Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's newspapers

1. This is not class war (Guardian)

The Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, uses the first working day of the new year to launch into pre-election rhetoric. Labour has always fought for the many, not the few, he says, and Tory claims to do the same are a con trick

2. A simple way to keep law and order -- make everyone kiss and cuddle (Telegraph)

Over at the Telegraph, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, writes a light-hearted piece arguing that people are often frustrated by a complicated justice system when all they want is an apology.

3. China -- handle with care (Daily Telegraph)

The emotional condemnation that followed the execution of Akmal Shaikh is exactly the wrong way to deal with the world's next superpower, writes Malcolm Moore from Shanghai. Britain's tone must emphasise respect, although it may not agree with all of Beijing's policies.

4. The west's preaching to the east must stop (Financial Times)

Meanwhile, at the FT, Ronnie Chan argues that the west must get used to the new global reality -- it will not be as dominant as it was in the past, which could result in a better and safer world.

5. The world must tread carefully in Yemen (Independent)

The terror threat from Yemen cannot be ignored, but other countries must ensure that, before anything else, they do not make matters worse.

6. The war on terror has been about scaring people, not protecting them (Guardian)

The ease with which the plane bomber could operate exposes the vacuity and recklessness at the heart of the US response to 9/11, says Gary Younge. Measures have done little to protect us, but much to radicalise ever-growing numbers of people.

7. Britain doesn't need a dose of shock therapy (Times)

Commentary on Britain's economy has come to resemble tabloid reporting on the World Cup, argues Bill Emmott. We'll have to endure some pain over the next few years, but ignore the pundits -- the economy isn't a basket case.

8. Well done, P D James. But will the BBC get the message? (Independent)

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says she loves the BBC, but the most prestigious political programmes and documentaries are not open to "people like us".

9. Belching cows can help to rescue our planet (Times)

Although the prodigious methane output of cattle is bad for the environment, Graham Harvey puts forward the argument that their grazing on grass will soak up carbon.

10. Unlearnt lessons of the Great Depression (Financial Times)

The Princeton academic Harold James analyses parallels between now and the Great Depression of the 1930s, and considers the lessons we should learn from this.

 

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Copeland must be Labour's final warning

Unison's general secretary says Jeremy Corbyn is a friend - but must also take responsibility for turning the party's prospects around. 

No one objective could argue that last night’s by-election results were good for Labour.

Whilst it was undoubtedly pleasing to see serial fibber Paul Nuttall and his Trumpian politics put in their place in Stoke, this was never a seat where the result should have been in doubt. 

But to lose Copeland – held by Labour for 83 years – to a party that has inflicted seven years of painful spending cuts on our country, and is damaging the NHS, is disastrous.

Last autumn, I said that Labour had never been farther from government in my lifetime. Five months on the party hasn’t moved an inch closer to Downing Street.

These results do not imply a party headed for victory. Copeland is indicative of a party sliding towards irrelevance. Worse still, Labour faces an irrelevance felt most keenly by those it was founded to represent.

There will be those who seek to place sole blame for this calamity at the door of Jeremy Corbyn. They would be wrong to do so. 

The problems that Labour has in working-class communities across the country did not start with Corbyn’s leadership. They have existed for decades, with successive governments failing to support them or even hear their calls for change. Now these communities are increasingly finding outlets for their understandable discontent.

During the 2015 election, I knocked on doors on a large council estate in Edmonton – similar to the one I grew up on. Most people were surprised to see us. The last time they’d seen Labour canvassers was back in 1997. Perhaps less surprisingly, the most common response was why would any of them bother voting Labour.

As a party we have forgotten our roots, and have arrogantly assumed that our core support would stay loyal because it has nowhere else to go. The party is now paying the price for that complacency. It can no longer ignore what it’s being told on the doorstep, in workplaces, at ballot boxes and in opinion polls.

Unison backed Corbyn in two successive leadership elections because our members believed – and I believe – he can offer a meaningful and positive change in our politics, challenging the austerity that has ravaged our public services. He is a friend of mine, and a friend of our union. He has our support, because his agenda is our agenda.

Yet friendship and support should never stand in the way of candour. True friends don’t let friends lose lifelong Labour seats and pretend everything is OK. Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party, so while he should not be held solely responsible for Labour’s downturn, he must now take responsibility for turning things around.

That means working with the best talents from across the party to rebuild Labour in our communities and in Parliament. That means striving for real unity – not just the absence of open dissent. That means less debate about rule changes and more action on real changes in our economy and our society.

Our public servants and public services need an end to spending cuts, a change that can only be delivered by a Labour government. 

For too many in the Labour party the aim is to win the debate and seize the perceived moral high ground – none of which appears to be winning the party public support. 

But elections aren’t won by telling people they’re ignorant, muddle-headed or naive. Those at the sharp end – in particular the millions of public service employees losing their jobs or facing repeated real-terms pay cuts – cannot afford for the party to be so aloof.

Because if you’re a homecare worker earning less than the minimum wage with no respite in sight, you need an end to austerity and a Labour government.

If you’re a nurse working in a hospital that’s constantly trying to do more with less, you need an end to austerity and a Labour government.

And if you’re a teaching assistant, social worker or local government administrator you desperately need an end to austerity, and an end to this divisive government.

That can only happen through a Labour party that’s winning elections. That has always been the position of the union movement, and the Labour party as its parliamentary wing. 

While there are many ways in which we can change society and our communities for the better, the only way to make lasting change is to win elections, and seize power for working people.

That is, and must always be, the Labour party’s cause. Let Copeland be our final warning, not the latest signpost on the road to decline.

Dave Prentis is Unison's general secretary.