We Need Statesmanship AUDIO

Here is our audio submission for Ben Chambers’ Sixteen Million Rising August broadcast. The text of the audio is as follows:

Britain is stumbling into negotiating its future relationship with Europe with no clear vision of the outcome that our people now want, still less a strategy for getting there.

This is the most critical moment in Britain’s post-war history: the agreement reached will impact deeply on the lives of all young people.

The course that May and her unruly team have followed on Brexit over the last year has already greatly harmed British society, our currency, our economy and respect for our country.

Right now, Britain badly needs statesmanlike leadership –  an individual or a group of committed people who can stand above the current divisions and earn the respect of citizens of all ages and diverse political affiliations for bringing wisdom and common sense to bear on this chaotic and perilous situation. We must throw our weight behind those who can inspire us to respond positively to the great contemporary challenges posed by the fast-moving processes of globalisation and by rapid advances in technology and communications. We need politicians who understand that, if our children and grand-children are to live well and in peace, Britain, whatever its past greatness, cannot afford to isolate itself but must be fully engaged in shaping the future at home and abroad.

Apart from heading much the largest opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn has good credentials to become the senior statesman who can offer leadership to all who are deeply dismayed by the harm caused by the machinations of the present government but don’t know how to stop it. In the recent election, he has emerged as a surprisingly charismatic leader who has drawn droves of young and well-educated people to vote Labour, while still retaining his party faithful. All through his political career, he has shown a deep sense of social justice and fairness, standing up for those who are left behind. Though lambasted by his critics for contacting Palestinian and IRA leaders, he values peace highly and knows that this can only come through promoting genuine dialogue between conflicting sides and building mutual trust. In spite of his enigmatic stance over our future relationship with the EU, he sees that it must be determined not through confrontational bargaining but through engaging in a constructive and open dialogue.

The idea that Jeremy Corbyn could emerge as a respected senior statesman is, of course, merely wishful thinking unless he can quickly build a sufficient parliamentary majority to secure amendments to the Repeal Bill and trigger yet another general election. This would require engaging all opposition parties and some dissident Conservative MPs, showing open-ness to their priorities.

In the event of an election, Labour is unlikely to win an outright parliamentary majority. This means that Corbyn would have to nurture, from today, the emergence of a progressive alliance to oust the Tories. He would have to launch a fresh, highly personal, manifesto offering visionary and genuinely inclusive leadership that would bring pragmatism into the Brexit process, define a well-funded set of socially responsible domestic policies, and respond to the widely felt need for lowering tensions. He would have to temper the concerns of many older voters over his own more radical ideas, convince still more young people that he can respond to their aspirations, and yet keep most of Labour’s left wing on board.

The biggest obstacle facing Corbyn is his own instinct to get drawn into Labour party scraps and to dragoon its MPs into line with his own views.   If he is to emerge as a true statesman, rather than merely the leader of a single party, he must learn to see diverse views not as “splits” that threaten his authority but to value pluralism as a source of strength within and beyond his own party. To expand support from young voters, he must reflect their hopes as he clarifies his position on Europe.

The parliamentary recess provides the ideal opportunity for Corbyn to connect with these diverse groups, quietly building his credibility as the only person who can stop the government from driving our country recklessly down a dead-end road.

Published
Categorised as General

We Need Statesmanship

We Need Statesmanship

Britain has stumbled into negotiating its future relationship with Europe without a clear vision of the outcome that our people now want, still less a strategy for getting there. Neither the ruling Conservative party nor the opposition Labour party has been able to articulate a credible view of the UK’s future place in Europe, let alone in the wider world. They are inward-looking, obsessed with minutiae and mantras, and have closed their eyes to the big challenges now facing humanity.

Leaders of both parties relentlessly claim that, in seeking to take Britain out of the European Union, they are following the “will of the people” as expressed by just 38% of the electorate over a year ago. This is used by the Tories and their DUP friends as a flimsy justification for blindly pursuing negotiations that put at great risk the future prosperity, security and territorial integrity of our country and could greatly diminish our influence in shaping the world’s future.

An exit process driven by personal phobia and ambitions rather than a true commitment to Britain’s future

The most alarming aspect of the unfolding negotiations is that Britain’s self-harming stance seems to be driven (even after the recent humiliating “snap” election that failed to deliver the enhanced majority that May had sought) not by the signals coming from voters but by the Prime Minister’s deep personal phobia about the rule of law and by her autocratic tendencies. This first came into the open when May challenged a High Court judgement in favour of giving parliament authority to approve the invocation of Article 50 to set in motion the Brexit process. We then saw her muzzling meaningful debate on the issue by imposing a 3-line whip on her MPs. Her unyielding animosity towards the European Court of Justice, reflected in her determination to exclude Britain from all aspects of its jurisdiction, seems bound to stymie meaningful negotiation, presaging a no-deal exit with disastrous consequences.

May has given her accomplices in extracting Britain from the EU – Johnson, Gove, Fox and Davis – great responsibilities but they have repeatedly shown that their actions are driven not by any concern for Britain’s destiny but by their own, almost puerile, ambitions to eventually replace her as Prime Minister. If their insincerity was not clear to everyone at the time of the referendum and their fanciful red bus promise, it became obvious in their recent hypocritical antics on public sector wage caps and in the deliberate leaking of cabinet discussions so as to diminish the standing of their pro-EU rival, Hammond.

The course that May and her team have followed on Brexit over the last year has already greatly harmed British society, our economy and the respect in which our country is held in the world. In telling our 27 European partners to “go whistle”, our foreign secretary has unhelpfully cut the chances of arriving at a decent deal with them. The Brexiteers have fueled deep divisions between the nations of the United Kingdom, split communities and families, and unleashed a toxic wave of xenophobia and hate crimes. The process that they have espoused has thrown sterling into a nosedive that is now spurring rising rates of inflation.  It has fostered a pervasive atmosphere of great uncertainty that makes decision-making for families and companies difficult and is already leading many businesses to relocate their head offices to outside of the UK, eroding British pre-eminence as a global financial services centre. It bodes very badly for a future outside of the European Union, yet most politicians seem to be in denial of the harm that the pursuit of Brexit has already wrought.

Corbyn comes in from the cold

While the recent election diminished May’s credibility as Prime Minister, it greatly enhanced the standing of Jeremy Corbyn. To the surprise of many, even within his own party, he emerged as an appealing leader who can claim personal responsibility for bringing Labour back to offering effective opposition to the government.

Corbyn owes his election success largely to his winning support from young voters and from people with higher education: these included many who want Britain to stay in the EU but who voted for Labour on tactical grounds and in the hope that the party, which was ambivalent on Brexit, would ultimately opt to remain engaged. While still respecting the referendum outcome, Corbyn has signalled his wish to advance EU negotiations in a constructive manner, looking to ways of safeguarding the economy and respecting the rights of EU citizens in Britain.

This is the most critical moment in Britain’s post-war history: whatever agreement emerges from the current negotiations will have immense impacts on the lives of all young people in the country. From a moral perspective, the aspirations of the young deserve to be given special weight in determining Britain’s negotiating strategy.

We need leaders who will bring wisdom to bear on a perilous situation

What Britain badly needs right now is statesmanlike leadership –  an individual or group of people who can stand above the current divisions and gain wide respect from people of all ages and diverse political affiliations for bringing wisdom and common sense to bear on what is now a chaotic and perilous situation. We must throw our weight behind politicians who will inspire us to respond positively, in the interests of the world and of our own nation, to the great contemporary challenges posed by the fast-moving processes of globalisation and by the increasingly rapid advances in technology and communications.

We need people who will lead us to understand that, if our children and grand-children are to live well and in peace, Britain, whatever its past greatness, cannot afford to isolate itself from these overwhelming challenges, but must be fully engaged in shaping responses at home and abroad. We must work with other like-minded nations to harness the new opportunities for the common good and to protect us from the huge risks that, if mishandled, they pose to peace and security, to equity and to the sustainable management of the world’s resources. We require the leadership and inspiration of outstanding persons – like Cable, Davidson or Lucas and many MPs who stand up for their constituents’ priorities – committed to safeguarding the long-term interests of British people as a whole in this rapidly changing environment while enabling us to contribute vigorously to ensuring benign outcomes not just for us but for all the inhabitants of our shared but fragile planet.

Our membership of the United Nations and of the European Union provides us with – albeit far from perfect – institutional frameworks through which we have a significant voice in determining global and regional responses to issues that stand to benefit from coordinated actions that transcend national borders. These concern, for instance, assuring safe air travel, preventing the spread of human and livestock diseases, ensuring the safety of food, protecting workers’ and women’s rights, slowing the rate of climate change, ensuring the secure movement of nuclear fuels, identifying and defusing threats to security, setting rules for the prudent management of banks, and engaging in joint coordinated research and technology development. Rather than deliberately seek, in the name of “taking back control”, to extract ourselves from these mechanisms that play such a vital role in safeguarding our livelihoods, it is clearly in our national interest to contribute to their progressive evolution.

