Posts Tagged ‘Peter Mandelson’

TYT’s Jimmy Dore Talks to Outreach Head of US Anti-Corporate Corruption Movement

August 1, 2016

In my last piece, I discussed Mike article on the publication of Martin Williams’ book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which reveals that British MPs currently hold 2,800 directorships in 2,450 or so companies, with a combined turnover of £220 billion and a workforce of £1.2m. Although there is no wrongdoing involved, 40 per cent of these directorships are not declared, 6 per cent only partially, and 3 per cent with major flaws. The potential for corruption is immense, leaving Mike to wonder what we can do about it.

In this video by The Young Turks’ Jimmy Dore, the comedian talks to David Cobb, a constitutional lawyer and outreach director of Move to Amend, a campaign group fighting the corporatist corruption of politics. They’re at the Free Speech Zone at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Corporate sponsorship of American politicians began in the 1970s, when a court judged that it constituted ‘free speech’, and so was protected by the US constitution. Since then it’s become a national scandal. Both the Republican and Democrat parties are dominated by corporate interests, particularly Shrillary Clinton, the Democrats’ candidate for the presidency. About a year or so ago, one Californian businessman was so revolted by the corruption, that he started the ‘California Is Not For Sale’ campaign to force politicians sponsored by companies to wear corporate logos on their jackets.

Cobb explains the difference between free speech, and the basis of the American Constitution in that the people govern themselves, and what they say cannot be dictated or affected by the state. But he also states that corporations are not ‘persons’ with the same rights as people under constitutional law. ‘Money’, he states firmly, ‘is property’, and that property can be used to purchase ‘microphones, amplifiers and distribution systems to drown out the rest of us’. He makes the point that for 150 years there was legislation banning corporate sponsorship because it was recognised that this would corrupt the democratic process. When Move to Amend introduced its motions – to remove the legal ruling that corporations are persons with constitutional rights, and remove corporate sponsorship from politics – in the last Congressional session it had three sponsors. This time, it had 22, including one Republican, from North Carolina.

Move to Amend was formed in 2010, it was 12 people in a living room. Now its 410,000 people and growing. 17 states have called for a constitutional amendment, and 600 communities have passed resolutions in their city councils supporting their resolutions. They’ve also been on 350 ballots by individuals, winning in each one. This is not just in liberal strongholds, but also in Conservative towns like Salt Lake City.

We badly need similar legislation like this in Britain to clean out the corporate corruption from our politics. Don’t expect it from the Blairites in the Labour party, though. As Peter Mandelson said, they were incredibly relaxed about getting rich, and notorious for the donations and sponsorships they received from business. And don’t expect it from the Tories either. Previous attempts to get business out of parliament has been shrugged off by the Tories on the grounds that the Conservative

    is

the party of business. David Cameron made a pretence of reforming lobbying, but it was designed to clean out lobbying by charities and other organisations, including trade unions, while leaving the big corporate lobbyists untouched.

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New Labour Sets Up Delegate-Only Meetings to Exclude Corbyn Supporters from Nominations

July 30, 2016

Mike today has posted up another piece about the anti-democratic dirty tricks pursued by the Blairites to stop Labour party members voting for Jeremy Corbyn, according to an article in the Evening Standard. Mike reported yesterday how Conor McGinn, the Labour MP for St. Helen’s North, had misdirected Corbyn supporters to Century House for a meeting over a vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. McGinn and at least six of his cronies held the real meeting behind closed doors over in the Town Hall. When a group of women, who had come to support Corbyn and been misled, tackled him about it, McGinn reported them to the police and then wrote a completely misleading account of the incident for Politics Home, claiming to have been threatened and intimidated by them.

This process has been repeated in Blaenau Gwent, where Labour party members were prevented from attending a meeting to nominate, who they wanted as leader of the Labour party. The CLP instead chose Smiffy. It is not remotely coincidental that the local Labour MP is a director of Progress, the Blairite faction in the Labour party.

Now it also appears to have been done in Chuka Umunna’s local party in Streatham. The party’s grassroots members were locked out of the meeting, and the nomination was made by the party’s general committee, which chose Smudger. A party spokesman told the Standard that they had to do it like that, as the party’s membership was too large for everyone to be notified at such a short notice.

Mike points out that this is rubbish. They could have used email. If the problem was that the membership was too large to fit in the usual premises, then they could have done what Jeremy Corbyn does, and booked larger premises. Mike speculates that the people, who’ve arranged such anti-democratic tricks, don’t realise the amount of ill-will they’re creating for themselves, ill-will that will be expressed later on. Or they simply don’t care, as they’re trying to create a literal party within a party with Labour.

Mike concludes his article with the following recommendation

In the meantime, anyone who feels mistreated by this attempt to sidestep democracy is entitled to express their displeasure to the NEC – perhaps in the form of a multiple-signature letter or petition; perhaps with a motion of no confidence in the nomination decision and the process by which it was made.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/anti-corbyn-stitch-up-in-labour-leader-nomination-process-is-another-attack-on-democracy/

I’m not surprised that Chuka Umunna’s CLP in Streatham have tried this trick. Umunna is a Blairite through and through. A little while ago, when it seemed the party was going a little too far to the left for his liking, he warned that if it continued to do so, he and other ‘aspiring’ Blacks and Asians would leave the Labour party. This was part of a general warning by Blairites that a leftward turn by the Labour party would lose them the votes of all the aspirant, upwardly mobile ‘swing voters’ Blair, Broon and Mandelson had cultivated as part of their electoral strategy.

