From Pride to Prejudice in 50 years – what next for Britain?

We’ve all known them. The school bully and their entourage who ruthlessly persecute anyone they perceive as different or worse, superior to them. They have to do it to sustain themselves because they lack the self-confidence and self-love to be able to get by without constantly reinforcing to themselves their worth at the expense of the easiest target. Invariably this is not the path to happiness and success for the bullies, though it is one which can be reversed with the right support and time. It is incredibly sad to see the mentality of the playground bully writ large across our society today.

50 years ago, it would be fair to say, things seemed different. England had won the World Cup, the generation which had won the war had begun to see the benefit of the post-war reconstruction, industries were expanding and Wilson’s government was talking about a new future forged in the white heat of technology. Employment was high, wages were rising ahead of inflation, home ownership increasing and the middle and working classes would have been stunned had anyone suggested to them that Britain was not rightfully regarded as one of the top 3 or 4 influential world leading countries.

People had on the whole a sense of community and individual pride. Working class neighbourhoods were full of skilled tradespeople in major industries who were seen as aspirational by younger members of the community who saw a clear route for themselves to succeed too – work hard and prosper through effort, skill and hard work.

50 years on it feels very different. Many communities now have multi-generational unemployment after traditional industries were decimated as the Thatcher government refocused the country’s economy onto services and particularly the financial sector without planning transitional alternatives for those areas which used to produce things. Even the communities which prospered during the boom years of the 80’s found their expectations harder to meet especially since the 2008 crash and crushing austerity which followed in 2010-2016. How fragile was Britain’s economic and social base that so quickly so much could come undone.

The response of many people in the hardest hit communities has been to follow the direction of the popular press and Eurosceptics and blame it all on the EU as an institution and immigrants or foreigners in general. The seeds of this blame culture had always been there: the Daily Mail was writing anti-immigrant articles in the 1900’s which could, but for a few details changing, be reprinted today and taken for current in the Mail or the Express. The same sectors of society who were led to support the Blackshirts are similar to those led to see today’s immigrants as to blame for everything that’s wrong with their lives and all the effects of austerity policies. Similarly, the facts rarely cut through and don’t get a look-in when in competition with an aggressive peer-influencing culture which equates patriotism and masculinity with the personification of root cause in someone born overseas or with different religion, skin, dress or accent. The added bonus that today’s chief terrorism focus stems from Islamist cult membership only makes the task for the media barons of making the necessary links that much easier than it was in the 60’s.

It doesn’t have to be this way. More than that, we simply must ensure it can never be this way again. The stakes are now too high, as has been proven by the Brexit referendum. As Canning put it in the 1860’s referring to the extension of adult male suffrage, we must educate our masters, but more than that, we must ensure that we invest in them, in all of them, and build a stakeholder society…a society in which everyone has a stake and an ability to realise an aspiration to be successful and reasonably prosperous.

There are many policies across the political party agendas, obviously more on the Labour/Liberal wing than on the right, which can be taken as a start point to address the task ahead. I wont discuss them but investment on a massive scale and a rebalancing of the economy will clearly be critical elements. The point I want to end on, though, is that now is a very good moment to focus all our attention on this issue and carpe diem. I believe that the events of this year have provided the political equivalent of the ghost of Christmas yet-to-come: many people are seeing the sort of future that we face as a country if we continue on our current path: not so much economically poorer and isolationist in attitude post-Brexit, though those are enormously damaging issues, but rather a society filled with ever-increasing fear, bullying and jealousy, coupled with ignorance, and driven by simple media-messaging untroubled by fact. A society in which might is right and the loudest mouth wins the stage. A society in which we exist rather than live, and in which we collapse ever inwards until nothing remains but a terrified crowd of blind people screaming hatred at anything they hear moving.

I believe many people are realising that unless we return our society to one built on pride rather than prejudice, we won’t want to live in it and we may find that in time, we won’t even be given the choice of whether to do so.

 

 

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Who funded who? Momentum/Jeremy Corbyn

Legal note: there is no intent to denigrate in what follows, rather just a simple attempt to clarify what are to the ordinary party member like me, seemingly quite murky waters.

 

In 1992, Alan Clark famously admitted during the Matrix Churchill trial that he had been “economical with the actualité”.

Today many of us are asking ourselves whether James Schneider’s assertion that Momentum have supported the Jeremy Corbyn campaign with resources and activists is true, following a claim in Dispatches that Momentum have received support from Jeremy’s campaign.

First, we must establish who Momentum are. There are three contender companies vying for this surprisingly-less-than-transparent honour.

  1. Jeremy for Labour Limited. Incorporated 24 June 2015. Previous names Momentum Campaign Limited (23 Oct 2015 – 18 Jul 2016) and Jeremy Corbyn Campaign 2015 (Supporters) Limited (24 Jun 2015 – 23 Oct 2015).Director – Jon Lansman
  2. Momentum Campaign (Services) Limited. Incorporated 24 June 2015. Previous name Jeremy Corbyn Campaign 2015 (Services) Limited 24 Jun 2015 – 23 Oct 2015. Directors – Jon Lansman, Sam Tarry
  3. New Hope for Labour (Data Services) Limited. Incorporated 25 June 2015. Director – Jon Lansman.

What we know from the 2016 register of member’s interests is that Momentum Campaign (Services) Limited made a donation of £50,000 to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign. Well, let’s stop there…..the answer is clear, Schneider is telling the truth.

But is it the whole truth?

We don’t know to whom or which company the donation was made. Perhaps James can enlighten us as to the specifics?

We don’t know which of the above companies are Momentum, and which are Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. It’s even possible that none of the directors knows either, nor particularly cares as it certainly seems their interests are inseparable at the moment. Perhaps James could clarify this point for us as well.

But perhaps most interesting is where did the money for the donation actually come from? We won’t know the answer to this until the above companies’ returns are available from Companies House in March 2017, so what follows must be speculation. Since the donation was made by Momentum Campaign (Services) Limited, it is entirely possible that the money originated as fees for services provided for Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 campaign and/or donations, since all the assets of Jeremy Corbyn Campaign 2015 (Services) Limited became assets of Momentum Campaign (Services) when the name changed in October 2015. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign could effectively, therefore, have lent money to itself. Perhaps James could clear this up for us?

Additionally, if the loan was granted to Jeremy for Labour Limited, the new name for Momentum Campaign Limited since 18 July 2016, it is even possible that Jeremy’s campaign could have been lending money to Momentum, or that Momentum was lending money to itself. Who can tell what the next change of name will be, or to what purpose each company will devote itself after the current leadership campaign ends? Perhaps James can.

Whether the clear statement James has made is true, therefore, or some kind of a James Schrodinger’s statement where it is both true and untrue at the same time, we cannot tell. What many may judge, though, is that it is neither clear, nor transparent, nor the whole truth.

Alan Clark may well have been proud of him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit – The downside of pulling up the drawbridge is that you’re trapped inside

It’s not a secret that I’m depressed about the Referendum result, nor that I’ve argued with countless Brexiteers before and after the vote about all the lies that were told, all the misconceptions and the many economic factors which will, at least in my opinion, become clear over the coming months and years.

But the single biggest reason I’m sad is not much discussed, yet in my view will have the biggest long term impact on Britain and our position in the world.

Freedom of movement allows all of us to move to live and work anywhere in the EU. I don’t believe anyone has truly grasped the implications of giving that right away, nor that in historical terms it will come to be seen as the most retrograde political decision taken voluntarily by a people for many years.

Just imagine if the German people had decided to undo the Zollverein, the precursor of Germany as we know it today, or if the Italians had decided before WW1, after 40-odd years, to undo the Risorgimento and go back to all their independent nation-states. We would look back at them with incomprehension and wonder what on earth could have impelled a people voluntarily to take such a leap back into the past.

But does it really matter, freedom of movement for UK citizens in the EU? What real use is it, what value does it have…don’t we live in the best country to whose drawbridge they all beat a path, haven’t we already won the prize?

To understand the answer it’s important to understand that I’m thinking primarily of the value of the right to live and work for our young people, those below 30 today, and those who have yet to be born. It’s also necessary to understand how young people of other EU countries think, study, live and work. The most striking difference I’ve found between the young of the U.K. and our neighbours is how normal Italians, Spanish, Greek, Germans etc find it to learn to speak each others’ languages, to study in a different EU country, to move jobs internationally within the EU, to have networks of friends and colleagues from different countries etc etc.. If there exists such a thing as a popular movement which will in time influence political direction, then this modus vivendi may well be it….European political union may eventually come about purely and simply because eventually, so many people will have lived that way and come to wonder why on earth a region of people with so much in common choose to divide themselves artificially into nation-states.

in contrast, UK young people are not so cosmopolitan, are more insular in attitude and practice. Of course, geography plays a part. It’s much trickier to visit different countries for a Brit living in Manchester than for someone living on the French/German/Swiss border, for example. But it’s more than that. There’s a reticence in our character, a fear of speaking other languages, a feeling that we are superior in theory but a worry that in practice the people from other countries we meet tend to disprove that, which doesn’t inspire confidence, and many other reasons which lead our young people to study, work and live somewhere else to a lesser degree than our EU neighbours.

You see, it’s our mindset that’s different from our neighbours’. We are in mind as well as in body, more insular. Again, look to the past to understand: 100 years ago people had the same attitude in general about moving from the North of England to live and work in London. 200 years ago, about moving to the neighbouring county. 300 years ago, about leaving their village. In 100 years to come all Europeans will look at us today and just not comprehend how it was we thought the way we do and why we lived within those constraints. The fact is that many continental Europeans already look at us with that mixture of incomprehension and sympathy now. It’s for that reason we ought to be encouraging and even investing actively in supporting our young people to move to live and work, to gain knowledge, skills and experience from our EU neighbours.

The result is, in terms of their ability to lead organisations and businesses which are international, as increasingly they are, our young people are at an increasing disadvantage compared to their contemporaries. Right now the impacts aren’t too significant but, I predict, the differential which has anyway been growing, will grow greater and greater and ultimately result in a loss of competitiveness for our people and our country. That’s to say nothing at all about the social, cultural, academic and all the other benefits greater exposure to other societies and ways of thinking and co-operating that international experiences can bring. Of course, it’s true that our young people will still be able to study and live in America, Australia and everywhere else outside the EU unchanged. But distance has always made that less easy and it will continue to do so…it’s much easier to live and work an hour and a half’s Easyjet flight away than 6-18 hours, if you still want to pop home at a weekend to see your mum and friends.

I’m a passionate Remainer and will continue to be so until Brexit really is Brexit. But of all the reasons why, this, the concern for our country’s future and our children’s children is the one that is strongest in my heart, yet least mentioned in 140 characters. The trouble with pulling up the drawbridge is that eventually, you will starve yourself to death in your splendid isolation.

@jerryhogg

 

Momentum are great!…but mustn’t lead to inertia…

No-one could deny that the impact of Momentum since it was formed last year has been staggering. Hundreds of thousands of new Labour supporters and members have joined, encouraged in no small part by the fresh and radical social media nous of the team behind Momentum, Jon Lansman and latterly James Schneider. An interesting dynamic duo blending long-term dogged experience whistling the same tune in the case of Lansman, a Bennite of old, with the more youthful and eclectic energy of the ex-LibDem and ex-Green-voting Schneider, they have transformed a movement founded to elect Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party Leader into a social movement appealing to a range of people on the left, some of whom joined out of dissatisfaction with so-called soft-left Blair/Brown/Milibandism, whilst others saw the possibility of electoral appeal of a mass party and renounced their former Green/SWP or other far left allegiances to sign the pledge.

In their own terms, as a social movement which continues to grow, Momentum must be judged as a resounding success which, with their figurehead Jeremy Corbyn installed on the throne of the Labour Party and at his right hand, John McDonnell holding the party’s economic policy levers, has undoubtedly given more influence to the collective viewpoint than had been possible for at least 30 years.

Yet this very success, judged from the scope of its own declared initial aims, threatens to prevent Momentum ever being able to achieve in practice what many of their members signed up for: to deliver real change in practice.

At the heart of the issue is a conflict of purpose and a misunderstanding so obvious that many simply fail to recognise it – and worse, having done so, feel so strongly wedded to the position they have taken that they can’t bring themselves to accept reality.

Momentum’s take-over of the Labour Party in 2015 has led inexorably to the breakdown and pitched ideological conflict in the party we are witnessing today. This was inevitable and not the fault of any individual or group of people. It’s important to emphasise this point. There is virtually no-one other than the odd outlier involved in the current situation who has not come to their current position based on a real passion for what they think is right. There may well be more passion in the party as a whole today for the left wing cause – of all shades – than we have seen in many years. More engagement, more debate, more comradeship; yes, more bullying, more in-fighting, more intransigence too, but these are by-products of significant interest and involvement which we truly need.

But it’s not working. Why?

Momentum are doing a brilliant job of building a social movement focused around a hard-left agenda. They’re engaging people open to such a position in a way never seen before. Such a job is very positive and essential to our overall shared cause and vision. But it’s not the job of a political party.

A political party exists to deliver a majority in Parliament by winning general elections. The Labour Party Clause 1 says that it is its purpose, specifically. To do that, the Labour Party must form a coalition of supporting voters who will agree their manifesto is the best on offer and vote for it and them. The job of the Labour Party and especially the PLP and its leader is to judge the political climate and decide how far left a program can be sold to the electorate whilst still winning an election. In a positive climate – and the party can influence the climate by long-term effort including by social movements such as Momentum – a very radical program can be electable. In less positive climates, a lighter shade of red may be needed to avoid subjecting people to Tory government. We must face up to this point. We exist as a Labour Party to form governments to do the best possible job for our people. We don’t exist to feel pure and self-justified and shout from the sidelines at the next Tory government, and the one after that. Momentum can play a vital role in ensuring the Labour Party is pushing the manifesto truly as far left as is capable of winning a general election, and not playing it too safe and wrongly prioritising electability over policy. But the decision on the program, the manifesto and yes, even the party leader ultimately, must be driven by what will deliver electoral victory and prevent a further 5 years of Tory rule. It’s our duty not to neglect those who need us most by subjecting them to that, rather than compromising our position. We should rather focus longer term on changing the political climate and environment to make the policies we want, popular enough to be electable. This is Momentum’s key role and task on which it must remain focused without being diluted by concerns of electability in the short-term. Meanwhile, the Labour Party must govern better than the Tories on as radical a manifesto as voters can be persuaded to support.

The Momentum social movement and the Labour Party are both right and both necessary. But they have different purposes and must set different agendas. If we ignore that, we might as well all join the Tories, as the net result will be the same. Oblivion.