Saturday, June 27, 2009


Just put this over at Labourhome. Seems I'm blogging more there than here. Anyway this a copy of what I put up.

Why has it become such a dirty word. Roy Hattersley tells of it being a non-word in the early days of New Labour after Blair had gained the leadership. One of Blair’s groupies told him off for using it. How strange, but then again how strange that Hattersley found himself ending up to the left of the leadership.

What got me thinking about this was seeing the BBC management’s salary and expense figures being released under the freedom of information laws. On top of this we hear of another million pound plus package for the new boss of RBS.

Sure New Labour bought in the minimum wage but at the same time we saw the gap between the poorest in the UK and the top wage earners widen to levels it hasn’t been before. GPs are pulling in six figure salaries which also seems the norm for whole layers of management through the public sector. In the corporate world even failing companies pay top management seriously high salaries and bonuses. At the same time the vast majority of the population is now falling further behind.

Part of Labour’s business used to be attempting to iron out these differences but since New Labour this is no longer the case. They say follow the market forces, it’s no sin to be rich. We no longer look to politicians to be altruistic and working for the public good. Instead why shouldn’t they get as much out of the expenses as they can? After all as Gordon Gekko said “greed is good” and as Maggie said while be very honest, “there is no such thing as society.”

So before the usual Tories start adding their comments, let’s look at the downside of trying to engineer a little equality.

First then, “if we don’t pay these people the fat pay packets we will lose them to other companies or countries”. Not sure if there are that many of either ready to pay Mark Thompson his 600,000+ and if there are banks willing to hire away some of our senior management then good to luck to them. If all our GPs want to go private, fine, but how many will be able to pull in 100,000+ in a saturated private market. Go to the US by all means, but you may not find the health industry there is willing to pay quite like it did in the past.

Second, “we would hurt entrepreneurship in the UK”. Sorry these people are not entrepreneurs. They are corporate and public sector bureaucrats. Successful entrepreneurs will always find a way of making the big money. You only have to look at Mandelson’s mates among the Russian oligarchs. Anyone who has ever dealt with the corporate world will know that talent seldom rises to the top. Instead a level of mediocrity reigns as higher levels worry about competition from below.

For Labour to get back on track and offer the public something different to the Tories we need to be using words like equality again. If we leave it to New Labour we will be trying to prove we are nicer Tories than the real Tories yet again.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blogged this at Labourhome

Another one I just put on I like the crowd over there. It's stuff I've done before here but I still don't know the answer. Maybe a helpful banker will tell me one day.

Show me the money!

I need some expert help. OK, I know that the current financial crisis was caused by lack of regulation and allowing the markets to govern themselves. And I know that because we had to bail out the banks with jillions of pounds we are in terrible debt, so much so that we have to cut social spending and our children's children will still be paying it off long after we are dead. I'm told that if we hadn't done this the financial system for the entire world would have crashed and we would all be very poor.

What I don't know is where did all the money we gave the banks end up. I've asked this on a number of sites and nobody seems sure. I mean if we say to a bank, "Here's a couple of billion, Fred", where is that money now? It can't still be in the bank vault surely. Neither Brown, Darling or the civil servants have really told us.

So the banks were going broke and their customers were saying, "We want our money back". The banks didn't have the money as they were sitting on sub-prime mortgages or suchlike. If we didn't give the banks money then they would have defaulted and these customers would have lost their money.

Of course the small customers were already covered by government bank insurance so I suspect that most of the readers of this blog would still have their money. Some of the money would probably belong to pension funds, charities and local authorities but one has to suspect that much of it has gone to very rich people. You know people that have far more money than would be covered by the small depositor insurance. I'm thinking of Russian oligarchs, oil rich sheiks, Swiss bankers, hedge fund managers and people like David Cameron and the other 16 millionaires on the Tory front bench.

I smiled when someone told me that Michael Caine was saying he would leave the UK because of the 50% tax. I wonder if some of his deposits were saved by the rest of the tax payers. See Michael, "Not many people know that".

I can't argue if people tell me that if we hadn't bailed the banks out we would have far larger problems than if we had let them fail, covered the small depositors, and then cherry-picked the best bits for nationalization. They would say, "Les, if we had done that then the reputation of the City of London would have gone down the tubes." Sure I know that since we no longer have any manufacturing or industry in the UK, we have to have all these financial geniuses in the City bringing in the money we need to pay for bits and bobs from China.

I accept all this as all three major parties say it's so, but will someone please show me where the money went. If Michael Caine, David Cameron and Fred Goodwin have some of it, I might go and ask for it back.

Friday, June 12, 2009

How to handle Russian oligarchs

On today's BBC website there is a strange story of how Putin bullied and humiliated billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska last week. On live TV, he stood over the embarrassed oligarch and forced him to sign on the dotted line to reopen an aluminium plant he had just closed. It was almost old Joe Stalin in action which is fitting as Putin does seem to show Stalinist tendencies.

Maybe another leader who has show Stalinist tendencies, not least in internal Labour Party affairs, Gordon Brown, could use the same tactics with the LDV closure in the UK. If he's not sure where Oleg is at the moment, he can ask Oleg's friend Peter Mandelson.

Oleg Deripaska is well known to the UK because George Osbourne leaked the story that Mandelson was having a free holiday on Oleg's yacht off Corfu. This caused suspicions because actions taken by Mandelson when he was an EU commissioner over the tax on imported aluminium increased Deripaska's already great wealth. (There is no proof that Mandelson or those close to him gained financially from these actions except for this luxury holiday in Corfu. Peter Mandelson lives in a £2.5 million villa in London.)

George Osbourne didn't get away unblemished by the affair as he knew Mandelson was there because he also visited Oleg on the yacht. The yacht was moored off of Osbourne friend Nat Rothschild's villa and it was Rothschild, a rich hedge fund manager, who introduced them. Rothschild considered that Osbourne had broken a confidence so then made public that Osbourne had been there to ask Oleg for a donation to the Tory Party via his ownership of LDV.

What a complicated corrupt little world these people live in.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another post at Labourhome

I do like seeing where our politicians came from. Gordon Brown turned his thesis on the Scottish socialist James Maxton into a book. At the time he considered him a hero. Now I suspect he would expel him from the Labour Party if he had a chance. I posted this on

I read someone accusing Tony Blair of being a new Ramsay MacDonald a few years back. I think it's more Gordon Brown who has a bit of MacDonald (see picture) in him. His 'government of all the talents' was sure to make historians think of MacDonald's National Government.

From "Maxton" by Gordon Brown 1986

"The Clydeside Brigade* travelled to Westminster as a group. With salaries of only £400 a year, and no travelling expenses paid, most travelled down sleeping on the seats and floors of third class compartments."

Back in a time when to be a Labour MP was a vocation not a career choice. There are still Labour members who would do this for their beliefs, but they don’t get on the shortlists. I hope Blears, Purnell and the rest read this and feel shame, but I doubt they will do either.

* This was the group of Glasgow Labour MPs, including James Maxton, elected in the 1922 election.

From the Labourhome blog

This is a copy of the first article I posted over at I thought I had better keep a record of them here too. Like the post before this, it's me feeling that the New Labour idea has lost any momentum and we just watching it die now.

Is the experiment coming to an end?

In 1994 the biggest experiment in British politics since the Second World War began. 15 years down the line it looks like it’s coming to the end. Back then the Labour Party made a deal with Blair, Brown and those about them like Campbell and Mandelson. The deal was Labour would be electable if it gave total control of the party to these people and dropped its old ideals, traditions and ways of working.

Now before we all berate ourselves it should be remembered that at the previous election Kinnock had led the party to defeat against Major, and prior to that Thatcher had been punishing every Labour attempt to regain power. In hindsight we could say we didn’t really need a Blair to win the next election as the Tory government was in meltdown, much like the present Labour one.

What should be said is that Blair went on to win two more elections, but again it could be argued that the Tories were still in a suicidal frame of mind during this period. Looking back on this deal between the Labour Party and its new leadership we see the latter mostly lived up to their part. One part of the deal that they didn’t though was the promise of more party democracy, which has since been curtailed so much by the leadership. What activist hadn’t reckoned on was how little would be achieved in 13 years of Labour power. Trying to find progressive policies amongst the many conservative ones is quite hard. Compared to the six years of Atlee’s first government they have done next to nothing.

As with any experiment, we are testing a theory to see if it is correct. When the New Labour idea was finally tested it failed miserably. First test was whether it could hand over power to a new leader. From this we ended up with a PLP coronation. Next was its first financial crisis and recession while in power and it had no policies for the situation. The only answer was to dump the free market policies it had been following, shore up the banks and return to Keynesian ideas the party had followed before they came along. The third test was the trust that Labour MPs are basically honest. This was destroyed as the expenses scandals came out and one after another Blair follower was found with their hands in the till.

Let’s look at what New Labour bought us. Of course we should have been suspicious when Blair and Mandelson started their campaign before John Smith was in the ground. It was a pointer to the total lack of principles of this new movement with many more to come. It was to Americanise politics in the UK. To have two main parties with no basic policy differences, just a difference in compassion. To make elections almost presidential with the charisma of the leaders the main vote catcher. (Aren’t Cameron and Clegg just Blair clones?) To have people like Campbell to spin, lie and create the sound-bites instead of sensible discussion. Was it any wonder that the MPs that signed up to this new deal with no principles or ideals ended up stealing from the public through their expenses?

So when the experiment ends what will come next? If the Labour party ends up as some European style Social Democrat party that Roy Jenkins wanted it will fight for the same ground that the Liberals now have, as Jenkins found out. Was the party under the leadership of Kinnock and Smith a better place to be? I suspect so, even with all the infighting, it still had some of that broad church feel. Is there another place we should be heading; is there another ‘new’ experiment to come? Maybe, but we had better be a bit more cautious this time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is the New Labour experiment finally over?

It's had 15 years but with the first recession they have faced while being the government New Labour is falling to pieces. Now their spin doctors are trying to remove the "New"; if anyone's to blame, let it be the whole Labour Party. The Blairites are biding their time to put the knife into the Brown. Hazel Blears who has managed to fiddle £13,000 in taxes owed, goes in such a way as to make Gordon Brown suffer the most. Rumours are that she is organizing the rebellion.

The truth is once tested New Labour failed. The reason I think is it was always a grouping that turned its back on Labour's history and traditions and had no real principles to replace the old ones with. What Blair and Brown were offering the public was a better Tory party and while the Tories were committing suicide with sleaze and right wing policies it left a space for New Labour. As the Tories moved back to a center right position, this spot got crowded. We find the Liberals to left of the Labour Party which just shouldn't be.

The lack of principles gave the Parliamentary Labour Party a yuppie careerist look that Cameron's Tories now do better. I feel it was this lack of principles that sees so many of these New Labour MPs in deep expense trouble. The lack of internal party democracy will for a time support the New Labour leadership but eventually it will have to be replaced.

We need to look at why Blair and Brown managed to take over the party because there were reasons that allowed this. Michael Foot was a disaster and Neil Kinnock not much better. We must also not forget that Militant gave them an excuse to curtail the internal democracy. If we acknowledge what went wrong before it makes it less likely it will happen again.

What we should learn is we must never trade principles for power and hopefully the experiment is coming to an end.