The single most devastating reason NOT to vote Tory or Lib Dem at the next election

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First posted by Tom Pride on 23.06.14

(not satire – it’s the Tories and the Lib Dems!)

The NHS has been severely damaged by the coalition government over the last 4 years.

But don’t just take my word for that.

Dr Mark Porter, the head of the BMA, thinks so too. That’s not just some lefty anti-government think-tank – that’s the British Medical Association, which represents 153,000 doctors, GPs and other medical specialists and staff across the country.

Dr Porter gave a devastating speech today to the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting in which he astonishingly said the coalition government must “face up to the damage that they have done” to the NHS.

In his dramatic speech, Dr Porter specifically listed the ways that the NHS has been damaged over the last 4 years by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats:

  • The coalition government have imposed policies that “force us to do the absolute opposite of what our patients need”.
  • The coalition government have made cuts to frontline services in the NHS that “eat away at the fabric of care and destroy innovation”.
  • The coalition government have “imposed in England a new NHS without evidence, without mandate and without support”.
  • The coalition government have spent “at least £1.6 billion” implementing their top-down reforms to the NHS which continue to “consume the energies of thousands of NHS staff who never even wanted it, just to stop it unravelling”.
  • Since the coalition government passed their NHS reforms, there has been “a bumper year for the multinationals”- especially for their “armies of lawyers and accountants who find the curative so lucrative”.
  • The coalition government – through their “misguided legislation” – have been “doing the exact opposite” of “working to make it better for patients”.
  • NHS commissioning managers “are being driven to distraction by the madness of the market”.
  • The coalition government’s agenda on the NHS is “to override any investment, suppress any incentive, erode any service, in the single interest of bleeding every penny it can out of the system”.
  • The coalition government have spent billions on “fragmenting care by forcing the NHS to open up to private bidders” and on “droves of management consultants with their pointless flipcharts”.
  • The coalition government have wasted money on “untested policies, not hard-working public servants”.
  • There has been a chronic lack of investment in “emergency medicine, in general practice, in public health, in mental health, across the NHS”.
  • The coalition government’s “blanket refusal to invest” is “economic illiteracy”.
  • There have been “four years of waste and cuts and missed opportunities”.

And finally this gem:

  • The only single cause for celebration about the coalition government’s reforms of the NHS is “that most of it doesn’t apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

So there you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth.

The Tories and the Lib Dems have done their best to destroy the NHS in England over the last 4 years.

So if you know anyone who still needs a reason not to vote for either of the coalition parties at the next election?

Tell them to take their pick from any of the above.

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You can see the full transcript of Dr Porter’s speech here:

BMA Chair of Council Dr Mark Porter’s Speech

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

The two surprising NHS surveys the government hopes you don’t see

Daily Telegraph uses death of baby and outright lies to smear NHS

Meet the Telegraph journalist on a one woman campaign to smear the NHS

Thinktank proposing monthly fee for NHS is funded by private healthcare companies

UK today: 40% of cancer patients can’t afford to heat their home properly

UKIP deputy leader calls for end of NHS

Shirley Williams’ bare-faced lies to her Lib Dem colleagues on the NHS

Meet the NHS patient representative who seems to have a problem with women

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

Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear

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By Jim Grundy

Look, you and I are not going to agree; probably not even on the time of day. You think you’re noble…. I think that you’re facilitating the nastiest, most regressive administration in post-war history. And most people agree with me by the way …

Ah, but there was no choice, you claim. Think of the economic crisis, you say.

In 1945 the country was in a far, far, far worse economic state than it was in 2010 (when the national debt was lower than Labour inherited in 1997 – really, yes, really).  And yet, Labour created a universal welfare state, the National Health Service and built hundreds of thousands of much needed new homes. All this was done because it was needed and it also helped stimulate the economy. You are now doing the polar opposite and for no better reason than you either want to or don’t care to do anything different because it would upset your Tory chums.

You seem to think we’re engaged in a jolly little debate, one that is somehow concerned only about hurt feelings and politicians attacking each other. Many times I – and others – have tried to point out that your support for the Tories – or at least your wholly ineffective ‘opposition’ to them – is having appalling consequences to the lives of people across the country. You can’t deal with that and bring it back time after time to how noble you Lib Dems have been and how hurt you’ve been by attacks by those who think you’ve betrayed the country by supporting the Tories (‘cos that’s what you do when you vote for them all the time). I’m struggling to think of anything more pathetic.

You ask what was the alternative? Simple. You should have allowed the Tories to form a minority administration and support them or oppose them according to the issue. Yes, that might have led to an election before now – what’s wrong with that (oh, but you fixed that, didn’t you with your changes to confidence motions and five-year fixed term parliaments – odd, you haven’t addressed that)? That way you might have protected yourselves against the charge of being nothing more than opportunists; of abandoning any kind of principle in pursuit of power. You didn’t. And, you know, there’s been one or two indications from the electorate that they don’t share your perception of Lib Dem honour. Have you noticed that?

You bound yourselves to the Tories so tightly that they know you daren’t do anything other than support them or face anihilation at the polls. But you still might have the chance to ditch Clegg and co., pretend it was all a horrible mistake and go to the nation and seek the people’s verdict. You’re afraid of that, though, aren’t you? You know how much you are hated, ok, mistrusted – but that isn’t a badge of honour; it is not a symbol of suffering in a higher cause; and I think you know that, for all your protestations.

The Lib Dems are finished. Your party will fragment, its support drain away, as it has done every time you’ve got into bed with the Tories. I don’t need to tell you the history of your own party – or do I?

What has been done has been done. Don’t for the sake of any kind of credibility that you might seek to hold on to pretend it was done for a noble cause.

You have not the slightest idea of my background. I’ll give you a clue – I’m a socialist. Clegg and his ilk (and they are found in lots of different groups) are in it for themselves. Not for any party; they’re not hide-bound either, you see. They’re tribal in a different way – their own tribe comes first, even when it has only one member.

I don’t know you either. One thing I do know, however, and that it’s far easier to fool someone, than to persuade them that they have been fooled. I think you’ve been fooled. What you describe as pragmatism, I call the betrayal of the ordinary working people of this country on the basis of an appearance on TV and a lie that there is no choice.

You might describe as noble putting up with the abuse that has been poured upon Clegg and co. I call it wholly predictable and understandable – and, yes, deserved. There are precedents. What is happening now has happened before. You might wish to believe that you are not ‘pinned down’ by anything but you are indeed a prisoner, of events, of your Tory captors, of one of the biggest deceits every perpetrated upon the British people. So don’t feel wounded when things come back to bite you – and don’t be surprised if some of the biters are Tories either. You don’t think they’re grateful to you for your ‘self-sacrifice’, do you? No, they’re laughing at you. They hold you in nothing but contempt – and you know that, don’t you?

I am not appealing to you or anyone else to accept without qualification everything that any party stands for – or what you believe it stands for – but for principle. A good start is that the most vulnerable should not suffer at the same time as the wealthiest are benefiting from the policies implemented by any government. And I am sure you must accept that the rich are indeed getting richer and the poor are indeed getting very much poorer, not by accident but by design. How else can you explain a tax cut for the better off and a hike in taxes, accompanied by a cut in pay and benefits, for the worst off?

If you or anyone else doesn’t understand the very real suffering that many people are being subjected to is all too real – and to dismiss that as ‘collateral damage’ is just unacceptable – then you won’t understand why there is genuine anger at what is being done – and who to blame for it. And it is being done by those with no electoral mandate whatsoever to act in the manner they are doing.

“Fairness” & “Progressive” were two words repeated time and again in the early days of the Coalition and, even, “we’re all in it together”. No-one seems to be saying that now. Does anyone need to explain to you why that might be the case?

How about investing in growth, rather than paying to prop up failure for a start? Have you not seen the latest (record) borrowing figures? Who had heard of the national debt before 2008? (Despite Gordon Brown paying such a large slab of it off during his time as Chancellor. Odd that so few people seem to know about that, isn’t it?)

The idea that debt is, by definition bad, is a simply wrong. Do you own your own home? If you do or if you know others that do, how many of those people bought those properties with cash? Does that acquisition benefit them or beggar them? Most people believe owning property, having some equity, something to pass on to your children is a good thing. But, for the vast majority of people, that has only been possible by people getting into debt. Are they all in the proverbial? Thought not.

Keynesian economics are not a busted flush. We need a 21st Century New Deal, investment in public works, house-building programmes.  Programmes that will pay for themselves by creating employment, generating greater taxation revenues at the same time as reducing benefits. That has been proven to work. The ‘Future Jobs Fund’, one of the first to be scrapped by the Tories – with Lib Dem help (sorry if you think I’m rubbing it in but it is important to recognise the role of your party in all that has taken place) – has been shown (see links below) to have helped to do precisely that, even though on a scale far smaller than is required. But it was only one scheme. The investment in new housing, the ‘Housing Pledge’, and other schemes were delivering the same goal.

The country’s economic woes were not caused by excessive spending. They were caused by a collapse in receipts from taxation. To argue, as the Tories and Lib Dems have done, that the answer is to cut expenditure has served only to further reduce the government’s income, increasing the national debt, widening the deficit. It is economic insanity – but only if you think the sole agenda is to reduce the debt/deficit. What the Tories are about is to use this argument to justify the kind of cuts, the mass privatisation of everything from the police to the NHS, that you have been persuaded represent pragmatism. That is one huge lie and nothing more.

It’s a simple fact that the Tories hate public services. They believe that providing pensions, care for the elderly, etc., etc. are forms of evil, as is everything unless it provides an opportunity for private companies – those who pay for the Tory party – to make a profit. Have you noticed that no matter how poorly the utilities perform, how bad the trains are, they maintain the mantra that the public sector is inefficient, while the private sector is the ideal to be adopted everywhere?

Face the facts, the country is in a huge mess and those in the biggest mess are those least responsible for it. If people look at the Lib Dems and blame them ‘disproportionately’ for that, all I can say is that you can have no excuse for being surprised. Or for being disliked.

Our problem is that the very word ‘socialist’ has become a pejorative term put in the minds of many by a Tory-dominated media. And then we have the line that “it’s all very good in theory…”.

You seek pluralism but what does that mean? I think it misses the point about what society truly is. When affordable housing is slashed, that doesn’t just hurt those at the bottom. When benefits are cut, the pain isn’t just felt by a few. It damages society fundamentally to see the gap between the richest and the wealthiest grow ever wider.  That is not to speak of a fluffy Nirvana-style ideal, it is based on empirical evidence (see “The Spirit Level” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett).

Yes, there are gradations in society but this government represents only 1% of it. The rest are seeing a huge transfer of their wealth into the hands of the 1%. That is reality. The most vicious tribal class war might speak of the ‘Big Society’ but it is there solely to serve the aims of ‘big business’.

If I would say one last thing to you, it is this. What kind of society do you want to live in? Do you think it is right that people can’t afford to live in a decent home? Do you think that it is right for people to be unable to heat their own homes, leading to the deaths of thousands each year? Do you think that healthcare and education are rights, not privileges? Do you think that everyone should contribute to society – and pay their taxes? Put together a whole list of similar questions to yourself without reference to party or politicians. Consider your conclusions and then ask yourself if you can find that vision reflected in this administration.

Put aside the, “well, that would be nice, of course, but it’ll never happen,” kind of thinking. Pessimism is a disease and it blinds people to what can be done. If our ancestors had not dreamt of what they wanted and demanded it, we wouldn’t be having this argument. There would be nothing to fight for because, for example, we’d have no National Health Service to save in the first place.

What we have now – and are in the process of losing – is precious and it was not given to us by a noble elite acting in the public interest. All social progress has been made, not through the beneficence of the strong but won by the collective action of the ‘weak’. And that happened because people recognised that they were as valuable as anyone else, no matter what their background.

As was said in the Putney Debates (which should be required reading for everyone) in 1647:

“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he”. That was true then. It’s true now and never let anyone stifle that belief by telling you, “well, of course, in an ideal world….”.

As Shelley wrote, “We are many. They are few!”

Softly, Softly, into Slums: New Law permits Councils to turn Homeless away

Who are these people?  www.lrb.co.uk

Chronically ill lung patient told to ‘get a job’ after benefits axe – This is the face of the swingeing benefit cuts being enforced across Wales and the rest of the country by the UK Government.

Atos killed my dad, says boy 13 – The devastated youngster believes the benefits assessors’ decision to deem his dad…

Geriatric and mental health wards threatened by NHS cuts – Telegraph – www.telegraph.co.uk –  – David Cameron faces a growing backlash against NHS cuts and the closure of A&E … 

The modern face of hardship – www.independent.co.uk – More than six million working Britons are living in poverty, according to a repo…

Related post – “We Take Care of Our Own” or What Labour Needs to Remember if it Wants to Win.

“We Take Care of Our Own” or What Labour Needs to Remember if it Wants to Win.

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By Jim Grundy

In a recent debate with a supporter of the Liberal Democrats I was shocked (which I suppose I shouldn’t have been) at the callous dismissal of the problems being experienced by millions of people in this, the seventh largest economy in the world. Cuts to pay, pensions, benefits, care services for the elderly, trebling of tuition fees, removal of disability benefits, the 20% rise in homelessness, the privatisation of the NHS and rationing of healthcare, cuts to the Police, none of it registered. The anger, frustration and despair that all of that and so much more has caused, were dismissed as “phoney” and served no other purpose than to provide a stick to beat Liberal Democrats with.

The attitude on display reminded me of an interview I saw with a violent offender once. He had been sent to prison after an unprovoked attack upon a complete stranger. When asked what he’d do if he ever met the victim again his response was not to offer an apology or show any remorse. Oh no. The man said, “I’d have him!”  When questioned why “’Cos he put me here!”  In his way of thinking, he was the victim. He had lost his freedom and that was the fault of the person, he’d beaten to unconsciousness, nothing to do with his own actions.

This kind of attitude is only possible because of the constant attacks upon ordinary people seen everyday coming from the Government and its increasingly rabid friends in the right-wing press.  Owen Jones performed an important service when he published his excellent book, “Chavs. The Demonisation of the Working Class.” His timely expose of how the attacks upon the livelihoods of millions of people have been justified by the oh so Victorian belief in the deserving and undeserving poor (although it’s hard to detect much belief in the former).

The ability to objectify, the all too genuine suffering, that is being inflicted upon the “the poor” (his expression) by our Liberal Democrat friend was topped off by a positively post-modernist outlook on life. To him, there was no such thing as truth, and all experiences and evidence of the effects of the policies being supported by them in coalition with the Nasty Party were merely texts, only one version of events with no greater validity than anything put out by Tory Central Office.

It was an astonishing display of how millions of people can be dehumanised and any protest about their fate treated as nothing other than a cynical, empty, politically-motivated lie. It could’ve been a case of an individual judging another by their own values (or absence thereof) but it was enlightening in its way.  It reminded me of the disconnection between the people and their leaders – and how some of the people come to embrace their own alienation.

There are some within the Labour Party who hold views about the average working class person as being little different to the racist, xenophobic, homophobic, bigoted white van man driver stereotype. Recent polling commissioned by Progress was used to support that view and its case, that the answer to the loss of the last election was not that the Party had for too long ignored its core vote but that there was no such thing as a core vote and a further lurch to the right is required if we stood any chance of forming the next administration.

I suppose it infrequently occurs to your average Progress supporter that it is a poor defence, against the excesses of the right-wing, to become right-wing yourselves.

They have written-off the working class in favour of a middle-income, middle class swing voter; they long abandoned any belief in socialist principles, so no surprise there. But if we wish to gain the support of those who, whilst certainly not Tories, are still to be persuaded that Labour has anything to offer them, we have to do more than taking on each and every, daft idea that comes out of the Daily Mail and its ilk everyday.

Anyone could be forgiven for believing that Progress – and the Lib Dem who started me thinking – view politics as akin to Premiership football. There is only one game – for football read capitalism – the only issue is who is the best manager of the team (and who’s got the most attractive kit)?  If we don’t like the current prime minister, offer them another but certainly don’t offer to change the game.

“You’re all the same, politicians,” is heard often, and sometimes it’s not an easy task to dismiss that claim. But if we in Labour have any serious ambition to win with an overall majority, we have to show the clear red water that does exist between us and this, the most rabidly right-wing government in post-war history.

It’s not good enough to spend all our energies chasing after the 100-200,000 voters in key marginal constituencies. We must, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, “Take Care of our Own”.  In that song, a number of questions are asked and it’s worth repeating them here:

“Where’re the eyes, the eyes with the will to see?

Where’re the hearts, that run over with mercy?

Where’s the love that has not forsaken me?

Where’s the work that set my hands, my soul free?

We have to provide the answers.

But if the answer is to dismiss the pain being inflicted upon millions as regrettable but inevitable, then we have no right to expect them to come to Labour … just because the alternative is so appalling (and incompetent with it).  Even with a stick of the size, that is being handed to us, we cannot just bash the Tories and Lib Dems, we have to offer hope of a real alternative to austerity.

The answer is not a charismatic leader (we’ve had enough of those) but a solid commitment to listen to what we know to be true. We’re here, yes to represent the interests of all, in our ‘One Nation’, but, most of all, to protect those who are the most vulnerable in society. If we fail to do that, we won’t just have failed as a party, we will have failed the country as well.

