Sunday 30 October 2016

Get out of the left wing bubble!

All members of political groups are great at talking to each other, many spend as much time on internal politics as they do on national campaigns and the Labour Party probably spends more time on internal issues that any other party.

We do have a good reason in the Labour Party for spending so much time talking to each other, we are the most democratic of all political groups and have the most affiliations - unions, other socialist groups and often are members are also involved in other campaign groups from CND to Save the Children fund.

Some make a living of spending their time on internal politics and that was always my concern about momentum, their main aim was to push the party to the left (and make sure they took control of the internal party machine) rather than win an election.

Trouble is they may be a victim of their own inward looking style - as Jon Lansman and Sam Tarry (close to Corbyn) seem to have fallen out with other key players in Momentum, hastily called meetings, lack of meetings - not really examples of all member democracy that they campaign for within the Labour Party - but that really was never their intention to let members decide on policy it was just a tool to place those from the far left in positions of influence in the Labour Party.

After attending recent Labour meetings it is become obvious that calling someone a 'Blairite' is one of the most cruel comments you can use against anyone so it did make me actually smile when senior Momentum members have accused Lansman of having  “absorbed the modus operandi of Blairism” .

Lansman and Tarry may have realised that Momentum is now out of control, not surprising when senior members of the group also belong to groups like the Alliance for Workers Liberty. Local Momentum groups have been picketing CLP meetings and campaigning against Labour Councils. So now Lansman and Tarry (I want to be an MP) have decided they need to put the genie back in the bottle.

The Left have always had the ability to turn on each other and this week we have seen them fall out with the Trade Union movement over both fracking and the new runway at Heathrow.

But my concern is that Corbyn would rather appeal to these left wing groups that show real leadership - the Heathrow runway decision was also going to be hard for  Corbyn when so many of his closest supporters represent London seats and he may put his 'green' credentials over the economic need of the country. But he also seems the need to promote the fact that he is closer to the membership than the rest of the PLp and create battles that did not need to be started.

That was the issue with Yemen - again a self inflicted own goal by Labour and one that was set up by Corbyn, what the Saudi Government are doing in Yemen is wrong but the motion put forward was poorly written and would not have had the desired effect, there was confusion on the whip and the whole episode was badly organised but it seems to many that was the whole purpose of the event - to make sure that the PLP still seem to be ignoring the views of members. The membership should be more concerned that  Corbyn finds it hard to be critical of the Syrian regime and their Russian supporters than their own MP missed a vote that they did not know they had to attend.

Recently and quite surprising one of the left commentators who has become most critical of the Corbyn leadership has been Owen Jones and one of his recent comments certainly seemed to nail the problem on the head both nationally and here in Ipswich. Nationally the left have got to stop worrying about internal issues and campaign for a Labour Governemnt, maybe taking note of one of their own criticisms of the PLP - stop fighting each other and take on the  Tories.

The same can be said locally, not just fighting the Tories but talking to residents, constituents, voters - that is how elections are run, not debating motions at CLP meetings that will have little effect in changing things or attending some futile rally in ,London, Owen puts it very simply - "The hundreds of thousands who have joined the Labour Party all need to dedicate as much as their life as possible to knocking on doors and talking to voters outside the left-wing bubble"

Thursday 20 October 2016

We 'Must' remember them

I spent the start of this week in Belgium and Northern France with 40 teenagers, we were visiting both the battlefields and the cemeteries that cover Flanders.

We visited Arras, the northern French town twinned with Ipswich, we paid our respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice from small cemeteries such  as the Suffolk  Cemetery in the Ypres salient to the large Thiepval Memorial at the Somme.

On the Tuesday night, 3 of the young pupils laid a reef on behalf of the whole school at the Menin Gate, a moving ceremony that I would recommend you all try to attend.

But it was on the last day that I visited two locations that made me think long and hard about the cost of war - that is why when we say 'We will remember them' it actually should be 'We must remember them' - to me, teaching our younger citizens  about the horrors of war is our only real hope of stopping the suffering that is caused by war.

