What hope for the Labour Party in 2022?

The Labour Party apparatus and parliamentary representatives, and many organised right-wing local councillors, are now clearly in control. They were biding their time under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and actively working to sabotage the chances of a radical government coming to power, albeit with a manifesto less radical than that of the party in the 1960s.

Now some in the party are embarrassed by their seeming saviour Keir Starmer – former Director of Public Prosecutions who declined to pursue the legal case against police who murdered Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 (just one telling indication of where Starmer’s loyalties lay and the direction he would take the party) – but they are unrepentant about what they have done to our hopes, real hopes of change, and triumphant in most local constituency parties.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested Starmer, and his abject agreement with nearly every twist and turn of the Johnson government has been of a piece with a return to business as normal in the Labour Party. As with much else, the pandemic has intensified every form of inequality, oppression and abuse of power. Inside the party, the opportunity opened up by Zoom has been seized; the left has been silenced while each and every policy gain made under Corbyn has been ignored or rolled back. What hope is there for those who insist on staying in the party now?

Rejoining, rejoicing

I rejoined the Labour Party in 2017 after actively campaigning for a Corbyn-led government in the June General Election. I canvassed alongside new comrades, some of whom had stayed in the party during the Tony Blair years gritting their teeth and now delighted by the new leadership, some of whom had left, like me, and rejoined, and some who were enthused by the possibility of something different, something more radical happening, rejoicing at this amazing revival of this radical tradition of the organised labour movement.

Many of those who signed up as members never canvassed, or came to meetings, and those who did quickly drifted away, appalled by the bureaucratic machinations that were eventually to see Corbyn’s final defeat in 2019. The ‘Corbyn movement’ was largely outside the Labour Party, with many Corbyn supporters never looking to the Labour Party as such. However, something happened inside the party, and it was worth being there, and putting energy and time into the possibility of radical change.

Most Corbyn supporters inside the party welcomed the newcomers and the rejoiners, and worked with those still outside. There are activists inside the party now who have turned outwards, linking with social movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too and supporting strikes. That activity was key, the sign that something could be built from Corbyn’s unpredictable election as leader in 2015.

Now, as we are asked to deliver 2022 calendars and other party literature, asked to support left councillors who are hamstrung by threat of disciplinary procedures and frightened of losing what toehold they have on power and in some cases their livelihood, we face a dilemma. The balance of forces in the party is against us in most parts of the country, certainly in the largest and what is touted as the most ‘successful’ constituency of Manchester Withington, where loyal Starmerite MP Jeff Smith, Shadow Minister for Local Government, has an unassailable 27,905 majority.

Expulsions, pressure

Jewish members of the party, including in Manchester Withington, have been expelled for speaking out in solidarity with Palestine or been subjected to a ‘notice of investigation’. One of them, an elderly activist, member of Jewish Voice for Labour has written to Jeff Smith asking his MP to take action over the ‘persistent personal harassment’ he has suffered, and carefully dismantled the case against him. Starmer and his lackeys claim to speak for Jews, but promote an antisemitic witch-hunt against those who defy stereotypes of what a Jew is supposed to look like, with support for Israel now top of the list.

Prominent BAME activists in Manchester have already left the party, claiming that endemic racism as well as hostility to an activism that counts made them a target for bullying, for discipline and exclusion. There is a statement of solidarity for former councillor Marcia Hutchinson circulating inside the Manchester party after the most recent revelations about racism against her, and some on the left have bravely agreed to sign it. (The statement with names supporting it is not yet public – we need to get the go-ahead from other BAME left members first.)

Meanwhile, other party members are cautious, are staying quiet, not yet signing; Councillors anxious about their jobs, prospective candidates not wanting to damage their chances of being selected, and others wondering whether speaking out now will be unwise. They carefully weigh up what they should say, which is part of the problem. To be clear, we are working alongside perpetrators of racism against Marcia, perpetrators of crimes against the labour movement.

Many of our comrades have left, some drifting away from politics, some working with the Green Party. That is not a bad choice, an understandable choice, and those on the left inside the party need to stay in comradely joint activity with those on the left outside. Many have left if they have not been expelled, and many more will follow. Now, when they voice their qualms within closed left forums, they are told that the Labour Party is the only field of battle, told that they must not give up, that there is a choice between sulking and staying and that they must not let the party have the satisfaction of having people abandon this internal fight; that is a false choice that poses what we are up against now wrongly and, despite its own claims, moralises against those who have very good reasons for leaving.

