Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'New Bargain' gives us a one-party state

New New Labour (NNL) has not only confirmed that in essence it is indistinguishable from the other mainstream parties but that also the present form of what passes for politics in Britain is well past its use by date.

As to the first point, even before its conference kicked off NNL was scrambling to show that it was the party of market-led “solutions”. Ed Miliband – or should that be Moribund – declared that he favoured £6,000 a year university tuition fees instead of the Coalition’s £9,000.

Wow! The boldness of the idea took your breath away. Only joking.

Even the moderately-led National Union of Students had to say that far from advancing university education, the proposal reduced the whole issue of funding to a bidding war between the Coalition and Labour.

In power, when it was only New Labour (the other New is more recent), introduced tuition fees. In opposition, they opportunistically and hypocritically opposed the Coalition’s increase to £9,000.

Now they’ve accepted in principle that students should borrow the money to pay for their own degree. Once again there is not even a cigarette paper between NLL and the Coalition.

And that also applies when it comes to resisting government attacks on pensions. NNL is opposed to strikes scheduled for November 30. Even the ever-so-cautious Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, was aghast.

"It's no time to sit on the fence when this country faces a stark choice between taking on the powerful and privileged, or letting the price be paid by the poor and the powerless. My members are no militants. But they will stand up for what's fair, what's right," he told the conference.

Well, Brother Prentis, I have some news for you. NNL is not “on the fence”. It stands four square with the government. After all, the pensions’ attack was prepared by one of its former ministers, Lord Hutton.

Naturally enough, shadow chancellor Ed Balls then declared that a future NNL government would not reverse Tory spending cuts. As Labour councils are implementing most of the cuts with party backing, this was no surprise.

Balls, of course, together with Gordon Brown, helped created the “light touch” system of financial “regulation” which contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown and led directly to the Coalition’s axe on public spending. Of this, Balls had nothing to say.

He did, however, urge the Coalition to reduce VAT to 5% on home improvements. As someone suggested, this is a canny move for all those MPs wanting to do up their second homes at taxpayers’ expense.

From Miliband today, there was the disgusting equation of “anti-social tenants” with asset strippers in his "New Bargain" speech. Oh how the Daily Mail and the right-wing press will love this. Miliband is bidding to outflank prime minister David Cameron, who used the August inner-city riots to blame “feckless parents”.

Milipede’s appeal to what is known as the “law-abiding silent majority” is straight out of the Tory textbook. He was scheduled to say: "The hard truth is that we still have a system where reward for work is not high enough, where benefits are too easy to come by for those who abuse the system and don't work for those who do the right thing."

In practice, all this leaves us with is a one-party state where “politics” is reduced to a competition for the most right-wing policies. No wonder increasing numbers of people are sick of the whole charade and want nothing more to do with it.

Ultimately, however, we have to find answers to the catastrophic economic crisis that is beginning to engulf society. With the parliamentary channel patently a cul-de-sac, our future lies in practical, revolutionary proposals like people’s assemblies and not in the Westminster merry-go-round.

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

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