Cameron’s Sartorial ‘Dead Cat Manoeuvre’

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John Crace, sketch writer for the Guardian, reckons that David Cameron let the mask slip at PMQs …..

‘Then came the playground game-changer. In reply to a heckle from Labour’s Angela Eagle about his own mother’s opposition to his welfare cuts, Dave let rip: “I know what my mother would say. I think she’d look across the dispatch box and she’d say: ‘Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem’.”

But was it a slip – the Dave he tries to keep under wraps?

I think most people would agree that David Cameron’s sudden outburst was completely unexpected, and did not bear any conceivable relation to Jeremy Corbyn’s questions about the NHS… but then it is hardly the first time over the last 6 years that he has had a bizarre tirade about union-control, threatened national security etc..

As such, it fully corresponds with the Lynton Crosby (the Tory election guru) signature ‘dead cat’ manoeuvre. .. the essence of which Crosby explains:

‘The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/20/lynton-crosby-and-dead-cat-won-election-conservatives-labour-intellectually-lazy

But it isn’t simply a distraction technique. It is also a technique used in hypnosis. Out of awareness, our brains are constantly predicting what actions, memories, emotions and so on, that we may need to mobilise in the immediate future. This creates a ‘cone of expectation’ which is constantly being updated. A totally unexpected, and preferably an emotionally shocking event (like Derren Brown suddenly jerking your arm up in the air and bending you double) disrupts our brain’s ‘cone of expectation’ and we are left in a state of confusion with our brain desperately trying to recalibrate. In that moment, we are highly suggestible… with our neurotransmitters acting to clear our conscious memory so that we only focus on what may be ‘danger’.

This is all part of the normal fight, flight and freeze response. What it is not, is part of the normal democratic process … let alone PMQs when the Prime Minister is supposed to be answerable to the House of Commons.

The best known example of the ‘dead cat manoeuvre’ was in the 2015 GE campaign, when defence secretary Michael Fallon launched an unexpected, brutal attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband.

“Miliband stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader. Now he is willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister.”

At this point, some polls had Labour narrowly ahead of the Tories, with Miliband’s pledge to crack down on nondomicile tax avoidance, dominating the headlines. By suggesting that Miliband would scrap the Trident nuclear deterrent, in order to strike an electoral deal with the Scottish National party, Fallon managed to switch media attention away from Labour’s popular policy.  And in so doing, he leveraged the defining theme of the 2015 Conservative campaign which was to target Miliband’s perceived weakness as a leader.

So Labour’s tax policy was pushed out of awareness (admittedly with the collusion of the press). And the question was left hanging in the air as to what Fallon ‘knew’ that had prompted his outburst, and the strong implication that Ed M was so desperate to win that he was prepared to roll over and give the SNP whatever they demanded.

I know that this worked psychologically because I wondered myself what was going on… no smoke without a fire etc. Of course, it is now acknowledged that this was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the electorate.

Ordinary btl commentators wrote in response when this underhand strategy was explained by Lynton Crosby himself:

“What is shocking in all of this is how completely unselfconscious the Tories are about feeling no obligation even nod towards reality in their campaigning, let alone propose real solutions.

The sole criterion is “Can we get people to believe this?”

 Crosby explained in detail the contempt with which he manipulated the public. It isn’t just lies, it is psychological techniques, deliberately playing on fears discovered using market research techniques. It works the same way it works to persuade us all to buy new shit all the time and not to make a fuss about a few mega rich Masters of the Universe ruling the world while we toil away making them even richer. Yes they won. That doesn’t make it right.”

 

Now, to get back to Cameron’s outburst, Paul Waugh writes in the Huffington Post:

‘The curious thing about PMQs was that Cameron and Jeremy Hunt are actually on very shaky ground on the weekend deaths effect (as academics and doctors keep pointing out). And in the FT today, there is an ominous quote from Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ. Godlee, who has been critical of the way the deaths data has been used by politicians, says a new article in the BMJ, expected to appear next week, “will aim to address concerns about political interference in the peer review process and the source of Hunt’s data”.’ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/02/25/the-waugh-zone-february-2_3_n_9313714.html?utm_hp_ref=the-waugh-zone

Curious? Curious?? Not only was Cameron well aware of the shaky ground over the NHS but he also knew that he was vulnerable over his mother (and aunt’s) criticism of cuts to local government. I find it extremely difficult to believe that his tirade was not fully thought out and prepared in advance.

In fact, the only thing that I find at all remarkable is that Cameron is prepared to open himself up to all that criticism, alienating ordinary Conservative supporters by his bullyboy tactics and humiliating media coverage, just to knock the privatization of the NHS off the front page…. His devotion to furthering the interests of the corporations is almost courageous (although more likely self-interested).

But on a more sinister note, to return to the hypnotic invite to our suggestible brains… Cameron’s outburst was a dog whistle of contempt for Jeremy Corbyn, and for us to completely forget the importance of Corbyn’s line of questioning.

As the commentator above puts it ‘It isn’t just lies, it is psychological techniques, deliberately playing on fears discovered using market research techniques.’

All this raises questions about transparency and democratic legitimacy. We do not expect politicians to be trying to manipulate our unconscious, using behavioural, marketing techniques.

In discussing the politics of ‘Nudge’ (Cameron’s Behavioural Insights Team were known as the Nudge Unit’) Will Leggett writes:

We expect governments to clearly state their policies, and persuade us of their merits. …. advocates of the Big Society never tire of pointing out the pitfalls of ‘nanny statism’. So it is curious that they are simultaneously endorsing a policy approach which makes even our unconscious decisions an object of government intervention.

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/debate/bigsociety-leggett.aspx

The good news is that the more these psychological manipulations become the subject of open debate, the less effective they are likely to be. Our ‘thinking’ will kick in and we might actually remember the parlous state of the NHS instead of Cameron’s shameful, sartorial schema.

 

Related post:

Propaganda techniques – Glittering Generalities

The other reasons why Labour lost in 2015

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For the most part, Margaret Beckett has managed to avoid the firing line for her 35 page report as to why Labour lost the 2015 GE.  Essentially, the report (which can be read here) does not fit easily into the Labour Right’s or the media’s frame of reference… vague or bland was the best they could come up with.  The press tried to whip up some excitement about ‘the suppression of a secret report’ about focus group findings but the task of blaming Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s defeat in 2015 eventually proved too convoluted.  However, Jamie Reed MP did his best in a valiant effort for Progress:

Any Labour leader who refuses to listen to the country and who prizes the views of Labour members above Labour voters and former Labour voters will likely find that although they may secure the Labour crown, they will lose the Labour kingdom.’

In other words, the lesson from 2015 is that ‘the LP has the wrong membership’.. which reminds me of an old joke about the wrong electorate (but repetition of the word ‘Labour’ 6x in one sentence must be worth a mention).

 

Coming from the Left, I thought that the Beckett report was fair enough but that there were plenty of things left unsaid, that might have been usefully included.

But first, let’s be absolutely clear, the Tories won a majority because the Liberal Democrats imploded (-15.2%).  

Given that in most LD held seats, the Conservatives were in second place, it was unsurprisingly that they took LD constituencies.  Conservatives replaced 27 LD MPs, and now represent virtually the whole of Devon and Cornwall, coast to coast.  Those constituencies alone provided the Tory majority.

The unasked question is ‘Why were Labour in third place (gaining only a few thousand votes) in constituencies which have high levels of poverty, high unemployment, high self-employment, high housing costs, inadequate transport/infrastructure and a historical lack of investment?’

That blame cannot be laid on the 2015 campaign.  The fact is that New Labour governments never focused on addressing the problems of rural Britain… and there certainly are big problems in rural areas, all across the UK.  Although, to be fair, Huw Irranca-Davies MP did try his best to highlight them at the Labour Party Conference 2014.

So Scotland … what a tragedy for a few great Labour MPs, like Katy Clark and others, but the truth is that many, if not most, Scottish Labour-held seats were profoundly neglected by their Blairite MPs.  Their constituents really were ‘taken for granted’.  As Ben Margulies puts it, ‘the SNP won by defeating the “rotten structures of Scottish Labour”

Again, this cannot fairly be laid at Ed Miliband’s feet.

Ian Williams in Tribune describes the birth of New Labour:

‘Clinton set the model for New Labour – ostentatiously disavowing calumniated “special interest groups”, while pandering to the right…..  Unlike Clinton, the Blair administration did a lot of good work – but party bosses did not want anyone boasting about it, in case it alienated the financiers whom they hoped would replace the unions as bankrollers for the party.

In both cases, the plan was to hollow out the popular base of the parties, denying members effective input on policy or candidates, to reduce it to a PO box for corporate donations. As we saw in the Labour Party, it became a self-perpetuating career escalator for machine politicians that eventually ruthlessly weeded out any signs of dissent and any ties with the unions apart from topping up the collection box.

And nowhere was this model more surely adopted than by Scottish New Labour MPs.

Yes, the tipping point in Scotland was the referendum … and it was Ed Miliband’s fault for supporting the idea …. But who in their right minds thought it was a good idea for Labour to join forces with the Tories in the No campaign!!?

The idea is surely repugnant to any left-winger but yet again the transatlantacist right of the LP were seduced by US fantasy politics which promotes ‘bipartisanship’ as a high ideal to which they should aspire. Perhaps, if they had actually been in touch with their membership, they might have realised sooner that it wasn’t an aspiration shared by their fellow Scots who saw it as further evidence of ‘Red Tories’… and the dissipating Labour vote (ignored from 2007 onward) finally rotted away.

Anyway, the collapse of the LD vote and the loss of 40 Scottish MPs might have been mitigated, had Labour not made another fatal mistake.

What on earth possessed them to oppose the EU Referendum?

Was this ‘Hell yeah’ politics, toughing it out, holding the line?  Even pro-EU voters were invited to feel patronized.  Talk about handing a majority to the Tories.

ComRes opinion polling (post-election) found that 17% of Conservative and LD voters, and 33% of Ukip voters would have considered voting Labour, if Labour had been in support of a referendum on the EU.  In terms of MPs, that alone would have deprived the Tories of their majority.  ComRes estimated that Labour would have gained 8 seats leaving the Conservatives with 323, 3 short of a majority.

The amazing thing is that in spite of losing 40 Scottish MPs, and 27 LD seats going straight to the Tories, Labour still increased its vote in England and Wales by 1.5m in 2015 whereas the Tories only gained 500k.  But unfortunately, Labour largely built up its vote in unwinnable and safe seats, and although, there were 22 gains, the loss of 48 meant that Labour ended up with only 232 MPs.

In fact, the British Election Study team found that

‘Miliband was seen as having a more successful campaign than Cameron, perhaps against low expectations. This rating of who ‘performed best in the campaign’ switched in Cameron’s favour shortly before the election’

 

It also seems that the Ed Miliband team made the false assumption that the Tories would lose votes to Ukip, and disillusioned LDs would switch to Labour.  In the event, Labour probably only gained about 8% of the 2010 LD vote, former LDs being more than prepared to vote Conservative.  (Amazingly a lot of LD votes must have gone to Ukip – only half of Ukip’s 3.8m votes seem to have been taken from former Con or Lab voters )

The final cutting irony was that the collapse of the LD vote meant that the Tories gained a further 7 MPs because Labour supporters (and others) withdrew their tactical votes for the LD MP.  For example in Lewes constituency which was considered to be a safe LD seat, Norman Baker MP lost 7925 votes which split fourways between Ukip, Labour, Greens and Conservatives.  The new Tory MP was elected with only 805 votes above the 2010 losing result.

In the final analysis, Mark Doel of Sheffield sums it up…it was the UK electoral system that won it for the Tories. Not since universal suffrage has any party with less than 37% of the popular vote gained an absolute majority in the UK parliament. In fact, the swing to Labour (1.5%) was almost twice that to the Conservatives (0.8%) ….

Talk of David Cameron “sweeping to victory” adds wind to the sails of a government that acts as though it has a massive mandate when, by any account, a 12-seat majority is tiny, especially as it is built on the fluke distribution of an historically small proportion of votes. We must stop allowing the Tories to present this result as “a convincing victory”.

Charles Cronin of London adds:

‘…Lynton Crosby’s seeming effortless success in promoting the Tory party’s domination of the media could only have succeeded with the editorial support of the media. The BBC, as it must, covered and followed the press agenda. Don’t give too much praise to the creator of the message: it was the messengers that swung it.’

 

However, I cannot finish without pin-pointing the role of the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, in Ed Miliband’s failure to win the 2015 GE.  This is of overwhelming significance for the electability of Jeremy Corbyn in 2020.

Professor Eunice Goes‘ assessment of the 2015 campaign was that:

Ed Miliband was a flawed leader but the responsibility for the Labour’s colossal defeat on May 7 does not rest solely on his shoulders. Party divisions, plots, constant media attacks paralysed the party, in particular its policy development process. When the electoral manifesto was finally approved last spring the proposals that came out were confusing, unconvincing and uninspiring as Miliband tried to cater to all factions and ended up pleasing none….

And writing before his election as leader, her contention was that Jeremy Corbyn will not be allowed to lead the LP:

‘.. he will be de facto prevented from leading the Labour Party. The weekly duels in the House Commons with the Prime Minister David Cameron will be the least of Corbyn’s worries. He will be torn apart by his parliamentary party and the media. He will not be able to develop a single policy proposal, as he will be spending most of his time and energy explaining and justifying every single word he uttered during his long parliamentary career about Europe, Trident, coal mines, people’s quantitative easing or Israeli oranges. In other words, his leadership will collapse under pressure from opposition and resistance from all fronts.

But when this will happen the right of the party will have few reasons to rejoice as there is no greater electoral turn-off than to see – as we’ve witnessed in the past weeks – the spectacle of Labour apparatchiks treating the party’s membership and their democratic choices with such contempt.’

 

The experience of the last 4 months bears ample witness to Eunice Goes’ prediction… and yet, there is still room for hope.  I am not alone in feeling reassured that the Corbyn/ McDonnell team is much more experienced and streetwise, than Ed Miliband’s.  In addition, the membership have been exposed to the Labour Establishment’s contempt for democracy.

Let’s hope that the ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it’ mentality from the Labour Right eventually fades away, even if it is only out of self-interest.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/295975145 /Learning-the-Lessons-from-Defeat-Taskforce-Report

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2016/01/23/all-my-sons/

http://www.huwirranca-davies.org.uk/what-can-labour-do-to-win-the-rural-vote/

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/53094-2/

http://www.tribunemagazine.org/2016/01/letter-from-america-ian-williams-3/

http://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-impact/learning-the-right-lessons-from-labours-2015-defeat/#.VqzyKuk27oA

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/24/lynton-crosbys-role-in-the-tory-election-victory

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/even-if-he-wins-jeremy-corbyn-will-never-be-able-to-lead-the-labour-party/

https://think-left.org/2015/08/30/what-the-labour-establishment-didnt-really-want-us-to-know/

What the Labour establishment didn’t really want us to know

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First and foremost… what an unmitigated mess they’re making of the leadership contest… the LP elite have certainly shown us their ‘petticoats’.

Significantly, the proverbial tide has gone out, revealing their implicit attitudes and assumptions … and amazingly, we’ve seen New Labour hoist by its own petard.

How has New Labour been hoisted?

Through their machinations, they’ve achieved their own worst outcome. So, if Jeremy Corbyn wins in spite of the ‘purge’, his victory will be legitimated. But the reverse is true, if Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper win.

Furthermore, it’s now obvious to party members, affiliated members and supporters, that none of the leadership support Corbyn, and that there has been a co-ordinated Progress/Blairite attempt to undermine what is a normal open democratic primary election. ( Mandelson’s latest hysterics insist that Labour is in ‘Mortal Danger’ from a manifesto which is slightly to the right of the 1983 SDP manifesto.)

So if Jeremy fails to get a majority and loses, there will be an exodus of voters, members and trades unionists disgusted at the behaviour of the Right (as well as the snooping on social media, asking local branch secretaries to use canvas returns to vet local supporters etc.). Why is it that a Tory MP can cross the floor of the House of Commons and be welcomed with open arms but an ex-Labour Party member is suspect for wanting to return to Labour?

The crux question is whose ‘Aims and Values’ are being judged as Labour’s … or is the whole thing a charade – just a proxy for shoring up the current LP hierarchy?

Given the hysterical reaction of the New Labour Right to the voting system, was it ‘all Ed’s fault’?

In order to counter accusations from the press (fuelled by both the Tories and the Blairites) that he was under the spell of the trade unions (and Unite in particular), Ed Miliband called a special conference to agree changes to the rules.  Under pressure from Progress, Miliband also opened up the vote for the party leadership to non-members (an open primary) and required union members to sign up to pledge their allegiance to the party before being given the right to vote.

So was it really just Ed’s decision?  At the time, Tony Blair congratulated him and even said that he wished that he’d introduced the changes himself.  However, it does indicate some of the level of internal opposition that Ed Miliband has faced throughout his time as LP leader

Professor Eunice Goes explains:

Lessons from the Miliband era

Ed Miliband’s decision to turn the page on New Labour was seen by many party figures and media pundits as a heresy that had to be fought. That fight started on Miliband’s first day on the job and only ended when he resigned. In the early days of his leadership, many angry Labour voices claimed that Miliband’s victory was not legitimate because he did not win the vote of the majority of the parliamentary party…. other criticisms started to be heard. Miliband was too left-wing, too wonky, too weird and his policies lacked credibility.

The Blairite wing – inside but also outside the House of Commons – was particularly disruptive and did everything to undermine his authority. Lord Mandelson was a case in point. He never wasted an opportunity to say that Miliband was wrong to deviate an inch from the New Labour rulebook. And when Lord Mandelson or the former Prime Minister Tony Blair were too busy with their daytime jobs to attack the Labour leader there were plenty of backbenchers and, occasionally, frontbenchers who fed stories to the media about how Miliband’s leadership was hanging by a thread… the aim of these attacks was to destabilise Miliband.

…Miliband also faced a hostile media.…Party divisions, plots, constant media attacks paralysed the party, in particular its policy development process. When the electoral manifesto was finally approved last spring the proposals that came out were confusing, unconvincing and uninspiring as Miliband tried to cater to all factions and ended up pleasing none.

 

So what does this tell us?

New Labour has never really ‘done’ democracy. The decision of the membership to elect Ed Miliband and not the Blairite choice of David Miliband was never respected. The Blairites were prepared to act against the interests of the LP and many, such as John Rentoul, said openly that they would rather have a Tory government than a left wing one. More said it, in private. Tony Blair actually said it again recently, when urging Jeremy Corbyn supporters to get a heart transplant:

 Tony Blair has said he would not want a left-wing Labour party to win a general election.

Bart Cammaerts writes: 

What we have seen in recent decades is the deliberate de-ideologisation and normalisation – some would say naturalisation – of rightwing and neoliberal solutions to solve the many problems of our society. Rightwing solutions are, in other words, common sense, full stop. Alternative solutions, on the contrary, are denoted as ideological, as biased, as dangerous and loony. It is high time that the (centre-) left learns this lesson and starts to propose leftwing solutions again as sensible solutions, as the real common sense and as fair and morally just. That is exactly what Corbyn is trying to do, with success and this ‘unstrategic’ strategy might even make him ‘electable’ in the long run.

 

He also suggests that There are much deeper political and social reasons explaining why Corbyn and his outspoken leftist ideas have become so popular in such a short time.’

 

After the elections last spring, which Labour convincingly lost, the right of the party, referring to the past successes of New Labour, saw its chance to attack the somewhat more leftwing course of Miliband and to argue for a ‘Tory light’ agenda. What they forgot, however, was that the grassroots of the party and the progressive segment of the British population had turned their backs on the so-called third way and on New Labour. Put differently, many people are more than fed-up with the left blatantly accepting the basic logics, values and arrogance of neoliberalism. Instead, many want a serious, forceful and ideologically robust opposition to the current Tory government, their righteous rightwing discourse and their supposedly ‘unavoidable’ cuts.

 

I agree with him.  Harriet Harman’s decision to abstain on Osborne’s Welfare Bill was the final straw but it was the prospect of a Labour leader who was even further to the right than Ed Miliband that was totally unacceptable to many in the grassroots of the LP.

Ed Miliband may have been the loser in the 2015 General Election but instead been the midwife to the re-birth of ‘real’ Labour.

Furthermore, the ways in which Ed Miliband was constantly undermined by the Right, throughout his leadership, should forewarn those of us who support Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership.  Should he be elected, we must act to prevent similar abuse of the membership’s democratic decision.  The fight to reclaim the Labour Party will not end on the 12th of September whatever the result.

 

 

Answer to a silly question about Jeremy Corbyn

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‘I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1960. I am 70 years of age. So I don’t need any lessons in supporting the Party, through thick and thin over the last 55 years. I supported Wilson, I supported Callaghan, I supported Foot, I supported Kinnock, I supported John Smith, and I tolerated Tony Blair, until Iraq. That is where I drew the line. I supported Ed Miliband, whilst the traitorous Blairites tried to undermine him.

I support the aims that Nye Bevan embraced. He spoke about the commanding heights of the economy being under public control. There is great support for the public ownership of the Railways and the Utilities. Jeremy Corbyn understands this and he wishes to re-establish Party democracy to the Labour Party.

Many people are fed up with having, the totally untalented sons and daughters of past Labour ministers and leaders, parachuted into their constituences without the consultation of local members.

So, we who support Corbyn are saying no more, enough is enough. We lost in England, and we lost in Scotland because of this. So I will be supporting the original reason for Labour’s creation, as is Mr Corbyn. That is why I will be supporting him. I hope this answers your rather silly question.’

With apologies to the unknown author for ‘stealing’ your words.  They reflect the experience of so many long-term Labour Party members and deserve to be shared far and wide as a response to the ‘increasingly charmless’ New Labour attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.  

What was the ‘silly question’?  

“So, if Jeremy isn’t elected as Leader, will you still support whoever is?”

Frankly, what a bloody cheek! 

Dear Mr Miliband…

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Thanks to Alderman Michael Poulter MBE for permission to reprint


From: Alderman Michael Poulter MBE

8th January 2014

Mr Ed Miliband MP,
Leader of the Opposition,
House of Commons.
London
SW1AOAA

Dear Mr Miliband,
Osborne’s Deficit Scam – The Excuse to Privatise, Outsource and Dismantle Public Services and the Welfare State

In his New Year Message, the Chancellor again exploits the alleged Deficit Crisis to trumpet a still imperative need for extended austerity and more severe cuts in Public Spending.  In William Keegan’s words (Observer 29.12.2013):

Coalition Ministers still proclaim the ‘Big Lie’ that it was all down to ‘Labour’s Mess’ 

From its inception, the Coalition claimed the National Debt was overwhelmingly large and that it must, therefore, cut public spending and public services dramatically in order to restore the economy to health.

But the Government’s claim is false.  The Deficit Crisis is a fiction and the British Public are being subjected to one of the bigger scams in British history.  There exists an impressively intellectual array of wise, educated and expert advice which tells us so.

Professor Robert Nield of Cambridge University is the foremost historian of the National Debt.  He analysed the Coalition’s claim and in effect rubbished it!  He authoritatively states that for the last three centuries the UK has maintained a National Debt without difficulty.  Much of that debt was higher than when the Coalition took power.  It did not look alarming let alone abnormal!  He says that the application of Government policies, justified by alarmism, is leading into unnecessarily deep recession.
Dr William Keegan ( Cutting welfare to ‘aid recovery’ is just a big lie ), quotes Brian Henry on ‘Coalition’s Economic Strategy’.  His careful analysis of the so-called structural deficit states it was no worse at the end of Labour’s pre-crisis years than it had been under the Conservatives, and that the Coalition seized the opportunity to impose a protracted fiscal contraction with the aim of reducing the Tax Burden.  Dr Keegan recalls John Le Carre’s powerful phrase about Coalition Welfare policy being tantamount to ‘planned penury’.  I think the emphasis here must be on the ‘planned’.

George Osborne and the Reinhard-Rogoff thesis – Before he took office Mr Osborne used this paper as key to his intellectual argument for the austerity programme – ‘Should Public Spending be cut to control deficits or should States pro-actively rekindle economic growth?’   Their deeply argued analysis said Public Spending should be cut!  Mr Osborne suggested that they offered perhaps the most significant contribution to understanding the origin of the financial crisis.  But an authoritative study by Herndon, Ash and Polin found their conclusion was based on faulty maths and spreadsheet error.  The assumptions and calculations (on which Mr Osborne based his policy) did not stand up.  This criticism of Reinhart-Rogoff is also supported by Larry Elliot, an economist of international repute.  The intellectual basis for the Deficit Reduction policy is deeply flawed.

Nobel Prize Winner, Paul Krugman explicitly denounces the Coalition Myth that the Deficit is unmanageable without cuts and great austerity!  He quotes Keynes:

“The Boom not the Slump is the time for austerity”

Robert Skidelsky, foremost commentator on Keynes, also supports the view that Britain’s public debt was far from from crisis point.

Will Hutton, Principal of Hertford College Oxford and public intellectual of great repute, comments:

“..we need Government not to cut but which steps in to halt the plunge in private demand.  We need public investment and job creation to survive as an economy.”

Joseph.E.Stiglitz is a Nobel PrizeWinner and former Chief Economist of the World Bank.  In his book ‘The Price of Inequality‘, he powerfully criticises ‘Deficit Fetishism’ of the kind exhibited by the Coalition and the risks to the Public Good inherent in the advance to Privatisation.  His is a powerful critique of Free Market Ideology.

What conclusion might now be drawn?  On the basis of these expert views the Coalition Policy is a sham!

I go along with John Harris (Guardian ,28.02.2011):

”Coalition has sneaked a coup on a sleeping public”  

He says that what is occurring throughout the Western World is the planned dismantling of Welfare States.  The alleged Deficit Crisis is being used as an excuse (as in Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’) to shock/persuade people that the Public Sector and the Postwar settlement must be swept away as unaffordable!

Following Polly Toynbee’s excellent article in The Guardian ‘Tory outriders reveal the party’s direction of travel’, I wrote to her quoting the authorities I mention above.  Her immediate and personal response acknowledged their wisdom and suggested that Cameron had intended all this from the outset!

Cameron and Osborne use this ‘fiction’ of an overwhelming budget deficit to justify pre-planned privatisation and cuts in Public Spending (The Politics of Privatisation in Western Europe,1988).
Their cuts of 25-40% are thus causing the dismantling of our universally available Health, Social Service, Community Care, Education Services, Legal Aid as well as Pensions, Retirement and Benefits Provision and entitlement for which fair and proper taxation policies have paid in the past.

At the same time, they impose the headlong drive towards Privatisation and Outsourcing thus threatening not only Health and Education but Prisons, Probation, Policing and Court Services.
They enhance the interests of the large Corporate, Commercial and Financial organisations at the expense of the Public interest and the Public Purse rather than the majority democratic interest of all living in our communities. Cuts in Flood Protection are a recent case in point.

The Deficit Reduction Strategy ( “Lie” as described by William Keegan) underpins the Coalition’s entire political, economic and social/welfare policy.  As described above, it is clearly based on complete misrepresentation designed to mislead and confuse the Electorate and to blame Labour for the damaging policies being forced through.

Labour is thus unfairly and unjustifiably labelled as the cause of a Deficit Crisis which does not actually exist.  A lack of rebuttal seems to encourage the Chancellor and Ministers, in Parliament and out in the country, continuously to make statements about “the financial mess they inherited.”
Everywhere groups of people, in meetings, social gatherings and pubs, friends and acquaintances have all been imbued with the mindset of Deficit Fetishism .

But there are now within the country profound stirrings of support for a concerted challenge to this Coalition Lie.  This resides not only among intellectuals, economists, journalists and the Trades and Labour Movement but nationally and locally among many other people of good will concerned about the impact of this fixation on Deficit Reduction (in part the cause of the Cost of Living Crisis) and about the disastrous and dangerous direction in which the UK is being taken.  Their frustration and alarm could well be mobilised.  Notable among them must be the recent positions taken by both Archbishops, Justin Welby of Canterbury and Vincent Nichols of Westminster; ably supported it must be said by Pope Francis!  The significance of their Faith communities and their range of influence should not be underestimated!

I write this letter to suggest to you that the tide is beginning to change and thus brings a challenging opportunity for Labour.
You have a network of Constituency Parties, MPs, Parliamentary Candidates, Leaders and Councillors , Party Members and their friends within our Counties, Cities, Towns, Villages and Rural communities – all of whom could be mobilised to counter the Coalition Lie and to demolish the mindset of Deficit Fetishism.  Should this mobilisation occur, the ground would be well prepared for a much more healthy and constructive debate about the future direction of our society and the kind of ‘people-based’, democratically- orientated economy – the reconstruction for which so many would vote, in the next General Election.

Yours Sincerely,

Michael Poulter

http://www.michaelpoulter.org.uk

Are politicians really all the same? Whose side are you on?

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Are politicians really all the same? Whose side are you on?

Published previously by Liam R Carr

When you get involved in local politics one thing you hear is “It doesn’t matter who I vote for, you lot (politicians) are all the same”

Right now we can see clear differences in policy between the two parties that has not been seen since Thatcher was in power. Politicians for too long have tried occupy themuddy centre ground. New Labour stuck its flag firmly in the centre and won elections, Lib Dems have fashioned careers out of wriggling into the tiny space between the two main parties, they are still trying it now, claiming that they should be the party in a never ending coalition government because they make the Tories nicer and Labour meaner. Cameron came to power after reforming his Party, into Compassionate Conservatives; how quickly the mask slips.

When times are good the detail of economic policy is something that you can read about in the FT if you are that way inclined. During a recession however, every detail is front page news. The priorities, of both government and opposition, are laid bare.

On health the government are on the side of private healthcare providers. The health and social care act which allows private companies to get a slice of the NHS budget, is one of the few acts that Labour will repeal.

On education the government priority has shifted to academic qualifications in traditional subjects and values memorising facts over skills development. There is a choreographed split between Clegg and Gove on free schools, which not not change the implementation of a policy which Clegg could have voted down had he chosen to oppose it when it came before Parliament.

On welfare the line is less defined, with Labour and Tories alike trying to be “tough on benefits.” The divide however can been seen in the approach; with Labour guaranteeing a job people who are out of work for 2 years. Under Iain Duncan-Smith the DWP are sanctioning more job seekers than ever before. The job-centre stop payments then give the person being sanctioned directions to the local food bank. This is the poor feeding the poor; many donations come from pensioners who have memories long enough to remember a time before the welfare state.

Rising prices and falling wages are the battle lines on which the 2015 general election will be fought. Energy prices are spiralling out of control and David Cameron has persisted in stubbornly staying firmly the side of the big energy companies. A Tory will always say that market forces must to be interfered with, but when the market is rigged it will not sort itself out, only a government can fix it. The public, the Labour Party and even John Major agree that now is the time to act – something needs to be done.

All political parties from Cameron’s Conservatives to Mao’s Communists will claim to be on the side of ‘hard working people’ However decisions like selling the Royal Mail off cheap show how clear it is that the Tories are still a party of rich men, paid for by rich men, implementing policy which protects the interests of rich men. Under the Leadership of Ed Miliband the Labour Party is developing policies that really will benefit the many and not the few.http://liamrcarr.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/which-side-are-you-on.html?

Regaining Real Power: An Energy Price Cap and Green Investment

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The Way Forward – An Energy Cap as well as Green Investment 

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Ed Miliband’s welcome announcement at the Labour Party Conference to cap energy prices was a popular one with the electorate. Realisation of that caused alarm with Tories and energy companies -scare tactics threatening power shortages. Indeed, it is not just energy power they hold, and fear of losing control unnerves them. Ed has emphasised his belief in the green economy, and introducing the feed back tariff for solar power and micro-generation demonstrated that. 

This was rapidly cut back by the Coalition government, and their investment in fracking, and gas makes their self-interest very clear.

An energy cap and green investment policies could go a very long way to shifting that power back to the people. If this is followed by control of other utilities, transports, money and banking, we would be looking at a real recovery – that of Society. 

Our dependence on energy for our very survival is clear. What can be avoided is a perpetual dependence on privatized energy companies. We are imprisoned by fear of the collapse of society and the consequence has been wars in the Middle East. Ominously, British oil companies have unprecedented influence  of British military policies.

British oil companies are promoting a ‘fight against piracy’ to get a vast hidden military subsidy. In the process they have got an unprecedented amount of influence over UK military policies. Oil companies have talked up the risk from piracy to justify the use of Navy frigates, drones and helicopters to protect corporate oil assets in the seas. They have demanded increased spending on military hardware at a time of major public cutbacks. 

The media’s insistence that renewable energy would not satisfy our needs literally fuels the thirst for fossil fuels, and nuclear, while denying the dangers of climate change and nuclear contamination. The financial argument in favour of fossil and nuclear fuels is heavily biased, distorting political and public confidence in renewable energy. Why is George Osborne insisting on commitment to dirty, carbon producing gas-fuel for years to come? Ed Davey has been pressured by George Osborne to adopt gas or face deep cuts to any renewable subsidy. (Friends of the Earth, ) While cutting feed-in-tarriffs, the government prepared to invest in fracking and shale gas, with known dangers, and Lynton Crosby clearly has self-interest, yet Cameron refuses to address questions on this issue.

Evidence shows how energy companies manipulate markets, Libor style by fixing prices. (Guardian)

Michael Burke‘s recent article, was published by Socialist Economic Bulletin, and emphasises the need for green investment if there is to be a real change for British politics.

Capping Energy Prices and Green Investment are BOTH Required

“The announcement by Ed Miliband that Labour would temporarily cap energy prices is a welcome one. But the reaction to it reveals to deep-seated problems of the British economy and British politics.

  • According to Labour’s own (uncontested) research household energy bills have risen by 29% in 3 years. Therefore the pledge to cap prices rises for 20 months is really a very modest reform.
  • According to a campaign tool ‘Freezethatbill’ the average household has seen bills rise by £300 under the Tories and will save £112 a year from this policy. That would be an estimated saving of £160 in total.
  • The reaction to this moderate plan has been vociferous and extreme. Lurid headlines about the lights going out in Britain have been accompanied by open threats from the large energy companies to discontinue investment. SEB has long argued that the cause of the slump is an investment strike by private firms.
  • The energy companies threatened to make that an all-out strike in their sector.
  • The Tory energy secretary and a host of MPs immediately relayed the threats of the energy companies. This is hardly surprising given the very large donations those companies make to the Tory Party. The Tory Press did likewise.
  • However it cannot be argued that this was simply scaremongering, based on empty threats. It is already the case that the energy companies do not invest sufficiently, either in storage capacity or in renewables. The energy companies, especially those controlling energy reserves, have previously withheld supplies in order to push up prices. It was previously reported that in March this year the British economy was just half a day away from running out of gas. But the reality was that energy companies withheld available supplies, which drove up liquefied natural gas prices to 150p a therm, from 57p earlier in the year.

In pursuit of profits, the energy companies have been willing to collude in driving up prices, and endangering supply. They are able to do this, in part, because existing capacity is extremely limited and they are an oligopoly.

This is the real threat to Ed Miliband’s policy.

Clearly the price pledge is only relevant if wholesale energy prices are rising. Capping retail prices for business and household consumers while wholesale prices are rising can only lead to a profits squeeze. As a result the energy companies threaten that they will reduce their already inadequate level of investment, even while some of them have caved in on the temporary price freeze. This could lead to energy shortages and would end Ed Miliband’s much more ambitious goal of de-carbonising energy production by 2030.

The financial position is clear. Taking the shareholder payout from just British Gas, Centrica, Scottish & Southern Electricity and National Grid alone the current annual dividend is £3.4bn. Yet despite the imperative for investment in renewables, the level  of  investment has halved from already low levels over 3 years.

This private investment slump has been exacerbated by the withdrawal of state investment in the energy sector under this government. Private companies have proved incapable of providing the necessary investment for long-term projects over a prolonged period. They are simply unwilling to take the risk. Yet the current government has reduced its own investment in subsidies for renewables which reflects its commitment to the oil companies and in pursuit of the illusory benefits of fracking.

Ed Miliband’s policy of capping energy prices is very welcome. It makes a small contribution to softening the fall in living standards. But the extreme response to it highlights the complete unwillingness of the energy companies to provide the necessary investment in renewables and storage capacity. De-carbonisation and energy security require large-scale state-led investment. Instead dividend payouts to shareholders are at record levels. Faced with sabotage and threats from the energy companies, nationalisation is a necessary step that can lead to the investment that is imperatively required.”