Steve Hart's blog
Following my re-election as Chair of Hornsey &Wood Green Labour Party at our AGM earlier this month, one of my priorities is to improve communication with our many members and supporters. As part of this, we are ensuring that this website is regularly updated with important national and local news. And I will be curating what, I hope, will be an interesting weekly blog, written by myself and others.
Brexit, the refugee crisis, Heathrow, Syria - so many pressing topics to write about in this first blog. But my week and my thoughts have been dominated by the arrival of my first grandchild. Hardly a unique event - but every birth is transformative. A reminder of the beauty of life. The beauty and warmth of humanity. Who can look into the eyes of a new born baby, who looks deep into your own, without melting. The joy and happiness that radiates from the new baby, the sense of solidarity and support without boundaries, the unadulterated love that reminds of the goodness of humanity. And who cannot feel an enormous responsibility to build a better world for this little baby, and a world where very baby has similar opportunities to this one.
My grandson, on current life expectancy, will live beyond 2100, while I was born in 1952. A span of 150 years which will see the most dramatic change this planet has ever seen. Yet the left seems to have a less of a vision for the future than anytime in our history. Far too often we have an understanding of yesterday, and policies to address yesterday but not tomorrow. At its best, the left has attempted a comprehensive understanding of society and its antagonisms, and has seemed to own the future - with both a vision of a better society and a realistic programme to address immediate problems and start a transformation towards that vision. More importantly, Labour has appeared to win electoral majorities particularly when it was seen to have such a vision.
The 1945 victory came from a yearning for a more social, more collective society - wartime solidarity wiping away the misery of the 'thirties - and without the "traitor class" in command. Labour and the ambition of working people in tune.
1964 saw an optimism about the future expressed in Harold Wilson's talk of the "White heat of the technological revolution". Labour seemed to represent a new modern democratic world - rising living standards and oppprtunities in new industries, and social, gender, racial modernisation counterposed with a tired, class riddled aristocratic patrician Tory party.
In 1997 Labour was in tune with a desire for a kinder society, beyond Thatcherism which knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
In contrast, after the 2008 crash, which was the most profound economic and political shock in my lifetime, we failed to rise to the challenge. Gordon Brown may have "saved the world" with enormously important global fiscal stimulation, but Labour seemed to be associated with incremental rather than a radical response to the crisis. The global capitalist system failed (notwithstanding the many benefits produced by the 1997 government which worked within the parameters set previously) and cataclysmic economic and social crisis was only avoided by desperate sticking plasters. Whether we call it new-liberalism, free market capitalism or deregulated capitalism, it imploded, and broke its known internal economic "laws". Gramsci wrote about another crisis that "the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the the old is dying but the new is not yet ready to be born, and in that interregnum morbid symptoms arise". Veryappropriate words for 2008 and after.
The anti austerity movement and economists developed effective critiques of where we have been - but the clear voices that suggest the economic architecture of the next period are relatively quiet. And at at a time when apart from this unresolved and profound crisis in our economic system, we face the two biggest challenges of my lifetime - climate change and a new industrial revolution.
Climate change if not addressed much more robustly across the world, will dominate my new grandson's life. He will see big rises in sea level flooding populated areas, desertification of large areas, famine, wars over water, mass movements of people - will we bequeath him that nightmare or will we redirect effort and investment so that we can develop the exciting technologies and ways of living which can transform the environment? We show no sign of appreciating the magnitude of the challenge.
Alongside climate change, our economy and labour market will be dramatically changed by the disruptive power of new technologies which will amount to a new industrial revolution - but perhaps even more profound in it's effect on society. Some of this is not so new but represents the acceleration in the impact of the "new technology" we have talked about for years. Mass Fordist manufacturing industry employing millions on good trade union wages is gone for ever - we need to retain and rebuild manufacturing and green industry but it will be niche and/or comparatively worker-less. The impact of technology is accelerating in the service sector, with the elimination of routine tasks as computers take over. But we are now on the cusp of a new transformation - the gig economy, uberisation of work, where a third of "employees" receive their work from an app, the network revolution disrupting everything and artificial Intelligence about to burst on the serene in a big way. . With possibilities of great increases in productivity and better consumer experiences, but appalling degradation of work experiences, wages and job security, and rapid concentration of wealth, not just to the 1% but to the 0.1% , the left faces big questions - which so far we have been good at posing but poor at answering. A profoundly divided society, with relatively authoritarian control seems one terrible possibility , while the technology also holds out oppprtunitiesfor democratisation of the economy. But how? What employment will my grandson have - unlike any previous generation where there would have been a range of possibilities, and aspirations, I have not a clue even what jobs will exist in 20 years.
Never has it been more important for the left to be thinking and talking, so that we can develop a coherent vision for the future. We used to do a lot of this. Marxists, Fabians, utopian socialists, Tribunites, "reformist" social democrats like Crosland, all had a sense of the future based on their understanding of today. Ed Miliband was clearly a thinker, responding to big ideas but failed to either carry the party or supporters. Many others, from Marianna Mazzucatto to Paul Mason analyse and propose. But too often, we propose solutions to yesterday's problems, and entrenched in yesterday's thinking. Many on left and right in party don't seem to recognise the scale of the transformation we face.
