Posts Tagged ‘T.O. Lloyd’

Plural Voting and the Liberal Electoral Reforms of 1918

March 7, 2016

I found another very interesting snippet in T.O. Lloyd’s history book, Empire to Welfare State. This is on page 85, where discusses the electoral reforms introduced by Lloyd George’s Liberals in 1918. This famously gave the vote to all men over 21 and all women over 30, effectively introducing democracy, or something close to it. It also cut down on plural voting. I’d always assumed that the system was ‘one man, one vote’. Not so. Before then, certain men had more than one vote depending on their circumstances. Lloyd George’s reform of that year cut this down to a single extra vote if you had a university degree or business premises. I have a feeling these extra votes were only remove totally after the Labour victory in 1948.

This makes sense of some of the things various Tories have said about the franchise over the years. I can remember one of the Tories back in the 1980s under Maggie Thatcher – I think it might have been Willie Whitelaw, but I can’t be sure – said that he thought business owners should have an extra vote, as they were also responsible for their workforce. I thought at the time that this was just the bizarre opinion of a snobbish member of an anti-democratic party. Which is true. What this makes clear is that Whitelaw, or whoever it was, was no isolated eccentric. He was actually looking back to how the system had been before the rise of the Welfare State.

It also puts a different perspective on the Tory electoral reforms that have stripped the working class, students and ethnic minorities of the automatic right to vote by changing the system of electoral registration. I’d merely assumed that they were following the lead of the Republicans over in America. I still think they are. I also thought they were trying to drag us back to the era before the extension of the franchise to the poorer parts of society. I’d always assumed this was sometime in the Nineteenth century, say around 1832. After all, one of the Kipper politicos said that he sometimes thought that the Great Reform Act was a bad idea. This shows that the Tories are effectively trying to drag the franchise back seventy years or so, before 1945, when business owners did have that extra vote.

And it shows that they are not the party of democracy, but rather its opposite: oligarchy, and the rule of the moneyed few.

Advertisements

G.R. Askwith on the Labour Exchanges, Modern Job Centres and the Deliberate Creation of an ‘Reserve Army of the Unemployed’

March 7, 2016

I found a very interesting little snippet in T.O. Lloyd’s Empire to Welfare State: English History 1906-1985 3rd Edition (Oxford: OUP 1986). On page 16 he discusses how the Liberal government in 1908 set up the Labour Exchanges as a way of putting prospective employers and unemployed workers in contact with each other. He notes, however, that G.R. Askwith, who was the leading negotiator in labour disputes at the time, was later quite critical of them. He believed they made it too easy for employers to return to the Nineteenth century notion of ‘a reserve army of the unemployed’.

Which gives a clue where Hayek and Milton Friedman got some of their crappy ideas about the optimum level of unemployment from. The Angry Yorkshireman has pointed out that one the central ideas of the Chicago school, of which Friedman was a part, was that there should be an unemployment rate of 6 per cent in order to keep wages low. He’s point out how this idea permeates modern Tory economic dogma. When Osborne therefore starts making noises about combating unemployment, he is not talking about trying to return to full employment, or even getting it as low as possible. He deliberately makes vague and ambiguous comments, that sound as though he means to combat unemployment, but in fact mean that he intends to maintain the six per cent level. His intentions only become clear once you understand his policies’ basis in Friedman’s weird and unpleasant ideas.
It’s clear from this that Friedman got that part of his economic theory from 19th century Classical Economists.

It also seems to me that while Askwith may have been wrong about the Labour Exchanges, he would be absolutely right about modern Job Centres. Firstly, the recruitment aspect has been removed from them completely, and given to private recruitment centres and government outsourcing contractors. These in turn have been found to be monumentally inept at actually getting people into full-time paid work. In fact, they’re worse than the unemployed just looking for work on their own account without their dubious help.

Secondly, the Jobcentres are now run according to the Victorian notion of less eligibility. They try to make things as hard for the unemployed as possible in order to throw them off benefit. The attitude seems to be to harangue and bully people into finding work, or putting them on workfare to act as an unpaid labour force for the Tories’ backers in industry.

All this makes me wonder whether the failings of these organisations to get people into work aren’t actually part of their design. The government needs the electorate to believe it’s doing everything it can to get the unemployed into work, while actually maintaining a pool of the unemployed to keep those in work poor and desperate. And so the slightest excuse is found to throw the sick and unemployed off benefit, but not to make sure they’ve found work.