A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Don't be daft Mr Miliband

I'm writing this before setting out for a morning's canvassing in Dalston.

For someone rumoured to want to be Labour Party Leader, David Miliband has an odd approach to motivating Labour's activists and voters.

Today in the News of the World he says that Labour MPs shouldn't argue about the abolition of the 10p tax rate.

What is the point in being a Labour MP if you can't disagree with a policy that hurts the least well off?

The unity that Miliband calls for is a two-way process. It requires the Party leadership to listen to members and backbenchers, to sometimes admit they have got it wrong, and to not dream up policies that run contrary to Labour's absolute core values.

Unity based on just following commands from above, rather than democratic decision-making and following policies because you believe in them, is the unity practiced by Leninist democratic centralists, not democratic socialists.

The damage being done to Labour's prospects on 1 May is not from legitimate dissent, it's from a bad policy that is causing some of our least well off supporters to see their pay packet cut.

This isn't about left and right in the Party - I'm on the right of the Party and I think this policy stinks, as does Stuart King, another Labour moderate who is PPC for Putney.

Nor is it anything to do with loyalty or disloyalty to the PM - I want him to be a successful PM that's why I want him to drop this bad policy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Miliband is right. There is a time and a place for internal criticisms of policy, and that is behind closed doors out of sight of the Tory press, and AFTER May 1. It's complete disloyalty to the Party to argue otherwise.

10:20 am, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

LOL.....Miliband is a pratt for not standing up for the poorest paid workers.

Labour is meant to be the party of working people. Why on earth should Labour MPS support a motion that hurts the poorest working families.

Well said Luke.

11:57 am, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think post offices will hurt you just as much and serves you all right!

1:23 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger Brian said...

There are ways and means of voicing discontent that don't feed the slavering jaws of media hacks with nothing much to write about and who are desperate to add fuel to the "Labour in meltdown" fire of their own creation.

Subtle is one thing that Frank Field &co could never be accused of being.

In 1997 the lowest rate of income tax was a lot more than 20p, there were no tax or pension credits and no minimum wage. But let's not mention any of that, it might not get us into the news or onto the telly....

1:24 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you know how those of us on the left of the party feel now...Diane Abbott not looking so bad all of a sudden? Because maybe the reason they rebel is because they don't want the poor to be hurt...

1:27 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger Jon Worth said...

Sorry Luke, but it's a lot easier for you to argue that keeping the 10p rate than it is for Miliband. He - unlike some Cabinet Ministers - seems to understand what Cabinet Government means - i.e. sticking to the agreed line.

Furthermore he's not someone who was 100% behind Brown at the time of the leadership election, so it's some show of unity that he's saying this.

1:48 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think the policy "stinks" why did you imply the exact opposite at the time? Eg praising the budget for being redistributive?


I am no natural fan of GB, but it seems a lot of people have suddenly discovered an objection to a policy they never batted an eyelid about until now.

Miliband is right to urge people to recover their nerve and show some guts in the face of enemy fire.

1:50 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

This policy is simply a mistake. I think that it is indicative of how some aspects of NL have forgotten what social democracy needs to be about at its core - creating a fairer and more equal society

We need to use this debate to raise the broader topic of the threshold for paying tax at all and the fact that taxation bands are not progressive enough

2:23 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

There is no point sticking to the party line if the policy is clearly wrong and badly thought out.

The whole point of having a parliament is to allow democracy to flourish. People elected Labour because they were sick of the last conservative government and how unfair their policies were. People wanted a Labour government to actually make taxation fair.

A labour government that subsidises tax cuts for the well off by stealing from the poor is simply not a Labour government. Why should Labour mps stand by Brown when this policy is so clearly wrong.

What good is it to hide this debate. People would prefer MPS from all sides to show their true colours and get behind what they truly believe in. If they believe that cutting taxes for middle income Britain at the expense of the lowest earners then so be but don't expect many votes from working class Britain. Those Labour MPS that challenge Brown will in the end get more respect from their constituents by doing so and will probably keep their jobs.

It will be interesting to see where the conservatives stand on this subject. Their reaction will show whether they have truly changed their spots or whether they still believe in helping the rich at the expense of the poor.

This is another Poll Tax moment and will define Brown and could also finish him.

2:42 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger Jack Ray said...

jeez, the government is now Right-Wing enough to make Luke Akehurst start complaining. Now that's an achievement...

2:56 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post Luke

Brian is wrong. The lowest rate of tax in 1997 was 20p, and Brown cut it to 10p in 1999.

It was in the 1997 Labour Manifesto that it was our long term objective to have a 10p starting rate. Long term obviously meant from 1999-2008.

Also I don't know if Luke is encouraging MPs to break the whip, (I suspect not), but what he was saying was that it is not a rebellion which is causing a headache, its the policy. We can disagree on whether Labour MPs should follow Frank Field, but agree that David Milliband is wrong and, on this, Luke Akehurst is right

3:11 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's hope for Luke Akehurst yet, the crazy ol' leftie that he is.

4:34 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hurt the least well off? er. no. It hurts those at the bottom of the tax paying bracket who are not receiving family tax credits, who are not benefiting from a rise in the minimum wage, who are not in some form of government support programme already.

So basically lower paid single workers.

Yes its a problem, but don't pretend it actually hits the poor.

5:25 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger John Wiseman said...

We are in agreement Luke!!


6:04 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous David Floyd said...

"jeez, the government is now Right-Wing enough to make Luke Akehurst start complaining. Now that's an achievement..."

Well, the 10p tax rate when introduced was a classic New Labour measure.

It wasn't openly promoted as redistribution of wealth (although in reality that's what it was) but was spun, quite sensibly, as being one of a range of incentives for people to get off benefits and go into to work.

The reversal of the measure actively makes life on benefits more appealing to single people doing jobs they don't enjoy for not very much money.

In that sense it's an anti-Blairite measure from Brown that is very much against the line that Luke and other with his general standpoint advocate.

Unfortunately, it's not quite the sort of anti-Blairite measure that those of us on the left were hoping for.

7:08 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Dalston Depressed said...

Canvassing in Dalston. I wonder if you visited the Dalston Theatre site visiting the show flat that has been promised to you?

Any chance you visited the shrine memorial to Jamie Simpson, who was murdered in Matalan in the Kingsland Shopping Centre and showed the slightest interest in what goes on in the borough?

I bet you didn't.


7:11 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous John Prescott said...

Luke your making me sick. Any chance of a burger?

7:14 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous jdc said...

Ah well. This is only a £6 billion transfer from the poor to the fairly rich. Tomorrow, if rumour is correct, the Bank of England is going to announce a £50 billion transfer from all taxpayers, to the owners of large houses, and of banking shares. Take your pick.

8:22 pm, April 20, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance of you taking a look at the immigration policy that you've been pushing here?

It's your open-doors policy which has driven many of the indigenous population out of work or else working at rates well below what they can live on.

You're not up for that, are you. You will be after 1 May and any election for Hackney council afterwards.

9:00 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger susan said...

Luke, for once we are in absolute agreement.You are utterly right. This policy is anathema to Labour people.

9:42 pm, April 20, 2008

Blogger Bill said...

Actually, it's not that bad - the best response to this is to urge support for unions in their struggle to push the burden of this tax change onto employers and push wages up to compensate for the tax changes (which they will).

9:01 am, April 21, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

luke said,
"What is the point in being a Labour MP if you can't disagree with a policy that hurts the least well off?"

Luke we on the left have been arguing this point ad nauseum since the right of the party took control and this is only a natural progression of our neo-liberal agenda.

Needless to say I agree with you in that you can be loyal to the party and yet disagree with the leadership.

On a slightly different note I was sad to hear of Gwyneth Dunwoody death, she was on the right of the party (although when New Labour materialised she found herself on the left without having to change her opinions - like Roy Hattersley) yet still brought the government to book when they deserved it. A decent woman and MP she will be missed.

11:14 am, April 21, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"Unity based on just following commands from above, rather than democratic decision-making and following policies because you believe in them, is the unity practiced by Leninist democratic centralists, not democratic socialists."

My lord.

I never thought I'd see the day.

11:56 am, April 21, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Ravi: a lot of us who still think of ourselves as basically on the right of the party found ourselves on the left come the dawning of New Labour!

I wonder what someone like Tony Crosland would think of the current Government? He would have been way to the left of them!

2:22 pm, April 21, 2008

Blogger Bill said...

ramsay MacDonald would be seen as a dangerous lefty lunatic these days - he wanted to establish Soviets and everything...(s'true!)

2:52 pm, April 21, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Crosland, unlike this Cabinet, supported massive cuts in public spending. The idea that past Labour governments were great left wing crusades and this one is a bunch of sell outs might as well have been cooked up in Northcliffe House because it is as damaging and fact-free as anything that appears in the Mail.


Just goes to show that MacDonald was a daft tw@t

8:09 pm, April 21, 2008


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