Tuesday, 15 September 2009

This coming year...

Dear Member,

If you believe in a progressive and radical society, then your support for the Labour Party is more important than ever before. Depending on how you look at it, this email is either the final of the past academic year, or the first of the new one. Either way, I want to take the opportunity to impress on everyone the political significance of the coming year, and the enormity of the task facing us on our return.

Since we left each other before the summer, three things have changed which together will shape politics for the next decade. Firstly, we are now within a year of a general election. Secondly, the lines along which the election will be fought are now being clearly drawn. Finally, we will be fighting this election in the face of the biggest disconnect between voters and politicians perhaps in living memory. As front line activists, this may be our biggest challenge.

The significance of the coming year for Labour and for the country cannot be overstated. Previous years in politics have been spent debating the price of a pint; this year will be different.

Our generation of students is set to graduate into the jobs market in the harshest of conditions. Further, as people with a political conscience, we are now faced with the daunting process of charting a path out of this crisis. In the former we will be helped in part by a raft of measures, which Labour has already introduced. In making the case for Britain’s future, however, we need to focus not on what we have already achieved, but what we can move on to achieve in the future. When our case is at its strongest, it is crucial that we make it clear. It is vital that, in order to win the next general election, we do not spend our time on doorsteps advocating the status quo to voters, as is the temptation for a party in power, but rather focus on future challenges and our future goals. Defending the status quo is never good politics.

For this reason, the year ahead will be crucial in shaping the form of British politics for the next decade at least. For anyone coming into politics for the first time there may be a natural aversion to joining a governing party, but as I have already said, party membership is about more than just defending the record of the government of the time, and demands the willingness to help shape the future of Labour and of the country. For those considering the renewal of their membership, remember that while governments last for years, parties last for decades if not centuries, and this is something which I have no doubt that more squeamish Conservatives such as David Cameron are now contemplating as they find themselves counted amongst the ranks of the party of Dan Hannan.

The Labour Party has the values and principles to guide Britain through the next parliament. There is no doubt, however, that when Britain emerges from the current period of political and economic strife, the landscape will have changed. As party members, it is for us to help to determine exactly what form that change will take.

Labour members are deservedly proud of our record, which includes the national minimum wage, civil partnerships, a 10.8 million tonne reduction in green house gas emissions in the last year alone and a vastly improved National Health Service which retains the values with which it was created by an earlier Labour government.

However, good campaigning is not about defending what Labour has done but rather setting out what Labour will do, and defending the status quo is no way to go about winning a general election. Labour became New Labour in the nineties in response to a changing climate and the time has come again to take stock and to revaluate. The events of the next year will impact on all of our futures, and it is for us to ensure that Labour remains an innovative and resilient force for change in the decade ahead. We can be proud of our past, but we must be focused on our future.

I look forward to seeing you all next year, and all that remains is to remind everyone that in order to sign up again, either visit our stall at the Societies Fresher Fayre, or else to contact our new club secretary, Andrew, at this email address.

Best wishes,

Calum Darling
Aberdeen University Labour Club


  1. "Labour members are deservedly proud of our record"

    Yes there have been some progressive policies which are very welcome such as the minimum wage and civil partnerships. But in 1997 we anticipated MORE than a half dozen or so positive policies in 12 years!!! There have been far too many failures and there are too many right wing policies that frankly eclipse any positive steps you may have made. For example:

    ID cards
    Support for Trident renewal
    Support for PFI
    Support for the council tax (which disproportionately hits the poorest in society)
    Tuition Fees
    Opposition to Scottish fiscal autonomy
    An increased gap between rich and poor
    Removing the 10p tax band
    A continuation of Thatcherite economic policy

    and of course, worst of all, the illegal war in Iraq where tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters have been killed.

    You may have some things that you feel you should be proud of. I however think you have much, much more that you should be absolutely ashamed of.

    Thanks to your party's unforgivable lurch to the right and your government's incompetence you have left us doomed to face another period of Tory rule. Mind you, your lot have behaved like the Tories in government so at least we'll be prepared for it.

    Pride??? A wee bit of contrition would be nice.

  2. 1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s
    2. Low mortgage rates
    3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.35
    4. Record police numbers in England, Scotland and Wales
    5. Cut overall crime by 35 per cent
    6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools
    7. Best-ever primary school results
    8. Funding for every pupil in England to double by 2008
    9. Employment is at its highest level ever
    10. Written off up to 100 per cent of debt owed by poorest countries
    11. 85,000 more nurses
    12. 32,000 more doctors
    13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards
    14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament
    15. Devolved power to Welsh Assembly
    16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time
    17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice
    18. Gift aid was worth £625 million to charities last year
    19. Restored city-wide government to London
    20. Record number of students in higher education
    21. Child benefit up 25 per cent since 1997
    22. Created Sure Start to help children from low income households
    23. Introduced the Disability Rights Commission
    24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & extra £100 for over-80s
    25. On course to exceed Kyoto target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010
    26. Negotiated the historic Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland
    27. Over 30,000 more teachers in England schools
    28. All workers now have a right to 4 weeks’ paid holiday
    29. A million pensioners lifted out of relative poverty
    30. 800,000 children lifted out of relative poverty
    31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents
    32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships
    33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard
    34. Free school milk for five, six and seven-year-olds in Wales
    35. Banned fox hunting
    36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since the industrial revolution
    37. Free TV licences for over-75s
    38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals
    39. Waiting times for operations halved
    40. Free local bus travel for over-60s
    41. New Deal - helped over a million people into work
    42. Over 1.5 million child trust funds have been started
    43. Free eye test for over 60s
    44. Five, six and seven year olds in class sizes of 30 or less
    45. Free entry to national museums and galleries
    46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled
    47. Cancer death rates down by 12 per cent, saving 43,000 lives
    48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent
    49. Free nursery places for three and four-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales
    50. Free fruit for all four to six-year-olds at school

  3. Still no contrition then Kyle?

    As I said before in the past 12 years there were some decent achievements (Although your artificially long list contains more than a few very tenuous claims). However, fundamentally you have failed badly on social justice. The gap between rich and poor is greater now than in 1997. The legacy of Labour misrule is 1 in 4 children and 1 in 5 pensioners in Scotland living in relative poverty.

    Still you support ID cards, PFI, “British jobs for British Workers” and the obscenity of nuclear weapons.

    Still no apology for the illegal war in Iraq.

    Whatever good policies you have implemented are overshadowed by your failures on social justice and your shameful and destructive neo-con foreign policy.

    Sorry guys, as a GENUINE social democrat I would never ever dream of supporting Labour. You have let the people down badly.

  4. Dont you just love the line "as a GENUINE social democrat" i wonder if that is in relation to the british SDP that split from the Labour Party in 1981 and helped thatcher stay in power for so long.

    I am proud to be labour and i am proud to be a democratic socialist, someone who supports the oridinary people of our country and wants to bring them out of poverty and give them oppertunities that they will enver recieve under any other party but Labout.

    Yes over the last 12 yrs the government has made mistakes and has done things that supporters find hard to swallow but look at the alternative, a lberal party that wants to cut harder tahn the tories and a tory party who want to cut public services to fund an inhritance tax cut that will only help their natural base.

    So if you are a true social democrat then to NOT vote labour shows that you dont know what those 2 words really mean.

  5. Anonymous 2

    I'm a bit perplexed at your rather myopic reference to an obscure and defunct political party with no relevance to modern politics. Social Democracy is an international modern political ideology, part of the pantheon of Socialism. I would have thought that someone claiming to be a socialist would know that. Indeed it can be credibly argued that Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists are really more or less the same thing. Certainly any differences between us should be regarded as negligible. We should be on the same side, singing from the same hymn sheet.

    However, the problem is that it is very difficult to see any justification of referring to the Labour Party as in any way "socialist". At best Labour is centrist. Indeed in several policy spheres it can be shown to be centre right and even, alarmingly and unbelievably, to the right of the Tories in some areas such as civil liberties!!!

    You claim that Labour provides opportunities and support to people that other parties don't. Sadly, this doesn't square with the facts. Regardless of what good policies Labour have introduced since 1997 (such as the minimum wage) there are still fundamental failures regarding the gap between rich and poor and levels of relative poverty across the UK. The improvements since the desperate Tory years have been nowhere near good enough. Arguably this is entirely due to Labour lurching to the right in order to try and retain power in the deeply flawed first past the post Westminster electoral system. This has stifled any attempt to implement real social democratic policies and make the difficult decisions required to make a real difference. This current UK government is closer to Thatcher than Atlee. That is a shameful indictment on the New Labour project.

    There have been mistakes over the past 12 years. You expect that from any government. However, I’m not talking about mistakes per se. I’m talking about fundamental policy positions which should surely repulse any individual whose political opinions are founded on a desire for social justice and internationalism. Unflinching support for ID cards in the face of cuts to front line services for example, support for the multi billion pound imperialist folly of nuclear weapons in the face of mass unemployment and widespread relative poverty. Above all continued justification by the Labour government for the appalling illegal war in Iraq which saw so many of our fellow global citizens die. To dismiss these as merely “mistakes” is frankly an insult and demonstrative of the deep malaise in the modern Labour Party.

  6. As for alternatives I think it is right to point out there is a massive void left in the left-of-centre at a UK level as the many political parties crowd the centre to right-of-centre part of the spectrum. The Lib Dems (as flawed as they are) seem to be generally to the left of New Labour however, and therefore perhaps could be seen as best of a bad bunch. In Scotland it has to be said that the SNP in government have implemented many admirable social policies such as vastly increasing construction of social housing, reintroducing free education, freezing council tax (thus alleviating the strain on societies least well paid) and phasing out prescription charges. Whether we like it or not it has to be conceded that their behaviour in government has been closer to the ideology of Wheatley, Hardie and Bevan than Labour governance both at Holyrood and Westminster has displayed for many, many years. Greater home rule or even independence is surely not something we should be frightened of given the potential for developing an internationalist, progressive, social democratic sovereign nation such as demonstrated by our Scandinavian neighbours? Furthermore, proportional representation at Holyrood makes votes for other leftist parties such as the Greens and even the SSP more likely to yield elected representatives. A compelling argument for electoral reform at a UK level surely?

    I recognise there are many social democrats that remain in the Labour Party with the hope of steering it back to a genuine left-of-centre position in the political spectrum. I fully respect those people. However, I would respectfully suggest that those who defend the ideology and record of the New Labour Party whilst proclaiming that they are proud democratic socialists are the ones who should be looking up the definition of socialism.

  7. Personally, I find this talk about socialism, democratic socialism etc irrelevant. To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping "It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice". Pragmatism should be the modus operandi and we have seen that in order to become electorally viable (the main aim of a political party) the Labour party has had to make some shifts away from it's dogmatic past. Being born in 1987, I can't say what that dogmatic past was like, but i am certainly New Labour because I believe in justice, fairness and equality of opportunity yet I don't believe in antiquated systems of analysis to find out how to ensure these beliefs come into fruition.
    However, I do feel remorseful. We should have gone further - there is a pensions black hole that needs plugging, our education system needs continually reforming to allow it to adapt to a changing globalised economy. And i don't think we have done nearly enough, nearly enough to tackle the problems of social exclusion, social deprivation and injustice in the UK and abroad. And I'm ready to tackle these with fresh ideas and fresh approaches. It would be great if, rather than trying to outsmart people on who knows more about the definition of socialism, we work together to bring new solutions to these problems.
    Just one example (a personal example) of what New Labour has done. I am 22 years old, I started high school in England in 1997. Since then, that high school has been equipped with three new computer rooms, there are many more teachers and assistants, it has received extra funding for its science and technology. When I went to sixth form, I received the EMA meaning I could focus on studies rather than try to work as well. I gained 2 A's and a C. In my home town, new social housing and home ownership laws means that people have a sense of worth about our town. But the biggest thing for me is that now at uni, I can work for £6.64 an hour. That would have been unheard of in a Tory government. Yes, there have been mistakes, yes we haven't achieved everything. But we haven't finished, so lets not fight, lets work together so that the Tories stay out of power and we can continue to work for good.