What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Conservatives”

One Cheer for Downton Abbey on Ice

Well, one thing about enforced idleness, you get to catch up on the telly. Thanks to a nasty manager in my un-unionised industry, I presently have more time on my hands than I need. So, after watching all of Downton Abbey  in between job applications, I have been watching Julian Fellowes’ latest opus – “Titanic”. Tactfully released (along with the needless 3D version of that film) to coincide with the centenary of the disaster, and in no way a transatlantic cash-in…

Fans of period drama, and of  Mr Fellowes, will be relieved to find that his portentous dialogue is still there, the much sought after period detail (Churchill growls his lines to an officer of the Scots Guards after the Sidney Street Siege), and that the romance of country house living survives – this is still, as Nick Cohen has already noted of Downton, “MTV for Tories”. Fellowes is on record as saying that he wanted to do something different as compared to “A Night to Remember” and other celluloid versions, or Beryl Bainbridges excellent “Every Man for Himself”. He claimed that the previous dramas had focused too much on the upper classes or plebs, and not enough on those he regards as his people – the middle classes.

It may be instructive to know what Mr Fellowes believes the “middle class” is, for his background and upbringing place him far above, say, the average wage earner. It may be better to say that he comes from the “lower-upper class”, as George Orwell described himself as “lower-upper-middle class”. The Fellowes’ are part of that gang that used to be called the yeomanry – not quite aristocrats, but not on their uppers either. Rather let us say that whilst being servants of the true masters, they were also truly masters of servants themselves.  

His middle class is very wide indeed, which fits into most modern british class definitions, including self-definition. This perhaps is why he is so successful, for his country house writings do seem to find a wide audience that can identify with his characters. It allows him to create sympathetic characters such as an Irish Catholic engineer, escaping the hardship and discrimination of Belfast for example. There are some problems at the top, of course, but in general, officers are decent sorts, as are the better sort of bourgeois. Snobbery is highlighted and condemned, yet there is a nasty taste at the end of all of this.

In “Gosford Park”, his first massive hit, Mr Fellowes had the luxury of setting all of the action in one location – the great house. This allowed the author to create his own self-contained society – one which he clearly feels is ideal. in the first series of Downton this theme was expanded upon at length. The lower orders know their place, the Lord is kindly and compassionate, loyalty is a two way street. Suitably enlightened middle class types can be co-opted if they wish – it really is bright and beautiful – provided that the poor man stays at the gate. 

Yet this outwardly paternalistic vision of an idealised Edwardian world shows glimpses of Mr Fellowes’ real conservative prejudices when the Suffragette Lady Sybil attends an election hustings. She is injured in a violent clash with working class toughs who violently object to the pro female suffrage candidate. Mr Fellowes, like all good members of his middle class, has an undisguised fear and hatred of the industrial workers. In the first episode of “Titanic”, in the very first scene, it established beyond any doubt that discrimination against Catholics in Belfast is caused by – you guessed it – working class protestants. The owner of Harland and Wolff Shipyards can state with no contrary evidence that he is an egalitarian employer as regards to religion – flying in the face of historical evidence. This is where we see the pernicious attempt by jolly good Fellowes to rewrite history to suit the modern Conservative Party. And he does this on a scale that is only matched by Boris Johnson in its infamy. It seems that from an early age the young Julian was taught that, as Orwell puts it, “the working classes smell”.

Let us lay his awful prejudices to rest. It is true that workers no doubt did rough-up Suffragettes, as did the police, and Oxbridge students of the Bullingdon type. They were encouraged and led in this campaign of intimidation by the Tories, who mobilised the very worst dregs they could find to physically attack these brave women and their male supporters- especially those from the Independent Labour Party, such as Kier Hardy, MacDonald and the later murdered Grayson. A mainstay of the Suffrage movement were the socialist women, such as Annie Besant and Christabel Pankhurst.

Far far worse is his depiction of the Belfast working class. Modern Conservatives have sought to ignore the “Unionist” in their party name, and to pretend that they had nothing to do with the heightening of sectarian violence across Ireland before 1914. Yet it was they who encouraged the slogan “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right” against the Home Rule Bill. The Tories went so far as to applaud and back the mutiny of serving protestant Army officers at Curragh, bringing Britain to the brink of Civil War. They called for the harshest penalties for Trades Unionists, yet clemency for a potential armed rebellion against an elected government. This is a matter of historical record. Their financial backers in Belfast also armed the UVF with smuggled german rifles.

In point of fact, the great 1907 Belfast Dock Strike showed a glimpse of a non-sectarian future. The strike, mainly protestant led, was solid in both East and West Belfast, and provided the unheard of spectacle of 12th July rallies where mass meetings and marches from working class districts denounced the religious divide. Even the Police mutinied against guarding blacklegs, but I doubt that dear Julian would have anything but revulsion for this. It inspired Jim Larkin and James Connolly, as well as the founding of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union a year later. Those unwashed plebs, the mob that Fellowes so fears, were the real hope of a better life for all, yet he casually, almost nonchalantly slanders a whole people, a whole class.

Period drama can, and has been better than this. Lets hope that The Boat can come in again soon…

Advertisements

Government by “Come Dine With Me”…

So, as Dave Lamb prepares for his almost inevitable Shadow Cabinet post, what can we say about Cameron and Maudes’ attempts to make the cash for access scandal simply go away?

Well, getting a Tory peer to “look into it” is certainly not the best way to defuse a scandal involving the Tory party. The attempt to focus on Labours’ Union links might just work, if it wasn’t that Union donations were so legal and above board. After all, I doubt that Tesco, Barclays, BAe Systems etc would ever ballot their workforce to ask just how much of their profits they would like to donate to the Tory party.

In the interests of fairness and equal opportunities, I am giving David and Sam Cameron a chance to make amends. Take me and Lady P out to Byron in Islington Thursday night and we will say no more about it…

 Image

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.

Death And Taxes – Part One…

It used to be said that you could avoid everything in life except these two constants. Since Margaret Thatcher came to power however, the situation has become a little different…

In the 32 years since Margaret Thatcher came to power, and more spectacularly since the “Big Bang” in The City in 1987, what was once a shady corner of Finance has become a major activity worldwide – “Tax Optimisation”, or Tax Avoidance to you and me.

Simply put, the rich and big businesses, whether Barclays Bank, TopShop or Tesco use legal loopholes and financial skulduggery to avoid paying taxes that you or I cannot avoid. If you run a small business, or manage an outlet for a large company, please be warned that the following may lead you to never voting Tory again…

Historically, the Thatcher/Lawson years were a watershed, with the burden of taxation moved from  progressive Income Tax with more paid the more you earn to consumption-based taxes such as VAT, which had its scope moved from” luxury” goods to more and more of the basics of life. Now taxes on consumption may not always be a bad thing, but as a proportion of income, they hit those on middle and poorer incomes at a greater rate than they do the rich. Simply put, you can only consume so much. By 1987, according to statistics released by The Treasury, the burden of taxation was exactly the same as it had been in 1979 – 33%, but it had been shifted down to the lower earning brackets.

It took John Majors’ Government to further reduce the Income Tax bands, so that the higher rate of tax was only 40%. Even under Lawson, there had been a marginal rate of 60% for the very rich corporation tax was also lowered throughout the period, to make Britain a “haven for foreign investment”, along with plenty of our money paid as sweeteners to multinationals to come here. And there it has stayed. One of the major failures of New Labour was its insistence on following Conservative economic policies that hurt those in the middle and below, whilst fawning over those in clover. For all the good done over the past thirteen years reducing Child Poverty, refunding the NHS and Education, our party could, and should have done more.

