Sunday, 8 February 2015

Miliband should sink his teeth into the bankers and offshore charlatans

Labour are under attack; it goes to show how worried that the Tories are that the viciousness of the last month of campaigning is being ramped up three months before polling day.  The failure of Miliband to reclaim a radical narrative is clearing space for the Greens (rationally) and UKIP (hypocritically and despicably) to create an agenda where the corporate welfare recipients and the offshore chancers continue to be able to set the agenda.  The Rothermeres and Barclay Brothers of this world continue rank hypocrisy while misleading their core constituency as to their noble aims.

Screwing the most out of paupers is an unattractive model, but there are sections of the right who cling to the determinist approach.  The danger of spawning revolutionary insurgency doesn't really occur to them - but if you create a society where there are no defining threads that connect the financial elite to the remainder of the country then the perils are just the same as the insurgency that cost the East European Communists their power, and which has led to a rejection of the vile neo-conservative ideology by the Greeks and probably by other European nations as the electoral cycle marches on.

The grotesqueries of economic growth being parroted by Osborne while the Tory manifesto seeks to shrink the state to levels where even basic service provision will be a luxury would be risible if there wasn't a competing bid from Labour to lace the arsenic with a small helping of molasses to ease passage.  Since the impact of the mainstream parties' economic policies will be the equivalent to force-feeding the nation with laxatives this is at best disingenuous and at worst a blatant attempt to mislead.

Miliband needs to realise that the Blair approach of sleeping with the enemy is not going to do him any favours.  Instead, he should be working on the assumption that the real anger of people is targeted at the corporate beneficiaries of welfare and bungs.  It is not just tax avoidance and offshore venery he should be looking at, but the rates of corporate tax - it is thoroughly immoral and unjust where the public services that the financial services sector leeches off are being cut at the same time as there are tax cuts for both institutions and high-wealth individuals.

The economy is still reeling from bailing out the financial sector, both directly and indirectly.  Until this is restored, any further tax breaks for bankers and bonuses should be ruthlessly hunted down - if individuals and companies face extremely high marginal rates on income earned by parasitism, then tough luck.  Ring-fencing such receipts into a sovereign investment fund rather than reducing the general deficit would assist capital spending and demonstrate that this is not just about class warfare but extracting the obligations such institutions and individuals have to the community their cupidity has decimated.

More radical reforms, such as putting a stop to tax tourism and Rachmanism through buy-to-let, need to be on the agenda, as well.  There is nothing that would stop Labour from arguing that the balance of the economy is wrong - and that the chimera of private sector virtue needs to be exposed - nor that the vast majority of people have spent the last ten years shouldering the burden of the reckless amorality and vice of the few - most bankers would not have the wit to survive as professional gamblers if they were using their own money.

The alternative view of the world that economists and historians such as Stiglitz and Piketty have started to popularise should be the rallying-cry of the centre-left - fairness, unearned wealth and the right to a decent life are at the centre of what politicians should be trying to achieve.  Sadly, there is no place for this in the current discourse - and it would be brave and stimulating if major opposition figures suddenly decided that there was less to lose from empowering the masses than alienating the plutocrats.

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