Electioneering and grandstanding: how to tell the difference between a moral political party and a moralistic one.

1796655_294409220710133_3373329_nThis past four years or so, I’ve watched the media distort the truth, often removing it from a meaningful context and twisting it out of recognisable shape. Or very often avoiding it altogether. I’ve watched minor parties claiming to be on the Left do the same, too, and I won’t ever forgive them for that. Nonetheless we have done our best to share truths and information and to decode rhetoric and re-translate lies.

One thing I can do is analyse social policy, I’ve a perceptive and predictive eye for how policies will affect us – the implications and probable consequences – well before they are implemented. The last four years will bear that out. It’s not just because I studied it, it’s also because I see underpinning ideology, too. I recognise that policy is comprised of a set of scripted motives and intentions on the part of any government and instructions to society on how to organise itself, how to behave and how our individual degree of freedoms are defined, extended or restricted. Policies also send out instructions regarding how social groups are perceived and treated.

Policies may express and extend tolerance and reflect a valuing of diversity, or, as the case is now, they may also prescribe social prejudice and serve to institutionalize discrimination.

Ideology reflects how a government believes society is (and what it isn’t,) and also prescribes how it SHOULD be. The Tories have been imposing their own narrow, nightmarish vision upon us for the past five years.

Today it struck me again just how we have had to decode so very much misinformation. For example, someone asked me about the headline lie that the Labour Party intend to “scrap benefits for young people.” Of course it’s not true. Or rather, it’s a carefully selected, out of context, partial truth.

Miliband is REPLACING jobseekers allowance with another allowance for young people. He thinks that conditional benefits are inappropriate for young people, as to be entitled to jobseekers allowance requires having to be available for work and actively looking for work, so it excludes the very possibility of further education and learning experiences. But young people need the freedom and support to gain from learning. That’s why Ed Miliband will replace out of work benefits for those aged 18-21 with a youth allowance of the same value – currently around £57 a week. This isn’t the controversial issue that was presented by the mainstream media and other parties at all: it’s actually a very well thought out, cost efficient and positive policy.

So young people don’t have to be available for work, but they do have to use their freedom to be learning or training. This detail matters a lot and was excluded from most accounts of the policy. Miliband had a good idea, it won’t cost any more than we currently pay young people, but it means we are investing in young people’s potential and their futures.

This is just one example of how truths are being distorted and not just by the media, but also by the likes of the SNP, the Green Party, TUSC and many of the other increasingly authoritarian groups competing for votes from the Left. Yet when you think about how they have lied to you on fundamental issues, (and they really have) would you REALLY trust them with your vote? Would you REALLY have faith that these parties will suddenly become honest and develop some integrity if they ever got any power?  They won’t. Not one bit.

More recently, there was an intentional distortion of the parliamentary debate on the Infrastructure Bill and fracking, with the Green Party in particular being very critical of Labour’s fracking amendments, which involve regulations that were, after all, succesful: they were accepted by the Tories. Labour proposals considerably tighten environmental regulations. In the UK, drilling for shale gas is still at an exploratory stage, though the Conservatives had planned on fast-tracking the fracking process. The regulations will halt exploratory drilling going ahead in the UK for at least a year. Meanwhile, the Environmental Audit Committee continue with its inquiry, gathering the strong, credible evidence we need if there is to be a justifiable, democratic and fully accountable ban on fracking.

A ban would never have been successful at this stage, and Labour knew this. The other thing NONE of the of aggressive, electioneering “critics” consider, apparently, is that had the proposed moratorium actually scraped a successful yes vote, and that was unlikely, the Tories would most certainly NOT have abided by that outcome, leaving them free without amendments and thus no regulation at all, to go ahead and fast-track fracking. Labour got them to agree on considerable restrictions, which will tie the Tories’ hands at least until well after the election. That is a success.