One of the worst areas of inaction was over closing tax loopholes used by the wealthy to avoid even low rates of tax. So in awe of the rich were Blair, Brown and Mandleson, that they gave peerages to people such as Fred Goodwin, then Head of RBS, Philip Green at TopShop and their international guru, Alan Greenspan.

The international super-rich flocked to Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea, much to the chagrin of the merely very rich City types, who moaned loudly that they could now “only” afford to live in Richmond or Barnes; oh how we did not weep for them. But in spite of  everything done for them, they wanted more. The Billionaires from India, Russia, and China had moved here because their “non-dom” status meant that they could pay almost no tax whatsoever, and homegrown tycoons followed suit. as Robert Peston mentioned in his book about the crash, TopShops boss, Sir Philip Green gets his salary paid to his wife, who for tax purposes is based in Monaco. He is not alone. More worryingly, he is an advisor to the present Government on Business Affairs. This is not just an economic outlook, but also a moral one, as ex-City millionaire David Laws, who was sacked for fiddling £40,000 out of the public purse last year, looks set to rejoin the Government in some position this April.

Yet the Government is unlikely to do much without outside pressure, as a Cabinet with a high proportion of ex-City types, such as Chris Huhne, and sons of stockbrokers such as David Cameron make all the right noises to placate the rich, whilst telling us that “we are all in this together”. Recently it came to light that since 2005, donations to the Tory Party from City sources had reached over fifty percent of its total funding – many from the very hedge fund managers who got us in this mess whilst avoiding taxes here. In January, at the annual Black and White party ( they daren’t call it a ball anymore), secure in Battersea Park, City Internships were auctioned-off to the highest bidder, in aid off Tory Party funds. Perhaps this is the “Big Society”? A short walk away are some of the roughest and most deprived estates in London.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson was also in attendance, and as many have noted, has spent much of the past year or so loudly protesting that we must stop “bashing Bankers” over the billions of our money we had to throw at them to save the system. Let us not forget that in 2009 he publicly decried his £250,000 per year stipend from The Daily Telegraph as mere “chickenfeed”. It seems we have not a Mayor for all of London, but TWO Lord Mayors of The City of London…

(Part Two to follow soon…)

Big Society for who???

Ham Face, in  todays Observer defends his wonderful “Big Society” thingy ( as its known at Conservative Central Office), and it would be no surprise that I, in line with the majority of Her Majesties’ subjects, am pretty cynical about this. All new Governments come out with some kind of big idea, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Anyone remember “The Third Way”?

It is important to understand and refute just what this means, and just how much of this is cover for massive cuts.

First of all, lets look at the supposed bedrock of this idea, voluntary organisations. As an ex Sea Scout who grew up in the wonderful county of Suffolk, I am more than happy for the voluntary sector to do what it does well. All around this nation, every day of the week, hundreds of thousands of us spend our time serving our communities – providing support for the vulnerable, raising funds,running youth organisations, and conserving our common heritage. These people should be saluted and cherished for all they do, and no doubt many of us could do more. They do this for any number of reasons, some moral, or religious, or just because they believe in helping their fellows. I very much doubt however, that there will be any charity that will volunteer to run the 17 public toilets to be closed in Manchester City Centre, nor to clean up the filth consequently left behind.

In the present situation, combined with the Coalitions massive cuts in public services, the idea that the voluntary sector, already hard-pressed in hard times, can step in and fill the yawning gaps left by 500,000 workers made redundant is nothing short of criminal. Those of us in work have less time to spare, those of us without have time, but no resources. We should also look at the nature of some of these charities, and the way they are run, and by whom. We have seen in recent years a plethora of faith-based charities and self-help groups – often fundamentalist in nature. I am not talking about The Salvation Army and Christian Aid here, groups with a long history, who spend more time serving than preaching, rather churches such as United Christian Kingdom of God, implicated in Victoria Climbies death, or those of Sikh, Muslim, Hindu or Jewish origin that seek to further different agendas rather than simply a helping hand. A number of these groups have been implicated in extremism and religious intolerance of one kind or another, and, under the policies of successive Governments, have been given cover as “faith and community” groups.

A major plank of The big society, Goveys’ “free” Schools, has already led to the setting-up of Britains’ first creationist school. Do any of us really believe that this is a step forward? Public money given to an organisation that holds The Book of Genesis to be literal truth???

An already fractured education system hardly needs further atomisation along lines of religion, or in the case of Boris Johnsons ex-“Youth Deputy”, race…

True to his corporate roots, Ham Face, the scion of apparently hereditary Stockbrokers, also makes much of the vogue for “Corporate Responsibility” within the private sector, and how this can be harnessed for social good. At best, this means that people already inclined to volunteer have another opportunity to do so on projects that give a friendly face to BAE Systems, City firms, and multinationals. (Even Tobacco companies include this guff in their annual reports these days…)

Would it be too much to ask these “socially responsible” companies to pay their taxes in the UK, rather than Grand Cayman??? Has Gideon Whyborn settled HIS £1.6 million debt to the revenue??? After all, he is the Chancellor…

The truth of the matter is that when it comes to Health, Social Services and Education, it will not be the host of small local charities that will “pick up the slack”, rather it will be a mix of larger religious groups (Catholic Hospitals anyone? Will you miss the Right to Choose?) and inevitably the private sector – so yet again, you and I lose out, whilst Capita and Group Four increase their profits, whilst cutting services and working conditions, all funded from our taxes.

Having tapped into the strong vein of public voluntarism, this Government runs the risk of further destroying our common heritage and social solidarity. An interesting fact reproduced in a number of international survey ranging from Academic to the OECD, is that there is a correlation between the participation on voluntary work and the “Big State” that Cameron, Clegg and their followers routinely deride. It seems that in western nations with higher taxation, and more social democratic economies, more people volunteer for longer periods of time, not less. In more free market economies, the reverse is true.

To this end, I suggest that we all volunteer to go on a march, on 26th of March, organised by that huge voluntary organisation, The TUC, to oppose this Governments cuts package.

Think on, Cameroons.


An Open Letter To Honest Opponents.

In the past few months I have met many Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters in the blogosphere, and in the main, I have found them to be courteous and respectful of other opinons. Obviously I avoid blowhards like the plague, and with Lady P at my side I know better than to simply be rude for the hell of it (however much fun it would be).

I have also noticed that supporters and members of both parties are disgruntled to say the least with certain aspects of the Coalitions policies. In politics, it never does to attribute uniform beliefs to your enemies. In this spirit I ask my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Yes To Fairer Votes Campaign, and Conservatives of a truly One Nation frame of mind to read on and ponder…

Is it honestly true to your principles to restrict the British people’s access to their land? To sell off ancient forests held in common, for the benefit of all?

Is it wise to fillet our Defences, as this administration is doing?

Is it just to erode the living standards of agricultural workers by abolishing their independent wages council?

Is it wise to allow one multinational company unheard of control over the media?

What patriotic Government allows such levels of tax evasion by the wealthy and large British corporations?

Is it good Conservatism, or Liberalism to erode our access to, and connection with Parliament, by destroying long cherished geographical boundaries and regional loyalties?

Is it fair play to instigate campaigning by smear and inference, as in the London Mayoral campaign?

Do you really believe that the upheaval this Government is instigating is in the true benefit of the NHS?

Does it really make sense to further atomise our national Education system, potentially excluding the talented poor for a generation?

Is it not simply politically motivated spite to add further needless anti-Trades Union legislation to the toughest Trades Union laws in Europe? Is this not something Disraeli would have baulked at?

How wise and patriotic can it be to seriously harm Britain’s universally respected voice to the World – The BBC World Service? Is it responsible? Is it truly what you want?

Are you entirely comfortable with a Government that is enacting legislation that was in neither of your parties’ manifestos, nor written into The Coalition Agreement?

I realise that we will not agree on everything, that is the nature of politics. But I also see that many of you oppose some, if not all of the measures listed above. I hope that we can all work together to help ameliorate the flood of ill-written, ill thought out legislation we see coming out of westminster and Whitehall.

For our nations’ sake I know that we will be able to work together at times…

SAVE OUR FORESTS!!!

The online petition against the Coalition Governments plans to sell off our forests has already reached 250,000 signatures!

I urge all readers to follow this link and do their bit…

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/save-our-forests

Boris Johnson and Dirty Tricks (Part 2)…

Just had a quick look at the fansite for BoJo, http://CYBERBORISjohnson.wordpress.com/  and found that Peter Reynolds can be confirmed.

I read the latest post, relating that tweets confirm that Labour supporters would prefer Alistair Campbell to Ken Livingstone – dubious, but interesting nonetheless.

Then, in the middle of her post Angelnstar mentioned Ken and Press TV – followed by the words “homophobic”, “Holocaust denying”, “anti-female” etc, with a clear inference of guilt by association. Make no mistake, these epithets describe the Iranian regime perfectly, they do not, however describe Ken Livingstone.

I left a reply in the following vein (this is not word perfect):

” Interesting that you follow the Boris line in guilt by association, by inferring that Ken Livingstone is a Holocaust denier. as far as I know, Ken has never been a holocaust denier, nor has he been a homophobe, nor a sexist.

This seems to be an exercise in guilt by association, as reported by Peter Reynolds at http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/

For the record, as a Labour member, I am not a Ken fan, and my views are set out at https://clemthegem.wordpress.com/

Usually, Angelnstar has accepted comments from me on her CYBERBORISjohnson blogsite, and we have had a few good discussions, however this time, my comment did not appear at all – moderation seems a might quicker than usual…

So, Peter, your point is proved

Boris,Bloggers and Dirty Tricks…

Addendum – Let me please make this perfectly clear – I should not have written the following –

“Clem has found out that Mayor Boris Johnson has been instructing his loyal band of bloggers and tweeters, when they can prise themselves away from “Top Gear” reruns on Dave, to engage in dirty tricks against Ken Livingstone…”

What I should have written, if hyperbole had not got the better of me, was ” Clem has found disturbing reports that followers of Boris Johnson have been involved in an organised campaign of guilt by association as regards his Labour opponent, Ken Livingstone.”

Apologies to anyone who was upset or mislead at this point – I still stand by thwe spirit of what I wrote below, and its condemnation of sectarian politics – a trend that neither candidate is doing anything meaningful to lessen…

My second favourite Tory, Peter Reynolds has posted that Boris, through his agents, has been instructing his “sheeple” (his word) to bleat, blog and tweet about Kens employment by the Iranian State run TV channel Press TV. Special instructions have been given to use phrases such as “holocaust denier”, in an attempt, presumably to shore up Boris’ support in Londons Jewish community. Once again, bluff hearty Boris camp engages in dirty tricks, whilst the rest of us who live in London full time suffer.

To read more on this, go to  http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/

Let me make this clear, I think Ken made a serious mistake in working for Press TV, the mouthpiece of a repressive state which he would be better off opposing. However, Ken is no Holocaust Denier, and has been involved in anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns throughout his career.

However this seems to be an alarming trend in London politics – Ken courts the “Islamic vote”, whilst Boris courts the “Jewish vote” – the US-style politics of special interests and “community Leaders” over what the electorate really need, or indeed want.

A Labour politician, especially a veteran such as Ken, should realise that this only leads to ignoring the real needs of his electorate, in favour of Tammany hall stitch ups. it also leads to heightened racial and religious divisions on the ground, and helps legitimise the extremist idiots on all sides.

Both of you – STOP IT NOW!


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: