Thursday, 7 October 2021

Let's hear it for the (s)Tories

In a couple of recent articles journalist and historian Andy Becket has pointed out that not only do the Tories have a greater proportion of the media  prepared to tell their stories, they also tell them better.  The catchy summary of the current story is "Build back better."  Before that was "Get Brexit done." Not too long ago (was it Mrs May's premiership?) we had a "Long-term economic plan."

Not only are their stories made memorable by a three-word summary, the are also not averse to bending the truth more than a little in their telling.  When our children embellish their tales too far away from reality we tell them to "stop telling stories."  I suggest  we should think of the Conservatives not just as the Tories but as the (s)Tories.  

Here are some recent examples.

A few days ago on the Radio 4 "Today" programme Rishi Sunak claimed that our  economy was benefiting the workers no end because, among other things,  the (s)Tories had introduced the living wage.  Well, "Yes," but then "No."

The  National Minimum Wage was actually introduced as one of the first acts of the New Labour government in 1998.  All the (s)Tories have done is renamed it the Living Wage.  Currently it is £8.91 per hour for an adult aged 23+.  The actual Living Wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, is £9.50 per hour.

I picked up a similar sleight of hand on BBC Radio 4's "More or Less " programme yesterday morning.  The (s)Tories claim that 88% of our population is now vaccinated and this is world beating, among the highest in the world.  But our 88% is actually of the adult population whereas most international comparisons take the entire population as a base.  So although we may have got off to a "world beating " start we have so far vaccinated only 66% of the entire population.  Many other countries have now overtaken us.

The (s)Tories also boast that we are "the fastest growing economy in the G7."  So we are, but largely becasue we fell furthest off the cliff at the beginning of the pandemic, and so have more leeway to make up.

A theme that has pervaded the (s)Tories' conference is that the "supply chain" shortages which currently plague the economy are all the fault of businessmen for  failing to prepare.  As the Chair of our Local Liberal Democrat Party puts it, "They have failed to prepare for difficulties they were told were not going to happen."  As Sir Keir Starmer pointed out in his own conference speech (see previous post,) "attributing  blame to someone else" is one of Prime Minister Johnson's routine approaches.

There is something bizarre about the (s)Tories, who have spent the whole of my lifetime (and probably longer) battling to keep wages down, U-turning to demand that  business pay higher wages along with investing more in order to move to a high wage, high skilled, high productivity economy.  

Well, they have not only been in charge for the past 11 years, but indeed for the majority of the time since 1945. So why haven't we got there yet? 

 Economists have been calling for higher investment and better training for the whole of that period, yet entrepreneurs have been reluctant to train workers lest a rival organisation poaches then, and investors have preferred, and the government has done little to discourage them, to invest in "paper" (to make a  "kill," usually short term, on the Stock Exchange) rather than long term  in the real, or physical economy.

 The government is right to say that we need to progress to higher skills and be at the "cutting edge" of the products that the world  wants tomorrow rather than what it wanted yesterday. But that is in the long run when, as Keynes famously pointed out, "we are all dead."  

 In the short run we haven't enough HGV drivers, fruit and vegetable pickers, pig butchers, poultry killers, doctors, nursers and care workers, to name but some.  Prices are rising, and real incomes are falling, especially for those dependent on the £20 temporary boost to Universal Credit and those NHS and Local Government workers subject to a below inflation wage freeze.

In the coming winter lots of people will be cold, some will be hungry, some will die unnecessarily.  The government has a duty to protect us.  For this we need serious politicians, not just showmen and stories.



 

 

9 comments:

  1. Excellent post. Totally agree.

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  2. Some people seem to have slept through the last 11 years of Tory rule. (Not altogether a bad idea). A few days ago I watched the 2019-elected Tory MP for Darlington remark that he had won this previously Labour seat because people "wanted a change" and that Labour had "failed to deliver".

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  3. In a couple of recent articles journalist and historian Andy Becket has pointed out that not only do the Tories have a greater proportion of the media prepared to tell their stories, they also tell them better.

    What a bizarre idea. How does he work out those proportions? From what I can make out broadcast media is almost universally anti-Conservative (the BBC, Channel 4, Sky News, are all anti-Conservative in their slant; only GB News possibly isn't, or at least I gather that's what both its viewers think). Print media is more even: there's the Telegraph and the Daily Mail on the Conservative side, the Guardian and the Independent firmly anti-Conservative, and the Times and the Sun in the middle, promiscuously courting whichever side seems to be doing better at any given time.

    But that is in the long run when, as Keynes famously pointed out, "we are all dead."

    Never had children, did he?

    In the short run we haven't enough HGV drivers, fruit and vegetable pickers, pig butchers, poultry killers, doctors, nursers and care workers, to name but some.

    This is true; but what would your solution be? Simply restoring free movement with the EU won't help, because there are shortages of labour on the continent too, and why would an HGV driver come to work for a low wage in Britain when they could just as easily find work in their home country? They came to drive lorries, pick fruit, and work in care homes when there were jobs in Britain but none at home; that just isn't the case any more.

    With regards to HGV drivers, one good suggestion I did see was to abolish the utterly stupid and protectionist restrictions on cabotage trips by foreign companies within the UK. It wouldn't solve everything on its own, but it would at least be a step in the right direction.

    What are your suggestions?

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    1. Media bias. The print media are heavily biassed in favour of the (s)Tories, are more widely read than the "left of centre" press, and better at distorting the truth. Look how successful they were in demonising both Ed Millibar and Jeremy Corbyn, and cementing the view that the 2008 world financial crisis was all the result of Labour profligacy.

      As to the BBC, research seems to show that it is biassed in favour of whoever is the establishment: ie is more lenient with whichever party is in power. I understand that both Laura Kuensberg and Nick Robinson, leading BBC political interviewers, were members of their Conservative Associations while at university so this hardly demonstrates bias to Labour. The problem with the BBC, (and probably the rest of the broadcast media) is that they allow the print media to dictate the daily new agenda. In the interests of "balance" they also give too much credence to the (s)Tory-funded "think tanks" without explaining where their funding comes from.

      As to my solution to current labour shortages, I'd never have got there in first first place: I'd have remained in the EU. If rejoining is not immediately possible we could join the customs union and single market. If those aren't possible we could apply a taper (reduce migrant labour by, say 20% per year rather than all at once) to give business time to adjust now that they know the promises that were made of a smooth and effortless transition are worthles.

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    2. Media bias. The print media are heavily biassed in favour of the (s)Tories, are more widely read than the "left of centre" press, and better at distorting the truth.

      Again how does that 'heavily biased' description square with the fact that there are, of the six main print papers, two which are solidly anti-Conservative and two others which flip-flop depending on which way the political wind is blowing?

      As to the BBC, research seems to show that it is biassed in favour of whoever is the establishment: ie is more lenient with whichever party is in power.

      Can you point to this research? And even if you could, surely that would mean that the BBC had an anti-Conservative bias up to 2010? Which, frankly, if it did, as a viewer I didn't notice.

      I understand that both Laura Kuensberg and Nick Robinson, leading BBC political interviewers, were members of their Conservative Associations while at university so this hardly demonstrates bias to Labour.

      And Paul Mason, former editor on Newsnight, once he was no longer required to be impartial revealled his true colours as one of the looniest of the loony left. Emily Maitlis was censured for an on-air anti-government rant. Andrew Marr was a member of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. Chris Packham is a hardcore eco-nut. Of people who work for the BBC with known political views, lefties outnumber righties by a massive margin. The BBC basically single-handedly keeps the Guardian afloat by buying so many copies every morning. People who have worked for the BBC tell stories of it being quite normal for them to be the only person with right-of-centre views in a meeting of tens of people.

      The problem with the BBC, (and probably the rest of the broadcast media) is that they allow the print media to dictate the daily new agenda.

      Yes — the Guardian! That's hardly evidence of pro-Conservative bias!

      In the interests of "balance" they also give too much credence to the (s)Tory-funded "think tanks" without explaining where their funding comes from.

      Why does it matter where their funding comes from? Surely what matters when it comes to a think tank is the quality of analysis, research and ideas. Otherwise you're just committing the genetic fallacy: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/genetic

      As to my solution to current labour shortages, I'd never have got there in first first place: I'd have remained in the EU.

      There would still have been the coronavirus if the UK had remained in the EU; borders would still have been closed and people would still have returned home to be with their families. And with the shortage of labour being EU-wide, I don't understand why you think it wouldn't have happened whether or not the UK was still in the EU.

      If rejoining is not immediately possible we could join the customs union and single market.

      Which wouldn't help wit the labour shortages, as the labour shortages are EU-wide.

      If those aren't possible we could apply a taper (reduce migrant labour by, say 20% per year rather than all at once) to give business time to adjust now that they know the promises that were made of a smooth and effortless transition are worthles.

      There's no point in applying a taper because business don't adjust until they have to — all that happens if you taper or subsidise the transition is that the pain occurs either over a longer period, or later. As long as there's a subsidy, businesses will rely on the subsidy and scream blue murder when it's removed.

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    3. The evidence for media bias is spelled out in Peter Geoghegan's "Democracy for Sale" published last year (2020). He also deals with the influence of "dark money," and especially of so-called "think tanks" that claim to be impartial researchers but are actually funded to put a particular point of view. i think it's safe to say that if they keep the source of their funding secret their "research" is of dubious value.

      I agree that many economies are suffering from shortages of HGV drivers et al, but strangely there are no empty shelves in the French or German supermarkets.

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    4. The evidence for media bias is spelled out in Peter Geoghegan's "Democracy for Sale" published last year (2020).

      Okay, but just in brief, what is his answer to the point that of the major national newspapers, only one-third are reliably Conservative-supporting?
      i think it's safe to say that if they keep the source of their funding secret their "research" is of dubious value.

      That's definitely the genetic fallacy. The source of funding is totally unrelated to the value of the research. Bad research is bad research however it is funded, and good research is good research however it is funded.

      I agree that many economies are suffering from shortages of HGV drivers et al, but strangely there are no empty shelves in the French or German supermarkets.


      !

      You might want to check your facts before making such obviously wrong, and easily falsifiable, claims!

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