Thursday 8 February 2024

Retreat from the Green New Deal

 

 

Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to abandon Labour’s policy of spending £28bn a year on a Green New Deal is shameful.  However the shame applies not to Sir Keir  or the Labour party – for them it is almost certainly prudent.

 The shame applies to the quality of Britain’s public debate, in which the Conservative-leaning print media can be relied upon to sully decent policy emanating from an opposition party and the public broadcasters are cowed into soft-pedalling any enthusiasm for  non-Conservative proposals for fear of  further attacks on their funding.

Given such dominance and subservience the Tories have succeed in demonising “sensitivity to racial and social discrimination”* as “woke”, protection of consumers, including children, as “the nanny state,” defenders of vulnerable people as “lefty lawyers” and enforcers of international law as “enemies of the people.”

Over a very long period our media have somehow managed to convince most of our electorate that Conservative governments are pillars of financial rectitude, whereas Labour governments are recklessly profligate.

The reverse is nearer the truth.

 It was the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher which squandered the revenues from North Sea Oil on current expenditure rather than set up a Sovereign Wealth Fund.  That same government introduced the financial deregulation which eventually led to the crash in 2008.  It was under John Major’s government that we were ignominiously ejected from the ERM, the Johnson Conservatives presided over the VIP line for the procurement racket during the COVID pandemic, and Liz Truss’s shortest government on record sent interest rates rocketing and shook what remained of Britain’s reputation for financial stability.

By contrast Attlee’s post-war Labour government built up our welfare state, including the NHS “free at the point of use,” introduced family allowances, and brought the public utilities  under public ownership despite that fact that the debt/GDP ratio when they took office in 1945 was well over 200% - more than double what it is today.  Under Tony Blair’s government that ratio was brought down to 40%, substantially below the accepted norm of 60%.  And it was Gordon Brown’s leadership that saved the world’s financial system after the 2008 crash.

So the historical record shows that the Labour party is perfectly capable of introducing its highly necessary, ambitious and relevant Green New Deal, the like of which we need both to restore our economic prosperity and avoid further trashing our planet, and financing it prudently

Rather than debate this and other issues in a reasoned, informed and constructive way,  it is clear that our election will be fought on sound-bites and slogans. 

Labour will be accused of being split, with the Leader not in harmony with the Shadow Chancellor.  True they are, but at least on two “rights”: financial stability v sustainable green growth.  

 By contrast the Tories squabble over wrongs: whether to bribe the electorate by  unaffordable tax cuts, further neglect of the public realm, and further opportunities to feather their own nest.

Among the  questions we should be asking the parties are:

·       What proposals have you to make the UK fairer;

·       How will you improve our public services;

·       Will you repair our democracy;

·       Will you play a constructive and law-abiding role in international affairs;

·       What proposals have you to stimulate the economy for sustainable economic growth?

A responsible media would help us understand the answers.

 That is the definition given in a clue in this-morning’s Guardian Quick   Crossword 16 773

19 comments:

  1. Hm which party was it bankrupted the country with their prodigality so that we had to crawl to the IMF and beg for help hm hm? Which party was that?

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    1. Thanks for this comment, which actually re-enforces my point. Britain was in balance of payments. difficulties partly as a result of of the inflation caused by the previous Conservative government and the Barber boom of 1972, and then the hike in oil process caused by the creation of OPEC. Callaghan’s Labour government was directly responsible for neither but had to tackle the problem.. The IMF had been set up [ to help countries experiencing temporary balance of payments problems, so Chancellor Denis Healy secured a loan to tied us over, solved the domestic situation in the breathing space provided, and repaid the loan before the next , 1979, election. Job done, the system (which Keynes helped to set up) worked, end of story. But the Tory PR machine managed to smear this success as a humiliation and Mrs Thatcher won the election.

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    2. Callaghan’s Labour government was directly responsible for neither but had to tackle the problem.

      Oh, a big boy did it and ran away. Of course. (To be fair, of course, a big part of the problem was the wrongheaded ‘post-war consensus’ that both parties implemented, so both are partly responsible for destroying the spirit of the nation, and its competitiveness, with high taxes and nanny statism — it was only when Thatcher came to the rescue and stopped propping up failing industries that UK firms were forced to shape up or die, and the economy came back to life).

      But the Tory PR machine managed to smear this success as a humiliation

      There is no sense in which having to go begging to someone else because you can’t survive on your own is not a humiliation. Not for an individual, not for a nation.

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    3. There is no sense in which having to go begging to someone else because you can’t survive on your own is not a humiliation. Not for an individual, not for a nation.

      … and that includes, of course, having to go begging to the state for benefits.

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    4. Those who go through life without ever needing help are very fortunate. Many people need a little, some a lot. When help is needed there should be nothing humiliating about asking for it: parents of disabled children , for example.

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    5. Many people need a little, some a lot

      A humiliation is not less humiliating because it is common. Perhaps part of the problem nowadays is that people don’t feel properly ashamed of going to the state for help, so they treat it as a first port of call rather than an absolute last resort; hence the ballooning welfare bill that simply must be cut back, and which Labour will do nothing to get under control (of course on the evidence of the last decade and a half, when the welfare bill has just grown and grown, the Conservatives are unable to rein it in either; but Labour certainly won’t, and won’t even try).

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    6. I suggest you watch last night's episode of "Call the Midwife" (BBC1, 11th February). That might soften your hard heart.

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    7. I suggest you watch last night's episode of "Call the Midwife"

      Sorry, I am even more allergic to bad dialogue than I am to schmaltz. I doubt I would make it five minutes.

      That might soften your hard heart.

      When is comes to making the difficult choices necessary to balance a budget and live within our means, do you not think that a hard heart is a far more useful tool than a soft head?

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  2. Personally the main question I want to ask the parties is: what will you do to roll back the nanny state and return to people the freedom to make their own choices, good or bad, and take the consequences of those choices?

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  3. As a nation we could deal with most of our problems and live within our means if we shared more equitably.

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    1. As a nation we could deal with most of our problems and live within our means if we shared more equitably.

      I’m not sure how that would deal with our two main problems of an overweening nanny state infantilising us, and excessive regulation getting in the way of economic growth; perhaps you could elucidate?

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    2. As you well know, we need to strike a balance between "excessive regulation" and sufficient to protect society (from for example, sewage polluted rivers), and a social security system which ensures that even the most disadvantaged can participate at least to some extent in what is normal for the society (for example, have a roof over their heads.)

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    3. That’s not answering the question: how would ‘sharing more equitably’ deal with our two main problems of an overweening nanny state infantilising us, and excessive regulation getting in the way of economic growth?

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  4. Yes it is. Adequate social security strengthens rather than weakens us and reasonable regulation protects us from criminals, charlatans and chancers.

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    1. That’s as may be, but I still don’t see the mechanism by which that would free us from the infantilising nanny state, or get rid of the excessive regulation that is strangling attempts at economic growth — our two biggest problems in the UK in the year 2024.

      Perhaps you could explain. By what mechanism would ‘sharing more equitably’ get rid of the nanny state and lead to, for example, the abolishing of ‘sin taxes’ on things like sugary drinks, and the outlawing of government units aimed at ‘nudging’ us into particular behaviours?

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  5. You talk of "excessive" regulation: I prefer to think of "adequate" regulation. We can debate where the balance should lie but, in my view much regulation at the moment is inadequate (that to control pollution of the the rivers and beaches, is a good current example.) Maybe some regulation on preserving the green Belt for example, could be more flexible. We need to take things on a case-by-case basis.

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  6. Similarly I like to think of a protecting state rather than a "nanny." People should be protected from falling into destitution whether they deserve it or not.

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    1. People should be protected from falling into destitution whether they deserve it or not.

      No, they shouldn’t. People should be protected from falling into destruction through bad luck, or disasters that break them which are not of their own fault. But people must suffer the consequences of their own choices; both for practical reasons, because otherwise you introduce moral hazard and encourage people to be lazy secure in the knowledge that the state will always be there to catch them; but more importantly because of the fundamental principle that adults should be treated as adults, not as children.

      And of course our current nanny state goes well beyond merely stopping people becoming destitute and into the realm of trying to control people’s choices; for example, the sugary drinks tax.

      Trying to control the population, to override the individual citizen’s free will, is about the worst crime a government can commit. Especially if it’s ‘for their own good’. It’s what the totalitarian dictatorships of the twentieth century tried to do. Have you not read Václav Havel?

      So again: how is ‘sharing more equally’ going to solve the problem of our current overbearing nanny state? Please give a concrete mechanism. You can’t propose a policy on the basis of vague, general platitudes about how it will make things nicer and how all the flowers will bloom and the fairies will dance. You have to give an actual reason why your proposed solution will actually solve the problem.

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    2. (Remember what St Paul wrote when he heard that people in Thessalonica were wasting their time in idleness: if anyone isn’t willing to work, then they should not eat. Those who need help must be taken care of; but those who just don’t want to contribute should starve. To do otherwise would be to allow them to continue in their idleness, which would not only be bad for their souls, but would be actively immoral because it would be treating them as children. And it would be breaking the second greatest commandment, to love others as you love yourself, to treat them as children; because you yourself would not want to be treated as a child, would you? I certainly wouldn’t)

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