Far right bingo card: Representing the working class

It seems ridiculous to me for anyone on then right wing of politics to claim to represent the working class. The right has always been about exploitation, about keeping us, the riff raff in our place and about squeezing every last drop of profit from us that they can get away with. That’s why the working class has always opposed the right – because it’s the right that uses our hard work to enrich others. This was obvious once but over the years the inequalities of life have become so normalised, so expected that many people think they’re inevitable. But they’re not.

Why should it be inevitable, for example that business owners can earn hundreds of thousands a year whilst their employees survive on subsistence wages?

Why should it be inevitable that these same business owners pay so little tax whilst their employees cannot access the public services they need because the country hasn’t the funds to provide for them?

Why is it that the people who do the hard work, put in the long hours for minimum wage, aren’t the ones who see the rewards from their labours?

These are the questions that the left want addressed and that’s why socialist parties insist upon better wages for working people. Thast’s why we demand proper taxation strategies to ensure that those at the top of the income ladder pay something toward helping those at the bottom. After all – they’re not the only people who invest in businesses.

As the late, great, Tony Benn once remarked…

“Your people invest their money… My people invest their lives.”

When the right wingers oppose the left they’re not doing so on behalf of the working class – they’re undermining us.

When the right wing oppose brown people or Muslims, Poles or LBQT citizens they’re not supporting the working class – they’re dividing it. This is the strategy of the cynical ‘man’ at the top of the tree. He knows that a united working class could easily force him to accept a fairer system so he works hard to keep us at each-others’ throats. And the stupid little neoNazi with his EDL tattoo or his Britain First mug spreading hatred between working people of different races or creeds is part of that machinery of oppression.

The real enemy of the working class is the wealthy tax avoider with his offshore account who leeches funds earned by our labour out of the only economy that could help improve our situations.

When you give tax relief to working people they spend it – that money goes back into the economy and other businesses prosper, local traders and local employees start to feel more confident and their money circulates. Everyone gets wealthier. When you give it to the rich banker he just puts it with the rest of his unnecessary pile in the Cayman Islands and forgets about it.

The far right claim to represent the working class whilst supporting right-wing policies and policy-makers such as our present government whose ministers gorge themselves whilst ordinary people are forced into destitution. Our conservative ‘masters’ vote to reduce benefits payments for the most needy and yet give themselves a ten grand bonus just for staying at home. When you support these nest-featherers you do not represent the working class.

The right wing has normalised its abuses so much that many of our own people think it’s inevitable that working peoples’ children should go hungry over Christmas and that a 10% tax cut for millionaires is just how it ought to be. Even the most obviously weak excuses don’t demonstrate just how badly they’re being played by a cynical financial elite.

And they call us ‘cucks’!

These people don’t represent the working class – they undermine it by falling for the divide and conquer politics of those who purport to be our ‘betters’. And in doing so they maintain the very system that treated them so unfairly and made them so very angry in the first place.

They’re on the wrong side and they don’t even know it!

Never forget the task

It’s Socialist Sunday. If you don’t know what that means, join Twitter, follow @stuartsorensen and search the hashtag #SocialistSunday. It’s a growing community of socialists who come together to promote compassionate and reasonable politics, equality and to oppose conservative and right wing governments in UK and across the world.

Like many of us, I’m still reeling at the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the British Labour party. Like many of us I seriously considered leaving the party. Many already have. And that doesn’t make us enemies.

Our response now is crucial. Some will leave Labour & some will stay. Some will change their minds either way later. But we all remain true to Socialism. We mustn’t lose that unity regardless of party.

Whatever you may think of Jeremy or of the decision to suspend him one thing is true…

Jeremy Corbyn united a movement, a groundswell of people across the generations (we’re not all students by a long way). Jeremy Corbyn revitalised Socialism here in UK and for that we must be grateful. Jeremy Corbyn showed us that it’s OK to maintain dignity and decency in the face of a hostile press and a deceitful opposition. And he showed us something else…

Jeremy Corbyn taught us never to give up.

Inside or outside the Labour party, I don’t care right now. Me, I’m staying, at least for the present. But whether you stay or you go, so long as you’re a socialist you remain my brother or my sister.

