Monthly Archives: September 2014

2010 Ed Balls vs 2014 Ed Balls – alittleecon

140528labour

Those readers who are determined to paint Vox Political as a Labour Party apologist site may be surprised to see this blog publicising an article by alittleecon which lambasts the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer for his apparent capitulation to the Coalition’s economic viewpoints.

In it, Alex Little compares words spoken by Ed Balls at the Labour Party conference last week with those he spoke in what has become known as his ‘Bloomberg’ speech of 2010 – unfavourably.

You can visit the site to compare the speech excerpts yourself, but Mr Little’s conclusions bear quoting here. He writes: “It seems he thinks he has lost the argument and far from standing outside the consensus, he’s now lining up alongside George Osborne to see who can outbid each other on the consensus (but bogus) concept of fiscal responsibility.

“He has totally given up on trying to win the argument and is now quite prepared to pretend the earth is flat, believing that enough voters actually do think the earth is flat to benefit him politically. It’s an incredibly cowardly and cynical point of view, and one that takes us all for fools. Whether he is right about the electorate being fools remains to be seen.”

The consensus concept of fiscal responsibility is that the government needs to “balance the books”, as Mr Balls described it last week – using policies of austerity, which means cuts in government spending and services.

We know from the last four and a half years that this policy is absolute and utter rubbish; it is a tool of neoliberals, intended to create a sense of emergency in the general public in order to make people more likely to accept the strictures being placed on them – for a lie.

Fiscal austerity can never “balance the books”.

Fiscal austerity removes money from the national economy, meaning the government takes less tax every year. This means it becomes increasingly difficult to fund public services – the government must either borrow more money or reduce its spending still further by cutting services or selling them off to the private sector.

The process has been accelerated in some countries (including the UK) by the practice of cutting income taxes for the obscenely rich and corporation tax charged to large and international firms, diminishing the tax take even further.

Fiscal austerity is not about being able to “balance the books” – it is about grossly enriching those who already have too much via the further impoverishment of those who are already poor.

We have Michael Meacher’s letter in The Guardian, republished here, to remind us of the failure of fiscal austerity to do what George Osborne said it would do. There is no reason to believe that Ed Balls will be more successful in pursuing what we all now know to be a pointless cover story for what the police describe as a distraction theft.

It is the latest development in a crime that has been inflicted on the British people since the late 1970s, when Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberals devised their plan to reverse the progress of the years since Labour’s historic 1945 election victory. They believed, according to The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain that undermining the working classes “would require, not simply the disengagement of the state from industry, but the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base. The full employment that had been sustained across most of the post-war period was seen, together with the broader security offered by the welfare state, to be at the root of an unprecedented self-confidence among working-class communities. Very large-scale unemployment would end the ‘cycle of rising expectations,’ [and] permit the historic defeat of the trade union movement.”

What we need, then, is a reversal of the neoliberalism that has allowed David Cameron to sell the UK off to anybody with a penny in their pocket. Perhaps economists reading this will correct the following if it goes astray, but it seems that, more than anything, we need:

Expansionary budgets that will put money in the hands of people who actually spend it, building up the national economy towards full employment and boosting the tax take.

Tight re-regulation of our industries – particularly finance – to ensure that the money goes where it is needed, and not into the pockets of tax cheats.

Investment in our manufacturing, service and new industries, to repair the damage caused by right-wing neoliberals – including the possible renationalisation of those that have been most seriously mismanaged.

That will do as a start. If Ed Balls can’t commit to any of it, then he needs to make way for somebody who can. This is a job for someone willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty – not some namby-pamby neoliberal apologist.

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Chancellor fails to understand Welfare Reform Act – Jayne Linney

We’re spoilt for choice with this subject – so many people have commented on it. Here’s Jayne Linney‘s contribution, as hers was the first to reach Vox Towers:

I am totally unsurprised, albeit perturbed,  that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury George Osborne, has demonstrated his total lack of understanding of the Welfare Reform Act. In his Conference speech he announced ‘working-age benefits will be frozen for two years after 2015′ with an added proviso that “the elderly and the disabled will be protected”.

He then confirmed Cameron’s statement of yesterday, of a £3,000 reduction in the Benefits Cap; and this is where confusion arises. Despite his promise of protection for disabled people, individuals in receipt of the work-related activity component of ESA will be included in the cap. Clearly Osborne has failed to notice that many disabled people are in receipt of precisely this benefit; and frequently these are the same people awaiting mandatory reconsiderations and/or Tribunals.

For more of her observations on this, please read the rest of the article on Jayne’s site.

You might also wish to try the Same Difference blog, which links to Ekklesia‘s article on this.

