New Labour is perfectly alive and well, whatever else they’d like you to think. Ed Miliband may preach the opposite, but his party is more authoritarian than ever. From Cory Doctorow:
The UK Labour party’s conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.
Given that “journalism” presently encompasses “publishing accounts of things you’ve seen using the Internet” and “taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them” and “blogging” and “commenting on news stories,” this proposal is even more insane than the tradition “journalist licenses” practiced in totalitarian nations.
I don’t honestly know how people feel they can vote for this party anymore. The state does not have all the answers to everything, and a lack of obedience to the state wasn’t the problem at the heart of the #hackgate scandal; the NUJ code of conduct is already a perfectly appropriate means of holding professional journalism to account. Let me remind you News International is a union busting organisation, entirely disinterested in ‘leftie’ good practice, and they were entirely supported in this by Tories and New Labour alike. Lewis’ moronic proposal comes across as an attempt to avoid his party’s share of the blame and recast all journalists as the enemy. In or out of office, he mustn’t be allowed to succeed.
In language that challenges all wings of his party, Miliband will say: “For too many people at the last election, we were seen as the party that represented these two types of people: those at the top and the bottom who were not showing responsibility and were shirking their duty to each other. From bankers who caused the global financial crisis to some of those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work – but didn’t.
“Labour – a party founded by hard-working people for hard-working people – was seen by some, however unfairly, as the party of those ripping off our society. New Labour did a lot to change the fabric of the country. But it didn’t do enough to change the ethic of Britain. My party must change.”
Except he’s arguing that there was nothing wrong with New Labour after all, and that it’s the solution to what ails Britain now. As others have argued:
- Why is he returning to the ‘deserving’ vs ‘undeserving’ poor rhetoric?
- Why is he blaming the poor for the social damage caused by the bankers?
- Why is he not announcing a policy change to include huge growth in social housing?
The electorate is screaming at him to:
- Support a Robin Hood tax to make the bankers genuinely pay for the economic disaster they caused;
- Provide more social housing instead of making people compete for what’s already there;
This isn’t to say there there aren’t ‘benefit scroungers’ but what’s lost from them is a drop in the ocean compared to the tax evasion practised by the rich (who are allowed to do so). And let’s n0t forget the bankers paying themselves millions of pounds of bonuses with our money. It’s a despicable policy shift, which Blair & Brown would have been proud of, but Owen Jones is quite right when he says the Tories will outflank it from the right.
The fight begins in my home borough against the ConDem cuts:
Hundreds of angry protesters besieged Lewisham town hall in Catford last night, as the council forced through cuts. They stood outside and demanded “Let us in!”, as councillors voted behind closed doors. Before long, about a hundred of them got into the building, some letting off smoke bombs. Soon dozens of police vans loaded with riot squad had arrived, and were engaged in combat with some of the protesters.
This was the furious response to Lewisham council’s decision to implement half of the long-term projected cuts of £60m – or “efficiency savings”, as the official euphemism has it – to local services. These cuts affect services for children and young people, libraries and support for schools. The immediate cost in jobs will be 446 redundancies. This is a microcosm of what is happening to local services across the country, with the total cuts package costing half a million jobs. And the protest comes amid a wave of student action, which some of the protesters said had inspired them.
A shocking story, which I heard about as it was happening, through Twitter. I’m stunned to hear of dozens of police vans arriving though, with TSG officers. The similarities though with the student protests are clear:
The scale of the police’s mobilisation suggests they have been preparing for situations just like this, and expect many more. The police are setting themselves up as the hard end of the austerity wedge.
The Met have been expecting action like this and (as per the quote I repeated yesterday by film maker Ken Loach) are behaving as the violent enforcers of the status quo that they are set up to be. And as Richard Seymour points out, what never changes is this:
The vote on cuts went ahead behind closed doors. Labour unanimously endorsed the cuts. The Liberal Democrats abstained – as ever, finding the cowardly way to be unprincipled – and the Green councillor, Darren Johnson, along with the two Tories on the council, opposed. This is redolent of the poll tax, in which a Tory policy was enforced most energetically by Labour councils. The fact that Tory councillors voted against the cuts suggests that the Tories have a dual strategy of devolving the political costs of the cuts to local councils – and it will hurt most in Labour-run councils – while attempting to pick up credit for local opposition. But it won’t wash.