Leave the party if that’s what your conscience dictates. We must not let this divide us, the people.

The enemy without

Yesterday was hard for me. So is today. It’s extremely difficult to watch the party I support suspend a man I admire for, so far as I can tell, expressing his sincere belief that…

• The labour party has a problem with anti-Semitism.
• The problem requires further corrective work.
• The labour party has no place for anti-Semites or any form of racism.
• The problem (0.3% of the membership under suspicion) was exaggerated by some factions leading to a public perception of 34% of members under suspicion of anti-Semitism (according to a Populus poll in 2018).

My initial knee-jerk response was to cancel my membership of the party that could treat someone so obviously anti-racist in such an appalling way merely for saying what he believed to be true. Something which many others also believe to be true. He didn’t attempt to denigrate the evils of anti-Semitism, after all – he just stated that the extent of the problem within the party’s ranks had been overstated by some. I confess to feeling physically sick when I heard the news and it took me some little time to bring my thoughts back to my duties at work. I’m writing this during my break having regained my equilibrium overnight.

Fortunately I have learned over the years not to react immediately. Knee-jerk reactions are by definition unconsidered and rarely are they the best. My ill-considered thoughts yesterday centred upon notions of the enemy within, of emotively-charged feelings of betrayal and even political ambush, none of which can be helpful in the real task of combatting the enemy without.

The real task is to get the tories out. That’s why Jeremy Corbyn himself isn’t giving up on the Labour party. He’s appealing his suspension and remaining loyal to the party and to the due process that he seems confident will exonerate him. It seems unreasonable to me that I resign my membership of a party in support of a man who has chosen to remain. Like all principled activists Mr. Corbyn seems to have understood instinctively that the task of defeating neoliberalism and returning this country to a fair and equitable state is bigger than any one of us. It’s bigger than Jeremy and it’s bigger than any sense of outrage my bruised feelings might bring up.

If those of us who disagree with this suspension leave the Labour party we will weaken it. I even entertained fantasies of an alternative socialist party and tweeted Jeremy himself to offer my assistance should he choose to form one. I have since removed that tweet and here’s why.

If we form a splinter group we may feel better for a short time but we will also split the vote just at the time when the right has demonstrated the power of maintaining unity and the Tories will get another term. We owe it to that greater cause, to the people of this country not to undermine our greatest chance of electoral success.

Don’t get me wrong though. I am far from happy at this turn of events. I am no less convinced of Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity than I was yesterday or before. But I trust both his judgement and my own intuition that the enemy without, the Tories constitute a far greater threat to our nation than the labour party’s curent poor judgement.

Disappointed though I am at yesterday’s events, I will remain a member. I’ll keep paying my subs and I’ll continue to campaign for the Labour party. I urge you to do the same – not because you agree with the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn but because there is no other way to get the tories out of government in 2024.

What now?

I left the Labour party when Tony Blair took us into an illegal war without mandate from the UN. I couldn’t be party to the destruction of innocents just so that we could suck up to the Yanks.

I rejoined the party the day after Jeremy Corbyn was confirmed as leader. I watched him keep his cool and maintain his dignity as the gutter press (& others) printed lie after lie about him. And I read his manifesto with growing excitement.

Here was the opportunity to undo the cruelty of ten years of Tory rule. A proper socialist government waiting in the wings. Here was our chance to build a fairer society with a system that no longer supported the men at the top to rob those at or near the bottom blind.

That wasn’t to be and spilt milk is rarely worth the crying so I moved on. I watched sir Keir make mincemeat of Boris every Wednesday afternoon and I tried to forget what this nation could have won.

And now… Now I don’t know. Today I remain a member of the British Labour party. Many good people are not. Tomorrow I may join them.

A Test Of Character by Graham Bragg

On Wednesday night the Conservative MP for Workington, Mark Jenkinson, faced a Test of Character. In these difficult times, low paid and poor families are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. Many people have already lost their jobs, redundancies are on the rise and there will be worse to come. Many have seen their incomes reduced initially to 80% and now to 67% while being on furlough.

Graham Bragg

Loss of earnings will obviously hit hardest for the lowest paid and most vulnerable in our society. With winter coming many families will face hard decisions about what they must go without in order to get by (if indeed it is actually possible for them to get by). Official figures for child poverty in this country have risen by 600,000 while the Conservatives have been in power. Figures have surged by 100,000 in just the last year (no doubt the covid-19 crisis has played a significant part in this).

Recognising this situation, the Labour Party proposed a motion in Parliament to extend a scheme to provide free meals (to qualifying children) in non-term times until next Easter. It is a very modest, short-term measure. Surely not much to ask??

During the 2019 election campaign (and since), Mark Jenkinson, made much around the ‘levelling up’ soundbyte. He inferred that he would personally support policies that reduce the massive wealth disparities in this country by bettering the lives of people at the very bottom of the economic pile. This is indeed much needed given the brutal attack on the welfare system during the last 10 years of Conservative austerity that has seen the incomes of the poorest reduce but incomes of the richest increase.

Mark Jenkinson MP: betraying his election promises again

So, given an opportunity to support even the most modest ‘levelling up’ scheme, you’d think, if sincere, that he would be a fervent supporter?However, on Wednesday, Mark Jenkinson, was briefed by his party leadership on what to say, what to think and how to vote on the amendment. Mark Jenkinson obediently voted against the motion that would have brought some small relief to struggling families. In justification; on Wednesday night he merely posted verbatim from his party briefing diktat. On Thursday he merely shared a ridiculous and inaccurate post by the extreme right wing MP, Ben Bradley.

Mark Jenkinson has no words of his own to justify his hypocrisy in voting against the extension of free school meals.

So, here it was; A Test of Character. Mark Jenkinson had a straightforward choice. To vote in the interests of those he claimed that he would support. Or to obediently, docilely follow orders.

Mark Jenkinson failed the test pitifully

Shielding an incompetent MP

  • How do you protect an elected representative who can’t debate?
  • What do you say when the political horse you backed turns out to be a complete numpty who doesn’t understand how to make an argument?
  • How should you go about protecting the fool of an MP who doesn’t have the first clue about responding to questions, let alone criticism?

Answer – attack the opposition, silence those who point out your man’s obvious flaws and hope that he (and you) will just keep muddling on without anybody noticing. So you lie and you libel them on sites where they have no ability to respond, you create petty little obstacles over newly asserted copyright claims and you basically act like children who can’t admit that they backed a numpty. And in so doing you reveal your own inadequacy along with your MP’s.

Well done!

DWP’s decision delayed by 6 months and counting

Meet Sharon. Sharon has worked hard all her life to raise her family and keep food on the table. She’s paid tax and national insurance and remains an active member of her local community’s government. She’s campaigned against injustice and continues to do so in as much as her current health allows.

This is Sharon’s story.

A little history: What’s a ‘lefty loser’?

I recently commented on a West Cumbrian internet site about my local MP. The site’s anonymous administrators responded to my factual points predictably enough with superficial memes, insults and attempts to discredit me with ad-hominem attacks rather than putting forward any reasonable points of their own. One of their taunts involved the term ‘Lefty loser’ which betrayed a lot about their very limited understanding of the working-class struggle for rights and equal consideration.

Voting counts

The genius behind the keyboard clearly thinks that the Left lost because of the 2019 General election result. They think the struggle lasts for the duration of a general election campaign and now it’s over. Such a superficial understanding of politics isn’t all that uncommon but it’s far from accurate.

ChartistsIn truth, as this series hopes to demonstrate, the fight has been going on for centuries. It was raging long before any of us were born and will presumably continue long after we’re dead. All any of us can do is join the fray in our own time – we won’t see defeat or victory – only periods of setback and progress.

The current government has an overall majority. That means they can do a great deal of damage to ordinary working people and our rights but they haven’t won. In fact, as history shows, despite the episodic highs and lows of our movement, working people have been gaining ground fairly consistently for generations and that overall trend will continue. We’ve lost a bit of ground right now but we’ll get it all back and more. So don’t despair – the task continues, the struggle continues and our work is the same as it ever was – to keep on advocating for justice and human rights, to keep on arguing against conservative greed and the racist and religious bigotry that so often accompanies it. The task for now is to do all we can to limit the damage that Boris and his mates will inflict by watching our neighbours’ backs, by making sure nobody goes hungry or destitute because of sanctions or cruel decisions from the DWP and by educating those around us about the real reason for their declining standards of living.

