The International Writers Magazine: UK Politics
Too Little Too Late?
It is remarkable, and amusing, to see the leaders of the two largest parties suddenly pronouncing on the need to control immigration: two parties that have ruled Britain since Adam was a lad, or so it seems.
Both Dave and Ed appear to have picked on immigration as the chief reason for their failure to stem UKIP’s advance. Yet during the time that Conservatives and Labour played musical chairs with power, many who spoke out against excessive immigration were immediately branded as racists. Now, concern over the issue has become de rigueur. Sadly, but predictably, both leaders have misunderstood the electorate’s message. Dissatisfaction with the two parties is not confined to one issue, important though immigration is.
For at least four decades the powers that be have overridden the expressed views of large sections of the population. Having gained power each party in turn felt free to forget promises, to ignore dissatisfaction, and to drive through measures for which they never sought a mandate at election time. Those who insisted on being heard were often silenced by insults or derision from above. And so it continues.
One of the factors creating problems for a great number of people is globalisation, a process that has benefitted corporations but has damaged employment in many parts of Britain. This particular problem will be exacerbated if the open trade deal between the USA and the EU goes ahead. Some have already referred to this arrangement as a ‘power grab’. Again, promises will be made about the general benefits to ordinary people, but the real gains will be made by major corporations. Why might the term ‘power grab’ be appropriate? The deal will simply render individual states powerless to frustrate corporate ambitions.
The UK and the US has witnessed over the years an enormous outflow of capital to Asia. Originally, we were told that this was intended to place western companies in a good position to exploit opportunities in Asian markets, most notably in China. That was so much hooey. China and other Asian countries planned from the outset to develop export led economies. The real ‘opportunity’ lay in the exploitation of abundant cheap labour making products for nominally British or American companies to import into their domestic markets. It is difficult to believe that our politicians and their advisers did not predict the outcome, a loss of jobs in the domestic economy, albeit with lower prices for those consumers still in work. Is that why Chancellor Nigel Lawson talked down the importance of manufacturing to the British economy?
In part at least, this situation created the ‘benefits culture’, with British governments dishing out tax payers’ money to placate those thrown on the scrapheap. The payment of these benefits has played a part in delaying the crisis of politics that we now face. It is also responsible for the switch in focus some years ago among economic commentators from the balance of trade to Gross Domestic Product. I recall clearly the years when the balance of payments was seen as the measure of the economy’s health, but the political classes then discovered that GDP provided a better fig leaf.
Perhaps my scepticism can be fairly dismissed as a conspiracy theory, whereas the politicians were simply naïve. There are other issues in which the latter is credible. I do not believe for one moment that Margaret Thatcher conspired against the people, but there is evidence that she was naïve on at least two counts. I accept that she genuinely believed that her housing policy would lead to a property owning democracy when she forced the sale of council houses to sitting tenants at below market prices. She simply failed to foresee the present situation in which most of those ex-council houses are now owned and rented out by private landlords to tenants claiming housing benefit.
She also genuinely wished, I believe, to create a ‘people’s capitalism’ in which ordinary working people became shareholders in companies and took an interest in their management. Again, she was not prescient and failed to foresee today’s reality in which very few working people hold shares, and those that do are powerless to influence corporate policy. The days when an individual shareholder could turn up at an annual general meeting and influence the company’s direction are long gone. Remember ‘Don’t tell Sid’? The very idea today of Sid being listened to by British Gas is laughable.
So, Dave and Ed, your focus on immigration is far too narrow. To begin to understand why people in all walks of life are turning away from you, now that UKIP has given them the chance, you really need to give your attention to those policies that over the years were pushed through with insufficient consideration to their effect on Joe Bloggs and his family. The package includes immigration, but covers also globalisation and ‘so-called’ free trade, privatisation of a wide range of public sector operations, and last, but far from least, multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism remains a taboo subject, with those who raise it as an issue inviting insults. However, no subject should be beyond discussion if you hope to win back people’s support. Those who are less than enchanted by your multicultural policies are not necessarily racist or bigots. The biggest political error of both political parties was to encourage the promotion of imported cultures and to consider them on a par with the indigenous culture. As a result of political stupidity, native Britons saw their taxes being used by local authorities to produce leaflets in a variety of languages, and for the courts to be served by professional interpreters. It is astonishing that people who purport to believe in private enterprise did not insist that these services should be provided and paid for by the relevant immigrant community.
Those same native Britons have witnessed immigrants being favoured by local authorities in applications for housing, because the main criterion for a house was the number of children. As a result, the alien culture came to dominate whole areas, leaving only a minority belonging to the old, British culture. It is not immigration as such that causes the problem but the way they are treated within an over generous British system. Why do you think Calais is full of non-Europeans who have refused to apply for asylum in France, but are willing to risk their lives to enter Britain?
Nothing, should be beyond honest discussion and examination. You gentlemen really need to stop promoting policies that affect only others. Wake up, or move over.
© Tom Kilcourse October 13th 2014
In the late forties Bert lived in a Manchester rooming house of which my mother was the concierge. Unlike most of his contemporaries he had managed somehow to avoid military service during the war.
On Friday, 3rd October, George Osborne made a speech to the Institute of Directors in which he accused the Labour Party, trades unions, the Eurozone, UKIP and charities of being anti-business.
Spitting Into the Wind
There are a number of indications around that we are coming to the end of three decades of self-delusion and economic lunacy. During that period, since 1980, we have been following a single, narrow economic philosophy that goes by the name of neo-liberalism