Monthly Archives: January 2013

Let’s cut the link between politicians and tax avoidance firms

Laughing all the way to the bank: Thanks to these two grinning goons, UK tax law is now totally bent - in their favour.

Laughing all the way to the bank: Thanks to these two grinning goons, UK tax law is now totally bent – in their favour.

Why are the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms – the companies at the heart of every major scheme for tax avoidance – being allowed to make the law on – guess what – tax avoidance?

Could it be because our comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his part-time Chancellor, Gideon George Osborne, are both either tax avoiders themselves, or have strong connections with tax avoidance? I think it could.

Cameron’s family made their fortune by establishing a tax dodging empire after Margaret Thatcher abolished capital controls in 1979.

And there was a major campaign by 38 Degrees to get Gideon to pay his taxes after Channel 4 revealed he was paying accountants to help him dodge £1.6 million in tax payments every year.

The firms implicated – PricewaterhouseCoopers PwC, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte – received a damning verdict from Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee today. An internal HMRC study estimated that these four firms “were behind almost half of all known avoidance schemes”. But that doesn’t mean their government contracts will be terminated.

Look at Robert Edwards, senior manager in international corporate tax from KPMG, who was seconded to the Treasury for 20 months to help develop policy on Controlled Foreign Companies (CFC). His speciality was advising multinationals on tax-efficient cross-border financing and restructuring.

What is the UK’s new policy on CFCs? If a British company has subsidiaries overseas, and it transfers ownership of its brands to a tax haven country like Switzerland, its profits on those brands will no longer be subject to UK tax – meaning the new system encourages firms to switch their money into tax havens. Previously, their profits would have been taxed on the difference between what they pay in the tax haven and the UK rate – a disincentive to moving the money as the amount paid in tax would be much the same.

Only UK-generated income will be taxed in the UK, while the costs of funding overseas operations remain allowable against UK profits for UK tax – in other words, the costs of overseas operations will be subtracted from company profits by HM Revenue and Customs, when it considers how much tax to charge.

This is Osborne’s economics in action – big bonuses for big businesses, and all tax-free. Alongside the huge cuts in Corporation Tax (down by a quarter since the Coalition came into office) the loss to the Treasury is expected to be around £20 billion over the lifetime of this parliament, according to its own estimates.

There is no benefit to small- and medium-sized British companies.

Look at the predatory schemes set up by these companies. The Guardian has reported that in November 2012, a tax tribunal threw out an Ernst & Young inspired scheme that enabled Iliffe News and Media to create a new asset – newspaper mastheads. This asset was created for a nominal sum of £1. It was leased back to its subsidiaries who paid the parent company over £51 million in royalties and thus reported lower profits.

PricewaterhouseCoopers devised a scheme to avoid capital gains tax on profits involving a series of circular and self-cancelling transactions resulting in the creation of assets and disposals which somehow managed to cancel out the profit. This scheme was sold to 200 entrepreneurs and, if successful, would have enabled them to avoid capital gains tax on profits of around £1 billion.

KPMG cold-called an amusement arcade company with a scheme to avoid paying VAT on its operations, using Channel Islands entities.

And Deloitte devised a scheme to enable bankers – bankers! – to avoid income tax and national insurance contributions on £91 million of bonuses.

These are just schemes that have become public knowledge. Many more are sure to exist. The predatory practices of major accountancy firms include creating sham transactions, phoney losses and phantom assets to enable their clients to dodge taxes.

But no accountancy firm has ever been disciplined, the UK Treasury has never sought to recover legal costs from the promoters of the schemes and, instead, the big accountancy firms continue to receive taxpayer-funded contracts.

Bankers, accountants, politicians – right up to the Prime Minister. If the proposal in my e-petition – to prevent MPs speaking or voting on legislation likely to make money for them – became law, either Osborne would not be Chancellor of the Exchequer or UK tax receipts would be much healthier than they are today.

Feel free to think about that while you’re signing the petition.

An e-petition to tackle corruption amongst MPs

hm_govIt wasn’t what I really wanted, but it’s a start – and it might help to identify some of the bad guys (and gals) in the House of Commons.

I am referring to my new e-petition, which calls on the government to legislate against MPs speaking or voting in debates on matters which could lead to them, companies connected with them or donors to their political party, gaining money. You can find it at – got it? Good, now sign it, please. Done that? Now read on. Thanks!

