Turn Left: report from the Demos launch


by Laurie Penny    
11:12 pm - July 21st 2009

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There are only so many ways round you can ask ‘what does it mean to be of the Left in Britain today?’ before you start to sound like Yoda in the small hours of a party conference booze-up. Nonetheless, yesterday’s launch of Demos’ new Open Left project, spearheaded by James Purnell, threw up some very interesting points.

Purnell believes that left ideology necessitates ‘choice in public services’, which is a tad rich coming from the man who single-handedly purged the welfare state of its last remaining shreds of compassion earlier this year with his intricate schemes for lie detector tests, workfare-style sickpay deals and a punitive scheme for addicts and alcoholics.

Will Hutton, fashionably late as always, talked a great deal about the language of fairness and ‘just deserts’. The tone of the debate was consistently philosophical, which is absolutely fine when debate is also inclusive – but the elephant in the room was its narrow field of vision.

Purnell opened his talk by declaring that he had been refreshed, since leaving the cabinet, by the expansive vision and energy in the wide, wide political world of….thinktanks! I listened for the sniggers, but there weren’t any. And looking around I saw why: in a roomful of 100 people meant to be talking about the future of the left, there were precisely no activists and nobody who looked like they’d ever spent time on state benefits. There were, however, plenty of Guardian journalists, a lot of folks from Demos and the Fabian Society and five – five! – people I personally knew from Oxford university. So where were the have-nots in the debate? Surely it was their conversation to have as much as anyone else?

I stood up to explain that I was living in a household of young people with the bad luck to be unemployed and suffering from chronic health problems, and that whilst the panel was equivocating over the real meaning of fairness most of us were lucky if we could afford one meal a day. I asked the room why we were not talking with and about the people suffering most in society today. I asked the room how many people there present had been unemployed for long periods, or had ever worked for the minimum wage, or had not been to a top university. By this point I was so angry that I properly started shaking. People came up to me afterwards to congratulate me rather patronisingly on my ‘passion’. Why? Had they spent so long in think-tank land that they’d forgotten what an actual angry person looks like?

This, surely, is at the heart of the dilemma. Labour was established in 1900 as a party to represent the interests of the working class, but the urban and industrial working class as it was between 1790 and 1980 no longer exists. The large swathe of people working low-paid jobs in industry who gave the Labour party its name and its purpose no longer exist as a block with a unified purpose of reasserting control of the means and rewards of production. But there are still many millions of people in Britain who are poor, disadvantaged and subject to what Purnell called “arbitrary authority”. If Labour isn’t the party for those people, then what on earth is it?

John Cruddas pointed out that the Labour Party “has lost because we’ve embraced a neoliberalism which is brutal and individualist”. The notion of collective good has been lost. Collective good is at the heart of what it means to be of the Left, and central to its instigation is, in Cruddas’ words, “a notion of socialism, which is important to retain, whereby we preserve and nurture forms of interdependence and solidarity.” In layman’s terms: being of the Left is more even than the utopianism, the statism and the egalitarianism that Purnell lays out in his LabourList article today. Being of the left is about materially supporting, practically helping and politically including those less advantaged than ourselves, because we share a common humanity.

The labouring classes of today don’t work in mines anymore. They work in callcentres, care homes, shops and hospitals; they are women as well as men, black and asian as well as white; they are single parents, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed, scrambling for a living in hard times; and they need a party that represents their interests just as badly as the factory workers and miners of the 1900s did. If it wants to survive at all, Labour needs to step outside the think tank bubble and ask not how the disadvantaged fit its agenda, but how it can best serve them.

Because if someone doesn’t start coming up with answers soon, as Cruddas, Will Hutton and neophyte Lewis Imu pointed out, then extremist groups like the BNP will step in to fill that gap. In the last elections 900,000 people voted for the BNP, most of them from poor and disadvantaged communities, because no other party in Britain today is even bothering to consider what people on low incomes or no incomes, people living in the teeth of the downturn, really care about. Unless Labour can relearn that language, then the party is finished. And if the Left doesn’t rediscover its social conscience double sharpish, we may as well all go home.

