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Tag: Jeremy Corbyn (Page 1 of 2)

Question Time Ambush

It’s interesting to watch how this battle is developing. To begin with Jeremy Corbyn was taking the brunt of it, now that he’s weathered the storm and has gained the (sometimes grudging) admiration of a lot of non-political people, they are trying to pretend they actually quite like him and make ‘hard left’ Momentum, his ‘extremist, MP threatening antisemitic supporters’, and ‘that nasty piece of work’ John McDonnell, the ‘real problem’.

The strategy was evident in everything Alistair Campbell, Anna Soubry and Quintin Letts said on QT, which had all the appearance of a coordinated ambush. Soubry’s vicious attack on McDonnell, Campbell’s quickly escalating fight with the Shadow Chancellor, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry sniping from the sidelines and Letts’ far from subtle faux affectionate attempt to associate Jeremy with Albert (the dirty old man) Steptoe.

This is a like a piece of theater designed to have a particular effect on the public mind. I hope that by holding it up, examining it, we can use it to the opposite effect.

Cameron Condemned over Libya

This week a parliamentary-report-on-libya-intervention has admitted that the intervention in Libya was unnecessary and led to that country’s collapse and the rise of Daesh. Another shameful episode in Britain’s history. Cameron is as much a war criminal as Blair and although he claims that the intervention was sanctioned by the UN it is clear that he, Sarkozy and Obama went far beyond any remit they had and supported terrorists in destroying the Libyan state. I don’t know if Cameron’s resignation as an MP was in any way connected to the publication of this report but the timing seems more than coincidental.

While Cameron is rightly blamed for leading the charge, most parliamentarians are morally complicit, as 557 of them were right behind him .. Look at who were against:

The House of Commons voted by 557 to 13 to support UN-backed action in Libya at the end of their debate on 21 March 2011 – here is the full list of MPs who voted against, or did not vote:
Fifteen MPs (13 voted against plus two “tellers”) against:

Conservative: John Baron (Basildon & Billericay).
Labour: Graham Allen (Nottingham North), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), Barry Gardiner (Brent North), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington), Linda Riordan (Halifax), Dennis Skinner (Bolsover), Mike Wood (Batley and Spen), Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South-East)
Green Party: Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)
SDLP: Mark Durkan (Foyle), Margaret Ritchie (Down South)

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12816279

Related:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/16/jeremy-corbyn-leadership-david-cameron-libya-labour

JC and Me

Jeremy Corbyn was in Newham last Tuesday (22 Aug). It was a good evening. This is part of his speech. There’s a nice shot of me in the audience.

Supporting Labour Party Democracy

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Yesterday evening I attended a meeting to ‘Support Labour Party Democracy’ held by Newham Momentum at the British Institute of Technology and Ecommerce on Romford Road.

Matt Wrack (pictured at a different event), General Secretary Fire Brigades Union was the main speaker while John Pickard, a Momentum National Committee member, chaired the meeting. At a glance I would say that there were a bit over 100 attendees.

Matt and the meeting were strongly supportive of Jeremy Corbyn and condemned the attempt by a majority of Labour MP’s to oust him as leader. Newham MP’s Lynn Brown and Stephen Timms were also condemned for their support of a vote of no confidence in Jeremy. Eleven Newham Councillors who signed a letter calling for Jeremy’s resignation were also condemned.

While robustly refuting the unsubstantiated allegations of ineffectiveness levelled against Jeremy, Matt and others emphasised that we are not just defending Jeremy but also, and primarily, Labour Party democracy against attempts by the PLP to veto the membership’s choice of leader.

It was noted that the structure of the Labour Party discouraged and dis-empowered ordinary members from participating actively in decision making and policy setting. This must change and all members wishing to support Jeremy must do more that attend Momentum meetings and rallies, they must get involved by attending CLP branch meetings, as uninspiring as those tend to be.

