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Member since: 2001
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Let me put it this way

I don't think Owen Smith is some sort of messiah. Far from it. But I do think he would be more capable of getting the basic stuff right than Corbyn.

I agree that further splits on the left will be disastrous. The ideal situation would be a strong united Labour party making formal alliances with the Lib Dems and Greens to ensure that we are all working together.

However, Labour is in such a horrendous mess that a split may become inevitable. There are too many people in that party who clearly cannot work with each other, nevermind working with others from outside the Labour tradition.

More United clearly isn't founding a new party, but it does promise funding and resources for candidate's who sign up to their agenda. I suspect that it's intended as a way to gently prod non-Corbynite folk on the left towards working with the Lib Dems. Especially on EU policy. I also suspect that it's been created on the premise that a split in Labour is increasingly likely.

Mass membership alone doesn’t make a social movement

Superb article (yet again!) from Owen Jones about the need to get people active in political parties. Getting people to move from being supporters to full activists is an issue that many voluntary organisations have to deal with.


The idea of leftwing middle-class professionals descending en masse on working-class communities to campaign at election time is fraught with issues, mostly arising from contrasting experiences and different priorities and outlooks. But this is merely a hypothetical problem because it simply isn’t happening. Political rallies may brim with enthusiasm, as do many local party meetings when it comes to debates about the party leadership. But some constituency Labour parties have grown three-fold yet experienced little or no increase in door-knocking; some even report a decline. When it comes to campaigning, Labour has a very large paper membership. There is a clear danger of it being reduced to voting fodder and a source of funds.

If Labour is to have a future, that has to change. A mass membership offers immense potential that, as of yet, is untapped. Labour needs to adopt a strategy – led by trade unions – to recruit and give leadership positions to underrepresented working-class people, particularly in the north, whether they work in supermarkets or call centres. There needs to be a concerted effort by long-standing experienced members to get new members to knock on doors.

Partly this is about giving members confidence: some feel uneasy knocking on strangers’ doors for the first time. A scheme for community organising, backed up with sophisticated training, needs to be instituted. Setting up credit unions; creating food banks that organise recipients; social events for young people; schemes to organise private tenants and the burgeoning self-employed; volunteers to provide company for lonely pensioners – these are just some of the things a social movement could do. And what of mechanisms to feed in policies from the grassroots? The risk is of a movement united by total loyalty to one leader, rather than bubbling with ideas for policies to change society.

Progress won’t be achieved by intolerance for differing opinion on the left, let alone the wider public. An optimistic, understanding, empathetic, inclusive, outward-looking movement needs to be built. All of this must be part of a wider strategy for gaining power, of course. The Tories won the last election with few footsoldiers on the ground. Without a clear plan for power, the history books will refer to the left only as an explanation for how the Tories were able to rule for so long. Enough of the false dichotomies: Labour doesn’t have to choose between being a social movement and a party of government. It can be both.

Let me put it this way

Looking at the mess that is politics at a national level, I can see a strong case for joining the Liberal Democrats right now.

However, looking at local politics I would have to say the exact opposite! Whilst I may be strongly persuaded by the Lib Dems merits over Tories & Labour right now, they have by their own admission completely died out in my constituency. If I were to join them I would be, as they might say on "Little Britain" the only lib dem in the village. And in the neighbouring town of Chesterfield the entire local party was suspended last year over a bullying scandal. Looking in the other direction, there is a local Lib Dem MP, but that's Nick Clegg, who is not my favourite Liberal Democrat to put it mildly.

Plus my local Labour MP only has a slim majority and will be hard pressed to prevent the nightmare scenario of the Tories taking the seat at the next election.

If only Labour would stop being such a complete basket case of a party.

May be the best way out of this mess

We need to unite the pro EU parties and groups, because it is very likely that the people who want to force us into economic catastrophe will be united at the next general election.

To me, the best starting point would be a formal alliance between the Liberal Democrats and The Greens. Labour clearly isn't fit to build such an alliance at present, but a split is looking increasingly likely.

And pro EU Tories are going to be very out of place in their party before too long. Especially if they elect Andrea Leadsom as PM. They will need proper representation too. We need to build a big tent.

I do actually think there is something of a "crisis of masculinity" in politics right now

Men are increasingly playing less of a role, and women more of a role.

The only reason I can think of for this is that male politicians are increasingly in the Donald Trump / Nigel Farage mould. Figures with big mouths who shy away from responsibility and have no statesmanship whatsoever. Compare and contrast with a politician like Angela Merkel and it just becomes embarrassing.

Confirms what many of us suspected

But will politicians and society at large learn from the disastrous mess of the Iraq war?

I do worry that lessons haven't been learned. Cabinet, MP's and media provided little challenge to Blair's plans. And I do worry that the British system is such that bad proposals from the executive branch of government don't get challenged in the way that they should.

If Labour won’t stand up for Remain voters, it’s time for a new party


BARELY more than a week has gone by since 37% of eligible British voters backed Brexit—52% of those who participated—but already the political landscape is transformed. With Boris Johnson out of the Conservative leadership contest, the choice of the next prime minister is one between various shades of isolationist Euroscepticism.

And beyond the transactional costs of leaving the EU, there is the shift in the character of the country’s politics that is undoubtedly now underway. Insinuations that immigration is, per se, bad, are hardening into a new common sense. Other European peoples are coming to be talked of as if they were merely negotiating opponents, even enemies, rather than allies and partners. The ugly wave of xenophobic attacks that has followed the Leave vote has attracted opprobrium from across the political spectrum, but it did not arise in a vacuum. Many Britons rightly worry about what is becoming of their country.

To be fair, voters who rejected Brexit are not entirely voiceless. The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron have confirmed they will run in the next election on a pro-EU ticket; and picked up 10,000 new members as a result. The Scottish National Party under Nicola Sturgeon is pushing to ensure that Scotland’s vote for Remain is heeded. Sadiq Khan is lobbying to protect London’s access to the single market (how this can be done while the capital is still wired into the rest of the country’s economy is unclear). But as welcome as the Lib Dem initiative is, it is not clear whether Mr Farron and his seven fellow MPs are the force needed to stand up to Britain’s new, illiberal establishment. And Ms Sturgeon and Mr Khan owe their loyalty just to small minorities of the country.

The best existing hope of a strong, national voice for the 48%ers surely lies with Labour. If Mr Corbyn can be forced out, perhaps a new, moderate, pro-European leadership can reorient the party: seizing the opportunity to nab liberal Tory voters from under the nose of Ms May, say, or Ms Leadsom; challenging the new prime minister to negotiate in the interests of an open and prosperous Britain; and, yes, if circumstances change sufficiently, floating the possibility that Britain revisit its choice of June 23rd.

If not—if Mr Corbyn hangs on, or is replaced by another luke-warm Remainer—and unless the Lib Dems can pull off the sort of rise that, at the moment, looks unlikely, Britain needs a new party of the cosmopolitan centre. This might be a splinter from Labour (entirely possible, especially if Mr Corbyn’s opponents fail to unseat him this summer) or from the Tories (most of the party's One Nation sorts are lining up behind Ms May, though without a tremendous deal of enthusiasm). Or it may be something completely new: a fresh party, unsullied by the past, dedicated to keeping Britain open, tolerant and as close to the rest of its continent as possible.
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