Blue Labour

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By Mike Small

Yesterday was a historic day. The Daily Record dedicated an eight-page pull out to what they are describing (straight-faced) as ‘extracts from the most explosive political book of the year’.

Forget Edward Snowden, here’s Gordon Brown telling us we can have EastEnders AND River City. Talk about incendiary. Here’s details of the discussions the great man had with Wendy Alexander about the actual Calman Commission. Boom. It’s political TNT. There’s even mention of varying the Scottish Parliament’s tax-varying powers from 10 to 15p. Take cover … that’s dynamite!

PACEMAKER

Brown, looking like a sort of shrewd Papa Smurf in a fetching wode/Tory blue started well. After outlining what ‘this great nation of ours’ had done through history he goes on:

“Could this historic nation of just five million people make history again – leading a new wave of secessionist movements that strike at the heart of the advanced industrial world? Could it be the pacemaker for nationalist breakaways in Spain, Belgium and eastern Europe and for a thousand liberation movements in the developing world?”

Suddenly I thought I had Brown all wrong; this is a real vision you could aspire to. Maybe the old socialist had rediscovered his Maxtonian roots and was about to emerge as a sort of Scots Che Guevara, touring the third world espousing PFI. But no. I realised that this was a BAD thing.

POOLING and SHARING

Under Gordon’s Daily Record vision (if not his actual term in office or anyone’s actual experience) Britain is a ‘Beacon for the World’, a ‘Union for Social Justice’. As the titan of world politics humbly explains:

“The typical citizen of Arkansas will have 50% of the income of his New Hampshire counterpart. By contrast, the differences between Scotland and England have narrowed to vanishing point, with the typical Scot earning an average of 96 per cent of that of his English neighbour.”

You might at this point want to have a lie down.

Gordon Brown’s analysis is strikingly similar to David Cameron’s. It’s a unionist convergence moment. Neither appear to be connected with social reality. Cameron’s words could easily come out of Brown’s mouth:

“Together we’re actually stronger. I think we have a fairer country, a better country, a richer country with all of us together.” – David Cameron

What is extraordinary about Brown’s ‘historic vision’ is not the trundling banality of it all. It’s that it completely avoids the unquestionable facts about poverty inequality and social injustice that face people today (based on the extract we have seen). Let’s lay out some of those facts.

Despite Scotland’s undoubted wealth a staggering one in four of our children still live in poverty. What’s more the latest official statistics suggest recent progress in reducing child poverty has stalled.

In November 2011 the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecast child poverty to rise by 800,000 across the UK by 2020 as a result of current UK government policies.

In January 2012 it was revealed that 13 Scottish councils have wards where more than 30% of children live in pockets of severe poverty.

Britain’s unemployment rate has remained at its highest level since 1995 – 8.4% – as the flatlining economy takes its toll on the labour market. In Scotland alone, unemployment numbers rose by 16000 over the last three months of 2011. Youth unemployment is at a record high in the UK, with 1.04m (22.2%) of 16 to 24-year-olds without a job.

This is the stark reality of Cameron’s Britain and the Union today. A government we didn’t elect presiding over an economy we don’t control.

TWO FLAGS

It’s not just in social justice that Brown’s book seems bereft and disengaged. Ignore the insulting notion that’s been repudiated again and again about pensions, or the bizarre and grisly scare-mongering about organ donations ‘Scots survive with British organs’, his ‘Top Ten Ways to Take Scotland Forward in the UK’ are weepingly odd.

My favourites?

No 3 New powers for Holyrood over Housing Benefit. We did tell you this was the most explosive book of the year right?

No 5 ‘We want to be part of a UK-wide energy and environmental policy’. He actually thinks this is a selling point? That would mean a disaster for even the most basic green advances we’ve achieved under devolution. This from the man who advocates ‘1000 new nuclear power stations for the world’ or convergence with the UK’s ‘environment’ minister who backs GM and who doesn’t believe in climate change (2).

No 8 ‘Replace the House of Lords with a UK Senate’. He’s just making things up on the back of an envelope now. Westminster has been NOT reforming the House of Lords for a 100 years.

As John Harris reminds us: “According to Deborah Mattinson, his pollster, Brown “loved slogans and believed them to be imbued with a mystical power capable of persuading the most intransigent voter”, and therefore went a bundle on them – not least “A future fair for all“, the surreal dud with which Labour went to the country in 2010, following 2005’s equally idiotic “forward not back“.

God knows what slogan should appear from all this: “hurtling backwards” or “shackled together”?

This is banal farce hyped in the most embarrassing fashion by Scotland’s tabloid. The political vision of a man who was blinded by power and colluded in the New Labour experiment with all its disastrous foreign adventures including going to war five times in six years (1)and the disgrace of Iraq, re-heating tired clichés in a desperate attempt to cling on to the last vestiges of influence.

If it is explosive in any way at all it is in dispelling the myth that Labour have a progressive voice in the referendum debate.

 

 

Notes

(1)Brown sets ‘no limit’ on number of nuclear reactors to be built:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brown-sets-no-limit-on-number-of-nuclear-reactors-to-be-built-866896.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brown-sets-no-limit-on-number-of-nuclear-reactors-to-be-built-866896.html

(2) Why Is Climate Change Denier Owen Paterson Still in His Job? http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mehdi-hasan/uk-floods-owen-paterson_b_4767153.html

(3) See John Kampfner’s Blair’s Wars: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/sep/28/politicalbooks.politics

 



Categories: Commentary

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12 replies

  1. “Gordon Brown’s analysis is strikingly similar to David Cameron’s”

    There was a brilliant moment last night on STV’s ‘Scotland Tonight’ when Ruth Davidson said of the Strathclyde Report on Devolution that she had “checked it out with David Cameron and Gordon Brown”. After a few moments when the presenter managed to get a word in edgeways to quiz Ruth about her reference to GB didn’t we all laugh at the Freudian slip, ha ha ha!

