As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.
Their dual achievements:
- comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
- vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.
Direction of travel
Beauchampé: “(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .
The elite stranglehold could be broken
OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol) saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.
One-party rule for the foreseeable future?
On Sunday evening two of our readers were considering the future and seeing no possibility of anything other than an elective dictatorship, after boundary changes expected to boost the Conservatives by 20 English seats.
The younger generation and their children will bear the brunt
As yet, most people in their 20s and 30s merely express mild concern about this prospect – they don’t seem to realise the implications of such apathy for all who are not wealthy, not of Oxbridge/Russell Group ability or not in good health.
Award-winning journalist Matthew Norman has asked three questions:
How long do you think it will be before a party other than the Conservatives is in position to form a government?
Can you imagine it within two decades, or three?
Can you envisage it in your lifetime at all?
An article he wrote last February referred to “our enfeebled democracy” and his sense that “Britain is shuffling on its Zimmer towards one-party statehood”. The points made included:
- Labour is politically wounded by its huge losses in Scotland.
- Labour has also been financially weakened by the Government’s Trade Union Bill halving what it gets from the unions.
- Government will continue to sidestep the Commons by using statutory instruments and
- threaten to create new peers whenever the Lords don’t rubberstamp cruel and oppressive measures.
- Government will inflict more austerity on the poorest, continue to award beneficial concessions for the richest
- and allow the health of city dwellers and the climate to be even more affected by many forms of pollution which benefit big business.
Matthew Norman finds it “incredibly depressing . . . that no one gives a damn”
The writer puts it more mildly, like Yeats she finds that: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity”.
Democracy appears to be doomed – unless the cross-party alliance to promote electoral reform gains ground.
Calls for a progressive alliance are coming in. Today, a Green House alert included news that the case for cross-party working and why it could be a game-changer will be examined on 2-4 September at the University of Birmingham (Edgbaston campus) at the Green Party’s Autumn Conference, when Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, will be joined on the panel by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Chris Bowers, Neil Lawson, Chair of Compass, and Rupert Read, Chair of the Green House think-tank.
Professor Paul Rogers has reflected on the shifting of the tectonic plates:
“Within the Labour Party, ward after ward is witnessing the impact of new membership but, more importantly, seeing a remarkable degree of anger at what the government has enacted since the election and the palpable lack of opposition by Labour in the midst of its protracted leadership campaign. Many Labour members (Ed: and many not in the party) are angry at:
- the intended review of NHS funding involving accelerated privatisation,
- the sell-off of housing-association stock,
- the constant blaming of the “feckless poor”
- and the renewed assault on labour rights.
At the same time, inheritance tax is reduced, bank bonuses are rising, tax avoidance is the order of the day, and the Financial Conduct Authority looks set to relax even its modest regulatory grip. Among these and many other indicators of a move to the right, no wonder the Tories’ claimed long-term aim of a “living wage” is treated with deep suspicion.
Journalist and documentary producer Peter Hitchens sees the need for a new approach as “both major parties have been taken over by the same cult, the Clinton-Blair fantasy that globalism, open borders and mass immigration will save the great nations of the West”.
He continues: “It hasn’t worked. In the USA it has failed so badly that the infuriated, scorned, impoverished voters of Middle America are on the point of electing a fake-conservative yahoo businessman as President”.
Many will agree with Hitchens’ reflection that – so far – we have been gentler with our complacent elite, perhaps too gentle. He sees the referendum majority for leaving the EU as a deep protest against many things and forecasts:
“If Mr Corbyn wins, our existing party system will begin to totter. The Labour Party must split between old-fashioned radicals like him, and complacent smoothies from the Blair age. And since (Blairite Labour MPs) have far more in common with Mrs May than with Mr Corbyn, there is only one direction they can take. They will have to snuggle up beside her absurdly misnamed Conservative Party.
“And so at last the British public will see clearly revealed the truth they have long avoided – that the two main parties are joined in an alliance against them. And they may grasp that their only response is to form an alliance against the two big parties. Impossible? Look how quickly this happened in Scotland”.
On 14th July a Moseley reader emailed to say “Theresa May’s speech yesterday sounded more left wing than your mate JC!”
My reply was a one year snapshot of her actions in office which belied this humanitarian stance, published earlier on this site:
- In 2010 she suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people.
- On 4 August 2010 it was reported that May was scrapping the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
- This was followed on 6 August 2010 by the closure of the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbiéchild abuse scandal.
“Rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.
This is another of Ms May’s Corbyn-like soundbites made shortly after Corbyn’s description of what he saw as the difference between the Conservative and Labour offerings, in the form of a question:
“Do you want to be bargain-basement Britain on the edge of Europe, cutting corporate taxation, having very low wages, having grotesque inequalities of wealth? Or do you want to be a high-wage, high-investment economy that actually does provide decent chances and opportunities for all?”
We read that Theresa May has launched a cabinet committee on the economy and industrial strategy, which she is to chair; it will bring together the heads of more than ten departments and focus on “rewarding hard-working people with higher wages”.
Is Corbyn the most powerful, though least acknowledged of Theresa May’s advisers on the political economy?
If only she would heed him on nuclear and foreign policy issues.
As news comes in that over 50 CLPs have voted to support Jeremy Corbyn, another side of the coin has been revealed.
A new Labour Party member, who joined because of Jeremy Corbyn’s principled track record, went to a “hustings” meeting this week. She writes:
“There were about 170 people present from all wards of the constituency. They allowed 3 minute speeches from supporters of both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith – equal numbers – and judging from a ‘clapometer’ perspective, the JC supporters were in the majority, probably two thirds to one third.
“The invitation to the event had said there would be a ballot but, when we got to that part of the agenda, the chair stated that, at a previous meeting (a year ago) it had been decided that there would not be a vote.
“As people objected to this proposal, there was a show of hands of who wanted to vote and who didn’t, probably about 50:50 or 60:40 for those who wanted to vote. Yet the chair, who counted the hands announced that the numbers were 57:36 in favour of not voting – a total of 93, when almost double that number were present.
“She obviously made a mistake, onlyans giving figures for one side of the room where there were more OS supporters, but was this deliberate?
“The meeting was called with a view to endorsing one or the other of the candidates. They failed to do this, when they saw the pro-JC mood of the meeting, saying that those present didn’t represent the whole constituency anyway, with some on holiday or unable to make it, so they wouldn’t proceed to a ballot.
“I can’t believe that this type of manipulation happened. It will be interesting to see which way the vote eventually goes when the whole membership sends in their official ballots.”
Recently Lesley Docksey sent this heartfelt reflection:
“The trouble is we know the problem, and it’s all very well George and Seamas saying we have to ban this, get rid of that and set up something else.
“But how do we actually do it, how do we the people force a break between the corporate power and politicians?”
Despite the poor record of service by the private sector in prisons, transport, energy and water, British schools and hospitals are loudly threatened with takeover, a slavish imitation of our special friend’s policies for schools and hospitals.
Anne sent this link to an article by Jon Stone about the fire hazard and other structural failings of Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, first opened in 2000 under the “private finance initiative”, under which the NHS pays a private company rent-like payments to make use of facilities. The UK now owes more than £222bn to banks and corporations for these Private Finance Initiatives, conceived by Conservatives in the 1990s and ‘embraced’ by New Labour.
Will this hospital be handed over to ‘the state’? In other words, farmed out to Capita, G4S or Serco?
In the FT, Gill Plimmer reported that the Official Journal of the European Union database, which records every public sector contract worth more than £115m, reveals that £20bn worth of government contracts is now handed to the private sector. About half of council waste management services and 23% of human resources, IT and payroll functions are now privatised. Tens of thousands of health, defence, security and IT workers have transferred to corporate employers such as Babcock, G4S, Serco, Capia, Mitie and Carillion. This continues, even though the reputation of the private sector in delivering public services has been repeatedly damaged – examples include the high profile failure of G4S during the Olympics and the legal action facing Virgin Care over its running of NHS and social care services in Devon. Monbiot’s devastating, fully referenced account of such failures may be read here and others have been written by Gill Plimmer in the Financial Times.
As all these services are transferred via the state into corporate care, the cities themselves are being coerced to follow the mayoral route – which, as Steve Beauchampé notes in the Birmingham Press -was soundly rejected by voters in Birmingham, Coventry and seven other cities.
Did Liverpool – which held no referendum – make the right choice?
Chancellor Osborne is insisting that powers must be devolved through the office of a regional mayor – so much easier to induce or threaten than a whole council – a puppet?
As economic geographer, Professor Michael Chisholm summarised the position more politely, “One could cynically say that the proposal for elected mayors is yet another structural diversion while the steady centralisation of power continues”.
Beauchampé proposes consigning this ‘mayoral hokum’ to its rightful place in the dustbin of history, rejecting the notion that in a democracy just one person can understand, represent and address people’s priorities, needs and hopes, creating and implementing a vision for our fast changing region and its youthful population. He sets out a ‘radical’ – because truly democratic – alternative as a draft proposal.
But, as Lesley asks, “how do we the people force the break between the corporate power and politicians?”
Proportional representation could be the first step.
Soapbox for the 99%: we pay for the politicians who murder children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters “by mistake”
Julian Rose writes:
The war in Afghanistan, alone, has already cost British tax payers £37 billions – £2,000 for every UK household.
God knows what US tax payers have forked-out. When will we realize that, once again, it is we who footed this bill? How much did we contribute to the bloody dislocation of limbs, emaciated corpses and new born children sickened and laid low by a blitz of uranium depleted shells that rained down indiscriminately on everyone deemed to be a potential ‘security threat?’ A threat to the security of whom? Those whom we pay to decide the fate of others?
Too shocking to contemplate, isn’t it?
Yet it is we who pay for the politicians who murder the children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters “by mistake” while sitting back in their leather upholstered chairs of State, wearing the masque of assumed gravity so as to fool the public into perceiving just how deeply they feel the weight of their decisions.