A raw nerve

For me it is very simple.

We have a welfare state that is supposed to be a safety net to catch those in need.  It isn’t an anti work thing.

My Mother was a divorcee (oh the shame) twice over with three kids and on the social.  Absent dad, free school meals and pretty much skimping from week to week.  All the hallmarks of the broken home that used to be bandied about as a badge of low expectation.  Sadly that broken home would be considered not too bad when compared to the chaos of some families today.

When we (I say we, but really when I was older – being the youngest) were older she went back to work in a factory working night-shift to provide.  All good so far.  There were jobs in the area.  She managed.  We got by and she sacrificed her wants to meet our needs.  And we never really knew we were poor (people had less then and the world was in black and white, cue hovis music)

Fast forward to today and the situation for many is now a life of benefits with no prospect of that changing any time soon.  It isn’t fecklessness or laziness but systematic economic policy failure over the last 40 years.  Jobs have moved and changed leaving some areas as vacuums offering very low skill and low paid jobs (if any at all).  Many can’t just get on their bike or pull their socks up or strive not shirk.  The environment they have to navigate isn’t like that.

There are many issues around employment and poverty but the one thing that gets right to me is the need for foodbanks.  I’ll say it again, foodbanks.

Alms for the poor is the medieval equivalent.  Bring out the poor to the soup kitchens.  Foodbanks show me that the inequality and dysfunction of our society is out of control.

In an economy with a safety net designed to support the vulnerable of our society we find it doesn’t and thousands of people are choosing between heating and eating.  Or choosing between feeding themselves or feeding the kids.  Intolerable just isn’t strong enough.

All the defecit-blaming, skiver bashing and its-for-your-own-good Austerity does not deflect from the central fact – thousands of people in our country cannot afford food.

CANNOT AFFORD FOOD.

It has now become cause celebre and a club to beat Dave-call-me-dave and his coterie of disconnected millionaires with, of course it might have more weight if the wielder of the club wasn’t a millionaire too.

People who use foodbanks are desperate and the attack on their self-esteem is relentless.  Their need is not imaginary or exaggerated.  Just imagine, for a moment,  that it has all gone wrong and like old mother Hubbard your cupboard is bare.  What then? you have a job but have no money and have to soldier on knowing it’s not enough.  How would you feel about approaching a foodbank or being referred to one?

So just keep that in mind the next time welfare recipients are cast as living the life of Riley.  Some might even be happy with it but most are closing their curtains at night desperate and distraught.  It’s both the squeezed middle and the working poor and you cannot tell just by looking.

So here we are, 21st Century, 7th largest economy in the world with a distorted distribution of wealth in our society and we have over 200 000 people being fed through foodbanks.  It’s hurting not working.  Of course those of us better off won’t need to use foodbanks or be impacted by the changes IDS makes to benefits and we would be forgiven for not realising the tidal wave of misery that will sweep over many of our countrymen (and women).

For me this isn’t political, it is societal.  Proof of a society that has ceased to work.  My generation was mobilised to feed the world in the 80’s, how sad that this winter we need foodbank networks to feed our own.  We have come such a long way, haven’t we.

In the society I want no one goes to bed hungry for want of food, cold for want of energy and scared for a lack of security.  Foodbanks ought to be unnecessary but they are not, its time we were all working to make the need for them extinct.

So while punch and Judy go toe-to-toe over the poor, foodbanks will be taking up the slack.

Realpolitik in action.

 

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If political parties were people….

Funnily enough this sort of thinking is used all the time in business and to a lesser extent in political circles as core voters are analysed and deciphered.

It set me to thinking after reading a blog post on Labour hame, of which I am an intermittent visitor. http://www.labourhame.com/archives/3316#more-3316

Where a musing was made about the new tory logo and whether Scottish Labour needed a makeover of its symbol.  I’m not convinced it does but it did set me off on a musing of my own.  If we are asked to imagine the parties as people how would they look.  I am as always prepared to be wrong.

So here goes….

Scottish Labour – A middle years woman with a grown up (and growing up) family.  A bit frumpy at times.  Sensible and weighed down by responsibility to family.  Steady and at the centre of her family.  Good sense though not particularly over educated.

SNP – A sharp businessman, with a drive to get what he wants. Competent and professional.  Cold and wanting control.  Thinks he knows best.

Scottish conservatives – Older, well-to-do, sensible man who exudes calm and resists change, paternal and condescending.  Grey and a bit round the middle.

Scottish Liberal Democrats – A middle years teacher who’s involved with local fetes and the like, a bit grey and a bit well-meaning.  Very earnest and middle class.  Well thought off in general.  Not too dynamic.  Probably a bloke (not quite in a tank top).

Now if these are people as brands then we can see why the SNP have managed a good fit to theirs.  Emphasis on competence and drive, pugnacious and control focussed.  One issue and driving for it.

It seems to have worked when we consider that polling data suggests they do well among men of 25-45.  They are honed in on many of their frustrations about lack of control of their lives.  Their ‘take control’, ‘poor downtrodden us’ ‘all their fault’ mantra resonates with this group across all economic sections (or decile if you will).

Scottish Labour on the other hand are attractive to women with families and those of a sensible, more cautious vent.  Older people poll better for anti-independence, as do women with families.  Labour it seems has become like its supporters and has focussed much of its attacks on the SNP Government on uncertainty, dishonesty and trust.  Going further to ensure arrogance and sharp, smug FMQ responses allow Alex Salmond to keep turning off these groups.  It is working.

The Scottish Conservatives are struggling in the hangover of Toxic Thatcher brand.  They have found it difficult to move on from this as few will give them a fair hearing.  This has been ingrained as an Anti-English / Tory message from the SNP and to a lesser extent Labour.  The current Tory PM, stinks of privilege and is a reinforcer of this viewpoint.  Etonians telling us poor wee scots whats good for us.  Even with a new badge and a female leader, it’s a long, long road back to influence let alone power.

Scotland is conservative with a small ‘c’ and currently rejects the Conservatives with a large ‘C’.

As for the Libdems, the coalition with the Tories at westminster has blotted their copybook and exposed their compromising (over principle) as a weakness not a pragmatic virtue.  It has exposed them to ‘yellow Tories’ tags and ‘untrustworthy collaborators’ as labels.  Both are unfair but mud most certainly sticks leaving the Scottish Libdems in a mess.  Unsure of how to retain their core voters after own goals (VAT, tuition fees, coalition, cuts, welfare reform) and a relentless assault from the Scottish press.  Now viewed as worse than Tories by some.  As for fit with their brand person the teacher is falling out of popularity with his groups and while he can attempt to justify his positions, he’s less well-respected at the moment.

Do the leaders reflect their Brands?

Johann Lamont – fairly well reflects the brand person (she is an education professional however).

Alex Salmond – For the last 25 years the face of the SNP – the brand person and he are almost inseparable, but he is getting on a bit looking bloated and tiring (lots of younger MSP’s to fill the brand mould however).  Nicola Sturgeon is a good female fit for the brand too.

Ruth Davidson – doesn’t fit well at all (although Annabel Goldie did).  She is struggling to change the brand and will not make it fit better in the short to medium term.

Willie Rennie – Pretty much reflecting the brand person.  Sensible contributions but not dynamic nor able to shake off the ‘Coalition damage’.

Now I wholly appreciate that some of the language used above reflects my inner dislike of the SNP, the Tories and, to a lesser extent, the Libdems.  I am biassed, as are we all, but I think I have captured the essence of the brands.

Sadly, I think that Scottish Labour have a bigger problem in attracting other groups of voters (seen as a little old-fashioned) especially the young.

