Labour’s response to the BBC license debate

March 10, 2014

The Tories have gotton so excited about the idea of decriminalising the BBC license fee, that it’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that they see this as an opportunity to do down the national broadcaster. Labour needs to have a response, or else the debate will be guided by those who wish to see television controlled by press barons and oligarchs.

Apparently 10% of cases before the magistrates’ courts are for evasion of the license fee. On the face of it this sounds extraordinary, but before we accept this figure on face value, we should first recognise that it came from the Magistrates Association, a body with a history empire building.

In recent years they have campaigned for fewer cases to be sent up to the crown court for sentencing, for themselves and not the police to give cautions to offenders, and for the abolition of fixed penalty notices, in order that they can have a monopoly over fines.
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The Phoenix-like rise of Red Ed

September 26, 2013

In July 2011, I wrote a article called “Ed Miliband’s Biggest Mistake” which argued that the “Red Ed” nick name was a blessing, not a curse. My main point was that only through gaining the attention of the media can you then get your message across. Miliband had rejected the image that the journalists tried to construct for him. As a result he made himself a boring subject to write about, so they didn’t write about him.

Although the article was prominent and caused some conversation, Miliband soon asserted that he wanted to occupy the middle ground and be seen to do so. “Red Ed” was the last thing he needed to win a general election. Or so he thought.
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What’s the point of today’s Labour Party?

August 21, 2013

Way back in 1992, at the TUC conference, John Prescott stunned the socialist movement, by making a forceful speech in favour of John Smith’s proposed trade union reform. He attacked the unions for even questioning the motives of the Labour leader. He shamed them into submission. He showed that his loyalty is to the party over the unions and as a result, was rewarded with the deputy leadership when Tony Blair later rose to power.

He is the closest thing there is to Labour Party royalty, and he just accused the party leader of being ineffective. This is not unreasonable. Everywhere I look I see the government’s economic policy being attacked. The Economist magazine calls the Right to Buy policy “A daft new government-subsidy scheme”, but what did we hear from Labour? Nothing. Not a dickie bird.
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C’mon Ed, fight!

August 5, 2013

In case the reader needs reassurance that Osborne is a failed Chancellor, you only have to look at what the financial services people are saying. A couple of weeks ago, Citywire ran with this headline, “Hooray for the (debt-fuelled) UK recovery!”

How about this funny analysis from the stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdowne: “Former US president Abraham Lincoln has been credited with saying the problem with politics is you can never please all of the people all of the time. In a more contemporary setting and with the UK yet to regain ground lost during the 2008-09 recession chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has struggled to please anyone at any time since stepping into 11 Downing Street three years ago.”

However, the one thing that the Tories do massively better than Labour is this: When they are down, they come out fighting. Even when the world took note that Keynes had won and austerity lost, they carried on fighting. The question is, what does Labour do? Has Ed Miliband and Ed balls given up? Do we only have an opposition on a Wednesday lunchtime?
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After the cuts agenda

July 18, 2013

You can tell what the Tory focus groups are saying by watching the way the Tories behave. Right now, they are trying to close down the perception that the government has no ideas or purpose, other than the cuts. They know they have no agenda, once the cuts agenda is done.

This explains the flurry of rather pointless ideas announced in the last couple of weeks. Each one of them is half-baked and each one is accompanied with same the line, “Labour did nothing about this in 13 years”.

An example is Theresa May’s call for a consultation of Stop and Search, arguing that the policy tends to target young black males. This got widely reported and became a talking point on the media, even though it was completely shallow. This is not serious policy, just a suggestion that people have a chat about something. Yet every Tory politician took to the air to attack Labour for doing nothing for 13 years.

On health they talk of a £200 deposit for foreigners entering the country. Again, MPs took to the airwaves to claim that Labour did nothing for 13 years of government. There has been little response from Labour to this proposal, but Andy Burnham tells me that he can’t respond as he still doesn’t know the details. He doesn’t object to stopping abuse, but he does object to the idea that Labour had done nothing about the issue previously.
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Time for state funding of political parties

July 5, 2013

When somebody wants to end a relationship, they don’t engage in a rational conversation, they engage in rudeness, spite, and provocation. The end of the end may be a rational discussion, but the beginning of the end nearly always starts with unpleasantness. The manner of Len McClusky’s conduct in recent times has been unacceptable. This is not clumsiness, ignorance or accident. It is downright rude, and he knows it.

When the Tories have attacked Labour’s union relationship in the past, it has had little effect. Voters know Labour is fearful of indulging the unions to much, and that the unions are benevolent to ordinary people. However, the recent Tory attacks are different. Cameron, at PMQs, was not attacking Len McClusky, he was attacking Ed Miliband. His allegation was that Miliband is not in control.
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Why Blair should help Miliband to win

June 22, 2013

I was once in a rock band for whom stardom beckoned. We were 16 years old and practiced in the music room at school, playing ‘60s music. The lead singer, John O’Dea, was a mod whose hobby was to beat up punks and skinheads. He was quite embarrassing. The reason he had something to prove was that back in ‘80s, the mods had a reputation for being soft.

One day John wrote some lyrics to a song called “Bollocks to a Tramp”, and although we didn’t want to encourage him, the words were good so we added a guitar riff and it rocked.

Up the west end every Saturday,
The Mods, Punks and Skinheads all come out to play,
They really make me sick,
I could hit ‘em with a brick,

Say bollocks to a tramp,
Bollocks to a tramp,
Punks and Skins are tramps,
Say BOLLOCKSSSSSSSSS!!!

We got our first gig at a Mod alldayer at the Ilford Palais. The crowd went crazy with 2,000 mods cheering at every line, and we were invited everywhere. Unfortunately the band fell at the first hurdle when the bass player got jealous and wanted to take over the vocals, so arranged for O’Dea to be kicked out. At the next gig, we opened with the bass player singing Bollocks to a Tramp, and the audience sat all the way through, then clapped politely at the end of it. The magic was gone and the band soon split.

When Labour got rid of Tony Blair, I reflected on the sacking of John O’Dea. Even though I was politically closer to Gordon, I didn’t think it was a good idea to make the bass player into the Prime Minister when we had a star singer in Tony Blair.
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