Little regulation & minimal enforcement

I can’t say I was big on or even thought much about regulation and enforcement until after the turn of the last century, but that’s probably because for most of my life UK governments, of all colours, made a reasonable fist of regulating and enforcing things across our society.

What I think made me sit up and take notice was when Gordon Brown brought in his ‘light touch’ regulation of banks before the financial crisis hit. It struck me straight away as being a bad move to trust too much those who control our financial systems and my feeling is that the crisis, which soon followed, demonstrated why shutting one eye to the activities of banks and the financial sector, in general, was a really bad idea.

But deregulation and light touch/no-touch enforcement is now the thing across many sectors. It’s as though there’s now a general acceptance that ‘do as you please and beggar the consequences’ is mainstream in our politics! Yes, I realise that the austerity which followed the financial crisis will have brought with it a considerable reduction in the enforcement of regulations simply via the regulators and enforcers being reduced in number within government agencies/departments, councils, the police etc. etc. So my first question is, was austerity used as a back door by the libertarian right to get regulators off their backs to enable that ‘do as I/we please’ attitude? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is a rather obvious YES.

Our roads are a clear example of pretty much no regulation or enforcement leaving drivers to do as they please with little chance of any come back other than via retrospective enforcement due to an accident where someone has been injured or killed. But policing, in general, is surely now a process of reaction to events with prevention very much a thing of the past. Community policing has all but been abandoned and with it the local intelligence that used to be gathered by policewomen and men in neighbourhoods they knew well.

There’s little point in having laws if there are no effective regulators or enforcers of our laws. However, bit by bit over the years we have arrived at a point where those who wish to break laws and regulations have realised that there’s a high likelihood that they’ll be able to get away with whatever dodgy things they wish to. Human nature is to push at boundaries to see how far our luck can be pushed. Sadly, we’ve now created a society where those who want to push boundaries a long way are doing so because they’ve twigged that no one is likely to stop them or enforce action against them.

So whether it be a poorly regulated financial sector or no effective enforcement of bad driving (and there’ll certainly be other sectors too) this process leads to a wild-west approach to our society. You could call it an ‘every man and woman for themselves society’ where significant numbers of the population are beyond any effective control and they know it.

This libertarian right approach has been driven by Conservatives and other right-wing political groupings, yet it’s within living memory that there would have been significant numbers of people within the Conservative Party who would have been far from happy about our developing a lawless society. To me, this shows how much the Tory Party has changed from being the party of law and order to a party of spivs and chancers. Of course, those spivs and chancers have always been there but our politics ensured they were kept in the background; now they are upfront and running the show!

Once you start down the road of desiring government to be as small as possible, deregulation and a lack of enforcement is where you’ll pretty much always end up. That’s a challenge for progressives as it’s hardly a vote winner to tell the electorate that you want more inspectors, more police etc. etc. It’s easy to say pay less tax and we’ll get rid of red tape even if that red tape keeps us all safe and sound.

So do we need better regulation and enforcement? Yes of course we do if we are ever to have a fair and equitable society. The alternative is more spivs and chancers taking us all for a ride!

Blair gets a gong and 1m signature balloon goes up!

Blair, if you put Iraq to one side, was the most progressive PM in generations; go on give me the name of a recent PM who was more progressive?

And the reason I’m blogging about Blair now? I’m told 1 million people have signed a petition asking for his Knighthood to be rescinded.

Yes he was too right-wing for me as a Social Liberal of the left, yes in my view (in European terms) he was akin to a Christian Democrat, yes he was a policy ditherer too, taking far too long to get on with things. But despite all that he’s still the most progressive PM we’ve had in generations, so doesn’t that show how right-wing the rest have been!

I’m ignoring Brown here as I never got where he was coming from, although he’s become a bit of a Jimmy Carter-type in retirement i.e. looked upon as a statesman, but only after he’d left office.

But the other thing for as an observer of politics like me is how much Labour Party members and supporters dislike Blair, indeed they seem to look at him in the same way they look at Thatcher! I’ve lost count of Labour backers slagging off Blair so I’m guessing many of the 1m signatures on the petition to get his gong removed will be Labour members and supporters.

Starmer has backed Blair’s award but then again he had little choice. If you think about it Starmer is of the Labour right-wing, some say he may even be right of centre with regard to British politics. On that basis, he’s going to want to back the award to Blair. However, I bet he’d rather have kept quiet as he knows his party members will be 80%ish against Blair. But saying nothing was not an option because it would make him look like a leftie and that’s the last thing he’d want as he tries to get the white, working-class, right-wingers back within Labour’s tent. So he was cornered and had to say he backed Blair’s gong.

My point here is that as someone of the left I’ve not been motivated to add my name to the petition, indeed I saw the award as an inevitability at some point. Yes, I know the vast majority of the signers will be to the right of my politics and I also accept that there’s a case for Blair to answer with regard to Iraq and its long-running humanitarian and terrorism consequences. But, from a cynical perspective, I see the campaign against Blair’s award being driven, at least in part, by those who find it a useful distraction to help turn away eyes and ears from the appalling government we presently have. We can’t do anything much about the things Labour did under Blair, they are history. However, we progressives can try to turn the screws on Johnson and his wretched government and frankly that should be very much our aim as opposed to refighting battles of the past no matter how much Labour members enjoy such blood letting.

Regionalism – Brown is right, shame he did not take it on board when in power though

The BBC has the article on it website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51178628

I often think of Gordon Brown in a similar way to ex-US President Jimmy Carter, far more impressive out of power than when he was in it. But seriously this is a big issue and Brown, if belatedly, is hitting the right nail on the head. Regionalism has been at the heart of Liberal thinking for generations so of course he is right to start to champion it in England.

This, a direct quote from the BBC article, is pure Liberalism – “We have to give more power to people in the communities and in the localities and the regions. We have a far too over-centralised state based in one part of the country – an administrative, political and financial centre that excludes power from people out in the regions.”

And yes I accept that Labour did bring in regional government for Scotland and Wales as a positive step forward but to have stopped there was a mistake, a big mistake. If more powers had been devolved to the regions of England we may not now be in the sorry sate that we are. And no I’m not talking up City Region Mayors, they are just sticking plasters over the wounds of our great cities. Their powers are both concentrated in the hands of one person (wrong in my book) and too few to make much difference anyway.

I hope Labour takes up Gordon’s liberalising agenda.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Corbyn embraces Brexit? What on earth is going on?

I’m no socialist and no Labour supporter but I have often felt that the media has had it in for Corbyn. Yes, of course he is no great leader of men and women but he does have principles even if I don’t subscribe to them personally. For what it is worth my view is that he has done the right thing in taking the Labour Party back to its socialist roots.

However, with regard to the EU Referendum Labour, under his leadership, has adopted more opposing positions than you can shake a stick at!

It was obvious from day one of the EU campaign that Labour were not sure which side of the fence they were on. In the end, by what seemed like a slim internal leadership majority, they backed Remain but the lack of enthusiasm was there for all to see. Don’t get me wrong I am the first to acknowledge that some high profile Labour politicians really did back Remain with everything (Gordon Brown comes to mind) they had but the leadership’s heart was simply not in the fight.

Since the result of the referendum Labour has clearly been in a muddle with conflicting noises both pro and anti the EU leaking out of their bunker. Now with little more than a whimper Jeremy Corbyn announces that Labour is backing Brexit so firmly joining the UKIP/Tory camp! You really could not make this up but happening it is.

I realise that many of what Labour would call its ‘working class’ supporters have been voting UKIP in recent times and that by implication therefore many of them voted to leave the EU but Labour is supposed to be a progressive party of the left not a regressive party of the right. So at the very time Labour goes back to its socialist roots it also manages to embrace the greatest right wing conspiracy campaign we have seen in living memory!

This also means that on the biggest issue of our times the opposition in Parliament is being led by the Lib Dems and SNP because the major opposition party has in effect crossed the floor. Yes I am sure they will make a big noise over the dots and commas of the Brexit debate but on the fundamental issue of principle Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, have in my view become little more than collaborators with the Tories and UKIP.

And to think that only a couple of years ago Labour were, and with some justification, saying that the Lib Dems were propping up a Tory Government. How things change in such a short time.

But you know what I really can’t get my head around is that the EU has been a really positive body with regard to workers rights, social inclusion/social justice, environmental policy etc. All these things you would expect the Labour Leadership to shout from the roof tops but instead they back Brexit. As I say you could not make this up. But hey I’m a Liberal, many Labour Party folk seem too right wing to me.

Why do we allow ourselves to be lied to?

I am sure that the vast majority of folks reading this will say I don’t want to lied to. But…….

And the but is this. We are all lied to on a regular basis by the media, politicians, businesses etc. Some lie openly but most lie in a way that some of us will not detect because the lies told feed our prejudices. So, in my case, if I hear a story slagging off Yorkshire County Cricket Club I will want to believe it as a Notts supporter. Now are you getting my drift?

But what if the lies we are told are about far more important things than a sporting allegiances? Without doubt we have been told lies [unless I am lying to you now of course] about the EU, immigration, the NHS, tuition fees, the Iraq war, taxation etc. etc. etc. in recent years.

Beware someone who tells you something that they know you are likely to want to agree with because it may well not be true, particularly if they are selling you something, trying to get your support or indeed wanting your vote.

Look at it this way newspapers play to the prejudices of their readers. They work on the basis that if we tell our readers something often enough they will believe it and repeat it as fact. Some of the more disreputable politicians do the same thing, but we know that don’t we?

I was once told by a politician that you need to find out what people are most upset about and then keep sending them messages (e-mails, leaflets etc.) that repeat those concerns and that whether those concerns are real or not does not matter.

Our problem is that with our busy lives we do not have the time, or say we don’t have the time, to find out the facts before we take a stance on things. We repeat what our family, friends and neighbours tell us without question at times and that is how falsehoods become ‘facts’ in public mind.

You could say that we are too lazy to check things out when someone we trust gives us an easy answer that fits with our prejudices, but that’s exactly how we are had by newspapers, politicians and businesses. They all put a lot of time and money into how messages are played to us so that we will react as they wish us to.

So if Auntie Mary or Uncle Fred for example is hooked by a dodgy message or ‘fact’ and then repeats it to the rest of his/her gullible family, who take it on board, then that dodgy message is spread just as the originator of it intended or at least hoped.

When polled we say that we hate lying politicians, rip-off business people and that we don’t trust what the media tells us but the fact that we are had quite often indicates that we are not actually very good at knowing when we are being lied to. This is particularly the case when we hear a ‘fact’ that we want to believe but is in fact a lie or a gross distortion of the truth.

Let’s look at few examples:-

* The NHS – we all now seem to take it as fact that we were lied to during the EU Referendum about £350m per week going into the NHS if we voted to leave the EU. Indeed, the very people who told that huge fib have openly now said it is not now going to happen! A big lie indeed.

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* Tuition Fees – This one sunk Nick Clegg (and rightly so) as he negotiated away his pledge not to increase them and indeed to scrap them. Strangely though some of us who were angry with him then voted for alternative politicians in the Labour or Conservative parties who were the instigators and promoters of Tuition Fees! So we were upset that Clegg had said one thing and done the opposite but by our actions we endorsed the policy of tuition fees. Now there’s a odd muddle for you.

* Taxation – It probably started under Thatcher but certainly Blair, Brown and Cameron built on it i.e. that we can have low taxation and great public services. And guess what, we can’t! We even had some recent nonsense from the Tories about a law to make it illegal for Parliament to increase some taxes. Their stance is built on the fact that we don’t like paying taxes so we like a message that says we don’t have to. We are also distracted by media messages that tell us that our taxes are wasted by fat-cat public sector bosses – we like that message too. That message may well be true at the margins but those that spread the message intend us to think that public money is wasted by hundreds of billions of Pounds each year. We want to believe it, so many of us do. Of course, this one is difficult for us to check out so the media and politicians who peddle that message are on to a winner.

If we keep believing what media outlets, businesses, politicians etc. tell us without checking things out, whilst trying to keep both an open mind and sceptical inquiring outlook, we will keep getting had! But are we too busy or too lazy to become better informed and less gullible?

May to be Prime Minister – Excuse me this Brian Rix type farce has gone too far!

I suspect that I am hardly the only person who has watched in utter disbelief the folding farce of British ‘democracy’ in action over recent weeks.

It’s the kind of democracy where the leaders of the Brexit campaign all bugger off almost all at once after they have got what they campaigned for. You could say the leaders have all left the room.

It’s a democracy where we get a new prime minister, in effect, imposed on us. Yes I know it has happened before (Gordon Brown comes to mind) but that does not make repeating the stunt right.

It’s a democracy in utter turmoil since the Brexit vote, where every major party political leader but one (Tim Farron) is either buggering off or is being hacked to death (Jeremy Corbyn) by their own MP’s.

If ever we needed a General Election it must be now. We need a Government with a mandate to deal with the Brexit mess which could take up to 10 years to resolve. We need a Prime Minister we can have even a modicum of faith in who has taken their party through an election campaign and therefore has some legitimacy in the so terribly hard times ahead of us. Oh yes and we need Her Majesty’s Official Opposition to stop it’s own civil war and get on with being an opposition.

Goodness me how did we come to be in the state that we are? This is the kind of situation that Bill Bryson could write an all too funny piece about except that our resident American observer of we British must be almost as stuck for coherent words as we are and the situation is actually beyond farce!