Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kapital Performance

I've just written the following for the letters page in the Your Thanet local paper, as I'm disappointed in the out-dated political rhetoric that constantly appears from the opposite side of the council chamber:

I have the greatest respect for Iris Johnston as a hard-working ward councillor but having read her letters in 'Your Thanet', week on week I really do have to remind her and her Labour colleagues, that in a matter of days, it will be 2011 and not 2003.

I'm a new councillor and cabinet member serving my first elected term and I'm confronted with immediate and pressing challenges, thanks to the perilous state of the national economy left by an outgoing Labour government. In case we should forget or suffer from the political amnesia afflicting many of Thanet's opposition councillors, the total public sector debt – described in an earlier entry this week - is about £159 billion and the costs of bailing out the banks totalled another £78 billion.

In 2009 -2010 the last government which coined the term, 'no boom and bust', spent more on welfare than it received in income tax and if we were now to try and sell every house and flat in the UK to balance the books, we would still be a £trillion in debt. In fact, we are accumulating more interest on the last government's debt than all the country's mortgages put together!

I'm really not that interested in what Labour claims it did for Thanet in the distant or even recent past, as its government carelessly built-up the record levels of public debt that my grandchildren will have to pay for. In the council chamber, I've heard opposition councillors address each other as 'Comrade' and the former leader of the opposition describe the recession as a 'Conservative invention' and frequently I have to wonder if they've yet caught-up with the 21st century 'realpolitik'.

Karl Marx may have enjoyed his summer holidays in Margate as did Friedrich Engels, in Broadstairs, as they collaborated on the principles of what became the Communist Manifesto but they've gone now, as has New Labour and Gordon Brown. 'Old Labour' here in Thanet, really need to get over it, rather than remind us, at every opportunity, of the glory days of socialism, when Soviet Weekly was delivered to every Thanet secondary school and councillors enjoyed fraternal visits to Yalta in the Ukraine.

Thanet needs its politicians to plan for the future, live in the present and not obsess over the distant past, so please Cllr Johnston, no more reminders about Maggie, the 'global collapse of capitalism' and the socialist paradise that Thanet once enjoyed under a Labour administration, because we've more important things to worry about!


Michael Child said...

Simon do you have references to Karl Marx visiting Margate? I have plenty for Ramsgate, just 2 to give you a flavour.

In July 1864 he wrote to Engels from 46 Hardres Street -
Your 'philistine-on-the-spree' lords it here as do, to an even greater extent, his better half and his female offspring. It is almost sad to see venerable Oceanus, that age-old Titan, having to suffer these pygmies to disport themselves on his phiz, and serve them for entertainment!

In the summer of 1870 and 1871 he stayed at 36 Hardres Street, whilst three years later, suffering from insomnia and carbuncles, he stayed at 16 Abbott's Hill. From here he wrote to his wife about the owners of the lodgings -
They are incidentally perfectly decent 'folk'; the man a coach builder, seems also to dabble in art. He has painted, and not just daubed, a very idealised and rather enigmatic figure who stands guard at the entrance to a certain place, [the loo?] and in the middle of the front garden there is a tom-thumb sized clay figure of Napoleon I, standing on a brick pedestal…The landlady has a number of children, including a six-week-old baby, who makes his presence felt in a very disagreeable manner. The air here is delightful, but despite all the walking I do, I have not yet managed to get a good night's sleep.

Will Scobie said...


Something you seem to forget about the deficit is that it was the result of a global recession. To claim that the Labour Government is responsible for an economic collapse that has hit the entire world, with countries ranging from Ireland to Japan experiencing grave economic problems, is false and misleading. If Gordon Brown had not supported the banks then we would be in an even worst situation. The Conservatives not only supported much of the spending made by the Labour Government, but also argued for more! The Conservatives also incidentally argued for less regulation of the banks! The Conservative party is not innocent in all of this as they would have people beleieve.

What we are seeing now is the Government using the global recession to justify ideologically driven cuts. The cuts announced yesterday for Thanet District Council are just the start, and show quite clearly the intent of the ConDem Government.

