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Who is to blame in the UK for economic decline? June 21, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Interesting piece from Phillip Inman in the Observer business section. He suggests that:

Don’t blame the EU for your troubles, blame Tory austerity. This is the message Labour voters should hear from Jeremy Corbyn. It is a message Ed Miliband could have made more forcefully during his term as Labour leader, when the conversation on the doorstep turned to immigration. Instead, he appeared to choke with embarrassment.

Corbyn has a higher embarrassment threshold. He could look the immigration question in the eye and not blink. Unfortunately, the Islington North MP considers debating immigration off limits.

And:

So, last week, Corbyn tried to persuade voters that the EU is the workers’ friend and a bulwark against a bonfire of employment protections. That’s not an unreasonable position. Yet if immigration is the main source of anger outside the south-east, and if it is driving the Brexit campaign to a possible victory, the subject needs to be tackled head-on. If you think Britain is a great place to live that has been ruined by an alliance with other EU nations, you are mistaken and Labour needs to make that point.

And Inman lists five areas where UK government policy is to blame – Jobs, Vacancies, Wages, Housing and the Health Service. As Inman notes, time and again it is a lack of state investment in these areas as with housing ‘where [people should] blame successive governments for failing to support good quality state-sponsored housing’. And that blame has to encompass Labour as well even if the particular and noxious austerity measures of the last five or so years have been the responsibility of the LDs and Tories. And the Health Service is another example of same…

If the queue at the hospital and GP is a problem, this is the result of austerity measures that cut spending growth from 4% a year in real terms to 1% since 2010. The NHS, coping with an ageing society, was supposed to implement reforms to fill the gap but, to no one’s surprise, this project has so far failed.

Add to which:

Worse, in his last budget, George Osborne slashed council spending on health by £800m. That’s cash used for local mental health services and preventative policies, such as tackling obesity. He told local authorities to put up council tax by 2% to fill the gap.

But where’s the surprise. Without in any way diminishing the particularly pernicious role of the Commission in the past decade national governments developed another extremely pernicious habit of blaming the EU for their own decisions, or using it as a cover. Small wonder that Cameron et al cannot with any credibility make a case for an EU that for them offered a perfect scapegoat when the opportunity arose. How do you make something positive that has at all times been portrayed as a negative. That – in some ways, this was a self-fulfilling process, again taking account of that role the Commission and parts of the EU played, merely shows the short-termism of national governments thinking (and arguably the stupidity of an EU institutional structure which couldn’t see the trap ahead of it as it attempted to evade solidarity in favour of an highly ideological approach to the crisis and after).

And there’s another aspect to this. For all the rhetoric about the EU the reality is that national governments retain, if they have the will to use it, enormous capacity and capability to implement their own approaches. Part renationalisation or municipalisation of formerly public owned entities, introduction of genuinely national health services, significant public ownership of various forms of companies. All these are possible even under the constraints of the current EU approaches. And decisions by national governments to take other routes should not be allowed by the left to occur, whatever our different views on the EU. And nor should those current EU approaches be the last word. It really is long past time to push back against and from within the EU as currently structured and against right wing national governments.

Comments»

1. Ed - June 21, 2016

There’s plenty of useful arguments there from Inman, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Corbyn ‘considers debating immigration off limits’. He really has looked the issue in the eye more than once in the last few weeks without blinking. Some of the other senior Labour figures like Tom Watson have said ‘we need to look again’ at freedom of movement within the EU (even John McDonnell said something along those lines a few days ago), but Corbyn hasn’t gone along with that. When he was interviewed on Andrew Marr’s show on Sunday he rejected the idea of setting an upper limit to immigration and said the correct approach was to raise the standard of living for everyone. And of course well before this campaign began, he went over to Calais to visit the refugee camp (economic immigration from the EU and political refugees from the Middle East are two separate issues of course, but they’ve been lumped together by the right-wing press into one grand picture of foreigners invading Britain). When you consider how toxic the atmosphere has been around these issues, and how cowardly the Labour Party has been until very recently (and still is in the case of many senior figures), it’s a pretty impressive record.

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WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2016

Yes, I’d have to agree. I think Corbyn is actually increasingly impressive in a quiet way.

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Joe - June 21, 2016

Hugely impressive. That quiet way will eventually impress the impressionable British working class and we’ll have a social democratic government in Britain after the next election.

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gendjinn - June 22, 2016

I really liked that about John Smith. There was a missed opportunity and lamentably so.

A more cynical man than I might watch Michael Clayton and wonder.

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2. Gewerkschaftler - June 22, 2016

Well of course all the governments who accept the Fiscal Pact have to enact deflationary policies. These policies have presumably been the cause of the stagnation of the British economy. I say presumably, because it’s a long time since anything outside the neo-lib playbook has been tried in Europe.

The Tories left to their own devices outside of the EU would do the same, with spades. As would a Blairite Labour party, or an independent Scotland under the SNP.

Also I suspect a majority democratic socialist citizenry and their government in Britain under current conditions of global capitalism would be forced to play ball by ‘the markets’ unless they had practicable alliances with other like-minded citizens and their governments in Europe and elsewhere. Again this thesis hasn’t been empirically tested for a long long time in a ‘developed’ country.

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