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Right sentence, wrong crime

Posted on March 12, 2013 by

A lot of independence supporters are getting excited today about this clip of Labour shadow-cabinet MP Helen Goodman telling the BBC that Labour would keep the bedroom tax. They’re right to highlight it, but most are doing so for the wrong reasons.

Goodman’s position is that Labour WOULD still implement the hated tax, but would only penalise people for over-occupying their housing if they’d been offered smaller accommodation and refused to move. Opponents of Labour are observing the hypocrisy of the party raging against the tax in public while admitting they’d retain it, which is fair enough, but also misses the real point.

In keeping with Labour’s studied, deliberate vagueness about most of what it says, Goodman conspicuously fails to mention whether tenants would be penalised for refusing ANY move to smaller accommodation, or only within the area where they already live. So it’s not clear if Labour would still levy the tax on someone in London who was told to move to Sunderland, say.

(Nor whether Labour would make any more humane allowances than the Tories are doing for people with foster children or non-residential carers or any of the numerous other victims seen in horror stories about the policy.)

But much more revealing is something Ms Goodman says halfway through the clip.

“In the short to medium term we did need to bring down the housing benefit bill, and we had said that we WOULD reduce the rents which were paid under Housing Benefit in the private sector, and that’s where the rents were really spiralling up very fast”

This is a reference to the introduction of Local Housing Allowance in 2008 under Gordon Brown was in effect a Bedroom Tax for private tenants. As noted in the Wikipedia entry for LHA (our emphasis):

“The amount of LHA awarded depends on:

  • the number of bedrooms deemed to be required by the claimant, and
  • where they live (which determines the market level of rents within this area)”

The double standard of Labour protesting about the Tories doing to social-housing tenants what Labour had already done to private tenants is obvious. But much more crucial is the way it demonstrates that Labour have surrendered, and continue to surrender, the ideological ground to the Tories.

It’s unquestionably true that the housing benefit bill is cripplingly high. That’s because it’s an enormous subsidy of private landlords by the state. If you’re a party supposedly committed to wealth redistribution and social justice, that’s the easiest circle in the world to square – you impose rent controls.

There ought to be no difficulty at all for ANY political party, let alone an ostensibly left-wing one, in selling the blindingly-obvious idea that a country where rents are higher than mortgages has gone fiscally insane. Rent controls prevent greedy landlords being grotesquely enriched by taxpayers, and also stop the sort of lethal housing bubble that was the root of the worldwide crash in 2008.

When people don’t have to spend 60% (or more) of their disposable income on rent, they can also afford to buy things, stimulating the economy. Penalising them brutally for being unable to afford the unaffordable, on the other hand, merely rips money out of the pockets of the poor (handing it to the rich, who hide it offshore where it does no good for anyone) and thereby tightens the recession’s stranglehold on growth, perpetuating the vicious cycle of decline.

As with so many other things, modern Labour’s “alternative” offering to voters is to copy the Tory policy but slightly water it down around the edges. Rather than giving the electorate the option of two sets of fundamentally different principles which act as natural balances against each other – as was the case until 1997 – they reduce democracy to a choice of hangmen.

The UK parties are locked on a road that leads to the destruction of society as we’ve known it for the last 50 years, and there’s absolutely nothing voters can do about it. Electing Labour in 2015 will see all the same policies pursued, just slightly differently and probably more expensively. Focusing narrowly on the specific instance of Labour’s hypocrisy over the bedroom tax misses the bigger picture, and in doing so distracts from the real choice facing the people of Scotland a few months earlier.

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61 to “Right sentence, wrong crime”

  1. muttley79 says:

    Yes, the Labour Party have been surrendering ideological ground to the Tories for more than twenty years.  They are basically attempting to be a bit less of a bastard now than the Conservatives.  The unions should withdraw their support and funding from Labour.

  2. Craig P says:

    One of the few really successful strikes in the Red Clydeside era was the rent strike during the Great War.
    There was a lack of housing in Glasgow and landlords took advantage by raising rents to crippling levels. (one banner read: ‘Our Husbands, Sons and Brothers are fighting the Prussians of Germany, We are fighting the Prussians of Partick’)
    The strike led to the wartime government introducing rent control, and indirectly led to John Wheatley in the first Labour government introducing social housing.
    Where are the advocates for fair rents now? The whole UK has been sold on the dream of home ownership.

