Video: Salman Shaheen on BBC Daily Politics


33 responses to “Video: Salman Shaheen on BBC Daily Politics”

  1. John Penney says:

    Well done Salman. A very measured , confident, presentation of Left Unity to a potentially very wide audience. Andrew Neil and co were surprisingly civilised too – which makes a very pleasant change when a Left wing spokesperson is being interviewed on the mass media.

  2. Pete McLaren says:

    This is excellent Salman. I thought you dealt with the quite difficult questions about the multitude of groups on the left very well indeed whilst making it clear Left Unity was inclusive, pluralistic and open. And i don’t think your views can be described as moderate! Well done

  3. Joe Barr says:

    I would like to add my 2 bob’s worth too, Salman was very good indeed. Andrew Neil & his cohorts had obviously done some homework and the idea seemed to be to look down on and have a laugh at the ‘Loonie Left’ newbies. Salman did very very well with some very quietly confident responses. It may not have been the most nasty attack by a journalist ever, but I thought they did have a dig or two & Salman’s smiles won the day. A fine job young man.

  4. Anthony Rawlinson says:

    Socialists are not pacifists. It’s important that we are armed only to defend ourselves against those who want to maintain inequality and impoverishment; in that we should never initiate violence and should it use only as defense.

  5. Merry Cross says:

    Brilliant Salman! Thank you so much for doing such an excellent job for us all. And yes, Andrew Neill was patronising and sneering and you kept calm and made the right points in the right way. One of the people who follows me on twitter commented on how well you did and it has got her interested in Left Unity.

  6. Mick Bailey says:

    Well done Salman. I have been at conference today and despite what appears as a relative newbie to be an outdated way of running the conference, I was inspired.

  7. John Tummon says:

    At this stage, the was exactly what we need to be saying on the issues thrown at us in this interview. If we can build up our branches so that they reflect wider society – not just existing activists – and become properly embedded in their local working class communities, that is the thing (and the only thing) that can make the heads of the Labour Left, the Green Left, Respect and the SWP turn towards us on any significant scale. To me, that means the real ‘suck it and see’ time will be after the next General Election when the dust has settled and a Labout – LibDem coaltion is delivering austerity.

    • David Melvin says:

      Agree John; but if Labour don’t win will the unions still stick with Labour? In an interview in the Guardian about Left Unity in September last year with John Harris Len McCluskey he said that “I fear for the existence of the Labour party (if the Tories won in 2015) and didn’t rule out Unite walking away from the Labour party:”I wouldn’t rule anything out. In extraordinarily times, extraordinary things happen”. No doubt comrades in Unite can remind McCluskey of this in due course.

      • David Melvin says:

        Does this mean that Len McCluskey has been reading the Left Unity website?

  8. Danny O'Dare says:

    Truly dire performance – bending over backwards to be responsible, respectable, sensible, thoroughly non-revolutionary, etc. This sort of approach will get LU exactly *nowhere*.

    • So, by implication, you think being irresponsible, unrespectable, and insensible will get Left Unity somewhere? Hmmm.

      • Gabor Voros says:

        I don’t agree with Danny O’Dare regarding performance, but he has a very good point. Way too early trying to appeal to the centre at this stage, they’ll vote for various forms of tory anyway. Left Unity has its roots in the radical left. It is absolutely essential to communicate this radicalism, otherwise there’s no chance uniting them/us. Don’t forget, we are disillusioned, dissatisfied, betrayed and angry.

        You should shock the public with ideas like direct democracy: Why only the EU? We demand a vote on every decision that affects our lives. -Then people take notice, job done.

        Your respectably civilized style should only be a vehicle to the very radical left wing ideas of the people you represent.

      • I’m in favour of a system much closer to direct democracy, but I do think it’s important to communicate our radical ideas in ways that allow working class, poor and vulnerable people to see that our policies would directly benefit their lives and help them with the issues they’re struggling with today – living wage, public health service, renationalised transport and energy for lower costs etc.

      • Gabor Voros says:

        Those issues you mentioned are very important indeed. This is why the mainstream parties are making ‘pre-election’ noises about them too. Even Osborne was having the cheek talking about ‘full employment’ lately, or Milliband about the Rail franchises. LU’s responsibility now is to highlight their hypocrisy and the bitter reality that they cannot be trusted on delivering these promises, and that in reality it isn’t the electorate that they serve.

        There are issues they are scared to talk about. That is our/your territory. UKIP got that bit absolutely spot on. IMHO whatever you communicate on behalf of LU must be MARKEDLY different from the smooth talking LibLabCon as well as the populist far right.
        In your first BBC interview I think you delivered the second, but failed on the first. You fell into the reporter’s clever trap by not being radical enough. If people won’t see why this party is fundamentally different they might as well vote Labour.
        For example, there was this question about the motion disbanding the army, etc… You could, and perhaps should have capitalized on that, saying you personally don’t agree with the motion, but there are indeed serious questions to be asked about all the the basic institutions in this country, such as the Army, the Police, the political parties, lobbying, the Banks, Corporations, or indeed, the BBC. Are these institutions acting in the interest and benefit of the people in Britain? Wouldn’t it be nice to restore the BBC’s political neutrality for example? Oops!

        Overall, there’s a lot to take from this not at all bad performance and I can see you having more than enough talent to get the balance right eventually and become a breath of fresh air in British politics, a lot of us have been waiting for.

        I wish you good luck and a lot of courage. For now you have my full support.

  9. Stephen Harper says:

    Although not adding anything substantially different from the comments already made, i have to say that Salman’s communication skills, style and political knowse displayed in this interview are exactly what’s required in assisting to build Left Unity using the media. Of course this doesn’t mean that smooth is always the approach… as of course Salman wouldn’t disagree.

  10. Liz Gray says:

    An excellent interview Salman. You came across as rational and completely in control of the argument. Well done.

  11. Mick Hall says:


    I enjoyed this, and believe me that is a first where Andrew Neil is concerned


    Responsible, respectable, sensible, non-revolutionary is what the overwhelming majority of the English working class are, and we cannot ignore that fact. It is the mistake many small left groups have made for decades.

    The comrade did well, please stop turning in on ourselves, when was the last time you heard a party politician, and that is what Salman is, call for the nationalisation of the railways and electricity supply and the rest of the policies he supported.

    Would I prefer it if the working classes stormed parliament and turfed the buggers out, yes, but it ain’t going to happen, not in the short term. We are in desperate need of a party which will defend and fight for our best interest. One that has policies which with hard work can gain mass working class support.

    Such a party needs a strong revolutionary wing which can pull it to the left and keep it on the straight and narrow. But if all comrades do is pick holes how does that advance the class struggle?

  12. David Melvin says:

    Excellent interview Salmon. Having been to my first LU conference yesterday, we have clarified policy on austerity and Europe, with this kind of media exposure LU can go forward as a mass party, in due course, of the European Left.

  13. John Tummon says:

    Salman was quite right to say how he would vote on the militia issue. I would have voted the same way but, other than that, I am on the other wing of the party to Salman; like he said, it is a broad church and, in my view, it needs to stay that way for a decade at least. Both entrism and sectarian groupuscule politics have failed and Left Unity is what it is in order to make a new start which learns from both these failures – of the Left insdie and outside the Labour Party.

    As to Salman’s comment that LU is “both” an autonomous party and a pressure group on Labour, again, this is technically correct, although I think the former is what we are consciously building & the latter is a conscious by-product of this. The dilemma is going to be whether the Labour Left feels that our autonomous presence makes their job inside the Labour Party easier and stay where they are or they jump ship because we look to be making inroads and seem to them much more like their natural home. That’s where tactics come in.

    I don’t how the membership figures so don’t know if Salman is right that most of our members are dissafected ex-Labour rather than ex-members of other Left groups, but there is probably a considerable overlap between the political origins of most of us, so he may well be technically right & economicial with the truth, which is what is – unfortunately – required for dealing with the godawful media we need for wider exposure.

    So long as we do not end up like the other broad church parties – with a membership always outmanoevred by a ‘moderate’ leadership – we will be alright.

    Where I disagree most with Salman is his depiction of our Communist comrades as the extreme Left within LU. As a Libertarian Republican Socialist, there are so many issues in which I regard Communists and Trotskyists as to my right. Politics, especially on the Left, is more complex than the conventional notion of the political spectrum allows for. The fascination of a broad church is that, insofar as we can each keep our precious acquired truths from overriding our ability to hear others, we have a chance of evolving not just policies but ways of working and operating that are dynamic, relevant and have a resonance with the millions of suffering people who have been turned off politics during the long, 30-year decline in democracy.

    • You’re right that politics is more complex than a simple left and right political spectrum. On some issues, indeed, I consider myself to be to the left of the CPGB. But it’s difficult to sum all of this up in a 30 second response to a right-wing interviewer who has laid some careful traps on a mainstream TV channel.

      • John Tummon says:

        More than difficult! No, I was not raising this as an issue which could have been phrased differently in that interview, but only as an internal analytical point. Your interview bumped our public profile along nicely, bringing in a couple of hundred new members in its wake, and more of the same will strengthen that momentum and our growth. Getting these new recruits quickly into branches and making those branch meetings welcoming, interesting, participative and outward-orientated is the follow-on priority and what the rest of us need to focus on now.

    • John Penney says:

      Good post John. On a not specifically “political” aspect of our Left Unity ambition to be a “broad church movement” , very evident at Conference was a current membership composition which we shall have to work hard to change – in three key areas:

      We are so far disproportionately a very middle-aged party – comfortable for oldies like me – but where are the young people, who are being particularly stomped on by so many aspects of the Austerity Offensive ?

      We are also an overwhelmingly ethnically “White” party at this early stage.

      And I get the impression from the initial attempts to analyse the occupational backgrounds/union memberships of members that we are overwhelmingly “public sector white collar”.

      It’s very early days for our new party, but these are all membership composition features we need to change quickly, to break out of “the Left bubble” into being a broadly based working class party of radical change.

  14. Gene O'sullivan says:

    I do not want to hear concerns about how a party that truly represents the left, is statistically made up. Politics is now a stagnant pool of the self interested desire for power for its own sake. Let the pursuit, to leave a fair and just society for our children to raise their own children in, speak for itself and it will attract from all aspects of that society.

  15. Patrick Black says:

    The ‘loony left’ tag is a problem for Left Unity in terms of how we present ourselves,discuss and debate politics.It is one we need to address.

    When there are small, sad and lonely political ‘sects’ existing within the party in need of a serious ‘reality check’ as they dont appear to possess a shred of ‘common sense’, putting forward crazy motions to disband the British army and create armed people’s militias then we will become a complete laughing stock and such ideas merely perpetuate a lot of people’s idea of The Left, which they dislike and distrust and view as the ‘Life of Brian Left’ as do many on The sane Left.Weep now !

    Such ideas arent serious coherent ‘Left’ politics of any kind, they are simply insulting,insane and infantile aberrations and unfortunately now several of the sects have wormed their way into Left Unity ,if we are not careful they are capable of seriously damaging and discrediting, sabotaging and derailing the party at every turn,severely limiting and curtailing it’s appeal and advance.

    We had a conference last year to establish a broad Left ‘reformist’ , potentially radical, socialist party based on socialism, feminism and environmentalism ie facing up to looming catastrophic climate change.

    If some people want to create yet another so called revolutionary socialist party then please go off somewhere else and do that. Thinking that by being in Left Unity as a ‘strong revolutionary wing’ will pull the party to The Left is completely misguided in my view ! Hello, it… is… not… a.. ‘revo…lu…tionary’ party, so think again if you think it is, should be or could be.You never know you might actually be in the wrong party.

    Yes,the party needs a range of views as well as a healthy sense of humour but I’d rather laugh through tears than weep in despair.People need hope and confidence in the idea that there can be a realistic, viable and coherent Socialist alternative and yes, Left Unity needs to develop that and be able to be ‘credible’ and yes, ‘sell’ that to a large mass of disillusioned people thoroughly disillusioned and distrustful of politics and politicians of all kinds.

    Like many members of Left Unity,I dont want it to become yet another car crash on the road to nowhere in the history of the Left in this country.

    How do we deal with the sects,desperately seeking attention,who see an opportunity to spout their nonsense and divert people’s energies away from where it should be directed which is towards creating a viable,credible and coherent Left party ?

    • Robert Lyons says:

      Patrick, the best cure for sectarian nonsense is to organise the campaigns on issues which matter to people, to create the movements which can attract those who want to see change.

      A movement to bring back our assets into the public sphere, whether it be the Royal Mail or the railways; an attack against the dismantling of the NHS services, starting with a single case of privatisation if need be, can work to give a voice to the mass frustrations felt by the peoples of Britain.

      It can start with a small group of dedicated LU members, but believe me, you would be surprised at how a campaign if carried into the unions and the communities, can have an impact on how people come to see LU.

      Besides, it gets the armchair Marxists off their duffs and brings them into contact with real working people, the best antidote I know of for the illness of sectarianism.

    • John Tummon says:

      Patrick, what you seem to be doing is to attach the ‘militia’ motion to the politics of all revolutionaries within Left Unity in order to argue that it is only reformist and therefore narrower than the broad church Salman referred to. Many of us come from various political organisations on the Left which are revolutionary in name and aims but have failed to gain any influence within the working class, so we are dumping our pet certainties on the way in and being very open in debate. The old lables of ‘reformist’ and ‘revolutionary’ are themselves creating problems – stereotyping each other so as to impede real discussion. At its worst this becomes name-calling, such that arguments are not judged on their merits but on the seeming allegiance of the speaker or writer, proposer or amender. I actually think the way the Manchester confernce got through policy formulation was much better than this, so please don’t drag us back into this empty and largely abstract debate. Left Unity should only be a battleground between rival ideas insofar that it ends up with policies, ways of working and campaigns that take us all forward.

    • Lee Rock says:

      Hi Patrick

      You stated in the Sheffield LU Branch meeting after the Manchester Conference that you also favour disbanding the British Army.

      What would you replace it with?

      And what other positions that have been put by the revolutionary groups within LU do you have serious concerns about?


  16. Robboh says:

    I really like that Salman, I think he should be the leader of Left Unity. Unfortunately I think he’s being a bit naive as to the prospects of LU. You promise this and that yet how are you going to deliver when you are not even standing in the elections? And I do not believe for one minute that the majority of LU members are disaffected Labour voters, Im sure there some, but I think the main clump of your members are from the usual suspects far left organisations. A good idea would be to allow Labour members to join LU, swelling the ranks with people who are not so extreme or utopian (thats if you count living in East Germany a “dream”). Best of luck to you Salman.

  17. Red Faced Man says:

    Congratulations, Salman on an very polished performance. You came across as sincere and very likeable. I look forward to seeing you on Question Time one day. Democracy needs a greater variety of opinions and choices and Left Unity will hopefully deliver these. I disagree with the view that Andrew Neil was hostile, he is supposed to challenge those he interviews. Neil came across as a little slow-witted, labouring the point about the profusion of far-left parties, unable to grasp the idea that Left Unity is open to all, and Salman graciously put him right. Well done! Great publicity!

  18. Rob Marsden says:

    Former Labour Party members are more than welcome to join Left Unity and many already have. We could always do with more, of course!

  19. Miguel Martinez says:

    Andrew Neil played the card of the left being a lunatic fringe – we just have to ignore this and push ahead with our agenda as Salman did in the interview. The establishment is vulnerable and the BBC presents the left in a away that it would not present the increasingly neo-fascist right segments of the UK which are let off on so much. We just have to keep pushing with our plans and point out the politics and vision of our agenda. Towards the end of the interview Salman’s reflective and honest position won out as the pro Austerity agenda of Labour was acknowledged even by the others. In the future though we need to be less defensive and point out the failings of the economic and political system.

  20. stamper says:

    the idea that andrew neil approached this differently to how he approaches any other politician on his show is crap (clearly you don’t know the guy’s style). all such an incorrect observation does is reveal a whinging ‘i am a victim’ type mentality. get up, stand up, but don’t go running home to your mommy after the first little fracas ffs.

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