Rachel Reeves: This photo is a rare occasion in which she doesn’t have her foot in her mouth.
I’ll say it if nobody else will – Rachel Reeves is so stupid she could lose Labour the election.
Work and Pensions is a gaping policy open-goal for the Tories but Ms Reeves can’t see this and wants the world to know she’ll out-cut them on the Benefit Cap.
“Labour supports a cap on benefits. We will ask an independent commission to look at whether the cap should be lower in some areas,” are her actual words.
What stupidity. One can only imagine she is basing these comments on the fact that wages are lower in some areas than others. But prices are just as high!
Sure, it’s an important point that David Cameron’s government “has spent £25bn more than planned on welfare because of his failure to tackle the low pay that leaves millions dependent on benefits to make ends meet”. And her comments about apprenticeships may be accurate as well.
But what about all the deaths caused by Iain Duncan Smith’s homicidal benefits regime?
What about the huge numbers of people who have simply disappeared from the benefit system rather than face another round of humiliation and sanction on possibly fraudulent grounds?
What about workfare?
What about zero-hours contracts, part-time and temporary work, and all the dodges employers are using to get out of paying for holidays, sickness and the like?
What about the scandal of our low-wage economy, that keeps people on in-work benefits and denies the Treasury the Income Tax money it needs to pay off the deficit and debt?
What about the many other legitimate grounds for laying into the Coalition government?
This is utterly unacceptable – and in the run-up to an election.
What is Ed Miliband thinking, letting her keep the Work and Pensions brief?
He must get rid of her – not just for our sakes, but for his own party’s electoral chances.
Cameron’s heart really isn’t in this election campaign, is it?
Today he’s been rehashing an old lie about the Coalition’s Benefit Cap – that it encourages people into work.
The Cap – for those who have been out of the country or incapacitated in some way since 2012 – limits benefits to £26,000 per family. When it was first put in place, the Tories claimed that this was equal to the average income of British families, and people on benefits should not earn more.
That might seem fair – but the average income of British families – taking everything into account, rather than just wages as the Tories did – is in fact around £31,000. And that was just the first lie!
It wasn’t long before Work and Pensions ghoul Iain Duncan Smith was implicated in another untruth, when he claimed that the mere mention of the Cap sent around 8,000 benefit claimants scurrying into employment. It was another lie; he was reprimanded by Andrew Dilnot of the UK Statistics Authority for that one!
Now Cameron has repeated his assertion that the Tories will reduce the capped figure to £23,000 if elected into office in May – because £26,000 clearly isn’t humiliating enough for unemployed familes and he wants to make them suffer (his words may have varied from this).
According to the BBC, “He said he was responding to public concerns the cap, which sets a maximum limit for state support for individual households, was set at too low a level.” Too low – so he wants to make it lower? The man is demented.
He also rejected calls for Child Benefit to be exempted from the Cap – showing his true colours on the matter of child poverty. Cameron is all for increasing it!
Cameron claimed on Radio 4’s Today programme that the Cap was having the desired effect and that about 40 per cent of households which were no longer subject to the cap had found work. Tory figures are notoriously untrustworthy, though.
Also, when he says a policy is having “the desired effect”, what effect is that, exactly?
“The evidence is that the cap set at £26,000 has worked. Many thousands of households that were subject to that cap have gone out and found work.
“It shows that many who have been subject to the cap have been more successful in finding work than those who have not.”
Does it really? If so many people have found work, then perhaps Mr Cameron can explain why Income Tax receipts have fallen under his leadership?
Sneer v smile: Alan Milburn has tried to talk down Ed Miliband’s plan for the NHS, but the Labour leader is still smiling.
The word of the day appears to be ‘entryism’. A commenter used it to describe BNP/EDL infiltration of UKIP, and it seems just as appropriate to describe Alan Milburn’s membership of the Labour Party.
What does this man have to do with left-wing policies? Nothing. Yet he was Health Secretary under Tony Blair – and a vile job he did of it, too. His period in office – and after – was notable for his support of private involvement in the health service, and in public service provision generally.
This writer reckons that’s enough to suggest he was an example of Conservative Party entryism into Labour. Look at the NHS in England now – Milburn played a major part in that process!
Now he has criticised Labour’s focus on the NHS as a “comfort zone campaign” and warned the party was ill-prepared to carry out the necessary reforms to the NHS if elected.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One he also warned that the party risked the same fate as in the 1992 election which Labour lost.
Vox Political does not currently have a recording of the programme, but the above report, from the BBC News website, explains all we need to know.
He’s trying to torpedo Ed Miliband’s campaign for his Tory masters. Labour is running for election with the NHS as its principle campaign issue, planning to restore it to full public ownership and Milburn – the privatisation junkie – is out to hobble his own party.
This happened on the day Ed Miliband set out a “10-year plan” for the health service – signifying an intent to restore it over the course of two future Parliaments.
Speaking in Trafford, close to the very first hospital that became part of the NHS in 1948, he said: “The central idea is this: that we must both invest in the NHS so it has time to care and join up services at every stage from home to hospital, so you can get the care you need, where you need it.
“We will… train and hire more doctors, nurses, care-workers and midwives – so that they all have the one thing that patients need most: an NHS with time to care.
“We will end the scandal of neglecting mental health by prioritising investment in young people and ensuring teachers are trained to spot problems early.
“By saving resources on privatisation and competition, we will end the scandal of patients having to wait days, even weeks, for a GP appointment.
“We will use the resources we raise to hire 5,000 care workers – a new arm of the NHS – to help elderly people stay healthy at home.
“And because we will be putting in place one system of health and social care we will end the scandal of care visits restricted to 15 minutes.
“If we win the general election in May, the next Labour government will:
“Build an NHS with the time to care: 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs.
“Join up services from home to hospital, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.
“It fell to those after the Second World War to build the NHS. It fell to Labour in 1997 to save it from years of neglect. It now falls to us to protect and improve it once again.”
Off the rails: Should railway companies be renationalised in the national interest?
A group of 15 Labour MPs have issued a public statement this morning, expressing concern about elements of Labour’s policy agenda, and urging a change of course in three key areas, according to LabourList.
The letter – signed by MPs on the left of the Parliamentary Labour Party – calls for an alternative to Labour’s current deficit reduction plans, public ownership of the railways and a return to collective bargaining and employment rights in the workplace.
Here’s the statement in full, which outlines the signatories preferred alternative approach:
1 An alternative to the continuation of austerity and spending cuts till 2019-20
All three main parties, tragically, seem to agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20, even though wages have already fallen 8% in real terms, business investment is still below pre-crash levels, unemployment is still 2million, the trade deficit in manufactured goods at over £100bn is now the largest in modern history, and household debt is now over £2trillion and still rising.
The Tories want to continue with these cuts because it gives them political cover to achieve their real objective which is to shrink the State and squeeze the public sector back to where it was in the 1930s.
It isn’t even as though the deficit is being reduced by these savage cuts. Because the reduction in the government’s tax revenues as a result of shrinking incomes exceed the spending cuts, the deficit (which is still nearly £100bn) is likely to rise, not fall, in 2014-15 and in future years.
There is an alternative way out of endless austerity. We need public investment to kickstart the economy out of faltering growth and to generate real job creation and rising incomes.
It can readily be funded. With interest rates at 0.5%, a £30bn investment package can be financed for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs within 2-3 years. And even without any increase in public borrowing at all, the same sum could equally be funded either through the two banks which are already in public ownership, or through printing money (quantitative easing) to be used directly for industrial investment rather than for bond-buying by the banks as hitherto, or through taxing the ultra-rich by a special levy.
2 Returning rail franchises when expired to public ownership rather than subjecting them to competition
The essence of rail reform must be to reverse fragmentation, to reintegrate the system under public ownership, and to run it in the public interest. At present Britain has the highest fares in Europe. The additional costs of privatisation to public funds are estimated at more than £11bn, or around £1.2bn a year, so that the costs to the taxpayer are now three times as much as under British Rail.
Since 2010 rail fares have increased 25%, yet at the same time more than £200m a year has been paid out in dividends to shareholders or overseas state-owned rail companies which now hold two-thirds of the current rail franchises. Over 80% of the public want the railways re-nationalised, which must include a significant proportion of Tories.
The most obvious and simplest way to achieve this is by letting the rail franchises expire and then taking them back into public ownership at no cost whatever to the taxpayer. To subject them to a public bidding competition with private bidders is not only wholly unnecessary but sends out the wrong signals, as though we’re not confident of our own ideology. The Tories certainly didn’t offer a competitive option when they forced through privatisation!
Anyway, the franchise process, so far from being economic, encourages the gaming of wildly optimistic passenger number projections and this, combined with huge legal contract complexity which is bureaucratic and wasteful both in time and money (except for the lawyers and accountants), has led in the past to franchise failures and operating chaos, most notably on the East and West Coast lines. From past experience public ownership has consistently worked better, and we should not gratuitously throw obstacles in our own path in getting there.
3 The need for the restoration of collective bargaining and employment rights as a check against excessive corporate power
When the Thatcher government came to office in 1979, 82% of workers in the UK had their main terms and conditions determined by a union-negotiated collective agreement. The latest figures now show that the coverage is down to just 23%. One very significant result is that the share of national income going to salaries and wages has fallen dramatically from 65% in 1980 to 53% in 2012 – a loss to employees of some £180bn!
This has happened partly from the collapse in trade union membership from 55% of the workforce in 1979 to 23% in 2012. But it has also happened partly as a result of the anti-trade union laws introduced in the 1980-90s and partly because the state has withdrawn support for collective bargaining as part of the free market ideology of de-regulation of all markets, including the labour market. It is somewhat ironic however that de-regulation of the labour market requires the tightest regulation of one of the key players in that market, the trade union movement.
An incoming Labour government should choose to enhance the role of trade unions because trade union rights are human rights, a trade union presence creates more just and equal workplaces, and trade union collective bargaining is more redistributive than statutory wage setting and will assist on the road from austerity. We should therefore actively promote sectoral collective bargaining and strengthen the rights of trade unions to recognition, and of their members to representation.
Nobody wants to see this in the United Kingdom: Fracked water is set ablaze in the film Gasland.
Vox Political’s report on the outcome of yesterday’s fracking debate in Parliament prompted a predictably shrill response from supporters of the Scottish Nationalist and Green parties.
Now, why would that be?
Could it be that these organisations want to split the Left vote, attracting more voters to themselves by presenting an unpleasant image of Labour?
And isn’t this irresponsible at a time when Conservative policies, propped up by Liberal Democrat votes, are causing so much damage to the United Kingdom – including the deaths of many vulnerable people?
Why are they attacking Labour, rather than the real enemy of the people?
Some have claimed that Labour did a deal with the Coalition, agreeing to abstain on a vote for an absolute moratorium on fracking in return for the inclusion of Labour’s list of 13 regulatory procedures – to be carried out before any fracking may be performed – in the legislation.
Even if this is true, it is simply good politics. The entire Parliamentary Labour Party, combining its votes with any others who opposed the Bill, could not have amassed the more-than-300 votes necessary to topple the Coalition’s absolute control over the passage of the Infrastructure Bill into law.
The only reason this writer can see for the Tories to have given even this concession is that we are in an election year and they fear the adverse publicity that would be generated by refusing any kind of regulation at all could harm them at the ballot box.
So, for the Tories, Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP, it seems to be all about the election. Only Labour seems to have spare a thought for the protection of British citizens from harm.
And what thanks did the party get?
Here’s Nicola Ronnquist: “Labour abstained on clause 9 calling for a moratorium! I would hardly call that a victory! labour is a disgrace! The labour supporters have gone very quiet tonight on some of the threads after pointing out they abstained from a moratorium! ! After the EA commitee recommended it!!! Well done labour!!! No vote on the tresspass law! So they will now be able to frack under our homes. The labour traitors! Im voting green now!”
This Green supporter has posted a further 14 comments on the fracking article thread, stirring up anti-Labour sentiment.
Here’s Chris Lovett, another Green supporter: “Bugger Labliar. Go Green.” No argument – just abuse and a call to split the Left vote.
For the Scottish Nationalists, here’s Lee Thompson, who quoted figures on the moratorium vote from Wings Over Scotland, the ScotsNat blog. No bias there, then! He wrote: “The Head of Scottish Labour [Jim Murphy] was all the way in Scotland playing football! My understanding of politicians is that they are there to represent the wishes of their constituents at all times? 52 managed to vote despite knowing they couldn’t win [including Labour MPs – it is a party that does allow its members to speak their minds]… Let’s consider the example set by our politicians, they get paid by us to vote but don’t. If I told my boss there was no point in doing something, I’d get the sack.”
In fact, MPs are paid to represent their constituents to the best of their ability – and we’ll see how Labour achieved this later in the article.
Clare Tereasa Gallagher, who appears to be both Scottish Nationalist and Green, wrote: “The labour party abstained! Red tory scum, only care about the lifestyles they’ve become accustomed to… Jim Murphy was playing keepy Uppy at Pittodrie!“
There were many other comments. Some of them even seem to be by people who were genuinely concerned, rather than pushing their own party line.
The most sensible comment on Vox Political‘s Facebook page came from Steve Gogerly: “The price of oil falling through the floor has made fracking a less than profitable enterprise which suits all of us dubious of its environmental safety. Hopefully a safer method will be discovered before the price rises again.”
It seems entirely likely that Labour is aware of this and the regulations that are now part of the Infrastructure Bill are merely a stop-gap measure. Tom Greatrex MP wrote at length about “the reality behind… Tory rhetoric” in an article for LabourListas long ago as last April.
“this is not an imminent revolution,” he wrote. “Shale gas in the UK is unlikely to really get going this side of 2020 – peak production is not expected to be reached until 2024. Hinting that shale gas offers a solution to the potential tightening of our supply margins in the next couple of years, as some Tories do, is therefore completely misleading.”
He continued: “Cameron promised that shale gas would deliver 74,000 jobs. This week’s report [from Ernst & Young] cuts that down to 64,000, but within that number there are just 6,000 “directly employed”, 39,000 in the supply chain and 19,000 “supply chain induced” positions. In short, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
“But perhaps the key line from the report was on page 4, when EY acknowledge that ‘it is not yet possible to make any forecast of potential recovery rates’. Whilst we know that the gas is in the ground, we don’t know how much of it is extractable.”
He went on to say that shale gas extraction should only happen within a framework of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection, and with local consent – and must not be allowed to develop at the expense of the UK’s climate change commitments.
Put that all together and you’ve got an industry that is on (forgive the poor taste) extremely uncertain ground. Is fracking worth the potential disruption of who-knows-how-many British citizens, not to mention the further harm to our environmental credentials, for the sake of an unknown – possibly very low – yield and only around 6,000 jobs?
The more one examines this matter, the more likely it seems that Labour has skilfully employed a delaying tactic; these new regulations will put any fracking operations on hold while the businesses involved go through the regulatory procedures. After this has been done, it is possible that a Labour government will have been returned to power, and will put an end to the process altogether, in favour of methods that are proven not to harm the environment.
Of course, this won’t happen if the Greens and the SNP succeed in their greedy bid to split the left-wing vote. If the Left is divided between several parties, the way will be clear for the Tories to sweep back into office and do whatever they like, to anyone.
Mike Chaffin, chair of UKIP’s Newport branch (left), and Donald Grewar, the party’s Newport East Parliamentary candidate (right).
Following on from Beastrabban\’s two reposts earlier today, it seems he’s not the only one with something to say about the activities of UKIP – here’s the South Wales Argus:
Newport’s branch of UKIP appeared in turmoil at the weekend as their chairman appealed for help to “rid this branch of EDL sympathisers”.
Mike Chaffin [branch chairman] posted on the branch’s Facebook page: “Not in my name, not in my party and not in my town!”
He pointed readers to comments made by the [party’s] Newport East parliamentary candidate Donald Grewar on the EDL Facebook page and BNP website.
Mr Grewar responded to an EDL post warning of ‘no surrender to militant Islam or political correctness’ with the comment: “Thus sais it all… the mood of the nation… well done EDL” [sic].
And he said in response to an article on the BNP website about gay marriage: “Well said Richtofen…. sadly this will all come to fruition in the very near future. We need to resist and stand our ground.”
Mr Chaffin asked party members: “Do you consider someone who both praises the English Defence League and posts on the British National Party’s own website to be a suitable candidate?”
He revealed he had been asked to stand down as Chairman and allow two others to take over the branch.
If his claims are true, Mr Chaffin is to be congratulated for trying to rid his party of extremist sympathisers – but it will also prove Hope Not Hate correct in its assertion that UKIP is run by “amateurs”.
How are extremists allowed into UKIP in the first place?
Beastrabban really seems to have a bee in his bonnet about UKIP at the moment. He writes:
“The North West Infidels, a rabid anti-Islam group, offered to guard the Kippers attending a meeting in Bolton from demonstrating trade unionists.”
The story is on Hope Not Hate, with accompanying video. It states: “The neo nazi North West Infidels, a splinter of The English Defence League attempt to offer “protection” to UKIP members attending a meeting held at The Whites Hotel at the Macron Stadium in Bolton.
“NWI members chanted “There’s only one Nigel Farage” and applauded visiting UKIP supporters whilst making threats of violence to a group of trade unionists protesting UKIP’s presence at the venue.
“UKIP have so far failed to distance themselves from the actions of the NWI.”
“More evidence that the Kippers really do hate and despise the NHS,” writes Beastrabban, linking to an article by anti-fascist website Hope Not Hate about comments Arron Banks made to the Financial Times. The article begins:
“One of UKIPs top funders has called for a major overhaul of the “Luddite” NHS and increased involvement of the private sector in the health service.
“Arron Banks, who recently donated £1m to the xenophobic party told The Financial Times: ‘The NHS is so Luddite because everyone believes it’s free, well it isn’t free, it comes at a massive cost, it’s unreconstructed, it’s almost communist in the way it does things’.”
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