Tag Archives: Rally Against Debt

Marching for a Future that Works

I march, I protest, therefore I am. The Tories, UKIP and their LOLibertarian friends don’t protest because they don’t need to and even when they try to organize a rally, it’s a complete flop. The word “pathetic” springs to mind when I recall The Rally Against Debt last year, which attracted a mere 150 people. With that kind of dedication, it comes as no surprise that the Chinless Ones can’t even muster an insignificant counter-demonstration.  But perhaps it’s not a lack of dedication, rather, it’s more a sign of their complacency and the notion that they are born to rule. They don’t march or protest, therefore they rule.

As usual, I set off late to the march and it’s unlikely that I’ll reach Embankment in time. Somehow today feels different to the other rallies and marches that I’ve been on – even my choice of music seems strangely out of place.  I have Be-Bop Deluxe’s Modern Music on mp3 player instead of my usual march-rally-demo music courtesy of The Redskins. I’m sitting on the Number 10 bus; it moves slowly up the road as we pass a row of 8 Number 9s. The bus pulls up at the stop outside Olympia and people seem to appear from nowhere as they jostle to get on the bus. I’m expecting heavy traffic along Kensington High Street. To my surprise it isn’t too bad. Then, the driver comes upstairs to tell us that the route’s been changed because of the march. I should have known, really.

The bus heads down Bayswater Road, taking me away from the march but close to the rally point in Hyde Park. It’s getting late, there’s no point in hopping off the bus and taking the Tube to the Embankment. It’s Saturday and a lot of the network is closed for the ongoing upgrades. This is London. To be honest, I’m not sure that I want to listen to a load of dull speeches from the likes of Prentis and most of all, Miliband, whose appropriation of the phrase “One Nation”, still makes me feel queasy. Why is he speaking anyway? I’m at Marble Arch, there are tourists and shoppers (probably one and the same, really) not paying attention to where they’re going.

My ankle, which hasn’t been hurting up till now, starts to hurt. It’s an old war wound, so to speak; a compound fracture held together by a steel pin. It’s been giving me a bit of pain recently, often making it hard to walk. I limp through Speakers Corner, where there are, oddly enough, no speakers. There’s the usual range of left-wing paper stalls; all of them competing with one another for the ideological souls of passers-by. Gawd, even the RCG are here displaying a banner with their ever-present “Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!” slogan in big bold letters.  The issue of class doesn’t interest this lot. Some things never change.

After 24 hours of rainfall, the ground is heavy with ponds of water in between the woodchips  and patches of mud. It looks like the aftermath of a festival. It’s swampy. I fear I’m going to be on my feet for much of this.

I limp towards Hyde Park Corner. As I arrive I can see the head of the march and behind that, a big brass band coming through the somewhat blingy Queen Mother Gate.  Gawd, it’s ugly. Unite has given out vuvuzelas to people. Some may think that’s an inspired move. I’m not so sure. Lee Jasper rides past on his bike one-handed, a vuvuzela pressed to his lips. His saddle is far too low – again. I can see a helicopter hovering over what seems to be Oxford Circus/Regent Street. I know UK Uncut are focussing their attention over there and I’m tempted to quick-march over but my ankle has other ideas.

I hang around the gate, in the hope that I might see someone I know, but it’s pretty hopeless, so I limp back towards the rally point and take photos of some banners.

Richard ‘Tidy Beard’ Branson gets the caricature treatment on this one. Here’s another that caught my eye

The kindest cut, for sure.

The first speakers come and go and then, Christine Blower of the NUT comes on but I miss most of her speech because I’m looking for the loo. It goes down well. She’s the scourge of Hon Tobes and his chum Pob. Len McCluskey follows Blower and comes on like a rock star, saying all the right things. “We’re marching against a millionaire government… the whole rotten elite!” he says. The crowd loves it. He talks about the recent government scandals. Mitchell’s gone and Osborne’s been caught trying to blag first class travel with a standard class ticket on a train journey. One rule for them? You betcha. McCluskey starts to wind up his speech, “Food banks in one of the richest countries in the world?”, he demands in mock disbelief. He tells us that he want to “boost the minimum wage by a pound an hour”. I think we need to do better than that. Everyone should be paid a living wage. A citizen’s wage, maybe?

I need to eat my sandwich but there’s nowhere to sit… well, nowhere dry at any rate. A placard would be handy but I don’t carry other people’s placards; I prefer to make my own, if possible. I’ll have to bide my time…

Kevin Maguire in full effect!

The Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire bounces onto the stage and announces that he’s going to be the compère for the next half hour. He’s an entertaining fellow on television but working this crowd could be a tough gig for him. He looks cool and casual, he cracks funnies but I’m not sure they’re hitting the spot. There are huge  Daily Mirror balloons being suspended from people who wandering about the space.  The presence of these balloons tells us something about the ideological tenor of the British press: it is overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Tories. But the Mirror is not The Morning Star. That’s on sale too, along with the smaller Weekly Worker. More people are arriving and it’s starting to look more like a rally. There are over 100,000 here already. There was just 150 at the Rally Against Debt.

Ed Miliband is introduced. He is greeted with a mix of boos, heckles and polite applause. I add my obligatory cry of “Traitor!” to the mix. Behind me someone says, “Blair never did this”. Yes, but that doesn’t prove a thing. Mr. Ed is playing liberal father to this crowd of, what he sees as, naughty children in need of a damned good chiding. “End the privatization of the NHS” he says. That gets a cheer but then he begins to talk about this newly-resurrected “One Nation” stuff. He’s in denial. It’s true. He repeats Labour’s commitment to cuts if it got into power, which gets the boos it deserves and makes me wonder why he bothered to come here in the first place. He leaves the stage to the sounds of boos and applause ringing in his ears. Here’s a choccy drop, now sit up and beg, Ed.

The dreary Prentis comes on. He’s still dull and still running his union like a brothel but he leaves to cheers and applause. He pressed the right buttons for some folk, I guess, but not The Cat. I find my friends to the left of the stage in time for Big Bob Crow. I find a discarded placard and sit down and eat my sandwich. This is better. Crow speaks about the changes in employment laws that strip workers of the right to take their employer to court for unfair dismissal. He also calls for a 24-hour general strike. Come on, be bold! Call for a three-day strike!

Crow is followed by Mark Serwotka. “Francis Maude walked into the Coventry tax office and the workers walked out”, he tells us. The crowd loves it. Maude is another relic of the Major sleaze years; the man who advised the nation to store petrol in jerry cans, empty baked bean tins and old milk bottles to beat a manufactured panic at the pumps.  He’s not the sharpest tool in the box. Serwotka tells us of the need to have “strike action right across the country”. The crowd concurs. It’s the only way.

It’s 3pm and there are still marchers arriving at the park.  My friends want to leave. I’m feeling a little tired too. We part and I head to The Bling Gate to meet someone else who’s just arrived. On the way, I bump into someone from uni who’s in the Socialist Party. We have a chat. For some reason, the Worker’s Revolutionary Party is mentioned, I make some comment about Gerry Healy and his sexual abusiveness and go off to meet my other friend. It’s getting late and when I meet her, it’s time to head home. It’s starting to get dark and my ankle is really giving me a hard time.

When I get home I hear there were 200,000 at the rally. The Rally Against Debt could only muster a tiny 150.

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Filed under Cuts, Government & politics, Trade Unions

Debt, gimmicks and the right

The right loves its gimmicks. First, the brains trust behind the disastrous Rally Against Debt paraded their “Debt Clock” around the streets of London. They were trying to tell us that “time was running out” and that the government had to “cut deeper and faster”. They thought that if they drove a massive clock on the back of an articulated lorry around Westminster’s streets on a Saturday afternoon, with the city full of people shopping on their credit cards, spending money they don’t have on things they d0n’t need… would somehow convince these people, some of them tourists, of  the merit of their argument, they were sadly mistaken. They just looked like a bunch of rich Ayn Rand-reading nerds with too much time on their hands who could afford to hire a truck for a stunt. Whoopee-do.

In a classic example of monkey-see/monkey-do, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has come up with its own version of a gimmicky debt gauge. It’s called the “Debtometer” and the ‘device’, so our overlords tell us,  is meant to measure the debt “going down”. Shepherds Bush blog has the story.

The council website says,

Millions of pounds are being freed up for vital frontline services as the council looks set to hit its target of halving its historic debt mountain by 2014.

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s debt reduction strategy, which includes moves to sell under-used council buildings, is set to wipe another £12million off the town hall’s debt burden by April 2012.

The news comes as the council launches a new quarterly online ‘debtometer’ so that residents can keep a track of the progress made in reducing municipal debt.

You’ve got to love the way LBH&F’s Tories dissemble the facts. All councils run up debts; that’s how they survive. I mean, have you ever heard of a council being forced to shut down because it had no money? No, I haven’t either. Hackney is  poor borough that often finds itself in massive debt but it hasn’t shut down. The entire article about the “debtometer” is reproduced verbatim on the H&F Tories site .

These cute little gimmicks that are dreamt up by the right are distractions and nothing more. They are PR confidence tricks designed to divert attention away from the fact that they have no real ideas beyond cutting public services.  Why? Because they tell us that don’t use them (so who empties their bins?) and they think that the rest of us are ‘addicted’ to the state. It’s the old new classical liberal idea of deserving and undeserving poor revivified under the neo-Hayekian aegis of ‘freedom’ and ’empowerment’.

But those who claim these stunts are more than the sum of their parts are deluding themselves. These are the people who come out with snappy lines like “the nation had maxed out its credit card” and “we need to live within our means”. In their arrogance, they have convinced themselves that no one understand economics like they do. They talk a good talk but like a cheap jumper, their argument soon unravels when it is scrutinized.  They can only “speak in maths”, as the Radiohead song goes. Yet without people – a society – there is no economy. No people, no need for commodities.

But try and tell them that.

Not to be outdone by Gordon Brown’s “quantitative easing”,  Hon Gid introduced his own idea of economic interventionism at the Conservative Party Conference. He called his concept gimmick, “credit easing”.

But credit is debt.

Ask anyone who has a credit card, a bank loan or a mortgage.

But people with credit cards don’t have access to the international bond markets. They can’t sell their junk in the same way as a nation-state. In fact, while this government talks about reducing debt, it raises money on the bond markets to continue its costly wars in Libya and Afghanistan. This is something that our slash and burn Tories won’t tell you about. Instead, they’ll tell you that cuts are “necessary” and will beg the question with a “But surely you realize how important it is for the government to reduce the nation’s debt”?

The Taxpayers Alliance loves to claim that its “our money” that’s being “burnt” but what they won’t tell you is that most of the nation’s wealth is concentrated in a small number of hands and those people (including the entire membership of TPA) are well insulated against economic hardship. If you put that point to them, they’ll start flailing about and will regurgitate the usual neo-Hayekian drivel about “responsibility”.

The cuts to public services, especially those to education, is a form of de-investment. That is to say, the Tory-led government is not investing in the economy – as it should at this time. Instead, it is sucking money out of the economy and diverting some of those funds to those pet projects that are run by its supporters – the free schools, for example. It has no interest in investing in people…unless they come from a privileged background. In which case, there is no need to invest in them because they will, by dint of their circumstances of birth, reproduce the same selfish, dimwitted values that were espoused by their parents.

No wonder we’re in the shit.

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Filed under Economics, Hammersmith & Fulham, London, neoliberalism, Rally Against Debt, Spiv capitalism

The Rally for Cuts – a poor show

Rally Against the Poor?

It was billed as the “Rally Against Debt”. It was supposed to be a response to the TUC sponsored March for the Alternative at the end of March.  The rally was organized by UKIP, the Libertarian Party UK, The Freedom Association and the Taxpayers Alliance – the usual suspects.  Out of morbid curiousity, I decided to go along. The RAD’s Facebook event page had 1,908 intending to go.  I suspect the numbers will be much, much lower. To get an idea of what sort of numbers I might realistically expect, I checked the LibertarianUK forums. The numbers are small. Some of them make excuses for why they can’t  go. This one is the most pathetic.

Re: Rally Against debt

Postby Agalloch » Thu May 12, 2011 9:29 am
I wanted to… but I really can’t afford it, sorry. Car is no problem, but I’d rather not drive to london, and Train means Hoter to be honest.

The commitment is underwhelming. Those who took part in the massive TUC March for the Alternative had coaches organised well in advance. These people appear to travel individually in their own cars.

Before I set off, I check the BBC News Channel. Matthew Sinclair from the Taxpayers Alliance is repeating the line about “saddling our kids with debt”. It’s intended to appeal to our parental instincts but if these people were really so concerned about our kids, they would do more to protect the environment and spend more time thinking about society and less about themselves.

The reports that I get before I arrive at Westminster tell me that the turnout is low. As I arrive at Old Palace Yard, I can easily see that there aren’t many people. They’re corralled behind a set of pedestrian barriers and there is only a handful of police. It’s an odd location for a rally and two things come to mind: first, no anti-cuts protest would be allowed this close to the Houses of Parliament and second, the RAD is only expecting small numbers. But the numbers tell us something: there is no appetite for cuts and those who advocate “faster, deeper” cuts are in a tiny minority. For all the libertarian rhetoric, these ‘protesters’ actually support the state in what’s it’s doing in terms of deficit reduction. Therefore this isn’t a protest, it’s a rally to urge the government to cut more.

There aren’t many counter-demonstrators here save for this pair of ‘anarchists’ corralled behind some barriers. The thought had crossed my mind that this could be a RAD stunt.

Self-described anarchists penned in for their 'own good'

Most of the placards are facing the towards the focal point, which is the statue of George V, where there is a speaker, whom I cannot see or hear, addressing the crowd. The sound is terrible and seasoned protesters understand how to use public address systems. The organizers have signally failed to grasp this important point. I decide to take a seat on some steps of an adjacent building. A pair of right libertarians sit next to me and have a smoke. I can tell they’re right libertarians: their shoes and their corduroy trousers betray them. On the far side of the rally I can see a placard that reads “Ban Union Pilgrims”. Don’t ask. It looks like some kind of in-joke. In fact, there is an absence of real humour to any of the placards.

I move away from the steps and make way into the corral and stand at the rear of the rally. A bloke in an Atlanta Braves baseball cap sees that I’m wearing a similar cap and says “Snap”! I say “Hey, the Atlanta Braves” and leave it at that. I don’t want to engage these people in conversation. I’m not in the mood for it. I catch a glimpse of James Delingpole through a small gap in the crowd. I think he’s just finished speaking.  I see some more placards.  “Ban Unions” says one. Another says “Cut Foreign Aid”. By far the weirdest is “Cut the Debt. Read Ayn Rand”. I don’t get it. Is it supposed to be a joke?

I walk around the right flank of the crowd and see BBC London’s Paraig O’Brien who’s looking for a place to shoot a report. He tells me that he’s going to be “moving back and forth long this pavement”. I tell him “Help yourself, mate”.  Like I care what he does.

It’s about 1230 and the rally looks like it’s finished. These people have no staying power. Am I surprised? Quite frankly, no.

I circulate as best I can, looking for any familiar faces. I think I can see the blogger who calls himself “Old Holborn”. He’s wearing a Guy Fawkes costume.  His beergut is struggling to escape through his obscenely tight top. Guy Fawkes, eh? How ironic. To my left, I can see that Nigel Farage is about to leave. He stops to chat to what looks like a UKIP supporter.

Farage talks to supporter

Before I can say anything to Farage he slides off in the direction of Parliament Square. I overhear a couple of people talk about picketing the Fabian Conference. Good luck. If you people can’t organize a rally, what makes you think you can picket a meeting?

It’s just after 1pm, I leave and make my way to Victoria Street to get a coffee and find somewhere to use the loo. As I’m walking away from the rally, I think of how haphazardly it was organized. The words “piss up” and “brewery” spring to mind and these people run the country? No wonder things are the way they are. They even forgot that today is the day of the FA Cup Final but something tells me that this isn’t a crowd that likes their football. The Guardian informs us that there were 350 at the rally. I have to say it didn’t look like that to me.  It looked more like a mere 150. But even if there were 350 at the rally, it’s only a small fraction of people who support the cuts or want them to go deeper.

This was really a small gathering of like-minded souls that are united by a sense of imagined injustice. Above all, they hate public services or, for that matter, anything to do with communities. If they really want to live in a country without public services, they can always go and live in Somalia.

This one's off to the pub

Sinclair  claimed that they were a “quiet majority”. On the basis of these numbers, I’d say he was talking out of his arse.

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Filed under London, Rally Against Debt, UKIP

Life on Hannan World (Part 2)

That Littlejohn fella. He was right!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the misfortune of reading a blog in which Dear Dan cited the repugnant Richard Littlejohn. If you cite Littlejohn to support your argument, you’re at the top of a slippery slope.

First he says,

The grimly efficient Chris Grayling aims to rescue millions from this wretched state. Pilot tests run under the last government yielded astonishing results. When claimants were reassessed in Aberdeen and Burnley, 30 per cent of them were passed fit for work, and another 30 per cent classified as capable of some work.

Then he links to Littlejohn, Britain’s version of Rush Limbaugh.

To understand the magnitude of the task he faces, though, the minister should read this article by Richard Littlejohn (you have to scroll down to the penultimate entry). A woman from Essex was shifted from Jobseekers’ Allowance to Incapacity Benefit three years ago because she is allergic to rubber. The Department of Work and Pensions argued that such a condition needn’t preclude all forms of employment. According to the DWP lawyer: “Her allergy, although inconvenient, has not prevented her from leading a relatively normal life — shopping, socialising, travelling on public transport.” The judges, however, ruled in favour of the claimant: a decision that may encourage others to challenge their reassessment in court.

You can read the original Littlejohn article here but you need to scroll down the page to find the actual article titled “Our amazing India rubber benefit rules”.  If you look at the first article, you can see that it harks back to the 1980’s and the “Loony Left council” articles that filled the pages of the Tory tabloid press. These days, a few Torygraph bloggers use the same style. Plus ça change.

The title of Hannan’s blog is dishonest “Can 2.6 million people be too ill to work”?  Where does he get this figure from? You get the feeling Hannan is the sort of person who sees clinical depression as the ‘blues’ and a little ‘hard work’ will cure that. All they need to do is “snap out of it”. But it isn’t that easy if you suffer from depression.   Here’s the crux of the blog

Between 1971, when Invalidity Benefit was introduced, and the mid-1980s, there were typically around 700,000 claimants. Today, there are 2.6 million (the name was changed to Incapacity Benefit in 1995). We have, tragically, encouraged some people to arrange their affairs around qualifying for the allowance.

There’s only one problem with that figure. It’s wrong. But in order to ram the point home, he includes an image of Wayne and Waynetta Slob. Cheap.

This article from FullFact.org debunks the myth of 2.6 million.  It also does so here. Here’s a snippet,

The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that when they have completed the 1.5 million assessments 23 per cent of these people will be fit for work – not 94 per cent, or even 75 per cent. This demonstrates how misguided it is to apply a statistic related to ESA applicants across the board to all Incapacity Benefit claimants.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Eh?

In another blog, Hannan apologizes for the Empire and gets in some praise for his hero, Enoch Powell. The blog has the title “In all the coverage of the atrocities in Kenya, two words are missing”. And which words are those, Dear Dan?

The British Empire was a surprisingly peaceable place. There were sporadic insurgencies, of course, and brutal wars in Ireland, India, Cyprus and Palestine; but many colonies were brought to independence without a shot being fired in anger.

This narrative of the Empire skips over many inconvenient truths to promote the idea that the British Empire – as opposed to the other empires – was, in spite of its evident failures,  a force for good. The rest of the paragraph gets a little confused.

The Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya was the exception. The mutineers were uncommonly ruthless, perpetrating monstrous atrocities against loyalist and neutral Kenyans, of whom nearly 3,000 were murdered. The response was commensurately severe: 1,090 terrorists were hanged and as many as 71,000 detained without due process.

On the one hand he condemns the actions of the so-called Mau Mau and on the other, he tells us that the response to the rebels (whom he refers to as mutineers) was severe. But this was always the response when native people were yoked to a greater, colonizing nation. They fight to wrest control of their land from the invader and will kill anyone who is seen as a collaborator. Presumably the resistance movements of World War II cut no ice?

In the second paragraph, he uses the atrocities committed at the Hola Camp to have a pop at the Guardian.

Abuses took place in the internment centres, culminating in the beating to death of eleven detainees by security guards at the Hola camp. Guardianistas, of course, slot the episode neatly into their evil-imperialists-versus-nice-natives narrative.

Mmmm, hmmm, Let’s read the rest,

But the point about the Hola killings is that they led to an outcry in the House of Commons, a wave of revulsion in the country, and a hastening of the independence process.

What he doesn’t mention is how long it took for anyone to complain.

Linking to this blog, he says,

I’m not a great fan of empires – we would have done far better to have carried on with our unofficial protectorates and trading outposts than to assume responsibility for large tracts of land – but there is little doubt that, as empires go, ours was relatively benign. Niall Ferguson makes the obvious but rarely remarked point that, for most of the countries under British dominion, the alternative was not unmolested evolution towards modernity, but conquest by someone else: France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Japan or – worst of all – Belgium.

Yes, that’s the same Niall Ferguson who teaches what he and Carswell describe as “proper history”.  Are protectorates any less wrong that colonies? Not really, but this piece of lazy thinking implies that “if we hadn’t have colonized them,  some other power would have done so and the situation would have been much worse”. Belgium, as he rightly points out, was one of the worst colonizers. King Leopold II treated the Congo as his own personal property and subjected the natives to horrific and barbaric treatment. But the Congo was called  a “Free State”, that is to say, a country where the normal rule of law and civil and human rights are suspended in order to pursue a tidy profit.  It is an idea that gets most Randists moist. This site promotes the idea of a free state. But it’s a vision that exists outside of history and reality.  The BBC reports on the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Nigeria and tells us that other African countires are following suit. Is this another Scramble for Africa? Recently the government announced its intention to create so-called Enterprise Zones. Guess what that means for workers? The only people who get excited about these zones are parasites.

Ironically, the MP who brought the Hola Camp abuses to the attention of the Commons was the mercurial Enoch Powell, who would later go on to deliver his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech. Powell was a fervent free-marketeer and like those who give unquestioning devotion to the classical liberal model, he promoted that idea in isolation from the historical facts. This blog is, as much as anything else, an effort to rehabilitate the reputation of Powell by constructing a new, kinder memory of him outside of the materialism of history. Thatcher appropriated the memory of Churchill and isolated his wartime premiership from the rest of his inglorious past. It was a mistake and it came back to haunt her.

On to today’s blog and Hannan claims that the money that this country (sic) has given to the Portuguese bailout could have been spent on

254,150 nurses (there are around 390,000 nurses in the NHS)

114,109 NHS doctors (more than the actual total of 110,000)

180,575 police constables (there are 170,000 police officers in the UK)

194,553 teachers (out of 450,000)

246,856 Army privates (as against 106,550 actual regulars, of all ranks)

What’s so ironic about his figures for doctors and nurses is that, not so long ago, he appeared on Fox News to tell the American people that the “NHS was a 60 year old mistake”.

This blog is a mix of anti-EU sensationalism and snide attacks on his political enemies.

He takes a cheap swipe at the March of the Alternative

So where is the “March for the Alternative”? Where are all the students, Socialist Workers and trade union activists who thronged through London just a couple of weeks ago?

At the end he adds this,

So where is the TUC? Where is UK Uncut? Where are all those who asserted last month that a much smaller sum meant the end of social security in Britain? Are they missing something? Or am I?

There are none so deaf as those that refuse to hear, Dan. Tell you what, if you’re so fired up about the bailout, why don’t you organize your own march? There’s nothing stopping you. Or maybe the Rally Against Debt, which has so far attracted little support and that he supported on his blog, is more his thing? I understand, that like Hon Tobes, he’s chickened out of appearing at the rally. The fact of the matter is that the bailout of Portugal is part of a series of mistakes made by countries who adopted the neoliberal economic model in an attempt to play with the big boys of the G20 nations. This is the same economic model that was forced onto this country by the Thatcher government in the 1980’s.

Naturally, such facts are always met with silence. I wonder why?

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Who’s behind the Rally Against Debt?

Last week saw the announcement of the forthcoming  Rally Against Debt (which should be called the Rally For Cuts). The event to be held on 14 May was announced in the wake of the massive TUC-organised rally in Hyde Park, which various Tory commentators like Dan Hannan and Hon Tobes used their blogs to attack it for having either no credible alternative or being responsible for a “tsunami of violence”. The Rally, it seems, is supposed to be a peaceful response to the anti-cuts protests. It is more than that, it is an attempt by certain right wing groups to claim the moral high ground. It will be portrayed by its defenders as a grassroots protest but it is anything but.

Here’s their Facebook page.

They appear to have taken their idea from the US , who had this Facebook page.

It shouldn’t surprise any of us to learn that Hannan has been throwing his weight behind the Rally. He says,

Imagine that you were reviewing all your household expenditure: your utility bills, your mortgage, your car, your mobile phone, your annual holiday. What would be the single biggest item? If you are in work, there is no doubt: it would be your consolidated tax bill. According to the ONS, the average household pays 33.5 per cent of its income to the state, not including the taxes which businesses are obliged to pass on to their customers and employees. The average figure, of course, takes account of pensioners, students, benefits claimants and the nearly 40 per cent of the population who pay no income tax. In a working household, the figure would be far higher.

The problem with this simplistic ‘analysis’ is that it is really a reductive narrative. Household finances cannot be compared with the nation’s finances. The phrase “comparing apples with oranges” springs to mind. Further down the blog, we find the first clue.

Few of us realise it, of course, because the costs are disguised and distributed. Income tax and national insurance are confiscated at source. VAT is built into the advertised price of what we buy. So, in effect, are duties on alcohol, petrol, tobacco and air travel. One of the reasons that council tax arouses so much controversy is that, for many people, it is the only time they feel they are making a direct payment to the state. For a fuller sense of quite how much most of us pay, watch this superb clip from the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

He is disingenuous when he talks about Council Tax. The real reason why people hate the tax has little to do with it feeling like “a direct payment to the state” and has more to do with its regressive nature; it is not a fair tax that takes into consideration a person’s ability to pay.  Did you notice how he mentions the Taxpayers Alliance (TPA) here?  I watched the clip and it tries to rationalize taxation with how you spend your time. Have a look at the photo on the blog.  We’ll return to that in a moment.

It appears that there is considerable input from both the Tory front group, TPA and The Freedom Association (TFA). Last year, Hannan wrote this blog, in which he appeals for a “British Tea Party”. If you’ve ever seen him attack the NHS on Fox News or read The Plan, you will realize that Hannan wants to transform Britain into an American ‘Mini Me’ complete with elected police commissioners and presumably, elected dustmen. After doing a little Googling, I found this page on TFA’s website. Hannan, who is a leading member of TFA can be seen addressing a group of people. Remember that picture on his blog? That’s a picture for TFA’s “Taxed Enough Already” campaign. Here’s a snippet from the page,

The Tea Party Movement in the UK had a massively successful launch on Saturday 27 February 2010 with a talk by Daniel Hannan MEP at the Best Western Brighton Hotel.  Over 300 people packed in to hear a brilliant speech by Daniel.  We apologise to more than fifty others who had to be turned away for lack of space.

That was last year. The British Tea Party, whose numbers are thought to be in their hundreds had help from US-based group Freedom Works. You can find out more about Freedom Works here.

The Libertarian Party UK is also lending its support to the Rally. On its blog, it doesn’t say much but there’s that picture from the US Rally Against Debt page again. The Liberal View website has the same picture and says,

Protest marches are rarely a very effective way to change public opinion. Most look self-serving, some get hi-jacked by violent minorities. They act more as rallying points for the already convinced rather than ‘could be persuaded’.With tongue firmly in cheek to make a serious point then, opponents of ever larger government are organising a “civilised and well mannered” rally against “pointless government initiatives” on 14th May 2011.

It is unlikely the rally will attract the quarter million claimed by the TUC. Cuts make a small number of people very angry, debt reduction benefits everyone largely invisibly by reducing crowding out and other barriers to growth. The balance of emotion is in the other camp.

It should though attract a good crowd and is a thoroughly recommended day-out for fans of liberty and a smaller state. Liberal Vision will be there.

This is a distortion. I wonder what sort of incomes those thinking of joining this rally draw down? I’m willing to bet that none of them will be on £25,000 or less per annum.

So I had to dig some more and I discovered that someone called Harry Aldridge is one of the movers behind it. Here’s his Facebook page. His “inspirations” include FA Hayek and Nigel Farage. So it comes as no surprise to learn that Harry is a member of UKIP and was also the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Horsham. Aldridge is also a regular contributor to a site called “Independence Home”. Here is a page of his archived writings.

I found this clip of young Harry (he’s 23 or 24) on YouTube.

Here he is on one of UKIP’s  blogs

My name is Harry Aldridge, I’m 23 years old, and I run a telecommunications company. I live in Slinfold and have lived in the Horsham area all my life.Politically I describe myself as a classical liberal and believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. In the UK government is too big, too costly, too unaccountable, to remote, and too intrusive into the lives of its citizens. We need to decentralise power, first and foremost bringing power back from the European Union and then disperse it among communities and individuals.

Notice how he describes himself as a “classical liberal”. This is just a way of putting some distance between himself and neoliberalism – which is, for all intents and purposes, dishonest. Hayek was also a classical liberal whose vision became known as neoliberalism, which was itself a late 20th century variant of classical liberalism. The sudden revival of interest in classical liberalism is entirely a romantic one. The people who tell us that they are socio-economically inclined towards classical liberalism have a nostalgic view of the past that allows them to ignore the fact that, as an economic model, it was a failure. Exponents of free trade claimed that it would end wars. The opposite has happened. Classical liberalism also led to the colonization of foreign lands and subjugation of those peoples. It also legitimated Social Darwinism, which has been revived in the right’s current thinking towards such things as the welfare state, poverty, housing, education and other social issues.

So who is behind this rally? Well, it is a coalition of TFA, TPA, UKIP and some Tories. Whether or not it  will attract huge numbers remains to be seen. I don’t think numbers will reach anything more than a few thousand. However, this new tendency to graft features of American political culture onto Britain is the beginning of a worrying trend. But it also shows us something else: there is an intellectual and philosophical vacuum at the heart of right-wing thinking.

Importing  ideas from the US right will not fill that void.

UPDATE: 4/4/11 @ 1525

There appears to be something wrong with Harry Aldridge’s page. Too many biscuit crumbs in the UKIP server maybe?

UPDATE: 6/4/11 @2220

Pssssssst! They’ve changed the profile picture on their Facebook page. Don’t tell anyone!

@2224

The very right-wing (if I say “far right” they’ll only threaten me with a law suit. So much for free speech. Eh?) ‘youth’ group Conservative Future (Yorkshire and Humber chapter) is organizing a coach to go down to London. Here’s their Facebook page. Nowhere Towers thinks their name should be “Conservative – What Future”?

UPDATE 11/5/11 @1149

It seems the main instigator of the RAD is UKIP’s Annabelle Fuller, who was once a long-term mistress of leader, Nigel Farage.  Fuller is also working as Farage’s assistant in Brussels.  Fuller had left UKIP in 2008 after being she claims that she received “menacing phone calls” accusing her of being a “whore”. There’s an interesting thread about Fuller and her resignation from UKIP and her subsequent reinstatement on the Democracy Forum here.

I wonder if  Farage will be joining his chums on Saturday?

If this is a rally against debt and credit is a form of debt, is this also a rally against credit?

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