Labour’s lost constituency

14/05/2015

Does this sound familiar?

. . . The real problem facing Labour isn’t that the party turned its back on working-class voters — it’s that working-class voters turned their backs on the party, and have been doing so for nearly 50 years. . . 

Labour’s epic crisis is not a case of ‘left-behind voters’ but of a ‘left-behind party’, rejected by the very people it was founded to represent. . .

Labour was being sustained by the middle classes, while lower classes went back to the thing they’d been doing for decades: deserting Labour.

The Blairites are often accused of ruining Labour, abandoning its traditional voters and ideals. This turns history upside down. New Labour is better understood as a response to something that had already happened: the slow but sure abandonment of Labour by working-class voters, which left Labour a shell, ripe for a takeover by a middle-class professional set. It was working-class voters who sealed Labour’s fate, not Labour that sealed theirs.

This isn’t semantics, this question of who abandoned whom. Yes, it’s all interrelated: working-class voters deserted Labour because they felt the party had in some way screwed them over. Chicken, egg, etc. But understanding that working-class voters have been turning their backs on Labour for ages is important, because it shows that the crisis facing this party today is more profound — infinitely more profound — than the current post-election soul-searching lets on.

For what we have is a party whose foundation stone, whose very reason for existing — to represent the working classes — no longer exists. Labour is facing more than a crisis of communication or a dearth of likeable leaders. It’s facing a crisis that is about as existential as it is possible to get: what becomes of a party whose founding constituency just isn’t into it anymore?

All the talk of reviving Labour with a re-injection of New Labour or Blue Labour or Brownite Labour is like discussing what colour lipstick to put on a corpse. Labour is dead. Its soul — working-class voters — has gone. It’s now little more than a zombie party being puppet-mastered by metropolitan elites and the media classes in a bizarre political danse macabre. A Frankenstein escaped from the 20th century. Well, they can keep it, these Labour-sustaining luvvies, because working-class voters have no more need of it: they’ve made Labour a left-behind party.

Brendan O’Neill is writing about the British Labour Party but much of what he says applies to its counterpart in New Zealand.

It was taken over by different sectors using the party to advance their interests rather than a united group with a vision for the country.

Hat tip – Utopia


Unions losing power in Labour

05/07/2011

A Labour leader is biting the union hand that elected him but it’s in Britain, not here.

In the Pensions War that has erupted between the government and the trade unions, the unions must surely feel astonished by the ingratitude of Ed Miliband. The unions founded and financed the Labour party. They currently give about £9 of every £10 that the cash-strapped party receives in donations. Moreover, Ed Miliband would not be Labour leader had he not had crucial union support. Yet here we are, at the beginning of the first serious confrontation between unions and the coalition, and Mr Miliband declines to back them and instead attacks strike action as “wrong”.

It’s difficult to understand how any party which preaches democracy can give more power and influence to unions than its individual members.

Labour here is quick to criticise National of legislating for its mates if it does anything which might help businesses. Some businesses donate to National but only members have power in the party and most of the bigger ones donate to Labour and possibly some of the minor parties as well.

Some unions donate to other left wing parties, but it would be a cold day in hell before they gave money to National and I think it’s only in Labour where they have constitutional rights.

The internal workings of a party are the party’s own business. But if influence and policy in return for money is wrong for donors to right wing parties, it must also be wrong for left wing ones.

. . . Mr Miliband . . . also wants to recalibrate the relationship between Labour and the unions as a key element of his project to make the party more democratic, vigorous and engaged with the public. . .

The unions wield 50% of the vote at the party conference, a proportion that Mr Miliband thinks might be diminished by creating a new voting role at the conference for the elected members of the National Policy Forum.

The British Labour Party is attempting to reduce the power unions have in their party to make it  more democratic. What chance is there of Labour here doing the same?

 


February 27 in history

27/02/2010

On February 27:

1560 The Treaty of Berwick, which expelled the French from Scotland, was signed by England and the Congregation of Scotland.

1594 Henry IV was crowned King of France.

1617 Sweden and Russia signed the Treaty of Stolbovo, ending the Ingrian War and shutting Russia out of the Baltic Sea.

1626 Yuan Chonghuan was appointed Governor of Liaodong, after he led the Chinese into a great victory against the Manchurians.

 

1700 William Dampier was the first European to discover the island of New Britain.

1797 The Bank of England issued the first one-pound and two-pound notes.

1807 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet, was born.

1812 Poet Lord Byron gave his first address as a member of the House of Lords, in defense of Luddite violence against Industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire.

1844 The Dominican Republic gained independence from Haiti.

1900 British military leaders received an unconditional notice of surrender from Boer General Piet Cronje at the Battle of Paardeberg.

Surrender of Cronje.jpg

1900 The British Labour Party was founded.

Labour logo
 

1902 John Steinbeck, American writer, Nobel laureate, was born.

John Steinbeck with 19 year-old son John (left), visits President Johnson in the Oval Office,

1912 Lawrence Durrell, British writer, was born.

Durrell stands at a podium, gazing at the crowd as he addresses them. He wears a suit over a white shirt with a striped tie, and holds his left arm at his side, with his elbow bent upwards as if to shake his fist. A caption runs below the image that reads "Lawrence Durrell, 1986 - photo courtesy R. Rubrecht."

1921 The International Working Union of Socialist Parties was founded in Vienna.

1922 A challenge to the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, allowing women the right to vote, was rebuffed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Leser v. Garnett.

1930 Joanne Woodward, American actress, was born.

1932  Elizabeth Taylor, British-American actress, was born.

1933 Reichstag fire: Germany’s parliament building in Berlin was set on fire.

1934 Ralph Nader, American author, activist and political figure, was born.

1939 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sit-down strikes violated property owners’ rights and were therefore illegal.

1940  Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discovered carbon-14

1942 During the Battle of the Java Sea, an allied strike force was defeated by a Japanese task force in the Java Sea

UmpCADH270K.jpg

1943 The Smith Mine #3 in Bearcreek, Montana, exploded, killing 74 men.

 Memorial of the Smith Mine disaster

1943 – The Rosenstrasse protest started in Berlin.

 Part of the memorial “Block der Frauen” by Ingeborg Hunzinger, commemorating the protest

1945 Lebanon declared Independence.

     

1951 The Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution, limiting Presidents to two terms, was ratified.

1951 Troops were sent on to Wellington and Auckland wharves to load and unload ships during the waterfront dispute.

Troops deployed in waterfront dispute

1961 The first congress of the Spanish Trade Union Organisation was inaugurated.

Italian Fascist flag

1963 The Dominican Republic got its first democratically elected president, Juan Bosch, since the end of the dictatorship led by Rafael Trujillo.

1964 The government of Italy asked for help to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from toppling over.

1967 Dominica gained independence from the United Kingdom.

  

1973  The American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

 

1974People magazine was published for the first time.

 

1976 The formerly Spanish territory of Western Sahara, under the auspices of the Polisario Front declared independence as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

1986 The United States Senate allowed its debates to be televised on a trial basis.

1989 Venezuela was rocked by the Caracazo riots.

1991 Gulf War: U.S. President George H. W. Bush announced that “Kuwait is liberated”.

1999 Olusegun Obasanjo became Nigeria‘s first elected president since mid-1983.

2002 Ryanair Flight 296 caught fire at London Stansted Airport.

2002 – Godhra train burning: a Muslim mob killed 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya;

2003 Rowan Williams was enthroned as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

2004 A bombing of a Superferry by Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines’ worst terrorist attack killed 116.

2007 The general strike against Lansana Conté in Guinea ended.

2007 – The Chinese Correction: the Shanghai Stock Exchange fell 9%, the largest drop in 10 years.


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