Monthly Archives: May 2015

Here we go! Tory savagery unleashed

Here we go! While traders at banks that illegally fixed markets to the tune of £billions are allowed to laugh in the face of the law, illegal workers in care homes, factories and farms etc. face having their pitiful wages confiscated.

Illegal workers fall into various categories:

  • entered the UK without authority
  • entered with false documents
  • overstayed their visas
  • worked while on a tourist visa
  • entered into a forced or fraudulent marriage

I have met and got know people in most of these categories, and especially the third category, in which they come to work in places such as the care homes I visit in the course of my own job. Their stories are usually full of courage and tragedy. I would not swap lives with any of them. I would swap Cameron’s life with all of them!

Cameron’s approach is so crudely thought through that it is virtually unworkable – which is the the closest I can get to saying anything positive about it. Most of the people it is targeting are, or soon will be if not already, living in the shadows.

I have worked with people whose working visas have expired. They have been working in the car sector tending to our frail senior citizens, dealing daily with severe dementia and incontinence, for less than the minimum wage, on zero hours contracts (if contracted at all), with working days well in excess of 12 hours. They generally cannot afford to rent more than a room, with that sometimes shared, and generally look to spend as little of their meagre income as possible so that they can send it home to relatives in even worse circumstances than themselves, often including their children that they have left out of desperation to try and find a way of supporting them. This can mean that when their visas run out, they generally have not got the means to even finance a return home. For some a return home is a return to a living nightmare of oppression, persecution and destitution. In these circumstances, choosing to disappear, to fade into the shadows, is their only realistic option.

THere is no way of knowing how many people are driven to this form of existence. Sky News ran a story that gives more of an insight:

No one can be sure exactly how many people live life in the shadows. 

We visited a Hindu temple which offers support to the local community – with a rising backlog of unresolved asylum cases many have struggled with immigration issues. Last year there was a 34% national increase in the number of people whose applications have not yet been dealt with. It prompted claims the delay is driving people underground. One man told us he thought the Home Office was trying to give the impression to people not to come to Britain by making the processing of applying for asylum drawn out. He said: “After being here for 10 or 12 to 15 years, if you ask them to go back to a place where they don’t want to go, I don’t think it is easy for them to do it.  And once that happens I know people will attempt to go underground.”

But among the congregation was a 52-year-old woman who says her plight has driven her to contemplate suicide. Bavani Amrithalingam came to Britain from Sri Lanka in 2010 – she says to avoid persecution. When all of her appeals to stay were exhausted she too simply disappeared from the authorities. With no home or job she relies on temples and the generosity of others for food. She says she left her children behind to try to make a life for them in Britain but this is not how she dreamt it would be. Unable to get a proper job, Bavani cooks and cleans for people she knows within the Tamil community – in return sleeping at their houses.

She said: “When I came here I never thought it was going to be like this. But I wanted to save my life. That was the reason I came here. I thought this country would protect me. I thought that Britain would grant me refugee status so that I could bring my children here to live in this country.”

Bavani is a former Tamil activist. Despite the trauma of being separated from her children she believes if she returned to Sri Lanka her life – and theirs – would be in danger.  Yet she lives in limbo because the UK authorities have told her she must leave – but have failed to do anything about it. 

“Every day I wake up and I am upset. I get depressed,” she said. “I’m having an extremely difficult life. I have no one to help me. I go to some people’s houses and do some odd jobs. I get some food, but no money at all. Like a beggar I ask people to give me five or ten pounds. I use that money for travel. I never had a life like this. I have so many problems. I’m doing any kind of odd jobs just to survive, to feed myself.  I can’t afford to send anything to my children. I have nothing, I don’t know what to do and sometimes I feel like killing myself rather than living in this country. I think about my children all of the time. Only a mother would understand this feeling. When I think about my children I don’t know what to do because I can’t get a visa to stay here. If I could get a visa then I could live with them and have some peace of mind. I have nothing like that.”

The Reverend Canon Giles Fraser, of St Mary’s in Newington, says Bavani’s desperation is not uncommon among those trying to resolve their status. He is used to dealing with migration issues amongst his south London congregation but says there is no political will to tackle the problems of those who are trapped in the system. He said: “What politician is going to want to put money into improving immigration services? No politician in our election is saying we should just make our immigration system more efficient or better, no one’s saying that. Most people are saying push them all out – it’s a very convenient form of scapegoating. Actually what’s happening is there’s loads of people here who are going to the sort of brutal faceless soulless places, dealing with the bureaucracy they don’t understand, that has no sympathy to them – it doesn’t listen to them.”

It’s difficult to know exactly how many illegal immigrants are in Britain. In 2009 the London School of Economics estimated the figure was between 417,000 and 863,000. There’s been no major study since.  

Immigration solicitor Fozia Iqbal said: “I don’t think there’s ever a full admission of how badly the system works and I think that’s the main problem. “There are people here who are perhaps not here legally and don’t have a lawful right to be here, but then they are not being removed, but then they develop rights here.”

THEY DEVELOP RIGHTS HERE!! I don’t know who told him that, and if he he is right, it won’t so much longer if Cameron and his fascist scumbag mates have anything to do about it.

Ironically, the most effective backlash to this pogrom is likely to come from Cameron’s business chums. They revel in a plentiful supply of cheap, low-skilled labour. It keeps costs down and profits up for God’s sake!! It is not as if it is costing British jobs as the Tories are constantly reminding us that unemployment is falling (thanks to zero-hours contracts and driving down of wages), so from the business point of view, if it is working for them, stop meddling David!

So given this state of affairs, the only reason for this campaign is the ideological war on the poor that is part of the Tory genetic make-up.

Five ways to well-being

I am coming towards the end of my 6 week Open University ‘Futurelearn’ Psychology course and the the conclusions it comes to are essentially that our mental well-being, while influenced by ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ factors, is primarily down to the interface between the two – how we respond to life-events. The good news in this is that we can learn to respond differently, and taken proactive steps to help facilitate better responses. These are listed below. They are not rocket science and I am sure most will recognise the positive benefits of this advice. All it really takes is a conscious effort to take the advice and act on it.

Source : Report by the Centre for Well-being, NEF (New Economics Foundation)

38 degrees – people power worth supporting

Rather than remain involved in the murky world of party politics, the more I find out about 38 degrees and the people behind it, the more I like it.

38 Degrees is an independent British not-for-profit political-activism organisation that campaigns on a wide range of issues. It describes itself as “progressive” and claims to “campaign for fairness, defend rights, promote peace, preserve the planet and deepen democracy in the UK”. In October 2013, it was reported to claim 1.9 million UK members.
38 Degrees takes its name from the critical angle at which the incidence of a human-triggered avalanche is greatest.

The organisation launched on 26 May 2009. Its founders included Gordon Roddick, co-founder of The Body Shop and Henry Tinsley, ex-chairman of Green & Black’s fair trade chocolate. The organisation launched during the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, and this formed the backdrop to early campaigns demanding voters were given more powers to sack MPs.
The founding Executive Director was David Babbs. Babbs was formerly Head of Activism at Friends of the Earth where he was responsible for the Big Ask Campaign. Babbs also previously worked at People & Planet.
At launch 38 Degrees said it was inspired by groups like MoveOn in the United States, GetUp! in Australia and Avaaz globally. These organisations all use the internet to mobilise people and connect them and their governments. 38 Degrees said that an organisation based on a similar model was needed in the UK.
In February 2014, Total Politics wrote: “For an organisation only set up in 2009, 38 Degrees has notched up its fair share of victories. It forced the coalition government’s first big U-turn, on the forests sell-off. It called for more free school meals – and Nick Clegg duly announced they were being rolled out for all infants. It raised enough cash to pay for the judicial review which successfully challenged health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans to shut down key services at Lewisham hospital.”
It is not perfect and has its critics, but most of those are the predictable ones from the far right of the Conservative Party that I, for one, have no respect for at all. Their criticism is as sure a sign that they are on the right tracks and having an impact as you could possibly have.
Watch this video, and whether or not you are involved in a political party, consider supporting 38 degrees as force for good.

The Green Party – progress of a sort, but nowhere near enough

One thing the Green Party is getting good at is spin. Of course it is possible to draw out some positive statistics from this weeks elections:

  • Membership at an all-time high
  • More candidates than ever before
  • More deposits saved than ever before
  • Increased share of the vote
  • Councillor gains in local authority elections
  • 4 second places in general election

The reality behind all these claims is a bit more sobering however.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 21.09.56We heard a lot about our membership surging to become bigger than the Lib Dems and UKIP. In numbers that really count however we are still miles behind them both.
In terms of General Election:

  • Lib Dems 8 MPs still, with 2.42 million votes (vote share down 15.2% to 7.9%)
  • UKIP 1 MP, but 120 second places and 3.89 million votes (vote share up 9.5% to 12.6%)
  • Greens 1 MP, with 4 second places and 1.16 million votes (vote share up 1.8% to 3.8% )

In terms of the local council elections held in 279 councils on the same day:

  • Lib Dems 603 councillors (down 365), 4 councils controlled (down 4)
  • UKIP 195 councillors (up 171), 1 council controlled (up 1)
  • Greens 84 councillors (up 9), 0 councils controlled (losing the minority administration in Brighton as the party slipped form 1st to 3rd)

‘More candidates than ever before’ was a given with the huge rise in membership. What is more questionable was the policy of standing in as many seats as possible, even where there was absolutely no prospect of saving the deposit, and even when it was potentially obstructive to an anti-austerity candidate from another party. I’ll save the subjective arguments about that for now, but deal with some cold facts.

Yes, the party saved 123 deposits across England and Wales, compared to just 6 in 2010, but the other side of this coin is that the Party lost 442 deposits this time around (I think it was less than 100 last time). This translates to a whopping £221,000 blown on lost deposits – far more than ANY other party:


  1. Green Party £221,000
  2. Lib Dems £170,500
  3. TUSC £ 66,000
  4. UKIP £ 39,500
  5. Tories £ 5,500
  6. Labour £ 1,500

Value for money? You be the judge.

This has to be seen in the context of unprecedented exposure in the TV debates and much wider media coverage. The Party and Natalie Bennett clearly were not fully prepared for this and equally clearly failed to make the most of it.

As for Wales, over and above the national coverage, the Greens had the additional bonus of two Wales Leaders debates on TV and the advantage of a leader that had built her successful defence of her position on being a strong media performer in an age where media is all important, or so she claimed. The result:

  • 38, 000 votes for 35 candidates at an average of 1,100 votes each, or 2.6% (less than Greens UK average of 1980 votes and 3.8%)
  • 32 deposits lost (over 90% of them, compared to less than 80% lost nationally)
  • Lost deposits of £16,000 (around 800 average membership fees)
  • Bartolotti’s personal performance, given all the exposure she had, was 1,300 votes at 3.2% of the vote in Newport West

Looking at the three deposits saved offers some insight and pointers to the way forward, should they wish to learn anything.

CARDIFF CENTRAL 6.2% (5th place)
Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 21.28.52This seat was the focus of all the effort to get Jake Griffiths elected as an AM 4 years ago, effort that was largely squandered afterwards. It is also the seat that, independent studies of Green Party support demographics suggest, should be the best prospect for the Greens, not just in Wales, but the whole of the UK. In other words, if we could not save a deposit here then we really should give up! Having said this, given the turmoil and churn in the local party in recent times, I am not sure many actually expected the best result to be here.

SWANSEA WEST 5.1% (6th place)
Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 21.31.26This was the the area in which Ashley Wakeling put in such a huge effort in the Uplands by-election last year. His relative success here has therefore been earned by the good old time-honoured methods of knocking doors and having a profile in the community. With another 10 years of such effort he could earn the right to get close. But he won’t do that. He is a student who is unlikely to make a long-term commitment to staying in Swansea. The impetuosity of youth was also shown the the night of the by-election last year when he expressed the view that his (perfectly creditable performance) was unsatisfactory and indicative that he should look for another ward that he could storm more successfully. It just doesn’t work like that!

CEREDIGION 5.6% (6th and last place)
Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 21.33.01I mention the ‘last place’ because it was significant that there were only 6 candidates, unlike the two above that had to contend with 8 and 9 respectively (there were 10 in Bridgend!). This makes it all the easier to secure the magic 5% figure. Beyond this, it is also the seat with the longest history of meaningful Green activism and electoral activity. Indeed, the very first Green Party MP was elected here in 1992 – Cynog Dafis was elected on a joint Green Party/Plaid Cymru ticket. Chris Simpson put up his own deposit there in the 2011 Welsh assembly Election and got it back with 5.2% of the votes. Again, if they were not going to get it back here, given all the conducive circumstances, they would have to be doing something seriously wrong.

There is, of course, another dimension to the Ceredigion story. It is the seat that I have courted controversy over by urging the Greens to stand aside, in order to help the ecosocialst Plaid Cymru candidate to take the seat from the neoliberal Lib Dem incumbent. As it turned out, it would not have made the crucial difference that it might. Mike Parker needed another 3000 votes and the Greens only had 2000 votes. What proved critical here was the astonishingly strong local support for ‘Mark Williams, the man’, rather ‘Mark Williams, the Lib Dem’. Given the fortunes of Lib Dems more widely, he deserves respect for this achievement. Well done him!

This is not to say that I was wrong in the principle of what I was asking for. I continue to believe that a strong, united anti-austerity voice is needed if we are to ever defeat the establishment parties. Wales Green Party stand steadfastly against this and continues to bask in the shimmer of superficial success.

I have long maintained that political success has to be built from the ground upwards. Greens cannot breakthrough in big elections until they do it in local elections first. What hope is there of that in 2017 with the current approach of the Wales Leadership? I predict another attempt to run before they can walk next year at the Welsh Assembly Elections. Pippa will be spouting off about expecting at least 3 assembly seats before you know it. They will fall flat on their faces again, and further jeopardise the prospects of breakthroughs in 2017. Every effort and every resource should have been focussed on active party target wards for the last three years, rather than blown on vanity projects. With two years to go, no properly focussed ‘Target-to-Win’ work is going on anywhere in Wales to my knowledge.

Former WGP leader Martyn Shrewsbury has crawled out from under his stone hoping no-one will remember his fraud conviction and charlatan hypnotherapy practices.

Former WGP leader Martyn Shrewsbury has crawled out from under his stone hoping no-one will remember his fraud conviction and charlatan hypnotherapy practices. He is also a vicious internet troll who hides behind a range of names and persona.

In the circumstances, working with, rather than against potential allies has become more important than ever. But it is a call that continues to largely fall on deaf ears in Wales Green Party. There are several dangerously big egos blocking Wales Green Party doing the right things. Until the (new, naive) membership wake up to how politics actually works and signs up to the years of slog involved, and wakes up to the need for true progressives to work together across party divides , as advocated by Caroline Lucas this week, no real progress will be possible.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 21.42.12

On this basis, I am finally at a point of reaching out to Plaid Cymru and seriously considering joining them for the first time. I have lost patience with the strategic naivety of the Greens at all levels. There are serious issues within PC too, but I sense a greater willingness to address them. Their General Election was more a story of disaster averted (they were predicted to lose 2 of their 3 seats at one point) than meaningful progress made. They kept their 3 seats and kept their vote share. They lost only 8 deposits (£4,000) from all 40 contested. More encouraging is good progress in numerous areas, with a clutch of second places and stronger showings in some areas outside the traditional heartlands. They are in a good position to make good advances next year if (a big if) they can get the messaging right.

Life is a continuous learning curve. Those that learn quickest steal the advantages. The SNP showed this ability in adjusting its messaging post independence referendum. Therein lay the basis of their stupendous success. Let us see who learns quickest in Wales.

What must Plaid Cymru learn from the sweeping success of the SNP?

My first reaction, after the the outcome of the General Election became clear, was that I should pack my bags and move to Scotland. This was a gut reaction, but one that has given me serious pause for thought; thoughts that I feel need sharing if we are to ever share Scotland’s new air of optimism and commitment to real change, rather than continue under a cloud of despair as we find ourselves faced with Cameron et al completely untethered and unleashed, shaping our destinies.

My starting point has got be why I did not vote Plaid Cymru. It is well documented that I fully recognise the extent to which Plaid Cymru’s manifesto shares most of my ecosocialist core values. I also fully acknowledge Leanne Wood as one of the most talented politicians in Wales. The bottom line is that if they cannot persuade me to vote for them, then their chances of getting 50% of the vote and sweeping all before them, as the SNP have just done, are non-existent.

I believe that there are three main ingredients needed to connect with the electorate as the SNP have just done:

  1. Image
  2. Messaging
  3. Leadership

The SNP, after years of floundering around, finally got these spot on, and this allowed them to successfully capitalise on being in the right place at the right time. After failing to get the outcome that they were committed to in the Independence referendum last year, it would have been all too easy for them to have withered away.

Replacing Alex Salmond with Nicola Sturgeon was the first essential piece of the jigsaw. Salmond was excellent and instrumental in getting the SNP to be seen as a viable party of government in the Scottish Parliament. He was also the right person to head the YES campaign re independence. He could not have carried on into this General Election campaign, however, and credibly delivered the messaging required to appeal to Scots across the land (that voted both Yes and No last year) and achieve the astonishing gains witnessed this week. But in Nicola Sturgeon, he had an excellent apprentice who could set about subtly reshaping the image and messaging required. This took outstanding strategic leadership, alongside the personal characteristics to convincingly sell the message to the electorate.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.26.52Leanne Wood is on a par with Nicola Sturgeon, in my opinion. She has a natural ease and sense of conviction that connects with people. She has an engaging smile and a sense of fun, but can equally turn on the ‘don’t mess with me, I’m a Valleys girl‘ glare that stops anybody taking liberties with her. She is the right leader, especially given the lack of any appealing alternatives. Her personal image is just fine. The image issues are with her party.

At this point, I am going to inevitably start rattling some very predictable cages. I do so with some trepidation as I have fallen foul of the Welsh language fascists (in this sense)  before, but I do so in the hope that they will hear me through and see that I offer this analysis in a spirit of friendship and wanting to help Plaid Cymru emulate the SNP’s success. The first thing I need to stress is that these are not just my views in isolation. I am drawing on published sources as much as possible.

In dealing with problems of image, it is not even necessarily the case that the problem is grounded in reality. The Green Party, for instance, has longed been dogged by its image as the ‘hippy environmentalist fringe party‘, the classic ‘single issue party’ image that is totally at odds with the reality of a comprehensive ecosocialist agenda that they struggle to get people to listen to. The name does not help. Mentioning the environmental issues, that are taken as given, is a no win situation. Having members that are only too willing to pander to the stereotypical images seals the deal.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.36.46

Click image to get the story behind this sign

Plaid Cymru has exactly the same set of problems. Its prevailing image is as the ‘Welsh language preservation society‘, the classic ‘single issue party’ image that is totally at odds with the reality of a comprehensive ecosocialist agenda that they struggle to get people to listen to. The name does not help. Mentioning protecting and promoting the language, that is a given, is a no win situation. Having members that are only too willing to pander to the stereotypical images seals the deal.

A New Statesmen article,  written just a few weeks ago, cites this issue as its main answer to the question ‘Why aren’t Plaid Cymru surging?‘. I quote:

“The biggest problem for Plaid in the areas where it is failing to make the breakthrough only becomes apparent as I head north. Complaints about the amount the Welsh government spends on dual-language signs become laments about the vanishing language as English speakers move north. Fears about the mortgage become concern about being priced out by holiday homes. And public transport – and with it, links to the English cities of Liverpool and Chester, which ought to be the engines of growth, are brittle and unreliable.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.21.57When your image is inextricably linked to one issue (Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Cornwall all have some dual-language road signs without brow beating everybody about the languages), you alienate everybody, like me, that might agree with everything else you have to say, who have simply found no need to embrace the language despite living here 25 years, because you pander to the more unpleasant aspects of nationalism, such as racism, bigotry and hostility towards outsiders that are present in a small part of the membership. The New Statesmen article goes on to conclude:

“One Labour MP in Scotland mused to me recently that “the SNP’s great strength is their grievance is imaginary – it’s about a better state, a better way of living your life, a better politics…and that is very hard to fight”. Plaid Cymru’s weakness is that their grievances are more concrete: a fading language, communities cut off from the prosperous south of the country or England’s Northern cities. Progress in tackling them, far from strengthening the party, actually weakens it: one Plaid activist describes how, in years gone past, the Welsh language attracted hostility on the doorstep. “Now people think it’s sweet,” they sigh. And that may be the biggest problem of all for Plaid Cymru.”

Amongst the general electorate and typical Labour voter, whose political illiteracy cannot be over-estimated, certainly in the extensive parts of South Wales in which I live and work (I work with adults with poor literacy and numeracy), these image issues are usually the first, and certainly the most-cited, reason for not voting Plaid Cymru.
Q. “Why not vote for the strong socialist policies of Plaid Cymru?”
A1. “Well, I don’t speak Welsh!”
A2. “I might be Welsh, but I’m not that Welsh!”
It staggers me just how many don’t even know what Plaid Cymru translates to. They recognise it as welsh words, and many recognise the Cymru bit, but the Plaid bit flummoxes many. A woman I considered reasonably intelligent told me it meant ‘kilt’. Or should I say cilt? The SNP have no such problems. Scottish National Party is clear and unambiguous. And being universally known by the initials is even better. It is snappier and tucks away the ‘N’ word that puts some off. Plaid Cymru runs into problems relying on its initials, as PC has too many other uses with unfortunate connotations.

Professor Roger Scully (Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University) has been known to compare Plaid Cymru to Radio Three: “People are glad it is there, they are well-diposed to it, but they don’t want to listen to it themselves”. This re-enforces the ‘Welsh language preservation society’ image, and sits alongside the ‘Museum’ attitude of saying I want things preserved for posterity and to preserve our culture, but don’t expect me to visit it very often, even if you make it easy and free!

The SNP and PC are both seeking to be parties of their country’s best interests, so how can such ‘national’ parties dodge the intrinsically vile connotations of ‘nationalism’ to become parties of the people? The SNP have managed it, and PC patently have not. Beyond the image issues already discussed, the secret has got be in simple, consistent, straightforward messaging.

The SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, got this spot on. The messages were:

  • We are NOT talking about independence
  • We are against the unnecessary austerity agenda of the Westminster establishment parties (broken down for the many that are unclear what ‘austerity’ means – protecting the public services we rely on; ending exploitative work practices; ending poverty; a positive future for the young)
  • Labour have consistently let us down because they have sold their souls to become part of the Westminster establishment
  • The Westminster parties should be given no mandate to control Scottish lives – we can do better for ourselves.

In essence, it was a very clear anti-austerity, anti-Tory, anti-Westminster message, and not an attempt to foster a post-referendum rise in nationalism (which would have failed). Sturgeon mentioned Westminster for more times than she mentioned Scotland in all of her dialogue. The message was always primarily about fighting the forces of evil, that everybody could relate to, rather than banging on about Scottish identity and making it a ‘Scotland hates the English’ thing that would have turned people off. It was underpinned by a strong record in power in the Scottish Parliament and a strong record in local government. This is the order of things. You build credibility from the ground up – via first local councils and then national assemblies. Only then can you aspire to dominate at UK elections as the SNP have done.

Plaid Cymru have a strong base of councillors on which to build, but they need to quadruple the numbers to overtake Labour (as the SNP have done in Scotland) and they need to start controlling some councils successfully too (PC control none at present, unlike the SNP). From here success can happen at Welsh Government level – where PC need to treble their representation to take control.

PC therefore simply did not have the right base from which to surge as dramatically as the SNP – but there are no reasons why they should not aspire to make huge inroads in the WG elections next year. Given that the SNP managed to re-position itself after the Independence referendum so successfully in such a short space of time, PC do still have the time to get it right, if they can get the image and messaging right. Leanne needs to stop banging on about fighting for the people of Wales (which gets subliminally translated as the proper Welsh people; you know, the ones that can speak Welsh, or at least pretend they can by having a few Welsh lessons), and keep the focus on the common enemy, which is the Westminster elite (including Labour) and their austerity programme of robbing the poor to give to the rich (although 11 constituencies voted for exactly this by electing Tories!! Another problem the SNP didn’t have to face as there was only one Tory seat to start with in Scotland – one of only 3 to resist the SNP tsunami). It was a tacit confession that this needs addressing when Leanne said this: Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 22.57.27

On top of the messages that were central to the SNP’s success (above), PC can add the leverage of Scottish Labour’s demise, and their woeful performance in both England and Wales, to press home the message that Labour are a spent force, finally being outed as the traitors to their proud heritage that has long been happening, but only now being widely recognised. (Labour MPs who voted in Jan 2015 for Tories ‘Charter for Budget Responsibility’ requiring £30bn of cuts in next 5 years: here)Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 23.02.33

If this is the way PC choose to go forward, then I am in, and will fight alongside them, indeed with them. If they want to carry on being seen as as little more than cultural guardians, then so be it. Valuable work, but not for me. There are far more pressing battles I want to fight and win.

One obstacle to me supporting Plaid Cymru has already fallen. I no longer see a future for the UK. Given the surge in Conservative support (Tory and UKIP) that has swept through England (they are effectively English Nationalists), leaving us with the prospect an unbridled assault on the vulnerable by Cameron and co., I have come to the conclusion that whatever the difficulties it might bring, home rule for Wales is the only way to get out of their firing line. It is very surely time to exercise our right to self-determination, as the future we can determine for ourselves can only be better than that which the Tories will leave us. Without 40 plus seats in Scotland for Labour, it is hard to see how we can ever shake off the hold of the Tories. A renewed drive for Scottish independence seems almost inevitable, leaving us with these unpalatable images (of the 2015 GE outcome and a post Scottish Independence UK) to digest:

If Plaid Cymru cannot welcome in a committed ecosocialist, who happens to also be a bit of a cultural heathen, then it has no prospect at all of appealing to the size of support achieved by the SNP currently. Let us see what happens.

It’s polling day! Here are Bridgend’s Vote for Policies results (with postscript)

BRIDGEND SURVEYS DONE BY 836 PEOPLE – these are presumably politically literate, well-educated people (high literacy levels needed to negotiate the survey). It is a good sample size. How will the actual poll compare? There are also 4 other candidates (Pirate/TUSC/NF/Ind) to further complicate things.

This is based on gut instincts rather than any canvassing, but I predict:

  • Labour 32%
  • Cons 24%
  • UKIP 15%
  • Lib Dems 13%
  • PC 8%
  • Greens 4%
  • Others 4%

I hope I prove well off with these, with Greens saving their deposit and the collective anti-neoliberal vote (PC/Green/Pirate/TUSC) doing hugely better – but it is hard to see past Madeleine Moon continuing to show a modicum of interest in Porthcawl, ignore Bridgend town, and continuing to do as the red tory whips tell her.

Your Constituency

And did you know that 836 people took the survey in your constituency? Here are the results for Bridgend.


Green Party
Liberal Democrats
Plaid Cymru

If you’re still undecided, these links might be helpful:

Thanks again for using Vote for Policies. I hope the election brings a positive result for you.

Happy voting!

Matt & the team


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open.php?u=30240882&id=82849a35fda0425ba7408e718effcbc9P.S – My predictions proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. Labour’s 37% (my guess 32%) shows how entrenched the Labour instinct is around here despite having served no-one’s interests but their own for a long, long time. How the Tories managed to increase their share by 2% to 32% (24%) flabbers my gast. I take no pleasure in getting UKIP’s 15% spot on, and was only one off with PC at 7% (8%). The Lib Dems collapsed more than I, and just about everyone else, anticipated, losing their deposit into the bargain at 4.2% (13%). The Greens 2% (4%) was also a big disappointment, given the work we have done over the last 5 years, but parachuting in someone from outside did not help, and I guess I have to take some blame for this by withdrawing my own candidacy.

“Hard working families” – the mugs that sustain the system

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 07.31.52One of the things that allows you to spot the vile neoliberals (aka free-market capitalists) is their constant appeal to the “hard-working families of this country“. As we enter the last day of the campaign, just count up how many references to “hard working families” you hear from Conservative and Labour politicians. You see, we all like to think of ourselves as ‘hard working families’ (if we are lucky enough to have a job at all) because we have been indoctrinated/conned from an early age by the neoliberal establishment (which includes the establishments schools and churches) into believing hard work is a virtue for which you eventually get your just reward (in heaven, if not in this life).

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 07.34.57This is a a long established con trick, but one of which the latest generation of neoliberal ‘elite’ (the hereditary old-Etonian elite that runs the Conservative Party and those aspiring to join the elite, in Blair and Kinnock’s footsteps, in the Labour Party) have gained renewed vigour for. They have read their history books and see with glee what the Victorian industrialists got away, hence the return to those kind of days with a ubiquitous minimum wage for the minions that they can’t actually live on, zero hours contracts to keep them grateful for whatever scraps they are given, the decimation of their ability to organise, and the removal of free public services that may over-educate them or allow them to live too long.

THe UK’s ‘special relationship’ with the USA means that we have followed their lead, or even shown the way at times, to ensure that, in the supposed developed world, we work the longest hours, have the lowest minimum wage and also have among the worst education and healthcare indicators, the greatest inequalities and worst social mobility. Just google “uk worst in developed world for” and see what you get. I found that we are among the:

  • worst for pensions
  • worst literacy and numeracy among the young
  • worst stillbirth rates
  • worst social mobility
  • worst child poverty
  • worst traffic jams
  • worst healthcare models
  • worst performing government bonds
  • worst for corruption
  • worst rail network
  • worst for teenage binge drinking

And this is just from the first three pages, in which close to half the items listed were focussing on our abysmal pension provisions. Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it? This is the legacy of the decades of joint Conservative/Labour rule that we are going to see re-endorsed tomorrow.

Returning to the “hard working families” con job, I stumbled across an essay by the great British philosopher, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic and political activist, Bertrand Russell when I was at University, during Thatcher’s first term. It has shaped my whole outlook on life ever since. Before, I present it to you, let me anticipate your response. You will grin broadly and think “Typical Andy! That sounds like him!” and then, as I insist it is genuinely the model we should be aspiring to and working for, you will think something like “Well, wouldn’t it be lovely, but it is just idealistic nonsense, isn’t it?” As you do so, perhaps you may begin to reflect on just how well you have been indoctrinated.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 08.47.38The essay is entitled “In Praise of Idleness”. Russell published it in 1932, and as such some of its comments about Russia and women need to be kept in historical context, but apart from this it is as accurate and valid today, if not more so, than it was then. I make no apologies for reprinting it in full below (from here). Read it carefully, and perhaps you may become just a little more reticent about endorsing the bastards championing the “hard working family”!

In Praise of Idleness

By Bertrand Russell

Like most of my generation, I was brought up on the saying: ‘Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do.’ Being a highly virtuous child, I believed all that I was told, and acquired a conscience which has kept me working hard down to the present moment. But although my conscience has controlled my actions, my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Everyone knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth. this traveler was on the right lines. But in countries which do not enjoy Mediterranean sunshine idleness is more difficult, and a great public propaganda will be required to inaugurate it. I hope that, after reading the following pages, the leaders of the YMCA will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Before advancing my own arguments for laziness, I must dispose of one which I cannot accept. Whenever a person who already has enough to live on proposes to engage in some everyday kind of job, such as school-teaching or typing, he or she is told that such conduct takes the bread out of other people’s mouths, and is therefore wicked. If this argument were valid, it would only be necessary for us all to be idle in order that we should all have our mouths full of bread. What people who say such things forget is that what a man earns he usually spends, and in spending he gives employment. As long as a man spends his income, he puts just as much bread into people’s mouths in spending as he takes out of other people’s mouths in earning. The real villain, from this point of view, is the man who saves. If he merely puts his savings in a stocking, like the proverbial French peasant, it is obvious that they do not give employment. If he invests his savings, the matter is less obvious, and different cases arise.

One of the commonest things to do with savings is to lend them to some Government. In view of the fact that the bulk of the public expenditure of most civilized Governments consists in payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the man who lends his money to a Government is in the same position as the bad men in Shakespeare who hire murderers. The net result of the man’s economical habits is to increase the armed forces of the State to which he lends his savings. Obviously it would be better if he spent the money, even if he spent it in drink or gambling.

But, I shall be told, the case is quite different when savings are invested in industrial enterprises. When such enterprises succeed, and produce something useful, this may be conceded. In these days, however, no one will deny that most enterprises fail. That means that a large amount of human labor, which might have been devoted to producing something that could be enjoyed, was expended on producing machines which, when produced, lay idle and did no good to anyone. The man who invests his savings in a concern that goes bankrupt is therefore injuring others as well as himself. If he spent his money, say, in giving parties for his friends, they (we may hope) would get pleasure, and so would all those upon whom he spent money, such as the butcher, the baker, and the bootlegger. But if he spends it (let us say) upon laying down rails for surface card in some place where surface cars turn out not to be wanted, he has diverted a mass of labor into channels where it gives pleasure to no one. Nevertheless, when he becomes poor through failure of his investment he will be regarded as a victim of undeserved misfortune, whereas the gay spendthrift, who has spent his money philanthropically, will be despised as a fool and a frivolous person.

All this is only preliminary. I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.

First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising.

Throughout Europe, though not in America, there is a third class of men, more respected than either of the classes of workers. There are men who, through ownership of land, are able to make others pay for the privilege of being allowed to exist and to work. These landowners are idle, and I might therefore be expected to praise them. Unfortunately, their idleness is only rendered possible by the industry of others; indeed their desire for comfortable idleness is historically the source of the whole gospel of work. The last thing they have ever wished is that others should follow their example.

From the beginning of civilization until the Industrial Revolution, a man could, as a rule, produce by hard work little more than was required for the subsistence of himself and his family, although his wife worked at least as hard as he did, and his children added their labor as soon as they were old enough to do so. The small surplus above bare necessaries was not left to those who produced it, but was appropriated by warriors and priests. In times of famine there was no surplus; the warriors and priests, however, still secured as much as at other times, with the result that many of the workers died of hunger. This system persisted in Russia until 1917 [1], and still persists in the East; in England, in spite of the Industrial Revolution, it remained in full force throughout the Napoleonic wars, and until a hundred years ago, when the new class of manufacturers acquired power. In America, the system came to an end with the Revolution, except in the South, where it persisted until the Civil War. A system which lasted so long and ended so recently has naturally left a profound impress upon men’s thoughts and opinions. Much that we take for granted about the desirability of work is derived from this system, and, being pre-industrial, is not adapted to the modern world. Modern technique has made it possible for leisure, within limits, to be not the prerogative of small privileged classes, but a right evenly distributed throughout the community. The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.

It is obvious that, in primitive communities, peasants, left to themselves, would not have parted with the slender surplus upon which the warriors and priests subsisted, but would have either produced less or consumed more. At first, sheer force compelled them to produce and part with the surplus. Gradually, however, it was found possible to induce many of them to accept an ethic according to which it was their duty to work hard, although part of their work went to support others in idleness. By this means the amount of compulsion required was lessened, and the expenses of government were diminished. To this day, 99 per cent of British wage-earners would be genuinely shocked if it were proposed that the King should not have a larger income than a working man. The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own. Of course the holders of power conceal this fact from themselves by managing to believe that their interests are identical with the larger interests of humanity. Sometimes this is true; Athenian slave-owners, for instance, employed part of their leisure in making a permanent contribution to civilization which would have been impossible under a just economic system. Leisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered possible by the labors of the many. But their labors were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.

Modern technique has made it possible to diminish enormously the amount of labor required to secure the necessaries of life for everyone. This was made obvious during the war. At that time all the men in the armed forces, and all the men and women engaged in the production of munitions, all the men and women engaged in spying, war propaganda, or Government offices connected with the war, were withdrawn from productive occupations. In spite of this, the general level of well-being among unskilled wage-earners on the side of the Allies was higher than before or since. The significance of this fact was concealed by finance: borrowing made it appear as if the future was nourishing the present. But that, of course, would have been impossible; a man cannot eat a loaf of bread that does not yet exist. The war showed conclusively that, by the scientific organization of production, it is possible to keep modern populations in fair comfort on a small part of the working capacity of the modern world. If, at the end of the war, the scientific organization, which had been created in order to liberate men for fighting and munition work, had been preserved, and the hours of the week had been cut down to four, all would have been well. Instead of that the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed. Why? Because work is a duty, and a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.

This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief. When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: ‘What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.’ People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion.

Let us, for a moment, consider the ethics of work frankly, without superstition. Every human being, of necessity, consumes, in the course of his life, a certain amount of the produce of human labor. Assuming, as we may, that labor is on the whole disagreeable, it is unjust that a man should consume more than he produces. Of course he may provide services rather than commodities, like a medical man, for example; but he should provide something in return for his board and lodging. to this extent, the duty of work must be admitted, but to this extent only.

I shall not dwell upon the fact that, in all modern societies outside the USSR, many people escape even this minimum amount of work, namely all those who inherit money and all those who marry money. I do not think the fact that these people are allowed to be idle is nearly so harmful as the fact that wage-earners are expected to overwork or starve.

If the ordinary wage-earner worked four hours a day, there would be enough for everybody and no unemployment — assuming a certain very moderate amount of sensible organization. This idea shocks the well-to-do, because they are convinced that the poor would not know how to use so much leisure. In America men often work long hours even when they are well off; such men, naturally, are indignant at the idea of leisure for wage-earners, except as the grim punishment of unemployment; in fact, they dislike leisure even for their sons. Oddly enough, while they wish their sons to work so hard as to have no time to be civilized, they do not mind their wives and daughters having no work at all. the snobbish admiration of uselessness, which, in an aristocratic society, extends to both sexes, is, under a plutocracy, confined to women; this, however, does not make it any more in agreement with common sense.

The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will become bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation; only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists.

