Why is the Tory Government Hammering Green Industry?

GREEN TORIES? IS THERE SUCH A PHENOMENON?

sunWhy is this government so intent in trying to destroy the planet? There is no logical reason for their energy policies.  While they are heavily subsidising fracking against scientific advice, they have made massive cuts to the budget for renewables. Blatantly, rather than ‘the greenest’, husky-hugging government ever; they are certainly behaving like the most foolish, selfish  government in living memory – if not ever.

Renewable UK’s Director of Policy, Dr Gordon Edge, said: “We’re suddenly looking at a substantial amount of lost income for clean energy companies which was totally unexpected. “The Government had already announced an end to future financial support for onshore wind – even though it’s the most cost-effective form of clean energy we have. Now they’re imposing retrospective cuts on projects already up and running across the entire clean energy sector.”   Osborne is intent on increasing taxes on renewable energy generation.

RE tax jpeg

Margaret Thatcher’s government cut back manufacturing industries  in the 1980s leading to soaring unemployment, an industrial wasteland and an economy which became over dependant on financial services.

Now, with signs of unemployment on the rise again, the Conservative government are  proposing to slash the feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic solar panels, (PV),  rather than looking forwards and investing in modern, green technology, and renewables.  It is highly likely that this will result in the end of the solar panel industry, which was expanding when it came to power in 2010. Introduced by Ed Miliband, this  was a sound policy, both on environmental and economic grounds.

The government wants to slash by 87% subsidies for householders who install solar panels on their rooftops, in a move that renewable energy experts warn could kill off a promising industry.

The potential reductions in the level of feed-in tariff (FIT), contained in a long-awaited consultation document released by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (Decc), and are far larger than expected.

The assault on solar power comes after ministerial decisions to remove financial aid from new onshore wind farms and slash home energy efficiency measures. There is even speculation that Decc could be wound up as a standalone department.

The technology is available to provide one million green, sustainable jobs, as Jeremy Corbyn says. We should be investing in the future, expanding this industry, not looking backwards, endangering the planet in the meantime. There is some irony in that it was Thatcher closing down the mines, while Osborne is attacking the green alternative. The Labour Party’s heritage may have been built on coal but the 21st Century’s future is renewable. ‘Coal was our heritage, green is our future‘ We can’t go back to coal. We don’t need to. The future is renewable.

The government’s attack on renewable energy and green industry is obsessive, illogical and unfair.

The Chancellor’s £3.9 billion tax on renewable energy generators “is a punitive measure for the clean energy sector – another example of this Government’s unfair, illogical and obsessive attacks on renewables.” As Alasdair Cameron writes, “The Chancellor has just effectively put a carbon tax on carbon free electricity, which will mean fewer renewables and more uncertainty for the industry.”

Renewable electricity will no longer be exempt from the Climate Change Levy – even though the tax is meant to encourage businesses to “operate in a more environmentally friendly way.” So why would a renewable energy generator not qualify?

This  government’s record on the environment is shocking.

In summary: To date they have:

The irony is not lost – where Thatcher closed down the mines, Osborne and Cameron are closing down green industries. The attack on sustainable industry, like Thatcher’s attack, is ideological – not logical. While the evidence is set against them, the Tories have either lied or omitted to present a true picture.

GREEN LIES ? WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? AND WHY?

Against all advice, the government stubbornly refuses to change its policy – on Hinkley Point:  Evidence of the disaster in Fukishima should have signalled an end to nuclear power as in France. Plans for Britain’s first nuclear reactor in almost 30 years have now come under sustained attack from politicians and City bankers.

Yet,  David Cameron is expected to sign a final deal in October during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK; the Chinese are big backers of the project.”

“Renewable is too expensive.”

But,  No – solar has won this argument. The coal based power cannot compete on economic terms. Meanwhile  the £25,000,000 Hinkley Point expansion has been criticised by a bank as ‘becoming difficult to justify.’ As The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is saying, the fossil industry faces a political and technological storm and even the IMF is saying we cannot afford the economic wastage of fossil fuels.

“Fracking and Gas are viable alternative to Coal”

A Nature report  dispels the myth that carbon emissions are reduced by fracking or gas. “Global deployment of advanced natural gas production technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050”, McJeon says.
“The high hopes have been misguided” – market effects dominate.This might eventually lead to up to ten percent higher CO2 emissions by the middle of our century instead of lowering CO2 emissions.  Our article, “Corrupt to the fracking core” considers the reasons for the disinformation. Lo and behold there are vested interests at stake. Scandals abound among the toxic Conservative  Party. Lobbyists have persuaded politicians to invest in their schemes of fracking , and it’s not panning out as anticipated. The Guardian’s report of “Libor-like” manipulation of gas prices indicates the dice  are loaded.

“It’s not sunny enough in the UK”

IMG_0816PV panels were installed on my roof in 2012, on the very day which the Coalition government decided to cut the incentivising feed-in-tariff, and the tariff and energy savings have already half-paid for the installation. This graph shows  the energy produced in one day in March – the dip is because there happened to be a partial eclipse of the sun that morning. Imagine the energy which could be produced if these panels were on every public building. There are even roof tiles which can act as photovoltaic cells and recently even completely transparent ones which could be put in our window frames, making  every window a power source. Batteries have been developed which store energy produced by such systems.

But it’s not about sunniness. Because, even in sunny Australia, they are trying to discourage solar, while 15% of houses have panels, the PM Abbot government is banning investment in solar and wind power. It seems like a suicide note for the politician and the planet.  The sun is the most underused resource we have.

It’s about propping up a neoliberal world economy which is corrupt, flawed, and about to go bust. Like fossil fuels, the global economy is unsustainable. The super competitive world of the smash-and-grab society does not work.

The powers-that-be are starting to panic. Perhaps it is  lack of scientists in parliament, due to the predominance of careerists PPE graduates  – at least Thatcher was a chemist.  Denial of what is scientifically obvious and proven is very foolish, and sure to be the Tories’ undoing.

One has to wonder at the reason, but someone seems to have gambled on the wrong horse, and seems set to doctor all the others.

The New York Times writes on the ugly truth of horse racing  “There are essentially three types of people in horse racing. There are the crooks who dangerously drug or otherwise abuse their horses, or who countenance such conduct from their agents, and who then dare the industry to come catch them. Then there are the dupes who labor under the fantasy that the sport is broadly fair and honest. And there are those masses in the middle—neither naive nor cheaters but rather honorable souls—who know the industry is more crooked than it ought to be but who still don’t do all they can to fix the problem.”

And that to me, represents the mess that is our political system. There is an intrinsic flaw in an economic system based on competitive forces, where gaining an advantage over others is the aim. In the end, no one gets away with the pretence and the lies. The ugly truth is out.

We need a government which is not frightened to make that change. We need an economy which will put people before banks. We need politicians to face up to the damage caused to climate change, and policies to address it. Jeremy Corbyn’s Environment Manifesto

We need twenty-first century economics, not Victorian ones. Let us have those one million jobs in green industries in the UK. Let us have democratic monitoring and control of our energy, transport and utilities.  Let us have  a sustainable world, and a planned economy and not leave a mess for our grandchildren.

  1. Supported cut in solar Feed-in-Tariff
  2. UK Scraps Carbon-Free Green Homes Plan
  3. Sell off of Green Investment Bank
  4. Scrapped Plans for Off shore Wind
  5. Fracking U-Turn in wild-life sites
  6. Renewable Energy Taxes to be increased (Business Green) 
  7. Abandoned Biomass Subsidies
  8. Touchstone Blog Osborne’s 3.9 Billion Tax on Green Power
  9. Government overhauling green car tax
  10. Hinkley Point -nuclear white elephant
  11. Bank hits out at Hinkley Point too expensive to justify
  12. Australian PM bans wind and power investment
  13. Jeremy Corbyn’s Environment Manifesto
  14. The fully transparent solar cell
  15. UK Opposes new EU waste recycling in leaked paper
  16. Guardian 9 Green policies Killed off by Tories 
  17. GLabCWarrany: Green Deal and 8  Policies dropped by Government
  18. Touchstone Blog: Budget Afterhsock Osbornes’s 3.9 Billion on Green Power
  19. Coal was our Heritage, Green is our Future
  20. Britain Under Siege
  21. They are Corrupt to the Fracking Core
  22. SCANDAL: There’s another toxic plot in the Conservative Party
  23. Naomi Klein on Capitalism and Climate Change

When resistance is futile, make like the Borg..?

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When resistance if futile, make like the Borg..?

Previously published here by julijuxtaposed

Protest is a call to stop.  It says hang on a minute…  It is not the end goal but the means by which objection to an existing goal is expressed.  The purpose of protest is to challenge; to oppose intention and policy in practise.  It’s the main job of the Official Opposition.  And while it protests, it is supposed to say why and argue for what it prefers.  In doing so, it both attempts to modify or get dismissed those government policies it sees as detrimental to the public and sets out its own stall, honing its narrative, over a Parliament, in hopes of persuading the electorate to vote for their vision, next time.  This should not be cast as a futile power and a democratic irrelevance.

Defiance is to be in a state of resistance.  When protest fails, whether by the organised acts of the electorate, by dissenting individuals or by the official governmental opposition (yes, I know that’s been almost entirely theoretical, these last years) and purchase cannot be found on change in attitude and direction, there are two basic outcomes: either defiance or acquiescence.

A lot of people would appear to prefer acquiescence, quite irrespective of desire, social justice and even evidence.  A great many of Labour’s elder statesmen, considered political ‘heavyweights’, convey little more than the cold embers of their once-held passions and in ways that seem far in excess of a natural tempering.  They are afforded gravitas because they are considered wise by experience and hindsight but they sound tired, defensive and full of cautionary tales that reveal more about their own sense of impotence and the climate in which they worked than about the enduring merits or mistakes in their youthful arguments.  They tried, they say.  It didn’t work, they say.  They learned, they say.  They adapted, they say.  Whatever the strategic need they sensed for a more pragmatic approach, this once great beast of a party simply diluted and diluted its principles concertedly and for long after it was becoming markedly detrimental to them, the country and, if you ask around, a lot of the rest of the world, too.  From here, as a middle-aged woman in the 21st Century, it looks like they mostly compromised their basic socio-economic ethos to flatter a seriously flawed prescription and proceeded to emulate it by increments that masked their own dysmorphia, even from themselves.  They modified their philosophy until it fitted so well that they didn’t know if they were assimilating or designing.  They adapted by surrendering, really.  Poachers into gamekeepers.

But an increasing portion of the electorate is, mercifully, becoming defiant on its own behalf and not as petulant teenagers or anarchists, as the mainstream commentariat would like to infer.  It comes from those who have always resisted the narrative that insists that competition and choice are everything; that public interest and prosperity must be sacrificed on the altar of profit by exploitation of resources (including people).  It comes from those who gave the neocon bandwagon a fair shot but, whether they did well by it or not, can see and would halt the injustice and instability of this asymmetrical power that wills to plunder and disrespect Life.  And it comes from the impulse of a new generation, towards a more ethical, sustainable alternative because it feels, within its whole psyche, that Life should and could be much better than the status quo can imagine.

A Society that acquiesces to the entropic neocolonialism being forced upon it demeans itself.  Defiance in the face of a prevailing and overwhelming socio-political ignorance is healthy.  It would be a human tragedy not to protest.  It will take as long as it takes.

Neoliberal TINA Economics is Flat Earth thinking

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By Prue Plumridge

Belief in a flat Earth is found in the oldest writings and early Mesopotamian maps showed the world as a flat disk floating in the ocean.  Thankfully things have moved on since that time and we now accept the proof that it is indeed a sphere spinning in space.

It is not difficult to imagine the reaction to those who challenged this view, such as Christopher Columbus, and the scepticism with which such ideas would have initially been received.  After all, if you’ve been told that you’ll fall off the edge of the world if you go too far, questioning that notion would have led to shaking of heads.  Those disputing the prevailing set of ideas or beliefs on the basis of “what if” would have been ridiculed, insulted or even physically attacked as fear of the new set in.

