In 1984, Tottenham Hotspur won the UEFA Cup. Their manager, Keith Burkinshaw, had won promotion, two FA Cups and now a European trophy while in charge of the club. After this last victory, he was sacked without ever leading the club in another match. Famously, when leaving White Hart Lane for the last time, he remarked “There used to be a football club there, once.”
After reading the news this morning, I feel much the same about the Labour Party.
Last month, two people won a court case against the Department for Work and Pensions where they had been forced into doing unpaid work for businesses. Leaving aside the moral, ethical and indeed business related reasons why the taxpayer should not be subsidising massive companies with free labour, the fact is that the Government lost and the people won. If they wanted to carry on with the scheme, the Government would have to change their rules going forward. Again, this is how the world works, the rule is wrong in law, you change the rule so it is right, and then carry on.
Yesterday, the Government announced emergency legislation that would change the rules retroactively. The rules that were found to be illegal last month will now suddenly, magically become legal at the time. Basically, I’ve burgled your house, been caught, convicted and then the law changed so that not only can I burgle more houses in the future, but I get to walk away with all your stuff.
It is the kind of utterly bullshit ploy that I’m come to expect from this Government, who have taken on the worst habit of the Bush Administration, in that reality is what they say it is. If a law says what they do is illegal, then it is the law which is wrong and not them. (Effectively politicians see themselves as above the law, which is a very dangerous thing indeed.) If there are 400,000 jobs in the UK for 2.1 million unemployed, then the laws of mathematics must be wrong because we are frequently told that everyone who is unemployed can get a job.
(You know, a job at Poundland, Tesco, Matalan, Argos or somewhere, where they will happily pay people to work for them instead of, I dunno, picking up labour for free and having it subsidised by the taxpayer. But what do I know? I didn’t have the finest education money can buy.)
Now this isn’t a go at the Tories. I’d expect this sort of cuntery from them, the sort of inbuilt reflex that means they have to kick a poor person when they walk past them. The crucial bit about this, and I’ll quote directly from the Guardian article:
The Guardian understands that Labour will support the fast-tracked bill with some further safeguards and that negotiations with the coalition are ongoing.
There you have it, folks. If the past few years haven’t demonstrated that democracy is dead in this country, then the sight of the party of the common man, colluding to change the law in an Orwellian fashion in order to deny the jobless of much needed benefits and force them to work for free stacking shelves. And I say Orwellian in the meaning of the Memory Hole. Not only was the Government right, it always was right.
It often goes unremarked that the Tory treatment of the disabled, the poor and the jobless is merely an extension of Labour policies in the early 2000s. It was Labour who introduced ATOS tests, free schools. They forced marketisation of the NHS. They opened the door to workfare and closed it on civil liberties.
Ah yes, civil liberties. In a week when Theresa May made noises about demolishing the Human Rights Act, who should spring to her support? Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett.
I’m a big believer in the law of unintended consequences being applied to people who are mendacious and stupid. Article 1 of the HRA, for instance, is the right to protection of property. Article 14 is the right not be discriminated against. If David Blunkett wants to repeal the HRA, I propose a new law that strips disabled former Home Secretaries of their home and all their possessions. Just so people can shout at him in the street going “DO YOU GET WHY SOME THINGS ARE IMPORTANT, DAVE? DO YOU SEE WHY YOU CAN NEVER RELY ON IT NOT TO HAPPEN HERE?”
You know what, I think that I’ll try to get it retroactively applied as well.
Of course, we can always rely on a little stunt or two. Labour introduced a Mansion Tax bill into Parliament, an exact duplicate of the Liberal Democrats manifesto proposal. This had the amusing sight of the Liberal Democrats rushing to vote down something they themselves support. Now ordinarily, I’m a big supporter of that kind of stunt, but I’m afflicted with the disease of consistency, which means as I am against the Bedroom Tax, I have to be against a Mansion Tax.
You see, it is simple. The Bedroom Tax basically says that if you receive benefits on Friday, and your house is above a certain size, you will be punished by receiving less benefits on Monday. Through no fault of your own, your house has been deemed above an arbitrary limit, regardless of circumstances.
The Mansion Tax says that if your house is worth £2m on Friday you are fine. But if it is worth £2m on Monday, then you will be forced to pay a tax. Through no fault of your own, your house has been deemed above an arbitrary limit, regardless of circumstance.
(I’ve no problem with changing the rules going forward, but not punishing those for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.)
Of course, if Labour had actually thought through their Mansion Tax stunt, they could have used this argument to demonstrate the invalidity of the bedroom tax, but I’m attributing to their leadership a level of intelligence that they, quite frankly, just don’t have.
You see, this is the problem. There is no use even pretending that Labour and the Tories have any real differences. It is all a matter of degree. Labour introduced free markets into the NHS, ATOS testing, privatised many things that shouldn’t have been privatised and turned a blind eye to bank regulation. All the Tories have done is taken that to its logical conclusion. Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith and Jeremy Hunt are smashing up schools, the welfare state and the NHS like gleeful vandals allowed to roam free, but Labour let them in the building to do it. Theresa May is attacking fundamental civil liberties, cheered on by one of the most authoritarian Home Secretaries of all time.
All the time, ordinary people, not just the poor or the jobless, but the working people who vote Labour watch in horror as the people they voted for sit back and let the lunatics take over the asylum.
Of course, we could try and show our protest at the polls, voting every one of these idiots out. But then I’m in a constituency where the Labour majority is 16,000. Of course, we could have had the Alternative Voting system, which would have been a truer reflection of how things stand.
But then David Blunkett campaigned against that, too.