Is the whisper of the People heard through “Democracy” looking down on them? @Corbyn4Leader

Democracy or Philanthropy? How can we combat poverty and injustice?

The Collective Voice of Labour

Think tanks, philanthropists, charities, celebrities  and  lobbyists are shouting from the wings the answers to an impoverished world.  Joseph Rowntree, Barrow  Cadbury, Bill Gates, Russell Brand, Oxfam, and NSPCC are just a few. All these are undoubtedly good deeds and with the best intentions, and yet poverty prevails. We can go on, but where where is the place for charity and philanthropy in a democratic society? Do we have a real democracy at all?  Why is Russell Brand’s voice any more valid or interesting than yours or mine?

 For whom do the rich and powerful  speak, and should they?

When rich people make a decision to spend money on supposed good deeds, they abuse power. The media abuses power. Is charity  a quick fix to alleviate stresses in a crisis? Do they address the injustices or reinforce them? It is a quandary which I have struggled with and blogged about. In a true democracy each vote should be equal. Whoever we elect, it seems that the resultant politicians abuse that power we give them.

Caring deeds are admirable, helping one another out on a day-to-day basis comes naturally, and the spirit of ’45 is something our society needs to recapture. That caring  society is exactly what Thatcher denied existed, and that has been eroded. On the other hand having to depend on charity is degrading and humiliating. I think this is why people become suspicious of one another, and fear anyone who’s different to them. We need to learn to trust again. We need honesty, not smoke and mirrors.

What is wrong with everything is capitalism, competing consumers clambering over one another and anything to get to the top of the pile – whatever that is. To throw crumbs from above (philanthropy) cannot justify the means taken to get there. When we build a society whitch satisfies everyone’s needs, and eliminates poverty, spend time alongside one another we have society. Tony Benn believed in a real democratic movement. He said Labour should say what we mean and mean what we say. Tony Benn encouraged me, and now Jeremy Corbyn stands to encourage new generations and rejuvenate our Labour movement. Jeremy Corbyn also stands apart in that belief. With Greece, where democracy was born, now on its knees, is our species doomed?  

It is the collective voice of Labour which must be heard and formulate policies for Labour – a leader needs to facilitate and encourage this voice to be heard.

Every voice matters, but that does not take away the responsibility for education, and we should use our influence to change minds and put the Labour Party back at the heart of the people.  The party should be formulating policy through a renewed internal democracy. First we must put in place a clear statement of our aims and objectives. These must be SMART and agreed by the party. We should be brave and honest. If we are not, no one else will be.  

Straight talking Labour is what we need to be.

From “In Place of Fear” , Ch.2, Aneurin Bevan (1)

“As we fumble with outworn categories our political vitality is sucked away and we stumble from one situation to another, without chart, without compass, and with the steering wheel lashed to a course we are no longer following. This is the real point of danger for a political party and for the leaders and thinkers who inspire it. For if they are out of touch with reality, the masses are not. Indeed, they are reality. For them their daily work is an escapable imperative. While those who are supposed to be doing the theorising for them are adrift like passengers in an escaped balloon, the workers are tied to reality by the nature of their work. In the absence of clear theoretical guidance, they make empirical adaptions and formulate practical categories. So far as these are incomplete, and therefore unsatisfactory, the first result is a distrust for those who have demonstrably failed them.”

We  failed as destruction and divisions of the Labour Party over the last three decades has left an impotent voice, where Labour politicians  are frightened to speak out in the media or alongside workers taking industrial action against austerity, and  yet continue to  agree with policies cutting public services. Our public services should not be available for breaking up for pickings for profit seekers. It is scandalous that a Labour government supported private finance initiatives breaking up our health and education – echoing the Tories. Is it any wonder people did not back Labour?

This is why we have to recapture a true democratic socialist movement. The Labour Party, and our politicians should stand alongside ordinary people who call for justice on picket lines, and marches.  Together we must defend  human rights, and our  trade unions and fight austerity. We must call for tighter control on banks, oppose TTIP and other supposed “free trade treaties”. We must support renationalisation – of the railways, energy, utilities – and democratic control of money, as a tool. All this is what ordinary people know and call for. Why aren’t our politicians?

Our politicians should not be frightened to stand with us against all these injustices and above all expose the truth about capitalism which is driving the world in a downwards spiral, and to stand up for the collective good for all which can be brought about by socialism.

I am backing Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour Party, and the people’s democracy.

Great News! Lancashire slams the Fracking Door in Cameron’s Face

Slamming the Fracking Door in Lancashire

There has been a widespread campaign against the unpopular, uneconomical and dangerous proposed plans to extract gas from the earth by a process of fracking.

Cuadrilla, which is chaired by Lord Browne, had been searching for shale gas in Lancashire, and had suspended operations there in 2011 after its drilling was found to be the likely cause of tremors in Blackpool. Government plans were pursued against scientific advice.

Years of campaigning from environmentalists and an emergency petition this weekend signed this weekend by 65,000 have today resulted in  Lancashire councillors rejecting these proposals.

Greenpeace UK reports  

No  to Fracking

* BREAKING! Lancashire slams door on fracking! *

This was the scene just now outside Preston town hall, as residents celebrated a hard-fought victory against fracking company Cuadrilla, whose plans to drill for shale gas were defeated by a 9-3 vote at Lancashire County Council.

This is the result of years of local campaigning and over the weekend 65,000 of us signed Today our voices were heard.

Government has signed up to the potential of shale gas after it transformed energy policy in the United States, despite severe criticism from environmentalists

A major new scientific study has concluded that the controversial gas extraction technique known as fracking poses a “significant” risk to human health and British wildlife, and that an EU-wide moratorium should be implemented until widespread regulatory reform is undertaken.

The damning report by the CHEM Trust, the British charity that investigates the harm chemicals cause humans and wildlife, highlights serious shortcomings in the UK’s regulatory regime, which the report says will only get worse as the Government makes further budget cuts.

It also warns of severe risks to human health if the new Conservative government tries to fast-track fracking of shale gas across the UK. The “scale of commercial fracking” unleashed by the Government’s eagerness to exploit the technique “should not be underestimated”, it cautions.

It is clear that the main reason this policy has been pursued has been self interest of the Conservative party. The article. “They are corrupt to the fracking core” , was published two years ago, and a number of conflicts of interest were cited. 

Conflicts of interest

Lord Browne

The former BP boss is chairman of Cuadrilla, which is exploring for shale gas in Lancashire and West Sussex. He is lead “non-executive” across Government, meaning that he helps recruit other non-executives to Whitehall.

Baroness Hogg

The non-executive for the Treasury sits on the board of BG Group, which has significant shale gas assets in the United States.

Sam Laidlaw

The non-executive to the Transport Department is also chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, which recently bought a 25 per cent stake in Cuadrilla’s most promising shale gas prospect.

Ben Moxham

A former executive at BP when Lord Browne was at the helm, he followed the peer to Riverstone Holdings, which owns 42 per cent of Cuadrilla. Moxham was energy adviser at No 10 but quit in May.

Lord Howell

George Osborne’s father-in-law is also president of the British Institute of Economics, whose backers include BP and BG Group.

 Lynton Crosby, Mr Cameron’s own aide, been linked to the fracking industry.

Opponents will continue to protest against fracking until it is shelved by this government and today’s News proves how effective these protests have been. Well done to everyone involved! The Labour opposition must demand total and permanent rejection of these proposals.

Academy School blasted as inadequate by OFSTED Inspection. #NoAcademisation

The Blackpool Gazette reports on  the recent OFSTED inspection of an Academy School sponsored by Bright Futures Academy Chain.

In a damning report, Ofsted rated South Shore Academy in St Annes Road, South Shore, as one of the most underperforming schools on the Fylde coast.

The May inspection called leadership and management, behaviour and safety of pupils, quality of teaching and achievement of pupils as inadequate – the worst grading.

Worries were raised about teaching, safety and the poor behaviour of pupils – with one inspector adding the academy’s current curriculum does not prepare them properly for modern life in Britain.

The school, led by principal Jane Bailey, is now set to be put into special measures after the schools leaders, managers and governors failed to secure improvements.In an eight page report, Ofsted inspectors raised concerns about ineffective leadership, inadequate teaching, low attendance in Year 11, disruption in lessons and the academy building not being fit for purpose.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden (Labour Party) added: “I am very concerned, both for the families with students at the school and students themselves at this particularly strong Ofsted report which at the time of the inspection judged the academy as being inadequate in most of its categories.

“This should be a wake-up call to central government to make sure the model going forward is one of collaboration and working closely with the local community and not being dictated to by Whitehall. 

The Conservative government’s policy of  Academisation isolates schools from specialised support services, and increases competition between schools rather than advocating co-oeration and shared professionalism among educationalists.

Isolation increases the difficulties caused by social deprivation and cuts to public services.  Pitching school against school, and child against child can only exacerbate issues of concern. Schools need to work together in LEAS or teacher-led consortia for mutual benefit. There is increasing evidence that the Academisation programme does not improve learning and is another screen for privatisation of public services.  

Clive Lewis , Labour MP from Norwich South  criticises Academy chain Inspiration Trust and proposed  forced takeovers in his maiden speech in Parliament.

“Not content with taking over our schools and giving parents no say in their children’s education, they crave ever more power and wealth,” he told the Commons.

“Now they want to take from the people of Norwich, the Hewett local authority school and the £60m pounds of land it sits on – land that belongs to the people of our city.

Our schools are not businesses, our children are not commodities, our future is not to be traded. The Academisation programme must stop now, and Labour’s policy must oppose it and offer an alternative and inclusive education policy. Education is not about individuals, it is about everyone and for our mutual benefit.

