A bit of inspiration

Spend two minutes hearing Corbyn at a music festival – I defy you not to feel a little bit inspired. Then contrast it with Theresa May’s timid campaign, speaking to small groups of invited supporters.



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A fair package or a dementia tax?

Hi all,

I’d like to analyse the issues on age and social care.

First, though, for those who are like me supporting Greg Marshall’s campaign. If you don’t have time to go out canvassing and leafleting, there are two simple things you can do:

  1. Have a garden stake or poster. The Conservatives have some very well-funded ones – the gargantuan one on Town Street wouldn’t get planning permission if normal rules applied! – and it’s very important to get a good spread of posters for Greg. If you’re happy to do this, please drop him a line, just with your name and address and whether you want a garden stake (and if it’s OK to set it up if you’re not at home when the helper calls) or a window poster. His email address is: greg@gregmarshall4broxtowe.org.uk
  1. Donate to the campaign. As usual, the Conservatives have a lopsided spending advantage and only personal donations traditionally enable us to level the playing field. To donate, please transfer to Broxtowe Labour Constituency bank account : Sort Code: 08-90-74 A/C No: 58020100 or send a cheque payable to Broxtowe CLP to Dawn Elliott, 27 Redland Drive, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 5JZ

Despite all the coverage of the proposals on social care, I’m finding that lots of people are confused about what is actually proposed by the Conservatives. There will be two main effects

First, the fuel allowance will become means-tested. In principle this seems fair – why should a millionaire get a fuel allowance? But there’s a reason why it’s not, specifically for older people. It will inevitably mean that lots of pensioners who are entitled to it won’t claim, either because they’re too embarrassed to say “I’m poor so I need the allowance” (even in our grasping society there are a lot of people like that) or because they don’t feel up to filling out the relevant forms. (We’ve seen exactly the same with free school meals for the poor.) When you stop making an allowance universal and make people fill out forms to get it, you penalise people who are either not pushy or no longer very capable. There’s also the more subtle point that when you take the allowance away from most people they tend to lose sympathy for giving it to anyone.

Second, the care proposals effectively help people moving into a care home (by allowing them to retain up to £100K instead of £23K) and punish people who stay in their own home and get care there (because they will now not be eligible for help if they own a house worth over £100K). The second group is far larger than the first – most of us will need a bit oi help when we get on, but only 1 in 6 will go into care – so the effect will be to nudge people into care homes – which is stupid, because it’s both nicer and FAR cheaper to be looked after in your own home. Because this is a large group, the net effect will be to save money – but at the expense of the vulnerable.

As in most cases now, people won’t need to sell their homes (both arrangements with the council and equity release plans can usually prevent that already), but they will be forced into debt, paid off through their estates.

The common factor here is a familiar one from when I was Broxtowe’s MP. The welfare net can work quite well if you really understand every wrinkle of the system and have an inexhaustible willingness to fill out forms, go to interviews and jump through hoops. People like me and many of you have little problem in this (nor, ironically do the small minority who rip the system off) – if I suddenly needed help tomorrow, I’d know exactly what to do. But people in trouble are often any or all of

  • desperate
  • ill-informed
  • not very computer-literate or
  • bad at putting their case in an interview.

The very elderly, in particular, often have really serious difficulty, especially if they are in mental decline (which is why critics are calling it a dementia tax).

The Government called the election ostensibly about Brexit. But they’re using it to seek a mandate for traditional Conservative preoccupations (from more school selection to bringing fox-hunting back). They aren’t bothering to say how they’ll pay for their programme, apart from warning that they may put your tax and NI up. They want a huge majority with a blank cheque. On June 8, you can help decide if they get it.

Best wishes




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The Labour manifesto

…is here:


I’ll leave you to decide for yourself and compare with the Tory manifesto on Thursday, but do read it. It’s the kind of programme that made me join Labour, and a breath of fresh air in our stale political climate. If you vote for it, regardless of the overall outcom you’re voting for genuine renewal in Bitish politics.

And that’s not before time.


Best wishes



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A safe foreign policy: outsourcing war decisions to Donald Trump?

Hi all,

One of the themes today is defence and the broader theme of national safety. This is an area where it’s thought that Theresa May has a substantial advantage over Jeremy Corbyn. Indeed, you may already feel that. But politics is partly about challenging established belief, so I’ve a little challenge for you. Will you suspend any disbelief for five minutes and let me test you?

The facts here are pretty well-established. Corbyn, as he’s saying in a speech today, is not a pacifist, but he’s extremely cautious about engaging in military intervention unless all other options have been exhausted. He opposed the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and opposes us getting involved in the Syrian civil war. I supported the first two and have come to see I was mistaken (I apologised for the mistake when I stood last time). Where there’s a clear-cut case, as in World War II, Corbyn supports military action.

What is new is Theresa May’s policy. There has been remarkably little discussion of it so far, but in a speech explicitly authorised by Mrs May, Boris Johnson has announced that if Donald Trump decided to attack Syria, our Government would find it “extremely difficult” not to join in. What’s more, it would not be necessary to consult Parliament. See the BBC report here:


This is entirely different to any previous British Government policy, Conservative or Labour. It outsources the decision on whether we go to war. The decision is now not a matter for Parliament, or even for the British Government. It is a matter for President Trump. This takes the “special relationship” to the ridiculous stage. It’s fine to have a good friend. But whether we get into a war should be a matter for us.

If Mr Trump was noted for his caution and thoughtful judgment, this might not in practice mean very much. But I don’t think his best friends would argue that. Indeed, it seems to me more than likely that he will launch a war against someone. Syria? North Korea? Cuba? We really don’t know. But if he does, we should, precisely as Corbyn argues, be “extremely cautious” before getting involved.

Is Mrs May cautious (or strong and stable, as she keeps saying) in this respect? Not at all: indeed she has said that she doesn’t rule out first use of nuclear weapons. Let’s assume that Mr Trump decides that a nuclear strike is needed to take out the deeply-embedded North Korean nuclear development facility, and asks us to join in. Do we really want to agree without even debating it, just because he asks?

The thing about military intervention, as I came to realise over Iraq, is that it’s very easy, and indeed popular in instant polls, to start a war, but extraordinarily difficult to finish it – especially if, as in Syria, there are multiple factions and we don’t fully understand what they’re all about. I share the disgust at the horrors in Syria. I think it’s right to be extremely concerned about North Korea. But before we sign up for any more wars, let’s be careful.

But does Britain not have a duty to act, as a proud former Empire with interests across the globe? This rings a patriotic chord in many. But actually, no. We don’t have a duty to support one faction in Syria and kill supporters of another faction. We are a medium-sized European country in some economic difficulty, facing a complex and challenging outlook. Getting into another civil conflict in the Middle East should not be a priority. And doing it merely because Mr Trump says we should is not a sign of patriotism. It is a sign of weakness.

In cosmetic ways, there’s no doubt that Mrs May fits the image of a patriotic Prime Minister. It’s easy to imagine her enjoying afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace, where one suspects Mr Corbyn would be polite but privately wishing he was on his allotment. It’s easy to imagine Mrs May singing Land of Hope and Glory, difficult to conceive of Mr Corbyn doing so, though I know him personally and he loves the quiet decency of the British people and our democratic traditions.

But these are serious, dangerous times. Patriotism should mean more than symbolism: it should mean keeping Britain safe. And I feel far safer with a prospective Prime Minister who is reluctant to get us into war than one who goes out of her way to give notice of precisely that intention.

Sometimes war is necessary: I come from a military family and I yield to nobody in respect for the Armed Forces. But it should not be undertaken lightly, or at the behest of Mr Trump. A dignified, restrained, independent foreign policy that puts peaceful solutions first and retains our freedom of action is better. And that is what Mr Corbyn is asking you to support.

We have got used to intervening all over the globe and getting into one mess after another. Mrs May’s policy will accelerate that. It is neither strong nor stable, and despite all the imagery that you’ll be bombarded with in Conservative leaflets, we will in reality be safer with a cautious leader like Mr Corbyn. If that sounds a surprising conclusion, it’s because we are used to martial posturing. This is a dangerous world, and we need to adjust to it.

I’ll leave it to you to consider!

Best wishes



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Anna Soubry’s notorious tweet / Brexit: a proposal

Hi all,

Anna Soubry has started her campaign inauspiciously, with a tweet that is flatly untrue. She said that Greg Marshall had been imposed on Broxtowe Labour over me. As I said here (and I’m sure she’s read), I withdrew my application, because on reflection I felt that Greg would make a better candidate, not least as he’s much more on top of local affairs than I am now. What’s more, I recommended his selection to the party.

So I politely tweeted back to Anna asking her to correct her tweet. As far as I know, she hasn’t, and is presumably relying on social media to keep passing on fake news. LibDem David Watts crafted his version a little more indirectly, saying: “The Labour party chose not to reselect Nick Palmer” – this is true, but only in the silly sense that they didn’t reselect me because I wasn’t seeking reselection. Duh.

People would respect politics more if we simply said what we stood for instead of wasting time with this sort of innuendo. So let me take my own advice. Liberated from the task of chasing votes, I’d like in the coming weeks to discuss some national issues which will come up during the campaign. What I want to do is discuss them as objectively as possible and help assess what we think of the different parties’ stance.

First, Brexit. There are two incontrovertible facts. We have voted to leave. And we have no real idea how the negotiations will turn out.

My starting point is that although I voted Remain and I think we will come to feel that Brexit was a mistake, we need to make an honest effort to make it work – democracy requires nothing less. Equally, if it clearly isn’t working out and most Leave voters change their minds, then it’s not undemocratic to foresee thinking again.

So the sequence needs to be this:

  1. During the coming election, parties need to state clearly what their priorities are for the negotiations, and how they will let Parliament respond to the outcome.
  2. After the election, whoever is elected needs to negotiate honestly and in good faith on that basis, making compromises with the lesser priorities as needed to reach a deal.
  3. If a deal is reached, it needs to be put to Parliament. If MPs approve it, we’re out. If they don’t, then the Government needs to go back and try to renegotiate the issues that worried MPs most.

3A. If the renegotiation fails, then MPs need to go back to the voters to ask if they still want to leave in view of the failure.

3B. If the renegotiation succeeds and Parliament now approves, we’re out.

  1. If a deal is NOT reached, then 3A applies, except that there is no longer an option to “accept the bad deal”.

The party positions at present are:

The Conservatives are giving priority to restricting immigration. They are tacitly accepting that we will have restricted access to the Single Market, and seem open to a compromise on the money to be paid to the EU to cover our past commitments.

Labour are giving priority to Single Market access and employment rights. They recognise that some compromise on immigration may be needed,.

The LibDems want a fresh referendum, regardless of the negotiations, essentially to ask voters “Are you sure?”

UKIP reject any deal that involves compromising on immigration or paying significant money to the EU.

Unsurprisingly, I prefer the Labour position here. I know that Greg Marshall agrees although I know that he extends his “red lines” to include rights for EU nationals & expats, workers’ rights and strong environmental protections. He certainly doesn’t support Teresa May’s apparent drive for a low wage, corporate tax haven for big business.

Greg says:

“It is important our liberal democracy is upheld and this is a primary factor. Our citizens via the referendum said we should leave the EU. Theresa May expects Britain to leave while paying nothing, and she expects the talks to remain secret, most possibly to hide the financial objectives of the City of London although Europe’s response highlights these expectations as illusory. Labour’s position is clear: it would not walk away without a deal. Specifically, Brexit negotiations need to reinforce single market membership matching today’s benefits”.

There isn’t any doubt at all that restricting Single Market access will do serious damage to our economy – we can’t hamper trade with all 27 of our immediate neighbours without consequences. I think that the temptation for a Conservative government to take the chance to water down employment rights must be resisted.

I don’t think that simply asking voters to think again before the negotiations would be either democratic or sensible. But should we be willing to reconsider Brexit if it all goes pear-shaped? Yes – just like a General Election, a democratic decision must be respected but not treated as final and forever – as the economist Paul Samuelson said, “When events change, I may change my mind. What do you do?” A decision to leave regardless of whether it looks disastrous would not be democratic but pig-headed. In that situation, voters should be asked if they still want to leave.

The political problem is that if the Conservatives get a huge majority than we will indeed leave regardless of the outcome, without any fresh chance for voters to assess the situation. Even pro-Remain MPs like Anna Soubry have turned out to fold or abstain in the interest of party loyalty when it comes to actual votes in Parliament. When you come to vote, it’s worth considering if you really want to vote Conservative and help create that unthinking huge majority?

Best wishes


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