Perfect Financial Idiocy

Wednesday   27 September

So, John McDonnell would like to bring all Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) “in house”; the crowd went wild. It’s not hard to fathom the reaction because PFIs aren’t very popular, nor are they well understood. ABOLISH THE RICH, AAAH! Mr McDonnell was followed by junior ministers suggesting that he hadn’t meant; it; PFIs would just be reviewed. Let’s spread a little bit of ambiguity shall we!

The problem is that whether reviewed or cancelled McDonnell is stuck in a 1960s Hungarian economics textbook, he isn’t asking the right questions. This man is auditioning for the role of Chancellor; custodian of the purse, analyst of the economy. The question shouldn’t be “what economic things do people not like” but instead “what economics things do and don’t work for our economy?”

He stopped short of announcing a free unicorn in every household, and everlasting happiness and glee. That would’ve been silly. The problem is that saying you’re going to cancel PFI is a bit silly too. If he’d have had said “we will cancel/renegotiate/yell at the bad PFIs because they are a drain on the taxpayer” then fine. There are bad PFIs in the same way that there are bad things of anything else; it is right and proper to draw a line and say “no more”. But to cancel all PFIs is to say two things, (1) nobody in government for the past 30 years has gotten anything right at any level, and (2) I don’t care what works, I want what I want.

In respect of point 1, I don’t mean the political imperative, of whether PFI is a good or a bad thing, I mean the calculations and the terms; PFIs had to be cheaper than the government’s own ability to self perform those services to be approved, and also, most required provisions to ensure for example, the PFIs were subject to UK tax, value for money reviews were obligatory or the risk transfer to industry justified the profits. So again, where bad ones have been signed or mistakes have been made then great, cancel them (or something similar). Otherwise, I’d like to believe that our public servants are capable. If they’re not, why do we believe John McDonnell, charmer that he is, is going to fix that?!

Point 2 is the same criticism I have been making of Jeremy Corbyn since his election as leader; he treats the means as ends and ignores the real life impact of his policies on people and the world. I understand the appeal of the Corbyn project (much as I disagree with it), and I understand that people feel disenchanted and frustrated with the political class but that shouldn’t lead to the reductive politics of the lowest common denominator and ignorance.

But don’t these companies make massive profits?! Yes and no. They make profit in the same way that anybody selling anything does, but perhaps unusually PFIs also make large losses especially during start up, and they also take the risks of delivery. Making profit isn’t a bad thing, it is the reward for taking risks (and losses) but also a measure of the hassle, overhead, and work involved in delivery. Whether PFI exists or not those profits will be made, unless the government is doing it all itself; having experienced government services I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.

The thing with PFI is that revenues and costs are fully transparent so people can see the profits; before PFI nobody had a clue. Forgetting actual value for money for a second, one of the real benefits of PFI is the transparency for both government and the public; the cost of providing the service is transparent, in one place, benchmarked and market tested.

So PFIs are wicked?

Of course not, there are problems, and there are bad ones. That doesn’t invalidate the concept and it doesn’t justify John McDonnell’s hectoring.

Fix or cancel the bad ones, improve those that can be improved but let us not cast aside success stories that deliver excellent service and value for the sake of it.

Speaking as a taxpayer, I don’t like ambiguity in economic policy; and I’m not entirely sure that Mr McDonnell isn’t spreading a bit of ambiguity now and wouldn’t continue to do so if he reaches number 11.

Barnabus Howard

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Why Moderates Should Listen More to Jeremy Corbyn

Monday 25 September

One of the most famous quotes attributed to the American journalist, critic and scourge of populists, H.L. Mencken is beloved of many working in and commenting on public policy:

“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”

A century old now, the quote seems to be a useful reminder to the political and policy follies of Donald Trump and his simple solutions to complex problems. Build a wall in order to control immigration, withdraw from free trade agreements in order to protect manufacturing job in the rustbelt, all simple solutions and all flying in the face of evidence and (perceived) common sense, but at the same time all compelling and easy to convey. It is not surprising that people who worry about the declining fortunes of their communities in a globalised world might respond positively to Trump’s rhetoric.

Of course populism isn’t the preserve of the political right, the British Labour Party are riding a wave of renewed support and interest based in large part to the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn and his commitment to anti-‘austerity’ policies, social justice and challenging the very wealthy. While the centre right happily decry Corbyn’s pitch as ‘virtue signalling’ and the centre left dismiss it as naïve, there is no doubt that the Labour leader’s pitch is gaining increasing support.

And so it should be. After seven years of government trying to eliminate the budget deficit, many people find their disposable income shrinking and their public services diminishing in both scope and quality. No moderate/centrist- or whatever the more politically pragmatic chose to call themselves- should be content at this state of affairs.

The challenge for them is to explain why providing fair access to education to all means investing heavily in early years and secondary education- the place where disadvantage takes hold- not spending £11bn on young adults who access tertiary education. It involves pointing out that you cannot claim to be in favour of social justice while committing to £9bn worth of benefit cuts to the poorest while preserving current tax rates for middle income earners.

Centrists and social democrats must revive their progressive spirit and be proud of it while at the same time challenging the quick win rhetoric of populists from both ends of the political spectrum. This will involve updating their language and engaging with new ideas that not only challenges easy solutions, but also the dry and academic language of moderate public policy that is so easily associated with the status quo. Despite obvious revulsion from the centre, Michael Gove’s ‘experts’ comment on the eve of the EU referendum resonated with many who felt politics had become too obsessed with technocratic solutions.

Moderates should not be happy to be portrayed as cool, dispassionate and out of touch, when so much many people in the UK are struggling to come to terms with a fast changing world that appears to directly challenge their notions of prosperity and security.

The political centre does have some of the solutions, but it must modernise its delivery and approach in order to be seen as a credible challenge to decline, as well as a positive force for change. Finally, it must also recognise that while Mr Corbyn has few answers, he poses a great many valid questions.

Steven Duckworth

@SP_Duckworth

Sorry to those who will suffer because we have let you down

Angry doesn’t even get close. But I am not angry for me. I am angry for those communities and individuals we have let down.

The election results are awful and there can be no running away from that. No dressing the results up as being ok or blaming the weather, Brexit, lack of seats on trains or the wrong type of voter.

The results must be owned by the leadership and their inner group.

Leadership is a huge issue and although it is impossible in the current political climate to translate this into a definite general election outcome – the warning is there and it couldn’t be clearer that rallies, twitter storms and disowning our record when in government is a huge turn-off for voters.

Labour are at our best when we are radical, forward looking and inclusive – this means a centre left offer that meets the aspirations of the electorate and not small cliques and protest groups.

It doesn’t mean that we simply dress up 1997 New Labour it means refreshing New Labour and making it fit for now and the next ten years.

Perhaps most importantly we need to understand (once again) that to bring about change, to have a Britain based on our values we need to be electable and that winning elections has to be at the heart of everything the Party does.

If we can’t do that we will continue to lose.

Tonight we need to be humble and apologise to those who will suffer as a direct result of the actions of the current leadership and his team.

It also saddens me that so many decent Labour Cllrs and candidates have been let down so badly and more than ever we need to accept that the warnings of the 172 MPs in the PLP were right.

This doesn’t translate as all those in the Labour Party who believed in Jeremy Corbyn are monsters. It doesn’t mean they need to leave – he has let them down.

He promised to take the fight to the SNP in Scotland – he didn’t – he gifted Scottish seats to the Tories.

He said the fight back starts here and pushed our local election campaign in Harlow – result we lost seats to the Tories.

It is time to say enough is enough!

We can rebuild and win back trust but not with the current leader.

He might be well meaning. He may have stood against apartheid (didn’t we all!) I am sure that he has supported many important campaigns.

But none of that matters now – it is now clear that he cannot win the support of the electorate and he has to take responsibility and go and go quickly!

Tim C

@forwardnotback

Happy New Year!

1st January 2017

By Tim C-

Farewell 2016

For many, 2016 will go down as the year of celebrity deaths. If you spend much time, or anytime at all on social media, it was relentless. Actors, musicians, writers and many others died.

Our grief was public and our tributes were tacky, beautiful and heartfelt – often we managed all three at the same time. At some stage between the death of George Michael and Carrie Fisher a friend commented “can you imagine if Twitter was a thing when Diana died?”

I tried to imagine and I shut down my imagination almost immediately. I had imagined love filled messages – all I saw was the spewing out of hatred.

But all of that is about something we cannot stop or control. Death comes to us all. Death is part of us.

I am not sorry about death. It happens.

But 2016 also saw Trump, Brexit and hate triumph.

A quick look at 2016 and much of our political system appears to be broken. I am sorry that because it is broken people are suffering. More than that I am sorry that it isn’t going to be fixed any time soon.

And that means more people will suffer. I can, and will never be able to forgive those who are causing this suffering.

I have tried to listen. I have tried to join in and be part of the new politics. But I can’t. It is based on a lie. No hope is offered. Just structures and a different committee format.

We are told it is about values. But it isn’t; it is about envy. It is about class war. But more importantly it is about a vanity project. And it is also about petty vengeance. Vengeance of second-rate politicians who peddle false dreams dressed up as hope.

They know they are unelectable, but that doesn’t matter to them. Destruction of the Labour Party is their aim. Pure and simple.

They hate the Labour Party being in government. They hate anything other than the purity of their project.

And what they are doing breaks my heart.

We are promised that 2017 will see the Corbyn-led Labour Party ‘FIGHT BACK’.

Early reports suggest that this will involve re-branding the leader as a populist, anti establishment figure. A left of centre Trump. The Party will become a coalition of protest groups rather than a political party seeking to govern.

My prediction is that this means more envy, more trashing of our past and more suffering.

It took me quite a while to feel this way. I was never fully signed up to Corbyn but he was/is our elected leader and at the moment that is how it will stay.

Not once in the the last year has he asked me how I thought he was doing as leader or what I thought the Labour Party was doing right or wrong. But he took time out to ask Momentum supporters those questions (or similar). He spends more time worrying about an external organisation than he does about the Party he is supposed to be leading. And that HURTS.

But away from all of that internal stuff, I am sorry. We should all be saying sorry to those who need a Labour Government – it is them that we are betraying. It is them we are letting down.

We should be offering them hope. Hope that things will get better. Hope of a better future.

But we are offering them years of Tory rule.

Because our current leadership is selfish.

Because we are no longer an electoral force capable of winning power.

Because we have a leader who doesn’t care enough to want to win.

For that I am so bloody sorry.

I remain a Labour Party member. My values haven’t changed.

I supported the PLP (the brave and resilient 172) and their attempts to restore purpose to our politics.

I am proud of what we achieved in government.

With local elections coming up we could lose hundreds of great local councillors because of the public perception of our leader.

Labour Councillors who everyday work to make a difference.

Labour Councillors who continue to deliver for local people.

I hope other so-called ‘moderates’ battle weary like me, will stay and help.

The Labour Party is bigger and better than Corbyn.

But more importantly people need Labour in power making lives better and we must never forget that.

So in 2017 we must not leave Labour. We must stay and fight. Fight for our values. Campaign alongside our Councillors and fight to help them retain their seats.

Walking away betrays those who need us most.

By Tim C


Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’

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Brexit, Corbyn, Farage and Trump – members of the same family!

10th November 2016

-By Tim Carter-

Brexit, Corbyn, Farage and Trump – members of the same family!

On Tuesday night, like most people (I jest, most people were tucked up in bed), I sat with my TV switched to the BBC’s news channel, staring at the US electoral map, checking social media and US news feeds. It was a long night.

First I convinced myself we had to wait for swing states; then it was the west coast big numbers; then it was a belief, or was it hope, that the Democrat barricade would hold. In the end I wasn’t even kidding myself. Trump had won and he had won big. He now holds a very powerful hand with enough support to do pretty much as he likes.

This morning a lot of my friends woke up feeling anger. Some were in tears and many spoke of fears about what the future holds.

But what is happening now in politics didn’t start last night or last year and those calling the electorate stupid (or worse) are, probably without realising it, highlighting one of the key issues we need to address.

Away from that we must always remember that democracy doesn’t always give the results you want as an individual but it is far better than the alternatives.

President Trump will become a reality in January and if he keeps his word then his first day will see executive orders stripping away many of Obama’s orders. Some of them will hit those in need of protection and refuge. Others aimed at the gun lobby will probably include removing gun-free zones in schools.

But how did we get here?

The reaction to the Trump victory by many ‘on the left’ has been sadly predictable. When they are not busy claiming voters are stupid or that voters were duped, they resort to blaming the establishment politicians or suggesting that we need ‘a real left wing alternative’, whatever that is.

Does that sound similar? It should because there was the same reaction to Brexit.

But the left have to share some of the blame.

If you encourage people to hate the establishment surely you can’t be surprised when people vote for someone with that message.

If you spend years blaming bankers for everything – and if voters flock to someone with that message – then you must also share the burden of blame.

If you lead marches claiming politics is broken and urge people to vote for ‘a different way of doing politics’ again don’t be surprised when they do.

When you weaponise abuse & hate you don’t control who uses that weapon. But you created it so you have to accept the responsibility for it and understand that others will use it.

I am sure that many will disagree but I believe that Corbyn, Farage, Brexit and Trump are linked and that they all feed on the same thing. They feed on a message that is at its most base a message of fear and loathing.

They have created monsters out of bankers, politicians, institutions and pushed hate and fear in equal measures.

So we now have people, including Richard Burgon MP, citing Clinton’s closeness to bankers as her downfall – in doing so they are endorsing one of Trump’s key messages. A bit of a strange thing for a Labour former Shadow City Minister to do, but of course as long as it is an attack on ‘the establishment’ Richard Burgon MP and his type of politician doesn’t mind. They are encouraging hate. Their message is clear – vote against systems, vote against bankers, vote against pharmaceutical research. Vote against success!

Moving back to the US elections I have been reminded by an old political friend Steve Hanlon that Bernie Sanders marched a lot of people up the hill against Hillary (and elites, and bankers and others) and couldn’t march them down again after the primaries. Another example of the left being responsible for weaponising hate and losing control.

Travel further back in time and shortly after the global financial crash small groups from both the left and right started to demonise bankers. After the 2010 general election Ed Miliband started to create an atmosphere where ‘banker bashing’ was acceptable.

Activists (in most cases spreading a message of hate) spent Saturday mornings attempting to disrupt parts of our retail industry or marching through London wearing Guy Fawkes masks – again sending out a message that politicians and the political establishment were the enemies of the people.

As sure as night follows day these demonstrations fed the Brexit and Farage messages that our politics was broken and needed to change.  All it needed was someone to mainstream it.

And when that happened what was their answer? More demonstrations. A cry to move further left. And more masks and placards.

It would be unfair not to look at the moderate or centre-ground reaction to the anti-establishment message, or the general fear and loathing generated by the ‘anti politics brigade.’

We didn’t tackle the issues. We didn’t listen to the voters. We talked at them and not to them. We claimed to be ‘having a conversation with them’ but we were simply telling them what to do. We told them they were wrong.

When that failed we attempted to out-hate the haters!

And when that didn’t work we attempted to demonise their candidates or messages.

And when we lost – we blamed the voters!

Maybe we simply believed that we, and only we, had the right to win.

We need to make a positive case for the things we believe in. If we are campaigning to stay in the EU we need to do just that. Make the case for what we believe in and not just shout and yell about how crazy and dangerous those campaigning against us are.

If we believe in freedom of movement then we should say so and make the positive case for it and not retreat into a comfort zone of calling those who disagree with us racists or worse.

In the UK we need a national debate about our future. That has to include immigration. It has to include what type of country we want to be, and no matter how tough it is we must be at the heart of that debate.

It isn’t racist for someone to express their fears about the changing face of our country. It isn’t wrong for people to worry about employment and their job being outsourced overseas. It is natural for parents to worry about their children’s future.

I honestly don’t know what the Trump presidency will bring but I want politics to go back to being about hope and aspiration and not about hate and fear.

We need to make politics great again! We need to inspire and enthuse. We need to be at the heart of and working with our communities, listening, talking and championing causes.

Sorry if this has been a bit of a ramble. I have been trying to make sense of a lot of things and these are my early thoughts. In  coming weeks and months I hope to expand on them. Please join the debate about how we should rebuild the centre left.

By Tim Carter (@forwardnotback)

The Truth About Corbyn

13th July 2016

Labour, Progress, Jeremy Corbyn and the future!

By Tim Carter

Where to start? I guess this is the morning after the night before. Only it isn’t my clothes strewn across the bedroom floor or a half-eaten kebab on the table that are causing me concern. It is something bigger and far more worrying.

I glance at my phone and unread text messages, social media notifications and missed calls. It had been a bad night. Flicking the switch on the kettle I make coffee. Tiredness is my recent enemy. When sleep comes it comes in snatches and doesn’t satisfy.

The chaos and disorder confuses me…

But enough about me. I want to talk about politics and in particular the Labour Party.

Last year there was a leadership contest and Jeremy Corbyn won. Since then in politics things have changed a lot. Some would say that the old politics has fallen. It has been replaced by new politics. In part this is true.

But this new kind of politics isn’t about politics. It is about mob rule, shouting, vandalism and murder. Sounds harsh? Look at the comments here. Yes a Facebook post by an MP to as a tribute to her murdered colleague, hijacked by Corbyn supporters.

I don’t want to dwell on the murder of Jo Cox and I don’t believe it was in any way linked to Corbyn supporters. I do think that everyone is responsible for the comments they make and that is especially true of politicians.

But what reason for the Facebook comments and why would anyone believe this was acceptable? One can only think that they simply don’t care. Anything goes in their world. Disagree with them and they will hunt you down and hurl abuse or chant their slogans. Would these people turn up at a funeral with pro-Corbyn placards? I thought it was only the Westboro Church that did things like that but now I am not so sure.

One thing I am sure about is that the abuse is getting worse and Corbyn and his colleagues are doing little to stop it. The condemnations when they come are too weak and too late.

There is a bigger problem people see parameters and boundaries being broken and they push the limits too. The Shadow Chancellor appears at a rally where protests outside of political opponents (within the same political party) offices are encouraged, a window is smashed and Corbyn tuts, smiles and says gently “that isn’t the way I want you to behave”. Four hours later the shadow chancellor is back on stage at another event using the F word to describe his parliamentary colleagues. The next time a Corbyn supporter swears at you and calls you scum – you know exactly who encouraged it.

People say that Corbyn and his supporters are behaving like children; this lets them off the hook. They are adults. The politicians among them want to run offices of state but they behave like cheap, B-movie thugs. A large chunk of their supporters simply thrive on the chaos and others looking for something different are being conned and sold a lie.

I am not one to sit on the fence on issues and on this it has become clear in recent months that Corbyn isn’t the nice, kind, decent elderly gentleman we are being sold. He is responsible for much of the chaos. He promotes a myth that all others are in it for personal gain or worse. When he sees chaos and disorder he rather likes it. When those around him sneer at other politicians they are nodding in the direction of the mob and saying “sort that lot out”.
A decent and honourable person would’ve looked at the no confidence vote by the PLP and decided “I have to go”. They would have put the Party first. But not Corbyn. As always it was Jeremy first, Jeremy second and that is the end of it.

I have watched numerous news clips of Corbyn addressing rallies and ‘spontaneous’ gatherings and I have noticed something – I think he actually ‘gets off’ on it all – and that is weird!

But there is something far darker and more sinister going on.

I (whispers quietly so the baying mob don’t hear) am someone who admires Tony Blair, thus I am a Blairite (shouts louder), I am Labour (and louder), I am Labour, (yet louder still). I care deeply about the world I live in and I believe the Labour Party in government helps make the world a better place.

Sinister?

Can you imagine Tony Blair funding people’s membership so that they could vote for him in an election? No? Neither can I. But if he had can you imagine the outcry? I can – social media would go into meltdown and front-pages would scream Fraud, Corruption and worse!

But when Corbyn and his supporters are doing it – it is all good and well-intentioned.

It isn’t! It is wrong, unprincipled and probably illegal.

There I have said it. Corbyn is trying to buy this election – don’t let him!

  By Tim Carter (@forwardnotback)


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Labour, Progress, Jeremy Corbyn and the future!

16th May 2016

Labour, Progress, Jeremy Corbyn and the future!

By Tim Carter

I want to start this post by saying that Jeremy Corbyn agreeing to speak at a Progress event was a sensible thing to do. It showed that he is attempting to reach out to all parts of the membership. It should end any nonsense about “red Tories” and calls for the deselection of Progress-supporting MPs.

So, I jumped on a bus and travelled across London. The day had started badly as I was running late. But for the first time in ages I had a spring in my step and was actually looking forward to a day of inspiration and passionate speeches.

I arrived at Congress House and booked in and found a seat. Familiar faces and friendly waves convinced me that I had made the right decision to attend. Recently I have become an armchair Labour supporter – mainly because the constant fighting and lack of any coherent message or electoral offer had started to get to me. I guess that I was now a Labour voter rather than a Labour activist.

My late arrival meant I missed the opening contribution from the leader of the party in Scotland. Then Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle Council and, I am told, a good leader, started to speak. I listened and couldn’t believe that he was attempting to paint the local elections as a triumph. I listened as he argued for a bigger role for councillors in the Party. More seats on the NEC, more say at regional level. But perhaps more depressingly he seemed to be arguing that things were OK. Comments from the floor, mainly from councillors supported him. His message appeared to be; tinker with internal structures and everything will be ok.

It was almost as though he was surrendering any belief that we could ever win a general election again, and if we didn’t it would matter because we had control of ‘core city councils’

I started to think about food. It was easier and more comforting. Skipping through the next session, the highlight being some much needed passion from Wes Streeting – a councillor and MP who understands that winning core cities isn’t enough!

After the break the hall filled to bursting and Jeremy arrived to polite applause and what I would describe as a warm welcome. He started well, a few jokes. He comes across as a very personable and friendly bloke.

The Long Sentence…

I listened, he spoke. It was one long sentence without a breath. It wasn’t really a speech but a gentle stroll through the battles of yesterday. I clapped because I wanted him to be able to take a breath. From Poll Tax to Reagan, Mandela and Thatcher he spoke at length. But Jeremy being Jeremy, polite as ever, he stopped his speech to thank us when we clapped. A nice, if rather odd thing to do.

He told us that he occasionally read newspapers and that he had noticed that people were rude about him. He told us that he wouldn’t respond to such rudeness. But here in a leader’s speech he decided to mention it!

I wanted inspiration and leadership. I wanted a vision. An outline of the road to electoral victory. What I got was a very poor lecture about the past.

The long sentence ended and we moved on to questions. Each question was answered with, I would like to say an answer, but that would be a lie. Each question was answered with yet another long ramble.

There were positives. He said that anti-semitism was wrong (period). He said a lot of nice stuff but it was a safe wander through a very long sentence. It was, I think, a speech he has probably made many times before.

Sadly it wasn’t inspirational, passionate or the speech of a leader or a Prime Minister in waiting.

To end on a positive note it was an important moment in his leadership, he has I hope realised that Progress are friends, not foes and in internal Labour Party politics that probably matters more than his difficulty in delivering a speech.

    By Tim Carter (@forwardnotback)


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