Newsnotes 2017 07

Notes On The News

by Gwydion M Williams


New Right End-Game

I’d see the election’s outcome as almost perfect for Labour’s future. Had the Grenfell Tower Fire occurred a week earlier, Labour might have ended up the largest party. But would have had the looming disaster of Brexit to manage. Now Mrs May still has the ‘poison chalice’. And Labour can dare to purge itself of most remnants of New Labour.

May’s problem is that as the War Baby and Baby Boomer generation gained power, they backed some foolish right-wing tinkering with the system that had created them. Mostly liked Thatcherism, or at least tolerated it. But hardly anyone likes the actual outcome of Thatcherite ‘reforms’.

The old voted for Brexit, thinking it would restore the ‘good times’ they vaguely remembered. Then voted Tory, discounting pension threats. Scared of the future, they seek someone to keep the show on the road for the rest of their lives.

The young were bolder.  Labour won a clear majority of people under 45. With mixed results in the 45 to 55 age-band. The aged Baby Boomers are almost all Tory; the logical end point of the selfish and asocial attitudes that a passive majority had always showed:[A]

040 Voting by Age

The old are also much more likely to vote.  84% of those aged at least 70 did so.  77%  of 60 to 70. In the 20 to 24 age-band, only 59% bothered. Still, the young are learning that votes do count and can change things. Polls taken since the election show Labour well ahead.

I had worried that the loss of Scotland would doom England to a permanent Tory government.  But remarkably, one estimate said that England voted 41% Labour to 43% Tory, not a hopeless gap.[B]  A Wiki analysis shows a wider gap, 45.6 to 41.9; still possible.[C]  And Scottish separation seems less likely with Labour no longer Tory-Lite.

Labour lost 9% of its 2015 vote to the Tories and 5% to Liberals. Gained 10% of 2015 Tories and 50% of Liberals. Some Scottish Nationalist voters returned to Labour; very few to the Tories.

57% of UKIP voters went Tory and only 18% Labour: more than three times as many. It had seemed more equal based on constituency results, but the real picture was complex.

Class and wealth count for less, except among the More-Than-Millionaire class that has flourished since Thatcher. The standard AB, C1, C2 and DE groups were similar. Tories stronger among the AB types (higher professional and managerial) and C2s (skilled manual workers): but not enormously so.[D]  The poorest have always been more likely to vote Labour.

Compared with 2015, Labour gained more from the three higher groups. The Tories recovered many C2 and DE votes from UKIP. But age counted for a lot more.

So did education. For those with GCSE or below, 55% voted Tory and 33% Labour. For those with a degree, 32% voted Tory and 49% Labour. Those between were about even.[E]

Women preferred Tories when Tories were a genuinely conservative party, before Thatcher.  Now they split 43% to 43%. Men were 45% to 39% pro-Tory.

Men are slower to learn that tough talk costs lives. That it hardly ever solves anything.


The End of Labour’s Timid Tendency?

Haven’t the young always preferred Labour?  Actually no. In 2015, those in the 18-29 age-band who voted, voted 32/34 Tory/Labour. 36/34 in the 30-39 age band.[F]  Labour were just as unpopular among the over-60s, but in 2015 many of them voted UKIP.

Tories were slightly ahead at all levels of education.

In 2010: Labour was ahead among the young, but not hugely so.  But at that time, the Tories had not yet promised a Brexit Referendum. UKIP were ahead of the Tories among voters aged 50 or over, and among those with GCSE or below.[G]

Old fools fail to learn, but are also a dying breed.  Labour now has most of the young, and most of the sincere people among the old.

Corbyn showed that it pays for leaders to lead, and not timidly follow wherever the opinion polls might point. When Theresa May called the election, the polls did indeed point to a solid victory. Most Labour MPs also expected it. But Corbyn and his people felt the public could be convinced. And the young and well-educated were convinced.

I’m also glad that Corbyn has not taken back the famous MPs who quit his Front Bench after he was elected. Took back just Owen Smith, the most serious leadership challenger. For the rest, he may expect them to work for it. Show back-bench support now the Tories are vulnerable: most were silent when he needed them.

It is anyway clear that New Labour is dead:

“It began with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. Clinton, then Blair, proposed a ‘third way’ politics, neither right nor left. It maintained the core Thatcherite commitment to privatisation, low taxes, high profits, weak unions, competition, individualism and a deregulated financial sector. But it jettisoned the Victorian social morality and lightly coded racism of Thatcher, Reagan and the rest of the ‘new right’.

“The third way embraced feminism, anti-racism and gay rights, provided they didn’t challenge the economic status quo. Instead of socialism and democracy, it offered everyone the chance to compete in the labour market. Above all, the third way celebrated globalisation as the great engine of economic growth and progress towards a truly cosmopolitan culture.

“Cosmopolitan culture is not a bad idea. It implies a liberal, tolerant, non-exclusive attitude. Historically, this is a mindset typical of merchants, financiers, artists and intellectuals. But cosmopolitanism has also been embraced by radical workers, infused with the internationalist spirit of communism, and by the urban poor in places where multiculturalism has been a fact of daily life for generations.

“I think cosmopolitanism was a key reason why the New Labour coalition held together for as long as it did. There were always Labour voters in cities, in the more militant unions, in university towns and in the public sector, who would have preferred a more radical programme. But we knew from the bitter experience of the 1980s that there were not enough of us to win an election, at least in a country whose media was so skewed to the right. And after 18 years of Tory rule, we were relieved to have a government that at least encouraged an open, tolerant, sexually liberal and multi-ethnic culture to thrive.”[H]

And it’s been weeks since we heard from Tony Blair.


A Very Odd Election

In 2017, the Tories got their 6th highest vote since 1945, out of 21 General Elections.[I]  Labour got their 5th highest vote, ahead of Blair’s 2nd and 3rd wins.[J]

2017 resembles 1951, in that both parties scored very high. In 1951, Labour got 13,948,883, their highest total ever and exceeded only by John Major’s 1992 victory. But Labour had allowed MP’s constituencies to be redrawn in a way that might seem fairer at a local level, but biased the national result against them.

In our own era, the Tories had plans for a ‘reform’ that would reduce the number of MPs and ‘accidentally’ produce a vast bias. To let the Tories win more seats with fewer votes than Labour in some future election. But it would work out otherwise in Northern Ireland:

“The redrawing of the electoral map would leave republicans with nine MPs to the DUP’s seven, Electoral Calculus has predicted. Any boundary changes must be approved by a vote in Parliament…

“Those proposals, if approved, will come into effect next year. The number of seats in Northern Ireland will fall from 18 to 17 as part of a UK-wide shake-up to reduce House of Commons numbers from 650 to 600.”[K]

I’d be astonished if the DUP has not got that idea killed.

Sinn Fein would not of course take those seats. They are not taking the seven they won this time. For them, the outcome is almost perfect. While Protestants are still a majority, among the young they are now a minority.[L]  And they can hope that the DUP collects a lot of odium for keeping the Tories in power during a messy Brexit.  Or just as much if they force a new election.

What else?  Back in 1951, the Tories deserved to be called Conservative. They kept things calm after a period of radical change. They were not in the grip of a Radical Right ideology that thinks society does not exist, and is out to erase everything that suggests they might be wrong.  They seemed to be reverting to this under John Major. But then along came Tony Blair with New Labour and inflicted needless suffering on us.

There is good reason to think the high Tory vote is based just on fears over Brexit. That it will not stick. And it would be almost impossible to complete Brexit negotiations without enraging someone.  Regrettably, UKIP will probably bounce back. Positively, it will mostly take Tory votes.

Labour should start taking that line – that there are few genuine conservatives left in national politics. That the Tories retain their anti-state obsession. The DUP may limit this, being a communal party and authentic conservatives tending to reactionary. They might also be bought off by a future Labour government by concessions for Northern Ireland only.

A scandal over a wood-burning subsidy is the most damaging thing that can be thrown at the DUP. I’ve only seen one mainstream mention of it:

“While the scheme was designed to encourage businesses to move from using fossil fuels to renewable heating systems, it backfired by offering subsidies greater than the cost of fuel.

“For every £1 spent on renewable heating systems, businesses received £1.60 in subsidies, leading to the scandal being dubbed ‘cash for ash’ or ‘the more you burn the more you earn’.”[M]


Terrorism: The Encouragement of Evil

Daesh (ISIS) are Islamic, only in the sense that the Klu Klux Klan are Christian. They stem from one small branch of a diverse tradition: Wahhabism for both Daesh and al-Qaeda. Most Muslims reject this entire tradition, and are the best hope of winning over the young and angry.

Labour should be stressing this, every time there is a new incident. Corbyn has shown noble and admirable sentiments, but there is a lot more that he could do.

The mainstream media have been disgraceful, repeatedly failing to stress that the terror groups are small groups. That they have killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims. But the mainstream media maybe do not want clarity. They mostly support Israel’s current unwise policies, which I expect to end badly for everyone and worst of all for Israel.[N]  Most Muslims aren’t tolerant of Israel taking more and more land on the West Bank.  Foolish people think it smart to target them.

The whole Western approach since 1991 was ignorant incompetence. A failure now of smart glib shallow minds to learn or move on from a generally agreed failure of their efforts to reshape Iraq.

Calling terrorism evil is superficial. Yes, some people are bad. But there must be a lot of potentially evil people who remain normal because they never get stressed. Also people who start off normal and get turned evil by abnormal events.  And even believers in Supernatural Evil also believe that people can choose for themselves, and influence others towards or away from evil.

The net result of the West’s aggression from 1991 onwards has been to close the fading possibility of a World Order based strongly on the particular and parochial values of the West.

Tories and Saudis have fed bigotry, as a cover for corrupt economics. But the beasts of bigotry are now out of control.


What We Need – Abundant Council Housing

There’s not a lot I need to add to what’s already well known about Grenville Towers.  Inflammable cladding, dangerous gas pipes, residents advised to stay put during a fire, London fire services cut by Boris Johnson, when he was London ‘s Mayor– it’s all out there.

So let’s talk about principles.

An unregulated market allows the whims of the rich to override the desperate needs of the ordinary.  Even the actual lives of the poor. This is a very old pattern:

“While in Victorian Manchester, Friedrich Engels struggled to name the crime visited on children whose limbs were mangled by factory machines, or whose parents were killed in unsafe homes. Murder and manslaughter were committed by individuals, but these atrocities were something else: what he called social murder. ‘When society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual,’ he wrote in 1845, in The Condition of the Working Class in England.

“Over 170 years later, Britain remains a country that murders its poor. When four separate government ministers are warned that Grenfell and other high rises are a serious fire risk, then an inferno isn’t unfortunate. It is inevitable…

“Those local politicians who gave council taxpayers a sizeable rebate even while starving local services of funds have evidently chosen whose side they are on.”[O]

Council housing in Britain from the 1940s to 1970s was a big success. Only a few hopeless drunks were homeless.  But the Tories from the 1980s have attacked Council Housing. Used new laws to forbid councils to do anything with invoking the Sacred Principles of market forces. It has been a disaster.

Meantime the government has easily found £3.6 million for a dull old stately house called Wentworth Woodhouse.[P]  It goes via something called the National Heritage Memorial Fund, but this gets government grants for things the rich fancy but don’t want to pay for personally.

The place is also linked to the family of noted Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, though I don’t think he himself benefits. But it is all a class interest, for the rich and scorning ordinary people.



“The Saudis accuse Qatar of supporting terrorists. That is like Britain accusing the U.S. of imperialism, or the mafia cutting ties with the mob over gangsterism…  Both Wahhabi countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been funding and fuelling terrorism in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But the Saudi view is that the more ‘liberal’ Qatar is simply supporting the ‘wrong’ kind of terrorists.

“The Qatari government and its mouthpiece Al-Jazeera installed and supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. The Saudis put that government down by financing a military coup against it. Qatar is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey. It is supporting the Palestinian Hamas, also a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. Qatar is financing various al-Qaeda aligned groups in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. The Taliban have their only diplomatic mission in Doha. Until recently the Saudis have been financing ISIS. They are now mainly back at financing various other Jihadi groups in Syria under CIA control. The UAE is sponsoring the Libyan general Hiftar who is fighting Qatari supported al-Qaeda aligned groups. The Saudis are making nice with Israel and have no interest in the Palestinian cause which Qatar supports.

“There are diverting interests in hydrocarbons. Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter of natural gas – a serious competition to Saudi oil exports. It has recently intensified its relations with other producers and customers in the Gulf region and beyond.”[Q]

Donald Trump gave the Saudis the green light to apply sanctions to Qatar, with no clear idea of what he was doing.

And by an amazing coincidence, “four former Barclays executives could face lengthy jail sentences after the Serious Fraud Office charged them and the bank with fraud over the way Barclays raised billions of pounds from Qatar at the height of the financial crisis…  This is the first time criminal action has been taken against any senior bankers for events dating to the 2008 financial crisis.”[R]



Too Rich To Pay Tax

“The richest 0.01% of households, involving those with more than £31m assets, evade paying 30% of their taxes on average… ‘the probability to hide assets rises very sharply with wealth’.

“The paper found that the super-rich evaded more than 10 times as much of their due taxes as the wider population, which on average evaded 2%.

“Most of the tax was evaded by hiding wealth in offshore accounts … only the very wealthy, who could afford accountants, lawyers and bankers to advise them on setting up such holdings.”[S]


Dying of the spice

“The actor Carrie Fisher had cocaine, morphine and ecstasy in her system when she died, her autopsy has revealed, but investigators are still unclear whether the drugs contributed to her death.”[T]

Best known as Princess Leia in Star Wars, which was full of anti-state views and a very relaxed attitude to things outside the law. The heroic Han Solo starts out as a smuggler of ‘spice’, in the context obviously some dangerous illegal drug.

Carrie Fisher was also noted for her fact-based novel Postcards from the Edge, about her struggle with drugs. Which sadly she lost in the end.

Reportedly her part in the forthcoming Star Wars film was already complete. (Rumour has it that it will kill Luke Skywalker.) But we have apparently lost what might have been an amazing final fling in the third film of the new trilogy.


Dogs With Morals Fit for Tories

“The sense of fair play is an important human trait, but new research suggests that it’s a key behaviour for dogs and wolves as well.

“In tests, if one animal was given a more substantial reward when performing a task, the other one downed tools completely.”[U]

But what about the inverse – refusing to see someone else treated unfairly?  I don’t think that any creature other than a human ever does that.

But not all humans.


Previous Newsnotes can be found at the Labour Affairs website,  And at my own website,