Loaves and Fishes

Allow me to try and square the Labour virtuous circle; their circle, their square. Rachel Reeves, a Bank of England economist, with deeply conventional and dated ideas, follows the ‘there is no money’ mantra of Neoliberal Conservatism. The implication of this conservatism is that she is thirled to the essentials of cut the deficit, cut the national debt policy; which actually means turning deficits into surpluses, and that means public expenditure must fall. Starmer agrees with Reeves. They are a team; not a policy wafer between them. Starmer, however is going to “build” for the future; which he articulated with emotional authority in his speech. Here is the list he enumerate, which is not modest. Here is a man on a mission.

Here is the list he presented, unblinking. It is not modest. Here is a man on a mission.

1.5m new houses; repair the NHS (“More operations. More appointments. More diagnostic tests.You will be seen more quickly. In an NHS clearing the backlog seven days a week … Mental health treatment when you need it. We’ll guarantee that. The 8am scramble for a GP appointment. We will end it. Dangerous waits for a cancer diagnosis. We will consign them to history”); More police (“in your town, fighting anti-social behaviour, taking back our streets”); “Infrastructure gets built”; “we commit to a new generation of colleges. Technical Excellence Colleges. Colleges with stronger links to their local economies” (“Training lab workers in Derbyshire. Automotive Engineers in Wolverhampton. Computer Scientists in Manchester. Nuclear Technicians in Somerset. Builders in Staffordshire. Toolmakers in Hull.”); A Climate Mission (“Speed ahead with investment. Speed ahead with half a million jobs. Speed ahead with Great British Energy. A new energy company that will harness clean British power for good British jobs. A company that will be publicly owned, …. that will be based in Scotland”).

The list is taken directly from Starmer’s speech. The quotation marks represent direct quotes. Note that no costs are given; no timescale is offered; no financial consequences discussed. All of Starmer’s list is created, remember with no money. It is magic; just like that. Problem solved: and they are telling you the list can be fulfilled with no money. It is all down to the unique genius of Labour leadership; as, we may suppose a special kind of miracle from the blessed. 

Loaves and fish.

Comments (52)

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  1. Graeme McCormick says:

    the abbreviation for Labour was “Lab”. now it’s just “Con”

  2. gavinochiltree says:

    “Once upon a time………………….

    ……………….and they all lived happily ( in the HoLs) ever after”.

    Just ask the Labour Collective of Brit Nat Journalists—-yup, that’s the entire lot of ‘em.

  3. ScotsCanuck says:

    …… and if you believe that, then I’ve got a bag of Magic Beans I can sell you …. cheap !!

  4. 231011 says:

    Is there a reason you ignored the Labour Party’s new national policy forum document, which was finalised towards the end of September in advance of the current conference, which sets out the Party’s programme for government, and which, if accepted by conference, will form the basis of its 2014 manifesto?

    I’m just asking because this document sets out Labour’s spending plans and how it will raise the revenue to meet the cost of those plans. Why on earth you’d ignore such a document and expect to find that information in the Labour leader’s conference speech instead is beyond me.

    The leader’s speech at any party’s annual conference is always a ‘flag-waver’ and never a four-hour presentation of that party’s fiscal plan for the country.

    1. John S Warren says:

      Here is what the NPF itself writes about the Policy document: ” Once approved by Conference, the report informs the party programme, from which the election manifesto is drawn”. The NPF report “informing” the party programme does not make it party policy, still less a guarantee most of it will appear in the manifesto. Starmer, Reeves and the Shadow cabinet have brushed off all policy commitments for months, deliberately. The NPF provides an advisory document for members, but is not committed policy.

      Starmer’s speech is quite different in its real political significance. It is a speech made not just to members, but to the public; receiving significant national public attention outside the bubble. It is a statement of Starmer’s intent. It provides more shape to Labour priorities and purpose than advisory policy wonk documents that may be discarded. The public do not read policy documents; still less documents that may never see the light of day. The electorate, however is deeply tired of spin and guff; of political overselling and flag-waving. Either he means what he says, or he doesn’t. The public are less forgiving of politician spin, for good reason. Why not ask Starmer to underwrite your opinion of his speech and its purpose? Dismissing the speech as mere ‘flag-waving’, if true, is exactly what the electorate does not wish to hear, and suggests you possess little understanding of the public mood.

      Of course, this is a salutary reminder to me that your opinion is well worth ignoring; so I will take my advice now, and ignore you.

      1. 211012 says:

        ”Once approved by Conference, the report informs the party programme, from which the election manifesto is drawn.”

        Yes, that’s what I said, John. I was just wondering why you didn’t refer to the report when you said that ‘All of Starmer’s list is created, remember with no money.’ Starmer’s list was informed by the Labour Party’s new national policy forum document, which was circulated to the Party leadership on the Friday prior to the start of the conference, and which indicates exactly how the cost of the forum’s policy proposals could be met.

        The report did the light of day; it was duly put to conference on Wednesday (and approved). It will now go forwards to ‘inform the party programme, from which the election manifesto is drawn’ as you read for yourself.

        And, no; the public generally don’t read policy documents. Most electors don’t even read election manifestos before they decide how they’re going to vote, more’s the pity. Such is the deplorable state of political literacy in our country that the electorate vote for candidates on much the same basis that we support a football team; that is, on the basis of sentiment and tribal loyalty rather than rational evaluation.

        But that’s irrelevant to the puzzle of why your article asserts that the Labour Party’s policy proposals, which its leader headlined in his speech to conference, aren’t backed by any proposal for how they’d be paid for when they are so backed in the Party’s national policy forum document.

        1. John S Warren says:

          Your response is so laughably false, inaccurate, misleading and ill-informed, that against my better judgement I can’t resist answering.

          1. “Yes, that’s what I said”. False. No, you didn’t. You missed the crucial word “inform”; a word clearly chosen by the NPF because its meaning is far more ambiguous about the document’s authority in influencing policy than your misleading misrepresentation of the wording, which omitted it. You then use the word “inform” three times in your second comment to cover your gross error.

          2. In your second comment you claim that Starmer “headlined” the Labour Party’s policy proposals. That wasn’t what you said in your first comment. There you claimed it was merely ” a ‘flag-waver’” and not “a presentation of the Party’s fiscal plan”. In fact Starmer did neither. He created an aspiration in his speech, but avoided talking about costs, because he is hamstrung by the economic policy nostrums to which he obliges the Shadow Cabinet to subscribe.

          3. You suggest in your second comment that Starmer was headlining what you claimed in your first comment was an NPF costed plan. As I made clear Starmer and Reeves have both studiously avoided committing to any costed plans whatsoever. Indeed Starmer not once in a one hour speech discusses the costs or acknowledges any source. The public thus remained in complete ignorance of both, and have no way of checking anything he says, or the costs (and ironically, you have the cheek to blame them for the “deplorable state of political literacy”). The commitments you assume he is making, you simply made up.

          4. You clearly do not understand the economic policy context. Reeves is a Bank of England economist; she is committed to conventional BoE policy and has made that policy association clear: thus, high interest rates (side-effect of being latently recessionary); Quantitative Tightening (a difficult, and alarmingly novel process that potentially oversupplies the market with Gilts, lowers prices and thus implies compounding higher interest rates); paying interest on index-linked bonds (a radical, expensive and controversial innovation that is estimated to cost an additional £45Bn, with serious consequences for public expenditure); reducing the deficit (an austerity compounding, public expenditure reducing policy); reducing the national debt, a policy which requires not just deficit reduction, but the creation of surpluses – devastating for public expenditure. I could go on but the implications are stark for the achievement of Starmer’s aspirational list, given his iron commitment to his and Reeves monetary policy assumptions. The Labour mantra is ‘there is no money’, and with the constraints of monetary policy, there is no room for manoeuvre. Hence Starmer and Reeves have been scrupulous in saying nothing about how they are going to do anything. The only tentative commitment they make is that since they do not have the money, it will be generated by economic growth. Everyone, from press to public knows this, except you. And the problem with their approach is they do not explain precisely HOW they will generate growth, without the substantial public investment or fiscal flexibility to do it. There are no radically new prescriptions offered, and Britain’s growth failure is now endemic.

          5. So where does the NPF policy document come in? It will not determine a theoretical Starmer-Reeves Labour Government economic policy. They will puff it, no doubt to keep the troops happy, but it will not be a high priority. They will do only what they think will win the election. So what was the NPF policy document all about? Flag-waving to the membership. You have it all hopelessly the wrong way round. You are naive.

          I have responded to you because being referred to on first name terms by a mere number I consider to be a gross discourtesy. You are a troll, and not even a good one. I leave it for the reader to judge. My opinion is confirmed. You are best ignored.

          1. 211012 says:

            Okay; let’s do this John.

            1. I said of the Labour Party’s new national policy forum document that, if accepted by conference, [it] will form the basis of [i.e. inform] its 2014 manifesto?

            2. I stand by my reading of Keir Starmer’s leader’s speech at conference as the tradition ‘flag-waver’ in which he headlined key policy objectives without going into the detail of how those policy objectives would be reached.That’s par for the course for leaders’ speeches at party conferences; we saw the same at the Conservative Party conference the week before; we’ll see the same at the SNP conference.

            3. I didn’t say that the Labour Party’s new national policy forum document was a costed plan; I said that the document ‘sets out Labour’s spending plans and how it will raise the revenue to meet the cost of those plans’, which it did, and which you in your article decided to ignore. Setting out what the Party should do in government and how it should raise the revenue to do it doesn’t constitute a costed plan.

            4. We can argue about whether or not the current Labour Party leadership’s conventional (‘Bank of England’) economic philosophy will prevent it from making the political decisions that will redistribute the country’s current wealth from private profit to public need and from growing the economy in order to increase the wealth it can so distribute if you like, but that’s a different matter from why you chose to ignore the Labour Party’s national policy forum in favour of its leader’s conference speech in your quest to have us believe that Labour can’t say where the money for its proposed reforms will come from. (Although, it would be much of an argument; I suspect that we both think that it would and that a more radical economic philosophy is required to achieve both those outcomes.)

            5. Your description of how policy is decided in the Labour Party (from the top down) does not correspond to how it’s actually decided. Policy is decided through the Party’s national policy forum, which is made up of around 200 representatives from all the major groups within the Labour Party, from constituency parties and regions to affiliated trade unions and socialist societies. The role of the forum is to shape the Party’s policy agenda by drawing up policy documents for agreement by the Party conference. Any Labour Party member, supporter, or affiliated group can make submission to the forum at any time. This policy making process runs constantly from General Election to General Election, with updated documents produced for every Annual Conference. Your contention that policy is handed down to the membership by the Party leadership, rather than up to the Party leadership by the membership through the national policy forum and conference, is ‘fake news’, and your claim that you forum document may be disregarded because it’s irrelevant doesn’t wash.

          2. John S Warren says:

            No lets do not do the is clown-fest. You were caught out. You just change the point of excuse to start another argument. Trolling. I am laying out your method to readers because you are a corrosive presence on Bella.

            You don’t understand politics. Labour Party “policy” is for membership policy wonks, and basic encouragement because they can scarcely find anyone to do the leg-work. it has no purchase in forming Government policy. A Starmer Labour Government is not rubber-stamping the policy document as future Labour government; that is abundantly clear. It isn’t Labour policy, it an aspiration. You are living in cloud-cuckoo land.

            On economic policy you avoid the issue, presumably because you simply do not understand the monetary economic policy, or its critical importance. I actually had an edit problem transferring my last comment. some of the text dropped out, and wasn’t posted. You didn’t even notice there was something missing, and the section as presented was a non-sequitur. You are hopeless.

            What I wrote is this, part of it dropped out when I posted. It should have read: “paying interest on index-linked bonds (which adds huge burden of additional cost to Government when inflation seriously upticks, which has penal effects on public spend); paying interest on CBRAs (a radical, expensive and controversial innovation that is estimated to cost an additional £45Bn, with serious consequences for public expenditure);”.

            The BoE and Debt issues are not “another matter” they are the central matter driving Labour policy decision making because of their monetary assumptions. the rest is window dressing.

            You are a complete and utter waste of time; a peddler of dim, second hand ideas. I sincerely hope Bella readers no longer waste their time debating with you.

          3. 211013 says:

            ‘Labour Party “policy” is for membership policy wonks, and basic encouragement because they can scarcely find anyone to do the leg-work. it has no purchase in forming Government policy.’

            So, basically, despite the evidence to the contrary in the party’s actual procedures and practices, you’re denying that Labour Party policy is made democratically, through discussion and consultation with members, the public, businesses, experts, and civil society groups, but is simply handed down by its leadership. Fine.

            I haven’t avoided the issue of the Labour Party’s economic policy (which is not the issue I raised here, which was why you ignored the Party’s new national policy forum document when you were looking for information on how the Labour Party proposed to fund its headline policy proposals); I actually agree with you that its relatively conservative economic policy is inadequate to the task it’s set itself in redistributing the country’s current wealth according to need and in growing the wealth it can so distribute, which is why I’m not and never have been a member or supporter of the Labour Party. We could go into why I think its inadequate if you like, but it’s not really pertinent here.

            Finally, the monetarist assumptions that inform Labour’s economic policy don’t drive the party’s policy decision-making; the Party’s membership, supporters, and affiliated groups do through the Party’s national policy forum and conference.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    “Hundreds of companies based in British Overseas Territories contribute to £250bn worth of economic crime” back in 2018:
    A promising solution would seem to be to renationalise British neoimperial crime and direct the proceeds to the treasury. Get British undercover agents into princely procurement roles in those repressive regimes we sell so many arms to, and recoup the bribes we pay to them. Change the UK currency from the pound to the turd, and we’re already swimming in them. ‘Accidentally’ detonate one if those nukes our USAmerican overlords keep chucking about on their military bases on British soil, and claim the insurance. Sell the royal stamp collection. C’mon people, brainstorm this thing.

    1. 211012 says:

      An even more promising solution might be the denationalisation of government of the sort that was inspired by the social ecologist, Murray Bookchin, and has been enacted by the peoples of in the areas of Afrin, Jazira, Euphrates, Raqqa, Tabqa, Manbij, and Deir Ez-Zor, in north and eastern Syria, following the complete breakdown of law and order (or ‘polycrisis’) there. This denationalisation is based on the principles of confederation, autonomy, direct democracy, political ecology, feminism, multiculturalism, self-defence, self-governance, and elements of a cooperative economy. It’s, rooted in recent Middle Eastern history, but it’s most influential theoretician, Abdullah Öcalan, of the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), has presented it as a solution to the fundamental problems of societies that, like ours, are deeply rooted in class division and as a route to the decolonisation and democratisation of those societies.

      Although the liberation struggle of the PKK was originally guided by the prospect of creating a Kurdish nation state, following his arrest and imprisonment on terrorist charges, Öcalan became disillusioned with the nation-state model of independence. He has subsequently reformulated the political objectives of the Kurdish liberation movement by abandoning its old statist and centralising project in favour of a more radical form of libertarian socialism that no longer aims at building an independent state, separate from Turkey and Syria, but aims rather at establishing an autonomous, democratic, and decentralised entity based on the ideas of democratic confederalism. It’s a Middle Eastern equivalent of the Western ‘third way’.

      Democratic confederalism rejects both the authoritarianism and bureaucracism of state socialism and the predation of capitalism and defends insread (in Öcalan’s words) a type of ‘organisation or administration [which] can be called non-state political administration or stateless democracy, which would provide the framework for the autonomous organisation of every community, confessional group, gender specific collective and/or minority ethnic group, among others. It is a model of libertarian socialism and participatory democracy, built on the self-government of local communities and the organisation of open councils, town councils, local parliaments, and larger congresses, where citizens are the agents of self-government, allowing individuals and communities to exercise a real influence over their common environment and activities.’ If you’re at all interested, Öcalan’s definitive statement of democratic confederalism is to be found here, at https://www.freeocalan.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Ocalan-Democratic-Confederalism.pdf

      The general lines of Öcalan’s iteration of democratic confederalism were presented in 2005, through a declaration to the Kurdish people and the international community https://web.archive.org/web/20160929163726/http://www.freemedialibrary.com/index.php/Declaration_of_Democratic_Confederalism_in_Kurdistan. Shortly after it was released, the declaration was adopted by the PKK, which then organised clandestine assemblies in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, which in turn resulted in the creation of the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Kurdistan Communities Union). The first chance to implement the declaration came during the polycrisis of the Syrian Civil War, when the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (Democratic Union Party) declared the autonomy of three cantons in Syrian Kurdistan, which eventually grew into the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

      I think the left in Britain would do well by emulating the same sort of unionising activity and community development work in advance of the polycrisis that will disrupt the establishment (the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised) here as well.

  6. Niemand says:

    I thought it was one of the better, if not best speeches he has given, and I am far from a fan.

    I get the wishful thinking line but what strikes me about this article is that is it running scared: Starmer sounded like a leader in waiting with some good ideas to try and right the wrongs of 13 Tory years. Yes that is speaking more to England and Wales really given the SNP’s reign through most of those years, but what is the alternative? More of the SNP? Yeah, right.

    1. John says:

      Niemand – I too, like majorly in Scotland, dislike the Tory policies and impact it has upon society especially the less well off sections of society.
      Under the current devolution settlement you are correct that only a Westminster government can overturn the last 13 years of Tory policies all Holyrood can really do is mitigate against them.
      Labour’s policies seemed pretty timid to me (eg – no more wealth taxes and no overturning the 2 child benefit cap policy not to mention the obvious steer to future change/privatisation of NHS, embracing Brexit.) I understand Labour in UK have to do this to enable them to be elected in England and therein explains the current problems of politics within the 4 nations of UK which Brexit has excacerbated.
      Labour in power at Westminster will not be as bad as Tories (low bar) but I see little prospect of real improvement- maybe just not such a rapid decline. I personally think that the more SNP MP’s at Westminster representing their constituents and Scotland the better as in my past experience Labour MP’s in Scotland’s primarily loyalty is to Labour Party in UK, before Scotland especially when Labour is in power at Westminster.
      Yes the SNP have not performed as effectively as many would like in current parliament and appear to becoming fractious probably due to long years of incumbency and NS standing down.
      If you think things would improve under Scottish’ Labour at Holyrood then I am afraid I must differ and think you are in for a bid disappointment.

      1. Niemand says:

        I don’t disagree with most of that but less sure about how useful having SNP MPs is any more.

        There are two strands to this – furthering independence and governing Scotland for the better. On the former whilst having a nationalist party to the fore is obviously better in theory, but in practice, the SNP? It feels like a dead duck and they feel like a party that has nothing left to offer. On the latter, these days they are just as loyal to the party over country as Labour would be, evidenced by the fact they keep doing things that do not have majority support (in Scotland) and protecting their own at all costs unless they speak out against party policy in which case they are toast.

        Put simply the SNP need some time in opposition to try and understand what the point of them is and to actually become a democratic party again. Voting for them now would be like voting for a party run like a dictatorship.

        1. Niemand says:

          Of course I should have said the SNP will remain in opposition in a UK GE come what may unless in the unlikely chance of any kind of pact with Labour. I was thinking more generally for the future.

        2. John says:

          I don’t disagree with your disappointment with SNP and have previously said that, though it is not my preferred option, a period of opposition at Holyrood might actually help SNP time to regroup and plan and a Unionist party led Holyrood may actually help independence support reach the level required to overcome Westminster opposition.
          The SNP have become tired after being in power too long and have made mistakes but they are still, in my opinion, a better option than the Westminster alternatives at Holyrood – not a high bar I admit.
          The party is becoming disillusioned, disheartened and fractious a process that has accelerated since Nicola Sturgeon stepped down and I fear the trajectory downward seems difficult to turn around in immediate future.
          The SNP have failed to appreciate limitations of Holyrood with a hostile Westminster parliament and as you rightly say the need for a devolved administration to concentrate on the electorates core needs and avoid conflict with Westminster on issues which don’t have majority support.( compare support for transgender rights against drug consumption rooms and Westminster response!)
          The route to independence still requires a political wing to lead and at the moment the SNP are the only show in town.
          What this political wing needs to do is:
          Unite the various strands of independence movement without dictating.
          To help set out a clear prospectus showing the vision, structure and advantages of an independent Scotland and a viable route to obtain it which will gain international recognition
          Maximise representation at Westminster and use this representation to stand up for the electorate in Scotland and constantly highlight where Westminster works against Scotlands interests- it will always be essentially an oppositional role.
          Maximise representation at Holyrood to form the government and govern in a competent manner which illustrates to the electorate in Scotland the advantages of self governance and therefore generates confidence and support for independence.
          The good news is support for independence (in theory) is about 50% despite SNP fall in popularity and demographics indicate an increased popularity in younger generations.
          What is required is SNP to appreciate their current strategy is failing and either change this to a more effective strategy or reform entirely to form a party that will bring independence within the foreseeable future.

  7. John S Warren says:

    Well, there you have it readers, if you debate with the number-shifting intellectual narcissist hiding his identity in endless permutations, who thinks his second-hand, ill digested ideas are somehow worth airing, and skulks around the threads like Bella’s own unavoidable bore, you are merely feeding an overblown, underpowered ego. If in doubt, I invite you to read the text of the debate above, carefully.

    I leave it with you to choose as you will. My work is done.

    1. 211013 says:

      Is that your answer, then, John, to the question of why you ignored the Labour Party’s new national policy forum document when you were looking for information on how the Labour Party proposes to fund its headline policy proposals? That the question-putter is an anonymous narcissist, an overblown, underpowered ego, who thinks his second-hand, ill digested ideas are somehow worth airing, and skulks around the threads like Bella’s own unavoidable bore?

      That might give me my character, but it doesn’t answer the question.

      1. John S Warren says:

        You really do struggle to do anything but troll. You still don’t understand what I am doing here, from my first comment. Your question was too trivial to require an answer. I dismissed the NPF forum as of minor interest because it is clearly not going to form a new Labour government’s policy. The idea that you asking the question, requires me to answer it, or care what you think or want, or explain anything to you is both unnecessary, and of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever.

        I answered you comment because I have written for Bella long enough, and read it often enough; to notice how your corrosive effect frequently descends on a thread like a black cloud, offering a lofty, condescending tone, supported by faux encyclopaedic knowledge of no substantive interest on almost any subject; which unfortunately silences some commenters, with more original, grounded contributions than you are capable of delivering.

        I replied solely to demonstrate your weak, flawed, careless method; and how you cover your many blunders, by pretending they didn’t happen; never explaining, and endless repetition of the original question. It is a crude technique, and I knew exactly how you would respond. It is like reeling in a fish..

        In short, you are a mere windbag. Oh look! I haven’t answered your question – again!

        1. 211013 says:

          No; you have answered the question, John. You ‘dismissed the NPF forum [document] as of minor interest because it is clearly not going to form a new Labour government’s policy’.

          But that document (which conference accepted) will inform/form the basis of the Labour Party’s 2024 election manifesto, John; that’s just how policy-making works in the Labour Party. And if you hadn’t dismissed that source, you’d have found the information on how the Labour Party proposes to fund its headline policy proposals that, on the basis of the leader’s traditional ‘flag-waving’ speech to conference, you’d have us believe the Party lacks.

          1. John S Warren says:

            You see, as I said, you ignore the answer to change the subject. It just goes on and on. Trolling.

            But the bit you ignored was that my answer explained why – the Party policy will not form the government policy. There is no point obsessing about Party policy. It isn’t government, and if you knew much about it; that fact isn’t new either in the Labour Party. You are just not the insightful commentator you think you are. There is something precious about your intellectual innocence. Government policy will be determined by the monetary policies, not the Party; and by whatever the Starmer leadership thinks will win the election. As I said; the rest – including all your guff – is just window dressing. You are both obtuse and a troll; and frankly, a bit slow on the uptake.

            That is it – we can go on all day. We just come back to the same answer. The NPF policy is irrelevant to actual Government policy, and you are a troll. now, repeat and rinse. I trust readers can see what happens when they are foolish enough to respond to the number-shifting narcissist’s thread comments. Boredom will sooner or later take over for me and I shall depart, but this is pure, hilarious clown-fest.

          2. 211013 says:

            But why won’t Party policy form government policy? It always has done in the past. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that every government’s policy has been formed by the ruling party’s policy, whether that party’s been Labour or Conservative. Granted, external circumstances (wars, pandemics, global financial crises, etc., etc.) sometimes oblige ruling parties to pause or tweak or, in extreme cases, even to abandon the implementation of their policies; but government policy is still essentially the ruling party’s policy, and I see no reason why this would be any different if Labour were to be voted into power at the next election.

        2. Brian Howard says:

          I whole heartedly agree John.

          Every article there’s lengthy waffling responses that seem to swing wildly from one argument to another, switching sides and changing the angle of attack.

          I’ve heard of playing devil’s advocate, but never of playing devil’s advocate against your own viewpoint from 2 comments prior.

          1. 211015 says:

            It’s called ‘sophistry’, Brian; elaborating a thesis only to counter it with a contradictory antithesis, then trying to overcome that contradiction by elaborating some synthesis of the two in which the contradiction is abolished. It’s how I cultivate my understanding or ‘learn’. My mind is changing all the time. As the Drunk Man said of his own Scots genius:

            I doot I’m geylies mixed, like Life itsel’,
            But I was never ane that thocht to pit
            An ocean in a mutchkin. As the haill’s
            Mair than the pairt sae I than reason yet.

            I dinna haud the warld’s end in my heid
            As maist folk think they dae; nor filter truth
            In fishy gills through which its tides may poor
            For ony animalculae forsooth.

            I lauch to see my crazy little brain
            — And ither folks’ — tak’n itsel’ seriously,
            And in a sudden lowe o’ fun my saul
            Blinks dozent as the owl I ken’t to be.

            I’ll ha’e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur
            Extremes meet — it’s the only way I ken
            To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt
            That damns the vast majority o’ men.

            I’ll bury nae heid like an ostrich’s,
            Nor yet believe my een and naething else.
            My senses may advise me, but I’ll be
            Mysel’ nae maitter what they tell’s . . . .

            I ha’e nae doot some foreign philosopher
            Has wrocht a system oot to justify
            A’ this: but I’m a Scot wha blin’ly follows
            Auld Scottish instincts, and I winna try.

            For I’ve nae faith in ocht I can explain,
            And stert whaur the philosophers leave aff,
            Content to glimpse its loops I dinna ettle
            To land the sea serpent’s sel’ wi’ ony gaff,

            Like staundin’ water in a pocket o’
            Impervious clay I pray I’ll never be,
            Cut aff and self-sufficient, but let reenge
            Heichts o’ the lift and benmaist deeps o’ sea.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Brian Howard, it is a cacophony, a wall of bad noise. The deliberately disintegrated personality that yet claims (false) integrity. The person who claims they were self-taught one minute, then philosophically trained the next. That they heroically transcend the parochial limitations of the rest of us, but then say their assertive opinions are the result of none of us able to escape our conditioning. The kind of someone whose privileged lifestyle means they prefer endless useless talking shops as a barrier to real political change. The easier superficial regurgitation of opinion without the philosophical hard work of integrating a coherent worldview. Someone who regularly abuses definitions yet attacks others for using definitions correctly. A morally preaching ‘moral relativist’. A lurker path-blocking in the Cave of Shadows. An unreflective dogmatic patriarch unconvincingly posing as an egalitarian. Is my guess. About Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist.

          3. 211015 says:

            I read Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist differently, SD. They don’t claim any integrity; in fact, they are continually disintegrating and reforming themselves, which they consider to be a process of spiritual growth or ‘learning’, which they consider to be the real hard work of an examined life (or ‘philosophy’). They have served a lengthy philosophical apprenticeship, which has enabled them to become an autonomous learner (someone who can continually disintegrate and reform their understanding in response to their ongoing life-experience). They don’t pretend they can transcend the parochial limitations of their own life-experience but insist like Kierkegaard that they speak ‘without [that transcendent] authority’ and denies that authority in others. They regularly abuse or deconstruct established definitions in order to ‘unseize’ or free up their concepts from the meanings in which they’ve become ossified. They do reject the Platonic myth of the cave, but only because they reject Plato’s authoritarian, ‘white supremacist’ doctrine that there’s a hidden reality that transcends appearances and is accessible only to a special elect of the ‘morally pure’, to whom the rest of us ought to defer.

    2. John says:

      John – thank you for the article. Mike does appear to have a policy of not blocking any comments which I think in principle most people would agree with.
      The problem is that a couple of commentators flood the comments section with their thoughts which frankly irritates and discourages other commentators.
      I am sure all regular readers are familiar with ‘date man’ who likes to share his philosophy based on cynicism backed up some pseudo intellectual debate on virtually every comment of every thread. I think he is basically a rather lonely, narcissistic and tedious person.
      The other more recent frequent commentator is Stevie H who seems to put forward an alt right philosophy infused with hatred of those he doesn’t approve with or agree with. I am not sure whether this tactical trolling to ensure his favourite subject matter dominates discussion or if he is just a bit of a crank.
      Mike May have to consider blocking either or both as they do skew discussions and discourage other commentary. If Mike does not feel he wants to do this I would encourage other contributors to merely ignore these two trolls.

      1. John S Warren says:

        Thanks, John I appreciate the response. I am not familiar with your second troll, and perhaps am not sufficiently up to speed on recent threads in Bella.

        I do not need to rehearse again my criticism of the troller I have challenged. I just can’t stand trolls, especially those who overwhelm threads; or condescending intellectual snobs who try to intimidate commenters, by persistently and often gratuitously quoting esoteric sources few general readers will have heard of, or disdaining the non academic; often to make points that are no germane, but are supposed to impress. I have done enough work in academia to know that the first rate scholars with whom I have had the good fortune to mix would never dream of behaving in that way; or hide behind an ever-changing pseudonym as a below-the-line scavenger so they did not have to take any personal responsibility for their activities.

        In addition, to be addressed on faux-friendly terms on first name terms by someone who only offers in exchange an ever-changing number as his/her/its name, is the height of disrespect and discourtesy. I simply wished to put a marker down, for those who may feel they have been inhibited from freely making their contributions.

      2. 211013 says:

        Look, I get it (from the abusive comments) that neither of you guys like me very much and that both of you would like to see me blocked or ‘cancelled’ for the irritation I cause you. But that’s fine; I’m not here to win friends or influence people. I’m here to reveal, critique, and challenge the weaknesses in your arguments. It’s what I do. SteveH is partly my fault; I’ve been provoking him too by revealing, critiquing, and challenging his white supremacism.

        But nobody’s making you read and/or respond my comments. Just scroll past them and don’t rise to my bait.

        1. John says:

          You are full of self conceit and really lack any self awareness.
          I will now take your advice (and encourage everyone else to do so) of ignoring and scrolling past your comments.
          Please take my advice , just take a break from posting, find something else interesting to do and give everyone a break.

          1. Wul says:

            I’ve been doing this for years (ignoring, scrolling past comments from Anndrais, or “Pub Bore”, or whatever it’s name is) but doing so breaks up the coherence and usefulness of the comments section. I now often ignore the comments section of Bella altogether, because of this troll’s vandalism and damage to discussion. Bella is sadly a less interesting and stimulating place thanks to this clown.

          2. It is an issue. It is, as I have said, like sitting a table with one person interrupting every conversation and delivering a lengthy monologue explaining what the person has just said to everyone at the table. After a while it just becomes deeply tedious.

          3. 211015 says:

            Think of the ‘comments section’ as a list of opinions, Wul, and filter out those you don’t want to hear, just as we all do in real life. Be selective rather than catholic in your content consumption. To Mike’s credit as an editor, he lets you, the reader, do the filtering yourself rather than filter it for you. Be your own censor.

        2. John S Warren says:

          No, you don’t “reveal, critique, and challenge the weaknesses in your arguments”; that is way above your achievements here. Repetition of your question whether answered or not, endlessly; self-promotion and condescension toward commenters is your standard technique; laced with an excessive and unwarranted vanity. At least own it.

          You just repeat unsubstantiated arguments (like party policy dictating Government policy – far, far less than you think); ignoring your gross errors (inform and form are not the same – but you must know that); ignoring issues you clearly do not understand when challenged, like monetary economics (you list crises that overtake party policy, which is the norm not exception; but you ignore long term impacts, and the reluctance of government to be candid about the side-tracking of party policy; or monetary ideology, or non-global financial crises that completely change policies – in short, you obviously do not know anything about how government works, or how government and money works).

          You have a ludicrously inflated opinion of your knowledge and insight, and a closed mind. But you insist in trying to shape the direction of every thread you enter, to meet your expectations; and are withering of others who make a contribution. Much of the sad state in which you leave threads – is “largely your fault”. And you do not even have the courage to openly to stand behind your absurd overestimation of yourself – with your own name. It is all rather low-grade trolling, only on a large scale on one Blog. I am struck by just how many threads are now filled by commenters using pseudonyms here; perhaps a testimony to the effect of your faults on tentative contributors. You learn nothing and forget nothing, save your own self-importance. You are doing it now. Overselling yourself again; you can’t resist it.

          If you really think you have an opinion worth listening to, or some worthwhile knowledge to impart, go above the line write a blog, and submit it – under your own name. Your preference to be here, doing this endlessly pointless circus of self-promotion confirms you are just a troll. Instead of expecting everyone to dance to your tune; try writing one.

          1. 211013 says:

            Who said anything about party policy ‘dictating’ government policy? I said that the Labour Party’s new national policy forum document (which was approved by conference) will form the basis of the Labour Party’s 2024 election manifesto, and that the Party’s 2024 manifesto will (barring accidents and providing the opposition hold the government properly to account) form the basis of government policy should Labour win the next election. I don’t see anything controversial in saying that.

            I also don’t see anything controversial in my claim that the new national policy forum document would have supplied you with the ‘missing’ information on how the Labour Party proposes to fund the headline policy proposals that Keir ourlined in his leader’s speech to conference.

            And I have a blog, John. Well, one of my heteronyms does. (‘Heteronym’ refers to one or more imaginary character(s) created by a writer to write in different styles. Heteronyms differ from pseudonyms in that the latter are just false names, like ‘Sleeping Dog’ and ‘Niemand’, while the former are characters that have their own supposed physiques, biographies, and writing styles. Heteronyms were named and developed by the Portuguese writer and poet, Fernando Pessoa, in the early 20th century, but they were thoroughly explored by the Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard in the 19th century, and have also been used by other writers.)

          2. John S Warren says:

            Now I’m being patronised on heteronyms by a fool. You hide your identity; the last thing you wish is to be identified. Try writing something that requires the permission of someone other than yourself.

            The problem is you are slow on the uptake. Your view on the NPF isn’t an issue because it is controversial (who cares?); it just doesn’t play the role in forming the Labour Government policy you think it does. Your touching faith that the NPF are providing the framework for Treasury financial planning is simply wrong. You clearly do not understand the monetary policy issues within Labour, including the ideological assumptions that pre-determine the ranking of all policy options. As for the Manifesto, it contains at best aspirations; in the event, given the hints Starmer and Reeves have dropped, more likely it will be empty flag-waving sustained by spin for years to come. Frankly, you are deluded. What would make a difference to finances and therefore aspiration (merely as an example) would be to stop the reckless BoE innovation of paying interest on CBRAs; this has the effect of subsidising the profitability of commercial bank profits on an industrial scale, with public money, and severely impacts the funding capacity of government everywhere else. I can rack up a long list like this, that are haemorrhaging colossal sums of public money, for no return. These are all monetary policies both unchallenged by and unchallengeable for the Labour leadership.

            A note for readers; the last comment made by (insert the day’s number here) provides a long peroration which is a diversion into heteronyms, and takes us, quite irrelevantly to the matter in hand; to Kierkegaard, and adopts a schoolmasterly explanation of who he is. It is an extraordinarily revealing exercise in the writer’s failure of social awareness, of others (of what they may have acquired – among the irrelevant accretions in my life is a degree in philosophy – but to what purpose or relevance is that, here and now?); or of him/her/itself.

            It is a perfect conclusion to this tedious interlude in my life.

            You are a troll.

          3. Niemand says:

            Yeah, but I’d still rather have Labour in power than the Tories by a country mile. They *will* do better things. Aspiration matters which is what the speech was about. Where there is a will there is a way.

          4. 211014 says:

            But why do you think that the Labour Party’s national policy forum doesn’t inform/form the basis of Labour Party policy as its clearly intended to in the Party’s constitution? And why do you think that Labour Party policy so formed wouldn’t inform/form the basis of a future Labour government’s policy given the way government works in Britain? You keep saying that my interpretation of the Labour party’s constitution and our so-called ‘Westminster system’ of parliamentary democracy is mistaken, but you don’t say why its mistaken (other than that I’m a numpty, which isn’t an argument).

            And who said anything about the Labour Party’s national policy forum ‘providing the framework for Treasury financial planning’? I certainly didn’t. All I’ve said it that the report it submitted to conference for approval would have supplied you with the ‘missing’ information on how the Labour Party proposes to fund the headline policy proposals that Keir outined in his leader’s speech to conference.

          5. 211014 says:

            I’m not that fussed about who’s in power, Niemand. At the end of the day, whoever wins the election, the government always gets in.

            But I can see how Scottish nationalists might be nervous at the prospect of a Labour government; it’s easier to cultivate a populist grudge and grievance politics against a Conservative government. (But, of course, the developing narrative is that Labour is virtually indistinguishable from the Tories now.)

          6. Niemand says:

            Labour is a unionist party. This is all anyone needs to know when looking at analysis of them from a nationalist perspective. Whilst such analysis can produce its insights, the lens looked through is seriously distorted.

          7. 211014 says:

            Indeed; but perhaps Labour’s to be feared as a ‘less toxic’ unionist party.

            It’s interesting that some nationalists have adopted the Conservative trope that Labour’s policies are ‘uncosted’. Perhaps Lisa Cameron’s defection isn’t all that bizarre after all, by comparison.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    As a past student of political science, I should point out that British manifesto promises themselves are legally unenforceable, and often broken even if the party of government has power to keep them, but there is a specific wrinkle for UK politics in that the First Past the Post system makes coalition governments less likely. But they have happened, and when that does, manifesto promises are subject to negotiation commonly known as ‘horse-trading’. Party leaders might say they have ‘red lines’ (or non-negotiable manifesto promises) but their ability to keep to them are often compromised, one way or another.

    One of the most (in)famous in recent times was Nick Clegg’s, but there have been many others:

    The official, and succinct, UK Parliament definition is:
    “A manifesto is a publication issued by a political party before a General Election. It contains the set of policies that the party stands for and would wish to implement if elected to govern.”

    Parties in government also often introduce new policies that were not in manifestos (this is done yearly in the Queen’s/King’s Speech, but there are other ways in which policies can be introduced, by Private Member’s Bills and more clandestine stuff the public is not supposed to know about, through extra-parliamentary bodies such as the Privy Council, and by ministers bypassing Parliament using the Royal Prerogative in various ways).

    Unlike local government (in theory), the Westminster Parliament is not bound by mandamus (following a mandate) and ultra vires (not exceeding its mandate). This is, I believe, the essence of Parliamentary Sovereignty, even if that is slightly bogus given the reality that Parliament is such a flawed instrument, and regularly bypassed by the Executive.

    1. 211014 says:

      It is indeed the essence of the so-called ‘Westminster system’ of parliamentary sovereignty, which seeks (as of the revolutionary settlement of 1689) to make the legislative power of our government independent of both its executive and its judicial power and of the popular power of ‘the mob’. What it fails to do, however, is make that legislative power independent of any party that can win a majority of seats in the parliamentary assembly. This flaw is what enables parties to enact their policies as government policy (though, of course, there’s no legal obligation of ‘mandate’ that would compel them to do so).

      The executive power is likewise under no legal obligation to execute the will of parliament; but, since the executive power is effectively under the control of the leader of the majority of parliament, it’s practically impossible for the executive to refuse to do so.

      So, while the Labour leadership is bound by the rules of the Party’s constitution to accept and do everything it can to pursue the policy decisions of the Party’s conference as government policy should the Party capture power at the next election, there is indeed no legal obligation of ‘mandamus’ or ‘ultra vires’ for it do do so.

      However, this does not detract from my contention that the Labour Party’s national policy forum’s reports inform/form the basis of Labour policy, as decided by the Party’s conference, and that Party’s policy will inform/ form the basis of government policy should it win the next election, all of which John denies, which is why (he says) he disregarded/discounted the Labour Party’s national policy forum document when he was looking for the ‘missing’ information on how the Labour Party proposes to fund the headline policy proposals that Keir outlined in his leader’s speech to conference.

    2. John says:

      I think it looks pretty likely that we will find out how or if Labour will implement their policies as they seem increasingly likely to win the next General Election – perhaps a better way of putting it would be that the whole of the UK’s priority on this occasion seems to be to get rid of the Tories.
      If I were in a Tory/Labour seat I would vote Labour as I would similarly vote Lib Dem or Green if they were nearest challenger to Tories as it is a FPTP election.
      Fortunately, living in Scotland, I no longer live in a constituency where Tory MP can be elected so I am now free to vote for the party which aligns closest to my personal beliefs and based on what Labour offer in Scotland and Keir Starmer’s rather limited aspirations to be a slight improvement on the Tories I still do not feel any great desire to vote Labour again.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @John, yes, we are usually faced with the choice of the lesser evil, and the vexed question of why we cannot vote for policies instead of politicians or parties.

        It does seem likely that if Keir Starmer becomes British Prime Minister, he will serve USAmerican interests (as the dominant Empire in our special relationship):
        just like the Conservative government. Which is hardly democracy.

    3. John says:

      A thing I found rather contradictory was SKS promoting greater devolution and also promoting a policy of central government implementing new house building strategy and openly saying he would overrule local wishes to implement.
      This new House building seemed to be primarily based in South East of England which would be again contradictory to trying to level up country. I think David Olusaga did correctly highlight in his Union series how inequality within United Kingdom rose when businesses and power was allowed to gravitate towards South East of England. Much postwar policy was based upon mitigating the wealth of South East England but that was abandoned post 1979 with a consequent rise in regional and personal inequality throughout UK.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @John, yes indeed. That is another thing I missed from describing manifestos, that sometimes pledges contradict or conflict in practice, like this centralisation–decentralisation tension.

        I have just been looking over my old notes from my Urban Politics module, from a time when we still had a Western Europe (to which the UK compared poorly on local election turnout). Reforms of UK local government have been politically motivated by both Conservatives and Labour to create power bases for themselves. And since the 1940s, local authorities (LAs) have lost income generators (gas and electricity) and gained costly services (welfare).

        We looked at LA finance (Layfield Report principles: accountability, fairness, clarity, stability, flexibility, comprehensibility; ‘largely ignored’ in 1976) and alternatives to Rates. The approximate end of postwar ‘consensus politics’ in 1974, and Labour move to cut public spending after world recession.

        There are contending theories (who makes policy: officers or members; who has power: pluralists versus elitists; right-wing neoliberalist theories of LA overspending invented as pretext for greater central government control) and competing mandates between (shifting) tiers of government.

        Areas of contention included inner cities, control of college education courses, transport (efficiency or subsidy), direct labour organisations and competitive tendering (forced outsourcing), police (central government —CG— took control of local forces during miners’ strike), housing (council house sale revenue couldn’t be reinvested without CG approval), and the future of poll tax, CG takeover of polytechnics and opt-outs for schools, hospitals and housing tenants. I had to look this up:

        At least with devolution, we have had some chance to compare slightly different approaches within the UK, but I struggle to understand the wider picture of urban politics without a broad international perspective. I have talked to some German people whose views of local government are somewhat different, perhaps generally expect and get more from it, but that’s just anecdotal.

        1. John says:

          An anecdote from my background. My father, who was primarily a Jo Grimmond supporting Liberal but had voted Labour in the past had to deal with councillors in his role working for Fife region. He often remarked to me how the local councillors (Labour) attitude to national policies (pre- devolution) were more often based on which party was proposed the national policies rather than the content of the policies!

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @John, yes, that’s classic in-group versus out-group behaviour.

            I wonder what would happen if local authorities were allowed to run their own green energy operations? As opposed to the proposed national energy concern.

  9. Wul says:

    Performance has been a part of politics for a long time, but it now appears to be ALL of politics. Nothing matters but the spectacle and “vibe” of the performance. It’s simply not good enough in a world facing so many complex challenges. Red soap-powder or Blue soap-powder? The consumer makes their choice based on the last-seen advert.

    If we don’t get some real, sane, adult leadership soon, we are all f***ed. It might be down to us to end this nonsense.

    1. 211015 says:

      The sad fact is that performance has become key to electability. Sir Keir has to turn in a respectable performance in order to suggest to us, the electorate, that his are a safe pair of hands. Hence also the cautious and conservative economic policy that his leadership presents; it doesn’t scare the horses like Corbyn and McDonnell did.

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