Ed Miliband's mistakes mean it's time for an alternative party of the left. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

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.

Dan Kitwood/Getty
Show Hide image

I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.