Labour should take a stand on its principles

9:30 am - June 11th 2011

by Guest    

      Share on Tumblr

contribution by Ivo Petkovski

Earlier this week, Liam Byrne outlined the results of a new policy review to the Labour front bench.

While the results are fairly predictable, the recommendations Byrne is making should cause alarm to anyone hoping that Ed Miliband won’t follow the New Labour approach of trying to be all things to all people. As Don Paskini pointed out on LC, the views expressed in the review aren’t really aligned with New Labour policy or ideology.

Liam Byrne said: “The first priority for Labour this year is to get back in touch with voters – whose trust we lost at the last election…that’s why this year we’re starting our policy review, with the No1 focus on getting back in touch with voters – and changing our party to make sure we don’t lose that connection again.”

But Byrne’s implication that Labour should adjust their philosophy in response to the zeitgeist is very New Labour. By the time the 2010 election came around, Labour had shifted ground so many times that they were totally unrecognisable as a left-wing alternative.

Respondents to the review have expressed concern around cuts to policing and youth services, but I’m less inclined than Don to read a leftist bias into this – it seems like concern for the safety of the respondents and their property, rather than concern for the vulnerable.

Added to the worries around immigration and the EU-scepticism, I’d say it’s safe to conclude that the review points to a right-wing bias in the respondents. This is not especially surprising, but it does throw up a question about how Labour should react. Should they move to the right in order to connect with voters? Only if their key aim is getting into power, rather than influencing opinion.

What Labour should do is ignore the focus groups, ignore Liam Byrne and take a stand on an unashamedly statist, pro-EU, anti-cuts, redistribution-based platform. They say a week is a long time in politics, so 2015 may as well be a millennium away – why not risk unpopularity in the short term if it’s going to help stimulate debate, and possibly shift the public mood – even slightly – further to the left?

Also, as Don points out, the respondents to the review aren’t necessarily representative of the electorate, so a hard shift to the left may draw in those voters who have already disengaged because their views aren’t being represented at parliament level.

There will be time for Labour to adjust their platform when the election draws nearer, but in the meantime they could try to revitalise – and perhaps even influence – the debate by doing the unpopular thing and wearing their statist heart on their sleeve.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  

About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by

Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Reader comments

“These are my principles and if you don’t like them….well, I have others”. Groucho Marx

The idea that the Labour party should seek to shift dominant media narratives etc. is fine, but the Labour party is/should be unthinkingly and for ever “statist” and “pro-EU” is quite bizarre.

The EU’s neoliberal credentials are enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty:

‘For the purposes set out in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union, the activities of the Member States and the Union shall include, as provided in the Treaties, the adoption of an economic policy which is based on the close coordination of Member States’ economic policies, on the internal market and on the definition of common objectives, and conducted in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition.’ (Article 119 of the Lisbon Treaty)

The Labour party can be leftwing without believing that the state has to do as much/more than it does now. Leftwingery is about power, not structure. So, just as example, one useful anti-state solution might be to repeal current anti-union law and let collective bargaining for a wage-driven recovery commence.

Bleedin’ hell.

3. Labour's eurosceptics were right...

“pro-EU” ??????

Labour MP Graham Stringer gets exactly what the public and most Labour voters are thinking….

“DURING THE EARLIER part of this football season Liverpool FC were within hours of insolvency. Imagine if their arch rivals Manchester United, themselves heavily in debt had borrowed more money to bail out the Scousers. This would have been seen as financial and football madness.

If Ed Miliband announced an ‘in’ ‘out’ referendum on the European Union, the British body politic would go into a state of shock. Bold moves like this change the political weather. The question is whether Ed and the Shadow Cabinet have the cojones for it.
But this is precisely the insane solution our Government and the European Union have arrived at when trying to resolve Portugal’s financial crisis.

The UK cannot afford lollipop ladies to keep our children safe yet we can borrow £4bn as our contribution to rescue Portugal’s economy. The irony is of course is it won’t, because they will not be able to repay the debt. Just as the Greeks and Irish will eventually default on theirs.

