The Blog

Hi all, if you are reading this then you clearly care about what I have to say about politics, philosophy, current events, life and all those inbetween. This is a space for me to ramble on about whatever currently takes my fancy. There will be stuff on Trump, Religion, Corbyn, Brexit and maybe even a bit on Liverpool FC.

A little about me first, incase you don’t know me personally. I’m a 3rd Year Politics student at Manchester Metropolitan University, I work as a Call Centre Agent in Healthcare, and I’m a budding chef/writer/amateur philosopher.

If you have any questions, comments or want to start a dialogue, I’m more than happy to take questions in comments, on Facebook, Twitter, carrier pidgeon, whatever. Just try and keep it civil, I’ll always engage debates, but not personal attacks.

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The Wonders of Diplomacy

 

Blimey a lot has happened since my last blog entry hasn’t it? We have triggered Article 50 and now are definitely leaving the EU, and just to make sure we are having a General Election (YAYYYYYY!). While I’ve been slaving away at my dissertation, exams and assignments, planning for the future and going out and getting merry, a lot has happened in the world, and many of these events have resulted in very intelligent men going on the television and advocating lots of young British men running around in a different country getting shot at. When it’s put like that it doesn’t seem like such a nice way of resolving our differences does it. Today I want to make a case for good old fashioned diplomacy, and why it is scary that the Leader of the Opposition, a man who I have my own disagreements with on an ideological basis, is being attacked by the government due to his support for negotiation and diplomacy.

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The “New Normal”

I’d like to preface this by recognising the bravery shown today by members of the Metropolitan Police, especially the officer who was attacked.

When there is a “terrorist incident” in the Western world, the first thought on everybody’s mind is:

“Did the security services know about them? ”

“They should be keeping tabs on people to stop things like this happening!”

“Why doesn’t (insert area) have more police presence?”

These are valid questions, but many people also clamour for tighter Anti-Terror laws in the aftermath of attacks, leading to controversial legislation like the PATRIOT Act 2001 in the USA. There is often a demand for retaliation, and after 9/11, this directly lead to the War in Afghanistan,  and indirectly to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The World Trade Centre attacks also ushered in a militarization of the police in the US, as well as turning airports into areas more secure than many government buildings.

In the UK, we have always had a different approach to Law enforcement, born from the experience of terrorism Brits have endured from Republican extremists in Northern Ireland. Due to this, the British, and especially English people, treat terrorism like an inconvenience, rather than a huge deal. It is said that in the aftermath of the 2005 London Bombings, many Londoners complained about the disruption to the Underground and Bus timetables. The Manchester Bombings of 1996 have been joked about many times, with Jason Manford saying that it was a net benefit to Manchester as “No one died and we got a new Next!”

“No one died and we got a new Next!”

The British reaction to Terrorism has always been one of defiance, with the Glasgow Airport attacks in 2007 coming to mind, with one man, who I still maintain is my absolute hero,  shouted “‘Mon Then!” and kicked one of the attackers, who was on fire might I add, square in the groin. This lead to the greatest headline ever printed on a newspaper (below) and no one has ever attempted an attack in Scotland since.

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Aforementioned “Greatest Headline Ever”

Now in the aftermath of the attacks at Westminster, we need to be vigilant that the Government does not use this to try to pursue legislation that is detrimental to the privacy and freedom of the entire nation. In this country we have a proud tradition of Human Rights and community policing. This means we need the police to keep firearms in the hands of specially trained Firearms Officers, and to not give guns to every Officer in the country. It isn’t in our nature as British people to have armed police and this is to our credit. Our police ensure that as many suspects as possible are arrested, charged and have a day in court, as is the way in a civilised society.

With respect to the tradition of Human Rights; we need to be careful that the Government does not infringe on people’s rights in the name of “Security.” The profiling of ethnicities, the warrantless surveillance of Internet usage, indefinite detention, Torture, the denial of due process, and even the denial of the freedom of expression. All of these Human Rights violations have occurred throughout the Western world, and we need to be vigilant that they do not occur on our watch. London, and the United Kingdom as a whole needs to bind together in this time of crisis and let the world know that we do not want to lose our freedoms, nor do we want to take other’s freedoms from them. Civilisations thrive when they take the moral high ground, when we violate Human Rights, we are no better than the terrorists who attack us, and the only way to defeat terrorism, is to act like the Londoners in 2005; just moan that it made your bus late and made you miss the beginning of EastEnders. Because when you starve terrorism of attention, you prevent the message being spread and, just like a schoolyard bully, when you prevent them getting attention, they eventually lose interest. Do Not accept the New Normal of Terrorism and the what it entails, and Do Not be afraid, show the world we don’t let terrorists make us do what they want.