No, and Darren (who’s also my councillor) offered a different path forwards:
A new generational battle against disaster capitalism is escalating and it’ll only grow. Where it ends up is anyone’s guess. The Socialist Worker reports:
many people rushed into the town hall to voice opposition to the cuts. Around 100 protesters managed to get in.
Police then attacked the protesters with horses, dogs, riot shields and truncheons.
One eyewitness, an NUT member, told Socialist Worker, “The police were like animals. The beat people with their truncheons and even attacked a 72 year old pensioner.”
A student at Goldsmiths, told Socialist Worker, “We marched down from the college and people joined us. We recognise the need to demand not just a future for students but for everyone.”
“Then they denied us access to the town hall and police attacked us, grabbing people by the hair and the neck.”
“It shows how little democracy there really is.”
Guy Aitchison suggests that now the new Shadow Cabinet has been announced, there remains serious cause for concern about the post-Blair/Brown Labour Party on the civil liberties front:
Balls has been given the shadow home secretary role, shadowing Theresa May. As the man responsible for the dreadful vetting and barring scheme as children’s minister (now mercifully killed off by the coalition) he has always struck me as one of those authoritarian wannabe “hard-men” at the top of New Labour. His voting record shows he was a supporter of ID cards, 90 days detention, and all the rest of the last government’s draconian anti-terror laws and his urge will be to tack to the right on immigration, as he did during his leadership campaign.
Given the pitiful absence of liberals in the mix, though, we may just have to be grateful that the role didn’t fall to Alan Johnson who goaded the Coalition back in June for being “obsessed” with civil liberties, accusing it of being the “political wing of Liberty”. And there are some small, and surprising, glimmers of liberalism from Balls who, as the Guardian’s Alan Travis pointed out to me on Twitter, is against ASBOs and for a welfare approach to youth justice.
I haven’t seen any redeeming qualities about the ‘new’ (reshuffled) gathering of unreformed civil liberties deniers. And then there’s Phil Woolas, who George Eaton is far more than just ‘concerned’ about:
Having run one of the most disgraceful election campaigns in recent history, Woolas is currently fighting an attempt to have his victory overturned by his Lib Dem opponent on the grounds of “corrupt practices”. He has consistently denied breaking electoral law to secure his seat and said it would have been “political suicide” to do so.
Below is the demagogic leaflet published by Woolas’s campaign, which, according to his defeated opponent, Elwyn Watkins, suggested that the Lib Dems were courting support from Islamist extremists.The text reads:
Extremists are trying to hijack this election. They want you to vote Lib Dem to punish Phil for being strong on immigration. The Lib Dems plan to give hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants the right to stay. It is up to you? Do you want the extremists to win?
Legal documents submitted to the High Court argue that there was a calculated attempt by the Woolas campaign to whip up racial tensions in a bid to get the “white vote” behind him.
An email by Woolas’s election agent, Joseph Fitzpatrick, to the candidate declared: “we need … to explain to the white community how the Asians will take him out … If we don’t get the white vote angry he’s gone.” Another from Fitzpatrick to Steve Green, the MP’s campaign adviser, said: “we need to go strong on the militant Moslem (sic) angle” and proposed the headline “Militant Moslems (sic) target Woolas.”
A verdict on the case is expected on 5 November and defeat for Woolas would see him expelled from Parliament and a by-election held in the highly marginal seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth. Regardless of the morality of his appointment, the pragmatic case against appointing an MP currently subject to a court action is clear. The court may yet find in Woolas’s favour, but his presence on Labour’s frontbench is hard to see as anything but a serious mistake.
On the face of it Ed Miliband’s rise as Labour leader suggested lessons had been learned. He attacked the Blair regime for having gone to war in Iraq, he said he understood there had been a problem with New Labour’s approach to civil liberties, and repeatedly said he ‘got’ people’s fundamental issues with New Labour’s instinct to control and bully. His appointments though seem to show a different side to him – there was briefly a rumour that Andy Burnham had been offered the Shadow Home Secretary role which would really have been catastrophic – one which suggests that he may have the right instincts personally, but is prepared cravenly to give in to the authoritarian tendencies still prevailing in his parliamentary party. If, as expected, Labour attacks the ConDem coalition on civil liberities from the Right, the Labour Party will remain unelectable.
