Friday, 21 May 2010

Annual Council and Mayor Making

Last night was Darlington's Mayor Making ceremony in the Town Hall. Definitely one of the high points of the year with abundant good will and civic pride.

The outgoing Mayor, liberal-minded Conservative Jim Ruck, has been a popular and successful mayor, carrying out his civic duties, as was said by his sponsor, with a beam on his face.

The incoming mayor is chosen strictly by seniority defined by the number of years spent on the Council (and, amongst those elected in the same year, by lots drawn at the first Council Meeting after their election). For the coming year, the Mayor will be Councillor Bryan Thistlethwaite.

Bryan is a Labour Councillor who has represented Cockerton East (a Conservative target ward, so it's lucky for him that he crept in this year!) for 19 years. I don't know Bryan at all, but apparently he was a skilled engineer with BT. The delight and pride on his face and those of his family members was plain to see. He took the Chair with confidence, as might be expected of someone raised in the trade union movement.

I'm sure he will enjoy his year. In case you were wondering, following the North Road by-election, I have risen from 53rd and last to 52nd in terms of seniority. I don't expect the chains of office will ever hang around my shoulders!

One interesting by-product of yesterday's ceremony: at the reception afterwards, senior Labour Councillors took it in turns to bend the ear of one of my ex-Labour Lib Dem colleagues, telling him he'd always be welcome back in the Labour Party, now that we are in coalition with the Conservatives. They got nowhere, of course.


james said...

I don't know how long ex-Labour folk in the Liberals will be able to stomach being in a party that's propping up a Tory government which is focused on pushing the economy back into recession through huge spending cuts.

Anonymous said...

James - as you've mentioned it a few times could you predict by what date the UK will be back in recession please? Thanks.

james said...

As I've mentioned a few times - the date at which large scale spending cuts are introduced. The panic on financial markets across Europe is not only related to government spending deficits but the impact on growth rates of reduced public spending.

Do you really think that there's going to be a large scale expansion of the private sector employment within the next five years which will result in overall levels of economic growth?

Far more likely is that as people are made redundant consumer confidence and spending will fall sharply and there will be private sector firms in retail and services which go out of business.

During the recession many firms will have reduced the hours of their workforce, and so rather than increased employment in the private sector its likely we'll see a fall in under-employment as people go from part- to full-time.

Just as Bank of England indepenence put monetary policy beyond democratic control, the Tory-Liberal government is aiming to similarly outsource fiscal policy.

Sir Alan Budd, a former banker and advisor to the Tories during the 80s will head the Office for Budget Responsibility. In 1992, Budd was interviewed for a TV documentary and he said the following of his advice for the Tory government of the time:

"The nightmare I sometimes have, about this whole experience, runs as follows. I was involved in making a number of proposals which were partly at least adopted by the government and put in play by the government. Now, my worry is . . . that there may have been people making the actual policy decisions . . . who never believed for a moment that this was the correct way to bring down inflation.

"They did, however, see that it would be a very, very good way to raise unemployment, and raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes-- if you like, that what was engineered there in Marxist terms was a crisis of capitalism which re-created a reserve army of labour and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since.

"Now again, I would not say I believe that story, but when I really worry about all this I worry whether that indeed was really what was going on."

Given that the deficit was run up in bailing out wreckless bankers and that cuts will directly impact ordinary people - I reckon Budd will be having nightmares about the task the Tories have set for him.

Paul Cain said...


The deficit was not caused by the banks bailout and your credibility is damaged by your repeated insistence that it was

In his last budget as chancellor, Alistair Darling reduced his estimate of the cost of the bailout to 6 billion pounds:

The deficit now stands at 156 billion

The 150 billion difference is the result of financial incontinence, a bloated public sector and a scorched earth policy by Labour.

(And the deficit takes no account of PFI debt or public sector pension liabilities, both of which are likely to at least double that deficit figure.)

Around 70 per cent of the North East's entire economy is based on public spending

That is grotesque.

Inevitably, some public sector job cuts will be painful and regrettable. No-one takes pleasure in that.

Alternatively, undoubtedly there are many dozens of thousands of people in the region, including, I dare say, several hundreds in Darlington, who are employed by the public sector in entirely unnecessary jobs.

A simple glance at Darlington Council's laughable record in the last five years highlights that many of those employed there on good salaries and stonking pensions, are really only fit for stacking shelves.

Your argument, James, seems to be this: there are no real jobs for these people, so those who actually do real jobs, in the private sector, have just got to get used to the idea of subsidising parasites to keep the unemployment figures down.

Sorry: Done that for the last 13 years.


james said...

The bailout not only entailed paying for the bank rescue, but for the resulting recession it caused - the increase in welfare payments, bringing forward capital expenditure to stimulate the economy. We were initially told that the financial mess would not impact the "real economy" - which was ludicrous. Had Labour not used deficit spending to end the contraction of the economy, to support people in staying in work, in their homes, etc. private sector job losses would have been much higher.

Without public sector employment, private sector employment would be even lower in this region, and overall unemployment levels would be higher - certainly, there would be greater competition for private sector joba...

With the doubling of the global workforce available to capital with the opening of India, China, and Central and Eastern Europe, workers in the UK face direct wage competition with people who are poorer, have lower levels of consumption and (in the case of China) fewer democratic rights - this tendency towards outsourcing is what prevents a significant private sector expansion in regions like the North East.

As for "subsidising parasites", I think you'll find that's what we will be doing in restoring the power of the wealthy few in the City...