When the average voter looks at Tesco, they do not see a sinister corporate megalith, raping and pillaging their way of life. Rather they see that keeping their family fed and clothed is now that much cheaper and easier. Moreover, they don’t believe this because they’ve been brainwashed into false consciousness by consumerist propaganda. They believe it because it’s true, which brings me back to the washing machine.
This single invention liberated countless millions from needless drudgery. Now take a look around you. When I do, I can see an electric light, a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a laptop computer, a blow-heater and a mobile phone. In all likelihood, you are also surrounded by a similar array of man-made objects. Each one represents the endpoint of a long process of winnowing, pruning and perfecting, driven entirely by the market. Even where government investment can get an idea off the ground, it still takes the forces of supply and demand to drive prices down and put once-miraculous developments within anyone’s grasp. Taken cumulatively, the fruits of capitalism have produced an improvement in quality of life that was once unimaginable.
This essential truth does not oblige those of us on the left to become uncritical free market fundamentalists. On the contrary: for all its genius, capitalism will continue by its very nature to have victims and losers, and they aren’t going to get any sympathy from the right (as the current government makes abundantly clear). Labour can and should be proud of the welfare state it did so much to bring into being. But we are obliged to recognise the facts. Namely that, for most voters, especially Labour’s core vote, the market is not a cold tyrant or a cruel exploiter. It is a liberator, perhaps the greatest in history.
Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper—she’s the Labour Party’s Shadow Home Secretary, remember?—has managed to get a sympathetic front-page spread today from the Guardian for a laundry bag of identity politics and lies.
Women over 50 are bearing the brunt of the government’s economic policies while often trying to cope with the increasing burden of caring for relatives, according to research carried out by the Labour party.
Since the coalition came to power in May 2010, unemployment among women aged 50-64 has seen a huge 31% increase to 142,000, compared with an overall increase in all unemployed people over 16 of 4.2% to 2.6m, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
In an interview with the Guardian on women’s issues before Saturday’s party conference, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the generation of women who fought for equal pay, improvements in childcare and maternity leave were being caught in a bind between caring for elderly parents and grandchildren at the same time as suffering from outdated workplace practices. “A toxic combination of sexism and ageism is causing problems for this generation,” she said.
Women as a whole have lost more jobs than men since 2010 (an estimated 11% increase) but women over 50 in particular have been hit hardest by the big cuts in local authority budgets.
The claims in that piece don’t stand up even to a casual fisking by (Economist journalist) Daniel Knowles:
The unemployment rate for middle-aged women is about 4%. For young men, about 20%.
Since 2010, unemployment for women aged 50-64 has increased from 3.5 to 3.9%. That’s not 31%.
I calculate it as a 17% increase in total, or an 11% increase in the rate. Guardian stats are wrong.
As a Labourite Sean Lynch points out on Twitter:
She’d have been better highlighting the 34.7% increase in over 50s women unemployed for over a year than making figures up.
This is the mystery. When the facts are on your side—or on the side of your own special interest group—and there’s no need to cook the books, why exaggerate?
Oh, here are some other statistics:
Estimated 2010 UK General Election Turnout by women aged over 55: 73%
Estimated 2010 UK General Election Turnout by men aged under 25: 50%