The real folly of those countries is staying in the Euro, which they should never have joined. Having an overvalued currency related to the dynamic German economy is simply not sustainable. However much they cut public expenditure the high value of the Euro will inhibit tourism and make their products too expensive to export. This leads to a vicious circle of higher debt and unemployment and the national deficit never reduces.

Remaining in the Euro is not only wrecking these economies it is destroying their democracies. This is particularly tragic as within living memory the people in these three countries have had to struggle hard for their democratic rights against dictators and other powers including on occasion that of the United Kingdom.

When the Portuguese people go to vote in their General Election on 5 June 2011, they may as well not bother. Like Ireland and Greece before them they have ceased to be sovereign nations.

Whoever replaces Portugal’s Prime Minister Jose Socrates; Angela Merkel, Jean Claude-Trichet and Dominique Strauss-Khan of Germany, The European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund respectively, will have infinitely more power over the Portuguese economy, because of the conditions tied to the loans.

When sane people come to insane conclusions and one must assume the leaders of Europe’s institutions and the International Monetary Fund are sane, something else is afoot. The European project or European integration is what this is all about.

The Euro: destroying democracy in small nations?

Graham Stringer, MP, finds ‘waste and corruption at the heart of the European Union’

The creation of a Federal European State with weak diminished nation states is more important to Eurofanatics than high unemployment or democracy.

It is astonishing that a previously Eurosceptic Conservative Prime Minister has become a supporter of this policy so quickly. Taking a longer perspective it’s just as surprising that the Labour Party is ultra enthusiastic. It was after all an article of faith for Labour Party members in the 80s that the UK should leave what was then the European Economic Community, the European Union’s precursor. The Labour Party should go into its archives and dust off the policies that opposed European integration on the basis of national sovereignty and democracy.

The Labour Party abandoned its hostility to Europe not on any principal basis but because it believed this was the only way to electoral success. That may or may not have been true then, but now the one group of people who remain resolutely sceptical and increasingly strongly opposed to the European Union is the electorate.

The Labour Party should side with the electorate. It should take a determinably Eurosceptic stance and argue for the orderly removal of the weaker economies from the Euro – making bailouts unnecessary.

The Labour Party’s Methodist soul would jump for joy if instead of defending the indefensible it could attack the waste and corruption at the heart of the European Union. Remember the European Union’s auditors have refused to sign off its accounts for more than a decade.

Opposition parties need to define themselves in ways that the electorate don’t expect but agree with. That was the genius of Tony Blair’s “tough on crime tough on the causes of crime”. It would be the equivalent of a Clause IV moment and a “tough on crime tough on the causes of crime” rolled into one if Ed Miliband announced an ‘in’ ‘out’ referendum on the European Union.

The British body politic would go into a state of shock. It would put Labour on the side of democracy and would also have the benefit of being likely to come to fruition as this is already the Lib Dems’ policy as well as that of a majority of Tory MPs are Eurosceptic. Bold moves like this change the political weather. The question is whether Ed and the Shadow Cabinet have the cojones for it.”

4. ex-Labour voter

Liam Byrne said: “The first priority for Labour this year is to get back in touch with voters – whose trust we lost at the last election…”

Really? Byrne is nothing but consistent in that he repeatedly ignores the fact that Labour had shed 4 million votes even before the last general election. He ignores this salient fact every time he writes on this subject.

It is worth bearing in mind that Labour’s vote share in 2005 was below what it got in 1979 when it lost badly. The situation is even worse if you count votes cast as opposed to vote share.

Byrne is hardly someone that the Labour Party should turn to for advice on how to win elections. Not surprisingly, he supported David Miliband in last year’s Labour leadership election and posted a totally vacuous statement of support on his website.

Labour does need to connect with the voters, but they first need to reconnect to activists. All the twists and turns of focus-group and tabloid-led policy and the willing abandonment of some core principles has led to a huge disillusionment amongst those who would be knocking on doors and meeting voters face to face.

Listen to the public but be wary of the limitations of consultation such as these. Review past failures. Fine. Neither will win an election without the people willing to give time and shoe leather campaigning for the party.

6. blackwillow1

Clearly the EU financial system is a mess. How can you have a so-called single currency when Greece, a bankrupt nation with a defunct government, is placed alongside Germany, a power house economy that could effectively buy Greece? Removing the weaker, fractured economies from the EU is a viable option, however, if they’re all members of the single currency, why not just value all of them at the same level? Federalist Europe, that’s why. For all the fine speeches that have been made on the subject of economic unity, the wealthier member states know that keeping the weaker economies weak strengthens their own position. If they wanted a genuinely united Europe, they would form a massively powerful and influential superstate, all economies within being valued collectively. The status quo, all power and influence being concentrated in the hands of what is, essentially, a committee of the elite, is how they like it. Gordon Brown saw this and wisely, thankfully, kept us out of the Euro. I’m not anti European, or even anti the Euro currency, provided it functions for the benefit of all member states. As things stand today, we would be better off pulling out of Europe and just doing our own thing, the alternative being further bankrupt nation bailouts, more austerity measures and ultimately, a whopping great divide between the wealthier areas and the stragglers. Sound familiar, remind you of anywhere? That’s why the coalition is now Euro-friendly, it appeals to there sense of elitist entitlement. As for Labour, I can only echo the comments of others, they sit on the fence and hope that by watching and waiting, a sudden flame of original thought will ignite within them. Stop waiting for a fire to start, be the fire-starter

“Labour should take a stand on its principles”

You’re making one hell of an assumption here.

2Paul well said

3If there was areferndum ,wouldn’t Kate hoey, john cryer,Diane abbot and frank field suggest leaving.

regarding not caring about the poublic feel on theEU, we were making the public more pro Eu when the press was anti it, when we won the 2001 election.

9. Labour's eurosceptics were right...

“People’s Pledge to let the voters decide

“A referendum on Britain staying in the EU is long overdue and now essential, writes Kelvin Hopkins MP”

The pro-EU media, from The Guardian to the BBC, seek to portray Eurosceptics as simply a right-wing group. That is simply not true. Millions of working-class people, socialists and trade unionists believe the EU to be a neo-liberal construct, promoting free-market capitalism with privatisation, competition rules, economic liberalism and unaccountable control of monetary policy by bankers.

Moreover, where referendums have been held elsewhere in the EU, the left has been the decisive force in securing “No” votes, often in opposition to the political elites of their own parties. In France and the Netherlands, millions voted against the proposed EU constitution, and the left was the key factor in both those votes. Extraordinarily, the results of these votes were simply ignored by the simple expedient of re-labelling the document as “the Lisbon Treaty”. The left was also the driving force in the first Irish referendum and before that in the Swedish vote against joining the euro.

But fundamental to the debate is concern about democracy. Do we govern ourselves through our elected parliaments or do we accept the substantial and continuing shift of political power from the governments of member states to the EU? I wish to see a Labour government coming into office on a democratic socialist platform and free to rebuild what Margaret Thatcher and her successors have destroyed. I do not wish to see such a government told by the EU that its policies are unacceptable and menaced by legal threats………”

This reminds me of George Akerlof, an american political psychologist, he suggested that there has been a general rightward shift because Democrats have for about 30 years been terrified of standing on their own ideals.

I think it would be far better for them if not in the short term than definitely in the long run to go on an unashamedly leftist platform of redistribution of political, economic and social power. If there was ever a time that time is now.

Sure, you might loose a few swing voters but a real drive to become a proper socialist democratic power would win back the working classes and it is their refusal to vote, or at worst vote for Radical right parties that is causing the greatest harm to Labour. We risk becoming little more than a toothless liberal party of the feel good middle classes like most of America, that would really be a sad day for the party that gave us the national health service.

I’d say that Labour needs to reconnect with the voters – but first Labour needs to reconnect with Labour. There are no philosophical or ideological underpinnings of the modern Labour party and, until there are, anything the party tries to do will simply be building a house on sand.

12. Nigel Byrne

Serious altercation in EU parliament sees BNP leader Nick Griffin clash with his own members and officials.

PART 1 –

PART 2 –

I would say that internationally the left lost it’s self confidence in the 1980s. For the past 20 or so years. The left’s response to the rise of the right can be characterised as capitulation, surrender and retreat, on nearly every issue from the economy to welfare and law and order. And by and large it has proven to have been a disaster for the left.

All it has achieved is to move the political centre of gravity further to the right. Weakening the left and emboldening the right to go even further.

The left seriously needs to regain some sense of self confidence to argue for its ideas.

14. Richard W

Could I just say that Labour’s eurosceptics were right… @3 gets it.

Absolutely nothing that has happened with the EZ is a surprise. In fact, it is not a flaw in the system but a drearily predictable feature of monetary union. Lefties in this country became so pro-EU and pro-euro because they wrongly assumed that the only argument against the EZ was from the swivel-eyed xenophobic save the pound right. If they are against it we must be for it is not a sensible position. What lefties and liberals fail to appreciate is the the nature of the forces that are seeking to prevail in Europe. Continuing with the EZ in its current form is not an option. Therefore, the euro periphery states must leave and the EZ shrink to a monetary union of the core, or the EZ advances to become effectively a state with a fiscal transfer mechanism. A fiscal transfer state with no democratic say over how taxes are raised or where they are spent.

Debts that can’t be repaid will not be repaid is banking 101. So restructuring of debts rather than forcing collapse is often the least bad option. Getting 40% of a distressed debt is better than getting nothing. Defaulting on their debts is now inevitable for the EZ periphery. The only issue is who will be holding them and suffer the losses. The ECB are quite cynically trying to ensure that when the inevitable happens it will be the official sector rather than the private sector who are left holding the debts. Who are the official sector? The holders of the ECB capital. That means the taxpayers of the EZ members suffer the losses and have to make good the losses by recapitalising the ECB. Although, the UK are not members of the EZ, we are still the 2nd highest holder of the ECB capital. Presumably we would lose that capital, but we are not liable for losses beyond our invested capital. The rest of the members have an unlimited liability pro rata to their share of the capital structure.

The reason to get the states liable for the debts is to force them into a fiscal union. If the periphery leave or are forced out the core taxpayers suffer the losses anyway. Therefore, a closer integrated Europe with a fiscal transfer mechanism suddenly seems less unattractive.

If you think these people are lefties or are considering the best interest of populations, I have a bridge that might interest you. Labour and all the UK parties should not adopt an anti-Europe stance. Take the best things about the EU, but be sceptical about the ‘ project ‘ because there is most definitely a project.

15. Charlieman

Yonks ago, I heard the Governor of the Bank of England state that he was unable to change bank loan rates to suit companies in the north east of England. That was when I understood why common currency in the EU is wrong. If you can’t tweak loan rates strategically within the UK, you can’t do it within the Euro Zone.

The Euro Zone is a financial blob. Pound sterling is another financial blob. Small financial blobs are economically more free.

16. John reid

4. true .Blair won in 2005 with 36% of the vote and Callaghan lost in 79 with 36.8% of the vote, but Gaitskell lost in 1959 with 43% of the vote and 13.6 million votes something that NO laobur leader has got ever since even Wilson in 1966 or Blair in 1997.

As for those principles, try this in today’s Economist about Ed Balls’ soft spot for bankers:

18. Labour's eurosceptics were right...

Brian Denny of the RMT and Trade Unionists Against the EU Constitution.

“A view from the left – EU pushes bonded labour. New blog from Brian Denny”

The EU is currently involved in secret negotiations to agree an EU/India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) designed to allow European capital to take over Indian financial and other services through the ‘liberalisation’ of these markets.

In return, India is demanding ‘Mode 4’ access to EU markets, a trade concession that allows transnational corporations to bring temporary workers from outside the EU into the EU on lower rates of pay – a new form of bonded labour.
Such a FTA will mean mass privatisation and opening up of Indian markets in return for importing a huge ‘reserve army of labour’ into the EU to batter down wages and conditions to increase corporate profits. Moreover, if agreed, such trade commitments are effectively permanent and irreversible under law despite the fact that no electorate has voted for it.

Under Mode 4 a firm with a contract in another member state can bring its ‘own’ workers, from inside or even outside of the EU known as Inter Corporate Transferees (ICTs), for which there are no limits.

This will lead to huge levels of social dumping as free movement of both services and workers continues to undermine trade union strength and pay rates, with considerable downward pressure on wages among the most vulnerable workers in the UK.

At the EU level, European Court of Justice decisions, such as the Laval and Viking cases have already supported attacks on trade union rights, trumping the rights of business over those of workers’ and unions.

The Lisbon Treaty also further advances EU ‘liberalisation’ enshrined in the Services Directive and greatly increases the powers of the Commission to enforce such policies.

EU structures designed to promote corporate takeover and dominance are well-organised. The major lobbying mechanism on ‘services’ is the European Services Forum (ESF), closely connected to the powerful International Financial Services London (IFSL), now merged with the Corporation of London and UK Trade and Industry, into ‘TheCityUK’.

The broader structure for affecting EU policy is BusinessEurope, formerly UNICE, which has even shared offices with the European Commission. ‘BusinessEurope’ includes global firms such as US oil giant Exxon, and wields strong influence over EU internal and external trade policy.

In India resistance to this East India Company-style re-colonisation exercise is growing. On May Day this year, C H Venkatachalam, the general secretary of India’s largest bank workers union, AIBEA, appealed to workers to come together to oppose the privatisation of the banking sector.

He warned that “allowing full voting rights for Foreign Direct Investors in banks, increased FDI/Foreign Institutional Investors investment limit in banking sector, higher FDI limit in insurance sector are some of the major challenges which the bank employees cannot afford to ignore”.

It is time organised workers here stopped believing in euro fairy tales of ‘social partnership’ with their anti-democratic corporate executioners within the EU and started to defend themselves by following the example set by Indian workers.

19. Labour's eurosceptics were right...

Colin Bullen, of Labour Euro Safeguards

“The betrayal of the fisherman of Britain and how we can save our fishing industry”

Apart from the miners probably no working person has a harder and more dangerous job than the British fisherman but almost no industry has been so thoroughly betrayed by politicians. Edward Heath in his haste to get Britain into the Common Market was a willing accomplice in a swindle, conceived just days before negotiations for us to join began. It gave the other member states freedom to fish in our waters by making them a ‘common resource’. Having exhausted their own fishing grounds, they wanted to get their nets into the rich fishing waters inside the British 200-mile limit. In accepting it, Heath betrayed British fishermen and gave other EU nations a licence to pillage our fish stocks.

Since then, the ongoing process of taking control of our fishing waters by stealth has continued unchecked. More fish are now being thrown back dead in discards, or landed illegally, than are landed legitimately. Britain provides three quarters of the stock, two thirds of the waters, but gets only a third of the catch and an eighth by value. The fish nearly all hatch, grow and spawn in British waters but are a ‘Common Resource”, so everyone else can catch our fish and land it in their own ports, destroying the British fishing industry. Every EU nation has “equal access” to this “Common Resource” and new entrants with big fishing fleets, but few fish, seek catches in our waters. Spain was the first and our fishing fleet has been cut to make room for them. Countries, whose fishing fleets are too large for their quotas can register their vessels as British, get European money and catch our quotas. A fifth of the British registered fleet is now foreign owned.
Policing at sea falls mainly to Britain but we can’t discriminate against the vessels most likely to offend and our efforts are not supported by control at most European ports where small fish “over quota” and illegally undersized fish are all landed with impunity. Nations outside the EU have built powerful fishing industries within their 200-mile limits. Britain isn’t allowed to do this because of the CFP rules.

We frequently hear ignorant people praise the EU for its support of the environment but this is a complete myth. The CFP has led to over-fishing and a massive conservation crisis. If has been a disaster for the British fishing fleet and the continued application of the CFP will end in destroying the British industry completely.

The only way to save the fishing industry is to leave the EU and reimpose the 200 mile fishing limit around our coasts. To do this we must hold and win a referendum on leaving the EU.

@17 Bob B

The trouble is, the present generation of Labour politicians are so heavilly implicated in the ‘New Labour’ years that they can’t credibly repudiate it’s legacy.

My guess is, Labour won’t be able to really move on until a new generation, largely untainted by the past 20 years takes over.

@20: Graham: “The trouble is, the present generation of Labour politicians are so heavilly implicated in the ‘New Labour’ years that they can’t credibly repudiate it’s legacy. ”

Sad but very likely true because the media will keep on about the New Labour legacy with distortions to manipulate public opinion. Try this independent source about the national debt – which shows how much of the increased debt is the result of bailing out the banks:

The UK national debt is the total amount of money the British government owes to the private sector and other purchasers of UK gilts.

