Festival of Politics in Leeds (November 2016)

Apologies for not posting on this site since we announced the sad news of the death of our friend and Taking Soundings founder and stalwart, Matthew Caygill. We’ve been doing some re-thinking and are pleased to say that we have new committee members and plans for future meetings.


Right now, we recommend these events organised by our colleagues at Leeds Beckett University

The annual Festival of Politics & International Relations involves a programme of talks, debates, workshops, films and other events providing opportunities for argument and discussion on a range of social, political and economic issues – contemporary and historical, national and global.

Full information/registration

Each year speakers include academics, politicians, campaigners and journalists and this year we are delighted to confirm the following visiting speakers:

  • Making Sense of the Syrian Conflict- Federico Venturini, Leeds Friends of Rojava & Javaad Alipoor, co-author ‘Khiyana: Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution’
  • Should universities be ‘Safe Spaces’?- Robert Sharp,  Head of Campaigns and Communications, English PEN www.englishpen.org
  • Responding to the Refugee Crisis. What can be done, locally and nationally?- Jon Beech.  Director, Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network (LASSN) www.lassn.org.uk
  • Can Labour Win Under Jeremy Corbyn?- Richard Burgon MP (Labour, Leeds East) Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

All events are free and open to the public except for those indicated.

For more information and to register for events, please go to: https://pirfestival2016.eventbrite.co.uk

Please share with your networks and students.

The festival is organised by the Politics & International relations Group in the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett University.


Doreen Massey on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour

One of the founders of Soundings journal, Doreen Massey, writes here on why we should support Jeremy Corbyn’s effort to re-orientate the Labour Party.

>> From the Lawrence and Wishart blog . . .

Guest blog by Doreen Massey, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the Open University, founding editor of Soundings and editor of After Neoliberalism? The Kilburn Manifesto 

Doreen Massey discusses Jeremy Corbyn’s break from the leadership of the past and his attempt to challenge the dominant terms of debate, instead of accepting that he has to operate on the established political terrain.

She questions how, exactly, we can seize the moment and begin to subvert the dominant common sense, and how the energy and arguments of the emergent politics can filter out into, and give confidence to, wider sections of society.

Read Doreen’s blog here

Rustin and Massey reflect on the 2015 UK election

Michael Rustin and Doreen Massey, along with the late Stuart Hall, founded the journal Soundings, from which Taking Soundings has borrowed. In ‘Post Election Blues in Britain’ (probably the first article in this Lawrence and Wishart blog), they analyse Labour’s failure.

Readers like me with an interest in psycho-politics might look at the next article in the blog, ‘Reflections on the 2015 Election’, a longer piece from Mike Rustin, in which he discusses the unconscious splits and projections in the electorate that (he and his wife Margaret argue) were a factor in the result.

Followers of Soundings will know that Rustin, Massey and Hall were editors of the Kilburn Manifesto (2014).

Followers of Taking Soundings (it’s an open house) can hear Mike Rustin speaking about Labour and the election at one of our forthcoming events in Leeds, UK, on 16th July 2015.

Michael Rustin on Labour’s failure

Taking Soundings is pleased to have Michael Rustin speaking at our event in Leeds on 16th July 2015. He’s one of the founders of Soundings journal (with Dorren Massey and the late Stuart Hall) and one of the authors of the Kilburn Manifesto which we’ve featured here before.

Rustin and Massey have recently summarised their views on why Labour failed in this article for Il Manifesto, published here in English, as Post Election Blues in Britain 


Please join us at the meeting with Michael Rustin on Thursday July 16th, at 6PM. Sometimes we meet at The Tetley, but this meeting will be back at our old venue in Broadcasting Place (opposite the Fenton on Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9EN).

For more details contact Matthew Caygill at m.caygill@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.


After the UK general election: what next?

Leeds Taking Soundings

Monday, May 11th,  6PM Broadcasting Place BPAG02 (opposite The Fenton on Woodhouse Lane)

After the Elections 2015

The results are in, the post-election political shenanigans have started. Who knows what will happen!

But we think it worthwhile to make an early stock-take of how these elections have affected the broad left. We have speakers who are in the Labour Party, the Greens and Yorkshire First to discuss how the political world looks to them immediately after these elections. Hopefully, with the battle for votes over and hangovers quelled, there’s time for a deep breath and some reflexive analysis.

(in alphabetical order)

Richard Carter (Leader, Yorkshire First). Actually we don’t know that much about Yorkshire First, but are interested in a local version of a progressive regionalism after the showing of the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Tim Goodall (Green candidate Leeds North West). We’ve had Natalie Bennett speak to us in the past – the Green Party is a lot bigger now than it was then. We’re hoping for an analysis of where Green politics goes next.

Sarah Perrigo (Labour Party). Sarah is a long-term critical and reflexive  member of the Labour Party, so we are hoping for a reflexive account of Ed Miliband’s Labour Party performance and prospects.

All welcome. Contact Matthew Caygill (m.caygill@leedsbeckett.ac.uk) for further information.

Find the Leeds Taking soundings blog at: http://www.takingsoundings.org.uk/

Please follow the Leeds Taking Soundings Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Leeds-Taking-Soundings

Labour: like Syriza, or like Pasok?

Doreen Massey and Mike Rustin (co-founders of Soundings journal) say:

‘The big question is whether Labour can rise to the challenge, accept the enormity of the changes needed and put forward a compelling vision for the future. The alternative may well be “Pasokification”.’ Read their full article in openDemocracy here 

What is Plan C? Taking Soundings event on Monday 16th March

Please note: our next event is at The Tetley (not our usual stalking ground at Leeds Becket University). It’s in the centre of Leeds, close to Leeds Bridge and the Adelphi pub. We are experimenting with a more convivial location – The Tetley has wonderful art exhibitions and an excellent bar and restaurant. More about The Tetley here.  And it’s on a Monday, not our usual Wednesday. And we are starting at 7pm, not our usual 6pm, so you might get there early to use the facilities and chat. 

Dr Keir Milburn answers the question:

What is Plan C?

The main government response to the financial crisis that began in 2006 has been austerity and repression. The crisis of neoliberalism needs… more neoliberalism! Our political and economic elites, the dominant fractions of capital, are incapable of new thinking. For them there is only one plan, Plan A. More of the same. They cannot solve this crisis, they can only displace it. In response some propose a Plan B. Indeed there have been many. But most of these remain too trapped by the past. They seek a return to the postwar years, the Keynesian deal. Yet there is no route of return, the world is too altered, that vision of change is too limited.

If we reject Plan A and Plan B then what should we call Plan C? The reopening of strategy, the making of plans, attention to what’s necessary, a rethinking of means. We want to use these lenses (Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C) to have a conversation about austerity and the responses to it. If a course of action is objectionable then we must do more than just object. Instead we pose the question: how do we make it stop? How do we exercise power? How do we build something different? How do we start from where we are, so together we can decide where we are off to?

Keir Milburn lives in Leeds and works at the University of Leicester. His research takes place on the boundaries between organisational theory, political theory and cultural studies. His recent focus has been on social movement organisation. Keir is a member of Plan C.  More about Keir here  More about Plan C here 

Time: 7 – 9pm

Date: Monday 16th March

Venue: The Tetley, Leeds. Directions here There is good parking and easy bus access.

All welcome. Free – but there will be a collection.

John Harris on Labour’s woes and some better ideas

As we approach that strange once-every-five-year moment when we have to decide whether we can bring ourselves to vote (nationally) for Labour, John Harris  reminds us just how out of touch the current leadership is. But he has some kinder words for its police review writers John Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford, for Compass and Podemos . . . but can Labour ever change sufficiently to capture the fissiparous times we live in now?  Read his interesting article here (in Prospect magazine, December 2014)

Having forgotten class, is the contemporary left narcissistic and individualistic?

OK, that question is not exactly the one that Toby Hill asks in this article for LeftFootFoward, but he is pretty cross that Labour can’t speak effectively to the people moving towards UKIP, many of whom actually have left-wing views.  His view of the contemporary left is pretty damning. More here

Focus on families, argues Jon Cruddas

Having just posted Andreas Bieler’s argument for a transformation in the social democratic model, here’s a short article [Guardian  14.10.13] based on an interview with one of the Labour Party’s chief strategists, Jon Cruddas MP, where he argues for a shift in focus for the party, with a new emphasis on the role of men.  Read more here