I do think this is a vital step to prevent corruption – if such a law had been in place before the current government came into power, Andrew Lansley would not have been able to speak in favour of his Health and Social Care Act before it was passed (he had received money from Care UK, as is well-documented on this blog and others).

But it is only a step. If this e-petition receives 10,000 signatures, then the government will post a response and I am dying to find out what it might be.

A Facebook friend of this blog sent me the response to an e-petition calling for the abolition of “work for your benefit/workfare” schemes in the UK, which seemed most keen to take issue with the use of the word “workfare”, even though it has been well-established in the British political scene for many years. It went on to describe the work-for-benefit schemes it does offer – in glowing terms. It makes me doubt whether the people responsible have taken the petition seriously.

Please support my petition. And please promote it by sharing the link with your friends – both online and in the real world, if possible. The Coalition Agreement of 2010 states that “the Government believes that we need to throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account” but we have seen no evidence of this happening. If anything, it seems the creatures who stalk the corridors of power are more corrupt than ever before.

Does anyone remember the scandal when it was revealed lobbyists could gain access to David Cameron in return for a £250,000 donation to the Conservative Party?

This kind of behaviour must be fought. First, I think we should try to banish it from the chamber of the House of Commons. If a debate does take place, it would be interesting to see who takes part and how many oppose the proposal – for obvious reasons.

If the e-petition gets that far, it might be possible to expand, considering the activities of lobbyists and whether former MPs should be allowed to take jobs with companies that benefit from government contracts.

For my next e-petition, I have been weighing up my chances of getting one published that would seek a debate on Gideon George Osborne’s misuse of taxpayers’ cash to fund his £1 million property moneyspinner – the paddock affair. I couldn’t get one published about the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, who whitewashed the issue, and I doubt I could get one published seeking the dismissal of Osborne himself.

But a debate, using him as an example? That might be the way.

As ever, I am interested in your opinions.

More home truths about social housing

Today I was going to follow up my Panorama preview with an analysis of what the show had to say. With apologies, that will have to wait.

I was unable to view the episode on transmission because I was having to deal with the sudden flooding of my house by the efforts of workmen who were acting with the blessing of my landlord – and the effect of that on Mrs Mike, who returned from her wrist operation to find her possessions covered in water.

All in all – and I mean this literally – yesterday was a washout.

You may recall I reported to the housing association – let’s put a name to it: Bromford Housing Association – on Friday afternoon a leak in one of the pipes under the bathroom that meant there was no pressure in the boiler and therefore no hot water for the house. They promised to send out someone to repair it within 24 hours and failed.

It turns out that there was no possibility of repair within that time – if a person gets to a house within the 24 hours, all they do is provide two heaters to tide you over until someone can come along to do a proper job. I got this from talking to another workman, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After repeated phone calls from myself and Mrs Mike, once the 24 hours had elapsed, a man came out on Sunday who was only qualified to look at the pipes around the bath. The boiler was a matter for a heating engineer, and he gave the impression that the underfloor pipes were for the same person. When he called the housing association he was told that someone from the relevant company had already been here. That was a lie.

We had to wait until Monday, the day when Mrs Mike was due to go to Brecon for her carpal tunnel operation. I had to take her there. We waited until midday for the heating engineer, then left the keys with our next-door neighbour and a note on the door to call on her for an explanation of what was wrong.

The operation took a little longer than I expected, but we were home shortly after four – to find the heating engineer was there, working on the boiler. He said he had fixed the problem, but could do nothing about the underfloor pipes. Because the bathroom had been refitted by yet another company, they had to come in and effect repairs to it.

In the meantime he said – supported by the housing association’s representative at the other end of the phone – that we should leave the water on, because the dark patch on our kitchen ceiling (that had alerted us to the problem) was small and it was unlikely to become a serious problem before the OTHER repair people turned up – as promised by the housing association – later in the evening. Let’s just remember that promise, shall we?

He said I would have to repressurise the boiler every 15 minutes or so, as it would keep dropping until the pipe was fixed.

Then he went off to do another job on our estate.

After about an hour, Mrs Mike went out into the kitchen on some errand (I can’t remember all the details). Passing the cupboard under the stairs, she said: “Ew! Why’s the floor wet?”

I looked, and there was a damp patch seeping out from under the door. Guess what I found when I opened it?

That’s right. The whole place was drenched and dripping.

I rushed to switch off the water – the damage had been done but there was no reason to let it get worse.

Mrs Mike – who was under doctors’ orders to get rest and recuperation in a warm, stress-free environment after her operation – was in a hell of a state. Horrified, grief-stricken at the harm to her possessions, apoplectic with fury at the workman and the landlord that let him make such a hideous mess of everything – this was exactly the worst thing that could have happened to her on that day. I’ll come back to that in a while, too.

Of course I got on the phone to the housing association and spoke to some clueless operative who claimed to know nothing about it and asked me to repeat certain details of what had happened several times over, presumably hoping to catch me out in an inconsistency, I don’t know why. She knew that her company was in trouble – and she would be too, if she didn’t act responsibly – I made that perfectly clear. Perhaps she didn’t know how to behave properly. Perhaps they don’t provide that kind of training.

While I was grappling with this slippery customer, Mrs Mike had gone out the front door, found the workman who’d told us to leave the water on, and gave him the kind of talking-to you don’t forget in a hurry. Bearing in mind the fact that these people are told to leave the area if they receive abuse, it is to his credit that he agreed to come into the house and look at the damage. When he did so, I found that water had also got through the kitchen ceiling, dripping down the wall so that, by now, everything on the worktop was swimming.

I handed the phone to him. He had a conversation. Then he told me that he’d been authorised to do whatever he could to get to the offending pipe and sort out the problem. The woman from the housing association had suggested that he could go through the kitchen ceiling, if you can believe that! He couldn’t see the point in ruining the plasterwork and neither could I, so he went up to the landing and got to work on the boards with the tools he had to hand – a hammer and a screwdriver.

All this was while Mrs Mike was screaming that she didn’t want any more liars on the phone or in the house. She was absolutely beside herself and who can blame her?

Now: You remember the housing association had claimed other repair people would show up later in the evening? The boiler repairman let me know they told him the nearest person was five hours’ travel away, and had two jobs to do. He wasn’t going to get to our house that evening! They’d told us another lie, to get us off their back.

While he was going through the floorboards with the hammer and the screwdriver, boiler repair man burst a gas pipe. He got me to switch the gas off, but of course if he had caused a spark I suppose that would have been “Goodnight Vienna” for all of us!

He did, eventually, get the floor up enough to reveal the broken pipes. The broken water pipe had a screw left in it, from when – as he had correctly deduced – the company who had fitted the new bathroom had put down the flooring. I took a photograph.

Fixing the problem took until 10.30pm. We now have multiple other repairs to be done. The housing association sent around a ‘surveyor’ this morning – while I was away covering a council meeting (I am a news reporter, after all). He wandered around, nodding and making “Mm” noises until Mrs Mike shouted at him to stop grunting and do something useful. I’ve got a voicemail message on my mobile – from her – that I daren’t open. It’ll probably sear my ears off.

This is a saga that is far from over.

I promised to come back to the issue of Mrs Mike’s health, and the effect that these events have had on it. She had been to hospital for a (minor) operation during the day. She needed calm, peace and quiet and didn’t get it. I’ve already mentioned those things. She also has mental health problems including serious issues with depression. That means that the full effect of these events on her may not make itself felt for a little while and I have deep concerns about what it may be.

She is also in the middle of what I shall call “aggressive negotiations” with the DWP over her Employment and Support Allowance. She’s in the work-related activity group but – according to a work placement provider, of all people! – shouldn’t be. This will not only affect the state of health that these people will need to record – accurately – but will also affect her state of mind about the assessment process.

Also, it occurs to me that any society that allows organisations with power over individuals – such as, say, employers or landlords – to make decisions that impact harmfully on those individuals’ health – as has clearly happened here, with Mrs Mike – should be very careful when it is asked to judge those people.

If the government has not, or cannot, properly regulate employers and landlords to prevent injury or harm to physical or mental health, then it should not penalise people who exhibit the symptoms of that harm.

In other words, why are employers and landlords allowed to get away with dangerous practices, and why is it that the government’s only response is to label the victims of these situations as “scroungers” when they claim the benefits that cover these situations, for which they have paid their taxes?

Most damning, most dangerous of all, is the fact that our house wasn’t the only one to get a new bathroom last October/November. Who knows how many other pipes these people have hammered holes into? They must have been to dozens of households. That means dozens of little time-bombs (or rather, water-bombs) all over this estate, ticking – or dripping – away.



