Where are the new ideas (on the left)?


by Sunny
25th September, 2007 at 2:32 am    

It would not have gone unnoticed by many that the Labour Party and the Conservatives increasingly sound the same on many issues.
As Chris Dillow said last week:

They can’t distinguish themselves from each other, as they used, to by representing different classes. The big class divide in party politics (though not elsewhere) is now that between the political class – Tories, Labour and the MSM – and the rest of us. Nor can they distinguish themselves by philosophical positions, such as equality vs liberty. The political class has long lost the ability to argue for philosophical or ethical principles.

If there are no real ideas to differentiate the political parties, it follows they will be more obsessed by marketing and positioning themselves than actually developing coherent policies and ideas that help the masses.

The Labour party is in bouyant mood right now not because they’ve got anything good to crow about, but rather because the Tories are doing so badly. Equally, Cameron spent ages re-positioning himself to get higher in the polls, but when people wanted to hear solid policies and ideas, he floundered.

So what are the ideas that will re-invigorate the left? Where does the future lie?

Earlier this month Anthony Barnett on ourKingdom asked whether the left was really brewing with new ideas and thinking, in response to Martin Bright in the New Statesman. Anthony said:

What is this new thinking? Seriously, I’ve missed it. Brimming! Could readers post their list of, say, the top ten, or even six, new lines of thought on the left. Either here or on their own websites. To make it easier this thinking does not have to be part of any coalition forming around the Prime Minister as Bright seems to imply.

The prize for the most original and brimming answer is a copy of either Future Positive by Michael Edwards or What Should the Left Propose? by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.

So there you have it – you can get some free books if you list new ideas below.

Sunder Katwala (Fabian Society) presumably saw some empty shelf-space and wrote a thought-provoking article in response for openDemocracy.

Sunder does not put forward new areas of interest; he says there is much work to be done on existing issues such as :
1) Equality
2) Democracy (he also calls for electoral reform in this pamphlet just published).
3) Citizenship / Britishness
4) Environment
5) International policy

Feel free to have a read.

My feeling is that in some cases the arguments need to be different than the ones we are posing now. On equality for example, some minority groups, white working class groups and women get paid less in aggregate.

But the old tactics of declaring that ‘institutional racism’ or sexist is not good enough. In some cases the difference may be cultural or structural.

On democracy and citizenship I’d go further and say we need a new constitution.
On immigration I’d go further and say the government needs a new welfare system that exclusively deals with temporary / new immigrants.
On the environment I’d go further and say we need massive new investment into developing renewable sources of energy technology.

Of course, none of these are new ideas or particularly ‘leftist’ in the old sense of the word. So do you have any new ones? Let’s hear them…

——
Image from the Fabian Pamphlet on electoral reform.


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  1. Heads up for Sunny « OurKingdom

    [...] 25, 2007 at 8:00 pm | In Thinking | Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Over on Pickled Politics, Sunny Hundal has responded to my appeal for left thinking as well as to Sunder Katwala’s important response in oD, where [...]


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    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…




  1. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 8:30 am  

    Better than asking itself what policies the left should pursue it should ask itself why it came into existence in the first place.

    Please correct me if I have got this wrong, but my understanding was that Labour was thus called because it was the party for the worker.

    The “left” of course is a wider movement, but the only institution with any real power to effect change is Labour.

    So who is the worker? These days I would argue anyone who is unreliant on Capital, particularly for their health and education. These are the people of Labour, if not the people of the Labour Party.

    So what do they (indeed we) need? I think you could leave it at point one:

    Equality, equality, equality.

    But we will never have it. We are now more unequal than in the 1970s. More to the point – there is less social mobility.

    In our politician’s rush to the centre, they utterly lack the conviction and bravery of their predecessors. Imagine a manifesto that promised a national health service, nationalised industries…

    If Labour really wanted to promote equality they would:

    1. Ban private education
    2. Ban private health

    And invest instead in publicly funded services (why not? Everyone else in W. Europe seems to manage).

    3. They would ban faith schools (remember that biz about opium? Well you could add segregation).
    4. A fully elected House of Lords, drawn from all the people not just the fat cats and the mediaocracy. How about head teachers, nurses, policeman? Invite people to nominate and vote for their peers!
    5. Massively slash the welfare state. Yes, slash: the social safety net has become a mantrap for the working class, promoting a culture of defeatism and vegetation. It has destroyed class identity and promoted the contempt of the rich. It is also at the route of many problems associated with immigration – from competition over jobs (ie lack of) to competition over housing.

    Put the money instead into fully-funded education (inc. full grants) and health (inc. pensions and care for the elderly – you see, I have a heart).

    All of the above could be at the heart of a radical Labour manifesto for an equal and dynamic 21st Century Britain from a party that remembered where it came from and knew where it was going. Sadly however I think the real thing is on a road to nowhere.

  2. sahil — on 25th September, 2007 at 10:10 am  

    I have to agree with Sunder Katwala in that many of the traditional ‘leftist’ issues have not really been considered by this government let alone tackled, so there is a lot that can differentiate the main parties. Here’s my check list:

    Housing: the biggest transfer of wealth seen in this generation. If the government really had any desire to tackled inequality we need a land tax:

    http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,1984814,00.html

    Democracy: Well more transparency and accountability, especially concerning the freedom of information act. Independent watchdogs need a lot more bite and authority then they currently have.

    Environment: Just try and achieve the current targets. The UK is hopelessly far from its own targets, BUT, has been making a lot of effort in mobilising a transnational approach to the environment. So more of that, especially trying to involve the BRIC economies more.

    Transport: Any mention of this topic from the government might have been useful. But there was nothing. Labour has no interest in tackling transportation problems, bit pathetic really.

    Skills/training: More mentors, grants, and focus on R&D. There are too few government schemes focused on linking industry and universities or polytechniques. Costs of education are spiralling but there is less and less support for those who need to ‘skill-up’. So while the government drums on about the need for ‘extra value’ maybe is should have a more coherent skills and education policy.

    Foreign policy: More multilateralism and less interventionism.

    Immigration: Clear separation between refugees and economic migrants. Possibly a points system especially for skills that are lacking e.g. doctors, IT, teachers.

    That’s it for now, I just wonder if anyone can even be bothered to look at those issues.

  3. Rumbold — on 25th September, 2007 at 10:28 am  

    “So what are the ideas that will re-invigorate the left? Where does the future lie?”

    A wearied acceptance that the Conservatives are the party to vote for?

    Mass suicide?

  4. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 11:12 am  

    Health, education, social deprivation…all of these go hand in hand and cannot be looked at in isolation. Labour have completely ignored its grassroot campaigners and supporters by completely selling their socialist soul to the big corporations. I’m not for going back to the days of Michael Foot, but I think Tony Blair has completely destroyed any faith I had in the Labour party. Why has the gap between rich and poor increased? Why do we see massive investment in the NHS where managers are being paid £70kp and nurses are being paid peanuts???? Why do we see GP contracts allowing GPs to opt out of weekend work but where the needs of the local communities are still not being met. Please don’t tell me otherwise because I see it everyday….if there is so much goddamn investment in the NHS, why are they hiring a bunch of incompetents to run the hospitals, thus leaving PCTs in the red…look at the London SHA and tell me otherwise. Funny how it’s front line staff that are losing their jobs and not the fat cat managers who do sweet f all being made redundant.
    If we’re looking at the inverse model where those most in need are the ones not getting the services they need, then you can’t ignore and you can’t separate housing, deprivation and education. I wouldn’t call for a ban on private education and healthcare as this is a free society where ppl should be allowed to choose. But its indicative of where we are when a Labour MP or leader will choose to send their child to a private school because..let’s face it they don’t want them rubbing shoulders with us rif raf commoners…

  5. douglas clark — on 25th September, 2007 at 11:15 am  

    Sunny,

    How about making everybody subject to Income Tax? No exceptions, no trust funds, no excuses. Chances are, some of the plutocrats would leave, but as they haven’t contributed, hell mend them.

  6. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 11:15 am  

    Oh and while we’re looking at healthcare…can someone plz tell those buffoons in nhs recruitment that it might help getting staff who can actually speak English.

  7. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 11:29 am  

    “I wouldn’t call for a ban on private education and healthcare as this is a free society where ppl should be allowed to choose.”

    Ah, there we have it – the “choice” agenda. I know my banning thing sounds passe, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if there had been sufficient investment and support in public services in the first place. Now, however, I suggest it is the only radical way to reverse inequality.

    Back to choice, the far-seeing Dr Robert burst that balloon back in the Eighties -

    “It’s your choice, there’s no choice at all.”

    I can’t “choose” to give my kids a private education, any more than I can choose private health. My only choice is the local comp. My choices are limited. The whole “choice” issue is false – there is no such thing.
    Otherwise I would choose for my kids to be educated at Eton and given the education that would get them into Oxbridge, where the sons and daughters of the rich still out-number the poor.

