Category Archives: Labour Blogs

The State of the Parties 3: the UKIP Lightening Conductor


We are now entering a critical phase of this electoral cycle: local elections, parliamentary elections, further local elections, the European elections and the Scottish referendum on independance The outcomes of these elections will set the agenda for the next General Election. In this cycle, the fortunes of UKiP will determine the outcome of the General Election So long as UKIP’s standing in national polls is in excess of 10 percent, and it now stands at 13 percent in some polls, the Tories cannot win a General Election and Labour will be handicapped in the drive for a majority at Westminster. It is an easy prediction to make that UKIP is likely to top the Euro polls and at some time during 2014 will be showing, in some national opinion polls, support in the 20’s before a decline as the General Election approaches.

I assume that Scottish voters stay in control of their good senses and will vote No in the Scottish referendum. If so one would expect electoral support for the SNP to decline and a recovery of the Labour vote at Westminster to take place in Scotland. If this occurs then Laboiur would be diffiult to defeat in Westminster elections.

While economic predictions are foolhardy the odds are on poor economic performance up to May 2015. The best the Tories can hope for is slow growth, stable employment and a deficit edging slowly downwards. There will be little prospect of electoral bribes. This being so it is safe to predict that the chance of a Tory majority at the next
General Election are near to zero.

What then are the prospects for the Lib Dems? I do not under-rate the resiliance of the Lib Dems. However, if in the public mind they remain linked to the Tories in Coalition a reasonable prediction is that their parliamntsary position would decline substantially with a loss of 30-40 MPs. It would follow from this that it would be
most unlikely that they could play any part in a national coalition with any other party.

In these circumstances I would expect UKIP to win some Westminster seats at the expense of the Coalition parites but not enought seats to achieve any tactical advantage.

If this analysis is broadly right we would haver had a further shake in the party system that could in some circumstance lead to paralysis. As the economic circumstasnces inherited by a new Labour Government would be difficult if not dire Britain might emerge from the experiment of Coalition in a virtually ungovernable
situation.

All this will become clearer to participants and pundits. Will those individuals at the heart of this disaster do nothing? I have never believed that they would behave as rabbits staring into car lights. The Coalitiion will break up and David Cameron could be confronted with a leadership election before May 2015.

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Coalition: Arbeit macht frei and the Deserving Poor


It is sometimes necessary to shock to reveal an underlying truth. The title of this post is a well-known slogan above the entrance to the Auschwwitz concentration camp which in English means ‘labour makes you free’. In England next week the Coalition government is to give us, in the form of changes to the welfare system, an English version of an underlying truth. To draw the parallel closer I should really use the slogan about the Buchenwald concentration camp: Jadem das Seine( idomatically, everyone gets what they deserve).

Next week several hundreds of the poorest and most vulnerable families in England are to be faced with reductions in their welfare benefits. The Labour Party (admittedly a partisan source) has calculated that these families will lose some £800 over a year. At the same time anumber of members of the Cioalition Government will receice tax cuts worth £100,OOO a year.I am reliably infromed that these unknown members of our government deserve every penny of their tax cut. No dodgers there then.

It is sometimes supposed that the use of the term ‘deserving poor’ was invented in Germany. Not so, it was invented here and brought into law by several Poor Laws in Elizabethan times. I have had the opportunity to study the implementation of these Acts in Colchester, Essex (now represented by a Lib Dem MP.) The poor laws were administered by the local parish churches. Abandoned children and the unemployed on the street corners were brought under the direction of the Parish. Here they were expected to work and at 14 aid ceased although some Parishes provided apprenticeships (ring any bells now?). In some of these parishes the beneficiaries were made to carry a large red letter P on their outer garments to denote that they were recipients of care. Naturally like the Jews in Berlin in the 1930’s with their yellow labels these children were fair game for any spare abuse going on at the time. A sort of badge of shame.

It is said to us by the Coalition that only the deserving poor are worth helping and that there are a lot of scroungers, the undeserving poor, who don’t deserve to receive any benefits whatsoever. For them it is Jadem das Seine or idiomatically, ‘get a job you lousy scrounger). I wonder does the Coalition have any ideas for the introduction of a badge. Let me know dear readers if you know something.

Now of course there are many recipients of welfare who are working but they too are thought undeserving. They will continue to suffer a cut in their wages in real terms because of high inflation and many millions of people are not being paid a living wage but in some mysterious way they remain undeserving. Tough luck, I hear you say plenty of good jobs in the City of London and anyway some of them are Romanian immigrants taking advantage of our low wages.

If you think I am exagerating? I suggest you direct your letter of protest to George Osborne or Nick Clegg. But if as I suspect you are a member of the undeserving poor be careful in the language you use. These public school boys know how to defend each other.

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Osborne: The Door Tax


The rumour circulating the corridors of Westminster is that our George is to introduce a door tax in next weeks Budget. A door tax! I hear you exposulate.What the hell is that? Hold on. I’ll explain A great deal of thought has gone into this. I’ll elucidate.
It’s no good just increasing taxes on a few regulars. It is subject to diminishing returns (See ch.2, Bentham The Principles of Economics). We need something that is new, easily levied and fair to rich and poor alike. By door I mean door space – every room has to have one. I know you smart Alec’s will take a screwdriver and remove the doors but you can’t fill up the spaces and get in and out of the room. Caught you there. We don’t need to be precise. There would be a scale according to the number of romms. Lets take the usual sort of 3 bedroomed house. We would assume 8 door spaces, a two bedroomed property 5 spaces and so on. Now here’s the egalitarian bit. How many doors does a mansion have? Well a small one might have 15-20, a large one, well goodness knows. Let the devil take the hindpost. Get the idea. Let’s assume £10 permonth for a small property and £40 for a large one: that is the tax wil range between £60 a year and £500 a year with the rich paying more. Get it? The number of homes is some 35 million (Well you try to do better.) This we can say is an informed guess. The type of forecast you would expect from the Treasury -let alone the OBR, giggle, giggle. This revolutionary new tax would raise £1,800 million a year. Good bye crisis. Move to one side, David, I’m coming in. The Treasury watchwords under my guidance are create, invent and pioneer. We Osborne’s didn’t get where we did in life by the wailing and nashing of teeth. At least not our teeth!

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Cameron:the language of new-colonialism


David Cameron would deny that his recent foreign policy statements in Africa, and Franco-British intervention in Libya and Mali, amount to a philosphy of neo-colonialism. However, it does and I shall seek to explain. It is sometimes said that British colonial policy was never intended to create colonies. All we Btish really wanted to do was to trade and found new businesses (and to take a few slaves on the waY), to develop (exploit) African resources, mainly minerals but also a variety of natural resources. However, to protect and expand our trading activities we needed secure government, a system of commercial law to regualate commercial transactions, the creation of a prosperous local economy and a well-educated indiginous population. Once established, and with a democratic liberal economy secured, we could withdraw. The White Man’s mission would then be complete. What could be more reasonabl than that?

Is not that policy the driving force for disturbance in Algeria, Nigeria, and Libya? Of curse we cannot colonise in the same way. But their is a way, oh boy is there not? Cameron goes to various African countries and tells them what they must do – and glory, glory that Britain will help. Of course numerous African countries do need help but there are numerous agencies public and private who can give this help. The natural sourcs of help are United Nations agencies, voluntary organisations and philanthropic interest. It might reasonabley be demanded: no military activities without UN backing and initiatives. I do see the case for French intervention to help Mali but then, help delived, out the troops shoul go, and in should come a UNforce with the right mandate and training. Into the political vaccuum must come the African Union and the leadership of those African countries able to help out. The very last thing Africa needs is David Cameron’s rhetoric of long term military intervention by the old colonial powers.

Of course, I recognise that there are geo-political considerations. It is not unreasonable for a power to seek the protection of its interests elsewhere. There are security threats but what are they and how can they be protected. Step forward the invention of evil outside forces. Today, it is said it is the threat of terrorism. The main deterrent to terrorist groups is political opposition that renders them redundant. An opposition led by Africans. And it must be said that the right leader in Africa is South Africa with its racial mix and strong economy. How helpful it would be if South Africa came up to the mark. Any prospect David of you visiting South Africa? Foreign military intervention does not mimimise the risk of terrorism , it streghthens it by stirring up tribal and national forces of resistance to outsiders. I pose an important question. How real, when properly examined, is a terroris attach on Europe from the jungles of Africa. Dare I mention Iraq?

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The Present State of the Parties: 2


I have been very quiet in 2012. The reason: finishing a book. Now my freedom conincides with the happy beginning of a new year. The old year had a great deal to grip our interest. We were certainly not short of copy or headline. Some of these, frankly speaking were both silly and ephemeral with hysteria on all sides of the political spectrum.  However, at this stage of the electoral cycle it has not mattered more than fig or two. This year is different. As I hate  right wing rhetoric, and distrust Tory attempts to divide British society, I struggle to be fairminded. You shall be the judge.

The Coalition

I was wrong in believing that the Coaltion would collapse suddenly and violently under the pressure of its own contradictions. When times are bad people prefer to be hung together at the latest possible time. What both the Tories and Lib Dems have succeeded in doing is to speak both ways with one message to  the electorate and the other to their own members. Of course members do not like this and engage in a disquieting chorus of their own. However, commonsense suggests that the reckoning be pushed off to the future.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems are better placed than I believed likely. Electoral support has levelled out at about 10 percent and in local elections in the south they have benefitted from Labour votes in areas where Labour is not likely to win. The converse is that in the Midlands and the North the party is steadily being eliminated. I do not believe the party can improve on this poll rating. The Tories would be mad to allow a leaders television debate in 2015 (not  least because UKIP might well be able to claim participation). So no bounce there. If the Lib Dems can continue to project a progressive image they are likely to avoid abject humiliation. 

Tories

The Tories still have a chance of winning (defined as a majority or a Lib Dem coalition). However, the odds are lenghtening. Can the party succeed in squaring the circle? Can a right wing posture and radical sounding speeches carry the right wing with the leadership for two whole years. There are three daunting policy difficulties:  the economy, Europe, and reform of the welfare system and none is wholly in their control. I doubt very much whether the deficit will come down, Europe will not oblige a right-wing agenda and it is an open question whether it is possible to reform  the welfare system in the midst of the longest recession in modern economic history.

Labour

If we were describing a football match we would say that Labour has a comfortable lead at half-time. I doubt whether the pundits are right in thinking Labour must do more than that to stay ahead. They are lucky, lucky, lucky. Events, dear boy, are on their side. No need for handbags at half time. Keep control of the ball, keep pressing, concentrate and pray for continued divine intervention.

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The Economy Stupid


Elections are won on economics: its the economy stupid. Our numbers are bad but they will become worse. If the Eurozone collapsess they will be disastrous. But party alleigances are static. Hello, out there is any one listening. The reasons for static polls are well-known: mcu blame is attached to Labour’s inheritance of deby and the, seconly, the electorate are dogmatically fair-minded – they give credit for trying. The Coalition is trying – but in more than one meaning of the word. So it is a long and hard road for Labour toi convince the electorate that they could do better. 

What will change things are events. Anyone looking back in 2011 knows how difficult it is to predict them. If they are external events there is a breathless pause while the country rallies round. What woul be the public reaction to a forced opening of the Straits of Hormouz if petrol prices doubled. How would the public react to yet another war? Would it really come to that? It might. Would things look bad for the Coalition if unemployment topped three million. Mrs Thatcher recovered from that but then she needed a successful invasion of the Falklands.

Sometimes Government’s implode. What would make the Coalition implode.  European policy might if Cameron was foolhardy. Surely he won’t be tempted but you never know. Perhaps not. The Coalition might split. Not much chance of that. It is in the Lib Dem interest to soldier on rather than than be decimated by the electorate. 

Once I would have been bold and would make a prediction. Should we settle for a quiet life with more of what we have got. I hope not. Perhaps if I predict it we shall get something more exhilarating. OK nothing will happen in 2012.

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: Public Borrowing: Nearer and nearer draws the time


The constant ctiticism of the Government’s budget deficit figures is that the cuts are too great and too fast. The effect, or merely the impression, that this is so affects consumers, output and employment. The prognosis of the Coalition is that such a policy will lead to a stagnant low-growth economy and the deficit would not come down very much, if at all.

It is disappointing to the critics that so little publicity was given to public borrowing in the first two months of this financial year which shows just that: borrowing in the first two months of  2011/12 is up from £25.9 billion to £27.4 billion – up not down! 

Of course one swallow – or is it two- does not a summer make. Or does it? Well, this argument should be settl;ed in July when we have three months figures for GNP, empliyment and public borrowing. It will be a relief to pass from conjecture to fact. There are enough straws in the wind to suggest that growth will be either exceedingly modest or none at all. If then public sector borrowing has not fallen when compared with last year, the Coalition target of eliminating the deficit in four years will be lost.

Politicians will busily spin. It will be argued that there are special factors: currency uncertainty in Europe, a stalling US economy and slow downs in the BRIC countries who are expected to fuel a global economy. All very true and plausible. However, these pleas should go on deaf ears. There are always special factors and Governments are supposed to make allowance for them. The game will be up – and it should be called.

The absence of what is called a Plan B, or Plan C for that matter, places the Coalition with a conundrum. What is to be done? – as Lenin would utter. Is such a dilemma not worth a vote of no- confidence. I can hear the objections. There is no prospect of unseating the Government  and you look silly and weak if you move these motions without a chance of a majority. Is not this what the leadership of the Labour Party is really about? The baring of breasts and the gnashing of teeth which passes for Opposition now does not meet the challenge of the times. What about a reasoned motion putting forward a number of believable proposals for kick starting the economy followed by a no confidence motion? Anything less than this will fail. Those who urge an alternative economic policy should have the courage to enunciate it now. Well in July, actually. Any sign of heads being knocked together or is it time for hols? Time enough said slow.

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Can the Coalition Govern?


According to the well-repected bog Conservative Home, the Government is in a state of confusion. Cameron is determined to push through a major reform programmed fueled by Conservative ideology; small government, tax cuts (eventually);  constitutional reform (reluctantly), educational reform (expensively), benefit reform (work if you can or else);  self-help (Queen Victoria’s self help maunual has been lost), and neo-colonial glory (no one has told Assad and Ghadaffi).  What is very clear, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has enunciated, no one voted for Coalition policiues. In the jargon there is no electoral mandate. For the moment the government is cemented together by the fear of  electoral  wrath: it is better to be hung together than singly.

Every shrewd observor knows that these issues taken separately will not sink the Coalition. The only issue that will do that is the state of the economy. We must wait for July for the GDP figures for the second quarter. If these are bad the game may be up. What would be bad? Zero growth would be bad because it would signal that there has been no growth for the nine months in which the effect of the Coalition’s economic policies has been experienced. Slightly higher growth with a projection for the year as a whole of 1 percent to end 31 March, 2012 would be bad because the public sector deficit would be at unacceptable levels. If either of these economic prognostications becomes true there the very real consequential result that the Governmen’t legislative programme would have ground to a halt and the Coalition itself in its present form will collapse.

It may be that it is not only Arab countries and Greece that will have become ungovernable. I sense a gathering storm. Populations in many countries will arrive at the conclusion that politicians are not to be trusted and our political systems may colla[se. If citizens do not trust the system to safeguard ther basic  interests they will seek people-power alternatives: they are already doing so in Libya and Syria. There is something intoxicating about nightly tv screens full of demonstrasing crowds with banners and music. Why not us and why not now?

I suspect that our own governemnt is frightened. If the streets fill up with pensioners and trade unionists, if it goes on through the summer, if one policy initiative after another grounds to a halt, what is there to do? What is certain is that the disease of protest and rejection of authority knows no country boundaries. I have made fun of the Big Society but I do recognise that it has some virtues. If you can state, and if it is true, that we are responsible now and not the government, might the dilemma of electoral madate be solved. The Coalition could say, ‘You (we) are the masters now. Don’t blame us blame  yourself (or is it me that needs saving)?

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Blair: We need a better Middle Eastern Plan


Blair tells us, that is the British public,  that we need a better plan for North Africa and the Middle East. What does he mean? If he means what I think he means a better plan is the last thing Britain needs. A little clarification will help. Who are ‘WE’. It appears that NATO, the European Union and the USA are ‘WE’. or to be brief the Western World. And what do we need a plan for? What is it to do for us? The purpose of the Plan is to assist Arab states become more like us. Particularly those who possess oil and mineral resources but to be fair all states within that geographic area. In our view all democracies will repect universal rights fair representation, equality and freedom under the law and all of them wish to attract more investment, grow and attract investment and develop commerce  to and from the West. What should we do? We should intervene to help these changes take place and use diplomatic and financial means and armed force to help bring these changes about.

President Obama approves these objectives but despairs of a lack of willingness of NATO countries to pay the price for the extra spending on defence such a policy requires – including both France and the United Kingdom. There is, apparently, no political will. Friends Cameron and Hague have the will but not the money and each day that passes limits our armed capabilty. Imagine a conversation at the Foreign Office.

Secretary of State can we have you direction, please. Here is a list of countries we are determined to assist to democratic status. They all require a UN resolution. What do we do? What do we do, you say. We act, this Goverment acts. Give me the Calendar. Not that one, 2011 you ass. Let’s see. We  need to allow a week between resolutions. Let’s do it aphabeticallyby week. 1.Bahrein  2. Gulf states(?) (need to be more precise here) Israel/Palestine (a tall order this) 3. Lebanon (good thinking), 4. Saudi Arabia, (you’re joking(? ) , 5. Syria (a brutal race, we need armed force here, get the Turkish  Premier on the phone. What’s that!  A deal on Cyprus needed? Have we not  done one of those?  Get Greece on skype. 6. Yemen ? (Good God 500,000 men could get lost in the desert. I exagerate. But you know what I mean.) What does Obama think? More defence expenditure and quickly. Something about lendlease,  if it would be helpful. So we have reached a decision point. I’m strong on decisions you know.  Look I can’t think clearly now. Get Liam in the office on Monday. Hold on. Here is one of my inspired thoughts. National Service! Get the unemployed youth off the streets, lower the unemployment rates at a stroke, re-issue some of those Lee Enfield’s  -and off we go. Hey, ho the boys. Let Liam know ahead of the meeting, there’s a good chap.

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Cameron: Populism and Maddie


David Cameron has requested the Metropolitan Police to join the search for Madeleine McCann and the Home Office is to give the Met a few million pounds to pay for it. Earlier in the year this same David Cameron agreed to cut the budget for the work of tracing missing children  by concentrating activities in a police Missing Children Unit. Most children who go missing, as defined by this unit as four days or more, are recovered quickly but large numbers are not. In the three and a half years since Maddie went missing  some 400  children went missing according to independent studies. Many of these were recovered, exactly how many is difficult to estimate,  but it may be that something like 200 were not. Most of these children have distraught families searching for them. These families are often of modest income but, nevertheless, they consume their savings and  time in  desperate efforts to find their children. Many of these parents were not careless in the care of their children. Their disappearences were not as a result of their carelessness but as a result of factors outside their control . The McCanns were careless of their children. They took a holiday in a busy resort with other adults and put their wishes to have a good time before the guardianship of their children. I suspect that many adults with children would take a different view and arrange their  holidays so that adults were with their children after  lights out. The McCanns made a grievous decision not to do this. In this they put themselves before the interests of their young children. If we were to ignore all that the gravaman of the issue would remain to be addressed. What makes the McCanns so special? In a time of austerity and budget cutting why put Maddie’s interest before hundreds of other unnamed but grieved missing children. Of course the McCanns are a literate and well-organised professional couple who have been able to articulate their search, attract private funds, and promote their cause in a variety of media. And good luck to them, says I,  and  so would  any caring adult. But what about the others, all those other grieving parents most of whom lack the persuasiveness of the McCanns?  Is David Cameron going to take up their causes? Will the Government seek the extra funds to take up their cases? Where does the police manpower come from to undertake special searches on their behalf? Perhaps I have got this all wrong.Who cares about fairness, equity, money and police time?

But hold on. What about the strategic independence of British police and all that? Can the Home Office direct the Met  to alter police priorites by writing a letter to them. The squeemish among us would think this was political inteference with the police at the populist whim of the Prime Minister. They would be right. David Cameron doesn’t care much for the niceities of public life. What a coup, what a stunt, imagine the headlines. If Cameron stopped his whirlygig for but a moment, he might ask himself the question of what these other grieving parents will think when they read the press headlines? Lord, good lord, save us from this man.

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