Thursday, September 30, 2010

If I Was Labour's Leader...

If I were Labour's newly elected leader in addition to seeing the need to rebuild the Labour Party to become a mass party with wide support in society, I would at the same time seek to internationalise the debate on what democratic socialism means and get beyond our domestic scene.

Trying to tame or regulate capitalism from our own perspective is not possible. Nor is it possible to influence changes in public behaviour sufficiently over climate change, future famines and shortages of water and raw materials unless we seek to internationalise the debate. This is why we need to start a wide debate with fellow democratic socialists in order to develop an international strategy.

In a blog item at Labour List which I otherwise identify with, there is no mention by Jon Wilson of "Labour Values" of the need for an international dialogue on either the banking crisis or climate change and its attendant problems such as drought and famine. Whilst unlike George Monbiot (the Guardian's Climate Change Correspondent) who accepts the inevitability of being unable to sufficiently influence world opinion on these matters, I believe that as socialists we can and must continue to pursue the long term objective of defeating ignorance, famine and poverty.
The last phase of the Climate Change debate in Copenhagen ended in failure due to the influences of capitalist doctrines. We must combine together with as many men and women as possible of political goodwill across the globe to confront the forces of greed, which regrettably the banks and many other institutions across the globe have come to represent. Unfortunately the Social Democrats and Socialists have lost political power in many countries across Europe. I believe that this is largely due to them losing their way in the same manner as New Labour.

Democratic Socialism and Global Capitalism are not natural bedfellows. Capitalism is the antithesis of Democratic Socialism. This is not my being doctrinaire, but genuinely stating a fact. In the same way science tells us that oil and water don't mix, you cannot get socialism and capitalism to blend. But one can exercise controls over the other.

So even if we accept that capitalism has produced technical advances which have at times benefited temporally privileged groups of people, then we have to finds ways to see that such benefits go to all people throughout the world. Substantial controls, restraints, redirection and transformation have to be placed on the writ of capitalism if we are to start to save the world and make it safer for future generations. Changes that we will have to work on continuously to produce a situation that enables us to develop a world which is finally free from the dominance of capitalism's greed and exploitation.

We all have our own histories and cultures, but the thing we now have and share in common is the currently uncontrollable behaviour of global capitalism. If we don't find solutions to control that behaviour, then I do fear the worst for humanity.

We can't, however, just depend on one set of regulations to control global capitalism. As John Kay said in the Financial Times on September 14th this year -"Serious reform must begin with a realistic assessment of what regulations can achieve. Regulations can observe compliance with prescribed procedures - and that is really what they mostly do - but have a very limited ability or opportunity to assess what behaviour is prudent." Only eternal vigilance and understanding can shape what regulations are needed when.

The new generation of politicians which Ed Miliband speaks of have some enormous challenges that require their urgent attention. For humanities sake they must not fail. Room for manoeuvre in today's world is very limited. I repeat my earlier warning in Dronfield Blather, Global Capitalism left to its own devices has the potential to kill the human race.

Ken Curran, Chair Sheffield Co-operative Party and Sheffield District Labour Party.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dronfield's Message From Ed Miliband

During the campaign for the election of the new Labour Leader, Dronfield Blather received the following letter from Ed Miliband. We have added links to the items from his web-site which he refers us to.

"Thank you for your letter and the views of the signatories to the statement you attach. I agree that we need now to have a serious discussion about what we got wrong in Government, and how we should stand up to the Coalition while preparing for a return to power. I have said repeatedly that I believe we need to put our core values at the heart of everything we do.

Early on in the campaign I set out my vision for the future direction of our Party, which I hope meets the requirements for your Manifesto of Intent. In a speech in Leeds, I reflected on the reasons behind our defeat in May and set out how we can learn lessons and reach out to the country again. A few weeks later, I gave a speech outlining how the Labour Party can adapt to 21st social democracy, to become a living, breathing party of progressive change. You can find both of these speeches on my website

It could be a long road to the next General Election, but the change has to start now. In Government we sometimes seemed to lose a sense of the values that should always shape Labour's mission. As leader, I would put these values back at the heart of everything we do.

I want to lead a Party that actively turns its values into reality, to improve people's lives. We need to be ready to offer a better vision to the electorate. We need to have already shown by our actions and arguments that Britain needs a different kind of economy in which new manufacturing and small businesses are prized.

We can only do that by listening to our party and building a movement for change. I would appreciate your support to make this happen.

With best wishes,
Ed Miliband."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lib Dems Crash In Dronfield

The Lib Dems suffered a crushing defeat in yesterday's District Council By-election in the Gosforth Valley Ward of the North East Derbyshire District Council.

In this three seater in 2007 the average results of the Political Parties were Lib Dems 51.1%, Tories 30.0% and Labour 18.9%.

The By-election was a contest for a single seat. The Liberal Vote fell dramatically to 31.3%, the Tories took 37.1% and Labour moved into second place with 31.6%.

The Liberal percentage vote fell by 19.8% with 7.1% of these going to the Tories and 12.7% to Labour. The Liberal swing to Labour was almost twice as strong as the swing to the Tories.

Although the turnout dropped substantially from 36% in 2007 to 26%, the Labour vote actually increased from a previous average of 315 to 354. It was its best ever result in the ward.

Whilst Labour only moved into 2nd place by 4 votes, it overtook the Lib Dems who had had an average lead over them of no less than 563 in 2007.

If the By-election had been fought under the Alternative Vote, then the Lib Dems would have been eliminated and their second choices redistributed between Labour and the Tories. Labour would have needed just 207 of the potential 350 transferred votes to ensure victory. That is under 3 in 5 of the transfers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Don't Gamble With The Future

On the 3rd of September I attended a demonstration called by the Sheffield Trade Union Council. This was in the form of a public meeting outside the Town Hall. This was a protest demonstration against the Con-Lib Dem Coalition's budget to address the current financial situation. A crisis brought about by the free market, no rules capitalism that has spread across the world over the past decade. The demonstration was supported by the Sheffield District Labour Party, Sheffield Labour Councillors, Paul Bloomfield MP for Sheffield Central, Sheffield Green Party, Youth Workers (92 of whom are to lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts), Sheffield Pensioners Action Group, hospital workers worried about the future of the NHS, school teachers and government workers from various offices across the City.

The crowd numbered 500 or more. This was a good turnout for a Friday early evening 5.30pm demonstration in the kind of hedonistic pleasure seeking City Sheffield is tending to these days. "Forget the problems of the world and lets have another drink" seems to be the prevailing culture. We tend to live in an anaesthetised society. Drink, drugs, television, sport, entertainment; each one diverts the mind. Reality cannot be faced, because the facts are too stark! That said it was a pleasant surprise that over 500 people turned up for the event from different walks of life. For over an hour we were able to make "common cause" and unite against the very nature of the greedy and increasingly intolerant society Britain has become.

After a decade of near silence (apart from electioneering and leafleting) the Sheffield District Labour Party are once more beginning to participate in the protests and street politics of the City. Over the years of New Labour they found themselves bound hand and foot by the Machiavellian machinations of Blairism. The great lesson which I hope has or is being learnt is that even when Labour is in office, still the Party has an important role beyond campaigning for Labour Candidates. That role is to act as a conduit for feeding into the Party the views of the people, not acting in the way Blairites had of only listening to those who had been carefully vetted. That became part of the great undoing of Gordon Brown when he ran into Mrs Duffy of Rochdale. This told him what Labour canvassers were facing on a daily basis. Ordinary party members ought to be the political watchdogs of the Party, feeding in to the Party public opinion, not just sending out the latest "On Message" so slavishly followed, even though as individuals we have little faith in the message.

One of the problems that Labour faces within the Party is tolerance, for those who feel they need to question the Party bureaucracy, policy or our elected representatives. Instead they are often regarded as trouble-makers or heaven forbid extremists. What these prevalent attitudes clearly identify is the need for some fundamental political education in the Party over what Democratic Socialism is all about. Without this basic knowledge, discussion remains at a very primitive level.
In Sheffield and elsewhere people are joining the Party, even some of our old disgruntled members are returning. We must ensure they are joining a political party that has or is genuinely learning from its past mistakes. Tony Blair's book A Journey tells a story that should be an object lesson to us all. How could a mentally dysfunctional messianic person rise to become leader of the Labour Party? While Labour did achieve some good things under his very strange form of leadership, by far the greatest beneficiaries of his years of Premiership has been Mr and Mrs Blair. Only Blair in his first year as Labour Leader described himself as the New Keir Hardie, when in effect he was the direct opposite.Returning to the subject of the September 3rd demonstration, I was struck by the significance of the date. It was on September 3rd 1939 when Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. Here we were declaring our own personal war against not just the Tory-LibDem Coalition Government, but on the very serious world-wide financial system. A system which has created a world-wide free market and a few-rules system, which has a far greater risk than anything envisaged by Karl Marx. Global Capitalism left to its own devices has the potential of killing off the human race. As the late Tony Judt wrote in the opening paragraph of his very last book in 2009 Ill Fares The Land, "We can no longer continue to live our lives like this". I now write that Mankind has but a short time to respond positively and effectively. If the destruction of our natural environment and humanity itself is to be avoided!

This is a greater challenge than the Second World War which took over six weary years.

Food for thought - aimimg to provide food for humanity.

From Ken Curran, Chair Sheffield Co-operative Party Branch. Chair Manor & Castle Development Trust. Sheffield District Labour Party.