Time For A Conscience Tax, Margaret Drabble? #GE2015

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“And herein lies one of the big problems with politics today: instead of discussing the issues at hand, the baying mobs on all sides are waiting in the wings for someone to say something imperfect, and they pounce, hurling insults and escalating debate into personal attacks and rudeness, and nobody is talking about hungry people or how to feed them any more.

Instead it’s all those big, bad Tories’ fault, or the church shouldn’t be commenting at all because they have a bit of gold kicking about, or it started under Labour …

And the longer we all stand on opposing sides shouting over each other, the longer the queues around the food banks get, and the longer the benefit delays, and the longer the queues at the jobcentre.”

Jack Monroe

As night follows day and a General Election approaches, the Guardian prints articles like that of Margaret Drabble in the Why I Will Not Be Voting Labour Next May Series.  The Why I Will Be Voting Liberal Democrat Series (its popularity faded somewhat after May 2010) has been discontinued in favour of the Why I Will Be Voting Green Series, this season’s political black for the ethical, middle class, liberally minded left wing voter.  God knows what these ethical floating voters will do, if the Greens support a minority Labour Government next May in preference to triggering another General Election that might give a George Osborne led Tory Party a working majority.

I expect I shall wait in vain for the Guardian to run a Why I Will Be Voting Respect or TUSC Next May Series (I tip my hat to both parties (as well as the SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and the Greens) for sharing the agony and ecstasy of electoral politics).  I mean it is one thing speaking for the working class, but quite another mingling with them, is it not?  I mean, Tarquin old love, they think £3.00 for a bowl of ironic breakfast cereal in an café down in Tower Hamlets (the new Islington for the aspiring financially challenged?) is not good value for money.  I mean, you would think they would appreciate us bringing a bit of Notting Hill glamour into their dull, little lives.  I certainly did not expect to learn that they could spell condescending and patronising.  Where?  Oh, on the wall of the artisan’s water closet.  Yes, we ‘reclaimed’ the tiles from a skip …  Harry Enfield certainly saw these guys coming!

Drabble in her piece says Labour has lost her vote because of its policy towards the private education sector.  In explaining her position, Drabble manages to get in a reference to the Bedroom Tax.  I am sure the 900,000 or so victims of the tax will applaud Drabble’s principled stance about private education as they fall further and further behind with their rent (and into debt) whilst awaiting their next invitation to attend an Employment and Support Allowance Work Capability Assessment.  Labour not forming a government next May will mean no end to the Bedroom Tax and no reduction in the misery of regularly going through WCAs.

I would like Drabble to come and meet some clients I am trying to help.  Sadly they are some of life’s losers.  What can go wrong with their lives has gone wrong.  Some people are like lightning conductors for bad luck and they are a prime example.  Their grip on sanity has recently become tenuous at best.  They have principles, Drabble, that compound their problems.  They abhor getting into debt, a very old school working class trait.  They, not you, are representative of the people to whom the Labour Party should be devoted.

They incurred some unexpected and heavy expenses recently.  They have little money and the Social has not, to date, covered the whole of the bill they incurred.  The Co-Op (bless ’em), a fine example of working class self help of days gone by, are holding off seeking the balance of the costs whilst I, working on behalf of a Labour Member of Parliament, am doing my damnedest to force my former employer, the Department for Work and Pensions, into re-opening their case.  I am not, therefore, writing high minded articles for the Guardian going on about my principles and focusing on subjects of no interest, rightly or wrongly, to the vast majority of people for whom the Labour Party was founded.  I am putting my principles into action and hopefully making a difference.

Whilst I await, probably in vain, for a positive response from Iain Duncan Smith to my employer’s enquiries (an employer for whom I work unpaid) on our clients’ behalf, I am looking into the possibility of applying for a grant from a charity.   Yes, Drabble, in 2014 the State has rolled back so far that I have been forced to take such a Dickensian step.  Any ideas my readers have as to where I may seek help with one off expenses will be most gratefully received.  I would like to try to do something to lighten my clients’ worries before Christmas.  By the way, I am rather old fashioned too, I do not like to think of people applying for help in times of need being termed claimants so I call them clients instead.

As though the unpaid bill (and other Social Security related matters) were not bad enough, my clients are now having to pay the Bedroom Tax.  They cannot afford it.  They cannot downsize.  They cannot sub let (you will pay for that asinine suggestion next May, John Hemming).  They will slide into debt.  They will suffer not just the material consequences of debt, but the shame of it too.  They too have principles, a code by which they try to live.

I am afraid to say, however, that the term scrounger sometimes crops up in my conversations with clients like these.  Were I to be fastidious, Drabble, I might drop such cases because going along with that uncharitable attitude runs counter to my principles, but my old fashioned allegiance to the public service ethos prevents me striking a pose.  I cannot stand idly by and not do something to help people in need, because I do not like how, in the depths of their misery they accuse other people of abusing the system.  Sadly some people in need sometimes belittle, mostly through ignorance and with the aid of our rabid, right wing media, the suffering and needs of others.  I think that a pious lecture on a lack of class solidarity on such occasions would be unhelpful, to say the least and, any way, I ceased to be an Angry Young Man a long time ago.  Does not stop me, though, fighting the fire lit by others.

And there are, Drabble and friends, working class Tories so the Labour Party can never expect to corner the market in the votes of that particular class and I cannot, in all conscience, decline to help them when they are in need.  How easy life would be, if only people conformed to the rose tinted stereotypes some of the middle class have of them.  Aneuran Bevan (remember him?) was a realist and knew that a portion of the working class vote against their own interests and that is my beef with lefties like you.  You are not realists; you would rather, it seems to me, have no loaf rather than be compromised by half a loaf; you have never hawked your ideas door to door; never had one of Churchill’s dispiriting five minute discussions with the average voter or had to persuade the same to elect you into office.

You belong, Drabble, to the chatterati, a sub group of the Commentariat.  Trollope’s scathing analysis of those seeking to wield power without responsibility holds true as much today as it did 150 years ago.  Mind you, he (like Robin Day) ran for Parliament as a Liberal candidate.  Why do we bemoan professional politicians, but not professional political commentators who seem to have never done anything else?  I am a little surprised that, although disadvantaged as you are by a lack of experience in comparison with Day and Trollope, a novelist of your stature seems incapable of putting yourself in the position of a candidate or party seeking election.

Your obsession with an education system that educates a tiny minority of young people, some even not United Kingdom residents; your casual dismissal of Sure Start; the fact you seem to think the Bedroom Tax generates net income for the Exchequer and your idea, that wasting valuable Parliamentary time trying to unpick the privileges of the purveyors of private education will create true equality of educational opportunity suggests you have a very poor grasp of what is concerning those worried about the state of education in the UK today.  You neatly sidestep the cost, both financial and political, of abolishing the perquisites of what are, in some cases, centuries old charitable bodies.  However, do not let me stop you using your own money to hire a crack team of lawyers to crawl over the founding charters of these charities so as to identify whether or not they have breached them.  You might well achieve the end you seek without recourse to public funds.  By the way, how do you organise your own tax affairs?  I trust it is not along the lines advocated by Myleene Klass?

Where were you, Comrade Drabble, when Gove came earlier this year for the students of East Birmingham?  When across party and across community lines the citizens of Birmingham prepared to stand by the barricades to defend our city against a plot hatched in Whitehall.  Confusingly for some, there was agreement here that there were failings in our schools and that they needed to be addressed, but not at the expense of the students.  Students who have a poor start in life that has nothing to do with Eton’s tax privileges.  It cries out to Heaven for Justice that in the second decade of the 21st Century children in this country are still disadvantaged by the colour of their skin; the class and religion into which they were born and the place where they are growing up.  East Birmingham has some of the highest levels of unemployment in the UK.  Gove failed in his duty of care towards those students.  And I, Drabble, am a Bevanite snob, if Henley or Wimbledon or Glyndebourne or Stratford or the Tate are good enough for them then they are bloody good enough for us!

You want to raise an issue with Tristram Hunt then please, on my behalf, ask him why he, a Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Education did not come to Birmingham to meet the teachers, parents and students under attack from Gove?  The well being of those young people, not your trivial concerns are where Hunt should be focusing his efforts.  The jury is still out as to whether he fully appreciates that.  Whether he will grasp the mantle of Ellen Wilkinson and Estelle Morris or be a Gove lite clone concerns me.  I am against Eton and Harrow, but I think schools like Great Barr Comprehensive (my alma mater) should be Hunt’s primary concern.

I have headlined this post with the Jack Monroe quote because she has said so much better what I wished I had said.  There is a great deal wrong with how we conduct political discourse in our country.  It is not just elected politicians who take a particular pleasure in striking a pose and thereby generating more heat than light.  It bedevilled the fight back against Gove when the liberal left and atheists used the situation in East Birmingham to support their campaign against religious schools and religion in schools.  One expects Gove not to care about working class people, but surely not holier than thou lefties?

The sort of lefties who as the result of an “emotional spasm” (copyright, Aneuran Bevan) were promoting a boycott of Israeli oranges without seemingly any thought of the impact on the Arabs who grow and pick them.  I asked one person on Twitter whether he would donate the money he saved, by not buying the oranges, to an aid charity in the hope that might offset the likely impact of the boycott on Arab workers.  He said, no.  He went on to say that he would be buying his oranges elsewhere and that given the current suffering of the workers they would be unlikely to notice a worsening in their conditions.  He hated the Israelis and getting at them through a boycott was all that mattered.  I thought making a donation to Islamic Relief was a better way of displaying solidarity with the people of Gaza than, in his case, a selfish boycott.

The right, for example ukip, has its zealots too, of course.  They speak, so some Guardianistas like to assert, for those that Labour has left behind.  Now, it may have escaped their notice, but whilst ukip only says it will oppose the Bedroom Tax in government it will definitely repeal the Agency Worker Directive.  When I pointed out to one ukipper that such an act would worsen, in particular, the working conditions of agricultural labourers he said that as the directive did not make much of an improvement then its removal would barely be noticed (except, cynical me observed, by their employers).  The Agency Worker Directive was enacted into UK law in 2010.

