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SWP Goes Islamist?

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Anti-Quilliam protest in Plymouth

SWP With Plymouth Islamic Society.

A PROTEST against a speaker specialising in Islamism and counter-extremism has taken place at Plymouth University tonight.

Around 30 people gathered to show their anger at Sheikh Dr Usama Husan giving a lecture at the uni.

It comes after he failed to condemn an image from the online cartoon ‘Jesus and Mo’ showing Jesus and Mohammed saying ‘hey’ and ‘how ya doin’ to each other.

Dr Hasan is a senior researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam was speaking at the Jill Craigie cinema tonight on the topic of Islam and democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The University cites Dr Hasan as a trained imam and a scientist with a PhD, MA and MSc from the Universities of Cambridge and London, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Around 30 people from the university’s Plymouth Islamic Society protested at the event as he had not condemned the actions of Quilliam co-founder Maajid Nawaz, a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn who retweeted the controversial image.

They gathered peacefully in the lobby area of the Roland Levinsky building ahead of Dr Hasan’s arrival. A few ‘boos’ were heard as he entered the lectured theatre. Plymouth Herald

Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner.

Bob Pitt then entered the fray after reports of the SWP participation in the Muslim protest became public knowledge,

It is true that the Plymouth University demonstration “came after” Usama Hasan failed to condemn Maajid Nawaz’s tweet of a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon. But it is misleading to suggest that this was the sole reason for the protest.

First of all, the objection is not simply to the one cartoon but to the entire “Jesus and Mo” series which, as the online petition against Nawaz points out, “contains many highly offensive images of Jesus and Muhammad including homo-erotic scenes of them in bed together, being at bars together drinking alcohol using foul language, and reading pornographic magazines”. The petition further objects to the swearing and abuse with which Nawaz responded to his critics.

As the Quilliam Foundation NOT welcome in Plymouth Facebook page makes clear, the objection to Usama Hasan’s appearance in Plymouth was also wider than a complaint about a single cartoon. The organisers of the demonstration opposed Quilliam for having promoted the far-right extremists “Tommy Robinson” and Kevin Carroll, and for having “provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel”.

Plymouth University ISoc also condemned a cartoon tweeted by Usama Hasan himself, which trivialised domestic violence. They were joined by Fawcett Plymouth, who wrote to Plymouth University calling for the cancellation of the event at which Hasan was to speak.

The organisers’ appeal for support for the demonstration concluded: “We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities.”

The Islamists explained that,

“Join us in protesting and leafleting against the Quilliam Foundation appearing at Plymouth University. The Quilliam Foundation have been invited to speak and we strongly object. The QF founder tweeted on 12th January offensive caricatures of the Prophets Mohammed and Isa (Jesus), peace be upon them.

They claim to be a moderate Muslim group but have welcomed right wing extremist Tommy Robinson and Steve Carroll from the racist English Defence League. QF is a think tank that has received over £1million from the government. In return they have provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel.

We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities. We urge you to turn up and help us protest and leaflet to let people know what QF really stand for which is fuelling Islamaphobia and harming community relationships, and that they are not welcome here in Plymouth. This event has been organised by both local Muslims and non Muslims.

They posted a video clip of an elderly Swuppie selling Socialist Worker – here.

We certainly do not endorse the activities of the Quilliam Foundation.

But the nub of the matter is that the protest was sparked off by the Jesus and Mo cartoons.

I would like to see the Jesus and Mo Cartoons but Suffolk Library blocks the site – in effect bowing to the Islamist demands for censorship. 

This is what came up when I tried to go on the Jesus and Mo blog.

Access to the page:
… has been prevented for the following reason:
Blocked site: jesusandmo.net
You are seeing this error because what you attempted to access appears to contain, or is
labeled as containing, material that is contrary to the Library’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 2, 2014 at 11:53 am

Face Veil Controversy: An “Obscene Outfit” to Jean Luc Mélenchon but not to Socialist Worker.

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“Obscene Outfit” says Mélenchon.

YASMIN ALIBHAI BROWN writes in the Independent,

Birmingham Metropolitan College was similarly cowed and had to reverse a directive forbidding students from covering their faces. One hooded lady crowdsourced a protest against the college. Some overexcited student union members, Muslim objectors and online petitioners have forced a U-turn. Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood, Birmingham, welcomed the capitulation. Happy days. Muslim women can now to go to courts and college in shrouds.

That all-covering gown, that headscarf, that face mask – all affirm and reinforce the belief that women are a hazard to men and society. These are unacceptable, iniquitous values, enforced violently by Taliban, Saudi and Iranian oppressors. They have no place in our country.

In this passionate and well argued piece Alibhai Brown continues,

None of our sacred texts command us to cover our faces. Some branches of Islam do not even require head coverings. These are manmade injunctions followed by unquestioning women. We are directed always to accept the rules of the countries we live in and their institutions, as long as they are reasonable. For security, justice, travel, education and health identification is vital. Why should these women be exempt? We Muslims are already unfairly thought of as the enemy within. Niqabs make us appear more alien, more dangerous and suspicious. If it is a provocation for Ku Klux Klan to cover up so they can’t be recognised, it is for Muslims too.

This is a struggle between the light of the faith and dark forces here and also in Islamic countries. The clothes symbolize an attempted takeover of the religion just when believers are looking for liberty, autonomy, democracy and gender equality. Malala Yousafzai doesn’t hide her determined face. Nor do our female Muslim MPs and peers or civil rights lawyers.

So why do we get this gang announcing in Socialist Worker, the following,

Students celebrate beating Birmingham college niqab ban

The successful campaign in Birmingham should serve as a warning to college bosses everywhere – students will not allow their Muslim friends to be scapegoated.

‘Islamophobia’ Watch has joined the fray.

Bob Pitt is, amongst his usual forth, particularly exercised over a Tory MP’s Twitter comments,

Pitt and the SWP would have heart attacks if they were on the French left.

This is what Jean Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the Front de gauche, and their presidential candidate, said on the Face veil (during the 2010 debate on French laws in 2010).

Full veil: Mélenchon “for a general ban”


The chairman of the Left Party (PG), Jean-Luc Mélenchon has called for a total ban of the full veil in the Figaro.

According to him, the restriction prohibiting the wearing of the full veil in public services alone is “an incredible cowardice.”

He added that the law “must be of universal application.”

In more detail Jean Luc Mélenchon set out his position (2010) on his Blog.

Je parle du voile intégral

Why is he wearing the full veil degrading for women? Firstly, because it is obscene. It reduces the wearer to the status of sexual potential prey. As it is not proposed to blind men, it is designed to hide the object of desire from  natural desires of  all those watching. It’s worth noting how it is insulting to men who are deemed as being that are predatory and obsessed. In any case, the fully veiled woman bears a humiliating statement of  that she has the status of property of another.  is attached to the veiled woman.

A human being can not be the property of another. This is contrary to the human rights principle, that all are born free and equal in rights.

Mélenchon wanted a  law that would not just ban the full face veil in public places but for legislation to guarantee ” it would give “ l’obligation de mixité des lieux publics et services publics.” – the obligation to have women and men together in all public places and services. That is, to refuse all demands for single sex treatment.

Mélenchon has done far more defending French Muslims and “métsisage’ (cultural mixing) than the likes of the British Islamophiles.d.

What passes for defending Muslim women’s rights for the SWP and Bob Pitt, is deeply misguided.

Some liberal-minded people may think that people can do what they like (Harry’s Place), a way of presenting the issue is profoundly misleading terms.

The face veil is there to maintain the wearer’s  ‘purity’ and to treat others as ‘unclean’ because they do not have the modest dress that their interpretation  of a religion demands.

This is to accept the installation of a group of people with what are close to  a racist form of religious intolerance inside public institutions.

This is not about ‘choice’ but a right to demand the restriction of choice.

Let us be clear: there is no right to be oppressed.

The face veil  is dramatically opposed to the progressive goal of “métsisage’ (cultural mixing).

An important  place where there should be taking place, in education, has become  a battle field, pitting progressives against those from the extreme-right and the Islamists, who oppose this.

