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The Geordie Caucus

Books, politics and other ramblings from a working class Geordie

A different letter to Ed

There have been a lot of open letters to Ed Miliband in the last few weeks since we lost the election.

Don’t listen to me about politics, I was the ultimate Milifan, I’ve been with him since the start. Since I turned up in a sweaty awful phone bank after hearing him speak one day. I knew I wanted to be involved with politics. Some people will say given my loyalty to Ed I should never have an opinion on candidates ever again, I say he’s the only reason I have an opinion in the first place.

This is a very personal tirade but I need to get it out. If it weren’t for Ed Miliband I would have gone home and never have realised that I’m actually alright at persuading others to get involved with politics. To call other people, and ask and ask again until they commit to at least something.

If it weren’t for Ed I wouldn’t have had the motivation to get through several jobs working minimum wage and few hours contracts, still pushing for more because I wanted to be an organiser, because Ed had given me the confidence I needed to know that politics is for the many not the few.

So Ed, the letter I wrote you in 2010 still stands, neither me, nor my sister, nor my Mam would have been here if it weren’t for you and the way you inspired us way back in the day when you were running for leader. And the leader you became, was a leader that NEVER let us down.

Lots of love,

Lisa the original Milifan

A Victory for Obama. But For How Long?

In 2010 after a protracted struggle through Congress, Barack Obama enacted what was in my opinion one of the most remarkable pieces of domestic legislation in recent US political history. Some on the left criticised the Affordable Care Act for not going far enough in the pursuit to provide America with a suitably decent and affordable health service,  however given the political climate at the time it was passed and given that it would vastly extend insurance cover to citizens, I stand by my point. It was remarkable.

The centrepiece of the ACA was an individual mandate, requiring some people to be insured or face a fine. The point of the mandate being that the bigger the pool of consumers active in the marketplace the cheaper the insurance premiums would become. However this was challenged as being unconstitutional, it was seen as forcing a consumer to participate in a marketplace and it was taken up by the Supreme Court. Fast forward to yesterday and most sources of conventional wisdom were pretty certain that the ACA or at least parts of it were about to be repealed, I was set to write a very different blogpost and the citizens of the USA were still going to be discriminated against by the insurance companies for having pre existing conditions. Surprisingly though the Affordable Care Act was in fact upheld, the fine for not purchasing insurance was interpreted as a tax by the majority, cue major network news’ descent into turmoil.

So what does this decision mean electorally? I reject the premise that this decision will rile the conservatives into some kind of anti Obama frenzy and make them desperate to vote for Romney for a couple of reasons. First of all bad feeling towards the Affordable Health Care Act has always been simmering on the surface of American conservatism up there with Islam and Communism. Its part of the reason the Democrats lost the house in 2010 and one of the perceived ‘intrusions’ into American liberty that helped to spawn the Tea Party movement. Those who are unlikely to vote for Obama because of ACA have already had their dissent registered in the current polling and Obama isn’t likely to actively lose any of his core vote over having had a major piece of his legislation upheld.  Secondly Romney isn’t in the best position to be able to mop up any newly mobilised anti ACA troops if indeed there are any. Despite his promise to repeal the act on his very first day in the Oval Office, he isn’t seen as a strong conservative alternative by the GOP base and still suffers from a massive enthusiasm gap. This coupled with the fact that he was the architect of a very similar healthcare bill when he was Governor of Massachusetts means there is no guarantee that any newly ignited conservative activism over ACA is going to translate into votes for Romney come November. If anything I would think activism of this sort would be translated into a new flurry of support for local grassroots tea party candidates across America.

What about Obama? If its bad news for Romney does this mean its excellent news for Obama? Whilst the headlines will undoubtedly give Obama a boost, I’m not sure the ruling will have a substantial or long lasting effect on his poll numbers. There may be a scenario where previously disillusioned voters get a sprinkling of YES WE CAN magic but its unlikely to be significant in the grand scheme of things. Granted this decision is going to do more for the President than any other outcome would have, but the fact of the matter still remains that the ACA was not a popular policy to begin with and its not going to be a major focus of the Obama campaign leading up to the election. That this piece of legislation was never going to be electorally popular makes it even more remarkable still.

Only time will tell how much of an effect the Supreme Court decision yesterday will actually have on the election in November. I’m of the opinion that the upholding of the ACA is a massive victory for the Obama administration and the American  people, it should be electorally significant and extending affordable healthcare coverage should be highlighted as one of Obama’s big achievements. However 5 months is a long time in politics, and before the election there are going to be any number of reports on the economy that will sweep this ruling under the rug. When we look back on this election I don’t think anyone will be saying ‘It was the ACA wot won it’…..on either side.

p.s YES WE CAN

A More Inclusive Party Conference?

As some of you may or may not know, I like to have a moan about the Labour Party on a regular basis. I’m a member, and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon but I feel that all too often the party is too cliquey and not inclusive enough. It can be difficult to get your voice heard if you aren’t friends with the right people.We also have some major issues with working class representation, that is for another post or several but I will be coming back to it. I’ve often left events feeling patronised and disillusioned with the party so I attended this conference with more than some trepidation.

Fortunately it seemed that the conference organisers had recognised that sometimes the traditional ways of debating policy at conference can intimidate those new to the process and had decided on a different way of doing things. For example,  the priority campaign was decided by the delegates attending a   policy workshop where everyone had the chance to stand up and contribute to a pitch that would then be presented to the rest of conference. I attended the Youth Unemployment workshop and felt like a diverse range of views were entered into our pitch and although there was a minority who insisted on trying to quash any concept that they didn’t agree with and hiding behind accusations of ‘poor process’ our Chair did a good job of creating a safe space. I don’t know how it worked in other workshops but we voted on who we wanted to feed back to conference and it was all very democratic.

On the Sunday it was time to debate and vote on policies that had been first submitted online by young members and then chosen to be taken to the conference floor in another set of policy workshops. Once again there were some who tried to filibuster by taking the stand and arguing over process, but on the whole there was some great discussion on everything from votes at 16 to making a commitment creating 1 million green jobs. There were a lot of our younger members who spoke and members I hadn’t heard from before and it was most definitely the process that fostered this. Some delegates made accusations that conference was somehow inherently undemocratic and it struck me as hypocritical that these were the same delegates who were trying to shout down dissenting opinions in the workshops.

Although I am not of the view that conference was undemocratic, as I’ve said I found it to be very open and inclusive, I do have some ideas on how Young Labour ’13 can be better.

  • Amendments: There should have been room for delegates to add amendments to the policies brought to the floor. This was strikingly obvious in the case of the prisoner votes. The statement we voted on was ‘Prisoner’s should be given the right to vote’ which turned out to be an overly simplistic representation of what was actually discussed in the workshop. I think had there been room to make this statement more nuanced with suggested amendments, some delegates who abstained or even voted against this policy would have been more likely to vote for it.
  • Preparation Time: When we arrived at conference we were given a booklet with all of the policy ideas young members had submitted that we would be discussing in the workshop. If this had been given out a week or so before conference people could have had more time to prepare their arguments for or against individual policies. This would have made it easier for those of us less confident to speak out spontaneously.
  • Accessibility: Although I felt the conference was inclusive once we were all there, the only members views who were represented were those who could afford to be there and who felt comfortable going along to a conference. This is an important point given that there was such a heavy focus on deciding policy. I understand practicality but I would like to have seen a cheaper ticket price, or perhaps at least some free places. I know that some people did get help from their CLP but that doesn’t help new members or members who have never been involved before who might not have been active in their CLP yet. I think a lot more has to be done to encourage a more diverse range of delegates to conference next year.

All in all I really enjoyed conference, asides from some silliness there were some really great debates and discussions and I left feeling inspired. Also more brownies next year please!

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