More market fundamentalism than methodism

I scorned at the plans to take Sir Alan Sugar on as enterprise tsar, I turned my nose up at him getting a peerage, I guessed that it was all glamour, it had nothing to do with Alan the individual, it was all to do with his media personality. A move to be expected at the time of Brown’s reshuffle after a disappointing European election effort, ideas needed to be circulated on how best to woo the prime-time television voting public who perceive labour as little more than a failed spectre, trying to flirt and provide champagne parties for the city, whilst repeating any redundant  rhetorical mantra to keep the usual base as mere voting numbers.

Not enough any more to say that Labour have shot themselves in the foot with taking on Alan, a symbol (or if not a symbol, a reminder) of how much of a political price Labour are paying to remain in the pockets of the city. Not enough because they are no longer shooting themselves in the foot. This is the New Labour project plan in action, they’ve succeeded. It’s not compassionate capitalism, or capitalism with a human face. It’s not even the reluctant understanding that socialism has failed, Labour owes nothing to Marxism, but every day it becomes more market fundamentalism than methodism.

This turn may have abandoned the usual base, but did it succeed politically? This needn’t be discussed at length, but the recent smattering of essays and articles (and of course blog entries) about a return to a riotous age, like the poll tax riots, or the riots of Brixton. See for example Dominic Sandbrooks’ essay in the staggers, Alistair Darling can sleep easy without fear for his head, but we are closer to the edge than we may think. The political mob may well have found its temporary accomodation on the internet, but when panic meets flesh, just what will the next 10 years bring?

Again, perhaps not a symbol of, but certainly a reminder that everything New Labour touches turns to shit is Alan Suagr’s recent burst about small businesses losing money being moaners. Like Tony Blair around the time of the Iraq invasion, for my sanity and persistent support for the party I spend more time berating than beloving, I want our unpalatable spokespeople to be guilty, not pompous (I was not alone as an atheist to want Blair to bring more Catholicism to the party, not less). Even if Sugar was the epicentre of loving and kindness, I know it would be bollocks, but if we as a party must employ business gurus, they should be the lying ones, the ones who feel only guilty about their wealth in public, not the ones who stick their fingers up at the poor, but who pretend to care. I’m thinking more Soros than O’Leary.

This is not an isolated incident either, only a few days ago he publicly humiliated a woman who, owing to her husband losing his job, was forced to take benefits to keep their house. After Sugar told her she must come off benefits to spend more time for her business (she could only work 24 hours on the business in order to be eligible for benefits) he then said “If you wish to remain on the benefit system that’s your decision. What am I supposed to do, wave a wand and change the benefits system?” These are not just the words of someone with a history of unprovoked claptrap, but the words of a Government spokesperson. Call me unrepentent, or even too optimistic, but he should be fired.

In February 2005 Sugar predicted that the iPod would be “dead, finished, gone, kaput” by the following Christmas. I’m not as politically dim as to predict anything as stupid, but it won’t stop me hoping that Sugar’s political career goes the same way as his predictions.


Update: And this is what I mean, Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy and co-director of the centre for research and development in higher education at Liverpool Hope University, has written an article today on the Guardian website criticising Lord Mandy’s new framework for higher education, saying:

The second proposal is that business should have a bigger role in determining the university curriculum, in return for making a greater contribution to costs. Leaving aside the question of precisely which firms these will be, this is highly questionable. Designing and delivering a programme of study requires a specific set of aptitudes and skills. It is far from obvious that business has these aptitudes and skills or that it has any better idea of its likely skills requirements in 5 to 10 years’ time than anyone else. As for the idea that business should pay more, one can only refer to Oscar Wilde’s thoughts on second marriages: this represents the triumph of hope over experience.

It’s bad enough that the logic of capital champions infiltration of education, but when our Labour politicians actively promote it, we are in trouble.


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