Getting out more.

I’ve been watching the reaction to the Clacton by-election. What started me thinking was a post on Facebook from someone who is otherwise a Labour party supporter. The message was ‘Tory Scumbags take a kicking.’

But one question I’d like to ask the Labour supporter is, “If people so dislike the Tory Scumbags, if the Tory Scumbags are so out of touch and hated, why didn’t the electorate vote for the obvious opposition party, Labour?

I suspect the question could be answered by pointing at this picture.


I’ve seen it posted half a dozen times and the general consensus of the discussion beneath the picture is that the population of Clacton are a bunch of racist fascist whatever.

But the problem is that in the 2010 General election, 10,799 people voted for Labour. In the by-election only 3,957 did.

It’s a fair guess that the majority of those who switched their vote switched to UKIP. So effectively according to the argument of our friend attacking the Scumbag Tories, Labour is a party that relied on the fascist vote to get anywhere.

Now there’s been a lot of talk and accusations about Fascism and I’m grateful to another friend to posted this by Michael Rosen

“I sometimes fear that people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress worn by grotesques and monsters as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. Fascism arrives as your friend. It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you…It doesn’t walk in saying, “Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”

It is absolutely true. But the real danger of fascism is it arrives when people lose faith in their politicians because they see them as venal and corrupt (normally because they are, people aren’t stupid). It also comes in when people feel the politicians no longer listen to them. Again this is normally because the Politicians are no longer listening to them.

Fascism is fought most efficiently by having open, honest, political discussion when everybody feels their opinions are respected.

So when someone affiliated however loosely to the Labour party starts slagging off the Scumbag Tories as being corrupt and in it only for what they can get for themselves, most normal people just nod quietly and try and remember the names of the five labour MPs jailed for corruption.

There are times when a little humility is called for, just as there are times when a little honesty is called for. Just because you forget to mention the deficit in your speech doesn’t mean that the public are so thick that they’ll not notice.

This is important. A strong, coherent Opposition in parliament that can reach out and listen to all strands of society is important. Indeed it might be more important than the calibre of the government to be honest. The Opposition has to be able to speak for ALL the ignored and marginalised, not merely those whom fit in comfortably with the preconceptions of an isolated liberal elite. (And let’s not forget that this isolated liberal elite is snugly at the top of the heap in all three main parties.)

How did they manage to become so isolated?

I think that previous generations were forced to live more cheek by jowl. Two world wars stirred people up and sent them all over the place alongside people who very much weren’t their type.

But it meant that young men from widely differing backgrounds were properly mixed.

It also meant they were mixed under circumstances where you get to know what people are really like, no matter what drivel they spout in the bar after a couple of drinks.

When some guy picks you out of the mud and slings you over his shoulder and hauls you off to the aid station, you could care less whether he was a Tory Toff or a Maxist troublemaker but only by making the sort of effort you don’t feel up to when you think you’re dying.

But now the right people live in nice areas and make sure their children go to the nice comprehensive schools, so they only make the right friends and go to the right universities before getting a place as an intern in a friend’s office. From there it’s a job as an MP’s research assistant, before they get put forward for a safe seat.

If they’re worried about Fascism then I suggest they get out more. Meet a few ‘bigoted women’ but this time, listen to them.

There again, what do I know?

‘Sometimes I sits and thinks’

To quote a reviewer “I love Jim’s autobiographical musings. They make me feel that I am following him and Sal, his dog and manager, around the farm as he encounters the vicissitudes of everyday life. I feel I’m wandering around after him, with his great narrative style.

This book, along with the others in this series, are an absolute treat and gives us the opportunity to explore life in someone else’s head.”

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10 thoughts on “Getting out more.

  1. M T McGuire October 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Spot on and put with such gentility. I get so insane with irritation about politics that I find them difficult to discuss. However, I remember watching general election campaigns when I was a kid, and I remember noticing how the onus shifted from a debate of the issues to a debate of the personalities of the people involved. That is always dangerous and nowadays most of the issues in politics seem to be lost in a fog of discussion over who is fit to govern. We are flawed and human. None of us is fit to govern, not really, we have to do our best and like you I believe this is done through honest discussion of the issues not generalist soundbites which make everyone feel cosy at the expense of a few.



    • jwebster2 October 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm Reply

      What really worries me is something we’ve seen in the US.
      It’s the demonisation of those who were so unbelievably stupid as to vote for the opposition.
      Here we see the population of Clacton-on-Sea being written off as a bunch of racist crypto-fascists because they had the audacity not to vote for the polite consensus.
      But perhaps the polite consensus isn’t shared by the general public? Perhaps what has happened is a cosy self-serving elite has hijacked the agenda and has pushed through things for its own reasons and for its own benefit.
      It’s fine talking in the office about how great it is to get your plumbing fixed cheaply, unless of course you’re a plumber.

      • M T McGuire October 13, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        Agreed but a lot of the jobs the immigrants coming into this country ‘take’ are things many of us would rather live on benefits than do. Running a corner shop, for example. Also the reason there are so many foreign artisan workers here now is because there was a huge deficit. All our kids are sent to university to get degrees in anything from hammering things to astro physics. They come out of there thinking they are too good to get a trade.

        When Terminal 5 was being built the builders had real trouble finding enough brick layers to do the work. They were paying £50,000 a year to skilled people because there just weren’t any. Likewise, it costs a certain amount to run a bus company, there’s a limit to how much people will pay for a bus ticket and how much compensation the government will pay for those it requires you to carry for free. A few years ago, despite pretty much begging, First Group failed to persuade enough of the locals in Bristol to take a job driving their buses (they were offering as much as I earned as a marketing manager at the time so it looked like good money to me). So they eventually recruited drivers from Poland. Yes, many bus companies are big groups and they have to make far more to break even than a small more nimble outfit but it’s still a valid argument.



      • jwebster2 October 14, 2014 at 6:24 am

        It’s an interesting issue. I can remember back when I was a kid. A dustbin wagon had about six men on the back of it plus a driver and a foreman. To put it bluntly the six on the back doing the lifting were not the brightest of God’s creatures, but the foreman was there to keep order and make sure the work got done. This mean you had half a dozen men who held down a job and could support themselves. Now the bin wagon has one or two men on it apart from the driver.
        So we’ve got rid of the only jobs that some people could do.
        With regards ‘degrees’ I think this is a deep cultural problem. Because the people who have reached the top all have degrees, having degrees is assumed to be a good thing. Indeed I’d go further, we have a system which exists to affirm the achievements of those who run it. So at a basic level all teachers have degrees and they tend to assume that to achieve anything you have to have a degree and not having one is regarded as a sign of failure.
        Finally (because this should be a blog not at comment 🙂 ) we have made a fetish of IT. In Barrow the Shipyard dropped from 16,000 employees to 3,000 employees. The major employer in a town shrunk and didn’t make the national media! In fact everybody rejoiced because it was the ‘peace dividend’. And most of the redundant were retrained in IT. We went from being an isolated town at the end of a sixty mile cul de sac where we had a lot of skilled craftsmen, welders, whatever to a town with a lot of middle aged and older men on long term sick and an awful lot of people who could design a mediocre webpage.
        And they were living in a town where nobody wanted webpages, no matter how cheap and mediocre.

        But other countries still have an education system and a training/apprenticeship system that works and turn out people with useful skills.

  2. Will Once October 14, 2014 at 11:01 am Reply


    The sad fact of life is that we can’t afford to keep people in non-productive or non competitive jobs. Someone has to pay their wages.

    The cost of running the state has increased massively as we are all living longer, taking pensions for longer and needing more care. That’s why we have a spending deficit. Not enough tax in for too much spending going out. And it’s only going to get worse.

    Every sane political party knows this. Whoever gets into power in May 2015 will face the same problems – an annual spending gap of over £100 billion. We’re spending £30 billion a year on debt repayments alone.

    Immigration is not the bête noire that UKIP claim. If anything, it is a net benefit to the exchequer. More tax comes in from immigrants than is spent on their care.

    Everyone is looking for someone else to blame – politicians, immigrants, Europe, dole scroungers, fat cats, town hall inefficiency. We are very good at blaming absolutely everyone without looking at the real problem:

    When the welfare state was introduced in 1948, the average male life expectancy in the UK was in the early sixties. We spent 40 years working and buying goods largely made in Britain. Then we retired, pruned the roses for a couple of years and died of a heart attack or a stroke before we turned 65. That meant we were paying enough taxes to support our five years worth of pension and NHS costs.

    Right now, we are still working for 40 years, but now we are living until we are 80. And most of the goods we are buying are made abroad because other countries pay their workers far less than we would work for. That means that we have less tax coming in, and less work for us to do. And it means that the state has to pay for 20 years of pension and extra NHS costs.

    It’s nobody’s fault. It is the consequence of progress.

    And that means that we are in deep trouble. All the politicians know this, with the possible exception of UKIP and the SNP who both want to claim that they can solve the insoluble. The more reasonable political parties know that cannot give the public what they want or have come to expect because we simply cannot afford it.

    Here’s the “bigoted woman” incident in full.

    I’m no fan of Gordon Brown but in this instance he was right in just about everything he said (except forgetting to turn the microphone off).

    The person who wasn’t listening in this scenario was the woman,

    • jwebster2 October 14, 2014 at 11:08 am Reply

      But she’s a citizen, a voter, and entitled to her opinion. When we start writing off citizens with an insult, we’ve lost the plot.
      The state has got too expensive because of a sense of entitlement. Why is anybody in the public service paid more than the PM? I’d give the NHS staff a rise, (although remember a lot of them get annual increments as it is) I’d just freeze the total NHS salary bill and let them spread it out a bit.

      The other issue with ‘non-productive jobs’ is that we’ve taken people out of useful ‘non-productive jobs’ like binmen and put them on benefits. We’ve created other non-productive jobs that are actually detrimental to the economy. My wife has spent three days doing the paperwork necessary for complying with EU regulations merely to farm. Twenty years ago it didn’t exist. It achieves nothing, produces nothing but means government spends countless millions a year in computer systems and employs thousands of people. There are more people in MAFF than there are on British Dairy farms.

      • Will Once October 14, 2014 at 12:46 pm

        She is entitled to her opinion. But getting angry about it isn’t going to change the basic facts. No Government could afford to do what she wants.

        Why are people in the public paid more than the PM? Because his salary is artificially kept low on the grounds that he will make a fortune as soon as he leaves office. Not to mention the free housing, meals, expenses. The public sector pays for the quality of staff it needs.

        The NHS costs are far more than just salaries. It’s the cost of the new treatments, drugs, equipment. Of course if we give staff in the NHS a pay rise but freeze their budgets it means that some will have to be sacked.

        The EU regulations which result in farmers receiving subsidies and which also improve food safety?

        MAFF doesn’t exist any more, but DEFRA has received higher levels of cuts than most other Government departments. And its budget is tiny compared to the big spending departments.

        It’s easy to find things to be angry about, but the core issue remains. It’s just frustratingly hard to get people to realise it.

      • jwebster2 October 14, 2014 at 1:20 pm

        Just to run through your points in order Will

        1) We both agree that Government cannot afford to do what she wants. Why haven’t they got the honesty to admit it?
        2) As for the pay, frankly I’d cap all public sector salaries at the PMs. If these people are so brilliant then they’ll go off and get great jobs in the private sector, our economy will boom because of this surge of genius which has suddenly reinvigorated it, and the amount of tax money that pours into the Treasury will pay for everything.
        But frankly, my guess is they’ll take the new level of salary because they know the private sector doesn’t want them.The salaries are currently artificially inflated because of some spurious sense of competition with private industry. You see it in the media. BBC staff get paid enormous sums ‘so they’re not poached’. Let them go.
        3) Having talked to a lot of people in the NHS, the sackings could start tomorrow. One big problem was that about the time of Maggie there was an attempt to bring in ‘Private sector management.’ The problem is that at about the same time the private sector was actually clearing out whole levels of management. The NHS and a lot of other similar organisations brought in levels of management that no private sector company would ever contemplate.
        There are exceptions to this, some of the really big companies now are getting so corporate that they are almost indistinguishable from government in the way they run, the attitude to their customers, that sort of thing.
        4) The amount of money that the EU pay farmers as a proportion of the budget has dropped. The amount of regulation has increased, the number of bureaucrats has increased. We have more and more bureaucrats monitoring less people and proportionately less money.
        When you look at Defra cuts, remember that they’ve managed to hive off stuff to the RPA, the Environment Agency, AHVLA and similar. The actual number of people that are paid is probably similar to what it was.
        The core issue is that government can no long afford to pay for the things it does. One major problem is that it is foisting the cost of inspectorates onto the industries being inspected. This has two problems. The first is that the inspectorate has an incentive to demand greater frequency of inspection, as this creates income. So it becomes harder and harder to pass inspections to a level at which they leave you alone. The second problem is that the cost of the inspectorate will be dropped on the politically weakest part of the chain. So for example, meat inspection. Farms are charged for some inspections. We know that most cases of food poisoning are due to shops, retailers and customers’ bad practice.
        But abattoirs and cutting plants have to pay serious money to unbelievable levels of inspection.
        (Except if a supermarket has a cutting plant it counts as retail premises so the supermarket isn’t charged for inspection) The retail sector is inspected free and gratis.

      • Will Once October 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        1. Consecutive Governments have told people repeatedly about the deficit – and in every case the public look for something spurious to blame instead of listening.
        2. Only a tiny proportion of the senior civil service are paid more than the PM. Capping their salaries would save us loose change. It would be gesture politics.
        3. Changing the management of the NHS yet again would do nothing to change the basic imbalance – people live longer = more sick people = more healthcare costs.
        4. The DEFRA cuts are in addition to the functions hived off to other agencies.

        I can’t get too excited about who pays for food safety inspections. In the end the consumer pays for all of it, either through taxes or at the checkout.

      • jwebster2 October 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm

        I’m not sure I agree with you about successive governments being honest with the deficit. Ignoring the man who forgot to mention it in his speech, but most parties, up until about 2009 were ignoring the long term consequences of the debt.

        2 Never underestimate the significance of gesture politics. The general who dismounts and has his horse led to the rear is indulging in gesture politics and high drama. If I feel I cannot afford to pay into my own pension fund because I’m being bled dry to pay into the pension funds of others, seeing the others cut down to my level a bit is going to help me feel that things are being taken rather more seriously.
        3 I suspect we’re going to have to change the management of the NHS soon. Whilst the factors you list are correct, the proportion of government spending on healthcare is and has risen. There is a limit. Indeed lot of ‘healthcare’ isn’t even NHS now. We’re going to have to put more money into the elderly (Indeed it amuses me that people wail about privatizing the NHS but stick granny in a public sector supplied home)
        The defra cuts are comparatively recent, this government is, to be fair, the first one that has really grasped the nettle. What has happened is that a surprising number of the duties have been foisted onto local trading standards departments who either grow or get swamped. They cannot afford to grow so they’re swamped.
        I get excited about who pays for food safety inspections. It’s me. The price doesn’t get passed down to the consumer because the retailers are too powerful. It gets pushed back down the foodchain to the weakest link, me. So all it does is reduce production and jobs in the UK as it’s too expensive to produce.

        Doesn’t bother the retailers, they just buy on price anyway.

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