What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the category “Economics”

OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!

Well fiddle-de-dee! There has been a huge amount of bollocks written and talked about Sarah Teather discovering her moral compass. Two thousand pounds every month would indeed be a very generous wage to be unemployed on, unfortunately the truth is somewhat different. The vast majority of the money spent on the unemployed goes directly into the hands of complete bastards. Sorry, lets call a spade a spade. Landlords.

Sarah Teather, a Lib Dem MP, had absolutely nothing to do until 2010. I believe that she spent her days watching “Homes Under The Hammer” or some such property porn, where the middle classes indulge their fantasies of unearned income. As someone who thinks unfettered markets are good, she still thinks that we should all pick up the tab for these latter day Rachmans. I look forward to the government that brings back proper public housing, and rent controls, regardless of what bankers think.

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Mcluskey Balls…

Well, day two of  Labour Conference ( after Labour Womens Conference yesterday), and we have our first official spat, between UNITE union leader Len Mcluskey, and Ed “not THAT Ed” Balls…

To be fair, Mr Mcluskey was supporting a compromise motion, merely “noting” disagreement with Ed Balls’ policy of pay restraint in the public sector, in defence of public sector jobs. In a sense, this is what union leaders are for – defending conditions, pay AND jobs, so it is hardly surprising that “Red Len” made this speech, and in the interests of debate, it was right for him, on behalf of his members, to do so. 

I suspect that Rob Marchant over at The Centre Left blog will disagree, in reasonable language, and then once again propose a divorce between Labour and the unions, in the interest of progress (or is that Progress?). Coupled with his interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Mcluskey has declared war on the right wing of Labour, and in particular the blairite organisation Progress and its supporters. Are they “cuckoos in the nest” of the Labour Party, as he asserts, or are they a legit part of our movement?  My feeling is that Mcluskey has some valid points, but that declaring war will do much more harm than good.

You see, many of those “cuckoos” are exactly the people who stayed with the party through thick and thin. Like Mcluskey, they didn’t leave over Iraq, the elder statesmen of the right fought elections and the SDP splits of the 1980s, they have shown the sort of loyalty to the party that should be commended. Politically, I have huge problems with many of their ideas, certainly with the way that Progress is funded, and its influence at the higher level of internal politics. But critics of Progress need to understand that these people have put in the hours, and taken the knocks that working for a political party year in year out brings.

Mcluskey’s true beefs with the Progress crowd, that they are ultimately against the union link, that they want to carry-on with the failed New Labour policies that ignored the needs of working people, and failed to combat increasing inequality, have a certain ring of truth about them. The tactics that Mcluskey is using however, only play into the hands of our Tory supporting press. And as for saying that your criticism is only of ed Balls, and not Miliband, well, that is not going to hold, is it? To my mind, Balls is probably right on pay restraint in general, although there are strong arguments for protecting and increasing the pay of the low paid…

And what of Ed B’s big speech today, straight after Mcluskey’s criticism? Would he fall into the trap of responding directly? Would we see a return to some level of infighting? Well, Ed is too long in the tooth to fall into that trap at least…

Ed gave us a comprehensive and engaging demolition of Coalition economic policy, and lack thereof. Coupled with the now usual stress on our unity, and, unlike the Liberal Democrats, it seems that Labour politicians actually can make funny one-liners… 

” If David Cameron’s butch, where does that leave George Osborne?”

DEATH & TAXES PART TWO – ITS THIS STUPID ECONOMY, STUPID!!!!

Last Sunday, The Observer newspaper did a service to the people of the world, although in a week when pointless metal-encased flames and uniformly branded sportswear are the biggest news in town, you would look hard in the rest of the British media to find out.

In a series of articles, and in conjunction with the campaign group Tax Justice Network, London’s most venerable liberal(ish) weekly exposed the true state of the world economy. It is not a pretty sight, but at last, we critics of trickle-down free market horseshit have some reasonably accurate figures to throw back at Adam Smith/Cato Institute blowhards. Not to mention third wayers like Progress…

The former Chief Economist at McKinsey, Mr James Henry has just produced the most detailed estimates of the offshore economy – you know, all that moolah stashed away in tax havens from the Caribbean to the Channel Islands, by way of Switzerland and Lichtenstein. This is forensic accounting at its best, echoing the work over the years of Mr “follow the money”, Greg Palast. 

To quote from the front page:

Their wealth’s, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy.”

Helpfully, the report can quantify in numbers both the approximate number of individuals and what the probably keep hidden, although the report is careful not to attempt to put a price on the number of apartments in Chelsea, Canalettos on the wall, or Van Gogh sketches owned by this global elite. The figures are pretty instructive:

  1. The Approximate amount of wealth held “offshore” in tax havens – £13 TRILLION to £20 TRILLION. Thats between $21 and $32 TRILLION.
  2. The approximation number of people hiding money offshore around the globe – ten million. 
  3. Estimated amount owned by just 92,000 of the above ten million – $9.8 TRILLION.

I suppose that we can now put a number on the size of our true global Ruling Class, and, as a result, we know have to radically rethink our idea of the gap between the rich and poor, as both the poor and the very rich are now palpably underrepresented. It also puts the supposed “death of class politics” (TM Mssrs P. Mandelson, W. Clinton, A.L.Blair) into its proper perspective.

Typically, the biggest losers in the period measured, from the 1970’s to 2010, have been Oil and Mineral rich developing nations and the former Soviet bloc. Russia lost $798 Billion since 1990, the Ukraine $167 Billion,  & the Kazakhs $138 Billion. Predictably, Africa has suffered badly, Nigeria bleeding $306 Billion and Ivory Coast $141 Billion respectively. 

But these are notorious Kleptocracies surely? This doesn’t happen in Democracies does it? Err, yup ‘fraud so – Mexico lost $417 Billion, Venezuela $406 Billion, Brazil a whopping $520 Billion. to name but three…

Fans of the Chinese model of free market dictatorship will be ashamed to learn that since the 1980’s, her economy has lost a staggering $1,189 Billion to offshore tax havens. The rest of us are not all that surprised…

To put this in perspective, if the Super Rich paid only 30% tax on their interest, it would amount to more than the rich economies spend in a year on aid – some $189 Billion. (That’s if they only “earned” 3% interest)

The figure of £13 Trillion is a sum that dwarfs the combined economies of the USA and Japan.

Under increased pressure to do at least something, the British Government recently entered into the mother of all sweetheart deals with Switzerland and its Bankers – UK residents are going to be able to make a one-time payment of between 21% and 41% to clear the slate on undeclared assets. This allows tax dodgers to still avoid both the current 50% top tax rate, and the future 45% rate.

One of the most industrious founders of the UK-based tax haven industry was reportedly one Ian Cameron, father of the Right Honourable David Cameron, our Prime Minister.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has repeatedly made statements to the effect that, since 2008, it is time to stop “bashing bankers” and let them get on with it, and his hopes to make the City of London some sort of “haven” for international finance. He also trousers £250,000 per annum for writing a column for Telegraph Newspapers, owned by the Barclay brothers, who are all registered offshore for tax purposes. This amount is somewhat more than his substantial salary for running our Capital City. There is, of course, no suggestion of any linkage here.

VOTE LABOUR TODAY

Today is polling day in local government across the UK.

Here in London, we elect our Mayor and the GLA, & across the country you get a say in how your local services are managed.

Please remember the awful example of Tory-run Suffolk, where the council is trying to destroy jobs, and make the council “virtual”. The former Chief Executive was payed more than the Prime Minister! In fact, you will find that amongst the unelected Chief Executives, those with huge pay-packets tend to be employed by Tory councils.

After a campaign best described as one huge dirty trick, Mr Johnson and Mr Livingstone will have to wait for the votes to be counted.

The choice is clear – vote Boris for ineffective, though amusing government. Cutting Police numbers, stockpiling Plastic Bullets, ignoring inner London, cutting transport projects. Rambling on in a funny way. Denying the importance of investigations into the corrupting influence of Murdoch. Denying growth. Pressing for tax cuts for his friends and masters. Earning £250,000 outside of his actual job – paid ultimately by tax exiles. His utter incompetence in dealing with the RMT – after all, we have had many more tube strikes under Johnson in 4 years than we had under Ken in 8.