I can’t remember the detail of the formal resolutions from the meeting but they essentially expressed support for Jeremy Corbyn and condemnation of those MP’s involved in the attempted coup. There was a call for the institution of a deselection process for those MP’s who refused to work with the leader that the membership has elected.

No Brexit

I support Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in saying we are better in than out of Europe. These are my reasons based on the arguments I have heard:

1. To be a single market the EU provides and requires a) industrial production standards, b) labour protection standards and c) environment protection standards that the UK. These require structures that the UK will have to subscribe to if it wants to trade preferentially as part of the single market. Withdrawing means either losing preferential access to the single market or having access while not having a say in making the rules.

2. The departure of the UK may well destabilise an EU already under stress. Varoufakis argues that there is likely to be a split between the ‘Germanic’ countries and the rest with negative social and economic consequences that would affect us in the UK.

3. Without a strong Europe the framework of protections already mentioned is further endangered and trade agreements such as TTIP will be even more weighted towards the global corporatocracy and more difficult to oppose.

4. Outside of Europe the UK is likely to be pulled even more towards the US economically and militarily.

5. Racism/fascism in European states is more likely to be moderated by a strong Europe including the UK than by a fragmenting Europe.

6. Many social and economic programmes run by local authorities and charities in the UK depend on European funding; these are likely to be lost if we leave the EU.

7. If England votes for Leave and Scotland votes heavily for Remain further strains will be put on the Union and there will be renewed calls for Scottish independence.

8. A Leave vote will be seen as a victory for the Right of the Conservative Party even if it is a defeat for Cameron. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party will be immediately weakened whereas Jeremy could build on a Remain vote as his strategy is likely to be seen as having been effective.

I am sure there are many other reasons that I do not know but these are strong enough for me.

Losing Momentum?

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In some ways, that support for Corbyn seems as vehement as ever. The newly formed Labour movement Momentum, which claims to have between 90,000-100,000 supporters, is adamant that it will fend off any challenge to the leadership results in the May elections go badly for Corbyn. The group also swept the board at the party’s youth elections, albeit on a very poor turnout.

But behind the scenes at constituency parties, new supporters seem reluctant to get involved with the new era they’ve created. The drudgery of monthly branch meetings has set in and most of these new members have stopped showing up, if they ever did.
Original article.

This is an interesting article and it confirms my own experience. There were just nine people at my first ward meeting on Thursday with me being the only new member. This despite the claim of 80 plus members on paper, most of whom were new. I think this is a problem but instead of bemoaning it we should be looking at strategies to overcome it.

Having voted for Jeremy to become leader I felt obliged to support him but I understand the factors keeping many people from participating. If people are not participating in a project or part of a project it is because it is not perceived as accessible, it’s not perceived as relevant to their needs, or its goals and direction are not perceived as congruent with their own goals and directions.

How do we address this? I would like to have that conversation but a clue may lie in the reasons that new members were so attracted to Jeremy. Among these reasons are:

1. Authenticity – clear about values, focused on them.

2. Radicalism – going to the root of the issues not just tinkering with them. Jeremy is genuinely challenging the status quo

3. Vision – clarity about direction

4. People Orientation – focussing on inclusion of people rather than systems and structures

5. Moral Autonomy – Jeremy is not a ‘good soldier’. He is more interested in doing the right thing than in doing things right.

It was for these reasons, and because he was seen to have lived them, that young people (and not so young people) were inspired by an old man. If they don’t see these characteristics in the party they will not feel inspired by it or motivated to participate.

What Attracted me to Jeremy Corbyn

Here is some stuff I posted to FB this week. The first passage is a reflection which wasn’t prompted by any recent article.

What attracted me to Jeremy Corbyn was not just his commitment to socialism, liberty, equality and fraternity but the fact that he wasn’t going to shoot anyone or even shout at anyone to get this. He is unfailingly courteous and aware of the dignity and humanity of others. I love his commitment to reasoned debate, whereas his opponents have characterised ideas and positions as out of date or unpopular he asks if they are true, reasonable, desirable. I like too that Jeremy is a non-conformist, a fully paid up member of the ‘awkward squad’ who doesn’t bow to convention and understands the meaning of the phrase ‘the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’. I like that he is intense and passionate. These characteristics are not incidental or optional extras when looking at the ‘Corbyn phenomena’, they are all integral to its working and complement each other. If our progressive movements are to be attractive and to succeed in inspiring hearts and minds they must have the same characteristics.

This passage was in response to a discussion on the decriminalisation of prostitution and Corbyn’s apparent support for this:

I don’t see why this has become an issue of what Jeremy Corbyn says or doesn’t says. He is entitled to take a position on this, to make a considered judgement about what is in the best interests of all involved and in the best interests of society. He is not obliged to take a ‘socialist line’ on this, if there is such a thing, or to be ‘right’, whatever that means. I am concerned about the line that says that no socialist would support the legalisation of prostitution or implies that no decent man opposed to the oppression of women would support legalisation. It appears that Amnesty International backs decriminalisation but other organisations have slated that decision as ‘incomprehensible’. I really don’t agree that it is ‘incomprehensible’ that is just so much emotive language. I can comprehend it because it is based on a particular analysis of facts (including the reported experiences and feelings of women such as Rosalie) and principles just as the opposing position is based on facts and principles. Facts and principles can be examined and challenged. There is no need for abusive language that shuts down thought and dialogue.

I commented too on this piece of self promotion by Labour MP Jess Phillips:

Bad move Jess. A self justifying video will not endear you to anyone. You say you are strong but you come across as asking to be pitied. You are the opposite of Jeremy Corbyn who has endured merciless personal abuse without complaint or effort at self justification. Your problem is not that you express thoughts honestly but that you express prejudices thoughtlessly.

Newham Momentum

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Yesterday evening I attended a meeting of Newham Momentum members or more accurately a meeting of prospective members of a prospective Newham Momentum group. The meeting took place at a ‘pop-up’ pub on Winchelsea Road in Forest Gate. There were six or seven people gathered around a table when I first got there and Rohksana, the local councillor who facilitated the meeting, introduced me saying that it was my intervention at the last meeting that has prompted this informal meeting. I said I felt that I had to be there as I had asked for this. I was very surprised when one of the attendees, Mike, said that he had read my description of the last meeting on my Netstorms blog. He said that he hadn’t been looking me up but had been looking for a report on the meeting. Of course I never expect anyone to read anything I write .. but I’m not going to let that change me or the blog.

A short while after I arrived more people arrived and I would say that there were around 25 attendees. The meeting was mainly social and afforded people time to chat informally with each other. I had envisaged a more formal informality with people expressing and listening to ideas and perspectives, but this informal informality was I think better at this stage. It was good chatting and much of the chat was about the right wing, Blairite, complexion of politics and the Constituency Labour Party in Newham. It is that complexion we need to change as part of our efforts to support Jeremy Corbyn and in order to do this we have to get involved with the local party structure. I’ve never been a party (political) animal and I am not keen on getting involved in arcane structures inhabited and run by probable hostiles but I do understand the necessity for this and accept that I have to venture beyond the comfort zone around my keyboard. I think that if I have any sort of ‘mission’ in regard to all this it must have to do with making the local political environment less hostile and more comprehensible to outsiders.

Rohksana spoke to the group briefly and confirmed that we would have the support of national Momentum in setting up a Newham Momentum group. I exchanged telephone numbers with some people. Rohksana took everyone’s email addresses. We agreed that we should meet again next months. I talked about the importance of using social media and agreed to work with another attendee, Stuart, who also keen on setting up a Facebook group and exploring the use of social media.

I thought it was a good meeting and a good start and as far as I can tell everyone else thought so too.

East End Momentum

Yesterday evening I attended my first meeting of ‘Momentum’, a group created to support Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda within the Labour Party. The meeting was local, only ten minutes by car, and held in the Working Mens Social Club in Boleyn Road. This was specifically East End Momentum covering Tower Hamlets and Newham. There were 50 to 60 people present and I was surprised that most seemed to be in their 50’s and 60’s though there were a few younger people present. I think that everyone, including the speakers on the stage, were uncomfortable with the formal setup of speakers talking down to an audience from a raised platform. The first speaker said she would have preferred a ‘horseshoe’ arrangement.

The panel consisted of an interim committee and three local councillors. They reported on a meeting of London Momentum and said that they were disappointed by the ‘chaotic’ nature of that meeting and the fact that no political issues were discussed. It appears that much of what has been happening in Momentum, London wide and nationally is about procedure and organisation building. At some point a member of the panel explained that whereas most organisations grew from a small group planning growth and development, Momentum started off as a large enthusiastic movement that now had to do the structuring work. I understand that a decision had been taken for Momentum to become a ‘membership organisation’ that would specifically exclude people who were members of parties not affiliated to Labour. This arose out of a tension between whether Momentum should be a broad organisation supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda or a pressure group for those ideas within Labour and it seems that the latter vision won out.

I got the first applause of the evening when I suggested that while the procedural stuff was necessary it was also necessary to ensure that people felt included. Democracy is not just a matter of organisation but of inclusion. I noted that as a youth worker I was most successful when I facilitated groups where members related to each other and not just to me or some agenda that I had. The same principle applies to adult groups.

After that the participants took more charge of the meeting. Two proposals from the floor, that the meeting supports the junior doctors strike and that future meetings should include political as well as procedural items, were agreed by the meeting. A third proposal that a separate Newham Momentum be started was deferred with the agreement of the proposers. Nevertheless Newham attendees agreed that we would meet less formally. We exchanged contact numbers and agreed to get together on Saturday 20th at an as yet to be decided venue.

Interestingly, and delightfully, a young man who came up to me at the end and said that he recognised who I was when I started talking about being a youth worker. Over twelve years ago he had been part of a youth group that I had worked with.

Corbyn’s Seven Questions

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The Spectator on 26th November published the ‘full text and audio: Corbyn’s seven questions to Cameron on Syria’ and Cameron’s response. These are some of my thoughts on the exchange:

1: Does the Prime Minister believe that extending air strikes to Syria will make a significant military impact on the ground, which has so far seen Isil gain, as well as lose territory?
David Cameron: It is worth listening to our closest allies, the Americans and the French, who want us to take part … because of the capabilities we bring … yes, we would make a military difference.

Cameron says that UK involvement would make a significant military difference but he does not say what that difference would be. Corbyn’s point is probably that given the combined air power of the Americans and the French the addition of British air power would not, in fact, be militarily significant but that British involvement would help maintain a façade of legitimacy.

2: Is the Prime Minister’s view that the campaign … can be successful without ground forces? If not, does he believe Kurdish forces or the Free Syrian Army would be in a position to take back territory?
DC: There are obviously many who want to play down the existence and the role of the Free Syrian Army. Our information and intelligence is that at least 70,000 moderate Sunni forces are able to help.

Neither Corbyn’s question nor Cameron’s answer acknowledges that the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies constitute the most effective force currently fighting Daesh. Neither the Kurds, who have been attacked by NATO member Turkey nor the FSA, which many commentators say does not exist in any effective form, has been shown to be in a position to take territory from Daesh and hold that territory. Cameron’s reference to ‘at least 70,000 moderate Sunni forces’ should be considered at best vague and unverified. That he refers to ‘Sunni forces’ should set alarm bells ringing for anyone hoping for the maintenance of a secular, non-sectarian state after the defeat of Daesh.

3: Without credible or acceptable ground forces, is not the logic of an intensified air campaign mission creep … Can the Prime Minister rule out British ground forces?
DC: Let me give an assurance that we are not deploying British combat forces, and we are not going to deploy British combat forces … western boots on the ground would be counter-productive.

It is not credible for Cameron to rule out the use of ground forces in any military campaign should conditions (or our American allies) require it. Corbyn is right to point out that an effective air campaign requires coordination with ground forces. The US led alliance does not have currently have credible ground forces the Russia led alliance does in the form of the Syrian Arab Army.

