Thursday, 24 September 2015

What is Labour for?

No one is any longer sure what Labour is for. The party sees itself as a moral crusade but uncertain about  what it's crusading for.The peasants' revolt and the seizure of power by party members (and others) has created further arguments about who's doing the crusading and who exactly we're crusading against. Since Beveridge's big beasts were largely banished  and the simple objective of improving the common lot was largely achieved, Labour turned into a bumper bundle of, sometimes incompatible, causes We fought for feminism, poverty, ethnic advance, environmentalism, democracy, open government, pro and anti nuclear, industrial democracy,the working class,the aspiring and the regular brushing of teeth.  We not only spilled our diminishing supply of seed over too wide a ground but took our dog out of the  major fight of modern times.That's financialisation versus socialisation.

This war was born of the neo -liberal dismantling of the post war settlement replacing the state by "free enterprise", regulation and management by the market and community by cash and carry.Thatcher began it, Osborne continues the ideological work.Yet Labour , in its intervening government ,made no attempt to reverse it. Instead we compounded it, encouraging the corrupt capitalism of PFI follies, pushing the mutuals into corporatisation so they could go spectacularly bust, de-regulating, reducing redistributive taxation,and an economic management twice as green as Green.grass,in Brown's "new paradigm" which abolished boom and bust by the biggest bust since 1930.

The result is a land fit for the world's rich to live in. Wealth is enthroned, the poor punished , big corporations are  allowed to evade their tax obligations, the world's funny money is invited to live in tax-haven on Thames and ninety three billion a year is doled out in corporate welfare. At the centre of all this sit the big four accountancy houses fined punished with partners sent to prison in the US but lauded here.Their power has  increased is increasing and ought to be diminished They make rich livings, by  selling tax avoidance schemes, coming to corrupt deals with Executives to increase their pay through creative accounting and encourage British capitalism  to leach on the state,so that it is now  one of the world's least efficient but has the highest paid executives. More of them  are paid over a million a year than in  the rest of Europe put together.All this enriches big four partners whose yachts houses and private education are protected from redress by a limited liability status Labour gave them and all of them immune from regulation because they not only run the regulators but permeate the public service and pay the political parties.

This isn't exactly the new heaven and the new earth Labour once promised the people. It's a world where wages are screwed down to increase profits, the subsidies we gave to improve living standards are cut to give tax cuts to the wealthy,the share of GDP going to wages and salaries falls while that going to wealth dividends and profits increases, so that as Pinketty has shown,wealth compounds and poverty presses.Yet it's also an insecure world because it is built on debt and Finance lives by risks , compounding them by leverage. It's also corrupt because capitalism cheats.Companies and banks pose as citadels of probity but behind the scenes VW cheats on emissions, defence companies bribe to sell their wares, Banks fiddle the interest rates on LIBOR, over charge on PPI pensioners are skimmed on charges and are now being diddled on their lump sum freedom, dodgy bankruptcies (some of them forced by banks to take over companies)cheat creditors,dealers grow rich by skimming points off foreign exchange deals,utilities bully and overcharge,executives enhance their pay by having it determined by the similarly greedy and accountancy houses  massage profits and turn a blind eye to dodgy practices All these  wheels are then greased by payments to political parties, sale of peerages and"access" and pantouflage which though its not on the French scale still encourages Public Servants to build rewarding niches.This even permeates the Labour front bench witness the obscene rush to dosh  as  Labour's ship sank in 2010 which took Blair, Kelly, Milburn, Purnell,Hewitt and Cabourne on to higher things and better salaries than socialism Poor old Straw  just looked greedy and gauche by joining the game too late.

Financialisation has triumphed The case for socialisation isn't even being put.Labour should be protecting the people ,the nation's reputation and the integrity of public service from the consequences  of that triumph .We're not even thinking about it. Instead we're happy to be the train bearers at its coronation with no  higher ambition than being nice to business.

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