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Some of you may have been reading and enjoying (or not) a series of comment posts I have been running on The Labour Party Facebook page. In this article I intend to run through a few of the news items that influenced my decisions. It’s not an exhaustive list, but I hope it will provide an insight into those choices.
As there’s a lot to get through, I propose to divide this article in two, with the first six days’ worth today and the rest tomorrow. This will also provide space for anyone who wishes to comment on the topics, as 12 all at once is quite a lot to digest.
Let’s get started!

Day 12: High Street misery

This was influenced partly by Mary Portas: high streets destined to ‘disappear forever’ and partly by my own experience of Bristol city centre on what should have been one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Traffic into town was light and there were few people in evidence. Where were they all? My guess is that they were saving their cash because they knew they’d need it for the hard times that are coming.

Day 11: Firms withholding tax

I recently received the following in an email from Avaaz: “Our tax chief had secret lunches with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs and then handed them billions in tax breaks – while keeping Parliament in the dark!
“MPs are outraged, claiming we are owed over 25 billion pounds in back taxes from these and similar dodgy deals. But the tax agency has blocked an inquiry into the scandal and refuses to release any documents to shed light on why these tax breaks were ordered in the first place.
“The cosy relationship between the public tax authority and major private companies is shocking: the tax agency boss had more than a hundred lunches with big business tax lawyers and advisers, leading to the companies being let off millions in taxes.
“The agency tried to obstruct a recent Parliamentary inquiry using flimsy confidentiality arguments, and threatened the whistleblower who helped expose the scandal.
“The coalition is weak and on the defensive over the economy and several Conservative and Lib Dem MPs are fuming over these tax revelations. But the government has yet to demand full payment. Only public pressure can change Cameron’s position and ensure that big businesses pay what they owe rather than manoeuvre and lobby to minimise their tax bills.
“We should be able to trust our public tax body to be free of corporate capture and able to recover taxes owed without fear or favour.”

Also, try this story: Why double standards by HMRC mean you pay more

Day 10: Benefits slashed

Have a look at this: Half of benefits claimants refuse to do unpaid work

Despicable, isn’t it? I responded, in the ‘Comments’ column, as follows: What a revolting article. The people who refused to do unpaid work were absolutely right to do so and should NEVER have been penalised for it.
If commercial work is available and needs to be done, then companies should be EMPLOYING people to do it.Community service is done by convicted criminals. As far as I know, the current excuse for a government has stopped short of making unemployment a crime (although I have no idea how long it may be until the thought occurs to one of them). Therefore community service is nothing to do with the unemployed.
And charity work relies on the goodwill of those doing it.
This is nothing but another scurrilous attack on the people who are least able to defend themselves, by the most privileged and least deserving government in the history of the UK.
To describe this scheme as a success because it has deprived people of the income the need, in order to survive, is sickening.
To those responsible, I say: Shame on you. May you suffer poverty and homelessness for the rest of your days and may good people shun you.

May I refer you also to my own blog piece, What William Beveridge might have really wanted for the modern welfare statein which I wrote the following: And what is this government’s solution? It intends to limit housing benefit, so that any individual who cannot afford the rent for their residence will be slung out on their ear. It intends to time-limit unemployment benefits and has already begun offering inappropriate jobs to claimants – the classic is driving jobs for those without licences, in order to clear them off the books for a while. And it has employed Atos, an IT corporation, to carry out assessments of disability claimants using a tick-box questionnaire, instead of employing medical experts. It’s well-known that this company is under orders to get as many claimants as possible off the books and there is a wealth of evidence that shows this has led to a shocking amount of inaccuracy in the way Atos employees have filled out the forms. A survey by the Citizens Advice Bureau in Mid Wales found more than 40 per cent of those they questioned, who undertook the assessment, discovered serious errors – the answers input by the assessors were not the answers they had been given.

Day 9: EU de-stabled

This of course refers to David Cameron’s infamous veto of the EU treaty that would have imposed strict fiscal rules on all European Union countries, along with a financial transactions tax on banks. All that Cameron did in reality, though, was sideline the UK from Europe, as the other 26 countries then went on to sign an ‘accord’, agreeing to those terms without including the UK. But the decision to step back from matters which could seriously affect our trading future could de-stabilise the EU, and could lead to Britain being seen as an interfering interloper, rather than a fully-fledged and in fact senior contributor to the Union.

The BBC’s Robert Peston had this to say about the effect on businesses.

Day 8: War on the disabled

Mental health experts warn against pace of incapacity benefit cuts

Fatal consequences of benefit changes

Renewed concern about ATOS medical assessments

Benefits assessment firm causing ‘fear and loathing’ among claimants, says MP

‘The medical was an absolute joke’

The very definition of irony

Day 7: Public service squeeze

Is that what you call good service?

This is not a pension reform – it is simply a pay cut

More tomorrow!

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