So I'm thinking of the future inspired by my new grandson. If our people have a sense of the future, that is optimistic and inclusive rooted in the humanity that I felt around the new baby, and understand how our immediate policies fit into this vision, we lay the basis for a winning majority.
We need to campaign really hard about today's issues - against grammar schools, for least worse. Brexit terms, for house building, for our NHS and win elections- but we also need to think and debate.
We have an enormous local Labour Party. I hope that we can campaign and talk about these vital political ideas.
Following my re-election as Chair of Hornsey &Wood Green Labour Party at our AGM earlier this month, one of my priorities is to improve communication with our many members and...
Hello. I'm Steve Hart, Chair of the Hornsey & Wood Green Constituency Labour Party
Welcome to my new blog, to keep local Labour members and supporters up to speed. I'll be trying to signpost our activities and events, and stimulate some debate.
We have an awesome responsibility here in the biggest Labour Party in the country.
The talent and determination of our members, new and old, can and must become a powerful force for change, in the party, our community and our country.
(And I'll be trying to focus people on priority activities - see the #missingmillion voter registration drive this coming weekend 24/25th October - details below)
3301 members, 1700 supporters - that's Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party. Over 6% of the electorate are members or supporters.
Over 600 have joined since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. What a fantastic opportunity for us all to conduct our politics in a new way - winning elections as we did for the wonderful Catherine West, but also discussing, debating politics, linking to social movements, creating new space for progressive politics and action for change.
We're doing a lot:
- our big constituency Refugees Welcome meeting
- local branch meetings with up to 70 people on a wide variety of issues
- campaign weekends on individual voter registration, tax credit cuts
- discussing the London manifesto
- a constituency conference open to all in the New Year
- special showing of Suffragette at the Arthouse
- thriving Women's Forum activities
- policy forums on housing and health
But we want to do so much more. We want to enable more and more of our members to get involved not just at meetings, but in the community and networking. We want to up our game on communications with members and electorate alike. Not just campaigning for Labour, but campaigning for our communities, defending our people against this terrible Tory Government, and developing alternatives.
We need your energy and your talents. If you would like to volunteer with us please fill in your details here.
But we have some really urgent tasks.
Stop the Tax Credit Cuts
In a month, on the weekend of 21/22nd November, we will be on the streets and doorsteps campaigning against the tax credit cuts - the work penalty - which will hit thousands of people in Haringey, who will lose an average of £1300.
The Missing Millions
But first, this weekend, 24th/25th October, we will be campaigning for voter registration. This is really important, as Jeremy Corbyn stressed in his speech at Labour Party Conference,we are facing nothing less than wholesale gerrymandering by the Tories, with millions removed from the electoral register. Jeremy has identified this as a high priority for our campaigning.
Individual Electoral Registration is reasonable in itself, but it is being introduced ruthlessly to wipe out voters, and especially Labour voters, following the US republican habit of "voter suppression".
- The Electoral Commission advice that it should not be introduced until December 2017 has been ignored.
- Cross-checking of data has been banned - in Australia, all official databases are coordinated to ensure fullest registration. Here, Colleges have been banned from providing lists of students at Halls of Residence. In Hackney 23% of previous voters face being removed from the register.
- The poor, young, ethnic minorities, less educated, those forced to move regularly and in private rented accommodation are much less likely to be registered as compared with the stable and prosperous.
That so many voters will be unable to vote in the next year, nor the mayoral election is bad enough. But the premature figures on the register in December this year are to be used as the basis for new Constituency boundaries which will last a generation. This could give the Tories an instant advantage of 20 or 30 seats at the next election.
So this is really really important - and we can do something about it. Haringey Council has already done a lot using lots of innovative means as well as the hard slog on the doorstep. Everyone of us can help.
First by checking your own house. Are all the new voters registered? If you live in an HMO, are the other residents registered? Have you completed the forms including the new National Insurance number requirements where appropriate?
Secondly, by joining our Weekend of Action. We will be knocking on doors where no one is registered. We will be knocking on doors where we know previous voters have dropped off the list. We will be visiting some multi-occupation houses where few people, are registered. We will have voter registration forms to distribute (but for legal reasons we cannot collect). But we can use smartphones and tablets to assist people to register online there and then. Everyone can do this! We've never done it before so there are no experts! We always get a good reception on the doorstep - and newer people are always paired up with a more experienced person.
This is a weekend for democracy. Thinking of the Suffragette film, and the struggles to achieve the vote, it reminds us how tragic it is that this bunch of ruthless Tories are distorting our democracy and removing the vote from Millions. We can all do something to resist them .
So please come to any or all of the four session this coming weekend in Wood Green or Crouch End.
Click the links above to RSVP (it is really helpful to have an idea of numbers) or just come along anyway.
A couple of hours can make a real difference (and you'll enjoy it!).
Very much look forward to seeing you.
Hello. I'm Steve Hart, Chair of the Hornsey & Wood Green Constituency Labour Party Welcome to my new blog, to keep local Labour members and supporters up to speed. I'll...