Left Watch
4 Sep 2013 10:50:43

GMB cuts its Labour affiliaton fees by 87% - and the balance of power shifts even further to Unite

By Mark Wallace
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Labour Rose WiltingIt has now been two months since Ed Miliband made his big speech intended to nip in the bud the crisis over Labour's trade union funding.

We still don't have any answers to the many questions about how his reforms will work in detail - most notably whether he will reject money from unions who refuse to implement an opt-in and how Labour's constitution will be rewritten. 

But we can already see some of the fallout of his inept response to teh scandal.

In high dudgeon, the GMB have cut the affiliation fee paid to Labour from £1.2m to £150,000. Whereas the union previously automatically affiliated 420,000 people to Labour, it now estimates that those who would actually choose to affiliate only number 50,000.

Continue reading "GMB cuts its Labour affiliaton fees by 87% - and the balance of power shifts even further to Unite" »

31 Aug 2013 12:27:00

The strange death of liberal interventionist Labour

By Harry Phibbs
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How would Tony Blair have voted on Thursday night had he still been an MP? Given his article in The Times one can only conclude that his only objection to the Government's motion would be that it was not stronger.

Several have noted that Mr Blair damaged his own cause of liberal intervention around the globe by exaggerating the evidence to go to war in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. That is not to say that the war was unjustified. The difficulty was that Mr Blair used dishonest means to secure approval for that conflict. He felt the ends justified the means.

Yet it is still remarkable the extent to which that legacy has prompted the Labour Party's internationalist credentials to be abandoned. Not a single Labour MP voted for the Government's motion on Syria. I can only identify four - Ben Bradshaw, Meg Munn, John Woodcock and Ann Clywd - who were present for the debate but abstained on the Government's motion. The Labour MP Mike Gapes clearly believes a military strike would be the right thing to do - yet he voted against the Government.

The Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy is a member of the Henry Jackson Society advisory council. He surely believes that what David Cameron said was true. Mr Murphy could have resigned and voted with the Government. It might have made a difference. But he didn't. You don't really expect much from George Galloway. I can understand why Michael Gove directed his anger at Mr Murphy.

Continue reading "The strange death of liberal interventionist Labour" »

29 Aug 2013 11:41:59

Ed Miliband should be delighted the Government are swearing about him - but events may soon spoil his mood

By Mark Wallace
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“No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a f****** c*** and a copper-bottomed s***..." said one Government source.

Red EdSo reports the Times, about the Labour leader's decision to go back on his earlier agreement with the Government's strategy on Syria. It's not every day the Government brief newspapers that the Leader of the Opposition is a bleeping bleep and an absolute bleep.

Miliband should be over the moon - where once the Conservatives laughed about him, now they swear about him. I'm serious; it's a definite step up, from inspiring ridicule to disrupting the Government's plans enough to make them angry.

The more successful the Opposition, the more they frustrate the Government of the day.

The polls also suggest Ed's decision to wreck Cameron's approach has the agreement of the public, and in some circles he's being praised as a hero.

There are two reasons he should beware, though.

The first lies in events in Syria. While a week may be a long time in politics, it can be an aeon in war. Delaying any action against Assad might look good now, but the ball is effectively now back in the dictator's court - if he uses the extra time to massacre more civilians then the shine will swiftly wear off.

That isn't a party political point, it's a grim reality. There were plenty of politicians who were supposedly wise and sensible for staying out of Bosnia, until a genocide was so clearly underway that everyone suddenly started forgetting the role they played in allowing it to happen.

The second threat to Miliband's newfound momentum lies in the tale of why he so suddenly changed tack.

As Dan Hodges reports, Miliband definitely changed his mind between meeting David Cameron during Wednesday afternoon and 5.15pm, when he called the Prime Minister to withdraw his support. The question is why did he do so?

I severely doubt it was down to the protests of Diane Abbott or the Stop the War Coalition. Nor did any new facts come to light which might have led him to reverse his position. I suspect elements of the Shadow Cabinet simply refused to back him - and they were strong enough to force an about-turn.

Everyone's views on this will understandably be coloured in the short term by their opinion on whether Britain should or should not intervene. The uncomfortable fact for Ed Miliband is that, just as his eventual reputation is now in the hands of Bashar al-Assad, his decision-making may well not be under his control either.

28 Aug 2013 13:00:31

Tower Hamlets council give £64,000 and a recruiting base to Unite

By Mark Wallace
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Labour Rose WiltingCampaigning journalist Ted Jeory, who keep a close eye on politics in east London, has an interesting scoop

Having clocked that Len McCluskey of Unite and Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman had suddenly become best buddies earlier in the year, Ted did some digging through the council's papers. 

Lo and behold, Tower Hamlets have given £64,000 of taxpayers' money to a Unite community centre (the union is putting in £140,000 and Barclays is contributing £60,000).

The stated aim of the centre is to help people find work or gain new skills. However, it has another purpose:

"The Unite Community Centre is also a Unite recruiting office. The staff are all very friendly, but also very enthusiastic about their employer. The office is stuffed full of leaflets on the negative effects of Coalition cuts and how to join and fight these. One man who’s been in there said he was encouraged to join during a discussion on how the centre could help him."

So this isn't just the commissioning of public services from an outside body, it's a taxpayer-funded platform for political campaigning, too. It's a classic entryist tactic - go in with an apparently respectable mission, then use your newfound status (and cash) to pursue political ends.

Continue reading "Tower Hamlets council give £64,000 and a recruiting base to Unite" »

27 Aug 2013 12:42:07

Gove praises union members but attacks union leaders

By Harry Phibbs
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UnitelogoOnce again the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has ventured far wider than his portfolio to challenge the direction of the Labour Party. The latest offering from Mr Gove was delivered this morning at CCHQ and concerned the trade unions in general and their relationship with the Labour Party in particular.

This is a strong Conservative theme - a recent YouGov poll for Prospect magazine found that 41 per cent agreed that Ed Miliband "is in the pocket of the trade union leaders." 34 per cent disagreed. However, Mr Gove sensibly differentiated between trade union leaders and trade unionists.

This was a distinction that Margaret Thatcher was invariably careful to remember. She would give speeches at conferences of the Conservative Trade Unionists. Her union reforms - on the closed shop, ballots, picketing - were about reducing the power of union leaders to bully union members. Norman Tebbit would frequently remind people how he had been a BALPA shop steward when he was a pilot.

Mr Gove also offered a "back story" to balance his criticisms:

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26 Aug 2013 13:02:49

British taxpayers' money to be used in a new Greek bailout – another reason to give Brussels the boot

By Mark Wallace
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Euro meltdown
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports in today's Telegraph that not only will Greece be given a new EU bailout, but this time British taxpayers' money will be used in the doomed fight to keep the Euro intact.

"The Greek daily Kathimerini said Athens and Brussels are negotiating the use of EU structural funds that draw on the collective EU budget, co-funded by the British taxpayer and other non-euro states."

"Most of the rescue aid so far for Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, and Spain's banking system has come from the eurozone's rescue machinery, outside the EU treaty structure. Britain has provided bilateral aid to Ireland, and is involved in EMU debt rescue policies through the International Monetary Fund, but has otherwise stood aloof."

It is right that Britain has mostly stayed out of such bailouts. We took the wise decision not to join the single currency, and the policy of strapping Greece into the Euro in order to satisfy Germany's economic interests and Brussels' political obsessions is both immoral and unsuccessful.

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24 Aug 2013 12:47:29

Ed Balls so badly wants the Government to fail, he can't even celebrate Britain's successes

By Mark Wallace
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The other day I picked out an example of Labour's miserablism:

"Ed Balls' apparent enthusiasm when the economic data is poor, and his deflation when the figures improve"

It's a sad fact that Balls can barely contain his desire for things to go wrong in the economy so that he can promote himself on the back of a crisis.

Given the howls that suggestion generates from some quarters, I now owe a debt of gratitude to the Shadow Chancellor himself for proving the point.

Continue reading "Ed Balls so badly wants the Government to fail, he can't even celebrate Britain's successes" »

21 Aug 2013 10:36:11

Haringey's mayor praises the London riots, continuing two shameful Labour traditions

By Mark Wallace
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Tottenham Riots wide
The police in Balcombe are evidently not the only ones to have learned nothng from the London riots.

