A crib sheet of responses to the crib sheet of lies about the Labour Party: Part two

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I decided to consolidate the frequently encountered lies about Labour Party policies and construct a crib sheet of responses founded on facts and evidence for anyone to use in challenging propaganda, nonsense and misinformation. Or to simply enlighten.

Here are some of the most frequently used lies that are paraded as “criticisms” of Labour, by a variety of fringe parties, the greens and the Scottish Nationalists, all claiming to be “left.” Ultimately, the only beneficiaries will be the Conservatives, left largely unchallenged by the narxist parties. The only party actually opposing the Tories is Labour.

In part one, I addressed the “allthesame” lie, the Iraq war and Labour’s position on austerity.

In part two, I aim to address Labour’s position on the TTIP, welfare, fracking and the renewal of Trident:

  • Labour support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal (TTIP).”

Whilst the Labour Party recognise that greater transatlantic trade and investment could be beneficial for Britain, they have always opposed the inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the agreement.

The ISDS contradicts principles of democratic accountability and would potentially allow one government to bind another for decades to come. Unlike the great majority of other treaties, investment treaties have very long minimum lifespans ranging up to 30 years.

Much debate has arisen concerning the impact of the controversial ISDS on the capacity of governments to implement reforms and legislative and policy programs related to public health, environmental protection, labour and human rights. (See – Labour MPs speak out against the TTIP and investigation opens into the impacts on environmental protections.)

In Britain, privatisation was primarily driven by Tory ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State.” The ISDS would stifle moves by a future democratically elected government to put the deregulation and privatisation process into reverse and bring our public services – including our NHS, railways, water, energy and other utilities – back into public ownership.

Where the ISDS has been forced into other trade agreements, it has allowed big global corporations, already with too much power, to sue Governments in front of secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass our domestic courts and override the decisions of parliaments and interests of citizens.

The Labour Party understand that no matter how economically beneficial the TTIP may be, potentially, such very serious threats posed by the ISDS clause to public services, civil rights, citizen well-being and democracy are untenable.

This is why in January, Labour MEPs called on the European Commission to remove the ISDS clause from the EU-US trade deal. It will now be opposed by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, which Labour MEPs are a part of. On 4 March, the S&D group in the European Parliament decided to oppose the ISDS in an almost unanimous vote.

The proposal was supported by 78 votes to five against. The adopted position was drafted by Labour MEP David Martin, who is the group co-ordinator on trade issues. (See – Labour MEPs secure support to reject the ISDS clause in the TTIP.)

The most controversial element of the TTIP has been taken off the negotiating table, thanks to Labour.

  • “Labour will be tougher on welfare than the Tories.”

Rachel Reeves has NEVER said that she will be “tougher on welfare.” She issued a statement shortly after being misquoted. Natalie Bennett perpetuated that misquote, too, originally from the Observer. (See Bennett’s article: Rachel Reeves is clear: Labour would set the struggling against the poorest.)

What Rachel Reeves actually said was she would be “tougher on the CAUSES of high welfare spending”  – such as low wages, unemployment, high private sector rents, lack of adequate housing, private company contracts and outsourcing – especially that instigated by Iain Duncan Smith: his vanity projects have cost us millions because contracted private companies have failed to deliver services, the policies are ill-conceived, creating higher costs, ultimately, rather than making any savings as the Tories claimed – the bedroom tax being an example, which Labour have pledged to scrap.

In simple terms, Labour strongly contest the causes of high spending on social security, seeing structural problems such as high unemployment, shortages of housing and poor policies as the underlying reasons, for example, whereas Tories simply blame individuals.

Labour has not committed to match the £12bn of further cuts to the welfare bill promised by George Osborne. Reeves said Labour aimed to cut welfare spending by increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and increasing youth employment. She said: “Labour believes in strong safety net, work for those who can and support for those who can’t.”

“The big savings to be had are by tackling the root causes of the benefits bill,” she said. “If every young person who can work is working and if people are paid a wage that they can afford to live on, so they don’t have to draw down on housing benefit and tax credit, then that’s going to save a lot more money than all the talk in the world about ‘shirkers and scroungers’.”

The fact that Rachel Reeves was misquoted was clarified to Caroline Lucas in Parliament, so the Green Party have no excuse for shamefully lying about the Labour Party’s policy intentions.

In the middle of crucial debate about the Work Capability Assessment and the plight of disabled people because of Coalition policies, initiated by the WOW campaign, Lucas lost all of my respect when she chose political point scoring instead of constructive debate and said this:

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I was disappointed that Rachel Reeves, on taking up her post as shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, used the opportunity of her first interview to say that she would be tougher than the Tories on people on benefits.

Kate Green (Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions); Stretford and Urmston, Labour); My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West did not say that. She said that she would be tougher on welfare spending, not on people on benefits.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East, Labour); Does the hon. Lady agree that there are some forms of welfare spending that we should bring down? In my view, one of those is the excessive amount that is paid to private landlords through housing benefit. I am certainly in favour of reducing that form of welfare spending. Is she not?

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I am very much in favour of that if the hon. Lady wants to put it under the heading of welfare spending... Source: Hansard – which is the parliamentary record. (See: 27 Feb 2014 : Column 457  at 1.29 pm, on the 2nd page.)

Nonetheless many have continued to misquote Reeves, using negative campaigning and smear tactics akin to the Tories to promote their own party. It’s time that some people distinguished between welfare spending and benefits, to conflate the two purely for political gain is deplorable, dishonest and not in the best interests of the electorate. (Also, see – We can reduce the Welfare Budget by billions: simply get rid of Iain Duncan Smith.)

Another lie about Labour’s intentions is that they intend to “scrap benefits for young people.” Of course this not true.

Ed Miliband has made it clear that he is REPLACING jobseekers allowance with another allowance for young people. He thinks that conditional benefits are inappropriate for young people, as to be entitled to jobseekers allowance requires having to be available for work and actively looking for work, so it excludes the very possibility of further education and learning experiences. But young people need the freedom and support to gain from learning.

That’s why Ed Miliband will replace out of work benefits for those aged 18-21 with a youth allowance of the same value. This isn’t the controversial issue that was presented by the mainstream media and other parties at all: it’s actually a very well thought out, cost efficient and positive policy.

So young people won’t have to be available for work, but they do have to use their freedom to be learning or training. This detail matters a lot and was excluded from most accounts of the policy. The new “youth allowance” is set at £57 – the same as Job Seekers Allowance for under 25s – provided they undertake vocational training of AS level or equivalent. Miliband had a good idea, it won’t cost any more than we currently pay young people, but it means we are investing in young people’s potential and their futures. (See – Template for costing policies of opposition parties: Training support for young people.)

  • “Labour support fracking.”

Labour have always had concerns about the safety of fracking and have demanded that robust regulations are put in place before any exploratory drilling takes place.

In Government, the Labour Party led the way on an international level as the first nation to put climate change at the heart of the G8 and to call a United Nations Security Council meeting on climate change.

On 16 October 2008, Ed Miliband, then the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, announced the world’s first Climate Change Act. It is worth remembering this historical legislative context: it has considerable bearing on why Labour opposes the current government’s almost fanatical faith in shale gas.

Labour’s position on fracking is that the development of shale gas cannot and must not come at the expense of meeting our legally binding obligation to avoid dangerous climate change, nor can fracking be given any nod of approval at all without scrupulous environmental safeguards in place. Any future Labour policy on fracking, either way, would be formulated with due care, after drawing on research and the meticulous gathering of evidence of all potential environmental risks.

Over the last three years, Labour has worked with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association, drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies to produce a list of vital conditions to reform the regulatory regime for shale gas. The conditions include independent inspection of well integrity, mandatory monitoring for fugitive emissions and a presumption against development in protected areas such as National Parks.

They represent a comprehensive approach, based on scientific evidence, to bring a rigour and coherence to the UK’s regulatory framework.

Labour recently successfully forced through these conditions as a series of legislative amendments to constrain government plans to “fast-track” fracking. George Osborne, the chancellor, was demanding “rapid progress” from cabinet ministers, including delivering the “asks” of fracking company Cuadrilla.

A moratorium, as proposed by the Green Party, would never have been successful at this stage, and Labour knew that. Had the moratorium actually gathered a successful yes vote, the Tories would most certainly not have abided by that, leaving them free without constraint to go ahead with their plans to fast-track the industry.

Labour succeeded in binding them to agree on considerable restrictions, which will tie the Tories’ hands until well after the election, as well as excluding almost half of the Country’s potential shale gas sites from being potential drilling sites.

Such a wide-ranging ban is a significant blow to the UK’s fracking industry, which David Cameron and George Osborne have enthusiastically backed. The future of fracking now looks to be in the balance. Many analysts say the outlook for fracking is bleak.

The Guardian goes on to say: “An independent analysis by Greenpeace also found that 45 per cent of the 931 blocks being licensed for fracking in England were at least 50 per cent covered by protected areas, which it said was likely to make them unattractive to fracking companies.

“Just three per cent of the blocks have no protected areas at all, Greenpeace found.”

Louise Hutchins at Greenpeace UK added: “The shale industry’s seemingly irresistible advance is now looking more and more resistible every day, unless ministers can explain why fracking is too risky for the South Downs but perfectly safe in the Lancashire countryside, the next obvious step is to ban this controversial technique from the whole of the UK.” (See: Legislative amendments from the Labour Party effectively constrain Tory plans to fast-track the fracking industry.)

  • “Labour support the renewal of Trident.”

Labour has historically close ties with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). In March 2007 the CND organised a rally in Parliament Square to coincide with the Commons motion to renew the Trident weapons system. The rally was attended by over 1,000 people. It was addressed by Labour MPs Jon Trickett, Emily Thornberry, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn.

In the House of Commons, 161 MPs (88 of them Labour) voted against the renewal of Trident and the Government motion was carried only with the heavy support of Conservatives.

High profile members of Labour CND include Jeremy Corbyn MP, former MP Alice Mahon and Walter Wolfgang. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were once members as young MPs.

Labour had announced their intentions of unilateral disarmament at their 1982 Conference and Kinnock subsequently retreated from that policy of outright unilateral nuclear disarmament because it was that which had lost Labour the previous two General Elections. Public support for the CND fell after the end of the Cold war. It had not succeeded in converting the British public to unilateralism and even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, British nuclear weapons still have majority support.

Unilateral disarmament has always been opposed by a majority of the British public, with the level of support for unilateralism remaining steady at around one in four of the population

A bitter dispute broke out after Kinnock sought to clarify policy by pledging to retain Trident indefinitely until the successful negotiation of an international agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The public opinion on Trident was that we should keep it until there is a multilateral agreement reached.

However, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidates in the 2015 election are speaking out about their opposition to Trident. There has been quite a marked swing towards unilateralism within the Party once more.

The views of Labour candidates are being published on the CND website as part of an ongoing survey, with 75% expressing opposition to Trident replacement to date. (See: Labour PPCs say Scrap Trident.

Even if Labour were to make only small gains, the unilateralist cause will be much stronger than in this parliament. (See: New Statesman – Exclusive: 75% of Labour PPCs oppose Trident renewal.)

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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for the excellent memes.

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