This report (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-labour-would-strip-controversial-firms-g4s-and-serco-of-lucrative-contracts-9026348.html) in The Independent has been welcomed by many Labour people. I, however, am skeptical to say the least. Talks of a “long, hard look” seem to me daft posturing which could actually entail a pathetic, ”we looked but unfortunately we have to make do with continuing this criminal state of affairs.. cos…er…the bloody coaltion and their legacy of debt and poor management.” Replace ‘coalition’ with ‘Labour’ and the familiar moronic refrain of Nu-Tory Nu-speak will be born again and will, I assure you, sound no less hideous coming from the mouth of a future Labour administration. In fact, I would argue far worse.
Isn’t it odd how these modern Governments constantly claim to be mild, powerless creatures and meekly mimic each others’ spending plans and general economic policy direction in certain areas? Forever whining about their apparent impotence they heap blame upon the faults of a previous Cabinet or indeed indict the bleak global economic picture as holding them back from even lifting a finger for the people they purport to represent (us who pay for them and their blithering hogshite that is). But, at the very same time in other areas they shamefully act like God himself and boldly believe they can strip apart and, without a mandate, do whatever they will while encouraging their buddies in big business to do the same. License to shill. God give us mercy.
Think of the dastardly rash foreign policy under Blair and now the unprecedented destructive Health and Education policies under the coalition. Meanwhile both Governments quietly ignored and continue to ignore living standards, employment, wages, housing, lack of manufacturing, the railways, family breakdown, the EU, the utilities, rent prices and on and on and on. In reality of course, these sectors cheapest (many positive actions in politics cost nothing or next to nothing) and most easiest to remedy are not spoken of due to reprehensible cowardice in taking a principled approach that breaks with the degenerate Thatcherite settlement and failed dominant liberal status-quo. Meanwhile, millions of pounds are wasted in areas that require a more nuanced delicate approach, which should have a high level of professional and public consultation and worker’s democratic control and input. But no, we burn our budget in allowing areas to be totally reorganised and torn apart from top-down extremist lunatics like Gove, IDS or Lansley/Hunt. What a sorry state we are in.
I also find the pointless caveat of ”this is not ideological” (in the Independent article in question fully reproduced below) absurd on several levels. Firstly, why not? Are we not proud to be part of an old Labour tradition that is distrustful of the ‘free’ market’s ability to cure all ills just as we are extremely cynical of the almighty state as having the answers? If we hadn’t abandoned a reserved approach to the economy and Blair hadn’t been arse kissing companies like Serco and G4S throughout New ‘Labour’ in the first place, then we wouldn’t be having to prepare to combat the inevitable fall out when we win the election in 2015 and could be more focused now on addressing other momentous concerns, of which there are so many.
Our natural suspicious misgivings about outsourcing contracts from the public sector to unaccountable private companies, who’s focus is cash profit not delivering a good consistently reliable and affordable service, is of course ideological and we should not pretend otherwise. Perhaps it is because Ed Miliband wishes to avoid the ‘Red Ed’ tag? Well, who can blame him? The right-wing tabloids will jump on anything that remotely speaks to a populist democratic law building outlook and brand it as Soviet. But Labour’s ideological wariness of putting too much faith in the whims of the market is nothing new and certainly nothing to do with any mickey Marxist mumbo-jumbo or revolutionary outlandish naval gazing (afterall, it was that trendy posh student radical Anthony Blair in the 90s who was actually the first to include the word ‘socialist’ into the party constitution, before then there was no mention of it- the word in the English sense is generally nothing more than a personal affect or adjective description rather than a overarching strict text-book doctrine in any case).
In fact, the ideological wish to restrain the market to defend the well being of the public is a simple common-sense defensive impulse that most citizens in Britain and Ireland share. This is not America. So to get squeamish about this and pretend it is all just a balancing the books exercise and a scientific pro and con investigation is silly. Despite the tabloids Miliband will not lose face at all in the minds of the people if he throws abit of Labour language around in this area. In reality, he will gain ground. Maurice Glasman previously implored Miliband to emphasise traditional Labour values without fear of repercussions earlier in the year in The Mail, (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2396382/Lord-Glasman-Ed-Miliband-REAL-Labour-leader.html), unfortunately, while Miliband has made some noises in the right direction around the living wage and the bedroom tax, he does not go far enough for any resounding result to my mind. Steve Richards similarly looks back over Miliband’s leadership over the year and notes that when he has dared to break with stagnant liberal orthodoxy it has payed off dividends far greater than when he appears cagey and obsessed by media reaction. When he has been bold, his popularity has increased, (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/29/miliband-at-strongest-when-he-defies-convention?CMP=twt_gu), Kevin Maguire agrees in The Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/kevin-maguire-government-ed-miliband-2954114), so Miliband needn’t be so cautious in 2014. He is, at times, striking a chord with the population and can even be the one setting the agenda in the face of the ineffectual Cameron and limp Clegg just as he did over Syria and energy prices.
Most people, from old fashioned conservatives to public sector workers, trade unionists, families struggling to pay the bills, patriots young and old, the unemployed, socialists, to those generally disenfranchised with the last few Governments relentless neo-liberal laissez-faire approach are already of the same opinion that the market needs to work for them rather than the other way round. Miliband would be preaching to the converted if only he had the nerve more often to mix ideology with the basic number crunching that obviously speaks for itself (privatising essential public services hurts the tax payer even more *and* lowers standards, cutting our safety net of benefits is savage extremism that costs the tax payer more in the long term etc.). Where he does these things it is without enough volume or conviction and in too fewer a number of occurances. This needs to change. If he doesn’t sound like he believes in anything then how can anyone be expected to believe in him?
It is my belief that this country is naturally Labour. We are by far the most worthwhile and popular parliamentary party since our inception. The only party remaining with any substance whatsoever is Labour, with both the Lib Dems and Tories on the brink of self-implosion, UKIP a not very funny drawn out joke of it’s own (and the medias) making, the easily discredited laughable rebranding of pseudo-patriots BNP (actually sinister Nazi sympathisers and anti-British fascist vermin who are a finished farce), clueless middle-class Greens still failing to comprehend the basics and unfit to govern and need I mention the close-minded sociopaths of the power-hungry SNP’s leadership? The list goes on. Though not much more.
I believe that therefore when many of the average punter looks at Miliband they truly *want* to believe in him but are struggling to do so, (a fair but sad response from one person I conversed with recently was ”yea, but I mean, he doesn’t give me much hope”). I agree. This is not due to his voice or clothes or personal interests or his father or his leadership race against his brother or anything trivial the media obsess over but rather down to an ever growing general distrust of politicians compounded since the sleaze of the Tory years and the spin of the Blair years, (not to mention the expenses scandals of the lot). Combined with a record of policy failure and broken promises from Blair that in some areas make Clegg look positively reliable and nobody can blame the voter turnout on anything but the abundant failure of the political class to instill any positive belief in the public.
To avoid this Miliband must not appear to be *sounding* like a Cameron/Blair/Clegg carbon copy, (he can’t help but look like them bless him) by being vague and indecisive but he must have the stones to *discuss* the party and countries direction in terms of not only what is needed to work objectively for the bread and butter issues but also more to connect in terms of the traditions, values and culture that unite us, that people care about and want to hear about. Justice and dignity for all workers and respect and honour for the family. Traditional Labour. Personal responsibility and societal solidarity. One Nation. If he cannot or will not articulate the right principles then nobody can blame the public for not believing he holds those principles and therefore not wishing to trust him. Simple. And why is a principled and yes somewhat even ideological reaction needed anyway?
Well, our criticisms of the coalition are both factual and ideological for the simple reason that their cruel and foolish approach is both cynically ideological and patently doesn’t deliver the results for our country. The facts speak for themselves. The difference is one of principle. The ideology of perpetual market worship (that of the liberal coalition) is no better than one of sinister blind State worship (Soviet, Nazi etc.). The true Labour tradition seeks to distrust and limit the power of *both* market and state by putting human life and well-being above those abstract conceptions. We defend work as a good in of itself and through trade unions we *as* workers defend our conditions, dignity and rights. We emphasise public duty and individual and institutional responsibility. A responsibility that has been laughed at by the hippy economics of ‘free’ marketeers for far too long.
These are of course all popular principles, that if articulated well in all policy areas will see the majority we are already going to win in 2015 become a landslide. Thus when Miliband skirts around morals, principles and shirks or minimises ideological differences between us and the neo-liberals he may think his diplomatic approach is ‘balanced’ and appealing but in fact it merely placates the dwindling middle-class New ‘Labour’ minority, (as they always were), who we need not and ignores most of the public who are disillusioned with politics. Disillusioned not because of ‘Oxbridge,’ or accents or old-fashioned pageantry, (or whatever nonsense the out of touch BBC tries to conjure up with court jester Russel Bland in tow), but in fact because of a lack of *principles* being articulated by recent flimsy politicians and then followed through with. A case of a lack of conveyance and concrete conviction baring tangible results.
If Miliband states the factual analytic case in breaking with the coalition’s failing outlook while highlighting the more important *moral* underpinnings and ideological divisions in a clear and concise manner, the support will flood back in from workers all around the UK who in increasing numbers refuse to vote and the patient unemployed will finally have a party worth getting down to the ballot box for again. Labour. A party devoid of timidity. A party worth the name.
In short, we needn’t be wary of clarifying our historical and continuing principles, values, morals and ideological standpoint for fear of newspaper scaremongering or losing votes because, quite simply, the electorate and more crucially the potential electorate will see through the tabloids and realise we are exactly where they already are, always have been, and they will be relieved.
The leadership should stop worrying about voter reactions to tabloid sensationalism or any of that crap and give the astute public more credit. We merely need give our concrete analysis of the coalition, take responsibility for New ‘Labour’ failings and then articulate the change- a bold *principled* break with the putrid liberal settlement, giving values and ideological divisions loudly and proudly accompanied with the objective numbers and policies, and we do all this not for votes or members but simply because we have moral belief that it is right and we are on the right side of history at this time. If we don’t believe that then we are going nowhere deservedly. If we do. And we *are,* then the votes will follow. We needn’t even think of them till they are being cast. Votes are naught but the measure of the party vision and it’s success. The measure, *not* the preemptive guide or license to pussyfoot. The true guide is, (amongst other things and in other avenues) what is in one’s heart. So the difference, as I said before, is one of principle.
I leave you with a video of Dennis Skinner on fine form on Russia Today discussing Atos, Benefits, Manufacturing (lack of) and Labour politics. If Miliband thinks having the proud ability to nail ones colours to ones mast and speak about, (but more importantly maintain) principles is a voter turn off or ‘not the done thing’ in modern politics or afraid of spin doctors and image then he needs to step aside. If not take a leaf out of the consistently loved and elected Skinner and come out all guns blazing. Substance over style. We have a country to reclaim.
And that Independent article from Oliver Wright I had been commenting on before going off on a tangent (or five): “Controversial public sector outsourcing firms such as Serco and G4S face being stripped of their lucrative Government contracts if Labour wins next general election.
Senior party sources told The Independent that they would have a “long, hard look” at the contracts, which are worth more than £6bn.
At the same time shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan said he would “rip up” any contracts he is asked to sign as part of coalition plans to outsource the probation service.
He added that even those contracts that had got under way by 2015 would be “forensically examined” by an incoming Labour government in an attempt to find ways to “unpick” them. Ironically it was under Labour that companies such as Serco, G4S and Capita dramatically grew in size – benefiting from generous outsourcing contracts across the public sector. But sources close to Ed Miliband said he was increasingly concerned that they were not providing “better competition” or “driving down” prices as had been intended at the time.
“This is not ideological but we intend to have a long, hard look at these contracts,” the source said. “Our concern is that what we have in this country now is an oligopoly of a few companies that are not competing effectively and are providing poor value for money for the taxpayer.”
A recent government investigation into contracts held by Serco and G4S found evidence of “inconsistent management” in 22 out of the 28 deals across eight government departments and agencies. One of the first areas to be reviewed by Labour will be the justice system in the wake of the investigation into fraudulent over-charging by Serco and G4S in criminal tagging contracts.
Mr Khan is opposed to the Government’s plans to outsource the probation service – even after Serco and G4S ruled themselves out of the bidding. They will still be able to play a “supporting role” to other bidders.
The new private contracts are due to start at the end of 2014, but Mr Khan said that if there are delays, they could become caught up in the pre-general election purdah period during which contracts could not be signed.
“I warn those involved in bidding that if Labour wins the next election, and these contracts land on my desk needing my signature, I will not put pen to paper. I’ll rip them up.”
Mr Khan added that while he could not commit to reversing the changes if they had been signed – because of the prohibitive cost of extracting the government from them – he would do everything he could to end them.
“I say to companies that are thinking of getting involved – you’re on notice. I’ll be painstakingly forensic in scrutinising any contracts I inherit to find the slightest opportunity to walk away from them without lumbering the taxpayer with a huge bill. Don’t think this is a done deal just because this Government is obsessed with privatising probation.”” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-labour-would-strip-controversial-firms-g4s-and-serco-of-lucrative-contracts-9026348.html)