4: Does the Prime Minister believe that UN Security Council Resolution 2249 gives clear and unambiguous authorisation for UK air strikes? What co-ordinated action has there been … to cut off funding, oil revenues and armed supplies from Isil?
DC: The fourth question was whether the UN resolution is unambiguous. I believe it is. The Right Honourable gentleman rightly asked what else the UN was doing on sanctions, embargoes and squeezing the finances of Isil. There was a resolution back in February.

Cameron answers Corbyn’s question on whether UNSCR 2249 “gives clear and unambiguous authorisation for UK air strikes” by saying that he believes that 2249 is unambiguous thus introducing a certain ambiguity into his own answer. A relevant paragraph of the resolution says that the Council:

“Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter, as well as international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL also known as Da’esh as well as ANF, and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the United Nations Security Council, and as may further be agreed by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and endorsed by the UN Security Council, pursuant to the statement of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) of 14 November, and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria;”

There is an interesting discussion of the resolution here: http://www.ejiltalk.org/the-constructive-ambiguity-of-the-security-councils-isis-resolution/

The second part of Corbyn’s question did not receive anything like an adequate answer from Cameron. Saying that the UN passed a resolution in February is hardly an answer to a question about ‘coordinated action’ to cut off funding for Daesh. Cutting of funding to Daesh must be considered an essential part of defeating the organisation not only in Syria but internationally. When President Putin notes that he has “provided examples based on our data on the financing of different Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) units by private individuals.” and continues that “This money, as we have established, comes from 40 countries and, there are some of the G20 members among them,” ( https://www.rt.com/news/322305-isis-financed-40-countries/)” we must understand that Daesh is or is backed by an international network that must be identified and dismantled in order to both defeat Daesh and prevent its rebirth under some other guise.

5: How does the Prime Minister think extension of UK bombing would contribute to a negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, widely believed to be the only way to ensure defeat of Isil?
DC: The existence of Isil, or Daesh as many call it, with its so-called caliphate, is to deny the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria, so we cannot have a future Syria with the existence of this caliphate.

Whoa! I agree with Cameron on this. Talking about a ‘civil war’ in Syria is a misnomer. Daesh is a foreign funded entity that needs to be eliminated and the same can be said of some other so called ‘rebel groups’. Certainly the Syrian government and their legitimate opposition need to have a dialogue and need to put their arguments to the Syrian people in free and fair elections as the alternative to armed conflict but groups that persist in fighting the Syrian people and their government are clearly not amenable to dialogue. I welcome Cameron’s support for the territorial integrity of Syria but I don’t see that this squares with his wish to violate the same territorial integrity by taking military action in that country without the explicit consent of its legitimate government.

6: What assessment has the Prime Minister been given about the likely impact of British air strikes on the threat of terrorist attacks in Britain … on civilian casualties (in Syria) and the wider Syrian refugee crisis?
DC: We are already at the very highest level we could be when it comes to threats from Isil. In a year and three months of action … in Iraq, there have been no reports of civilian casualties. We have some of the most accurate weapons known to man.

I can’t comment on what has or has not happened in Iraq but I do know that the situation there is different because the US led coalition is acting with the consent and cooperation of the Iraqi government and people.

7: In light of the record of western military intervention in recent years, does the Prime Minister accept UK bombing could risk more of what President Obama called ‘unintended consequences’?
DC: We can have a bigger debate, I am sure, about the action we have had to take around the world. We have to recognise, in my view, that this poisonous narrative of Islamist extremism is a battle for our generation.

Corbyn is quite right to question the record of western military intervention. It has clearly led to disastrous consequences for the people of Iraq and Libya and it is a matter of record that the west and its regional allies have been responsible for supporting armed opposition to the Syrian government including opposition that morphed into or merged with Daesh. Western military intervention must be considered suspect in either its competence or its motivation or in both.

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