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We exclude the Labour left from British politics at our peril

He will turn 70 in May, shortly after the local elections, which will be handy for his political obituarists if Labour does as poorly as polls currently suggest. The Labour left has been othered. In recent weeks, MPs at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party have reportedly applauded the Independent Group breakaway, despite the immense damage it has done to the chances of a Labour government. Despite, or, rather, partly because of, all the panics about the Labour left, it has rarely been dominant in the party. “Labour leaders tremble at the relentless advance of Benn’s army,” warned the Express in May 1981, after Benn launched his famous bid for the party’s deputy leadership. And yet, in large part because the press othered him so effectively, as a kind of foreign demagogue – “Ayatollah Benn”, according to the Sun, after Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini – he did not win. He co-founded the SDP partly to block it. Last month, at the launch of the Independent Group, Leslie caricatured Corbynism in almost exactly the same way. Does it matter that so many people don’t want British politics to include a left of any significance? Even if you’re not at all leftwing, recent British history suggests it does.

Just 9% of British people think politics isn’t broken – and I’m one of...

“Who are these 9 per cent?” Well, I’m one of them. I think British politics is working well. That is British politics working as it should. Any prime minister would have struggled to reconcile a popular vote to leave the EU with the implemention of it by a House of Commons, three quarters of whose members voted to remain. Any prime minister would then have found it even harder to construct a majority out of a parliament split three ways, reflecting public opinion split three ways. I think the referendum was the right and inevitable response to democratic pressure to reconsider our relationship with the rest of Europe. I don’t agree with them, but that’s the British political system, and that’s how it works. The 82 per cent who say British politics is working badly ought to be able to say how it would work better. The most popular was: “Parties and politicians trying harder to work together and reach compromise” (73 per cent). And the other two were: “A different type of people becoming MPs” (59 per cent) and “The public to become more politically engaged” (58 per cent).

The disastrous effect of neoliberalism on Britain

Congratulations to Mike Carter on raising such important issues (The country I walked through deserves better than Brexit, 11 February). My husband, Colin Barnett, was – like Mike’s father – also instrumental in organising the People’s March for Jobs, as the then north-west regional secretary of the Trades Union Congress. His deep belief in trying to improve their pay and working conditions meant he tirelessly spent time travelling to their places of work, talking to them and persuading them to join the union. Why has it taken until now to realise how neglected many communities, especially outside the south of England, have become? What was the Labour party doing supporting contracting out when it was obvious that savings were made by reducing the pay and terms and conditions of the low-paid? Why was removing control and assets from democratically elected local authorities to establish academy schools pursued? I have banged on about this publication to the annoyance of friends, family and colleagues ever since I read it. We all need to read this book – it is a page-turning thriller. I was old enough, however, to see the destruction of houses and factories during that time. Victor Gilbert Pathhead, Midlothian • Re Mike Carter’s references to neoliberalism, some remainers are prone to accusing Brexiters of being dyed-in-the-wool neoliberals.

Start Again: How We Can Fix Our Broken Politics by Philip Collins – review

What should you do if the prospect of five more years of Conservative government makes you feel sick but you don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister? That’s the question that is a frequent topic of conversation at Westminster, particularly among Labour MPs of a New Labourish persuasion. Although some are open to the idea of splitting away, most are opposed, though there is a small but influential cadre of New Labour alumni who are willing to bend their ears about the benefits of a split. The central thesis is that the two big political parties are in a terrible mess: the Conservatives have “dragged the nation into its own private feud” over Brexit, while Labour, beset by antisemitism, anti-capitalism and anti-Americanism, is “no longer a noble institution”. As for the Liberal Democrats, their brand is “fatally tarnished” and they should give up and shut up shop. Collins claims that the ideas in the book are “hard to classify” on the left-right spectrum, but this isn’t true Collins then proceeds to set out a number of areas in which the two parties are failing and suggests ways in which a new movement could “start again” and offer something new. The proposals include, in no particular order, a radical increase in the amount of money spent on early years; a rebalancing of the welfare state to favour the working young; a significant increase in inheritance tax; a shift in British taxation away from income and towards wealth; that the House of Lords be replaced with a proportionally elected chamber; and that voting be made compulsory and the franchise extended to 16- and 17-year-olds. They are, almost exclusively, policy proposals from the left and centre-left. The only policy proposal that wouldn’t fit comfortably within a speech from John McDonnell is that university technical colleges be expanded. Start Again?

‘The world is sleepwalking into a financial crisis’ – Gordon Brown

A leaderless world is sleepwalking towards a repeat of its near meltdown in late 2008 and early 2009 because it has failed to remedy the causes of the financial crash of a decade ago, former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned. In the next crisis a breakdown of trust in the financial sector would be mirrored by breakdown in trust between governments In the light of the trade war launched against Beijing by the US, Brown doubted that China would be as cooperative a second time. He said the global economy still lacked an early warning system and a system for monitoring financial flows so that it was possible to tell what had been lent to whom and on what terms. “Yes, we did not know what was going on in some of the institutions, some of it illegal, and which was being covered up.” But he insisted that the mood at the time was for even greater deregulation of the City. “I was being criticised for being too tough in terms of regulation and tax.” Since the crisis, banks have been forced to hold more capital to protect them against possible losses, and a system of bonus clawbacks has been introduced to dissuade bankers from taking too many risks. Brown said there would be a different cause next time. There are problems in emerging markets.” Brown said one area of concern should be heavy commercial and industrial lending by lightly or unregulated shadow banks at a time when US interest rates are rising. We have had a decade of stagnation and we are now about to have a decade of vulnerability.” Recalling the freezing up of the financial markets a decade ago, Brown said governments had sought to compensate for the lack of trust between banks by cooperating more closely. “Countries have retreated into nationalist silos and that has brought us protectionism and populism. “We were out of recession in 2009 but back in it by 2011.
Tony Blair calls US politics 'global soap opera'

Tony Blair calls US politics ‘global soap opera’

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair sits down with CNN's Alisyn Camerota to discuss the state of US politics and Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that suspects who attempted to murder a Russian double agent and his daughter in the…

David Blunkett calls for ‘Corbyn project’ rethink

The Labour former home secretary David Blunkett has said the resignation of veteran MP Frank Field means the party faces irrelevance unless the situation is used as a “catalyst for seismic change”. The choice is his.” Profile Frank Field The veteran MP, who has resigned the Labour whip, was among those who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership in 2015, calling the other candidates 'thin post-Blair gruel' and saying the leftwinger would change the terms of the debate. Field, 79, has been MP for Birkenhead since 1979. He served as a minister under Tony Blair but is best known for his role as chair of the work and pensions select committee, taking robust positions on food banks, benefit sanctions, the gig economy and migrant workers. Most recently, his Euroscepticism has been in the spotlight, often voting against the party whip on Brexit, including recent votes where pro-Brexit Labour rebels saved Theresa May’s government from devastating defeats. The MP said his constituency Labour party was trying to 'misrepresent' his pro-Brexit vote. The comments came as Field said he would employ “the best legal minds” to dispute party rules that say he cannot return to the party after resigning the whip. Field, who has served as the MP for Birkenhead for almost 40 years, was told by Nick Brown, the party chief whip, that his decision to resign automatically meant he was no longer a member. Labour sources confirmed that by resigning the whip Field had “automatically opted to resign from the Labour party”. “I hope and I believe Jeremy will lead us into the next election and it is not true I’m a constant critic of Jeremy,” said Field.

