miss_s_b: (Mood: Brain Hurts)
So, a couple of years ago Labour pulled out of a stable Lib/Lab coalition on Calderdale council despite the agreement having a year still to run because they thought they could go it alone in a minority administration. Last night that administration was finally toppled, after a series of scandals where the cabinet appointed by the minority administration kept ignoring the will of full council, in a no confidence vote. Labour are screeching about this in very personal terms in every medium that will afford them airspace. Apparently toppling Swifty from his rightful seat of supreme executive power that he gained without even a majority* is a betrayal, and a conspiracy cooked up against Swifty and the rest of Labour by foul evil nasty people.

This only makes sense if you understand one thing: Labour people think anything Labour = objectively, unquestionably good and anything not!Labour = bad. A moral judgement has already been made before any action is ever taken. Tories, of course, are ALWAYS evil, but Lib Dems and Greens can be acceptable; IF and ONLY if we are doing whatever Labour want us to do. As soon as we show any sign of not-supporting Labour in any way they scream that we are BETRAYING them. Because obviously, the fact that we all joined another party doesn't mean we don't support Labour REALLY, it just means we like other coloured shirts or something. And as soon as we become BETRAYERS we are automatically WORSE than the Tories. Tories can't HELP being evil, you see, but we made a CHOICE to be evil by not supporting Labour.

So it was OK for Labour to stab us in the back and kick us out of coalition because Labour are good and Lib Dems are bad.
But it's a BETRAYAL for us to vote against them in a no-con, even after they have stabbed us in the back and kicked us out of coalition, because if we want to be good we should be supporting them, not our own political beliefs.

I would laugh at this sort of "logic" were it not that so many of the electorate accept it unquestioningly :/



*or even a watery tart throwing a sword at him.**
** honestly, if I went round saying I was an emperor just cos some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away***
*** and I'm not even called Dennis.
miss_s_b: (Default)
So there are a bunch of Labour PPCs and assorted others today doing a coordinated clamour for renationalisation of the railways. This is a superficially attractive idea, and one that up until recently I might have agreed with myself, so I want to go into why I now believe it would be bloody stupid.

The way that privatisation was done was a cock up. You'll get no argument from me on that. The current franchise system for Train Operating Companies (hereinafter TOCs) is the worst of both worlds. Also, I have no issues with the fact that after the collapse of Railtrack, the infrastructure was basically brought back under state control in the guise of Network Rail. Land and track beds are a natural monopoly, and thus state control makes sense**. The actual rolling stock, though? Why does that have to be a monopoly? It doesn't.

The reason people still feel like it does is because of the afore-mentioned stupid franchise system, which means we basically have several regional monopolies rather than one national one***. We have competition on the railways in the same way we have competition for huge government contracts in other areas, and it's always the same usual suspects who bid for contracts because they are the only ones who can, and we end up with a cartel who fleece both the consumer at the ticket barrier and the taxpayer on the subsidies****.

In the few cases where some little company has managed to get an Open Access Rail contract, you can see how TOCs' contracts might work under a properly Liberal system. The example local to me is Grand Central, who run a service from various West Yorkshire stations to King's Cross. Their trains are beautiful, their service makes sense, and their prices are great. Contrast this with the Byzantine and delapidated system run by Northern Rail (my local franchise holder), or BR when the railways were still under state control, and you start to see what I'm driving at.

Train services aren't shit because they were privatised, they were shit under BR too. Train services are shit because they weren't privatised enough. You can't have proper competition under a franchise system. If there was proper competition there would be room for lots more companies like Grand Central to bid for (say) one or two slots on the timetable, start small, and build up really great services, instead of the monolithic state-in-all-but-name services we have now. There would be room for community-run and co-op run services to start up and (hopefully) flourish. Under the current system there's no way that can happen.

What is it that convinced me that all this is true? The NHS. NHS England operates under a much more liberal market structure than NHS Scotland, NHS Northern Ireland, or NHS Wales. This is consistently painted as a Bad Thing by many groups on the left. And yet, I am a Liberal, and I don't care what system of ownership something has on idealogical grounds, I care what works to deliver the best outcomes for people. On pretty much every measure - from life expectancy to waiting times - NHS England outperforms the other three. Proper liberalisation of the market WORKS, and that is why I am for it in the case of the railways.

In political terms, of course, the problem with this is that renationalisation makes some superficial sense. The current system is shit, does cost us more in subsidies and buggering about than the nationalised system did, and is in urgent need of reform. I actually think that in terms of winning votes, the Labour party might be onto something, because one of the types of person this will appeal to is the type of politically illiterate pub bore who has an opinion on everything, doesn't care that many of his opinions are mutually contradictory, and doesn't think about the consequences of what would happen if his ideas all came to pass. This type of person will look at the current system, see it's shit, shrug and say "well, renationalise the railways. That'll solve it." and move on to talking about how lazy immigrants who came over here to claim benefits have stolen his job by working more hours than him.

This is the type of voter that Labour are currently haemmoraging in droves to UKIP*****, so appealing to them is a good survival tactic for them. The type of person who cheers when Labour think of yet another thing they are going to fund with the bankers' bonus tax which they currently plan to spend many times over.

Of course I have no doubt that were renationalisation to make it into the Labour manifesto it wouldn't actually happen were they to get in******, but that won't really matter in electoral terms. There are a lot more reactionary pub bores than there are people who actually pay attention to what works. The problem for Lib Dems is: how do we package sensible policies in a way that makes sense to the reactionary pub bore? This, I think, is a problem which I would make a LOT of money if I could solve...



*with a little help from [personal profile] matgb and Alisdair, with whom I regularly have discussions about political stuff, both online and off.
**similarly with roads, etc.
***The reason we have it is because John Major had romantic notions about the golden age of rail and wanted to bring back GWR etc. and went about it in a cack-handed way. I have a soft spot for Major, and think he is harshly judged as a PM, but he really did make an arse of privatising the railways.
****just like in the arena of justice and security it's always G4S and Serco who end up with government contracts because of the ridiculous preffered bidder system and the size of the contracts being drawn up, but that's a blog post for another day.
*****whose entire policy platform is designed in this reactionary way - "X is a problem. How do we solve X? Y might work." with no consideration of the fact that Y doesn't work with any of the other policies they propose, and indeed, actively works against some of them... -_-"
******Don't even get me started on the rank hypocrisy of a party which introduced tuition fees against a manifesto promise that they wouldn't, and then raised them against a manifesto promise that they wouldn't attacking US on the fact that we kept tuition fees lower than they would have been under either Labour OR Tories governing alone... -_-"
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
So this news story popped up on my feed this morning. Calderdale Council's Labour cabinet have agreed to spend £680,000 on upgrading the borough's CCTV system.

£680,000.

SIX HUNDRED AND EIGHTY THOUSAND POUNDS.

This is the same Labour cabinet who threaten community centres with closure, and when anyone complains bleat about ConDem cuts and wring their hands ruefully. Community centres, which, lets not forget, actually address the root causes of crime and ASB, unlike CCTV which just allows the police to sometimes have the evidence to prosecute after the fact.

Now, to be fair, only about a quarter of a million of this £680,000 is coming from some unnamed slush fund that none of the rest of us know anything about, and which could have been spent on more worthwhile things; the rest of it is going to be borrowed. On unspecified terms. Because we all know how GREAT Labour are at negotiating favourable contract terms for loans. Calderdale Royal hospital's PFI deal is a shining example of their skill in that regard.

And then there's the contract for the actual provision. Which is going to Virgin Media. We don't know why, or what terms they were offered the contract, or how they tendered for it. We don't know if there are are any performance clauses in the contract so the council will be able to get out of it if it all goes mammaries-skyward. But I'm sure we can trust the Labour party to have thought of all this, right? They totally haven't got a track record of dodgy contracts which tie the hands of their successors at all levels of government at all...

I really am quite angry about this, as you can probably tell.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
I intended this slot to be for Youtubes of Monty Python and daft jokes, but nothing today is going to beat the silliness of the former minister for health, who wants to ban Frosties.

Yes, childhood obesity is an issue.
Yes, Frosties are high in simple carbohydrates.
Yes, it'd be nice if people chose to eat things the establishment approves of (from the point of view of the establishment, anyway).

Why the instant Labour response to anything like this is bansturbation is beyond me, though. Surely it's treating a symptom rather than a cause? People choosing unhealthy foods is not a cause of poor diet, it's an expression of it. If you wanted to treat the cause rather than the symptom, though, you'd need to look at why people choose frosties over (say) muesli:

- because they taste nice
- because they're much cheaper
- because they're used to them.