Shockingly, Sheila Peacock, the Labour mayor of the London Borough of Haringey - which encompasses Tottenham, has said that the riots were:

"the best thing that’s happened in Tottenham for a while"

Why? Because her authority has got more public money, of course. It apparently doesn't matter to Cllr Peacock that people were burned out of house and home, lives threatened, innocents intimidated and property destroyed. 

Her comments are in keeping with two shameful Labour traditions.

The first is Bernie Grant's apparent sympathy for those who felt that "the police got a bloody good hiding" in the Broadwater Farm riot. Notably, none other than Haringey Council named a community centre after Grant in 2007 and put their name to a blue plaque in his honour only last year.

The second tradition is a more widespread Labour sickness - the willingness to celebrate bad news when it's in their own interest.

Plenty of people have commented on Ed Balls' apparent enthusiasm when the economic data is poor, and his deflation when the figures improve. Similarly, this site has long pointed to examples of Labour councils cutting frontline services to make a political point rather than making savings elsewhere.

Cllr Peacock has taken this tendency to a new low. A decent human being would be horrified at rioting, whether it boosted their own budget or not. Evidently Haringey's mayor is not such a person.

19 Aug 2013 12:01:38

Picking up the slack: Labour's economic doomsayers are proved wrong, again

By Mark Wallace
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Labour holesThere's always been something of the religious mantra about the Left's refusal to believe that the British private sector was capable of picking up the slack by creating jobs to replace those lost in the public sector.

Perhaps it's a lack of imagination which leaves them unable to conceive of jobs being created through mechanisms which they don't understand. Perhaps it's egotism, driving a belief that their actions in government will always be more effective than anything the private sector could do. Perhaps it's simply a desperate hope that economic suffering will help them to prosper politically.

Consider the following six quotes, from senior figures in the Labour Party, prominent commentators and Ed Miliband:

Ed Balls, Hansard, 12 October 2011:

"We were also told that public sector job cuts would be more than outweighed by the rise in private sector jobs, but I am afraid that employment is falling because the private sector has been unable to deliver the recovery we were promised. It has been a complete fantasy."

Ed Miliband's "predistribution" speech, 6 September 2012:

"I'm afraid the Government believed its own propaganda – that they could cut as far and as fast as they liked and the private sector would pick up the slack."

Alan Johnson's first speech as Shadow Chancellor, 18 October 2010:

"...in the current climate there's nothing inevitable about the private sector picking up the slack, when the public sector starts laying people off." 

 SImon Jenkins, The Guardian, 27 October 2010:

"David Cameron and business leaders claimed in unison that the private sector would "take up the slack" of some half a million workers ejected from the public sector. They cheered, but nobody could illustrate how that would happen."

Westminster Digested, The Guardian's "satirical" take on politics, 1 December 2011:

 "Cameron:...Only a moron would have imagined the private sector would suddenly pick up the slack in the worst depression since the 30s!"

David Blanchflower, in the New Statesman, 16 March 2012:

"The private sector isn't picking up the slack"

Then consider the new figures released today by the ONS, which show that:

"Private sector employment has jumped by 1.3million to a record high of 24.1million under the Coalition Government – while public sector employment has fallen by 423,000. But last year the increase in private sector jobs was almost five times the fall in public sector work."

So despite Ed Balls' fervent hopes, it turns out the private sector could and did take up the slack - and then some.

To paraphrase a great Norwegian: Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Keir Hardie, Gordon Brown, Eddie Izzard, Len McCluskey...can you hear me, Polly Toynbee? Your boys took one hell of a beating.

16 Aug 2013 16:22:54

Ed Miliband's back from holiday - which explains his welfare flip-flops

By Mark Wallace
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Flip Flop MilibandRemember Ed Miliband's "laser-like focus on welfare spending"? Or Ed Balls' sudden conversion to "iron discipline" on the budget?

How about Miliband's repeated insistence that his party wouldn't commit to reversing any cut in spending unless it was "fully funded".

I do, if only slightly, but it appears the Labour leader has completely forgotten them during the course of the summer holidays. In the heat, he's taken off his welfare cap and donned flip-flops instead.

The New Statesman reports that Miliband will pledge to reverse the so-called "bedroom tax" in the approach to the 2015 election - scrapping a welfare reform that saves over £450m a year. Apparently, this is an element of One Nation Labour - a nation united under debt.

Continue reading "Ed Miliband's back from holiday - which explains his welfare flip-flops" »