Most, if not all of us, know that journalists write for the times. They write their pieces looking for readers and they hope that those readers won’t remember a few years ago when the journalist was writing for those times.
Yet you have to look at how, in stark 180 turns some do their job. Especially those who espouse support – and then, when the public tendril is about to unleash its ire on those you support.
That would be the article linked at the top of this piece, and this one.
You don’t have to be “anti-capitalist” to join the burst of public opinion against mountainous taxpayers’ sums being sunk into bottomless banks that should have been nationalised. People see the banking culture has not changed a jot when the man brought in to “save” our RBS is himself paid £750,000 a year, plus a £1.5m bonus for a part-time job.
Yet from Westminster, voters hear precious little that echoes their shock at this sudden vulnerability, at lost pensions, at 600,000 young people leaving school this summer with nowhere to go while local shops close. Figures from the Office for National Statistics this week show the poorest hit disproportionately hard by steep price rises for bread, meat, vegetables and energy, while petrol and luxury goods fell. The poorest fare worst. Yet from parliament they hear empty bickering – who-is-to-blame sniping, synthetic partisan indignation.
Never mind apologies for the past, where are the new policies now? Labour should simply announce an emergency cap on top pay. Anything over the prime minister’s £200,000 should be temporarily taxed at 90%. No bonuses, no fiddles. The golden geese will fly away to Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai? Unlikely, but if a few go, who cares? No one in the public sector should get more than £150,000: in the present mood, all wise public bodies should rapidly cut their own top pay, before vengeful mobs vote in the Tories to mince public services. The money should be hypothecated for an emergency national job-creation plan – David Blanchflower to be job tsar.
An inert cabinet fails to find words to capture how things feel, wasting political capital on dross. Prime ministers used to address the nation on TV in a crisis. What a political lacuna this reveals.
Yet, almost to the day, 8 years ago, the very same Polly Toynbee was saying this about a left impetus in the UK.
But unity on the left is still tricky. Arthur Scargill, standing in Hartlepool for his Socialist Labour party, will not answer their letters, but despite that, in a brotherly gesture the Alliance will not put up a candidate against him (and Peter Mandelson).
Their policies? Take a blank piece of paper, think blue sky and green field and dream of a world that is a better place than this, unfallen angels in an Eden of goodness where all manner of things shall be well. Every child and adult will be immediately lifted out of poverty, benefits will be restored to 16-year-olds, pensioners will not be means tested so all get the minimum income guarantee, free nurseries and childcare for all, rail and buses renationalised, abolish the monarchy, legalise cannabis, open the borders to free immigration, abandon Nato and the European Union, increase foreign aid, bring in a 35-hour week, a minimum wage of £7 an hour, abolish private schools, free breakfast and lunch for all children, free grants for all students, freeze council rents, renationalise water and make it free and a whole lot more besides.
How will it be paid for? There was some confusion about whether or not the budget was included in the press pack. (It wasn’t, it would be following in a few days.) But the rough outline called for swingeing wealth and property taxes, socking great income tax rises for the rich and companies, slashing military spending, plus using the giant surplus the miserly chancellor is sitting on.
Who are their target voters? “The working classes, the millions not the millionaires”. They are after the disillusioned, disenfranchised, disenchanted, going for the “won’t vote” vote.
For us old troopers, there is no romance on the dotty left. The bad old days when these folk were inside the Labour tent fighting like rats in sacks are still a raw memory. A majority of Labour members may secretly yearn for many Socialist Alliance policies in their hearts: cannabis, monarchy, no privatising tube or air traffic, 35-hour week, universal nurseries and more. But if they had sat listening yesterday to the trashing of Labour’s achievements, they would spit with fury. What did Labour (the Romans) ever do for us? A lot, and a lot more to come. How dare Dave Nellist and Mark Steel talk of “Labour cuts” just as more money than ever before comes on stream? They are quite wrong to suggest Labour’s heart is not with the poor, when all the first money has poured towards them – pensioners, children, minimum wage and all. In fact the more vigorously the Alliance campaigns, the better it may be for Labour, so unjust and outrageous is their refusal to admit Labour is one iota better than the Tories.
Look at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Fabians, Labour’s two closest think-tanks – sane, wise and clever political realists. Both are now pressing Labour to be bolder, more radical – yes, more leftwing in a modern context. The Fabian’s great tome on tax and spending, the result of long deliberation by a commission chaired by Lord Plant, came up with excellent plans for a fair wealth tax and higher income tax for earnings over £100,000. It does not take raving loony lefties to propose such a thing, for the IPPR also wants the rich taxed more in national insurance and pension perks.
The IPPR has just produced its own manifesto calling for a “more ambitious agenda” for the next election, questioning why one of the most prosperous countries in the world is still so un equal, something the government ducks. Quality of life is the true measure of a successful society, not mere economic progress, they say. They call for turning Railtrack into a non-profit trust, reducing prison numbers, proportional representation to re-engage voters, a new deal for refugees and work/life balance rights.
None of this is wild stuff. This is the new boldness of Labour party thinkers realising that in a strong second term, a great leap forward is now thinkable. There is an important difference between Labour’s sworn enemies and its friends who sometimes criticise its timidity and lack of ambition. Growing numbers in the Commons and on the inner loops fear Labour’s next manifesto will lack new vision.
Hindsight is 20/20 – that much we all know. And we know that ‘New’ Labour are the Tories in slightly differing clothing.
They got into bed with those who were rich, not your everyday working rich who made it on their own merit – those disgustingly rich who have robbed the poor, the working class and, and I say this with irony, the middle-class – those who for so long wanted to be a part of the filthy rich. I dare say that Mandelson still feels it’s OK to be filthy rich – or has these last 8 years changed his mind? The answer is no.
But, we have to say that Polly is right – the people of the UK are angry – and as more sleaze comes out about how their very representatives in parliament are troughing the swill of power – they get ever more angry.