UK public sector net debt was £910.1 billion or 60.1% of National GDP – (note this excludes financial sector intervention.)
Source: Office National Statistics [1] (page updated May 24th, 2011)

If all financial sector intervention is included (e.g. Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds) , the Net debt was £2252.9 billion or 148.9 per cent. This is known as the unadjusted measure of public sector net debt.

In the news, Britain’s trade gap has shrunk, but that is not because of increased exports, which would have boosted demand for British made products, but because imports have decreased, a sure sign of depressed demand:

UK trade gap shrinks to £7.4bn – Falling imports, rather than rising exports, helped to cut UK trade deficit for April to £7.4bn, ONS data reveals [9 June]

And that is despite the depreciating Pound in the foreign exchange markets:

14, my mistake gaitskell got 12.6million in 59, so wilson did ger more than him in 66 and blair did get more than him in 97, but in 1966 it was only by 400,000

23. john Reid

The heath governmnent were thought of as one of the worse ever, but thatcher erased the publics memory of how bad they were within 5 years,

24. blackwillow1

Maybe what we really need and, much as I hate to say it, is another “Gang of Four” split in the party, but this time it needs to be from the ground up, not a few people standing on their principles, only to become that which they despise. I wonder if the original quartet ever envisaged the breakaway party they founded becoming a sub-division of the tory party. Labour- socialist, working class, democratic Labour was born of necessity, the required opposition to what was essentially a polite dictatorship. The necessity remains to this day, unfortunately, we seem to be left with a pale imitation of the original. Bevan, Kinnock, Foot, they may not have been considered men of style or massively photogenic but they were men of substance and principle. “Whenever you’re in trouble, you just stand by me”, a line from a song that echoes the sentiment of original Labour beliefs. Alas, the line today would probably read something like —“Whenever you’re in trouble just call my office, explain the situation and we’ll get back to you the moment we have a full assessment of the positive/negative impact on the overall image of the party, in relation to the possible reaction of the general public. N.B. If you should find yourself in trouble, could you perhaps hold fire on making a fuss until we have a election coming up? It would help, many thanks. T.T.F.N.”

“Respondents to the review have expressed concern around cuts to policing and youth services… Added to the worries around immigration and the EU-scepticism, I’d say it’s safe to conclude that the review points to a right-wing bias in the respondents.”

Why? Those are all points of view you would get from a random sample of Britons, according to every poll I have ever seen. You don’t need a ‘right-wing bias’ to explain those results.


We don’t need another split, simply by the electoral arithmetic. The Gang of Four split the opposition vote and let Thatcher in.

@26 As so often, a piece of received wisdom that turns out to be wrong on closer inspection. Polled on their second preferences, more Alliance voters in 1983 said they would have backed the Tories than Labour. In a straight fight (or, god forbid, an AV election!) Thatcher would have had a slightly larger majority.

28. blackwillow1

If you refer back to what I actually wrote, I said a split “from the ground up”. A breakaway party whose members are not professional politicians, but people such as you and me, people who contribute to these pages. I’ve spent years working in the construction industry, warehousing, refuse and recycling. Trust me when I tell you, the feeling of most working people is one of “who gives a shit who’s in charge, they’re all a bunch of crooks feathering their own nests”. Some of us do give a shit, but if we do’nt actually take action to reverse the decline in support for the socialist way of government, then quite frankly, it’s all just so many words on a page. The Gang of Four set out with the best of intentions, regrettably for the UK of the eighties, they failed to see that public slanging matches and washing the dirty laundry in public, was a surefire way of putting the voters off. So, perhaps it’s time for the people who are the flesh and bones of the Labour movement to reclaim the political arena. Power to the people, through political action by the people. Alternatively, if you ca’nt be arsed to do more than just complain, then you ca’nt really expect anyone to listen.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Labour should take a stand on its principles

  2. Pete Bowyer

    RT @libcon: Lab should take a stand on its principles < the earth is flat & at the centre of the universe

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.