4th April 2016

0401eIt’s happening here too.

It’s great to see so many people in Northern Ireland getting excited about radical politics, about Jeremy Corbyn’s success in the Labour leadership contest and about Bernie Sanders’ campaign in America.  It’s wonderful to watch people defy the warnings of the mainstream media in favour of common sense compassion and justice.  And most of all it’s heart-warming to feel a little hope again.

Many people in Northern Ireland have recognised that we have the same story here – cynical parties more interested in holding onto power than in changing society, uninspired, uninspiring politicians going through the motions for another term, out-of-control expenses, vanity projects and petty bickering. A waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of opportunity.  And many have recognised that we have our own Bernies…

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It’s no coincidence that Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry is the health spokesman for the Green Party in England and Wales.  And the policies that brought Jeremy Corbyn to top the Labour leadership poll are those that he shares with fellow MP Caroline Lucas.  The difference is that she doesn’t have to fight her own party over them.

If you’re looking for sustainable, progressive, compassionate politics, you don’t need to sit around bemoaning the fact that we don’t have a Jeremy or a Bernie. We actually have something much better – not a lone maverick battling against his own neoliberal party establishment,  but a whole party united in a vision for a better, fairer, more equal and sustainable future.  And a party whose candidates, 50% women, truly represent the people they seek to serve, standing right across the eighteen constituencies.small1

This election is a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to raise a corner of the sectarian, conservative, secretive blanket that has smothered us for so long.  The new Green Party MLAs who will be elected this time – Clare Bailey, Ross Brown and however many more of us you choose – will join Steven Agnew and build on his brilliant work in providing a real opposition to the dreary power-sharing status quo and a real voice for the forgotten and the marginalised.

But there are only a few weeks to go.  After this, whatever we choose, we’re stuck with for another five years.  It’ll be too late on May 6th to wish you’d got involved.  So, if you want to be a part of Northern Ireland’s own radical revolution, tonight would be a good time to take the first step.

If you’re not yet registered to vote, find out what to do here.

If you’re going to be away on May 5th, apply for a postal or proxy vote here.

Find our more about the Green Party in Northern Ireland here.

Share this post, talk to your friends and family, deliver some leaflets, come out canvassing, help our crowdfunder – whatever works for you ….

The next thirty-one days will determine much of what happens for the next eighteen hundred.  If you want something more than more of the same, now’s the time to act.

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13th September

tree with small red post box
Entwistle, Lancashire this morning

Jeremy Corbyn is not the Antichrist.  He is not planning to confiscate our savings to be spent on scarlet flags, feast on our children in the company of terrorists or to leave us huddled on a rock in the midst of the Atlantic, with only a stick of organic celery to defend what was once our proud nation.

But neither is he the Messiah. The achievement of his campaign in winning fifty-nine percent of the leadership ballot is incredibly impressive and inspirational.  Like thousands, I am heartened by his victory and by the sense of hope, of compassion, justice and common sense which it represents.  But winning the contest was the easy part.

Golden age myths are pervasive, persuasive and usually wrong.  The one that underpins the confident optimism of many Corbyn supporters is as romantic and misleading as any other.  It narrates that, pre-Blair, the Labour Party was a haven of left-wing consensus, a united and progressive community in which Jeremy Corbyn and those like him were mainstream and central.

This, as anyone who has dipped into Tony Benn’s diaries of the period will know, is emphatically not the case.  It is true, as I have written before, that the window of acceptable policy has shifted sharply rightwards in the past thirty years.  Tony Blair and Gordon Brown bear a heavy responsibility for completing the transformation of Labour into Tory-lite.  But they did not do it alone, or from a standing start. Neither Corbyn nor Benn were any more popular with Neil Kinnock than Corbyn is with senior Labour figures today.  Although some of the suggestions put forward by Corbyn now, such as public ownership of the railways,  were once unremarkable party policy, the change has generally been brought about by historical events rather than ideological alteration.  On issues of defence, foreign policy etc., Corbyn, like his mentor Benn, has always been viewed as a dangerous rebel.