Anyone who remembers my article “Police move on campaigners for ‘criminal acts against DWP'” should read this. It’s the story of that night and its consequences, by the victim of those actions. And it tells a very interesting story, especially when it comes to the identities of the people who set the police on her in the first place…

Panorama’s ‘great disability scam’ – companies get fat while the disabled are punished

Panorama tonight (BBC1, 8.30pm) looks into 'The Great Disability Scam' - the fortune being made by private companies, paid by the government to get disabled people off the benefit books - and failing.

Panorama tonight (BBC1, 8.30pm) looks into ‘The Great Disability Scam’ – the fortune being made by private companies, paid by the government to get disabled people off the benefit books – and failing.

The BBC appears to have woken up and realised what people on the ground have been saying for more than a year: Government welfare policy is to starve the disabled while the companies they pay to judge them get fat on undeserved profits.

Tonight’s Panorama (BBC1, 8.30pm) “reveals the private companies who are getting rich from the new reforms despite only being able to get a small fraction of disabled people back to work”. Great! About time. I hope it does a good job.

The wording of the promotional page on the BBC website worries me, though. It starts: “Only half of all people with a disability are in work.” To me, that suggests a judgement – that the rest of the disabled are somehow shirking a responsibility to get into work.

The next sentence compounds my fear: “Panorama investigates if one of the government’s most ambitious welfare reforms, costing billions of pounds, can solve the problem of disability unemployment.” Is there a problem? How many disabled people can be, usefully, employed? Not as many as the government’s assessors, Atos, seem to be saying – look at the thousands of people who have died from the strain of having been found fit for work (with the accompanying lack of funds, stress of the appeals process, and increased burden on their physical condition that these cause).

But Atos is making money hand over fist. So are the ‘work placement provider’ companies that are supposed to “help” disabled people back into work. But we know from figures released last year that their success rate is worse than if the government had done nothing. The cynic in me wants to ask, is this because their clients keep dying from the conditions they’ve been told they don’t have and that these companies are therefore ignoring?

There’s a ray of hope that the programme is on the right track, because reporter Sam Poling “speaks to the charities who feel the most vulnerable in our society are being failed”. It will be very interesting to hear what they have to say.

I suspect the message will be very similar to that of the WOW petition, currently online at the government’s e-petitions website.

WOW (it stands for the resistance to the War On Welfare) calls for:

  • A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
  • An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.
  • Consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.
  • An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.

You can sign it on

As you can see, WOW isn’t asking for the earth; it just wants the current situation to be reconsidered. When 73 people per week are dying because of the current system (at last count, which was sometime last year and may therefore be understating the problem), something is seriously wrong. Obviously.

I’d like to urge all my readers to watch the programme, then make your opinions known and share the link to the petition. The BBC Panorama blog is at and you can sign up to comment on it here:

Also you could sign up to The Guardian’s website:

And the Independent site, where you sign up when you add your first comment to a piece:

The government, and the companies who are profiting from this multi-billion pound business, want people to forget about what’s happening and go back to sleep. That can only happen if you let it.

My feeling is that you won’t.

The truth about social housing

This is not the ceiling of my kitchen, but it does represent what it looks like (I haven't taken a photo of it - yet).

This is not the ceiling of my kitchen, but it does represent what it looks like (I haven’t taken a photo of it – yet).

Today I’m a little angry. More than a little, in fact. Here’s why:

Long-term readers may be aware that I rent my house, from a Housing Association, with my partner – the famous Mrs Mike. She has long-term disability issues affecting both her physical and mental health. She is, in fact, due to go into hospital tomorrow for a carpal tunnel operation.

This is an operation on her wrists, after which she will not be able to use her hand for 24 hours or so. It will be strapped to her body and she will need my help to do certain ordinary household things. She will also need a warm, comfortable environment in which to recuperate.

When I discovered on Friday afternoon that a pipe had burst under the bathroom floor and our boiler wasn’t working, I was not worried. I had been to the gym and was just about to step into the shower when I realised the water was ice-cold. Checking the boiler showed it had depressurised down to nothing and attempts to repressurise it failed. Then Mrs Mike told me there was a wet stain on the kitchen ceiling (directly below the bathroom) and we realised something serious had happened.

