Is Time up for ‘The Big Lie’?
Over the past five years the Tories and their Lib Dem supporters have lied on an epic scale. Orwellian double-think and newspeak has nothing on them. They damn Labour for borrowing, whilst borrowing more than Labour has done, not only during the previous Labour administration but in history; boast of growth whilst overseeing the slowest economic recovery since the South Sea Bubble 300 years ago; and a rate of growth that still doesn’t match the one they inherited – and let no-one mention that the national debt Labour was bequeathed in 1997 (as a % of GDP) was larger than was passed on to the Tories in 2010.
The Tories know this perfectly well. But the credit crunch was a Tory wet dream, offering undreamed-of opportunities to implement a huge shift of wealth away from the public to a tiny ruling elite. It is no coincidence that the U.K. now has the largest number of billionaires per head of population than any other country. When the Tories ask where the money has gone – referencing ‘that’ note – the answer is clear.
From the privatisation of the Royal Mail for £1bn less than its market value – at a conservative estimate – to the handing out of NHS contracts to the private sector, the evidence of how this asset-stripping is playing out is there for all to see.
But what is in plain sight is not always what is most visible.
I give you, for your distraction, the ever-changing galaxy of scapegoats presented by our friends in the media and their Tory chums: foreigners; gay men and women; black people; asylum-seekers; refugees; gypsies; benefit scroungers; and, the current favourite – Muslims. There are many, many more, of course.
The crowding around the political centre ground left many working class people feeling abandoned, disenfranchised, bemused by what has happened and angry at the impact the undermining of their lives, homes and jobs has had upon them. UKIP, the ultra-Tories, have simply taken the next step, exploiting those fears to argue, for example, that raising the Minimum Wage would attract more lazy foreigners to the country, to take our jobs whilst living on benefits – let’s not dwell on that contradiction too long. The lie remains, only it’s even larger and even more dangerous.
Yes, only an idiot would argue that strategy hasn’t worked to an extent. A bigger idiot, though, would argue that everyone attracted by UKIP’s rhetoric is, therefore, racist, a hopeless, mindless bigot to be dismissed. Of course they’re not.
In their private lives when people go through the ups and downs of life they often grasp at small, almost insignificant issues and obsess about them. An argument about a partner not remembering to do the shopping, to put the bin out, to sort the gas bill, all these become mountainous problems because they feel themselves to still have an element of control over them – the ‘small stuff’. The underlying problems are too big, too difficult to face and are put to one side but forgetting to hang out the washing, now that sums up what’s wrong with your life…..
As in private, so it follows that the big public issues of the day can seem unfathomable, so far beyond their control that they don’t bear thinking about, let alone understanding, because there is no point. An earnest discussion of globalisation, the free movement of capital but not labour or the operation of City trading houses will leave many people completely cold. So, back to the ‘small stuff’: now, that bloke at no. 26 who’s never done a day’s work in his life, who claims benefits…., he’s the one. He is what is wrong with society. And those they read about in the press, now if we sort them….
And, returning to the theme, why would anyone tell such blatant lies about Romanians, Muslims, etc.? There must be some truth in it because they wouldn’t print such stuff if it wasn’t basically true, give or take the odd exaggeration…. Surely. Surely, people don’t tell such outrageous lies….
The last General Election saw an unpopular Labour Government, dealing with the biggest financial crisis in modern times, still suffering from the hangover of ‘New Labour’ – just how toxic that had become – and it hit rock bottom. But the Tories didn’t win. Despite everything, they had to be propped up by the Lib Dems (when ‘propping up’ was fine – it’s a crime now, it seems.). Was this the first sign of the weakening of the ‘Big Lie’? People were clearly fed up with Labour but not enough bought into the Tory message.
Cameron and Osborne have perfected their straight faces whilst telling the biggest lies possible but still not enough people have fallen for them. And as the election has approached, the lies have gotten larger and, abandoning all pretence of reporting news, their allies in the traditional media have joined in making a huge noise about how a man eats a bacon sarnie. There can never have been a worse, more negative, down-right vicious campaign in modern British political history.
But the louder they shout, the clearer it is becoming that not enough people are listening to them. Today’s headlines [6th May 2015] go beyond hysterical. The plebs, it seems, aren’t paying enough attention.
Younger people have tended to vote differently to the older sections in society but is that gap widening? Some of the polls suggest there is a growing and significant difference between the levels of support for UKIP by age-group. Society has changed and UKIP focuses upon older people, relying on a twisted version of nostalgia to spread its appeal, so that’s understandable. But what else is going on? At the same time the amount of time spent by people reading print news media is seemingly in terminal decline, likewise the time spent watching network TV news is suffering too. By contrast, the numbers accessing their information from the internet, and social media, has grown and grown. And internet polls are now beginning to highlight different outcomes to those carried out by telephone. (But that’s all Russell Brand’s fault, isn’t it?)
There is always the issue of causation against correlation but is the increasing use of the internet with the access it provides to a bewildering array of information (yes, not all good), information that is not controlled by peddlers of the ‘Big Lie’ changing how people think? If the messages given to people by the Tories can’t rely upon their massive reinforcement by the Murdochs and Mails of this world, is it the beginning of the end for the very tool that has been so useful to them up to now?
Well, probably not. Not yet. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill – a man who knew the power of words if nothing else – whilst this isn’t the end; it isn’t even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning for the growing challenge to the ‘Big Lie’.
And aren’t they terrified of that?
The Flawed Policy of “Right to Buy”
By James Grundy
Yesterday, the Tories announced plans to extend the ‘Right to Buy’ to housing associations. In the middle of a housing crisis, when 1.8m households are stuck on council waiting lists, the Tories want to get rid of what social housing remains.
It is so crazy that even the Daily Telegraph referred to it as “economically illiterate and morally wrong.” 
In Hucknall we are building the first council homes for 30 years. At a time when there are around 2,500 households in the town on the council’s waiting list, the Tory solution is not to help to address that but to actively make it worse. And, cheeky beggars, they want the tax payer to pay for the privilege!
The National Housing Federation (the representative body for housing associations) estimates that the extension of the ‘Right to Buy’ (‘cos it’s ‘Wrong to Rent’ – from a council or housing association at least) would cost £5.8bn – some say £20bn. 
What we need, need desperately, are more homes that people can afford to rent or buy. Changing tenure of any council or housing association property will solve nothing, rather it will only worsen an already appalling problem. How many homes could be built with the money (that they’ve found on the magic money tree – same place as the £8bn for the NHS)?
Rather than an electoral bribe – who can pretend it is anything else? – we need to provide people with places to live and thrive. And today we learn that the Tories want those lucky enough to live in a council property to be threatened with homelessness, scrapping life-time tenancies. 
This will do nothing to deal with the waiting lists but undermine the stability of our local communities. It’s simply insanity. But confirmation that, as far as the Tories are concerned, not being a millionaire is simply a lifestyle choice.
We need – and we will – build more homes that people need desperately. The Tories have overseen a huge increase in the level of homelessness. Only last month it was confirmed that the number of children made homeless had grown by 10,000 in just one year. 
These latest announcements show just how little they care about that.
In 2010 I became sick of always being cynical and decided to opt for healthy scepticism to coincide with the formation of a Coalition Government. It was a new day: exciting unchartered territory. I’ve always supported the concept of proportional representation so I thought this would be an enlightening adventure. And anyway, wasn’t it all Labour’s fault? And wasn’t this an emergency?
I’ve never had much time for labelling and categorisations. I never cared whether my opinions were to the left or right. Hey, if it’s correct and it works, who cares, I mused. I thought I was above that kind of restrictive, pigeon-holing crap. In my mind I still am. But in my heart? Well, now…
That was three years ago. Now, through getting to grips with the 3 Ms of modern finance: Machination, Manipulation and Malfeasance, I find that my search for solutions, insofar as they fit my personal philosophies, rather neatly consigns me to lean left in most socio-political issues. But that doesn’t mean I support Labour. It doesn’t mean that I trust Labour. It just confirms for me that there’s no viable alternative. It actually makes me feel a bit sick to think that, unless I decide to spoil my ballot, I will have to settle for this party that merely sits slightly to the left of the right – just to ensure the absence of the actual Right. And oh my, do I need some reassurance!
I’m afraid they will still compromise principle for trade, resources and territory, like this present government and all predecessors. I’m not convinced they know how to construct an economy which serves the people. All the people, rather than just some on the backs of others. I’m almost certain they will happily exploit other countries and peoples through neo-primitive accumulation, war and broken window policies.
I’ve come to recognise that, contrary to media and Tory propaganda, Labour in fact has a better handle on finance and what constitutes a healthy economic climate than either part of the Coalition of Conservatives but I don’t trust them to fully take the City on. I fear that Labour will still be more afraid of the banksters, corporations and foreign investors than the party will be of its electorate and I’m worried that they’ll bow to idiotic economists – you know the types: the ones who wish they were real scientists.
And I’m concerned about this fixation on the ‘centre ground’ for it is a relative notion with no real meaning. Calling something the centre doesn’t make it so. It doesn’t mean moderate either – Blair taught me that. I’m worried that Labour’s thinking is still too keen on measuring and projecting itself in order to fit with the mainstream. You see, the mainstream is a large part of our problem: its default setting being the status quo. Mainstream doesn’t stretch itself. It doesn’t question assumptions or readily imagine alternative views and those with vested interests, particularly politicians, take full and cynical advantage of this. I need my leaders to have the courage to be the exception. I’ve no problem with conceptsbecoming mainstream – that’s a measure of success in my book. But I don’t want to live there permanently. It’s stale and boring and anyway, look! It doesn’t sustain or even guarantee stability and security. It’s just holding fear or complacency in suspended animation until all manner of crazy starts oozing out of the appearing cracks.
For instance, take this borrowing malarkey. If Labour understands the economic argument and the method then they should have the courage – this much-heralded conviction – and advocate and explain it. Not in pre-fabricated chunks but properly, on a level that everyone can understand. They need to give us their economic lesson; demonstrate their theory. Don’t be shy or apologetic. Prove to the mainstreamers that they really do have a better financial grasp than the Conservatives. I’m all ears and I’m waiting…
Oh… and, as for proportional representation – this Coalition has rather put me off.
You know a Government is in trouble when they start slaying mythical dragons.
David Cameron announced this week that immigrants families would face being ineligible to apply for a Council house for up to five years. The Prime Minister has been under pressure from Conservative MPs since their appalling Eastleigh by-election result, where they slumped to third behind UKIP. The UKIP campaign was based strongly on an anti-immigration and anti-EU stance.
With a background of a stalling economy, poor poll ratings, internal conflict and a stress-cracked Coalition, the omens for the next election look poor for the Conservatives. With under three years to go, it would take a remarkable and unlikely turn around to reverse the trend.
So how does such a Government in this mess move forward?
They roll out their mythical dragons to slay.
For the Conservatives these are the EU, immigration, the public sector, unions, the welfare state and the so called deficit. Each is chosen for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the myth must be commonly shared. It is useful if your friends in the media will propagate helpful stories, using one-off extreme cases to demonstrate the rule. For example, a single mother with eleven children was the centre of a media storm last month. This case was used to demonstrate the ‘failing of an over generous benefit system’ , despite being a highly unusual case that represents a minuscule percentage of benefit claimants. The domination of the right-wing press ensures that such issues are rarely portrayed accurately, or with a fair evidential basis.
Secondly, each dragon should represent a group that is vulnerable and weak. This applies to immigrants and welfare claimants. These groups do not have the influence to seriously fight back.
Thirdly, the concept of scape-goating should apply. Are immigrants responsible for the lack of social housing? No, the issue is decades of not building them, while simultaneously selling the stock off. Are people on Job Seekers Allowance holding back the country and responsible for their own worklessness? No, our economy is so configured to ensure a permanent high level of unemployment to create a downward pressure on wages, and transfer wealth to global corporations and the super-rich. Scape-goating also helps to ensure ordinary workers focus their rage on those they should unite with. Why should the elite fight everyone else, when they can have ordinary people fight among themselves?
The Conservatives know that organised labour remains a barrier to eroding employee rights and creating the preconditions which would enable global capitalists to further asset strip the people of the United Kingdom. This is why the public sector and Unions are targets for slaying, not because they are bad, but for ideological reasons. The Miners strike in 1984-85 was a classic case of artificially constructing a fight, with the intention of destabilising the union movement and to justify a reduction in union rights.
The Conservatives always talk about the deficit as something Labour grew so large due to spending too much. This is nonsense, and even a cursory look at historical data blows this myth out of the water. The deficit is being used as a trojan horse to fragment and privatise our services for corporate profit.
So given the Conservatives inability to win the next election based on their performance or benefit they have brought to people, we can expect two years of further attacks on the classic Tory dragons.
Those on the left need to ensure that they fight every myth propagated by this Government, as it gets down and dirty heading towards 2015. No action should be done or speech made that gives credence to these myths.
This lesson needs to be quickly learned by the Shadow Cabinet.
Are you listening Liam Byrne?