You say that Labour are living in 2003, but quite clearly the Tories are still living in the 1980s. Perhaps your complaints about Labour constantly talking about 'Maggie' are a sign that it is sticking. Stringent cuts to welfare, police and strikers clashing on the streets, swollen dole lines - where have we seen this before?

I study history, and one of the main aspects of history is learning the lessons of the past. Thatcher got it wrong. The reforms she made to this country may have freed up the economy, but it left countless social problems that are still being dealt with today. The Government today may solve the problem of the deficit, but at what cost to the people of Britain?

Modern Compassionate Conservative Party? Give me a break. Same old nasty Tories more like.

DrM. said...


With your somewhat limited grasp of the economic realities and its causes, you would be well-advised to stay well clear of politics. I recall that at your age I held some rather daft opinions as well!

DrM. said...

Thanks Michael

I've added any information when I've found it into the weblog to try and discover the breadcrumbs that Marx left around Thanet!

Anonymous said...

Dear Will
One day, when a few more years of reality pass, you may actually be able to form an opinion all by yourself.
Or perhaps not!
The Grim Reaper

Andrew said...


Ref Will Scobie - spot on. You presumably know him since you make reference to his age. I also presume that he is a student and all I can say there is that at least when I was a student we used to protest about things other than our own selfish ends (Vietnam War, free Nelson Mandela, that sort of thing.) Now the student body is only stirred when it's own well-being is perceived to be under threat.
Will. You're probably not old enough to have visited the Eastern Bloc under communism. I am, and did, and let me tell you that it was worse than grim. Go and study the history of Eastern Europe - 1945 to 1990s. Study UK history in the 1970s, endless strikes, Winter of Discontent, etc, etc. which the dreaded Thatcherism was forced to deal with. Thatcherism was actually Josephism but the Establishment wasn't going to accept Keith Joseph as Prime Minister so Mrs Thatcher stepped in. Tell me then that socialism works!
It's become fashionable to decry Mrs Thatcher's work and she certainly didn't pay much attention to personal popularity, but most of the abuse is heaped by those who weren't even born, or were too young to take any notice. Will. You can have no opinion on things that you have no knowledge of so as 6.22 pm says "form an opinion all by yourself" but an informed opinion please not one you got from your father.

Bluenote said...

As one who was brought up in a socialist household with a father heavily involved in Labour politics, I would have to say I was much younger than I think Will is when the truth dawned on me. That being that my father's dreams of some socialist utopia were actually the stuff of nightmares. Sadly though, too many never learn and still drone out the old cloth cap reparteé and the bigoted left wing jargon.

Will Scobie said...

I don't claim to know everything about politics and will be the first to admit that I am young and still learning. I am a democratic socialist who believes that Government is there to help people and open doors for those who were not born into money.

When discussing the Thatcherite reforms and their effects on people I have a lot of experience and knowledge of the subject. My grandad was a miner during the miners' strike and my family went through hardships that no-one should have gone through in a civilised Western nation. He died just a few months after the strike and my gran always used to say that it was the strains of the strike that did it for him. I have also just finished writing my dissertation on the miners' strike whereby I interviewed local miners, policemen and residents of Derbyshire in the strike. My families hometown of Chesterfield was ruined by the loss of the coalmining industry and the Thatcher Government did absolutely nothing to help them. No new jobs, no new investment, and it has only recently started to recover. So when we all talk about the effects of Thatcherite reforms I feel I can at least involve myself in this argument without being told:

'With your somewhat limited grasp of the economic realities and its causes, you would be well-advised to stay well clear of politics.'


'You can have no opinion on things that you have no knowledge of so as 6.22 pm says "form an opinion all by yourself" but an informed opinion please not one you got from your father.'

You seem to be lumping my ideology of centre-left with that of the far left. I am not a communist, marxist, lenninist or for that matter a stalinist. Similarly people in the Conservative party are not Nazis and Fascists. Please do not paint me with the same brush.

Only time will tell if the massive cuts to public spending are the right choice, and on this matter we will have to agree to disagree. I hope that you treat young people interested in politics in your party with a little bit more respect and actually try and encourage apathetic youth to get involved. We all want the same for Thanet and hopefully through some healthy argument we can get just that.

