Malthusian Dawn: 15th July 2013: The Cap Has Landed!
The cuts-happy, poverty-punishing Tory-led government officially rolled out its Malthusian universal welfare cap (at £26k per family, no matter the area they live) accompanied by Iain ‘Dunk ’Em’ Smith’s egregious mug and officer-class nasal sneer of a voice enunciating that he “believes” he “is right” and that there is no evidence apparently that the rise of abject poverty, food banks, street homelessness, general destitution and even suicides in the ‘Big’ Society has any correlation with the most draconian and brutal attack on the poorest of this nation since the Thirties. At best this is “wilful blindness”; at worst, social fascism bordering on the psychopathic (or perhaps, more specifically, the sociopathic). In this sense, then, IDS has much in common with the Chancellor.
Claimer to a ‘Damascene moment’ in his vindictive little career as to somehow solving chronic poverty and deprivation in the UK by simply blitzing the benefits system, thereby emancipating the poor from the burden of having to worry about keeping food in their stomachs or roofs over their heads, because they’ll likely end with neither thanks to his despicable policies, IDS can more accurately lay claim to being the epitome of an ‘anti-Damescene’ mutant strain of genealogical ethical regressives; descendants or distant relations of former historic figures who themselves did indeed ‘convert’ to superior moral truths through epiphanies one might term ‘Damascene moments’.
Notable ‘anti-Damascenes’ include the inscrutably right-wing deviser of the Malthusian bedroom-tax, ‘Lord’ David Anthony (‘Darth’ for short) Freud, great grandson of psychoanalysis founder and Marxist Sigmund Freud; right-wing journalist and educational elitist Toby Young, son of left-wing sociologist and Labour Peer Michael Young who coined the term “meritocracy” in his exceptional polemic The Rise of Meritocracy, 1958); and, of course, John Richard ‘3rd Earl’ Attlee, Tory Government Whip in the House of Lords, grandson of the great Clement Attlee, Labour prime minister 1945-51 and overseer of the construction of the NHS and welfare state –how ironic an Attlee is now helping to facilitate the dismantling of the Attlee Settlement itself!
IDS’s own ‘anti-Damascene’ moral recidivism is in evidence when one discovers that he is actually a distant cousin of the writer George Bernard Shaw (d. 1950): Fabian Socialism ignited Shaw’s ‘awakening conscience’, whereas his distant cousin (several principles removed) has found his ‘spiritual calling’ in the pursuit of right-wing Tory social fascism –quite a contrast, then, to his more famous and principled forebear.
The only remote similarity between the two is a tendency towards Malthusianism –with which GBS flirted, theoretically, during the Thirties, along with many of the literati and intelligentsia, both left and right; unfortunately however, even in this regard, IDS’s Malthusian leanings are that bit much more edging towards basic eugenics theory, as both his policies of benefit caps and restricting future state assistance to only two children of unemployed mothers, amply demonstrate.
IDS and the DWP’s latest whiz is suggesting that perhaps unemployed single mothers themselves should no longer receive housing benefits for their own places but be forced to share accommodation with other single unemployed mothers, in some sort of vaguely-sketched ‘kibbutz’ for ‘out of work women’. In fact, taking it a step further, why not go the full hog and paint Stars of David and JUDE on the front doors of all such proposed communes for the ‘undesirables’, just so the “hardworking taxpayers” of the community can see where they live and stalk their doorsteps every day asking them what they’re doing to find work…?
No doubt next the young unemployed will received new DWP-patented condoms and diaphragms with their JSA starter packs –their spiel might go: ‘There’s no benefit cap as foolproof as a Dutch cap! Specially lubricated with a spermicidal gel formulated to repel the most ‘scrounger’-prone of sperms!’
Oh, and Labour’s response to the mass social culling of the unemployed and poor? Well, according to Liam ‘I think I came to the wrong party’ Byrne, the Tories’ benefits caps aren’t going far enough! Apparently Byrne, and the Blairite Re-Entryist Brigade currently bending Ed Miliband’s ear as to yet another rightward shift of the party (not so much ‘One Nation’ as ‘1.2 Nation(s)’ Labour), think that the Tories are letting larger unemployed families off the hook. This is what Byrne had to say:
The benefit cap is a good idea in principle but it’s already fallen apart in practice. Ministers have bodged the rules so the cap won’t affect Britain’s 4,000 largest families and it does nothing to stop people living a life on welfare. The government needs to go back to the drawing board, design a cap without holes and put a two-year limit on the time you can spend on the dole, like Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee.
So, Labour are trying to out-Tory the Tories on welfare, in order to chase after the popular vote –the one which apparently shows over 70% of the British public support the welfare caps but also, in addition, don’t think they go far enough! These days, it seems, nothing is enough for the British until they see the unemployed literally brought to their knees on the streets to polish taxpayers’ shoes. But for Labour, the so-called ‘Opposition’, to so spinelessly and opportunistically support such vicious policies is beyond belief. And that the Tories try to tar Labour as "the welfare party" is truly beyond the realms of recognised satire: Labour is the party that started the vicious Atos Work Capability Assessment regime (which the Tories have now accelerated to the extremes of corporate manslaughter and mass abuse of disability rights), and that rhetorically revived the "deserving/undeserving poor" paradigm under James Purnell -so hardly, one would think, champions of welfare!
Moreover, Labour is being put to shame by the far more compassionate, empathic and socially just interventions of ex-minister Sarah Teather, almost uniquely out-of-kilter with the despicable rhetoric that the rest of the Lib Dem accomplices to Tory rule are guilty of capitulating to. In this sense, she currently stands on her own against the extremes of Tory-driven anti-welfarism - a definitive 'Teather in the Cap' of policy and "public opinion", which she is rightly countervailing, as any principled politician should do if they believe a public perception and parliamentary consensus to be morally wrong! If only Labour would show such moral courage as this one rogue Lib Dem.
Union leader Bob Crow was quite right last week to openly call for all unions to disband from the Labour Party and join together to form a new true left-wing party to represent the “the working people and the unemployed, who have no party to represent them”. Absolutely, if Byrne the Benefit Basher has anything to do with it. And all Labour has achieved by such vacillating 'tough love' on the issue of welfare is for the Tories to suddenly break even with them in a recent poll, which is potentially disastrous for the party, not to say for the country.
As always, the Morning Star has uniquely spoken up in defence of the unemployed against the neoliberal anti-welfare din of the rest of the media, headlining today (16 July) with 'Benefit basher IDS caught out yet again' by Rory MacKinnon:
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was caught lying yet again today after he claimed that homeless figures had "hardly moved" under the Con-Dem coalition. The millionaire minister tossed out the claim in a huff over harsh criticisms on the launch of his new household benefit cap. The £500 per family per week limit, which is lowered to £350 for a single person, has been criticised for its "one-size-hits-all" approach. More than half of the households affected include four or more children, according to the government's own research. The resulting cut will see those families pushed £10.88 a week below the poverty line set by Mr Duncan Smith's own department.
Meanwhile housing campaigners say the inclusion of housing benefit in the cap will sting households for rents that they have no control over. A leaked letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles's office warned the cap would leave 20,000 households homeless, on top of another 20,000 made homeless by the bedroom tax.
But Mr Duncan Smith brazenly told a BBC news anchor today that he did not "believe" the Con-Dems' policies had forced people out of their homes. "The great talk about thousands being made homeless has not come true - the homeless figures hardly moved at all," he claimed. But figures from Mr Duncan Smith's own department show a 10 per cent rise in statutory homelessness in the last year alone. More than 55,300 households were in temporary accommodation care of their local authority at the end of March. The homeless figure in England has risen by around 27 per cent since the Con-Dems came to power in 2010, according to reports by the House of Commons Library, although campaigners say the real number is far higher as many claimants are turned away.
Mr Duncan Smith has a history of misinformation. In April he bragged that "8,000 people who would have been affected by the (benefit) cap" had since got jobs. But the UK Statistics Authority said that claim was "unsupported by official evidence." The arch-Tory bristled at the rebuke - but when questioned again today still could not stump up the figures. "The reality is, I believe that to be right," he fumed.
Meanwhile Child Poverty Action Group's Tim Nicholls told the Morning Star the real problem with housing benefit was taxpayer cash "going to the landlord, not the claimant." Years of politicians' pandering to property speculators meant that in most cases it would be state help for a family's rent that activates the cap. "We need politicians to start taking the tough decisions to bring down sky-high rents instead of punishing the victims of the housing crisis," he said.
What IDS means by "The reality is" is 'My delusional version of reality is' -he being a hermitic inhabitant of La La Land. The MS's editorial 'A shameless bid to divide our class' is equally robust:
Iain Duncan Smith's benefit cap will save only an infinitesimal portion of the annual social security bill, but its importance lies elsewhere. It is a political divide-and-rule weapon designed to put working-class people at each other's throats and assist the Tory Party in its electoral fortunes by portraying Labour as the claimants' party. As Liam Byrne has shown, this is untrue, as though there is nothing Labour would like less than to be described as compassionate towards people denied the right to work. Duncan Smith claims that 12,000 people have taken up work since the benefit cap was on the way.
However, no-one can believe the figures that he bandies around, especially since the UK Statistics Authority hauled him over the coals for declaring that 8,000 people had taken up paid labour because of the benefit cap. This shameless chancer has now adopted the Tony Blair method of argumentation, declaring that he "sincerely believes" what he is saying as though self-delusion somehow equates to fact-based conclusions.
On one issue the Work and Pensions Secretary is correct - his assertion that the "greatest effect" of the benefits cap will be in London and south-east England. That's because of the cost of housing in this region, where housing benefit has proven a subsidy to private landlords who have been able to raise rents through the roof because of a shortage of council housing.
As the government's benefit cap bites, low-paid workers and the unemployed will be gradually forced out of affluent areas. None of this will inconvenience Duncan Smith, whose comfortable situation derives more from marrying well than any professional efforts on his own behalf. Nor will it particularly bother him since he has seen that opinion polls show 72 per cent public support for this calculated attack on people forced to exist on state benefits.
The Work and Pensions Secretary in common with many ministers constantly uses the term "welfare," as though to confuse the system in Britain, based on taxation and national insurance, with the various "handouts" payable in the US. Our state benefits are not handouts. They are not charity. They form part of a comprehensive framework of provisions to help people cope with periods out of work.
The benefits system always coped well with the calls upon it until Margaret Thatcher's government 30 years ago attacked working-class living standards by trebling the jobless rate to three million and brought about a systematic transfer of wealth from poor to rich.
That process has continued unabated since then, with working people feeling their quality of life worsen while the cosseted rich minority see the value of their assets appreciate still further and the wealth gap yawn ever wider.
When Duncan Smith pretends to speak out for workers, blaming claimants for taking home more in benefits than they do for a week's work, he ignores the real problem. Pay levels are too low, as is the national minimum wage, which was supposed to raise low-paid workers from poverty. No-one in the labour movement can accept the assumptions of Duncan Smith and his ilk on social justice and supposed fairness.
A radical new approach, including a wealth tax and higher taxation of big business and the rich, is essential to promote economic growth and more jobs rather than workers squabbling among themselves over redistribution of poverty.
With the most right-wing government in living memory, a boneless ‘Opposition’ who are actually more just a ‘Complement’ to the Tories, and the temperature of stigmatisation and punishment of the unemployed and poor only soaring higher by the month and defining the electoral battleground for 2015, how can things get any more despairing?
Well, if one switches on the TV, quite easily. Just as this writer was wondering how nastier and more hysterical the ‘welfare dialectic’ could become in the UK, he was as ever satirically neutralised on the very night of the introduction of the benefit caps when greeted with an ever so prompt two-part BBC ‘documentary’ entitled Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits! Here is the synopsis:
First of a two-part special in which former Apprentice colleagues Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford try to find out how much unemployment benefit is enough to survive on – and whether having a job is actually worth it. Travelling to Ipswich, a town with typical out-of-work figures, they bring four claimants and four taxpayers together to compare one another's lives, examine their values and speak their minds. First up are the workers, who explore the claimants' spending habits to see where their own taxes are going.
Now, this is a slightly disingenuous synopsis, since these Ipswich claimants are not so much ‘teamed up’ with the ‘taxpayers’ as pounced on by them, interrogated at length as to how hard they’re trying to find work, judged by them, and in one case of a young man with a degree –quite admirably in this writer’s view– choosing to volunteer full time as a voluntary youth worker rather than take a dead-end job in a local Poundland is at one point frogmarched round his local high street by a sanctimonious ‘taxpayer’ handing out his CV to clearly completely disinterested shop proprietors.
What really stuck in the craw for this writer here was the self-aggrandizing, morally posturing judgmentalism of the ‘taxpayer’ protesting that the young man should “take a proper job” rather than “a voluntary one” and should be “putting something back into the community physically” (whatever that actually means!!!), when many might argue that working as a youth worker, whether voluntarily or not (and indeed voluntarily, for this writer, is deserving of even greater respect), is a far greater ‘contribution’ to the community than standing at a till in a local Londis, for instance.
