Monday, 3 August 2009

John McDonnell Commentating on LRC versus HOPI Cricket Match

Andrew Fisher Run Out in LRC v HOPI Cricket Match

LRC versus HOPI Cricket Match In Action

LRC Team

LRC versus HOPI Cricket Match Sequence

What follows is a sequence of films of the historic cricket match at the weekend between the Labour Representation Committee and the Hands Off People of Iran. For the commentary I can only apologise. As for the cricket I can only urge comrades not to give up their day jobs on the picket lines, marches and demonstrations.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

"Open Left"; How dare they call themselves Left?

The Guardian's Comment is Free website asked me to comment on the Purnell/Cruddas Demos "Open Left" exercise. I wrote this article on Friday after we heard the Norwich North result. I had in mind the work that Ian Gibson had put in in trying to prevent New Labour bringing in tuiton fees. Just one of the New Labour policies that has contributed to undermining our support.

If the Norwich North byelection result tells us anything it is that it's time to tell it straight about what and who has brought us to a situation where the Labour party gets hammered in a seat where it should come safely home, and which has clearly opened the door to a Tory government.

So in that spirit of telling it like it is let me say that my first reaction to James Purnell's Demos Open Left project was how dare they bloody well use the term "left".

This is about the fourth or fifth, (I lost count some time ago), attempt by former New Labour apparatchiks to try and reinvent themselves. We have had former Blair/Brown insider advisers Neal Lawson and Jon Cruddas with Compass, Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn with 2020 Vision, and now James Purnell and Jon Cruddas with Demos's Open Left.

No matter how clever the project's title, how well its re-launch statements are drafted and how smart its website, none of them can escape from the objective history of the part they played in creating and supporting the reactionary, political deviation that was New Labour, a political project that has brought the Labour party to the edge of extinction.

Between them all they have either been the architects of, the advisers to, the parliamentary lobby fodder in support of or the ministerial implementers of policies which have left at least half a million innocent people dead in Iraq, doubled the number of homeless families in Britain, privatised more public sector jobs than Thatcher and Major put together, undermined long-cherished basic civil liberties and forced through so brutal an attack on the recipients of welfare benefits that even the Thatcher government refused to implement.

Quoting past Labour party theoreticians, intellectualising justifications for betrayal in the language of an A-level sociology paper, and speaking left while voting right will not wash off the blood of the murdered Iraqis or stem the tears of a single parent forced off benefits or help explain to the unemployed person how they can live on £65-a-week jobseeker's allowance.

Some among this crew realised sooner than others that the only hope for their future political careers was to jump ship from New Labour and to rebrand themselves on the left. They have been assisted by parts of the media that are implicated in delivering the Labour party and the country up to Blair, Brown and Mandelson, and who are also trying to distance themselves from the creature they helped create.

Asked what was the difference between the left and right, Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio replied that the left always seeks greater equality and the right always produces greater inequality. New Labour has created a society scarred by inequality, more unequal than at any time since the second world war.

The debate about the future of progressive advance in this country cannot be left in the hands of the guilty people who pursued the policies that inflicted this inequality on our community. They deserve to be swept away.

Instead, a progressive future is being debated and determined by others, especially those forging their ideas while taking action. The real debate about a progressive future is among the workers occupying the Vestas factory, among the blacklisted workers, among the cleaners fighting for a living wage, among the climate campers who will take the debate to the streets of the City of London in August, and among those Labour party members, trade unionists and others on the left whose credibility has not been undermined by association with the degenerate policies of New Labour.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Norwich North; A Self Inflicted Political Disaster

This is the press release I put out on the announcement of the Norwich North result.

Shocking result for Labour in unnecessary by-election, says McDonnell

Labour has been defeated in the Norwich North by-election caused by the barring of former Labour MP Ian Gibson from standing at the next election.

John McDonnell MP, LRC Chair, said:

"What is clear is that the Brown / Mandelson stratgey is not working. However hard they spin it this is a shocking result for Labour.

"The first thing that Gordon Brown and the Labour Party NEC should do is to apologise to Ian Gibson and his family, the people of Norwich, and the Labour Party members nationwide for robbing them of a decent, hard-working, principled MP, who was greatly respected in his local area.

"If we are going to learn anything from this defeat, the Prime Minister has to stop obeying the diktats of Peter Mandelson and start listening to the people."

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Support the Vestas Workers' Occupation

I was approached to support the campaign to save the jobs and the operation at the Vesta wind turbine company. I tabled the following Early Day Motion in Parliament on Thursday and have now sent a message of solidarity to the workers occupying their factory. It is critical that we build solidarity with this vitally important campaign. These workers are at the forefront of the struggle to save their jobas and our planet.

EDM 1925 Vesta

That this House expresses its concern that, at the very time when the Government is launching its drive for developing renewable energy sources in the UK, the Vestas company, specialising in renewable energy plant, is shedding 600 jobs and is closing; and calls on the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency to ensure the future of the Vestas operation and the protection of jobs.

