over time will pay for themselves. We owe that, at least, to those whose homes are endangered by flooding, many of whom suffered so much this winter.

But we also know that we are entering a period of great uncertainty for the world economy, which may put many existing economic structures under pressure. Economists are debating secular stagnation, savings gluts, demographic transition and many other explanations. Meanwhile inside central banks across the world policymakers are grappling with the concepts of negative interest rates, extended QE purchases, raising inflation targets, and even so-called helicopter money. Only yesterday we saw the European Central Bank entering new territory with a new and broader programme of quantitative easing.

One thing is clear: we are in unprecedented times. So it is right that, if conventional monetary again becomes constrained by hitting a lower bound as it did after the global financial crisis, we understand when fiscal policy has to take some responsibility. And that is why we will reserve the right, for as long as monetary policy is unable to undertake its usual role due to the lower bound, to suspend our targets so that monetary and fiscal policy can work together. Rather than an arbitrary cut off for GDP forecasts, we will suspend our rule in the circumstances when it is clear that fiscal policy needs to work together with monetary policy to get the economy moving again.

Taken together, these principles will underlie everything we say about fiscal policy.

We, as a Party, are as interested in how Government earns money as much as how it spends money.

I am making no announcements today about our spending commitments. We will be discussing policies democratically across the Labour Party for the next few years, as we have pledged throughout and since Jeremy’s election campaign.

But I promise that, from now on, any potential commitments we do make will be judged on how they fit into our Fiscal Credibility Rule. And to oversee all this we will make sure that the Office for Budget Responsibility is properly resourced and genuinely independent, reporting to Parliament.

Most important fight for a generation

Why have we been having this conversation now? In my recent speech at the London School of Economics I said that Labour faces its most important fight in a generation. It is clear that regaining the public’s trust with the public finances must happen before the electorate will consider trusting Labour with the keys to Government again. There is no short cut to regaining fiscal credibility with the electorate. We have a long way to go before we can regain the trust that was lost after the global financial crisis of 2008, which happened on Labour’s watch. There is no silver bullet. But the first stage of that is to lay out our framework for overall fiscal policy. To show that we can be trusted, that we take seriously our responsibility as stewards of the nation’s finances. In coming to this position we have consulted with some of the most eminent economists in the world.

This is in stark contrast to George Osborne’s own fiscal rules. Since adopting an even stricter target than the one he repeatedly missed during the last Parliament, his approach has been savaged by economists on all sides.  The Financial Times and the Economist, every single economist who appeared in front of the Treasury Select Committee, criticised Osborne’s new rule. Literally every single one, including those on the political right. There is absolutely no economic case for Osborne’s fiscal rule. It is designed solely with the Tory leadership contest in mind. It is time for him to put the national interest above his own political ambitions, and adopt a fiscal rule that can sustain shared prosperity.

We will take this rule through our party policy processes and on to Labour Party conference, where our overall economic strategy will be determined.

Fairness and the future

We have a huge potential in this country. But we have a Chancellor that is failing us. He is sacrificing the bold, necessary action we need for the sake of his political career. At a time when we should be looking forward, and setting down the solid foundations for secure future prosperity, we have a Chancellor who is too busy looking back.

Jeremy was elected on a promise of “straight talking, honest politics”. We need a bit of straight talking, honest economics if we want to realise our potential. This means an end to the bluff and bluster. We need a Budget that is about fairness, and about the future.

With that in mind, let me ask four things from the Chancellor for his Budget next week.

  • First, as Jeremy Corbyn called for last week, to jump start investment across the country we need a National Investment Bank, with the capacity to deliver investment funding where it is urgently needed.
  • Second, new infrastructure is welcome. But needs to be backed by real government commitment. Our Fiscal Credibility Rule means that we can end the nonsensical situation in which George Osborne can make endless announcements on infrastructure projects, but then fail to find the means to finance them. This is simply not serious when the UK is falling down the OECD’s infrastructure rankings. His efforts at persuading the private sector to step in have flopped. His Pensions Infrastructure Platform to persuade pension providers to invest was expected to raise £20 billion. In fact it has raised just £1 billion. Just 9% of the projects in his Infrastructure Pipeline are currently being built. If the funding isn’t available, it means vital new projects like Swansea’s Tidal Lagoon are delayed, and delayed again. Our Fiscal Credibility Rule will provide us with the means to finance vital infrastructure, whether it is high-speed broadband or new rail connections in the North.
  • Third, our housing crisis is a national disgrace. We need bold action to address it. Housebuilding has slumped to the lowest level since the 1920s with George Osborne as Chancellor. We are building around half the number of homes we need. Wheezes and quick-fixes from the Chancellor won’t address this. We know new homes alone won’t solve the problem. But we have to do better than this. We are failing the aspiration of our young people to own their own homes. We are failing too many to provide the most basic minimum a decent society demands. Our Fiscal Credibility Rule can provide us with the secure, credible foundations to unlock the financing necessary to deliver the new homes we so urgently need. We think a programme to build 100,000 new homes a year could begin to address the crisis. My colleague John Healey has offered furthers proposals here.
  • And finally on fairness, we will insist on wanting to see a Budget from George Osborne in which, unlike its predecessors, it is not the poorest who suffer the most. Year in, year out, Osborne’s Budgets have leaned too hard on those least able to bear the burden. We want to see a government and a Chancellor who does not just make noises about fairness, but who delivers. We will be looking closely at independent distributional analyses of his impact, to see that the poorest in society do not continue to bear the brunt. In particular we will be monitoring the expected effect of his decisions on women, who have borne the brunt of 81 percent of his cuts. George Osborne had the opportunity to deal with this. He still has, next week. But it will less thinking about his political career, and more thought about the future of this country. It will require boldness, and challenging some of the vested interests in his own party.

