Leaked Labour Report

These revelations should end any debate around whether Labour’s senior management team, including McNicol, were serious about a Labour government in 2017. To the contrary what this stunning cache of documents reveals is how McNicol – and a tight, unelected circle around him – made every effort to undermine and denigrate that year’s election campaign, frequently stating how they hoped it would fail while simultaneously planning to replace Jeremy Corbyn from as early as January. – Novara Media

A leaked report makes plain the extent to which anti-Corbyn staffers – including former general secretary McNicol – sabotaged the party, actively undermined it in the 2017 election, targeted those they deemed a ‘trot’ (‘anyone left of Gordon Brown’), and intentionally mishandled antisemitism complaints to tar the leadership with their own failures to properly respond to allegations.

This use of antisemitism as a factional football is, of course, grossly antisemitic. The report refers to a case of holocaust denial being sat on, all to help falsely brand the Corbyn wing as antisemitic.

Here is Novara Media’s selection of extracts regarding the 2017 election.

Here is Emilie Oldknow saying she had Tom Watson delay the expulsion of Ken Livingston (for antisemitism) to embarrass Jeremy Corbyn, despite his demanding a resolution.

Here are Rod Liddle’s (apparently he’s a member?) shameful public statements being ignored due to factional allegiance.

You’ll be able to find the full report, if you can stomach it.

This is a true test of Keir Starmer’s commitment to ‘unity’ and ‘fighting antisemitism’. Anyone complicit in this should have no place in politics.

Of Course We Can Afford It!

Many people are sceptical of the 2019 Labour Manifesto – can we afford it? Where’s the magic money tree?

It’s actually eminently affordable, and would make the economy better for years to come. Here’s how.

It really isn’t that expensive, seriously.

Here’s a graph from The Times (hardly a radical publication!)

Labour manifesto cost graph

Many estimations of the upfront costs are inflated or decontextualised to seem scarier. A few more percent of GDP spent on long-needed investment hardly threatens cataclysm, so stop raving about Venezuela.

We can’t afford to not do this stuff.

Is the economy really working right now? Who for?

Food banks have gone from virtually unknown to a regular feature of life. We have high in-work poverty. Child homelessness has soared by 80%. There are schools asking parents for basic supplies.

I could go on and on. Austerity continues to have a savage toll. It’s not a coincidence that so many things are at a record worst. This didn’t just happen, it was done by the Conservatives (and Lib Dems). It is unnecessary, outrageous, and unforgivable.

Isn’t it curious that when ‘we’ had to tighten our belt, that meant telling an emaciated man to find work but didn’t mean doing anything to slightly inconvenience billionaires?

If we have any pretensions of being a civilised society, we must invest in vital services and support secure work with a living wage. We are supposedly one of the wealthiest nations. We shouldn’t have food banks.

Suppose all this had happened under a Corbyn government. Would you then be talking about ‘socialist bread lines’? Think about that very seriously.

Prof Mariana Mazzucatto says:

[O]verall, the economy is not growing through investment, but private debt-fuelled consumption, putting the ratio of private debt to disposable income back at the level it was before the crisis. And that, not public debt, caused it.

Investment generates returns.

Many sources will compare merely an expected cost (likely an inflated figure) of policies with expected revenue from tax changes. This is tipping the scale – the whole point of investments is to generate some return, whether through savings downstream or growth.

Comparing the economy to household spending – a simple money in, money out – is stupid for many reasons, one of them being that households don’t tend to invest money to gain new income. But this is one of the things public spending should be about (with public welfare being another critical, tragically sidelined priority).

It’s still a flawed analogy, but compare the economy to a business instead. If you run a struggling business, is the only option you have to reduce outgoings? Do you fire all your staff and sell all the chairs? No!

Prof Simon Wren-Lewis concludes:

[A] Labour government implementing all or the major part of this manifesto will mean the economy as a whole will end a decade of low output and wage growth that has stifled UK innovation and productivity growth.

We should ignore the tired old discourse about whether we can pay for it, and focus on the benefits each individual spending increase or investment project might bring, and on the revitalisation of the economy that this manifesto will generate.

And do you realise how wasteful privately owned energy, water, etc is? Nationalising these oligopolies away pays for itself.

Based on intensive empirical research, this paper shows that public ownership of utilities would result in annual savings of just under £8bn – so nationalisation would pay for itself in less than seven years[.]

But the 1970s!’

For heaven’s sake, the 1970s had a specific, complex international context – the fall of Bretton Woods, the OPEC oil embargo… unless you’re prepared to go into the weeds of all this, you simply don’t have an argument. What you have is a tired scare story about the past, when nurses are resorting to food banks today.

A more apt comparison for Labour’s plans would be the modern social democracies – which, far from rerunning the Winter of Discontent, are doing better than us on most meaningful metrics. Many other decent countries have elements of key Labour policies.

Even within the UK, compare Preston’s in-sourcing success to Tory councils almost going bankrupt!

But New Labour ruined the economy!’

1 – This isn’t them any more, thank heavens!

2 – The Tories have had power for a while now – and everything is crumbling.

Ok though, let’s talk about the crash.

Loathe as I am to defend Blair or Brown, let’s acknowledge that the crash was an international crisis that began with US mortgage markets. It would have been difficult to entirely insulate the UK.

Having said that, one of the many big mistakes they made was failing to properly regulate the financial sector. Everybody knows this.

Would the Tories have done it? We know not – if nothing else, they’ve had the reins for a while now and haven’t done so!

As for the ‘no money left’ note: do people not understand what a dark joke is? This is a tradition among leaving ministers.

The only previous example of a similar note being made public came in 1964, when Conservative chancellor of the Exchequer Reginald Maudling left a message in his Whitehall office after being forced out by election defeat, telling his Labour replacement James Callaghan: “Good luck, old cock…. Sorry to leave it in such a mess.”

The problem wasn’t ‘spending too much’ (see the social democracies again), the problem was unstable finance and asset price inflation led growth – which only Labour will finally get us out of by investing in the real economy. Reforms such as a financial transactions tax (disincentivising speculative high-frequency trading in favour of real investments) will help fight the exact issues that burst in 2008.

But Dianne Abbott!’

One MP flubbing an interview once is relevant to a manifesto how?

Phillip Hammond got the cost of HS2 wrong by £20bn in an interview. That by itself surely isn’t enough to completely disregard Hammond or the Tories, is it?

(Let’s not pretend we don’t all know exactly what the double standard is about.)

I’ll tell you something that is relevant to a manifesto, though. The entire conservative party wants to convince you that 20,000 is a higher number than 21,732. Is this what credibility looks like?

(Any Tory MPs reading: if you’re confused about how numbers work, here’s a tip from Big Shaq.)

If the manifesto really is so unaffordable, make honest arguments.

If there are good arguments to be made, why not make them instead of setting up a fake ‘labour manifesto’ website to mislead people?

Temporarily rebranding their press account as an independent fact checker, doctoring a video of Keir Starmer… if our policy is so bad, why resort to desperate underhand tricks?

All the right seems to have is falsehood, easily debunkable canards, and hysterical comparisons to Stalin at the prospect of making corporation tax what it was in 2010. I’m simply not seeing much of real substance.

It seems like what scares leading Tories and their friends isn’t the prospect of Labour ‘trashing the economy’, but changing who it works for. It’s great for them if landlords charge exorbitant rents, bosses pay a pittance to zero-hour workers subsidised by insufficient benefits, and the profits all stack up in tax havens. And if they’ve conned you into agreeing with them, they’re laughing all the way to the Caymans.

Links Post 2

Some things I found interesting.

Lyta Gold discussing class – as an element often left out of intersectionality, or just given lip-service without really being considered. E.g., when it gives upper-middle class white liberals an opportunity to get mad at Bernie Sanders for supposedly dismissing identity. While class-reductionism is of course dumb and bad, on the whole it seems class is under-addressed.

Jonas Fossli Gjersø on Corbyn not being a terrifying tankie:

Another moniker Mr Corbyn’s detractors often apply to his policies are that they derive from some so-called extreme of the political spectrum, that they are ‘hard left’ and ergo hopelessly idealistic and unworkable. To a Norwegian observer such as myself I find this characterisation puzzling. Mr Corbyn’s policy-platform, particularly in regard to his domestic policies are largely identical with the Norwegian Labour Party manifesto. Railway nationalisation, partial or full state ownership of key companies or sectors, universal healthcare provisions, state-funded house-building, no tuition fee education, education grants and loans to name but a few, enjoy near universal support among the Norwegian electorate, in fact, they are so mainstream that not even the most right-wing of Norwegian political parties would challenge them.

And this is not only the case in Norway, but has been integral to the social-democratic post-war consensus in all the Nordic countries. Judging by almost any measure of social indicators these policies have been a success, the Nordic region enjoys some of the world’s highest living standards and presumably should be a model to be emulated rather than avoided. Obviously the Nordic region is no earthly paradise and there are cultural, economic and historical differences between the UK and Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, but if there is such a thing as a ‘best practice approach’ in public policy the Nordic model would probably be it and, at any measure, a useful benchmark for Britain to move towards.

(Sidenote: within the UK, compare ‘Corbynomic’ Preston‘s success to Tory councils going bankrupt.)

Nathan Robinson, on when conservatives accidentally admit that the free market can restrict freedom:

From every other PragerU video, I would get the impression that corporations cannot be “Big Brother,” because we choose whether to interact with them or not. It’s a free market, and if you don’t like the product on offer, you can go and find another product. […] Say a context where an employee had been fired for handing out a pro-union pamphlet, or a customer had been asked to leave a Walmart for refusing to stop waving a Palestinian flag. I doubt many capitalists would argue that the right to free speech trumps the right of an owner to decide which speech to allow on their property.

When conservatives like Bozell criticize YouTube and Facebook as abridging freedom of speech, then, they implicitly concede that private companies can have the power of governments, that “Big Brother” can be in either the public sector or the private sector. They accept Elizabeth Anderson’s point that corporations are private governments structured as dictatorships. If the gateway to the “public square” is policed, it doesn’t matter whether it’s policed by the state police or the security firm hired by the asset management company that owns the gate. […]

My instinctive reaction here is to roll my eyes and say “Oh, so you’re saying that concentrated power in the hands of unaccountable self-interested private actors can abridge people’s freedom?”

Conservative journalist Peter Oborne – Corbyn’s right on Iran:

Corbyn is right to challenge claims emanating from the White House about Iran. His call for Britain to “act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation,” is common sense.

This is not the first time that the Labour leader has been the voice of caution when the British political class have rushed towards war. He took a brave and lonely stand when the British political establishment followed George W Bush into the Iraq disaster.

He was vindicated by events when he warned against the invasion of Afghanistan. He was one of only a dozen MPs who voted against David Cameron’s terribly misjudged intervention in Libya. […]

It’s only in the UK that expressing alarm about the bellicose Iranian policy of Donald Trump is regarded as unpatriotic. Germany and Japan have both made it clear that they don’t regard the evidence of Iranian involvement produced so far as conclusive.


The Mad Lads Only Went And Done It

independent group

7 Tory Labour MPs left the party on Monday, forming the Independent Group.

It’s unclear what they’re standing for. They’re obviously against Corbynism, but their own position seems rather nebulous. As this article says: they’re not actually a party yet, they describe their platform with vague principles rather than policy proposals (‘It is time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics and created an alternative that does justice to who we are today’), and, as member Angela Smith said, they’re ‘sensible’ and ‘centrist’.

Thank heavens someone’s finally there for the silent majority of Brits, crying out for a less exhilarating version of the Lib Dems.

Corbyn’s economic and foreign policy is too hard-left: despite it generating a surge in membership and the largest increase in vote share since Attlee, people won’t vote for that! The one policy this fresh new group are probably concrete on – a second referendum – is by their own admission mathematically impossible to get through the Commons. But it must be really popular with the public, because the Lib Dems are at double digits in some of the polls.

Chris Leslie said that Labour had been ‘hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left’. When a party swells to half a million members, who hit the streets door-knocking to help earn you a seat, and increase your majority, speaking of that as hijacking is… a bit churlish? Shouldn’t any politician want their party to be popular? For heaven’s sake, be glad about it and work together against the Tories!

But, in good old democracy when convenient style, the Independent Group are happy to keep the seats Labour voters and members put them into. ‘By-elections are not what are needed right now’, Leslie says. Not needed by who? Not the voters who elected him under a Labour ticket, that’s for sure.

They’ve already torpedoed any moral authority they might have had. It takes some really powerful galaxy-brains to leave a party because a small proportion of its half a million members are racist, and within hours of your launch have one of your seven members describing POC as ‘black or a funny tinge.’ The totally not racist party – well, only 14% of them. And however flawed Labour’s procedures might be, at least it has them!

Well, we’ll see how many votes they scrounge up. And from who.

Foreign Aid: Britain Can Multitask

A recent article in The Sun by Matt Dathan – ‘Furious Tories demand ministers fix problems at home FIRST as foreign aid budget soars £500m to £14billion’. We’ve all heard this message umpteen times, the idea that we’re spending outrageous sums on charity and should take care of our own first.

£14bn sounds like a lot of money. Hell, I could get some avocado toast and maybe have enough left over for a house. But what does this mean in the context of the economy? In Full Fact’s article on the foreign aid budget, they explain:

For every hundred pounds that’s made in the UK, seventy pence goes towards foreign aid.

Another way to say this is that the government has a target to spend 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income on overseas development aid each year. Gross National Income (GNI) is the UK’s annual output of goods and services, plus any income we get from abroad.

Oh. That doesn’t sound like we’re hemorrhaging cash on charity to me. 70p per hundred quid. I’m no economist, but surely we can afford to spend 0.7% of our GNI on foreign aid and still take care of UK citizens? As a nation, we ought to be able to do two things at once.

People have noticed the discrepancy between our aid budget and degrading services at home. The Sun:

Nigel Evans, who sits on the Commons International Development committee, called for a change in rules governing overseas aid.

He said: “The taxpayer looks around towns and cities staring at potholes, police stations closed etc and wonders why we’ve got money for foreign aid but not for essentials at home.”

Good question! But here’s where I take a sharp swerve from the viewpoint expressed in that article.

We don’t have to reduce the foreign aid budget – 0.7% of GNI – to fix potholes and properly fund public services.

It’s not as though the Tories were sat in Downing Street, wringing their hands, ‘oh, we want to take care of our own but we can’t, there’s no way to afford it, if only we could take it from the foreign aid budget’. One of the great lies of conservatism is pretending the money to do something doesn’t exist, justifying austerity – which actually harms the economy – while the wealthiest profit from handouts.

As Dave Prentis wrote in New Statesman:

While hospital porters, school support staff and care workers have been forced to pay – in lost jobs and slashed wages – for the mistakes of the financial sector, the wealthiest in our society got a tax cut. The government claimed that reducing the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p in 2013 wouldn’t cost the government money. In fact, analysis carried out by UNISON shows that between 2013/14 and 2017/18 the income tax cuts for those earning over a million pounds a year alone have saved the nation’s super-wealthy on average £554,000 each. Those tax cuts have also cost the British taxpayer £8.6bn over those five years.

Trickle-down has been so debunked I’m not going to bother, and austerity simply doesn’t make economic sense. Again, I’m no economist, but Another Angry Voice has a solid article on fiscal multipliers, which seem very significant in all this. Basically, you can’t cut your way to growth. You have to invest to earn. Spending on things would help the economy!

More detail on conservative economic incompetence here: mainly macro, Nothing Of Interest.

Since it’s well within our national ability to take care of our public services while maintaining a 0.7% foreign aid budget, we don’t have to ‘fix problems at home first’. If we want to fix problems at home, what we really need is to move away from right-wing neoliberalism and toward an economic system which would work better for most of the population. Let’s not blame the global poor for the actions of our own government and the greed of tax-dodging millionaires.

Personally I think that a move to social democracy under Corbyn would be a big step in the right direction, and it’s immensely frustrating that people keep straw-manning Labour’s policy (re: Venezuela or the USSR) when many of the policies are mainstream in countries which recovered better from the 2008 crash. Skim the manifesto at least, eh? Not a slicey boi in sight.

There have also been complaints about aid money being spent unwisely. However, as Ben Chu wrote in The Independent, pointing out individual instances of questionable projects doesn’t discredit the concept of foreign aid itself:

Solving entrenched problems of poverty is a complicated business. What works in one developing country’s context may not work in another’s. The key is learning from failures. This demands rigorous analysis by independent experts and the swift cancellation of programmes that are not delivering.

(Interestingly, we’re spending aid money to help Yemen while selling Saudi Arabia the very arms they’re attacking Yemen with. Hmm. Will the right complain about this one?)

The trope of looking after home first has some superficial common sense to it, but the economic argument falls apart on examination; and as for the moral argument, there isn’t a leg to stand on. Suppose we did focus on home. At what point would the narrative switch to, ‘okay, now we can help others’? Do we have to build a utopia here first? Dig into this trope, and there’s a dark nationalism at play.

Our foreign aid budget is one of the things I feel positive about this country for. It’s only right we do something as a nation to try to help others out a bit – something that isn’t ‘bomb things until they’re better’.

We have the capacity to improve the situation at home while maintaining our foreign aid. We don’t have to choose, do one thing first than the other. We can multitask. And I believe that we should multitask.