Category Archives: Social values

The Economist’s advice to Labour

Why would the Economist publish an article commending Labour to vote its ‘Blairite candidate’ to the Party leadership? Why would that rather formulaic libertarian publication be concerned?

The Bagehot article purports to be about Liz Kendal, Labour Party MP for Leicester West. But in reality it is just another salvo in the mainstream media’s attempt to ensure Labour poses no threat to the established Osborne-Cameron clique. The main message is the suggestion that Labour lost the election because, under Miliband’s leadership, it moved too far to the left. If it is to have any chance of future election success, it must recover its Blairite centre ground by voting Kendal. That was the suggestion.

Acknowledging Labour lost all but one of its seats in Scotland to the SNP, the article pretends that Scottish failure was all about independence. The establishment is clearly nervous that Labour might follow the SNP example offering policies focused on fairness and social justice, financed by the fruits of economic stimulus rather than being strangled by austerity.

What would happen to Labour support if it were to go against all privatisation of public services in health, education and social welfare, against the fire sale of UK publicly owned assets to foreign investors, and focus on the eradication of poverty, the building of affordable social housing, government subsidized higher education, and serious investment in renewable energy as well as progressive taxation of income and wealth. Such a social democratic programme is currently only advocated in England by the Green Party. But if Labour was persuaded to that position based more on human values than Old Labour class war loyalties, there might be a genuine threat of Labour revival.

With its miniscule majority, the Osborne-Cameron offering of privatisation and surrender to corporate monopolists, might then find the Labour / SNP opposition more than just challenging. If, on the other hand, Labour could be misled into appointing its ‘Blairite candidate’, the challenge would be easily repelled. That is why the mainstream media, including The Economist, is concerned.

Tory’s Rocky Road Ahead Confirmed

Survey data re the 2015 general election is confirming the previous posting. But it is not a picture that is widely acknowledged. For example, Martin Kettle in today’s Guardian, suggests it is more important we should ask why the Tories succeeded, than why Labour failed. But the truth is the Tories are only a smidgeon ahead of their 2010 vote when they had to rely on Lib-Dem support to form a government. That can hardly be regarded as great success. The 24 additional seats those few additional votes produced was a quirk of the first past the post system. Labour undoubtedly failed, being stuck only 1.5% above their 2010 low point in terms of votes, but losing 26 seats, also a result of first past the post.

The survey sample referred to in the previous post has produced some further confirmation. The Lib-Dems were written off some time ago as having completely sold out. That may be grossly unfair, but that is the predominant reason being given by those former Lib Dems surveyed. The main cause emerging for Labour’s rejection was their failure to offer an economic programme that was significantly different from George Osborne’s. In particular, Ed Balls’ adherence to the Tory austerity programme, in case Labour should be seen as irresponsible, appears to have been a prime cause of frustration and rejection.

Those small changes in voter numbers disguise a lot of voter movement. In the survey, a significant number of former Labour voters turned to UKIP and the Greens, where they substantially increased numbers to around 5m but produced no additional seats. Labour’s losses to UKIP and Greens appear to have been more than compensated by deserting Lib-Dems.

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New Tory’s Rocky Road Ahead

The election result took many by surprise. As the results became clear, George Osborne briefly stated the Tory commitments to an essentially social democratic sounding manifesto, including more jobs, affordable housing, tax cuts for working people, help with childcare, improved educational chances for all etc, etc. He concluded that they had put it all in the manifesto and “it seems to have been warmly received.” Further detail was later spelled out by David Cameron in his victory speech outside No 10, a transcript of which follows.

It is possible there may be some misunderstanding. Osborne’s perception of a warm reception may be sadly mistaken. Prior to the election, extensive campaigning was focused on what appeared to be deliberate misinterpretations so as to spread misunderstanding and deliver tactical voting, ie voting not for what you believe in but in order to prevent what you actively reject. The result is uncertainty about the electorate’s true position.

The most actively rejected were, of course, the Lib Dems, followed by Labour. A rather non-scientifically designed survey sample, but nevertheless one of considerable geographic spread, is being conducted to identify reasons for that rejection, with some preliminary results are already to hand. In both Lib-Dem and Labour, the main cause emerging for their rejection was their failure to offer a real alternative to the Tory manifesto. The Lib-Dems were written off as having completely sold out. That may be grossly unfair, but that is the predominant reason being given by those former Lib Dems surveyed. Labour also lost support because of their failure to offer a significantly different economic programme. In particular, Ed Balls’ adherence to the Tory austerity programme in case Labour should be labelled as irresponsible, appears to have been a prime cause of frustration and rejection.
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Je Suis un Humain

For a short while on 11th January 2015, an estimated 1.5 million people were brought together in Paris as a homogeneous entity, along with a further estimated 2.5 million elsewhere in France. They represented huge diversity of race, religion, age, ability, interests and political allegiance. What brought them together for that brief moment was their common protest against the violence meted out to individuals who in these post-enlightenment times, had not broken any law, but had merely exercised their right to freedom of speech. Though few of the protesters might agree with the Charlie Hebdo line, the protest was in defence of their right to express it, and the shared horror at the premeditated violence visited on them.

That spontaneous moment of universal protest is now complete.  But the mindless abuse of Muslims was almost immediate.  Those aggressive reactions could well seed equal and opposite responses. So the world might continue its progression in the wrong direction, refusing to learn any lessons from the simple minded ‘war on terrorism’ declared by George W Bush after 9/11 and supported by our very own Tony Blair.  The time for simplistic generalisations is surely over; the struggle must begin for some deeper understanding on which to base action.

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Who will defend the British interest?

British manufacturing, science and R&D, is again subject to attack with Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca. The deal is reported as threatening 30,000 British jobs and a substantial part the UK economy’s manufacturing added value, as well as severely damaging British leadership in drug research and production. All this, with the dogmatic encouragement of the British government. David Cameron simply affirms the government’s neutrality over the deal, but expresses satisfaction with Pfizer’s promise not to act against British interests for the first five years after acquisition – a time scale beyond which he appears to have little interest. George Osborne’s pleasure with the deal is clear in that it demonstrates yet again the extent of his business ‘friendliness’. Only Vince Cable demurs, suggesting weakly that we’ll need to look at the detail.

At this point in time it is unclear who will defend British interests against such damaging takeover. The thirteen directors of AstraZeneca are the first line of defence. They are collectively responsible for the success of the company and will no doubt all have contractual agreements requiring them to act in the best interests of the company at all times and to declare any possible conflict of interest. However, their rejection of Pfizer’s improved GBP63bn bid was simply on the grounds that it substantially undervalued the business. That price hardly reflects the tax avoiding potential of the newly created combine, never mind AstraZeneca’s pipeline of experimental drugs and cancer treatments which is reported to be substantially superior to Pfizer’s, and the potential for stripping out and realising AstraZeneca’s assets, a talent which Pfizer has previously demonstrated.
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The Real Worth of Co-operation

When all the dust has settled, it will be seen that the Co-operative Bank fiasco will have only added strength to co-operative governance and the co-operative ideal.

The origins of the co-operative movement go back to the industrial revolution and Robert Owen’s mill village at New Lanark. It was common practice then for mill owners to pay employees in funny money which was only exchangeable at the company shop where prices were fixed for the benefit of the owner. Owen’s employees at New Lanark were paid in real money and the company shop sold goods to employees at their cost price. That was the forerunner of the 1844 Rochdale Pioneers, the basic idea being to offer the common man an alternative to being fleeced by the mill owners.
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Banking Standards Apple Pie

The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards published its 571 pages and its chairman, Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, hopes ‘the higher standards it advocates will help revive the banking sector and the UK generally’. ‘This is not,’ he assures us, ‘a bank bashing report.’ Indeed so. It is as supportive of banking, the City and its financial activities as such a report could be, while talking the language of reproof and proper correction. Its disapproval of massive bonuses, especially those being paid for failure, is given full voice. But proposed substantive action is limited. The extension of deferred bonus payments with easier “clawback”, seems unlikely to make much difference.

A much repeated complaint in the report, especially of people at the top, is the lack of personal responsibility and accountability. Those responsible for the decisions and behaviour which led to the sector’s failure have continued to be rewarded with massive bonuses and pensions. To address this the report recommends top appointments having to be authorised by the regulator who will identify specific responsibilities. Would that make any difference? Would the regulator have rejected the appointment of Fred Goodwin or Bob Diamond. Or any other likely incompetent?
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