Archive | October, 2012

‘Well I wasn’t expecting that!’ – Miliband’s speech reviewed

6 Oct

by Annajoy David

I wasn’t expecting that, thank you Ed Miliband! Quite apart from an excellent delivery which is not easy by any means, he told a story and he told it emotionally. I loved that fact that  he recognised the need for One Nation in the age of globalization with all that it has brought.

As we did in the post-45 period, it falls to Labour again to articulate the nation’s identity and deliver its hopes. For me, in this century as we grapple to deal with all the mitigating effects of globalization and the loss of our “middle” economy, One Nation will be the glue that holds us all together and above all sets the gold standard to ensure prosperity and opportunity for all.  

I love the fact that Ed said we are the party of the South as well as the North, that he recognised that any interests that were against the best interests of the country  and  its citizens, be it as consumers, tax payers or users would be challenged by Labour.  

His speech had a gritty no pretence, stripped-bare honesty that we need to see more of in politics  and in our other institutions. I admired his sadness and frustration at the level of youth unemployment and with that, his recognition for the need  of a new 21st Century industrial vision for the whole of our country in all our regions.

On a lighter note, , One Nation  is also part of the title from one of the best jazz funk songs,  The 1978 One Nation Under A Groove by George Clinton’s Parliament – Funkadelic. You can watch it here:   

#Lab12 – How was it for you?

4 Oct

Women on the left give their thoughts on Labour Conference 2012

Want to share your thoughts on the week in Manchester? Please get in touch with us via our contact page.

Christine Quigley: Manchester this year hosted a party fired up and beginning its fightback. Ed’s speech had enough policy to keep both Labour members and political journalists happy, combined with a direct and warranted critique of the Tory-led Government designed to appeal to both Labour’s core and key swing voters. While Labour activists leaving Conference won’t quite be going back to their constituencies to prepare for Government, the atmosphere is one of a party ready to fight for our beliefs and in a good place to build for the 2015 election (@c_quigley)

Eleanor Saunders: Frustrated that the most interesting fringe I went to was an all-male all-white panel! But the M4C fringe on Lab Women’s Forums & community organising was interesting – good to have some very practical ideas (rather than just theory & rhetoric, which some fringes are). Interesting approaches to consider. (@Eleanor CS)

Amy Jackson: Really boosted by how positive this year’s conference was. The party seemed united and although there is clearly still a lot to do, we are going in the right direction. Stand out moments for me were Ed M’s speech (obviously), Len McCluskey’s speech on the banks, the Demos fringe on how social media can do more to keep power in check and the Shrewsbury 24 fringe. And very pleased to read that 1200 new members have joined sine the start of the conference – impressive stuff! (@AmyJ_N4)

Kate McKenzie: My conference highlights were meeting these superb women: Frances O’Grady, Jo Brand and Polly Toynbee, joining up with old campaigning sisters: Gaby Weiner, Michele Paule, Bev Clack, and staying up late being women who sort the world with Jenny and Lizzy!

Annie Higgs: One thing made me smile…  Stella Creasey has a male assistant who carries all her stuff round for her. She does move around quickly. He’ll never gain weight with what he has to carry.
One thing made me applaud very loudly…  In a debate at Women’s Conference, a woman councillor from Pontefract described her struggle to stand for Council. Her branch refused to sanction a woman. The CLP had to overturn their decision. She had verbal abuse, her car had acid thrown over it and the former labour MP actively canvassed for the Independent candidate standing against her. (This is now under investigation.) She did get elected and is working very hard for Pontefract. Congratulations to her!! Some women have such a hard time in their Constituencies!! (note from Eds: We have full story on this woman’s experience on Left Out)

Annajoy David: Good Things: Kerry McCarthy MP organised a Free Pussy Riot evening of culture and discussion and it was great to see it being sponsored by the Musicians Union. Common sense prevailed! Labour members voted that women’s officers were reinstated as statutory roles for CLP elections.

Memorable moments: Spending a few hours in the Midland Bar with the MP for Ilford South , Mike Gapes. What a great hardworking MP. Listening to Michael Sandel, Dame Tessa Jowell and the whole Olympic session, missing my daughter.

Could do better: Education and Young people at the end of conference: Young people are our future and we should open with them not close. Not a good symbolic message!

Favourite Fundraiser: Labour List Karaoke Night

Favourite Reception: Labour Business, would have liked to see a few interactive business presentations being championed by us from up and coming UK companies…. perhaps next year?

Surprise of Conference: The best DJ award for Lab 12 goes to Tom Watson. Who knew he was so good? !

 

CLASS: working for the labour movement

4 Oct

by Rachel Yates & Carolyn Jones

As the Labour Party determines its policy going into the next general election and conference delegates ponder the meaning of “predistribution” and the likelihood of “responsible capitalism”, there is an overwhelming sense that another world is possible.

Neoliberalism has failed. Austerity has been rejected as a solution. Osborne gets booed when he opens his mouth and Clegg’s only chance of reaching number one is as the joke song in the charts.

But none of that puts Labour in power or progressive policies back on the political agenda.

So how do we construct and popularise our alternative, progressive vision? How do we ensure trade unions -the organised wing of the 99%-  are listened to when determining industrial, social and economic solutions to modern day problems?

Most importantly, how do we ensure that those elected to represent us, listen to and act upon the concerns of ordinary working people amidst the din of Westminster chatter?

At the TUC congress last month, Ed Balls displayed a shocking level of ignorance towards issues of central concern to trade unionists – employment rights, trade union freedoms, pensions, pay and jobs. And while it is true that a Labour Government would have to reach out to people beyond the ranks of the trade union movement, it is also true that the distance placed by New Labour between the party and the unions undoubtedly contributed to the loss of 5 million members and a dramatic fall in support at the ballot box.

So it is essential that the labour party reconnects with working people and puts forward policies that identify with their concerns. That is why the creation of the new think tank CLASS (Centre for Labour and Social Studies) is such a good initiative.   Kick started by GMB, PCS and UNITE and supported by an ever growing number of trade unions, CLASS aims to inform the debate on a wide range of policy areas.

And IER are proud to have been asked to assist in shaping the creation of CLASS. The Institute has over 20 years experience of running a think tank for the labour movement. IER’s remit is restricted to employment rights and trade union freedoms. But CLASS intends to cover a far wider range of issues, creating a trade union based hub dedicated to developing and disseminating progressive arguments.

Keith Ewing, President of IER and a Management Committee member of CLASS said: “The Institute welcomes the opportunity to take part in this profoundly important venture.  In doing so, we hope that together we can help turn the intellectual tide by developing and taking forward progressive ideas on a wide range of social, economic and political questions. 

 By bringing together leading thinkers, CLASS will begin powerfully to counteract the neo-liberal messages being generated constantly by right wing think tanks and their friends in the corporate press.  We see this as an ambitious initiative that will help develop policies for trade unions and their members, and in doing so will fill the huge policy void on the Left.

 It will contribute to a ‘new reality’, a new vision, and a renewed sense of hope”.

The structure to be used by CLASS builds on that developed by IER – bringing together academics, lawyers,journalists, trade unionists, bloggers and pressure groups like UKuncut all under one umbrella organisation. The aim that unites these forces is the desire to reconnect trade unions, politicians and public opinion to the progressive cause of labour.

A glance at CLASS’s programme of work shows how effective such a force can be. Despite running on a very small staff compliment, CLASS has managed a colossal amount in a very short time, utilising its network of experts to produce policy papers and think pieces on education, welfare, industry, banking, housing and inequality.

IER Chair and member of the CLASS Management Committee John Hendy QC said:

 “I think CLASS is a vital tool in getting the message across that there is an alternative to austerity and the destruction of the welfare state. CLASS has access to leading academics who show what the workable practical alternative is. The neo-liberals proliferate think tanks to advance their philosophy of greed and to justify the thesis that the survival of the rich is essential and that the poor must pay for it. CLASS is crucial in rebutting this nonsense.”

At the TUC it launched Why Inequality Matters, based on the research conducted by the authors of the Spirit Level, Professor Richard Wilkinson and Kate  Pickett, and produced in association with My Fair London and The Equality Trust -an excellent example of working collectively to strengthen the message.

CLASS is now busy developing projects for the future, including a timely reminder of the origins of the welfare state. Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge Report, the project will highlight the significance of that report – not only for its content but also its context.

In the midst of World War 11, with a budget deficit and national debt that makes’ today’s look negligible, the Beveridge Report laid the basis for the radical reforms of the 1945 Labour government. Learning from our past, the project will chart an alternative course for a welfare state fit for 2015.

Geoff Shears, Treasurer of IER and Vice President of CLASS said:

The Institute recognises that real progress-in terms of collective bargaining, trade union rights, workers’security -requires real and effective resistance to the onslaught of neo-liberalism. We therefore offer our support and experience to CLASS in its programme to establish a strategic framework which will inform the fight-back against austerity in favour of economic growth, advancing the fundamental cause of equality.

 It is no accident that many of the unions who have for many years supported the IER are now also working with many other progressive organisations in support of CLASS. We see the role of the unions as vital and the Institute intends to play its part”.

When the Mail Online covered the establishment of CLASS, it accused CLASS’s Policy and Media Adviser, Owen Jones, of wanting a class war. But whether the Mail recognises it or not, class is very much back on the political agenda.

In January 2012, the Pew Research Centre issued a report that said tensions between the rich and poor in the U.S. are increasing and at their most intense level in nearly a quarter-century. Their survey showed that Americans now see more social conflict over wealth inequality than over previous “hot-button” topics of immigration, race relations and age.

The awareness of class conflict has grown significantly and the economic divide has moved to the political forefront amid high unemployment, increasing poverty and anti austerity protests.

How appropriate then, that the labour movement’s new think tank is called CLASS.  And the joy of CLASS is that it does what is says on the tin – it puts class back on the political agenda.

Rachel Yates is Centre Coordinator for CLASS. Carolyn Jones is Director of IER. This article first appeared in the Morning Star

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