Gordon Boring

On Brown’s boring speech to the TUC Congress yesterday, John McDonnell has it right:

People weren’t bothered about Brown’s rhetorical style. Blair became a superb orator but it was the content of his speeches that was the problem. With Brown there was neither style nor content to inspire TUC delegates. Worse, what was increasingly obvious to even those trade union general secretaries who had manoeuvred their unions into backing Brown for the Labour leadership, was that Brown’s speech was vacuous when it came to addressing the real world issues facing the 6 million members they are supposed to represent.

Sadly, the TUC’s General Secretary Brendan Barber made his official response as timid as possible:

This was a Prime Minister at ease with a trade union audience, and with a series of policy initiatives that will be widely welcomed, particularly those designed to crack down on bad employers, help the jobless find work and boost skills.

Of course differences remain such as public sector pay, and unions will always urge a Labour government to go further and faster, but what is clear is that this government wants to engage with the union agenda and shares many of our values and objectives.

The government does not want to engage with any other agenda than that of neoliberalism. Barber is talking out of his hat. As for shared values… Doesn’t New Labour intend to become (some say it already is) the “natural party of business”.

Will Hutton, a brain-dead bourgeois intellectual, has called on Bob Crow to leave the 1980s behind in an article full of factual errors. We’ve heard it all before. Socialists must “accept that there is no conceivable way that a modern economy can be directed, owned and controlled from the centre” – but what the hell is modern capitalism if not directed, owned and controlled from the centre? The problem is that it’s run in the interest of the capitalist class; socialists want it to be run in the interest of the working class.

Lest anyone take Hutton seriously, get this – the RMT, which Crow leads, has the fastest growing membership of all the trade unions in the UK. Championing the interests of your members won’t make you popular – the capitalist press demonise you if you don’t collaborate with the neoliberal agenda.

Anyway, rant over, dig these crazy figures:

Ten key inequality facts

  • The top 1 per cent own 21 per cent of the nation’s wealth – three times as much as the bottom half (who own 7 per cent). (HMRC)
  • The UK has twice as many poor children as Sweden, Finland and Denmark and half as many again as Germany and France. (Eurostat)
  • Of the 12 EU or OECD countries wealthier than the UK, 11 are more equal. (comparing GDP per head to Gini coefficient)
  • The average house price has gone up four times faster than the average wage over the last ten years. (DCLG)
  • The UK is the third most unequal country in Europe, and its citizens are the second most likely to be the victim of crime. France is the 10th most unequal and has the 14th lowest crime. (European Crime and Safety Study of 17 EU countries)
  • If trends continue by 2012 FTSE 100 chief executives will be earning more than £5 million, 150 times more than the average full time wage. (Income Data Services. ONS – TUC calculation)
  • Only six out of 18 OECD economies provide less training at work for those with no or low skills. (OECD)
  • A son of wealthy parents leaving school in the 1970s would, on average, earn 17.5 per cent more than a son of poor parents by his early thirties. For 1980s school leavers, the gap has risen to 25 per cent.
  • The richest fifth pay £18 tax on every £100 of disposable income, while the poorest fifth pay £30. (HMRC direct and indirect tax).
  • Boosting benefits sufficient to halve child poverty would cost each year less than one third the cost this year’s city bonuses. (JRF+ Guardian survey)
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