Why do the Tories keep winning elections?

by on June 10, 2017 in economy, society

A complex question but here are two factors:

1) The Labour Party will spend too much money. This is what happened last time. This would have happened had Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party been elected again. What happened to the Brown-Blair government is the following: in lieu of any real socialist re-structuring of society they simply opted for increasing the government’s tax take. (The share of taxation as a percentage of GDP increased from 38% to 48% under New Labour [1]). They splurged the money on mass schooling and the NHS – because they knew that these are vote winners and because they can claim that there is something ‘socialist’ about this. Then, when the next dip in the business cycle came they were stuffed. Tax revenues fell – but all those extra teaching assistants still needed to be paid. Inevitably many of them had to be sacked. The ‘left’ can blame the “bankers” for the crash – but crashes are just a cyclic part of the system. And, as everyone knows, bankers generate wealth. And they can blame “the nasty party” for the cuts. But, as everyone knows, the cuts were inevitable.

On public spending and the cuts everyone knows that Labour is making it up. It is a consistent fundamental truth about the Labour party that they bleed the public purse dry to spend on the salaries and wages of public sector Trade Union members.

2) A consistent, fundamental truth about the Tory party is that they are the party which places selfishness at the heart of everything they do. Nonetheless they have a monopoly on a hard but basic truth in life. You are responsible for your own situation in life. Everyone knows this is true.

The narrative that other people are responsible for me – nonetheless appeals to a large albeit minority section of society. It appeals to those who want to be fed, clothed and generally supported by other people. It appeals to people who work in charities and the public sector whose jobs depend on providing the ‘support’. And it appeals to journalists who have carved out a career based around selling this narrative.

This is a prime example of this industry in the Guardian

Let’s examine the two case studies:

Case 1

Diane is not her real name, but everything else I’m about to write about her is true. She was born and bred in Hackney. A single mother of four boys, she works as a dinner lady in a local school where she is on a zero-hours contract. That means there’s no holiday entitlement and no sick pay. Simply put: if she doesn’t turn up for work, for whatever reason, she doesn’t get paid.

Diane was issued with warnings, and then a summons to appear in court. This is when my solicitor friend got involved. In spite of his efforts, in April this year, she was served an eviction notice. It was a Sunday when he told me about Diane. On the Tuesday, he said, the bailiffs would enter her home, remove her belongings and put her and her three sons on the street. What happens then, I asked? My friend explained that because Diane doesn’t tick any of the priority housing needs, she’ll be left to fend for herself.

You sit listening to this and you think: is it really possible in this day and age that a neighbour will be tossed like a piece of junk into the street? Aren’t there safety nets?

 

Comments on Case 1

“If she doesn’t turn up for work she doesn’t get paid”. Gosh. How terrible. There is a misguided sense of entitlement here; that people have the “right” to be paid regardless of whether they work or not.

The author makes it sound like “rented housing association flat” is some kind of penance. In fact this kind of housing is something which many dream about; low-cost, secure long-term tenancies, with a full service contract.  The capital which underwrites Housing Association properties is largely raised on the markets. It is not socialised capital. That is certainly something which a socialist could and should be talking about. But, at the point of delivery, a Housing Association rented flat is something far more secure than a 6 month tenancy in the private sector.

“Depression set in”. Ah. “Depression”. That useful intangible ‘condition’. We are invited to sympathise. But the condition can never be ‘proven’. ‘Depression’ is a category of psychiatry and the label is linked to the marketing at public expense of toxic pharmaceuticals. Again; real socialists should be concerned about this matrix of profit and greed; not manufacturing sympathy for a ‘victim of depression’.

“Her financial difficulties took a turn for the worse with the bedroom tax”. The sense of entitlement in this naming of a reduction in benefits as a tax is extraordinary. The so-called “bedroom-tax” isn’t anything to do with a “tax”. It is a reduction in benefits for those who have empty rooms in their property based on the logic that the taxpayer should not be subsidising empty rooms. There is though an issue here. Like other benefit trimmings this reduction in Housing Benefit – for those who have empty rooms in their properties – may make sense on paper but in execution is problematic. For example; there may be a shortage in the area of smaller properties for Diane to move into. If it is practically impossible for Diane to move into a smaller property then indeed simply cutting her rent allowance is cruel. But, again, these fake socialists just issue a winge and display their sense of entitlement on someone else’s behalf. They betray their lack of actual care when they don’t look into the concrete details of the situation.

“The debts piled up.” People are 100% responsible for getting into debt. Many local authorities have funds to help people in these cases. Did Diane apply? If not; we are not responsible. Was the Housing Association approached and asked to assist – either by finding a smaller property or by alleviating some of the rent? Again; if not, we are not responsible.  Even if Diane had to find a little bit of money out of her living allowances to support the rent it is highly likely that this would have been possible. These allowances are significantly higher than is necessary to buy food and clothing. (£75.00 a week for basic Jobseeker’s allowance is the minimum).

“The bailiffs would enter her home, remove her belongings and put her and her three sons on the street.” This only happens after a lengthy process. Housing Associations will try to avoid this outcome. The situation is likely to have been of Diane’s own making.

“Diane doesn’t tick any of the priority housing needs, she’ll be left to fend for herself.” We can infer from this that the 3 remaining sons are all grown-up and not dependent on Diane. Why aren’t they helping?

“You sit listening to this and you think: is it really possible in this day and age that a neighbour will be tossed like a piece of junk into the street? Aren’t there safety nets?”. No we don’t. There are safety nets. If people chose to plunge through them all and still expect after all that to be caught that creates a problem. The safety net to cater for these demands would have to be impossibly large. Even safety nets have to have some kind of a limit.

 

Case 2

Let me introduce you to Amma (same deal, not her real name; the details are, unfortunately, all too true). Amma has been given leave to remain in the country but has “no recourse to public funds”. That means she is not allowed to work, nor is she allowed to claim benefits. She has three children, born in Hackney. After the father deserted the family, Amma eventually found shelter in a hostel in Hertfordshire, sharing a kitchen with nine other families. Every day, her children get up at 5am to travel to school. When they arrive, they are exhausted, hungry, and their clothes smell because Amma has no way to wash and dry them.

Comment on Case 2

“Not allowed to work”. Are you absolutely sure about this? If she has been given indefinite leave to remain that means that she can stay in the UK but cannot claim benefits. But people with indefinite leave to remain can work [2] and study.  The claim that she cannot work is likely to be a complete fiction – a lie – (unless she has temporary leave to remain in which case that is a different matter). The category of people who cannot work are people whose asylum claims are being processed.

“After the father deserted the family”. Why is this our problem?

“Sharing a kitchen with nine other families”. Well; she has a subsidized roof over her head and is being fed at public or charitable expense. If people can’t support themselves in this country then they should not have come here in the first place. Again; it is all very well to assert otherwise, but think about the consequences for public funds. It is quite reasonable for the state to invite people to stay in this country so long as they can support themselves. That is how the system works and Amma will or should have known this before she applied for leave to remain. Other countries have similar systems.

“Every day, her children get up at 5am to travel to school.” Each of Amma’s children is costing the taxpayer approximately £5,000.00 a year to receive their schooling on top of the living and housing and medical costs they are incurring.

“When they arrive, they are exhausted, hungry, and their clothes smell because Amma has no way to wash and dry them.” If they are hungry why has Amma not fed them? Is the claim here that she has no money at all? Who is paying for the hostel? My guess would be that a local authority is picking up the bills here. “Amma has no way to wash them”. The hostel will have sinks and you can hang clothes up anywhere.

 

What we see here are false victim narratives. The fake left makes its living out of peddling this kind of victim explanation. But most people know that these stories are fishy. The Guardian is full of such stories. But they never have any detail. The reason they lack details is probably because if we could see the details it would be evident that there were many many opportunities for people to avoid falling into their undoubtedly bad situations.

By peddling these stories based on fake sympathy the fake left alienates any possibility for real sympathy for cases where people genuinely have had very bad luck. (In Amma’s case it is bad luck, perhaps, that her husband has left her  – if he really has – but even then elements of the story don’t bear a hard-headed analysis).

The ‘moral’ we are always supposed to take from these stories is that more public funds should be splurged on Diane and Amma. But, as we’ve mentioned before, any system has to have limits. There cannot be unlimited safety nets all round. Wherever that limit is drawn there will always be people who place themselves at the edge. The people who tell these supposedly moral tales never stop to consider where the money is going to come from. But money is not limitless. And the sums demanded are not trivial. If Diane is to be given more money to bail her out of her situation that has to come from somewhere. Another youth club will have to be closed. Or taxes will have to be raised.

Splurging more money on Diane and Amma will not encourage them to get a grip on their lives and take responsibility. Splurging money on Diane will let her 3 grown-up sons off the hook. (Surely; after the death of son 1 the other 3 could have chipped in £10.00 a week each to cover the shortfall in rent?). And for Amma – what more are we supposed to do? The claim seems to be that she should have a proper home (though for the author of this article it isn’t even clear if a Housing Association flat would satisfy him) and benefits. But that means that a change in the immigration system that people who are given leave to remain can apply for benefits. Can the state and the public purse really support that? No – the deal for this category of immigration is that you can come here if you can support yourself but you cannot claim benefits. This is reasonable and in line with normal practice in other countries.

This faked victim narrative is produced by people who themselves make a direct living out of ‘helping’ and ‘supporting’ the Diane’s and Amma’s of this world. At the bottom of this false victim narrative lies exactly the same kind of self-interest we see in the Tory party. The fake left is just feathering their own nests. Diane and Amma are not being helped by this. They would be helped by learning to turn to their families and to take responsibility for their own situations.

There are people who really do need public assistance. For example; people born with Cerebral Palsy or Cystic Fibrosis. But all these people with self-inflicted wounds do not need help.

Labour will always struggle to get votes when their narrative is so linked to certain sectional interests. There is an argument for a fairer society. This would mean: guaranteed employment for those who can work, which means much more planning and less of a ‘market’ in labour; socially provided housing at a reasonable cost; nationalised industries in sectors such as energy and transport providing services at an affordable cost. Nothing to do with the fake left alternative; spending never ending sums of public money on various classes of ‘victims’ of capitalism, while in reality supporting capitalism to the hilt. If anything Jeremy Corbyn’s relative electoral success shows that there is public demand for this kind of a fairer society.

 

Notes

1. The New Observer – article on New Labour

2. http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2014/07/28/faqs-on-checking-employees-right-to-work-in-the-uk.aspx

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