  3. David McCann says:

    Rev Stu,
    When I get your email and click the link, I now get a 404 message not found. The only way I can access the new site is to refresh an old tab and click the sidebar for the update. Any idea why this is?

  4. panda paws says:

    A very cogent analysis. Commentators btl have been suggesting rent controls all along but they will never happen. All three main parties now believe that the market is King and indeed self correcting despite there being no evidence of it happening in a number of areas, Market economics is great for widgets and biscuits, not so good for social issues like housing and health.
    ut the real pont that needs to be hammered home especially given the recent polls suggesting Labour will form the next government is that they are Tory-lite. Softening the edges of fundementally unfair policies isn’t good enough. We need new policies. That should be the Yes campaings big selling point. The SNP and indeed Greens do have a different way of dealing with the big issues.

  5. Craig P says:

    Glasgow rent strike – Mary Barbour, one of the unsung heroines of history:

  6. Cath says:

    Good article. I can’t understand why the left are not all over the idea of rent controls and of building more social housing (well actually I can – the ones at the top of politics are mostly rich landlords themselves).
    The demonisation of the poor, sick, disabled and vulnerable, while in fact it’s the rich, bankers, landlords, big employers etc who’re ripping us all of is cruel and economically stupid.

  7. mogabee says:

    My first thought was why are Labour  not being challenged on their policies, but then I remembered the BBC….!

  8. Doug Daniel says:

    Labour are basically just trying to slightly underbid the Tories, and probably setting things up to make the 2015 election about David Cameron personally, rather than the actual effects of Tory policies, none of which Labour are prepared to reverse. It seems to be the current trend in Labour politics, since they’re also trying to make the referendum about Alex Salmond personally, and hoping the electorate don’t notice they offer nothing different from what we’re already getting from Westminster.
    And you’re spot on about rents being higher than mortgages being fiscally insane. I always thought the whole point of renting was “I can’t afford a mortgage, so I’ll rent somewhere until I can”?

  9. Cath says:

    “All three main parties now believe that the market is King and indeed self correcting”
    If you truly believed in “the market” you wouldn’t have housing benefit at all. Then both rents and wages would have to reflect reality as the taxpayer wouldn’t be subsidising both, especially in over-heated areas like London and the SE. Want a worker in London? Pay a rate that allows them to pay rent…no one able to pay your rent? Drop it.

  10. rabb says:

    My wife and I rent our house from the local authority. It’s not because we can’t afford to buy, it’s because we choose to (we have had numerous discussions about buying our house). I am an IT manager for one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains on a very health salary and my wife works too.
    We’re not socialists but I have a social mindset. My rent supports local jobs within the local council (plumbers, electricians, joiners etc). It doesn’t go to an offshore bank and used to gamble on markets or to fat cat banker bonus schemes.

    These local tradesman in turn spend their money in the region and support other local jobs.
    The most basic principle of any economy is money changing hands. The more money that changes hands in your locality the better your economy is.
    It’s really that simple for us. We will NEVER buy.

  11. BeamMeUpScotty says:

    Thatcher used North Sea oil and gas to rid the UK of “inefficient” manufacturing industries.All that Westminster has left is the City of London revenues and leverage from the oil and gas industry.This is the major reason why Westminster political parties are all singing from the same sheet…..they have no options.Some foolish people in Scotland may believe that the Labour party will make the required economic and social changes which will redress the damage created by the previous Westminster administrations (especially Labour) but it ain’t going to happen.In the new New Labour world,”Things can only get bitter” and the outlook for people dependant on social support is grim.

  12. Craig P says:

    If you truly believed in “the market” you wouldn’t have housing benefit at all. Then both rents and wages would have to reflect reality as the taxpayer wouldn’t be subsidising both
    That’s a good point Cath! Some low paid workers can claim tax credits, and may get housing benefit too. When put together like that is seems mad that the government simultaneously subsidises low wages, and high rents.

  13. cirsium says:

    @muttley79  “They are basically attempting to be a bit less of a bastard now than the Conservatives.”
    I thought that this commenter described it neatly
    “Conservatives: neo-liberal predatory
    Labour: neo-liberal lite”

  14. Cath says:

    ” When put together like that is seems mad that the government simultaneously subsidises low wages, and high rents.”
    Exactly Craig. It’s staggering madness,
    Then add that to Rabb’s point. Providing affordable rents means there is more money in the local economy, local firms such as builders have work, people are more mobile – if you rent you can move for a job easily; if you have a mortgage you need to sell first, and if you end up in negative equity can be totally trapped.
    Besides which, someone renting a home from the LA for 50 years will pay off the cost to build, as well as giving the LA an income stream. Property is an asset, investment and income stream – which is why the private sector likes building and renting.
    The whole housing issue in this country has gone topsy turvy. In fact the entire tax and public services issue has gone nuts. It’s all about pushing as much of our tax money for public services into the hands of the wealthy as possible, and nothing to do with the public any more, except for the fact we pay for it all – over and over again.