The dark side of the Industrial Revolution: child labourWe need to take the long view. We need to be resilient and not despair. We must never give up the fight but press on, just as our ancestors did whose tireless struggle won for us the NHS and the Welfare state, decent housing and the right to be involved in our own government at every level from casting a vote to participation in cabinet and the Lords.
Pages from the first leaflet introducing NHS to British Public in 1948.It was the brave activists of previous centuries that won for us employment rights, universal healthcare and an end to life-blighting childhood injuries from long hours in England’s ‘dark, Satanic mills’ and crippling stresses on developing bones in the mines to small boys suffocating to death in the blackness of chimneys. It was socialist reformers who fought for universal education and the right to more than a single day off a month. It was socialist activists who won for us access to the legal system and equality under the law. Their road to victory wasn’t easy and neither is ours but each generation of socialists makes its own progress overall. The current setback won’t change that so long as we come together, stick together and refuse to give up the fight.List of peterloo dead

There are no ‘lefty losers’ – only activists, campaigners and educators who continue the fight, hour after hour, day after day, year after year until each little battle is won and the cause moves that bit closer to a genuine, meaningful overall victory.

Like the Levellers, the Chartists, the Suffragettes and even the massacred victims of Peterloo our struggle continues. They didn’t lose and neither will we. There is no such thing as a ‘lefty loser’, only lefties who are in it for the long haul. We are resilient, we are strong, we are part of a centuries old tradition and we will prevail!

A little history: Anthony Wedgewood Benn

It was March 14th 2014. My morning began much like any other. The sun rose, the alarm clock chimed its morning message and slowly I opened my eyes to greet the world.

Like so many others in today’s world I use my smartphone in lieu of an alarm clock and so my first task (after silencing the electronically generated morning cacophany) is to use it to check the morning news online. It wasn’t the best start to the day. Within minutes of opening my eyes I heard the awful news….

Tony Benn was dead. This world would be a poorer place without the wisdom and eloquence of this fine old man of the left. Tony Benn wasn’t just a politician, he was a gentleman. And he is missed.

He was eloquent and insightful with an almost uncanny ability to boil down apparently complex concepts into the simple fundamentals that grunts like me can understand. Consider for example his five questions for those in authority.

Tony Benn 5 questions

I wonder how the current Tory government would respond to these questions. After all if it wasn’t for Boris’ repeated lying, misinformation and restriction of pertinent information, there would be no current Tory government to represent the interests of the wealthy at all.

Tony Benn wasn’t just wise – he was compassionate too. Tony Benn wasn’t just a campaigner – he was a guru of the left. Tony Benn wasn’t just a politician – he was one of my heroes. And he will be missed.

 

Even well into old age he continued to campaign. I first heard him speak at a CND rally in the early 1980s. He was captivating. More recently he could be found demonstrating against the rise of fascism in UK and neoNazi groups such as the BNP and the EDL.

Tony Benn Unite against fascism

Tony Benn didn’t just believe in equality and human rights – he dedicated his long life to their attainment. And he will be missed.

Tony Benn was happy to rock the boat when morality demanded it.

Tony Benn rock the boat

And he respected those others who did the same.

Emily Wilding Davison
And he will be missed.

Tory MPs caught telling the truth

stokehospfe-581175Yes, I know – trawling through Hansard can be a pain. So much of a pain that few people ever bother but I promise you, it’s well worth it if you want to know what’s actually going on. It’s one thing to see how an MP votes but if you want to actually catch them in their hypocrisy then Hansard is the place to go.

On Thursday January 16th, the House of Commons debated a motion tabled by Shadow secretary of state of health, Jon Ashworth. It was a proposed amendment to the new Health and Social care legislation proposed in the Queen’s Speech. The amendment would acknowledge that nothing less than a cumulative 4% increase in NHS funding would suffice to repair the damage caused by long-term Tory underfunding since 2010. Mr. Ashworth began…

“I beg to move an amendment, at the end of the Question to add:

‘but respectfully regrets that the Gracious Speech fails to ensure that the National Health Service and social care will be properly funded;
and calls for the Government to bring forward a plan and additional funding to end the crisis in social care and provide for at least a 4 per cent per year real terms increase in health spending.’. “

Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister for Justice reported that…

“When Labour came to power in 1997, there were 1.3 million people on a waiting list—the highest number since the NHS was created in 1948. The Labour Government used targeted and sufficient funding to bring all those figures down, to the point where A&E waiting times were down to four hours and waiting lists were down to 18 weeks. It is regrettable that the Government now want to abolish the A&E waiting time target. Is that simply to spare Ministers’ blushes? Since last October, 320,034 people waited more than four hours at A&E, whereas in 2010 the figure was just 41,231.”

This is, of course a damning indictment of not only the conservative mishandling of the NHS since 2010 but also of the previous tory government that ran it down in much the same manner prior to 1997.

This is why a minimum, consistent 4% increase is so vital. But it’s not only the opposition that are highlighting such damning figures. The tories themselves are unhappy at the state of the NHS too. That’s why Conservative MP. Desmond Swayne’s words near the beginning of the proceedings were so important…

“This motion is about giving the NHS the funding it needs. It is a motion that will test every newly elected Conservative Member of Parliament on their commitment to the NHS.”

And test them it will!

JenkyEvery single Conservative MP claimed to support the NHS. My own MP, Mark Jenkinson was extremely clear about his intention to support extra funding for health and social care services of a kind that would make a genuine difference to the level of service available to his working class constituents.

Swayne continued…

“The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Government accepted the Dilnot proposals and even put in place certain legislative provisions for them to be implemented in the next financial year.”

The Dilnot proposal recommended placing a maximum cap on the amount that individuals could be asked to contribute to their care in any circumstance, including issues related to old age or chronic illness. The conservative government scrapped their commitment to it in 2017 leading to the famous ‘Dementia tax’ proposal that lost Theresa May so much ground in the election of that year.

methode_times_prod_web_bin_2a323d4e-a85e-11e7-b9a3-2cac9d6c85bd.jpg

“…I never understood why, during the 2017 election campaign, they departed from that position—but what is the Opposition’s position on Dilnot?”

The commitment to Dilnot has still not been reinstated by the Conservative government despite its popularity within the country at large. Speaking for the labour party Jon Ashworth, Secretary of State for Health responded…

“We have long argued for a cap on care costs, but of course the Government, as the right hon. Gentleman says, dropped their support for this policy.”

He went on to remark that…

“This is a motion about the 4.5 million people on waiting lists… This is a motion about the 34,000 people who wait more than two months for cancer treatment. This is a motion about those constituents, such as mine in Leicester, who had their bladder cancer operations cancelled twice. This is a motion about the 79,000 cancelled operations last year, and the 18,000 children’s cancelled operations. This is a motion about the 110,000 children denied mental health care, even though they are in the most desperate of circumstances. This is a motion about the 98,000 patients who waited on trolleys last month—a 65% increase on the previous year—many of them elderly, many of them in their 80s and 90s, languishing for hours and hours on trolleys in hospital corridors… This is a motion about the 1.5 million people, many of them with dementia, denied the social care support they need after years and years of swingeing cuts.”

Mr. Ashworth later remarked…

“The Secretary of State is proposing a Bill that fails to reverse the £850 million of cuts to public health prevention services… He is asking us to approve a Bill that does not reverse the raids on capital budgets or deal with the £6.5 billion backlog of repairs facing our hospitals… He is proposing a Bill that does not give the NHS the 4% uplift annually that many experts say it needs. That is why Labour has tabled an amendment today to give the NHS a 4% uplift, and every Tory MP who believes in the NHS should support it.”

Every Tory MP who believes in the NHS should support it.

But that’s all very well. The opposition is supposed to call out the government on its plans and claims. What did the Conservative MPs have to say about the NHS after 10 years of their own party’s policies? For example, Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham pointed again to the ‘creative accounting’ of the Prime Minister’s claims about new nursing staff…

“I want to ask him about the 44,000 vacancies that he talked about. Is it not right that when the Health Committee looked at that, it found that 38,000 of those places were actually occupied by nurses who work on the bank?”

Daniel Poulter MP is a Conservative with grave concerns about the impact of market forces on the NHS…

“There is a particular concern among patients and people who work in the NHS about the fragmentation of services, which has been the result of the sometimes market-driven approach to the delivery of healthcare and the encroachment of the private sector on the delivery of traditional NHS services.

“As a clinician, what matters most to me is that we deliver the right services for patients. We need to recognise that the involvement of private sector provision has sometimes led to greater fragmentation and a lack of joined-up care for patients.”

The damage caused by this fragmentation is plain to see thanks to the targets and metrics set up by the last Labour government. And they make very telling reading.
What is the Tories’ answer to the worst A&E performance figures on record? It is to scrap the four-hour A&E target. Abolishing the target will not magic away the problems in A&E. It will not suddenly fix a system that saw 100,000 people waiting on trolleys last December.

Perhaps most bizarrely, Mike Penning is the tory MP from Hemel Hempstead. Despite knowing full well the problems resulting from the last 10 years of tory governance he still intends to vote against the amendment…

“We have got into a situation where the only way we can fight this, believe it or not, is to take the trust to court. There is a lack of accountability—I have called for debates in this House on that for years now. The only way we can fight the fact that the trust has only put in a bid for refurbishment of the Watford site is to take it to court and challenge it under judicial review. I have a fantastic community. We have raised the money. We will go to court. But is it not crazy that here I am praising, and I will be voting for, the Queen’s Speech and against Labour’s amendment, when I am saying that the £400 million being offered by the Government is going to the wrong place?”

Those voters local to me might be interested to know that despite assurances to support our health and care services, Mark Jenkinson MP also voted not to increase funding for the NHS and Social care last week.

James Davies MP is a Conservative. He’s also a doctor. He seems less than confident that the concerns of his profession will be met sympathetically by the Secretary of State for Health.…

“I have outlined not only interesting statistics, but sadly an indication of unnecessary loss of life and of harm to real patients. At the very least, there is a need for UK-wide patient safety mechanisms and rigorous inspection regimes, underpinned by comparable statistical data on performance and outcomes. I urge the Secretary of State seriously to consider that when progressing the initiatives outlined in the Queen’s Speech.”

Barbara Keeley, Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care may have made the most direct appeal, whilst calling out Boris on his lies about a ‘clear plan’ before the General election…

“Proposing a solution to the crisis in care should be the Government’s top priority, as we have heard in many of the speeches this afternoon. However, despite the Prime Minister’s earlier pledge to fix the crisis in social care once and for all, and with a clear plan we have prepared, he now says only that he will do something ‘in this Parliament’. After 10 years of inaction, is that the best the Prime Minister can say, alongside a vague offer of cross-party talks?”

But for me it was the many Conservative voices highlighting the inadequacy of their own government’s funding strategy that resonated the most. If only these people would vote with their consciences. But hey ho – they are Tories, after all!

The bastards still voted not to increase it though!

Government refuses to honour pledge to European citizens.

7/1/2020: Despite reassurances that European citizens living in the UK will be treated fairly the conservative government used its majority to refuse to honour that guarantee. They also ensured that any such citizens will be denied the right of appeal. This from the BBC website

Tories pledge to increase wages… or not

Minimum vs living wage pledge.pngThis is a screenshot of the tory manifesto. It’s an unusual combination of part fact and part fiction intended to make working class voters think that leopards really could change their spots. Here the conservatives promise to raise the minimum wage to £10.50 an hour by 2024. That was nothing compared to the fully costed Labour plan to increase it to a tenner immediately but hey ho – you pays your money and you takes your choice. And pay we will – through the nose.

Now, despite claiming that their manifesto was fully accounted for (it seems that it wasn’t), the tories have rolled back their commitment to our lowest paid workers. Now it’s more an aspiration “if economic circumstances allow”.

Well what did you expect? They are tories, after all. They don’t give a stuff about the working class.