Thursday, 29 October 2009

If you have your doubts about why we are fighting a war in Afghanistan, read this...

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/OPINION/10/29/amanpour.afghanistan.pakistan/index.html

And in my opinion, the same goes for the Iraq war.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Early Day Motion on a citizen's charge on banking bonuses

These MPs are to be congratulated for arguing the case that banking bonuses must at the very least, be taxed at a higher rate in order that the banks which caused this recession, do more to pay for the damage they left in their wake. As it is, we're all having to pay the price in jobs, lost businesses, negative equity and so-on for the recklessness of those in high finance.

CITIZEN'S CHARGE ON BANK BONUSES AND DIVIDENDS 27:10:09

Jim Cousins
Jon Cruddas
Mr Michael Meacher
John McDonnell
Mr Frank Field
Frank Dobson
Kelvin Hopkins Mark Durkan Lynne Jones
Mr Lindsay Hoyle

That this House notes that almost every bank based in the United Kingdom required liquidity and other support from the Government in 2008 and, in addition, a number required public ownership or capital support; further notes public concern about the contrast between the welfare dependency of the UK financial sector and the recent return to big bonus payouts; calls on the Government to introduce a citizen's charge or people's dividend on the growth of bonus pools and dividend payouts in those financial institutions which received public support; and believes that this citizen's charge should start in the 2009-10 financial year.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

My letter in The Independent about Nick Giffin's appearance on Question Time

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/letters-bnp-and-nick-griffin-1809959.html

Sir,

The BBC should not have changed the format of Question Time to focus relentlessly on subjects identified with the BNP. However vile Nick Griffin's views are, he won the right to appear by virtue of his democratic election to the European Parliament, and as such should have been accorded equal treatment.

To do otherwise fuels the very sense of ostracism felt by many voters who turned to the BNP in recent years and is a gift to the BNP propaganda machine that wishes to portray the establishment as incapable of understanding or accommodating the views of its supporters and their fellow-travellers.

John Slinger

Rugby

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Why the BBC was wrong to change format for Nick Griffin - letter to The Times (not published)

The Editor
The Times


Sir,


The BBC should not have changed the format of Question Time to focus relentlessly on subjects identified with the BNP. However vile Nick Griffin's views are, he won the right to appear by virtue of his democratic election to the European Parliament, and as such should have been accorded the right to equal treatment. To do otherwise fuels the very sense of ostracism felt by many voters who turned to the BNP in recent years and is a gift to the BNP propaganda machine that wishes to portray the establishment as incapable of understanding or accommodating the views of its supporters and their fellow travellers. Sadly, the mainstream political class and media may have won only a Pyrrhic victory against extremists of all hues, for they have indicated that that they cannot cope with unpalatable views in a measured, and dare I say it, British manner. Extremism is best defeated by calm debate, not fevered witch-hunt and media hype.


Yours faithfully,


John Slinger

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Letter to The Times on a windfall tax on the banks (NOT PUBLISHED)

The Editor
The Times


Sir,

To propose a windfall tax on the banking sector would not, as you suggest (Leading article, 20/10/09), expose other sectors to such a measure for the simple reason that it is highly improbable that other sectors would or could have inflicted such terrible economic damage on wider society. To expect that after such unprecedented taxpayer-funded largess, the culprits in this sorry tale ought to be required to contribute an additional sum to rebuilding the public finances is not punitive, it is just. It might also go some way to restoring a sense of moral hazard in the minds of our bankers as they divvy up their huge bonuses this Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Manifesto policy ideas up on Left Foot Forward

Will Straw and co.s excellent evidence-based blog Left Foot Forward have a section for new progressive manifesto ideas.

He has posted some excellent ideas by various people so far and I thoroughly recommend anyone takes a look and suggests ideas of their own.

Last but not least, some of my suggestions are posted up there too.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Labour can (and will) win the next election

David Cameron has not 'sealed the deal', as they say, with the British electorate. We in the Labour Party have it all to play for. I am personally more optimistic than I have been in the last 18 months about our chances of winning

If you don't believe me, please read this by David Owen (someone who knows a million times more about these things than I do).

We must deconstruct the Tory Party's clever marketing. They are NOT progressives. They are NOT particularly concerned about the poor. They are NOT the party of the NHS.

Here's a brief guide to why: On being progressive - the Conservative party is, as its name suggests, conservative with a small 'c'. Throughout British political history, the Tories have opposed virtually all socially progressive legislation, up to and including the creation of the NHS, the minimum wage, extended paternity and maternity rights but let's not forget their stance on extending the franchise, or health and safety legislation which prevented women and children working in coal mines for 12 hours per day. Ditto their attitude to poverty. And as for the NHS, this is the party which opposed its creation, ran it into the ground in the 1980s and 1990s and would love nothing more than to introduce more private provision. They only profess their love of the NHS because they have to electorally - for the people truly love this institution, because it saves their lives and it is free at the point of use. These are essentially socialist principles. It is little wonder then that the Tories, by instinct, are not truly the saviours of the NHS.

It is rather sad then that our party has performed so woefully recently that the Tories have managed to convince large swathes of the electorate that they are the leopards who changed their spots. They are not.

Thankfully, the Labour Party seems to be getting its act together. We are focusing in on the Tory subterfuge. We are proudly defending our excellent record of progressive government over the last 12 years. We are also setting out our vision for the future rather then resting on the laurels of having taken the right calls during the credit crunch.

We can and we will win next May.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A debate at Labourhome about open primaries

Here's a little exchange I've been having on Labourhome.

LesAbbey says:
October 13, 2009 at 2:45 pm
John Slinger says:

Open primaries would go some way to taking selections out of the hands of party apparatchiks, the unions and powerful backers such as No.10 or former ministers and as such, are an idea that should be explored and acted upon.
No, it takes selection out of the hands of the local party so as to give the London based apparatchiks a better chance. It will give us even more twenty-something careerists.

They would also encourage applicants to seek selection who were keen and able, but for whatever reason had not been willing or able to ingratiate themselves with local or national Labour Party politics. That isn’t to say that people who have worked for the party ought not become MPs, but that all too often such individuals have an unfair advantage due to their ‘contacts.’
Local CLP members have an unfair advantage because they are just that – local members, fighting and living with local problems not just some rich kid looking for a career.

Open selections would also minimise the advantages of those candidates with large amounts of money (or with backers willing to give it to them) to fund increasingly professional campaigns. Short, supervised, open primary campaigns might then allow for the focus of attention to be the ideas and abilities of the candidates in actual meetings or events, at which members of the public could attend and participate.
Again the moment you take the selection away from the local activists it will become money politics. It doesn’t matter how short you keep it. With a CLP selection, money has very little ability to help in the selection if the candidates stay within the party rules.

We are seeing a concerted attempt by the careerist to mold Labour into an US style political party to their own benefit. They see primaries as a way of overriding local party activists.

John Slinger says:
October 14, 2009 at 10:22 am
Dear Les Abbey,

I too have been a “local member” in various CLPs. I have witnessed, either as a prospective candidate, or a voting CLP member, various selection processes in various CLPs. It’s true that selections often do allow CLP members to engage fully with the candidates in an open and fair process. On other occasions, sadly, this is not the whole story.

It is also not true that better funded candidates do not have an advantage. For example, if a trade union, or another source, funds a candidate even to the tune of a couple of hundred pounds, or provides them with printing facilities, they are at a huge advantage over someone with a full time job and only their evenings free. Our own version of open primaries could and should, like the Tories attempt in Totnes, strictly limit the amount of money spent by candidates on their campaigns.

I don’t think it’s fair either to say that primaries are a plot by New Labour careerists. No matter what the motivation of proponents of primaries, the actual result of bringing them in would surely be to diminish the chances of a careerist being selected. Let’s be honest – if a Special Adviser at No.10 or to a Cabinet Minister currently seeks a safe seat, the current CLP-based selection process in most cases favours them. We all know that candidates have been and are being parachuted into safe of marginal seats, and that very often, and very sadly, some CLPs are reluctant to resist this. This isn’t corrupt, but it is also not fully democratic or open, in the way that I am sure we would all like.

An open primary would force such a ‘para’ candidate into a far more open contest which would test their abilities to engage with ordinary people of all political hues rather than their ability to play the kind of ‘machine’ politics which can still all too often be at work in CLPs during selections.

I do not personally think that open primaries are a panacea. All I am in favour of is that they are given serious consideration by a party which purports to believe in openness and democracy. We ought to have the guts to trial open primaries as have the Tories. Let’s not forget that the CLP would still be able to select the short list. We ought to be communicating better with the electorate at large rather than entrenching a system through which we stare at our own diminishing number of navels. It may not work, but it’s worth a try.

Best wishes,

John Slinger

Monday, 12 October 2009

We need the best candidates, not the best-connected - comment on open primaries

There is a Progress event on the merits of open primaries tonight. I have blogged the following at Labourhome.


Open primaries would go some way to taking selections out of the hands of party apparatchiks, the unions and powerful backers such as No.10 or former ministers and as such, are an idea that should be explored and acted upon.

They would also encourage applicants to seek selection who were keen and able, but for whatever reason had not been willing or able to ingratiate themselves with local or national Labour Party politics. That isn’t to say that people who have worked for the party ought not become MPs, but that all too often such individuals have an unfair advantage due to their ‘contacts.’

Open selections would also minimise the advantages of those candidates with large amounts of money (or with backers willing to give it to them) to fund increasingly professional campaigns. Short, supervised, open primary campaigns might then allow for the focus of attention to be the ideas and abilities of the candidates in actual meetings or events, at which members of the public could attend and participate.

Anything we can do to level the playing field and simultaneously to engage with a wider audience than the 200 or so members of most CLPs must be a good idea. We need the best candidates for the job, not the best-connected.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Letter to The Times about Cameron and "big government" - NOT PUBLISHED

Sir,

The gravest threat that to our economy, and by extension, our society for several decades did not, as Mr Cameron implies, come from "big government". Rather, it came from big bonuses, big banks which were too big to fail, big rises in the value of houses, big greed, big arrogance and last but not least - the necessarily big taxpayer-funded bailing out of the banking sector. Strange then that he reserved his rage for "big government" and not his big chums in the City.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Osborne's new-found collectivism - Letter to The Times (not published)

The Editor
The Times

Sir,

George Osborne seems to have had a Damascan conversion to collectivism. In his conference speech he promised that he would not ask the public sector to make "any sacrifice or shoulder any burden that the rest of Britain is not being asked to make". This appears at odds with reality, for the section of society not being asked to shoulder the burden is the one that caused the very crisis which has ravaged the economy and blighted the lives of so many people - namely the banking elite. Osborne's "we are all in this together" mantra, repeated seven times during his speech, is little more than a clever rhetorical device enabling him to call on the rest of society, and especially the public sector, to pay for damage caused by the greed, irresponsibility and avarice of many in the banking sector.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger