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Day 6: Raised VAT

This one speaks for itself, I hope. VAT was raised from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, in a regressive tax move that hits the lowest earners far harder than the wealthiest. There are fairer ways of bringing £12bn per year into the Treasury and, by the way, doesn’t the amount accrued depend on the amount that people spend? With their spending power reduced, that amount must diminish. I wonder if the Coalition ever considered that.

Day 5: Five Days Of Riots!

Lots of reasons have been given for the now-infamous ‘Five Days in August’. The spark was the alleged shooting, by the police, of a young man in Tottenham who they claimed was carrying a gun. However, many believe that deprivation and a lack of hope had much to do with the way the rioting that followed spread like wildfire through London and then into other towns and cities across the UK. Government supporters have claimed that much of the rioting was carried out by opportunists who wanted to, for example, nick a new pair of trainers from Foot Locker, but this argument skims over the fact that the riots had to be going on in the first place, in order for this opportunism to break out.

Here’s some further reading:

The competing arguments used to explain the riots

Public lacks confidence in Tory leaders following disturbances

Rioting is the choice of young people with nothing to lose

Day 4: Tax-havens for their wealth

There is a theory that the current UK government is carrying out a policy known as ‘Starving the Beast’. In this instance, ‘The Beast’ is government spending and the aim is to diminish the amount spent on public services as much as possible, as quickly as possible. The rise of the current national deficit – which, let’s remember, is not as high as it has been for most of the last 200 years – provided a good excuse to claim that austerity is the way forward (it isn’t; more on that later), and that spending needed to be reined in.

Alongside this, as practised in the USA by that genius and rocket-scientist George W. Bush, come efforts to ensure that the wealthiest in society – who should, by rights, contribute the most in terms of tax, which should then be spent on public services – get to keep just as much of their wealth as possible. To this end, governments engaged in ‘Starving the Beast’ ensure that their wealthiest supporters can squirrel their cash away in tax havens, and that loopholes in tax law allow them to do this, avoiding the necessity of payment. We have already seen that HMRC has been engaging in ‘sweetheart’ deals with large firms such as Goldman Sachs, allowing them to write off large amounts that are owed to the Treasury (and therefore, by proxy, to you and me). Here’s some further reading on the subject of tax havens:

To us, it’s an obscure shift of tax law. To the city, it’s the heist of the century

Fury over UK-Swiss tax evasion deal

The tax haven firms running our public services

Tax haven responses underline need for government action

Day 3: Privatised health

I’ve got more material about this than everything else on the list. It seems that the Coalition’s plan to privatise the health service has become the main issue of this Parliament – and rightly so. I call it a plan to privatise because that’s what it is, never mind the rhetoric and spin that they give it. They want to allow private companies in to run NHS services – that’s privatisation. It means that some of our tax money will be used to provide profit for these firms, rather than paying for much-needed healthcare. And this in turn means that some of our money will go into tax havens, as many of these firms operate from locations with tax haven status. It means those amounts, paid by the citizens of the UK in good faith, will do nothing other than fill the foreign bank accounts of already-wealthy businesspeople. Do you consider that a responsible thing to do with our money? Because I don’t.

At the very end of 2011 it was announced that 49 per cent of NHS hospital space is to be given over to private patients, in an attempt to help the NHS pay its bills. This may tie in with a narrative that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, was trying to put out last year – that Labour initiatives had left hospitals in dire need of funds. That didn’t work at the time because the hospitals themselves complained that his figures were inaccurate. More importantly, though, it points towards a future in which the Health and Social Care Bill has become law, in which hospitals will be unable to limit the number of private cases they have to take on. This will mean that NHS patients must join an ever-lengthening queue for care, if they can’t afford to pay for it. In a previous blog, I suggested that William Beveridge must be spinning in his grave. I have a feeling that, because of the above, Aneurin Bevan’s body may have also become a whirling dervish. Here are just some of the many references relating to this:

Andrew Lansley bankrolled by private healthcare provider

Revealed: the pamphlet underpinning Tory plans to privatise the NHS

Department of Health guidelines falsely inflate NHS costs

What MPs must know before they vote to wreck the NHS

The end of the NHS as we know it

Lansley’s unhealthy double whammy: what you won’t know or find out about the NHS

NHS private income cap to be lifted

Hospitals furious at Lansley’s debt claim

Health Secretary must reveal DOH assessment of restructuring costs (Despite the fact that the government has been ordered to reveal the extent of the risks that his shake-up of the NHS poses for the service, the government is still, at time of writing, refusing to publish the risk assessment – illegally)

Andy Burnham: These health reforms are an affront to democracy

NHS executives told to resign under plan to cut trusts

Day 2: Sky-high student fees

This was the move that brought shame upon the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat partners, who had campaigned during the 2010 general election against raising fees for college and university students. The top end of student fees was raised to £9,000 per year. The Tories promised us that only a very few universities would charge that much – and the majority duly announced that they would be charging the maximum. Students protested, organised marches against the change, and got ‘kettled’ by the police – who have, once again, become political pawns of a Conservative-led government, after a pleasant break under Labour when they were allowed to actually do police work. Here’s some further reading:

Why aren’t we supporting the students? Maybe we’ve been psychically kettled

What really happened in Trafalgar Square

Day 1: And a broken economy!

So much has been spoken and written about the economy – how it got into its current condition, who’s to blame, and what’s to be done, that it almost seems pointless to mention it here. But I’m going to, anyway!

Some say that responsibility lies with Gordon Brown, who failed to regulate the banks strictly enough, allowing them to behave irresponsibly, providing unsecured loans to people who could never afford to pay them back, and that this led to the credit crunch of 2008 and the subsequent actions that led to the growth of the national deficit – Mr Brown bailed out the banks to stop them all collapsing in a domino-effect sequence. This seems completely wrong-headed to me. Mr Brown was persuaded by leading bankers of the time that they did not need heavy regulation and were perfectly capable of running their own businesses in a responsible manner – and this is what he expected them to do. Therefore, it is with those bankers that the blame lies, and it is a sad fact that both the previous Labour government and the current Conservative-led government have let those people get away with it. Labour could be excused, as there was very little time to go chasing the bankers before the election of 2010. I wonder what excuse the Coalition has?

The Conservatives, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, got into power on a platform of austerity. I have already mentioned the ‘Starving the Beast’ policy that, in my opinion, lies behind this. Any Liberal Democrat who dismisses the possibility out of hand is, also in my opinon, a fool and a Tory dupe. In the meantime, the figures speak for themselves. In the 20 months since Mr Osborne took over at the Treasury, growth figures have been revised down time and again, and now we are being told we will go back into recession this year. Austerity has failed. Mr Osborne – and his leader, Mr Cameron – has lost the argument.

Do they admit it? Do they accept that they need to invest in jobs and growth? Not a bit of it. They are adamant that if they carry on, the economy will turn around and parts of the private sector (that don’t actually exist) will inject the necessary cash (that also doesn’t exist) to get the country on its feet again.

My opinion is that, when the economy does finally turn the corner (and it will, eventually), it won’t have anything to do with Mr Osborne or the Conservative Party (and less to do with the Liberal Democrats). In fact, I think they’ll probably be the last to know. Sadly, I’m sure they will still trumpet it to the rooftops as their achievement. Here’s the further reading:

Osborne given stark warning on cuts’ impact

Now the cuts are biting and the figures are terrible

The case against austerity

For every £4 spending is cut, it only cuts borrowing by 75p

All pain, no gain: forecasts predict longer dole queues and higher deficit

Keynes was right

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