Why do we need a progressive alliance in #Cornwall? one picture says it all

Some of you may or may not have seen our new Facebook cover – see above. It indicates the scale of the challenge ahead and the impossibility of any one party succeeding on its own in breaking the Tory stranglehold in Cornwall.

I am still taking flak from many who are   upset at the election debacle when this site urged people to vote Liberal Democrat in Truro and St Austell constituencies. It was a wrong call, I admit that, I’ve even apologised; but please for goodness sake look at the bigger picture: Continue reading “Why do we need a progressive alliance in #Cornwall? one picture says it all”

UK General Election 2017: votes wasted in Cornwall

It is hard to comprehend  just how broken and dysfunctional our voting system is. But these figures by the Electoral Reform Society  and the BBC give you some idea.

That means that only 10,173,321 votes – or 32% –  actually mattered! The rest – 68% of the vote -was a wasted vote!

Continue reading “UK General Election 2017: votes wasted in Cornwall”

Meeting 22 Jan 2016: West Cornwall Progressive Alliance

With the exception of Gavin Barker and Andrew George, no record of names is normally kept at part of meeting records. We do not speak on behalf of our parties or make decisions. Comments are unattributable. However those of you who are members of parties may use this to feed back to your local branch.

There were around 25 participants drawn from different parties and in some cases none. The purpose of the meeting was to reflect on the election and map a way forward.

Continue reading “Meeting 22 Jan 2016: West Cornwall Progressive Alliance”

This turns our understanding of economics on its head

You can almost hear the howls of derisive laughter were Jeremy Corbyn to seriously push this approach to the economy. Indeed he has – and he was subjected to exactly that.

No serious economist dares push this too hard for fear that their own professional credibility would be  undermined; nor indeed any  politician without risking the ire of the right wing press, so strong is the grip of the neoliberal economic model which encourages us, from Thatcher onwards, to compare government spending to a household budget. We are constantly warned of the debt we leave to future generations should we transgress the boundaries of ‘responsible government’. And if that means we can’t afford public services like the NHS,  so be it – get over it!

Then along comes Richard Murphy, a lone voice and a professor of economics who has to put up with an impossible degree of invective from right wing trolls for daring to push a different vision. This is an exciting and progressive policy which every centre-left party  should sign up to. However it is not just about a Green economy but a different way of doing economics.

How Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing would work

The need for political change not just a change of government

Whether the next election happens this year or the next, it is better to plan now rather than wait; and Labour, galvanised by its significant advance in votes gained, is losing no time in doing so. Other parties, Liberal Democrats and Greens will of course be doing the same,  but I wager that the first salvo of the next election will more likely be directed at our nearest political neighbours  rather than the Conservatives. Too often election battles resemble more a  re-hash of the Life of Brian, only without the humour,  than a co-operative attempt to remove the Conservatives from office.

To the die-hard party activists on the left, the Progressive Alliance is simply an irritant, a distraction, a dangerous political diversion from the  comforting binary politics of Labour-Conservative showdowns, rehearsed endlessly over decades of political struggle, more in favour of the Conservatives it has to be said, than Labour. And just as Labour activists see the progressive alliance as a front for Liberal Democrats, so many Liberal Democrats see this as a ‘left-unity project’ that dissolves party identity and  threatens their electoral prospects. What neither fails to see is that this project is not a separate political  party or movement but a way of doing politics differently.

We are not a threat, we are not competing, we are not carving out separate political terrain or asking anyone to drop party political allegiance and  ‘join us’.  For there is no separate ‘us’ to join. And the ‘us’ in this case is made up of people who are members or supporters of existing political parties or none.

But don’t be fooled; that “doing politics differently” is  not a gentle walk in the park. It is loaded with meaning and at least as challenging a call to arms as any electoral  battle. Its battles are more with ourselves and a deeply ingrained political culture of tribalism that refuses to see the world except through the  narrow  lens of ideology and party difference, topped with a rich layer of historic political and personal enmity. It is the politics of the past because it is locked in the past, it has nothing to offer  the future.  It is more evident in Britain and the United States than in Europe, and more prominent among party activists than a wider public. This is not to say that there are no good grounds for anger, only that anger should not rule our politics or blind us to possibility.