Choices, tactics

There is an internal fight, but it is mostly secret, behind closed doors; the fear of speaking out is all the more powerful when combined with fear of being seen as disloyal, going public. As the right in the party tightens its grip, the choice the left who stay in the party has is stark. There is an outside chance, a slim possibility that something like the Corbyn moment may happen again – it is extremely unlikely, and the party apparatus is ensuring that it will not happen – but we do not need to stay inside the Labour Party to support that, if it happens.

Wherever we are, inside or outside the party, as ‘paper members’ or constituency delegates from trades unions or working with other progressive forces, in campaigns, social movements or even in political parties outside, we need to support each other, keep the activist networks alive, ready for that moment or any other moment to work together. There is a wider field of battle.

If we are still inside the Labour Party, as are quite a few members of Anti-Capitalist Resistance – an organisation in England and Wales that I now give most of my allegiance to – our time and energy needs to be conserved, our support conditional. Already, there are clear statements by many on the left that they will not support candidates in elections who do not speak out about racism or who break strikes. The choice is more difficult when there are local candidates who are still on the left, those we do want to support. The conditions we place on support, and the conserving of our time and energy for other better causes is then more necessary, sometimes personally painful.

In the case of Manchester, to give just one instance, one that does not directly translate to other places, the left is blocked, and drained, helpless. It needs to say so to anyone who is called on to vote Labour and explain why, explain why participation in the Labour Party now is with a left that is resisting the party rather than simply cheering it on.

When the balance of forces is so against us, on balance we have to recognise that giving out party literature when there is no opportunity for explaining where we stand, and even working for a left candidate – a candidate whose leaflets are usually written by the right or self-censored – is effectively to support Starmer, not to challenge him.

Public declarations of support for the Labour Party where there is no qualification, no hint of disagreement with the right, no indication that there is a left still alive inside the party, are exactly that, useless; effectively, they are then declarations of support for the politics of the labour right, one that is virulently hostile to progressive political action while hounding out the best, most disobedient comrades.

There will be rare exceptions, and then we should encourage everyone, inside and outside the Labour Party to vote for candidates who have taken clear consistent public positions that defy Starmer and the local city council apparatus. Obedience, deliberate and cynical or tacit and silent, is not good enough now, and works to confirm the reactionary politics of a party that is increasingly disconnected from the working class, a party that colludes with exploitation and oppression. There is no longer anything sacrosanct or even necessarily progressive in always everywhere voting Labour in this disunited kingdom.

A good many left activists who are still hanging in there already know that the real struggles are elsewhere, not in futile squabbles with a right wing enjoying every victory, occasionally humouring the left by voting for motions that have been timidly and humiliatingly watered down to be almost meaningless.

I reckon it is time to be a fair-weather friend, taking the occasional opportunity for debate and connection with those who know that things are bad in the party, attending perhaps, speaking if possible, and voting. If I am expelled, so be it. For the left who remain, this is a reminder of the overarching struggle, not a call for resignation but a call for conditional support and the harnessing of our energies to other, better things than to buttress the power of a Labour Party apparatus that poses no radical challenge to capitalism in 2022.

You can read again and comment on this article here: https://anticapitalistresistance.org/what-hope-for-the-labour-party-in-2022/

Hugo Blanco

Hugo Blanco is in Manchester on 25 February 2019, but who is Hugo Blanco? 

Hugo Blanco is an inspiration to revolutionary ecosocialists. Born in Cusco, once capital of Tawantinsuyu and now in Peru, in 1934, his first struggles were school protests. He travelled to Argentina, where he abandoned university to work in a meat-packing factory in La Plata, and his encounter with the Fourth International eventually led him back to Peru where he became a factory and then peasant organiser. He was arrested in 1963, and was in prison in Peru in the notorious El Frontón prison off the coast until 1970. After some years in exile, in Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Sweden, he returned to Peru to be elected to the Constituent Assembly there. He was deported to Argentina, to return and stand for the Peruvian Presidency, elected to Peruvian Congress where he served from 1980 to 1985. The years since he has been actively involved in land struggles, escaping government and Shining Path assassination attempts, publishing the activist magazine Lucha Indigena, and recently leading street protests against amnesty for Fujimori in the streets of Lima.

This man is beaten back and then up he pops again; he has been a tireless militant, building many radical movements against exploitation and oppression, uniting industrial and rural workers in joint struggle. I still have a poster of him that I had on my wall as a student, of him angrily resisting court officials after one of his many arrests, this one after his participation as a member of the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores in a broader organisation Frente Obrero, Campesino, Estudantil, y Popular. FOCEP had gained 11% of the vote in the elections and the Peruvian state was determined that Blanco pay for that. Now we have a book that honours this life of enduring struggle, and honours it by telling us of the unfolding political context and the role of organisations Blanco helped build in order to further resistance. This is a book to marvel at and learn from. This is Blanco’s history, but also our history as part of a revolutionary tradition that has traced a parallel path, a path we should be proud to say connects with his at many crucial points.

I have set out the very brief version of his political biography here. What Derek Wall does is to flesh that out with details of his life that draw attention not only to the incredibly diverse kinds of struggle that Blanco has been involved with around the world but also aspects of his personal life. These details enrich the narrative. We learn, for example, not only of the role of the Fourth International in the international campaign to release him from prison – that I knew when I had the poster pinned up – but also of the later financial appeals for medical treatment, operations Blanco needed after lingering injuries to his head and back, results of severe beatings by police and army and prison guards. It is a miracle he has survived so long; he is, as Wall points out, someone with more than a cat’s nine lives.

The book is packed with anecdotes that have a strong political charge; did you know, for example, that Blanco was in Chile during the coup against Allende, and that he managed to escape because he was not on a death list, not on a death list because he was critical of the regime as reformist rather than one of its supporters? The accidents and ironies of history are traced with a steady hand in this book that allows us to see better how political lives are necessarily entwined with personal experience and personal costs.

You will be awestruck as you read this book, it is the kind of book you can give as a present to someone beginning to learn about politics as an introduction to what ecosocialism is about in practice, and you will sometimes laugh too, bitter radical humour. We learn something about the influence of Leon Trotsky, but also about José María Arguedas and José Carlos Mariátegui (from whom the phrase ‘shining path’ comes) and, why Blanco ‘viewed the collectivist nature of the Inca Empire, despite its undemocratic character, as an inspiration for the creation of communism in Peru’. And we learn how important women’s resistance to patriarchy has been to Blanco as well as indigenous resistance to despoliation of their land. Wall quotes Eduardo Galeano writing that one of his fourteen hunger strikes, when Blanco could go on no longer ‘the government was so moved it sent him a coffin as a present’.

This book is beautifully written, with some great turns of phrase which sum up key debates; speaking of Blanco’s interest in alternative systems of political organisation, that of the ayllu in pre-colonial times, Wall pits this against a false choice often posed to us in which ‘One alternative is the purity of inaction’ and ‘the other is action that reforms a system so as to conserve it’. Hugo Blanco is about action, action linked to genuine transformative change.

This must have been an extraordinarily difficult to write, for Wall has a triple-task here; to tell us about the life of Hugo Blanco, yes of course, but also to tell us about the history of Latin America, from the arrival of the conquistadors to the new imperialist subjugation of the continent, and, more, to tell us how revolutionary traditions and organisations of resistance, including groups affiliated to the Fourth International were built and how they split, and sometimes merged again. What drives this book forward is that Wall wants to explain, is a passionate and thoughtful author, takes pains to neatly sidetrack into some doctrinal disputes, but always in order to return us to the same question; what is to be done, and what did Blanco do in those different situations.

Another strength is that the writing of this book, it is clear, has also been as collaborative as the political life of its subject. Those who have followed Wall’s postings and pleas for help on social media over the last year will know this well. Blanco refuses honours that are directed to him alone, always preferring to draw attention to collective organisation, to others who were also co-workers. He knows that he owes his life to this common struggle; Wall describes an occasion when he was arrested, when peasants blockaded the bus he was being taken away in, forcing his release. And, the flipside of his, we see him on trial claiming responsibility for deaths in an exchange of fire with officers when the ballistics evidence says otherwise; Blanco is protecting his comrades. Wall too has drawn on the expertise of others to piece together this account, and has been very lucky to also be able to draw on Blanco’s own memories.

As Wall points out, many of the indigenous, peasant and ecological struggles that are at the heart of Hugo Blanco’s life, and reason why he left the Fourth International, actually prefigure many of the political developments inside the Fourth International in recent years; Wall writes that ‘Both the Trotskyist and the indigenous elements of his politics have fuelled his resistance.’ This book is the best of green and red politics. Few political figures have managed to trace a path that is true to both. Hugo Blanco did that, and so does this book.

 

You can order the book here.

 

Register for the meeting with Hugo Blanco and Derek Wall in Manchester here

 

This article first appeared as a book review here, where you can comment on it

 

 

More than voting now!