The very fact that by dint of volunteering this young man is giving up his full time each week for direct contribution to his local community in return for which he receives a measly £56 JSA a week (so way below the minimum wage) should surely be applauded, not castigated?! So what if a few pennies of this ‘hardworking taxpayer’ goes towards that paltry amount of weekly benefit for him? This writer would say that is a very good investment on her part, since she effectively gets a local youth worker ‘contributing’ to the wellbeing of his and her local community for pretty much nothing!
In fact, this writer would argue that it might be in the ‘taxpayers’’ own interests, as well as the wider community’s, to actually agree to contribute a bit more in their tax in order to sustain this young man in his valuable community role. He wants to keep volunteering in order to gain work experience towards developing a community-oriented career; taking up an insecure, poorly paid job in a local mini-market “and then working up from the shop floor” (as the ‘taxpayer’ put it) hardly has anything remotely to do with this young man’s career aspirations: what good a trainee community youth worker going into local food retail? To work his way up to what? To a mini-market manager? How, exactly, is that to segue into a blossoming future career as a youth worker?
Once again, this is an example of classic British ‘patch it up’/‘just put a cloth to it’ short-termism and obsessive fixation with everyone doing some sort of “job” no matter what it is, how abysmally paid, how insecure, how temporary it is, or how completely unrelated to the talents and skills of the employee, how incompatible with their personality and abilities, and how obdurate it is to them ever getting onto the career path they are suited to. “Work” is the Calvinistic macro-ethic of Tory Britain, the monthly wage slip is the new ticket to antinomian impunity from all other recognised types of rudimentary social morality: as long as you “work” (and “pay”, or “legally avoid”, your “taxes”), then government is quite happy for you to behave attitudinally however you like towards your fellow citizens; in fact, it even actively encourages you to set yourself up as judge and jury to your unemployed neighbours, to freely interrogate them if you think they’re not making enough effort to find work; even to engage in petit espionage by sifting through their bins for any paper trails indicating that they might be “benefit cheats”.
Perhaps one small positive thing which has come from this latest populist docu-soap on the taxpayer-subsidised (though now less so than ever before due to the caps) unemployed, was the fact that one of the ‘taxpayers’ came out of the experience actually more sympathetic towards the claimant he was ‘matched up with’, a struggling middle-aged father desperately trying to find work while on the financial insult that is JSA, who at one point was brought to tears simply discussing his situation; while the co-presenter, Margaret Mountford, displayed much empathy towards the claimants’ side of the story than to what she clearly saw as the mean-spirited judgementalism of some of the ‘taxpayers’, and showed particular moral outrage at the fact that so many people are reliant on food banks “in the 21st century!”.
Less empathic was her co-presenter Nick Hewer but who was drawn up short as he craned himself over some shelves of tins in a food bank by the highly compassionate and principled woman in charge of the Trussell Trust depot, who drove home to him just how utterly destitute most of her ‘clients’ are: “Some don’t even have the money to buy toilet paper to wipe their bums!” she intoned with a livid glare, while Hewer’s eyes waxed ever so slightly through his designer lenses to a response of “Rea-lly?”
Both presenters were erstwhile colleagues to Alan Sugar on The Apprentice; while Hewer comes across more as ‘New’ Labourish than full-on right-wing, Mountford’s demonstrable sense of compassion and empathy towards the unemployed and her visible disdain for how contemporary ‘benefits’ fall far short of providing the level of subsistence people need in order to “live normally” as she put it, with a reference to Beveridge’s original template or rates (although that in itself was deliberately set slightly below subsistence level in order not been seen as too generous), has both the tone and laterally-thinking dialectical approach of a socialist (certainly, her arguments seemed broadly left-wing, and it’s difficult to see how she fitted into the entrepreneurial soap opera of grasping yuppies that is The Apprentice).
So there it is: Britain in the 21st century: starving tens of thousands of unemployed families into penal-like submission and penniless penance and the indignity of having to beg for tins of processed mush from food banks. Of course, morally twisted Tories hail this new ‘alfresco welfare state’ as a positive thing, a progression of civil society, a sign that the ‘Big’ Society is in action and is growing all the time (to keep up with the demand of mass under-consumption and abject poverty!). Say what you like about Cameron’s ‘Big’ Society, but it certainly does do what it says on the tin!
15-16 July 2013
The Recusant Salutes Sarah Teather/ 'Born Again' Labour/ Our Psychopathic Chancellor
A Teather in the 'Cap': The Recusant Salutes Sarah Teather: Whistleblower on Tories’ ‘Hostile Environment Working Group’ and neo-Fascist Rhetoric
Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, who was curiously “sacked” from the Cabinet in the last reshuffle, coincidentally, after he abstaining from the vote on the universal welfare cap, continues to speak out about the dark arts of the Tory-led Coalition in terms of its ever more divisive and pernicious use of neo-fascist rhetoric in its remorseless pursuit of ‘populist’ policies, such as those on welfare and immigration. Teather revealed in a Guardian interview today (13 July) that had she remained in ministerial office she would have been sitting on an ‘internal working group’ focused on actively repelling future immigrants from attempting to settle in this country, which was originally called –"on the explicit instructions of the prime minister" (Teather) – the ‘Hostile Environment Working Group’, since such was its specific purpose. The Recusant challenges any reading this not to see quite clearly that such a moniker as this is quite nakedly fascistic, not only in terms of rhetorical implication but also intent. Following Lib Dem objections to this terminology, the Tories then relented and went for the marginally more euphemistic ‘Inter Ministerial Group on Migrants' Access to Benefits and Public Services’.
Teather quite justifiably objects to the almost criminalising semantics used towards immigrants, particularly in the floated policy of immigrants having to pay “bonds” in order to have a steak in British society, comparing it to “bail” for ex-prisoners. With an admirable sensitivity not only to the human dimensions of such matters, but also, crucially, the semantics and rhetoric of them, Teather said:
I wonder whether colleagues have any understanding about language and the implications of language. Language is one of the powerful things you have as a politician, and we need to consider that. People's attitudes to their neighbours is formed partly by the things we say on television, and the way in which they are reported. Silence in the face of language that others are using is not enough.
Teather also lambasted the Tory proposal that only those earning a certain amount of income per year (originally to be set at £40,000 but finally lowered to £18,000) will be permitted to have their non-EEA spouse living with them in the UK. If not fascism, such policies are clearly fiscally fascist, and certainly protectionist bordering on xenophobic –no doubt more attempts by the Tories to ‘out-UKIP UKIP’.
Teather has been a critic for some time now of the Tory-led Coalition’s constant rhetoric of divide-and-rule and stigmatisation against vulnerable minorities in the country, particularly immigrants and the unemployed, which is why she admirably abstained from the vote on the universal benefit cap, her hands to some extent tied in terms of voting against it by dint of her then being in a ministerial post (thus threatened with the sack; she was however sacked in any in the subsequent Cabinet reshuffle). Most crucially of all, on the issue of benefits, Teather has recently countered Tory announcements with highly ethical and courageous criticisms –pretty much identical to those which The Recusant and its anthologies have been arguing for the last couple of years now– prompted in the first part by the Chancellor’s new extension of the three day wait before new claimants can sign on by a further four days, which constitute the most robust moral intervention against the anti-welfare regime by any member of the ruling parties to date:
...there was a general idea that people would have their redundancy payments to get them through… I'm not sure that my constituents coming out of short-term, low-paid work are getting big redundancy packages… I think it's more nakedly political than that. It's about short-term tactics – and I'm deeply uncomfortable with a type of politics that is deliberately using people who are already relatively vulnerable, as outsiders, as a tool to demonstrate how tough we are. I don't like that type of politics.
What alarms me is that the immigration proposals feel as if they're hewn from the same rock as welfare earlier in the year, where a lot of that again was about setting up political dividing lines, and trying to create and define an enemy. It's got to a stage where it's almost unacceptable to say anything else, and it bothers me that there is a consensus among the three party leaders that they are all making, well not quite the same speech – there are differences, significant differences – but there's a consensus. It's stifling the rest of the debate, making people afraid to speak. If you get to a stage where there is no alternative voice, eventually democracy's just going to break down.
Note that very loaded last phrase there, something we have been warning our readers of for three years now: of our nation’s slide into ‘democratically’-tolerated social fascism. Teather continued:
It's populist. It's a headline. Just look at the evidence. You've got first the overall universal benefit cap, then you've got a 1% welfare cap, and then you've got the big macro welfare cap. So they've found something, a message that works in polling, it's called a benefit cap. And then they've invented policy around it three times.
Teather rightly continued to emphasize the prime importance of language in terms of forming ‘public opinion’, oft-cited by politicians as some sort of ‘proof’ of the ‘popularity’ of their policies when, of course, all they are citing is a large section of the public simply parroting the ‘opinions’ they are relentlessly spoon-fed through political propaganda via ministers and tabloids:
Public opinion does not exist in a vacuum, and I wonder whether colleagues have any understanding about language and the implications of language. Language is one of the powerful things you have as a politician, and we need to consider that. We forget that language actually forms society – we're integral to it – so people's attitude to their neighbours is formed partly by the things we say on television, and the way in which they are reported. Silence in the face of language that others are using is not enough.
In this criticism, there is also quite clearly a swipe at general Lib Dem quietism and quiescence in the face of such brutalising rhetoric from their Coalition partners. Teather is also the only prominent politician for some time now to talk of the purpose of principled politics being to “mobilise debate” rather than wipe it out through anti-dialectical hate-rhetoric –rhetoric which Teather is clearly particularly adapt at deconstructing from a humanistic perspective:
I want to mobilise debate. If we step back from the things that are core to our values, we will allow public debate to move away from us, and the centre of gravity has moved somewhere else, and then the lack of our distinctive public voice making that argument makes it very difficult for other people who share our view to stand up and be counted.
Even more interestingly, another Lib Dem ‘whistleblower’, this time a current pensions minister, Steve Webb, has separately criticised all parties’ use of scapegoating rhetoric and stigmatising language in relation to immigrants and the unemployed, which creates ‘artificial divides in society’ (Guardian). Webb will be telling the Social Liberal Forum conference:
What kind of society do we want to have created? One where disabled people are jeered at in the streets and treated as scroungers? Or one where we all know that if things had turned out differently that person on benefit could have been us. Political leadership means not taking the easy route of offering 'red meat to the red tops'.
Answer: the kind of society the Lib Dems such as Webb himself have enabled by joining in Coalition with the Tories! Webb has emphasized he is not explicitly criticising Iain Duncan Smith, but more the Chancellor, for use of such divisive language towards the most marginalised in society –yet The Recusant feels this is highly disingenuous and even perhaps naïve of Webb, spirited and utterly right though his intervention is: but the tragedy here is that Webb talks of a society which stigmatises the poor, unemployed, disabled, homeless, traveller and immigrant as if it is as yet only in existence in theory, but potentially there, and still possible to pre-empt and prevent through political intervention. The Recusant however has to remind Mr Webb that such a society is already firmly in place and deeply entrenched, thanks to three years of remorseless Tory and red-top rhetoric of stigmatisation, and policies to match. The society Webb warns of coming into being has already come into being, and so the only principled thing he himself can now do is resign his ministerial post and return to the backbenches where he can more freely object to front bench policies.
The same must also be said for the ever-beleaguered and seemingly disoriented Vince Cable. In the same week that he shamefully capitulated to Tory pressure to announce the latest attempt to privatise the Royal Mail, the Business Secretary apparently has this to say to the Social Liberal Forum:
At present we are in danger of the worst of all; a revival of house prices fed by easier credit and housing shortage, making them still less affordable to the ordinary first time buyer; a growing private rented sector sucking in housing benefit which is in turn being reduced, cutting off low income tenants, and growing pressure on the remaining social housing stock which has been declining irredeemably in recent decades.
There is a more positive way forward: a surge of housebuilding of the kind that lifted Britain out of the inter war slump.
And yet, where is Cable’s argument for a reintroduction of private rent controls? More to the point, did Cable himself vote for the housing benefit caps? The Recusant suspects as a Secretary of State he must have done, otherwise he would have gone the same way as Teather. So in Cable’s case, it’s more a case of ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’; such ‘appeasement’ tendencies in Cable and his other Lib Dem front-benchers in waving pieces of blank paper at the fiscal fascism of Osborne’s pincer-movement against the poorest in society simply makes him look like Neville Chamberlain against another notorious ‘Chancellor’ of history –it simply doesn’t sit well for Cable to rail against policies which he is nevertheless supporting and upholding by dint of his remaining in his position as a Secretary of State. One can’t have it both ways: the Lib Dems think they can, but they can’t, and sadly for them the electorate, no matter their political stripes, can clearly see this.
So is all of this simply the latest ‘hot air’ from the Lib Dems, speaking out against the disgraceful injustices of Tory-driven policies they are themselves supporting in practise, even if not in principle, at a liberal talking shop, only to then revert to their ministerial briefs afterwards…? We do hear much of this gnashing of liberal teeth against Tory dogma at the annual Lib Dem conferences, largely orchestrated to appeal to dissenting grassroots in the party, but then this often peters out afterwards when we then have to hear the same Lib Dem politicians use weasel words to justify unjustifiable policies according to their ministerial briefs. So far it seems only Sarah Teather has had the moral courage to sacrifice her ministerial career for the sake of speaking out from principle rather than pressure from the party whip.
'Born Again' Labour
Under Ed Miliband’s chameleon leadership of the ‘Opposition’, we have seen the party alternate tones and colours periodically: first we have Maurice Glassman’s nebulous sobriquet of ‘Blue’ Labour; and then the new official moniker of ‘One Nation’ Labour (a tacit linking of Miliband’s Anglo-Jewish heritage and gradualist politics to Britain’s first Jewish prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli and his notion of “one nation” Toryism, which for its time was every bit as progressive as the best that, say, the neoliberal ‘New’ Labour had to offer. By some enormous irony, Disraeli, himself one of the Young England set of more compassionate Tories of his times, themselves a forerunner of the 'One Nation' Toryism of the mid-20th century, is also credited with having prefigured the notion of welfare itself, again, as with his allusion to 'two nations: rich and poor', in the same social novel of his, Sybil: or the Two Nations (1845): '"the only duty of power, the social welfare of the PEOPLE').
But it’s just as easy to interpret ‘One Nation’ as harking back more recently to the more compassionate, ‘soft’ Toryism of Harold Macmillan, thus indicating Miliband’s Labour as another attempt to position the party in a mythical ‘centre ground’ of British politics, neither left nor right, but something in-between (another throw at the ‘Third Way’…?) –a space traditionally occupied by the Liberal Party, although, having said that, the Herbert Asquith Liberal Government of 1908-14 –which, among other things, introduced rent controls and a proto-welfare state via Lloyd George’s Unemployment Insurance Act 1911– was, of its time, of a calibre of progressive radicalism arguably only ever seen again in British politics during the 1945-51 Clement Attlee Labour Government (in many ways, not least implementing the recommendations of Liberal William Beveridge’s eponymous ‘Report’ in the construction of the welfare state and NHS, the natural inheritor of the Asquith-Lloyd George triangulation of egalitarian values.
But following the much-hyperbolised ‘storm in a shop steward’s tea cup’ that is the “Falkirk scandal”, where apparently the Unite union was illicitly signing up its new members to Labour Party affiliation without them actually knowing (somehow, it is alleged by the largely right-wing media, in order to influence the selection of Labour candidates for the vacated seat of Falkirk), Miliband has seemingly panicked and capitulated to parliamentary picking and poking from plum-faced puppet-prime minister David ‘Flashman’ Cameron and announced the (re-)birth of what can only now be described as ‘Born Again’ Labour: in an apparent fit of sudden evangelical fervour –though one suspects more just opportunistic repositioning of his leadership according to much-trumpeted “public opinion”/pandering to Blairites and their cousin Tories– Miliband has announced that he wants to “mend” the links of his party to the Trades Unions by ending their “automatic affiliation” to Labour. In other words, for the first time in Labour’s history, Miliband is offering “individual union members” the personal ‘choice’ of whether or not to sign up to membership of the Labour Party donations of £3 per head, as was automatically levied up until now.
In theory, this sounds like a highly idealistic (if misguided) gesture from the Labour leader; a veritable individuation of personal conscience per each and every union member in the land; in this sense then, a kind of ‘Protestantisation’ of the hitherto ‘Catholic-style community’ of the Labour Movement –shifting affiliation from a former ‘automatic induction’ of political allegiance to a more Lutheran (i.e. personal ‘witness’ and direct communication with a body politic instead of through a priestly intermediary, in this case, being, analogously, the union hierarchy), voluntary, conscience-based ‘baptism’ into the ‘Labour faith’. So far, so ‘faithfully’ reformative.
Ostensibly this seems quite noble of Miliband, not to say very brave in the sense that, according to GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny, a union critic of the proposed ‘reforms’, they could very well result in, for instance, a possible fall in party donations from his own union of 90% -from the current £1.5m to a paltry £200,000 per year. And this is because, ‘idealistic’ though Miliband’s gesture might be, it comes at a time when, bluntly, the constantly vacillating, unfocused and more opportunistic than principled politics of his party is far from inspiring to the common working person, the wage-restrained blue collar –and offers very little future respite from punishing Tory welfare ‘reforms’ to the besieged unemployed population (not that their wellbeing, rights or interests are even considered as constituting any ‘political capital’ in the minds of any of the three main parliamentary parties).
So, it may well be that by halting the ‘automatic baptism’ of new ‘baby’ members of unions into the ‘Labour faith’, Miliband –excuse the pun– could well be throwing those ‘babies’ out with the ‘bathwater’ of party affiliation: because any union member with eyes to see what is happening to labour rights today under the Coalition’s uber-capitalistic axis to return society to a kind of pre-welfare state social apartheid of employers and employees, of workers and whiphands, will immediately also see that there is virtually no real alternative being articulated by Miliband’s ‘Opposition’, and will thus, in theory, be more inclined to opt out of association to the Labour Party than opt in. Moreover, any union members who are on ‘the Left’ in their politics will also balk at the patronage egregiously extended by former ‘New’ Labour PM Tony “Cheshire Cat” Blair to his belatedly emerging ‘heir apparent’, the once, sadly inaccurately, nicknamed ‘Red Ed’.
The Recusant puzzles as to whether this volte-face of a Labour leader from automatic and implicit allegiance to the very unions whose votes carried him over the threshold to beat his brother David to the top of his party is driven by real reformative conviction, blind panic after Falkirk, staggering bravery, Blairite-appeasing/Tory-capitulating cowardice, or plain idiocy. Whatever the real motive here, on purely pragmatic grounds, it is historically evident that it’s never really a particularly good idea to estrange one’s own ‘Praetorian Guard’ –particularly if it was largely on their backs that, like doddery old Claudius, one was lifted into office in the first place. We might also be cautious as to the apparent praise for Miliband’s “visionary” speech on reforming the automatic union links to the party by Unite leader Len McCluskey, so recently berated at length for defending “shabby” practices by his young leader: McCluskey is a canny and tactical man, also, at root, we believe, highly principled in terms of his socialist politics, and we suspect that his upbeat response to Miliband’s speech has been choreographed in such a way as to instantly emasculate any Tory attempts to depict a party and movement in meltdown. McCluskey is –as he makes no bones about– still seething at what he sees as a “hysterical”, Tory-provoked knee-jerk reaction of the Labour leadership to the Falkirk issue, more one of PR posturing than principle, and so he is certainly not about to morph into some sort of party ‘poodle’.
