Heroes: China Crisis
And when I get excited
My little China girl, she says
‘Oh, baby, just you shut your mouth’
Much excitement to start the week with as, it is claimed, a Chinese spy in his 20s is cruising the Westminster drinks circuit. Must be‘七‘.
All jokes aside, this, along with much Chinese politics, has to be balanced with considerations of trade. Our trade with China is worth £93bn a year, as such it is crucial to our prosperity and needs to be guarded and promoted. Likewise the whole world has an interest in keeping alive negotiations with China on the climate crisis, irrespective of its internal politics.
Domestically, and potentially more damagingly, trade unions have passed a resolution promising a ‘strategy of non-compliance‘ with ministers’ controversial anti-strike legislation.
At this year’s annual TUC meeting, delegates unanimously agreed to seek to resist the new law, which allows public sector employers to establish ‘minimum service levels‘ on strike days.
The motion said: ‘We have no choice but to build mass opposition to the minimum service levels laws, up to and including a strategy of non-compliance and non-cooperation to make them unworkable, including industrial action.’
The legislation, passed earlier this year as the government response to public sector strikes, allows employers in sectors including health and transport to issue a ‘work notice’ in advance of industrial action, specifying which staff are necessary to provide a minimum level of service.
Unions that do not comply could be open to legal action – and the named employees could ultimately be sacked if they fail to turn up. The TUC’s general secretary, Paul Nowak, stressed on Monday that it was not encouraging workers to disobey the law. But the motion calls for a ‘special congress to explore options for non-compliance and resistance‘.
Labour has promised to repeal the minimum service levels legislation, as part of a package of pro-worker reforms.
As we saw in my last piece, ‘Lesson From America‘, the Biden administration has a very much more grown-up attitude towards unions. As Biden himself said, ‘When unions win, Americans across the board win‘.
Continuing with the theme of a government unable to deal with criticism and different opinions, I was amused to see Sir Mark Rowley, the Mets commissioner, is being sued over the arrest of Graham Smith, the chief executive of Britain’s leading republican movement, on the day of the king’s coronation.
Smith, who was detained for 14 hours, is seeking a judicial review of the lawfulness of his arrest as well as damages and an admission of fault from Scotland Yard.
Smith’s lawyers say that this is the first time a court has had the chance to consider the ‘correct approach’ to the exercise of powers given to the police days before the coronation under which they are able to arrest those suspected of ‘going equipped to lock on‘.
It is claimed by Smith’s lawyers that the arresting officer did not have any reasonable grounds to suspect he was intending to commit an offence ‘because of his extensive communication and cooperation with the defendant’s officers in respect of the protest‘.
They add of the luggage straps being the justification for the arrest that ‘if this were the law, an individual who simply cycles to a protest and has a bike lock in their rucksack could be arrested. Further and in any event, the luggage straps that were in the van were adjustable in length and could easily be loosened or cut‘.
Another example of the Mets heavy-handed policing was the Sarah Everard vigil which they turned into a full-blown riot.
Scotland Yard has apologised and paid ‘substantial damages’ to Patsy Stevenson and Dania Al-Obeid, who were arrested during the vigil. In a move that the new Metropolitan police commissioner, Mark Rowley, will hope draws a line under one of the darkest periods of the Met’s recent history, the force acknowledged that it was ‘understandable‘ that the woman had wanted to attend a candlelit vigil at Clapham Common because they felt women had been ‘badly let down‘.
‘Mark Rowley, will hope draws a line under one of the darkest periods of the Met’s recent history’
The image of Stevenson being pinned to the floor by officers as she was arrested sparked widespread fury and distrust among women, while the Met’s actions at the vigil saw it and its then commissioner Cressida Dick widely criticised. A 2021 police inspectorate review into the event called the Met’s conduct ‘absolutely right‘.
Cressida, the only thing that was ‘absolutely right‘ was when you were fired from a role you were clearly not capable of!
Somehow it’s fitting that such a cack-handed government has an equally disastrous police force. If plod can get it wrong they will!
