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The electability of the Labour Party: some historical notes

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2017 by kmflett

David Miliband and Labour history

hwilson

David Miliband who lost out to his brother Ed Miliband for the Labour leadership in 2010 and subsequently departed for a role in New York has given a wide-ranging interview to Murdoch’s Times newspaper.

The Times predictably chose to run it in the wake of Labour’s poll performance in the Copeland and Stoke on Trent Central By-Elections.

Miliband who was MP for South Shields and Foreign Secretary in the 2005-2010 Labour Government is often touted by the right-wing media as a future Labour leader over the water.

Miliband does not actually attack Jeremy Corbyn in the interview confining himself to the more potentially interesting point that he believes a more radical outcome can be achieved in different ways to current Labour policy. He doesn’t make it clear whether this is just a re-tread of New Labour thinking or something else.

It is his comments that Labour is further away from office than at any time in the last 50 years that have particularly been seized upon, primarily by opponents of Jeremy Corbyn.

As with his views on current Labour policy it is not entirely clear what he means.

50 years ago Harold Wilson was Prime Minister in the 1966-70 Labour Government. One could argue that Miliband, who was born in 1965 has in mind the period before Labour was elected in 1964 with a very small majority.

Labour had lost the 1959 General Election which after the debacle of Suez in 1956 and Anthony Eden’s sudden departure as Tory leader it had some hopes of winning. Under the new Tory leader Macmillan, with the economy booming after years of post-war austerity, Labour, to some, appeared out of touch with the beginnings of the ‘consumer society’.

After the 1959 Election, a well-known study of Labour’s support and policies was undertaken and published under the title Must Labour Lose. The conclusions will be familiar enough to anyone active on the left now because they are essentially the same ones that the Labour right still use to attack the left. Namely that talk of public ownership must end and market capitalism embraced.

This was very much in line with the politics of the then Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell but after his sudden death Harold Wilson took over. Wilson came from the centre-left and with his speech writer and spin doctor, Tony Benn, had a rather different take on matters. Wilson’s perspective on modernisation involved a technocratic future, which the Tories under old Etonian leader Douglas Home were certainly not in tune with.

In the interview Miliband also compares Labour’s position now unfavourably to the 1980s when it was last out of office for an extended period. He correctly notes the changes in Scottish politics but also argues that Labour’s core support is now weaker. In this he is probably right. The Iraq War led to the desertion of many voters and support for both major parties has been in decline for decades. Labour and the Tories took just 67% of the vote between them in 2015. In 1964 the comparable figure was 87.5%

Yet it was also in the 1980s, with the struggles of the miners and printers, that the left re-built itself after the defeat to Thatcher in 1979. As Henry Mayhew’s Victorian London costermonger noted of an earlier period of left-wing defeat, ‘People fancy that when all’s quiet that all’s stagnating. Propagandism is going on for all that. It’s when all’s quiet that the seed’s a-growing. Republicans and Socialists are pressing their doctrines’.

Maybe that’s not David Miliband’s idea of how to re- build the left but it may well be Jeremy Corbyns

 

A version of this post appeared in the Morning Star on 27th February

Articles

The moral economy of Shrove Tuesday-riots

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2017 by kmflett

shrove

In 2017 the moveable feast of Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent, is known almost entirely for the consumption of pancakes. Historically matters, in certain periods, particularly the early C17th were a bit more exciting.

Shrovetide was the occasion for ball games, what Ronald Hutton in the definitive volume on British folk customs, Stations of the Sun, notes as ‘licensed misrule’.

By 1598 the ball games had started to develop into something wider. There were, Hutton records, riots on 24 out of the 29 Shrove Tuesdays in the early Stuart period (1600s). The riots took place mainly it seems in the northern areas of London and involved centrally apprentices but also craftsmen.

As ever the riots were not random but aimed at particular targets, in particular brothels and playhouses. Hutton records that between 1612-14 on Shrove Tuesday a Shoreditch brothel was attacked each year until it shut. On Shrove Tuesday 1617 a new Drury Lane playhouse was destroyed and prisoners freed from Finsbury prison by rioters.

Hutton notes that, while the targets may at least seem odd to modern eyes, they ‘fitted into a much older tradition of cleansing a community before Lent’. In other words the Shrove Tuesday crowd, in rioting, was seeking to destroy what it saw as the less moral parts of the early C17th economy.

The tradition of rioting died out only slowly and the mass playing of football on Shrove Tuesday still goes on in some place as a distant echo of earlier times/

Articles

St David’s Day Beard of Wales set to be a close shave

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Press release, 27th February

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

St David’s Day Beard of Wales poll set to be a close shave

SONY DSC

Chris Fox

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Paul Flynn

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with the St David’s Day Beard of Wales 2017 poll set to close at midday on Tuesday 28th February the outcome looks to set to be a close shave.

Singer with socialist R&B band Thee Faction Chris Fox is currently bearding Newport MP Paul Flynn who has a high profile after his leading role last Monday in the Parliamentary debate on the petition to stop a State visit by President Trump

The poll aims to determine the St David’s Day Beard of Wales, the Welsh beard that offers the most positive national image.