So, Labour is to be ‘born again’ as a sort of ‘Bourgeois’ Labour, now not only literally but also symbolically dissociated from the interests and struggles of the working and non-working poor, the unemployed and dispossessed; this seems a new stripe of ‘gentrification’ of the party, a continuation, at least promotionally, of Blairian ‘centrist’-positioning. It is, too, most ironic that Ed Miliband talked so pejoratively of “shabby” union practices allegedly conducted by Unite, which somehow betrayed the “values” of the party –ironic, since Labour has so few discernible “values” or principles left, bar, seemingly, to position itself constantly in line with so-called “public opinion”, irrespective of how far Right this tugs them, simply to secure power again in 2015 apparently just for the sake of it. Where are the “values” of a ‘Labour’ Party that is openly considering Chancellor Osborne’s despicable proposal that new JSA claimants have to wait an extra four days with no income at all before being allowed to sign on? Where, indeed, are the “values” of a ‘Labour’ party that disgracefully capitulated to Iain Duncan Smith’s “retrospective legislation” which halted tens of thousands of unemployed claimants unlawfully exploited for unpaid labour on the Tory Work Programme by mass-abstaining from voting against it in Parliament –all on direct orders from the leadership?
Maybe Mr Miliband should consider another new sobriquet for his party: ‘Unpaid’ Labour? All in all, The Recusant fails to see any particularly admirable “values” that Labour currently upholds which could have in any way been compromised by alleged union shenanigans. More to the point, we admire Tom Watson’s aim of trying to get more working-class candidates to stand for Parliament in Labour’s name. It was, after all, originally, a party standing up for the working class and the poor, and most of its greatest spokesmen were drawn from truly challenging backgrounds: both Keir Hardie –first Labour MP and Leader– and Aneurin Bevan, for example, were born into impoverished mining villages and rose from the coal-pits to their pivotal party positions. The party desperately needs more MPs of that kind of character and calibre if it is again to be anything more than the bloodless party of the “squeezed middle” and ‘petit bourgeoisie’ that it currently seems to be.
The Recusant predicts that this final symbolic severing of ties between Labour and the unions could well spell a haemorrhaging of the party’s left-of-centre support base, and a likely migration of many union members, not to say unions themselves, to a party which actually does represent their principles and interests, a true party of the Left, such as the Greens, or the galvanising of a new one, such as Left Unity for instance, towards putting up parliamentary candidates in 2015. This indeed could be a very different kind of haemorrhaging of the Labour movement to the ones the Tories have been attempting to pre-empt. It could mean a massive split in the ‘centre-left’ vote of this country in 2015 and thereby an opportunity for the Tories to scrape back into power. In social terms, a return of the Tories to office, particularly if on their own with a small minority, would not simply be disastrous for our society, but truly apocalyptic. Labour would then have one simple choice left to them: return to a more radical centre-left politics, or gradually become completely irrelevant as a party and doomed to the same wilderness inhabited by the old Liberal Party since their place on the political map was superseded by a then still-young new party representing the working classes (yes, the then-socialist Labour Party).
Should left-wing voters play the pragmatic ‘better the devil you know’ card in 2015 and vote Labour purely to keep the atrocious Tories from getting back into power, or should we play the long game and pool our resources towards the formation of a new 21st ‘true’ Labour-style movement and party to properly represent the millions of working poor, unemployed and dispossessed of our country? Principle and compassion demands the latter option, while sheer dread at the thought of another five years of Tory rule seems to urge the former. Even while writing this editorial and being openly critical of the current Labour pseudo-‘Opposition’, this writer still feels torn himself as to the best –or rather right– thing to do, and no doubt all of us on the left are at this time searching our consciences and wrestling with our fears for the future of our society. Ed Miliband truly is the prime ‘chameleon’ of Labour leaders, seemingly vacillating from week to week, month to month, between his right and his left, and very often falling awkwardly into some sort of ‘middle-ground’, which comes across as indecisive and unfocused in convictions.
Only this week at PMQs he suddenly launched into a much more progressively-toned, almost socialistic attack against Cameron’s Tories being the party of “the privileged” as opposed to Labour being the party of “the people” –okay, some of us would have preferred to hear him say party of “the poor”, but in today’s uber-right-wing national consensus on issues such as welfare, this is simply never going to be said by a leader of a major party (only Caroline Lucas of the Greens would be so bold as to employ such phraseology on behalf of her personified party). Of course, “the people” very much plays into Miliband’s new party moniker of “One Nation”, meaning “all the people”, and so can be interpreted in much broader terms by many of varying political colours. Nevertheless, to make such emphatic political rhetoric out of what is fairly explicitly a universal ‘Us and Them’ paradigm, between the top super-rich 1% and the 99% rest of us paradigm, is certainly something to be applauded by those on the left of the electorate by an Opposition leader, even if such a laudable principle isn’t fully backed up by the party’s actual future policy proposals; more specifically, the ‘carrot and stick’ policies of Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam ‘Blairite’ Byrne, which differ only marginally from the ultra-vindictive and plain nasty policies of current WP Secretary Inane Duncan Smith.
Byrne is a bane in the body politic of the Labour Party: he is in most respects almost indistinguishable from most Tories in terms of his “tough” approach to welfare and unfathomable ‘faith’ in the capitalist labour market being able to adjust itself in time to better meet the needs of the workers and the currently unemployed. His attempt to pounce on one of IDS’s ministerial minions on C4 News this evening over the pernicious effects on poor and disabled families of the brutal and immoral bedroom tax by saying he believes it should be scrapped with immediate effect, and yet in the same breath refusing to confirm whether or not a future Labour Government would automatically scrap the toxic policy itself, since this would depend on whether they could show the public that they could find a way to pay for its abolition, was at once dialectically self-defeating and polemically pathetic. Since part of Byrne’s argument was that the bedroom tax will actually cost much more in the long-run in terms of State and Council resources used to ‘damage-limit’ the epidemic social fallout it will directly engender, there was absolutely no reason, either logically or ethically as to why he couldn’t have then said that a future Labour Government would scrap it. yet again Labour comes across as afraid of its own shadow, but more particularly, that of a near-mythical entity frequently referred to as “the public” (shorthand for tabloid-readers).
