Probation fiasco; Lib Dems, and how to rescue the Greens

I hate the Lib Dems, but Greens and Lib Dems may need to become allies.

I hate them because they could have prevented the privatization of the Probation Service, which it has just been announced needs major restructuring. But they were not the principal villains. All the Lib Dems did, as coalition Partners 2010 – 2015, was nothing – failing to stop the headlong privatization for profit of whole swathes which should never have left the public sphere, but which did so in pursuance of a neoliberal ideology. The Lib Dems horse-traded the future of the Probation service for something they regarded as more useful to them..

When I was a serving Probation Officer, the service was seen as an example, a template to be followed world-wide. But starting with Jack Straw as Home Secretary in 1997, we have had a succession of hostile ministers, bottoming with Chris Grayling delivering the Coup de Grâce. You may remember that another of his measures which had to be corrected more swiftly than this one was penalizing defendants for pleading not guilty.

The link above covers details, but the Conservatives still have the same ‘Marketization’ agenda, as National Association of Probation Officers General Secretary Ian Lawrence’s statement makes clear – just not as many private contractors, and not the same ones.

Both the Greens and Lib Dems have said all along that the First Past the Post electoral system must make way for some form of proportional representation.. But that is what we have for the next election. The stark choice at present is the untrustworthy and incompetent Theresa May, and the naïve Jeremy Corbyn, with neither leadership skills nor experience in office. Of course, the Conservative choice may be even worse – Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But whoever it is, will win. We shall hear a great deal about antisemitism, and  Venezuela. The facts on the latter are indeed frightening, and enough mud will stick to Corbyn to make the result all too predictable: more of the same policies.

Unless there is a hung Parliament.

The ’Progressive Alliance’ had a serious weakness: it flew in the face of Labour strategy, which was (is) to vitiate the Green Party wherever it showed signs of doing well. That strategy makes sense as long as the Greens continue to insist that we are better than Labour on their home territory.

However, when Mrs. May sprang the 2017 election on us, I tried to urge a ‘Progressive Alliance Mark II. Although we expected nothing directly in return, we would facilitate Labour and the Lib Dems with a view to hijacking the focus to that of achieving a hung parliament. I envisaged that such a move ought to provoke some horse-trading between other parties. Given the actual result, I claim it might have worked. As of now, it is our only hope.

There may be yet another untimely election this time not necessarily at Mrs. May’s choice. The only difference that would make is that it would be on unchanged boundaries. There are constituencies where we could ask the Lib Dems for a clear run.

The Basic (Citizens’) Income (UBI) can, and this will surprise some, be the basis of a move away from the traditional polarization. The Green Party needs to think in terms of the areas which gave us our real high water mark (2.3million votes) in the 1989 Euro Election The UBI is drastically redistributive, but not so drastic as was accepted without question after the second world war. We approach the better off in sorrow instead of in anger, and in return for this guarantee of security to the less well off, we can offer ideas which will make sense in more prosperous areas, for example that it is entrepreneur start-up friendly, and gives everybody the security to think in terms of living lightly on the Earth.

[For more details of the original dismantling of the Probation Service, see my blog of 15th december 2013 ‘Probation Service in Peril’]

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