Labour will rewrite the rules to build a fairer, more prosperous economy.

Tagged | 1 Comment

A Week Is a Long Time in Politics:

by Alex Scott-Samuel, and Clare Bambra

For more than 30 years, socialism within the UK Labour Party – which was in government from 1997 to 2010 and is currently the main UK parliamentary opposition – has been in decline. Despite its origins as a party of and for the working class, Labour has become at best a social democratic party with strong neoliberal leanings. However, in the recent leadership election that followed Labour’s general election defeat in May 2015, the socialist Jeremy Corbyn confounded all expectations by winning Labour’s leadership with a substantial majority. We describe the political context of Corbyn’s controversial victory and discuss its potential short- and medium-term impact on England’s troubled National Health Service and on the public health.

To download the full paper

Int J Health Serv January 2016 vol. 46 no. 1, 141-148

Published online before print December 30, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0020731415625252

Tagged | Leave a comment

First draft of a section of Labour’s Manifesto for London.

The challenge

Londoners deserve to live in a safe and healthy city. But for too many Londoners, crime still blights their communities and ill health still affects some sections of the population more than others.

While crime has been falling for over two decades, there are worrying signs of that certain crimes are on the rise. In particular, data shows that sexual violence and knife crime are increasing. Falling budgets are biting into the number of police on our city’s streets, and there is a very real risk that community policing may disappear altogether. Some communities are still lacking in confidence in the police, and there is still a worrying under-representation of BAME officers in the Met.

Victims of crime are still too often ignored or treated as an afterthought. Without confidence in our justice system, victims and witnesses won’t come forward and report crimes, and perpetrators will be free to walk the streets.

London is blighted by some dramatic health inequalities that shame a developed country. Across the city, there are wide variations in life expectancy, incidences of disease and in obesity. Too many Londoners are dying prematurely as a consequence of our polluted air – a scandal which cannot be allowed to continue.

Sadiq’s plan

Sadiq wants to build a London in which all its citizens feel safe and live long and healthy lives. He will transform the city’s police force so it looks more like the communities it serves, and in an era when the Met is facing devastating cuts, fight for more resources to prevent and tackle crime

Public health will be a high priority, with action to improve London’s air quality and challenge childhood obesity, alongside a focus on mental health.

  •  Put victims first: Sadiq wants to build a London in which all its citizens feel safe and live long and healthy lives. He will transform the city’s police force so it looks more like the communities it serves, and in an era when the Met is facing devastating cuts, fight for more resources to prevent and tackle crime
  •  Building community confidence in our police force: Sadiq will reinvigorate plans to create a more diverse Metropolitan Police force so that London’s police look and sound like the communities they are employed to serve. He will ensure the use of stop and search is intelligence led, and not targeted or overused in a way that undermines communitypolice relations.
  •  Tackling childhood obesity and ill health: Sadiq will use planning powers to restrict the growth of fast food outlets near schools and colleges, and promote physical activity and access to nature for all young people to help tackle childhood obesity, while working to tackle childhood hunger and malnutrition.
  • Cleaning our air: Sadiq will promote clean energy schemes, make our public transport network greener, make cycling safer and create more green spaces in order to reduce the damaging effects of filthy air on Londoners.
  • Taking public health seriously: In addition to prioritising cleaner air and tackling childhood obesity, Sadiq will work with health services and professionals across London to ensure a coordinated and proactive approach to prevention. He will work to promote parity of esteem between mental and physical health and ensure that all people, especially young people have access to mental health information, advice and support in the schools and communities.