Corbyn is best placed to lead such a revival of statesmanship – but only if he learns to nurture pluralism.

Apart from the fact that he heads by far the largest party in the current opposition, Jeremy Corbyn has good credentials to emerge as the senior statesman who can offer leadership to all who are deeply dismayed by the harm being done to our country by the machinations of the present government. In the recent election, he has shown himself to be a surprisingly charismatic leader who has been able to attract support from droves of young and well-educated people who are in tune with the “modern” world, while still retaining his Labour party faithful. Throughout his political career, he has displayed an unwavering sense of social justice and fairness, and has stood up for those who have been left behind while others have benefitted from changes. Though lambasted by his critics for his contacts with Palestinian and IRA leaders, he values peace highly and understands that this requires opening space for genuine dialogue between conflicting parties and for building mutual trust. In spite of his enigmatic stance over our future relationship with the EU he sees that, now that the issue has arisen, it must be determined not through confrontational bargaining but through engaging in a constructive and open dialogue aimed at reaching a consensus on what brings the greatest collective benefit to all concerned. He has also highlighted the importance that he attaches to Britain’s continued engagement in many of the EU’s decentralised agencies and their programmes.

Corbyn, though he has yet to say this, would probably not rule out an outcome that would enable Britain to remain in the EU provided that other members showed their commitment to a reform agenda that would address many of the issues that induced English voters to opt for leaving just over a year ago. Indeed, it is most likely that the EU would be keen to support the realisation of the major domestic goals championed by Labour and most other opposition parties, including through endorsing European Investment Bank funding for programmes for greater social equity in Britain.

This, of course, is no more than wishful thinking unless Jeremy Corbyn can quickly build a sufficient parliamentary majority to secure amendments to the Repeal Bill and trigger yet another general election. As long as the Tory-DUP deal stands up to pressures, this would require the engagement of all the minor opposition parties and of dissident Conservative MPs.

In the event of an election, Labour would be unlikely to be able to win an outright parliamentary majority, and so Corbyn would have to nurture, from today, the emergence of a progressive alliance. He would have to put forward a fresh, highly personal, manifesto to justify his claim to be able to offer visionary and genuinely inclusive leadership that would bring pragmatism into the Brexit process, define a well-funded set of socially responsible domestic policies and respond to a broadly felt need for a lowering of tensions. He would have to assuage the concerns of many older voters over some of his own more radical ideas, convince still more young people that he can respond to their aspirations, and yet keep most of Labour’s left wing on board.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Corbyn is his own instinct to get drawn into Labour party scraps and to seek to bring its MPs into line with his own views. Remember that he, like May, also imposed a 3-line whip in favour of invoking Article 50 and has, since the snap election, censured MPs who support the UK staying in the single market.   If he is to emerge as the statesman we need, rather than merely the leader of a single party, he must learn to interpret diverse views not as “splits” that threaten his authority but to value pluralism as a source of strength within and beyond his own party. To honour his debt to young voters, he must also clarify his position on Europe.

The parliamentary recess provides the ideal opportunity for Corbyn to connect with these diverse groups, quietly building his credibility as the only person who can stop the government from driving our country down a dead-end road, and offer us the statesman-like leadership that we desperately need. Hopefully he won’t take more than a long week-end’s holiday for quiet reflection and then hit the road!

Published
Categorised as General

The Best Way of Ending Austerity is to Stay in the EU

Labour is committed to ending the 1% cap on pay rises for public sector workers, and a number of Conservative cabinet members, including the arch Brexiteers, Gove and Johnson, have also called for lifting the pay cap. Although May has told them to shut up on the grounds that it won’t be possible to meet the cost, it is most unlikely, if there is a wave of strikes, that any government will be able to keep the lid on this issue.

There is a strong moral argument for ensuring that nurses, teachers, firemen and policemen are fairly paid for the services they provide. There is also a practical justification because it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new staff into many areas of the public services.

The Brexit process is, of course, the main reason why Britain is no longer able to pay its public servants decently. It has already hugely damaged the economy by pushing Sterling into a nose dive that will provoke rising inflation as the cost of imported goods increases in the coming months. The risks surrounding the Brexit process are sending investors to put their money elsewhere and businesses in the finance sector are already relocating their staff to Luxembourg, Frankfurt and Dublin. More seriously, the xenophobia released by the Referendum process makes foreigners think twice before bringing their skills to Britain – and so the recruitment base for the public sector is shrinking.