Milburn Report on Social Mobility Just Another Cop Out From Addressing Inequality.

After reading the briefings in the media on the report to be launched today by Alan Milburn it is clear that it is just another cop out.

The report is merely a statement of the blindingly obvious and a complete cop out of tackling the real issue of the growing inequality in our society. We know already that private schools with their massive resources are better crammers to get their privileged students into universities and that middle class parents are able to subsidise their children through the unpaid work needed to enter professions like the law and journalism. The lack of social mobility is just a symptom of the grotesque inequality gap in our society which New Labour ministers like Alan Milburn caused to widen under their watch.

Friday, 17 July 2009

May Day Rally

A friend sent me this film of this year's May Day rally in Trafalgar Square. Tony Been's speech is so relevant to what we are now facing.

Parliamentary Debate on Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan has claimed more lives of British soldiers this week. This terrible loss of life prompted a debate in Parliament today (Thursday). The debate focused on an at times unseemly tussle between the political parties on whether the Government had provided sufficient support in terms of troops and equipment to fight this war. I spoke in the debate to express my distress at the loss of so many young lives and my view that this war was unnecessary, unwinnable and ill-judged.

See a video of my contribution to the debate on my Parliamentary/constituency website

This is the text of my speech. With only 6 minutes allowed to speak I tried to get across not very well a sense of the tragic futility of this war.

Commons Speech

As a parent, I find it extremely distressing to see photographs of the young men who have died in the conflict in Afghanistan. Many are so young: I find it hard to come to terms with the death of an 18-year-old barely out of school.

Parents and families have taken solace from the fact that their sons have given their lives courageously in the service of this country, and I share that view wholeheartedly. When those young men signed up for military service, they signed up to the compact under which they pledged their lives to the service of this country. However, there are two sides to that compact; we are the other side. We pledge to do all that we can to keep them out of harm's way, and to ensure that they are treated properly when injured and that their families are cherished if they sacrifice their lives. Many statements have been made today about the way in which we are fulfilling that compact, and it is important that the Government consider those messages seriously.

Another element of that compact is that we do not send our young men into unnecessary and ill-judged wars that cannot be won. I believe that the Government have failed that critical element of the military compact. This is an unnecessary and ill-judged war that cannot be won. After eight years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to answer the question, "Why do we need this war?" It was a reaction to 9/11, started with a failed bombing campaign and led inevitably to invasion. The objective was to destroy al-Qaeda, but inevitably when the bombing strategy failed and we moved to invasion, we discovered what leaders of the British empire discovered in the 19th century and what the Russian's discovered in the 20th century—that it is impossible to fight a successful war in this terrain. I must add that all those invasions claimed the consent of the people.

I believe that the strategy of destroying al-Qaeda flies in the face of all that we know and understand about modern terrorism, which does not need a fixed territorial base. As we have discovered, modern-day terrorists can be based as much in Leeds as in the mountains of Afghanistan itself. The attempts to evict al-Qaeda from Afghanistan have simply led to its wider dispersal across Pakistan, Somalia and terrorist cells deeper into western Europe. If the war aim was to destroy or remove the Taliban because they harbour al-Qaeda, it completely underestimated, as hon. Members have said, the complexity of the relationships within the Taliban and the scale and depth of support for them in the region, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If the objective of the war was to tackle terrorism associated with al-Qaeda, a more effective alternative would have been to focus on states' policing role in gaining intelligence on terrorist organisations and activities and in intervening to prevent terrorist strikes. As important is to negotiate with elements that might be attracted to support or harbour terrorists, to divide them wherever possible and to ensure that we gain some purchase on negotiating opportunities with the Taliban. Of course, an effective anti-terrorist strategy must ensure that no action is taken that mobilises support for terrorism, and must win the hearts and minds of potential recruits by addressing grievances. Far from addressing such a strategy, the war in Afghanistan is using resources on military action that should be used in the policing and prevention of terrorism. Far from isolating the Taliban, it has spread their influence into Pakistan, and far from dividing them, it has united Taliban elements into a cohesive fighting force. Far from winning hearts and minds, the war, as in Iraq, has become a rallying symbol for terrorist recruitment.

A tragedy is being played out in Afghanistan, and in our society too. The argument that we are tackling the drugs problem has been undermined today. Afghanistan is now the drug capital of the world. There is the argument that we are installing a democratic Government, but, as has been explained today, that Government is corrupt and considered illegitimate even by their own people—it is a Government of warlords oppressing their own people. As my hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) said, the argument about the oppression of women has been undermined by women in Afghanistan demonstrating the oppression that they say has actually been worse than under the Taliban.

