søndag 7. februar 2016

Listhaug's Own Falklands War - Populism on a Plate

There are some tantalising parrallels to be drawn between the current politics around the assylum seeker and economic migrants crisis in Norway, and those now far off days of the Falklands' war.

Thatcher is widely praised for transforming the British economy, which you can absolute argue is like saying George Washington fought the war for independence single handed. In fact the very opposite of a transformation and positive upswing in the economy played out in the first four years of Tory rule after 1979. The economy was in recession, and it became deeper as companies closed shop in the UK. Private industry had been running out of innovation and the will to manage for years, and in part that was due to the power of the unions in post war Britain. With a tighter fiscal policy band a western world recession in general, manufacturing industry in the UK gave up en masse in this period.

The New Right Party That Nearly Failed 

ITN news at ten used to run a job counter, which would show the gains and losses. Mainly it was in the red of course as companies just gave up the ghost. Massive brand names were either evapourated into a pile of bricks, or moved to the far east. There were riots in what became labelled with the misnomer, "Inner cities" which were caused by social unrest and a harder line policing against soft drugs. The Thatcherites had an admirable long term goal - to balance the books of the nation and become an international creditor.

Labour Hijacked by a Campaign Group- The CND Wilderness Years

The post war UK had become a two party system, with what today would be seen as essential socialist policies dyed in the mold from the Labour landslide of 1948. The following Tory governments, a bit like todays Høyre in Norway, had to follow the consensus which had shifted left post war, and keep public spending and tax high during the early, scary days of the cold war. By the mid 1970s though, the Labour movement had been dragged off into a kind of metademocratic movement, as did all susbequent governance has been in the UK. It was dogged by union corruption and power mongering, and would become hijacked by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament with the fall of the Callaghan government to Thatcher in the 1979 election.

So on the one side there was abhorrence to the excesses of union power,  like "the dead going unburried" during the winter of discontent in 1978 and on the other hand the Labour party got a duffle coat wearing academic staunch CND man. This was still at the time of the cold war, some would say that it was a very dangerous time because soviet submarine and missile technology surpassed that of the UK, France and even the USA. A large number of WWII veterans in those years were still in work and most families had someone who had fought or been part of the war effort, while having lived through the soviet threat and the capitulation of Hungary and Czechslovakia.

Enter 'Los Malvinas'....

The world wide economy was going badly too for many dictatorships, such as the Juanta in Argentina. Two very different economies on opposite sides of the globe would soon influence each other through conflict. Thatcher would get a God Send in having the biggest nationalist political broadcast in the history of any western Democracy at a time when the UK economy was languishing.  Soon we would all care deeply about a few scraggy bits of empire, some sheep farmers and a detachment of part time Royal Marine reservists way down in the Southern Hemisphere.

Back then the UK had an ageing fleeting of warships and a depleted royal naval reserve, so Thatcher was very lucky that so merchant many ships were still registerred either in the UK or countries like Bermuda where the Crown had rights to requisition them. The fleet sailed out to fight in a Falklands winter and do the dirty job of ousting the mainly poorly trained conscript army from the god forsaken islands of no economic significance to the UK.

Backed by US surveillance satelites and missile systems, the UK could wage an effective naval strategy against the Argentines, from submarines and air craft carriers,  which today is still refferred to as a conflict and not a war, which is just a big PR fib. It was a remarkable achievement in some respects, more of logistics than anything else. In the closing hours of the "conflict" there were three regiments lined up to repartiate Port Stanley and end the occupation. The Para's took the glory and raised the red white and blue flag.

Parallels to the Falklands Scenario Today in Norway

In Norway now we have of course an oil economy which is over the precipice and no one knows where it will land and how hard that landing will be. Amazingly the economy grew more last year than the UK economy in percent terms of course. However the good times are over and austerity (aka someone rich caused the crisis, the poor have to pay for it) is on the cards.

Into this comes the biggest assylum-migrant crisis since world war II on Europes doorstep, and an international refugee policy which leaves the average EU/EØS citizen wondering what EU or national security actually means. Like Thatcher, we have a woman as the fuigurehead for the 'fight' against being drowned in assylum seekers and all the scare mongering that goes with that about terror and in particular, women's safety. After years of the "night ravens" being the only thing stopping wide spread sexual assualts and harrassment of girls out in Oslo, mainly perpetrated by ethnic Norwegians, the government finally cares about women's saftet. The new year attacks in Cologne fuel the flames, and the "Progress Party" (FrP) have a platform to now drive against the United Nations Charter on Refugees and the EU.

This is very much as big a deal as the Falklands war because Norwegians by in large are pretty xenophobic when it comes to people actually daring to settle in their country. Even as a white westerner, often mistaken for a "noggie" in the UK in years gone by, I find myself very discriminated against in the work place and the job market. There are a few "hissige" ( kind of means aggressive and poisonous at the same time) nationalists in every work place I think I have been in who don't like immigrants getting into the good stuff of decent wages and permanent jobs in favour of a Norwegian.

The Glow of Winning a Conflict in The Publics Eyes

Listhaug has at least eclipsed Siv Jensen, the parliamentary party leader and current finance minister (chancellor) and has attracted opinion poles in favour of her being the next prime minister. However she is stumbling around with international law, and of course Russia like any lever they can get over Norway so they are not quite playing ball. She is riding on a wave though of strong public opinion, and many otherwise liberal women who would never have voted for FrP ( and in doing so vote for the poorer working conditions their philosophy entails) have come over to back them with a massive upswing to the cost of the Labour Party here (Ap). Last years catastrophic failure in most of the key city elections is now washed away on the back of the wave with the self same 'Falklands Glow' effect.

What Really Happened in The Times of Thatcher ?

Thatcher won this 83 and 87 election and the liberalistaion of the City of London Stock Exchange meant that investors flocked to the Capital and the UK economy became bouyant also on the total relaxation of consumer credit. Boom and bust it went, but most people enjoyed higher earnings and less tax. They could carry on Union bashing, beating the Miners in 1984 and all but castrating the 1970s style union leadership. Unions became absent from many work places, and wages for lower end workers stopped keeping up with the real cost of living. Wealth grew at the same time as poverty.

The poor became the new scapegoat- the lazy folk on benefits. Unions were tarred with the brush from the winter of discontent well into the mid 1990s. Privatisation lead to above inflation rises in telephony (initially), fuel and electricity and the all important commuter rail network. Benefits are now really limnited to complete subsistance claimants, with ordinary hard working tax payers being forced to sell their capital assets if they become sick. Health is now back on the cards. The franchise between state and tax payer is broken by ideology driven by only 39% of the vote. The state now, as in the USA, collects a lot of tax to pay for the Wealth Creation in the City of London finance and commodities markets.

Nationalism - The Worn Old Weapon of the Right Wing

Nationalism is nearly always wrapped up together with politics which are punitive to manual workers and disabled people on welfare. This is because of course, national-socialism became something to react against, and socialists continued to sing the International with hands linked in the EU parliament. Post Hitler , the Left just doesn't have the taste for using and misusing nationalism and petty xenophobia, where the right can swing in and take a big new chunk of the voting masses during a crisis such as a war or mass migration.

Siv Jensen despite losing the limelight to Listhaug, could hardly hide her pleasure and gloated this week at the Oslo FrP meeting about how Norway could have the toughest assylum policy anywhere in Europe. The next very popular policy is for closed assylum centres, that is detention centres where applications are considered behind gates and fences. And what is wrong with that? It takes only a very small minority of organised criminals, terrorists or gang rapists to grab the headlines. People don't know who they are getting here. Our first traunch of well educated Syrian young men are supplemented by a shabby bunch of late teenagers who stare at us and some eye up women in an uncomfortable way.  So far no problem, and the police call outs in our neighbourhood have been to the two usual wife beating drunk Norwegians and rowdy teenagers.

Media Focus, No Brainer

There is a veritable media frenzy, with Sylvi Listhaug more common a face than the Prime Minsiter and Chancellor here put together. The media love controversy, and the left just dont have anything very controversial. They have intellectually sound counter arguements which just do not get journalists salivating, be they conservatives, liberal or neutral. The FrP can lead the media Circus for the time being.

The FrP politics are also leadinng the way which other politicians have to go anyway.  Close the border and move it out to the extremes of Europe, and follow the letter of the law on assylum applications being in the first land they reach. The Left here and not far away from this, but have a more subtle respect for international law and human rights. SO far they have not tried to for example, challenge the UN on prioritising families with small children from Syria as the British have, nor suggesting taking refugees with their cases approved in the camps of Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

There has to be a new politic in Europe not only on Border control, but on rapid repatriation and on in the first place which countries actually are safe or have safe zones where form assylum seekers are presumed economic migrants and refused if they do not meet special, political assylum criteria which are kept secret so people don't just MMS their succsesful grounds for application back. In particular we have the two 'problem lands' for exporting of 'anchor teenagers' - namely Afganistan and Somalia.
Both these countries have enough safe area to take internal refugees and the lack of access to assylum means their number will be decimated no doubt anyway, so that international aid can reach those most displaced and in need.

The Left Awaken to their Own Liberal Folly on Assylum Procedures and Weak EU Peripheral Borders

The Left here and across Europe woke up post Paris attacks and realised that the open policy was a road to the rise populist fascism, as dangerous as the late 1920s and early 30s in Germany and Spain. Closed assylum centres are actually necessary not to stem the tide of refugees, although they may stem some economic migration, but rather to appease the public and stem the tide of the new, far right amongst ordinary working people.  At the same time, the Left should grasp the issues of ageing populations in Northern Europe and legislate for higher wages and access to life long re-skilling such that workers from all over Europe can retain wealth rather than it just being exported to China and to the Elite super rich as is the net result of the many years of centre right 'social democrat' policy in the EU on privatisation, errosion of remaining labour laws and cut backs in education and public services.

We saw the glee Angela Merkel had when she realised that their economy could finally have a quick fix to German women not bothering to breed in their 20s any more. Incredibly the German population has decreased by 2 million since reunification statistics were first collected. Armies of cleaners and security gaurds on low wages, while on the other hand, avoiding the need to pay Germans out of work or with old skills to retrain. Just ship 'em in from Syria. Post Paris attacks and her tone changed completely. Are we importing terrorists ? Post Cologne it hardened more- are we importing rapists ?

What about the Refugees, Why is there A Crisis?

The fact is we are importing 99% ordinary working people from Syria, who have lost their means of livelihood, their possessions and most likely their houses or entire farms to IS Assad and now Putin. They come from a country where women are not slaves and few marriages are arranged. Women can educate themselves if they or their families can pay. Women take often though a traditional role as house wife after giving birth. Not unlike the US Republican Christian Conservative view of women's roles, those who are not political leaders.

It isn't just Listhaug and her exaggerated blue-eyed water separation from the Labour Party here who are riding the wave of anti immigration sentiment. Trump too. Adolf Trump? Well he also called out Mexicans so there goes a huge vote from the self made immigrant population who mirror what his Germanic family were up to a few generations ago when they moved to the USA.

Luck and The Economy Will Maybe Not Last in the Anti Immigrant Glow

Ride the immigration back lash the FrP will, and live in the glow too just as Thatcher could after the Falklands War. Like big bang in the City, there could be some other economic miracle to pull Norway back out of the malaise of rising unemployment and falling tax revenues. Oil prices could suddenly change. Natural catastrophes or wars arise.

 The move to a low-tax, low government service and low wage for the less skilled worker here will be far more painful though than the course of Thatcherism, because people here have it so very good now that they don't want to aspire to some form of  'if only taxes were lower' dream. Tax cuts in return for lower wage rises, and fewer permanent contracts may have 'worked' politically in the UK but also it has lead to a significant proportion of the UK workforce being on in-work benefits and tax-credits, which are all indirect subsidies to unscrupulous, profiteering employers mainly in retail, agriculture-food and consumer service industries which have become so dominant in the regions of the UK outside the South Eastern financial capital.

The Front Line Against Left Wing Democracy Is Norway

The FrP are a small party when Immigration is taken out of the picture in particular, and they have a skewed view of economics towards using the oil fund to compensate for the unhealty dependency on relative high barrell prices in the good years. At the same time they recieve funding from both the USA and Israel, to fight on the one hand the thorn in the side that a centre left (compared to the UK, quite socialist) country being successful, while on the other a liberal movement sympathetic to the plight of the palestian people and their exposure to ethnic cleansing and concentration zones like Gaza.

So there is a much bigger political picture than just oil money and who can give the worker most take home money and tax deductables. Norway is a never ending source of joyful comparison for Alec Salmond for example, and continues to top the world for qaulity of life, and standard of living- take your pic, Norway usually beats Canada or Switzerland, and Sweden has slumped back since its flirtation with Neo Liberalism. The high tax economy unfortunately for the Neo Liberalists, simply works better here in Norway for the majority of the people.

Media Myopia and Circus Acts

In the whole of this here in Norway it is really a big storm in the Media just as the Falkland Wars completely and utterly dominated all forms of print and broadcast media in 82-83. A Left which are concerned about international law and human rights, and are not that far off the conservative prime minister's opinions at least, just don't make for interesting sound bites, headlines, retweets and Likes/comments. Social media comments are more extreme because that small minority on right and left are far more vocal there than the masses, and in fact the polarisation just turns people off.

The main net effect of all the FrP being able to grab the headlines and have a spike in their populatity by being the ONLY voice the media will use time presenting. They continue to play their double communications- wanting to go further, but constrained by the last heavy legislation of the UN and the last labour Stoltenberg 8 years. Wanting to be strong on immigration, but wanting also to deliver their small business members a new service workforce of cheaper labour.

The Economy, Stoopid

At the end of the day "the economy, stupid" will tell before the next general election, which will suddenly seem like a long haul for the blue-eyed-blue government when this crisis is solved. The view on the economy here is very much more the here and now than the American Dream. It is what is our household inflation, how much do we need to cover the mortgage, can the wife go back to full time work, do I have permanent contract to get a new mortgage... and so on.

This is a light mental exercise for Norwegians in relation ot labour laws and that 'evil' of society here, fair wages on national tariffs. An unworkable policy in the USA and to erroded in its homeland Sweden, it ensures wealth retention and distribution here while management also have to concentrate on productivity and training rather than avoiding pay rises. Even many FrP and Høyre voters are in trade unions and are vocal when it comes to wage negotiations.

The Little Problem with Democratic Socialism Actaully Working...

 FrP want to move to basically a flawed and largely failed UK-USA neo liberal model of low tax, low wage, low benefits 'economy' with a two tiered society as the result. This is because their followers are the greedy prodgeny of past generations made fat on strong labour laws and a killer good set of policies and taxes to both generate massive wealth, but also retain and distribute that from the N. Sea throughout society here. Along with the Neo Lib cut-and-paste, the FrP have some odd socialist policies, such as massive motorway building and a better deal for the poorest pensioners....both of which are on the back burner mysteriously enough.

 The problem for the New Right here is that Norway was never in the large scale post industrial decline to which politicians could invent solutions for based on anti-employee ideology in the UK and USA. Niother has it had the need for large public borrowing  to fund social welfare programmes and infrastructural renewal. Public services are by in large very effective here, and the New Right have to scramble around to find the odd sloth or stupid set of regulations.

When it suits them here. Now they are liberalising, derugalising and decentralising welfare services (NAV) while they are doing the opposite in education. In trying to achieve better PISA figures they turn a blind eye, as do the UK conservatives, to the leaders in the world the Finns, who have a practical and human centred system for both teachers and pupils which both addresses basic standards and caters for the individuals needs at the point of delivery. Free teachers though to the New Right are little socialist preachers, who need tieing down in heavy beaurocracy aka league tables and continual published assessments. The FInns rather piss all over their ideology with a practical approach which focuses on the skills of the teacher adn their ability to balance class with marking and preparation in the working day.

The Longest Party Political Broadcast in History

Back to the Falklands War though. Thatcher received the biggest, longest party political broadcast in history and the country were on the right side of a war again, not in a grey area as in Ulster or later in the Gulf. In stark contrast to Vietnam which dragged on and had only losers, the Falklands was short, sweet and the british forces could show their professionalism in the face of a fascist conscript army.

She won the election taken in the full tactical glow of the victory later in 1983, with the biggest majority since the Labour Landslide of 1945 (which was 2 seats bigger at 146 incidentally). She was able to ride the wave of consumer credit and deregulation of the stock exchange (coupled to major new computer technology it must be added on a non ideological point) and the resulting blossoming of the service economy in the Southern part of the UK, while the Regions with their subsidised coal mines were tackled in the conflict of 1984-5 - the Miner's Strike, where once again she could appear as the moral victor in the medias new blue lime light. Manufacturing had a chance to introduce massive investment in productivity, what was left of it. I have in fact no freinds in the UK now who work in manufacturing, they all bar one work in service or light industries. Most people sell each other insurance, cafe lattes and BMW servicing in the uk now it seems. That's fine as long as its not Keynsian circles which are underpinning a cappacino service economy.

No Left Wing Enemy Within

There are no real common 'enemies within' here in Norway, even though there are many on Social Media who will vehemently accuse Labour of the utter irresponsibility which lead to such a high standard of living for the average man, high benefits but also negligible unemployment in the good years for oil.

 The unions are reasonable and cooperate with the NHO, the Noggie version of the CBI, on many issues including moderation in pay rises. Public health has waiting lists, but a strong level of service by in large free at delivery. Most of all people at the lower end of the labour market earn enough to buy a house and a car and have a good life, which is something even quite a few right wing freinds of mine mean is so much better than other countries. Privatisations of public services have been often unsuccsessful, as with the Norwegian version of Railtrack and elderly care in Oslo- Akershus.

The State as a Silent Share Holder: The Oil Fund

The state are a major share holder of course, and a pateient one, in the possibly unique norwegian model of the national pension fund , domestic and international in components, aka the Oil Fund, but it operates just as that, a hands off pension management fund which politicians cannot play command economy with. As long as Statoil are highly profitable to be in longterm, so it makes sense to invest in the home grown megafirm. The airport express train is private, but once again owned by the fund, somethign the ideological FrP want to shift....the most likely buyer so far being the Chinese state bank. The fund though can be raided to balance the state budget, and many in the country syupport the FrP because the original wording of the domestic fund was to invest also in infrastructure, something which never happened.

The international fund totally eclipsed the national fund by the 1980s and it is linked also to EU and other stock market regulations relating to such large state investments. Labour and the Conservatives here are both very glad to see the fund rising in value. However ironically enough, it was Labour who took the bull by the horns and followed the EU model to private pensions as a considerable portion of retirement plans for those under 50 now. Ourside Norway this is seen as a social democratic and conservative policy, here it is a reason to not vote labour and vote for the anti immigrant FrP.

Thatcherism Is a Mere Nibbler in Norway

The Neo Liberal  ideology is there of course, but it follows a well trodden path to lower wages, higher costs for consumers for the benefit of the upper third of society and the perceived 'we're strivers who deserve more' for part of the middle layer. Only that middle layer is really just voting anti immigrant in the poles right now. It will be at least 18 months maybe from the end, or resolution for the refugee crisis. It isn't going to be a party political broadcast for long, and Thatcher knew 4 years was enough (there are fixed periods in Norway and of course the UK now)  , the chips could be cashed in asap the dust settled from the War with the last SHips home and the last flag waved on the dock at Portsmouth.

The FrP can expect to bask in the sun for a time, until people start demanding action on what they actually promiesed- roads, and until people get bored and burn up their redundacny packages and 2 year spell of unemployment benefits. Neo Liberal policies are popular amongst only a minoirty of small business owners and higher waged earners. Immigration only stretches so far over the wound of poorer working conditions and lower pay ahead if their policies such as private monopolisation of rail routes goes ahead.

Also the media will hopefully tire of all this refugee frenzy, and get a sense for the dammage misrepresentative headline stories ( "pledges to fight for IS", "molests drunk Olso 17 year old" ....you know it is all coming) cause for society in its paranoia over what is very little more than some unusually sun tanned faces walking down the street, playing football and getting jobs in warehouses.

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