The campaigners say that Images of St David suggest that the Welsh Saint himself had an organic beard

Welsh rugby prop Adam Jones won the Award in 2013, voted for by BLF supporters, just shaving former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Another rugby player Leigh Halfpenny won in 2014. In 2015 the Award went to Thee Faction musician Chris Fox and in 2016 footballer Joe Ledley

It is only the fifth time the Award has been given following the traditional UK Beard of the Year at the end December each year and the BLF says it is a mark of Wales as a modern nation on St David’s Day that beards are now playing an increasingly significant role in national life.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, with just hours left to vote it looks there could be a close shave.

The winners will be announced on St David’s Day 1st March

Beard of Wales 2017 Nominations

Jake Ball, rugby player

Illtud Llyr Dunsford, Charcutier

Paul Flynn-Parliamentarian

Chris Fox- musician

Richard Harrington, Y Gwyll actor

Tom Jones- musician

Joe Ledley, footballer

Gruff Rhys- musician

Articles

The Ambridge Socialist poll: D-I-V-O-R-C-E Justin or Miranda?

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2017 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist Poll

Should Justin Elliott file for divorce?

justin

Justin Elliott’s liaison with his PA Lillian Bellamy is the talk of Ambridge. Apparently he loves Lillian in preference to his wife Miranda. One might ask why if this is so he doesn’t divorce Miranda.

Perhaps the answer, never mentioned by the BBC, is obvious: the size of the divorce settlement.

Alternatively perhaps Miranda will, and not before time some might say, seize the initiative and divorce Justin.

Articles

Spurs v Stoke: the north-south divide. But in whose favour?

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2017 by kmflett

jobtot

Spurs play Stoke at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Tottenham of course is in the wealthy metropolitan area of North London while Stoke, as the media have spent much time telling us in recent weeks is not. So how do the two compare? I looked at the unemployment figures for the Parliamentary Constituencies of Stoke on Trent Central and Tottenham for January 2017.

They are as below

Stoke on Trent Central

Out of Work Benefits 1,400 (2.5%)

Tottenham

Out of Work Benefits 2,920 (2.9%)

Articles

The Ambridge Socialist:Justin & Lillian banned from Jennifer’s party for Gross Moral Turpitude

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2017 by kmflett

The Ambridge Socialist

65 years of the class struggle in Borsetshire

26th February

Justin & Lillian banned from Jennifer’s party for Gross Moral Turpitude

justinlilllian

Justin and Lillian may have gone too far this time. The moral guardian of Ambridge Jennifer Aldridge (well she has had to deal with Brian over decades) came home to discover them engaged in what she described as fumblings. This involved Lillian being naked and Justin leaving in a hurry. Both have been banned from Jennifer’s party

Justin Elliott: we ask the questions the BBC wont

It has been a while since Justin Elliott appeared on the Ambridge scene as the head of Damara Capital. He had grand ideas for the area, none of which have actually happened, up to and including his plan to buy a house in the area. He employed Titchener in various capacities without which he might not have been in Ambridge at all. Berrow Farm, another of his failed ventures, is currently apparently not being cultivated, although there are rumours that it is being used to grow cannabis plants. Meanwhile he has started a liaison with his PA Lillian Bellamy who apparently he loves in preference to his wife Miranda. One might ask why if he loves Lillian he doesn’t divorce Miranda but the answer, never mentioned by the BBC is obvious: the size of the divorce settlement.

Ambridge Socialist Editor Keith Flett said, Justin Elliott who is portrayed as a man of culture and an enlightened capitalist is in reality a dodgy and devious bastard.

The Ambridge cricket team

The Ambridge Socialist thinks that this season’s Ambridge cricket team should be comprised entirely of women players. In our poll over 75% backed the idea. However at the Ambridge cricket club AGM this week, reactionaries, led surprisingly by Bert Fry refused to back PC Burns plan to introduce women players. Ultimately however there may be little choice. Women players or no Ambridge team

In other news

Kirsty is back with ideas for the health club

Kirsty has been in The Bull with Helen

Articles

Colonel John Ward: MP for Stoke on Trent 1906-1929

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2017 by kmflett

col-john-ward

I know little about Colonel John Ward MP, beyond his Wikipedia entry, the accuracy of which I certainly cant vouch for.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ward_(trade_unionist)

It is I think reasonable to assume he was MP for Stoke on Trent from 1906 until 1929. He was elected as a Lib-Lab MP in 1906 did not join the Labour Party and sat as a Liberal. He was succeeded as MP from 1929-1931 by Lady Cynthia Mosley. Your assumption here would be correct. She was the wife of Oswald Mosley who by 1931 had formed the ‘New Party’ which became the British Union of Fascists.

It would also appear that at least in 1910 Colonel Ward had an impressive moustache.

Fortunately the matter does not need to rest there. Mike Haynes has been researching Ward and will speak about him at the socialist history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1 on Monday 27th February. Its in room 304 from 5.30pm. Its free to attend and you dont need a ticket..