Now even shadow cabinet members are speaking openly against any alliance with the SNP, post-election.
Vox Political has previously reported on Labour backbenchers’ concerns that any link with the Scottish nationalists would make a future Labour government vulnerable to a partner who would walk out when it best suited them – and least suited Labour.
Now it seems this concern has spread to shadow minister. Andrew Rawnsley has reported in The Guardian: “A growing number within the shadow cabinet … are urging a much more emphatically anti-SNP message.
“One of them says that Labour now needs to say ‘loud and clear’ that it would not treat with the nationalists as ‘a party that wants to tear the United Kingdom apart’.
“Another agrees: ‘We’re going to have to say no deal with the SNP.’
“It is also necessary, they argue, to disabuse Scottish voters of the notion that voting SNP will give them a perfect world in which David Cameron is thrown out of Number 10 and Scots hold sway at Westminster.
“Senior Labour figures also contend that striking any sort of bargain with the SNP would be such a strategic mistake that they should never countenance doing one anyway.
“Says a member of the shadow cabinet: ‘If we do a deal with the nationalists, my fear is that it will not just be the end of the Labour party in Scotland, it will be the end of the Labour party in England.’”
This is bad news indeed for supporters of the nationalist party, who were banking on being able to tell Scottish voters that Labour was a spent force in their country – and then convince them that voting SNP would give them a strong voice in an alliance with the same party in Westminster. It isn’t logical, but that’s what they’ve been saying.
And the nationalists are now finding themselves in bed with the Conservative Party, in their attacks on Labour.
South of the border, the Tories are telling voters Labour is too willing to ally with the nationalists.
The two claims are mutually exclusive. A party that was similar to the Tories would never ally with the SNP, and the SNP would never ally with a party that was similar to the Tories.
But that doesn’t matter because they are being made to different sets of voters. It’s only when these fictions are presented side-by-side that they look as ridiculous as they really are.
Either way, the result will be the same, if voters are persuaded by these false arguments. As Rawnsley writes: “The Tories and SNP suggest that a vote for the nationalists will be a vote for a Labour government. The reverse is much more likely to be the case.
“What a mighty irony it would be if voting SNP were to put David Cameron back in Downing Street.
That outcome might secretly delight the leadership of the SNP.
It is rather more doubtful that it would please many of the Scots currently saying they plan to vote nationalist.
Struggling to make an impact: Ed Miliband must reject the Tory Party’s narrative about the need for austerity and bring forward a vision for the future that really does make us ‘One Nation’ again, rather than hanging on David Cameron’s neoliberal coat-tails, as many former Labour voters believe.
The political debate is all about the Labour Party again today – as it has been since the Budget.
The newspapers and websites are full of advice for the party, which is now clearly seen to be struggling to gain any kind of a foothold with electors who have become disillusioned at what might best be called the Party of Very Little Opposition.
Labour “must adopt new principles” according to an alliance of thinktanks and party intellectuals who have written to The Guardian; Ed Miliband has been told “don’t play safe” with the party’s manifesto according to an article on the same paper’s site.
We can probably discount the Telegraph article by Dan Hodges, claiming that Labour is “closed for business”. It plays to right-wing readers’ prejudices just a little too much.
Will Ed pay any attention to these pleas? Evidence suggests he will not.
I should clarify from the outset that, as a Labour member, I want the Party to win in 2015 (and also to gain the lion’s share of the vote in May’s European elections).
But Miliband seems to be living in a world of his own, insulated from the rest of the Labour Party – not to mention supporters of Labour ideals who are not members – by a small group of (not-so-special) advisers who, it’s claimed, intercept any decent ideas before they get to the party leader and spin them until they turn to drivel. Whether this is true or not seems immaterial as this is the perception of the general public.
And perception is everything.
As I write this article I have just received a comment stating that “Miliband’s strategy for the next election seems to be a) to accept the Tory frame of reference for any given argument and b) to then concede the field of battle on that issue, whatever it is, without a shot being fired.” This is a common complaint, and Labour has no answer to it.
Why do Miliband, Balls, Tristram Hunt (notably), Rachel Reeves (lamentably) and all the other Labour frontbenchers blithely accept the Coalition’s terms of reference on any issue, against the wishes of their own backbenchers, their party as a whole and the public at large?
Are they really just a gang of greedy moneygrubbers, determined to screw the country for whatever they can get? That in itself would be a betrayal of Labour Party ideals and their constituency parties should deselect them if members believed that to be the case for one moment.
Are they a gang of neoliberals, their political philosophy so close to that of the Conservatives that you can’t get a credit card between them? This rings threateningly true in the cases of Oxford PPE graduats Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, ex-Bank of England employee Rachel Reeves and Tristram Hunt. But Ed Miliband is (famously) the son of a Marxist. He, above all, should know better.
The trouble is, David Miliband is the son of the same Marxist and he was as much a part of the neoliberal New Labour Red Tory deception as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Oh look – another comment has just arrived. “More people don’t bother to vote because they feel that we as a people have moved on and all we really want is people who will represent us honestly, by majority and with no hidden agendas, backhanders or lobbyists pulling the strings. I don’t see any evidence that the present government or the Labour Party are capable or willing to do just that… They should have the courage to change and become the voice of the people.”
Become the voice of the people. The meaning is clear – Labour is not currently representing anybody at all.
Is this true? Let’s look at some of the other comments on my (left-leaning, let’s not forget) blog. These are from people who are generally sympathetic to Socialism and who should, therefore, see Labour as the natural home of their vote. What do they say?
“[Is it] any wonder [that] 1. People don’t vote because they are seen as “all the bloody same”? and 2. The perceived differences have become so minuscule?”
“Until Labour wakes up and realises it is the welfare cuts that are a major concern to most of us and to anyone who has a conscience, they will lose the next election due to apathy.”
“Labour have to do something different to what they have up to now but they don’t seem to want to. Are they scared of being in government over a country in the state it is?”
“Labour have had four years to do something – anything – to fight against the welfare cuts, and to help the people they are supposed to be the party for! They’ve really done nothing when all is said and done.”
If Ed Miliband was reading this, I would be asking if he was getting the message yet (are you, Ed?) and what he proposes to do about it. You think not? Let’s have some more comments from people who should be supporting Labour – I’ve got plenty of them!
“There has been absolutely no fight in this opposition and I am ashamed of them.”
“People need a reason to apply their votes to Labour and Miliband-Balls are not providing them with one. They are sleepwalking into another hung Parliament and a very real risk of the Tories teaming up with UKIP. Then we’ll really see Nazism grip this country.”
“The would-be voters demand change and need bold new policies to blunt the Tory cutters. If the Labour Party cannot come up with policies which are radical then they don’t deserve to be in power at the next election, or ever.”
“Ed Balls worries me because he seems intent on copycatting Osborne. For example Osborne says he will run a surplus by the end of the next Parliament and Balls promises the same. Osborne say he will be introducing a Benefit Cap on social security spending on working age benefits (which could have devastating effects and lead to real terms cuts in benefits for years on end) and Balls says that Labour will vote with the Coalition to introduce it.”
“Surely we need some clear red water between Labour and the Tories? Surely Labour needs to differentiate itself more from the policies of the Coalition?”
“I sent an email to the Labour Party asking for its policy on TTIP (the rightly-feared Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will force employment standards down to third-world levels, or below), amongst other things. They were decidedly equivocal and I felt no reassurance at all. I think it’s about we faced facts, Labour aren’t being coy in a pre-election year to avoid frightening the horses, they really are just another pack of neoliberals.”
This is how left-wing voters (and the squeezed-middle waverers to whom Ed Miliband keeps trying to pander) see the modern Labour Party: Carbon-copy Tories with no fresh ideas who aren’t worth the effort of voting.
If any of Ed’s shadow cabinet is okay with that description, he needs to sack them and bring in someone with a clue. And he needed to do it last year.
If the Conservatives win in 2015, it seems clear that responsibility will lie as much with Labour’s failure to provide any clearly-visible alternative.
We have already seen carnage inflicted on the poor, the sick and disabled, and a Conservative-only government (or in collaboration withUKIP) would increase that bloodshed tenfold (senior citizens take note: the bribe you were given last week was a trick and if you vote Conservative, many of you will not live to rectify your error at another election).
Unless Ed Miliband sorts out his party – pronto – that blood will be on his hands as well, and the people will not forgive him.
Note that I did not say they won’t forgive Labour. I said they won’t forgive Ed Miliband.
Words cannot describe the way people feel at what has been done to them by the Coalition. If Labour reveals even the slightest element of complicity, I wouldn’t give a farthing for Miliband’s safety.
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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.
Unelected rulers? Thomas Watjen of Unum, Thierry Breton of Atos, and Michael Andrew of KPMG. As things stand, it seems whoever you support in 2015, these people will be behind them. Do you want that?
There is a certain kind of person who takes great delight in commenting on political blogs with a variant of the following:
“It’s no use voting! They’re all the same! It doesn’t matter what you vote for – a politician always gets in!”
No doubt you’ll be familiar with their work.
