Copyright © LeftCentral. All Rights Reserved

Copyright ©  LeftCentral. All Rights Reserved

The Tories – From Winston Churchill to David Cameron by Timothy Heppell book review

LeftCentral Book Review 

It’s true; progressives should never judge a book by its cover because this is an outstanding in-depth analysis of the Tories by Timothy Heppell. Napoleon said luck was the attribute all Generals should have; a useful trait in politics too.  And for the majority of the time good luck is a strong feature of the post-war Tories. The transformed party took power with a slim majority in 1951; just as a world economic upturn was emerging, which helped reconcile the party in government to the Attlee Consensus.  The 1951 election providing another lucky break for the Tories in a bizarre anomaly, more votes were cast for the defeated Labour Party.  Read more of this post

What Price Justice – The demise of Probation?

Mike Guilfoyle 

Image©Mummelgrummel

It was a piquant moment for me, reading that the prominent Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC had been broached to consider instigating legal action.  This in response to the ill-considered and mean spirited move by the ‘ Hard line’ Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, prohibiting the sending into prisons of books by families and friends under recently imposed restrictions introduced last November via a Ministry of Justice edict, with the Orwellian prefix PSI 30/2013 (Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme). This policy recalled for me, the redoubtable prison reformer Sir Alexander Paterson, who coined the famous adage `that men (sic) come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment’.  Read more of this post

LeftCentral interview with Professor Jonathan Rose

LeftCentral 

“I do not want to impair the vigour of competition, but we can do much to mitigate the causes of failure.  We want to draw a line below which we will not allow persons to live and labour, yet above which they may compete with all their strength of their manhood.  We do not want to pull down the structure of science and civilisation – but to spread a net above the abyss.”  Winston Churchill, January 1906

Jonathan Rose is William R. Kenan Jr Professor of History at Drew University. His 2001 book for Yale, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, was winner of many prizes including the Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History and was named a Book of the Year by The Economist magazine. Professor Jonathan Rose has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his forthcoming publication, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, ActorRead more of this post

It`s raining stones again…

Nora Connolly

Image © Tmaurizia

When will UK interest rates rise?  Pundits recently suggesting an increase likely prior to the next general election, a scenario which would allow the Coalition to spin the policy as a by-product of economic recovery. Given that any decision made in this regard by the Bank of England must be linked to an economic upturn. This introduces a potentially nasty paradox, as economic recovery, either real or illusory (the latter more likely) could have dire implications for many UK households currently struggling to make ends meet at this time. All things considered, it might be prudent to avoid household debt at the moment, a view which is shared by those now running the British economy, not the Treasury but the Bank of England, after yesterday’s very British coup.  The recent announcement by the Bank of England to withdraw the funding for lending scheme had an immediate impact as “shares in construction companies plunged”.  But more significantly the financial stability report leaves Treasury policy undermined, while at the same time cleverly placing future responsibility for any UK housing bubble at the door of number 11 Downing Street. Read more of this post

How many neo-liberals does it take to change a light bulb?

Nora Connolly 

Image © CharlesJshapr

We are all neo-liberals now. You might not like it but an insidious political metamorphosis has taken place, those in denial akin to the misfortunate frog unaware that it’s getting boiled out of existence. We are shedding our social democrat identity for an ugly neo-liberal form and the political implications for this are profound. Recently, I wondered why the economic meltdown of 2008 hadn’t undermined the neo-liberal project, a prescient query. Answers now provided by Professor Philip Mirowski in his recently published `Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Verso 2013)`. His thesis a pessimistic one, although it provides the Left with a much needed counter narrative to reconceptualise their collective notion of markets.   Read more of this post

The economic consequences of Mr Greenspan

Nora Connolly 

Image © IMF Photograph/Stephen Jaffe

Dedicated to David Wright who is about to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Alan Greenspan the former chair of the Federal Reserve has just published a book an occasion that allows time for reflection. In his pomp he was known as Saint Alan and the economic consensus he helped shape, today appears unruffled and widespread. The austerity programme followed by the UK government recently commended by Greenspan, a supporter of George Osborne. One of the important ingredients for economic success according to Mr Greenspan (speaking several years ago) is the need for `growing worker insecurity which reduces pressure for compensation and decent working conditions` the UK government is following that piece of advice to the letter. Meanwhile in the USA wealth resides in the hands of a tiny fraction of the population a `section so small that the census doesn’t even pick it up…a tenth of a percent of the population`. This has political implications because power is held in limited hands and helps explain the ideological hinterland of Barack Obama, a centrist amid a right wing consensus. Unsurprisingly there has been no Obama New Deal. Given this situation, one need not wonder why adherence to the market continues unabated. Even though the crash of 2008 is considered worse than 1929, but in the 1930s a new consensus emerged, while today a conservative orthodoxy dominates.   Read more of this post

What`s the word?

Nora Connolly

Image © Chatham House

What language was he speaking? [Answer] All languages. And none…Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose

It seems to me, that politicians would get more respect, if their oratory was a little more sincere, especially when spouting egregious policy at conference. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, this week made a crass speech in Manchester. Words used devoid of genuine meaning; `Help`, `Abandon`, `Work`, `Benefits`, `Job`, `Hired`, `Great`, `Future`, `Faith`, `Optimism`, `Nerve`, `Cuts`, `Sacrifice`, `Yes`, `Decline’, ‘Business`, `Country`, `Sound`, `Economic`, `Fair` `Prosperous`, and `Standards`. One could cite the entire speech but these words stand out, the meaning lost in a sea of thinly disguised spite. The audience listening including several Ministers, who like the Chancellor, require no mandate even though this government is implementing profound change and massively altering the social fabric of this country. At least in the 1980s when the Conservatives hammered the poor, they had the good grace to administer it with a Parliamentary majority. And believe it or not, there were elements in the Conservative Party in the 1980s that had some hold on reality; although they spawned this mob and mob is the correct word to use in this context. Read more of this post

September 1913

Resolute Hero

Image © Manfred Wassman, alias BerlinSight

And what, God help us, could they save?

Romantic Ireland`s dead and gone.

It`s with O`Leary in the grave. W.B. Yeats September 1913

Ireland 100 years ago was deep in nationalist ferment drawing Britain towards civil war. The Liberals led by Asquith, reinforced by a substantial Irish Parliamentary Party in Westminster. Home Rule was the quid pro quo at the heart of this arrangement, its implementation achievable after the introduction of the Parliament Act 1911. The Loyalists in the North led by the formidable Dublin Barrister, Edward Carson, who on September 28, 1912 was the first to sign the Solemn League and Covenant. Carson was eventually followed by half a million others, many famously signing the petition in their own blood. This bizarre manifestation of loyalty to the Crown was sanctioned by the Conservative Party leader Andrew Bonar Law. The British establishment played the Orange card and the danger of granting unequivocal opposition to Home Rule evident when the UVF began gun running in April 1914. In the South the Volunteers (formed in November 1913) would begin (with less success) to get hold of arms, preparing to defend with physical force the execution of a British government mandate. Read more of this post

‘Let’s Cut Out Equality’ The independent steering group’s report of the public sector equality duty (PSED) review, September 2013

Robin Richardson 

Image © Evan-amos

On Friday 6 September a new report crept out from the government equalities office (GEO). It emerged without the company of an official press release and the only media coverage on that day was in the Telegraph and the Mail. Both these papers had apparently been influenced by a private, off-the-record briefing about how the authors of the report (or, anyway, some of them) wished equalities legislation to be trivialised, ridiculed and dismissed. ‘How many lesbians have you disciplined?’ asked the headline about the report in the Mail. The headline was followed by a summary of the report which it purported to be describing: ‘Pointless red tape condemned in new report into how public bodies have become obsessed by equality’.

The Telegraph headline was marginally less sensationalist: ’Red tape “overkill” leaves public bodies counting number of lesbians disciplined’. The heading continued: ‘Equalities rules have sent public bodies into a pointless “red-tape overkill”, a landmark report commissioned by David Cameron will warn today [6 September]’.  Incidentally, there is no reference in the report itself to lesbians, nor does the word overkill appear, nor is there any claim in the report that it was commissioned by the prime minister. It seems clear that the coverage in the Telegraph and Mail was based essentially on an unofficial briefing, not on a reading of the actual report. Read more of this post

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