Keys to the crash

Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.” ~ Jean Anouilh

I’m no big fan of the Labour Party. I’d like to be but it’s falling so far short of its potential that its only use to me, at the moment, is in the urgent necessity of applying the brakes, even if only slightly, to the cruel incompetence of the Coalition. The disconnect between Ed’s often quite astute anti-neoliberal rhetoric and his actual policy proposals is infuriating and distressing. He’s failing so miserably to produce a whole narrative that I know exists and so bent on proposing Tory-lite policies like they’re going out of fashion – which, of course they should be – that there are days when I despair for us all.

But Labour did not “crash the car”. Not on its own. Both it and the Conservatives have been sharing the driving for more than three decades. In fact, just about every government in the ‘developed’ world was on the same road at the same time. There was an almighty pile up. That was to be expected, really. Visibility was very bad, the music was lung-poppingly loud, the road was wet, the tyres were worn and everyone was driving with all the recklessness of coked-up, hormone-charged teenagers, with complete disregard for both the Highway Code and all pedestrians. After the crash, no police or vehicle recovery companies came to properly investigate what had happened or to clear away the wreckage but lots of private ambulances showed up and, well, thank goodness for insurance because it included no claims protection as well as automatic vehicle replacement.

Unfortunately Labour seems content and obliged to be the foil that cops for the points on its licence. It’s such a pity because now they’re being told that not only would it be madness to give them the keys back but that they should never be allowed behind the wheel again and that anyway, their Tory co-drivers (with added Liberal Democrat) have decided to outsource for chauffeurs. That way, Tories say, they can be as merry-hell high or as mean-drunk as they like and carry on carrying on blaming anyone and everyone but themselves.

It would be great if Labour said sorry for their party’s mistakes and its complicity in global meltdown and admitted why the last decades have been to the enormous long-term detriment of 99. whatever % of the world but that, curiously, for a party with a supposed reputation for fiscal competence, the Tories, having constructed a narrative of outright scorn for Labour, have yet consciously and happily, adopted and built upon many of the stupid things Labour did on top of those things for which they, too, and the whole neoliberal world are responsible and are still busy doing to a far worse effect.

Labour may not be the sharpest tool in the box and I’m not trying to defend its members but anyone who believes that the Conservative Party (or, by default, the Lib Dems) has any better a clue about finance and the economic health of this country – or is it four countries or three and a bit, now – is deluded, frankly. None of them really knows what the heck they’re talking about. And neither does the Media.

It’s not as if there’s no evidence, either, as a simple online search of, say, “did Labour really crash the economy?” or “how do Tories feel about banking regulation?” or “who’s the most fiscally responsible: Labour or Conservatives?” or perhaps “why did mainstream not see the financial crisis coming?” would amply demonstrate.

Labour is its own worst enemy; it doesn’t have a clue how do itself a favour. The Conservatives, on the other hand…

Answers on a postcard, please

How d’you like your politics
And governmental policies
Of democratic choice?
Scribbled on old envelopes?
Or on a pack of cancer sticks?
Or should it be the richest
With the clout to make the loudest noise?
Perhaps you like it dribbled out
By “spokesmen” who cannot be named
And subsequently nibbled over
By a pushy Mainstream Press?
Or better yet the broadcast news -
They’re excellent at framing views!
Or, what about the really sly,
Like “stories that you may have missed..”?
And those whose votes appease a crony status quo
For blatant lack of courage or integrity or wit?
Or how about we all rely on latent use of hue and cry?
Or do you much prefer it when the Regime just insists?
Apparently Democracy is all about the voice of We
So where is it supposed to fit?
Your answers on a postcard, please.

Britain expects

To continue from yesterday’s ‘All for one and one for all..?

The Cameron, Miliband and Clegg trio rush to Scotland at the last minute, the subsequent intervention of Gordon Brown and the ensuing hasty vow has produced a veritable mess.

Those that say if Scotland has a devolved parliament, so should England, are right. I had expected that this would naturally happen anyway: if Scotland had voted ‘yes’ then we would have moved towards our own parliament by default; as Scotland has voted ‘no’ (this time) that we would get an English parliament by political and general public demand. Add to that the calls from Northern Ireland and Wales for more devolved powers and Westminster’s acceptance that this is reasonable, then an English parliament seems inevitable. In this light, the West Lothian question is finite and therefore a false controversy being used as a distraction.

However, if the Scottish settlement does come first and, bearing in mind that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish positions are not going to be resolved particularly easily or quickly and, if the proposed constitutional convention is to take place with serious intent, the West Lothian question will continue to loom large for some time, yet, won’t it?

I understand Cameron’s intention/desire to sort England out in tandem with Scotland. I get that this complicate things and why Scotland should now suspect the predicted delaying tactics and a possible dilution of what she’s been promised. Perhaps she was promised too much. I’m not sure, largely because I don’t know what the rest of us are going to be promised in the counterbalance. And I understand why Labour is accused of panicking about the loss of constituency MPs and indeed, the chilling fear creeping into those of us who see and feel an urgent need to be rid of the Tories now coming under further threat. Nevertheless, however it ends up being achieved, English voters for English (only) laws is a democratic no-brainer in a United Kingdom composed of country-centric devolved governments.

Obviously, the West Lothian question suits Cameron and his party very well. Of course he is being a political opportunist. I would expect him to put his party’s interest first if he could and to shaft Labour – it’s his MO, after all and could be said to be his best shot at a second term in Government.

However, Miliband, although he can be accused of dithering for fear of his majority, (though whether the WL issue actually guarantees Labour’s loss is much contested and besides, if people want shot of the Tories, they could always get off their arses and vote) he is still correct to say that making isolated changes is not a good idea and that we have to first look at the whole picture to work out the implications to cohesion, fairness and democratic integrity.

The political expediency and the evident complexity involved in the constitutional and democratic reform of four countries are being revealed daily. Some politicians claim we cannot have a link between the Scottish deal and English-centric issues but, how can we not? We cannot afford to be bestowing privilege to one country over another any more than one region over another. And yes, that is shit for Scotland but have not the acts of arbitrary privilege and badly weighted power deals been major, long-term parts of our current social destruction? However, Scotland has been promised certain powers within a certain time and to break this vow, either by detail or timetable, is simply disastrous to issues of trust, irrespective of whether it’s fair or reasonable. What a bloody farce!

And now, Federalists and devolutionaries who advocate extra tiers of autonomous governance as the vehicle of greater people power are pushing their ‘solutions’ into the mix. Such ideas as they express are a vital part of a wider discussion but blithely adding them to the Scottish timetable is unhelpful. Either deal with the Scottish settlement separately or throw everything back into the mix but don’t conflate in selective half measures.

The three main party leaders and peripheral actors look to be stitching us all right up, not just Scotland. I’m sure that many politicos are approaching or think they are approaching this whole conundrum with good intent. Others, I’m just as sure, are merely relishing the opportunity to settle scores and create mischief. Whichever end of the spectrum our leaders and media started from, be it singular career, tribal or ‘national’ interests, they mostly appear either naive or wilfully ignorant of the number and correlation of constitutional and democratic implications and have defaulted to their own win-win over that of the Commons’ benefit.

Really, though: did anyone actually believe political promises made in panicked haste would not be messed about with or broken altogether? But what is Britain, now? It’s clearly not the once and for all settled argument that the establishment would have us believe it is. Is it just a geographical abbreviation, one big country, four separate countries joined in equal union, or four countries who should separate? To be honest, I reckon we could eventually adjust to any of those with broad public consent and that reaching a concord over the choice is a priority that should mark the direction of reform and empowerment. Uncomfortable, frustrating and daunting as that may be for many, it is the heart of a push that has finally come to shove under a dawn of rising realities.

All for one and one for all..?

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” ~ Robert Frost

Given that we are on a shifting carpet and no one actually knows anything very definitive yet, no matter what they say, this is just an intuitive, rough response to the last few days:

Unionists, Independents and Federalists, eh?

Over Europe, everyone complains that currency union is self-evidently impossible without civic and political union, as was similarly stated over the recent Scottish Independence campaign. European technocrats are accused of wanting one primary government with devolved powers bestowed to each member state and most, bar the technocrats is against it due to issues such as sovereignty and the obvious economic disparities. To me, the US epitomises such devolution: where State law is constantly at odds with Federal law – where the tax system looks a competitive mess; where you can get an abortion easily in one region but not another; consume cannabis recreationally in some states but not others. You can’t seem to find decent democracy in either, not for love nor money. To me, the US and the EU are democratic jokes but it seems that some here, in the still-UK, are bent on ignoring their farcical inconsistencies.

There are cries that the centralised state has failed us. But is that really true or is it that the good things the centralised state has achieved and has the power and potential still to achieve, have, in fact, been consistently undermined by career politicians in their pursuit of reckless foreign policies and economic illiteracy, both of which insist, symbiotic as they are, on profit and growth, to the detriment of social prosperity, cohesion, respect for law and democratic engagement?

Decentralisation, devolution and localism: they sound lovely and freeing but they are rather nebulous concepts that mean different things to different people. In reluctant, ignorant, partisan hands, each pretty little concept could turn out to be as destructive and divisive as yesterday’s capitalism that became neoliberal, libertarian ideology. I like the phrase ‘think globally; act locally’ but it’s a poetic abstract that can mean anything from ecologically aware sourcing to selfish individualism.

You can’t eliminate bureaucracy with further concentric circles of bureaucracy. Furthermore, it is like red-tape and regulations: the issue is not actually the amount of it but rather, whether it is necessary, useful or beneficial in its purpose. We’ve been sold and outsourced over and over to private profiteers by consecutive regimes. Just look at who increasingly runs our public services and the over-dependence on Charity businesses. To me, these are the vehicles by which a central government absolves itself from responsibility, and accountability. I can’t help thinking that this post Scotland knee-jerk rush to fix everything with yet another ideological wheeze is more abdication than actual civic empowerment; that it will morph into a sneaky backdoor to concretising neoliberal, libertarian dreams. ‘They’ can say that when we complained about democratic deficits and lack of accountability, that we demanded it. The current postcode inequality potentially exacerbated – and by consent!

So, anyway, it’s not democratic reform or debate that bothers me – I’m excited about that – but rather the localising/decentralising direction that it’s being automatically assumed, not only as necessary for any reform to take but as though it were the panacea for democratic ills. Of that, I am sceptical, suspicious, even.

On a wider, deeper level I am all for the idea of an all-inclusive, UK-wide Constitutional Convention. Gods know we do need constitutional and democratic reforms! And we will need a common platform by which to gain good information and ideas and on which to build exploration and discussion. One of the lessons of Scotland is how important it is to engage with the arguments. A convention through which to access ideas on a UK-wide level is years overdue and I hope time is taken and that options are kept open long enough to sufficiently distinguish between mere ideological herding and genuinely practical suggestions.

I want we, the people, to be empowered and our civic leaders and institutions to be made to be accessible, responsible and accountable. Thing is: although we are justifiably frustrated – furious at how we’ve been wholly short-changed and are right to want more democratic power, I suspect that ultimately, most of us also just want to be left alone to get on with our lives as we see fit. What I, personally, want is a state which functions to provide infrastructure that makes it possible. I’m always banging on about how we, the People are the State but now I wonder: of which state will I be a part? Over which one will I have an experientially valid voice and which one or just how many of them will have power over me? Now I am torn: I know that top-down diktats both assist and constrain lesser authorities and that grass-roots participation is vital to reform but, being politically engaged at a local-local level, a City level, a regional level and a national level such as is claimed would truly empower me and sixty-plus million people, sounds like a frenzied full-time job with no guarantee. It’s hard enough keeping up with Westminster and County Councils and I keep up better than many I know outside of the ether. I’m not sure, from here, how many Russian dolls of power I’d want to or could do that with.

I think, though, that the coming dialogue and analyses over our entire situation and psyche are going to make a welcome mockery of all manner of Westminsteresque and general mainstream bull. The light that will be shed on the level of hypocrisy, cynicism and dissemblance is going to make us better educated as a collective citizenry and probably very angry. More than now. It will hopefully shine on everything from sovereignty to finance to trade treaties to war and defence to health to housing to inequality to the corruption of Authority. You name it. Ev-ry-thing.

And poor Scotland! What a mistake she has made! Give it a few months and her noes will be full of regrets and what ifs, if they are not already. The usual elite suspects have stitched us all up. No currency union for an independent Scotland but if England gets her own Parliament or whatever we arrive at and Wales and NI get further devolved power, might it not be a currency union anyway? How long before everyone is cross with Scotland for opening this can of worms? I am not, by the way but I can see what an uncertain period awaits us when one starts to really absorb the legal/practical complexities so I don’t expect that the emotional searching will be any less of an upheaval. It could get really messy and pretty high-octane from now on and we will all be tested hard, I think. I’m not afraid of a bit of chaos but, after watching Scotland, I am worried about the misinformation and frames of bias that we will be spun by those who, however much they say that we, the people, will be the power and the voice of change, will engineer to get an outcome that suits established order.

I started off, a year or so back, wanting Scotland to stay as part of the UK because of stuff like sentimentality, laziness at the thought of the difficult post-yes negotiations and the same strategic belief in strength in numbers that made me look favourably on Europe. But as the campaign advanced and I read wide and deep, I became more and more convinced and hopeful that she should grab her chance while she could; seize the opportunity to escape neoliberal entropy and create a new social-economic model (albeit I was imagining her with a public central bank and a new currency). That it would ultimately be better for her people and better for the rest of us than a load of unequally devolved powers. Now we are looking at how to make devolution fair and available to all, I wonder if there will be calls down the line from some that Scotland be forced to go independent, whether she wants to or not. I would understand this because really, either we are the United Kingdom as one ‘country’ with one central government (notwithstanding some powers that could/would be devolved to all countries/counties/regions/cities – whatever. Makes me tired, thinking about it) or we are all independent, ‘sovereign’ nations who just happen to share a lot of history, mostly by virtue of geographical proximity but who must learn to negotiate and co-operate with each other just as we have to do with the rest of the world.

The whole thing is enough to make a head spin and we’ve barely started! Oh, well, we’re on the roller coaster now. Better buckle up.

Politalists and journalicians

The next round of misplaced vitriol
And the same old tired, dumb insistences -
The concentrated concern for career
And petty party interests.
Craftsmen disingenuous, with crude revisions
Rush to squeeze and squander opportunity
With the bull of antiquated rhetoric, so full of steering fear
Selective ears and frozen vision.

Among the echelons,
The win-win bonds of established collusion
Build concentric barriers to power;
And, even as the snake oil smoulders on the ruins
Ivory tower thinks to offer like’s illusion -
Conceives itself thoughtful, generous;
Unmatched in intellectual sense,
Regardless of all consequence

Well, no one needs your false humility
Nor your feigned pain and hurried missives.
And no one cares for your palpable relief
Nor the dismissive glad-you’ve-come-to-your-senses
Paternalism that only you would miss and crave.
Take your relayed statements and circular, vacuous promises -
Nobody needs your echo chamber here but you
For no one Real believes in you and even less in what you say for fear of what you’ll do.

Telling Campaign Tales

Ring out the sounds of state
With the deadweight of strained thought
And the soft focus of a mediocre media
Sing tedious warnings and panicked pledge
Bring forth the heavy intellect of dinosaurs
The dread threats of the buyers and the bought
Sling in the pimped endorsement of the A-to-Zed-list clique
Because, where would we be without a High Def guest to grace the frame?
Just pile-em-high and sell-em-cheap
And to the Commons, do the same.