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What the Tories don’t say about the deficit (austerity isn’t working)

mmeacher

Vox Political has been saying this for years. Now that grand master of pointing out the facts to politicians who just won’t see them – Michael Meacher – has written to the press with the same message.

Vindicated at last!

Here’s the esteemed Mr Meacher’s letter to The Guardian:

The Tories have enjoyed attacking Ed Miliband over his failure to mention the deficit in his conference speech (Report, 25 September), but more importantly they fail to mention what is happening to the deficit on their watch. The whole point of Osborne’s austerity was supposedly to reduce the budget deficit. But the data shows it’s actually rising. Last month he had to borrow £11.6bn, £700m more than a year ago, and, despite being forecast to borrow 12% less this year, he’s so far had to borrow 6% more.

When the bankers’ crash erupted in 2008-09, the deficit peaked at £159bn and Alistair Darling stimulated the economy with two expansionary budgets. The deficit fell £38bn in two years. Then Osborne’s austerity kicked in and the rate of deficit reduction halved in the next two years to £99bn last year. This year it seems likely that the deficit will increase to around £105bn. Why? Because if Osborne shrinks the economy – and average wages are already 9% down in real terms since the crash, and still falling – then tax receipts will shrink as well, and if they shrink faster than government expenditure is cut, the deficit will rise, which is exactly what is now happening.

This torpedoes several government claims:

That austerity is working; it isn’t, it’s proving counterproductive.

That the drop in unemployment is feeding growth and government revenues; it isn’t, the OBR forecast that tax receipts would rise 6.5% this year, but they’ve dropped by 0.8%.

And that the government is on track with its (fantasied) “long-term economic plan”. It isn’t, when the National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimates that growth is already starting to slow (with third-quarter growth down to 0.6%), manufacturing orders have nosedived, the trade gap is widening to an all-time record, business investment is still flat, and public finances – the heart of the Osborne experiment on the British economy – are now badly deteriorating.

Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

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POLL: Is the Conservative Party moving towards Fascism?

Take a look at this image of Grant Shapps at the Conservative Party conference:

ShappsHitlerYouth-Reuters

Isn’t the image reminiscent of a member of the Nazi Party in the 1930s, surrounded by Hitler Youth? Even the slogan, “Securing a better future”, could have been written by Goebbels.

Perhaps it is yet another warning that the Party of the Ever-Further-Right could easily become another fascist power. For some, it is a reminder of what the Conservatives have already become.

Consider the questions posed by this image:

fascismposter

How many of these signs do you see in the Tories?

Nationalism? Check – the Tories have encouraged national pride and fear of foreigners and foreign powers, especially the European Union.

Disdain for human rights? Check – the Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act and remove the protection we receive from the European Court of Human Rights.

Scapegoating? Check – look at the treatment of the sick, disabled and those on benefits.

Sexism? Debatable – David Cameron has struggled to include women in his cabinet.

Controlled mass media? Check – look at the propaganda coming from the BBC.

Obsession with national security? Check – look at the Surveillance Act (for example).

Corporate power protected – Labour power suppressed – disdain for intellectuals and the arts – obsession with crime – cronyism… it is possible to provide blatant examples of all of them in Conservative decisions of the last four and a half years.

Or is it? Notice that links to evidence of this behaviour are absent. This is because Vox Political wants your opinion in our latest poll:

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The two faces of Theresa May

Prove who you are: Theresa May and David Cameron check the credentials of two police officers, to ensure they aren't illegal immigrants. No, not really - but don't be surprised if police checkpoints start appearing everywhere with people in peaked caps demanding your papers, just like in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s! (According to the caption that accompanied this picture last year)

Prove who you are: Theresa May and David Cameron check the credentials of two police officers, to ensure they aren’t illegal immigrants. No, not really – but don’t be surprised if police checkpoints start appearing everywhere with people in peaked caps demanding your papers, just like in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s!
(According to the caption that accompanied this picture last year)

The Home Secretary has been on stage at the Conservative Party conference, trying to convince us all that she is no longer using the police to pursue racist policies.

Speaking after a young man of Afro-Caribbean descent told delegates he had been stopped no less than 20 times, despite never having committed a crime, Theresa May asked the conference to imagine what it is like to be stopped by police and searched “only because you are young, male and black”.

She said 27 per cent of stop-searches are carried out without the reasonable grounds for suspicion required by law, which is not only wrong, she says, but “hugely damaging” to confidence in the police.

She reckons she has “reformed” (they love that word) stop and search.

Is this the same woman who – only one year ago – sponsored an advertising campaign on the side of vans patrolling London, with the message “In the UK illegally? GO HOME OR FACE ARREST.”

Is this the same woman whose Home Office tweeted messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wished to claim had been detected or turned themselves in – and even transmitted photographs of suspects in a move that was certain to undermine any claims that it was not trying to incite racial hatred?

