Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Winning Mt Roskill The Old-Fashioned Way.

Native Son: One of the reasons Wood was able to generate such spectacular support from Mt Roskill voters is because he is one of them. He and his young family have lived in the electorate for 13 years. During that time he has repeatedly proved himself acceptable to his neighbours by standing, successfully, in local government elections. In an electorate chock-filled with the adherents of many faiths, Wood is a self-acknowledged Christian.
 
IT WAS AN OLD-FASHIONED LABOUR VICTORY, won with old-fashioned Labour weapons, by an old-fashioned Labour candidate. Michael Wood deserves the heartiest congratulations for his stunning success in Mt Roskill. Capturing two-thirds of the votes cast is an impressive achievement no matter which way you slice it. Labour is, therefore, entitled to a few moments of self-congratulation at Wood’s success – but only a few. Because the party’s low membership, and its perilously stretched budget, will make it almost impossible to replicate Wood’s success across the country in 2017.
 
Wood threw everything bar the kitchen-sink into holding Mt Roskill for Labour. Beginning his campaign weeks before the by-election was officially announced, he made sure his name and face were everywhere Roskillians looked. They simply couldn’t escape him! Nor could they escape the vast army of volunteers Wood managed to enlist for the duration of his campaign. Canvassers and pamphlet-droppers from all over Auckland – and much farther afield – poured into the electorate in a very passable imitation of the Labour Party machine which had propelled the likes of Phil Goff into Parliament in the early-1980s.
 
And there’s the rub. Electioneering in the early-1980s took place under the rules of First-Past-The-Post (FPP). The very same rules that, in 2016, apply only to – you guessed it – by-elections. Under FPP, and in by-elections, the electors have only one vote to cast. So, there is no chance that, having identified the voters intending to vote for your party’s candidate, and driven them to the polling place, they decide to give their Electorate Vote to your candidate, and their Party Vote to an opposing party.
 
This is exactly what happened in Mt Roskill in 2014. Phil Goff won easily with 55 percent of the Electorate Vote, but National won the all-important Party Vote by more than 2,000 votes. The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system which has operated in New Zealand since 1996, by allowing electors to “split” their two votes between two different parties, has rendered the highly effective “machine” politics of FPP frustratingly unreliable.
 
Except at by-elections. Knowing this, Wood was able to assemble and operate an old-fashioned “election-day system” to “get out the vote” in Mt Roskill.
 
An election-day system is a complex process for identifying how many of your party’s supporters have already voted; how many need a hurry-up; and how many require a lift to the nearest polling-place. How do the political parties know who their supporters are? By knocking on thousands of doors and asking. How do they know if they have, or haven’t, voted? By stationing scrutineers in every polling place.
 
It’s a fearsomely labour-intensive process, requiring upwards of 200-300 volunteers to operate effectively. But, when the canvassing work has been done; the database is up-to-date; and the scrutineers, communicators, checker-offers, telephone operators and drivers have all been trained and deployed; then a candidate can be confident that the overwhelming majority of his or her identified voters will end up casting their ballots. The veteran party leader, Jim Anderton, was so good at running his own election-day system that he could predict, with frightening accuracy, how many votes he would get.
 
This was how Wood “got out” Labour’s vote on 3 December. And, if Labour had a sufficiently large membership, it could look forward to doing the same across the whole country. The problem, of course, is that Labour does not have anything like enough members to get out its optimal vote in 2017.
 
Nor, frankly, does it have anything like enough candidates like Michael Wood. One of the reasons Wood was able to generate such spectacular support from Mt Roskill voters is because he is one of them. He and his young family have lived in the electorate for 13 years. During that time he has repeatedly proved himself acceptable to his neighbours by standing, successfully, in local government elections. In an electorate chock-filled with the adherents of many faiths, Wood is a self-acknowledged Christian.
 
Forty years ago, practically all Labour candidates fitted the above description. In 2016, however, Wood is something of a political throwback: an old-fashioned Labour man more suited to when Labour could boast 85,000 branch members and there was no such thing as the Party Vote.
 
If Andrew Little wishes to replicate Wood’s success, then he will have to make good all of Labour’s current deficiencies. He needs to increase the party’s membership tenfold and replenish its war-chest. He needs to identify, as Wood identified, the most serious problems confronting his supporters and to offer them practical and believable solutions. Finally, he needs to ensure that Labour fields candidates firmly rooted in their communities, whose life experiences and personal values complement those of their voter base.
 
An old-fashioned formula for securing the electoral support of New Zealanders? Perhaps. But as Michael Wood has proved – it works.
 
This essay was originally posted on the Stuff website on Tuesday, 6 December 2016.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

What A Way To Go! Some Initial Thoughts On John Key’s Resignation.

So Long - And Thanks For All The Votes: To leave office undefeated and unpushed; with New Zealand’s economy the envy of the OECD, and with his party hovering implausibly close to 50 percent in the polls; no one has done it before – and it will be a bloody long time before anybody does it again.
 
RELINQUISHING POWER holds almost as many dangers for a political leader as the risky business of acquiring it. If John Key had chosen December 2015 to announce his intention of retiring from politics in December 2016, then the past twelve months would have been a messy combination of House of Cards and Game of Thrones.
 
Factions would have consolidated around the National politicians most likely to succeed, and investors would have put their plans on hold until the shape of the new regime became clear. Politically and economically, giving New Zealand advance warning of his intention to step down would have been a very foolish thing for John Key to have done. And whatever else he may be, John Key is no fool.
 
By surprising everyone with his resignation (and everyone was surprised) and then nominating Bill English as his preferred successor (with Steven Joyce as Finance Minister) Key has ruthlessly restricted the room for manoeuvre of all the other claimants to National’s crown. English’s and Joyce’s principal rivals, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett, are now at risk of being branded “rebel pretenders” to Key’s vacant throne.
 
If either, or both, of these women force the issue to a Caucus vote they will likely be painted as selfish and disruptive by English and Joyce (and Key?) . In the face of the shock and dismay which the Prime Minister’s resignation has occasioned both inside and outside of the National Party, the succession team will argue strongly that the interests of the country are best served by a calm and smooth transition of power. They will insist that the last thing National needs; the last thing New Zealand needs; is for these two ambitious women to plunge the governing party into a bitter struggle for power.
 
Whether or not the combined influence of Key, English and Joyce proves sufficient to squash the ambitions of Collins and Bennett depends on how many members of the National Caucus are willing to persist with Key’s Labour-Lite policy settings. While he could point to three election victories on the trot and consistently favourable poll results, Key’s ideological apostasy, while not forgiven, could, at the very least, be overlooked. With Key gone, however, those wishing to restore National’s right-wing default settings may conclude that the tree of free-market capitalism needs to be watered with the blood of the party’s remaining pragmatists.
 
For Andrew Little and Labour, a win for the National Right would be the best possible outcome of Key’s departure. As Matthew Hooton commented, only this morning, the Labour Party in 2017 will not be running – as Michael Wood was running – against Pamjeet Parmar, but against John Key: a very different proposition altogether. Well, not any more. Labour may have had no answer to the political shape-shifter who dominated New Zealand politics so effortlessly for the best part of a decade, but finding the correct answer to the right-wing sneers of Collins and Bennet - that will not be a problem.
 
Which is why Key left vacant the position of Deputy Prime Minister. His clear message to Collins and Bennett: if you want to fight over something – fight over the deputy’s slot. That way, if English fails to win National a fourth term, a successor will be ready and waiting. Neat.
 
But then, everything about John Key’s fourteen-year run in New Zealand politics has been neat and tidy. Almost as if, at some point early in his career, he had negotiated a deal with Mephistopheles & Partners Ltd.
 
Perhaps that’s it? Perhaps the principal shareholder in Mephistopheles & Partners Ltd has decided to call in his debt? Perhaps John Key’s unprecedented mode of departure was the severance package?
 
To leave office undefeated and unpushed; with New Zealand’s economy the envy of the OECD, and with his party hovering implausibly close to 50 percent in the polls; no one has done it before – and it will be a bloody long time before anybody does it again.
 
What a way to go!
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Monday, 5 December 2016.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Prime Minister John Key Resigns.


Why?
 
This posting is exclusive to Bowalley Road.

“Die Boomers, Die!” – A Dispatch From The Future.

"Steady, Charlie, old boy! Breathe!"
 
“The Boomers will be hunted in the streets by marauding Millennials raised on a diet of electronic screens and empathy reducing paracetamol. Buy shares in a razor wire factory would be today’s top tip.”
 
  Excerpt from a comment posted on The Daily Blog
 
 
THE AGED DEFENDERS HEARD THE MOB before they saw it. The rhythmic chanting of “Die Boomers, Die!” and “Fee, Fi, Foe, Fum – we smell the blood of Boomer scum!” Moments later they were shielding their eyes from the sun-bright twinkle of a thousand smart-phone flashes. The Millennials were advancing up the road, taking selfies as they came.
 
“Any sign of the Police?” Charlie Watson spoke into his own cell-phone, as the mob of Millennials flowed up-to-and-around the razor-wire-topped, four-metre-high walls of the retirement village.
 
“Not yet, Charlie. Their dispatcher says that ours isn’t the only village under attack tonight. Word is that the Restful Gardens complex is also under attack.”
 
“Really? I didn’t think these kids were that stupid. Don’t they realise that its full of the parents of Chinese Gen-Xers? The Consulate won’t wait for the Police. The latest revision of the Chinese-New Zealand FTA allows the People’s Republic to use deadly force against anyone threatening the lives or property of Chinese nationals.”
 
“Yes, people are already tweeting that the Consulate’s helicopter gunships are strafing the crowds. Scores of casualties, apparently.”
 
Charlie sighed. “When will they ever learn?”
 
Suddenly, the air was filled with the sound of a screaming car engine. The Millennial sea parted as the electronically-guided vehicle made for the village’s steel gates at top speed.
 
“Driverless rammer!” Charlie yelled into his cell-phone. “Take it out, Bill! Take it out!”
 
Bill Ramsden squeezed the trigger of his 50-calibre machine-gun and watched as the explosive rounds tore the car to a thousand pieces. A great wail went up from the Millennials as the petrol tank exploded in a searing fireball.
 
As if in sympathy, scores of Molotov Cocktails arced through the air. In seconds the village’s prize-winning rose-gardens were ablaze.
 
“Bastards!” Charlie shouted, as his precious blooms burned.
 
Blood-pressure rising dangerously, the old Baby Boomer jammed the butt of his sniper-rifle into his shoulder. His rheumy eye, pressed to the scope, followed the bouncing laser dot as it traversed the bodies seething beneath him.
 
Confronted with their magnified faces, a pang of guilt tightened his throat. They were all so young: burdened down with debts they could never hope to discharge; eking out a precarious living as gig-geeks; cooped-up in the high-rise slums of the Unitary Plan’s sixteenth iteration. These kids could barely afford to eat – let alone equip themselves with the sort of high-powered weaponry authorised by the Boomer-dominated government after the first Millennial hunting-packs had left dozens of elderly bodies strewn along suburban streets.
 
Remembering the fear and outrage that had swept the country after the first attacks, Charlie hardened his heart and brought the laser-dot to rest on the “Non-Voting and Proud!” T-shirt of a bearded hipster working furiously to haul away a dislodged coil of razor-wire. Gripped firmly between his teeth was the Millennial killers’ weapon-of-choice – a wicked-looking hunting knife.
 
“Steady, Charlie, old boy!”, he muttered to himself. “Breathe!” The laser-dot moved steadily upwards and came to rest in the middle of the hipster’s forehead. Charlie’s finger tightened on the trigger.
 
It was only in the split second between the explosive crack of the rifle and the young man’s skull exploding, that Charlie recognised the face of his grand-son.
 
This short story was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Sunday, 4 December 2016.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Banana Split: David Seymour’s Latest Declaration of Intergenerational War.

Millennials Of The World Unite! Act Leader, David Seymour, has issued yet another call for the Millennials to take up arms against the rapacity of the Baby Boomer Generation. As if all the young people of today will not themselves grow old and be succeeded by a new generation of New Zealanders. As if the whole experience of human existence is not a constant process of paying forward and paying back.
 