Let me put it this way:  I too was very angry with the Libdems and the coalition government. Now  can we please move on?

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader I was  excited because for the first time, I felt I had a party that spoke for me and  my political values instead of being a pale, kinder  imitation of the Conservatives. Suddenly there was a clear alternative to the dominant neo-liberal model that had for too long insisted that  “there is no alternative”.

Here is the tricky bit: it is because I now belong to a party that speaks my  language, that I am more confident in relating  to others from different parties that  speak a different language and embrace a different worldview. With the advent of Corbyn,   I  never thought that everyone must now believe in what I believe or insist on only one right point of view. I might argue, persuade  or vigorously defend the values I hold,  but not bully, condemn or demean others for taking a different stance. And when someone , after an extended exchange of views, still said ‘I disagree’, to accept and respect that. This is as much  to say   I would rather live in a democracy than a one party state.

Democracy thrives on choice and difference that allows new ideas and  thinking to surface.   No one party has all the answers to  the biggest challenges bearing down on us: gaping inequality, dangerous climate change, Brexit and  and the threat of an imploding economy,  an ageing population, and the impact of  automation and AI on jobs. Democracy  ossifies when one party or ideology gains unhealthy dominance; and  it fractures when multi-party politics is defined by poisonous and polarised viewpoints that blind us to what we have in common. (Was that not the message of Jo Cox whose day we celebrated recently?)  British political culture is in the unenviable position of embracing both negatives: a crushing neo-liberal ideology imposed from above while below,  those best placed to defend a wounded society  are  far too busy attacking each other.

We are at a turning point and time is running out. If we are ever to address these multiple challenges, each massive in its potential impact on society,  it will take all of us from every party – but particulary the centre left –  to  seek out common ground and  place public good before party allegiance.  To endlessley repeat the old divisive politics is to jeapordise the wellbeing of future generations.  Is that how we want to be remembered?

Let us build on the green shoots of  a different way of doing of politics that a progressive alliance affords, one  based on vision, consensus and pragmatism in place of narrow dogma and tribalism.



Now is our chance for a new politics – dont let tribalism strangle it at birth

This post by the Norwich Radical is like a breath of fresh air in contrast to the closed and noxious tribalism that poisoned political debate  during the election – and I mean the debate that took place on facebook in response to posts I and others made. For myself I can take it; I accept that this goes with the territory – but I worry about the future and about how we are ever to evolve a more mature democracy which embraces difference and disagreement and does not seek to denigrate those who hold different political views or – perish the thought – vote for different political parties! What became clear in the facebook comments I read, was that Labour supporters are no less capable of a narrow minded vindictive tribalism that poisons our politics and alienates voters – despite their avowed embrace of an inclusive more tolerant, compassionate  and principled wzpolitics. 

Like all of us on the left Olivia Hanks celebrates Corbyn’s electoral achievement and yearns for a change of government that puts Labour in the driving seat. More than this however – much more – is her   desire for constitutional and electoral reform that puts an end to tactical voting and introduces proportional representation. On this point Olivier Hanks is quite critical of the progressive alliance initiative and the damage this may have done to the urgency of electoral reform. As she says:

The Green and Lib Dem supporters who backed Labour as a vote for change may yet find that their parties’ diminished vote share is used as an argument against reform. But those who campaigned during the election know that would be an injustice. Yet again, a great many of the votes cast for Labour and for the Tories were reluctant votes ‘against’, not passionate endorsement.

And she has a particular message for  Labour supporters not to repeat the mistakes of the Conservatives and instead to embrace a new politics that is genuinely democratic in respecting the range of different political views and parties:

A ‘new politics’ must be one that respects difference, opposition and free debate. The Corbyn surge has defied Theresa May’s attempts to close those things down – but now Labour must be wary of the same trap. Overcoming their tribal instincts and accepting multi-party politics; helping to build cross-party consensus around reform; acknowledging that many votes last week were lent, not theirs by right, and that they impose a duty to finally back PR – these are monumental challenges for the Labour party. So, Labour supporters, make sure your leader lives up to the hype. Our democracy depends on it.

These are just two highlights but I urge you to read the complete blog here>>>