Why Mhairi Black is Right

In case anyone missed it, here is a link to “the great maiden speech” made by the young SNP MP, Mhairi Black. ERNIE JACQUES is among those who believe Labour should support her call for a parliamentary coalition against the cuts.

Mhairi BlackAged 20 and just out of school, Black said it was not nationalism which trashed the Labour Party in Scotland but Labour’s support for neoliberalism, big money and austerity. And I think she has a point (although I part of her speech was egging the cake a little as nationalism was clearly part of the mix during the general election).

She goes on to say that, as a natural Labour supporter and social democrat, she feels is was Labour who left her and not the other way round. Her riposte to chancellor George Osborne’s budget spin was brilliant – it challenged the Tory nonsense about foodbanks being part of a modern welfare state full-on and did so with none of the equivocation and spinelessness of the Labour front bench where Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman was in full surrender mode.

I think her Tony Benn quote about principles, weathercocks and signposts was also spot-on and goes to the heart of Labour’s and current political demise. Her call for a broad parliamentary coalition against the Tory benefit cuts should be supported by all on the anti-Tory side.

I doubt this will get much support from the timid Labour front bench team who, with a very few exceptions, really epitomise Benn’s vacuous and unappealing political weathercocks. I would love to be proved wrong.

Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the House of Commons has reportedly been watched 10 million times on You Tube. It can be seen here.

Is Ernie right to sing her praises, or is she “passionate, sincere and inspiring, but also utterly mistaken”, as Deborah Orr wrote in the Guardian this weekend?


  1. Jonathan Timbers
    30 July 2015

    Ernie is right, Labour needs to learn how to ‘speak human’ again.

    Black’s speech is moving and humane but, judging by pre-election budget commitments, Labour is actually more of an anti-austerity party than the SNP. Trying to appeal to Tory England, Labour spun it as ‘fiscal responsibility’ when in fact its spending plans were much more generous than the SNP’s.

    This article, based on the authoritative (but left leaning) analysis of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says it all. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/04/snps-anti-austerity-rhetoric-does-not-reflect-its-plans-says-ifs

    I become emotional when I listen to SNP rhetoric, but I prefer Labour’s economic approach.

  2. Harry Barnes
    22 July 2015

    Mhairi Black made a fine maiden speech. There is also clear grounds for seeking at least an unofficial united front on the opposition benches against the general thrust of the Conservative government’s rush of anti-social proposals. Such a move would clearly benefit from some avenue of Labour and SNP co-operation and common understanding.

    But to reach such a position, many points would need to be clarified. How far was Mhairi speaking on behalf of the SNP? If so, how much of their approach reflects their general political stance and how much is just Scottish politicking ? In any shared Labour-SNP parliamentary campaining, will the SNP be prepared to put the notion of Scottish independence on the back burner?

    Labour’s future direction of travel is (imperfectly) under some form of debate in the current leadership contest. Although there would probably be a PLP bust-up if Liz or Jeremy became leader, such a subsequent wreckage might eventually come to make it clear which direction of travel Labour comes to adopt. Even if the victory goes to Yvette or Andy and helps to keep the parliamentary show on the road, there might still be enough turmoil across the Labour Party to eventually result in it delivering some form of platform, which we could then support or reject.

    On Mhari’s Bennism – whilst I am neither a Bennite nor a Leninist, I tend to prefer Lenin’s alternative call for the need to be able to tack and manouvre towards socialism – whatever his practices then were. It is a more realistic vision than just having a rigid signpost which ignores the coming pitfalls. Pursuing socialist objectives in a capitalist world means that we should really know which way the wind is blowing in order that we know best how to skirt round it.

    The current problem we face is what structures do we need to develop if we are to make progress against the gales of capitalism ? Reformed Labour, the Greens or something we know not what? Or should it be a party political opt out, whilst moving on to sign-petitions, joining demonstrations, making international links and joining picket lines – although we can do these in any case whilst also still messing about in the Labour Party.

    And If we go for the SNP for Scotland, what do we then go for in England – an ENP? And who will that attract? There are no easy answers on the horizon, no matter how well Mhairi may have spoken.

    In the first rebellion against Harriet, 20 % of the PLP have rebelled. The first rebellion against the Blair government, over its very own cuts in single parent benefiits, saw only some 11% rebel. Perhaps things are slowly getting better!

  3. Ernie Jacques
    21 July 2015

    • 40,000 families evicted last year because of bedroom tax and unmanageable debt
    • benefit cap to take another £300 million, £63 per week, from poorest households (affecting 333,000 children) in first 12 months
    • £12 billion welfare cuts to be hoovered out of local economies serving deprived neighbourhood communities across the UK
    • housing associations and social housing facing extinction
    • social cleansing to rise exponentially in the wake of welfare cuts and soaring rents (50,000 families forced out of London boroughs alone over past three years).

    All of these points were well made by Jeremy Corbyn who said: “Welfare cuts and the rocketing cost of rent are leading to a social cleansing of central London.” He could and should have added that this is happening without so much as a whimper from Labour’s front bench or from Labour local authorities who seem bankrupt of ideas and have no strategy for change. Worse still, in many respects, it is Labour politicians who are complicit the regeneration and gentrification of run-down areas and in facilitating the social cleansing of working class communities.

    Osborne’s welfare cuts, then, will prove hugely damaging to the incomes and living conditions of the UK’s working poor and most vulnerable citizens and should have been opposed without equivocation by Labour in a progressive coalition with the SNP and others.

    But last night (Monday, 20 July) just 48 Labour MPs voted against this transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, with some 184 sitting on their hands and doing the opposite of what a Labour opposition are supposed to do. Politicians who know full well that despite all the spin about a living wage and workers being better off, Osborne’s budget will devastate the budgets of millions of their constituents struggling on a knife-edge to pay their way, feed their families and keep their homes, many of whom will be aspirational working class strivers who they earnestly claim to represent.

    In the wake of this shameful non-opposition, team Cameron has the green light to privatise with impunity, downsize the welfare state, play the blame game and to force the most weak and vulnerable UK citizens to pay a heavy price for the greed, dishonesty, excesses and crimes committed by derivative traders, city bankers, corporate Britain, non-doms and tax avoiders.

    Am I alone in thinking that a Labour opposition which cannot or will not oppose more attacks on the working poor has lost its way and sense of purpose, and is less than useless as a vehicle for social change, fairness and a one nation society? To paraphrase Tony Benn, last night we witnessed the inaction of 184 spineless weathercocks.

    I mean what is the point of a Labour Party led by self-serving, vacuous, neoliberal apologists like Liz Kendall, Chuka Umuna and Tristram Hunt, who play the system, change nothing and expect us to vote them into office on the principle of Bugin’s turn? No thanks.

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