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No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

Starmer Takes Full Responsibility for Defeat by Sacking People Who Had Nothing To Do With It

Well, there have been some successes for Labour in the recent elections. I’m very glad Labour has entered a sixth term in power in Wales, and that Jo Anderson, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan were elected mayors of Liverpool, Manchester and London respectively, and that down here in Bristol, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset, Dan Norris has been elected the metro mayor. But generally, Labour have suffered an humiliating defeat in the local council elections. Keir Starmer said that he was going to take responsibility for the defeat. And so he’s done what he previously done so many times – gone back on his word. If he was truly going to take responsibility, he should have tendered his resignation and walked. But he didn’t. He’s hung on to power, and started blaming and sacking other people instead.

The first of these is Angela Rayner, who has been sacked from her position as the party’s chair. He has decided that she was responsible for the loss of Hartlepool despite the fact that she had nothing to do with it. It was really the fault of his personal private secretary, Jenny Chapman, who, as Mike has posted over at Vox Political, decided on the candidate and chose the date of May 6th. But Chapman remains in place. Others who are lined up for the chop apparently include Lisa Nandy and Anneliese Dodds. This also reminds me of the incident a few weeks ago when Starmer blamed somebody else for a Labour loss. Apparently they failed to communicate his ‘vision’ properly. This would have been impossible. Starmer doesn’t have a vision. As Zelo Street has pointed out, Starmer has constantly evaded. He’s also defiantly agreed with BoJob on various issues and, as leader of the opposition, has spectacularly failed to oppose. People are heartily sick of him. The polls show that the reason the good folk of Hartlepool didn’t vote Labour was him.

And then there are the ‘charmless nurks’, as Norman Stanley Fletcher, the Sartre of Slade prison would say, that Starmer supposedly no wants in his cabinet. Wes Streeting, the bagman between him and the Board of Deputies, a thoroughly poisonous character; the Chuckle Sisters Rachel Reeves and Jessica Philips, who are so left-wing and progressive that they went to a party celebrating 100 years or so of the Spectator, and Hilary ‘Bomber’ Benn. Benn is the man, who wanted us to bomb Syria, as if Britain wasn’t already responsible for enough carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. He’s been in Private Eye several times as head of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. This used to be the public body that put British aid money into needed projects in the Developing World. Under Benn it’s been privatised, and now only gives money that will provide a profit for shareholders. It’s yet more western capitalist exploitation of the Third World. None of these bozos should be anywhere near power in the Labour party. They’re Thatcherites, who if given shadow cabinet posts, will lead Labour into yet more electoral defeat.

Already the Net has been filled with peeps giving their views on what Starmer should do next. The mad right-wing radio host, Alex Belfield, posted a video stating that Starmer was immensely rich, with millions of acres of land, and out of touch with working people. If Starmer really wants power, he declared, he should drop the ‘woke’ nonsense and talk about things ordinary people are interested in, like roads, buses and so on. And he should talk to Nigel Farage about connecting with ordinary people.

Belfield speaks to the constituency that backed UKIP – the White working class, who feel that Labour has abandoned them in favour of ethnic minorities. But part of Labour’s problem is that Starmer doesn’t appeal to Blacks and Asians. He drove them away with his tepid, opportunistic support of Black Lives Matter and his defence of the party bureaucrats credibly accused of bullying and racially abusing Diane Abbott and other non-White Labour MPs and officials. He’s also right in that Starmer is rich and doesn’t appeal to the working class. He’s a Blairite, which means he’s going for the middle class, swing or Tory vote. But there have been Labour politicos from privileged backgrounds, who have worked for the ordinary man and woman, and were respected for it. Tony Benn was a lord, and Jeremy Corbyn I think comes from a very middle class background. As did Clement Attlee. Being ‘woke’ – having a feminist, anti-racist stance with policies to combat discrimination against and promote women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ peeps needn’t be an electoral liability if they are couple with policies that also benefit the White working class. Like getting decent wages, defending workers’ rights, reversing the privatisation of the health service and strengthening the welfare state that so that it does provide properly for the poor, the old, the disabled, the sick and the unemployed. These are policies that benefit all working people, regardless of their colour, sex or sexuality.

It’s when these policies are abandoned in favour of the middle class with only the pro-minority policies retained to mark the party as left-wing or liberal, that the working class feels abandoned. Blair and Brown did this, and so helped the rise of UKIP and now the kind of working class discontent that is favouring the Tories.

And it’ll only get worse if Starmer turns fully to Blairism.

The only way to restore the party’s fortunes is to return to the popular policies of Jeremy Corbyn, and for Starmer to resign.

See: #Starmergeddon as panicking Labour leader lashes out in night of swivel-eyed lunacy | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer – No Vision, No Votes (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer IS UNRAVELLING (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

David Cameron tried to exploit the NHS because there is widespread ignorance about the way the government can create money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/04/2021 - 3:48pm in

This tweet is useful, not least because of the included extract from the Sunday Times:

Was this corrupt? Not by any criminal standard. But what it does say is something more telling.

It would seem Cameron, Greensill and those they tried to sell this to in the UK government and elsewhere believed that the NHS really could be so cash strapped that it could sell its potential to receive future cash payments from the UK government as the security to back a bond it would issue, presumably at quite high price with a good cut for Greensill built in, to fund an NHS pay rise.

This is corrupt, in the sense that all involved should know that nothing on earth could require this because at any time the government could have costlessly provided all the money the NHS might have needed to provide a pay rise, and yet the idea was still promoted for private gain. There was, then, a blatant attempt made to advance private interest at cost  to the public purse. It did not happen,  yet the fact that it was even attempted is shocking.

I stress, because nothing was agreed and these bonds were not used that there is no wrongdoing, but what did happen was that ignorance, reaching right up it seems to former prime ministerial level, about the way in which government creates money and does so costlessly was to be exploited in a way that could have been very costly, and all for absolutely no public purpose or benefit.

It is only time in this case before ignorance will be used to justify such a scheme, such is the way of this government. And all because throughout government there is no understanding of modern monetary theory.

That is the scandal here.

How Can I Trust Keir Starmer to Protect the NHS When Blair Wanted to Privatise It?

