Moves to deselect Wolverhampton MP after racial comments

Marris

THE sinister spirit of racist Tory MP Enoch Powell lives on in his former Wolverhampton South West constituency, in the surprising words of its current Labour Member of Parliament.

Now moves are underway to deselect the MP, Rob Marris, after he blamed Eastern European migrants for problems in his Black Country constituency.

His outburst, in an abrasive email, came five days before he resigned on 30 June, from Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, saying he would not serve as shadow financial secretary to the Treasury unless there was “a change of leadership in the Labour Party.”

Mr Marris has been MP for Wolverhampton South West 2001-10, and from 2015 until the present day.

During last year’s General Election both Mr Marris, his main opponent, Conservative Paul Uppal and even UKIP agreed that immigration was no longer a key issue in the constituency. It was therefore not debated between them – all conscious of the legacy of Enoch Powell.

Yet that poisonous legacy reared its ugly head just hours after the Euro referendum, during the black ops propaganda to blame Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the Brexit vote.

As an ordinary Labour constituency member I emailed Mr Marris on Friday 24 June to seek his assurance that he would support Mr Corbyn and not be part of any coup to unseat him.

The fact that Mr Marris voted for the Iraq war and is pro nuclear weapons, didn’t unduly bother me at this time, as he had always been seen as a loyal MP.

But a shock was in store.

Just 24 hours after I sent my email I received his detailed reply.

Using words reminiscent of UKIP’s Nigel Farage or Enoch Powells’ infamous Rivers of Blood speech from 48 years earlier, his reply speaks for itself.

Here are parts of that lengthy email:

“Labour from 2004 to now should have been raising the free movement of labour. Labour from 2010 should have been shouting that the main reason that there is pressure on schools and hospitals is public sector cuts made by the Conservative government – not principally because of some builder from Poland.

“However, Labour should also have been acknowledging that the free movement of labour was worsening that situation.

“As it was, Jeremy Corbyn kept saying in the last month of the referendum that immigration is not a problem at all. It may be not in Islington, but it is perceived as a problem in parts of Wolverhampton; for example if a English-born child cannot get a place in the local Primary School, but Polish-born children can; or if an adult child has to pay a fortune for housing because so many of the local houses are occupied by 5 men from Eastern Europe – tenants who, as single young men are wont to do, sometimes add insult to perceived injury by leaving rubbish piling up in the front yard.

“It was over seven years ago that I first warned in Parliament of the issue of free movement of labour. The leaderships of Labour and of the Conservatives and of the Liberal Democrats then and now would not listen, UKIP did… and they have reaped the whirlwind.

“It was almost 10 years ago that I first warned in Parliament about the issue of Turkey’s prospective membership of the EU blowing up. The leaderships of Labour and of the Conservatives and of the Liberal Democrats then and now would not listen, but UKIP did… and they have reaped the whirlwind.”

In my opinion, as a life-long socialist and Labour voter, Mr Marris’s words are simply mindblowing. And with so many of his constituents from South Asian backgrounds the narrative is like a time out of mind.

According to the 2011 Census just 7% of the population of Wolverhampton were born in India or Pakistan. But more telling is that 17% follow a Sikh, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist religion – indicative of the fact that almost one fifth of Mr Marris’s constituents are second or third generation Asian immigrants.

But rather than fall into the obvious racist trap of skin colour set by Enoch Powell – Mr Marris turns his fire on white EU migrants.

I have already referred Mr Marris’s email to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the successor to the Commission for Racial Equality.

And tonight at Wolverhampton South West’s AGM I had planned, with other Labour Party members, to table a motion of no-confidence in Mr Marris and demand he steps down as an MP.

But at 1.47pm today (Wednesday, 13 July) – just five hours before the meeting was due to start – I received an email from Margaret Holt, Acting Secretary for Wolverhampton South West CLP, notifying me that the AGM has been cancelled.

No reason was given for the cancellation.

Though after the tortuous machinations of some Labour MPs over the past two weeks, I have my own suspicions.

Watch this space.

 

These MPs voted Confidence in Jeremy Corbyn

FORTY MPs voted full confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party… in Tuesday’s vote. We name 39 of them.

Updated and revised at 11 August 2016.

