Where does Jeremy Corbyn stand with the PLP, post-‘Chicken Coup’?

When enough members of the PLP signed the nomination papers to get Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper in 2015, they thought they were just paying lip service to the idea that the Labour Party was still a fairly ‘broad church’ with a few genuine lefties still hanging around. It was a sop to try and keep them in the fold, knowing that Labour needed all the help it could get in recovering from the Milliband calamity. Nobody, myself and, I suspect, Jeremy himself included, thought there was any real prospect of him pulling it off.

What Corbyn’s comprehensive victory revealed was, despite all indications to the contrary in terms of the performance of the vast majority of Labour’s elected representatives at all levels, that the majority of the party’s members were actually still socialists at heart. This was a shock to me, having spent the best part of a decade mixing with Green Party lefties that had abandoned the Labour Party at various points over the last 30 or so years. I had assumed that there were very few left in the Labour Party, given that so few made it through the ranks to prominence at Westminster, in the Senedd and in most local council chambers. It was an even bigger shock to the Blairites and centrists of the PLP.

The totally unexpected nature of the outcome meant that it was inevitable that some sort of shambles would ensue, but alongside the mess created, something beautiful arose from the quagmire. Lo and behold, socialism was seen to be alive and kicking, and even more crucially, the membership of the party saw the opportunity to wrest control of the party away from the unrepresentative cliques that had come to control the party with an iron fist (resembling an iron lady?) from the point at which Blair’s New Labour Project took over. Socialism has been a dirty word in the Labour Party for too long as a result. I’ve heard more members of the Green Party and Plaid Cymru proclaim themselves to be socialists than Labour politicians in the 25 years I have been living in Wales. This is because Tony Blair seemed to prove to them that the only electable Labour Government was a neoliberal-loving, just-left-of the-Tories (no matter how far right they go) party that only ever aspired to be not as bad as the Tories. Sticking to true socialist convictions was untenable in the modern world, or so we were told.

The election of Corbyn, and the now obvious common appeal he has, brought hundreds of thousands of people into the party (a mix of old lefties like me and, more crucially, many first time party members – of any party – under the age of 30) and meant that, from nowhere, Corbyn had a huge mandate to re-assert the Labour Party as the party of the people; a party created by its members for its members; a socialist party that stood tall and proud of everything that this should stand for; everything that had become anathema to the professional politicians that make up a huge chunk of the PLP these days.

Given the circumstances, it was always going to be interesting to see how the PLP took to their new leader and how quickly their new leader would take to the task. In short, the PLP recoiled in horror at what they had done, and Jeremy found himself in a position that he had probably never even dreamt about, let alone planned for. I watched on with initial amusement, but then increasing admiration as Jeremy grew into the job and proved his leadership quality by toughing it out against the predictable forces seeking to undermine him, both within and outside the party. When I decided to join and do what I can to support this resuscitation of the socialist agenda, I knew that the PLP were one of those forces seeking to undermine him. This underlined exactly why I had not been able to go anywhere near Labour on a ballot paper for 30 odd years, but also underlined the importance of rallying behind him to win the battle for the direction of the party. At the point of joining, there as no obvious sign (to me at least) of the treacherous lengths the PLP would go to, just a few days later, with their vote of no confidence in JC.

There is no need to rake over the revolting stinkfist that was the leadership campaign this summer, but on reflection, it may well prove even more of a seminal moment for the party than Corbyn’s initial victory. The measure of Corbyn’s second victory, given the blatant gerrymandering of the floundering NEC in denying me (and something like 200,000 other members) a vote, was effectively a vote of no confidence in the PLP members that had precipitated the whole thing.

The PLP now finds itself between a rock and hard place. They are representatives, put before the electorate by the Labour membership. The views and desires of the membership are now crystal clear. The socialist values of the membership have been revalidated and given new voice and new confidence. This has seen the socialists, lost by the party over the years, returning in droves, and younger generations, that have never witnessed anything but neoliberalism in their lives, suddenly realising that an alternative does actually exist. The sense of excitement, of anticipation, of genuine hope is palpable. So what can we expect from the dissidents in the PLP now?

Some are clearly beginning to smell the coffee and recognising that they have to fall into line for the sake of their careers (the most important thing for some of them). Being the decent man that he is, but also being a bit wiser after the experience of the last year, JC has held out olive branches to those that he feels he can trust to drop the daggers. But it is patently clear that too many still clutch those daggers. Listening to a backbench MP sniping that Corbyn lacks confidence in dealing with the PLP as a group, even when acknowledging that he delivers when addressing mass rallies, makes me shudder. I know I would be more comfortable addressing 10,000 friends than a room of 150+ people holding knives behind their backs. It makes it very hard to see how this vital section of the party can be left as it is. screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-13-50-36Corbyn holds majority support in every significant section of the party now, bar the PLP. Yet it is the PLP that is the principle face of the party to the general public. Plummeting polls are bad news, of course, but history tells us that nothing discourages voters more than parties washing their dirty linen in public.

It is patently clear that Corbyn has the respect of just about everyone of a serious left-leaning disposition. He has the respect of many, maybe even most, in other parties and groups of the left. I know this is true from my own personal circle of friends and acquaintances in trade unions, the Green Party, Plaid Cymru, SWP, Socialist Party, anti-racist groups, LGBTIQ groups, refugee support groups, peace campaigners, human rights organisations, and more no doubt. He is the man that all these people, groups and organisations can work with. If they all can, and in doing so unite all the opposition to the neoliberal hegemony, then the PLP simply cannot be allowed to get in the way.

Listening to my Labour MP, Madeleine Moon, sneeringly state that she would have nothing to do with anything connected to the Communist Party, to the SWP or to Momentum simply underlined the disconnect between what she herself stands for screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-13-40-36(i.e. Trident and as many jollies as she can extract from the arms industry it seems) and any appreciation of what socialism actually means. Her vicious disdain for Momentum, in particular, suggests there is nothing to build on. She clearly has no idea who Momentum members actually are. That she exhibits such derision and hostility for what Momentum stands for tells us all we need to know. screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-13-38-51That Momentum is independent, but supportive of, the Labour Party and Labour leadership is, of course, the problem. It cannot be controlled directly by the diehard controlling Blairites/centrists refusing to accept the new reality. They would love to outlaw Momentum members but wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court unless they treated their chums in the Blairite ‘Progress’ group in the same way. That Progress loves purple tells you all you need to know about it mixing plenty of blue in with the true Labour red. screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-23-04-15We all know where Nick Clegg’s Orange Book took the the Lib Dems. So beware Progress’ Purple book! When asked, Madeleine Moon quite bluntly said she has no problem with ‘Progress’ at all.

It is to be hoped that members of the PLP, like Madeleine Moon, will reflect on what is best for the Party that they try to insist they love. They have had their time and, I guess, served their purpose. However,they have wrecked the dignity of the party over the last year or so by refusing to bow to the will of the members. For the sake of their own personal dignity, they should start thinking about doing the honourable thing so that their ignominious removal does not have to be considered. In Madeleine’s case, she will be 70 by the time of the 2020 General Election; not a reason in itself to go, but an additional factor to surely be considered. Mandatory re-selection should, of course, be part of the constitution of any truly democratic party. I am sure that will come, but it would be a shame if that were to be twisted into some sort of perceived witch hunt or the like. That anybody should fear democratisation of the party simply reflects how undemocratic it has become. That is the only way that the PLP could have become so out-of-touch with the party membership in the first place, I would suggest.

So, it is clear that Jeremy still has his work cut out in dealing with the PLP. He needs to press on, along with the reshaped NEC, with continuing to democratise the party. That way he can relax and let us, the members, deal with shaping a more representative PLP that everybody, including the country at large, can believe in and take into power. But these things need resolving sooner rather than later if we are going to stand any chance of gathering the momentum needed to win in 2020. (And yes, that was a deliberate pun!)

Moon and others probably do have some valid concerns on the efficacy of JC’s team in responding to new situations like Brexit and Syria. It is to be hoped that the new Shadow cabinet steps up to the plate and ensures that this is sorted out. I (and I presume most others that support Corbyn) have faith in him and his team shaping appropriate responses. I have less faith in the rest of the PLP taking on those responses with the conviction that they should, simply because we know they don’t share socialist convictions at all. The biggest danger to all this unravelling is in Corbyn and his team wavering in their convictions.

Hearing Nia Griffiths (anti-Trident but pro-Owen Smith) state in her first serious pronouncement as Shadow Defense Secretary, that the party will not revisit its pro-Trident policy before 2020 was alarming. It was primarily alarming as, in a democratic party, this decision is not her’s (or JC’s) to make. It is a policy created partly via the back door by the 2015 Conference. TU and Constituency delegates at the time kept an anti-Trident motion from being debated. This, for a start, could easily change in the future. But the 2015 Conference actually went much further, but most probably missed it! In a little-noticed vote, it endorsed full renewal. The Britain In The World policy report included a paragraph committing the party to supporting a continuous-at-sea-deterrent, which would entail the replacement of all four submarines. Labour First, the moderate “old right” group, noted in an email to supporters: “If the rules are applied properly, this issue should not be considered by conference again until three years have elapsed!” Well, we know how the Party is a stickler for rules, but three years from 2015 takes us to 2018. It was, therefore, foolhardy and needless for Nia Griffiths, presumably with JC’s backing, to make such an announcement. If it was a sop to the centrists/Blairites, it was a poorly judged one in my opinion. It will probably, though, earn Madeleine Moon some further invites to arm dealer banquets.

So, my message to Corbyn is to stay strong and resolute. Continue the democratisation of the party and continue to have faith in the membership, that has put so much faith in you. The PLP will then either fall into line or face the decision to either jump or be shoved. Sadly, many of them have proven themselves to have little honour or integrity and further unseemliness will probably be inevitable. Ultimately we will not be able to shy away from it.

Corbyn is the will of the members. Is Carwyn?

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-18-23-0012 months ago, when Corbyn swept all before him to take the helm of the UK Labour Party, I was excited at seeing socialist ideas in the spotlight and gaining support from the grass roots – those that understand what life is really like in Tory Britain, unlike the detached and privileged senior figures of the unpalatable Blairite New Labour project. Almost immediately I was being questioned, and even pressured, by those that know my commitment to socialist ideas about whether I would join the returning flood of socialists into the Labour Party to support the Corbyn re-invigoration of the party. At that stage I just couldn’t do it and wrote this piece to explain why: “Why I simply can’t bring myself to join my local Labour Party”.

Having spent a large part of the previous decade tearing into Welsh Labour’s shocking record of complacency and underachievement, and especially being based in Carwyn Jones’ home patch, it was too daunting a prospect to put myself into, so soon after quitting the Green Party (I resigned from GPEW in May 2015). For much of the next 12 months, I kept a watching brief on Corbyn’s progress in Labour, while also taking a positive look at Plaid Cymru, but mostly taking time out from politics and campaigning, and looking after my mental health.

Jeremy Corbyn increasingly impressed me. Honesty, integrity, dignity, tenacity were his personal qualities that shone ever brighter in the face of exactly the opposite qualities in the voices opposing him, both inside and outside the Labour Party. The shameless bias, misrepresentation and shit-stirring of the media again just served to underline that this man must be doing something right! As I said on Facebook the day I signed up, it was time to stop prevaricating and properly get behind the man. I joined in mid June 2016. And wasn’t that good timing?!!

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-18-24-3728th June saw the infamous vote of no confidence by the 172 (wide range of adjectives possible – I’ll settle for:) mischievous MPs, closely followed by Angela Eagle‘s pathetic leadership bid, who was then usurped by fall-guy par excellence, Owen Smith. Oh what a Summer it has been!

One consequence of all these shenanigans was the decision to ban party meetings until after the leadership contest, and deny me a vote despite joining before any leadership contest was initiated. I went to my first ward branch meeting the day the voting closed, just last week. But it also meant that the support for Jeremy got organised, through screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-18-28-01Welsh Grassroots/Momentum, and I quickly came to realise that Corbyn has much greater support in Wales than I had previously realised. Realising I was not alone has been an important step in giving me renewed strength of purpose. Finding some longstanding local Labour members that were beginning to smell the coffee, and relish the new direction of the party, further heartened me.

So now we find that Corbyn is re-elected with a huge mandate from members and supporters (forget the 62% of the vote – it must be around 80% if all the gerrymandering by the NEC is factored in). There can now be no question as to which direction the Party is heading. Hallelujah! There are still battles to be fought and won (Trident is going to be a messy one), but the Blairite red tories must now realise that they are caught between a rock and a hard place i.e they have to fall into line or push (or be pushed) off. Personally, I think they should just keep calm, keep quiet and exit right.

Which brings me around to Mr Carwyn Jones. One of the last bits of fiddling done by the outgoing NEC was to secure a seat for a Welsh representative on the NEC. In itself, this could be seen as a positive thing, but in typical Carwyn/Welsh Labour fashion, there was no consideration as to who should take that seat – it was handed straight to Carwyn, in line with the NEC’s desire to boost the anti-Corbyn element of the new NEC, in light of all the seats beholden to the membership going to Corbyn supporters. This makes Carwyn beholden to the ‘centrist’ and/or Blairite factions, as if there was any real doubt that that is where he belongs.

Corbyn’s huge margin of victory is a clear signal that Labour members are no longer going to allow the relatively right wing PLP to call the shots. Having sold its soul to the devil when allowing Blair and Brown to run amok under the New Labour banner, followed by the tame Tory-lite acquiescence of the Millibland (sic) years, 21st century socialism is alive and kicking and the new name of the game. Welsh Labour, and Carwyn Jones in particular, has always tried to pretend that it is a distinct and separate entity to the rest of the Labour Party. It is not, although it may become so at the will of the membership. But that does not seem likely. Welsh Labour discouraged constituency parties from holding nomination meetings to endorse one or other of the leadership candidates, despite one of them being one of their very own – ‘valley boy made good’ Owen 29″ Smith. The outcome was, however, emphatic:


I make that 14 constituencies backing Corbyn and a mere 3 backing Smith (with 23 not nominating).
That is 82%, of the CLPs that voted, backing Corbyn in Wales – much in line with the mandate he would have overall from an undoctored vote across the whole membership. All things considered, you would like to think that Carwyn Jones would be considering his position, wouldn’t you?

Remember those words I used to describe Corbyn earlier: honesty, integrity, dignity, tenacity. Carwyn could score one out of four at best, I would suggest.

What has been Carwyn’s response to Corbyn’s re-election this week? I have yet to see him pass comment on it at all, let alone congratulate the man, and most certainly not to welcome the result. Instead, he embarks on an another relaunch of priorities for the next five years. They are the usual meaningless bluster that could have been summarised in one over-riding priority i.e. cling to power for long as possible while exerting or utilising that power minimally. It is the same priority as the last 17 years of Welsh Labour in government in Wales.

I don’t want to spend too much time dissecting Welsh Labour and Carwyn’s record – that has been done repeatedly elsewhere – but a quick look at his latest declared priorities, in relation to their record to date, is worthwhile. Welsh Labour has many achievements it can point to – which is only to be expected after 17 years – but as a former school teacher used to writing reports, pointing out the positives cannot be allowed to gloss over underachievement in relation to potential. After 17 years, they can surely only be given a screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-18-30-14grade C, at best, for effort and for attainment. Attainment in some areas can only really be given a E grade. For the complacent and unambitious, that is often accepted as good enough. But Wales deserves at least grade ‘A’ effort, accepting that if you do your very best, top level attainment can still be elusive due to extraneous factors

You can read a good summary of Carwyn’s masterplan for the next five years here at walesonline. Opening up with the highly dubious assertion that “Wales is punching above its weight” certainly invites scrutiny. Hands up those of you that are sitting there thinking “Yep, all the evidence around me supports that assertion”. Anyone? If pressed, I’m sure Carwyn would have a few stats to back it up, but there has always been lies, damned lies and statistics!

He picks out a number of key areas of policy:

  • Education
  • Health
  • Economy
  • Housing
  • Living wage

He may well pick on these areas, as they areas of dire need, despite 17 years of continuous Labour administrations looking after them.

Education. screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-15-50He is proposing to throw some more money at it. An extra £100m to drive up standards – but why are those standards the lowest in the UK and amongst the worst in Europe after 17 years of Welsh Labour controlling it (and getting worse if anything)? screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-17-06£2bn on refurbishing our schools – but why have they been allowed to become so appallingly and shamefully dilapidated after 17 years of Welsh Labour looking after them? Student support better than in England (where it is amongst the worst in Europe so setting the bar very low). Where is the ambition to do everything possible to boost the higher educational attainment of Welsh Students?


Health. Improved access to GPs is promised – although this is already among the best (least bad) in the UK. Reduction of waiting times through investing in facilities is promised, which I guess is a nice reversal of closing facilities down (just don’t use the ‘downgrading’ word!). A new treatment fund is to be established to eradicate the postcode lottery of drug availability. Why is there a postcode lottery in drug availability after 17 years of Welsh Labour controlling this? There will be more investment in health professionals supposedly. But no suggestion that this can come from anywhere but overseas, as pay and conditions remain unattractive (and even below living wage levels in many cases). 41% of doctors in England and Wales come from outside of England and Wales, with over 20% coming from Asia. Investing in the salaries of overseas workers is importing skills, with all that this means in terms of exporting wealth and de-skilling poorer countries that seem to be able train up medics far more readily than we can, only to see them scarper overseas to work for our sick, elderly and invalided. This is the what happens when neoliberalism rules instead of socialism. Why are neoliberal policies still dominating our NHS after 17 years of a Welsh Labour government?

Economy. Carwyn talks of relentlessly driving improvement in our economy, while lining up his excuses in the form of ‘uncertainty caused by Brexit’. But his recipe has the same ingredients that he has been relying on for years. More business rates relief for small businesses. More childcare provision. More apprenticeships. More investment in transport in the Cardiff city regions with the much heralded Metro plans. (Nothing about rail links up the west coast, or upgrading the A470 through mid Wales and helping link North and South Wales). Is any of this going to start addressing the following shameful economic indicators, when they have failed to do so to date?

Who said doing the same things and expecting different results was madness? Someone brighter than Carwyn for sure.

Housing. Investment in housebuilding is another restated priority, but, again, the story to date has been of a lack of ambition that has left the country as whole running to stand still after 17 years of Welsh Labour. Housebuilding arguably has unrivalled economic and social value, yet Welsh Government’s own figures show that only 289 homes for registered social landlords were completed in the Apr-Jun quarter of 2016, with 1342 in the private sector and none at all in the local authority sector. This equates to an annual rate of barely 6,500 new homes a year currently. The best annual figure I could come across was just under 10,000 a few years back. Now, all of a sudden, Carwyn is promising 20,000 affordable homes a year (very few private housing developments fall into the affordable category). And of course this is only part of the problem. Neoliberal policies allow vast amounts of housing benefit to leave the public purse, to go into the hands of private landlords, who are allowed to have tenants in fuel poverty due to the inadequacies of the accommodation.  In total, 23% of Welsh households are in fuel poverty.  Another shameful legacy after 17 years of Welsh Labour in government.

Living wages and zero hours contracts. Some of Carwyn’s vaguest promises covered these areas. He will ‘take further action’ on living wages and ‘limit the use’ of zero hours contracts. Perhaps he could crack the whip on welsh councils for starters, including Labour administrations including his very own CBC in Bridgend. At the turn of 2016, only 6 out of 22 Welsh Councils had implemented the living wage for their staff. Bridgend CBC? Not a chance. At the end of 2014 there were 8 councils, including Labour strongholds in Bridgend and Swansea, using zero hours contracts as well!  Nothing undermines politics like hypocrisy from leaders.

And what of incomes overall in Wales after 17 years of Welsh Labour administrations? The answer is record levels of poverty.

  • 23% of the population and 33% of the children in Wales living in relative poverty (less than 60% of median household income) – the worst in the UK.
  • Wales is the only region of Great Britain in which disposable income in every area is below the UK average.
  • The proportion of peoples incomes made up of benefits reached 26% in 2012 – the worst in the UK.

The overall message here is that Welsh Labour’s leaders have an appalling legacy of underachievement, due in no small measure to adhering to Blairite neoliberalism and shunning their socialist roots and origins. They have survived, indeed thrived, on the back of communities that have developed a blind loyalty to the Labour Party that did so much for them in its heyday. That so many of their supporters have had their heads turned by UKIP, and others, does not reflect that their values have significantly changed, in my opinion, but more that they have finally woken up to the fact that Welsh Labour no longer have any answers that have any impact on their lives. The anti-establishment, anti-immigrant bluster of blaggards like Farage and Hamilton hints at easy answers that are what people crave.

The true answers to the needs of the vast majority of people in Wales are in the 21st century socialism that has seen Jeremy Corbyn sweep all before him, despite the best efforts of the out-of-touch, ‘self-interest first’ cabal that wrenched control of the party away from members in the Blair era. It is brave and it is bold.

screen shot 2016 09 30 at 16 49 03


These are two qualities that cannot be ascribed to Carwyn and most senior members of Welsh Labour. They have had it too easy and too comfortable for far too long. They need to move aside and facilitate a refreshing new wind of change, to blow the cobwebs away and bring about the change that Welsh Labour and Wales truly need. If he is any doubt about that, Carwyn needs to put it to the membership in Wales.

The party will bend to the will of the members or disintegrate.

Over to you Carwyn!

British education retreats further towards the Dark Ages

During the Middle Ages, schools were established to teach Latin grammar to the sons of the aristocracy, as part of preparation also for the entry of some into the clergy and religious orders. The church preserved literacy and learning during this period, and education was closely tied to the religious vocation, in order to read the Bible and related documents. The Protestant Reformation had a major influence on education and literacy in England, as it encouraged the reading of the Bible in the vernacular of the people. In the 19th century the Church of England sponsored most formal education until the government established free, compulsory education towards the end of that century. However, unlike the French, who followed a strict policy of secularisation of publicly funded education, a strong voluntary-aided church sector has maintained a strong presence in the British system.

The half-baked attempts at comprehensive education in this country were accompanied by the scaling back of grammar schools and religious schools during the middle of the twentieth century. That comprehensive schools were never as good as they could and should have been was partly down to them being undermined by the continued existence of grammar, church and independent schools, alongside the usual resourcing and training issues. But what we have seen with the establishment of the Thatcher/Blair/Cameron Tory hegemony of the last 35 years is non-sequitur thinking that the way forward in education is to go backwards. screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-19-48-20Thus the support for an ever-increasing diversity of ideologically driven schools, often overtly religious and fundamentalist in character. Organisations such as the British Humanist Association (BHA) have done crucial work in attempting to ensure some balance, and especially in terms of getting non-relgious world views considered alongside the religious. But this is now under direct threat and and we are seeing disturbing trends in the very essence of education in this country.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on RE, led by Conservative MPs Fiona Bruce and David Burrowes, has voted to remove the study of non-religious worldviews from its purpose. Since its foundation, the purpose of the group has been ‘To provide a medium through which parliamentarians and organisations with an interest in religious education can discuss the current provision of religious education, press for continuous improvement, promote public understanding and advocate rigorous education for every young person in religious and non-religious world views.’ This has now been amended to remove ‘and non-religious’.

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-19-40-35The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed its shock at the decision. In addition, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), which until a few months ago provided the secretariat for the group, and National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE), have both expressed their disappointment.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Non-religious worldviews, including Humanism, have been part of RE in English schools for over half a century. Their study alongside religions is supported by a huge majority of teachers, parents, and pupils and contributes to a broad and balanced curriculum. Their study is vital for children to understand today’s society in Britain and globally, as well as our history and heritage as a country; it is vital for the moral education of the majority of children who are not religious; and it is vital for their intellectual development. More than that – it is the law. This alarming development by ideological parliamentarians – all of them conservative Christians – places them almost as far outside the educational and general mainstream as is possible and guarantees their irrelevance at the same time as it illustrates their prejudice.’

With aspects of science, such as evolution, undermined in some of the Government’s academy schools, and blatant disregard of attempts to control illegal teaching of it until some had to be forcibly closed, it may have been hoped that things war improving. But it is far from being so.

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-19-51-31Newsnight, earlier this year, found that a number of illegal strictly orthodox Charedi Jewish schools in North London are, not only carrying on regardless of the law, but have been granted charitable status. Only pressure from the BHA is seeing this situation finally be investigated.

As I have said repeatedly before, the existence of extreme sects of any religion is only possible as offshoots of a main body. This means the pressures for schools to serve these extreme sects can only grow in some sort of proportion with the number of supposed mainstream church schools. The news that the Church of England is seeking too open more than a hundred new schools by 2020, as part of the Free Schools programme that gave rise to the creationist and Charedi problems, is therefore cause for great concern. This concern should be heightened by the the Church being remarkably open about its motivations. In the face of declining church attendance and diminishing proportions of adherents in their schools, they are now openly stating that the evangelising of children must be engaged with ‘a new sense of urgency’, a view echoed by the Catholic Church and cross-denominational groups.screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-19-53-01

Given this impending assault, aided and abetted by the Christian Right in parliament, we are very much in danger of seeing the hideous sort of politics we currently see purveyed by the Christian Right  in the USA becoming more prevalent here.

Scary stuff. God help us? If only!!

One last point – if you want to help counter this growing tide of religiosity in our schools, you might like to consider supporting the BHA’s “What is Humanism?” Book Appeal.  The appeal aims to send a copy of the an important new book aimed at helping primary school children have some perspective on some big questions.
screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-19-33-11What does it mean to be a humanist? Is humanism a new idea? How do people live their lives without religious beliefs? The first of its kind aimed at  a new curriculum for upper primary and lower secondary school children, this book will examine how humanists respond to fundamental questions about morals and ethics, the origins of life, religion and the state. It will look at how humanists mark the milestones of birth, marriage and death. How do people without belief in God live moral and fulfilled lives, with respect for humankind and the universe? A thought-provoking approach will encourage readers to think about the big questions for themselves.
The book includes contributions from a number of prominent humanists, such as Stephen Fry, Camila Batmanghelidjh, Philip Pullman, Jim Al-Khalili, Natalie Haynes and Shappi Khorsandi, who will explain their own philosophy and tell us what is important to them.

Every home should have a copy!


Jonathan Bartley – is he more of a problem than a solution for the Green Party?

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As a former Green who has gone to Labour to support Corbyn, I can tell you that Bartley is complete anathema to me on three grounds 1. Prominent Tory background. 2. Founder of a pro-religion think tank 3. BBC connections. So the answer to the Independent headline’s question is “Au contraire”.

1. It is not that it is great that someone can have ‘seen the light‘ etc. But it is naive in the extreme to think that, in this day and age,that his background will be overlooked by the media and wider public. After all, he was not just a run-of-the-mill Conservative member. After graduating from the London School of Economics in 1994, Bartley worked at the UK Parliament as a researcher and parliamentary assistant for a number of years, and was part of John Major’s campaign team in the 1995 Conservative Party leadership election against John Redwood. If Owen Smith deserves a hard time for having his job at Pfizer on his CV, then how can we realistically expect the media and wider public to see working directly for the Leader of the Conservative Party?

Joining the Green Party and becoming party leader within 4 years is a meteoric rise by anybody’s standards. He was a London Assembly candidate within 12 months, a general election candidate 3 years later and sought to be the London Mayoral candidate this year. And yet I never saw or heard anything of him in all my time involved in the Green Party from 2010 to 2015. This marks him out quite clearly as a very ambitious London-bubble politician. However nice and competent he may be, excuse me for thinking that this is the last thing the Green Party needs right now. Purely on paper, Will Duckworth and Sharar Ali were always more attractive propositions in terms of broadening the Party’s appeal.

2. Religion. Let me try to choose my words carefully to address the problem in this context. I’ll use his own words where I can. The following quotes come from an interview published in Christian Today just yesterday, to mark the announcement of his becoming co-leader of the Green Party. I find this slightly problematic:

“My faith is still what drives my politics. I have always been driven by that. I have always been driven by the desire to make the world a better place. To make it more as it was intended to be.”

The problem here is that his faith appears to have driven him to work with and for Margaret Thatcher’s successor as Leader of the Conservative Party at one point, and yet now that religious faith apparently drives him in the completely opposite direction to be Leader of the Green Party. That is a very strange faith indeed. The fact of the matter is that his personal epiphany appears to have very little to do with his faith at all. He explained to Christian Today that it was the birth of his now-14 year-old son with spin bifida that was the “pivotal” moment.

“I started to see the world in a very different way,” he said. “I saw all the barriers that are put up to people who are disabled and I took a long hard look at all the different parties. I realised the Green party embodied the values of the bias to the poor, the bias to the vulnerable and standing up for the voiceless”

So what on earth was his faith telling him before this moment? Apparently, it was telling him to work for a party whose bias has always been to the rich, the powerful and the establishment. The one thing that perhaps he learned from the Tories was self-interest. This is going to sound very harsh, given that I have never even met the bloke, but convictions shaped by personal circumstance are not convictions built on solid foundations. Personal circumstances are always prone to change. What is right or wrong rarely does. Using religious faith and supporting ones views from scripture are cynical ploys that we see being used in vile ways around the world on a daily basis. Let me complete the quote above:

“I realised the Green party embodied the values of the bias to the poor, the bias to the vulnerable and standing up for the voiceless which are the themes that run through the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament.They embody the character of Jesus and the character of God.”

There are plenty of other themes that run through the Hebrew scriptures, in particular, that are far less compatible with Green Party politics – I hope!!! Misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, racism, homophobia, slavery etc. etc.

Of course, these are common themes in most of the world’s major religions. Which brings us to one of Bartley’s proudest achievements, Ekklesia; a Christian think tank with a strong commitment to Transforming politics and belief“. I’ll resist the oxymoron jibes (whoops) but just what sort of transformation is Bartley seeking? According to their website:

While remaining committed and involved in a positive exchange between mainstream traditions (Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, Pentecostal and indigenous), Ekklesia naturally draws much of its specific inspiration from the dissenting strands within Christianity, not least the ‘historic peace churches’ (Quakers, Mennonites and other Anabaptists), liberation theologies and other nonconformists inside and outside inherited denominations.

Ekklesia is therefore ‘radical’, not in a narrow or aggressive way, but in its conviction that the Gospel subverts power and privilege, both personally and corporately. And it is ‘progressive’, not in subscribing to a myth of progress, but in seeing change as coming through risk-taking hopefulness, rather than through a destructive lust for security and certainty.

So, it is all about bringing Christian denominations together and challenging the nasty power-grabbing tendencies and intolerance within some denominations. Hallelujah to that, I suppose, but underneath it all it is still the same old divisive, primitive nonsense of ‘one Christian god’ etc. And still a long way away from the ‘Imagine’ gospel according to John Lennon.

3. BBC connections. He is a regular contributor to BBC One‘s The Big Questions. He has formerly contributed to BBC Radio 4‘s Thought for the Day and been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. This may be a good or bad thing going forward. He clearly is seen as a go-to person on certain types of issues, but as I suggest above these may not be the issues that best represent the Green Party. If he can use his connections to gain a better platform for the Party’s progressive policies, then this may prove beneficial (he did very well here, for example, on the BBC News Channel). But we all have to be very wary of BBC manipulation, and I look forward to seeing how he tackles Andrew Neil, Laura Kuenssberg and Andrew Marr. Hopefully he will now stay well away from the Christian moralising stuff! Having a good media performer is seen as hugely valuable. It is why Rhun ap Iorwerth was fast-tracked in Plaid Cymru, at considerable cost, I would maintain (but they will never acknowledge), in terms of the compromising of Party policy and values that he brought with him (over nuclear policy in particular). Bartley strikes me as representing a similar sort of gamble.

And finally, if this is an attempt to broaden the Party’s appeal, then I think the losses from losing Sharar Ali in a leadership role will more than offset the gain of a few eco-minded Christian Conservatives. I sincerely hope I am wrong about all this, but I think this will come to be seen as a retrograde step by the Party. Although it is great to have Caroline Lucas back, I question her judgement on this occasion.

Backing Owen 2016 – A message from Madeleine Moon

Dear Madeleine,

Observations in CAPITALS

On 23 Aug 2016, at 12:18, Madeleine Moon wrote:

Dear Colleague,

The Labour Party is at a crossroads. The decision we make in the coming weeks will not only define the future of our Party, but the future of our country.


Over the past 12 months, I’ve been truly saddened to see splits and divisions emerge within our movement.


As a united movement we created the NHS, we introduced the Minimum Wage, we fought for workers’ rights. But divided, we serve only to let down the millions of people who desperately need us to stand up to this right-wing Tory government.


If you are still undecided I think the attached link will help explain why I think you should support Owen.


Click here to see it



I joined the Labour Party for the same reasons you did. I believe passionately in the principles of fairness and equality that underpin everything we stand for. I want to take those principles and turn them into real policies that can change lives.


Having worked closely with Jeremy, I know we can’t do that under his leadership. We saw for ourselves that he couldn’t give clear leadership on complex issues like the European Union, or undermined colleagues like Lilian Greenwood, who were doing their best to serve him and serve our party.


Labour’s never been more needed, but we’ve never been less effective. That’s why I’m supporting Owen Smith to be the next Leader of the Labour Party.Owen is a proud and passionate socialist. Someone with the radical ideas we need to take the fight to the Tories, and the credibility to take us back into government. With Owen, we will have the policies, the principles and the passion to unite the Labour Party and take our movement forward.

LABOUR HAS BEEN INEFFECTIVE FOR YEARS DUE TO ITS ABANDONMENT OF ITS CORE VALUES. SUPPORTING A PROVEN BLAIRITE LIKE SMITH, WHOSE VALUES ARE MORE FLEXIBLE THAN A GOLD WINNING GYMNAST, IS DEFINITION OF LUNACY – “During the leadership contest, he’s managed to rack up a disturbing collection of gaffes over a short period of time which have served to highlight his hypocrisy.” 


Best wishes,
Madeleine Moon MP

It is not about train travel – it is about our direction of travel

The media clamour over the crowded-train non-story demonstrates just how easily the corporate media (that very much includes the i as it is run by aspiring media baron Ashley Highfield, who is trying to do a deal to supply BBC its local news) and big business interests (and they don’t come much bigger than Richard Branson) can manipulate the agenda.

This story rumbles on as it serves multiple purposes to vested interests.

  1. It was all over the BBC (most nauseatingly on Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine lunchtime show) and other media today as Corbyn was wanting to focus on the NHS. With tories and Blairites (including very obviously Owen Smith) committed to its privatisation (most of the PFI debt crippling the NHS was down to Blair/Brown), this is not a policy area corporate interests want covered.

2. Similarly, the huge traction that calls to re-nationalise the railways is beginning to finally gain must be anathema to the corporate owners of our railways such as Virgin Trains, who continue to make big profits while we pay the highest fares in Europe, if not the world.

3. So, to deflect from these uncomfortable debates, that socialists can have a field day on, the puppet masters ensure that what is deemed far more important is Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity. Did he really choose to sit on the floor when there was a vacant seat or two on the train?

I am not going to dignify such a question with any sort of answer. It is irrelevant in every possible sense. What is relevant is that we are being railroaded (excuse the pun) into focussing on the ‘Cult of Corbyn’ at the expense of the real reason for my, and most other ‘Corbynista’s’ excitement over his accession to the leadership of the party, namely that for the first time in living memory we have a tangible prospect of some genuinely socialist government in this country, allied to a real and substantial threat to the neoliberal hegemony that needs to be brought down if humanity and, indeed the whole planet, is to have a sustainable future. These are questions at the opposite extreme to whether there was a spare seat on a train or not. They are questions that the establishment and and corporations cannot abide.

I really couldn’t give a flying whatever whether Corbyn is capable of cheap stunts and the odd porky; whether he is or is not just like every other politician in this sense. I do believe that he has, at the very least, vastly more integrity than the vast majority of MPs, but that may well be damning with feint praise and I would not be shocked or completely crestfallen if this proved not to be the case. The crucial thing is the direction in which he wants to steer the country. There can be no doubt that he will do his best to steer us towards that fairer, more equal, more compassionate and more sustainable place we need to be. That is good enough for me. This is the agenda we need to focus on, not ‘Corbyn the Messiah’, as our socialist objectives have to outlive Corbyn, or it is all a waste of time.

I’ll leave you with this sobering observation from the great George Carlin:

Owen Smith believes Labour will split if Corbyn wins

This evening, I attended Owen Smith’s love-in at the Llantrisant Leisure Centre.

Credit where it is due, it was a lot better attended than I expected, with somewhere between 200 and 250 cramming the room, including a selection of MPs and AMs ) I recognised Chris Bryant and Nia Griffiths for example). I am not going to go into Smith’s speech as we have heard it all before. It was Smith polishing his delivery in front of a friendly audience, and it was indeed pretty polished, complete with his “thumb of power” to the fore.

The tactics have become quite clear. A year ago, Jeremy was unelectable because he was too left, too socialist, according to his opponents. Owen no longer pushes this line. Indeed, he tries his damnedest to persuade us that he is just as much a socialist and just as radical as Jeremy (despite the copious objective evidence to the contrary), but that Jeremy is now unelectable because he is weak in his opposition to the Tories; that he lacks sufficient wit at the dispatch box; and that attracting record levels of membership and being the draw for huge rallies does not translate into being a credible government. These are, of course, subjective criticisms that we will always differ on.

From ‘Byline blog article by Alex Andreou, supporting Smith

After his prolonged monologue, he took a Q&A session. I have to admit, I felt somewhat intimidated as there were repeated insinuations of a Corbyn personality cult; Momentum being ‘the child of Militant Tendency’;of rising problems of anti-semitism and misogyny on Corbyn’s watch etc. At my most confident, I would have spoken up and faced up, but I bottled it, feeling that it would not have been taken as a constructive contribution, as it was far from any sort of debate. This was re-enforced by the fact that Smith seemed to know just about every questioner by name. He repeatedly stressed how this was his home patch, and I soon felt like an interloper at family get together. Some were quite overtly aggressive in their tone and urging Smith to go on the attack a lot more. Smith stated that this would be coming.

He dodged one particular question about what Smith saw happening after this election, choosing to leave it the end. And he was quite explicit and blunt about it.

If he wins, he will unite the party (no hint of how), take the fight to the Tories (presumably via witty retorts at the despatch box), and lead the party into government (obviously).

If Jeremy Corbyn wins the party will split. Simple as that.

Considering the NEC elections and all other indications make Smith winning nothing but a remote possibility, I can only assume that Smith, Bryant and company have already prepared said split.

On the way out, a gentleman asked me what I had thought about the evening. I told him that was wondering whether people like him were likely to follow Smith out of the Labour Party and into some sort of SDP v.2. He said, “Do you really think it will come to that?” “Depends on whether you believe anything he says”, I said.