Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Redistribute the Wealth.

The Financial Times reports the results of its latest Harris poll, which finds that from the US to China, there is a globally solid consensus against the current levels of inequality and a demand to tax the rich more and the poor less. In the UK, the figure stands at an overwhelming 76%. It is noticeable that the Tories are posing as a bit left of Labour in Crewe & Nantwich, talking about Post Offices and the 10p tax. As with the national strategy of cutting a vaguely 'progressive' jib, the Tories are banking on the fact that New Labour are unpopular for their right-wing policies, and if they can only keep Conservative spokespeople from scaring people too much, they will benefit from a massive anti-government reflux. By contrast, New Labour's 'toff' campaign is a totally depoliticised one, or at least it contains no hint of real class politics - rather, it is conjoined to a right-wing 'populist' appeal on 'yobs' and 'foreigners'. It's not so much a dog whistle as a ferocious canine howl. The Tories have been absolutely hammered in successive elections where it relied on bashing criminals and immigrants, but New Labour seems to think it's the key to electoral success. So, it is pursuing an unavailing lurch to the right. In light of this, I am intrigued to see that George Monbiot has said:

"It is clear to me that we need a left wing alternative to New Labour. That must either emerge from a coup inside Labour, which kicks out the neoliberal impostors that currently run the party, or it will have to come from people outside of the party.

"Either way the trade unions must play a central role in the process. I think we need to keep asking them why they support the government that is attacking them, and what it would take for them to break from Labour.

"I know that either option will be hard – and that we’ve already had a few false dawns – but I don’t believe that staying with New Labour is an option."

I find this encouraging in the main, despite the lingering hope in the former option, which would exhaust itself even more rapidly than John McDonnell's bid to challenge Brown. Monbiot's argument that there can be no possibility of support for the most right-wing government since the war is an important one, and I can't see much enthusiasm anywhere for retreating to the ranks of the Labour Party, despite the obvious pressure to do so. In the immediate term, we have much to rally behind - anti-fascist work, pay strikes and, as a reasonable series of measures, John McDonnell's ten point Charter for the labour movement. But in the future, and soon, we will have to break the compact in which elected parties effectively promise to protect the property of the rich and punish the poor through surreptitious welfare cuts and tax rises.