Thursday, 8 September 2016

What is the Point?


It’s the 21st of September 2016 and the new Labour Leader Owen Smith takes to the stage for the pinnacle of the Labour Party Conference. Congratulated by the ousted Jeremy Corbyn, Smith begins to set out his vision for Labour in Britain to thunderous applause from the Parliamentary Labour Party and his own supporters who rushed from a planned boycott of the venue to grab a seat once hearing the biggest upset in modern politics had taken place. Despite leading in the polls and an increasing membership making the Labour Party for a brief time the largest socialist/social democratic party in Europe, the majority of whom joined in support of Corbyn. Owen Smith, thanks to an unprecedented purge of members and applicants to join has defied the odds to take the leadership against the polls, the bookies and a true democratic process. But where do they go from here? This will be the harsh reality for the Labour Party should they succeed in removing, refusing and voiding ballots of enough Corbyn supporters. Where do we go from here?

For most political parties that have just lost their second General Election in a row, a leader who inspires and reinvigorates hundreds of thousands of former and potential members to become once again interested in politics would be cause for celebration. In particular for a party that has been dominated by a small group of elected officials and MPs which hold the values of Blairism and New Labour so dear, more inspite of than because of the fact that between 1997 and 2005 he managed to lose 4 million voters facing a Conservative Party in the wilderness. For so long all political parties were accused of being the same. Now there are clear lines of divide again. Vote for a Conservative Party that supports an austerity laden agenda which creates further inequality as the rich are left to corrupt and be corrupt, while the poorest in our society are punished for the actions of the banks and those in charge. Vote for Labour to reject austerity and promote a fairer, more equal society one in which no one will be left hungry homeless, or behind.

Yet there are some, worryingly some with major levers of power and control within the party that have seen fit to attempt to sabotage the progress the party has been making. By-election victories, two mayoral victories, more votes than the Tories have all been signs of steady progress, especially when you consider the ongoing media attacks in which a large part of the shadow cabinet were complicit by leaking on a daily basis. In spite of all of this many people in the UK decided to take the leap forward to join or rejoin the Labour Party in support for a real alternative to the current agenda, a real change to the way we do things in this United Kingdom.

Since the resignations of 172 members of the PLP it has been clear that the attempted coup had no plan. They assumed Corbyn in the face of this aggression would pack up and leave. They did not count on the support he would receive from the membership or the strength of the man himself. Rather than destroy the movement for change, more applied to join, more joined up as registered supporters. It was clear that despite a campaign to keep Corbyn off the ballot, a reduction to those eligible to vote and a bizarre overruling by a long time friend of Tony Blair…. despite all of this it was clear Corbyn would win comfortably.

That is when the purge came into affect. As obvious as McCarthyism and as outrageous as Stalin. The outgoing Labour NEC have taken it upon themselves to reject any membership applications from those who not only once were members of other parties but also those who voted for them or have been caught on social media offering support or praising members of other political parties. Current members are not safe either with many losing their ballots and even their memberships for the above reasons, for calling fellow members Blairites or for some, social media tweets that don’t seem to exist. No excuses accepted, no real reasons given and for many no chance for appeal.

I am one of those former members who applied to rejoin. My application was refused as after leaving the Labour Party I joined the Scottish Socialist Party. I accept I shouldn’t have left, that joining the SSP was a mistake, but looking back I’m sure even if I was a member I would have been kicked out this summer.

As a socialist, yes supporting Corbyn advocate I have too many crosses on my belt to be allowed back in with the current management. Strange how most of those being refused entry or purged are Corbyn supporters, strange how the likes of Michael Foster despite calling fellow members ‘Stormtroopers’ and Lord Sainsbury donating £2million to the Lib Dems have not faced expulsion. Stranger still as to why most of the mainstream media are keeping very quiet about the whole affair.

I could use this time to argue why I believe in a real Labour Party and my support for the aims and beliefs of the Labour Party, but it would be futile. As a lifelong supporter and until recently a member of the Labour Party I have grew up in a family that for generations have been Labour members and supporters. I am a socialist, I believe in the re-enactment of Clause 4. I am a committed activist with experience in community and national organising. If this is not what the Labour Party want in it’s membership,,,, then what do they want?

That’s the point, after an election defeat and humiliating result in the Scottish Elections, surely they must know that the only way to win again is to win over those who have voted for and even been members of another party. Politics after all is the power to persuade and reform others opinions and beliefs to your own. If they wont be accepted into the party because of their past beliefs then why would they consider given the party their support come election time?

Maybe those within the Labour Party who claim Corbyn would be happy to lead a protest party are themselves the ones who want to lead a party of protest. Anything to maintain the status quo, to keep those in nice suits and expense accounts in the luxury they demand.Smith himself if he wins, which he wont will be a dead duck. Theresa May will have a field day.

“Owen you had to ban half your members from voting to win leadership… you can’t do that at an election you know.” You can almost hear the cries of laughter now.

So what is the point in all of this? Hopefully the new NEC will pull the party to its senses, hopefully the current crop will not be able to damage the party beyond repair. Hopefully enough members will be left to ensure Jeremy is still leader and hope still remains. It just seems such a terrible waste of everyones time. We have so much to do, to prevent this Tory Government from inflicting on us all and yet as a comrade put it, we are watching an episode of Takeshi’s Castle seeing who will survive. What a terrible waste!

You can follow me on Twitter @allangrogan

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Moving Forward to Yes

With almost two years past since the Scottish Independence Referendum. It seems the movement towards a second referendum is beginning to take shape. Yes 2 put forward by the Yes bikers typify the very nature of the initial referendum, while the SNP slowly, cautiously take more email addresses into their canvass data to assess the situation.

September 18th 2014, went for most of us I’m sure, like a blur, for me I remember the next day more. Getting home from the count at 7am to grab an hours sleep before work. My biggest memory of this referendum is one of shame and regret, waking up that morning and seeing my three sons, holding my 5 month old youngest and breaking down thinking I hadn’t done enough and we had all let my children and so many others down. No doubt throughout this country an array of stories similar to mine can be told, likewise there will be many tales of celebration and jubilation from no voters that their children’s futures have been secured.

That’s the thing, you see for too many of us on the yes side, we have claimed the referendum as our own… in true Scottish style, as a glorious defeat. One in which we had the best ideas, put forward direct visions and engaged a nation in confronting a ‘British’ entitlement over our nation. Yet in truth the referendum belongs to both the yes and no camps.

The 2014 referendum marked a watershed in which we as Scots began to discuss what truly defines us. Is it class, or nationality? Is it age or gender or race? In this referendum, while at times hyperbole, it allowed us to question our relationships with our closest neighbours and begin to analyse if our own national cringe is inflicted through established oppression or through our own perpetual negativity.

What we found was most likely more questions than answers. What it did allow us was an opportunity to reflect… on ourselves, our communities and our nation; regardless of whether you view that ‘nation’ as a multi national one or Scotland in its own right. We will all have different experiences and revelations of this.

As someone who defines himself as a socialist I recognise that I have more in common with the worker from Liverpool than the banker from Edinburgh, yet I consider myself Scottish first, European then (and only at a border crossing)… British. How then can you regulate yourself in this? For me the notion of Britishness is antipathy to my beliefs… I believe this would be the same had I been born in Newcastle, Tredegar or Belfast. The very notion of Britishness of imperialism and colonialism is alien to me. I embrace own nations history, it’s battle and sacrifice, yet I would not consider myself a nationalist, or if I am it is a small n, certainly no more so than anyone of any world citizen would embrace their national identity…it is also not a nationalism which shaped my vote in September 2014.

It’s all very confusing, yet it is through this confusion, in which the referendum allowed ourselves to open our eyes and awaken. It is right that we ask ourselves difficult questions. For me it was clear that Middle England will never accept a ‘Real’ Labour Government… I hope Jeremy can prove me wrong. And so the way to achieve a fairer, more equal and socially just society was through independence.

We all have different reasons for voting yes or no. For many who voted no, they will probably share a closer political affinity with me than other yes voters. Throughout the last referendum campaign I met a lot of voters who were voting yes or no for varying reasons, this should be respected and encouraged. My willingness to work with almost anyone and debate anyone through this period is because every view must be discussed and deliberated on and respected.

Yes Scotland grew from an HQ in Hope St where a fair few people made a lot of money and only one or two actually deserved it. The real yes campaign grow from that… into Yes regions and yes groups one of which being Labour for Independence. We made the case and still would, that independence is not about the SNP… even within the SNP there is no one line on what independence would mean. It is about an opportunity to create a better way.

Often in the campaign I went to unusual stomping grounds for a Labour member. In fact as a Catholic, Celtic supporting Labour member a trip to a masons lodge in Kirriemuir to speak with an SNP MSP is about as far out there as you can go. But in that meting a gentleman asked why I disagreed with the SNP plan to cut corporation tax. My reply was honest… That if taxes are cut they should be of benefit to those that need it most… not big business.

Speaking to the gentleman after, he appreciated my honesty and looked forward to the debate in an independent Scotland.

This is what a democracy is. This is why I took exception to the Yes HQ/RIC banner that a yes vote will mean no more Tory Governments. The truth is it would lead to no more Tory Governments we didn’t vote for. But we have to accept that there has always been a 20-25% of Scots who support the Tories and that cannot be ignored.
This article is a bit of a ramble.. still looking at answers and still asking questions. If the first referendum was a cultural, political self awakening then the second one must be decisive. Questions must be asked and answered, plurality must be acknowledged meaning not everyone voting yes is a ‘Nat’ and not everyone voting no is a ‘Tory’.
We as a nation, and as a people have so much to offer, yet we also have so much we need to work on. Lets work together to find out who we are, what we want and where we are headed. There is hope for this tiny land with a cringe on it’s shoulder.

In politics if thou wouldst mix,
And mean thy fortunes be;
Bear this in mind, be deaf and blind,
Let great folk hear and see.