Posts Tagged ‘Sanitation’

Richard Seymour on the Dubious Electability of the Blairites

April 20, 2017

I’ve put up a few pieces about Richard Seymour’s criticisms of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his refutation of them in his book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. While I don’t agree with the book’s overall view – that Labour has never been a Socialist party, and has always compromised and taken over establishment economic policies – he does make some excellent points refuting some of the smears directed at the Labour leader – that he and his supporters are misogynists and anti-Semitic. In discussing the ‘Project Fear’ campaign against Corbyn, he also attacks the oft-repeated claim of the Blairite ‘moderates’ that they are far more likely to win an election than Corbyn. Seymour writes

The problem for the ‘moderates’ is this: they aren’t actually anywhere near as good at winning elections as they like to think.

Even in their reputed ‘golden age’, beginning in the bright summer of 1997, New labour was the beneficiary of timing and fortune far more than of the strategic genius of Mandelson and company. The Tories had already decisively lost the support of a stratum of ‘secular’ voters who tend to vote with their wallets. Any general election held after the 1992 ERM crisis would have been Labour’s to lose. (admittedly, that is no surety that they would not have lost it; Mandelson’s savvy did not prevent the loss of the 1992 election.) New Labour’s first term in office, between 1997 and 2001, saw their electoral coalition shrink by 3 million voters, largely from the poorest parts of the country. Were it not for the ongoing crisis wracking the Conservative Party, and the oddities of Britain’s electoral system – two factors over which electoral gurus and spinners have little control – such a haemorrhaging of support could have been fatal; leaving Blair another one-term Labour Prime Minister.

Blair’s third general election victory in 2005 was obtained with just over a third of the popular vote, and a total number of votes (9.5 million) similar to the achieved by Ed Miliband (9.35 million) in the disastrous 2015 election, in which Labour finally lost the majority of Scotland. What was the bid difference between a record third election victory and crushing defeat? The revival of the Conservative vote. The Tories had undergone a detox operation, with a youthful, glabrous-cheeked leader doing his best Blair interpretation. The deranged Right had largely decamped to UKIP. A period in coalition government with the Liberals had persuaded middle-ground voters that the Tories were no longer dominated by rancorous flag-wavers and pound-savers. (one might add, since it has become a psephological commonplace, that the credit crunch was ‘Labour’s ERM crisis’, but this is only partially true: Labour decisively lost this argument in retrospect, and it was by no means inevitable that they should have done so.

What about today? Whatever they think of Corbyn’s electoral chances, the Blairites’ own electoral prospects are not necessarily better. Polls taken of the prospective Labour candidates before the leadership election found that of all the candidates, Corbyn was the favourite. The ‘moderates’, lacking an appealing message, were also about as charismatic as lavatory soap dispensers. Labour’s poll ratings under Corbyn are poor, but hardly worse than before despite the ongoing media feeding frenzy. There is no reason to believe that any of his lacklustre rivals would be doing any better than Corbyn presently is.

Why might this be, and why have the pundits been so easily impressed by the claims of Labour’s right-wing? Thinking through the electoral arithmetic on the Blairites’ own terms, it was never obvious that the electoral bloc comprising people who think the same way they do is even close to 25 per cent. The reason this hasn’t been a problem in the past is that elections in Britain’s first-past-the-post system are usually decided by a few hundred thousand ‘median’ voters based in marginal constituencies. As long as Labour could take the votes of the Left for granted, they could focus on serenading the ‘aspirational’ voters of Nueaton. Even the erosion of ‘heartland’ votes didn’t register, so long as this erosion was happening to mountainous, seemingly unassailable majorities.

What happens, however, when left-leaning electors defect in sufficient numbers and sufficient geographic concentration to pose serious questions about Labour’s medium-term survival? What happens when it is no longer just the odd Labour seat going to George Galloway or Caroline Lucas in sudden unpredictable surges, but the whole of Scotland being lost in a single bloodbath? What happens when votes for left-of-centre rivals surge (the SNP vote trebling, the Green vote quadrupling), millions of potential voters still stay at home, and all of this takes place while the Conservatives reconstitute themselves as a viable centre-right governing party? This is one of the reasons why Corbynism has emerged in the first place: in that circumstance, Blairite triangulation turn out to be as useful as a paper umbrella, only any good until it starts raining.
(Pp. 51-3).

This is a good analysis, and it’s what Mike over at Vox Political, Guy Debord’s cat and others have been saying for a long time: the Blairites actually lost voters by chasing the Tory vote in marginal constituencies. Corbyn has actually won them back to the party. And the electoral success of the Greens and the SNP was based on them presenting themselves as a genuinely left-wing alternative to a Labour party that was determined to turn itself into Conservatives Mark 2. There is one thing which I differ with this article on: the metaphor with lavatory soap dispensers. I think the soap dispensers are actually more charismatic than the Blairites. They perform a useful service for personal hygiene, helping to prevent the spread of disease. This is very different from Blair and his coterie, who have succeeded in doing the precise opposite in Britain and the rest of the world. Thanks to Blair’s pursuit of Thatcherite policies, the way was open for the return of malnutrition and the diseases linked to poverty under the Tories. And by joining Bush in his wars in the Middle East, they have murdered millions, from the violence of the war itself and vicious sectarian and ethnic conflicts that came afterwards, the destruction of these nations’ economies, and malnutrition and disease as sanitation and health services collapsed.

The Blairites’ claim that they are more electable than Corbyn are self-promoting lies. They aren’t, and the policies they pursue are, like the Tories they took them from, actively dangerous.

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Vox Political on the Return of Victorian Diseases in 21st Century Britain

November 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has an article on the return of diseases, such as rickets, which were rife in 19th century Britain due to malnutrition, bad sanitation, overcrowding and generally poor conditions. He reports that Samuel Miller, a researcher into social security and one of his commenters, would like this investigated. His article begins with the answer to the question posed by its title, Will the Tories ever admit their ‘welfare reforms’ are reviving Victorian diseases?

Social security researcher and commenter Samuel Miller thinks they are.

He wants health authorities in the UK to investigate whether the return of diseases linked to poverty – and to the Victorian era – such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets and whooping cough.

This Writer flagged up the possibility as long ago as October 2013, after the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of rickets.

I wrote: “Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?”

Despite Tory claims that the UK is in better shape than it has been in years, it seems clear that these health issues are getting worse.

His comments about people in the low income groups having to feed their families on foods with poor nutritional value, simply because they can’t afford anything, is entirely correct. Remember when Jamie Oliver did a series on Channel 4 attempting to teach a town oop north to cook properly, because some survey or other had shown it was the place where the most people stuffed themselves and their children with chips and burgers? One of the most revealing pieces of that programme was when one woman burst into tears, explaining that the reason she fed her children such low-grade comfort food was simply because there weren’t any shops near her, which sold the green veg and wholesome meat cuts he was demanding.

You think of the way traditional greengrocers and butchers, like Jones’ is the favourite TV show, Dad’s Army, have disappeared from our high streets, driven out by vast supermarkets like ASDA or Sainsbury’s. These have their advantages in terms of choice and so on, but for many people they can only be reached by car, rather than a simple walk down the road like the traditional shops. In many instances, all that remembers of local food shops is the fish and chip or Chinese or Indian take away.

Not that you can expect the Tories, or probably anyone else to do anything about it, as they’re too busy receiving donations from the supermarkets to ever want to change their policies. I’ve no doubt that there may be other solutions, such as making sure there’s proper access to supermarkets by bus, but that also means interfering in another local service, which the Tories and the rest of them have told us would be improved by its deregulation by Maggie back in the 1980s.

And so it’s far easier for the government to put an extra tax on sugar, and claim they’re doing something about the ‘obesity epidemic’, than to tackle the problem of malnutrition and even starvation in its entirety.

And no, I don’t think you’ll ever hear any of the Tories confess to a link between their social security policies and the return of Victorian diseases like rickets. That would contradict all the lies Ian Duncan Smith has been telling us about how no-one’s really poor in Britain, and the only people using food banks are scroungers and malingerers, who are doing so out of choice.