Thursday, November 19, 2009

Labour's PPB: Fisking the fiskers

A variety of right-wing blogs[1] link to a 'fisking' of Labour's most recent party political broadcast, in which a Liberal Democrat activist attempts to reveal that all the claims made about Labour's achievements are false. A friend who is a historian was kind enough to send me an analysis of their claims:

Broadcast: "“They said that working people were not fit to govern - so we formed the Labour Party”

Criticism: A party where the intellect, stimulus and money was supplied by the decidedly middle-class Fabians and their friends.

Answer: To suggest that early Labour politicians, thinkers and organisers like Kier Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, George Lansbury, and many others were "decidedly middle-class" or that a party bankrolled by the trade union movement relied for funding on 'middle class Fabians' is a rather weak claim.

Broadcast: “They said that women didn’t deserve the vote”

Criticism: "This glosses carefully over the fact that Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the main suffragette movement, WSPU, was refused membership of the Independent Labour Party after she was encouraged to do so by her friend Keir Hardie. The refusal was on account of her gender. Several years before her death, Emmaline became concerned by socialism and joined the Conservative Party. We are of course still waiting for a woman to be elected leader of the Labour party, let alone become a Labour Prime Minister. The legislation to extend an equal franchise to women was brought in by Baldwin’s Conservative government in 1928."

Answer: Just before the First World War a male MP resigned his seat to fight it on the issue of Women's Suffrage. He was not a Tory, nor a Liberal, but Labour MP George Lansbury. And given that until 1929 Labour had only had one minority term in office, for a few months, the legislation is hardly an impressive point.

Also worth noting that Emmeline Pankhurst was actually a member of the ILP. To be fair, you have to read halfway down the Wikipedia page to find this out, rather than just the first three paragraphs - I guess to expect this level of research in a fisking is rather unreasonable.

Broadcast: “It seemed impossible to stop the tide of fascism, until Cable Street and a few good men and women got in the way”

Criticism: The ‘good men and women’ were not organised by the Labour Party. Sadly the riots led to the Public Order Act that outlawed political marches without permission. We can see its authoritarian legacy in New Labour’s recent ban on protests near Parliament.

Answer: Er, not in the party political broadcast. If you watch it, you'll see so.

Broadcast: “The shining vision of the NHS was for many an impossible dream, until we created it”

Criticism: The legislation may have been enacted during a Labour government, but the NHS was down to Liberal economist and reformer, William Beveridge, after a report was commissioned by the wartime coalition government. Only three years after the introduction of the NHS as a free at the point of use service, the Labour Chancellor Hugh Gaitskell pushed through prescription charges of one shilling per item and charges for half the cost of dentures and spectacles.

Answer: So if a Tory government passes a voting act it's only thanks to them, but if Labour actually sets up the NHS (against the votes of Tory MPs) it's nothing to do with the Labour Party. The NHS was also set up completely differently to Beveridge's model.

Broadcast: “They said we were wasting our time making a stand against apartheid and that things could never change, but they did”

Criticism: At the 1964 general election, most candidates expressed support for sanctions against South Africa, But once elected, Harold Wilson told the press that the Labour Party was ‘not in favour of trade sanctions’. And whilst the best known anti-apartheid campaigner is now a Labour MP, he was then very much a Young Liberal. The release of Nelson Mandela and the dismantling of apartheid owed nothing to the UK Labour Party.

Answer: The ANC's archive seems to disagree: "Nevertheless, Labour Party support was still vital to the campaign." See here for more information -

Broadcast: “And Northern Ireland too”

Criticism: Tony Blair may have got the credit for the grinning photos, but the Prime Minister who made the Good Friday agreement come about was John Major, bravely and often under verbal fire from his own side.

Answer: But funnily enouigh it wasn't until years more of negotiating by Blair and Labour Minister that the Stormont Assembly worked and the IRA renounced violence in 2005.


[1] I don't think a 'variety' is quite the correct collective noun for right-wing blogs - 'a tedium' ? 'a knee-jerk' ? Suggestions gratefully received


At 12:29 pm , Blogger Hughes Views said...

Nice post - facts, don't we just love them? As Mr Pilate is said to have put it all those years ago: "truth? What is truth?".

Re your first para & note: Isn't the point of right-wing blogs, and of being right-wing, to stamp out variety (see also this morning's In Our Time on Radio Four about Sparta)?

The sort of freedom right-wingers really crave is the freedom for everyone to be exactly like them (or, failing that, securely locked up)!

At 12:45 pm , Anonymous tim f said...

A "gaggle" of right-wing blogs, perhaps?

On Cable Street - first of all, I don't think the sentence in the original "Against the Odds" video was supposed to suggest Labour organised this. It was supposed to show that organised action can overcome bad stuff, even when bad stuff appears to be unstoppable. Obviously that's directly applicable to the situation Labour finds itself in now.

And arguing that militant working-class action is bad because it leads to authoritarian governments passing laws stopping middle-class people from doing as they wish is not a very left-wing argument. Or a very strong one.

At 1:22 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sara Bedford isn't 'right wing', she's a left-leaning Lib Dem councillor.


'I guess to expect this level of research in a fisking is rather unreasonable.'

At 1:30 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

"Sara Bedford isn't 'right wing', she's a left-leaning Lib Dem councillor."

Indeed. Hence "a variety of right-wing blogs link to..."

Which they do.

At 1:31 pm , Anonymous tim f said...

The OP doesn't claim that she's right-wing (although from experience this is not always an inaccurate description of a "left-leaning Lib Dem councillor"); just that many of the people linking to her are.

At 2:06 pm , Blogger Nick said...

The point about Beveridge is often raised by Liberals but it isn't a very good one - he was a lifelong Fabian and considered a socialist for most of his career at the LSE. With that background in mind, he was appointed as a civil servant in the wartime govt by Bevin and then the real unsung hero, Arthur Greenwood, to head the committee that the Labour ministers in the coalition wanted to do the ground work on the welfare state.

It was only AFTER writing the famous report and doing the follow up work that Beveridge joined the Liberals - and pretty much immediately prior to him being given the Liberal seat of Berwick-upon-Tweed and becoming a Liberal MP.

At 2:56 pm , Anonymous Simon said...

"Sara Bedford isn't 'right wing', she's a left-leaning Lib Dem councillor."

This may be true (I've never heard of her) but the version of history she is presenting here is pretty sympathetic to the Conservatives at the expense of Labour, which is why I dare say so many right wingers are linking to it.

To take just one of her points, pretending that the establishment of the NHS is something other than a Labour achievement is just shallow partisanship.

At 3:13 pm , Blogger Al Widdershins said...

The first point is especially amusing. The LRC did not really have an intellectual orientation as such, the "stimulus" came largely from the decidedly non-middle class ILP... and you've dealt nicely with the laughable claims about funding already. I'll just mention that the Taff Vale judgement wouldn't have the same place it does in Labour Party history if these claims were true.

At 6:15 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd point out that the person whose blog you linked to describes himself as a Lib Dem which who would probably call yourself right wing.

At 6:44 am , Blogger Mike said...

Suggestions for a collection of Tory blogs, or comments from Tories :-
A bully. A lie.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home