The full face veil is as Yasmin Alibhai Brown says, a reflection of “unacceptable, iniquitous values, enforced violently by Taliban, Saudi and Iranian oppressors.”

French Crisis: Analysis from Latest Chartist Magazine.

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Chartist Magazine.

The choice facing Hollande
Andrew Coates surveys French politics after one year of socialist government.

Just after the anniversary of his electoral triumph France’s Socialist President François Hollande faces his toughest test.

The European Commission has given his government two years to reduce public spending, notably on the welfare state. They have also recommended that France reduce the ‘cost’ of labour, questioned the level of the minimum wage, and called for more competition in services (Le Monde 31.5.13)

In a political climate where even the Hexagone is affected by Euroscepticism, Brussels’ demands are explosive.

Hollande has declared that he was already going to reform. Apart from fiscal strictness he will ‘simplify’ the welfare state to find savings. He has begun by proposing to alter family tax allowances, but has failed to find a consensus on family benefits as such.

Reforming the pension system is even more difficult. France has 33 independent retirement regimes. Across the welfare state these complex ‘millefeuilles‘ administrations exist. Not only are they hard to change quickly but there is also the memory of the 1995 strikes and protests against the reform of the Health Service, not to mention the trade union movement against pension age rises during the Sarkozy Presidency.

Unpopularity at Record Levels.

The Socialist President scores only 29% approval ratings in the opinion polls (Le Monde 5.6.13).

Economic growth is 0.2%. Unemployment stands at 3,525,300 and continues to rise. The figures show that only 41.8% receive the ‘contributory’ benefit Ed Miliband advocates – the rest, if they qualify – much lower minimum levels. The resulting intricacy of the payment bureaucracy contributes to their cost and the resentment of the out-of-work.

Hollande has faced another challenge. France’s ‘culture wars’ over gay marriage have polarised public opinion. Over the last few months hundreds of thousands have protested against legislation to bring in marriage for same sex couples and to give them the right to adopt. Brought on the street by religious, principally Catholic, leaders, demonstrations have been backed by a variety of right-wing parties. They have refused to accept that a Parliamentary majority, backed by a majority of the population, can pass these measures.

Sarkozy’s UMP has been joined by the Front National and groupuscles even further right. Under the banner of the ‘printemps français‘ some have attempted a ‘May 68 of the Right’, parodying the libertarian spirit of the ‘sixties to attack the ‘permissive society’ created by the left. Their voices have been virulent and they have not shrunk from violence. At the start of June, the death of young anti-fascist Clément Méric at the hands of one of these far-right bands, has cast a shadow over the agitation.

The Socialists as a Governing Party.

Hollande’s ability to keep his specific electoral promises, such an employing more teaching staff, has counted for less than the overall impression of his politics. The road from such ‘small steps’ to a Europe-wide economic ‘governance’, is far from clear. That the Budget Minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, was found out engaging in massive tax evasion has only served to reinforce public distrust.

The reasons for this lie deep. If the Socialist Party has become an established party of government, it is not certain what it intends to do with its power. Hollande stands for a ‘co-operative’ capitalism, but wants to share out the profits to all. This is social democracy, even if the President calls himself a socialist. (Le Monde. 24.5.13)

An unexpected effect of the internal ‘primary’ selection process for its Presidential candidacy is that rivals, notably Arnaud Montebourg, now Minister of Industry, act with the proven support (17.9%) of an internal party base. Montebourg is there to promote a proactive industrial strategy, against the hostility of many employers.

Martine Bulard has listed the areas in which the Socialists, already modest, programme has been watered down, (Le Monde Diplomatique. April 2013). He has not renegotiated the ‘stability pact’ with Germany, postponing plans for Europe-wide growth. Budgetary discipline, dropping policies for reindustrialisation, and company wide agreements for wage restraint, in return for a promise of job security (agreed by only one section of the trade union movement) have taken priority over sharing out the wealth. The top tax rate of 75% has proved, as Cahuzac illustrated, more symbolic than real.

Left Challenge.

On the left for the Front de gauche Jean-Luc Mélenchon (over 11% in the 2012 Presidential elections) has denied that Hollande is even a social democrat but a ‘social liberal’. He links France’s difficulties to the crisis of the Euro, warns of the Mediterranean countries’ problems spreading, and rejects Brussels’ demands for austerity. Mélenchon and his allies reject the stability and competition treaties, and want a kind of continental People’s Assembly to completely reform the European Union.

In the monumental Les Gauches Françaises (2012), Jacques Julliard considered Hollande’s potential policies. Could a renewed social democracy be able to take back from finance capital and the managerial class the share of profits they monopolise? Or would Hollande be forced to promote growth beyond anything else? It is far from obvious that austerity will do anything other than damage either hope.

The prospect of a revived Right looms, as does the rise of a left hostile to the Socialists. What will Hollande decide? To govern, as they say, is to choose.

More from Chartist: 

What recovery?
Prem Sikka on the consequences of austerity on working people
New pamphlets from Chartist

Socialising Transport by Paul Salveson argues for a radical change from the current privatised and de-regulated transport system towards one which is accountable and responsive to people’s needs.

Europe – The Unfinished Project by Frank Lee. Presents a powerful case for completing Europe’s historic political and economic mission so that Europe can fulfil its promise.

The politics of housing development in an age of austerity by Duncan Bowie examines housing policy over one hundred years and is a powerful critique of New Labour and current coalition government policy.

The Big Society – The Big Con and the Alternative by Andy Gregg and Mike Davis unmasks the paradoxes of Cameron’s ‘big society’.

> Download the pamphlets *Militarisation of aid
Patricia d’Ardenne on Cameron’s subversion of aid *Metropolitics
Don Flynn reconceives how socialists should approach the politics of cities *Match girls and general strikes
Mike Davis celebrates and cautions on trade union tactics *How green are you?
Mary Southcott critiques Bristol’s Greens *The choice facing Hollande
Andrew Coates surveys French politics after one year of socialist government   Special article by Frank Lee on Keynesianism, cuts and solutions to economic collapse – download PDF free

Blue Labour Comes Back and Wants (more) Welfare ‘Reform’.

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Not for Blue Labour.

Radio Four last night examined Blue Labour’s plans for welfare reform (You can hear it here. Transcript here).

Mukul Devichand opened with this,

These voices are the gurus of a new circle at the top of the Labour Party. They’re highly influential: in charge of writing the policies for Labour’s next manifesto and crafting Ed Miliband’s key speeches. And if you thought Labour would simply tinker around the edges of welfare, and reverse some of the cuts, you’d be rrong if this group had its way. Labour long ago jettisoned the idea that the central government could run industry. In this week’s Analysis, we’ll explore how this group also wants the central state to walk away from a top down model of welfare.

Following this Maurice Glasman opined, “The state is necessary, but as a external administrative neutral force it undermines relationships. It can undermine humanity.”

If that is an indication of the quality of New Labour thought we socialists on the dole can rest easy in our beds, till late afternoon if we wish.

The state is a relationship that can undermine humanity, might have been a more coherent idea.

But we let this pass.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham then took another step backwards.

Here are his thoughts on the Welfare state,

I think the problem has been we forgot what it was originally set up for. It cuts people’s legs off. It rewards people the more need they can demonstrate. It does things for people and that’s a mistake. So for example on housing, if you come in and say, “I’m homeless, I’m in need,” we’ve rewarded in the past, we’ve rewarded people. The more need they have, the more likely it is we’ll support them. So you’ve got to show, you’ve got to prove that you can’t do things. That’s the wrong way to do it.

Perhaps Sir Robin has found a way of abolishing need.

Apparently so,

He began by stating,

The Soviets learned in 89 that it didn’t work. We still think we should run things centrally and we’re one of the most centralised states and a democratic state in Europe. It’s nuts. We need to do more in terms of pushing power and responsibility and opportunities down locally, and I’d argue that if we’re going to make the welfare state work there needs to be a much stronger local element where the community and the values of the community can be put to work. You cannot put something that meets an individual’s needs, you cannot structure that from the centre.

As Devichand wryly observed, the Soviets are not around to answer back.

He by contrast has set up Workplace, a local alternative to Job Centres,

The government’s Work Programme is a disaster, and it’s a disaster because it’s designed by civil servants to be run nationally and you don’t start with the employers. We go to the employers and say could we present people to you who are job ready, who are the right people you want? And the result is that not only do we get five thousand people into work; half of them are long-term unemployed, a large number are young people.

The Work Programme is in fact thoroughly decentralised.

It is delivered, in scores of different ways, by private providers, mostly companies, but including ‘social enterprises’ and charities.

This is the result of extensive lobbying by these providers (who’ve become the ‘unemployment business’) as first encouraged by David Blunkett, closely linked to one company (he served on its Board after setting the system up), A4E).

The system is unemployment business driven and nobody knows exactly what they’re going to get.

It is also news that Workplace is unique in going to employers, since that is exactly what all Work Programme providers do.

The root problem is deeper and simpler: there is not the work for the unemployed to be fitted into.

To test the success of Newham’s scheme we got people saying that they agreed that graft should be rewarded and skivers left out. This was not ,

a gathering of the local chambers of commerce; it was a crowd of the recently unemployed in East London, albeit hand-picked for us by Newham Council….

We are reaching the realm where the inhabitants of  Cloud Cuckoo Land go to get away from their mundane lives.

It is a sad indication of the ‘debate’ set up by Blue Labour that it was up to the Fabian Society General Secretary,   Andrew Harrop,  to talk some sense.

That the reasons why welfare is ‘centralised’ (that, is we all have the same rights and benefits are aligned to need) is that Beveridge,

wanted a uniform, consistent system, so that it was based on your citizenship rather than more arbitrary factors, and there’s still a lot of truth in that insight.

Polly Toynbee pointed out that if we decentralise welfare  in the way Blue Labour want

 In the end you might get some councils who say actually we care more about our municipal flowerbeds.

This is not a joke.

A percentage of  Council Tax benefit has been made payable by those on benefits and  decentralised under the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

Those in Liberal or Tory areas can pay twice or event three times what you pay in Labour ones. Poor areas have high charges, rich right-wing ones, despite their reserves, still shift the burden as far as they can onto those on the Dole.

Toynbee later observes,

I think Labour MPs know so well, they are so rooted in their own communities, many of which are very poor, what can’t be done. They know very well that you can’t take money away from the very weakest and very poorest and they won’t let it happen. So I’m pretty confident that this will end up being a creative policy with a lot of good ideas, that it will spark all sorts of things off, but don’t let’s imagine it’s a new 1945 settlement.

A creative policy?

The Analysis programme  did not go far into this.

But the rest of Blue Labour’s ideas, about contributive benefits, are equally askew. They would create a gap between sections of the unemployed. They would (and are) be hard and expensive to administer.

Countries that operate these schemes , like France, have had to introduce minimum levels of benefit to all, regardless of contribution, and still suffer from continual deficit crises in their systems.

The Living Wage is equally no panacea for low pay. With rents still rising, and the inflation rate on goods that the less well-off buy going up, it does not mean the good life for all.

Jeremy Cliffe, of the free-market Economist concludes,

The Attlee government, Labour’s perhaps most venerated and mythologised government, set in place a Welfare State which involved the benevolent state pulling levers, transferring wealth from those that had it to those that didn’t, and this involves moving on quite dramatically from that. And I think there are many in the labour movement, perhaps understandably those who have worked in the Welfare State, who see their constituents dependent on support in various forms from the Welfare State, those who are close to the trade Union Movement which is obviously rooted in the last fifty or so years of British political economy who are not comfortable with this.

Dropping the reference to the “benevolent state” (Cliffe just couldn’t resist saying that, could he? Still who can deny that  a 1st Class Degree from Oxford teaches you things) and what do we have at fault?

That there is a “transfer of wealth“.

Is this something Blue Labour is against?

Ipswich People’s Assembly.

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Last night Enrico Tortolano,  spoke on neo-liberal economics  and politics  to a public meeting at he UNITE offices held by the Ipswich People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Up to 30 people turned up her brother  Tortolano,  who has worked on human rights with social movements in Latin America, and now is a research officer for the PCS union as well as writing for Tribune.

Enrico gave a talk of great clarity on how the wealthy have established free-market economics as the foundation of state policy in many countries. Everybody is told to be ‘self-reliant’ as taxes are lowered for the well-off and all forms of redistribution are undermined. We have, Tortolano said, crept back to pre-First World War levels of inequality.

In Britain  attacks on welfare and privatising the state were being pushed through as part of what Naomi Klein called the “shock doctrine”. That is,  taking advantage of a crisis to push through extreme free-market ideas.

He noted that the first to apply this method had been Augusto Pinochet , the Chilean dictator.

The recently deceased Margaret Thatcher had admired the leader of the Chilean coup, which had left thousands of left opponents dead and many more imprisoned and tortured.

From annual get-togethers in Davos (Switzerland), to thousands of ‘think-tanks’ and sympathetic media, their message has been relayed by all the main political parties in the West.

British politics seem to be restricted to the limits set by the ‘orthodox’ free-market economics.

The People’s Assembly, Tortalano said, offered a real opportunity for the left to unite and to put forward a different economic and political strategy. Ultimately the threat to the planet’s resources from the market would affect everybody.

The audience, which included trade unionists, local Labour councillors, library campaigners, and activists from the Green and socialist parties, joined in a fruitful discussion on this talk.

It was suggested that the People’s Assembly should take up the issue of low pay (very important in Ipswich), of the Bedroom Tax, and the fight against the wave of further cuts in public spending that will affect council (above all  County Council) services in the coming months.

The Secretary of the Trades Council, Teresa Mackay pointed out that 80% of the cuts were still to come.

It was argued that the People’s Assembly needs a constructive and a positive message. It was not enough to just fight neoliberal economics and the hatred of the poor and migrant workers stirred up by the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

The left has to offer a democratic  and egalitarian  way of creating institutions  for equality  and collective need.

A co-ordinator will organise E-Mail contacts for the Ipswich People’s Assembly.

Transport will be available from Ipswich to take people to the London Assembly.

In the coming weeks we will be organising a campaign locally to draw attention to the links between Primark and other retail outlets and the terrible deaths of garment  workers in Bangladesh.

As an activist said, “The numbers of the dead just keep rising.”

Suffolk Elections, Labour Gains but County (and Country) now has its own Front National, UKIP.

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Tory Judy Terry is Out: The Heavens Cry their Joy!

Suffolk Election Results leave the Tories in Charge.

Conservative 39

Green 1

Independent 2

Labour 12

Labour and Co-operative 3

Liberal Democrat 7

UK Independence Party 9

This is a good result for Labour and their candidates who have worked really hard, year in and year out, on the County Council (where they were only 4 till today) and have fought against austerity and privatisation tooth-and-nail.

It is a good result for the labour movement more widely as Suffolk Labour Parties have worked closely with the union and left campaigners against the Tory-led Council cutters and floggers-off.

One result brought great joy to the progressive Suffolk masses: the defeat of Judy Terry in Rushmere (figures and intro from Ipswich Spy).

“The Conservatives have LOST the Rushmere Division, previously held by Cabinet Member Judy Terry, to Labour’s Sandra Gage.

Ellis, Peter (UKIP) 401
Gage, Sandra (Labour) 1117
Jackson, Dale (Ind) 34
Jones, Garath (Lib Dem) 90
Terry, Judy (Con) 628
Wilmot, Kirsty (Green) 94″

As a County Council Cabinet member she has pushed through the privatisation agenda, notably creating a so-called Industrial and Provident Society (private ‘charity’) for the Library service. This  has caused great damage.

Overall Labour made gains in urban districts, notably Ipswich, which has more in common with parts of London (including the ‘inner city’)  than rural Suffolk.

In my own ward there was a very a good result (I campaigned for Mandy – Labour),

Labour have GAINED the St Helen’s Division from the Liberal Democrats, who were pushed into last place, with UKIP second, two votes ahead of the Tories, and the Green’s in fourth.