Anyone with concerns regarding fracking and the legislation ought to be big and authentic enough to take their issues directly to the TORIES, they are the ones that introduced this Bill, after all, not Labour. Yet all we have seen is moralising accounts from rival left parties about how Labour should have done things. Labour have made a difference. Only the grandstanding, electioneering parties would and did turn a success into an opportunity for unreasonable criticism. And they do this every single time the Labour Party achieve or present something positive.

Evidence is much more important than rhetoric and gesture politics. Reasoned and evidenced debate, however, seems to have been sidelined by those who, rather than engaging in genuine politics, prefer gesturing and politicking, no matter what that costs us.

Another claim made recently by the Green Party, again, amongst others, is that “Labour voted to keep austerity”. That is such a blatant lie, because the vote, clearly stated on the Hansard record (13 Jan 2015: Column 738, Charter for Budget Responsibility), was pertaining strictly to the motion: “That the Charter for Budget Responsibility: Autumn Statement 2014 update, which was laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.”

The charter sets out that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) will continue to monitor our fiscal rules. As we know, the  OBR has written extremely critical economic forecasts and analysis of austerity and the Tory spending cuts, clearly expressing the risks that the Chancellor is running and the scale of the damage his strategy will inflict on what remains of our public services. It’s worth noting that whilst Ed Balls challenged Osborne, there was a curious silence from the  SNP and the Green Party. It was Ed Balls that challenged Osborne’s outrageous claims regarding “halving the deficit”- such a blatant lie, upon which even the exceedingly Conservative Spectator spluttered contempt. Or any of the other lies, some of which have already earned the Conservatives official rebukes from the Office for National Statistics. (See “bankruptcy lie” for example, on the hyperlinked article)

Furthermore, it’s about time that some MP’s, including Caroline Lucas, amongst others, recognised that there is a fundamental difference between the meaning of the word budget and the word austerity. Conflating the two for the purpose of politicking is unprincipled and dishonest.

It’s also worth noting from the same debate on the Hansard record:

13 Jan 2015 : Column 746

Caroline Lucas: Does the Chancellor agree with me that with the feeble and inconsistent opposition coming from the Labour Front Bench, there is a very good reason for seeing the SNP, the Greens and Plaid as the real opposition on this issue because we are clear and consistent about the fact that austerity is not working?

Mr Osborne: That shows why we want the hon. Lady’s party in the TV debates.

Yes, I just bet they do, to collaborate with the Tories in attacking and undermining the Labour Party, not the Coalition, who are, after all, the ones responsible for introducing austerity measures. I don’t imagine for a moment that Osborne values further challenges to his outrageous claims of efficacy regarding austerity measures. What is very evident when you read through this debate, is that Ed Balls and a couple of other Labour MPs presented the ONLY challenges to Osborne on this matter, just to reiterate.

10940505_767712909964906_6225427822143651262_nThere’s a clear gap between professed principles and their application amongst the parties that claim to be “real socialists”.  How can it be principled or moral (or “socialist” for that matter) to collaborate with the Tories in attempting to damage, smear and discredit the only viable option of removing the Tories from Office in May? Bearing in mind that many people are suffering profoundly, some have died as a consequence of Conservative-led policies, we can see what the Green Party’s priorities actually are, here. They don’t include the best interests of citizens and consideration of their well-being, that’s for sure.

There is a big difference between being moral and being moralistic. Being moral means that we know what is right and wrong, what is fair and what is unfair, and so on. Being moral means we take responsibility for ourselves. We extend our morality to others, it shapes how we relate to them, our esteem of others and respect. It tends to frame democratic relationships

Being moralistic means we impose on others our own definitions. We tell others what is right and wrong, we define those things for them. Being moral is also about being authentic, being moralistic is often inauthentic and hypocritical. It’s more about control and overburdening others with  responsibility, whilst restricting their choices, than genuine morality. Moralising shapes how we interact with others too, forming power imbalances and inequalities.

We can use this dichotomy to explore political parties and democracy. The Tories often talk about morality, they are a moralistic party that impose what they think is right on everyone else. We know how that has worked out this past five years and it’s got nothing to do with right and wrong, nor is it even remotely related to fairness or social justice. Tory moralising is about control and subjugation of the poorest, liberation and freedom of the wealthiest. That’s what the Tories are all about.They don’t possess any moral core themselves, which is evident in the sleaze and corruption that they tend to leave in their wake.

Labour are moral. This is evident in policies which are coherent, embedding human rights and equality principles. There’s an integrity evident in their social policies, because they reflect core values that Labour have always held, regardless of who has been party leader. They  impose a legal framework of moral codes that establish decent, civilised conduct. Labour’s policies accommodate democracy, equality, diversity and meet a broad array of social needs. In debate, the Labour party are generally rational and reasoned, rather than emotive and judgemental. They favour a learning approach – which is progressive – it’s about development, rather than imposing dogma on the population.

It’s evident that the Green Party are moralisers too. They criticise Labour, often imposing their view of what Labour should do. Meanwhile, the Tories are destroying the country and people’s lives. Even a cursory glance at the Green manifesto indicates plainly that it is a set of policies from idealising moralists, rather than a meaningful democratic representation of the whole population and a balanced reflection of their varied needs.

For example, the universal basic income that the Green Party propose – will it be paid to millionaires as well as the poorest? How would that address inequality – an issue which the Green Party claims to be concerned with? How will it contribute to a so-called steady-state, zero growth economy?

How does banning page three, but legalising prostitution and the sex industry, which is also about economically exploited women being economically exploited, reflect any joined-up thinking? Inconsistency and incoherence.

It’s more dogma.

Think very carefully about what you are voting for. Look for the facts and truth to inform that decision, because in such bleak times, it’s easy to cling to a populist, superficial, dressed-up promise of better things than the Tories offer, but easy fixes don’t exist. Look for coherence, depth and consistency in the narratives being proffered. And look for evidence. You will see that once you look below the surface of false claims, false promises and electioneering, there’s a big difference between moral policies (they tend to be democratic) and moralising ones (they tend to be authoritarian).

14301012075_2454438e62_o (1)Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his outstanding pictures.

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18 thoughts on “Electioneering and grandstanding: how to tell the difference between a moral political party and a moralistic one.

  1. Reblogged this on Notes from a Broken Society and commented:
    I don’t often reblog but this piece by Sue Jones is so good that I’d like to pass it on. The difference between moral and moralistic politics – the politics of achievement and the politics of grandstanding – is one on which we in Brighton and Hove, with our grandstanding and failing Green council, know about at first hand. At the lessons for those of us who want to get rid of Cameron and Osborne are powerful and obvious.

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  2. This is a good piece.

    As a person with long term disabilities. I’ve been effected first hand by the coalitions cruel policies when it comes to ESA and DLA.

    What I’d like to know is what will the labour policy be on ESA and the current unfit for purpose work capability assessments that will be taken over by the equally inept maximus in March when ATOS leave the building.
    I was a dissapointed with Labour when they changed the benefit over to ESA when they were last in office and pretty much opened the door for the tory party to speed the process up.

    What I would like to see happen is as follows:

    A: A fair assessment process, but done by qualified professionals working for the government. Something as important as checking work capability for disabled people should NEVER be outsourced in my opinion.

    B: It should also be considered that some disabled people may not be capable of more than a few hours work per week and some with hidden disabilities such as those with learning disabilities or those that have a social developmental cognitive condition such as Aspergers could do a few hours work so long as certain conditions were met and specialised training were provided to help them into work.

    Disabled and vulnerable people should be helped into work not pushed. If that means that some may only be able to work around six hours a week. Then let them do that. The capability assessments should take that sort of thing into account. Because you will get some that can handle full time, others that maybe able to do 16 hours and others still that may only be able to do six hours a week. Disability is not a one size fits all issue and should not be treated as such.

