Scottish Independence plenty of questions but few answers…

Image © The Laird of Oldham

James Withnail-Woolf

The progressive case for and against Scottish Independence was made on May 13 by Gordon Brown and Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Both speeches encapsulate the divisions on the left over the future of the Union.

According to Gordon Brown the British Isles are stronger when resources are combined; economic strength allows equitable distribution and social justice for all. Brown has explored these issues recently which explains why his ad lib lines are well rehearsed. He paid deference to the Scottish Parliament, and then placed his case against independence firmly within Labours hinterland. Although, Tony Blair could not have made such a speech, one doubts if he is aware of John Wheatley or James Maxton. Brown has been acknowledging the heroes of the Scottish left since the 1970s when he edited the Red Paper on Scotland. Read more of this post

Thatcher and Thatcherism – by Eric J. Evans

LeftCentral Book Review 

© Image rahuldlucca`s photostream

This is a bantamweight text, which packs a super-heavyweight punch. And Evans, whose first edition was published fifteen-years ago, has revised his view; granting Mrs Thatcher more significance than he initially credited her with. Thatcherism is not considered a coherent ideology; Evans along with others believes it was (is) an amalgam of neo-liberalism and authoritarian conservatism. He charts Thatcher`s rise and fall, while placing her leadership within a political and historical framework (Peel and Disraeli). He includes a more contemporary analysis of Major`s administration, as John Major suffered from her back seat driving, as the Tories ripped themselves apart over Europe. Margaret Thatcher, who in 1986 signed the Single European Act, paradoxically became the standard bearer of European sceptics, illustrating what a funny world British politics is. As Evans points out the “Single European Act accelerated the process towards wider European integration, ultimately leading to the Maastricht Treaty in 1991 and the establishment of a single European currency in 1991”.

The New Labour project was not immune from Thatcherism and comparisons between Blair/Brown and Thatcher are made. Evans gives credence to a quote from the Spectator that “Margaret Thatcher begat Tony Blair”. Ireland is ignored by Evans and an interesting policy contrast between Blair and Thatcher was lost. Thatcher was viewed by many as a strident Unionist but she did sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985) and without this later initiatives by Major and Blair would have been impossible.  Read more of this post

Ed Miliband Leader of the Left?

Nora Connolly 

Ed Miliband on the mic

Copyright archived Department of Energy

Ed Miliband is the leader of the Left, a revelation made recently in a broadcast with BBC/Independent journalist Steve Richards. Although, Miliband appears more interested in identifying himself with Conservative politicians, concepts and with Mrs Thatcher`s legacy – obsequiously describing her as a conviction politician. In his early thirties we discover that Miliband`s summer reading was Iain Macleod’s biography, Ed Milibands`s `One Nation` agenda clearly has had a longer gestation period than cynics might have thought. The Disraeli citation highlighted in the broadcast was further evidence that the philosophical underpinning of Miliband`s big idea is a Conservative/reactionary one. The only left-winger mentioned during the programme was Ralph Miliband, the father of the Labour leader, a brilliant Marxist thinker who sadly died in 1994.

Miliband`s position was considered analogous to Mrs Thatcher`s period in opposition, a correlation that allowed for a comparison with Miliband by Charles Moore. Richards returned to Thatcher`s legacy indicating that she developed a strong populist message, a political outsider who produced a critique of the former government led by Ted Heath in which she served. A politician who overturned the Keynesian post-war consensus, whose populist message was based on the notion that the state needed to get off peoples backs.  Read more of this post

Institutional Racism In The Academy by Andrew Pilkington

LeftCentral Book Review 

Wall of Books

Copright Mr.T in DC

On April 22nd 1993, Stephen Lawrence was murdered, “Stephen was stabbed to death because he was black” this highly disturbing and incontrovertible finding emanates from a judicial inquiry, the Macpherson Report (1999), set up in 1997 to examine the flawed Police investigation into Stephen Lawrence`s murder. An investigation marred by a combination of factors most notably, “institutional racism” within the Police. As Professor Pilkington outlines the inquiry went further admitting that “institutional racism was rife in British Society”. Andrew Pilkington utilises institutional racism as a conceptual tool to investigate Midshire Police and Midshire University, an ambitious endeavour producing a stimulating book.

Pilkington unravels the thorny concept of institutional racism a term initially associated with Stokely Carmichael a Black Power critic of USA racial policy. There has been significant resistance in applying this concept to the UK, for example the Scarman Report (1981) rejected the notion. This reticence may be valid given the racial landscape that Carmichael/Hamilton surveyed in 1967, with its heritage of de facto and de jure racism, making direct comparison with the UK difficult. However, Pilkington quoting Carmichael illustrates that, “Institutional racism also has another name: colonialism” a concept in which British institutions are clearly not immune.  Read more of this post

Politicians should be wary of vested interests in the economic debate

Tom Bailey

Image © Alan Chan

On Monday the 2020 Tax Commission final report was published. Other websites have picked over the bizarre elements, the major problems and highlighted certain strengths better than I could. This blog will not discuss all of the report itself but instead use it to raise a broader point. These reports are productions by groups of self-interest and must be treated as such. Think tanks such as the Taxpayer’s Alliance often lack transparency about funding. I can’t find such information on their website and emailing to ask who funds them has not led to a reply (nor did it for George Monbiot). Polly Toynbee wrote a good piece a while back that articulated the problems of that think tank in particular. The TPA supports the self-interest of large business owners and leaders in lower taxes, regardless of the consequent costs for everyone else. What is more annoying is that they are sought whilst many intelligent economists without such evident self interest are ignored. Business leaders and their stooge think tanks seem to be given a preferential place in all economic debates.

This is a cross-party phenomenon that has been going on for far too long. Sure, business support is all well and good, but it should not be the be-all and end-all in economic debates. Tony Blair wrote in his memoirs that he knew Labour had lost the 2010 general election when business came out in support of the Conservatives. He wrote that once you lose chief executives, ‘you lose more than a few votes. You lose your economic credibility. And a sprinkling of academic economists, however distinguished, won’t make up the difference.’ (681) Given Blair’s obsession with courting business support, it seems it was more than just another cheap shot against Gordon Brown. The Conservatives have had a more established deference to business. Appeal to business authority was one tactic used in 2010 by Osborne trying to make the case for deeper austerity than Labour favoured. He said in his Mais Lecture in 2010 that his view was supported by ‘many leading business figures and crucially by international investors’. Both reveal an the misplaced confidence that credibility is primarily derived from business, a theme constantly repeated by journalists. For instance, in January the ever critical Dan Hodges welcomed Labour’s declaration that they could not reverse cuts as a demonstration that ‘Labour “flat-earthers”, who argued for no retreat in the face of the coalition’s austerity measures, or an electorate that views them as a necessary evil, have been routed.’ It has been a common critique of Labour despite the slowdown since the election of the Conservatives in 2010. Personally, I think credibility should be what works rather than by default with what business vested interests support. Business lined up behind Tory levels of austerity arguing that it would support recovery. As we have now gone into a double dip (or if the figures are off, are still flat lining at best), can we be a little more sceptical about their wisdom on all economic matters?

Read more of this post

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