Gaylard, Mandy (Labour) 900
Lockington, Tim (Lib Dem) 155
Parkinson, Katherine (Con) 359
Tinney, Mark (UKIP) 361
Wilmot, Tom (Green) 201

There was also a by-election,

Alexandra Ward By-Election – Ipswich BC – Labour Gain

Posted on May 3, 2013 by IS/BR

Labour have taken the Borough Council by election in Alexandra, a gain from the Liberal Democrats. Turnout was 27.6%.

Cook, John (Labour) 772
Cotterell, Stephen (UKIP) 279
Phillips, Edward (Con) 274
Toye, Kenneth (Lib Dem) 126
Wilmot, Thomas (Green) 193
Rejected 7

“So the Liberal Democrats have gone from first to last in what was a bastion of Liberal Democrat power in the town – just three years ago they held all three Borough Council seats, plus the County Council seat. It means the Liberal Democrats are reduced to just three councillors on Ipswich Borough Council.” So says the Spy.

In fact it was not so much as a Liberal Bastion but a freak base, created by boundary changes, and a protest vote against the Labour government, which was always going to go back to Labour when real politics kicked in.

The worst result is in Whitehouse and Whitton where UKIP slipped in.

9 UKIP councillors on the County Council is a disaster.

They did well elsewhere though not enough to win.

Note that in the area I live  (St Helen’s/Alexandra, which cover the town centre and is largely working class or employee,  and highly ‘mixed’, including a substantial migrant worker population) UKIP came above the Liberals and even the Tories with hardly any local activists whatsoever.

Or indeed none...

Their vote comes from a ‘virtual’ campaign of leafleting, and the full-time agitation of the far-right daily press, the Mail, the Express and the Sun.

They beat poor old Kevin in his vain attempt to win Chantry for the Tory (Holy Roller) Party.

UKIP put the Tories into 4th and 5th (no guessing which Tory came 5th) and the Liberals, way out on the margins at Monster Raving levels of support. (Algar, Kevin (Con) 1043 Armitage, Helen (Labour) 2169 Broom, Barry (Green) 404 Cenci, Nadia (Con) 1096 Fletcher, Julie (Lib Dem) 243 Gardiner, Peter (Labour) 2051 McHardy, Stuart (Lib Dem) 146
Newton, Robert (UKIP) 1301)

Across the County UKIP  have pushed the Liberals out to the fringes (7 seats) and are not far behind Labour.

Campaigning on an openly racist basis, against the threat of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants, they join a sorry list of European far-right populist parties.

The left has long shouted about the menace of the tiny and irrelevant  English Defence League.

Dealing with UKIP is going to be a lot harder than shouting ‘nasty Nazis’ at them.

But this is a start,


Labour ‘Pluralists’ Reach out to Liberal Democrats.

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 A new cross-party group will be set up by senior Labour figures tomorrow in an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.

Labour for Democracy will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens. But it will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

Although the launch was planned before last week’s Leveson report on press regulation, it is timely because Ed Miliband and Mr Clegg have backed the inquiry’s call for a new system

The Independent

For good measure the Greens are added to the ‘progressive’ list.

The background is Labour for Democracy’s analysis of how ‘pluralism’ can further  ‘progressive goals’.

Support for progressive values and policies is not restricted to a single political party, as shown by our new analysis of polling data. A real desire to see progressive change means working with supporters of other political parties.’

‘Pluralism is simply a commitment to work with others, including members and supporters of other political parties if that increases our chances of achieving progressive change. While Labour values are most strongly supported by Labour voters, many supporters of other parties also share some of our values. No party today speaks exclusively for progressive opinion; none will do so in the fut

“All Labour members will work hard for every Labour vote. But whether we win the outright majority we seek, or end up with a hung Parliament, the change Britain needs will require the support of all who share our key values. Existing structures encourage tribalism, but Labour’s history has often been of working with others for progressive goals – in trades unions, community organisations, solidarity movements and defending the environment. Some of the changes we are proudest to claim – the NHS, the welfare state and devolution – would not have happened without the support of people outside the Labour movement. At a time when old allegiances to political parties are breaking down, yet organisations like 38 degrees are mobilising active and effective  support, we need that approach more than ever.’