    Or maybe I would “choose” to send my kids to the state school down the road where the middle class kids and decent teachers go. But hold on, either I can’t afford that housing catchment or it’s CofE so I’d better hop along to the local Alpha Course and join hands in hypocrisy with all the others…

    There’s no choice at all, Sofia.

  8. ZinZin — on 25th September, 2007 at 11:30 am  

    Tax the rich, Its a new idea but it will be very popular.

    Roll back the market i.e ending PFI and targets for the police, NHS, civil service.

  9. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 11:38 am  

    I do understand your point Boyo, but do you think that by banning something like private health care you would see a fundamental change. No you wouldn’t…you’d see all these kids being home schooled..you’d still get them paying for health care and finding some loop hole. I don’t agree with private health care or education. I know two teachers, one who teaches in a state school, the other in a private. The experiences of both highlight the class divide in this country which has not been tackled by a Labour government. When I talk about choice, I talk about enforcing change through popular movement, not through a nanny state. I try to be optimistic but I feel that there are fundamental changes to society that need to take place in order for the next generation to not become vaccuous, bb watching, celebrity idolising idiots.

  10. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:22 pm  

    how about performance related pay for the fat cats.

  11. sonia — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:36 pm  

    how about not letting the corporations have a discounted tax rate, that might be a good start.

    the fat cat pay problem is inextricably linked to our love for leaders, which i can’t see abating.

  12. sahil — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:37 pm  

    “how about performance related pay for the fat cats.”

    Suusshhh!! Don’t give them any ideas :D

  13. sonia — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:40 pm  

    “”On immigration I’d go further and say the government needs a new welfare system that exclusively deals with temporary / new immigrants”

    people will no doubt ask, well can the govt. first get the welfare system right for non-immigrants?

  14. johnny — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:50 pm  

    How about removing the cap placed on local authourities so that they can increase Council Tax to a realistic level to pay for the service at a standard that we demand.

  15. sonia — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:54 pm  

    don’t even need new ideas, so many ‘old’ ones: dunno and don’t care if they are on the Left or the South-west ( i have decided i am not pandering to that ridiculous ruler idea- there’s an old idea to get rid of if anything)

    monetary reform? alternative currencies? doing something about the unsustainable debt?
    proportional representation?
    sustainable transport alternatives? (and if we’re actually serious about the lip service the mainstream is now paying the environment, i would also like to know what the party in charge would do about rail travel. clearly not many people are going to give up driving to Leeds or Bradford/(or flying to scotland or europe) or wherever in the UK if its cheaper and more convenient than the expensive chaotic experience that nowadays masquerades as ‘rail travel’. and cheaper trains across europe. and serious efforts to encourage and make cycling easier. whither the public realm?. sustainable transport alternatives at reasonable prices please -and let’s see some sustained effort at getting there, instead of just saying ‘oh its too hard, let’s just offload onto individuals instead of looking for real alternatives’)

    and finally – given all the fuss about certain ‘aggregate’ people not getting paid the same/or not working etc. – well we might want to look at barriers to participation. like in the case of women/families – not enough affordable childcare- has a serious effect on employment choices women can make. and you think it was pretty fundamental to any society: childcare. But no.

  16. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 12:59 pm  

    I’d like to go a lot further than performance related pay…like getting rid of all the management level staff at pcts and replacing them with ppl who actually deserve the jobs. I would introduce a cap on salaries and then intro prp..give commissioners some basic fiscal training (since it’s obvious that they don’t know how to add) coupled with learning about the goddamn area (health as well as demographics)they are working in.

  17. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 25th September, 2007 at 1:08 pm  

    Ali G has a break through idea about allowing women into the country if they was “fit”.

    I’d vote for that.

    TFI

  18. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 1:09 pm  

    increase council tax??? like we don’t pay enough??? how is that leftist? so obviously it will be those who are neither well off or that poor that are hit cuz we’re not poor enough to receive benefits but not rich enough to be able to afford the slightest increases

  19. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 1:10 pm  

    TFI he also had a great way of explaining the economics of supply and demand…Ali G for PM?? nah..he comes from staines…eek

  20. Rumbold — on 25th September, 2007 at 2:09 pm  

    More laws, banning things and taxing more heavily- Thanks for reminding me why I vote Conservative.

  21. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 2:36 pm  

    wat like the tories stand for lower taxes and less legal bureaucracy?
    let’s not forget the poll tax, or selling off council housing..pity Labour didn’t try putting a curb on that one though..oh and somewhere in the not too distant past i remember school spending cuts and lots of teachers striking.

  22. Sunny — on 25th September, 2007 at 2:42 pm  

    Heh, I have some sympathy for Rumbold’s position.

