Monday, 20 April 2015

UK politics: muddled and contradictory ways are the norm

It’s the fringe thinkers on both the left and right who seem to me to have the better analysis of what’s wrong with the economy. The political parties in the centre (Conservative and Labour and LibDems) hardly have any analysis worth listening to, as if they are too blind to see what’s wrong with the world.

But when it comes to doing something about the state of the world, the fringe thinkers worry me, and suddenly the wishy-washy centre seems more acceptable.

I can’t have it both ways. So what’s wrong here?

On the socialist side, I can read the Morning Star and find myself in agreement with much of their economic analysis. But when the left is in power in the UK, what happens? Again and again, they run to borrow from the capitalist finance markets. They see loans from capitalist financiers as the way to end austerity! Aaaargh!!! This is a deadly compromise. Once the prey-day lenders have got you on the hook with debt, your socialist dreams are in hock to them. Kiss your dreams goodbye. Surely, socialists should get their income base in place from taxation and other non-debt incomes before committing to public spending. Otherwise, they take the nation to the capitalist debt-trap of international money markets. Every time. Groan.

The capitalist finance markets are only too glad to lend money – at interest – to faux socialists, desperate socialists and muddled socialists. From there are on, it’s either get out of debt quick or see your socialism poisoned by the capitalist trough your snout is buried in.

Then there is the Green Party. Also on the left. Their USP should be the ecology. But the ecology is taking second place in the Green Party to the 1980s politics of left-wing academia. They’ve been hijacked. Take the population increase happening in the UK. That’s a big green issue which they bizarrely ignore. If, as forecast, the population of the UK rises by tens of millions in this century – say from 60 million to 90 million – then the ecology of this land is kaput. The damage will be irreparable. UKIP have pointed out – and in this at least they are spot on - that the present rate of UK population increase means that we need to build housing equivalent to the size of Hull every year.
That’s 85 more towns the size of Hull to be built this century. What will this do to consumption of the UK’s natural resources, especially the number one most valuable resource – water? Countries run out of water. It happens. The EU, in a fun blog, has noted that water is a precious and sometimes scarce resource even in the UK -

The Carbon Disclosure Project is also getting hot on the problem of water usage and the problems we face in the future - But do we in the UK hear anything from the Government about plans for new reservoirs to be built at the same time as new housing and how this will meet the need? No. And otherwise, are we going to be praying for a 50% increase in rainfall to meet a 50% increase in population by the end of the century? Come to that, what about the fact that last winter, Britain had about one day's worth of gas spare? What will happen to natural resources with a massively larger population? The energy crisis is coming and it will be urgent. Life could be as many people of the UK have not seen before. And I don't just mean that there's no gas and no hot water - in fact, no water - when you turn your shower on.

This is a major green issue. One thing that would turn down the tap on population increase is limiting immigration. The alternative is ecological meltdown this century unless energy needs are planned for urgent delivery. So why don’t the Greens tackle this major ecological threat by doing the obvious thing first - limit immigration? The explanation for their lack of interest is easy: because ecology is secondary to the Greens now. It’s more important to them to cast themselves as the opposite of the UK Independence Party which is an anti-immigration party. To contrast themselves with UKIP, the Greens now talk themselves up as massively pro-immigration. How many decades to see the ecological devastation to the UK with endless new housing estates and rationed natural resources? Not long, I expect. The UK is not a relatively big land(s), despite Britons’ delusions to the contrary. Look at its comparative size on this Peters Projection map of the world:!-Peter-s-Projection

So the Green’s have lurched away from their core business in order to ‘not look like UKIP’. Crazy. The same behaviour happened in the 1980s Labour Party. Up to 1983, many Labour thinkers saw the EU (called the EC back then) as a wicked capitalist club, and campaigned the 83 election to leave the EC. Wow! But then their arch-enemy, Tory Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher (“Maggie Maggie Maggie! Out out out!”) made her anti-EU noises (“Non non non!”, she said to the EC) and, lo and behold, suddenly Labour lurched the opposite way, made itself pro-EU, pro the capitalist club, so that it could be the opposite of Thatcher. Abysmal. Parties should concern themselves with having principles and what they believe in, not lurch around trying to be the opposite of someone else. Dire.

Did I mention UKIP? They are really not very good at selling themselves! Why haven’t they pointed out to the Green Party that population increase in the UK is a green issue? Why are they letting the Greens get away with proposing a built-over Britain which will be living way beyond its means where natural resources are concerned? Of course UKIP make it toxic by using the ‘I’ word, and then most of the population stops listening to them. Of course, restricting the flow of immigration is a ready means to slow down population increase in the UK. But – for whatever reasons… - the Ukippers prefer to use the toxic word ‘immigration’ rather than the more neutral words ‘population increase’. If they want a better hearing, they should stop using the word ‘immigration’ – which critics treat as code for ‘racism’ – and speak of ‘population increase’.

So all in all, the state of play in political discourse in the UK is poor and petty. But what about the centrist parties?

Well, the centrists want it both ways on just about every issue, and that doesn’t work. They want to stay in the EU but at the same time reduce the impact of immigration – virtually contradictory and it will have little or no positive impact. They want to reduce the deficit but keep borrowing from the capitalist financial markets at a phenomenal rate. They all practice redistributing wealth through the benefits system, but it’s lacking a philosophy. It’s a centrist muddle. For example. We could have workers on decent wages and so paying income tax to help pay for public services. Instead of that, we have workers living on tax-free low wages and working families credits (wealth redistribution handouts) – and not paying income tax which could have contributed to public services. This means less tax is coming in and the budget deficit is remaining ever a problem – because workers aren’t paid a decent wage. So now what happens is that big businesses like Tescos put staff on tax-free low pay and the government subsidises Tescos effectively by topping up the low wages with tax credits. £££ for Tescos, a black hole for the deficit to deepen in. Shocking. The Morning Star has pointed this out eloquently. Bizzarely, UKIP hasn’t. (I know, I know, not all immigrants are in the low-pay economy of minimum wage and zero-hours, but many are.)

UKIP as usual fail to sell themselves or figure it out properly. They could give the lie to the centrist parties two-faced spin about migrant workers. On the one hand, migrant workers are taking the low pay jobs that Brits supposedly don’t want. Sounds great. On the other hand, they say - misleadingly - that migrant workers pay tax and so make a net contribution. Double great? Hang on a second. Those two statements are contradictory. Where they are on low pay, then they are paying little or no income tax after all - thanks to the tax-free low wages policy. Migrant workers paying no income tax but using British roads, GPs, etc., etc., just like home-grown workers.
UKIP’s contradictory response is to raise the tax-free pay threshold even higher, so that, even more so, low-paid workers (migrant and home-grown workers) don’t pay income tax. Migrants (shock! horror!) paying no income tax and using public services!?!? Admirably, it's helping the poor out. But it’s contradictory for UKIP. Muddled policies as usual. The Morning Star got it right – it’s low pay that’s choking the recovery because it doesn’t raise income tax revenues. And it blights workers’ self-esteem and aspirations. UKIP are missing a trick.

As for the centrist parties, it’s the usual directionless muddle. I said that already. Say no more.

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