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Old 17th Sep 2013, 14:46   #1
Caleb
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EU referendum

Quote:
The referendum is an interesting tactic - although given how much business supports maintaining the ties with Europe one rather feels Cameron is caught between two stools, his voters on one side his backers on the other. Played correctly by the opposition this could damage the Tories.


obviously as we were away, we did not discuss this at the time, but I think that it is worth a view.

Cameron speech text

The referendum was a desperate ploy by Cameron to head off UKIP and members of his own party. However he has not headed it off - he has only lit the fuse of a bomb that is now ticking loudly.

The problem will soon become apparent - what is his vision of the EU that he will recommend that is agreed - and what likelyhood has he of achieveing it? If he does not achieve what he wants, will he then recommend a no in the referendum?

One of my biggest concerns is that at a time when it has now been announced that we are going to renegotiate with Europe, the people doing that renegotiation have only certain interests at heart.
The only example that Cameron came up with in his speech (more below) was that of allowing firms to set working times as they see fit, without having the sanction of legislation - "it is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the European Union requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels..."
Now I for one am fairly glad that at least one legislative body is setting rules around maximum working.
Indeed what people do not realise about the European project is that such rules and regulations are necessary if we are to trade fairly without subjecting our employees to a race to the bottom - after all without such directives, what is to stop one of the countries gaining competitive advantage by allowing their firms to work their employees 100 hours per week?

Either way, the questions around what Cameron will negotiate are already starting to be asked, and this conversation will grow as the election approaches. Cameron and the Tories will be forced to say what they demand. And when this is not enough for UKIP and some backbenchers, they will complain that the Tories are trying to sell a pup.

As I see it there are a number of possible scenarios.
1 - Tories win next election and negotiate successfully with EU
by successfully, I mean that they will get enough that does not embarass them. In this case, I think that there will be a punch up between the right and Cameron over whether the concessions are enough, but I suspect that there will be general suport - a lot of the left may disagree with the concessions, but they will not necessarily want to use the nuclear leave the EU option.
One problem with this approach may be how much consensus Cameron gets around the concessions with the other parties - I suspect that he will not wnat too much discussion on that one.
2 - Tories win but fail to negotiate successfully.
Again, this is a judgement on what we call successful. I think that this is extremely unlikely as it would be very damaging for Cameron to admit that his process has failed and that they have not got anything worth having. However it is possible that the concessions are so pisspoor that they cannot justify staying in. It will then be interesting to see whether or not Cameron sticks to the referendum, and whether or not he backs the stay in vote.
3 - Tories fail to win the next election.
If there is a coalition, this will be part of their agreement. I think that the Libs will want to be involved in the concessions, but will naturally support the stay in vote.
If the Tories are not in power, then it comes down to whether Labour feels that it also needs to promise a referendum to keep pace in the next election.

If I were a betting man, I would say that if the Tories win, we will have a referendum that will be to stay in - Cameron will get some concessions that he will hold up, but he will invite internecine war within his own party and with UKIP, from which they will take a long time to recover. A whole parliamentary cycle will be lost to the noise that all of this will cause.

If the Tories do not win the election then it will depend on whether or not Labour gets forced into matching the Tories offer, or whether it can stick to its referendum only for change policy. If the former then this will still cause warfare in the Tories, but it will also put Labour in a difficult position. If the latter then the issue will rumble on in the background for a few more years.

If I were to bet, I would say that we are likely to be out of the EU in the next 10 years.


Finally, on the speech itself.
By chance I was driving at the time so managed to listen to it in its entirety. And I do have to say, for what was billed as a 'major' speech, it was pretty poor.
One key style in these sorts of speeches is to use lists, and then to use them to structure the points. Incidentally, rhetorical training says never use more than 3, as people won't remember them.

A key part of the speech was then the 5 principles that Cameron had. I remember hearing this and thinking - this is the key point.
And then we get to the 5 principles.

The first was competitiveness. Having spent a few mins talking about how Europe has created peace since WW2, it was a strange one to lead off on.
If that was bizarre - the second even more so - flexibility. I am not saying that the point was wrong - although it is a little misguided - however come up with a better slogan for it.

So point 3 had a bit more of a slogan - but it was "power must be able to flow back to Member States" - what the hell does that mean? OK so we know what it means, but it is hardly a catchy idea.

Point 4 was democratic accountability - this sounds much better, but we need to wade through competitiveness and flexibility to get there. However having set out the point, he did not really state its relevance to the question in discussion.

Point 5 was fairness - again having said this, no real idea of why it was there - it seeemed to be a rehash of flexibility and not obviously about fairness.


overall a very poor example of what should have been a major speech - immediately afterwards I could not remember any of the 5 points. And I didn't really care.
What came across was a PM who wanted to redesign Europe to benefit the upper and management classes, and didn't really care about the benefits and protections for the wider citizens. Whilst he was obviously playing to the Eurosceptic audience, there was absolutely nothing in it for the average man or woman of the street.
Very disappointing - and to think that this has kick started a debate - there is currently nothing to debate!!!
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Old 20th Sep 2013, 14:30   #2
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I'll briefly state my own position as it obviously colours my views on this - I think we should be 'in' Europe, I think simply seeing it as a trading group is to miss the point of it's formation. Being part of the EU does not in any way stop us forming close ties with other nations or groups of nations. However it is hard to disagree that the nature of EU politics needs some sorting out, options for gravy acquisition need reducing and sometimes reality checking needs to be stronger.

So to the referendum...

