Now *that* is a serious comeback


8:45 am - November 9th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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On Sunday evening Jackie Ashley wrote an article for the Guardian titled ‘On workfare, maybe the coalition really wants to help the jobless‘.

Let’s just say the article did not get an entirely positive reception.

But one comment by user ‘RedMiner’ stood out, receiving over 1000 recommends. Here it is in full:

So this is what we have come to?

The dreams of the last century, that increased mechanisation and automation would lead to increased leisure time for the masses, relieved of the drudgery and sheer mindlessness of much unskilled work. Instead, compounded by the outsourcing of jobs and the influx of cheap immigrant workers, the best the 21st century can come up is forced labour at slave wage levels, extended working hours, and the age of retirement heading for 70. So with the stroke of IDS’s pen, we go from an economic strategy that deliberately creates mass unemployment to one that deliberately creates cheap labour. Brilliant. There’s an honour in this for you, Ian, rehabilitation, glory, a statue.

My God, my ancestors will be turning in their graves. The Tories are finally realising what they have long dreamed of – throughout the years of the post-war settlement, they moodily incubated a determination to reverse the social and economic gains fought for and won by people of unparalleled toughness and determination, people who took on the might of privilege and wealth and defeated it. This is the New Tory moment; this when they come out from behind their cosmetic masks of reasonableness and fairness and social concern and display their true dark hearts before the world.

But I reserve my greatest contempt for those of us on the left; this is all happening on our watch. We betray those people I mentioned above, who vanquished the landowners and the factory and coal owners. And what are WE up against? a couple of Bullingdon hooray-henries and a leadership reject with the political acumen of petrified bird droppings . But the neoliberal apologists and careerist politicians that have infested the Labour Movement see only the votes of bigoted Middle Englanders and the ignorant Sun reading dross that posts here waiting to be harvested. The latter busy calling for their own enslavement, too ignorant or misinformed to notice the turkey staring back at them in the mirror of a Christmas Morning. And in the new Dark Age heralded in by IDS, every morning will be Christmas Morning for the beneficiaries, the businesses who will exploit this measure to access free labour, the talk of charities being a transparent smoke screen to hide the fundamental dismantling of the human right for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Make no mistake, this is just the beginning. Anyone who thinks that once the principle of unpaid labour has breached the social repugnance it generates that it will stop at a month’s work for ‘idlers’ is the kind of fool the Tories are relying on get this through. These are the descendants of people who built vast fortunes and empires on the sweat and death of their factories and workhouses; they are past masters at dressing up inequality and evil in Protestant work ethics and biblical rhetoric denouncing the peril of idleness – except where it’s practised in its purest forms of course, by digital fortune shufflers and land owning parasites drawing their subsidies while they indulge Mediterranean waves with their oversized cock-yachts.

Shame, shame on us all. Tolstoy said everyone was innocent. I say everyone is guilty. And our children will never forgive us for allowing this to happen. The Tories talk of not saddling future generations with our debt; I think only of future generations facing the return of evils greater than any debt, that we had long thought banished from the lexicon of social intercourse and post war economics, all presented as some kind of economic panacea. Who is really ‘taking the piss’ here?

No doublethink, no prevarication, no quarter.

Either fight now or fuck off.

I might not agree with it entirely but the conviction and anger in that post is to be admired.
[hat-tip Gayle O’Donovan]

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Luis Enrique

Countdown to Worstall and data on leisure time: 10 …. 9 ….

(come on Tim, don’t let me down)

(expect nobody to amend their opinions in light of discovering that a central assertion in this argument is factually incorrect)

Does the poster suggest an alternative to global capitalism that can work? That can reduce work time and provide jobs for all?

I spotted it yesterday and was blown away. Spot-on, RedMiner, it is so rare to see such eloquence in an online comment.

There is nothing more grating than someone with a background like Jackie Ashley pontificating about the unlucky, the deprived and giving the unemployed a kick up the arse.

Just for the record, in case you didn’t know, Ashley is the daughter of a Baron. She was educated at Oxford and later married Andrew Marr, one of the best paid BBC journos. But hey, she knows it all about cycles of deprivation and joblessness doesn’t she?

Well we can post Tim W’s response for him:

“We all of us have vastly more money and vastly more leisure than peeps did 30 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago. Much of the increase in lesiure time has come from the reduction in household, unpaid, working hours. Here’s an actual report on it:

http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/wp/wp2006/wp0602.htm

“In this paper, we use five decades of time-use surveys to document trends in the allocation of time. We document that a dramatic increase in leisure time lies behind the relatively stable number of market hours worked (per working-age adult) between 1965 and 2003. Specifically, we document that leisure for men increased by 6-8 hours per week (driven by a decline in market work hours) and for women by 4-8 hours per week (driven by a decline in home production work hours). This increase in leisure corresponds to roughly an additional 5 to 10 weeks of vacation per year, assuming a 40-hour work week.””

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/10/22/osborne-isn%E2%80%99t-working/#comment-188787

5. the a&e charge nurse

By the time I finished RedMiners post I was practically jumping out of my seat shouting “Yeeeerrrsss’ – I haven’t done anything like that since Torres second goal against ?????
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKauZiUIdZo

Oh to have someone like RM in the driving seat rather than the insipid bunch of pretenders that have been spawned since the Blair years?

6. the a&e charge nurse

Hey – just learnt LC will not accept Russian text?

Jack Ashley may have been ennobled but he came from very humble roots. Claude’s posting is disingenuous to miss out the early part of his story, starting work at 14 in the chemical industry, becoming a crane driver and following the trade union route into politics. He’s one of the people RedMiner refer to as having fought for the rights we are now losing.

It’s wonderful to see such eloquence and emotion in a Have Your Say posting.

Redminers got a point.

“The Tories talk of not saddling future generations with our debt; I think only of future generations facing the return of evils greater than any debt, that we had long thought banished from the lexicon of social intercourse and post war economics, all presented as some kind of economic panacea.”

This should be spray-painted on the houses of parliament in 30 ft high letters. In fact the whole thing should be.

The problem with this facile class war stuff is that it really doesn’t bear scrutiny. The Tories are portrayed by Red Miner as quite literally the descendants of those eeevil coal owners and mill masters from way back when. But hang on, most of them were Liberals, weren’t they?

“we go from an economic strategy that deliberately creates mass unemployment to one that deliberately creates cheap labour.”

I’m sure that Zeus will rain thunderbolts in form of Sally rants on me for this but it is entirely true that cheaper labour will increase employment.

@11

But if that employment can’t sustain a person or their family, then what’s in it for them?

13. Luis Enrique

What are these “great evils” that go far beyond imposing unpaid* employment on the long-term unemployed? Please can those who strongly agree with this message tell me?

[*unpaid although the gap between unpaid-but-keep-benefits and paid-but-lose benefits is unfortunately not as great as we’d like. For avoidance of doubt, I strongly oppose plans to impose unpaid work on long-term unemployed]

13 Oh Luis, you know. The Coalition is planning to re-introduce the workhouse and paupers’ graves. Rotting horseflesh and so on. And impose final solutions on the poor. Child labour too probably.

15. the a&e charge nurse

To the RedMiner nay-sayers I would ask you to consider the bigger picture.

Rights for workers are seldom given – historically we can see that they have usually been hard earned, and even if WE take some of these rights for granted nowadays it wasn’t always the case in the not too distant past?

Ask yourself this – can we ever trust anybody who will be far removed from any direct experience of the measures being proposed?
Of course our index of concern is almost bound to go through the roof when it is allied to a political group with a long track record of shafting the working class while reveling in benefits accrued from the collective effort of their minions.

Maybe things just need to get bad enough before enough people wake up to these long standing dynamics – I must admit I have little faith in the Primrose Hill set mounting a serious challenge to IDS’s madcap scheme, but I hope they prove me wrong?

11

It would be entirely true that the reduction of large parts of the workforce to the status of little more than the helots de nos jours might increase the number in work….. but it’s hardly something we should view with equanimity, still less be encouraging!

It’s obviously going to be “better” for an employer from a strictly economic point of view if it can force down wages, strip workers of their rights, employ more part time workers on minimum wage than fewer full time workers with decent pay and conditions.

It doesn’t take the red fog in front of Sally’s eyes to see that cheaper labour is hardly a panacea.

Is unpaid employment, as opposed to voluntary work, not slavery?

18. the a&e charge nurse

[13] “What are these “great evils” that go far beyond imposing unpaid* employment on the long-term unemployed? Please can those who strongly agree with this message tell me” – normalising the distain and exploitation of a sector of our society that have the odds stacked against them at birth.

Coercing the poor – a new strap line for Nick & Dave?

#13
What are these “great evils” that go far beyond imposing unpaid* employment on the long-term unemployed? Please can those who strongly agree with this message tell me?

For avoidance of doubt, I strongly oppose plans to impose unpaid work on long-term unemployed

Why are you opposed then?

@17

Oh but you misunderstand, the lazy and feckless unemployed will still get their generous jobseeker’s allowance of £65 per week for their 30+ hours of work, so it’s not slavery at all, oh no.

14 Tim J

Whilst you may find it amusing to poke fun, and assume that ANY criticism is overblown, one doesn’t have to be a revolutionary to feel deep unease at the way things are going.

The reason many people will find RedMiner’s cri de coeur appealing is not that they think that a return to some Dickensian nightmare is imminent, it is that they DO think we have lost our way; Things are getting more unequal, rather than less; the rich seem to prosper whilst the poor are written off; the Big Society IS seen as a Trojan horse for the dismantling of the welfare state.

What is worse, as RedMiner points out, there IS no force on the progressive left making an alternative case, because Labour (still more New Labour) has essentially been co-opted into a supine acceptance of the neo-liberal consensus…. bought cheaply with the promise of peerages, company directorships and book deals explaining why there is no real alternative to being an Uncle Tom.

Could the naysayers and sneerers posting here provide an estimate of the minimum hourly rate they could live on?

23. Luis Enrique

a&e I thought the poor were already held in disdain and exploited – so you are translating this forecast of great evils as an increase in degree to which they are so.

claude – I pretty much agree with Don’s take on it.

Galen – well you’d probably nail me as buying into the neo-liberal consensus, although I’d not put it like that, in that I’m much more pro-market and cautious about government intervention in the economy that most lefties around here. At the same time, I’ve no truck with corporatism etc. Personally I think the left could cover a great deal of ground, especially w.r.t. inequality, if we could work out how to bring finance down to earth without cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Limited Purpose Banking is my best suggestion.

RedMiner should start a lefty tea party.

He has the same inchoate anger.

I’m not sure I support the unpaid work idea, but if someone could answer Luis’s question: what are the “great evils” you believe they have in store for us?

16

“It’s obviously going to be “better” for an employer from a strictly economic point of view if it can force down wages, strip workers of their rights, employ more part time workers on minimum wage than fewer full time workers with decent pay and conditions.”

All workers rights have a cost. There is little dispute that most of these costs are worth paying but the fact that they are there have to be recognised and the more you up these costs the higher unemployment is likely to rise.

As to the part time workers getting less, it’s hardly a shock. Part timers cost the employer more per hour, (fixed costs over less time), and that is reflected in the amount that they take home.

I’m not suggesting that cheap labour is a panacea, simply that there is a trade off between costs and employment.

26. the a&e charge nurse

[23] “I thought the poor were already held in disdain and exploited – so you are translating this forecast of great evils as an increase in degree to which they are so” – YES, once such practices becomes state sanctioned and insitutionalised the next step will be to up the ante – I’ll bet the editors of the Fail & Scum will have a hard on just thinking about?

27. the a&e charge nurse

[24] “He has the same inchoate anger” – are you suggesting a quiet chuckle is more appropriate?
Remember this guy?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu-nhba0Bck

24 cjcjc

You don’t have to swallow RedMiners’s inchoate sense of anger whole, or even necessarily agree with most of what he says, to see that the “great evils” in store revolve around an attempt by the right to largely dismantle the post war “model” and replace it with something much more akin to the US model.

Granted that for some on the right, this is something earnestly to be hoped for. They actually BELIEVE that our society would be better if it were organised that way, and that the earlier consensus needs root and branch reform. Others, whether on the old “one nation Tory” right, the wishy washy centre, or those who really don’t care/understand as long as X-Factor is still on TV, may not actively WANT that outcome, but may find that they are sleep walking into just that kind of society.

The evil in store therefore is a society in which inequality is entrenched, even increased; where we end up with an under-class of helots without a social security safety net or adequate services, whilst the rich become richer and encourage the poor to enrich themselves without worrying about the rest in the pious hope that trickle down economics will do the trick.

Lefty Tea Party. That’s an oxymoron if there ever was one! Lefties tend to over-think. It’s the rightwingers who have the inchoate anger and are too dim to understand why.

Claude:

‘There is nothing more grating than someone with a background like Jackie Ashley pontificating about the unlucky, the deprived and giving the unemployed a kick up the arse.

‘Just for the record, in case you didn’t know, Ashley is the daughter of a Baron. She was educated at Oxford and later married Andrew Marr, one of the best paid BBC journos. But hey, she knows it all about cycles of deprivation and joblessness doesn’t she?’

That’s a pretty fucking desperate ad hom even for this site. Most of the current ‘left’ ought to be ashamed of themselves when they look at Jack Ashley’s achievements.

For the benefit of those ignorant abot ‘Baron’ Ashley – who became a life peer at 70 – here’s wikipedias entry on him:

‘Jack Ashley, Baron Ashley of Stoke, CH PC (born 6 December 1922), is a Labour member of the United Kingdom House of Lords. He was Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South for 26 years, from 1966 to 1992.

Ashley was born in Widnes and educated at local elementary school. He left school at 14 to work in the chemical process industry. He became a crane driver and was a shop steward in the Chemical Workers’ Union, a union of which he was the youngest executive member aged 22. He served in the Army in the Second World War, and then won a scholarship to study at Ruskin College, where he received a Diploma in Economics and Political Science in 1948. He continued his studies at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1951. He worked as a research worker for the National Union of General and Municipal Workers and then worked as a radio producer for the North American Service and BBC Home Service. In 1956 he joined the BBC television service and worked as a producer on Panorama and Monitor.

He served on Widnes Borough Council as a councillor from 1946. At the 1951 general election, Ashley contested Finchley without success. He was elected as Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Stoke on Trent South at the 1966 general election. In December 1967, at the age of 45, he became profoundly deaf as a result of complications of a routine ear operation to correct a mild hearing loss caused by a perforated eardrum early in his working career. He was the United Kingdom’s first totally deaf MP.

He became a tireless campaigner for the disabled, especially the deaf and blind, and won broad cross-party sympathy, support and respect in parliament for his approach. In 1972, he sponsored the pivotal motion in the House of Commons making a distinction between legal and moral obligation. The success of this enabled The Sunday Times to continue its moral campaign for improved compensation for children disabled by thalidomide even while technically the parents’ legal case was still in the courts. His Labour colleague, Alf Morris (now Lord Morris of Manchester) was also a supporter. The editor of The Sunday Times, Harold Evans, later wrote in Good Times, Bad Times how Ashley selflessly gave up writing his autobiography so as to concentrate on the thalidomide campaign. He has also campaigned for compensation for vaccine damage and for damage caused by the arthritis drug Opren. He became a Companion of Honour in 1975, and joined the Privy Council in 1979.

He also received a Doctor of Humane Letters from the Gallaudet University, the world’s only university for the deaf, in 1975 for his efforts on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.

The live captioning on the television to benefit the deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers cannot come into existence without Jack Ashley. While sitting in the House of Commons, not able to hear the debates, he relied on his wife who repeated all the words spoken in the plenum to be lipread. Later as the computer technology has advanced enough, he came upon the idea of using the stenotyping ability of court reporters to type into a computer, equipped with a dictionary database and an appropriate program to convert the phonetic input to written English with proper capitalization and punctuation and sent to a small cathode ray monitor in front of him. This method was tried out for the first time on the TV 1981 as BBC broadcast the wedding of someone of the royal family.

In 1986, Ashley and his wife founded the charity Defeating Deafness, now known as Deafness Research UK. He retired from the House of Commons at the 1992 general election and was made a Life peer Baron Ashley of Stoke, of Widnes in the County of Cheshire the same year. He received a cochlear implant in 1994 which restored much of his hearing.’

Whilst you may find it amusing to poke fun, and assume that ANY criticism is overblown, one doesn’t have to be a revolutionary to feel deep unease at the way things are going.

One does, however, have to be a bit of a loon to portray the reduction in public spending levels to that of 2006 as a wholesale repudiation of the post-war settlement. If the left persist in framing every single Coalition policy as the end of civilisation as we know it (and it does, from child benefit for millionaires, to cuts in the administrative budget of the Arts Council, to a cap of £400pw in housing benefit) it’ll just look silly.

Talking about the Tories ‘displaying their dark hearts before the world’ is silly. The appropriate response is to laugh at it. To decry Tories for using “biblical rhetoric” and then to cry “Shame, shame on us all. Tolstoy said everyone was innocent. I say everyone is guilty. And our children will never forgive us for allowing this to happen” is, candidly, hilarious.

Simmer down. Go for a walk in the fresh air. Get some perspective. Sheesh.

Seems that it’s not necessary for me to comment on leisure hours: I’ve done so sufficiently often that the message is getting through?

33. the a&e charge nurse

[31] in other words, relax, lie back and let IDS tickle the workers tummy.?

As an aside neither Lansley nor his coaltion chums have openly admitted that the NHS is in the process of being quietly privatised but this exactly what is happening;
http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Dismantling-the-NHS

I suspect most of the public will not actually realise until it is far too late, so it is hardly surprising that such an approach is being adopted in other contentious areas?

A drip-drip, or stealth approach to unpalatable change is an old, yet effective strategy.
The likes of RedMiner are belatedly pointing the finger, and perhaps it’s time a few more of us did the exactly same?

31 Tim J

Very few people that I’ve come across are saying that every single policy IS the end of civilisation as we know it. The discussion revolves around whether the policies the Coalition is putting forward as a means of deficit reduction are the right ones, and whether they are regressive or not.

I obviously think that many (tho not all) are the wrong ones, and that many are regressive. Similarly, some are just plain wrong headed, like the laughable “strategic” defence review.

Like many others, I believe there is huge scope for increasing the relative amount contributed to deficit reduction by higher taxes on the rich, closing tax loopholes and increasing the amount taken in corporate taxation etc, rather than sticking it to those who are least able to pay, and savage cuts in spending (which there is considerable doubt are “a good thing” even amongst econimists who are hardly renowned for being left of centre).

It’s not a matter of getting things in perspective, or calming down: it’s all too clear that there are many on the right who would like nothing better than to deconstruct the welfare state, however much Call Me Dave tries to present himself as the acceptable face of Conservatism.

#30 shatterface:

Take a breath. Relax. If you read again what I wrote @ 3 I was on about Jackie (that is JACKIE) Ashley’s privileged background – the lady who wrote the article in question – and NOT her father. Her father has done nothing to be criticised on the matter.
This is a typical case of internet bollox where people get all frothing at the mouth before they even read a comment properly.

“every single policy IS the end of civilisation as we know it. ”

TBH I have heard a few OTT comments at union events. One on the weekend for example; one member of the audience compared it with the nazis (lol Godwin), and another suggested the time was right for a general strike.

Sometimes we really do need to make ourselves more familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf.

Very few people that I’ve come across are saying that every single policy IS the end of civilisation as we know it.

Maybe, but look at the responses of people ‘on the left’ as a whole. A cap to housing benefit is ‘a final solution for the poor’, a freeze in the licence fee is ‘akin to waterboarding’ (that was John Simpson), ending child benefit payments to millionaires is ‘dismantling the post war settlement’. Scrapping child trust funds is ‘evil’ (that was a former minister).

If the response to every single policy is this sort of hyperventilating nonsense, then people will rapidly dismiss anything the left has to say as similarly frothing knee-jerk idiocy.

38. the a&e charge nurse

[37] A cap to housing benefit is ‘a final solution for the poor’ – nothing so grandiose, just people being forced out of their home – ahh well, at least they’ll be able to work for free between squat hunting?
Let’s just hope the homeless don’t develop any health problems – it won’t be long before health enjoys the same enviable reputation as British dentistry.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/jun/17/tories-emergency-dentist-admissions

#37 Maybe, but look at the responses of people ‘on the left’ as a whole

Maybe I should compile a Best Of of responses of people ‘on the right’ each time the previous government did something vaguely not Daily Mail-esque (which didn’t happen very often, btw).

A few hysterical responses spring to mind over the introduction of the minimum wage (“it will condemn hundreds of thousands to the dole queue”, “investors will shun Britain”);
Abolition of Section 28 (“teachers to encourage homosexual experiments among pupils”);
Regulation of foxhunting (“it will destroy the rural way of life, hundreds of people will end up in jail, it will mean severe economic disruption and social disaster to many rural communities”);
Raising top tax rate (“the 50p tax rate that is beginning to drive millionaires away and is a disaster for this country”), etc.

You get the general idea.

40. Luis Enrique

37, 39

rally for sanity anyone?

Saw red miner’s post when it was posted and agree 100% with his passion and eloquence.

This used to be a half-decent country to live in. It is not anymore, it is increasingly becoming a neo-liberal dystopia.

Sure we we grievances, we had a load of political differences, but we argued about them, we got involved in politcal activism – the actions of this vile government would have resulted in massive demonstrations in the ’70s and ’80s. Not now.

You used to be able to see a way out, progress, a better future. Not anymore. Social mobilty is nearly dead. Social progrees stagnant

The New Economic Foundation has said Britain was at its happiest in 1976, that was the year best for quality of life, based on indicators such as crime rate, pollution levels and public sector investment. It was also when equality was at one of its highest levels.

We had social cohesion back in the ’70s too. An example: 60 odd IRA bombs went off in the UK in the ’70s, there was some draconian legislation as a result, but everyday ordinary people just got on with their lives, nowadays there would be hysteria and legislation and a security clampdown of unprecedented levels. Just look at the reaction to “threats” not actual terrorist events.

We were materially less well off, but cared about it less.

Over the last 30 years the world of neo-liberal, number crunchers like Tim Worstall has led to us becoming passive consumers, obsessed by material things, celebrity and the rich, with inequality increasing every year.

It may be a cliche but the Worstall’s and Tim J’s of this world know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

The only glimmer of hope I see is that we don’t know how all this will shake out. I’m pretty sure the ConDems cuts won’t work and as a result as we see the rich getting richer and the poor and not-so-poor-but-not-rich getting shafted there will rise a demand, not for “fairness” but for increased equality.

Otherwise the young generation is going to be screwed.

There is an alternative.

“Over the last 30 years the world of neo-liberal, number crunchers like Tim Worstall has led to us becoming passive consumers, obsessed by material things, celebrity and the rich, with inequality increasing every year.

It may be a cliche but the Worstall’s and Tim J’s of this world know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

How amazing. I only started writing publicly in 2004, you mean I was influencing people 24 years before I actually did anything?

BTW, I’m afraid you’ve also grievously misunderstood my actual point of view as well. I’m the guy that keeps pointing out that, just as an example, leisure has a value and that insisting that people give up their leisure in order to sort through domestic waste for recycling is failing to recognise that value.

43. Luis Enrique

captain swing how old are you? I mean, can you remember 1976?

Yes Captain, I’m sure we all yearn for the golden age that was 1976.

@ 42 Tim Worstall

I didn’t know when you started writing publically and care even less, as far as I’m concerned you’re Just.Another.Neo.Liberal.Drone. Your world fell apart in 2008 and you are still in denial.