We need to address this tragedy: the lives being lost, the families being destroyed, the immense human suffering. At some stage, the Government will have to face up to the need to negotiate a withdrawal. We need to request that other regional powers come to our aid in negotiating with all parties, including the Taliban, a constitutional settlement for the long-term future of Afghanistan. The strategy must involve conflict resolution, bring people together, and recognise their grievances and why they have taken up arms, as they see it, to protect their own country. It is also about developing an alternative terrorism strategy involving intelligence, policing and ensuring respect for the grievances that lead people to take up terrorist activity. The sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we can end the suffering of the British and Afghani families who have been drawn into this tragic and desperate war.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Who pays for this crisis?

The calls for pay cuts and cuts in spending on public services prompted me to write the following article for the Morning Star today.

In the last major economic depression in the 1930s, a Labour government fell because it decided that the cure for the latest crisis of capitalism was to cut public spending - in particular, to cut benefits to the unemployed.

A Labour prime minister and his main ministerial allies accepted wholeheartedly the economic orthodoxy of the time that public expenditure had to be reined in to stabilise the markets.

Working people, living at best on subsistence incomes but more often on the edge of destitution, were told that the country couldn't afford to pay them decent wages, house them, educate their children or treat their sick.

Labour ministers who stayed in office in the national government were applauded by their Conservative colleagues and the press for their statesmanship in telling their working-class supporters that they had to accept wage cuts and longer hours for the sake of the economy. These ministers were lauded for their patriotism in putting the interests of the country before the interests of their class.

The consequence of this acquiescence by a Labour government was a level of unemployment that impoverished millions of people in Britain and many millions more across the globe.

Over the last three months the same consensus has emerged across the three main political parties and within the mainstream media. In the interests of the country, wages must be cut, working hours increased, public expenditure must be massively reduced and there has even been a call to increase the retirement age to 70.

In effect the difference between the parties is not the direction of political travel but the depth and speed of cutting wages and public spending.

Having dabbled with a bit of last-minute panic Keynesianism as the scale of the latest crisis began to unfold, the government has now budgeted for a £20 billion programme of cuts and privatisation, is introducing workfare in its Welfare Reform Bill and is attempting to introduce by the back door a public-sector pay freeze and, eventually, an overall strategy of pay cuts.

The usual alliance of big-business associations, the City and media commentators is urging the government to behave "responsibly" and bring forward an even larger-scale programme of public spending cuts.

The Telegraph's right-wing columnist Matthew d'Ancona has praised elements in the Labour Party around the Compass group for calling for austerity measures. Civil servants are reported to be preparing a "doomsday" plan for 20 per cent cuts in public services.

With unemployment rising rapidly and faced with a constant media propaganda barrage, some people are understandably falling for the line that the country can't afford decent wages and public services. It's the same old line they gave out in the '30s and in every economic downturn since.

Others are looking for scapegoats and the fascists are still around, just as they were in the 1930s, to exploit these fears and confusions.

Occasionally the realities of the situation peep through and show what is needed.

Just as the collapse of Northern Rock and Royal Bank of Scotland exposed the casino banking that contributed to this recession, the announcement last week of record bonuses at Goldman Sachs demonstrated starkly not just the grotesque inequalities of our society but also the absolute lack of effective government control of the finance sector and therefore the economy.

At the same time, the failure of National Express on the East Coast railway line exposed the scandalous waste of public resources in subsidising the privatisation rip-off of our public services.

The slogan repeated now on demonstrations and picket lines that "we are not paying for your crisis" is exactly the right one.

By refusing to accept pay cuts, phoney sabbaticals, longer hours, worsening conditions and cuts in public services, we are forcing change in how we manage our economy, how firms are managed and controlled, how we distribute the profits of these companies and the wealth of our country, how our public services are provided and what our taxes are spent on.

Every refusal to accept a cut is a demand for the system to change. It is a statement about the unfairness and incompetence of the existing system for managing our economy and controlling our lives.

If we are told that our wages and public services can't be afforded, we can show them where we don't want our resources spent - for example on wars, weapons and privatisations - and where they can find billions more by creating a just tax system where everybody and every company pays a fair share.

If they try to tell us in a company or a public service or in government that all this can't be done, then we should tell them that if they can't manage the place then move over because we can.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Another Week, Another Re-launch

I wrote this article in Saturday's Guardian's Comment is Free.

The real Left rarely gets access to the main newspaper's pages because of their control by New Labour in all its forms from Blairites/Brownites/Compass but at least the Comment is Free website is sufficiently open to the Left.

The Labour government's latest attempt to relaunch itself has turned into yet another political disaster

Another week, another relaunch. This week's "Building Britain's Future" was the fifth Gordon Brown relaunch. Launched on Monday, dismissed by Tuesday and largely forgotten by Wednesday.

The mish mash of supposed new policies not only looked stale but also undeliverable, even within Alistair Darling's most optimistic budget projections.

Each policy announcement contained the depressingly, obsessively cautious "one step forward two steps back" approach typified by the Gordon Brown premiership.