Newsnight interview

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Our democracy ,Think-tanks ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Alisdair Cameron

Glad you raised the points you did, Laurie, but don’t forget that the labour party of today is not a synonym for ‘the Left’. Indeed, that is a huge part of the problem: the party was used as a vehicle for power, nothing more, by those very thinktankers, wonks, journos, Oxbridgers. Now it’s unpopular, some are realising that they might need the support of the poor, the sick, the marginalised, but they find it very hard to allow them centre stage, let alone personally clear the stage to make room for them. Patronisingly bewail the lot of the poor, while personally keeping your position of influence, or buggering out of the picture to allow the grass-roots to come to the fore? Which choice do you think all too many will make?

Fantastic article, and good on you for going to these dreadful events and challenging all this nonsense.

The labouring classes of today don’t work in mines anymore. They work in callcentres, care homes, shops and hospitals; they are women as well as men, black and asian as well as white; they are single parents, the mentally ill, the sick and the unemployed, scrambling for a living in hard times; and they need a party that represents their interests just as badly as the factory workers and miners of the 1900s did. If it wants to survive at all, Labour needs to step outside the think tank bubble and ask not how the disadvantaged fit its agenda, but how it can best serve them.

But they’re not and they won’t. That’s one of the reasons New Labour are going to lose the next election, they don’t deserve to win.

It’s not that they only support a select small and weak minority group. They support a small, powerful and organised class against a large, weak and disorganised one. Look at this story over at the Daily (Maybe) or my outrage. Modern Labour has picked it’s side and it’s not any sort of working class, I despair.

I’ve commented on this at Penny Red; the starting point is “the concept of getting Purnell to launch a ‘left’-leaning project is a bit like the concept of making Josef Fritzl spearhead of your pro-family movement”. Christ, do they really not have anything better, or any understanding of how unspeakable that ideology is…? (answer: no)

Good points Laurie…

I’ve been on the dole and in many areas were I was helped so much by what we have as the welfare system etc…

But the reason I vote Liberal Dem is because they have the more realistic outlook on how EVERYONE in Britain feels and honestly want to live…..

I just launch this vulgar and ugly and pleb-y idea.

It was done in other countries, so why not Britain?

Why don’t Labour or the LibDem publicise -making a massive political statement- that they will endorse ordinary women and men running as MPs: call centre workers, bar staff, shop assistants, unionised (or not) ordinary workers, factory workers, people on the dole, workers who’ve been on casual “contracts” for years…treated like shit at work, facing the problems that millions of ordinary people face everyday?

That’s the spirit we lost a long time ago, as we get tangled up in a think tank named after a latin word after the other, demos, compass, cicero and julius caesar!

There is a huge gap in parliamentary representation and it;s recognised by MOST ordinary people and the Centre-Left could score a nice’n’neat goal there.

In this day and age of MASSIVE political disillusion(ment), don’t you think that would ring a bell louder than the umpteenth think tank getting Polly Toynbee and James Purnell and another bloke from yet another think tank around a table talking utter shite without having done an hour’s work?

@6 YES. Or “what the point of Labour was in the first place” (the Libs were for arrogant posh twats like me to hone their sophistry skills, and I’d argue there’s a place for that, but not *both* non-stupid parties). How do you get there from here, though?

8. Guy Aitchison

Interesting. I couldn’t bring myself to go along to this. Did anyone attempt to answer any of your questions?

Well, Purnell did answer Laurie’s question, by saying that he merely cut benefits to get people back into work.

I later pointed out that the scheme he unveiled – paying companies to get those people into work, failed and was pointed out in the FT of all places as having failed. I don’t know if he responded to that.

he merely cut benefits to get people back into work.

Are you serious!?

I mean – cutting benefits is going to really get people back into work, what are we thinking? We should stop all benefits, let people sleep rough for a little while – that will motivate them to get a job!

SCROUNGERS!

Don’t you think it is just possible that the benefit system might have something – not everything, but something – to do with this:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/3722968/immigration-facts-and-figures.thtml

Why will native workers not take the 1.5 million jobs which immigrants have (good for them) taken over the past 10 years?

12. Edwin Moore

Hm. More than a touch of the working-class hero about this piece (‘I bring you the voice of the street!), but some fair points.

Labour no longer has any clothes to steal surely, and I’m not sure what the point of Demos is ( I thought Madeleine Bunting was quite right to jump back on board the Guardian after taking a quick look round that ship).

Think tanks – even Homer Simpson knows what a think tank is (to the amazement of his family) but what they are for is another matter.

Because it’s a scene I’m familiar i do bang on about the death of the Scottish left, but it’s a death i still find astonishing – and even more astonishing is the way its absence has become accepted.

Think tanks are like mediums – they are habituated to getting the future wrong and to producing retrospective explanations of why they were right really.

13. Mike Killingworth

Good piece Laurie – just one quibble.

Labour wasn’t founded by the late 19th century equivalent of care workers and IB claimants. It was founded by the contemporary equivalent of long-distance lorry drivers and IT workers. The capitalists in those days were pretty dim, and actually employed labour – rather than hiring freelances on and as-and-when basis. This meant that labour could organise – not only politically but also for self-improvement through Mechanics’ Imstitutes and so on. It had its shortcomings as a system, of course – equality for women, for example, was not a priority of the early Labour MPs.

As you yourself recognise, the urban and industrial working class as it was… no longer exists. What does exist, as Purnell has noticed, is a more or less spiteful petty-bourgeois electorate which can be characterised as

- at least as concerned with right-wing themes around race, nationality and immigration as left-wing ones about the various varities of equality

- wallowing in false consciousness: in particular the notion that markets can provide happiness and its corollaries – the inability to distinguish between relationships and transactions and deep self-hatred mitigated by projection onto sports stars and other celebrities.

Such an electorate, it is true, no more wants James Purnell or other creatures from the think-tank slime than we do. It wants the likes of Boris Johnson or even Silvio Berlusconi (think “Dave” the TV channel). And it regards anyone who chooses their political party on the basis of its policies as a dangerous fanatic who should be thrown off a cliff…

But Laurie, no matter how much you try to be, you will never be working class- you can only ever be a fake.

I wish I could have gone to Oxford.

Of course I share your contempt for the “educated left” but real working class people would not be seen dead debating with Purnell at a Demos rally. They would be working, down the pub or watching Tricia -all more constructive ways of spending their time.

Labur and the unions have totally failed to understand technology. Even during the war many German factories had higher levels of productivity than the British. Labour have tried to maximise employment which has often resulted in overmanning. The British education system needs to be geared to training people to obtaining highly skilled work. If one looks at the high quality cars, domestic goods and music systems, they are often German. The collapse in manufacturing in the late 70s early 80s coincided with a change in technology. Computer controlled design and manufacturing removed larged numbers of unskilled and semiskilled people from the workforce. Due to Britain often suffering overmanning of unskilled and semiskilled people , the change in manufacturing methods was more painful than in Germany. The success of German manufacturing are the large numbers of small and medium sized , ofen family run companies which supply the parts to the larger organisation .

Where once a a whole floor would be full of draftsmen , the same amount of work can be done by a few CAD technicians. The change is now so rapid in technology such that Google is now threatening Microsoft operating system. Too often, Labour are luddites . When the horse drawn hravesting machine was developed , that started a large reduction in employment in cereal farming. When cars and lorries were developed in started a massive decline in the construction of horse drawn carriages . Those with the skills prospered, those without had a rough time.

The idea that the internet could result in outsourcing of call centre jobs to India in the early 1990s was far fetched: but it happened. Now India and China are producing 100,000s of graduates with engineering and science degrees and we are sendng people to third rate universities to obtain degrees in humanities. The UK is in a global technology race and Labour does not even know that they are in it.

Britain stil has a small high quality manufacturing capability: Rolls Royce Aero Engines, BAE, consulting engineers, grand prix teams, yacht/ leasure boat building, high end cars , chemical /drug industry etc. but we need to geatly increase the number of people with the required education, training and attitude in this country. Green technology will not be developed by people with no academic qualifications or degrees in media studies. Microsoft was founded in a recession.

Ensuring people have well paid jobs is the best way way of reducing poverty but for that they need the education, training and the right attitude. The reality is that Labour does not want a country of high educated, skilled and motivated people running advanced manufacturing companies as they may not vote for them. After all it was the craftsmen and foremen, who voted for Tories for the first time , who won the general election for them.

pagar @14

Bet you wouldn’t have said that to Eric Blair.

Bet you wouldn’t have said that to Eric Blair.

What, that he wasn’t working class? Of course he wasn’t. I doubt he would even have claimed to have been.

Tim J @ 17

A bit elliptic I know, but that was my point precisely. He adopted tramp’s clothing but never sought to hide his background. Same with Laurie – I didn’t know she’s been to Oxford University (assuming that’s what she meant by having Oxford friends), but she’s happy to acknowledge it and put on 21st century tramp clothing, sort of.

At this range, no-one criticises Orwell for his origins; they look at what he wrote. All i’m saying is that the same courtesy might be afforded to Laurie, given that she’s open and honest about the initial privilege in her backgrounds (I’m guessing).

@14 but I’m not claiming to be working class. I’ve had my ‘down and out experiences’, yes – but at the end of the day I have an Oxford degree and my parents are fairly well off. I just happen to care, that’s all.

Laurie – but its a little like a pot, kettle and black to me.

None of you have really been where these people you propose to care about have been so you can’t know what will actually help to improve their quality of life. There is such a thing as killing with kindness – and its a danger which those of a big heart like yours need to watch out for.

@13 – I see Mike’s answer as ever is to sack the electorate

If you so clearly despise the people “wallowing in false consciousness” whom you wish to influence, it’s hardly surprising that they might decide to despise you back.

In defence of James Purnell, the point he was making was that people, you’d like to think, would rather have a job than be on benefits, that giving someone an extra £5 a week in benefits is no real solution.

We cannot have a situation in which someone is better off on benefits than in a job, even a low-paid, minimum wage one. He tried to do something to rectify that, and all credit to him.

This isn’t a Right-v-Left issue, I’m sure there are many on the right who’d be happy to leave people on benefits, who believe unemployment is a price worth paying; it’s about so much more than money, it’s about giving people a chance to move up in life, giving people those opportunities, not leaving them to wither on the vine and live off benefits, hidden from society, for the whole of their lives.

Ray Mears programme shows how various peoples have developed skills to survive in a variety of inhospitable environments. Shumacher explained that the best way of people in developing countries was through intermediate technology. IT enabled people to develop technology in order to improve their life without using methods which made them dependent on the developed world. There is no point in providing a diesel powered pump for an irrigation scheme if the people lack the money to buy the diesel or spare parts or the skills to repair . Part of survival is not only the skills but the right mental attitude. The answer to the irrigation problem may be a foot operated pump/water lift system largely made of wood.

What we need to do is ensure all the people have the right skills, education and mental attitude to survive and propser in a global economy where technology is changing at an unbelievable rate.

Sunny:

Well, Purnell did answer Laurie’s question, by saying that he merely cut benefits to get people back into work.

Sunny, you mean he more or less used those actual words? And he thinks he’s a man of the left rather than Peter Lilley’s lovechild? Next thing you know you’ll be saying that Toynbee thought Purnell’s ‘reforms’ were a clever way of shooting the Tory fo— oh dear: she already does think that.

Interesting article Laurie.

Well done for going to that event and enduring all that meaningless guff so we don’t have to.

Sham,ik Das:

In defence of James Purnell, the point he was making was that people, you’d like to think, would rather have a job than be on benefits, that giving someone an extra £5 a week in benefits is no real solution.

So giving them less in benefits is meant to be some kind of ‘incentive’? You do realise how little Jobseekers’ Allowance actually pays out?

27. Mike Killingworth

[21]

I see Mike’s answer as ever is to sack the electorate

If you so clearly despise the people “wallowing in false consciousness” whom you wish to influence, it’s hardly surprising that they might decide to despise you back.

Leaving aside whether or not regarding someone as deeply, profoundly mistaken is the same as despising them – and even if it is, why shouldn’t I? after all, Charlie’s solution to all known human ills is to shoot all the arts and social science graduates – I would like to put just one thing on the record.

Most people live in somewhere that can more or less be called suburbia. I would sooner commit suicide than live there, and so far as I have been able to find out most suburbanites would sooner die than live, as I do, next door to central London. Whatever happened to “it takes all sorts”?

Laurie – but its a little like a pot, kettle and black to me.

