Tag Archives: Tory

Duncan Smith Wants To Change The Legal Definition Of Child Poverty So He Can Eradicate It In Time For The Election.

Steve Bell cartoon 16.07.2013  poverty_2061048a

Thanks to the Child Poverty Act 2010 – legislation brought in by the last Labour government – the Coalition is legally committed to working towards meeting targets for eradicating child poverty in Britain by 2020. Given their current performance this has now become a tragic joke. Nonetheless, it is a statutory duty and we should do all we can to hold them accountable for it.

The Act sets the ‘poverty line’ at an income that is 60% or less than the average net household income, adjusted for inflation. The Act also defines persistent poverty to be having an income that is 60% or less than the average for three consecutive years after 5th April 2010. The target is for there to be 5% or less of children living in families with such an income by 2020.

According to the latest available figures for 2010/11, when housing costs are included there were 13 million families in Britain living beneath the poverty line. This was before the full impact of welfare reform began to bite. That figure is now likely to have shot up sharply as an inevitable result of benefit cuts , rising rents and food prices.

 images      However, the Child Poverty Act contains clauses that allow the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions the freedom to alter the targets for poverty reduction by redefining the legal meaning of persistent poverty. He can do this provided he does so before 2015 and, more importantly, provided he has the consent of the Children’s Commissioner.

In effect, before the next election, Iain Duncan Smith has the power to redefine the ‘poverty line’ in Britain so long as he can persuade or browbeat the Children’s Commissioner into agreeing with him.

Back in June of last year Mr Duncan Smith provoked a row by suggesting he was going to do just that although he was vague about the detail and made no mention of his statutory duty to secure the consent of the Children’s Commissioner. The Independent reported that:-

“Mr Duncan Smith announced plans to scrap the way poverty has been defined since the 1970s – below 60 per cent of the median income. He argued that it would be better to tackle poverty “at source” and to take account of other factors such as drug addiction, worklessness, welfare dependency, debt and family breakdown.”

ids     Then in November 2012 IDS announced he was launching a consultation exercise to look into how poverty could better be defined other than just by income. This consultation closed on 15th February this year. Based on the Tory’s ideological view of poverty as mainly the result of ‘chaotic’ lifestyle the government proposed that there should be eight dimensions of poverty measurement but it seems the academics and organisations taking part in the consultation almost without exception disagreed with their proposals, saying it would be conceptually impossible to devise a credible measurement tool to accurately measure child poverty based on the categories suggested by IDS .

More significantly for the Secretary of State though is the response of the Children’s Commissioner whose report was based on a consultation with children themselves and stated in no uncertain terms that for them poverty meant having little money and living in bad housing. It would seem that the consent he needs to proceed with his plans is unlikely to be forthcoming.

poverty2804_468x431      So far as I can discover, six months on the government have not yet published the outcome of this consultation. But as the election creeps closer and as the devastating impact of their welfare reforms bites deeper and deeper, its not hard to imagine that the government will be desperate to do all they can to portray their performance in the best possible light. Given how central to their deficit reduction platform welfare cuts have been its vitally important to them to be able to claim that child poverty has reduced and that if any still exists its not their fault.

IDS needs another cunning plan.

_62813107_maggie     The current Children’s Commissioner. who stands in his way,  is Dr Maggie Atkinson who was appointed in 2009 by Ed Balls from her position as director of children’s services at Gateshead council  which she’d held since 2005.

Last November Dr Atkinson came in for some highly unusual criticism regarding another  report she produced about the sexual exploitation of children by predatory gangs of men. According to one news report:-

“An unnamed government source is widely reported to have questioned the report’s methodology and calls some of the language used in it “hysterical”. That highly unusual intervention prompted an exchange today in the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s question time.”

In response to that question David Cameron said a strange thing, considering that the contentious report had already been published in full:-

“We need to give every encouragement to the Children’s  Commissioner to make sure that the final version of the report is produced.”

cam   Is Cameron implying that the government would be putting pressure on Dr Atkinson to alter her report?  Is this why a link to the ‘FULL REPORT’ published online here in November doesn’t work? Is that why the report published on the Commission website is now entitled ‘INTERIM REPORT’ ?

And doesn’t it seem strange that there is also a version of the report published on the same Commission website in JULY 2012 with the odd title of ‘ACCELERATED REPORT FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION’?

What could the difference be between an ‘accelerated report’ and an ‘interim’ one? Its not possible to examine the version posted as ‘FINAL’ because the link doesn’t work but the version now calling itself ‘INTERIM’ looks awfully like a complete, fully referenced report to me whereas the so-called ‘ACCELERATED’ version has the look of an interim report produced for briefing purposes.

My instincts tell me there’s something fishy about all these versions and I’m inclined to think that Dr Atkinson and her team have been told in no uncertain terms to doctor their research to suit the government’s agenda. In other words pressure has been applied and it looks like she has given in to it.

I’m not concerned here with delving into the details of this particular report and the possible objections that might have been made which led to the apparent correction of the ‘hysterical’ content. That will only be possible when the final (doctored?) version appears and comparisons can be made.

images (4)   My immediate concern is with the implications this odd situation raises in terms of the statutory redefining of child poverty by Iain Duncan Smith.

What was the nature of the pressure put on Dr Atkinson to alter a research report to suit the government’s sensibilities? And if she can be made to bend to such pressure once, will she be equally obedient if put under similar pressure from our Fuhrer-like Secretary of State for Work and Pensions should he decide to persist with his plan to change the legal definition of poverty in order to be able to deny the misery he’s brought to millions of children and possibly even claim it no longer exists?

Or will the Children’s Commission suffer the same fate as the CQC where reputations were very publicly destroyed forcing resignations followed by the politically convenient appointment of Tory-friendly Board members and a Chief Executive who was once a Tory MP?

 

 

 

 

 

Remember This? Impoverished Britain:The 1997 Tory Legacy.

3521   Hang_on_until_next_election-by_Blair

For the last terrible three years we’ve heard David Cameron and George Osborne and every other Tory MP who’s given a chance to speak on TV blame the suffering they’ve brought to millions of us on ‘Labour’s legacy’ of profligate public spending. Even the lily-livered LibDems have echoed this mantra with enthusiasm. Even now, when the evidence against this ridiculous claim has been featured in the more enlightened press and even that neoliberal stalwart, the IMF, has warned Osborne to go easy on austerity, they persist with the myth. And sections of the British public, having heard the lie repeated so often, now believe its true. Meanwhile, instead of defending themselves, the Labour party , particularly Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, have preferred to hang their head in unnecessary shame whenever its hurled their way in Parliament, instead of nailing Cameron and his crew through the heart with the lie. It makes my blood boil!

images (1) Osborne’s  priggish stubbornness in refusing to be diverted from his great Austerity Scam, however, has some very chilling echoes from the not so distant past. Margaret Thatcher was infamous for declaring that ‘there is no alternative’ when challenged about the cruel cuts she presided over when in power. And her words issued forth from the same moral high ground as Osborne’s, blaming the ‘immoral’ behaviour of the working classes for Britain’s failing economic performance. Just as she waged war on the workers by demonising trade unions and destroying the livelihoods of whole communities, so equally does Osborne. aided and abetted by Duncan Smith, whip up hatred for those whose only ‘sin’ is to have inherited the poverty she created, or to be sick and disabled, sometimes as a result of her social destruction.

So_much-by_Blair We’re encouraged to have short memories by those currently in power over us. We’re encouraged to look no farther than the last few years before that power dropped into their pampered laps by a cruel fluke of a flawed electoral system that has allowed a party with only 37% of a diminished vote (how many stayed at home and refused to vote?) to dictate our non-futures. But there is a much longer history to this dire situation we find ourselves in now and its time we remembered it. Watch this video filmed in 1996, before the country elected New Labour in a desperate hope that things would or could change for the better. It will remind you of the real legacy we live with today. This Tory led-by-the-nose government is merely taking up where the last Tory governments were forced to leave off…

Immigrants and ‘Undesirables’ Held in Prison Camps in Greece: Could This Happen Here?

londonboroughs   images (2)

For the last few days the Home Office has been tweeting boastfully about the number of arrests that have been made by officers of the UKBA of ‘suspected’ illegal immigrants in London boroughs. The underlying message this sends is chilling to say the least. They give no information about where these unfortunate people are being held, or under what conditions. Have they had access to legal representation? We don’t know. How long will they be held for? We have no idea.

SNN3004GXA_1774004a  As this Home Office experiment was about to launch the Sun did a poll of its readers asking if they supported the ‘migrant vans’. From the results, seen here, it would seem that even rampantly right wing Sun readers are not overwhelmingly in favour of this latest demonstration of Tory bigotry. And when I checked out the (huge) response on Twitter, last night, to the Home Office’s boasts of arrests NOT A SINGLE ONE expressed support; in fact the overall message to the Home Office can be summed up as ” This is disgusting. Not in my name, please”.

Then this morning, by a strange coincidence, I came across the following blog post reporting on a comparable situation in Greece, which although more extreme than what’s going on here, made me wonder nonetheless just how close we were to scenes like it….

…and then they came for the trans* people. (via Second Council House of Virgo)

Operation Zeus in August last year marked the start of an ugly reminder of a European past that we thought we had long buried.  Nearly 60 years after the end of the Second European War, migrants were round up from the streets of Greece and shoved unceremoniously…

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Who Said the Tories Have Changed? The Kirkby Rent Strike and the Housing Finance Act 1972

6a00e5532538c4883301901e370e1e970b-320wi           images

Politicians have short memories. The moral outrage expressed by current Conservatives at the size of the nation’s Housing Benefits bill has been, unsurprisingly, targeted at an irresponsibly profligate Labour government but they forget that there is a history behind this that goes back to legislation that, in its time, did as much damage to the poor as today’s Bedroom Tax. Legislation that was passed by Edward Heath’s Conservative government in 1972. You may remember it. It was called the Housing Finance Act and it was sold to the public as a benign policy to house the homeless.

The Act placed a duty upon Local Councils  to give priority to housing homeless families with children. It gave councils a nasty surprise because it demanded they find the resources for an immediate result and it appeared to sweep away the idea that homeless families, new to a council’s area, could simply be ignored.  Instead of legislating for open access to council houses which would have stimulated the building of a larger stock, better able to respond to urgent need, councils were required to examine in detail, the meaning of a duty to house the homeless with immediate effect. There was no time to plan for and build more housing capacity and so this simply led to increases in the waiting lists. When it comes to making policies directed at the working class, it seems the Tories have always failed to think things through. But it gets worse…

download      Although councils had to find accommodation immediately for families with children, their legal duty only required that it be for a limited period which would allow time for “responsible families” to find their own accommodation. This period was determined to be 6 weeks. Inevitably the result was to  revive the category of Bed and Breakfast accommodation for homeless families and the cost of this per day to councils quickly rose to double the weekly rent of a council house  providing lots of scope for Tory rhetoric about how the “irresponsible families” who were unable to find a house in 6 short weeks were a drag on the economy.

In fact, what happened as a result of the 6 week rule was that many families once kicked out of their temporary shelter were forced to move back to the council areas they’d originally left in the hope of finding a home. What we’re seeing now with the Bedroom Tax forcing people out of high rent boroughs isn’t much different to what was happening back in 1972. It’s a tried and tested old Tory ruse to destabilise the poor working classes, ‘softening’ them up to accept jobs at any price and be grateful for the worst kind of housing.

images (1)  The true intentions of the Act were revealed in an announcement in 1971, the year before its passage. Council rents would double, ostensibly to subsidise the housing of the homeless.  However, in Tory circles it seems this rent rise was a cynical attempt to manipulate the housing market.  They gleefully predicted a                                                                      boom in private house building driven by an expected flight of council tenants from the high council rents into home ownership.