It’s time to move away from the Tory lie of a bankrupt nation, to dealing with the reality inflicted by a morally bankrupt collection of Tory and Liberal millionaires. Our Liberal Democrat friend called this ‘tribalism’ (oh, the irony).  I call it justice and, in the truest sense, looking after our own.

 

Why do the Lib Dems stay in the coalition?

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Why the LDs are not desperate (regardless of electoral prospects) to get out of the Coalition mystifies me … that is, it mystifies me for all those who are not Orange bookers and/or not the chosen few who enjoy a ministerial car. Apart from any other consideration, why do they want to stay and be tarred by association with George Osborne’s misguided destructive policies? Osborne’s economic strategy has even been criticized by the IMF!

Liberal Democrat Voice (1) does little to tell me ‘why’, although there are ‘voices’ there, which acknowledge, following the failures of AV and House of Lords reform, that being in government has not given them a ‘sufficient legacy’.  (That word ‘legacy’ has such a contemptuous ring…   reinforcing the conclusion that those activists and politicians are playing the ‘getting elected’ game rather than being passionate about improving the world.)

However, I was finally moved to write after reading 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?’ (2)

John Kampfner writes:

Clegg trades on the fact that he is the first peacetime Liberal in a century to preside over government. That is no mean feat and, by the nature of coalition, requires compromise. The public appears to appreciate, better than the Westminster village, that give and take is a sign of a mature political system.

In what sense is it ‘no mean feat’ to happen to be the leader of a political party when another party fails to secure a majority, and to be prepared to accept the offer to form a coalition?

And given the LDs crashed-standing in the opinion polls, where does he observe the public appreciating that LD ‘give and take is a sign of a mature political system’.  Maturity?  Exactly what is immature about vehement opposition when faced with the disastrous policies that are being imposed on the UK populace?  Why is it ‘grown-up’ politics to stay ‘stumm’ as Kampfner suggests?

In fact, what ‘give and take’? On what, in particular, have the Tories compromised?  Yes, they organized (and sabotaged) a referendum on AV, and went through the motions of supporting (and sabotaged) House of Lords Reform.

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

In June, ‘David Cameron promised to “take money from outside the education budget to ensure that the pupil premium is well funded”. ….  Cathy Newman’s verdict,
on Factcheck, was that ‘so far from bringing “real social justice and opportunity to Britain’s children”, as Nick Clegg claimed before the election, the pupil premium was just filling a hole in the budget’. (3)

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 (4)

Shamik Das of Left Foot Forward made this clear (5):

As Chart B2 of the Budget 2012 Red book (pdf) shows, the cumulative effect of this budget and previous announcements is regressive for the bottom eight deciles. The ninth decile pay less proportionally than the poorest half of people. But the budget is progressive when looking at the richest 10 per cent versus the rest.

This process of the Tories ‘sort of supporting’ (and then sabotaging) is acknowledged by Kampfner, when he writes:

The Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent in May, was a small but important step forward in limiting the authorities’ use of individual data. This is in danger of being more than offset by the hideous “snoopers’ charter” and plans to introduce secret courts for intelligence-related criminal cases, such as the use of torture. (2)

 

According to John Kampfner, Nick Clegg has a more coherent vision for social justice and social mobility, with which he advises Nick Clegg to stick….  However, I simply cannot see that Nick Clegg has ever advanced anything like a coherent vision.

A belief in social justice for the disabled, the unemployed, the low waged, is totally incompatible with voting through of the Welfare Reform bill and supporting the Legal Aid bill, let alone reducing the highest tax rate to 45% for the very wealthiest people.

And as for social mobility…  Has John Kampfner seen the fallen rate of applications to University after the introduction of £27K student tuition fees, and the impact of removal of EMA?

He must also know that there are over 1m unemployed 16 to 24y olds.  Does he realise that new official figures covering the academic year to April 2012 reveal the number of 16 to 18-year-olds starting on-the-job training schemes increased by just 1.4pc, to 104,500 (6)Whilst in the North East, North West and South West, apprenticeship starts have dropped.

Furthermore, the quality of those apprenticeships is highly questionable.

A BBC investigation has found that Morrisons supermarket employed more than 1 in 10 of all apprentices across England last year (7).

In addition, where is the social justice in the government rolling out workfare on a massive scale?

Tens of thousands of forced unpaid work placements have already taken place.

The government intends 250,000 workfare placements on the Work Experience scheme alone. If each placement is 8 weeks of 30 hours work, this is 60 million hours of forced unpaid work.

850,000 people are expected to be referred to the Work Programme by the end of this year. However, due to the “black box” approach the government uses with the private providers, it has so far refused to publish how many of those are being forced to work without pay.

The Mandatory Work Activity scheme has recently been expanded to a capacity of 70,000 places a year. (8)

This all sounds less like social justice or mobility, and more like increased profitability for businesses like Morrisons.

We were told that the LDs went into Coalition with the Tories because the UK was on the verge of becoming like Greece.  That the Labour government had irresponsibly overspent on public services, and it was effectively a national emergency.  It was said that Vince Cable u-turned his pre-election economic assessment on seeing the figures, and then agreed with Osborne’s plan for expansionary fiscal contraction (more like inherently contradictory  … expansionary and contraction).

Not only was the national debt inflated by the ‘socialisation’ of banking losses rather than by public spending (9), but there was absolutely no possibility of the UK being like Greece, a country without its own currency and no central bank (Will Hutton called the suggestion risible).

There was no national emergency, on the scale suggested, as the graph below shows (10).  The UK has had much worse national debt and was in a much better position than many other countries.

In any event, expansionary fiscal contraction was an improbable solution to a banking crisis and a global lack of demand. (I struggle to believe that Vince Cable does not know all this.  Just as I struggle to understand the legitimacy of his u-turn on economic strategy.)

Unfortunately for the UK population, but as predicted (11), it has not turned out well.  As Polly Toynbee notes:

Mervyn King has just delivered a more dire judgment than any before, of zero growth this year – far lower than expected over the next two years. Bank lending has seized up, exports are down, the balance of payments is the worst for 15 years. Meanwhile the Trussle Trust is opening four new food banks a week. (12)

Nevertheless, John Kampfner, faint but pursuing, concludes:

‘The Lib Dems have taken the blows, over tuition fees and more. They have lost the opportunity to modernise our moribund constitution. They have kept stumm for the sake of stability, and been accused by the left of treachery and by the right of petulance. Clegg has two and a half years to put a strongly liberal stamp on government as it seeks a path out of the economic mire.

That is a desperately tall order but, as the past two weeks have shown, success comes to those who show muscle and no little guile.’

Fine, fighting words (although I suspect NC is pretty comfortable with Cameron’s world view) but Polly Toynbee offers the opposite advice that the LDs should get out before its too late:

With David Cameron and George Osborne lashed to a failed Plan A and no sign of shifting, lashed to a failed Plan A, the one credible reason for the Lib Dems to break the coalition is to save the country from yet worse damage. Given what Clegg has led his party to vote for – benefit cuts for the poor, tax cuts for the rich – it is almost too late. But for each recession month that they stay on, tolerating all this, the Lib Dems lose credible reasons for ever making the break.

Personally, I have to admit to a fair degree of sympathy for the ordinary grassroots LD whose cognitive dissonance levels must currently be topping even those of grassroots Blair/New Labour believers.  They are having to justify the dismantling of the NHS, the dismantling of local democracy in education, replacement of Trident, dissing of the green agenda, nuclear power, a new runway at Heathrow, taking benefits away from disabled children and so on… for what?  To prove that coalition works?

I have always respected John Kampfner as a journalist, then Editor, at the New Statesman. For the man, who so comprehensively exposed Blair’s failings, to be turning himself inside out trying to justify the LD leadership’s current position seems so very sad.  The upper echelons of the LD leadership do not deserve it.

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

(1) http://www.libdemvoice.org/

(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/09/libe-dems-stronger-cameron-needs-clegg

(3) http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/spending-review-the-price-of-the-pupil-premium/4555

(4) http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/mar/21/budget-personal-allowance-rise

(5) http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/03/budget-2012-impact-per-decile/

(6)  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/9470715/British-apprenticeship-figures-suggest-drive-has-stalled.html

(7)  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17584151

(8) http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=663

(9)  https://think-left.org/2011/12/21/gordon-brown-did-not-spend-all-the-money-the-banks-did/

(10)  http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/334/uk-economy/uk-national-debt/

(11)  https://think-left.org/2012/04/25/dont-say-you-werent-warned-george/

(12)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/13/coalition-olympic-cheer-will-subside

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

Quote

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/