Tag Archives: abraham lincoln

Autumn reshuffles – will Britain get the political players it needs?

Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today - but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?

Rearranging the pack: Both the government and its opposition are having a reshuffle today – but will we get aces, or just another set of jokers?

Today’s the day – doomsday for some, and a new dawn for others. Both the Coalition and Labour are reshuffling their top teams.

We already know some of the names that have stepped down. On the government side, Michael Moore has been sacked as Scottish Secretary, to make way for fellow Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael. Apparently Mr Carmichael, referring to the upcoming referendum on Scotland seceding from the Union, has said he is “up for it”.

At least nobody tried to put a Tory in, to represent a country where that party has no MPs at all. It may seem beyond the realm of possibility but with the Government of Idiots (and I refer to the term in its classical sense) it would not be surprising.

Deputy Chief Whip John Randall and Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith (who was humiliated on the BBC’s Newsnight last year when, as Exchequer Secretary, she struggled to answer questions about the government’s decision to defer a rise in fuel duty. It seems she had been promoted because David Cameron mistakenly believed she was a trained accountant. This does not bode well for today’s decisions) have both stepped down.

The BBC reported that Ms Smith’s resignation letter stated she had been “only 27” when she became an MP and now wanted to “develop other ways of giving public service” – indicating possible disillusionment with the Coalition government and the way it conducts itself.

Transport Minister Simon Burns has also stepped down – but this is to run for the position of Deputy Speaker, which was left vacant by Nigel Evans after he stepped down to fight criminal charges for sexual assault.

All the pundits are saying the government reshuffle will concentrate on mid-level ministers, with every Cabinet-level Tory secure in their position. What a shame.

Meanwhile, over at Labour, the situation is not so clear. Ed Miliband’s decisions have been unrestricted, and speculation has ranged from whether he will increase Shadow Cabinet representative for women, bring back members of Labour’s old guard (unlikely – he would face criticism along predictable lines from the Tories and besides, this seems to be about bringing in new, more attractive faces), promote people who are loyal to him or (my preference) have a Shadow Cabinet Of All Talents – including critics who happen to be very good at their jobs.

Abraham Lincoln had a Cabinet Of All Talents, if I recall correctly. Some consider this to be part of what made him great.

One person who won’t be a part of Labour’s team is former Minister (and then Shadow Minister) for the Disabled, Anne McGuire. who quit last week after five years in the job.

The Stirling MP was praised by disability campaigners such as Sue Marsh who, in an email, described her as “the one true ally we had on Labour’s front bench”.

And blogger Sue Jones wrote: “Anne will always be remembered by our community for her very articulate attacks on the media’s [mis]representation of disabled people and on the Government’s welfare reforms, in parliamentary debate. I remember her account of private debate, too, on the same topic with Iain Duncan Smith, and such was her ferocity and anger at the profound unfairness of the media’s sustained persecution of sick and disabled people, fanned by Iain Duncan Smith, as we know, that she pinned him against a wall on one occasion.”

But the former Shadow Minister, who is herself disabled, ran into controversy when she agreed to host a fringe meeting at this year’s Labour Party Conference, organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform, and sponsored by the Association of British Insurers.

Entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’, the event seems to have been a front for insurance companies to try to influence Labour’s thinking on social security in the future. Similar events were arranged by Reform and staged at both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences.

Discussions at the private, round-table policy seminar seem to have centred on ways in which insurance companies could become more involved with social security – what products they could sell to working-class people who fear the loss of income that follows loss of employment.

This is exactly the scenario that the American Unum corporation wanted to create when it was invited into the then-Department of Social Security by Peter Lilley – a weakened state system that either cannot or will not support people in genuine need, particularly the sick and disabled, forcing them to buy insurance policies in the hope that these will top-up their income.

Anne McGuire denied this was the intent of the exercise but it is significant that neoliberal New Labour did nothing to prevent the advance of this agenda during its years in power, including the period she spent as Minister for the Disabled.

People who have suffered under the current benefit regime are demanding – ever more stridently – that Labour should mount a strong attack on the practices of the Department for Work and Pensions, as run by Iain Duncan Smith and his cronies, Mark Hoban and Esther McVey.

Part of this demand is that private organisations such as Unum and Atos, which administers work capability assessments, should be kicked out, and a new, fairer system of determining disability benefits based on a claimant’s medical condition and needs, rather than the greed of private enterprise, should be brought in.

There has been no hope of this with plastic Tory Liam Byrne as Shadow Work and Pensions spokesman, but rumour has it he could be shunted out and replaced by Rachel Reeves. Is this a good move?

The omens are not wonderful. She is yet another alumnus of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics course at Oxford (another notable example of that course’s graduates is David Cameron). Her background is in business. She once interviewed for a job with tax avoiders Goldman Sachs (but turned down the job offer) and has been named by The Guardian as one of several MPs who use unpaid interns.

Don’t blame the poor when the rich are bleeding you dry

bluelabour

You know that things have come to a pretty pass when Labour Party supporters turn against the poor.

This has happened at a time when the number of people with money to spare has dropped dramatically, meaning more of our people have become poor.

The change may reasonably be blamed on Labour’s adherence to Liam Byrne’s diabolical welfare policy, that aims to continue where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats leave off – demonising people who have done nothing wrong, unless you count illness, disability and unemployment as a personal choice.

It suggests that people of good heart are leaving the party in large numbers, allowing those who are left to turn it into what its critics have claimed it to be for a considerable time now: Tory Lite.

The change is identified in a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, that showed 47 per cent of Labour supporters surveyed in 2011 thought that, if benefits were less generous, people would learn to support themselves – up from 17 per cent in 1987.

The fact of the matter, of course, is that benefits are much less generous now than they were in the 1980s. In 1987, unemployment benefits totalled around 20 per cent of the average weekly wage; now they come to around 10 per cent – around half of what they were. But Labour supporters – Labour! – say they are too generous.

It looks like the Tories really are brainwashing people with their nonsense rhetoric, as repeated in newspapers that Labour supporters shouldn’t be reading, like The Sun and the Daily Mail. That good friend of the Conservative Party, Joseph Goebbels, was right – “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Of course, Goebbels added: “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent.”

So those of us who are interested in the facts may be looking forward to hard times. It’s still better than being a fair-weather friend of social justice – only interested in the good of our fellows if it doesn’t impact on us.

But it is already impacting on everybody!

The Office for National Statistics, using Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, has reported that the UK has plummeted down the international league table of economic well-being, from fifth to 12th within the six years up to 2011.

On a separate labour-market ranking, the country fell even further, dropping 12 places. In the labour market league table it ranked 21st out of 34 countries. Top of the league was Norway, which has just three per cent unemployment and, as I understand it, a thriving welfare state. Think about that.

The ONS noted changes to taxes and benefits as key factors in the drop.

This morning, one of Vox‘s longest-serving commentators reported that there is a change among the people around him; that those who argued against his criticism of the Conservative-led government are now turning to the Left. If so, it seems they are not turning to Labour.

Recently we have witnessed a movement to form a new political movement, representing socialist views but untarnished by the memory of New Labour’s 13 years of Neoliberal mistakes. Several contenders have cropped up but none of them will carry any weight at the next general election – instead, all they are likely to do is sap enough votes from Labour to let the Conservatives back into office again. That would be a calamity for the country.

No, the best thing to do is to take Labour back for the people it was meant to serve. First step in that direction must be to consign Liam Byrne and his vile mess of a welfare policy to the back benches, and design a new plan, attacking the causes of unemployment and workplace sickness and disability, rather than their symptoms. This is simple logic.

And we need to get people into the shadow cabinet who have actually held proper jobs. Look at Ed Miliband: Oxford graduate – short media career – Westminster job for Labour. Ed Balls: Oxford graduate (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) – short media career – Westminster job for Labour. Douglas Alexander: University graduate – six-month career as a solicitor – Westminster. Yvette Cooper: Oxford (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) – Westminster researcher job for Labour. Andy Burnham: Cambridge – researcher for Tessa Jowell. Many of these also went to Harvard.

Liam Byrne, the demon of the Labour Party: University (Politics and Modern History at Manchester) – Harvard – then work for a multinational consulting firm (Accenture) and then the Rothschild merchant bankers(!) before going to Labour to help lead its ‘New Labour’ business campaign. This man has nothing whatsoever to do with real working people.

When everybody in a particular group – in business, politics, socially, whatever – is from the same background, they tend to agree about key subjects. From the above group we can see that many of the Labour front bench have followed exactly the same career path. What do they know about working-class people? At least two of them – Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, no less – graduated from the same Oxford degree course as David Cameron, the comedy Prime Minister.

No wonder people are having a hard time distinguishing between the two main parties and want a left-wing alternative.

It’s time for Labour to grow up and realise it needs to change. It must come back to its voting base and start to represent the people of the UK once again – rather than Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard graduates. If Ed Miliband wants to keep his position, he needs to clear out his shadow cabinet and get some fresh thinkers in. Someone recently mentioned Abraham Lincoln’s ‘cabinet of enemies’, and the fact that it was good for him to have opposing views at the heart of his government.

Until we get that in the Labour Party, maybe we should agree that the ‘Tory Lite’ criticisms are accurate.

What are you going to do about it, Labour?