Also note that since voting confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, Pat Glass has since resigned from the Shadow Cabinet for family reasons.

  1. Andy McDonald
  2. Angela Rayner
  3. Barry Gardiner
  4. Bill Esterson
  5. Carolyn Harris
  6. Cat Smith
  7. Catherine West
  8. Clive Lewis
  9. Dave Anderson
  10. Debbie Abrahams
  11. Dennis Skinner
  12. Diane Abbot
  13. Emily Thornberry
  14. Gerald Kaufman
  15. Gill Furniss
  16. Graham Morris
  17. Ian Lavery
  18. Ian Mearns
  19. Imran Hussain
  20. Jeremy Corbyn
  21. Jo Stevens
  22. John McDonnell
  23. Jon Trickett
  24. Jonathan Ashworth
  25. Kate Hoey
  26. Kate Osamor
  27. Kelvin Hopkins
  28. Margaret Greenwood
  29. Pat Glass
  30. Paul Flynn
  31. Peter Dowd
  32. Rachael Maskell
  33. Rebecca Long Bailey
  34. Richard Burgon
  35. Ronnie Campbell
  36. Rosena Allin Khan
  37. Steve Rotheram
  38. Tulip Siddiq
  39. Yasmin Qureshi
  • We are unsure how Andy Burnham and Liz McInnes voted. At the time of the vote they both expressed public confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. It seems that at least one of them abstained on the vote. We believe that Shadow Cabinet “returner” Sarah Champion probably also abstained.

 

 

 

 

Traitors’ Gate: 28 Labour MPs named as part of Coup

Traitors_Gate

WE can now name and shame 28 Labour MPs who have signed up as part of an undemocratic coup to oust Jeremy Corbyn.

Most have been part of a cabal with a right wing agenda since September 2015, ready to use any opportunity to topple the Labour Party’s democratically elected leader.

Their plotting has been an open secret. As a humble journalist I was able to name 28 would-be assassin MPs as far back as January in  a published article entitled The Enemy Within.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accuses many of the assassins of being linked to the Blairite campaign group Progress.

“They all come from a sort of a narrow right-wing clique within the Labour Party based around the organisation Progress,”

he said.

“I don’t think they’ve really ever accepted Jeremy’s mandate. I’m afraid they have to recognise that Jeremy got elected with the largest mandate of any political leader from any political party in our history.

“I’m afraid they haven’t respected that leadership election result.”

The move to oust Mr Corbyn is outrageous, and more than 185,000 ordinary Labour members and supporters have already signed an online petition of total confidence in Mr Corbyn – who already has a mandate as leader from the vast majority of party members.

These plotting MPs have no mandate.

Jeremy Corbyn has the support and mandate of the vast majority of the Labour Party and by acting as they are, they are pandering to their own narrow self-interest and political opportunism

These traitors must be put on notice: We are watching you, have noted your actions as traitors to the Labour Party and your time as a Labour MP is numbered.

As at 10pm on Sunday 26 June, we can name:

Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) *

Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge)

Ann Coffey (Stockport) *

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) *

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) *

Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) *

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) *

Frank Field (Birkenhead) *

Gloria de Piero (Ashfield) *

Hilary Benn (Leeds Central)

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) *

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South)

Ivan Lewis (Bury South)

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) *

Karen Buck (Westminster North)

Karl Turner (Hull East)

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East)

Lillian Greenwood (Nottingham South)

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central)

Margaret Hodge (Barking) *

Mike Gapes (Ilford South)

Peter Kyle (Hove and Portslade)

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston)

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon)

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) *

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South)

Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

  • Those marked * were on the original list of suspected assassins, published in January

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, has been a close ally of Mr Corbyn for three decades, and gave warning to the plotters.

“If your local MP is undermining Jeremy Corbyn, opposing the anti-austerity measures that we want, people should have a right to say: ‘I’d like to have an MP who reflects my view.’ It shouldn’t be a job for life,” he said.

The redrawing the parliamentary boundaries, as part of plans to shrink the size of the Commons from 650 MPs to 600, will provide the opportunity to move against some right wing Labour MPs.

Under the Labour rules for boundary changes, existing MPs have the right to be reselected for a new seat if they can claim a “substantial territorial interest” of at least 40% in the new seat.