Labour has to get ahead of the momentum of the times and recognise that absolute capitalism –the ‘feral’ acquisitive variety we have lived under since Thatcher deregulated the markets in the Eighties, privatised our assets, resources and services and atomised our industries and working classes– is demonstrably in its final death throes. Westminster might delude itself that after another few years of gruelling austerity for the masses and innumerable human sacrifices of the poorest and weakest in society, capitalism as we knew it before will kick-start itself back into full tilt and provide another generation of “growth” and “wealth creation”. But this is simply ‘wishful thinking’ on behalf of Parliament’s KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Club: one only has to look at the C4 News expose this evening, that as many as 50 million US citizens (one sixth of the American population), both the unemployed and many of those in work, are now reliant on Government subsidised “food stamps” (in the guise of ‘gold’-coloured debit cards of $287 a month, which is the equivalent of a mere £180 a month) to afford enough food to keep them going for four weeks at a time (though frequently falling short by the fourth week) –and that, in the richest capitalist country on the planet!
This is certainly a Depression now, there’s can be no denial of that, and the situation in the US is only mirrored in the UK where increasing numbers in society of both unemployed and working people are also becoming ever more reliant on the use of food banks to survive each month. But seemingly such destitution is not enough for the anti-tax brigades of the great tabloid-reading sections of the British public: now that charities are warning that food banks are effectively turning into part of the welfare state itself (what this writer has long termed the ‘alfresco welfare state’), and unable to keep up with rising demand for their provisions, there are also concerns that once this is more widely recognised, many people who up until now have made donations of tinned foods and so forth to such auspices may begin to start resenting their contributions basically subsidising the very welfare cuts they have so thoughtlessly and antipathetically supported to date.
You really couldn’t make it up could you? Seemingly, there is no end to British spitefulness and idiocy when it comes to the poor, unemployed and dispossessed. One can easily imagine many right-wing voters starting to complain that by donating to food banks they are effectively being ‘indirectly taxed’, by appeal to their compassion, to subsidise the poor and unemployed through donation rather than automatic tax contribution. The difference here is of course the old Tory mantra of ‘choice’ that people have the option of either donating or not donating to food banks, and so it’s not the same as the state making the choice for them. But we will soon see just how narrow-minded, self-centred and ‘small’ Cameron’s ‘Big’ Society really is once the further proliferation of food banks, themselves a direct result of the fallout from the despicable benefit caps, and evermore assertive pleas for donations to them from charity volunteers outside supermarkets (as is already happening, and, given the dire times, rightly so, though not as a replacement for the welfare state), brings a new culture of stigmatisation: it’s not a massive leap of the imagination from specious and pernicious tropes as “benefits scroungers” to a future charge of “food bank scroungers”. In short, it seems the Tories, their cheerleaders in the right-wing media, and all those unfathomable people whose parroting ‘opinions’ and attitudes answer to their appeals to self-interest, will never cease until not poverty but the poor themselves are effectively wiped out.
But once the unemployed and the poor have all been swept aside for good, who will the powers that be come for next? Because capitalism is a parasitic mechanism: it can only continue to exist by feeding off the labour and depleting the wellbeing of large numbers of people in order to cream off profits; there is no end to this vicious cycle: capitalism needs the poor and the unemployed in order to ensure a minority remain enriched. This has always been the case: unemployment, for instance, is vital to the survival of capitalism, since it gives it the leverage to keep wages down, thus increasing profits for employers and big business. It’s a simple equation: no unemployment = no wage restraint = no profits. It’s the same cavalier logic with regards to benefits and the phoney “Make Work Pay”, of course, and for this matter, we will use a positive equation: lower benefits = perceptually better wages by comparison = less benefits expenditure for Government + leverage to freeze wages = win, win, win for capitalists and employers. Yet it still pays dividends for Tory governments to sustain a ‘manageably’ high level of unemployed, and for them to be seen to suffer extremely in terms of impoverishment, in order to make the employed, including the vast numbers of “working poor”, feel comparatively much better off. The fact that the Tories, the most evangelical capitalist party of them all, is currently targeting the unemployed left, right and centre in a pincer-movement of remorseless cuts and caps, is in part indicative of the fact that even by its own internal rationale, current capitalism isn’t functioning properly, and is now unsustainable, no matter whether unemployment is high or low.
When is capitalism clearly not working? Answer: when it can no longer camouflage or gloss over the grotty, rotting little cogs of its poorly maintained machinery grinding away ever more cumbersomely and unstably. Sooner or later those cogs are going to spin off into obsolescence, and it will be then that the capitalist status quo of all Western countries resorts to even more obviously fascistic means to keep itself alive, no matter how synthetically and destructively. Spain, Greece and particularly Cyprus have already seen the true character of capitalist ‘fiscal fascism’ in action in recent years, in the shape of kleptocratic theft of democratic sovereignty and rights, water canons and rubber bullets as a response to public protest, and the effective financial enslavement of their bankrupted societies by the anti-democratic Troika.
In the UK, the poorest and most vulnerable have already experienced the jackboot of Tory fiscal fascism stamping down on their basic social and human rights; but it will only be a matter of time before the middle classes –Miliband’s “squeezed middle”– begin to be enclosed in the Tories’ pincer-movement around our society and public sector, until, ultimately, England will only be a land fit for the filthy rich to survive in, cushioned in their first class compartments, while the rest of us partitioned off into second or third class, and a pre-Attleean Thirties-style class-fragmented and segregated society is fully reconsolidated.
Our Psychopathic Chancellor
A return to the Thirties is clearly the trajectory of our current cuts-crazed, psychopathic Chancellor: only on Thursday (11 July) when the Daily Mirror splashed a front page headline that the richest pay 1% less tax in this country at this time than the poorest (35% to 36%), Baronet Osborne gleefully announces that in spite of a still flat-lining economy, in spite of having reduced the top 1% tax rate, and in spite of an already bluntly fascistic cut to the welfare budget of £18 billion, if the Tories secure power again in 2015, there will be no tax rises whatsoever, no sane and rational balancing of cuts between what is anyway an unfair 20% tax hikes/ 80% public expenditure cuts paradigm (of the kind that even Thatcher would have implemented), but instead an utterly brutal and morally despicable 100% onus on further public spending cuts (mostly welfare of course), in order to “plug” the deficit “black hole” of £6 billion!
Of course, Osborne is an arch exponent of “I don’t accept that” governmental reality-denial (for the common trotted-out retort of “I don’t accept that” read “I don’t accept reality”), as demonstrated effortlessly again when he refused to “accept” that the devastating welfare cuts have anything to do with the sudden surge in demand for food banks throughout the nation –and all in spite of this having been proven to be factually true according to figures released by the Trussell Trust (chief provider of food banks) on the same day, as well as findings from other independent surveys. When asked by the Treasury Select Committee on Thursday if he’d ever visited a food bank Osborne simply replied “No, I have not visited a food bank”. And then this from an article on the matter in Thursday’s Guardian:
He denied their use would increase as a result of his plan to delay unemployment benefit for seven days. He said food banks were increasing because of greater public awareness of their existence.
"I think one of the reasons there has been increased use of food banks is because people have been made aware of the food bank service through local jobcentres. I don't see that's a bad thing. It's a good thing that those services are advertised in jobcentres."
So there we have it: Osborne believes it is “a good thing” that in the 21st century, in the sixth richest economy in the world, the use of food banks has increased! One imagines he will be even happier after 2015 if and when he inflicts a further £6 billion cuts on the already £18 billion-slashed welfare budget, which will no doubt see so many more food banks mushrooming throughout the nation that they will begin to become as ubiquitous as post boxes and recycling banks. Now the Chancellor has finally broken his thinly disguised cover with regards to supporting any “moral” principle behind the welfare reforms: cuts to benefits expenditure are now, from the proverbial horse’s mouth, purely to do with bowl-scraping sufficient funds to “plug a black hole” in the Government’s coffers –in essence, then, when Osborne talks of “getting rid of the deficit”, what he actually means is ‘getting rid of the poor’! Again, the only reasonable diagnosis of this Chancellor’s personality can be one of ‘political psychopathy’.
As centre-left economist Will Hutton expressed on the BBC News this evening, this would mean the biggest and most draconian cut to public expenditure in over a century; more severe than the austerity measures imposed in Spain, Ireland and Iceland, and even more fiscally brutal than the seismic state devastation wreaked across Greece and Cyprus, which has basically paralysed those nations and reduced them to the status of sub-nation states/democratically neutered kleptocracies. For any thinking this writer’s use of the term ‘psychopathic’ to describe the evident mind-state of the Chancellor is a touch hyperbolic, he is left with no other conclusion given the rapacious and unapologetically vicious extremes Osborne is prepared to go to in order to pursue his ultra-Thatcherite ‘ideology’: this ultra-privileged individual displays absolutely no sense of contrition, empathy or compassion for the millions his policies are poised to make chronically destitute, and in that sense, clearly shows the classic hallmarks of a psychopathic personality –in addition to this, by giving the poorest in society absolutely no room for manoeuvre under his swingeing guillotine at the Exchequer, and so effectively ‘socially cleansing’ entire sections of our populace, Osborne is also demonstrably of a fascist mindset, as well as a psychopathic mentality (the two almost always going together of course).
As this writer predicted way back in June 2010 in his polemic to EV, Osborne et al have one primary political aim, the destruction of the welfare state; and this is now within their grasps because their relentless campaign of stigmatisation against the unemployed as uniform “scroungers” –even at a time of high unemployment and economic paralysis– has, with the assistance of the right-wing tabloid press, been efficacious in finally obliterating any vestiges of pro-welfare consensus left in this country (another reason why the common pro-universalism argument made from various political factions from the centre-right all the way through to the Far Left is now obviously void, since maintaining universalism has done absolutely nothing to promote public support for benefits –on the contrary, it has reigned over a period in our political history during which the welfare state has never been more vilified and demonised, and is now so unpopular that the ‘benefits’ it provides are now taboos, effectively dockets to stigmatisation and below subsistence level poverty).
Phase One: Destruction of what remained of the ‘Welfare Consensus’ completed, the Tories can now move on to Phase Two: the Destruction of the Welfare State itself. And, seemingly, much of the public are likely to continue applauding this onslaught on the apparatus from which they themselves may eventually be driven to seek support –but the support will no longer be there, at least, little more than nominally. To coin the old clichéd trope, the British public are currently so many turkeys clapping at the rapid approach of Christmas, with all the trimmings. Make no mistake: Osborne’s announcement on Thursday signals the very final death-knell of the welfare state, the public sector and all the vital services and safety nets both singularly provide for all of us, particularly at times of direst need. In short, a Tory victory in 2015 will not only mark the likely extinction of any last aspects of social democracy in this country, but also quite possibly the end even of a less-than-satisfactory or equitable ‘liberal’ democracy. What we will end up with in ‘Toryland’ is pure plutocracy, disgracefully enabled and facilitated by decaying ‘democratic’ framework presently entering its death throes; we will find ourselves living, effectively, in capitalist apartheid wherein the poorest and most vulnerable will have no significant state-provided support and will be left to destitution, and, in many cases, to simply die out.
The question for all of us on the left of the electorate, as conscientious objectors, or rather, projectors, at this time, is to consider how exactly such an unthinkable and unacceptable future for this nation can be averted, through democratic means, before it is too late. This is the quandary that we all have to wrestle with for the next two years and whether or not we return to Labour, our only viable parliamentary option to the Con-Dems, is very much dependent on Labour itself: Left or Right, Mr Miliband, that is the question, and its answer will determine, either way, not only the election result in 2015, but also quite possibly the future of the Labour Party itself. If we had secured AV, then The Recusant would be in no doubt at all that all those on the left should switch their votes to the Green Party.
In principle, The Recusant still believes the Greens are the only parliamentary option for the Left at this juncture, whilst also recognising it would take a truly enormous sea-change in voters to ensure that they would be able to gain any more actual MPs in two years’ time. So, logically, in terms of simply preventing a further five years of Tory-led tyranny, one is minded still to hedge one’s bets on a possible last ditch vote for Labour in 2015, out of sheer desperation to rid our society of the most cruel right-wing government in living memory. But, for this writer at least, the option of voting for a party which believes in being pretty much as “tough” on the unemployed as the Tories, except with a couple of miniscule pinches more of empathy and compassion, would be against his personal conscience, and so, in that, Labour’s ‘One Point Two Nation’ is not an option at all.
For The Recusant to support Labour in the future, the party would need to both withdraw and apologise for its spineless capitulation to some of the most heinous aspects of IDS’s ‘war on welfare’; it would need to pledge a reintroduction of private rent controls, a repealing of the anti-squatting legislation, a repealing of the NHS ‘reforms’ in their entirety and repealing of the bedroom tax and housing benefit caps; it would need to abolish both the Work Programme and the Atos-facilitated WCA regimen against the disabled; it would also need to significantly adjust its proposed ‘jobs guarantee’ scheme so that no one would be forced or coerced into an inappropriate and insecure occupation on pain of losing benefits; and would need to promise both a Mansion Tax and Robin Hood Tax. A tall order for the tail-curling Milibandians and Blairites no doubt, but there it is: The Recusant’s ‘To Do List’ for the Labour Party. The ball is now in its court –and let’s all hope it doesn’t hit the net.
13 July 2013