Why I’m feeling pushed out of The Labour Party

Yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn was unsurprisingly re-elected as leader of the Labour Party. With another impressive result, increasing his mandate to 62%. This leaves me personally in a tough position. You see, I am someone many in the party now might describe as a ‘red Tory’ or a ‘Blairite’. The Labour Party has always been a big tent party, being home to all those on the left of British Politics and although we have seen conflict in the past, the party has almost always held strong and united under the common aim of serving the most vulnerable in society.

Now Jeremy has a good heart, he has clear and strong values and although I don’t agree with him on everything, most notably foreign policy and some of his economic views, I feel, like myself he is fighting for the most in need. Where the problems lie are some of the figures behind him. This leadership contest has been the most bruising yet and has completely alienated me from the Party I have supported my entire life.

Momentum started as a grassroots organisation supporting Jeremy’s leadership after his victory first time around, and over the past year it has grown exponentially. Many lines coming out of the group have been extremely worrying. During the back end of the campaign this year where they published a list of MP’s they would like to see deselected and this wasn’t the first time. After the vote on airstrikes in Syria there were many suggestions from Momentum to deselect MP’s who did not hold Jeremy’s view on the intervention. This blatant disrespect towards our MP’s saddens me greatly. Many of these MPs are hard working men and women who have dedicated their lives to the labour movement. Take Liz Kendall, one of the so-called moderates who I’m sure Momentum would love to deselect. This week alongside Norman Lamb and Dan Poulter she renewed calls for a cross-party commission to tackle the horrific funding gap in our NHS. This is someone we should be happy to have to working with us, fighting to keep our National Health Service one of the best in the world, not being set aside as a traitor by our members.

And it’s not just threats of deselection over the past 12 months there have been several claims of abuse on our MP’s. Threats of rape, violence and Antisemitism appear to have become common place. The Labour Party feels like it has been taken over by a mafia gang with the levels of abuse we are seeing. The abuse against women and the Jewish community hits home the most, as we are the party that have always fought for an egalitarian society.

This is definitely not what Jeremy Corbyn would have wanted to bring to the party after being elected 12 months ago but it is definitely his responsibility to stamp out. And we have not seen that from Jeremy, yes he condemns the actions of these certain individuals but words aren’t enough. For The Labour party to be seen as a safe place for all thought on the left of British politics we need him to take action against these groups as ultimately they are acting in his name.

So where does that leave me? A self-described social democrat who wants to fight and campaign for a government with fair policies giving the poorest in our society the ability to prosper, protect our liberties and regulate business in order to help our workers and consumers. All while keeping our people safe and secure. That is a question I can’t currently answer. I want to stay with the party I have voted and supported my entire life, but it just doesn’t feel like home anymore.

‘Malcolm Tuckered’ – A tale of long lenses and documents on show

This week, Justine Greening, Education Secretary, looks set to bring about the return of the Grammar School. This idea was originally floated in the press following a photograph of a document carried by an unnamed official walking into Downing Street. Generally this kind of incident happens relatively regularly; civil servants, political assistants and MPs themselves seem to forget that the large scrum of photographers lined up opposite the black door to number 10 often carry lenses strong enough to see through a polly-pocket folder.

The offending document, hot off the press from the office of the top civil servant in the Department for Education.

Analysing the photo, it appears to me that whoever the person carrying this document is, they certainly seem to be trying to make the document far more visible to an onlooking photo journalist. Sound familiar?

My favourite political comedy, The Thick of It, has already satirised this exact situation. Series 4, Episode 2; Leader of the Opposition Nicola Murray is photographed holding notes from a meeting, outlining a policy that she hoped would bring benefit for ‘quiet bat people’. In the programme, this incident is all a ploy by the illustrious Malcolm Tucker to take Nicola Murray down from the inside, by alerting the press to her apparent stupidity at the helm of her party.

The image that brought down Nicola Murray, and eventually, Malcolm Tucker himself.
The image that brought down Nicola Murray, and eventually, Malcolm Tucker himself.

The plot by Malcolm backfires; on closer inspection by an inquiry launched following a political disaster, the photo incriminates Malcolm in having illegal acquired an NHS number.

Anyway, back to the real world. Grammar schools are a massively emotive issue, and there are arguments across the political spectrum both for and against them. Some argue they improve social mobility for pupils from right across communities. Others argue that they serve no purpose and are a relic of the past. It’s not limited to Tories voting one way, Labour voting the other. Imagine if someone working the Department for Education wasn’t too keen on the idea? A peeved civil servant? A grumpy political assistant? Or even a rogue MP?

One shuffled pile of paperwork to be taken to the PM’s office and suddenly an idea not yet fit for public consumption has been shouted out from the hills. I don’t think Justine Greening or Theresa May (definitely not Defence Secretary Michael Fallon) thought Grammar Schools would be on their to do list, but someone decided otherwise. Now Justine Greening stands before parliament, defending the government’s previously unknown plans to bring Grammar Schools back from the dead. Though despite unnamed attempts to scupper Grammar School plans, I don’t think this will develop into the ‘Quiet Bat People’ moment a conspirator might have hoped for.

It’s my birthday, so be nice!

An introduction to the West Midlands Combined Authority

In 2016 the Cities and Local government act came into law. This act allowed the formation of combined authorities with directly elected mayors and with it devolution of certain local services. This was a crucial part of George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision and plans were quickly made in forming many combined authorities in Northern England for example, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and Sheffield City Region. The North was given a lot of love by Osbourne during the 2015 campaign, but alas nothing on the West Midlands. Almost as if the region itself doesn’t exist, leaving many residents worried about the plan for them. Was the area going to become a commuter hub for London? Something not too far fetched with the only recent large-scale project announced being HS2.

Birmingham, the Uk’s second largest city forgotten by Osborne

Home to over 2 million people and with 90% of residents relying on the area for work. The region is in desperate need for its own devolution plan to drive growth and tackle many of the issues in the area. For example, youth unemployment well over 20% in Birmingham and Wolverhampton and fewer people able to get on the property ladder.

But luckily we can take a sigh of relief of sorts, after much arguing between local authorities we finally have our own devolution plan and a new West Midlands Combined Authority with an elected mayor coming in 2017. But what is the plan and how might things change? Overall you won’t see much change, you’ll pay your Council Tax to the same people, the same bin men will come every week and you will still elect representatives to your local council.

Former MP for Birmingham Erdington, Siôn Simon(Lab)
is the first man to put his name forward for mayor

But there will be changes in certain areas, most notably transport. Firstly, the Mayor will have the ability to award Bus franchises, with the aim to allow better integration across the region and the wider roll out of smart ticketing. In addition, the area has already seen Rail devolution with a new body formed called West Midlands Rail. Which has been working with the DfT to outline the required service for the next West Midlands Franchise coming in 2017. The Briefing document boasts huge increases in capacity, reinstatement of old lines and modernisation of services with Wi-Fi on all services by 2019 and £5 Million investment to improve stations.

Massive improvements asked of new rail Franchisee including
a 30% increase in peak time capacity 

Another key area we will see changes is housing. The authority will be granted compulsory purchase powers, a £500 million housing investment fund and a new land commission to investigate ways of making new land available for building. All of these powers are granted with the objective of driving new house building in the region.

Finally, Education will also see some changes. The authority will be responsible for delivering an Employment and skills strategy throughout the area, working with businesses and government to identify skill gaps and to plan how to tackle these gaps. Also the authority gains local control of adult skills education, giving  the power to invest in the skills needed within the region. Furthermore, alongside the government, the authority will undertake a review into 16+ education to provide recommendations on how to improve the service received by our students.

So it would seem a great deal of power has been given to our new Mayor and Combined authority, even more than I have mentioned (Click here to read the full plan). Hopefully, the plan will bring prosperity and improvements across the region and get more people interested in local politics.

 

The tax crusade begins and Ireland is the victim

The Republic of Ireland is a nation that I know and love. My mother was born there, my father’s family come from there and I am a citizen of the emerald isle. I often visit; for birthdays, weddings and funerals generally. Over my many years of visiting, I have come to know and appreciate the country’s main struggles and strifes.

I think there is a misconception that Ireland is a slightly more rural looking version of the UK. We speak the same language, and it is so geographically close, you could be forgiven for thinking that these days there is little difference between the two. But again, these days it is easy to forget that the northern counties of Ireland, and Northern Ireland itself, were a war zone not so long ago.

Then of course, beyond the many massive cultural differences, the thing that probably sets Eire and the UK apart, is economics. The Republic of Ireland, despite years of EU investment in infrastructure, is a poor country in comparison to the UK.

Perhaps that slightly rambling introduction might leave you wondering what this article really has to do with anything. Well, Ireland’s fight to rebuild and inject some life back into the Celtic Tiger was sent back to square one this week, thanks to a body that has often been the first to come to Ireland’s aid.

The European Commission has ruled that Ireland must claim €13 billion in tax back from Apple. Across Europe, many see this as a victory against multinational companies abusing tax policy in order to maximise profits. But strangely, despite a possible €13 tax windfall, the Irish government will not be popping the champagne corks anytime soon. In short, this is a disaster for the Republic.

In recent years, Ireland has hit tough economic times, and as a country they have been hit hard by job losses and a lack of business. To combat this, the Irish Government have made a concerned effort to reduce tax levied on large companies in order to encourage large firms to set up shop there. They didn’t just set up shop; Apple, Intel and Google have all based their European headquarters in Ireland. This has brought a much needed economic boost and the results were almost starting to show. Foreign investment was the main factor in a massive 26% jump in Irish economic growth last year.

Yet suddenly this week, all of this has come undone. The European Commission has taken issue with Apple’s Irish tax affairs, and it is clear that they will not stop there. As they slowly take apart Ireland’s attempts to attract foreign investments, the EC could single handedly be responsible for the flight of the multinationals that have been slowly bringing Ireland back to life.

In the past few years, we’ve seen a European migrant crisis, European security disasters and Brexit. Now add to that list an effort to send an EU country backwards in its attempts to boost its own economy and it does make you wonder; maybe the Brexiteers were on to something after all?