THAT DAVID SEYMOUR’S latest effusion of political bile is being hosted by The Spinoff is entirely fitting. The ACT leader and his hipster enablers cannot wait to get into the political engine-room, and their chosen path to the centre of power is via fomenting an intergenerational war. The headline attached to Seymour’s piece says it all: “NZ Baby Boomers are Building a Banana Republic, and No One Gives a Shit.”
 
Except that “banana republics” are characterised by obscene extremes of wealth and poverty, authoritarian modes of governance, ruinous levels of corruption, and the irretrievable loss of national sovereignty. In other words, states that have dispensed altogether with democratic politics. That this continues to be Act’s and Seymour’s endgame should surprise no one. But for those who still regard The Spinoff as a platform for serious journalism, its tacit support for Seymour’s plans to incite young citizens to use their votes as weapons against the old may come as a bit of a shock.
 
Seymour’s latest excuse for fanning the flames of Millennial discontent is the Treasury’s most recent Long-Term Fiscal Outlook (LTFO). And, when the Treasury boffins say “long-term” they’re not kidding. Their latest LTFO purports to describe the fiscal position of the New Zealand government in 2056!
 
To put their heroic prognostications into some sort of perspective, ask yourself how much luck someone living in 1916 would have had describing the world of 1956. As Peter Drucker quipped: “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” Which is why the only way to produce a half-way credible LTFO is to proceed on the assumption that current government policy settings remain unchanged for 40 years. If you’re thinking that this reduces the LTFO to a simple exercise in linear extrapolation, then take a bow. That’s pretty much all it is.
 
So, what are the fiscal implications of the current policy settings remaining unchanged for 40 years? Well, not surprisingly, they’re pretty dire. As Seymour, rather breathlessly, puts it:
 
“If no policy changes are made, by 2060, when current students reach retirement age, government debt will be 206 per cent of GDP. In other words national debt will equal two years’ income, worse than the current debt of countries world famous for being fiscally screwed such as Zimbabwe (203 per cent) Greece (179 per cent), Italy (133 per cent) and Portugal (121 per cent). No matter how well you prepare for retirement, you’ll be living in a banana republic.”
 
Unless, of course, we, the voters of New Zealand, taking serious and principled thought for our nation’s future, decide to change the current policy settings.
 
The most obvious way pay for the dramatic increase in human longevity would be to restore a much larger degree of progressivity to New Zealand’s taxation system. Additional measures to improve our future fiscal position might include re-starting government contributions to the Superannuation Fund and making Kiwisaver compulsory. Getting rid of the commercial imperatives currently driving New Zealand’s universities and research institutes into the ground would also help. Neoliberalism is deadening our national imagination.
 
That’s why a thorough-going “deliberalisation” of the whole of New Zealand society would be so helpful. Modelled on the “denazification” of post-war Germany, such an exercise would unleash precisely the sort of pent-up social energy and creativity that the LTFO itself identifies as a the best way of avoiding the long-term fiscal difficulties it is projecting.
 
Not that David Seymour wants a bar of anything even remotely resembling these solutions. He dismisses the option of raising taxes with characteristic venom by presenting it as yet another dastardly imposition by the Baby Boom Generation:
 
“The first way of absorbing [the projected demographic changes] is to raise taxes by about a quarter, so GST becomes nearly 20 per cent and the top tax rate goes over 40 per cent, along with every other rate being increased by the same proportion. People embarking on their careers now would pay a 25 per cent extra “boomer tax” for being born at the wrong time.”
 
As if all the young people of today will not themselves grow old and be succeeded by a new generation of New Zealanders. As if the whole experience of human existence is not a constant process of paying forward and paying back.
 
Utterly dependent when we are born; utterly dependent as we drift inexorably toward death. Isn’t this the universal fate of humanity? As applicable to the richest people in the world as it is to the poorest – and just as inescapable? The true measure of our equality.
 
And isn’t this the dreadful reality that all the pathologically ambitious are running from: that not all the power in the world, nor all the money, can save them from the grave? And isn’t it the true measure of wisdom that, in the end, we come to recognise that we are defined by what makes our fellow human beings’ similar to ourselves – not by what makes them different?
 
As President John F. Kennedy told the students of Washington’s American University in his celebrated commencement address of June 1963 – delivered just six months before his assassination in Dallas:
 
“For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 29 November 2016.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Looking Forward To … Extinction?

