As you reported on Friday, albeit before the disastrous election results were known, even Ed Miliband "has admitted that it`s pressure from below that changes society"(Morning Star,08/05/15). Could I, therefore, humbly suggest that Labour immediately starts listening to the views of its supporters, rather than those of Charles Clark and the rest of the Blairite clique? That will mean there has to be more emphasis on the re-nationalisation of energy and railways, though I fear it will be too late to prevent the re-privatisation of RBS.
The teacher vote needs to be regained for Labour, and that will inevitably involve the selection of an education spokesperson with experience of state education, who realises the wonderful work being done in the vast majority of our schools. It is imperative to have someone at the helm of Labour`s education policy who understands that "character and resilience" abound in all schools and isn`t the preserve of the private sector. With teacher workload reaching ridiculous levels, Labour needs to work much more closely with teacher union leaders.
On a similar subject, Labour can no longer be a party in denial of its links with trade unions. It needs to show pride, both in its history and in its support for all unions and their members, and have the bottle to be willing to support the inevitable industrial action which will take place under the rule of the callous Tories.
Having a party united on such ideals as increasing social mobility and decreasing the huge gaps between rich and poor, and adopting the above ideas as priorities, would certainly bring some much-needed credibilty to the party after the disaster of May 7th.
Alan Johnson correctly stated that the "biggest damage" to Labour`s election prospects was done by there being "no effective riposte to Cameron`s successful distortion" of their "economic record in government (From that Question Time moment. the die was cast,09/05/15). Sadly, this shows not only the effectiveness of constant repetition, Goebbels-style, of a lie, but the weaknesses of Labour`s campaign. Why wasn`t, for instance, the fact that the coalition, in five years, had borrowed £157.5bn compared to Labour`s £142.7bn in thirteen years, made one of the centre-pieces of Labour`s message?
Much soul-searching, as Polly Toynbee says, is now essential for Labour, with there being "no rush to any wrong judgements" (Labour has failed but it`s the low-paid who will lose out,09/05/15) However, as we know what to expect from the Tories and their "anti-state ideology" in the next five years, with government spending reverting to levels last seen in the 1930s, inequality rising, and savage cuts reducing public sector jobs and welfare benefits, Labour`s future direction should be obvious. Too many Labour party supporters jumped ship because it was deemed too similar to the Tory party, and Blairite advice to move to the right will only accentuate the problem. Policies have to be based around social justice, fairness, increasing social mobility and decreasing inequality. Austerity should be rejected, especially as there is always the possibility of using quantitative easing; if it can create £375bn to re-capitalise banks, it should be possible to use it to fund essential services and infrastructure. Work needs to be done on practical methods to reduce tax avoidance which costs the country at least £40bn a year, and which this Tory government will do as little as possible to reduce. Educating the electorate into a renewed belief in Labour`s competence needs to start this year, not a few months before the next election!
Most of the Labour candidates so far seem united in their verdict on their party`s defeat: "not aspirational enough", and so not attracting the support of the middle class, and "failure to be pro-business", as Tristram Hunt says, "not doing enough to listen to business"(Leader lineup:The five who may be set to battle for Labour`s top job,11/05/15). Such simplistic and biased evaluation does not augur well for the future of the party.
The Blairites` emphasis on the middle-class ignores a number of points; Miliband repeatedly argued in favour of more being done for the "squeezed middle", aspiration, and ambition "to shop at Waitrose" occasionally, are not the preserve of the middle-class, whilst the hemorrhaging of white working class votes to Ukip, and also to the more radical SNP and Green parties, was clearly an important factor.
All the Blairite candidates stress that a more pro-business stance is needed, meaning, in all probability, adopting a policy similar to the that of the Tories. Doubtless, then, they would like to hear lots of meaningless rhetoric condemning tax avoidance as "morally repugnant", but doing next to nothing to reduce the £40bn or so which should be going to the Treasury annually. Similarly, raising the minimum wage would be a very low priority, so the number of families relying on benefits would continue to rise, whilst government contracts would still be given to firms better known for their refusal to pay the living wage, and their tax avoiding practices, than their efficiency and competence. The financial sector would be allowed to pay obscene salaries and bonuses without fear of extra taxation. A Blairite Labour party would propose no increase in the much avoided corporation tax, even though the current rate is the lowest in the G7, and 18 points lower than in the US.
The people of this country do not deserve another party claiming to be pro-business when businesses in the country are anything but pro-people!
The speed with which the likes of Blair, Mandelson and Clarke have rushed to condemn the leftist leaning policies of Ed Miliband, claiming that his "terrible mistake" which ignored "ambition and aspiration" and wasn`t sufficiently pro-business, lost Labour the election, disgusts me (Morning Star,11/05/15). They clearly are delighted to see the Tories back in power. Similarly, all those contenders for the leadership who have not wasted a second in submitting their applications via the media, condemning Miliband and his policies in the same Blairite language, but very willing to accept the positions in the shadow cabinet which he offered them, deserve all the criticism which many on the left will undoubtedly heap upon them.
Do Umunna and Hunt really believe the Labour party lost the election because it was anti-business? Is this why the party hemorrhaged votes to Ukip, and the more radical SNP and Green parties? Should Labour do nothing about businesses avoiding billions of tax like the Tories, sit back whilst millions are forced to accept zero-hours contracts and a minimum wage which is so low its recipents require housing benefits to survive? Perhaps helping private landlords to acquire more property, so that their exploitation of tenants can continue unabated, is what these would-be leaders prefer? They conveniently fail to recall the number of times people said that the "parties are all the same"!
Blairites and Tories may well be "intensely relaxed" about CEOs earning 150 times that of their average worker, about millions relying on food banks to feed their families, and about little regulated banks paying next to nothing in extra taxation on obscene bonuses, but that does not mean the rest of us have to agree.
As for their ridiculous point about ignoring the "aspirational middle classes", firstly it implies that only people regarded as middle class have any ambition whatsoever, which is deeply insulting, and secondly, it was Ed Miliband who repeatedly stressed the importance of not ignoring the "squeezed middle". However, like the Tories, the Blairites` turning a blind eye to empirical evidence is clearly habit-forming!
Polly Toynbee is right to urge delaying the choice of Labour leader "for a decent interval", especially because of the "indecent haste" shown by the Blairite candidates, and their supporters (Forget "Blairism".Rediscover the early radicalism of Blair,12/05/15). They might well stress the need for deep soul-searching by the party, but their failure to delay their leadership bids, and allow an element of dust-settling, does nothing to illustrate their sincerity. Winning "public trust" will require much more than simply blaming the party`s election defeat on its failure to woo the people they all refer to as the "aspirational middle classes", conveniently forgetting Miliband`s constant concern for the "squeezed middle".
All the Blairite candidates also stress that a more pro-business stance is needed, meaning, in all probability, adopting policies similar to the those of the Tories. Doubtless, then, they would like to hear lots of meaningless rhetoric condemning tax avoidance as "morally repugnant", but doing next to nothing to reduce the £40bn or so which should be going to the Treasury annually. Similarly, raising the minimum wage would be a very low priority, so the number of families relying on benefits would continue to rise, whilst government contracts would still be given to firms better known for their refusal to pay the living wage, and their tax avoiding practices, than their efficiency and competence. The financial sector would be allowed to pay obscene salaries and bonuses without fear of extra taxation, and there would be no increase in the much avoided corporation tax, even though the current rate is the lowest in the G7, and 18 points lower than in the US.
There are lessons to be learned by Labour, but, as Toynbee says, the leadership candidates will be better judged by how "they take the fight to the real enemy", rather than the speed with which they spout out "on Sunday TV sofas" Blairite platitudes!