Strangely, there was a murmur of common sense from the Tories this week, as former leader William Hague has said it is time to ditch the triple lock on pensions, which is likely to increase by 8.5% in April.
Hague cited a report by the IFS that found that maintaining the triple lock on state pensions could add as much as £45bn a year to the welfare bill by 2050, putting ‘insurmountable pressure‘ on the government to increase the minimum retirement age.
Hague wrote; ‘A runaway train is a fair analogy because we don’t know where it will end up, or at what speed; it’s nearly going too fast already for the train drivers to slow it down, but if they don’t it will end in disaster‘.
Of course, the runaway train was set in-motion by David Cameron, and funded by the workers he then subjected to austerity.
The entire Tory mess has it roots in Thatcherism. Like all things it had its day in the sun, but now it is tired, out-of-date, and discredited.
During this time we have gone though the initial experimental phase; privatisation, beneficial taxes for the rich, and the crushing of trade unions. In return GDP growth has continued its downward trend. The latest incarnation has been to embrace fascism populism, via nationalism, racism, and trashing anything that might be seen as progressive.
This has created several underlying trends; the right prospers at the expense of the poor, and the creation of an age divide as the older generation represent rentiers, who, for the first-time in years, are better-off than their children.
If it is to be believed, the chancellors’, Jeremy Hunt, latest plan is to cut benefits in real terms in order to fund tax cuts. It is suggested that benefits would not be explicitly cut, but rather would ‘fail to rise in line with inflation‘. ‘A straightforward redistribution of money from the struggling to the well-off. ‘
One of the most cynical or cleverest parts of the Tory deception is how they have successfully encouraged the working-class to vote against their own interests. As a result of their policies household incomes are set to be 4% lower next year than they were at the 2019 election – a decline with no precedent in living memory.
‘they have successfully encouraged the working-class to vote against their own interests’
In fairness, at this point we need to give credit to Nigel Farage, who understood the plight of many post the GFC, and used that to stoke the fire that became Brexit. The Conservatives, via the opportunistic Boris Johnson, hijacked this Fascist populist sentiment which then underpinned the vote to leave the EU. Research suggests that the communities most hit by benefit cuts disproportionately voted leave, and the Tories subsequently appealed to them as the party most committed to honouring the referendum vote.
This continued post the Brexit referendum, with Theresa May promising to shift ‘the balance of Britain decisively in favour of ordinary working-class people’.
What this achieved was to redefine class politics, taking it away from the traditional battleground of championing workers’ economic interests, and replacing it with nationalism, racism, and culture wars. In true fascist style foreigners and progressive elements were sold as ‘doing the country-down’ and the reason for our decline. Or simply, a return to the politics of the 1930’s. Boris Johnson, the ultimate snake oil salesman fully embraced this. Yet more opportunism for a man who once wrote that blue collar men are ‘likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless‘.
‘Yet more opportunism for a man who once wrote that blue collar men are ‘likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless”
Rishi Sunak, despite his technocratic public persona, has proved to be no different, relying on a ‘war on woke’, being the motorists champion over Ulez, and his obsession with migrants to deflect from economic and social turmoil. That he’s seeking to underpin support from rentiers by further cutting benefits only serves to highlight his populist priorities.
For many this will be the straw that breaks them; according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, basic benefits for struggling households are at least £140 a month less than the cost of life’s essentials.
As I have written so many time before, the Tories overarching ambition is the retention of power, and they will stoop to any level of exploitation to achieve this.
For Labour to combat the Tories exploitation of the ‘working class’, it need to retake was is often referred to as the ‘middle-ground’ in politics.
Recent research by YouGov shows that Starmer’s Labour is closer to the public on the issues that matter most to them – and voters perceive the Conservatives and Rishi Sunak as being well to the political right of the British people:
- Overall, voters characterised themselves as 4.6 out of 10 on a scale where 0 was left-wing and 10 was right-wing.
- They placed Keir Starmer as 3.9 on the same scale, Sunak on 7.3,
- Labour was on 3.3 and the Conservatives on 7.6.
Unsurprisingly, YouGov’s research shows the only age category favouring the Tories are the over-65s.