Banning frosties won't solve any of those things (black market frosties would still be cheap; that's how markets work). If you want people to choose "healthy" foods, you need to:

1, educate them on what healthy foods are (people are mostly fairly well informed on this) - the traffic light food labelling scheme is part of this too.
2, make healthy foods cheaper and/or more convenient than unhealthy ones. You can do this by either taxing unhealthy foods, or subsidising healthy ones (commence argument about which is preferable now). The problem is that the reason unhealthy foods are cheap is because good quality ingredients aren't, and that's not a simple thing to solve.
3, make sure that all public utilities which sell food (schools, hospitals, canteens, etc) offer a variety of healthy foods so people can get used to things other than frosties.

And that's without even going into how unworkable such a ban would be. If you ban a specific product, the manufacturers will bring out the same product under a new name. If you ban a certain percentage of sucrose, the manufacturers will find other, potentially much less healthy options (fructose, for example). And even then, how do you stop people adding extra sugar in their homes?

Like most Labour proposals, this is ill-thought out and if it is ever to work will require massive bureaucracy for a tiny gain.

Still, now they've demonised nicotine, alcohol, fat, salt and sugar, it'll be interesting to see what's next. Puritanism is never satisfied...
miss_s_b: (Default)
Yesterday, Chris Williamson MP tweeted:
Lib Dem membership in freefall. I'd urge all Lib Dems who want progressive social change to back #Labour
Now, I know that some of you reading this have left the Lib Dems. At least one of those has joined the Greens, and several have joined the Pirates. Maybe some of you have joined Labour, and you know what? I'm a Liberal, and I am happy to see the exercising of personal choice even if it's not a decision I would make myself. But the idea that Liberals should leave the Lib Dems en masse and join Labour just because a Labour MP says so? THAT got my back up. So I replied. Possibly slightly less than respectfully:
AHAHAHAHAHAHAA the day authoritarian #Labour are the agents for real social change is the day Satan skates to work
Now, to give him his due, he didn't just ignore me. Unfortunately, some of the examples he replied with are.... well, shall we say "suspect"
But Labour introduced NHS, welfare state, equal pay, race & gender equality acts, min wage, civil partnerships, legalised abortion
So, I'm not the political historian that [personal profile] matgb is, but even I know that David Steel introduced the Abortion Act, and it was a free vote issue, and lots of Labour politicians opposed it. To try and claim that as a Labour measure just because Labour were in power when it was passed is disingenuous to say the least. And I know for a fact that they introduced civil partnerships because they were too cowardly to introduce equal marriage, which Lib Dems in government are doing RIGHT NOW! (Hi Lynne! *waves*) This makes me suspect that some of his other examples might not be as clear-cut as he is presenting them either, although I suppose I can give him minimum wage. So I go to reply to him to say that "just because something happened when Labour was in government doesn't mean it was instigated by or supported by Labour" and notice that he's also having a twitter conversation with Douglas... In reply to
What about those of us who value civil liberties, constitutional reform & not pandering to the media?
he says
Your point is? Remember Labour introduced biggest constitutional reforms, FOI Act & it was Ed Miliband who took on Murdoch.
So, chickening out of proper Lords reform (which, again, Lib Dems are doing in government), backing away from electoral reform when you got a big enough majority to snub Paddy, and opposing AV and boundary changes mean Liberals should trust you on constitutional reform, does it, Chris? And Ed Miliband is better than, ooo, say... VINCE CABLE on Murdoch?

So, my question to you, loyal reader, is this: is this man misinformed, deluded, or simply lying? And why does he think that spouting untruths directly at Lib Dems will get them to join his party? I mean, if you are a person who thinks the Lib Dems lied on tuition fees (which I can understand, even if I don't entirely share that view) or is dismantling the NHS (which, again, I can understand, even if I think what we're doing is preventing the tories from doing so) then WHY IN CTHULHU'S NAME would being barefaced lied to by a Labour MP entice you to join Labour? I know we have a reputation as masochists in the Lib Dems, but surely we're not all that masochistic?

My advice to you, if you're a Lib Dem leaver who still wants to remain politically active? If you're technologically inclined, join the Pirates, because they love freedom as much as we do, and they're a rising star. If I were ever to leave, that's where I'd go. If you're less technologically inclined, join the Greens and try to change some of their more ridiculous anti-science policies. And say hi to Liz. And if neither of those appeals, then join a single issue group. Perhaps the electoral reform society. But for pity's sake, don't join Labour. They'll betray you like they've betrayed everybody else since about 1998. They lie about how we got in the mess we're in now, they lie about what they did in power, and they won't even tell us what they're going to do if they get back in. If you want the definition of an untrustworthy politician, I'd say look for one in a red rosette.
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About This Blog

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Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






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