Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Main Parties And The Election’s Forgotten Voters

At election time, politicians from the main parties (and UKIP) will repeat the mantra of low taxes and blah, blah, blah. There is a group of people whom these politicians always ignore, unless it’s to claim they will “create jobs” or offer some kind of “job guarantee” for a certain age group. Who am I talking about?  The people on out of work benefits. These are the forgotten voters.

The rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) has failed to keep pace with the increased cost of living.  There are two kinds of JSA: Contributory and Income-based. The rates for each are exactly the same. I won’t bother going into detail about the minor differences, because they’re not that important. The only real difference is the rate for couples.

The rates are

Age JSA weekly amount
18 to 24 up to £57.90
25 or over up to £73.10

For those on Income-based JSA, you get a little more if you’re a couple. A massive £114.85 a week. Big wow.

There isn’t a single frontbencher from the three main parties that will stand up and say how little people on out of work benefits are paid, let alone defend them. It’s just tough. For the three main parties (and UKIP) the unemployed are out of work by choice. All three main parties (and UKIP) continue to punish or ignore the unemployed and complain about the ‘welfare’ bill. I’ve looked at their election manifestos and I have to tell you that I’m not impressed with what I see.

UKIP claims it

is fully committed to maintaining a strong and supportive safety net for those who fall on hard times, but will not be a soft-touch on welfare.

Nothing there, let’s move on.

Labour’s position on the unemployed isn’t much different to the Tories, save for this caveat of sorts:

  • We will pay a higher rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance to those who have paid in over the years, funded by asking people to contribute for longer before they receive the contributory benefit.

In other words, if you’re languishing on 73 quid a week, tough shit. Get a job… if you can find one.

For the Tories, there’s no mention of the unemployed at all. Instead, they talk about reducing tax for those on low pay and there’s loads of guff about “creating jobs for all”. Be suspicious about the last clause. Be very suspicious. If you’re unemployed, you could find yourself in a forced labour camp.

The Lib Dems aren’t much better. Like the Tories, they also talk about raising the tax threshold for the low paid but make no mention of the unemployed.

So, from the manifestos of the three main parties (and UKIP), you can see that anyone out of work is regarded either as a non-person or fodder for unscrupulous employers in the fast food industry, the supermarkets or Poundland. The Tories claim they want to “make work pay” but there’s been no evidence of that in their five years in office. The unemployed have been made scapegoats for the banking crisis and the recession that followed.

Labour, on the other hand, is more interested in shunting people into jobs that don’t exist, while continuing to punish the unemployed by paying them as little as possible. It also says that people will have to “pay in more” to get a higher rate of JSA, though it doesn’t say how high this rate will be, or how much more in contributions you’ll have to pay. Finally, there’s Rachel Reeves, who claimed last month,

“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,”

That’s loads of potential voters alienated by a few foul words. Reeves just sees a reserve army of labour ready to be exploited and/or punished for the lack of work. Red Tories, eh?

If you’re unemployed there isn’t much choice on the menu: it’s either a shit sandwich or a shit sandwich. If you don’t want to eat a shit sandwich. Tough shit. Eat up.

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Filed under General Election 2015, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Political parties, Tories, UKIP

The World Is A More Dangerous Place…

We’re always being told that “the world is a more dangerous place”, but is it more dangerous today than it was yesterday? Or was yesterday more dangerous than today? How about last year or the year before that? What about the decade before that? The Cold War made the world a dangerous place. But maybe the War of Jenkins’ Ear was more dangerous? How would I know? It was before my time.

Politicians, especially those who have an interest of keeping us in a state of fear, want us to believe that the time we are currently living through is the most dangerous in history. But is it? Wasn’t life in the Middle Ages nasty, brutish and short? Didn’t England and France go to war with each other for over 100 years? I wasn’t around then, but it sounded like a very dangerous time.

The world has always been a dangerous place. There’s nothing particularly unique about contemporary dangers apart from our technologically advanced means of killing people, but that doesn’t make the present day any more dangerous than, say, 1848.

I could go out tomorrow and get hit by a bus. Urban life is full of dangers. Even if I elect to stay in bed to avoid any potential dangers, I’m in danger of getting bed sores and possibly starving to death. Worse still, a plane could fall from the sky and hit my bedroom.

So, political leaders and media journalists (you know who you are), stop telling us the world is more dangerous now than it has ever been. It just isn’t true.

 

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Filed under Language, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

Nick Clegg’s Red Lines

Nick Clegg, as many of us already know, is a bullshitter. His election promises are lies and the party he leads is slippery, two-faced and not beneath playing the race card when it suits. Clegg pretends to be the people’s champion; the brake on the out-of-control Tory juggernaut. It was all a pose: all he ever wanted for himself and his party was power. Letting go of the ministerial limousines and briefcases will be difficult for them. But change is a good thing. Right? Then, it’s time for a change.

When Clegg appeared in the media to announce his ‘red lines’, I knew immediately that he was getting ahead of himself. What makes him think his party will win enough seats to hold the balance of power? What makes him think anyone really wants to vote for a party that propped up the cruellest government since Thatcher? Clegg’s announcement was hubris wrapped in arrogance.

One of his ‘red lines’ was education. This is little different to his 2010 pledge and if he snuggles up  to the Tories in Coalition: The Sequel (directed by CCHQ), this will go out of the window with the rest of his pledges. so what are those other pledges? Well, he tells us that he will oppose Tory cuts. Just like he did when he was in power. Next, he claims that he will reduce Labour’s deficit. Really? Remember how Clegg and his gang complained that Labour had “bankrupted the country”? This never happened but the Lib Dems thought it best to repeat the Tory lie, just in case. The Labour Party would be foolish to enter a coalition with the backstabbing Lib Dems.

The best thing that could happen for Nick Clegg and his sad little party is for him to lose his seat and his party to get a kicking at the ballot box. Make it so.

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Filed under General Election 2015, Liberal Democrats, Political parties

Spies, Lies and Smears: The Conservative Party, The Secret State And The Undermining Of Democracy

The Zinoviev Letter was a forgery that helped to win the election for Stanley Baldwin’s Conservative Party in 1924

The Tories: they truly are a nasty party. The gutter mentality; the venality, the cruelty and the underhanded tactics have been the hallmarks of the Conservative Party’s strategies for nearly a century. Tories consider themselves divinely ordained to ‘lead’ the country. But it wasn’t always thus. The 19th century was dominated by the Liberal Party. For those of you reading this from a country outside the UK, as well as some of you in it, the Liberals weren’t social liberals; they were economic liberals. Remember this is the party that turned its back on the Irish people during the famine, believing the Invisible Hand of the Market would magically intervene in the tragedy. The Hand is, for all intents and purposes, a transmutation of God employed as a means of rationalizing non-intervention. Markets must not be interfered with. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. This is the origin of neoliberal economic theory. It’s the touchstone of neoliberals like Dan Hannan, who variously describes himself as a Whig and a classic liberal.

The Liberal Party was formed from a coalition of Whigs and free trade Tory followers of Robert Peel as well as free trade radicals. If we look at the Orange Book tendency of the Liberal Democrats, we can see there is little difference between them and the Tories. They are mutually attracted to each other because they share common origins. Thus the coalition government was an incestuous marriage. Nick Clegg may claim there is clear orange water between his party and the Tories, but he would be lying. The differences between the Whigs and the Tories were slight: support for the Corn Laws versus repeal of the same, and free trade versus protectionism. That’s it. Karl Marx had plenty to say about them.

Irish Home Rule in the late 1800s badly wounded the Liberals, when the Unionist faction defected to the Tories giving them the name they use to this day: The Conservative and Unionist Party. Then as now with Scottish Independence, the arguments against Irish Home Rule were predicated on fear. From this moment on, the Tories dominated government, even propping up the Liberal Lloyd George during the First World War. The so-called ‘Coalition coupon’ of 1918 finished the Liberals as a dominant force since only those few Liberals who possessed the coalition coupon were elected. Labour was now on the rise as the opposition party, even though Sinn Féin came third (they declined to take their seats).

With Labour now the official opposition, the Tories’ propaganda machine went into overdrive. Have a look at this poster.

Here, the Labour Party and socialists generally are depicted as a demon throttling the virginal form of a powerless Britannia, her trident apparently of no use to ward off the threat.

This poster claims Labour will send inspectors around to look into your souls. This desperate specimen is playing to householders rather than people renting from unscrupulous landlords or living hand-to-mouth existences.

When the propaganda failed to work, they used other means like espionage and sabotage. The Tories resented the first Labour government of 1924. Ramsay MacDonald’s government had neither a majority nor a mandate and relied on the support of the Liberals. In October 1924, MacDonald was forced to go to the country after a vote of no confidence. Four days before the General Election, the Zinoviev Letter was published in the Daily Mail. Labour lost the election and Stanley Baldwin’s Tories won a landslide.

The Tories were determined to ensure they held power no matter the cost. This meant having a dedicated department within Conservative Central Office that could produce propaganda and coordinate espionage activities. The Conservative Research Department was created in 1929 with the ostensible purpose of conducting detailed policy work. It’s real task, however, was to cook up dirty tricks to smear their opponents, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party – a lesson they had learned well in 1924.

Major Joseph Ball, the author of the Zinoviev Letter was appointed director of the CRD and given a knighthood. This  cemented the link between the Conservative Party and security services. Joseph Ball also ran a right-wing journal called Truth, which pandered to anti-Semites . It should be recalled that the Tories were openly anti-Semitic and saw Jews and Bolsheviks as the same thing. Ball also sent spies into Labour and the Liberals. Ball had pro-Nazi sympathies and was a close confidante of Neville Chamberlain.

The 1929 General Election resulted in a hung parliament and Labour formed a minority administration. MacDonald was forced to call an election for 1931, which the Tories won by a landslide… by stirring up xenophobia. A national government was formed with a much diminished MacDonald as figurehead Prime Minister, leading a splinter faction that had been expelled from the Labour Party. In 1935, the pretence was over and the national government, now headed by political  puppet-master, Stanley Baldwin, won the general election. The government was Tory in all but name and included MacDonald’s National Labour Party and John Simon’s Liberal National Party (the Liberals had actually split into three parties!). Baldwin was depicted in Tory propaganda as the face of progress and prosperity but he was getting old. MacDonald had been broken by illness and died two years later. In 1937, Neville Chamberlain, who was also chairman of the CRD, became Tory leader and Prime Minister. There would be no General Election until 1945 when Labour won its famous landslide. Ball was eventually sacked in 1942. Jonathan Pile writes:

Ball in 1940 ought to have been interned with Sir Oswald Mosley , Archibald Ramsay and Admiral Sir Barry Domvile for their treasonous views and activities under Defence Regulation 18B. Instead he was appointed by Chamberlain over Churchill’s as head of the Security Intelligence Centre , an ultra secret part of the anti-fifth column organisation, the Home Defence Security Executive which had precedence over MI6 and MI5.

As a “poacher turned game keeper” he continued to secretly control the anti-war, anti-government weekly magazine Truth, and there is some evidence of a covert involvement in the peace mission conspiracy of the Rudolf Hess flight of May 1941.

Ball was finally expelled from the corridors of power in 1942, and used his extensive old boy network of appeasement contacts to build up the multinational empire of Lonrho which he sold on to the controversial German “one-time Hitler youth” Tiny Rowlands (sic).

The Tories, for the most part, accepted the National Health Service and nationalizations (after voting against both). Labour lost the elections of 1951, 1955 and 1959 due to infighting. It seemed the Tories could do no wrong. By 1963, however, the Profumo Scandal tarnished the image of the party and in the 1964 General Election, Harold Wilson’s Labour Party won by a slender margin. Wilson called a snap election in 1966 to increase his majority, while the Tories chose Edward Heath to lead the party in an attempt to distance itself from aristocratic past and appear more modern. Labour won the election and embarked on a series of social reforms to the consternation of the Tories.

Many Conservatives turned to the Republican Party in the United States for ideas, while a whispering campaign was initiated against Wilson, who was accused of being Soviet agent. This was due to two things: the work of the CRD and hardline military men who had Tory sympathies. In 1968, Cecil King the proprietor of the Daily Mirror and scion of the Rothermere/Harmsworth family suggested overthrowing Wilson in a coup and installing Lord Mountbatten as Prime Minister. King even went as far a meeting Mountbatten himself. This plan would be resurrected in 1974 with the appearance of Colonel David Stirling’s GB75 and General Walter Walker’s Civil Assistance. Central to this plot and others like it was Brian Crozier, who is listed as a “historian, journalist and strategist” in his Wikipedia entry. Crozier had been active in a variety of shadowy right-wing groups that had links to the Central Intelligence Agency. One of these was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, for whom he worked from 1966

Now you may say “Well, all parties use dirty tricks”. That may well be true, but the Tories take it much further. The 1976 Reg Prentice affair is a case in point. Julian Lewis infiltrated the Newham North East Labour Party and stood as a ‘moderate’ candidate (with financial backing from the right-wing Freedom Association) in an effort to steer the constituency party to the right. It failed and Lewis had a brief spell in the Navy before officially joining the Conservatives. Lewis, now armed with a doctorate in Strategic Studies from Oxford University, helped to found the Orwellian Coalition for Peace Through Security alongside Crozier, Tony Kerpel and fervent Thatcherite, Edward Leigh, MP.

The CPS’s primary mission was to destroy the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Labour Party, which largely supported nuclear disarmament, by using the courts. It was hoped that this strategy would bankrupt both CND and the Labour Party, thus ushering in the kind of political system that was acceptable to the right. Namely, one in which the political right prevailed and the Labour Party would be made to resemble the corporate-friendly Democratic Party of the United States. Tellingly, the CPS’s office was on Whitehall and was financed by a variety of right-wing groups in the United States and Britain. One of these groups was the Heritage Foundation. In November 1983, Labour had begun its march to the right by electing Neil Kinnock as leader. Coincidentally, Tony Blair had also been elected as MP for Sedgefield in June’s General Election. His rise through the party ranks would be rapid. Shortly thereafter, the party gradually modified its position to unilateral disarmament to the point that it was rarely mentioned, if at all, during the Blair years. These days, it’s disappeared completely.

In 1985, Lewis and Kerpel set up Policy Research Associates, which included the Media Monitoring Unit. The latter was established to counter perceived left-wing bias in the media. One intention was to create a media that was compliant, supine and overwhelmingly supportive of Thatcherism. The other intention was to narrow the range of acceptable political and economic discourses in the public sphere. We continue to live with the consequences to this day.

Lewis became Deputy Director of the CRD in 1990 and held that position until 1996, a year before he was elected to the Commons as MP for the New Forest. If you look at his Wikipedia entry, most of the references come from his website.  If you look at his record at his speeches, the vast majority of them are related to defence and security. Yet, very little is known about the man himself. We do know that he was a ‘go to man’ for dirty tricks and he didn’t take kindly to journalists making enquiries into the shadowy nature of CRD’s work. This came to the fore in 1993 when Scallywag printed a series of stories implicating a number of high-ranking Conservatives in a paedophile scandal at Bryn Estyn and Dolphin Square. The magazine also alleged that John Major and a Downing Street caterer were having an affair but they were set up. Major was having and affair with Edwina Currie, the Health Secretary. Major successfully sued. Scallywag continued but was eventually driven out of business by Lewis when they threatened to print a story about him. Lewis bought the contents of their office.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997 and it seemed as though the Tories had been put on the back foot. Blair had stolen their clothes by keeping Thatcher’s anti-union legislation in place and by retaining Right to Buy. Here was a ‘new’ party that was just as friendly as Thatcher towards big business and the financial sector. The political and economic discourse had been limited to variations on a neoliberal theme. Nu Labour’s version of neoliberalism had a pale social democratic gloss to it. It was packaging that barely concealed a mish-mash of free market capitalism, liberal interventionism and managerialist politics. Even if some Tories believed it to be socialism, it wasn’t. It was  knock-off Thatcherism with added pizzazz. Politically, the field had been skewed rightward, leaving the Labour Left marginalized.

This brings us to the early 21st Century: the Conservatives had been out of power for 13 years, their longest spell in opposition since the 19th Century. The election of 2010 resulted in a hung parliament and the Tories formed a coalition with their erstwhile enemies and partners, the Liberal Democrats. Given their historical origins, this relationship was more of a death embrace than a working partnership. Even their apparent mutual antipathy was little more than sibling rivalry. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws are Tories in all but name.

The Tories’ election campaign uses all the dirty tricks imaginable. Their allies in the press continue to produce smear stories on their behalf as they have done for nearly a century. Two years ago, the Daily Mail, believing the year was 1924 printed an outrageous smear about Ralph Miliband.  On Sunday, the Daily Telegraph claimed to have a letter written by a 5,000 small businesses allegedly supported Cameron, claiming a Labour government would be “bad for small business”. Within 24 hours it was exposed as bogus; the metadata on the letter revealed that it had been written by someone in Conservative Central Office.

Compared to the dirty tricks campaigns of the past, these recent smear attacks look amateurish and sloppy. The supposedly earth-shattering letters and ‘leaked’ memos are bad copies of past forgeries. It’s as if the Tory strategists don’t really care if you think their lies are lousy or not. This is due, in part, to an arrogance that stems from their sense of entitlement and this blinds them to their own failings.

The other strategy of this election campaign is its use of attrition on the public mind. Tories want people to feel fed up with all politicians: this has the effect of turning off those voters who would otherwise vote for a left-wing or progressive party. Thus the only people to come out and vote are the Tories. If the Tories get a majority or form the next government it will be because they have lied and cheated their way into office.

Edited to add:

Cameron, Osborne, Letwin and Lansley also worked for the CRD as ‘advisers’.  Enoch Powell also went through the CRD.

Further reading

“Wilson, MI5 and the Rise of Thatcher” in Lobster, No. 11 Available at: http://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster11.pdf

Pink Industry blog on Reg Prentice

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Filed under Conservative Party, Free Press Myth, Government & politics, Media, Political parties, propaganda, Society & culture, Tories, Tory press

The Cat’s Post-Election Demands

Whoever wins on May 7, we will have to take to the streets and demand fundamental changes to how this country is run. There must be no let up. After the last election in 2010, people marched to demand fair voting. Sadly, the momentum was lost on the first day, when marchers went home after listening to Nick Clegg’s impromptu speech on the steps of Lib Dem HQ. They believed his warm words, but I didn’t. The Lib Dems are flim-flam artists, who will do anything to grab power. The march itself was overwhelmingly bourgeois. I wrote about the short-lived Take Back Parliament movement here.

Here are The Cat’s key demands.

  1. A proportional voting system based on either the mixed members proportional system (in Scotland) or the single transferable vote (in Ireland)
  2. The abolition of the House of Lords
  3. The abolition of the monarchy and, by extension, an end to the Union
  4. A new constitutional settlement for the nations of these islands that is equitable to all
  5. An end to landlordism
  6. Rent controls for private and Housing Association tenants
  7. End Right to Buy
  8. Renationalize the railways
  9. Nationalize the banks
  10. Build more social housing
  11. End the influence of the City of London over our legislature
  12. Regional assemblies for England
  13. The creation of a federal republic

Feel free to add your points to the list.

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Filed under General Election 2015, Government & politics

The SNP, Scottish Labour, Loyalism and Scotophobia

Striking fear in the hearts of Unionists

There are some folk, mainly Labour types, who have a visceral hatred of the Scottish National Party. I have heard all kinds of characterizations of the SNP and all of them are wrong. “Well, the SNP are a nationalist party and nationalism is bad” is one such complaint but is all nationalism bad? Isn’t there such a thing as left-wing nationalism? Then there were the many liberation movements in the former colonies. Weren’t they nationalist and left-wing? I’ve also heard people characterize the SNP as “Nazis” (melodramatic) or  as the “Scottish version of UKIP” (absurd). Hysterical, hyperbolic and delusional. But whoever claimed Unionists were rational? They will do anything to cling onto the leaky boat that is the Union.

The SNP was formed in 1934 through a merger of two parties: the larger centre-left National Party of Scotland and the smaller centre-right Scottish Party. The latter was really little more than a discussion group and was a breakaway group from the Unionist Party, the ideological cousins of the Conservative Party. Furthermore, the Scottish Party was not a nationalist party; it advocated Home Rule. The former was the older of the two formations and contained, among others, Hugh MacDiarmid, who was later expelled for being a communist. Ironically MacDiarmid would be expelled from the CPGB for holding nationalist views.

Initially, the SNP wasn’t always nationalist and advocated Home Rule in its early years. This changed in the 1970s after the successes of Winnie Ewing in 1967 and Margo MacDonald in the Glasgow Govan by-election in 1973. The Govan seat would later be won by her future husband, Jim Sillars, in 1988. Disgusted by the lack of progress towards devolution, Sillars left the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1976 and formed a breakaway Scottish Labour Party. This party, along with the 79 Group formulated a left-wing vision for the SNP. The 79 Group, which included a young Alex Salmond, Roseanna Cunningham and Margo MacDonald, attempted to pull the SNP further to the left. They were expelled by the SNP, though they would return in the late 1980s and their platform would be adopted as a political position first, by Gordon Wilson, the SNP leader and then, when Salmond won the leadership contest in 1990.

Currently the SNP is described as “social democratic”. They are to the left of Labour on many issues. This does not mean they are a socialist party. Far from it. However, they are genuinely progressive and offer the possibility of smashing the Westminster sham democracy once and for all. I am not an SNP supporter but I can see the attraction in voting for them and I can also see how an SNP majority in Scotland could lead to a change in the way the United Kingdom is governed. I am no supporter of the union and I believe that it has run its course. The countries of the UK need a new constitutional settlement and a different voting system. If the SNP are successful, then this is more likely to come about.

I have to laugh at those unionists who complain about Scottish and even Welsh nationalism, but unionism and its Northern Irish cousins,  Ulster Unionism and Loyalism, are actually forms of nationalism. There is no self-reflexivity on the unionist side. None whatsoever.

What struck me as odd is how Labour shared a platform with the Orange Order (and the Tories) during the Scottish Independence Referendum. Orangemen, Loyalists and Unionists are a backward-looking, nostalgic bunch who are forever trapped in their flawed rendering of history. It’s a version of history full of mawkish sentimentality and constant flag (or fleg) waving. And it stinks.

Some critics of the SNP may complain that the party has a distant history of anti-Catholicism, but that is nothing compared to the sectarian bigotry of the Orange Order. Yet, Scottish Labour was happy to jump into bed with the Orangemen and Loyalists.

Remember this scene after the “Better Together’ campaign won? This is what your union looks like.

Gerry Braiden, writing in The Herald wrote:

THE Orange Order’s anti-independence campaigning has support from within the Labour Party, a leading Northern Ireland politician has claimed.

 The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said one Scots Labour MP told him he was grateful to “see the Lodge on the street” in the weeks and months running up to the September 18 poll .

Just days before tens of thousands of Orange Order members take to Edinburgh’s streets opposing Scottish independence, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s most senior official, Dr David Hume, has claimed it would be “failing in its democratic duty” if it did not stage a Referendum rally.

I was probably about 10 years old when I saw the local Orange Order march through Liverpool City Centre. I asked my mother who these people were. “They’re the Orangemen”, she replied . “What’s an Orangeman, mum”? She had no answer. “Is grandad an Orangeman”? “No” my mum shot back. But I found the triumphalist spectacle rather threatening. Men in bowler hats and orange sashes marching as bold as brass along a main thoroughfare didn’t sit well with me. Many years later, I discovered what they were. I also learnt about Loyalism and how closely connected Loyalist paramilitaries were to both the state security services and the far-right. Britain First, for example, was founded by Loyalist and former Calvinist preacher, Jim Dowson, and uses Loyalist motifs.

In Scotland, the Orange Order was closely associated with the Scottish Unionist Party (now called Scottish Conservatives), but its influence has waned in recent years because of the Tories’ diminution of seats north of the border. More Orangemen are likely to be members of the Scottish Labour Party these days, Peter Geoghegan writes:

According to the current Grand Master, Henry Dunbar, the Order even encouraged members to vote SNP in the 2011 Holyrood elections in protest over a Glasgow City Council policy to reduce parades. The SNP won a number of Labour strongholds in Glasgow in its landslide victory, though it’s not clear what, if anything, the ‘Orange vote’ contributed to that.

But the relationship was short-lived.

The Order’s putative flirtation with the nationalists didn’t last long. Before May’s local elections, the Labour group leader in Glasgow, Gordon Matheson, appeared at an Orange Lodge hustings, apparently telling members that the council’s parading policy was ‘flawed’. The Orange Torch praised Matheson for his attacks on the SNP – ‘the kind of bullish talk we need to hear more of from unionist politicians’ – and claimed that Labour held control of the council thanks to the help of ‘thousands of Orangemen and their families’.

There are still people who will persist with the accusation that the SNP is fundamentally anti-Catholic. That accusation is feeble and the SNP’s critics will do anything to smear them.

The success of the SNP has brought with it a concomitant rise in anti-Scottishness.  Mind you, this anti-Scottishness is nothing new and has been around ever since the Middle Ages. Indeed, the stereotypical image (constructed by the English) of the Scots and other the Celtic peoples of these islands has been unremittingly negative. Ironically, no such stereotypes of the English exist. The Scots, however, are depicted variously as drunks, junkies and tramps, who are a drain on the UK economy. Ray Winstone, appearing on Have I Got News For You, infamously claimed:

“To be fair the Scottish economy has its strengths – its chief exports being oil, whisky, tartan and tramps.”

Kelvin Mackenzie, himself of Scottish descent, appears to hate his own genes.

Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like London and the south east… Scots enjoy spending [money] but they don’t enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down south.

The myths and tropes keep piling up.

Only yesterday, while I was watching the BBC News Channel, a woman in a vox pop interview expressed her ill-founded fears that Scotland would “run the country”. Her level of ignorance and paranoia was staggering. Thus we find that the hatred felt by some English people isn’t confined to the SNP and extends to Scotland itself. The recent independence referendum has brought all of this hatred and bile to the surface and much of it is stirred up by the media and by English politicians. The Tories’ recent poster of Alex Salmond with Ed Miliband in his pocket was designed specifically to play on people’s ignorance.

The union came into being with the Acts of Union (1707 and 1800) and yoked Scotland and Ireland to England for the purpose of creating an empire. The ‘partnership’, as the Union is often called these days, is supposedly an equal one. But that’s not how many people in Scotland and Ireland see it. Even in Northern Ireland, there is a general feeling that Westminster doesn’t understand the Six Counties. In spite of protests to the contrary, England has dominated the Union politically, economically and militarily. It imposed direct rule in Northern Ireland and denied the right of the Scots to organize their own affairs, while Wales is practically ignored.

The union is finished and any attempt to hang on for dear life to, what is in effect, a corpse is only delaying the inevitable.

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The “Leaving Debt For Future Generations” Fallacy

How many times in the last five years or so have we heard the popular refrain “We mustn’t leave debt for our children and grandchildren”? Too many to count. The Tories and their allies in power, the Lib Dems, use it as a discourse-killer; a means of defending their absurd austerity measures and to silence their critics. However, this notion that if the government should borrow money to invest in public services or infrastructure, then this debt will be passed on to our children and grandchildren and so on is nothing but bunkum. It’s little more than a form of emotional blackmail to convince gullible voters to cast their ballots for the dismal Tory Party,  whose profligacy in government would make the most financially incontinent blush with embarrassment.

Governments always borrow money. If they didn’t, it would be unusual. The Lend-Lease deal that was negotiated between the Attlee government and the United States was paid off in 2000.  First World War debts were finally paid off a year ago. I wonder though, did any of you actually notice this debt dragging on you as members of the successor generations? No? I didn’t either. The South Sea Bubble, which happened in 1720 incurred massive debts. The Battle of Waterloo sucked in money like a black hole absorbs light. Those debts are still outstanding. It’s funny how none of the Tories or Lib Dems ever mention this. Instead of avoiding bubbles, the Tories and the Lib Dems actually did their best to stimulate them. Help to Buy has the potential to become the British equivalent of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. The recent attempt to revive Right to Buy, which has contributed to the current housing shortage, is another economically incompetent manoeuvre.

Truth be told, individuals don’t pay back these historic debts because they’re held in bonds that were issued at the time of borrowing. The wealthy people who lent money to the government demand their interest but, in effect, they’re a form of savings. So what about the budget deficit then? Well, that isn’t helped by the fact that the last government failed to collect enough in tax revenue because they gave tax cuts to their rich friends, while hammering those who need to work more than one job just to have an extra couple of quid a week. Yes, they told you that those earning less than £10,000 a year would be taken out of tax but those people often have no choice but to take another job. So they lied to you.

Governments can raise money in three ways: taxation,  borrowing (at preferential rates of interests) or by issuing bonds. The latter is often used for funding wars, while taxation is used for such things as social security. The government will often borrow money to service public sector needs (this used to be known as the public sector borrowing requirement or PSBR) or for infrastructure projects. PSBR is the old way of referring to the budget deficit. The government can always go into debt for wars and other military adventures but they will never claim that those particular debts will “be passed on to future generations”. Yet they will make that same claim when it comes to much-needed investment or paying out social security benefits. Such staggering hypocrisy should not be allowed to go unchallenged.

It’s The People’s Money blog had this to say about the “leaving debt for future generations” fallacy.

The real debt we leave to our children is the state of the environment and the nation’s resources they inherit from us, along with the lack of investments we could and should have made in their future. It is never about the record of government money on an accounting ledger.

The notion that the national debt is passed on to “our children and grandchildren” has its origins in Thatcher’s household finances analogy fallacy. The Center for Economic and Policy Research, a US-based research outfit claims:

Politicians, especially those who want to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare, are fond of telling people that our children and grandchildren will pay the national debt. That one may sell well with focus groups, but it is complete nonsense. Unfortunately, Eduardo Porter repeats this line in his column today.

A moment’s reflection shows why the debt is not a measure of inter-generational equity. At some point everyone alive today will be dead. At that point, the bonds that comprise the debt will be held entirely by our children or grandchildren. The debt will be an asset for the members of future generations that hold these bonds. This can raise distributional issues within a generation. For example, if Bill Gates’ grandchildren own the entire U.S. debt there will be important within generation distributional consequences, however this says nothing about inter-generational distribution.

In other words, the debt actually becomes a form of savings not a crippling burden as the free market cultists in the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties would have us believe.

When a government, like the last coalition government, keeps cutting taxes for the rich, it leaves a massive hole in the government finances. What the coalition has done is to pass on debts to those who can least afford them, while letting bankers and other parasites off the hook. The outgoing Blair-Brown government also dumped debts on unemployed by abolishing the social fund grants and replacing them with ‘budgeting’ and ‘crisis’ loans. If anyone is being saddled with unsustainable levels of debt, it’s the poor who are living at this moment in time. They’re in debt bondage and they’ve effectively become serfs in our late capitalist, post-Fordist economies. Why? Because the bullies who govern this country know they can’t fight back, because they lack the economic and political power to do so. When George Osborne stands before us and claims “it would be a dereliction of our duty to future generations”, he’s relying on widespread ignorance of state finances to push this mumbo-jumbo. Don’t fall for it.

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