Labour, Letters And Clear Water

Both Paul Bernal and Sunny Hundal have written open letters to Rachel Reeves. First, the ex-Labour Party member expresses what many of us feel:

“This is a rare chance for you – I do hope you haven’t already thrown it away. Ed Miliband’s speech at conference was very well received, and seemed to pretty seriously rattle the Tories. They, in response, revealed some of their nastiest aspects at their conference. The Lib Dems are still in chaos. With the departure of Liam Byrne, you had a chance to change the game. It was a chance get onto the front foot, and set the agenda – as Ed Miliband did so well with the energy price freeze policy. Did you notice how well that resonated with people? And how the promise to repeal the Bedroom Tax resonated with people? Did you ask yourself why? One of the key reasons is that it put clear water between Labour and the Tories. It showed that Labour understood peoples’ problems, and actually seemed to care about them. It showed that Labour was no longer going to just be a slightly milder version of the Tories…. or so we thought.
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Through your interview, you’ve reversed all that. You may well have lost all the goodwill gained by the Party Conference. I do hope that’s not the case, and I hope you’ll be willing to reconsider your approach. Personally, I live in Cambridge, which is a marginal seat, currently held by the Lib Dems, and I would have thought that you want my vote. Right now, with an approach like this, I don’t think I can give it to you. After Ed Miliband’s speech I was even considering rejoining the Labour Party – after a long gap – and putting a good deal of energy into supporting the campaign. I’d still like to do that, but with an approach like this, I really can’t see a way. [My emphasis.] “

Sunny puts it in an more moderate way:

“The conventional wisdom within Labour is that the party is seen as ‘soft’ on people who claim social security and too forgiving of people who abuse the system. You will know that poorer people are usually harsher towards others on benefits and want tough sanctions on abusers of the system. You will have seen polling that suggests Labour needs to neutralise that image or else people may be tempted to vote for the Conservatives in 2015. Hence you wanted to sound tough in your interview with the Observer on Sunday.

This talk of Labour ‘walking into a welfare trap’ set by the Tories has itself become a problem: we keep returning to the safe ground of ‘tough’ rhetoric, without convincing messages or policies that favour Labour in the long term. It is time to bring some fresh thinking to this debate and I hope you won’t shy away from doing so.”

Update 1: George Eaton argues EU study shreds the myth of “benefit tourism”.

Rebranding British Neofascism And The EDL

There has been much talk of Tommy Robinson (AKA Stephen Lennon) leaving the EDL. Some believe it is just a put on, whilst others believe his “conversion” is genuine. My own view is that it is merely a rebranding of British neofascism, which has constantly tried to gain ground in the wider world by dumping its unsavoury elements.

This approach has been a constant since the 1950s and Tyndall running around in Nazi gear.
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It is conceivable there maybe the odd occasion when an active hardcore racist or neofascist gives up their prior beliefs, and that is to be welcomed. However, when that happens there is normally a severe break with the past. A severing of old ties and clear breakage with former repulsive opinions.

I notice that has not occurred with Lennon. But rather than express my own skepticism I think many others do it better.

Alex Andreou’s Don’t be fooled by Tommy Robinson’s political sleight-of-hand is superb:

“There is a pattern of behaviour here. Robinson is doing what leaders of far-right movements have always done and continue to do. Like shyster businessmen, they set up one firm that serves their goals, then declare it insolvent and set up another one with a different name – each time creaming the profit of press coverage and a small shift of the political landscape.

This is exactly the modus operandi of such factions. From the British Union of Fascists to the British People’s party, the Action party, the National Front, the Flag Group, the New National Front, the BNP and the EDL, the far-right throbs and expands, blooms, then folds into itself and subdivides like an amorphous but sentient blob from a 1950s B movie. It reinvents itself constantly until it finds the marketable packaging, charismatic personnel, economic conditions and public mood within which it can thrive. In the process it creates new and unusual vacant spaces in our political consciousness that existing or newly formed parties scramble to fill. The entire manoeuvre is designed to inexorably drag the Overton window to the right, making the intolerable, accepted and the intolerant, acceptable.”

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