Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cut Off The Boles

What a ridiculous creature is Nicholas Boles, lately Director of the proven forgers’ den that is Policy Exchange, a trading name of Michael Gove’s office, and also signed up to the Henry Jackson Society with its call for a single EU defence “capability” under day-to-day German (or, in the Sarkozy days, possibly French) command but under overall American control as a proxy for Israel. Israel, whence hails Boles’s civil partner, the better to communicate with whom he has been learning Modern Hebrew and charging it to parliamentary expenses.

Instead of whatever has been proposed by this thieving, warmongering buffoon, there must be a tax on the productive value of land per acre, other than that occupied by the homes of the less well off, perhaps making possible the abolition of stamp duty, and in any event establishing and enforcing the principle that no one should own land other than in order to make use of it; this was proposed by Andy Burnham when he was a candidate for Leader of the Labour Party. There must also be a statutory requirement of planning permission for change of use if it is proposed to turn a primary dwelling into a secondary dwelling, a working family home into a weekend or holiday home.

Pat Glass, of this Parish, has been taking on the Government’s failure to create the promised Supermarkets Ombudsman. Beyond that, we need to make the supermarkets fund investment in agriculture and small business, determined in close consultation with the National Farmers’ Union and the Federation of Small Businesses, by means of a windfall tax, to be followed if necessary by a permanently higher flat rate of corporation tax, and in either case accompanied by strict regulation to ensure that the costs were not passed on to suppliers, workers, consumers, communities or the environment.

There is the most pressing need to revive the movement of those who have resisted enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population down to the present day. Those who obtained, and who continue to defend, rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on. Those who opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks, and who continue to demand that those services be reinstated.

Those who have fought, and who continue to fight, for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take proper account of rural needs. Those who object in principle to government without the clear electoral mandate of rural as well as of urban and suburban areas. Those who have been and who are concerned that any electoral reform be sensitive to the need for effective rural representation. Distributism and the related tendencies. And those who are conservationist rather than environmentalist.

Farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others organised in order to secure radical reforms. County divisions predominated among safe Labour seats when such first became identifiable in the 1920s, while the Labour Party and the urban working class remained profoundly wary of each other throughout the period that both could realistically be said to exist at all, with several cities proving far less receptive to Labour than much of the nearby countryside.

Working farmers sat as Labour MPs between the Wars and subsequently. The Attlee Government created the Green Belt and the National Parks, which no party or politician committed to neoliberal economics could possibly be expected to do anything other than destroy utterly. Step forward, Boles.

Real agriculture is the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food) as against “factory farming”, and it is a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market. Farm subsidies, which this country had for 30 years before going into what was really always the EU, are a thoroughly excellent idea. Provided that we run them ourselves, and provided that, as set out above, we establish and enforce the principle that no one should own land other than in order to make use of it.

The President of the Countryside Alliance is a Labour peer, Baroness Mallalieu, and its Chairman is a Labour MP, Kate Hoey. For at least three consecutive General Elections until 2010, few or no Conservative MPs were returned by the hunting heartlands of Wales, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Devon and Cornwall.

The present Coalition means, either that Labour is now the only electoral option for the age-old rural Radicalism of the West Country and Hampshire, and for the combination of that with Unionism (or, at least, with a strong suspicion of rule from the Scottish Central Belt or from South Wales) in the North and South of Scotland and in Mid Wales, or else that the Labour Party now demands to be replaced with something that can indeed meet this profoundly pressing and electorally opportune need.

In August, Policy Exchange proposed that money from the sale of council houses be used to build up to 170,000 new social homes per year, the largest programme for the construction of social housing since the 1970s, which in turn would create as many as a third of a million jobs. The Coalition will never do it. It would entail the ultimate repudiation of Thatcherism, her assault on council housing being the one thing that her supporters still feel able to defend unconditionally.

In reality, it created the Housing Benefit racket and it used the gigantic gifting of capital assets by the State to enable the beneficiaries to enter the property market ahead of private tenants, or people still living at home, who had in either case saved for their deposits. What, exactly, was or is conservative or Tory about that? Or about moving in the characters from Shameless either alongside, or even in place of, the respectable working class?

And now, the doubts are being expressed even in the belly of the New Right beast. If Labour promised to build 170,000 new council homes per year, the largest programme for the construction of social housing since the 1970s, thereby creating a third of a million jobs, then what would the New Right think tanks, their in house newspapers, and their in house Newsnight, have to say? “Vote Labour”? If not, why not?

All in all, Ed Miliband, Jon Cruddas and Maurice Glasman, over to you.

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