Crossing The Line: It’s one thing to be told that anthropogenic global warming is a real and steadily worsening problem that the world needs to address with the utmost urgency. But, it’s quite another to be informed, with Zen-like calm, that the planet is trapped, inextricably, in a deadly process of runaway climate change that can no longer be reversed.
 
TEN YEARS – TOPS. That’s all the time the human species (along with every other complex organism on Planet Earth) has left. At least, that’s all the time Emeritus Professor Guy McPherson, climate-change doomsayer extraordinaire, reckons we have left. Ten years – or less.
 
It was enough to leave the usually unshockable Paul Henry spluttering helplessly in front of the television cameras. Henry, and everyone else who witnessed the breakfast show host’s disturbing interview with the genial Arizonan academic.
 
Because it’s one thing to be told that anthropogenic global warming is a real and steadily worsening problem that the world must address with the utmost urgency – lest by the end of this century, or the next, things start getting uncomfortably warm. But, it’s quite another to be informed, with Zen-like calm, that the planet is trapped, inextricably, in a deadly process of runaway climate change. A process whose every contributing factor is now worsening exponentially, and which long ago passed the point where human intervention might have averted the next great extinction level event in the planet’s history.
 
The most catastrophic extinction event, to date, called by some “The Great Dying”, occurred approximately 250 million years ago. The event featured volcanic activity on a truly massive scale (we’re talking lava flows kilometres thick) to be followed (or, perhaps, precipitated) by an equally destructive asteroid strike. (The asteroid is estimated to have measured nine kilometres across!)
 
Obliterating clouds of smoke rose to the heavens and fire fell from the sky. Carbon-dioxide levels skyrocketed and the atmosphere throbbed with heat. Oxygen levels plummeted and upwards of 90 percent of creatures living in the sea, and 70 percent of those living on the land, perished. So complete was the devastation that for a period of 10 million years there was insufficient plant matter to be compressed into coal. Geologists call it the “coal gap”.
 
How can the accumulated CO2 emissions of a mere two centuries of human industrial civilisation possibly equal the combined impact of the Siberian Traps and an killer asteroid? Surely Professor McPherson is guilty of the most grotesque and irresponsible alarmism?
 
That is certainly the judgement of his peers. According to the Science Editor of the Climate Feedback website, US geo-scientist, Scot K. Johnson:
 
“In many ways, McPherson is a photo-negative of the self-proclaimed ‘climate sceptics’ who reject the conclusions of climate science. He may be advocating the opposite conclusion, but he argues his case in the same way. The sceptics often quote snippets of science that, on full examination, don’t actually support their claims, and this is McPherson’s modus operandi. The sceptics dismiss science they don’t like by saying that climate researchers lie to keep the grant money coming; McPherson dismisses inconvenient science by claiming that scientists are downplaying risks because they’re too cowardly to speak the truth and flout our corporate overlords.”
 
Johnson’s words would be extremely reassuring if only McPherson’s visit to New Zealand hadn’t coincided with the release of the Arctic Resilience Report (written by scientists from the Arctic Council, a body made up of the eight countries whose national territory falls within the Arctic Circle). The Report warns that the Arctic is “undergoing rapid, sometimes turbulent change beyond anything previously experienced”.
 
The Council’s findings are echoed by the director of the United States National Snow and Ice Data Centre, Mark Serreze. He told Scientific American that, even in Winter, the Arctic ice-sheet is continuing to shrink. It’s a polar phenomenon without known precedent: “I’ve never seen anything like it this last year-and-a-half”.
 
That would be the same year-and-a-half during which, month after month, global temperatures have exceeded all previous records.
 
The beatific Professor McPherson takes all of this gloom and doom in his stride. He has made his peace with the planet, which, he’s convinced, is about to undergo its sixth extinction level event. He counsels us to hold fast to those we love, and to devote ourselves to living, if not long, then well. Not so much Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as Zen and the Extinction of Everything More Complex than a Microbe.
 
Some, of course, will not choose to “go gentle into that good night”. Others, like President-Elect Trump, will continue to deny the reality of global warming. Me? I’m putting my faith in humankind’s near-perfect record of predicting the wrong future.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 2 December 2016.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Trouble At Mill.

