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Why Did Tory Ben Gummer Lose Ipswich to Labour’s Sandy Martin?

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‘Mr Ipswich’ Off to Spend More Time in the Pub.

“Just 48 hours ago he was one of the most powerful men in the British government. Now Ben Gummer’s parliamentary career has come to an abrupt end – whether temporarily or permanently. Why did he lose?”

Writes the ‘Big Fella’ Paul Geater in the Ipswich Star.

During the campaign Ben Gummer always seemed supremely confident, talking confidently about Labour voters switching to him because they didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. If this was all spin then he and his team were acting very well when they spoke to me!

Even after our survey suggested Sandy Martin was in the lead, they insisted all was well – but clearly things were not going as well as he hoped. Why?

Firstly many people voted for the first time. Turnout was significantly up and many of these appeared to be young people.

They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.

The number of people voting Conservative in Ipswich actually went up between 2015 and 2017 by about 1,600 – but Labour’s vote increased by more than 6,000 votes. The UKIP vote fell by 4,000 – but these votes appear to have been split evenly.

Some policies were not popular: workers said the confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments had worried some voters.

The lack of attention from big-name visitors also gave the impression that Tory High Command took Ipswich for granted. They seemed to think that a Cabinet minister with a 3,733 majority couldn’t need help.

Some voters appeared to feel that Mr Gummer’s focus was no longer on the town with his new ministerial role – and the fact that he did not have a home in Ipswich at the time of the election did not help.

Given his work in the town, this was probably unfair – but it created an impression his opponents could exploit by emphasising that Mr Martin had lived in Ipswich for decades.

And a number of small policy statements caused real problems – one of the most irritating for workers was the suggestion that the government could repeal hunting legislation. One of his team said to me: “Why couldn’t she (Theresa May) just shut up about that. It’s not a big issue but it could cost us a few hundred votes!”

Another series of explanations:

  • The Labour vote, as Geater notes, grew amongst young people. As he says, particularly of first-time voters, “They were motivated to vote Labour because they liked Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plans, especially abolishing university tuition fees, and were determined to make their voice heard.” This is a national trend. Most studies of voting behaviour in the UK underline that most people cast their ballot in line with countrywide trends. This would equally apply to people’s concern with “confusion and mixed messages over pension reform and social care payments”, a worry that  was reflected all over Britain. The Star and EADT’s political columnist could have added that young people’s interest in the issue of tuition fees was not just something ‘out there’. It was very evident on the ground. In my own street when delivering Labour leaflets a young bloke saw the Party sign and raised a clenched fist while saying “Up the Labour! I want Corbyn to sort out my tuition fees”. Others can confirm that this was very far from a one off incident.
  • If the Tory High Command “took Ipswich for granted” this was hardly the case for Ben’s own team. They have worked hard over the years to build up an image of the Conservative MP as Mr Ipswich, even putting on their web site a map of the town which you could click on to find what “Ben had done” to help, street by street.  When this Blog pointed out, in a kindly way,  that this may be seen as arrogant, the chart disappeared. But similar bold claims about the candidate’s actions “for Ipswich” continued.
  • The “focus on the town” is, as a result, a more complex issue than Geater’s comments reveals.  Ben’s constant efforts to portray himself as the Minister for Ipswich, and the Best Friend Ipswich has ever had, were not universally appreciated whatever the merits of the former MP’s efforts.  I could cite the the freebie Waterfront Life, which those of us who leave not far from the old Docks, receive. He gave – in two pieces, The Winerack and Non-Political Question Time  – the impression that it was the Right Hon. Gummer who was Ipswich Borough Council, The Right Hon who was the man pioneering the Town’s future. Those who know that the hard working Labour councillors who run Ipswich Borough were not impressed.  Nor were his ‘matey’ evenings, Ben in the Pub, appealing to everybody. Some would have welcomed his focus elsewhere, especially, as many remarked, as  Gummer does not live in Ipswich.
  • It was not just the Conservative Manifesto’s promises for future policies, such as bringing back hunting, but present ones that were unpopular. Locally voters would see that austerity affects their lives directly. Suffolk County Council is at present Tory run. It has ruthlessly cut services, including social care, and outsourced many of their activities. They are in a sorry state. To take one example, the massive cuts in provision for young people, particularity the disadvantaged, is storing up social problems.  To this one could add long-standing problems about the County Council. Many voters are aware of the mess their contracted out Highway Services  is in: the state of the roads in Suffolk is a standing joke.
  • Ben Gummer made much of his commitment to improved rail services. Those who use the trains to get to London will have noticed that his efforts have not affected the steadily deteriorating rail links, and the sky high ticket prices that privatisation has brought. Many will perhaps considered that Gummer’s claims, made since 2010 with no visible result,  are rubbing salt in open wounds. These are just some hard-to-ignore  examples of how Conservative rule has made people’s lives worse and have surely undermined the former MP’s support.
  • If there was one thing which sums up the results of Conservative government cuts, and mean-spirited welfare system, it is the constant presence of street-begging and rough sleepers in Ipswich. People in the town feel shame that in a wealthy country we have the homeless and destitute left to ask for money in the streets.

