Thursday, 5 February 2009

Pol Pot: Kettle Brown

I know, I know: it’s not clever and it’s not original and it’s rarely funny but everybody does it and it’s practically what the internet’s for, but sometimes Ms. Toynbee needs a slap, and I’ve been working so hard on this other thing about lobsters and the freedom registry site and I won it fair and square and it’s my birthday present, my Precioussss…and it keeps my invective muscles supple.

These strikes are the upshot of a decade of blunt mantra

Polly Toynbee

The strike spread through energy plants around the country yesterday - only a few thousand strikers but high octane in political resonance. This stirs deep waters, reaching far beyond the fairness of this contract for migrant workers.

First thought for the migrant workers (poor sods, admittedly) – 10 / 10 liberal mindset so far.

Trade unionism is a fading political voice. As its life-blood ebbed, so pay inequality grew:

So, nothing to do with higher production and greater specialization – which create new trades and higher wages; they never mention that at Lefty Academy, Pol?

..strikes hit their lowest level in 2005, at just 157,000 days, against 3.5m days 20 years ago.

Yep, because it’s strikes that create pay rises, isn’t it Polly; we’ve all learned how well that went in the 1970s and 1980s. Remember the miners, Pol, and the dockers; how did striking work out for them?

Only a third of the workforce is unionised, a mere 16% in the private sector. Unions are not blameless, having directed too few resources to recruiting the neediest.

Ah, it was recruiting that was the problem; not high levels of prosperity under the Thatcher Tories, and the comfortable bank balance those 18 years generated and which it has just been Mister Brown’s prudent duty to put on Dancing Doris at the 2.45 at Ascot? Not the unions’ continuing obsession with ‘the poorest-paid workers’ ie, part-time workers who can’t be bothered even to put in the 37 hours even us public sector civilians have to put in? Not those unions – the ones a lot of us remember giving their man-love good and hard to the economy under the previous Labour ‘government?’

It was a mistake to affront some of the few left in a strongly unionised sector.

Should’ve picked on the bar staff, or retail workers instead, maybe? What do you mean Polly? If it’s ‘a mistake’ to allow European-wide competition against engineering workers, against whom could the government have allowed/encouraged competition? Did you mean anything at all by that, or were you just blogging like hell (we all do it) to get onto a gala lunch or a jet plane to Italy or something? We all do it.

The same displacement of jobs and depression of wages has been happening all decade among the cleaners, carers, caterers and agency workers, many of them women, with no one to stand up for the casualised and contracted-out.

Well, your beloved Labour Party’s been busy, Pol, with important people. Europeans. Lesbians. Greens. European Lesbians. Green Lesbians. Lesbian Green Europeans. I’ve got nothing against any of those groups as long as they’re not politicised, you know.*

Both Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown showed in a few inept words how little they understand the sentiments astir.

Globalisation is good: that has been Brown's clunky mantra since time immemorial, a political message devoid of emotional empathy with voters. He used globalisation as a constant warning to the weakest workers to get themselves upskilled: necessary of course, but it grated without the recognition that gains are not universal. Tin-eared, he showed so little regret.

You’ve really gone off Gordon, haven’t you Polly? My heart could break, it really could.

But globalisation was firing up the great boom. It brought cheap goods, low wages and easy debt while migration added extra GDP. He boasted of the miracle of non-inflationary growth, though it was achieved by deflationary pay at the bottom, ..

China and India, do you mean? I don’t recall you boycotting foreign goods, but I can’t read everything you write: I’d never have time left to scathe you.

…despite excess pay at the top.

You must be on, what, £200,000… £400,000 per year, I’d guess; Guardian column and blog, BBC, guest appearances at think-tank bashes. And for what? For posting opinionated political commentary on the internet.

Say… you get paid for doing something that I do for free and for the love of it…

That sounds about right, somehow.

Globalisation was the future: enjoy.

Now Brown's sermons on the threat of protectionism sound the same dud note. Of course, protectionism is the great peril. All Davos quaked at the prospect of Barack Obama allowing a "Buy American" clause into his fiscal stimulus package, as graphs showed how the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act turned 1930s recession to depression, accelerating the downward plunge when countries raised barriers. Everything Brown says is true - and yet at the same time it is utterly misleading.

This is going to be good.

What he never admits about globalisation or protectionism is who wins and who loses. In the good times globalisation increased GDP and we were meant to be proud. But who was feeling good? In the last few good years official figures show that 80% of earners saw very little real extra growth,..

Ever heard of high taxation and stealth charges, Polly; they’ve been very useful for massively increasing public ‘social expenditure’ whilst Mister Brown was fuelling his inflationary building bubble these past ten years of your silence…

...with most winners in the top 10%. Half of all earners saw no growth at all, and a third saw their real pay fall - mainly due to holding public sector pay and the minimum wage below inflation for several years.

So, Labour economic policy not flowing with milk-and-honey even during the Brown Boom? So was it good for you all those years, love, or were you faking it? I mean, just so we know.

The same no-growth losers were in sectors with the most migrant labour.

Say it ain’t so Polly.

It may not have been the main cause, but if nine out 10 new jobs went to foreigners, it wasn't negligible either.

Some of us haven’t neglected it, dear lady. Some of us have noticed it and actually mentioned it. Some of us out here are very bad people, but most of us would prefer our original, native neighbours to be looked after first, even during the Golden Brown Years which lasted all the way up till last autumn. And just look who’s floating around the picket lines waiting to make a cheap point and a few dozen converts…The people who more or less openly would prefer a photo umpire for the Battle of Britain, and maybe a replay with the fifth and sixth goals disallowed…

Britain, almost alone in the EU, allowed in all European entrants immediately. No measure shows how far this new labour pool…

‘new labour pool’ – read New Labour shower…Cheap, I know, but I'm doing this just for fun, after all.

…reduced jobs and pay for UK workers - but it defies belief to pretend it had no effect.

Defying our beliefs is your job, girl. You getting cold feet now after just a little difficulty with some refinery engineers? For shame.

The truth is, the government didn't want to ask that question because it was good for business.

And anyone who questioned it was a racist, and guess who and whose coterie led the charge? She wants freedom of speech to criticise Islamist violence, but explain the scriptural sources from which it derives and you’re a Very Bad Person.

Market theory says that when there is a labour shortage, wages rise. Employers take on less likely workers and train them up. The reason many couldn't work in good times was because wages stayed too low to cover their costs. Yesterday Mandelson parroted the old trope that these were jobs "British workers didn't want". But market theory says wages rise until people take the jobs.

Market theory doesn’t include the £42,000 per year a chap can get if he has 10 kids and claims benefits, [I saw another one this week - lovely couple but £42-plus kilosovs a year for sex every 12 to 18 months! He ought to get into Guardian blogging] and for the unambitious even four or five well-spaced births can be a thirty-year gravy-train.

The elephant in the room, Polly, is that we pay our fellow Brits to be idle and often semi-criminal and that’s right down to your social theory and practice.

Instead Labour encouraged in a fresh supply of overqualified…

…okay, lost me there, lass. Just why did he invite in accountants and doctors to clean stuff and drive taxis? I mean, I know he did, he really did, but what was his motivation luvvie? I mean, it’s not like it’s a law we’ve got, is it; some kind of permanent international agreement that you never stood up against? You or the BBC?

…east Europeans willing to clean floors for low pay. The market was artificially tilted to benefit employers. The poor get globalised, the rich reap the reward.

Over the last decade, the right thing to do was not to close borders on free movement of people. (Though they could have delayed fresh entrants.) The right thing to do was to level the playing field radically to make sure all this growing GDP went to help those suffering globalisation's bad effects. As it was, many paid the price for top people's winnings - with not even a symbolic extra tax levy on the winners. Restaurants and cleaners were too cheap. The minimum wage should have risen far faster: it's still only half the average male wage and weakly enforced.

Actually, minimum wages are an unbelievably bad idea, for lots of complicated reasons like supply and demand and, well, supply and demand, and you were probably in Advanced Finger Painting when the basic economics was being taught, weren’t you?

Eloquent political explanations should have described how unfairly income and wealth was distributed, and why. Instead, Brown talked of globalisation as if it were good for all.

And it is, eventually; if labour and capital are mobile and taxed lightly and everyone pretty much obeys the law, and has to work most of their lives. Which is why the USA is the place where even its worst enemies want to go to school and start families…

So the only surprise is that indignation has taken this long to erupt. It is not irrational xenophobia or scapegoating migrants, but a rational appraisal by local people deprived of 300 particular jobs, for no benefit to them or people like them.

It’s not racist when you say it, Polly, because you’re so kind and you love us all; each in our own way.

They are not wrong. Labour has been serially wrong - in praising the UK's "flexible" workforce, in fighting against the EU to let our agency workers be worse treated and our employees work the longest hours.

And that’s made Britain more attractive to cheap foreign labour seeking the minimum wage just how, exactly Pol? Maybe fighting against the EU a bit harder over open borders might have helped, except, well we on the Right have noticed that you don’t get much out of the EU; they just go their own way, breaking their own rules and procedures, ignoring referendum after referendum and, Polly, if you really cared, you’d really care and start showing some interest for national self-government, but could you show your face at the BBC or in Islington’s £20-per-glass trattorias then?

Almost the entire public-sector manual workforce is outsourced to worse employers. The Warwick agreement only redressed a little, forced from Labour in need of union funds for the 2005 election. So when Brown trumpeted "British jobs for British workers", it was profoundly devious. Like the 10p tax-band cut, it sprung from the same cynicism that forms half his bifurcated political personality.

Gordon Brown; monocular and bifurcated at the same time. It’s got to sting a bit...

Extreme inequality, as in the US, was disguised in good times by making people work harder: one and half incomes are now necessary in most families.

Remember our little chat about taxation and benefits Polly – housewives and mothers were taxed and welfared out of existence by your lot.

Debt and cheaper goods also disguised the underlying trend. Inequality is not just undesirable, it is politically dangerous. A nation divided between winners and losers can't take a united view when urgent action is needed.

Now you go all Disraeli on us? You haven’t much minded the Lefty political class taking over, corrupting or destroying every ancient institution it could get its polytechnic-Trot mitts on, and now its triumphalism is biting you on your hereditarily liberal damp-proof course.

Protectionism is a serious global risk to all;

Good, good; you nipped out of Advanced Finger Painting for a minute to listen. Jolly well done.

…climate change imperils everyone equally.

But you nipped back in to be clued up about the Giant Lizard Threat by the Lecturer In Thumb Whorls And Spreadeagled Palms, I see…

Yet if it takes pain to avoid both, in unequal societies the pain is too unfairly shared to allow concerted corrective action.

So listen to us a-starboard a bit when we complain about the Constitution, national self-governemnt, taxation, the possibility of wealth creation,welfare spongers, law and order, multiculturism and…Oh, silly me.

There’re some aspects of ‘pain’ we all must endure for the greater good that is the liberal vision, and to hell with the rest of us.

Brown is too much to blame for the last decade to U-turn into a leader for fairer, more frugal times, and it's too late to remove him. Instead, David Cameron captures the mood perfectly with his speech about the moral bankruptcy of capitalism, promising "capitalism with a conscience".

Well, I expect he’s pretty good with the old plasticine himself.

He doesn't mean it - he has no policy to back those pretty words. The City is rooting for him. The Conservatives will probably take power at a time when their policies of saving and cutting will have the most damaging effect.

Because taxing and spending, and now borrowing and bailing-out and spending have worked so well to get us out of the Thatcher Solvency Horror, right?

Protesters trying to hold on to their jobs are right to fear worse to come.

So, the Left is still right after all, even now that you say it’s screwed the pooch.

Phew! Thought you were in for a change of heart, there.

To be fair to La Toynbee, she has occasionally been quietly critical of Nu Labour’s immigration policies, so she’s not being too inconsistent with her past ideas on the matter here.


* Alright. I lied about the Greens.


Anonymous said...

Polli Instead, Brown talked of globalisation as if it were good for all.

And it is, eventually; if labour and capital are mobile and taxed lightly and everyone pretty much obeys the law, and has to work most of their lives. Which is why the USA is the place where even its worst enemies want to go to school and start families…

"Eventually" is a long time!

The globalisation that is now reversing rapidly was built on a global trading system so out of whack that it had to fail.
Most national bloggers are blaming their own govt.
ALL government major players, G7, India, China, ..... were complicit, each trying to manipulate for their own benefit.
Still are doing so.
And finger pointing.
Strongest/most effective manipulator holds the global reserve currency.... for now.

Interesting times indeed.

Polly needs a bigger slapping than any single blogger can muster.
And there are hundreds like her.
Well done.

North Northwester said...

Anonymous again! You've been busy around these parts, it seems.

Thank you for your kind words.

I'm still holding out my hopes for something like a free trading system - largely becasue economists whom I trust(ie, ones whose prejudices match my own,) think that protecionism leads to sheer hell economicallly and politically.

Cheer up, North lad. All our ancestors - every single one - lived long enough (through all the droughts and famines, ice ages, wars, pandemics and general elections that fate and the world could throw at them) to become parents. We all of us stand atop a mountain of heroes and heroines who survived.

Interesting times indeed, but we're tough, us people.


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