Scottish independence referendum, plus jokes.

Wings Over Scotland


Forever blowing bubbles

Posted on June 07, 2013 by

In a post earlier this morning we made passing reference to the Scottish “cringe” – a sociological phenomenon by which Scots develop a subservient inferiority complex about their culture and abilities, predominantly compared to England. It’s not something we’ve ever suffered from personally, but every once and a while its malevolent force can still be felt nagging at the corner of even the strongest psyche.

r4today

An illustrative example was provided by an interview that Liam Byrne, the Labour spokesman for work and pensions, gave to Radio 4′s “Today” programme yesterday on the subject of the party’s proposed reforms to social security should it somehow win the 2015 UK general election.

For those of us who regularly subject ourselves in the name of journalism to the speeches and interviews of the likes of Margaret Curran, Johann Lamont (regularly) and Anas Sarwar – as well as Scottish Tories like Ruth Davidson – it came as something of a shock to be reminded that the UK parties possess, outside of Scotland, some elected representatives who aren’t incoherent, inarticulate, witless, pathologically-evasive stammering cretins whose main function is to serve as a stinging indictment of the state of the nation’s education system.

The shadow Secretary of State was calm, confident, unflappable and even deigned to give more-or-less direct answers to Evan Davis’s questions, albeit that the content of the answers – ie the policies themselves – were a little on the shifty side. You can listen to the whole ten-minute segment here, but the reason we were interested was to see if Byrne had really said something he’d been quoted on Twitter as saying about rent controls, and it turned out he had.

—————————————————————————————————

LIAM BYRNE: If you take my home council in Birmingham, they spend about £200m on housing benefit in the private rented sector, and what councils like Birmingham are saying is ‘Look, if we had some more power to regulate the private rented sector, use some kind of collective purchasing, we could drive that bill down, and what we could then do is use the savings to build more social housing, which would bring rent levels down over the long term.

EVAN DAVIS: I think there’s been some scepticism about whether that’s going to make any difference – I mean, if you reintroduce rent controls it might make a difference, but you’re not going to help the longterm problem of supply by capping rents and making it less profitable to build and to produce rented accommodation, I wouldn’t have thought.

LB: But these are medium-term changes, these are not kneejerk, overnight success stories, and that’s why -

ED: Are you talking about a regulated rental sector – the reintroduction of rent controls and the like?

LB: Um, I think that might be going a bit far. What we’re saying is that local councils are saying that they’ve got lots of ideas for how they can make savings, and they’d be prepared to kinda crack on with that if there’s a promise on the table to share in the savings to build more houses.

—————————————————————————————————

In short, then, Labour plans to do nothing about the fundamental cause of the UK’s enormous housing benefit bill. The vague waffle about “collective purchasing” is clearly meaningless in reality – where would councils find the huge sums needed to buy up private rented homes en masse (knowing that they wouldn’t recoup the money in rent for years), and how could they force landlords to sell without effectively destroying the entire construction industry as builders refused to build houses they’d then have to sell at knock-down prices?

(We established yesterday that for as long as housing demand continues to massively outstrip supply, there’s no leverage with which councils could “negotiate” lower rents for private tenants.)

In the current climate of austerity (which rules out either bulk purchasing or massive building programmes), rent controls are the ONLY practical measure which could bring down the housing benefit bill. Buy-to-let profits are so enormous that there’s plenty of room to restrict them without wrecking the market – there is simply no conceivable rationalisation of a situation where renting costs more than buying, and the need for a correction is morally, ideologically and economically incontestable.

Labour of all parties should be shouting that from the rooftops. Buy-to-let is the starkest possible illustration of how wealth attracts more wealth, resulting in the dramatically accelerated redistribution of money from the poor to the rich with almost no benefit to the wider economy.

(Because the more money you give to rich people, the less gets spent.)

Already the Tories have set to work recreating the housing “boom” that Labour built before them and which was the root of the global economic crash. House prices, incredibly, are on the rise again, while homelessness is soaring. Astonishingly, the UK appears to be gearing up for one last squeeze against the have-nots.

Rent controls are moderate capitalist socialism in its purest, most direct form, and Byrne’s refusal to contemplate them is a convenient shorthand for Labour’s total abandonment of the last of its principles. We’re not alone in that view, either:

“This is the week Labour turned its back on the welfare state”
(Red Pepper)

“Miliband makes his play: do everything the same”
(Mark Steel, the Independent)

“Ed Miliband Fuck Off”
(The Void)

We could have listed a dozen more in similar vein, and possibly will later. We know we go on about this quite a lot, but there is no longer any meaningful democracy in the UK. Labour and the Tories have policy programmes that are barely different except on the most superficial cosmetic levels, and ideologies that aren’t different at all.

Only Scotland has an escape route. Pray we use it.

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39 to “Forever blowing bubbles”

  1. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Red pill, Blue pill.
     
    That is the stark choice of UK plc, if we vote No.
     
    I hope the YES team hammer this home when they waken up and start engaging.
     
    To quote a dead Vampire, TINA.

  2. seoc says:

    The unassailable views of the Right to be Independent – as detailed by Thomas Paine:
    http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/

  3. Robert Kerr says:

    The party policies are both the protect the banks.
    Keep house prices artificially high so that the banks balance sheets do not show reality. The “toxic debts” are still there. Keep them hidden at all costs.
    Osborne’s latest ploy is discussed in last night’s report
    http://rt.com/shows/keiser-report/episode-454-322/
    “kicking the can down the road’
    It shall all end in tears.
    Vote “Yes”.
     
     

  4. naebd says:

    “there is simply no conceivable rationalisation of a situation where renting costs more than buying”
     
    And yet, this is the reality that applies to the renting of all products and services. Funny, that.

  5. Bill Fraser says:

    What we need is a land tax to hold down the price of land. The profits from this should be reinvested in building social housing. Quantitative easing can also be used to invest directly in building social housing. The effect of this would be to cut unemployment benefits as people are employed building houses, they will be paying taxes to help fund social services and, by spending their earnings, creating the conditions for more employment. A virtuous circle known as the multiplier effect. The strain on the public purse caused by subsidising rents to the unemployed would be reduced as more people move into employment and private rents would drop as demand reduces.  Private housing would also be more affordable as ex rental property comes on to the market as profits from rent reduce.

  6. joe kane says:

    Here are a few more responses to Miliband’s speech -

    Labour’s latest welfare betrayal means the party could change name to ‘Red Conservatives’ 
    Vox Political 
    06 June 2013 
    http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/labours-latest-welfare-betrayal-means-the-party-could-change-name-to-red-conservatives/ 
     
    The Edinburgh-based Black Triangle Campaign posted a link to this article hosted on their own website as their response -
    The hidden welfare state that the U.K. government dares not speak of
    15 May 2013
    http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2013/05/15/the-hidden-welfare-state-that-the-u-k-government-dares-not-speak-of/ 
     
    Given the date of his blog post, Craig Murray was obviously responding to news paper reports trailing the contents of the speech before it was delivered -
    Only One Choice and Only for Scotland
    Craig Murray 
    05 June 2013
    http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/06/only-one-choice-and-only-for-scotland/

    The TUC Trades Union Congress blog response whose first sentence is the loyal claim that “Today’s speech by Ed Miliband on social security reform was positive”. Says it all really about the toothless TUC which bankrolls the gang of tories who have taken over the Labour Party -
    Ed Miliband’s social security speech 
    Touchstone 
    06 Jine 2013
    http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/06/ed-milibands-social-security-speech

  7. Erchie says:

    Liam Byrne is IDS without thewarmth, compassion or human touch.
    Byrne is as nastily right-wing as Gideon

  8. HandandShrimp says:

    Joe
    I seriously doubt that the TUC blog response reflects the views of many if not most in the TU movement.

  9. Desimond says:

    Pretty sure i saw some “Great ‘Buy To Let’ Mortgage” offers on way to work this morning, which was just after reading a Michael Douglas interview in The Metro. Makes me wonder, has anything really changed?…still the same old “Greed is Good” pish being peddled.

  10. Doug Daniel says:

    Imagine if Labour had a leader who spoke about actually helping people whose lives are being destroyed by the Tories just now – they’d be so far ahead in the polls right now, the 2015 election would be a no brainer. Instead, they have someone who sends people emails like this (according to the first comment on that Johnny Void blog):
     
    “I’ve just given a speech on what One Nation Labour will do in government to control public spending and get Britain working – and I wanted to make sure you heard direct from me about it because this is how we are going to turn our economy round, protect our NHS, and build a stronger country.”
     
    One Nation Labour. It’s no longer good enough to simply talk about his “great” idea which he’s simply recycled from history – he’s actually using it a a prefix to his party now. So it’s clear that New Labour has finally become One Nation Labour.
     
    New Labour was at least kind of snappy, even if it did hide the fact that Blair had removed the party from its roots. One Nation Labour is a horrible, unwieldy slogan that doesn’t work (pun intended), the kind of thing that only an over-promoted policy wonk would come up with.
     
    I think I hate Miliband more than any other politician in the country just now. The Tories may be evil bastards, but at least they’re doing it on purpose. This clueless fuckwit is the inevitable result of politics being turned into nothing more than a game of media management done by “blue sky thinking” dickheads. There is no thought given to the practicalities of their ideas, none of them care how they effect people in real life – as long as it sounds good when translated into management-speak.
     
    Urgh, Independence NOW!!! Well, next year.

  11. MajorBloodnok says:

    This was in the Herald today.  There is an alternative – but Labour needs to open its eyes and see it.
     
    http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/agenda-labour-should-embrace-independence-as-the-only-way-out-of-austerity.21276366

  12. mrbfaethedee says:

    Excellent, now UK representative democracy can be summed up by paraphrasing an old tongue-twister -
    “RedToryBlueToryYellowTory”
    Say it fast 5 times and vote for the NeoLib party!
     
    Hail to the rich!

  13. HandandShrimp says:

    I see we have a piece in the Guardian on Dave’s call for unity (presumably at the Scottish Conservative Party conference).  I wish that one of the Cabinet would come up here every week until Sep 14 to extol the virtues of the Union. I can think of no surer endorsement of independence. Apparently, Dave things we should stay together to be a compassionate country…so far none of the usual pro-Union bods have taken up the cudgels of support…wonder why?    

  14. Doug Daniel says:

    The most significant line in that article: “Cailean Gallagher is Researcher for Yes Scotland and a member of the Labour Party.” So much for Anas Sarwar’s insistence that there are no indy-supporting Labour members.
     
    Cameron is coming out with the usual pish today, I see:
     
    “We saw it when our soldiers fought together under one flag on the beaches of Normandy. We saw it when our doctors came together to build our NHS. We saw it in the scientific breakthroughs that we made together: from the television to penicillin.”
     
    Oh right, so not only were there no other countries involved in the World Wars (and we certainly won’t mention the fact that it was the Russians wot won it really), but an NHS which your party are trying to destroy in England is a reason to stay in the UK. Oh, and you’re taking credit for Scotland’s scientific and technological breakthroughs. That’s nice.

  15. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    In which Retirement Home are the Scottish Conservative Party holding their annual conference and will the front row be like the from row of a Sidney Devine concert.

    Same blue rinses but a different smell maybe?

  16. Dee says:

    Labour did not have any social housing programme in Scotland nor did they have any youth employment programme in Scotland and that is when they were in power in the UK and in Scotland and at a time when there was no economic restrictions. So how the hell are they going to afford to build all these houses and create all these jobs when the economic situation is far worse.  Lies and bullshit are two words that spring to mind when you talk of the Labour Party. Iam a member of the GMB Union and will be cancelling my membership if it is getting used for pro union campaigns. Also
    why would anyone vote for any of the unionist parties in the up and coming by election in Aberdeen.  Iam sure a lot of Labour voters will be totally disallusioned with the direction of their party. 

  17. Morag says:

    …our doctors came together to build our NHS
     
    Oh really?  That would be the NHS which has been separate in England and Scotland since its inception?  And these would include the doctors whose mouths Bevan “stuffed with gold” to get them to agree to his proposal, which they were steadfastly resisting?

  18. Dcanmore says:

    Funny that, if there was a Conservative government in 1945 instead of a Labour one then we wouldn’t have had an NHS at all! All those achievements listed by Cameron are from over 60 years ago and what have we had since then? Managed decline and rise of corporate greed! Dismantling and selling off what people were once proud of in a nation including their dignity.
     
    It’s like Cameron telling us to look at some old 1950s jingo war movie and then saying “there you go, why do want to give this up?” … British Nationalism, always looking into the past because the future looks too horrific. More tea and cholera Vicar?

  19. MajorBloodnok says:

    @HandAndShrimp
     
    “The cudgels of compassion” is a stirring turn of phrase.

  20. HandandShrimp says:

    Major
     
    I think IDS picks one up on leaving the house every morning. A quick 10 minutes of compassion down at the local Atos centre sets him up for the day.

  21. MajorBloodnok says:

    Reminds me of the alleged Samurai practice of “testing one’s new sword on a passing peasant”.  I think the pre-Edo period word for it was, in fact, “atos”.

  22. balgayboy says:

     
    MajorBloodnok says: 12.40
    Brilliant.

  23. Cath says:

    “Only Scotland has an escape route. Pray we use it.”
     
    I’m relatively confident we can.
     
    The worrying thing is the number of people on the NO side talking about crude election fraud now – getting people from England registered to vote even thought they don’t live here. These are people who know f**k all about Scotland, haven’t been involved in the debate and blindly believe the kind of Telegraph  propaganda they’re getting down there. I really hope someone within the Scottish government or EC has got some very firm proposals to deal with such electoral fraud, because if people like that lose those in Scotland their chance for change and self-determination, that will be the biggest injustice and undemocratic act since 1979.

  24. Adrian B says:

    The worrying thing is the number of people on the NO side talking about crude election fraud now – getting people from England registered to vote even thought they don’t live here. 
     
    Something must really be worrying them if they have resorted to such underhand tactics so early, although if they had a strong case for Scotland staying in the Union…..

  25. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “And yet, this is the reality that applies to the renting of all products and services. Funny, that.”

    Depends how you’re defining it. I was obviously referring specifically to houses, which is a bit different to, I dunno, hiring a carpet cleaner or something.

  26. JLT says:

    Doug Daniel
    I think I hate Miliband more than any other politician in the country just now. The Tories may be evil bastards, but at least they’re doing it on purpose. This clueless fuckwit is the inevitable result of politics being turned into nothing more than a game of media management done by “blue sky thinking” dickheads. There is no thought given to the practicalities of their ideas, none of them care how they effect people in real life – as long as it sounds good when translated into management-speak.
    ————————–
    Well said, Doug. I utterly hate the Labour Party – I shouldn’t, but this is a party that sold not only its soul, but its core values. It sold everything for power, and in doing so, corrupted themselves utterly. The whole bloody lot of them (Lamont, Curran, Baillie, Douglas, Murphy, Darling, etc) should hang their heads in shame. Christ knows how some of them are able to look themselves in the eye when they face the mirror. 

  27. muttley79 says:

    @Cath
     
    These are people who know f**k all about Scotland, haven’t been involved in the debate and blindly believe the kind of Telegraph  propaganda they’re getting down there. I really hope someone within the Scottish government or EC has got some very firm proposals to deal with such electoral fraud, because if people like that lose those in Scotland their chance for change and self-determination, that will be the biggest injustice and undemocratic act since 1707!!
     
    Changed it slightly Cath.  Hope you don’t mind!
     

  28. Al Ghaf says:

    LB: Um, I think that might be going a bit far. What we’re saying is that local councils are saying that they’ve got lots of ideas for how they can make savings, and they’d be prepared to kinda crack on with that if there’s a promise on the table to share in the savings to build more houses.”

    I read that as the council using its purchasing power as opposed to building or buying property. Ideas such as, housing benefit will only be paid to registered landlords whose property meet a certain standard.
    Slum landlords would have adapt or die.

  29. Dee says:

    I think this hatred goes back to when Tony Blair first appeared on the scene. We had had enough of Tory rule and he was the new kid on the block, the song ” Things can only get better  ” was his theme tune and he was a breathe of fresh air to British politics. I think we can all admit that much.  It was because we were finally getting rid of the tories. But he and his cronies started to show their true agenda and it was more right wing than thatcher, everything was London Orientated , also the illegal war, lack of investment in ithe UK. As a result true Labour supporters felt betrayed, let down , and so looked for alternatives, so when the SNP got their majority government in 2011 and set up the referendum then this was what these Labour supporters were looking for. It was to join the Yes Campaign and fight for independence rather than more right wing labour policies, Labour have lost their identity, their supporters felt used and abused, and have had enough. They are wanting a new start in a new country. They feel hurt because the Labour Party used them and made them all look like idiots. 

  30. Juteman says:

    Anyone who thinks the Labour party don’t know what they are doing is wrong.
    They know exactly what they are doing. Vote for the right wing party of your choice.
    ‘Labour’ were taken over decades ago. Have any potential leaders NOT been to the US to receive ‘training’?

  31. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I read that as the council using its purchasing power as opposed to building or buying property. Ideas such as, housing benefit will only be paid to registered landlords whose property meet a certain standard.
    Slum landlords would have adapt or die.”

    How would that drive rents down, though?

  32. CameronB says:

    Re. Johnny Void blog,
     
    “….One Nation Labour. It’s no longer good enough to simply talk about his “great” idea which he’s simply recycled from history – he’s actually using it a a prefix to his party now. So it’s clear that New Labour has finally become One Nation Labour”.
     
    Now can we call “One Nation Labour”. the National Socialist Party? They also sold themselves as party of the people, before showing us the horror of their true colours.

  33. Currywurst says:

    Rent controls
     
    Do
     
    Not
     
    Work.
     
    Paul Krugman:
     
    http://www.pkarchive.org/column/6700.html
     
    “The analysis of rent control is among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and — among economists, anyway — one of the least controversial. In 1992 a poll of the American Economic Association found 93 percent of its members agreeing that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quality and quantity of housing.” Almost every freshman-level textbook contains a case study on rent control, using its known adverse side effects to illustrate the principles of supply and demand.”
     
    Now isn’t PK the darling economist of the Left?

  34. Currywurst says:

    Should really have used this quote, shouldn’t I?
     
    “SYNOPSIS: That great sacred cow– Rent Control– is a textbook case of Economic stupidity”

  35. Hetty says:

    Dee
    I would question your claim that Blair ‘was more rightwing than thatcher’. She was  very very right wing, and destroyed so much of the successes in industry, in the manufacturing sector, and her motto, ‘there is no such thing as society’ was just the start for her to break up communities and desecrate lives,  she was really quite evil.
    Also you claim that Labour voters… looked for alternatives, so when the SNP got their majority government in 2011 and set up the referendum then this was what these Labour supporters were looking for. It was to join the Yes Campaign and fight for independence rather than more right wing labour policies,
    To use the term, ‘these Labour supporters’ do you mean Labour voters? And, ‘these’ as a description of a group of people, is exactly what the right wing, ie, those who think they are better than others say. I was once a Labour voter, as was my family coming from the ( very poor) NE England, and yes Blair was hated certainly after some time had passed with him in office.People needed to feel they had an alternative but my motive for voting SNP in 2011 was purely because they were and are, the only party who dare to speak up for ordinary people.
    Labour have definitely lost the plot, but these tories, and these tory voters, well, self seeking comes to mind among many other things!
     
    Ps. your tenses are a bit mixed up…

  36. Dee says:

    Hi Hetty, typed last comment in a bit of a hurry, was Blair your local MP? You don’t need to worry about my hatred of Thatcher, but look now at how far to the right that the UK as moved since Blair came to power. It is almost accepted as the norm now to be so far to the right. compare were we are now to when, say when  John Smith was Labour Leader,it is unrecognisable. That is the point I was getting at. That is why someone with core Labour values is dumping this shower of Red Tories and going all out for full independence, Then they have the choice to vote for a party that is not ruled from Westminster.

  37. Jiggsbro says:

    To use the term, ‘these Labour supporters’ do you mean Labour voters? And, ‘these’ as a description of a group of people, is exactly what the right wing, ie, those who think they are better than others say.
     
    To be fair, it’s also used by millions of English-speaking people as a pronoun, to refer to a group previously identified  (e.g. “true Labour supporters felt betrayed, let down…what these Labour supporters were looking for”). I’m not sure pronouns are inherently right-wing.

  38. Naebd says:

    “I was obviously referring specifically to houses, which is a bit different to, I dunno, hiring a carpet cleaner or something.”
    Well… Of course there are differences, but one thing that all renting and buying situations have in common is that renting is always more expensive than buying. What I’m suggesting is it would be fruitful to have a think about why that is. It’s your prerogative to explain why houses are a special case.

    By ‘special case’ I mean ‘case that is not special, but really really ought to be and there’s no logical reason why it isn’t’.

  39. Naebd says:

    …actually perhaps houses ARE a special case, given that a property next to mine is for rent at about 60% of what it would cost to “buy” (20 year 100% mortgage at a generous 1%).



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