Ian Parker is on the doorstep with Labour.

These are the last days, a countdown to 8 June, and to a vote that will set the course for more austerity, more privatisation and a crackdown on civil liberties over the next five years, or one that will lay the basis for an increasingly confident fight-back and the resurgence of the left, of feminist, anti-racist and ecological struggle.

You do not have to be a member of the Labour Party to support the campaign, through leafleting or even through canvassing. I am not a member, but I simply turned up at the campaign office round the back of Withington Community Fire Station and asked for some leaflets. Withington constituency was seized from the Tories in 1987 by Keith (now Lord) Bradley who held it until 2005, part of the wipe-out of the Tories in Manchester, one of the side-effects, I was told by the Labour campaign team, of Thatcher. They gave me a round to do, letters which were targeted letters to possible voters, which is where you start to realise how hard a postie’s job is, how important it is to know how door-numbering works, and how misleading addresses are in this part of the world. The anthropologist Kate Fox notes in her book Watching the English, that these people who are so proud of their home as their castle also seem to take great pains to conceal the numbers on their houses.

Delivering personally-addressed messages from Jeff Smith – sitting MP for Withington – was not as easy as it seemed, involving endless detours around the backs of shared buildings and down hidden stairwells to doors with tiny letterboxes. The next round the next day, a huge block of glossy fold-over A4 leaflets with Jeff’s face all over them was a different matter. A bit more freedom over the addresses because I didn’t have to search for particular numbers, but more difficulty getting the things through letterboxes that seem to be cunningly and deliberately blocked with layers of brush; to get the leaflets through those ones you have to fold the leaflets around several times more and push them through with some force. And there is the question of what to do with multiple-tenancy houses with up to eighteen separate flats, whether to push eighteen leaflets through or make do with a smaller sample.

You don’t need to be the cleverest detective in the world to deduce that Jeff Smith is no friend of Corbyn. This is an issue that came up at the Withington for Corbyn campaign meeting soon after the election was called; activists were angrily asking why it was that the usual Labour Party practice of showing the smiling candidate shaking hands with the leader had been abandoned. There are no pictures or mentions of Corbyn on Jeff’s leaflets. This is the onward march of two parties – Labour divided between the apparatus (central office, the sitting MPs and a host of loyal members who have been in this for the long haul and who set their sights on a party in government that hopes to stem the worst effects of the crisis and save as many services as possible) and the new upsurge of membership, with supporters energised by what Corbyn promises; a movement that will take us beyond the limits of what capitalism will give us, that will mobilise people to build for more fundamental change.

There is a problem, and the deep rift between apparatus Labour politics and the new Corbyn supporters does not directly map onto a difference between passive reformists on the one hand and activists on the other. In some places, the mapping is exactly the opposite of what the new Corbyn left would hope for, with the old Labour apparatus supporters now actually the most hard-working activists campaigning for a Labour victory and bitterly complaining about the absence on the doorstep of all the new Corbynites who, they claim, are no more than paper members. I have already been harangued by an old comrade, a member of the Labour Party who told me that she hadn’t seen any of the new members out to leaflet or canvas. Actually, she also told me during the last general election campaign that she was happy to agree with voters on the doorstep that a vote for the Greens would do just as well, and she told them to go for it. This time I think that line will be harder, the stakes are higher.

Withington is not, strictly-speaking, a ‘marginal’ constituency, but it could still slip back into the hands of the Liberal Democrats who held it until the last election. It is home of John Leech, the only Lib Dem (and the only non-Labour councillor) on Manchester City Council, Leech who briefly held the seat until Jeff Smith took it. (It is a deeply liberal place, including a recent influx from the media-workers relocated to Salford from London, and Leech’s ward in Withington also recorded the lowest percentage vote for UKIP in the whole country.) The Lib Dems are a real threat, with the Tories pretty well invisible, and most Tory voters going for the Lib Dems, especially this time with the absence of a UKIP candidate.

