THE GRAVY TRAIN SET – Guest posting from Bob Robinson

Michael Lewis in his seminal 2018 book “The Fifth Risk” describes how with each change of administration, supporters of the American President are appointed to head various Government Agencies. The LSE blog, at the time, crisply summarises Mr Lewis’s account of what went on at the National Weather Service.

“The choice of Barry Myers, head of private weather firm AccuWeather, to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, a scientific agency within the Department of Commerce) is both striking and predictable. Acknowledging that Mills’ appointment represents an attempt to effectively ‘dismantle’ NOAA through privatisation, Lewis writes that ‘the private weather industry, unlike the (government-based) National Weather Service, has a financial interest in catastrophe’ (172). The ‘dystopic endgame’ Lewis senses with weather forecasting can be extended to a host of other issues and risks, from nuclear waste to food security”.

blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2018/11/18/book-review-the-fifth-risk-by-michael-lewis/

For those who think it could not happen here – you might be in for a shock

On the 16th September, The Guardian reports that Shanker Singham, one of the main proponents of the so-called “alternative arrangements” for the Irish border, is understood to have teamed up with the customs expert Robert Hardy and the technology company Fujitsu for the Trader Support Service (TSS) contract. It goes on to describe the contract, the as the first of the “BREXIT SPOILS” in Northern Ireland, that was put out to tender in the summer with the appointment announced in time for implementation in September.

www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/sep/16/alternative-to-irish-backstop-consultant-shanker-singham-in-line-for-200m-contract

How easy is it for Liberal Democrats to hold the government to account on what appears to be, in euphemistic terms, “Cosy relationships”? Are there other examples of this? Does it amount to crony patronage? Robert Townsend in his seminal pop business book “ Up the Organisation” described Management Consultants as “Someone who borrows your watch to tell you’re the time – and then walks off with your watch”. Plus ça change……………………………….

Are we witnessing “Déjà vu all over again”, bearing in mind the Conservative previous catastrophes inflicted in the name of Privatisation? This fiasco occurred in what seems like not too long ago not so good old days.

www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/16/part-privatisation-probation-sevices-to-be-reversed-offender-management-nationalised-chris-grayling

That by the way is the same Chris Grayling as this Chris Grayling

www.politicshome.com/news/article/conservative-anger-as-boris-johnson-makes-chris-grayling-chair-of-intelligence-committee

As Lib Dems, we should keep in mind the adage “What gets measured gets managed?” – Should we start keeping and publishing the score?

* Bob Robinson is a member of Central Bedfordshire Liberal Democrats

Progressives need to stop blaming the Tories for acting like Tories, it’s the failure of prgressive politics that has handed them power

There’s every danger that we progressives i.e. Libs, Greens and much of the Labour Party will continue to fall into the trap for the next 5 to 10 years of calling out our awful Tory Government for well, being Tories and doing what Tories do.

What we have to accept though is that because we could not put forward a credible progressive alternative to the Tories (and because our warped electoral system helped the Tories to win as usual) we invited the electorate to say to themselves ‘the Tories may be bad but they’re not as bad as the alternative/s’!

Corbynism has been an abject failure as it was always going to be and anyone still batting for it is in effect saying ‘we’d rather have a Tory government than sort ourselves out to become credible’. And those social democrats within the Labour Party who sat on their hands and said nothing whilst their own party was systematically ruining the chance of a progressive government your guilt is, in my view, the greatest. When Labour fails in the UK progressive politics usually follows it, Scotland being the obvious exception as Labour’s demise became the SNP’s chance to shine.

And of course we progressives love to kick lumps out of each other and blame other progressive parties for the failure of the left when actually we jointly hold the title of champions of delivering yet another Tory government because of our common unelectability cause.

The key to gaining an electable left of centre government is actually quite simple – progressive politics needs credible leaders that means no Corbyns and no Swinsons with their common hatred of each other seemingly being greater than their supposedly common cause against the Tories. And both Labour and Lib Dems need to sort out a credible working arrangement with the SNP by putting the issue of an independent Scotland to one side.

Then all the left of centre parties, including the Greens and Plaid Cymru, need to push for electoral reform and stand together on a pledge to implement it when a progressive government comes to power – no half hearted well maybe or squabbling about which form of PR brings the best advantage for each party, just do it. Oh and no Trudeau pledges on it either just to turn around and drop the pledge because no one can agree how to do it when it’s been in manifestos and power has been won. We’ll get one shot at it and if we fail it will be gone for another generation and the Tories will continue to be the party of government for at least two thirds of the time for ever more. Fair votes has to be a common cause for all progressives, those who claim to be progressives but who continue to back FPTP are actually not progressives at all but Tory enablers.

When the Right is controlling British politics – That’s most of the time!

It really is the majority of the time whether we on the left are willing to admit it or not.

There have only been 4 General Elections since the 2nd World war when the the left has had a significant majority in the House of Commons. Then again it could well be argued that whilst Tony Blair had a huge majority his was hardly a government of the left and probably it was only just left of centre. Could the same or similar be said of Harold Wilson’s Government?

What started this line of thought was that I happened upon a lecture by Vernon Bogdanor being shown on the BBC Parliament Channel recently. It was actually about the history of the Conservative Party. Now whilst I don’t care to be told about the regular electoral success of the Tories Bogdanor is always interesting, impartial and factual in his work.

One thing he mentioned has long been a matter of great interest to me and that is the working class Conservatives who have regularly helped put a Tory government in power. You could be forgiven for thinking that the working class (not a term a personally subscribe to but one that is widely quoted) will usually be voters of the left and therefore for Labour, but up to a third of them are not. What’s more many of them may be conservative (with a small c) or simply right wing whilst at the same time tribally aligned with the Labour Party.

I have regularly been fascinated by the group of Labour MP’s (and there have always been a fair number of them in each Parliament) who come over as reactionary, right wing, anti progressive politics or just Tories wearing a Labour rosette. I saw similar people in the trade union movement in my time as well. They must come from families that are loyal to Labour yet their stance on things such as equality issues, gay rights, crime and punishment, immigration etc. are firmly based on the politics of the right. Often these MP’s and trade unionists will be from the industrial midlands and the north and they will be utterly loyal to Labour, no matter what it stands for.

That loyalty will stem from the early days of the trade union movement and the need for trade unionists to stick together through thick and thin. It will have been inbred into them through families, trade unions and the Labour Party, yet often these people will be as far away from progressive politics as you can find. Sticking together is the most important thing, backing their leaders almost come what may is also big for them and I think it is what is in part driving the cult of Corbyn.

He’s either a very, very late political developer or he really is a second division politician of the left who has, almost by chance, found himself leading a political party. If you look at his history prior to being elected as Labour Leader he had pretty much no positions of responsibility in public life much at all. The Labour left will say that was because he had always been down-trodden by the right wing of the Labour Party (the Social Democrats) and held back and that he was always going to be a working class hero of the left one day. Well it’s a view but hardly a credible one I would venture to say.

Corbyn’s big problem is that he has some right wing tendencies and Brexit is the one that really stands out. Brexit has always been about internal battles within the Tory Party. UKIP was set up as those within the Tory Party who could not get the Tories to back leaving the EU felt they had to take a different route. Of course they succeeded in turning the Tories into a Brexit Party and they won over many people within Labour too. Remember the successes of UKIP electorally have often been in areas of England that are working class and where they won council seats they were often in Labour areas. Now UKIP has all but expired its supporters have drifted back to the Tory Party or indeed Labour. That Corbyn backs Brexit is bizarre to many of us on the left of British politics but he does and the Labour Party is backing him despite, we are told, the vast majority of Labour voters not backing Brexit.

But Corbyn is loyal to his right wing working class supporters who of course were the part of the Labour vote that helped the Tories/UKIP give us our Brexit. His party prides itself, or at least it used to do, on being a very broad church. At one end true socialists looking to break up the capitalist system and at the other people who would be at home in a Bluekip type Party if only it was called the Labour Party. That is indeed a very broad church, you could say so broad that internal power struggles would be almost impossible to to stop. The Social Democrats within Labour have gone very quiet these days (with a few exceptions) especially those in elected public positions as their stance is particularly unwelcome in Corbyn’s Labour Party and they need to be seen to be complying with the wishes of Momentum if they are not to be deselected.

So at face value Labour is presently seen to be a party of the hard left under McDonnell and Corbyn but, with Brexit in particular, they are peddling a Bluekip line. Also the party is having more than its share of infighting over racial issues at present and this is another indication of people of the left holding what seem to be intolerant right wing views.

Across Europe in many counties Social Democrat and Socially Liberal Parties have been a part of the mainstream. Labour has tried to be that in the UK but the drag of having illiberal and far left members in the same party has meant that it has struggled far more more than it has succeeded. Many thought that the victory of Tony Blair signaled a new (or New) Labour Party with broad center ground and moderate appeal but the medicine did not work and now Labour is in the hands of both the socially illiberal and hard left at the same time!

The point of all this? To show that the right has a huge influence on UK politics and that’s not just in the UKIP and Tory parties. Labour has it’s right wingers too and it can be quite easily argued that even the Lib Dems all but ceased to have a Socially Liberal leadership during Nick Clegg’s unfortunate time as Leader. Thankfully and even slightly surprisingly, under Cable, it seems to be regaining its radical and socially liberal edge though.

Which ever way you look at it the right usually predominates in UK politics and its because, in my view, there’s no electorally successful Social Democrat/Liberal Party at the heart of our mainstream politics and I say that as someone who looks upon some Social Democrats as being too right wing.

Labour – Another stab at why they are all but abandoning the poorest in our society

Or put it another way, some of us on the left have not been taken in by Corbynism

labour-uncut.co.uk/2017/05/31/why-doesnt-corbyn-just-go-and-join-the-tories/

At the risk of driving some of my friends in the Labour Party over the edge in their frustration with me I present, via the link above, another piece about why Labour is no longer on the side of those with little or nothing in our society.

This is a theme I have been developing for a while now and it seems that others have been having similar thoughts too.

My own guess is that the Labour manifesto is really aimed at the middle classes who are both earning and who will most probably vote. Whilst still trying to give the impression of being on the side of the poor the reality is that Labour are actually looking for middle class votes from those with a little nostalgia for nataionalisation.

There are too many voices now saying that only the Lib Dems are trying to seriously address the issue of poverty in our divided society for it not to be worth seriously thinking about.

Do you want a say on life after Brexit? There’s only one place you’ll get it.

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/02/conservative-candidate-may-brexit-lib-dems

The Guardian has the story on its web site – see link above

Quote from the article:-

‘This nasty, Ukip-inspired version of Brexit will isolate us from our European neighbours, threatening our security and our prosperity. I believe we all should have the right to decide whether it’s a deal we want for Britain. We should be given the chance to vote in a second referendum once the full terms of the negotiations, and the implications for our country, become clear.
Advertisement

Only the Liberal Democrats are offering a second referendum, which is why I am delighted to be joining a party which is on the right side of this historic debate.’

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting