No time to lose, if ConDems are to be stopped

Why am I not surprised that Labour now has no lead over the Conservatives?  In ordinary times the left might expect considerable advantage at a point where the ConDem coalition is patently under strain, ill-considered changes to the NHS are headlines on a daily basis, and joblessness continues to rise, alarmingly, along with inflation.  But public indifference is evident, and few people have caught on that the Conservative’s agenda is actually degovernance – effectively the destruction as rapidly as possible of most aspects of the state.

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Penal reform and much else: Be careful what you wish for, Ed.

Yesterday’s post here was prescient.  The Observer front page lead today is ‘We’re losing our claim to be tough on crime – top Tories’ (which translates online to Conservatives risking reputation on law and order, say ministers).

Already my fears that change is in the air are coming true, in a way which calls for very careful thought.

The Labour attack on Ken Clarke for his prolonged crass insensitivity and ghastly mis-speaking (i.e. grimly inappropriate terminology) on the subject of rape is absolutely fair.  But calling instantly, as Ed Miliband did, for Clarke’s sacking is yet more evidence that the Labour top brass has but a feeble grip on either leadership or reality.

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Eton and equality don’t mix. Please note, Blue Labour.

So here’s today’s Guardian, in a piece with the depressingly predictable news that some 31 of the 1,008 new entrants to this year’s Who’s Who attended Eton:

The coalition government is dominated by former public school pupils. Within days of the appointment of the cabinet in May 2010, it was revealed that 16 senior ministers attended public schools. The findings also show the resurgence of the UK’s elite universities and members’ clubs, revealing a glacially slow pace of change.

Why do I find this all so predictable?  What does it mean for the Left?

There’s a culture change in the air about the way powerful people are behaving – the current unconcern of individual ‘top’ ConDems when they are caught out by the media, the brushing aside of pleas that basic services need to be maintained, the rudeness of the ruling class to others.

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Why Andrew Rawnsley may have missed the point

The word on the political street is increasingly that Labour must step up both pace and impact, to stand any chance of winning the next election – whenever that might be.  The task, it is agreed, is both big and urgent.

So how is this challenge to be achieved?  Obviously, it depends quite largely on the resolve, conviction and dynamism of the party leader.  Perhaps however we have misread the current likelihood of driving forward on at least the last of these three elements of leadership: Only rarely, as with the Tories’ present determination to secure very rapidly their scorched earth policies and degovernance, has it been so important for the political left to deliver driven resistance, and fast.

Our first task then is to ensure that basic assumptions about who is doing what are right; but I am not sure this has happened.

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LibDem MPs must cross the floor to Labour, now

Ed Miliband finally concurs with me, that LibDem MPs of integrity must cross the floor to Labour.

In today’s Observer he says it is “late, but not too late” for any LibDems of good faith to join him on the Labour benches, the better to resist the grim march of Tory slash and burn degovernance and public service destruction.

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AV goes; so will Labour now get going?

What will the outcome of the FPTP / AV campaigns tell us? Our main lesson, if we look past the bluster, may be about leadership in a world changing as it never has before, by the day and hour.

Tomorrow the UK polls open and, when they close, it looks pretty certain that the AV debate will for now close too. The campaign to replace First Past The Post (FPTP) with the Alternative Vote (AV) is, the pre-election opinion polls tell us, dead.

Some with win and some will wince; my guess is that instant ‘victory’ either way will in the longer term prove ephemeral. But, with the global population reaching 7 billion this very year, there are other political issues of genuinely massive import for us all.

More critical than for the future than FPTP or AV may prove to be the lessons we can learn from this debate about what party politics can and can’t do.

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No to AV – but maybe Weighted Votes are a better way

This is tricky, because I consider myself quite progressive and open-minded; but as I’ve already mentioned, NO to the proposed Alternative Vote (AV) I’m afraid it is, for me.

But I do realise that in opposing something, I should also offer something better, so here it is – and it’s not First Past The Post (FPTP).

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A ‘No’ AV outcome could convert LibDem MPs to Labour

In the end, and very reluctantly, I’ve gone for ‘No’ on the Alternative Vote. 

I truly wanted to be progressive, and it’s really tempting to hit the Tories where it hurts. But over the past few weeks I’ve realised that ‘Yes’ is a tokenistic sop likely to produce even more of the second-best, as it seems so often to do both in other countries and in UK party political leadership elections across the board.  Not much positive progress anywhere there.

So, No it is for me with the present proposals, much as I wish it might be different.

But, though I tried resolutely not to consider this whilst deciding how to vote on the Alternative Vote, the real hazards I guess lie in the weeks that follow the vote, rather than in the vote itself.

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Roll on 5 May, Councillor Bradley?

Spring.  The days get longer, and my personal livid gets stronger.  Not a healthy state for anyone, but with a fair wind perhaps we shall see a degree of amelioration on 5 May (UK local and devolved government election day).

In the interim, how else but with fury can one view the hypocrisies, probable though still culpable self-deceptions, and astonishing (even for them) incompetence of the people currently ‘in charge’ of UK plc?  I’m not, given many years in politics, someone often who asks that sort of question, but on occasion it becomes compelling.

Here we have a government where the future training allowance in children’s care homes has just been announced as 69 pence – yes, pence – per annum; in which feminists are asked to accept the blame for stagnant social mobility and working men’s joblessness; where the value of early, positive health and education services are not acknowledged (they must surely be understood?); and whose leading figures cling resolutely to pre-Keynesian concrete small shop keeper fiscal policies.

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Zeroing the deficit zoom, zoom: essentially a grim vanity project?

Is the frenetic rush to reduce the deficit in reality more about the Chancellor’s ego, than about the UK economy?

It doesn’t take a great economist to see that when people don’t have a job, other working people are also vulnerable to unemployment. 

No wages equals no buying power.  No buying power equals less demand. Less demand means even fewer jobs…  and fewer jobs mean more misery.  Which is exactly what’s happening in the UK right now.

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Going for broke(n society)

Others have already proffered more complex analysis of the Osborne Budget that I can.  Few however can be more angry than I about what it will mean for large numbers of our fellow citizens.  You may be equally as appalled as me, but you probably couldn’t be even more furious still.

Today’s Guardian brings it all home in a way which really hurts: case studies of support swept away from many for whom a few pounds here and there can really be a life-saver – people with disabilities, tiny children, struggling parents, unemployed teenagers.  As Amelia Gentleman says in her report:

Most [of the cut programmes] are unglamorous, obscure, unfeted projects, staffed by employees who are not very well paid, but hugely committed to what they do.

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What part of ‘ConDemistas: incompetent’ don’t we understand?

If there was ever any sheen to the Coalition’s domestic ‘policy’, that is now well and truly gone.

Whether health, educational or even generic issues such as their self-styled Big Society, it’s pretty clear that ConDem ministers have made little effort to marry their right wing beliefs with modern day life.

And now the Guardian‘s secret civil servant, in a swan song for his regular diary, tells us the same:

The civil service badly needs reform but what is happening feels more like slow poisoning than a jolt in the arm. If ministers want a Rolls-Royce machine they will need to work to make it happen, not just insult the servants.

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Leading Labour, perhaps laboriously

Was Ed Miliband the best choice for Labour Leader? Whilst it’s critical to focus without fail on the enormous damage currently being inflicted by the ConDem Coalition, we still cannot ignore entirely the question of how well HM Opposition is performing.

When the election for Labour Leader was in full swing I became concerned that perhaps Ed Miliband was posturing and did not expect to win; he just wanted to show he was as important as his big brother David….  a classic case, one might even suppose, of second sibling ‘me too’.

Sadly, despite serious attempts to keep an open mind since the success-by-a-scrape of Ed in the contest, that sneaking doubt has grown in my own view to be a near certainty. I don’t think Ed expected, at least until very late on in the contest, to win.  And it shows.

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A century so far: will the need for International Women’s Day ever be past?

Today is the one hundredth International Women’s Day

Whilst I can’t speak for the first half of the past century, I recall fairly clearly most of the second half.

And strangely – given that my early years were of necessity geographically and socially constrained, and (in the parlance of the era) very much respectable lower middle class – I have been conscious of gender issues almost from the start of that time.  What, I remember wondering as a small girl in the early 1950s, did it actually, physically feel like to be a boy?  Was ‘being comfortable in your skin’ different for lads than for little ladies?

Unsurprisingly, these musings became more complex and even more unfathomable as my teenage friends and I attempted to unravel and reconstruct the universe, whilst concurrently Mary Quant and her cohort achieved that same end rather more convincingly.  By the later 1960s skirts were short, feminism had a name, and full ‘rights’ for women were reckoned to be simply a matter of time… 

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Whoever heard of double devolution? ‘Big Society’ sounds better (but isn’t)

You may remember ‘double devolution’; but if you do it’s probably because you are a politically progressive activist. 

Double devolution was the name given when Labour was in power by then Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, and her ministerial colleague Andrew Adonis, to the idea of digging deep into local communities to ensure their participation in decisions which concerned them.  It’s an admirable and timely concept which largely crosses party political borders.

Now of course the preferred term is ‘Big Society‘.

But with the ConDem’s ‘massacre without mandate‘ and de-governance moving apace, the de facto meaning has changed.

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