I know how difficult the situation now is for any left-of-centre party, trying to capture the political initiative and power from the ConDem coalition, and to overcome the now brazenly partisan Murdoch press. The way I see it, progressive politics is torn between two deeply entrenched trends: the ‘pact’ between government and the middle class, as articulated by John Kampfner in ‘Freedom for Sale’ and the need to win back the five million voters who’ve deserted Labour since 1997. Blair and Brown decided to push ahead with the former, whilst flatly ignoring the latter, and it appeared to lead to the demise of New Labour in May. David Miliband broadly seemed to have favoured the same route, but not his younger brother Ed, now leader of the Labour Party. The immediate response from the Murdoch and gutter press has been to label him ‘Red Ed’ (or #RedEd), but his politics haven’t really born this out, and it seems to be used as an attempt to misrepresent him to swing voters.
Ed is caught between neoliberal New Labour on the one side, which obsessed itself with appeasing the ‘Daily Mail-reading middle class’, relentlessly triangulating policy with focus groups and relying on narrow, lazy assumptions about who ‘middle class’ swing voters were. As an example, old guard, outgoing Shadow Chancellor Alistair Darling has duly warned Miliband can’t move the party leftwards:
Mr Darling urged Ed Miliband to show that he was not in the pockets of the unions and cautioned him against a policy of making the 50p top rate of income tax permanent.
and the other side meeting the demands of the five million who left, disgusted at the lack of social housing, the Iraq War, the party’s illiberal, authoritarian agenda its pact with the bankers who brought down the economy. The issues for Miliband boil down entirely to who these swing voters really are? Polly Toynbee suggests New Labour defined it fundamentally erroneously in the first place:
Can Ed recapture it for Labour? Newness and niceness are never enough: he will need all the firmity of purpose, authentic voice and clarity of belief his adherents claim for him.
Today he again positioned himself alongside over-worked middle income families – the real medians, earning around £25,000 a year, or £36,000 per household, and struggling.
Not the imaginary “middle class” of the Daily Mail who are in reality top earners, a misnomer that so misled Blair and Mandelson. The Miliband “squeezed middle” are the 90% who earn under the 40% tax band: they have been hit hardest in recent years while most growth went to the top 10%. So this is no retreat to a Labour comfort zone of a working-class minority. Can he persuade them Labour is on their side?
It’s clear from his public statements that he feels he’s already started talking to them. He’s addressed student debt, he’s addressed insecure contractual work, and spoken directly to people who see themselves as losers from increased globalisation and European integration, and notably denounced the decision to wage the Iraq War. But Dan Paskini in Liberal Conspiracy also demonstrates that Miliband has plenty of room to regain the votes of the lost five million:
[Lord] Ashcroft has just released research called “What future for Labour?” It includes data from more than 2,000 people who voted Labour in 2005, but who deserted the party in 2010. The results are absolutely staggering.One argument that obsesses political commentators is whether Labour should move to the left, or whether this would be electoral suicide. Amongst swing voters, 31% would be more likely to support Labour if it moved to the left, and 32% would be less likely. A plurality, 37% “are not sure what is meant by ‘moving further to the left’”.A better example of our out of touch political elite would be harder to find. While right-wing newspapers shriek about “Red Ed” “lurching to the left”, nearly 2 in 5 swing voters have no idea what they are talking about, and the rest are split evenly because those who think this would be a good or bad thing.
Mehdi Hasan from the New Statesman reminds us:
Here is a politician [David Miliband] who spent the entire campaign saying again and again that he had no plans to quit frontline politics, even if his brother beat him. He told me in an interview for the magazine, in mid-July:
I’m not walking away from the people of South Shields. I’m not walking away from the Labour Party. . . I’m very happy to serve under anyone.
And on the Politics Show on BBC1 three weeks ago, he mocked me as a journalist of “infinite impatience”" for daring to suggest that he wouldn’t be able to serve under his younger brother. Asked by me to give an explicit, on-air guarantee that he’d stay in the shadow cabinet under an Ed Miliband leadership, he said:
Of course. And I am absolutely clear about my intentions, my assumptions, and I answered that very, very clearly.
And yet from the Guardian’s liveblog of the Labour Party conference we have:
1.51pm: Ed Balls has confirmed that David Miliband is leaving the shadow cabinet. This is what Balls told ITV.
I don’t think David Miliband is leaving because of reasons of politics or ideology or policy. I don’t think this is a political divide, I think this it’s a personal decision. He’s decided, and it seems he’s decided in the last few days if he has, that for personal reasons he doesn’t want to serve with his brother. I understand that because it must have been incredibly difficult to have lost to your brother in that way … If as a brother you’ve decided that it’s too difficult I think people would understand that. I don’t think it’s fair to find some big political split or divide here. I don’t think that it really exists.
And yet this paints DM in just the light I’ve always seen him. This is the man who professed he would serve under his brother, who then doesn’t just then not do so, but (as Hasan points out) implicitly snubs him in his initial speech to the Labour Party conference as leader. But then again this is also the man whose Foreign Office fought very hard to prevent details of Britain’s involvement in torture becoming public, and who hasn’t shown any remorse whatsoever for the Iraq War. His departure will be no loss to a Labour Party which wants to reinvent itself and move on from the Blair/Brown psychodrama, nor one which has even the slightest ambition to walk away from its neoconservative and authoritarian recent past. And two faced behaviour like this is just what the public rejected in May. Good bye DM and good riddance.
I hate to say it but I think Andrew Rawnsley is largely right:
There are many things to regret about Tony Blair’s record and he uses his memoir as a confessional in which he owns up to at least some of his mistakes. I don’t share all of his analysis about the rise and fall of New Labour. He goes too far – didn’t he always? – in suggesting that concepts of “left” and “right” have become entirely redundant in the 21st century. His retirement into the world of the super-rich seems to have hardened his more reactionary arteries.
But even his most severe critics surely have to grant him this: he understood how to communicate with the public; he grasped that parties must constantly renew themselves to keep up with events, the world and the voters; and he knew how to win elections.
I think he’s wrong in basing his praise of Blair on his ability to communicate with the public (in his early stages only, surely?) and win elections (he was fighting John Major, William Hague & Michael Howard – not exactly rocket science to beat them at their most reactionary), but he instinctively understood what his successor did not: in order to win elections in the early 21st century a pact needed to be sealed between politicians and the middle classes (who determine the victors). As John Kampfner in ‘Freedom for Sale’ quite rightly points out Blair bribed the middle classes with the promises of extreme wealth, utterly deregulated financial markets and no interest whatsoever in tackling tax evasion. Kampfner’s ‘pact’ depended on the middle classes leaving the public realm entirely alone, and look what New Labour then did with it: ID cards, Independent Safeguarding Authority, super databases, Digital Economy Act, torture, extraordinary rendition, attempting 42 days detention without charge – monstrous authoritarian abuses benefiting them and their corporate buddies. And barely any of it affected the middle classes, but the ‘pact’ in its various incarnations worldwide also depended (and still does) on government not going too far. And Blair, in his disastrous alliance with Bush, went far too far. More than two million people, many of them middle class, went out on the streets, to warn him off from attacking Iraq. His defiance of those whose goodwill he depended on caused his downfall.
Blair’s pact was not a good thing for society as a whole. New Labour’s delight in creating unimaginable wealth (which Blair still advocates) undid most of the good their attempts at poverty alleviation brought about. Their obsession with statist control led to a demented belief that they and not individuals always knew the right answers, and their crazed databases were the result, trying to arbitrate all risk throughout society. But if he hadn’t so misjudged history in 2003 Blair might (heart problems aside) still be Prime Minister now. Sure there was an increasing groundswell against the ‘nanny state’ – a slow-burn opposition to the party’s authoritarian agenda was underway, but it was nowhere near significant enough to destabilise New Labour in and of itself. The Brown administration imploded through incompetence and almost no other reason.
Blair was largely responsible for the drift away from Labour as soon as it became electable (Bernie Ecclestone anyone?), and the myth that he was an instinctive election winner who realised how conservative the former Left needed to be remains just that – a myth. The country voted for him in large measure because he promised social democratic solutions to problems the Conservatives had no interest (or ability) in tackling. David Miliband seems to realise that his route to power depends on correcting Blair’s mistakes – not repudiating New Labour (which he doesn’t). He has to promise crazed wealth creation, imply a continuing exclusive interest in the public sphere and decry the working classes almost as much as David Cameron (expect diatribes against benefits cheats & no promises whatsoever about the Robin Hood tax his brother has suddenly talked up). He knows this, and so does Blair – it’s why he’s tacitly endorsing him instead of Ed. It won’t result in a progressive leader truly keen on improving the social and economic ills in this country, but it’s likely to return Labour to power – sooner rather than later. And in the early 21st century that is all political parties are interested in (that, and the wealth that it brings).
From his appeal to disaffected Lib Dem voters in yesterday’s Guardian:
Our society is at risk of being reshaped in ways that will devastate the proud legacy of liberalism. We see a free market philosophy being applied to our schools, wasteful top-down reorganisation of our NHS, and the undermining of our green credentials with cuts to investment.
At some point you have to conclude that this is not a mistake here or there, but part of a pattern. The pattern is of a leadership that has sold out and betrayed your traditions, including that of your recent leadership: Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell.
Oh dear. Miliband attacks the ConDem government for precisely the neoliberal, free market policies which he freely associated himself with in the New Labour government, and which, if he became party leader, he too would espouse. Where does he think faith schools came from? Where does he think foundation hospitals came from? And it’s rather ironic to see the man responsible for the Vestas fiasco in the Isle of Wight complaining about a government not standing up for investment in green industries. The truth is that all three major parties are equally in support of neoliberal economic policies now as they ever were – would Miliband really say he didn’t care about the housing market? Would Clegg on his own suddenly confess he was against increases in consumer spending, funded by easy credit? It’s appalling for him to suggest to Lib Dem voters that their interests would be best suited by joining a Labour Party helmed by him. But he goes on:
We are proud of our record in government, from the children lifted out of poverty to the transformation of our NHS, but I believe I am winning the argument that we must turn the page on New Labour and the mistakes it led us to. For example, the argument is being won that a graduate tax based on income would be fairer than tuition fees and a market in higher education. The argument is being won that on issues like ID cards and stop-and-search we became too casual about the liberties of individuals. And I believe the argument is being conclusively won that we must recognise the profound mistake of the Iraq war.
Erm what? This was the party which was supremely indifferent to people becoming super rich, so whilst children were lifted out of poverty, the gap between them and the newly super-rich grew unlike any other time before in British history. The government did nothing whatsoever to tackle the problems of tax avoidance and evasion, was at the very least complicit in the American programme of extraordinary rendition and contracted out torture, thought it right to be able to detain people without charge for forty two days, and made up the reasons for the Iraq War. Is that really a record to be proud of? He isn’t even saying sorry for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in a war without legality or purpose! He and his party continue to believe in the state curing all problems, and came to believe themselves the ultimate arbiters of risk for everyone. So in order to save everyone from risks which could never be substantiated, they felt they had to subjugate the rights of everyone. Anyone remember the Independent Safeguarding Authority? How liberal is it really to suggest that everyone be considered a paedophile in the workplace unless they can prove otherwise?
Miliband hasn’t argued for an improvement in the voting system. He hasn’t articulated any ideas about how better people could be attracted to the political classes, nor how to devolve power away from the Whitehall mandarins who thought arresting the (then) Shadow Immigration Minister was a good idea. Someone more liberal would suggest no longer destituting asylum seekers, or allowing the police to construct a vast, unaccountable database of protesters. It’s an appeal of the vilest cynicism, promising just as little substantial reform from the nightmare of New Labour as his brother. If Miliband wants Labour to become the home of progressive politics he needs to realign his party fundamentally, not just try to steal other parties’ votes, and certainly not preach about other parties betraying their traditions.
It’s an intriguing question. George Eaton at the New Statesman offers a perspective:
David Miliband has a noteworthy piece in today’s Guardian, arguing for a series of left-wing, progressive policies as an alternative to dramatic spending cuts. It should lay to rest the misleading and unfair claim that Miliband is a “Blairite”.
Here’s a breakdown of the policies he advocates:
- Ending charitable status for private schools.
- Extending the bankers’ bonus tax rather than raising VAT.
- Supporting the mansion tax on £2m houses
- The introduction of a international transaction tax – the so-calledRobin Hood Tax.
- Reducing the deficit through a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. The Tories propose a 4:1 split.
Diane Abbott’s presence in the Labour leadership race has shifted the contest to the left and Miliband’s piece must be interpreted as a response to that. He is keenly aware that in order to win and to unite the party he must win over many of the centre-left members who currently favour alternative candidates, not least his brother.
Very very interesting. I completely agree with him on ending charitable status for public schools, and have long supported a Robin Hood tax. Would the man whose Foreign Office appeared to defend the use of torture actually put these policies into practice and manage to shift the party back from its nasty, authoritarian recent past? In his Guardian article he says:
The Tories are learning the wrong lessons. The task for Labour over the coming months is to show that we have learnt the correct ones.
Yet they’ve learned that despite other failings they must abide by the rule of law, can’t keep infringing human rights, and should prioritise civil liberties instead of inflaming the public’s paranoia about security for narrow political gain. I’m well aware that the ConDemNation coalition hasn’t budged on control orders, but they have made progress on ID cards, have appeared to understand how iniquitous the ISA is, and are reviewing Labour’s increase to 28 days detention without charge. Miliband in turn hasn’t even acknowledged that the Iraq War was wrong. Some good moves in his article, but it looks frighteningly like he’s still triangulating in a quintessentially New Labour manner…
For years New Labour has been told to stop its authoritarian agenda, with its Extradition Acts, ID cards, ISA, control orders, Digital Economy Acts and more, but they simply wouldn’t listen. They, as other governments around the world like Singapore’s, China’s, Russia’s and others believed liberty and free markets weren’t inexorably bound, and to an extent they were right. As long as most people are able to go about their simple basic tasks and to meet their basic wishes it has indeed appeared that most people were prepared at least to ignore the massive infringments on civil rights and attacks on human rights – just as long as they didn’t affect them.
Except New Labour has now been thrown out of power, admittedly for a number of reasons, but it’s authoritarian project must have played some small part, at least in not showing positives for voters to choose from positively; New Labour ran a thoroughly mendacious election narrative – fight for a fairer Britain (except we won’t treat whole swathes of people fairly at all). Now that David and Ed Miliband are running for the Labour leadership though, let’s take a look at their positions on this nasty little venture. Ed first:
Members of the public who feel the state is indifferent to them: faceless and unresponsive.
Public servants who felt that we didn’t value what they do and micro-managed too much.
And also on issues of civil liberties there was too much of a sense that we were casual when it came to the relationship of the state and the individual.
That needs to change.
It does indeed, and he was told as recently as February that it needed to change. But did the Labour manifesto (which he was responsible for) offer change? No. In fact his voting record shows he never wanted it to. ID cards, the Terrorism Act 2000 (with its insidious Section 44), voting against an investigation into the Iraq War and for ministers intervening in inquests – he was at the heart of the project to realign the relationship between the individual and the state. David though has legions of fans currently falling at his feet, and has said:
“New Labour was a reaction to the 1980s but it was trapped by the 1980s. Anyone who thinks that the future is about re-creating New Labour is wrong. I think we’ve got to use this period to decisively break with that. What I’m interested in is Next Labour.”
But he hasn’t suggested any wrongdoing by the Blair & Brown governments or even apologised for any. It’s unsurprising, because his voting record shows more or less the same (if not greater) commitment to the autoritarian nightmare from which we’re emerging as his younger brother’s. The elder Miliband is cruising on a cult of personality right now, which may or may not be deserved, but noone should be under any illusion about where his sympathies about civil liberties and human rights really lie. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray alleges David is complicit in attempting to conceal New Labour’s true involvement in torture. Were that true you would really have to hope that his ‘Next’ Labour really did bear no resemblance to New Labour. We shall have to wait and see.
If you need last minute proof why New Labour is no longer fit to govern, check out Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s defence of the government’s policy of destituting asylum seekers:
”What people see is a sort of ”Euro-friendly” that would have us in the single currency. They would have an amnesty for illegal immigrants, they would allow asylum seekers to work, which is utter, utter madness.”
I think that’s an appalling, inhuman position to take. New Labour’s policy of forced destitution of asylum seekers has been one of the many low points of their period in office, but Cathy Newman has gone further and fact-checked Johnson’s wider claim that it was ‘madness’ because 83% of asylum seekers were found not to have had a genuine claim:
His 83 per cent figure ignores 10 per cent of asylum claims which were granted leave to stay in the UK on humanitarian or discretionary grounds – making it hard to dismiss these as not genuine.
He also ignores the cases subsequently found to have genuine merit on appeal – just over a quarter of those that make it through to an appeal tribunal.
That’s not to dispute that the majority of asylum claims are rejected. But given the context in which Johnson cited the statistic and the need to be careful about the way figures are presented on such an emotive subject, we rate his claim fiction.
Good old Alan Johnson. The party which is currently promoting ‘fairness for all’ clearly means nothing of the sort.
Word has it that the Tories will try to declare themselves the winners even if they fail to win a majority in the general election tomorrow. The Constitution however has something else to say about that:
Despite the claims of certain media commentators and aggrieved Conservative politicians at the weekend, there has been no “new rule” dreamt up in the Cabinet Office for the event of a hung parliament. The constitutional position has long been clear: if no party secures an overall majority then Gordon Brown, as the incumbent prime minister, has the constitutional right to remain in office to try to form a government.
Constitutionally, a PM cannot be forced to resign because the opposition believes it has a better mandate to govern. But in practice, whether the PM stays in office and tries to form a government is dependent on the political circumstances in which he finds himself.
Britain’s system is unusual in that the prime minister does not have to resign if his party fails to secure a majority. Until a deal is done he would serve as a caretaker premier, whose powers and authority are limited by the rules governing electoral “purdah”. The constitutional conventions and precedents are designed to provide continuity – to ensure that at no time is the sovereign without a government.
The basic principle is that the government must command the confidence of the Commons. That is not the same as securing an outright majority – merely that no combination of parties can form a majority against it. If the incumbent PM has the confidence of the Commons then he can continue in office.
And this I suspect will be what comes into play on Friday. I still believe that Cameron will command the largest party in the Commons, but will fail to win a majority. I also think Brown and Labour will try to find a solution immediately to keep the Tories out. I’m not convinced they’ll find it – partly because Brown is an unpalatable partner for the Lib Dems (Clegg is known to hate him), partly because it seems highly unlikely that New Labour will agree to dismantle its aggressive, torture-supporting authoritarian state, just because its preferred coalition partner wants it that way. Would David Miliband really be a break from old politics? What about Alan Johnson?
The pressure on Brown from the Murdoch/Mail Axis of Evil will be merciless, the political pressure from the Tories themselves possibly much greater, and the will of the people thoroughly subverted. Cameron will do what it takes to run a minority administration, which through trampling on the Constitution and ignoring electoral reform, will within a short span of time destroy itself. Cameron and the unreconstructed Tories are on the wrong side of history.
Those of you so far entirely unimpressed with David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ general election meme (basically subcontracting the responsibilities of public services provision from the state down to the individual to save money and, well, the bother), this is for you:
Gordon Brown is continuing to take entirely the wrong approach to the Lib Dems in advance of Thursday’s general election:
“I look at the Liberal policies. I look at them. Is there a plan for the future? They’ve got a policy on taxation that is built on a fiction about tax avoidance. They’ve got a policy on immigration that doesn’t make sense. The one that particularly annoys me is the one on child tax credits – they want to cut them.”
Erm if he’s talking about Clegg’s offer of a de-facto amnesty for existing ‘illegal’ immigrants, as Clegg himself put it last Thursday it’s simply common sense. It’s about people who are already here and who want to be here and to contribute. Why keep them in the black economy? That’s a policy which makes no sense. And is he really serious about a ‘fiction about tax avoidance‘? Even if the evidence weren’t compelling that he was wrong, it still smells like rhetoric designed to placate just the City figures who are in the metaphorical dock this election. It’s an argument on the wrong side of history.
“We’re talking about the future of our country. We’re not talking about who’s going to be the next presenter of a TV gameshow. We’re talking about the future of our economy.”
Tony Blair anyone? Pathetic. He’s going to crash and burn on 6th May.