Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Layer 304 . . . Political Dinosaurs, Progressive Alliances, Legitimate Governments, Ashdown, Gary Younge, and The Markets

Two of New Labour's biggest dinosaurs - David Blunkett and John Reid - have come out and said the Lib Dems and the Tories should now get on with forming a government. This is at the very moment that a progressive anti-Tory alliance is beginning to gel - an alliance that's vital for keeping out what will be without doubt a very brutal right-wing plan to create a voting system, through constituency boundary changes, that will permanently entrench right-wing power in this country, which the Alternative Vote system will do very little to change, even if it were adopted, which is by no means certain.

Maybe the Reid/Blunkett logic is that a Tory/LibDem government would, by doing its planned fiancial slashing and burning, make itself so unpopular within a short space of time that a refreshed and made-over Labour party would easily win the next election.

What these old Stalinists don't get is that it's the poor fucking infantry that will become the victims of their grand strategy. What's more, these guys are so undemocratic that they'll never agree that proper proportional representation is required to make any voting system legitimate, any more than Stalin would have agreed.

Or do they just want a minority Tory government which can be held in check by the combined forces of the opposition in Parliament? I can see what fun that might be, but again, this is fucking with the lives of real people, who will always be the ones to lose out under any Tory government, no matter how constrained it might be.

I don't know much about Reid, and I don't want to either, but Blunkett for sure is too stupid to realise there's a moral imperative for a parliament consisting of parties which are largely on the left on the political spectrum to work together in order to run the country in a progressive direction that is for the wellbeing of the majority of people and not just the few. The key factor, I say again, is ensuring a fair voting system that will no longer allow the kind of disgraceful and unfair apportioning of votes we've again witnessed. Blunkett can never understand this, given the kind of top-down neanderthal he obviously is. I'm dying to know how many of his constituents agree with his views.

George Osborne's already been on the radio, quoting David Blunkett favourably. What a surprise. Maybe Blunkett could change sides or just agree to join the Tory coalition.


In contrast, Paddy Ashdown spoke very well on the Today programme just now. He immediately slapped down the stupid notion that we 'can't have' an 'unelected prime minister', which is an idea I'm very tired of hearing - how many times do we have to say that we don't fucking elect a prime minister under our system?

Paddy pointed out that a Lab/LibDem minority government would not in fact be voted down by nationalists voting with Tories. It would have legitimacy in that the majority of voters support it - just over 50% in fact, which is something that governments have not had for the past 50 years or more. There's a technical majority in Parliament against it in terms of seats and votes, but there are no possible circumstances in which the progressive and socialist-leaning fringe parties would support the Tories, assuming the Tories don't come up with some socialist proposals.

Very well said, Paddy. I'd MUCH rather have him as a prime minister than someone on the Balls/Milibands axis. I now cringe every time I'm forced to listen to the sound of their voices, and that's before I've even taken in what they're actually saying. Whereas Paddy actually speaks like a real person. I do hope Clegg's listening to him. I'd love to see Ashdown installed as a minister too. Since the last government included various 'lords' such as the vile Adonis and the even viler Mandelson, then the future Lab/LibDem government must surely include Ashdown. Foreign minister anyone? I'm off to place a bet.

Ashdown is the perfect antidote to scumbags like Adonis, Mandelson, Blears, Balls and Blunkett. Maybe he should be PM. Now that's what I call an unelected prime minister.


I'm so glad Gary Younge is back in the country, being a part of what's happening, and commenting on what's going on with his usual sharp analysis. This is part of what he said yesterday:

The people have spoken. Don't let the markets shout them down

The clash of democracy and capitalism is as acute as ever as a discredited financial sector seeks to dictate political terms


Last Thursday in Sheffield Hallam students who did not have a chance to vote tried to block the path of election officials taking away ballot boxes. In Hackney police broke up a sit-in of voters who were in a similar situation. In several other cities across the country police were called to stem or prevent unrest as disgruntled and disenfranchised voters were turned away by incompetent officials. In Sheffield roughly 100 staged a demonstration outside Nick Clegg's house and tried to post their ballots through his letter box.

The spontaneous militancy, presumably by voters from across the electoral spectrum, to defend the right to vote on election day in the UK was heartening.

It was also encouraging to see more than a thousand people demonstrate on Saturday in favour of proportional representation outside the building where the Liberal Democrats were meeting to discuss their next move. When Clegg goes behind closed doors it's important that he has the demands of his base ringing in his ears.

Whomever Clegg decides to go to the ball with, when it comes to the most crucial issue of the moment – the public debt – he and his partner will be dancing to the markets' tune.

True, there was no Bankers party on the ballot papers . . . but maybe there should have been. For ultimately it is they who will decide how swift and savage the impending cuts to public spending shall be, and it is their endorsement – not the electorate's – that the politicians both seek and feel they need. And if they had been on the ballot they would almost certainly have lost.


There is no "new politics" worthy of the name that demonstrates at polling stations and in Westminster for proportional representation and does not then go to the City to demand the democratisation of our financial sector.

Not long ago such a demand would have seemed both radical and unfeasible. But no longer. For the stark evidence of recent years is that even though markets remain omnipotent, they are by no means omniscient and anything but infallible. Far from it. The very governments those markets turned to, to prevent a collapse of the financial system during the credit crisis, must now assert their democratic will as that same system seeks to dictate terms over the coming weeks.

This particular contradiction between democracy and capitalism is not new. But during this period of economic and financial crisis in Europe it has become particularly acute.

Greece burned and other democratically elected governments across the Mediterranean panicked after ratings agencies downgraded their public debt – all the indications that whomever you vote for, the markets get in.

The notion that these ratings agencies are simply passing judgment on the creditworthiness of nations ignores how poor their judgment has proved to be in recent times, and in whose interests those judgments have been made.

These bodies that see public debt as a burning issue today foresaw no problems with the unsustainable private debts of the banks investing in sub-prime holdings a few years ago.

The incentives in the market for rating agency services favoured, and still favour, short-term profits over credit quality."

There's a reason for this. These agencies are primarily funded by the banks that they are supposed to be rating, creating what several former officials testified was a fundamental conflict of interest. In the words of Upton Sinclair, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."

So the very sector we bailed out with public money, run by incompetent people who are once again paying themselves bonuses, is now threatening to destabilise the next government unless it fires thousands of low-paid workers, cuts their wages and withdraws the services to millions of mostly poor people.

It's as though you borrowed money against your home to save a wayward relative from penury only to have them roll up a week later in a brand new Porsche and tell you to cut your food bill or they'll repossess the property.

Given the consensus, the markets didn't really care who won or even if there was a hung parliament. Just so long as there was a government that was prepared to wield the knife. All they wanted was stability and austerity.

There are many ways of tackling the deficit that don't hit the poorest hardest; but those are not the ways the markets are most interested in.

The election results have produced parliamentary permutations that make stability unlikely in the face of the market's dramatic demands for a swift and severe austerity plan.

The people have spoken. We should not now let the markets dictate.


There was a good letter in the Guardian yesterday, from Paul Dunn:

I'm amazed at the cheek of the City, which wants a government installed by today to calm the markets. Perhaps the City could be asked to clean up the graft, insider trading, greed and inappropriate bonus payments by today too?


The Guardian editorial's verdict is:


Any agreement is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The plain fact about this complex and imperfect political situation is that it is nevertheless also a historic opportunity for reform. There is a broad identity of purpose between the Liberal Democrats and Labour that does not exist between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. Their common approach extends far beyond electoral reform, important though that is. The best reason for exploring and, if possible, making a Lib Dem-Labour agreement is that this would be the best way of ensuring fairness in the handling of the immensely hard decisions on the economy and public spending that will face whichever government now takes office. Electoral and political reform would be a huge additional reward. This is moment for setting the future direction of British politics. The Liberal Democrats have to choose with whom they will now stand.

It could be a very interesting day, again.

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