George Osborne

Polly Toynbee vs. Ed Balls

Last week I briefly glimpsed an interview with Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and major figure in the British Labour Party.

It was a general discussion on the Tories (misnamed) Autumn statement. The interviewer, whose name I forget, tried to pin him down into criticising George Osborne’s measures. However, the ever so cunning Balls was having none of it. He hummed and ahhed, instead of giving pointed answers and making it clear that Labour was stridently oppose the Tory measures, he prevaricated.

And that, for me, is the problem with the Labour leadership, they don’t really know which Tory measures there against, or even if they should oppose them totally, which is bewildering.

But I am not the only one to notice the malaise within the Labour leadership. The hardly radical, Polly Toynbee has some suggestions:

“To turn the public mood, Labour needs to find its voice and tell the stories that counteract Daily Mail scrounger anecdotes. For every cheat claiming disability while running a marathon, there are thousands of tales of the hard-working and the desperate-to-work queuing at food banks. Labour MPs’ surgeries brim with stories that need to be told, of families evicted unable to pay soaring rents, of children trapped in bed-and-breakfast single rooms, of “strivers” sinking through no fault of their own.

Labour needs to say what they see. Forget the polls and the focus groups, let the facts speak for themselves. Ed Miliband’s best instinct is that people are sick of Osborne’s callow politicking. Voters will reward honesty in politicians who speak their minds. If not, why bother at all?

My feeling is, that the useless Balls and Miliband are too wrapped up in the Westminster bubble to take this shrewd advice.

An Occasional Murdoch, NHS and Misogyny Roundup

Rupert Murdoch ate a mountain of humble pie at the Levinson inquiry and looked distinctly uncomfortable with his newfound humility.

That’s a thing of the past. Murdoch reveals his true feelings on Twitter:

“Told UK’s Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad.”

Charlotte Church was a bit annoyed.

Over at the NHS they are not happy, according to one of its honchos:

“The head of the NHS has laid bare his fears that the government’s controversial reforms of the health service could end in “misery and failure”.

Women in the media, why the disparity?

An ex-Wikileaks supporter explains why:

“For a long time now I was a strong supporter of Julian. I used to donate regularly to him. I defended and supported his actions because I believed in the cause that he was fighting for. Since the days of the original attack I ran the primary South African Wikileaks mirror (www.wikileaks.za.org). Back in those days thousands of us rallied to support Wikileaks when it was under constant DDOS attack.

Now I see the absolute disdain the Assange`s treat this cause with I can no longer put my support behind the idea. To the Assange’s it has become the Assange Road Show. Wikileaks is all about them and their own personal agenda. “

Malatesta covers the activity of the British Far Right with humour, look out for Mike Mosley, yet another neo-Nazi that likes guns.

This is a piece of understated reporting if ever there was one.

French antisemitism comes to the fore on Twitter.

An indicator, if one was needed, of Tory failures, food banks serving more.

In Australia, the definition of misogyny is being updated.

When Universal Credit is introduced in Britain, the disabled will lose out.

Radovan Karadžić’s lying know no bounds.

When you think about buying an iPhone remember that Foxcon are still using youngsters to make their bits.

Worried by Americanisms? Linguistic traffic is not one way, as the Beeb shows.

Good news, neo-Nazi’s plans for social media thwarted by Twitter.

Tens of thousands have disappeared in Syria.

Paramilitary abuse and raped in Colombia, one woman’s tale.

Thanks to the UK Human Rights Blog and Irène Solomon there is an unofficial English translation of the Rachel Corrie judgment.

The Beeb and its mistakes over the Jimmy Savile investigation.

The New Yorker on Romney:

“Romney’s conviction is that the broad swath of citizens who do not pay federal income tax—a category that includes pensioners, soldiers, low-income workers, and those who have lost their jobs—are parasites, too far gone in sloth and dependency to be worth the breath one might spend asking for their votes. His descent to this cynical view—further evidenced by his selection of a running mate, Paul Ryan, who is the epitome of the contemporary radical Republican—has been dishearteningly smooth. He in essence renounced his greatest achievement in public life—the Massachusetts health-care law—because its national manifestation, Obamacare, is anathema to the Tea Party and to the G.O.P. in general. He has tacked to the hard right on abortion, immigration, gun laws, climate change, stem-cell research, gay rights, the Bush tax cuts, and a host of foreign-policy issues. He has signed the Grover Norquist no-tax-hike pledge and endorsed Ryan’s winner-take-all economics. “

Finally, the CST’s Online radicalisation. ‘Lone wolves’ of all stripes.

The Nasty Party In 2012

I suppose, like many who take a passing interest in politics, that I have watched a fair few party political conferences, but what we see on television is only part of it.

Decca Aitkenhead ably reveals the Nasty Party:

“It’s a very different story at an Adam Smith Institute fringe meeting on economic growth later that afternoon. It’s not just standing room only – people can’t even squeeze into the room – but still they hover at the door, hungry for the narcotic blast of high-grade, free-market rhetorical cocaine. “Remember: low taxes and low spending. If you just remember that,” urges a speaker, “a lot of our difficulties will be removed.” The chair despairs of Osborne’s warning that morning to people who don’t pay their taxes (“Why is tax avoidance a priority?”). The mantra is relentless: cut taxes, cut spending, roll back the state.

Only a few years ago this sort of session had been exiled to the fringes of the fringe, confined to diehard followers of John Redwood, but now meetings such as this dominate the week, like a runaway Thatcherite express train hurtling back to the 80s.

Every party conference can become a bit of a parallel universe, safe behind its G4S security cordon, but this takes the bubble mentality to a whole new level. In the real world outside, austerity is hurting and voters are complaining about cuts, but here inside most people put the government’s problems down to being too wet and leftwing. A Populus fringe meeting delivers an avalanche of bad news about the party’s poll ratings, but to a half-empty room; in previous years, when the polling news was good, the Populus meeting was always well attended. Now the party doesn’t seem keen to hear what voters think of them.

Ann Widdecombe’s anti-gay marriage rally, on the other hand, is packed and excitable to the point of pantomime, with Widdecombe on her feet conducting the audience from the stage. “Is that how we want our country to look?” she trills. “No!” everyone roars. “This is not an anti-gay rally, it is defining marriage full stop!” she shrieks. “Yes!” everyone cheers. “

(H/T: @jomccarron)

Toynbee on Cameron And Thatcher.

Polly Toynbee is right to argue, despite its supposed fluffiness, that the Cameron administration is even to the right of Margaret Thatcher:

“When Cameron assumed leadership of a party that had lost three elections, the focus groups warned him to embrace welfare state values. Or at least to pretend to. How consciously he dissembled we don’t know, perhaps he doesn’t either. He retains the misleading aura of a pragmatist, disguising the fervour of his anti-state dogma. He may be no great ideas man, but for his Tory generation it’s a reflex: they instinctively breathe free-market Hayek and Schumpeter on “creative destruction”, applying it to government itself. Their Americanism takes the form of shipping in Tea Party Republicanism – how readily they would have let Murdoch create a British Fox News.

Only dogma explains why Cameron risks all by stripping down the NHS, Britain’s holy of holies. The only serious obstacle to his intent has been his own ineptitude at implementation. Yet for all the bungled U-turns, there has been no deviation from the great austerity.

How ironic that he should be assailed from his right. In misleading voters as to his intentions before the election, he seems not to have let his own party into the secret. They only heard they were to be disinfected, detoxified, turned green and never be nasty again. The reality of welfare cuts the Institute for Fiscal Studies calls “without historical and international precedent” seems to pass by the likes of Fox and Davis. “

Did I say I didn’t like the Tories? With reason.

Liberal Conspiracy’s Ten key NHS privatisation stories the BBC barely reported on, is a useful reminder.

Update 1: How Tory Peers will financially benefit from the privatisation of the NHS:

“More than one in four Conservative peers – 62 out of the total of 216 – and many other members of the House of Lords have a direct financial interest in the radical re-shaping of the NHS in England that is perilously close to being enacted. These peers have been able to vote on the crucial divisions that will determine the immediate and long-term future of the NHS and the coalition’s Health and Social Care bill.

The peers – who have personal interests in insurance companies, private health-care and private equity groups – have placed themselves into a position in which they are in danger of voting on behalf of the personal and private interests that stand to gain from the bill rather than in the public interest. “

Ed Miliband, Owen Jones And A Poverty Of Ambition

I don’t tend to comment on domestic British politics, much of it is uninspiring and would bore a sloth off of a tree.

Notwithstanding that, I couldn’t let the much heralded Ed Miliband interview in the New Statesman pass without comment.

The British Labour Party cannot, in spite of the obvious unpopularity with the Tories, land a knockout blow, whilst the polling figures are fairly good at CON 33%, LAB 45%, LD 8%, UKIP 6%.

Given everyone’s contempt for the Tories and the open booing at the Paralympics you might, not unreasonably, expect an invigorated Labour, just waiting for the opportunity to take power, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The charismatically challenged, Ed Miliband, could only manage the feeble wonkish soundbite of “predistribution” in his New Statesman interview. All strikingly unimpressive, as Stumbling and Mumbling pointed out.

Even Jonathan Freedland, who is obviously very sympathetic to Miliband, argued, Ed Miliband could learn from Bill Clinton’s masterclass:

“So the transatlantic trade in political ideas is always going to be bumpy. Still, there are some items I assume those returning pols have stashed into their hand luggage. For Labour, item one is surely a DVD of the Clinton speech: Ed Miliband should sit down, pen in hand, right away to watch and learn.

He would conclude, first, that a politician does not have to talk down to an audience. It is possible to talk seriously. Indeed, if you show the voters you respect them, they’ll respect you. Second, it’s wise to deal with the opposition’s arguments, rather than hoping they’ll go away. Clinton went through the Romney-Ryan chargesheet and tore it apart. Labour must do the same with the persistent claim that it cannot be trusted to run the economy because it overspent last time. It takes effort, but it’s worth it.

What’s more, Clinton showed the power of arithmetic. He walked through the Republicans’ numbers, exposing that their sums did not add up: you cannot cut taxes, spend more on defence and cut the deficit. Labour has to persist making the apparently counterintuitive case that austerity in a recession actually adds to, not reduces, the country’s debts because it kills growth. “

Reading the comeback interview at New Statesman with Miliband I can’t help thinking not much will improve his poor grasp of politics and lack of appeal. I hope I am wrong.

The problem would seem to be Miliband is, sensibly, prepared to drop the New Labour nonsense but haven’t thought of a clear-cut alternative.

Owen Jones has a few radical suggestions for Ed and his team and this is an obvious winner:

“Fourthly, we should be calling for a far more progressive tax system. Shortly after reducing the taxes of Britain’s richest 1%, George Osborne expressed his supposed shock that some of the wealthiest people paid no taxes at all. As well as clamping down on the £25 billion lost through tax avoidance, we should be looking at making sure the booming rich pay more. A YouGov poll for Class showed that the majority of Britons – including more than 4 out of 10 Tory voters – would support a 75% tax rate on those earning £1 million or more, a policy suggested by new French President François Hollande. “

Most people are disgusted by casino capitalism and how, no matter the outcome, the rich are rewarded more day by day, so whatever Miliband and the Labour Party does I would suggest being bold, like Clement Attlee!

Paralympics: George Osborne booed

Getting booed at the Paralympics must be the highlight of George Osborne’s murky career:

Nye Bevan had it right:

“That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. “

Update 1: Huff Post contrasts Gordon Brown’s reception with that of Osborne’s.

Update 2: Even Cameron was jeered.

Update 3: Very little mainstream media coverage, but Sky News has it.