“It doesn’t really matter if it’s Labour or Conservative because the people behind the scenes are always the same…” said a 23 year-old man from Liverpool, who took part in the UK (August 2011) riots. The quote is from a report “Reading the Riots” commissioned by the Guardian and the London School of Economics.
It tells us something that has now become common knowledge; namely, that people have lost faith in the democratic process. Politicians and society, all of us, the 99% and the 1% must take heed. People do not like this government, but they do not have much faith in Labour either. This explains why the Labour party is not benefiting from the dire economic situation we find ourselves in. Labour is not trusted. Their so called “light touch regulation” was an abdication of their responsibility to control the explosion of a debt-fuelled economy, and the voracious greed of the “moneymen” that brought the country into this sorry state.
Some commentators blame Labour’s difficulties on choosing the wrong leader, Ed Miliband. I think it is the lack of credible policies that lie at the heart of the problem for Labour. It has no vision. It has articulated no alternative policies that are up to the job of tackling the immense problems faced by capitalism today.
Do they have a policy on bringing a fairer distribution of wealth in a rich country like Britain? A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), referenced in the Guardian, concludes that “income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in Britain than in any other rich nation since the mid-1970s.” What are their policies on reducing unemployment, particularly among the young, that has now topped one million? What are their policies on reforming the banks and financial institutions? What are their policies to bring a more equitable balance between capital and labour? What are their policies to address the democratic deficit by wresting control from the “moneymen”?
Is it any wonder that people have lost faith in changing the status quo through the democratic process? As for the LibDems, who appeared more radical than Labour when not in government, a whiff of ministerial posts was enough for them to jettison any radicalism they may have had!
Fresh radical thinking is needed if we are to avoid the alienation of large numbers of our young to the detriment of us all. It is imperative to show the electorate that change can come through the ballot box. It is imperative to show that politicians are willing and able to challenge the tyranny of the “moneymen”.
By acceding to the demands of financiers, politicians are being forced to move away from democratic oversight, towards appointing unelected former financial technocrats and bankers to directly run the economies of Europe. Most people know that they and people like them were pulling the strings anyway behind the scenes, but that was not enough for the IMF, the ECB, the EU, Hedge Funds, Rating Agencies…etc. Such technocrats are now in charge in Greece and Italy.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, commenting on “Reading the Riots” report, writes in the Guardian:
The big question Reading the Riots leaves us with is whether, in our current fretful state, with unavoidable austerity ahead, we have the energy to invest what’s needed in family and neighbourhood and school to rescue those who think they have nothing to lose. We have to persuade them, simply, that we as government and civil society alike will put some intelligence and skill into giving them the stake they do not have. Without this, we shall face more outbreaks of futile anarchy, in which we shall all, young and old, be the losers.
The Labour Party would do well to start from the words of the Archbishop, and devise and articulate policies to rescue our country from a course that is likely to rupture the cohesion of our society.