Category: Labour Party

The problem with Jeremy Corbyn? The ranting incoherence of the mass media

Corbyn

 

My son Jake asked me yesterday:”What is it with the Guardian’s existential insecurity and deep political cognitive dissonance? (Yep, he’s a philosophy student). He said “they’re all over the place. What’s that about?” He said that he expected the unintelligible mob-mouthing from the headlines of the right wing rags such as the Express and Sun, but felt the disease has spread to what he had previously considered the “reasonably reasonable media.”  

He commented that even the Guardian and Independent have now succumbed to bouts of “febrile tutting, compulsive McCarthyist curtain twitching, spasmodic sneering and barnyard braying” at HM’s leader of the opposition The “mass hysteria, he says, has become a “shape-shifting reactionist wreck of contradiction, screeching mob mentality headlines, demanding ever- impossible, unreasonable  standards  of just one politician: Jeremy Corbyn.”

He thought I should gather together evidence of contradictions to highlight his point, but found someone had already done an outstanding job of that.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Colin Millar’s extraordinary gallery of empirical evidence.

And yes, Jake’s observations are absolutely right.

9,406 views 

There is a possibility Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister of the UK by the end of next week. There is no better time to highlight how, no matter what Corbyn does or whatever position he takes, his critics will attack him – even if they totally contradict themselves (thread). 

Corbyn opposes the exploitation of foreign sweatshop-workers – Labour MPs compare him to Nigel Farage:

John Rentoul

@JohnRentoul

Astonishing. McDonald’s a decent co making good food that most voters enjoy, & Labour says no http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/7081614/Jeremy-Corbyn-and-cronies-snub-McDonalds-from-Labour-conference.html 

Latest News headlines, exclusives and opinion | The Sun

thesun.co.uk

149 people are talking about this

Corbyn is not like Trump, says James O’Brien:

James O’Brien

@mrjamesob

I’m no fan but it’s really, really not. Trump attacks the ones telling the truth; Corbyn attacks the ones peddling racist lies. https://twitter.com/montie/status/1044916199761616896 

Tim Montgomerie

@montie

Hard to tell the difference between Trump and Corbyn in their constant attacks on the free press

1,567 people are talking about this

Corbyn is even worse than Trump, says James O’Brien:

 

Anti-Semitism row is allowing Corbyn to hide from the media’ Anti-Semitism is to Corbynites what fake news is to Trump, says guest columnist James O’Brien

Jeremy Corbyn is simply too principled:

spiked@spikedonline

“This week we have had a chilling insight into Corbyn’s authoritarianism. For a politician to make open threats against the press is deeply disturbing. He cares nothing for free speech or press freedom.”

Brendan O’Neill on the Corbynista threat to liberty

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218 people are talking about this

Corbyn is no threat whatsoever to life as we know it (Brendan O’Neill):

spiked@spikedonline

“There’s a great irony to the Czech spy story: Corbyn insists he wasn’t involved with the Stalinists and yet he has responded in a quite Stalinist way to this story.”

Brendan O’Neill on Sky

Embedded video

167 people are talking about this

Jeremy Corbyn has no interest in power (Nick Cohen):

But conversely, Nick Cohen also believes Corbyn isn’t radically left-wing enough:

 

What Labour needs now is a takeover by real left-wing radicals | The Spectator

To say that the Labour party is in crisis because it is ‘too left-wing’ is to miss the point spectacularly. With eyes wide open, and all democratic…

Dan Hodges now, saying Corbyn is too keen for Brexit:

(((Dan Hodges)))

@DPJHodges

The reason Corbyn is adopting a more aggressively pro-Brexit stance is the same reason he’s aggressively rejecting the IHRA definition. He’s calculated he can take Labour Remainer votes for granted. They’ll sulk a bit, then say “but the food-banks”, and vote for him.

607 people are talking about this

Before Hodges criticises Corbyn for not wanting Brexit at all:

 

Mitch Benn: Corbyn isn’t brave enough to change his mind on Brexit:

Mitch Benn🇬🇧🇪🇺

@MitchBenn

Corbyn doesn’t have the guts to allow his position on Brexit to be challenged and the membership don’t have the guts to make him.

261 people are talking about this

Mitch Benn: Ok, Corbyn has changed his mind on Brexit – what a coward! 

 

 

Mitch Benn: Has the penny finally dropped for Jeremy?

Ok, this is intriguing…

Corbyn was wrong not to oppose Theresa May’s Brexit plan (Philip Collins):

Corbyn was wrong not to support Theresa May’s Brexit Plan (Philip Collins):

Labour must stop trying to frustrate Brexit It will take a speechwriter of iron discipline to resist the metaphor of renaissance. When the prime minister describes the British position on the European ..

Peter Mandleson: By not opposing Tory Brexit, Corbyn is betraying the national interest:

 

Colin adds: I don’t have soundcloud, but you can buy my book – detailing the best football rivalry you have never fully appreciated:amazon.co.uk/Frying-Pan-Spa…

Oh yeah, and you can vote Labour on 12 December to help fix this country. 

 

 


 

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Letter: As economists we believe the Labour party deserves to form the next UK government

A letter to the Financial Times from David G Blanchflower and others, with 163 economists as signatories:

The UK economy needs reform. For too long it has prioritised consumption over investment, short-term financial returns over long-term innovation, rising asset values over rising wages, and deficit reduction over the quality of public services.

The results are now plain. We have had 10 years of near zero productivity growth. Corporate investment has stagnated. Average earnings are still lower than in 2008. A gulf has arisen between London and the South East and the rest of the country. And public services are under intolerable strain — which the economic costs of a hard Brexit would only make worse. We now moreover face the urgent imperative of acting on the climate and environmental crisis.

Given private sector reluctance, what the UK economy needs is a serious injection of public investment, which can in turn leverage private finance attracted by the expectation of higher demand. Such investment needs to be directed into the large-scale and rapid decarbonisation of energy, transport, housing, industry and farming; the support of innovation- and export-oriented businesses; and public services. It is clear that this will require an active and green industrial strategy, aimed at improving productivity and spreading investment across the country. 

Experience elsewhere (not least in Germany) suggests a National Investment Bank would greatly help. With long-term real interest rates now negative, it makes basic economic sense for the government to borrow for this, spreading the cost over the generations who will benefit from the assets. As the IMF has acknowledged, when interest payments are low and investment raises economic growth, public debt is sustainable.

At the same time, we need a serious attempt to raise wages and productivity. A higher minimum wage can help do this, alongside tighter regulation of the worst practices in the gig economy. Bringing workers on to company boards and giving them a stake in their companies, as most European countries do in some form, will also help. The UK’s outlier rate of corporation tax can clearly be raised, not least for the highly profitable digital companies.

As economists, and people who work in various fields of economic policy, we have looked closely at the economic prospectuses of the political parties. It seems clear to us that the Labour party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them.

We believe it deserves to form the next government.
David G Blanchflower, Bruce V Rauner,

Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College; Professor of Economics. University of Stirling; former member, Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee.

Victoria Chick Emeritus Professor of Economics, University College London.

Lord Meghnad Desai Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Stephany Griffith-Jones Emeritus Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University.

Simon Wren-Lewis Emeritus Professor of Economics and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford. On behalf of 163 signatories. 

The letter and a complete list of signatories is here.

 


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Rabbinical Executive of United European Jews write to Jeremy Corbyn dismissing UK media commentary as ‘propaganda’

Corbyn

Yesterday a Director of the UK Rabbinical Executive Board wrote a letter to Jeremy Corbyn which, it said, represented the views of the United European Jews organisation (UEJ). The letter said that the organisation “reject and condemn in no uncertain terms” the recent comments in the media, claiming that the “majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour government. The letter states that the media commentary does not represent the views of mainstream Chareidi  Jews who live in the UK.

The letter continues: “We believe that such assertions are due to propaganda with a political and ideological agenda”, which, the group add, “is an agenda diametrically opposed to fundamental  Jewish values, as well as the opinions of tens of thousands of Jews in our community”.

The Rabbinical Executive’s letter goes on to thank the Labour party leader for his “numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish community over many years”.

A press released by UEJ describes the organisation:

United European Jews is a pan-European organisation that performs research and advocacy concerning topics of Judaism, Jewish identity, and antisemitism. The institute was founded by Rabbi Mayer Weinberger of Belgium in conjunction with Jewish faith leaders throughout Europe.

We engage in educational activities which spread information and catalyze action. UEJ offers a view of Jewish identity that at its core is representative of the mainstream 70,000 chareidi Jews that live in the UK, who do not identify with Israeli nationalism or politics as elemental to their Jewish identity.

We advocate the traditional Orthodox Jewish idea that Jewish identity is defined only by Jewish religious doctrine and is independent of foreign nationalist components. As British Jews, our home and country is the United Kingdom, and our religion is Judaism.

Here is the letter in full:

Letter corbyn

It will be very interesting to see if the media in the UK report on this letter, rather than continuing the concerted attempts to stage manage our democracy.

I would personally like to thank the Rabbinical Executive Board for such a candid, kindly and hope-inspiring letter to a candid, kindly and hope-inspiring politician.

Earlier this year, a similar letter was sent that condemned attempts to report that a  meeting between Corbyn and representatives of London’s Charedi Jewish community had been abandoned because of ‘outrage’ among the community.

The letter also records “our gratitude for your numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish Community over many years” and thanked Corbyn for his support with recent concerns regarding a coroner who was unsympathetic and unaccommodating to Jewish faith and burial custom

Corbyn’s letter seen by the Gazette, said: “Coroner Hassell’s approach goes against our Jewish and Muslim residents’ faith and is preventing them from grieving for their lost loved ones.”

The letter, co-signed by Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South & Finsbury, and Islington councillor Richard Watts, notes that other coroner services, including Salford and Bolton’s Coroner Services, use magnetic resonance imaging scans in autopsies, removing the need for “invasive post-mortem techniques that go against a number of religious practices”.

“We regret that Coroner Hassell’s conduct … to date has caused significant upset and undue trauma for people who are already suffering so much and simply want to grieve,’ it states. 

Corbyn said: ‘I have been approached by the Jewish and Muslim communities in Islington and I’m very concerned about the stress families are going through in not being able to complete burials in line with their faiths. I fully support their efforts to ensure public services respect their religious beliefs and traditions – and the coroner service should be no exception.”

2nd letter Jewish

Related

Letter endorsing Jeremy Corbyn signed by key Jewish public figures and  academics

Marginalisation of left leaning Jewish groups demonstrates political exploitation of the antisemitism controversy by the right wing

Over 200 Jewish Labour supporters say: Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a Crucial Ally in the Fight against Antisemitism

34 Orthodox Rabbis reject allegations against ‘respected leader’ Jeremy Corbyn

Joseph Finlay, Jeremy Corbyn is an Anti-Racist, Not an Anti-Semite

 Fifty Times Jeremy Corbyn Stood with Jewish People

Anna Boyle, 40 Examples of Corbyn Opposing Antisemitism

 



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Labour party pledge to reinstate legal aid, restoring equal access to justice

Image result for justice

The Labour party will restore legal aid for people appealing against cuts to social security, such as Universal Credit and Personal Independent Payment, the shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, is to announce.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, warned last month that cuts to legal aid meant many could no longer afford “to challenge benefit denials or reductions” and were “thus effectively deprived of their human right to a remedy”. 

Back in 2012, I warned that without equal access to justice, citizens simply cease to be free. I strongly welcome this move from the opposition, in particular because I regard access to justice – a basic human right – as absolutely fundamental to a functioning democracy.

Those seeking to challenge decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on social security payments, many of which are incorrect and unfair, will be able to gain access to legal advice to help them pursue appeals, Labour has pledged.

Burgon argues that restoring such financial support would encourage the DWP to get decisions right the first time, thereby reducing costs for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

More than two-thirds of appeals against DWP decisions on personal independence payments (PIP) and employment support allowance (ESA) are successful, says the Labour party, adding that those decisions have affected thousands of vulnerable people with illnesses, disabilities or in poor health. 

Since the Coalition government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo) came into effect in early 2013, the number of people receiving legal aid to challenge benefit decisions has fallen by 99%. The MoJ spends more than £100m a year on tribunals disputing appeals against benefit decisions.

In addition, the DWP has spent more than £100m on PIP and ESA reviews and appeals since October 2015. That means  the state is spending huge amounts of money to get its’ own way in imposing wrongful decisions, while ensuring those affected cannot easily challenge such unjust decision making processes, which become embedded into an increasingly punitive social security system. It’s difficult to regard this as anything other than a politically coordinated attack on the rights of citizens and the welfare state by the Conservatives.

Since the Laspo act came into effect, many expert social security lawyers have left the field because cases were no longer funded. The MoJ has experienced the deepest cuts of any Whitehall department since 2010; its budget is to shrink further over the next two years.

Burgon said: “People should never be expected to navigate a complex appeals process all by themselves. That can force some to give up their claim altogether after a wrong initial decision. Others endure months of stress trying to prepare their own case. It’s bad now but will be even more difficult after universal credit’s rollout.

“Cuts to early legal advice have been a false economy. Ensuring that people are armed with expert legal advice to take on incorrect benefits decisions will not only help people get the benefits they are entitled to, it should make it less likely that flawed decision takes place in the first place, which would be good for the individuals themselves, and help to tackle the tens of millions of pounds spent on administering appeals against flawed decisions.”

Unless, of course, the intention all along was to ensure that the state’s ‘incorrect’ decisions stand. I rather suspect that is so.

The number of people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 91,431 in 2012-13 to 478 in 2017-18, according to Legal Aid Agency figures.

A 2010 Citizens Advice report (pdf) concluded that for every £1 of legal aid expenditure on benefits advice, the state potentially saved £8.80.

Labour estimates that to restore early legal advice to pre-Laspo levels for benefits cases would cost £18m a year and help about 90,000 cases.

The party has already pledged to restore legal aid funding for advice in all housing cases, reversing far-reaching cuts imposed by the government five years ago. It has also promised to re-establish early advice entitlements in the family courts and to review the legal aid means tests.

Burgon says “Cuts have left vulnerable people without the legal support they need when faced with a rogue landlord, a difficult family breakup, or Theresa May’s “hostile environment. 

“But of all the cuts to legal aid, the slashing of advice for ill and disabled people unfairly denied their benefits is one of the cruellest. It creates the shameful situation where people are first denied the financial support to which they are legally entitled and then must struggle through a complex appeal without legal advice, causing further stress and anxiety.”

He says that the Labour-initiated Bach commission on access to justice outlined the direction in which the government needs to go. The Conservatives’ review (due before Christmas) should follow its recommendation to boost funding for early legal advice. Instead, however, it’s likely to be ‘another missed opportunity’. 

As Burgon notes, next year marks the 70th anniversary of the Legal Aid and Advice Act of 1949. Too often, legal aid has been treated as the forgotten pillar of the welfare state. Access to health and education are rightly recognised as the right of every citizen. Access to justice should be too.

 

See also: Labour will restore legal aid so all citizens have access to justice – not just the rich


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A response to a critical response to my recent article about antisemitism

Image result for antisemitism

Jim Denham has written a response to my recent article about antisemitism – Antisemitism on the left and in Labour: a reply to Kitty S. Jones. Jewish Voice for Labour published my piece on their site last week.

I’ve written a response to Jim’s response, as there was a strong element of straw man rhetoric in his article – a technique where someone distorts or oversimplifies their opponent’s propositions, reasoning and arguments, in order to make it easier to attack them, and there was an identifiable ad hominem type of “guilt by association” fallacy in play, too. 

I responded with the following: 

Hi Jim,

Good to see we do have some common ground [in that we agree that Marc Wadsworth should not have been expelled from the Labour party].

I just want to raise a couple of points here.

Firstly, you say “what terrible arguments these are for a left winger to be using”. Well I cited RESEARCH, which is evidenced to verify my comments. That isn’t a “terrible argument”, it’s a reasonable one. There is other research too, which says the same thing. Facts matter, inferences, moralising, value judgements and wild assertions reflect someone’s beliefs and assumptions, not facts.

There are a couple of separate issues here that I want to highlight. One is that there is antisemitism within the Labour party. Another is that there has been growing antisemitism within our society in the UK, and wider Europe for some years – and by 2014, it had reached the highest level since records began here. It was quite widely reported in the media at the time.

Back in 2014, I was also raising concerns in my own work about the dangers of racism, antisemitism, a general growth in social prejudice – including a rise in hate crime and discriminatory policies directed against disabled people – and how toxic the encroaching political parochialism and narratives entailing strategic group divisions are for our democracy, how potentially dangerous and devastating for citizens’ wellbeing. I referred to Gordon Allport’s work a lot, too, which was based on his study of the cultural, social and political processes that resulted in the Holocaust.

Labour have the highest party membership. Among that membership are people with antisemitic views. I have seen some of the conspiracy types of antisemitism myself during the 2015 GE campaign among the left. However, a group of those were then in the Green party (as members). Going off research and the most recent parliamentary inquiry, there is no evidence that antisemitism is any higher in the Labour party than it is in society. That’s despite a high level of scrutiny that none of the other Parties have been under. Again rigorous evidence is important rather than opinion. Demanding rigorous evidence does not mean I am denying a problem exists. To imply that is the case is absurd.

The evidence is very important because it is needed to support the Party in addressing how to best deal with genuine and bogus complaints. We have already seen Marc Wadsworth expelled from the party, and we both agree that from the footage, he did not make an antisemitic comment, as he was originally accused. His expulsion does nothing to help us address antisemitism. Nor does the continued jeering, smearing and discrediting of the Party, members and in particular, the leader.

My saying that does NOT mean 1) I don’t care about antisemitism 2) I’m denying it exists or 3) I am trivialising it. It’s a logical fallacy to make those accusations of reasonable and evidenced observations and to make such irrational inferences from them. This is an ad hominem fallacy, a variant of “guilt by association”: informal inductive fallacy of the hasty generalisation or red-herring type and which asserts, by irrelevant association and often by appeal to emotion, that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another.

For the record, I feel very strongly about antisemitism, I challenge it wherever I see it, and treat other kinds of prejudice in the same way. I simply don’t tolerate prejudice. Ever.

I care very much about antisemitism and those people in the Party who have antisemitic beliefs must be dealt with, as they have no place in a Party that is founded on principles of equality and diversity. [That does require a Hearing process, where allegations and evidence are considered objectively and fairly, followed by appropriate, commensurate action]. 

Yesterday, someone flagged up a person on Facebook who claimed to support Jeremy Corbyn. He had attacked one of my friends (a Jewish writer), making offensive antisemitic comments. A group of us found a few Facebook accounts by the same person, and on further examination, it turns out he was previously a Margaret Thatcher supporter. He is very racist, and was clearly setting up accounts to troll people. I reported him, nonetheless, to the Party, but doubt very much that he is a member.

He blocked me when I challenged him. I reported him to Facebook, too, and warned others about him via a status update. I’m wondering how many more fake accounts there are on social media, claiming to support Labour, but who aim to discredit the Party instead.

Another important issue is that the debate about antisemitism IS being politically exploited. By the government, by the complicit media and by several Progress MPs. Saying that does NOT entail denying antisemitism exists within the Party. I have already acknowledged it exists. It is a discrete issue. These two propositions do not contradict or negate each other, they co-exist.

Both propositions are equally true. However, the way this has been played strategically – and you’ve done it yourself, Jim – whatever the response is from the Party and members, it is immediately put into the same contexts of either “denial”, “justification”, “whataboutery” or “trivialising”, and even worse, people are being accused of “collaborating” or of  being an “apologist” for antisemitism.

Yet those are emotive, deeply personal attacks, based on fallible inferences with no empirical grounding and large logical gaps. They are not rational and evidenced arguments. They are also, all too often, politically loaded and motivated.

The truth is that 1) antisemitism exists within society 2) antisemitism exists within the Labour party 3) the response we give, no matter how reasonable or well-evidenced, is strategically condemned 4) the antisemitism is being used politically by those who don’t approve of Corbyn’s left of centre politics. ALL of those things are discrete truths. They are co-existing facts. 

Pointing these issues out does NOT mean I am denying that antisemitism exists in the Party, and how dare you or anyone else imply I don’t care about it.

Those who don’t like Corbyn have bent over backwards to make all of this somehow his fault. Yet the problem existed before Corbyn became Party leader. Again, that is evidenced. It seems to me that both Corbyn and members are being bullied into “confessing” that the Party is “rife” with antisemitism. If we present rational debate and evidenced, reasoned comments, we are then accused of denying the problem. If we focus on discussing what we are doing about antisemitism, both personally and within the Party, that is taken as an admission of guilt – that antisemitism is “rife” in the Party.

 

It’s been reduced to an either/either. Either way, the outcome of all this is being manipulated, and no matter what the Party does or says – no matter what evidence arises, too, that supports what is said and proposed – we are still condemned. The narrative does not change, nor do the allegations. There is no outcome that does not entail a condemnation of Party and leader. There are many people making sure of that. 

It’s a form of political entrapment and bullying [as I outlined in the original article]. This is being carried out on the basis of political beliefs. People on the left ARE being attacked and bullied on social media and in the mainstream media. Apparently this behaviour is acceptable for some people, who are claiming to condemn others for the same behabiours. However, attacking people on the basis of their political beliefs is NOT OK. Our Human Rights Act – Article 10 – outlines this. One form of prejudice, discrimination and harassment does nothing to address another.

My article also explores how all of this has split Jewish communities further, too. That split is marked by ideological differences, and I have seen right-leaning Jewish groups going out of their way in discrediting and outgrouping left-leaning ones. I have seen moderates and media commentators make antisemitic comments about left-leaning Jewish groups in order to discredit and silence them. I provided examples as evidence in my article.

That kinda evidences my key point.

Hope I have clarified my thoughts on this a little more. If you need any more evidence – I found an article about Luciana Berger’s experiences of antisemitism on social media, dated 2014, for example – let me know.

Best wishes, Jim.

Sue.

A further reply

I haven’t touched on the Israel/Palestinian conflict in my own piece. It’s an article, rather than a book… (!) However, I will say that I have observed the conflation of “Zionism” with the conflict. Whenever I encounter this, I point out what Zionism is, and why it is wrong to equate the actions of the Israeli government and military with Zionism and with Jewish people more widely. Some people don’t understand what Zionism means. I’ve found that simply explaining it helps address the lack of understanding better than attacking someone for what they do not know.

I think in your haste to portray some on the left as “uneducated”, with no grasp of Marx and capitalism, you have also stereotyped working class people on the left more widely, and as I said previously, you cannot fight assumption, prejudice and stereotypes by presenting more assumption, prejudice and stereotypes.

We have to take a prefigurative position – you know, be the change you want to see. If you want to live in a world that values diversity, where people are treated with equal respect and each is regarded as having equal worth as human beings, regardless of their group membership and characteristics, you have to practice those principles yourself, first.

Related

Marginalisation of left leaning Jewish groups demonstrates political exploitation of the antisemitism controversy by the right wing – Politics and Insights

 


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Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest success is the discrediting of neoliberalism. He gets my vote

Jeremy Corbyn Labour conference speech in full (2017)

One of Corbyn’s most important achievements is in extending national debate beyond the limits of neoliberal ideology and challenging the hegemony imposed by Margaret Thatcher. The sell by date was last century, it expired in General Pinochet’s Chile. Yet the Tories continue to flog a dead horse, selling England by the pound, while selling the public very short indeed.

With it’s justification narrative of meritocracy, entrenched notions of ‘deserving and undeserving’ applied post hoc to explain away the steeply unequal hierarchy of the economic order, neoliberalism is founded on deeply eugenic ideas and social Darwinism. Neoliberals from Margaret Thatcher onwards have embraced white supremacist thinkers such as Charles Murray

Murray is a statistically minded sociologist by training. Statistics tend to exclude qualitative accounts and details of the populations researched. They don’t do much to generate understandings or meaningful accounts, often imposing a theoretical framework onto those being studied, rather than presenting any meanigful dialogue between researcher and those researched. The result is rather a restricted, one sided account. 

Murray has spent decades working to rehabilitate long-discredited theories of IQ and heredity, turning them into a foundation on which to build a Conservative theory of society that rejects notions of equality and egalitarianism completely. He is fiercely opposed to welfare programmes and social safety nets of any kind. His thinking is embedded in neoliberal narrative.

In Murray’s view, wealth and social power naturally accrue towards a “cognitive elite” made up of high-IQ individuals (who are overwhelmingly white, male, and from well-to-do families), while those on the lower end of the eponymous bell curve form an “underclass” whose misfortunes stem from their ‘low intelligence’. 

