Tag Archives: Labour

So who will speak up for the unemployed?

Have you ever noticed that when politicians – and I include Labour here as well as the Tories and Lib Dems – talk about the unemployed, they do so only to speak ill of them? If they aren’t speaking ill of them, then they’re telling us how they’re all too lazy to “find work”. We’ve also had a newly coined expression enter the Tory vocabulary: “job snob”. This government is great at formulating new insults but not so great when it comes to policies.

Politicians like Iain Duncan Smith and Liam Byrne tend to use the unemployed for target practice.  Why? Because they’re easy to attack. They have no political voice inside Westminster Palace. Yet none of those politicians who guardedly speak of the unemployed as “scum” think of them as people;  real people or as voters. I would wager that there are a large number of politicians, Tories especially, who would deny full citizenship to the unemployed if they could get away with it. Whereas Labour simply offers the same Tory approach but couched in different language.

Being unemployed in Britain is no picnic. I know. I’ve been there. You get £67.50 a week and Housing and Council Benefit – if you’re lucky.  The benefits system, far from what is commonly claimed by the right-wing press, is less than generous. The process by which you claim benefits is dehumanizing. You’re stigmatized and excluded. Some local authorities will do their utmost to ensure that benefit payments are delayed and Jobcentres will trick people into losing their Jobseekers Allowance to meet targets.

The current government is doing all it can to make sure that the unemployed pay for the economic crisis. The benefit cap and The Quiet Man’s Universal Credit are two means by which the unemployed will be further punished. The Tories’ allies on Fleet Street do the  rest by producing a near endless stream of stories about “dole cheats”.

When this government took power in 2010, they immediately signalled their intention to wage war on the unemployed.  Ministers like IDS, Grayling and Gove told us how unemployed people were living the life of luxury at the expense of the taxpayer. They told us how these people were living in “expensive houses” and even produced sets of figures that were designed to impress us. But it is all a massive distortion. The real villains continue to enjoy special privileges under this coalition. And the Tories wants them to continue to enjoy these privileges at our expense.

Ministers have told us how they want to “cut red tape” in order to “stimulate” the economy.  What they’re really saying is how they want people to work more hours and for nothing. They also want to remove any workplace legislation that protects workers – so that companies will be absolved of any responsibility to provide hazard-free working conditions – safe in the knowledge that the Health & Safety Act no longer applies to them.

To date, not a single politician from the 3 main parties has said how unreasonable it is for the unemployed to exist on less than £68 a week and how this needs to change. Of course not. They would rather use the jobless as a scapegoat. Furthermore there isn’t a single MP on the government benches or the opposition benches who has been unemployed, therefore they will never understand what it’s like to scrape by. They will never be able to comprehend what it’s like to be stigmatized and excluded; to live without dignity. Unemployment for these people is “God’s punishment” or something like it. It was the same in the 19th century and little has changed in the minds of our political leaders, who continue to circulate the same stale ideas ad infinitum.

Benefits for the unemployed need to be increased. It’s as simple as that. The cost of even the most basic of foodstuffs has increased exponentially in the last year. Rents have increased and travel costs, which are the highest in Europe, are prohibitively expensive.  Many unemployed people cannot afford the fares and are tempted to dodge, for example, train fares. So not only are the unemployed being scapegoated, they are often forced into criminality. This suits the government narrative of a mass body of unemployed ‘parasites’ who are draining an otherwise healthy, virile country of its life-force.

Even if you are lucky to have a job, the chances are it is not one that pays enough for you to live comfortably. Wages have remained stagnant for the best part of 25 years, while the cost of living has spiralled. People are encouraged to supplement their income by taking on debt through credit cards and loans (in some cases, many people have to resort to using loan sharks). None of this matters to those in the Tory Party who are, without exception, well-off. I mean, have you ever encountered a Tory politician who didn’t have independent wealth that comes from either a trust fund, dividends, shares or rents? No, I haven’t either. They don’t need to supplement their income with credit card debt, they just ratchet up their rents and get their tenants to subsidize their income.

IDS told us that he wanted to “make work pay”. I can’t see that happening either for the unemployed or for those who work. If this government wants to make work pay, perhaps they should introduce a living wage and consider price-capping. But we know that won’t happen. This government wants to wind the clock back to 1862 and the mythical age of classical liberalism.

Given that the 3 main parties continue to regard the unemployed as beneath them, I would suggest that the jobless move their votes to a party that is prepared to speak up for them. The Socialist Party, for example. There are others too.

The Tories complained that”left-wing militants” and “Trotskyites” have derailed their “work experience” scheme. But this denies the fact that the government’s scheme was a sham from the start and most sensible people could see that making people work for nothing was nothing more than a form of slave labour. Furthermore, such a scheme has the effect of undercutting wages and those who perform menial tasks for the minimum wage could find themselves eventually joining the dole queue.

In 1986, Tory MP and former National Democratic Party member, Piers Merchant spent a week on the dole to “see what it was like”.   Yes,  just a week [rolls eyes].  These days,  no Tory MP, let alone a Labour MP, would dream of doing such a thing. They’re far too used to their comforts for that.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Public spending

Project Volvo: what a load of Balls

“Politician in backstabbing shocker” is what yesterday’s Daily Telegraph exclusive should have said.  The politician in question is Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, who was allegedly behind a plot called Project Volvo to oust Tory Bliar. Well blow me down and knock me down with a feather! There was a plot to oust Blair? Really? You must be joking! Blair was so popular. How could anyone conceive of something so rotten? So duplicitous.  So Machiavellian? Er, how about politicians? It’s their stock-in-trade.

In all honesty, this is a very big non-story. It’s a non-story that was cooked up by the Maily Torygraph.  They got their grubby, greasy, nicotine-stained hands on some memos sent by Balls. This proves that there was a brutal plot to “destroy” Blair! In reality the Torygraph is doing its bit for the government by deflecting attention away from the very big mess the government finds itself in.

That’s its job.

Lord Snooty’s plans for the NHS have run aground.The economy is shrinking though the IMF gave Hon Gid the thumbs up for his austerity measures. Yeah, the IMF… like that really means something. If the IMF gives you their seal of approval that means you’re hammering the poor really hard. They like that kind of thing. The war in Libya is dragging on with no end in sight (and you thought it was just a no-fly zone?) and Ken Clarke is being slapped down for his eccentric views on sentences for rape. Could it get any worse for the Tories? Maybe it can. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 29 year old woman in Central London (he’s a family man don’t you know). You didn’t see that one coming. Did you?

Predictably, the bloggers at the Torygraph are all beside themselves with joy. But they’re a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies. It seems that everyone in the country, except for the hacks on the right side of Fleet Street, knew about this story. This sort of thing isn’t unique to the Labour Party but the deadheads at the Telegraph think it is. They forget how Michael Heseltine, resigned from the cabinet over the Westland Affair and spent the next few years on the backbenches plotting Thatcher’s overthrow. It’s all conveniently forgotten. Then there’s the Lib Dems, whose Young Turks plotted the overthrow of Chatshow Charlie Kennedy. Once they’d dumped Kennedy, they knifed their mentor, Emperor Ming Campbell in the back. Now they’re in power. What gentlemen.

I think the silly season has begun early.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Media, Tory press

Labour: a socialist party?

Not in my mind! It makes me laugh every time I hear some right-winger describe the Labour Party as ‘socialist’ when they are quite clearly a capitalist party.  The Labour Party lost any pretence of being a socialist party in 1987 when Kinnock embarked on his witch hunt at the behest of the Tory press. The migration to the right was completed under the leadership of Tony Blair – who cut the heart out of the party, held it high over his head and drop-kicked it into the bin. Hey presto! No more Clause 4. It was good for the new voter-friendly brand image of the party, thus it became a newer version of the Tory Party – this is/was New Labour; a sort of Tory-lite. The age of postmodern politics had arrived: ostensibly free from any ideological discolouration; new, shiny and clean, Labour under Blair embarked on two disastrous wars – one of which was based on a lie; refused to build new council homes and placed The City at the heart of their economic thinking. So instead of creating more manufacturing jobs (in other words having the capacity and infrastructure to create tangible products to sell on the international market place), more jobs in the City were produced and the financial sector expanded as a consequence. Almost everyone, it seemed, was more interested in taking money for producing nothing. Telly programmes like Homes Under the Hammer encouraged people to buy properties at knock-down prices at auction, fix them up and sell them on to make a profit. Apparently anyone could be a property developer or a speculator; an entrepreneur, though the reality was less romantic than the image portrayed. These are the people whom Marx described as the rentier class: stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, buy-to-let property owners and so on who take their money from rents, shares and dividends.  This is the effect of financial deregulation that was initiated under Thatcher but continued under the last Labour government.  The spivs and the casino capitalists were even more free to do as they wished and dream up any ‘product’ they liked – this is creativity. Remember how Brown spent a lot of time schmoozing the wizards of Ye Olde Cittie of London before the 1997 General Election? Yeah, he was convincing them of the merits of socialism. That’s why they were genuinely pleased with New Labour throughout the 13 years they were in power.

Having lost the election, the Labour Party now has to choose a new leader but the field of candidates as I mentioned in an earlier blog is dominated by Blairites and sub-Blairites. Only the late inclusion of Diane Abbott as a candidate makes the field appear interesting.  Let’s have a look at the leadership candidates:

David Miliband, studied PPE at Oxford. He sounds like Blair and has even adopted some of his mannerisms but, so far, he has resisted the temptation to use Blair’s famous phrase, “Listen to the argument”. He is political careerism personified.

Ed Milband, like his brother, he studied PPE at Oxford. He made a very moving speech about how Labour needed to get back to its core values and derided Blair’s decision to make war in Iraq. He talks a good talk but does he have the will?

Ed Balls, another Oxford PPE graduate, is a slippery character. A friend of Gordon Brown, he sounds like a continuation of the Calvinist One.

Andy Burnham is portrayed as a ‘Merseysider’ (Scouse by implication) and working class but I fail to see his appeal. Another careerist, he is sub-Blairite and offers nothing different – save for the fact that he went to Cambridge and didn’t read PPE.

Finally there’s the late arrival,  Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP to be elected to the House of Commons and a Cambridge graduate. Her decision to send her son to a private school has attracted a good deal of criticism from the left and has been mocked by the right. Abbott seems to be the Tories preferred leadership candidate which tells us something about the Tories: they see her as a soft target – maybe it’s her relationship with on-screen hubby Michael Portillo on This Week? Remember “Chat Show Charlie”? But chat shows weren’t Charlie’s undoing; it was his fondness for uisge beatha that finished him off…well, that and his back-stabbing chums led by Brutus Clegg. It’s hard to see how Abbott can win, given the numbers of New Labour types in the party and the sheer adoration some members have for Miliband 1.

I can’t see Labour discovering socialism soon, let alone social democracy. But with PR who knows what could happen? We could witness the rise of a party that is more in tune with left-thinking voters. It can only be a good thing for the left as well as democracy: the compulsion to hold one’s nose and vote Labour when they’re working against you would disappear forever. No more contradictory consciousness…yeah, well, we’ll see – eh?

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics