Corbyn challenge: A very welcome upheaval in British politics

 As the Labour Party prepares to send out ballot papers to the over 610,000 people registered to vote in its leadership contest,  Socialist Party executive committee member Judy Beishon answered some questions on the Socialist Party’s view of Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge so far.
Jeremy Corbyn addressing UCU strikers and supporters

Jeremy Corbyn addressing UCU strikers and supporters

Why has Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge in the Labour leadership contest been so popular?

 The Labour Party’s right-wing leaders have been astonished and horrified at the over-flowing rallies for Jeremy Corbyn around the UK over the last few weeks. Those careerist, staunch defenders of austerity can only dream about attracting such large, enthusiastic and young audiences.

Jeremy Corbyn, with his rejection of austerity, has become a lightning rod for an impressive display of mass anger at declining living standards and the plight of young people faced with poverty wages and the lack of affordable housing. His bold stand rapidly became an outlet for the pent up anger and frustration at the years of cuts, privatisation and wage restraint that have been suffered.

The more venom and dire warnings that “Anyone But Corbyn” politicians and the capitalist media have flung towards Corbyn’s campaign – including the prospect of Labour’s “oblivion” and “electoral annihilation”, the more his support has risen, such is the level of disillusionment in capitalist politics and desire for an alternative.

It also graphically reflects the point that the Socialist Party has long argued – that the population is significantly to the left of the present Labour leaders, as indicated by the polls that have showed majority support for public ownership of rail, energy and post.

John Cruddas MP used his own ‘research’ to try to argue the opposite: that the electorate rejects an anti-austerity position and the Corbynites are out of touch with reality. But the survey responses he received didn’t back this up. According to his polling, 58% of voters think “we must live within our means, so cutting the deficit is the top priority”. This doesn’t mean, however, that they think the 99% should have to pay to reduce the deficit, while the richest 1% become ever richer!

Labour didn’t lose the general election in May because Ed Miliband was ‘too left-wing’ as the right-wing media chorused, but because he was barely distinguishable from the Tories in policy. He was fully signed up to the pro-austerity mantra. Many voters in the Labour leadership contest are clearly drawing that conclusion – a YouGov poll for the Times put the most right-wing candidate, Liz Kendall, on just 8%.

Corbyn’s detractors are also repeatedly arguing that the 1983 general election defeat of then Labour leader Michael Foot was due to a left manifesto. But in reality other factors were to blame, including the political sabotage of right-wing leaders like Denis Healey and Jim Callaghan, the 1981 split from Labour to form the SDP and the aftermath of the Falklands war which enabled Margaret Thatcher to create a patriotic wave.

As well as his condemnation of austerity, Jeremy Corbyn is attracting support on a range of other issues, including his call for free education, for trade union rights, and his anti-war and anti-nuclear positions. Also, he has awakened hopes in a different type of parliamentary politics, not being a ‘career politician’ full of spin, soundbites and deception, but willing to debate ideas in an honest fashion and refusing to make personal attacks on opponents.

As he himself pointed out, it’s the mood of Greece, Spain and the US coming to Britain, following the surge of support in those countries for Syriza, Podemus and Bernie Sanders respectively. It is also the anti-austerity mood that surfaced during the independence referendum in Scotland.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected entry into the Labour contest has become a very welcome upheaval in British politics, but there are still a number of different possible eventual outcomes. A straight-line process from it towards genuine political representation for working class people is unfortunately not at all assured, as the experiences so far in Greece, Spain and the US also demonstrate.

To fund his policies of ending austerity, free education, council house-building, etc, Jeremy calls for tax justice, Quantitative Easing for public services rather than the banks and the establishment of a National Investment Bank to support infrastructure projects. What does the Socialist Party think of these ideas?

Firstly, the Corbyn-backing Labour MP Michael Meacher rightly said: “the Blairites have made the absolutely fundamental error of demanding that the way to reduce the deficit was by harsh and persistent cuts in benefits and public expenditure … And it’s not as though their policy, the same as the Tories’ policy, is actually working … the deficit today is still stuck at a massive £90 billion and has hardly reduced at all after five years of Osborne austerity”.

Meacher went on to say that Jeremy Corbyn “uniquely stands for making a clean break with Tory policies, above all by advocating growth as the way to pay down the deficit, not austerity”.

Left-wing MP John McDonnell elaborated in a Guardian article that a Corbyn-led government wouldn’t make cuts to “middle-and low-income earners and certainly not to the poor” but would target tax avoidance and “the subsidies paid to landlords milking the housing benefit system, to the £93 billion in subsidies to corporations, and to employers exploiting workers with low wages and leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab”.

These policies and measures, including those mentioned in the question above, would all significantly help in a left government’s programme to improve the living standards of the majority of people and would be hugely popular – bailing out public services rather than banks!

The Socialist Party believes that in addition it will be necessary for the workers’ movement to pursue the path that Jeremy Corbyn has touched on in his welcome comments on re-nationalising rail and energy companies and bringing back some form of Clause 4, part 4 of the Labour Party constitution, which was abolished by Tony Blair. That clause called for the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

It would be necessary to take into public ownership the main corporations and banks that dominate the economy and place them under democratic workers’ control and management, to begin to transform society along socialist lines. The capitalist system, due to its inbuilt contradictions and today’s level of crisis, is incapable of delivering a sustained increase in living standards for all. Nor can it end the environmental degradation it is inflicting.

How can Jeremy’s campaign help defeat austerity?

His campaign is already aiding the fight against austerity by prominently putting forward an anti-austerity position – rarely seen before now in the big-business owned media. It is also very significant that the two largest trade unions in the country, Unison and Unite, along with other unions, have backed Corbyn’s position, indicating the powerful forces that could be mobilised in national anti-austerity industrial action.

And action is precisely what’s needed! Vital services are being slashed and privatised, Working Tax Credits will be drastically reduced, along with a myriad of other attacks on working class and middle class people, who can’t sit back for another five years while the Tories push on with their brutal onslaught.

In the surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn, the union leaders have a glimpse of the wide layer in society – especially in this case young people – who would enthusiastically support coordinated trade union action against austerity if it were called.

