Tag Archives: Labour

George Osborne, you seem confused about what you think

You blamed Labour’s profligate spending for our balance of payment deficit, so you have tightened all our belts & it has got worse. That’s odd isn’t it? Maybe the problem was that the banks were manufacturing money to lend to Americans who aspired beyond their means and the whole house of credit cards collapsed. I guess that’s what happens when virtual money becomes more important than people or honesty. We could sell council houses to people who have done well out of socialism, so the next generation have to buy their own homes or rent from good capitalists, even though they can’t afford to.

You say companies are not achieving because the banks won’t lend them money to borrow their way out of a crisis? Isn’t that what Labour were trying to do, when the fashion for lending pretend money, guaranteed by imaginary assets suddenly became unfashionable and crashed the banking system? They didn’t cause it; they made a bad bet. You know that but you still lie to us.

There is nothing wrong with borrowing money to replace the broken down car that gets you to work, if it lets you keep the job that will enable you to pay off the loan. There is something wrong with borrowing tax credits off the poorest working people so that your rich friends can buy a new yacht and fund your political party. Borrowing in the UK to fund infrastructure that will allow economic renewal, in infrastructure and sustainable technologies is good. So why haven’t you? Why have you closed down green energy initiatives and imported nuclear power stations that won’t arrive for 10 years? Are you trying to force fracking through, by generating an energy crisis George?

You want to privatise everything that is state owned because competition makes companies more efficient, yet you have invited nationalised French and Chinese energy companies to build our nuclear power stations and China to bid for the steel contract for HS2 because they can undercut UK companies. That sounds like they are more competitive. Could it possibly be that our state-owned companies have had insufficient investment in order to deliberately make them fail, like the NHS, to falsely demonstrate that your dogma is correct? It isn’t though, is it George? It’s clearly wrong, because evidence.

You say we must all be in work because we need growth. Why do we? Why are you in such a hurry to deplete the world’s few remaining resources. You can’t “create wealth”. You can only convert our wealth in natural resources into a grey wasteland and paper promises. Why can’t we shrink and share what we already have and slowly reduce the population to maximise humanity’s remaining time on this planet? You want us busy so we don’t have time to think.

Why do we have any entitlement to inherit the wealth of our parents? What have you ever done to deserve your life, apart from be born lucky? I include myself in that question. I was born into a functional welfare state and had a free university education, unlike the immigrants you are so keen to exclude from claiming their share of the world’s resources. Yet not the rich Russians and Chinese who you will happily sell England to, as long as they buy Manchester first, while property prices are held artificially high by international buyers who don’t even want to live here.

How is life in First Class, George?

Socialism or Capitalism? Option 3 Please

A while ago, I was considering how people, who’s thinking I respect could be SO WRONG about politics. I concluded that politics is a cultural argument over our shared definition of fairness and that flows from our personal values. The Ancient Greeks were able to believe concurrently in democracy and slavery. We appear able to believe that refugees need to be helped but they can’t come here.

‘Left’ thinking says that all people are born equal, so if some fall behind then those that do well have a duty to support them. The further left you go, the less likely nationhood seems important. We are all the same, sharing a single fragile planet.

‘Right’ thinking says that some people are genetically superior to others and deserve to be rewarded for their greater ability. The further right you go, the more likely bloodlines and national pride are to seem important. All of us are better than all of them. ‘We’ own our island and are free to exploit it’s national resources.

I think both of those beliefs, devoid of any balance, lead to horrible societies in which a particular set of bullies run rough-shod over the interests of the general population.

I have been very supportive of the idea of the Labour party electing Jeremy Corbyn as Leader, to disrupt the gradual drift right by all parties (except The Greens) and start intelligent debate instead of statistical lying, sound-bites and obscene inequality. I think Capitalism is overdue for replacement but I’ve seen no evidence yet that the far Left have any plan that will achieve that without violent revolution.

My first alarm rang when both Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn referred back to the Miner’s Strike in their acceptance speeches, as though it was a proud time for the Labour Party. Listen to what Barbara Castle said about that: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068w44x

Any attempt to align the TUC with a single political party could be a final death-blow for unions in the workplace, where they belong and are desperately needed, when a Conservative government is next elected.