They are extremely annoying. Their insistence that all politicians are the same breed of pond scum does a huge disservice to those in public service who genuinely want to improve the lives of their fellow human beings; the fanaticism with which they disseminate their opinions may be seen as an attempt to stop ‘casual’ voters from bothering, thereby condemning the country to the current status quo.
Also, most annoyingly of all, they may have a point.
Take the three men pictured above. The one on the right is Michael Andrew, chairman of accounting firm KPMG. This is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancies who are, among other things, involved in rewriting UK tax law for George Osborne at the Treasury, partly to suit their own desires as architects of the largest tax avoidance schemes currently available to corporations and wealthy individuals resident in the UK.
Today, thanks to an illuminating blog article by Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge, we learn that KPMG has taken over the running of no less than a quarter of all the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that Andrew Lansley swore blind would be run by doctors when the Conservative-led Coalition government pushed through the NHS Privatisation Act of 2012 (otherwise known as the Health and Social Care Act).
The pretext for creating these organisations was that doctors were in the best position to commission health services in any part of England, as they had the detailed knowledge required to determine what was needed.
In fact it was well known that GPs would not be able to carry out this important work – it would be too much for them to take on in addition to their ‘day job’, and they simply did not have the necessary skills. Lansley knew this, and therefore knew that his law would open the door for private firms to take over.
This is borne out by an article in GP online which is now almost a year old; so readers should bear in mind that the current situation may be much further advanced. It stated that KPMG had confirmed the firm was working with “just over 50” of the 211 CCGs in England, along with 11 commissioning support units (CSUs).
The article indirectly quoted Tim Rideout, who said CCGs did not have the capacity to commission in an effective way.
This is an interesting revelation from the former chief executive of the NHS in Leicester City who was then seconded to the Department of Health as the senior responsible officer for the development of – guess what? – NHS commissioning boards. If the new commissioning groups don’t have the capacity to work properly, why didn’t he do something about it at the appropriate time?
Oh, wait. Here’s the answer: In March 2012, Mr Rideout was hired by KPMG as an associate director responsible for – who would have thought it? – commissioning.
In the same article, national clinical commissioning lead for England, Dr James Kingsland, said clinicians and GPs should not be involved in complex procurement, and added: “We are seeing a lot of misunderstandings, disillusionment and despondency.”
Mark Britnell, KPMG’s head of healthcare since 2009 – and another former NHS chief executive, was quoted by The Observer in 2011 as stating: “In future, The NHS will be a state insurance provider not a state deliverer”, and that “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”
The following day, KPMG released a statement in which he said the quotes did “not properly reflect” what he had said.
So we have a firm moving to take over CCGs, helped by the fact that its roster now includes the man responsible for setting them up in the first place. Going back to Tom Pride’s piece, he states that the situation chillingly reflects the way the Dutch health service was privatised in 2006. Provision of health services is being handed over to private companies, control of the health budgetwas handed over to private consortia made of doctors and consultants, but now those consortia are being taken over by private companies.
When private firms like KPMG run all CCGs, the Conservative plan to privatise the NHS will be complete. And the NHS, it seems, will be run by Michael Andrew, head of KPMG, from his base in Hong Kong.
But the rot doesn’t stop there.
Tom Pride correctly adds that the consulting arm of KPMG has been owned, since 2002, by another company – called Atos.
That’s right – Atos. The French firm run by Thierry Breton (pictured, centre).
The firm that Ed Miliband wants to fire from running work capability assessments for the DWP will still be involved in government work – at the Department of Health.
You see how this works? Let a private company inveigle its way into the plans of politicians and there’s no getting rid of it. Like the giant squid, it extends its pseudopods into every government department it can possibly contaminate, planting a sucker onto everything it thinks it can take for itself.
Over at the DWP, as everyone should know by now, Atos have been carrying out work capability assessments on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance. These were dreamed up by an insurance company called Unum, that has been working with the UK government – Conservative, Labour and Coalition – since Peter Lilley invited then-boss John LoCascio in, back in the early 1990s.
Unum is now run by Thomas Ratjen (pictured, left), who is based in Tennessee, USA. Its long-term aim seems to be the ruin of the British social security system, rendering it pointless for anyone to claim benefits. Instead, the plan appears to be to encourage working people to buy Unum insurance policies – which are themselves useless, as lawsuits in several US states have proved, while also giving the company a criminal record.
This blog recently revealed that it seemed Unum was trying to influence the policies of all three main UK political parties. The thinktank Reform, that has been part-funded by Unum, is running a fringe event at all three party conferences, entitled ‘New thinking on the welfare state’. This event was sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, which has Unum among its members.
Labour’s version of this event took place on Monday (September 23), hosted by Anne McGuire, shadow minister for disabled people.
She defended her role in an email today, as follows:
“I don’t know why you have been led to believe that I was hosting an event by Unum. For the record, I was speaking at a round table discussion with organisations which included the European Commission, voluntary organisations, insurance companies amongst others. As it was such a conversation, it was by invitation only as was the event I attended this morning organised though the Shaw Trust and Mencap. It is not unusual to have such events at party conference.
“I also spoke at an open meeting last night on the future of welfare reform and disabled people with many disabled people in attendance and participating.
“I am aware of the strong feelings on Unum and Atos. However I trust that you will appreciate that having discussions with a range of organisations should not be seen as anything other than that and in no way implies an endorsement of any particular company or organisation.”
It simply doesn’t ring true.
Let’s look at the context: This event was organised by a right-wing thinktank (they’re ideologically opposed to state-run social security systems) that has been sponsored by Unum; was about “new” thinking on the welfare state; was itself sponsored by the Association of British Insurers, of which Unum is a member; and representatives of insurance companies – and we’re willing to bet Unum was among them – took part in the behind-closed-doors discussion.
It seems clear that this event was intended to influence Labour Party policy away from providing a well-run and reasonable state benefit system, as was the case in the UK until Peter Lilley in the early 1990s, and towards dismantling that system to make way for a system based on privately-run insurance policies, such as those produced by Unum.
The fact that it is being mirrored at the other two party conferences clearly suggests that the firms involved want to influence all major British political parties in the same way. If successful, this would mean that it won’t matter who gets into office after the 2015 election; Unum will still be in power at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Just as KPMG will still be in power at the Treasury, and at the Department of Health, alongside its owner Atos.
And the three gentlemen pictured at the top of this article will be the unelected kings of the UK because, no matter which way you vote, they will be in charge.
That would be a good place to end this article, but then, dear reader, you might be left thinking there is nothing you can do. There is something you can do.
You can write to your MP, to local newspapers, to the party leaders and the ministers running these government departments and you can bitch like hell about it!
The people of this country deserve elected representatives who are going to run this country by their own decisions, in the best interests of the citizens who voted for them – not employees of a dubious gang of unelected corporations, running this country in their own best interests and treating the citizens like dirt.
Education secretary Michael Gove has appointed a partner in a global management consultancy that could bid for government contracts to sit alongside two Conservative Party donors on a committee that will oversee the progress of cuts in his department.
Paul Rogers is a managing partner at Bain & Company, a US firm that could bid for contracts that are outsourced on his recommendation – creating a serious potential conflict of interest.
John Nash and his wife have given nearly £300,000 to the Conservative Party since 2006. The private equity firm he co-founded, Sovereign Capital, once owned British private schools firm Alpha Plus and special needs school operator Senad. Although no longer directly linked to Sovereign, Nash has also invested in academies, private healthcare and care homes. He has already been rewarded for his contribution, with a peerage and a job as an education minister.
Theodore Agnew is a trustee of the New Schools Network, a group run by some of Mr Gove’s closest aides, that helped start his ‘free schools’ project.
The appointments appear to be a clear indication that UK government decisions are now made on the basis of financial gain, rather than the interests of the nation.
The committee they will join is to oversee cuts that will halve the DfE’s administration, with 1,000 job losses and the closure of six regional offices. Almost one-third of remaining staff will switch between teams working on time-limited projects.
The changes have created an atmosphere of disillusionment across Whitehall, with two-thirds of Britain’s most senior civil servants now so demoralised that they are considering quitting public service, according to a survey by the FDA union.
In other words, Gove is attacking our public services on several different fronts.
He is inflicting heavy damage on his own department’s ability to operate properly – does anyone really think expertise can be nurtured in people when they have to hop from one project to another, with deadlines hanging over them all the while?
His attack on civil service morale could create a vacuum where there is currently a large pool of expertise. How will our public services function if everybody who knows how they work has walked away in despair?
And his appointment of people with a clear financial interest in the outsourcing of Education Department responsibilities to the committee responsible for cutting it down to size makes it clear that he is trying to turn our children’s future into a fat little earner for his friends.
It is exactly what my #CleanHouseOfCommons e-petition is about. There should be a law against this.
Gove should not be allowed to give government jobs to Conservative Party donors. The decision seems clearly motivated by financial gain.
Gove should not be allowed to give a government job to a member of a firm that could benefit from his decisions. This is practically an incitement to make corrupt decisions for financial gain.
And he should not be allowed to make decisions that could weaken the British civil service. This could lead to mass outsourcing into the private sector – at huge expense – where no such move should be necessary.
The man is a disgrace to Parliament and an embarrassment to the UK.
But he’ll carry on doing exactly what he wants until YOU tell him to stop.
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