Oh I see. Now we all have to have the necessary ‘authenticity’ before we comment on things eh?

27. Mike Killingworth. We need to compete with India and China when it comes to educating and training science and engineering graduates, technicians and craftsmen. Britain was the first country to develop computers . When Turing worked with Ferranti at Manchester University , silicon valley could have been based in the Lancashire valleys. The only Labour politician who has recognised the impact of technology on society has been Harold Wilson in his white heat of technology speech.

Th day when millions poorly educated people could walk out of school on a Friday and take up unskilled employment on the following Monday are largely long gone.
When the Tories set up the YTS , a german apprentice in the car trade would complete in 6 months what a British apprentice would take 2 yrs to complete. The success of the German car industry is only possible with a very large pool of highly skilled crafstmen, technicians, scientists and engineers.

Skill enables people to move to a better place more easily. When the skilled Flemish weavers and the Huguenots moved to the UK, a combination of technical , business and language skills enabled them to prosper; mainly because we lacked them. Shumacher talks about the vital importance of ensuring people have the skills to enable them to be independent and take control of their lives.

20 – “None of you have really been where these people you propose to care about have been so you can’t know what will actually help to improve their quality of life. There is such a thing as killing with kindness – and its a danger which those of a big heart like yours need to watch out for.”

The whole point of Laurie’s article was that people on low incomes need to be involved in having a say about what would improve their lives, rather than having think-tankers discuss this on their behalf. So you are criticising her for, um, agreeing with you.

@ liliput

I agree with what Charlie has said which hits the nail..

I have been there, been on the dole and also my mother lives in a council estate-which granted isn’t like the inner city ones but it’s one nevertheless…

Now I won’t pretend too that I went to comps because I didn’t, in fact I went (we all did) to good to very good private/public schools which my father paid for..

Ayhow, I’ve unfortunately/fortunately been able to live both sides due to circumstances beyond my control as a child/young person.

There is such a thing as killing with kindness BUT not with kindness and a huge dollop of perceptiveness and behavioural economics, which therein lies the issue we have in this country and why I turned away from Labour.

Not EVERYONE who is poor, black or a women, is nice.

The left, NEED to see through people, not at them because it’s not helping at all.

I’m staying at my mothers to save, were I see proffessional mothers who make it their lives to have kids and stay on benefit, whether they are 1, 2 or 3 generation..

Now this IS an issue because a good bunch of them are crap mothers, the kids are crying and screaming, police is called all the time because some jealous boyfriend is being abusive…so you can’t really claim that not truly looking into this area isn’t a problem??

The bottom line is people want, need, desire and are desperate for some kind of ownership in their lives, be it just some partner, a child, a job, fame, etc…we’re all just as bad as each other.

So how do we do this? Give back ownership??

Improving Wellbeing.

Ex, cutting down on child benefits and instead inc ‘giving time’ as a resource. Instead of say £100 a week if she gets a child, it could be cut by 50% and instead with the 50% left that should’ve been cash, instead it is ‘time’. By that the mother gets mentoring from other mothers to share child rearing ideas, thoughts and anxieties, plus they have an exchange of of clothes-recycling-instead of throwing away and adding to the pollution etc..

Why not??

32. Shatterface

‘There were, however, plenty of Guardian journalists, a lot of folks from Demos and the Fabian Society and five – five! – people I personally knew from Oxford university’

Whatever course you took didn’t include modules on irony or self-awareness.

“And it regards anyone who chooses their political party on the basis of its policies as a dangerous fanatic who should be thrown off a cliff…”

I’m actually exhausted of arguing with seemingly intelligent friends about why I chose the party I chose to vote on policies…instead of just ‘feeling’…

@ john b

“the Libs were for arrogant posh twats like me to hone their sophistry skills,”

Lol, still are from were I can see… ;)

“None of you have really been where these people you propose to care about have been so you can’t know what will actually help to improve their quality of life.”

I see…

Assumedly you have no opinion on Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, foreign aid, Pakistan etc.?

Some interesting points, many of which I recognise. The Labour Party have distanced themselves from too many people and now that their benefactors in the middle classes have abandoned them to go back to the Tories the Party have to ask the questions posed in the OP.

The Labour Party’s problems arose because they failed to tackle the core issues that the Party was set up to tackle.

The same people who were quick to call for ‘modernisation’ are the same who sit with a look of dismay as the ideological chickens come home to roost. The grotesque use of the term ‘modernisation’ to describe their policies is the most galling aspect of the whole debacle.

The term ‘modernise’ has been used to justify the re-introduction of the very things that the Labour movement were supposed to be combating. Exploitation at work the casualisation of the labour force. Unsafe working practices. Cheap Labour. Mass long term unemployment. Working conditions for many of the poorest workers have not been ‘modernised’, quite the opposite, they have returned to the Victorian values that their great grandparents suffered.

There is nothing ‘modern’ about sitting by the phone on a zero hour contract, hoping for some work. There is nothing ‘modern’ about being paid off at the end of the day and rehired two days later. There is nothing ‘modern’ about your employer deducting money from your wages to pay for safety boots and a locker. This is exploitation.

Someone once said a week is a long time in politics, well here we are, over a hundred years after the Labour Party was initiated we are still seeing the same problems that they were campaigning against during most of its existence.

One of my abiding memories in the last year was when the BMW/mini cooper guys were sacked on the spot. The anger from that group of workers were not aimed at management, it was aimed at the unions and the Labour Party. The use of agency and so-called ‘temporary’ workers has left many people vulnerable to this type of behaviour. BMW would never be allowed to deal with people in their own country, but here their workers have been discarded like last weeks chip papers.

This exploitation has been completely sanctioned by ‘New Labour’. As unemployment rises those abandoned by New Labour are now turning their back on them, well is it any wonder?

31 – “Ex, cutting down on child benefits and instead inc ‘giving time’ as a resource. Instead of say £100 a week if she gets a child, it could be cut by 50% and instead with the 50% left that should’ve been cash, instead it is ‘time’. By that the mother gets mentoring from other mothers to share child rearing ideas, thoughts and anxieties, plus they have an exchange of of clothes-recycling-instead of throwing away and adding to the pollution etc..

Why not??”

There are plenty of government-funded schemes and voluntary groups which support mothers with mentoring, clothes exchanges etc., but how and why on earth would halving their benefits help? It’s not like if you take money away from poor mothers, they suddenly have more time to make use of this support, is it?

@27 – central London is central London.

“Next door to central London” is, erm, suburbia…

@28 Now we all have to have the necessary ‘authenticity’ before we comment on things eh?

I jolly well hope not.

39. Mike Killingworth

[38] I don’t think W2 is either in the central business district or the suburbs…

We need to compete with India and China when it comes to educating and training science and engineering graduates, technicians and craftsmen

Why? They’re clearly better at it, not least because (especially in China) the educational system and overall cultural environment is strongly geared to the kind of unthinking rote-learning that’s ideal in a technician.

Our education system and cultural environment favours creativity, which is why we lead the world in media and professional services…

@40 – the answer coming along soon will be “But what if we want unthinking rote-learning?”

@ 37

Yes they are tonne but how effective are these? I’ve read of so many with good intentions but with so many loopholes that they were never going to work, whether it is through training the local council or providing sufficient funding to voluntary groups…

The problem is these things are simply ‘there’ so the govt can fill in quota’s and give each other a pack on the back for being ‘compassionate’, further more councils are not required to ALL do this, so say you have a Tory council that sees it as a waste of time, then it won’t happen and so forth.

People are not being educated as to WHY it is a benefit to them that an angry white boy growing up with a 16 yearl old mother who relies on benefits and doesn’t want to work etc does not grow up to be an angry asbo fuelled adult who spends his whole life in and out of prison creating crime..

So how does it happen, since we are working on an income/expenditure situation here that is a country?

It was one thing providing finances to mothers in the 50-s-80-s who had to live through such sexism and couldn’t get work as women and it’s another thing to do it now with the awareness of the environment that we live in. The 21st century knowledge economy were everybody wants to get rich and quick a la Jordan and Jade.

So yes, by cutting the benefits, people STOP thinking about resource in terms of MONEY but in terms of giving time, sharing skills and re-using products.

We’re a horrid and selfish society that needs to STOP thinking money is the everything but that by sharing, re-using etc, this could really help your wellbeing.

