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How Nick Clegg ended up being blamed for New Labour

Put another way, Nick Clegg ‘sided with the devil’, and ‘made his bed so he can lie in it.’ In an excellent previous article on the ‘Tax Research’ blog, Richard Murphy sets out the case that Tony Blair was a neoliberal, commencing how Blair himself spoke about his new book to the Guardian. The Guardian notes:

Blair’s outspoken remarks about the financial crisis and the aftermath of the British general election of 2010 in his book’s postscript are likely to have a wide party political impact, especially his caution about any embrace of the view that “the state is back”.


Tony Blair specifically cites that:

“The problem, I would say error, was in buying a package which combined deficit spending, heavy regulation, identifying banks as the malfeasants and jettisoning the reinvention of government in favour of the rehabilitation of government. The public understands the difference between the state being forced to intervene to stabilise the market and government back in fashion as a major actor in the economy.”


Murphy then articulates that the Blair administration was thoroughly ‘New Labour’, noting that: “It betrayed as a result the very core of what Labour did stand for and should stand for. It was desperate – power at any cost. But that was wrong. Power comes with a responsibility to those who grant it – and New Labour failed in that duty.” This is an interesting observation, as Blair considered that he was continuing in the tradition of Thatcher, and that Cameron has been continuing in the tradition of Blair. Brown is not included in this ‘chain of indemnity’, save for being a powerful member of the Blair government. Nick Clegg unwittingly found himself holding the ‘balance of power’, and is now a target within his own party.


This morning, Lord Matthew Oakeshott, a very senior Liberal Democrat peer (and friend of Vince Cable) indicated the party must oust leader Nick Clegg if it wants to avoid electoral disaster in 2015. Oakeshott further explained that it was time to examine the party’s “strategy and management” to ensure it has a chance of success at the polls. It is probably fair to say that tribal hostility between Labour and the Liberal Democrats has intensified since the famous general election of May 2010, with many Labour activists blaming Nick Clegg for ‘selling out to the Tories’. In particular, Nick Clegg is blamed for his U-turn on tuition fees (the famous “Nick Clegg pledge”), and not stopping the privatisation of the NHS. This criticism of Nick Clegg has been advanced by many Labour activists wishing to see destruction of aspirations of members of the Liberal Democrat Part in 2015. Labour dare not openly criticise Tony Blair itself – the reason that Ed Miliband can only pussyfoot around the legacy of New Labour is that he fully realises that he risks internecine warfare within Labour.


This is a pointless concern of Labour in perpetually being concerned about the image of the Unions. New Labour made no effort to dilute the anti-Union legislation of the previous Conservative administrations, and Labour has always had a thirst for powerful backers from the corporate sector. This is sheer folly, as corporates will rarely have the welfare of its workers as a primary consideration in formulating its business strategy over profit; the reality of this is brought home with the lack of investment in Labour which will come to Ed Miliband as a result of him envangelising about ‘responsible capitalism’ in politics, or ‘corporate social responsibility’ as it is known to everyone else in law and business.


The history of New Labour’s contribution to tuition fees and the privatisation of the NHS is all too clear, however. In May 1996, Conservative Prime Minister John Major commissioned an inquiry, led by Sir Ron Dearing, into the funding of British higher education over the next 20 years. Published on 23 July 1997, the Dearing report made 93 recommendations. It estimated additional funding of almost £2 billion would be needed over the next 20 years, including £350 million in 1998-9 and £565 million in 1999-2000, in order to expand student enrllment, provide more support for part-time students and ensure an adequate infrastructure. The inquiry favoured means-tested tuition fees and the continuation of the means tested maintenance grants as well as student loans. It recommended that graduates made a flat rate contribution of 25 percent of the cost of higher education tuition and that a mechanism for paying for this should be established by 1998-9. Following the publication of the report, the Labour education secretary David Blunkett announced the introduction of means-tested tuition fees to begin in September 1998. He also announced that the student maintenance grant would be abolished and replaced by student loans. 


In fact, New Labour also began to tinker with the NHS almost as soon as it came into office, with promises “to overturn the Conservatives’ internal market structure, vowing to replace it with a more collaborative, quality-based approach”. Following its “Agenda for Change” initiative of 2004, the New Labour government then, in 2006, installed a new chief executive, David Nicholson, whose role was to carry out reforms of the NHS “to tackle its debt crisis”. In a speech delivered behind closed doors back in 2009, it was Nicholson who told health service finance directors that a new programme of reforms was needed to deliver between £15 billion and £20 billion [which equated to 6% of the total budget] in ‘efficiency savings’ over three years from 2011 to 2014. In response, Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association council, warned that if efficiency savings went ahead on such a scale “there is a real danger that patient services could be threatened”. What had started with Thatcherism, and then continued under Blair and Brown, has now reached a critical phase under Cameron, inspired by John Redwood and Oliver Letwin.


I feel that, whilst it is convenient to blame Nick Clegg, the policies being enacted by the Coalition are end-products of significant policy planks of New Labour. Labourites who choose to ‘punish Nick Clegg’ for enactment of these policies are in a way reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy attacking the foundations of education and NHS policy that they helped to produce in New Labour. Nick Clegg, instead of being a visionary who changed politics, has simply enacted ‘more of the same’, and it is a moot point whether Labour or the Conservatives would have followed this policy path anyway. It is parsimonious to conclude that all people on the Left who vote against Nick Clegg are voting against New Labour, even if they would never dare to admit it if they were members of New Labour, but the problem is that Nick Clegg is merely a symbol for what has gone on for more than a decade. If Ed Miliband, by fluke or hard work in criticising the demonisation of the disabled or privatisation of the NHS, enters Downing Street on May 8th 2015, it could well be ‘more of the same’, even if Nick Clegg has retired from full-time politics despite winning his very safe seat in Sheffield.


In fairness to us, in Labour, we voted against all these measures, unlike the Liberal Democrat MPs; we voted against this, scrapping the Education Support Allowance, against disability benefit changes, and much more, but we are sadly not in government for the time-being. More than that, Labour has pledged that the maximum university fee for students in England would be cut by a third under Labour. This would be partly funded by higher interest on student loans for graduates earning more than £65,000 a year.  Furthermore, Labour currently also has a strategy for coping with the NHS reorganisation. The first of these is a proposal to raise the cap of the amount foundation trusts can receive from private sources to 49 per cent. Secondly we wish to reframe the role of Monitor, the body charged with regulating competition within the NHS, as the small print suggested at the moment the role of the market would be “modelled explicitly on the role of privatised utilities”. Thirdly, it is proposed that GPs might be stopped from commissioning services from themselves, which is felt to be a “a conflict of interest”.


So if Tony Blair and David Cameron got away with it, why can’t Nick Clegg? Nick Clegg can’t, because he has a repeated tendency to say one thing and do the opposite (or do one thing and say the opposite, like the wealthy and taxes). Ultimately, voters hate it if leaders blatantly lie to them. Few people have any feelings towards Nick Clegg apart from complete contempt for ‘selling out’, and Labour has always argued that it had no intention of ‘going this far’. I don’t wish to diminish any scrutiny of Nick Clegg’s rôle in implementing policy in the UK, but I do wish us in Labour to learn lessons about how evolve our policy for the future in a constructive way. Believe me – on this Matthew Oakeshott is completely right, I feel – Nick Clegg is finished! Most importantly, history will be the best judge of whether Tony Blair or David Cameron have in fact ‘got away with it’, after all. Ed Miliband’s own political career, in distancing himself from these policies (or not), will be the best testament to that.

Falling inflation in the context of worsening credit rating is not an achievement

Falling inflation is not an achievement for the Bank of England. It is the result of the Coalition, consisting of the Conservatives and the Labour, being untrustworthy with the economy. Increasing the rate of VAT throttled domestic consumer demand, and the only thing keeping prices are inadequately regulated utilities by the State. Public sector cuts which have yet to take full effect have partly contributed to soaring unemployment, devastating the personal lives of millions. More spending on unemployment benefits, with the additional factor of decreased tax revenues from people actually in work, means that the Coalition have created through their austerity agenda an incredible mess in the economy. George Osborne knows if the public understood that the general public would revolt.

It is therefore no wonder that we are now on “negative watch”. If the credit ratings, which George Osborne has been praising thus far, deteriorate, the cost of borrowing potentially could worsen, if we were not for the fact that the Eurozone bond market is much worse than the UK bond market. By the time unemployment hits the roof and the economy is still stagnant in 2015, with cuts to reach full potential, the Liberal Democrats will be totally unelectable. The destruction of legal aid and the NHS will not be forgotten either. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats cannot be trusted with the economy; the mess we’re in is directly their fault.

If I could subpoena Cameron and Clegg to do a leaders' debate now, I would

If I could subpoena Cameron and Clegg to do a leaders’ debate now, I most definitely would. As a student of a MBA course going at a very fast rate, it is easy to get a feel for a flavour of the management and leadership styles of David Cameron, and to understand why he personally, and his Tory-led government, are doing catastrophically badly. I exclude Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats, whose ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to transform the nature of politics on the left-wing has been utterly wasted. Nobody sane would expect Nick Clegg to face the music in a Leaders’ debate in 2015, for example.

The issue with the Tory-led government is that they have a sole core competency, that is to reduce the deficit. However, the mechanism by which they are doing it is causing considerable damage to the recovery which had started in the first few months of  their current (and probably) last term of government. By having no coherent policy for generating growth, they potentially could worsen the deficit by decreasing tax receipts and increasing benefit spending. It’s like having a credit card when you’re unemployed, but you are sanctioned from having any source of income.

David Cameron also fails as a leader in a number of textbook ways. As a potential transformational leader, he does not have the support of key followers essential for a  change management to succeed, say in the public sector. Essential in this change management is not doing the change too fast, and having some symbols of success. Instead, David Cameron faces increasing waiting times and a plethora of equally disastrous metrics in NHS management, and the ultimate accolade in manufacturing output, the GDP, is deterioriating all the time. His preferred management style for running the public sector is ‘lean management’, which runs two grave dangers. Firstly, it can be extremely difficult to do a root cause analysis of problems when things go wrong, and secondly there is little functional slack. Take for example the recent riots. In an overstretched, underfunded, police service, it is difficult for the police and justice system to mount a satisfactory response. Amazingly, they have, but despite a dangerous level of cuts.

David Cameron has equally proven himself as a poor crisis leader. Over the riots, where he was accused of spending too long in Tuscany, and over the hacking crisis, where the evidence provided by Goodman, Coulson and Murdoch continues to cause problems, Cameron has been seen naked in responding way too late after the events; and again he suffers from a lack of trust by his followers, the UK general public.

Furthermore, in textbook terms, David Cameron fails as a charismatic leader. This was first identified really by Mary Liddell who wondered some time ago whether the general public could grow to embrace David Cameron. Indeed, Liddell was right. They couldn’t. The result was a hung parliament, with a completely ineffective Nick Clegg, driven by a personal dislike of Gordon Brown and ‘liberal principles’, led his party at Westminster to vote against EMA and the rise in tuition fees. No wonder his political party was slaughtered in the local elections.

So, I do come back to my basic thought: if I could subpoena Cameron and Clegg to do a leaders’ debate now, I would. Tragically, the country is stuck with them until 2015.

Please vote for in the Total Politics Blog Awards 2011.

I love the City

I actually love the City! My father used to wonder why I loved the City so much, during those dark days when I was working 80 hours a week for the NHS and hated it. Sure – the guys work hard in the City, but it’s just so much my kind of work. I am fully committed to my dementia research work, but I am very lucky I can do it ‘from a safe distance’. I am internationally well respected as one of the only experts in frontal variant frontotemporal dementia, and I wouldn’t change that in the world!

But I love the way the City thrives on teamwork to get results. The law has some extremely bright, charismatic, people on it who can understand the competitive advantage of their transactions, and can understand how to make them work even considering complicated extra-jurisdictional issues. When I travel to my Business School, I have an enormous sense of pride – especially so on a hot summer’s day for some reason. Indeed, the City reminds me of my happy days at Cambridge as a student (I was there for a decade), and especially my father.




My life is brilliant – from Cambridge to the City and corporate law

I thought to myself how beautiful the City of London is this morning. It represents all that I respect in London, hard work based on genuine commitment and intellectual talent. The City exudes this in abundance, with some exceptionally bright people. The sun is shining, as you’re bound to feel good about it, as London represents the competitive advantage of finance in the world for me.

It reminds me of that other great place, Cambridge. I have fond memories of Cambridge, as I obtained the second highest First there in Finals in Natural Sciences (Neurosciences) in 1996. I loved my Ph.D. there, and, like the City, there’s a real buzz to the intellectual energy and personal warmth in Cambridge.

As I sit here studying for my MBA, doing systems and organisations in the morning and leadership, I think, despite the challenges which I have faced which have been numerous and serious (including a 2 month coma in 2007 which I was extremely lucky to survive), I have an extraordinary fulfilling life.

So there! I am looking forward very much to my ultimate career in corporate law. I am merely a student, but as I’ve nearly finished my eighth degree successfully at the age of 37, I can genuinely say not for long!

Dr Shibley Rahman

Amy Winehouse: a disgraceful performance whatever the reasons

I don’t know the reason for this disgraceful performance. All I can say, it is abysmal, and reminds me, rightly or wrongly, why it is important for people with problems to get help in abstinence and recovery. I have been in recovery from a severe alcohol dependence syndrome for 55 months, and is the best thing has happened to me. People do not need moralistic judgments; the performance is a disgrace for somebody so talented. People with addiction problems need medical help to save themselves from a slow death. I hope that Amy Winehouse’s health is very good currently though; presumption of innocence is extremely important in the law.

Scottish discomfort

Clearly, the most emphatic aspect of last night was the SNP’s decisive victory in Scotland. The Fabian Society has often recently emphasised Southern Discomfort as a source of votes. In other words, Labour latterly has been able to reach out to the Southern vote, such that you could travel from London to Grimsby without encountering a single Labour seat.

Ed Miliband needs to address carefully why the Scottish performance is so bad. Various aspects have come to light. Firstly, Ed had decided to use the elections as an offer to the Scots to deliver a message to the Coalition – the message that has been delivered is that the Scots want people to represent them positively north of the border, and they’re not sufficiently impressed with Labour to support them. Secondly, Ed badly judged the likely nature of victory of Scotland. Not only have the SNP been making good ground, but with promises that they may not be able to make, the overwhelming perception is that Iain Gray, despite being an undeniably nice person, is a flat uninspiring potential leader, and his campaign possibly peaked in a Subway shop.

The demographics are noteworthy. Labour’s Welsh performance was good, the Liberal Democrats undeniably had a terrible night, and Labour did make some gains in England. The scale of  these English gains is hard to assess given the ridiculous extent of expectation management from the Tory media concerning their ‘insignificance’.

However, it appears that Labour is relying more-and-more on a vote in Northern cities. It is not actually in Labour’s interest possibly for Scotland to ask for full independence (nor is it likely that the SNP would wish that), as that could lead to a redrawing of the England-Scotland border. The positive news is that if Labour regains its political compass in Scotland, it could make a recovery. The Liberal Democrats, making a recovery from Nick Clegg and their selective harpooning by the General Public in the whole of the UK, have their own problems. Reluctantly, it has to be said that the biggest victors of last night are Alex Salmond and David Cameron, even forgetting the result of the AV referendum for a second which looks like a resounding ‘No’.

"No to AV" : final words

The No to AV campaign write:
Play videoToday sees the second NO to AV referendum broadcast, in which David Blunkett, David Cameron, John Reid and hundreds of NO to AV supporters urge voters to keep One Person One Vote.

Following the success of the first broadcast, in which NO to AV used three short films – including the return of Alan B’Stard – to illustrate the problems with the Alternative Vote system, the new broadcast focuses on the benefits of First Past the Post and the safeguarding of the principle of One Person One Vote.

You can get a sneak preview by clicking here:

The second NO to AV referendum broadcast will air this evening (Monday 1 May) at: 6.55pm (BBC ONE), 5.55pm (BBC TWO), 6.25pm (ITV ONE), 7.05pm (CHANNEL 4) and  6.55pm (CHANNEL 5).

With just three days to go, the campaign is really hotting up. On Saturday NO to AV launched our ‘Get Out the Vote’ Battle Bus Tour, and over the next few days we will send out another 15 million leaflets and hold hundreds of street stalls across the country.

Battle BusOur aim with the Battle Bus tour is to explain and inform voters about the dangers of a switch to the unfair and expensive Alternative Vote system. We have always tried to explain why First Past the Post is better than the Alternative Vote, whilst the Yes campaign has avoided talking about AV, choosing instead to peddle untruths about expenses and safe seats to confuse and obscure the issue.

We need all your help and support over the next three days if we are going to make the current polls a reality and preserve the historic principle of One Person One Vote for Parliamentary elections. The next 3 days are the most crucial period in this referendum and nothing is done or settled yet.

Together we can stop the Liberal Democrats rigging our voting system in their favour and destroying several hundred years of British political history. Vote NO to the Alternative Vote on 5 May.

There are three things you can do right away to help:

  1. PASS THIS EMAIL on to your friends and family;
  2. Visit our ACTION CENTRE and print off a poster to display in your window; or
  3. DONATE a small amount to help us keep the momentum going over the crucial next three days.

All the best,
Team NO to AV

"Yes to AV" campaign from Jonathan Walsh

Jonathan Walsh writes:

Well here we are, just three days to go.

Since we launched Yes to Fairer Votes on 5 November 2010, thousands of people have come together at hundreds of events across London, and the UK.

The incredible movement we’ve built shows how much this referendum matters; your tireless dedication shows how much the country is crying out for change. But with just three days left, we can’t lose momentum now.

You’ve still got time – right up until 10pm on Thursday, you can make a difference. Once polling closes though, your chance to change the way we vote is over forever.

Don’t let the moment pass you by – use these three days to hit the streets and get on the phones whenever you can, and please give as much time as possible on 4 and 5 May:

Polling day is going to be absolutely crucial. This referendum will be won or lost on turnout – simple as that. Whichever campaign gets their voters to the polls will decide the course of British politics for generations to come.

So what’s it to be next Monday? Back to Westminster politics as usual or a clear statement that enough is enough?

Can you spare a couple of hours, or a whole day? Either way, sign up to be part of our “Get out the vote” movement, and this historic campaign – before it’s too late.

Thursday 5 May will be a historic moment for the UK. It’s up to us to make sure the history books tell the story of change – a story of people coming together to defeat the institutional old guard and win a fairer democracy for everyone.


Jonathan Walsh

P.S. Thursday is crucial, but every hour before it matters. Find details for your nearest activities here:

Osama Bin Laden has been killed in the War Against Terror

The trail started last August. Bin Laden is a highly symbolic figure in the War Against Terror. Tony Blair was once asked in the House of Commons in PMQs how he would know the precise time at which the War Against Terror would be finally be over, and he did not know. The death of Bin Laden is being held as symbolic by the US news networks, in that nobody who commits a crime on the US will get away with it, wherever that perpetrator is in the world. The consequences of this news are unforeseen.

Clearly, the War Against Terrorism is not over. Al Qaeda is still highly active in various parts of the world including Yemen. It is said that the Obama administration will thank the work of George Bush in introducing drone strikes. The drone attacks had been going on for about two years now.

A small group of men from the U.S. conducted the operation which ended in a firefight. President Obama in his Presidential address praised the Military and Counter-Terrorist officials of the U.S. and its allies, and explained the difficulty in tracking down Bin Laden as a pivotal part in the war against Terror. President Obama, who had made it a top priority for his Administration, apparently last week authorised an action to bring Bin Laden to justice, with no Americans harmed, and took custody of Bin Laden’s body. President Obama has especially emphasised that this is not a war against Islam, and Bin Laden is not a Muslim leader. He praised Pakistan for being supportive in the U.S.’ mission, and Pakistan have agreed that this a good step forward in the War Against Terror.

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