In Umunna’s case, there’s a nasty undercurrent of racial entitlement in this. The Labour party was founded to protect the interests of the working class and poor. At the heart of Socialism is a profound belief in equality, a belief that also motivates Socialists to support the independence movements that arose in the British colonies abroad, and support Blacks and Asians in their campaigns for racial equality at home. But Umunna’s statement suggests he believes that the majority of British people, regardless of colour, should continue to suffer if they are poor or working class, in order to reward Black and Asian swing voters, who are, like their White part counterparts, likely to come from the more affluent sectors of the population. It’s a nasty, racist attitude, though I doubt Umunna sees it as such. He probably sees it as supporting the rights of Blacks and Asians to join the affluent White groups, a demand for equality, even if it means the further impoverishment of everyone poorer than them.

It’s also particularly toxic politically in the present climate post-Brexit. Brexit has led to a massive increase in racism and racist incidents across Britain. Many racists believe that the vote to leave the EU has given them tacit permission to express publicly their private racial hatred. Dissatisfaction and frustration by the White working class was one of the fundamental causes of the Brexit vote. By pursuing the votes of affluent ‘swing voters’, Blair, Brown and Mandelson left very many members of the working class feeling left behind, as conditions for the working class generally worsened. Tory papers, such as the Scum and the Heil have consistently attacked affirmative action campaigns to improve opportunities for Blacks and Asians, and immigration, as discrimination against the White British. Umunna’s comment could easily be seen by disaffected Whites as confirming their belief that New Labour has no interested in helping the poor or working class, unless they are Black or Asian.

Owen Jones, in his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, makes the point that despite the abandonment of the working class by New Labour, the working class as a whole isn’t racist, although the Tory press has done its level best to claim that it is. He describes a strike at a large industrial plant against the use of cheap immigrant labour. Yet while the Tory press claimed that this was purely a racist attack on the employment of migrant workers, the trade union that called the strike did so partly because it was concerned about the exploitation of the migrant labourers, who did not share the same working conditions as the British fellows, and were forbidden to join a union.

The demands by Umunna and his White counterparts that the Labour party should continue to focus on getting the votes of the middle class, and promoting the ambitions of the aspirant few against the impoverished many, should be strongly rejected. Mike himself has quoted surveys from Labour supporters that show that social aspiration rarely, if at all, figures as one of their concerns. Furthermore, the neoliberal policies Umunna and the rest of the Blairites have embraced, have actually destroyed social mobility.

If Umunna and the rest of them are serious about restoring social mobility, and enabling Blacks and Asians, as well as Whites, to rise higher, then they need to go back to the old Social Democratic consensus. The architect of this strand of Labour ideology, Tony Crosland, argued that it was in the interests of business to support the redistribution of wealth through the welfare state, as this allowed the workers to buy more of their products, and so stimulated both production and profitability. And he also argued that there was no need for more radical forms of industrial democracy, such as works councils and worker directors, if trade unions had an active role in negotiating with management, and workers had good chances of promotion.

If New Labour returns to this policy, then it will both bring prosperity back to working people, regardless of their colour, and get more Blacks and Asians into the middle classes. It isn’t social democrats like Corbyn blocking the social advancement of Blacks and Asians – or anyone else, for that matter. It’s neoliberals concerned to hold on to the status and privileges of the rich at the expense of the poor, no matter what colour they are.

Vox Political: Real Wages Fall by Ten Per Cent Under Tories

July 30, 2016

Mike also published a piece last week on a report published on Wednesday by the TUC, which found that while wages had grown in real terms across the EU between 2007 and 2015, they had fallen in Britain by 10.4%. The average rise in wages across the EU was 6.7 per cent. In Poland, wages had risen by 23 per cent. In Germany wages rose by nearly 14 per cent, and in France by 10.5 per cent. The only countries across the OECD which suffered a fall in wages were Portugal, Britain and Greece.

Mike’s article has two illustrations – one is a graph showing the rise in real wages in various countries, while another is a meme showing the massive pay rises enjoyed by other, very privileged groups, in Britain. Like Bankers, whose pay has risen by 35%, directors of FTSE 100 companies, 14%, and MPs, whose pay has gone up by 11%.

Mike makes the point that New Labour must share some of the blame for this, as not only was Peter Mandelson and his chums very relaxed about people making money, they were also extremely relaxed about wages stagnating. He makes the point that the crash his the poorest the hardest, and the austerity launched by the Tories has been punishing and impoverishing the poor to bail out the bankers and the rich. He also makes the point that Owen Smith’s solutions are just cosmetic, and won’t do anything without concrete proposals for the redistribution of the extra money gained through the ‘wealth tax’ he proposes.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/real-wages-in-the-uk-have-fallen-by-more-than-10-per-cent-under-tories/

Mike’s right about New Labour being very relaxed about wages stagnating. In fact, wage restraint has been a major part of the neoliberal consensus ever since Maggie Thatcher took power in 1979. Keynsianism tolerated high inflation – and in the 1970s at times the inflation rate in Britain was truly eye-watering – as it was coupled to an expanding economy. Both Labour and the Tories attempted to keep pay rises within certain boundaries nevertheless. Thatcher’s Monetarism was much harder towards inflation. It saw this it as the major obstacle to economic growth, and so demanded that it be ruthlessly cut, even if this meant shedding jobs on a truly massive scale, accompanied by a fall in real wages, and the dismantlement of various welfare programmes. It also meant abandoning the Keynsian commitment, pursued over 40 years, to full employment.

Robin Ramsay in a piece on his ‘News from the Bridge’ column in Lobster, made the point that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism as an economic theory was so poorly regarded by his lecturers that they left it to the undergrads to work out what was wrong with it. Which shows you it was known even then to be totally rubbish and useless. He argues that it was adopted by the Tory party because it gave them a rationale for doing what they wanted to do on other grounds – destroy organised labour, dismantle the welfare state, including the Health Service, and grind the working class into poverty.

Now a number of economists are pointing out that, despite the emphasis by the Tories on wage restraint and very low inflation rates, the economy is not growing. I think Han Joon Chang is one of these in his 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

The comparison with Greece is particularly chilling. Greece has been ruthlessly punished by the Troika with very harsh austerity policies, partly because the Greeks dared to defy the Eurozone authorities and elected Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. Counterpunch has attacked the economic despoliation of the country by mainly German banks as a form of economic warfare. Greece was one of the countries that suffered from the effective collapse of the Eurozone. The result has been grinding mass poverty for its people. One recent programme on the country’s plight showed children picking rubbish off dumps to sale, just as they do in Developing Nations. The presenter looked on, aghast, and made the point that he had never seen this before in what was supposed to be a developed, European country.

Is this what New Labour and the Tories have in store for us? One of the books I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday was about how Britain would have a ‘third world’ economy by 2014. Clearly the book was written a little while ago, and the timing’s out, but nevertheless, the appearance of third world conditions in Britain is a real possibility. There are already 3.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands facing off poverty only because of food banks. I also remember how this was predicted on a BBC Horizon programme, entitled, ‘Icon Earth’, twenty years ago. The programme was about how the image of the Earth in space, taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, had affected global religious, political and economic perspectives. That image had stimulated people around the world to realise that everyone on Earth shared a common home. One result of this, so the programme claimed, was globalisation. It discussed the growing campaigns against migration from the developing world with an Indian anti-racism activist. She predicted that as globalisation progressed, pockets of the third world would appear in the first.

She’s right. This has happened with Greece, and it is occurring in Britain, thanks to the Tories and New Labour. But unlike Greece, we cannot blame the EU. We never joined the Eurozone, and the deterioration in wages and conditions will occur because of Brexit. The cause of this stagnation ultimately is three and half decades and more of Thatcherism.

Owen Smith’s Rhetoric of Domestic Abuse

July 25, 2016

Mike also put up another piece on Owen Smith rhetoric and demeanour as he launched a campaign against misogyny, following the comments of one of his readers, who had been a victim for ten years of domestic abuse. Owen Smith pledged Labour to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on misogyny. To show the current double standards in the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn was vilified when he promised that Labour would end workplace discrimination.

In fact, as Mike shows, Smiff himself has previous on what some would regard at sexism. He told one of the female regulars on Question Time that she was only there because of her gender. But Mike’s female commenter picked up on the language he uses to denigrate and demean Corbyn. She states that after undergoing a 12 week course to deal with the effects of the decade-long abuse she suffered from her partner, she found that Smiff fits the profile of one type of domestic abuser: the headworker. This is the person, who constantly wears down his victim’s sense of self-worth, by telling them that they’re worthless, and using that insult to justify his assaults on them.

To test this analysis, Mike supplies a sample of Smiff’s comments about Corbyn, to see if they fit this profile. They do. They are all just remarks about how useless he is, and how unfit he is to lead the party, without any substance behind them. Mike also checks to see what personal smears Corbyn has cast over his opponents: precisely none.

This bears out Mike’s commenter’s observations.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/23/headworker-owen-smith-resembles-domestic-violence-perpetrator/

I wonder how far this culture of New Labour bullying is the creation of Blair, Brown, Campbell and Mandelson. Blair’s coterie was notorious for their determination to micromanage everything they could to make the Dear Leader appear popular and acclaimed, and ensure that MPs and officials were properly compliant and ‘on message’. When they went ‘off message’, as Claire Short did on numerous occasions, then they went on the personal attack, briefing against them.

I also wonder how far this is due to a general culture of bullying within a middle class marked with a very strong sense of entitlement. David Cameron, for example, claimed that he wasn’t a toff, but a member of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle class’, who were determined to get all they could. It was a risible claim, as Cameron is demonstrably a toff. He can’t remotely be described as ‘middle class’, except in so far as that term also describes the haute bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, this is a class that feels that it has an absolute right to rule, and to bully those it considers a threat. You consider the sheer venom Peter Lilley, the former Tory Secretary of State for Welfare, and the right-wing press has for ‘benefit scroungers’. The signing-on at the Jobcentre Plus for Jobseekers’ Allowance, the Work Capability Assessment and Workfare are all forms of bullying, set up to degrade and intimidate the unemployed claimant so that they only sign on if desperate. It’s explicitly based on the Victorian doctrine of least eligibility espoused by Thatcher as one of her ‘Victorian values’. Thatcher’s regime also saw the rise of ‘macho management’, in which company officials bullied their staff in order to get their absolute obedience and raise standards. Allegedly. Thus, a couple of managers appeared in Private Eye for threatening to hang a member of staff at a branch of Asda. And I was told by a former journalist on one of the Bristol papers that the editor there would call people into his office every morning to criticise them. This was all done for no reason, except that it was supposed to make them ‘better journalists’.

That type of management went out with John Major. But I do wonder if it hasn’t left its mark in the bullying psychology of New Labour, and their absolute determination to hang on to power. New Labour won its electoral victories by appealing to middle class swing voters. Blairite MPs still talk about ‘aspirational voters’, even though for the bulk of Labour supporters this is not an issue. They just want to survive unemployment, zero hours contracts and workfare. The Tories have survived and gained their votes partly by playing on status insecurity in parts of the working and lower middle classes. They exploit the fears and snobbery of the wealthier sections of these social classes against those below them. And so you have the Tory rhetoric about ‘hardworking people’ who want to make life more miserable for the unemployed, as they don’t want to see their closed curtains when they go to work. This was reflected in the pledge of one London Blairite MP that Labour would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories if they got into power.

That kind of rhetoric alienated Labour’s core voters, who have now returned with Jeremy Corbyn. And the entitled Blairites can’t stand it. So to hang on to power they have gone back to a Thatcherite culture of middle class bullying and abuse to keep these awkward proles in line, and stop them losing the favour of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle classes’ with whom they wish to ingratiate themselves.

Pro-Corbin Article in Today’s Counterpunch

June 30, 2016

The American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, has an important article by Thomas Barker urging people outside the Labour party to support Corbyn in his desperate battle with the Blairites. Barker describes how 172 MPs have come out against him, including Ed Miliband, all claiming that he is ‘unelectable’, despite having the biggest mandate of the party leaders. He states very clearly that their opposition to Corbyn is based on his desire to bring back real Socialism into the party, and make the Left a renewed force in British politics, through supporting the nationalisation of the railways, free education, a better minimum wage and so on. He states that Corbyn also has limited support from the constituency parties, and so urges those outside the party to show their support.

He begins

Since last Thursday’s EU referendum, some 172 right wing Labour MPs have put their name to a vote of no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn. They claim that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’, despite winning the biggest mandate of any party leader in British history.

Even leaders proven to be ‘unelectable’, such as Ed Miliband, are now calling for Corbyn to resign.

In reality, these Blairite MPs are opposed to Corbyn’s program of a £10 an hour living wage, mass council house building, free education, and nationalisation of the railways.

It is hardly surprising that right wing MPs have come out against Corbyn, but what is most galling is the attempt by small groups of Labour members, including MPs and councillors, to enclose the debate within the confines of the party.

This is a huge mistake.

The implications of the ongoing leadership struggle are much bigger than one party. This is a struggle to reconstitute the left as a mass force. The idea that you need to be part of Labour to have an opinion on this is exactly the kind of exclusionary nonsense that needs to be avoided if Corbyn is to succeed.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/30/saving-labour-from-blairism-the-dangers-of-confining-the-debate-to-existing-members/

Go and read it.

People are indeed showing their support for Corbyn. Mike has linked to an internet petition asking him not to resign, and on Tuesday evening there was demonstration in his support on College Green in Bristol

And the Blairites, as a political faction, are vile. Tony Blair was a neoliberal Tory and a Thatcherite. One of the first things he did when he got into No. 10 was invited her round. She described New Labour as her greatest achievement. Well, she did make it very clear she wanted to destroy Socialism.

Blair continued the disastrous PFI, which has seen this country saddled with massive, off-the-accounts debt for shoddy workmanship in public utilities. He also continued and expanded Thatcher’s privatisation of the NHS. This was a conscious policy. He wanted to introduce an insurance-driven system like America, but didn’t want to lose an election by telling the voters. See Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ NHS-SOS. It was Blair that also called in ATOS to conduct the fitness-for-work tests that have so far seen 500 or see people die of starvation and misery, and a further 290,000 suffer varying degrees of harm to their mental health. And it was Blair, who began the transform of our publicly funded schools into privately run academies.

Quite apart from Bliar, Mandelson and Broon introducing tuition fees.

This has all reduced the British people to poverty. It’s provided the basis for Cameron’s policies, which have continued them. As a result of 30 odd years of Thatcherism, our children will have worse schooling, the working and lower middle class will be saddled with immense debt if they go to Uni, and we are being charged for the health service, to the profit of private medical firms like BUPA, Circle Health, and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Care.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Blairites were thrown out of the party, and treated with the contempt they deserve by the working people of this country, whom they’ve spurned. It was after all one of the Blairite MPs, who stated that Labour would be even harder on jobseekers than the Tories. All to curry favour with the corporate, tax-dodging fat cats and media barons like Murdoch, Dacre, Desmond and the weirdo Barclay Twins.

And so I say: I support Corbyn.

The Left Book Club: The Tory MP

November 29, 2015

Looking through one of the second-hand bookshops in Cheltenham a few weeks ago, I found a set of books in their ‘politics’ section published by the Left Book Club in the 30s and 40s. Amongst them were titles like ‘Production for the People’ and ‘Empire, Your Empire’. This last was definitely in favour of the British Empire, in contrast to the views of some Labour MPs, such as one Benn, who believed that Africans should be given back their countries as quickly as possible. This particular volume wanted Britain to retain her Empire, but for its administration to be made more humane, with the welfare of its peoples given much higher priority. It was critical of the way many countries suffered from starvation and malnutrition under the-then present administrations.

The book that particularly caught my eye was a sociological study of the social origins and class allegiances of Conservative members of parliament. It was called simply, The Tory MP. Essentially it told you at great length, and it great detail, what you probably know already: that Tory MPs come from the aristocracy and business classes and represent those classes against the poor and working class. There’s is a very pithy quote at the front from Benjamin Disraeli, one of the great founders of the modern Tory party in the 19th century, to the Marxist Socialist, Hyndeman. Hyndeman had told Disraeli that Socialism, or at least, his Socialist party, stood for the workers and was trying to get the best for them. Disraeli told him bluntly that the upper and middle classes would resist this with all the strength they had until the workers were utterly routed.