I mean this type of thing would not only bring communities to work and understand each other but you may larger ‘family’ networks, old mothers sharing baby rearing ideas with young mothers who have no clue etc..

It should be compulsory.

@ Sunny

Now we all have to have the necessary ‘authenticity’ before we comment on things eh?

No of course we don’t.

But if you are going to write a post slating educated left wing Guardianistas for developing policy on problems and issues where they do not have direct experience it is probably more convincing if you are not an educated left wing wannabe journalist.

Having said that, I think Laurie has a point in that the policy makers are now so crucially distanced from the realities they are proposing to legislate over that it is impossible for them to make good rational decisions.

Perhaps it was ever thus.

“So yes, by cutting the benefits, people STOP thinking about resource in terms of MONEY but in terms of giving time, sharing skills and re-using products.”

No, cutting benefits will lead to parents thinking things like “I can’t afford to buy my children shoes” or “there’s only enough food for dinner for my kids, I’ll have to go without”. How would you cope if the amount of money you got was cut in half?

Between 1997 and 2007, benefits for lone parents increased, and the highest ever number of lone parents got jobs. Cutting benefits would undermine the things that you’d like to achieve.

“The problem is these things are simply ‘there’ so the govt can fill in quota’s and give each other a pack on the back for being ‘compassionate’”

Sorry, but this is pure ignorance. Some of these schemes are better than others, but they help a lot of people and many of them achieve exactly the aims that you want to promote.

45. Shatterface

‘Oh I see. Now we all have to have the necessary ‘authenticity’ before we comment on things eh?’

Sorry, but I’m gobsmacked at the hipocrasy here. It was Laurie who brought up background and experience.

Laurie’s basic argument is ‘these people don’t know what they are talking about because they are as posh as me – how can someone who shares my privilaged background possibly understand?’

You really can’t see the lack of self-awareness there?

40. john b . A company such as Rolls Royce Aero Engines needs a wide range of skills.Technicians are not un-thinking nor are craftsmen. Working on a scaffold put up by an un-thinking scaffolder is not something I care to do.

James Lovelock started his career as a chemistry technician and then went to read chemistry at Manchester University. His ability to analyse compounds at very low concentrations led him to careeer with NASA where he developed new analytical equipment .

For technology to succeed, creativity is as only good as the practical skills and knowledge which enable it to be constructed and maintained. Practical skills are required so that the construction and maintenance are as simple and cheap as possible.

One of the great problems with wave power will be maintenance, especially in winter.
To succeed in science and engineering requires much rote learning. As Gary Player said ” it take a lot of practice to become a natural golfer”.

Don,

Really?? If these are good-great. I know some work-that isn’t my point but without getting far too personal, christ, some people have NO wishes of ever leaving having benefits at all…how can this be good??

And no cutting benefits wouldn’t do that. It would finally get people to wonder why the hell they need or want children. Think…do you have enough cash? Enough issues that have left??

I don’t care what people say but for me, as a woman who loves children..life and who had parents who, ‘why the hell did you have kids’ of that sort…

I don’t think it’s that simple and people need to grow up and be accountable for their actions.

But you know what would be revolutional?? If we asked so many families etc as to why and what the Welfare System exists for….not middle class kids…but the actual stakeholders we’re supposed to be helping…

(P.S I would do in ask my next door neighbours, if I didn’t know the break my face in half..)

The term ‘modernise’ has been used to justify the re-introduction of the very things that the Labour movement were supposed to be combating. Exploitation at work the casualisation of the labour force. Unsafe working practices. Cheap Labour. Mass long term unemployment. Working conditions for many of the poorest workers have not been ‘modernised’, quite the opposite, they have returned to the Victorian values that their great grandparents suffered.

Exactly. “Modernisation”, just like “reform”, has become a buzzword which when applied to public services neccessarily means “handing over to the private sector” (Kate Belgrave’s piece about Barnet ilustrates this perfectly). And if you object, well surely no reasonable person could be opposed to “reform” or “modernisation” so you must be a reactionary, an old dinoasaur, producer interest etc.

The mindset is very much “something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done”.

@36, @48

Spot on.
In fact the first gave me the inspiration to write my humble contribution to the debate – and what a lot of people think of the superelitist world of think tanks.


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