Stripped of unjustified sneers, the article begins with Jeremy Corbyn’s invitation to Ed Miliband to return to the shadow cabinet in a reshuffle this summer. (Left, facing interviewer Laura Kuenssberg)
Sources quoted: ‘senior Labour source’ and ‘one MP’
These anonymous commentators allege that there are plans to overhaul Labour’s frontbench team after the EU referendum, removing leadership critics who were given jobs in the early days and promoting “true believers”. They imply that this is a machiavellian plot, rather than an obviously sensible course of action.
Innuendo directed at Miliband:
The Times quotes an allegation that figures from Mr Miliband’s leadership also stand ready to help the ‘Corbyn project’, naming only Lord Wood of Anfield, a former adviser to Gordon Brown and Mr Miliband. So? Umpteen millionaires are ready to help the ‘Cameron project’ and quite a few would back any Labour challenge to Corbyn – they have so much to fear from honesty and an emphasis on the common good.
No: Blairite politicians were rejected by the electorate
The Times continues by focussing on the allegation in MP Jon Cruddas’ report, Why Labour Lost in 2015 and How it Can Win Again – that Labour is becoming dangerously out of touch with the electorate.
Positive news from the Independent: refreshing to see an emphasis on issues
It announces that Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband will publicly join forces to warn that Britain’s membership of the European Union is vital in the fight against climate change.
“At a time when the Government has scrapped funding for green projects it is vital that we remain in the EU so we can keep accessing valuable funding streams to protect our environment”.
“Leaving the EU would mean the green spaces, clean beaches and fresh air we want to leave for our children could be at risk. It would risk investment in new green technologies and the jobs that accompany them, and would leave us open to the Tory agenda which has been so damaging to our environment.
“Pollution and climate change don’t respect national borders so we can’t hope to deal with these issues if we withdraw into our shell. We must vote to remain on the 23rd and continue to work with our European neighbours to stop climate change and protect our environment.”
Happy Christmas: “regardless of the systematic dismantling of the state . . . and the ideological glee at making the disadvantaged suffer”, rejoice!
The writer tried to ignore the news, cynically announced as the public prepares for Christmas festivities, that – on ‘trash day’ – a total of 36 written ministerial statements and 424 government documents were published, as Parliament rose for the Christmas recess. Consequences:
But the words of a Walsall blogger, the Plastic Hippo, made it impossible.
“Clearly, lots of time, effort and thought has been devoted to the black arts by the Conservative Party, their corporate backers and a sympathetic media. It seems a shame that they are unwilling to turn their expertise to reducing the national debt, securing public services, ensuring that no child goes hungry and made some effort to unite the nation and not divide it for the sake of short-term electoral advantage”.
“The Machiavellian undermining of political opponents by Tory Party strategists is as good if not better than a John Le Carré novel”, he continues:
“The clever manoeuvring began on day one of the coalition government . . . Within weeks, Liberal Democrat lightweights with ideas above their station were quickly neutralised by a quiet word to the Standards Committee and the Essex constabulary . . . Vince Cable vowed to take on Murdoch over BSkyB but the old fool fell for an elaborate sting involving a couple of young lovelies working for Murdoch . . .
As informed political debate goes, all this was a reminder that informed political debate is dead . . .
“With the enthusiastic cooperation of a feral right-wing media, Tory spymasters set about Ed Miliband with the ferocity of fox-hounds after Reynard or possibly Rennard the Liberal Democrat lord. The best that quality journalism and profound political thinking could come up with was that Miliband has two kitchens, his father “hated” Britain and that he looks a bit odd when eating a bacon sandwich . . .
“Duly elected with a considerable majority, the systematic destruction of Corbyn began. Unfortunately, Comrade Corbyn seems able to ignore the increasingly hysterical attacks and even a casual observer might be impressed with his dignity under such savage provocation.
“He regularly wipes the floor with David Cameron at the dispatch box leaving the Prime Minister red in the face unable to answer reasonable questions and shouting at the opposition benches that everything is the fault of a party last in power five and a half years ago. Tory activists will be asking for their three quid back . . .”
Fortunately the general public is increasing aware of these machinations peddled by mainstream media and careerist politicians – and despite their best efforts continue to applaud and support Corbyn.
Read Plastic Hippo’s article in full here.
George Parker, Political Editor of the Financial Times, under the heading “Labour war erupts as Blairites turn on Ed Miliband” foresees a bitter ideological battle for the party leadership:
“Lord Mandelson (Ed: firmly allied with the ‘mega-rich’) said Mr Miliband and his supporters had made a ‘terrible mistake’ in abandoning the New Labour centre ground and undertaking ‘a giant political experiment’ that went badly wrong”.
Ed’s ‘vanity project’? He dared to express some care for the millions in need rather than the already prosperous
Philip Collins, a former Blair speech writer and columnist, tweeted that it would take more than five years to repair the damage of the defeat: “That is the price of the Ed vanity project. He lost two elections in one night.”
The trade union bogeyman
Lord Mandelson said the trade unions that helped to deliver victory for Ed Miliband in the party’s 2010 leadership contest could do the same again by enrolling Labour supporting union members to vote in the 2015 contest. “We cannot open ourselves up to the sort of abuse and inappropriate influence that the trade unions waded in with in our leadership election in 2010,” he said, failing to mention the type of influence he favours.
Bookmakers William Hill 2-1 favourite self declared candidate Chuka Umunna abandons the underprivileged millions
Since Mr Miliband announced his resignation on Friday, Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, has signalled his intention to run, echoing the Blairite theme that Mr Miliband had abandoned the centre ground. “For middle-income voters there was not enough of an aspirational offer there,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Parker ends: “Labour’s national executive committee will meet this week to draw up a timetable for the leadership contest. A shorter timetable might benefit Mr Burnham, who already has a great deal of party support, while other less well-known candidates would prefer a contest that runs into the autumn”.
The FT’s editor surmises that the burst of activity by the Blairites was intended to stall any potential momentum behind Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, who is ‘a firm favourite with public sector unions’. Corporate shudder . . .
Media appearances present Andy Burnham as sincere, caring and capable – a socialist in the tradition of those who brought in the welfare state and national health service – though his record with regard to reported Stafford Hospital failures gives pause for thought.
If elected, he could work well with the progressive, humane SNP as long as he rejects the mainstream tradition of welcoming – even courting – advantageous corporate overtures. Untrammelled by corporate fetters, such a government could make decisions in the interests of electors rather than corporations.
Nearest to dream team for the 99%: Miliband, supported by Greens, Plaid, NHAP and SNP, with Brand as scrutineer?
Economic inequality: inimical to civilised life
The FT recently published an essay by Martin Wolf, their associate editor and chief economics commentator. He said that the extraordinary response to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century revealed that the ground for renewed interest in inequality was already fertile, noting that two experts, the British economist Sir Anthony Atkinson and the French economist François Bourguignon [chief economist at the World Bank] have written books which make important new contributions:
“Those who desire a thought-provoking guide to policy options in advanced countries should grapple with Atkinson’s work”.
Atkinson notes that the US and UK have experienced exceptionally large rises in inequality since 1980 whereas levels of inequality are relatively low in the Nordic countries. He points out that ratios of wealth to national income have risen sharply since the mid-1970s and that a significant part of this increase in wealth belongs to the middle and upper-middle classes, because of the rise in the proportion of the population that owns its own homes, many of which have appreciated greatly in value. Underlying these trends, argue the authors, are complex economic forces:
- technological change;
- the rise of winners-take-all markets;
- financial liberalisation
Specifics: a huge increase in rent extraction and a decline in the egalitarian ethos of the ‘50s
There has been a huge rise in the pay of the business executives who control a large part of the economy’s resources, in extraordinary earnings in the financial sector assisted by the pro-free-market turn by politicians across the world since about 1980, and a decline in the egalitarian ethos that held sway in many countries in the mid-20th century.
Atkinson argues that unequal societies do not function well. The need to protect personal security or to incarcerate ever more people is likely to become a drag on economic performance and inimical to civilised life. If inequality becomes extreme, many will be unable to participate fully in their society.
He points out that the economic argument is that putting a pound in the hands of someone living on £10,000 a year must be worth more to them and to the economy than it would be to someone living on £1m.
His programme of radical reform for the UK is precise and costed, according to Wolf. It begins with the argument that rising inequality “is not solely the product of forces outside our control. There are steps that can be taken by governments, acting individually or collectively, by firms, by trade union and consumer organisations, and by us as individuals to reduce the present levels of inequality”. Policy makers should:
- develop a national pay policy, including a statutory minimum wage set at the “living wage”,
- offer guaranteed public employment at that rate,
- introduce a “participation income” at a national or even EU level, or — as an alternative to such a universal income — social insurance should be made more generous.,
- offer national savings bonds that guarantee a positive real return, and should create a capital endowment paid to all on reaching adulthood,
- return to far more progressive personal income taxes, up to a top rate of 65 per cent,
- make the tax on property should be proportional or progressive, not regressive, as it is now, largely because the main tax on property — the council tax — bears proportionately far more heavily on lower-value housing.
Yet, Wolf comments, history is not on Atkinson’s side. The two world wars and the Great Depression not only devastated private wealth, but also created a powerful sense that “we are all in it together”. Moreover, capital flows were controlled and capitalism was predominantly national.
Wolf: “a situation in which the world’s wealthiest are among the least taxed is indefensible”
Martin Wolf describing Atkinson’s thinking as ‘radical’, takes a palliative line advocating concentrating resources on children, and particularly the children of the relatively disadvantaged. This could in many cases break the multi-generational cycle of deprivation for some families.
He thinks that the sensible, though politically difficult course, is to tax ownership of land and other scarce natural resources more heavily. Furthermore, a tax on lifetime receipts of gifts and bequests, plus wider spreading of educational opportunities, seems to him to be the only way to limit the cascade of unearned advantages across generations.
It is also important to reduce rent extraction, including by corporate management, and to improve co-operation over the taxation of income, particularly income from capital.
Wolf believes Atkinson’s ideas will not be adopted, at least in the UK, even though he recognises that unequal societies do not function well, increasing ‘the need to protect personal security or to incarcerate ever more people, is likely to become a drag on economic performance and inimical to civilised life’.
The writer thinks that some South and Central American countries, Iceland, Scotland, Wales, the Nordic countries and, at present, Greece, have more sense and a desire to promote the common good with the potential to recreate a powerful sense that “we are all in it together”, with capital flows controlled – voluntarily or politically – and a co-operative capitalism, focussing primarily on meeting the needs of all rather than foreign trade and speculation.
Could Miliband, supported by Greens, Plaid, NHAP and SNP, with Brand as scrutineer move firmly in this direction?
Inequality: What Can be Done?, by Anthony Atkinson, Harvard University Press, RRP£19.95/$29.95, 304 pages
The Globalization of Inequality, by François Bourguignon, translated by Thomas Scott-Railton, Princeton University Press, RRP£19.95/$27.95, 200 pages
The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark
Another insightful article by John Wight, whose work was featured on this site in February. He celebrates the emergence, on a mainstream platform, of the voice of progressive politics for people in Scotland and all over Britain:
“Nicola Sturgeon, along with Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett, outlined a vision of hope as an alternative to the conservatism of the mainstream parties, Labour included, who remain prisoners of Thatcherite nostrums to greater or lesser extent”.
Wight sees Ed Miliband as being ‘in a bind’, commenting “Of course, in the event of a hung parliament, the Labour leader will cooperate with the SNP and other progressive forces in order to govern”.
Britain is described as being a desolate and callous place with child poverty, pensioner poverty, the demonisation of benefit claimants, immigrants and the ‘othering’ of entire communities.
For those whose lives have been blighted by austerity and (the writer adds) the more fortunate who are totally disgusted with “government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich’ to quote his earlier article, Wight says that hope is more than a word, it is a lifeline.
The country is crying out for an investment-led alternative in order to return sustainable growth to the economy, replacing the policy of economically illiterate austerity, whose outworkings are analysed by the distinguished American Professor Paul Krugman.
Wight concludes the Nicola Sturgeon, “in articulating the need for transformational change, has become the story of the 2015 general election – to such an extent that the old saw, ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’, needs to be amended to read ‘woman’.
“Austerity v humanity. The choice and stakes in a general election have never been more stark”.
To read his article, click here.
Yesterday in the Financial Times, Robert Shrimsley added to the petty political backbiting:
He adds that Ed Miliband’s crime was made greater because the pundit class saw David as more centrist – the acrimony is ‘fuelled by vengeful Blairites who cannot forgive Ed his rejection of the faith and depict him as too leftwing’. The defence secretary Michael Fallon, mounted a ‘clearly sanctioned but remarkably crass’ attack on the Labour leader, who, he said, could not be trusted with the security of the country because he had ‘stabbed his own brother in the back.
Paul Gosling retweeted Colin Talbot @colinrtalbot: “David and Ed Miliband fought each other for the Labour leadership – why is Ed a back stabber and David not? Both had a legitimate right to stand.
In the Soapbox for the 99%, John Tyrrell writes:
Ed Miliband made a revealing statement in his effusive tribute to Margaret Thatcher whose policies shaped Cameron, Clegg and himself.
It’s certainly true of New Labour which took Thatcherism to new heights in privatisation and allowing market forces to reign supreme.
Why in all the tributes this is seen as “success” for Britain when all is falling about, as austerity dominates the proclaimed policies of all political parties, is hard to see. The only way it can be proclaimed so is through the perceptions of a ruling and wealthy elite who have used the ideology to feather their own nests. For the 1% it is a triumph maybe but for everyone else it spells disaster. So while the elite prepare for a now down-graded but still lavish funeral others are partying.
I am suggesting that while the lady may have gone her policies haven’t and for these reasons I won’t be joining in. Following reports of her death, the news clearly shows a hugely divided nation north/south where regions blighted by the end of manufacturing industry have fallen into decline with unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse – the Thatcher legacy.
Linked via The Brummie: http://www.thebrummie.net/birmingham
In a Guardian article earlier this week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is said to have broken “the protocol of power – the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another” by naming Blair’s crime.
There is widespread agreement on Blair’s culpability, but one dissenter said:
Iraqi minorities were gassed, otherwise slaughtered, imprisoned, tortured and generally persecuted by Saddam’s criminally fascist regime for decades and the west did nothing about it; indeed, it even supported this monster with aid and armaments. Today, he is long gone and Iraq is on the road to democracy.
Iraq was ruined by us and continues to be a place of great deprivation and danger
That commentator should remember that Saddam was our own monster. No doubt at the behest of the United States government, we built him up as a counterweight to the feared Iranian regime. He had built an Iraq where all people had good services and by far the greatest equality of income in the region. True, dissent was crushed- as it is in other regimes supported by the Anglo Saxon allies.
It was only when he went a step too far that the two governments realised that once again one of their despotic friends had become too hot to handle.
The author of the article, George Monbiot, points out:
“The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg Principles as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”. This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter(3).
“That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair’s cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His Attorney-General warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN Security Council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.”(Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.
“His foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told Blair that for the war to be legal, “i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent; ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.” None of these conditions were met. The Cabinet Office told him “A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”
“But while the case against Blair is strong, the means are weak. Twenty-nine people have been indicted in the International Criminal Court, and all of them are African. (Suspects in the Balkans have been indicted by a different tribunal). There’s a reason for this. Until 2018 at the earliest, the court can prosecute crimes committed during the course of an illegal war, but not the crime of launching that war.”
But when the masonry begins to crack, impossible hopes can become first plausible, then inexorable. Blair will now find himself shut out of places where he was once welcome. One day he may find himself shut in.