Tag Archives: Ed Balls

Weak ideas, weak voice, simply weak. George Osborne’s Autumn Statement

Osborne

Hands up, who thinks Osborne’s Autumn Statement was the best in living memory? No takers? That’s no surprise. The only people to get excited about Gid’s speech were the usual suspects: the hacks in the Tory press, industrialists, rentier capitalists, Cittie wizards and energy tycoons.

This morning I awoke to hear The Economist’s Ann McElvoy on the Today programme say how Gid had “come into his own” as a speaker. She must have been listening to a different speech, because I don’t think he’s a natural speaker and besides, he used his speech to further attack the poor, who are paying for this economic crisis by having their benefits cut and being saddled with more debt.

To cap it all, Gid announced that there would be investment in shale gas (fracking) and the Northern Line would be extended to Battersea Power Station and the Tory-controlled borough of Wandsworth. I bet Delingpole’s happy. He probably has shares in petrochemical companies, which would explain his enthusiasm for fracking.

Delingpole isn’t the only one who’s pleased by the announcement of an impending shale gas rush. The Lyin’ King used the occasion to have another bash at the European Union… you know, the body that pays his salary. He says,

One of the reasons that the language in which you’re reading these words is the most widespread on Earth is that Great Britain happened to be rich in coal deposits. There were plenty of other places that might have industrialised first, from the Netherlands to China. The good fortune of our eighteenth century ancestors was that, just when they needed it, they stumbled upon a cheap source of energy. Coal powered the new mills, releasing millions of employees to do different work and creating a massive consumer class. Britain became the greatest nation in the world.

Er, what? So fracking is going to make us “great”? That’s nuts.

Janet Daley praised Gid for cutting corporation tax. Hooray! The rich can continue to get rich at our expense, while the structural deficit remains unchanged.

Iain Martin laid into Ed Balls, whose own solution would be to mimic the Tories’ approach but with warmer words. Let’s not kid ourselves:  Labour would make cuts and impose burdens on the poor too. Millionaire, Liam Byrne, the shadow Works and Pensions secretary is well-known for his attacks on the poor and benefit claimants. He thinks unemployed people are simply idle and would rather live on £69 a week than do a day’s work.

The apparently left-leaning Guardian’s take was characteristically mixed. Martin Kettle only had nice things to say about Osborne’s speech.

In the end, Osborne wants to be able to go to the voters in 2015 and tell them four things: first, that Labour borrowed too much before 2010; second, that the coalition has cut the borrowing back to half of the 2010 figure; third, to claim that the borrowing cut has been achieved by targeting those on welfare and the very well off, rather than the not so squeezed middle, whom the government has tried to protect as far as possible; and, fourth, that Labour would increase borrowing again, spend more on welfare and restart the whole miserable cycle. If he can do this, Osborne seems to believe that he may have an election-winning narrative.

Remember, The Guardian supported the Liberal Democrats at the last election and has historically been a Liberal paper. Its left credentials are only relative to the rest of the press, which leans overwhelmingly to the right.

Perhaps the worst part of yesterday’s Autumn Statement was Balls’s reply or rather, the government’s mocking of his stutter.

The New Statesman called Gid’s borrowing figures into question. It said,

So how did he do it? Well, turn to p. 12 of the Office for Budget Responsibility document and it becomes clear that Osborne has performed an accounting trick worthy of Enron. First, he added the expected £3.5bn receipts from the 4G mobile spectrum auction – even though it’s yet to take place. Second, he included the interest transferred to the Treasury from the Bank of England’s Quantitative Easing programme (worth £11.5bn), despite the Institute for Fiscal Studies warning him that it would call into doubt his credibility. Were it not for these two measures, borrowing would be £15bn higher than stated by Osborne. If we add that £15bn to the £108bn figure provided by Osborne, then total forecast borrowing for this year becomes £123bn, £1.4bn higher than last year. Little wonder that the Chancellor was so keen to bag the 4G receipts early.

Perhaps the worst of yesterday’s “mini-budget” was the announcement that austerity (that’s the same austerity that Dizzy Doug Carswell said “didn’t exist”) will continue for another 6 years.

All in all, the Autumn Statement was weak.  It offered nothing for the poor, the low-waged, the disabled or those on benefits. Instead, it redistributed wealth upwards to those who are already rich. 400,000 more people would pay the top rate of tax, while those who have made use of tax avoidance schemes will carry on as normal.  There was no plan for a sustainable economic recovery. If you’re not rich in today’s Britain, you will be used for target practice by the bullies who run the government or as a source of income by parasitical capitalists.

This economic crisis has been made worse by this Tory-led government, who have demonstrated over the past two and a half years, exactly how economically illiterate and incompetent they are. They’ve mismanaged the economy and pitted one group of people against another so that they can rule unchallenged. Do we really have to wait another two years  to vote this shower out of office?

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, economic illiteracy, Economics, Government & politics, Spiv capitalism

Scapegoats and brickbats: the government’s assault on the public sector

The Tories need a scapegoat. They always need scapegoats. In the 1980’s the scapegoats were Labour-controlled local authorities (dubbed ‘Loony Left’ by the Tory press), the trade unions, gays, lesbians and ethnic minorities. These days, the scapegoats are public sector workers and the public sector generally. Trade unions still come in for flak from the Tories. This morning they were unwittingly helped by Labour’s Ed Balls, who chipped in by urging (if that’s the right word) the unions not to walk into the government’s “trap”.  The Labour Party clearly hasn’t learned the lessons of the 1980’s and when Balls produces nonsense like this,  it’s easy to see why Labour are out of power (hands up, who wants Blue Labour?). What Balls has done is to express cowardice. Rather than face down the government, Balls and the rest of the front bench try to avoid confrontation and in doing so, make themselves look weak and pathetic. Anyone would think that they didn’t want the votes of trade unionists.

The government and its allies in the media have been quite keen to misrepresent public sector workers. Perhaps the most popular myth in circulation is the one that claims that all public sector workers are well-paid and will get extremely generous pensions when they retire. The fact of the matter is that, as with most other wages, public sector pay has been stagnant for years. Forget what you’ve heard about council chief executives’ salaries, those who do all the dirty work on the frontline are being paid a fraction of that. Many public sector workers are on the National Minimum Wage and can expect to recieve pensions of around £4,000 and yet this government wants these people to pay more towards their pensions (which will decrease in real terms). Why? Because they need someone to blame. They need to hammer the public sector so that they can press ahead with their plan to privatize those social functions that are left. Only today, Cameron revealed the following plans to give people more “power” (sic). The Sunday Times (which I cannot quote because it’s behind a paywall) claims that Lord Snooty wants to give people  “individual budgets” so that they can “buy” services. From The Independent,

Allowing the elderly to choose how money is spent on their care;

Enabling people with long-term health conditions to choose their own therapies;

Giving parish councils powers to take control of local parks, playing fields, parking and traffic restrictions;

Allowing parents of children with special needs to make their own decisions about schooling.

What all this amounts to is a further assault on the public sector. Soon local authorities will only exist to rubber stamp the diktats of private providers. But this is only the tip of the iceberg: before we know it, education will subjected to the same treatment with schools being forced into the voucher system. As for empowerment, this is noticeably absent. Giving real political power to people is something that this government is keen to avoid. There is no way that the government wants to allow us plebians a say in how decisions are made. That would be too much like real democracy.

So what happens when you run out of funding? Well, the government hasn’t thought that far ahead.  Given the number of hare-brained ideas that trip from the lips of ministers, some might say that the government isn’t capable of thinking at all. In today’s Telegraph, Danny Alexander reiterated the government’s position,

Mr Alexander insisted that ministers wanted a ”constructive dialogue” with the unions – but indicated that this would be restricted to the detail of how the changes would be implemented.

Nowhere Towers believes that the government has behaved high-handedly towards the unions by telling them that they will only negotiate  when the unions accept the government’s plan. This is the wrong way to go about negotiations. In the same article, former Labour pensions minister and closet Tory, John Hutton added his thoughts,

”They are the basis on which we want to go forward and reform public-service pensions, but of course in these discussions we need to look at the detail of how that works, about how these things are implemented,” he told the Murnaghan programme.

”What we have to get to is a situation where, yes, people have to work a bit longer and contribute a bit more, as we have put forward, but that we maintain the quality of their pensions into the future.”

Reform is the word being used here but reform almost always means cuts, redundancies and unwanted and unnecessary changes to working conditions.  The unions have no choice but to go on strike. If they didn’t strike, they would be failing their members and, for that matter, all those working people who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to earn a living from rents, dividends, shares, trust funds and daddy’s allowance.

The largest one-day strike since the General Strike of 1926 will take place on 30 June. Doing nothing is not an option.

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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.

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Ed Miliband becomes Labour leader. So what?

So Ed Miliband has won the Labour Leadership election. Please forgive me if I don’t get excited but this is all something of an anti-climax. Given the number of Blairites in the party, I do not expect Labour to suddenly lurch to the left. It will not happen.  In fact, I don’t expect Labour to come up with any truly socialist policies. Ed and David Miliband’s father may have been a Marxist theorist but that doesn’t mean that the brothers  share Ralph’s politics…even if Ed was pictured during the campaign wearing a pair of work boots.

The question on my mind is whether or not, older brother David, will work with kid brother, Ed in a shadow cabinet or will he fume on the backbenches? What about the other failed leadership candidates? Will Diane Abbott finally get her hands on a portfolio? Unlikely.  She’s got her media career to think about. How about Ed Balls? What’s in store for him? Shadow Chancellor? As for Andy ‘Aspirational Socialism’ Burnham maybe he’ll just become a shadow. Serves him right for being such a tosser.

Nick Robinson is on the telly now saying how the right will try to paint Ed Miliband as a left-winger because of the support he received from the unions. The Tories are supported by a variety of millionaires and private interests, yet this oft-repeated accusation of Labour ‘being in the pay of the trade unions’ does not strike them as hypocritical. Besides, which is the more democratic? Trade unions or unaccountable millionaires?

Kinnock is on BBC News talking about how he supported Ed Miliband. Is that the kiss of death or what?

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“I want to talk about our achievements…”

…so say most of Labour’s leadership candidates. From Miliband to Miliband and from Balls to Burnham it’s the same old scenery. “I admit we got a few things wrong” and “We needed to listen more” and “Look at what we did while were in office” are layered upon vapid platitudes like “We need to get in touch with our core support” and “We must reach out to traditional labour voters”.  Andy Burnham came out with a classic the other week. He said he believed in “aspirational socialism”. To me, that just sounds like another meaningless slogan. To him, it’s probably nonsense too…but it is good sounding nonsense: he managed to squeeze in the word ‘socialism’. What an achievement!

This Labour Party is a strange beast: full of Blair idolizers and wannabes; dull careerists and the sort of free-marketeers that would have made David Owen blush, there are only a handful of Labour MPs who can be regarded as sort of left-wing. I’ve talked about how the Lib Dems are in danger of losing their identity but Labour have the same problem too; it has lost its own identity by mimicking the behaviour of its oldest rival – it was a case of ‘Monkey see, monkey do. We can be good capitalists too’!

I have never managed to scrub clean the image of Thatcher walking into 10 Downing Street only days after Blair’s victory from my memory. Many people who voted for Labour thought they were getting real change and when Thatcher walked through that door, the game was up.  Prior to the election, Prescott had said that a  Labour government would take the railways back into public ownership. Instead we got higher fares, poor service, overcrowding and companies making profits at the expense of the taxpayer.We were told that public transport in rural areas would improve. I challenge anyone to find me a rural location where there is a good, reliable service that links to other forms of transport (like rail). Labour refused to allow local authorities to spend their capital receipts from the sale of council homes on building new housing stock.  Instead shared ownership schemes were rolled out across the country. So rather than build properties for social rent, housing associations were encouraged to build these types of ‘affordable housing’; everyone could be a homeowner.

On the face of it, the Decent Homes scheme sounded brilliant but, unlike local authorities, HA’s were told that they were not going to receive any funding to upgrade bathrooms and kitchens – which they were, by now, legally obliged to do. The Peabody Trust (now simply called Peabody in a rather subtle but telling renaming of the charity) now sells any property that becomes void at auction – ostensibly in order to fund the scheme. My sources tell me that they continue to sell properties regardless of the fact that the Decent Homes scheme has been all but completed on Peabody’s estates. Peabody also devotes a great deal of its energies to building and managing a large market rent and shared ownership portfolios….and there’s me thinking that the HA’s are there to rent properties to social tenants.  How silly of me! Is this what they mean by postmodernism?

Targets, benchmarks and pointless number crunching weren’t started by Labour but they subjected nearly every aspect of life to some form of measurement. So much in love were they with meeting targets and creating the right kind of figures, that Blair and co went around he country to hold their ‘Big Conversations’. It was a big flop; most people could see that this was an empty gesture and wanted nothing to do with it.

With the Blairites in the driving seat it is hard to see how Labour can make themselves appear different to the Tories or even the Lib Dems when most of the leadership candidates have been tainted by association. All of the candidates with the exception of Diane Abbott have been close to the heart of the Nu Labour project and now are trying to distance themselves from it while, ironically, sounding like the very thing they’re trying to escape.

Today, Andy Burnham attacked the Miliband brothers for being “elitist”, a phrase he no doubt picked up from US politics.  New Labour he says,

“At its worst, it was self indulgent, arrogant, elitist, London-centric and all of that has to change. It looked hollow and rootless at times.”

It took you all this time to recognize this, Andy?

How about this from Blair’s 2005 speech to the party conference.

This autumn, we will publish our Education White Paper. It will open up the system to new providers and new partners, allow greater parental choice, expand Foundation, Academy and extended schools. Again reform, again some of it difficult. But all with one purpose: to let nothing block the way to higher standards, and greater achievement for our children. The greatest injustice I know is when good education is the preserve of the privileged. We are changing that injustice.

This sounds little different to the coalition’s plans for education. The only real difference here is in the absence of ‘free schools’ from the speech.

I don’t normally indulge in conspiracy theories but there have been times when I thought that Blair was some kind of right wing entryist – a sort of Thatcherite agent –  who joined the party as  a sort of  Trojan horse to destroy the party from within by taking it to the right. This is what Thatcher said in a speech to the Carlton Club in 1979

Our aim is not just to remove our uniquely incompetent Government from office—it is to destroy the socialist fallacies—indeed the whole fallacy of socialism—that the Labour Party exists to spread

Thatcher claimed on more than one occasion that it was her desire to ‘destroy’ socialism. The rest of the speech follows a similar tone.

We have to fight Socialism wherever we find it: at Westminster in County Halls, in Borough and District Council Chambers.

In his blog, Iain McWhirter of the Sunday Herald says,

She wanted to “abolish socialism” at home and defeat communism abroad. Incredibly, she arguably did both, and at the same time gave her name to a new “ism”: Thatcherism – a political phiosophy founded on deregulated financial markets, privatisation of state assets, sales of council homes and dismantling of the welfare state. Thatcherism wasn’t just an economic policy, however, it was a social psychology based on possessive individualism. It was about getting as much as possible for yourself and your family and then letting the rest of the world go hang.

Socialism was destroyed within the Labour Party perhaps but it, like many other ideas, continues to exist and is no more dead than Nazism. Blair created a party in his own image. It was a party of bland shoe-salesmen and former local councillors who more than happy to improve their career prospects by signing up to the Blair Stitch Project. Even the new intake of women Labour MPs was subjected to old-style sexism: Blair’s Babes they were called.  Unlike Labour women of the past, this lot were happy to be labelled ‘babes’ and to pose and smile for the cameras.  None of them could be described as heavyweight intellectual talents. There were no Barbara Castles among their number and the party was worse off for it. I mean, Caroline Flint hardly compares to such a figure. If she wasn’t posing for the cameras, she was spouting nonsense in the media.

So what were Nu Labour’s achievements?  I can’t think of any to be perfectly honest. If they want to talk about figures, then anyone can churn out rafts of statistics to justify their argument. It cuts no ice with me. The simple truth is that the divide between rich and poor deepened; social mobility decreased while homelessness increased and wages for those on meagre incomes remained low in spite of the tax credit regime which, in actual fact, made many people poorer because of the way it was administered.

Whoever wins the leadership contest  will no doubt continue to plough the same furrow left to them by Blair and Brown. David Miliband is Blair Lite; his brother, Ed seems slightly more reasonable. Balls is finished and Burnham is a non-starter. As for Abbott, she stands no chance and once the election is over, she will return to the backbenches and possibly be reunited with Portillo.

The name of Keir Hardie is like kryptonite to the Blairites. Flint probably doesn’t know who he was or what he did! For people like Flint, history doesn’t matter and nor does substance. It’s the surface that counts.

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Free schools? More like ‘Me First’ schools

Toby Young regularly gets his knickers in a twist over any criticism of his cherished free schools. Indeed, anyone who doesn’t share the Honourable Tobes’s view on free schools is a ‘loony left-winger’. Of course he would deny that  his support for free schools is ideological. Ideology is what those horrid left-wingers have, not Tobes.

Here he lambasts an Institute of Education report that Swedish free schools have created segregation within the system, what Ed Balls has described as “educational apartheid”,

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a richer source of politically correct gobbledygook. Among its many delights it contains a passage on ‘transpeople’, defined as people who’ve undergone ‘gender reassignment surgery’. You wouldn’t have thought there’d be many of them at the Institute, but that hasn’t stopped the ‘Gender Equalities Officer’ from coming up with a series of pledges designed to protect their rights. She promises to ensure that ‘our equal opportunities policies… do not discriminate against transpeople — especially in terms of dignity at work’ and that ‘trans perspectives are included in equality impact assessment processes’.

Marvellous isn’t it? A whole policy devised just in case a post-op transsexual ever enrols at the Institute. The ‘Equalities Officer’ (fresh from her last berth on a Soviet nuclear sub) promises to include the policy as ‘part of the mandatory equality training’.

You know something? I can’t take this tripe seriously. Young is what Americans would call a ‘blowhard’ and what Scousers would refer to as a ‘gobshite’. All he thinks he needs to do is accuse the IoE of “political correctness” and make a desperate attempt to link the Institute with Soviet-era political officers and the job is done.  Weak.

But this is even weirder,

If this repository of Left-wing claptrap is going to be allowed to dictate the Government’s education policy then God help us all.

“Left wing claptrap”? Blimey, you’re on fire today! By the way, the IoE is an internationally renown institution and certainly has a better track record on educational matters than pushy parents like you, Tobes. Which reminds me, have you ever taught in a school? Do you have a PGCE? No, you don’t. Just because you’re a parent, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are some sort of expert on formative education.

So how will free schools formulate their admissions policy? Presumably admissions will be the responsibility of the parents who run the school. Young’s borough,  Ealing,  has the highest concentration of private and independent schools in London. Places for state schools are limited and hard fought over. Instead of building new state schools, the coalition has decided to create a system that will eventually exclude those who do not meet the whimsical admissions criteria of the free schools. So where will those pupils go? Oddly enough, the Honourable Tobes hasn’t got an answer for that. Furthermore, he doesn’t care.

I find it revealing that Young ignored some of the more important points contained in the report. For instance, the report’s author, Suzanne Wiborg, discovered

that while free schools improved pupils’ results at the age of 15 or 16, there was no difference in results between free school pupils and children at other schools by the equivalent of A-level.

She says,

“The advantage that children schooled in areas with free schools have by the age of 16 is not translated into greater achievements later in life as they score no better in the final exams at age 18 and 19. They are no more likely to participate in higher education,”

Wiborg also found that,

local authorities had to pay for costly surplus school places and that the planning which went into allocating student places had become complex and expensive.

So who says this won’t lead to, as Balls puts it, educational apartheid? But we should recognize where all of this comes from: school league tables. Pub darts teams belong in leagues, not schools (well, maybe their sports teams do).  One can point to a school and say it fails because of factors  X, Y and Z. But whose fault is it that a school ‘fails’? Is it the pupils? The teachers? The governors? The LEA? This form of manufactured competition is not only divisive, it is corrosive and we can see its effects on those schools that at the bottom of the league tables. We also need to remind ourselves who introduced the idea of the school league tables in the first place. It was the last Tory government under John Major, who also introduced targets and benchmarks. The Honourable Gobshite seems to have ignored that important point too. Quelle surprise!

I noticed this in The Morning Star (I can see Tobes preparing to fulminate already).

But coalition cracks appeared when Lib Dem MP David Ward declared that Mr Gove’s Bill was “leading to what could be a nasty accident.”

He warned it would lead to “a fragmentation and a weakening of the state school system.”

And he feared that the British National Party would have a group of parents applying to set up a “free school” within a year.

Exactly, so who is going to stop BNP and other fascist-minded parents from setting up a free school? Not you, Tobes.  And certainly not Michael Gove.

What about disabled children? I can some of these schools refusing admission simply on the grounds of not having an access ramp outside… or citing the lack of an access ramp as a cover for something else.

Freedom is a state of mind; governments can’t give you freedom, only you can do that for yourself. Free schools are for those who don’t want their child to associate with those oiks from the estate over the road.

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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?

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