Friday, 1 May 2015

Miliband Wins Another Round

Last night's “Question Time” format of Leader's debates was the least acceptable version of all those used by the broadcasters. It was neither an actual Leaders' Debate nor even the usual Question Time format of a panel discussion and response to audience questions. More than all the others it reflected the extent to which the broadcasters had simply given in to the Tories demands, and Cameron's fear of actually debating with Ed Miliband. Moreover, the actual structuring of the event was rigged to favour the Liberal-Tories. Despite all that, it was another win for Ed Miliband.

At the start, David Dimbleby pointed out that the audience had been specifically constructed of 25% Tories, 25% Liberals, 25% Labour and 25% undecided. In other words, the supporters of the Liberal-Tory government, that has cratered the economy, over the last five years, that has attacked workers' living standards, cut public services and undermined the social structure, were given 50% of the audience to start with, as against 25% for Labour, a 2:1 advantage for the Liberal-Tories.

That reflects the media bias over the last five years too. Although we have had a single Liberal-Tory government over all that period, when it comes to media representation, the Liberals and Tories have been treated as though they were still two separate parties, and each was given the right to a representative to speak on behalf of the Liberal-Tory government, as against just one for Labour. To do that now seems even more ludicrous, when its clear that at the election, the Liberals are going to get wiped out, and already have as low a showing in the opinion polls as the Greens, and only about half the support even of UKIP!

Moreover, its even more ludicrous, because its obvious from the comments from Clegg that they are fighting the election on the clear basis of a continuation of that Liberal-Tory government after the election. Cameron has to maintain the fiction that the Tories are trying to win a majority, by repeating the mantra that they only need to win an extra 23 seats. But, in reality, he knows that the Tories will win fewer seats than they already have, not more, and any seats they do win will be at the expense of the Liberal wing of the Liberal-Tory party, not of Labour.

Clegg does not even have the luxury of Cameron in pretending that he might win an outright majority. If the fantasy of Cameron is that the Tories might win a majority, the fantasy of Clegg is that the Liberals will not be entirely wiped out. The best Clegg can do is to plead with us that our only hope of stable government is to vote Liberal and deny anyone else a majority! But, in reality, its clear that what Clegg is really saying is vote Liberal so that some of us can remain in a Liberal-Tory government, and keep our ministerial limos.

Clegg's latest argument is a clear manifestation of that. He's ruled out any kind of deal with Labour, even if the SNP were to just vote for Labour measures put to Parliament. He argues that the Liberals would first have to approach Cameron if the Tories had the most seats, even if they could not muster a majority. But, that is nonsense. The Liberals have long argued in favour of electoral reform, and the idea of coalition governments based upon it, so as to better reflect the views of the electorate. He argues that this would make Britain more like the rest of Europe, where such coalitions are commonplace.

But, nowhere in Europe are those coalitions constructed on the basis that Clegg demands. In Germany, for example, the Free Democrats and other right of centre small parties do not enter coalition with the CDU/CSU on the basis that the latter is the largest party, but because they share a similar ideological outlook! In fact, if a coalition government is intended to be a better reflection of the votes of the electorate that is the only basis on which it can be justified.

One Liberal voter in the audience, last night made the point that Clegg had made a conscious decision in 2010 to enter into the coalition with the Tories, rather than with Labour. As he pointed out Clegg can hardly now distance himself from the fact that the Liberal-Tory government has caused more than a million people to rely on food banks, that public services have been cut, that living standards have been slashed, that VAT was raised, that Tuition Fees were trebled and so on, because all of those things are a direct result of Clegg putting a Tory government in power rather than a Labour government. In fact, as the contributor pointed out many of those who voted Liberal would far more have preferred that they do a deal with Labour than the Tories, which is why so many former Liberal voters, and indeed Liberal party members have deserted them.

So, if the point of coalitions is to better reflect the political leanings of the electorate, how on earth could Clegg justify his alliance over the last five years with one of the most right-wing ideologically driven Tory parties seen for some time. Indeed, how can he justify his obvious intention to resume that alliance after the election, if the Liberals have any seats left to ally with anyone?

UK Growth had been rising before the Liberal-Tories
took office.  At no point since have they matched the 1%
quarterly growth they inherited from Labour in the second
quarter of 2010.  Rather the immediate effect of Liberal-
Tory austerity was to crater economic growth.
Clegg was laughed out of court by the audience, when he claimed that in 2010, Britain was in the same position as Greece.  In fact, even during the coalition negotiations, the Liberals were maintaining the position they held during the 2010 election that introducing austerity, until the recovery that was then happening had taken hold, would be a mistake.

The real strategy of the Liberal-Tories has been given away by the Tories own house journal – The Sun. The Sun is as close as you can get to the official propaganda sheet of the Tory party. It has mirrored the Tories actual electoral strategy. In England and Wales, the Sun has not surprisingly come out in support of the Tories. In Scotland, the Sun has come out in favour of the Tartan Tories of the SNP. At one time, the Tories used to have a majority of seats in Scotland. That ended a long time ago, but the votes that formerly went to the Scottish Tories simply went across to the SNP. That is the bedrock of the SNP's support, whatever the demagogic rhetoric of the SNP leaders, the ideology that underlies it is conservative nationalism.

The Tories have been encouraging a vote for the SNP in Scotland, therefore, because it bolsters that underlying conservative ideology, whilst taking votes away from Labour. Were it not for the fact that the Tartan Tories of the SNP look set to pick up a lot of votes, Labour, in the whole of Britain, would already be set to win a clear majority. In fact, the lesson for the people of Scotland is vote for the Tartan Tories of the SNP, get a Union Jack draped Tory Government in Westminster. The Sun's support for the Tories in England, and the Tartan Tories of the SNP in Scotland, is a clear statement of that reality.

Miliband was right to say that he would rather remain out of office than to have to do a deal with the Tartan Tories. After all, we have seen how reliable they are in the past. Just as it was the Clegg's Liberal-Tories that put Cameron into government in 2010, and helped him carry through his ideological agenda, so in 1979, it was the SNP that put Maggie Thatcher into government, and thereby unleashed 18 years of Tory attacks on workers across Britain. Far better for Labour to govern as a Minority government, and dare the Liberals and SNP to put Boris Johnson into government, or for Labour to adopt a position of extreme opposition, to oppose line by line every measure adopted by a Liberal-Tory/UKIP/DUP/SNP lash up.

The average deficit to GDP ratio under the last Labour Government
was half what it had been under Thatcher/Major, up to the financial
meltdown.  Even taking that into consideration it was still much lower
on average, and for 4our years at the end of the 90's and start of the
 2000's, Labour actually ran a budget surplus.  The Liberal-Tory claims are
simply lies. 
Miliband more clearly than he had done before also rejected the idea that Labour had overspent in the previous period, bringing howls of outrage from the Liberal-Tories, who have made that lie the centre piece of their justification for existence, and sole explanation for the ideologically driven policies they have adopted over the last five years. In what was clearly a choreographed manoeuvre, a Tory supporting small business woman in the audience referred to Liam Byrne's humorous note left to his successor, joking that there was no money left.

She complained that Ed Balls had pointed out that the note was a joke, and said that anyone making such a joke in private business would have been sacked. Really???? I've worked in private business, and also been self-employed, and its my experience that the people who work there are not as devoid of a sense of humour as this woman was suggesting at all. Such kinds of humour occur all the time, and, in fact, if you were to look at the e-mail conversations of people in the City you would find numerous examples of such humour, including from those very people in the financial sector who actually were responsible for the financial crash, and the fact that the last Labour government had to bail out those banks!

In fact, Miliband should have been even more clear that Labour had not overspent. As I've set out elsewhere. The average deficit to GDP under the last Labour Government, for the period 1997-2007, was half what it had been under the Thatcher-Major governments of 1979-1997. Even taking into consideration the period up to 2010, when Labour had to bail-out the banks that had failed due to the massive financial bubbles encouraged under Thatcher and Major in the 1980's and 90's, the average deficit to GDP ratio was significantly less than it had been under Thatcher and Major. It was also lower than it has been under the Liberal-Tories since 2010.

In fact, Labour ran a budget surplus for four years at the start of the century! The only reason the deficit shot up, was because of the financial crisis. In my opinion, Labour should not have bailed out the banks, but should have let them go bust, and then allowed their workers to take them over for free, so as to run them as worker owned co-operatives. That would have avoided having to borrow to bail them out. But, of course, the Liberal-Tories would have howled with anguish had that happened, because it would have meant that all their friends in the financial aristocracy would have had their fictitious wealth wiped out over night. They would far rather have a Labour government bail out the banks, and for workers then to have to pay for it.

The Liberal-Tories are now proposing yet again to sell off shares in those banks to the rich, after workers have rescued them, which is what has happened with every nationalisation in the past. If Labour wants to really bring about a shift in wealth and power, and the “predistribution” that goes with it, they should legislate to give workers democratic control over their pension funds, and they should transfer at no cost, all the shares that the government owns into a worker owned and controlled pension fund. In fact, it would be useful if they were then to legislate to transfer the hypothecated value of the National Insurance Fund into such a Pension Fund too, so that workers could utilise it to take over most of the rest of British businesses, and start to run them for their interests rather than the interests of a tiny number of multi billionaires.

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