Partly in response to Ginger Beer’s request for more posts on bread and butter issues rather than an unending diet of HP’s signature dishes, here are links to some of the articles I’ve been most struck by this week.
I’ll begin with Nick Cohen’s blistering attack on Iain Duncan Smith, in today’s Observier, in which he points out that IDS has been pulled up for manipulating facts and figures by the UK Statistics Authority. This was done in order to promote the ‘success’ of his department’s cap on benefits, encouraging people to think that many of those affected were really just skivers and scroungers.
I thought this piece in the New Statesman, on Tesco’s poor treatment of its workers, was excellent. Conservative MP Robert Halfon writes:
Worryingly, one disabled employee, who has a degenerative back condition, has allegedly been threatened by Tesco. In a recent meeting, he was told by a Tesco manager that if he continued talking to me – his local MP – then he would be fired, instead of being transferred elsewhere. Surely this is morally wrong? USDAW estimates that there are around 30 disabled staff from Harlow who will be affected in this way.
And, also on the topic of the poor treatment of employees by big business, over on Socialist Unity, Andy Newman asks whether the Guardian should really be considering honouring Carillion with a business award, given its involvement in a blacklisting scandal. And Howie is asking whether ordinary union members are well served by activists.
Next here’s a link to an older article I came across today, ‘A Stealthy Form of Authoritarianism’ by Ben Cobley, which describes how politics seems to have been taken over by economic and technical debates, rather than by a consideration of wider political issues:
Edward and Robert Skidelsky for example have pointed out that John Maynard Keynes, a hero of many left-leaning economic determinists, believed that increasing wealth would enable us all to work less.
Instead, here and now, we are told how we need to work harder to serve the economy, as if there are verdant uplands over the horizon that we will reach whenever we achieve whatever it is the continuously growing economy is meant to achieve (which is never specified).
Over on one of my favourite blogs, Left Foot Forward, Carl Packman has another piece on payday loans, the subject of his recent book. Here he explores the role Catholic Social Teaching might play in helping solve this problem:
The four founding principles to CST were to appeal to: human dignity (which posited that humans were political in nature); the common good; solidarity; and subsidiarity.
With the latter principle, the focus is laid upon what individuals are able to do, where it is no longer necessary for wider society to step in.
Simply put, this overcomes the paternalism inherent to an overburdening statism, but makes sure to put a hold on the individualism inherent to neoliberal capitalism. The focus, in short, is upon morality, not regulation.
Peter Mandelson has attacked Ed Miliband’s vision for the Labour Party on a number of fronts:
He said Labour had to show it was willing to make “tough” spending decisions, otherwise ex-Tory voters “will find it very difficult to vote Labour”.
Lord Mandelson also attacked Mr Miliband’s claim that Labour had made it easier for people from working class backgrounds to be selected as candidates, saying it was wrong to conflate working class candidates with trade union officials.
He said “too many” selections for European of Westminster parliament candidates were being put in the hands of “one union at worst, a couple of unions at best, orchestrated by a cabal of NEC members.”
But finally, here’s a nice story by Alice Philipson writing in the Telegraph about how one woman was brought to see the light (or some stars). Ed Miliband came to the rescue when Ella Phillips was knocked off her bike:
“Then, there was Ed Miliband’s face looking very concerned at me,” she said. I started to wonder how badly I’d banged my head. My first thought was that I was seeing things because I was still in quite a daze.
“He kept asking if I was OK, if I was hurt,” she said. “He was there for a good few minutes.”
Ms Phillips recalled how “suave” Mr Miliband appeared.
“What added to all the confusion was that he was actually attractive and not geeky at all,” she said. “Even the way he appeared was suave. He was dressed casually but he had style.
She added: “I’ll definitely be voting for him now. In fact, it worked so well I half suspected he had deliberately knocked me off my bike just to gallantly help me up again.”
Alec adds: And, from the dusty shoebox in the bottom drawer, a piece by Nick Cohen from three weeks before a day in summer of 2001 when the world went mad. He looks so young.