Labour must draw the sting from welfare, or lose in 2015 | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian

Labour must draw the sting from welfare, or lose in 2015 | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian.


Cordoned Economy

A couple of years ago I wrote a number of pieces explaining the re-alignment of political forces that took place in England in the aftermath of Gordon Brown becoming leader and Labours subsequent defeat. One  of these pieces is reproduced below.

I explained these developments from a party political perspective- showing how Conservatives were going to pursue a strategy of pinning Labour to its territorial heartlands through a systematic attack on the Welfare state.

In the subsequent period it has become clear that this strategy is metastasising into something far more pernicious- an all out attack on what might be called National Welfarism.

National Welfarism is comprehensive system of taxes and benefits that operates within a national boundary e.g. it is meant to encompass everyone within that territory to the same extent.

The new structures that are emerging are clearly meant to make the system more regional in character like the states based system of benefits that exists in America. All of this under the aegis of ‘Localism’.

I predicted that as the Conservatives failed to make headway on the economy they would be forced to step up attacks on Labour through the welfare system and this has proved to be so,

The response of the public is something I touched on in passing. This now requires a closer look.

A new theme has emerged in the past year or so: the unwillingness of a large section; possibly the majority of the public, to support welfare payments.

Part of this is simply hidden racism, (note the emphasis on ‘big’ families receiving welfare targeting immigrants and white trash). But underpinning this is a change in the real economy brought about through a change in the function of money. It is this change that is having a profound effect on the way that people see National Welfarism.

I have explained in the past that Democratised Money is in part the process by which people are drawn into a complex privatised web of financial relationships as a consequence of the state resiling from its previous relationship to national currency.

The interaction between income and wealth is permanently altered by this process. Since taxation and redistribution are key to the way that modern capitalist states relate to the economy it is inevitable that Democratised Money will have an effect on these governmental functions.

Welfare payments were modelled on weekly wages, they have been designed to provide a weekly income equivalent. However, the recent moves to pay welfare monthly (to bring them into line with the ‘world of work’) shows Conservatives are intent on ‘modernising’ this traditional approach.

The wage model is becoming obsolete.

As income becomes less linked to a weekly and then a monthly wage so welfare will become more irregular. The working public will not see the justification for weekly payments. They are being portrayed as an unreasonable privilege.

It is this that underpins this present attack on welfare.

As the democratisation of money develops there will be an atomisation of financial experience. A parallel financial evolution has begun that separates out the affairs of different groups in society. At some stage within the next ten years it will no longer possible to sustain the financial arrangements of certain groups with welfare. When this group becomes large enough, or the majority monthly regular welfare payments will end.



 October  2010

Ruthless People : Cameron Applies The Thumbscrews While Milliband Sticks His Fingers In His Ears.


You might remember the 1980’s film ‘Ruthless People’.

A housewife is kidnapped to extract a ransom from her husband. Only the husband won’t pay, no matter what the kidnappers threaten to do to his wife. This comedy is a grimly appropriate metaphor for the past five months of British politics.

Recent cuts in student grants, unemployment provision and housing benefit are part of massive reductions in entitlements for the majority of users of the welfare state.

Students have responded with a bit of a shindig at Tory campaign headquarters in London. Reaction in the rest of the country is muted so far, the unemployed and welfare recipients are less likely to make much of a fuss than students. Yet there is always the possibility of trouble breaking out if things get bad enough.

So you have to ask yourself, why the ConDem coalition, trying to claim the centre ground in politics, would risk the fall out from this right wing posturing?  The answer is that the coalition is trying to force Labour off the political centre ground and is prepared to risk much to do it.

The Coalition is desperate to establish credibility, by which I mean economic credibility. They are desperate to get the economy on some kind of acceptable growth track. If ConDem can do this then the entire Labour ‘alternative’ approach to dealing with the crisis is dead in the water and ConDem is established as the ongoing German style CDU for England.(see previous ‘Left Overs’)

 However, if growth were to falter, the coalition will inevitably be characterised in the media and elsewhere, as a failed political and economic experiment. Labour can simply wait five years to be returned as the sensible mainstream centre of British politics.  Recognising this, the objective of ConDem is to make Labour pay as hefty a ransom as possible for standing on the sidelines, and that is where the students and welfare recipients mentioned at the top of this piece come in. They are the hostages who will be used to extract the ransom from Labour.

The political calculation goes like this: Launch a hard line right wing attack on the payments and services essential to the Labour core vote. If the LP fails to speak out against spending cuts, it is weakened among its core activists, especially in the North, Wales and Scotland. If it does defend the ‘feckless poor’ from the left, it cuts itself off from Blair Tories it lost so resoundingly in the Southern constituencies, which leaves the way clear for a continued ConDem clean up of those votes.

In all classic kidnap thrillers, sooner or later the victim receives a telephone call demanding money for the return of a loved one. In the event that the victim of this extortion will not co-operate, the kidnapper usually applies some form of pain to the victim, whose screams, relayed down the telephone, produce the desired effect.

ConDem is applying painful pressure to the soft tissues of Labours constituency in the expectation that howls of agony brought on by the cuts will force Labour to speak out in defence of its ‘loved ones’ moving to the left and leaving the centre ground clear for the coalition to colonise.

 Only so far, not a peep from Ed Milliband.

The first three or four months unfolding of the coalitions’ evil plan were taken up with Labours leadership challenge; a convenient excuse for hiding from the press. Since then we have seen backbench backbiting over the disgraced Phil Woolas, and Ed Milliband taking two weeks off to be with his new baby. What we do not see is any real attempt to speak out against the cuts.  

Labour, at this stage in the game is determined to hang on to the ‘centre ground’ and the possibility of re-emerging again as the CDU of British politics, despite the astounding incompetence of Gordon Brown in throwing away all the things that Bush’s Bitch achieved in this respect. The Labour Party leadership see their core constituency as nothing more than a stage army led into the line of fire in order for the leadership to achieve its goals.

The truth is that like the Danny DeVito husband character in the film, Milliband and Co. would not be overly upset if the entire remnants of the organised working class in Britain were done in by the coalition and the bodies dumped in a river somewhere. He has made it crystal clear to the press, the country and Labour Party stooges everywhere, he has his own baby to look after. This is where his priorities lie.

In a new low in cynical manipulation, both ‘sides’ of mainstream politics see the poor as a powerless tide of human flotsam they can use for their own ends, in any way they see fit. Despite the possibility of some small-scale inconsequential disorder, no one sees the danger of any real fight back from the poor. After all, they way they see it, the politicians are the main characters; the Saxon Poor are only bit players in this film.

In ‘Ruthless People’, the betrayed housewife Bette Midler decides to wreak a terrible revenge on the treacherous husband who knew she was suffering but chose to do nothing about it. It is a shame that Bette Midler in the film has a lot more fight, zest and vitality than the Saxon poor in real life.

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