Torygraph double-talk would drag us back to primeval politics

Good riddance: Tony Blair (pictured on his return from his final Prime Minister's Questions on June 27, 2007) tried to marry left-wing social policy with neoliberal economics. This 'Third Way' failed when the right-wing economies of the western world fell apart in 2007-8.

Good riddance: Tony Blair (pictured on his return from his final Prime Minister’s Questions on June 27, 2007) tried to marry left-wing social policy with neoliberal economics. This ‘Third Way’ failed when the right-wing economies of the western world fell apart in 2007-8 [Image: Telegraph].

Here’s a lunatic for you: Janet Daley, writing in the Telegraph.

Contrary to all the evidence, her article Labour has forgotten all the lessons it learnt under Blair would have us believe that Old Labour is back with a vengeance, having discarded all the right-wing tricks it picked up under Tony Blair.

By now, most of you are probably sighing wistfully and murmuring “If only” at your screens. We all know it isn’t true but there’s an ideological agenda at work here – this Daley woman (a former Philosophy lecturer, if you can countenance such a background for such a person) needs to undermine Labour’s credibility. “After all the progress we appeared to be making towards a mature national discourse, we find ourselves back in the pubescent stage of political debate that brought the country to a standstill a generation ago,” she writes. Not unless her own politics drags us back there!

Unfortunately for her, she makes a proper pig’s ear of it. “Once again, we have a centrist government,” she claims. No, no we don’t. We have the most right-wing government any of us can remember. If that is her starting premise, this article can only go downhill – like an avalanche.

“Once again, those who govern are trying to find sensible solutions to the most important problems of the day – now it is welfare dependency and the delivery of public services, back then it was trades union law.” Those are not the most important problems of the day. The most important problems are income inequality and the rebalancing of the economy away from reliance on the financial sector that has let us down.

Welfare dependency only became an issue because the right-wing (Tory) government of Margaret Thatcher demanded it. As has by now been well-documented here and elsewhere, she was desperate to end the security afforded to the working class by full employment – it meant employees could demand higher wages from bosses who were greedily desperate to keep their profits for themselves. So she deliberately maimed British industry, creating a huge surge in unemployment (such that she had to hide the full extent of unemployment by putting many claimants on Incapacity Benefit instead). Her anti-union laws then made it increasingly difficult for workers’ representatives to negotiate meaningful wage settlements. Put together, these moves allowed executives to depress wages – but meant full employment could never happen again under a Conservative government.

(The current Tories are paying lip-service to it at the moment, but if you think zero-hours contracts, part-time and temporary work, and a surge in the self-employed sector that claims tax credits is full employment, you’re deluded.)

The Tory concern with delivering public services is easily addressed: They want to privatise everything and make the public pay through the nose, as individuals, for services they could previously receive for an equitable price by paying collectively.

You see, it’s all about greed with the Tories. They want more – you pay for it.

It seems Ms Daley has guessed that she might receive criticism for her suggestions, so she states, without a hint of humour: “Their efforts to talk sense – even to argue sensibly – are being bombarded by a cacophony of hysterical inanities from the ideological Left, some of it purely self-serving and the rest of it grotesquely naïve.”

How droll. We move on.

She tells us about “Tony Blair’s forcible remodelling of the Labour message to acknowledge the popular longing for aspiration and self-determination” as if she meant it. Tony Blair was a Third Way politician – he believed in left-wing social policies and right-wing, neoliberal economics. But right-wing economics failed spectacularly in 2007-8 when the banks – deregulated by Margaret Thatcher – proved they could not act responsibly on their own.

She suggests “the vindictive way it has been stamped out by the present-day Labour leadership” but can anybody see what she means by this?

Aspiration and self-determination have been brutally stamped out by the current Coalition government, with its homicidal policies to drive people away from its new social insecurity system and the previously-mentioned zero-hours, part-time, and temporary employment contracts that ensure employees have no chance of progression in their (short-term) jobs. There is more opportunity for aspiration and self-determination in remodelling businesses away from the corporate structure and into the form of worker-owned co-operatives, a long-cherished left-wing model of employment. But try getting that past a neoliberal executive!

