Wednesday 14 November 2018

Here I Stand

“David Lindsay has generated a brilliant reconciliation of the conflicting strains of the Labour Tradition and is worthy of the closest attention.” Dr Maurice Glasman, Lord Glasman of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill; Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Director of the Faith and Citizenship Programme, London Metropolitan University; founder of Blue Labour.

“Current orthodoxy – both in economic policy and right across the board – has so manifestly failed us that we desperately need some fresh thinking and a different way of looking at our problems. That is precisely what David Lindsay provides.” Professor Bryan Gould, Labour MP for Southampton Test, 1974-1979; Labour MP for Dagenham, 1983-1994; Shadow Cabinet Member, 1986-1994; Leadership Candidate, 1992.

“Before Red Tory and Blue Labour there was David Lindsay. He was arguably the first to announce a postliberal politics of paradox, and to delve into the deep, unwritten British past in order to craft, theoretically, an alternative British and international future. It is high time that the singular and yet wholly pertinent writings of this County Durham Catholic Labour prophet receive a wider circulation.” Professor John Milbank, Professor in Religion, Politics and Ethics, University of Nottingham.

Those commendations were written in 2012, before Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, before Brexit and the gilets jaunes. Each of those is better than the alternative, better than Hillary Clinton and her British Labour wannabes, better than the European Union and Emmanuel Macron. In 2019, much of the material contained here has elicited this response: “I warm to its spirit. It represents an important strand of thinking and feeling in our country which we ignore at our peril.” Those are the words of Professor Robert Skidelsky FBA, Lord Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy in the University of Warwick, author of Keynes: The Return of the Master, and co-author of How Much is Enough? The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life

The next General Election will certainly result in another hung Parliament, regardless of who led any party, but simply because of what is now the shape of the three polities across which it will be held: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. One MP will therefore be able to make a huge amount of difference. Here in North West Durham, it has become a commonplace that the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and I are each on 30 per cent support, so that any one of us could be the First Past the Post. I have no interest in being a paper candidate. But I will stand if I can raise the £10,000 necessary to mount a serious campaign. Anyone in a position to help, however much or little, please contact I am a local, experienced and inclusive candidate whose radically practical polices are rooted in radically traditional values.

A Local, Experienced, Inclusive Candidate

I was born in 1977, and I have lived in North West Durham since 1982. I never went to school anywhere else, and I went to university at Durham. I was an elected member of Lanchester Parish Council from 1999 to 2013, a governor of Lanchester Endowed Parochial Primary School from 1999 to 2007, and a governor of Saint Bede’s from 2000 to 2008. I am currently one of Derwentside’s elected public governors of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. I was elected unopposed. I have had several periods of involvement with Willow Burn Hospice since the middle of the 1990s.

I have nothing against the present MP personally, and she may or may not be the Labour candidate next time. But at the turn of 2017 she had never set eyes on North West Durham, and there was no local involvement whatever in her selection as a candidate. She has never expressed any of the opinions articulated here. Indeed, she has expressed very few political opinions altogether. Hers is a certain mood or tone, rather than any specific programme or philosophy. It has now been more than two years since the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party effectively abolished the Constituency Labour Party in North West Durham by denying it any role in the selection of its parliamentary candidate. It then imposed a 29-year-old who had never set foot here, and of whom next to no one here had ever heard. Soon afterwards, she lost her seat on Northumberland County Council. I was present when she received that news, at the count for Durham County Council, where she was being introduced as the all-done-and-dusted Prospective Parliamentary Candidate to stalwarts who did not even know her name, but several of whom had already bought me drinks. For some years by then, certain of them had been introducing me at funerals as, “The man who should have been our MP.” Everyone does that now, and there no longer even needs to have been a death. They also call me “Speedboat”, as in, “Here’s what you could have won.”

I am both a product and a feature of the political pluralism of North West Durham, where Labour holds fewer than half of the County Council seats, where the Conservative parliamentary candidate won 34.5 per cent at the last General Election, where the Liberal Democrat candidate cut the Labour majority in half in 2010, and where an Independent kept his deposit both in 2005 and in 2010. Wear Valley was controlled for a time by the Liberal Democrats, who remained numerous on it until its abolition. Derwentside was in practice controlled by an alliance between the Independents and that section of the local Labour Party which now supports my parliamentary candidacy; its Leader from that time, Councillor Alex Watson OBE, is one of my Campaign Patrons. When Chris Williamson was the Leader of Derby City Council, then he held that position in coalition with the Conservative Party, since such an approach is normal on the grown-up Left. Another Campaign Patron is Davey Ayre, a legendary local trade unionist. Moreover, George Galloway has never formally resigned as my third Campaign Patron. It is now up to him, having read this pamphlet of which he is one of the dedicatees, to consider how best to resume those duties.

As an example of my political approach, which is normal on the grown-up Left, at the 2017 Election to Lanchester Parish Council, I voted for 15 candidates who were variously Labour, Independent, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and of No Description. 12 of my choices were elected, covering the first four of those five categories. The treatment of the County Durham Teaching Assistants made it impossible for me to vote Labour either for the County Council or for the House of Commons in 2017. For the record, I voted for myself and an Independent for the Council, and I voted for the Teaching Assistants’ Liberal Democrat champion, Owen Temple, for Parliament. At the five European Elections of my adult lifetime, I have voted, not without reservation in each case, for the Socialist Labour Party, for Respect, for No2EU, for the Labour Party, and, in the absence of No2EU or of anything like it, for the Brexit Party.

It will be clear, then, that I am firmly a man of the Left, committed to economic equality and to international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends. Economic inequality is incompatible with democracy, since it gives the rich far greater political power than the poor, whose votes are thus effectively negated. In the struggle for the universal good that is economic equality, the leading role belongs to the working class, of which the leading part is the trade union and cooperative movements. In the struggle for the universal good that is international peace, the leading role belongs to the working class and to the youth. Those struggles are fundamental and integral to each other, and the anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggle, which is indivisible in itself, is fundamental and integral to each and both of them. The class oppression in these Islands goes back to the Norman Conquest, while our particular form of capitalism was shaped by the slave trade, so that they both have racist and imperialist roots.

I am not “For the Many, Not the Few”. I am “For Everyone”. I reject class conflict in favour of “a platform broad enough for all to stand upon”. Although I have now been out of the Labour Party for far longer than I was ever in it, I am a committed but critical supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, who has opened up the debate on economic and foreign policy for the first time in a generation. Before the summer of 2015, Britain had an unquestionable State ideology in international affairs and in relation to the architecture of the economy. It was occasionally possible to make a small and probably jocular criticism of the Government. But it was effectively forbidden to criticise the State. We saw that most starkly at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, when the State ideology’s idol was paraded through the streets of the capital city to receive the obeisance of the once-great national institutions. Corbyn has brought onto the platform the voices of opposition in principle to politically chosen austerity and to wars of political choice. Before him, no one would have questioned Boris Johnson’s assertion that people whose personal incomes were between twice and well over three times the national median household income were “middle earners”.

I wrote and sent the following letter, which appeared in The Times on 18th August 2015:

Dear Sir,

We do not all hold British nationality or reside in the United Kingdom, although some of us do. We are not all members or supporters of the British Labour Party, although some of us are. However, we are united in rejecting the charge of “economic illiteracy” against Jeremy Corbyn, and in recognising that his economic analysis and proposals are, at the very least, superior to those of the current British Government, as well as being more comprehensive and coherent than those of any other candidate for Labour Leader.

