It's time liberals and socialists worked together to change the direction this country is going in

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Sunday 23 July 2017 13:04
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'We must cast our differences aside and agree to work together a little more, before Britain is doomed'
'We must cast our differences aside and agree to work together a little more, before Britain is doomed'

The United Kingdom is a divided country. Rarely have we been so set against each other, with such big political divisions on questions that seek to define the very essence of who we are and who we want to be. Xenophobic nationalism has taken hold in many parts of the country. Only recently, we heard the harrowing story of a Polish girl who committed suicide due to the bullying she received for being different.

Powerful elites hoard wealth while targeting foreigners for rising inequality. Young people are being left without opportunities and without hope as the country’s bridges to its neighbours are burned, well-paid jobs become harder to attain for the majority and secure and affordable housing recedes into a distant dream. The UK is the only advanced country where the economy has grown but wages have fallen.

Tensions between the regions of our country are growing, threatening to spiral out of control at any minute. For a long time the UK has got by as a federal state shoehorned into a unitary model. This cannot last. The ad hoc nature of our constitutional union is falling apart at the seams. We must be ready to change it completely or risk losing it for good.

To fight back against this darkness, we have to reach out and build a true majority that will bring hope and joy back to the lives of millions. To end the rise of reactionaries, the far-right, xenophobes, nationalists and other foul political movements, to turn back the tide, we have to unite all progressives. This means, as it has done in all moments of progress in this country, bridging the gap between liberals and socialists. To form an alliance right across the centre and left. This alliance will be based on these key principles that offer the only chance of building a forward-thinking, united movement in this country:

Firstly: fighting to keep the UK in the EU and promoting European integration.

Secondly: an end to the ideological pursuit of austerity.

Thirdly: a constitutional convention for political reform to address, among other things, the federalisation of the UK and the introduction of a new voting system.

These are three simple but radical principles that are necessary to bring the country back into a position of unity and progress. With these principles engraved into our souls, we can be sure that we will not give ground to those who promote hatred and division. But we can also be confident that we’ll be ready to ease the suffering of millions of ordinary people, to get them back into well-paid employment, get the country back into real growth and prosperity and to hand them the power and ability to shape their own lives.

If we do not act, then we risk finding ourselves embittered, resentful towards one another. The fabric of our nation, formed over centuries to be outward-looking and tolerant, would have been destroyed in a brief frenzy of nationalist fervour. To any real British patriot, such an outcome would be intolerable.

Some in this alliance will not normally be friends. There has been bitter opposition between liberals and socialists, but these differences must be put aside for the common good. Do we not all strive for that goal? To put the country above narrow selfish interests? Even if a simply moral appeal falls on deaf ears, from a practical standpoint we need to work together.

If Brexit goes ahead, then socialist objectives of ending austerity will be like dust in the wind as the economy goes down and foreign investment leaves. It was Labour that took Britain into the EEC in order to revive Britain’s economic fortunes; the party must not forget that.

Liberals, meanwhile, have to accept that unless they back a radical economic plan that will end austerity then they will be left alone and without the popular support necessary to keep Britain as an active member of the European family.

We can triumph together, or fail alone.

For a prosperous future; for a European, international future; for a future that is fair, open and just, I call for a Liberal-Labour alliance.

Pascal LeTendre-Hanns

Guildford, Surrey

Corbyn needn’t feel grateful to Blair

Hilary Armstrong is being totally disingenuous suggesting that Tony Blair somehow “spared” Jeremy Corbyn from deselection. Democratic selection is something that is supposed to be done by the local membership and was therefore supposedly beyond Blair’s patronage – unless of course he’d found some way to become king of the Labour Party and override local votes, an ambition we perhaps shouldn’t put beyond him.

That said, deselecting a single MP like Corbyn would have been irrelevant under Blair, given that applicants for new MPs were suddenly being determined by central office and shortlists were largely comprised of Blairite-only candidates. This resulted in wave of neoliberal entryist cuckoos in the PLP who were in no way part of its culture.

Historically you could say that the centre of the party was roughly the position Barbara Castle occupied. The right would be represented by MPs like John Stonehouse and George Brown. Corbyn would have been to the left of Castle but probably beyond him would have been MPs like Eric Heffer, Tony Benn, Michael Foot and so on.

Significantly, those Blairite critics of Corbyn’s that now feature in the Parliamentary Labour Party are so far to the right they don’t even register on the movement’s historical spectrum and are consequently often referred to as entryist “Red Tories”.

To put this in context, the party has for generations been anti-racist and anti-imperialist to the extent of embracing Gandhi even when Indian Independence struggles harmed the cotton-based employment of northern garment workers, and later in the 1950s providing a welcoming home to the Freedom for Africa Movement. How then do we get from there, to this imperialistic new outlook, where white western politicians increasingly stay quiet about xenophobia?

Dr Gavin Lewis

Manchester

Brexiteers and Remainers both suffer a crisis of identity

Sean O’Grady’s article on Europe highlights why some people are Brexiteers and some Remainers. A Brexiteer values Britain as a nation state and resents Europe taking over that role; they feel a loss of identity when that happens. A Remainer attaches little importance to nation states and does not see any threat from Europe to their identity.

Of course, Europe has not and will not become a super-state. Why should it? Why would anyone want it to? I think of myself as a Londoner, though I was born in Sussex. I am English, British and European. Abroad I am most likely to describe myself as English but the involvement of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the UK Government does not bother me and harmonising rules and regulations across Europe seems eminently sensible.

The EU was formed to curtail the selfishness of nation states, not promote a new one. Little by little it is curtailing the greed of multinationals. It is far from perfect, but I for one would prefer to see nationalistic pride focused on sport, not politics. We have far more to gain from working together to make the world a better place than we do from pretending we are better than everyone else.

Jon Hawksley

London EC1R

While I agree with Sir Vince Cable that the electorate must consulted at the conclusion of Brexit negotiations, we should acknowledge that our electoral system is in no fit state to deliver a sound decision.

About a third of people of voting age are not registered to vote. Of those registered, about a third don’t vote. The “electorate” is thus either disabled or effectively unrepresentative.

The solution is to make voting compulsory, as in Australia, where some 98 per cent of people of voting age are registered and 97 per cent of registered voters cast their vote.

Only in this way can we effectively, in Sir Vince Cable’s words, “consult the British public at the end of the process”.

David Browning

Huddersfield

The Tory leadership contest is disastrous – not least for Tories

The leaden line-up of Tory pretenders to Queen Theresa’s throne makes the prospect of daily root canal surgery without anaesthetic appear a pleasure. A daily diet of cod liver oil and raw liver suddenly seems a more attractive prospect.

The motley crew shuffling up next to Clown-in-Chief Boris is headed by two candidates so dynamic they make Sir Vince Cable look like an Olympic sprinter: the utterly dreadful David Davis and the antediluvian patrician pebble-specs stiff Jacob Rees-Mogg.

To date, the rapidly ageing bumbler-in-chief David Davis has proved himself only capable of talking to Brussels’ brick walls with little vital signs of vision, or a pulse. Mr Davis’s negotiating technique as Brexit Secretary is to go commando without his briefing notes and beat a rapid retreat back to Blighty in time for tea.

“Dunderhead” Dave was equally good at playing the fugitive in 2008 when he waltzed out of the other Dave’s shadow cabinet. He may “dare”, but he will never win anything beyond the over-65s sack race, as he proved in 2005 when the blue rinse grassroots rejected him as leader.

The other heir to the steaming pile has a similar poke-in-the-eye-with-school-compass appeal. Prime Minister Rees-Mogg would need to add several wings to No 10 to accommodate the vast retinue of servants I presume he has, not to mention his ever-expanding dynasty of mewling babies and dear old Nanny to change Puer Decimus’ and the Cabinet’s nappies.

The Jacobite inglorious revolution would send many conflicting signals to millennial voters. They are used to Theresa May’s rainbow-shaded Tories. The Mogg High Catholic dogma is arguably one that sees gay people as in need of crying up to heaven for forgiveness.

Here, never mind the price in Boots, the very idea of a “morning after” or any contraceptive pill or device offends heaven. Equal marriage is one allowing one’s wife a turn with the Bentley once a month, white-gloved chauffeur and chaperone obligatory.

Installing either of these weary old waffling greybacks in No 10 would confirm the suspicion that the Conservatives were never at ease with Margaret Thatcher at the helm and have a factory default setting of pinstriped drone, not Queen Bee as leader.

The party that boasts of its success in seeing a second female leader in power, while the US, Canada and France await their first, needs to grow a collective pair. It must not make the captain walk the plank, but weather the storm with May as its figurehead until her job is done. It will flower again when the rest of Labour’s election giveaways unravel and the uneasy coalition between closet anti-EU old Marxists and Blairites falls apart.

Get some nuts, Conservatives and keep Nurse on board or face the post-Thatcher curse. That spelled chaos and ruin for nearly 20 years last time they deposed a woman leader.

Anthony Rodriguez

Stains Upon Thames, Middlesex

David Davis as PM? This just confirms that the Tories are out of touch. Davis, Fox, and Johnson are the most unconvincing ministers and are frequently as embarrassing as Trump.

I had voted Tory for most of my life until 10 years ago, but they have lost their way and live in the past. The world has addressed cost and “efficiency” and it is well understood. Compassion and long-term thinking are what modern governments need.

May offered fairness and then did nothing. If this is modern Toryism and the Liberals cannot gather sufficient support, then perhaps we need some disruptive Labour government. Who knows, perhaps a left-wing government is exactly what we need. After all these project cancellations for rail networks because it’s “difficult”, I know they are past their sell-by date. Brunel would laugh at them as cynical fools who cannot see the future.

Michael Mann

Shrewsbury

“Difficulties” would never have stopped Brunel

Chris Grayling has announced it is “too difficult” to electrify the Manchester to Leeds line. Presumably no difficulties were expected when deciding to build an underground rail link under central London. Difficulty never stopped Brunel!

Geoff Forward

Stirling

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