Then there is his opponent, Sandy Martin who ran an enthusiastic campaign, backed by an energetic team that included many young people.

  • Sandy Martin by  is known across the town as a man whose tireless work, not constantly flagged up as the acts of Mr Ipswich, have made a real difference. From case-work as a Town (until not that long ago) and (now) County Councillor, Sandy has built up a solid reputation as a reliable and likeable local figure. A broad constituency, from ordinary town residents, campaigners on a wider variety of issues,and labour movement activists know that Sandy is somebody who has stood on their side and contributed to their work.
  • Ipswich Labour Party has a well-organised network of supporters, from every walk of life, prepared to talk to and listen to Ipswich people. Sanday’s campaign reflected this. It was very obvious during the campaign that the party is deeply rooted in Ipswich. With a good candidate, the local party backing, the radical and democratic politics in Labour’s Manifesto  found an audience.

Finally,….

Not everybody likes ‘Ben’s Bridge’ either,

General election 2017: New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin to ask for rethink on Orwell Crossing link

New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is to ask the Department for Transport to look again at the proposals for a large new bridge between Wherstead Road and Cliff Quay.

He is to ask the government to look at diverting the money to help fund the £100m project to a northern by-pass for the town.

It was one of his pledges during the election campaign, and he is planning to take up the issue when he travels to Westminster next week.

He said: “There are three bridges proposed as part of the Upper Orwell Crossing. Two of them – the road bridge to the island site and the footbridge over the lock gates – I wholeheartedly support.

“But the largest bridge does not have public support and I shall be speaking to the department to see if the funds can go to a more important strategic route, the northern by-pass.”

The crossings were strongly backed by former MP Ben Gummer – and are now a formal county council-managed project. The government funding is due to come through when work is about to start.

County council cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said it would be pressing ahead with the project. He said: “This is a full project, you can’t plan to have one or two of the bridges.

“And it isn’t possible to move the money from one Ipswich project to another in the town – if it is taken away from this then it would go to another part of the country.”

The crossing is also backed by the business community in Ipswich.

Catherine Johnson, chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Greater Ipswich said: “Firstly, on behalf of the Chamber we’d like to congratulate Sandy on being elected as Ipswich’s MP.

“Secondly, as with the other six Suffolk MPs, we are looking forward to working with him on a range of issues of interest and concern to the business community.

“We note his comments about diverting funds from the Upper Orwell Crossings scheme to that of the northern bypass. We hope to listen in more detail to his thinking on this particular issue.

“We also look forward to a productive dialogue on the overall need for Ipswich to have a modern infrastructure that allows a much freer and more efficient flow of goods and people both within and to and from the town.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Leading Ipswich Tory, Kev, Goes Marine le Pen.

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“Fuck the system!” Says Kevin Algar, former Ipswich Tory Council Candidate.

It is not often that we publish news on Ipswich Tory Party.

MP Ben Gummer spends his time these days in a happy daze:

This is Ipswich’s Moment!

It is an exciting time to be in our town, and a privilege for me to serve this glorious constituency as it grasps a better future with both hands.

But all is not well in the Ipswich Conservative Association..

Leading activist, former Tory council candidate, and Brexit supporter, Kevin Algar, the Terror of Saint Jude’s, is now backing Marine Le Pen for French President.

He comments on Facebook today, “She will win, the EU will collapse and the people of Europe shall be free.”

According to well-established rumour Kev, as his friends don’t call him, plans to hold a Suffolk victory party for the Front National.

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This was his last celebration, (via East Anglia’s Premier Political Blog)  ” Congratulations to US President elect Donald Trump.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Suzanne Moore, Ipswich’s Favourite Daughter, writes New SCUM Manifesto.

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Ipswich, Coach that took Suzanne from Provincial Obscurity to London’s Bright Lights.

Ipswich is known internationally as the birthplace of celebrated scamp,  songstress, poetess, pioneering post-cultural studies theorist, and radical feminist, Suzanne Moore.

In her multi-volume autobiography Moore refers to her younger days, punting along the Orwell, drinking snakebite in the Blue Coat Boy (pictured above), and attending Young Farmers’ Balls.

An affection for her home town roots shines through her award winning writing.

Most recently,

Rio has showcased a post-Brexit nationalism the left should embrace. “Nationalism need not be racist and inward-looking. The Great Britain of the recent Olympics was inclusive, warm, sentimental and hardworking” (Guardian. 22nd of August. 

Call us sentimental but a tear came to our eye when we read this latest finely crafted prose,

We publish extracts, but the real deal has to be read in the original, and finely savoured.

We dedicate today to the best loved daughter of the ancient Anglo-Saxon homeland

Suzanne Moore: Why I was wrong about men

You can’t hate them all, can you? Actually, I can.

Having tried to live with various mishaps, I realise that this is not for me and it never will be. But then, nor will the kind of reasonable feminism in which we make allowances for men. Because they are men. I have had it all my life: pro-choice marches in which men insist that they walk at the front. A left-wing party that cannot deal with a female leader. The continuing pushing back of women’s rights.

The more I hate men (#YesAllMen), the more I don’t mind individual ones, actually, as it is clear that some can be entertaining for a while. Before you even bother whingeing that my hatred of the taskmasters of patriarchy is somehow equivalent to systematic misogyny, to the ongoing killing, rape and torture and erasure of women, know this: I once made exceptions. I was wrong.

Well-established rumour has it that Suzanne plans to speak on Ipswich Corn Hill this coming Saturday on her latest work, which some are already calling the 21st Century’s answer to Valerie Solanas’s  SCUM Manifesto.

We look forward to seeing her, amongst the Suffolk Bor selling piles of mangelwurzel, the  essential ingredient in the soup that has made Ipswich a byword for high-class cuisine.

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 Recent Corn Hill picture. 

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Moore: in Case Nobody Recognises her. 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 6, 2016 at 11:28 am

The Politics of the Suffolk Tornado.

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Thorpness: Prelude to Utopia?

Michelle Fairweather captured these pictures of the waterspout while at a wedding at Thorpeness Country Club

Funnel clouds and waterspouts spotted in Suffolk on Sunday (East Anglian Daily Times.)

What are the politics of this event?

Was the Tornado a “sign of the times” from nature that a whirlwind of a left social movement is blowing through Britain, overthrowing the establishment and transforming politics for ever? Or a warning that the gale of  right-wing populism of UKIP and right-wing Tories is wreaking havoc? Or simply that anybody who backed Brexit would be best swept away?

The politics of Tornadoes have cropped up in the past. …

According to political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the tornado takes Dorothy to a utopia, the Land of Oz, and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, who had oppressed “the little people”, the Munchkin.

 Quentin P. Taylor explains in Money and Politics in the Land of Oz.

In 1964 Henry M. Littlefield claimed that Baum’s charming tale concealed a clever allegory on the Populist movement, the agrarian revolt that swept across the Midwest in the 1890s.

In a broad survey of interpretation Taylor makes these observations.

When Dorothy’s twister-tossed house comes to rest in Oz, it lands squarely on the wicked Witch of the East, killing her instantly. The startled girl emerges from the abode to find herself in a strange land of remarkable beauty, whose inhabitants, the diminutive Munchkins, rejoice at the death of the Witch.

The Witch represents eastern financial-industrial interests and their gold-standard political allies, the main targets of Populist venom. Midwestern farmers often blamed their woes on the nefarious practices of Wall Street bankers and the captains of industry, whom they believed were engaged in a conspiracy to “enslave” the “little people,” just as the Witch of the East had enslaved the Munchkins. Populists viewed establishment politicians, including presidents, as helpless pawns or willing accomplices. Had not President Cleveland bowed to eastern bankers by repealing the Silver Purchase Act in 1893, thus further restricting much-needed credit? Had not McKinley (prompted by the wealthy industrialist Mark Hanna) made the gold standard the centerpiece of his campaign against Bryan and free silver?

(an) anti-imperialist theme appears in the form of the Winkies, called “yellow” because they reside in the Land of the West. The Winkies, who are forced to work for the Witch of the West, represent the “yellow man” of Asia, especially the Chinese immigrants and the native Filipinos. For decades, the Chinese had immigrated to the Far West to labor in various capacities. Given their “exotic” appearance, clannish habits, and willingness to work for low wages, they were often the targets of abuse, discrimination, and even murder. Under pressure from the authorities in California, Congress passed the Exclusion Act (1882), which banned Chinese immigration for twenty years.

..

At the end of the story, the Scarecrow supplants the Wizard as the ruler of Emerald City, the Tin Woodman is made master of the West, and the Lion is placed over the animals of the forest. Dorothy transports herself back to Kansas by clicking her silver shoes together three times. All this is achieved with the help of Glinda, the good Witch of the South. The message? Populism is triumphant, the goal of gaining political power is achieved. Or is it? Neither the Scarecrow nor the Tin Man nor the Lion truly lacked what each believed he was missing; the great Wizard’s powers proved illusory; and Dorothy had the power to transform her condition all along. These features of the story point to a more ambivalent result. Indeed, Populism’s outright failure is suggested when Dorothy’s silver shoes fall off in the desert and are “lost forever.” After Bryan’s defeat in 1896, the free-silver movement went into rapid decline. McKinley’s reelection and the statutory adoption of the gold standard in 1900 spelled political oblivion for the Populists.

Taylor concludes,

At the end of the story, the Scarecrow supplants the Wizard as the ruler of Emerald City, the Tin Woodman is made master of the West, and the Lion is placed over the animals of the forest. Dorothy transports herself back to Kansas by clicking her silver shoes together three times. All this is achieved with the help of Glinda, the good Witch of the South. The message? Populism is triumphant, the goal of gaining political power is achieved. Or is it? Neither the Scarecrow nor the Tin Man nor the Lion truly lacked what each believed he was missing; the great Wizard’s powers proved illusory; and Dorothy had the power to transform her condition all along. These features of the story point to a more ambivalent result. Indeed, Populism’s outright failure is suggested when Dorothy’s silver shoes fall off in the desert and are “lost forever.” After Bryan’s defeat in 1896, the free-silver movement went into rapid decline. McKinley’s reelection and the statutory adoption of the gold standard in 1900 spelled political oblivion for the Populists.

Will this be the fate of the ‘political tornado’ that is sweeping through British politics, right and left?

The present weather, forecasters tell us, is set to continue.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2016 at 11:46 am

Internationalism, Ipswich and the EU Referendum: Vote Remain!

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Tossed by the Waves Of Hate, but Ipswich Internationalists Vote Remain.

Internationalism, Ipswich and the EU referendum: Vote Remain!

All men are Brethren. Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. Heroic citizens – the thunder-notes of your victory have sounded across the Channel, awakening the sympathies and hopes of every lover of liberty….Accept our fraternal salutations and our earnest wishes that the French Republic may triumph over its enemies and become a model for the imitation of the world. Vive La République! (1)

A Republic for France: the Charter for England.”  Rally Ipswich Corn Hill. 1848.

Ipswich is an ancient town. Sited on the estuary of the river Orwell, whose upper reaches are called the Gipping, Ipswich is Gipperswich. The remains of a Roman villa have been found in the suburbs. The settlement itself is Saxon, the street plan of the centre remains the same as laid down in the 7th century: Carr Street-Tavern Street-Cornhill-Westgate street. Kilns producing pottery, “Ipswich ware” were established.

Ipswich ware owes its origins to the Rhineland and Frisia. Dorstadt on the Lek Rhine is known to have controlled the trade routes from the Rhine and the Baltic in the eighth and ninth centuries, and Ipswich is on the shortest route from Rhine mouth. (2)

Ipswich is an old town. Walking around the centre you pass medieval churches, half-timbered buildings, like the famous Ancient House, and the pub, the Spread Eagle, and, at the head of a beautiful park, the sixteenth century Christchurch mansion, which stands on the site of the Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity, founded c.1177. Just next to the entrance is St Margaret’s plain, named after a Dutch word reflecting the centuries long presence of traders from Holland. Reminders of its port and trading history ere everywhere. Near to the quayside is the old Jewish cemetery, which commentates  the presence of a group of merchants who established a synagogue (no longer there) in Rope Walk.

Ipswich is working class town. The docks, for centuries the basis of the local economy, and the engineering works, may have shrunk as employers, but the majority of the people work in manual, service and ordinary clerical jobs. There is a large migrant population, Portuguese speakers, Eastern Europeans, over a thousand Kurds, and countless others, as well as longer established minority communities, principally Bangladeshi and Caribbean. Many people are mixed ethnicity. Passing by Rope Walk to the centre in the morning you can hear a dozen languages being spoken and see Polish, Chinese, Kurdish, Turkish barbers, an Indian-Bengali restaurant, a Lebanese-Moroccan restaurant…..

Ipswich is a town with a long-standing left and a labour movement. The anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Clarkson, a supporter of the early French revolution, and in my view one of the best people to have ever lived, made it his home. He is commentated in a street name. Rallies and activism against slavery attracted thousands. During the Chartist movement hey-day John Cook’s Radical Infidel Repository in Upper Orwell Street sold the Northern Star. Later in the century trade unions founded the local labour party. A newsagent’s by Grimwade Street sold Socialist publications, such as the Social Democratic Federation’s Justice. There was strong suffragette movement….

Today we have a Tory MP (following Labour ones) but Labour controls the Borough council and the Trades Council is left wing. There were large protests against the County Council’s austerity and privatisation programme.

Ipswich is a generous and warm town. During the terrible Ipswich serial killings in 2006  two young anarchist women organised a Reclaim the Night demonstration. It was attend by the left, councillors and members of every political party, the public, and the Salvation Army. Refusing stigmatisation Ipswich people and the local media declared that the victims were “Somebody’s daughter”. This love and compassion stuck deep into our hearts.

Ipswich is an internationalist town. When the refugee crisis first erupted a hastily organised rally by the Giles Statue took place. Around a hundred heard speeches from people expressing solidarity. The work of local refugee supporters continues.

The words of 1848 rally, “we are all brethren”, still echo. Ipswich is, by trade, commerce and industry, by politics, and by people, an internationalist town. Faced with the hate of those attacking migrants, foreigners, and ‘Brussels’, there is one response: unity not division. To vote for the European Union is to listen to that call, to build our ties together, to fight for a better world. Another Europe is Possible!

(1) Page 80. Chartism in Essex and Suffolk. A.F.J.Brown 1982.
(2) Page 99. The Suffolk Landscape. Norman Scarfe. Hodder & Stoughton. 1972.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 23, 2016 at 10:27 am

It’s Boost, Boost for Ipswich as Town named Fifth Lowest in Country on ‘Life-Satisfaction” Index.

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6th of August,

Ipswich is celebrating a real feather in its cap.

It’s today been rated the third happiest place in the country to live.

This was in a survey carried out by the property website ‘Rightmove’.

Picture of typical Ipswich person’s private transport (taken from above link):

Ipswich Marina.

Today (Ipswich Star).

The government’s Office of National Statistics has just published its “wellbeing” index for 2015, showing the responses from 165,000 people across the country.

They were asked to summarise how they felt on four different subjects – and to rate their feelings between one and 10.

When asked: “How satisfied are you with your life generally?” The average in rating in Ipswich was 7.14 out of 10 – the fifth lowest in the UK.

But Ipswich has many excellent amenities (next to town centre): 

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Local MP, Lord Mayor of Ipswich, Minister for Ipswich, Editor of the Ipswich Star, and Patron of Lady’s Lane Shrine for Healing the Sick and Poor,  Ben Gummer said he would take the survey with a pinch of salt – especially as it comes out just six weeks after another survey by estate agency Rightmove named Ipswich as the third happiest town in the country.

Mr Gummer added: “I’m certainly trying to do my bit to make the lives of the people of Ipswich more satisfying by working with others to improve the town centre, by keeping up the pressure to improve rail services, and by trying to ensure the Wet Dock crossing is approved.

“But I don’t think anyone should get hung up on this survey!”

Over Stoke Bridge near ‘Planned’ Wet Dock Crossing – convenient for yacht owners:

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Mr Gummer is best known nationally for his radical plans to shake up local government,

Ben Gummer, who represents Ipswich, was speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference organised by the 2020 group of Tory MPs.

The group sees itself as a factory for radical political ideas.

He suggested shaking up local government so that councillors solely representing local businesses could be elected to town halls.

Mr Gummer acknowledged the idea “had no hope of getting into a manifesto” but pointed to the City of London, as a model for how his idea works in practice.

BBC 2012.

Mr Gummer’s private Transport system (Spotted in Rendelsham Forest).

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Ipswich For Corbyn.

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Rugby Tackle by Tony Blair Not Guaranteed!

The apocalyptic  mood that seems to have seized the right-wing of the Labour Party and their Eustonite friends reached a frenzy this morning:

Tony Blair: Even if you hate me, please don’t take Labour over the cliff edge.

The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes “disunity”. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.

…..

Even more so today, they do not think their challenges can be met by old-fashioned state control as the way to personal or social empowerment; they do not think breaking up Nato unilaterally is sensible; and they realise that a party without a serious deficit-reduction plan is not in these times a serious contender to govern them.

……

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader it won’t be a defeat like 1983 or 2015 at the next election. It will mean rout, possibly annihilation. If he wins the leadership, the public will at first be amused, bemused and even intrigued. But as the years roll on, as Tory policies bite and the need for an effective opposition mounts – and oppositions are only effective if they stand a hope of winning – the public mood will turn to anger. They will seek to punish us. They will see themselves as victims not only of the Tory government but of our self-indulgence.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t offer anything new. This is literally the most laughable of all the propositions advanced by his camp. Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the 80s know every line of this script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work. And by the way, they were rejected by electorates round the world for the same reasons.

I also recall the 1980s – if you were there you would remember it.

The expression “old fashioned” was around then too.

It was used against those who wanted public influence and – yes – ownership (you can’t control what you don’t own – democratic socialist axiom), back in the ….1950s.

But at least the leading “revisionist” of that time, Tony Crossland, aimed for “social equality” and sought means to that goal ( The Future of Socialism. 1956).

In the 1980s faced with Thatcher there was a profound re-thinking on the left.

A high-point came with the Socialist Conferences (also known as the Chesterfield Conferences after the founding one) in the latter part of the decade.

They involved the left Labour Campaign group, notably Tony Benn, union and Labour Party activists, the Socialist Society (a ‘new Left’ group), left and pressure groups of all hues.

Over 2,000 people attended each of these events.

They debated  topics, Hilary Wainwright noted (in a reply to the  SWP’s dismissal of the Labour left)  such as, Left perspectives on winning the next election or Campaigning for the leadership: prospects and possibilities, the papers and workshops were on Democracy and state power, International finance, The fight for local government, The politics of race, The working class and socialism. Other events discussed feminism and socialism, green politics and constitutional reform (including Proportional Representation).

Documents emerged that offered a radical green democratic socialism based on participation and expanded rights.

Apart from that mouthful they put forward some clear ideas about workers’ rights, feminism, welfare, and constitutional change.

All this, as things boiled down in the 1990s – not forgetting the Fall of Official Communism –  to a choice between Blair and an effort to stand by the gains of social democratic public control, union rights,  and welfare.

There is also nothing new about our opponents’ rhetoric: all of this was shouted down as the foibles of the ‘hard left’ dinosaurs.

It seemed that a “multiplicity of democratic forces” in the ‘New Times’  would best be served through bolting down to the new free-market environment, and hope to add a little reform through the ‘Third Way’ (one idea that’s now so past its sell-by date that even its authors have forgotten about it).

