What next for Labour?

Jeremy_CorbynSo the pundits got it wrong. 

Jeremy won an overall majority of first-preference votes – an outcome I have predicted since July.

How did I know and why didn’t the media pundits?

My experience of the May general election was voters did not see any real difference between Labour and Tories. Voters wanted to vote for something positive.

People are fed up with all conventional politics and welcomed Jeremy for his honesty and commitment. His first act, on becoming Leader, has been to join the “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in London. This is a good augury for the next few years.

Could Labour win the next General Election (in 2020)?  Most certainly!

But, to do so, the hundreds of thousands of new members must feel welcome and Labour must work with the Green Party and Plaid Cymru and the SNP – rather than dilute its anti-Tory meassage by tribal warfare against potential allies.

All four parties should cooperate in a campaign to persuade the 3-4 million eligible but unregistered voters to register for all future elections. This is essential if the Tories are to be defeated.

Labour could stand aside in a dozen or so constituencies where these parties have a better prospect of defeating the Tories – and the Green Party (in particular) need not contest (literally) hundreds of unwinnable seats but, instead, give its backing to the best anti-Tory candidate in each constituency.

We are living in interesting times and must seize this opportunity.

Advertisements

Political parties and policies

This post is for those who care about party labels. Personally I find them more of a hindrance than a help to serious political discussion.

My first post noted that I am “not currently a member of a political party but agree with most policies of the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Socialist Labour Party and those socialists that remain in the old Labour Party”.

At this election I am a non-party candidate for the Socialist Labour Party: previously I have been a non-party joint candidate of the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. I see no conflict in this.

All three parties believe the austerity policies of the Westminster parties are morally wrong and ineffective as a financial ‘strategy’ and all agree that the £100 billion renewal of Trident should not proceed. If elected (I know it’s a long shot), I would work with the Plaid Cymru/Green/SNP anti-austerity anti-Trident bloc.

I am driven by socialist, environmental and democratic concerns and I see these as complementary. I think it a pity when parties focus on a narrow set of issues and view others as enemies.

Concerning the environment

Historically, environmental concerns were central to the motivation of 19th Century socialists (such as Engels and William Morris). During the 20th Century, in part due to and replicating the (understandable but misguided) priorities of the Soviet Union, green issues became secondary to mainstream socialist thinking.

This, historically, is why people motivated by green issues began to create parties detached from the socialist tradition – and why socialists tended to look on greens as an apolitical and an unwelcome addition to the political scene.

But, by the end of the 21st century, rampant capitalism had obliged greens to move towards socialist thinking just as the growing environmental crisis obliged socialists to reincorporate environmental concerns into their litany of the ills of capitalism. Today there is no excuse for parties to campaign exclusively for either.

National identity

Something similar happened in respect to socialism and nationalism. Most early 19th Century socialists favoured home rule for Ireland and Scotland (rarely Wales) because their socialism was locally-based (William Morris again). This ‘bottom up’ socialism has decisions taken by those most directly affected.

‘Top down’ socialism is a 20th Century phenomenon, influenced by Labour and Socialist parties in government in Western Europe and by the Soviet Union. Socialist parties in Britain (and all over Europe) tended to be hostile to ‘separatism’ because, they say, it divides the “working classes”.

For their part, the early nationalists of Britain (certainly in Wales) tended to ignore the threat to national identity from globalisation. With or without the EU, multinational conglomerates dominate the economies of Britain and France, making genuine Welsh or Scottish independence impossible.

One of the saddest spectacles of recent years has been ‘nationalists’ going cap in hand to multinational companies to persuade them to invest. There can be no separate distinctive development of any nation unless steps also are taken to make nations independent of multinational corporations.

Socialism

The essence of socialism is that people – not unelected multinational companies – control what happens. This may take many forms – the most ‘top down’ version being the Soviet Union and the most ‘bottom up’ being Tito’s Yugoslavia. Many other countries have elected ‘socialist’ governments in name and so there is no single authoritative model to copy.

The 1945-51 Labour government, despite the parlous state of the British economy after the war and the 1930s depression, nationalised all our basic industries (electricity, gas, coal, water, railways, etc.), created our National Health Service and made all education free. These achievements rescued Britain economically and led to the ‘never-had-it-so-good’ 50’s and 60’s.

This was a top-down version of socialism that uneasily coexisted with all the power of big business in Britain left intact, continuation of the British empire and an alliance with the now all-powerful US government against colonial liberation movements and the Soviet Union. The rearmament programme, instituted in 1950 at the insistence of the USA, undermined the progressive policies of the Labour government and the Tories got back into power.

Politics since 1951 has been step by step back from the actions of the 1945-51 government with, under Tony Blair, Labour becoming as right-wing as the Tories were in the 1950s. All the nationalised industries of 1945-51 (and the Royal Mail) have become profit-making enterprises, often still receiving public subsidies, and they are now no longer public services.

