Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Not Just the Young Gripped by Corbymania!

You know something is happening when people like my mum and dad (78 and 80 respectively and no longer in their young socialist phase) sign up as Labour Supporters so they can vote for Jeremy Corbyn. My Mum had been a party member but drifted away and Dad had been active in his union the GPMU. Living in Shropshire they had almost given up hope of hearing a labour voice they could support.

This shows that Jeremy’s reach is way beyond what the Westminster chattering class would have us believe. What is fascinating about this Labour leadership election is the way that the more publicity and the louder attacks on him the more people stop and listen to what he actually has to say and the more they like it.

Then and this is the key thing they are then able to express that support through the ballot box. It is interesting also that over the last few years some of the Tories and New Labour’s democratic fix’s have come back to bite them on the bum!

The Tories believed that giving the Unions back to their members that greater democracy would make them more moderate. Yet what actually happened was that they won every ballot for a political fund and then started to elect real left wing leaders.

Described as the awkward squad they began to change the terms of debate in the Labour Party. Now the reforms that Ed Miliband agreed to get the unions to give up their collective voice in the party have opened the doors in ways that are a nightmare for the Labour right.

The truth is that there has always been an appetite for the views that Jeremy Corbyn expresses but they have been squeezed out by electoral manipulation. Now they are out there and being clearly expressed the true level of support for them can be seen.

I remember going to Tony Benn’s ‘shows’ after he left parliament to devote himself to politics and seeing the huge numbers of all ages and class backgrounds who turned up and broadly agreed with him.

What most people on the broad left feel I think is why are Labour so spineless? Why have they surrendered so much ground to the Tories without a fight?

For me this goes back to the Philip Gould effect within the Labour Party. Find out what the public want and give it to them. Reflect the publics opinions back at them. Don’t try to shape or lead public opinion but follow it. 

This is the complete abdication of any form of leadership. It also leaves that public opinion to be shaped by others. One thing that is interesting at Jeremy Corbyn rallies is that often he asks how many people read a daily paper.  The response is often a very small number. This means that amongst the young and the less affluent the right wing press has less and less influence.

Of course this does not stop the BBC giving it undue prominence but it does mean that with social media this campaign is the first one for the Labour leadership that has truly exploited the power of the internet. This is what has enabled huge crowds to turn out for Jeremy’s meetings at incredibly short notice and for his message to be heard unmediated by the mainstream media thought police.

Not everyone who hears Jeremy Corbyn agrees with every word but I do not think that anybody finds his views outlandish or in any way extreme. This is why the hysterical reaction of the Labour right is so laughable.

He is also remarkably unspun, completely authentic, kind, generous and lacking in ego. Whilst he is asking you to vote for him his message is one of join me, come with me, we can change things if we do it together.  He is not just building a party he is building a community.

Listening to some shadow cabinet members criticise Jeremy’s economic ideas just demonstrates their economic illiteracy and exposes how far they have swallowed the Tory big lie on the necessity of austerity.

One thing is certain the genie is out of the bottle. Now we have to build the biggest possible vote for Jeremy over the coming days and weeks. And when he is elected we need to build that support as broad and wide as possible.

The Tories have a tiny majority. We need to build the campaign into next years mayoral election in London and the local elections across the country. And before those elections we need to do what Barak Obama did and actually build the electorate with registration drives!

The Tories where elected by around a quarter of the electorate people who voted against Human Rights and for the bedroom tax. To win a general election we do not need any of their votes we need the votes of the other three quarters.

The people who need a message of hope. All across Europe people are asking for the same thing we are not alone. At last there is an alternative!

Ferry Co-op Fight Goes On

I sometimes think that the 21 miles that separate England from France are the longest 21 miles anywhere in the world. The lack of attention to what is going on there is quite staggering.
There has been a great deal of coverage of the fall out from the industrial dispute involving the formerly co-operatively owned MyFerryLink. Particularly the plight of migrants desperately trying to enter the UK on trucks and trains headed I our direction. There has been far less coverage of the dispute itself.
The co-op at the centre of the dispute emerged out of the collapse of the formerly SNCF owned cross channel operator Sea France. Eurotunnel bought the ships from the French Government and the Syndicat Martime Nord lead by the charismatic Eric Vercoutre persuaded 600 Sea France workers to put their redundancy money into a workers co-operative to enable them to operate three former Sea France ships.
All seemed to be going well they had captured 12% of the cross-channel traffic and it was reputed that the crews worked much more efficiently as a co-operative than under the previous owners. The future of the co-op based in Calais, is now to say the least highly uncertain.
Whilst the ferries are actually owned by Eurotunnel they had contracted the management of the service to the co-operative. The dispute began when Eurotunnel withdrew from the agreement at the beginning of June with the inevitable effect, if nothing changes, of the co-op having to go into administration.
The reasons for this are rather complex, but here goes, it seems to have begun when the UK Competition and Markets Authority had ruled that Eurotunnel was breaking competition law by owning the ferries as well as the Channel Tunnel.
This decision lead in January to Eurotunnel putting the ferries up for sale. In response the co-op joined together with a broader social enterprise venture so that it could make a formal bid for the whole business, one of several Eurotunnel received.
Whilst all this was going however the case was grinding on through the courts in Britain to the British Supreme Court. Then last month came a major surprise: the court ruled that Eurotunnel was not, in fact, in breach of competition law.
Despite there no longer being any reason for the sale Eurotunnel say that it is going ahead – and that their previous decision to terminate the deal with MyFerryLink will not be revoked. Two ferries are to be sold to DFDS and one to a freight operator.
This is all rather odd as Eurotunnel and MyFerry Link had been involved in a long legal battle together to keep the new service going against P&O the biggest cross channel ferry operator and the British competition authorities who had fought them all the way objecting to Eurotunnel owning a ferry company.
Then just as the legal battle was won Eurotunnel scuttled its own ships leaving six hundred workers high, dry and very angry. The suspicion is that they see this as an opportunity to break Mr Vercoutre and his militant union.
As I write with a migrant getting killed attempting to make the crossing at Calais, ferry workers are continuing their occupation of the two MyFerryLink vessels that where formerly worked by the co-operative and are now leased to DFDS by Eurotunnel. DFDS has complained to French Transport minister Alain Vidalies at the situation at Calais. As one Ferry Company - P&O – are able to operate normally whilst DFDS cannot.
DFDS’ vessels have now been ‘barred’ from Calais for a week and the financial implications could be significant. But this is part of a wider pattern going back to the famous trade unions and the ferries cases of Viking and Laval.
The late lamented RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that collective bargaining rights were being hollowed out by EU diktat and EU court rulings which encourage social dumping and severely weakens trade union powers to defend workers.
“ECJ decisions in the Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxemburg ECJ cases take us back over 100 years to the Taff Vale judgment when any trade union activity was perceived by the bosses to be ‘in restraint of trade.”
The legal framework now around secondary action means that this small co-op of unionised workers has to struggle alone as any secondary industrial action is pretty much impossible. At this stage one has to admire their tenacity in furthering this dispute against overwhelming odds.