The old fetish

Chris Riddell 11 December 2011

Friday was the day the old fetish returned. The day Cameron delved into nostalgia. And the day he set Britain at odds not only with the other 26 EU member states, but rationality itself.

What we saw on Friday was a Prime Minister with his hands tied by dogmatic backbench MPs. But not to worry, it seems Cameron had unveiled his all powerful ‘veto’. The only problem with this is that it’s not a true veto of any sorts. Negotiations will still be ongoing, the remaining 26 EU states will still formulate an agreement and Britain will not be present to have any say in the talks.

This is catastrophic failure for Cameron who has severed any attempts to help salvage the Euro which is not only in the EU’s interest but vital in Britain’s interests. In the words of a Facebook update by my own brother:

Tory lol. Blame the economic problems on the Euro crisis, then veto the plan to save it knowing full well that the the EU will cut you out and essentially get rid of any say you have in determining the future of Europe, and by extension, Britain

Some may call it Bulldog spirit, I’d like to call it naively dogmatic.

Max

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A great year for Irish Labour

Michael D Higgins, of the Irish Labour party, is set to be confirmed as Ireland's ninth president. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Michael D Higgins and Eamon Gilmore will now go down in History as two of the Irish Labour Party’s electorally successful Politicians. It was announced today that Michael D Higgins is to be elected the 9th President of Ireland receiving almost 40% of the first preference votes. This will make him the first ever Labour Presidential Candidate to have become President without the support of from other parties.

Of course this adds to the great success Irish Labour received in the Irish General Election last May where Eamon Gilmore led Labour to its largest number of seats in the Irish Parliament ever. This meant Labour has entered its 8th time in a Coalition Government where it takes up 8 out of the 20 Cabinet posts.

On behalf of all of us in Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) I would like to wish our sister party across the Irish Sea a huge congratulations on the results they’ve had this year. And we hope the best is yet to come.

Max

David Miliband

I’ve just got back from the double David Miliband event, and just wanted to write a report.

I thought the crowd during the first part (In Conversation with David Miliband – in the great hall) was fairly tough, there were questions about Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Guantanemo Bay. One of the best questions was “What would you say to David Eastwood about the Browne Review?” and David replied in a very diplomatic manner, ending with the comment that he didn’t think it was “all Professor Eastwood’s fault”. I for one hope that Eastwood noticed the resentment in the room and the general jibes against tuition fees and millionaires.

The second part (The Living Wage Launch with David Miliband) was more relaxed and entertaining. Luke asked a great question about solidarity with potential allies and recognising the real enemy. David replied “kicking Lib Dems is pleasure, kicking Tories is business. Politics is business”. He also highlighted the work of his “Movement for Change”, responding to comments that it seemed similar to the Big Society by stating that society is our turf, we have always been known as socialists not statists, and the Tories are only developing policies to promote society because they are terrified of being known as the “there is no such thing as society” party. I’m sure many of us can see through their Big Society strategy to a purely Thatcherite idealism, and recognise that grass roots activity and community organisation always has been and will remain a Labour policy area.

In conclusion, congratulations to the BULS members who helped to organise the talks, and I hope those who missed out come to the upcoming great events!

Suzy

That Old Chestnut

David Cameron has a nerve. Not only has he U-turned over his pledge in opposition to hold a referendum over the UK’s terms of membership of the European Union, but today he had the temerity to force Nicolas Sarkozy to back down and accept his presence at key Eurozone talks to try to deal with the Greek debt crisis on Wednesday.

Once again, only one year into the new government, a Conservative prime minister is becoming about as stable on Europe as Edwina Currie is on her feet. We all know deep down he is a staunch Euro-sceptic, so why doesn’t he have the guts to come out and be frank with the British people, and say that he would love us to turn our backs on our continental partners, but that he also loves us to lecture and patronise them on economic policy, despite the fact that UK growth is anaemic at best, and backwards at worst, thanks to his policies.

A referendum on EU membership now would of course be absurd, but having called for one in opposition, the PM should stick to his guns and create a disunited and discredited government, and do us all a favour by breaking up the coalition and triggering a general election. You can’t have your bun and eat it, and you can’t be half in, half out, of the EU – leaving the Eurozone (or more accurately, Germany) to do all the hard work and then turning up to talks this week to act as one of the key players while facing a referendum proposal at home from your own backbenchers is hypocritical and downright embarrassing for Britain.

It was Ed Miliband, incidentally, who called on Cameron to give up his trip Down Under and attend the meeting, therefore whether or not you agree that Cameron has a right to be there, it is clear that the Labour leader is ahead of the curve on this one, as he was on phone hacking and as he was at PMQs this week.

It might sound like a cheap shot from the comforts of opposition – and we all know Blair and Brown disagreed over the Euro – however it is clear that yet again the Tories are divided over Europe. Europhile or Europhobe, this is one of the few reliable constants of the European project.

