Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Party for the Grafter.

Yesterday Ed Miliband began his speech with a couple of wearisome anecdotes that had been chewed for him by a public relations team, and then spat into his mouth, only for him to unload such trite in front of the British public. The first of these pre-chewed tales featured a father living on incapacity benefit, who had not worked since he was injured 10 years. Miliband stresses that the injury was real and that he was a good man, but only to strengthen his point that there was a job out there for this man. According to Ed Miliband it is not right for the tax-payer to support a man who was injured and has not been able to find work for a decade. He then moves on to the story about Southern Cross care homes, which left families betrayed and elderly people at risk and treated as commodities whilst millions could be pilfered. This is an obvious attempt to use two emotionally charged examples, there is a great deal of anger about both cases thanks to the mass-media.

For Miliband the story of Southern Cross and the story of the man on benefits are linked by an absence of social responsibility. Too many people see the Labour Party as representative of the people ripping off our society, Miliband is referring to bankers as well as benefit claimants. So the Labour Party has to change, though not to crackdown on an out-of-control financial sector. The "change" will come in the form of more cuts to benefits, because people who have been injured and out of work for 10 years are just lazy feckless cunts. The incisions to welfare being made under the Coalition were drawn up by an investment banker under the Labour government. We hear 'Red Ed' speak of a corporate culture which rewards wealth creation and not failure, don't forget this is the same line spewed on a regular basis from the politicians of the established Left and Right. So we know what it means, it means responsibility for poor people and not rich people.

You don't have to be a rabid communist to be pissed off about what happened in the Southern Cross care homes, which the right-wing press has demonstrated well. We heard from Peter Mandelson that New Labour was "intensely relaxed" about people getting rich and now we hear Ed Miliband say he "applauds" people who get rich. In the background lurks the trickle-down theory, these people generate wealth and jobs so we should be ever so grateful for the crumbs they're willing to throw to us. Though Miliband has some words to say about executives paying themselves huge bonuses, it all boils down to a lack of "responsibility" a the bottom. When he says "we will be a party that rewards contribution not worklessness" Miliband is really saying he will shower the mega-rich with tax-cuts, loopholes which can be used to avoid even more taxes and plenty of subsidies. For the poor Miliband has essentially promised the prescription of cuts drawn up under Gordon Brown and now being implemented under David Cameron.

Ed Miliband wants to make Labour the Party of the Grafters. The problem here is that the bankers, Miliband refers to early on, are just individuals who have adjusted to the conditions of the financial system. So to use the term "grafters" as distinct from the archetypal "greedy banker" is ridiculous, as the character of the banker has little to do with the way in which the financial sector works. The contradictions inherent to capitalism and the chaos of market forces cannot be overcome by the virtue of "responsibility" among individuals. And still Miliband goes on about Fred Goodwin. The system is about business-oriented individualism with self-interest as a key value, to hold the poor to the standard of altruism within this system is a complete double-standard. Especially as "responsibility" for the rich has nothing to do with acknowledging the huge disparity between rich and poor in this country, let alone even trying to deal with that inequality.

There is no real reason that this speech could not have been made by David Cameron. It sounds familiar, like the twaddle pumped out by Maurice Glasman which has now been recycled by the Conservatives in order to appear more moderate. The Nasty Party have become Red Tories. The platitudes of Miliband's speech are indicative of the ongoing trend of Blue Labour within the Party. The Labour Party has to play the game of appealing to a plurality of constituencies, to win over the middle-classes and the wealthy whilst holding onto the working-class vote. For a long time the Party has taken it's working-class base for granted, in power New Labour tossed some scraps to the poor - e.g. the minimum wage, working tax credits - whilst keeping to the status quo established in 1979. The relaunch of conservative rhetoric about "social responsibility" is an attempt to win over the middle-classes and eventually win back support from Canary Wharf.

Although the Labour Party was founded as the Party of organised labour, it was literally born out of the labour movement at the end of the 19th Century, it did manage to garner the support of the mega-rich and even the likes of Rupert Murdoch under the leadership of Tony Blair. The call for "responsibility" for the rich will appeal to the traditional base of the Labour Party whilst more serious calls for "responsibility" for the poor will appeal to Big Finance. The long-term aim of Miliband's speech is to organise a convergence of support for Labour, from bases which are in conflict, in order to propel the Party to victory in 2015. It probably will fail. It may even be a sign that the attempts to drive out the unions by Peter Mandelson will be taken to an even more thorough level in years to come. Though the Labour Party might always be the mainstream party to throw more crumbs off of the table, in terms of major decisions the Party might never differ greatly from the Conservatives.

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