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What is the future for Labour?

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Labour leadership hopefuls: L-R (in picture) Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour leadership hopefuls: L-R (in picture) Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Jeremy Corbyn.

FOLLOWING Ed Milliband’s resignation after the General Election, The Labour Party has been doing a serious amount of soul-searching. Numerous reasons have been given for the party’s poor performance, even though they gained seats in England and only lost one in Wales.

The most common reason given from inside the party is a variation on the theme that under Ed Milliband, the party veered too sharply to the left. There have been numerous ways of expressing this, from Chuka Umunna claiming that the party needed to be more ‘business friendly,’ to acting leader Harriet Harman and candidate Liz Kendall refusing to vote against the Conservatives’ welfare bill because British people have real concerns about benefit spending.

This contrasted sharply with the experiences of many canvassers who felt abandoned by the parliamentary Labour party, which made constituency candidates something of a hard sell in places. Across the country, the emergence of UKIP as, if not a credible political force, then certainly one strong enough to influence the outcome of any seat, was largely at the expense of what Labour would have considered core voters in 1997. Anti-austerity parties to the left also benefitted from Labour’s perceived lack of opposition to Conservative policies.

The election of a new Labour leader was meant to be the fairest and most transparent to date in a party that has traditionallyprideditselfonadherenceto democratic principles. Jeremy Corbyn, described ad nauseum in the press as an ‘Old Labour dinosaur,’ and a ‘veteran left-winger’ was only put on the ballot after 35 MPs, many of whom had no intention of voting for him, decided that all facets of the party should be represented. That these MPs were subsequently described as ‘morons’ by one of Tony Blair’s former advisors shows the extent to which the left-wing of the party is viewed as an embarrassment nowadays.

A strong showing ofpopular support for Mr Corbyn has led to outcry in the national press. A YouGov poll recently put him on CHECK %, leading to claims that the poll was inaccurate, and leading people to predict a schism in the Labour party similar to that which occurred when Michael Foot was made leader – something Mr Corbyn has blamed for the landslide defeat in 1983. The Daily Mirror, the only remaining left-wing tabloid, has suggested implementing an ABC (anyone but Corbyn) strategy, while on the other end of the scale Toby Young has suggested that those on the political Right join the Labour Party and vote for Mr Corbyn as a way of bringing down the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn is certainly different to any leadership contender since the early nineties, if not before. Having said that, John Smith was considered to be on the centre-right of the party then, which shows how much the political landscape has shifted. The public spending cuts that Ed Balls claimed he would not alter if Labour were elected would have had an old One Nation Tory like Ted Heath spinning in his grave. Mr Corbyn has claimed that the role of leader should be more about facilitating debate rather than developing policies. He is known to favour the abolition of student fees, scrapping Trident, and the renationalisation of the rail industry.

There has been uproar in the Labour party about this. Apparently Labour should not be a party of protest but a party of government. It appears that from an opposition perspective, this means agreeing with most of what the party in power proposes, on the basis that they were voted in and are therefore what the electorate want. It may be facile to suggest that this makes the concept of an opposition moot, but certainly the parameters of debate will be narrowed.

Interestingly, a journalist for the Independent checked out the YouGov poll results for Mr Corbyn’s policies, and found that the public were heavily in favour, with 60% in favour of nationalising trains, for example. It appears that the claims that the Labour party has already suffered a split between the grass-roots supporters and the metropolitan ‘elite’ may have some basis in fact. A point which appears to be overlooked is that ‘three-time-winner’ Tony Blair still had the support of Labour’s core vote, until it began melting away over the New Labour years. Without this support, and without any way of either working with the SNP or encouraging Scottish voters back into the fold, the ‘swing seats’ targeted in ’97 will be increasingly irrelevant.

Andy Burnham, the politician many party insiders would like to see get the nod, is nominally on the left of centre, in the same way Yvette Cooper is slightly to the right. Mr Burnham is the only candidate to say that he would serve in a Corbyn shadow cabinet. Liz Kendall, considered one of the Blairite faction’s big hopes, has performed poorly, and is fourth-placed by some margin. A spoof facebook page – Liz Kendall for Conservative Leader – had nearly as many ‘likes’ as her own page before it was deleted. A problem appears to be the unwillingness of the other three candidates to commit on issues, for fear of jeopardising their shot at the top job.

Whoever emerges as Labour leader in the coming months will be in an unenviable position. They will have to reconcile those on the political Left and Right, and attempt to appeal to disillusioned Labour voters, as well as trying to take votes from the Conservatives and UKIP and, in all probability, having to work with the SNP and possibly Plaid Cymru in Wales, both parties with a broadly left-of-centre manifesto. It is far too early to tell what sort of a party will emerge at the other end, the outcome of a leadership battle fought across such a wide spectrum, and the ensuing rise in the number of party members, many of whom are looking for a credible alternative to the Tory-lite policies of the last two decades, will mean the party will indeed be living in interesting times.

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Chancellor’s economic update includes VAT cut for hospitality sector, and customer discounts

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THE CHANCELLOR, Rishi Sunak, set out the measures in his summer economic update in the House of Commons on Wednesday (Jun 8), as he faces pressure to assist those who are most vulnerable to the financial crisis.

The Chancellor said he will cut VAT from 20% to 5% for food if people eat out to help those businesses which he said had been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor announced discount to encourage people to eat out in August.

He says restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels as well as other attractions will be able to claim the money back within five days. It had been reported he was considering giving all UK adults a £500 voucher to spent with companies hit by coronavirus, but the Chancellor has decided not to go ahead with that proposal.

Another announcement is that employers who take back staff on furlough and continuously employ them until January will get £1,000 cash bonus per employee.

Instead Sunak announced a discount worth up to £10 per head for eating out in August. He said his final measure has never been tried in this country. It is an “eat out to help out scheme”, offering customers as discount worth up to £10 per head when they eat out from Monday to Wednesday in August.

Speaking in the Commons today, he said: “Our plan has clear goals, to protect, support and retain jobs.”

Regards furlough scheme, he said it must wind down, adding: “flexibly and gradually supporting people through to October” but that he is introducing a bonus for employers who bring staff back from furlough.

Employers who bring someone back from furlough and employ them through to January, paying them a minimum of £520 a month, will receive a £1,000 bonus.

He says that “in total we have provided £49bn to support public services since the pandemic began”.

He added: “No nationalist can ignore that this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.”

Mr Sunak says the UK economy has already shrunk by 25% – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He also announced:

  • A £2bn kickstart scheme paying employers to take on unemployed 16 to 24 year olds for a minimum of 25 hours a week – he says the Treasury will pay those wages for six months plus a sum for overheads. He says there is no cap. This will apply in England and Wales.
  • VAT on food from restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels will be cut until January 12 from 20% to 5%
  • Funding for apprenticeships and trainee-ships in England, there will be a separate announcement for Wales.
  • £1bn for the DWP to support millions of people back to work through Job Centres
  • A £2bn green homes grant in England to cover two thirds of the cost, up to £5,000, for energy efficient home improvements. Again the Welsh Government will have their own proposals on this given time.
  • A temporary cut to stamp duty in England and Northern Ireland.

Stephen Crabb has given his strong backing to the Chancellor’s coronavirus recovery plan, calling it “a huge step towards getting Pembrokeshire back on its feet”.

The Preseli MP said that the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ includes a £1000 bonus for businesses to bring back furloughed staff and the Kickstart scheme which will provide high quality work placements for unemployed youngsters. In England businesses will also be offered £1000 bonus to take on a trainee and £2000 for each new apprentice. Welsh Government has been given equivalent money to support their training schemes.

Speaking in the House of Commons following the Chancellor’s statement, Crabb said: “Make no mistake, this action to save a generation of young people from bearing the brunt of the economic crisis is incredibly positive and to be welcomed.”

The MP has previously warned about the prospect of a surge in unemployment as a result of the lockdown.

The Chancellor also announced a cut in VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector, giving a much needed boost to some of the sectors hardest hit by coronavirus. Early on in the lockdown, Crabb wrote to the Chancellor to call for a package of support for Tourism that included a VAT cut.

Responding to the announcement today, he said: “I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened to the proposals that many MPs from coastal areas have put forward. Tourism and hospitality need a real shot in the arm and the VAT cut will be very welcome.”

Today’s statement also saw the launch of a new ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, giving people 50% off meals out to encourage more families to eat out or get a takeaway during the month of August.   These measures will be important for Pembrokeshire’s many hospitality businesses who are still awaiting an announcement from Welsh Government on when they can open again.

On Friday Stephen Crabb will be bringing together more than thirty local pubs and restaurants for an online discussion with the County Council and others about how the sector can re-open safely and successfully.

 

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Cllr Beynon suspended as school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL said that they are unable to comment on the suspension of a Pembroke Dock councillor as a school governor.

Cllr Beynon confirmed that he has been suspended as a school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur.

“I’m looking forward until when the ombudsman throws out the complaints,” Cllr Beynon said.

Paul Dowson, a fellow Pembroke Dock councillor, recently resigned from the board of school governors of Ysgol Harri Tudur.

Cllr Dowson said after he resigned: “I feel a recent smear campaign reflects badly on the school even though its untrue.”

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Union wants council investigation into Councillor Paul Dowson’s conduct

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Councillor Paul Dowson’s public statements criticising the Black Lives Matter movement should be formally investigated by the council, according to UNISON.

The trade union said Mr Dowson’s use of a phrase adopted by the racist Klu Klux Klan was deeply offensive when people around the world were united in protest at police brutality and the murder of George Floyd.

UNISON questioned whether the councillor is fit to hold public office.

Mr Dowson used his Facebook page to attack Labour councillor Josh Beynon’s suggestion Pembrokeshire County Hall could be lit up in support of Black Lives Matter’s commemoration of Mr Floyd’s death.

Cllr Dowson posted that “White lives matter” a White supremacist phrase which originated in 2015 as a racist response to protests against police brutality against Black-Americans in the USA. Councillor Beynon received an online torrent of racist and homophobic abuse.

Manuela Hughes, UNISON Pembrokeshire branch chair said: “The Black Lives Matter movement has shown everyone that racism is rife in society. Black people are more likely to have been subjected to police brutality, more likely to live in poverty and more likely to be unemployed as a result of systemic racism. Their contribution is often written out of the history of this country.

Black workers have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and in the NHS, care and transport sectors, Black people have paid with their lives for caring for the whole community.

“This is the climate in which Councillor Dowson made his comments. He has brought Pembrokeshire County Council into disrepute. It is important that everyone stands together against racism and the council must formally investigate his behaviour.”

Mr Dowson was criticised for his Facebook comments in April last year that former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, should commit suicide.

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