The incident yesterday with Ed Miliband, some eggs and a disgruntled voter has sparked a flurry of articles about how Labour has failed to represent the interests of the regular man and woman in the street. It does concern me that the down-trodden, the poor and the needy don’t always see the Labour and Co-operative movement as being representative of their needs. It saddens me that a truck driver sees the Conservative Party as being the facilitator of his personal wealth (a vaguely remembered interview on Radio5Live where he said that he voted Tory because he hoped one day to be wealthy). Unfortunately the Labour Party appears unable to shake off the stereotype that it is a Party of high taxation.
Labour is seen by some as being the party of state interference and totalitarianism. Such hyperbole is seen everyday on the comment sections of numerous websites. On these forums vitriol pours back and forth from both sides of the political divide, most of which is based much more on prejudice than evidence. (A lot of comments also state the view that ‘the Left’ are an arrogant, pompous bunch, who fail to comprehend why they are misunderstood.) Where evidence is presented, by either side, it can be contradicted by other evidence to support whichever viewpoint you choose to inhabit. Political persuasion therefore often boils down to instinct; and generally to your view on big or small government. The irony of this is that the small government mantra of the conservatives is contradicted by the intensive centralization of public sector management starting in the 1980s with the appropriation of municipal powers by Whitehall and continued in the present decade by the acceleration of the academy programme in schools. The view of people that favour small government often seems to be based on the premise that excessive interference by government is preventing them maximizing their personal wealth creation. This is characteristically twinned with the view that taxation is equivalent to “the state” stealing their money. This view ignores the positive impact that the state has on enabling this person to earn a living.
I have borrowed the following statement from a comment forum on the following very interesting article; how-america-spends-money-100-years-in-the-life-of-the-family-budget. I think it sums up the situation very neatly.
“There are things that we've agreed (collectively) are important. Roads, schools, military, police, etc. There is no market incentive to provide these services. Thus if we want them (and we do), there needs to be a non-profit motivated entity to provide them...aka the government. How would this entity be funded? It certainly can't be voluntary, since we can all come up with a reason why we (personally) are more important than us (collectively). As an individual, you might disagree with certain things...for example I think we spend too much money on military adventurism, and you clearly think we spend too much money on everything (though I'll bet there are some things you're pretty happy the government provides). But as a group, we've set some priorities. There is a process to realign those priorities called elections. Some things don't make sense out of context. Environmental regulations for example. Its more profitable to dump your waste on the group than treating it right? But we've (collectively) decided that having clean drinking water is valuable, so we set (very weak) rules on how much waste and where it can be dumped to avoid pollution of water. Unless you are personally profiting from this waste dumping, you should be in favor of this..because the alternative is that you pay for the cleanup/disposal (maybe with cash, maybe with poor health outcomes, maybe with more expensive drinking water). Without the context of the cost (that is the polluted water or whatnot), its hard to see why the regulation makes sense. There is also a ton of money spend on "helping" you think that this sort of regulation hurts businesses. In a sense it does, they lose some profits due to responsible habits. But their loss is your gain. The biggest problem with our system is that we've allowed to relatively similar groups (the Ds and Rs are much closer in thinking than all the partisan rhetoric would imply) to have total control for an extended period. That means that the small group of corruptible political elites have set up rules that benefit themselves and their supporters."
There is some historical truth in the notion that Labour is a party of large state; not least the nationalization of industry in the mid-twentieth century. But Labour was also the party that led Welsh and Scottish devolution, devolution to London assembly and Mayor of London and attempted to introduce regional assemblies in parts of England. I get the impression that many in the Labour and Co-operative movement now strongly believe that the future of a more equitable society is predicated on stronger local governance and local accountability. For this reason the Localism Act and the city deals that the coalition government has introduced should be, tentatively, welcomed. However without increased funding, increased power means very little. Local authorities now, rightly, have responsibility for coordinating public health provision in their region. But they have to take on this extra responsibility with no additional funding.
But lets face it these macro-political schemes actually have very little impact on the day-to-day life of many ordinary people. These schemes of varying complexity and success may lead to some future prosperity and may guarantee future jobs, but the majority of individuals will still have very little influence on their future. People will still be bound to the will and caprice of employers, who are increasingly corporate and therefore removed from personal interaction. The majority of people will still subsist on wages that represent a small proportion of the value that their employment creates and the cost of living will continue to rise as the banks and other vested interests maintain the high cost of housing. I think that all political parties have done the people a disservice by pretending that ‘we are all middle-class now’. Yes disposable incomes are higher; yes more people now work in offices rather than in manual occupations; yet the availability of credit and the cultural incitement to home and car ownership means that just as many people are now wage-slaves, dependant on employment to pay for their ‘standard of living’, as they ever have been.
"Man In Black"
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.
Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.
Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.