Friday, 13 August 2010

My New Favourite Pop Song: Pass It On...

Stolen shamelessly from Stroppy.

P.S. I did consider whether I was too old for taking enjoyment from this sort of fantasy revenge. Then I listened to the song and it made me so happy, I decided not....

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Centre Stirs...

David Marquand:
I'm worried, not because the Government is departing from New Labour's legacy, but because it's sticking to it. Here, I believe, both Government and Opposition are engaged in a phony war. Despite all the furious charges and counter-charges that echo through the Westminster air, they are both on the same side. They both want to return to business as usual as quickly as they can. They disagree furiously about the route, but they agree about the destination. They want to get back to the sunlit uplands of ever-rising material prosperity, fuelling and fuelled by ever-rising consumption, both public and private. Both are dominated by short-term policy wonkery. Neither seems to have grasped the need for a new politico-economic paradigm, post-Keynesian, post-socialist, post-Thatcherite, post-national and above all post-affluence. I don't carry such a paradigm in my knapsack, I hasten to add. But I feel in my bones that this is what used to be called the left should now be working on.
Now, ignoring for a moment the rather impressive number of usages of the prefix 'post' in that, er, post, isn't this interesting? We have the primary academic representative of the line that runs from Crosland to New Labour (via the SDP) saying the game is now up, and the current froth of politics represents little more than a churning of outdated verities.

I think he's right. I just don't think that prefixing the word 'post' before every previous paradigm is particularly helpful. Challenging the inherited meaning of 'affluence', for instance, seems to me to be pretty vital - re-defining it as meaning something different: an 'affluence' of equality, resource sustainability and greenery springs to mind as the objective. &, of course, I'm not willing to concede we're in a world that is, by definition, post socialist.

Famously - and I can recall getting a lot of stick for this 25 years ago - Marquand, despite being then in the SDP, wrote regularly for Marxism Today. Quite who was trying to exercise hegemony over whom might still provoke a pub argument or two with friends to my Left. But if the would-be generals of the -so far - imaginary armies that are supposed to resist the coming cuts are to put flesh on their 'strategic' posturings, they must find a language which calls people who conceive of themselves as 'centrist' to the banner, as well as the thin ranks of the more committed Left. So it is always worth maintaining that dialogue with people like Marquand in my view.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Red Meat for the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Club Lounge Bar

Cameron has floated plans to take away basic security of tenure from new entrants to socially rented housing. This is a big step - and an important one.

It's important but not, of course, practical in any way - he's just fired the starting gun for a hail of factually based correction from Shelter, the Churches, the Chartered Institute of Housing and every Tenants' Organisation in the land and we all know what happens when 'factually based correction' hits the fan.

If implemented, this idea would create homelessness, hugely increase routine housing management costs in social housing, increase rather than decrease the benefit traps Ian Duncan Smith is supposedly unpicking, lead to all sorts of undesirable 'hard cases' making unwelcome new housing law and - here's the rub - almost certainly increase the number of people in the private rented sector, which, not being subject to rent control, is more expensive than social housing. In short, it would cost the state more money. So it ain't going to happen.

My best guess is we'll see a familiar cycle of small pilots followed by a range of minor tinkerings with tenure law and a dribbling away of the original political motivation that reduces to some small funding programme designed to produce a few hundred, at best, specially designed new tenancies that automatically convert to shared ownership when and if the family income reaches a certain point.

No, the importance of this announcement is that it the first sign of the end of the 'glad confident morning' for this government and the harbinger of the shit-storm they are going to face once the autumn budget is announced.

This idea is really not like the 'Free School' initiative where Tory plans can be arguably claimed to be seeking to mobilise the positive aspirations of the Daily Mail reading classes. I don't actually think that's true, but the fact that Gove has undoubtedly played his hand very badly so far doesn't mean it remains anything but a positive hand in principle. The Education policy tries to reach out to so called 'aspirational' Britain.

This housing policy doesn't: it seeks to mobilise the prejudices and ignorance of the Tory heartland.It's red meat for the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Club Lounge Bar. It offers a 'tin-ear' to every other strand of opinion and, indeed, to the pesky constraints of reality. It is therefore important in a symbolic way: it ain't going to happen, but it is a way station along the path to what a contributor to one discussion over at Blood and Treasure described as 'Thatcherism without the Falklands'.

Shiny Dave looks a little less shiny this morning. That moderate veneer is starting to peel.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

By Grand Central Primary School I Sat Down & Wept

Coming to a status conscious household near you: a chance to spent $1000 preparing your 4 year old to get into the kindergarten of your choice. (via). These people are the market leaders it seems:
There are so many things to worry about when applying to top public and private schools in NYC. We, at Bright Kids NYC, will take away the anxiety associated with prepping for the appropriate tests so that you as parents can focus on the rest of the admissions process.

It is brutal out there for parents with young children. The public gifted and the private school entry in New York City is getting increasingly competitive, particularly for young kids. If you are serious about gaining admissions to a top school, you must get serious about preparing your child for the appropriate tests.

They say social mobility stopped more or less dead with the cohort born in 1970. That makes a kinds of sense - those were the last people who grew to maturity as the West went through the shift from needing lots of both skilled and unskilled manual jobs into a world where there are many more white collar workers, more and more layers of which get deskilled or simply routinised into 'call-centre type' work experiences as the years tick by. The opportunities for advancement out of routine or dirty or dangerous or simply boring family work traditions are not widening as they were when I grew up - they're narrowing. & no amount of guff about 'the knowledge economy' coming to save us is going to change this fact.

So education becomes a frantic, scary, elbows-out-push-your-neighbour-aside scramble to get on that ladder. 'Cos now it's one-in-and-one-out for the class with the nice life.

& 4 year olds start studying for tests - and the class that can afford it bribes its way to the top.

This is a human disaster.