Friday, 28 January 2011

The Big Society

The Big Society is one of the more strange flagship ideas of the 2010 Conservative Party, especially when you consider both the public's reaction to it and the enthusiasm that the government has for it. This idea, according to the Conservatives, is "to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will 'take power away from politicians and give it to people'". On the superficial surface this seems like a good-natured idea. After all, who could disagree with Giving More Power To The People? However, to discern its true purpose we must look deeper.

The Big Society is at its most fundamental level a mechanism for reducing state spending on public services, or outright removing those services all together, and hoping or encouraging for a volunteer sector to move in and take its place. It seeks to deliver control and management, and ultimately responsibility, for public services to the actual public themselves. This devolution of power to the people sounds almost leftist in nature, but in reality is nothing but an excuse to further the causes of privatisation that we are already seeing invade education and healthcare. The idea sounds nice and lovely in isolation, but if we place it within the economic and social environment of Modern Britain we can find its many flaws and come to a conclusion upon its purpose.

First, we must look at the concept of a volunteer. One of the main lovely points about the Big Society is that libraries, schools and other public services are run by volunteers. Everybody loves volunteering and volunteers, those that give up their free time to give something back to their local community. A relatively selfless act. However, the key thing that stands out is that the people who are able to volunteer for these positions must have free time. The working class and those worst off in society, those that would benefit the most from public services, simply do not have the free time to contribute to this Big Society idea. Middle class people, those that can perhaps afford to have only 1 parent working in a household whilst the other volunteers, obviously have good amounts of free time to dedicate towards the running of local services. Within this, we find the first contradiction within the Conservative's Big Society concept. It is not a devolution of power from the state to the people, but a devolution of power from the elite in Whitehall to the elite in society: the middle class. Those that would truly benefit the most from the public services have very little to no say in them, as the amount of time they are able to dedicate is simply not there. This would obviously lead to public services being run from a biased position; by the middle class, for the middle class.

It would be worth it to quickly look at this transfer of power from Government to "People" a little closer, and what it actually means. Ever since the disaster of the privatisation of the railways hit the UK, the Conservatives (and Thatcherites in particular) have been taking the blame for the damages caused by privatisation, and rightly so. They were responsible for causing it, and it is this notion of responsibility that is key for this power transfer. If the Government transfers the power and responsibility for running public services, what little there is left of them, to the public then it will be the public and local people to blame for their failure. It is an attempt to escape the poisoning nature that the failures of neoliberalism have, especially on the Conservative's electability. By shoving this responsibility onto local people, the blame for the failure of the services cannot be pointed at the Conservatives.

It is interesting to note that the public's initial reaction to the Big Society idea was not one of enthusiasm at all, leading many to wonder why the government is so keen to keep pushing with it. Even Nick Clegg, although this is hardly surprising given his nature of late, has come out in support of the Big Society idea, claiming that the "big society" and liberalism as the same, which I happen to agree with as both are idiotic, childish ideologies. The enthusiasm of the government is opposed to the lack of enthusiasm for the general public for this idea. An example illustrating this opposition was illustrated in the Private Eye earlier this month, relating to the proposed sale of the Forest of Dean. Private Eye reports:
Anger at the proposed sale is particularly acute in the Forest of Dean, where a campaign group, Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF), has been mobilised and 3,000 people rallied earlier this month to make their voices heard.

Notably absent was local Tory MP Mark Harper, who believes the forest sale to be an example of Dave’s Big Society in action as it would allow local people to buy and manage things as they see fit. As environmentalist Jonathon Porritt and many others point out, however, thanks to rights and entitlements secured over centuries, people in the Forest of Dean already see “the Dean” as their forest anyway.
This attitude is not isolated to the Forest of Dean. Many locals feel that they already own their local libraries, forests etc. In a way they do, these resources were paid for through taxpayer's money and belong to the taxpayer. The Government urging people to pool together and buy their local resources and services that they feel they already own is ludicrous, perhaps electoral suicide. Getting local communities and organisations themselves to bid against one another to secure facilities that they already own will produce not only a negative atmosphere of competition at a local level, but a general resentment of the government.