Is this the same woman whose immigration officers carried out stop-checks at railway stations, demanding to see identification proving that people were in the UK legally, apparently because they looked foreign?

Theresa May can say what she likes.

We should judge her by her record.

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New blow for Tories as another bigwig joins UKIP

The defector: Better hope you're right, Richard, otherwise you're facing a rather jarring lifestyle change!

The defector: Better hope you’re right, Richard, otherwise you’re facing a rather jarring lifestyle change!

The former Conservative Deputy Mayor of London – a chap called Richard Barnes – has defected to UKIP, according to the Evening Standard.

Barnes, who was London’s Deputy Mayor from 2008-12, follows MPs Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell into the Purple Wilderness, in a move that seems timed to further disrupt the Conservative Party Conference.

Like the others, Barnes seems a perfect fit for UKIP as he says he agrees with its policies on the EU, immigration and the expansion of Heathrow Airport. In other words he wants to keep Johnny Foreigner out. Oh, and he doesn’t like HS2 either.

Speaking as a gay man, Mr Barnes tried to dismiss claims that UKIP is homophobic. In a weak defence of the party, one of whose members tried to blame the severe flooding and storms at the start of this year on the legalisation of gay marriage, he said: “I don’t think they become homophobic the moment they join UKIP.”

He also told the Standard that the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems did not “speak the language of normal people”.

After four year’s as Number Two to Boris Johnson, how would he know?

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Choose a f**king big payday loan – alittleecon

http://youtu.be/9lkWLaZh5QU

 

George Osborne chose to invoke Trainspotting (or was that James Callaghan?) in his speech today, writes Alex Little in alittleecon.

I’m sure some cleverer people than me are producing audio PF Project/George Osborne mashups as we speak [he was right – see the video above], but here’s my written “alternative” list of Conservative choices (adapting the actual song lyrics):

Choose life.
Choose a zero-hours contract job.
Choose a 6 month apprenticeship paying £2.68 an hour.
Choose a family (one man and one woman united in marriage obviously),
Choose a f**king big payday loan
Choose washing machines, cars,
mp3 players, and electrical bread makers.
Choose good health, low cholesterol
and private medical insurance.
Choose help-to-buy 95% mortgage repayments.
Choose a poorly built starter home (on a brownfield site).
Choose your friends.
Choose lounge wear and matching luggage.
Choose a three piece suite from Brighthouse
in a range of f**king fabrics.
Choose DIY and wondering who you
are on a Monday morning (with your curtains closed).
Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing
spirit-crushing Jeremy Kyle shows
Stuffing f**king junk food into your mouth (we will sanction you).
Choose rotting away at the end of it all,
pishing your last in a miserable home
Nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish,
f**ked-up brats
You have spawned to increase your entitlement to benefits.
Choose your 19th Century past. Choose the Conservatives.

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BBC propagandists are busted again over NHS claims

The BBC is sticking to its guns over a report that falsely claimed the Coalition government has increased spending on the NHS during each year it has been in office.

In its article on Harry Leslie Smith’s extraordinary speech to the Labour Party conference, the BBC News website desecrated his words by claiming: “The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties are committed to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.”

Fellow blogger Tom Pride leapt to the attack, pointing out that the BBC had copied comments made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and presented them as facts –

bbc-hunt-quotes1

– when in fact they weren’t.

Vox Political then stepped into the fray, and Yr Obdt Srvt wrote a sternly-worded complaint to the Corporation, together with an article about the issue which appeared on this site.

The BBC has now responded and is trying to wheedle its way out of trouble. Here’s the email:

Thank you for getting in touch about our report.

We stated that:

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties are committed to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

This is an accurate reflection of events as both parties did commit in the 2010 coalition agreement to pursue the original goals of the NHS.

However, because some readers were misinterpreting this to suggest the word “committed” represented an assertion by the BBC, the wording has been changed to say:

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties committed in 2010 to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

Not good enough, BBC!

This response makes no reference at all to the most glaring error in the article – the claim that the Coalition has increased spending on the NHS.

Look at this table, from the UK Statistics Authority’s monitoring review paper, Real Terms Estimates for Health Expenditure in England over the Spending Review Period, 2010-11 to 2014-15. It shows known spending, according to the most up-to-date statistics available at the time (June 19 last year), along with estimates for the remainder of the current Parliament.

nhsspending

Did you notice the rows relating to changes in spending are all minus figures – meaning spending was less than intended? In those years when spending was known, it was less than for the 2009-10 financial year (when Labour was in office) meaning it is impossible for the BBC to claim that “the Coalition government has increased spending each year during the current Parliament” without revealing itself as a Coalition government propaganda organisation.

Claims that these spending figures relate only to England cannot invalidate them as the Coalition has limited the amount it provides to other countries in the UK. Funding for Wales, for example, has fallen by an average of 2.5 per cent per year, in real terms, between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The BBC News website has even run a story on this subject.

As for “both parties committed in 2010 to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care“, take a look at this Daily Mail article, detailing the predicament of a gentleman who has been forced to pay £450 per month because his local Clinical Commissioning Group (brought into being by the Coalition government) would not provide him with a drug that is available free on the NHS elsewhere in England. Ironically, the cash-starved NHS in Wales is reported to have agreed to provide the drug.

Admittedly, the Daily Mail is always going to be a dodgy source of material, what with its long and well-deserved record of inaccuracy, but there are plenty of similar stories in the mainstream media.

So now we have a situation in which the BBC has lied to the public and, after the lies were pointed out, has tried to duck responsibility with more lies and evasion.

Faced with this kind of behaviour, there’s only one thing to do – publicise the transgression and demand a full public apology and correction.

Rest assured, you will read the next chapter of this story just as soon as the BBC responds. In the meantime, please share this article.

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George Osborne admits to conference: ‘I can’t make the economy work!’

'For the privileged few': George Osborne.

‘For the privileged few’: George Osborne.

Of course, he didn’t say so in quite as many words, but that’s what he meant.

Perhaps you need to be convinced?

Okay. According to the BBC, he said in his conference speech today (Monday) that a future Conservative government would freeze benefits paid to people of working age for two years, in order to “save” £3 billion.

This is important because he reckons “an extra £25bn of permanent savings would be needed to eliminate the UK’s deficit”.

“The £3 billion saving is part of £12 billion in welfare reductions previously floated by the chancellor. He also said there would be £13 billion of Whitehall savings, which will include public sector pay restraint.”

How wrong-in-the-head can one man be?

In the same speech as he announced a huge pensions payout to 320,000 people lucky enough to have a relative rich enough to create a large pension pot and unfortunate enough to have died before spending it all, he said he would be continuing to victimise no less than 10 million households, more than half of which are working (the report said half the households affected by the benefit freeze are working, and those affected by public sector pay restraint are, by definition, working).

These are the people who should be building up the economy, and instead, this monumental ignoramus is crushing them down.

The giveaway is the language being used: Osborne reckons the Treasury has to make “savings”.

What he really means is that he thinks the Treasury needs an extra £25 billion per year in order to clear the deficit. Let’s not debate whether his calculations are wrong. They probably are – after all, he has been wrong every year since he took over as Chancellor, why should things be any different now?

Even if he is right about the sum of money involved, he’s looking at the situation the wrong way. If the Treasury needs an extra £25 billion, then why not build up the economy to provide that money?

This would mean telling businesses that working people should be paid a Living – instead of starvation – Wage, providing them with enough money to buy the things they need, rather than depending on benefits. This money would build up the businesses it is paid into, meaning they would require more employees, boosting the taxpaying workforce and the tax take.

We know that the money is available to do this because our business leaders are banking an estimated £120 billion offshore every year, so arguments that they can’t make ends meet just won’t work.

Alas, it seems this plan is nothing but a forlorn hope. Osborne won’t try to build the economy. He’s been too busy shrinking it over the last four and a half long years.

And he’ll never clamp down on tax avoidance schemes for the very rich.

After all, didn’t he devise some of them?

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Is this the best human rights correction ever? Or the worst? – UK Human Rights Blog

Have a look at this, published by the UK Human Rights Blog today:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 13.11.53

 

 

 

 

 

“Even by the usual brazen standards of human rights reporting, this correction from the Daily Mail stands out. Obviously, we weren’t meant to take Richard Littlejohn’s August 2014 comment piece seriously, it being semi-rabid comment bait, but surely the article should have included a health warning to that effect?

“In ‘seriousness’, the Mail’s response to the false claim that “Others have won the ‘right’ to heroin and gay porn behind bars” is pathetic. The claim which has been corrected was not presented as a joke and it would not have been understood as one.”

The article concludes: “Human rights myths are sticky and the damage is usually done and the myth well spread before a newspaper is forced to correct its story. Well done to lawyer Shaoib M Khan for getting some kind of response from the newspaper.”

One point it has missed – and it’s a serious matter – is the following:

If nobody had complained, the Daily Mail would not have published its correction and people would still have some justification for believing Littlejohn’s statement to be correct.

Human rights myths are sticky, and it can be very hard to repair the damage done. The fact that (at the time the image was made) only 16 people had shared the article rams this point home.

That is why it is vital that any false claims such as this – which impacts on Chris Grayling’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and remove the UK from the jurisidiction of the European Court of Human Rights – must be found, corrected and publicised.

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