Rising Like Lions: Between the early-Nineteenth and late-Twentieth Century, wielding their two “unvanquishable” weapons: trade unionism and the franchise; working people lifted their incomes; improved their housing; obtained an education for their children; and secured ready access to medical advice and care. In the space of little more than a century, working people had secured for themselves both a standard of living and a degree of political power unparalleled in human history. How were these lions turned into lambs?
 
A FEW NIGHTS AGO, I watched “The Real Mill” on Sky’s History Channel. Fronted by the ubiquitous Tony Robinson, the series investigates the historical background to “The Mill” – a docudrama set in early-Nineteenth Century Cheshire. What struck me most forcefully in the programme was the way in which the factory workers of the period fought back against the oppressive conditions of their working lives.
 
Bear in mind that these were men, women and (in alarming numbers) children, who had just spent at least 12 hours operating the relentless (and often lethal) machinery of the new “manufactories” – as their workplaces were called. And yet, overcoming their fatigue, they found time to read and write pamphlets; gather together to hear speeches; and march in their tens-of-thousands to great outdoor rallies.
 
None of them could vote. Even after the passage of the momentous Representation of the People Act, in 1832, only one in five of the adult male population were free to participate in parliamentary elections. The remaining four-fifths of adult males – and all adult women – continued to be excluded from the franchise.
 
It would require another century of struggle by the working men and women of Great Britain before universal franchise was finally achieved. (Roughly one third of the British soldiers who fought and died in the trenches of World War I were not entitled to vote for the Members of Parliament who sent them there.)
 
Also worth bearing in mind is the fact that, prior to 1824, it was illegal to form and/or belong to a trade union. Even after the repeal of these “Combination Acts”, trade unionism remained a risky business – as the 1834 “transportation” to Australia of the so-called “Tolpuddle Martyrs” attests. It was not until the passage of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 that the crucial right to mount a trade union picket was legally recognised.
 
So, what’s wrong with the working people of the early-Twenty-First Century? Like the mill-workers of two centuries ago, many of them are working long hours for scandalously low wages. Many of their employers utilise exactly the same employment strategies (sub-contracting, piece-work) that the mill-owners of the industrial revolution devised to depress the price of labour.
 
In sharp contrast to Nineteenth Century workers, however, the working people of today possess both the right to vote and the right to form trade unions, go on strike and picket their workplaces. The two decisive achievements of the working class’s long struggle for freedom and prosperity are both intact and available. How is it that these two mighty swords have rusted in their scabbards?
 
It was the romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelly, writing in the same period as “The Mill”, who in his incendiary poem, “The Masque of Anarchy”, incited the oppressed peoples of the British Isles to:
 
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
 
It was sentiments such as these which inspired the aristocrats and mill-owners of Britain (and many other countries) to resist extending the franchise to their tenants and workers for as long as they possibly could. If nothing else, the masters could count. Give an overwhelming majority of the population the right to vote, and very soon the laws of the land will reflect the needs and aspirations of an overwhelming majority of the population!
 
And so it proved – right up until the final quarter of the Twentieth Century. Wielding their two “unvanquishable” weapons: trade unionism and the franchise; working people lifted their incomes; improved their housing; obtained an education for their children; and secured ready access to medical advice and care. In the space of little more than a century, working people had secured for themselves both a standard of living and a degree of political power unparalleled in human history.
 
And then, quite suddenly, workers found themselves going backwards. In the late-1970s, the masters, fearing the “lions” were about to devour them entirely, launched a fierce counter-attack. Their behaviour, at least, was understandable. Less so, was the lions’ willingness to be restrained. The masters’ relentless propaganda: in which lions were portrayed as dangerous and selfish creatures which, for the public’s safety, simply had to be caged; proved to be astonishingly persuasive – not least to the lions themselves.
 
The legal restraints of Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson and Bill Birch did not fall upon the working-class lions of the democratic West like dew while they slept. With a handful of honourable exceptions, like the British miners, the trade unions entered their masters’ cages voluntarily. An electorally decisive fraction of the working-class continues to vote for their chains.
 
Those Nineteenth Century mill-workers, marching beneath banners demanding trade union rights and the vote, would be appalled.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 29 November 2016.