Conservative's apparently blind faith in the Volunteer sector almost matches their blind faith in the Private sector to pick up the job losses these policies will cause. The Big Society is a Big Sham. After all, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Gove's Education Policies: A List Of Affected Schools

Here's a very long list compiled by a friend of the schools whose funding has been cut or facing outright forced closure due to Gove's new education policy:

-Barking and Dagenham-
All Saints
Barking Abbey
Barking Riverside Community
Barking Riverside Special
Jo Richardson
Robert Clack
Trinity Special

Bishop Douglas RC
Oak Lodge
St Mary's CE High
The Pavillion The Ravenscroft

Greys Centre PRU
Mark Rutherford
Mark Rutherford - Central Campus
Ridgeway Special
Shambrook Oakley Campus
St Jogn's Special
St Thomas More RC

Aston Manor
Bartley Green
Bordesley Green Girls
Cardinal Wiseman RC
Castle Vale
Golden Hillock
Hodge Hill
Holy Trinity RC
Kings Heath
Washwood Heath

Beacon Hill High
Bispham High
Collegiate High
Grange - Blackpool
Montgomery High
Palatine High
Park School
St. Georg C of E High
Woodlands - Blackpool

Bolton Muslim Girls School
Ladybridge high School
Little Lever Specialist Language College
Rumworth SPecial School
Sharples School
Westhoughton High

Glenmoor School
Montacute Special School
Oakmead Technology College
Winchelsea Special School
Winston Arts and Media College

Belle Vue Boys
Belle Vue Girls
Bingley Grammar
Carlton Bolling
Holy Family R. C.
Ilkley Grammar
Immanuel CE
Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise
nab Wood
New C&I School
New SEBD School
Parkside - Bradford
St. Bedes - Bradford
St. Josephs - Bradford
Thornton Grammar

Copland (A Specialist Science Community College)
Queens Park Community School
Alperton Community School
Cardinal Hinsley Mathematics and Computing College

-Brighton and Hove-
Hove Park School and Sixth Form Centre

Kelsey Park Sports College

Buckingham Upper
Burnham Upper
Furze Down (Special)
Mandeville School
The Grange, Aylesbury

Acland Burghley
Agincourt House PRU
Camden School For Girls
Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital School
Jack Taylor
La Sante Union
Maria Fidelis
One One Five PRU
Parliament Hill
Royal Free Hospital Children's School
William Ellis

Camborne Science and Community College
Humphry Davy School
Poltair School
Pool Business and Enterprise College
Redruth School

Barr's Hill
Bishop Ullathorne RC
Blue Coat CofE
Broad Spectrum (EG)
Broad Spectrum (PK)
Caludon Castle School
Cardinal Newman's School
Cardinal Wiseman RC
Coudon Court
Ernesford Grange
Finham park
Lying Hall
President kennedy
The Woodfield
The Woodlands
Tile Hill Wood
Whitley Abbey

Maiden Oaks
New School Kingston
Priory SPecial School
The Archbishop Lanfranc School

Mayfield Special
New Workington
West Cumbria LC PRU

Branksome Comprehensive
Carmel RC College
Education Village
Hummersknott School
Hurworth School
Longfield School
The Bridge PRU

-Derby City-
da vinci
Ivy House
Lees Brook
Murray Park
St Andrews
St Benedict
St Clare's
Turnaround Centre Kingsmead
West Park
Woodlands - Derby City

Alfreton Grange Arts College
Alfreton Park Special School
Frederick Gent School
Swanwick Hall School
Swanwick School and Sports College
Tibshelf Community School

Marland Special

Armthorpe School
Balby Carr Community Sports COllege
Campsmount Technology Centre
Coppice SEN
Danum School Technology College
Don Valley School and Performing Arts College
Edlington School
Hall Cros School
Hatfield Visual Arts College
Hayfield School
Heatherwood SEN
Hungerhill School
Maple Medical Centre PRU
McAuley Catholic High School
Nexus Centre
North Ridge SEN
Pennine View SEN
Ridgewood School
Springboard (Beckett Road) PRU
Springboard (Hexthorpe Road) PRU
Stone Hill SEN
Rossington All Saints

Royal Manor Arts College

Broom Cottages PRU
Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College
Greenfield Community Arts College
St John's RCVA Comprehensive
The Meadows
The Oaks Secondary (ICT only)
Windlestone (ICT only)
Woodham Community Technology Centre

Action High Secondary School
Belvue Special School
Brentside Secondary School
Drayton Manor Secondary School
Elthorne Park Secondary school
Featherstone Secondary School
Greenford Secondary School
John Chilton Special School
New Secondary School
Northolt Secondary School
Pupil Referral Unit
Sprinhallow Special School
St Anns Special School
The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls
Twyford CE Secondary School
Villiers Secondary School

Edmonton County
Enfield PRU
Highlands School
Lea Valley High School

Alderman Blaxill
Beachumps High School
Colchester PRU
Edith Borthwick Community Special Schoool
Glenwood, Benfleet Community Special School
Mayflower High School
Philip Morant
The Appleton School
The Billericay School
The Bromfords School
The Deanes School
The Gilberd
THe King John School
Thomas Lord Audley
St. Helena

Blackheath Bluecoat CE VA
Eltham Green Community
Kidbrook Community
Shooter's Hill Post 16

AShley School
Chestnut Lodge School
Fairfield High School
St Peter and St Paul Catholic High School
The Bankfield School
The Bridge
The Gateway
The Heath School

-Hammersmith and Fulham-
Bridge Academy (PRU)
cambridge School
Fulham Cross
Henry Compton
Hurlingham and Chelsea
Jack Tizard
Lady Margaret
London Oratory
Phoenix High
Sacred Heart
William Morris Academy

Cowplain Community
Horndean Technology Centre
PArk Community School
Rachel Madocks
THe Hayling College
Warblington School
Woodlands Education Centre

Catcote Special School
High Tunstall College of Science
Manor College of Technology
PRU - Hartlepool
THe English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College

Bower Park
Brittons School and Technology College
Dycorts School
Royal Liberty School

Barnwell School
Greenside School
Jogn Henry Newman RC School
Stevenage Education Support Centre
THe Barclay School
The Thomas Alleyne School
The Valley School

Barnhill Community High
Harlington Community
Hillingdon Tuition Centre
Mellow Lane
Moorcroft Special
The Hayes Manor
Uxbridge High

Chiswick Community School
Feltham Community School
Hounslow Manor School
Longford Community School
Oaklands Special School

-Kensington and Chelsea-
Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC School
Chelsea Children's Hospital
Holland Park School
Latimer Education Centre
Parkwood Hall Special School
Saint Thomas More Language School
Sion-Mannin RC School for Girls

Abbey School
Astor High School
Borden Grammar School
Brockhill Park Performing Arts College
Castle Communiy College
Challenger Centre PRU
Chatham House Gramma
Clarendon House Gramma
Dover Grammar School for Boys
Dover Grammar School for Girls
Foreland School
Fulston Manor School
Gravesend Boys Grammer
Gravesend Girls Grammar
Grovesnor House PRU
Hartsdown Tech
Highview School
Northwood Centre
Pent Valley School
Queen Elizabeth Grammar School
Sandwich Technology School
Sir Roger Manwood's Sschool
Sittingbourne COmmunity College
St Edmunds Catholic School
St George's C of E School
St Anthony's
Stone Bay School
The Folkestone School for GIrls
The Harvery Grammar School
Ursuline College
Walmer Science College
Westlands School

Maiden Oaks
New School Kingston
Priory Special School
THe Archbishop Landfranc School

All Saints School
Batley Business and Enterprise College
Batley Girls
Birkdale High
Castle Hall
Gomersal Middle
Heckmondwike GS
RM Grylis Middle
Spen Valley
St John Fisher
THe Mirfield Free Grammar
West End Middle
Westborough and Birkdale
Westfield PRU
Whitcliffe Mount
Whitechapel Middle

Archbishop Tenison
Bishop Thomas Grant RC
CHarles Edward Brooke
La Retraite RC
London Nautical
St Martin in the Fields

Barnoldswick West Craven
Colne Park High
Colne Primet
Haslingden High
Mount Carmel RC High
Norden High
Oswaldwhistle PRU
SS John Fisher and Thomas More
Tor View

Alford John Spendluffe Technology College
Boston Grammar
Boston Haven High School
Boston High School
Boston St Bede's
Spalding Gleed Boys
Spalding Gleed Girls

Abbots Lea
Archbishop Beck Catholic Sports College
Archbishop Blanch CofE VA High School
Childwall School
Clifford Holoroyde
Holly Lodge Girls School
Mill Road
Notre Dame Catholic School
Palmerston Special School
Redbridge High School
Sandfield Park PRU
St Edwards
St Francis Xavier College
St Hildas
St John Bosco
St Julies
St Margarets

Avenue Centre
Cardinal Newman
Callney High for Boys
Denbeigh High
Icknield High
New School on Icknield Site
PRU (Luton)
Putteridge High
Stospley High

Bonaventures School
Eleanor Smith
JF Kennedy
JF Kennedy
Kingsford School
Little Ilford New Directions
New School
Plashet School
Royal Docks School Ph2
Saints 6th Form
St Angelas School
Stratford School
Tunmarsh PRU

Chapel Road SPecial School
Great Yarmouth High School
Marshland High School
Sewell Park College

-North East Lincolnshire-
Cambridge Park Special
Humberston Maths and Computing College
Humberston Special
Joint Church School
Park House PRU
TOllbar Business Enterprise College

-North Tyneside-
Beacon Hill Business and Enterprise
Burnside Busines and Enterprise College
Longbenton COmmunity College
Marden High School
Monkseaton High
North Tyneside 1 Norham
PRU North Tyneside
Seaton Burn College
Silverdale SEN
Southlands School SEN

Bedlingtonshire Community High School

Nottingham Bluecoat School Technology COllege
Top Valley School
Fernwood School
Trinity School
Westbury Special School
Fairham College - closing
Haywood School - closing

Sutton Cntre Community College
Garibaldi Maths and Technology Centre
Grove School
Joseph Whitaker School and Specialist Sports College
Magnus Church of England School
Meden Technology College
Newark High School
Nottinghamshire 7 Dukeries
Nottinghamshire Learning College
Orchard SPecial School
Sothwell Minister CofE School

Blue Coat CE
Crompton House
Hathershaw Tech
New BESD Special School
New Bridhe
Royton and Crompton

OXfordshire 3 European School
Banbury School
Cheney School
Iffley Mead
Larkmead School

Arthur Mellows Village College
Hampton College
Jack Hunt School
Ken Stimpson Community School
Orton Longueville School
St John Fisher School
Stanground College
The King's School
The Voyager School

Lipson Community College
Sir John Hunt Community College
Stoke Damerel Community College

admiral Lord Nelson
City of Portsmouth Boys
City of Portsmouth Girls
King Richard
Redwood Park
St Edmunds

-Redcar and Cleveland-
Bydales School
Eston Park School
Gillbrook College
Kilton Thorpe School
Kirkleatham Hall School
Laurence Jackson School
New School Eston
Nunthorped School
Redcar Community College
Rye Hills
Sacred Heart RC VA School
St Peter's Catholic College

Abbey SEN
Hilltop SEN
St Pius

Brisnall Hall
New KS4 and THarpeutic Units
Stuart Bathurst RC
Wood Green

St Wilfrid's Catholic High
Chesterfield High
Crosby High Special
Hillside High
Impact KS4 PRU
Meols Cop
Presfield Special
Savio Salesian College
St George's CE


East Bridgewater

-South Tyneside w/ Gateshead
Hookergate School
Joseph Swan School
Ryton Comprehensive
St Thomas More Catholic School
Whickham School

