What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Lib Dems”

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.

Lib Dem Conference Latest…

… just in…

In Brighton this week, Danny Alexander was publicly thanked by failed minister Sarah Teather for making her look good…

… Breaking News…

…The Lib Dem Glee Club has replaced “F*** off Tony Blair and die” with a more appropriate song that fits their standing in the polls – Tom Lehrers’ “We Will All Go Together When We Go”…

(For the original offensive Lib Dem song, see this – http:www.labourlist.org/2012/09/lib-dem-conference-goers-sing-tony-blair-can-fk-off-and-die/  )

…And in what may yet be seen as his best speech ever, Little Nicky shows his grasp of History, the laws of Physics, and primary colours:

“The past is the past…”  “…we can’t return to the past…”  ” Blue + Yellow = Green…”

So, altogether now – “Red and yellow and pink and blue…”

POLITICAL REALITIES – Part One

Now that things have calmed down a bit since the local elections and Ed’s reshuffle, I thought I would write a couple of pieces on where we as a party are, and how we got here. I think that all too often those of us interested in politics can get sucked into the short term news cycle, and I plead guilty to this as much as anyone else. However it is important for me to take a look at the recent past, if only to help me redefine where I think we stand…

1: NUMBER CRUNCHING

So, lets go back to the start: In 1997 Labour won a landslide with over 42% of the votes cast, some 13,518,167 votes in all. This was our biggest share of the vote since 1966, and with high hopes, Labour went into Majority government for the first time since 1974.

Victory was repeated in 2001 on a similar scale, although we lost the votes of a staggering 2,793,214 people in four years under Tony Blair. Low turnout ensured that our share was still around 40%, and New Labour continued, seemingly unassailable.

At his third attempt in 2005, after the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq , the party under Tony Blair saw its vote reduced by a further 1,172,517 to 9,552,436 votes. The war in Iraq also contributed to a rise in popularity for the Liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy and Alex Salmond’s SNP.

Finally, back in May 2010, Labour under Gordon Brown polled 8,606,517 votes, and just 29% of all votes cast. That was a further 945,915 down from the previous general election, although this was a considerably lower fall than in either 2001 or 2005.

The May 2010 result ensured a Hung Parliament, although it was clear almost from the first declarations that Labour had lost, even if the Tories had not won. It also meant that a stable Coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems, possibly also with Plaid Cymru and the SNP was simply not possible. Simple arithmetic dictated that if a Coalition could be formed, it would be between the Tories and Lib Dems.

To me, one of the salient facts would be that under Tony Blair, over two elections we lost the support of almost four million voters – 3,965,731 to be exact.

Arguably, Gordon Brown had not so far to fall, but from 2005 to 2010 our vote dropped by just under one million. It lost us the General Election, but I cannot help thinking that had we lost fewer votes between 1997 and 2005, then maybe we could have still been in government today.

Had we lost, say half of those votes lost in that period, then in 2010 we would have polled somewhere in the region of  10,589,382 votes – more than in 2010 and close to our 2005 result. So the questions we must ask ourselves must include why did we lose so much trust between 1997 and 2005?

Could it be that Tony Blair, as much as Gordon Brown was a vote loser after 1997? On the face of it the answer may be yes…

So what lost us those votes?

  BEST WHEN WE’RE LABOUR…”

…to be continued…

JUST A QUESTION…

Does Sarah Teather always look like that? Or does someone always fart just before she goes on camera?

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…)

May 5th – Our Choice, Our Chance…

So, on May 5th we get the chance to alter our voting system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV). With Ham-Face and Little Nicky setting out the opposing arguments this morning, it would be useful to review what we have, and what we could get.

THE SYSTEM AS IT IS:

At the moment, our political system is a Constitutional Monarchy, that suffers a little Democracy to intervene now and then. Parliament is Sovereign, with the power to dismiss the Monarch – a power not used since 1688, but that led to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1937. The House of Commons is theoretically where power lies – as the elected chamber is the only place where legislation can be decisively approved or denied. The unelected Lords can only amend Bills, and since Lord Salisbury back in Victorias day, no Prime Minister has sat there. Practically, power lies with The Cabinet, some would say The Cabinet Office.

Our Electoral System is based on FPTP, and in practice this means that the candidate with the most votes, regardless as to whether this is a majority, wins. At the last General Election, fully two thirds of seats were won by candidates who had less than fifty percent of the vote.

Our participation in elections as voters has been declining since 1945, and our disengagement with the political process is at its highest since the vote was won for women and the propertyless. The expenses scandal, the perceived unresponsiveness of our elected members, and the narrowness of the terms of official political debate (the hunt for the nebulous “Middle England”)have all contributed to this. There is a distinct class divide in voting – the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote – which partially explains why our major parties spend much of their efforts trying to placate a mythical “mainstream” vote, whilst ignoring other considerations.

As for those we elect, increasingly and overwhelmingly they come from similar backgrounds regardless of party. Very few MPs have come from outside of the Middle Classes, and the domination of The Cabinet by men from Oxbridge is simply an extreme version of this. In the last edition of the late Anthony Sampson’s “Who Runs This Place?” a marked trend towards certain professions was noted – Law, Finance, Local Government and Higher Education are the major areas of practical experience that our MPs have. Student Politics is the proving ground for this new political class, who in attitude see the rest of us as at best foot soldiers in their campaign for ultimate power. This is regardless of party.

FPTP has resulted in the many seats being “safe” for one party or another – leading to a strengthening of party machines and “a job for life” for some of the least worthy members of the house. Only at times of major upheaval in politics – 1945, 1979, 1997, do these seats even stand a chance of being overturned. in effect, your preference only counts either at one of these elections, or if you live in a marginal seat.

Effectively, under FPTP, a party needs only to win around 30% of the available vote to have a rock-solid majority. This happened throughout the 1980s, ’90s and the last decade. In May 2010, less than 2% of us decided the result.

A culture of entitlement reigns, believing themselves to be a Meritocracy ( whilst misconstruing the term), a certain arrogance can be detected amongst this self-justifyng elite.

What We Could Get:

The Alternative Vote system means that instead of just putting one cross next to one candidate on your ballot paper, you instead rank them in order of your preferences, as far as you wish – so in my case that would be Labour 1; Green 2; and the rest can go hang, unless I like their candidate. Its up to you how far you go. The votes are counted, and the candidates with least votes is eliminated, their second preferences added to the other candidates. This continues until one candidates has over 50% of the votes. Around 14 million of us already use this system for elections in Trades Unions,Political Parties, Student Organisations and such, so many of us already have experience of it. It must be said that whilst this is a more consensual system, it is not proportional – we can still end up with Governments elected by a minority of the electorate.

Possibly the starkest image is best provided by The British Electoral Survey at Essex University, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. In a wide-ranging study, the BES took a representative survey of voting preferences at the May 2010 election, and found the results to be thus:

Conservative     283 – down 22

Labour               248 – down 10

Lib Dems            89 – up 32

At first glance, for the left this looks unpalatable, but look at the arithmetic – we would have been able to offer what Gordon Brown couldn’t last May – a stable Coalition with the Lib Dems. Whether the Orange Book gang would have taken this up is another matter, but there is a strong possibility that the decimation of the Welfare State and dismantling of the NHS would at least not be on the agenda. Remarkably, last May ten seats would have changed straight from Tory to Labour, and only one vice versa.

Many seats regarded now as “safe” would now become winnable. ALL MPs would be returned on over 50% of the votes cast in every constituency.

Our MPs would thus have to work harder for us – local issues would become really important – no more promises to “look into” a third crossing for Waveney for example, only for your MP to forget it until election year.

You get a potentially bigger say, with AV there is no need for tactical voting, simply pick your favourite candidate first. If they don’t win, you still get a say. So Labour votes in the South West and East Anglia now matter, as would Tory votes in Scotland and South Wales.

At a stroke, MPs would have to reach beyond their comfort zones – Surrey Tories and Keith Vaz take note…

The Alternative Vote keeps what is best about the current system, the historic constituency link – you will still know who your MP is, and be able to lobby them.

If extended to local government, then the “Rotten Boroughs” that regularly infest Private Eye would be altered – one-party rule over Tower Hamlets or Suffolk would be altered. No more “sigmoid waves”, “virtual councils” or distant aloof local bigwigs.

If AV is passed, then the possibility of an actually elected House of Lords is strengthened – no more input by those who rely on their place by contributions to party coffers. We would finally have a Liberal Democracy – over two hundred years since Thomas Paine wrote The Rights of Man.

AV is far from perfect – it would be better to have a more proportional system, such as AV plus, as recommended  by The Jenkins Commission on Electoral Reform, yet is a start.

There is just one more point. As part of The Coalition stitch-up over Reform, the Tories have been able to tag on the axing of 50 seats, on the grounds of “cost” – as if you can put a price on Democracy. If AV fails to go through, then the Tories, with Liberal Democrat support, will have managed to Gerrymander the electoral map of Britain, with minimal consultation with you, that no-one voted for, potentially solidifying their hold on power. Only AV will go some way to ameliorating this.

That is why all of us in Labour, and everyone who believes in Democracy, must support the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign.

What is the point of Danny Alexander?

Aside from looking about 18 years old, I really cannot see what this man does that couldn’t be done cheaper and more effectively by a professional P.A.

At least Gideon Osborne would get his work done on time, and maybe even get his sums right. Maybe then he would look less like the pale inbred aristocratic throwback he is.

Apparently he is a member of the Liberal Democrats, could have fooled me. Nasty little man.

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