  15. Albert Herring says:

    @Craig P
    It’s called transferring public wealth to private pockets. It seems to be the first function of government these days. Why are the rich so rich, but the country is so skint?

  16. Jiggsbro says:

    Both main UK parties now share the same ideology, “We fucked up badly last time we were in power, let’s fix it by punishing the victims”.

  17. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “When I get your email and click the link, I now get a 404 message not found. The only way I can access the new site is to refresh an old tab and click the sidebar for the update. Any idea why this is?”

    Presumably because – someone tells me – WordPress sends out email links automatically and those are still pointing to the old site, where there’s no equivalent of this post. I haven’t the remotest idea where I can find that setting to change it, but I’m looking.

  18. Heather Wilson says:

    Also part of the much bigger picture is the issue of very low wages and going down in real terms, people simply cannot afford to pay high rents and survive on the pittance that’s left at the end of the month. As many people can only find part time work this adds to the huge problem of a basic standard of living becoming impossible to attain. Now that the torydems are capping housing benefit to younger people we will actually see the opposite ie overcrowding as they cannot afford to rent, and decent accomodation will be replaced with cheap but only half inhabitable places with rents still extortionately high. Proper rent regulation and a change in the laws regarding the rights of tenants is the only answer.

  19. dcomerf says:

    Land value tax would be better than rent controls and would be applicable to socially rented, privately rented and owner occupied – in each case as a levy on the land owner rather than the tennant.
    Under LVT, roughly, the market price of a property would be the same as the rebuild cost – which doesn’t vary much between London and Sunderland or anywhere else.
    Assuming LVT revenues distributed nationally (within whichever nation you consider) then it would represent a tax on “London” and a subsidy to “Sunderland”.

  20. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Land value tax would be better than rent controls”

    Rents and Council Tax are separate issues. I’m in favour of LVT but don’t see how it helps here.

  21. beachthistle says:

    This is all by design.
    The US government have been busy for decades trying to make UK/London politics mirror their own – i.e. with only 2 choices available to the electorate, both  being right of centre/big-business friendly. Part of their strategy was to identify budding student Labourites and arrange ‘sabbatical’/exchange years for them in US.
    Most of the high heid yins of New ‘Labour’ spent periods in the US, including some Scots. Wee Dougie for one. Broon was another.
    For more detail see 
    The influence of intelligence serviceson the British left

  22. The Man in the Jar says:

    Don’t forget the added bonus of this policy. It will force all these nasty poor people out of central London. That means that they can demolish all that horrible social housing and build luxury apartments for bankers to spend their bonuses on.

  23. panda paws says:

    Cath said
    “If you truly believed in “the market” you wouldn’t have housing benefit at all”
    Exactly! Are they pretending to be free marketeers as it’s the dogma du jour and they support HB in theory but want the costs cut OR
    is this the start of the complete dismantling of social security system.
      Which is easier to sell – this change merely brings social tenants HB into line with the rules for private tenants which it does OR to say actually if you can’t afford your rent tough because we’re abolishing HB completely, but rest assured prices will drop when there’s a glut of stock. (Which won’t happen as there’s a shortage of housing and supply and demand will keep the costs up.)
    There would be riots if HB were abolished and given the number of taxpayers receiving HB, it would be political suicide. (In their eyes the unemployed and disabled are expendable and don’t count.) Therefore they tinker around the edges and see how far they are go before the protests start.

  24. beachthistle says:

    This ‘choice of hangmen’ is by design/deliberate.
    The US government have been busy for decades trying to make UK/London politics mirror their own – i.e. with only 2 choices available to the electorate, both  being right of centre/big-business friendly.
    Part of their strategy was to identify budding student Labourites and arrange ‘sabbatical’/exchange years for them in US. Most of the high heid yins of New ‘Labour’ spent periods in the US, including some Scots. Wee Dougie for one. Broon was another.
    For more detail see 
    “The influence of intelligence serviceson the British left”

  25. AnneDon says:

    @The Man In The Jar – then they start moaning about teachers and firemen not being able to ‘buy’ in London.
    @Rev – even within the same city, does this mean that someone who lives in a house in Clermiston and refuses a move to a smaller flat in Granton would be penalised? It still involves moving kids’ schools etc.