But reselection battles could be triggered under the current rules in many of the 206 Labour-held seats in England.

Just 36 will remain unchanged while in 54 of the seats the proposed boundary changes will be larger than 40% of the territory of the constituency, potentially opening them up to new candidates.

Many of these plotters have narrow majorities – John Woodcock’s (Barrow and Furness) for instance is only 795.

But Mr Corbyn still has a number of allies within the parliamentary party, led by John McDonnell, Andy McDonald, Dennis Skinner, Jon Trickett, Ronnie Campbell, Catherine Smith, Graham Morris and Diane Abbot.

In the past 18 hours Paul Flynn (Newport), Emily Thornberry (Islington South), Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) , Richard Burgon (Leeds East), Ian Lavery (Wansbeck), Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) and Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) have all put their heads above the parapets to support him.

Paul Flynn condemned the plotters as: “Orchestrated treachery. Resignations on the hour by the future Blair Tribute Party. Self-indulgent party games as steel jobs are in new peril.”

And this afternoon, shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham (Leigh) joined them.

“At an uncertain time like this for our country, I cannot see how it makes sense for the Opposition to plunge itself into a civil war,”

he said.

“I have never taken part in a coup against any leader of the Labour Party and I am not going to start now.

“It is for our members to decide who leads our Party and 10 months ago they gave Jeremy Corbyn a resounding mandate. I respect that and them.”

  • Please note we cannot do this alone. We as Labour Party members, associate members and supporters must unite around Jeremy Corbyn. Please help add to the list by sharing this article and posting comment on social media so we can expose all the plotters.

 

Tony Benn is turning in his grave over the treachery of his son

Benns

IN an act of Machiavellian treachery rarely seen at the top of the Labour Party, Hilary Benn has been acting in a sinister leadership coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn.

It emerged just four hours ago that Mr Benn, the shadow Foreign Secretary, called fellow members of the shadow cabinet during Friday and Saturday suggesting he will ask Corbyn to stand down if there is significant support for a move against the leader.

He also asked shadow cabinet colleagues to join him in resigning if the Labour leader ignores that request.

But in an uncharacteristic move, Jeremy Corbyn acted swiftly to stop Mr Benn’s attempts and immediately sacked him as Foreign Secretary.

Mr Corbyn informed Benn, the son of his former mentor, Tony Benn, at 1am on Sunday that he was sacking him because he had lost the Labour leader’s trust, a spokesman for the party leader said.

The spokesman said Mr Corbyn had “lost confidence” in Mr Benn.

The Labour leader is facing a no confidence vote over claims he fought a “lacklustre” campaign in the EU vote.

Mr Corbyn, speaking earlier on Saturday at a speech in London, had acknowledged rumblings of discontent about his leadership.

“Yes, there are some people in the Labour party, and the parliamentary Labour party in particular, who probably want someone else to be the leader – I think they’ve made that abundantly clear,” he said.

Sources close to the leadership indicated that Benn had been a marked man for many months.

The MP for Leeds Central dismayed Mr Corbyn, when he made a passionate speech in favour of British bombing in Syria in December.

By Christmas, the relationship had broken down to such an extent that sources in the leader’s office briefed they would sack Benn in the New Year reshuffle.

Benn stayed in place after protestations from other shadow ministers, but only after days of uncertainty over his position.

Rumours that Benn would be ousted in a future Labour reshuffle had circulated in Westminster since then. However, today’s development will be a major jolt to the shadow cabinet.

It is yet to be seen whether it will only strengthen the resolve of some to launch a unified assault on Mr Corbyn’s leadership or quieten down the rebels.

So at 5am on Sunday – less than 18 hours after I published Eight Labour MPs who should hang their heads in Shame, I am turning again to defend Mr Corbyn and try and shine a light on people intent on removing him for their own narrow political ends.

One thing is certain, Hilary’s father the late and great Tony Benn, an MP for 38 years and former president of the Stop the War Coalition, would be turning in his grave over his son’s recent actions.

Tony Benn, had diametrically opposite views on many issues – the most obvious being war and nature of nuclear weapons – to his right wing son.

Hilary Benn has always been very sensitive to comparisons to his late father’s socialist and humanitarian views.