The “modernisers” of the Labour Party, Blair and then Brown’s Cabinets, were even more electorally focused: they proposed a strategy based on an appeal  the “aspirational ” middle and working class that was indifferent to anything but their own personal interests and conservative (small and big ‘C’) values, what happened to them?

For the left the principal point about these Labour governments was that  they opened up the remains of the social democratic state to new markets (the NHS’ internal market) financing by PFI and turned over the unemployed to private profiteers, ‘providers’ of the various schemes like the New Deal.

Some of the Blair and Brown crew, and many of their immediate followers, went in for pretty old fashioned personal benefit.

One only has to look at those now benefiting in outsourcing companies like Capita to get a glimpse of that picture.

They did not bolster the position of unions – the grass-roots participatory foundation of many social rights.

On welfare they did not expand rights, or protect the “safe home” of the welfare state, but tried to reform the personal behaviour of the poor, the “socially excluded.”

They did not  up for the public goods that are needed for social equality, the universal services, the cash we have to have pumped into welfare run on a democratic basis , or freed the state from the grip of private exploiters – outsourcers –  living off the general purse.

The money they pumped into public services went as quickly as it had appeared, at the first signs of an economic crisis.

What have they done since?

In a sentence: they have not fought austerity.

Corbyn, by starting from this position opens up the possibility of re-opening the left’s imagination for those debates of the 1980s – ones which, it’s easy to see, have a great deal of present-day relevance, in new and changed forms.

One big idea that’s come back is public ownership of public provision.

This needs a pan-European approach, as developed by the Party of the European Left.

In the meantime…..

Today’s Guardian attack on Corbyn carries all the moral and principled authority that Blair can draw upon:

Tony Blair’s insatiable greed exposed by his secret deal with Saudi Arabia

John Stevens 22 January 2015.

Tony Blair has amassed a personal fortune since standing down as prime minister – often acting as an adviser to controversial businesses and regimes.

But yesterday the hefty fees he charges to act as a go-between were revealed.

A previously secret contract with a Saudi oil company headed by a member of the country’s royal family has been leaked showing Mr Blair charging £41,000 a month and 2 per cent commission on any of the multi-million-pound deals he helped broker.

The emergence of the Saudi deal led to new criticism of Mr Blair’s role as a Middle East envoy, but he strongly denied there is a conflict of interest.

The contract between Tony Blair Associates (TBA) and PetroSaudi signed in November 2010, said Mr Blair would personally arrange introductions to his contacts in China, such as senior politicians.

He had already attracted scathing criticism after it emerged that he had given Kazakhstan’s autocratic president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of 14 unarmed civilians.

Mr Blair has said claims that he is worth £100million are ‘greatly exaggerated’. But the Saudi contract shows how much he has been able to charge for his services.

Since leaving Downing Street in 2007, he has amassed a fortune including a property portfolio of 31 homes worth at least £25million.

He is one of the world’s best paid speakers – earning up to £150,000 a speech – and has secured advisory roles with US investment bank JP Morgan and Swiss insurer Zurich International.

The Saudi contract stated that TBA would help find potential sources of new investment and added that Mr Blair would make ‘introductions to the senior political leadership, industrial policymakers, corporate entities and other persons in China identified and deemed by us and you to be relevant to PetroSaudi’s international strategy’.

The firm agreed it would not divulge his role without permission.

Meanwhile we learn that Ipswich Top Tory Kevin Algar has joined the Eustonite attack on Corbyn:

Jeremy Corbyn Signed Commons Motion Looking Forward To Asteroid Killing All Humans

The backbencher – who looks set to be voted Labour leader next month – signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in 2004 called ‘Pigeon Bombs’ that criticised the way the birds were treated by, er, British spies

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn once declared his support for an asteroid killing every human on the planet – because of PIGEONS.

The backbencher – who looks set to be voted Labour leader next month – signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in 2004 called ‘Pigeon Bombs’ that criticised the way the birds were treated by, er, British spies.

Adding his name to the motion alongside fellow Labour MPs John McDonnell and Tony Banks, Corbyn felt it was right to highlight the issue – and wanted an asteroid to obliterate every human on the planet for being “cruel and uncivilised”.