“Tories ousted by Labour coup?” Worcester or Westminster?

Tories Ousted? What Coup? ….Westminster or Worcester….?

worcester newsSomething interesting happened recently in Worcester – The Labour Party, Lib Dems and Greens formed a coalition and ousted the Conservative leader who had led the council for seven years. This was because Worcester woman and man returned a council with No Overall Control.

During angry exchanges in the council chamber, deposed council deputy leader Councillor Marc Bayliss lambasted it as an “unprincipled coup by a new socialist alliance”, claiming it was about “national ideology, not the performance of the administration or leader.”“What the party opposite could not achieve through the ballot box, they are now forming through a shady deal,” he said.

Fellow Tory Councillor Andy Roberts, who lost his £5,985 role as cabinet member for finance, said it was a “shameless” agreement done behind their backs.

Some might be surprised at the reaction considering the situation following the General Election when there was no party in parliament with overall control. “Shameless agreement behind backs?” Who can forget the days following the General Election when it was unclear who would be the governing party? It seems that those Worcester Tories cannot see the parallels between Worcester and Westminster. Some might say that rather than a government with no overall control, this is a government out of control. Certainly, they are pushing through policies from no party’s manifesto.

The Tories act as if they had won overall control, a working majority. The Liberal Democrat vote was boosted by some centre left voters, who had trusted Clegg’s pledges. Those voters see little difference now between either members of the Coalition, the social democrat element of the LibDems having been engulfed by a government more right wing than Thatcher. The Tories realise this, and, clutching at straws hope for a Clegg replacement which might retain those votes which enabled this fudged coalition.

(New Statesman: Conservatives for Cable – Why the Tories want a new Lib Dem leader)

If it is to win the next election, Cameron’s party needs a Lib Dem leader who can win over Labour voters in Tory-Labour marginals. At present, after the defection of around a third of 2010 Lib Dem voters to Labour, the Tories stand to lose dozens of seats at the next election (Corby was an early warning) – there are 37 Conservative-Labour marginals where the third place Lib Dem vote is more than twice the margin of victory.

The suffering inflicted by this government will not be forgotten so easily by the electorate. What impact have the Liberal Democrats had on the direction of this extreme right wing government? What principles have been thrown away at the cost of power? During that seemingly interminable weekend immediately after the election and before the Coalition agreement, there were contradictions. Shirley Williams warned Nick Clegg about going into a coalition with the Conservatives. Paddy Ashdown spoke on Andrew Marr show, some excerpts here..

“The nation has spoken and in so far as we can determine what it’s said, it’s said you guys are … we’re going to give none of you power to govern alone; you’ve got to learn the habit of working together….”

“We want to preserve frontline services… “

“I don’t believe that anybody can now establish a new government who is deaf to the calls from the British people for a reform to our political system.”

Vince Cable said in December 2010, that he could quit the Coalition. Think Left’s “contradictions of Liberal Democrat Opportunism” examined the focus of Liberal Democrats on power over principle. Many Liberal Democrat voters and grassroots now look to other parties especially Labour, and must wonder why the party they worked for at the General Election have voted for a Bill leading to the break up and privatisation of the National Health Service? This was sold for a referendum on AV which was duly lost. Was this really a price worth paying?

Why do the Lib Dems stay in the Coalition?”

  • We might well ask this question following the failures of AV and House of Lords reform, that being in government has not given them a ‘sufficient legacy’. John Kampfner’s extraordinary piece in the Guardian ‘The Lib Dems are in a stronger position than the Tories – but hide it well” – Cameron needs Clegg more than Clegg needs Cameron – so why won’t the Lib Dem leader show some muscle?’
  • The much vaunted Pupil premium was supposed to be ‘the reddest of the Liberal Democrats’ red lines’ with an additional £2.5 bn for the education of disadvantaged children. But, in fact, the pupil premium was ‘robbing Peter, to pay Paul’… the majority being recycled from within the education department’s budget’ – largely from the abolishing of EMA.
  • Another LD ‘achievement’ was to raise the personal allowance, ‘taking the poorest out of taxation’, but Patrick Collinson in the Guardian dismissed it as an ‘empty gesture’ As income goes up benefits will go down, and a million more basic-rate taxpayers are set to move into 40% tax band.
  • Lib-Dems claimed that they went into Coalition with the Tories because the UK was on the verge of becoming like Greece, and that the Labour government had irresponsibly overspent on public services. Not only was the national debt inflated by the of banking losses rather than by public spending , but this would never have been the case for the UK, with its own currency.
  • The popularity for the Lib Dems in 2010 by the younger generation, and by students in particular, was no doubt boosted by the pledge to abolish tuition fees, yet we learn Clegg intended to abandon the pledge well before the election.

Lib Dems would do well to consider these arguments from Hucknall’s Councillor Jim Grundy, against their support of this Tory government. The recent by-election in South Shields showed the measure of anger from the electorate, as the Lib Dems were annihilated.

i voted lib dems

Every day that the Liberal Democrats continue to support this government, they let down the British people. Crossing the floor of the House of Commons might just earn them some respect before they inevitably suffer death throes and subsequent extinction.

If… The Clegg Version (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

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by Jim Grundy

If you can keep your job when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men hate you,
But make allowance for their loathing too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
And being a liar, don’t deal in ‘whys’,
Or being hated, don’t give way to baiting,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make principles your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the shite you’ve spoken
Exposed by knaves as a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you sold your soul for, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one referendum for an alternative vote,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word of anything of note;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve yourself long after the voters are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hang on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep a straight face,
Or walk with Tories — having lost the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can stand you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving electorate
With sixty seconds’ worth of coverage in the Sun,
Yours is the Coalition (or the fag end of it),
And—which is more—you’ll be a Clegg, my son!

Related posts:

One little word so powerful it lost the Tories the last election (and probably the next)  (Tom Pride)

Nick Clegg Hails 2012 ‘Breakthrough Year’ As Party Skates On Thin Ice (Tom Pride)

Why do the Lib Dems stay in the coalition?

The contradictions of Liberal Democrat opportunism

Labour’s deficit problem.

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By alittleecon

First posted on October 2, 2012 by 

You may have seen lots of posts with titles like the one above, talking about Labour’s deficit dilemma.  How can they restore the trust of the British people?  How can they set a credible plan to grow the economy without borrowing more?  Ed Balls’ speech at this year’s Labour Party Conference was all about treading that line between policies for growth, matched by spending constraint.  The question for Labour is always “How are you going to pay for it?”

In this post I want to take a different tack and look at Labour’s ‘deficit problem’ from the other side.  How can it get past the argument that deficit reduction is priority number 1?

To me Labour’s problem is not how it explains how it will get the deficit down, rather the issue is that the whole argument about debt and deficits is economically illiterate.  It misleads the public and completely hobbles any attempt by the left to take the initiative in the economic debate.

So what is the deficit argument?  Why is it so important to get the deficit down that as a consequence we have to suffer persistent high unemployment, increasing poverty and stagnant living standards?

Here’s everyone’s favourite punchbag Nick Clegg parading his ignorance at the Lib Dem conference last week:

So to those who ask, incredulously, what we – the Liberal Democrats – are doing cutting public spending, I simply say this: Who suffers most when governments go bust? When they can no longer pay salaries, benefits and pensions? Not the bankers and the hedge fund managers, that’s for sure. No, it would be the poor, the old, the infirm; those with the least to fall back on.

So but for austerity, Britain could go bust.  Really?  Where does this idea come?

The argument goes that when we run a deficit, we must borrow from ‘the markets’.  If the deficit gets too high the markets will start to worry we might not be able to pay back what we borrowed and so will start asking a higher rate of interest.  If we keep borrowing, eventually the markets will say “no more”.  Nick Clegg believes at this point, we could literally run out of money – we would be bankrupt.

In answer to this I’ll quote Chris Dillow (read his excellent blog here) who put it better than I could:

…this is plain wrong. In countries with their own central banks, governments cannot go bust because the central bank can simply print money to buy government debt: this is what QE is. Of course, this might or might not be a bad idea. But Clegg didn’t argue this. He just made a prat of himself.

So we need to get past this nonsense (and it really is nonsense) that if we don’t ‘deal with our deficits’, financial armageddon awaits.  But what about the Eurozone?  Aren’t they on the brink of bankruptcy?  Couldn’t that happen here too?

The countries of the Eurozone took the decision to give up their own currencies and replace it with a common currency, the Euro. I n doing so they gave up the ability to issue their own money, to set interest rates and to manipulate their exchange rates.  This means that Government spending really is constrained by how much they can raise in taxes or borrow from the markets.  They can run out of money because they gave up their ability to create currency.  This has lead to the markets periodically raising interest rates on Eurozone country’s debt to the point where in Greece, they actually were unable to borrow any more money on the markets and they had to accept their first (of many) bailout.  This was the backdrop to the 2010 election here when we had Nick Clegg and George Osborne running around saying we were days away from becoming the next Greece.  This was a fiction though.

As long as the UK keeps the pound, it cannot run out of money.  Nick Clegg’s idea that we can (or even already have), while idiotic, somehow still frames the economic debate in this country.  Every suggestion of a new spending plan has to be ‘paid for’ by a corresponding tax rise or pay cut elsewhere for it to be seen as ‘credible’. NO IT DOES NOT!

Until we get away from this spurious framing, we will never have a country we can be proud of.  If Labour really want to work in the interests of working people (and to me, the jury’s still out on that one), the whole framing of the economic issues needs to be moved away from deficit reduction, and onto what we want our society to look like.  To me, this is Labour’s deficit problem.

We on the left should set out a vision for what we want society to look like (for me it would be the right to a job, adequate housing, free education including university and healthcare amongst other things), and communicate the policy changes required to get us there.  The deficit should not even enter into the debate until such a time as we reach maximum potential output.  It should be allowed to float, rising in the bad times, falling in the good. Only then can we bring about real change.  The response when asked about the deficit should follow Keynes’ mantra:

It is the burden of unemployment and the decline in the national income which are upsetting the Budget. Look after the unemployment, and the Budget will look after itself.

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)