The parties have been running their election broadcasts this week in the run up to the local, elected mayoral and other elections in May. I caught a bit of Labour’s the other night, and wasn’t impressed. The piece I glimpsed consisted of Starmer sitting in front of the camera, urging people to vote Labour to protect it from the Tories’ privatisation. And the Tories are privatising the NHS by stealth, all under the cover of bringing in best practice from the private sector. And the Lib Dems have been exactly the same. They were the Tories’ partners in David Cameron’s wretched coalition government, which carried on the privatisations. Nick Clegg did nothing to stop it. Indeed, he gave every assistance to the Tories and seemed to be fully behind the handing over hospitals and doctor’s surgeries to private enterprise to run. Just as the Liberals and SDP were way back in 1987, when the two allied parties had declared that it didn’t matter whether doctors and hospitals were public or private, provided that the treatment was free. Except that the Tory privatisation of the NHS will definitely not retain free treatment at the point of use, as provided by the terms of the NHS’ establishment. The Tories wish to turn the NHS into a fully private system funded by private medical insurance like the American health system.

There are Labour MPs who are fighting tooth and nail to protect the NHS. I’m thinking here of the people on the Labour left, such as Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, Rosina Allin-Khan. I also believe that others from the Labour right are doing so. At one meeting of my constituency party here in south Bristol, our local MP Karen Smyth said she joined the Labour party and became an MP because she was so appalled at what Cameron and co. were doing to the Health Service.

But I find Starmer’s claim that he will protect our NHS much less than credible. He’s an arch-Blairite, who has spent his tenure as leader so far in conjunction with the wretched NEC trying to purge the party of left-wingers and socialists. This has involved all the usual trumped-up, fake charges of anti-Semitism. And sometimes there’s no explanation given at all, like when the NEC barred three of leading Labour contenders for elected mayor of Liverpool. Worse than that, he has broken all of his leadership promises. He claimed that he would continue to uphold Labour’s manifesto promises of returning the utilities to state ownership, reversing the NHS’ privatisation and properly funding it, strengthening the welfare state and workers’ rights and restoring power to the unions. But in practice he hasn’t done any of that. It might put off all those rich donors he’s trying to attract. He has shown no real opposition to Johnson’s government, and what little he has shown has been glaringly opportunistic. So opportunistic, in fact, that right-wing windbag and broadcasting egomaniac, Julia Hartley-Brewer, asked him if there was anything in fact he stood for when he appeared on her wretched show on LBC radio.

And if this isn’t ominous enough, the fact remains that Tony Blair also went ahead with the right-wing programme of privatising the NHS. The polyclinics and health centres Blair set up were opened up to private management. He continued handing over doctors’ surgeries and hospitals to private healthcare firms. And the Community Care Groups, the groups of doctors which were supposed to manage local NHS doctors’ budgets, were granted the ability to buy in services from private sector companies, and raise money from the private sector. His Health Minister, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to be reduced to a kitemark logo on services provided by private industry. And I fear Starmer will do exactly the same.

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this comment noting Starmer’s telling lack of opposition to another Tory appointment.

Hi, Beastrabban –

I refer you to p19 of the April 7 issue of Socialist Worker: Samantha Jones, formerly of Openrose Health, owned by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation, has recently been appointed a top adviser to Boris Johnson. Openrose took over scores of NHS GP surgeries earlier this year. Centene has faced a number of fraud and corruption law suits in USA. Socialist Worker believes that Johnson is moving towards the full privatisation of the NHS. Not a whisper from Starmer about any of this.

I wasn’t aware of this appointment, though I haven’t been paying much attention to the news recently. Not that I think it would be in the news. Ray Tallis and Jacky Davis have a whole chapter in their book, NHS – SOS to how the BBC has supported the privatisation of the Health Service. I’m not a fan of the former Socialist Workers’ Party, but I’ve no doubt they’re correct about this and are right to publicise it. And Starmer’s silence is telling.

I doubt very much that Starmer’s serious about protecting the NHS. And everyone else seems determined to privatise it with the exception of the much-reviled Labour left.

So forget the vile propaganda and smears against them and support the real people of principle who are standing up for this most precious of British institutions.

Universal Basic Income (or Capital) plus…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/04/2021 - 6:52am in

Having highlighted an article from Geoff Crocker I have been investigating his own operated website. He has a really very good introductory video – which I cannot unfortunately show directly but it is available here at the simple https://www.ubi.org/ I’ve drawn from it what I consider the key points to a Universal basic Income (UBI)... Read more

The third wave is coming, and all because the government is petrified of creating the money required to beat coronavirus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 7:24pm in

There is a stark reality that has to be faced in this country. It is that the third wave of coronavirus is coming.

I share this tweet:

 

Now, in fairness, I think that’s US data, and we may be a little behind that. But I mentioned some weeks ago now that I had been reliably informed that the NHS was preparing for this next wave, which many within it think will reach its peak during the summer holiday season. It is the inevitable result of three things.

The first is new variants. The idea that this wave is the same as the last is wrong: it is the result of a different form of this disease.

The second is misplaced faith in a vaccine programme being managed inappropriately in delivering only half the dose most people require and with insufficient protection delivered as a result to prevent the spread of new variants.

And third it is the result of reopening schools and other premises far to early when no preventative measures have been taken within those locations to stop transmission. This is largely because, I am told, there remains a stubborn refusal in government to accept that this disease is aerosol transmitted. The prevailing belief in government is instead that it is droplet transmitted. Schools may be safe for the latter, but hopelessly ill-equipped for the former, which is what we have.

So, a third wave is going to happen. The likelihood is not ‘if’ now, but ‘when’, with sooner rather than later being the case because it is entirely possible that R is already back over 1.

I am, of course, aware that there is also a belief that this wave will not have the impact of previous ones. It is believed that there will be fewer hospitalisation and deaths. The evidence that this is true is clearly not there: if it was then the tweet I have noted would not have been posted. People are still going to get sick. They are going to end up in hospital. At least 30,000 deaths were assumed acceptable by the Johnson ‘road-map’. The only question now is how long it will take for them to happen.

