Tuesday, January 08, 2013

What's wrong with the left blogs ?

Is it just me, or are the Left blogs terribly stale these days ? You'd think that the Coalition would energise them no end - it's certainly energised me. You'd expect it to be the hideous Righties who are a tad muted, but my favourites there are still banging away at the same targets - they seem much more aware than the Left bloggers that there's not a huge amount to choose between this Administration and the last one.

I guess on the Left the Norms and the Harry's of this world are still banging away* at the same targets, too. Call me a parochial old Hector, but at a time when the UK is deep in the doo-doo (pdf), only likely to get deeper, and my kids will be leaving college to compete with half the globe for that £7 an hour call-centre job, the latest from Iran or Syria just doesn't engage me as it may once have.

"The knee is nearer than the shin" as the Greeks put it.

The far left - the Andy Newmans and the Lenins - seem - especially in Lenin's case ('my suggestion is that as an analytic, patriarchy must be treated as one type of the more general phenomena of gender projects which in certain conjunctures form gender formations') - so detached from working people's everyday experience as to be operating in a different universe - the universe of the political class, a place where ordinary people don't go. To a great extent that can be said to apply to the Decents, the Oslers and the Shiraz Socialists, too. What happened to some T&G activist 40 years ago isn't a lesson for anyone now, because "all is changed, utterly".

Are there in fact a lot of good new Left blogs out there, and I'm just out of touch ? Or is the Left pretty damn moribund ?

Just take a look at this "left" blog's "about us" page. FFS !  What a horny-handed bunch of toilers we've got here ! Up The Workers !

(On an unrelated note, Praise The Lord ! More rejoicing in heaven etc etc). 
One other thing. Harry's Place and Lenin's Gulag don't have a lot in common - but they both now use that appalling "Disqus" comment software, as seen at the Telegraph. Can anyone tell me why any blogger should want to use that stuff? What's its appeal?

* I must be fair. Banging isn't really Norm's style. Calm is more his thing.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Beginning Of The End (Of The Journey)

Well, tomorrow sees the end of Child Benefit for those bloated plutocrats with a household income of £50,000 and a stay at home mother .

Thank heavens it's been preserved for those struggling families on £98,000 a year and a working mother, not to mention the 37,900 children living in Poland who receive it. The Tories are the party of the Polish family, after all.

I call on the commenters - is this the first removal of a universal benefit since the NHS introduced prescription charges, and a young minister, a left-wing firebrand called Harold Wilson, resigned in protest in 1951 ? Wilson, as Prime Minister, removed the charges in 1965, a rare example of political consistency, then reintroduced them in 1968. They've been there ever since.

The point of universal benefits, like a universal postal system, is social cohesion. They showed that the Welfare State was for everyone, that we were indeed all in it together. The more benefits are means-tested (an expensive and bureaucratic procedure), the more the welfare state is purely for "the poor" and not for "everyone", the less support it'll have from what Churchill called "the broad masses of the well-to-do" and the more uncertain its future.

 For some in or around the Tory party, for the millionaire venture capitalists advising on employment legislation while themselves paying only 10% tax, or the billionaire retailers advising the government on efficiency, while ensuring their company dividends go offshore, that may be considered a feature rather than a bug. 

 On Tuesday there's the vote on the 1% benefits freeze - for 3 years, at a time when the new BoE Governor, Mark Carney, has already suggested that his predecessor Mervyn "Money Printing" King is a tad hawkish on inflation targets, and that some loosening may be required in the fiscal straitjacket that has seen inflation continually above the 2% target.

I have no problem with someone putting forward the argument that benefits are too high, that they afford more than a minimum standard - but no one in the Tory party is doing that. Instead, it's proposed that they should be cut because of 'fairness'. Yet they're meant to afford people a minimum standard of living. When food and electricity prices rise by 10%, and benefits by 1%, what's going to happen to those people ? And that's just one year.            

I must say, the next few years are going to be interesting, in the Chinese sense.

The suicide rate fell dramatically at the start of both World Wars, as those otherwise tired of life decided that, like Vince and Muskie, they just wanted to stay around just to see what happens next.

I feel the same. The next few years are going to be awful but fascinating.