In education, the hearts of teachers were lifted with the promised end of the curriculum straitjacket. At last it appeared the government was willing to trust our teachers and schools to do their job. These hopes were soon dashed by the threats of a five-year teaching licence and the prospect of schools being dragged through the courts by disgruntled parents. In the legal profession ambulance chasing lawyers are to be joined by school bus chasers.

In housing, the announcement of a new social housing programme led by local councils has been made on at least three occasions with little effect so far and is on so limited a scale that tens of thousands of families will still be condemned to living in overcrowded, unsanitary temporary accommodation for decades to come.

Even the welcome policy U-turn on Royal Mail was made so begrudgingly that the government lost any political credit. The prime minister could have simply explained that the government had listened to the deeply-held concerns in the Labour party, trade unions and wider community and as a result changed its mind. Instead Mandelson announces the privatisation plan is only delayed by the lack of a buyer and so now the threat will continue to hang over our heads right up to the election.

Johnson's retreat on compulsory ID cards initially looked promising but the hope of a fundamental Government rethink on civil liberties was soon dismissed when it was made clear that the central "Big Brother" register was to be maintained.

Anyway, the real world intruded quickly to spoil the relaunch party.

The obscene scenes of bankers bingeing again in the City undermined any claim of the government to have taken control of the economy. "Sacks of gold" record bonuses averaging £340,000 per employee at Goldman Sachs demonstrated that casino banking is back. With a pop of the champagne corks, the City put two fingers up to the government and the rest of society and Brown and Darling looked weak and powerless.

By Thursday the failure of Brown's personal obsession with privatisation was starkly demonstrated by the collapse of the National Express's East Coast rail franchise straining the viability of the government's transport budget and programme. Once again the morale of Labour supporters was raised by the government's decision to bring the rail franchise back into public ownership but depressed by the immediate insistence of Lord Adonis that the service would be re-privatised in 2010.

Time and time again Brown is seen as trailing in the wake of events rather than controlling them. The Brown administration displays a strange contradiction in rushing to ill-judged action on some issues and no heed to advice, while on others responses are too slow and ill thought through. Fights are picked that can't be won and poison the political atmosphere.

The strategy of painting Tories as public expenditure cutters was quickly undermined by a simple display of the government's own cuts and sell-off plans. The debate has now degenerated into which party is best at inflicting cuts in public spending.

The question of who should pay for this recession should be an easy one for any Labour government. The brutal facts about unfairness of our society make it clear who is currently bearing the brunt of the recession and who should.

There are now 2.26m people unemployed, and youth unemployment is at its highest for more than 15 years. If unemployment benefit had kept pace with earnings since 1980, Jobseeker's Allowance would be worth over £100 per week today. Instead it is £64.30 or £50.95 for under-25s. And yet the chief executive of the taxpayer bailed-out RBS is awarded £9.6m pay. Corporate tax avoidance stands at £25bn a year minimum and executive pay has risen over the last 15 years at seven times the rate for the average worker.

This is no time for nail-biting caution. We need a decisive and detailed policy programme that redistributes wealth and power on a scale not seen in this country since the Attlee government. This recession is the reason for determined action, not an excuse to put it off.

After 12 years in office it pulls you up with a start to think that there are only 10 months left before an election is called. The weeks always seem to go faster as an election nears. I say to Labour supporters and especially Labour MPs that it could all be over pretty soon unless we get a grip.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Graham Bash at Labour Briefing AGM

I attended the AGM of Labour Briefing and interviewed Graham Bash, a member of Briefing's editorial board and one of the original founders of the magazine. Many Left journals have gone to the wall or reverted to websites only recently but Briefing continues and now has the opportunity of playing a much greater role in stimulating and reporting on the policy debate within the Left.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

My "Comment is Free" Article.

This is the Guardian Comment is Free I wrote yesterday, still running on its website today.

We need change now, Gordon

The Campaign Group had nothing to do with the coup attempt, but if Brown does not offer real change, I will back a challenge

About a month ago the weekly discussion meeting of the Campaign Group of MPs focused on the imminent electoral wipeout of Labour in the coming European and local council elections. We decided to write to Gordon Brown to seek a meeting with him to see whether any common ground could be found on the policy changes needed to win back support for the party. No response was received.

Over the following weeks we refused to be dragged into either the plotting to oust Brown or the positioning by others seeking to fill his shoes if he fell. Our line was straightforward – there's no point in changing the faces at the top if there is no change in political direction.

When I then learned that No 10 was briefing journalists that Campaign Group members were involved in the email plot calling for Brown to go, I wrote again to the prime minister requesting that his people desist from this covert briefing. I told him straight that allegations about our involvement in this backstage plotting were untrue and that whatever political differences we had with him they were always expressed openly and honestly. I got no reply.

Few realistically doubted that the prime minister would survive this half-hearted attempted putsch. Nevertheless at the parliamentary Labour party meeting on Monday a chastened Brown for the first time admitted to weaknesses and mistakes and assured Labour MPs that lessons had been learned and gave the strong impression that changes would follow with intensive discussions within the PLP and party, and that a raft of new policies would be announced.

Labour MPs have taken false comfort in the Tories not surging ahead in the percentage share of the vote, ignoring the role Ukip plays in siphoning off Tory votes in European elections that largely return to the Tories in general elections. They cling to the statistic that Cameron needs a 7% swing to win the next election, which has only been achieved twice in the last century, forgetting that they themselves were party to just such an achievement only 12 years ago.

On Wednesday the first of the policy announcements on constitutional reform produced typical Brown-like long-winded, turgid consultations and committees of inquiry, stretching well beyond the election and possibly into infinity.

If Labour is to stand any chance of surviving at the next election, real change has to be visibly under way and progress demonstrated at the latest by the autumn.

A consensus checklist of what constitutes real change is emerging from many sources. Securing jobs by intervening in manufacturing and restoring trade union rights; securing homes by a mass local authority house-building programme; stopping the squandering of public resources by ending the privatisation of public services; reasserting the government's green credentials with no third runway; for young people freezing, as the first step towards abolishing, student fees; for pensioners restoring the link between pensions and earnings; halting the attacks on welfare; paying for our programme by fair taxation and cutting out the waste on the likes of Trident renewal and ID cards; and making government ruthlessly clean, open and fair with immediate electoral reform.

Most of the policy changes are blindingly obvious and readily implementable to re-establish our credentials with each section of the broad coalition that enthusiastically ensured the rout of the Tories and Labour's election in 1997.

These all seem straightforward, sensible and popular. But what happens if Brown refuses to contemplate real change? If we go beyond November without real change visibly under way, what hope is left of Labour not only remaining in government but also surviving as an effective political force at all?

At that stage the only responsible act in the long-term interests of our movement would be to offer a real change in political direction by mounting a challenge to the political leadership of the party and letting the members of the party decide. Let me give notice now that this is the path I will take. If this route is blocked again by MPs failing to nominate, then the alternative is Labour MPs making it clear at the next election that they stand on a policy platform of real change as "change candidates".

Of course, they will be standing as Labour candidates but binding together as a slate of candidates committed within Labour to advocating a change programme, setting out the policy programme they will be advocating as a group and supporting in parliament if elected. Only in this way can we demonstrate to the supporters that want to come home to Labour that there is the hope and prospect of change.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Candidates for Change.

I have written an article for the Guardian's Comment is Free today and issued the following press release.

Labour Left threatens 'Candidates for Change' slate if policies don't change

The Labour left refused to be dragged into either the plotting to oust Brown or the positioning by others seeking to fill his shoes if he fell. Our line was straightforward. There is no point in changing the faces at the top if there is no change in political direction.

Now though Brown is on probation. The political crisis facing the party and the economic crisis facing Labour voters is too great to allow the debate to be dominated by a personality spat between Blairites and Brownites.

John McDonnell MP*, LRC Chair, said:

"If Labour is to stand any chance of surviving at the next election real change has to be visibly underway and progress demonstrated at the latest by the autumn. If we go beyond November without real change, what hope is left of Labour not only remaining in government but surviving as an effective political force at all?

"At that stage the only responsible act in the long term interests of our movement would be to offer a real change in political direction by mounting a challenge to the political leadership of the party and letting the members of the party decide but this route would almost certainly be blocked again by MPs failing to nominate. Then the only alternative is Labour MPs making it clear at the next election that they stand on a policy platform of real change as 'change candidates'."

These would be Labour candidates binding together as a slate, committed within Labour, setting out the policy programme they will be advocating as a group and supporting in Parliament if elected. Only in this way can we demonstrate to the supporters that want to come home to Labour that there is the hope and prospect of change.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Labour Leadership Infighting: What do they think they are doing?

This is the full text of the article I wrote for Comment is Free on the current Labour leadership debacle, which is summarised in the main Guardian today.

What have they done to our party?Ambition and self-interest have become more important to many in the Labour hierarchy than the struggles of Britain's people
Comments (108)

The Labour party was founded to transform our society. Men and women of ideals came together to give a voice to the large mass of ordinary people, who until then had no consistent or effective voice in the politics of this country. They had such ambition for their class and for the whole country. The party wasn't just about providing the jobs, homes, schools and health service our people so desperately needed. It was also about releasing the talents of so many who had been held back by class, gender and race-based inequality. They were inspired to create a new society.

Reading past Labour party manifestos you get a real feel for the idealism and commitment of the millions of Labour party members, who over generations worked selflessly, often in the most difficult circumstances, without thought of personal reward to advance this cause. Each generation held in trust the party and its ideals that it had inherited from the previous generation of activists. Undoubtedly, disputes broke out in each era and were often bitterly fought but they centred on the basic policies and political direction of the party. Personal ambitions were of course often present but overridden by the overall crusading ethos of the party.