Priorities please

It was announced yesterday (I think) that the UK has rejected a call by the EU to implement a financial tax of a mere 0.01% on bank transactions which could raise £50 billion a year.

I’d like to draw your attention to a video posted on this blog before about the absurdity of the Coalition decision to oppose the so-called ‘robin-tax hood’.

Enjoy

Max

 

9/11 Ten Years On, Coalition Politics and Blood Donation

9/11 – A Warning from Recent History

For someone of the age of the current crop of Labour Students, it is particularly difficult to believe that it is ten years tomorrow since the lives of millions were changed forever on September 11th, 2001. Most of us were still in primary school at the time, and it is perhaps apt that our generation – one that was constantly told we were growing up too fast – had our innocence of the world around us robbed so suddenly on that bright Tuesday morning. Hearing and seeing the images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center still transfixes all of us, and as much as we might want to look away having seen enough, we can’t quite bring ourselves to stop watching.

However it is our generation – the 9/11 generation – who will be the politicians and headline-makers of the coming years, and if anything good can come of the last decade, it is surely the lesson  that those in power have a responsibility not to overreact when faced with such onslaughts. Our party’s most successful leader (in electoral terms) no doubt had good intentions, but made the grave error of marching the troops gung-ho into an unplanned and illegal war, probably creating a whole new generation of terrorists in the process, while at home him and those around him were complicit in eroding many of the freedoms we were meant to be protecting, including detention without charge and freedom from torture. If the horror of terrorism reaches us again, we must pause and assess the causes before acting. The same rule should apply for other crises, like the riots this summer.

Backbench Tories Have Nothing To Worry About

Today is the final day of the Plaid Cymru autumn conference in Llandudno, north Wales. The outgoing leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, made his final conference speech yesterday after an electoral drubbing for the nationalist party in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Unlike in Scotland, where the SNP have been successful, he argued that coalition government in Cardiff Bay (of which Plaid was the junior party) meant Plaid’s achievements in government were smothered by Labour, and that the party was punished by voters for not claiming credit for them.

Aside from the fact that Plaid achieved very little in government in a time of economic turmoil other than a referendum with poor turnout which managed to bore even political anoraks, their experience in coalition should serve as a lesson to Westminster politics. This week Tory backbenchers, angry over law and order, Europe and abortion, moaned that the Lib Dem ‘tail’ was wagging the Tory ‘dog’ and that Nick Clegg was being given too many concessions by the Prime Minister. However come the election in 2015, the Tories will have nothing to worry about, as the voters are likely to give them sole credit for any successes – particularly if the economy picks up (not a given considering Osborne’s slash-and-burn approach) – and they will certainly not be looking to make some sort of permanent alliance with the Lib Dems, contrary to what some commentators are predicting. The coalition dog will probably have his tail docked when the voters are next given a choice.

About Bloody Time

This week the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood for life in Britain was finally overturned (although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the leap forward because the BBC thought Strictly Come Dancing was more important on the news bulletins that night). This is a triumph that equality campaigners have been working tirelessly for for years, and at last gay men will be able to save lives and help tackle the urgent need for more donors. No more will the official policy imply that gay men cannot be trusted to practice safe sex and ‘probably have HIV’.

Although the ban was only replaced with a one-year time lag since a donor’s last encounter, it is still progress, and puts us more in line with the situation in similar countries.

The Euro Takes A Pounding

The single currency was once such a contentious issue; only a decade ago it seemed likely that the UK would be joining the Eurozone. What happened? Today, Jack Straw predicted that the Euro will indeed fail following the inevitable defaulting by Greece of its sovereign debt, leading to a return to those old holiday favourites like the Drachma. As the media keeps reminding us ominously, despite our not being part of the monetary union, a collapse of the Euro would have a devastating effect on our economy, because of the global nature of our trade regime and our over-reliance on our closest neighbours for exports. This begs the question that if we cannot escape the effects of these sorts of economic crises in a globalised world, is it not time to become more unified to prevent the two-track system we have at the moment, where richer nations are being forced to bail out those in trouble?

I am no economist, yet if I learned anything from my second-year Interwar Economy course (between lapses into and out of a coma), it is that the attempt to ‘force’ currencies of varying strengths to use the same interest rates as part of the Gold Standard was in hindsight a fairly disastrous decision, without some sort of accompanying political union where individual nations have the same tax-and-spending and trade regimes – like BULS members’ attitudes to musical theatre, it seems we can only be either completely pro or completely anti EU. Given that Labour is a progressive party, and that in today’s global economy an insular economic nationalism is unthinkable (we have no industry for that), is it not the time to at least ‘float’ the idea of some sort of European federal state, if we are to keep the post-war dream alive?

This idea may be too much for many people to swallow, and the media will never accept it, but do we really have any realistic alternative when we are competing with economies like China and India? We cannot afford to let the European ideal crumble on the back of this financial crisis.

Luke