Not to worry – our Housing Association operates a within-24-hour call-out service for emergency repairs. This means, once we’ve called them out, they must get to us and perform the repair within 24 hours of the call. So we called, between 3 and 4pm on Friday.

Aaaaaaand we’re still waiting.

We started relying on friends and neighbours for fresh water straight away, at first filling saucepans and then slowly accumulating larger containers. Heat became a problem very quickly, though. By mid-afternoon yesterday (when the job should have been done, it was warmer outside the house than in it.

Luckily, and by a complete coincidence, another friend was able to offer us two heaters, when I mentioned the problem during a conversation about her Work Capability Assessment (she’s been put in the work-related activity group and rightly intends to appeal, using my article about Mrs Mike’s experiences for support as she has the same condition).

I phoned the Housing Association’s out-of-hours service at 4pm yesterday to ask what was going on. Of course they didn’t know, and promised to chase up the repair man and then give me a revised time of arrival. So I waited an hour and then called again. Bear in mind that it was now 5pm on a Saturday. The woman at the other end said she was very sorry but the repair man seemed to be out of range on his mobile but she would call me back. She never called me back.

Out of range! He’d gone home, hadn’t he? Never mind the fact that people were without basic services – water and heat – and he was contractually obliged to restore them. Nothing was going to stop him enjoying his Saturday evening!

This morning Mrs Mike was on the phone to them before I had managed to lever myself out of my not-very-warm bed and into the freezing bedroom. By the time I did manage to get myself vertical, she’d had a response that the man would be here between 11.30am and midday. It is now 12.35pm.

This is the kind of service for which poor people, and those on benefits, are being told they must pay more.

Let’s all just think about that, for a moment. When you’re on benefit – or on low-paid work, which is my current position – you can’t afford a mansion and you can’t afford to have dedicated people on hand, day and night, to fix every slightest problem. You know that. However, there are still rules that should be met, even on the lowest rung of the housing ladder, and the fact is that these rules are being broken all the time.

I write from experience. Back in the very bad winter of 2010-11, we were without water for a whole week because the repair people from the same housing association couldn’t be bothered to come all the way from Wolverhampton (or wherever they were based) to Llandrindod Wells. The rules state that it doesn’t matter where the company has its properties – wherever they are, they must enjoy the same services – guaranteed.

We got a not-very-large compensation payment after that little debacle, and a promise it wouldn’t happen again.

Now it’s happening again.

12.50 Update:

A man turned up on the doorstep as I was typing ‘again’ – the wrong man, as it happens.

The housing association phoned him up, told him a load of rubbish that it was a problem with the boiler and sent him here – it’s a problem with the pipes, and a completely different company is responsible. He reckoned he’d been told the contractor – who should have been asked to fix the problem – had been! As you can imagine, Mrs Mike let loose with a stream in invective that would make hardened soldiers blanch. Fortunately the guy took it all in-stride and is seeing what he can do to at least identify the true nature of the problem.

The point, of course, is that the government’s legislation, demanding that poor people pay more, doesn’t take account of the fact that the service poor people receive is appallingly bad. And there will be no proper regulation of it because Conservatives don’t believe in regulation. Their attitude is libertarian – you negotiate a service and pay for what you get – without taking into account the reality that the service negotiated is rarely the service received. The lack of regulation means there is no mechanism to guarantee improvement, which is why I, together with Mrs Mike, am facing the exact same situation we had two years ago.

The housing association recently refitted our bathroom, too. The nice new flooring they put down will probably have to be ripped up in order to replace the pipe. Who knows what kind of a mess we’ll have afterwards?

Considering all of the above, why should we pay more for a service that is worse?

Social housing? More like ANTI-social housing.

Have the Tories stuck their heads in the sand – or somewhere else the sun doesn’t shine?

Get your coat, Gideon! If only this photo was showing Mr Osborne departing from politics forever. If he did that, not only do I think the credit ratings agencies would drop any plans to slash the UK's triple-A rating, we might see an immediate economic upturn as confidence starts to return to British industry!

Get your coat, Gideon! If only this photo was showing Mr Osborne departing from politics forever. If he did that, not only do I think the credit ratings agencies would drop any plans to slash the UK’s triple-A rating, we might see an immediate economic upturn as confidence starts to return to British industry!

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you can always count on Tories to come up with an idea so hare-brained it makes you wonder whether they belong to the same species as the rest of us, or to some bizarre, inbred offshoot of humanity where evolution gave up on them after realising their logic runs backwards in comparison to everybody else.

If you’re wondering what has provoked this rare torrent of invective from my normally mild-mannered keyboard, I’ll tell you:

I was wandering through internet news coverage of yesterday’s events, partly in search of something to write about, partly out of interest in what other commentators had to say about the latest economic downturn (the latest? Have we become so casual about it, so quickly?), but mostly out of a desperate need to find an observation about the situation that hadn’t already been thrashed out in front of Joe and Jane Public a thousand times already.

It was disappointing work and I was starting to give up hope. Mostly I was reading that Gideon was “under pressure” to change his cuts agenda (heard it before!); that he told everyone to get stuffed (again!); that he wants further spending cuts to come into play during 2015-16 (boring! But also psychotic!); that Nick (We’re Sorry) Clegg has admitted cuts in capital spending early in this Parliament were a mistake – but he isn’t going to do anything about it (windbag!); that Boris (Zipwire) Johnson (windbag! Oh– sorry, I got carried away there; forgot I hadn’t actually mentioned what he’d done) has tried to show what a man of the people he is by saying there’s huge potential in the UK, if people are given a feeling of confidence – and then blew it all by talking about a “hair-shirt, Stafford Cripps agenda”. Cripps was a Labour chancellor under Clement Attlee, who tried to use taxes and rationing to control economic growth. I’m a Labour Party member and I didn’t know that, so what chance anybody else has, I don’t know. I do know that, by using that reference, Boris stuck his foot right in his mouth (windbag! No – wind-zeppelin!); and that David (Flashman) Cameron wants to be the Prime Minister who secured Britain’s place in a newly-democratic European Union, or some such nonsense, showing yet again that he is completely divorced from the reality faced by you and me every day.

Then I read this, in a Guardian article:

“Osborne is also under pressure from rightwing thinktanks which want him to offer tax cuts to boost consumer spending, with money taken from departmental efficiency savings and deeper welfare cuts.”


– but only because it’s so whacko-Jacko that it could only come from a right-wing think-tank.

Tax cuts to boost consumer spending? Firstly, if you’re thinking that means a cut to the base rate of income tax, please get a grip. They mean more tax cuts for the richest in society – the people who actually have all the money.

(There’s loads of it around, by the way. Oodles and boodles of the stuff. It’s sitting in banks, in tax havens all around the world and also in the Channel Islands. It has to go somewhere, and it’s been going to the rich. That’s what Conservative policy does, whether the Liberal Democrats are hanging on the coat-tails or not.)

The most obvious problem with that is, the richest in society don’t actually need tax cuts to put more money into society. They can pay their way perfectly well as matters stand. Consumer spending won’t budge if they get another fat rebate (remember, the top rate of Income Tax is already dropping by a fat five per cent, and Corporation Tax has plummeted by a quarter since the Tory rabble got into the Treasury).

Behind that is a worse problem – that it implies less money will go into the Treasury, to be spent on public services. As a result, those services will suffer. Starve something and it will wither and die. You can check the truth of that by depriving a plant of water. Before you know it, you’ll have a dried-up stem where your beloved dahlia used to be, and nobody to blame but yourself.

If idiots like George 0sborne do that to public spending, we’ll only have ourselves to blame, because we’re the ones who gave the Tories enough of the vote to allow them to Con their way back into power (collectively, I mean. I didn’t vote for them and I don’t think I know anybody who’ll admit that they did). What will we end up with? A withered economy; shrivelled-up and useless.

But no! They say the tax cuts should be funded with money taken from departmental efficiency savings and deeper welfare (I prefer “social security”) cuts.

Clearly it has skipped their notice that 0sborne has been having a hard time finding efficiency savings within government departments – they were, in fact, pretty much down to the bone when he turned up at Number 11 (if we’re to believe certain commentators, anyway) – so the bulk of the bill will end up being paid from the social security budget.

In other words, it’s yet another attack on the poor.

They clearly haven’t realised – even yet! – that it’s the poor who have been paying for their good times, ever since the Coalition got into power back in 2010. They’ve been propping up their useless economic model with money taken from the most vulnerable of us – in fact, particularly targeting the most vulnerable, presumably in the hope that they will die off before anyone important wakes up enough to realise what’s going on and stand up for them. Sadly, it’s a policy that has worked, so far, thanks to copious support from the right-wing media, who’ve managed to persuade many of the poorer sectors of society that turkeys should, in fact, vote to support Christmas.

It’s mad.

Almost as mad as having a slap-up meal in a swish place like Davos, the day before figures are published showing that the economy you’ve designed has tanked. Again.

Why are you complaining? The economy is running exactly according to plan!

Celebrating Britain's ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos - David 'Flashman' Cameron (centre, facing us), George 'Slasher' Osborne (left, back to us), Boris 'Zipwire' Johnson (right, back to us)

Celebrating Britain’s ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos – David ‘Flashman’ Cameron (centre, facing us), George ‘Slasher’ Osborne (left, back to us), Boris ‘Zipwire’ Johnson (right, back to us)

Confirmation has come through from the Office for National Statistics that the UK economy shrank in the last months of 2012.

It’s no surprise – you only had to look at the shop sales figures for December to know that something was going wrong.

The poor performance has negated the effects of the growth bump in the previous quarter, when the economy improved by 0.9 per cent, boosted by the London Olympics.

The official Treasury line is: “While the economy is healing, it is a difficult road.” Healing? Total growth for the whole of 2012 has flatlined. Again. If the economy was a hospital patient it would need a sharp electric shock to get it going again (but we’ll come back to that)!

The total economic growth since the Conservative-led Coalition government came into power is 0.4 per cent; less than that recorded during the first quarter of the Parliament when the government was still working under Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending rules.

“Today’s GDP figures are extremely disappointing, but not surprising. We warned the UK Govt their cuts were too deep, too fast,” said Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Government’s First Minister.

“UK Government cuts to capital investment in major infrastructure projects is causing damage to our economy. A new plan for growth and jobs should now be a major priority for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

Economist Danny Blanchflower tweeted: “-0.3% lack of growth comes as no surprise but is appalling this was made in #11 Downing Street. The question is what is Slasher going to do?

“Given that the coalition in June 10 predicted growth would be +6 per cent and we now have +0.3 per cent we are entitled to know what went wrong. One-twentieth won’t do.”

Sky News ran with this: “Osborne says Britain faces a difficult economic situation and that he will confront problems to create jobs.”

Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron received early warning of the figures, and responded by having a slap-up meal with his Bullingdon chums Gideon George Osborne (the man responsible for the mess) and London’s comedy mayor Boris ‘zipwire’ Johnson.

Osborne later responded: “We can either run away from these problems or confront them, and I am determined to confront them so that we go on creating jobs for the people of this country.” What jobs?

In fact, this is the very predictable result of the Conservatives’ ideology-led dogma, that put a project to shrink the state ahead of prosperity.

The Tories have always wanted to pin the blame for our debt woes on the state. They suggest that we are in crisis because public spending got out of control, and that this is what happens when the state gets too big.

But this is a fantasy, unsupported by any sound economic analysis and designed to pursue a reckless plan that puts the economy and long-term recovery at risk.

The image of a bloated state getting fatter on taxpayers’ money while crowding out a budding private sector is nothing but propaganda, and here’s why: Before the credit crunch, public sector debt was less than 40 per cent of national income – it was the private corporate sector that was out of control, with debt at almost 300 per cent of national income.

The Tories wanted to say the private sector was being crowded out by the public sector, but in fact, it was being propped up by it.

Those of us who listened to the experts knew that cutting would make things worse, rather than better, but we heard yesterday that Osborne is now ignoring the advice of his former bosom-buddies at the IMF and intends to keep chopping away at the carcass, presumably until there’s nothing left at all.

The same experts, last year, were warning of a double-dip recession – or what legendary economist John Maynard Keynes called the “death spiral”. Now we’re facing a TRIPLE-dip. We haven’t just entered the death spiral; we’re well into it!

Osborne’s solution is to cut benefits and wages so that people have less money to spend on the UK economy. With less money in circulation, shops will close and businesses will go to the wall. Foreign investors will turn away from a nation where they will see there is no profit to be gained. Creditors will start to worry and our credit rating will suffer. By the next election in 2015, there may not be any life in UK business worth mentioning.

Does anyone remember when David Cameron said, “The good news will keep on coming”?

He’s a public relations man, you see. His skill is in saying the opposite of what he means, in order to make a message palatable to the public. You could say he’s not very good at it, because his greatest feat was to persuade the British public to reject his Conservatism a little less harshly than that if all the other Tory leaders since John Major – which is what made it possible for him and Osborne to put us all in this mess by forming a dirty backroom deal with the Liberal Democrats.

I’d like to talk to some of the people he persuaded to vote for his squalid little gang of cutthroats. What would they have done, if they had know what would happen?

Osborne or the IMF – who do you believe?

tripledipWhat a day. The International Monetary Fund has politely suggested that Gideon George Osborne should slow the pace of his austerity measures; in response, Osborne has politely suggested that the IMF should go and spin on it.

You are watching ‘A Family At War’.

The IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, told the BBC: “We said that if things look bad at the beginning of 2013 – which they do – then there should be a reassessment of fiscal policy… We think this would be a good time to take stock and see whether some adjustments should now be made.”

He suggested the March budget would be a good time to change tack, adding: “Slower fiscal consolidation in some form may well be appropriate.”

In response, Osborne said: “We have a credible and flexible debt reduction plan. That credibility is very hard-won and easily lost.

He said pension, education and welfare reform was making the UK economy more competitive, and cuts to corporation tax and higher-rate income tax were making the country more attractive to business. “We do have to carry on with the cuts. We’re not about to bring that programme to an end. [It] will go on until 2017. We are walking a difficult road but we are going in the right direction.”

My problem with the IMF is that it is the very organisation that told us our economy had a completely clean bill of health, immediately before the credit crunch, the banking crisis and the first of our recessions. How can we ever trust anything that comes out of it again?

Mr problem with Osborne is that he’s, well, Osborne. Look at what he said – it’s a load of hogwash. We don’t have a credible debt reduction plan – that’s why the credit agencies are poised to strip the UK of the triple-A rating that Mr 0 prizes so much.

Even The Spectator magazine – a Tory rag – has slapped Osborne’s chum David Cameron for lying about the debt. Cameron said his government was “paying down Britain’s debts” – in fact, on his watch, it has risen from £811.3 billion to £1.11 trillion (for those of you who like percentages, that’s from 55.3 per cent of GDP to 70.7 per cent). In other words, both as a percentage of GDP and in real terms, debt has risen by nearly a fifth under this government. And Osborne is the one who was supposed to turn that situation around.

Welfare reform isn’t making the UK economy more competitive, it’s pushing wages down. If the impoverishment of British workers is what Osborne thinks it will take to bring business into the UK, then he isn’t fit to be Chancellor. But then, we knew that anyway.

Cuts to taxes might make us more attractive to businesses, but only because they don’t have to pay as much to the government in order to operate here. That doesn’t help the UK; it helps those private businesses.

So once again, we see how Osborne views his own role – as a kind of corporate vampire, sucking money out of the state and feeding it to private businesses – from abroad, to judge from his statement today. The money he siphons out of the Treasury means a shrivelled, shrunken public spending system – again, something Osborne desperately wants, as he will use it to improperly justify further cuts to services which the British public desperately need and deserve.

Back in 2010, the IMF was recommending austerity and Osborne was shoulder to shoulder with its spokespeople. Now he’s showing his true colours.

But then, what can we expect from a man with such poor morals he even used the Parliamentary expenses system to make a cool £1 million at the taxpayers’ expense?

I wonder what he’ll say tomorrow, if the figures put us into triple-dip recession.

Rejected! E-Petition is refused but none of the reasons match up

hm_govThe e-petition calling for the office of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to be replaced has been rejected by the government website.

According to the email I received this morning, “E-petitions cannot be used to request action on issues that are outside the responsibility of the government. This includes:

“Party political material;

“Commercial endorsements including the promotion of any product, service or publication;

“Issues that are dealt with by devolved bodies, eg The Scottish Parliament;

“Correspondence on personal issues.”

It adds: “E-petitions cannot be used for freedom of information requests.”

Help me out here, folks. I can’t see how this matter can be outside the responsibility of the government, since it is the House of Commons that oversees the office and appoints commissioners. There’s no party political material. There are no commercial endorsements. Clearly it’s not something handled by a devolved body or personal correspondence, nor does it make an FOI request.

There is no attempt to explain the matter further and no email address through which to discuss the matter. All I can imagine is that they interpreted the link to this blogsite as a commercial endorsement. Perhaps if I remove it?

I would appreciate input, especially from anyone with experience of the government e-petitions site.