Very Old Labour

The government has belatedly decided to disagree with UNITE, one of its largest benefactor Unions. Alarm bells have gone off in Downing Street. They remember too well the damage the winter of discontent did to them in the 1970s and do not wish to be too heavily associated with an unpopular strike.

The irony is that UNITE are simply arguing in one company for the approach that Labour wishes to take with the national budget – to put off reform and keep on spending. We need to ask the PM why it is necessary for a company – or a family – to bring their costs into line with their incomes, but not for the nation.

The truth is that most of current policy is very old Labour. These are the bank nationalisers, the people who wantonly threw billions of public money into banks which had been brought low by a change of rules of their very own regulators, following the banks’ all too willing response to previous encouragement of too much credit by those same regulators.

These are the over regulators of our daily lives, the people who wish to force dog insurance on dog owners and spend hours thinking up new ways of taxing and controlling motorists. These are the men and women who sent in the thought police.

These are the people who think there is a public spending answer to every social problem, regardless of whether the nation can afford it or whether it works. This is a government of the control freaks, of borrowers, and of wasters of other people’s money.

It is true it is also a NULabour regime to the extent that it believes you can control what people think most of the time by superior spin, paid for by taxpayers.

Many people have fallen for bank nationalisation, because Labour allowed former Labour Councillor Vince Cable to front run the idea for them, with the government “reluctantly” giving in to this “moderate” lobbying. Sensible alternatives to avoid bank collapse and to protect taxpayers were carefully kept off the airwaves or airbrushed out of the official script.

Some may now fall for the idea that UNITE and the government are at loggerheads, and the government is not in favour of such strikes. The test of that proposition is will Labour give any of the money back to the Union which they have received, saying that they think it wrong to have taken money from people who behave in a way they condemn? Will the Union tell the governing party it will not be receiving any more in the future because the Union disagrees with Labour’s stance on its strike? I doubt it.

We will be told endlessly that public spending has to continue at full throttle all the time the recovery is so weak. We need to ask why Greece was brought up with a jolt by the markets for following Labour’s policy on spending and borrowing? We need to ask why is the UK so different from Iceland, Ireland and Greece, all of whom have been forced into bigger spending cuts and interest rate increases owing to their failure to take timely action?

We will also be told that taxing the rich is the answer to the deficit. This morning’s news that their changes to Non Dom taxation may end up losing us tax revenue should be no surprise to sensible people. Their 50% tax rate will also drive successful people and businesses away. The proof that this lot are old Labour is their belief that you maximise tax revenue from the rich by raising the rates, and that in itself is enough to pay all the bills.

As readers of this site will know, you maximise tax revenue from the rich by lowering rates – and you increase it from the not so rich by exactly the same means. We also know that the deficit is so huge, any additional tax from a tax the rich policy that worked would not solve the problem on its own.

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18 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    And the Conservative leaderships comments on all of this ????.

    Near SILENCE.!!!!!!

    Aware that DC cannot tell the media who to interview, what topic to make their headlines, but whoever is running the Conservative media feeds is failing to get your Party’s message across.

    You quite rightly have pointed out many of Labours failings and Policies in this Blog, as you have many times, in many others, and you have offered your ideas on possible solutions. But your Party does not seem to have the same approach.

    John. Who is actually in charge of the Conservative media feeds and thus responsible for getting their views into the big wide World.

    Reply: Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Coulson and Hilton

  2. Eotvos
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, I think this is your best blog since I joined some months ago. With some more vitriol in your veins I do believe you would match my passion for hatred of the Labour Party and all it stands for.

    Bassa, a UNITE subsidiary that controls BA cabin staff, have held management to ransom for many years. They are militant because they have never lost a strike and even a threat of action costs (typically) £30-40,000,00 as a result of lost advance bookings.

    Top mangement have not, until now, had the courage to confront them but Mr Walsh seems to be made of sterner stuff. He must take them on and win this war. Every BA employee will thank him if he does. The tail has been wagging this dog for far too long.

    How can he lose? He has the omnipotent, omniscient Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis on his side.

    • Simon D
      Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I think two factors are at work in the BA dispute.

      1. Unite’s status as a TU national player, its power as a massive donor to the Labour party and its need to show the BA board and 10 Downing Street who really runs BA.

      2. A tribal dispute between BASSA leaders and the BA management. The BA Cabin Crew are the most indulged and overpaid workforce in UK aviation, but, nonetheless, hate the management. All that is asked is that 15 instead of 16 people crew the planes and new entrants are hired on different terms. Nobody on strike will be at any risk of a pay cut. Heretofore the script said that BA board should receive a good kicking and then back down. Mr. Walsh and the current BA Board appear to be made of sterner stuff than their predecessors and also have a war chest of cash.

      Watch this space to observe the inter-play of the two agendas and to see if Unite also deploy the BA baggage staff in the game. Meanwhile Messrs. Brown and Mandelson have a big problem in how to spin the activities of their key donor, and, in due course, how to spin the strike. I hope Team Cameron will show their metal in exploiting the true agenda at work in this situation.

      “Fiddling whilst Rome burns” is an expression which comes to mind, given the massive losses BA is currently making.

      • alan jutson
        Posted March 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        SIMON D

        Not a problem for Mr Brown, he will condem the strike (think he already has) whilst he still takes the money.

        He will push both sides hard for a settlement, it will of course be settled at some stage.

        He will then claim victory for his negotiation skills

        HEY PRESTO He has saved the world again, and the Tories will be left floundering again..

  3. Derek Duncan
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Th reason why “public spending has to continue at full throttle all the time the recovery is so weak” is that Labour have a General Election to win and need to induce people to vote for them. It doesn’t matter what happens to the country in the meantime.

  4. Simon D
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The Unite/BA dispute is indicative of the public mood. The public is aware of the need for cuts but only wants them at some vague date in the future by which time it hopes that a magic bullet will have resolved the entire problem without pain. I think the emphasis on immediate cuts has harmed the Conservative's election prospects.

    The next few years in Europe will be characterised by Governments pretending that they want cuts, the media pretending to agree and the public pretending to accept the argument. However, at the first whiff of any serious action the usual suspects will take to the streets, as they have done in Greece. As ever, the public sector will be ring-fenced. I am fed up of hearing BBC correspondents talking about 'pain' and 'hurting' when not a single job has yet been lost at the BBC, not a single post abolished and there is no prospect of a reduction in the Licence Fee. The fact that the BBC sent more staff to the Winter Olympics than the UK sent competitors deftly underlines the nature of the problem.

    In the UK people are already keen for air time on the Today programme to explain why their particular section of the economy should be exempt from any sacrifice.

    • Acorn
      Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Simon, interesting conversation on a doorstep last week. A lady who has just been made redundant from the insurance sector and had just realised something happening in her street. I paraphrase.

      “Next door, he is redundant from a printing company; as is ***** across the street; there look. There are two new cars, see, (she points to cars with “10” reg plates). They both work for the (*******) Council; how does that happen then?”

  5. Eotvos
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    My last post should read £30 – 40,000,000. However, because this industrial action has been going on since last November, the cost to BA must be much more.

  6. Norman
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Every detail of the Conservative's main donors is scrutinised by the media yet we see very little real reporting on how Labour is so dependent on Union money. You are right that it is Old Labour – for some time there has been no discernible difference between New and Old Labour.

    I notice that the Royal Mail issue has now been settled to the satisfaction of the Union – no surprises there although it all seems to have been done quietly. What happened to the demands for modernisation? Are they going to be implemented or are they now in the same category as Labour's public spending cuts – in theory it will need to happen but in practice it's carry on as you are until events overtake them.

    Isn't this Unite union the one who called the strike in public sector workers last week? I seem to recollect that it was. No doubt that will get settled in the same way as Royal Mail but the government can't simply tell BA not to rock the boat, appear as though they are acting tough and then sort things out behind the scenes over beer and sandwiches in a few months time.

    The private sector can't operate that way as shareholders can't be held in the same contempt this government holds taxpayers in.

  7. Andy
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    JR makes some good points. On BA/Unite it is really time BA took on a defeated Unite. Cabin staff are grossly overpaid in relation to other airlines, so it is time these costs were brought more into line with the industry norm. But there is another point. We need to look at unions like Unite. They are no different to monopoly companies and these huge unions need to be broken up.

  8. Percy
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    It is a tangential point, but where does the union Unite get its money from? Subscriptions? Do the subscribers have any choice in whether they contribute or not?

    • Andy
      Posted March 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Unite, along with other unions, has been getting 'modernisation' money from the taxpayer. This has merely been recycled to the Labour Party. In other words the taxpayer has kept this (unloved-ed) bunch of idiots solvent. That is the first spending cut there should be.

  9. Eotvos
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    There never was a New Labour. It was a veneer, a facade. I never believed it right from the start. The Labour Party is incapable of renewing itself.

    There is only Old Labour.

  10. Robert K, Oxford
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Right. So why is it official Conservative policy to retain the 50% tax rate? Why does Mr Osborne say that it wouldn't be right to reduce the upper tax rate when public sector workers are being asked to accept a pay freeze? Doesn't he understand the difference between money that is earned in the private sector and money that is expended on wages in the public sector?

  11. JimF
    Posted March 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    This is a bit of a finessing challenge for Lord Mandelson, him being in charge of Business and all that…. but probably a challenge to relish. Let's make a start, shall we?

    "I'm sure BA would like the next Labour Government's kind consideration when it comes to building new runways, airports, and new routes for your fleet? And all those anti-pollution penalties and passenger duty increases. I'm sure they won't be necessary, after all. Aircraft are such a low overall % of emissions after all, as I keep reminding the public, aren't they?
    Now, with all the money you save, BA, you can perhaps think about helping Derek here out with his little problem, can't you?"

    "Derek, old chap, we don't want to see your members' subscriptions just go to waste, funding an out-of-office Labour Party, do we? After all, how would they feel if we span against you and the influence you feel your donations should give you? What if we had to come to a deal where we received no block donations in return for the Tories' major donors backing away? And we're all having to face reductions in our terms, from me down. I'm sure you can find it in you to kick this into the grass for a few more months…. the promises BA have made, ACAS review reporting in July… nice present before your members take their well deserved annual holiday…. "

    (Spoin, spin-ed) deal done……

  12. Quietzapple
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Hardly belated.

    HMG & No 10 rarely comment on trades disputes, as neither did Mrs Thatcher.

    But when pifflers bring earache . . .

  13. Dan H.
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    In reply to Eotvos, you’re quite right. The genius of the cabal which Tony Blair fronted was simply to realise that the Tories in 1997 were poised to lose the election come what may, and all that they needed to do was to prevent Old Labour from similarly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This they accomplished by very effectively gagging the Old Labour faction in the party, and by highly effective press control (freezing out of journalists who wouldn’t toe the line most of the time, and rewarding faithful journalistic lackeys with plum stories).

    Behind this facade, Old Labour was still there and winning a couple of elections convinced most of this crew that they were winning because of their beliefs and philosophies, not in spite of them. Today we see where all this has led us; we’re into a classic British Labour end-game of rampant public debt, massive inefficiencies, social unrest and at the middle of all of it, a gaggle of Socialists blaming each other.

  14. cheap ghd
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    In the UK people are already keen for air time on the Today programme to explain why their particular section of the economy should be exempt from any sacrifice.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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