Brian Paddick, Jenny Jones and Ms Benita cannot win, but they have all raised serious points along the way. Johnson will ignore everything they have said once in City Hall, and carry on with Coleman, Malthouse et al.

For Lib Dem, Green and independent voters, the second choice is clear – it must be Ken Livingstone.

– A vote for Ken Livingstone is a vote for fair fares on London Transport, investment in infrastructure, creating jobs. It is a vote for a City Hall that will strive to unite Londoners, not divide them. It is a vote for substance over style. Restoring the EMA Londonwide, a lifelong dedication to London, a proven track record spanning over thirty years.

Of course, the national issues matter – Economic mismanagement, making us pay for the Bankers’ mistakes, pasty taxes, the amazing inability to read a calendar. Cutting too far, too fast, leading us back into recession. Gutting the armed forces, trussing up the NHS to sell off to their mates. Student Fees.Oh, and should I mention Murdoch???

Today you get a voice. Today, just for once, shout “ENOUGH!!!” And vote Labour.

 

MESSAGE TO GIDEON – ITS YOUR ECONOMICS, STUPID!

So today Britain is officially back in recession. This is no time for shallow politicking, people have no confidence that things will get better any time soon, and millions of us are frantically chasing work. Somehow we manage to have the Olympics, a housing crisis, a major infrastructure deficit and STILL the construction sector leads the way for economic downturn.

It is time for Gideon and Dave to admit what many of us have known for some time, that Plan A is not working, that the cuts have been too far and too fast, whilst tax reductions for the super rich were simply not appropriate at this time. This Coalition is making the ordinary people of the UK pay for an economic crisis caused by unregulated finance and thirty three years of monetarist dogma. The very rich men who agreed to come together in May 2010 to restore the nation’s finances have now proved not to be the economic geniuses that they claimed to be. They pretty much look like a bunch of shysters on the make.

In Scotland, News Internationals First Minister plays fast and loose with the essential economic truth, namely that Scotland’s economy is too tied to that of Wales and England to have any chance of independent recovery. His fictional “Arc of prosperity” disappeared when Iceland and Ireland went bust, yet he is content to take the odd pot shot at the rest of us, whilst the public works north of the border are still largely funded from Whitehall. For all his bumptiousness, at least it gives us a ready made argument against the Growth Deniers – publicly funded projects can save jobs and keep mopey flowing into an economy, austerity has now been proved to do the opposite.

By contrast Ed M and Ed B (or Wallace and Gromit) are looking more credible each day. At PMQs today Ed pretty much wiped the floor with Cameron, and Balls has been slowly destroying Whyborns economic credibility for months now. It seems that Gordon Brown was right back in 2010 – it really wasn’t time for a bunch of novices.

 

Zombie Economics.

Back in 1980, when George Bush Snr. was competing with Ronnie Reagan for the Republican nomination, he decried dear Ronalds free market mantra as “Voodoo Economics”. Oops, as thats what we have endured, by-and-large since then, with increasing amounts of deregulation until the system crashed in 2009.

Having crashed and burned, you would think that any Government that had to get out of such a mess would think twice before repeating the old Small State Monetarist dogma...

How wrong could you possibly be? With few exceptions, under EU and IMF pressure, what we are seeing in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and in the UK is a dull, unthinking march into the future. The Chicago School hordes are ravenous for the flesh of the State, and have only one thing on their minds…

“Deficit…Deficit” they groan as they shuffle onwards, no other thought in those otherwise lifeless brainpans.

There is still hope though, and it comes in the form of the economic figures coming out of the USA, where, schooled in Zombie Movies since 1968, an Heroic Black Man is courageously, and intelligently keeping the undead  Tea Party mob at bay…

…just like Night of The Living Dead, when you think about it…

Consider this: In every country where Austerity measures have been implemented, economic conditions have got worse- economies have shrunk, wages have fallen, the cost of living has gone up, jobs have been lost and inequality is on the rise. In Ireland, emmigration, is massively on the rise – something that the “Celtic Tiger” thought was a thing of their underdeveloped past.  The only people to gain from Austerity in every case have been the Super-rich.

So, are we doing all this for the benefit of Lichtenstein?

In the United States, growth is up, unemployment is falling, and the economy is moving in the right direction.

In Austerity Britain, where the economy needs to grow by more than 3% every year until at least 2015 for Gideons plans to work, the OECD has predicted a sluggish rate of 1.5% this year, and 2% in 2012. Even I can see a problem here, one that will be made much worse by having to fork out huge amounts of unemployment benefit, and consequently take much less in tax revenues.

ED,WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????

Much toss is being written and spoken about Maurice Glassman’s  “Blue Labour” witterings, and he seems to have Ed’s ear at the moment…

Clem is all for a bit of Labour nostalgia – how could I not be? Just look at the site name. But Glassman has made some pretty fundamental errors in his analisys of pre-1945 Labour, and has also made a very stupid error in political judgement…

Last year, it was all about the “Red Tory”- Philip Blond’s supposed re-jigging of One-Nation Toryism. I see very little of this in evidence as The Coalition rips the heart from the NHS, attacks minorities and pursues its Monetarist economic agenda with uncommon zeal.

Glassmans response – under the title “Blue Labour” looks for all the world like nothing so much as a pale imitation of failed Policy-Wonkage on the right – never a good move. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to “The Project” launched in the early nineties by Mandleson, Blair and Brown, now thankfully over, or so we thought…

In truth, the “statism” that Glassman attributes to the 1945 Labour Government was far more complex and subtle than he portrays. And the “golden age” he finds before this date includes most of the major figures of Labours greatest Government. To whit:

” Given the choice between Liberty and Equality, I would choose Liberty every time.” – Ernest Bevin, a major figure in the TUC who pressed for support of the Spanish Republican Government, whilst fighting against stalinist influence withing the TGWU and wider Labour Movement.

Herbert Morrison – as Labour Leader of the London County Council, oversaw the great slum clearances of the 1930s improving Londoners lives for the better, working with Local Authorities, and often in the teeth of Central Government opposition. As a Labour minister, worked with Nye Bevan to create the NHS, which was initially modeled on  locally accountable provision for local needs – Bevan’s ideas for its growth envisaged the Health Centre at the heart of the community, and Community Health Councils – an extension of Municipal Socialism.

Major Attlees own brand of Socialism, rooted in his experiences in the East End and influenced by the Guild school of thought was also deeply patriotic – this man took  Turkish Bullet for goodness sake!  And was one of the two last men off the beach at Suvla Bay.The mainstream of Labour opinion has never, unlike the far Left, been unpatriotic – without Attlee in 1940, Churchill may never have become Leader. Without Bevin, there may very well have been no Attlee. Attlees own conservatism on constitutional issues may be decried now, but you cannot deny his love of Crown and Country, as unaffected and honest as Churchills.

To the end of his days, even an “inveterate peace monger” such as Micheal Foot remained intensely patriotic, and in 1982 his speech calling for war with fascist Argentina was declared the best in the debate – unsurprising from the author of “The Guilty Men” really…

In reality, the 1945 Government had to use the means at its disposal in very tough times to rebuild Britain. The war left us broke and devastated. The economy was already pretty much centrally controlled, and had been for six years, out of necessity. In most legislation in the social sphere, although centrally planned, services were planned to be locally administered and accountable. And it is difficult to question the patriotism of a Government that stood up to Stalin, developed a nuclear deterrent, helped form NATO, fought communism in Greece and Korea, whilst overseeing a massive retreat from Empire, with little help, if any, from our allies, the USA. 

Oh, and there was a Royal Wedding too…

So lets have no more jabber about “Blue Labour”, instead let us revive something that “informed opinion” has long derided – Red Patriotism.

 

Little Nicky and the Tribalists.

So today, after keeping schtumm for the whole campaign, Nick Clegg wades in with a fairly coherent op-ed article in The Telegraph. So far, so good – a reasonable, reasoned argument for reform, in Britains’ most august Tory daily.

Sadly, he followed this up with a massively partisan and mendacious attack  on the Labour Party with his follow-up speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Little Nicky simply repeated Osborns canard that Labour would have cut only £2bn less than The Coalition is doing. This would be fine if we were still fighting the May 2010 election, but that was a year ago. It completely ignores the changes made on economic policy by both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. It also ignores the economic facts of life.

Unemployment – In the last quarter of 2010, this fell by just 12,000 (0.1%). At the same time, our GDP fell by 0.5%, apparently this was caused by snow in December – a previously unheard of event. In Barak Obamas USA, under a radically different economic regime to the austerity we suffer, unemployment fell by 1 Million (1%), and in the last quarter of 2010, their GDP ROSE by 0.8%.

YEAR-ON- YEAR, OUR ECONOMY HAS SHRUNK BY 1.5% UP UNTIL MARCH 2011! WELL DONE GIDEON!!!

The OECD, which Osborn so often quotes as supporting him, has issued the following economic forescasts for GDP over the next two years:

                               USA            UK

2011                      2.2%          1.5%

2012                     3.1%           2.0%

So, in the midst of a Referendum Campaign, when it is imperative that ALL Party members who support change work together, why has Clegg thrown such a massive spanner in the works? The cynical answer could be that he is intent on sabotaging his own cause, on the basis that he doesn’t really want it, and it was only a sop to his activists anyway.

Could it be Coalition loyalty? Possibly,but for the life of me, I cannot credit the Cabinet Office stipulating that he preface a call for electoral reform with an attack on a party who’s supporters need to be won over.

No, I believe that in essence, for Nick, this is simply politics as usual. For all the guff about “new politics”, up and down the country, anyone involved in local politics knows just how nasty the Lib Dems can play. From personal insults to pretend innocence, the centre party of British debate plays rough, whilst appearing doe-eyed before us.

“Who me?” They cry, whilst dressed like a harlot in a Wedding Dress. Not only this, but certainly the Orange Bookers have swallowed whole the economic nonsense that passes for thought in the pages of the Daily Mail.

Let me state this as clearly and simply as I can; Austerity following the kind of recession we have seen leads to more unemployment. Higher unemployment leads to lower wages for those in work, to smaller tax receipts, and more austerity. It is a downward spiral leading to a car boot sale economy. And Nick Clegg thinks this is a good idea. 



A BUDGET FOR WHO???

This weeks’ Budget, courtesy of the 14th Earl of Whyborne, has been lauded to the skies by the hard of understanding…

…Or as I like to think of them, Monetarists. The lack of imagination, and of any long-term goals other than dismantling the NHS, do not give me any confidence in Gideons’ old Maths Tutor. Then again, what should we expect from a man who dodges £1.6 million in tax whilst telling the rest of us to “pull together”?

Lets just examine a few measures here, for the sake of general interest…

  1. “The Sun Says Yippee! – 1p off fuel duty!” Yes, and there will be a rise of 5p in 2012.
  2. Tobacco duty up by 2% above inflation. Giving a welcome shot in the arm to the smuggling industry.
  3. An increase in Premiums Tax means that the cost of insurance rises – just as the Government wants us to take out private health insurance.
  4. A three year freeze in Child Benefit – so thats a decrease in light of inflation.
  5. The tax on Beer now exceeds £1.00 per pint. Britain’s vibrant Pub and Brewing industries salute you – not.
  6. National Insurance up 1% for us, but not for Employers.
  7. Personal Tax allowance up by £50 per month in April 2012. With the rises in the cost of living over the last twelve months, let alone the next year, this will at best give you £5 extra a month in your pocket.
  8. Council Tax frozen or reduced in EVERY English Council – regardless of the real needs of those communities.
  9. A return of the Enterprise Zone. Thatchers great sticking-plaster of the 1980s, that made little long-term difference to the areas blighted by her recession of the early 1980s. Anyone off to see Liverpool Garden Festival?

For this budget to work, the UK economy has to grow by around three percent each year until at least 2015. This is quite a lot, if we look at our history over he last forty years. It could happen, as the worldwide economy is tenuously starting to revive. Yet massive public spending cuts and redundancies will cost the exchequer dear, and reduce income from taxation – it could lead us into another recession, rather than digging us out of one.

And there is another point. Gideon and his gofer Danny Alexander have done precious little to curb the outrageous levels of  speculation in The City, nor have they come up with the kind of regulation needed to prevent, or at least limit the kind of crash we saw in 2008.

Long term, our economy is seriously unbalanced – with finance far too prevalent, and industry seen as a poor relation. Yet if we look at Germany, a country that actually still makes things and sells them, their recession is ending rather quicker than ours. This Budget does nothing to address this imbalance, nor do the Coalition partners seek to do so. Unsurprising really, when you think of all the ex-City men in the Cabinet…

 

So thats why I urge you all to march on Saturday for an alternative to this ill-considered schoolboy essay masquerading as a Budget.

Boris Johnson, Saviour Of The Poor?

For those of you who don’t look at the blogs of the deluded and misguided Boris fans across the nation (yes, it is sad, but its a hobby..), you may have missed this little nugget that appeared on “The Wonder of Boris Johnson” a site published by Anne Sykes, dedicated to her love for you-know-who…

“BORIS JOHNSON – £8m Hero to the Homeless”

The Government has given £8m to the Mayors office to sort out rough sleeping in London by 2012. Anne then tells us that the latest figures show that there are 415 sleeping rough in the capital, although a link on her site to Homeless Link states that the actual number is nearer 3,000.

“Imagine how cold and ill they get with no hope to better themselves, caught in a vicious trap.” Well said Anne, I can hear the strains of Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise” as she opines…

Yet £8 million, although a lot to you and me, is, to quote our saviour, “chickenfeed”. Per person, it amounts to £2666.66 – rather less than the average rent a Londoner pays in the private sector a year. Perhaps Boris shall buy each rough sleeper a flat? With a one bedroom flat in Hackney costing somewhere between say £120,000 and £160,000, thats 67 homes at the very best. This money, very welcome though it is, is a sticking plaster, and will provide no permanent solution.

Rather this money is being used to improve Londons image for The Olympics. This kind of cynical move is not new, indeed it has gone on at every modern games since at least 1936 – with possibly the 1948 austerity Games as an exception. Bejing, Moscow, LA, Berlin all received money to hide unpleasant aspects of themselves, and when the show moved on, all their dirty little secrets returned.

Londoners perhaps saw a prototype of the clean up when St Pancras Station and the surrounding area were tarted up for Eurostar. Suddenly, as if by magic, beggars and the homeless disappeared. A senior retired mental health professional warned me about renting in Camden at the time – “thats where the Police have shifted them all” he said despairingly.

I do hope that that along with the charities involved, such as Crisis, St Mungos and Homeless Link,  Boris’ Director of Housing Richard Blakeway spends this paltry sum well, and that some good comes of it. Yet rough sleeping is only the worst of our housing problem.

As Boris himself says ” It is scandalous that in 21st Century London people have to resort to sleeping in the streets..” But this is nothing compared to the hideous overcrowding that people endure at the lower end of the rented private sector. Anyone who has delivered a leaflet at election time knows that many houses, designed for an average family of four are now “multi-occupied”. In Haringay, I lived in one, at £450 per month,that had been converted to hold nine bedrooms. The highest body count was sixteen, including a young family with a baby. With a shower, a bathroom, one kitchen, and one separate toilet as our only communal spaces. Along our street of pre-war terraced houses, at least half had been converted this way.

In another wretched post elswhere, Anne says ” I adored Margaret Thatcher – she also had IT- lets say the X factor.” well, there is no accounting for taste, but I must point out that it was her adored Margaret’s flagship policy of destroying social housing that has led to massive overcrowding in unsanitary conditions across the nation. The reciepts from Council House sales were kept by the Treasury until after 1997. Local Authorities had little option but to borrow money against them to protect vital services in the meantime. With the destruction of an accountable authority for London in1985, seemingly to spite Ken Livingstone, the capital had no co-ordinated housing policy. In fact, the housing policy of this country since 1983 can best be summed up as “do you know what my house is worth now?”

With recent changes and caps to housing benefit, under Boris overall this will get worse. Boris and his chums at local level are creating a highly divided London, where if you are not wealthy, your place is an overcrowded slum.

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