The Socialist Labour Party seeks to revive the spirit of 1945 and, although I believe it can be weak on environmental and national issues, I agree with 95% of its manifesto. My posts have been presenting snippets of their policies (and mine) in my own words and has linked these to contemporary events.

Opencasting and Land Reclamation

Living by The British, as I have done for 36 years, I am very aware that Torfaen has not achieved the government target to clear all derelict land by the Year 2000.

The primary fault for this lies with those Councillors who, in the 1970s, effectively gave away the then Council-owned land to private speculators who, ever since, have bought and sold the land for ever-increasing prices but done nothing to prevent the historic artefacts and buildings deteriorating.

We are now faced with the situation that HSBC, having foolishly advanced £5 million to the last bunch of speculators, are demanding that they receive something close to this sum as compensation. But just because HSBC were conned into paying such a sum (its true value is, if anything, negative as it will require public money for anything worthwhile to be done), that is no reason why public money should be wasted to help them out.

Meanwhile, another bunch of get-rich-quick entrepreneurs have resubmitted their proposals to extract 350,000 tonnes of coal from Varteg Hill whilst providing us with nothing of long-term benefit to the community.

I chair the residents committee for The British and have been active in the “No Opencast” campaign for Varteg. With the support of our excellent Assembly Member, Lynne Neagle, we have succeeded so far in preventing the despoliation and disruption that would be caused by opencasting here. [Note my commendation of our Labour AM – if elected as your MP I hope this cooperation will continue.]

Frack off

As mentioned earlier, I am a chemical engineer and a Partner in a small Consulting Engineering practice that does its best to develop eco-friendly solutions to various problems. Unlike many of my friends in the “green movement”, I am not ideologically anti-technology but, on the contrary, all my training and work experience directs me to seek rational engineering solutions wherever possible.

The problem we have in Cameron’s Britain is that decisions are made because powerful lobbyists have the ear of the Prime Minister and press for solutions that make them money – often regardless of the consequences for the environment. The recent revelations about Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind offering to arrange meetings with government decision-makers show how far down the road of corruption we have travelled with this government.

healthyeconomyI don’t subscribe to view that fracking is so bad that it is inconceivable that it can be made safe – with a serious effort to minimise all possible side-effects, almost any technology can be made safer (maybe at too high a cost). The problem is not technology as such but that vested interests push for money-making technologies and cut corners.

A classic example of this was at Fukushima where the design engineers knew full well about the risks of tsunamis but, to reduce pumping costs, lowered the base of the plant and increased the risk of damage from a tsunami.

However, living as we do in a real world where decisions are made to maximise profits rather than safeguard the environment, I do agree wholeheartedly that the fracking companies (and their friend David Cameron) should not be given a go ahead to proceed with their plans. They have been whittling away at our democratic rights, through the planning process, to object to eco-dubious proposals.*

So long as we have a government in power at the beck and call of big business, we are right and the green movement is right to be wary of any new technology that involves a potential threat to the environment.

* For example, in the fag end of the 2010-2015 Parliament (25th March) the government has asked parliament to extend the categories of “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs)” contained in the Planning Act 2008 to “geological disposal facilities to store radioactive nuclear waste”. This would remove the democratic right of the public to say no the dumping of radioactive wastes underground – whether under Cumbria or anywhere else.

A Greenprint for Torfaen

“Greenprint for the valleys” is the title of a Plaid Cymru discussion document initiated by Leanne Wood before she became its Leader.  It advocates a community-based bottom-up approach to developing and greening the valleys that, in my opinion, is well ahead of anything I have seen from any other political party. You can obtain a hard copy directly from Plaid Cymru but here is a web link to it.

http://www.plaid.cymru/uploads/Articles_and_reports/Greenprint_Cynllun_Gwyrdd.pdf

The key feature of this approach is to assist by bringing sustainable jobs to people where they live now – rather than, as successive governments have done, allowed jobs to be lost in the valleys and forcing people to commute to Cardiff, Newport and even Bristol for work. Rather than spend £millions on roads to and through these already crowded urban areas, we need investment in the valleys to make our communities more viable and to reduce commuting.

Torfaen is a microcosm of these problems – with planners forced to support building on green fields in the south rather than regenerate rundown existing communities in the north. So long as government takes its cue from big business, intent on maximising their profits, this situation will continue.

Barrage or lagoon?

Due to its huge tidal range, the Severn Estuary is very suitable for power generation. seGenArrayOneRaisedThe most eco-friendly way to use tides is to place free-standing turbines (pictured) around the coast (to pre-distribute the generated electricity and to minimise the downtime). But there’s no quick financial return from such a widely dispersed investment.

Big business prefers a monstrous barrage across the Severn Estuary – ignoring the damage to the marine environment and its need for more fuel-fired power stations to cover its 30-40% downtime. That’s a definite ‘no-no’.

More enlightened business interests are promoting eco-friendly tidal lagoons with the first in Swansea Bay. A second tidal lagoon is proposed between Cardiff and Newport as a follow up and, if the Swansea lagoon is up to expectations, I anticipate that I will support it.