Tag Archive: politics

I was minded to write this following a couple of statements made not so very long ago by senior politicians from the Labour Party in the UK.  I should explain to those outside the UK who do occasionally stop by, that the Labour Party is the one that would at least until the 1990s have been as the party on the left.  It remains to the left of the current Conservative party but it is now a very active proponent of neo-liberal economics rather than anything even remotely Keynesian.  This shift started some time ago and a move toward a more social democratic position as distinct from Socialism was clear from the 1980s but the death of Labour leader John Smith in 1994 allowed the Bilderberg-fuelled neo-liberals to transform the party into something the founders would have felt was an anathema to all the original ideals for which it stood, more akin in fact to the one it was formed to stand against.  A party designed to protect privilege a little less unfairly than its competitor, a party more inclined to throw some crumbs from the table rather than eat the whole meal in front of the impoverished.  It is almost the more contemptible for that.  Almost.

The shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls (no that is actually his name!) is in what one might to an extent think a strong position.  The current incumbent in government is a detached, self-righteous arse and wedded to the austerity agenda wholeheartedly, of course he would be these are all measures that will not affect him just as they will not affect the vast majority of the politicians who are telling us how important these things our for our own prosperity.  And yet the majority of people have never seen the sort of prosperity it is claimed is being protected on their behalf.  What these people see is their pensions being eroded, health service in disarray, house prices going to a level that is beyond even the dreams of the common person let alone the actual reach thereof.  Fuel and overall energy prices rise, petrol prices may have stabilised but that is an inevitable short-term thing and yet people are being talked to as if children again akin to being told that one has to eat one’s greens because think of the starving folk in Africa.  The politicians on the other hand have very often some serious prosperity and can claim lots of expenses from the taxpayer in order to help them enjoy it.  They say it’s hard to live on £67,000 something a great many millions in this country I suspect would like the chance to check on to ensure they agree.

Well Ed Balls has no plans to deviate on the austerity agenda, no what the compassionate man has said is ““Without fiscal discipline and a credible commitment to eliminate the deficit, we cannot achieve the stability we need.”  He does not address the hideous inequalities that are ever growing he does not talk about the redressing of the balance for the most marginalised.  He does talk about the protection of the NHS because of course this is a vote winning strategy for the middle classes, after all he doesn’t expect to need to court the disaffected and poorest, they all live in safe Labour slum seats.

And then there is the Machiavellian figure of Tony Blair, hanging around like an acrid stench in the air foully polluting anything and everything with which it comes into contact.  Blair was the main driving force behind Labour’s switch to a more right-wing stance that which would in say the 1960s have been seen as the ground of the Conservative party, which had itself since the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher moved considerably further to the right.  It wasn’t as if the Conservative lurch had sucked Labour with it, it was more that Labour chose to follow and indeed then to set the agenda for the centre-right to such an extent that it almost forced to Conservatives to continue the trend mollifying those at the more marginal end of the spectrum who might otherwise have been seen as bigots, racists and the overall far-right.

The excuse for Blair’s reforms was to make Labour electable, that something needed to be done to erode the Tories heartland. In my opinion it is likely given the utter disarray and catastrophic unpopularity of the Tory party in 1997 that if Labour had stood on the overt principles of the Communist Manifesto they would still have gained a Parliamentary majority. (Partially because there are plenty of principles within said document that people would not be at all averse to were they not to know whence it came).

Now Blair is coming in like a deposed Tory Prime Minister sticking his oar in and claiming that Ed Miliband, at best centre-left, is too far to the left for Labour to win the next election.  Blair referred to a poll in May 2014 as indicating that it could be an election ‘in which a traditional Left-wing party competes with a traditional Right-wing party, with the traditional result’. Asked if he meant a Tory win, he said: ‘Yes, that’s what happens.’ He denied the political centre ground has shifted as a result of the financial crisis. ‘I see no evidence for that,’ he said. ‘You could argue that it has moved to the Right, not Left.’ 

Errr… if it’s moved to the right doesn’t that mean it’s shifted Tony…?

Lest we forget Blair was also the man who not only led the country into an illegal and unfounded war but claimed it was in effect his religious duty to do so.  Blair and Bush were the prime escalators of the current mess, Bush’s motivation was clearer, he wished to finish Daddy’s work, not a smart reason but a reason nevertheless.  Blair was either a religious zealot or a gullible idiot and much as I intensely detest the man I do not think him the latter at all.  Much has been written as to how much the UK & US knew about the supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Let me just say this, either there would be receipts (and the US used to frequently sell Iraq its arms having set it up in effect to firebreak from Iran) or there would have been factories manufacturing it over a long period of time. I’d imagine that would have been spotted after all they’ve known where Iran’s factories are and they aren’t even making weapons.

Naturally after all his zeal and after the exit of Bush, Cheney and the lucrative rebuilding contracts that were exacted Blair was installed as the Middle East Peace Envoy, a more ironic appointment I would have thought there has not been and I’d go so far as to say it has to rival Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Peace Prize.  So if Tom Lehrer was ever likely to come out of retirement Blair’s arrival would have sealed his silence.

 The difficulty now is we have reached a stage where it appears to be the end of dissent in quite the sense it was before, or is this hyperbole?  Well perhaps a little because what has happened is the mainstreaming of a quelling of descent that has taken place more covertly across the world for many years.  The surveillance, the “security” and “anti-terror” legislation is such that we might have thought it dystopian reality had we had it presented to us 25 years ago

BBC journalist Tim Willcox has apologised for a comment made which was undoubtedly ill-directed and in poor taste and was dismissed by the person to whom it was asked, as was her right.  However why has such a furore as has met Willcox not been dished out to Rupert Murdoch’s amalgam conflating Islam with religious extremism?  Islamaphobia is talked about as a phenomenon and the righteous get very cross and worried about this whilst the mainstream media are allowed to peddle hatred and filth and an absolute perversion of a creed that they get very upset about should it be applied to theirs.  At the same time they whip up furore at the disaffected, the young joining the cause in the Middle East, why they say why do they do it?  Perhaps they have not really looked at the course they the establishment has plotted over the last 25 years.  This is not just about religion it is about the complete disenfranchisement of huge sections of society.  You might say it was ever thus after all “the blacks, the dogs and the Irish” took more than their share of stick in their time but that was ignorance and not deliberate policy.  The muslims are only one, but they are the dangerous one so they make the headlines.  The disabled are another but they aren’t glamorous enough to make the news and besides those that might have generally killed themselves from having been denied the dignity of human life and made to feel like spongers on account of conditions and diseases and the factors they have with which society disables them.  And then there’s just the common or garden poor.  Well, they’ve got food banks now and even Norman Tebbit thinks not all the people using them are scroungers eating junk food anymore.  But he did up to a few days beforehand.

We have an upcoming election and this is once again to be fought on the policies of negativity, ‘if you don’t like what they’ve done then vote us’ or ‘if you don’t want them getting in then vote us again.’  Only no-one really voted for things to be as they are and now there is a new mainstream movement of ‘if you don’t like it you can fuck off back where you came from.’  Parallels with dark periods in the past are easy to make but you know when they are valid when you see how much they chill you as you look at them.  I feel distinctly disquieted.