A little team met on bank holiday Monday in the car-park behind the Co-op, and we were given canvassing prompt leaflets: Say “Sorry to disturb you” when someone opens their door, “Smile and be polite” and “always shut the gate”, and so on. And there were codes for the team leaders to indicate how people were going to vote. L = Labour and T = Tory, of course, and S is for Lib Dem because S stands for SDP, the old 1981 breakaway from Labour led by the gang of four (Jenkins, Owen, Rogers and Williams), an outfit that eventually folded into the Liberals to form the Lib Dems, and B is for UKIP (that is, B for BNP). Jeff Smith was there. “And if someone keeps banging on and on about Brexit”, one of the team was saying, “point out that Jeff voted against triggering article 50 twice”. I commented that he was right to do that (yes I do think that), and then Jeff drove us over to East Didsbury, taking us via Fog Lane to see if the Tory campaign office was open. It was not. Jeff talked about discussion on the MPs WhatsApp group about the recent slippage in support, grimly putting it down to what he called ‘The Leadership’. No one disagreed with him. I asked him about a phone conversation he had a few days ago with a relative keen to quiz him about antisemitism and the necessity to support Israel. Jeff said he thought the conversation had gone well and that he had some sympathy with her. There was then agreement in the car that the best way to deal with Ken Livingstone was to expel him from the party. I said that it was probably a good thing that Ken was keeping quiet at the moment. This was not the moment for a political fight. We were, at this moment, striking together.

The morning round was targeted at households where there had either been an indication that they might vote Labour or had voted Labour in the past. One voter told me she wanted the flood waters outside her house dealt with but that, whether or not anything was done about it, she would vote Labour. She took a poster to put up. Another voter told me that he would vote for whoever stopped the kids riding their motorbikes around the park and throwing stones at his windows. I said I would talk to the team about it. A Green voter told me that this time he would make an exception, this time he was for Labour, and he took a poster for his window. Another told me that she was worried about Diane Abbott, and wanted to know how “we” – she said she had once been a Labour Party member and “not a Blairite” – “could get our party back”. She said she felt sorry for us, and I felt sorry too. This was not the moment for a political fight; we needed to get round the rest of our target voters.

The afternoon round in Burnage included a member who said he supported Corbyn, but my campaign team was led by someone who I knew from a while back, and knew he was resolutely hostile to Corbyn. It didn’t stop us working together, even when I forgot the names of some of the people in one house I had knocked on; he tapped his clip-board saying “we need the data”. There were moments when anxiety about accusations that could be levelled against us kicked in; at one point, for example, one of us helped a voter fill out his postal vote, but then had to take the envelope back to that house saying that we could not actually post it for them, but they could ask their neighbour to do it. Would it matter that I was not actually a member of the party I was campaigning for? No. I realised quite early on that it didn’t make sense to say that I was a member of the Labour Party and managed things by saying (politely) that I was “with the Labour Party”. That’s true. I was.

Leafleting and canvassing for Labour – particularly when the literature is so obviously side-lining the Corbyn leadership and when the activists on the doorstep are willing to collude with the demonization of this leadership and reassure them that this local MP is a more sensible character – poses activists on the left with a painful question about their own double-role, about the double-effect of their involvement. On the one hand, yes, this support for Labour – the largest possible vote, including securing seats against the Lib Dems as well as against the Tories – is absolutely necessary for any sustained fight-back against Tory policies. On the other hand, and at the same time, this kind of support is, let’s face it, support for the apparatus. In Withington we will succeed in returning an MP who has been openly hostile to Corbyn and who will continue to manoeuvre against the left of the party when he is elected. It will, for some, be seen as a vote for the ‘moderate’ kind of cuts politics pursued by the local Labour council. It is both things.

There is a dialectical contradiction at the heart of this election, uncomfortable and unavoidable, but that should not prevent us from being actively involved in it. Anyone who is for Corbyn should now be out on the doorstep for him, on the doorstep with the Labour Party teams; go on, do it for Jeremy. It is vital that the left supporters of Corbyn are active and visible in the campaign, active and visible as members of the Labour Party, and active and visible outside the party too. Theresa May’s snap election could well be the opportunistic gamble that failed, and now is the time for us to make sure it fails in the most dramatic way possible. We need more than voting, yes, of course, and we need more than simply voting now. We need to get that vote out as a precondition for building a real left Labour mobilisation against the Tories. Whether we have signed up as members of the Labour Party inspired by the Corbyn leadership or whether we still feel queasy about signing up to a party apparatus that continues to administer cuts through local councils and that is intent on blocking Corbyn, this is the moment to act.

You can read and comment on this article here

Transition: Towns as sites of reform and revolution

This keyword was one of fifty explored and put to work on this site. The notes on the keywords are revised and collected together in Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left, which includes a concluding essay placing them in historical context. The book includes a detailed reading list with web-links so you can more easily follow the links online, a list which is available here.

Devo Manc: A Rough and Partial History

A little pre-history rant.

