Mike Smith on the Labour List has written a bombastic and yet terrifying article about making policy into law. The Devil's Kitchen intends to boil it up later, but I'm going to take a quick look at it myself. I'd invite my readers to, but I don't have any readers. And anyway, there would be such an overlap between me and the DK if I did, that you'd all know about it.
So here are a few bits... Sentence 1: The Government needs to expand on Yvette Cooper's announcement last week and start to entrench our values and policies in law...
I admit, I missed the announcement. I had to go look it up. And then I had to go floss my head. But the concept of a government not entrenching values and policies in law seems a strange one to me. What have you been doing, boys? Sitting on your hands? You've had since 1997. I just pointed out my own view on this. Labour is the radical party that has done nothing radical this time round. I can't think offhand of much they have done. However, I admit to being only newly awakened from my dogmatic slumbers.
They want to to stop a potential Tory government undoing Labour’s achievements of the last decade. But Tory governments don't tend to dismantle what Labour governments create. That's what being a conservative is about. Small changes, not radical ones. And if the government makes a big swing or changes to society while you're in opposition? Best to leave it there unless you can prove it's broken.
That's just the first sentence. But it seems to me they are holding up the Tories as a threat there, so people will be motivated.
A bit later on: If Labour could shift the ‘centre ground’ of political debate left... New Labour achieved office because the Tories were on the downturn /and/ there was a shift to the right /by/ Labour. I don't know how much weight to give to either of those, but NL certainly didn't want to shift the ground to the left back then. I see this as an appeal to the working class. "We haven't abandoned you. We were just pretending to."
(I recall Blair shocking the Labour party by saying that they needed to be more Thatcherite - not just in their conviction politics, but actually in their economics. Alas, I can't cite this. If anyone /does/ read this blog and can help me, I'd love to know.)
The entirety of paragraph 2 makes sense if paragraph 1 is correct. Given that Labour had time to get into power and keep it, there is room for a swing to the left that drags politics along with it. But I don't believe it happened. I believe that Labour pandered to the working classes without giving them anything that could be supported. Remember, 'pander' is a work that means 'to pimp'. Increasing public spending is not left-wing. It is bribery. Left wing policies work to improve the safety net for the poor, and to make it more comfortable to land on and less inviting to stay on. Producing a class of NHS middle managers so that they can pay for your housing boom is not left-wing. So I attribute the 'hug a hoodie' campaign to Tory disarray, and a perception of the central ground having moved, not its actually having done so. Civil partnerships and environmental change were always going to be on the cards, and it was always likely that the conservatives would be dragging their feet on them. It was just 'steam engine time'.
Alright. Paragraph 3. Parliamentary sovereignty means that the British people have no fundamental rights and there are no laws which parliament cannot change or abolish with a simple majority. Apparently this is only a bad thing if the Tories are in power. The Terrorism Act is used to stop people on the streets if policemen have had a bad day. (See Eyes passim) That is one law that I really do not want enshrined any further. There are others, most of which have to do with my personal information being held by 300,000+ potential idiots.
... Given this, the Tory response to this ‘unprecedented’ crisis could be truly terrifying and hugely damaging. Crises are by their nature unprecedented. Otherwise they'd have known solutions. And yes, I think it will be a very damaging and painful experience. Amputation usually is, and we don't have the money left for anaesthetic. Or, to put it another way, the public sector is going to have to shed jobs until the Job Office bursts at the seams. And then there's still the balance of trade problem.
Paragraph 4 is basically Labour threatening to stab the football if they are put in goal. The proposals announced by Yvette Cooper to introduce a legal duty to tackle child poverty could provide a model to embed the gains made over the last 12 years. Last I looked UK child poverty was still shamefully high. 24th out of 29 European countries. At least we're better off than Lithuania. We are not going to hit the 2020 target of abolishing it. When that was announced, I thought it was a pipe-dream, but I'm veering towards idiotic statement of intent. And then a constitution for the health service and a requirement to provide certain levels of care... I'm going to leave that one alone. Everyone knows the current NHS system is moribund, and it needs taking out and shooting. And everyone knows that the new contract system happened under New Labour, and I'm pretty certain everyone knows that junior doctors don't get the time on the wards that they need any more either. And if I get off on a rant about this, it'll never stop.
What is being proposed is a general increase in public spending by providing more bureaucracy. I can't see another layer of systems improving efficiency, really I can't. It's like nailing go-faster stripes made out of wood onto a donkey. It doesn't help, and it's only satisfying for the people doing it.
Paragraph 5 is good 'tell 'em what you told 'em' stuff, thus revealing that Mike Smith studied essay-writing. It's preaching to the choristers - and given the current situation, it's preaching to those who have arrived despite the snow. Those are either the ones who really believe in God, or the ones who want to impress the choirmaster. People who go to LabourList are unlikely to be politically neutral. So what Mike is doing is helping them to word their own arguments, and telling them they are right to feel worried about the Tories, and they should spread the word. It's setting up the fight as Red vs Blue, Left vs Right. This is, to my mind, a bad thing.
So, not a fisk. But you do get a nice image of someone nailing things to donkeys to take home and try to forget.
Saturday Seven Up
2 days ago