I’m a Social Liberal NOT a Socialist

The other day I read that someone on social media was connecting Social Liberalism with Socialism when in fact there are at least two major differences that define why Liberals and Socialists are on very different but partly parallel routes.

Socialism usually leads to big state intervention and control and it is often marked by authoritarianism too. Social Liberalism, whilst being of the left, is very much not authoritarian and it does not see the state as always being the best/main provider of services, employment etc.

Social Liberals see the state as being there to act in balancing our society. To regulate where that is required or helpful, to protect the weak from the powerful, to find the most socially and economically effective way of providing public services. However, we are not necessarily backers of big state control. We may well have grave concerns about public services being run for profit but on the other hand, the state often proves to be ineffective, overly bureaucratic and inefficient when directly providing services. Social Liberals will often look to Cooperatives, not for profit companies and mutuals to deliver services for example.

History shows that state-led socialism is as bad at delivering services as poorly regulated privatisation. The UK has tried both in the last 60+ years, often lurching from inappropriate state control/intervention to unbridled privatisation and the result has been the general run down in our manufacturing industry and more. Instead of looking at sectors and service provision from the perspective of which method of service delivery will work the best socialists will virtually always say the state is best whilst Tories will nearly always say deliver it privately. They both suffer from a predetermined political mantra clouding what’s best socially, economically and will be the most efficient.

Sometimes state delivery is best, but how has the country which once developed a thriving mutual and cooperative sector managed to lose so much of it. The loss of so many building societies during the 1980s/90s was a backwards step, for example. The demise of cooperatives (particularly in poorer/working-class areas) another. Sometimes, particularly at a local level community interest companies/not for profit enterprises may well be the best form of service delivery. Then look at housing associations; they’ve been turned into businesses with little or no control/input by their tenants.

The state will provide, the Council should provide is the socialist mantra; we know what’s best for you. Of course, the Conservatives see solutions from the exact opposite end of the telescope and never the twain shall meet.

Blair often talked about the 3rd way/middle way and whilst I think he got the issue in the abstract New Labour did not really put in place the right social and economic levers to enable the community interest companies, mutuals and cooperatives etc. to thrive once again. And this despite the Co-Op Party sponsoring some Labour MPs!

The other issue has been deregulation, light-touch regulation etc. which has directly ended up with unscrupulous providers delivering poor public services at high cost to the public purse and both Labour and Tory governments have had a hand in such failures.

So yes I’m a Social Liberal of the left but no I don’t think the state should be controlling everything or indeed any more than it needs to. But we do need firm regulation and the appropriate regulators to oversee the delivery of public services from the perspective of service users as well as efficiency for the public purse. Such regulation should encourage innovation and stamp out exploitation.

Does that explain why Social Liberals and NOT Socialists?

Blair – Progressive but authoritarian

Tony Blair is a man much disliked particularly within Labour Party circles but, without doubt, he has been the most progressive PM the UK has had in many generations. Yes, I know that’s not saying a great deal because all the other PM’s who have won General Elections, have been Conservatives.

The left and particularly those who are within Labour’s fold seem to hate Blair with about as much passion as they hate Thatcher. This has long intrigued me not least because all the other elected PM’s, as I said, in recent times have been Conservative and therefore regressive of political nature.

Why does the left despise Tony Blair so much?

Readers of this blog site will know that I’m no supporter of Blair or indeed Labour as both are generally too right-wing and authoritarian for me. As a Social Liberal, I certainly don’t see myself as a centrist or a moderate, more as someone who is of the left but not a socialist. Having said that, I am happy to acknowledge that Blair is the nearest thing we have had to a progressive winning elections and sitting in No.10 because for me it’s a statement of fact. Yes, he was too moderate, too centrist, too authoritarian and not progressive enough for my political taste and of course he fouled up hugely over Iraq but having said all that he is still the most progressive PM to win general elections in many a year.

Listening to Labour folk talk about Blair over the years I think the reason they dislike him is due to his perceived middle-classness. With Labour very much a class-based party being working class is very important to them. And how many times have I mentioned the Labour Group on Sefton Council launching into a chorus of ‘we are old Labour’ whenever Blair or New Labour came up in a council meeting whilst TB was PM; it must have meant a lot to them to need to be seen to distancing themselves from their own party in government. The odd part of all this is I’ve rarely if ever heard Labour members chuntering about Blair because of Iraq. You see to those of us lefties who are not within the Labour fold that was his greatest foul-up.

I’m also guessing that being anti-Blair is something those within the Labour Party have to be for them to have credibility, so there’s probably a fashion in Blair-slagging even from those Labour members who have a sneaking but unspoken liking for him and his governments.

Do I like Blair? No, not really, he often comes across to me as rather superior and irritating to listen to. Having said that he sometimes has well thought out progressive things to say and at times I’ll say Blair is right. Trouble is most Labour folks cover their eyes and put their figures in their ears whenever Blair appears on the TV.

Blair’s Government called it both right and wrong over Sefton’s Council Housing

One of his government’s unnecessarily authoritarian moves affected the Borough of Sefton and in particular its council housing stock and it shows how Blair could be good and bad at the same time. He was spot on when it came to realising that council/social housing across the UK was not up to standard so his government devised a policy called Decent Homes Standard. Sefton Council was in the frame for a big chunk of his government’s money to bring its council housing up to this new standard BUT, in a typically Labour move, they took the view that the council was not the appropriate body to get the work done. They demanded, as my friend and former Borough Councillor Geoff Howe recently pointed out, that the Council transfer its council housing stock over to a housing association or there’d be no money provided to bring Sefton’s council housing up to the new Decent Homes Standard. It sounded to me like blackmail then and it still does now. It led to Sefton having to ballot its council house tenants over such a transfer, which on the first ballot they refused but then agreed to via a 2nd ballot.

I never quite got why the council would not be an appropriate body to get the work done; did Blair’s government think Sefton would take the money and use it unwisely? It certainly showed a lack of trust in the council in my view yet there’d been no previous fall-outs with them before they took what I saw as an unnecessarily authoritarian position; a position which led directly to a new housing association having to be set up to deliver the Decent Homes Standard with both land and housing needing to be transferred to it. I still think the whole saga was a waste of time and resources because it also meant that Sefton Council no longer had control over its social housing stock. It was a ‘we in Westminster know what’s best for Sefton and if you don’t agree there’s no money to do up your council houses’ position and it was ridiculous authoritarian micro-management. I don’t have a problem with housing associations, I might add, it’s just that in Sefton’s case it was simply an unnecessary requirement to have to create one in my view.

So yes I have big issues with Blair both nationally and locally but whichever way you cut it he is still the most progressive politician to win the PM’s seat in General Elections for far too many years. On that basis can I suggest that hounding Blair for his failures whilst not being willing to acknowledge his generally progressive position on a number of important social issues is counter-productive as the alternative has always been a Tory one!

Labour privatisation in Haringey

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/19/lives-torn-apart-assets-labour-privatisation-north-london-haringey

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

Seems that Labour still has a significant Blairite following despite Corbyn’s socialist agenda. But what is this all about as it looks to me like mass privatisation and by a Labour-run council too!

Quote from the article – ‘Lives torn apart and assets lost: this is what a Labour privatisation would mean’

Brexit – Why did it happen and will it hasten PR?

www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07mj400/britains-vote-in-the-eu-referendum

I am grateful to my friend Bob for pointing me in the direction of the link above on BBC I Player, which is in the form of a series presentations from knowledgeable people who have tried to understand why people voted the way they did in the recent referendum.

The first speaker to my mind makes some cutting and accurate remarks about how Blair took power away from working people and thereby created the vacuum for UKIP to move into.

The video is quite long but it is worth sticking with it so that all the shades of opinion can be taken on board.

Where it leaves us to my mind and indeed to that of Bob is that we desperately need an electoral system where every vote actually counts as opposed to the present one where in many constituencies it simply does not.

In the recent referendum folks voted in reasonably large numbers because they knew their vote was of equal value to that of other voters. They also voted to bloody the nose of the establishment that had disenfranchised them on an almost bugger the consequences basis.

Obviously as a ‘Remainer’ I feel the result was one hell of an own goal for the UK and that the dire consequences will take years to unfold. But at least I am getting a clear view as to why the electorate took what at face value was an irrational decision with such worrying consequences.

Corbyn – New Labour helped cause the financial crash

www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/story/jeremy-corbyn-attacks-new-labour-over-financial-crash

Well after years of Labour supporters and hacks saying that the last Labour government had no responsibility for the financial crash it now seems that Labour’s new Leader is fessing up to what his party did in government.

For having the guts to say this is to Jeremy Corbyns’s credit but you can see all his many right wing ‘Red Tory’ MP’s spluttering away in disbelief!

Of course, I am sure that Corbynomics would be a disaster in itself but at least he has made the Labour Party come out of its years denial and face up to its responsibilities for its part in the financial crash.