At the start of the last day we visited the Essex Farm cemetery and the grave of Valentine Jo Strudwick, who was killed in battle at the age of 15 whilst serving in the same regiment that I would join over 60 years later - the Rifle Brigade/ Royal Green Jackets. The clouds were dark, a cold wind blew and it started to rain as I stood and just thought of the how young this Rifleman had been when his life was taken from him - even as a former soldier who had joined at 16, I still found it hard to imagine the thoughts that went through the head of Valentine as he stood in that wet and muddy trench.

Our next stop was the giant Tyne Cot Cemetery and I stood by one of the panels and stared at the name of Herbert Walker, whose body was never found but died in 1917, he was just 19 but he had been a pupil at the school I now work at and lived just round the corner from my own home - at the bottom of Sidegate Lane, his house is in the ward I now represent.

Visiting any war cemetery or memorial can be  emotional but in my opinion standing and looking at the grave or a memorial to a soldier who come from your home town, or are maybe distant relatives or who have a connection through your school or workplace really brings home how the First World War touched every family in this country.

I will always remember Joe Strudwick and Herbert Walker.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Back to real campaigning

At first it felt great to be out on the doorstep, knocking on doors, talking to residents rather than fighting each other in the Labour leadership battle, which at times had quite a toxic feel to it.

But once I started talking to residents it became quite obvious we have a big battle in front of us, the polls are not wrong - Jeremy Corbyn is still not seen as a future Prime Minister to many voters, in particular to those who did not vote Labour in 2015 who we have to attract to win seats like Ipswich.

Constant 'own goals' such as the Corbyn aides comments on Syria/Russia and then examples of what could be seen as an orchestrated establishment/;press campaign against Corbyn such as how the MPs report on anti-semitism has been spun to make it seem the report was just solely an attack on Corbyn and the Labour Party.

What also became obvious is that Ipswich residents are not happy with this Tory Government, it is becoming obvious every day that Brexit will now bring problems for most of us, and then in addition to that in May we are holing County Council elections and Tory run Suffolk have made a mess of highways, 'Travel Ipswich' , care homes and education. Even Tory supporters can see that Labour run Ipswich Borough Council are doing a good job even with the cuts to our funding from this Tory Government. so it is galling to Labour activists that we can't make the most of these Tory deficiencies locally as the public are yet to get behind Corbyn and the antional party.

But all is not lost, I still have doubts about many of the Corbyn front bench but we now do have some excellent and capable MPs in some of the very important junior posts - the likes of Keir Starmer and  John Healey plus some of the Labour heavyweights will also be taking key roles as Chairs of Select committees.

Jeremy Corbyn has won a second leadership battle and has earned the right for all of us to campaign hard behind him to try and win in 2020 but that does not mean we should be silent when groups like Momentum and some of his closest supporters act in a way that will make the cahnces of winning in 2020 almost impossible.

It was good to hear the new Shadow Defence Minister (our third one already) say that we will continue to support the Trident renewal - but it is important at some time that Corbyn also commits to this as we can't have the majority of the PLP and the Shadow Cabinet sticking to Labour Policy whilst the leader sends out mixed messages on this important issue.

So the future? We campaign hard for a Labour Government led by Jeremy and whilst doing taht trying and gain more Labour County Councilors and in 2018 and 2019 retain our control of Ipswich Borough Council - it is obvious from talking to Ipswich residents that the local Labour Party is trusted by them.

Examples of that trust were on public display on Saturday afternoon as first of all Labour councilors were at the local tennis club where improvements have been made to their courts with support of funding from the local Area Committee (same committee the Tories wanted scrapped - not that it stopped Tory MP Ben Gummer from attending the event ).

But later in the afternoon was a real example of why Ipswich Labour are trusted over the local Tories, a number of us attended the Senior Cup Football match at Ransomes - and were fortunate enough to be shown round the new million pound pavilion and changing rooms - a complex built by Labour run Ipswich, unfortunately the visitors from North Suffolk to win but it was a comment from one of the Ransomes players that was the highlight of my day, the player commented to one of councilors - " You delivered, what you promised, thank you"  this player like most of the club and local residents have been told at every election that we only took over control of Ransomes so we could build council houses on the site. Saturday was the final nail in the coffin of that Tory lie!

The Tories can't be trusted in Ipswich and Suffolk and residents know they can trust the local Labour Party, residents also are losing faith in the Tory Government and it is now up to us (with an improvement in performance from Corbyn and all our MPs in Westmisnter) to get the message over that we can be trusted to run this great country again.