Thursday, 18 September 2014

Maybe Scotland leaving the union will be the change that England needs too.

Past election results don't quite prove that no Scotland means Tories forever in England, but it will be very difficult to get rid of them with the Labour party in its current form.*

*I actually don't mind Ed Milliband. I think his real beliefs are probably quite similar to my own; unfortunately there are still too many powerful Blairites in the party and a dominant right-wing press ready to crush any socialist ideas he might want to put into practice. 

But maybe this is what England needs to shake things up.

For years, English politics have been stuck in post-Thatcher mode: pro-greed, anti-Union, low tax and overly suspicious. Thatcher really was a massive success. I'm sure that others in the Conservative party of the late 70s and 80s share a lot of credit too but between them, they gave the country 10 new commandments:
  1. Kick, punch, trample and bribe your way to the top! 
  2. Keep grabbing as much as you can before someone else does! 
  3. Cheating the system means you're brilliantly talented and deserve your ill-gotten gains! 
  4. Unions are only there to steal from the vulnerable rich people and need to be squashed! 
  5. Anyone who considers the fortunes of others before their own is a communist and will destroy us all!
  6. Poor people only have themselves to blame and don't deserve anyone's help!
  7. Tax is a con to help the poor; rich people shouldn't have to pay for things they don't use!
  8. Tax is optional; wealth in offshore accounts or in fiendishly clever avoidance schemes doesn't count!
  9. If you can pay your staff less, you're paying them too much!
  10. Publicly-owned organisations are only used by the poor; these need to be harvested for private profit!
In their pursuit of power, the Blairite, Tory-lite New Labour party seemed only too happy to accept this and yet were still seen as the party of the left. Political commentators conceded that they might be 'centre-left'. But in truth, they were bang in the centre at best. New Labour weren't all bad, but they left us without a proper alternative to the City-hugging, privatising, greed-cheering, corporate lobbyist-loving Tories. And that's what really needs to change.

Of course it's difficult. The public in England seem convinced enough by most of the Thatcherite ideals even whilst cheering the news of her demise that the opposition are too scared of upsetting the status quo by being more radical. And frustratingly, the Labour party don't realise that playing around with minor changes to the Tory manifesto (scrapping the bedroom tax, reversing the privatisation of the NHS that they themselves started) is not enough. They would be far more popular if they gave voters a proper alternative.

As I've said before, given the option of choosing a temporarily poorer but fairer and more equal place to live, I would take it. I don't agree that most of the questions surrounding an independent Scotland have been answered. And I really don't like a lot of the shouty YES attitudes: many people are far too aggressive and unwilling to even listen to counter arguments. But I can't get over the feeling that although I would prefer the UK to stay the same, I think they should go for it.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Get out while you can Scotland (but take your first opportunity to appoint an effective leader)

As I've said on this blog before, I hope the people of Scotland vote no. My wife’s family are all from Scotland and I've lived there too. I have a great affection for the country and did contemplate living there permanently. We still might reconsider that later in life. However, I've also said that if I, as someone living and brought up in the north of England, could vote to separate from Westminster, I would probably take it.

There’s this idea that London has all of the money. It’s mostly true. But why and how? There’s also the idea that we don’t make anything any more; we have no industry. This is also broadly true. But why? The answer to both of these is mostly by Government design.

Don’t let anyone convince you that our manufacturing ceased to become commercially viable. If that was the case, we wouldn't have Japanese manufacturers producing cars in this country. I would also point out that if Germany can be home to some of the most successful car manufacturing plants in the world in Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and others, then we can too. 

I wouldn't claim that it is a massive conspiracy to keep all of the money in the City of London but the fight for job security and better pay and conditions by unions in the 1970s didn't exactly endear them to the Tories. I would stand with them of course, but as soon as Thatcher came into power, she saw them as a nuisance to be put in their place. Why would any right-wing government help out a struggling industry whose employees might strike again the next time their pay was frozen or colleagues made redundant? Instead all of the country’s finances were focused on the ‘big bang’ in the city. De-regulation entrusted wheelers and dealers to gamble safely and if they wanted to line their own pockets at the same time, more power to them (literally). Government assistance via tax breaks and infrastructure investment fuelled the boom. Publicly-owned organisations one by one became commodities to be bought cheaply and sold handsomely. 

Engineering and manufacturing never received that kind of help and for the most part, was left to crumble. We still, despite everything, have quite a strong aerospace industry (according to Wikipedia, it is the second or third largest in the world, depending on the method of measurement). Just imagine what it could have been with a fraction the sort of special treatment the precious financiers are constantly given.

Those with money donate to the powerful and the powerful reciprocate with special allowances and policies that suit their trade in cash-grabbing. It’s a happy, pin-striped partnership all served by a gloved hand on a silver-platter with glasses of champagne and expensive canap├ęs. The City is the favourite child, doted on and lavished with presents and praise while other sectors are the runts, fighting for scraps on the floor, getting kicked should they get in the way.  

No wonder the Scots want out. I do too.

I hope, though, that if Scotland votes for independence, the country takes its first opportunity to elect leaders who will get on with the job of running the country. Alex Salmond has done a fine job of getting Scottish people more for their money and then convincing them that, despite this, they need to be independent. He hopes to go down in history as the man who gave this to Scotland but he will not go down in history as a great Scottish Prime Minister. Once this is over, his job is done. He will want to stay in power but I don't get the impression that he can deliver on the promises he’s made. And I don’t know much about the party as a whole but I wouldn't put money on Nicola Sturgeon being able to make their rhetoric a reality either. Someone will need to deal with the realities of the Scottish economy and although I feel it is within their grasp to at least continue to enjoy the standard of living they currently have, it will require realism and professionalism as well as vision.

I'm a socialist. Amongst other things, that means that I think of the greater good rather than what would be best for me. And for that reason, I think if they do really want it, Scotland should take this chance.