Category Archives: Labour

Social Cleansing: Yet again government policy not living up to their rhetoric

Today we have a new scandal on the front pages, “social cleansing” and the movement of masses of people to other areas of the country.

This type of action is only something previously heard of in war torn countries or extreme right wing (even fascist) regimes.  Yet today, Grant Shapps, Conservative Housing minister is trying to explain why the actions of Newham Council are happening when he specifically told the country that this would NOT be the result of government policy.

Newham Council, in London, the Olympic capital for 2012, is in discussions with Stoke on Trent, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to take up to 500 residents from their area because they can no longer afford to provide social housing for people due to the caps on Housing benefit.

We were assured by ministers that the idea of “social cleansing” and the fear of wholesale movement of poorer people out of the well off areas of London was simply hysterical, is now looking a little hollow.

We were assured by Grant Shapps in interviews:

Housing minister rebuts opposition critics: “We are not being unfair”
and
Concerns over Housing Benefit reforms “complete nonsense” says Grant Shapps.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/28/housing-benefit-cuts-defended

Now the very concern dismissed by the government is now becoming fact.  Whether by design or simply government incompetence (it is difficult to tell the difference at the moment) their policy is having the exact result that they stated would not happen.

The BBC reports:

Newham Council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation.

The gap between market rents and the housing allowance is too big, it says.

It has written to the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, offering it the “opportunity” to lease homes to it.

The letter says the local private rental sector is beginning to “overheat” because of the “onset of the Olympic Games and the buoyant young professionals market”.

It says the council can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation as the gap between market rents and the local housing allowance has become too great.

The council has been “forced to look further afield for alternative supply”, it adds.

And unbelievably this is a “Labour” council.

But along with so much this government says like “no top down re-organisation of the NHS” ; “We are all in this together”; “No Banker will have a bonus of more than £2,000; and that they had no plans to raise VAT, all become hollow in the face of reality.

As with the NHS reforms that will have changed the service for ever, we will not know the full effects of the reforms until several years later, when the damage will have been done and most probably irreversible.

In respect of moving 500 people to Stoke On Trent, I understand that the “people” concerned have neither been consulted or their concerns heard.

This is policy could have some of the most vial consequences our country has ever seen, but we will sleep walk on regardless.

Cat Flap, Red Ed and the Political Party really running the country

Well the Party Conference season is over and, for those that nodded off, it is time to wake up and see the new politics term take its course.

As usual the conference season was a largely pointless and boring few weeks where leaders make speeches thinking the world is watching, when actually, other than an awful lot of BBC and SKY journalists, nobody is taking a blind bit of notice.

The first conference by the Liberal Democrats even had their own supporters staying away, with seats empty throughout the conference, even in the leaders speech.  It was a drab affair with those bothering to turn up being in complete denial at their predicament.

You would never think that they were a party of government from the low key atmosphere and empty seats, but in government they are.  The funniest moment without doubt was the suggestion by one person in the “ask Nick” sessions that actually it was the Liberal Democrats running the government.  This got a good laugh in the hall and a round of applause – it certainly got a laugh outside the hall!

Then came Labour’s conference.  Oh how journalists must hanker for the good old days when a good punch up would ensue, with walk outs, open hostility and the certainty of a little drawing of  blood.

We have none of that these days, they are all too civilised you know.  Again the conference was largely unremarkable except for the Ed Miliband speech.  His delivery is not great, but at times he did look as though he meant what he was saying.

Unfortunately for Ed, he rekindled the “Red Ed” tag that had all but disappeared.

I actually thought the rhetoric of his speech was quite good with the point being we should encourage good business practice and not bad ones.  However, somehow the Tory press picked this up as being “anti business”.

This is somewhat worrying because this surely assumes that most British companies are actually asset strippers and have no social responsibility.  I would have thought that if companies work hard and create wealth that they would be in the “good” category rather than the vilified one.  Maybe I missed the point?

Anyway, whichever way you take the speech, the rhetoric is all very well but the reality is as yet the Labour Party has no policies to implement such high stated moral values on business or the economy, and frankly is unlikely to have. But at least he seemed to be questioning the general ethos and over riding ideology of the past 30 years, and he is the first of the main parties to do this.

Then we had the Conservative party.  This ended up being by far the most entertaining of the conferences.  Feeling very pleased with themselves for  .  .  err .  .  .  .  not winning the last election, they proceeded to bash the Europhiles, ditch their green credentials, spend £250 million on bin collections, and have an argument between themselves about a cat!  All most amusing.

Cat gate was truly ridiculous.  I have no idea what planet Theresa May lives on these days, but it is not within this universe.  There are obviously important arguments regarding the human rights act, but by choosing such a ridiculous story, that has little, or no basis of truth in it whatsoever, just made her look desperate and pretty silly.  Kenneth Clarke, being the plain spoken person he is, pretty much said so straight away much to the annoyance of his boss David.

It also doesn’t help that it is now being reported that she “lifted” cat gate from a UKIP speech!

Oh how amusing.  Even as I write this, arguments still ensue over the said cat as the immigrant in question plans to join his gay partner in a civil partnership next summer.  Surely this will please the Conservative Party and David Cameron in particular. After all they believe in Gay Marriage, not despite being Conservatives, but because they are Conservatives.   It all fits surely with their belief in family values!

Well, now the party is over, and cat gate rumbles on, I smell a bit of sleaze on the horizon  .   .   .   .   or is that a fox?

ED MILIBAND’S LEADERSHIP: and so the Labour Party rumour mill begins

The papers are full of it, the rumour mill begins, and questions are asked over Ed Miliband’s leadership.  It was only a matter of time, but the left wing commentators and liberal elite are now beginning to ask the same questions the right wing press have been asking for some time – Is Ed Miliband up to the job?

It was inevitable as the weeks went by without a policy in sight and his apparent lack lustre performance in the commons that questions would be asked over his leadership.

Now whispers are being aired behind his back in an almost Tory like way, where the name of the game is to keep switching leader until you get one palatable enough for the electorate to want to vote for you.

This is a modern phenomenon for the Labour Party, encouraged by the Blair/Brown years of back biting that may yet scupper any potential for a Labour Party revival.

In years gone by, the Labour machine was very loyal to it’s leaders, even after disastrous election defeats. The Tories on the other hand would never forgive such a poor showing.

Ed Miliband now has a job to do on two fronts.  To create an effective opposition to the Tory led coalition and to unite and convince the labour party, an almost impossible task.

However, his job is made easier by the fact that too many candidates who want his job are tainted with the Blair /Brown legacy, and that he can fight the Tories AND Liberal Democrats on a united front – there is only ONE opposition party these days.

But are the back biters showing their discontent  too soon?  The elections in May were hardly disastrous, there are few sensible commentators who would argue that the SNP would obtain a similar landslide victory in a general election.  In addition, is the Miliband parliamentary performance actually that bad?

On many occasions I have seen what I consider to be lacklustre performances by Ed Miliband at Prime Ministers questions only to be proved wrong a few days later when the topic over which he has pressed the prime minister leads to a policy u-turn or a resignation.

One problem in him asserting his authority over the  coalition government is that David Cameron and co make so many U-turns how do you capitalise on them?  The Tories have an opposition within their own government now that the Lib Dems were given a thrashing in the May elections.  Every policy change or U-turn is being pounced upon by Nick Clegg as an offering to the people or his own party while Cameron desperately tries to convince people he is “listening” to either his own back benchers or the public.

There are however, several games to be played here.  The first is the need for the Labour Party to win the next election or at least prevent the Tories from winning.  This will be a tough task with only 29% of the vote at the last election. However, this is a long game.  Five years to get it right.  The idea that they will lay their cards on the table within the first 3 years is ridiculous.  All this would do is play in to the government hands who will be able to gather  enough ammunition to blow them apart with the right wing press on side, or they will take the policies like a thieving magpie and use them for their own ends in the way New labour did.

However, by delaying a roll out of a policy direction, it is hard to be an effective and coherent opposition.  Just what is the alternative will be the cry, and with good reason.

