How Owen Smith shows what’s wrong with Labour

The other day I asked “Is Owen Smith for real?”, before we look at that question, let’s see how we got here. The conservatives must be very happy at the moment. First they won the election in 2010, and ousting Gordon “gaffes” Brown. Next their opposition was Ed Miliband; a man who’s three most notable achievements while in opposition were the “Ed Stone”; making eating a bacon sandwich look worse than eating a turd; oh, and changing Labour’s internal election process to reduce the influence of the unions. That last point came back to bite the party in the arse; at least once he scarpered after presiding over Labours worst election performance in decades. Thanks to Ed, Labour’s next, and current leader is the one and only Jeremy Corbyn; elected by what would appear to be half a million lunatics that have stopped taking their medication. Jeremy’s crowning achievement thus far is making Labour as relevant to government as I am to winning a medal at the Olympics. Now, having lost the confidence of most of his MPs; Owen Smith has stepped forward to challenge Corbyn for the Labour leadership.

Owen Smith MP

Owen Smith MP (Courtesy Wikipedia)

When he announced he was standing for the leadership, I thought that it was a good thing. The worst thing for any government is a lack of an effective opposition. Sadly Owen then decided to open his mouth and set out some of his “good” ideas for the country if he ever sees the other side of that door in Downing Street.

Owen Smith’s “good” ideas:

  1. A pledge to focus on equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity
    Sure, the words make sense, but so what? Words like pledge and focus give too much wiggle room; he could have said “Maybe we’ll think about doing stuff” and it would have the same meaning.
  2. Scrapping the DWP and replacing it with a Ministry for Labour and a Department for Social Security
    A Ministry for Labour. That doesn’t sound at all sinister; and a department for scrounging off the state. Rather than that, let’s get rid of the triple lock on pensions; and from 1st January 2020, not give a state pension to anybody born on or after that date. Next scrap the complicated system of tax credits and allowances. Finally, make state aid available only to those unable to work, but only where it is through no fault of their own. If you can’t get a job because you messed about in school and ended up with a D in sociology, that’s nobody’s fault but your own. Deal with it.
  3. Introducing modern wages councils for hotel, shop and care workers to strengthen terms and conditions
    Wages councils? Hasn’t he heard of the Minimum Wage Act 1998, or the The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016? I agree with their intent, if not the wages they set. Why though should hotel, shop, and care workers get special treatment?
  4. Banning zero hour contracts
    If he’d said he would look at making zero hour contracts fairer; such as providing a minimum period of notice of a shift being available; and allowing employees to decline a set number of them, I’d be supportive. Instead no, Owen Smith just wants to cripple the ability for businesses to make use of flexible resourcing.
  5. Ending the public sector pay freeze
    This idea is proof that if you have enough of them, eventually one will be good. But why not go further and align public sector wages and conditions with a cross section of private sector companies demanding similar skills for similar work?
  6. Extending the right to information and consultation to cover all workplaces with more than 50 employees
    I had to look this law up, and of course it was introduced by a Labour government. It means employees have a legal right to be consulted about what the company is doing. Like points 3 and 4, it gives power to those that deserve none. Rather than point out everything that’s wrong with this concept, here’s what is going to be front and centre if I ever run a company:

    You are an employee. Your sole purpose at MY company is to make me money. To this extent, I will provide you with enough benefits to make you productive. While the law says I have to consult you on what MY plans for MY company are, opinions which will cost me money will be filed in the bin and/or toilet. Should you be unhappy with this, please do feel free to take your labour elsewhere.

  7. Ensuring workers’ representation on remuneration committees
    What is with this crap? Management of a company is for directors. Employees should be happy with what they are given or go elsewhere.
  8. Repealing the Trade Union Act
    Oh hell no. If anything, the Trade Union Act needs to be strengthened to remove the right of the union to embark on collective bargaining; and to remove the legal basis to go on strike. The unions can continue to exist as an employee advisory service, but should have no legal basis to interfere with how a company operates.
  9. Increase spending on the NHS by 4% in real-terms in every year of the next parliament
    Nice idea, I’m fully supportive. One question though, where’s the money coming from?
  10. Commit to bringing NHS funding up to the European average within the first term of a Labour Government.
    See point 9.
  11. Greater spending on schools and libraries.
    Yet again, see point 9.
  12. Re-instate the 50p top rate of income tax.
    And there it is, the Labour philosophy: Spend, Spend, Spend, and then spend a bit more. Then when the bill comes due, raise taxes. As someone that’s been successful, and hopes to continue being so, I object to this idea that I should be punished for it through punitive tax rates.
  13. Reverse the reductions in Corporation Tax due to take place over the next four years.
    I’m detecting a theme here, see point 12.
  14. Reverse cuts to Inheritance Tax announced in the Summer Budget.
    Okay Owen, we get it, spend and tax.
  15. Reverse cuts to Capital Gains Tax announced in the Summer Budget.
    Seriously now Owen, you’re boring me.
  16. Introduce a new wealth Tax on the top 1% earners.
    For the love of all that is holy. Stop with the taxes. Though I imagine all the tax specialists that help devise legal tax avoidance schemes must be rubbing their hands with glee.
  17. A British New Deal unveiling £200bn of investment over five years.
    Woo, we’re back to spending. First question, investment in what? Given the above, probably free-range organic bullshit produced by some soviet-hangover type co-operative. As it turns out, according to The Guardian:

    Smith, the Pontypridd MP, also promised to introduce a £200bn investment fund to build new colleges and hospitals and improve transport infrastructure, and to bring in a new war powers act to make sure no future government could take Britain into conflict without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

    Surely the point of an “Investment fund” is to, you know, invest it? That is to save it in such a way that the amount of it you have grows? Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a £200bn “pissing-up-the-wall” fund for things that could be delivered for a fraction of 200bn by anybody else.

  18. A commitment to invest tens of billions in the North of England, and to bring forward High Speed 3.
    Oh joy, more spending. How very Labour-ish of you.
  19. A pledge to build 300,000 homes in every year of the next parliament – 1.5 million over five years.
    Many questions here: Just where are you going to build 1.5 million homes? Who is going to build these homes? Are they going to be social housing? If not, are you going to suggest some crap where you get private companies to build them, then tell them how and to whom they can sell them?
  20. Ending the scandal of fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy.
    I wonder if it is possible to fit Owen Smith with a pre-filter that substitutes the word “invest” with a selection from “piss money away”, “waste money”, or perhaps “doing something” (Come on, you need some variety). Moving to the rest of this. Efficient energy, perhaps like nuclear power? Something Labour did sod all about between 1997 and 2010? Anyway, that aside, what’s the scandal? It’s called budgeting, you have an amount of money to live on – make it work.

Seriously?

As I wrote my thoughts on each point I had to decide between getting angry at the suggestions (which, given it’s Labour, would be like getting angry with the weather); or giving it the same degree of sarcasm and disdain as those people who stand on street corners proclaiming the end of the world… Or membership of the Labour party.

On the plus side, his ‘good’ ideas don’t go as far as full nationalisation of private industry, and a 90% rate of income tax. That said, if he leans any more to the left, he’s going to fall over, much like the economic basis of his policies. I can only assume politicians must have short memories because Blair and Brown tried spending more than they could raise between 1997 and 2010. That’s why we find ourselves in the mess we are currently. Owen Smith sets himself out as a contender to Jeremy Corbyn, but in all honesty, if you made a game of “Who’s policy is this” between the two of them, I’d say they could just as easily belong to Jeremy.

So, why does the above highlight what’s wrong with the Labour party? That’s because these aren’t even the big issues facing the country. We now have to exit the European Union, but thanks to the intransigence of Cameron’s government to acknowledge the possibility of a leave vote, we now find ourselves in the situation of having to tell the world “Awfully sorry guys, but could you please give us some time to work out what it is we actually want.” The south east desperately requires additional airport capacity, but where’s the challenge to the government to take the advice it was given and commit to additional capacity at Heathrow? No, instead we get some fantastic vision of a world in which people get given powers they don’t deserve, to influence things they should have no control over (Like the general public being allowed to elect leaders of political parties)

Anyway, that’s enough ranting… I’m off to enjoy at least another decade of conservative government. Because, based on the ideas above, whoever wins this battle is going to be utterly unelectable. That said, should I be wrong on that, can someone point me in the direction of the aforementioned tax specialists?

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