British World War II veteran on Conservative election defeat

This video from London, England says about itself:

15 June 2017

Corbyn hugs and consoles people affected by Grenfell Tower fire.

Corbyn: Residents of Grenfell Tower need to be rehoused locally.

The truth has got to come out‘: Jeremy Corbyn at fire scene.

Mr Corbyn said the London borough [of Kensington] was a ‘tale of two cities’ between a wealthy south and a poor north.

He suggested that ‘requisitioning’ vacant properties would be a solution to the shortage of available accommodation for those displaced.

‘Properties must be found – requisitioned if necessary – in order to make sure that residents do get rehoused locally,’ Mr Corbyn told a meeting of MPs.

‘How is it acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept empty as land banking for the future while homeless people look for somewhere to live?’

By Harry Leslie Smith in Britain:

Like in 1945, the young defied the Tories again

Saturday 17th June 2017

Corbyn’s Labour Party manifesto struck a chord with the young in 2017 like Clement Attlee’s manifesto did with my generation, writes HARRY LESLIE SMITH

ON JUNE 9 the voice of the people affected by austerity, blighted by poverty, challenged by flat wages and disconcerted by an unrelenting housing crisis, roared their disapproval at the Tories for stitching up society to benefit the lifestyles of the 1 per cent.

After seven years of Tory administrations that were intent on removing compassion, kindness and commonsense from this country and scorching our land with more austerity, more tax breaks for the rich, less social services for the vulnerable, the people said: “No more.”

Political forecasters were dumbstruck on election night when exit polls at 10pm predicted a hung parliament.

As for me when I first heard these prognostications, I was stunned but not surprised. You see, unlike the talking suits that populate television, radio and print media, I do not live in a protected bubble of wealth and entitlement.

I am an ordinary man who, because of my advanced age, has lived through many extraordinary times during the 20th century. But in the end no matter what I’ve seen or done over my long life, I am now just a pensioner who takes the bus.

In my daily existence, I only rub shoulders with other ordinary people whose concerns are as simple, and as profound, as how they will be able to make the rent each month. I knew from all those I encountered over the last few weeks that things were different during this election because in the queues, at the shops or down at the local, I heard the clamour for change from all walks of life.

I saw in people’s faces and in their words an anger that bubbled up against the Tories after they launched their election manifesto that put the screws to every voter but the wealthy.

The Tories might have wanted to make this election about Brexit but they couldn’t because the pressing issue for people today is how to stretch their pennies into pounds because of an ideologically driven austerity.

It’s why Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign was so effective because he toured the nation like former US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the 1930s. Corbyn offered hope to all who had seen their living standards diminished from austerity and the decline of the welfare state.

He offered pragmatic socialism which stressed that society can’t work if the top 1 per cent and their corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes.

Yet while Corbyn promised better days, Theresa May told parents that subsidised school lunches were a thing of the past because for the 99 per cent there is no magic money tree.

Corbyn’s Labour Party manifesto struck a chord with the young in 2017 like the 1945 Labour manifesto struck a chord with my generation, when we were in our youth and our future stretched before us like new land to the eyes of sailors who had been too long at sea.

Jeremy Corbyn was able to deliver the largest vote share for the Labour Party since Clement Attlee’s historic 1945 general election because voters were able to finally identify that his economic vision for Britain wasn’t the enemy to prosperity but that May’s austerity was the real threat.

Corbyn, Momentum, the shadow cabinet and the thousands of volunteers out on the doorsteps or on social media have built a bridgehead for socialism.

Their tireless efforts for two years against enormously savage attacks from opponents within the party and media have given us a fighting chance of seeing triumph in the next election because May’s Tories have been reduced to a minority government.

The Tories have been so weakened by this election. They are now so craven and unworthy of government that their only way to cling to power now is to rely upon the homophobic, misogynistic DUP for survival.

Victory will soon be ours because the young have taken a stand against the terrible burdens placed upon them since 2010. They voted with their hearts and heads for Labour to make society work for all.

This 2017 snap election proved that our young are not indifferent to democracy but instead are passionately attached to voting if there is a candidate that promises real transformation to society, not just lip service to the voters. Corbyn connected with the young in this election and motivated 72 per cent of young voters to cast a ballot because he convinced them that they were worth more than flat wages, student debt and Tory austerity.

Long ago, I was part of another Labour political tide which sought to raise all boats on a wave of economic justice in the 1945 general election. It took place in July of that year. I was 22 and still in uniform as the second world war in Europe had just ended.

I knew how important it was for me to vote in that election because my family had been miners for hundred of years. But the Great Depression had scattered us from the coal fields and landed us into the slums of Bradford and afterwards into the outskirts of Halifax, where the streets looked like the decayed flesh on a mouldering corpse.

Like many of today’s youth, in my childhood and teens I was a victim of unrelenting poverty and a bleak future. Eighty years ago this month, I left school at 14, which was the custom for the working class then. I had few prospects because my education was limited to knowing my sums and knowing my place in the hierarchy of British society.

It is no different for many young people today whose prospects are hindered by a lack of opportunities or an inability to afford a proper education.

When I left school in 1937 I felt a great despondency; the cards were stacked against me because of my poverty, my lack of education or connections to a trade that could keep me gainfully employed.

The same holds true today for our youth who are ensnared by a rigged economic system that increasing looks like the one I encountered as a young man on the mean streets of Yorkshire.

But in the time it took for May to call and bottle the 2017 snap general election, the mood of young people in Britain has changed dramatically.

For me as an old man, it was a glorious sight to see the young grab hold of their birthright, the welfare state, through exercising their democratic rights on June 9. But austerity won’t end until we push the Tories from their precarious perch of power with another general election.

That’s why we must see the election results as the first of many waves that are surging in an ocean of political discontent that will eventually sweep away neoliberalism in Britain.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, an RAF veteran, activist for the welfare state, author of Harry’s Last Stand, Love Among the Ruins, 1923 and The Empress of Australia. He has a podcast available on iTunes and you can follow him on Twitter @harryslaststand.

11 thoughts on “British World War II veteran on Conservative election defeat

  1. Friday 16th
    posted by Morning Star in Features

    Mainstream journalists are unlikely to step outside their own political ‘gated community’ of lobbyists and think tanks – which is why we need alternative media, says SOLOMON HUGHES

    WHY did the “serious” media get Labour’s prospects so seriously wrong? The Stupid Prize goes to the New Statesman, with a cover showing an asteroid about to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.

    The Statesman’s editor Jason Cowley backed the cover with a 3,000-word editorial, as wrong as it was long. Written on the eve of the election, Cowley confidently predicted: “Whether it loses 30, 50 or even 70 seats, the Labour Party is heading — and it gives me no pleasure to say this — for a shattering defeat under Jeremy Corbyn, just when it should have been seeking to remake our politics for the common good.”

    The exact opposite happened. It is not fair to pick on Cowley. We have had two years of almost every “pundit” of every national newspaper telling us Corbyn would inevitably lead Labour to disaster.

    Conservative papers were always against Corbyn. The liberal press was almost always against Corbyn. One or two commentators on the Guardian backed him, but even they, under tremendous pressure from their peers, wobbled.

    But 300,000 Labour Party members re-elected Corbyn to the leadership. Every one of them was wiser than the wise heads in the newspapers and magazines.

    The Conservative press was full of simple lies and vile smears. But look at the “liberal” press: The Observer gave room for Nick Cohen to predict the Tories would tear Labour “to pieces” in an election campaign, reducing Labour to 100 seats.

    He wrote — actual words passed by the editor — that any Corbyn supporter should “stop being a fucking fool by changing your fucking mind.” Foul-mouthed and broken-brained.

    The Observer’s “edgy” columnist Barbara Ellen joined the Lib Dems in protest at Corbyn. The Observer did allow its veteran journalist Ed Vuillamy to write one pro-Corbyn piece in 2015.

    By 2017 he confessed in the paper: “I was wrong to defend Jeremy Corbyn.” Vuillamy generously said: “I gave him a chance, but he is unfit to be called leader of the opposition.”

    Why were their best thinkers coming up with all these bad takes? How will they stop getting it wrong?

    If a journalist keeps getting it wrong, it means they have a problem with their sources, or their judgement.

    On sources: pundits will keep getting it wrong if they don’t change their contacts — who are lobbyists, anti-Corbyn MPs and corporate-funded think tanks. It is a small ecosystem of business-funded political operatives, who will always find a way to resist social change.

    I was struck by one long article by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian in May predicting Corbyn-led election defeat, under the title: “No more excuses: Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown.”

    He based his views on a focus group of voters organised by PR firm Edelman. Focus groups are easily manipulated, with participants guided towards stereotyped answers.

    Most commentators learned this lesson during the first government of Tony Blair, who tried to justify policies on focus groups.

    But Freedland forgot all that in his enthusiasm to attack Corbyn. He also didn’t seem bothered that Edelman is also a political lobbying company. Edelman clients include Murdoch’s News UK, private water firms Anglian and South West Water, Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Sainsbury’s and choccy bar firm Mars. Its free focus group show for journalists was not going to be even-handed.
    Freedland described watching a “group of Labour voters” in another room “ through a two-way mirror.”

    A journalist who relates to Labour voters by looking at them like animals in a zoo, where the zookeepers are corporate lobbyists. What could go wrong?

    What is to be done? The press is clearly embarrassed by its failure. But will it hire commentators who are not mostly Oxbridge, middle-aged, overpaid men with conventional world views and a mindset totally stuck in the Blair wonder years?

    I hope the national political reporters do make some effort to step outside their political “gated community.”

    But the bigger answer is in your hands. We have to develop an alternative media, including of course the Morning Star, one that reflects the movement from below.

    It would be better if the national press did develop new sources, in Corbyn’s camp, at grassroots, in Momentum, in trade unions, outside London — if they did try seeing things though eyes of grassroots campaigners, not through Westminster gameplay. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    Suspended CLPs need justice and answers

    A big slice of the Labour Party also got Jeremy Corbyn wrong. The election results show how Labour’s left saved the party — but a chunk of the Labour machine and PLP did all it can to avoid being saved.

    Corbyn’s campaign beat back the Tories to a Pyrrhic victory, a minority government that will crumble.

    It showed Labour has a path back to power, based on a positive socialist programme and grassroots organisation. Labour doesn’t have to try — and fail — to squeak in past the tabloids by making concessions to Murdoch. But had Labour MPs and Labour head office got their way, none of this would have happened.

    Labour’s regional offices did not believe the party was going to make advances in the election, and focused on Labour-held seats with a 1,000 or so majority. In many Tory-held-marginals and seats with a smaller Labour majority it was up to local members to have bigger ambitions — often with Momentum and Unite activists in the lead.

    Take for example Brighton’s Labour branches. They have grown massively thanks to enthusiasm for Corbyn. They have elected Momentum-supporting constituency officers.

    The party machine responded in 2016 by first suspending the whole branch, then suspending individual officers.

    But those same Momentum-led grassroots activists went beyond the official target seats in this election. In 2017 they put their energies into Tory-held Brighton Kemptown — and won: Brighton Kemptown’s new MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, turned a Tory seat into a Labour one with a 10,000 majority, on a 19 per cent swing.

    In several other constituencies, Momentum, left and local activists went beyond Labour’s official campaign and won the seat for Labour.

    Labour MPs’ standing ovation for Corbyn in the Commons this week shows the bulk of the PLP now knows he was right.

    But we need to make the same recognition for grassroots activists: some of the best members of Brighton Labour Party, the ones who helped win the party a new seat, are still suspended, still waiting for an explanation.

    They need to be allowed to return to full membership right away.

    Follow Solomon Hughes on Twitter @SolHughesWriter.


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