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.

Photo: Getty
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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.