DrM. said...


I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather, however I'm sure you must have studied the wider picture of the time.

Those of us who were around then can remember the constant strikes, reading by candlelight and how Britain was crumbling towards a communist takeover.

Andrew Marr in his history of 20th century politics gave what I thought was an excellent analysis of the time. Thatcher really didn't have much choice, the economy with other factors; nascent globalism and new technologies at work, was dead on its feet and close to political collapse. Britain was the sick man of Europe and while her methods were arguably direct and cruel she did pull the country through into the boom time of the eighties.

My first job after leaving Thanet and before college, was at The Times newspaper in Grays Inn Rd. Within an hour of arriving the TGWU shop steward was on to me and forced me to go down to their offices in the East End to join and get a union card. No non-union work allowed at The Times then! I still have the union card as a souvenir!

On the presses, three men worked to a machine. One laying the type, another reading the newspaper or having a nap and the third at home, a second job or out claiming benefit. That's how it worked in those days!

Once I finished university, I went to work abroad like many others and returned to start a successful business in the eighties. I would add though that thanks to a decade of Labour government and red-tape, I couldn't do now what I did then. There's too much risk and personal liability. The agility and flexibility that allowed me to start a multi-million pound business in the eighties no longer exists here, it's only available in the United States and places like Dubai.

Anyway, Labour would have had to make massive cuts in public spending and Alasdair Darling admitted such. However the party still declines to say where such cuts were made and by how much.

DrM. said...

I will add, from The Independent...

Has Mr Brown enhanced the structural performance of the economy? Big increases in public spending on health and education superficially seem to be good news. Improving the nation's health, education and skills are commendable aims. But the Government has yet to come up with a satisfactory way of measuring the efficiency with which these extra funds are being used. Any old fool can raise taxes and spend extra money on health and education. The evidence to suggest the gamble has paid off is not so much mixed but rather, in many areas, simply nonexistent: too much emphasis on numbers of inputs as opposed to quality of outputs. And, in the years ahead, we may look on Mr Brown's raids on pension funds as merely a way of imposing a bigger burden on our economic futures: a nice trick to support public spending today at the expense of our overall well-being tomorrow.

Fortunately for Mr Brown, tomorrow's economy will be someone else's problem.

As for his own legacy, despite his longevity, despite the avoidance of recession, I'm reminded of Zhou Enlai's response on being asked in 1972 about the success of the French Revolution. In reply, Chairman Mao's deputy said: "It's too soon to tell."

Will Scobie said...

I think Thatcher was right in some ways to do what she did, and I think Arthur Scargill betrayed the miners' and led them to a defeat that he knew was inevitable but kept from his followers. The unions had too much power and used it in undemocratic ways, and on this I think we are both agreed. I dont believe that the methods were right in the way that the strike proceeded, but the reduction of union power was definitely a worthy goal.

However it is what happened after the strike that really bothers me. Little effort was made to help these areas that were decimated by the loss of the mining industry. Entire communities were just left to a life on benefits and drugs. The problems of these areas are still apparent today and the lessons of unemployment were passed on from father to son.

It is true Labour would have had to make cuts as well, and I think all 3 main parties were guilty at the election of having not told the full truth about the amount of cuts necessary.

The point that I was trying to make earlier in response was that we need to learn the lessons of the 1980s. The global recession and the bailout of the banks has left the nations' finances in trouble and so cuts are going to have to be made. However we need to make sure that sections of society are not negatively affected in the same way that former coalmining areas were by the Thatcher Government. This is why Labour talk about the 1980s because there are lessons to be learned. We can also look back to the Wall Street Crash whereby Governments proceeded with austerity measures and ended up causing the Great Depression.

P.S. Im glad you used that quote from Zhou Enlai because I was just trying to find it myself with regards to the recession.

DrM. said...

Now that's a much more reasoned and welcome form of debate!

The wider problems we face perhaps, are that as a society at large we have lost our competitive edge, our sense of national identity and purpose. Self-respect has gone out of the window for millions and with it, thanks to the rise of a welfare-intensive, nanny state, the ability to take personal responsibility for our own future.

Anonymous said...

anon again!
erm.... Pole Tax Strikes, Miners Riots, Falklands Wars, etc, etc,
These were just a couple of the Conservative's scandals when they were last in power! Modern day Politics are racked with new scandals. Expense claims by Conservative M.P.'s outweighed Labour's ditto by 4-1.
Riot's are nothing new in Conservative History and I suppose we have to learn with them.
Mind you, you Conservative's have brought these latest Student Riot's all by yourselves. I can't say I blame them for reacting strongly. People critcise the Labour side of things, but who 'gave away' British Gas, Southern Water, South Eastern Electricity? Firms which produce tremendous and sometimes scandalous profit's to go where? Oh yes, overseas. To companies sold off by the Thatcher regime to the Foreign Plutocracy. Brilliant move (sic) don't you think?
So, to summarise, dear Doctor, please do not call the Labour kettle too black, because the Conservative one is also covered in a lot of soot!

DrM. said...

Thanks 8:44.

"Pole tax strikes" may be around the corner still thanks to the EU but in talking of expenses claims, I think you may have lost track of the number of expenses frauds by Labour MPs and the sharp footwork of Labour peers, such as Baroness Uddin, which evokes the memory of George Orwell and 'Animal Farm.'

I do rather like the foreign plutocracy bit; straight out of 'Socialist Worker' and rather illustrates what I was saying in the blog entry about being behind the times or even the last century!

No party is perfect. All parties make mistakes but I'm afraid that socialism is a bankrupt currency in Europe as it reinforces poverty suffocates innovation and drags society down to the lowest common denominator defined by the generosity of the welfare state.

Anonymous said...

anon again!
Ah, rather similar to a Con/LibDem regime then.

Andrew said...


I too am sorry to hear about your grandfather. Simon's experience at The Times is a typical example of why this country had started to slip behind even before Mrs Thatcher swept to power; unfortunately although she managed to save the economy she didn't manange to alter the underlying mindset of the nation which can be summarised as "if things aren't seen to be fair in any area then the Government can legislate to make them fair."
Nothing will improve until the country starts making things again - things that we can sell abroad - and reduces it's economic dependency on services.

Andrew said...


OK, putting aside the family issues for a moment.

"I am a democratic socialist who believes that Government is there to help people and open doors for those who were not born into money". We'll always have to differ on this. The more Government interferes the more things go wrong. Less Government should be the watchword, not more.

"I am a democratic socialist". So was I at your age.

"I hope that you treat young people interested in politics in your party with a little bit more respect and actually try and encourage apathetic youth to get involved.". I don't support any political party and I'm certainly not a member of one. But I will defend to the death my daughter's right to belong to the Conservative Party (which she does)and yours to belong to whichever centre-left party you are affiliated to.

Apart from that I totally endorse Simon's 7:45am statement.My ancestors upped sticks from a peasant farming community in Norfolk and a croft on a small island off the west coast of Scotland and made something of themselves without any assistance whatsoever from Government. Why can't a 21st Century generation show half the gumption our ancestors showed?

Andrew said...

I've just read Ms Johnston's letter and I totally agree with you. In fact, I think the time has come to put an end to all politicians writing to the paper - if they wish to get their view across they should buy the space in the paper.

ascu75 aka Don said...

The trouble with 'Why can't a 21st Century generation show half the gumption our ancestors showed'
is that rents and taxes are so great now whem My grand father left in his will a few bob for his kids £21.00 a year was enough to see they didnt starve Now 60 years later 21 quid wouldnt buy a room for a day let alone for a year.

Andrew said...

Good point Don, although there's always problems comparing pound shillings and pence over any period of time.
I mused on another aspect of these discussions today. If you watch archive footage of the start of the 20th Century you will often find film of great political gatherings, with large numbers of ordinary people gathered together to hear politicians speak. Such affairs were by no means uncommon and were not restricted to the parties of the left. Why does this not happen now? Maybe our various politicians on here might care to comment.