Monday 1 February 2010

40 Labour MPs Call for Radical Policies

40 Labour MPs (full list here) have put their names to a list of policies few socialists would have a problem backing. They are:
A. The recession should be tackled not with cuts in essential public spending, but by massive public investment in house-building, infrastructure and the de-carbonisation of the economy.

B. Banks should be split up with their casino investment arms hived off. Publicly-owned retail banks should be required to meet new social and community objectives and support manufacturing, with lending to businesses and homeowners restored to 2007 levels. Pay and bonuses should be tightly regulated.

C. A clean break must be made with market fundamentalism – deregulation and privatisation. Public provision should be expanded – in health care, education, housing, pensions, energy and transport. Royal Mail must remain wholly in the public sector.

D. In the face of huge and unacceptable growth of inequality, a big redistribution programme must swing resources away from the rich to provide sizeable increases in pensions, the minimum wage, the lowest benefit levels, and to fund job creation and improved public services. Union rights must be restored – it is in economic crisis that workers are most in need of that protection.

E. To achieve the 80% carbon emission reduction target by 2050, renewable sources of energy should be promoted on a far bigger scale, industry (including airlines) should be required to reduce its climate change emissions by at least 3% per year, household carbon allowances should be introduced, and the UK targets should be fully met by domestic action and not by carbon offsetting abroad.
Also listed are a number of suggestions for internal reform and a brief nod to the progress they believe that has been made toward the restoration of a more democratic regime inside the party.

Obviously they do not match the radical verbiage of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition's list of demands, but they're not a million miles away from them either. Plus they have more of a chance of attracting trade union backing than the coalition does.

In the interests of putting working class politics back on the agenda, isn't it worthwhile looking at the list and considering standing down TUSC, Respect and other left challenges where they face one of the sponsoring MPs?


Paul said...

"isn't it worthwhile looking at the list and considering standing down TUSC, Respect and other left challenges where they face one of the sponsoring MPs?"

Yes, it is. Though I would say that, wouldn't I?

2pallas said...

I can't really see why "lending to businesses and homeowners restored to 2007 levels" should be an objective of anyone on the left.

Increasing lending to businesses makes perfect sense. But much of the boom-years lending to householders was either predatory lending or asset-price speculation fuelling an asset-price bubble.

Over the last twenty years house prices have soared. This can't be explained by a reduction in supply, or by increased demand (greater population, people having more cash to spend on housing, people choosing to spend on housing rather than alternatives). Rather it can be explained people placing bets on house prices continuing to rise ("getting onto the housing ladder"), and the increased availability of credit to finance house buying and price-speculation.

Banks effectively own most of the private housing stock in this country. Most homeowners and property price speculators have mortgages. The assets are - effectively - owned by the bank, whoever the supposed owner is. Over the boom years the banks have effectively been selling houses back and forth without property ownership really changing hands other than between banks.

Over the last twenty years banks have made more and more credit available, and encouraged ever more people to take out mortgages. A few banks like Northern Rock even sold 100%+ mortgages.

With more money available to spend on houses, more money was spent on houses, and the value of houses went up. More consumer debt was sold secured against the increased value of these assets. No actual additional wealth was generated. No 'real' work was done. It was all a bubble.

The bubble has come to an end. It's not so much burst as stagnated, and obtaining credit for house buying has become more difficult and expensive, despite historically low interest rates. Lenders know that house prices increasing is no longer a safe bet.

We need more responsible banks. We needed them ten years ago. Without being certain of what responsible banking would look like, increasing household lending to 2007 levels (the hight of the bubble) is certainly not it.

brother g said...

Good to see Mark Fisher on the list. Yet another twist in the Stoke Central election saga.

It will be interesting to see if this changes the decision to stand a TUSC candidate alongside a Left Labour incumbent and a three-way fascist split.

Anonymous said...

So the list of TUSC's demands is radical verbiage but the policies of the 40 Labour MPs isn 't?

