Ozzy's Corner

A view from the Libertarian Left. With no spin

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Immigration and Englishness

Since Jon Cruddas was appointed Labour’s Policy Chief, Ed Miliband has taken an unusual tack in recent weeks.

In early June he made a speech about Englishness.  It was interesting in the sense that while the Government have been committing suicidal U-Turns and leaving huge open goals, he took Labour down a difficult and bewildering set of arguments. His speech hinted at the impact Jon Cruddas was having:

Even if Labour has been too quiet about England in recent years, it has not always been so. As my colleagues Jon Cruddas and John Denham have done so much to remind us, there are great Labour traditions that can help us think about England.

Jon was part of Blue Labour. This movement strongly argued that a Labour Government should be more conservative on issues such as immigration and crime, to chime with working class Labour voters.

Ed was recently interviewed by The Guardian, and it was published yesterday. It stated:

Speaking to the Guardian, Miliband admitted the Labour government allowed too many immigrants from eastern Europe into the country by lifting controls on EU accession countries such as Poland too quickly, but denied his party lied about immigration, as claimed by his former adviser Lord Glasman.

John Denham, former Labour Home Office Secretary, was interviewed on Today this morning:

There was a “debate still to be had” about overall numbers, he said, but added that the UK had benefited “economically, culturally and socially” from migration. A Labour administration would focus on three things to help ease pressure on public services and wages including better enforcement of the minimum wage, cracking down on recruitment agencies who only supplied workers from particular countries and looking at areas and types of jobs where there were large numbers of foreign workers. “We need to make sure there is a level playing field … What [Ed Miliband] is saying is that there has to be a fair chance for everybody,” he said

This is dangerous ground for Labour., much like that of English identity. Debates on both subjects create more heat than light. Ed’s comments when read in detail are genuinely nuanced and not easily summed up in a headline. They are easily misrepresented, a gift to opponents too.

However, there is a genuine concern about this strategy. In clearly difficult economic times, appealing to national identity with hints of protectionism are not welcome. As the great depression demonstrated, a global crisis is exacerbation by such things. We need a pan-national approach to issues such as climate change and third world poverty too.

Another hazard is confusing the electorate. It could be argued that the free-movement of labour putting a downward pressure on wages is precisely what global capitalists want to happen, in race to the bottom. Therefore, the risk remains that people could easily misconstrue Ed’s remarks as blaming East European immigrants for the falling of wages for the working classes. This is just a symptom of global capitalism. Similarly, the pressure on housing and public services isn’t caused by immigrants – it’s a symptom of not building enough houses or capacity into our schools and hospitals.

Lastly, and most importantly, these arguments take the cause of the left firmly into the centre-ground of politics. Labour will end up trading immigration numbers with the Conservatives and distract them from making the battle over the unequal education system Michael Gove is creating, the privatisation of the NHS and the redistribution from the poor to the rich driven by George Osborne.

This is the challenge for the left.

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The Jubilee effect will be short-lived

Today is the day after the Jubilee weekend before. The bunting has been packed away, People have gone back to work and normal life has resumed. Undoubtedly, many people had a great time. Parties were had, and some people probably talked more to their neighbours at a street party than they have in the years up to it. Those not so keen on the Monarchy got an extended break at home.

Has anything changed?

Nothing, except the bank accounts of those selling the endless tat with a Union Jack printed on it.

The United Kingdom is the face of a storm that threatens the well being and security of all we know. The austerity-driven economic policies of our Government are being pushed harder and harder, despite the economic stagnation they are bringing and the clear evidence that the medicine is killing the patient.

Unemployment will increase, as will insecurity and fear among those left at the bottom of the pile. Division in society will broaden further.

The NHS is slipping into private hands, with the previous infrastructure so damaged in the process that it is likely to be irreversible, despite the reassuring words of Andy Burnham.

Our education system is becoming more and more divided. Those who live in poorer areas, and those with education special needs will be left with little support in a two-tier system.

The Government has reduced its support for long-term green energy and ploughed more money into oil and gas. This will kick the sustainable energy can further down the road and ensure our oil addiction continues, as the poorest in our world suffer first from global warming.

Against this backdrop, I wish waving a few flags and raising a glass of Pimms to an old Lady from Windsor would cure everything, or make it feel even slightly better.

It doesn’t.

Given what needs to change to make our country one of fairness and equality, where ordinary people can feel genuinely part of a society they can prosper in, the Jubilee and the Monarchy itself are just an utter irrelevance.

By the way, happy Jubilee Ma’am.

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Democracy in the Euro-zone is Under Threat

The Euro-zone is proceeding nicely along the  lines set out in The Schuman Declaration, 9th May 1950. This proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, whose members would pool coal and steel production.

By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.

This thread of federalism has run through all European treaties. Make no mistake – all road signs have pointed to a United States of Europe being the final goal.

The current ongoing crisis in the Euro-zone is proof that monetary union cannot work without fiscal union. The can only be resolved by one of two means – abandoning the single currency or completing a fiscal union.

It is clear that monetary union has benefited Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, by keeping the exchange rate for her exports lower than an independent Deutsche Mark would trade at. Apart from the loss of face in abandoning the single currency, an independent German currency would surely appreciate very quickly.

This is why Germany has been very keen to keep the Euro going. This has resulted in dire threats to Greece about electing an anti-bailout Government. It is why both Italy and Greece have unelected Leaders, put in place to ensure the anti-austerity forces are kept in check.

The Guardian reported on plans being drawn up to create the federal Europe.

In return for yielding to the pressure to pay to save the euro, Berlin will insist on major steps towards a eurozone federation or political union with budgetary, fiscal, and scrutiny powers vested in Brussels and in the European Court of Justice, meaning vast transfers of sovereignty from member states.

This really cuts to the chase. When a country can no longer set it’s own budget, and have it’s plans overseen, scrutinised and blocked by outside bodies, it relegates the powers of an elected Government to being no more than those of local council, deciding whether to empty wheely bins weekly or fortnightly.

This structure will ensure the austerity mindset, firmly in place among global capitalists, will dominate and spread across all of Europe. This mindset will be hard-wired into the rules and regulations.

Not only will democracy be diminished, the result could be catastrophic for peace within Europe itself. The tensions seen on the streets of Athens could spread to other countries, with no democratic outlet for the protesters.

The Euro-zone crisis is real, but a push for federalism would be a certain disaster for the it’s citizens. Peace and prosperity can only come from freeing people and allowing democracy to bloom.