Yet I see no alternative except in the case perhaps of one party which has less right-leaning credentials. This is the Green Party and it has been all but marginalised from the media coverage whilst the bigoted ‘no room at the inn’ party gets feted for its shaking up of British politics.

So the fact is what we will end up with is a succession of parties with capitalist ideologies and intentions, call them the new right, old right, new left, red tories, blue-rinse, UKIPers it doesn’t matter because the fact is they are all selling the same ticket and it is one which has led to the despicable mess the country is now in, you choice is merely whether that trend to feudalism is a quick one or a slow one.  Tricky isn’t it? It’s like being told you face the Firing Squad in the morning and then being left with a loaded pistol… ‘do the honourable thing old chap!’

I’m afraid I despair sometimes, which may make you wonder why I came back as some harbinger of doom having been buried away for so long.  Well that’s the thing with harbinger’s of doom they don’t tend to come at convenient times.  Sorry about that.

Song Of The Day ~ GoFaster – A Modern Education

So let’s look at the old car first. I can get a nice old car for £500, I have done for the last few years, cars that in their day cost a great deal of money but are now out of favour.If my car were to get 35 miles to the gallon – not a great deal by modern standards (and actually a little less than I do get but it makes the maths easier). Say I was to do 500 miles a month with 35mpg and petrol at £1.40/litre that would mean I would need 14.29 gallons for my monthly mileage (1 gallon = 3.79 ltrs) so 54 ltrs. which is £75.80 per month. My tax would be £220 /year which equates to £18.33 / month. Insurance generally costs around £35/month and then you have to take into consideration general wear and tear and other costs such as MOT and any work that needs doing for it. (MOT – £40, assume £100 to sort niggles and £100 wear and tear, on brakes, fluids, tyres, seals etc. = £20/month)

So my old car, with nice specifications costs me somewhere in the region of £150 a month – no small amount of money when you consider I’ve spent £500 on the car in the first year this means £2290 in total so over a 5 year period (being that of the warranty of most new cars) this would mean £9450 – let’s say £10,000 for sake of argument, and the odd major blip to do with the engine or such like. At this point I own my car and could sell it for a similar amount to that which I paid provided I have kept it in good condition. (I could also decide to convert my engine to lpg gas power which would decrease emissions as well as lower the cost of fuel. This conversion would cost around £1000)

To get a new car of equivalent initial value at the time as mine is no small cost, but let us take one that is a hybrid to give the full advantage of a new car.. Were I to take a BMW (the same make as my old car) this would cost £48000 and get 44.1mpg so let’s not take that or the comparison would be not worth making. Let’s take a VW Golf Bluemotion. Reasonable spec and around £8000 outright buy price. For an extra £300 you can get a service warranty for 30000 miles or 3 years, whichever is the shorter. Taking my 500 miles a month figure you would not exceed the 30000 in the 3 year period. As the car is new you would not have to pay for an MOT test and let us presume the tax is £0 (I don’t think it is, but some hybrid cars are so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt). Let’s also give it an inflated mpg because I know some claim to be able to do over 70. So taking 70 mpg baseline x my 500 miles I would need 7.14 gallons half the amount and only £37.90/ month for fuel. So for my first 3 years I’m paying £9364 in purchase price and fuel, add £1260 for 3 years worth of insurance (although with the car being worth far more the insurance will be higher) = £10624. The subsequent 2 years will cost more, I will no longer receive free servicing and if I do not get the car serviced I will lose further value on it – already my car will have depreciated by >20% just for having used it at all. However the car should be reliable so let us half the £500 I have allocated to my older car for niggles. The insurance cost is likely to stay steady because although the car depreciates in value and I get a no claims bonus the cost of insurance is usually rising, and I was generous at the beginning so you’ll have to allow me this one! So £250 niggles, £840 insurance, £910 fuel, £100 x2 wear and tear = £2200 +£10624 = £12824 full 5 year cost. Rounding up as I did with the old car analogy it’s £13,000

The difference in latent financial cost is therefore £3000 however there is of course the environmental issue of my old car’s emissions, these have a much higher concentration of CO2 compared with a modern car, some of which have very little. Though I could get the lpg conversion for £1k. It is estimated that 11% of carbon impact comes from production of the car with the rest coming from the usage. So were you to buy a hybrid car for example it is likely to be more environmentally efficient than a used car. However in the example of the VW Golf as I have given I am having to come up with £8k just to start the process, if I were to go for the finance option of paying every month I would pay a great deal more in total – somewhere around £10k and if at any point I missed payments I would effectively own nothing. This does not detract from the environmental argument but even were I to look at a used hybrid car I am looking at around £5000 minimum, even factoring in a part exchange on my old car at full value that takes it down to £4500.

So using this rather basic example green cars are indeed cheaper to the environment than old petrol and diesel cars the cost is not environmental but financial. It is simply not feasible for most people to come up with several thousand pounds, when the squeeze on petrol prices, the loss of earnings due to inflation and the rise in home energy prices are pushing surplus income to a bare minimum. I would I confess reluctantly give up my old car but given the large reduction in monthly expenditure it would certainly persuade me to do so were I to be able to afford it. The lack of being able to save this money where those with more disposable income were able to do so further widens the division between those on the higher incomes from those on the lower ones. It is the same sort of argument with taking the train (where it exists as an option for your journey), or regular buses (should the routes exist that make you able to use these) the cost of these so frequently price the lower-incomed out of the market. Environmental considerations are wonderful if only we could afford them.

Song Of The Day ~ Deacon Blue – Raintown

The Condem Demolition  Tory-Tory general wankers government’s spending cap apparently has widespread support amongst the population according to BBC sources today.  The figure of £26,000 effectively represents 2 adults working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage of £6.08 an hour.  Apparently there are many people surprised that we were not already capping payments at this level, as if surprised that the people on benefits should earn minimum wage at all. [This is already below the living wage campaign figure of £7.20 an hour outside London which would work out at £30,000 for 2 adults earning.  The Living Wage Campaign quotes David Cameron as having said “An idea whose time has come” in 2010, of course in 2010 David Cameron was looking for election so is likely to have said whatever it was he felt people wanted to hear.] According to the Office of National Statistics (a government department) the average weekly expenditure for a family is £552.30 in London, £387.20 in the North East and £467.50 as a national average.  Extrapolating the figures out for annual expenditure in London this makes £28,719.60 already above the government’s proposed cap of £26,000 unless they’re planning to have some London Weighting scheme.

Given that there are nearly 3 million unemployed in the UK, although the TUC estimates that the true figure is over 6 million taking into account those off the radar such as in short-term and part-time contracts.  The Office of National Statistics (We’ll call it ONS because we’re going to refer to it a fair bit!) estimates 8.4% of the population.  The population of Metropolitan London is 14 million, which taking the ONS figure of 8.4% makes 1,176,000 people unemployed.  Let us assume that there are a lower percentage of unemployed in London than some deprived areas of the North so we’ll lessen the figure to 1 million.  Taking the UK population as 60 million, which is the usually accepted estimate, this means that around 2% of the entire population will not have enough to live on in London alone and with the average income of the South East as a whole being over £27,000 annual expenditure the 2% is a conservative estimate.  According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with the recent years rises in utility bills, transport costs the average family actually needs an annual income of £29,000, their report says that official inflation over the last decade has amounted to 23% while food has gone up by 37%, bus fares by 59% and council tax by 67%.

