Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Labour Party purge


The ongoing Labour Party purge is an extraordinary thing to behold. Not only is it a demonstration that a bunch of out-of-touch Labour Party elitists are intent on waging an anti-democratic war of attrition against the party's own membership, it's also being conducted in a searingly hypocritical manner.

Retrospective trawling


It's bad enough that Jeremy Corbyn supporters are being purged from the party for stuff as trivial as liking the Foo Fighters too much on their personal Facebook feed, while anti-Corbyn members of the Labour Party establishment are allowed to get away with abuse like calling other members of the party "Nazi stormtroopers" in the mainstream press, but one of the most disgraceful things is the people are being purged for having posted social media comments supporting other political parties long before they joined Labour.

When the civil rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti delivered her report into alleged cases of anti-Semitism the Labour Party and the NEC agreed to abide by its findings. One of the clearest recommendations of the whole report was her call for "a moratorium on the retrospective trawling of members' social media accounts and past comments".

Instead of heeding this call for a moratorium on social media trawling, the Labour Party NEC has instead decided to orchestrate what is almost certainly the most invasive Stasiesque mass trawling exercise in British political history.

Not only are they trawling back through people's social media accounts to look for signs of disloyalty or thought crime from when people became party members, they're clearly and undeniably trawling back through comments that were made long before the intended victims of their witch-hunt ever even joined the Labour Party.


Examples

One of the worst examples of someone being purged for supporting other parties long before Corbyn even became Labour leader is the case of Dr Gemma Angel who was purged from the Labour Party over a Tweet from May 2014 in which she explained her reasons for voting Green.

Gemma Angel is far from the only example of someone being purged from the Labour Party for having supported other parties long before Jeremy Corbyn became leader and inspired them to join Labour. Another example is Ben Crawford who was also purged for the "crime" of posting Tweets in support of the Green Party between 2014 and 2015 (see letter).

Attracting other voters

Before the Anyone But Corbyn coup was launched the right-wing of the Labour Party constantly chelped away about how Corbyn couldn't appeal to supporters of other parties, but now that they've realised that tens of thousands of people who used to support other parties have joined Labour in order to support Jeremy Corbyn, they've set about trawling through their social media accounts desperately searching for any reason to prevent them voting for Corbyn in the leadership election!

A political party that is determined to bar people from joining them if they've ever supported a rival political party is so ridiculous it's like an unwitting self-parody. It's hardly possible to think of a more effective way of making sure your political party becomes an increasingly irrelevant dissent-banning closed ideology echo chamber than the orchestration of a massive witch-hunt of any members who ever dared to support another party in the past.

The sheer hypocrisy of it


The idea of setting a load of Labour Party minions the task of trawling through the social media postings of pro-Corbyn party members and supporters to look for any excuse to bar them from voting in the leadership election is appalling enough in its own right, but punishing people for supporting other parties before they even became Labour Party members is staggeringly hypocritical when actual members of the Labour Party establishment have been allowed to get away with making a £2 million+ donation to the Liberal Democrats (David Sainsbury), openly stating that they'd rather the Tories win the next election than a Labour Party that represents the will of its membership (Tony Blair), speaking at a Tory party conference and praising their hard-right economic agenda (John McTernan), and accepting a load of Tory party cash to run an anti-EU campaign to undermine the official position of the party (the Labour Leave shills).


It's staggeringly hypocritical for the Labour Party NEC to purge ordinary members for stuff they said long before they even joined the party when they've proven themselves so willing to turn a blind-eye to blatant examples of disloyalty from high profile Labour people who were members of the party at the time of their disloyalty.

A Pyrrhic victory is their best possible outcome for Owen Smith


If the terrified Labour Party establishment do succeed in purging 200,000+ Labour Party members in order to hand victory to the Anyone But Corbyn candidate Owen Smith it will clearly be a Pyrrhic victory.

Corbyn supporters won't be the only ones to delegitimise Smith and the Labour Party by pointing out that he only managed to win because the leadership election was rigged in his favour. All of Labour's political rivals would gleefully use this anti-democratic shambles as a stick to whack him with too.

Do the Anyone But Corbyn supporters really believe that Theresa May and the Tories wouldn't use this disgraceful anti-democratic purge to score points against Owen Smith if he won? Do they really think the tories and other rival parties would go easy on him just because he helped to get Jeremy Corbyn out of the picture?

Even if Owen Smith wins, he's doomed and the Labour's reputation as a democratic party will be in tatters because of the manner of his victory. The only way to repair the damage is for the Labour members who haven't been purged to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and to then demand democratic reforms of the party so that Labour Party elitists will never be able to go on such an appallingly damaging anti-democratic rampage against the party membership again.


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Smearing for sympathy


Over the last few years I've written numerous articles decrying the appalling decline in the standard of political debate and outlining many of the most commonly occurring bits of fallacious political reasoning, but few things are as annoying as the increasingly common smearing for sympathy tactic.

The strategy

The smearing for sympathy tactic relies on a combination of a number of unseemly attitudes and debating techniques.

The first step in the smearing for sympathy strategy is to straw man the debating opponent by misrepresenting their actual views by falsely attributing insulting comments or attitudes to them. Making up generalisations about people on their own side of the debate and ascribing these views to their opponent is a particularly common approach.

The second step is to fish for sympathy using the so-called abusive/insulting generalisation that they just invented as bait. "Look at how the other side abuse and insult our side" they can cry, safe in the knowledge that few or any of the people they're trying to manipulate will actually go back to the source material to check that the insulting generalisation was actually even made.

This smearing for sympathy tactic isn't just appalling because it's fundamentally reliant upon dishonest straw man misrepresentations of what has actually been said, it's also incredibly distasteful because it feeds into and nourishes people's unhealthy victim complex mentalities.

Brexiters

In some people's minds it's completely justifiable to just make up a deliberately weak straw man debating position for the person they don't like, then attack that instead of addressing any of the things that were actually said.

People have been straw man misrepresenting my views for years in desperate attempts to undermine my work, but ever since the EU referendum debate kicked off, the volume of these straw man attacks has increased dramatically. 

The essence of these smearing for sympathy attacks from Brexiters is always the same. The Brexiter accuses me of generalising about all Brexiters without presenting any evidence whatever that I have actually generalised (I always try to avoid relying on generalisations in my work), then they cry for sympathy claiming that it's unfair that they have to put up with such abuse.

Here's a real example from the Another Angry Voice Facebook page.

In response to a question about who the public should believe when there are so many lying politicians about, I suggested that people should "listen to the experts rather than to the most loudmouthed of the lying self-serving political class" and posted a link to an article I wrote about Michael Gove's absurd pre-Brexit suggestion that people should discount expert opinion because in Britain "we've had enough of experts" as a counter-point.

At no point did I state (or even imply) that all of the experts were on one side of the debate, nor did I claim that all of the loudmouthed lying self-serving politicians were on the other side of the debate, but this is how how a furious Brexiter responded:

"You can't resist the cheap shots AAV.  Ideology too much so you go ad hominem ... I'm sick of the lazy stereotyping of all people who voted leave."
The guy tried to make himself appear intelligent by using the term "ad hominem" but he didn't even vaguely attempt to justify the accusation. There's clearly no personal attack in criticising a politician for the words that they actually said. The accusation of personal abuse was clearly plucked out of nowhere and entirely unsubstantiated.

Then he accused me of lazily stereotyping "all people who voted leave" without presenting a single example of me actually doing that. Here's a link to the article I posted. Feel free to read through it and check that it contains not a single generalisation about "all Brexiters".

When asked for a single quote of me generalising about "all people who voted leave" the guy refused to substantiate his assertion and instead went off on a rant about how I don't respect my readers.

I do respect most of my readers, but I definitely refuse to respect those who falsely misrepresent my views in order to play the victim and cry for sympathy, especially if they refuse to either substantiate their assertions (which they can't) or apologise (which they won't) even when directly challenged to. I don't respect them at all. In fact I'll openly state that they're cowards and I'd rather they stopped following my page.


'Kippers

Before the EU referendum debate the smearing for sympathy tactic was most commonly seen from UKIP supporters. I'm pretty sure most people have had the experience of reading a political thread about immigration or the EU and coming across a comment from a 'Kipper decrying the way that it's unfair that their concerns about immigration are being unfairly dismissed as racism, then thinking "hang on a sec, this guy is the first person on the whole damned thread to even mention racism".

This "they called me racist" card is another example of the smearing for sympathy tactic. It's incredibly effective because it creates an intense sense of injustice. Of course it's wrong to dismiss legitimate concerns about immigration as racism. It's not racist to think that perhaps the all time record highs in net migration (that happened under Theresa May's watch at the Home Office) that coincided with an appalling slump in housebuilding (one of David Cameron's most disgraceful legacies) is likely to make the house price inflation problem even worse, so to dismiss a fact based concern like that as "racism" would be appalling.

The problem is that an awful lot of 'Kippers like to misrepresent any criticism of their party as "they called me a racist" because fishing for sympathy with blatant misrepresentations is a hell of a lot easier than actually addressing and refuting concerns about UKIP,
 their dodgy donors, their appalling track record of laziness and hypocrisy in the European Parliament, their collection of failed, disgraced and defected Toriestheir dangerous anti-refugee fearmongering, their disgraceful political opportunism, their alliances with extremist parties in Europe in order to secure £millions in EU funding for their partytheir leaflets full of disgraceful lies, and their hard-right Thatcherism on steroids agenda.

The 'Kipper victim complex is a disgusting thing to behold. The mentality that wealthy, white men are the most discriminated against in the UK is utterly appalling, as is the incredibly common tactic of dismissing any criticism of their party (no matter how fact-based) as "they called me a racist"*.


The Anyone But Corbyn coup

It's not just Brexiters and 'Kippers who resort to smearing for sympathy. A significant number of people who support the Anyone But Corbyn coup have taken to misrepresenting my articles on the subject as doing nothing more than calling anyone who is opposed to Jeremy Corbyn "Blairites".

It's absolutely undeniable that the pre-planned anti-Corbyn coup plot was drawn up by the right-wing of the Labour Party, and it's also undeniable that every single Blairite in the Labour Party is lining up in support of the Anyone But Corbyn candidate Owen Smith, but this doesn't mean that everyone who participated in the coup or has voted for Owen Smith is a Blairite.

Some of the MPs who tried to oust Corbyn clearly caved in to peer pressure, or got leaned on by more experienced parliamentary colleagues. The Blairites decided to use the biggest Tory cock-up in decades as an excuse to launch a coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn, but many of the Labour MPs who went along with it clearly just got caught up in the moment and went along with the tide rather than stopping to think about whether spurning the best opportunity in decades to kick the Tories in order to launch an internal attack on their own party leader was such a great idea.

The same goes for Owen Smith supporters within the party membership. It's undeniable that all of the self-serving Blairites and their cheerleaders have lined up behind him, but others are entitled to their view that he's more "electable" than Jeremy Corbyn. I'd beg to differ on the grounds that he's incredibly gaffe-prone, blatantly insincere and backed by appalling bunch of the worst New Labour types like John McTernan, Tristram Hunt and Ed Balls. If Smith wins and fills his inner circle with people like that, Labour are absolutely doomed. 


You don't have to be a Blairite to be delusional, but you do have to be delusional to be a Blairite.

It suits the Anyone But Corbyn narrative to misrepresent any criticism of the coup-plotters, Owen Smith or the shockingly anti-democratic behaviour of the Labour Party elitists as "They called us Blairites" because it deflects from the actual criticisms and fosters a sense of victimhood.

It's no surprise that many Anyone But Corbyn supporters are prone to these smearing for sympathy tactics given the atrocious behaviour of numerous Labour MPs like Angela Eagle and her fabricated evidence of abuse and Tom Blenkinsop's disgraceful cry-bully Twitter tantrum. If the elitist managerial class they want to see re-establish control over the party are using these tactics, it's no wonder that ordinary members imitate them.

Conclusion
Now that I've detailed the smearing for sympathy tactic you can keep an eye out for it. If you see anyone fishing for sympathy it's important to consider the source material and whether these people were actually insulted, generalised about, called a racist or a Blairite, or if they just made it up to fish for sympathy.

When you spot someone using the smearing for sympathy strategy, the next step is to consider their motivations. Either they were well aware that they've misrepresented the material they were responding to in order to fish for sympathy or they were unaware that they've misrepresented what was actually said.

If they are unaware that their counter argument bears no relation to the material they're responding to, that
 indicates that they're so immersed in their own sense of victimhood and so tragically lacking in comprehension skills that they were incapable of following what was actually said, and simply fell back on regurgitating the same defensive points they've seen other people use, irregardless of the fact they're not applicable. 

It's fruitless to get angry that some people are simply not intelligent enough to understand that their counter arguments rely on misrepresentations and fallacious reasoning, but when people use smearing for sympathy tactics deliberately it's a completely different matter. 

When people know that using misrepresentations and unsubstantiated assertions are bad faith debating tactics but choose to use them anyway, they're demonstrating that they are a fundamentally dishonest and manipulative person.

The next time you come across someone using the smearing for sympathy tactic, it's worth considering whether they're an appallingly dishonest person who is doing it deliberately, or if they're simply not smart enough to know any better.

Feel free to link to this article when you catch people out for using the smearing for sympathy tactic.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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* = Given that the "they called me racist" card is invariably presented with no evidence that they were actually called a racist, and definitely no evidence of what their supposedly "legitimate concern" about immigration or the EU was, it could be fair to consider the possibility that if they're not just making the whole thing up to fish for sympathy, and loads of people have actually been calling them racist, that they could actually be a racist who got called a racist because they were saying racist things.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TTIP is dead in the water, but post-Brexit Britain could be in for something even worse


Remember all that opportunistic Brexiter fearmongering about the TTIP corporate power grab? Remember how they said we had to quit the EU to avoid the horror of this US-EU corporate takeover? Remember how they scoffed when people like me pointed out that it's catastrophically unpopular with the European public, the negotiations are failing (especially after the major leak of secret negotiation documents in May 2016) and that it was as good as dead because Greece and Portugal had vowed to veto it?

Well in the last couple of days the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said that the TTIP negotiations have "de facto failed" and the French trade minister Matthias Fekl has publicly demanded the whole thing gets scrapped. Never mind the fact that Greece had a veto the whole time, if the French and Germans are no longer on board, the TTIP project has been completely and totally derailed.

Within a couple of months of the vote for Brexit it's completely obvious that TTIP is doomed.The sooner the whole pro-corporate sovereignty-grab gets thrown on the scrap heap the better for the people of the EU.

Meanwhile in Britain the Tories (who were always passionately in favour of the TTIP corporate power grab) are reinvigorated after Brexit and by the Blairite decision to use Brexit as an excuse to self-destruct the Labour Party instead of holding the Tories to account for Cameron's failed EU gamble and the plethora of lies spewed by the Tory Vote Leave mob.

As a result of this Tory rejuvenation we're looking at the prospect of a savagely right-wing bunch of Tories negotiating a US-UK corporate power grab that will make the failed TTIP project look like a pleasant walk in the park in comparison. We've witnessed a classic "out of the frying pan, into the fire" manoeuvre from the British electorate.


Hillary Clinton is clearly another corporate puppet to follow Obama, so a corporate power grab negotiated between her team and the likes of the Boris Johnson and the disgraced Liam Fox (maybe he'll invite his special friend Adam Werrity along to sit in on the classified negotiations?) could be spectacularly bad. But if the American electorate are bonkers enough to elect Donald Trump as President, just imagine the kind of environmentally ruinous, pro-corporate, anti-worker, consumer protection destroying shit-show Trump and the Tories could concoct between them.

The Tories are still stalling on invoking Article 50 (because they're terrified of actually pressing the economic self-destruct button), so any potential trade deal with the US is years away yet, but it doesn't matter whether it's Clinton or Trump on the other side of the negotiating table, it's absolutely clear that if the Tories are on the British side of the negotiating table, they will be negotiating on behalf of the corporations and the super-rich millionaires who bankroll their party, and against the interests of ordinary British workers.

It's a sad irony that Brexiter fearmongering about the doomed TTIP corporate power grab has led us into a situation where the remainder of the EU quickly ends up chucking the whole TTIP debacle in the bin, while the British public will likely end up getting lumbered with a Tory negotiated US-UK pro-corporate anti-worker charter that's far far worse than the aborted TTIP experiment ever would have been.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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Monday, August 29, 2016

Party elitists vs ordinary members: The Labour civil war


Richard Burgon is the Labour MP for Leeds East and the shadow Justice Secretary. On the 27th of August 2016 he summed up what the Labour Party civil war is all about when he said:
"I believe it's important to stand up for Labour members. MPs are not 'a cut above' the membership. Myself and other MPs are just ordinary members who have been given the privilege of serving as representatives of our communities." 
Contempt for the membership

A look at the behaviour of the Labour Party establishment since September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the party with an astonishing 59.5% of the vote in a four horse race provides plenty of proof of the contempt that a lot of Labour Party elitists have towards the ordinary members.

  • Certain coup-plotter MPs have taken to distorting events and outright lying in order to paint ordinary party members as a violent mob of bigoted brick-lobbing thugs. Angela Eagle is a particularly egregious offender in this regard having brazenly misrepresented the "notorious brick" incident, refused to correct allegations that she suffered homophobic abuse at a meeting she didn't even attend and outright lying about an even being cancelled due to "threats" when in reality the venue owner pulled the plug because he didn't want a political event in his hotel.
All of these actions demonstrate that the party hierarchy and the coup-plotters see themselves as a cut above the party membership. As far as they're concerned the will of 172 MPs completely outweighs the will of 250,000+ party members. Their opinions are well over 1,000 times as important as ordinary party members.

The deputy leader Tom Watson clearly expressed this contempt for the party membership when he described the decision to introduce a properly democratic One Member One Vote electoral system within the Labour Party as "a terrible error of judgement".

All of the above things demonstrate that certain Labour Party politicians see themselves as "a cut above" ordinary party members, but this disgusting elitist attitude is best demonstrated by the ongoing Labour Party purge.

The contrast between the standards of behaviour being applied to ordinary party members and people at the top of the party couldn't be starker.

Abuse

Ordinary members are being purged from the party for all kinds of spurious reasons, perhaps the most of all being the woman who was slung out of the party for posting "I fucking love the Foo Fighters" on her personal Facebook wall. Many others have been suspended with no explanation of what they are supposed to have done wrong other than generic "comments on social media" or "comments on Twitter" meaning they have pretty much no means to appeal the suspension because they don't even know what they stand accused of saying.

The fact that Labour Party minions are trawling through people's social media activities to search for reasons to exclude them from voting in the leadership election is bad enough in its own right, but the contrast between the trivial "crimes" committed by purged Labour members and the unpunished behaviour of members of the party elite couldn't be stronger.

Here are a few examples:

  • The Labour Party MP Tom Blenkinsop turning his Twitter feed into a tide of cry-bully abuse in which he yelled "idiot" and "entryist" at anyone who disagreed with his appalling behaviour, including a life-long Labour voter - Not suspended
  • Another coup-supporting MP to turn his Twitter feed into a severely damaging tide of abuse against the party leadership and other party members is the Labour MP Ian Austin. He was also allowed to get away with telling the leader of his party to "sit down and shut up" when he was speaking about the damning findings of the Chilcot report.
It's absolutely clear that when it comes to abusive and disreputable behaviour, ordinary members are being held to a much higher standard than members of the party establishment who seem to be able to get away with pretty much whatever they like.

Disloyalty


Another reason the Labour Party establishment have come up with for slinging ordinary members out of the party is "disloyalty". Several people have been purged for Twitter comments in favour of other political parties such as the Green Party dating from as far back as May 2014, long before they even became members of the Labour Party.

Contrast the ludicrous attitude that ordinary members who used to support other parties are unwelcome with what members of the Labour Party establishment have been allowed to get away with despite being high-profile members of the party.

It's utterly preposterous that Tweeting about having voted for the Green Party years before they even joined Labour is considered a "crime" that ordinary members must be suspended for, while people within the party establishment go completely unpunished for bankrolling rival political parties to the tune of £millions, appearing at rival party conferences and endorsing their political agendas, accepting Tory cash to campaign against the official party line and openly declaring that they'd rather Labour loses the next election to the Tories.

It's also worth considering the party establishment's attitude towards defectors from other parties.

  • During the Blair era numerous Tory politicians defected directly from the Tory party to Labour. Probably the most high profile was Shaun Woodward who defected to Labour in 1999 and was pretty much immediately put in charge of Labour's 2001 Election campaign. He was then rewarded by the party elite by being parachuted into the ultra-safe Labour seat of St Helens.
The fact that Labour has repeatedly accepted defectors from other parties shows how remarkable their double standards are. If you're party of the political club you can switch allegiance immediately, but if you're an ordinary person you can be barred from the Labour Party for having voted for another political party years previously.

Conclusion

It's beyond doubt that a large number of people in the Labour Party establishment (politicians, party donors, advisers, party administrators ...) see themselves and their ilk as "a cut above" the ordinary members. The coup plot has proven their contempt for the will of the party membership clearly enough, but the abject hypocrisy of the ongoing Labour Party purge is absolute proof that these people have the same mentality as elitists across the political spectrum, that there should be one set of rules for the little people, and an altogether more lenient set of rules for members of the elite inner circle.

The battle for the future of the Labour Party isn't really so much about policy (Owen Smith is blatantly pilfering Corbyn's policies) and neither is it about personality (If Corbyn is "unelectable" because of his lack of media training then putting up a gaffe-prone blunderer who pretty much nobody has heard to challenge him is utterly ludicrous).

What it's really all about is whether the Labour Party membership believe that the party is best run by a managerialist elite who see themselves as a "a cut above the lower orders", or whether they think it's best run in the actual interests of the Labour Party members and voters.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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Why Ed Balls should stick to practising his dance moves


It's no surprise that Ed Balls has come out of the woodwork to attack Jeremy Corbyn's policy of actually opposing the Tories instead of weakly imitating them, because he's from the right-wing Labour faction who still believe in the ludicrous fantasy that agreeing the Tories into submission is a viable electoral strategy.


Ed Balls has got some incredible brass neck to lecture anyone about "electibility" given that he is the guy who came up with Labour's catastrophically uninspiring austerity-lite strategy for the 2015 General Election and then lost his own seat in the resulting capitulation.

As well as laying into Jeremy Corbyn for actually trying to oppose the Tories, Ed Balls has also tried to cast the blame for 2015 onto Ed Miliband. Of course as 
party leader Ed Miliband bears some responsibility for what happened in 2015, but Ed Balls was the Labour shadow chancellor and the guy who was in charge of defining Labour's economic policies.

Balls tried to claim that the 2015 Electoral defeat came about because of some kind of lack of communication at the top of the Labour Party, but the only communication failure of any significance was the lack of people willing to point out to Balls that his austerity-lite strategy was ... well ... a load of balls.


Instead of choosing to repeatedly pointing out that Osborne had abjectly failed to eliminate the deficit with his austerity nonsense like he had promised to in 2010, and setting out an economically coherent "investment based recovery" strategy, Balls decided to meekly accept the ridiculous fiction that "let's cut our way to growth" is a sane economic policy and then weakly imitate George Osborne in the hope of wooing Tory voters.


Just think about it. How little confidence must someone have in their own abilities in order to try to gain economic credibility by imitating a massively over-promoted towel re-folder like George Osborne?

Austerity-lite failed because "we're not quite as malicious as the Tories" is not the kind of thing that appeals to anyone. Millions of traditional Labour voters chose to vote SNP, Green or just stay at home because Austerity-lite turned them off so much. Meanwhile this weak imitation of Tory economic policy was never going to attract many Tory voters, because why would anyone who believes in right-wing economic fairy tales vote for ersatz austerity from Labour when they could have the real deal from the Tories?

Labour's decision to try to weakly imitate the Tories rather than directly confront George Osborne's socially and economically destructive austerity agenda was an extraordinary failure*, and if anyone single person is the most to blame for this strategic ineptitude then it's clearly Ed Balls.

Balls lost Labour the 2015 General Election with his catastrophically uninspiring austerity-lite rubbish, he lost his own parliamentary seat, and he saw the traditional Scottish Labour heartlands evaporate away to nothing because the SNP gleefully took up the anti-austerity role to add into to the wave of fury over the way Labour politicians had cosied up to the Tories during the independence referendum debate.

Perhaps Ed Balls would be better off if he decided to stop making a fool of himself by pretending that his austerity-lite strategy was anything but a disaster and lecturing other people about "electibility", and concentrate on practising his dance moves so that he doesn't make a fool of himself on Strictly Come Dancing too.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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*Theresa May's failed immigration policies were another area where Labour could really have attacked the Tories, but they chose to imitate Tory rhetoric on immigration (remember that damned mug?). Instead of drawing public attention to Theresa May's catastrophic blend of malice and incompetence, they gave her a total free ride and set her up to become the next Prime Minister.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Labour Party purge is getting ridiculous


The Labour Party purge is getting absolutely ridiculous. Not content with banning 130,000 party members from participation in the leadership election out of a fear that they're likely to back Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party hierarchy has set about trawling through people's social media accounts looking for excuses to suspend them from the party.

Some of the most notable examples include the Orgreave Justice campaigner and 45 year long Labour Party member John Dunn, the head of the Bakers' Union Ronnie Draper, a Unison rep and long-time Labour Party activist called Philip Lewis and a woman called Catherine Starr who was apparently suspended for liking a band called the Foo Fighters too much.

The Catherine Starr case was unusual because the letter of suspension actually included a date when the supposedly unacceptable comment was made, allowing her to track down the "abusive" comment to a post where she said "I fucking love the Foo Fighters". Huge numbers of people are being suspended with an explanation consisting of nothing more than "comments you posted on social media" making it pretty much impossible for people to track down the supposedly problematic comments.

There is clearly a lack of due process if people are being suspended from the party and barred from voting in the leadership election based on such vague allegations. If the Labour Party snoopers have evidence of abusive language they should include screen grabs of the comments deemed to be unacceptable, which is hardly difficult given the way that they're snooping through people's social media accounts.

Some people have raised concerns that snooping through the social media accounts of tens of thousands of Labour Party members in order to find excuses to suspend Jeremy Corbyn supporters is a deeply sinister thing to do. Others have argued that it's a tremendous waste of time and effort that could be better used on actually opposing the Tories. My biggest concern is the abject hypocrisy of it all.

You just have to look at the behaviour of some of the Labour Party members who are backing Owen Smith to see how rigged the whole purge is:

In March 2016 Catherine Starr posted a comment about how much she likes the Foo Fighters on her personal Facebook page. The Labour Party donor Michael Foster wrote an extraordinary article for the Daily Mail describing other Labour Party members as "Nazi stormtroopers" and a tide of other abusive comments and insults including "arrivistas", "a divisive, aggressive holier-than-thou cadre of hard-Left socialists", "bullies and arm-twisters", "economically illiterate people", "a mob", "second-rate minds", "the extreme left".

Catherine Starr has been purged and Michael Foster has suffered no consequences for his abusive diatribe.
In 2014 Dr Gemma Angel wrote a Twitter post detailing her reasons for voting for the Green Party at the European elections. Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Party leader she changed her allegiance and tried to join the Labour Party. In 2016 the unelected Labour Party peer David Sainsbury made a donation of £2,150,000 to the Liberal Democrats.
For a tweet supporting the Green Party from over two years ago Dr Gemma Angel was purged from the party. For handing over two million quid to a rival political party between April and June 2016 David Sainsbury has suffered no consequences. 

The fact that the Labour Party hierarchy have decided to trawl through the social media postings of Jeremy Corbyn supporters to look for (often incredibly tenuous) excuses to block them from membership is bad enough, but the fact that party politicians and donors are being allowed to get away with things that are very much worse demonstrates beyond doubt that the purge is being conducted in order to rig the election, rather than to rid the party of abusive people or those who clearly support other political parties.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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10 Economic fairy stories that people need to stop believing in


One of the big problems in the UK is the fact that the vast majority of the 93% of kids who go to state school end up with no economics education. This means that an awful lot of people are susceptible to the kind of ridiculous economic fairy stories that are pushed by right-wing politicians and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media.

In this article I'm going to quickly run through ten of them. I've already written articles critiquing several of these myths individually. Where this is the case I've linked to the full article underneath the section header.


1. Government finances are like a household budget
[Main Article]

This is one of the most pervasive right-wing economic myths. The Tories love it because it allows them to hoodwink economically uneducated people into supporting their economic policies by making them think they understand economic issues that are actually very much more complex.

If your family home has a printing press that can produce money out of nothing (like the Bank of England) then the government finances-household budget analogy is slightly less misleading, but it also means you're a bunch of money forging criminals, so hardly representative of the typical UK family.

Anyone who tells you that government finances are like a household budget is either economically illiterate, or they're someone who knows perfectly well that they're talking economic gibberish but they're deliberately lying to you because they're assuming you to be economically illiterate.

2. The private sector is more efficient than public ownership
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There are so many examples of this being completely wrong it's impossible to list them all. Think of the G4S security fiasco at the 2012 Olympics when public sector workers like the army and police had to step in at the last moment to rectify a massive private sector blunder. The private company had months to prepare a security plan and failed, the public sector stepped in at the very last moment and succeeded.

Then you've got the publicly operated East Coast Mainline rail franchise that was outperforming all the private franchises so dramatically that the Tories quickly bundled it back into private ownership to avoid the embarrassment.

If private ownership really is so much more efficient than public ownership, ask yourself why the military wasn't one of the first things to be privatised. Ask yourself why countries at war tend to bring private industries under public management.

3. House price inflation is good for the economy and creates growth

I'm sure you'll have seen plenty of news items focusing on house prices. When house prices fall the media report it as if it's some kind of terrible tragedy, and when house prices rise they often paint it as evidence that the economy is recovering. This is completely wrong-headed.

There's no major problem if house prices increase more or less in line with average earnings, but that's clearly not been the case for decades. The more house price inflation outpaces earnings, the bigger the percentage of people's incomes end up going on mortgage repayments rather than being spent on genuinely productive economic activities like setting up businesses, investment and consumption.

The higher the rate of house price inflation, the more skewed towards house price speculation the economy becomes. 


Things have got so bad in the UK that four times as much money is created by the private banks to channel into house price speculation than is lent to businesses outside of the financial sector that actually produce things and provide services. The more house prices inflate, the more incentive there is for the banks to pour even more money into the housing bubble rather than into the sectors of the real economy that actually generate real economic activity.

4. Austerity is necessary and not just an ideologically driven choice
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"Let's cut our way to growth" is an absolutely ridiculous policy from a macroeconomic perspective. The majority of economists recognise that severe spending cuts are harmful to the economy, and more and more people are waking up to the fact that austerity is a con job that uses debt-fearmongering as a cover for policies designed to ensure a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and ordinary to the tiny super-rich minority.


5. Everyone maximising their self-interest promotes wellbeing

This is one of the central ideas that underpins the right-wing economic models that have become accepted as the economic orthodoxy since the 1980s, and it's utterly ridiculous.


The concept that humans are rationally self-interested beings who will always act in their own self-interest is utterly ridiculous. Rational self interest is an impossible concept because in situations with multiple choices (like supermarket shopping) the number of different combinations of choices mean that a rational analysis would take thousands of years to complete, so people just use heuristics to make their decisions. 

A look at the concept of information asymmetry demonstrates how wrong-headed the idea of humans as perfectly rational economic agents is, because without a perfect supply of information, perfect rationality is clearly impossible to achieve.

Another glaring problem is that the concept of people as purely rational self-interested economic agents is the way it conflicts so dramatically with what we know about reality. If we were all perfectly selfish economic automota, then stuff like charity, empathy, voluntary activities and philanthropy simply wouldn't exist.

The problem goes further than the fact that humans don't and can't act as purely self-interested individuals. The idea that if only we were all just entirely selfish, then general wellbeing would be promoted is staggeringly backwards. If only everyone would stop giving to charity or volunteering in their community then the world would be a better place? Who actually believes this drivel?

6. It is a good idea to get China to finance our infrastructure projects
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Even before it was revealed that one of the Chinese stakeholders in the bid to construct the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is accused of espionage in the US, George Osborne's own father-in-law described the deal concocted by Cameron and Osborne as "one of the worst deals ever" for energy consumers and the UK taxpayer.

I'm not going to go into any more detail on this because it really boggles my mind that there's anyone out there who thinks that the UK is better off bribing the Chinese into building our infrastructure for us than building it for ourselves.

7. Impoverishing people on benefits makes them find jobs

The idea that the benefits system is too generous and that people will just go out and find jobs if the welfare system is slashed is one of the most pervasive right-wing economic myths.

The first problem is that many people on benefits are simply incapable of work. Cutting the benefits paid to the severely disabled and terminally ill doesn't make them more likely to find work, it just makes their already difficult situation much worse.

Another problem is that an awful lot of benefits go to the working poor. Stuff like working tax credits and in-work benefits accounts for a much bigger slice of the welfare system than unemployment benefit. Additionally an ever increasing slice of the vast housing benefit budget goes to the working-poor, whose employers pay such pitifully low wages that their employees can't even afford to cover their housing costs. 


Slashing Working Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, Statutory Sick Pay, maternity and paternity pay and other in-work benefits, whilst harking on about "making work pay" is obscene political propaganda from the Tories, but lots of people actually buy into it because they're unwilling to differentiate between the benefits paid to the unemployed, and benefits paid to the working poor.

Another major problem is that the concept of equilibrium unemployment is central to right-wing economic orthodoxy. They actually believe that there is an ideal rate of unemployment and design their economic policies to ensure that there's always a pool of unemployed workers. The idea of deliberately maintaining a standing army of unemployed people to drive down the wages and working conditions of those with jobs is bad enough, but it's utterly appalling to then say that we have to slash the pitiful subsistence incomes they live on in order to force them into work, when the policy is actually to keep them out of work to keep wages as low as possible.

One last problem is that the government's own evidence shows that impoverishing people in order to make them look for work is totally ineffective. In fact it actually creates more barriers to employment (inability to pay transport costs, printing CVs, cleaning clothes ...).


8. Driving down wages is good for the economy

UK workers have suffered a 10.4% decrease in their average real terms incomes since 2007 which is a decline only matched in severity by Greece in the rest of the developed world. The Tories have actually tried to make out that repressing wages is good for the economy as they tried to justify their 1% cap on wage increases for public sector workers (whilst accepting an 11% pay raise for themselves of course).

Slashing wages is bad for the economy because lower wages means lower aggregate demand in the economy. The only way that demand can be kept up when wages are falling is if people avoid cutting back by incurring private debt. Anyone who thinks that cutting wages and stimulating an even bigger private debt bubble than the one that preceded the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown is a good idea really hasn't been thinking very hard about economic issues at all.


9. Government spending crowds out the private sector


The idea that government investment crowds out the private sector is difficult enough to justify in economic good times, but in a economic situation where the private banks are unwilling to lend to businesses because they see much greater returns gambling on the house price bubble or playing the global derivatives casino it's utterly senseless.

Just look at the decline in house building since the 1970s (see image). The Thatcher government basically put an end to government house building, and if crowding out theory is correct, the private sector should have taken up the government share in the market which would have kept the number of new builds per year more or less the same.

In fact if you combine crowding out with the myth of private sector efficiency there should actually have been a huge house building boom since the 1980s, but what has actually happened is an extraordinary slump with new builds falling to the lowest level since the 1920s under David Cameron's government.

The private sector didn't build more houses at all, they simply sat back and enjoyed a huge unearned bonanza as the supply of new houses dwindled and ever increasing demand resulted in skyrocketing prices and corporate profits.

Crowding out theory clearly didn't even work in the pre-crisis period, but in the post-crisis economy it's absolute gibberish to claim state investment crowds out the private sector when the private banks are refusing to lend to genuinely productive sectors of the economy.

10. Government money creation always creates inflation


This myth is easily accepted by the masses because "wheelbarrows full of cash to buy a loaf of bread" in Wiemar Germany has been part of the history curriculum for millions of UK school kids. It's easy to perpetuate the myth that money creation creates hyperinflation when you can hark back to stuff like that, but it's basically just economic fearmongering because it relies on a complete misunderstanding of where money actually comes from (it's actually created out of nothing by the private banks) and a failure to consider the different ways in which the money could be spent.

It is true that money creation can lead to inflation, but it clearly depends where the newly created money is directed. The private banks create money out of nothing every time they make a loan and this led to a huge house price bubble. After the 2007-08 economic collapse the monetary system was not reformed and we're now seeing the development of another, even bigger house price bubble.

When the Bank of England created £375 billion in quantitative easing cash to prop up the insolvent financial sector it did not create a large spike in general inflation. The purpose of this vast cash injection was to stave off deflation in financial sector assets that are mainly held by the wealthy. As a result of it the values of the assets held by the rich were significantly inflated, while the values of pension funds and savings were deflated.

The type of inflation caused by money creation clearly depends on where the targeted money is directed into the economy.

If the government created money to just hand it out to the public that would likely cause price inflation in goods and services, but imagine if the government created £50 billion to invest in ensuring that every business and household in the UK gets free access to high-speed broadband. This spending would obviously have a significant economic effect but whether it causes inflation or deflation would depend on which area of the economy you were to look at. Such a scheme would create a large number of relatively high-skilled jobs meaning an earnings boost. It would create increased demand for materials which would have various economic repercussions, and it would also clearly cause a collapse in the value of companies providing home broadband services.

Anyone trying to claim that money creation to invest in infrastructure and services would always create hyperinflation is clearly trying to con you, probably because they prefer money creation schemes that inflate the assets of the rich, rather than money creation schemes that benefit all of society.


Conclusion

After the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown the "too big to fail" banks still utterly dominate the UK market; bankers salaries and bonuses are way higher than before the crisis; ordinary British workers have suffered a collapse in the value of their wages as bad as in Greece; private banks still have a monopoly on money creation and are still using the money that they create to inflate speculative housing bubbles; and the Tory government has simply repackaged the hard-right economic dogma that caused the financial sector crisis as their Austerity snake oil elixir to supposedly cure the crisis.

This utterly unacceptable response to the financial sector meltdown has come about because far too many people accept the facile and completely inaccurate economic fairy stories propagated by the Tory party and their chums in the mainstream media. 



If the British public do not learn to stop believing in economic fairy stories like these, there's little hope of any kind of change in direction away from the kind of hard-right economic dogma that created the conditions where the 2007-08 financial sector meltdown became inevitable, which means another meltdown at some point in the future and yet another effort to rebrand the exact causes of the meltdown as the solution to the meltdown.


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NOTE: This article was inspired by a comment from a guy called Simon Cohen in the comments section on the Guardian website who came up with a list of 10 economic myths that need busting. I kept several of the myths he suggested, but changed others.