In the new creed which controls the government of Russia, while there is much that is very different from the traditional teaching of the West, there are some things that are quite unchanged. The attitude of the governing classes, and especially of those who conduct educational propaganda, on the subject of the dignity of labor, is almost exactly that which the governing classes of the world have always preached to what were called the ‘honest poor’. Industry, sobriety, willingness to work long hours for distant advantages, even submissiveness to authority, all these reappear; moreover authority still represents the will of the Ruler of the Universe, Who, however, is now called by a new name, Dialectical Materialism.

The victory of the proletariat in Russia has some points in common with the victory of the feminists in some other countries. For ages, men had conceded the superior saintliness of women, and had consoled women for their inferiority by maintaining that saintliness is more desirable than power. At last the feminists decided that they would have both, since the pioneers among them believed all that the men had told them about the desirability of virtue, but not what they had told them about the worthlessness of political power. A similar thing has happened in Russia as regards manual work. For ages, the rich and their sycophants have written in praise of ‘honest toil’, have praised the simple life, have professed a religion which teaches that the poor are much more likely to go to heaven than the rich, and in general have tried to make manual workers believe that there is some special nobility about altering the position of matter in space, just as men tried to make women believe that they derived some special nobility from their sexual enslavement. In Russia, all this teaching about the excellence of manual work has been taken seriously, with the result that the manual worker is more honored than anyone else. What are, in essence, revivalist appeals are made, but not for the old purposes: they are made to secure shock workers for special tasks. Manual work is the ideal which is held before the young, and is the basis of all ethical teaching.

For the present, possibly, this is all to the good. A large country, full of natural resources, awaits development, and has has to be developed with very little use of credit. In these circumstances, hard work is necessary, and is likely to bring a great reward. But what will happen when the point has been reached where everybody could be comfortable without working long hours?

In the West, we have various ways of dealing with this problem. We have no attempt at economic justice, so that a large proportion of the total produce goes to a small minority of the population, many of whom do no work at all. Owing to the absence of any central control over production, we produce hosts of things that are not wanted. We keep a large percentage of the working population idle, because we can dispense with their labor by making the others overwork. When all these methods prove inadequate, we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we were children who had just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage, though with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of severe manual work must be the lot of the average man.

In Russia, owing to more economic justice and central control over production, the problem will have to be differently solved. the rational solution would be, as soon as the necessaries and elementary comforts can be provided for all, to reduce the hours of labor gradually, allowing a popular vote to decide, at each stage, whether more leisure or more goods were to be preferred. But, having taught the supreme virtue of hard work, it is difficult to see how the authorities can aim at a paradise in which there will be much leisure and little work. It seems more likely that they will find continually fresh schemes, by which present leisure is to be sacrificed to future productivity. I read recently of an ingenious plan put forward by Russian engineers, for making the White Sea and the northern coasts of Siberia warm, by putting a dam across the Kara Sea. An admirable project, but liable to postpone proletarian comfort for a generation, while the nobility of toil is being displayed amid the ice-fields and snowstorms of the Arctic Ocean. This sort of thing, if it happens, will be the result of regarding the virtue of hard work as an end in itself, rather than as a means to a state of affairs in which it is no longer needed.

The fact is that moving matter about, while a certain amount of it is necessary to our existence, is emphatically not one of the ends of human life. If it were, we should have to consider every navvy superior to Shakespeare. We have been misled in this matter by two causes. One is the necessity of keeping the poor contented, which has led the rich, for thousands of years, to preach the dignity of labor, while taking care themselves to remain undignified in this respect. The other is the new pleasure in mechanism, which makes us delight in the astonishingly clever changes that we can produce on the earth’s surface. Neither of these motives makes any great appeal to the actual worker. If you ask him what he thinks the best part of his life, he is not likely to say: ‘I enjoy manual work because it makes me feel that I am fulfilling man’s noblest task, and because I like to think how much man can transform his planet. It is true that my body demands periods of rest, which I have to fill in as best I may, but I am never so happy as when the morning comes and I can return to the toil from which my contentment springs.’ I have never heard working men say this sort of thing. They consider work, as it should be considered, a necessary means to a livelihood, and it is from their leisure that they derive whatever happiness they may enjoy.

It will be said that, while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours of work out of the twenty-four. In so far as this is true in the modern world, it is a condemnation of our civilization; it would not have been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake. Serious-minded persons, for example, are continually condemning the habit of going to the cinema, and telling us that it leads the young into crime. But all the work that goes to producing a cinema is respectable, because it is work, and because it brings a money profit. The notion that the desirable activities are those that bring a profit has made everything topsy-turvy. The butcher who provides you with meat and the baker who provides you with bread are praiseworthy, because they are making money; but when you enjoy the food they have provided, you are merely frivolous, unless you eat only to get strength for your work. Broadly speaking, it is held that getting money is good and spending money is bad. Seeing that they are two sides of one transaction, this is absurd; one might as well maintain that keys are good, but keyholes are bad. Whatever merit there may be in the production of goods must be entirely derivative from the advantage to be obtained by consuming them. The individual, in our society, works for profit; but the social purpose of his work lies in the consumption of what he produces. It is this divorce between the individual and the social purpose of production that makes it so difficult for men to think clearly in a world in which profit-making is the incentive to industry. We think too much of production, and too little of consumption. One result is that we attach too little importance to enjoyment and simple happiness, and that we do not judge production by the pleasure that it gives to the consumer.

When I suggest that working hours should be reduced to four, I am not meaning to imply that all the remaining time should necessarily be spent in pure frivolity. I mean that four hours’ work a day should entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life, and that the rest of his time should be his to use as he might see fit. It is an essential part of any such social system that education should be carried further than it usually is at present, and should aim, in part, at providing tastes which would enable a man to use leisure intelligently. I am not thinking mainly of the sort of things that would be considered ‘highbrow’. Peasant dances have died out except in remote rural areas, but the impulses which caused them to be cultivated must still exist in human nature. The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.

In the past, there was a small leisure class and a larger working class. The leisure class enjoyed advantages for which there was no basis in social justice; this necessarily made it oppressive, limited its sympathies, and caused it to invent theories by which to justify its privileges. These facts greatly diminished its excellence, but in spite of this drawback it contributed nearly the whole of what we call civilization. It cultivated the arts and discovered the sciences; it wrote the books, invented the philosophies, and refined social relations. Even the liberation of the oppressed has usually been inaugurated from above. Without the leisure class, mankind would never have emerged from barbarism.

The method of a leisure class without duties was, however, extraordinarily wasteful. None of the members of the class had to be taught to be industrious, and the class as a whole was not exceptionally intelligent. The class might produce one Darwin, but against him had to be set tens of thousands of country gentlemen who never thought of anything more intelligent than fox-hunting and punishing poachers. At present, the universities are supposed to provide, in a more systematic way, what the leisure class provided accidentally and as a by-product. This is a great improvement, but it has certain drawbacks. University life is so different from life in the world at large that men who live in academic milieu tend to be unaware of the preoccupations and problems of ordinary men and women; moreover their ways of expressing themselves are usually such as to rob their opinions of the influence that they ought to have upon the general public. Another disadvantage is that in universities studies are organized, and the man who thinks of some original line of research is likely to be discouraged. Academic institutions, therefore, useful as they are, are not adequate guardians of the interests of civilization in a world where everyone outside their walls is too busy for unutilitarian pursuits.

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. Men who, in their professional work, have become interested in some phase of economics or government, will be able to develop their ideas without the academic detachment that makes the work of university economists often seem lacking in reality. Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.

Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.

[1] Since then, members of the Communist Party have succeeded to this privilege of the warriors and priests.

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Here’s what we Greens believe

Hello Andy

As a Green Party member I know you share our vision for a better future for everyone.

With the election the day after tomorrow, I wanted to share with you a reminder of how we will make our vision a reality.

Whilst the Tories and Labour can spend millions of pounds on advertising, we rely on you, our members to share our message.

We’ve created these six brilliant short animations for you to pass on:

Rob supports the Green Party’s call to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Junior Doctor, Sara, sees the Green Party as the only hope to save our NHS.

Hugh, believes only the Green Party has economic policies for the real world.

Lucy wants to see public transport brought back into public hands.

Rachel thinks that quality affordable education is a fundamental right.

Londoner, Scott, is used to seeing people struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

Share all of these films in one easy 12 minute playlist.

Thanks for all you are doing. Every single person you convince to vote Green on May 7th will make a real difference.

Thank you

Amelia Womack
Deputy Leader
Green Party of England and Wales

p.s. If you’d like to spread our message spread even further, please chip in for the last few days of our urgent breakthrough appeal.


The corporate fascism that has made our democracy a sham

As we are all about to traipse to the polls to put our precious cross in the box of our choice, most of us know deep down that it is going to make naff all difference to our lives. I am less certain that many understand the real reasons that this is the case, especially after listening to people at a dinner party last night.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 20.17.24Most seem to ascribe it to the two-party dominance brought about by the FPTP voting system. Given that the two big parties, as in the US, are barely distinguishable in any meaningful sense, then there is never going to be much of a discernible difference apart from, perhaps, a few people around the fringes of society. On this basis, a Labour government may be seen as preferable a Tory one, in the same way that I would prefer to have my left arm chopped off, rather than my right arm.

The real problem, I would maintain, is that we are not voting for the real movers and shakers in the world today. As I explained in my last article,  both Conservatives and Labour are utterly beholden to big business and have become unwilling, perhaps even incapable, of doing anything about it anymore.

When I describe corporations as being essentially fascist, I mean it the sense that power goes strictly top-down, from the board of directors, through the management hierarchy, down to the people on the shop floor (the ones creating the wealth for those above them). Ultimately, the power rests with those that provide the initial financing; the investors, owners and banks. The bigger they are, the more powerful they are. Governments, in theory at least, can exert some constraints in terms of legal regulation and imposition of taxes, but the PR machine has made both these concepts ‘dirty words’ today. There are specific references in just about all the parties’ manifestoes about ‘reducing red tape’, as if that benefits me and you. All it does is free up businesses to do what the fuck they please, even more than they do already.

So what can we, the general public, do about it? We can try to be disruptive, within the confines of ever stricter legal restrictions. We can have a say at election time, but few are interested in listening, such is their resignation to the two-party hegemony. Beyond that we can choose who we work for and choose whose goods and services to buy, but even that assumes we have sufficient means to be able to choose more than the first and/or the cheapest on offer. From the corporations’ perspective, the extent to which they have to consider people at all, be it their workers or their customers, is to the extent that it impacts on their only real objectives – profit, market share and control of the system.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 20.20.41Thus we have a system that gives the illusion of being a functioning, participatory democracy, but the reality is anything but. Historically, the working class masses were referred to as ‘the rabble’. By the 1920s, Walter Lippmann’s “Phantom Public” was presenting a more sophisticated view of the electorate that still holds true today. The Phantom Public discusses the “disenchanted man” who has become disillusioned not only with democracy, but also with reform. According to Lippmann, the average voter is incapable of governance; what is called the public is merely a “phantom.” In terms of policy-making, the distinction should not be experts versus amateurs, but insiders versus outsiders. Thus he refers to me and you as the ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” and suggests that we should be content to let the “responsible men” make the decisions while the “bewildered herd” are kept in line – spectators, at best, rather than participants in the ‘democratic’ process.

Thus, we will dutifully queue up next Thursday to ratify programmes that have already been decided and are well underway. The ‘governing’ party will have about one third of the the vote, in a two thirds turnout; somewhere between 20 and 25% of the electorate’s support. But it really matters not, very much, whether it be Cameron or Milliband heading the next government, nor whether it be in coalition with other neoliberals (the Lib Dems or SNP or UKIP), or with a whopping majority. The important thing is, we will be told, that we have had our say, that it is the will of the people, that they have been given a mandate. And thereby they can continue, claiming a legitimacy that is ephemeral at best.

This was kinda the argument presented by Russell Brand for not voting (until he came upon the argument about left arms and right arms I put earlier [para2], and has decided to back Milliband today!). I would probably go along with this argument about not voting if there were only neoliberal ‘status quo’ parties on offer, but that is not the case.

Although they are far from homogeneously so, there are genuine socialist and ecosocialist alternatives available. Bridgend is especially blessed, having a former communist standing for the Greens, along with an ecosocialist leaning Plaid Cymru candidate, a TUSC candidate and a former Green libertarian leftie Pirate candidate. Even with their votes added together, they will not win in Bridgend. All but one or two will lose their deposits. In places such as Ceredigion and Bristol West, however, PC and Greens respectively can conceivably nick seats off the establishment parties – and we should do our best to see that this happens.

These are the people to vote for – any one of them will do where none of them can win – as they all represent anti-establishment, anti-statu quo votes that reduce the legitimacy of the neoliberal ‘elite’. It is a positive vote for change, rather than an apathetic act of indifference.

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(See: Written in the context of last year’s Euro elections, but the analysis of the parties still stands )