Just as I went to Post this, the Prime Minister made a speech where she said that the ‘sick and depraved attacks’ which occurred today will not undermine British values. I can only hope that the Prime Minister agrees with me on what British values are (as we don’t agree on much else). I also want to put on record my respect and admiration for Tobias Ellwood MP, and I hope his courage, in going to help the injured officer and attempted CPR until emergency services crews arrived on the scene, is rewarded with the recognition it deserves.

 

If you agree with any of my points, please support Liberty and write to your Local MP to let them know your views. Also please read my other posts and if you like it please let me know.

Labour and the Re-wording of Clause IV

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Blair after his leadership victory in 1994
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Surprise Meme

This is a brief blogpost I wrote as part of my Research Project as part of my BA in Politics at Manchester Metropolitan University. Originally published on https://specialarchiveprojects.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/labour-and-the-re-wording-of-clause-iv/#more-32

During my visit to the Peoples History Museum’s archives, I wanted to research the reactions to the change in the Labour Party’s constitution by Tony Blair in 1995, especially the rewording of Clause IV, seen as central to Labour’s original socialist aims. Blair sought to change the wording, as he believed it was holding the party back and that the key to electoral success was to modernize the party, making it fit for the 21st century. The original wording of Clause IV reads,

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

This was seen as a commitment to socialist aims. For Blair, public opinion indicated that the country had moved away from its support of nationalised industry, and to win power again for the party, he needed to remove this commitment to a mixed economy, with its unpopular element of national ownership of key industry.

The main resource that I utilised to gauge responses to the Labour Party’s (at that time) proposed changes to Clause IV was a document entitled “Labour’s Objects: Socialist Values in the Modern World,” a newsletter which set out Labour’s ideas for an updated Clause IV. The newsletter included a questionnaire that allowed members to inform the party of their opinions. The responses to this questionnaire ranged from members who were completely supportive of the leadership, through those who were apathetic to the changes and wished to voice their frustration at what they saw as a waste of time while the government was in meltdown, to a third group that regarded the changes as a complete betrayal of Labour’s values. This final group were the hard-core left of the party, who saw the changing of Clause IV as tantamount to blasphemy.

I also utilised letters from Labour politicians and other political grandees, who also had their own opinions on the actions of the Party’s leadership. Most interesting of these was the response from the Socialist Campaign Group on the left of the party, who were a group of Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Michael Meacher and Tony Benn. With a joint letter written on 8 December 1994, the group expressed their surprise at the fact that the question was being asked directly to party members, and not being asked in a subtler way, possibly through the courting the support of Constituency Labour Parties . They also thought that the questionnaire was too simplistic and they saw it as overly leading towards supporting the changes to the constitution. They also thought that the convening of a special conference for the purposes of changing Clause IV was both poor timing and too expensive. These factors, combined with the lack of desire for change on their wing of the party, meant that these MPs were completely against altering Clause IV.

Another figure who was against the change was Frances O’Grady, the current general secretary of the TUC, who in her response to the questionnaire said, “This questionnaire is extremely poorly designed. My commitment is to retaining Clause IV plus adding in a statement about redressing all forms of inequality, whether based on Class, Race, Sex or Sexuality […].” This rejection of Blair’s changes was something agreed upon by most of the left of the party, however there were more members who were in favour of the changes, like Joan Ruddock MP, who went on to become Minister of State for Energy under Gordon Brown. Ruddock agreed with Blair’s changes and wanted to add environmental pledges as part of any new constitution.

Blair

Many of the arguments in favour of the changing of Clause IV were presented by the party leadership, especially by Tony Blair and his deputy John Prescott. Prescott’s support for the changes was a surprise. Later, after their election victory, Prescott was kept on by Blair as deputy prime minister due to his command of support from the unions. Support from the unions was seen as key for any leader due to Labour’s system of leadership elections.

Blair’s changes were approved at a special conference held during Easter 1995, and Clause IV, which continues to be emblazoned on membership cards, now reads:

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

On the one hand, these changes sought to placate the left wing of the party, by retaining the Labour’s commitment to being a democratic socialist party, which seeks power and the creation of a community of solidarity through parliamentary elections. On the other hand, Blair was pursuing a form of social democracy, the ‘Third Way’, that was also in favour of a free-market economy. These changes proved fruitful, as Labour went on to win power in a landslide election result in 1997, retaining power in the 2001 and 2005 elections, before finally losing power in the 2010 election.

This shows that Labour’s electoral successes may be a product of poor Conservative Government in the post Thatcher years, however many, including myself, believe that Blair’s personality and his effectiveness in implementing his ideas and convincing opponents of their merits, as evidenced in the changing of Clause IV, was instrumental in retaining power for 13 years, and it is no surprise to see that the first election Labour contested without Blair as leader since 1997, the 2010 election, was the time the party lost power.

The People’s History Museum’s archives, and the archivists who helped my research, were a wonderful resource that allowed me to find resources that I wouldn’t be able to find without their help. The resources I was able to use were first hand sources, without which I believe this research would have come to a different conclusion. The help of the archivists in guiding my research was really useful too, as they were able to look at what I had already researched, and what I had found, and help me find other resources to answer my questions. This research could be expanded upon further to look at the reasons that Blair was elected as leader, and the question of ‘would Labour have been elected in 1997 without Blair as leader?’ The resources used and other documents from the Labour archives would be extremely useful in answering this question.

Archival documents used

Labour’s Objects: Socialist Values in the Modern World and associated questionnaire responses from approx. 50 members of the party.

Letter from Socialist Campaign Group – 8/12/1994

Letters from office of John Prescott MP

Minutes of Labour’s Special Conference Easter 1995

Letters addressed to Tom Sawyer regarding ‘Labour’s Objects: Socialist Values in the Modern World’ and associated questionnaire

 

Reflections on the Recent Visit to MMU by the Israeli Ambassador to the UK

ambassador.

Photo Credit @AmbMarkRegev on Twitter.

The Israeli Ambassador the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mark Regev, held a brief talk, followed by a Q&A at my University Yesterday. What follows is a brief summary of his main talking points, and my opinion on both the wider Arab/Israeli conflict, and the ambassador’s arguments

“Mark, I know the Jewish People suffered greatly in Europe, but why did Europe have to solve the Jewish Problem at my expense?”

The First impression I had when seeing Ambassador Regev was that he looked exactly the same as the image I have in my head when I thought Diplomat. His relatively soft Australian tilted voice (he was born in Melbourne after all), helped give an air of friendliness, but his demeanour and the passion in his voice definitely gave the impression that this was a man who both knew exactly what he was talking about, and he was in his element. It didn’t surprise me when he mentioned that his previous job was working as the official spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, and that the press in this country have likened him to Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s Right Hand Spin Doctor.

Through this facade of spin and polish, the ambassador was remarkable in his defence of a nation he clearly loves, and he seems genuinely at odds with the common perception of Israel as an oppressive government when it comes to Palestinians. He straight away addresses this, relaying to the students a conversation he had with a member of the Palestinian Authority, with whom he had appeared on BBC’s Newsnight, over a coffee in Jerusalem. The unnamed Palestinian simply said to him, “Mark, I know the Jewish People suffered greatly in Europe, but why did Europe have to solve the Jewish Problem at my expense?” This, Regev said, was the crux of the entire conflict in the region, and I am inclined to agree with the ambassador here. The state of Israel, which commemorates 69 years of independence this year, was carved out of the UN’s British Mandate of Palestine, a land which has been occupied by Palestinian Muslims since Saladin conquered the region in 1187, and many of the Palestinians were forced from their homes or absorbed into a state which they wanted no part of, due to their rejection of the UN partition plan of 1947. This Plan would have resulted in both an Israel and a Palestine coexisting in the region, but the Arabs, who didn’t want to cede their land to perceived ‘invaders from Europe’ as many of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel (the forebear of the modern state) were displaced Jews from Europe, many of them survivors of the Holocaust.

The Ambassador also spoke of this anniversary of the founding of Israel, and criticised the Palestinian representatives who rejected partition in 1948, as he said that Palestine should also be celebrating 69 years of independence. Instead, they celebrate “The Nakba” or The Catastrophe. The Arabs saw the establishment of a Jewish state on their land as an affront to the war of liberation they fought against the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, when the Arabs fought with the Lawrence of Arabia to free the region of Ottoman influence (and also secure the region for Britain who needed oil for the War in Europe).

Regev spoke about Peace, and the need for 2 ingredients which need to be in place before they can achieve Peace. Mutual Recognition of each state’s right to exist, and Security. Without Legitimacy and Security, Israel and Palestine can never peacefully coexist. As the above section noted, the Legitimacy of the Israeli State is difficult to achieve due to the perception that the Jews stole Arab Land, and therefore the Arabs cannot recognise a State which stole land from Arabs. This is another point where I agreed with the ambassador, as the Israeli people; especially those who live in the Land that was Eretz Israel, not the Occupied Territories; they didn’t take this land from the Palestinians, they were Born there, or invited by the Government, or they were put there by the British during the interwar years. You cannot punish the Son for the Sins of the Father, as the saying goes. However, Israel does need to recognize equally the Palestinian right to exist as a state, and not treat the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority as an autonomous region which they still have military control of, but as a sovereign state, which 136 other states have recognized.

The Security argument was the main line of argument that I found troubling. The Ambassador spoke of a need to ensure that there will be no terrorism before there can be peace in the region, stating that extremists see peace as a weakness and therefore violence would intensify and create a roadblock to peace. This argument is a fallacy in my humble opinion, as the only way to create peace, as indeed Regev stated during his talk, was through dialogue and peace. He states correctly that Palestine cannot defeat Israel militarily or economically, so it must negotiate. This talk of security puts a pre-condition on peace which is wholly unobtainable. In speaking about negotiations working, Regev used the example of Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, being invited to speak at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in 1977, and the peace treaty that followed as part of the Camp David in 1979. What he failed to mention was that in 1981, Sadat was assassinated by Egyptian jihadis who opposed the treaty, but the treaty still stood with successive Egyptian governments. While violence is not wanted, it is not an insurmountable block to peace, the only roadblock to peace is the unwillingness from one side to not talk. The best example of a peace treaty with terrorists who wanted recognition and legitimacy from a government was the Good Friday agreement signed by the British Government and the Irish Republican Army. This is a conflict which still has the occasional flare up 20 years after its signing, but a general peace was achieved due to the willingness on both sides to talk, negotiate and compromise

Regev spoke about the need for direct negotiation. He spoke about the frustrations the Israelis feel at the Palestinians working through the United Nations rather than dealing directly with Israel, calling the activities of the Palestinians Authority the “politics of theatre” and that without negotiation, nothing will get done. He pointed out that Yasser Arafat, in a letter to Yitzhak Rabin, there were two commitments made for peace: All outstanding issues between the two sides will be solved through negotiation; and all forms of terrorism and violence will not be sponsored by either side. Regev holds that the Palestinians have not kept to their word, pointing to terror attacks from Hamas and the boycotting of Israel both economically and diplomatically by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

He was however optimistic in the possibility of peace with the Palestinians, repeatedly pointing out that he is willing to listen and negotiate. For what its worth, I feel like Regev would sit and negotiate. Whether his government would be another matter, as Netanyahu has never struck me as someone who wants peace, unlike his predecessor Ariel Sharon. Regev also spoke of the switching of tactics Israel has engaged with. Instead of using negotiations and peace with Palestine to foster relations with the wider Arab world, the Israelis are using their talks with the Arabs, and establishing relations with nations such as Jordan (with whom it shares its longest land border) and Egypt. this is due to the shared concerns about terrorism in the region, especially in recent years with the rise of Islamic State as an actor in the region.

All in all, Mark Regev gave the impression of a man who wants to help his country, and would fight tooth and nail for whatever would be best for Israel, whether that be war or peace. His oratory skills were impressive, and he certainly challenged my views on Israel, and furthermore he made me consider how a Peace could be achieved in the Middle East. In answering one of the questions not wholly centred on the Occupied Territories (which was most of them), Regev spoke about Israel’s economy, and how it is the third biggest Tech Hub in the world, after Silicon Valley in California, and Boston. When he spoke about how the government offered 20 year bonds and that they were massively oversubscribed at the London Stock Exchange, my mind was cast to the efforts China has been going to in recent years to foster relations and goodwill through infrastructure investment in the developing world. If Israel needs to build trust with the Palestinians, and Israel wants to keep a strong economy, it would be remiss to not consider using economic assistance through investment and nurturing Palestinian innovation and infrastructure. Instead of building settlements and Israeli factories in the Occupied Territories, why not invest in Palestinian Business, offer them the infrastructure needed to thrive. As a Wise man once said, give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, help a man create a million dollar business, then he won’t try to blow up a military checkpoint.*

*Okay, it was me who said that.

Please let me know what you think of this write-up.

I would like to thank His Excellency Mark Regev for giving this talk at the University, and Dr Steve Hurst for allowing us the opportunity to attend this talk.

Throwback Thursday: Brexit and Labour

NB: This Post was written prior to the Labour Leadership election 2016 where Jeremy Corbyn defeated Owen Smith. While I wasn’t on the right side, I still believe what I wrote.

 

In the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum, it is understandable that the Remain camp within the Labour Party will look for a scapegoat. That Jeremy Corbyn was to be that scapegoat is not a surprise. In his brief time at the Helm of the Labour Party, he has amassed a vocal support amongst the young, and has steered the party to victory in 4 by-elections since being elected leader in 2015, drawing parallels to the meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders in the US. But, like Bernie Sanders, the rise preceded a fall. Corbyn’s electability has always been questioned by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) , and with the win for the Leave campaign in the referendum being attributed to traditionally Labour voters, it was without question that Corbyn would be challenged.

This is not to say that Corbyn shouldn’t be challenged however. Although his election heralded a rush of new members to the party, with some (including the author) joining prior to the leadership election to vote for Jeremy, his beliefs have frequently been at odds with the rest of the PLP and the electorate at large, winning by slender margins in by –elections where once Labour commanded a huge lead. Corbyn’s beliefs on foreign policy and Trident are seen by many as relics from a bygone Labour Party, seen as part of Michael Foot’s toxic legacy of 1983, rather than the modern Labour Party of the past 20 years. The first sign of this was the Labour rebellion on the Syria vote, with Members as powerful as the Shadow Foreign Secretary taking a position that was different to the Labour whip. This vote, the first challenge of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, was the split between the PLP and their chosen champion, Hilary Benn, and the leadership of Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell.

Just Last Night, Hilary Benn advised Jeremy Corbyn he had lost faith in him as leader and was summarily dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet, and this morning over half the shadow cabinet is expected to resign, with the PLP now in open defiance of Corbyn and a motion of no confidence expected to take place on Monday. Corbyn remains defiant, pledging to not resign as he has a ‘strong mandate from the membership.’ Whilst it goes without saying that this mandate is strong, the question has now been asked, is Jeremy Corbyn the right man to take the Labour Party through a possible snap election this year?

My view is that at this moment, Labour should remove Jeremy Corbyn from his position as leader of the party. Although I voted for him in 2015, and I believe he is the most genuine and honest politician currently serving in the House of Commons, he is not the Leader that Labour needs right now. Labour needs a leader who can convince former supporters who have drifted to UKIP in the working class areas of England, and who have drifted to the SNP in Scotland, whilst also bringing the Left and right of the party together, to a common centre-left position, an area which has traditionally lead to government for the party. That’s not to say that Corbyn and his ideas have no place in a new regime, just that someone who can show a bit more leadership should be the leader.

My view is that Hilary Benn, with his proven conviction and his position as a party grandee, is an ideal choice for leader, and with recent events he does seem best placed to take on the party as it is and help reform the party into one that could get into government again. Chukka Umunna is another candidate who would be an ideal leader, due to his youth and his progressive ideas, whilst also being seen as economically responsible, a trait that isn’t attributed to Corbyn. Whilst I believed in 2015 that Jeremy Corbyn was the best choice for the party at the time, I was proved incorrect and now it is time for a change.

My fear with the disconnect between the vocal minority who still support Corbyn is that the Labour party could fracture once again, as it did in 1981 when the ‘Gang of Four’ left Labour and founded the SDP, who then went on to combine with the Liberals in 1987, and siphoned votes away from Labour in the 1983 election, resulting in a Conservative Landslide. A similar split could happen again, with either the far left of the party splitting away, or the progressive centre of the party leaving again. Whoever is elected leader, whether Corbyn stays or a new regime forms, their goals must be to ensure the unity of the party, and to try to prevent the coronation of a pro-Brexit Prime Minister, namely Boris Johnson or Michael Gove.