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British Labour… July 30, 2015

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Odd piece in the Guardian at the weekend by Martin Kettle. I’ve got to admit I’m following the leadership process with some amazement. The media’s efforts to close ranks around the more right leaning candidates is all too evident, as is its willingness to apply all too rapidly the supposed lessons of the most recent election – that being that the BLP must of necessity tilt more to the right and at all costs avoid a Corbyn leadership. I think the latter is probably still quite a remote likelihood, but… who can tell in these times of political churn and uncertainty.

But what is odd about Kettle’s analysis which essentially takes the LP to task for a cohort even envisaging such a course is its curious blindness to recent political history. Kettle argues that:

His [Corbyn’s] socialism, though, is more a matter of faith than a viable programme. He is not, as his three opponents are, a reformist who aspires to govern and get re-elected. He is not interested in making detailed policy choices or pragmatic compromises. Corbyn’s position is essentially made up of attitudes and slogans, not least about the place of the trade unions, many of them proudly unchanged for almost 50 years.

I wonder if that’s entirely true. To many of us further left than the LP it certainly doesn’t seem like an entirely accurate analysis. Corbyn is certainly more left wing than many, but he remains broadly within the confines of the BLP.

In a way though it’s not that that’s so objectionable in the analysis.

I grew up in a leftwing culture of this kind and we all felt very principled and even, in a sense, blessed because of our embrace of the true faith. But in the end, as Eric Hobsbawm recognised so honestly in his later writings, it is in many respects a religious approach to politics. It has very little to do with building an alliance, winning an election, forming a government or actually changing things. It is politics as being, not politics as doing.

The obvious problem is that as time goes on social democratic approaches – which are presumably what Kettle cleaves to – are voided of content as SD parties tilt ever more rightwards. And while there may be issues about sloganeering, there are equally problems about detailed policy choices or pragmatic compromises that are empty of all political or ideological moorings. Furthermore, as was clear from the LP’s predicament, it lost to its left in Scotland. How does Kettle attempt to square that? Well, he doesn’t.

He continues:

A former Labour frontbencher took me to task, pointing out, as Tony Blair did this week, that it was possible both to win power and to be principled. The ex-MP was surely right. Nevertheless Labour is unusual as a party because of the historic tendency of some of its members and supporters to think that being in government is a regrettable diversion from having socialist values, a tendency turbo-charged in the modern era by the anger and indignation of social media. The Conservatives have no equivalent hang-ups of any kind.

Really? Is he sure? Well within living memory I can think of two Tory leaders – those who arrived in that position after the election of Tony Blair to office, who were clearly wedded to an approach, a ‘hang-up’ if you will, of precisely this sort. How quickly they forget, but it took four separate leaders to arrive at one who could win elections for the Tories, and even then only imperfectly at first.

Then there’s this:

Three decades ago, a few months after bitter internal warfare and a weak leader produced Labour’s worst general election performance of the modern era, and with the SDP-Liberal Alliance still snapping at its heels, Labour’s newly elected leader Neil Kinnock called on his deeply divided party to rediscover what he called its common sense and realism. In a speech to the conference in Brighton that had just elected him, he asked Labour supporters to remember how dreadful it felt to have been smashed in the 1983 general election. Never again should Labour experience that. Party unity was now paramount at all times, Kinnock warned. It worked, in the end, just.

But this is the sort of argument that the US Democrats deploy time and again to corral support. But not being the Tories isn’t much of a platform. It didn’t win at the most recent election. Why should it convince in the future? And what of the damage inflicted upon – and I use these words tentatively, although as a former member of the British Labour Party I believe they have had some meaning in the past – Labour values, traditional Labour values, if the following is adhered to?

Unlike Germany, we will also have separatist nationalist parties to complicate matters still more, and we will still have a first-past-the-post electoral system to empower the unified centre right. The upshot, almost inescapably, will be a long, perhaps a very long, period of Conservative rule. Labour’s only way of preventing that is by competing in the centre, with a modern reformist agenda that can challenge the centre right. But that, it seems, may no longer be Labour’s priority.

A party that cedes ground to its right at every turn, that has done so for decades now, that even when it – as it did – apply redistributive measures, was unable to do so openly. Is that a serious prospect for the future, for the left? Surely it is the antithesis of what the left is and stands for? And this is the best Kettle can recommend?

RENUA news! They’ve just lost a councillor. July 29, 2015

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Well now, that was swift work;

A councillor who joined Renua two months ago has announced his decision to leave because of what he says is the party’s U-turn on water charges.
Cllr James Charity, who was elected as an Independent to Galway County Council last year, joined Lucinda Creighton’s party in May.
He was being lined up to run in the Galway West constituency but will now revert to running as an Independent.

Two months – eh? It continues:

Cllr Charity, who polled more than 1,400 votes in the Athenry-Oranmore ward last year, said he could no longer remain in the new party because of a number of issues.

Including the water charges where Cllr. Charity suggests that the RENUA platform was against. The good Cllr. argues:

“Renua’s position on water charges was always very clear to me prior to joining, with our stated policy being ‘We fundamentally disagree with how water charges have been introduced and will continue to do so until Irish Water has been radically reformed and public waste eliminated.’

I’m not so sure that that interpretation is correct. My read was that they just disagreed with the way they were introduced. Anyhow he’s gone from them.

Polling in Greece July 29, 2015

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Interesting to look at this here and see that despite the events of recent times Syriza have retained a commanding lead.

Minimum wage woes… on the right. July 29, 2015

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Entertaining editorial in the SBP on the minimum wage rise proposals. It argues that:

There is a contradiction in government policy on helping small businesses. On one hand, it wants more people to start up their own companies and is considering a range of tax breaks. Yet it is prepared to choke off existing firms with extra and (in many cases) unaffordable costs, including the proposed increase in the minimum wage by 50 cent to €9.15 an hour.

And:

This proposed increase will have no impact on multinational firms, but will damage employers in the real Irish economy who provide the vast majority of jobs in Ireland. The retail sector, coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels across the country, which have barely stayed above water and are only now beginning to feel confident enough to start hiring again, will be hit hard.

While:

If it really wants to put more money back in workers’ pockets, then the tax system is the way to do it, rather than a further imposition on small business.

But is that correct? Surely tax cuts are simply going to lead to lower government revenues with consequent problems in relation to provision of services. And there’s another issue. It’s not as if the government doesn’t already through various supports attempt to take up some of the slack from low wages. Indeed the editorial doesn’t address the issues at all regarding the fact that this state is already a very low wage economy.

Stephen Kinsella writing in the same edition is a little more sanguine.

Basic practice says something rather different to the theory: minimum wages keep many people from outright poverty, reduces the power of employers to abuse their employees, and ensures a standard below which society decides it is not possible to live well. Employers, on the other hand, can simply manipulate the other variable in their control – hours worked – and so keep their wage bills as low as possible.

Overall, research shows the effect of an increase in the minimum wage isn’t expected to cause the sky to fall in. This can be expected to hold. The number of people on the national minimum wage at the end of 2014 was about 70,000, or 4.4 per cent of the total in employment. About 9 per cent of all employees earn up to €9 an hour. Making a small change to a small part of the population probably won’t change the overall characteristics of the population.

Perhaps it is to be expected that the SBP editorials will attempt to push back as best they can against policy they dislike. But… it would be no harm for them to be a bit more, well, rounded, in terms of the analysis when making the case.

What shying “away from clearly advocating non-payment of the water charges” looks like…. July 29, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in The Left.
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Yesterday The Socialist Party in an article referenced here , made an accusation that Clare ‘Daly, like Joan Collins TD has shied away from clearly advocating non-payment of the water charges.
Here’s a few examples (aside from the many examples in the comments of the previous post) of what shying “away from clearly advocating non-payment of the water charges” looks like….

-Getting arrested for protesting against the Installation of Water Meters and holding a “Build A Mass Boycott” poster.
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-Giving speeches to Rallies using slogans like “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay”

Clare Daly Had a newsletter totally focused on Irish Water and advice on non payment

Joan Collins Newsletter mentioning among other things ‘Mass non-payment’ of water charges.

7 is the magic number in the Dáil July 29, 2015

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There are many who will have been disappointed at the figures emanating from the SBP/REDC poll at the weekend which despite showing a massive tranche of support for Independents and Other parties had somewhat less good news in terms of how that shook out for those smaller groupings. Of 31% for IND/OTHER, up from 27% in June, and up from 17% at GE 2011, Ind was 25% (no separate figure for the Independent Alliance), GP 2%, Social Democrat 2%, Renua 1% and PBP 1%.

On those figures neither RENUA, nor the Social Democrats, nor PBP, nor the GP (not at all), would be close to getting 7 TDs necessary to form a group in the Dáil with all that that entails. And that is, to some extent, the name of the game for some in the Dáil for the post election period. They want 7 TDs, they in fact need 7 TDs. But at this point in time they ain’t getting 7 TDs.

What you want to say – 29th July 2015 July 29, 2015

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

The banking inquiry July 28, 2015

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An excellent piece by Colum Kenny in the IT today on the banking inquiry. While I think he stretches matters when he argues that it’s a very ‘Catholic’ inquiry, he’s absolutely correct, in my view, when he notes that it is flawed from the start. Not least in the following:

Because of its terms of reference, the inquiry cannot explain where billions went that banks lent recklessly, and that the State replaced in their vaults at enormous cost to Irish people in health, education, social services and job- creation.
During 2011, as a communications academic, I wrote to party leaders and all deputies proposing an official report on who got the main loans originally lost by the Irish banks, on what terms they got them and subject to what supervision, and on where those billions now are. Someone has all that money, later replaced by taxpayers.

And:

Yet disturbing questions remain about those original loans. Treating such matters as private and confidential in the context of a disastrous crisis is reckless. Questions now arising, about how the National Asset Management Agency does business, highlight that earlier need to know. Twice bitten, shame on who?

It is essential to point out time and again that while yes, economic policy was remarkably stupid in the 2000s in relation to tax cuts and expenditure hikes, leaving the latter utterly exposed when the economic collapse occurred, it was the monies paid by taxpayers to cover private debt which has caused the most immediate problems – monies which many of us believe should never have had to go to cover those private debts.

Kenny also notes how ‘suspicions linger that it was really intended as a political show trial of the Government’s predecessors’. That, I think, hasn’t quite happened. In part because it has become ever more evident that there was broad political acceptance, even embrace, of the very policy approaches that exacerbated the crisis. But few in the orthodoxy come out of this process with their reputations enhanced. And in truth given the scale of economic and social devastation few deserve to.

The Socialist Party on Clare Daly, Joan Collins and Water Charges July 28, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in The Left.
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A piece on The Socialist Party site on Independents and Others

This particular passage caught my eye….

Many of the most articulate Independents in the Dail are of a ‘populist’ character, with both left and right tinges. Populism could be described as reflecting moods that exist amongst the mass of people in society, but lacking in a clear political programme as your backbone. When this is the case, we can expect any such individual to bend to the status quo if in power.
As an example of a right-wing populist, Shane Ross TD, who has received credit for stinging rebukes of the parties of the establishment, was in fact a cheerleader for Anglo Irish Bank during the boom, and is a former stockbroker himself. Ross supports a neoliberal vision of capitalism with minimal taxes on or state regulation of business.
Clare Daly TD, who can make powerful criticisms of the Government on issues, typifies left populism. Tending to highlight the incompetency of the individual actors, rather than any overarching systemic criticism of the right-wing ideology and practice that’s at the heart of the matter. Daly, like Joan Collins TD has shied away from clearly advocating non-payment of the water charges.

I’m pretty sure both Clare Daly and Joan Collins have advocated non payment?

Locking the stable door after the horse has fled… July 28, 2015

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Lucinda Creighton has a piece in the SBP this weekend on the banking crisis. And some of what she writes makes perfect sense. She notes that:

Ireland has suffered the costliest banking crisis since the Great Depression, according to the IMF. This costliest banking crisis has resulted in improvements in the broader financial regulatory regime, but there have been virtually no reforms of our actual systems of enforcement where financial or white-collar crimes occur.
There is no point having robust laws if either the criminals know they are not being enforced, or if the resources for their enforcement are inadequately deployed or underfunded.

And she continues:

If we want to be serious about combating white-collar crime in this country, bankers must be criminally held to account for reckless lending they commit, and our enforcement authorities must be adequately resourced to investigate, initiate and prosecute all forms of white-collar crimes.

Her solution is:

The type of sanction we in Renua Ireland propose for reckless lending is not about preventing bankers from taking calculated risks with strong enterprises or new businesses, but rather is modelled on British legislation and Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan’s proposals.
This legislation will impose criminal liability on a senior manager of a banking institution, fund or insurance undertaking who knowingly puts the viability of the institution at risk through their acts or omissions.

And yet, putting this in context with the piece referenced earlier in the week by William Keegan from the Observer isn’t it remarkable how she doesn’t seem to engage with a much more basic problem – which is, of course, the idea, still extant, that the state will become the entity that will bail out, at public expense, the banking sector when that sector runs into trouble.
Of course there should be sanctions for appalling behaviours, but surely there should be a deeper consideration as to the very nature of the structures that have led to pernicious outcomes that have impacted severely upon citizens and communities who had no hand or part in those behaviours or decisions taken?
But perhaps to do so would be to seek a fundamental reworking of these structures.

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