Now he has not only betrayed his father’s loyalty to Mr Corbyn, but also his father’s memory.

For while Tony Benn often rebelled against the Labour leadership – most prominently against Tony Blair – he always did openly and often vocally from his seat in the House of Commons.

He did not go round in the darkened hours telephoning colleagues to arrange a coup.

But Mr Corbyn still has a number of allies within the parliamentary party, led by John McDonnell, Andy McDonald, Dennis Skinner, Jon Trickett, Catherine Smith, Graham Morris and Diane Abbot.

Last night Welsh Labour MPs called on their colleagues in Westminster to dismiss the motion of no confidence in their leader.

Paul Flynn called on colleagues critical of Mr Corbyn to “shut up”.

Jo Stevens, MP for Cardiff Central, said the move was “self-indulgent”.

Ms Stevens, said she believed it was “terribly unfair” to blame the referendum result on the Labour party.

“Two-thirds of Labour voters, according to the polls, voted to Remain,” she said. She suggested that the support for Remain among SNP voters was “identical”.

“So our situation is no different,” she said.

“I think we should be focusing entirely on what the country now needs.

“Our responsibility as a party is to ensure we go into these negotiations protecting the rights that EU membership gave us – human rights, consumer rights, environmental rights, and most importantly, our rights at work.

“They have to be safeguarded. We fought for them for many, many decades and we’ve got to make sure that they stay.”

Newport West MP Paul Flynn agreed, saying of some colleagues’ criticism of Jeremy Corbyn: “I wish they’d shut up and get on with the job that we have to represent our own people.”

“If you go ahead and undermine Jeremy, the only result will be two Labour parties because the party in the country is not going to accept a group of parliamentarians overthrowing a decision taken by huge majority by the rank and file of the party,” he added.

Later last night fellow MPs Richard Burgon (Leeds East) and Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) both tweeted their support for Mr Corbyn.

 

Eight Labour MPs who should hang their heads in shame

plotters

IN an act of narrow self-interest and political opportunism, eight right wing Labour MPs are using the Brexit vote as a chance to knife their leader Jeremy Corbyn in the back.

MPs Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey yesterday submitted a motion of no confidence against Mr Corbyn to the Parliamentary Labour Party chairman, John Cryer.

Mr Cryer will decide whether it is debated. If accepted, a secret ballot of Labour MPs could be held on Tuesday.

This morning, six other Labour MPs were on record as backing the motion, another 47 are said to have signed support.

The letter, sent to John Cryer, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will result in a discussion about Corbyn’s leadership at the next PLP meeting on Monday. It could then lead to a secret ballot of MPs on Tuesday.

Mr Corbyn, a long-time Eurosceptic, defended his conduct in the Euro referendum campaign amid criticisms that he offered no more than lukewarm support for remain, blaming government austerity cuts for alienating voters.

“I’m carrying on. I’m making the case for unity, I’m making the case of what Labour can offer to Britain, of decent housing for people, of good secure jobs for people, of trade with Europe and of course with other parts of the world,” he said last night. “Because if we don’t get the trade issue right we’ve got a real problem in this country.”

Asked about the vote of no confidence, he said: “Margaret [Hodge] is obviously entitled to do what she wishes to do. I would ask her to think for a moment. A Tory prime minister resigned, Britain’s voted to leave the European Union, there are massive political issues to be addressed.

“Is it really a good idea to start a big debate in the Labour party when I was elected less than a year ago with a very large mandate, not from MPs – I fully concede and understand that – but from the party members as a whole?”

The move to oust Mr Corbyn is outrageous, and more than 145,000 ordinary Labour members and supporters have already signed an online petition of total confidence in Mr Corbyn – who already has a mandate as leader from the vast majority of party members.

Yet the  MPs have no mandate whatsoever and most have been plotting their move for a long time.

Indeed six of the eight MPs I named in my investigation back in January entitled The Enemy Within – the 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accuses many of the would-be assassins of being linked to the Blairite campaign group Progress.

“They all come from a sort of a narrow right-wing clique within the Labour Party based around the organisation Progress,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ve really ever accepted Jeremy’s mandate. I’m afraid they have to recognise that Jeremy got elected with the largest mandate of any political leader from any political party in our history.

