Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Wake-up call - for the labour movement

I expect you all have your own experiences and reflections on the events of the last few days. I'm probably not alone in thinking of them as a wake-up call, although everyone who has thought that will then go on to think that their own solutions should be applied - 'solutions' ranging from far-left to far-right.

My own 'solution' is for the labour movement to get off its collective arse and act before it's too late. We all know that parts of our inner-cities are rapidly becoming shit holes and too large numbers of people are getting left behind. Too many young people are simply being left to rot. A minority of them (let's remember that) are turning nasty.

The Tory/Lib Dem government's cuts are only making things worse.

The labour movement has to fight those cuts; we've got to fight to improve the communities where the young people are coming from that are going on the rampage (though it's not all young people); we've got to win young people to positive political action, not destructive, acquisitive rage.

Something else we must face up to and challenge: our society is rotten from top to bottom. A Labour MP pointed out this evening that Parliament has been recalled twice this summer: once for the Hackgate scandal and now for the riots. There is a connection. How can society lecture young rioters for having no moral qualms when in recent times important parts of the establishment have shown no moral qualms? From journalists hacking people's phones after a story; policemen who will sell a tip--off to a newspaper; MPs who will sell their influence to the highest bidder and submit bloated, even fraudulent expense claims; greedy and reckless bankers.

Commentators have been quick to put pen to paper; some of what they are writing is worth reading! I thought the following observation, by an academic, Professor Colin Talbot, who studies public administration, was useful:
It is not just the ‘under-class’ that has opted out – it is also the uber-class of financiers, directors, derivatives traders, newspaper moguls and others who have decided the ‘normal rules’ don’t apply to them.

Britain has experienced a massive financial crisis brought on by greed and recklessness of epic proportions. No-one has been put on trial, much less gone to jail, for what appear to most honest and dishonest people as grand theft auto-bank. Instead, the banks have been bailed out by the tax payer, their bonuses were reduced, a little, for a while, and then everything returns to business as usual.

The banks have just been found guilty of mis-selling payment protection insurance on a truly gargantuan scale – billions of pounds worth – but is anyone going to prison for this swindle?

‘Legal’ tax avoidance is running at massive levels, with a huge grow in individuals and corporates using tax-havens to avoid paying their fair share of even the direct taxes on them that have been reduced substantially over the past 30 years.

The phone hacking scandal has revealed that some parts of the uber-class who run our media see themselves as well and truly ‘above the law’. So much so that we have just ‘lost’ the Police Commissioner for the Metropolis just a few weeks before the riots erupted. This latest decapitation of the Met – the second in three years – coupled with massive cuts to police budgets and radical reforms in process certainly won’t have done much for Police morale or leadership.

Britain has also experienced a massive spiral of wage inflation for the directorial class with top pay reaching stratospheric levels. Only last week it was also revealed that Directors of our large private institutions were continuing to gold-plate their pensions whilst stripping their workers of theirs. Many now retire on large multiples of what their staff earn for working. Inequality has surged.

And of course the parliamentary expenses scandal – very small beer compared to the above – but yet another nail in public confidence in our rulers.

A society in which the uber-class see themselves as exempt from the normal rules of taxation, cream-off ever larger personal rewards unrelated to performance, cause huge financial catastrophes, rip-off their customers see themselves as ‘above the law’ cannot expect the under-class to behave themselves.

Labour has talked recently about the ‘squeezed middle’ – there may be more truth in this than even they realised. The vast majority of ordinary people pay their taxes (more or less), obey the laws (mostly), and ‘keep calm and carry on’ even when things get rough. Are they now squeezed between two irresponsible, immoral, tax-avoiding, lawless, classes at the bottom and the top of society? If so, it's fairly clear that those at the top carry far more moral responsibility for what’s happening than those at the bottom. How long before they start retreating to their gated-communities, US-style, and leave the rest of us to it? [Emphasis added; full article here.]
The labour movement needs to wake up alright.

No comments: