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Is English Politics stuck in the merde?

Three by-elections – three victories for Labour. In the 80’s that would have been cause for cheer, with visions of booting out the hated Tories.
Fast forward to today, and we have to acknowledge it’s not what it says on the tin.
For UK’s Labour, read PSOE of Spain or PASOK in Greece or the Social Democrats in Germany. Why not mention U-turn Hollande in Paris too?

The only ones crowing last night were UKIP – a decidedly nasty party which uses the BNP as a foil to say that it’s not fascist or racist, simply patriotic.

So, why did BNP activists canvass and campaign on behalf of UKIP?

The dirty little secret in the UK was that we did have a political force every bit as vile as Marie le Pen’s National Front in France and its equivalent in Holland, Italy, Hungary and Finland.

English politics can be classified so:

Far-Right: BNP & English Defence League
Hard-Right: UKIP
Right: Tories
Centre-Right: Lib-Dems & New Labour
Left: Individual Labour MP’s/activists / Greens (though
with a powerful German Greenesque cabal) &
Respect (controlled by a theocratic Right wing)

England is now shifting to the Hard Right. UKIP don’t need to win any Parliamentary seats in this rotten electoral system which discriminates against smaller parties.
UKIP has set the agenda. All parties, especially the One Nation Labour Party, is bowing down to this.
The shrill anti-immigration rhetoric of all parties is what we shall see more of before 2015. The opportunistic anti-EU budget stance of Miliband and Labour shows what’s in play.

To secure the southern English seats, Miliband will shift further to the right (while keeping to populist anti-banks slogans).
His model is France’s Francois Hollande.
Fool the Commentariat, appeal to the ‘progressive vote bank’ and let Ed Balls do a deal with the City of London.

Make no mistake, as people were fooled with Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems in 2010, they look like repeating that mistake with Ed Miliband in 2014-15 (as I did in 1997 with Tony Blair).
So, if Miliband does become PM (with help from LibDem Cable), we should except the Labour administration to follow similar hollowed out Socialists on the mainland and continue with the neo-liberal agenda of inequality in the name of efficiency.

I see no basis for a English Syriza to rise later in this decade.
There is no sign now, and precious little in its history, to show that that there is any appetite for rebellion.

Instead, I fear that an embittered England, finding it difficult coming to terms with the departing Scots, will recreate a Harsh Right tinged Identity politics.
Exclusion, forced patriotism & a backs-to-the-wall siege mentality will dictate the discourse.

After all, the background to this is the fact the UK is one of the most highly indebted states on this planet where its elite refuses to re-invent the state into a peaceful European entity.
The Greeks continued to spend on armaments even while the economy was tanking.
England continues the same (spending almost twice as much per head as most of Europe). Imperial delusions and a servile relationship with the USA demand that the only strategy is for obeisance to the City of London and sacrificing the working classes and the Precariat.
The welfare state has no protectors in any of the mainstream parties. There are some startling similarities between the Spanish and English elite.
Both are now looking to drive down the economy and make it Low-Cost.
Both are counting on the majority to meekly allow this social and economic engineering to reach its conclusion.
In Iberia, it looks like the rebellion will manifest itself in independence movements and the final break up of Imperial Spain.
On this island, the Scots will leave eventually.
What then for the English?

Let’s have an inquiry re Labour’s “light touch” let off for the City

The Tories want a quick, easily forgotten inquiry into LIBOR-fixing by twenty banks.

Labour want a long public inquiry about ” the culture of banking”

Why have an inquiry? Do a street poll and the majority of people will tell you that the ‘casino bankers” are vultures, preying on them.

Instead, Ed Balls and co could explain their 13 years of light-touch regulation and how they kow-towed to the City of London, and even gloated about it as how ‘successful economies’ should be run.

Either, take a radical approach and restructure the economy.

Or, have your own internal debate about why Labour = PASOK and Spain’s PSOE and why reform needs to start within the Labour Party now before they become irrelevant later on this decade.

Naturally, this is exactly the opposite of what will happen. The ‘strategists’ will bask in the glory of high opinion poll numbers and tinker with messages, sounding a little bit radical (with absolutely no intention to follow through when they are back in power).

Politics in this island needs a shakeup, to allow genuine debate. And choice.

I will be hopeful when the intellectual self-styled ‘progressives’ start their ‘mea culpas’ and ditch the Miliband/Balls charade, demanding that Labour rip up their out-of-date nineties mantra and look around them… the world has changed.

PASOK & PSOE have belatedly realised they are ‘yesterday’s men’. Labour are doing their best to join them.




London mayors

I caught most of the Mayoral ‘debate’ on ITV1 last night. Was it me or was it totally underwhelming?

Livingstone looked tired and going through the motions without much belief. Johnson didn’t say much of substance and was looking for the cheap laugh.

Here we are in the hedge fund capital of Europe but where was the anger, passion and fight over the injustices of the City of London and articulation of a new type of economy and society?

Perhaps it was the format (1 minute to answer something of great importance) or the audience or simply ITV with its “say something before we go for another commercial break”.. Aired at 10.30 (or was it 11) it didn’t expect too many Londoners to be bothered to tune in.

A little bit of housing, a little on crime etc… it was bitsy, lacked substance and didn’t do justice to one of the great capitals with a huge role in the banking crisis, spread of capitlalist ideology globally, home to oligarchs and a skewed economy based on inequality.

The Green candidate made a valid point about making London a city based on carbon neutrality, something forward thinking for the 21st century but one felt that other politicos simply mouth ‘climate change’ like they do ‘multi-culturism’ to sound politically correct but with no follow through.

The two leading mayoral candidates have replayed 2008, bored the pants off us and are frankly irrelevant to most citizens. One of them will have his moment of glory opening the Olympic Games and we will then forget him  forever.

No wonder Cameron wants more Mayors. These posts have little power. Having said that they have great symbolism.But where are the leaders to use them?

A Melenchon would have used it as a platform to articulate an alternative. Livingstone (even if he pips in – somehow) looks like he does n’t have it in him to really lead that kind of movement. All it is to be is to be a call to vote in Neo-Labour. For what? Frankly, what’s the difference?

As for Johnson, if he wins, he is the successor to David Cameron.

Politics in London doesn’t look too healthy.

Green, Equal and Nationalist?

Gold reaches a ‘nominal’ record price just shy of $1600 an ounce. Some predict it reaIching $2000 by Xmas, and anything up towards $5,000 in the next few years as Western governments print oceans of new ‘money’… launching QE3, QE4 and more.

Utah accepts Gold as legal tender. This week, there was talk of the Swiss planning a gold-backed Swiss Franc.

Linked to all this is the continuing debt crises on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Europeans have performed yet another joke ‘stress-testing’ examination of the banks. 9 failed, 16 nearly.

Let us not forget the Irish banks passed with flying colours last year and then promptly went under, and had to be bailed out.

It looks like a choice between the European Central Bank printing €3 trillion to buy the bonds of the PIIGS or accept that Greece, Portugal and Ireland will default.. and then Spain and Italy will revert back to the Peseta and Lira.

Despite all the political capital invested in the Euro project by the Spanish elite, they will have no choice but to leave the Euro.

It is likely that the ultra right of the Partido Popular will win handsomely in the next general elections (latest by March 2012 but could be earlier) while the nationalists (an

d increasingly to the left of the spectrum in the Basque country) will win in the Iberian periphery.

You can see where this leads. A sullen, right wing elite in Madrid unwilling or unable to accept that the post-1975 road to European milk and honey is at an end and then facing disintegration of the Spanish state by the middle of the decade.

When the Euro collapses, it will inevitably lead to the rolling back of the European project. Forget Lisbon. It will be over.

Remember the Hanseatic League? Vaguely.

Picture a new 21st century variant something like this:

Germany, Walloonia, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Norway will become a new Deutch Mark dominated economic zone. The richest region on the planet.

Everyone will want to trade and ally with them.. Russia, the Swiss, the new rich ‘states’ of Northern Italy, Catalonia, Euskalherria, Scotland, Eastern Europe and of course the Chinese and Japanese.

The centre of gravity is set to shift from Western Europe into Central/Northern Europe. Economically, it has already happened.

What is left is monetarily, politically and culturally.

Paris and London: eat your heart out. Enjoy your colonial wars in places like Libya…. while you still can.

The Brazilians will buy up Portugal in a reverse of five centuries of colonialism and turn Lisbon into southern Europe’s Sao Paolo as industrialisation arrives in a big way.

Europe’s Politics stand on a knife-edge.

The old institutions look ripe for dissolution.

To divert people from daylight robbery (i.e. austerity for the majority, honey for the rich minority) and flirting with radical ideas of the Greens and the Indignados, there will be shift to semi-fascist ideologies… watch Le Pen in France, the continuing rise of the Freedom Party in Austria, its equivalent in Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Hungary.

Is any of this possible?

If we look back at European history upto the 30 years war and the Treaty of Westphalia, then why not?

Twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a new generation is seeing politics in a new light. The worldview of Central/Northen Europe is no longer bound by the necessary ‘payment’ by Germany for its ghastly crimes of WW2. It no longer has to seek US support against the Russian collosus.

The US and English may still have tanks and missiles in Germany, but they are just relics from the Cold War. Elites find it impossible to move on and accept the world has changed.

London, as a Trojan horse for Washington, can no longer pursue the centuries old scheme of preventing the rise of a dominant ‘continental power’. It has happened.

There are no ideological, political or economic barriers for Central/Northern Europe to forge strong relations with a reviving Russia, even in its present callous form.

If the Chinese cannot save the Euro, then they will accept a new Deutsch Mark 2 (or whatever it is called.. EuroCor or Euro-Mark?).

Follow the Money, as they say.

In this background, the Green and Indignado movements have their work cut out. How to convince the peoples of these new states and region that ecology and equality have a central role in this new World?

Greens have won a notable victory over Big Nuclear in this new heartland: Germany. This paves the way to a ramp up in use of Russian natural gas while a vast new infrastructure for renewable energy is laid out, a more energy & waste-efficient industrial system is put in place.

But the war for equality is the key.

The intellectual and political challenge is how to construct and continental (and ultimately global) movement on the following premise:

Eco-Socialism through National Liberation.

A marriage of Green & Left with the desire for national freedom, with nationalism.

If Greens and the Left remain wedded to a universalist framework, they will be outfought by the Right, riding on sentiment about nations and race.

One can be Nationalist as well as Left (the Basques prove this).

And one can be Green as well as Nationalist. That is a right-wing Green nationalist as well as a Left Wing Green Nationalist.

The monumental challenge is to ensure we get the latter not the former.

The Green movement has to grow up.  It has to get its hands dirty. It has to choose sides. It has to recognise that it is a minority or even non-existent in most of Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Iberia, Africa and the Americas. Forget conferences. Forget the Big NGOs. Forget ‘winning’ arguments on barely read journals (such as the Guardian in the UK).

It has to link up with wider forces from below as well as the Left. Most of all, it must seek to influence the nationalist dialogue. To help define ‘national liberation’. To wrest the argument away from Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Le Pen and the ultra-rightists.

That political war will be fought in the Iberian peripheries, parts of France and Italy and most of  all in Germany. I would like to say Scotland  but there are no signs of it. Yes, Scotland is going solo this decade but it’s not too different from CIU of Catalonia or PNV of the Basques. It has to shift much more towards the ideology of equality and ecology within its present nationalist framework.

If the Chinese cannot save the Euro, then they will accept a new Deutsch Mark 2 (or whatever it is called.. EuroCor or Euro-Mark?).

Follow the Money, as they say.

In this background, the Green and Indignado movements have their work cut out.

Whichever side prevails in Europe, the end of this decade will be unimaginable to its start.

Aftter decades of disappointment and anguish, that’s a start.

The over-manned hedge fund Capital

The hedge fund capital of Europe can’t get carbon trading signed off, is about to lose nuclear billions, facing tough competition from Shanghai/Singapore/Frankfurt and still looks prosperous, enjoying QE2 & doesn’t want to think strategically about the end of the decade… British banks have that look of early 1970s British Leyland – the only place ‘over-manned’ today is the City of London & Canary Wharf. The cuts are a ‘subsidy’ along with QE2 to keep it afloat. They are ripping through outsourcing, PFI, bonuses while they can the first half of this decade…. they know it can’t last.

It’s time we used that old argument of over-manning which was deployed to crush manufacturing industry and demand that the financial sector become ‘efficient, lean and mean’.
If Osborne can revive Thatcher’s enterprise zones, we can revive the question of overmanning.
And value add.
How is it that Germany survives without hedge funds (80% of whose ‘business’ is generated by London)?
The printing of money is keeping it going for now but this is not a solution.
Mervyn King knows it.

Choosing allies

Seamus Milne writes a characteristically  good article in the Guardian.

Puts New Labour in same camp as Lib-Dem in terms of dogma, ideology & unreformed belief in free markets.

That’s why we need to make 26th March big but also not blindly follow Ed Mili back to New Labour’s love of the City of London.

Let’s get real. Ed Balls hasn’t produced a believable radical alternative to what he & his friends followed for 13 years. Let’s attack the Con-Dem regime but replacing Man U with Man C doesn’t change the direction, character and belief of a new Labour regime.

Left-of-centre led Spain & Greece are fulfilling the IMF and ECB’s demands just as enthusiastically as Fianna Fail-Greens did in Ireland.

It shows we need to form a deeper, wider movement joining with good individual Labour politicians and unions. We cannot blindly take an unreformed package which is happy to talk populism when out of power.

The ‘New Labour’ Party isn’t fit for purpose. It’s the tens of thousands of Labour activists and a handful of MPs and half the unions who we should be supporting.

Whenever we don’t get to waving the flag, there’s an outcry of sectarianism. I do not mean that way. The revolts convulsing many countries North and South of the Mediterranean are successful precisely because many have bypassed the traditional ‘opposition’ groups who bought into the status quo.

A bit like much of the NUS and the more radical, angry students who ignored Aaron Porter & Co.

While we build up to the rally and march in two weeks time, we must maintain a sense of realism and optimism.

Realism that much of the TUC  ‘leadership’ didn’t challenge the love-affair with the City of London since the late 1990s. That they are not going prepared to challenge the current ethos either.

Optimism in that like students who were galvanised & energised by taking part in protests, the 26th will be one rally building a movement based around the thousands of local protests outside and inside libraries, council offices and banks.

No political party can co-opt this budding movement or ‘lead it’. Politicians and activists will have to join it, work alongside it and share power over decisions and direction.

The debate and deliberations will move from an oppositional no-cuts position to a ‘rolling back the big private sector’.

Three decades ago, the mood of the times was to roll back the ‘bloated public sector’.  That ideology was spun together into a political ‘narrative’ in the mid 1970s and took 1973-74 energy and political shocks as its catalyst.

In our times, the catalyst is the 2008 banking crash. Nearly three years on, we are in the middle of constructing our own alternative picture of what type of economy, society & environment we would like to see.

It will have a broader canvass. We will have to have pan-European ideology, challenging Wall Street & London’s the hedge fund dominance and fuse Left ideas of wealth & income redistribution with ideas on climate change and peak oil.

Given what’s happening in North Africa and the Middle East, we might need an even wider vision.

The mix is in the melting pot. The end product isn’t clear. The 26th is one signpost in a very long road. Let’s look beyond this month and work it out

We need a new direction

We have 2,500 members in the London Green Party. On paper. Let’s be honest, we barely have one in ten out there knocking on doors, manning stalls, talking to people.  That’s one activist per 30,000 Londoner.

These are impossible odds.  With a couple of councillors, having lost most last year, most of London is barren Green territory. On current trends and Local Party planning, most of London 32 boroughs will not have a Green councillor for the rest of this decade.

We cannot say the ‘plan’ is working.

What’s the strategy? Where’s the ambition? What’s the purpose? Some might ask: what’s the point?

Like all eruptions & earthquakes, it’s difficult to know what’s happening until it hits you. The good news is that many members are passionate and don’t like what they are seeing.

A two-speed Party: Brighton far ahead, London trailing well behind.

We need to mobilise the existing membership. Not with another email but with a strategy that’s inspiring.  Something which says we are venturing out of our comfort zone. That we want to reach out to new constituencies. That we have taken a look around the capital, and it’s different to what we thought.

London is the fourth largest French City….. There are 400,000 people making this the Paris of the Thames.

An equivalent number of Arabs – Edgware Road & beyond – so much the focus of our minds with the bravery of their compatriots in North Africa and the Middle East.

Ditto: Latin Americans…. & Africans, Afro-Carribeans, Greeks, Turks and South Asia.

Do we think a letter in the local paper is the only way to reach them?

There is a wealth of ethnic media (European and beyond). The French in London aren’t losing their culture or language skills.  For Bengalis alone, there are four TV stations, two radio stations and over a dozen weekly papers.

Greeks: London Greek Radio. Indians: Sunrise TV & Radio. And much much more.

We complain that the mainstream media ignore us. True. But do we have a media strategy for the capital that explores these other channels?

Before someone says we don’t have a strong media team, I say we should contact our members from these minorities (or majority-minorities in some boroughs as some say) and ask them how their media works, and how to get into them.

The Students & the Young are our natural base. Or should be.  Some of us cannot see the potential. That’s the brigade which says: carry on like before, let’s stick with the same message as the last twenty years, who cares if we are tagged as a one-issue party…..

The Young Greens have an opportunity to mobilise over the next two years. Long ignored, they have participated and themselves been inspired by the student movement, still going strong with the occupations and involvement in the anti-cuts protests.

They wrote a pledge and asked for support. Is it a perfect document? No, no document is. Is it meant to replace the entire Party manifesto? No.

It is an expression of the Next Generation of members looking at the world from their point of view and like all lobbies and groups focusing on the day-to-day issues that confront hundreds of thousands of students & youth in the capital. Housing, education, transport & more.

I signed it because it was aspirational. It understood that the Greens stand for environmental justice but that we need to give weight to social justice too, in the language of the constituents we claim to want support from.

I don’t mind being in a minority in political terms. Some things have to be said.

The document has been hit with criticism. The glass half full mentality. Finding what’s wrong with a sentence, crossing the tees here, dotting the i’s there. Where’s the generosity?

The Young Greens didn’t have to do a hustings. They did.

They didn’t have to spend weeks preparing a document, a platform for Young Green politics in the Capital. They did.

They didn’t have to try and engage with other Green activists at conference, online or in meetings. They did.

At the least, we should welcome the contribution, agree with 95%  of it, and encourage them to boost the Party.

The only way I see the immediate 15 months is to open the door and get in new members. That means bringing in free membership back for under 30s. Keep that door open till Xmas. Get roadshows into campuses, get Caroline Lucas speaking, get the membership forms filled.

The Lib-Dems are on the brink of collapse in London, especially with the young.  We should be aiming at powering ahead of the Lib-Dems.

The Tories are in fear and bunkering down.

New Ed’s Labour is picking up the flow by doing nothing, by pretending they didn’t rule over 13 years of neo-liberal surrender to the banks, nor break their own pledges over tuition fees. That Ed Mili & Aaron Porter say they want a graduate tax.

Everytime a graduate gets a job, earns money & pays income tax, that’s what a graduate tax should be. We already have it.  Nothing more on top, thanks. Get rid of the fees. Invest in a new generation.

The Next Generation get it when it comes to climate change, anti-war, anti-cuts, Green New Deal, wealth re-distribution and the need for a new direction.  They are receptive to the Green message. They are waiting for us to prove we want their support.  They won’t come to us until we take the first step towards them.

We have to seize this opportunity.

It’s there in front of us, if only we can see it.

We will only see it if we change direction.

Farid Bakht