This is all pretty depressing, of course. But it is also inevitable. If the government wants to put the economy first, child minding to ensure parents can get back to work second, and the safety of people a distant third then this is what happens. If at the same time it is indifferent to the workload and stress on the NHS, as its actions on this crisis and on nurses’ pay shows to be the case, then this is also what happens.

Every single action this government takes is for one reason only, and that is to reduce the rate of money creation that it has to undertake within the UK economy. Note I do not say borrowing, because there has been almost none of that in the least year. The precise figures can be argued over and largely depends on timing, but it is likely that more than 90% of all Covid costs and the resulting deficits have been paid for by money creation. And such is the irrational fear of this process, which those in the Treasury claim not to understand, that the government is willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of lives rather than use the capacity that the state has to get things right using he power it has to create money, when getting things right would be putting in place the measures needed to tackle this virus on a timely basis.

It could sometimes be argued that debate on economics is without consequence, because a great deal of it speculates on what might be with little chance of influencing the outcome. But in this case economics does have a consequence. Government debt paranoia is leading to the early deaths of tens of thousands of people in a way that is wholly unnecessary if only we realised that the option to act appropriately exists, and that the measures to make our society a lot more safe could be taken.

All the money that is needed to beat coronavirus is available.

What is lacking is the will to use it. Setting acceptable death tolls is easier.

The result will, however, be a third wave and even more government support for the economy being required very soon because the right steps to ensure public health were not taken soon enough.

And that’s what’s really annoying about this. All of this could have been avoided by a government really willing to tackle the issues and not just its symptoms, but they weren’t. One day, maybe this time, I hope we hold them to account for that.

Money for bombs, but not for people?

MMT is a description of the monetary system. It is not something you can “switch to”, “implement”, or “use”. It merely describes what already is.

The description, once understood, implies what is possible and not possible. MMT then gives us an essential structure to work with to derive economic policy.

So, it is clear that mainstream economists are not critiquing MMT. Rather, they are attacking the progressive possibilities uncovered by what MMT implies. They are virulently angry about the public discovering that the mainstream lied to them; what economists told the people was impossible is factually quite possible, and economists are lashing out with everything they have – mainly straw man arguments – in a fit of terror and panic. In other words, the public found out that the TINA mantra (There Is No Alternative) was and is total bullshit, and that mainstream economists don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

Ellis Winningham (Economist)

 

HMS Vanguard – Image by Think Defence/Flickr Creative Commons License

As we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, the author Michael Rosen, who spent 48 days in intensive care, has joined his voice with others calling for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The consequences for families across the nation and the economy have been painful and far-reaching. However, much of what has happened this year cannot be attributed to the unexpected nature of the crisis or to happenstance.

The responsibility lies, firstly, with an economic system which dominates policy and spending decisions and has left our public and social infrastructure a shadow of itself. Secondly, it lies with the government which has neglected its role in planning and spending for public benefit, preferring instead to serve its corporate friends.

For many years to come, the human and economic cost of the pandemic will be a reminder of a government which put corporations before people, with a decade’s worth of policies that deprived our local communities of sufficient funding, cut spending on vital public services and turned the benefits system into a corrective system which resembles the inhumane Elizabethan poor laws which brought into being the workhouse which punished instead of alleviating the pain and suffering caused by unemployment.

Whilst politicians and mainstream economists still talk about ‘fixing the roof’, in this case meaning the public finances, the real roof that needs to be fixed is the one that has created a public and social infrastructure which no longer serves the public purpose.

According to NHS officials, public sympathy for the NHS may be put in doubt as waiting lists for appointments and treatment grow as a result of a year of delays due to Covid-19 and the already damaging funding gaps which will further affect the NHS’s capacity to deliver services in the future.  Cuts to public sector spending over the last 10 years left the NHS ill-prepared for a pandemic. It left a stretched service short of nurses, facilities, equipment and beds. A situation which was also aggravated by poor government crisis planning.

These were the outward, most visible, and shocking indications that previous government choices, arising out of an adherence to fiscal and ideologically driven dogma, had left the public sector ill-prepared for what was to come.

However, in the same vein, we cannot ignore the causal relationship between government spending and policy decisions which have driven a rise in poverty, inequality and deprivation which have all played a major role in this crisis and its on-going, systemic disaster.

The statistics show clearly that the pandemic has affected some sections of society more than others, in geographical and class terms, and have contributed to life-changing experiences and tragic death outcomes. As Dr Charlotte Summers, a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge, commented in a Guardian article this week:

‘The problem won’t be answered with a single-minded focus on economic growth but rather an understanding that health and wealth are intertwined and that tackling poor and overcrowded housing, air pollution, unemployment and inadequate education are essential for promoting economic prosperity and public health.’

That drills down into the very heart of the question about economic prosperity, and not just in this country. Who creates prosperity and what conditions are needed to ensure that citizens can make their contributions to the good functioning of the economy and society as a whole through the work they do, whether paid or not?

After the Global Financial Crash, austerity was prescribed as the cure for bloated public finances. We are now living with the consequences of the austerity lie, which has not just affected our public infrastructure but also led to increases in poverty that should shame one of the richest countries in the world.

Over the past year, it has been proved without doubt who the real architects of a healthy economy are; that is the people of this country who have kept it functioning despite the difficulties that Covid-19 posed.  From nurses, doctors and other health workers to social care workers, delivery drivers, those working in the energy and water sectors and local government services, those keeping our parks tidy and our streets clean; they are the real wealth creators since they represent the backbone of our economy and our real social wealth.

And yet, despite the clear evidence that our public infrastructure and the people who work both in it and the wider economy are vital to the good functioning of society, politicians still continue to preach ‘austerity’ through the household budget narratives they use to describe the public accounts.

Only this week, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that decisions on public sector pay had to be taken because of the ‘enormous pressure on the public finances’. That pressure is apparently so great that the Treasury and NHS England are in a standoff over the demand for additional funding, which if not conceded will result in yet more service cuts and will lead to the NHS not being able to tackle the backlog of surgery and treatments that have built up during the past year.

After 10 years of swingeing cuts already, combined with getting the NHS ready for the big sell-off to make it an attractive prospect for the private health care companies, once again there is the veiled suggestion in the standoff that after the huge and necessary relief package which has sustained the economy over the past year, in the end, hard decisions will have to be made about the affordability of public services and wage increases.

The same tired narratives have also applied over the cuts to foreign aid which the Chancellor announced last year. This week (as reported in the Guardian) the charity Voluntary Service Overseas is planning to shut down its operations in 14 countries as a result of government cuts to the foreign aid budget. The rationale for the cuts, according to the Chancellor, was a response to the economic costs of the coronavirus crisis. A government spokesperson suggested that it had been ‘forced … to take tough but necessary decisions’.

Suggesting that there is no money for aid because the government has spent too much on dealing with the pandemic is yet more deceit by a reckless government, which at the same time has absolutely no problem finding money as it did this week to lift its cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads.

The inconsistency of the narrative is bewildering. One minute there is no money and the next like the magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat it is suddenly whipped up in no time.

Plenty of money for death and destruction, but none for dealing with the vast inequities that the dominating economic system creates. At the same time as announcing the lifting of the cap, Boris Johnson made a personal commitment (not that anyone takes his promises or personal commitment seriously) that they would be restoring foreign aid as soon as the ‘fiscal situation allows,’ again speaking as if there were a shortage of funds in the state piggy bank to provide support for overseas development.

If you are not confused, you should be, by these clear contradictions. There is no shortage of government funds. Only real resource constraints define government spending decisions and how they will be managed, along with the political will which determines what government priorities are.

We cannot see this issue purely from a UK perspective – it is so much more in these tumultuous times of global crisis and change. It is vital to take this discussion to the next level; the biggest threat we face is climate change combined with growing global poverty and inequality.

Instead of focusing on addressing those threats cooperatively with a global vision for change (not a capitalist inspired Great Reset), our leaders think the best way forward is to make the UK a world player in death and destruction. And it is not confined to the UK. This week the republican senator Mitch McConnell challenged President Biden to boost defence spending to counter what they see as a threat from China.

While our leaders play at warmongering, what we really need is action. Action to address the human and resource exploitation that is creating huge poverty, inequality, and environmental destruction. Exploitation which afflicts both rich and poor countries but discriminates more unfairly against those who are being affected by the West’s excessive consumption, unfair distribution of real wealth and the impact of damaging resource extraction.

We need a fairer trading system as well as a transfer of technologies and other practical support to assist in this global levelling up.

With global cooperation, there could be a role for such organisations as the VSO to work with poorer nations. Not charitably funded, but rather a global governmental initiative using sovereign currency-issuing capacities to give everyone a fair chance within a sustainable economic system.

Whilst these things may seem impossible, acting on fighting poverty globally shouldn’t be down to charities, who are in fact mitigating for a rotten global economic system which is unjust and exploitative, and also creates power imbalances serving the political interests of corrupted governments.

What we desperately need is targeted action by national governments to reduce global inequity. In light of the challenges, we will all gain by cooperation. The inequality and poverty our leaders have connived in, through embracing neoliberal and monetarist ideology, is a stain on the international community.

However, commitment to tackling climate change even locally is being watered down by our current government. According to a report by Greener UK which is a coalition of campaigning groups, legally binding commitments on key areas such as pollution, nature, restoration, waste and resources have been put off until 2037; and only this week Boris Johnson announced that he wanted to cut air passenger duty on domestic flights to boost travel connections across the UK. Some commitment to addressing climate change!! The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is suggesting a similar policy with half-price flights to boost the domestic economy. We are going in the wrong direction.

In the light of the planned COP26 conference being hosted by the UK in November, it puts doubt not just on the government’s commitment to real change here, but also playing a cooperative role globally. An opportunity perhaps for more hot air and rhetoric from ministers promising the Earth but the reality of less action.

It is even more disturbing to learn that the environmental principle intended to stop branches of government from acting in ways that might harm the environment will not apply to key departments such as defence and the Treasury. Does that imply that tackling climate change is to be relegated to affordability? No doubt after this huge round of relief spending, we might possibly see that suggestion being made.

The household budget earworm is well and truly established in our public conversations, but it is important to challenge those notions. The BBC reported this week that UK government “borrowing” had hit a February record, and suggested that the public finances had been hit hard as a result.

On Thursday the Centre for Public Policy held a Zoom webinar entitled ‘Is there any money left? The Future of Public Finances Post-Covid.’ Echoes perhaps of Liam Byrne’s note left in the Treasury stating that there was ‘no money left’.

Politicians, economists, and journalists can’t get beyond thinking in accounting frameworks about the public finances, and thus constrain debate about the very serious issues we face, because now or later we will, according to them, have to pay for it. Affordability trumps saving the planet, addressing poverty, and restoring our public infrastructure to health every time!

At the other end of the scale, this week an article in the Financial Times, alluding to a supposed failure of the fiat monetary system, suggested that it had reached the end of its usefulness as it had led to higher debt and spending profligacy, and that some alternative monetary anchor should replace it. The Gold Standard and its replacement forged at Bretton Woods failed to cope with the uncertainty caused by global events such as the Great Depression. So why would one want to restore such an anchored system? It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

In fact, whilst not mentioned, probably deliberately, it would be much fairer to say that the fiat monetary system hadn’t failed, but rather the ideological ideas that underpin the spending and policy decisions of neoliberal governments had. Poverty, inequality, and privatisation of public services have all contributed to the impoverishment of our global societies. That should be the real cause for concern.

Private debt is the real problem, not public debt as we are led to believe. The nonsense spouted about public debt and borrowing levels is designed to keep the population in check, and thinking that the things they value such as good local and nationally paid for and provided public services, health and social care and education are unaffordable.

The in-depth paper An Accounting Model of the UK Exchequer’, which was co-authored by Neil Wilson, Richard Tye and Andrew Berkley and was presented to the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose this week, reveals the monetary realities of government spending and exposes the smoke and mirrors that confuse people’s understanding and lead them to accept the dominant paradigm.

Even if you previously believed it was firmly attached, the global pandemic of 2020 has caused the mask of ‘fiscal responsibility’ to slip away completely. Politicians that were previously preaching hair shirts of austerity have been able to find billions of pounds, dollars and euros from somewhere to prop up their economies while the inflation that we were told would run rampant if we were ever to undertake such an action has been noticeable by its absence.”