    It seems the only way forward for the ‘left’ is banning more things or restricting what people can do.

    I think that is inherently counter-productive in an economy where people are not dying of starvation. Do we really need equality of status and income for everyone? I’d disagree. I think that we need to focus on is equality of opportunity for everyone, and then there can be differences in income etc.

    Market failure has lead to a lot of income disparity… so for example the fact that companies don’t chuck out under-perfoming managers is a problem. So I’d look towards legislation that gives more power to shareholders than they have right now to get rid of senior managers.

    I think the way money has been spent on the NHS is abysmal.

  23. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 2:50 pm  

    Sunny please clarify..money “on” the nhs or money that the nhs itself has spent…
    I don’t think the issue is equality of income, rather the widening gap of income and pay increases..resulting in the haves and have nots. With the latter inevitably not just being paid less, but also the knock on effect of housing, living in deprived areas, lower educational attainment and lower access to acceptable health care.

  24. ZinZin — on 25th September, 2007 at 2:52 pm  

    “Do we really need equality of status and income for everyone? I’d disagree. I think that we need to focus on is equality of opportunity for everyone, and then there can be differences in income etc.”

    Answer to the first question is no.

    Achieving equality of opportunity for everyone? Lets bin the meritocratic ideal that has hamstrung the left and the right and has resulted in an increase, not a decrease in equality of opportunity. Only economic growth increases equality of opportunity.

  25. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:04 pm  

    “I think that we need to focus on is equality of opportunity for everyone, and then there can be differences in income etc.”

    Well you’re certainly the authentic voice of the new left Sunny. Long on platitudes, short on solutions.

    Can you, or anyone else, demonstrate how you will provide genuine equality of opportunity without addressing the profound historic and systemic inequalities in the UK?

    I don’t think you will, because I don’t think you can without taking radical action. And no modern Labour Party would dare do that for the reasons I mentioned above. Thus no change and No Labour.

  26. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:08 pm  

    Sorry. It just makes me so unfashionably angry and sad.

  27. sahil — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:12 pm  

    “demonstrate how you will provide genuine equality of opportunity without addressing the profound historic and systemic inequalities in the UK?”

    I think you’ve got it one. The issue is not really inequality per se, rather, social mobility. A healthy capitalistic economy requires a large degree of social mobility, but in the UK, systemic block are preventing this. One example: Oxbridge.

  28. Sunny — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:15 pm  

    Can you, or anyone else, demonstrate how you will provide genuine equality of opportunity without addressing the profound historic and systemic inequalities in the UK?

    Well, those systemic inequalities have to be dealt with, and they can be dealt with with the aim in mind that its equality of opportunity we want not outcome. Which ‘profound historic and systemic inequalities’ do you mean Boyo?

    Only economic growth increases equality of opportunity.

    I don’t disagree, but after a certain point, economic growth has lets marginal utility than increasing stand of living.

    I don’t think the issue is equality of income, rather the widening gap of income and pay increases..resulting in the haves and have nots.

    I think thats a problem is market failure in some cases, and bad regulation in others. I would have a ‘living wage’ and like I said, make it easier for shareholders to remove terrible managers. But you can’t tell companies how much they should pay…

  29. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:17 pm  

    boyo…we’ve mentioned performance related pay for managers when it comes to health, caps on managerial salaries in the public sector. How about injecting money into deprived areas, but NOT hiring new ppl to implement, but using existing community leaders in sustainable, LONGTERM, funding. How about reducing the paperwork teachers have to go through instead letting them focus on what they are trained to do; TEACH. How about reopening youth centres and community centres that are council funded, run by people who care about the kids and the community. I.e volunteers who have been doing this kind of stuff without being paid, for years. Changes need to be made not only at national, but very local levels. which means we need to make our MPs and local councillors accountable for what we are paying them to do. How about making MPs salaries related to how their constituency is doing and how many deprived areas they have and what they are doing about them. How about grilling pcts on where they are spending their money, ESPECIALLY in areas where there are high ethnic minorities (who are consistently on the back end of everything).

