Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Top Down

Dear Elites

You got us into this bloody mess. Now fix it.

It was you, the comfortably wealthy, the private-school educated, the home-owners with the Volvo for the weekend cottage, the beneficiaries of Westminster's obsession with The City and finance. You who supported the neoliberal politics that first Margaret Thatcher and then all of the main political parties espoused. You who decided that 'immigration' was suddenly a big enough issue to vote Leave. You, who read the Daily Mail or the Telegraph,  who watched the hypnosis of Sky, your news intake controlled by Nondoms and aristocrats. You, whose brothers across the pond voted for the right-wing hawk who will Trump us all.

And now you can't step back from your cliff-edge. You have created a monster that is bigger than all of us, the fear-monster of foreigners at the picket-gate. So you add to your neoliberal austerity a regime of migrant control and visas. Government cuts, and, by the way, no visas for the Polish plumber or the French lorry driver or the Catalan software engineer, so your economy is under a double yoke with no real government spending, and no way for businesses to expand and grow.

I'm talking to you, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. And all your cronies in the UKIP-Tories.

But hang on, old chap. 

I too went to a private school. I own two cars. I live in a nice house in the country. I have a (fairly) regular wage, food on the table, a comfortable job. I use social media owned by tax-dodging multinationals (yes, this blog is on a site owned by Google...) I, in an earlier life, voted for Tony Blair thinking that he could bring fairness to Britain.

I am part of the elite. I am part of the problem.

I, we, made the mess we are in. All of us in the comfortable classes, the blog-reading classes, the 'Just About Managing' JAMS...we got it wrong. We did not stand up and shout when we were favoured with lower taxes, even though we knew, if we had given the maths a moment's thought, that less tax meant less help for the poor. We did not protest loud enough, or in big enough numbers, when Westminster took us into its stupid wars in Libya and the Levant. We thought it broadly OK that the government of the day should privatise services previously thought essential - rail, water, telecoms, health, transport.

We have built the monster that is neoliberal, racist, Brexit Britain. We must slay it.

How? By changing us, first. By recognising that people in poverty are more important than a penny off income tax. By realising that our private schools are the nurseries of a permanent elite, and thus that we must close them or convert them into truly 'public' schools. By not buying that extra bottle of chilled Prosecco and giving the money to a foodbank instead. By reading more, and more widely, than the madness of the Daily Mail or the bias of the BBC.

And then by changing  our government. Scotland has shown that it can be done, kicking out the Red and Redder Tories and replacing them with politicians who don't get it all right all of the time, but at least move the ship of the Scottish state in the right direction.

Changing the government of England is very hard to imagine in our lifetime. And while that government is led by the elites of England it is not going to let the rabble of Scotland build the society that the people of Scotland want.

Dear elites, there are two clear conclusions. The elites of Scotland - me, you - must stand alongside the poor and fight for a socially just, international, welcoming Scotland. We must stand up for an independent Scotland, free to build the society its people want. A society built by all, for all - not just for us in the elite.

The elites of England will have to decide for themselves whether they want more Prosecco or less poverty. I hope, for their sake, that they wake up and vote for the latter.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Red Tories

Imagine the scene. It is November, 2020. England has Brexited and immigration controls are in place.

You are the boss of a small software company in Shropshire. Your latest computer game, Zombies on Mars, has gone viral and you urgently need to recruit games animators and developers. No-one in London seems to wants to work in Shropshire, so you plan to recruit people from Spain, Poland and Germany.

These people, post-Brexit, need a visa to work here.

You apply to the new Ministry of Work. They tell you that the 2020 quota for software engineers has now been filled and that you must reapply in January 2021 and 'join the queue.' 

You complain to your Member of Parliament. How can you grow your business if you cannot recruit these people? She replies that it is 'our Government's duty to ensure England's jobs go to English people.'

The Ministry of Work website says that there are still visa places available for;
  • Dog Groomers
  • Ball boys (tennis courts)
  • Polo pony Stable Assistants
  • Golf Caddie drivers
  • Beaters and Gun-porters for Hunting and Game Estates

If you enjoy golf, polo and shooting, you can employ anyone. But if you want to run a business, you are throttled by the Ministry.

The light starts to dawn. You now live in a planned economy in which a central government body is controlling the flow of the one resource that all businesses need - people. 

The Ministry of Work becomes increasingly powerful, for it dictates how the economy will function. Lobbyists work hard to persuade the Ministry to favour their industry, and senior civil servants are offered sexual services (provided by migrant sex workers) as part of a widening scandal of corruption.

As part of the government's Northern Powerhouse programme, the Ministry of Work announce that unemployed people 'who do not hold British passports' are to be moved to northern England where they will be employed in vast new factories to make golf balls and 12-bore cartridges. People refusing to move will have their benefits cut off, and if they continue to refuse will be moved by the police.

Amnesty International publishes photographs of the new 'factories' and reveals that they are surrounded by razor-wire. Amnesty compares the camps to the Gulags.

Welcome to the planned economy of Stalin's England. The Ministry of Work is now in control and she or he who runs it, runs the economy. As Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang pointed out in '23 Things they don't tell you about Capitalism', controlling the supply of labour controls the economy by controlling wages; 'Wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than by anything else.'  ['Thing 1', page 5]

This is, finally, the supreme irony. The Conservative Party is now the party of the planned economy, the party that tells you what you can do and where you can do it. The party that will be faced with a choice between visas for care workers and visas for stablehands...and will favour the horses over the nurses every time. These are the real Red Tories.

Back in Shropshire it only takes the boss a few minutes to work out that the best thing she can do is relocate her firm to Scotland. In newly-independent Scotland there is free movement of labour, and open access to the vast market of the EU.

This is the independence bonus, the huge boost to Scotland that will come when England Brexits and an independent Scotland Remains. Let's get there.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ground Zero, Faslane

Now you know how it feels to live in uncertain times. The nervousness created by a shift in the established order. The worry of a new warlord in our nearest neighbour due west of Glasgow. The fear of the imposed, extreme, policies - the anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-migration policies of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump in the White House, with his finger on the nuclear button. The nuclear button that would fire Trident warheads from submarines based in Faslane - be clear, it is the US that controls 'our' bomb. Meaning that Faslane, and thus Scotland, would be obliterated in the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) retaliation.

We in Europe are not used to these levels of unease, of nerves.  We have allowed ourselves to get richer at the expense of the world's poor - both at home and abroad. We have felt comfortable with that wealth when, in fact, it was riches built on a false premise. Abandoning the masses whilst the few enrich themselves is fun (for the rich) for a while, but as Brexit and Trump have shown us,  eventually 20, 30 or 40 years later the poor get back their voice and either by vote, by revolt or by war overturn the established order.

Feel glad that in the UK and USA this revolt has come by vote; in too many other places - the Levant, north Africa - it has come with a bullet or a bomb.

Until now we have been the ones exporting the uncertainty, supplying arms to regimes around the world that use them to supress, to kill and to ensure fearful, compliant populations. 

Arms trade, Scotland, source https://www.caat.org.uk/resources/mapping

Now we're getting a spoonful (no more than a spoonful - our lives are still going to be comparatively comfortable) of that medicine back.

What can Scotland do? We're a wee country with no power, little influence and a lightweight (in comparison to the USA) economy.

There is much we can do.  Scotland can be a model for tolerance, decency, peace and the environment. We're already showing ourselves to be more international, and much more tolerant, than the voters of England. Scotland is building a sustainable, green future for itself, despite the hollowing out of the sustainable energy business by Westminster.

Now we need to take the next step. We must become a country of peace. A country that converts its arms manufactures - which still employ more than 12,000 people in Scotland - into factories for products that conserve energy, feed people or improve science.  We must, absolutely must, get rid of the weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde, handing them back to England so that she may store them in a more appropriate location, such as the Thames.

We can only reach that state of peace if we rid ourselves of Westminster. An independent Scotland can be a wee beacon for good, in a world that is Trumped.