Solidarity is forever, not just Election Day, SNP.

Solidarity is forever, not just for Election Day

One has to question the authenticity of the claims that SNP stands for socialism and anti-austerity. These policies  were attributed to have resulted in the huge numbers of voters in Scotland who gave their vote to the SNP on May 7th this year, resulting in all but three Scottish seats returning an SNP member of parliament.

I am reminded of the huge turn-out for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, many people saw the LibDems as an opposition to the  Conservatives in the wake of disappointment with New Labour. These voters, angry with LibDems joining the  coalition turned their back on LibDems in 2015, many candidates losing their deposits and with the party  gaining only 8 seats, out of the 57 defended.

Over the next few years, will the SNP prove to be the socialist opposition so many anticipate, or will, in 5 years time, the SNP suffer a similar fate? Much will depend on how the SNP act in parliament, and also the direction Labour decides to follow.

Already the cracks are beginning to show in the SNP’s facade. Failure of SNP to stand alongside ferry workers taking industrial action does not indicate solidarity with workers or opposition to austerity.

The SNP sails into choppy waters after ferry strike statement  

RMT calls on SNP members to reject party’s “defeatist” line over austerity action

A row has broken out between the RMT, whose members at Calmac Ferries are today on strike, and the Scottish National Party.

The RMT members are taking action to defend jobs, conditions and pensions, warning the Clyde and Hebrides service is being set up for takeover by the profiteering private company Serco.

Ferry copy

And they have been infuriated by the release of statement from the SNP’s Trade Union Group which, while saying it recognises the union’s right to take strike action, fails to support the strike.

The statement reads: “The SNP Trade Union Group is aware of the ongoing dispute between the RMT and Caledonian MacBrayne – which operates the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry service (CHFS) which our communities rely on – and has resulted in RMT members balloting for strike action.

“The SNP Trade Union Group recognises the democratic right of fellow trade unionists to ballot for strike action and also recognises the concerns of RMT members regarding terms & conditions within the Caledonian MacBrayne workforce.

“In light of this escalation, the SNP Trade Union Group’s representatives, MSP’s and MPs have been invited to talks with the RMT to discuss these issues further.  These discussions will take place early next week and will hopefully help the workforce and the SNP TUG will do all it can to ensure that the concerns of the RMT are heard and heeded.

“Additional meetings have also already been organised by Christina McKelvie MSP – convenor of the SNP Backbench parliamentary trade union group at Holyrood – between the RMT and the transport minister.

“The Scottish Government is required by EU procurement laws to place the contract out to tender, with the process is being carried out in accordance with EU rules on procurement and state aid. This has been the case previously in 2005 where Caledonian MacBrayne was awarded the contract.

“The SNP Trade Union Group takes the unwavering view that terms & conditions should never be eroded in the workplace and that working standards should be raised at every opportunity. We welcome the statement from Transport Minister Derek MacKay pledging that the Scottish Government will ensure that the pensions of the CHFS workforce are protected.

“We believe that the current tendering process must be an opportunity to improve and strengthen the working conditions of all working on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service. Additionally, every effort must be made to ensure that the workforce is at the forefront of decision making while this process is ongoing and continuing on into the future.

“However, while the SNP Trade Union Group is pro-European in its outlook, it believes that the EU laws that have necessitated the current tendering process are inherently flawed and do not take into account vital lifeline services such as the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services that communities depend on.

“The SNP Trade Union Group will ensure that its elected members take this issue to the heart of Europe. We will campaign for a rethink of this regressive procurement policy which is damaging to both the workforce and the communities in Scotland and across Europe which rely on such services to survive.

In response, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This statement from a group claiming to represent trade unionists makes not a single mention of support for fellow trade unionists battling to defend jobs and services and instead hides behind a barrage of EU anti-worker legislation that has no relevance at all to this dispute and which could be challenged anyway with a united campaign.

“RMT would appeal to rank and file SNP members and supporters to reject this defeatist line and stand by a workforce fighting to defend jobs, conditions, safety and lifeline ferry services against this attack. You can’t claim to be anti-austerity, pro working class and pro public services and then duck the issue when jobs and services are under all out attack like on CalMac. The question to the SNP TU Goup is which side are you o‎n?”

Yesterday a cross party motion tabled in Scottish Parliament backed the union’s campaign. Supported by John Mason (SNP), Neil Findlay (Lab), David Stewart (Lab), Elaine Smith (Lab), Anne McTaggart (Lab), Cara Hilton (Lab), John Wilson (Ind) Jean Urquhart (Ind), the motion read:

That the Parliament notes the current dispute between Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry workers and the employer over concerns about future services, staffing levels, job security and pensions, which it understands have arisen from the tendering process of Clyde and Hebrides ferry services currently operated by CalMac; supports CalMac workers and what it considers the excellent job that they do and calls for their concerns to be addressed; notes that the private sector corporation, Serco, is bidding to take over CalMac services, and believes that the interests of islanders, tourism and the Scottish economy would be best served by these lifeline ferry services remaining in the public sector.

This article reproduced by Creative Commons Licence previously published by Unity Solidarity International

Hunger, Lack of Clothes and Shoes. Teachers Lift the Lid on Child Poverty

NASUWT says schools and teachers are being left to pick up the pieces of Tory’s “scandalous” economic policies

NASUWT

Teachers have attacked the government’s record on child poverty, saying they have witnessed at first hand the effect on the children they teach.

Speaking ahead of the release of the latest official figures on child poverty released today, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “If, as expected, the figures show that child poverty levels have risen yet again, this is a shameful indictment of the economic and social policies of the Coalition Government.

“It is equally shameful that the government is committed to continuing the policies which have led to this anticipated rise.

“Teachers are witnessing firsthand the impact of poverty on the children they teach. Three-quarters of teachers recently surveyed by the NASUWT say they have witnessed more and more children coming to school too hungry to concentrate and without clothing and footwear appropriate to the weather conditions.

“Children are increasingly being denied educational opportunities because of their parents’ inability to pay for educational visits.

“Evidence shows that too many young people are choosing subject options on the basis, not of their skills and aspirations, but on the basis of whether their parents can afford the books, equipment and other resources a particular course demands.

“Schools and teachers are being left to pick up the pieces. The shattering of children’s life chances cannot simply be regarded as collateral damage.

“Yet scandalously, rather than embarking on a strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, it now appears the government plans to change the definition of child poverty in an attempt to mask the terrible toll its policies are taking on our children and young people. Our children and young people deserve better.”

Reproduced by Commons Creative Licence , previously published by Union Solidarity International

Propaganda Techniques – “Glittering Generalities”

Propaganda Techniques:

(Part 1)

The New Word Order – Glittering Generalities

By Kitty S Jones, previously published here

Introduction.

This is part one of a series of articles  Kitty S Jones is writing about propaganda techniques, with the aim of explaining the seven main types that The Institute for Propaganda Analysis identified in 1938, and looking at current examples of their use.

Propaganda techniques are still very commonly used in the media, in advertising, in politics and in debate. In the US, much of the work by the Institute of Propaganda Analysis tended to focus on the techniques of persuasion used by Stalin and Hitler. Many people think that there is no need for research nowadays, but propaganda techniques are still being used widely.

May

In present day Britain, the government has adopted a psychocratic approach, reflected in public policies that have a central aim of “behavioural change” and are founded on quasi-scientific understandings of the basis of human decision-making.

The Conservatives claim to champion the small-state and minimal intervention, yet the consequences of their policies insidiously intrude into people’s everyday experiences and thoughts. Our attitudes and beliefs are being manipulated, our decision-making is being “nudged,” citizens are being micro-managed and policed by the state.

The Conservatives use Orwellian-styled rhetoric crowded with words like “market forces”, “meritocracy” “autonomy”, “incentivisation”, “democracy”, “efficient, small state”, and even “freedom”, whilst all the time they are actually extending a brutal, bullying, extremely manipulative, all-pervasive state authoritarianism.

Furthermore, this authoritarianism entails a mediacratic branch of government that powerfully manipulates public opinion. The mind-numbing mainstream media is conformative rather than informative, and is designed to manufacture and manage public consensus, whilst setting agendas for what ought to be deemed important issues. The media is scripting events rather than simply reporting them, and filtering information by deciding which events may and may not have precedence.

And really, it’s the same old same old. Propaganda is an extremely powerful weapon and seizing control of the mainstream media is one of the first things that all tyrants do:

“Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Benito Mussolini.

The current government is not interested in any form of democratic dialogue. They simply want to set a rigid agenda to control socio-political outcomes to benefit the powerful and wealthy elite.

We are witnessing attempts to control virtually all aspects of social life, including the economy, education, private life, morals and the beliefs and attitudes of citizens. We are also seeing the rise of political behaviourism, which is closely linked with totalitarian forms of thinking.

“The officially proclaimed ideology penetrates into the deepest reaches of societal structure and the totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens.” Richard Pipes.

Recent public policies related to behavioural change exploit the emotive, automatic drivers of decision-making through methods such as subconscious priming or default settings. This is extremely worrying, as it bypasses rational processes, and has some serious implications for conceptions of human autonomy and agency, which is central to the design of liberal democracies.

Democracy is based on a process of dialogue between the public and government, ensuring that the public are represented: that governments are responsive, shaping policies that address identified social needs. However, Conservative policies are no longer about reflecting citizen’s needs: they are increasingly all about telling us how to be.

We do need to expose and challenge such insidious, anti-democratic state control freakery and psychocratic shenanigans.

scroll2Part 1. Glittering Generalities: all that glitters is glib, not gold.

Glittering Generalities is one category of the seven main propaganda techniques identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. It’s a device often used by the media and in political rhetoric to persuade us to approve and accept something without examining the evidence.

This is a propaganda technique that is purposefully designed to divert and distract, so that people are less likely to develop their own critical thoughts. This said, the purpose of all forms of propaganda is to tell you what to think, and not how to think.

Glittering Generalities capitalise on increasingly sloganised political discourses, leading to a loss of conceptual clarity, over-idealisation and they also reflect conceptual miserliness – a tendency for some people to prefer simple, superficial and easy answers, rather than having to expend time and effort to grapple with complexity, critical analysis and the need to weigh up evidence.

Gordon Allport’s Principle of Least Effort is a theory that humans engage in economically prudent thought processes, taking “short-cuts” instead of acting like “naive scientists” who rationally investigate, weigh evidence, costs and benefits, test hypotheses, and update their expectations based upon the results of the “experiments” that are a part of our everyday actions.

Sometimes we are more inclined to act as cognitive misers, using mental short-cuts to make assessments and decisions, concerning issues and ideas about which we know very little, as well as issues of great salience.

The term “Cognitive Miser” was coined by Fiske and Taylor (in 1984) to refer, like Allport, to the general idea that individuals frequently rely on simple and time efficient strategies when evaluating information and making decisions. Rather than rationally and objectively evaluating new information, the cognitive miser assigns new information to categories that are easy to process mentally. These categories arise from prior information, including schemas, scripts and other knowledge structures, such as stereotypes, that have been stored in our memory.

The cognitive miser tends not to extend much beyond established belief when considering new information. This of course may perpetuate prejudices and cognitive biases.

Glittering Generalities imply – or signpost us – via common stock phrases to our own tacit knowledge, which often lies below our current focal awareness – prior information, beliefs, ideals, values, schemata and mental models, stereotypes and so on, creating the impression that the person using the terms and phrases understands and sees the world as you do, creating a false sense of rapport by doing so. Or the feeling that some very important recognition has been made.

Glittering Generalities propaganda is sometimes based on a kind of logical fallacy known as Equivocation – it is the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning (usually by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time)

Glittering Generalities is a technique very often used by people who seek to stifle debate, sidestep accountability and suppress democratic processes. Because Glittering Generalities tend to obscure or gloss over serious areas of disagreement, they hide controversy and submerge alternative propositions.

As such, Glittering Generalities may often used to neutralise opposition to dominant ideas. It’s a way of disguising partisanship and of manipulating and reducing democratic choices. It’s nothing less than a political micro-management of your beliefs and decision-making.

It also reduces public expectation of opposition and in doing so it contributes to establishing diktats: it’s a way of mandating acceptance of ideology, policies or laws by presenting them as if they are the only viable alternative.

This propaganda technique bypasses rationality altogether, by employing morally laden or emotionally appealing words and phrases so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that carry conviction – convince us – without need for enquiry, supporting information or reason.

The meanings of such words and phrases is generally based on a loose, tacit public consensus, often varying between groups and individuals. Semantic shift describes a process of how the meanings of words may change over time, but meanings also shift and vary amongst social groups. Language is elusive and changeable. (Words like wicked and bad, for example, shifted sub-culturally. Originally: evil, corrupt, sinful, malevolent → superb, excellent, great, fantastic. ) Let’s not forget that when we use language, it is with purpose and intent.

So, Glittering Generalities are rather like platitudes or clichés presented as semantic signs to cognitive short-cuts that are often used to distract and placate people, they provide a superficial, broad, symbolic map to a logical cul-de-sac. They are superficially appealing and convincing but empty, meaningless words or phrases.

To summarise, Glittering Generalities may be identified by the following criteria:

  • Use of attractive, but vague “virtue” words that make speeches and other communications sound good, but in practice say nothing in particular.

  • Use of lulling linguistic patterns such as alliteration, metaphor and reversals that turn your words into easy to remember soundbites that often flow and rhyme in hypnotic patterns.

  • Use of words that appeal to morals and values, which often themselves are related to triggering of powerful emotions.

  • A common element of glittering generalities are intangible nouns that embody ideals, such as freedom, democracy, integrity, justice, respect.

Some further examples of Glittering Generalities are: economic plan, making work pay, all in it together, big society,  freedom, family values, the common good, democracy,  principles, choice, incentivise, efficiency, fairness, hard-working families, parental choice, a caring society, fiscal responsibility, market choice, meritocracy, personal responsibility, making work pay, scroungers and strivers, anti-austerity, socialism, progressive, disenfranchised, deceit, Westminster establishment, the needs of the people, but that’s all just semantics really.

A good example of a Glittering Generality is the Conservative’s phrase “making work pay.” It refers to the Tory welfare “reforms” which were nothing to do with the level of wages. How does reducing benefits for unemployed people actually make work pay? Especially given the fact that wages have dropped for those in work, at the same time, the cost of living has risen, and consequently many working people are now living in poverty. The question to ask is: making work pay for whom?

The Tories have an Orwellian dexterity in manipulating semantic shifts. They do like to dress-up words and parade them as something else. For example, take the word “reform,” which usually means to make changes to an institution, policy or practice in order to improve it. The welfare “reforms” have involved the steep and steady reduction of welfare provision and an increase in political scapegoating and victim-blame narratives. We have also seen the return of absolute poverty since the “reforms” were (undemocratically) implemented in 2012, which can hardly be considered as an “improvement” to what came before the Tories made savage and brutal cuts to poor people’s lifeline benefits, making them even poorer, with some people dying as a consequence.

Then there is the Tory drift on the word “fair.”  It’s generally taken to mean treating people equally without favouritism or discrimination, and without cheating or trying to achieve unjust advantage. However, the Conservatives have repeatedly claimed that cutting people’s lifeline benefits is “fair.”  As I’ve previously stated, the value of wages has also dropped, the cost of living has risen and many in low paid work are now living in poverty, in reality the welfare cuts have simply made people desperate enough to take any low paid work, which does not alleviate circumstances of poverty.

Furthermore, how can the welfare cuts be regarded as remotely fair, when they took place in a context where the government handed out £107,000 of public funds to each millionaire, in the form of an annual tax break?

Finally, it’s not only the Tories that utilise propaganda techniques, and some parties on the Left have also used Glittering Generalities. These parties especially capitalized on the public’s growing cynicism and dissatisfaction with the “Westminster establishment.” UKIP and the Scottish National Party drew on nationalism (and independence,) whilst using superficial, simplistic and ambiguous phrases and symbols, the Green Party and other Left-wing factions also drew on public dissatisfaction with “mainstream parties” and appealed to people’s hopes and fears to present an “alternative.” Both the Greens and the Scottish nationalists presented a rhetoric skillfully tailored and laden with words and phrases that reflect progressive ideals whilst also claiming a position that opposed austerity. Yet this lacked integrity, as the rhetoric wasn’t fully connected to actual manifesto policies. Crucially, the Scottish National Party’s spending plans implied deeper cuts than Labour’s plans entailed over the next five years, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in a report in April, highlighting, as the report said, a “considerable disconnect” between the nationalist’s rhetoric on austerity and their policies.

The Green Party had a similar disconnect between an anti-austerity rhetoric and their incompatable policy proposals of a zero-growth economy and the universal citizen’s income. The latter was heavily criticised because, as it was modelled, the universal basic income would create deeper poverty for the poorest citizens and extend further social inequality.

The Labour Party ran a rational but superficially less appealing campaign based on the material conditions of society. The policy plans for an extensively redistributive tax system, for example, matched the rhetoric about addressing growing social inequality, as well as a social reality.

How the The Reverse March of Labour Led to Defeat in May

The Reverse March of Labour. What went wrong in May

By Bryan Gloud and Carl Rowlands, Previously published here

With the Labour Party still reeling in the wake of May’s electoral disaster, New Left Project spoke to Gould about what went wrong. Bryan Gould answers Carl Rowlands.

Why did Labour lose in May? What aspects of the defeat were familiar from your own time in British politics?

I think Labour lost (setting aside technical issues like the restriction of the franchise) because they failed to offer an alternative view of how the economy should be run and in whose interests – which is the central question in current democratic politics. They had no chance of convincing people that they could produce different and better outcomes, if they failed to signal a departure from Tory priorities – as in the case of committing to eliminate the deficit, as though it makes sense to isolate this relatively minor aspect of the UK’s economic problems and treat it as the top priority.

Almost all candidates in the Labour leadership contest have talked of the need to appeal to ‘wealth creators’ whilst enabling ‘aspiration’. Back in 1992 you referred to those ‘involved in wealth creation’ rather than simply ‘wealth creators’ – quite an important, if subtle difference. Wouldn’t wealth creation include many who work in the public sector (for example, in universities) – in fact, anyone who creates anything? In relation to socialist objectives, how can we move on from this to define a common wealth in 2015?

The keenness to talk about ‘aspirations’ is often short-hand for, ‘we need to pay more attention to middle class interests and be more like the Tories’. I don’t say we shouldn’t try to appeal to a wider range of opinion and interests, but that should not mean abandoning others. The goal should be to show that a different approach would meet the interests of most people. The point you raise about ‘wealth creation’ illustrates this point. The current tendency is to accept that ‘wealth creators’ are the owners, employers and investors, while the contributions made by others are best regarded as production costs. I think that all those involved in the productive sector, in whatever capacity, are ‘wealth creators’ and that they should be distinguished from those in the speculative sector – the financiers and rentiers – who make their money not by creating new wealth but by gouging it out of the rest of us. The shame is that the unemployed are denied the chance to join the ranks of wealth creators.

In 1995 you described Labour’s progression as follows: ‘It’s been a painful process of withdrawal from hope and idealism…. I think we have simply given up. I think we will secure power, but I don’t think we’ll make much of it. As soon as the voters recover their confidence in the Tories we’ll be removed, in order to make room for the real thing’. Is this fairly accurate as an appraisal of the last Labour governments, and if so, what now?

I adhere to this view. If the best we can offer is that we will be ‘Tory-lite’, we can’t be surprised if the voters prefer the real thing. Even if they don’t like Tory policies much, they are attracted by those whose hearts are really in it. The left, for three or four decades, have too often believed in their heart of hearts that there is no alternative to neo-classical economics and they have therefore struggled to sound convincing when they say they can do better.

As the MP for Dagenham you were one of a handful of Labour MPs in southern seats in the 1980s. After thirty years, Labour’s situation in the south is in some respects worse, with heavy attrition of membership and the breakdown of multiple smaller branches into sparsely populated Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs). What can Labour do to win support from voters in the south in the future?

Labour too readily accepts that voters in the south are different, with the result that they either accept that those voters are beyond reach or believe that they have to be addressed differently. That is not how I see it. While voters in the south (which is just another way of describing the better-off middle class) are on average better off and have better jobs, services, etc., they have just as big a stake as anyone else in a successful economy that serves everybody’s interests and in a society that is not fragmented or divided against itself.

I think it is too easy to assume that particular approaches have to be made to particular groups, such as ‘white working class voters’, when Labour’s best approach is to assert that policies that will, in fact, benefit virtually everyone are the best way of looking after particular groups, including the disadvantaged. And in any case, not every voter in the south is well off – there are many who will be sensitive to poorer public services, widening inequality and worsening job security. The task for Labour, in other words, is not to develop many sets of policies that will meet as many specific interests as possible (thereby running the risk of confusing and embarrassingly inconsistent policy stances) but to provide an overall and persuasive analysis of what a successful economy and an integrated society would look like and of how to bring them about.

It’s a further illustration of Labour’s lack of confidence. The Tories are perfectly ready to proclaim that they are the party for the ‘working man’.

On the point about activism and membership, all parties face this problem. The Tories don’t worry about it, because they can use their advantages in financial resources and media support to communicate directly with the voters. We need to be much quicker on our feet – taking up individual, local and short-lived issues that command public interest and showing how the correct responses to those issues are best arrived at by applying our overall set of values and view of how society should work. People drawn in, even if only temporarily on a particular issue, will remember that experience on polling day.

You once described New Labour as a ‘souffle of good intentions’. Do you think this incoherence remains an issue with Labour in 2015? If so, what, if anything, can be done to provide a true, values-based ethos to Labour as a prospective party of government?

Yes, I still think this is true. Labour would like to do good things but is faced with the roadblock that they have no idea how to disengage from the current orthodoxy. They are unwilling or unable to do the hard work needed to identify a better alternative and can’t conceive that there could be new thinking that is not going to be condemned as ‘left-wing extremism’.

Moving on to economics, you were very critical of the decision to make the Bank of England independent, and have consistently argued for a different approach to monetary supply. To what extent do you think it is essential that the supply of credit is diversified?

This next question takes me to the heart of the problem. Without a new approach to major issues like monetary policy and an understanding of its true purposes we can’t develop an alternative economic strategy. We need to update Keynes (if that doesn’t sound too presumptuous) so as to fill a couple of lacunae in his analysis. We need to ensure, for example, that monetary policy is not the exclusive domain of the banks and is not used solely to boost their profits rather than serve the public interest – and that’s why allowing the central bank to run it is such a bad idea. If we want government to take responsibility for full employment, which should be the primary goal of economic policy, ministers should be accountable and not permitted to sub-contract their responsibility to the bank.

There’s been a bit of debate in some circles recently regarding the validity of full employment as a goal. This is not to say that consigning people to a life on poverty-level benefits is acceptable, more that the goal of full employment is both too unspecific regarding under-employment (for example, zero-hour contracts) and also neglects the danger that the state will use coercion upon the unemployed to force them into workfare and other deflationary schemes. As the founder of the Full Employment Forum, do you think that in the world of ‘Sports Direct’-type employment, full employment remains a valid goal? Implicit within a lot of current criticism of full employment is that the state should offer Unconditional Basic Income….

I’m suspicious of the argument that full employment, however defined, is for some reason now unattainable, since it is so convenient for employers and others to retain a pool of unemployed. Keynes and others had no difficulty in defining full employment as a condition where there are as many jobs as (or perhaps a few more than) there are people looking for work. I think we should be careful about what employment means for the purposes of this and any other definition. A zero-hours contract is not in my view the equivalent of a job and nor is part-time work a job for someone wishing to work full-time. In New Zealand at present, even a one-hour working day is treated as a job and therefore as reducing the unemployment total.

As to how full employment is to be achieved, Keynes was interested in direct job creation so that the government or public sector would be the employer of last resort. He saw this as the means of avoiding variable employment levels since even a high level of aggregate demand or GDP would not necessarily mean that effective demand (i.e. predictions as to future demand) would be high enough to persuade the private sector to employ everyone available for work. I think the theoretical argument is accurate enough but the proposition is politically difficult (particularly for a public conditioned to believe that unemployment is the result of fecklessness!) and may not be practicable, in its pure form at any rate. Similar doubts of course apply to the notion of a ‘refusal of work’. I do think, however, that something that would be recognised as full employment is attainable if we were to get the economy moving again by addressing our two main problems – a loss of competitiveness in the productive sector and the absence of proper financing for industry.

As a slightly separate point, I think there is considerable merit in a Universal Basic Income, both as an anti-poverty measure and a simplification of our complex benefits system and as a recognition that, as citizens, we are all entitled to share in at least the basic benefits of living in society.

I am quite clear that the rise and rise of house prices is huge driver of widening inequality.  A good illustration of the process is the recent announcement that a generous right-wing government in New Zealand will raise benefits for the poorest families by $25 per week, at a time when the owners of houses in Auckland have seen the value of their houses rise over the past year on average by $2000 dollars per week.  That rise in dollar value is entirely the result of irresponsible bank lending, and is not matched in any way by a rise in real output – it represents a transfer of resources from those who don’t own their own homes to those who do.

One of the more controversial stances you took in the 1980s concerned employee share ownership, and encouraging this as a form of common ownership. Would you revise this stance, based upon developments since then?

If the profit motive is so vital and beneficial, why not extend it to the whole work force? Employee share ownership, or something like it, would be a practical reflection of the fact that they are all wealth creators. Anything that would make private companies more responsive to the wider interest would be helpful.

Over the space of the last five years, Labour has moved from defending investment to subscribing to a reduced version of Conservative spending cuts. What are the political implications of this? Could it eventually lead to what is sometimes called the ‘Pasokification’ of Labour – its slow disappearance and fade to obscurity? Is there a way for Labour to move beyond what could be permanent austerity, in the face of fierce media attacks?

As I indicated earlier, the commitment to cut public spending was the major mistake made by Labour over the past five years. It seemed to validate the Tory attacks on Labour’s economic record and to demonstrate that there was no alternative to further cuts. It shows a serious lack of expertise and a complete unawareness of what is happening outside Westminster in respect of moving away from current orthodoxy. When the IMF and the OECD, every major central bank and many leading economists are in various ways denying the validity of austerity as a response to recession, seeing inequality as an obstacle to economic growth rather than as a necessary price and pre-condition of it, and recognising the possibilities of monetary policy (albeit through quantitative easing to shore up the banks) as a means of getting the productive economy moving, rather than just as a counter-inflationary instrument, why does Labour remain stuck in a time warp? If we don’t escape from this intellectual straitjacket, our days are numbered – Pasokification indeed!

During the late 1980s and early 1990s you were possibly the only consistent front-bench Opposition critic of the EU’s Maastricht Treaty, which set the conditions for monetary and fiscal convergence, and which institutionalised harsh monetary control into the European project. Whilst the UK has been spared the worst excesses of monetary restraint, it is a less-connected part of a European Union which has increasingly acted as an enforcer for economic liberalism and privatisation, and whose institutions remain remote from popular consent.

With the In/Out referendum approaching, is there a serious prospect that the EU – and the Eurozone – can be reformed to reflect a progressive economics that places social and environmental goals at its centre? If not, then what are the likely consequences of a vote to leave the EU?

The euro was always doomed and we did well to keep out of it. A single currency was a means of enforcing a single monetary policy for a highly diverse European economy (which was always going to be disastrous), and of setting in concrete a monetary policy that would be congenial to Germany but – reinforcing as it would neo-classical precepts – would do great damage to everyone else. I fear that the supporters of the euro will press on to the bitter end, whatever the consequences. A ‘grexit’ would help but would be no more than a warning which the Germans would no doubt ignore. The only solution, which a British withdrawal from the EU might help to achieve, would be to abandon the euro and re-configure a Europe that is built on functional cooperation and growing convergence, with each step going no further than would warrant political support from the people. The question for the UK is not, in other words, either wholly in or wholly out – it is inconceivable that trade barriers would be re-erected and we would retain, even outside the EU, a huge range of common interests with it – but how best to preserve a European future that has some chance of success, further development and longevity.

Bryan Gould was a front-bench MP for Labour from 1983 to 1994, before returning to his native New Zealand. He is the author of a number of books, including The Democracy Sham: How Globalisation Devalues Your Vote and Myths, Politicians and Money. He blogs at http://bryangould.com.

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