2007 - 2021

Election Diary: Broadband Communism and the F Bomb

It’s manifesto launch week. Labour launched in a slick, well choreographed event and it’s full of good stuff:

“Our manifesto is the most radical, hopeful, people-focused, fully-costed plan in modern times. This is our chance to tackle the climate emergency, to end food bank Britain and to rewrite the rules of the economy so it works for everyone – not just the billionaires. This is our chance to deliver a million genuinely affordable homes and a million climate jobs across every region and nation of the UK.”

It puts the boot into the Tories and holds out hope (particularly around a Green Industrial Revolution) saying: “This election is about the crisis of living standards and the climate and environmental emergency. Whether we are ready or not, we stand on the brink of unstoppable change.

We must confront this change while dealing with the growing inequality and insecurity in Britain. Labour led the UK Parliament in declaring a climate and environmental emergency. The next Labour government will lead the world in fighting it, with a plan to drive up living standards by transforming our economy into one low in carbon, rich in good jobs, radically fairer and more democratic. The climate crisis ties us all into a common fate. This election is our best hope to protect future generations from an uninhabitable planet. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said we need to cut global emissions in half by 2030 to have a chance of keeping global heating within safe limits – that means acting now, and acting decisively.”

The work and research Labor have done on a new Green Deal is some of the most comprehensive, radical and hopeful work in modern times.

You can download the whole thing here: Real-Change-Labour-Manifesto-2019

It is particularly strong also on work and inequality: “Under the Tories, pay has stagnated while insecurity and inequality are rising. Work no longer guarantees a way out of poverty. Of 14.3 million people in poverty, nine million live in families where at least one adult works. Real wages are still lower than before the financial crisis, while dividends paid to shareholders are up 85%. Labour will eradicate in-work poverty in our first term by tackling the structural causes of poverty and inequality, such as low pay and high living costs, while raising the floor provided by our social safety net.” They also offer worker ownership: “We will give workers a stake in the companies they work for – and a share of the profits they help create – by requiring large companies to set up Inclusive Ownership Funds (IOFs).”

Some of it is eye-catching (the idea of a digital commons – or of nationalising broadband supply), some of it is disappointing (they’ve dropped a radical plan to end the UK’s contributions to climate change by 2030 and will stick to a target of achieving it “well before 2050” instead). But where there is just a huge yawning gap is, perhaps unsurprisingly, on the constitution.

In the section ‘Constitutional Issues’ they write: “We will act immediately to end the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, and work to abolish the House of Lords in favour of Labour’s preferred option of an elected Senate of the Nations and Regions.” Which, interestingly doesn’t say they are going to abolish the House of Lords and has no time-frame in mind. On Northern Ireland they say they will “work quickly and tirelessly to secure the return of a genuine power- sharing government in Northern Ireland.” In Wales they promise a tidal lagoon project and new nuclear (which is insane). Not much else.

In Scotland they promise an eye-popping “£100 billion of additional resources”.

They argue: “As part of that additional resource Labour would want to see £10 billion from our new National Transformation Fund invested in the building of 120,000 council and social homes in Scotland over the next ten years, ending the housing crisis and creating up to 50,000 jobs.”

This all sounds fabulous, if a little improbable.

They argue: “Labour believes that Scottish independence would be economically devastating and it would be the many not the few who would pay the price.”

They don’t explain what this means or why they think this.

They continue: “Scotland needs the transformative investment coming from a Labour government, not another referendum and not independence. A UK Labour government will focus on tackling the climate emergency, ending austerity and cuts, and getting Brexit sorted. That’s why in the early years of a UK Labour government we will not agree to a Section 30 order request if it comes from the Scottish Government.”

So we’re back to the “early years” formula that was dropped and picked up again three different times on Corbyn’s trip to Scotland. So that’s probably what they’ve settled on for now.

But the yawning gap I spoke of isn’t the consistently undemocratic line of just refusing people a vote, where is the much heralded Federalism, the radical alternative to independence that many on the Labour left and in Scottish Labour’s outlying online community regularly champion?

It’s just not there.

Not a peep.

Not an aspiration.

Not an outline.

For those who regularly cite federalism as the magic that will vanish away our constitutional crisis this prevents some difficulties.

The Labour prospectus is very good on green jobs, investment and housing. It appears however to remain completely incoherent about its constitutional position, not just in Scotland but in the whole of the UK, where its plans seem tentative and incoherent at best.  Perhaps this is a reflection of its centralising impulse, the inherent drive of an old left ideology which wants to plan, to nationalise and to control. Some of that is a good instinct and a necessity in times of socio-ecological crisis, but in democratic terms it really doesn’t make any sense.




Comments (13)

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  1. Graeme McCormick says:

    Labour is now a Party of another country. It just doesn’t understand Scotland and the Scots.

  2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Reporting Scotland Mendaciously was up to its long tried and tested ruse of presenting something positive in a negative light. Foras long as I can remember, bulletins have often been headlined by a (usually Tory) statement condemning/slamming/slating/etc some proposal or initiative by the SG/Labour/an eco group/etc BEFORE REPORTING ON WHAT IS BEING CONDEMNED.

    When the spokesperson for the proposal is interviewed he/she is usually faced with questions like: “Do you DENY the criticism of xxx? ” or “It’s right isn’t it what the Tories are saying?” or “Already this plan is arousing controversy. Can you justify it?” etc/

    Tonight, the Labour proposal for a windfall tax on North Sea Oil and Gas was “Labour’s Windfall Tax Criticised”. It was only later that we heard what the plan actually was but a long and unchallenged assertion was made by the Conservative MP for Stirling was included in the report.

    The rest of the bulletin had negative reports on the prison service, the railways, health (as ever).

    BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs seems to have dropped any pretence at balance and impartiality.

    1. Jo says:

      I honestly don’t know how to deal with it Alasdair. I’m sick of complaining about BBC bias and especially BBC Scotland.

      How do they get away with it?

      Whether it’s against the SNP or the Labour Party, the contempt isn’t even disguised!

      Did you see the FM interviewed on The Nine last night? First she was asked about the Salmond trial… probably for the tenth time yesterday. Then rugby player turned journalist, John Beattie started on her. It was disgraceful.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:


        You are right about the attitude towards the Scottish Government and the SNP in particular.

        The BBC (and the other broadcast media) have dropped even the fig leaf of impartiality they adopted during 2014. Now they have become pretty full-on, unashamed advocates for the British state and the Conservative Party. They always were, but have become overtly weapons in the class war. The Labour manifesto, released yesterday, has been dubbed an “instrument of the class war” by Robert Peston – himself unself-aware that he is part of the class war, but on the other side.

        John Beattie is a privately educated BRITISH LION. So, he has absorbed these values. In some ways he is aware of the wider issues, but, I suspect that because the ruling clique actually perceives that the rickety structure of ‘the precious’ union is becoming even more precarious, they have instructed their flunkeys in the media to ramp up the propaganda.

        In the early months I had some vaguely optimistic feelings about the new BBC Scotland Channel and The Nine, in particular, because it had different presenters and correspondents, who had different styles and different perspectives. But, recently, there have been parts of bulletins which are those which we saw in bulletins on the other BBC channels.

        On the other hand, over the past year, I have heard several acquaintances who were strong NO voters in 2014 make contemptuous comments about the BBC’s trustworthiness and about how Scotland is being treated. Although we lost in 2014, we came much closer than ever I expected, but we opened they eyes and ears of many who have actually become aware of the biases and of the relationship of Scotland to the rest of the UK. These are all strong REMAIN voters. Like most of the rest of us they are aware of alternative sources of information, like Bella and social media.

        As Sam Cooke sang in the 1950s – “A change is gonna come …”

  3. Jim Stamper says:

    Nice advert for Labour if you choose just to read the first part.

    1. Hi Jim – its a balanced view of the good and bad in the manifesto as I see it. If you want binary black and white politics there’s plenty of places you can get that.

  4. Craig P says:

    Having heard the policies, I think if I was an elector in an English constituency I’d be so Labour it’d hurt.

    How on earth are the Conservatives on course for a landslide? What am I not getting? I don’t pay much attention to social media, but when I went on it last night the main complaint against Labour seemed to be that Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews. I’d heard that before, but assumed it was just some projection based on comments that supported Palestine against Israel.

    1. Jo says:

      “What am I not getting? ”

      It’s quite straightforward. The media, for the main part, is anti-Corbyn and pro-Tory, yes, even with Johnson in charge and Cummings directing proceedings. Without the media, Johnson would have been toast a long time ago.

      We have also seen the rabid promotion of the lie of the century with the constantly repeated claims about anti-Semitism. I need to take care now with my choice of words since it’s so dangerous these days to speak out against such vile crusades. I’d say, however, that this particular crusade is bigger than we think as are the masters directing it. In the end, the UK has become a state where a small minority has the power to control us all. I say minority, but one with powerful allies in the media and in politics.

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        As a voter in England I will be voting Labour without hesitation. It is interesting to read one of the above comments that Labour is now simply a party of another country (well two actually including Wales). I get the historical toxicity I think and of course if independence is your thing, there is not much choice than the SNP, but in terms of the current Labour manifesto why would this not appeal to Scots at a fundamental level if we are to believe the idea that Scotland is much more civically minded and indeed caring, than England? Labour’s platform seems to go further with this idea than the general SNP policy agenda which from a distance looks like New Labour with a nationalist base. A friend did suggest to me though that Scottish Labour is also still pretty much old New Labour if that makes sense.

        As for the supposed anti-semitism I’m not sure this is that much of thing for English voters except for those who hate Labour anyway. Most of it smoke and mirrors anyway because when you really drill down, there is so little real evidence of genuine anti-semitism, merely things that now fall foul of highly dubious definitions that you go against at your peril.

      2. john learmonth says:

        Jo, who are the ‘masters’ directing and who are the ‘small minority’?

  5. milgram says:

    I think the gap around constitutional bits is to (discreetly) leave room for discussion with the SNP should that be how the numbers fall on December 13th. Which seems smart, strategically, since they’re caught in such a bind around the independence question and a hung parliament is a likely result.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    I notice that the Conservatives seem to be stooping especially low on this:

    Semi-socialist Labour faces entrenched opposition across the British Establishment, with the constitutional arrangements forming series of interlocking defences like the Maginot Line. Instead of launching a manifesto to take on this structural bias by direct formal/hard constitution reform (as in kicking off the process towards a written constitution and optionalizing the monarchy), they appear to be favouring an indirect informal/soft approach bypassing these defences, striking at the exposed flank of the Establishment, hitting it in its history. So in the first year of a Labour government, they pledge to:
    “Conduct an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule”
    which seems to have sent waves of terror through the supporters of the Old Imperial Order, who presumably know where the bodies, and indeed the files, are buried.

    On the other side of the world, an island empire not dissimilar in many ways to the British one is facing its own version of history wars. There is an interesting if sobering account (now a decade out of date) in Bruce Cumings book The Korean War: A History where he talks of rightwing militarist Japanese generals and politicians who publish essays absolving the Japanese Empire of imperialist wrongdoing and insisting they played a civilizing role in their colonies. General Tamogami Toshio was sacked from their air force but has since campaigned for political office:

    However, no such censure applies if senior British figures trot out their lies and distortions on how great and civilized the British Empire was(is). Yet. If Labour manage to form a coalition government, I hope the other parties will support its approach. Unforgivably, the British political system where all manner of awkwardness can be swept under the monarch’s robes is an inspiration to imperialists round the world. It was sickening, for example, to see the smug critiques of Russia and China by the Establishment questioners of Tim Berners-Lee in the Dimbleby lecture, making no mention of British information warfare or indeed its allies like Saudi Arabia (another monarchy) where bloggers are imprisoned, tortured and executed.

  7. Malky Mack says:

    Scotland should not accept an offer of federalism as a substitute for independence. I live in a federation of states. I can tell you that federation is not much different to the current devolution settlement in Scotland. Scotland in a federation would still not have a say in foreign policy or representation on any international bodies. The state of New South Wales is only one part of the Australian federation. Scotland would still be only one part of a federal United Kingdom and be downgraded from a country to a province….not good enough…full independence is the only way.

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