All of these negative impacts have occurred over the past year simply because of the threat of Brexit and because of the Government’s failure to set out a credible negotiating strategy. What seems to be abundantly clear is that, if the UK is to leave the European Union and the Single Market, it will be deliberately be inflicting on itself massive, long-lasting economic damage that cannot be remedied by opening up new trade deals with other more distant countries.

The strangest thing about the Brexit process is that it is plain for all to see from what has gone on during this year that it has already inflicted horrendous damage on the country, but that most people are accepting this in a fatalist way, lulled by the oft-repeated mantra that this is “the will of the people”.

There is now talk of prosecuting Tony Blair for leading Britain, on false grounds, into the Iraq war. May and the Brexiteers should also be open to prosecution for the damage that they have already done to the social and economic fabric of our country, and be prevented from continuing to hold high office. They deliberately bamboozled voters with false promises and false fears.

The fatuous election called by May to strengthen her negotiating position backfired, but she has failed to accept the signal that voters don’t want to be pushed into a poorer future. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, academics, artists, environmentalists, supporters of workers’ and women’s rights, those concerned with national security and many others – especially young people – who have watched what was going on in silent disbelief for the past 12 months are now telling her loud and clear that they don’t like what she is doing.

Perhaps now it will dawn on our politicians on all sides that the best way of responding to claims for an end to wage caps is to stop the Brexit process in its tracks and so reopen the possibility that Britain can return to a prosperity that will make it easy to raise the fiscal resources required to escape from austerity.

This is common sense but none of our leaders seem prepared to admit it.

Published
Categorised as General

Brexit is Dead but MPs must Sign its Death Certificate

This is the text of an audio recording broadcast by Ben Chambers on Sixteen Million Rising on 1st July 2017. See https://www.mixcloud.com/SixteenMillionRising/smr-ep10-guilty-pleasures/ The audio comes up on track 30 at about 1 hour 25 minutes.

 

Less than one year after the EU referendum, voters in the June general election rejected May and her Brexiteers.

Strangely, though we all know that May’s political future is dead, nobody will sign the death certificate. Our politicians allow her to enjoy the illusion of still being in charge, surviving as a marionette whose gestures are shaped by puppeteers who pull her strings and whose words are those of her ventriloquists.

Brexit is floating in a similar limbo.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, limbo is a “condition of neglect or oblivion to which people or things are consigned when regarded as superseded, useless or absurd:… a state of inaction or inattention pending some future event”.

The “future event” has already happened. The Grenfell Tower blaze killed almost 80 people. Their death certificates won’t admit it, but the underlying cause of this and other disasters in waiting has been “decades of government negligence”. The event has served to reinforce public recognition, already evident in the election result, that the huge social and economic problems facing Britain must be blamed more on our own irresponsible politicians than on the “Brussels bureaucrats”.

Looking back, it is now obvious that the Brexit process was a sordid game of political football, driven not by any widespread public dissatisfaction over membership of the European Union, but by the personal ambitions of rivalrous and lying politicians. They conned us into blaming foreigners for all our problems.

They offered us a dream of “taking back control” so that we would be free of throw out regulations that ensure that the private sector acts in the public interest: that stop people living in plastic-clad fire-boxes; prevent them being sold horsemeat as though it was beef, and get banks to safeguard our personal savings. They called for “reclaiming sovereignty” and then immediately challenged the authority of parliament to shape the most important policy decision in our lifetime. They urged us to unite but fanned division and hate. They promised a brighter economic future, but have presided nonchalantly over a massive fall in the value of our Pound Sterling, induced just by the prospect of Brexit. They call for free trade but are happy to bin the best free trade market that exists, knowingly putting Britain’s future prosperity – our livelihoods – in peril.

What madness! As Mrs May says “Enough is Enough”!

It is now time to end the Brexit limbo and assign it to the flames of hell.

Like Macron’s France, Britain now needs a “new way to do politics”.

A first step in this direction would be for our newly elected representatives to claim the freedom to vote as they feel best on the future relations between the UK and Europe. They should be freed by their party bosses to act on behalf of their constituents and according to their own consciences rather than to be forced by “whips” to toe old party lines to which neither they nor the general public may any longer subscribe.

Published
Categorised as General