It’s difficult to credit that Osborne at Davos, with advance knowledge of the last quarter growth figures, could say “We have credibility and flexibility and have been using that flexibility”. His policies are credible with virtually nobody, are remorselessly rigid, and show not a glimmer of the flexibility needed. The latest growth figure of -0.3% is half-way to a triple-dip recession, previously unheard of, and even the IMF is voicing its dissent ever more loudly, along with so many UK business leaders who lionised him 2 years ago as the saviour of Britain. What is really so extraordinary is that Osborne has no escape plan – just endlessly more austerity whilst waiting for something to turn up. If things were getting ever so slightly better, there might be a case (a bad one) for carrying on. But they’re not. Cameron said at Davos: “We’re paying down Britain’s debt”. He’s not, it’s growing, from £811bn in 2012 to £1,111bn now – a £300bn increase. So prfecisely what was all the agony of cuts for?
Read more “Is Osborne bent on perma-austerity till 2018……….or 2023?” »
It was never going to be easy to make Labour, what its activists and supporters have always wanted, into a truly democratic party. Blair bequeathed a party in which the Cabinet was given its orders, the PLP was ignored, the NEC was neutered, and Conference had no role except as a setting for his own speech. If Conference was insubordinate enough to come up with a different view, it was told that that was the party’s view, quite separate from the government’s view. Turning that around after nearly two decades of democratic centralism was always going to be difficult, but Ed Miliband rightly set his sights to do it when he proclaimed: “I do think members should have more say in policy-making……..We need a living breathing party of which people are proud to say they are members and proud to call their own”. Absolutely correct. But Refounding Labour, the mechanism designed to deliver this objective, has turned out not to be it.
Read more “Does the leadership really believe in a genuinely democratic Labour Party?” »
Two key changes were needed to make good Ed Miliband’s promise of a change of direction at his election to the leadership. One was obviously a shift away from New Labour’s Faustian deal with neo-liberal capitalism and Blair-Brown’s accommodation with the banks, big business and Murdoch press in support of deregulated finance and privatised free markets. The second was the restoration of internal party democracy which had been squeezed almost lifeless by New Labour as both Blair and Brown sought to centralise their own power at the expense of the party. Party conference was made into a showpiece for the leader’s speech and decision-making on policy was first downgraded by Blair (either ignored or dismissed as the party’s policy, which was not the government’s policy, as though the government was an entity totally unrelated to the party) and then abandoned by Brown altogether (there would be no votes taken at all). In the run-up to Conference there is still far too little evidence of the former. But what is really worrying is the stitch-up that is now being attempted on the latter.
Read more “Party democracy is being stitched up at Labour’s conference” »
The rioting, destruction and violence cannot be excused, but it still needs to be explained. It was initially triggered by the police killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on Thursday night, though there are disputed accounts of the circumstances, and made worse by the delayed and inadequate response of the police to the family – this in an area which has seen three deaths in police custody in recent years (Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardner and Roger Sylvester). But policing in London has improved in training and leadership since the Brixton riots of 1981 since Scarman’s denunciation of its aggressive, high-handed and racist approach. The underlying causes this time go wider and deeper, and certainly reflect the underlying resentment and anger already expressed in gang killings in London and a sense of hopelessness about making out in a white man’s world.
Read more “Rioting reflects long-held grievances of dispossessed black youths ignored” »
Political parties are always at risk of forgetting their real function of providing national leadership and instead turning inward into an internal struggle for power. Ed Miliband is therefore right to insist today that the Labour Party concentrates full time on re-engaging with the public, winning back lost voters, and promulgating a vision to revitalise the enthusiasm and excitement of the nation. That is a very demanding objective, and he’s right too that any deviation for personal or factional ends cannot be tolerated. And it will depend on two fundamental conditions being fulfilled.
Read more “EM’s opening up the Labour Party to the public is long overdue” »
It’s all very well for Nick Clegg regaling us each day with what he’s going to do to Lansley and the NHS Bill if his amendments to it aren’t accepted by the Tories. And now we learn what the Tory backwoodsmen are going to do if their ‘red lines’ are not accepted by Clegg. But where’s Labour in all this? We should all be grateful that Clegg – thanks to the electorate’s dumping him on 5 May – is now (at last) sticking his oar in over Lansley’s assault on the NHS. But the fact is, Clegg’s position, flip-flopping all over the place on the NHS as on every other issue, isn’t ours. His aim is to find a formula, if there is one, to keep his own party intact whilst staying (just) inside the Coalition. Ours is a principled rejection of the whole Bill.
Read more “Clegg on the NHS: where’s Labour?” »
It was always inevitable that this Con-Dem government would let Murdoch get his way – as also of course would Blair and Brown, given their craven fawning on him over 13 years. All the stuff about ‘media plurality’, Hunt’s taking ‘careful advice’ from the regulatory authorities, Cameron risibly having to log on to his computer to find out what his government had decided, and now this latest farce about consultation (for which just a fortnight has been conceded) is just so much empty camouflage for a decision pre-emptively taken months ago. All the pretence that this matter has been dealt with strictly according to the book to ensure an independent and impartial decision is just phooey – this is 100% a grubby political decision predetermined by fear of crossing Murdoch and political calculation aimed at fixing the next general election. This is not only despicable, it is also, ironically, a profound delusion of which Britain’s whole political class, Tory and New Labour alike, is guilty.
Read more “Murdoch: it’s far from over” »
At the end of a stunning week, after a long dark night of unabashed neo-liberal capitalism, Ed Miliband not only set the Labour Party on a course that the great majority of members (and of the public) have long waited for, but firmly established his authority as a Leader not to be messed with. Now he needs an action plan at several different inter-connected levels to consolidate his re-directioning of Labour.
Read more “Action plan now for Ed” »
There is an extraordinary silence about the really big issues now facing Britain. We are arguably on the cusp of the biggest downturn for a generation as all the sources of growth dry up. The expansionary momentum from ultra-low interest rates and £200bn quantitative easing is clearly wearing off, export markets are flat or falling, and now Cameron warns us we face the most drastic spending cuts which will change the way of life of the entire population and lead (according to the CIPD) to 750,000 public sector jobs destroyed and unemployment pushed up to 3 million for 5 years. So where’s the anguished debate about this fast-approaching Armageddon and the search for alternative policies to avoid it (which there are)?
Read more “Who is going to speak for Britain?” »