    I read something disturbing the other day coming from the labour party that the shadow work and pensions secretary was talking about taking the ESA assessments back to what they were back in 2010 before various protests and such helped allegedly improve them. I’m not sure if this was misinformation, but if you could maybe fill me on on what was actually said. It would be appreciated because I’m a life long labour voter. But in recent years I haven’t really felt all that represented by Labour, but have continued to vote in the hopes that things would get better.

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  3. how do you know all the green voters would vote labour if the greens wernt standing i get the impression there mostly recruiting from previous non voters labour seem to assume the greens are taking votes from im not sure that’s true.

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    1. Many are disgruntled ex-Lib Dem voters, actually. However, my biggest issue is their constant undermining of Labour, especially the telling lies about Labour’s policy. That DOES have a potential impact on misinforming Labour voters as well. I also take issue with the fact that whilst the GP are investing so much in attacking Labour, who are busy opposing the Tories, the Greens themselves are not challenging the Tories. Had they done so, we may have all made more progress. Once you see this, you can’t unsee it, unfortunately. Questioning their motivation for collaborating in attacking Labour rather than cooperating in opposing the Coalition throws up the question of motives. Where is the genuine concern regarding the impact of Tory policies? Where is the “socialist” concern for UK citizens? It seems to have vanished under just a little scrutiny.

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      1. For example – Just to clarify, Rachel Reeves has NEVER said she will be “tougher on welfare.” Those saying that she did are lying. She issued a statement shortly after being misquoted. What she actually said was “tougher on the CAUSES of high welfare spending – such as low wages, high private sector rents, private company outsourcing – especially that of IDS, his vanity projects have cost us millions , paying for failed private company contracts – and unemployment. Here is the Hansard record where this was clarified to Caroline Lucas too, so the Greens should stop shamefully lying about the misquote.

        In the middle of crucial debate about the WCA and the plight of our disabled people, initiated by the WOW campaign, Lucas lost all of my respect when she chose political point scoring instead of constructive debate and said this:

        Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I was disappointed that Rachel Reeves, on taking up her post as shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, used the opportunity of her first interview to say that she would be tougher than the Tories on people on benefits.

        Kate Green (Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions); Stretford and Urmston, Labour)
        My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West did not say that. She said that she would be tougher on welfare spending, not on people on benefits.

        Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East, Labour)
        Does the hon. Lady agree that there are some forms of welfare spending that we should bring down? In my view, one of those is the excessive amount that is paid to private landlords through housing benefit. I am certainly in favour of reducing that form of welfare spending. Is she not?

        Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green)
        I am very much in favour of that if the hon. Lady wants to put it under the heading of welfare spending… Source: Hansard.

        Here is the link – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140227/debtext/140227-0001.htm#14022773000001
        See – 27 Feb 2014 : Column 457 1.29 pm, on the 2nd page of the Hansard record.

        Nonetheless the green party has continued to misquote Reeves, to my disgust, using negative campaigning and smear tactics akin to the Tories to promote the party.

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  4. I am not going to bother to read the above, I just wish to say – if you lot, the greys, don’t do something about changing the way the economy – for want of a better word – of the west is run and has been run by all of you until now – there won’t be any future for you to complain about things in. Don’t you get it you deck-chair shifters? We can not go on as we have been – because we have run out of the stuff that kept us going. If you have something to say on that subject, then I will be eager to read it.

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    1. It was Labour that gave us the Climate Change Act 2008. And lot’s of other environmental legislation. You fall into the trap of proposing austerity and zero growth as a solution, mistaking “consumption” with “growth” yet the 2 things can be mutally exclusive too. There has to be a balance of human needs with environmental care, as I have pointed out previously. What the GP proposes is austerity and no growth, but as we know on a global scale, countries strive for development and growth. Those that fail end up with massive levels of absolute poverty and huge inequalities. Balance is the answer.

      BTW, it’s quite rude to comment on an article that you haven’t read. And “greys”? Makes the GP sound just like a cult.

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