Whatever happened to the red flag singing socialists?  Well they grew up, had families and bills to pay.  Responsible adults can still be radicals, a message that has been lost in the (Scottish Labour) brand.  If Labour is a middle-aged woman then its time to tell the youngsters about the demonstrations, placard wielding, CND supporting, bra-burning protesting times of our youth and be a newly discovered cool, role model to emulate.

Brands are more than a symbol, they add value.  It’s time Scottish Labour started to use it.

 

 

Who I think will be in the whitehouse.

Finally, polling day in USA.

Polls by the gallon and mixed readings and analysis.

Personally I want Obama to win, Romney will be a disaster.

However, I am sitting here watching newsnight and I have the pre-match nerves.

My worry is this.

Obama won last time with a massive swing in states that were traditionally Republican, and a positive message of  ‘Yes we can’ and ‘Change’.

This time it has been much less positive and a republican ‘change’ type campaign has begun to work.

I will be up most of the night and I am not too convinced that the battle will be decided by Ohio.  Polls have been close on too many states to gain any certainty about where the chips will fall.

Ohio provisional ballots may hold up the whole thing for 10 days but I doubt that this will be needed.

Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and virginia are all ex-republican states and if these go to romney it will be very, very close.

Pollsters and commentators are talking about Obama ahead but don’t be surprised if disillusionment and Mitt’s polling day campaigning tip the final scales and Romney squeaks over the line.

Watching through my fingers.

Prediction

287-251 Romney.

God I’m scared.

How would you reform benefits then?

Today, on twitter, a local Conservative councillor asked me if I was against reform of the welfare state and if I wasn’t what would I do?

The context was my ranting about IDS and his reform agenda, as espoused on Andrew Marr’s love in this morning.

We had a debate in full council about welfare reform that was more heat than light and didn’t really add much to the debate on a larger scale.  It highlighted some areas where local council can offset central impacts.

However, the question was to me, given that I believe that welfare reform is necessary what would I do….here goes.

Caveat number 1 – this is my view not anyone else’s – neither Party nor guru and a statement of policy it most certainly is not.

Caveat number 2 – I am willing to accept that I might be wrong or that what I think may be unworkable.

So

Firstly, the benefits and welfare system does not work as we want it to.  It creates perverse outcomes on occasion and sometimes fails to support those who need while supporting those who don’t need the money.  What we need to remember is that our system (if we call it that – and systems theorists wouldn’t call it functional) has evolved to meet a changing situation and at best can be said to be failing to keep up.

When the welfare state was conceived and delivered the situation was not as  it is now.  Strong bodies could pretty much find work and most unemployment was frictional rather than structural.  Today (after decades of change) unemployment is more structural and this has shaped the way benefit calculation and transfers have been manipulated.

Unemployment is a function of changed work environment (death of manual and heavy industry, reduced need for labour as automation increased) and as such has meant that the ‘dole’ initially designed to support in the short-term has become a long-term situation for many.

This worklessness hasn’t led to generations of feckless, lazy worthless undeserving poor as IDS would have us believe.  Although some would argue for their existence.

Welfare is a safety net for our society that allows it to function in this era of reducing employment (full-time and skilled)  and movement to more flexible employment lives of low paid/ lower skill and transient nature.

Welfare is also there to support those who will need support (whether disabled physically or mentally or caring for those who are) and ensure their dignity and quality of life is protected.

Welfare is also there to support those who are being exploited in the race to the bottom in terms of wage rates.  Minimum wage is too low and the living wage is a poor attempt to address the feeble attempt of statute to ensure a fair pay for work.  This support can be in tax credits, housing benefit  or benefits for their families – whatever form that is needed to ensure work pays.

Key phrase work should pay.  However, the system is so perverse at times that a disincentive to employment can occur.  When work is seen to be not worthwhile economically we have a problem.  For me work is always worthwhile in terms of self-esteem but I can understand that self-esteem wont feed the kids.

So, where was I….

IDS wants to simplify the system – agree entirely (£5bn+ goes unclaimed every year purely down to complexity and ignorance).

IDS goal is to cut the size of the budget for welfare and benefits.  Disagree with starting point.  The size of the benefit budget is based on need.  Let me say that again, ON NEED.  If welfare is to maintain our poorest then the price is the price.  It cannot ethically be otherwise.  To do so is to punish the needy for the failure of our economic policy over the last 40 years.

Hair splitting time.  How do we define and agree need?  IDS says that those who don’t work should have a lower standard of living than those who do.  sounds fine doesn’t it? Really?  So if you live in a region blighted by unemployment because successive governments have skewed (and screwed the economy) you are somehow responsible and therefore should be punished economically.

We should define an acceptable standard of living and say that no one should be below this point.  whether you are disabled, old, unable to find work or working in a low paid job.

People should not be looking at those on benefits with envy.  If it was so great we’d all do it.  Fact is, that it isn’t and we don’t.  Daily Mail readers go and froth elsewhere.

So my start point is different.  I want to meet needs, IDS wants to shrink the bill.

Where then, is the most pressing area to focus?  Fraud?  Less than half of 1% is lost in terms of fraud and almost 3 times more is paid out in error by those who design and work the system.  So not fraud then (although not to be ignored – tax avoiders/evaders another day).

Johann Lamont tried to start a debate about universal benefits and their affordability (on which I can see where she’s coming from) but this again starts from a different viewpoint than I would (will do this another day too).

Some examples (which I am sure you want to know – but remember the starting point is entirely different)

  1. Housing benefit is a monster and is the result of failed housing policy (from flogging off council houses to not building sufficient replacements) causing a shortage of supply that is being met by inflated private sector profiteers (invisible hands stuffing pockets).  This needs addressed urgently but can only work if the structure of the rental market is altered (build capacity in public control and drive rents down hard – sadly a slow fix).  Housing benefit needs work but needs to reflect the situation on the ground not be a punishment for being overhoused or used as a tool to cleanse the cities of the poorest.
  2. Winter fuel allowance. small cost at the start and now rapidly out of hand.  Costs a fortune and many do not need it.  Paid to those living abroad in spain too.  Perverse isn’t it.  However, try cutting it and see the backlash.  Hobson’s choice if ever there was one.  It needs to be targeted not universal.  If anyone howls means testing costs a fortune! it shows the lack of thought that is common.  Perhaps linking Winter Fuel allowance to capping energy bills would be more effective.  It is not only the old who struggle to choose between heating and eating.  In Fife 1 in 4 suffer fuel poverty with 40% in poorer areas.  They aren’t all old you know.
  3. Child benefit.  Again this has changed in focus.  What is it for?  To pay for your holidays? (just for daily mail readers who are still frothing).  It is to ensure that children are provided for.  Hmm, High earners, do they need help in providing for their offspring?  Not usually.  However, the universality element is to let all of us tax payers feel we are getting something out for our contributions.  We should be able to think of a solution that effectively gets money to children that need.  I am prepared to accept that this is a very unpopular one to address.
  4. Working tax credits.  These are a response to low pay, a subsidy for firms who pay less and enjoy the low tax regime and readily available loopholes.  This needs to be driven back onto the employer.  Needs to stop being a government subsidy to business and reflected in wages properly.  Structural reform of Labour markets and business taxation.  But we’ll be less competitive and will have a jobs flight to low wage economies in the developing world (howl away), like I said at the start these may be unworkable.

Every current benefit needs to be examined to see if it actually does what it should do and tested to see that it helps those it is meant to.  We should not be afraid of removing benefits that are poorly targeted as long as the right support goes to the people who need, which might mean new benefits being introduced (is this the antithesis of simplification? if screwed up it could be).

As I write this I realise that there is no way to encapsulate my feelings effectively without going on and on.  Considering that the request was on twitter  with 140 characters at my disposal, it was obviously unanswerable.

So I’ll be brief then.  Welfare (benefits & pensions) are a means to ensure dignity and well-being in our society.  The complex mess we have doesn’t work but the wrong-headed reforms by IDS are about punishment of the poor to pay for the systematic failures in other areas.   The starting point is everything.

Better to review the way each benefit works and systematise the actual outcome you need than take a blunt instrument (like IDS’ Brain obviously).

Sadly we are looking for simplicity to meet the needs of the most complex set of needs and lives we have ever encountered.  Simple(tons) just don’t cut it.  They just cut.

(sorry Dave this isn’t the answer you are looking for).

 

 

 

 

It’s more than the economy stupid!

As a grumpy individual I find myself shouting at the television / twitter and online blogs more often these days.

This week (like far too many others recently) has been dominated by the referendum process.  Sorry THE REFERENDUM process.

It is important.  It is like oxygen to the SNP, the single most important issue for them.  Less so for others.

For me, however, two more years of this and I’ll lose the ability to watch the news.  It is bad enough that the Beeb is (allegedly) pro anyone and newspapers don’t print news but if I have to suffer endless rehashes of  this morning’s #marr #murnaghan then I’m going to be entirely unhappy.

Polling about how people will vote if they are £500 a year better off or worse off is pathetic and likely to be as reliable as Michael fish in 1987.

Polling ‘If the Tories were likely to win in 2015’  is equally specious.  Democracy in action eh?  do we only want democracy if we get our own way?

This filler of time is all Alex Salmond’s fault (slightly kidding here).  If he had hurried up and ‘called the date sooner’ then less of this guff would be experienced by us all.

The Economic arguments are important to THE REFERENDUM but a largely uninformed electorate (on economics) will struggle to cut through the misuse and clever language (Eg Relative surplus is a case in point – paid in 53bn got out 63bn. comparisons of marginal differences in deficit is not a relative surplus – it’s a relative deficit of large proportions.  In other words we’re up to our necks in debt and they are up to their chin.)

Alex Salmond builds in caveats on almost every issue while trying to sound plain speaking (great trick for a politician) one which I think we have all had enough of (All Tony Blair’s fault – he started it obviously).  I am complaining but I can respect his clever use of language to give him wiggle room.

However, wiggle room is not what we need on such a stark national choice.  Yes or No, in or out.

In Nato, Keep Queen, Keep Sterling, Get rid of Trident (when safe to do so FFS), In EU but no Euro / Shengin, free care for the elderly, free this that and the other (ish) (and never a whisper about how we will pay for it) and don’t mention Council Tax freeze that is crippling local authorities (nor the now sunk Local Income Tax).  A far cry from statements of the past and looking like a ‘don’t scare the horses approach!

Now this wasn’t meant to be a rant about SNP or Alex Salmond but I got distracted.

The Yes Campaign are equally as guilty of obfuscation and this is entirely unnecessary.  The choices are stark but need facts and evidence not assertions.

This fuzzy Guff about ‘Britishness or Scottishness’ is built into us all and to varying degrees it will shape our viewpoint.  But do we really need a never-ending stream of this?  Probably not.

We need facts on the Economy.  (Robust data presented in a factually comprehensible way)

We need facts on EU membership and the implications. (Legal advice published before any vote)

We need facts on other institutions that impact on our society. (Legal, political and social)

None of these are being addressed with facts, they are being addressed by assertions and spin.

A post yes vote (or no vote for that matter) needs to have a clear position on these vital elements.  Otherwise THE REFERENDUM is a ‘trust me’ poll based on a pastiche of Mibbe’s Aye, Mibbe’s Naw.

How on earth do we expect voters to make an informed decision on a fundamental issue?  Let alone the 16 & 17 year olds who will be asked to choose too!

Fair, transparent and legally binding.  At this rate it will be based on Braveheart and olympics.

Not good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moore fumbles negotiations

Where have we heard this before?

Tomorrow the Prime minister (Big Dave) and the first Minister (Wee Eck) will have a signing sesh.  This isn’t some huge diplomatic meeting but rather a procedural step on the way to the referendum.  (I’ll bet there will be pipers and tartan everywhere and wee eck will be in his best tartan troos)

Negotiated brilliantly by Michael Moore (LD MP) who effectively fell hook, line and sinker for the devo-max question two gambit.  He gave away everything in the cabinet to stop the safety blanket question that Wee eck didn’t really expect to get anyway.  It was a fiction dreamt up by the SNP and hung out as bait.  Sadly the daft laddie that is Michael Moore (and others) fell for it.

Sleekit and canny, Wee eck will have to manage his smugness on Monday or Dave will realise just how much he has been had.  The incompetence of Mr Moore is even more shocking when we consider that he was negotiating with Nicola.

Of course, it might be that he was terrified of her and just gave her everything to avoid being savaged.

What exactly are the terms then.

1 question.  Written by Wee eck.

16 & 17 year olds allowed to vote. (just as wee eck wanted)

August 2014 date. (wee eck’s timetable for a post Bannockburn party)

So all the unionist demands are being met then?  Michael Moore seems to think so.  (not sure which ones, however)

Will it matter? Probably not.  The scots electorate are currently disinclined to support separation from the Rest of the UK (all because of the Olympics and Ryder cup – obviously).  A ha, I hear the zealots yell but just wait until the Bannockburn bounce.  I fully expect them to stay disinclined when the time comes.

Funding is going to be the last little problem to be given up by Mr Moore, we don’t have details but Wee Eck wants the chance to use his lottery windfall and deny the others their chance to use their funds.

Wee eck wants a fair roll of the dice but wants two rolls just in case.

Mind you, by giving the Nats everything they want, they will have no-one to blame when they lose in 2014.  It wont stop them doing so, of course.

Perhaps Michael Moore is playing a blinder and aiming to deal with the SNP for years to come?

Nah, dinnae think so.

Well done Eck another blinder.  Bollocks.

One Nation? What does that actually mean?

Frankly, I have no idea.

The triangulation wonks seem to think it will play well in the marginals and the Soufff.

The problem of modern-day politics is the attempt to appeal to the widest demographic of ‘couldn’t care less’.  It is this whoring to attract the voters who have no ideological allegiance that has left my party in a quandary.

Perpetual opposition (allegedly) or government without a principle guiding the choices we make.

Ed is a very sincere chap, who delivered a great speech (in terms of delivery) but it was utterly devoid of connection to the left.  couple with that the inability of Chukka Umunna (touted as a future leader) to remember that we are a Democratic socialist party not a social democrat party.

I worry about the strangest of things.

Pragmatic – anything to get into power – is the sign of a weak set of arguments.  Doing whatever is populist works in the very short-term with massive hangover damage.  Blairs ‘New Labour’ drove away much of the leftist core and replaced that support with those whose motivation was based on ‘what’s in it for me?’.  The path of vote purchase and appeasement.

This is not the way to a progressive change bringing a steady improvement in inequality and better living standards for all.

What we are being offered is better managers who are more competent to manage decline.  A total and utter capitulation in terms of aspiration for a better society.  Mind you, the current coalition are a complete shambles #omnishambles.

So where does that leave me (and others)?

A party leadership whose strategy is heading in the wrong direction?

A party leadership made up of too many career politicians, who have followed a fast track to MP-dom?

A south-east focus to win at all costs regardless of where we have come from?

A we’re slightly less tory than the other mob?

We have a new badge ‘One nation Labour’.  Oh that’s all right then.

A government which doesn’t stand for special interest groups or sections.  A business focus on ‘good capitalism’ and many more utter bollocks like platitudes to fill the air.

As for the crew – Liam Byrne, Ed balls et al, these guys are neo-liberal to the core and prepared to work the system to manage a labour government in name only.  They are pretty much indistinguishable from the ‘wet’ wing of Maggie T’s Tories.  This is so not good enough.

Members up and down the country are left somewhat befuddled by this ‘One nation’ stuff, hoping it means more left-wing and sadly about to find out it doesn’t mean that at all.  Repeal the NHS act (well done Andy Burnham), pay freeze to continue (FFS ed) and many other missed opportunities to move forward.  Help people get on the housing ladder? FFS, build rentable houses and drive the heat from profiteering landlords.

We need to return to the land of left-wing politics and stop being ashamed.

We have capitulated in the argument about social justice, we have stopped trying.

Sorry, I haven’t and thousands in the party haven’t given up.  Time the leadership reflected the members not a narrow sectional interest of ex spads.

watching conference through my fingers from behind the couch.

Just over a year ago, I blogged about why I am a Labour supporter (and now a Local Councillor).

The Labour party conference always creates a buzz and a great deal of headlines many of which (in the past) have had me wanting to bang my head on a desk.  A few ‘Oh FFS!’ and much stronger are uttered at the inept miss steps that can occur.  Sometimes I wish a news blackout could prevent my party from shooting itself in the foot.  Will this year be any different?

A lack of Clarity on the NHS bill repeal was the beginning of my anxiety until Andy Burnham came out categorically and said it would be repealed by an incoming labour government.  I began to breathe a little easier but since then I have begun to have (obviously disloyal) doubts that Ed Miliband will drop a well-intentioned but catastrophic clanger between now and conference end (bad capitalism anyone?).

He is getting better (but will it ever be enough? going by the polling data it seems unlikely) but I am just unsure that his articulation of what labour stands for and why he is Labour will be closely related to mine.

When he says he is not for any sectional / special interest group (that might be great triangulation) it makes me wonder where the leadership of the party thinks it is heading.  We were founded by a sectional interest group.  The Unions.  Times have moved on and this isn’t the only group we should be representing – what about representing the weakest and poorest in our society?  Those failed by decades of poor economic policy?  What about representing those disabled and currently being treated abyssmally by an uncaring system run by a profit motive?  What about young people struggling to make their way in a harsh employment landscape?

It is all sectional interest groups.  Many of which we really need to show solidarity with. AND be vocal about it.

Many of these sectional interest groups are paying massively for the failure of another group (I won’t indulge in Banker bashing today) and we are too silent about their plight.

So while I understand that without an offering to the marginals that won’t scare them off, Ed needs to think closely about what rank and file members of the Labour party understand as ‘being Labour’.

For what it’s worth he can sneak a peek at mine and add to it if he wants (arrogant or what  😉  obviously Ed will be reading my blog.)

(extract from previous post)

https://grumpyscotspolitico.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/a-question-that-i-needed-to-be-able-to-answer/

 

I am Labour because in the society I want, the weakest are treated with dignity and respect and not left behind.

I am Labour because no-one in my society should go to bed cold for want of fuel, hungry for a lack of food and scared for a want of security.

I am Labour because everyone’s talent deserves a chance to shine and the barriers of birth and privilege should be removed.

I am Labour because the efforts of the many should reward the many.

I am Labour because a good education should be for all our children and not just for those who can afford it.

I am Labour because injustice and inequality need to be opposed and overturned.

I am Labour because I want to change my party to be the Labour Party it should be.

There are thousands of I am Labour because statements for me.

I am Labour and I don’t always agree with the party.  Sometimes we just have to disagree.

Europe in flames, a direct response to Austerity.

Violent clashes in Spain, Greece and Portugal are crashing across our news channels and yet the responses from commentators (and the rest of Europe) are incoherent at best.

The lack of application to a historical context is hampering the analysis.

The frightening similarities with the depression of the 30’s and the wrong economic responses by governments has set us on the path to a disastrous outcome.  The Euro (designed to build peace and cooperation into the foundations of Europe) is exacerbating the problem.

Like the treaty of Versailles the imposition of pain (in economic terms) is the driver of discontent among those being forced to endure.

In Greece the pain is excruciating, in Spain and Portugal the rebelling is beginning and the screams for extreme responses are being answered by the extremist parties.  Independence in Catalonia (Spain’s wealthiest area) is a symptom of not wanting to all be in this together.

The political crises of repeated elections in Greece are beginning to see the wilder parties get a foothold on the democratic ladder.

All of this occurred in Germany through the Weimar mess and the rise of National Socialism.  An echo that the EU should not ignore.  When times are very hard (and seemingly unfair) with no hope of improvement the electorate begin to respond to the hopelessness by moving to the political extremes.  Good people pushed past breaking point.  Already this is being seen on the streets of Athens, Madrid and Lisbon.

Grexit and some contraction of the eurozone is vital if all of southern europe isn’t to descend into a disaffected mess.  The appointment of unelected bureaucrats in Italy and market-forced government changes, in other states,  put a huge pressure on democracy in southern Europe.  These enforced changes give grist to the mill of extremists, a visible object to blame.  How far the descent towards the far right (or left) goes is anyone’s guess.  An alarming prospect nonetheless.

The ineffective bailout programme is the wrong response and is  just prolonging the agony.  The increasing debt levels will need to be written down (or off) and Greece allowed to get out of the Euro.  Greece will never be able to repay the debts that are compounding.  Of course were this to occur a few others would begin the escape process too.  An ordered restructure would become a rout.  Not a pleasant thought for the markets who wouldn’t so much be getting a haircut, more like a number 1 all over.

The austerity agenda is killing the patient and the patients are about to tell the doctor where to stick his medicine.

 

BOJO is on the march

A tory tweeter once told me that Boris will be part of the political landscape for years to come.  I was ridiculing the man as a buffoon and utterly out of his depth.  Apparently I was wrong.

The mood music surrounding Boris and Dave has shifted over recent weeks.

Boris came out of the Olympics with a real boost in his popularity (not just with voters but with the media) especially after he got stuck on the zip wire.  His denials are becoming less and less credible as he starts to comment on areas that Dave would prefer he left well alone.

This weekend has seen the print media following the online twittersphere and blogosphere mood music and starting to consider seriously the rise of BOJO.

The story of Zach Goldsmith offering to stand aside over 3rd runway at Heathrow is just grist to the mill.

His comments over Greening and the reshuffle impact on Heathrow (and the review to follow) suggest a positioning strategy that is beginning his long trek to replace Dave.

Boris isn’t likely to worry about being seen as populist (after all it is his stock in trade) and it is this ‘he’s just like us’  myth that he cultivates effectively with Londoners.  Dave will be hoping that Boris stays out of the commons for a while yet.  He has enough problems with his failed policies and weak leadership.  The differences between them are stark in presentation.

BOJO shoots from the lip while Dave tries to be politically on message.  Dave is coiffed and smooth while Boris is untidy and rough.  Boris is the perfect anti-blair mode of politician.

Boris is on his own ‘long march to Finchley’  and I suspect he will be leader of the Blue Brigade in the (near-ish) future.  However, the tory machine will stick with Dave for the next Election (too close to change nags now) and hope for the best.  If Ed Miliband pulls off an incredible victory Boris will be in quick as a flash, if Dave manages to cling on Boris will have to wait.

The Dave and Nick show will have the curtain called on it in 2015 (if not sooner) and depending how damaged Dave is will determine how readily Tory HQ will turn to Boris.  Self-interest means that they will stick with a winner until he stops winning.

The dearth of alternatives to Dave (from the current feckless mob) leaves BOJO as the next great Blue hope.

The mood music and westminster two-step has begun and for me there will be only one winner, the (very) heavyweight that is Boris.  Dave’s jacket is on a shooglie peg  just when it drops off is another question.

One thing is for certain another Bullingdon bull is crashing around in the Westminster firmament and there aren’t many ‘big beasts’ left to control him.