There is a second myth,  accompanying the Golden Age one, that local Labour constituency associations are full of proto-Corbynites, only awaiting Jeremy’s coronation to throw off their Blairite chains.  As new, young, idealistic members flood into the party, these old stalwarts will totter forward, grateful tears streaming down their gnarled cheeks, and embrace their courageous liberators.  Councillors, officials and local activists, who have spent decades of their lives doing mundane and tedious tasks to attain their positions in middle-of-the-road Labour, will happily stand aside for the newbies, many of whose previous political activities have been limited to liking a Facebook page or clicking on an online petition.

Let’s see, shall we?

Meanwhile there is a political party, active across the UK, for which Corbyn’s plans for economic stimulus, banking reform, opposition to Trident, extrication from American foreign policy excesses, common ownership of essential public services and a more redistributive tax system are not wild notions to be quixotically championed but established and detailed policy, set on a firm foundation of philosophical and political principle.  This party actively welcomes new members and encourages them to become involved and influential at every level.  It is growing fast, respected widely, and, in the House of Commons, its sole current MP has worked closely with Jeremy Corbyn, far more closely than any of his own party colleagues, on many vital issues and campaigns.

The future does not belong to one or two monoliths.  There is space in our political system, especially in the regions and at European level, for a creative coalition of progressive parties and movements.  Those people who have been inspired to join the Labour Party by Jeremy Corbyn’s example are doing a good thing.  But they should not imagine that his victory is going to bring about an immediate or easy transformation of the party.  It may never do so.  They will have to put much of their time and energy, not into campaigning for Corbyn’s policies among the wider electorate, but into internal struggles with their new comrades.  It will be a long, depressing and thankless business.

For some people, this is the kind of politics that they enjoy.  I’m grateful, on behalf of all of us, that there are those ready to take on this task, and hopeful, for our shared future, that they succeed. Meanwhile, for those who don’t relish the internal as much as the external battles, who thrive on the camaraderie of colleagues and the positive energy of a common vision, who want to be part of an existing global movement that has firm roots in social and economic justice, environmental sustainability, non-violence and grassroots democracy, the Green Party offers a warm welcome.

 

 

 

12th September

0912aI’m having a busy family day today, advertising my lack of snooker skills, so I haven’t time to write in detail about yesterday’s events with Richard Murphy.  Suffice it to say that they were fascinating, informative and inspiring – the most fun you can possibly imagine having with corporation tax.

For Richard, of course, the big day is today, with Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding victory, and much credit for this success must go to Richard’s wise and far-seeing economic analysis.

I’ll just add, here, the text of my short talk at the evening event, kindly tweeted by the commentator Alan in Belfast as “stonkingly good”.

“This week in particular, it’s easy to see why reducing corporation tax has been such a popular policy here. For the Northern Ireland Executive, it’s a rare piece of common ground. In the midst of arguments about almost everything else, here’s a policy that both so-called ‘sides’ can agree on. It’s a policy that fits with the ideology of of Cameron’s Westminster cabinet, that delights the big business lobbyists and goes with the flow of neoliberal orthodoxy.

And if the promises are true: if it’s not just easy but also good, if it will benefit the Northern Ireland economy, bring jobs, investment, revenue, lay the foundations for long-term prosperity, well, what is there not to like? If only that pesky Steven Agnew didn’t keep raising objections…

So what is it about this policy that keeps us in the Green Party out of the general consensus? And why do I in particular, as a Christian, believe that it would be a terrible mistake?

Christian morality, in our political discourse, still refers overwhelmingly to issues of sex and reproduction. Equal marriage and abortion are the front runners, followed far in the distance by fuzzy aspirations about ending poverty, war and climate change.

Where does tax appear in this picture? It creeps in at both ends of the spectrum: on the right in the Tea Party question of whether governments have the right to tax at all; on the left in issues of tax avoidance and evasion. But the detail of the particular rate of a particular tax – is that a moral question?

I believe that in this case it is. When people of faith and people of principle do politics, it isn’t enough to go with the flow, to adopt orthodoxies wholesale or to abdicate responsibility for ‘technical detail’. We are obliged to deconstruct ideologies and to trace, so far as we possibly can, the probable effects of our actions. And for those following the Gospel of Jesus, the most important of those effects are those upon the poor.

Richard has done a wonderful job, both this evening and in his wider work, at dismantling the myths of supply-side, what even George Bush senior called ‘voodoo’ economics. We know, from looking at the evidence, that reducing corporation tax to low levels does not increase revenue, does not encourage real investment, does not create long-term jobs and that any headline growth it causes in the general economy is so unequally divided as to be a source of greater impoverishment and misery.

What lowering corporation tax does, it turns out, is exactly what you would expect it to do: it reduces the amount of tax payable by corporations and so increases their profits. It increases the dividends paid to shareholders, themselves overwhelmingly corporations and the very rich, and it increases the bonuses paid to already overpaid executives and tax professionals. ‘To those who have, more shall be given…’

Meanwhile, as we have heard, Northern Ireland’s businesses would be burdened with huge administrative costs and the block grant reduced by anything between two and seven hundred million pounds.

If we were a prosperous, stable, well-serviced society, perhaps we could afford to play these Treasure Island games, to risk millions on another neoliberal gamble. But we’re not. Deprivation and division in Northern Ireland are serious and worsening. Fuel poverty means that around three hundred thousand households already cannot afford to heat their homes. Our schools, colleges and universities are facing deep cuts which will inflict permanent damage on present and future generations. Our environment, public transport and infrastructure are suffering from years of neglect and deteriorating sharply. Community, environmental and arts groups across Northern Ireland, which have done invaluable work in holding our social fabric together, and speaking for the voiceless, are seeing their slender financial lifelines severed. And so-called ‘welfare reform’, the withdrawal of the social safety net, is likely to push thousands of families over the edge, into hunger, homelessness and despair. A recent Save the Children report estimated that, by the end of this Parliament, one in four children here will be living in poverty.

We don’t know how much the corporation tax reduction would cost the Northern Ireland budget overall. What we do know, is that the burden of that cost will be laid on the backs of the poor, of the disabled, and of our children. As a Christian, as someone who tries to follow the teaching of the Gospel, I can’t stand back and say that that’s okay. “Anyone who harms one of these….”

Yes, we do need investment in our economy. We need jobs, or, more precisely, we need positive, sustainable work which can provide secure livelihoods for employees and the self-employed. We need to support good businesses, especially indigenous ones, and we need to encourage and nurture creativity and beneficial innovation. We can do all these things by looking carefully at what we need, and what we are good at. Renewable energy, creative arts and film production, energy efficiency, higher and further education, sustainable agriculture and food production, high quality tourism – real support for these sectors would not only benefit our economy but the daily lives of our neighbours and the future of their children.

Just one final thought. What we do, in shaping our tax system, has real and serious effects, in this case enriching the already rich, impoverishing the already poor. But it does something else as well. It sends out messages about the priorities of its leaders, the path that it wants society to take. That’s why we tax harmful substances like tobacco and alcohol, why we used to tax unearned income at a higher rate than wages, why responsible governments raise taxes on petrol to encourage the use of sustainable transport. And this reduction sends a message as well. One message for the rich; come, my good and faithful master, let me sit at your right hand. And another message for the poor: Begone, I never knew you.

The reduction of corporation tax is a good policy for religious people. You have to have faith to believe in its virtue. But that faith isn’t a Christian one. We can do better.”

If, for any reason, you’d like to hear me delivering it, Alan has also created an audioboom file here.

 

 

17th August

I haven’t the energy to post anything of my own this evening, but here’s a really excellent article by Mike Williamson on the Bright Green site about eco-socialism and what Jeremy Corbyn ought to be saying about climate change.

14th August

0811Surprise, surprise, a few hours after the profile of Saint Yvette was published by the Guardian yesterday, it released an editorial advising its readers to vote for her.  At least that’s an end to the charade of even-handedness.

Meanwhile I’ve had a good response to my posts over the past few days about the profile series.  Thanks to everyone who tweeted, shared etc.  One question that everyone has been too polite to ask is whether it’s any of my business.  As a Green Party member in Northern Ireland, where Labour doesn’t even stand candidates, what right do I have to comment on the internal workings of this leadership contest?  Isn’t it just mischief-making, on a par with paying my £3 and trying to get my own vote in the contest? I haven’t done that, by the way, though I did manage a prescient tweet, a fortnight before Corbyn’s announcement, when Harriet Harman was still smiling (see below).

According to some arguments, of course, the last thing I as a Green should be doing is expressing sympathy with Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign.  The similarity between his platform and Green Party policy has been widely noted – are we supportive Greens simply dismantling our gains, squashing our surge and handing out our clothes to cover Jeremy’s famous vest?  I don’t think so.

It’s true that some of the increased Green vote across the British Isles has come from disaffected Labour voters, and, conversely, that a Labour Party with a more visionary and radical leadership would attract some of those votes back again.  It’s a mistake, though, to think that there is a finite pool of ‘left-wing’ votes over which progressive parties need to compete.  A comparable mistake would have been to assume that, in Fermanagh & South Tyrone this year, there were a limited number of  potential ‘cross-community’ electors.  According to this logic, votes which I received in the Westminster election would have been gained at the expense of the Alliance Party. In fact Alliance increased both their number and share of the vote, but we still got more.

And, of course, perverse as it may seem to say it on this blog, elections aren’t the most important thing.  I decided to become more involved in the Green Party, as I’ve explained before, because getting more Greens into every level of government is, in my view, the best way to create a fair, sustainable and peaceful world.  It’s the best way, but it’s not the only way.  Whenever members of other political parties do the right thing, take wise decisions, adopt policies to make life better for us all, we can rejoice and be glad. We’re not ideological purists, we don’t need to fear contamination and we’re happy to work with others to make the changes our society and our environment so desperately need. And however radical, however ‘green’ the Labour Party could conceivably become (not actually very, I suspect) there would still be plenty of work for us to do, plenty that could be made better, plenty of people inspired and energized by the distinctive vision of capital-G Green politics.

But for the Labour mainstream it seems that elections are all that matters.  The key accusation levelled at Jeremy Corbyn isn’t that he’s weak or misguided, or that his policies are wrong, but that he would make the party ‘unelectable’.  The worst fate for the country, according to this line of thinking, would be Labour failing to win the 2020 election.

There are two separate points here. I’m not convinced about the unelectability.  Corbyn’s policies, as many have pointed out, were fairly mainstream in the not-so recent past, when giving Labour a turn was a standard electoral event.  And even those with shorter memories have more radical instincts than the media and politicians give them credit for – I found that out very quickly during my little campaign.

But even if it’s true, that a left-leaning Labour Party couldn’t win in 2020, would that be the worst possible outcome?

It would be truly terrible to have another Tory government like this one; I don’t deny that for a moment.  The mean cruelty, the ideological dishonesty, the sheer nastiness of this crew is just about impossible to overstate.  And with Osborne as PM … I can only shudder.  But what is it that has made this nastiness possible: this scapegoating of the innocent poor, this triumphant destruction of the environment, this adulation of an unrestrained, bloated, bailed-out, gambling-addicted financial capitalism?

Without underplaying the individual moral responsibility of current ministers for their actions, decisions and statements, which is huge,  I believe that what has made them able to act so is the normalisation of something only slightly less nasty.  When the mainstream position, shared by the main parties, is to be a bit sceptical of the rights of disabled people, a bit condemnatory of the unemployed, a bit dismissive of ‘green crap’ and more than a bit liable to cosy up to the banks and the mega-rich, how else can the Right distinguish itself except by being more so?  It’s not true that they’re all as bad as each other; life, especially for children and the working poor, is considerably worse under the Tories than it would be under Labour.  But it was Labour governments, under Blair and Brown, which, as Simon Jenkins pointed out,’supercharged’ Thatcherism, and a Labour Opposition which, despite Miliband’s honest but feeble efforts, failed to stop the rightward shift.  (I don’t discount, of course, Nick Clegg’s destruction of the Liberal Democrats as any kind of effective brake.)

As Owen Jones has pointed out in the New Statesman, the concept of the Overton window, though recognised and mainly referred to by the American Right, is an important tool in understanding what is going on.  As Wikipedia explains, Joseph Overton:

“claimed that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within [the window], rather than on politicians’ individual preferences. According to Overton’s description, his window includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.”

It is this window, of perceived acceptability, which has shifted sharply rightwards over the past thirty-five years, and outside which Corbyn’s policies are viewed as falling.  But of course the very act of defining the window, of placing one’s position safely within its limits, pushes it a little further along its trajectory.  This is presumably why the Right like it so much.  Once it’s moving in the direction you want it to, all you need do is make sure that everyone knows how powerful it is and adjusts their behaviour accordingly.

Yes, under Cooper or Burnham, Labour might be given their turn in 2020, as a sort of reward for good behaviour.  But by then the window will have moved so far to the right that the chances of recovering anything close to equality, of being able to do anything about climate change, of reining in the banking behemoths, will be miniscule.  Our only hope is to start shifting it back again, at least towards what used to be the centre.

That’s what we in the Green Party are doing; inch by inch, doorstep by doorstep, giving people the courage to rediscover their own best instincts.  It isn’t easy; we don’t have the heavy lifting equipment of the media, of corporate funding or of mainstream discourse.  But it’s absolutely essential if our children are to have any chance of a decent life; one in which they can breathe and eat and drink and grow and look their sisters and brothers in the face without being ashamed.

We need all the help we can get.  And that’s why I hope Jeremy Corbyn wins.

 

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12th August

0812I woke up this morning with one burning question in my mind, one which I was sure the Guardian would answer for me.  What kind of a house do Yvette Cooper’s parents live in?

Alas, it seems I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.  Today’s candidate profile is instead about the bogeyman himself, the mad, bad and unelectable Jeremy Corbyn.

At least it’s readable without rising nausea. Corbyn’s refusal to talk about his personal life, never mind invite cosy reminiscences from extended family, rules out the low-hanging PR fruit.  There is a link to a 1999 interview with Corbyn and his second wife, discussing their separation, apparently catalysed by their differing views about their son’s education.  The conclusion to that is interesting as a testament both to Corbyn’s consistency and the unexpectedness of recent events.

“The description of Corbyn as ‘hard left’ is misleading, in that he is a quietly spoken, gentle individual who does not demand you listen to his opinions. They are the sort of opinions a lot of people hold when they are young, like wanting an end to poverty, hunger, unemployment, imperialism and wars, and wanting the children of poor families to have the same chance in life as middle-class children.

What makes him unusual is that he will be 50 in 10 days, and still believes what he believed when he was an underpaid trade union official.

His inspiration appears to have been his mother, a maths teacher at Stafford Grammar School for Girls, who instilled a love of modern fiction and modern history in him and his brothers, gave him a collection of George Orwell essays for his sixteenth birthday and told him to decide what he believed and be prepared to stand up for it.

The idea that he sacrificed his family for his political career is misleading, because his prospects are limited, at best. There has never been any propect of a government job for him, and party loyalists are rumoured to be trying to bar him from standing as Labour candidate at the next election.”

