Blog

Event: Laughs for Labour

Featuring Mrs Barbara Nice – Phoenix Nights, Max and Paddy’s Road To Nowhere, That Peter Kay Thing, Coronation Street
17th June 2018, 7pm at the Hare and Hounds, 106 High St, Birmingham B14 7JZ

Tickets: £5 in advance via Skiddle or £8 on the door with all proceeds raised for Moseley & Kings Heath Labour Party.

Barbara Nice – a caricature of a middle aged housewife and mother of five from Kings Heath, Birmingham. Her act is heavily reliant on interaction with the audience, for example acting as an agony aunt to the audience. She performs on the comedy circuit as a headline act and has performed one woman shows across the UK. She appeared as Barbara Nice in solo shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012 and 2014.

plus support from:
Av Singh
David Luck
Michaela Jane
Jo Frank
Sham Zaman
Damon Conlon

Compare : Martin Huburn

A road to 2020

by Councillor Claire Spencer

The dust has settled, sleep has been had and this feels like the time to commit some thoughts to this blog. Thursday night was bittersweet, with rather more emphasis on the bitter. In the four wards that make up Birmingham Hall Green – Moseley & Kings Heath, Sparkbrook, Springfield and Hall Green – all of the councillors were re-elected (including our own Councillor Martin Straker-Welds), with larger majorities thanks to energetic campaigns and the general election turnout boost. Our MP, Roger Godsiff, was also returned with an increased majority. And in undoubtedly the best news of the night, Kings Heath’s own Jess Phillips was elected to Parliament as the new MP for Birmingham Yardley. Many of us from Birmingham Hall Green supported Jess’ campaign, and I can think of few people more suited to shake up Parliament and to improve the lot of her constituents, our neighbours.

But it would be wrong to feel triumph – because we have badly let down many areas of the country. I am not going to pretend that I fully appreciated how all the fault lines interrelated until after the event, and I am sure that there are elements that I am yet to understand. I certainly didn’t always see the picture as clearly as I do today. But I think we have a grace period, if not a pause button, in which we can lay out some of the things that we need to address, the bare bones of a future where people trust Labour with their lives again. We’ll soon be electing a new leader, and it is vital that we choose that leader through the prism of the challenges they will face: not by reliving a past where those challenges were completely different. These are the challenges as I see them:

 

A people divided

abdication

“Scottish people want your stuff! By the way, here’s a free chicken”

People are afraid of people who are different to them – fundamentally because they feel threatened, either because of a scarcity of resources – e.g. jobs, space – or simply because of otherness, unknown. Left to fester, these quite human traits can become ugly prejudices. It doesn’t have to be so. But the 2015 general election was conducted on fear. The Tories, taking inspiration from Netanyahu’s recent success in Israel, stoked up fear that Scottish people were seeking to benefit at the expense of English and Welsh people. The SNP became a catalyst and vessel for people’s fears that Scotland was getting an unusually raw deal from a distant Westminster (the raw deal was real, the distinction between Scotland and everywhere else, not so). UKIP stoked up fear that people who come to live here from elsewhere (or look as though they have, frankly it doesn’t seem to matter to them) are occupying a finite number of jobs and space (excerbated by a very real lack of decent jobs and housing). And perhaps most absurdly, a good percentage of people have been made to fear that the very fact that we have a social security system is a threat to them, because their money is going to a shadowy, undeserving figure elsewhere.

I have no interest in a politics that is directed at one of these made up subsections of people. We can’t participate in tearing apart people that have common cause: a person on a poverty wage in Gorbals has the same fight as the person on a poverty wage in Dagenham. An overworked teacher thinking of packing it in in Hove has the same battle as an overworked teacher in Lancaster. Division is a game we all lose. We created the NHS on the back of a horrible war that united people in a shared sense of what it is to be alive, to be human. We wanted to nurture and cherish that at all costs. We need to recapture that (obviously without a war), and the new Labour leader will need to be one of many leaders who can unite people around a shared message, a shared mission that shows the route to a society that people want to be a part of.

 

…speaking of aspiration…

We clearly haven’t nailed this – it’s a criticism that I hear a lot, and we need to take it seriously. In the same way that the Tory leadership talks about austerity without bothering to fill anyone in on what the endgame of that is (partly because it wouldn’t be popular and partly because they don’t have a plan beyond that), we talk about tackling inequality, protecting the NHS and standing up for the vulnerable without saying what is achieved by doing so, how it all hangs together. Perhaps it should be obvious, but I think it’s safe to say that it isn’t – so we need to connect the dots between our core mission and the good things that achieving it will lead to.

However, I don’t buy into a narrow definition of aspiration. A lonely child on the autistic spectrum who becomes part of a community through a local play scheme is as much about fulfilment of aspiration as a child from a deprived background becoming an investment banker. A carer who gets an evening off to have dinner with friends because of respite care is as much a life win as someone getting a promotion at work.

Public services and social security as investments in people, into their lives – not just the part of their life where they happen to be earning a wage. Councils funding parks means that a person can spend time with nature, can be healthy, can be cooler in summer, can breathe cleaner air, can play, can be part of a community. A higher minimum wage, a living wage means that people are more productive, more inclined to stretch themselves, have more time for friends and family, need less direct support from social security. And yes, policies that enable people to start, maintain and grow businesses should be part of that narrative.

The Labour leadership candidates will need to understand this – because people won’t turn away from the status quo unless there is something tangible to turn to, something so positive and real that the change doesn’t seem like a risk to what they have now. Labour councils in our great towns and cities will have a role to play here. Birmingham is a city of opportunities, and one of our priorities as a Council is enable citizens to take advantage of these opportunities. If we lead the way, we can show that a healthy investment portfolio is more than money in a bank account.

 

…and cities?

Insofar as city and regional leadership is concerned, we’re going to have to get on with it. George Osborne sees localism as about Mayors and LEPs, and we’re not going to be able to shift him from that view. He sees all money as identical – what does it matter if we can only spend it on a nice building but not the people who live near it? Money will be funneled into the LEP for high profile developments, and it’s up to us to create the society where – as described above – our citizens are able to take advantage of the opportunities that those developments create. Our services have been through desperate cuts, and there will be more. Social security isn’t providing security. Towns and cities will need to work with any partner – charity, private sector, community group, co-operative – who wants to be part of enabling people to get on, part of ensuring that disadvantage is not a millstone to be dragged for a lifetime. We will need to make our own caring societies, our own inclusive economies, our own sustainable environments. In Birmingham, the ‘Future Council’ programme is partly geared to getting BCC to be a better partner. It is absolutely essential to the wellbeing of our people that it becomes one, because this government – to be blunt – doesn’t care whether everyone succeeds as long as enough people succeed financially to cover up for it.

Labour’s new leader will need to understand that this is also a vital route for the English voices who feel silenced to have their influence. Regional identities are strong, and ensuring that corresponding institutions exist so that people feel that power and leadership resides in the places they feel close to and can shape is a huge step down the path to feeling that they have the purpose and autonomy of their Scottish neighbours, healing a wound that has been so cruelly inflicted upon us.

 

I’m sure that people could add to this list. This is just some of the stuff that I thought about during the walk home in the dawn light of beautiful Moseley & Kings Heath on May 8th, tears welling in my eyes. But tears, cried and uncried, aren’t going to help the people I care about. So let’s get on with it.

The Tory Attack on Welfare

In 1942, in the darkest days of the Second World War, Sir William Beveridge, a civil servant and a Liberal, produced a report. In it he identified what he called the ‘Five Giants on the Road to Social Progress’.

These giants were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

He argued that to defeat these giants, the government should provide people with adequate income, adequate health care, adequate education, adequate housing and adequate employment.  It proposed that ‘All people of working age should pay a weekly National Insurance contribution. In return, benefits would be paid to people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed.’

This report also encompassed educational reform (the 1944 Education Act, passed in wartime by R A Butler, a Conservative minister) and Universal Child Benefit. It strengthened Old Age Pensions, Unemployment and Sickness Benefit and of course, proposed  the National Health Service.

Beveridge had researched universal benefits and found them to be the most cost-effective way of providing support, unlike the means-tested benefits of the 1930s.

This report had all-party support in the wartime coalition government, and formed the basis of the programme followed by Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1945. A huge national achievement at a time when the country was bankrupt after the war.

But not without opposition.

The National Health Service was strongly opposed by both Tories and vested interests in the medical profession. Aneurin Bevan said that in order to quieten the opposition he had to ‘stuff their mouths with gold’.

nyebevan

For many years, under both Labour and Conservative governments, there was support for the welfare state and social justice. But in the wings some Tories’ anger still lingered, and they made their plans to destroy what Beveridge and the 1945 government had achieved.

That opposition never went away,  but festered in the right wing of the Tory party.  It came back, suddenly made respectable,  in the time of Margaret Thatcher.  Who once said “There is no such thing as society”.  Which meant that there should be no such thing as having the majority who were in work and reasonably comfortably off looking after the poorer, older and more vulnerable members of – what?  If there was no society, how could people help each other?

Thatcher was a neoliberal,  a devotee of a political philosophy whose advocates support economic liberalisation,  free trade and open markets,  privatization,  deregulation, and decreasing the size of the public sector while increasing the role of the private sector in modern society.  An enemy of any social enterprise such as the Welfare State.   She began the process of privatisation, especially in the NHS,  through measures such as competitive tendering (which was nothing of the sort) in hospital ancillary services,  and also in areas of education.  In fact, she tried to push education into the department of industry, but that was a move too far.  In effect she was starting a process that we see operating at full tilt today, crony capitalism, where a neoliberal government acts and passes laws to benefit its friends and supporters.

The present coalition government are often referred to as ‘Thatcher’s Children’ and they truly are – both the Tories and the Liberal Democrat Orange Bookers – most of whom only disagree with the Tories over Europe.  Indeed Clegg has said he would have joined the Tories had they not been Eurosceptic. David Laws and Danny Alexander are similar.

They have as a central plank of their political ‘philosophy’ the smaller state.  They actually believe that the state should not help anyone unless they are absolutely flat-out destitute,  or almost dead.  The worst of this attitude can be seen in the works of George (“Iain Duncan”) Smith – the ATOS decisions on Disability Living Allowance, the Bedroom Tax, the Social Emergency Fund, the cap on welfare spending.  In education it can be seen seen in Michael Gove planning to sell state schools to profit-making Academy chains.  It is there in Lansley and Hunt’s utter destruction of the National Health Service – to be replaced by a US style private insurance system.  It is clearly shown in the closing of the public coastal rescue services and putting the service provision out to tender.  It is there in the sale of libraries, fire stations, school playing fields.  The list of private benefactors being given big presents by this Tory-led government goes on and on, and on.

This was clearly the direction of travel from day one of the coalition.  It is in their souls.  And they have been assisted by a media which either supports them or,  like the BBC,  acquiesces without complaint.  By media commentators who have never used the NHS or the state education system,  and see no reason to fight for them…

But we ordinary citizens have to fight, in any way we can.  We need to take that fight to the Lib Dems, who praise food banks whilst voting to cut welfare payments. Who praise local state schools but vote for Gove’s destruction of the system. Who break their ‘solemn pledges’ not to raise university tuition fees. Who now campaign to save our local hospitals having voted for Lansley’s bill which set out the destruction of the NHS and will vote for Hunt’s which will finish the process off. We need to expose the Tories’ crony capitalism for what it really is, raw, naked greed dressed as a political principle.

And the time all this greed and desecration  comes together is now – April 2013.  It is no longer a bleak future, it is a callous present,  in which everything is described by its cost,  not by its value.

But when we have seen off this mob of shysters we will have to rebuild the caring nation – the one nation. We will have a task as great as that facing Attlee and his generation. Like him we should take our vision from the work of Sir William Beveridge.

The giants on our road to social progress may be different, but we must resolve to slay them also.

 

With acknowledgements and grateful thanks to Dick Smith, Carshalton and Wallington Labour Party.

Our learning community – the future? Community conference report.

by Martin Straker-Welds

Education is an issue of fundamental importance to our community. The way we educate our children and young people plays a major part in shaping our society. It is easy to see education merely as an instrument of economic advancement; a way of creating the workers of tomorrow who will drive economic growth and oil the wheels of industry and commerce; and of course this is partly true.

However, Labour believes that education is much more than this, particularly in an urban environment.

Education is also about self-betterment, self discovery, the joy of developing knowledge for its own sake, the learning of mental disciplines that make us better rounded human beings, an immersive encounter with our peers in all their diversity. The coalition government, in its headlong rush to reduce the deficit, is also reducing the ambition of education, emphasising the learning of facts and devaluing subjects which seem less economically valuable.

So it is important for Labour, locally and nationally, to develop a distinctive vision of how education can work, to pursue the principles which are at the heart of Labour thinking. Ed Miliband has spoken recently about the promise of Britain: he said he would judge the next Labour government by the quality of the opportunities it could offer the next generation, and that it would be a key test for Labour. It must also be a test for Labour in Birmingham, a city which has a fine educational heritage with some excellent schools, but also some pockets of underachievement with some of the lowest rates of educational attainment in the country. So what sort of education policy will we need in Moseley and Kings Heath, and in Birmingham, to make our society better, and to offer the next generation the opportunities they deserve?

In this context, Moseley and Kings Heath Labour Party called a public meeting to discuss the future of education in our area and our city. The event attracted a broad audience of educationalists, activists of various political persuasions, community members and parents, with a lively discussion stimulated by keynote speaker Tim Brighouse. This report summarises the discussion, and we would welcome your feedback.

Our learning community, the future

Moseley & Kings Heath Labour: working with you for a better future

Moseley and Kings Heath Labour Party is a campaigning branch that meets regularly and holds a range of political education sessions. As community activists with a shared value set we are proud to be part of this community – working with interest groups and through local forums, supporting all that is great about our community and our City.

Working together in our communities we can make a difference.

We cannot and will not stand by and watch the Liberal Democrats prop up the Tories nationally and locally and let them take away our and our children’s future. Local elections this May are your first chance to send a message to the Tory-led government and their friends the Lib Dems that people won’t stand for it.

Join us today in our regular campaigning activity and together we can make change for the better.

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