Can I ask two things. What have all these working class heroes and heroines been doing for the last 13 years and what have they voted for/against? Secondly, why don't you just join New Labour now and get it over with - you've been moving in that direction for months. Then you could meet up with Newman and ahare your thoughts about reclaiming the Party - he's going to end up there as well.

tim f said...

Anonymous - you personify why the left is fucked. Anyone who shows willingness to work with the Labour Left gets denounced and told to shove off.

skidmarx said...

Anonymous - I think the comment about TUSC was self-deprecation.

1.Why don't you check it out and tell us.
2.Any evdidence to back up this odd claim? And I wouldn't really expect Newman to move that far to the left.

luna17 said...

It would of course be daft for any left-wing candidates (Respect, TUSC etc) to stand against any of these MPs. Whatever their weaknesses, they have produced here a clear left-wing statement.

EFComrade said...

Whilst I agree with the genera point of the article, particularly in not standing against certain Labour MP's I think it can't simply be on the basis of the 40 who have signed up to this, I think there should be a more in depth analysis of their previous voting records.
Particuarly when you look the 5 demands in more depth because whilst they are demands that socialists in general can agree with, point B is a bit worrying, it basically says the banks should carry on as they were but should be more careful and considerate in the futre

macullam said...

how may will actually be standing I know at least one who has been deselected.

red snapper said...

How many of these MP's are standing at the election though? Who will replacing the retiring ones as the Labour candidates? Does anybody know? How can one not stand against someone who is not standing anyway? Its all a bit meaningless isnt it?

Budapestkick said...

Well, TUSC, Respect etc. probably shouldn't stand against the handful of genuine labour lefts that exist outside of Alan Wood's dreams, but c'mon, how many of these are complete charlatans? If they were offering anything serious wouldn't they have joined the exodus of serious working-class labour activists and supporters deserting the red rose tories? Also, I tend to regard the people who end up going back into Labour as people who have, ultimately, given up on the prospect of serious change (hence the many insightful yet moribund cranks you come across on the blogosphere).

I think Everyone's Favourite Comrade's advice pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Phil said...

I'd agree with that, 2pallas. One of the drivers of the credit boom was the freeze in real wages for the vast majority of people - which is tackled in point D. It's also worth noting that point B advocates reforming the banks around 'social and community objectives'. I'm sure none of the sponsors would advocate a return to 2007's lending levels without making sure banks were restructured to prevent the kinds of activity we saw prior to the crash.

Chris said...

More responsible banks will mean less lending to help people buy things they want or need. The age of austerity!

The whole banking issue is a side show to the more fundamental problem, which is the capitalist system itself. At least these demands put some sort of social democracy back on the agenda. A small consolation i know.

Phil said...

Our anonymous member of the ideology police is symptomatic of why the far left's had a hard time building influence. Rigidity of ideas is might be able to keep a small group going for a long period of time, but it's ill suited to engaging with things as is.

Budapest is another example of wishful thinking. Yes, thousands of militants have left Labour over the last 15 years. But where have they gone? Not to the far left, that's for sure. If these people are "serious", what does the far left's incapacity to recruit tens of thousands from this milieu say about *its* seriousness?

Second, do you think this following appeal (c/o Marshajane)to support Paul Holmes in Unison's GenSec election should be discounted because the comrade carries a Labour card? Has he lost faith in "the prospect of serious change"?

Phil said...

Hmm, can't post that - says there's a limit of 4,096 characters (since when?). Just follow the link above to the appeal.

macullam said...

I think Paul Homes is standing on a programme that most of the left in Unison could support. My view is that he has been pushed to support some of the points and he would not be my first choice as an individual.

That said Paul has pledged to stand on a workers wage, how many of these MP's would make such a pledge

Phil said...

True, but since when has the workers' wage been a condition for supporting anyone?

Anonymous said...

No problem supporting Labour Lefts - haven't the LRC produced a list of 23 to back? I don't think that list includes some who have signed this list of demands (due to their actual records, I suppose). Mark Fischer is one that I don't think the LRC see fit to back. If left reformists in the LP won't back him, I'm not sure I am inclined to either.