The Tory government is in reality very weak, elected by less than a quarter of the electorate. Many workers’ disputes have already broken out around the country since the general election, including by the London tube workers. A one-day general strike, with further action if necessary, would attract massive support which could bring about a halt to the cuts agenda and an early general election.

This action would be taking place with the certainty that there are developments on the political front leading in the direction of the creation of a new mass workers’ party.

450 councillors have signed up to support Jeremy – what does the Socialist Party say to them?

There are 7,087 Labour councillors in Britain, so only 6% of them – 450 – have backed Jeremy Corbyn. The number of Labour councillors in Labour-led councils who have refused to vote to pass on the government’s savage cuts is still barely more than a handful. So the 450 backing Jeremy Corbyn are mainly Labour councillors in councils led by other parties and those in Labour-led councils who ‘oppose’ cuts but argue they have ‘no choice’ but to pass them on.

Some of the platform speakers at ‘Jeremy for Leader’ rallies have been councillors who are in that latter category. For example, during the London rally on 3 August, Haringey councillor Emine Ibrahim said that councillors like herself “didn’t want to be … dragged into council chambers across the country to implement the cuts that we are forced to by the Tory government”.

But no one is forcing councillors to impose cuts and they can’t be fined for doing so. The Socialist Party calls on them to take a real stand of resistance to austerity by refusing to vote for cuts and by helping to build a mass campaign in their area in defence of jobs and services. Notwithstanding the change of Labour’s leader, TUSC will still need to stand candidates in next May’s local elections against Labour councillors who are making cuts.

What should Jeremy do as Labour’s leader?

The number of people registered to vote in the Labour leadership contest reached over 610,000, with polls indicating that Corbyn could win decisively. Over a quarter of those voting signed up to the list in the final 24 hours before the registration deadline, in a dramatic end surge.

It appears that the right-wing dominated Labour Party machine will try to weight the result against Corbyn by voiding the votes of anyone they deem as ‘infiltrators’, but this is unlikely to alter the outcome decisively. Even the Electoral Reform Society waded in and called for a delay in the ballots being issued.

The media is also making last-ditch attempts to influence the result, including the Daily Mirror urging a first preference vote for Andy Burnham and second for Yvette Cooper.

A Corbyn victory would be very welcome. He will face immediate testing challenges, as he’ll be surrounded in Labour’s parliamentary party and HQ by hostile, pro-big business politicians – only a small minority of them are left-wing. They will put up strong opposition; a number of Labour MPs and leaders are already plotting how they could remove him from office.

For example, Simon Danczuk MP declared: “Am I going to put up with some crazy left-wing policies that he is putting forward and traipse through the voting lobby to support him? It’s not going to happen, is it? So I would give him about 12 months if he does become leader”.

Tony Blair, whose latest desperate plea was to say that even those who hate him (ie Blair) should not vote for Corbyn, gave a glimpse of the underhand methods the right will go to against the left when he said: “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched over the cliff’s edge …. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk …. It is a moment for a rugby tackle, if that were possible.”

However, Labour’s right may feel forced to tolerate Corbyn for a period of time if he wins the leadership ballot by a very high margin – while plotting a hundred ways to undermine him and manoeuvre towards a new leadership election and a “moderate” leader.

Jeremy Corbyn rightly would like to head a party that acts on the basis of rank and file democracy and involvement in decision-making; he has stated that party policy should be decided on that basis.

But the Labour Party has had much of its democratic structure destroyed; for instance the annual conference was turned into a showpiece for the media and big business rather than being maintained as a forum for genuine discussion and democratic decision-making. The character of the party as a political voice of the organised working class in the trade union movement was also stripped away.

So Corbyn would face massive obstacles in trying to lead the party for any length of time in a left-wing direction, not just from within the party but also from the senior ranks of the civil service, the pro-capitalist media and from virtually the entire ruling class of Britain.

To counter these pressures he would need organised back-up from the working class in the trade union movement, anti-cuts campaigns and left organisations. He would need to call an open conference of this support base – including of those who voted for him – to discuss how his left programme can be delivered and developed further.

Could a Corbyn-led Labour Party be transformed back into a party that stands primarily for workers’ interests? It’s not impossible that the right-wing could decide to leave to form a new party and the Labour Party could then as a whole turn leftwards. It would effectively need to become a new party itself in many ways, as a result of the changes that would be needed to democratise it and attract new young people and trade unionists into activity in its ranks.

Corbyn has adopted an open approach by ‘welcoming back’ members who have returned to the party and he has spoken of the need to welcome back unions that have disaffiliated from Labour.

However, if the road to such a transformation is blocked by those in the party hierarchy who are not willing to be part of a turn to the left, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters shouldn’t return to being prisoners of that situation but should help build a new mass workers’ party outside of Labour. They could draw on the support of the many thousands who have been enthused by the Jeremy for Leader campaign and come together with the thousands of socialist and trade union activists outside Labour, including those in TUSC.

Meanwhile Labour would continue to implement Tory policies and the process of it being increasingly dismissed by working class people would continue.

Learning from the experiences and lessons of the new left formations in countries like Greece, Spain, Brazil and Germany, a new party in Britain could quickly take on flesh as a combative force acting in workers’ interests, both electorally and in campaigns and struggles. In whatever way the scenario inside Labour develops, great opportunities will open up in this country for the development of workers’ political representation.


Labour leadership contest: Corbyn’s support shows anti-austerity message is popular

Editorial from the Socialist Newspaper from the 28th July:

Labour leadership contest:  

Corbyn’s support shows anti-austerity message is popular


Jeremy Corbyn, photo David Hunt, Wikimedia Commons

Panic is gripping the right-wing clique that dominates the Labour Party, at the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader.

Even some in the Tory Party, despite enjoying watching civil war unfold within the Labour Party, are now frightened about what it will mean if Corbyn actually wins. One cabinet member is reported as worrying that Corbyn’s leadership “would drag the overall debate to the left and the tiny risk of his victory would be a catastrophe for Britain” (Guardian 27 July 2015).

For decades barely a whisper of the views of the majority of working-class people – far to the left of any of the establishment parties – has been heard in Westminster.

For example, opinion polls consistently show big majorities for renationalisation of privatised companies. One YouGov poll in 2013 showed 68%, 67% and 66% support respectively for renationalisation of the energy companies, the Royal Mail and the railway companies.

Yet Labour – just like the Tories and the Lib-Dems – has refused to promise any renationalisation. On the contrary, in office it massively expanded the role of the private sector in the NHS and other parts of the public sector.

Even former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is no socialist, commented that he was not surprised at Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity given the “demand for a strong anti-austerity movement around increased concern about inequality”.

He went on: “The bottom 90% of the economy has seen stagnation for a third of a century…It’s just very hard to say these centre-left parties – with emphasis on ‘centre’ – have been able to deliver for most people. Their economic models have not delivered and their message is not working.”

Only a handful of Labour MPs – including Jeremy Corbyn – have put forward such ‘dangerous’ ideas as opposition to austerity, or call for the abolition of student tuition fees or for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws.

Up until now they have been drowned out by the baying of the Blairites. This was summed up by the leadership election before Jeremy Corbyn’s late entrance, with all three candidates competing to show who was the most ‘business friendly’.

Wave of support

Now – having scraped onto the ballot paper after being ‘lent’ nominations by right-wing MPs – Jeremy Corbyn has got a platform for an anti-austerity programme. The result has been a tidal wave of enthusiasm for his candidacy. The right wing MPs who nominated him to ‘broaden the contest’ are bitterly regretting their actions.

One of them, Margaret Beckett, accepted the accusation that she had been a ‘moron’. Young people and trade unionists, excited about anti-austerity ideas are the worst nightmare of the Blairites.

They have dedicated decades to stamping socialist ideas out of the Labour Party, beginning with the witch-hunt against the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party).

Now the anti-austerity voice of the majority is in danger of bursting their Westminster bubble. To try to stop this, the Labour right is scrabbling around to try to ensure that Jeremy Corbyn is defeated.

In this they have the full and vocal support of the capitalist media and behind it the capitalist class.

They are using every tool at their disposal to try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. However, so far all their efforts are backfiring.

One of the lines of attack is to suggest that the Labour Party is supposedly being infiltrated by “Militant Tendency types”.

According to the Daily Mail chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party John Cryer MP has claimed that “Militant supporters are using the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to pay the £3 voting fee.” This is wholly inaccurate.


The Socialist Party wishes Jeremy Corbyn well in the Labour leadership election. However, we are part of TUSC along with the transport workers’ union, the RMT, and many other socialists and trade unionists.

TUSC stood over 700 candidates in the elections which took place on 7 May 2015, aiming to begin to create the basis for a new – 100% anti-austerity – party of the working class.

We are not encouraging TUSC supporters to join the Labour Party, but rather to continue to build TUSC.

The existence of TUSC has, however, assisted Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid. It was made clear at the Unite NEC, a Labour-affiliated union, for example, that one of the reasons for its decision to back Jeremy Corbyn was that if it didn’t, TUSC supporters campaigning for a new party may succeed as a result of the increasing discontent of Unite members with Labour’s anti-worker policies.

The people being decried as ‘infiltrators’ are overwhelmingly young people new to politics and also older workers previously disillusioned by Labour’s transformation into a capitalist party.

Labour lost the general election not for being too left wing, as all the other Labour leadership candidates claim, but for not being left wing enough.

Millions of ‘traditional Labour’ voters did not vote, or voted for other parties, because they could not stomach Labour’s ‘austerity-lite’ programme.

Now, faced with further vicious attacks on working class people by this Tory government, Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature has kindled a hope that Labour could become a voice in defence of all those under the cosh.

His campaign programme is actually quite limited, merely calling for ‘meaningful regulation of the banking sector’ rather than for nationalisation of the banks under democratic control, for example.

Nonetheless he has enthused many with his clear call for abolition of student fees and to reinstate the student grant, his promise to repeal anti-trade union laws and other pledges.

In a concerted attempt to frighten Corbyn supporters out of voting for him, the Labour right is claiming that left-wing ideas will never win an election.

The Militant is being held up as a bogeyman whose ideas would have consigned the Labour Party to un-electability.

Militant’s Liverpool record

Yet the history of the Militant Tendency demonstrates exactly the opposite. The Militant Tendency played a central role in the ‘city that dared to fight’; the 1983-87 heroic struggle of Liverpool City Council against Thatcher’s government.

The council refused to implement cuts, and demanded the return of the money stolen from the council by the Tories. It was able to mobilise working class people Liverpool in support of its stance, with massive demonstrations and city-wide strike action.

As a result of standing up to the Tories in 1984 it won £60 million from the Tories. Liverpool City Council’s achievements included the building of 5,000 council houses, six new leisure centres, four new colleges and six new nurseries.

Today Labour councils up and down the country are dutifully implementing Tory cuts; imagine how popular a council that took the ‘Liverpool Road’ would be? If a swathe of councils took the same stand the resulting movement would have the potential to end Tory austerity.

And the ‘Liverpool Road’ was popular back then as well. The legacy of the Liverpool struggle was, for many years, a consistently higher Labour vote in Liverpool than other cities.

Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, launched a vicious witch-hunt against Militant and Liverpool City Council.

In reality, this was part of the drive to transform Labour into one more party of big-business, virtually indistinguishable from the Tories and Liberals.

It was justified, however, by the need to be ‘electable’. Yet in the 1987 general election, Labour nationally inched ahead, condemning workers to another five years of the Tories. Meanwhile in Liverpool Labour’s vote increased by 9.5% compared to 1983, the biggest swing to Labour in the history of the city.

These events were followed by the battle against the poll tax, where Militant supporters led an extremely popular 18 million-strong mass non-payment movement, which not only led to the abolition of the tax but also to the resignation of Thatcher.

If the Labour leadership had supported the non-payment movement they could have won the 1992 general election. Instead, disastrously, Labour councils were sending non-payers to prison.

As Militant supporters were expelled from the Labour Party we warned that this was the thin end of the wedge, and that the end result would be the expulsion of socialist ideas and the voice of the organised working-class from the party.

This is what has taken place over the succeeding decades. The right has strengthened its political grip on the party, while the democratic structures of the Labour Party – which allowed the organised working class in the trade unions to influence the party – have been destroyed.

Leadership election

It is highly ironic that an unintended consequence of the latest undemocratic rule changes, implemented under Miliband, is the current situation. The Labour leadership has become a virtual lottery in which any individual – Labour supporter or not – can potentially vote.

The result is people signing up for £3 to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. We do not support this electoral system, which is more akin to a US-style ‘primary’ than to a democratic election of a party leader.

Usually this system means that the membership of a party is dissolved into broader layers of the population, who are more influenced by the pro-capitalist propaganda from the mainstream media.

On this occasion however, despite the efforts of the capitalist press, given the groundswell of support for Corbyn, and the extreme weakness of the other candidates, it is possible he could win.

If this happens it would be a real step forward. It would mean, in effect, the formation of a new party.

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters would face open revolt from the right-wing that dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Labour machine, which would be totally unwilling to accept his leadership.

Of the 232 members of the Parliamentary Labour Party only nine are members of the Socialist Campaign Group to which Jeremy Corbyn belongs.

Already Labour MPs are threatening to trigger another contest immediately in order to get Jeremy Corbyn ‘out by Christmas’.

Far from respecting democracy the Blairites, as Bertolt Brecht put it, want to dissolve the electorate and get a new one!

In this situation Jeremy Corbyn would need to stand firm and mobilise the maximum possible support from across the workers’ movement.

We would encourage him to organise a conference of all those who have voted for him, plus the many trade unions – including non-affiliated unions like the RMT, PCS and FBU – which support a fighting anti-austerity programme.

The Socialist Party would participate in such a conference and would encourage other TUSC supporters to do the same. The ensuing battle could result in the pro-capitalist elements being ejected from or leaving the Labour Party.

However, given the class character of the Labour Party today – it is more likely that such a struggle would result in the right clinging onto the machine and forcing out the democratically elected leader and his supporters.

Whatever the outcome the basis would be created for a significant, clearly anti-austerity, and potentially very popular new party.

If, on the other hand, one of the three Blairite horrors wins the election we would urge Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters to draw all the necessary conclusions from their experience.

While anti-austerity ideas are viewed with disdain by the Labour Party machine, they are very popular among workers and young people.

A political voice for those ideas is urgently needed. The Socialist Party, along with others in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has been campaigning to prepare the ground for the creation of such a party.

If Jeremy was defeated in the Labour leadership election but was then to call for his voters to join him in building a new party – with a clear anti-cuts, socialist programme – it could very quickly gain momentum.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the single most important feature of it is that anti-austerity young people and workers are beginning to find a political voice. This is an important step forward which will be vital in the coming struggles against the Tory government.

….For Further reading the The article below was posted by the Socialist Party on 17th July….

Support for Corbyn’s anti-austerity message rattles Labour machine

“Jeremy Corbyn ‘on course to come top’ in the Labour leadership election” declared the New Statesman on 15 July, 2015.

Following leaked polling which suggested that Corbyn was ahead of all three of his Blairite rivals, the Daily Telegraph published an article on how its readers could ‘doom’ Labourby paying the nominal £3 fee to become a Labour supporter and voting for Corbyn.

No doubt if, as is possible, Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership contest, the pro-capitalist majority of the parliamentary Labour Party will try to blame it on readers of the Daily Torygraph.

This would be far from the truth. The popularity of Corbyn’s candidature reflects, above all, enthusiasm for his anti-austerity stance.

Labour lost the general election not for being too left wing, as all the other Labour leadership candidates claim, but for not being left wing enough.

Millions of ‘traditional Labour’ voters did not vote, or voted for other parties, because they could not stomach Labour’s ‘austerity-lite’ programme.

Now, faced with further vicious attacks on working class people by this Tory government, Jeremy Corbyn’s candidature has kindled a hope that Labour could become a voice in defence of all those under the cosh.

His campaign programme is actually quite limited,merely calling for ‘meaningful regulation of the banking sector’ rather than for nationalisation of the banks under democratic control, for example.

Nonetheless he has enthused many with his clear call for abolition of student fees and to reinstate the student grant, his promise to repeal anti-trade union laws and other pledges.

Signing up

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a FE cuts lobby of parliament, June 2015, photo Rob Williams

The result is a layer of people signing up to participate in the leadership election in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

One local Labour Party chair told the New Statesman that, “‘more than two thirds’ of recruits since the election are supporters of Corbyn.” Three national Labour-affiliated trade unions have given support to Corbyn, including Britain’s biggest union Unite, compared to just one (UCATT) that has supported Andy Burnham, supposedly the ‘trade union candidate’.

In addition two left non-affiliated unions – the RMT and the FBU – have backed Jeremy Corbyn. So far 65,000 members of affiliated unions are reported to have signed up to vote in the leadership contest.

No doubt, the right-wing MPs who nominated Corbyn, allowing him to scrape onto the ballot paper, are now nervously regretting their actions.

One of their major motivations was to make it easier for the leaders of the affiliated trade unions to justify remaining with Labour.

This could have proved impossible if the ‘pro-trade union option’ had been Andy Burnham – the man who was booed at GMB conference for supporting benefit cuts and launched his campaign at international tax-avoidance specialists Ernst & Young! However, in putting Corbyn on the ballot paper they underestimated the risk they were taking, not understanding the potential popularity of an anti-austerity programme.

A virtual lottery

Jeremy Corbyn addressing  UCU strikers and supporters)

It is an ironic consequence of the complete destruction of the Labour Party’s democratic structures, via which the trade union movement could express its collective voice, that the Labour leadership has become a virtual lottery in which any individual – Labour supporter or not – can potentially vote.

This is more akin to a US-style ‘primary’ than to a democratic election of a party leader. Usually this system means that the party membership is dissolved into broader, more passive layers of the population, who are more influenced by the pro-capitalist propaganda from the mainstream media.

There is no doubt that in the remaining eight weeks of the Labour leadership contest much of the capitalistmedia will crank up the anti-Corbyn propaganda to try and make sure that he loses.

However, given the groundswell of support for Corbyn, and the extreme weakness of the more right-wing candidates, this is not guaranteed to succeed.

If Corbyn was to win, however, there is no prospect of this being accepted by the right-wing pro-capitalist elements that dominate both the Labour Party machine and the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Of the 232 members of the parliamentary Labour Party only nine are members of the Socialist Campaign Group to which Jeremy Corbyn belongs.

Very probably the right would refuse to accept the result – perhaps on the basis of individual Tories having voted – and demand a new election. In whatever form it took, a civil war would erupt in the Labour Party.

A clear socialist programme needed

Corbyn and his supporters would need to stand firm against the attacks of the right, fighting for a Labour Party with a clear socialist programme – and for the recreation of its destroyed democratic structures, including for the exclusion of the openly pro-capitalist elements and the re-admittance of those socialists – including supporters of the Militant Tendency (now the Socialist Party) – who were expelled as part of Labour’s transformation into a capitalist party.

If such a battle was engaged the Socialist Party would welcome it as potentially an important step on the road to solving the crisis of working-class political representation.

However – given the class character of the Labour Party today – it is more likely that such a struggle would result in the left being ejected from the party. This too, however, could create the base for a significant new workers’ party.

If, on the other hand, one of the three Blairite horrors wins the election we would urge Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters to draw all the necessary conclusions from their experience.

While anti-austerity ideas are viewed with horror by the Labour Party machine, the widespread support for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign has already shown they are very popular among workers and young people.

A political voice for those ideas is urgently needed. The Socialist Party, along with others in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, has been campaigning to prepare the ground for the creation of such a party.

If Jeremy was defeated in the Labour leadership election but was then to call for his voters to join him in building a new party – with a clear anti-cuts, socialist programme – it could very quickly gain momentum.

Rob Windsor – a fighter for socialism

Rob Windsor – a fighter for socialism

Rob Windsor - a fighter for socialism

Rob Windsor

This week marks 3 years since we lost Rob Windsor to a serious illness. Rob, who passed away on 14th January, 2012, was a tireless fighter and campaigner for socialism and a former councillor in St Michaels ward for the Socialist Party. He played a major role in the anti-poll tax movement – a campaign which played a major role in the downfall of Margaret Thatcher. He was also a great friend and inspiration to many people and his legacy lives on in those who were inspired by Rob to fight against the capitalist system and for a socialist future. To read a full obituary of Rob, please click here

To mark 3 years since his passing, we are reproducing this article written by Rob in March, 2004. At the time Rob was a sitting councillor with Dave Nellist and Karen McKay. In his work as a Socialist public representative he worked tirelessly for his constituents and working class people across the city and helped people get organised. He was a regular on any picket line and unlike any of the current crop of Labour or Tory councillors never voted for a single cut – quite a contrast to those Labour councillors today who shrug their shoulders and say ‘nothing can be done’ about these savage attacks on ordinary people.

The article was carried in The Socialist, the weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party. In the article Rob explains how he became a socialist, and why he joined the Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party. If you agree with Rob, we urge you to fill in the form at the end of the article and join us in the fight for socialism.

Campaigning To Change Society

By Rob Windsor

I was always “Socialist minded” from my late teens. I took part in CND marches. I had worked with the homeless in London aged 19 so had seen the results of capitalism at the sharp end. I used to get mad every time I saw Maggie Thatcher on the telly but then kick myself for doing nothing!

The biggest push towards joining a party was when I saw the contrast between policing at a CND mass trespass at the Trident base in Scotland, then under construction, and that used at the Wapping dispute over the sacking of 5,000 printers.

The former was low key, the latter the most brutal I had ever seen. I remember a horse charge and saw this mounted police officer peel an old guy off some railings with a long riot shield. Then a “snatch squad” of about six with short truncheons beat him to within an inch of his life.

It was then that I realised that a class war was going on and the lengths that the privileged would go to defend their interests. I became a Militant supporter (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) in 1987 after the successful campaign to get Dave Nellist, then a Labour MP, re-elected to Parliament.


Of all the groups on the Left, Militant was the most serious and disciplined. When something was fully discussed and decided, it got done. Within two years, I was playing a leading role in building the anti-poll tax campaign that beat Thatcher and her tax.

I am now one of three Socialist Party councillors in Coventry. Whilst there are only three of us we strive to show an alternative way of organising society in everything we do.

We have played a full part in the mass anti-war movement and set up a special council meeting to discuss the war, one of the few councils in Western Europe to do so.

A lot of our work involves fighting for people who the anti-war movement hasn’t touched – but the cost of the war certainly has! Every day we battle for funding for areas where local people are told that they can’t have even a few thousand quid for improvements – yet the £6.5 billion cost of war is made to seem like small change!

Fighting for people

We have fought housing privatisation and the break up of working class communities so that developers can profit from land deals. We got the council to oppose top-up fees. We saved council jobs, and through our determination to oppose at all costs, forced the council to put an extra £1 million into adult social services.

We work on individual issues and community campaigns every day of the week. Even one of Blair’s favourite think-tanks recognised us as good local representatives.

But we are not like this because we are nice individuals or specially gifted.

It is because we are members of a party with firm ideas about transforming society so that working people own and control the wealth created; a party that doesn’t allow its representatives to have lavish lifestyles way above those that we represent. We’re there to improve the lives of working people – not our bank balances.

The Socialist Party doesn’t stop at just complaining about capitalist society but strives every day to change it. In trades unions, in local areas, in mass campaigns like the anti-war movement, amongst the workers and youth. It is well worth joining.

Video: The life and struggles of Nelson Mandela – By Jim Hensman, Coventry Socialist Party

Coventry Socialist Party held a special meeting on Wednesday 11th December to mark the sad passing of Nelson Mandela. Looking at the events & struggles in which he was part of, the  lessons for socialists from it and the current situation developing within South African society today.

Supporters of the CWI in South Africa, 1992, photo by Mark Yate

Supporters of the CWI in South Africa, 1992, photo by Mark Yate

In order to allow as greater access as possible to this important discussion we are posting here the video recording of the lead off to the discussion by Coventry Socialist Party member Jim Hensman.

Jim has been an active member of the Socialist Party (and our predecessor organisation – The Militant) and the trade union and labour movement for over 40 years. In that time, Jim was lucky enough to meet and discuss first hand with many key figures in the anti-apartheid  movement and ANC itself, gaining valuable experience and insight. Crucial for Socialists and working class fighters today.

The video is in 3 parts…

The following link is a full article on Mandela and the current struggles in South Africa from ‘The Socialist’ newspaper.

Interested in coming to one of our meetings?

There are Socialist Party branch meetings around Coventry every week on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday nights, starting at 7.30.

Please get in contact if you are interested in finding out more, attending branch meetings or joining the Socialist Party.

phone/text 07530 429441

Nelson Mandela – two articles from the archive

As millions of ordinary working class people across the world wake up to the  sad news of Nelson Mandela’s passing we post here two articles from the archives. We will be posting a full obituary over the next day or so

The first is a piece taken from the book ‘The Rise of Militant’ by Peter Taaffe, General Secretary of the Socialist Party. Published in 1995 it covers what the Socialist party (at the time named organised nuder the name The Militant Tendency) wrote and put forward at the time of Mandela’s release from prison.

The second is an article from our weekly paper – The Socialist, from October 2012 – charting the processes that took place from the fall of apartheid to the events of the Marikana massacre that saw the ANC complicate in the brutal murder of 34 minerworkers in August 2012.



From ‘The Rise of Militant’ Chapter Forty-One – International Challenges and an historical setback – Published 1995.

IN BRITAIN 1990 will forever be associated with the poll tax and how it determined Thatcher’s fate. But on an international scale it will also go down in history as the year of decisive changes in South Africa, further convulsions in the Stalinist world, and the Gulf War.

The revolution in South Africa, for that is what it was, entered a new phase with the announcement that Nelson Mandela was to be freed. F W de Klerk announced this to the white parliament on 2 February. The African National Congress (ANC) and other banned organisations were to be legalised, a moratorium on hangings was introduced, and talks and negotiations were about to begin. We declared that this was

a victory above all for the black working class and youth whose tireless organisation and struggle over many years have forced the retreat of the regime. (1)

His release resulted in an outpouring of joy and relief that swept from one end of South Africa to the other and reverberated around the world. The slogans of the masses were “Dissolve parliament now!”, “Let the people govern now!” This was a popular way of expressing the demand for majority rule as a means of abolishing poverty wages, inferior schooling, segregated ghettoes and all the panoply of apartheid repression. 

In Cape Town, the celebrating crowds were confronted with police and dogs, whereas in Johannesburg, crowds of joyful demonstrators poured onto the streets as the news broke. The Cape Town police, as one black student put it, behaved “like a pack of wolves.”

Despite these scenes of wild euphoria, we and Congress Militant, warned: 

“The ruling class in South Africa and internationally… view negotiations with the ANC leadership as a device for curbing the movement of the masses.” (2)

Some discussions took place in Militant’s ranks over the appropriate slogans to put forward in the changed situation confronting South Africa. Given the attitude of South African capitalism, backed up by imperialism, there was naturally a suspicion on the part of many workers that negotiations were a device for derailing the mass movement for majority rule. 

There was a tendency from the outset to reject the idea of negotiations. But it is not possible, particularly after a prolonged struggle with countless sacrifices by the masses, for a serious Marxist tendency to ignore calls for negotiations.

Negotiated settlement?

Sometimes negotiations can be seen as an “easier” and less bloody means of achieving the objects of the mass movement. In Algeria, for instance, in 1960 the FLN (Front National Liberation, the Algerian liberation movement) entered negotiations with the representative of French capitalism, de Gaulle. 

The latter had originally come to power on the basis “Algerie Francais”. But it became clear to de Gaulle – a consummate and brutal representative of French capitalism – that it was impossible to hold down a whole nation in chains. 

Determined to extricate French imperialism from the impasse he soon entered negotiations with the FLN. In this situation it would have been false to have opposed negotiations given that a million Algerian people had already been killed in the war. There was a craving for peace, both of the French people but particularly on the part of the Algerian masses. Drawing on this experience the leaders of Militant and Congress Militant put forward the slogan of “negotiations for majority rule”.

Explaining its position in the pages of Militant, the leadership of Congress Militant stated:

Socialists do not oppose negotiations in principle. It is a question of negotiations over what, and on which terms. But, as the military theorist Clausewitz explained, you cannot get more at the negotiating table than you have won on the battlefield. 

The first demand of the black masses is for one person one vote in an undivided South Africa. How can de Klerk – or any capitalist leader – concede this? The independent, revolutionary movement of the working class and youth has forced the regime into making the present concessions. But the regime has not yet been defeated. That is why majority rule is not on offer. (3)

De Klerk’s concessions arose from a combination of factors; the partial lull in the mass movement following the state of emergency imposed in 1986, the Namibian settlement, but above all the disorientation of the ANC and “Communist” Party leadership in exile, increasingly thrown off balance by Gorbachev’s policy changes.

 Gorbachev’s detente with imperialism and the emergence of pro-capitalist forces in the Soviet Union was bound to have a huge effect on an ANC leadership which had for decades in any case based themselves on the programme of “two stages” – the idea that ‘democracy’ can first of all be established within the framework of capitalism, in co-operation with the ‘democratic capitalists’. 

Walter Sisulu, a top leader of the ANC, had recently stated:

 “Socialism is merely an ideal, and the ANC is not promoting it at present.” 

Our analysis has stood the test of time. Events between 1990 and 1994 have evolved in their broad outline in the way that was anticipated by these two journals. The South African ruling class gave concessions, the right to vote, “universal suffrage”, but because of the various blocking mechanisms agreed to by Mandela and the ANC leadership, this did not result in ‘majority rule’.

However, even in the teeth of all the evidence to the contrary Ted Grant stubbornly adhered to the idea that the apartheid regime would make no concessions which would fundamentally alter the basis of that regime. It was just one of many examples of a failure on his part to recognise the profound changes which had been wrought in the world situation. This undermined all the “certainties” of the past. Ted Grant occupied a minority position, which was not reflected in the public position put forward by Militant. (See chapter 34)

Mandela’s release

The actual release of Mandela saw a quarter of a million rally in Cape Town for his first speech after 27 years of imprisonment. In Soweto, AK47s were fired in the air and thousands flocked to Mandela’s home in Orlando West. 

Workers in Durban “toyi-toyied” throughtout the night and thousands marched in Inanda, which had been the centre of fighting between Inkatha and the ANC in the previous months. Among black youth in Inanda Mandela’s release triggered massive euphoria, with many thinking that ‘liberation’ was close at hand. 

There was even a feeling in the town that the release of Mandela would allow the youth to finish off Inkatha. These hopes were to be cruely dashed with the savage counter-revolution unleashed by Inkatha vigilantes, which over a few days following the release of Mandela left 50 people dead. Among industrial workers there was a more cautious response, with great mistrust of de Klerk, the bosses and even of some of the ANC leaders.

One metalworker shop steward told us that workers thought: “Nelson Mandela has been released by de Klerk to disarm us”, while a hospital worker said, “The capitalists are not interested in how we live. That is why we need socialism.” (4)

Nevertheless, Mandela’s release was celebrated worldwide with traffic around Trafalgar Square brought to a halt by a jubilant crowd. In London schools children and teachers celebrated. A million had toyi-toyied in Soweto and were emulated by others, particularly the youth, on an international scale. 

The trust in Mandela in general seemed limitless as he declared to the thousands in Soweto and Cape Town that he stood by the principles that he had been imprisoned for. He supported the guerilla wing of the ANC and “armed struggle”. He also called for the nationalisation of the mines and monopolies. He called for “decisive mass action to end apartheid.” 

He called for sanctions to continue. But on the basis of the next three years of negotiations, and the backdrop of savage civil war against the best of the youth and the working class, Mandela was to moderate his demands. Nevertheless, his release and the unbanning of the ANC ushered in a completely changed situation which would inevitably result in a complete dismantling of apartheid and a new era for South Africa.”


From apartheid to Marikana


The struggle for social justice continues

April Ashley, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) and black members’ rep on Unison national executive (personal capacity)

First published in the Socialist (paper of the Socialist Party England & Wales)


The victorious strike of the Marikana mineworkers has transformed the situation in South Africa and heralded an upturn in workers’ struggle.

The strike has spread like wildfire to other mines and enormously boosted the confidence of workers in South Africa. It has ignited a new stage in the South African revolutionary movement.

The massacre of over 40 mineworkers in “scenes reminiscent of the worst of the apartheid era massacres” (Business Day 17/08/2012) shocked to the core South African society, catapulted South Africa to the forefront of international workers’ struggles and enlisted the solidarity and support of workers worldwide.

The struggle has brought back memories of the fight against apartheid for older workers and an interest in the struggle for young people.

It was in 1994 that the black majority population finally secured one person, one vote and ended apartheid with the election of the first black African National Congress (ANC) government, under a negotiated settlement.

The whole world held its breath on 11 February 1990 – that historic day when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years.

The hopes and dreams of the majority for a new South Africa rested on his shoulders: a new South Africa freed from ferocious and pitiless oppression and exploitation by white minority rule.

His release was secured after decades of bitter struggles when the apartheid regime attempted to drown the revolution in blood.

The Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the heroic Soweto uprising of the youth in 1976, when up to 100 young people were shot dead by police, (see box below) showed the determination of the masses to overthrow apartheid.

The adoption of the Freedom Charter by the ANC in 1955 was an expression of workers’ demand for a revolutionary change in society.

The charter called for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy: “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people, the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.”

Workers’ struggles

Between 1961 and 1974 the number of black workers employed in South Africa’s manufacturing industry doubled.

It was the explosion of the organised working class onto the scene, carrying on the banner of the dockworkers’ strikes in 1973, that rocked the whole of South Africa and brought a qualitative change to the struggle.

These mass strikes fired the imagination of workers internationally who gave solidarity to the struggles through marches, lobbies and boycotts and lead to many workers becoming politically active as they supported their brothers and sisters in South Africa.

The 1980s workers’ movements lead to the birth of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in 1985.

Cosatu adopted the Freedom Charter in 1987 under the banner ’Socialism means Freedom’. Its largest affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), led by the then militant Cyril Ramaphosa, was at the forefront of mass strikes, and Cosatu began a series of general strikes which made the country ungovernable and ushered in the end of apartheid.

But 20 years after the end of apartheid what has happened to the hopes and dreams of the workers encapsulated in the Freedom Charter?

The Socialist Party and the CWI have explained that following the collapse of Stalinism the white regime of FW de Klerk recognised the potential for a power-sharing agreement with the ANC.

The fundamental economic interests of capitalism would not be threatened because of the ANC leadership’s shift to the right, betraying the revolutionary struggle.

Failure of ANC

South Africa is now the most unequal country in the world with the wealthiest 10% of the population taking 60% of its total income while the bottom half of the population earns less than 8%.

Almost one quarter of South African households experience hunger on a daily basis. An average worker lives on R18 (£1.30) a day but 44% of workers – six million workers – live on less than R10 a day. Unemployment is 25% with 50% youth unemployment.

This means workers continue to live in crushing poverty. “A mineworker outlined his working and living conditions: ’We spend eight hours underground.

“It’s very hot and you can’t see daylight. There is no air sometimes and you have to get air from the pipes down there.’ His shack has no electricity, no running water, and the outside toilet is shared with two other families” (the Guardian 7/9/12).

Apart from the short-lived reconstruction and development programme in their early years in government, which saw limited improvements for the black working class, the ANC has pursued an aggressive neoliberal economic programme with mass privatisations of public utilities like electricity and water which has led to the increased pauperisation of the working class.

This has fuelled a myriad of community struggles for housing and delivery of services for many years.

For example, the ending of subsidised water supply in Kwa Zulu Natal in 2000 lead to the biggest cholera epidemic in the country’s history as workers went to the dams and rivers to drink as they couldn’t afford to be reconnected to the new more expensive supply.

Mass public sector strikes against privatisation in 2007 and 2010 shook the ANC government which has been ruling in a tripartite alliance together with Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Divisions have widened in the alliance as the ANC effectively abandoned the working class and became conscious agents of the big bosses and capitalism.

Some Cosatu leaders have also been assimilated into the ranks of the elite and have abandoned the struggle.

Cyril Ramaphosa was paid £61,000 as a Lonmin non-executive director last year and has come to symbolise the gap between a new black elite and the poverty-stricken majority.

Socialist alternative

Following the Marikana massacre the credibility of the ANC has now been shattered. It has demonstrated that it shares with the capitalist class the same fear and loathing for the working class.

“The ANC was in the black mind, the black soul, it took on an almost mystical quality. But now they’ve lost faith in it. The bond is shattered and it happened on television” (the Guardian 7/9/12).