“I’m afraid they haven’t respected that leadership election result.”

So let’s shine a searchlight on these shifty eight MPs and expose their real agenda, which has little or nothing to do with the European referendum or its Brexit outcome:

Margaret Hodge (Barking)

A senior Labour MP and the prime mover of the motion to oust Mr Corbyn. She is a Blairite. She also voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

As chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee she is the party’s fiercest critic of tax avoidance but today it was revealed she was handed more than £1.5million in shares from a tax haven.

The Times reported the multi-millionaire had benefited from a controversial scheme that lets wealthy Britons move undeclared assets back to the UK without facing criminal action.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn
  • On an official list – leaked from Labour HQ – of MPs ‘most hostile’ to Jeremy Corbyn

Ann Coffey (Stockport)

Co-mover of the motion and a solid Brownite. She voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn
  • On an official list – leaked from Labour HQ – of MPs ‘most hostile’ to Jeremy Corbyn

Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

A Blairite and vocal right winger, openly hostile and an ongoing critic of Mr Corbyn. He voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)

Another Brownite and vocal critic of Mr Corbyn. He voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn
  • On an official list – leaked from Labour HQ – of MPs ‘most hostile’ to Jeremy Corbyn

Frank Field (Birkenhead)

A senior right wing Blairite MP and probably the fiercest open critic of Mr Corbyn. Voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness)

Another Blairite and prominent among the attack dogs on Mr Corbyn. He is the former chairman of the Progress group. He voted for bombing Syria. In January he resigned in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s so called ‘purge’ of right wing MPs from his front bench team. Has previously openly mocked Mr Corbyn. In March he tweeted that Mr Corbyn’s performance at the despatch box had been: “A fucking disaster”.

  • One of my original list of 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon)

The son of former Labour leader and multi-millionaire European commissioners Neil and Glenys Kinnock. He is married to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish Prime Minister, and as a fervent Euro campaigner probably had more to lose from the Brexit vote. His father Neil Kinnock has been opposed to Mr Corbyn’s politics for more than 30 years.

Back in March Stephen publicly gave notice of a leadership challenge if Labour failed to come second in the Scottish parliament election (Labour came third) and if Mr Corbyn failed to mobilise Labour voters for Remain.

He is viewed as a potential leadership contender from the right wing of the party.

Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge)

Another vocal right winger and former party whip. She voted for bombing Syria and was one of 20 rebels who did not oppose George Osborne’s law banning the government from borrowing to fund infrastructure during normal times

In March she gave notice of a leadership challenge and accused Mr Corbyn of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” after failing to “skewer” David Cameron over the Budget.

“If Corbyn is not prepared to buckle down and show proper leadership he should just go, and give us a chance to get a leader who can properly take on the Tories,” she said.

But Mr Corbyn still has a number of allies within the parliamentary party, led by John McDonnell, Andy McDonald, Dennis Skinner, Jon Trickett, Catherine Smith, Graham Morris and Diane Abbot.

Outside parliament, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, has been a close ally of Mr Corbyn for three decades, and gave warning to the plotters.

“If your local MP is undermining Jeremy Corbyn, opposing the anti-austerity measures that we want, people should have a right to say: ‘I’d like to have an MP who reflects my view.’ It shouldn’t be a job for life,” he said.

He reiterated his support for automatic reselection, saying it was one of the things he disagrees with Mr Corbyn on.

“The Parliamentary Labour Party does not represent the party outside,” he added.

The remarks by Mr Livingstone fuel suspicions among Labour MPs who oppose Mr Corbyn’s leadership that their time in Westminster may be numbered.

The redrawing the parliamentary boundaries, as part of plans to shrink the size of the Commons from 650 MPs to 600, will provide the opportunity to move against some right wing Labour MPs.

Under the Labour rules for boundary changes, existing MPs have the right to be reselected for a new seat if they can claim a “substantial territorial interest” of at least 40% in the new seat.

But reselection battles could be triggered under the current rules in many of the 206 Labour-held seats in England.

Just 36 will remain unchanged while in 54 of the seats the proposed boundary changes will be larger than 40% of the territory of the constituency, potentially opening them up to new candidates.

  • An hour after publishing this piece, Caroline Flint (Don Valley) – another from my List 28 – was interviewed on Radio Five Live. She celebrated the capitalist free market and denigrated Jeremy Corbyn as a failed leader.

 

 

Labour Party Tops Half a Million Members Under Corbyn

THE media’s coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is the “worst” any politician has received, John McDonnell said this week.

The Shadow Chancellor said that the way broadcasters and the press had treated the Labour leader was “appalling” and complained that the only media outlet to support Mr Corbyn since September had been the Morning Star, the socialist newspaper.

“Even the liberal left Guardian opposed us and undermined us at every opportunity,” added Mr McDonnell.

He said the coverage of the Labour leader was an example of the “establishment using its power in the media to try and destroy an individual and what he stands for”.

But Mr McDonnell insisted it would not succeed in weakening support for his and Mr Corbyn’s policies and instead predicted it would have the opposite effect.

Now new figures support this view with the party boasting more than 575,000 members, the highest figure for 40 years.

More people have joined the Labour Party since last year’s General Election than are members of the Conservatives.

By contrast, total Tory membership is around 150,000 people, according to the latest available figures, down from over 253,000 during the 2005 leadership contest.

Total Full Membership of the Labour Party is now 405,352 – more than Tony Blair enjoyed at the 1997 election.

Add to this more than 170,000 Registered Supporters and the Labour Party now has a membership in excess of 575,000. This is the highest party membership figure since 1976.

The membership surge has allowed the party to pay off its £24.5 million debts and abandon its forced move out of Westminster.

Iain McNicol, Labour Party General Secretary hailed the “huge accomplishment” for the party, saying it could now “move forward, away from the cloud of debt that has been hanging over us for so many years”.

He said moving into the black would put the party in a stronger position to make long-term financial decisions.

Significantly, it means the Labour Party headquarters will not be forced to decamp three miles away to Kensington – as had been planned.

Having its base so far away from Parliament and the Leader’s office would have been a logistical nightmare.

Instead the Party HQ remains a five-minute walk away from the Houses of Parliament at Southside in Victoria Street, just around the corner from the party’s former base in Brewers Green.

Labour’s membership leap has been driven by a surge in joiners during and since the party’s leadership election, which saw Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the party.

Figures released by the party in November showed more than 62,000 people had joined the party since Mr Corbyn’s own election as leader two months earlier – a figure higher than the 47,000 people who are members of UKIP and the 61,000 in the Liberal Democrats.

The composition of the Labour Party is changing too. The average age of the party membership fell by 11 years over the last six months – from 53 to 42 – and more women than men joined.

“Let’s get these new members involved in campaigning, helping relay our roots in communities, being involved in a digital revolution in the party that allows members to feel that they’re more included in the decisions we make,” said Deputy Leader Tom Watson.

This is a far cry from the dim days of 2006, when under Tony Blair’s leadership, warnings were made that Labour Party membership could disappear within seven years if the rate of decline at the time continued.

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and a former Downing Street aide, said in December 2006 that the party had lost 160,000 members between 2000 and 2006 – the equivalent of one every 20 minutes.

He warned Labour must rally members and re-engage with the electorate through community campaigning, saying: “You need to build it from the bottom up. Activity on the streets, a local presence, continuously, year on year and not just at election times.”

And as recently as February last year a similar warning was made that if electoral defeats and a loss of membership continued then Labour’s ‘core’ support would soon be reduced to London and several other big metropolitan areas.

For a long time Labour have ignored this collapse in support. First they denied it. Then they suggested that it didn’t really matter.

Then, under Ed Miliband’s leadership, they were reduced to hoping that these voters would somehow return by May when faced with the prospect of another Tory government.

And of course the rest is history.

Now fast forward to January 2016 and more than half a million paid up members and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party show that Labour’s new direction is more popular than anyone could have imagined.

It appears that the more the media spin against Mr Corbyn’s leadership, the more the general public react by becoming members.

“All the spin and bias has proved to be counterproductive because the more attacks on Jeremy, the more members we recruit,” added John McDonnell.

If the past eight months has showed us anything, it is not to trust political pundits or the right wing media – and to believe that another world is possible.

Footnote: After publishing the above blog post, this was reported in The Guardian. Well worth reading: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/13/revealed-how-jeremy-corbyn-has-reshaped-the-labour-party

 

 

Paris, Isis, Syria and The Bankruptcy of the Fourth Estate

SINCE the atrocities in Paris three weeks ago, the British press has been on overdrive to give us every twist, turn and snippet on who is to blame and what we “must do” to “protect our freedoms”.

Freedoms, which the same press tell us must be supported by restrictions, MI5 eavesdropping, tightened border controls and censorship once only dreamed of by George Orwell.

As a newspaper journalist for almost 30 years I have grieved deeply at the unbridled spin, sensationalism and political propaganda of the news reporting since Friday 13 November.

The ink is barely dry on the reports of Wednesday’s 10 hour debate in the House of Commons and the decision to bomb Syria, but already the pencils are being sharpened and the keyboards warmed to lead us to the next pre-ordained national conclusions.

I believe we are slowly witnessing a bankruptcy of freedom within our Fourth Estate.

For the uninitiated, the Fourth Estate commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or “the press”.

Thomas Carlyle attributed the origin of the term to Edmund Burke, who used it in a parliamentary debate in 1787 on the opening up of press reporting of the House of Commons. In 1841 Carlyle wrote: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

He described the journalists’ role in representing the interests of “the people” in relation to the business and political elites who claim to be doing things in our names.

The intellectuals of the 18th and 19th centuries who gave us the conception of the Fourth Estate as a civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power, also provided the philosophical argument for defining the public citizenry and the nation-state as two separate entities with differing interests.

But my belief is that position has been hi-jacked by corrupt big business ownership of our media.

If we accept the premise of the Fourth Estate, we also have to ask ourselves if the “national” and the “public” interest are the same thing. It might be easy to think that they are, but it would be a mistake.

They exist as ideas, but in reality the nation and the public are not homogeneous.

In a capitalist world both are divided along class lines. In this context, the national interest is about state secrecy and keeping things from us. On the other hand, the public interest is about disclosure and our right to know.

But if we look at who trained and funded the ISIS terrorists and which countries now sustain them to carry out attacks, such as those on Paris and Beirut, the press has not been forthcoming in its reporting. Instead it focuses on Muslims, refugees, border controls, divisions within the Labour Party and the “need” to bomb Syria.

Governments that claim to act in the public interest must face closer scrutiny of their actions. They must be called to account when overstepping the bounds of what citizens will support, or when taking actions that are clearly not in our interests. According to national polls, most British citizens were against bombing Syria, yet that fact was overtaken by another politically led agenda.

The news media – as the tribune of “the people” – must be constantly on guard and alert to actions of the state, particularly when those actions may harm the interests of citizens.

Have they really done that in their reporting about Middle East terrorism, ISIS and the need to bomb Syria? I don’t believe they have.

This separation between the people and the state becomes more important when the economic interests of the powerful so frequently dominate society.

But today, the state is the executive branch of the ruling class and its big business paymasters.

Almost 78 per cent of our press is owned by a handful of mostly foreign-based billionaires.

Our newspapers like to paint their own role as heroic – they are the brave defenders of democracy who hold our elected representatives to account.

Watergate is the archetype of this kind of journalism and it does occur now and again in the UK, but it is rare – perhaps the Telegraph’s revelations over MPs’ expenses in 2009 is one of those rare examples.

But too often, far from protecting our democracy, our papers subvert it.

In his Inquiry, Lord Leveson quoted some lines from Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day – Milne: “No matter how imperfect things are, if you’ve got a free press everything is correctable, and without it everything is concealable.” Ruth: “I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.”

In a free press, the nature of the newspapers matter very much.

The nature of a paper is set by its owner. Press barons wield far more power and influence than all but a very few MPs and have, unsurprisingly, used it to further their own interests.

Since 2010, the barons have pushed the highly contentious argument that there is no alternative to Austerity and have largely ignored the stories of the widening social divisions and the swelling numbers at food banks – the 21st century’s soup kitchens.

Newspapers exercise power and influence in many ways. And one of their most powerful forms of influence is the ability to effectively set the political agenda for the other media and more widely, in parliament, the workplace, the home and the pub.

Newspapers put great store by the concept of editorial independence. Sometimes, it is a reality. The Lebedevs, for example, own papers – the Independent and the Evening Standard – which take markedly different political stances.

Too often, however, editorial independence is a sham. Proprietors choose editors who they know share their views.

In my own experience I witnessed this at first hand when Margaret Thatcher’s close friends the Barclay Brothers bought The Scotsman in 1997. Within a few months, the new owners had their own right wing editors, the odious Andrew Neil and his Fleet Street bulldog Martin Clarke installed in the editors’ chairs. It took this vile pair less than a year to transform a newspaper, once the bastion of Scottish broadsheet journalism, into a pale imitation of the Daily Mail.

Rupert Murdoch’s candour at the Leveson Inquiry was revealing. He said that if someone wanted to know his opinion on a subject they should just read the leader in the Sun.

That most newspaper owners should seek to define the political stance taken by their publications is not especially surprising. Newspapers are rarely profitable and it is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that ‘the press barons are in newspapers for power, influence and easy access to the establishment’.

Likewise, the mechanisms through which owners can, and do, interfere with or shape content to promote particular viewpoints are not difficult to identify; they range from directly dictating the line a newspaper should follow on particular issues, to appointing senior staff with a shared political outlook, as well as forms of indirect influence over the ethos of the organisation which may prompt journalists to engage in ‘self-censorship’.

The Sun’s infamous claim following the 1992 general election that ‘It’s the Sun Wot Won it’ is widely known. Yet, in almost half of all general elections since 1918 ‘one newspaper or another has claimed to have swung the result’.

The Fourth Estate is now more powerful than ever, but it is no longer the once heralded “civil watchdog to keep an eye on those in power”.

It is shaped by two dominating principles – sensationalism and simplification, the consequence of “hyper commercialisation”.

It has led to ever fiercer ratings and circulation wars, which inevitably leads to what is called “dumbing down”. To succeed, the media industry tries to appeal to the lower instincts of people.

Of course it is one thing to pander to lower instincts. But they have to be there in the first place, and so has the willingness to be pandered to. In the end, people have a choice.

One has to face an unpalatable reality: Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets are giving the people what they want – fun, games and entertainment – which in some ways is more “democratic” than the cultural elites, who tried imposing their values and standards on the masses.

In the “democratic age” news and information have been transformed. The way politics is covered has changed radically.

Papers don’t report news, they present it according to their preferences and prejudices.

The growth of columnists has led to the birth of a Commentariat. It contains a few excellent and analytical minds, but all too often reasonable, balanced voices are drowned out by journalists who seem untainted by facts or deeper knowledge but replace this with gleefully presented prejudices. Look no further than Katie Hopkins or Jan Moir for examples of this type.

A lot of modern political journalism ignores context and complexity, presenting everything in black and white, while the nature of politics most of the time is a balancing act between contradictory interests and demands.

News has thus become more superficial and sensational. The need for images and pictures is greater than ever. Note how the single photograph of a dead Syrian child on a Mediterranean beach in September this year shaped the Western view. For a short time our newspapers referred to the hapless refugees by the correct terms rather than the “swarms of migrants” favoured by David Cameron and Nigel Farage.

But that didn’t last and following the Paris attacks these self-same Syrian refugees were being labelled migrants and potential terrorists by our press.

Sensationalism and oversimplification are affecting the output of all media. There is less room for a balanced approach, for analysis instead of going for the crass headline or extraordinary story. The merciless hunt for weaknesses and inconsistencies of politicians and other public figures has become prevalent.

All this has contributed to change democratic politics for the worse. The electorate has become hostile and distrustful of the media and politicians alike.

Trust has broken down threefold, between people and politicians, media and people, journalists and politicians, with the latter now observing each other with deep distrust and mutual antipathy. A vicious circle has established itself.

The chances of the public receiving the information they need to participate in democracy is declining even more.

Democracy and civil society need informed citizens, otherwise they will have difficulties in surviving. Without a free Fourth Estate, aware of its own power and responsibility, an informed citizenship cannot be sustained.

What our democracies have got today is an electorate which is highly informed about entertainment, consumer goods and celebrities, while being uninterested in and deeply cynical about politics, equipped with short attention spans and a growing tendency to demand instant gratification.

If this trend cannot be reversed the political arena might become even emptier than it is now.