I’ve tried to do some basic calculations which are in no way exhaustive but I wanted to get an idea as to how problematic the government’s plans would be rather than merely being annoyed that they should cap them at all.  I have looked on Right Move for the monthly cost of a 3 bedroom house or flat within 5 miles of Lewisham as many of the areas there are cheaper than more central parts of London or others that are not frequently on fire.  The cheapest I found was a flat for £895 a week in Lee SE12, this would be an annual expense of £10,740.  Let us assume that Housing Benefit pays all of this money.  Unemployment benefit currently pays £67.50 a week which makes £3510 x 2 for 2 adults in the average family – £7020.  A Guardian article in May 2011 used a Halifax report itself using ONS data on family spending which said that the cost of maintaining a home was a little over £9000 a year however this was including £3500 a year as mortgage payments (I envy those paying only £291 a month for their rent/mortgage!) so removing the mortgage expense that leaves £5500 cost of running a home leaving £1500 left over from the £7000 we calculated earlier.  Are you still with me?  £1500 /52 then divided by 5 for the working days in a week makes just over £5 a day which makes £2.50 per adult per day (nothing at weekends better stay at home).  Ah shit but the Guardian/Halifax/ONS statistics don’t include food, or transport, or clothing or anything at all to do with children, that’s a bit of a shitter isn’t it?  You’d better not work in Central London either because a weekly Travelcard for Zones 1-2 (assuming that if you live in our flat in Lee you walk to Lewisham to save that £5 a week extra you’d be paying for Zone 3.)  So £29.20 for the travelcard is unfortunately more than the £28 odd that you have for the week between you, so you need to work locally, and walk everywhere.

Now I know the whole country’s figures seem skewed towards London and the majority of the population do not live in London and besides we’ve already demonstrated that the total benefits don’t cover London expenditure so let’s look at somewhere else.  How about Burnley?  Leaving aside the fact that I wouldn’t live in Burnley if you paid me £6750 a week there are some who do so let’s examine their costs.  The council tax is much the same as it is in London with the cheapest in Burnley borough being £1225 annually.  Rent is a great deal cheaper with the lowest 3 bedroom place I could find at £365 a month but of course we’ve already sectioned off housing costs to housing benefit so that doesn’t really matter as a change in our calculations.  Assuming that the household bills for a 3 bedroom house anywhere are roughly the same we’re still left with the same sort of expenditure as we were in London.  Jobs might be easier to find within walking distance but food is unlikely to be cheaper nor clothing hence you’re still down to £2.50 a day for each adult without food, clothing, transport costs or something like a TV licence.

Let’s go a step further and say that the household does earn the maximum £26,000 and removing the £5500 for household maintenance, moneysupermarket estimates that a family of four would spend around £100 a week on an average shopping trolley.  This of course would mean £5200 a year, whilst you might be able to make some economies on that let’s take the figure for convenience and round down to £5000 a year if you’re being a little thriftier each week.  So with your £5500 household expenses and £5000 food costs we’ve spent £10,500 this sounds more like it, we’ve over £15000 left and paid the main stuff.  Of course we’ve not yet paid transport so let’s say we live in Burnley where the cost of living is cheaper than London.  A 1 day pass for the busses in Burnley is £4 a day, now obviously you need to travel a little to look for jobs, do the shopping and collect benefits and the like.  So that makes £1040 per person so we’re down to £13000.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that the average amount of money spent on children is £57 a week, which may seem a lot for people who do not have children but factoring in uniforms, books, general clothing, school trips and other extra curricular activities the figure becomes fairly likely, unless of course we want ou children to suffer for the “sins” of their parents.  We’re going to presume that the children are not of nursery age or needing nappies or more than average childcare due to disability and special needs so let’s take this £3000 a year figure off our total and we’re down to £10000 a year which is just under £100 per adult per week.

Now before we go on we need to tackle the ‘But’, there always is one.  You have to bear in mind that the £26,000 figure is including ALL benefits available, many of which you would only receive if you meet all the criteria for them so let’s see what we can build to make up this figure.  If you take the Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance or whatever the feck it’s called now. £67.50 per week x 2 adults makes only £7,020 per year and we’ve already established that this alone would not be at all sufficient to survive anywhere in the country, even in Burnley!  The standard Child Benefit figure of £20.30 for the first child and £13.40 for any subsequent one would give you a total of £1752.40 a year [remember though the Joseph Rowntree figure of £57 a week – the same report states that Income Support allowances provide between 57 per cent (children under 11 years) and 82 per cent (children aged 16 years) of what is actually being spent on children in families who are on Income Support.]  To build our total benefits we also have to factor in Housing Benefit.  So it’s back to our terraced house in Burnley where this eats up another £4750 of our money, coupled with our Income Support and Child Benefit we’ve found £13,500 odd for both adults and their 2 children so far only half of the amount being capped.  Somehow we need to find some reason for the other £12,000+, knowing the benefits system in the past this will be no mean feat especially given the culling of benefits for the disabled.

If we go back to our calculations of the maximum £26,000 to start with which we’ve whittled down £5500 for household maintenance, £4750 for rent, £5000 food costs, £1000 transport,  £2600 conservative estimate for our children, we’re nearly at £19000 in total so far so already well above the £13,500 we’ve found on standard benefits.  We’ve not looked at clothing yet which obviously is difficult to get a real figure on but the ONS family spending study gives the figure of £23.40 making £1200 odd so we’re now over the £20,000 mark.  The same study includes £5 per week for health and £10 a week for education, we’ll consider this as £7.50 since we have already added money in for children, this makes just under £400.  What we’ve looked at so far I would certainly classify as the bear essentials and that makes a whisker under £20,500.  As it stands then with £5500 remaining this works out to £7.50 per adult per day with only the basic essentials paid in a home that has to be at the very bottom end of the rental market.  Taking into account the Halifax/ONS figures do not include replacement of any appliances or those unforeseen things that come with a big hit we’ve some elements of random expenditure that might occur but in my figures here I’ve tried to stick to thinks that would be unavoidable expenses at this point.  If you were to include other “normal” costs then the picture starts to become much more complex.

Were you to factor a car into the equation the AA estimate that the standing costs (Tax, MOT, Insurance, Breakdown cover) of a car worth under £12,000 when new to be around £2500 and 22p per mile for fuel, tyres, replacement parts etc.  If you were to live 10 miles from work this would mean £982 per year for the commute alone.  The ONS study seems to back this up with an estimate of £64.90 a week on transport (personal and public) which adds up to just over £3300 per year.  It would be as well if you didn’t smoke, were you to have 2 packs a week this would set you back £780 a year if a pack of 20 costs £7.50, if at that price you smoked 20 a day that would be £2737.50 so you’d probably have to cut out some food or sell a child since chimneys and mines are no longer an option.  Don’t forget these figures are effectively only for one person.  If these two things were brought in we’re over our threshold of £26,000 again so let’s leave them out for now.

We are yet to consider entertainment (let’s presume the amount we’ve calculated for children includes their entertainment) the ONS 2011 study on family spending gives weekly figures of recreation and culture at £58.10 and restaurants and hotels at £39 and alcohol, tobacco and narcotics at £11.80 per week.  This seems high on the restaurant side, as this would represent one trip to a restaurant a week and there are many of us not on the minimum wage who can’t afford that, it seems reasonably generous on the entertainment side too (by which I mean the way it will be viewed by those who think the £26000 figure is acceptable).   You can’t have your cake and eat it in this scenario though because that figure on entertainment comes out at over £3000 a year whilst the restaurants total is over £2000.  Drugs of any legality come to over £600 which bearing in mind some smoke and/or drink whilst others do not seems about right to take as a lowish estimate which I’m trying to do to avoid any accusation of artificial inflating of the numbers.  It doesn’t take a professor of Mathematics to work out we’re already over the threshold again if we factor in the non-essentials in combination with each other.  And this is using the example of the lowest costs of essentials such as rent.  Doubtless the supporters of the cap will claim the economic austerity means that entertainment is a luxury the tax payer can’t afford since benefit payments cost the country £150 billion a year, more than is made in total tax revenue.  Somehow the money has to be found and if it is at a deficit then savings must be made somewhere.

So how might we prevent this deficit?  How about the tax evasion for starters?  Figures range from £15 billion at the conservative end of total benefit expenditure (tax evasion being around 3% of total tax liabilities – while benefit fraud accounts for 0.8%) to nearly £70 billion at the top end according to the Tax Justice Network.  Even if you take a billion to be 1000 million (rather than 1 million million) the 15 billion divided by 3 million unemployed would enable a payment of £500 a year to each person.  However you’ll not be shocked I’m sure to know that the same columnists who call for capping benefits also make quotes like “Tax avoidance isn’t morally wrong. It’s perfectly sensible behaviour.” [Toby Young – The Telegraph February 2011].  Nice work if your accountant can get it.  On the same BBC program the 2011 figures for the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the banks bailed out by the taxpayers which made pre-tax losses of £766 million and at the same time paid out £785 million in bonuses.  Again do we need the professor of Mathematics?  I suppose this is really chicken feed when you look at the total bailout of the banks which at it’s peak comes to £1.162 trillion, enough to pay for the benefits at their current level for a good many years without any tax revenue at all.

This would appear to suggest that whilst the current government is in charge simple arithmetic just isn’t going to cut it.

Song Of The Day ~ The Joy Formation – Whirring

There’s a chancellor who’s sure, all that glitters is gold,
and he’s buying us a highway to Hades
when we get there we’ll know, if the banks are all closed
that they pulled up the ladder behind them
ooh ooh buying us a highway to Hades

there’s a sign in the forecasts but he wants to be sure
cause you know sometimes figures have two meanings
in a department off whitehall there’s a civil servant who sings
sometimes all the economists are mistaken
ooh it makes me angry
ooh it makes me angry

there’s a feeling I lose when I watch all the news
and my spirit is crying for this country
in my thoughts I have seen golden parachutes for the mean
and few voices from those who stand looking
ooh it makes me angry
ooh it really makes me angry

and it’s whispered that soon we will not avoid the doom
and the papers will fuddle our reason
but a new day may dawn if we unify the throng
and the 99% will have victory

If there’s a picket at your workplace, don’t be alarmed now
it’s just the poor with no pensions
yes there were two paths we could have gone down but in the long run
there was no choice but to change the road we were on
and it made me angry

your money’s worthless and it’ll all go, in case you don’t know
the strikers are urging you to join them
politicians can you hear the battle cries, and did you realise
your highway leads you to guillotine

and as we career on down the road
our pride was gone but not our soul
there walked a spectre we all know
who wore black shirts and wants to show
how everyone just wants their gold
and if you protest very hard
the change will come to us at last
when we are one and one is all
to stand and fight not lie and fall

and we’ll send them on their highway to Hades

Song Of The Day ~ Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven

(To the tune of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues – with the usual apologies)

George’s in the Treasury
geeing up the cabinet
I’m on the pavement
thinking bout the government
the students in their Nike coats
placards up, pissed off
say that they’ve been ripped off
want their debts all paid off
look out kids
Uni’s something you did
God knows when
we will afford it again
Better shoot up to Scotland
where education’s still free
the man here in the mortar-board
has your university degree
wants nine grand down now
when you already pay three

Maggie comes out of hospital
glum faces over all
hoping that the next fall
might finally be fatal
country’s right-wing anyway
Maggie says she’s ok
after election in early May
orders from the USA
look out kids
don’t matter what you did
walk outta Millbank
news reporting of it stank
better stay away from police ranks
when they’ve just been outflanked
ship of truth has long sank
you don’t need to be a judge
to know someone’s gotta walk the plank

Get sick, fresher’s flu
hang around the SU
will you get your 2.2
try hard, gold starred
EDL, Daily Mail
get jailed, pay bail
join Daddy’s business if you fail
look out kids
you’re gonna get hit
by users, cheaters
election losers
hang around lecture theatres
teachers in academy school
lookin’ for a new fool
don’t follow leaders
watch the plight of ‘readers’

get born keep warm
designer pants, romance, circumstance
get stressed, pope blessed
pay to be a success
screw her, screw him, drunk yob
don’t open your gob
twenty years of debt for schooling
and they stick you in a dead-end job
look out kid
they keep it all hid
have a 2nd life on the internet
make yourself forget
the congenitally onset
of diseases which’ll beset
don’t wanna be a freak
you better not speak
might end up a Wikileak
the future’s really this bleak

Song Of The Day ~ Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues

If one needed any further indication that the G20 is formed of leaders who cannot think out of the box then the announcements of the ‘achievements’ of the summit have pretty much illustrated it as graphically as it could have been.  In fact it would be difficult to see how they could have been less broad-minded in their thinking choosing instead to tinker with the existing system that has at best allowed the current mess and quite probably been the root cause of it.

The largest ‘beneficiaries’ of the G20 plans appear to be the IMF which has been pledged around $500bn and the World Bank which receives the rest of the major subsidy, whilst the WTO is potentially going to be responsible for ensuring a lack of protectionist policies by countries seeking to concentrate on their own local economies at the expense of free trade from their partners.  This is supposed to stop the richer countries batoning down the hatches for their own good removing production from their poorer neighbours and imposing draconian tariffs and barriers on the exports of developing world countries.  Of course the idea of the US or the European Union playing fair by these rules is pretty laughable in the light of recent trading events, they cannot even play nicely with each other let alone with the rest of the world.  That the trade paper tiger of the WTO should be the body supposed to be doing something about this merely shows the absolute laissez-faire(!) attitude the world powers have for these objectives properly being met.

There will now be an “overdraft system for the world” which will be presided over by the IMF.  The means with which it will be done is via special drawing rights which have been improved by $250bn but these sums are split up into the groupings as to the voting rights of the IMF which means the largest countries will have the largest share, so not only will the nations of the developing world be getting only a possible share of crumbs from the table but they will have to pay them back.  This is pretty crass stuff, at the same time as we are hearing about sub-prime lending, what Mark Thomas calls “Shit Plus”, and at the same time as we are told we are in too much personal debt and have borrowed beyond our means, now there is supposed to be a fanfare about the richest nations on the planet offering a few scratchings by the same method to tether the poorest countries into economic servitude.  Lest one forgets the IMF does not merely apportion money according to needs, it applies conditions, massive cuts in public spending, privatisation of industry etc etc etc we’ve seen the agenda here in the West and it hasn’t exactly done much for the stability of the economies here let alone anything for the populations.  However it does provide Western corporations with a gilt-edged chance to get in and buy some 3rd world state assets at rock-bottom prices.

