Tag Archives: banks

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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Watch Paul Mason put down the banks

Dear Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews, if any of you want to Tweet him your support),

Thanks for this:

(And thanks to Pride’s Purge for bringing it to our attention.)

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Ed Miliband’s policies backed by public – The Guardian

Here’s some information that will enrage everybody who has been campaigning so ardently for the downfall of the Labour Party – people who have been duped by Lynton Crosby and (north of the border) the SNP. The Guardian has revealed the following:

Over 70 per cent of the public are in favour of Miliband’s policy to fund the NHS with extra taxes on tobacco companies and mansions, according to a new poll.

Every one of Ed Miliband’s pledges from his speech yesterday has popular public support.

A new Survation poll for Labour List of 1,037 people shows that 72% of the public are in favour of the policy to fund the NHS to the tune of £2.5bn extra a year, partially using taxes against tobacco companies and mansions as well as closing loopholes. Only 12% were against.

The polling suggests this pledge was particularly popular among Labour (81%) and Lib Dem (84%) voters from 2010, which is useful for a leader hoping to woo disaffected voters from Nick Clegg’s party.

[Image: The Guardian.]

[Image: The Guardian.]

Miliband’s pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour also was supported by the majority of the public and played even better with Liberal Democrat voters (80.1%) than Labour (78.6%).

His pledge to break up the high street banks was the least popular (but still had 43.9% of people in favour of it). Only a quarter of people (24.9%) said they were opposed to it with 31.4% saying they didn’t know how they felt.

In fairness, the article adds: The way this poll is structured may be flattering to Labour’s prospects. By using Labour’s own phrasing, the poll presents each policy in quite a generous light, which makes it difficult to disagree with – not many people would say creating “a “world class” health service” is a bad idea, for example. This has the effect of making the policies look popular – and they may well be – but it may be that if the same policies were presented differently, the poll numbers could change a lot.

Nevertheless, this is exactly the response Labour needed, in advance of next year’s general election. Clearly the general public thinks that Ed Miliband is on the right track.

Of course, the election is still eight months away and much may change in that time. Public opinion is fickle and we may well see polls supporting David Cameron’s plans – or even Nick Clegg’s – before the end of October.

But it’s a big boost for Labour and will give the party the momentum it needs, in order to win the campaign and – if elected – let us hope Miliband will hit the ground running.

Because the UK needs a change, and it can’t come soon enough.

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Public sector – good/private sector – bad

Many of you may be aware that I live in a large county called Powys, that has a small population. This means that the amount of money the local authority receives from central government and local taxation is always stretched very thin, in order to provide the services required across – what is it? – 6,000 square miles.
Given that context, it should come as no surprise at all that some of the information I have been receiving about the way that money is being spent has raised concern.
It seems the county council has employed a consultancy to carry out a survey of housing stock – to pinpoint where repairs are required and carry them out. This consultancy has taken £1.5 million from the council’s budget and not one repair has yet been carried out.
In addition, it seems most of the council’s own employees at its benefits section have quit, to be replaced by staff from an agency. This organisation charges £20 per hour for each worker’s services, I’m told.
Is this value for money? I don’t think so.
I think it is a local symptom of a national malaise: the disastrous affair public authorities have been having with the private sector. It is an affair that has already led to the humiliation of the government in the G4S Olympic security debacle; an affair that has its roots in the Private Finance Initiative that was launched by the Conservatives in the 1990s and continued into the current century (to my shame) by my own political party, Labour.
I have recently become quite a fan of ‘lefty’ columnist Owen Jones. This may come as a surprise to some readers as not only has he enjoyed greater success than me at the same career (journalism), but he is 16 years my junior. Talented, young and successful – I should be green with envy rather than cheering him on, right?
In fact I’m simply glad that someone is around to say what I would have said, in his position.
You may have heard this gentleman speaking on the BBC’s Any Questions (Radio 4, last Friday and Saturday), on the very subject of private involvement in public services. If you did not, allow me to enlighten you.
“What’s happened with G4S has exposed the dogma of the last 30 years, that the private sector is good and efficient, and the public sector is wasteful. What happened when G4S failed? The state had to go in and fill the vacuum – and it’s not just there we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it with A4E, this welfare to work programe, this company that basically took taxpayers’ money to line the pockets of those who were running it; we saw it with PFI – started by the Tory government, continued under New Labour, that’s like paying for public services on a credit card, getting these private companies to do what the state should have done, apparently it costs up to £25 billion more, of our money. It’s the same with the London Underground; it’s the same with rail privatisation – we’re now paying up to four times more on subsidies for private rail companies than we did in the time of British Rail. And we’ve seen it recently with water. We just recently had a drought when rain was absolutely hammering the southeast. That’s because a water company sold off 25 reservoirs in the last 20 years.
“Public services should be run by the public sector, accountable to us, democratically-run, instead of taxpayers’ money lining the pockets of private companies who do not have our interests at heart; they just want to make profit out of our services.”
In support of that, let’s have a few facts and figures. Those I have at hand come from a book entitled ‘You Are Here’ by satirical luminaries Rory Bremner, John Bird and John Fortune, with Geoff Atkinson. It was published in 2005 so the information – accurate at the time – may be out of date by now and I would be happy to read any updates on what follows.
In 2005, this was the situation:
When the railways were privatised (by the Conservatives) it was decided that one company would own and run the tracks, one group of companies would operate the trains and another group of companies would own them. There are three rolling stock leasing companies – roscos – that lease their trains to the operating companies. These trains cost just over £2 million to build and are leased out for £500,000 per year. Their lifetime is anything up to 40 years – which is a huge profit margin.
But don’t worry – they don’t receive a penny of taxpayers’ money. No – the subsidy for the South Central franchise was set to increase by £342 million between 2005-2010. Of this, 80 per cent went to the roscos for new rolling stock – around £273,600,000. But it wasn’t taxpayers’ money by then. It was taxpayers’ money when it was part of the operating company’s subsidy, but when it was passed between that company and the rosco it was a simple business transaction.
That’s how they get away with it. You and I both know that the cash came out of our pockets, but because it went through a middle-man, these companies can call it their own.
You might be interested to know that the three leasing companies are (or were, in 2005) all owned by banks.
According to ‘You Are Here’, “The Future of Transport White Paper says: ‘The privatisation of the rail industry in the early 1990s assumed that private sector discipline and innovation would drive down the railway’s subsidy requirement and drive up the quality of service. In part this has been borne out.
“Rail users might well ask: In which part? The same document shows 80 per cent of trains arriving on time in 2004, compared to 90 per cent in 1998. The latest National Rail Trends shows total government support to the rail industry in 1995-96 of £431 million. For 2002-03 it was £2,588 million.”
Private Finance Initiatives were intended to bring private sector cash in to fund public services – which may seem like a good idea on the face of it. As ‘You Are Here’ states: The deal is simple. Money for the new service is raised privately in the money markets and thus kept off the country’s balance sheet… but like any free offer, it does come with small print.
“The long-term value of PFI contracts may go down as well as up. Your public services are at risk if you do not keep up the repayments. The return for consortiums running PFI projects” – on the other hand – “may go up and up and up. Standard terms include: cost-cutting, short-term employment contracts, high management costs, huge legal costs. Every element must be a profit centre. After expiry of contract (typically 35 years) the consortium is under no obligation to renew the terms of the lease and can renegotiate at more favourable rates or move out of the public service sector and turn the property into a hotel or office block.
“PFI often means that an organisation which previously worked to a single goal is now in competition with itself, as different parts of the same system strive to outbid each other, the primary goal being to enhance profitability rather than deliver a service.”
To enhance profitability rather than deliver a service.
In February last year (2011), David Cameron promised to deliver a ‘revolution’ in public services, in which he envisaged everything but the security services and the judiciary being privatised. You can read about it here. Private prisons; private police; private health services – we’ve seen these rear their ugly heads already, and I’m sure more is to come.
Considering the disastrous profit-driven performance of the private sector in public services, as detailed above, I cannot think of anything worse than letting private companies continue with what they’ve got, let alone adding anything new to their portfolio of travesties!
With this in mind, I have to ask why Powys County Council thinks employing a private firm to survey its housing stock, or workers for a private agency to administer its benefits, is an economical use of my taxpayer money.
It’s time the madness stopped, and if Westminster is too sick to do it, then perhaps local government should lead the way back to sanity.