George Osborne’s assault on welfare must not go unchallenged | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian

They walk on air, for now. This government can say and do whatever it damn well pleases, with Labour awol until it has a leader. And George Osborne has just pulled off an outrageous betrayal of the cohorts of over-65s who gave the Tories their victory, yet nothing has happened.

Barely 10 weeks since a manifesto pledge to cap the care costs of elderly homeowners, Osborne has abandoned it. This perfidious U-turn is every bit as shocking as was the Liberal Democrats reneging on tuition fees. That’s just one example of the Conservatives’ current air-walking untouchability. But their majority is only 12, they make bad errors, and no one can fool everyone all the time with factoids and fictions.

George Osborne’s assault on welfare must not go unchallenged | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Why The Left Will Gain From Labour’s Transformation

An interesting narrative of just what the outcomes of the Special Conference might mean from the PoliticalIdealist. The Collins reforms were passed with 85% in favour and backed by the big unions including my own. The hard work starts now. The Party must had a deep hard look at its relationship with the unions and begin putting together policies that are firmly rooted in the socialist values that trade unionists hold dear.

Why The Left Will Gain From Labour’s Transformation from the Political Idealist

Local issues really do matter!

Residents living in the shadow of a proposed new supermarket for Hall Green will have received a letter over the weekend from Cllr Burden outlining his concerns and urging them to participate in the consultation process.

I too have a number of concerns and have formally submitted an objection to the plans submitted.

I do of course know that some residents will be in favour of having another supermarket but any positives that this new provision might bring to the ward are outweighed by the potential problems.

I really believe that we do not need this supermarket.

There appears no logical reason it should be built. It is proposed to sit some 150 metres from another supermarket well established in Hall Green.

We already have a number of large supermarkets in Hall Green and we have a series of large and small independent stores all catering to the diversity of the residents of Hall Green.

The new store will be slap bang in the middle of an established residential area and if the plans are approved could have a devastating impact on the local area:

  1. Due to the size and proximity to an established residential area the proposed development would result in increased noise and activity to the detriment of the amenity of the occupiers of adjacent dwellings.
  2. The size and the range of goods available for sale in the proposed store will have a significant adverse impact on local shops and businesses in the vicinity of the site, to the detriment of the ‘vitality and viability’ of existing businesses.  There has been strong concern expressed by local businesses and the proposal could result in the closing of local businesses and loss of local jobs.
  3. The proposed store will introduce further traffic into an already busy area and will result in an increase in not only traffic, but also ‘on street’ parking and congestion to the detriment of highway safety and amenity of nearby residents.  The local community is concerned that increase in traffic and lack of parking will compromise the safety of local residents.
  4. Due to its siting and size the proposed development will result in an adverse impact on existing protected trees, to the detriment of the amenity of the wider area and local wildlife. The building because of its large foot print will have a significant impact on certain existing retained trees in that the development will encroach into Root Protection Areas(RPA’s).
  5. Finally the design and appearance of the proposed development is not in keeping with the local area and consequently would have a negative impact on the street scene and surrounding area. The design of the building would be compounded by the substantial proposed hard standing and distinct lack of soft landscaping along the frontage of the site, which would further distract from the visual amenity of the area.

We really do not need another supermarket in Hall Green! If you think so to then please sign this petition… click here

If you would like to find out more about the proposals and concerns please come and have your say on Tuesday 10th September, 6.30pm on the car park of the proposed site, corner of Wycombe Road/Stratford Road, Hall Green, B28 9EH

Notes:

The plans are available from http://eplanning.birmingham.gov.uk ref 2013/05304/PA or from Hall Green Library.

Comments can be made online or by writing to:

Pam Brennan, Planning and Regeneration, PO Box 28, Birmingham, B1 1TU

We need a Labour Assembly Against Austerity

Only a progressive economic policy can succeed for Labour.

A progressive economic policy is also the best way to reach out to secure a broad coalition of support. Voters living standards have dramatically declined under this coalition government. Sticking with Tory spending limits in the next Parliament would ensure their further decline and cut Labour support.

That is why Next Generation Labour is calling for a Labour Assembly Against Austerity in October 2013.

We need a Labour Assembly Against Austerity.

Ross McKibbin · Anything but Benevolent: Who benefits? · LRB 25 April 2013

Ross McKibbin presents a must read view of the Tory led government’s hostility to the welfare state and its relentless ideological stereotyping, perpetuated by the right wing press, but that underlines the electoral interest of the Tory Party.

Anything but Benevolent: Who Benefits?

“It seems appropriate that just as the ‘reformed’ welfare state is ushered in, Margaret Thatcher should be ushered out. Appropriate too, that she, whose policies generated so much homelessness, should end her days in the Ritz. There used to be a genre of Labour autobiography with titles like ‘From Crowscaring to Westminster’, ‘From Workshop to War Cabinet’, which expressed something admirable about their subjects. ‘From Grantham to the Ritz’ isn’t quite that. The procession of Tory grandees on TV reminding us how Thatcher saved the economy, rescued the country from the anarchy of the 1970s, restored our faith in Britain etc made depressing viewing since almost none of those things is true, while the acres of newsprint devoted to her career tell us much more about ourselves than they do about her.”  Read more here.

Britain is broken. But it is the system that is broken, not the people

Politics is about struggle, about the clash of interests.  It is, ultimately, about how to create a society of common interests.

So let’s take a contemporary example – “One Nation”.  I applaud Ed Miliband for the way he has raised this idea and for the content he is trying to give it. But let’s not pretend that we are “one nation”, or that we will become one without the conflict that Ralph Miliband placed at the heart of politics.

We cannot create common interests across a society that is now more unequal than for generations simply by wishing for it. So how do we get to “one nation” and what part does working-class politics play?

The labour movement has been the backbone to political change and progress for generations; if the 20th century was the century of the working class, it was so because of organised labour and the trade union movement, itself a child of conflict (over who benefits from the wealth generated by capitalism). That is why the ruling class is so keen to keep trade unions in legal shackles.

Britain was the first country of trade unionism – a point reflected in Danny Boyle’s inspirational opening ceremony at the Olympics. If we measure the success of the labour movement as the extent to which it re-shaped the responsibilities of government, the 20th Century saw victories on an unimaginable scale.

It is a remarkable feat that, at a time when wealth was accumulated at the top and poverty for working people who lived ‘hand to mouth’, the labour movement was able to secure such radical change. The working classes, against all odds, transformed society.  If you were to have a Monty Python moment and say “what has the trade union movement ever done for us” some would of course talk about better pay and improved conditions at work. I would go much further, and say that the political activity of the working class secured almost everything we value today: democracy, peace, equality, our welfare state.

The idea that capitalism or the ruling elite would have introduced democracy or social equality or welfare on their own is fanciful. Much of these achievements are under pressure today.

I grew up in vibrant and politicised communities – life was centred on the docks.   Around work were formed the circles of working-class life – trade unionism, community, the Labour Party. Today, we cannot simply start from there. We cannot build a future working-class politics on a basis which has long eroded.

Perhaps the more significant change is the decline in secure and stable employment. Capitalism is the only system which has normalised unemployment. It is the responsibility of any system to offer work to people, and if it fails in this basic obligation, don’t blame the victims. In the last two weeks 11,000 jobs have been lost – HMV, Jessops, Honda to name a few. Today’s hard working poor – victims – are tomorrow’s benefit scroungers, if you listen to the right wing press.

We must first confront the crisis of confidence born of increasing marginalisation, to say that we speak for the working class, that the working class speaks for a better world for all – and we have to organise and fight on that basis.

Unite is leading the way with an ambitious new programme to recruit, organise and educate across the whole of our communities. The unemployed, the disabled, carers, the elderly, the voluntary and charity sector – it is time for these people to be organised and to be given a voice. Who better to do this than the trade union movement?. This sits comfortably within our traditions. Unite’s community membership scheme means that those not in work – aged 16 to 116 – can join our family for 50 pence a week. Community branches are springing up across the country, and our activists are going into communities, empowering people to do something for themselves.

Unite is also working to meet the needs of our members through the creation of a new credit union network. My union says pay day loan vultures have no place in our society, profiting off the misery of people on poverty pay. So our members will be able to obtain credit without having to resort to the ruinous interest rates of the pay-day loan companies.

The 21st Century is not ringing out the death knell of the labour movement; it is sending out a call to arms.  The apparently endless economic crisis which began in 2008 is seeing to that. In 1992 Margaret Thatcher claimed ‘It is the end of Socialism.’ A few years later Tony Blair declared ‘that the Class war is over’.  No doubt from the boardroom of JP Morgan or wherever he is now, it may look that way.

But this is false evidence that we have nothing left to fight for.

We are told that strike action, civil disobedience, direct action and protest are all somehow unpatriotic. Our history tells us they are not. Our `rulers’ are deeply afraid of Ralph Miliband’s assertion that politics is about conflict. They believe that those without hope, without jobs, now looking at cuts in their meagre welfare, that families being shunted out of London because of housing benefit changes should simply put up with it. Council leaders from our major cities have warned that people might respond with anger and civil disorder.  I would not be surprised.  We have seen remarkable local protests recently: from 20,000 in Eastbourne and 15,000 on the streets in Lewisham to defend their NHS to 350 people crammed into a room to protest against a library closure in Newcastle.

Protest against inequality is alive and well – look at the work done by UK Uncut to challenge outrageous tax avoidance by Vodafone and other giant corporations. It takes courage to risk unpopularity and vilification. But the truth does prevail.

The labour movement’s message must be one of ‘hope’. Britain is broken. But it is the system that is broken, not the people.

I am proud to associate Unite with these initiatives, and to hope to form a longer-lasting alliance between organised labour and radical protest, even if it comes from outside our traditional movement. And, as I have made clear before in relation to the trade union laws, while I do not ever advocate violence, nor do I preach worship of the law at all costs. So my message to capitalism is this:  mend your ways or risk mounting social breakdown and disorder.

People need a political voice.  Labour is the natural, historic, vehicle for their voice. But should there be any return to the discredited recipes of Blairism, the Labour Party will be over for me and I believe millions more besides.

In the midst of an unending economic crisis, with what Ralph Miliband would have called a discredited ruling class at the helm, it is time for the working class to step forward with its own vision and alternative.

Our values are eternal. Let’s stand courageous, and triumph like those that have gone before.

Len McCluskey is the General Secretary of Unite

This blog was published on LabourList on January 16, 2013 9:15 am