I'd agree Cameron did this in a panic to the point that the actual politics of this were embarrassing and nearly lead to the government creating a situation where they actually gave a vote of no confidence in themselves which in prior times could have lead to resignations and elections.

The problem to me sits in what does the referendum consist of and what do people want from any renegotiation?

Really a two stage referendum would be the optimum way to do it if it has to be done - the first one in the form of multiple questions around what people like and dislike about the EU to both deal with myths and form the basis of any negotiation... the second after negotiation to say 'this is what the results of negotiation are - should we stay or go?'

That would be great if we had a political process where we voters were intelligently engaged by politicians and offered facts which we then took the time to consider - but as we saw from the AV situation we got lumbered with a single option to vote for or against something even the pro-AV people see as a less than ideal option. Coupled with press and politicians who are more than willing to outright lie to push their chosen agendas any referendum is going to be voted upon by people based on myth and superstition with a lot of rhetoric about how human rights laws let criminals rape our mothers and still get free mansions and how 40 million foreigners will have all our jobs in 2014.

I can see why Cameron is afraid of UKIP, they could end up crucifying the Tories in marginals and letting other parties in even in areas where they have a decent majority. He is running to the right on certain issues to appease them which might work but might equally lose him moderates without gaining him much on the right.

He also doesn't have the trust of the working middle class as Thatcher managed - he is so transparently a creature from another world that most never even get to visit, he is managing to alienate women, his serial scandals around ties to monied interests don't help and his cabinet is full of truly dislikeable characters behaving in really unpleasant ways.

He needs to get some traction and I think he sees the EU as something where people are onside and the myths and misunderstandings support him as does a chunk of the press. BUT at the same time as I said elsewhere I don't think that outside the right wing noise and that side of the press the dislike of the EU is as huge as he thinks nor is it high on the list of priorities even for people who do not like it.

The speech was vague rubbish, probably because it was written in a hurry as he panicked about UKIP - he had nothing to say and like many politicians he took a long convoluted way to say very little.. confusing time spent talking with substance, or hoping observers would anyway.

The 5 point was plan was, as per your analysis, very vague - leaves plenty of room for him to declare victory but equally plenty for others to declare failure. He with the loudest noise machine will win.

I think another problem Cameron faces here is that the EU is an area where the wealthy businesses that back the Tories are largely going to be pro-EU whereas the older core voters exiting to UKIP are, in this one instance, not being swayed by the pro-business case. If business decide that Labour or a Lib/Lab coalition are better for them that could change the campaign landscape in a hurry.

I think Miliband needs to be the statesman here - to say perhaps that...

- He recognises that the EU has flaws but that we have ties with Europe for bigger reasons and that he'd only consider a referendum after serious attempts to fix these flaws had been made.

- That the UK does not want to act like the spoiled kid running home with it's ball 'cos the other kids wouldn't play (and he could really play to the spoiled rich boy meme of Camerborne here).

- That while a couple of years ago there may have been an economic case for leaving that is no longer true and that under the Tories we are now recovering slower that even the nations that got bailed out. And in this area also that if we followed the knee jerk policies of a panicking PM we'd have left a strong economic group because of a short term situation - short term decision making is bad in a national leader etc.

- He could even play the race card a bit and wonder loudly about how Cameron is so willing to claim the successes of immigrants wearing UK flags in the Olympics but turns against them as soon as the event is over... risky though.

Overall I think if he steps up he can win this one on the facts while managing to squeeze in a little pandering to those on his own side who harbour a little UKIP type feeling.


I may be assuming too much but I don't think most 'serious' people want to exit the EU and that includes most of the Tories but there is a lot of noise from a decent sized minority about issues like HRA, immigration, sovereignty and so on coupled with the genuine bigots & xenophobes (EDL/BNP) that all coalesces into an anti-EU thing, even though much of it is not EU related in reality.

My feeling is that in an informed referendum we'd stay but we run a serious risk of having an ill informed one in which we could make a bad choice.
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Old 20th Sep 2013, 15:31   #3
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I think that the argument that it could ever just be a trading block are falacious.
You cannot have a successful trading block in which one partner can create an advantage over the others by having lax laws or standards. The only way to compete is for other partners to reduce their standards, or allow corporate competitiveness at the expense of the workers (e.g. longer working hours and reduced holidays etc).
Either of these things will lead to a reduction in goods/services and living conditions for EU members. It is hard to see who gains from this, other than the elites, and I don't think that this model is sustainable.

Obviously there are issues with the EU - but here is the other falacious argument - that it is unelected and unaccountable. The way that the EU is set up is to be directly accountable to the member governments. That the governments do not have the collective will to reduce waste or corruption is indicative of the member governments, and not the EU itself.

I think that there is a degree that a referendum was inevitable at some stage. Sooner or later one party or another was going to use it to gain a bounce. I think that there was a tactical mistake for the Tories to unveil it so early - the advantage could be mostly gone by the election.

I don't think that a multiple question is a starter. The UK public is not capable of voting for a better voting system which was clear and simply better - let alone a multiple referendum.
I also believe that referenda need to be clear and consise. The more complex the question, the more chance there is of the answer being misinterpreted, which is never good.
I know some Aussies, who complain that the problem with the republican referendum there a few years ago was the question that was asked. If the question had have been simple, then they may well have stopped using the monarchy. As it was the question did not provide the clear alternatives.

To some degree the Scottish referendum may be the opposite end. A highly complex move will be down to a simple question, without people really knowing the impact of that question - assumptions about how an independant Scotland would deal with currency and defence etc cannot be known before the fact. However I still think that the simple question is best.

I think that anti-Europeanism does have broad appeal beyond the obvious right. I know a lot of Labour type people who voice concerns about immegration (now linked to Europe) for example - a lot of this is because almost all the press is critical of Europe, and politicians rarely step in to correct them - there is a feeling that Europe is a no win issue - if you campaign in favour, you will get picked out by the sceptics. So better stay silent.
What is interesting is not so much the anti-Europeanism, but the fact that UKIP is, as you say, targetting mainly Tory areas.

I think that the issue will come will be the fact that rather than staying on the back foot and silent, the Tories can now come on the front foot on Europe - they can portray themselves as doing something postive - although they may not actually succeed, they will say that they are the only party that is addressing the excesses of Europe.
This may force a response from at least Labour to either agree with the referendum, and say what they would negotiate differently, or say that they don't believe in a referendum. Either of these would cause problems, either because the Tories can claim that they are setting the agenda, or because they will be accused of being scared of the electorate and undemocratic.
Either way the Tories could gain.

I am not sure that any of you Mb arguments work
- if there are flaws, then the Tories have proposed something to fix them - Labour hasn't
- you cannot talk about spoiled kid etc as part of a grown up debate
- saying that there was a case recently does rather spoil your point about the importance of Europe
- the race card for Mb will only work for those who will support him anyway - a lot of Labor supporters are borderline dodgy, as evidenced by "the bigoted woman" than Brown met at the last election

I do agree that there is an option for Mb to play the statesman - and this is something that I think that he is fairly uniquely capable of doing - he has proved to be independant minded in the past, and that story may play well. Even if people dislike your policy, having solid convictions does mean that people respect you. One of the reasons that Labour won in 2005 despite the unpopularity of the Iraq war was that people respected Blair sticking to his convictions in spite of the obvious popularity. In a bizarre way he gained respect for it - and this helped to keep a lot of the people who may otherwise have voted against due to the war to stay on side.

I did hear someone say recently that Thatcher knew and understood the middle class - her father was a shopkeeper after all. I agree that Cameron does not understand the general population, and it does show.

I totally agree that I don't think that the mood of the country is to leave the EU - I think that a lot in the UK are exasperated with Europe, but see it as being a solid part of our existance. Ultimately people do not like change.
The best way to prevent the referendum succeeding is to have some people talk about the pain of changing - the difficulty that we will have getting visas to go on holiday etc etc etc. It need not all be true, and you would get non-important people to float this sort of stuff - but if it is out there, then a lot of people will just vote for status quo. They have been doing something similar in Scotland.

My concern would be that the referendum like the one last year, could turn into a vote on the popularity of the parties with complexities around policies etc thrown in - which may make it all too close for comfort.

One of the key reasons why the AV referendum was lost was the linkage with Clegg and the Liberals who were historically unpopular, not only with their usual supporters, but also with Labour supporters who wanted to give Clegg a kicking - this led to some serious arguments with my parents for example who voted no just because they thought it would help Clegg.
So interesting times ahead...
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Old 22nd Sep 2013, 22:50   #4
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One of the risks of Cameron's style of 'negotiation' is that exactly what you fear around reduction of regulations benefiting only the elite is what he would obviously favour and what could happen, equally dangerous is too much opting out of bits of any agreements as that risks giving away competitive advantage and encouraging that race to the bottom approach which at it's worst leads to a new modern serfdom.

Sadly I disagree that such a model is unsustainable as it describes most of human history in most nations. In historical terms we've spent such a tiny minority of it living in something approaching freedom but people forget how rare and wonderful even the sometimes limited version we enjoy today actually are - if we fail to actively defend them they may well vanish and in some areas that does seem to be a danger.

But I digress.

I don't think the multiple approach would work either - it is a shame because it should work if we were the enlightened informed democracy we like to think we are.

Clear and concise ought to be the next best thing but there is a huge danger in deciding something so critical based on a simple question framed in the context of lies and obfuscation.

UKIP is a curious beast - I don't know if they actually target Tory seats or if those seats are simply the places where their natural base will be found. After all they are really just a twist on the old right of the Tories so a lot of their voice is found in the older people... the latter day Alf Garnetts as it were. Even if they strike the occasional chord with the odd Labour voter who has doubts around immigration (for example) they take such simplistic and/or unpleasant views on other areas that I can't see a lot of crossover happening when the chips are down.

I think UKIP and to some level the Tories face a potential generational threat - their policies appeal largely to the well off and the old (who are also generally better off anyway), natural mortality rates make that unsustainable. Couple that with a general reduction in the distribution of wealth and soon the old are dead and there are not enough wealthy people to elect them. I think that is one reason they are being so divisive now - their current only hope is to set the various levels of the not-wealthy against each other (strivers vs. shirkers) in the hopes that enough of us are stupid enough to ignore that we are all getting worse off compared to the people they really stand for. And to somehow crowbar this back to the EU topic, they also raise the bogeyman of immigrants as an enemy they will defend us from...

And there are real debates to be had that we have been avoiding here, and avoiding them sometimes plays into the hands of those who are 'controversial' not because they are right but because no-one else is talking.

So if we stick the political correctness to one side for a brief time - and once you discard the unpleasant rhetoric and bigotry there might be an underlying debate to be had about the nation having only so many homes and only so many jobs currently available... should there be a natives first policy for those jobs that are tied to geography? How should the nation support & prepare people for the reality that many jobs are no longer location based and we can't live here and compete on price so we need to be able to compete on quality? How do we deal with increasingly lowering salaries even for highly skilled non-managerial staff when they now have the option to relocate outside the UK to nations that pay better for skills (an option that looks increasingly appealing to us these days BTW)?

And in the same area what about the multi-ethnic vs. multi-cultural question - I think few would admit to having issues with people of differing skin tone these days but who really wants immigration to lead to lots of little enclaves where culture is differing from base UK norms (whatever they might be)? Incoming migration can bring fascinating and brilliant things to the nation but if we do it wrong it also brings division and friction.

Just two topics that influence the EU debate but for various reasons the debate seems limited to the extremists while the reasonable voices stay quiet. When the reasonable people treat these topics as taboo the door is left wide open for the UKIP viewpoint... at least when they can keep their bigotry sounding reasonable and muzzle the nutters.

Maybe the Tories could have come out and talked about the EU at the time they kicked this off but they didn't and now they can't do it so easily - at least in part because a discussion that looked good for them as the eurozone seemed to teeter on the edge of the abyss looks much less attractive as the EU recovers better and faster than the UK and without the same austerity pains in most cases. The economic value of many nations pulling together even over the objections of some of the population has seemingly worked which is not something the Tories want brought up in the run up to 2015.

re the MB points...
- The Tories have not really proposed anything yet.
- I think you could talk about the spoiled kid because the point you are making is that what the right is doing is not grown up debate.
- Not saying there was a case recently that was valid but if you see my previous para the point is that the Tories made a knee jerk response based on a transitory situation that they thought supported a view they wished to take. Time has proved them wrong in less than 2 years. Thus proving their lack of judgement and short term thinking.
- The whole immigration debate is up for grabs by someone who steps into it in the correct manner with a well thought out message (and some good soundbites to make it palatable on TV). That could be Mb?

Part of the end of Thatcher's success was arguably when she lost touch with the voters that got her there... and Cameron never had that level of support to start with. He doesn't have the working people and I don't think he has the women.

I too have that basic fear that the EU will be a popularity contest because no-one will really be presented with real cases for either side...
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Old 24th Sep 2013, 12:37   #5
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I think that he may well have problems reducing a lot of the regulations through options. A lot of the other countries will complain that if the UK can opt out, then this gives us competitive advantage, and why cant they etc.
in some cases this may result in a general reduction, however in most cases, people may well judge that it is just to complex to bother with, for the sake of Cameron.

I think that the net result will be a number of negotiated 'opt outs' which he will hail as delivering his promise, but most countries will point out are pointless and negligeable.

In terms of sustainable society, I think that there are 2 key things that point to freedom being the main theme going forward.
Firstly society does have a moral dimension, and that will drive history forwards - one of the reasons why we became more uncompetitive as the victorian era passed was the development of moral imperatives around things like working hours and child labour etc. There was no direct reason for this, other than the fact that a lot of people at the top got queesy about the conditions further down.
Secondly communications are now so much more developed, that it is more and more difficult to bury repression.

The only way that we can go seriously backwards is in a highly repressive society - although we could go somewhat backwards from where we are at the moment.

I don't think that the democracy is totally the problem. It is too easy for politicians and the media to score easy points around understandability.

UKIP really do target Tory seats – they officially said so at the last election – with the exception of Tories who signed some sort of pledge to come out of Europe – i.e. not Redwood etc.
The reality is that all splinter groups always attack their mother party first – they see the more important struggle to become the single party of that faction. Similarly the Trots and militants attacked Labour, and put up candidates to split Labour vote. They also see a greater sin in the fact that the left should be more radical – so for UKIP they see the Tories as should be doing more to oppose Europe.
Its actually quite interesting to me why the Tories have got themselves into this position – it was the Tories who took the UK into Europe in the first place – and as the party of business, they often see the benefits of things that are largely business friendly. I think that it is the little Englander tendency here which is more to the fore – as you say latter day Alf Garnetts. I don’t think that you are right when you talk about the odd Labour voter – there has always been an anti-European feeling in the Labour left, and there has also been an anti-foreigner part of all working class groups to some degree. You forget to some degree that there is some history of this in the Labour party, whose members have seen immigrant workers being brought in from various bits of the commonwealth to reduce wages over many years.
Partially agree about the generational threat – the Tories in particular have a difficult tight-rope walking act to perform where they have to appeal to some of these groups without appearing bigoted. However don’t be fooled into thinking that all of this appeal is just older people. As I said above, younger people are also becoming worried about job security with open boarders. For UKIP this is less of an issue, as they are mainly going for a section of the population, and don’t need to build up a broad base, as they will not be seen as capable of forming a government.
I agree with your comments on quality. Unfortunately the reality is that this is a very difficult market to master – and when you do master it, you have already lost it, so you need to keep moving. I think that the biggest problem that we have here is a cultural one – we do not have a culture of intellectualism in the UK, in the same way that they do in a lot of far eastern countries, for example. People who are bright are often denigrated, often in favour of people who have ‘street awareness’ but who are basically charming. Whilst this is understandable to some degree, it is not a good cultural fit for developing a quality sell.
Examples of this include the degree of cynicism about university education and the promotion of celebrities like Jade goody and Jordan.
Part of the problem is that whilst other countries may not pay the same for the skills that we have, their costs of living are much smaller. This is becoming the case, even in the UK – for example the difference in housing between South and North – although that is a different topic.

I think that one of the things that worries some people (including myself) about the ghettos in the UK is that there was an expectation that they would reduce – but they seem to be getting bigger and harsher. There are some good reasons for this, but certainly the overall perception is not helpful.

The Tories could not have talked about Europe when Cameron did this. Camerons move was not to talk about Europe but to kill talk on Europe. Camerons ideal situation is that people sit back and trust him to renegotiate the deal, which he will bring back after the next election.

I don’t think that anyone who is anti-immigration can easily make a stance on immigration. It is a no-win argument – your supporters won’t care, and those who oppose immigration will just use it to oppose you. It is the sort of debate that has to be taken up by those who have no prospect of power. Unfortunately, at the moment, that is mainly the right.

All PMs get to the point when they become isolated. They rely more and more on advisors, who, as they gain power through influence, inject more and more of their own opinion into the advice, and less and less processing of the wider views.
However, as you say, with Cameron he never really had this at the start. He was always a rich kid, whose heart may have been in the right place, but never really understood the majority of the population, and never really did much to overcome the issue. The same is true of his wife – interestingly I went around a southern castle a few years ago (I think it was Leeds castle) and found out that she is the daughter of the lord of the manor (some noble or other). So hardly salt of the earth their either.
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Old 26th Sep 2013, 11:58   #6
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That might be the reality - enough token 'wins' to satisfy the anti-EU crowd in the UK but nothing of substance that harms the EU overall. I suppose how it looks will depend on how much the EU wants the UK to be a part of it and how much pressure Cameron is under from the various sides.

Interestingly your first point is troubling as right now we appear to have a class at the top who are far from queasy about conditions below and actively promote the view that a rabbit hutch, a large TV and a plentiful supply of own brand lager are not a crap life but something to be aspired to and appreciated by those damned complaining plebs. And while communications can be used for 'good' in the hands of those same people it can be & is a powerful tool to cause division and strife between various segements of the poorer 90% os that attention is drawn away. And when people do organise and achieve even small changes then we get bills that try to muzzle the individual while leaving corporate lobbyists to run riot.

I am far more cynical than you about the natural survivability of freedom and have concerns that oppression is just taking subtler forms. Repression doesn't need to be guns and marching boots anymore it can be exclusion via technology from wider society, removal of public spaces and rights to assembly, the constant oppression of always being watched and monitored and labelled. Small things that add up to a new kind of control.

Democracy is great - or at least when we have one I suspect it will be. The problem is that for those that attain power democracy often starts to look either like something that gets in the way of achieving their goals or something to be manipulated to retain power... and so they nibble away at the bits that seem inconvenient - which are often the bits we most need to keep the elected honest. You can't just implement democracy and go back to sleep - it needs tending, defending and renewing or it withers.

I'd forgotten UKIP had out and out said that. It's easy to forget that the right can be as self destructive as the left at times. I think the fears of the younger generation around jobs and immigration may be ral but are less based on xenophobia than practicality, which is one reason I think a serious debate on immigration and how we handle it is needed because there are genuine good things and bad things about how immigration functions.

The problem with ignoring quality and intelligence in general is that there are many countries that can race to a lower bottom than we can and a lot of them are blessed with the kind of natural resources that they will no longer exchange for shiny beads. So they can compete on labour costs and reduced resource and transport costs & having been doing so for years.

If we can't compete on quality and ideas what do we have left?

If I was in a place to do so I think I'd pitch a controlled immigration of the sort that works for many countries around the world, many of whom have no problem being considered free and liberal democracies - Clegg sort of made the case for something like this in 2010. Essentially immigration for those in real need of feeling something plus those who meet a genuine requirement in the UK. Take race out of the equation - for example how can we allow people like UKIP to duck that they think is it apparently fine for people from Australia or SA to be here but if you have brown skin it is wrong? I don't see why a case could not be made that would satisfy all but the most extreme people.

Didn't know Mrs C was a scion of the nobility, not totally shocked though.
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Old 30th Sep 2013, 18:16   #7
Caleb
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I think that the EU desperately wants the UK as part of Europe, but not at any cost. I think that they also know that there is no feasible way to easily remove the UK from Europe, and the damage that would be done to the UK economy due to the disruption and uncertainty would be massive, so there is little to be gained from giving in too easily on demands.

There is a danger that if the negotiation gets too widespread, it will turn into a Christmas tree, with everyone wanting to pin their requests to it - I don't think that this will be an easy task.

I am not sure that we totally agree - there is a degree to which if people have the money to make choices about rabbit hutches and lager, then we have come a hell of a long way since victorian times - and to some degree I don't think that any of this is threatened. My point was that there was little chance that we would go back to those situations and times.
However I see the problem as being different.
In victorian times, the model was around the 'responsiblity' of the rich to look after the poor. This was good in that it created a culture of improving conditions, but it was all very paternalistic.
We have moved through this into a system in which people can help themselves, and have some degree of true choice about their lives.
However the issue now is not so much one of choice and mobility, but one of social justice. In victorian times it was easy to accept the capitalist system in which investment and risk was rewarded by wealth, and money stayed in families, helping them to maintain their position. But todays society is much different. On the whole most business people are not generating large scale ideas and development themselves, but they are working as part of a much wider system. So it is much more difficult to justify socially why a senior manager or banker should earn such a huge salary, compared to their workers.
I think that the challenge that we face now is one in which the obvious lack of social justice will destroy the cohesion in society. And this will happen from both ends - from the bottom where they see no need to conform to society norms, including law and order, as they don't get their due from it. And from the top where they see no need to support the poor to the same level, and use the joint services less and less, and so see little need to keep them to the same high standard.

I don't see this as being oppression per se - although oppression may be an ultimate end, if it does get too far out of alignment, and the rich have to resort to violence to maintain their position.
I also don't see too much desire from the rich to control the poor - merely to restrict their ability to impact on the rich.

We do have democracy. The problem is that people think that democracy is a black and white thing. It isn't. It has been mathematically proven that it is impossible to have a fully fair democratic system (if you are interested I can take you through the bare bones of the proof). However democracy is just a way in which society can organise itself to try to get decisions made by a wide selection of society, instead of just a small elite.
People in the UK still have the power to do what they want - they just choose not to use it.
One of the problems with democracry is that people do not realise that it is not just about voting every year or so. Democracy only really works if people get involved and investigate the truth for themselves, and then act to get their point of view across.
Whilst I agree that we have some political leaders who cynically manipulate the situation to stilt things in their direction, this can only work if there is a population who do not care enough to question and probe, which sadly we mostly have.

I think that there is a wider issue around immegration and jobs - one way to improve the lot of people towards the bottom of the pile is to have full employment so that they become a more scarce resource and so their value gets higher.
However with immegration being so easy nowadays, this may be always hard to achieve - any time that labour costs start to rise, the bosses will just start to outsource and immegrate resources.
I think that we therefore do need a proper debate, however that debate does need to center around UK jobs for UK people and not anti-immegrants per se.

totally agree on competing for the bottom. There is a degree to which there is a desire for cheap quality, however I agree that the better develoed economies are upskilling their people and going for more cutting edge stuff.
One of the biggest problems we have in this area is that of the cultural dislike of academic acheivement in the UK - other cultures, for example a lot of eastern cultures, particularly prize well educated people.
We just tend to think that they are out of touch nerds who are not worth anything. Good bosses are more important etc etc etc.

Agree that we need more targetted immegration - not easy to achieve though.
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Old 1st Oct 2013, 17:21   #8
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Too much negotiation and it ends up looking like one of those fabled appropriations bills in the US when funding some vital road building program includes steps to paint the town hall in Nowheresville purple because that's what some congressmen wanted in exchange for his vote.

I think the poor have always been bribed with cheap beer, at least once we didn't do slavery anymore.

I think ignoring choice and mobility is to presume too much, I believe studies show that mobility has dropped sharply in the UK. Choice too is a luxury for many, most of all those on low end wages.

'Aspiration' & 'striving' can bring success but in a society where the tools of progress from health & education to decent affordable transport are being whittled away then it becomes less realistic.

But I also fully agree there is a danger in the growing gaps between the top few and everyone else - history suggests it leads to upheavals and heads on spikes. At least with the paternalistic view someone took responsibility for whatever conditions were... now no-one with power or wealth really see themselves as to blame and thus they don't feel any need to do anything other than enjoy their wealth & power.

There is/was a site on the interweb I found once from a link in a tweet and I wish I could find again - it was created by UK based social historians and looked at the various signifiers of revolutions going back several hundred years and feeding them into the current situation (as of about 6 months ago when I saw it)... it found that really we should be in a state of revolution already. But for the large TVs and cheap own brand beer I assume...

Restricting their ability to impact on the rich is to control them - it may not be full control but keeping the poor safely tucked away from influence is not far from a text book definition of both control and repression.

I think you can lay blame on the public and on the 'establishment' for the failings of democracy - but when you see something as cynically anti-democratic as the law currently passing even against heavy democratic engagement from voters you have to lay blame on the politicians enacting something to protect themselves from being challenged. Personally I have been writing and calling my MP with absolutely no response whatsoever because he knows damn well he is going to vote for it however many people don't want it and he has a nice safe seat.

It will be tough to have that immigration debate because of the extremes on both sides.

I think with education it does not help that it is state funded at a time when we have a government looking to dismantle the state - so at a time where we really need education to be at the top of it's game we end up with demoralised educators, and increase in ideological education & funds being removed all round.
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Old 2nd Oct 2013, 09:24   #9
Caleb
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I don't think that they can avoid the negotiation. As there is no single body that can be negotiated with, this will end up as a pigs breakfast.

Bread and circuses used to be the cry in Roman days.
I think that we now live in a world where no-one would accept that poor and rich are groups that should by themselves remain in their place.
However the remaining issues are
1 - how to maximise opportunity for those with talent at the lower ends to move up
2 - how to ensure that any revenue/profits/income is shared fairly amongst all who contribute towards it

I think that Labour, and to some smaller degree the Tories are solidly behind 1. I think that 2 is where it becomes more contentious.
Mobility is very difficult to define - you can only really observe by longitudinal studies, and these take many years to complete. You can only really know what social mobility was like up to a few years ago.
I suspect that it has dropped, although I don't know what the comparison is to many years go, or why it may have dropped - access to higher education is now much wider than it has been for years, and as I said above, there is now much less stigma to 'class'.
I think that a lot of the problem is cultural, in that to some degree the poor often want to remain in their comfortable area, and don't want to expend the effort to raise themselves up by getting education etc.

This partially explains the current fascination with strivers - those who are trying to raise themselves up, but facing blocks.
I am not so sure that common services are being whittled at the moment so much as rationalised to ensure that they can continue to provide the universal service without fear of the costs getting out of control.
Thats not to say that true whittling is not around the corner - there has already been talk from the Tories of creating a health service where some services can be bought to obtain faster delivery - which would not be good.

To some degree the UK should have been in revolution for the last 200 years. Marx always thought that the socialist revolution would take place within the UK.
To some degree within the UK it has always been made slightly too comfortable to revolt against - which is not to say that we have not seen mini-revolutions (often through riots etc) however they have not been followed up.
Large TVs and cheap beer is one of the answers, but i think that one of the others is that we have developed to some degree as a society.

which law currently passing are you referring to?

I think that the immegration debate is difficult because it is always easy for the anti side to appeal to peoples baser sides. all you need to do is to throw up something emotional, like immegrants who commit crime or who take jobs away etc and a lot of people will then support you - it is very much more difficult to get past this emotional side to the argument and turn it to a rational argument.

I think that there are other problems with education. The chief one is the UK culture which does not prize educational ability, and instead often sees school as being a place where you have to go until you are 16. Also in with this is a lot of parental inability to motivate and support their children.
The biggest single indicator of success in school is the educational level of your parents - not the quality of schools or wealth level (per se).

Whilst driving educators to get every % of improvement they can is not wrong, we are now getting to the blood out of a stone level, which does demoralise educators, as this now becomes random and irrational, and doesn't achieve the benefits anyway...
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Old 2nd Oct 2013, 13:01   #10
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I think there are problems with both 1 & 2.

For 1 the problem is that you can learn skills and utilise talents and you will mostly still hit a ceiling at somewhere around £40-50k - now that is a nice salary but the ceiling has been there for a good decade now. The problem seems to be similar across all the lower 90% of salaries - that even when times were good in the early and mid-2000's they were not keeping pace with inflation. However the top 5-10% of pay packets has been rising at a far higher rate than inflation & the people within that group are very much drawn from a smallish pool which is hard to break into by simple merit. The problem overall is that even those who are considered higher earners and get the 40% rate are really not what we would call well off so there is perhaps less to motivate people to move from not that well off to ever so slightly less not that well off. The tory mantra about making work pay fails.

For 2 the problem is inherent in the attitudes around 1 and a disagreement we have had before - my feeling is that society has a bunch of jobs that need doing from the highly skilled to the basic manual labour. Thus while it is good to give people the chance to improve themselves there should not be any stigma over the person who does the manual jobs. And while we can probably agree that the doctor is going to be rewarded better than the brick layer both contribute to a successful society and neither should be marginalised. The reality is not everyone can be a boss and if they were society would fall apart - so to have some prejudice against people who choose to stick with a simple job they enjoy is to miss the point of what a society needs. We need to accept that lower skilled jobs are needed and that we must pay people decently for doing them. It is hard to see how a party that claims to represent labouring people can hold such disdain for those who do that labour and still do it's job - which is something Labour has struggled with in recent decades as tossers like Blair have been running it.

The law in question is the Lobbying one that has carefully avoided doing much about corporate lobbying and bribes but is working hard to ensure citizens can't come together and push for change. There has been a lot of public pressure to change the bits that gag citizens groups and charities but so far MPs are holding firm to make sure people can't actually get involved in politics. It is so badly done it has managed to unti Guido Fawkes & Owen Jones in a single cause against it which is going some.

It's s horse and cart argument - is education not prized because governments talk it down so they don't have to fund it or do voters really think it is useless and governments respond? Either way the truth is that knowledge is useful and the better educated we are the better we will be able to compete with other nations now we aren't able or allowed to just invade them and steal all the good stuff. Certainly ministers and MPs seem to have enjoyed education and benefited from it so it does seem curious that they are so unwilling to let others share the benefits.

I'm all for efficiency but I think there is also a reality that any human system will not be 100% efficient - drive people too hard and they will break or find ways to meet your paper targets while still browsing when they should be working. Some of the best and most successful organisations realise this and build it into their systems.
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Old 2nd Oct 2013, 15:32   #11
Caleb
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not sure that I agree with your 40-50k ceiling. I agree that it is more difficult for lower class people to move to the upper levels, as they do not often have a lot of the cultural capital to communicate effectively, but I think that this is not universal. Although you are right in saying that it is prevalent in certain areas, such as banking.

Not sure that we have that much disagreement over 2. I think that road sweepers should be valued as much as anyone who contributes to society.
I think that the problem comes with the way that we apply justice to this situation. Your view seems to be that we should link reward to contribution, and that the problem is that we don't think that road sweepers contribute as much as doctors.
I disagree - I do not think that road sweepers contribute as much as doctors. I also think that good bosses contribute more than their employees.
However my point is not driven by trying to compare such jobs and saying that the common sense view that one is more worthy than the other is wrong. My point is that we accept that one is more worthy, but that we don’t use this as the sole, or indeed main way of distributing resources. The current way of distributing resources is based around an expectation that people at the top should get a lot more than people at the bottom – hence the justice perspective.
I think that the problem with Labour has been that they have focussed on trying to give people at the bottom the tools to move up the chain. However this still retains the inherent injustice of the distribution.

Not sure that the current law that is being passed is quite so black and white as you think. I think that it is hard to differentiate in law between corporate and public lobbying. Again I don’t think that a legalistic approach is necessarily the right one as, unlike you, I think that the law is a very blunt instrument in a lot of circumstances, and there is no magic form of wording that can change that.

I disagree with your view that governments talk down education. Quite the opposite. They always make clear that a good education is important, and that it should be a goal for everyone who is capable. I think that we are following the worrying trend in the USA, where people want their leaders to be anti-intellectual. In the USA there is an active distrust of people (particularly from the East Coast) who are clever. I think that we are starting to follow their trend (as usual).
I don’t think that most people think that education is useless. I think that most people have a high regard for the education system – I think that they just judge ‘common sense’ to be more important than learning.

Totally agree about the efficiency thing – although that does not mean that we should necessarily let off on the push to increase performance.
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Old 2nd Oct 2013, 19:15   #12
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Picking £40-50k because that matches the salary stats that are out there and it is around there that there seems to be a big jump from the skilled worker in whatever industry to the management types on 100k plus - that is not to say the £60, 70, 80 & 90k ranges are untended as stats at this level are a blunt tool when it comes to details, simply that there seems to be a widening gap between the skilled 'worker' and the 'boss'.

My view, as stated, was that I accept the doctor will get more than the brick layer but that, in an economy that is still well off like ours, the brick layer should be comfortable while the doctor is, perhaps, very comfortable.

And where we are lucky enough to find good bosses they too deserve more reward than the average employee, as should any skilled employees with scarce skills.

The problem comes when we start to chastise the brick layers for not aspiring to be managers or doctors and pay them less than a living wage and justify it by suggesting that by merely being brick layers they haven't strived hard enough to deserve a decent pay packet.

And yet if we had no brick layers we'd be a bit stuffed as we were all forced to take time out to do our own brick laying...

I'm fairly familiar with the law in question and have been involved in the campaign to rethink it. It does very much avoid the key issue of corporations being able to lobby the government in power - one particular thing is how the ability of the likes of Lynton Crosby to both advise an lobby would be untouched.

On the are of individual campaigning the problem comes in the language around campaigning as relates to elections - the law would prevent any group from campaigning in such a way as to support a party or candidate which on the surface sounds fine... but if you stop to consider almost any issue that a citizens group or charity might campaign on is probably going to be supported by some party the reality is that a group campaigning to stop a hospital closure in their borough could be gagged by this as it could be deemed to be party political.

I could bore on about this for more time than you'd be willing to read for I suspect so to sum up it appears like a law that has been written to prevent citizens from getting together to create campaigns and petitions that make the party in power look like dicks.

The Electoral Commission have come out and said it will restrict freedom of speech and does not do the job it claims to wish to achieve.

Given some of the nightmare stuff that's being put out at the Tory conference this week it seems pretty important that we are able to organise and fight some of the battles that Labour do not seem willing to fight on our behalf.

I am always against bad or unnecessary legislation, of which this is a prime example, but equally I don't share your faith that human nature will lead to good results unless regulated here and there.

At some point you have to 'let off on the push' because you have achieved what you can achieve and to keep pushing is either more costly than the gains or even resulting in negative effects as people find that cheating has become easier than doing what they should be doing.
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Old 3rd Oct 2013, 09:05   #13
Caleb
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agree that the gap is increasing.

I think that the problem is that bad bosses are getting good money - not just good ones.

I am not sure that we are chastising the brick layers - we are just saying that they will never earn larger amounts of money.
That we are paying some less than the living wage is testament to the gaps between what we pay the top and what we pay the bottom - I am not sure it is necessarily part of the chastisement.

I am not sure that I have that much faith in human nature. I think that things work out as they work out in the long run, but often not without a degree of pain for one or a small group of individuals along the way. We should always try to achieve the good consensus goals without having to go through the crap inbetween.

don't totally agree on your letting off on the push - although I think that teachers are being pushed too hard to acheive something that is not in their ability to supply. Whilst I think that this was a good political argument 20 years ago when teaching was a lot less professional, as the years have gone on and teachers have conformed to (mostly good but not always) standards, this is a more difficult political argument to make.
It would be really good to see politicans tackle the real problem in education - the parents - but I suspect that most would see that as political suicide...
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Old 3rd Oct 2013, 17:14   #14
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If only good bosses could be clearly segregated from the mediocre and pay allocated accordingly... and bad bosses should potentially only get minimum wage as they can actually cause loss to a company.

It may be I was reading too much into your comment from post #9:

"I think that a lot of the problem is cultural, in that to some degree the poor often want to remain in their comfortable area, and don't want to expend the effort to raise themselves up by getting education etc."

And I have heard similar from a number of, generally, right leaning politicians - the implication appears to be that if the poor brick layers do not want to try a bit bloody harder to be stock traders then they should shut up and accept whatever low end wages they get.

My contention is that if they want to get the top wages then obviously they will not get that laying bricks but equally they should have a decent living wage for doing a necessary job.

I think the 'should try harder to improve themselves' narrative is often used to excuse paying people poor wages for working in quite hard manual jobs.

Teachers are a good example, as are nurses - both roles have come a long way from the times when accusations of laziness had some basis and yet both are still continually used as whipping boys by right wing governments looking to denigrate the very idea of public services and public service. The push continues solely for political reasons even though little real improvement may be left to gain.

This is possibly in part due to Gove being a toad.
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Old 22nd Oct 2013, 01:43   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THP
There is/was a site on the interweb I found once from a link in a tweet and I wish I could find again - it was created by UK based social historians and looked at the various signifiers of revolutions going back several hundred years and feeding them into the current situation (as of about 6 months ago when I saw it)... it found that really we should be in a state of revolution already. But for the large TVs and cheap own brand beer I assume...


If you ever run across that link again, please post it. It sounds like a very interesting read.

Thanks!
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Old 6th Nov 2013, 00:18   #16
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I'm starting to think I imagined it! Have tried every obvious search term I can think of and haven't even found a dead link.
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Old 6th Nov 2013, 23:55   #17
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hmmm typical...
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Old 9th Nov 2013, 22:02   #18
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I think kitty's claws need trimming...
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