2007 - 2021

We’re All Beggars Now

image_update_imgThis is a new low, a new level of shambles and disarray. Harriet Harman’s response to the pure Tory budget (‘Anger after Harriet Harman says Labour will not vote against welfare bill’) has made the accusation of ‘Red Tories’ leap from cheap jibe to legitimate accusation. The interim Labour Leader has swallowed Conservative rhetoric whole and in doing so has endorsed the entire language of ‘scroungers’ and ‘work-shy’. It is a complete betrayal of everything Labour once stood for, it is the final nail in the coffin for a party that has now lost any credibility, direction, identity or sense of itself. It was difficult to imagine that you could still be shocked by Labour’s actions, after the immigration mug, the Baron of Port Ellen, and two decades of rightward drift have left them beached on the shores of Tory-lite incoherence.

But this really is astonishing. Faced with a budget that is attempting to restructure our society and embed permanent austerity changes, they have the opportunity to oppose and ameliorate the worst excesses of a government with a slender working majority. With no electoral pressures they are in the ideal space to make common cause with other parties and challenge the Osborne ideology. This isn’t ineptitude, this is ideology. It’s the long shadow of Blairism casting its darkness, fuelled by a cynical populism from a party bereft of principle. If George Osborne is the High Priest of the Austerity Cult, Labour are now his altar boys.

It is at least consistent with the parties vision of Scotland – a mendicant nation – beggars one and all. This is an abject capitulation to the Conservative world view couched in terms which themselves are cowardly. Harman says the party simply could not tell the public they were wrong after two general election defeats in a row,  adding it had been defeated because it had not been trusted on the economy or benefits. But in saying this she exposes the way modern politics works, desperately scrabbling about to seek endorsement based on polls and focus groups. It’s an approach which means you stand for nothing, have nothing to offer and have abdicated political leadership.

The concept of ‘work’ itself has been captured. As John Harris write: “While Ed Miliband tried to steal the Tories’ old one-nation banner, the Conservatives were on to something altogether cleverer. In 2013 a new ginger group called Renewal proposed that the Tories should reinvent themselves as a party for workers. During the election campaign, David Cameron took up the idea, claiming he was now leading “the party of working people”. As George Osborne’s recent manoeuvres prove, this is exactly how the Conservatives want to reshape politics, pulling the word “worker” away from its residual associations with solidarity, strikes, and all that stuff, and recasting it as the badge you wear when you earn a living, and you resent subsidising anyone who doesn’t.”

This is an Orwellian moment. 

It ignores not just the abandonment of the most vulnerable people in society – but the complete deviation from the real issues: first that the cost of benefits is marginal to the budget but central to the ideas war being waged in this country, two that this country remains rooted in low-wage poverty despite Osborne’s con, and third that the Tory party has no mandate, struggled with only a 0.8% increase in their vote (compared with Labour’s 1.5%) and rule Britain without mandate north of the Tweed. In short, the whole idea that ‘public had spoken’ or there was some kind of mass cultural consensus is simply factually wrong. Nor does it explain why a party running on a n anti-austerity platform clearly to the left of Labour won a landslide in Scotland. How does Harriet Harman explain Glasgow North East, where the swing from Labour was an eye-watering 39.3% – the biggest in the country? Why not base your rebuild on that?

Whatever it means and whatever her motivation is, it leaves the party – already a political basket case – in chaos. Leadership candidates are stumbling over themselves to distance themselves from her comments, whilst navigating the salivating press, attuned to any ‘weakness’ of them expressing any distinct line on the scrounging benefit society, the new orthodoxy crafted by Tories Red and Blue. Yvette Cooper’s response was telling. A spokesman from Cooper’s team said: “Yvette has made clear from the start that she does not believe the best way to reduce the deficit is to hit working families, or reduce work incentives” while Burnham’s team stated: “Andy opposes cuts to child tax credits. These are paid to people who are doing the right thing and working hard to make ends meet. These tax credit changes are regressive, they are wrong, they hit families in work and Andy opposes them.” Both are so scared, they are trapped in the language of ‘work’ and ‘hard-working’  – a status that has become deified with no examination of the pay, status, quality or purpose of such work – and a language which is now used routinely to vilify by default those who are not ‘in work’ and are not, by implication ‘hard working’. This is a party of collusion, complicit in Conservative economics.

Scottish Labour leadership contender Ken Macintosh was clearer: “Scottish Labour is opposed to austerity economics and the arguments the Tories then use to justify cuts to family support.  Tax credits are not the cause of our economic difficulties and it is difficult to see how cutting them does anything other than push more children into poverty in this country. I do not believe this is the right policy for the Labour Party.”

But the problem is that Ken Macintosh is a minor player in the regional branch office. He can say what he likes because it doesn’t really matter what he says.

A revived Blairism, a Tory-lite, thin populism requires a charismatic figure at its helm. None of the candidates have these qualities. Nevertheless, the real tragedy is not that this might not work for Labour, the tragedy is that it might. With a media consensus, a narrative that everyone has now bought into, a defeated and failed left: who knows?

You are left in a state of shock. Where are the ideas? Where is the passion? Who will help stand up against the Conservatives in England? Where is the anger of Nye Bevan, as expressed here during a speech at the Bellvue Hotel on 3 July 1948, two days before the National Health Service came into being at Park Hospital in Manchester: “That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to their seductions. I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.”



Comments (33)

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  1. Doreen Milne says:

    So true, heartbreaking and frightening. I despair for the future if Scotland remains in this rank and obscene Union.

    1. maxi kerr says:

      Doreen,We will have our independence in the near future but we have an enemy within in the guise of a large section of the so called middle class(“im doing fine right now thank you”)wannabee’s.
      This lot are a right lot of selfish b******s who have short memories,and they out number us when it time to vote. They will only come back in dribs and drabs when they and their families fall on their arse.Remember there is not a lot of work shy scroungers in the country..this is a ruse to make their social change a permanent fixture in their calendar..just like fox hunting.

      1. Doreen Milne says:

        Thanks, Maxi. Feels like they’ll be coming back soon then as these changes would affect many of those the UK Gov say they’re representing! Let’s hope we’re not all on our knees by then.

  2. rosestrang says:

    Yes, very true. I feel really angry on behalf of people in England who didn’t vote Tory. We’re lucky to have a somewhat more leftwing alternative in Scotland and the prospect of getting out at some point.

    I saw the interview with Harman yesterday, and she was spouting nonsense about what the voters want from a leader. It’s completely irrelevant! Voters want people to represent their needs and interests. Have they not yet twigged that there’s a reason for Corbyn’s increasing popularity.

    Also, it strikes me that the public are becoming better informed all the time. More are becoming aware of the futility of austerity. If there are Labour MPs and members who know that, and can prove it with statistics, why can they not get that message across? It’s simply because, as we all know, they only care about power and are terrified of losing more voters. What have they got to lose though?!

  3. John Craig says:

    It’s interesting in some way that although Margaret Thatcher treated Scotland with total disdain, Scotland’s independence will come through the ” man of the people” Tony Blair’s legacy. His willingness to engage with Tory values leaving a moral as well as a political vacuum for later opposition to work in is in many ways the gift the Nationalist cause has long needed.

  4. Lesley Docksey says:

    “You are left in a state of shock. Where are the ideas? Where is the passion? Who will help stand up against the Conservatives in England?”

    Come to that – where are the Welsh? Apart from the Welsh peace campaigners who are, as ever, standing on a long history of activism, where are the political voices? I am appalled that, because of our truly rotten voting system, Tories can turn us all – English, Scots, Welsh and N. Irish into serfs and villeins, tilling their fields while they count their ill-gotten gold.

    I despair.

  5. Richard Harris says:

    Why the surprise? Why the faux shock? Why all the pimped out pundits (yes, you Owen), bleating, “well, what IS Labour for then?” Why? Labour has opposed nothing of substance for the past twenty years. Its the PP, the Pointless Party.That is its true “comfort zone” a la Harriet, its bedrock. Its acquiescence is not news, it’s lifestyle.

    Anyone who is “shocked” at this point is like an alcoholic’s partner finding yet another bottle stashed under the car seat. The British left, always “wanting to believe”. Truely fucked and deserving each other.

    1. I’ve been a critic of the Labour Party since 1983. So I’m not surprised, I am shocked though by Harman’s comments which are a new low, in my opinion.

      1. Richard Harris says:

        I’m 67, weary and hardened, but I really get the feeling “I still ain’t seen nothing yet” re the Labour Party! No depths will be too low in the years to come. Its course is now firmly locked on.

  6. Bill Fraser says:

    It gets worse .Tories can now dream any new austerity ideas with very little opposition south of the Tweed.It gets more obvious week by week that we will have to put even more effort to break away from this ruthless Tory government.

  7. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I can understand why the tories were re-elected in England.

    Why vote for a tribute act when you can have the real thing.

  8. Broadbield says:

    This is enabled by an anti-democratic FPTP voting system: 25% of those eligible voted Tory; 25% didn’t even vote (UK wide)

    It was Thatcher and her cronies who first started to capture the language and as Mike pointed out Cameron/Osborn are refining it by claiming to represent “working people”. Labour did the same. Remember Brown’s “People’s Budget”?

    It is indeed Orwellian – the animals looked through the farmhouse window and couldn’t tell the difference between the pigs and the humans. This is exactly what the Stalinists did – they appropriated the language and said black was white. Unfortunately, lots of people fall for the deceit. Labour are in the process of signing their own death warrant, esp. if Kendall gets elected as she supports Harman’s acceptance of Tory dogma.

    I can see no way out for Scotland other than UDI. The longer we stay part of the UK the worse it will get, but the danger is people will be so ground down they will accept the new “normal” and behave like victims of Stockholm syndrome.

  9. Brian McGowan says:

    It frustrates me. You have articulated the way many of us in Scotland feel. Extremely well. But, so what? Will that change anything? Will the Tories continue to show contempt for our MPs in WM? Will we be able to mitigate the effects of austerity? I am waiting for clear signs from the SNP that they/we are about to take a new, decisive step. Soon I hope.

  10. hindmost says:

    The quote from Nye Bevan reminded me of another speech which seemed apposite
    “Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.”

    The full speech, which is still as relevant today as it was then, can be found here.

  11. C Rober says:

    We have 2 million people unemployed , we don’t have 2 million jobs for them.

    Labours tax credits were a system to massage the unemployment figures , wage subsidies paid for by tax payers , rather than heading towards a working wage….. or god forbid actually supply the polices of reindustrialiastion they spewed for the 17 years the tories were in power.

    Had they redressed that , then the benefit bill would have been less , tax credits are included in those figures , which has led to the size of the deficit.

    Things can and will only get worse , the pension timebomb is just around the corner ,with its peak in about 15 years , for 15 years. Around the same time the mini ice age that is coming , which is good , should thin out the number of pensioners that cant afford to eat as well as heat , and as a byproduct free up some housing…. woohoo , profit.

    1984 , its going to be Soylent Green or Logans bloody Run.

    Austerity will drive down life expectancy of a sub set of the country that already barely reaches retirement age of old , never mind where it will be in 15 years. Combined with the NHS with budget cuts , its something more sinister that is going on…..its Fiscal Cleansing.

    I am not a tin foil hatter that believes all those ranting about the secret society that is going to wipe out half the population of the planet , but perhaps its done a bit less obvious than mass destruction or state sanctioned disease infections?

    Austerity is not a short term goal , its a long term one.The Uk poor , will be both working and unemployed – once past Watford going North.

    They will become 3g households , through necessity. Even 4g once they ban breeding benefits to the non degree educated and under 25’s. We are going backwards , no council stock being built , back to the private rented housing that helped create the Scottish Socialist driven Labour party , and affordable housing you cant afford.

    Labour in Scotland has to go back to its roots , a party for the worker and unemployed worker.

    I don’t believe the SNP is the Future for Scotland without at least one party to keep them in check , as Labour currently stand they are not capable of returning to the same level in Scotland , even the old red guard was dejected in May by the Scottish Electorate.

    For many years now I have argued the agenda of the media , portraying the benefits claimant as work shy and scroungers is a direct psychological attack ,no not on the claimant , but instead on the electorate. Tv and Newspapers are but the drovers whistle.

    Big Brother , a Sledge Hammer to the Screen.

    Years of media brainwashing is paying dividends now , perhaps Orwell’s 1984 was actually when it started.While the voters eyes are redirected , like the sheep they are , they cannot read the sign on the side of the truck that says Slaughterhouse.

    To change the electorate takes changing the media , this is something that the SNP and Hollyrood can power today. Social media redresses it slightly , but not for those that grew up without it.

    Hollyrood has no control over traditional media , no way to redress failures or highlight them , no way to punish for them.If they had power , with the case of the BBC during indy , Sky news and so on , then they would have done so by now.

    This power , not to control the press like some third world dictatorship , but to prevent its control over the people , it can be enacted at Hollyrood….and should be demanded by the electorate.

    Tv control however remains at Westminster , as do the airwaves that carry them.But I may have a theoretical legal argument to redress at least the BBC Scotland problem through Hollyrood legislation.

    If anyone has a direct line to NS on here then I will supply it to her and the SNP lawyers to create a bill for the Hollyrood Parliament , I already have a petition started which should explain it , but wont go live until after the recess.

    If they too read the law as I have done and find the same result , then the fightback has begun , if they dont and I am wrong – then they have only wasted 30 mins of their time.

    Basically it renders the Licence fee in Scotland Illegal and paying it a criminal act , through arguing its an unfair tax on Scotland , Unjust Enrichment of the BBC in England , and subsidising Jobs in England over Scottish ones.

    If this is argued and won using current legislation , then Hollyrood can declare paying paying the licence Fee illegal with its current powers until the criminal acts stop , or at least the Scottish Courts can declare that paying it is a criminal act by enabling a criminal act through funding crime.

  12. thomaspotter2014 says:

    Time for the Scottish Empire biscuit to strike back?

    Labour are now and have been for decades the faux ‘ opposition ‘party.

    Who knew?

    They’ll get wheeled out when election time comes around so they can shoot themselves in the arse every time the polls show a rise.

    British democracy in action.

  13. Anne Milligan says:

    How do we fight back? What are the snp doing to fight back? Strong leadership should be rallying people up, people are scared, disgusted,raging and feeling totally helpless, how do we fight back?!

    1. maxi kerr says:

      So true Ann, the people of this country don’t ever see the real owners of the UK as they are all hidden from view these past 300 years. They would have you believe that the gaggle of little shits that are fronting the main parties are pulling all the strings on policy.

  14. bringiton says:

    Scotland as a nation has greater natural resources than Norway who own in excess of 1% of global equity funds.
    If we are to believe the unionist parties that we are a beggar nation then the only conclusion you can reach that this is because of gross mismanagement of our economy by London either through incompetence or design.
    I am more and more convinced that it is through design,especially seeing the recent antics of England’s political parties with respect to Scottish affairs.
    Their desire to ensure that we Scots sink along with the SS Brittania is clear.

  15. rosestrang says:

    Some are now speculating that Harman’s announcements are some form of pre-election shenanigan – i.e. to heat up debate so people take an actual interest in Labour again. I tend to think Harman’s serious though ‘people seem to like Tories, I know, we’ll act like Tories’. Brilliant.

    1. C Rober says:

      Worked for the SNP when they are now more Socialist than Labour , more Liberal than the Libdems …. just need a little Maggie Magic and bring back the RTB and they huv the full set , minus the salad eaters and their windmills.

  16. Annette says:

    I see a lot of people here (and elsewhere) saying they feel frustration and despair. Do not despair! The tide has already started to turn, we just need to keep at it!

  17. john young says:

    Could Bella possibly get the cvs of the top people red/tory and blue /tory and see how many of them are/were hard working,all leaders or potential leaders in Scotland should lead the way and put them up.

    1. WE’ll get right on that John

      1. John Craig says:

        While you are in digging mode, the dispersal of UK military hardware/ personnel would be of some interest.

  18. James Forrest says:

    Magnificent. Resonates with anger and frustration.

    My own thoughts, in equally angry frame of mind.


    I really don’t know what Labour is supposed to be for now. It breaks my heart to think I gave so many years to that party … to see them turned into this.

    1. John Craig says:

      I fully understand your dismay James. As a long time Nationalist but with Socialist leanings, it always stuck in my mind that the birthplace of Keir Hardie being bulldozed into the ground was as stain on both the Nationalist and Socialist banners. But there again we go Tony and “things can only get better” Blair.

      1. C Rober says:

        Am mair Sickened wi the lies at Dewars feet , that both he and Jimmy Reid was mentioned as saying no to indpendence an coming fae an English career politician that ordered Scottish Labour MPS to be there or lose their jobs…. then again how did that work oot in May again?

        Unsurprisingly very few of those MP’s huv came oot to tell their story aboot the shit they spewed for the party in England’s behalf , ah hink they may be under an illusion here that they will get their jobs back in 5 years when the SNP ur fun oot.

        But I reckon they huv forgot what Helped get Blair in , Devo , until the SLAB start supplying a policy for Scotland’s voters not for English masters they will be consigned to history , even if SNP lose their cultists they have no future without reclaiming their history.

  19. Gordon McShean says:

    The value of Labour leaders’ maverick potential to cuddle up to unlikely bed-mates has long been recognised – by critics and predatory conservative leaders – to such an extent that “Politics makes strange bedfellows” could well carry the appendix “-sometimes making them bedless!” As an “international lefty” I identified such opportunistic political phenomena not only in Scotland but in Germany, the USA and New Zealand too (where I’d found sanctuary); accordingly, the UK’s current experience comes as no surprise. In the 1950s I’d been dismayed when the SNP had contrived with “the enemy” to allow National Secretary Robert Curran (and me) to escape into exile, presumably to avoid association with our “radicalism” following our raid on the Johnstone armoury (documented in my memoir RETIRED TERRORIST, 2011). Subsequently, as a political science scholar at El Camino College in California, I was able debate matters with Earl Attlee (who traveled around America in the early 1960s). In order to establish my Scottish nationalist credentials I quoted a between-the-wars Churchill speech to the Earl: “The best thing that could happen for Scotland would be the re-establishment of its parliament.” The English Labour leader responded, “Indeed… he may have given that opinion, back then. He was known to say many silly things during his long and eventful life.” I have cited these early, contradictory UK policies which rewarded Labour stalwarts with Earldoms, as well as SNP policies that seemed scared to death of identification with anything ungentlemanly, to support my contention that leaders’ political aspirations must never be allowed to subvert a party’s political principles.

  20. Mike Spear says:

    A great piece, hitting the nail on the head. Also begs the question “what use is our mandate ‘North of the Tweed’?”

  21. Durkit says:

    Something has gone very wrong. Straight after the GE, Labour types were already banging on about getting back to their winning ways, the Glory Blair years. They’ve gone politic game mental and lost any trace of trying to serve and do the right thing for the for the working folks of the UK. Just aiming to win at any cost – out right the tories and win tory votes. Lost the plot.

  22. patsy says:

    It makes me so sad and fearful for future generations in this country. Hope Cameron and Co are proud of what they are doing. Wish I believed in karma and he would get what was coming to him.

  23. Wow says:

    I thought this was a wind-up by its arguments and comical lack of intellectual depth but now understand it is for real. Long may the SNP maintain their attack on Labour and the Liberals….it has guaranteed a Conservative government in Westminster…and that mandate came with 150,000 fewer votes than the No campaign got. The SNP now have a max-ed out opposition of 56 seats and are proving embarrasingly impotent in their opposition voting against fox hunting in England to protest agains EVIL…really mature, intellectual, joined up political strategy….populist though amongst those who don’t think too deeply………..

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