Monday, 9 December 2013

Gideon - a revolutionary in the closet?

As the Coalition stutters to its end, its pursuit of a balanced budget seems likely to deliver economic stagnation and social upheaval well beyond the days when Cameron, Osborne, Gove and their amoral cronies retire to count their money.  Quite apart from hoping that Iain Duncan-Smith is not allowed anywhere near a brewery given his inability to organise the proverbial, the Pre-Budget Report last week demonstrated the vacuity and half-witted foolishness of current policies.

About the only defence that can be mounted is that the Coalition is merely carrying out the bastardised neo-con dirty work that Blair, Brown and the bankers began.  Yet over the life of the government living standards will fall, there are more working people in poverty than those who would previously have been regarded as the indigent poor, there is a property bubble which Gideon is praying is not pricked before 2015, and economic growth appears to be confined to the Tory heartlands.  Investment is talked about, but is always tomorrow - and there is a generational conflict being stoked that will be unpleasant for all involved.

The Tory spin machine has been highly effective in deflecting the blame.  When the initial furore over student tuition fees was handed over to the Liberal Democrats to take the hit for, this was a wonderful sideswipe.  Nobody questioned the morality and practicality of a system that saddles people with £50,000 of debt before entering the workplace, while at the same time extending the numbers in higher education so that it is almost axiomatic that a large number of graduates will never find work suitably remunerated to even make a dent in that burden.  No-one is allowed to ask whether the target of numbers in higher education is more relevant than quality, nor whether this is effective in improving competitiveness, the quality of life and the general welfare of society.  Nobody was permitted to ask whether tuition fees and loans could be re-thought if the function and purpose of higher education was addressed.  Instead, it creates resentment, debt and expectation.

Now Gideon has indicated that quite apart from the debt burden, current new entrants to the workplace will have to work until they are 70.  With property costs high everywhere, and at a level of lunatic obscenity in London and the South East, this is in effect creating an entire underclass caused by nothing other than age and being victims of a failed economic experiment.  It is difficult to feel anything but sympathy - but the Tory narrative is that anyone not in this predicament (middle-aged, or public sector workers) should be levelled down rather than used as a model to rectify social injustice.

A frequent observation is that the Tories are Marxists, with a very determinist view of society that requires the plebs to be kept in their place through social control.  This may be Gideon's problem, in that he forgets that in creating expectations he sows the seeds of social resentment and ultimately rebellion.  Exacerbating economic and generational inequality is at the heart of the neo-con agenda, which is why the banking and financial services sector has survived in a wealthy, smug capsule while the rest of the country picks up the tab for their excess.  Everyone else is the non-deserving poor - but if a state-banked RBS can afford £500m for bonuses it is clear that the reward for being a Tory stooge is to be allowed to repeat one's own follies ad infinitum.

There is an alternative, which requires rebuilding social cohesion.  Resentment at paying taxes is natural, and exacerbated when the quality of service provided is so clearly inadequate.  The Tory press attempts to portray this as a consequence of feckless, fecund immigrants, with a leavening of Europe and the threat of the left.  Yet the lack of investment and proper planning for infrastructure is a much more widespread cause of the crumbling social fabric.  The Tories are scared that destroying the South-East bubble will annihilate their support - while trying to scupper national infrastructure projects such as HS2 because anything that is public and visionary is antipathetic to a rapacious, selfish localism.  This hypocrisy requires a coherent programme of targeted taxation, public service reform and capital projects which will increase national wealth - and hence the ability to repay debt.

Delivering a radical capitalism may take time - as anyone who dares complain that the status quo is doing nothing to promote long-term capital stability is seen as a deviant neo-Keynesian freak.  Yet there is nothing that stops responsible private enterprise working to promote social cohesion, growth and infrastructure - rather than the current cry that such things are a burden that can no longer be tolerated in the pursuit of some mythical entrepreneurial godhead.  A space exists for this to be promoted, and it will probably be necessary unless the revolution is to turn violent.

Osborne has presided over a further skewing and damaging of the economic base.  However important sound finance is, he has gone about it the wrong way.  In creating a new underclass, disempowered economically and disenfranchised politically, he is building the fabric of a revolutionary cauldron.  For any 1980s Trotskyite, he should be cheered as the antithesis to their numbskull thesis.  For those of us who can spell "dialectic" the priority must be for a constructive synthesis to emerge.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Inundations, Mandela and the media

Pity poor Gideon.  His unspectacular Autumn Statement, where things are now recovering slightly from a depth of which he is the prime architect, was bumped from the media's agenda firstly by storms and floods, and then by the death of one of the most significant historical figures of the latter half of the 20th century.  Nelson Mandela's passing is significant, and the media has had plenty of advance notice to fill it with prepared tributes - notably ignoring that many of today's Tory scions were in the Federation of Conservative Students in the 1980s, where a combination of racism and bigotry encouraged the much-documented singing of calls to hang him.

Nothing can be added to the obituaries.  However, it did demonstrate that the contemporary obsession with blanket news coverage distorts and trivialises issues.  If someone dies, it is axiomatic that, unless foul play is suspected, they will remain dead for the foreseeable future and the causes of their death will not change the newsworthiness.  So from a "news" angle it is not really enough to explore all angles and every slavering pursuer of a soundbite - especially when elsewhere there are immediate threats to life, limb and economy.

The moment that Mandela's death was announced, the worst storms to hit the North Sea since 1953 were relegated to local and "by the way" coverage.  Communities along the coasts of the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands the Germany faced disruption, damage and lives lost - but it wasn't a metropolitan event.  After the tragedy in Glasgow last weekend, another round of arbitrary fate should have been high on the agenda - as well as demonstrating both the prudence and the success of mitigating measures put in place over the last six decades.

The 1953 storm occurred overnight, without modern communications and alert mechanisms - and was a catastrophe rather than a disaster.  The 2013 version occurred in the evening, with the advantage of better meteorological knowledge and more means of warning people of the imminence of threats.  Spectacular it may have been, but it should have been celebrated as how the communal interest is served by collective action - and as a demonstration that the atomisation of society would not have resulted in the degree of protection that has been demonstrated around Europe.

This will all get lost in the backwash, as new stories supplant those already-relegated - leaving people to pick up the pieces of their lives.  There is no sadder reflection of obsession with death and disaster that the positive elements and the recovery process is neither heralded nor followed up.  While Nelson Mandela's death is a reminder of how time passes, the world goes on turning.  A narrative of acceptable mourning was not required - because unlike Thatcher his legacy is not divisive - and the condescension and manipulation that the media has perpetrated is not a worthy tribute.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Julian Smith MP - claims of treachery come well from a charlatan

It was clear that the appearance of Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, before a Commons Select Committee, would bring out the inner idiots of the Tory party and their clients in the right-wing press.   Mark Reckless and Michael Ellis, two of the backbench chinless fodder that support the theory that  Dave's party will end up as a scummy irrelevance, distinguished themselves by a concerted display of jug-headed poltroonery in which their alleged scrutiny was designed to play to a gallery of Murdoch and the tax-dodging propagandists Barclay and Rothermere rather than as representatives of the British public.

As an aside, Julian Huppert was extremely effective in reminding us why Liberals should always be supportive of a free press, even when its behaviour is uncomfortable or wayward.

Julian Smith is a nonentity backbencher, representing a safe rural seat in Yorkshire.  He has been particularly keen to besmirch the Guardian - using claims of treachery.  This is a contemptible approach as all it achieves is to create a McCarthyite atmosphere and distract attention from the issues that have been raised throughout the disclosure of UK and US collusion in intelligence-gathering and the lack of any meaningful controls on behalf of either the state or the citizen.  So unsurprising from a Tory stooge incapable of rising up Davy's payroll ladder - but one who probably has half an eye on the UKIP threat to what is otherwise a sinecure for toady mediocrities.

So to call Rusbridger a traitor, after a Select Committee appearance which made it quite clear that he has been as responsible as it is possible to be when in possession of material whose enormity threatens the legitimacy of the state, is the act of a coward and a fool on losing ground.  If Rusbridger had published, unredacted and unconsulted, the full range of material that has been leaked, that might have been both unwise and compromising to national security.  Instead it appears that he has been scrupulous in not undermining individuals as well as informing authorities of his intention to publish specific items.

Smith, Reckless and Ellis, who sound like a cross between estate agents and loan sharks, would do well to reflect on their idiotic posturing.  They are keen enough to promote the USA when it suits them - particularly in terms of justifying the rape of society and the promotion of inequality - but the rights and range of a free press appears to elude them.  No country other than the UK would be having the debate or using the right-wing press to slur the integrity of others - it is beyond parody that basic rights do not exist here and are actively resisted by the very people who claim to represent the people's interest.

However, these charlatans are part of the authoritarian conspiracy that Blair and Straw did little to roll back.  Taking the security services as the fount of wisdom is a woefully stupid misjudgement - their competence is enhanced when they operate legitimately and within the control of the citizenry.  But one expects nothing less.

Were I living in Skipton and Ripon I might even be thinking of voting UKIP - then Julian "Playground" Smith might have to wake up to the realities of a complex world, deprived of a status that allows him to sink to the gutter and be provided with publicity as part of the deal.  The term "tool" doesn't go far enough.