Questions for consultation

  1. How can we deal with the major challenges facing community policing in a time of tough public finances?
  2. What new ideas and strategies might be employed to help better detect and fight crime?
  3. How can we build a Metropolitan Police force that is representative of London, and ensure that all of our communities have confidence in the force?
  4. What else should we be doing to improve the way victims and witnesses in London are treated?
  5. What are the key public health challenges for London and how should we address them?
  6. What can the Mayor do to support and improve London’s emergency services?
  7.  What other key challenges and priorities exist in this area?

The consultation closes at 6pm on 27 November 2015. Respond online

Tagged | Leave a comment

I am unable to sign this article for business or employment reasons, and am therefore using a pseudonym. However the SHA is aware of my identity.

There is debate about how the Labour Party may reach out beyond its natural supporters. I have been a Labour Party member for well over a quarter of a century but it was not my first choice of party; I was a Conservative for 15 years. My politics are the politics of One Nation. I don’t mean the feeble imitation of that term which both parties lay claim to. I mean the belief that power, privilege and property can be justified only by service, stewardship and the pursuit of social harmony.

The following section of this article was written during the Labour Party leadership election.

All my life I have had a belief about the proper boundary between the public and private sectors in an economy. Those areas of the economy where a genuine market can function should operate commercially. Social ownership (of one form or another – there are several forms) should take over where a genuine market is impossible, for example because of natural monopoly, or because the service should be equally available to all, or because of externalities which cannot easily be adjusted for. In my youth when nationalisation had gone too far, and was in danger of going further, this belief led me to join the Conservative Party. Today, when privatisation has gone too far, it points to a vote for Jeremy Corbyn. This is an entirely consistent position. If you are driving from Doncaster to London it is a mistake to set off going north; it is a mistake to turn north at Peterborough; if you make an error somewhere round about the M25 and you find yourself at Tunbridge Wells, it is a mistake to press on to Brighton because you tried north once and it didn’t work.

All my life I have wanted the individual’s control of their own destiny to be defended against the power of large organisations – “overmighty barons” as the One Nation tradition describes them. In my youth the overmighty barons seemed to be the institutions of the state so I joined the Conservative Party. There was at the time a Conservative MP, Christopher Tugendhat, who warned that perhaps the multinationals were growing into overmighty barons. Today multinational corporations overwhelm small businesses with unfair competition rooted in tax avoidance, threaten professionals by asserting the pre-eminence of corporate ideology over the tradition of service, lobby to erode the hard won rights of consumers, communities and workers, and use their financial power to frighten regulatory agencies, even Governments. Christopher Tugendhat has been proved right. So today, for the same reasons as led me to join the Conservative Party in my youth, I must vote for Jeremy Corbyn to challenge the overmighty barons.

It is odd that my first two reasons for voting for the most left wing candidate in the Labour leadership election should be the same reasons that led me to join the Conservative Party in my youth. The realisation that this is the case led me to understand something about my country and something about myself. It led me to realise how far to the right my country has moved. It also led me to realise that an important part of my self-image has been wrong. Until I heard Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed on the Andrew Marr show, I thought that as I grew older I had moved steadily to the left, as experience led me to perceive more clearly the injustices of our society. In fact I haven’t moved to the left at all – the politics of my country has moved to the right and has passed me. The reason I perceive more clearly the injustices of our society is that there are more of them and they are more obvious.

This is my third reason for voting for Jeremy Corbyn. The three civilised traditions of British politics are One Nation, libertarian democratic socialism, and dissenting liberalism. They once dominated our politics, shaping each other in their contention. Today all three cower in a corner whilst the twin impostors of Thatcherism and Blairism dominate the stage. I want us to take our country back from the ideology that has stolen it from us

The Conservative Party that I joined in my youth believed in Keynesian economics. It saw the simple common sense of the Keynesian multiplier – that if you take somebody who would otherwise be poor and employ them on socially useful work then you gain the benefit of the work, you save on welfare benefits and you receive taxes. When they spend their wages they help create employment which also saves benefits and earns taxes. It is a simple common sense concept. I left the Conservative Party when it ceased to believe in it. When the Labour Party also ceased to believe in it, I wondered if my second party was being stolen from me as my first had been. Indeed I have a friend who left the Conservative Party because it had been stolen from her by Thatcher and joined the Labour Party, which she left when it was stolen from her by Blair, to join the Liberal Democrats. She died recently thinking her third party had been stolen from her by Nick Clegg and wondering where to go next. My fourth reason for voting for Jeremy Corbyn is that he is the only Keynesian in the race. I do not want my party to be led by somebody who does not believe in this concept. Nor do I want it to be led by somebody who does understand it but considers themselves too inarticulate to explain it to the people. That is my fourth reason for voting for Jeremy.

Liz Kendall says that we must appeal to the people of England. By that she means the particular part of the people of England who often vote Conservative because they distrust politics and ideology, who often form the majority in rural and suburban constituencies, and of whom it is often said, usually truthfully, that they have not spoken yet. They are a cultured, civilised, enterprising and stoical people. We do indeed need to appeal to them and to point out to them that the time has come when their stoicism is detracting from their other values. I was pleased to hear Jeremy Corbyn engage Liz Truss on agricultural policy on Any Questions and win the debate even though it fell in her ministerial brief. I was pleased to see him gain an opinion poll approval rating on managing railways, for railways are a key part of suburban life in the South. I was pleased to see his “Better Business” policy which pointed out how multinational capitalism saps enterprise and undermines small business. This is the real southern strategy. I believe that the “people of England” will react very well to a leader who speaks to them in a quiet voice, with sensible arguments, saying the things they have always wished they had the courage to believe. He may even help them understand that their distrust of politics and ideology requires them to throw off the alien ideology which has stolen our country from us these 30 years. That is my fifth reason for voting for Jeremy.

Once before a major political party in this country had a leadership candidate who was seen as a stalking horse, who gathered unexpected momentum which the grandees of the party were unable to stop, who was believed by those grandees to be unelectable and who went on to lead the party into a general election. The election was 1979. The party was the Conservative Party. The “unelectable” leader was Margaret Thatcher. But there is a difference this time. When Jeremy wins in 2020 it will not be a disaster for the country. It will erase a disaster.

That was the article as I first wrote it. But almost as soon as I had written it, I began to have doubts. Was this optimism conditioned more by my years in the Labour Party than by anything prior to that? Can it really be the case that the people coming to Jeremy’s meetings are not some rolling up of a left that we have failed to motivate (or even find) for years, but rather the “people of England”, or at least the early adopters amongst them?

So to check this out I sent this article to three friends of mine who remain members of the Conservative Party. I wasn’t expecting agreement with it – these are three people whose personal identity is deeply tied up with the Conservative Party. I would have counted as positive merely an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the argument. One of them has not replied – presumably trying to think of a tactful way to enquire about my mental health. Another sent the kind of response that I had been intending to regard as positive – describing my argument as compelling but saying that she wasn’t sure she agreed with my final conclusion although she might be proved wrong. The third expressed full agreement with what I had said, urged me to publish the article, said that he hoped it had an effect and expressed deep concern at the state of the Conservative Party.

There have been other indications over the months following the election that Middle England may indeed be open to left wing ideas, if they are expressed quietly as common sense and common decency, and if they are counterposed to a resurgent right wing portrayed as an ideological attack on the values of the country. At the moment they are scattered – the people you find at Jeremy’s meetings that you didn’t expect (like the grocer in Cardiff or the three young women with upper class accents and expensive clothes talking about horses as they waited in the queue at the People’s Post meeting in Manchester), the expressions of sympathy from sources that you didn’t expect (like the fighter pilot who wrote that the freedom not to kneel before the Queen if you didn’t want to was one of the freedoms he had fought for), and the scattered opinion poll findings that suggest he is being taken seriously (most notably perhaps the 82% of Daily Telegraph readers who support the statement that he wouldn’t push the nuclear button).

Can we build on this to create a settled quiet determination amongst the people of Middle England to make Jeremy Prime Minister? Or will this stunning victory be snatched from him. The party and its supporters are quite capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of a world-changing victory. There are many on the left of the party determined to continue to use extreme and ideological language. There are many on the right of the party convinced that only selfishness motivates the British people and that any idealism must be attacked as ideological. We will have to recognise that we will be damaged by understandable but nonetheless problematical excesses of the anger of the people like the unacceptable abuse and threats through which Conservatives had to enter their party conference – if I had faced that experience at the time that I was thinking of defection it might just possibly have persuaded me to stay.

But if we can recognise that the opposition to our ideas from the people of Middle England has never been a political opposition, but rather a distrust of ideology and politics, and if we can appeal to their decency, we can yet establish that there is a future still for service, stewardship and social harmony, and that it never was the right wing idea that we so long allowed it to be portrayed as.

Entrepreneurs want to make money by making the world a better place – why should they not belong in that political force which wants to make the world a better place? Professionalism is rooted in service – why should professionals be expected to vote for a party of greed and selfishness? The village has cooperation and social harmony at its heart – surely we should want to protect villages where they exist and create them where they do not? Why do we concede this territory to a party dominated by those who despise its values?

Tagged , | 2 Comments
%d bloggers like this: