Back in August 2015 Tribune published an article by me in which I suggested a few policy options that might sensibly be included in any future Labour Party manifesto. I was pleased to see that most of my suggestions found their way into the latest iteration, including the case to renationalise the privatised monopolies, and the case to impose significantly higher income tax levels on high earners.
The most important issue to be resolved in the Brexit Election (BrexEl) to be held on June 8 is that announced with unusual clarity by Mrs May, namely her plea for an enhanced majority to strengthen her negotiating position in the discussions to establish the terms of our exit with the 27 remain countries.
For my part, I believe strongly that the case to reverse Brexit is as powerful today as it was on June 23rd, 2016 and I hope that the outcome to be announced at around 10pm on June 8 will be a significantly weakened Tory party.
Remember: for Mrs May this election is a rerun of June 23rd, 2016 with the expectation of an increased majority.
While we are here: how about a few good reasons to vote against the Tories on June 8, reasons over and above the core aim of eroding rather than strengthening the position of and prospects for Mrs May?
To save space and time, I accept that most of the content of the Labour Party manifesto is fine as written. My main reservation is that Mr McDonnell has been altogether too timid in his plans for taxing the looters masquerading as wealth creators that infest the square mile of the city.
- Return the privatised utilities to public ownership
In 2002 I wrote a book which I called A Cushy Number. In the book, I examined the demands imposed on and the rewards collected by a selection of white collar professional workers including teachers, doctors and politicians.
I decided that the cushiest number of all was that of senior managers in the privatised utilities.
The following is an extract from the book.
“The newly privatised industries continued to be managed by the same people who had managed them in their previous publicly owned life. What happened next is crucial in any study of the cushy number. Quite simply one consequence of the sell offs was that the new managers (ie the old managers) became enormously rich merely by restyling themselves Chief Executives or whatever and applying the most favourable comparisons available to them from the private sector.
“It will rightly be argued that things did get better and performance did improve, and, most significantly, the requirement for huge annual subsidies from the taxpayer to bridge the gap between income and expenditure ended, at least in most cases. Every circus has its clowns and the Railways, then, as now, required special treatment. Things did get better by means of just one highly effective expedient. The biggest cost item for most of the privatised industries was the wage bill. The managers solved the massive over-manning problems which they themselves had created, and then, in gratitude to themselves, transferred significant amounts of the employment costs thus saved to their own reward packages.
“What a thing of beauty, what a joy, if not forever as ordained by Keats, then at least for many years. This is the stuff that we cushy number seekers can only dream of. This happy breed, managerial mediocrities all, cock things up on an Olympian scale, and then, given intestinal fortitude by the Iron Lady, partially correct their own failures by dint of a one-off productivity improvement, and become rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
Predictably the privatised utilities operated as cartels with competition largely restricted to the billing arrangements. Given these enviable arrangements the managers – I use the term managers loosely and with reluctance – took every opportunity to push up prices knowing that the consumer had no effective choice.
Understandably those benefiting from the present arrangements, the Senior managers of the Big Six – are the most vocal in seeking to maintain the status quo. For its part The Daily Mail talks of a return to the over-manning of the previous nationalised set ups and it needs to be said that a return to public ownership should not be seen as the creation of a series of vast new leisure centres. On this point, the arrangements for the appointment of new managers should ensure that those selected are equipped with strong backbones with matching intestines.
I note that the Labour manifesto includes a commitment to return water to public ownership, and rightly so. In 2002 I wrote of the water industry “that it is so cushy that it is the envy of the rest of the privatised utilities sector, and that is saying something. Does water deserve the title of an industry? It rains, and the rain is collected and distributed. What could be simpler?”
- Curb the rich via steeply regressive taxation on incomes and wealth
The Labour manifesto is aggressive in tone, but feeble where it matters in this all important area of our national financial life.
The over-paid in our society and especially those that flourish in the square mile of the city are adept at proclaiming that they will forsake the UK should any attempt be made to curb their acquisitive propensities and that they would look with similarly jaundiced eyes on any attempt to increase the taxes that they pay, or don’t pay (the choice seems to be theirs).
This group is also not slow to dwell on the hazards of their jobs and one of these hazards is said to be the agony of the AGM.
Another quote from A Cushy Number:
“One aspect of the job of senior executives as reported by the financial press never ceases to amaze me. This is the much recycled myth that shareholders can in some mysterious unexplained way bring pressure to bear upon failing and erring executives. The myth reaches its pinnacle in the theatre of the Annual General Meeting. Conventional wisdom has it that Senior Executives dread the impending AGM if the Company is deemed to have under-performed. The expectation is that the Directors will be roughly handled by impoverished, and hence irate shareholders.
“This is nonsense. In the first place, shareholder revolts rarely happen because Annual General Meetings are so carefully stage-managed. Secondly, if the stage management arrangements did break down and the aforesaid irate shareholders had a big heckle, so what? If you were a fat cat, would it worry you? Would you not be prepared to face a howling mob of drunken Bernard Mannings – BM was very much alive at the time – and sober Jeremy Paxmans (or vice versa) in return for the typical tycoon reward packages?”
The Tory press – ie the greater part of our press – is urging those charged with the job of grilling our would be political leaders to focus on the consequences of increasing tax levels for high earners.
So: a tip for senior Labour Party figures facing this ordeal.
Get onto the front foot and ask the overpaid and pampered broadcasters from the BBC to justify the high pay levels doled out by the BBC from its protected position as a public service broadcaster. Ask: why are special arrangements in place to enable broadcasters to reduce their tax liabilities?
And, when things get really nasty – and they will – someone might query the deployment of a comprehensive injunction to suppress media comment on the wholly uninteresting extra marital activities by Mr Andrew Marr- not commendable conduct by a journalist.
By any standards, the case to impose significantly higher taxes on high earners is the low hanging fruit for Labour in the coming days and they should not baulk at the picking thereof.
- All pensioners are equal – but some are more equal than others
The hazards facing the aged have been much to the fore as the competing parties have sought to placate the old timers and to assuage their anxieties.
In many of the analyses of the problem that I have seen and read we old timers – I believe that at the age of 76 I just qualify – are portrayed as impoverished, peckish, and chilled out in the old fashioned and disagreeable sense.
There is of course a huge variation in the incomes of pensioners, ranging from the basic pension at the bottom end to those who have managed to secure retirement incomes vastly in excess of these levels at the other end.
Another extract from A Cushy Number:
“Pension arrangements are at least as important as salary. Readers must remember that we have defined – for we read me – the cushiness of a job as being assessed from job start date to job holder death. Not from start date to retirement! From start date to death! The significance of pension arrangements will grow, partly because of the combination of early retirements and increasing longevity, but also because the disadvantages of private as compared with public sector pensions are becoming more and more apparent.
“The fact is that the pension arrangements in the UK are now so favourable to one large group at the expense of another large group that the pension issue is possibly the most important single factor in the determination of what are and what are not cushy numbers. This disparity is so crucial that a brief word of explanation is essential. Readers who skip the following explanation will pay for their avoidable ignorance in their twilight years of senile poverty.
“Pension arrangements can be split into two main types, final salary schemes and annuities. With the first type pensioners receive a pension based upon two elements, their final salary and their years of service. These pensions are mostly index linked, and will rise in line with the annual rise in the cost of living. The key point to note is that the pension of this group is typically fixed for life at around 60% of final salary. Those on these schemes will never again experience financial worries, barring some senile attraction to fast young ladies or slow horses or both.”
The Labour Party should get after affluent pensioners with the same resolve as that which they plan to deploy against high earners using the same logic and broadly the same arithmetic.
They must avoid treating pensioners as one heterogeneous group: they should treat those at the bottom end with every care and consideration whilst turning a deaf ear to the poverty pleas of the plutocrat pensioners.
- The case for the return of the Czar
In recent decades, it has been the fashion to appoint all powerful Czars to examine alleged abuses of this or that element of our national life.
One of the most recent examples was the appointment of Mr – now Sir – Eric Pickles to tackle corruption wherever he found it. It may be that Mr Pickles was unlucky or it may be that the corrupt, noting his slow pace about the field, had time to cover their tracks prior to his arrival.
Whatever the explanation, I did not pick up any stories claiming that the portly Mr Pickles had been successful in stemming the tidal wave of corruption that was and remains a prominent feature of our national life.
It has to be said that Mr Paul Dacre (with no Czar title to assist his activities), has been notably successful in flagging up and where appropriate verbally flogging some shady sectors of our society.
A suggestion for Mr Corbyn: appoint a senior figure (the Anti Corruption Czar, or ACC) to do the job with zeal and competence, features sadly lacking whilst Mr Pickles was in post.
While we are at it, how about these suggested additions to the duties and responsibilities of the ACC?
- The ACC to arrange for the prompt removal from post of senior managers in the public sector and across quango land who are clearly making a balls of the job. ((This last point to be phrased with more delicacy in the actual job description but we old manager johnies know what we mean.) As Macbeth observed, “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly”. There is something to be said for the approach adopted by Mr Trump as he fired Mr Comey from the FBI. The traditional British approach (relocate the failures elsewhere in the system) is a recipe for more failure. So adopt the Trump practice and issue a P45 coupled with an instruction to security to escort the sackee from the building.
- Give him/her the authority to specify tight completion dates for public enquiries as part of the enquiry remit. The languid Chilcot approach to be relegated to the dustbin of history along with the Maxwellisation factor.
- Police priorities
Labour must ensure that the police spend a lot less time reviewing the alleged crimes of years ago, in some cases the alleged crimes of the departed, and rather more time focusing on the crimes of today and those being planned for tomorrow. Numbers do not come cushier than the investigation of yesterday’s crimes.
When there are grounds to investigate the alleged crimes of by gone years the investigators might take a closer look at those doing the alleging: check out their plausibility at the outset.
- Higher Education, Not Higher VC Salaries
The entire education system is said by some to be in a bad way, with lack of funding as always a key factor in the parlous state of affairs.
Labour might profitably suggest that University Vice Chancellors spend rather more of their time working to get better performances from the existing facilities and rather less time to working tirelessly to push up their reward packages at every opportunity.
This point applies equally if not more so to the Arthur Daley types that have mysteriously managed to acquire control of groups of schools.
I could go on and on and on, but the June 8 BrexEl is almost upon us, so:
- The economic framework of the UK is sufficiently strong to allow for a significantly higher average standard of living.
- Labour should adopt policies that will ensure that the aim of a better country for all rather than for the privileged few is achieved – by better management of our national affairs.
- Please cast your vote against Mrs May on June 8