As the global economic recession deepens the bosses, backed by the ANC government, will continue their attempt to load the burden onto workers’ shoulders.

So the scene is set for not only continued explosive struggles but a split in the tripartite alliance and the ANC itself.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (the CWI section in South Africa) are proposing a Rustenburg general strike, to be followed by a national strike and demonstration.

International pressure by workers and activists must also be maximised. The enthusiastic response to the ideas of the DSM among workers indicates the great potential for the development of a new mass workers’ party with a socialist programme, to defend and further the interests of working class people in South Africa.

Soweto uprising 1976 – What we wrote at the time

Roger Shrives

In 1976 South Africa’s vicious apartheid regime was shaken by a heroic uprising started by thousands of school students in the black ’township’ of Soweto near Johannesburg.

The police killed at least 140 people on 16-17 June 1976, mostly in Soweto, and 600 more as they tried to put down the year-long revolt.

South Africa was then still under the apartheid regime which used ’separate development’ to disenfranchise, racially segregate and keep down the country’s black majority and to ensure plentiful cheap labour.

The ruling Nationalist government insisted that school lessons in certain subjects must be taken in Afrikaans – associated with white minority rule and particularly with the oppression of apartheid.

Students had begun boycotting Afrikaans classes and elected an action committee that later became the Soweto Students’ Representative Council (SSRC). The campaign started with a demonstration on 16 June.

The police fired tear gas into the crowd, estimated at 12,000 strong. The students replied with a volley of stones.

The police then fired directly into the crowd. 13-year-old Hector Petersen was one of the first victims, being shot down in front of his sister and friends.

The education system was the spark but there were many such grievances throughout apartheid South Africa, especially in the townships.

Militant (the Socialist’s predecessor) described Soweto as a “powder keg waiting for a match to set it alight” with “virtual concentration camps”.

“A million Africans are packed into Soweto. Half the population is unemployed and therefore without permits to stay, at the mercy of any police raid.”

The article contrasted the dreadful conditions of the townships with the privileged life of many middle class whites.

The Soweto uprising changed the political consciousness of South Africa’s black working class.

Youth in Alexandria township, north of Johannesburg, had seen that they couldn’t beat the apartheid state forces by themselves and appealed to their parents at work to back them.

By 22 June 1976, over 1,000 workers at the Chrysler car factory had stopped work in the first strike action consciously held in support of the students.

In Soweto, the SSRC took on the responsibility of organising for a student march into Johannesburg on 4 August and, for three days, the first political general strike since 1961 took place. The government conceded on the Afrikaans issue but the revolt had gone too far and was now clearly aimed at the regime itself.


“If the ANC Government does not deliver the goods, you must do to it what you have done to the apartheid regime.” Nelson Mandela (1993)

The Socialist Party’s sister organisation Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) along with he mineworkers’ unofficial National Strike Committee,  and other working class groups, recent initiative to launch the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) in order to challenge the ANC in next year’s general election is a huge step forward.

A socialist alternative to a corrupt government that’s defending a brutal capitalist regime which presided over the Marikana massacre is the only solution to what New Labour stooge Peter Hain recently described as ‘deeply, deeply depressing’!

Appeal from Workers and Socialist Party, South Africa

The Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) – born out of the South African mineworkers’ struggles – is appealing for support for its election campaign in the South African general election which will be held in April or May next year.

Please go to: 


Flower Power – Downfall of a Banking Boss, his link to Coventry and Dave Nellist

Flower power – downfall of a banking boss, his link to Coventry and Dave Nellist

By Roger Bannister (From the Socialist Newspaper)

If the much repeated cliché that the British Labour Party owes more to Methodism than to Marxism is true then it must have got more than it bargained for with the Reverend Paul Flowers.

The traditional image of the stern, moral, teetotal 19th century campaigner is far removed from this latter day Methodist, mired in scandals involving sex, illegal drugs and dubious expense claims.

Flowers’ story reminds us that the bankers who brought the UK economy to the brink of disaster have been allowed to carry on in post, and to continue to draw fat bonuses, effectively paid for from the public purse, and funded by working class people via the Con-Dem government’s austerity policies.

Given the latest allegations against RBS profiting from bankrupting small companies, the hypocrisy with which the capitalist press and the Tories have jumped on this story is incredible.

But because of the traditional links between the Cooperative movement and the Labour Party, Flowers is subjected to intense scrutiny and pilloried in the press. Who knows what dirt could be dug up on any other top banker if treated in a like manner?

However, the rise of a person like Flowers in both the Labour Party and the Cooperative movement is an indication of how far both organisations have moved from their working class roots.

The Cooperative movement is based on its retail and banking wings, from which is funded the Cooperative Party. By agreement with Labour, it stands 26 Labour/Cooperative candidates in each general election.


But the Cooperative movement today is little like the vision of its 19th century ‘pioneering’ founders who were anxious to break away from the grip of their bosses who employed them and owned the shops that sold them poor, adulterated products at high prices.

The 21st century Co-op bank’s attempt to ape corporate capitalism collapsed under £1.5 billion of debt, and resulted in its takeover this year by US hedge fund asset strippers. This shows the limits of the cooperative ideal within capitalist society.

Its cooperative structures have become increasingly weakened over the years, producing a massive, largely unaccountable, highly paid bureaucracy (Flowers received in excess of £130,000 a year as chair of the Co-op Bank).

It now benefits from the government’s privatisation programme, with agencies that advise local councils on how to “mutualise” public services, promoting this as the soft side of privatisation. Right-wing Labour councils are particularly keen on this approach, sacrificing services and workers’ jobs because they are unwilling to fight to defend them.

Flowers link to Coventry, Dave Nellist and the Socialist Party

Flowers was always a Labour Party right winger, even at university in Bristol in the early 1970s, when left-wing politics were common among students. He joined the university Labour Club, but did not attend meetings because of its left wing leadership, (run at the time by Andy Bevan, a supporter of the Militant Tendency, forerunner to the Socialist Party).

After university he combined his position as a Methodist minister with a steady climb through the Labour and Cooperative machineries, albeit not without its occasional setbacks. He 1987 he failed to secure the Labour Party nomination in Coventry by opposing Militant (The Socialist Party’s Predecessor organisation)  supporting MP Dave Nellist. In the subsequent election Dave retained the seat.