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The problem with the strategy of 172 (odd) Labour MPs in parliament slagging off their leader minute-in and minute-out in open warfare conducted in the court of BBC News is that certain chickens would come eventually to roost.
It was vile. And utter madness.
At a time when the Labour Party could have united behind their once democratically elected leader, the MPs decided to rubbish entirely their brand. Labour MPs, barely out of their Price Waterhouse Coopers nappies, were heard to throw loudly their toys out of their parliamentary offices, as we all said: “Don’t bother shutting the door on your way out.”
And are the membership of the Labour Party all meant to be euphoric at the 20th year anniversary of Tony Blair? We’ve done our best in wheeling out Owen Jones (who interestingly shares a GQ triangle of himself, Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell) to mount the TV screens, and tell us all for the millionth time how many amazing achievements Blair had.
But whisper it softly. A new dawn had not in fact broken it, had it not, and could only be best as a false mirage. You can easily understand why the Blair legacy has ultimately failed, aside from the cataclysmic desire of Blair to own the failed mission that is the Iraq War.
It was, that, at best that New Labour itself had no vision, to extent that all Governments since Thatcher have been effectively the same government run by different parties.
There is barely anything to distinguish the Blair, Brown, Cameron and May governments in approaches to the hybrid market ideology and outsourcing/privatisation of the public sector – what the late Lord Macmillan of Stockton had called ‘selling off the nation’s assets”.
Scottish Labour, in their hearts, deep down, know this.
Corbyn had to be elected not once but twice to get some standing as leader of the Labour Party, and this is still in massive public opposition to him in the highly influential media who continue to troll innocent people in the social media without shame.
In a way, Peter Mandelson’s plan worked in toiling every day such that Labour would appear unelectable and to get Jeremy Corbyn out. Labour has tanked in the opinion polls, with no supposed hope of immediate recovery.
What Mandelson is, however, in denial is this.
For all of Tony Blair’s withering reputation as a ‘strong leader’, who took parliament into a war under false pretenses (some argue), despite his opinion poll ratings, not many people want him back – or at least want him back as much as a sewer infested with rats.
Already the hugely unpleasant media is talking about Corbyn ‘taking ownership’ of what will ‘inevitably’ be a disastrous general election result – and not a single vote has been caste yet. Kezia Dugdale and Carwyn Jones haven’t even stopped slagging off Jeremy Corbyn yet.
But there is an even more gruesome possibility strategy guru Mandelson has not thought of.
Mandelson like May is not ‘first class material’, but he has failed to grasp that the media have toxified the Corbyn brand that not even the people who wish to vote for Labour will now wish to reveal themselves to the opinion polls.
As far as “strong and stable” Theresa May is concerned, there is actually no strong mandate as far as getting the best for Britain is concerned.
The whole world and his cat knows that Britain is about to be tarred and feathered in a ritualistically humiliating exit from the European Union by the 27 member states led by Tusk and Juncker.
The whole world and his cat know that despite Nigel Farage’s imagery of not paying your subs to your golf class the UK will be sued to high heaven if it doesn’t come up with the billions held to be its liabilities.
And all of this is at a time when the NHS and social care are on its knees, not due to the ‘aged population’ as you might be led to believe from dilapidated chumocratic Tory peers – nor from the skeleton staff levels – but from the astronomic PFI debts amassed triumphantly under the Blair governments principally.
We know that schools funding is on its knees.
Furthermore, the economy is about to tank big time – due to creeping important inflation, faltering growth and wages being far outstripped by prices. Andrew Marr’s questioning of nurses having to attend food banks is only the tip of the iceberg.
Thankfully, if there are riots on the streets, the privatised justice systems will be able to make a tidy profit.
The only ‘strong mandate’ May can realistically hope for is that the Government, in whatever shape or form, has in its first Queen Speech the aspirations for a hard Brexit, thus meaning due to the Salisbury convention the House of Lords has to accept the wishes of an election manifesto.
After all, “strong and stable” Theresya May had only been elected by her party in parliament – a pathetically small number.
All of this carnage cannot be simply resolved by Guardian hacks telling their ever dwindling loyal readership to vote tactically for any party other than Corbyn’s – whatever their views of gay sex.
Get braced for Jeremy Corbyn to have to fight a third leadership election, but the advantage is that the country will have imploded by then. Even Scotland might be fully independent of the United Kingdom.
Fundamentally, Blair is right in that Labour cannot merely be a conduit for ‘the protest vote’, but the issues raised by heir to Thatcher are much more than that to me. Blair argues that, “the paradox of the financial crisis is that, despite being widely held to have been caused by under-regulated markets, it has not brought a decisive shift to the left.” I am not so sure about that. Whilst I have always felt the taxonomy of ‘left’ versus ‘right’ largely unhelpful in British politics, I think most people in the country today share views about bankers and the financial services ‘holding the country to ransom’ (like the Union Barons used to be accused of), the failures of privatisation, the failures in financial regulation (PPIs), for example, which might have been seen as ‘on the left’. Tony Blair had a good chance of coming to power in 1997, and ‘the pig with a Labour rosette might have won at the 1997 General Election’ is not an insubstantial one. To ignore that there has been no shift in public opinion is to deny that the political and social landscape has changed to some degree. Whilst ‘South Shields man’ is still living with the remants of the ‘socially divisive’ Thatcherite government, what Michael Meacher MP politely called yesterday “a scorched earth approach”, voters are indeed challenging flagship Thatcherite policies even now.
Some Labour councillors and MPs did indeed embrace the ‘right to buy’ policy, but likewise many MPs of diverse political aetiology warn about the currentcrisis in social housing. Blair is right to argue, “But what might happen is that the left believes such a shift has occurred and behaves accordingly”, in the sense that Ed Miliband does not wish to disenfranchise those voters who did happen to embrace New Labour pursuant to a long stretch of the Conservative sentence, but we have a very strong danger now of disenfranchise the core voters of Labour. They are rightly concerned about workers’ and employees’ rights, a minimum wage (a Blair achievement), and a living wage (possibly a 2015 manifesto pledge by Ed Miliband.) Nobody wants to re-fight the battle of ‘left’ and ‘right’ of those terms, but merely ‘building on’ the purported achievements of Margaret Thatcher has to be handled with care.
Blair further remarks: “The Conservative Party is back clothing itself in the mantle of fiscal responsibility, buttressed by moves against “benefit scroungers”, immigrants squeezing out British workers and – of course – Labour profligacy.” Of course, Blair does not address the growth of the welfare dependency culture under Margaret Thatcher, but this is essential. Blair has also airbrushed the core of the actual welfare debate, about ensuring that disabled citizens have a ‘fair deal’ about their benefits, but to his credit addresses the issue of pensions in his fourth question. However, Blair falls into the trap also of not joining up thinking in various arms of policy, in other words how immigrants have in fact contributed to the economy of the UK, or contributed essential skills to public services such as the National Health Service. This is indeed a disproportionate approach to immigration that was permeating through the language of Labour ministers in immigration towards the end of their period of government. Blair fundamentally wishes to fight this war – indeed battle – on his terms and Thatcher’s terms. This is not on – this debate is fundamentally about the divisive and destructive nature of policy, of pitting the unemployed against the employed, the disabled against the non-disabled, the immigrant versus the non-immigrant, and so on. Part of the reason that Thatcher’s entire hagiography cannot be a bed of roses is that there exists physical evidence today of this ‘divide-and-rule’ approach to leadership.
Blair, rather provocatively at this stage, refers to the ‘getting the house in order’, which is accepting the highly toxic meme of ‘A Conservative government always has to come in to repair the mess of a Labour government spending public money it doesn’t have.’ However, the economy is in a worse state than bequeathed by Labour in 2010, and therein lies the problem that the house that the Tories ‘is getting in order’ is in fact getting worse. Acknowledgement of this simple economic fact by Blair at this juncture would be helpful. Blair’s most potent comment in the whole passage is: “The ease with which it can settle back into its old territory of defending the status quo, allying itself, even anchoring itself, to the interests that will passionately and often justly oppose what the government is doing, is so apparently rewarding, that the exercise of political will lies not in going there, but in resisting the temptation to go there.” Like all good undergraduates, even at Oxford, this depends on what exactly Blair means by the “status quo” – the “status quo” is in Thatcherism, and the “greatest achievement” of Conservatism, “New Labour”, so a return to listening to the views of Union members, ahead of say the handful of wealth creators in the City, is in fact a radical shift back to where we were. In other words, a U-turn after a U-turn gets you back to the same spot.
Blair then has a rather sudden, but important, shift in gear. He writes, “The guiding principle should be that we are the seekers after answers, not the repository for people’s anger.” This is to some extent true from the law, as we know from the views from LJ Laws who has described the challenges of making dispassionate legal decisions even if the issues are of enormous significance in social justice. Blair, consistent with an approach from a senior lawyer remarks, “In the first case, we have to be dispassionate even when the issues arouse great passion.” But then he follows, “In the second case, we are simple fellow-travellers in sympathy; we are not leaders. And in these times, above all, people want leadership.” Bingo. This is what. Whatever Ed Miliband’s ultimate ideology, which appears to be an inclusive form of social democracy encouraging corporate as well as personal citizenship, people ultimately want a very clear roadmap of where he is heading. The infamous articulation of policy under Cruddas will help here, but, as Ed Miliband finds his feet, Miliband will be judged on how he responds to challenges, like Thatcher had to respond to the Falklands’ dispute or the Miners’ Strike.
Blair fundamentally is right to set out the challenges. In as much as the financial crisis has not created the need for change per se, to say that it has not created a need for a financial response is ludicrous. The ultimate failure in Keynesian policy from Blair and Brown is that the UK did not invest adequately in a period of growth, put tritely by the Conservatives as “not mending the roof while the sun was shining”. Mending the roof, to accept this awful image, is best done when the sun is shining. Therefore, Labour producing a policy now is to some extent not the best time to do it. Blair had a great opportunity to formulate a culture in the UK which reflected Labour’s roots in protecting the rights and welfare of workers, but it decided not to do so. Tarred with the ‘unions holding the country to ransom’ tag, it decided to Brown-nose the City quite literally, leading to an exacerbation of the inequality commenced under Thatcher. Blair skirts round the issue of globalisation and technology in a rather trite manner, one assumes for brevity, but the wider debate necessarily includes the effects of globalisation and technology on actual communities in the UK, and the effect of multi-national corporates on life in the UK. Even Thatcher might have balked at the power of the corporates in 2013 in the same way she was critical of the power of the Unions throughout all of her time in government.
Whilst “Labour should be very robust in knocking down the notion that it “created” the crisis”, there is no doubt that Labour has a ‘debate to be had’ about how the Conservatives did not oppose the legislation of the City at the time by New Labour (and even advanced further under-regulation), why George Osborne wished to meet the comprehensive spending review demands of the last Labour government, and how the Conservatives would not have reacted any differently in injecting £1 TN into bank recapitalisation at the time of the crisis. The idea of spending money at the time of a recession has been compared to supporters of FA Hayek as ‘hair of the dog after a big binge’, but unfortunately is directly relevant to Blair’s first question: “What is driving the rise in housing benefit spending, and if it is the absence of housing, how do we build more?” Kickstarting the economy and solving the housing crisis would indeed be a populist measure, but the arguments against such a policy remain thoroughly unconvincing. The second question, “How do we improve the skillset of those who are unemployed when the shortage of skills is the clearest barrier to employment?”, is helpful to some extent, but Blair again shows that he is stuck in a mysterious time-warp; two of the biggest challenges in employment, aside from the onslaught in unfair dismissal, are the excessive salaries of CEOs (necessitating a debate about redistribution, given Labour’s phobia of the ‘tax and spend’ criticism), and how to help the underemployed. The third question is, course, hugely potent: “How do we take the health and education reforms of the last Labour government to a new level, given the huge improvement in results they brought about?” Fair enough, but the immediate problem now is how to slow down this latest advance in the privatisation of the NHS through the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and for Labour to tackle real issues about whether it really wishes to pit hospital versus hospital, school versus school, CCG against CCG, etc. (and to allow certain entities, such as NHS Foundation Trusts, “fail” in what is supposed to be a “comprehensive service”). The other questions which Blair raises are excellent, and indeed I am extremely happy to see that Blair calls for a prioritisation of certain planks of policy, such as how to produce an industrial strategy or a ‘strategy for growth’, and how to deal with a crisis in social justice? There is no doubt that the funding of access-to-justice on the high street, for example in immigration, housing or welfare benefits, has hit a crisis, but Blair is right if he is arguing that operational tactics are not good enough. Sadiq Khan obviously cannot ‘underachieve and overpromise’ about reversing legal aid cuts, but Labour in due course will have to set out an architecture of what it wishes to do about this issue.
Ed Miliband knows that this is a marathon, not a sprint. He has the problem of shooting at a goal, which some days looks like an open goal, other days where the size of the goal appears to have changed, and, on other days, where he looks as if he runs a real risk of scoring an ‘own goal’. It is of course very good to have advice from somebody so senior as Tony Blair, who will be a Lord in the upper chamber in due course, and Miliband does not know yet if he will ‘squeak through’ in the hung parliament, win with a massive landslide, or lose. Labour will clearly not wish to say anything dangerous at the risk of losing, through perhaps offending Basildon Man, and, whilst it is very likely that South Shields Man will remain loyal, nothing can be taken for granted for Ed Miliband unfortunately. Like Baroness Thatcher’s death, Tony Blair’s advice at this stage was likely to rouse huge emotions, and, whilst the dangers of ignoring the advice might not be as costly as Thatcher’s funeral, it would be unwise to ignore his views which, many will argue, has some support within Labour. However, it is clearly the case that some of the faultlines in the Thatcher society and economy have not been healed by the New Labour approach, and Ed Miliband, many hope, will ultimately forge his own successful destiny.
“Gordon did the economics”.
That’s precisely the problem. Tony Blair did not understand economics – excellent junior barrister, and outstanding communication skills and politician. There is indeed a plethora of substantial achievements for which all of us in Labour can be very proud indeed: the Northern Ireland peace process (the Belfast Agreement) and the formation of the Northern Ireland assembly, genuine advancement of LBGT rights, the Millennium Dome project, Scottish and Welsh devolution, the minimum wage. It’s critical also to note that public satisfaction with the National Health Service was at an all-time high, entirely due to the effort Blair put into this. This has always been the bête-noire of Labour, for example the public have been traditionally been somewhat reluctant to ‘thank’ Labour and Blair for this. (There have been theories proposed by Peter Kellner to explain why this might be so, such as voters believing that ‘they were the lucky ones’ and ‘they were bucking the national trend’). And indeed two of the very first things – and massive achievements – were the introduction of the Department for International Development and the Human Rights Act.
I don’t particularly care about what Alastair Campbell and numerous others say about Blair winning three elections – I feel that this is a red herring, and on principle what matters is what political ideologies he put into action. If you’re talking actual facts anyway, Blair’s support started to erode long before the Iraq War, at around 2002. Alastair Campbell’s latest diary reports an extremely dysfunctional Cabinet. Blair and Brown blatantly hated but respected each other, and with each trying to undermine each other but pretending their best to form a sense of unity. What Alastair describes is a pitiful state of affairs. Sure Campbell is a master-strategist in the way that Osborne will never be capable of being. However, what he reports is an organisational culture with two separate Blair and Brown styles, culture and ways of doing things. They fundamentally disagree, but it’s no good saying that Brown “did the economics”. Brown is a Keynesian, and he had the UK on a path to recovery before he was booted out in 2010.
Blair’s economic policy, or business model for UK plc if you prefer, is completely incorrect in my view. It takes no account of behavioural economics. He led members of his government completely down a blind alley of overcommoditisation of everything. His greatest sin was to embark on a strategy of overcommoditisation of the public services, completing spitting in the face of acknowledging value of people. People lie at the heart of the Labour – that’s why we have the Unions. In my personal view only, Blair’s effect on Labour, despite winning three elections, was to set the UK back decades. A donkey could have won the General Election against Major, and Blair failed to capitalise on producing a UK fit-for-purpose. The economy is still unbalanced, the Unions do not feel valued, and we are left with a sick Britain which is extending Blair’s plans albeit in a more extreme way. The Beechcroft Report and NHS Act are exactly what happens if you do not value hard-working people in the public sector.
Gillian Duffy represented an approach to immigration which was pathological. The Fabians’ response has to formulate this in terms of insecurity of voters, elegantly described in ‘Southern Discomfort’. However, I find the whole concept of ‘aspiration’ entirely phoney, and summarises well Blair’s government – a chic marketing exercise in making Labour palatable to the general public. It was extremely cynical, and the public saw through it, forcing Mandelson to declare New Labour clinically dead in 2010.