In the beginning was God. More precisely in the beginning was the redefinition of God’s role. He was pulled out of social services by Henry VIII necessitating the building up of local social security and administration – the development of the Elizabethan Poor Law. In the towns self selecting corporations had been operating under charters, often for hundreds of years, charters which conferred local privileges and local money raising powers. Oddly Manchester lost (literally) its charter and was still run by the Mosley lords of the manor in 1835.

Nineteenth-century free trade Liberalism required the breaking down of the old corporate local elites with their rotten boroughs, and their special privileges. The old corporate administrations in the boroughs had to go – the middle class needed to be able to vote in their leaders – and overthrow the obstacles that were the vested interests. Eventually even the gentry’s monopoly control of the counties was ended by the setting up of rural county councils in 1888.

By 1880 middle class elites ran the towns. They had responsibilities for basics of health and housing and poor law. They funded themselves by rates and public subscriptions. Both were possible because profits were made and consumed locally by local elites with a strong commitment to their towns which gave them this wealth, power and status. Philanthropy played an important role.

This system decayed and atrophied throughout the 20th century as businesses and profits became concentrated, the welfare state evolved, the electorate expanded and the centralised British state took the local out of local government.

After the rant, the late 20th Century.

Then there was Wetherby. In the late 1980s the northern regions of the Labour Party began to realise that their regional development strategies where going nowhere as Thatcher’s de-industrialisation, the pull of London and EU developments and the emergence of the nations’ devolution agenda, kicked in. An unofficial secretive caucus made up of these regions’ leaderships (called the Wetherby Group because it met there) began to plot the (eventually successful) overturning of Kinnock’s hostility to devolution. Their central demand was devolved regional parliaments – seeing that democracy was needed as well as devolved powers. Manchester City Labour Party leadership was the only dissenter.

The collapsing regional development agenda was pushed over by Manchester’s response. Manchester City Council’s Left Labour leadership came out of the ‘Municipal Socialism’ period by launching the Economic Development Committee period. Largely out of sight, the Labour leadership built up a new urban development model – once (still?) known as the Manchester model – which tied local government and local business leaders together in the search for any form of funding going. It was and remains a development model based on a city core and trickle down effect – directly counterposed to the traditional regional model.

I attended what might have been the death knell of the old regional agenda in about 1990 when Lancashire County Council leader Louise Ellman and the regional LP chair organised a people’s assembly in Preston. Hundreds of delegates from Councils, Community groups, business, trades unions, anything were summoned to convince British Rail to activate the already built and tested chunnel trains to Brussels and Paris – it achieved nothing.

The Manchester model had enormous success in sucking in resources –money for two Olympic and one Commonwealth Games bids, vast funding for the tram network, rebuilding money after the 1996 IRA bomb, second runway at the airport (this airport is owned by the 10 Greater Manchester Councils with Manchester taking a 55% share), Media City. In many ways the airport is the hub of all this – and there appears to be a real heat in the local service economy. The city centre is a building site, vast numbers of flats and new hotels are going up, finishing the tram system, the orbital motorway is being redeveloped, even the railways are getting a bit of a make over. A new port is being built on the ship canal by the secretive but ubiquitous Peel Holdings. The old centre of Salford is being turned into an extension of Manchester city centre.

This model has always required government support. You really have to sit down and ask where the money is coming from. It is a competitive model of gaining access to a disproportionate share of resources in the hope of trickle down gains. It was running to an end until Osborne offered his help. You can only speculate as to how important Osborne thinks northern development is – but Manchester needed more input, and with the new arts centre and the deal with China for a big development of a derelict central area, it appears to be forthcoming. But the payoff is the mayor and a role in NHS privatisation and expenditure cutbacks – a new electoral system that can take leadership away from party, as well as an executive leader needing no permanent apparatus of support, accountable to the people providing the money – directly or indirectly the government.

A radical response for local government.

We need to start working on how local authorities can have democratic control of resources that are not dependant on the whims of central government. I suspect that local authorities within regional systems who have a constitutional right to a share of national taxation (raised exclusively from a progressive income tax of course) moderated by a new variation of the Barnett Formula is the only way forward. A plan which could only live at a propaganda level at the moment – but a clear long term objective is needed.

I am fairly convinced that what has been achieved by the current model in Manchester is not repeatable across the north. (Maybe Birmingham can do it in the midlands). Why not? The airport, being years ahead, the coming recession, China losing capacity, HS2 (too expensive) and … Trident!

So when the question of failure to benefit the people is raised we can point a new way forward.

CJ