It is a tough nut to crack but one the labour Party needs to be patient in its deliberations.  A hasty session of navel gazing will only play into the hands of the coalition – a divided party will never be elected by a British electorate.

There of course is a “third way”, that is to produce a vision without the policy detail.  Gordon Brown never had a vision and lacked coherence.  Tony Blair had a fantastic vision that the public bought hook line and sinker, but just did not have the policies or delivery and was found wanting in many areas.  Ed Miliband needs to provide a true alternative vision, and the type of radicalism that looks to the future while learning the mistakes of the past.

There is no point having policies for today, when in 4 years time when the general election will be fought the country and the world will be different and will require new policies.  The Conservative party found this out when their economic policy fell apart following the party conference in 2008.  Something many like to forget, as a course of voluntary amnesia.

I still believe that Ed Miliband will benefit by the somewhat mistaken Labour Party belief in loyalty to it’s leaders and will fight the next general election.  But maybe, with the Blair/Brown years, the Labour party machine is becoming even more like the Tories, not just in policy, but in it’s cut throat need for success.

In the end, the question must be asked “does it matter”? What we are likely to get is another quasi Tory agenda, dressed up in labour clothes, lurching further to the right, with outdated economic mainstream policies.  But I would like to be proved wrong.

The Conservative Party is Still Living in the 1980’s

As an article from Tim Montgomerie and various other editorials from the right wing press over recent weeks show, much of the rhetoric of the archaic right wing commentators  urge David Cameron to look back rather than forward.

It amazes me how many people on the right and left of British politics are fighting the battles of 30 years ago rather than trying to find creative solutions to the immense problems and challenges of the next 30 years.

The article by Tim Montgomerie in the Telegraph  got much of the narrative right in terms of there not being enough done for economic growth by the UK government, but the analysis and suggested solutions were taken straight from the “New Right” handbook published circa 1981.

The assertions by many right wing commentators are that the current Tory led coalition is simply not doing enough to crush the unions, deregulate, privatise, and cut taxation.  The familiar trotting out of Mrs Thatchers name and how the Conservative Party needs to look to her successes.

If these people were actually looking at Mrs Thatchers “successes”, they would not be looking at her individual policy making, but rather at how she approached politics.  She saw the problems that the country faced and applied policies that she thought would produce a solution.

Rather than looking back for inspiration, she picked up an ideology that was considered new, that could be inspiring to some and deal with the problems of the time.  Now, it would only be a fool who thought that the neo-liberal policies of the past 35 years could solve the problems of the future, being as these neo-liberal ideas are a PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Incidentally, I am not arguing whether Mrs Thatcher was right or wrong 30 years ago, only that her political success and perceived success was due to finding solutions for the time, not the past.

Our political elite, which ever party you care to mention, live in a bubble of old ideologies, the traditional left-right of politics that has nothing to offer the average person living in Britain today.

People do not care about public or private, they care about what works and what doesn’t.  Ideologies of state intervention or privatisation for the sake of it are at the root of most evils within our political system.

Old ideologies of political commentators and political parties are engrained into a stale political party system.  A tragic continuation appears to be happening where a “one size fits all” approach is being applied to all our problems for economy and society.

You would think, after the upheaval’s of mainstream political and economic thought over the past 4 years, that this stale approach would have been shaken to the core.  Sadly, people seem to be forgetting not only the lessons of history, but also what the causes of these shocks have been.

It is hard to imagine that a New labour government who championed the filthy rich; lauded the virtues of bankers and brought private enterprise into the heart of public services would then effectively nationalise the banking industry.  Even less so that President George W Bush, probably the most right wing president of the post war years would advocate the same and bail out the banking industry.

Yet, the lessons are never learnt, the same old rhetoric keeps coming around again and again.

Tim Montgomerie and the rest of the die hard Thatcher Mythologists will stop at nothing to put forward their version of the New Right ideology, to inflict on the rest of society and to influence government.

Simply nationalising ailing private companies would not be the answer to our economic woes and neither would privatising core public services because of the mistaken view that “private” means “better”.

One of Tim Montgomeries diatribes floats the familiar idea that Unions are at the heart of the problem in the British Economy. This is as fanciful as arguing Bankers are born with a morality gene.  Union membership has steadily declined since their peak of membership in 1979 at over 13 million members.  It is now at an historic low of 6.5 million with less than 50% of the population working in situations where there is union presence.

There is also a large myth that unions are the evil barons of modern political society that cause so much trouble and strife with strikes galore and that Mrs Thatcher was the one who reversed this trend.  In the 1970’s the amount of strikes declined from a high of 5,000 to 1,500 by the time she was elected in 1979.

There were about 158 strikes in 2006 and over the past 15 years the UK has been continually lower than the EU and OECD average for stike days lost.

We are not the sick man of Europe in terms of strike days lost, and we are not about to reverse a trend that has been continuing for at least 40 years.

Unions are not THE PROBLEM.  It is only rhetoric and nonsense of the ideologies of the past that keeps on playing the same tune.

Another often quoted requirement for the rescue of our economy is “deregulation”.  Again, nothing like a history lesson to exercise those little grey cells.

One of the reason for our mess at the present time IS Deregulation.

A sad unpalatable truth for the right wing is that markets are not a religion but simply a tool for distributing goods and services.  In order to work properly they require laws and regulations so that they operate efficiently for the benefit of our society.  If they are not properly regulated, then anarchy in the market place ensues and massive corruption and imbalances occur as well exploitation in the marketplace.

It is also not about how much regulation you have, but having the right regulation.  The banking collapse shows what happens when the ideology of a moral imperative over rides the necessary government job of regulating the market.

Yet there are still those who think that deregulation automatically brings better economic conditions.

We get ourselves stuck in a narrative, and then wonder how we could possibly have made the same mistakes we made years before. We are currently on a course of economic austerity that was last tried on this scale in the 1930’s with the terrible consequences that had.  Are we to repeat the mistakes of the past?

In reality though, our politicians and economists appear stuck in an ideological vacuum of the past.  No one appears to be looking forward for something new.  To break out of the constraints and barriers of the past, or even to learn from the past.

Where are the new economic theories?  Where is the acknowledgement that the world has now changed?  I see very little original thought in the current crop of Parliamentarians, only a mirror image of what has gone before.

Will we ever learn?

The New Dynamics of the Coalition Government: David Cameron and Nick Clegg have a New Relationship

Digesting the real outcomes of the recent elections takes time.  A lot of commenting in the media has speculated wildly in a predictable pattern.  The right saying Cameron is now stronger than ever; others saying Nick Clegg and the LibDems are done for; while some point to a new strategy for Nick Clegg and others point to a return to “old politics”.

If we did not know it already, the rhetoric of a “new politics” so often quoted by the leading members of the government is complete nonsense.  What the Tory led No to AV campaign showed is that cynicism and negative campaigning with personal attacks are at the forefront of British politics and at the heart of government.

I stated after the elections in May that the real winners were most certainly the Conservative party, and I stand by that assessment.  The wider effect though is more complicated.

Those that have sought to talk up the demise of the LibDems are being premature.  The LibDem vote has indeed reduced to 15%, which could be seen to now be their core vote.  Although, I do not think they will reach the 24% watermark seen at the last general election, I think they will recover some of their support, largely because the dynamics of government have now changed, and many will not have anywhere else to go in some constituencies.

Some have said that the demise of the coalition is now more likely, but in reality I think this is far from the truth.  If Nick Clegg calls time on the coalition his political career is over and so is his leadership of the Lib Dems.  He has only one option to him, and that is to get more out of the coalition.

Whereas Cameron’s political strategy has worked well, Nick Clegg’s has been diabolical.  He put up a united front, not a a coalition but a partnership in the national interest.  Thrashing out policies in private to have a consensual approach and a united policy front.  This has worked into the hands of the Tories, as the differences have been masked and the Tories take the plaudits for policy and the Liberals take the flack from their supporters.

The change in electoral fortunes will see, and is already seeing, a significant change to the way the Coalition and the Libe Dems in particular present themselves.

Ironically, the outcome of the election that was excellent for David Cameron, will actually make his life harder and increase the power and influence of the Liberals.

We have already seen the flexing of muscles by Nick Clegg in recent days, this is largely a knee jerk reaction though.  Over time we will see far more of the differences between the two parties and more spats in public as the Liberals try take credit for the Liberal side of cameron’s policies and where they have genuinely watered down Tory ideology.

Electoral fortunes of all the political parties are in the balance as the public are increasingly sceptical of anyone who asks for their vote.  Some commentators like to claim if Cameron went for a snap election he would win a majority.  But he needs the changing of the boundaries to help him get elected.  Indeed if labour polled their 38% of the vote seen in May they could end up winning.

The truth however, is that the council elections are a snapshot in time and a chance to protest.  This will continue for another 2 years as the cuts bite.  Any percentages gained in the last election will not manifest itself at a general election.  Labour would be unlikely to be able to get 38% if we had a general election tomorrow, and the Lib Dems may well do better than expected in the seats where there is no alternative to the Tory candidates.

In truth the most likely outcome of a snap election would be a dogs dinner and another coalition, much like we have now.

In the face of a 5 year parliament, the Lib Dems have an opportunity to really hold the Tories to account and show their metal.  They now have nothing to lose.

The Labour Party has nothing to offer and their policies are increasingly moving to the right, so the only party who can really hold the Tories to account is the LibDems.  Only now they have to show, more than ever, exactly what they are unhappy with.  Gone is the consensus united approach, this will just not work.

The first casualty will have to be the NHS reforms.  However, the astute amongst the electorate will note that it was Nick Clegg who tried to claim credit for the NHS reforms earlier this year, stating they were actually in the LibDem manifesto. How times change!!

The dynamics are extremely complicated as the government’s strategy among the liberals and conservatives is being put under scrutiny by events dear boy.   Yesterday we heard that the 1922 committee gave un-wavering support to Andrew Lansley over NHS reform and how these reforms must go ahead.

This appears to be a direct challenge not just to Nick Clegg but also to David Cameron, and give him little room for manoeuvre.  The NHS policy is a massive indication over the confusion within government as to how to formulate policy.

David Cameron has run his government based on a decentralised approach, without micro management.  This has led to uturns and embarrassing problems with Forests; sure start, EMA and law and order policies.

Allowing ministers to go off and do their own thing is turning out to be a bit of a disaster for Cameron.  One of his biggest problems is his fixation on the failures of the Blair government.  He wants to get things done quickly while he can after Blair squandered his majority.  The problem is that Cameron neither has the necessary mandate or majority and rushing through badly thought out policies is a recipe for disaster.

He also saw the special advisor culture as corrosive, which he is now back tracking on and employing more advisers.

David Cameron is a shrewd politician, but he is so often let down by the people he has around him, and the ideology, within wings of his party which will undermine him.  Today we see that the right wing is attacking Ken Clarke after his inept performance yesterday.  Perversely it is the left within the newspapers and commentators who are more sympathetic to Ken Clarke.

Which makes Ed Miliband aligned with the right rather than the left on law and order, more than ever before.

We live in interesting times and anyone who makes predictions over the fate of this government or who will win the next election are simply fools.  The dynamics of government are intriguing.  One thing is for certain, Nick Clegg and his Liberals have nothing to lose and must show their political nouse by talking up the differences and fighting for the people who actually voted for them.  At worst they will get trounced in the next election, but if they don’t flex their muscles they will anyway.  At best they may just save their political futures.

The NO to AV campaign have it: The end of constitutional reform for a generation

So the official result is nearly in, but the NO VOTE has already now officially passed the 50% mark.  The Yes to AV camp had given up and gone home some hours ago, and the first gloating has begun in the largely right wing press.

The Spectator was one of the first off the mark and the inane commentary has begun.  Narrow mindedness and self preservation of the 2 main parties has won out and many are now saying openly that thankfully that will be the end of constitutional reform for a generation.

It is likely that I will be dead by the time real constitutional reform comes to the fore, which it surely will one day, it is just that in Britain we are always the last to drag our traditions kicking and screaming into the modern world.

The Alternative Vote was never the best system, everyone knew it, but we also knew that it was always the only reform any of the major players could consider stomaching. But they were able to fight off the challenge to their unfair advantages built into our system.

Nick Clegg made a massive gamble in his coalition agreement and sold his soul for AV.  In the end, much of the public could not stomach what he gave up for this.

The No campaign acted disgracefully and it will be hard for many to be able to look on some figures within that campaign in the same light.  Baroness Warsi playing at extremism was an absolute disgrace.  As was the way the Tories stabbed Nick Clegg in the back with the no campaign and the targeting of him personally.

The lies told over funding and people having more than one vote; and it helping extremism will go down in the political pages of history showing just how to run a cynical and negative campaign. If you repeat a lie often enough people believe it.

In the end, the vote for AV gave the chance for those who like FPTP; those that wanted PR; those that could not forgive Nick Clegg; and those wanting to put strain on the coalition, to all campaign for a no vote.

The Conservative Party, BNP and Communists, and the old guard of the Labour Party won out.

If this is the end of our constitutional reform, it is a sad end to the progress of pluralism seen over the past 15 years.  With the partial reform of the House of Lords, devolution and mayoral elections, the benefits of local democracy and a more proportional system can be seen, as with the Scottish elections tonight.

A country should never stand still in a false belief that the past is best.  We should be looking forward to see how we can improve.  A better more accountable and transparent political system will always improve the quality of govenorship   even if those clinging onto power do not think so.

Conservative Party Wins 2011 Council Elections

2011 could end up being a landmark year for UK politics.  The Conservative Party has done the equivalent of walking on water by taking all the praise of the voters and none of the blame for their austerity policies.

Although the next 2 years will be crucial, the way the Tory vote has held up in England suggests they could ride the storm while demolishing the Liberal Democrats and while Labour tread water.

The destruction of the Liberal Democrats where they have come behind even the BNP in some seats has the affect that the left vote will be split and the Tories will ride high.  One of the most interesting aspects of this election is the way the Liberal Democrats fortunes have reversed in such a way that other political parties are doing to them what the Liberal Democrats used to do to the Tories and Labour.

Whereas in years gone by the Liberal Democrats would play the two face card by taking votes from Labour in some seats and Tories in others.  Now Labour have been taking seats from the Lib Dems while the Conservatives are taking seats from the Lib Dems in other seats.  The nose dive of LibDem votes has lifted the Conservative Party not just to not lose too many seats, but to actually GAIN overall control of some councils.  This is a remarkable outcome.

There is no doubt, that the whipping boys for the past 12 months policies, even though they are Tory lead has been taken by the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron will be popping champaign tonight as his coalition partners are now in a weaker position and cannot afford to go to the country earlier than the 5 year term, and Labour’s vote is inherently weak.  He couldn’t give a fig about the Tories being decimated in Scotland as he does not needthese seats to win national  elections.  Whereas Ed Miliband should be worried about the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland, even though it is guess work how this would translate into UK wide elections.

The Nick Clegg question is one that the LibDems will have to consider.  They have to radically change their strategy and criticise Tory policy much more and indeed distinguish exactly how they are moderating Tory policy.  Some are calling for Nick Clegg’s head, but realistically could they survive a battle for the change in leader and keep the coalition going for another 4 years?

Nick Clegg has made a massive miscalculation with the way he has allowed the coalition to be portrayed.  Whereas before the 2010 election Nick Clegg had the advantage of people thinking he was a different politician who could be trusted.  that has now been lost, and there is no way he can regain that advantage.

Later, there is likely to be another devastating result with the AV referendum that will just add more demoralisation on the shoulders of Nick Clegg and his supporters.

If nothing else, David Cameron has proved to be a very astute politician and strategist.  There is not doubt that the May 5th elections belong to David Cameron.