Given this history of a party created and motivated by the highest ideals, founded and motivated by the self-sacrifice of generation after generation of its members and supporters, party members have looked on aghast, in disgust and anger at the self-interested, self-serving political faction fighting among ministers and MPs over the last week. Ambition and naked self-interest have taken over from any sense of political purpose. Saving seats and manoeuvring for cabinet or prime ministerial office seem to have become more important to many in the Labour hierarchy than the suffering being caused to so many of our people who are losing their jobs and homes in this recession.

Handing over power to the Tories, whether in local councils or national government, at a time when our communities need to be protected from Tory policies of public service cutbacks is just unforgivable. What could a Labour cabinet minister responsible for local government have been thinking of when she resigned 24 hours before council elections? No fit of personal pique is worth the sacrifice of a single Labour councillor's seat.

It says it all that as ministers has announced their resignations to the media, not a single policy difference has been mentioned. Typically, the response from Number 10 has not been about identifying and tackling any political issues dividing the party, but to resort to covert media briefing and counter-briefing.

Lacking in political purpose, the infighting within the Labour hierarchy is about personalities not politics, about who can save more of their seats from the potential disaster of the next general election. Candidates who are publicly declaring loyalty to the prime minister and an unwillingness to take on the role have recruited and mobilised their leadership campaign teams.

For the sake of the party we are all supposed to be members of, and more importantly for the sake of the people we are meant to represent, I appeal to this leading clique to stand back and look at what they are doing to the party and to the supporters who have stuck with us through thick and thin. If Labour is to continue in government and have any chance at the next election, the debate about how we use the next 12 months in office needs to be open to all our potential supporters in the party, the trade unions and beyond into the various progressive campaigns and it needs to be about the policies and political behaviour of our government, not the personalities. Bouncing through a cabinet reshuffle simply to tie down potential rivals or plotters can only be a temporary fix.

Over recent years people have been alienated by the policies of illegal and immoral wars, privatisation of public services, attacks on civil liberties, unfettered greed in the finance sector and among the political class, and above all else by being lied to and by being ignored by political leaders. A first step to at least restoring some confidence at least to our own members and supporters could be setting in train a recall Labour party conference – one that is properly open to all our members, supporters and progressives – at which we can debate the policies, democratically agree a new way forward and motivate our supporters once again with the high ideals that our party was founded upon.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Alice Mahon Leaves the Labour Party.

I count Alice Mahon as one of the finest socialists I have known. She is a good friend and comrade. In the light of Alice announcing that she has left the Labour Party I put out the following statement as Chair of the LRC.

Alice Mahon was one of the hardest working, most dedicated and principled members of Parliament in the Labour Partys entire history. The Labour leadership clique should sit-up and recognise the Labour Party has a serious problem on its hands. When someone as Labour to the core as Alice Mahon is forced to leave the Labour Party, the Labour leadership must appreciate the political catastrophe that is emerging.

Alice is a member of the LRC's National Executive Committee and will continue to campaign for socialism in this role.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Smear Campaign: This is not the Labour Way.;

I have posted this article on the Guradian's Comment is Free Webpage on the issue of the smear campaign.

This is not the Labour way

Smear tactics like those suggested by Damian McBride drag the party into the gutter, which is why I have called for an inquiry.

In the light of press reports of the attempted smear campaign against the Tories I have called upon the prime minister to establish an independent inquiry into how this smear campaign was set up, who was involved and who knew what and when in the Labour hierarchy.

Smear tactics like this are not the Labour way. They drag the Labour party into the gutter. Coming on top of the revelations about some Labour MPs' expenses they just add further to the undermining of the belief that Labour party supporters have placed in our party. Labour members and supporters have not worked and sacrificed over generations to create a party that resorts to this type of gutter politics.

The prime minister needs to act decisively to restore the standing of the Labour party by launching immediately an independent inquiry into how this smear campaign was planned. If we are to restore the reputation and standing of the party, key questions have to be answered. Who in the party was in any way aware of the campaign? Which party officials, advisers or politicians were consulted? Under whose authority were the perpetrators working? When did senior members of the party become aware of this campaign and what action did they take?

We need to root out these practices and elements within the party so that in future Labour can be seen to be above reproach.

There was a collective sigh of relief in 2007 when in his first speech after taking over the Labour leadership from Blair, Gordon Brown promised a new politics. His personal ratings collapsed when that summer of promise turned into an autumn of spin over a potential election. His return of the master of spin, Peter Mandelson, to cabinet did little to reassure the electorate that the era of spin was over.

If there isn't a drastic rooting out from within the Labour party of the unhealthy style of politics that the smear campaign revealed in the last few days how can we seriously ask the electorate to trust us ever again.

Political rivalry is one thing but personal smear campaigns scrape the barrel of political infighting. If bitter party name-calling turns people off then smear politics just destroys all credibility in the aims of politicians, the role of political parties and the political process itself.

This smear story can only be killed off by decisive action and that action needs to come from the top, very publicly and very firmly. The Labour party needs to look at itself very closely and ask the question, how can we have allowed the party to degenerate to this.

One of the reasons is that the undermining of democracy within the Labour party by New Labour over the last 15 years has resulted in a small arrogant clique now controlling this party to such an extent that they believe that they can act with impunity.

If we can admit that, there is a chance of change and a possibility of reviving the Labour party that once was trusted.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Debate on Inquiry into Iraq War

The Government promised that there would be an inquiry into the Iraq war at the appropriate time. Now that the Prime Minister has announced that British troops are to be withdrawn later this year MPs are debating today whether the inquiry should now be timetabled. This inquiry is aimed at revealing what exactly happened in the run up to the decision to take this country to war and to discover at long last the truth behind the decision making in Government. As someone who opposed the war and was sceptical about the Government’s motives I welcome an early inquiry. I believe that this inquiry is long overdue. I interviewed Jeremy Corbyn MP who has been an ardent opponent of the war and has called consistently for an independent inquiry.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bank Bonus Debate Exposes Political Bankruptcy

The Government's weak-kneed response over bank bonuses and nationalising the banks is pushing the Brown administration to the edge of crisis. People are demanding action and yet by prevaricating Gordon Brown is allowing the Tories opportunistically to take the high ground. The bank bonus debate has exposed the political bankruptcy of the leaderships of all the major parties.

Brown needs to stop faffing around and act fast to end the bonuses to the fat cats, and to take control by nationalising the banks. His credibility is draining fast and swift action is needed if this administration is to survive.

The bonus scandal has also exposed that whilst the fat cats on the Bank Boards have been lapping up the bonuses, many of their staff have been on low pay, dependent on the annual bonus shareout to top up their low salaries.

Each year for five years I have tabled motions in Parliament codemning the big city bonuses as obscene and calling for action with no response from the Government. People's patience with the Government is fast runing out. Decisive action now could turn this around.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Brown needs to realise that for the general public the Governments treatment of Bankers Bonuses is the key test of Who will Pay for the Crisis

I have called upon the Prime Minister today to get a grip and take decisive action over the issue of Bankers bonuses.

Gordon Brown has completely failed to appreciate that the way in which the Government deals with Bankers bonuses is seen as a key test of who will pay for the economic crisis they have caused. Allowing bonuses to be paid to the higher paid bankers who caused this crisis by their greed and recklessness will be seen as fundamentally unfair. Fumbling around with nothing more than ineffective warnings of inquiries is pointless. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip and take the decisive action needed to end the bonus culture and send a clear message that the binge banking party is over.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ten Days That Shook New Labour: Lessons of the Dispute So Far.

Large numbers of workers taking spontaneous direct action have not only shocked this New Labour Government but have also disoriented some sections of the Left.

I have been off the scene largely because of the 3rd Runway announcement two weeks ago. When the Government announces that 10,000 members of your community are about to lose their homes and you are their MP you have a responsibility to focus your attention on their deep felt cares and concerns. So in the last couple of weeks I have thrown myself into organising meeting after meeting in my constituency, speaking to over 1500 people and contacting by various means nearly 20,000. Their response has been feelings of fear, insecurity, anxiety, anger and sheer determination to fight back.

It is these same feelings of insecurity, turning to anger and determination to resist that has motivated the workers involved in the strikes at the energy companies around the country. No worker can feel safe in their jobs as the recession slips into a depression. People are inevitably fearful for their futures.

They also have no confidence in the existing political structures and process being able or willing to do anything to protect them. The party that they voted into power has turned out to be the very Government that has promoted the privatisation, contracting out, outsourcing, and off-shoring, which have stripped away their basic protections at work, undermined their employment security, intensified their exploitation, cut their wages and forced them into debt dependency.

People have also learnt that working through the official structures of their trade union has been rendered largely ineffective by the persistence of Thatcher’s anti trade union laws under this Government. Increasingly they have also come t know that they cannot rely upon many of their trade union leaderships who have delivered up their unions in support of New Labour and who less than 2 years ago installed Brown as Labour leader, the evangelist for globalisation, free markets and flexible labour.

Without political representation and with limited potential to mobilise through official union channels there is no other route but to take but direct action when fear for jobs turns to anger.

Every member of the Labour and trade union movement should welcome the energy workers getting off their knees, standing up and fighting back. It’s called solidarity.

In any dispute or struggle this doesn’t mean blindly accepting either the analysis or demands of those directly engaged in the dispute. It certainly doesn’t mean accepting without question the media’s representation of their demands. Disputes are at times chaotic with goals sometimes ill defined and often quickly evolving.

This latest round of disputes, like many more to come, has been about the right to work. As this latest crisis of capitalism unfolds many more workers will be demanding the right to work and we must support them.

If we are provide effective support we can learn from some of the lessons of this dispute so far.

First, as the Government has refused to abolish the anti trade union laws the lesson is that if workers are sufficiently determined they can just ignore them. Using unofficial structures has been successful in mobilising this time but by their nature they are difficult to maintain. If the TUC and the general secretaries of major unions showed the same determination and solidarity of the workers in this dispute and stood together to challenge the legal restrictions on trade union rights in Britain we could destroy them once and for all. Future disputes should be made official to bring this issue to a head.

Second, if cheap labour is being used by employers to undermine wages and conditions, its country of origin is irrelevant. Similarly, “British jobs for British workers” was designed to divide us to compete for increasingly scarce jobs, forcing down wages and eroding job security. Just as many of the stewards in this dispute have made clear, we should never allow the bosses or the media to divide us on grounds of nationality or race. Our demand is the right to work for all.

Third, because the EU legislation and court rulings associated with the open market are being used to divide worker from worker the onus is upon us to build urgently the links of solidarity with European unions to enable joint action to protect jobs, wages and conditions. Where the TUC has failed the newly formed TUCG of radical unions could succeed by launching a series of talks and measures to construct these international alliances.

Fourth, as the depression forces more workers onto the dole queue industrial action alone will not be enough to protect jobs and living standards. The question of who will pay for this crisis will be determined by the answer to the question who controls our economy. The battle for control of our economy needs to be fought out politically as well as industrially, and nationally as well as at the level of the firm and industrial sector. Our demand is for a national economic strategy aimed at protecting and creating jobs, investing in public services, ending privatisation and promoting public ownership, tackling poverty and inequality and creating a sustainable environment. The launch of the People’ Charter campaign presents us with an opportunity to mobilise for this change.

Fifth, the depression is likely to present the Left with ever new situations and challenge us to respond swiftly and effectively. Very quickly we need to decide the best mechanisms for the faster flow of information and for the co-ordination of solidarity action. The TUCG, the LRC, the Convention of the Left, union broad lefts and the emerging People’s Charter network of activists, all have a critical role to play. Putting this together quickly over the coming period will be a central task for us all.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

New Labour Government to Agree Third Runway at Heathrow

The Government is to announce tomorrow its approval of a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.

I have put out this press release.

"Battle against Heathrow Third Runway Only Just Beginning.”

The Government is expected to approve a third runway at Heathrow tomorrow.

Labour MP, John McDonnell, whose constituency includes Heathrow airport, said “The Government’s announcement is not the end of the battle against the third runway, it is just the beginning. Opponents will use every mechanism possible to prevent the runway going ahead including campaigns in Parliament, in the courts, in the planning process, in the media and if necessary in direct action. If the Government is not willing to listen to Parliament or the people then there is no other option but to mobilise the largest coalition of public opposition and protest to halt this disastrous proposal in its tracks.”

Thursday, 8 January 2009

From Recession to Deflation and on to Depresssion

The Government has been consistently behind the curve in its recognition of the threatened depths of this recession and in its response.

Because Gordon Brown threw away control of the Bank of England in 1997 the recent cuts in interest rates have repeatedly been too little too late.

The fiscal stimulus in the form of the cut in VAT and increased public spending has been pathetic in scale and ineffectual in action.

The Government has prevaricated over quantitative easing and continues to dither over taking control of the banks on borrowing and lending.

In the meantime the failure to provide workers with effective rights to job protection, consultation and industrial democracy has meant that companies can get away with treating their employees like chattels as they lay people off in large numbers.

Deflation hangs over the economy and a recession is turning into a depression as the Government looks on in bewilderment.

Increasingly this lack of decisive action will undermine the initial boost in confidence the electorate gave the Prime Minister.

Just one small act of bringing the operation of the banks under public control would stabilise this slide in confidence and buy the Government time to bring forward the radical and comprehensive programme of economic change needed.

There is no evidence however that the Prime Minister either has any idea of how to devise and implement the radical change programme needed or has the inclination to even consider this approach. The result is that each day thousands of working people are paying for this crisis with their jobs.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Call To Recall Parliament over Gaza

I attended todays demo in London over Gaza and filmed Tony Benn's speech below.

I have also put out the following press release calling for a recall of Parliament. It is ludicrous that a serious international incident is being played out before our eyes and yet the Government is doing next to nothing and MPs are unable to even debate this critical issue as Parliament is not sitting.

Labour MP Condemns Government for Inaction over Gaza and Calls for Recall of Parliament.
Labour MP John McDonnell has condemned the UK Government’s inaction over Gaza and has called for the recall of Parliament to discuss the action needed by the UK government to halt the bloodshed.

John said 'We are witnessing a bloody massacre in Gaza and yet the UK Government has stood by and simply repeated the usual ritual, ineffective statements of condemnation. I am calling for the recall of Parliament to enable MPs to make clear that we need our Government to take decisive action to help halt this bloodbath and secure a ceasefire. Our Government should be taking a leading role in bringing together a global coalition to isolate Israel diplomatically, economically and militarily. Only in this way will Israeli aggression be halted.'