If Labour wins next May then the Bedroom Tax will be repealed.  However, please do not let that consideration, Drabble, stop you voting selfishly in accordance with your conscience and principles.  However, I trust that if Labour loses the General Election that you will donate, on a regular basis, some of your royalties to help people like my clients.  We could call it a Conscience Tax.  In fact, how about something on account?  I guarantee that it will be most gratefully received.  So how much may I put you down for, Mr Scr …

I find your lack of empathy with the working class, Drabble, much, much worse than that of the likes of IDS.  He knows no better, but you profess to know better.  Whilst he holds tightly to a selfish philosophy, Samuel Smiles for the 21st Century, you lay claim to the moral high ground, whilst putting preserving your principles before improving the condition of the working class.  IDS lectures the poor and gives them meagre hand outs and punches in the gut whilst you lecture those of us wanting to give them a hand up about the condition of our fingernails.  I say hand up in memory of John Smith.  Our shared values transcended class.  A hand up for those who can and support for those who cannot.  Each giving according to their means and receiving according to their needs.  I think some call it socialism.

David Lloyd George (the man who enacted the State Pension) said you may keep your principles shining bright and not get your hands on the levers of power or you may tarnish them a little, get your hands on the levers of power and do something.  He was addressing people like you, Drabble.  Years later, Bevan had to remind the usual suspects on the left that socialism was the language of priorities or it was nothing.  You may, Drabble, keep your principles shining brightly and you may think your priorities are the right ones for working class children, but spare me your sanctimony, please.

Your particular Mount Olympus really must be a very lonely place if, as you say, “I feel bereft without anyone for whom I can vote.”  No progressive party in UK politics thinks your stance is a vote winner then?  Does that not suggest that it is you, in this policy area at least, who is disappointing people with your ideas rather than the Labour Party?  Either way, my clients, Drabble, cannot afford the Bedroom Tax and neither can they afford your principles.

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Mensch Labels #ukip #Labour’s Little Helpers in Bid to Aid #Tories & Damage #SNP #RochesterandStrood

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Britain’s New Political Force Isn’t UKIP – It’s the SNP

“As I write this Douglas Carswell hasn’t yet been elected in Clacton but he will be. He will be UKIP’s second MP (Bob Spink was the first) but first elected MP. But Clacton is a special case; Carswell has a big personal following. I have no time for him whatever and I can only help he has the integrity his friends claim he does. If that is true, he will not remain silent in a party that is racist, sexist and allows the condoning of child abuse, blaming the victims. We’ll see.

The real UKIP test comes in Rochester and Strood, where my friend Mark Reckless defected without the same personal following. I will always like Mark, having known him since we were at the same Oxford college together at the same time (OK OK he’s younger) and ran together on the same slate in the Union (roofing materials cough). But I fear Mark has made the mistake of his life. He is an able barrister and he has been a leading light on the best Select Committee in Parliament at the moment, the Home Affairs Select Committee. But UKIP help Labour and prevent the chance of any EU Referendum at all. I am so sorry that Mark was deceived into going with Farage, and I both hope, fear and believe he will lose his seat. I hope it politically because Ed Miliband must not be helped into power by UKIP voters – there will be no EU referendum and it will be  total disaster. I believe it because I can read the polls and the mood, I think (it’ll be close for sure), and I fear it, because ukip are a party without loyalty or principles. When Mark loses they will blame him, cast aspersions on his work as an MP, toss him to the wind and move on without looking back like they do to any candidate who gets in Nigel’s way.

But enough of Labour’s little helpers. Let’s look north, where I think the unnoticed revolution is going on. And it’s not purple – it’s plaid. In fact, it’s tartan.  (Dear Louise, how Scottish is tartan?)

The Scottish Referendum seems like yesterday north of the border and for us in rUK too it was the election of the year. Few nights will ever be as emotional. And yet a London-centric media has taken its eye off the Glasweigan ball. That’s a mistake.

The SNP have packed on tens of thousands of new members – that’s actual paying members who have gone so far as to sign up – imagine the latent support behind these numbers. I read somewhere that it might be a hundred thousand. Labour is in trouble in its Scottish heartlands. Real trouble, not just Holyrood trouble where they are used to getting their arses kicked, but Westminster trouble. John Curtice said they might pick up as many as 26 seats. I think they may also lose one or two to the Tories and LibDems – yes, you heard me correctly. Passions for YES and NO raged immensely, and where the SNP hold Westminster seats in areas that were strongly NO they are vulnerable. Ruth Davidson took back some of her ‘Tartan Tory’ mantle from the so-called Tartan Tories. There’s a long way to go to detoxify the Conservatives in Scotland but she gained wide respect in the IndyRef.

But let’s develop the idea of the SNP storming the Westminster elections. Every seat they gain will be a one for one loss to Labour.  Labour down 26 and the SNP up 26, for a max gain of 32 seats. That would give the SNP parity with the LibDems.

Semi-jokingly I suggested future SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as Deputy PM under Cameron. There was a lot of kicking the football around on Twitter from SNP members, but let me develop the idea.

I am NOT suggesting that the SNP go into coalition with the Conservatives – it would be toxic for both parties north of the border. Ruth Davidson needs those Unionist votes to start rebuilding in SNP WM areas. And SNP are banned from propping up the Tories, their left-wing support wouldn’t like it.

But I AM suggesting a scenario where Sturgeon can demand a DEAL with an rUK Conservative majority – after all the Referendum itself happened because Alec Salmond and David Cameron made a binding deal. A deal isn’t a coalition and the SNP wouldn’t need to prop up the Tories in this scenario – because devo-max and English votes for English laws would have meant that the SNP was “mainly governing” Scotland via Holyrood, and in rUK, the Tories would no longer need any Scottish votes (or even be able to use them) – on devolved matters for Eng Wales and NI. Cameron would still need other parties like the DUP and probably even the LibDems for comfort, but Sturgeon’s SNP would not be involved.

Scenario goes like this – Tories largest party, no majority. SNP offer a deal whereby Sturgeon becomes Deputy PM as being able to command the second party of United Kingdom government, with or without a WM seat of her own. She need not have one, and she can always take a peerage if she likes, a nice Scottish peerage obviously 🙂. Sturgeon and Cameron horse-trade over devo-max and the financial settlement for Scotland in exchange for immediate, first-order-of-business “English votes for English laws” legislation. EVEL has been long planned by the Tories and has been in the last three Tory manifestos. This constitutional deal done, Sturgeon repairs to Scotland to govern. Ruth Davidson opposes her now on tax, spend and policy as well as Unionism (because we assume the SNP will still aim for full independence).

South of the border Cameron governs with a coalition but one where the Tories can set more favorable terms.

In defence and foreign affairs, areas that all agree would remain United Kingdom competencies, Sturgeon would have the right to be consulted first, to have SNP seats in the ministries and the SNP would have a direct voice at the global table, as the LibDems do now. I cannot frankly imagine that the SNP view would be more left-wing than the LibDem view on either area of policy. In this area, Cameron would have to seek to have Scotland on board respecting the SNP’s primacy in the country.

That, then, is my vision of a revolutionary government – not a coalition, no propping up needed – a government that represented a deal between independent actors, even political opponents, to make constitutional changes that the SNP and Conservatives both believe in for Scotland and also for England.

Labour is the enemy of the SNP when it comes to devo-max or any version of devo-max. The more autonomy Labour allows in Scotland, the greater the demand in England for English votes, which deprives Mili of his Scottish block vote. It says much for Labour’s weakness in England that Ed Miliband thinks he can’t govern England, Wales and Northern Ireland without the votes of Scots MPs on matters that will never affect their constituents. Put another way, Miliband doesn’t want to introduce laws for England he knows English voters will approve of.

Fair play to the 45, they have no objection to English voters getting our own devolution. The SNP don’t vote on English only laws unless it will affect Scotland – that’s to be decided in the initial horse-trading before EVEL passes. Sturgeon would be a conquering heroine in Scotland with the prestige of deputy PM of the UK and the delivery of the best possible deal for Scotland. Rather than ‘propping up’ Cameron or any coalition, she’d follow SNP creed of leaving the sassenachs to sort themselves out. And Labour’s offer to Scotland of tiny changes while chopping England up into already-rejected-in-a-referendum “regional assemblies” would get the contempt it deserved – north and south of the border.

WhoKip? The SNP is the real story this year – and they didn’t quit and go home when they lost that vote. Trust me, the 45 are just warming up.”

Ms Mensch may be many things, some day I really must find out what she really excels in, but political sage is definitely not one, but obviously political fantasist is.

Ms Mensch damns Nicola Sturgeon with faint praise, if she thinks Ms Sturgeon would fall in with Ms Mensch’s flights of fancy.  Flights designed to put the party, Ms Mensch deserted in its hour of need, firmly back in Government for ever more.

Ms Mensch, where do you live now? I only ask, but I gather New York is in the Colonies is it not?  Not in the rest of the UK or even the British Empire, despite you asserting that, “The Scottish Referendum seems like yesterday north of the border and for us in rUK …”  I guess living high up in skyscrapers a lot of the time does funny things to the brain.  Can you Louise, see the Home Counties from atop the Empire State Building?  I assume, given your current state of lightheadedness, that you have missed a vital stage out of your scenario:

“A deal isn’t a coalition and the SNP wouldn’t need to prop up the Tories in this scenario – because devo-max and English votes for English laws would have meant that the SNP was “mainly governing” Scotland via Holyrood, and in rUK, the Tories would no longer need any Scottish votes (or even be able to use them) – on devolved matters for Eng Wales and NI. Cameron would still need other parties like the DUP and probably even the LibDems for comfort, but Sturgeon’s SNP would not be involved.”

Ms Mensch, the whole of the House of Commons has to vote in support of legislation in order to get “devo-max and English votes for English laws”.  You are expecting Ms Sturgeon to take the word of a man whom she is about to put into Downing Street that he would follow through in full on these matters?  A man who said the NHS is safe in my hands?  A man who said, read my lips, there will be no top down reform of the NHS!  A man who said, I feel your pain, for I too have claimed DLA …  Have you never heard of once bitten by a rabid dog, next time bring a shot gun?  And be honest Ms Mensch, in which order would Mr Cameron put the legislation?  Devo-max first or English votes for English laws?

Ms Mensch avoids saying what even most people know her proposal means, “Vote SNP, Give Cameron the Keys to Number Ten!”  Ms Mensch thinks that the SNP would be happy to engage in a re-run of 1979 and risk all in the process.  Moreover, that the SNP would acquiesce in an arrangement that leaves Cameron in a position to call the next General Election at a time of his own choosing.

Nicola Sturgeon, a canny party leader if I ever saw one, will have a much better hand of cards in a card game with Labour than with the Tories.  In addition, I cannot see her repeating the events of 1979 when the minority Labour Government was defeated in a vote of no confidence, thereby triggering a General Election.  The SNP went into the lobbies with Mrs Thatcher, then went into the General Election with 11 MPs and came out the other side with only 2 MPs.  The Tory Party remained in power for 18 years and devolution was off the agenda for the same period.  I can well imagine Ms Sturgeon doing her utmost to avoid a similar outcome.  An outcome that would hand the keys of Number 10 to David Cameron, damage the SNP’s future electoral chances in Scottish and Westminster elections and postpone any further chance of more devolution and/or another independence referendum.

I also fail to see why the SNP, however many seats it wins next May, would not support Labour at Westminster after next May, particularly given the plans the party had to develop the Environmental Business Sector in Scotland after Independence.  Ms Mensch may not have noticed that her party has now decided to label all such sound policy as ‘green crap’.  The only party that shares Cameron’s dismissive, reckless view is ukip.  And Ms Mensch conveniently ignores the prospect of her fantasy including a handful of ukip MPs being joined at the hip to the Tory Party.  One more reason for the SNP not to do what Ms Mensch thinks would be in her, sorry, their party’s best interests.

Ms Mensch is, of course, still a Tory after all, albeit one who now lives permanently in the USA and cannot spell centre properly, “Center Righty is US politics blogging from one socially liberal, fiscal conservative point of view”!  Ms Mensch wants to see the fortunes of her party restored across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.  There is no benefit for the SNP in that happening.  I suspect Ms Sturgeon has three words for Ms Mensch, confidence and supply.  Confidence and supply means no coalition and no supporting legislation to which the SNP is opposed, but it does mean stopping Cameron bringing down the Government whilst continuing to pay the salaries of public servants.  Such an agreement would draw in the Greens and Plaid Cymru, giving all three parties some power without much in the way of responsibility.  Who knows, may be Calamity Clegg, given the second chance of a C & S agreement (Whirling Shirley thought it a sound idea in September 2010) might do the right thing this time?

A minority Labour Government supported, but not unquestioningly, by the Greens, PC, SNP and possibly the Liberal Democrats may just be the re-alignment on the centre and centre left that UK politics needs.  And, before I forget, as everyone else seems to do, the SDLP is not called the Social Democratic and Labour Party for nothing.  The SDLP is Labour’s sister party in Northern Ireland hence that is why Labour does not campaign for seats there.  The SDLP sits with Labour in Opposition and with Labour in Government, but it does not, however, offer its unquestioning support.

When it comes to Northern Ireland and her fantasy, Ms Mensch seems happy to revive the Troubles just to see her party in power.  What concessions does she think the Unionist Parties would want for their support in her scenario?  If anything proves that Ms Mensch has only a superficial understanding of political history then it is her idea that her party by seeking to relive its ‘glorious’, blood soaked Irish adventures would actually make the UK a more harmonious union.  Why do the phrases, same old Tories (Irish outlaws) and divide and rule spring to mind?

One last thing, Ms Mensch, if you had been paying closer attention to the Yes Campaign’s arguments you would have noticed two things, they were not just about the SNP and that Labour does not need its block of Labour MPs to win a majority at Westminster.  For the moment, that prospect is improving as, far from there being a Revolt on the Right in the UK, we now seem to be seeing a Re-alignment on the Right.  Mr Farage is going to give us a PR style General Election, despite your party’s best efforts not to see PR used in General Elections.  After all, was it not you, in your fantasy, who labelled ukip as “Labour’s little helpers”?

I would suggest to Ms Mensch that she spend more time at ground level before blogging further on topics that she only had a rather tenuous grasp of when she was a politics lite, A list Tory MP.  However, I fear that I cannot soar to her heights in order to offer her my bon mots.  I am left to reflect that once upon a time the citizens of New York used to tar and feather Tories, after the citizenry had gained their Independence, of course …

Daily Telegraph Commentator sees opportunity for Tory comeback in Scotland as part of fallout from Referendum vote

Northern Ireland 2010 Election Results

Prime Minister ‘wooing’ Democratic Unionists in case of hung parliament

Cameron plays down ‘wooing’ claims after DUP drinks party

Thatcher Warned Of Climate Change Danger In 1989 #Tories #ukip #ThanetSouth #NigelFarage #CameronMustGo

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I nearly called this post, Ed Miliband and the Tale of Two Speeches.  Any way, here are the two speeches:

‘Forgetting’ the Deficit

We knew Ed Miliband had ‘forgotten’ the deficit, because, as is standard practice, his speech had been given out to the media before hand.  Unsurprisingly, in these days of dumbed down reporting that really was all most people heard about his speech.  And the discussion of that omission, about a topic never out of the media, rolls on, partly due to members of the Labour Party.

Some of those members feel that Labour’s recent poor ratings in a number of opinion polls are down to his forgetfulness and the Mansion Tax, not their own behaviour.  I am assuming those confident the tax has played its part were consulted by the pollsters and, altruistically, responded on behaviour of fellow mansion owners?  After all, surely a grandee deserves to live in a mansion, tax free?

One must not forget, of course, the usual off the record briefings to the right wing press, surmise and fantasising by the same.  Labour got through its conference without its usual dog, split, barking.  Seemingly, some wish to preserve that tradition.  If the Prince over the Water is not David (I want the backing of Tesco at a General Election) Miliband then its Alan Johnson.

Intriguingly, this awkward brigade are ignoring the polls suggesting that Labour will not only win the Heywood and Middleton by election, but with a greater percentage share of the vote than at the General Election in 2010.

Now for the other speech in which policies to counter attack ukip were outlined and to which the awkward brigade should have been listening intently as it gave them something meaty with which to campaign, not in cosy, whinging chats with lobby correspondents, but with prospective Labour voters.

Sticking Two Fingers Up to ukip and the Tories

I am not going to repeat the whole speech verbatim, the link above will allow you to do that and I am not going to focus on what one might term the motherhood and apple pie sections, covered in most of the party leaders’ speeches, in one form or another.  For the record, I do not wholeheartedly agree with all of the speech.  In my book, you cannot call yourself a socialist, if you cannot start an argument with yourself about ideology in an empty room.  The speech was no JFK Inauguration, no Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”, not even Arthur Greenwood’s “Speak for England”.  Ever wondered about how today’s media would have dissected those speeches, if they had been around back then?  However, Ed Miiband did set out Labour’s response to ukip and, their fellow travellers, the Right of the Tory Party.  I want to focus on those pieces of the speech aimed particularly at the centre right, centre and centre left of politics, the place where most of the electorate, most of the time live.  :

“I said earlier that we need to create good jobs at decent wages. To transform our economy. The jobs of the future. So our third national goal is that by 2025, Britain becomes truly a world leader in the green economy, creating one million new jobs as we do. Under this government, we’re falling behind Germany, Japan, the United States and even India and China when it comes to green technologies and services.

There are so many brilliant businesses who are desperate to do their bit but government’s not playing its part. With our plan, we will. This is what we’re going to do.

We’re going to commit to taking all of the carbon out of our electricity by 2030.

We’re going to have a Green Investment Bank with powers to borrow and attract new investment. And as Caroline Flint announced today, we will devolve power and resources to communities so we can insulate 5 million homes over the next ten years.

You see the environment isn’t that fashionable any more in politics as you may have noticed with David Cameron. But it matters. It’s incredibly important for our economy. And there is no more important issue for me when I think about my children’s’ generation and what I can do in politics, than tackling global climate change. Now we need a plan for jobs. We need a plan for wages. We need a plan that is actually going to help the working families of our country.”

The Tories and ukip have no interest in creating that million jobs, no interest in exploiting the potential within the Environmental Business Sector and no interest in tackling climate change so that the world I will pass on to my Great Nephew will at least be the way it was when I was born into it.  Clear blue, purple and yellow water.  Not just that, but a move closer to the position of the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and parts of the Tory Party (the Liberal Tories or Conservatives, if you prefer) and the Liberal Democrats too.  I really do not care if this set of policies lays the foundations for grace and favour arrangements after next May, because this approach is the right one to take, irrespective of party politics.

As an aside, I fail to see why the SNP would not support Labour at Westminster after next May, particularly given the plans the party had to develop the Environmental Business Sector in Scotland after Independence.  Nicola Sturgeon, a canny party leader if I ever saw one, will have a much better hands of cards in a card game with Labour than with the Tories.  In addition, I cannot see her repeating the mistake of 1979 when the SNP played a part in bringing down the minority Labour Government, triggering a General Election.  The SNP went into the lobbies with Mrs Thatcher, then went into the General Election with 11 MPs and came out the other side with only 2 MPs.  The Tory Party remained in power for 18 years and devolution was off the agenda for the same period.  I can well imagine Ms Sturgeon doing her utmost to avoid a similar outcome.  An outcome that would hand the keys of Number 10 to David Cameron, damage the SNP’s future electoral chances and postpone any further chance of more devolution and/or another independence referendum.

Ed Miliband was right, “You see the environment isn’t that fashionable any more in politics” or the media.  I may be a member of the Labour Party, but I think it is a disgrace the way in which the Green Party, the fourth party in UK politics is treated by the media.  The fact is that ukip with its set of attitudes is more interesting than a party with a well defined, rational set of policies.  In a way that is a sort of backhanded compliment to the Green Party.  The Greens have entered the mainstream of politics.

I  mentioned the 1 million jobs to Sunny Hundal via Twitter and he started waffling on about Cameron and a million jobs created over the last four years.  I responded by pointing out that this million jobs have been talked about for over a decade, not just by political parties and the environmental movement, but by hard nosed businessmen and women (not presumably in ukip) salivating at the prospects offered by the opportunities of the Environmental Business Sector.  Sunny, probably did not see my response, but either way he did not come back to me.  Again, Ed Miliband was right, “government’s not playing its part”.  Although it was beginning to do so, prior to the Credit Crunch and might have started to again, particularly through the Regional Development Agencies.  Of course, the RDAs were unnecessary QUARGOs, something else about which ukip and the Tories agree.

Forgive me for thinking that throwing down this gauntlet to the Tories and ukip was more important than going on about the deficit.  The more people there are in work and business, the wider the tax base, the lower the Social Security bill and the more the money to pare down the debt, invest in the NHS and introduce a 10p tax rate.  And paring down the debt means lower interest payments which frees up more money and so on.

“we can insulate 5 million homes over the next ten years” means lower energy bills going forward for the poorest in our society.  I guess if rising energy bills means turning down the thermostat a degree or two then this is really of no interest to you, Nick Robinson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron?  Capping energy prices and Winter Fuel Allowances are a sticking plaster in comparison with increasing energy efficiency and thereby reducing energy usage and as a consequence, bills.

“We’re going to commit to taking all of the carbon out of our electricity by 2030” means more exploitation of renewable energy sources not less and even more energy reduction (through increased efficiency), reuse and recycling.  It means creating new industries; new jobs (many in manufacturing); increasing energy security; reducing brown outs and black outs in many areas, especially rural ones; it means increased trade through exports of knowledge, skills, technology and energy.  We import electricity from France through an inter-connector.  We can easily build more such connections linking the UK and Eire with Europe.  It also means real power to the people not ukip’s recipes for gridlock in local government.  What could be more power to the people than individuals, communities and businesses generating a proportion of their own energy themselves and, in the process sticking two fingers up to the big six energy companies?

Every day, I read stories in the financial pages about countries like China planning major investments particularly in wind and solar.  ukip and the Tories think it is all ‘green crap’.  They are economic Luddites, happy to throw away our chance to be leaders in the Environmental Industrial Revolution on seemingly purely ideological grounds.  Funny, but is that not what they usually accuse the left of doing?  Putting ideology before everything else?

Finally, Cameron and Farage style themselves the heirs of Baroness Thatcher, who in 1988 famously said, “We do not have a freehold on the earth, only a full repairing lease”.  Whilst no lover of the Baroness, Ed Miliband in 2013 said, “Margaret Thatcher was the first political leader in any major country to warn of the dangers of climate change”.  Would Mrs Thatcher, if alive today, be talking about green crap or would that hard nosed woman from Grantham be saying where there is ‘green crap’, there is brass?

“we’ve got to say to business that you’ve got to play your part. If you want to bring in a worker from outside the EU, that’s ok but you must provide apprenticeships to the next generation.”

Notice that?  He said, “from outside the EU”.  No ifs, no buts, no may bes.  Standing up to the Tories and ukip?

 “the Battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley and the black shirts” … “the Ford workers at Dagenham who fought for equal pay to today’s campaigners for the living wage” … “a spirit of internationalism. From those who fought in the Spanish Civil War to our generosity to those overseas.”

The people standing up to fascism; the people fighting and standing up for their rights, often as trades unionists and the people saying yes, it is a far away country of which we know little, but about which we do care and want to do something to help.  How are those sentiments not in direct contrast with those of the Tories and ukip?

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats to give him all his titles was initially a Tory Member of Parliament, then an Independent MP, then a Labour MP and then went off to found first the New Party and then, after a European tour, the the British Union of |Fascists.  Mosley’s relatives, wives and mistresses comprise a chunk of his era’s Who’s Who entries.  He was a toff, who allegedly tried to play that image down, leading a party of Establishment officers and working class other ranks, many uneducated, uncultured and lacking in empathy. Did Ed Miliband almost call Farage and ukip, the heirs of Mosley and the BUF?

He did say Cameron “lies awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom Independence Party. UKIP. That is why he is doing it friends and I say pandering to them is just one more reason why he is not fit to be the Prime Minister of this great country.”

A lot of the advice coming from the likes of Matthew Goodwin is that Labour should pander to that small number of voters it has lost to ukip.  Although they never say it, the implication of their advice is that Labour should tell women, you will have to wait a bit longer, luv, for equal pay; LGBT communities, you left the closet a bit too early for the likes of ukip’s dwindling band of social Luddites; Black and Ethnic Minorities, be content with what you have already got, Rome was not built in a day, you know; those with infirmities and illnesses, some from birth, be thankful for what you get, given you contribute so little to our society and so on.

Can you name a group, at a disadvantage in today’s society, that ukip and the Tories do not think are treated overly fairly at their expense?  In ukip world, without all this ‘political correctness crap’ more white males than now would, according to them, get the opportunities that they deserve, purely on merit.  They fail to see that, by implication, that unrealistic assessment makes them misogynist, racist etc.  If you are born a white male in the UK then you have won the lottery of life before even your umbilical cord has been cut.  Ed Miliband, in declining the advice of some members of the Commentariat, told ukip he fundamentally disagreed them.  He fired an armour piercing round at ukip’s sole, French built tank.

“true to our traditions of internationalism. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Europe and the European Union. Friends, let me say it plainly: our future lies inside not outside the European Union.”

“Do we reform Europe by building alliances or by burning alliances?”

Cameron has “got no chance of fighting for this country. Because people think he’s got one hand on the exit door and his strategy has failed. If you want to reform Europe. If you want to change the way Europe works.”

Do I really need to say anything about those lines?  Apart from the fact that EU regulations and funds are helping to drive forward the Environmental Industrial Revolution and that most business people, for a variety of reasons, want to stay in Europe.

“I’m determined that as Prime Minister, I promote our values all round the world and one of the things that that means friends is seeking a solution to a problem that we know in our hearts is one of the biggest problems our world faces and that is issues in the Middle East and Israel and Palestine.

I tell you, I will fight with every fibre of my being to get the two state solution, two states for two people, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side, that will be a very, very important task of the next Labour government, friends.

There’s one other thing I want to say about what we need to do abroad. You know we have made extraordinary progress on Lesbian and Gay rights over the last twenty years. If I think about the transformation that I have seen growing up into adulthood, the biggest transformation.

We’ve made such progress on equality. But we have to face the fact that internationally things are, if anything, going backwards. We can’t just let that happen. We can’t just say “well, that’s OK”. The next Labour government will fight to make sure that we fight for our values and for human rights all round the world.

So today I can announce that I am appointing Michael Cashman, Lord Cashman, as our envoy on LGBT rights all round the world.”

Again, a Labour leader not conceding any ground to ukip or the Tories.

Let us not forget, of course, that much of this speech gives Rupert (I gave up my nationality to own media interests in the USA) Murdoch the finger too.  I remember a few years ago, reading a piece in The Sun (it had been left on the train) by its Energy Correspondent (yes, really, who knew they had one!).  He was praising the French!  He was enthusing about the fact that most of France’s electricity was generated by nuclear power plants and that sometimes we were importing it via the Channel inter-connector that comes ashore close by Dungeness Nuclear Power Station.  I gather that the inter-connector was built to export electricity from Dungeness to France rather than the other way around.

I would contend that if Labour’s Conference had not soberly responded to Ed Miliband’s speech then the stop watches would have been out to time the choreographed applause, that the party would have been described as being  triumphalist, overly optimistic and/or clapping in the dark to keep its spirits up.  I can also well imagine Nick Robinson gleefully referring to Labour’s (in)famous Sheffield Conference of 1992 when giving his take on Miliband’s speech.

I think this is no time for the Labour Party (or any progressive party in UK politics) to act like Prince Rupert’s Cavaliers.  It is the time to emulate Cromwell’s sober, dedicated to their cause Ironsides, “I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else.  I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.”  There have been Ironsides in my family.  All four of my grandparents fought against fascism in World War Two.  I think I would dishonour their memory if I did not stand up to today’s domestic fascists.

My one Grandad spent 5 years as a prisoner of the Germans.  He did not talk much about it.  However, he did say that he and his mates shared their Red Cross parcels with their guards as those men’s rations became ever more meagre.  Truly, a bayonet is a weapon with a worker at both ends.  My Grandad also said he did not blame the German people for what he went through.  I am not sure if he styled himself a socialist, but each giving according to their means and receiving according to their needs and his empathy are quite a good definition of socialism.  And Grandad went back to Germany and Poland quite a few times when he retired.

We, the centre right, centre and centre left face a challenge to our society as it is today and an even greater challenge to how we want to see it develop in the future.  The Devil may have the best tunes.  “Fings Ain’t What They Used To Be” is quite catchy, but we know the past is another country, that they do things differently there and that, in many ways, the past is no template for our society today or in the the future.

“These are the times that try men’s” (and women’s) “souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he” (or she) “that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” (Thomas Paine).  If Labour’s summer soldiers and sunshine patriots are not up for the fight then would they please quit the field?  Those of us remaining would welcome the elbow room they would free up by doing so.