Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Layer 298 . . . Monbiot, Parasites, Paralysing Fear, Mass Democracy, Brown, and Momentous Times Ahead

I was looking for some images of parasites to use here, but on Google they're too disgusting to even consider. So let's settle for these instead:

George Monbiot's column this week was enjoyably hard-hitting:

New Labour is a parasite. A vote for them is born of fear, not hope

Voting with fear has let this movement for social justice abandon everything it stood for. On Thursday we must heed our hopes
Cling on to nurse for fear of something worse. Though she has become crabbed and vicious, though she has usurped our parents, swiped our inheritance, binned our toys and sold the nursery, we must cower behind her skirts for fear of the beasts that prowl beyond. This, in essence, is what Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Seumas Milne and Nick Cohen  are now telling us to do.

By instructing us, over the years, to heed fears, not hopes, such voices have allowed Labour to abandon everything it once stood for, and hand us, trussed and oven-ready, to big business and the Daily Mail. We'll be trapped like this for ever, in New Labour's Bermuda triangulation, unless we vote for what we believe in rather than just against what we don't.

This paralysing fear has licensed four tragic developments. It has allowed a parliamentary consensus to form that is well to the right of public feeling, alienating voters. It has created space for ideas – such as the creeping privatisation of almost everything – which were unacceptable to previous generations. It has allowed the Conservatives to appeal to moderate swing voters: if there is so little that divides the two parties, such voters figure, can the Tories really be so bad? And it has permitted a once progressive party to form the most rightwing government this country has suffered since 1945.

Let us begin where my colleagues claim the party's record is strongest: poverty and inequality. During the first seven years of the Labour government there was real progress on poverty. But from 2004 onwards the trend went into reverse. In the three years to 2007-08 the number of people in households living on less than 60% of median income rose by 1.3 million – producing a total better than in 1997, but worse than in 1989. This was before the recession hit, so God knows what the next set of figures will show.

The number of people in extreme poverty (living on less than 40% of median income) never substantially fell: it held steady through the first eight years of Labour government, then rose. There are now 700,000 more people in this condition than when Labour took office, and more than at any point since records began. The average real incomes of the poorest tenth declined by 2% in the 10 years to 2007-08. These figures, again, predate the recession.

The rich, on the other hand, have seldom done better. Of the extra income enjoyed by British households over the Labour years, 40% has accrued to the richest 10% (all references are on my website). The richest 1%, according to Injustice, Danny Dorling's new book, have captured a higher share of national income than at any time since the early 1930s. Inequality in the United Kingdom is now higher than at any point since consistent records began, in 1979. I feel that needs repeating. After 13 years of Labour government, the UK has higher levels of inequality than after 18 years of Tory government.

The old workers' party has switched allegiance to the bosses, handing key positions to corporate executives and private equity tycoons, even appointing Digby Jones, the neanderthal former head of the CBI, a minister of the crown.

Having promised to scrap it when in opposition, it has extended the private finance initiative into sectors the Tories didn't dare to touch. Labour left sweeteners in PFI contracts for corporations to find, rigged the figures to make it look as if the scheme delivered value for money, then had to bail out the private operators when it began to collapse.

While Labour has liberated billionaires, it has trussed up the rest of us with 3,500 new criminal offences, including provisions that allow the police to declare any demonstration illegal . . . It has colluded in kidnapping and torture. Britain now has more CCTV cameras than any other nation, and a DNA database that is five times the size of its nearest competitor. The number of prisoners in the UK has risen by 41% since Labour took office.

This government blocked a ceasefire in the Lebanon; sacked Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan after he complained that the regime was boiling its prisoners to death; gave aid to a Colombian military that collaborates with fascist death squads; announced a policy of pre-emptive nuclear war; and decided to waste our money on replacing Trident. But worse, far worse than any of this, it launched an illegal war in which hundreds of thousands have died. This is the government that colleagues of mine on the Guardian want to save.

This is New Labour. It has colonised a movement that fought for social justice, distribution and decency, rewired its brain and delivered it to the fat cats who were once its enemies.

I understand the hazards of voting for the smaller parties and allowing the right-hand glove puppet to replace the left-hand glove puppet. I know that the Tories are even worse than this government. But by voting for the candidates on the list compiled by the democracy campaign Hang 'em – not all of whom are Liberal Democrats, but all of whom are reformers with a good chance of taking or keeping seats – we can break this rotten system while remaining true to our beliefs.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the real fight begins after 6 May, as we build a mass democracy movement that ensures that we can never be colonised by a parasitic political class – of any colour – again. It starts with a rally in Parliament Square at 2pm on Saturday. During and after this election, we must demand something better, rather than fleeing from something worse.


Nice to see you!

Ever since the 'just a bigoted woman' incident took place Gordon Brown seems to have given up on chatting with 'the people' (quelle surprise) and has reverted to the traditional big speeches to mobs of people in town centres kind of approach. Surprisingly, he suddenly seems animated and passionate about some genuine beliefs, and he's managing to attack his opponents to some good effect. But is it too late? The latest poll puts Labour up to 30%, and the Lib Dems down to 26% - a reversal of the position a week ago. Possibly a good thing for a hung parliament since it would give Labour the biggest number of seats of the three main parties, and thus make it more difficult for Clegg to go with Cameron & co in any circumstance, even if the Tories were to offer a referendum on PR, which they won't, and which Brown has already pledged to do.

Yesterday Brown had a column in the Guardian, saying some sensible things, to which one can only say - yes, but why the fuck didn't you do this stuff 13 wasted years ago?

Don't kid yourself, Nick. No Lib Dem I know sees any Tory progressive bond

I passionately believe that in the momentous times that lie ahead, Britain needs a new model for running our economy and a new way of doing politics.

True. Why haven't you done it already?

A progressive agenda for economic and political reform under Labour.

Good. Why haven't you done it already?

The economic crisis has taught us that we need a global constitution for our financial system, with a global system of financial sector taxation to underpin it.

I think we knew this a long time ago. But why didn't you even show any interest in starting this off in Britain when many of us were demanding it? You haven't even been making the argument in favour of it till now.

These reforms will help bring about a new era of social mobility which will strengthen and extend Britain's middle class.

Bastard. What about strengthening and improving the lot of the working classes? This is pathetic language, coming from a self-proclaimed middle class man who's presided over 13 years of declining 'social mobility' and increasing inequality.

I want to seize this moment to place progressive ideals at the heart of a new constitutional and political settlement.

Bastard. The right moment to seize it was when you came to power with a landslide, not when you're about to be booted out. Three wasted landslides, and only now he talks about a new constitutional and political settlement.

I know in my bones that Labour is the only party with a passion to eradicate poverty.

And I know in my bones, and in my grey matter, that not only has New Labour not diminished poverty significantly, or increased the real incomes of the majority of our people, or reduced inequality, it's never even shown the slightest 'passion' in any of its actions to actually do something truly significant.

We will stand by our obligations to the elderly by delivering a national care service, allowing more people to live in dignity in their homes.

Why haven't you done it already?

A vote for Labour is a vote for electoral reform, an elected House of Lords, fixed term parliaments and a right to recall your local MP.

Why hasn't New Labour done these things already!!!!!!!!


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