The challenge for Labour is to revive the centre as a dynamic political force that inspires hope as well as security. Trust in mainstream parties is low, with many people feeling that no party represents them. The centre needs to become a renewed force for a prosperous and socially just society in a competitive and fast-changing world.
‘YouGov’s research shows the only age category favouring the Tories are the over-65s’
The centre-left needs to focus on improving the working and living standards of working-class communities its mission, This requires plans to raise wages, lower costs and increase people’s prospects of a better life for all.
When Labour came to power in 1997 the economy was recovering, today it is the opposite. This means there must be fresh thinking about how to generate wealth in every part of the country, such as Biden is achieving in the US via his Inflation reduction Act.
The current cost-of-living crisis creates two challenges for Labour. Under their current plans, there aren’t the tax receipts to redistribute and fund new, more generous social programmes. In addition, there is likely to be more shocks that will affect working people.
Immigration is now the second most important issue facing the country according to crucial voter groups such as those aged 50-64 and voters in the Midlands and north of England. Voters remain divided on immigration, but a large proportion would prefer to allow many fewer migrants into the country.
As I wrote in ‘Lessons From America’, whilst traditionally being strong on immigration was seen as Tory vote winner, the recent debacle they have made of the subject does make them vulnerable in this area. Today’s comments from Stamer regarding categorising people-smuggling as terrorists under an illegal immigration policy shows how seriously he is taking this.
As ever, all I manage to convey here is how bad things are. Despite this, I find the apathy of the electorate disappointing.
‘all I manage to convey here is how bad things are. Despite this, I find the apathy of the electorate disappointing’
Perhaps this disintegration has become such a fact-of-life that were are now resigned to it.
Back in the day it wasn’t like that. People who have followed this column, or those who know me, understand how much I enjoyed, and was influenced by those heady days of punk in 1976 and the first half of 1977.
There was a fascinating interview with Pauline Murray the lead singer of Penetration in this week’s Guardian(1).
Murray summed how many of felt then, and do still today; ‘It’s an attitude. People who were affected by punk, still are. It stays with you. You know when things are shit. You see things for what they are.’
I will leave you with this quote from the article; ‘It’s when the man in the street goes ‘I’ve had enough’ that things change. But they’re all out their heads, stressed, too busy worrying about bills. The people in charge know exactly what they’re doing, it works, they’ve being doing it for thousands of years!’
‘Right or wrong
There is no answer
Don’t tell me what to do
Its my choice
I’ll take it
I’ll chance it’
A state of the union piece from Philip, and I’m not going to be able to improve upon his preamble:
As the country further disintegrates we all just seem to shrug and get on with it. To paraphrase Pauline Murray, “You know when things are shit”, the difference now is that no one really seems to care. Yes, we tut, tut, but there is such a sea of apathy. It feels as if we are resigned to our fate.
For my sins I watch breakfast TV, most mornings I hear another mindless member of the government trotting out mind-boggling crap. Ever more crap that we have in our rivers and off our coasts!
I hear statements and data that tell me we are spending more on everything, it doesn’t matter what, we are dealing with it. More than previous governments, often it’s “world beating”, or “the envy of the world”. So much so, that I fear I am living in a semi-psychotic state where I am imagining all the mess, and that I am really in nirvana.
It’s fascinating. Is the cabinet so stupid? Or, are they simply sinking into self-preservation, trying to convince us that no matter how bad it gets, they are moving mountains to improve things and spending more than ever. More than we could ever contemplate.
There are several suggestions as to how much Biden had committed to the Inflation Reduction Act, but the consensus is C>$700bn. We have announced plans to spend £1bn on grants for homes that have low energy efficiency ratings and are in lower council tax bands. Oh well, almost!
We open with Iggy Pop and “China Girl”, taken from the album “The Idiot”, which Bowie wrote and produced; ahhhh, such genius! To finish we remember Penetration, a band that troubled few beyond the John Peel show, which was a great shame they really did have something to say. In this case, it’s “Don’t Dictate”. Enjoy!
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s