@ 43. Luis Enrique

Yes I can remember 1976 very well. I had a great time I was 21 and a punk rocker. The summer was about the hottest I’ve known here. The pubs ran out of lager.

Now give me a bit of ‘why on why can’t the left see the merit in free markets hand wringing, cos we’ve had so little of free markets since 1979 haven’t we?

Ah, 1976……. Denis Healey off cap in hand to the IMF; lefties getting all in a froth over Grunwick; Idi Amin expelling all the Asians to UK; the most scorching summer before the phrase Global Warming was minted. What Halcyon Days! No wonder Big Ben stopped working for nine months.

Your world fell apart in 2008 and you are still in denial.

It didn’t really though did it? I mean we were told that the financial crisis would herald a new era for the left, where new economic models would be introduced to replace a failed capitalism. And yet, it sort of didn’t did it? Ironically, it appears to have led to a resurgence for the right. Funny how things work out.

48. Luis Enrique

cap swing

Ah yes, punks. I remember how punks used to emphasize how wonderful British society was back then. If only we could drink so heavily nowadays.

Personally I reckon life has gotten better for most people in the UK since 1970s, and I think the NEF are clowns. But I could be wrong.

@ 46 jay

Oh great! The old right wing trope cap in hand to the IMF.

Shall we look at that a bit? Here’s Edward Pearce who used to write for the Express and supported Thatcher in ’80s (so not a Trot):

“the IMF visitation of 1976 is still reliably posted as the ultimate failure of a Labour government. In fact, the IMF-precipitating episode of 1976 was sparked by someone at the Treasury, never identified, selling pounds for dollars in the wake of the cuts imposed and recovery achieved in 1975 by the chancellor, Denis Healey. Derek Mitchell, then permanent secretary at the Treasury, would later tell me that the entire 1976 episode, IMF and all, had been ‘strictly a headline crisis’. Indeed as the crisis broke, the scarcely pinko Investors Chronicle had asked: ‘why now, when the real crisis was last year?’”

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n17/letters

But why let the truth get in the way of easy cliches eh?

Now tell me about the Winter of Discontent “when the dead went unburied” etc etc etc……

50. Luis Enrique

a very large element of the free-market world view – at the very least, the bit concerning the operation of financial markets and the wisdom of bankers – fell apart in 2008.

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/speeches/2010/speech455.pdf

It’s hardly surprising that the right has the public ear. They own it, after all.

@ 47. Tim J

a “resurgence for the right”? I thought after 13 years of a very unpopular New Labour government, in the middle of an economic crisis and faced with an open goal the Tories could not win an overall majority and had to rely on LibDem stooges to push through poliies for which they have no mandate. Funny old “resurgence” no? And let’s see how things work out. This isn’t over yet. You’re like one of those people in August 1914 who thought there would be a return to the Edwardian era in due course.

@ 48 Luis Enrique

Punks were about the last gasp of a counter-culture, now long dead but often imitated and there were even those who pretend it’s still going. It was a popular youth expression of rage of society, just like we see so often nowadays.

Oh.

And yes I imagine you love it now, you must make an excellent consumer and at last in your life someone is taking a bit of notice in the windy world of political blogs. And unlike you with the NEF I know you are a clown.

And so the ad hominems begin.

Unfortunately for you, Captain, regular readers know that Luis is one of the best informed, most articulate and unusually polite commenters at LC.

54. Luis Enrique

why thank you very much cjcjc

don’t sweat it captain swing, we clearly have differing views and I can’t complain about you being rude to me, after having just been rude about the NEF myself.

(still, curious that the punks were so angry, living as they were in what turned out to be the high water mark for British civilization)

“as far as I’m concerned you’re Just.Another.Neo.Liberal.Drone. Your world fell apart in 2008 and you are still in denial.”

I really would love it if someone could explain to me what “neoliberal” means. I know what it could mean, someone who is treating the old liberal verities as new again. You know, that it’s freedom and liberty that should be the major driving forces of our approach to socio economic systems.

This could be extended to things like free trade (as Cobden, one of the founders of what became The Guardian , regarded it) as this is indeed a freedom, a liberty, to buy what you want from whoever you want, that shouldn’t be denied to people.

But in modern parlance “neoliberal” seems to mean “people whose ideas I don’t like”.

As to my world falling apart in 2006: I wasn’t the guy who said that he’d abolished boom and bust. I was the guy who said that boom and bust is inherent in a market based system. Having a bust is a confirmation of my views, not a refutation of them.

a “resurgence for the right”? I thought after 13 years of a very unpopular New Labour government, in the middle of an economic crisis and faced with an open goal the Tories could not win an overall majority and had to rely on LibDem stooges to push through poliies for which they have no mandate. Funny old “resurgence” no?

I wasn’t being quite so parochial as to focus exclusively on British politics, although the Tories winning more new seats than at any election since 1931 was a reasonable result all things considered.

This isn’t over yet. You’re like one of those people in August 1914 who thought there would be a return to the Edwardian era in due course.

Well, la luta continua and all that, but if the left want to put forward a great overarching economic strategy they’d better get their skates on. Although, if we’re talking about bone-headed nostalgia, I’m not the one harking back to the golden years of the mid 1970s.

“I really would love it if someone could explain to me what “neoliberal” means”

Generally speaking it means somebody who reacted against the keynesian post-war consensus, and re-discovered the ideas of classical liberalism. The term emerged in the mid to late 70s/early 80s when it made sense to add a ‘neo’ in front of the term to reflect that it was an emerging belief system updating old ideas for the time, and also a term that distinguished it from the social liberalism of the 60s movements – which many neo-liberals hated.

But you’re right about the term’s over-use and hence loss of meaning.

58. Luis Enrique

“you must make an excellent consumer ”

what an odd thing to say.

58 – I think he’s calling you fat isn’t he?

60. Luis Enrique

no, I think he’s complementing me on my taste and good judgment

61. the a&e charge nurse

[17] “Is unpaid employment, as opposed to voluntary work, not slavery” – according to the Mash the answer would be appear to be ‘yah’
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/duncan-smith-finally-gets-to-own-slaves-201011083228/

@ the lot of you

You know very well what neo-liberal means: “free-markets,” privatisation, globalisation, a “flexible workforce”, increased inequality, the rich getting richer as this leads to “trickle down” economics, an economic system to which There Is No Alternative; the whole fucking stinkin; she-bang we’ve had from every UK and American government for the past 30 years.

The economic system that, as even commentators like John Grey (no leftie) have pointed out has become a quasi-religion that cannot be questoned.

And look were it has got us eh?

Happy?

It’s been wonderful watching the Tories convert this crisis caused by the bankers and financial sector into a crisis of the public sector, but as I said it’s not over yet.

Glad to see Tim J thinks “Tories: no overall majority” = barely parelled victory in history and he regards the American Tea Party as a step forward for the right. Forward to victory in 2015! Jog on.

As for Luis Enrique befuddlement as being called “an excellent consumer”; that is all we are meant to be today, our alpha and omega. You’ve really been suckered in haven’t you?

And I thought this was “a left liberal blog”….

Still there is a lot more to life than the navel-gazing of windy web blogs discussing the 21st C equivalent of ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?’

So I’m offski.

Taa raa.

re: the lasting effects of the 2008 crisis. reminds me of this anecdote: Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was once asked – in the middle of the 20th century – what he thought the the historical significance of the 1789 French Revolution was and is alleged to have replied “It’s too soon to tell”.
Point? None of us here can say which way the winds of history will blow. The future, as they say, is up for grabs.

64. Luis Enrique

dear captain swing

first, I’d like to point out that you have absolutely no information at all concerning my consumption habits. Whereas I have some information about your powers of inference.

I find it curious. The message I received very strongly growing up, from my family and friends and from soaking up Western culture, was that money cannot buy you happiness, material wealth is shallow and vulgar and that life is all about friends, spiritual fulfillment etc. And yet you seem to think society transmits a very strong message: consumption is all. It obviously hasn’t successful transmitted that message to you, so to whom has it? All those drones you think are stupider than you, you big fat elitist. Another lefty with aristocratic contempt for the masses.

don’t confuse firms trying to sell you their products with the dominant values within a culture.

I really am not sure about the tenets of so called neoliberalism being beyond question. In recent weeks I have seen the Governor of the Bank of England question why systematically important banks should be in the private sector, I’ve seen mainstream economists advocating capital controls and interventions to balance current accounts etc. and pretty broad support for a government run investment bank.

(Not to mention the legions of passionate lefties who spend their every breath bravely challenging the ideology of the ruling classes etc.)

I think the punk anger thing was about seeing a better world than the one they found themselves in. Of course there was the usual teenage rebellion stuff, but there was positive activism and political awareness that seems absent in much youth culture today.

Of course, punk is now solely associated with Malcolm McClaren’s boy band. What a pity.

“Neoliberalism” gets a lot of stick from libertarians (the sort who were predicting the financial crisis) who see it as a parody of true liberalism, supporting as it does a central authority manipulating interest rates and various forms of state intervention that support big business. Deregulation and privatisation are all well and good but not when they are done selectively and in a manner and benefits special interest groups.

@ luis enrique 64

‘you big fat elitist. Another lefty with aristocratic contempt for the masses’

Awww didums, thrown your toys out of the pram, hit a sore point with me consumer comment have I? You really are a sucker.

Yes I have got problems with todays culture with its fascination with consumption, slebs and wealth. Its love of money. Its apathy. Its politics of spite. Its love of bullying, humiliating and screwing other people particularly those weaker and poorer than you, or odd ones that “don’t fit in”. But I’ll leave it to arseholes like your good self to point out the post-modern irony of the X-Factor to me. You obviously have no problems with these aspects of our culture.

And another fucker who thinks a little bit of tinkering to the neo-liberal model and everything will be tickety boo again!. The ” the Governor of the Bank of England” FFS – As the LRB article by John Lanchester after the 2008 crash was entitled It’s Finished and so are dummies like you who think it isn’t.

Let me tell you a little bit about this big fat elitist with aristocratic contempt for others:

I was born in a place in north Manchester later designated “a slum” and moved to a Manchester overspill estate and brought up for large part of my youth in a two-up-two-down. I’ve lived nearly all my life in council housing & still do. I was written off at eleven because I went to a sec mod and failed me 11+ .

My first job was as an apprentice lathe operator (like ‘Arthur Seaton’) at £8-10 shillings a week. I decided after several shitty manual jobs, that the place society has designated for me could go screw itself. Moved to London and got stuck into the counter-culture and drugs. I won’t go into any more save to say I now have two degrees but no O-levels.

And all my life I have to to put up with the massive condescension of patronising middle-class cunts like you and I’ve always got over it and come out on top.

You’re in for a few shocks over the coming decade you complacent tosser, and I sincerely hope you don’t like them. That you hate them.

Now fuck off.

68. the a&e charge nurse

Is privatisation of ambulances a form of neoliberalism – I have no idea, but I don’t think RedMiner will approve?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/nov/09/ambulance-firefighters-mutualise-plans

It is reported, “The government is to unveil a white paper that will give nearly all public sector workers a right to “mutualise” services, along the lines of a John Lewis model whereby employees own the service they work for, and can profit if it makes money. (Francis) Maude said that almost ALL public services – bar the police and the armed forces – could be mutualised.

Failing that Maude suggested ambulances could be run by inadequately trained but well meaning volunteers who had seen ER or Casualty a few times (joke, obviously)

The depressing thing about the likes of Redminer is they start from a flaky premise use overblown rhetoric to exaggerate the problem and unsurprisingly reach the wrong conclusion. Others who share the same flaky premise soak it up as they have their prejudice reinforced.

I disagree with workfare for the long-term unemployed because it does not solve the problem. However, we do have a problem. The ‘ unemployed ‘ as a group are not the problem as they are not a static unchanging lump. The level of new startup firms who are net creators of employment is down so that is why the unemployment rate rises. However, the only thing we can do about that is ensure we have policies in place for new startup firms to flourish. Existing firms are net destroyers of jobs so why would we care about them. New startup firms are key to the employment rate. Most of the currently unemployed will find other jobs and they should not be our main concern. Therefore, we should see long-term unemployment as quite distinct where self-evidently there is a problem.

I regularly read it is a problem with capitalism and the system in general. However, why are the long-term unemployed as a group primarily made up with the low or unskilled? If capitalism is to blame why do we not see long-term unemployment affecting all income groups? For example, why is there not more long-term unemployment amongst investment bankers, accountants, architects software engineers, mechanics, electricians etc? They all command expensive labour. The notion that capitalism is to blame collapses under its own stupidity by the fact that the system has no problem generating full employment for more expensive labour. So we have a situation where capitalism has no problem employing expensive labour and some long-term unemployment amongst those with the cheapest labour. Yet, some would have us believe the main problem with long-term unemployment is capitalists who want cheap labour. Bizarre.

70. Luis Enrique

Richard W

well, we have a situation where the cheapest labour is unemployed, so that’s a problem with capitalism: we have capitalism we have that form of long-term unemployment and it’s a problem. Alternative systems might have the same problem, but not all of them (they’d have different problems – maybe worse). I don’t see what’s wrong with regarding long-term unemployment as a problem with capitalism.

captain swing

?

Cut to fundamentals, isn’t this the the root problem for many in current job markets in Britain?

“The National Curriculum test results also revealed that in spite of an improvement in English and maths, more than a third of pupils still left primary school without a proper grasp of the basics in reading, writing and maths.”
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ba881948-9f3f-11df-8732-00144feabdc0.html

And this from the regional press in Yorkshire, which is where Ed Balls’ constituency was until the 2010 election:

“YORKSHIRE has the country’s fewest 11-year-old pupils who grasp the basics in reading and writing, according to national curriculum test results that were undermined by a teachers’ boycott.”
http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/Sats-test-scores-reveal-regions.6455344.jp

Why else the serial reports in the press of employers who welcome migrants from east European countries because of their better skills and attitudes to work?

@ Luis

I do think long-term unemployment is a problem. However, to blame the system rather misses the point. If it was a problem with the economic system the distribution of long-term unemployment would be more evenly spread between all income groups and all employment sectors. Since long-term unemployment is not evenly distributed we need to look at why firms do not wish to employ some workers.

“Moved to London and got stuck into the counter-culture and drugs.”

You brave little individualist you. How very constructive.

“I won’t go into any more save to say I now have two degrees but no O-levels.”

Obviously not from the University of Good Manners; still it’s always nice to see my filthy capitalist money being put to good use.

“And all my life I have to to put up with the massive condescension of patronising middle-class cunts like you and I’ve always got over it and come out on top.

You’re in for a few shocks over the coming decade you complacent tosser, and I sincerely hope you don’t like them. That you hate them.”

Ah, I see. Massive chip on the shoulder. Alas I fear you will be disappointed in the coming decade. Global capitalism will chug along nicely. The middle classes will survive. The working classes will not go Red. Your hoped for class war will never materialise.

75. Luis Enrique

Richard W

“If it was a problem with the economic system the distribution of long-term unemployment would be more evenly spread between all income groups and all employment sectors”.

I don’t agree with that. I agree that capitalism finds work for expensive labour but less so for cheap, but the causation is that labour is expensive when demanded is high relative to supply and labour markets are tight, and cheap when demand is weak. So you’d never find unemployment distributed evenly over wage bands. It’s a feature of the capitalist system that labour is only employed when the employer has a productive use for it, so I’d say the result that we see unemployed people that employers have no use for (at prevailing wages) is a feature of the system. OK, actually it’s a feature of the system plus minimum wages and a benefits system. But my point is that other system might find work for people even if it’s uneconomic in terms of private returns. Capitalism – absent intervention of some sort – won’t.

To tease out the truth of what you’re saying Luis: low skilled labour is currently too highly priced in the UK.

After all, capitalism is looking pretty good at providing jobs for low skilled labour elsewhere at lower pay rates.

If only we could have something like a minimum wage or something to force employers to pay low skilled labour more than it’s worth to employers…..

Captain Swing @67,

“And all my life I have to to put up with the massive condescension of patronising middle-class cunts like you and I’ve always got over it and come out on top.”

Got over it? Hardly.

Are you sure you are not a bored teenager just trying to wind everyone up?

78. Luis Enrique

Tim

well the market has a demand and a supply side – if the market isn’t clearing, ‘fixing’ the supply side (in this case by allowing wages to drop to the market clearing level) isn’t the only solution. It is possible to try and raise demand. This is about the social welfare function, there is no objective ‘truth’ about what the right solution is. I don’t think you can say “the truth is wages are too high” as a bald statement.

Also, you don’t know what the market clearing wage is. One could say that by definition it’s below the minimum we regard as acceptable for a citizen of this country (if that’s how you want to interpret the minimum wage). And the market clearing wage might be substantially below the minimum wage. What wage do you guess would be low enough to erase all but short-term frictional unemployment? It could be say a third of the minimum wage. I might accept that “wages are too high” if that is followed by “to clear existing labour markets” but I don’t think in any other sense we’d want to say wages are too high because they’re above that level. I reckon that if we were to remove wage restrictions and unemployment benefits, so people starve if they don’t work, we’d see what letting the labour market clear by wages falling to the clearing level would look like, and I don’t think we’d like it. I reckon we’d have all manner of new problems – caused by wages being too low.

@76
Tim I’m not sure why you think people go to work as labourers, but I can assure you that one of the main factors is to earn money. Plus I’m also not sure that being able to pay a pittance to labourers in china and India where the rights of workers are somewhat lacking is such a great advertisement for capitalism.

I think the problem I have with much of the debate above (and many like them) is that it tends to degenrate into a sterile slagging match between two entrenched camps throwing rocks at each other; it boils down in the end to those howling into the wind calling on one side for the wicked system to be fractured, and on the other side insisting that capitalism might not be perfect, but everything else is worse.

The thing is, I think there IS scope even within the current system for doing things differently. Just as Thatcherism was never the “only” solution to our peoblems in the 70’s and 80’s, or Blairism to those of the 90’s, the policies being advanced by the Coalition are NOT the only game in town. Similarly the policies currently being advance by Newer Labour (which it would apear differ only in degree rather than fundamentals) are not the only way either.

Thinking there is a different, and better, way to approach our current problems doesn’t automatically mean you think capitalism needs to be overthrown, and workers Soviets introduced. Similarly an acceptance that, to paraphrase Churchill, the capitalist system is the worst possible one except all the others that have been tried, doesn’t mean you read the Daily Mail and think the Big Society is a fine idea!

This is an avowedly left of centre forum, and it behoves those of us on the centre left to show that whilst a knee jerk “no cuts” response is untenable, there should and can be a more radical, progressive platform than that being pedalled by Miliband and New Labour Lite.

“This is about the social welfare function, there is no objective ‘truth’ about what the right solution is.”

Fair enough, now, let us move on: why don’t we look at what one of the country’s premier labour economists thinks about all of this? Richard Layard for example?

He absolutely (no, really, he does) believe that there are structural problems surrounding long term unemployment. That there is an obvious reason why European long term unemployment is so much higher than US long term such. That is the absence of any time limitation upon benefits: which allows the long term unemployed to become entirely detatched from the labour market.

His solution? To insist upon either training or make work jobs, to be taken at threat of losing benefits.

Which is what IDS seems to proposing but which is causing a great wailing and a gnashing of the teeth.

BTW, just for clarity. I think the real solution is a citizens basic income and abolition of all conditionality (except, of course, for the disabled and incapable where a CBI would not be sufficient, those requiring dedicated care for example) for in or out of work benefits.

Plus, of course, the abolition of the minimum wage and so on.

83. Luis Enrique

Galen

I don’t know who denies the possibility of doing things differently. Lots of people think their views are ‘reality based’ so they say what amounts to: if you understood things properly you’d see my way is the best way / effectively the only way. But we all know it’s possible to do things differently.

here is one idea for a big change, a different way, without completely overthrowing the system. And here is another one. Both of those would have massive implications, if implemented, and when it comes to lefty concerns like inequality and industrial production, have a huge impact.

this might be worth a read too

http://www.interfluidity.com/v2/983.html

it’s about the constraints morality and ideology place upon economic policy.

Labour peer Richard Layard.

85. Luis Enrique

Tim

but providing training and providing jobs ain’t the same thing as compulsory unpaid labour.

you’re ideas at 82 would be a fine thing – I’ve got a bunch of pragmatic doubts about it, but this isn’t the place.

But Layard does say that compulsory unpaid labour is to be considered as part of the solution.

Does anyone here suppose this observation by the Public Accounts Committee a few years back is irrelevant to the extent of long-term unemployment?

“Up to 12 million working UK adults have the literacy skills expected of a primary school child, the [HoC] Public Accounts Committee says. . . The report says there are up 12 million people holding down jobs with literacy skills and up to 16 million with numeracy skills at the level expected of children leaving primary school.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4642396.stm

Btw how many science and technology graduates are coming out of universities in India every year?

Sorry but what was his point? It’s just a long rant as far as I can see, starting off with mass immigration then blaming the Tories for it and ending up with those famous two words used by all comments written by someone simply venting their spleen without so much as a thought passing through their head.

Labour failed on immigration, Labour spent the proceeds of the boom as though it were permanent money and borrowed still on top of that, Labour introduced laws that encouraged outsourcing of work, and yet all the problems with the world are the Tories fault? Get with the program. It’s decades of bad government, not 6 months of the Tories, that have got us where we are and it’s people like RedMiner, who are so blinded by partisanship and a need to be ‘anti-Tory’, that allowed a Labour government to make so many horrendous mistakes that a ‘cutting’ Tory government was inevitable.

I may be a Rightie, but it seems to me that this country is quite happy for some socialism at least until the bill comes. I suspect if Labour could find a responsible chancellor, they might well be in government for a very long time. Indeed, the only thing that stopped Labour winning the last election was the dire state of the public finances – because the Tories sure as hell didn’t offer a great deal much worth voting for.

88

I’m not sure you’re being that balanced yourself I’m afraid. RedMiner seems to be having a go at the left too from what he’s written?

Many of us have deep misgivings about the direction of Coalition policy, find the concept of the Big Society half baked, and see a real danger that the welfare state is at risk along with the basis of the post war “social contract”.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and as you say the problems go back decades under both major parties. However, the proximate causes of the current mess aren’t that hard to discern: slavish worship of market forces, insufficient regulation of the financial sector, and governments (both Tory and New Labour) who thought “enrichissez-vous!” amounted to a sensible economic policy.

One thing is for sure, the Coalition isn’t about to promote social cohesion and reduce the gap between the richest and the poorest, any more than the crypto-Tories in New Labour did.

Blaming New Labour for its socialist policies is just laughable. Britain’s persisting long-term unemployment problems relate far more to a workforce lacking the basic requirements of literacy and numeracy and, increasingly, the skills which employers can find abroad or among the migrants into Britain from east European countries. Face the facts: Some 20,000+ school leavers at 16 are leaving school without any qualifications.

This report dated August 2009 on the NEETs (not in education, employment or training) under 24 is especially worrying:
http://education.icnetwork.co.uk/national-student-news/2009/08/18/record-numbers-of-18-24-year-olds-not-in-education-or-work-111036-24468899/

“The statistics also show a surge in the numbers of 16-18-year-olds considered Neet. There are now 233,000 Neets in this age group, 13,000 more than the first quarter of 2009, when the figure stood at 220,000. In the second quarter of 2008, 209,000 16-18-year-olds were Neet, 24,000 fewer than the same quarter this year.”

And this:

“LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s world ranking as one of the highest producers of university graduates has tumbled as other countries invest more heavily in education, an international study reported on Tuesday.

“Despite labelling the British higher education sector ‘very strong’, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said it was no longer at the world class level it once enjoyed.
http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKL1764485620070918


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