Posts Tagged ‘Only Fools and Horses’

Private Eye on Starmer’s Nobbling of Labour Democracy

October 27, 2021

Keir Starmer’s assault on democracy within the Labour party and his purging of the left has become so blatant that even the determinedly anti-Corbyn Private Eye has been forced to take notice and publish something reasonably critical. It has published two pieces about it in this fortnight’s ‘H.P. Sauce’ column, for 29th October to 11th November 2021. One is about the purges, while the other is about Starmer’s recruitment of people, who tried to found an anti-Labour party and worked for Tweezer. The article on the purges runs

Uncontrollable Purges

Although it is 22 years since David Evans, general secretary of the Labour party, first presented a plan to overhaul the running of the party to Tony Blair, it is under Keir Starmer’s leadership that Evans has finally been given the chance to put his ideas for purging the left into practice.

In his paper to Blair, Evans described constituency Labour parties as “dysfunctional” and claimed “the majority of local Labour parties are more like Trotters Independent Traders than Marks & Spencer”. (An amusing reference to the then-popular TV comedy Only Fools and Horse, m’lud). Central to the plan, as chaaracterised by Phil Gaskin, regional director of Labour South West, is to remove members’ say on the policies outlined in the leaflets they stuff through letterboxes.

The party is in a precarious state. Since December 2019 it has lost 150,000 members. it is pending more on legal costs than campaigning. Its funding has been cut by trade unions, and it lost £1.2m of the taxpayer funding based on MP numbers following the net loss of 59 seats in 2019.

Starmer may have promised to put an end to years of internecine warfare, but that did not mean extending an olive branch to the left. Evans’ plans are aimed at keeping opponents of Starmer quiet – those, that is, who escape being forced out or choose not to quit. Changes include abolishing the membership fee and replacing members with “supporters”; meanwhile, policy will be determined by the leadership.

Since Starmer took office there have been hundreds of suspensions directed from the office of the general secretary. For his part, Gaskin has suspended more than half the constituencies in the south-west region for alleged antisemitism or for demanding “democracy”. He also prevented the Bath CLP from donating £3,600 from its £1.3m funds to food banks shortly before Christmas 2020, on grounds that this was not “campaigning”. It was also Gaskin who led the case against film director Ken Loach, expelled from the party in August.

Prohibited from CLP agendas in the south-west region, which covers Bristol, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and half of Dorset, is any mention of support for ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn and any debate or motion on the subject of, er, free speech.

This shows just how far back the Blairite contempt for democracy, socialism and traditional Labour values goes. It also names Gaskin as one of the chief instigators of the attack on democracy, particularly in the south west. I’ve had emails from the south-west regional office asking me to join their conference or respond to various initiatives. I shall now have to think very carefully about them and especially about whether my local party has also been muzzled by this dicta.

And how utterly, utterly contemptible of Gaskin to ban Bath from supporting a food bank!

Last Fortnight’s Private Eye on Dave Cameron’s ‘Right to Buy’ Policy

April 14, 2015

Cameron formally announced today his ‘right to buy’ scheme, which would see the remainder of Britain’s stock of social housing sold off. Tom Pride and Mike over at Vox Political have already posted pieces on this today. I’ve reblogged Mr Pride’s, in which he tells it like it is. It’s just a return of Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme from the 1980s.

He goes further, and describes Cameron as ‘a pound-shop Maggie Thatcher’. Which is pretty much exactly what he is. Though it does leave you feeling that we’ve been short-changed. Surely with his blue-blood and Eton education he could be something a bit more up-market. A Fortnum & Mason’s Maggie Thatcher, perhaps, or may be a Harrod’s Maggie Thatcher? Or perhaps something a little more popular, but still offering quality: a Sainsbury food hall Maggie Thatcher?

Mr Pride also points out that the beneficiaries of the original right-to-buy fiasco weren’t the ordinary tenants, but the private landlords who purchased them and then hoiked the rents up accordingly. People like Charles Gow, the son of the minister, who privatised them. Young master Gow is a multi-millionaire with forty of them.

Johnny Void also wrote a piece I’ve reblogged earlier last year, when IDS announced it as his big idea, pointing out, along with Mike, that it would lead to a complete absence of council houses, and that the affordable housing that’s supposed to replace it isn’t anything of the sort. It won’t solve the housing crisis. It will only make it worse.

Which was Private Eye’s view in their last issue a fortnight ago. In ‘Housing News’ they wrote

The wheels are falling off Tory housing policy as the desperate search for votes intensifies.

Chancellor George Osborne’s final budget saw yet another ineffective give-away to first-time buyers in the form of “Help to Buy ISAs” – up to £3,000 in taxpayer cash to top up savings for a deposit. Like umpteen other schemes designed to help those who can’t afford a mortgage, this one may just inflate prices further while failing to address shortage of supply.

Not to be outdone, the Iain Duncan Smith faction promptly leaked the latest version of its own pet idea: to extend the Right to Buy to Britain’s 2.5m housing association tenants. This sounds like music to Tory ears until one realises that, unlike the social homes owned by the councils, housing association assets are private property.

For decades, governments trying to keep the national debt down have restrained council borrowing by tying up council housing assets in ring-fenced housing revenue accounts (HRA) and making it almost impossible for councils to build. Housing associations, on the other hand, are independent charities so their £65 bn in borrowing is safely “off balance sheet”.

As the chancellor must be only too aware, compelling housing associations to sell to tenants and use the RTB discounts enjoyed by council tenants (up to £102, 700 in London and £77,000 elsewhere) would cost serious amounts of taxpayer money and bankrupt a few housing associations. Then again, as this is the eighth election in row where the Conservative party has said it will extend RTB to housing association tenants, will the vote-catcher fare any better than usual?

That isn’t the end of the TRB saga. Under localism, some councils have found a way round Treasury borrowing caps via public-private partnerships, using the new “general power of competence” to create their own “local housing companies” and build homes – for sale and for social rent – and keep them outside the HRA. Not only does this evade the borrowing caps, but it also means the new homes are not, er, subject to the Right to Buy. Housing minister Brandon Lewis is not happy, and has threatened councils with serious reprisals. So much for localism.

Now public-private partnerships, like the Private Finance Initiative, are by and large a colossal waste of money and a massive drain on the state, all in order to provide contracts to the Tories’ donors in private industry. But if local councils are using such schemes to build more social housing, then perhaps we could do with more of them in this specific instance.

As for Osbo and his Help-to-Buy ISAs, one of the commenters over at Tom Pride’s or Johnny Void’s blogs stated that the last thing the Tories wanted was for the price of housing to go down, as this would have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy through the way mortgages are used to stimulate finances elsewhere. Hence in the short-term, I really don’t think Osbo would be at all worried about housing prices going up, so long as the bubble burst when someone other than the Tories were in power.

As for the ‘Right-to-Buy’ policy having now been wheeled out by the Tories in eight elections in a row, that shows that they have absolutely no intention of honouring it. Not if it’s been touted in the past, but obviously not been put it into practice, if they’re still claiming they’re going to do it this time.

This means that Mr Pride was probably being overgenerous in his description of Cameron as a ‘pound-shop Maggie Thatcher’. The stuff in pound shops is cheap, but it’s still good quality. This, however, is a decidedly shop-worn policy, that is definitely past it’s sell by date. This is the Arthur Daley, Trotters Independent Traders version of Maggie Thatcher. If the policy was an animal, it’d be the dead parrot in the Monty Python sketch, gone to join the ‘choir invisibule’.

Latest Distressing Oath by the Underclass: ‘On My Dead Baby’s Life’

November 15, 2014

I’ve just reblogged a piece from Unemployed on Tyne and Wear about a latest report showing the damage the government’s cuts to maternity benefits and entitlements is having on the health and wellbeing of new families, Benefit Cuts ‘Exacerbating The High Rate Of Poverty Among New Families’. This is very serious indeed. Britain has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in Western Europe. The Tory cuts to maternity benefits and the privatisation of the NHS will only make this worse.

Fall in Child Death Due to NHS

I was told by a friend of mine, who had argued with American supporters of the Republican party online, that if you want to show how necessary the NHS actually is, you could simply reproduce for the fall in infant mortality here in Britain before and after the NHS. There’s a massive drop in the number of children dying. And if Britain has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in Europe, then America has one of the worst rates in the developed world.

Having Children in America Expensive

Going into hospital to have a child, like the rest of medicine in America is not cheap. Americans have to save up for years before they can afford to have children. At one level, it shows the praiseworthy thrift of America’s hardworking people. But it also shows how little the American system cares for one of the basic functions of the human family and society: to produce and nurture children.

American Conservatives and Falling Birth Rate

It also profoundly contradicts much of the Republican rhetoric against the demographic decline of the West. American Conservatives are concerned with the need to have a high birth rate in order to maintain or increase the current level of the population. The current low birth rate throughout the West is regulated trotted out as a supposed result of the evils of European ‘socialism’. It’s also claimed to be the result of women moving out of the home and into the workplace. Hence, under the pretext of the protecting the American family and preserving its demographic vitality, the urge further cuts to state intervention and attacks on any remaining welfare benefits, and demand that women return to their traditional domestic roles in the home.

Women Haven’t Caused Decline in Males Wages; Women Always Worked because Men’s Wage Never Enough for Family

It’s rubbish. Despite the mythology that wages have declined because of women’s movement into the workforce, the opposite has been the case in history. Throughout history, working and lower-middle class women had to work, because the wages paid to the male breadwinner were simply insufficient to support a family.

Decline in Birth Rate Not Due to ‘Socialism’

It is also untrue that it is only the population of ‘socialist’ Europe that is declining. Populations are declining throughout the globe, to the point where some demographers believe that there will be a ‘demographic crash’ in the middle of this century. This includes nations like Japan, where the long rule of the Conservative Liberal-Democratic party has meant that there is little, if anything, in the way of a welfare state.

Far from being the creation of socialist intervention, Mussolini and the Italian Fascists were so worried about the drop in the Italian birth rate, that the viciously anti-socialist Duce introduced a number of welfare benefits to support and provide for pregnant women as part of his ‘battle for births’.

There is a real danger that the Tories cuts and abolition of these welfare payments and their NHS privatisation will result in more infant mortality.

Swearing by Life of Dead Children

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, who said he was worried about an oath he’d heard used by various chavs. He’d overheard different members of the underclass arguing with each other on separate occasions. To vouch for the truth of what they were saying, he’d heard them say

I swear by my dead baby’s life.

Ne found it an odd and distressing oath. Swearing by the life of a dead person is clearly contradictory, and he found it strange that someone should do so.

But he was most worried in case it showed that there really had been a terrible rise in infant mortality amongst the very poorest sections of society.

I don’t think there is. I think it’s just something people have recently taken to saying, in the same way that they used to swear on their mother’s grave. Particularly, it seemed, following the influence of Del Boy on Only Fools and Horses.

But I might be wrong. I hope so.

Tories’ Privatisation and Benefit Cuts Will Kill Children and their Mothers

The latest cuts to the benefits of expectant and new mothers and families, and the Tories’ marketization and piecemeal privatisation of the NHS make that a terrible possibility.

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This meme’s the work of Robert Livingstone over at Kittysjones’ blog. And it’s all too true.