The Greasy Pole Column from the December 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
What Is This Thing Called Love? was Cole Porter’s epic contribution to musical morale in the slump of the 1930s. A more recent example of the misuse of the word was when Prime Minister David Cameron assured us that ‘I love the NHS’, provoking a rage of response from the doctors, nurses, technicians, carers about how and why this thing Cameron calls ‘love’ could actually mean government policies so designedly restrictive and damaging to their work and to the patients who rely on their skills and application. And then, from the opposite Benches, there was another politician who, looking to impress us, declared that that ‘Labour is the party I love’. This was Liz Kendall, as she announced that she was a candidate in the Labour Party’s recent leadership election. Mysteriously, she was at first presented as the favourite until reality in the form of the membership vote put her at the bottom, in fourth place. Which was when it was revealed that her ‘love’ for Labour was not so strong as to persuade her to accept that result as the democratic will of the party and to support Jeremy Corbyn as the party leader.
Kendall came of a political family; her father was a Labour councillor before joining the Lib Dems and then re-joining Labour. As a child she enjoyed an outing with the two parents on their local canvassing so that, if the time ran out, she might throw a childish tantrum when there were no more doors for her to knock on. After grammar (non-selective) school she went to Cambridge and, in shock after the result of the 1992 general election under the calamitous leadership of Neil Kinnock she decided to ‘join the party and help fight to make sure it never happens again’. Whatever she meant by ‘it’ did eventually happen again, with Tony Blair and his government’s predictable failure to maintain their support in the miserable swamp of capitalism. After achieving a double first and being captain of the university women’s football team Kendall held a succession of spin-doctor jobs including a period as Special Adviser to Harriet Harman, who in the chaos of Labour in 1998 was sacked from the government. Kendall was rejected as the Labour candidate in Tony Benn’s old seat at Chesterfield and worked for Patricia Hewitt who judged her to have ‘a core of steel’ which was just as well as in 2010 Hewitt herself was suspended after allegations of corruption over political lobbying for cash, which did not prevent her subsequent appointment to such rewarding posts as Special Consultant to the massive pharmacological combine Alliance Boots and to a private equity company with links to BUPA hospitals. This was not, from Kendall’s point of view, all disaster because it led to her being chosen as Hewitt’s successor as the Labour candidate for the rock-solid seat of Leicester West, which she won in 2010 with a majority of 4017 despite a decline of 7.6 percent in the Labour vote.
In her maiden speech in the Commons Kendall made a point of the stark problems in Leicester West particularly of the children there; more than a third of them growing up in what she called workless families, with life prospects wrecked by their poverty. In some parts of the city they are more likely to die before they are five, to do badly at school and then struggle to survive on low paid employment. Perhaps there were some Members there that day who assumed that she would be among the more restless and challenging wing of her party. But it did not happen like that; her core of steel operated in support of the measures calculated to intensify the poverty in her constituency. She supported the £23.00 benefits cap and the proposals to enforce a contributory system of benefits on the grounds that the present one had allowed too many people to exist without any pressure, such as lack of food and housing, to get paid employment. For the NHS she is in favour of what she called ‘patient choice’ which is actually a proposal to encourage more private investment with its prospects of massive profits for some dominant companies -- such as Alliance Boots and BUPA -which have what she describes as ‘a role for the private and voluntary sectors where they can add extra capacity to the NHS or challenges to the system’. Pertinent comments on Kendall’s attitude on this were from the Health and Social Care Information Centre that the number of admissions to hospitals from malnutrition rose during the past year, from 5469 to 6520; and there was the estimate from the European Nutrition for Health Alliance, that as many as 40 percent of hospital patients in the UK are malnourished on admission, causing many to be undiagnosed through inadequate screening. In fact the Tameside hospital in Greater Manchester now encourage the staff of their A and E department discreetly to offer food boxes to any patients who on discharge are malnourished. There are similar arrangements at hospitals in Birmingham and Newcastle.
A continuing review of Kendall’s record finds that she supports limiting immigration through a points-based system, and the abolition of the right for immigrants to claim tax credits and benefits. She stands for the continuation of the universally destructive nuclear Trident submarine programme (which she obediently calls a ‘deterrent’) with expenditure on it exempt from cuts such as those imposed on essential services. Among her many fundamental euphemisms is one which applies to the entire system of class ownership and production for profit when she announces that she is ‘firmly on the side of wealth creation’, ignoring the harsh reality that it is that very system which all too often reduces wealth production when it is not profitable enough. Some time ago Kendall was angry when she found that another Member had stolen a tuna sandwich which she had left in a fridge at Portcullis House, used by the MPs as their offices. She attached an angry note to the fridge door: ‘I do not appreciate this and warn other people…’ to which the reply, in another note, was: ‘I took it… and I’d do it again’ . In spite of all she had been through, Kendall seems to be unaware that stealing will come most readily where many are occupied with managing the entire system of theft.