It never crossed his mind that IQ tests simply measure a person’s ability to perform IQ tests. Or that other qualities, such as ruthlessness and dark triad traits (psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism) – which are linked by callousness, manipulation, and a lack of remorse and empathy – are a more accurate measure of qualities that result in “success” and financial reward. The reckless behaviours of the financial class that caused the global crash bear out this theory, after all.

Narcissism consists of dominance motivation, a sense of entitlement, and perceived superiority combined with intolerance to criticism. Machiavellianism includes facile social charm, deceitful behaviour aimed at undermining others, and a reliance on manipulation. Psychopathy shows itself in low or absent empathy, an absence of remorse and conscience, high impulsivity, heartless social attitudes, and interpersonal hostility. Taken together, the most powerful tendency underlying all three Dark Triad traits is a knack for sadism, manipulation and exploiting others. 

Research has indicated that Machiavellianism significantly correlated with right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. Furthermore, narcissism was associated with right-wing authoritarianism, and both narcissism and psychopathy were associated with social dominance orientation. Finally, dark personality traits have been shown to be associated with moral foundations that in turn are linked to Conservatism.

For example, showed that Machiavellianism predicted both ingroup/loyalty and authority/respect, whereas psychopathy was positively associated with ingroup/loyalty. (Also see: The impact of dark tetrad traits on political orientation and extremism: an analysis in the course of a presidential election.)

The myth of economic growth

The Tories have frequently shrieked, with vindictive and borderline hysterical relish, that Labour’s pro-social economic policies reflect “fiscal irresponsibility”, but that doesn’t resonate with the government’s calamitous economic record over the past seven years. Nor does it fit with historic facts and accuracy. 

The Labour party were in power when the global crash happened. The recession in 2007/8 in the UK was not one that happened as a direct consequence of Labour’s policies. The seeds of The Great Recession were sown in the 80s and 90s. The global crisis of 2008 was the result of the financialization process: of the massive creation of fictitious financial capital and the hegemony of a reactionary ideology, neoliberalism, which is based on the assumption that markets are self-regulating and efficient. 

The New Right argued that competition and unrestrained selfishness was of benefit to the whole society in capitalist societies. It asserted that as a nation gets wealthier the wealth will “trickle down” to the poorest citizens, because it is invested and spent thereby creating jobs and prosperity. In fact the global financial crisis has demonstrated only too well that financial markets provide opportunities for investment that extend relatively few extra jobs and that feed a precarious type of prosperity that can be obliterated in just a matter of days. 

Neoliberalism: the social sins and economic incompetence of the New Right

The financial deregulation promoted by the New Right permitted the financial institutions to dictate government policy and allowed wealth to be channelled into speculative investments, exacerbating the volatility of share and housing markets. Neoliberal theories were embraced and cherished by big business because they provided a legitimation for their pursuit of self-interest, personal profit and ample avenues for business expansion.  

Private companies supported the argument that government regulation interfered with business and undermined “enterprise culture”.  In this view, government intervention in the management of the economy is unnecessary and unwise because the market is a “self-correcting” mechanism. There was also certain appeal in free market ideology for governments too, in that it absolved them of responsibility for economic performance and living standards of the population. Government functions were and continue to be consigned to profit-seeking private companies,.

The New Right advocated policies that aided the accumulation of profits and wealth in fewer hands with the argument that it would promote investment, thereby creating more jobs and more prosperity for all. As neoliberal policies were implemented around the world inequalities in wealth and income increased, there were health inequalities and poverty increased, contradicting neoliberal theories that by increasing the wealth at the top, everyone would become more affluent. Public funds were simply funnelled away into private hands.

Neoliberal politics were shaped by the decisions and policy activities of Reagan and Thatcher, the architects of deregulation, privatisation, competition, the somewhat mysterious “market forces”, reduced public spending, austerity and trickle-down economics.

The changes pushed through in the US and the UK in the 80s removed constraints on bankers, made finance more important at the expense of manufacturing and reduced the power of unions, making it difficult for employees to secure as big a share of the national economic wealth as they had in previous decades.

The flipside of rising corporate profits and higher rewards for the top 1% of earners was stagnating wages for ordinary citizens, and of course a higher propensity to get into debt.

The Conservatives have a historical record of economic incompetence, and of ignoring empirical evidence that runs counter to their ideological stance. Margaret Thatcher’s failed neoliberal experiment resulted in a crashed economy in 1980-1, which had devastating consequences for communities and many individuals.

Neoliberalism gives economic goals and profiteering an elevated priority over social goals. Many of the social gains made as a result of our post-war settlement have been unravelled since the 1980s, and this process accelerated from 2010, under the guise of austerity.  Rather than arising as a response to an economic need, austerity is central to neoliberal economic strategy. 

While free market advocates claim that neoliberalism promotes a democratic, minimal state, in practice, the neoliberal state has consistently demonstrated quite the opposite tendency, requiring authoritarianism and extensive, all pervasive ideological apparatus to implement an anti-social economic doctrine. As David Harvey says in A Brief History of Neoliberalismthe neoliberals’ economic ideals suffer from inevitable contradictions that require a state structure to regulate them.

If the citizens were free to make decisions about their own lives democratically, perhaps the first thing they would choose to undertake is interference with the property rights of the ruling elite, therefore posing an existential threat to the neoliberal experiment. Whether these popular aspirations take the form of drives towards  progressive taxation, unionisation or pushing for social policies that require the redistribution of resources, the “minimal state” cannot be so minimal that it is unable to respond to and crush the democratic demands of citizens. 

Any state method that seeks to subvert the democratic demands of citizens, whether it’s through force, coercion, ideology and propaganda or social engineering, is authoritarian.

Following Thatcher’s reluctant but necessary resignation, John Major’s government became responsible for British exit from the ERM after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. This led to a loss of confidence in Conservative economic policies and Major was never able to achieve a lead in opinion polls again. The disaster of Black Wednesday left the government’s economic credibility irreparably damaged. It’s a pity that the public tend to forget such historical facts subsequently, at election time.

The abiding consequences of Thatcher’s domestic policies from the 1980s and her policy template and legacy set in motion the fallout from the global neoliberal crisis. We are witnessing the terrible social costs of the current government’s perpetual attempts to fix the terminal problems of neoliberalism with more neoliberalism. 

Under the fraying blue banner, the public are now seeing the incongruence between political narrative and reality; there’s an irreconcilable gap between their own lived experiences of neoliberal policies, and what the government are telling them their experiences are.  

“Ten years after the global financial crash the Tories still believe in the same dogmatic mantra – deregulate, privatize, cut taxes for the wealthy, weaken rights at work, delivering profits for a few, and debt for the many.

[…] We are now the political mainstream. Our manifesto and our policies are popular because that is what most people in our country actually want, not what they’re told they should want.” Jeremy Corbyn.

What is the point of a socioeconomic system that benefits only a minority proportion of citizens? It hardly reflects a functioning democracy.  

Ideology is a linked set of ideas and beliefs that act to uphold and justify an existing or desired arrangement of power, authority, wealth and status in a society. Ideological hegemony arises where a particular ideology, such as neoliberalism, is pervasively reflected throughout a society in all principal social institutions and permeates cultural ideas and social relationships. It’s very difficult to “stand outside” of such a system of belief to challenge it, because it has become normalised, taking on the mantle of “common sense”.

Corbyn has talked about forging a “new common sense” during the Conference season. It’s one that has increasingly resonated with the wider public. If there were a general election tomorrow, Labour would win comfortably. In Jeremy Corbyn’s own words, “a new consensus is emerging.” 

However, neoliberal policies are insidious machinations controlled by the capitalist ruling class, in the context of a historic class struggle, to repress, exploit, extort and subjugate the ruled class. One of the key conditions for this to work is public compliance. Such compliance is garnered through an increasingly authoritarian and repressive state.

Of course, as previous discussed, this is one of the biggest inherent ideologic contradictions within neoliberalism: it demands a lean and small state, austerity, and the dismantling of support mechanisms that ensure the quality of life for all citizens, on the one hand, but requires an authoritarian state that is focussed primarily on public conformity and compliance in order to impose a mode of socioeconomic organisation that benefits so few, and lowers the standard of living for so many.

Neoliberalism was never the way forward: it only went backwards

Conservatives would be better named “Regressives”. They’re elitist and really are nasty authoritarians, who have chosen to impose a socioeconomic model that fails most people, destroys all of our public services, extends exploitation of labour, creates massive inequality and absolute poverty, damages the environment, eats away at public funds while shifting them to private bank accounts. Then the need exists to manufacture political justification narratives to cover the devastating social damage inflicted, which stigmatises and blames everyone who is failed by this failing system for being failed.

If the public had known all along what neoliberalism really is, and what its consequences are, they would never have wanted it. People are dying and other people are buying the planned and prepared bent rationale and political denials. Others simply look the other way. Until the consequences of the sheer unfairness of our social and economic organisation touches their own lives.

Apparently, there is “no causal link between punitive “behavioural change” policies and distress”, apparently. Examples of hardship, harm, suicide and death are simply “anecdotal”. Critics of policies and government decision-making are “scaremongering”, “extremists”, “enemies of the state”,  “deluded commies” and so on. Yet most of us are simply advocates of social democracy and justice. 

If you ever wondered how genocide happens, and how a nation come to somehow accept the terrible deeds of despots, well it starts much like this. It unfolds in barely perceptible stages: it starts with prejudiced language, divisive narratives, the promotion of the work ethic, exclusion, media propaganda, widening political prejudice, scapegoating, outgrouping and stigmatisation, acts of violence, and then extermination.

Our moral boundaries are being pushed incrementally. Before you know it, you hate the “workshy”, you believe that disabled people are shirkers who place an unacceptable burden on the state, you see all refugees and migrants as potential thieves, fraudsters and terrorists, and poor people are simply choosing the easy option. When political role models permit the public to hate, directing anger and fear at marginalised social groups, it isn’t long before the once unacceptable becomes thinkable.

The public conforms to changing norms. We become habituated. It’s difficult to believe a state may intentionally inflict harm on citizens. Our own government is guilty of “grave and systematic” abuses of the human rights of disabled people. A government capable of targeting such punitive policies at disabled people is capable of anything.

Conservatives think that civilised society requires imposed order, top down control and clearly defined classes, with each person aware of their rigidly defined “place” in the social order. Conservatism is a gate-keeping exercise geared towards economic discrimination and preventing social mobility for the vast majority.

David Cameron’s Conservative party got into Office by riding on the shockwaves of the 2008 global banking crisis: by sheer opportunism, dishonesty and by extensively editing the narrative about cause of that crisis. The Conservatives shamefully blamed it on “the big state” and “too much state spending.”

They have raided and devastated the public services and social security that citizens have paid for via taxes and national insurance. Support provision for citizens has been cut to the bone. And then unforgivably, they blamed the victims of those savage, ideologically-directed cuts for the suffering imposed on them by the Conservative Party, using the media to amplify their despicable, vicious scapegoating narratives. 

Setting up competition between social groups for resources just means everyone loses except for the very wealthy and powerful. This last 7 years we have witnessed the dehumanisation of refugees and migrants, of disabled people, of unemployed people, of young people, of the elderly and those on low pay. We have also witnessed the unearned contempt for and subsequent deprofessionalisation of doctors, economists, social scientists, academics, teachers, and experts of every hue in order to silence valid and democratic challenges and criticism of destructive government policies and ideology.

Many of us have pointed out that intent behind austerity has nothing to do with economic necessity, nor is it of any benefit to the economy. It’s simply to redistribute public wealth to private (and often offshore) bank accounts. The many deaths correlated with the Conservative’s punitive policies were considered and dismissed as acceptable “collateral damage”. The government constructed a lie about the economic “need” for people “living within our means” but at the same time as imposing cruel cuts on the poorest citizens, George Osborne awarded an obscene handout in the form of a tax cut of £107, 000 each per year to the millionaires.

Neoliberalism has transformed public funds into the disposible income of the very rich. Disabled people are suffering, and some are dying in poverty, unable to meet their basic needs so that wealthy people can hoard a little more wealth. Since 2010, very wealthy people have enjoyed other fiscally rewarding policy whilst the poorest have endured harsh austerity and seen their living standards deteriorate steadily. We have witnessed the return of absolute poverty – where people cannot meet the costs of their basic survival needs, such as for food, fuel and shelter –  as a direct consequence of the diminished welfare state since 2010. 

The current political and cultural narrative was carefully constructed to hide the truth from the wider population, ensuring that responsibility for individual people’s circumstances was relocated from the state to within those harmed by state actions: those ministers doing the harming via policies simply deny any empirical evidence of harm that they are presented, often clinging to psychological explanations of “mental illness” rather than acknowledging the wider role of adverse socioeconomic circumstances and political decision-making in the increasing number of people ending their own life, for example. Cases are despicably and callously dismissed as mere “anecdotal” accounts.

The harm being inflicted on disabled people in order to snatch back their lifeline support cannot be passed off as being the “unintentional consequences” of policies. The government clearly knew in advance what harm such draconian policies would result in. I say this because the evidence is that planning and preparation went into a comprehensive programme of reducing living conditions, public expectation, civil liberties and human rights. Or at least ignoring human rights legal frameworks. The right to redress and remedy has also been removed.

For example, the withdrawing of legal aid – particularly for welfare and medical negligence cases – preparing in advance for a UN inquiry; the political use of denial, behaviourism and pseudoscience to stifle public criticism; the introduction of mandatory reviews to deter appeals for wrongful Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decisions; the devastating cuts to every support available to the poorest; the deprofessionalising of GPs and medical professionals; the claims that work is the only route out of poverty (when wages are intentionally depressed and many working people live in poverty) despite, evidence to the contrary, and our national insurance and tax system; the framework of psychological and material coercion inflicted on people claiming any form of welfare, forcing them to accept ANY work, thus pushing wages down further, since that completely removes any chance of wage bargaining; further destroying the unions; the passing of controversial and harmful policies by using statutory instruments, which reduces scope for scrutiny and objection in parliament; re-writing policies, legal rulings and changing the law to accommodate Conservative ideological criteria; shaping media “striver/scrounger” narratives and so on – all of these political deeds indicate a government that was well aware of the harmful consequences of their policies in advance of passing them into law, and that planned ahead, taking measures to stifle the potential for a public backlash.

Jeremy Corbyn’s apparently ‘improbable’ success in promoting a politics of social democracy, justice and integrity has matured, and realigned its centre with national sentiment. The Labour party have succeeded in breaking the neoliberal grip on intellectual thought in the UK, at last.

“For a long period of time, all economic thought has been dominated by trickle down economics, where if you issue tax cuts to corporations and the rich, the money will somehow filter down the rest of society,” John McDonnell says. 

“Well that’s significantly been proven wrong in this recent political debate, and we can see it, whether it’s people queuing up at food banks, housing shortages, millions of children living in poverty, two thirds of those families with someone in work. People all around are realising that this economic theory has failed, and what we’re trying to do is offer them an alternative. That’s what our manifesto was all about.”

A paradigm change is long overdue – by which I mean a substantial shift in the accepted way of thinking about the economy.  It may well be imminent. 

By the end of the second world war, the Keynesian revolution was sufficiently advanced for the Labour party to offer a comprehensive new approach to economic policymaking. Similarly, in 1979, the Conservative party was able to present the main elements of neoliberal thinking as the solution to the economic problems that blighted the economy in the 1970s. Up until recently, there was nothing comparable for the opponents of neoliberalism to latch on to.

New Labour continued with the neoliberal project, though they did temper this with a focus on ensuring adequate social provision to mitigate the worst ravages of untrammelled free market capitalism.

May recently felt the need to defend free market capitalism itself, which is a measure of how terrified the Tories are by Labour’s rise. yet the Conservative manifesto had drawn on left wing rhetoric, in order to appeal. It didn’t, however, because no-one believes the Conservatives’ “progressive” claims any more.

Laughably, the Conservative manifesto claimed: “We do not believe in untrammeled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality.”

It’s a pretty desperate improvisation by the Tories as they try to respond to angry citizens and mass concerns about social issues like inequality and growing poverty. However, the Conservatives have never been a “savior” of the working people, as their dismantling of Trade Union power demonstrates all too well. The Tories’ savage cuts to spending on public services belied May’s phoney redistributionist rhetoric. May’s hysterical left-wing posturing against the inequality and social division created by Conservatives has simply confirmed that the Anglo-American neoliberal revolution of the 1980s is over.

Corbyn’s Labour party has built a consensus for change. Such change is essential to ensure that the toothmarks of necessity – the bite of absolute poverty, and the social disarray caused by over 35 years of culminating neoliberalism – are eased, soothed and healed in much the same way that the post-war Keynesian consensus era – which brought with it legal aid, social housing, the NHS and welfare – healed our society following the devastating consequences of a world war. 

McDonnell has also articulated his vision for what he terms a “political renaissance”, where people aren’t limited by existing ideas and structures and have the space to come up with ideas that the party can debate and discuss. This is participatory politics and democracy in action. 

He says: “We’re trying to open up every avenue we possibly can for people to get engaged. It’s about asking people what are you interested in, how do you think it works better, what ideas have you got? It just overcomes some of the staleness we might have had in past years.”

This is a welcomed, long overdue and such a refreshing contrast to Conservatism, which is defined by its opposition to social progressivism. Neoliberals have tried to persuade us that there is no alternative to neoliberalism. They lied. A lot. Now they are dazed and confused because the establishment were so certain that Corbyn’s rise wasn’t supposed to happen. It couldn’t, the media informed us. Over and over.

But it has. It was inevitable. The Labour party had an ace up their sleeve: public interest and democratic accountability. Two sides of the same card.

It’s about time someone lit the way for us, enabling us to find the way out of the dark neoliberal torture dungeon. And once we’ve escaped, we really ought to jail our jailers.

At the very least, neoliberalism should be confined to the dustbin of history.

 

Image result for neoliberalism eugenic

 

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Vote Labour to uphold the rights of disabled people – our letter to the Guardian

Image result for Human rights are universal

The following letter was published in the Guardian today, written and signed by a group of academics, professionals, campaigners and grassroots activists who work together cooperatively.

We collaborate to fulfil our mutual aims of achieving a progressive, civilised, just and safe society for all. We hope to do this by ensuring that the society we are a part of is democratic and fully inclusive: we want a civilised society that observes and meets its human rights obligations on behalf of all social groups. This isn’t happening currently. (See: UN’s highly critical report confirms UK government has systematically violated the human rights of disabled people).

As an independent researcher, writer, campaigner, and as a disabled person, I am very proud to be included among them. 

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Many disabled people see Labour’s policies as a lifeline, say the 30 signatories to this letter. 

For chronically ill and disabled people, recent years have been a disaster. The UN recently found “reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met” (Report, 8 November 2016).

We have been forced through a work capability assessment that the government’s own expert adviser described as “inhumane”, and which in 2015 was found to be associated with an additional 599 suicides.

Many needing help are now forced through another persecutory assessment – the personal independence payment – designed to reduce the numbers qualifying for help by half a million.

Social care has been so savagely cut that some young disabled must wear incontinence pads for lack of toileting assistance. People can’t take any more of this.

Many disabled people are not party-political, but see Labour’s policies for disabled people as a lifeline – envisioning a society where people are treated as human beings deserving of respect, equality and a decent life. Please, don’t endorse recent human-rights abuses; endorse the human rights of disabled people by registering, and by voting Labour on 8 June.

Paul Atkinson Jungian psychotherapist
Stef Benstead Spartacus Network
Peter Beresford Co-chair, Shaping Our Lives
Gary Bourlet Founder, People First Movement in England
Dr Emma Bridger Research fellow in psychology
Professor Woody Caan Journal of Public Mental Health
Dr Kelly Camilleri Registered clinical psychologist
Merry Cross
Dr David Drew Labour Parliamentary candidate for Stroud
Nick Duffell Psychohistorian
Dr Simon Duffy Centre for Welfare Reform
Dr Dina Glouberman Skyros Holistic Holidays
Catherine Hale Chronic Illness Inclusion Project
AC Howard DWPexamination.org – For The UK’s Disabled Community
Chris Johnstone General practitioner
Sue Jones Psychologists Against Austerity, researcher and writer, campaigner
Jayne Linney Disability activist
Alec McFadden TUC Salford
Helen McGauley Trainee clinical psychologist, Lancaster University
Beatrice Millar Person-centred counsellor/psychotherapist
Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty
Gavin Robinson Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Professor Andrew Samuels University of Essex
Nicola Saunders Psychotherapist
Martyn Sibley Disability blogger
Mike Sivier Vox Political
Professor Ernesto Spinelli
Mo Stewart Independent researcher, disability studies
Gail Ward
Dr Jay Watts Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Claudia GillbergSenior Research Associate in Education; Fellow at Centre for Welfare Reform and Disability Rights Activist

Dr Richard House Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy

 

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters


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But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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20 Labour pledges for workers – Ian Lavery

Ian Lavery, Labour Party National Elections and Campaign Coordinator

I am happy that the Labour Party is still funded mostly by trade unions. The role unions have played in funding Labour since its inception has been under attack from the government through the Lobbying bill and subsequent legislation. The Conservatives have unleashed a rolling programme of attacks on working class people, of which the attack on trade unions is only part.

Our right as citizens to collective bargaining has been seriously undermined, and at the same time, the Conservatives have introduced draconian measures that punish working people on low pay, by the introduction of in-work sanctions to their in-work welfare support. However, it is now employers that have all of the power to set the terms and conditions of employment, not employees.

It’s important that voters are fully informed about the causes and interests a party is likely to represent in government. Labour has historically championed ordinary people’s rights. 

“Union money – the few pence freely given every week, by nurses, shop workers and truck drivers – is the cleanest cash in politics today,” Frances O’Grady has said.

“Whether unions set up a political fund is a matter for members, not ministers, because for too long, politics has been controlled by those who already have far too much money and far too much power. Half of the Conservative Party’s funding comes from the City.” 

O’Grady also accused the Tories of trying to discredit unions by calling them Labour’s “paymasters”.  The Conservatives’ paymasters on the other hand – people like capitalist Adrian Beecroft – who donate many thousands to the party, are undermining our rights in work, framing policies that are heavily weighted towards making big profits for big business, resulting in low pay and insecurity for employees. This reflects the interests of the few, not the many.

Here are a couple of articles which outline some of the reasons I proudly support trade unionism, which is fundamental to a functional democracy: The link between Trade Unionism and equality and Why I strongly support Trade Unionism. 

Ian Lavery got in touch with me yesterday, he said:

Last week Labour made 20 pledges to working people – from banning zero hour contracts, a £10 real Living Wage to scrapping the Trade Union Act, a Labour government will put working people first. 

I’m proud that Labour is standing on these pledges and I’ll be doing everything I can to ensure that people up and down the country hear the Labour alternative to Tory insecurity.

The next Labour government will bring in a 20 point plan for security and equality at work:

Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent – so that all workers have the same rights and protections whatever kind of job they have.

Ban zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week

Ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home – because it causes divisions when one workforce is used against another

Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining – because the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is through a trade union

Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces – so that unions can speak to members and potential members

Introduce four new Bank Holidays – we’ll bring our country together with new holidays to mark our four national patron saints’ days, so that workers in Britain get the same proper breaks as in other countries.

Raise the minimum wage to the level of the living wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) – so that no one in work gets poverty pay

End the public sector pay cap – because public sector wages have fallen and our public sector workers deserve a pay rise

Amend the takeover code to ensure every takeover proposal has a clear plan in place to protect workers and pensioners – because workers shouldn’t suffer when a company is sold

Roll out maximum pay ratios – of 20:1 in the public sector and companies bidding for public contracts – because it cannot be right that wages at the top keep rising while everyone else’s stagnates

Ban unpaid internships – because it’s not fair for some to get a leg up when others can’t afford to

Enforce all workers’ rights to trade union representation at work – so that all workers can be supported when negotiating with their employer

Abolish employment tribunal fees – so that people have access to justice

Double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay – because fathers are parents too and deserve to spend more time with their new babies

Strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy – because no one should be penalised for having children

Hold a public inquiry into blacklisting – to ensure that blacklisting truly becomes and remains a thing of the past

Give equalities reps statutory rights – so they have time to protect workers from discrimination

Reinstate protection against third party harassment – because everyone deserves to be safe at work

Use public spending power to drive up standards, including only awarding public contracts to companies which recognise trade unions

Introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing– so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work

Like the sound of this? Then CLICK HERE to sign up and join me and campaign for a Labour government that will stand up for working people’s rights and their families.

Remember – if you have local or mayoral elections tomorrow, make sure you vote Labour – because we need Labour in our town halls too, to stand up for working people.

I hope to see you on the campaign trail.

Click here to read from source about Labour’s 20 pledges to working people

Labour pledge to scrap punitive Tory sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment

Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said that she will scrap punitive benefit sanctions and the discredited Work Capability Assessment, at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. The pledge was echoed by newly re-elected party leader Jeremy Corbyn in his main speech to the conference. He said a Labour government would be “scrapping the punitive sanctions regime and the degrading work capability assessment.”

Here is a transcript of Debbie’s excellent speech:

“It is a real honour to stand here before you as the Party’s spokesperson for Work and Pensions, my first time on the Conference platform.

Conference, we live in troubling times. Our nation seems more adrift than ever. Our troubles often seem insurmountable.

But when I’m faced with complexity and difficulties, I recall some wise words: “The more complicated something is, the more important it is to define what your simple truths are.”

So, what are my ‘simple truths’? First, I am a socialist. I believe that society is stronger – can achieve more – when we stand together, and that every citizen has an equal stake in our future.

It is to me a simple truth that a nation aspiring to decency and fairness does not punish the disabled and disadvantaged.

It is to me a simple truth that the way a government prioritises finite finances reveals its authentic self.

So when this Tory Government imposes the bedroom tax on disabled people but gives tax breaks to millionaires, then their own simple truths are laid bare.

It is to me a simple truth that where the dignity of rewarding work is deprived to millions through a lack of quality jobs, the rise of zero-hours contracts, and indignities heaped on loyal work forces by the likes of Sports Direct and BHS, then social and economic progress is stunted.

And it is also a simple truth that targeting the most vulnerable in our society damages the least vulnerable, too. If you haven’t already, please read the Richard Wilkinson’s and Kate Pickett’s book, The Spirit Level.

This shows that societies with a wider gap between rich and poor experience higher levels of infant mortality, lower life expectancy, poorer mental health, and less social mobility.

To me, as a former academic, it is a simple truth that evidence-based policy must replace policy-based evidence. That’s why I’m a socialist. Because all the evidence points to another simple truth.

By building a society where the hope of progress is genuine and realistic and not forlorn, where every citizen feels themselves an equal participant in our nation, and where government is seen to be working for everyone, we create a virtuous circle of growth, stability and contentment.

For all the Prime Minister’s warm words, it is by her actions we will judge her. She has been a senior member of a government that has chosen to visit austerity on the most vulnerable in society. She has been a senior member of a government that continues to rain down on our education system ideological reforms with little or no evidentiary justification. And she has been a senior member of a government where the number of foodbanks increased ten-fold in 4 years.

Conference, inequality is not inevitable. We are all here precisely because we know that change is both possible and necessary.

Today there are 3.9 million children living in poverty, and children’s charities are estimating that will be 5 million. Conference, children being in poverty affects not just their childhood but their whole future life chances.

And the five million disabled people living in poverty because of the extra costs that they face associated with their disability, is set to increase as a result of even more cuts in social security support.

While I am proud of the last Labour Government’s success at reducing pensioner poverty, women and the lowest paid remain at high risk of falling into poverty in their retirement.

This injustice is being extended to 2.6 million women born in the 1950s, who have been short-changed by this Government bringing forward their state pension age.

The pensions system that I want to see ensures dignity in retirement, and a proper reflection of the contribution that older people have made, and continue to make, to our society.

This Government has fostered an insidious culture of fear and blame to justify their programme of cuts, deliberately attempting to vilify social security claimants as the new undeserving poor.

I wanted to show you the trailer from Ken Loach’s new film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ as I think it sets out so clearly much of that is wrong with the current social security system.

I believe there is a better way, a fairer way. One where Britain is the centre of a new industrial revolution with industries and technologies as diverse as our people.

To achieve this, we need to invest in our greatest asset – our citizens – nurturing a highly skilled workforce and rebuilding our country.

For too long the labour market has been dominated by poor quality, low paid, insecure jobs resulting in two thirds of children living in poverty coming from working families. Four in every five people working in low paid jobs are still stuck in them ten years later.

For those unable to work through illness or disability, we need to transform our social security system to one that is efficient, responsive, and provides basic support. Time and time again, I hear of how worthless the system makes people feel. For the vast majority of people who have paid into it all their working lives, this is like a slap in the face. People often feel desperate, have been left destitute and have even died.

I want to change the culture of our social security system and how the public see it. I believe that, like the NHS, it is based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity and the basics of life were we to fall on hard times or become incapacitated, giving us a hand up, not a hand out.

Work should always pay more than being on social security, but being in work shouldn’t mean living in poverty and neither should being on social security.

The Labour Party has already pledged to get rid of the discriminatory and unfair Bedroom Tax. But I want to go further.

I want to scrap the discredited Work Capability Assessment and replace it with a system based on personalised, holistic support, one that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether skills, health, care, transport, or housing-related.

This Government’s punitive sanctions system must go too, so Job Centre Plus and employment support providers’ performance will not just be assessed on how many people they get off their books.

I want to see disabled people better supported into and at work. We will halve the Disability Employment Gap – and when we say it we mean it. And we will tackle other labour market inequalities too.

I believe in a fair and just Britain, where everyone can get on and no-one is left behind.

Labour’s policies will deliver prosperity for all and tackle the inequalities and poverty in Britain today.

I challenge the Government to deliver theirs.”

 


I just wanted to add a note of clarification, as some people are claiming that it isn’t the intention of the Labour party to scrap sanctions entirely. There has always been a degree of benefit conditionality, since the inception of the welfare state. This has not previously been particularly problematic, and a reasonable degree of government accountability and protecting the “public purse” has always been expected from the public.

However, the Conservatives introduced a very harsh and punitive regime in 2012, extending the use of sanctions to include previously protected social groups, such as lone parents and sick and disabled people. The severity and length of the sanctions was also radically increased, and as we know from evidence gathered since 2012, it is these changes that have caused so much hardship and distress for many people.

We also know that sanctions are very often applied unfairly, and that one of the main aims of them is to cut costs and reduce the welfare state. Instead of supporting citizens, our social security is now about coercing citizens into “job seeking” rule-following and conformity, regardless of the employment market conditions and other social and economic constraints.

The Conservatives introduced these changes because they think that coercive “behavioural change” techniques may align citizens’ behaviours with neoliberal outcomes. Their sanction regime is founded on a nudge theory – that we have a “cognitive bias” called loss aversion. The Conservatives expect that by manipulating this alleged bias – using the fear of financial loss – people will comply and get a job. That assumes, of course, that the cause of unemployment is something that happens within an individual, and not because of political decision-making and socioeconomic conditions. 

In this context, sanctions are a punishment for non-compliance with politically defined outcomes, directed entirely by economic dogma. It’s a form of operant conditioning. It does not take into consideration the real structural socioeconomic barriers that people face in finding appropriate work. Instead the individual is held responsible for the failings of a competitive, market-based system.

The stigmatisation of people needing social security – the political and cultural use of dehumanising metaphors and rhetoric – has been used to justify the ideologically-driven dismantling of the welfare state and the other gains of our post-war settlement. The punitive sanction regime is part of this process of political demolition. This is clearly a political misuse of “psychology”. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s a technocratic application of techniques of persuasion: the marketing strategy and packaging for controversial “small state” and authoritarian neoliberal policies.

Debbie acknowledges much of this. She has promised to repeal the Conservative’s punitive sanction regime and the WCA. Her speech indicates clearly the direction of travel for the Labour party.

I welcome that. I’m certain that many others will. It’s long overdue.

Kitty

Related

Nudging conformity and benefit sanctions: a state experiment in behaviour modification

 

 


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Dead cat conditioning, attention deficit and the social order

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Last week I wrote about hundreds of people dying of malnutrition in the UK over this past twelve months alone, as a consequence of government policies. I wrote about how our universities are no longer permitting free speech and critical thinking, and how dissenting academics have taken to blogging, using pseudonyms and writing anonymous letters because of the repressive political developments in the UK.  I am now about to write another piece on how our Human Rights Act is to be scrapped and replaced by a Conservative Bill of Frights.

The Labour party needs to be collectively opposing the government and addressing these pressing, socially calamitous issues, raising public awareness regarding the profound damage that this authoritarian government are inflicting on our society and drafting remedial policy outlines which extend social justice and equality. 

In the Labour Party Forum – a Facebook group for party members – I was told that my post about the implications of the Government Higher Education white paper, along with an analysis of the illogic of neoliberalism and its consequences is “irrelevant” to the Labour party.

There is a problem with that. 

If the Labour party is to reach out and persuade the electorate that they have an alternative which is better than the current government, they will need to recognise and to fully understand issues that are affecting the wider public. In the Labour Party forum, every single post (except mine) is about about the leadership debate. But being engaged with what is culturally popular isn’t always in our best interests.

The comments from members are dripping with bad feeling, oozing impotent anger and bleeding bitterness. The party infighting is clearly visible on every thread, the hostility is palpable, and all of this in a group that was once united in fighting the real enemy of ordinary people: the Tories. The old, easy camaraderie among members has seeped away.  Cooperation has plummeted sickeningly down the chasms of division. Fallen socialist values, lying broken. Many who claim they are fighting for a “socialist party” seem to have forgotten to practice what they preach. 

I do understand the anger that many feel in the face of a neoliberal, right wing establishment openly demonstrating a hegemonic stranglehold via the media, with endless streams of poisonous propaganda. We witness overt claims, subtexts and a level of perpetual subliminal messaging about who is fit to lead our country and who isn’t. The attacks on Corbyn in particular highlight just how the powers that be in the UK  have ensured that alternatives to the status quo never become established as a part of our mainstream conceptual and linguistic universe. The media write them out. There is a war going on, for sure. But this is nothing new.

The roots of our current crisis of democracy and class warfare go back a long way, and many of these have been embedded deeply in the changes to Britain’s sociopolitical economy since the Thatcher era. Neoliberalism is a doxa, it didn’t come into being as a means of social and economic organisation because it works: it became mainstreamed “common sense” because the establishment won. 

I gave an interview last year to Phil, who is a very public sociologist on the All That Is Solid site, outlining my own position on developments within the Labour party. Since then, I have written just two articles about party ideology, values and the leadership issues. I do write regularly about ideology, propaganda and the techniques of persuasion that are used by the establishment and media to maintain the status quo. This is an issue that extends well beyond the arising claustrophobic parochialism of Labour party disunity, leadership battles and current disarray. 

The media is the message

Social control is maintained in part by the use of a strategy of distraction, which is designed to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, using a technique of flooding continuous diversions and insignificant information. Distraction strategy is also used to prevent public interest in essential knowledge that is then used to exercise control, whilst ensuring those being controlled are also completely disarmed.  The media maintain public attention, and divert it away from real social and economic problems. The public become an audience captivated by matters of no real importance. I’m probably loosely paraphrasing Noam Chomsky, here. 

From within the Westminster playpen, originating from the likes of Conservative babysitter, Lynton Crosby, the dead cat strategy is basically deployed as a major distraction tactic, usually entailing insulting diversion from a government’s political controversies and failings. So when, for example, the government are investigated by the United Nations for contravening basic human rights, they will scream that the opposition leader is somehow a threat to our national security. 

Everyone will gasp, clutch their brand of indignation and moral panic, and bang on about that for the rest of the week. The fact that democracy is gone for a burton, or human rights are being sidestepped and people are dying because of austerity policies is buried under a pile of furry corpses piling up on the allegoric political table, whilst commentators across the land discuss Jeremy Corbyn’s tweed jacket and beard. 

Then there is the age-old strategy of dīvide et īmpera. Every person on the left of the political spectrum knows what “divide and rule” means. It refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures, undermines democracy, and especially prevents smaller power groups from organising, collaborating, cooperating and forming alliances, by creating rivalries, fostering discord, distrust and enmity among the groups. Hello.

Thing is, despite these strategies being common knowledge, this hasn’t stopped many Labour party supporters using the disgracefully unreliable and establishment-collaborative media to present their own personal preferences. The Labour Pary Forum is filled with trivial articles about Owen Smith, this, Jeremy Corbyn, that and Tom Watson, the other, the comment threads full of screaming  indignation and neatly blinkered participants.

Socialist politics is supposed to be conscientious, and rather more about the social, not the personal.

This week, we see  the Independent, the Spectator, the Mirror, the Huffington Post, Politics Home, the London Economic, Channel four, amongst many others, report an audience booing the mention of a perceived political rival at a rally comprised of his opponent’s supporters. I’m all for freedom of speech, but for crying out loud, why and how is this by now mind-numbing tittle tattle considered to be NEWS? And even more importantly, why do social media campaigners think it is?

Don’t look away now

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Only a matter of weeks ago, a Labour MP was murdered by a far right fanatic, because of her political work, and because we are a distracted society that permits a right wing authoritarian othering and outgrouping demagoguery.

But now there are no ripples on the pond.

How can so many people seemingly forget such a horror? It’s almost as if this outrageous, politically motivated murder was a normal event, expected and accepted. Why are we allowing an ideology-driven and opportunistic establishment to divide our society into hierarchies of human worth and value? There’s an underpinning message in policies and political rhetoric that some lives are worth more than others; it’s has crept in unchecked, almost unnoticed, and we have allowed that to happen because we look the other way. In fact many of us seem quite determined to look the other way.

It’s not only migrants that are being politically and socially outgrouped. Disabled people are experiencing an unprecedented increase in hate crime and people are dying of malnutrition in the 5th wealthiest nation of the world. People are dying because of a government’s policies here in the UK. Prejudices are flourishing, violence growing. This is the kind of society we have become. Yet many people are still not paying attention. We are being conditioned not to look and not to see.

Whilst so many people are so happily distracted and so easily diverted by the most trivial details, our democracy is being quietly dismantled, the social gains of our post-war settlement have been almost erased from history, our human rights are being sidelined and re-written to shift the balance of obligation and responsibility from the state to the individual. Such profoundly damaging developments with such dire and toxic implications for our country ought to be recognised and challenged. Citizens are dying prematurely because of class contingent Conservative policies in a post-welfare, low waged Britain.

Those of us who reject austerity and neoliberalism are not “Trot entryists” , “revolutionaries” , “militants” or “extremists”. We are simply people who see beyond prejudiced ideologies and doxas. We recognise neoliberalism only works for 1% of the population. Furthermore, I am certain that in a world where people paid attention, instead of being distracted by mainstreamed, dominant narratives and  the mind-numbingly mediocre, homogenenised X factor culture, almost everyone else would recognise this, too.

I support Corbyn. Not because I invest in a superficial cult of personality type of politics. Not because I see a Corbyn-led Labour party as an end in itself. I have always maintained that a Labour government would simply mark a viable starting point  – the means – for a concerted campaign for social justice and equality.

I support Corbyn because I object to the destruction of people’s lives and the dismantling of protective civilised and civilising social structures because of a neoliberal and social Darwinist politics that invariably creates, through class contingent policies, inequality and social injustice – a few winners and many losers, the latter are then blamed by the state for the faults that are actually intrinsic to the system and extended by the state. I believe that in democracies, governments are elected to meet public needs, we don’t elect them to manipulate public perceptions and nudge us into meeting political and narrow, economic needs. I also believe that progress won’t happen unless we actively participate in democratic processes and work to extend them. Democracy (rather like intelligence) isn’t something we have: it’s something we must DO.

 The current infighting will kill the Labour movement. Vote for Corbyn, (or don’t), but there’s no need for the endless and insular justifications of your voting choice. Let’s keep some perspective and deal with what we NEED to – the  much bigger picture –  instead of impotently bickering among ourselves about a single issue. Socialism is surely all about a vision of the kind of society that is just and fair for the majority; it’s not about personal preferences and narrowly individualist perspectives.

Right now, the establishment have got us exactly where they want us. Their corporate media mouthpieces have made sure of that. The infighting, meanwhile, is destroying the Labour movement from within. 

But we can resist dead cats, Conservative bouncing bomb propaganda and such blatant techniques of persuasion… really, we can do so much better than this.

We won’t do so if we ignore the wider social realities and policy impacts being shaped by an authoritarian government.

sociologyexchangecouk-shared-resource-5-728It’s time to fight back

 

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I don’t make any money from my work. But you can contribute by making a donation and help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.