Red Star or Dark Star?
The week began with Will Hutton (‘Britain (sic)is scared to face the real issue’) warning:
“Societies as unequal as Britain’s are profoundly dysfunctional. The inequality that drove the last crash is even greater now and, ominously, the same forces are abroad again. The recovery cannot hold unless we address inequality; our politicians must rebuild the institutions they have so carelessly trashed. Inequality must be tackled head on.”
It’s not going to happen in the austerity union and that’s a fact many people are finally waking up to.
Scottish Labour’s ongoing political necrophilia sees no sign of abating, but a key turn in the referendum debate may change that. With interventions from Jim Sillars this week (‘Austerity Britain’s Tackety Boots‘)and now Dennis Canavan addressing Labour for Independence, the issue of ‘what sort of society we want to be part of’ is coming to a head. Where can you best achieve social justice?
Economic vision, or lack of it, looms large. But wider forces than the benefits narrative of Johann Lamont are at play with Tony Travers, of London School of Economics, saying: “London is the dark star of the economy, inexorably sucking in resources, people and energy. Nobody quite knows how to control it”.
These are becoming key questions present themselves for the No campaigns reluctant foot soldiers.
By asking Labour voters to vote Yes in the referendum, we are not asking them to change their party allegiance. A Yes vote is not a vote for Alex Salmond or a vote for the SNP. On the contrary, independence could help secure the election of a Labour Government in Scotland. Labour supporters can vote Yes in the referendum and then vote Labour in the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2016. Independence would mean that an independent Scottish Labour Party would be able to respond more readily to the needs and aspirations of the people of Scotland. That would help to bring about policies based on Labour’s traditional values of social justice and solidarity.
For example, a Scottish Labour manifesto could include policies for better job opportunities, a fairer system of tax and welfare, restoring public ownership of postal services and a commitment to get rid of Trident. A Yes vote in the referendum will not alter the historic mission of the Labour movement. On the contrary, it will empower the people of Scotland to fulfil that mission by building a fairer society.
This week’s Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows a strong correlation between support for independence and social class. Some 40% of households earning under £14,300 are likely to vote yes, while wealthy Scots are resolutely hostile, and 72% of business leaders are hostile to independence. Contrary to the views of many Labour supporters and liberals, the referendum is not about blood and soil separatism. It reflects longstanding societal divisions about the British state’s direction.
It’s inequality, stupid. It’s inequality that is behind poverty, ill-health and the growth of the welfare bill. It’s inequality propelling the escalating demand for credit. It’s inequality that has created our fragile banking system and its still feral proclivities. It’s inequality that has provoked the collapse in productivity, and the stagnation in innovation and investment – evident before the financial crisis and even more so now. This is the truth that cannot yet be spoken.
The UK is the fourth most unequal country in the developed world. This is a shocking fact but what’s more shocking is the that this is based on low wages and tax evasion, not sloth. It’s not just unequal it’s unequal because of low-pay not idleness. In Britain you can work 40 hours a week and not earn enough money to feed, clothe and house your family. Scotland is a rich country and we have more than enough wealth to make sure that everyone can live in comfort and security. The problem is that we don’t have the right kind of economy, one that would share wealth more equally and effectively, both between people and round the country.
We can change that.