Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The AAV Euro Election Scorecard


Welcome to the Another Angry Voice Euro Election Scorecard article, which provides much more detail to go with the scorecard.

Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge there are many other important issues that are not included on the scorecard (education, political reform, the environment, tax-dodging, saving the NHS, immigration, science funding ...) , however for reasons of space and readability I've restricted it to seven of the issues I feel particularly strongly about.

If you are more concerned with other specific issues, I advise you to look at the election manifestos of the different parties before you decide which to vote for.

Secondly, I'd like to aknowledge that there are many other parties standing candidates in the Euro election, however for reasons of space and readability I've restricted my selection to the biggest five parties.

If you want to know more about some of the regional parties, and other smaller parties here's my article on voting alternative.

EU Referendum


In the interest of transparency I'd like to state that I am personally in favour of an EU referendum, mainly because it would put an end to all of the bickering and uncertainty over the issue.

The Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have stated that they oppose the holding of a referendum on membership of the EU.

UKIP and the Green party have stated categorically that they are in favour of an EU referendum.

UKIP are fundamentally opposed to the EU and work to undermine it from within by having the worst attendance record of any party in the whole of the EU (they still claim their expenses though), and by belligerently voting against legislation, no matter how good or bad it is (they even voted against clamping down on the illegal ivory trade).

The Green party say that they are "
opposed to the objectives, structure and policies of the EU as currently constituted", and they strongly oppose the single European currency experiment and the anti-democratic nature of the EU (especially the unelected European Commission and European Central Bank), but they believe efforts should be made to reform the EU from within to make it more democratic and accountable to the public.

The reason I've put "maybe" for the Tories, is that after "No more top down re-organisations of the NHS" (followed by the biggest top-down reorganisation in the entire history of the NHS) and "We'll cut the deficit, not the NHS" (followed by £20 billion in cuts to the NHS) it's clear that Cameron is a serial liar who will say anything if he thinks it'll help him get elected. Given that there are a lot of Europhiles in the Tory party, and that Labour and (what remains of the) Lib Dems would vote against any Parliamentary bill to hold an EU referendum, I can't see how it's remotely possible for him to even deliver on his pledge to hold a referendum, so labeling the Tory stance as "maybe" is justifiable, if not actually putting too much faith in the word of a proven liar.

Renationalisation



It is undeniable that the vast majority of the British public would like to see the rail network and the energy companies renationalised. Astonishingly, even the majority of Tory party voters (52%) would like to see the rail network brought back under not-for-profit public ownership.

The three Westminster establishment parties all refuse to offer the public what they want, because they're adherents of the same school of neoliberal ideology (privatisation, financial sector deregulation, reduced labour rights, low taxation for corporations and the super-rich, regressive taxation for the poor and ordinary ...) so it's an ideological impossibility. UKIP also adhere to the Thatcherite ideology of neoliberalism, so any expectation that they would renationalise anything is utterly naive wishful thinking.

The East Coast Mainline is a brilliant example of what can be achieved through not-for-profit public ownership. After National Express bailed out of their contract because they considered in not profitable enough, it was put under temporary public ownership and rapidly became the most efficient and profitable franchise in the whole of the UK rail network. It's no wonder the Tories want to hand it back to the private sector as quickly as possible, after all, it's a glaring demonstration that the neoliberal mantra of "private sector efficiency" is a load of absolute rubbish. Without the private sector profiteers taking their slice, it's easily outperforming all of the privately operated franchises.

The only modicum of difference between the four neoliberal parties is that Labour have proposed a short-term price cap on the energy market, but that's just pseudo-socialist window dressing, because all of the infrastructure would still remain under private sector control.

The only party of the five with a manifesto commitment to renationalise the railways and energy companies is the Green party.

Opposition to neoliberalism

Adherents of the neoliberal ideology like to believe that it is an economic discipline built upon foundations of science and advanced mathematics, however it is actually a pseudo-science full of unquestionable core beliefs, built on outdated mathematical models and subject to such poor peer review standards that absolute tripe based on botched Excel spreadsheets can be lauded as brilliant research by global institutions like the IMF and used by neoliberal politicians like George Osborne to justify their ideological austerity agenda.

Neoliberalism failed in it's own terms when the insolvent financial sector was bailed out with the biggest state subsidies in human history. Not only had financial sector deregulation not led to greater efficiency and market equilibrium as promised by the neoliberals, it actually resulted in the most egregious display of "socialism for the rich" in human history in order to prevent complete economic meltdown.

Not only did adherence to the pseudo-scienctific ideology of neoliberalism end up causing the global financial sector insolvency crisis, it's also being used to impose "more of the same" as the supposed cure, simply by rebranding exactly the same policies (privatisation, public service cuts, wage repression, deregulation, corporate tax cuts ...) as "austerity".

The three Westminster establishment parties are all adherents of neoliberalism. Given that the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher introduced the ideology in 1979, and that the current Tory administration have been privatising everything like a bunch of crooked administrators selling off a viable business on the cheap to their mates, it's absolutely clear that they are neoliberals.

The Lib-Dems have helped the Tories to do all kinds of blatantly neoliberal things like sell off the Royal Mail at way below its actual value, sell off the student loan book to a debt collection firm, carve up the NHS and sell off the pieces, give away over 3,000 schools to unaccountable private sector organisations, set about privatising most of the justice system and further undermine the right to free speech. So it is blatantly obvious that they are orthodox neoliberals too.

Some people still imagine that New Labour is a left-wing party, but whilst they are more socially liberal than the Tory party, they follow the same right-wing neoliberal ideology as the Tories when it comes to the economy. To give a few examples to prove the point: New Labour privatised air traffic control, opened the door to NHS privatisation (Alan Milburn, the minister responsible now works in the private health sector), built up hundreds of billions of long-term debts on PFI economic alchemy schemes, planned to sell off the Royal Mail, signed countless one-sided deals with corporate outsourcing parasites like G4S, Capita and Serco, and even sold off the property portfolio of HMRC tax offices to a company based in Bermuda in order to avoid paying tax on their profits on the deal.

UKIP are even more enthusiastic about the neoliberal orthodoxy than the Tories, although they like to keep quiet about their undying love of Thatcherism when campaigning in traditional Labour voting areas. The crazy thing about UKIP is that over 70% of their followers actually want to see the rail network and the energy companies renationalised, but they're intent on voting for the most Thatcherite political party of all!

Out of these five, the Green party is the only one to explicitly criticise the failed neoliberal ideology. Here are a few quotes from Green party leader Natalie Bennett explicitly criticising the failed neoliberal orthodoxy:

"We’re rejecting neoliberalism and globalisation; we’re rejecting an economic system dominated by multinational companies." [source]
“The neoliberal globalisation model of having a low-wage economy built around multinational companies has clearly failed." [source]
"Our entire economy is based on treating the Earth as though it were a mine and a dumping ground, and the poor as though they were rubbish. [We] understand that the 20th-century approach of neoliberalism and globalisation, of outsourcing and financial speculation, cannot continue. The model is broken." [source]
"There is one alternative to the three virtually indistinguishable neoliberal parties, that alternative is the Green Party." [source]
Anyone who imagines Ed Miliband or the leaders of any of the other main parties coming out with such explicit criticisms of the neoliberal ideology is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Monetary reform


For several years the group Positive Money has been running a public education drive to explain the way that money is created out of nothing by private banks, and then rented out to the public in interest bearing loans and mortgages, and why this kind of system leads inevitably to irresolvable debt crises and vast speculative bubbles (here's a short video).

At first the establishment treated them dismissively, as if they were some kind of dangerous conspiracy peddlers, and tried to talk around the truth of what they were saying by harping on about things like capital requirements.

The Green party recognised the truth in what Positive Money have been highlighting and in September 2013 they passed a motion to reform the monetary system by taking the power to create money away from the private banks and place it in public hands.

None of the other four parties have shown any interest in reforming the monetary system, and in fact, many of their politicians joined in the smear campaign against positive money.

In March 2014 the Bank of England released a document entitled Money Creation in the Modern Economy which admitted that "Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money", thus demonstrating that even the Bank of England accept that Positive Money were absolutely right.

This admission from the Bank of England shows that the Green party were way ahead of the game when they voted to reform monetary policy six months beforehand, and that the four other parties are behind the game with their heads stuck firmly in the outdated neoliberal textbooks that created the financial sector insolvency crisis in the first place.

Opposition to TTIP

TTIP is an astonishing corporate power grab that virtually nobody has heard of. The minority who have heard of it have probably only heard it described in glowing terms (by the BBC, the mainstream press and Tory politicians) as a EU-US "trade deal" that will supposedly make us all so much richer.

What they don't say is that the negotiations are going on in secret, that the driving forces behind this "trade deal" are a bunch of US mega-corporations and that the deal is designed to over-write the democratic structures of the participating countries by imposing secretive
Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunals so that corporations can competely bypass the democratic and legal processes of the state in question and sue them in secretive tribumals whenever the state attempts to stop corporations from doing whatever the hell they want to.

The Tories and Lib-Dems leaderships are fully in favour of this corporate power grab, UKIP has been carefully avoiding even talking about the issue in the hope that nobody notices and starts asking them questions about why they have refused to oppose this blatant effort to undermine our national sovereignty (presumably because they are all in favour of US based multinational corporations ruling over us as opposed to the "baddies" at the EU).

The Labour leadership have come out in favour of TTIP, but with a few caveats. They claim that they will argue for an exemption for medical services (to protect what remains of the NHS being sued by giant US private health corporations) and several Labour MEPs have claimed that Labour is working to have the secretive ISDS tribunals taken out of the agreement.

The only party out of the five to explicitly oppose this corporate power grab are the Greens.Here's their policy statement:

"Green MEPs will oppose any elements of any trade deals, including the current EU/US trade deal (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - TTIP), which threaten to weaken protections for workers, consumers, citizens or the environment in the EU, its member states or trading partners. Health, workers’ rights, consumer rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, environmental protection, data protection, agriculture, food, cultural rights and biotech should be protected by our trade deals, not sold off. Some areas, including health, pre-18 education, and water, should be protected entirely from involvement in any trade negotiations." [source]
Ending the ideological "war on drugs"
[Main article]

This is an issue I feel very strongly about. I believe that the "war on drugs" is based on ideology not evidence. The way drugs are categorised is arbitrary and irrational, and prohibition causes more harms than the drugs themselves.

It is absolutely clear from the actions of the three Westminster establishment parties that they are committed to the "ideology over evidence" approach to drugs policy.

Labour are perhaps the worst offenders, given that they actually sacked their independent drugs adviser (professor David Nutt) because his evidence based findings conflicted with their ideological moralising. The crazy thing is that the evidence that he presented (and Labour objected so vehemently to) was actually requested by parliament after
a report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee described the way substances are classified under the law as "arbitrary" "unscientific" and "based on historical assumptions, not scientific assessment".

The Tory and Lib-Dem coalition government has continued with the ideological posturing, which was illustrated by their decision to ban Khat, which is the least harmful, and the third least addictive drug according to professor David Nutt's research. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been posturing as a man who wants the drug laws reformed, but given that he postured as a man that wanted to introduce voting reform and to oppose increased tuition fees for students, you'd have to be pretty gullible to fall for any of Nick's pledges again, especially after the government that he is actually part of has worked to make the UK drug laws even more irrational and draconian.

As with so many issues, it's impossible to know what the UKIP stance is on this issue, because in January 2014 Nigel Farage dismissed the entire 2010 UK manifesto as "drivel" and they've cobbled together a shockingly amateurish 12 page "manifesto" for the Euro elections which countless issues (presumably they had to leave a lot of stuff out to make room in their 12 page manifesto for their 2 page "I'm voting UKIP" window poster - the longest section in the whole document). Nigel Farage has stated that his personal opinion is that the drugs laws should be liberalised, but given that UKIP has no written policy on the issue and his party is stuffed full of flog em' and hang em' authoritarian Tory types, it's hard to see how he could get anything remotely resembling a coherent drugs strategy into any future UKIP policy document.

The only party of the five to have any kind of detailed policy on reforming the drug laws is the Green party. In March 2014 the petition initiated by Green MP Caroline Lucas for an impartial cost-benefit analysis on the current drug laws reached 100,000 signatures. This is an extract from the Green party policy document:

"The possession, trade and cultivation of cannabis would be immediately decriminalised, roughly following the Dutch model. The trade in cannabis would be the subject of a Royal Commission (see below), with a view to establishing a fully legalised, controlled and regulated trade. Small-scale possession of drugs for personal use would be decriminalised ... A Royal Commission or similar body would be established to review currently controlled drug classifications, within a legalised environment of drug use. This commission would, after wide consultation, consider and recommend frameworks of social, economic and health conditions for drug use and supply." [source]
Universal Basic Income
[Main article]

This is another issue I feel strongly about. The basic idea is to abolish the vast majority of the welfare system and replace it with a Universal Basic Income that everyone is entitled to, and which ideally would be enough to cover the basic costs of living (housing, food, water, energy and other necessities). I'm not going to bang on about it too much because this article is already plenty long enough, if you want to learn more you can read my primer article on the subject.

The three Westminster establishment parties have almost indistinguishable welfare policies. The Tories and Lib-Dems have introduced all kinds of draconian and illiberal welfare reforms, designed to financially penalise and psychologically torture the poor and vulnerable, create corporate profits by outsourcing welfare services and to use the unemployed as a free source of labour.

The Labour party barely disagrees with any of it, restricting their criticism to the way it's being done, rather than what is being done. Labour supports Iain Duncan Smith's hopelessly botched Universal Credit scheme, and they even colluded with the Tories to help Iain Duncan Smith get his ridiculous piece of retroactive workfare legislation rushed through parliament in a single day.

UKIP love to posture as libertarians, so they should be extremely keen on the idea of Universal Basic Income, because it would sweep away £billions of waste on government agencies and do away with intrusive means testing, however they're not keen on it at all, presumably because it has it's origins in left-libertarian theory, not the kind of right-wing Teapartyesque, Ayn Rand inspired libertarianism they've imported from the United States.

Judging by their so-called "manifesto" UKIP welfare policy seems to be restricted to telling small-minded people that they'll cut benefits for foreigners, instead of proposing anything substansive to actually reform the gaping flaws in the system.

The Green Party is the only party to offer Universal Basic Income as a policy, here's what they say:

"A Citizen's Income sufficient to cover an individual's basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits. A Citizen's Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work." [source]
Conclusion

The difficulty in doing this kind of analysis is that it is almost impossible to judge the three establishment political parties by their manifesto promises, when we can just look at their recent track record in government for a much better illustration of what they are likely to do. It's better to judge a man by his actions, than by what he says his actions are going to be.

Another major difficulty has been actually identifying the UKIP stance on most of these issues. Their policy of wanting a referendum on membership of the EU is clear enough, but they have no official policy documents detailing their policies on a whole host of important issues such as welfare reform, monetary reform, drugs policy, TTIP and countless other issues.

There are two major differences between the UKIP so-called "manifesto" (12 pages, 1 external reference) and the Green party manifesto (36 pages, 28 external references). The first is the fact that the UKIP manifesto is hopelessly amateurish, whilst the Green one is detailed, sourced and comprehensive. The main difference is that the overall narrative, with the UKIP manifesto being a message of fear (how terrible the country is now) whilst the Green manifesto is a message of hope (a detailed plan of how they would like to make things better).

When it comes to the seven policies I've focused on, it is absolutely clear that there is only one genuinely progressive party, and that there are only minor superficial differences between the other four.

There are of course other issues aside from the seven I've detailed here so please consider looking at the election manifestos of the various parties and judging for yourself before you cast your vote.

Please also remember that there are plenty of minor and regional parties aside from the big five.


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.
  

More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
     
Reasons to vote alternative 
     
Ending the ideological "war on drugs"

                 
 The mainstream media oligopoly
        
Why 73% of UKIP supporters should actually vote Green
           

No comments: