A Letter to the Remain-ing Left

By Eva Nanopoulos

On the 23rd June 2016, 52% of the UK population voted to leave the European Union (EU). This is the first such referendum in the history of European integration. Several Member States have voted, sometimes twice, on the ratification of various EU Treaties and the Greeks were called to decide on an austerity package that, for many, implied an exit from the Eurozone. But no Member State to date has considered, let alone voted against, its continuing membership of the EU. The result has been unsettling for many, including on the left. But there is little time for quarrels or mourning. This is a plea for the left and others concerned about the rise of the right to act quickly and decisively. In or out, this is no longer about campaigning one side in a binary referendum. This is an open political crisis and the stakes are higher than ever. We need to:

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Bedford Momemtum public meeting

I have just got back from tonight’s Bedford Momentum launch meeting. I didn’t take notes so this is just what I remember (and can extract from the written material we were provided with).

Like ours the Bedford Momentum branch is not restricted to the town, but also covers the rest of Bedford Borough plus NE Beds, Mid Beds and SW Beds constituencies (I hope I haven’t left anything out).
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Deliberative democracy: Loomio, an online tool for joint decision making

What is deliberative democracy?

The idea is relatively simple, participants in a group make decisions by discussing, negotiating and deliberating on proposals. For example, in Cambridge Area Momentum (CAM) we are currently trying to decide what constitutes membership. What are the requirements for someone to become a member and participate in the group? A popular way of resolving this is for individuals to come up with proposals and then the rest of the group vote on whether the proposal should be accepted. This has the disadvantage that although everyone can have a say in the decision, it does not necessarily represent everyone’s view. Continue reading

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Stand Up To Racism Statement on Jason Ablewhite

Cambridge Area Momentum supports the following statement:

Cambridge Stand Up to Racism believes that all forms of racism are totally unacceptable, and for this reason was appalled to learn that our newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, has refused to apologise unconditionally for anti traveller comments he made in the past and when challenged on a number of occasions he has dismissed his comments as ‘pub banter’.

We should never forget that Gypsies were one of the main victims of the Nazi holocaust. Even today they are one of the most discriminated against groups in Europe.

In 1999 the McPherson report concluded that the police were institutionally racist. Nearly 20 years later, is it really acceptable for the person elected to hold the force to account, to make light of using racist language, and then to refuse to apologise? As someone who is responsible for setting policing priorities we can have no confidence in his judgement or ability to do so without discrimination. The election of Mr Ablewhite has set policing in Cambridgeshire back years.

Use of the word ‘pikey’ is not, as Mr Ablewhite, suggests, just harmless ‘banter’. We agree with gold medallist event rider Phoebe Buckley, whose family is “old school Romani Gypsy,” who said that the use of such derogatory language from a leading public official risks making such opinions respectable. “Jason Ablewhite threw the word ‘pikey’ around and I just don’t believe he would think it was OK to use [similar terms towards] any other ethnic minority”.

The use of the term is deeply offensive. Comments such as those of Mr Ablewhite have had terrible repercussions on families like Ms Buckley’s, who said her parents are not registered to vote because they feel that politicians “wouldn’t take them seriously.” Such derogatory language risks reinforcing the marginalisation of this community, making them second class citizens.

Gypsy Roma Travellers are the biggest ethnic minority in the county; these remarks are of grave concern, and call his competency into question. We therefore agree with The National Alliance of Gypsy Traveller and Roma Women and call on the chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Feldman, to suspend Mr Ablewhite pending investigation or an unequivocal statement condemning anti traveller racism and undertaking to treat all sections of the community equitably.



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Anti-semitism in the Labour Party

The Labour movement has a proud history of anti-racism, anti-fascism and solidarity with persecuted groups, but none of us are immune to the structural racism that permeates all of our society. CAM is concerned that an actively orchestrated effort is being made to use feigned concern about anti-semitism to disrupt the Labour Party, and the challenge that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership poses to the regressive politics that have dominated Parliament in recent decades.
The run-up to the May 5 elections saw a wave of claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a “problem with Jews.” We feel that the more immediate problem is a problem with people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party – who are reducing the serious issue of anti-semitism to a political tool to try to inflict maximum damage on the Labour Party due to disaffection with its current leadership.

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Labour Party history

Labour History debates – a new series kicks off soon

On May 12th at 7.00pm in the Lord Ashcroft Building (LAB) room 109 at Anglia Ruskin (ARU).  A debate/discussion on the history of the Labour Party 1880 – 1922 will be led by Jon Lawrence and Rohan McWilliam.

We will explore some of the issues faced by the emerging Labour Party and the way they were resolved. We would like to focus on areas that are relevant to today and understand how these were overcome in the past.  Everyone with an interest in understanding and contributing to this topic is welcome.

The event has been organised jointly between a small group of Labour activists and the Labour History Research Group at ARU.  There will be five further debates on the second Thursday of each month from June through to November (excluding August). These will cover the time period from 1922 until today.  Why not mark up your diaries now?

Jon Lawrence teaches British history at the University of Cambridge and has written widely on Labour and the politics of class, including in the books Speaking for the People (1998) – a history of popular politics 1867-1914 – and Electing our Masters (2009) – a cultural history of electioneering since the eighteenth century. He is currently writing a history of individualism and community in post-war Britain based almost entirely on the contemporary testimony of working people.

Rohan McWilliam is Professor of Modern British History at Anglia Ruskin University and a former President of the British Association for Victorian Studies.  He is currently editing with Jonathan Davis) a collection of articles on Labour and the Left in the 1980s.


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The Ken Livingstone issue: a personal view

I am not going to discuss the rights and wrongs of Ken Livingstone’s comments on the Vanessa Feltz show this week. No, no, no, that is far too dangerous territory for a non-expert. I should also stress that what I am saying here should not be seen as a reflection of views in Cambridge Area Momentum and Momentum more generally. There has been some serious and considered discussion within the local group and we have not yet reached a consensus position (indeed, if that will even happen at all).

I want to make a more general point in relation to what Ken Livingstone said and Jeremy Corbyn’s new politics. Which for me, means a broader and fairer discussion of issues and policy. The antithesis to the media tendency to reduce issues to (emotive) dichotomies, the reaction to Ken Livingstone’s comments is a case in point.

Ken Livingstone made a rather off-the-cuff statement about Hitler and Zionists, I don’t know enough about history or the contemporary issues that he referred to. The reaction from the media, and apparently more generally, was swift in condemnation. His comment touched a raw nerve, a particularly sensitive issue no doubt, but what power was at play here too? There have been suggestions – not without merit – that the right wing of the Labour Party was involved in escalating the issue, beyond this there has been suggestion of involvement by the Conservative Party and even the state of Israel. The result has been mass outrage for which I have no idea how much is real and how much has been manufactured by the media. It is my view that some outrage might be fair, but so much has been inflated by those using the situation politically or by those in the media wanting to create a spectacle and increase ratings.

This is where I have a problem. As I have said, I am no expert. I am no expert on Israel, Zionism, anti-Semitism, Judaism or pre-war Nazi policy.  However, the tragedy here is open democratic discussion. There has been limited possibility for the public to engage in the complexities, subtleties, multiple interpretations and implications surrounding the point made by Ken Livingstone. This has all been washed away in a wave of media-fuelled hysteria.

The possibility afforded by Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the leadership of the Labour Party was new politics. For me that is more than just political dichotomies and polarities, but a chance to engage more people in the complexity of issues. For people to share ideas, opinions and experience, to improve democratic participation. The popular political media have failed to respond to this. This perhaps reinforces the fact that we do not have a free media, the media organisations we have are overly susceptible to influence. An influence that finds it expedient to reduce issues to good versus bad and right versus wrong, without making the complexity of issues transparent. The tragedy of Livingstone’s comments has been the suppression of open debate.



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