Ed Miliband needs to embrace behavioural economics and corporate social responsibility – in real terms, this means valuing all people who contribute to the society and economy of the UK. We need to talk about Tony, in that he is not some Messiah that walked the earth. He may have been an election-winning machine, but the fact that he could not integrate an understanding of economics to the heart of government speaks volumes. A generation of people currently at University are keeping up the intellectually-bereft idol worship of Blair, but they are doing Labour a massive disservice. Labour has to be inclusive of everyone, wherever they come from, to move forward. I believe, personally, that the whole of Labour Left and the Fabians have been extremely helpful in this regard.
John Maynard Keynes, an outstanding mathematician and economist from King’s College Cambridge, died on 21 April 1946. In the same year, William Beveridge, Master of University College Oxford, became a life peer. On On 1 December 1942, the government, also a coalition but this time in war-time, published a report entitled ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services’. It had been written by Sir William Beveridge, a highly regarded economist and expert on unemployment problems, and a rightly-celebrated Liberal. The Beveridge Report quickly became the blueprint for the modern British welfare state. Dr Jose Harris, fellow of St Catherine’s College and widow of the great Prof Jim Harris, Chair of Jurisprudence at Oxford, has written a brilliant biography of Beveridge if you wish to chart the development of Beveridge’s ideas.
The Labour Party eventually adopted the Beveridge proposals, and after their victory in the 1945 general election, proceeded to implement many social policies, which became known as the welfare state. These included: the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act , National Insurance Act , National Health Service Act  and the National Insurance Act .
To answer the question whether these are “good” laws, perhaps one has to consider what is the purpose of law or jurisprudence. Today, Richard Dworkin is the Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence at UCL. Notably, Dworkin appears to argue that moral principles that people hold dear are often wrong, even to the extent that certain crimes are acceptable if one’s principles are skewed enough, being a vocal critic of Hart’s legal positivism.
The next day the Daily Express told the story of Stephanie Fennessy-Sharp and Ian Sharp and their combined brood of 10 children. Neither adult was in employment and yet the benefits system gave their household an income of more than £49,000 – the equivalent to a pre-tax salary of £72,000. “We’re taking advantage of the system but that’s the system’s fault,” said Mrs Fennessy-Sharp. Mr Sharp claimed: “If I work more than an hour I feel ill and get stressed.” Scanning the list of the family’s benefits to see how the £49,000 was arrived at, all the usual suspects were there: £20,400 in housing benefit for their five-bedroom home, £8,320 in incapacity benefit, £4,524 in child benefit, £1,200 in council tax benefit. But one item stopped me in my tracks: £14,456 child tax credits.
Later in the article, Patrick explains the following:
A spokesman confirmed that there is no rule stipulating that you have to work in order to get child tax credits. In fact the more children you have and the less work you do, the higher the amount you are entitled to tends to be. The Revenue simply pays regular large sums into your bank account.
The Working Tax Credit (WTC) is a state benefit to people who work on a low income. It is a part of the current system of refundable (or non-wastable) tax credits introduced in April 2003 and is a means-tested social security benefit. In addition, people may also be entitled to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) if they are responsible for any children. The idiotic thing is that despite their name, tax credits are not linked to a person’s tax bill. The WTC can be claimed by working individuals, childless couples and working families with dependent children. The WTC and CTC are assessed jointly and families remain eligible for CTC even if where no adult is working or they have too much income to receive the WTC.
The Left might validly ask where did this ludicrous system come from? And yes indeed they might. Dawn Primarolo was responsible for implementation for the tax credits, under Tony Blair’s tenure as PM with Gordon Brown as Chancellor. The Left do themselves a massive disservice by not upholding the principles of the Beveridge report which they enacted. This should be one of the things that the Left does apologise for; given that Ed Miliband has been apologising for virtually everything else, it seems ludicrous that he should not admit that this was a major failing of the Blair/Brown regime. Furthermore, at a time when there are genuine debates to be had about the chaos in welfare funding (for example for disabled citizens), rather than James Purnell and Liam Byrne pandering to a media agenda about how Labour supports ‘tough welfare’ whilst perhaps concentrating somewhat on their own careers, this is a tragedy. And yes it is a tragic legacy of a Blair Labour government.
It may be sexy to be at each other’s throats, but the only people who benefit from a divided Labour are the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
I have often referred, latterly, to how Labour must find itself rejuvenated in 2012, but facing the challenges and opportunities of the modern UK.
I have indeed often criticised New Labour, in the fact that it is my personal academic belief that Tony Blair was incorrect not putting value at the heart of negotiating the commodfiication of public services (given that he desired to pursue this agenda at all). Blair, together with other Prime Ministers, have relied on the perfect competition model of the market, comparing cost and price.
We, in Labour, have much bigger fish to fry. This is not about which young political personality is an up-and-coming star of the future, nor which political journalist has the most Twitter followers. It’s simply an urgent need to recognise that market failure should provide the opportunity for Labour to re-establish core support; not cultivate an environment where people are scared to turn to ethical socialism.
That the utilities are a privatised oligopoly where it is far too easy for shareholders to cream off massive shareholder dividends without returning a vastly improved service possibly may be a driver for the renationalisation of certain strategic industries. That there are certain illnesses and diseases that will not flourish in a privatised NHS means that we should not put all of health and social welfare into the private sector; the same argument holds for certain (relatively) unprofitable legal services, like immigration or asylum.
The easy option has been for some in Labour to produce turf wars about Blair versus Brown, without negotiating the principles or values of Labour. People who know little about marketing have tried to launch campaigns for Labour, which has led to a stronger sense of incompetence. However, simply understanding that not all of society can be optimised through the maximisation of shareholder dividend should be a fundamental principle for Labour to move forward in the 21st century.
What has been known as ‘ethical socialism’ thus far is precisely what international business holds dear. Corporate social responsibility means that ENRON shook up the U.S., and Goldman Sachs have to be mindful of where they invest money, for example. Social enterprises are respected by the mainstream political parties, because they reconcile community investment with the need to be financially prudent; but not being profitable at the expense of the stakeholders. The business models are complicated, but indeed much studied in the world of management.
The ‘Occupy’ movement has seen a galvanisation of the public against greedy and cynical capitalism, and much of this has brushed off against their political masters. Would it be any wonder then that George Galloway offers such an attractive escape plan, save for the fact that his plan for government might not be that realistic?
Labour needs to learn fast why the public are rejecting all the major political parties at the moment. With the Liberal Democrats unelectable, if Labour does not produce ethical socialist policies, David Cameron will be handed his first real majority. Ironically, if Ed Miliband articulates a coherent vision of ethical socialism, he will have ideologically produced a political miracle of uniting his predecessors Tony Blair and Clement Attlee. It has previously been noted that Tony Blair believed that the Labour Party ran into problems in the 1960s and 1970s when it abandoned ethical socialism, and believes that the Labour Party’s recovery required a return to the ethical socialist values last promoted by the Attlee Labour government.
Now has never been a better time to implement ethical socialism in the UK. Labour Left are Labour’s largest think tank. At its core are a group of thinkers who generate policy which they hope will be considered for inclusion in the 2015 Labour Party manifesto. The group present themselves as a home of ethical socialism, set up in 2011 explicitly to help Ed Miliband become the next Prime Minister: I for one support them, and I hope you will too.
I respect Tony Blair much. Indeed, he won three impressive election victories for my Party. Indeed, I like him as a person. I find his account of his family in ‘The Journey’ very moving.
However, as Frank Dobson MP points out in the video below, Labour started to lose support in the early 2000s, long before the Iraq War. I am in two minds about Tony Blair’s path to power. I believe it was important that the public were on his side, and you need to have the genuine support of followers to be successfully in power in government rather than to be simply in office. On the other hand, having vivid memories of Thatcherism in his heyday, prior to the Poll Tax, I believe that a donkey could have beaten John Major in 1997. I’m only surprised he won in the first place, which is indeed a tribute to him and the Conservative Party.
However, I firmly believe that New Labour was wrong on economics. The field of behavioural economics provides that there are irrational customers, and that’s all ‘rather complicated’. I am not interested in getting bogged down in an erudite discussion of ‘Nudge’ at this point – I disagree with Nudge too, as it happens.
Whilst it is comforting to think of things in terms of the supply-demand graph, real economics provides that price, cost and value have different definitions in modern economics. Furthermore, the Nobel Prizes for economics in 2001 and 2002 respectively, with Joe Stiglitz and Dan Kahneman, offer a convincing argument for information asymmetry in decision-making and loss aversion in decision-making.
This is particularly relevant now when it is erroneous to compare apples with bananas in the NHS. It’s difficult to compare the costs and value of chronic dementia care with the cost of a hip operation, and it may be dangerous to leave this entirely in the hands of a free market which operates under law to maximise shareholder dividend. If I had to pay for the medical care for my six week coma due to meningitis in 2007, I would owe the private health company millions probably. I think we do need some sort of shared risk/insurance system, but the NHS currently is not paid out of National Insurance to my knowledge. The sooner the Blairites appreciate this the better – otherwise their exercise is being run by shabby marketing people who don’t even understand economics like good marketeers do.
Despite some low points, I am still very proud to be supporting Ed Miliband. I voted for Ed, and indeed this video is of Frank Dobson at his last ever hustings when he was campaigning to be leader of my/our Party. And yes, and I came top in the MBA in economics and marketing last year in case you’re wondering..
Something I have discovered in the life is that there will always be people who like you whatever you do, those people who dislike or strongly dislike you whatever you do, and the remainder who are clearly indifferent. Encyclopaedias will have been written about Tony Blair before I die, and, whatever one’s views on his contributions to British politics, I would like to challenge any person with compassion not to find this personal extract from ‘The Journey’ inspiring. OK, fair enough, we’re all aware of the circular discussions about Blair’s Britain, but this is a very human, open, piece of writing, about the death of his mother, and the profound influence on him of his father, which I find deeply impressive on a human level.
In my case, my mother is alive-and-well, but my father passed away suddenly at the Royal Free NHS Hampstead on 10th November 2010 at 7 pm. My father has had a profound impact on my development as a person, and I particularly remorseful about the fact he would often allude to questioning himself about why I became an alcoholic. I am now in recovery for 40 months now, so I feel too that I have been successful in the first steps of ‘my journey‘. As it happens, I think my father was Tory for much of his life, with the same cognitive scheme as Tony Blair’s father, until the final few years of his life, when his thinking was very much like Tony Blair, particularly on the role of aspiration in society. My father was, after all, a very successful General Practitioner in Burgess Hill, from the late 1970s to when he retired in the mid 1990s. I can relate to Tony Blair’s description of his mother; my mother’s relationship to my father is virtually identical, except she has never hidden the fact that she is a Tory. I can also relate to the idea coming down from Oxford in their third term at the end of June, with his family having protected him from the details of his mother. For what it’s worth, I feel in retrospect that my father had been suffering for a very long time, without my knowledge. This is to my shame, for not inquiring enough.
Life is definitely a journey, but with I hope future happiness and opportunities, to match. However, at this current time, I am aware of the fact that we all have – finally – the same destiny.
But none of that defined the principal impact on my political development. What Dad taught me above all else, and did so utterly unconsciously, was why people him become Tories. He had been poor. He was working class. He aspired to be middle class. He worked hard. made it on his merits, and wanted his children to do even better than him. He did thought – as did many others of his generation – that the logical outcome of this striving, born of this attitude. was to be a Tory: to sides of the same coin. It became my political ambition to break that connection, and replace it with a different currency. You are compassionate; you care about those less fortunate than yourself; you believe in society as well as the individual. You can be Labour. You can be successful and care; ambitious and compassionate; a meritocrat and a progressive. Moreover, these are not alien sentiments in uneasy coexistence. They are entirely compatible ways of making sure progress happens; and they answer the realistic, not utopian,claims of human nature.
So he affected me deeply, as in another way did my mum. She was as different from my my dad as it is possible for two people living together to be. Dad was more like me: motivated, determined, and with a hard-focused ambition that, I fear, translates fairly easily into selfishness for both of us. Mum, by contrast, was a decent, lovely, almost saintly woman. She was shy, even a little withdrawn in company. She supported Dad politically, as his wife and companion, but, as she used to confide in me occasionally, she was not really a Tory. For some reason = maybe to do with her Irish background – she felt somehow excluded; and she thought that some of the more Tory friends hd fallen away when Dad went ill.
She died when I had just turned twenty-two. She had been ill with cancer of the thyroid. Looking back, it was clear she couldn’t survive, clear indeed it was a minor miracle that she survived for the five years after she was first diagnosed.
But the shock of it. There is nothing like losing a parent. I don’t mean it’s worse than losing a child. It isn’t. I don’t think anything can be. I mean it affects you in a unique way; at least if it happens when you’re young. Mum’s death was shocking because I couldn’t contemplate it. As she deteriorated, and I was in my last months at Oxford, working hard for my final exams, Dad my brother Bill kept from me the truth of her condition. I came home at the end of June and Dad picked me up from the station, “Your mother’s really very ill”, he said.
“I know, but she’s not dying, is she?” I said, stating the worst so that he would reassure me, as I stupid expected.
“Yes, I am afraid she is”, he replied. My world turned upside down. I could not imagine it. The eprson who had brought me up, looked after me, was always there to help and cherish me; he person who loved me without a consideration of my entitlement, without an assessment of my character, without wanting anything from me; the person who simply loved me; she would be gone.
Life was never the same after that.”
Extract from Tony Blair, “A Journey” Hutchinson, 2010
But – latterly – I have become aware of the fact that, whatever our journey in life, we do have the same destination; or junction, depending on your religious viewpoint.
People who dislike Labour love reminding themselves of when Denis Healey had to ‘beg’ to the IMF for a loan to keep Britain afloat. Labour took a long time to shrug off the notion that unions were intrinsically evil, and served to destabilize the effective running of Britain. Britain in the late 1970s couldn’t even to bury the dead.
Unfortunately, in the 2010s, Britain may not be able to look after the living adequately. The over-zealous attitude by the spending review has been observed by many pundits as being rather macabre, and misfiring in a number of critical areas. For example, Iain Duncan-Smith has provided a programme of welfare reform, but has been unable to put a figure to it. In the meantime, many genuine disabled people who indeed aspire to go to work have been terrified by what it all means, by the continuous torrent of mistrust from the Coalition politicians towards the poor and/or the disabled.
We all know where intuitively the autumn of discontent would be likely to happen, but the Unions have now specified that the strikes are going to be due to spending cuts, pay and pensions in the public sector. The tables motioned for the Trades Union Congress have called for co-ordinated action by various unions.
The scale of this is not going to be a joke. The reason for this is many hard-working citizens, especially the low paid, feel embittered. They realize that the state owes them nothing, contrary to popular media, but the issue is that they do not feel responsible for the mess that Britain is in. They are simply not accepting the argument that “there’s no money left”, put forward by Liam Byrne of all people. Instead, they have fully accepted that spending in a recession was necessary to stop the economy going into a complete standstill, and the proof of the success of this policy has already been demonstrated by stable growth figures and a lack of inflation thus far. However, the cuts threaten to lessen investment in both the private and public sector, produce inflation, increase unemployment, and therefore increase substantially the benefit budget.
Unison, Britain’s biggest public sector trade union with 1.3 million members, has called on unions to join a Europe-wide day of action in September. Unite has been hard at work, or non-work, in Manchester. Workers at the Manchester office of one of Britain’s largest finance firms are being balloted for strike action in another outbreak of industrial unrest. Staff at Capita Life and Pensions have begun voting over proposed changes to their pensions, which Unite national officer Rob MacGregor said were a “clear attempt by the company to profit at the expense of our members”. Unite have provided that staff at Capita Life and Pensions will lose thousands of pounds in retirement income if the plans go ahead.
“Our defence must be built on generalised strike action and community resistance,” said the RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, predicting the biggest public mobilisation since the anti-poll tax riots of 1990.
That things have come to a head so early on has caught many by surprise. If Labour elects too supine a leader, who won’t support its major paymasters and adopts a “wait-and-see” approach, Labour will achieve nothing for the poor and/or vulnerable. Many are yearning for a true left-wing agenda with a leader with the courage of his convictions, who won’t come to this with any populist overly right-centrist baggage. Ed Miliband could therefore, as the only electable socialist candidate, be the right man at the right time.
David Cameron, who is likely to be on paternity leave during the TUC conference, has declined an invitation to address the congress. Quelle surprise?