Budapestkick said...

No. I think that there ARE a number of genuine people in the labour party, including some quite good rank and file activists, but there are in a very small minority. While the best militants haven't gone to the far left (though to be fair some have) but into inactivity, I think it would be a mistake to think that the Labour Party will move to the left (or even see the development of a more powerful left) in the near future. TUSC isn't, by any means, going to attract large numbers of militants back into politics, but it is at leasy a step in that direction (how much of a step depends a lot on how many union branches fall behind it). This isn't wishful thinking, while looking to the labour party as a source of radicalsm, militancy etc. would be. I don't mean to be confrontational, I just think that leaping from reasonable criticisms of TUSC to regarding a statement from 40 Labour MPs as a sign of a serious shift in that organisation is a mistake. For example, how many of these are opportunists attempting to tap into anger over the banks and the revulsion in working-class communities at the prospect of a Tory government? Again, I'm not of the view that TUSC is going to explode into a major force in the near future, but how you respond to Labour 'Lefts' should be on a very critical case by case basis (with regard to elections and so forth). Btw, wishful thinking is bad, but so is excessive negativity.

Phil said...

The LRC are backing Mark Fisher (not to be confused with the spelling of the cpgb's Mark Fischer).

The LRC writes:

“The LRC is committed to the election of a Labour government, and wants to ensure maximum socialist representation within it. Please do what you can to support these candidates.”

Full list here

macullam said...

Our assessment is (and no one gave a shred of evidence yesterday to the contrary) is that Paul Holmes does not have a genuine chance of beating Prentis and we do not believe that he would secure a better vote than Roger Bannister. From SP report.

Sorry to hijack this thread. Roger Bannister will be seeking nominations in UNISON General secretary election.

Andrew Coates said...

I certainly wouldn't stand against any of these MPs, and in some cases would actively campaign for them.

But what is their stand on Welfare Reform? This is affecting (and will affect even more in coming months) millions of people, making their lives a misery.

The latest is a wave of people with serious mental health problems taken off Disability and made to attend the Flexible New deal (and there, one error and you can lose Benefits - no prizes guessing how far this category is close to this).

I will not vote for the Ispwich Labour MP Chris Mole precisely because he has publicly spoken in favour of the Welfare Reform measures Workfare - and there's plenty like him.

Politically rubbish.

P H said...

Hi all

Why is Holmes standing against an established Left candidate who in the last election got 42,000 votes?

Nothing to do with the Labour issue, we said we would be prepared to compromise on our programme in the interest of unity - the fact is though that Bannister is the best placed candidate.

i can only imagine the hue and cry if the boot wa son the other foot and we stood from nowehere against another Left!


Unison steward (PC)

Phil said...

Good point. Roger has established a reputation and has consistently won decent votes against the establishment-friendly incumbents who've held the general secretaryship. He is the best placed activist on the left likely to win, so why stand against him? Smells like sectarianism to me.

Anonymous said...

Whilst those MPs may have set up a list of radical social democratic demands, they're still be going into the same election with the likes of Brown, Balls and the rest of the New Labour cabinet, under the same banner and with the same manifesto. Yes, Labour is a broad church, but there's a difference between 'broad' and the complete, blooming opposite.

Integrity still matters, and well done for those MPs subscribing to the alternative list of demands, but they should get real. They're still asking voters to support a manifesto (The Labour Party Candidate) when they go to the polls? It will be a manifesto that offers very little in the way of substance to a lot of struggling people.

Phil said...

As Labour Party MPs of course they have to stand on the party's manifesto. But the fact remains these are more likely to be taken up in the wider labour movement precisely because of these endorsements. It's also worth noting Jon Cruddas endorses the demands, a MP whose name is being touted as a future Labour leader.

What socialists outside of the Labour party have to ask is whether the labour movement would benefit or not from having these socialists and social democrats returned to parliament. I think the answer's obvious.