Labour raised £10m more than Tories last year, says watchdog

Labour raised £55.8m in 2017, while the Tories managed to raise £45.9m, also their highest ever total, as both parties financed general election campaigns. Labour received just over £16m from membership subscriptions, according to the data, an increase of £1.6m from the previous year. In total, these parties reported £125,322,000 in income and £122,194,000 of expenditure. Labour raised nearly £10m more than the Tories in 2017 Standfirst ... total income £0m 10 20 30 40 50 Labour, £55.8m Conservative, £45.9m Lib Dem, £9.7m SNP, £5.8m Green, £2.5m Ukip, £1.7m Guardian Graphic | Source: The Electoral Commission Labour beat its previous highest amount of £51m, which was raised in 2015, also a general election year, but one that was fought under Ed Miliband. The Tories’ second-highest amount raised in a year came in 2010, when donors gave £43.1m. Even Corbyn’s critics have been surprised by the way his popularity has turned around the party’s funding model. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Labour was reliant on a small number of wealthy donors. Labour received more than £16m from membership subscriptions in 2017 while Tory membership income fell below £1m Standfirst ... membership income 0m 5 10 15 Labour Conservative Guardian Graphic | Source: The Electoral Commission The party is now reliant on smaller donations from ordinary members. Spending by all political parties increased by 30% in 2017 compared with the year before, the figures showed. The Guardian disclosed last month that in the nine months from July 2017, the party raised £7.4m from donors paying a minimum of £50,000 to dine with Theresa May.

How can the left get heard amid the BBC’s political mudslinging?

Retired people could watch it, though that’s just a guess; I’m definitely not inferring from the distinctive vintage to the comments on social media (“Will someone tell that annoying woman to stop biting her nails?”). It seemed to exist in the fine tradition of daytime news coverage, there to satisfy the Gods of Public Information that the discussion format was being observed. Arguably, office-hours audiences for day-time TV will always be pretty small, and so it should be. It is not the job of a public service broadcaster to make sure everyone is watching telly all the time, or at least I don’t think that’s what Reith had in mind. Presenter Andrew Neil was plainly on the right; his defenders would claim he was equally hard on Labour and Conservative politicians alike, but as enjoyable as this often was to watch, as a definition of neutrality it is a little lame. Fellow presenter Jo Coburn had a more sober style and was a deft interviewer (both will continue to present the show’s replacement, Politics Live). The show never deviated, so far as I could see, from its core precept: anything Labour said that sounded remotely appealing was a leftwing pipe dream, while the Conservatives were natural arbiters of affordability. A death penalty referendum could really divide Britain Frances Crook runs the Howard League for Penal Reform; she is a magnificent campaigner, bringing a lot of old-fashioned notions such as decency to the debate on prisons, fighting for things you couldn’t quite believe anyone would have to fight for. Javid has, apparently unilaterally, rowed back on a core British principle: we do not allow transfer or extradition of any prisoner to any country where they might face death at the hands of the state. I can just picture the referendum: there is no compromise between death penalty and no death penalty.

Politicians pay tribute to Tessa Jowell after death from cancer

The dignity and courage of Tessa Jowell was praised by politicians across the spectrum on Sunday, after her family revealed she had died of brain cancer. Paying tribute to Jowell, Downing Street announced it would double its investment in brain cancer research to £40m and roll out a new gold standard of tests for brain cancer to all NHS hospitals, a key focus of Jowell’s campaigning in the last months of her life. The prime minister, Theresa May, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the former prime minister Tony Blair led tributes to Jowell on Sunday morning, alongside former cabinet colleagues and MPs who praised her work on Sure Start, a flagship scheme to support children in the early years, her success in bringing the Olympic Games to London and her later campaigning on cancer research. Theresa May (@theresa_may) The dignity and courage with which Dame Tessa Jowell confronted her illness was humbling and it was inspirational. My sympathies to her loving family - Dame Tessa’s campaigning on brain cancer research is a lasting tribute to a lifetime of public service. Mills, who runs the food blog Deliciously Ella, said Jowell was the “warmest and kindest soul ... and she achieved an extraordinary amount – I know her family are the thing that made her most proud.” May said Jowell had “faced her illness with dignity and courage” and said she hoped the action on brain cancer the government would now take would “form part of the lasting legacy of an inspirational woman.” Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) Devastating to hear the news of Tessa Jowell's death. Her strength in raising awareness of her illness and fighting for better treatment for others inspired us all May 13, 2018 Corbyn said Jowell’s “achievements were huge, including helping to bring the Olympics to London”, and said her fight for better brain cancer treatment had been an inspiration. There was no one like Tessa and no one better. She stepped down as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood in 2015 and ran as a candidate for the Labour nomination for mayor of London, but was beaten by Sadiq Khan. The health secretary also tweeted his condolences, praising Jowell’s huge achievements, including her Olympics legacy.