Ms Daley’s article makes passing derogatory reference to the fall of Communism but in fact right-wing, neoliberal politics most closely resembles tribal Communism of the kind that was practised in the former Soviet Union, with the workers slaving for a pittance while the benefits are shared among the ruling class – who use state resources to support their corrupt regime. Does that seem familiar to you?

Ms Daley puts forward the belief that Bill Clinton was right to limit the amount of time anyone in the USA could claim state benefits, clearly indicating that this should be the next step for the Tories, here in the UK. “This precipitated an economic boom by pushing those forced off welfare into employment,” she gushes. Perhaps she hasn’t noticed the big question of the last week: A huge number of people have been forced off UK state benefits, and nobody knows where they are. They don’t have jobs because the jobs weren’t there for them. If there had been jobs for them, they would not have been forced off-benefit in the first place.

Then she gets her claws into Ed Miliband and Ed Balls: “Any rational discussion of the future of health care has become out of the question,” she says. Indeed – because the Conservative Party is hell-bent on selling it off, no matter how irrational this has been proved to be.

“Taxation is not necessary simply to raise funds to cover essential government functions, but to punish the undeserving whose social crime is to be more successful (or to have lived too long in a house that has rocketed in value) than many others,” she crows. No, it isn’t. Under Labour, taxation would cover government functions – it’s simply that those with the ability to pay would have to do so, rather than relying on the poor to do it for them.

The Mansion Tax should be seen in the context of the times: If the neoliberal right had been less keen on corruptly lining their own pockets and more keen on actually improving prosperity for all, there would be no need to find such ways of restoring the balance.

She moves on to poverty, claiming: “Scarcely anyone believes now that absolute poverty – the hunger and squalor that a significant proportion of Britons suffered within living memory – is a national problem. Food banks may have sprung into existence, but they are used largely as stop-gaps when benefit payments are delayed. Poverty is understood (even by its activists) to be relative. There is a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple social problems that produce real disadvantage: drug and alcohol dependency, broken families and, of course, welfare dependency.” By whom?

A significant proportion of Brits are suffering hunger and squalor now. That is why a significant proportion of Brits are being forced to suicide now – and why the DWP is doing all it can to cover up that fact now. Otherwise, why hide the number of ESA claimant deaths? Why shroud in secrecy the findings of investigations into claimant suicides?

Her discussion of food banks is astonishing – but should be best left to food bank organisers like the Trussell Trust to combat.

Finally, she moves to her claim that people are trapped by the benefits system. This whole article, it seems, is about defending Iain Duncan Smith! “So long as government was paying people to be poor, and penalising them for working through the tax system, the problem of relative poverty would never be cured.”

But that is a practice created by the Thatcher government and continued now – in fact, Duncan Smith’s DWP pushes benefit claimants right into the dirt with its punitive (and, some are now claiming, fraudulent) demands. Benefit claimants are now more helpless than ever. Their only real escape from the torment forced on them by a greedy government under the command of grasping industrialists is to drop out of the system altogether.

This article – together with its author – is a travesty; it is the incoherent, defending the inexcusable.

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24 thoughts on “Torygraph double-talk would drag us back to primeval politics

    1. hstorm

      I don’t agree with that. Old Labour would have won in 1997; that Election result was more a rejection of the Tory-sleaze era under John Major than an endorsement of Blair. It is interesting to note that Blair got fewer votes in a landslide in ’97 than Major got in a slim majority in ’92, and Blair’s final election victory in 2005 got just 25% of eligible electorate support.

      It was the terrible state the Tories were in for most of the 90’s and 00’s that made New Labour viable, not New Labour itself.

      1. Jim Round

        Michael Foot was unelectable, so was Neil Kinnock.
        Ed Milliband is facing an uphill fight to shake off a image drawn up by the MSM and the Tories.
        Blair came in talking about reform (New Labour) and saw off poor Tory leadership.
        Can you name a successful, real left-wing and socialist country? (The likes of Cuba don’t count)
        Whether we agree or not, the British electorate would not put a socialist government into power.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Attlee, 1945-51. Real socialist government – or as close to it as you’ll ever find, I’m sure.
        Cuba doesn’t count because it’s not real socialism. Nor is North Korea or China. Nor was the Soviet Union. In fact, it’s very hard to find a country where real socialism has been tried at all!

      3. Jim Round

        And that says it all, socialism just does not seem to fit in with a corporate, globalised world.
        Society has took consumerism too far.
        This has in turn led to a low petcentage of people holding the majority of the worlds wealth, and it won’t change in my lifetime, or even some who is born today.
        If anything, it will be intetesting to watch things unfold in Greece.

  1. Pat

    Daley is a burned out old scrapper of the worse kind who has predicted another Conservative government post-2015 with an 80 majority. The political equivalent of Katie Hopkins, only more dried out and juiceless, this ageing bint isn’t worth paying attention to and doesn’t even deserve criticism from the human and humane.

    1. wildswimmerpete

      “Daley is a burned out old scrapper of the worse kind who has predicted another Conservative government post-2015 with an 80 majority.” We’ll just have to prove her wrong on May 7th 😉

  2. Sasson Hann

    This woman is vile.

    I don’t even bother reading her column because of the tosh she spouts such as is related above. She has nothing of value to say about the poor and vulnerable.

    Soon after the coalition was formed she stated ‘capitalism can’t afford welfare anymore.’ She is an apologist for the Elite.

    Thanks for bringing knowledge of her to a wider audience Mike.

  3. Norma Roberts

    Whoa Pat! I’m female, getting on and quite dried out and juiceless, but I don’t think like her. Less of the sexism and ageism please! Deride the article by all means, it deserves it, but the fact that the writer is female and, shall we say, getting on, has sod all to do with it!

    People can choose what they say, think and write, but they are not responsible for their sex or age.

  4. ireallymeanthis

    I would take issue with one thing your otherwise excellent article.
    In the 1980s, unemployed claimants were certainly informed by benefit officers of their right to claim Invalidity Benefit( IB), but I don’t think this amounts to the much repeated claim that they were put on/ moved to this benefit by the government to disguise the unemployment figures.
    ( IB shouldn’t be confused with Incapacity Benefit,which replaced it in 1995, & had different eligibility criteria)

    To get IB, claimants needed to have an illness or disability that was preventing them from doing their usual job, they needed their GP to support this, and it was an individual choice they were making; not someone in Whitehall transferring them.

    Several independent academic studies have been made into the phenomenon of increased uptake of sickness benefits during this period in the UK and other countries ( yes, it wasnt just the uk)and their main conclusion as to the cause was the change in employment practices and the sorts of work available. It became harder to be in work and carry an illness or disability.

    The 3- fold increase in uptake of IB was of course blamed by the Right on claimant fraud ( something refuted by every study) but it hardly helps matters for today’s struggling ESA claimants when the left put it down to a different kind of fraud albeit one perpetrated by the Tories; it still implies that there are large numbers on sickness benefit who shouldn’t be on there, thus providing another justification for attacks on the disabled.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Invalidity! I thought I was mentioning the wrong benefit as I was writing it! Thanks for the clarification.
      I think it’s generally accepted that Thatcher did everything she could to hide the extent of unemployment, and this includes fiddling the figures of people claiming benefits for health reasons. I’ll leave it to others to dig out the details, if they’re so inclined.
      Your paragraph about changes in employment practices goes some way towards suggesting a reason for the increased take-up during Thatcher’s time – of course, any such change would start with political approval. Your own comment indicates there are large numbers on sickness benefit who shouldn’t be there – due to the changes in employment practice that you cite.
      This is actually very interesting indeed. Can you provide references or weblinks to the research you mention?

  5. hstorm

    “we find ourselves back in the pubescent stage of political debate that brought the country to a standstill a generation ago”

    She didn’t notice, 7 years ago, the new ‘consensus’ bringing the country to a standstill as well? As ever with conservatives (small c), maturity and common sense mean, “Agreeing with everything we say without question.”

  6. Chris

    The pundits say that so few voters will come out to vote in May that the Tories and Labour will have about the same number of seats, and another coalition government will reign. But this with coalition will be equal Lib Dems / UKIP with the Tories, and the SNP that would have wiped out Labour in Scotland.

    This hung parliament will be paralysed to roll back austerity, get rid of the bedroom tax throughout the UK (but possibly not Scotland with Devo Max from March), welfare and pension reform.

    A pension reform that will see huge numbers of men and women on and from 6 April 2016 with nil state pension even after decades of paying National Insurance or gaining NI credits.

    See why under my petiton in my Why this is important section:

    Labour must repeal the Pension Bills 2010-2014 (flat rate pension 2016) as it is the poorest people as well as up to average waged that will end up in penniless starvation in old age.

    That is women aged 60 and over denied state pension since 2013, and those older women with a retirement age in 2016. And the men with retirement age 65/66 next year.

    The state pension is payable if remain in work or lose job under the massive austerity job cuts yet to come.

    How come it is the Tory press that is telling folk about being left with nil money in old age, when those readers have no reliance on that income in life?

    Because they are trying to gain business for private pensions from the above average waged.

    It is too late for those 40-60s today, who the Institute of Fiscal Studies inform are worse off than their parents and grandparents, for the first time since the 1950s. Especially with lower state pension today, in comparison to wages.

    This puts a lie to the constant braying by politicians that pensioner poverty is at an all time low.

    Labour could form a majority government all by itself, if it went for the grey vote of the poor, and by coming in with sufficient MPs (at least 326 to be a majority) can helo allk ages, from babes yet born to grannies.


  7. hstorm

    “Michael Foot was unelectable”

    “so was Neil Kinnock.”

    “Ed Milliband is facing an uphill fight to shake off a image drawn up by the MSM and the Tories.”
    Ah. So you’re actually saying that the problem is media image rather than policy platform?

    “Blair came in talking about reform (New Labour) and saw off poor Tory leadership.”
    Yes, but he would have seen that off if he’d stuck with old-style policies, precisely because the Tories were a wreck by about 1995. And when it comes to media image, Blair was a classic camera-friendly ‘golden boy’. People scarcely thought about anything that came out of his mouth; if he’d said, “Stalin was my hero! If only the Purges had been more thorough!” people would still have voted for him because his opponent was British politics’ eternal-man-of-grey, John Major, and the monotone misery-in-a-baseball-cap, William Hague. As you pointed out with your own point about image, in that light, it’s perfectly clear why Blair won, and his desertion of the real left was not required.

    “Can you name a successful, real left-wing and socialist country?”
    No. That’s because it’s never really been tried.

    “(The likes of Cuba don’t count)”
    Why? (I’m not saying it should, it’s just you make the ruling sound arbitrary.)

    “Whether we agree or not, the British electorate would not put a socialist government into power.”

    You are just making loads of flat statements that broaden but only repeat your first comment. You’re not offering any real supporting arguments at all.

  8. Ian

    This bit was hilarious, coming from a Conservative:

    “There is a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple social problems that produce real disadvantage[…]”

    Conservatives don’t do sophisticated or nuanced and god help you if produce any of the many facts that contradict their beliefs, it’s like pointing out the evidence against a god to a creationist – fingers in ears, I-can’t-hear-you time.

    I’m convinced many Tory supporters don’t believe what their politicians tell us plebs, they just pretend a Conservative government is best for the country when it’s really just best for them personally. It’s those social-climbing, aspirational working class wannabe snobs that vote Tory that get me as they *actually believe* this nonsense from Daley and her nauseating likes despite all evidence that proves them wrong. Are they really so deluded as to think they too could be millionaires if it wasn’t for immigrants and benefit claimants and single mothers and disabled people or whoever it is this parliament? How haven’t they noticed, after all this time, that benefits aren’t anything like as massive as they believe? Have they not noticed that whenever the immigration debate flares up again – like it ever goes away these days – it’s a right wing pressure group, the CBI, that rigorously defends immigration and that it’s their side that likes immigration most as it drives down wages?

    Janet Daley is a disingenuous, self-serving old harridan and doesn’t have the excuse of being thick or deluded like most Tories. That makes her worse than them.

  9. Jim Round

    Michael Foot was un-electable because of his policies, same for Kinnock, times were changing in the 80’s and both men just didn’t fit in with the outlook at the time, the start of the “I’m alright Jack” culture and rampant consumerism, nuclear disarmament with Russia and the Falklands going on. Still fresh nemories of the winter if discontent and strikes.
    There are many other polcies that just didn’t sit right with most of the electorate, but going through them would fill several pages.
    Ed Milliband’s problem is his failiure to go against the MSM, he needs to use it to HIS adavantage rather than vice-versa. Honesty is his best policy and defend Labour on it’s good points (minimum wage) and admit the bad and vow to correct them (ATOS)
    A left wing, socialist country wouldn’t fit in with today’s globalised world.
    A point made by Mike regarding tax dodging companies “if they don’t pay tax here, they can’t trade here”
    Can you imagine the uproar if the masses couldn’t get their hands on the latest iphone/ipad?
    Cuba and countries like it don’t count because they are (incorrectly) what those on the right point to as socialist.
    The British electorate would not elect a socialist government because of the attitude mentioned previously, too many people are suspicious of benefit claimants and the disabled (the MSM has a lot to answer for here) and a lot of people are scared to death of losing some of their “wealth”
    Another point worth mentioning is that those people are unlikely to vote.
    When the march against cuts happened, I commented on here about the attitude of 8 out of 10 people who witnessed the march “pinkos, get back to work etc…
    I made an observation at Christmas, watching the “Black Friday” brawls and seeing shopping centres and retail parks packed out.
    Those relying on food banks and those who were sanctioned were again ignored, the local supermarket had more votes for an animal charity than the local foodbank.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think that capitalism, the party system and our current society is corrupt from top to bottom and I would love to see a change, but while there is X-Factor and Jordans breasts to worry about, we are a long way off.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Just a few points:
      The “I’m all right, Jack” culture has been around since at least the 1950s. There was a film of that title, starring Peter Sellers, in 1959 or thereabouts.
      Miliband’s Labour has already admitted Atos was a mistake. What’s really needed is for Labour to admit ESA was a mistake altogether, though.
      If large companies weren’t allowed to trade here because they didn’t pay tax, you can bet that someone would leap in to fill the gap they left behind. People would probably get better tablets and mobiles.

  10. Jim Round

    Since access to credit was made easier (buy now, pay later), to enable to enable people to buy items that became commonplace from the early 80’s onwards.
    We don’t have the infrastructure to compete with anything that Apple etc.. has to offer, (think Sinclair Spectrum vs IBM) any product development and manufacture would take some time.
    Name me a UK owned tablet/mobile phone manufacturer.
    If someone could do better here, we would have it by now.

  11. Roy Beiley

    Thatcher broke the Protestant Work ethic when she destroyed the big heavy industries which employed both skilled and unskilled workers. Up til then, there were enough jobs to keep most people in full time work and unemployment was, to most people at that time, not something that would sit easily with relatives and friends. If Thatcher had a plan to upskill those she made redundant instead of using the North sea oil revenues to mask the REAL level of unemployment then OK. We know that structural changes were needed in order to face increasing competition. Those made unemployable at that time passed the workless ethic onto their children and succesive Govt of all shades have merely continued to support this.

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