So much for Disraelian ‘one nation’ Toryism.

Cameron has been telling everyone he’s a ‘one nation’ Tory to try and present his party of blood-thirsty bigots, public school bullies and general bourgeois thugs and cut-throats as somehow being ‘caring Conservatives’, when all the evidence overwhelmingly points to the opposite. They have an absolute indifference to the poverty they’ve created. In fact, they positively seem to revel in the misery of the poor, the unemployed and the working class. Their ‘caring’ extends only to the rich and powerful.

The book extensively documents the aristocratic and business links of the Tory MPs of its time – which members came from which aristocratic families, whose family owned what business, and so on. And, almost needless to say, the same people, or type of people, dominated the civil service and colonial administration. As well as the armed forces. I didn’t buy it, as it was extremely dated. I am, however, tempted to splash out on it, as even if it was published eighty years or so ago, my guess is that little has changed over the last three-quarters of a century. My guess is that the same families are still firmly in power in the ranks of the Tory party, and pretty much the same firms, even if they have changed, merged and amalgamated with others in the intervening decades.

I think there actually should be rather more research like this. In the 1980s there was a lot of talk about ending class conflict, largely because of Thatcher’s victory and her immense popularity with certain sections of the working class. The result of that was Blairite ‘New Labour’, that stated, in Peter Mandelson’s words, that they were immensely relaxed about being rich. New Labour came to power by adopting the Tories policies and trying to appeal to middle class voters. In doing so, they abandoned and marginalised their traditional base, and opened the way for ATOS, UNUM and the other corporations to begin their campaign of fear against the long term sick and disabled. There many working class people at the time, who swallowed Thatcher’s line about being working class, because her father owned a shop, despite the fact that she personally hated the working class with a vengeance.

Whatever Cameron says, the Tories have never represented the working class, and books like The Tory MP, and Owen Davies’ book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, show it.

Blair and the Corporate Penetration of New Labour

January 29, 2015

I also found this very revealing remark about Tony Blair and his very right-wing conception of the what the Labour party should be in Lobster 45, in an article on Demos by William Clark. Demos is the ostensibly left-wing thinktank, that actually aims to extend the power and influence of big business in the Labour party. One of its members is Lord Stevenson, formerly the chairman of Express newspapers, if I recall correctly. He described in the article as a friend of Peter Mandelson, and was supposedly recruited by Blair in 1996. In a 1998 interview with Sunday Times, he states that Blair

… always wanted to make Labour into an alternative party of business. There were some big businessmen who were always pro-Labour: Lord Hollick and Chris Haskins for instance. Blair wanted to meet the others, so I organised evening where he could meet friends of mine. People running FTSE companies … Blair has involved businessmen to a huge extent … In fact he has almost delegated power to them. I think there is a legitimate question about the extent to which that is actually right.

He was also chairman of the recruitment company Manpower, which ran Working Links, the welfare-to-work company.

Among the other members of Demos was Graham Mather, a director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, who declared that he wanted ‘to get government out of providing schools and hospitals, cut taxes and give vouchers to the poor. He was also a member of the Institute of Directors, where he stated that he wanted ‘the advance of markets into government itself’. According to the article, he saw himself as part of a ‘priesthood of believers in the market’ pushing for libertarian right ideology against the ‘threat … from socialism’.

The connections between Blair’s New Labour, Stevenson, Graham Mather, and many others like them probably explains why so many of Labour’s front bench don’t attack the government and its policies with the venom they deserve. They don’t press their point home, even when the Coalition present open goals, because essentially they stand for pretty much the same thing.

What You Can Expect from TTIP: Veolia Sues Egyptian Government over Wages

January 28, 2015

Mike and the other left-wing blogs have been warning for some time now about the dire consequences for British working people if the government passes the TTIP. This is the international trade agreement between the US and Europe, which would give rich multinationals the power to sue national governments for the effects of legislation. Left-wing critics warn that if this goes ahead, then it will effectively cement in place the government’s privatisation of the NHS, as the private healthcare providers could sue the British government if it tried to renationalise health care in the UK.

And a particular malign example of what we can expect from the deal was provided by Private Eye two years ago in the article, ‘Peter Mandelson: Global Reach’ in their issue for the 15th – 28th November 2013. This reported the former Labour Minister and spin doctor, Peter Mandelson’s support for TTIP, and lists the various companies, for whom he is now lobbying. The Eye also reports that according to the TUC, the waste management company, Veolia, was using a similar trade deal, the ISDS, to sue the Egyptian government for increasing wages for its country’s workers.

How mean and despicable can you get?

One of the reasons for the political instability in Egypt and the rest of Middle East has been the decline in incomes due to economic stagnation. Political analysts point to the economic slump in Algeria in the 1990s as one of the causes of the victory for the Islamist FLN at the elections there. The result was a military coup by the arm in order to save Algeria as a secular state, and several years of brutal civil war. In Egypt many people are at or below the breadline, unable to buy staple foods. It is absolutely disgusting that a poor nation should be pushed further into poverty, simply so western multinationals can boost their dividends.

And with examples of exploitation like that, it’s no wonder that some in the Arab world hate us.

What Veolia did yesterday with the Egyptians, other companies will do tomorrow with the TTIP. We cannot let the Mandelsons and Camerons of the world pass it.

Marx was right: Working people of all countries, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Nigel Farage: Poundland Enoch Powell or Britain’s Own Mad Vlad Zhirinovsky?

December 12, 2014

Brand on Farage as ‘Poundland Powell’

Russell Brand was in the Independent and on MSN news today. The paper and the internet news service were reporting the spat between him and the Kippers’ Fuehrer on Question Time last night. The revolutionary, author and film star had called Farage a ‘Poundland Enoch Powell’. The Duce of the anti-EU right had responded by declaring that Brand had a messiah-complex.

It’s not hard to see Brand’s point, and the comparison’s a good one. Powell and Farage are both right-wing, anti-immigration politicians, and from a certain point of view Farage is definitely rather more downmarket than the man whose former schoolfellows used to call ‘Scowly Powelly’. Powell after all was something of an academic, who taught classics at one of the Australian universities. He was also multilingual and could speak Urdu. Farage, by contrast tries to promote himself as something of a man of the people, an ordinary bloke, who likes a beer in a pub and smokes.

Powell and Farage also have in common the fact that they both deny that they are actually racist. Farage likes to boast that UKIP is a non-racist, non-sectarian party and that it has a ban on taking members from the extreme right – the National Front, BNP, and Britain First, for example, while targeting the allegedly non-racist supporters of these parties. Despite the deeply violent, venomous imagery of Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, it’s been claimed that Powell himself actually wasn’t personally racist and despised the Nazi stormtroopers, who were attracted to him after his infamous speech. Farage has learned from Powell’s mistakes, and how the former Conservative cabinet minister became virtually a political pariah because of his vile rhetoric. Farage promises instead to tackle immigration and get Britain out of the EU, all the while reassuring voters that his is not a racist party. It isn’t officially, at least in its public pronouncements, but as recent events have shown, it has had more than its share of racists in it.

Beer, Cigarettes, and Class Image in Politics

Brand also attacked Farage for his blokey, beer and ciggies image. This accounts for part of the Fuehrer’s electoral charm, as it gives him an apparent connection to the working and lower middle classes that the mainstream parties don’t have. Cameron and Clegg are toffs, who it would be far easier to imagine enjoying a sherry or extremely expensive fine wine than a pint of Best in a boozer. The same could be said of the Islington New Labour set around Tony Blair. A few years ago when Blair was in power, there was a story that Peter Mandelson had gone to a fish and chip shop in his Hartlepool constituency. Although strongly denied at the time, it was claimed that Mandelson had asked if the mushy peas northern chippies serve were avocado dip.

Brand’s right-wing opponents, like Peter Hitchens, have claimed that Brand’s working class image is false, pointing to the fact that he is very highly educated from a middle class home. Farage’s own image as a ordinary bloke is also untrue, as the man himself is public school, millionaire financier. I doubt very much that beer, the tipple of the working man and woman since time immemorial, is also Farage’s favourite beverage as he appears to claim.

Farage and the Mad Russian Fascist, Vladimir Zhirinovsky

In this respect Farage seems to me less like Enoch Powell, and more like Vladimir ‘Mad Vlad’ Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian far right in the 1990s. Both are extreme Right-wing populists, who deliberately try to present themselves as somehow standing up for the ordinary, working class people of their countries. Zhirinovsky racism was far more overt than that of Farage’s party. He was the leader of the venomously anti-Semitic Liberal Democratic party, which emerged amongst the economic chaos of Yeltsin’s mass privatisation of the Russian economy after the collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Zhirinovsky’s part was ultra-nationalistic, racist and profoundly anti-democratic. The BBC in the 1990s filmed him on the Russian campaign trail, sailing along the Volga in a ship making speeches to disaffected Russian voters and plotting his next moves against his political rivals.

The picture that emerged was of a shrewd, cynical politico, who made contemptuous jokes about his own country and had no qualms about smearing and spreading lies about other politicians if it would serve his purpose. Unlike many Russians, he didn’t drink or smoke, but deliberately cultivated an image to appeal to the average Russian worker, who like their British counterparts, liked their booze and ciggies. As the ship sailed along, its speakers blared out Mad Vlad’s campaign song, whose lyrics the Beeb translated as

Zhirinovsky’s a proper Russian bloke,
Even though he doesn’t drink or smoke
.

They then went on to describe how Zhirinovsky, if he met the singer, would embrace him, before giving him a drink and cigarette. You can see the parallel with Farage, and the way he tries to appeal to the British working class with his pint and ciggie image.

As for spreading lies about his rivals, Zhirinovsky was shown cooking up a slander he was going to put about the mayor of St. Peterburg, Nemtsov. Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union have a reputation among Western businessmen as ‘the wild East’ for its violent lawlessness and political corruption. In the 1990s there were a series of assassinations of prominent businessmen, journalists and dissident politicians. Zhirinovsky decided that his party would claim that Nemtsov had murdered one of his opponents, and dumped the body in the Neva. Although slanderous, the allegation was all too credible given the massive political violence at the time. As he and his cronies cooked up this rumour, Zhirinovsky nodded his head and declared it to be ‘good information’, although the Beeb translated the latter word as ‘propaganda’.

Farage doesn’t lie about his opponents like Zhirinovsky, but he is very careful to lie or conceal his party’s true intentions. A string of leading Kippers, including Bob Nuttall, their deputy chairman, have made it very clear that they despise the NHS, and wish to repeal the statutory benefits and laws protecting workers and employees, such as paid holidays and maternity leave for women. When pressed on these statements, and the extremely right-wing policies put forward in their manifesto, Farage’s response is to deny that they are actually party policy. He has disavowed the 2010 election manifesto, describing it as drivel, and somewhat speciously claiming that he had no part in its formulation. The indications are there, however, that these are the party’s true policies behind the more liberal face the Kippers present to the voting public.

As for his supposed patriotism, Zhirinovsky was shown telling jokes about how terrible his country was. One of them was about two World War II British airmen, who get lost, fly off course, and crash in Russia. Coming across a kolkhoznik – collective farmer – they ask the astonished peasant where they are. ‘Up the a***’ the farmer replies. ‘That’s it’, declares one of the airmen, ‘we’re in Russia’.

Farage has similarly shown a double standard on the issue of immigration and the EU bureaucracy. The Kipper MEPs don’t vote, but are nevertheless eager to collect their salary for turning up at the European parliament. Farage has made it clear that he doesn’t want immigrants, because, according to him, they take British jobs. Not only is that factually incorrect, but Farage has personally broken this stance. His wife is German, and is employed as his secretary.

Unlike Zhirinovsky, and the parties of the Nazi right, Farage has always claimed to be democratic, and the Kippers have claimed that their party advocates the establishment of direct democracy in Britain, like that of Switzerland. Zhirinovsky, on the other hand, would have dissolved the fledgling Russian democracy if he’d won. ‘Vote for me’, he was filmed telling his audience, ‘if I win, you will never have to vote for me again’. The danger with Farage is if he ever gets into power, then for many it will be too late to vote him out once his policies of greater privatisation, benefit cuts and destruction of workers’ and women’s rights takes effect.

Farage is wilier, shrewder, and far more subtle than Powell or Zhirinovsky. He is, however, like them a right-wing populist, and particularly like Zhirinovsky in adopting a pose of enjoying working class tastes in order to gain votes and advance an anti-working class agenda.

Miliband, Blair, the Financial Sector and Labour’s Rejection of the Working Class

March 27, 2014

Eye Miliband pic

Private Eye’s satirical view of Labour leader Ed Miliband from the cover of their edition for 5th -18th October 2012.

There has been increased criticism of Ed Miliband this week after an open letter signed by 28 left-wing activists was published in the Guardian criticising Miliband’s electoral strategy. Many traditional Labour supporters and voters have been increasingly alienated by Labour’s move to the Right and its policy of adopting harsh Tory policies and attitudes towards the poor. Miliband has stated that he wants to reach out to the middle classes, and this week ordered the parliamentary Labour party to vote with the government for the imposition of an overall benefit cap. Although Labour would be better by far than another Tory government after 2015, Miliband’s leadership seems to demonstrate many of the problems and attitudes of the modern political elite: very middle class, with little awareness of or sympathy for the problems and hardship experienced by the poor, the working class, the disabled, and unemployed.

Tony Blair and the Neglect of the Working Class

Much of this attitude began under New Labour with Tony Blair. Own Jones in chavs describes how the political elite have played down the existence of class in order to ignore the working class to concentrate on gaining middle class votes, quoting the politicians Jon Cruddas and Matthew Taylor, one of Blair’s aides.

Jon Cruddas is in no doubt that politicians of all colours have a vested interest in denying the existence of class. It has proved an effective way of avoiding having to address working-class concerns in favour of a small, privileged layer of the middle classes. “They devise ever more scientific methods of camping out on a very small slice of the electorate … those who are constituted as marginal voters in marginal seats.’ Working class voters were taken for granted as the ‘core vote’ who had nowhere else to go, allowing New Labour politicians to tailor their policies to privileged voters.

No New Labour politician personified this attitude more than Tony Blair. Matthew Taylor offers an interesting insight into Blair’s political approach. ‘I worked for Tony Blair, and the point about Tony is that Tony would always say when I would say to him, or other people would say to him: “What about a bit more kind of leftism in all this? What about a bit more about poverty and justice and blah blah blah? …”‘ Blair’s response was blunt, to say the least:

Tony would always say, fine, but I don’t need to worry about that, because that’s what everybody else in the Labour Party wants, and that’s what everybody else in the Cabinet wants, and that’s what Gordon [Brown] wants, and that’s kind of fine. And I’ll leave them to do that, because I know that’s how they’ll spend all their time. They don’t want to do public service reform, they don’t want to wealth creation, they’re not interested in any of that, they’ll just kind of hammer away at that agenda. My job is to appeal to the great mass of people on issues that the Labour Party generally speaking is just not interested in.

The near-obsession with ignoring working-class voters meant inflating the importance of a very small tranche of wealthy voters who were misleadingly construed as Middle England. After all, an individual in the very middle of the nation’s income scale only earns around £21,000. ‘You’re probably right that we did misportray Middle England,’ admits Matthew Taylor, ‘But that again, I’m afraid, is not just a Labour characteristic. It’s characteristic of the middle classes as a whole.’

Chavs, 100-101.

Lobster on Kinnock and the Development of New Labour

The parapolitical magazine, Lobster, has printed a number of articles analysing and critiquing Blair, New Labour and their policies. One of the most important accounts of the origins of the New Labour project is the article, ‘Contamination, The Labour Party, Nationalism and the Blairites’ by the editor, Robin Ramsay, in no. 33, Summer 1997, pp. 2-9. Ramsay views the emergence of what later become known as New Labour in Neil Kinnock’s change of policies following their 1987 election defeat. Kinnock had previously been very left-wing. In his book Making Our Way, according to Ramsay ‘had come close to a radical, anti-finance capital, anti-overseas lobby, pro-domestic economic policy’. This changed after the election defeat, when Kinnock and his economic advisor, John Eatwell, enthusiastically embraced the free market and EEC. He notes that when a group under Bryan Gould produced the report, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, Eatwell, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair objected to the sections recommending a return to national ownership.