    It seemed to me that it wasn’t perhaps as ridiculous as it sounded :o)

  2. Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.

  3. He had 13 years to change the world, or do something, even just roll back one Thatcherite policy. But he didn’t do anything except get drunk on power, feasting on his own words and ego, now seen as the biggest failure to inhabit no.10 in 80 years. Shame on the Daily Record for giving this charlatan blanket coverage.

  4. Gordon Brown, fighting to excel in mediocrity as ever. I actually feel embarrassed for the guy as he seems to think his stunning level of banality is some kind of exceptionalism. He’s like one of those swotty Little Professor schoolboys who imagines he’s the new Einstein with very little evidence to support his delusion. He should read ‘Fergus Lamont’ by Robin Jenkins, but I doubt if he’d have the gumption to blush.

  5. Perhaps those words will convince those who still trust Gordon Brown. For others who have lived in London and the SE. We know how unequal this nation is.

    Gordon is using the old tactic of “averages”. We take the large number of poor around this nation and it all becomes rather balanced. These poor help to balance the wealth of Blair / Brown & Darling – Socialism in action as a 21st Century variant. Darling for example who by flipping his main residence took the money from those paying threshold tax and struggling to live. Brown who’s “charity” is just a front for funding a lavish lifestyle. As for Blair- a rich war criminal will suffice.

    So who would you trust?

    Those in the Reid Foundation who produced the common weal ( I doubt Robin has Blair’s millions)
    Colin Fox of the SSP?
    Patrick Harvie of the Greens?
    Those in Radical Independence?
    …and many,many more who put others ahead of self.

    Take a long hard look at the credentials of those on each side of this debate and ask yourself who has the interest of the people of Scotland as their motivation. Now who has the interest of the few?

    I want to hear all the voices who see a better future. I don’t know what the settled will of the people will be. However I know what it will be if we vote NO – look around!

  6. What strikes me about this and about Darlings pronouncements on union, is how they always feel the need to separate Scotland from Britain. Britain is sold as this soothing balm, that will wash away the inferiority of being a Scot alone in the world. Then comes the price tag. Scotland will pay more for membership, being taxed at a higher rate than the rest of the UK, simply for being a Scot. The wealth of Scotland is then to be used to subsidise the rUK welfare system, which will need that injection of cash, if its to mitigate the effects of continued austerity. Of course in England, this will be sold and Scotland paying a contribution at last. Of course the cries of subsidy junkie will still not cease, its too effective a tool for them. There will be at no point in their precious vision of a “One Nation”, be a situation were Scotland is part of it or pays anything towards it.

    When Disraeli embarked on his ambitious one nation Tory programme, he did so from a fear of Britain turning into a two tier state. He described Britain as being “Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets: in other words, the rich and the poor. Sound familiar? Drop the name Disraeli and you would be forgiven for thinking it was someone describing the UK today.

    For Miliband and Brown their “one nation labour” will not only reinforce that division, but it will also create a deeper schism. This schism will be one between Scotland and the rUK. Having allowed the debate to framed in the stark and miserable terms of Scottish dependency, they have done much more damage to the very fabric of their Britain, than anyone of the YES side of the argument could have dreamt possible. To see these witless and idiotic attacks being praised as the voice of prudence is mind boggling as it is insulting. To have allowed Osborne to come to Scotland and say to its people, that it had contributed nothing to the success of sterling was idiotic as it was corrosive. The sheer level of wilful cognitive dissonance from what passes as their campaign, just makes me sick with anger. Do these people honestly believe there is no downside to what they have been doing. Do they really think it will be just like it used be? Are they so blind they think they will never have to answer for the horrible things they have said and done, for the hurt they caused?

    Could it be then, at the end of the day, that after 300 years, the Union has finally ran out of steam? we could, I think, argue that there is in fact no positive argument to made for continued Union with the rUK. We’re growing apart and we are very different nations from the one that entered that union back in 1707.
    When you ask for a positive case, the very best they can do is to assert that we would be nothing without the UK. 300 years of dependency is something to be proud of? That is the argument of people who realised they never actually had an argument to make in the first place.

    • I do wonder if the oh so wonderful union is nearing its end of shelf life, what will happen to Scotland with a no vote? The status quo is not really an option. Assimilation, or occupation, or both. Don’t think I will stay in Scotland to watch quite frankly.

  7. Pockets full of freedom.

    And so on the day he had promised
    the slave owner gave the key to his slave
    who unlocked the chains
    and they fell to the ground.

    Suddenly his face changed
    from anticipation to fear
    as he came to know
    for the first time
    what it felt like to be without chains
    and to be a slave no longer.

    The slave pondered what had just happened
    and what it was going to mean to him –
    leaving the farm and setting off on his own.
    No more sleeping in the bunkhouse
    with the animals close by.
    No more food from the master.

    The slave looked at the man who had owned him
    and knew that more than chains
    kept them together in this place.
    And he understood his dependence on his master.

    There were other slaves there.
    They too had unlocked their chains.
    But they had already gone.
    With pockets full of freedom
    Nothing could stop them.

    The slave looked after them
    but did not move.
    Then turning to his master
    he put the chains back on
    and turned the key
    and gave it to his owner.
    ‘I feel better now.
    Not afraid.’

    ‘And your freedom ?’ asked the master.

    ‘I can live without that’ said the slave,

    and he put his finger in the hole in his pocket.

  8. For those who thought the arrogant paternalism that drove the imperial project was just a memory, a reminder from Bulldog “Yawn” Brown that we revolting native chappies need an improving lecture.

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