#DWP #WOW To Use Fraud Staff To Harass People Off #ESA In #Birmingham #IDS


An informed source within the geographical area of DWP, wherein I used to work, recently informed me that fraud staff were being redeployed to conduct robust interviews with people claiming Employment and Support Allowance.

Yesterday, I was Tweeted a link to this website and specifically this post:

“DWP management target disabled  benefit claimants.

Over the next 24 hours DWP management will ‘invite’ close on 2,000 benefit claimants from Birmingham to attend interviews, with a goal of getting at least 10% off the benefit register.

The group of benefit claimants being targeted are in the majority waiting for assessments to decide if they are able to be deemed ‘fit for work’. (The assessment formerly and controversially run by ATOS). Those waiting assessments are often disabled or vulnerable adults.

The ‘invitation’ letter issued makes no suggestion that the attendance to these interviews is purely voluntary, indeed DWP staff in Birmingham (and Central England) have been advised verbally and by email from management to keep it to themselves that attendance to these interviews is not mandatory. One manager in a city based office was overheard saying that the way to deal with these claimants is to ‘hassle, hassle them off benefit’.

Andrew Lloyd, PCS Midlands regional secretary that represents DWP staff said, “It is outrageous that the DWP are duping the most vulnerable by issuing this letter, and then worse still setting a target to get those off benefits, it could be argued that this approach is unlawful. Our members are totally opposed to this approach but are faced with inferred disciplinary action unless they act upon these targets.”

[Press Release from PCS Union on 14th November 2014]”

Where did I use to work?  Birmingham!


Does #MichaelWhite, #Guardian Know What Grown-up Migration Debate Would Look Like? #RochesterandStrood


“Downing Street is seeking to respond to the threat from the right from Ukip.  But Cameron also wants to show Tory Eurosceptics he is serious about reform.  They have said in recent weeks that the plan to crack down on benefit tourism showed No 10 was not serious about introducing major reforms because there is relatively little evidence of benefit abuse by EU citizens.”

Barroso warns Cameron that arbitrary migration cap would breach EU law

(Guardian, Sunday 19th October, 2014)

Michael White of the Guardian thinks thatPaul Collier, a distinguished Oxford professor of public policy, a weighty, progressive intellectual of international repute, author of Exodus,” “has thought about” migration “harder than most of us.”

White refers to this article by Collier as an example of Collier’s weighty pondering.  Pondering that at one point refers to assimilation and at a later point, integration.  White may be unaware that these are two very different concepts, not in any way interchangeable and that assimilation is something for which the BNP calls and which, since Doncaster (see ‘Culture’), ukip is demanding too.  I would expect Collier to know the difference and know just how inflammatory calls for assimilation happen to be.

When it come to attitudes towards Social Security, Collier says, “As to diversity, it involves a trade-off: as it increases, variety is enhanced but cohesion reduced.  Variety is good but, unfortunately, as cohesion erodes voters become less willing to support generous welfare programmes.

There is a universal psychological tendency for inconvenient truths to be denigrated, and this is certainly inconvenient for the left. But it is not speculation: I describe some of the supporting research in my book Exodus, and rigorous new experimental research by the Oxford political scientists Sergi Pardos and Jordi Muñoz finds that immigration has just this effect, especially on benefits that are targeted at the poor.”

Firstly, when was there a time in the last forty years or so that the United Kingdom has had “generous welfare programmes”?  Moreover, this is not the United States of America, we do not have welfare programmes.  The word programme is used in the UK in connection with back to work support, for example the fatally flawed Work Programme.

Secondly, attitude surveys going back 30 yerars show that voters have, starting then, become less tolerant of recipients of what many, like the Daily Mail, parts of ukip and IDS, believe to be generous welfare hand outs.  Bizarrely, some of those holding those views are themselves long term beneficiaries of Social Security.  Was there a lot of (im)migration going on in the early 1980s or was Mrs Thatcher ramping up the rhetoric against people signing on?

Thirdly, where is this law of nature that says as diversity increases, variety is enhanced, but cohesion reduced?  Does that not suppose that there was cohesion at the outset?  For the record, for reasons more than simply their discriminatory attitudes, me and mine have precious little in common with ukip’s supporters, except where we were born.  We would, regardless of their views about migration and their attidudes towards the presence of locally born ‘foreigners’, still not be cohering with this group.  We are, for example, opposed to foxhunting.  Bearing the latter in mind, may I observe that I find ukip’s support, from top to bottom, to be unspeakable?  They are a pack of economic and social Luddites.  Let me be frank, I find it hard not to think about them, in the way that they think about migrants, as much as I try not so to do.

As an aside, are migrants from other European Union countries remaining in the United Kingdom indefinitely?  We are using the words, migration and immigration, as meaning the same thing, but an immigrant is someone who arrives with the intention of staying.  Surely we should be using migrant to describe people who behave like migratory birds do?  Surely that is surely a grown up way to debate this issue?  Collier, as shown above, uses the word immigration.  Migrant is, in the mouths of some, becoming anyone who is not white British, period.

White says that, “Unlike most of us, Collier even has a practical remedy for David Cameron as he makes a poor fist of trying to slow down inward migration from Eastern Europe without overtaking Angela Merkel’s patience or the limited imagination of rules-bound Brussels apparatchiks. As another Labour MP whispered to me during the Eastleigh by-election, one reason why would-be migrants of the poorer kind risk freezing at Calais is that Britain’s welfare payments are not all determined by past contributions: “We could change that without EU permission.” ” Collier actually says, “Perhaps it is that, unlike in the rest of Europe, access to our welfare system is not determined by past contributions.”  in other words, Collier has no evidence for his ‘solution’, but White turns it into one!

We may, of course, change how one becomes eligible for Social Security payments without EU permission.  The Coalition started a major round of doing just that on coming to power.  Those changes apply to all seeking to claim, regardless of country of origin.  One might think that Collier and White (sounds like a 1950s department store) had not heard of Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit.

White should perhaps check Collier’s weighty article of 16th March, 2012, “My fiscal nightmares” wherein Collier says, “A prudent government protects the balance sheet while running a large fiscal deficit. It does so by drastically changing the composition of public spending. Public consumption is massively reduced, concentrating on components that commit spending far into the future. The top priority is therefore to reduce entitlement spending: benefits and pensions.”

Is the current debate providing Collier with cover for arguing again for his top priority?  Collier also buys into the idea that the UK faced, in 2012, the same position as Greece.  I beg to differ and I have got Robert Skidelsky, Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University and the author of the definitive biography of John Maynard Keynes, on my side:

“The national debt is a burden on future generations: This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious. The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.

But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations. Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred. They will be worse off. But you will be better off. This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.

The principle is exactly the same when the holders of the national debt are foreigners (as with Greece), though the political opposition to repayment will be much greater.”

Post-crash economics: some common fallacies about austerity

As we hold our own debt, we have a vested interest in not calling it in lest we bring down our economy, down around our ears.  I am assuming Collier is not necessarily a Keynesian when it comes to National Debt?

Whatever else Collier may be, he seems to know as much about Social Security systems both here and elsewhere in Europe as the Mayor of Calais.  You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or if you are already living abroad.  What you’re entitled to depends on where you are going and how long for.  This is where you, as a United Kingdom citizen, can claim benefits:

European Economic Area (EEA) countries

The following countries have benefits arrangements with the UK:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Switzerland is not a member of the EEA but is treated as an EEA country for certain benefits.

Other countries with UK benefits arrangements

The following countries have social security agreements with the UK:

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Canada
  • Channel Islands
  • Macedonia
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Kosovo
  • Mauritius
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • the Philippines
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • USA

Let us not forget moving or retiring abroad and, of course that you have the right to live and work in any European Economic Area (EEA) country, if you are a UK citizen.

For the record, Collier and White, no one is assessed for entitlement to tax credits on the basis of National Insurance Contributions, regardless of where they come from within the EEA, including the UK.

I have already written in some depth about the Social Security contributory principle here so please treat that post as an addendum to this one.  I would add that making changes to our own systems in order to seek to deny non contributory Social Security to migrants would be costly, particularly if the aim were to run, for example, three types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution Based, Income Based and Migrant Income/Contribution Based) alongside each other.  There would be even greater potential for under and over payments and, arguably more potential for fraud amongst people receiving MICB JSA.  Not forgetting, of course, that JSAPS and ESAPs are sinking as Universal Credit grinds to a halt on the slipway.

I have spoken to Michael White via Twitter about means testing the free bus passes for old people.  He was waxing lyrical about means testing entitlement to the pass saving money, apart from the fact he had no evidence from a Social and Economic Cost Benefit Allowance to prove his point, he was blithely unaware of the costs involved in means testing.  Costs that would have to be offset against any savings.  He nearly went all Mcvey over me, along the lines of when she said that, although the bedroom tax was not saving money, it was a matter of principle to carry on with it.

Collier says, “The economic consequences of a” migration “pause would be negligible as long as students were exempted.”  Unsurprisingly, someone nestling in the groves of academe does not want those groves denied of any income, whether home grown or from abroad.  Good to see though that Collier, like I, value students from abroad studying here, but I expect that we will reap significant benefits from their, hopefully, happy time here at some future date and not in the here and now.  Where is Collier’s evidence, given his concern with the here and now, that migrant students are a benefit to UK plc whilst studying here? More of a benefit, say, than migrants working and paying Income Tax and National Insurance whilst they work here?

Also, I have news for Collier and White, there is, once again, a skills shortage in the construction industry:

Bricklayers’ boom highlights ‘skills timebomb’ in UK construction industry

SMEs: is enough being done to tackle the UK’s skills shortage?

Skills shortage fears temper surge in UK construction

Construction sector skills shortage blamed for holding back housebuilding

Kipper Williams on the construction skills shortage

I would like to make a couple of points with regards to the first two articles.  “As builders take on new work, a shortage of skilled tradespeople has allowed subcontractors to ramp up their hourly rates” (first article).  The Polish plumber and his friend, the bricklayer will be stepping in to take up some of the slack, one presumes.  A colleague of mine in the mid 2000s had an uncle working in the building industry in the east of England.  His relative said that the British bricklayers were good, they could put up a brick wall, leaving a space for a gate, perfectly well.  The Poles were better, they could build a brick arch over the gap between the two walls.  The British had been trained by the UK taxpayer to NVQ2 and the poles to NVQ3 by the Polish taxpayer.

Did ukip have to import that out of work Irish actor to appear in a poster, posing as a bricklayer, because British bricklayers did not share ukip’s stance and/or were too busy?  If you are a bricklayer and out of work at this time may I suggest, tactfully, that it is because no one thinks you are employable?  Moreover, that if there were no migrants you would still be at the back of the queue? I would go so far as to say that there is an overlap between that tiny minority of UK residents defrauding the UK Social Security system and ukip’s unemployed supporters.  They have been presenting themselves at the door during party canvassing exercises in the same way they used to down at the Jobcentre.  We know who you are, chaps, because some of you are the real (not Daily Mail) scroungers we used to sanction back in the day.  There is a certain irony in that ukip, one group of whose supporters favour going further thah IDS, is being supported by another group that would be the main target of their version of the War on Welfare!

Colier says, “It would be salutary for business to find that it had to train the existing workforce rather than poach trained workers from poorer countries: what is good for business is not necessarily good for the rest of us.”  Good to know he remembers some basic labour market economics, except British companies have a century old tradition (pre dating our entry into the EU) of poaching from each other.  In addition, Enoch Powell, when Minister of Health in the late 1950s was actively recruiting medical staff from the Caribbean to work in the NHS.  And, London Transport recruited Afro-Caribbean people to work on the Underground and the buses.

Amusingly, Collier, desirous of reducing migration to save the public finances, forgets that too often employers expect the taxpayer to train their existing workforce.  Meanwhile, whilst we await the Second Coming of Learning and Development and many British companies renouncing their devotion to ‘tried and tested’ Anglo Saxon business methods, the cost of building projects, many funded by the taxpayer will rise and rise.  And that is without factoring in the labour market impact of major construction projects like HS2.  And, every time we go into a recession, the first thing businesses usually cut is their learning and development budgets.

“The skills shortage problem is not unique to the UK.  Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, John Allan, says, “Many businesses across Europe are struggling to fill vacancies with appropriately trained staff.  The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work.” ” (second article).  Translation, there are increasing  job opportunities opening up for UK residents elsewhere in the EEA.  As an aside, I must find the Guardian article, wherein a careers adviser of 30 year’s standing remarked that employers at the start of his career had been saying, “The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work!”  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, Collier and White?

Michael, I am up for a grown-up debate on migration.  May be we may have one when you stop throwing out lines like, “Neither the right’s “crowding out” complaint about competition for low-skilled jobs (my Labour friend’s complaint too), nor the left’s “good for growth and tax receipts” scenario – shared by the City and big business – has much real evidence to support it.”  Comment is free, but facts are sacred, but not to the point where they must never be deployed, surely?  Where is your evidence to disprove either or both assertions?

Back in 2005, well before all this talk of swamping kicked in, there were 600 Cuban nurses working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Why?  Because of the demographic time bomb.  An aging population means an aging workforce.  ukip’s pensioner supporters are going to need to accept the fact that a migrant may be the only person available to clean up their sick in their care home? We are not talking about people elbowing others out of the way for jobs.  After all, migrants are rarely of pension age so they will in part compensate for the fall in the number of people in the working age population and, by paying tax, contribute towards the cost of the pensions of elderly people, including ukip supporting pensioners.

Collier of course says, “There is a good case for confronting their delusions and racism, and countering the misleading drizzle of anti-immigrant anecdotes, but this would not make them accepting of continued high immigration.”  How about, no migrant, no pension?  I think that might be the kind of sound bite that would hit home on the doorstep.

I was at a meeting with the QE Human Resources staff about six or so years ago.  A senior nurse recruiter said we have projected that very soon the NHS will need to recruit 50% of all school leavers to maintain its current staffing level.  Recessions come, recessions go and demographic changes remain relatively unaffected.  Of coursed, tightening public sector pension entitlement and raising the state pension age may go some way to responding to this issue.  however, actuaries have predicted that for every year working over 60, teachers reduce their life expectancy.  If they retire at 65 they run a significant risk of dying within a year.  I suspect neither Collier nor White expect to find themselves working to a point where it affects their life expectancy in such a dramatic way.

Michael, Collier is proposing that we engage in managing decline rather than take advantage of the benefits to UK plc of exploiting the opportunities presented by free movement of labour.  Opportunities for jobseekers happy to work abroad and vice versa.

By the way, Michael, that graduate you mentioned herein, “At one point in those 17 years a Labour MP, now dead, said to me: ”How can my young, unskilled constituents hope to compete for jobs with bilingual and highly-motivated foreign graduates?” It was a good point and I think of it every time I buy a beer or a coffee from one of those young graduates.”  Was he or she fluent in English?  Does it follow that he or she is at least bilingual?  That lots of tourists come to London (and Birmingham) and that having skilled, versatile staff who speak good English is good for the tourist industry (and UK plc)?  And if tourism spend increases then jobs growth results?  Have either you or Collier heard of the Multiplier Effect (see page 58)?  Incidentally, I am a Treasury standard Green Book Appraiser.

Might it not be a bad idea, if we helped “those (stereotypical) young, unskilled constituents to learn” a few other languages so they might look for work elsewhere in the EU?  Also, Michael, most employers do not look for vocational qualifications before recruiting so perhaps we should not be so quick to describe these stereotypes as lacking in soft skills?  And while we are on the subject of Europe, business and jobs why not read this post.

May be I am getting a bit cynical, but Paul Collier seems to be setting out to follow the trail blazed by Goodwin and Ford of Revolt on the Right Fame.  What they know about psephology and political campaigning, he seems to know about labour market economics and the UK Social Security system, but they are still making a mint out of ukip (and migration).  Migration is certainly improving the income of some people!

ukip Out To Worsen Conditions Of Temporary (Farm) Workers!

Migrants Price Local People Out Of Agricultural Jobs?

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


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.