We have reached such a time in history now.  The destructive neoliberal status quo of the last few decades is being shaken to its core and there is an opportunity at last for a conversation about where we go from here and how we can bring about change.  It won’t be easy but Jeremy Corbyn has started the ball rolling by offering a radical vision which not only restores the core values of the Labour party and responds to a changing world but also opens up an opportunity for dialogue on such issues as climate change, finite resources and sustainable living.  It is a positive start.

Of course, those who have the most to lose will not let their power go easily and we are seeing that already with attacks on Jeremy Corbyn by the Establishment and business leaders and worse still, from his own party.  Only this week, an article in the Telegraph was predicting that Jeremy Corbyn’s economic plans will turn us into Zimbabwe and lead us to calamity.   We must, however, stand strong against such attacks which stem from fear and forge our future together.

People are starting to see through the decades long political neoliberal consensus which favours the magic of free markets.  But there is still a way to go and it won’t be easy.  It is vital that we ask questions and, even when, like the flat earthers, we find the potential solutions out of our comfort zone because it questions the long-accepted paradigm, we must not turn away.

Most people (including me) shy away from discussion of economics.  Mathematical equations and economic models dance before the eyes and shut down the brain like no other subject.  And yet the decisions made by our elected politicians are based on economic ideas which can wreak havoc on our lives and the lives of our families and friends or can, alternatively, be used for a public purpose to benefit those same lives.  Indeed, we are seeing the damaging consequences of those decisions today.  Dismantling our social security system, selling our publically funded public services to the private sector, deregulation, the watering down of employment and trade union rights and driving down of wages in the name of competition.  TTIP, TISA and CETA added into this mix will prove to be the final nail in the coffin of democracy.  It is, therefore, time to engage in a conversation and challenge those who have deceived us for so long.  We must ask ourselves what if the world isn’t flat at all?

Maggie Thatcher’s line “There is no alternative” is the usual excuse for continuing with the free-market ideology and the claim that continued austerity, balanced budgets and surpluses are vital to a successful economy.  We will all remember Liam Byrne’s infamous note, when Labour left power, saying ‘There is no money’.  That one stupid remark has allowed the deficit/debt reduction argument to dominate the economic and political landscape of the last five years and been used by David Cameron and George Osborne in a deliberate distortion of reality to justify cuts, the creation of a small state and private sector domination.

It is unfortunate that even some of the Labour elites are using the same loaded language which says that we must continue with such policies. Yvette Cooper, who has a PPE from Baliol College at Oxford, said recently “I don’t think the answer is what Jeremy has proposed, which is basically printing money that we haven’t got to build things”.  Her comment is symptomatic of her lack of grasp of wider economic ideas and yet, she, like many, has been a victim of the way it has been taught for decades in educational institutions. One might think that the doctrine of balanced budgets was the only game in town.

Regretfully, these ideas have been cleverly used to also deceive ordinary people that there is no alternative.  That we must accept the pain and balance our budgets in true Micawber style. The idea that the state should deal with the deficit and reduce the national debt has become a part of the narrative which is firmly fixed in the collective psyche. The problem has been reinforced by our experience of our own household budget which has to be managed to ensure we don’t go into the red or get into debt.

The first step is to ask questions. Don’t rule anything in or out – the world is a complex place much more so than even this simple presentation.

Most of us will remember from our history lessons, the 1929 crash.  The UK government’s response at the time was to balance the budget and re-establish confidence in the pound.  Public sector wages and unemployment benefits were cut and by 1931 unemployment had risen to almost three million. The march to London by the men of Jarrow is a symbol of that economic disaster which left thousands of people destitute and hungry.

One of the people who challenged that view was John Maynard Keynes who was fiercely critical of the then Conservative-Liberal coalition government’s austerity budget and wrote:

‘Every person in this country of super-asinine propensities, everyone who hates social progress and loves deflation, feels that his hour has come and triumphantly announces how, by refraining from every sort of economic activity, we can become prosperous again.” 

 

It is ironic, that when the coalition came to power in 2010, they chose to repeat an economic policy that had so singularly failed in the 1920s and 30s, and the Conservatives are promising more of the same over the next five years.

‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results’   Albert Einstein is once said to have observed.  But then one could ask the question is it insanity or a deliberate strategy?

To return to Keynes, his argument was, essentially, that in order to support full employment governments must use their spending power to invest in the economy on the basis that spending equals income to someone which is, after all, what makes the world go round. So when governments reduce public spending the result can only be higher unemployment.  Indeed in the last week we have learned that for the financial year so far the deficit was down £7.3bn (23%) but in the three months to June there was a rise of 25000 in unemployment.  To make the connections if we stifle spending to reduce the deficit then this can only have a detrimental effect on the economy by reducing the amount of money available to the non-government sector.

So where, may you ask, will the money come from to deficit spend?  When Yvette Cooper suggested wrongly as it happens that we can’t print money that we haven’t got to build things she was forgetting that electronic monetary resources were created to rescue the banking system in the form of Quantitative Easing which no-one objected to then, even though, basically, it disappeared into a big banking black hole.

Jeremy Corbyn’s People’s QE is quite another kettle of fish and this time those money resources would be used for public purpose that is for the benefit and well-being of society as a whole and not just a small section of it.  To put that clearly in the words of Professor Bill Mitchell:

“People would soon see the benefits in the form of better schools, hospitals, public transport, green energy innovations, more jobs, more diverse cultural events”

The response to these ideas has been one of panic-stricken hysteria, as emotive language such as ‘debt mountain’ is used by politicians and the media to scare the general public, by reinforcing the household budget model of our state finances and economy.  Let’s not forget the irony here that George Osborne has managed to achieve a debt mountain all of his own!

Professor Bill Mitchell’s conclusion should reassure the public:

PQE is an excellent strategy for the British government to introduce. It exploits the currency-issuing capacity of the government directly and uses it to increase the potential of the economy to improve well-being.

It is astonishing to realise that contrary to common belief sovereign governments start the ball rolling by issuing money, tax revenues are not necessary for a government to spend and that our national debt is not a debt in the usual sense of the word.

So, I can hear you ask:  what then is the purpose of tax?  I’ve heard that ‘printing money’ is inflationary?  And say that again our national debt is not a debt at all?

We must start with the first principle which is that, since the abandonment of the gold standard, sovereign governments like ours can issue as much money as it needs. Remember the money issued comes first, and not taxes.  This is a key point.  Without money in our pockets we can’t pay taxes anyway.

Beardsley Rumi former Chairman of the Federal Reserve wrote as long ago as 1946:

… given control of a central banking system and an inconvertible currency, a sovereign national government is finally free of money worries and need no longer levy taxes for the purpose of providing itself with revenue. All taxation, therefore should be regarded from the point of view of social and economic consequences.

What this actually means is that tax, far from being a revenue raiser, is a mechanism for what we can call public purpose meaning, for example, redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.  It also has the function of managing inflation by raising taxes to dampen demand, or reducing them to increase it.

Secondly, money issue by a sovereign state is not, in itself, inflationary. Politicians parading as prophets of doom are warning us that ‘printing money’ will cause inflation.  In an effort to scare people, we are reminded of Germany’s hyperinflation after the First World War or Zimbabwe’s in the 1990s.  In both cases, the truth of the matter is that these episodes could not be described in any way as normal – they were extreme events and not remotely like the situation in the UK or the US.  Of course in Germany’s case, the imposition of huge reparations in gold under the Versailles Treaty, the loss of 25% of its industrial capacity as a result of the war and then the occupation of the Ruhr when Germany defaulted forced them to increase the money supply which did not match its supply capacity.  So when exports then slowed and Germany could not continue to pay back its debts it led to the hyperinflation which was to have catastrophic consequences for the German nation both in the short and long term.

And herein lies the clue, if you keep on spending and can’t produce the goods to meet that spending, you’ll get inflation  Spending with no regard to whether there are enough resources to match it, is the cause of inflation not the money issue in itself.  So deficit spending is not the problem.  The issue is whether we have the resources to justify the spending and if we have, how we can use them effectively for the benefit of society as a whole.

We have almost two million people without jobs. People whose talents remain unused.  People who want to work despite the inference by government and irresponsible media that the unemployed are lazy and feckless which has become the prevalent myth, now accepted by the public as being true. The solution therefore is to invest in building new schools, hospitals, homes and green infrastructure as well as create real job opportunities so that people can make a positive contribution not only to their own well-being but that of their communities. Remember that spending equals income to someone, and so by using the resources we have, effectively and fairly, we can improve the lives of all. The deficit will only be a problem when all available resources are being used. And we are most certainly not in this position at the moment.

And this brings me, finally, to the notion of the national debt.  If, as is noted above, sovereign governments can issue money then it begs the question why do we have to borrow?  Well the reality is that we don’t.  Sovereign governments don’t need to issue debt. The real game is about corporate welfare as Treasuries and Bonds are sold to big investors who want a nice safe, risk free place to stash their money and get a guaranteed income flow.  Much like us when we transfer money from our current bank account to a savings account.   Where governments are the primary money issuers there is no reason why the national debt could not be scrapped. We wouldn’t have to worry about ‘paying it back’.  And, after all, how could you pay back the money supply?

The important thing for us to understand is that there is an alternative to the inertia of past decades.  We don’t have to accept it we have to challenge it.

The world is a complex place and full of uncertainty but we have been bewitched by a dogma that proposes freedom and everlasting growth on the backs of the people and the planet but which, in fact, is tying us in chains to the benefit of the few.  As Keynes observed in his book written in 1936:

The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.”

The Post War Consensus is long gone and the positive outcomes of that consensus, being dismantled as we speak.  The ascendency of individualism over cooperation and all that entails is almost complete.  As Ha-Joon Chang wrote:

‘Many believers in the individualist view would sacrifice political freedom to defend economic freedom”

It is clear that such unrestrained pursuit of self-interest through the belief in the magic of free markets has proved itself wanting and resulted in huge disparities of wealth, impoverishment, inequality and unequal access to opportunity.

Whilst we need wisdom too, knowledge is power and so the more we are informed, the easier it is to challenge the lies of politicians and their media lackeys. It is not necessary to immerse oneself in economic models and mathematical equations to understand the importance of economic policies and their effects on society but if we are to move forward we must show those who would lie to us that we cannot be fooled any longer.

 

Resources and credits:

Steven Hail

Governments do not need the savings of the rich or their taxes 

Corbyn should stop saying he will eliminate the deficit

Zimbabwe for hyperventilators

PQE is sound economics but is not in the QE family

Correcting political ignorance and misconceptions

Printing Money does not cause inflation

Summer of Unrest: The Debt Delusion Mehdi Hasan

Economics: The User’s Guide  Ha-Joon-Chang

The Angry Birds Approach to understanding deficits in the Modern Economy

http://ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/interviews-talks/demystifying-modern-monetary-theory

 

The “Angry Birds” Approach to Understanding Deficits in the Modern Economy

 

Additional links:

Austerity is a Political Choice not a Economic Necessity

Like heterodox economists, Semmelweiss was ignored…

The riddle of the deficit or (deficits for Dummies)

The motives behind Corbynomics

Why a vote for Corbyn is a vote for electability

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Why a Vote for Corbyn is a Vote for Electability

From Neil Schofield, Previously published here

Three days before the 1983 election, I attended a rally in Oxford Town Hall. It was in the days when it was still possible to come in off the street to a Labour leader’s rally, and the speaker was Michael Foot. The atmosphere was revivalist, a packed hall cheering on their much-loved leader.  How could Labour possibly lose in the face of such enthusiasm?  But of course the result is history.

More than thirty years on, I found myself attending Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign rally in Cardiff – according to media coverage one of the largest political gatherings in Wales since the Miners’ Strike.  The atmosphere was incredible – more than a thousand people crowded into the hall, standing room only, people with decades of Labour activism behind them, others coming to politics for the first time.  At its heart, a speech by Jeremy Corbyn that was passionate and powerful – but also detailed; this was not rabble-rousing but thoughtful and argued through.  He was given a massive ovation by an eclectic audience.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses a rally in Cardiff, 11 August 2015

And I reflected – could we be deceiving ourselves in the same way that we were in 1983?  Was this just an audience of the converted, wanting to be enthused, oblivious to the harsh political realities outside?

But this time the fundamentals feel very different.

In 1983 the Thatcher myth was at its most potent. A year beforehand, the Task Force was still steaming south to the Falklands. The Labour Party had been split by the defections to the SDP. More importantly, the intellectual tide was flowing overwhelmingly in Thatcher’s direction; these were the halcyon days of neoliberalism, with the economy emerging from deep recession and the sale of council houses proceeding apace. Only weeks after a crushing electoral defeat, the situation for Labour, although obviously extremely difficult, is different in a way that Corbyn’s critics – especially those within Labour claiming he is unelectable – appear not to have understood.

To understand why you need to think about the wider political background.  In Britain – as in much of the Western world – the set of ideas that is often lumped together under the name “neoliberalism” has a near complete hegemony in Government.  Policies are being pursued – especially following the economic crisis of 2007/8 – that involve reducing public expenditure, shrinking the non-coercive state,  on the promise that this is the only way to engineer a sustainable economic recovery.

But that recovery is palpably not happening.  Faced with continuing and swingeing falls in living standards, increased Government deficits in the face of shrinking economies; increasingly insecure and short-term employment; continued asset price bubbles, especially in housing, to the point where the essentials of life are becoming increasingly unaffordable; and, most of all, globally increasing inequality to levels not seen for more than a century, it’s obvious there is a huge problem.  It’s perhaps best exemplified by the fact that, in Britain at least, the number of people in full-time work who are falling into poverty is rising substiantially; the basic deal behind market capitalism, that a worker can achieve a decent standard of living by selling their labour, increasingly does not hold. Morevoer, as a strategy for reducing the deficit, it has failed spectacularly.

At the same time, the social democratic parties that presided over the welfare capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s are in deep existential crisis.  In Britain, despite the cruelties of the coalition, Labour suffered a crushing defeat in the 2015 election.  It was wiped out in Scotland, once its heartland.  The official reaction to this defeat has been to assume that Labour can only win by moving its policies closer to the Tory government – on social security, on immigration, above all on deficit reduction.  In other words, the ground over which mainstream political debate is conducted is being narrowed, while increasingly those excluded from that debate are bearing the brunt of the politics of austerity.

There is a comment usually ascribed to Karl Rove about the politics of the liberal social democratic opposition to neoliberalism: “when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.  We’re history’s actors …. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”  Change that last “study” to “follow” and you have New Labour’s dilemma expressed with brutal clarity – it’s still fighting a war when the battlefront is elsewhere.  And people can see that; its language no longer inspires because reality has moved on.  Talk of “electability” is two elections out of date; it has nothing to say in particular to those who have walked away from political engagement in bewilderment and, quite often, disgust. In 2015 the Conservative Party gained a Parliamentary majority with 24% of the electorate; Labour was wiped out in its Scottish heartland by a party offering the appearance (if certainly not the reality) of being anti-austerity; but its leadership still says that electoral success lies in adopting the language and framing that wooed barely a quarter of the electorate, while millions of the young, the poor, the most vulnerable stayed at home – or voted SNP, Green or (especially in Labour’s traditional heartlands) in despair for UKIP.  Labour held millions of conversations, but, it appears, at no more than the most superficial level. Labour activists and organisers talk about the doorstep; but often seem to me to be afraid to have real conversations that offer challenge and hope.

What the Labour leadership election has done is blown that open.  In previous elections, candidates from the left have stood – and even encouraged from the Right to stand – in order to ensure a “debate”, after which the inevitable win for a centrist candidate has ensured that Westminster usiness as usual can be carried on with an apparent mandate.  Corbyn’s candidacy – apparently conceived in the same vein, as the means to a debate – has changed everything and brought people flooding into the Party.

Why? Because, for the first time in decades, a candidacy in a Labour leadership campaign has connected with intellectual, political and social currents outside the immediate Labour Party – something far bigger than the Labour Party has in recent years become, but – I’d argue – something much closer to the purpose for which Labour was founded.  It’s not about Corbyn as an individual – decent and principled though he undoubtedly is – but about the values he espouses, and most of all about the fact that he articulates a challenge to the politics and economics of austerity, in a way that reaches out to a far bigger audience than existing mainstream politics.  This is about taking control of the political narrative; about offering, not a reaction to neoliberalism but an alternative to it.  Corbyn has tapped into value systems that have remained confined to the fringes or expressed quietly by Labour members in defiance of their Westminster masters; a value system that found expression in the vote for the SNP in Scotland.

And it won’t do to talk about entryism – it’s just not credible.  Michael Crick of Channel 4 News has offered a fine and useful analysis – summed up in a sentence, there just aren’t that many Trots.  This is something bigger, to which the Labour mainstream appears to have no response whatsoever.

There is a narrative that states, Tony Blair won three elections for Labour. We can therefore only be electable from the centre.  That first of all misunderstands the nature of triangulation – it was about the use of conservative language to provide space for progressive political measures; something that New Labour achieved significantly in its pre-Iraq phase.  But more importantly it misunderstands the fact that the economic fundamentals have changed.  New Labour was based on harnessing growth from a largely functioning economic system to pay for moderate redistribution; but, after the 2007-8 crash that option has not been available – the extent to which market capitalism is broken is much more obvious. Real wages have fallen to the point where in-work poverty is rampant (making talk of being “the party of work” basically frivolous).  There is, in the UK, an effective investment strike in which capital stock is not even being renewed.  Given that the UK has a sovereign currency, all of these issues are far more significant than the deficit; yet Blair’s successors seem unable to move beyond that.  Their mindset is in the mid-1990s, unable to come to terms with what has happened since then.

Electability comes down, in the end, to relevance.  Corbyn’s insurgency, going way beyond the mainstream Labour party, has connected with trends and thinking that lies completely outside the Westminster bubble.  Above all, it has been founded in hope – a belief that things can be different and that the Labour Party can be, once again, the vehicle to make that change. In the meantime, conventional social democracy is, throughout Europe, in crisis because it cannot break out of the neoliberal framing of economics and politics – it allows itself to be defined by its opponents.

That brings huge challenges.  To win elections, form governments and effect change you need structures and discpline.   The Green Party’s disastrous track record in Brighton shows what happens when you have neither; Green councillors, faced with tough decisions, either threw a strop or threw in the towel.  Labour is a party of Government – its unique genius has been to bring together a broad progressive group of often diverse people and to build on that diversity to deliver in office – and has to do so much better than that, and the need to take tough decisions in the face of conflicts and trade-offs is going to require discipline from supporters and, from its leaders, a commitment to openness and accountability a world away from New Labour’s top-down institutional authoritarianism.

But the possibility is there.  For Labour, this looks like a choice between a high-risk vote for a leader who can lead its adaptation to a very different world to that faced by Tony Blair twenty years ago, and who can help it to lead the debate, and electing a leader who cannot see the changes going on outside the Westminster bubble and offers no real alternative to the neoliberal value system.  For me, the latter is simply a guarantee of further decline; it is the former that offers the way to move the debate away from neoliberal territory and to reconnect with the voters who have in their millions turned against a political system that simply doesn’t offer an alternative.

Obviously I do not know what the outcome of the election will be, and I suspect it will be a much closer affair than the media currently suggest.  But whoever is Labour leader will have to face some fundamental decisions; the genie cannot be rebottled.  The choice seems to me to be simple – a choice between harnessing and leading the surge in support that has brought hundreds of thousands into the Party – high risk but with the possibility of effecting real change –  or a turning away back inside the Westminster bubble and a slow but inevitable decline.  I want to see the Labour Party as a force that can deliver real change, and which does not accept austerity as inevitable; which can react to the fundamental changes in political discourse the Corbyn surge exemplifies.  And that’s why I’m backing Jeremy Corbyn as the electable candidate.