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February 05, 2015



This totally encapsulates my frustration with the Left - the total lack of patience. It's a Great Leap Forward, or nothing. Because that worked so well for Mao Zedong, right?

The AV referendum was a case in point, where the fact that the change offered wasn't Single Transferable Vote meant, for some reason, that the entire idea of changing the electoral system became somehow invalid. We can't move from something manifestly broken to something less than perfect, but miles better than what we've got, because it's less than perfect.

And now we have poor Natalie Bennett getting stick because their nobly intended but still somewhat vague idea of a universal Citizen's income isn't a totally worked out and costed programme, ready to plug in on day 1 of a Green government, and because of that it's just some woolly hippy fantasy and she's a nutter to think of it.

I honestly think that a lot of the divisions on the left are to do with this lack of patience, and that, combined with an almost Tea Party hostility to anything the Tories have done at all (I like the idea of HS2, and I don't think the new NHS structure is inherently bad, it's just rigged, and that isn't structural, it's statutory, and that can be changed), have left us unable to communicate a coherent intellectual message other than going back to the same methods that helped a bit in the past, so really, that's all we can do.

This is I think how come the Conservative Party became the vehicle for the money-over-all-else world we live in now, which is a far more radical change than I think any government ever inflicted on people (Attlee changed institutions, Thatcher changed people's souls). The Tories are capable of much greater pragmatism than the Left, and so it is much more natural to them to move gradually to the desired end result, and so they are also much more likely to get it than we are, stood with our hands in our pockets and calling each other out over saying something that doesn't represent the interests of *trans people on Twitter.


The problem with building blocks is, the other side sees them as a threat precisely because they're building blocks. To them, they look like thin ends of wedges. So I think an additional criterion is, how hard are they for the other side to roll back?


Is Natalie Bennett getting stick from the left? (honest question, I've no idea) The last I heard, she got a drubbing from Brillo Pad and that's the usual media thing of 'it it;'s not a Tory policy then it must be fully costed because nothing can happen that would change that and fiscal responsibilityWHAAARRRGARRBL'.


Leo has a good point - the Tories seem to go all out in burning things down and salting the ground with salt when it comes to making sure their reforms can't be unpicked. Partially, I'd say, because destruction is easier than building things up.

That's something the left has to deal with - otherwise all that'll happen is fire-fighting, while the kid with matches blames them for not getting anything done.


Some Socialists in the Labour party would be a novelty.

Ed Balls thinks a Job Guarantee is a better name for workfare. The Blairites are Tories and Red Ed is the palest of pale pink.

The Tories move the UK to the right and Labour treads water until the next Tory Government, moves to the next sprocket on the ratchet.

It is not business that has failed but Politics. Neoliberalism and Financialisation have failed, and politics continues to fail the public, but sticks to the mantra.

Ergo the rise of UK, Greens and SNP.

The shear scale of the misrepresentation (straw man) of the cost of a Citizens Income at £240 Billion for what is potentially cost neutral (recovered through taxation, but not necessarily for the low paid), took me aback, and apparently Natalie Bennett too, sorry to see it dropped.

Labour and the Tories are both parties of the privately educated seven percent, who dominate British public life, it was ever thus.

An Alien Visitor

"increasing spending on public services is merely ameliorative"

So diverting more resources to Health or educat is a dead end? For example, more doctors per head of population has no long term beneficial affect? Really?

Luis Enrique

the building block evaluation is, necessarily, subjective and speculative. easier in retrospect, maybe.


I've often expressed this view about government policy in general. Transport policy is a classic example. The sad thing is that the obsession with "great leaps forward" (and sometimes great leaps, e.g. the M25, Channel Tunnel are important) is that so little time and energy is put into building blocks.

cold hard facts

The public don't want a socialist society. Keep wringing those hands and suck it up!

Catch Boy


I agree with what you're saying in your post but I don't think the 'building block' analogy really works regarding AV - Australia changed to AV nearly a century ago and hasn't changed to PR yet. The reason I didn't vote for it was not because it wasn't perfect but because it's a worse system than the one we currently have (I didn't believe that was possible but Clegg somehow managed to come up with one). I'd have voted for *any* type of PR, but AV isn't proportional.


@ Luis Enrique: "The building block evaluation is, necessarily, subjective and speculative...easier in retrospect, maybe."

By no means. I would have thought the history of the last fifty years shows us that UK politicians are keenly aware of the importance of transformative policies. Mrs Thatcher's market liberalisations and privatisations, and Tony Blair's creation of academy schools and the introduction of competition into the NHS, immediately spring to mind, and I don't think anyone then or now has been in any doubt that these changes were transformative, partly because they shifted the Overton window ands partly because their permanence was assured by the enormous difficulties involved in reversing them.

It's a commonplace amongst politicians and political commentators that the first Blair Government occupied itself with ameliorative reforms which achieved little real change in the scheme of things, and it was in recognition of this failure that the second Blair Government specifically set out to introduce transformative policies.

This was a lesson learned by Cameron, who was determined not to repeat the mistake in his first, and possibly only, term, and is why the Tories plunged headlong into immediate and wide-ranging reforms of both education and the NHS, for example.

What Chris overlooks in his post, I believe, is that elections are not lost and won on the promise of transformative changes (which cautious voters find daunting) but on the promise of ameliorative reforms.

The name says it all; ameliorative means better.

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