1990s >> 1996 >> no-1104-august-1996

Sting in the Tail: Nothing to brag about

Nothing to brag about


When the Labour Party wheels out its showbiz supporters at the general election, songwriter/singcr Billy Bragg will not be among them.


He has left the party which he thinks is scarcely different from the Tories. He had thought that workers would be better off with a Labour government but sees little chance of that now.


Bragg has seen that much, but his political naiveté is evident from his belief that Mrs Thatcher was responsible for working-class misery in the 1980s. He doesn’t see that it’s capitalism itself, and not governments or individuals, which creates the misery.


Where does Bragg go from here? His sympathies now are with anti-road and veal-crate protesters and he would vote for Arthur Scargill’s party if there was proportional representation, but in the meantime, and despite all his denunciations of it, Labour will still get his vote.


A hollow victory


The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants are hailing the Court of Appeal ’s decision to outlaw the withdrawal of welfare benefits to asylum-seekers in this country as a famous victory.


  “Lord Justice Simon Brown said: ‘Parliament cannot have intended a significant number of asylum-seekers to be impaled on the horns of so intolerable a dilemma: the need to either abandon their claims to refugee status or, alternatively, to maintain them as best they can but in a state of utter destitution’ ” (Independent, 22 June).

But the government do not share the Council’s view. If the government has acted illegally in starving them back to the countries they had fled, it has a simple solution. They will just change the law to make their regulations lawful.

  “Roger Evans, the social security minister, said yesterday that the government would press ahead with the benefit changes—designed to save £200m—despite the ruling. ”

If this is what the Tory Party means when it claims to be the Law and Order party?


Caring capitalism


The Wiltshire Health Authority have come up with a scheme to deal with some of the 2,500 suicide attempts in the area.


  “A spokesman denied it was a cost-cutting plan. ‘It is to the benefit of some patients not to be admitted. It is pioneering work to get them treated in the community rather than in accident or emergency wards’” (Observer, 30 June).

So the WHA are to return a quarter of attempted suicides “into the community”—that is refuse them admission to psychiatric wards.


This move will save them £250,000 per year but that is incidental, isn’t it?


Message from a patriot


British workers, rejoice! A recent survey tells me that Britain’s labour costs are lower than every other EU country except Portugal.


This proud boast can only be made thanks to your selfless, if somewhat reluctant, acceptance of low pay, cuts in health and safety regulations, etc. The survey adds that our other EU partners are becoming less competitive, so their workers will have to follow your splendid example.


But wait, another survey claims that Britain has fallen from 15th to 19th place in the global competitiveness league and now lags behind Chile!


Those foreigners cannot be trusted and have been craftily improving their position at our expense. British workers, your duty is clear: you must resolutely accept even more cuts in pay and working conditions if our national pride is to be restored. Go to it!


Poverty of a millionaire


Katina Dart is the ex-wife of one of the world’s wealthiest men and she wants an increase in her divorce settlement.


She told the Court of Appeal in London that she requires “an absolute minimum of many, many, many tens of millions” to maintain her lifestyle. She lost, and will have to scrape by on a pitiful £8.8 million (Guardian, 3 July).


Her solicitors said the judgment will mean that “her private jet will have to go”, and as she has already lost two Porsches and a Ferrari in the divorce settlement, well, by her standards the lady faces a grim future.


And yet Peter Lilley, the Social Security Secretary, doesn’t think poverty is relative. Katina Dart could put him right.


Tougher for some


  “Things are not as easy once you are actually in power, ” says one. The second agrees: ‘It is a question of what is achievable, what your priorities are, where sacrifices will fall. Tough choices have to be made ‘ ” (Guardian, 24 June).

These are two members of South Africa’s new black elite explaining away the contrast between the ANC’s pre-election promises and its subsequent performance in government.


What it has delivered since the end of apartheid is a sharp fall in the economic inequality between white and black, but growing inequality within the black population. The black elite now enjoy the good life, once the preserve of rich whites, but the vast majority of blacks still live in squalor.


Yes, now that the ANC is presiding over South African capitalism tough choices and sacrifices do indeed have to be made, but it is very clear that those who make the choices will not be making the sacrifices.