House prices rose rapidly, but council tenants didn’t miraculously become rich enough overnight to buy their own homes. They stayed put and more of them claimed Housing Benefit to cope with the rent increase. The hapless Tory market driven logic had failed again to appreciate the real circumstances of working folk, but their divisive moral rhetoric was on top form nonetheless…

Under the increased pressure of rising house prices council waiting lists inevitably grew and with this came a moral panic fueled by suspicions of queue jumping. An insidious new category of “scrounger” known as  “the intentionally homeless” was created. These were people considered to be homeless as a result of their own actions. Just as today, people were  incited to hate by the insidious Tory rhetoric. Once labelled intentionally homeless it sanctioned the official withdrawal of help from “offenders”. They do love their sanctions, these Tories, don’t they?

images (2)  The reason for this doubling in council rents reveals another enduring Tory meme, one that Iain Duncan Smith is currently flogging to death.This is their notion of ‘fairness’. In the private rented sector at the time there were procedures for setting what was known as a ‘fair rent’ on a property which had to take account of current market conditions in order for landlords to be able to make a profit from renting their property.

Before the Housing Finance Act 1972 this didn’t apply to council housing. Local Authority rents were charged at the level of a balanced budget, which meant rental income balanced against loan charges and the costs of new building. The Act changed all that and they were now required to raise them to private sector levels. Mr Heath called this ‘an economic fair rent’.

So basically, under the pretence of looking after the homeless and bringing fairness into the system the Tories manipulated the housing market with the effect that their property and that of their supporters increased massively in value. House prices rose 12% in the year of their announcement to increase council rents, 36% the following year when the Act was passed and an amazing 51% the year after.

On the other hand, council waiting lists grew exponentially, homelessness increased and the Housing Benefits bill went through the roof. But hey, they could blame all this on the poor!

IMG_3101 As with the Bedroom Tax today, one of the hardest hit areas in Britain was Merseyside.  The 1970s were a time of soaring inflation rates – reaching a peak of 25% in 1978 and unemployment in Liverpool was high.

3,000 residents on the Tower Hill estate in Kirkby were enraged by the rent increases, especially since the homes they rented from the council were in a dire state of repair. They protested by organising a 14 month long rent strike and the documentary below, which was filmed in the October of 1972, is the story of that action. I was amazed at how relevant what was being said by those council tenants almost 41 years ago is to what is happening right now under a Tory government (effectively) which relies on the same old ideology. Who said the Tories have changed? Why ever should they? It wouldn’t be in their interests.

DODGY DAVE AND THE LIZARD OF OZ: A LITTLE ALCOHOL PROBLEM?

min-pricing  It looks like Dodgy Dave is going to keep on sidestepping questions over the influence of Lizard of Oz Crosby on his decisions not to bring in plain packaging of cigarettes or up the price of cheap alcohol. He insists Lynton didn’t ‘lobby’ him on anything. Nonetheless, it looks highly suspicious that Cameron has dropped not one but TWO policies that would have hurt the wallets of Crosby’s clients.

When you add in the sudden enthusiasm for fracking and the Chancellor’s generosity towards more of those clients it begins to look like the PM is bang to rights guilty. You can’t help wondering if there’s been some promise of future funding from some of these big name Crosby clients. After all its not that long ago that the Tories enjoyed significant gifts from the likes of Imperial Tobacco and others – until Liam Fox pissed them off as shadow health minister in 2004 and they took off in a huff. And these big Tobacco guys have very recently been giving money to right wing think tanks such as the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs – as near as you can get to the Tories without actually putting the party name on the cheque.

booze-cameron_2507780b Before he changed his mind about alcohol pricing – or had it changed for him – Cameron was pushing the policy in the usual Tory way by complaining that middle class families like his (!!!??) ‘who drank responsibly’ were having to pay more for food from supermarkets who increased food prices to pay for discounts on alcohol. Tut tut. But now it seems he’s happy to pay more for his food and just as happy to do nothing at all about binge drinking – not that I’m convinced the minimum pricing plan would have had much effect anyway. What does bother me is the amazing hypocrisy of the man who can just as easily go on TV one minute and moralise about the poor drinking and smoking themselves into oblivion (wonder why they do that, Dave?) using evidence from all over the place to justify the policy and the next minute apparently say there needs to be more research. How does he expect us to believe anything he says again? Not that many of us did anyway…..

Cameron - beer  Here’s Dave downing a pint in a ‘responsible’ middle class way. But is he the responsible drinker he says he is? He’s quick to pontificate about the great unwashed masses getting slaughtered every Friday night and staggering around our high streets but here’s a few reasons to wonder about his relationship with the demon drink. Remember, he was a member of that elite drinking and rioting outfit, the Bullingdon Club who traditionally get slaughtered and stagger about the street and smash up restaurants and what have you….

6a00d8341c565553ef0162fbe8f8ce970d-800wi    0212379655085 Pg-26-cameron-gettyimages (25)article-0-080201E0000005DC-864_468x286007 david cameron drinkingcameron-black-tie-doneDavid Cameron enjoying a pint during a Test match in August 2011SponsersAnd2_1760444acameron-drinking-wine-student-cuts-expensivedavid-cameron-holds-a-pint-of-guinness-pic-getty-525905179 david-cameron-pic-dm-image-1-633460621images (21)david-cameron-uk-beerULSTER Conservatives 095362david-cameron-tigertigerdownload (6)images (23) ross-cameron_1202005c

 Maybe all Crosby had to do to ‘nudge’ Dave in the desired direction was buy him a pint….or three !

CAMERON’S ‘GLOBAL RACE’ : THE GREAT LEAP BACKWARDS TO A NEW FEUDAL BRITAIN ?

When I reflect on the past three years of Coalition Rule there’s no doubt in my mind that they are intent on destroying the hard fought rights of ordinary folk to a decent living wage and a secure roof over their heads. Every day, when I read of yet another assault on these rights I fear for the future of my grandson’s generation. The devastation that this government has presided over is astonishing and the insidious and divisive rhetoric of sanctimony that seeps from their mouths and saturates the Tory press is beyond sickening. The question is, why now? The usual trite excuse for austerity  and the complete destruction of the public sector both here and abroad- “its the banks wot dunnit” – doesn’t wash when the only real victims are the poor.

Over the last months it seems every Coalition politician asked to comment on TV or radio for whatever reason has been justifying the decisions and actions of government by referring to the so called ‘global race’ we’re apparently signed up to. What ‘global race’? Who exactly are we competing against here, and what’s the prize? Who’s putting the effort in and who’s reaping the benefits? When did it start? And WHY are we in this ‘race’ in the first place?

01_awelfarea     Back in May 2010, as he took up office at the DWP, the allegedly right honourable Iain Duncan-Smith set out his stall by commenting on the welfare benefit situation he was inheriting. He said,

The rise in working age poverty and continued inequality show that we must make work pay and the first choice for millions of people. It is not right that someone can actually be worse off by taking work, we should be rewarding such positive behaviour by making work pay.

Now tell me if this sounds daft, but if I were going to ‘make work pay’ I’d do something about raising the minimum wage by enough to make it possible for a family to actually have a life worth living; and I’d also do something about making sure there were enough of those jobs for those who needed them.

IDS obviously had other ideas. Since he came out with the quote above we’ve seen his attempts to ‘make work pay’ and heard his sermons with their feeble excuses of ‘fairness’ as justification for shoving more and more people deeper into poverty and precariousness. His reductions in benefits and his welfare caps and his bedroom tax and whatnot have pushed down the incomes of the most vulnerable poor well below the minimum wage level so theoretically it could be said work pays more than benefits – something that a decently paid job always did – assuming there are enough to go round. The point I’m making here, though, is that in order to be able to come on our TV’s and proudly claim that he’s done what he said he would do, in the process he’s made the lives of people who for one reason or another can’t work, far more difficult – and in some cases so impossible they’ve ended those lives in despair – and he’s done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for those people who are desperate to work but can’t find the non-existent decently paid jobs he keeps nagging them to go and get.

Steve Bell cartoon 16.07.2013 The devious lengths he and his ministers have had to go to in order to  impression manage the whole bloody fiasco are mind blowing. The DWP has now become renown for manipulating statistics and reconstructing reality. What with Lord Freud’s completely Freudian denial of the truth about food banks followed closely by IDS’s deadpan attempt to make poverty and homelessness totally disappear through a unilateral act of blind faith I’m left wondering if we should rename the DWP  the Department for Sinister Magic Tricks.

We’ve always known that Tories look down on the poor and do nothing positive to help them and we’ve all seen how our democratic process of government has been even more infected of late by the creeping virus of corporate vested interest. With the imminent EU-US Free Trade Agreement elephant looming large and ominous in the corner, salivating at the thought of all that lovely profit to be made here and rubbing its greedy hands at the thought of cracking its powerful whip if our puny government dares to try to pass any laws to stand in its way, the future for the likes of us is not bright and definitely not as rosy as it will be for companies like Orange.

0 I’m by no means alone in feeling these concerns. There have been numerous reports over the past couple of years presenting the evidence of suffering that Duncan Smith and his ministers want to magic into non-existence. Church groups and charities, the Children’s Commissioner, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and now, writing in today’s Observer, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu have all expressed deep concern and anger at the growing scandal of our low wage economy. Dr Sentamu asks a very pertinent question in his article, a question which goes to the heart of this government’s pretence of a justification for their cruel cuts and tacitly exposes their smear campaign which labels benefits claimants as scroungers as a dirty lie. Talking about tax credits he says,

“The holes in millions of pay cheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of £4bn a year… Why is the government having to subsidise businesses which don’t pay their employees enough to live on? “

 shoes b         9-21-2010-12-37-45-PM

Contained in that question are the real shock horror headlines about benefits scroungers that the Tory loving Daily Mail and Telegraph have not been printing. This is the true story:-

FOUR BILLION POUNDS OF TAX BENEFITS GOING TO HELP SCROUNGING CORPORATIONS SO EXECUTIVES CAN LIVE IN LUXURY WHILE WORKERS’ KIDS GO WITHOUT THE BASIC NECESSITIES.

Coalition rhetoric seems to consist of just a few stock phrases that every minister trots out at every opportunity during interviews and speeches. They never engage in real debate. One of their biggest lies is the one where they tell you they’re on the side of “people who want to work hard and do the right thing” and they imply that people who do this will “get on”.This is their definition of  “striver”. I wonder if they realise that some dictionaries define the word as “one who works as hard as a slave”. So if you decode their message what are they really saying? It seems to me they’re saying they want us to work like slaves and do the right wing thing which is basically to help corporations make more profit. Their talk about Britain being in the ‘global race’ is part of this discourse. When Cameron uses it he implies that if we don’t get ‘match fit’ by being ‘strivers'(slaves) we’ll lose the race. Being ‘strivers'(slaves) we attract business to Britain. The goal of the Coalition (Tory) government is to turn Britain into a slave economy that attracts corporate investment to enrich them and their wealthy mates. They’ve already opened up much of the public sector to private investment and will carry on doing that until its all in private hands (they’ve even sold our blood!). It seems the DWP’s job is to manufacture a suitable workforce conditioned to accept lower and lower wages subsidised by more and more expensive credit from their loan shark friends. Enslavement is the only word for it.   Lets take a look at how far they’ve taken us towards that goal in the last three years.

Graphic-02A   No matter how hard IDS and his magicians spin and weave their web of lies about employment statistics the hard facts are that decent paying full time jobs are difficult to find. The graphic above clearly illustrates how many full time jobs have been lost since 2008 and shows just how precarious work has become. The biggest worrying factor, though, is the incredible rise in the number of people who are now employed on zero hours contracts in this country – especially in the 16 to 24 year old section of the labour market. Back in 2005 there were 50,000 working age people on these contracts. Last year that figure was 200,000. You can get an idea of the pace of change when you learn that between 2011 and 2012 the figure doubled in size. 38% of those 200,000 are under 25 and now 23% of employers of over 100 employees use zero hours contracts. The private health sector are now the second largest users of these contracts with 13% of them now employing nurses and healthcare assistants this way, compared to only 7% back in 2004 – another indicator of the creeping privatisation of the NHS. What’s worse most cleaning and catering firms that employ people on zero hours expect their employees to pay for their own training and uniforms. This information was obtained from House of Commons Library Special Note SN/BT/653 last updated on 4th July 2013.

david-cameron-welf_2438993k  Of course, David Cameron and his corporate cronies at the CBI see this sorry state of affairs in a very different light. They can go out and ‘sell’ Britain’s ‘flexible’ workforce. And it has the added value of making the unemployment figures look good; as Neil Carberry of the CBI said on the BBC on 15th May,

It’s zero hours contracts and other forms of flexible working that mean there are half a million fewer unemployed people than there might otherwise have been.”

Precisely, Neil. And with this in mind you’ll be wondering why David Cameron told Archbishop John Sentamu he thought his concept of a living wage was “an attractive idea”. Was he deliberately lying to the priest or was he doing the usual Tory trick of appearing to agree by not finishing his sentence?  What he surely meant was it was “an attractive idea for some but not the Tories.”

Productivity-and-compensation-1  The Tories’ scurrilous insults about working people can be seen to be even more disgusting if you take the time to think about what this little graph shows. The red dotted line refers to hourly wage rates in UK manufacturing while the rising blue line indicates productivity. Its glaringly obvious that since the 1980’s and Thatcher’s era of destruction, workers’ wages have not kept up with their output. People have been working harder and harder for less and less. This is the most up to date graph I could find but even on this you can see the beginnings of a downturn in the hourly rate in 2010. Its surely no coincidence that since Thatcher’s onslaught on trade unions and the consistent curbing and demonising of union activity ever since that time, workers in Britain have been exploited for their labour. And its certainly no coincidence that the gap between the increasing hard work and the poverty of the reward mirrors the increasingly gaping chasm between rich and poor. For me this graph is a testament to the fact that the wealthy are living it up on the backs of the impoverished. And now, it seems, they want more.

images  One of our most basic needs is to have somewhere safe and secure to live. A home. An affordable home. A recent report from Joseph Rowntree Foundation “Keeping up in Hard Times” (2012) has shown that,

  “From a living standards perspective, it is clear that the majority of low income families have insufficient incomes to comfortably meet an adequate standard of living as defined by the Minimum Income Standard and cover their housing costs. Even at the median, family incomes for owners and private renters do not stretch to cover both costs in a third of local authorities. This is not just an issue in London and the South East. Even in cheaper parts of the country and in lower priced tenures, housing costs can be hard for those on the lowest incomes to afford. For a very low income couple with one child, the cost of meeting the MIS alone is greater than their income of £19k. This means that even a subsidised social rent is unaffordable. “

The report demonstrates that in the whole of the South of England  there is no housing option which doesn’t cost more than 25% of the Minimum Income Standard. For a couple with two children this is calculated to be £23,700 p.a. BEFORE rent and childcare costs are added in. According to IDS, its ‘unfair’ for anyone to receive total benefits greater than £24,000. As the bedroom tax and the benefits cap bites deeper families are going to find themselves in very deep trouble indeed. How many will be forced to move into the cheaper housing areas in Wales and the North, looking for scarce, precarious work? If things don’t change they may well have to.

This won’t be just a divided Britain, this will be Ghetto Britain.

The Tale of Sir Gerald Howarth, QuickQuid and other Loan Shark Tory Donors.

Baroness Thatcher death

Those of you who followed the debates in Parliament about the Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill will have fond memories of watching ex Defence Minister, Sir Gerald Howarth make a complete arse of himself by claiming that decent, upright ‘straight’ people like him who opposed gay marriage were in constant danger of assault by raging homosexuals. I wasn’t sure what I found most incredible about this performance – the fact that he could argue his case in the face of overwhelming evidence that the very opposite of what he was claiming was in fact the truth, or the amount of ‘Honourable Friends’ he gave way to during his speech in order for them to agree with him.

images It comes as no surprise then to discover that this homophobic Tory has very recently accepted a paid job as a part time advisor to CNU Holdings Ltd who own the pay day loan shark company, QuickQuid. He explained to the House of Commons that his role with the company would be “advising on the effects of legislative changes and other matters” though he didn’t elaborate on what those ‘other matters’ might be. For this he will be paid £20,000. Clearly the people at QuickQuid are unaware of his woeful grasp of the truth or they wouldn’t be wasting their money.

images (2) CNU Holdings Ltd aka CashNetUSA are an American outfit who’ve set up QuickQuid over here to take advantage of the huge growth in the loan shark market. They’ve made a killing so far, seeing their UK revenues sky-rocket from £58m in 2010 to £196m in 2012. Recently Daniel Fehan, CEO of CNU Holdings has been heard to express concern over the calls to amend the Financial Services Bill to allow caps on interest rates on pay day loans. He’s been warning that their profits were under threat from possible UK legislation. Oh dear, we can’t have now that, can we? I wonder if the profit- friendly Cameron has sent Sir Gerald along to reassure them that his government are ‘all about growth’ and so will do nothing to stop QuickQuid exploiting the poor in the UK. Maybe those ‘other matters’ Sir Gerald is pocketing his £20K for are to do with explaining to his temporary US employers how much the Tories are doing to improve their market with their policies of impoverishment.

article_6e1ac20819072878_1337630402_9j-4aaqsk  After all Cameron wouldn’t want to upset some of his more generous Conservative Party donors by introducing legislation that hit the pockets that financed him, now would he? Pictured here is the infamous banker Adrian Beecroft, who not so long ago was advocating legislation that allowed the sacking of  ‘unproductive’ workers with no nasty Tribunals getting in the way to slap employers’ wrists.

images (3)        This charming character owns Dawn Capital Investments which is a major shareholder in another pay day loan company, Wonga, the one that endears itself to the unsuspecting public by advertising its racket with cute, cuddly old lady and men puppets who wouldn’t harm a fly. This guy not long ago generously added £800,000 to Tory coffers. And by doing nothing at all about the 4000+% interest rates that Wonga typically charge the Tories have played their part in tripling Wonga’s turnover since 2010.  (What was that you said, Dave, about Labour being in the pocket of the unions? Notice any union members’ wages tripling recently, have you?).

SHOCKING_COPY_Fuck_Me_Wonga   The Tories came up with another nice little earner at their Party Conference in Bournemouth last year. They hired a ballroom and set up a kind of ‘speed dating’ event. Representatives from Wonga were among other corporate lizards who paid £1500 a head to woo such Tories as Michael Fallon, the enterprise minister, David Gauke, the Treasury’s exchequer secretary, and Sajid Javid, its economic secretary, Of course, when questioned about this example of Tory prostitution the Party refused to confirm anyone from Wonga was there, claiming it was a ‘private event’. Couldn’t be they were being tight lipped because Wonga’s practices were under major investigation at the time by the OFT, could it? Of course, nothing really came of that investigation….I wonder why?

hcl2_zpsfa78c3d7 Next up we have another banker, Henry Angest, CEO of Arbuthnot Banking Group which owns Everyday Loans. Henry is a good friend of the Camerons and a major donor to the Tories having given them £7 million. Very recently he’s been very nice to them again by offering them a £5 million loan at a very, very nice interest rate of just 3.5%. Not exactly a pay day loan, eh? This is obviously a chap who enjoys his country suppers.

images (4)  This advert for Henry’s loan racket certainly gives me, as an average kind of punter, the strong impression its one of the pay day loan variety. However, despite saying EveryDay Loans is designed for the kind of customer who is ‘under served by high street banks’ Henry flatly denies its one of the pay day loan kind because his loans only have an interest rate of 74.8%. Only? For how long?  I suspect Henry is being a tad disingenuous here because he only acquired EveryDay Loans very recently under the guise of Secure Trust Bank – part of his Arbuthnot Banking Group – he bought it for the consideration of £1 from Alchemy when, ironically, it was struggling with debt, mainly as a result of the mis-selling of PPI. It has a loan book of almost £64 million and its operating profit for 2011 was a mere £4.6 million. Henry, being the thrusting capitalist that he is, will want to see it grow but he’s not going to compete in the loan shark market if he keeps his interest rates at 74.8%. And he’ll be hoping, like busy Beecroft that the generosity he’s extended to the Tories will stop any nasty laws being introduced to get in the way of his profits. I think we need to keep an eye on EveryDay Loans…

mitchell  So what’s happening with the legislation, then?  Last year when the Financial Services Bill came up for a reading in the House of Lords, Labour peer, Lord Mitchell proposed an amendment that pay day loans have the interest rates capped. Sounds like a good idea to me. They’ve done it in Canada where its capped at 60% and in Australia where its even lower at 48%. In the United States some states have caps on interest and restrict the number of loans that can be taken out at any one time. Even more interesting is that in 13 states they’ve banned pay day loans altogether and consider it a felony and racketeering to sell one. If proved guilty you can get up to 25 years in jail. This is the major reason why US companies like CNU Holdings are coming over here and hiring idiots like Sir Gerald Howarth. And its a major reason why they want to keep politicians sweet.

article-2259877-16D71900000005DC-993_638x416  Which brings us to Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury until very recently, when he left to work for Jardine Matheson aka Jardines, a long established trading company infamous for importing opium to China – in other words a one time drug dealer. Banker Lord Sassoon is a mate of banker Lord Freud. They  both worked at Swiss bank UBS. When working there back in the 1990’s he was known as Mr Privatisation because he advised the government of the day in selling off state owned assets. He’s immensely rich and has shares in countless banks and, interestingly enough, in Experian.

sassoon_1450249c       Obviously a (self) important man, then. When Lord Mitchell bravely put forward his amendment  last year, no doubt sticking up for the poor on whose backs the pay day loan sharks are making a killing, Lord Sassoon persuaded him to drop it with a silver-tongued promise to urge the Treasury ‘to bring in some measure’. The noble Mitchell promptly did as he was told and no doubt the likes of Adrian and Henry and the US chancers heaved a sigh of relief.

jo-swinson-300x169                                                                               You may remember a much more recent raising of hopes that the government were about to step in and ‘do the right thing’ by the 99% of us who rely on them for social justice in this country. Yes, the intrepid champion of the customer Jo Swinson, Consumer Affairs Minister. As recently as a few days ago she rode bravely into the breech to give  Wonga and co a hard time and tell them what for. Surely this tough cookie who stood up, no less, against the air brushing of womens’ images on glossy magazines would once and for all put these loan sharks in their place? Sadly, not.

cameron_rothschild400-372x300  No, Ms Swinson was no match for corporate influence, it seems. Her conclusion beggars belief. She said there would be no cap on interest rates because it might drive people to resort to even worse lenders! So it looks like David and Samantha are going to be doing a lot more entertaining in the coming months and the Conservative Party coffers are no doubt going to overflow with the largesse of pay day loan sharks from far and wide. This, my friends, is what being in the ‘global race’ is all about. Its about making us poor enough to accept sweatshop wages and desperate enough to take loans at interest rates that make the Tories friends rich beyond any of our wildest dreams which we may as well not bother dreaming any more.

David Simonds cartoon on Cameron's anti-business speech     So the next time you see David Cameron stand up at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons and point in self-righteous anger at the Labour benches and suggest there’s something criminal and corrupt about their funding from unions remember all the businessmen and bankers who prop up his party of privilege. If he can defend the bankrolling of his profit-friendly policies is it fair to complain when working class folk want to club together to help out a party that stands for their interests?

Cameron: The ‘Caring’ Scrounging Conservative.

images Before his disabled son, Ivan, died David Cameron claimed DLA for him. While we don’t know the full extent of the amount of this universal state benefit he received we do know he got the higher rate mobility component, just over £50 a week, because he was able to lease a car under the Motability scheme. And according to Mumsnet he was also claiming for four free NHS nappies a day.

Rumour has it that after Ivan’s death our Eton educated super rich Prime Minister wasn’t in too much of a hurry to give back the Motability car so someone else in need could benefit from it but had to be chased repeatedly before finally handing it over to its rightful owner.

Conservative Social Justice Policy Group report This is a man we’re supposed to look up to, who holds the most responsible job in the land and who constantly preaches the sermon of social responsibility from his Tory pulpit. It can be argued that Mr Cameron was only exercising his rights when he claimed for DLA, after all he was entitled to that benefit since its not means tested. But there’s no argument whatsoever that he needed the money – in fact compared to his £135k plus salary and his millions in the bank its a total pittance. And from a social responsibility point of view and coming from a man who’s constantly harping on about the absolute necessity of austerity and spending public money wisely, you have to ask why would such a man bother to fill in the form and take money he didn’t need leaving less for the hundreds of thousands who need it desperately?

download  MPs have now just been offered an 11% pay rise and leaders from all parties have assured us they wouldn’t dream of taking it. Cameron himself made a public display of saying it would be wrong for MPs to get this rise when the rest of us were ‘having to make sacrifices’ . Even as I  write this he’s on the news using that puke-making phrase ‘we’re all in this together’.  Does he seriously think we believe him?

Lets not forget the coldly calculating and determined propaganda campaign this Tory led government have fought in the media against benefit claimants labelling the sick and disabled as scroungers too lazy to be arsed to get out of bed, or driving around in luxury Motability cars living it up on tax payers’ money. And lets not forget the inevitable results of this – the rise of unspeakable hate crime against people who were targeted because of this evil ideological attack. How many of you now think that the ex-PR man who orchestrated this propaganda was entitled to  his share of the benefit he’s now about to take away from thousands of people who can never hope to see a million pounds in their bank unless they get lucky in the Lottery?

images (1)   On Wednesday in Parliament Labour used its Opposition Day debate to try to force the government to do a simple thing – to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of the effects of the various cuts in welfare benefits on disabled people. There are hundreds of thousands of very sick and seriously disabled people in the UK who now face up to SIX separate cuts to the various benefits they receive , not to mention facing the prospect of Work Capability Assessments and assessments for the PIP by Atos. You’d think the government would already have done this, wouldn’t you, given the enormous impact these cuts are bound to have. You’d think any sensible, decent government would agree to listen to the many campaigning groups like Spartacus and DPAC who’ve been trying to talk to ministers about this impact. Apparently not. And even when forced to confront the issue on Wednesday by Labour MPs on behalf of these groups, they still weren’t listening. In fact , judging by the sickening responses the few Tories and the odd LibDem gave, they were aggressively opposing the idea that they should give a flying fuck about the demolition job they were inflicting on people’s lives.

+Paul+Maynard  Probably the most disgusting example of Tory attitudes to people with disabilities came from an MP with a disability himself, Paul Maynard. If this guy is a friend of the disabled then who needs enemies? He spoke with cleverly simulated passion that made me suspect Cameron had paid for him to have lessons in Method Acting just for the occasion. Whoever had written his speech managed to turn all the hard work put in by those campaigning disability groups who’d gathered evidence of genuine hardship caused by the cuts into something called ‘negative messages about disabled people’ which apparently would act as a disincentive to young disabled people to be what the Tories want us all to be ‘strivers who work hard and do the right thing’. Waving his expensively suited arms about  Maynard added insult to injury by labelling these disability groups who have a  perfectly legitimate agenda as ‘extremists’!!! You couldn’t make it up!

alan-h2       What Maynard wanted was ‘positive’ messages for young disabled people, Paralympic superheroes and ‘inspirational’ role models and the like. Those who win out despite all the odds. He painted a very narrow picture of disability and turned the debate into an emotional farce. What he didn’t acknowledge was that the debate wasn’t about this at all but about ordinary people’s basic means of survival being taking away from them and with it their dignity as human beings. He didn’t address the humiliation of having to rely on charity and the condescending pity of others. He didn’t see, from his privileged position, that he was betraying people who had a right to expect him to stand up for their right to an independent existence just like his.

prejudice-and-persecution          And so, unsurprisingly, the government won the day and got out of having to do what they should already have done – a proper impact assessment of the cumulative cuts on the income of disabled people. Their feeble excuse that it was too hard just isn’t credible. But then how can we have faith in the credibility of the Tories, or any politician, when they change their tune depending on the circumstances?

Back in 1999 it was the New Labour government who wanted to make changes to disability benefits by scrapping the severe disablement allowance.  Here are a few gems from the Tory opposition , words we should now ram down their privileged throats:-

Quentin Davis:-

 ‘I am proud that we stand today on our previous record, which is that the disabled, far from being a soft target and an easy touch for a Government, are a group of vulnerable people who should be the last people to be disadvantaged when changes are made to our welfare and benefits system.’

Julie Kirkbride:-

‘Many other ladies and gentlemen will retire in the same condition as my constituent, who is obliged to sell her house because she can no longer afford to live there on her reduced income after being forced to retire on incapacity benefit. Others in her condition will find the Government’s policies deeply offensive.’

Nigel Evans:-

‘The Labour party fought the last election on the slogan, “Things can only get better”. Does my hon. Friend agree that many disabled people, whose benefits will be removed, will be aghast at what is happening this evening? At the next election, disabled people, who have been so badly let down, will give Labour Members short shrift. Things can only get better unless one happens to be disabled’.

Angela Browning:-

‘The organisations that went to the Department included Action for Blind People, Disability Alliance, Mencap, RADAR and the RNIB. Those organisations went to the Department believing that they were part of a consultation, only to find that the decision had already been made and their views were not required, but that they could have an input into some sort of management. To cap it all, the Lord Chancellor’s Department is considering proposals to abolish legal aid for personal injury claims—another move by the Government which will clearly have an effect on people with disabilities and will cause them a great deal of distress.’

Teddy Taylor:-

‘Will he take seriously the real concern, alarm and anger felt by disabled people whose benefits are being cancelled on review? During my weekly surgery on Saturday, I was visited by a woman and her child, who has only one small finger on each hand and one small toe on each foot. The woman had been told that there was no need for any disability living allowance-related provision of any sort.’

pg-18-norman-watt     The final irony of all this is that if Ivan was still alive the two-faced David Cameron would still be getting DLA and there may well be other millionaires out there who are dipping into the disability benefit pot that Esther Mcvey is fond of telling us is growing too big. She’s fond of the word ‘fairness’ but where’s the fairness in that?

 

What Jeremy Hunt isn’t telling us:ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND good news NHS stories!

STG-65-Birthday-A3-Poster1                          images (8)

An outside observer of some of the right wing media coverage of the NHS over recent months could be forgiven for thinking that our 65 year old system of publicly funded healthcare was failing badly. The hyped up propaganda has painted a hysterical universal picture of NHS hospitals as places where painful death creeps through wards and corridors grimly reaping as it goes; places where nurses and doctors are slipshod, uncaring or downright callous and cruel and patients are constructed as their helpless victims. You can almost hear the melodramatic silent movie music and mad cackling laughter.

NHS1   Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was born in 1950 the NHS and the welfare state were barely two years old and because it existed my mother was attended by trained midwives and as I grew she could take me to a weekly clinic where my weight was monitored and she had access to free baby milk, orange juice and vitamins to help me thrive. Prior to the NHS most working class folk like us couldn’t afford what we now think of as basic healthcare. Our babies were delivered at home by untrained women often in unhygienic conditions. Maternal deaths were high. If a mother was unable to breastfeed, cow’s milk had to suffice. There was little knowledge of the need to sterilise bottles etc and little money for, or knowledge of a healthy diet. I had an aunt whose legs were bent out of shape by rickets and an uncle who died aged 50 from a treatable heart condition because he couldn’t afford to pay for either the doctor or the medicine that would have saved him.

There is no doubt that the NHS has transformed the health of the working class and saved many, many lives.

images   In three short years the Coalition government, with its crazed programme of benefit cuts and its unbelievably savage attack on people with disabilities, has catapulted the working class back to those pre NHS days of my infancy. And it seems determined to finish the job by destroying a system that ensured everyone had access to a level of healthcare previously only available to the well off.

And they’re doing this by trying to turn us against it with the sly tactic of the self fulling prophesy . Because by starving hospitals of cash and staff they aim to create the chaos that they hope will justify privatisation.

images (1)     So now its high time for the GOOD NEWS stories to be told about the NHS to put things back into proportion. Like every organisation under the sun, the NHS doesn’t get it right all the time. But it does get it right an awful lot more times than the government would have us believe and it does it every hour of every day of every year all over the UK.  A simple Google search for the term “the NHS saved my life” yielded ONE MILLION ONE HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND hits and I’ve listed some of the links below so people can read something positive about our health service for a change. I’m not claiming that every single one of those hits was a good news story but the vast majority of them certainly were – and they were all stories of how NHS staff from ambulance crews to doctors and nurses and even a dietician had helped to save a life. There’s even one from a Tory MP!

opperman    MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman invited the neurosurgeon who saved his life to Westminster to present him with a cheque from the proceeds of a book he’d written, as a thank  you for the great care he received from the NHS. He seems unusual for a Tory since he’s also campaigned against low wages and first got interested in national politics after giving up his time as a barrister for free to lead a campaign to fight the closure of Savernake NHS Hospital, which he credited with saving his mother’s life from cancer.

   So here are the good news stories that I hope will help heal the NHS reputation (not ‘cure’ it like a side of bacon!).

images (9)

http://guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/giving-book-proceeds-to-nhs-as-thank-you.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/06/nhs-just-saved-my-life

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1361044/Andrew-Lansleys-NHS-reform-It-saved-life-wasnt-liberated-then.html

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/examiner-plus/2012/05/09/the-nhs-saved-my-life-now-we-need-to-save-the-nhs-huddersfield-author-gives-his-verdict-after-six-months-in-hospital-86081-30926518/

http://dave-howells.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-nhs-saved-my-life-in-aid-of.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/120874/Obama-s-stepmother-The-NHS-saved-my-life

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/yoursay/letterstotheeditor/9181453.To_NHS_knockers__it_saved_my_life/

http://www.cumbriapartnership.nhs.uk/news/royal-recognition-for-simple-act-of-kindness.htm

http://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/yoursay/opinion/yourletters/8090504.NHS_saved_my_life/

images (2)

http://www.ambulance.wales.nhs.uk/Default.aspx?pageId=153&lan=en&sid=151

http://www.scoop.it/t/brighton-and-sussex-university-hospitals-nhs-trust/p/4000847988/hurstwood-park-saved-my-life-says-jess-county-news-west-sussex-gazette

http://www.justgiving.com/Kevin-Rutherford1

http://www.plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk/ourorganisation/newsandpublications/pressreleases/Pages/RoutineNHSscanwasalife-saver,saysgrandfatherAnthony.aspx

http://www.nhsforthvalley.com/news/2013/bowel-screening-saves-lives

download                                                   http://www.midstaffs.nhs.uk/Our-Services/Have-Your-Say.aspx

http://www.wmsc.nhs.uk/news/grace-says-thank-you-for-saving-my-life-as-west-midlands-trauma-care-system-goes-live

http://www.derbyhospitals.nhs.uk/patients/inpatients/inpatient-experiences/sharon-norton/

http://www.scotsman.com/scotland-on-sunday/opinion/comment/scottish-independence-fears-over-cross-border-nhs-1-2818976

https://www.nhslocal.nhs.uk/story/features/how-air-ambulance-saved-my-life

http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/default.asp?page=s1192_3&newsid=8839&back=home

http://www.sthk.nhs.uk/pages/News.aspx?iNewsItemId=571

http://www.southcentralambulance.nhs.uk/foundation-trust/membersstories/apatientsstory.ashx

http://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/blog/1985/press-releases/%E2%80%98new-heart-attack-treatment-saved-my-life%E2%80%99/

http://www.channel5.com/shows/brain-hospital-saving-lives/articles/about-the-show

http://www.buckinghamshire.nhs.uk/legacy/2010/04/bowel-cancer-screening-saved-my-life-says-local-woman/

http://www.rbht.nhs.uk/patients/why-us/patients-stories/cancer-testimony/

http://www.bradfordhospitals.nhs.uk/about-us/patient-testimonials

http://www.cht.nhs.uk/news/news-item/browse/20/article/early-diagnosis-saved-my-life/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=14&cHash=6c9cb0f5e6daaa997fc680fef258ea80

http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/save-our-nhs.html

NHS-thank-you3