30 September 2011

Ed Miliband - pissing off the right people (most of the time)

As was the case last year, Ed Miliband's Labour Party conference speech just keeps getting better the more I look at the reactions to it.

One outcome of the speech (and in particular the very warm reaction that Ed's line "I'm not Tony Blair" received) has been that the Blairite hard right of the Labour party is utterly demoralised. After the disappointment of their assumed shoo-in candidate, David Miliband, losing to Ed last year, the hard right had hoped that Ed's poor personal approval ratings would somehow contrive an Iain Duncan Smith 2003 situation where Ed would be persuaded to fall on his sword to be replaced by David, or another Blairite (if they could find anyone suitable). The phone hacking scandal, and now Ed's gutsy speech, has made his replacement a very remote prospect this side of an election. You could still - just about - argue that Ed might be vulnerable if Labour does badly in the 2012 local elections, and in particular if Ken Livingstone fails to beat Boris Johnson in the London mayorality rematch; but this is clutching at straws for the Blairite hard right, who seemed to spend most of the conference crying into their beer as they realised the game is up for them.

Typifying this resignation among the hard right was an interview I saw on Channel 4 News last night with the preposterous right wing New Statesman and Labour Uncut maverick blogger Dan Hodges, and the shadow transport minister John Woodcock - who appears to be a cross between Andrew Adonis and a mannered automaton. Hodges was desperate - "Ed's embarked on a suicidal strategy", he wailed. This is very good news. The downbeat mood (reportedly) at the hard-right Progress rally at the conference was very good news. The fact that pain-in-the-ass uber-Blairite journalists like John Rentoul don't like Ed is also very good news. Demoralisation, ceasing and desisting, and - hopefully - leaving the Labour party altogether, would be the best things that could happen to the handful of Blairite ultras who have been trying to orchestrate a coup to take back the Labour leadership for the last 12 months. Note that most of the people who backed David Miliband for the leadership last year are not uber-Blairites and are happy to fall into line behind Ed's strategy. We're talking about a handful of people - just as damaging in their own way as the Trotskyite Militant tendency were in the 1980s. They are demoralised and they are on the way out. All Very Good.

That said, Ed doesn't always piss the right people off - sometimes he pisses off people he needs in the tent with him. This was most evident in the ludicrous part of his speech which attacked disabled benefit claimants as if they were all scroungers - a simple piece of Blairite triangulation totally at odds with the rest of his speech. Tim Nichols of the Child Poverty Action Group has a brilliant post on Left Foot Forward totally demolishing this part of Ed's speech - he badly needs to develop a new progressive narrative on social security (NOT, for F***'s sake, this godawful US word "welfare"), or risk alienating millions of benefit and tax credit claimants whose votes he needs to win next time.

But in general, with some severe reservations, I'm a lot more optimistic about the future of the Labour party now than I was a week ago. Hey, if Ed dropped the bullshit about demonising benefit claimants I might even rejoin, having not been a Labour member since 1992 when I resigned claiming that John Smith(!) was "selling us out". I'm in the Green party at the moment - ideally I'd like to be in both the Green party and the Labour Party, and perhaps it would be useful if such a facility could be introduced. F*** tribalism, yes to pluralism.

28 September 2011

Some quick reflections on Ed's speech

Van Patten has actually done a remarkably good and fair minded job on Ed Miliband's speech already, and I'm pushed for time, so I will just offer up a few "thunks" in the manner of BHappy:

1) delivery started well but fell off rapidly. I tweeted in the first 5 minutes of the speech that Ed was far more assured than last year, but that was only true for those first few minutes. After that, his pacing was glacial, and too often he sounded like he was reading the phone directory. I've seen Ed give some barnstorming speeches at places like the Fabians and Compass where he's spoken without notes, walking around the platform, and I think he should do that next time. As Cameron has shown, it's just a far more relaxed style of delivery.

2) there needs to be a proper investigation into what went wrong with the live TV feed. Apparently someone plugged a kettle in where they shouldn't have, it fused the electrics, and the whole thing went down. Why was no back-up available? And was it Blairite sabotage? Questions need to be answered.

3) the basic idea - that the current economic system was unacceptable - was sound, although it needs a lot of fleshing out.

4) nonetheless, too many concessions to the Tories. there needs to be an end to demonisation of benefit claimants, more commitment to reverse most of the ConDem cuts, and the commitment to sell off the banks is dangerous IMHO - it will just get us back to exactly the same problems we had in 2008. The problem at the moment is that Ed is reaching for a new broad vision - but on specifics he's still very timid. This will result in huge inconsistencies as we get nearer the election unless it's addressed.

5) The speech pissed the right people off. For example, if John Rentoul doesn't like what Ed's saying, he's definitely saying the right thing. Likewise Dan Hodges in the New Statesman.

6) Nice to see some attacks on Nick Clegg. Some commentators have said that Labour is focusing too much on hitting the Lib Dems and not enough on the Tories. I think it needs to hit both hard, but the Lib Dem vote is softer, and so hitting them gets more "bang for the buck". Remember that if Labour gets (say) 12% of the electorate transferring from the Lib Dems to Labour next time, while the Tory vote is unchanged, Labour wins the election by 5 percentage points. It's as simple as that. The Glib Dems are fair game, and emphasising that the only way to get a left-of-centre government is to vote Labour is exactly the right political strategy.

So: 7/10 for content, 4/10 for delivery. Not great, but a better average than your average Tony Blair speech (0/10, 9/10) or Gordon Brown (4/10, 2/10). Ed was also helped by the fact that the delivery of most of the other platform speakers this week has been even worse (Ed Balls and autocue: never the twain shall meet.) But yes, better delivery next time, please.

27 September 2011

The horse that talks the talk - but can he walk the walk?

For those diehards watching the Party conference season back in the UK (and a slight dose of a winter virus has left me tied to my NYC abode - no sympathy expected), today it was the turn of Ed Miliband to step up and deliver his keynote address. Reaction has been somewhat muted, ranging from predictable responses from right wing commentators in the blogosphere , and the usual suspects in the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph . Further criticism has been forthcoming from what my host, Hal Berstram tells me are equally habitual moaners in The Guardian and the New Statesman.

By common consent, the weakest Political Leaders in the last three decades, (at least excluding the Liberal Democrats) have been Michael Foot, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith (IDS). For many on the Right, Ed Miliband was the heir to that tradition, and indeed his public persona has been one that has struggled, for me to look Prime Ministerial. I am reminded, by a most unlikely source, that a number of previous Prime Ministers have struggled to gain credibility with the media. Indeed arguably the two 'greatest' post war Prime Ministers (and for Leftists I'll sub the word 'influential' for the latter) would in one instance as Toynbee points out, have been a non -starter (Clement Attlee) and in the other instance the Lady concerned struggled to the extent that she had her own party calling for her head as late as 1977. So the pundits calling this Ed's 'Quiet man' moment can safely I think either be accused of playing to the gallery, at least for the Mail and Telegraph contributors, or in the case of Glover and Hodges, as my man Hal Berstram posits, having an ulterior motive.

Nevertheless, it's worth looking more closely at what Ed's speech contained. For me, he is not a natural orator, and often looks ill at ease, at least in comparison with Blair, or indeed Cameron. As Hal points out, it's possible that Cameron is much more about style than substance, and indeed Ed has done rather better in the set piece exchanges at Prime Minister's Question time than I thought he might have. the worry for Labour Party supporters is that Hague, in particular, regularly trounced Blair across the Dispatch box only to come out with one of the worst electoral performances in history

So to the speech itself, and it started with a couple of somewhat flat jokes. However, for me, more worrying was the lack of content. In comparative terms, the Conservatives first term in opposition was defined by Ken Clarke's comment on Hague's obsession with how he was perceived: 'Where's the beef?' in terms of looking for clear policies with which voters could connect. Reading through the speech, we can come up with the following:

1/ Education - a priority of the Blair years, and it seems Miliband wants to cap the tuition fees at £6K rather than £9K. Furthermore we will see a concerted effort to ensure that people from the lowest achieving and most difficult schools are guaranteed a place at one of the UK's 'Top 30 universities'

2/ Social policy - it seems that Social housing will be allocated in the first instance to people who are working, rather than on the basis of need. How in line with the Human Rights Act this is, I'm not sure, and it seems to sit ill with contending to care for the poorest and most vulnerable.

