Friday, 10 January 2014

Too much Disraeli,not enough Attlee!

When Miliband first embraced the principles of a 19th century Tory prime minister, the public reaction was not the expected one of dismay; after all, Disraeli had witnessed the evils of a two nation society, divided into "haves" and "have-nots", and taken action. When the opposition leader allied his creation of "One Nation" Labour with attacks on predatory capitalism, the centre-left awaited policy details with cautious optimism, which was seemingly justified with the energy price freeze proposals.
     However, the news that another Disraelian principle has been adopted is more alarming.Soon after giving companies and bosses the option to pay a living wage to employees, with some tax relief the reward, rather than the pledge of legislation  to enforce it, came the proposal to give local councils permission to deal with the increased numbers of FOBTs as they see fit, when it was the same councils who allowed the betting shops to dominate many high streets in the first place. This is nothing less than the "permissiveness" which prevented Disraeli`s government of 1874-80 from providing anything other than "window-dressing", rather than pragmatic reform. It`s true that a small percentage of local councils, like Birmingham`s with its slum clearance, took positive action, but most, given the choice not to rock any capitalist boats, didn`t, and Disraeli lost the 1880 election; it was left to the 20th century Liberal government to make a significant difference, with a fledgling welfare state.
    This is not what most people either want or expect from a future Labour government, and neither is cosying up to Clegg and his cronies; what next, grant multinationals the right to donate taxes,like the coalition apparently does, or allow banking regulators to continue fining banks pittance, as totally ineffective punishment, for their scams and interest rate fixing? Policies designed to offend no-one might come under a "One Nation" umbrella but, as many opinion polls indicate, will not satisfy the majority of the electorate, so if the aim is not a majority Labour government in 2015, it needs to be declared as such.
    Our corrupt and unfair society is ripe for change, but it needs an opposition party with bottle, willing to adopt aggressive policies to change the banking culture and a taxation system which benefits the rich. The "new approach" at PMQs might have "worked well for Miliband", but if he`s got so little to propose, what is the point of being able to hear it better? A little less of the feebleness of  Disraeli, and rather more of the boldness of Attlee, is required!

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