Bitterne Park School
Cantell Maths and COmputing College
Chamberlayne College for the Arts
Redbridge Community School
St George RC Boys School
THe SHoling Technology College
Upper Shirley High
Woodland's Community College

-St Helens-
Catholic Learning Campus
Lansbury Bridge
Mill Green
Rainhill High

Belgrave High School
Hagley Park School
Kettlebrook Pupil Referral Unit
Queen Elizabeth's Mercian School
Rawlett Community Sports College
Two Rivers High School
Wilnecote High School

Abbey Hill SEN
All Saints CE
Billingham Campus
Bishopton Centre PRU
Ian Ramsey CE
King Edwin
Our Lady and St Bede's CE
St Michaels RC VA Comprehensive School
St Patrick's RC Comprehensive
Westlands SEN

Alderwood PRU
Beacon Hill Special School
Belstead Sepcial School
Chantry High School
Heathside Special School
Parkside PRU
Stoke High School
Thomas Wolesey Special School
Thurlston High School
Westbourne SPorts College
Westbridge PRU

Barbara Priestman
Castlegreen Community School
Farringdon Community Sports College
Hetton Houghton Kepier SPorts College
Portland Specialist School
Southmoor Community School
Springwell Dene
St Anthony's Catholic Girls' School
Sit Aidan's Catholic School
Venerable Bede CE Secondary School

Carashalton Boy Sports College
Carshalton High School for Girls
Hospital and Tution Service PRU
Limes College PRU
Wandle Valley School

All Saints RC Language College
Audenshaw School
Copley High School
Fairfield High School for Girls
Longdendale Language College
St Thomas Moore RC Maths and Computing College
West Hill Science College

Alumwell Business and Enterprise College
Frank F Harrison
Joseph Leckie Technology College
Pool Hayes Arts and Community College
Shire Oak Science College
The Streetl Sports College

-Waltham Forest-
Belmont Park
Brookfield House School
Chingford Foundation
Cannaught Girls
George Mitchell
Highams High
Holy Family RC
Joseph Clarke
New Provision
Norlington Boys
Rush Croft Sports College
Tom Hood
William Morris Special

Battersea Park
Chestnut Grove
Ernest Bevin
Francis Barber
Garratt Park
Linden Lodge
Oak Lodge
Saint John Bosco
St Cecilia

Fox Wood Special School
Green Lane COmmunity Special School
Lysander Community High School
Penketh High School
Sir Thomas Boteler C of E High School
William Beamont Community High School

14-19 Centre

Baxter College
King Charles 1st High School
Stourminster Special School
Stourport High School
The Bewdley School
Wolverley CE Secondary School

For the sake of Fair And Balanced here is the list of new free schools opened by his policy as of last November:

Bedford and Kempston Free School, Bedford
The Childcare Company, Slough
Discovery New School, West Sussex
The Free School Norwich, Norfolk
Haringey Jewish Primary School, Haringey
I-Foundation Primary School, Leicester (Hindu)
King's Science Academy, Bradford
Mill HIll Jewish Primary School, Barnet
Nishkam Education Trust, Birmingham (Sikh)
North Westminster Free School, Westminster
Priors Marston and Priors Hardwick School, Warwickshire
Rivendale Free School, Hammersmith and Fulham
St. Luke's School, Camden (Anglican)
Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk
West London Free School, Ealing
Womrholt North Hammersmith Free School (a.k.a Burlington Primary Academy)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Left And Labour

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service. - Clause IV, before its revision in 1995
One of the most frustrating aspects of the British Left is the obsession with the Labour Party. A somewhat understandable obsession, but an irritating one nonetheless. To understand Labour's role within the Left, we must first establish a brief and probably horribly inaccurate history of the Labour Party.

Firstly, we must establish what it means to be a Labour Party, not just in the UK, but around the world. A Labour Party is, as the name suggests, a party that seeks represent politically the will of labour. The definition of "labour" as a classification of people itself is hard to pin down, generally seen as those that sell their labour or man-power to an employer for a wage. At the time of the Labour Party's origins the labour that was seeking political representation was that of the urban proletariat of the 19th century. This is what we must keep in mind at all times when considering the Labour Party: That its role should be that of representing the wills and needs of labour. In modern times we would perhaps hesitate to say that labour in this country is the "urban proletariat", however. Especially if we take the Maoist Third-Worldist line that a proletariat does not exist in the 1st world, due to the labour aristocracy's exploitation of 3rd world labour. A convincing argument if one steps back and takes a look at our conditions compared to those of the 3rd world. But this is diverging into how to define a proletariat, a subject left for later.

The incarnation of the Labour Party that most socialists in the UK are infatuated with is the party under Clement Attlee. It's hard not to be infatuated with it. Attlee's government was one of the most radical British governments of the 20th century, initiating a swathe of nationalisation of major industries and utilities. These included the Bank of England, coal mining, railways, canals etc. One of the most notable achievements of this government was the creation of a welfare state, described as "cradle to the grave". However, the most notable achievement of this government was the formation of the National Health Service, constructed under Aneurin Bevan. This government represented, to many left wingers, the peak of the Labour Party in its current form. This incarnation of the Labour Party is commonly referred to as Old Labour.

However, where there is Old there is New, and we must move on now to look at New Labour, the most loathsome modern incarnation of the Labour Party. Headed up by the notorious Democratic Socialist Tony Blair and later on by Gordon Brown, this Labour government is one that is fresh in everybody's mind. It is the Labour party of the centre-right, of creeping neoliberalism. To argue that this government, despite its achievements such as the minimum wage, was remotely leftist is absurd. New Labour presided over PFIs, backdoor privatisation, the Iraq War, legislation that restricted unions. It has allowed the interests of business and corporation to dictate the trajectory of the party, with activists no longer able to play a significant role in affecting policy, especially after the reforms of Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair. New Labour was a neoliberal, imperialist monster shambling through 13 years in power. It is not a party of the left, it is not the party of progressive socialist politics.

Many argue that since Labour swung from being the socialist Old Labour to the neoliberal New Labour, surely there is a possibility of the pendulum swinging the other way, especially as a reaction to the Coalition government's policies. I would argue that this will not be the case, and in fact may be impossible to achieve. New Labour is funded primarily through the donations of large business, with the donations of trade unions making up about a quarter of their funding. However, one would expect this quarter to shrink as unions continue to get sick of Labour biting the hands that feed. Many unions have threatened to pull funding already. They realise that Labour is hurtling, still, towards a neoliberal agenda and the election of "Red Ed" to Labour leader will not change a thing. Labour is irreparably broken. It is no longer a party of labour.

But where does this leave the left, both organised and unorganised? One can argue that even though Labour have become a party of the centre-right, it is the only party that can form an actual opposition to the Conservatives, especially after the Liberal Democrats destroyed their voting base. But so what? Labour would institute the same policies as the Conservatives, perhaps at a slower rate. They would still plunge the country into further economic peril through an ill-advised scheme of cuts and blind belief in the private sector. The privatisation of Royal Mail and of the NHS are all policies that New Labour didn't just fail to stop, but actively encouraged.

It is my belief that the organised left is damaging its power and its potential by continuing to affiliate with the Labour party. Time, effort and action are being put into a cause that, when elevated to the position of power, will ignore those that got it there and continue with its agenda of neoliberalism. Protests and actions are for naught. They are wasted.

The left needs to organise itself, not in the myriad of slightly-differently-trotskyistneoliberal nonsense of New Labour. The Labour party is not, and will not be again, a vehicle for progressive socialist change. The Labour Party does not represent Labour any longer.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Hypocrisy Of William Hague

A short one this. As many will already know, the tensions and anger in Tunisia have evolved into an uprising, which forced Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia. However, this situation has caused violence to break out with, as Al Jazzy reports, "squads of men in civilian clothes were driving through Tunis at high speed, shooting randomly at buildings and people". Alongside this, looting etc has flared up. Obviously, this is a chaotic situation for the people of Tunisia.

In response to this, William Hague has come out to condemn the violence:

"I condemn the violence and call on the Tunisian authorities to do all they can to resolve the situation peacefully.
I am calling for a rapid return to law and order, restraint from all sides, an orderly move towards free and fair elections and an immediate expansion of political freedoms in Tunisia."

However back in December, Mr. Hague said would back any United Nations-led military action taken to force out incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo. Which, obviously, would result in quite a lot of violence!

Come on now, Mr. Hague. Don't pretend to be a Lover Of All Peace when you're willing to back military action against the Ivory Coast. Although, it could be because everyone in the West loved Ben Ali, as he had decent growth rates in the economy and because he brought 'stability' (i.e. the persistence of tyranny). Gonna end this on a Cool Pic. 

(Source for the William Hague quote is the Telegraph)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Bankers and Bonuses - An Ever Burning Issue

As we enter the bonus season yet again, the ever controversial argument surrounding banker's bonuses flares up, prompting the same criticisms and arguments. However, this time around these arguments take on a new tone. With the country reeling from both the economic recession and the incoming cuts and job losses, more and more people are beginning to focus their anger at the "Bankers", especially over the notion of bonuses. To most people, bonuses seem like an extra reward on top of a wage if you have performed well. It's an extra. It's a reward.

The cause of this economic downturn is generalised as Bankers, although reading books such as David Harvey's Enigma of Capital is great for focusing the cause of the recession into a more specific target. The arguments put forward by those such as the advocates for the Robin Hood Tax, a tax on the financial sector, are as relevant as ever as we are seeing public services and jobs being decimated. However, it is always useful to look at the defence from the targets, the bankers, and how they lay out their position.

Today, Barclays' Bob Diamond appeared before the Treasury Select Committee for questioning. Mr. Diamond has long used the defence that cracking down on the financial sector, either through taxation or lowering bonuses, would drive companies and individuals from the United Kingdom towards friendlier climbs. This is a particularly weak argument, especially since Barclay's has 300+ companies operating in tax havens around the world anyway. It assumes the only thing that keeps companies and individuals in the country is a friendly atmosphere, tax wise. This is clearly wrong, as Mr. Diamond demonstrates himself by stating that things such as "the English language, time zones, the support of foreign trade and wealth of talent available". The latter factor, that of talent, is also a defence that appears. If companies are unwilling to leave, then surely the talented individuals will? It's only rational to move to a country where they will acquire the best wage for their abilities. Once again, this is based on the flawed assumption that the only thing holding an individual in a country is his economic situation. This is clearly false, as each country has its own benefits outside of the rate of wages. Elements such as culture, family and location itself play greatly into an individual's desire to move or stay. An individual is much more likely to stay in a country if he has existing family there, or that the country itself provides a stable environment for themselves or for their family, perhaps through elements as security and quality of education. People are not rational, robotic beings that act on what benefits them economically at all costs.

Another defence of bonuses that has seen a little bit of light in the past week or so is that bonuses are necessary to keep talented individuals within companies, which in turn keeps the companies competitive. Obviously, the entire notion of wages will provide competition between companies for talented labour, but we are not dealing with wages. We are dealing with bonuses. Extra pay for performing well. It is supposed to be a reward, but if we take the argument that they are necessary, then what incentive do they have? Most will agree that the banks and bankers performed horribly, but they still received this reward of a bonus, in some cases a massive one. What is the purpose of a reward for productive work if you are rewarded when you manage to fuck up a global economy? It loses all meaning, all value and becomes nothing but an expected supplement to an already generous wage. An entitlement, not a reward. And this is where the public anger lies, the anger which Mr. Diamond and others complain is misplaced or too harsh.

The whole anger over banker's bonuses is that the public views a bonus as a reward, whereas bankers view it as a necessary and expected supplement to their wage, in order to keep companies competitive. Perhaps it is a mechanism, a poorly functioning one, to mask the egregious amounts bankers are paid? Or perhaps the notion of bonuses has been corrupted under the ultra-profitable financial sector? With the coalition government unwilling to confront the banks on this issue and with public anger continuing to build, the issue over bonuses will continue to rage and fester, until something breaks.