Response to Owen Jones

Ok. Here goes…

I do not like the title. The title is an assertion that I, as the reader, must do something for you, without discussion. Why? What do I owe you? Or, are you trying to say that because I am a Corbyn supporter I must do this? I don’t think so. You are dividing me from the rest of the party unfairly.

You then present your opinion as an assertion that can’t be debated, then pre-emptively complain that the reader will not allow for opinions to be debated. You go on, as you yourself noted, to make a lot of complaints about how you have been treated by… who? Are you still accusing all of us at this point? It’s not clear. For the record, that’s an unfair accusation. Many of us have counted you with us, and have not criticised you. Or, wait, you must be talking about those “bad” Corbyn supporters. Now you are dividing us again.

I really do not like how you’re making me feel by this point. And so far you haven’t even written much of anything at all.

Once this is done, you are afraid for the future, but you don’t say this. Instead you accuse us of disagreeing with you immediately. Do I disagree with your fear? No, I feel it too. Despite the fact you still haven’t written anything of substance, I know that fear. I see your point of view. Do I think we should allow fear to dictate what we do? Absolutely not.

I don’t need your CV. I’m not an employer.

I’ll skip over the rest of your complaining about not having your suggestions followed to the letter, and whatever it is you’re asking for from me (sympathy?).

I have to say, it is these things that have resulted in criticism of you, not the points you make.

And yet because of the way you began, you attempt to put this vast onus of personal responsibility and liability on each individual. On me. As if we are not an organisation. As if we are not a party of people that campaign and work together. As if the energy that is flying around is something that can be harnessed and controlled by one person if only they would pull their socks up and concentrate – and that person is the reader.

No. That isn’t how it works.

These are things that have to be debated, but there is no room for that in how you present this. There is no mention at all that meetings are suspended, where we could discuss these things. Are you holding us all responsible for that too? You present this to those of us who do use social media, but then say that social media is not effective. So what would happen to our answers, even if such answers existed?

You end by enforcing the sense of isolation that you have created in the preceding article by explicitly stating that if the reader doesn’t come up with answers then they are complicit in whatever doom you are certain must follow (and we mustn’t discuss that opinion).

I imagine it’s not just me who would genuinely like to know what we’ve done to deserve being divided and isolated in such a way, denied collaboration with our comrades in Labour, told we must personally give answers to questions that the whole party is struggling with or be held up as objects of scorn for ‘complicity.’

A more productive use of our time (while we are confined to social media) would be to debate with members of Labour who aren’t supporting Corbyn and see if we can get a template for the PLP to follow. The terms of such discussion should be as follows:

We accuse them of being so power hungry they will deny people the change that is needed.

They accuse us of being so married to principles that we don’t even want to win.

If the left and right agreed not to fall back on those default positions, what kind of conversation would we be having now? What are the things that we all agree on, however small? How can we move forward – together – from there?


Open Letter to Labour Right

Open Letter to the Labour right

This is not addressed to those who are busy attacking and undermining Corbyn in the media. As far as I am concerned your behaviour is disgusting and reprehensible. Leave this blog now.

Instead, this is for those Labour members who didn’t vote for Jeremy, and have grave doubts and fears about what this will mean going forward. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few of you lately, and so I wrote this. I hope you read it and that, even if you aren’t convinced, it sparks discussion. I don’t want to dismiss your thoughts, but I do want us to talk.

It’s impossible to speak for the movement, and I wouldn’t presume to, but broadly speaking this is about breaking with austerity and with consensus. It is about a new settlement. If those words strike fear into your heart, I ask you earnestly to provide an actual alternative that addresses the many problems we face and debate it. Gloomily muttered complaints to us about “the electorate,” failure and naivete will not subdue us, nor will they convince us. We have hope and confidence. We have new ideas with popular appeal. Hope catches. If you think that talk of hope is irrelevant, then I respectfully suggest that you consult some basic psychology textbooks. We are human, and our politics (without regard to Westminster) are human things too.

We will no longer be satisfied with crumbs from the table. For too long, electoral victory has been separate from victory for the majority of ordinary people. We want those two things to be the same thing: that if Labour wins, ordinary people win, and win big. That is what a new settlement is about. Everyone benefited from the Labour victory in 1945, when the only alternative offered was austerity. Everyone in this country right now, regardless of how they vote, whatever their views are, or wherever their perceived interests lie – all still continue to benefit from the things achieved by that Labour government. All will benefit from a Corbyn-led Labour government, likely for whole generations to come. That is what a new settlement means.

However much it frightens you, it is about not just changing the words we use, but a revolution in the way we think about issues like social security, employment and yes – representation. It is not enough for Labour MPs to pursue their own favoured agendas against the expressed wishes of the party membership as a whole. I should add that those wishes soon will be expressed. There are many of us attending our branches and CLPs now, and we will be heard with the aid of Corbyn. The things our MPs stand for must be the things that we agree together. We must be united in order to change the direction of travel. The Overton Window will begin to move back towards the centre at last, despite the best efforts of our mainstream media, and I have no sympathy with those who tacitly approve of political debate in this country moving further and further to the right. Even in the most basic interests of balance, that is undesirable. Democratic socialism of the kind we support protects a society against civil unrest further down the line, and due to the decline in our manufacturing industry, there is a dire shortage of pitchforks. Let’s not go there. Let’s change things now.

On the economy, it must serve everyone. A society which leaves people behind is an enemy to the basic premise of civilisation and invalidates the social contract. An economy that benefits the few or otherwise panders to the interests of an elite is a failure. Full employment is necessary not just for growth and governmental income, but because it raises the living standards of all by providing quality jobs with real benefits and higher wages. Realistically, combined with adequate public services, a properly funded NHS and free education, that is what most people want. It’s not too much. It’s fair, it’s reasonable, and more than that, achievable.

Ideological opposition to Quantitative Easing for capital investment in infrastructure is below you, please let go of it: you are Labour. Osborne’s failure to contain the deficit by cuts shows that the multiplier (when reversed) would lead to greater income and would pay for the original investment, plus generate extra in tax returns. Many economists agree on this.

I fear that, having considered some of your responses to our popular election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, I must leave you with this quote, and remind you that the “children” you patronise range from teenagers through to those in their nineties. We are not stupid, naïve or even destructive. But we are eternally young. We are the optimists. Debate this, come up with an argument, and if you can’t do that, please put down your doubt if you can and join us, because together we will win!

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through”

                                                                David Bowie – ‘Changes’

Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Mr. Corbyn,


Some time ago, I addressed that tweet to you when I heard you were running for the Labour Leadership. I’d never heard of you before, except probably in passing. Even then so many were expressing their disapproval of you (most of them people I disapprove of), that I was certain you were worthy of further investigation.

In one way I was disappointed. You didn’t impress me to vote for you. Like Clement Attlee’s quote about charity, in some ways voting is a cold, grey and loveless thing. Voting, if we’re honest, mostly involves passing responsibility onto someone else. Instead, you did something amazing that I never expected and had forgotten to hope for – you inspired and encouraged me to actually join in and get involved.

So we had the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, and you made a stand. With that you announced your determination not only to properly oppose the Conservatives’ plans, but also to represent people instead of opinion. How refreshing! I dared to imagine a Labour Party that stood its ground; that no longer followed, that did not act like a member of the electorate, that didn’t allow the Tories to set the terms of debate. I was angry with abstaining MPs, but I tweeted them with a view to encouraging them to support you.

You released policy documents that I read and re-read, finding ways to edit your sentences so that they’d fit into tweets I could share with others. I changed my name temporarily to Corbynette, to reflect my cheer-leading.

I was there when you visited Doncaster. I was listening carefully when you talked with us, rather than merely to us. The Jeremy Corbyn campaign is our campaign. The ideas are there for us to debate and discuss, and take forward. How wonderful!

We made endless blog posts, made videos, tweeted, shared statuses, talked to people every day about policies and ideas and what we really want for each other. Do we want austerity? No! Do we want everyone to share in the success of this country? Yes. And what we want most is for our campaign, the Jeremy Corbyn campaign, to win.

I donated to our campaign with countless others, as much as I could afford. I volunteered to help in any way I could, along with many others. So I was there when you came to Sheffield. And while you spoke with the hundreds of people outside, I was behind the ticketing desk, working together with someone I’d never met before, but with whom I shared an enthusiasm for this new politics which involves us all.

And now, if we should win, what then? You will have your own part to play, just as we have ours, and the campaign will continue. I hope you give that speech on Saturday, Mr. Corbyn, I really do, because we are all about the aims and values of the Labour Party: peace, hope, equality, democracy and prosperity. But most of all, solidarity.

Remember us. We stand with you on Saturday, and every day. We stand with you at PMQs. We stand with you in your efforts to unite the parliamentary party. We stand with you against opposition. If you represent us, we shall represent you on every doorstep, in every town, every public house, every workplace, every constituency Labour Party meeting that will have us.

You did so much more than impress me, and I did more than vote for you. Should all we hope for come to pass, we have five years, and we will pick up many others along the way as our movement grows. Then, together, we will all win in 2020.

Thank you so much for standing as Leader, and for inspiring and including so many of us. Thank you for uniting us. Thank you for not allowing all of our praise to go to your head. You are the same man who began this contest, and we can rely on you to remain constant going forward. With hope, I say: lead on! We are with you!

Review: Year of the Badgers – Paul Howsley

Review: Year of the Badgers – Paul Howsley

Set in the not-too-distant future, this is a story about a man, and his struggle to come to terms with a society that doesn’t care what becomes of those at the bottom.

Given today’s protests against workfare, it’s amazingly current, and eerily prophetic.

To those who think the events in this book are far-fetched. Respectfully, I’d suggest to go work in an Amazon warehouse for a week (if you can take it), or a call centre where every second of your time is micro-managed (and I do mean every second). Spend a month trying to satisfy the DWP, and see how long it is before you enter your first food bank.

It’s a brilliant story, and I’m wary here about giving anything away. But we’ve all known a Joanna. Whatever happens to those people? The legends in our lives. You may or may not find the answer in this book.

What you will find is a perfect juxtaposition of despair versus hope, and I’m not going to tell you which one wins out in the end, but I will say the sense of prophecy continues all the way through.

This book costs next to nothing for the digital version. Buy it – you will not be disappointed!

Corbyn Q&A – Doncaster

It doesn’t start when I thought it would. Because I’m hopeless and disorganised and depressed and mostly sleepless, I end up calling a taxi to take me to the train station. We chit-chat for all of thirty seconds before I say, all excited, that I’m going to Doncaster to see Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn!?” the driver says in recognition, a massive grin on his face, and I nod. A moment later the import of that makes it’s way through the ever-present fog in my brain. The rest of the journey, neither of us talks about the weather, or how busy the taxi trade is, or anything banal and ordinary. Instead, it turns out he’s a Labour Party member, and we keep telling each other things like:

He’s the best thing to happen to the Labour Party for years!”

It’s so brilliant, all this support.”

He’s got to win.”

Did you read that bit about…?”

It’s a fact that most people in my acquaintance are about as political as plankton. So this discovery that there are “others” is quite fantastic, although having said that my illness isolates me to a great extent, so it’s possible I’m just not seeing enough people. Probably more than two or three would do the trick.

I make the train, and as I walk out of the station I get directions from someone wearing a Corbyn t-shirt. On the way in everyone gets a winning raffle ticket for free, and the prize is getting to hear Jeremy Corbyn speak.

There’s a kind of low-level buzz of energy about the room while members greet each other, as if no one can quite believe they’re here, now. But we are here. Lots of us. And then we find out there’s another room full of people who’ve arrived after us. Jeremy is talking to them first.

Local man Tosh McDonald, the President of ASLEF, talks to us in the meantime, and it’s a great talk. We are treated to a bit of history about the trains and coal and the miners’ strike. But the theme running under all of it is public ownership. He reminds us that the coal and the mines belonged to us. The trains that moved the coal to power stations belonged to us. The power stations belonged to us. Looking around the room, lots of us are too young to remember, and the past suddenly seems radical rather than historical. Can you even imagine working in a job where you didn’t make money for someone else? A job that is truly for the national interest? No, I can’t either.

Those who do remember are here with us, and it fills you with a sense of how far backwards we have gone.

I learned a lot about trains, and had the strangest sensation as he talked about the rickety old trains that run on our local lines, how they’re rusting and have holes in the drivers’ cabs, and apologised to us for them. Apologised! As if it could ever be the fault of a great union like ASLEF, as if at some point some invisible and onerous charge had been laid at their feet to protect the railways for all time, even as everything was privatised around them. No. It’s not their responsibility. Their only responsibility is to ensure the welfare and working conditions of their members. It’s the responsibility of a government we’ve been waiting much too long for. A government we should have had from 1997 onwards, but that was somehow stolen from us.

And he went on to say things I’d never heard before, about that privatisation. About how parts of our rail network are run as a private concern by the state rail services of other countries in Europe, who take the profits from the high fares we pay, and poor investment we put up with, and use them to subsidise their own countries’ state run rail services, aided, abetted, and partly financed by our own government. It makes the blood begin to boil.

I’ve been reading the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists lately, because I thought it was time I really did, and I recall some thought of Owen’s in there: if the people only knew how they were cheated. Owen goes on to think that they don’t want to know. Well, there’s a difference around now, because people are starting to wonder. Even as self-isolated as I am, I know that’s true, otherwise there wouldn’t be this wave of support for Jeremy Corbyn.

He talks about Thatcher, and a low sound reverberates around the room, and that’s okay, because I’m from one of the mining heartlands, and I was born in 1976. We were brought up to hate her in our playgrounds, and as an adult, I don’t hate her any less. Because the jobs we used to have are gone. The lifelong security of that work is gone, and what’s left are much too poorly paid, zero rights wastes of time. My Dad used to work in the steel industry when I was a child (before it packed up and disappeared), and he brought home enough to raise us, to keep a family, so that my mum could bring us up herself at home without the need to claim for anything. Imagine that? I can’t now. Thatcher said there was no such thing as society, and people mistook it for an observation instead of a prediction of what she’d leave us with. Nothing.

Anyway, despite all that it’s a fairly rousing, inspiring talk. We all want those things back. We want our society back. We want public ownership again. Many of us have been wishing heartily for it for years. And just as I’m sitting there, he mentions New Labour’s shift to the right, and how there wasn’t anywhere for the core Labour vote to go, but now there is. And I’m guilty because I’ve voted Labour in General Elections because I have no other choice, but voted Green whenever I can the last few years.

Tosh says the SNP and the Greens have positioned themselves to the left of Labour, and I silently agree. What’s to be done? And then he says: “They won’t be to the left of a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn!” And I applaud because I want to come home. I nearly can. We only have to win, at least for now. And it is “we” not Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not voting for him to make choices for me, or to do the job of things I don’t want to think about. Voting for him is a vote for us: the forgotten, the abandoned. We, who’ve done nothing wrong except for be born working class while the Tories took everything away (including the “working” part of our identity) and New Labour did next to nothing to stop them, even when in government. What’s left isn’t work, it’s glorified slavery to fill your time until you die, poverty for all supported by the state.

We want to win, and we want to see Labour be great again. We want to move forward. And it’s time, isn’t it? Because the main event is coming in the room now to a standing ovation before he’s even said a word.

It occurs to me I’m seeing one of two things as he stands before us, quietly assured, confident and humble all at the same time. Either he is a man who will lose the leadership election to yet another pretender or pale imitation, or he has the potential to be the greatest Prime Minister this country has had since Clement Attlee. If he wins, he’ll have an army at his disposal, because if I’m sure of anything, it’s that those who want him to win the leadership want him to win the General Election in 2020 as well, and are prepared to do anything and everything they can to ensure it, whatever nonsense the papers say. I know because I include myself in that.

When he talks he hardly ever stops for the frequent spontaneous rounds of applause, and I’m glad because it means that at heart this isn’t merely a performance. And it definitely is not about adulation or hero worship, however much of it is present in the room. It’s a speech of conviction, a conviction that we’re all rapidly beginning to share.

You know the things he talked about, because you’ve been watching his videos, attending his meetings and rallies, reading his policy documents. You know what he says about housing, education as a public good, the environment and trident. I’ve read Northern Future, and whatever the challenges a Corbyn-led Labour might face, whatever the challenges a Corbyn-led government might face, it’s not just desirable and reasonable to want the things he advocates – it’s necessary. If the story of this country truly is one of progress over time, of people fighting for things, for rights, for education, decent housing and healthcare, and winning them; then it has to be him now. There can’t be any fear or hesitation. There is no alternative; there’s no other, easier, way. Standing before us is the real thing, and he doesn’t tell us: “This is what I’ll do.” Never. Not once. Instead, he says: “This is what we need to do together.”

He encourages us to read the policy documents and comment on them, to debate them, to suggest more things, better things. He is a leader that a movement can gather around and grow. He is a man we can have in common while we debate these things for ourselves. He is unity and inspiration, and we need him.

If I had to boil down the essence of Jeremy Corbyn’s message into a few words, it would be these:

The job of a government is to ensure the economy works and provides for all. Growth, prosperity and care for each other and our environment are not just possible, are not just dreams. They are necessary, now more than ever, and they are natural consequences when that first condition is met.

If you do anything important this week, this month, this year, or in your life. Register and vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

It’s the way forward.

Thank you for reading.