Bob Geldoff also showed his establishment credentials by being inside the ExCel centre rather than outside with the protesters, who were kept at more than arms length to prevent any chance of their message being heard and ‘spoiling the day.’  This is the same Geldoff who seems able to switch his vitriol on and off conveniently like a well-maintained tap, eulogising the promises of the G8 in 2005 and claiming it to have been a great victory whilst in the company of the pompous grandees, whilst branding the protesters and the detractors idiots.  The same Geldoff who then some time later came round to the detractors point of view when he realised that the promises were not worth the paper it hadn’t been written on, and did so without any sense of shame or apology for those he had insulted before.  Geldoff was back in his schmoozing guise, affecting the facade of a man who was there for the poorer nations and not for his own self-image.

When asked about the protests Geldoff said globalisation was no longer abstract, it isn’t exactly clear what he meant by this in terms of context, whether this meant there was no point in protesting about it any more or whether he had been hitherto under some misapprehension that globalisation had yet to take hold properly.  Geldoff claimed that whilst there was justifiable reason for people to protest against the bankers they must at the same time also protest against themselves because they had “sucked on the tit of free money.”  This is at best disingenuous and callous bigotry and frankly is quite staggering insulting for an extremely wealthy man who pontificates from within the system with his showbiz friends but refuses to use his influence or his intellect to question the neo-liberal agenda that has been the cause of the problems of this financial catastrophe.  I am unsure whether most people will see it as I do but I am certainly not aware of free money being handed out for the good of the populous in any way shape for form.  I am aware of loans that get more punitive in their interest rates as troubles increase.  I am aware of banks throwing overdraft facilities at people and then levying them punitive charges at the minorest of transgressions.  I doubt somehow that Geldoff has been forced to live in this world.  He also seems not at all to understand just how private enterprise works, namely that private companies demand profit and for investment therefore they require more back than what they have put in.  The only free money that I have noticed is that which we the taxpayers have been forced to give to the banks.  We have been led to believe that this is a form of nationalisation, that we may have some stake in the banking sector but any detail as to what this stake is has been extremely scant in its detail.  The fact is this is not nationalisation it is subsidisation, we have no stake, we have not changed the personnel, we have not enforced changes to their modus operandi, , we have not even been able to properly cap their salaries or golden parachutes.  Were this deal to have been done in the private sector someone would be saying that we got shafted.

Next the G20 leaders have pledged to be committed to stamping out tax havens which it is estimated cost the UK alone £100 billion in unpaid revenue.  However on closer scrutiny their methods of doing so appear to be as comprehensive as their commitment to the developing world.  The Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander responded on BBC’s Newsnight to questioning from Jeremy Paxman on tax havens by saying that Britain could not act unilaterally as the money would simply go elsewhere.  He did not explain what it was that Britain benefited from these companies being offshore that made up for the huge loss in tax revenue, nor did he explain his obvious lack of faith in other countries zeal to stamp out the tax havens to give these state larcenists no safe haven.  Furthermore there was no response when on the same program Mark Thomas pointed out that even the UK government buildings were now owned offshore, a revelation even Paxman seemed amused by.

So in conclusion when the dust has settled and the rhetoric sifted through what we actually have from the G20 is a situation whereby having paid a huge sum of our tax money to the banks, when we have already been told there was no more money for public services, for state pensions and for healthcare now we are to pay a great deal more money (for where else is this $1.1 trillion supposed to come from?) so that our governments can do it all over again.  Ever feel you might have been had…?

There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me  – can’t get fooled again.

Song Of The Day ~ Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

As many thousands took to the streets of London last week to protest about the utter shambles the economic situation has been allowed to become.  It seems best summed up by the words of Einstein (as quoted also by Mark Thomas recently) “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

The media was quick to claim that whilst the demonstrations started peacefully as soon as “masked groups” turned up the atmosphere was very different.  The masked individuals they were referring to were those in black bloc which is a fairly common dress for those on marches, there is a lot of collective logic for it as it prevents the individual identification of some members who might otherwise be singled out for police attention both in the present and in the future.  One can choose to see it as a gang looking to cause trouble but I would be interested to know if any who would use that characterisation have ever actually seen any in black bloc cause specific trouble.  I am aware there have been incidences in Seattle and Genoa where damage has been mooted out on Starbucks and Gap premises, however these were protests involving a large number of black bloc participants, I have been on a number of demonstrations where people have been in black bloc and I am yet to see them as the ones who have started any trouble at all.  In fact the pictures that I saw of the trouble in the city showed a distinct lack of anyone in black bloc and seemed to be a scattering of individuals no more than 5 in number at any time surrounded by an absolute phalanx of photographers who seemed to be in an extremely organised formation.  Having been on marches and seen things occasionally get out of hand I can say with some surety that at least in my experience one thing that rarely happens is any pre-planned organised chaos.  Most of the time something sparks things off and some follow, others do not.  It would be staggeringly coincidental if rows of photographers had sat waiting at a particular window and that happened to be the one that was broken.  Furthermore the only person I have spoken to who was present at the time it was going on have said that whilst one person egged another on there were many voices calling for them to stop.  I doubt somehow the photographers were in the latter group.  The dispersal of people from a sparking point rarely makes national newsworthy pictures.  Most of the protesters I know are well aware that it only takes the odd action of a couple to be the entire story the media will focus on, leaving out the peaceful participation of thousands to concentrate on the actions of a handful.

I also wonder if one took a general cross-section of society and put them in that situation if there would ever be a group that was entirely without its idiots.  Certainly when one take thousands of police officers in my experience the results are far more brutal, the damage however being mooted out on people and not property.  In all the footage I saw on the mainstream media there were no signs of masked groups actively participating in anything violent, there were scenes of police charging with batons raised, scenes of individuals shouting in anger at the police lines, scenes of police kicking protesters who were already on the floor and scenes of groups of no more than 3 or 4 people causing damage to the bank buildings.  There were reports of injuries but largely on the side of the protesters, I did see in the Evening Standard  a photo of policeman who had allegedly been blooded but the photo was interesting because the blood was on outside of his helmet and jacket and didn’t seem commensurate with any wound he would have sustained.  Other than that I have heard of no other specific police casualties, though of course they have not yet had time to assess those that might have been stung by bees or tripped over whilst on patrol yet, I have heard about many protesters being badly injured including one man who died whilst caught near a police penning of the crowd around Bishopsgate.  It was said by official sources initially and by a subsequent police post-mortem that the man, Ian Tomlinson, died of “natural causes”, Tomlinson was 47 so this seemed somewhat unlikely.  Demonstrators have claimed that the problem was that medical attention was not able to reach Tomlinson soon enough and he was therefore untreated, other eye witnesses have said that he had been beaten by police shortly before he collapsed, and the Police Complaints commission are having to look into the case.  Whatever the reasons he thus becomes the first physical fatality of the London G20 protests.  Whilst it may not be as immediately newsworthy as someone being shot by police like Carlo Giuliani in Genoa in 2001 this event does show two rather critical points, the first is that the police are quite indiscriminate in their actions, Tomlinson was not himself taking part in the protests, he was not a young “anarchist” or in black bloc, he had not been seen creating any damage so could not have been singled out for any retaliatory action.  Secondly the speed with which the official police post-mortem issued its statement is somewhat indicative of a quick cover-up, and were it not for the fact that some witnesses recognised that the official line may not be anywhere close to the truth we might never be any the wiser.

This is not the first time, the Jean Charles De Menenzes case showed how a police action can go horribly wrong resulting in the murder of an innocent young man who effectively was only in the firing line because he was not white-skinned.  This should have illustrated once and for all that anti-terrorism measures are an infringement of human rights that are a great many steps too far and allowing the police to in any way conduct their own investigation into such a case was tantamount to not only allowing the lunatics to take over the asylum but giving them the budget for the next year as well.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

This is only the start of the anger and backlash against the bankers and the politicians that back them up.  As we are forced to provide more and more of our tax money to bail out financial institutions that are riddled with corruption and the corrupt there will be a greater number of people who feel that enough is enough and will join the dissenters.  However this means that this is only the start of the problems with the means by which the state chooses to protect itself, it’s going to get nasty comrades, Chris Knight was right.

Song Of The Day ~ Stiff Little Fingers – Bloody Sunday


The University Of East London is not seen by most in the know as exactly a haven of democracy or free-thinking.  Recent years have seen much the same corporatisation of the institution that is mirrored across academic campuses all over the country but UEL has been at the forefront of bringing this to the boardroom in a recent coup to oust the Vice-Chancellor by the board without any following of due process and in a manner that would not have been out of keeping with the banking sector.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise that the University management agreed to host the Alternative G20 Summit, which, were this one not to take place would leave that at the ExCel centre in London very much the only show in town.  Professor Chris Knight, an academic at the institution, was very much instrumental in the bringing together the event and co-ordinating a rich plan of events and speakers that was to take place on Wednesday 1st April.  The event was seen as something of a showcase of alternative thinking to the laissez-faire capitalism that was to be taking place literally down the road and a real chance for the university to put itself on the national and international map, the profile of the speakers very much represented this with figures from across the social and political spectrum due to speak on economic, political and environmental matters.

Shortly before the event the University had a change of heart and decided that far from allowing the event to take place on campus they were going to be shutting down the entire Docklands campus for the two days surrounding the ExCel event.  As usual the “security” gambit, and “on advice from police” was used to justify the actions.  It was decided that the alternative summit would go ahead anyway.

Hence Tony Benn, Mark Thomas, Lindsay Germain, Oliver Tickall and many others were to be seen on the lawn in between the two campus buildings from 5pm until 9pm holding forth with a megaphone that was rushed in from some SWP activists who had been demonstrating elsewhere, and speakers were forced to try to hold their own against a steady procession of flights taking off from city airport some 500 or so yards away across the water.  The reputation of UEL as a repressive corporate-minded institution caring more about revenue and image than it did about education and debate was preserved.

What was a step into greater unknown territory, as if denying eminent visitors from across the country the right to speak were not enough was the treatment of one of its own.  Professor Knight was suspended from duties whilst the university “conducted an investigation into his comments.”  Professor Knight had been interviewed in the Sunday Times and his story has since been picked up by a number of sources including the BBC.

Professor Knight is quoted as saying “We are going to be hanging a lot of people like Fred the Shred from lampposts on April Fool’s Day and I can only say let’s hope they are just effigies.  To be honest, if he winds us up any more I’m afraid there will be real bankers hanging from lampposts and let’s hope that that doesn’t actually have to happen.”  He goes on to say that the protests might “get nasty.”  This has prompted the university to suspend Professor Knight under the pretext that his comments were inciting violence.  This is a ridiculous claim, I was present at the summit when an occupation of the UEL library was discussed, there were plenty there who would have been prepared to take matters into their own hands, Knight was the voice of calm, the library had one more chance to respond to the Earth hour calls to switch the lights off and Knight was prepared to give them that chance in the hope that no further action would be necessary.  His “I hope it does not come to that” stance seemed pretty endemic of most of the crowd, but determination remained that something had to be done and it was more a question of the crowd having differences in their tipping point as to when things could no longer be done by rational law-abiding means.  Professor Knight was nowhere near the radical end of that spectrum but was certainly committed to demands being met having himself been suspended from his job and seen a great conference that he had worked hard for almost derailed at the eleventh hour.  Frankly under those circumstances I found his restraint somewhat admirable.

When describing the mood of the nation with regard to bankers, who are still claiming profane salaries, pensions and bonuses that were bad enough when paid for by customers but utterly sickening when paid for by the taxpayer, as people being angry enough to take it out on the bankers by perhaps hanging the real ones from lampposts within the context of a planned protest by hanging effigies from lampposts is something spontaneous and is called wit, there was an attempt to shame the bankers many of whom are totally unabashed at their actions, as anyone watching those bankers waving £10 notes at the protesters in London can testify to.  Without any sense of remorse for what they have done how could anyone expect them to behave any differently with our money than they did with the company’s money beforehand.  Amusingly some sharp commentator in the crowd ridiculed the bankers by saying it was clear what a mess they had made of things as three years ago they would have been waving £50 notes at the crowd.

Anyone who has ever been on a political march knows that there are risks of things “getting nasty” this generally occurs when the police either pre-emptively strike and pen large numbers of people into a confined space for a long period of time, or a couple of idiots either over-exuberant, a bit pissed up, or extremely naive decide to take things into their own hands.  The police retaliation for this is usually swift and generally brutal and this can be clearly seen with their actions during this week, at no point did I see demonstrators charging police with weapons however I did see police charging the crowds swinging their truncheons around indiscriminately and kicking protesters who had already been dropped to the floor.  I fail to see any reason why someone who has already been dropped to the ground can represent any sort of a threat that may validate these actions

Is Chris Knight a 66 year old professor of anthropology therefore really as dangerous as the actions against him would appear to suggest?  Those who think are dangerous enough in the modern world, the status quo relies on apathy, ignorance and fear in order to survive, anyone who questions what is supposed to be a consensus by default is therefore opening up the system to scrutiny that it cannot withstand, anyone who teaches others to question it is perhaps the most dangerous sort of dissident for therein lies perhaps the true seeds of a revolution.  The question should not be whether Chris Knight is dangerous but bearing in mind the establishment is now clearly scared for whom they are going to come next?

Song Of The Day ~ The The – Angels Of Deception

According to Manchester MP Graham Stringer dyslexia is a myth and is more down to functional illiteracy and a breakdown in the teaching methods in education.  Dyslexia is, says Stringer “a cruel fiction, it is no more real than the 19th century scientific construction of ‘the æther’ to explain how light travels through a vacuum.”  To backup his argument Stringer states that were dyslexia to exist then countries such as South Korea and Nicaragua would not be able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.  This would appear to highlight where the MPs argument comes a cropper namely a confusion between the very different terms of illiterate and dyslexic.

The trouble with any perceived mental disability is it is always more difficult to understand and categorise than a physical one. People can see physical disability and therefore feel less ambiguity in their categorisation of it and how they react to it.  It is clear what is required of them, a wheelchair user needs access in order to get to work and whilst it has taken a long time and a great deal of lobbying from the disabled action groups there is now a little more acceptance into the mainstream now that to try to sweep the problems of a large swathe of the population under the carpet is not acceptable.  When it comes to mental issues the problems are not always clear-cut and due to a serious gap in their understanding amongst the majority of the population the solutions are often neither known nor understood.

Taking depression as an initial example, when one considers not only that it is estimated that 1 in 4 of the population will suffer from some form of illness categorised as depression but that if current trends persist it will be the world’s second most disabling condition by 2020, this is by anyone’s notion a big question.  Depression is the largest and most widespread of mental conditions but perhaps only because it is rarely looked at in its sub-categories.  The depressed like the dyslexic and sufferers of other mental conditions move unnoticed amongst the population at large furthermore they are as diverse a group as those with any one physical disability.  Dyslexia like OCD and Depression are rather catch-all terms that refer to a varied set of conditions that manifest themselves in different ways and to different extremes.  If you see it more as a sliding scale rather than a binary switch, it isn’t a question of whether you have or have not but rather if you have just where in terms of severity and specifics you happen to fit.  Many people may have mild forms of such conditions and do not necessarily recognise it themselves because it is not severe enough to really impact on their daily lives, often they have coping mechanisms that they have built up over many years sometimes unaware of how modern technology may now have progressed enough not only to identify certain facets of their condition but also to greatly ameliorate their circumstances.  The medical profession is often culpable for not being aware enough of the breadth of the symptoms, how to recognise them, and the way they can impact on sufferer’s lives, they are generally only interested in the severest of cases and the nature of funding of the NHS provides only for the treatment when conditions are severe enough to require the sufferer to have been forced to consult the doctor often due to the impact having got out of hand.

As science has advanced so has our desire to understand more of these conditions and their causes and thus the ability to identify them on paper has increased, for example it is stated that ten times more people suffer from depression now than did so in 1945. This has led perhaps to some people’s perception that suddenly we have a whole load of sufferers of something that never used to exist, rather than an acknowledgement that it always existed but hitherto there were not the same methods to diagnose and treat it.  Just because people used to think the Earth was flat and do not any more does not mean it used to be flat until we discovered otherwise.

I have been educated to a decent standard and have a language degree, my dyslexia is quite mild but I do still have problems that non-sufferers might find difficult to understand. I know the difference between the words your, you’re and yore just as I do the words their, they’re and there but on occasions I write an incorrect one and because my mind presumes I will have written the correct one, as it understands the context in which I wish to use it, it doesn’t pick it up on a proof-read, and of course neither does a spell checker because the word exists.  In addition to this I have nemesis words such as separately, Mediterranean, innateasinine and rhythm amongst others – even in writing these words now I only spelled innate correctly first time around, Mediterranean I played about with the various combinations until I hit one that wasn’t then underlined and rhythm I had to admit defeat on after multiple goes and look up in the dictionary.  Personally I do not believe I am stupid nor is my memory so poor as to forget everything, it is just that there are certain blind spots no matter how many times I look up its spelling my brain cannot retain it for the next time I need to use it, this can happen on a weekly basis the frequency of usage is irrelevant.  This is not about illiteracy or a lack of ability it is about little foibles in the ways our brain learns and holds information and in turn learning how best to work within those parameters to make the best of what we have. If more emphasis was put on identifying what people can do and nurturing it and helping cope with the things they find more difficult by using the strengths, rather than excluding them from what they cannot perhaps we would not be having this rather eugenic-like discussion where those who have been given many advantages try to justify their position by claiming that those who have less have either only themselves to blame or are simply not capable.

In the 1970s my parents were told I was educationally sub-normal, the effect this could have had on my education would have been profound had my mother not moved me to a different school. I sincerely hope we are not going back to the educational dark ages again where those that do not or cannot conform to the ever-more limited confines of the system are left floundering so that institutions can exempt themselves from the “detrimental” effecto n their results.

Stringer has at the root of his argument, if we wade through the shite, a much more cogent point, namely that we have in what we think of as our “civilised” society a serious problem with literacy and this in turn is having a substantial increase on the disenfranchisement of the population, leading inevitably to higher crime, drug use, lack of social cohesion and social responsibility.  This in turn whilst perhaps not being the root cause of depression is certainly not going to aid any sufferers of it, likewise dyslexia is a condition that worsens when the sufferer is under greater stress.  Coupled with this is a society and thus a school system obsessed with classifications, be it statistical analysis of student’s progress to Offsted report results and in this climate the option of a ‘diagnosis’ of a condition can exonerate them from the blame of a child having slipped through the net.  I have seen this myself where it is taken as a given that a child suffering from certain conditions cannot and will not conform to the stereotypes of their age group and can be statistically removed or taken into consideration when it comes to any ratings of that school’s progress.  However as I believe I can personally vouch for just because one is dyslexic does not mean one is not perfectly literate or that one does not posses the ability to become literate.  To presume this would be like presuming that a depressive will never be happy, or someone with only one leg will not be able to move themselves around.

Stringer loses his point by turning on the symptom of the problem rather than the cause of it.  He does not make an attack on what we as a society have done to our education system by devaluing it to a piece of paper with meaningless numbers and exams sat parrot fashion.  A system of check boxes that reward conformity and engender a materialist viewpoint that seeks only to do enough to guarantee career progression at the end of it.  This is not what education is for, one only has to look at the state of those coming out of it to see that, precious few have gained anything from it in real terms and most do not truly know themselves no have the ability to question others.  Using the media as its backup it is the education system that has perhaps been the greatest proponent in the preservation of the status quo and the true realisation of the notion described by Chomsky as “manufacturing consent.”  Those who dissent, or those who cannot learn assent quickly enough are a liability.

*(And by the way whoever invented the word dyslexia was clearly not a sufferer themselves!)

Song Of The Day ~ Blakfish – Preparing For Guests

Barring a major unilateral turnaround in the economy or Gordon Brown appearing on X-Factor singing a barnstorming version of  Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ it appears fairly clear that the Conservatives will win the next election and David Cameron will be the next Prime Minister.  The parallels with the transformation of the Labour Party under Tony Blair are quite evident, even down to using much of the same PR machine that Labour used to mastermind their metamorphosis into the party that was elected in 1997.  Certainly the Cameron publicity machine has been in overdrive with interviews and appearances almost ubiquitous, and yet amongst the commentators and the observers as well as for some of those of us lay members and interested parties there remains a nagging question about what Cameron and his new “Compassionate Conservatism” really stand for.

Cameron wants to be all things to all people, this is fairly natural as an opposition politician does not wish to alienate voters who may mean the difference between overall majority and landslide victory, moreover his own political career and stature rests very much on the Tory victory, for failure now would rank alongside the greatest political defeats in British history.  However to allow the party an almost unimpeded run into government as appears to be happening is tantamount to not contesting a opposition lineout in rugby on your own five metre line and not expecting your opponents to score a try.  If the public are mindful to remove the Labour party because they disagree with their politics or their decisions would it not be prudent to ensure that the opposition have a tangibly different way of doing things?  Thus the onus is on the electorate and the Fourth Estate to find out just what the country may be letting itself in for, and the truth is that few of them seem at all bothered.  Dissatisfaction with the incumbent and vacuous promises have won British elections before and look likely to again and this spells serious trouble.  The Metropolitan Police have already predicted a middle-class “Summer of Rage” against the economic problems and if this is to come to pass the analogy of 1978 will be almost complete, economic meltdown, trouble with the unions and workforce etc.  The stage is set for a perceived ‘Summer of Discontent.’

What bothers most British people at the moment, and therefore likely to “inform” their decision on who to vote for, are the old chestnuts such as the economy, immigration, unemployment, crime and taxation.  It would be nice to think people may care about the welfare state, healthcare, pension provision, education and social cohesion but these tend to be very much more marginalised than the big isolationist dogmas.  I say isolationist because the key points I have listed above fall into 2 very distinct categories, the first list contains the ‘me’ items, ie specific concepts that affect me personally and the second the ‘us’ items ie concepts that affect us much more as a whole.  That may sound far-fetched when you look at wooly tag words such as economy and crime but people are not worried about the overall rate of crime in general, they are worried about whether or not they, and most often their property, is really safe.  Likewise the economy is of interest in terms of what it means to their pay packet, their house price and how much the contents of their trolley or their fuel tank is going to cost not what it may mean to the family next door or in the next city.  Likewise in taxation, the primary concern is not whether tax revenue is spent wisely and for the good of society and public services but just how much they are going to have to pay from their wage.  I believe you can tell a lot about a society if you look at which of these concepts are more important to people.

It is difficult to believe that the Tories would have handled the economy very differently, the precedent in recent times is 1992 where billions of pounds of taxpayers money was pumped into sterling in an unsuccessful attempt to prop up the currency.  The Conservatives are a party wedded to business and the city, they have hitherto been given credence as a safe pair of economic hands, but this mantle has come from the city financiers and analysts who are as resistant to changing the status quo as the Conservatives are.  One could say that one of the reasons Britain has faced such a severe hit from the economic downturn is because the Conservatives did not seek to carry out any far-reaching reform of the financial institutions and sector in general in the wake of the last recession and Labour have merely continued that inaction.  Even when openly criticising the government little is given as to what would have been done differently had the Tories been in charge, Tory grandee Chris Patten has stated that he never thought he would be voting on nationalising the banks but he offers no idea as to how that situation would have been avoided by his party and was himself in the government that presided over Black Wednesday in 1992.  Norman Lamont, astonishingly now in the House Of Lords, is also quick to criticise anyone else’s handling of the economy and even quicker to forget the quite catastrophic mishandling of it that he himself made of it as chancellor in 1992.  The man bends like a reed in the wind suiting his answers to the questioner concerned, implying loyalty where necessary and dissent where expedient.  Why are these people trotted out, why do such imbeciles have any relevance?  During the current crisis one has not seen David Cameron leading the calls for a salary cap on the directors of nationalised UK banks, nor to suggest that huge bonus payouts and golden parachute pension plans are an anathema to the outgoing directors of failing businesses, so whilst Cameron in public is keen to ride on Barack Obama’s coattails through the wind of change, he is a reactionary in every sense of the word.

Perhaps some of the electorate are under the impression that the New Conservatives have learnt the lessons from the fall of the old guard.  However in a recent program conducted by the then inside man Michael Portillo interviewing his former cabinet colleagues the matter of the Poll Tax was mentioned.  All were quick to infer that they had told Thatcher it would be a bad idea and that she had lost touch with the electorate but critically none seemed to understand just why this met with the level of vitriol that it did in 1990.  Their summations suggested that it was because it involved charging people that had not paid before, like women in the home etc who had previously let their breadwinning husband pay the rates.  Leaving aside the very misogynistic element of this stereotype not one of these dinosaurs suggested for a moment that the tax itself was hated because it was utterly iniquitous in its foundation and draconian in its implementation.  Households of two adults and a child of eighteen still at school that had once paid £250 for their annual rates were expected to pay £1200 without prior notice and without any amelioration of circumstances or amenities, others in single-occupancy in large houses found themselves no longer paying for what they received in their area but a flat-rate based arbitrarily on the levy of the incumbent council.  (I must at this point declare vested interest – I was one of the eighteen year olds still in full-time education expected to pay without having the luxury of any wage.  I refused on principle and my local council sent a summons to my then address in the United States for a court appearance that had taken place whilst the letter was in transit.)

Cameron is the master of talking a good game, one would expect it, he went to Eton and Oxford obtaining the best education money can buy whilst also coming from a wealthy family that gave him every advantage to succeed in life.  It is easy for someone with such a background to eulogise about opportunities and fairness as he himself has rarely seen the daily adversity most of the country contends with, it would be like expecting the Queen to have a handle on how it is to live when you’re waiting for a decision on housing benefit.  There are examples of those coming from the establishment turning their back on the established system and all its flaws, such as Tony Benn who renounced his title and held cabinet office in a comparatively left-wing Labour government in the 1970s, but these are very much the exception rather than the rule.  Cameron is no radical and delving into his past as well as his present illustrates this quite graphically.

His stance on immigration ticks every box, he wishes to make clear that “immigration has been good for Britain” right that’s kept the immigrants and moderates happy, but also “there must be more controls” thus keeping the rapid xenophobes in their cages.  How does Cameron expect to square these two points of view, he will inevitably alienate one faction the question is which?  Arguably this question also impacts very much on the economy, many migrant workers work below the minimum wage and a great many businesses will feel that being forced to consider British labour in the current financial climate will put unnecessary pressure on their ability to survive.  They tried the same trick when the minimum wage was to be introduced and almost succeeded in derailing it, companies claimed, without a sense of irony, that if they were forced to adopt a minimum wage for their workers they were likely to go out of business.  Very few did.  This was also legislation under a Labour government, the Conservatives had many opportunities to implement it before but had always ducked it claiming that they would not bow to trade union pressure.  Now they have pledged that they will not abolish the minimum wage, which is hardly sign of any commitment to eradicate poverty and more to do with the fact that to abolish it would be seen as a U-turn and necessitate a huge amount of bureaucracy for the companies involved

The Conservatives have before tried to convince the electorate that those who wear leopard print can change their spots.  Anyone who witnessed the apparent Damascine conversion to the forces of moderation that Michael Portillo wished to have us believe will know what I mean here.  The difference between Portillo and Cameron is that Portillo had form, he had held office, he had been questioned very specifically about policy before and in that regard we knew what they were really thinking.  Cameron has not held senior office and neither have many of his front bench team, however the old faithful working behind the scenes have.  A working group headed by former cabinet minister Francis Maude is already planning the Tories first months in office and the decisions they will take but we hear little about what these decisions will be.  If the old guard are making the decisions then do the british electorate really believe that to go back to 1992 would be a good idea, or do they believe Cameron will disregard these views as he seeks to plot a new course?  Either way to vote Cameron and the Tories in now is equivalent to placing Johnathan Aitken in charge of the Press Complaints Commission or Jeffrey Archer in charge of Culture, Media and Sport or to put it another way not just letting the lunatics take over the asylum but in fact run the asylum system at a national level.  I may well have just predicted the first Tory government cabinet reshuffle!

Song Of The Day ~ Bricolage – Flowers Of Deceit