Ed Miliband's mistakes mean it's time for an alternative party of the left. Photo: Getty
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There’s far more to be angry about in Tory Britain than a white van tweet

In sacking Emily Thornberry, Miliband has once again pandered to the right and to the politics of reaction. It's time for an alternative party of the left.

At last we’ve seen it. Something Ed Miliband cares about. Something that gets him fired up and passionate. A value to defend. He really loves white vans and England flags.

Emily Thornberry MP’s tweet apparently made red and white Ed angrier than he had ever been. Angrier, it seems, than the Tories carving up and selling off the NHS. Angrier, too, than the Lib Dems selling out millions of students by tripling their tuition fees.

Thanks to pressure from the left, Labour has finally committed to repealing the bedroom tax – but this toxic policy that has forced hundreds of thousands of Britain’s most vulnerable people deeper into poverty and into the food bank queues clearly didn’t make Miliband angry enough to come out and condemn it with the lightning speed he did Thornberry’s tweet.

Scandal after scandal has rocked the banking sector Labour and the Tories failed to rein in, while MPs have been no stranger to scandal themselves, their expenses fiddled and the evidence shredded. Wages have fallen, taxes on poor households have been hiked, the British countryside has been opened up to fracking, the Royal Mail has been sold off and our democracy has been sold out for a transatlantic free trade deal no one has ever been consulted on.

But what has made Miliband angrier than he has ever been? A tweet about a white van and an England flag.

In sacking Thornberry, Miliband has once again pandered to the right and to the politics of reaction. What party is ready to defend the progressive values Labour has long ago abandoned?

Left Unity, the party that was founded last year with the support of Ken Loach, held its first annual national conference this month, which passed a raft of policies that will go into our manifesto as we prepare to contest our first few seats in next year’s general election. We will also be fielding more candidates in the local elections, building on this year’s results in Wigan where we beat the Tories into fourth place.

I’m very proud that Left Unity’s policy – decided democratically from the bottom up rather than announced by any leaders – has come together to form a genuine alternative to the four main parties.

We agreed to oppose all fracking, bring the railways and public utilities back into public hands, and to support a massive expansion of green energy. We also support a new electricity tariff system that guarantees the free supply of a basic quota to all, balanced by higher charges for heavy users.

Left Unity believes education is a fundamental human right that should no longer be dependent on money, class or influence and that every family must have access to high-quality neighbourhood schools. This goes beyond well-funded state education. As well as making further and higher education free at the point of use, we want to bring back grants for up to six years. Academies and free schools should be brought back into local authority control and school field trips should be free.

Internationally, we want to scrap Trident and we are for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law. We are applying for observer membership of the Party of the European Left, joining our sister parties Podemos and Syriza.

Although we are against military intervention in Iraq and Syria, we stand wholly opposed to the brutal evil of ISIS and its despicable violence, not least against women and minorities whose rights we champion. Despite this issue being woefully misreported, conference voted to work with local Kurdish organisations to support the progressive Kurdish resistance against ISIS.

Left Unity wants carers to be recognised as doing vital work, not seen as unemployed, and we want to abolish the Work Capability Assessments that have degraded disabled people. It is our policy that no one should be left with no income and that it should be a crime to leave anyone destitute.

These policies, and those on the economy, housing, healthcare and anti-racism passed at our last conference, will now go into our manifesto. It will be an uphill struggle for a new party of the left to fight for seats in a general election stacked against us. In what will be a close race between Labour and the Tories, we will not be fighting in marginals or against good left-wing Labour MPs as we do not want to let the Conservatives in through the backdoor.

But we are looking to target a selection of Blairite MPs in safe Labour seats because Ukip is not the answer to the stagnation of Westminister and its out of touch elite. People deserve a choice. They deserve a genuine alternative. They deserve to get angry about something more important than a tweet of a white van and some England flags.

Salman Shaheen is Left Unity's principal speaker

Salman Shaheen is editor-in-chief of The World Weekly, principal speaker of Left Unity and a freelance journalist.

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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.