{a sample of my new Clarion column}

Welcome to my new column ‘Left Inside’. Here I seek to comment on the Labour Party issues nationally and locally that I, being of the left (in old money), am interested in and motivated by.

Please feel free to comment on-line or through our letters page. Remember, the Clarion is a debating paper!


Coalescing around the Save the Wilderness, anti-cuts and Save Our NHS/Local Hospital groups is the noise in the webosphere of standing an independent anti-cuts left candidate against our incumbent Tory MP, Mark Harper, in the next General Election.

To analyse this, we need to contextualise just who elects our MP. While activists and Party members also vote and push the debate, their numbers pale against the sheer size of the wider voting public. It is the voting people who we are to convince, whoever our candidate is.

And so, it is in my experience that there are two things that inform the vote of the wider, non-activist population. First, the national question: what does the Party stand for? By extension this will be a judgement of their performance if they are in Government, or, in opposition, their proposed programme and policies.

Then, secondly, there is the reputation of the Party locally. This will be communicated by policies adopted by the local Council (car parking charges, refuse collection etc.) and the strength and validity of the opposition.

On both of these, the Tories have a poor standing that any opposition would do well to exploit.

Nationally, there have been the cuts as well as a range of Bills to reform the public sector, the NHS, student fees and even welfare. These are a gift to any opposition candidate to the left of the ConDems.

An independent candidate will say they oppose and stand to reverse all of these things. But will they have the power to do so? No. Currently there are 23 members of Parliament who do not belong to one of the big 3 parties. They hold no majority and cannot even form a coalition strong enough to yield control. They are virtually mute.

But a Labour Candidate – that’s different. As the only other potential Parliamentary power, Labour has already said that it would repeal the Health & Social Care Bill at the first opportunity. An independent may have the same desire but there’s no way they’ll ever have the support and therefore the power to take the opportunity.

By the time the election comes around, the bite of the NHS reforms will begin to filter through. On that alone the public should rightly support the most realistic way of repealing this terrible Bill. And so should SOS and NHS campaigners, if they really want to change things.


But on the other issues, the ground is a bit murkier.

For sure, I for one am not at all comfortable with the Parliamentary Party acknowledging the need for the cuts. But at least their mantra is both more logical and liberal, with the ‘not so deep and not so fast’, and backed up with a plan for public works.

Of course a Labour candidate has to balance the national policy of his Party with his own conscience.  But let’s face it, the Labour approach HAS to better than the alternative: another 4 years of Toryism. To deny this is to gift the win to the enemy.

But that does not mean our Labour candidate or their supporters have to accept the cuts as a premise. Indeed, publicly you can support the national line and use that public platform to qualify your own scepticism of the policy – as people like John McDonell do well – while privately joining in anti-cuts activism within or out of the LP. I reject the idea that to oppose the cuts you have to be out of the LP. It makes no sense.

As for the independent? They’ll have the moral high ground for sure, but still no power to form bills and create legislation, let alone implement their policies. A Labour government would at least slow the cuts and not make them as deep, as a minimum. Then it is up to the Trade Unions and LP members to push harder to compel the Parliamentary Party to go further still with their reversals and repeals, whilst taking stock of where the international economy lies there and then.

Let’s not forget, it was Milliband who observed that the 2012 budget gave to millionaires while it took from millions of pensioners. The Labour Party is the party that truly represents a realistic chance of halting the progress of the Tory agenda. The voice of the independent is lost even locally. All that they achieve is a split in the vote for the left, endangering the very policies that could reverse what they fight to oppose.