  30. sahil — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:22 pm  

    An ESRC executive summary on social mobility trends and possible systematic blocks i.e. education:

    http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/facts/index24.aspx

  31. El Cid — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:23 pm  

    You know, I find myself agreeing with Sunny and Rumbold.
    As I was reading through the comments, I got this negative, hectoring, and slightly boring old labour sensation.
    Better to promote than to restrict I say.
    Here are a few suggestions — maybe not big ideas, but hey I’m on a coffee break, what you expect?
    1)The building of 250,000 new mixed-tenure homes (mostly in the southeast) in a thoughtful way that promotes a sense of sustainable urbanism rather than sprawl and tames long-term house pruce growth (expectations of a nearterm slowdown notwithstanding).
    2) Broader representation on the UN Security Council
    3) The building of crossrail in London and the creatio of tax free zones in the north of England to promote new industries.
    4) The intense private/public promotion of sub-degree vocational studies to plug skills shortages and enhance the career prospects/options of people with average academic ability.
    5) Lowering the voting age to 16 years old and the age of criminal responsibility to… I dunno, 12?
    6) Making children repeat their school year if they fail meet a minimum standard (after a second chance in August).
    7) No English speak, no work permit/permanent residency
    8) Creating an EU military force for liberal/mercy mission interventions and getting Japan, China, and Russia more involved in humanitarian quests rather than focusing on narrow objectives of self-interest.
    9) Another Bank Holiday, say on November 5.
    10) The recruitment of more police to patrol urban areas.

  32. El Cid — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:24 pm  

    apparently an eight followed by a bracket makes 8)

  33. El Cid — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:25 pm  

    8) that’s me, yeah baby

  34. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:38 pm  

    “Which ‘profound historic and systemic inequalities’ do you mean Boyo?”

    Why do I sense a trap here? Nevertheless I’ll say what I mean: private education, for one.

    Private education in itself is not a bad thing, and ordinarily I would agree that everyone should have the right to choose, when there is genuine choice, but that does not exist in this country. From Sweden to Italy for example, the children of the rich are routinely educated in state schools. Private schools may exist but they are extremely rare. When people choose them it may be for sports facilties, special needs or snob value. But not usually because the standards of education are considerably higher and with them the chances to get a good university place.

    Again, I can’t see anything wrong with Oxbridge per se, but the fact that at least a 3rd of its pupils are privately educated says much about inequality of education and opportunity.

    And because it is so thoroughly embedded in our culture, unlike almost any other Western nations including the US, this is why I would argue it should be banned. Few other measures would really address the issue. The same applies for religious schools and even schooling by catchment, where I believe a form of bussing would be the only option likely to force the middle class to re-engage with the education system and for politicians to take it seriously. Sounds ugly doesn’t it, and unfashionably coersive in this era of choice. But I suspect one day people will begin to choke on their soma and move on.

    I would also address the democratic (see Lords) and welfare system, which conversly acts in quite the opposite way to that which I believe it was intended.

    Sofia – I think local accountability is important, but people need to feel empowered. It’s a chicken and egg thing, but I don’t think many people will feel empowered until through welfare and education reform they are encouraged to take charge of their lives and think they have the opportunity to genuinely get on. And get angry, come to think of it. That’s a big problem – people are not angry any more, they are just “entitled”.

  35. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:45 pm  

    El Cid – oh yeah, I’m definitely “old” Labour. Why not? Old Labour brought us the NHS, Welfare State (in need of reform, but still…), nationalisation (good in parts), comprehensives and kept us out of Vietnam.

    And New Labour? Um… Iraq, spin… er…

  36. El Cid — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:48 pm  

    Calm down Boyo, you’re showing your age 8)

  37. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:49 pm  

    Cheek! I’m probably younger than you!

  38. douglas clark — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:50 pm  

    Rumbold,

    Not taxing more heavily, just taxing equitably. According to the freebie ‘Money’ with the Observer, accountants Grant Thornoton reckoned that the UK’s 54 billionaires paid total income tax amounting to £14.7 million on combined fortunes of 126 billion, which works out at a tax take of 0.01%. Either make that the tax take the government expects from you and me, or make the buggers pay their share.

  39. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:52 pm  

    i agree boyo, i work at local level and am continuously suprised at the apathy I face. It makes me angry and sad…not necessarily in that order. I think ppl have lost trust in and dissillusioned by the powers that be…the lack of community based work that isn’t just funded for a year and then forgotten…is a huge problem. Why care about some initiative that won’t be there in a year’s time.

  40. Sofia — on 25th September, 2007 at 3:55 pm  

    and btw i don’t think people want to just get on financially..only pay what is their fair share and have other ppl do likewise..have the same access to the same services at the right time..not have to wait because you live in a socially deprived area. I don’t want to be rich, I just want to be treated equally with people who may earn more than me, and to be given the same opportunities regardless of what is in my bank account

  41. Boyo — on 25th September, 2007 at 4:23 pm  

    Sofia, I agree with you. I think there is possibly a conceptual difference between the “old” left and the “new”. For example, the “old” style left used to accept that some degree of coersion would be necessary to achieve their goals, while the “new” style have (a perhaps touching IMHO) faith in the market, or “freedom”. For the old style equality of outcome WAS the goal, for the new it is equality of opportunity.

    But one has to wonder how far the new left can travel before it actually becomes the old right.

  42. Dan | thesamovar — on 25th September, 2007 at 4:36 pm  

    I agree with the posters who have said that what the left already has plenty of good old ideas (basically, equality). What we don’t have is an effective strategy for getting these ideas realised or for getting into power. Sticking to two party electoral politics doesn’t seem to work, because of (a) the structural necessity that both parties tend towards the same policies (median voter theory), and (b) because political discourse in the media is constrained by capitalism (e.g. Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model), which biases politics towards the interests of the wealthy.

    Anyway, here’s my ‘new’ idea (probably not new, but hey): open up the BBC’s news content and have alternative media spaces on the BBC’s web pages (and possibly even on their TV channels or digital radio stations), possibly even fund these operations to some extent from the BBC’s budget, or from state funding (a harder sell). You could then have diverse groups with access to the enormous internal resources of the BBC, but which could present alternative political views (of both the left and the right). This is a politically neutral action and so the BBC could do it (but it would benefit the left more than the right, because the truth is on the side of the left ;-) ). This would also address the problem highlighted in a recent review of the bias in the BBC, which said that one of the main problems is not that there is a bias to the left or the right in the BBC, but that they stick to saying things that nobody could take exception to, rather than having a broad range of divergent opinions.

  43. Sunny — on 25th September, 2007 at 4:47 pm  

    Boyo, I agree with you about the need for better public education and on democratic changes. But honestly, that’s not old-school Labour. I’d say those are part of our modern values too.

    I’m not trying to draw you into a trap. I’m simply asking that if there are systematic failures.. can they be resolved through better investment and management than more regulation and beauracracy.

    Also agree with Douglas that the super-rich are not paying their share of the taxes.

    Dan… I think the BBC was planning this anyway with its upgrade of the website but I dont’t think they’ll manage it. Too much cooks in that kitchen.

  44. Nyrone — on 25th September, 2007 at 9:37 pm  

    @Douglas Clar #38

    That is an astonishing figure…
    I don’t suppose you came across a direct link for that stat did you?

  45. soru — on 25th September, 2007 at 10:53 pm  

    For the old style equality of outcome WAS the goal, for the new it is equality of opportunity.

    Is anyone arguing for something different from either of those – that differences in outcome should exist, but should be on a human, comprehensible scale?

    A big fat man and little skinny one, or maybe a mouse and an elephant.

    Just not an ant and a galaxy.

  46. douglas clark — on 26th September, 2007 at 12:03 am  

    Nyrone,

    Hi. I can’t find a web version, although you could buy my source on e-Bay for 49p, here:

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/The-Observer-Book-Of-Money_W0QQitemZ200155368056QQcmdZViewItem

    To quote the full entry, this is what it said, page 63:

    “3 Go ‘non dom’

    One of the reasons why Roman Abramovich is currently flashing his cash all over Belgravia is this little legal loophole. Becoming eligible for non-domicile tax status means that you can get away with paying no tax in Britain on income earned abroad, allowing billionaires to sit on their fortunes while paying practically nothing to the government. Accountants Grant Thornton calculated that the UK’s 54 billionaires paid income tax totalling £14.7 million on their combined fortunes of £126 billion last year (around 0.01%), and the IMF recently labelled Britain a tax haven for the worlds’ super-rich”

    Best I can do for you, I’m afraid. Go on, bid on e-Bay, and I’m not the seller!

  47. douglas clark — on 26th September, 2007 at 12:06 am  

    Nyrone,

    Or get in touch, I’ll send it to you. I’ve had my fun with it :-;

  48. douglas clark — on 26th September, 2007 at 12:57 am  

    Soru @ 46,

    Sometimes, just sometimes, like when you have the right end of the stick, you are brilliant. Like right now.

    Of course, when you have the wrong end of the stick, well….seen the ORB survey?

  49. Arif — on 26th September, 2007 at 10:28 am  

    For me – the ideas from Sunny and El Cid somehow strike me as tinkering. Boyo’s ideas, sound more radical, and sahil’s somewhere in the middle – tinkering with a purpose?

    The sense I get is the “left” as a term to describe people who want to challenge the existing distribution of power refers more clearly to people like boyo, although there is no major party of the left to be a vehicle for these ideas. And no major media for propagating them either.