In an article this week, even the BBC seems to be getting on board with this new way of understanding the public finances. As explained by Andrew Verity:

“…Unlike households governments controlling their own currency can borrow without limit money that they have freshly created.  They therefore can’t go bankrupt. Because almost all of the money borrowed by the government in this financial year (by issuing gilts) will be owed to another public sector body, the Bank of England. It’s nothing like a household borrowing from a bank.”

It is important to note two things; firstly, that without the government’s relief package the economy would have been worse off – government had no alternative; and secondly, that the additional spending will not create a debt burden for future generations – the bogey man that is regularly flaunted in front of citizens worried about rising taxes for them and for their children.

If the government had failed to act, the burden would have been one of economic collapse and human misery combined with continuing economic uncertainty and all that would mean for future generations. The choice is simple. Worry about the myth of public debt or forge a new understanding that enables economic and planetary stability.

We are by no means out of the woods, led as we are by a government that has a singular agenda to support its corporate friends and pour public money into private profit. But with increasing public knowledge about how the government spends, and that fantasy but perfectly possible future government dedicated to public service using the monetary tools at its disposal, we can address the challenges and create a society which adds real value to human existence, whilst at the same time ensuring economic and planetary sustainability.

 

 

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The post Money for bombs, but not for people? appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Why we should be paying the nurses much more than 1%

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 6:06pm in

There's a great deal of anger at the government for offering the nurses a 1% pay deal, which represents a real pay cut. In this video I explain why it makes a lot of sense - and will add to the wealth of the country as a whole - to pay them much more.

If there is one thing the last year has taught us it is that the Government is never short of money

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 6:02am in

“Do we want to be a society that is supportive, that is inclusive and compassionate, where it is acknowledged that not all can prosper, where those who are most vulnerable, most in need of help, are not seen as lazy or scrounging or robbing the rest of us for whatever they can get? Where we do not turn our backs on those facing hard times, we do not abandon them or exploit their weakness, because they are us.

We leave no one behind, we only say we have crossed the finished line when the last of us does, because no one is alone and there is such a thing as society.”

Michael Sheen, speaking at The People’s March for the NHS, Tredegar, Wales

 

Woman holding a placard with the slogan "Clapping won't pay my bills" as NHS workers protest for a pay riseImage by Tim Dennell via Flickr Creative Commons licence

On Wednesday, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak got up to the Dispatch box to deliver his Budget. As usual, the devil is in the detail, which we’ll come onto later, but at any rate, you couldn’t come away without the impression that there will be a future price to pay for the Government’s huge spending bill.

More than once, the Chancellor talked about fiscal responsibility, emphasising the record amount of borrowing, and suggesting that without corrective action ‘it would be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back’. And whilst it would be ‘irresponsible to withdraw support too soon,’ at the same time it would be ‘irresponsible’ to allow our future borrowing and debt to rise unchecked.’ The ‘fiscal freedom to act’ was dependent on healthy public finances the Chancellor opined, and affordability would be the measure by which any future spending decisions will be made.

Trying to sound sincere by attempting a direct appeal he said, ‘I want to be honest with the public,’ then went on to suggest that there was no alternative to beginning ‘the work of fixing our public finances’. In other words, the government’s coffers are running on empty and we need to replenish them and pay down our debts.

If at this point you’ve lost the will to live, then it would be understandable, particularly if you have been a regular reader of the GIMMS MMT Lens. With false narratives about how governments spend, the public is being prepared for those ‘hard choices’ that the Chancellor has already promised. It is however economic illiteracy at its best both in terms of getting the economy back on its feet and importantly monetary realities.

Debt doom-mongering by the Chancellor will likely have the reverse effect to the one intended. For those who have been lucky enough to have saved over the past year, with such uncertainty and the prospect of higher taxes, who is going to be cracking open the champagne or booking their luxury holiday in the Maldives? Maybe a possibility for some as we come out of lockdown, but not a done deal and there is still much uncertainty. And as for those working people who are already on lower incomes, in debt or potentially facing the prospect of losing their jobs in the near future, spending will be the last thing on their minds.

After 10 years of damaging public sector spending cuts, employment insecurity and the rise in poverty and inequality arising from it, which has affected all sections of society (except for the very rich) the expectation of more pain will more likely send people scurrying for safety rather than planning a big spending spree.

Littered throughout the speech were the usual false household budget narratives which have defined Treasury speak for decades: debt and deficit reduction, taxing and borrowing, affordability, debt burdens on future generations, hard choices and fixing the public finances. Weasel words which do not reflect monetary reality.

Whilst the government has indeed used its fiscal firepower, if somewhat selectively, to protect the economy over the last year, its price is couched in that of sound finance, or how we pay for it. It is time to call this narrative out for what it is. Economic twaddle. The real issues are not repairing the finances, as the Chancellor has repeated endlessly and which is parroted by economists, institutions, and journalists alike, but how can we use existing real resources to create a fairer, and more sustainable economy in the aftermath of the pandemic given the huge challenges we face in addressing inequity and climate change.

As a nation, we have choices to make and once again the question can be reduced to asking what sort of society do we want to live in and how can we deliver it? Over a decade, our public infrastructure has been laid waste and the tragic and unnecessary consequences laid bare.

As a result of a toxic economic ideology, the private sector has been promoted as the wealth creator, and vast amounts of public money have seeped into private profit rather than public delivery. And yet, strangely, at the same time, the question of affordability only applies to publicly delivered and managed services. Not to the corporations whose bank accounts have swelled with no transparency or accountability.  And nowhere has that been made clearer than in the Chancellor’s Budget.

Aside from the already damaging consequences of government spending choices, which have decimated public services, capped wages and decreased employment security, the question of how we improve the lives of ordinary people remains largely unanswered. Despite the empty words and posturing in Johnson’s and Sunak’s plans to level up society. The pressing question of addressing climate change also remains in the margins of urgency.

On closer inspection, underneath Sunak’s spending promises to keep the economy afloat over the next few months lies a different story. Whilst the Universal Credit uplift has been retained and despite calls for it to be made permanent, the Chancellor has only secured it until September, leaving huge uncertainty in the lives of people already hit by previous changes to social security benefits which have driven increasing poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Through the Chancellor’s decision to freeze income tax thresholds, ordinary people will be hit with a sneaky income tax rise, whilst the increase in the minimum wage to £8.91 an hour from April is scarcely a giveaway for people already on low wages and struggling to make ends meet. With 700,000 people already in arrears on their rent, over a million in severe debt and a rise in destitution, not to mention the prospect of a council tax rise of 5% to add to the woes, the Chancellor has shown not financial skill or prowess but revealed his lack of macroeconomic credentials.

By concentrating on the false trope of ‘fixing the finances’ he has failed to address the key financial problems being faced by large sections of the population; both as a result of current and also previous spending decisions. Add to that the impact of further job losses with, according to the IPPR, more than half a million employers facing bankruptcy, remembering that one person’s spending is another’s income the future is looking ever more depressing for many.

With no additional funding for public services and a further £4bn of spending cuts to be added to the £11bn already announced, austerity it seems has not gone away.  The pay freeze already announced last year in Sunak’s spending review is a kick in the teeth for 2.6 million workers, which includes millions of teachers, police and other workers who have been on the frontline during the pandemic and was described by Sunak as ‘fair and proportionate’ given that private-sector wages had been falling, hours cut or redundancies made.  A question of equity? No! Pitting public sector workers yet again against the private sector, reinforces not only the fake message that the public sector is only affordable in a prosperous economy, but also allows working people to be distracted from their common cause – the class struggle. It also distracts from the reality that it is the government that that has the capacity to spend, as the currency issuer, and to set prices through its legislation.

In the light of the proposed 1% pay increase for the NHS, to add injury to insult Nadine Dorries suggested that nurses ‘do their job because they love their job’. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, then went on to defend the measly sum on the basis of financial affordability. Aside from the extraordinary dedication of our nurses, doctors and other health workers over the last year, which has been reduced to goodwill by Dorries, as many in the profession have said, ‘you can’t live on claps’. GIMMS echoes the words of Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor and author who said:

‘The government insists a proper NHS pay rise is unaffordable… It’s claptrap of course. It is a political choice. […] If the prime minister can afford to spend two-thirds of the entire NHS annual budget on a very fast train, he can also afford to reward NHS staff with a real-terms pay rise. The fact that he has chosen quite deliberately not to do so speaks volumes.’

Indeed, but what was also missed out of the Budget speaks even more volumes. In the week that one of the UK’s largest care home companies announced that it was to sell off dozens of its homes, the Chancellor failed to make a mention of the catastrophic state of social care and has yet again put the problem onto the back burner.

As the sector faces financial problems due to falls in occupancy as a result of COVID-19, and combined with reductions in fees from the councils who fund them, who are cash strapped themselves due to funding cuts, the on-going viability of the current care home infrastructure is at risk.

Although the increase of 5% on council tax will allow 3% to be used for funding social care, this is yet another example of what happens when private companies delivering public sector services can no longer turn a profit. This not only leaves people high and dry worrying about where they might spend their remaining years, it also begs the question as to why private companies are involved at all?  Residential care should be funded adequately at central government level and be returned to public provision, locally provided for the interests of all concerned. There has been much discussion on finding solutions to the problem of funding social care which usually boil down to monetary affordability. Deficit spending and rising public debt have become the bogeymen upon which all spending decisions are taken. And in the orthodox model of how money works, someone will have to pay, i.e. in higher taxes.

And yet, the reality of the situation is as Stephanie Kelton noted in her book ‘The Deficit Myth’ published last year:

‘The country’s real deficits are in healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, education and the climate.

It seems that no lessons are being learned from the previous 10 years of public sector cuts, and their effects on the economy and the focus on balancing public accounts rather than the economic well-being of citizens will continue to wreak devastation. In the same breath as announcing that the ‘economic emergency’ caused by Covid-19 had only just begun and would cause lasting damage to growth and jobs, he is talking about how we pay for it. These are mutually exclusive positions.

The greatest omission in the budget was an absence of clearly articulated green measures. This was an opportunity for boldness, but instead, it was a damp squib! Promises of action make for good propaganda but according to research by Vivid Economics much more needs to be done to meet environmental targets and the Chancellor failed to put flesh on the bones.

As work by economists including Joseph Stiglitz has shown, green spending could create jobs and provide economic benefits as countries struggle to lift their economies out of the Covid-19 recession. And yet, whilst the government waves its environmental credentials as a host for COP 26 to take place in the UK in November, at the same time it is sitting on the fence over the opening of a new coal mine in Cumbria. Jobs are an important consideration, but as Fatih Birol from the International Energy Agency told the Guardian countries must forsake coal as a matter of urgency and avoid repeating the mistakes of the 2008 financial crisis.

We need as a matter of urgency to follow a more sustainable path for a green recovery, not stampede for growth at any cost! We cannot return to the false normal that we had before Covid-19 arrived on the scene.

In the light of rising unemployment, particularly amongst young people who have suffered over the course of the last year, a properly targeted green stimulus could tackle it through green initiatives to provide jobs and training focused on renewable energy and environmental conservation. Combined with the implementation of a job guarantee to ensure that no-one is left behind on the unemployment scrap heap, such initiatives could revitalise the economy by putting human and planetary well-being at the top of the agenda. But instead, as the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose suggested in a recent blog ‘The Treasury is reverting to free-market economic orthodoxy, relying on business and the housing market to do the heavy lifting’.

To conclude, it is an irony that with such huge challenges ahead, that on both the left and the right of the political spectrum Mrs Thatcher’s dictum ‘There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money’ is still alive and thriving.

But as GIMMS Associate Member, Neil Wilson put it in his budget preamble:

“If there is one thing the last year has taught us it is that the Government is never short of money”

But why is it always presented as a hard choice? Balanced public accounts or sustainable human and planetary flourishing? There is an alternative to this narrow and destructive vision of the future. And it is one that if we fail to grasp the message that monetary reality brings, we will betray our children and grandchildren who will pick up the real cost of not acting.  It will not be a monetary one. It will be one of planetary destruction and human decline.

In the words of Naomi Klein:

“Because, underneath all of this is the real truth we have been avoiding: climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message—spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”

 

 

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The nurses’ pay award will be about much more than 1%. This is about deciding the type of society that we want in the post-Covid world

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 10:07pm in

I have posted this thread on Twitter this morning:

Why does Johnson wants to take on the nurses? Is this his Union fight; a version of Thatcher’s with the miners? Is the Battle of the Hospitals to be his Battle of Orgreave? And why? Thatcher wanted to break the unions. Does Johnson want to break the #NHS? A thread...

Even someone with the insensitivity of the average minister in this government must have realised that a 1% pay offer to the NHS would, after the last year, be treated as contemptuous, not just by the nurses themselves, but by many in the population at large as well.

We didn’t clap for nothing. We have seen the exhausted faces. Few of us can really appreciate the trauma of going to work knowing we will see people die in greater numbers than we ever expected during that day. Nor can we imagine the feelings of helplessness that must induce.

I know the NHS is our religion. And there is this ‘nurses are angels’ thing. But some myths are based on facts. And I want to add in all the others as well, from the porters who make the NHS move, to the consultants, to the cleaners, GPs, and receptionists. They all make the NHS.

The last year’s been about keeping the NHS open. Lockdowns saved lives. But they were really about keeping the number dying to a level the NHS could, just about, manage. All the sacrifice was to ensure that we could support those we lost, and those who helped them as they died.

Was that worth it? I think so. Few of us want to think about death. In our society it is a taboo. But Covid made us face it. Unexpected, early, unjust, heartbreaking deaths became commonplace, but not normal. And everything done was to give those dying the support they needed.

On the way, and due to incredible care, some brave decision making and simple determination it’s also a fact that many who went to intensive care units also came out alive. Many, maybe most, are scarred. But they got another chance. And that’s a cause for celebration.

The cost has been high. Hundreds of thousand of jobs lost. Countless cost to mental health. Failed businesses. Lives disorganised. Many hopes dashed. But, lives were saved. And, as far as was possible (and I know the constraints) those who died were respected, and cared for.

At the most fundamental level what is important within our society was questioned. And what mattered was one of last rites of passage: the preservation of life was enormously important, but so too was supporting those on their final journey. They had to die as well as possible.

I am not pretending that was always achieved. I know that it was not always possible. The care hone scandal showed that the government really did not understand this need at first. They should be held to account for that.

But if anything, this failure to protect some people, and the reaction to it, supports my narrative. We were angry about the indifference shown to those in care homes, and rightly so. Deep down, we still believe in the final rite of passage. Dying as well as we can matters to us.

It matters so much in fact that we were willing to throw our economy into chaos. We were willing to lockdown. We were willing to accept the consequences. The shock to Dominic Cummings, very early on in this crisis, was that we cared about our grannies. He could hardly believe it.

There were those, Cummings and Johnson included at the outset, who believed Covid should be let rip. It should run through the population, do its worst, and leave behind the immune survivors. They eventually coalesced around something called the Great Barrington Declaration.

This was raw, market fundamentalist, survival of the fittest thinking. The natural winners should make it (no doubt motivated by a touch of eugenic thinking on who those winners might be). The rest were dispensable. More than that, they weren’t worth the cost of saving.

Cummings and Johnson got this wrong. The cost of that was high. Their indifference to taking action early, because of their belief that simply letting the virus have its day was the right thing to do, has cost tens of thousands of people their lives in the UK.

But the fact was that in the end they knew people would not accept this. The indignity of letting people die in an NHS that was totally overwhelmed was something that they eventually realised would not be tolerated by people in the UK. We were willing to pay the price, and did.

I know that price has been very real. But, and I am back on economics now, in one regard there has been a shocking realisation. And that is that this price was not nearly as high as we were led to believe. Although we were told money was in short supply, it transpired it wasn’t.

In the last year the government has had to spend around £400bn it did not have (the final cost is not known yet). And despite everything that had been said about taxpayer’s money being in short supply, the money to settle the bills was available.

It was always going to be. There was never a doubt about that. And the government has always known the truth on this issue, even if there have been persistent lies about it. The reality is that the Bank of England has always been able to create money, on government demand.

This is simple to do. The government asks to borrow a billion from the Bank of England. The Bank agrees to lend it, which is pretty unsurprising given it’s owned by the government, and simply records the loan in its books, and that’s all it takes to create the money.

There is no printing press. No notes and coin are involved. Nor is any taxpayer. Least of all is any so-called ‘taxpayer’s money’. The government tells its own bank to lend it money, without ever agreeing a repayment date or interest rate, and it exists. Money, from thin air.

There always was a magic money tree. All the denials by all the politicians from all the parties who ever queued up to assure us that we had to ‘live within our means’ (which it transpired meant the money the commercial banks were willing to lend us) were talking nonsense.

We weren’t constrained by the commercial banks. Or the money markets. Or the willingness of foreigners to lend to us. Nor did the government need to collect tax due before it spent. What a few of us knew, and most economists denied, was that the government creates its own money.

And it has. In the last year it’s created more than £400 billion of new money. Costlessly. Without borrowing from anyone but itself. And it has injected that new money into the economy. It had to.

The Bank of England had to do this because private banks weren’t creating new money, which is the only other way the money that keeps our economy going is made. And because many people were saving and paying down debt private bank created money was in short supply.

That’s because saving and paying down debt takes money out of the economy. That’s because all money is a promise to pay. So when a debt is repaid the money disappears. And when saving happen the money saved is not, by definition, spent and our incomes are other people’s spending.

So, many people reacted to Covid in ways that were rational, but meant there was too little money in the economy. So, the government had to make good the shortfall, and it did, thankfully. And we don’t need to worry about that.

Government created money is literally what makes the world go round. Once upon a time it was injected into the economy by increasing the national debt, but this time the demand was so big it was effectively spent directly. There is no real new debt as a result.

It’s true that as a result of this money injection that the commercial banks now seem to have £400 or so billion more on deposit account with the Bank of England. But that means they are much less likely to go bust. That is a good thing.

And it’s also true this new money does eventually end up as part of the savings of the already wealthy, because it pushes up asset prices (hence house price increases and a buoyant stock market despite Covid) and so taxes on the wealthy do need to increase to control that trend.

But is there any risk of inflation in normal prices as a result of this new money being created? I don’t think so. There’s a reason. It is that there are millions unemployed and underemployed in the UK right now. And that means there is no upward price pressure from wages.

So, back to nurses and their pay claims, where all this started. In my opinion the dispute to come on this issue is much more significant than the government has appreciated.

The government thinks there is no upward pressure in wages in the market right now. As a result their simple, dogmatic reaction is ‘why do we have to pay in that case?’ To summarise this thinking, it’s that of the person who thinks markets always get things right.

But markets don’t always get things right. The old adage that an accountant knows the price of everything and the value of nothing is based on a truth (and I am a chartered accountant). Markets can get values very wrong.

I think markets have got the value of nurses, and come to that, all in the NHS and care workers and all in education, very wrong right now. I’d go so far as to say that we are at a pivotal point in the development of society at this moment.

For forty years we have lived in what might be called the neoliberal era. The term is not as important as what it implies. And that belief is that markets know best. As importantly, the logic says that governments definitely know second best.

The power of this logic has been seen throughout our society, and in our politics. What we have developed are a breed of politicians who when they see a problem then think that whatever they, in government, might be able to do to solve it the market could do better.

So, they outsourced track and trace. They brought in consultants to manage Covid. And they believed that people with literally no experience in PPE could somehow deliver better product at lower price than experts on the issue, working in government.

They were wrong, of course. Track and trace and PPE are all disaster stories, to join so many other outsourcing catastrophes. The massive overpayments were just part of the story. The waste is another. Markets fail, badly, when managed in ignorance.

But, the government does not believe this. They swear these are success stories. And they regret the fact that limitations in the NHS - created by a decade of austerity from 2010 onwards - have forced them to close the economy down, all because people care about their grannies.

And, they think nurses are not in the market, so they know second best what their worth is. In that case they can be given what they get because only markets know the true price of anything, and value does not matter.

Except it does. Value is why we shut down the economy. We valued people: those struggling for life, and those losing it. Value is what shaped the last year. Value justifies what we did. And the government still does not get that, because they don’t put a price on value.

And nurses are valuable. We have proven that. The worth is established. All that isn’t is the price, which is something very different. And that conflict of market price versus value to society is the core of the dispute that I think is going to happen now.

The nurses are rightly going to ask to be valued. I think others should too. And they now know that the money to pay them is available. That’s beyond dispute. What we face is a choice about the future of life in thus country as we know it. All based on a 1% pay offer.

The decision to be made is about more than the nurses, important as they are. It is about who and what we value. Do we value essential public services? Or do we value the fripperies that some in society can afford because they pay less tax?

Do we value the claims of financial markets more than we value the right of government to decide how money is created for the benefit of us all?

Are we willing to tax the rich (who benefit by far the most from government deficits because the money injected into the economy ends up on their bank accounts at the end of the day) so we say have the services we need?

Are we going to accept tough decisions for the sake of the common good, common values, common wellbeing?

This is the most massive question, and yet if the nurses pursue their pay claim - and I think that they should - then these are the questions that will actually be asked of us.

And surely we know the answers now? If everyone has enough to live in (and that’s a massive ‘if’ we have not addressed as yet) then what we know now are a number of quite fundamental things.

The first is that we can’t value a hug from a loved one. But we know how much we long for them.

And we can’t estimate just how important friends are. But we do know we miss them, badly.

Dammit, we can’t value a smile, and most of them are hidden now. Thank goodness they are reflected in our eyes, if we really mean them.

You get my point, I hope. There is no price for these things. But they are valuable.

As has as much dignity and care as possible for the dying been immensely valuable.

As was the sacrifice of those who had to deliver that dignity and care when no one else could.

The fight to come - for fight I think there will be - is about what is important. Is the claim that ‘there is no money’ (when there is) or that ‘the debt must be repaid’ (when none has been incurred, as the data shows) more important than caring?

I know the answer to that question. Deep down I suspect you do too. Deep down you might share my view of those who can’t even understand that this is a question that needs answering, and who are willing to lie to deny it exists.

This, then, is a moment for political awakening. Not party politics, I stress. I don’t much bother with them. But the real politics that determines the overall direction of our society.

From 1945 to 1979 the UK worked to recover and rebuild from war. From 1980 to date we have let markets decide how we live, and have deferred our interest to the interests of those who pursue money, wealth and profit as if these matter most. And now? What are we to do?

I do not want to go back to 1945. We have learned too much. We have moved too far. That’s not where we need to be. And anyway, that was a world that did not respect the equality that markets have not stopped us embracing of late. So this time is different.

But what do we want? That’s to be answered. But the message that I am getting loud and clear now is that we want what is valuable, and that is something way beyond what markets deliver.

We want a straightforward, honest, clean, accountable state that will act openly and transparently in the public interest. We are a long way from that.

We want a state that is willing to invest in and protect our futures. That is not just about the NHS, of course. It is about free education. It is about cradle to grave care. It is about climate change and what we know must happen.

And it is about economic honesty. Economics has been used, quite deliberately, and I have to say with the willing consent of far too many economists, to bring us to the point where a government is apparently unable to value nurses.

Economics has deliberately created the myth that ‘there is no money’.

And the economics that we have has been built on the idea that it is worth leaving people unemployed to keep inflation low, largely in the interests of preserving the wealth of the wealthiest.

This economics offends me. It is wrong, at every level. And there are alternatives that explain how the economy really works, starting from the core fact that the government can create all the money needed to create the society we want.

But, we have to choose to do that. The nurse’s pay claim is about making that choice. Precisely because it is I expect the government to oppose it, vigorously. And then they will say that if they must pay then the NHS must be privatised. I am sure that will follow.

This then is about the very essence of what our society is about. Are we to put value above price? People before profit? Society over private wealth? Community over markets? The smile of a friend over the heartlessness of the financier?

I know my answer. I know this pay fight, and the fight for the NHS that will follow, might be pivotal. This is about the very core of what it is to live in society. That is what I want. You need to do so too if we are to recognise what is of value in the future.

This is an issue in which everyone will have to take a side. But there can only be one winner if we are to have any chance of a decent future.

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