Politics is Broken

Politics is often discussed in terms of a left-right scale:
http://www.dailyinfographic.com/right-vs-left-infographic

The political compass https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_compass adds a second axis that ranges from libertarian to authoritarian. Recent developments have also made Nationalism, coupled with concerns about immigration and environmentalism, adding important third and fourth axes of political identity but making the graph very hard to draw.

Throughout human history, we have learned to balance our self-interest as individuals against the interests of the group that we are a part of: our family, tribe, or nation; to maximise the chance of survival of our DNA overall.

In general, thinking primarily about self leads to a belief that people close to us are also more deserving of rewards than other people. These ‘better’ people, families and countries should be allowed to rise up to take their natural place at the top, from where they can distribute excess wealth to the less deserving, poorer people. This is the thinking of the economic Right Wing. Along with that goes property protection and inheritance rights, low taxation for wealth creators, national pride and the belief that the indivdual is entitled to exploit the environment for personal gain. If you don’t, someone else will. Along with this ‘self’-focussed attitude goes a similar pride about groups you feel a part of. If you becoming wealthy requires an irreplaceable mineral being extracted from under someone’s house then it will probably happen. This is Right-Wing thinking and may be coupled with a religious justification for the apparently selfish actions being undertaken.

Left-Wing alternatives prioritise the interests of the group above the individual. People are treated as though they are equal. The less fortunate are helped, by redirection of resources from those who have more. Socalist thinking leads towards break-down of nation states into a single world order, which must necessarily be authoritarian to keep everyone (outside the control structure) equal. Left thinking can be applied over time, so that resources must also be shared with people of the future. Traditional socialism promotes the idea of common ownership of property and the ‘means of production’.

In most parts of England we have:

UKIP – Economically Right-Wing but pretending to be the party of the common worker while  supporting inheritance rights and low taxation for the very rich. Simultaneously arguing for the nationalist interests of the UK but against the nationalist interests of Scotland. Not strictly ‘racist’ but do think that people born in Britain deserve better lives than foreigners. They believe in liberty for people already in this country, as long as immigrants give up their own cultures and adopt ours (still to be defined.)

Conservatives – Economically, now extremely Right-WIng but increasingly restricting the rights of individuals so clearly authoritarian. Want a small state but are increasingly determined to impose a ‘city-state with major’ model on regions that have already voted against it. Risked the Union in a failed attempt to block Scottish Nationalism but have promoted an EU referendum that risks English nationalists provoking the Scots to break up the UK and the UK withdrawing from the EU with completely unkown results, given that the Conservatives have a very poor record of gamesmanship in international diplomacy.

Liberal-Democrats – apparantly consistent with their balanced, centrist values. They broke a promise about tuition fees while reaching a coalition deal with the Conservatives to ensure stable government during the banking crisis.

Labour – A supposedly Left-WIng party that only supports equality for people who have a job and as a reaction to UKIP became increasingly against immigration. During the 2015 Election it was exremely difficult to detect what they believed in but their time in office saw them not nationalise failing banks or railway services or engage in building of publically funded social housing. They instead supported the private funding of state services and encouraged free market economics but failed to enable adequate investment in renewable energy like our European competitors did.

Greens – A very Left-Wing party that puts the environment ahead of everything. Some policies do not appear to be completely worked out but it is early days. Working with their direct opposites UKIP on the single issue of voting fairness, after both parties faired very badly under the FPTP system, so can clearly be very pragmatic to get a result that takes them in the right direction.

European Skepticism: “Small pieces, loosely joined”

[I wrote this before Cameron’s last stand against increasing European federalism. I haven’t made any significant changes. Unusually, I think he did the right thing but you can see that I effectively predicted his failure. Honourable failure is OK. I’ve found Labour’s attacks an embarrassment. It made a change to hear a politician say something he appeared to believe in, enough to risk losing power.]

I genuinely don’t know whether it is good for us to be ‘in Europe’ or not but I know that the Euro Zone never made sense to me. If countries have individual economic systems then currency exchange is clearly an important control mechanism. A failing country has its currency devalued, imports become expensive and exports get cheaper, fixing the balance. Without national currencies, the only way to equalise pressure is population migration from poor to rich countries. I have no training in economics. I don’t even read the business pages of a daily newspaper. I assumed that all Europe’s politicians, with their ‘Philosophy, Politics & Economics’ degrees, knew better. Apparently they didn’t. They didn’t even have the foresight to predict what was obvious to a complete amateur. It’s like the people in charge don’t have any common sense, isn’t it?

My ‘gut’ says that we are an island people, several times invaded and interbred and quite good at absorbing waves of immigration and assimilating the useful parts of a culture into ours but we are nervous of a sudden mass influx, particular if they bring religious conflict in their wake. We have history.

We clearly need to get on with our continental neighbours but they are very different to us. Not worse; different. Like many Brits, I suspect, I intuitively feel I’d prefer to be semi-detached. I fully understand why the Scots want to be semi-detached from us too. We have much in common but we have different cultural identities. I’ve been on holiday to France, Portugal, Spain and Italy. I’ve worked for a German company. I’ve seen how different our business cultures can be. My work experience has shown that rather than language being the greatest divide between us, it is our cultural expectations that cause most difficulty in communication and misunderstanding, leading to potential for conflict. This is very clear from the lack of success our politicians have in influencing EU policy. We say what we think and intend to stick to what what we agree to. That is not the European way.

I’ve not seen any politician attempt to educate us about the reasons being in Europe is good for us, beyond hearing Shirley Williams say that her generation wanted to prevent there ever being another war in mainland Europe. Is that it – we are either assimilated or annihilated? It doesn’t even work. How long has it taken for the states of the USSR to disintegrate once the grip of the secret police was loosened?

Politicians have been shouting at us; like they are right and we are stupid. That is never going to convince us Brits. We are stubborn and suspicious of authority. The French would burn a government building. The Germans would argue forcefully before falling back into line and complying with authority. We will appear to be grudgingly going along with the crazy plan then mutiny, stick up two fingers and undermine the European Project when it is at it’s weakest. Which is now.

Europe is more likely to accept ‘collective’ agreements than us Brits. We are loosely joined individuals, only pulling together when there is someone or something to fight. The only opposition to EU membership to date has come from the libertarian Right of the Conservative party who are are generally fairly unattractive to a large proportion of the population. They are now kept relatively quiet by the need for consensus, in order to hold the Con-Dem coalition together. The shamed socialists who voted Lib-Dem, only to have their most sacred cow slaughtered for the victory feast, want Nick Clegg’s head, to assuage their personal guilt at their betrayal of socialist solidarity. The pressure builds for everything to blow itself apart.

Enter UKIP. Yes, there are concerns about racism but many Brits aren’t too fond of foreigners who “won’t join in”. That behaviour belongs to us, when we go abroad. A bit of casual racism won’t do UKIP any harm, as long as it’s delivered with a cheeky smile by someone willing to pretend they don’t really mean it. If there are good reasons to stay in Europe, someone needs to start explaining what they are, quickly, before it’s too late. If there aren’t any, then the Left & Centre needs to start offering an alternative way out of Europe or you may as well go home, kiss the NHS goodbye and tidy your garden, ready for the fracking.

Why I didn’t vote for a Labour MEP

I didn’t know who to vote for as Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands. We didn’t have local elections in my area. I had high hopes when Labour got rid of Tony Blair, after he said God told him to kill the Infidel but… Gordon Brown? As someone who previously wouldn’t have put Labour in charge of the float at a jumble-sale, I thought he was a surprisingly good Chancellor BUT he had the charismatic leadership style of a fried Mars Bar and was clearly not going to appeal to ‘hard working’ Brits. I can understand now that HE might not have had the judgement to see that, but MOST OF THE OTHER LABOUR MPs must have voted for him. Are they fools? Or were they cynical, ambitious career politicians looking for a scapegoat that they could easily dump later? Did they know that the seeds of defeat had already been planted? It doesn’t really matter which it was, does it? We took the cash-box off them, sent them to sit outside on the step and think about what they’d done until they were collected by a grown-up.

I heard a documentary on BBC Radio 4 a couple of days after the election, when shell-shocked top politicians were being uncharacteristically honest. SO honest that I suspected the effects of sleep deprivation or a hidden microphone. Nick Clegg offered to support Labour in a coalition, in exchange for a vote on proportional representation and discussions on shared policies. Labour told him they already had policies. They could support them or get lost. The arrogance of this is astounding. They had just lost an election on those policies. Nick went home and the Tories came a-courting. The rest is well known. It was all Nick the traitor to the Left’s fault.

Labour had left the country in a huge mess. I’m not saying that it was all their fault and I think their fast decision making prevented further economic disaster, but everything had fallen apart quicker than anyone could possibly have hoped and they didn’t want to try to fix it. Labour chose to give themselves a parliament to sort themselves out in the shadows, while someone else cleared up their mess and attempted to pay off the debts they left behind after their unlucky flutter on the UK economy with the banks.

Then they picked Ed. We were told he was a bit of a geek, (which would make a nice change from the soulless, power-hungry little monkeys) but he was a master political theorist and strategist. I confess I hadn’t seen any evidence of this but I thought I should at least read the election blurb:

“Labour’s Cost-Of-Living Contract With You.

We Will:

  • Freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and reform the energy market
  • Get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020
  • Stop families that rent being ripped off and help them plan for the future with new long term predictable tenancies
  • Cut income tax for hardworking people through a lower 10p starting tax rate, and introduce a 50p top rate of tax as we pay off the deficit in a fair way
  • Ban exploitative zero-hour contracts
  • Make work pay by strengthening the Minimum Wage and providing tax breaks to firms that boost pay through the Living Wage
  • Back small businesses by cutting business rates and reforming the banks
  • Help working parents with 25 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds
  • Tackle the abuse of migrant labour to undercut wages by banning recruitment agencies that only hire foreign workers and pressing for stronger controls in Europe
  • Back the next generation with a job guarantee for the young unemployed and more apprenticeships

This is our contract with you. Vote Labour to make Britain better off”

and he signed it, like you would a legally binding contract; something you actually believed was true. Amazing.

He didn’t appear to understand that a) the UK has a barely-functional market-capitalist economy b) I was voting in a European election and most of our major energy companies are in European ownership and hardly making any profit. Perhaps them being foreign makes them an easy target but if he puts them under too much pressure they will close down unprofitable power stations. If the weather turns cold he will have to grovel for them to be turned back on, at any price.

Build homes? Make private builders invest in homes they may not be able to sell or build council houses with money off the magic money pile? Lower rents? In another market that has other options and might choose to sell the homes to Russian immigrants or undercut the builders he’s just forced to build?

Ban zero-hour contracts? Many workers will be sacked before it happens because they have no job security because you have also been ineffective in opposition.

Pay people more through company tax cuts, paid for out of general taxation… hang on! Are you really stupid or is it just that you think we are?

More tax cuts… free money… a bit of casual racism dressed up as protecting British jobs, even though the problem is an invention of UKIP and the Right-wing press… force young people into jobs they don’t want or stop their benefits to pay for all the tax cuts.

This is their choice of their Top Ten ideas. I did not vote for Labour.

They have never taken responsibility for the mess that they left.
They don’t seem to understand that you cannot spend if you do not earn over anything but the very short term.
They seem the most clueless of all the parties about fixing it.

If I was the Queen, I would ask someone else to lead the official opposition until either Labour or the UK electorate come to their senses and pick someone else (that isn’t UKIP) or a sensible voting system that leads to sane policies.