    If the media and Labour Party describe the left in terms of tinkering within the system, perhaps it shows how they are the establishment now (whether it is they who have changd or society itself) and so now they are on (what in other contexts we call) “the right” – trying to protect the existing distribution of power (although changing policies sometimes in “progressive” ways to placate people or look after their welfare).

    However they are not of the “reactionary right”, which I would see as arguing for policies which increase differences in power including in the distribution of resources. The argument (of the IPPR) that economic inequalities have increased under Labour is not saying they are not left-wing enough, but that, in effect, they are extreme right – or that the system which they are maintaining is itself a radically rightwing one which tends towards increasing inequality.

    If the IPPR report into inequality in the UK is correct, then I think Boyo’s solutions do not seem too radical a way to try to rein in a system which is creating more inequality supposedly against the wishes of those in charge of it. When/if there is some kind of stable equilibrium reached, we can start discussing whether to reduce inequalities and maybe it would be easier for me to decide if I am left-wing or right wing.

  50. El Tinkerer — on 26th September, 2007 at 11:20 am  

    Arif, most of what you say is not unreasonable, although the British left has never gone in for revolution.
    Reform is much better in the long run and less contentious.
    One thing though:
    “a system which is creating more inequality supposedly against the wishes of those in charge of it.”
    See… that not’s entirely true.
    Inequality is not the objective, wealth creation is.

  51. soru — on 26th September, 2007 at 11:23 am  

    If the IPPR report into inequality in the UK is correct

    Is that this report:
    According to the IPPR, under Blair the richest 1 percent of the population has more than doubled its share of national income from approximately 6 percent in 1980 to a massive 13 percent in 1999.

    If you can’t tell you are being lied to when you read stuff like that, there is probably no hope for you. I mean, describing the period 1980 to 1999 as ‘under Blair’ is not merely spin, it is washing, rinsing and running through a mangle.

    I’d be interested if there was a good up to date report that looked at the issue reasonably objectively. Everything I have seen falls into one or more standard traps:

    1. obvious cherry-picking of data to support a pre-defined political position
    2. meaningless numerical aggregation of opposing trends, so a certain number of billionaires coming to the country to buy football clubs is worth a certain amount extra on the state pension.
    3. gross over-focus on the measurable and quantifiable, for example counting a medical student as ‘poorer’ than a shop assistant, as they have a lower measurable income.

    It seems obvious to me that there are a lot of discrete trends moving in a lot of different directions. Understanding those trends is good. Working out how to reinforce the positive trends, dampen the negative trends, and set up new trends in the right direction is better.

    Turning them into meaningless numbers, adding them together to produce a different meaningless number, then claiming a change in those numbers somehow means something? Not so much.

  52. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 12:39 pm  

    you know i’m starting to think Boyo has a point (25)

  53. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 12:42 pm  

    this place is starting to sound like “let’s get practice for potential politician policies’

  54. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 12:47 pm  

    what would actually be valid in this discussion – if we talked about the issues around Labour becoming New Labour and getting rid of Clause IV.

  55. Arif — on 26th September, 2007 at 1:29 pm  

    Soru, you are probably right. I am passing on things I hear without checking overmuch. I think this is the report I heard about: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3526752.stm

    It is a bit out-of date (2004), but not as much as the report you are referring to. However it is probably not saying that inequality has increased systematically (even though the way the BBC has headlined it, it seems like that is what it is saying).

    I am happy to concur that if the Government is reducing inequalities, it is pursuing a left-wing policy. I’d argue if it is a maintaining them, then it is more on the right.

    There may be a technical argument that they are on the right, but like you say number-crunching (as when focussing on redistribution of economic power) can be meaningless given economic complexities, so maybe there is a moral argument that whatever the outcome, the policies are developed with left-wing intentions. However, once the outcome is known (and some kind of data collection would be necessary as you say), if there is no significant redistribution of wealth (and other forms of power) then the response of more of the same policies would strike me as right wing, while something more radical (like Boyo’s suggestions) would be more left wing.

  56. Sunny — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:16 pm  

    what would actually be valid in this discussion – if we talked about the issues around Labour becoming New Labour and getting rid of Clause IV.

    Why don’t you just say what you really want Sonia – socialism :)

  57. Leon — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:21 pm  

    Sonia wants Socialism?! I thought she was after a libertarian society?

  58. Leon — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:23 pm  

    this place is starting to sound like “let’s get practice for potential politician policies’

    Heh, well it is Sunny’s place and it’s fairly obvious/likely he’ll run one day so why shouldn’t he use this place to develop and refine his brief?

  59. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:34 pm  

    who said I wanted anything? :-) and in any case i’ve already said one can understand all sorts of things as “socialism”. it will depend on how one understands which group/what kind of ‘groups’ of stakeholders count as ‘society’, and whose benefit is supposed to be taken into consideration)

    i meant if we are talking about ‘the Left’ and Labour being identified with that – which it seems we are doing – then it would be make more sense to talk about the issues around getting rid of clause iv.

  60. Dan | thesamovar — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:35 pm  

    Sunny – I think it would be a big deal if they did it, but it only works if they take it seriously rather than do it half heartedly.

    On inequality under Labour, there is a mixed picture. The Gini coefficient (a standard measure of income inequality varying from 0 being everyone having the same income to 1 being one person having all the money and everyone else having none) grew from 0.33 to 0.35 under Labour. On the other hand, looking at the graph figure 7 on page 17 of this IFS report suggests that at least for the middle 80% of the population, inequality has decreased. The explanation for the difference is that under New Labour the very rich have gotten very much richer. (It’s worth noting that that graph doesn’t have housing costs deduced which presumably affect the poor more than the rich.)

    For me, the lesson of the above is that whether Labour have or haven’t slightly increased or decreased inequality is not the point. They’ve hardly changed inequality at all when they’ve been in power for a long time. This makes them right wing on Arif’s definition above, and I think that conclusion is correct.

  61. Leon — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:38 pm  

    who said I wanted anything?

    Me, and I’m always right so don’t start. :P

  62. soru — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:39 pm  

    It is a bit out-of date (2004), but not as much as the report you are referring to.

    Actually, that was the one – published in 2004, data from a few years before.

    Otherwise, I suspect we pretty much agree. new labour have done something for bottom-to-middle inequality, but declared as a matter of principle that middle-to-top inequality is outside the scope of anything they are attempting to handle. Mandelson, I think, said something about ‘intensely relaxed about people getting very rich’.

    That’s not nothing: I suppose it’s better to achieve modest goals than take on too much and fail.

    But still, the are just two big things that separate the UK from the current USA: the BBC and the NHS. There are two more, trade unions and mass free education, that separate both countries from Victorian times.

    A radical government would be saying ‘Take that list of 4. Lets add one to it’.

  63. El New Labour Pragmatico — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:48 pm  

    Sonia, I’m bang to rights.

  64. Sunny — on 26th September, 2007 at 2:59 pm  

    Sonia wants Socialism?! I thought she was after a libertarian society?

    She’s like most women, impossible to figure out. Hehe.

    this place is starting to sound like “let’s get practice for potential politician policies’

    whoops, is it that obvious?

    the ideas from Sunny and El Cid somehow strike me as tinkering. Boyo’s ideas, sound more radical, and sahil’s somewhere in the middle – tinkering with a purpose?

    I don’t disagree Arif. But my starting point always is – what do we want to achieve; what is wrong, and how do we get to the goal?

    more often than not, tinkering rather than wholesale revolution is what is required. But we’re open to ideas :)
    There’s a book in it for you!

  65. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 5:00 pm  

    soru thanks for reminding us what distinguishes the UK from the US. I would also add: ( well previously it was free university education) but it is still helluva lot cheaper than education in the USA. But critically – it was a move in the wrong direction. Keeping university education free, is clear to all and sundry – a very important aspect of being able to change the ‘situation’ you are born into.

  66. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 5:08 pm  

    hmm Sunny i will take that comment as a compliment.

  67. sonia — on 26th September, 2007 at 5:13 pm  

    anyway, i would ask – where are the new ideas fullstop.

  68. Leon — on 26th September, 2007 at 5:19 pm  

    anyway, i would ask – where are the new ideas fullstop.

    To quote The Cranberries:

    “It’s in your heeeeEEEEeeeAAAD! In your heaaaaaAAADDDdd!”

    :D

  69. Sunny — on 26th September, 2007 at 6:03 pm  

    anyway, i would ask – where are the new ideas fullstop.

    I have a few new ones! I listed them on top! You’re free to add to the list!

  70. El Cid — on 26th September, 2007 at 8:26 pm  
  71. El Cid — on 26th September, 2007 at 8:32 pm  

    and for all you greenies, there’s also an encouraging sign of changing attitudes, albeit at a very high cost:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2537279.ece
    think of it as an old idea, new audience

    On the other hand, the negative side effects from the following could also be huge:
    http://www.24dash.com/environment/27888.htm

    The trouble with big ideas is that they need to be properly tested.

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