(By the way, Stafford Grammar School for Girls didn’t exist; it was a High School.  I know because I went there, though only after it had become a comprehensive.)

The reference to his brothers reminds me (though not the Guardian writer, who doesn’t mention it) of the really odd thing about Jeremy Corbyn’s background; the fact that his brother is the maverick weather forecaster Piers Corbyn, owner of WeatherAction and passionate climate change denier.  He really is a bit bonkers, but that’s not Jeremy’s fault.

Again, in a series of articles supposed to be about ‘background and policy’, there’s plenty of background (much of it about Tony Benn) but not much policy.  In this case at least we know that Corbyn has policies – rather too many of them for mainstream Labour comfort – but the article concentrates on the process rather than the substantive result.

‘The genesis of one of these initiatives, a consultation paper on the future of the north of England launched at a rally earlier this month in Leeds, offers an intriguing glimpse into how a potential Corbyn leadership might formulate future Labour policy.

The document emerged from a discussion between Corbyn and his core campaign team, of which [Jon]Trickett was a part, and gave rise to a simple suggestion: to email every registered supporter in the north and ask them for their ideas for a northern policy. They got 1,200 replies. These were filtered and compiled into the policy document which was then published, inviting further input from supporters and the wider public.

“That, I think, shows a different way,” said Trickett. “The alternative way to come up with a policy was to employ a thinktank, get a policy wonk or a panel of experts and announce a policy from on high. And that is not the form of leadership we are going to have.”’

That’s the good bit.  There’s also quite a lot of cut-and-paste more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger criticism from Peter Hain and Emily Thornberry, and very little from Corbyn himself.  Unlike the profile of Burnham, there is no interview with the candidate himself, and no indication that one was sought.  In fact, all the quotations seem to have been lifted from other sources, except for the framing comments by attendees at his public meetings. The article as a whole isn’t not so much a profile of Jeremy Corbyn as a slightly snarky dash through the phenomenon of his success.  It’s less virulently nasty than many of the Guardian‘s recent articles, but that isn’t saying very much.

What is far more interesting is to look back at Simon Hattenstone’s interview with Corbyn published in the Guardian on 17th June, just after his nomination.  This one is good-natured, fair, informative and enlightening.  But then no one expected him to win.

 

4th August

I find it hard to believe that the lemming-queue of senior Labour MPs is still going on.  I’d imagined that they’d be seriously surprised, yes, shocked maybe, at the unexpected support for Jeremy Corbyn, but that after the initial jolt, they’d recover their equilibrium, and start to see the good side.  Enthusiasm for a Labour politician, a surge in membership, a chance to rediscover and celebrate their core values, lots of positive publicity and the chance to do a bit of proper opposition, in preparation for a serious election campaign for 2020.  As membership secretary of a left-wing (yes, unashamedly; I’ll come to that in a day or two) party which has experienced much of the same, albeit on a smaller scale, I know how exciting all that can be.  But no.  Daily, in their club comic that is the Guardian, they are still lining up to weep and gnash their teeth. Far from their revulsion at a Corbyn victory being moderated by the weeks they’ve had to get used to the idea, it is becoming increasing febrile.  Alan Johnson (born 17 May 1950) claims that “it’s the loyalty and discipline of the rest of us that created the NHS [1946] , the Open University [1965] …” while Neil Kinnock, of all people, points out that ” We have to elect a leader capable of taking us to victory” (pity that didn’t occur to him in 1992) and warns of “Trotskyites” with “malicious purposes” in the tones of a tour guide to Mordor.  Meanwhile their matronly cheerleader, Polly Toynbee, exhibits a similar amnesia, declaring that “Any split is a nonsense”, conveniently forgetting her own electoral adventure in the SDP.

Meanwhile Corbyn himself is a little island of calm and courtesy.

26th July

0726It’s rained and rained and rained today, so I’ve done very little except read Tony Benn’s last published volume of diaries, ironically entitled A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine. I’ve been reading his diaries, completely out of sequence, for the past few months, and have found them inspiring, comforting and sad, when I haven’t had the time to read much else.  It’s interesting to recall, in view of the current media Corbynophobia, that although we tend to think of Tony Benn in a national treasure, Glastonbury-and-teapot rosy glow, he faced really vitriolic vituperation, for exactly the same reasons as Jeremy Corbyn does now.

23rd July

My sister was wondering on Twitter this morning why it is that so many Labour MPs are clamouring to declare their own party, if led by Jeremy Corbyn, ‘unelectable’, and thereby sabotaging their own 2020 campaigns.  She doesn’t seem to have received any answer, and I haven’t got one for her either. It might, of course, simply be a crude playground “this is our game and if you want to change the rules then we’ll just smash up the whole thing” (cue SDP Mark II?).  Or maybe they were so brainwashed by Blair in their formative years that they genuinely think Jeremy Corbyn is the hard-left* monster of tabloid nightmare.  Of course the other candidates want to win (and must be further infuriated by the fact that Corbyn doesn’t, particularly) but this much, jeopardising not only their future working relationships and careers, but the very existence of their party?

This isn’t schadenfreude.  There are Labour Party tribulations that I admit to finding funny, but this is definitely not one of them.  For the first time since the early hours of May 8th, when the exit polls proved horribly accurate, we have a little hope for the future of Westminster politics.  The Green Party is growing rapidly and sturdily, but an overall majority in a first-past-the-post system is, even I concede, beyond us for a little while.  But a Labour Party with rediscovered principle, with a vision of what compassionate socialism really means in the twenty-first century, in partnership with the Greens and other progressive parties, that could make a huge difference.  It could make a revolutionary difference at the next general election, to how the next government acts on climate change, on inequality, on peace and war, on all the crucial issues for generations to come.  But it could also make a difference right now, giving us an opposition that, as the wise Andrew Rilstone writes: “criticizes them, attacks them, campaigns against them, picks holes in their laws at committee stage, supports protesters and strikers and generally makes life as hard as possible for the government.”

This is, of course, just what Jeremy Corbyn, along with Caroline Lucas, has been doing for the past five-and-a-bit years.  But as Labour leader, I trust that he would be able to encourage his fellow MPs to discover a little backbone, and lead them to realise that the role of the Opposition is about more than keeping your seat warm.

*(I don’t know what ‘hard left’ means, any more.  I used to think I did, but whatever humourless authoritarian ideologue I’d pictured, it certainly wasn’t this mild and compassionate man, whose radical policies: unprivatising the railways, getting the rich to pay a bit of tax, not renewing the useless Trident, are not only shared by the Green Party, but by a majority of the UK public.

 

 

20th January

WUT600Aidan and I spent three hours watching television today.  If you know me, you’ll be surprised at that and if you know Aidan, you’ll be absolutely amazed.  But then it was BBC Parliament, and we were watching the end of today’s debate on the motion not to renew the Trident nuclear weapon system.  I was proud to be a member of CND, listening to the speeches in favour of the motion by our one (so far) Green MP, Scottish and Welsh nationalists, a few brave Labour rebels including Jeremy Corbyn, and one or two ex-army Tories who know that, even from a military standpoint, an ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ makes no sense.  I was even more proud to be a member of the Green Party, watching Caroline Lucas’s clear and professional argument.  The debate did two further things: removed any lingering doubts about the Labour Party – apart from noble mavericks like Jeremy Corbyn they really are just another shade of grey – and confirmed what I said in October in response to Michelle Gildernew’s claim that Westminster is ‘irrelevant’.  There is little that can be more important to our children’s future than the squandering of over £100 billion of their money on lethal and unnecessary weapons of mass destruction.    It is very sad that we did not have an MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone in the chamber this afternoon.