My Personal Values and Political Beliefs

Last night I voted in the European Elections. I found it hard to find anyone I thought deserved a vote but I wanted to do whatever I could to minimise the chance of UKIP wasting seats. I woke to a Labour spokesperson (Ed?) on the wireless telling me why I hadn’t voted for them. He was really badly wrong, so I decided to say why I considered them unelectable and ineffective as opposition. Then I thought that, to be fair to the other major parties, I should tell them why I didn’t vote for them too as they all seem completely clueless about why we all find them so unappealing. I felt I needed a draft list of criteria to evaluate the candidates against because, unlike them apparently, I thought I had consistent set of values I believe in and am not ashamed to admit to. If anyone wants to argue with me, I’m willing to try to justify my beliefs or change them.

It was an interesting exercise. I recommmend it. Some of the items are contradictory. Here’s my list but please tell me if you think I’ve missed any important criteria.

My Personal Beliefs and Values:

Society
There is such a thing as society. We are not a bunch of individuals, fighting to win and take all. Taxes are the shared costs of living in a society

Fairness

Responsibility
We all have a responsibility to contribute our share to the welfare of all other members of our society who need it. Under normal conditions, we don’t leave anyone behind.

Equality
Everyone should be given equal opportunities to do whatever makes their life satisfying, without significant damage to others, despite the fact that they clearly are not all equal and may not have had equal starts in life.
Everyone wants to be treated fairly (or better) but we have very different ideas of what fair means.
I don’t think a child should be punished for the sins or failures of a parent or that a school class should be kept in because one member was noisy or assumptions should be made because an older sibling was trouble. This translates in adult life to thinking that a child should not go hungry because a parent drinks, smokes, bets or makes other poor investment decisions.
Successful people should be willing to share their rewards with those less fortunate.
I dislike boastfulness, showing off and displays of status, wealth or generosity.
Charity
I would prefer to live in a society where a tax on generosity was not necessary because general taxation met essential needs.
Inheritence
I don’t see any reason that a child should inherit wealth from parents. They probably already had a better start in life without having done anything to deserve it. I think inheriting vast wealth is bad for children’s sense of self-purpose and self-value.

I hugely admire family businesses and beautiful stately homes that have been in a family for hundreds of years and the selfless duty of people who preserve such a legacy. I don’t see how this could have happened without inheritance. I’m not pro- or anti-Royalty. I don’t see an elected politician making a better head of state but I feel a bit sorry for the Royals, as I do all celebrities who haven’t earned it.

Tribes
We are a social animal and we do best as members of a successful tribe.
We should be allowed to change tribe or to be in many tribes are once as long as we are honest and open and the interests of the tribes do not conflict in irreconcilable ways.
Immigration
Ideally: I’d like foreigners to be allowed to come here freely. They have as much right as I do. I’d also like them to be able to make a living wherever they come come from, so they didn’t need to be economic migrants.
Realistically: the tide needs to be slowed or the flood will sink our society, so we should have rules that are fair and favour those who are in danger. But the incomers must live by the important rules of the society they have chosen to enter, as a guest, be given adequate time to learn to fit in and then be either accepted or asked to leave.
Overseas aid
If we want to encourage people to stay at home, we may need to help to make the places they are running away from more hospitable. If we can bomb people to stop them coming here as terrorists, I don’t see why we can’t help them, so they become our friends.

Religion
I see no evidence for the existence of any god.
I do not object to anyone believing anything, as long as they protect other members of society from any negative effects and are tolerant of legal criticism. I would like laws on blasphemy to be changed, so any idea, like Evolution or quantum mechanics is given the same protection as a religious text but can be respectfully debated.
Major religions and non-believers have developed many of the same moral standards because they are the best way for humans to live together. Most of the differences don’t matter or can and should be tolerated. Britain is about compromise. If there is a conflict that cannot be resolved, the ‘native’ culture must take precedence.
The state should operate independently of religion, in accordance with generally agreed morals and values acceptable to most citizens. Agreeing what these are is the only time I feel it might be appropriate to consider starting before recent immigration. The rules could be adjusted by negotiation over time, as incoming customs are accepted into our shared culture. As an example, I think the British are ready to accept Islamic  headscarves but not The Veil. We put high value on seeing people’s faces and particularly eyes. In return, I will not drink alcohol if I travel to an Islamic nation or demand to eat rare steak in a vegetarian restaurant. It would be rude.

Nationhood & National Pride
I don’t feel pride in being English, British, European or a babtised Christian as I had no part in those things. I may as well be proud of being tall or having white skin and that would clearly be ridiculous.
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in semi-rural England, close to Birmingham, capital of the Midlands, to stable, married parents who wanted me. My Mum was advised not to have any more children so I got all their attention and love. That is no reason to look down on anyone less fortunate. As it is pure chance, in some senses, that I was born here, I have the similar responsibilities to the rest of the human race as I do to someone living next door

Economic Systems
The various communist versions of socialism do not appear to be able to operate alongside capitalism.
Capitalism is inherently flawed as it depends on growth and consumes raw materials, leading to ecological disaster, well ahead of the heat death of the universe. This would be foolish and may be preventable, if we act fast.
I do not have any solution but I’m looking. I hope you are too.

Democracy
The least bad system Churchill could think of. Me too, but I think thereis room for improvement.
We have universal suffrage and parliamentary representative democracy – because anyone who is excluded gets exploited and mobs make bad decisions. Politics are complicated and 50% of people are below average intelligence. They do mad things like believing in the death penalty.

Political Allegiance
I don’t have any. My maternal grandfather was a miner who died down the pit (I recently discovered via @BrownhillsBob, from tuberculosis) leaving a widow, 10 children and no pension. My Uncle became a Labour councillor. My Grandad was a steel foundry supervisor then a shop-keeper. His three sons went to Grammar School. My mother contracted polio and spent most of her childhood in hospital then went to commercial college and became a secretary. My parents voted Conservative and had The Daily Mail delivered. I experienced The Miner’s Strike as an attack by Lefties on the Coal Board’s attempt to introduce necessary efficiencies. At Aston University in Birmingham I experienced ‘the Maggie effect’ at first hand, from the resentment of Rastas on the streets and in the faces of desperate people in the queues of the DHSS. My Dad was made redundant by a company he’d worked for all his life. I discovered for the first time that he was a union member. He didn’t hate unions as much as I’d assumed and they helped to get him re-employed at a sister company. I lean slightly towards LibDems, as a compromise but I’m a classic floating voter.

Ambition
I am not particularly competitive but I recognise that some people only strive to do well in order to better themselves and earn the right to lead the tribe. I think I inherited my lack of ambition from my Dad. Like him, I work hard to learn how to do everything I care about to the best of my ability. I seem to care less than most people if anyone else notices. I was always encouraged to do MY best, rather than measure myself against others. I have experienced people who, for no obvious reason, believe they are better than others and deserve more, without bothering to develop skills in anything other than networking and self-promotion. I believe these people are a danger to society. Public schools seem particularly good at producing them.

Greed
I think large companies should pay taxes and be prevented from exploiting any monopoly power their size gives them.
I think there need to be limits on the range between the benefits of the highest and lowest workers in an organisation.
Competition & Nationalisation
I accept that having a competitor can make an organisation try harder to win. I am unconvinced that this advantage outweighs the inefficiencies introduced by splitting an organisation into components. Therefore I do not believe that the NHS or British Rail will or have benefited from privatisation.

Education
Children from poor families need good education more than children of the same ability from rich families, so access to the best education should not be dependent on money.
If children of the powerful had to go to the worst schools, they would soon be sorted out.
People should never be divided up, permanently, into successes and failures, at any age, least of all as children.
Children learn some subjects best in groups of similar ability.
Girls are disadvantaged in some subjects by being taught in mixed sex groups.
Boys are disadvantaged socially by growing up in a single sex environment.
Children from different backgounds and religions need to get to know each other.

Capability
I think that talented people need to be given more reward to give some people the incentive they need to excel.
I think hard work needs to be rewarded, mainly to encourage those who don’t work hard to try harder but I have never seen a fair rewards scheme.
Benefits
If someone is unable to work due to illness or disability, they should be looked after by society in case it ever happens to the rest of us; and out of gratitude that it is not us.
Some people are healthy but don’t have talent & avoid making a contribution to society. They should be provided with their basic  needs but not encouraged by the state to reproduce.