 John Denham, one of Labour for Democracy’s   founding supporters, has argued the case,

The launch of Labour for Democracy on 4 December is an attempt to break down tribal sectarianism and promote a pluralist culture within the Labour movement. The focus is not on coalitions or cross-party deals, but on finding ways of delivering what progressive voters want. We’ve already shown that, in the main, past Lib Dem voters hold similar values to Labour’s, and quite different to most Tory voters. It’s also clear that, despite the failures of the coalition, the public still generally want politicians to work together when they can, rather than exaggerate their differences.

The launch of this initiative  has met instant hostile reaction.

Labour First have condemned the creation of the new “Labour for Democracy” group within the party, which according to the Independent will “will try to build bridges with other progressive parties, including the Greens” and “will reach out to Nick Clegg’s party, with whom relations were stretched to breaking point when he took the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.”

The Independent reports that the Group is “an attempt to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.”

Speaking to LabourList this morning, Secretary of Labour First, Luke Akehurst, said:

“The creation of this misnamed group, “Labour for Democracy” is a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners who are working flat out to beat all our political opponents, Greens and Lib Dems as well as Tories, UKIP and BNP, as we did comprehensively in the recent by-elections.

It is completely premature and defeatist to start flirting with the Lib Dems when all the opinion polls and by-elections show we have a realistic chance of a majority Labour government.

We need to continue to squeeze the Lib Dem and Green votes in order both to take seats off them and seats off the Tories. Any move which rehabilitates the Lib Dems and lets them off the hook for having put the Tories in power actually increases the chances of another hung parliament. Their behaviour in 2010 indicates their preferred coalition partner is the Tories.

We had naive talk about pluralism in 2010. The people making those noises should have learned their lesson. The Lib Dems are not a progressive party and the Greens are an anti-working class and anti-economic growth party. We should be seeking to defeat them both intellectually and at the ballot box, not pandering to them.”

There is little to add, immediately to this.

Except apart from the fact that everybody on the left and most of the Labour Party  in the UK (including Ipswich) loathes the Liberal Democrats, and that ‘progressive’ is too windy to mean much, there is this:

The Labour for Democracy initiative will strongly remind many people of  Charter 88 and the  (now wound up) Democratic Left (DL) in the early 1990s.  These groups advocated tactical voting, support for ‘anti-Conservative’ candiodates, right up to the 2011 election. They were open to Liberal Democrats and Greens who supported ‘proressice values’ above all on Constitutional issues.

Are Labour for Democracy linked to this tradition?

There is, as yet, no direct evidence.


The old Charter 88 and Democratic Left  strategy for a ‘progressive alliance’ is not dead.

On the Web site produced by the remnants of Charter 88 and the Democratic Left (Charter 88 transformed itself , through its merger with the New Politics Network (what remained of the Democratic Left)   into Unlock Democracy, we find this today:

“Beyond the Progressive Alliance

Charter 88 was very much a political response to Thatcherism and its basic strategy was to bring together the two parties of the centre and centre left around a programme of democratic and constitutional reform. Probably the high point of this strategy was the Cook-Maclennan talks prior to the 97 General Election between the Lib Dem’s and Labour which lead to joint programme of constitutional reform that included devolution, freedom of information and the HRA. 

Though this strategy delivered much it was always a limited one. The reality was then and is now that if democratic change is going to happen it needs to appeal beyond a sterile left right divide. Democratic reform is not a left right issue but one that divides people along a libertarian authoritarian axis and there are people on the left and the right who recognise that our society needs more democracy not less.”

Nothing, it seems, feeds hope like failure.

The challenge over the next few years is not to recreate the alliance between people on the centre left of politics that was at the heart of Charter’s strategy, but to build new alliances that include all those who want to transform politics. Many of these alliances will be issue specific and like the one we created to deliver the Sustainable