Stop Mourning, Organise – Owen Jones

Stop Mourning , Organise – Owen Jones. Get together – and Win

Owen Jones is speaking here following the election defeat. Yes it hurt, but it’s happened. Cynicism and bitterness are destructive, and that is exactly what the Tories want. As ever, they seek to divide and rule. Lessons learnt, pick up your spirits, and now we must all get together, organise and fight. Together, not tearing ourselves apart. Then they will have won.

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/commentisfree/video/2015/may/13/post-election-downer-time-to-organise-owen-jones-video

Does last week’s election victory by David Cameron’s Conservatives fill you with despair? Mourning will not help, says Owen Jones. And neither will blaming the voters. The battles ahead seem daunting, but losing hope means letting down millions of people who are going to suffer. We need a positive message that resonates with people, however they voted. It’s time to redouble our efforts

Dear Lib Dems

Posted on May 27, 2014 by julijuxtaposed 
Dear Lib Dems,
 I know you’re heavily distracted right now but you and your leader seem confused about what has gone wrong.
You got excited. You thought, like most of the people back in 2010, that this was an economic emergency and that you had a public service duty to negotiate a coalition in the ‘National Interest’. Perhaps it is that you were naive; perhaps it was the long, oh so long awaited chance to be in power that made you blind during those early, heady days.
 You have acted, ultimately, as the front men, the shills, the appeasers and apologists for your senior partners. You’ve voted with them time after time, irrespective of whether it was in the citizens’ interests or even ethical and sensible. You have contributed to the increasingly desperate vulnerability of every single group bar the ‘I’m alright, Jacks’. [And don’t you dare think to yourself: “but we’ve lifted (blah number) over of the tax threshold” or that 24/7 childcare and free school meals or whatever your particular defence is today, are wondrous salves and believe yourselves righteous.]
You have upheld and then perpetuated a crony status quo. You’ve relentlessly tinkered with and demolished so much, so callously and with real ignorance. You’ve continued to subsidise profiteers with taxpayer money rather than facilitate a liveable income for the majority of the workforce. You built misery instead of houses. Courted the establishment rather than served the Commons. Turned Social Security into a capricious game of fare-well-if-we-say-you-can roulette. You’ve done nothing meaningful to address the real problems of increasing serfdom, asset stripping, the corporate tax fiasco, accountability of once public but now private service/utility provision. In fact, you align yourself with a senior partner who has the intention to do the opposite. You’ve avoided everything the sane and ‘common’ person on the street would have you fix and chosen, instead, to support and vote through the kinds of cruel, divisive, patriarchal false economies that so typify Tory mentality.
A year or so into your partnership, here on the ground, those who did not previously understand economics and finance were travelling a steep learning curve. We came to realise that, although this was indeed an emergency, you were being utterly disingenuous and wilfully obfuscating about a varied and complex set of causes and, therefore, about any appropriate solutions.
You thought that because you kept on message that we would not deviate either. You assumed we were all swallowing the mainstream stenographic tripe. We weren’t. We were educating ourselves elsewhere.
A truer picture began to emerge: Labour hadn’t just ‘created the mess’ – not on its own. It had taken time. Thatcher’s Tories arguably started it; Blair’s Labour ran with it and now, with your willing assistance, Cameron’s Tories were and still are, running amok. We learned that Labour’s general culpability was really no more than any other Western government’s. We learned that none of you actually understands how to, let alone cares about constructing and facilitating an economy that works for the citizens.
So, while you were busy feeling chuffed, we were learning new words and concepts and getting our heads around a new acronym every day. We were learning about limitless leverage, derivatives, LIBOR and other price fixing, bubbles, Ponzis, High Frequency Trading, Credit Default Swaps, paper gold, depraved banksters and traders, Investor State Dispute Settlements, vested interests, politics as a wealth-creating career and investment vehicle, fiat currency Wars.. It was and continues to be an astoundingly long list.
We learned that what private collateral there is is so insufficient as to be emasculated and that you are so ignorant and irresponsible that you will sell any public asset you can think of – be it in physical existence such as Royal Mail or packaged as a financial service such as student loan books. We discovered that The City was a hub for everything from the pretty shady to the downright fraudulent. And, under your ‘helpful’ governance, still is.
 We learned that ‘neoliberalism’ was shorthand for ‘capitalism, right-wing, corporate’. We saw that Neoliberals love power and money much more than people. We realised neoliberalism is what’s undermining people and the planet and that it is the obstacle to our sustained well-being. The well-being of billions. We looked around; made the connections. It made us imagine a slope towards fascism as a very possible 21st Century consequence.
We began to understand the whole obscenity. You didn’t. Or you just chose to ignore it. It has to be one or the other because we, out here, we’ve managed to at least grasp the rudiments in spite of the concerted attempts of powerful mainstream politicos to hinder our understanding.
 Back in 2010, when you sat down to negotiate, you (must have) realised how unpalatable the reality of a junior partnership in a Tory coalition would be if you were to maintain your reputation – which, as you’ll remember, was not bad at all. You could have shown integrity and told the Conservatives to form a minority government and that you’d support them where you could. You should have. But, even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you were truly earnest and noble in your intent, once ‘in’ you would have had even better opportunities to learn at least the same things as were we down here. One would think you’d have had an epiphany by the end of that first year. And what did you do? You carried on as though the Tory narrative was almost faultless. For four years.
 Every time you were called out on it you patronised us as though we were too stupid to know what was good for us. And, not content with that, you now justify your behaviour on the back of ‘recovery’. You seem to think you are, or soon will be, vindicated. Here, on the ground, those of us who have been busy trying to live under your ‘helpful’ governance; those of us doing all that learning: we know this is a recovery for those who need it least; a recovery built on bubbles, corruption, cronyism and the serfdom of the masses. The real shit has not even hit the global fan and there you are, trying to sweep our own dirt under a shifting carpet. It’s a fiat recovery, based on fiat ideology, carried out by fiat authority.
Liberal Democrat doesn’t really shout ‘integrity’ now, does it? ‘National Interest’? Yeah, if ‘national’ means ‘Westminster’ and ‘interest’ means ‘self’.
And now you think you’ve done so badly in the EP Elections because of your debate with Farage. Ok, that really wasn’t very impressive… your better arguments were not just lost amongst the crude populism of Farage but you demonstrated that you really do not understand that those people who take issue with the Union, do so for rather different and more sophisticated reasons than the xenophobic, corporate, anti-intellectual platform that is UKip. You were the only party with the integrity – AND platform – to defend the concept of Europe and you wrecked it by wasting time repeating rhetorical catchphrases and endorsing a retarded sycophancy for the technocratic status quo. You seem to think that anyone who sees Europe as having or being a problem, views it through the Tory/UKip lens. You really have to stop listening to hysterical mouthpieces. And we don’t all want to leave Europe just because we don’t agree with you, either. It’s the technocracy, the receding democracy, the neoliberal bullying, the corporatisation, the commodification of our lives that we hate, not the Social Chapter, nor ‘red tape’ that acts for Common Interest, nor our fellow Europeans. You need to understand that for a great many of us, the problems we see in Europe are the same problems we have with our own, successive UK governments; the same problem we see in nigh-on every country on the planet, in fact.
Seriously – that TV Farage-Clegg trip: that was just a recent straw out of a bale’s worth. But why would you see the connection between these points when you can’t seem to even see them individually? Some of your party are even tabloid-riven enough to suppose that getting rid of your leader is the solution. Nick Clegg might be the authorised face of your toxicity but, my gods, if you think we don’t know all your higher profile names or your collective voting record, you probably should all just give up – right now. It’s a global economy supported by a neoliberal attitude and our country is in trouble because our own politicians, economists, and media are of the same means by which much of this infernal crash came about. You have failed because you cannot appreciate either the details or the whole picture and you have failed to recognise that the electorate increasingly does.
There is much satisfied vitriol in the country at your fall from grace. On the surface it’s deliciously tempting and quite understandable. You brought this circus to town. But it’s also a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for your once rational, honourable party and a serious blow to an already dwindling faith in our democracy.
Regards, Juli