  26. dcomerf says:

    Rents and Council Tax are separate issues. I’m in favour of LVT but don’t see how it helps here.”
    To first order you’re right. What LVT would change is where the money goes: at the moment it goes to landlords through capitalisation of land values, under LVT it would go to government who could then do something to boost supply, or something to shift location of demand.

  27. naebd says:

    Thing is, it’s perfectly normal for renting things to cost more than buying them – has nobody ever rented anything? Funnily enough though, I know that the flat upstairs for me is rented out at a much lower amount than the mortgage would cost you if you bought it (and then had to pay for the upkeep etc, making costs even higher).
    I don’t like the idea of rent controls, because it’s the state brute-forcing the problem by ordering people that they can’t do what they want with their property. I can see why it appeals though – many people, faced with a problem, would love to have the power to just order people to do what they want, under threat of legal action. It helps to not care much about personal freedom.

  28. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I don’t like the idea of rent controls, because it’s the state brute-forcing the problem by ordering people that they can’t do what they want with their property.”

    The state does that with everything. I’m not allowed to drive my car on pavements, or stick my kitchen knife through the ribcage of people I don’t like. The reason is that if we left everything to “personal freedom”, we’d be back in feudal times in about five minutes flat, because the people with the property already would have all the leverage and all the power, so instead we have restrictions on all sorts of things in the name of civilisation and the concept of society.

    A new feudalism, of course, is basically where we ARE going currently, but anyone who wants to speed that process up can piss off as far as I’m concerned.

  29. rabb says:

    Albert Herring says:
    12 March, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    @Craig P
    It’s called transferring public wealth to private pockets. It seems to be the first function of government these days. Why are the rich so rich, but the country is so skint?
    Allied to my first point about economics (money needs to change hands) the second constant in any economy is that for someone to make money someone has to lose money.
    Unfortunately in the UK that someone is always the working class and impoverished. It’s a fiscal capillary action that works one way…………UP!!!
    I must stress again that I am not a socialist and understand fully that not everyone can be rich. We need wealth generators in society. We had loads of them once but they were exploited by London and sold to the highest bidder. That’s what the ruling class does and it will never ever change while we are a part of the ruling class banquet.
    We must strike a balance between capitalism and socialism but humanity being what it is, there will always be greed if left unchecked. It’s not an ideology, there are countries in the world who have found a good (but not perfect) balance. They are close neighbours of ours and the grass is most definately greener on their side of the fence.

    We too can have a lush green lawn but by god are we going to have to fight hard for it!!

    Vote Yes in 2014!


  30. Adrian B says:

    Your not wrong – my brother passed this link on to me last year. Its all in plain English, easy to understand and shows exactly which way Wesminster wants to go under either of the big Tory parties.

    With 97% of money issued as debt, in order for some individuals to be debt-free, others must be in debt. 

    As there’s currently £2,201 billion in the economy, and all this money was created by banks as debt, then£2,201 billion of debt must be shared between us. This means that in order for some people to live debt-free, others must go into debt. This creates a situation where we are all fighting in effect to ‘keep our heads above the water’ – to avoid being the one who falls into debt. 

    However, it is mathematically impossible, when all money is created via banks making loans, for the public as a whole to stay out of debt. If you manage to stay out of debt, it means someone else has to sink further ‘under the water’ in order to maintain the money supply. 

    In other words, debt is not a choice. 

  31. rabb says:

    Spot on Adrian B
    We need to find a better balance. I love listening to some socialists who speak about eradicating poverty. I really do genuinely admire their steely determination but alas in today’s world it would be like trying to pin custard to the ceiling.
    Sure we can reduce it by redistributing wealth (or debt) but it will never be eradicated. Sadly there will always be poverty to some degree.
    The only way to to reduce it is under independence. I only wish we could get this message to the 118,600 homes in Glasgow alone who are living in relative poverty with no access to this website!
    There is a better way and it’s not by sticking with Westminster.

  32. rabb says:

    Just to add to that Adrian B
    It really annoys me when I watch programs like “The bank of mum & dad” where South East England twenty somethings get themselves into £50K plus of debt in a short period of time with no means of repaying it.
    This is exactly the scenario that your link above refers to. The more debt these people get into the more needs to be spent to sustain growth. It’s a vicious circle that will always end up in a train wreck recession.
    I am no expert in economics BTW and I’m sure there there are others that will correct me if I’m wrong but here’s my take on sustainable growth.
    The government takes on the debt. Sustainable capital expenditure on infrastructure, social housing, technology and stuff like that which creates jobs and local wealth which in turn ensures growth in the economy (all be it slow and steady and not boom & bust). Have you ever seen a shit road in Norway? Or someone using dial up internet in Sweden?
    They recoup the cost through taxation (doesn’t need to be excessive) and a healthy export market. It just so happens that we export tonnes of whiskey, oil & gas, electricity etc to the world. Excellent right? Well no, not really, all that extra revenue goes to London to fuel the South East borrowing which is putting us further into debt each passing day.

    Still, on the upside, we can always pass the debt on to the impoverished. Happy days!!
    A good example of the upward spiral is that house prices in the South East are way higher than they should be even still to this day. This is fuelled by public borrowing (not government borrowing). It’s like the tail wagging the dog so to speak.
    The pin that will burst my bubble though is the strength of the pound. It’s kept high for a reason (London financial sector).
    This strength hampers exports as UK goods are just too expensive to buy when there are cheaper alternatives elsewhere.

    Scotch Whiskey is the exception though. It’s only made here, however, the revenue currently sits with Mr Osbourne.

    It begs the question. Who is subsidising who?

  33. macdoc says:

    Just type in Scottish Independence on twitter and find hundreds of children saying “Imagine letting 16/17 year old the vote for Scottish Independence” 
    I just despair at the ignorance. The amount of people that believe that Scotland would become a 3rd world country is still staggering. 

  34. Dee says:

    I truly hope SG has plans to lower all fuel costs, it is a vote winner, the economy would grow a lot quicker as well.  I used to go out a lot roof runs in the car with the family, but due to fuel costs I can no longer afford the petrol. It costs a small fortune to head up loch fyne for example, and that has a knock on effect on their local economy, so everybody loses.  False economy, also I hope they are thinking of lowering elec/gas prices,  if they can promise some movement in those areas, then watch those YESVotes rocket up..

  35. Braco says:

    Rabb, AdrianB and Albert Herring,

    How about the Citizen’s wage?

    Take all current expenditure by the British welfare state in Scotland on things including pensions, income support, unemployment benefit, working tax credits, housing benefit, winter heating allowance, higher education bursaries and allowances etc. etc. etc.

    Then include the large bureaucratic costs in running the current system. Take the total figure and simply divide it by every adult in Scotland. I am working from a memory here so don’t quote me, but you’ll get the general idea. Each and every adult would be entitled to a Citizen’s wage of let’s say approx. £13 000.

    Earn more and the wage becomes a tax allowance. Should you be dependent upon the C wage, all your extra earnings up to say another £13 grand, are yours to earn. After that amount the Cwage reverts to the tax allowance.

    This system would ensure nobody drops below a minimum income to live, allowing life enhancing/changing decisions such as re training, looking after an elderly relative or setting up a business are valued as they should be and not actually punished. In fact to a certain extent, they would be supported by the state to the benefit of both the individual and our community.

    This would also encourage the populace to look for and organise for themselves, the kind of work they want and enjoy, helping to prolong the individuals envolvement in the workplace beyond ‘retirement age’ through choice rather than necessity as well as enhance working person’s efficiency.

    In terms of housing and land prices, a system such as the C wage takes the negotiations of rent away from the cosy agreement between Councils/Government and Private/Social Landlords on the rates of rent that they deem payable on behalf of the tenant, to a much more direct ‘what will the tenant pay?’

    I have rented in London, with most of my rent payed through housing benefit. I felt only a fleeting intellectual outrage at the frightening rent being paid, for what was in essence a shit hole.

    Had I been able to keep any savings made on my rent, it certainly would not have been a fleeting or simply intellectual outrage and my landlord would have had to deal with me and all his other tenants rather than a council form and formula!

    I realise that this is no panacea, but this kind of blank page radical thinking, along with an equally radical simplification of the absurdly complex current tax system, could go along way to help re structure our society.

    That is away from the current judgmental ‘deserving and undeserving poor’ concept, to a more humane and productive ‘find what it is you want to do with your life and then try and do it’ concept, but without the fear of crippling poverty or social stigma.

    These are the kind of changes I am hoping for in an independent Scotland and these are the kind of policies that I will be ‘politically’  active and agitating for after the declaration of independence! (hopefully in 2015)

    Fuck the Parties. We need change from top to bottom. We need a Scotland/State run for the benefit of all it’s Citizen’s and not a simple continuation of the current state of affairs, which adds up to the absolute reverse!

    Vote YES! in 2014  

  36. thejourneyman says:

    Now we are really getting to the heart of what we need to be discussing. This is what independence will be about, understanding and having the courage to accept that the capitalist system we have been hanging onto for so long is completely bankrupt.
    In an independent Scotland we need a new monetary system, one which is backed by the only fair and true measure of value, the labour of the people.
    In the current system the Government and the Banks are in cahoots, charging the people interest on money that never existed. Fractional reserve rules have been relaxed so far that we have ended up with unimaginable debt levels at every level.
    Point one; taxes on the people don’t pay for the stuff Governments tell us they do, taxes pay the Government debt repayments to the elite corporate structures who own the central banks. Point two; the Government borrows the masses of money it does to fund the services it provides.
    As a result the people are enslaved in perpetuity voting for more of the same while the rich get richer and the workers stay firmly suppressed under the boot of the ruling elites. Many of our political class won’t accept this is the way of the world despite the part they play in perpetuating the whole vicious circle.
    It should be no surprise when we see published links between the super wealthy, our major corporations and the Government. This is the game they sustain, keep wages low, control the media, put controls in private hands, perpetuate war and fear and create massive wealth for themselves.
    There is a solution and Scotland can become a beacon for a fairer, more just and peaceful world. Winning a Yes vote will be a significant step on a massive journey but the courage required to then implement radical, creative and innovative change will be far greater. Then again, anything of any worth never comes easily.

  37. Albert Herring says:

    “Fuck the Parties”
    How about government by ballot? You’d still get idiots and unprincipled bastards, but a hell of a lot fewer of them!

  38. Braco says:

    Albert Herring,

    Now you’re talking!

    Braco says:
     18 February, 2013 at 12:46 pm
    My suggestion is first to educate our populace as citizens around a written constitution agreed by the population. Then government should be by ballot. Governmental Jury duty if you will, five year terms…………… etc.
    Great minds and all that,  Albert ma pal!

  39. CameronB says:

    There is no chance of rents ever being fair under the free market system, until housing supply comes close to meeting demand. That is one of the first rules they teach you in school economics. Meeting housing demand in England is next to impossible, in the short to medium term, as they do not have the space, let alone the political will. We have the space in Scotland, yet we still have a chronic housing shortage. That should suggest something about Westminster’s priorities.
    I do not know if anyone here has ever been homeless? I was, several times as a young man trying to live in Edinburgh. In total, I must have spent roughly seven years living at no fixed abode. Two of them while studying at university. Anyone with a similar experience will confirm how homelessness can destroy an individual’s connection with society. Do we really live in a modern democracy, where the needs of society are given priority over the interests of capital? All I see is the UK heading towards a one party system, similar to that in the USA.
    I wonder if the Duke of Westminster, the largest landowner in the UK, has any social tenants receiving housing benefit?
    Vote Yes in 2014.

  40. Braco says:

    Albert Herring,
    Also from the same thread, Vronsky put it much more succinctly,

    Vronsky says:
     19 February, 2013 at 9:57 am


    On minorities, best answer is to stop having elections and select your parliament at random.  By the natural laws of statistics all interests and genders will be proportionately represented. There will be fewer than 1% millionaires instead of 100%, fewer than 1% public schoolboys instead of 100%,  fewer than 1% Oxbridge types instead of, what, 70%? and 0% career politicians.  There will be some unprincipled bastards and a few idiots, but only at their rate of appearance in the broad population – which is very much less than the present system allows.
    How to get this idea some real momentum?


  41. Vronsky says:

    braco, albert
    I think we need to start putting up some scaffolding around our idea of Demarchy, start getting some structure appearing, have a go at being taken seriously. I fancy being in a political party that wants political parties removed from government.  Maybe time for some exchanges over on the quarantine thread.  Brotherhood’s always loitering out there gasping fags and fretting about his writing but I suppose we can ignore him.  (Just joking, Ian).

  42. Braco says:


    maybe not ‘fair’, but look at Berlin or Paris and you will see ‘affordable’ and long term. It’s definitely not beyond a functioning capitalist system to be able to separate the need to adequately house it’s population, from the general running of it’s economy.

    Of course it helps if your economy involves making something other than profits on invented money, in the form of mortgages, by a banking sector dependent on an ever increasing ‘consumer led’ property bubble!

  43. Albert Herring says:

    Aye, I remember seeing that right enough, (it’s a bit disappointing to find that what I thought were my own words, in fact weren’t, lol)
    I also seem to remember seeing a comment from someone with a scheme involving a rolling assembly with a overlap where outgoing members trained the incoming ones. I think they also suggested a second chamber comprising elected politicians, but non-party.
    If people on here and elsewhere are talking about this sort of stuff, then maybe it’s an idea that’s time has come!

  44. Braco says:


    that political party sounds great!

    Of course our discussions over on quarantine must have a pre negotiation agreement between us three band of brothers, that I get to be the leader and get the biggest car with the biggest salary and expense account. You’se can set all the policies of course, however, I will reserve the right to ignore them, but only for the good of the party.

    These are my terms (some of them anyway) and I am always ready to serve should history call.

  45. CameronB says:

    @ Braco
    I do not have a problem with a market system, though I do with a capitalist system. The two are very different and will produce radically different social environments. My understanding might be a little out off date, but does the Netherlands not operate a system similar to the Citizen’s Wage you are suggesting?

  46. Braco says:

    Albert Herring,
    Sorry to disappoint, but that was me also!
    Oh no, that means it’s just us three forward thinkers, but I still think it is an idea who’s time will come.
    I know I keep joking, but I would dearly love to be involved in this kind of agitation post a YES vote in 2014. Possibly amoung the concepts of the Scots Constitution? I try not to dream so far a head, but it really is exciting!

  47. rabb says:

    Everything in a free market economy is fair because that’s where the market has taken it. Your problem was that you were at the thin end of the wedge. You can’t say it was unfair because you were priced out. It’s supply and demand. That’s why the oil price will only ever be volitile in one direction…..Up!
    This is where the great deception comes into play though. You were a victim of the “free market” not being free.
    I defy any of our unionist friends to come on here and deny that the markets cannot be manipulated. They are and on a daily basis too. The vast majority of money is debt and it’s very important that as much of this debt lies with the people and not the market movers & shakers.

    The lack of new accomodation was the movers & shakers way of pushing up price without incurring more debt. Simple!
    The South East in particular are driven by aspiration and continues to borrow and consume even now at alarming rates. The benefactors of this “market” are the ruling classes. The media and government are complicit in this.
    There are two things in my mind to look at in any country to see if it’s healthy or not.
    1. Who owns the media.
    2. Who is responsible for political policy.
    Both in our case are predominantly ruling classes. Not healthy!
    The way around this in my mind is an independent republic with a written constitution that protects the sovereignty of the people and ensures that all men and women are equal.
    Serving as head of state (president or prime minister) should be an honour bestowed on said individual and not a privelage.
    I have to say that I am not a comunist or a socialist. I am a realist!
    Vote Yes in 2014. It’s the only opportunity we have to turn the tide.

  48. GP Walrus says:

    One group claiming housing benefits from the public purse who seem not to be targetted under the Bedroom Tax proposals are MPs.
    While it is entirely reasonable that the Hon. Members are re-imbursed for the accommodation required to represent their constituents at Westminster, it seems unreasonable that the public should re-imburse any superfluity of sleeping accommodation. Surely in these times of austerity it is only right that MPs allowances are reduced in proportion to the number of rooms  in excess of the one required to support their function? After all, they have second homes for their families (and ducks) to live in. 

  49. rabb says:

    Vronsky says:
    12 March, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    braco, albert
    I think we need to start putting up some scaffolding around our idea of Demarchy, start getting some structure appearing, have a go at being taken seriously. I fancy being in a political party that wants political parties removed from government. Maybe time for some exchanges over on the quarantine thread. Brotherhood’s always loitering out there gasping fags and fretting about his writing but I suppose we can ignore him. (Just joking, Ian).
    Interesting concept demarchy.
    Perhaps a hybrid of elected members of a parliament with a civic upper house made up of members of the public drawn from lots? Kind of like jury service acting as a check & balance?
    To the quarantine thread!!

  50. Braco says:

    I worked in Amsterdam back in the late 80’s for a while, but never came across that particular policy. It was full of radical policy initiatives in many other social fields though, so it would not surprise me if they had a dabble with it.
    The problem is that The Netherlands, outside of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, is actually a very conservative (with a small c) country and so radical ideas tend to get eroded over time. Maybe not such a bad idea.
    I did, in my deepest dreams, like to think that given independence Scotland would follow a similar path of free thinking social policy formation.
    As I said in a previous thread regarding The Reformation (but in no way a religious way),  more to do with a shared folk history of a population that through the Reformation, managed to overthrow first the established church, then the Spanish, go on to set up and run a terrible and exploitative world empire and then finally, create a modern inclusive modern secular society.
    We seemed, to my younger self, very similar, but for some wrong turns along the path, very, very different.  I was so jealous it pained me!

  51. Vronsky says:

    Your conditions granted in toto.  Meantime I think I’ll get to work an a Demarchic Manifesto.  There are some good examples. 

  52. Braco says:

    Vronsky, Albert and now Rabb !
    This movement is starting to get some momentum!
    I put forward the idea to the quadrangle, that we stop calling it by that foreign Demarchy rubbish and go with Quarantine, as that is what we are trying to do to the political parties from our political system and it’s also where our first official meeting and manifesto will be hammered out!

  53. peter says:

    Tonight on Radio Scotland at about 5.48 there was a discussion on climate change targets set by the Scottish Government, it was introduced with the usual crap about how they had missed targets. The guest then gave a masterful performance rubbishing the attempts by whichever BBC drone to do down the Scottish government.

  54. rabb says:

    I prefer “Freemocracy” myself 🙂

  55. Vronsky says:

    “foreign Demarchy rubbish”
    Dear me, no.  It sounds so sexily close to anarchy, we’ve got to call it that.  I’ve put a place holder over on quarantine with a request for contributions so if you’re interested – heid doon, arse up.

  56. Simon says:

    One of the reasons we don’t see the rent strikes like in the past is that poor people don’t really pay their rent – the HB comes in and the rent goes out, it matters little how much it is. What incentive does a poor person have to haggle for a lower rent when taking on a place?

    If benefits were a flat rate then there would be every incentive for recipients to shop around, choose a cheaper place, or negotiate a reduction with the landlord. Or, choose to spend more of their money on a bigger or nicer house and do without a car, or cigarettes, or something else.

    In the end the only fair system is a citizens wage I think. Otherwise there will always be a poverty trap where benefits taper off. I work, I dont earn much, I get no housing benefit or council tax benefit. When I used to be on benefits my Income Support payments were less than I earn now, but IS plus HB plus CTB were a lot more than I get now. If I weren’t so bloody-minded I would give up work and sign on.

  57. charlie says:

    in case it’s not been mentioned, on Radio 4 a woman from Newcastle said benefit cuts  in Newcastle would remove £90 million from claimants in the city and therefore that money wouldn’t be spent locally. It’s rarely the bleedin obvious is heard in the media, cuts to people with little money knock on locally, high rate tax cuts service pension funds. When Cameron and Clegg have re-funded their mates, they’ll hand over to Liam Fox and his Peter Sellars on the bomb impersonation. 
    Jeez. Let’s have a British Isles debate!
    All the best

  58. Braco says:

    Slim Pickins is yer man for the Bomb analogy, (film pedant, sorry).  The Bleedin obvious is a more than rare thing these days though, I must agree.

  59. molly says:

    mm ,SG invested £675 million 2009/2010 in affordable housing,allocated £80 million to 23 local authorities to support the construction of 3,300 new council homes,maybe the problem is closer to home?
    Hands up whose council are on target with building new council housing ?

  60. allan ross mackenzie says:

    Possible O.T. I have been a supporter of Scottish Independence for the last forty years.To my regret I had to leave my country so that I couldn’t be welfare dependent. Its hard but its possible. My point is…I come from Paisley and most people are too dependent on the system,they don’t see a way out,and are forced fed false hope from those who promise the earth and when in power give shite back. Life was a rut nurtured by the labour party so in a way we were cannon fodder for the reprobates that are labour. We must appeal to the dependency culture and break the hold those type of politicians that wish us to stay that way,just so that their cannon fodder hold them indifference. Its a hard job , but anything is possible,people like the Rev and others like minded are a breath of fresh air in a cesspit of political kach. Long may it continue,because to do otherwise is to accept the stink of Westminster and their Ilk.

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