Yours faithfully,

David Lindsay, Lanchester, County Durham
Professor Victoria Chick, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London
Professor Alfredo Saad Filho, Professor of Political Economy, Department of Development Studies, The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Professor John Grahl, Professor of European Integration, Middlesex University Business School
Professor Stuart Holland, Visiting Professor, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, Portugal; Senior Scholar of the Institute of Social and European Studies, Köszeg, Hungary; Member of Parliament for Vauxhall, 1979-1989
Professor Christopher May, Professor of Political Economy and Faculty Associate Dean for Enterprise, Lancaster University
Professor Ozlem Onaran, Professor of Workforce and Economic Development Policy, University of Greenwich
Professor Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting, Essex Business School, University of Essex
Professor Pritam Singh, Professor of Economics, Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, Oxford Brookes University
Professor Robert H. Wade, Professor of Political Economy and Development, Department of International Development, London School of Economics; Leontief Prize in Economics 2008
Dr David Harvie, Senior Lecturer in Finance and Political Economy, School of Management, University of Leicester
Ismail Ertürk, Senior Lecturer, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester
Ewa Karwowski, Lecturer in Economics, Kingston University, London

Nevertheless, Corbyn has overlooked his supporters by appointing his enemies to frontbench and other positions. He has permitted a free vote on Syria. He has whipped an abstention on Trident, which there is absolutely no suggestion that a Corbyn Government might scrap, while there is more chance that Donald Trump’s America might leave NATO than that Corbyn’s Britain might do so. He has never brought the arming of the Saudi war in Yemen back to the floor of the House of Commons for another vote. His housing and transport policies go nowhere near far enough. He has done nothing to bring into the mainstream the Modern Monetary Theory that saw Professor Stephanie Kelton designated as Chief Economist for the Democratic Minority Staff of the Senate Budget Committee, hotbed of Trotskyism that that is. Nor has he done anything to bring into the mainstream the Universal Basic Income that has been accepted even by the Adam Smith Institute.

Corbyn supports the Government’s indulgence of the ludicrous theory of gender self-identification, and he sides with neoliberal capitalism in supporting the legalisation of drugs and prostitution. He has allowed, and even caused, the dissipation of his initial following among the young male victims of anti-industrial economic policy and of belligerent foreign policy. He supports the Government’s anti-industrial Malthusianism of net zero carbon emissions, for which the country has never voted. He wants a Customs Union with the European Union, possibly even at the price of accepting its State Aid rules. He now favours a second referendum on EU membership, and a vote to Remain. He has accepted some of the Government’s baseless and collapsed claims about Salisbury, Amesbury, and Douma.

Corbyn has acted against the social and ethnic cleansing of Labour Haringey, but he has failed to secure justice for the 472 Teaching Assistants in Labour Durham. He has reacted wrongly to the provocative extension of a State Visit to President Trump. He has conceded the unfounded existence of widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, he has taken with complete seriousness the self-appointed “community leaders” of British Jews, he has accepted the deeply flawed IHRA Definition, he has submitted to the presumed right of the “Equality” and Human Rights Commission to enforce that Definition as if it were the law of the land, and he has failed to prevent the expulsion of distinguished black and other activists from the Labour Party on trumped up charges using that Definition, even though some of those black and other activists have themselves been Jewish. Under Corbyn’s Leadership, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth have all been expelled, something of which Tony Blair could never have dreamed. Corbyn has failed to point out that Pete Willsman had been stating the facts about Israeli Embassy interference, as had been captured on film between Shai Masot and Joan Ryan. Both Labour Party membership and the Labour Whip can now be refused or revoked by the Israeli Ambassador. “If you deny the problem, then you are part of the problem,” is the cry of the witchfinder down the ages. Corbyn has failed to defend either Chris Williamson or Kelvin Hopkins. And he has failed to insist that Julian Assange not be extradited to anywhere under any circumstance, which is the wedge issue that is being used to define a pantomime Left that would be acceptable to the official media for the purposes of pretended balance. The same or similar criticisms may and must be made of such figures as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar.

I believe in liberty, equality and fraternity. Liberty is the freedom to be virtuous, and to do anything not specifically proscribed. Equality is the means to liberty, and includes the Welfare State, workers’ rights, consumer protection, local government, a strong Parliament, and public ownership. And fraternity is the means to equality, taking such forms as trade unions, cooperatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies, and mutual building societies. Liberty, equality and fraternity are therefore inseparable from nationhood, a space in which to be unselfish. Thus from family, the nation in miniature, where unselfishness is first learned. And thus from property, which is each family’s safeguard both against over-mighty commercial interests and against an over-mighty State, and which therefore needs to be as widely diffused as possible, as the guarantor of liberty. The family, private property and the State must be protected and promoted on the basis of their common origin and their interdependence.

I am therefore committed to economic equality and to international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends. Economic inequality is incompatible with democracy, since it effectively nullifies the votes of the poor. Since there cannot be a “free” market in general, but not in drugs or prostitution, including pornography, so there must not be a “free” market in general. Since there cannot be a “free” market in drugs or prostitution, but not in general, so there must not be a “free” market in drugs or prostitution. Since there cannot be the unrestricted movement of goods, services and capital, but not of labour and thus of people, so there must not be the unrestricted movement of goods, services and capital. Since there cannot be the unrestricted movement of labour and thus of people, but not of goods, services and capital, so there must not be the unrestricted movement of labour. If “there is no such thing as society”, then there can be no such thing as the society that is the family, or the society that is the nation.

Only 40 years ago, a single manual wage provided the wage-earner, his wife and their several children with a quality of life unimaginable even on two professional salaries today. This impoverishment has been so rapid and so extreme that most people, including almost all politicians and commentators, simply refuse to acknowledge that it has happened. But it has indeed happened. And it is still going on. To regret that must be to regret the defeat of the miners in 1985, and vice versa. To seek to reverse it must be to attend the Durham Miners’ Gala if at all possible.

On those grounds, and indeed on all of the grounds that are set out in this book, I was active in Blue Labour while it was active, I remain so insofar as it remains so, I supported Ed Miliband from the start of his Leadership campaign to the end of his Leadership (even while disagreeing with him, especially on Libya), I still think that he would have made a good Prime Minister, I supported Andy Burnham until the infamous Labour abstention on the Welfare Bill made Jeremy Corbyn my only rather than my second preference, I supported Tom Watson’s Deputy Leadership campaign from start to finish, I continue on balance to support his Deputy Leadership in principle, I have repeatedly sought election to the Executive Committee of the Fabian Society, I voted proudly for Pat Glass in 2015, and I would have done so again in 2017.

I am not a Marxist. Marxism asks many of the right questions, but it also gives many of the wrong answers. Straightforwardly, I do not believe in dialectical materialism. Nor do I believe in Marxism’s sense of its own inevitability. We have had to fight for everything that we have gained, and we have to fight to save it. Rather, I stand in the pro-business tradition that came down to the Attlee Government from the ultraconservative figures of Colbert and Bismarck, via the Liberals Keynes and Beveridge, and which held sway in Britain until the Callaghan Government’s turn to monetarism in 1977. Britain did not experience a post-War decline. This country’s people were not worse off in the 1970s than they had been in the 1930s. Was the phrase “the sick man of Europe” employed to refer to Britain in any other language? The European Free Trade Association was sorry enough to see us leave, while the European Communities were pleased enough to see us join and then stay. We cannot have seemed too sick to any of those 15 other European countries.

That British tradition grew from many and various roots, trade union and cooperative, Radical Liberal and Tory populist, Christian Socialist and Social Catholic, Guild Socialist and Distributist, Fabian and Marxist. It therefore corresponds in many and various ways to phenomena on the Continent and elsewhere that would not ordinarily be regarded as having much, if anything, to do with each other. And it corresponds closely but critically to the Hamiltonian American School as expanded by the American System of Henry Clay, a pro-business tradition that between the 1860s and the 1970s worked to make the United States the world’s largest economy, with the world’s highest standard of living, culminating in the glorious achievements of the New Deal, which in turn made possible the rise and triumph of the Civil Rights movement.

That was achieved, by Democrats and Republicans alike, through the strict division between investment banking and retail banking, with large amounts of federal credit (in Britain, that would be central government credit), at low interest rates and over a long term, to build great national projects, notably enormous expansions in infrastructure, which then paid for themselves many times over. There were pro-business tariffs and subsidies, and there was a pro-business National Bank to promote the growth of productive enterprises rather than speculation. Britain and America both need a lot more of this today. North West Durham needs it more than most.

Therefore, I would appoint an Independent, a Labourite, a Conservative and a Liberal Democrat in each of the County Wards, ideally including at least one person in each of the former District Wards, to work with me and with local people. I would also appoint a Political Advisor from within each of the Independent, Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat blocs. If he were amenable, then my Labour Political Advisor would be Neil Fleming, who was previously the Labour Party’s Head of Press and Broadcasting, and who was then its London Regional Director. The Brexit Party did well here at the European Elections, but people here would not vote for any General Election manifesto that might be acceptable to Nigel Farage.

In the coming hung Parliament, the price of my support for any Government, even a Corbyn Government, would be the necessary support for a number of projects in each of the former District Wards equal to the former number of District Councillors, together with justice for the 472 Teaching Assistants whose pay Durham County Council had cut by 23 per cent, together with not less than the retention or restoration of the level of hospital provision in Consett in July 2019, and together with the implementation of the plan for the rail service in the North of England that was advanced in June 2018 by well over 20 local and regional newspapers. In Lanchester, the three projects would include both proper flood defences at long last, and the restoration of the bus services that Labour-controlled Durham County Council has slashed to the bone. In Weardale, I would require the Sixth Form provision on which the present MP for North West Durham has said a very great deal while delivering little or nothing. That MP has appointed as her Political Advisor the man whose political advice led the Teaching Assistants to their present predicament.

I am now working with all of the non-Labour members of Durham County Council and with the trade unions, to bring Volkswagen’s production for the British market to County Durham after, or even before, Brexit. I am more than open to further suggestions along similar lines. Among many other things, this project will guarantee the financial future of the Durham Miners’ Gala and of the Durham Miners’ Hall. The absence of the County Council Labour Group is that Group’s own sorry fault. I unreservedly condemn the decision of that Group to award to the Kier Group, with its history of blacklisting, the contract to build the new headquarters of Durham County Council.

I would cooperate with people of all parties and none, in order to implement Theresa May’s original Prime Ministerial agenda of workers’ and consumers’ representation in corporate governance, of shareholders’ control over executive pay, of restrictions on pay differentials within companies, of an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme, of greatly increased housebuilding, of action against tax avoidance, of a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, of a cap on energy prices, of banning or greatly restricting foreign takeovers, of a ban on unpaid internships, and of an inquiry into Orgreave. The same applies to everything in Boris Johnson’s Golden Age speech, except on stop and search, and except on the prioritisation of net zero carbon emissions, which it is very difficult to see as compatible with the pro-industrial content of the rest of the speech.

As the Member of Parliament for North West Durham, my Westminster office would be a global centre for the broadly based opposition and alternative to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy, strongly asserting that that opposition and that alternative were the real centre ground. My candidacy is already endorsed by Dr Philip M. Giraldi, Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, Washington, D.C.; former CIA counterterrorism specialist and military intelligence officer; and foreign policy advisor to the 2008 Presidential campaign of Ron Paul. It also endorsed by Dr Leon Hadar of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and of Tel Aviv, Israel; Contributing Editor of The American Conservative; Commentator, Quillette, Sydney, Australia; Washington Correspondent and Columnist, The Business Times, Singapore; and foreign policy advisor to the 2008 Presidential campaign of Ron Paul.

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