harsh reality of politics

If the worst of  Left wing economics  is  soulless, bureaucratic conformity to utopian doctrine regardless of human cost, then the worst of the Right is the relentless abuse of a free market by spivs and barely concealed but legitimated gangsters.

The harsh truth about this world is that it is painfully imperfect. And that truth must lie at the heart of any diagnosis about what should be done.

On Saturday 15th September 2018 I listened to veteran British Labour MP Frank Field on the early morning news programme, Today, on BBC radio 4.

Now, too many British Members of Parliament of both Left and Right are self servers and egotists. They are there for themselves and they use issues and concerns to promote their own reputation and position. They have beliefs, but their primary concern is their own career. And they’ll do whatever it takes to promote it.

Frank Field is emphatically not among their number. Frank Field is one of the very few saints in British national politics. He is one of the apparent few who put their cause and their work before their own standing and reputation.

He has for decades now campaigned to relieve the suffering of the poor. His record speaks volumes about the man and what he has done.

He was a minister in Tony Blair’s government, but that didn’t last long because men like Frank Field put the real cause of real people before partisan politics and cynical manoeuvring for position.

And he continues to do so.

Just this last week he has been working with the Archbishop of Canterbury to co-ordinate a plan to rescue 200,000 people with debts to the now failed Wonga pay day loan company.

Companies like Wonga represent what former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath once called the unacceptable face of capitalism. Such companies prey upon the weak by offering immediate loans to help people out of immediate difficulties. But they charge such high rates of interest that they are in fact exacerbating the predicament of the poor, not alleviating it.

Let me dwell on this aspect of capitalism a moment before returning to Frank Field.

I believe in free market capitalism because I believe that it represents the lesser evil in a world which works as it actually does.

A free market will supply goods and services rapidly and effectively, if sometimes at a price. The State cannot come close to the free market for effectiveness in delivery.

But a free market is not a chaotic market. It is not a domain for the bully.

As an individual I am free to make the choice between good and evil. And it is my responsibility to make it. No-one else’s. Freedom is not licence to do as just as you please regardless of other’s interests and welfare.

True Freedom is the ability to make responsible choices. Responsible for my own welfare, and responsible not in any way to infringe the freedom of others;  because if I touch the true interests of others, I undermine the entire climate of freedom by my action.

That is why we have laws, and police and policing agencies as well as courts to ensure that irresponsible individuals and groupings do not take from the rest of us our freedom to live secure in our person and our property.

What is necessary for us as individuals in the social sphere must also be true for actors in the economy. They must be responsible and the governments we elect must ensure a proper framework of regulation to inhibit the actions of those who abuse  their freedom and operate irresponsibly.

A free market is not an unregulated market. It is a market properly policed with limited, simple and effective regulation to ensure responsible economic activity. That is not the same as the State intervening to plan the economy or to own the means of production, exchange and distribution.

They are best left in responsible private hands with an effective regulatory framework to ensure responsible behaviour.

In my view, parliament should legislate for more realistic limits to interest rates on loans.

To return to Frank Field. He is true to character in attempting to mobilise a solution to a particular problem for a significant number of people. He is acting responsibly and freely to bring about an agreement by the haves to help those without.

To my mind, that is freedom working at its responsible best, acting voluntarily to correct an injustice. While injustice is inevitable in a free society,  it’s initiatives like Mr Field’s which demonstrate the best response and the best exercise of liberty for the good.

But Mr Field is yet again the subject of hostility. While his motives and his actions have been consistent and sincere down the years, he is yet persecuted.

I learned today that he has been expelled from the Labour party after 60 years as a member.

This follows his resignation of the Labour Whip in Parliament at the end of last month. He resigned citing his objection to an emergent climate of bullying in the Labour party, and concerns about anti-Semitism.

Despite all that this man has done over years and years to pursue his concern for the poor, Frank Field is attacked by the blindly Doctrinaire Left for whom tactics are evidently justified by their perceived pure purpose.

Now, Mr Field may be wrong in what he says about the Labour party. I am not a member and have no first hand experience. But if a man of his character and record raises a concern, then it at least merits examination.

But the reaction to him demonstrates that our democracy and liberty are continually under threat from Ideological forces who treat questions and debate as adopting a hostile posture. And the problem then becomes one of sectarianism. If you are not with us, you are our enemy; and enemies are legitimate targets for destruction – no matter how humane and good they are...

The harsh reality is, it was ever thus.

Ray Catlin

Copyright © 2018 Ray Catlin All rights reserved