Sunday, 20 April 2008

So much left to do

Reading the Wikipedia biography of British Labour party leader Keir Hardie (1), I noticed this snippet, relating to his election to the Commons in 1892:

In Parliament he advocated a graduated income tax, free schooling, pensions, the abolition of the House of Lords and the women's right to vote. (2)
The astonishing thing about this programme is that so much of it has still not been accomplished, or the achievemnts of the intervening years are under attack. Consider:

  • NuLabour are gleeefully undoing the graduated income tax. Gordon Brown's suicidal decision to scrap the 10p tax rate increased the tax burden for those earning least- the treasury calculating "childless single people earning under £18,500 will lose up to £232 a year" (3). It seems Brown's successor at Number 11, Alaistair Darling, has admitted this (4). While he can't undo Brown's blunder, he is pledging "to do as much as we can to help people on low incomes... and I intend in future Budgets to return to this subject" (5). But that a Labour chancellor increased the tax burden of the lowest earners challenges comprehension.
  • There is still too much wealth-based privilege in the schooling system. Yup, you can get it free of charge. But the 100+ years that have passed since Keir Hardie was elected haven't eradicated the fundamental inequality of opportunity in the British educatiuon system. Money still distorts opportunity.
  • Pensions are miserly. Whiole I don't buy into the Tory lies machine that spews out nonsense about Brown raiding pension funds (6), pensions are still rubbish. The promised restoration (7) of the link between pensions and earnings has not materialised, and has been pushed back to 2012. Given Brown's opposition to it (8) it is unlikely to ever happen, whether or not he wins the next election (the Tories certainly won't do it). A labour chancellor continuing a viciously unjust Tory policy(9)? Who would have thought it?
  • The House of Lords is STILL with us. Unbelieveably, Britain is still ruled in part by a cabal of hereditary peers, bishops and allsorted appointed grandees and donors. It's dazzling that this absurdity has continued to survive into an era when we can send men to the moon and dinky little robots to Mars. Utterly, staggeringly bizzare.
  • While women might have the right to vote, because we still labour (pun intention) under the archaic first-past-the-post system, they might as well not have bothered. Unless you are tribally devoted to the Tories or Labour, voting in Britain isn't really a very relevant experience.

So Keir Hardie probably wouldn't be very impressed to see how little has been accomplished in the century-and-a-bit since he first entered the commons. Yes, lots of good stuff has been done. But reviewing what he hoped for shows how utterly, horribly screwed up and dreadful Britain still is.

Still, Hardie's programme, as radical now as it was in the 1890s (unfortunately), might provide Gordo with a way back from electoral oblivion, if he wasn't such a feeble Tory-lite scum licker and disgusting whore to international capitalism. Even dusting off Labour's 1997 manifesto and seeing the number of policies that still haven't been carried through would be a start.

1 - Biography of Keir Hardie, on Wikipedia, as of 20th April 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keir_Hardie)
2 - 'The Scottish Labour Party, MP for West Ham and the ILP,' from the biography of Keir Hardie on Wikipedia, as of 20th of April, 2008. (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keir_Hardie#The_Scottish_Labour_Party.2C_MP_for_West_Ham_and_the_ILP) 3 - 'Chancellor hints at 10p tax help,' unattributed BBC article, 20th of April, 2008. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7357085.stm)
4 - ibid.
5 - ibid.
6 - 'Davis in pledge to end £5bn pension 'scandal',' by George Jones and Ian Cowie in The Telegraph, 29th of October, 2005. (
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/29/ntory29.xml). A typical example.
7 - 'Turner accepts delay in restoring pension-earnings link,' by Will Woodward and Phillip Inman in The Guardian, 13th of May 2006. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2006/may/13/turnerreport.statepensions?gusrc=rss&feed=money)
8 - ibid.
9 - ibid.

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