An Economic Secretariat was created under John Smith, including advisors from the City of London. Kinnock and Smith became pro-EEC and were convinced that Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. At a Shadow Cabinet meeting on the 16th November 1989, the Labour leadership followed Smith’s advice that the state could not stimulate the economy, either through the nationalised industries or local councils, because this was prohibited under the rules of the ERM. The Labour Party thus launched the ‘prawn cocktail offensive’ to win over the City of London, in which John Smith and Mo Mowlam assured the bankers that they would not attempt to limit their profits any more than Thatcher had. This resulted in the establishment and expansion of a series of groups creating links between the Labour party and the financial sector. These included the Smithfield discussion group, the Labour Finance and Industry Group, and the Industry Forum. The Labour Finance and Industry group represented the interests of the domestic sector, while the Industry Forum and the Norton group presented the interests of the overseas lobby – the City of London and the multi-nationals.

Transatlantic Background of New Labour Leadership

Blair, Brown, Balls, David Miliband and the rest of ‘New Labour’ all had extensive links to America and American interests. Gordon Brown, for example, used to spend his summer holidays in the library of Harvard University. Blair went on a trip to America, which was part of a scheme sponsored by the US government to aspiring young British MPs. David Miliband, took an MA at MIT, Ed Balls studied at Harvard and, before he joined Brown, was about the join the World Bank. As for Mandelson, in his final year at Oxford University he became Chair of the British Youth Council, which had originally been set up in the 1950s by the CIA and SIS as the World Assembly of Youth in order to combat the Soviet youth fronts. Ramsay states

In short, the people round Blair are all linked to the United States, or the British foreign policy establishment, whose chief aim, since the end of the Second World War, has been to preserve the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ to compensate for long-term economic decline. The Blair’ group’s orientation is overseas: this is the territory of the Foreign Office and its think tank satellites like the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the political and propaganda apparatus of the overseas lobby. (p.7).

New Labour and the City of London and Overseas Lobby

Blair himself also announced before the annual conference of Murdoch’s News Corp that the Americans had also insisted that Britain should adopt a more pro-European policy. Due to the massive expansion in overseas investment under Thatcher, Britain was second only to America in this regard and so looked to American political and military power and influence to protect those interests. The result was an increase in support for Labour over the Tories in the London establishment over the Conservatives. The result was a complete reversal of attitude towards the City of London. Whereas the Labour report, Meet the Challenge Make the Change: A New Agenda for Britain had been highly critical of the influence of City of London, the latter was held up as a great success seven years later by Mandelson and Roger Liddle, in their book, The Blair Revolution. Liddle, incidentally, now writes for the Spectator.

Under Bryan Gould, the Labour report had stated of the City’s destructive dominance over the British economy that

‘The concentration of power and wealth in the city of London is the major cause of Britain’s economic problems’… and that Britain’s economic policy had for too long been dominated by City values and run in the interests of those who have assets rather than those who produce.

The Blair Revolution, however, described the City of London and the new, de-industrialised British economy in glowing terms.

Britain can boast of some notable economic strengths – for example, the resilience and high internationalisation of our top companies, our strong industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, retailing and media; the pre-eminence of the City of London.

Consequence of City Influence: Everywhere else in Britain Suffers

Ramsay goes on to describe what this change of attitude actually means for everyone else in Britain outside the elite financial circle of the metropolis.

That the British economy policy is ‘outward-looking, internationalist and committed to free and open trade’, in Blair’s words, is precisely the problem from which non-metropolitan Britain has suffered. These are the values of the overseas lobby, the Home Counties financial elite, people for whom Bradford or Norwich, let alone Glasgow and Cardiff, are far away places about which they know nothing – and care about as much.

British politics has been stood on its head. The Conservative Party, traditionally the party of financial and overseas interests, has been replaced in that role by Labour. Instructed by its new friends in the City, Labour has become the party of financial- that is pre-Keynsian – orthodoxy. Gordon Brown looks determined to re-enact the role of Philip Snowden in 1931. The last three years of the Major regime saw Chancellor Kenneth Clarke running the kind of orthodox Keynesian policy – increasing government deficits in response to the recession – which Labour, under Wilson or Callaghan, would have run, but which is anathema to ‘Iron Chancellor’ Brown. (p. 8).

Miliband’s Apparent Lack of Interest in Poverty and Working Class due to New Labour

Ramsay notes the way Labour adopted the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’ Toryism and appeals to British patriotism. This was to disguise their promotion of the overseas economy at the expense of domestic industry. He concludes

The Blair faction will fail. ‘One nation’ rhetoric, continuing membership of the institutions of the New World Order – which is essentially the same old American post-war order minus the Soviet challenge – and leaving economic policy to the overseas sector won’t affect the real structural problems of the British economy. When it does finally dawn on the Parliamentary Labour Party that it won’t work, they will have to look elsewhere. The wrong turning was taken at the point when Bryan Gould was defeated by John Smith and the party leadership decided to surrender to the overseas lobby. To that disjunction it will have to return. (p. 9).

This is the origin of New Labour and the background to Miliband’s continuing attempts to appeal to the Middle Class and the financial elite at the expense of the poor and working class. And it needs to change urgently. Even so, a Labour government would be far preferable to another Tory government. If nothing else, Labour have said that they will stop the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. But for Labour truly to start tackling poverty and unemployment in this country, it will have to jettison much of the New Labour project and start returning to its working class roots.