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Friday, 26 May 2017

UK General Election 2 - Dementia tax, U-Turns, and leadership

We may just have passed a turning point, here. I mean, I still think the Tories are going to win, and increase their majority. But I think, after this weekend, the electoral oblivion that threatened Labour may just have receded. A bit.

It’s kind of hard to overstate just how awful this entire dementia tax debacle has been, and continues to be, for the Tories as a whole and May in particular. It’s a failure and error on just about every level. Let’s take it one strand at a time.

  1. It’s bad policy. Let’s start there. Whacking dementia sufferers who have the good fortune to own a house worth over £100,000 with a bill that will wipe out the remainder of the inheritance they’d hope to leave their children, while their neighbour who dies of cancer loses not a single penny is obviously grotesquely unfair. Worse, by highlighting this, the Tories have highlighted the policy nonsense that is separating ‘social care’ from the rest of the NHS budget, ringfencing one while plundering and ravaging the other. This has always been a nonsense - but suddenly, through such a brazenly unfair policy, that nonsense is on clear display even to people for whom this would normally seem to be abstract policy discussion.

    It’s really kind of amazing. By creating such an obviously insane and gross policy, the entire lunacy of pretending social care is somehow not a vital service has been thrown into sharp relief. The Tories have managed to do something Labour haven’t been able to do in a generation - put the notion that social care should fall under NHS jurisdiction back on the table. If Labour are smart, they’ll jump on this in the next week or so. It’s natural Labour ground, and it’s lock step with foundational Labour principles.
  2. Amazingly, the U-Turn makes the policy even worse.

    Sidebar: Yes, it is a bloody U-Turn. The manifesto makes no mention of a cap, and on Sunday Hunt was out there on the morning programs explicitly ruling out a cap. Saying today that there will be a cap is not clarifying - it’s a change of policy. Words mean things. This is a U-Turn, and to U-Turn on a manifesto commitment within a few days of issuing it is, actually, unprecedented. We’ll come back to that.

    Why is the cap worse than no cap? Because a cap represents, effectively, a tax break for those who could most afford to pay more.

    Let’s illustrate why with a thought experiment. We’ll use round numbers for ease of calculation. Obviously we don’t know what the cap will be, because it’s only just been wished into existence by May and she hasn’t made that bit up yet, so I feel fairly guiltless making it up myself instead. The point is not the exact numbers, but the principle they demonstrate.

    So, pensioner A - we’ll call him Jeremy - owns a house worth £200,000,and has no savings. He gets dementia, but is assessed and can get in home care. That home care will cost (say) a capped figure of £50,000 a year (the care itself costs £70,000, with the gap made up by the taxpayer). Under this policy, within two years of home care, he will be leaving only half the value of his home to his kids, with the rest eaten up by his care.

    Pensioner B - we’ll call her Teresa - has done very well for herself. She’s sitting on a stately pile worth £1,000,000, and has another £750,000 in savings. She is also diagnosed with dementia and given home care. With the annual cap, she’ll have to live for 25 years before her kids are disinherited by the same amount as Jeremy’s kids. Additionally, with the cap, she’s also being subsidised for her care, even though she’s rolling in it.

    Meanwhile, pensioner C - we’ll call him Tim - is diagnosed with cancer of the policy, and pays not a single penny for his unsuccessful treatments under the NHS. His kids get every penny of his £300,000 house and whatever.

    See? It’s bonkers. May has pulled of the seemingly impossible - she’s made a bad policy worse while executing a U-Turn, while denying she’s U-Turned. Which leads us to…
  3. This election has been branded as being all about leadership. There’s a reason May is answering every question with the words ‘strong and stable’ - it’s what the pollsters tell her people want to hear. And it’s easy to see why. Even ardent Brexiteers are going to be feeling a little apprehensive as to how that process is going to play out, and for the 48%, it’s bloody terrifying. Strong and stable? Blimey, that’d be nice, could do with a spot of that right now.

    But U-Turning on a manifesto pledge within four days of announcing it? Do you know how often that’s happened? I’ll give you a clue, it’s happened NEVER. Literally, never. So that would be ‘strong and stable’ in the sense of ‘shits the bed at the first sign of trouble’, then.

    But hang on, it gets worse. Because what's behind the ‘strong and stable’ pitch is this: Only a May led Conservative government can be trusted to deliver a favourable Brexit for Britain.

    How credible does that pitch look now, when she’s made a massive U-Turn on a manifesto commitment after 4 days? What does it tell the European leaders she’ll have to negotiate with about her ability to really stick to her guns when the negotiations get tough?

    Especially when - and I can hardly believe I’m typing this - her opponent is Jeremy Corbyn.

    Because, say what you like about JC - I’ve said a fair bit of it myself over the last few years - but the one charge you can never level at him is a lack of conviction. This is a man who has won two landslide victories for leadership in the last two years, and in the process stood up to basically the entire parliamentary Labour party. And why? Out of a commitment to the voters who put him in change, and the changes they wanted to see.

    Just think about that for a second. Think about the guts and strength of character that takes. And then to put up with week after week after week of shitty polling data and endless tabloid smears about every aspect of his character and how he was going to bury Labour for a generation, and to look at all of that and say ‘this is what I believe, and this is what the people who voted for me want me to do’, and just stand tall.

    How does a man like that approach a challenge like Brexit? Who do you really think has the better chance of securing a good deal - the Tory who is clearly on the side of the wealthy and against the poor, whose response to dropping to a mere 9 point lead is to actually U-Turn on a manifesto commitment - or a man who has always stood foursquare by his beliefs in a fairer and more just society for all?

    Because, look, Brexit is going to happen. I don’t like saying it, and you probably don’t like reading it, but it is. Remain lost, and that’s it. And both of the main parties are committed to implementing Brexit. Given that, leavers have no reason to shun Labour, and to my fellow remainders, I say: given that reality, the question of who leads us out is absolutely crucial.

    Because I agree with the Tories about one thing - this election is about leadership. It’s about who will lead this nation through its most dramatic political upheaval in more than a generation. This is not a job for those who panic at the first sign of political difficulties, who are swayed by minute to minute polls to abandon principle and make ill thought out policy U-Turns.

    It’s a job for a leader of principle who knows right from wrong, and will be guided by that principle. A leader who can stand up to powerful vested interests, including from within their own party if needs me, in order to serve the democratic will of the people.
    Strong. Stable. Principled. On the side of the workers, the strivers, the just-getting-by. I’d say we’ve found that leader, in this campaign.

    By their works shall ye know them.

Friday, 12 May 2017

UK General Election '17 - Part 1 - Policy

So it seems like I dust this place off mainly when I have something political to talk about, these days. This is the first of a couple of posts I want to make talking about the UK 2017 general election. If that's not your bag, well, I saved you some time. Go check out my Patreon :)

 Let's start with some context. Here's what I posted on Facebook, shortly after the snap election was called:

 "Okay. So. I'm a member of the Labour party. I will be campaigning for them in the forthcoming general election. That campaign will largely be local and involve leaflets and letterboxes, but it will also, probably, be a bit online. If that bothers you, maybe unfollow me until after. I won't be offended. My wall won't turn red overnight, but there will, unavoidably, be more politics for a while.

I'll be honest - I've never felt less like doing this in my life. Not out of any disillusionment with the party itself, or it's leadership (no, honestly) but because of the electoral reality. We're facing -20% points in the hole, on latest polling, with a likely win for May and her Tories that will be (wrongly) interpreted as support for hard Brexit. JC clearly doesn't connect with the electorate. Many of his policies do, of course - but it's clear that the modern political reality requires salesmen, far more than policy, and it's equally clear that JC has not sold Labour to... well, anyone, really. My operating assumption and belief is that Labour will lose this election, and that, having lost, JC will step down as leader. I think both those things are all but inevitable (and I say that as someone who saw the unthinkable happen a humbling number of times in 2016).

That said, I will campaign for Labour anyway. I will do so because I bitterly oppose the Tories, what they stand for, and the damage their reelection will do to the country, from gutting and privatizing the NHS, to brutal assaults on our poorest while providing tax dodges and relief to the white collar criminals that so nearly tanked the economy just a few short years ago, to hard Brexit.

I know not all my friends are leftie or progressive, but I know most of you are. And to you, I want to say this: In this election, there are really only two sides - The Tories, and their UKIP allies, and everyone else. Our electoral system is grossly undemocratic, and for the majority of people who cast a vote in this election, your vote won't count at all in any meaningful way. Sorry, but that's the truth. That said, find out if where you live is remotely marginal (and given the possible size of the swing here, that's gonna be more places than usual). And if you are, for the love of all that's cool and groovy and not evil, vote for whoever will beat the Tory/UKIP.


Yeah, that might mean voting Green, or Lib Dem, or Labour when you don't really want to. I get it. But please face up to the reality - this is going to be a nightmare election result for anyone who believes in progressive political ideas. So do yourself this favor: Know on that night, as the results roll in, that you didn't give into the impulse to posture or protest vote. Know that YOU did what you could to oppose the Tories.

And then, roll up your bloody sleeves, because it's going to be a long, horrible five years.

Here endeth the pep talk.


 And then, yesterday, as a sort-of follow up, I posted this:

 "Lunchtime Rant (UK politics edition): I'll say this - I appreciate the Labour party is a broad church, and I respect that there are differences of opinions within party membership about direction and policy. I firmly believe part of our strength is that diversity of opinion and experience.

But we're in THIS fight, and we're in it NOW, with the leadership we have and the manifesto that group has drawn up. If the polls are even close to right, there's going to be plenty of time for postmortems and recriminations. Later. Right now, this is the fight, and this is the ground. I'm fed up to the back teeth with the leaks, and the grumbling from those whose chosen faction is not, currently, in the ascendancy.

If you're Labour, be Labour. Go out and fight for what you believe in, and leave the sniping to the Tories and their press. This fight is tough enough without us beating ourselves.


EDIT and PS: And thank you to the many comrades who get all of this just fine, and are as fed up as I am. See you on the trail. Stay strong, and stay positive."

And I stand by both positions. With that said. I want to explore some of these issues in a bit more depth, because I'm honestly perplexed as to why people vote as they do, given what they know. As the big news recently was the leak of Labour's draft manifesto, let's start with talking about policy.

Here's an important place to start: these policies are very popular with voters. Raising income tax on the top 5%, re-nationalizing the railways, guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, nationalizing energy, banning zero hours contract... ah, see for yourself.

It's worth noting these polices are even popular with Tory voters. Let that sink in for a second. A majority of Tory voters like Labour's policies. Wouldn't know that from the coverage, would you? Screaming headlines about 'back to the 70's' and scaremongering about 'putting the unions back in charge' and on and on and on - and yet, when stripped of hyperbole and looked at on their merits, majorities on both sides of the political divide nod and say 'yup, sounds reasonable'.

Hold on to that, because it's important. It means something. It means, on policy - on the facts, on what people in this country actually want - Labour has it right. Labour policies reflect the things people say they want to see happen.

And what follows from that positive observation is a very depressing one, which is this: if the polls are within a million miles of right, millions of people are going to vote against their own preferred polices on June 8th.

There's reasons for that, which I'll get into in subsequent posts. For now, though, I just want to close out this initial post with an observation - Labour has the right of this election in terms of policies. Labour people - hang on to that fact, and bloody talk about it, every chance you get. Because if we can make this election about actual policies, rather than slogans and fear, we can - we should - be competitive.

And at the end of the day, isn't that how elections should be decided?

More soon.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Watching Robocop with Kit Power - Episode 9

Welcome to Episode 9! It's an episode of firsts - our first somewhat anonymous guest, our first episode since episode 8, and also our first live-and-in-person recording. And what fun we had! Listen out for:


  • Rich taking over a movie podcast to talk about football and give podcasting advice
  • The brilliance of Jane Campbell (Episode 3 guest)
  • Digressions about metrics
  • The unreality of Trump
  • Numerous Patreon plugs
  • The popularity of the ‘crime is cancer’ theory
  • ED209 and the AT-ST
  • Bladerunner
  • Score vs. music
  • The devastating state of the political left in the UK
  • Interrogating the logic of Robocop’s gun and use of force
  • The military industrial complex
  • Breaking the 3rd wall
  • The predictive nature of this movie
  • Rogue One spoilers and TFA discussion
  • I am the medium, not the message
  • Cosplay adjacent
  • Learn what the show was almost called
  • Cross examining the murder victim
  • Many Dick jokes
  • Is DIck Jones a Sith?
  • Me getting defensive about ED209 as robot chicken
  • The London riots
  • Two white guys solve feminism
  • Spoiler alerts
  • Missing the ending
  • Watching Robocop - the franchise


Enjoy, and thanks as ever for your support.

Why Robocop is the greatest movie ever made.

Theme tune provided by The Disciples of Gonzo, from their track Superhero. Listen to more from them here:

If you enjoyed this podcast and would like to contribute financially to the monthly production costs, in exchange for early access to both this show and my written work, please see my Patreon here:

My latest podcast release!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017