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Week 2 Saturday
Dead Men Walking...
More astonishing revelations of conflict between these two men. Blair is a busted flush because of Iraq (and he knows it). Brown continues to make misjudgments, suggesting he may not be the right successor after all. I now think we are witnessing the end of the whole Blair-Brown duocracy.
I now believe that Labour will choose a new leader from a new generation. There will be no shoe-in for Gordon Brown, the architect of the Means-tested State - the distant cerebral Scot, pro-American, anti-European. He will pass into political history, along with Tony Blair.
This is bound to seem churlish, nay curmudgeonly - as both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair justle to spell out their great New Year plans for debt relief abroad and SureStart at home. Both sets of policies have respectable socialist roots in the abiding principles of equality, and both will read well as part of a May 2005 Manifesto.
But they still
miss the point. Both Leaders are abandoning key
socialist objectives for a preoccupation with secondary issues. With a
"historic" third-term in sight, Labour ought to be frying much bigger
fish. In the case of SureStart, the aim is redistributive justice in
children's preparation for the market-place of life. Children should all
be fit young boxers when they enter the ring of life for the first time,
all metaphorically join the Army at 16 - and that is not an ignoble political aspiration. In the case
of debt relief, the aim is to release more resources for the construction
of successful Third-World societies.
And what of Third World Aid and Debt Relief? It certainly makes more resources available. But the harsh truth is that nobody really knows how to foster equitable and thriving economies in the "third world". We simply do not have the expertise. Indeed, nobody really knows why the "Western economies" function as they do - except perhaps that they have had the historical advantage of imperial domination, which still in part persists. Why are the German and Japanese economies so weak? We don't know, really: if we did, we would know what to do about them. Even the serried ranks of Thatcher-funded management-consultants unleashed upon the Soviet Union could not generate a strong economy...
My point is this. Politics is about far more than the allocation of resources. Even in the Tsunami Disaster case, the reports now suggest that "resource scarcity" is not now the problem: the questions are all about what to do and how to organise it. And Labour is saying nothing about these vital questions of social order, and ordered development.
Which tricks is Labour missing? There are four principles which we should be cultivating, to demonstrate the practical success of socialism - just as the National Health Service demonstrates it.
These all represent great socialist opportunities, addressing questions which the whole world is asking. As socialists, we do have distinctive answers. That is why the "European model", for all its faults, is more closely matched to the requirements of the future that the American free-market model.
These are all challenges which New Labour is passing up, in favour of less difficult, less demanding tasks.That's why I say that New Labour
is missing the socialist tricks.
Many Webmasters ignore hit-counts, but I still find them useful. If my editorial attention lapses, the hit-count falls - that is your judgment, the readers' judgment. That happened at the end of last Summer, when I lost the plot, as a blogger - and you punished me, by staying away. Over Christmas, your attention is always taken elsewhere (last December, the hit count was 1,124) -
Thanks for your continuing interest and support - RWE Ed.
you a potential recruit for
The Asian Tsunami Disaster will have a number of political consequences, all related the mobilisation of global political action. Our political systems, "our little systems", are simply not large enough to encompass the necessary global action, organisationally or philosophically. Nation States trip over international public agencies, who in turn trespass on the turf of the great charities. And it is also clear that there is lacking any coherent framework of principle within which to coordinate the response of humankind to such disasters.
Yet the necessary principles and values can all be found in the UN Declaration of 1948. Historically, that was a moment when the primacy of personal freedom and dignity was better understood than now. The perceptions of the UN Declaration are therefore of particular value - and we can draw upon them for political inspiration.
How does the 1948 UN Universal Declaration compare with the 1951 European Convention of Human Rights? Its scope is much wider, embracing "principles" which the English consider to be political, rather than juridical or legal. One of my favourites is -
"Participatory democracy" is one of the great ideas of mankind which has not yet been effectively tried.Every citizen should in some way become involved in the ordering of human society. We must devise systems in which millions upon millions of our fellow citizens develop a sense of responsibility for their own society by playing a personal part in its governance.
One Year Ago
My daughter Katharine is deeply "embedded" in the ASBO issue, in the course of her work with the Childrens Society. Last year I published a lecture of hers on the subject. It's always exciting when a theme is taken up by another reader, and developed. That is what Rona Epstein of Kenilworth has just done: she has written in to link the lecture with a damning article on ASBOs by a practising defence solicitor, Matt Foot, writing in The Guardian.
My own politics are unashamedly structural. I believe the key malaise of modern public life is the over-centralisation of power - in London, in Whitehall, in Westminster, in Cardiff, in Edinburgh. For power to be constructive, it must be spread around, re-structured and divided in new ways.
We need a radical redistribution of power, throughout civic society. This is essentially a socialist cause: markets will never achieve it, nor will the Tories. It is now as important as the redistribution of wealth - far more citizen participation is needed, in newly designed institutions. Also a drive to rehabilitate the profession of public administrative service, at all levels - akin to the radical reforms undertaken by the Victorians (Northcote-Trevelyan reforms, of the 1870s).
The latest theme is the possibility of engaging millions of citizens in the governance of their own lives, by way of super-parish Councils. Prescott's commentaries are not encouraging, but at least the theme is the right one.
I love New Year...
I am the eternal cock-eyed optimist. I can always persuade myself that each New Year is a sensuous new sheet of cartridge paper, the chance to make a new start, to chance to recreate oneself. It never turns out quite like that, but my optimism revives me - each year.
It's the Chinese who make a big thing of New Year. This year is the Year of the Rooster.
"People born in the Year of the Rooster are deep thinkers, capable, and talented. They like to be busy and are devoted beyond their capabilities - and are deeply disappointed if they fail. People born in the Rooster Year are often a bit eccentric, and often have rather difficult relationship with others. They always think they are right and usually are! They frequently are loners and though they give the outward impression of being adventurous, they are timid. Rooster people's emotions, like their fortunes, swing very high to very low. They can be selfish and too outspoken, but are always interesting and can be extremely brave. They are most compatible with Ox, Snake, and Dragon."
Letter from Exeter
I heard this week from my old friend Colin Farlow, town-planner from Exeter, formerly of Teesside. He's a regular reader, and likes to stay in touch over the Web.
And well done, for subscribing to New Scientist. I've taken it for some years now and find it easily the most useful and absorbing read of the week. The only problem is that the back-copies build up quickly in the house, but are obviously far too valuable to throw out. I give mine, every so often, to a local high school.
But to switch topics - I am sure you are right to revive the City Region idea. The rejection of the English regions (sad, I think) is clearly going to be taken as the opportunity for "doing something" about local government.
That "something" could well turn out to be distinctly anti-local government, with the nonsensical "new localist" agenda being driven by Milburn and Co. But even little places like Exeter seem to be thinking now in terms of new unitaries modelled on "city regions" at some sort of scale.
All best wishes
Colin is a committed city-region man - but what about you? Would you favour a Constitution for England founded on its 35 (or so) city regions, with each rural hinterland more closely integrated with its major urban centre? Drop me a line
For a touch of New Year nostalgia, check out my Diary Page for 1 January 2004, just to compare - I think I was then less obsessed with authoritarianism and the abandonment of civil and human rights.. You will see that I have now abandoned the time-consuming preparation of my own INDEX, preferring to rely on my own Search Engine for this website only - I hope you find that useful (see top left).
Abolish Wrongful Dismissal >>>
Are Public Schools charities? >>>
Extending the Welfare State>>>
Adjustment Pay for every worker >>>
The Mischief of ASBOs >>>
Political interest is turning again to the empowerment of our great city regions. The BBC transfer to Manchester (< this is Manchester City Hall) is a brilliant and perceptive move, a trailblazer. And I make no apology for republishing for you, my own proposals for city regional government, made in 1996.
Labour deserves great credit, in my book, for having started the devolution process. But sadly adhoccery ruled, justified by the absurd concept of "asymmetrical devolution", a ready-made recipe for popular discontent. Labour's devolution initiative was never informed by any coherent constitutional theory or strategy: even the Scottish measure is flawed, and those fault-lines will continue to weaken the Scottish settlement. And now Labour's plans for England have been, with entire justification, comprehensively trashed by the electorate.
Never missSteve Bell! His cartoons, from The Guardian
Are you a Libri?
"My" new charity Libri is firing on all cylinders, right now. I say "my" - but although the idea was mine, the cause has now been taken forward by marvellous body of other Trustees who are deeply committed to the cause. Libri challenges the Government to promote book-issues from public libraries. Too many libraries, they say, are becoming Internet cafes, needlessly competing with the private sector - and neglecting book-reading.
The Fabians are a great, enlightened Left-Wing political community some 7,000-strong - and we have many skills among our number.
Would you like to be added to the monthly Fabian Update e-mail list? Just e-mail Fabian Research
Nuclear power: the only option >>>
"New" New Labour Five Pillars >>>
Students! Get political! >>>
US/EU: Wrong market models >>>
Or try my snappier and more practical analysis of the Corporations and the Left Coming to Terms
Week 2 Saturday
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