Chris Huhne: The Latest Lying Politician

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First posted February 4th at Politics WorldWide

Chris Huhne: The Latest Lying Politician

by MarxistNutter

News broke today that Chris Huhne has finally admitted to being a liar. Previously Huhne pleaded not guilty to the charge of perverting the course of justice in relation to a speeding offence in 2003. We should not be shocked by this. Both Cameron and Clegg have been shown to be almost pathological liars. It seems lying is now an accepted part of our political culture.

Chris Huhne Unfair Cop gov

We now know that Chris Huhne lied. None of us are shocked or even surprised. Lying is just what politicians seem to do – it is just part of the job, it would seem.  Unlike many other politicians Huhne may have to face the consequences of his actions. However Huhne will not be punished for lying – he is entitled to change his plea, as he did today. His  punishment will be for an offence that he originally ’denied vehemently’ but to which he now admits his guilt. In case you have forgotten last year Huhne said the following regarding the charges that today he pleaded guilty to.

 I’m innocent of these charges and intend to fight them in the court and am confident a jury will agree.

This was now obviously a barefaced lie. When he said that, Huhne must have known he was lying to the press, to his constituents and to the courts. The question is – why did he think he could lie with impunity?

To begin with I think it is fair to say that these days lying is a big part of a politician’s job. They lie routinely. Cameron has lied about increasing VATbalancing the books on the backs of the poorthe cost of private renting (more context), ‘paying down the nations debts‘  to name a few. Clegg  lied about being opposed to tuition fees and perhaps most famously of all Blair lied about weapons of mass destruction in the run up to the Iraq War.

A common (and very seductive) explanation of this phenomenon is that politicians, like bankers and former News of the World executives are arrogant, believe themselves untouchable; and hold a contempt for the truth which is only matched by a contempt for the public, whom they believe too stupid to realise they are being lied to. Certainly I would not deny arrogance plays a part – one must have a certain level of (to put it nicely) self-confidence to consider a career in politics, banking or tabloid media; however I think this explanation is a little too simplistic and individualistic.

I have written before about the tendency to ascribe moral failings to individuals rather than to look for structural causes to phenomena; and I think this argument should apply here as well. If we  must have an individualistic explanation perhaps it is that politicians are intuitive philosophers who have an instinctive understanding of post-modern theory. Previously when discussing UK democracy I have argued:

[w]hen we speak of a relativistic universe where anything goes and anything can mean anything, we must remember how, in Britain, politics – understood as contestation over competing values and demands – has been excluded successfully from the meaning of politics (the ‘business’ of government). Such a vision of a crazy post-modern universe, where meaning is free-flowing and nothing can be defined objectively, no longer appears quite so absurd. But, rather, an empirical observation!

Post-modern/ post-structuralist theory is all about the lack of fixed foundations on which to root a ‘truth’. In many versions of post-modernist thought, truth is something which cannot be grounded on reason; but instead is an expression of hegemony or – in other words- what most people believe to be true. Regardless of whether or not you subscribe to post-modern theory, I think you must take this claim seriously, if not at a theoretical or normative level, then at the level of empirical observation. Our political reality – the truth – is indeed something that is constructed by discourse and not something grounded in facts or reason.

Consider the following examples regarding our current political discourse:

1. Labour created the 2008 financial crisis. This is regularly asserted by Conservatives and Lib Dems as well as the right wing media. It has been asserted enough that it is something that a great deal of people believe. In fact so many people subscribe to this belief it is almost considered as simple/obvious common sense.  This is despite the fact that even a moment’s critical thought would lead anyone to question its validity. If Labour crated the Crisis why did it occur globally and not just in the UK (did Gordon Brown have total control over global market forces and if so one wonders how he lost power so easily)? In fact SKWalker has written superbly on what he calls the ‘Myth of the Inherited Mess‘ and this is well worth a read – not that it will do anything to destabilise the apparent truth constructed by ConDem politicians and the right wing media that Gordon Brown is entirely responsible for the 2008 crash.

2. That the nation is full of benefit scroungers which are the biggest cause of public expenditure. This notion is yet another widely held ‘truth’ despite the fact the unemployed people only make up a fraction of the welfare bill and it is regularly pointed out that tax avoidance by large companies is a far larger cost to the treasury than unemployment benefits.

Thus it is not (just) that politicians are lying bastards. It is more that they are involved in an ongoing battle to construct our shared reality. With their Generals (spin doctors) and weapons (the media) they battle to create a version of reality that suits their interests.  Under our current political system they have little other choice. This is – when you cut down to it – the very essence of their job.

The problem is that people seem to be increasingly disengaging with politics. People are growing cynical (rightly so) and are tired of being told lies. Currently the mood is one of resigned apathy – nobody is shocked or surprised that Huhne has outed himself as a liar, for example. People are voting less and lack confidence in politicians and our political system. However the issue may not be the moral fibre of our politicians so much as the system that encourages them to ‘spin’ rather than give ‘straight up honest answers’.  If the problem is viewed as one of individual moral failings; the solution is simple – sack the lot of them and replace them with better people. However I do not think this is the problem and do not think replacing our politicians with a new intake will make a great deal of difference, if the system remains unchanged.

The problem is our ‘democratic’ systems and institutions. They are old and no longer fit for purpose. Our media is in bed with elites and our democracy is nothing but a sham that increasingly fails to mask the reality of elite rule and corporate interests that sit behind it. The time is long over due to start thinking about reforming our democratic institutions. My humble suggestion is that we start to look at models of direct democracy,  deliberative democracy and radical democracy and start to break away from the notion of representatives as, at best they will always fail to represent us, and at worst – well at worst-  we will continue to have governments led by the likes of Blair or Cameron.

Other posts by Marxist Nutter:

Myth Busting: The Coalition Cut the Deficit by a Quarter

Ideology and Discourse in ConDem Policy

What does Leveson tell us about the Tories and their plan to wipe out state services?

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At first, they ignore an inconvenient truth.  Then they ridicule it.  Then they attack it … and finally the omnishambles of the Tory-LD government has become self-evident.

 Nevertheless, this government is very successfully dismantling the NHS, state education and what remains of the post-war consensus for the profitable benefit of the transnational corporations, the financial sector (in other words themselves, their friends and relatives); a fact still largely ignored by the mainstream media. This raises a number of important questions about the nature of our democracy.  The Leveson inquiry sheds  significant light on government’s interaction with a transnational corporation like News International, and corporate expectations of government.

Tories plan to wipe out state services

A leading Cabinet minister has admitted that the Conservatives aim to eradicate the state provision of public services in this country. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister and a former banker, in an extraordinary gung-ho speech to Policy Exchange to mark 10 years of the centre-right think tank, said the Government wants to end state provision – even if it means they end up being run by private equity companies from tax havens….The speech comes as David Cameron’s Government is embarking on a controversial programme to extend privatisation way beyond Margaret Thatcher’s wildest dreams – to Britain’s road network and even the police. (1)

 Noun 1.   confidence trick – a swindle in which you cheat at gambling or persuade a person to buy worthless property   bunco, bunco game, bunko, bunko game, con game, confidence game, flimflam, gyp, hustle, con, sting

sting operation – a complicated confidence game planned and executed with great care (especially an operation implemented by undercover agents to apprehend criminals)  swindle, cheat, rig – the act of swindling by some fraudulent scheme; “that book is a fraud”

 

That David Cameron and George Osborne are ‘arrogant posh boys’ who know very little about economics or seemingly anything else much, has been patently obvious, from the beginning. As Martin Rowson wrote at the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review:

‘… we need to understand various things about George Osborne, this Government’s economic vandal-in-chief. First, he’s almost a victim of his own ambition…. Second, he’s actually a bit of wimp… If you combine these two aspects of his character, Osborne suddenly becomes both more and less terrifying. He’s less terrifying because it’s just an act, the calculated malevolence purely there to cow the rest of us into compliance with his programme of Thatcherite orthodoxy. However, where he becomes more terrifying is when you realise that … he really and truly doesn’t know what he’s doing … There is, in other words, a stench of deranged naivety surrounding George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, and I fear we might be hearing the phrase “I wasn’t expecting this kind of thing” quite a lot in the next few years, as they survey the wreckage.’ (2)

Versions of this view can now be heard repeated across the political spectrum, and from the far right end, Peter Hitchins complains:

All the pillars of the Cameron delusion have now collapsed. The Tory Party cannot win a majority by any method. Nobody trusts it, and  it stands for nothing except  getting posh boys into office… 
[Mr Cameron] is exactly what he looks like, an unprincipled chancer with limited skills in public relations…. 

George Osborne is not an iron Chancellor with a severe plan to save the economy…. he’s not very good at his job. (3)

Michael Meacher on George Osborne: This man has the touch of genius if the Tory aim is now, as it seems, to lose the next election. (4)

But to be fair, it is not only Cameron and Osborne who have created the shambles of the last six weeks. Other members of the cabinet have contributed their mite, including Frances Maude and his cack-handed attempts to create antagonism to the Fuel tanker drivers and the unions; Theresa May’s inability to get the date right and the chaos at Heathrow; Caroline Spelman’s ridiculous water standpipes; Baroness Warsi comparing UKIP to the BNP; and now the U-turn on a U-turn about the new fighter aircraft.  More seriously in the last two years, we have had the Liam Fox affair; Gove’s multiple apologies to Parliament over the School Building programme; Hague’s inability to organize a boat to evacuate from Libya, the Tory fundraiser and now the emerging evidence of the Levenson inquiry.  In fact, it is quite difficult to know who from the present cabinet could possibly replace Cameron… they have all ‘messed up’.

However, all of this incompetence poses a conundrum.

How can it be that these shambolic, careless, arrogant individuals were able to supervise, let alone devise the immense sophistication of the Health and Social Care bill, the Welfare Reform bill and the Education bill? Not only are these bills profoundly (deliberately?) complicated but they are also deviously tailored to facilitate the ongoing privatization of public services… often by wrecking the state provision thus encouraging take-up of personal private insurance.  In addition, there has been accompanying legislation such as, the not much discussed ‘Henry VIII’ powers to abolish the quangos, and the Legal Aid bill which together will largely prevent any sort of challenge through the courts.

There has also been a highly synchronized time-table orchestrating the passage of these major bits of legislation, getting them swiftly in place, before the first cuts in the benefits system began to be implemented. Arguably, the intention was to get them onto statute well before the public or MPs have had a chance to fully digest their implications.

Additionally, ‘distractions’ have often been choreographed to coincide with contentious legislation.  For example the proposal to sell off the forests, which was bound to cause an outcry, coincided with the first reading of Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill.  This announcement was in itself unnecessary because the Public Bodies bill, which was designed to allow the minister to sell as much of the forests as she liked without any recourse to Parliament, was simultaneously going through the House of Lords.

Presumably, it is this ruthlessly efficient programme, aimed at selling-off what remains of state services, that caused George Osborne to be hailed as a great strategist.. (along with his three dimensional strategy chessboard). However, following his disastrously misjudged budget, few think that Osborne is a brilliant strategist anymore.

The question must be asked, therefore, to what extent is it plausible that Lansley, Gove or IDS were the primary movers in devising their respective bills?  Do we really believe that Oliver Letwin, the dumper of official mail in a public park waste-bin, was the brains co-ordinating the strategy?  It is also clear that civil servants can have had a very limited input given that the bills were up and running so quickly after the general election.

It seems so much more probable that the global management consultants, such as KPMG and McKinsey, and the transnational corporations, were simply allowed free-rein to write the legislation to suit their needs … with no apparent safeguards to secure and protect the best interests of UK* citizens from vested interests.

In this scenario, government ministers would then simply be the front-men, the PR…  which would fit with why, when criticized, the Coalition ministers peculiarly focus on the inadequacy of the way that a policy was presented.  As Douglas Alexander said:

George Osborne is apologising for spin of the budget, when he should be apologising for the substance.

The incestuous relationships between politicians, civil servants, think tanks, lobbyists, donors and corporate advisors have been discussed widely outside of the mainstream media … and also in a number of previous Think Left articles including: Welfare Reform and the US Insurance Giant Unum (5);  Lobbyists are destroying the democratic process. (6);  Transnational Corporations have not let a good crisis go to waste. (7)

The Leveson inquiry gives another level of authority to the supposition that:

‘Britain’s political class in particular and ruling class in general collude, connive and corrupt both systemically and systematically…. The evidence has laid bare the intimate, extensive and insidious web of social, familial and personal ties between the political, corporate and legal forces that govern a country: a patchwork of individual and institutional associations so tightly interwoven that to pick at one part is to watch the whole thing unravel.’ (8)

Furthermore, Gary Young writes:

… these interactions mock the very notion of democracy on which the nation’s illusions are based…. With the culture secretary described by Murdoch’s lobbyist as a “cheerleader” for News International, it seems as if the takeover was to all intents and purposes a done deal, prevented only by the fallout from the hacking scandal. All the kinks ironed out on horseback and settled in time for the main course. Parliament would have been a mere rubber stamp. Oversight reduced to an afterthought in a House of Commons…. (8)

Again as a result of Leveson, Anthony Barnett identifies a highly significant aspect about the nature of this Tory-LD government:

The scandal has now clarified a far more breathtaking question: is Britain governed by a big lie?

Of course there was not a “deal” in the narrow sense of a written contract…. It was a partnership … between people who decided to get into bed with each other and help each other obtain their interests at the expense of public life in Britain.

… no person of sound judgment could conclude anything other than that there was indeed a grand collaboration worked out before the election by the Murdochs and Cameron and Osborne and then implemented after it….

Any government whose duty is to secure and protect its citizens would necessarily seek to ensure that NewsCorp’s power is limited, checked by regulation and competition.

Today, how can Leveson pass judgment on the nature of the understandings reached by Rupert’s Rebecca when she went horse riding with David Cameron beyond the reach of judicial standards of proof? Without the clear evidence of the metaphorical ‘smoking gun’ to make a verdict of a conspiracy against the public interest simply unavoidable, it becomes his judgment-call to force the Prime Minister and Chancellor from office, for selling out the country with their utterly inappropriate relationships with team Murdoch. It is a power he’ll naturally resile from using….

But the bigger issue remains… It is one thing to kow-tow, to cultivate, to grant some concessions to (to seek not to make an enemy of) a man who controls 40 per cent of the press. This may be revolting but it is – or was – political reality in Britain. It is quite another to agree to reshape the all-important media environment of our democracy for the advantage of a player whose coverage is not only notorious for bias and the dishonourable destruction of people’s lives but who is also known to bribe the police and break the law.

This was the Rubicon that Cameron and Osborne plotted with Murdoch and Son to cross. While the Murdochs may be confounded, their agents remain in place in 10 and 11 Downing Street. They have shown themselves as people not fit and proper to run a government. (9)

So if we extrapolate from the Murdoch case, Barnett’s words could be re-written as:

But the bigger issue remains… It is one thing to kow-tow, to cultivate, to grant some concessions to (to seek not to make an enemy of) the transnational corporations and the financial sector. This may be revolting but it is – or was – political reality in Britain. It is quite another to agree to reshape the all-important public services of our democracy for the advantage of players whose primary concern is a ready, stream of profits which will doubtless end up untaxed in some offshore secrecy jurisdiction.

Without the clear evidence of the metaphorical ‘smoking gun’ to make a verdict of a conspiracy against the public interest simply unavoidable, it becomes a judgment-call to force the Prime Minister and Chancellor from office, for selling out the country with their utterly inappropriate relationships with private health providers, private employment insurers, global management consultants, private education providers and so on

Richard Murphy makes the point that the corrosiveness of offshore tax havens stems from ‘a deliberate, legally backed veil of secrecy’ (10). But at the very point that, the ‘imperative of shattering secrecy’ by transparency and country to country reporting, is beginning to be taken seriously and internationally, the Tory-LD government is making our own public services secret, unavailable to public scrutiny, by claiming commercial sensitivity.

As George Monbiot argues:

Private companies now provide services we are in no position to refuse, yet, unlike the state bodies they replace, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act…

Companies are once again striking remarkable deals, hatched in secret, at the expense of taxpayers, pupils and patients. Last week, for example, we learned that Circle Healthcare will be able to extract millions of pounds a year from a public hospital, Hinchingbrooke, which is in deep financial trouble. Crucial information about the deal remains secret on the grounds of Circle’s “commercial confidentiality”.

… If we are to reclaim power from the corporations that have seized it, first we need to know what that power looks like. (11)

This raises fundamental questions about the nature and power of government.

Shouldn’t there be a responsibility on political parties to spell out their intentions before they are elected?

Shouldn’t there be transparency about the authors and genesis of legislation?

Shouldn’t there be a capacity to challenge governments who have misled the electorate prior to election?  For example ‘No top down re-organisation of the NHS’ and ‘No Tuition fees’.

Shouldn’t there be a legal duty on governments to secure and protect the best interests of their citizens?

Doubtless this list is not exhaustive but the point is, that without this sort of transparency and accountability, in what way can any UK government be said to be democratically elected?  What protection is there for the electorate from a sanctioned coup d’etat?

As Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: “Far from being done by mutual consent, the Government’s plans rest on imposing unpopular ideas on an unwilling workforce.” (1)  At the same time, Professor Prem Sikka reports that Britain’s rate of wealth transference from employees and the state to corporations is unmatched in any developed country. (12)

It seems that this government of the Tory-LDs are intent on transforming the UK* into that which James Galbraith identifies as a Predator State: The state as monopoly collector of taxes and corrupt distributor of the spoils to the private sector. (13)

sting operation – a complicated confidence game planned and executed with great care  swindle, cheat, rig – the act of swindling by some fraudulent scheme;

* The peoples of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are to  varying degrees protected by their own legislatures. It is the NHS and public services of the English which are currently the primary targets.

Dedicated to Phil C., a greatly respected commentator on Think Left, who never did get around to writing us that promised article.  

He will be much missed – R.I.P. 10.05.12

(1) http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2012/03/tories-plan-to-wipe-out-state-services/

(2) http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2010/10/martin-rowson-3/

(3) http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/

(4) http://www.leftfutures.org/2012/05/osborne-sticking-to-austerity-will-the-last-one-out-turn-off-the-light/#more-9579

(5) https://think-left.org/2011/11/22/welfare-reform-and-the-us-insurance-giant-unum/

 (6) https://think-left.org/2011/12/06/lobbyists-are-destroying-the-democratic-process/

 (7) https://think-left.org/2012/03/05/transnational-corporations-have-not-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste/

(8) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/06/leveson-murdoch-cameron-brooks-privilege

(9) http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/murdoch-and-big-lie

(10) http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/05/07/paradigms-can-shift/

(11) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/07/freedom-information-my-monstrous-proposal

(12) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/23/squeezing-ordinary-people-finances

(13) https://think-left.org/2012/02/16/the-nhs-and-tina-mrs-thatchers-ideological-anti-democratic-political-legacy/

LD Simon Hughes is ‘dissected’ over the NHS

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Lib Dem Simon Hughes, when asked to justify the Health and Social Care legislation (14.04.12), found himself, not only isolated on the panel of speakers, but also facing a more than somewhat doubtful audience of medical students.

Medical Student Challenges Simon Hughes over Health and Social Care Bill
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-kNwWsnCKY

Related post by Pride’s Purge:

Controversial urine extraction method given go-ahead by government.

TRAP, NOT SPRINGBOARD

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Trap, Not Springboard

From Liam R Carr, first published here

Clegg should take advice from Miliband on coalition government… Ralph Miliband:

Social-democratic ministers have generally been able to achieve little in these hybrid formations. Far from presenting a threat to the established order, their main function has been to contain their own parties and and to persuade them to accept the essentially conservative policies which they themselves have sanctioned. For the most part, participation on this basis has been a trap and not a springboard.1

These words ring true today, particularly with reference to two bills that are ping-ponging their way through parliament; the welfare reform bill (WRB) and health bill. The bills are examples of truly awful legislation, the consequences of which have been poorly thought out or completely disregarded. I will not bore you with details, but the essence of the WRB is an attempt to balance the books by targeting the most vulnerable in society for cuts. The WRB has been widely reported as stopping benefit cheats, which if it was, it would be welcomed. Cutting benefits to disabled children, and declaring cancer patients who are still undergoing chemotherapy, fit for work, is not the same as tackling fraud.

An alternative would be to draft a ‘fraud prevention bill’. This would build on the progress of the Labour government in reducing benefit fraud and errors: The bill could be a dual purpose bill addressing both large-scale as well as this small-scale fraud. The bill could close loopholes, tighten up regulation relating to non-domicile status and address tax evasion which is really defrauding the exchequer, or to put it another way, stealing from budgets that should be used to educate the young and heal the sick.

The £26,000 cap is really a smoke screen which lets Tory boy Grant Shapps in the Department of Housing off the hook. The only reason that anyone would ever receive £26,000 in benefits is because there is an abject lack of social housing. This problem has never really been addressed since Thatcher began selling off housing stock 30 years ago. The majority of this £26,000 goes directly into the pockets of private landlords, so who exactly is sponging off the taxpayer? In the North East of England private landlords now own a large proportion of former council housing stock, collecting rent from the taxpayer in the form of housing benefit. The ironic thing is that it was the taxpayer who paid for the houses to be built in the first place. The council stock is largely better maintined, particularly in terms of energy efficiency with loft insulation and double glazing. Those in private rented ‘council houses’ are at greater risk of high bills and fuel poverty.

It is difficult to offer an alternative to the health bill; it is toxic. Giving GPs a greater strategic role was already labour policy and Shadow Health secretary Andy Burnham offered to talk with Tories if they wanted to drop the bill but still pursue the idea of GP commissioning, as it would not require legislation.2 The Health bill is now so unpopular that even some Tories are against it; some backbenchers may even defy the whip and vote against the bill or abstain. (Traditionally you can count on the odd Tory to defy the whip in a big vote; they really have no concept of collective action).

It is the Lib Dems who will push these reforms through. Clegg wants them to go through; he is furious that they might be stopped.3 This shows that he really has turned blue, putting the interests of private health care providers ahead of patients. I suspect that the real reason he wants them to go through is so that he can take credit every for every amendment made to this shoddy, needless legislation, painting himself as the moderator of the Nasty Conservative Party.

It is a trap, Nick. Destroying the NHS is the road to electoral ruin, and if Lib Dems are keen to play a part in this privatisation of the NHS then they deserve the consequences that will follow at the ballot box. Miliband was right. Participation in a Conservative led coalition was a trap 1969 and remains a trap today.

1. From ‘The State in Capitalist Society’ R. Miliband 1969
2. BBC: Lansley should go after NHS Change Simon Hughes, (Lib Dems)
3. Clegg Fury at Tory moves to kill Health Bill (Financial Times)