3/ Health - it seems that Labour will reverse the NHS reforms, because the 'Tories can't be trusted' - in terms of the details, er.... that's it?, unless by the credit card reference he means the nationalisation of the Private Sector - that would be genuinely radical!

4/ The economy - an introduction of employee representatives to decide boardroom renumeration. In fairness, works councils involving employees are a staple of several continental economies - but it's not a tradition the UK has. Also, the differentiation between producers and 'predators' with the former being supported and the latter penalised. Quite who decides what is what is not made clear but it's true this might strike a chord with people who have been the victims of some of the more unscrupulous Private equity forms operating in the murkier sector of the Financial Services industry.

Beyond that, much generalisation about certain values he wishes to embody, but on Europe, an issue for me of the utmost importance, only one sentence, which given how much of our legislation comes from it, is deeply concerning.

So, a train wreck? - not really, indeed for a conference speech, which of late have tended to shy away from concrete commitments precisely for fear of offering hostages to fortune, I thought it wasn't a bad effort. However, as the old saying goes, the Devil is very much in the detail, and I think when he delivers his speech next year, assuming his poll numbers remain steady, I'll expect much more detail of just how a reversion to almost a pre 1979 vision is going to extricate us from the very real issues facing us. Nevertheless, 'the worst speech in 20 years?' - do me a favour!

The same old story... and the same old mistakes

It's part conference season over in the UK, and following the so-called 'Fib Dems' last week, it's the turn of Her Majesty's official opposition, whom following a successful campaign from the last conference to get their stalking horse candidate in, now find themselves fronted by a talking horse.

A post on Miliband has been 'in the works' for several months now, and to Conservatives he remains the coalition's greatest asset, although the redrawing of the electoral landscape under the previous government, due to a huge increase in the Public Sector workforce, unlimited immigration and a significant increase in the number of welfare claimants, means he actually stands with a healthy lead in the polls, as Hal Berstram takes great pleasure in reminding me. More on him later, for sure, but pending the arrival of Compass latest offerings, it's time to examine another blog from the Democratic Left, Left Futures

It's an interesting name, given that for many the Left has no future, but the latest post in response to the Shadow Chancellor's remarks made yesterday, is worth looking at, if only to point out to people opposed to the anticipated 'cuts' in Public expenditure, some of the logistical issues with their preferred solution. The speech by Balls was, it has to be said, something of a tour de force, quite brilliantly summed up by one of the men who is under no illusion about the dangers posed by the Hard Left, Norman Tebbit here. I've never been overly enamoured by Balls ever since he was memorably skewered by then Deputy PM Michael Heseltine, with the memorable line, 'It's not Brown, it's Balls', and even in a political age where Chutzpah is a stock in trade, the speech took some beating. Arguably the most outrageous claim was made when he blames the many issues caused by immigration, which was deliberately encouraged by his government for political purposes (to 'Rub the right's faces in diversity') on one country in particular, Poland.

Now, at this point , I must declare an interest, my previous employer's workforce profile was very much geared to take advantage of the previous government's decision to 'open the borders' in 2004 to the 8 former Warsaw Pact countries which joined the EU in May of that year. I would hazard that around a third of the workforce, even 7 years on, remains Polish, with healthy minorities from the Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania. I'd probably now number around 40 of those former colleagues as people I would consider reasonably close friends, all from Poland. Having some contact (usually in the form of insults) with the extreme right, I'd hazard Eastern European immigration is somewhat less objectionable than many other types, due to the ethnicity, religion and background of those immigrants. They are primarily White and Christian, but Balls, deeply conscious of previous statements from Conservative Leaders that were described by members of his own Party as 'the road to Auschwitz' and 'having the whiff of the gas chambers about them' chose instead to demonise people from Poland, rather than the somewhat more concerning, from an integration perspective, immigration from the Islamic world. As I said, shameless courting of the lowest common denominator.

Nevertheless, taking that consideration aside, the Left futures blog post posits the issue with Balls' prescription is that it doesn't go far enough! The core 'solution' provided in the blog is not new, but once more the details are wanting. Let's examine the core text.

'The key problem is not indebtedness, it is lack of demand. The Tory government policy of massive cuts in public expenditure and benefits, plus the VAT increase, is drastically worsening the problem of lack of demand without hardly reducing the deficit at all because of falling tax revenues and rising unemployment. The alternative – the only way to get out of slump when the private sector contracts – is a public sector-driven jobs and growth strategy, getting people off the dole and thus hugely reducing the cost of benefits, and into work so that regain their independence as well as then being able to contribute to tax revenues.

Keeping a million people on the dole costs £7bn a year. For the same amount of money 400,000 jobs could be created. And the country gets a double whammy: jobs are created in areas where they’re urgently needed in housebuilding, in improving transport and energy supply, and in creating the new green, digital economy. And the deficit is cut faster as growth slowly but steadily begins to take off again.'

This prescription, as already mentioned is reminiscent of the film Groundhog Day. there's the uncanny feeling we've been here before. Let me just state for the reader's benefit, that my background is in Logistics, which, simply put is the 'art' of ensuring resources are in the correct places. So what logistical difficulties does this plan present?

I agree a demand stimulus would certainly help the economy. As Tebbit posited when commenting on Balls' original speech, had the previous government not created a coterie of 'Non - jobs' for its own placemen, it's arguable that the necessity to cut wouldn't be there. The problem for Balls, and by extension the Labour Party, is that such people are almost to a person Labour voters, so to jeopardise that constituency would almost certainly mean losing the next several general elections. That would be suicidal, so the bloated payrolls of Local authorities (of all hues, incidentally) and his power base in the non-productive Public Sector remain untouched.

Let's now examine the proposal to create 400,000 jobs , which the blogger suggest will be in housebuilding, transport, infrastructure, and creating the new 'green,digital economy'. Let's deal with the last of these first, shall we? The one thing adepts of the Green economy fail to tell me is what this new 'Green,digital' economy will comprise. It's adherents, men like Chris Huhne , and people like Caroline Lucas, specialise in the production of prodigous quantities of hot air so my first thought was that, but in all seriousness, what are these 'creators' doing - if it's simple IT related tasks, then Ok, there might be sufficient unemployed with those skills to simply get them into a job, but I haved some reservations. Being charitable, let's assume its in the role of facilitation, and thus creating perhaps new cabling and broadband infrastructure, a key 'enabler' if britain is to gain widely based prosperity geographically.

The issue I find fault with, and it's not the first time I've pointed it out is that the writer seems to have zero understanding of either the construction industry or the logistical difficulties faced in facilitating this work. A cursory tour of the few remaining building sites in the South East will quickly reveal:

A/ That the job is skilled not unskilled - you can't just shoehorn 400,000 people into jobs as carpenters and bricklayers. The training even to get to a basic standard is at least six months and for more skilled workers like electricians or engineers a good deal longer than that! I believe this wider ignorance about almost any aspect of either Public Sector 'frontline' or Private Sector Production, Distribution and Construction industries is partly a function of the increasingly narrrow field from which many potential political figures come. That's as much true of the Coalition, as it is Labour.

B/ That, in a great irony, it is Poland that provides a huge number of these workers. This is due to a strong traditional work ethic, and also, as many of my colleagues have said, the need to engage upon massive reconstruction after the devastation of the Second World War. Ironically, the legacy of a command economy is that there were significant numbers of skilled workers, a tradition which due to an almost Stakhanovite work ethic seems to have been passed to a younger generation. These workers manage to undercut indigenous Labour and, as many will testify, manage to do the work to a much higher standard. So unless the Labour Party is willing to echo it's former Leaders call for 'British jobs for British workers' , which would be illegal under EU law, the expenditure welcome though it may be, is likely to be dissipated by some of the money being sent in the form of remittances to Szeczin, Rzesow, Wroclaw, etc

Leave aside the merits of the funding in the penultimate paragraph, with the discredited Tobin Tax again posited , and a move to the Dennis Healey levels of taxation circa 1979, we're not left with much of substance. Sadly, reality hurts and I think the road ahead will be long and somewhat painful!

24 September 2011

The "Glib Dems" - from spineless collaborators to willing collaborators?

Despite being on holiday this past week, the fact that we stayed in the UK meant that I was exposed to more of the Liberal Democrat conference than I'd have liked to. As far as I could tell (which is mainly from Channel 4 news bulletins), the mood of the conference was rather different in 2011 than 2010. Last year there were significant rebellions against coalition policy - particularly on free schools. This year, a threatened rebellion against the NHS privatisation bill didn't get off the ground (the motion to hold a debate on the bill got more than 50% of delegate votes but didn't get the two-thirds it needed to pass).

There appears to have been a shift in how most of the Lib Dems are perceiving and positioning themselves. Last year, they were a sell-out and a prop for the Tories and they knew it. The squirming embarrassment of Vince Cable over tuition fees was the foremost example of this. The party looked to be heading for some kind of collective brain seizure.

But now... it's rather different. Sure, Huhne and Cable's speeches hit out tokenistically at the extreme right of the Tory party but overall there was suprisingly little criticism of the Tories. Instead, all the most stinging criticism was reserved for Labour. Clegg was particularly scathing - something that Ed Miliband will welcome, I think. After all, the experience of the AV referendum shows that these days the public normally does the exact opposite of what Nick Clegg says.

Last year I had pigeonholed the Lib Dems as spineless collaborators, unable to speak up for their progressive instincts because they had signed a Faustian pact with those bastard Tories. But now... they're still collaborators, but for the most part, WILLING collaborators. They actually BELIEVE in the shit policies they are foisting on the public.

Even Vince Cable - who give a similar cardboard cut-out "radical" speech to last year - is pursuing an extreme right deregulatory agenda at BIS. And Vince is certainly the extreme left wing edge of Lib Dems in government. The others are much worse.

Are the activists swallowing this shit? I think, by and large, they are. There is disquiet (as the NHS vote showed) but not enough to upset the applecart (again, as the NHS vote showed). The Social Liberal Forum - which is the social democratic fringe of the Lib Dems - doesn't have the numbers or the parliamentary leadership to challenge Clegg, and seems reluctant to split off from the rest of the party. There is probably also a sample selection effect going on here; many of the Lib Dems who were pissed off with the decision to go in with the Tories left in May 2010 or soon after, to join Labour or the Greens. Likewise, the Lib Dems claimed that thousands of new members signed up in the wake of the coalition deal... these will have been right-wingers, almost certainly. (I don't know what's happened to Lib Dem membership recently... some people said the conference hall looked a bit sparsely attended but that could have been because they'd hired a bigger venue than previous years? I don't know).

So basically, this is becoming (or has become) a right-wing party indistinguishable from the Tory mainstream except for a few issues: Europe, civil liberties, and maybe crime and national security.

Which means, more or less, that the advent of the "ConDems" has moved us from a political system with one right-wing party and two centre-left wing parties to a system with one left-wing party(at least in theory) and two right-wing parties. (Plus the Greens, UKIP and the Nationalists, of course). Under first past the post, it seems to me that Labour is the likely beneficiary of this shift. The Lib Dems will find it very hard next time round to take any votes off Labour from the left of the spectrum, as Charles Kennedy did with some success in 2005. Nor will they easily be able to rely on the more nebulous "new politics" schtick which produced the Cleggmania bubble of 2015. Instead, they will be out there at stage right, fighting to make the Tories look as reactionary as possible while copying their economic arguments and anti-Labour rhetoric...

So, from "Fib Dems" to "Glib Dems" it is, then. The Lib Dems have made their choice... it's a right-of-centre party from now on. They have gambled on shifting the political centre of gravity so far to the right that there will be room for two right-wing parties to co-exist successfully in future elections. Can this strategy work? The polls at the moment suggest there's no way in hell (and that's without boundary changes, of which more another time). But there is still a long way to go before 2015, and my new prediction is that the coalition will last until then... because many of the people in the Lib Dems who could take it down have already left.

18 September 2011

On holiday - like the Lib Dems' collective brain

Having a nice time up in west Norfolk - a great area of the country for foodies and beach walkers, for sure. This keeps me away from mischievous activities like watching the Fib Dem conference - although not from Twitter, where I have been enjoying regular dialogue and argument with left and right.

The most amusing aspect of the current Fib Dem exercise in mass self-delusion is the feeling that somehow they have turned the corner - despite the fact that their YouGov opinion poll rating is around 9%, unchanged from where it was in January - and Nick Clegg is still enjoying staggeringly low ratings with the electorate. And so the party faithful (those that haven't walked away in disgust) console themselves in a fantasy.

The set piece speeches are a cross between George Orwell and Monty Python: Tim Farron telling the members to "stop complaining" - i.e. be happy with your lot, acting as as appendage to the Tory Party. Simon Hughes - who gave a good speech at the Compass conference back in June, to be fair - saying that the Lib Dems were reining in "extremist" Tories. Strange then, Simon, that key Tory policies like savage spending cuts - and even key Tory policies that weren't in their manifesto, like NHS privatisation - are being nodded through. And the ministers - Clegg, Teather, Alexander - are even worse than that. We will no doubt see the standard left-wing football rattle speech from Vincent Cable later in the week - at the same time that he is attempting to dismantle the employment regulation structure of Britain. And all along, these bastards will be claiming that they have "taken poor people out of tax" when in fact they have slapped a 2.5% VAT increase on the poorest in society, cut benefits for the poorest in society, and only a tiny proportion of their £17bn income tax personal allowance increase actually helps the poor. Not for nothing do they carry the tag "Fib Dems".

But I don't hate all Lib Dems - and that differentiates me from some of the more tribal Labour Party types in the blogosphere. For example, I think Evan Harris is a fine upstanding left-wing secular rationalist who should be the party leader. Sadly, he lost in 2010 - mainly because he was a shit constituency MP and pissed off too many people. That was an idiotic mistake to make; but his profile is nonetheless very high, and if he walked out - perhaps to start a new left wing party (the Progressive Liberals? The Social Liberals? Plenty of possible names out there), possibly to join Labour or the Greens - he could take a lot of people with him. There is a thing called the Social Liberal Forum who are trying to take back the Lib Dem party from the Orange Book right wing nutters who have taken it over. We have already seen a fightback against right wing extremism in the Labour party, in the shape of Ed Miliband (although the process is still incomplete) and it is possible that Social Liberal Forum could pull off the same trick in the Lib Dems. What they lack at the moment is a high profile leader - it seems that all the potential Lib Dem leadership contenders, even the more left wing ones, are biding their time. Or maybe there just aren't any left wing Lib Dem MPs any more.

But I am in regular contact with several fine upstanding left-wingers in the Lib Dems - and my friendly message to these people is, GET OUT NOW. You are doing the Tories' dirty work for them, destroying an honourable political party, and tarnishing your own reputations. PULL THE FUCKING PLUG, form a new party (or join one of the others) and start living the real deal rather than a lie. The country will thank you for it, and you'll feel much better.

12 September 2011

After the five year mission

I checked back to the start of this blog and it turns out that Giroscope was 5 years old last week - we started off with an inauspicious post on 7 September 2006 about the Chappel Beer Festival. (I didn't go to Chappel this year because I didn't have time).

While Bill Shatner and crew retired after only 3 years of the original 5-year mission (being brought back for special occasions and toupee fittings once in a while), this blog is more like the Next Generation (or indeed Ed Miliband's "New Generation") - a "continuing mission" with no fixed end point.

As a special treat I'll be returning to the blogs from "Hal's Friday evening blog review" which was an early feature back in the 2006 days, to see what has happened to them in the last 5 years - or if, indeed, they still exist. I'll also be seeking out some new random blogs for extra comedy.

October should see the redevelopment of the Golf Ball and perhaps even some new activity on Groscope - certainly grew plenty of stuff this year, so time to write about it.

Keep it real, people.

11 September 2011

Wisdom from beyond the ages....

Now writing, albeit far too infrequently from New York City, my sojourn here has led me to study in somewhat more depth the History of this influential country, perhaps with a view to understanding more of the roots of the massive issues facing it and by extension the entire world. Whilst reasonably familiar with US history, at least up to the end of the Napoleonic wars and during the Civil War, the remainder of the period up to the end of World War I remained something of a murky one. I was inspired by a picture of president Obama working at a desk. The history of this desk, The Resolute desk, was that it was given to arguably one of the least well-known presidents (at least for British audiences) Rutherford B. Hayes , the 19th President of that country, by Queen Victoria during a period of gradual closening of relations between the two countries, carved from the hull of a ship, H.M.S Resolute which had been lost in the Arctic Circle and recovered by the USA.

Studying Hayes, a Republican from the 19th Century, I was struck by how sensible he seemed, and how this speech could provide a wake -up call both for Tea Party extremists who claim to represent the 'authentic' Spirit of the US, and Left wing extremists who think that any 'DWEM' 'Dead White European Male' (Hayes would be classifed as European on the grounds of being White) has nothing to tell us:

"In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many. It is not yet time to debate about the remedy. The previous question is as to the danger—the evil. Let the people be fully informed and convinced as to the evil. Let them earnestly seek the remedy and it will be found. Fully to know the evil is the first step towards reaching its eradication. Some are strong when they portray the rottenness of the present system. We are, to say the least, not yet ready for this remedy. We may reach and remove the difficulty by changes in the laws regulating corporations, descents of property, wills, trusts, taxation, and a host of other important interests, not omitting lands and other property'

Food for thought , certainly..

04 September 2011

Darling vs Brown

Been incredibly busy recently so not much time to blog, but I just wanted to say something about Alastair Darling's forthcoming and much-trailed memoirs in which he reveals sordid details of his life at Number 11 Downing St when Gordon Brown was at Number 10 - by all accounts, a very difficult three years.

Of course, we know already - primarily from Andrew Rawnsley's excellent The End of The Party - that Brown was a notorious bully, extremely difficult to work with, often chronically indecisive, and finally unable to present the kind of decisive break from the Blair years which might have enabled Labour to win a fourth term in 2010. In personality terms, my sympathies have to be with Darling - by all accounts a likeable and easy-to-work-with guy who had been a close friend of Brown for years, but found himself a target of the most appalling dirty tricks operation from the Brown henchmen when he dared to confide to the Guardian that the economic situation really was very bad indeed. Brown's insistence at the time that the financial crisis would blow over in 6 months now looks totally ludicrous (although to be fair to Brown, in summer 2008 when Darling observed that things were the worst they'd been for 70 years, most expert opinion didn't really believe things were that bad. The realisation came in autumn 2008, when the world banking system suddenly began to unravel completely.)

And yet... there's blame on both sides here. Having suddenly become the saviour of the global financial system (with able assistance from Darling) in autumn 2008, for my money Brown showed more political nous in 2009 than did Darling, but was ultimately done in by the fact that most of his cabinet hated him and didn't believe in him anymore. One of the reasons James Purnell resigned from the cabinet in Summer 2009 was that Brown refused to talk about the dreaded "c-word"... cuts. But I think the reason Brown didn't talk about "cuts" until autumn 2009 was that he realised that it would be pretty much impossible for Labour to win an election promising a slightly moderated version of a cuts agenda dictated by George Osborne and the Tory party. Brown realised that the economic battle has to be about Labour investment versus Tory cuts in order for Labour to have a cat in hell's chance of winning. The plan that Darling and the Treasury delivered going into the 2010 election was for cuts almost as bad as what the Tories were promising - this made it EXTREMELY hard for Labour to develop a coherent economic narrative in the 2010 election, a fact that Darling has acknowledged himself in interviews this weekend. Labour was left looking like an ersatz version of the Tories (which is, by the way, what the idiots in the Labour Right want Ed Miliband to do in 2015, and it'll have about as much success.) It was also patently clear during the election that Brown didn't believe his own economic narrative.

So in the end it is Alastair Darling that is partially responsible for Labour getting 29% of the vote in 2010. Only partially, because the other main reason for Labour's failure is because Gordon Brown was the hardest of hard sells by then. An exhausted, unlikeable and tragic figure on the doorstep, who should surely have been knifed hard by one of his senior cabinet members in 2008 or 2009. And this is the other reason why Darling takes his fair share of the blame for Labour's failure... because, along with Miliband, Johnson, Straw and all the other potential alternative leaders, he didn't have the balls to twist the knife in. There is one guy in British politics who has had the guts to take down a political frontrunner in an open contest... that guy is Ed Miliband, lest we forget. And anyone on the Labour right sniping about Ed needs to remember that Ed would probably never have become leader if any of the people in a position to oust Brown before the election had actually done it... at the end of the day, you have to put up or shut up. And while I have immense sympathy for Darling's plight at the hands of Gordon in 2007-10, both of these guys are just an irritating distraction at a point when the ConDems are trying to destroy the country. And really I should be blogging about the collapsing economy, or the death of the NHS, and I will do... it's just that I'm a junkie for a political spat, sad man that I am.