Yearly Archives: 2017

After Adonis: Never mind the naysayers – we can still stop Brexit

This Writer was alarmed to read posts on Twitter by Owen Jones, attacking Lord Adonis’s comments on Theresa May’s Brexit because Lord Adonis is one of the most privileged citizens of the United Kingdom.

Brexit will affect us all, of course. Some of the most privileged citizens of the UK will benefit hugely; most of the least privileged will suffer terribly.

From my point of view, as a member of the privileged class, it was honourable of Lord Adonis to take a stand against Brexit.

Mr Jones’s argument, that Lord Adonis was unlikely to sway the opinion of the majority because he does not represent them in his social position or lifestyle, won’t wash with me because it’s not about that. It’s about the effect on all of us.

That being said, it would be an easy label for Brextremists to apply, in order to sway the gullible. And we know that ‘Leave’ won by influencing the gullible.

So how do we move forward?

Mr Jones seems determined that the Remain cause needs a figurehead. He’s right that Lord Adonis isn’t it – but for the wrong reasons. For one, Lord Adonis hasn’t asked to be one.

Looking at the article Mr Jones has written on the subject, he names several other high-profile people who have spoken up in the Remain cause, and dismissed them for varying reasons.

Tony Blair is “one of the most unpopular individuals — let alone politicians — in Britain, partly because of the small matter of a war sold on a false pretext which ended up an even worse calamity that many of those who opposed it predicted, and who then got paid millions to work for murdering torturing dictators”.

Nick Clegg, “by undermining faith in democracy and implementing austerity, helped pave the way to Brexit… The messenger does matter in politics, whether you like that fact or not, and no, Clegg is not going to achieve anything other than reinforce the negative image the Remain cause has”. That would be a negative image among Leave supporters, one supposes.

Mr Jones neglects the most important reason of all, despite it being the main pillar of his opposition to Lord Adonis: They represent the 1% – not the vast majority of the people.

Because of that, none of the politicians who might be candidates to lead a revived Remain campaign can possibly hold our trust. Brexit will benefit the few, not the many, and they are members of the few.

Look at all the prominent Brexiters: Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May, those three Tory MPs who head up the 1922 committee, and any of the Labour MPs who want out of the EU – one per centers, all of them, This Writer is willing to bet. It’s in their job description.

Gina Miller, the woman who challenged the government over Brexit in the courts, is out for the same reason. She is a member of the moneyed class, not a woman of the people.

For a Remain argument to be persuasive – by Mr Jones’s own criteria – it needs a spokesperson who represents us. And there’s a real problem with that.

If there is such a person to be found among the working people, or even the unemployed, of the United Kingdom, then they simply cannot spare the time to go off campaigning. Their employer wouldn’t let them go; the DWP would sanction them.

Any serious campaign to stop Brexit would need to find such a person and then provide an incentive for them to hit the road, campaigning – a financial incentive. And that opens them up to criticisms about doing it for mercenary reasons. To be convincing to a Brextremist, such a person would have to starve for their belief.

If an answer can be found to this, we can move on to some of Mr Jones’s ideas that are actually worth repeating:

“I would tour Leave areas as part of a new grassroots national campaign, emphasising my background, that I know what hardship and insecurity is like from my own lived experience, and directly appeal to Leave supporters.”

To that, I would add an admission that both the Leave and Remain campaign told untruths. The referendum was intended to be advisory, but the leaflet put out by the Conservative government promised flat that the result would be honoured. It perverted the intention. That was wrong.

Obviously, Leave campaigners splattered a lie about the UK giving £350 million a week to the EU all over the side of a bus and persuaded far too many people that this nonexistent money could be given to the National Health Service instead, if only they voted ‘Leave’.

There was a huge campaign to pretend that “unelected bureaucrats” in the EU force their laws on the UK; in fact, all EU laws must be ratified by the governments of member states. That’s why there has been such a huge battle between the UK and the EU over whether prisoners should have the vote. Remember that?

The list is probably very long; any competent Remain campaign would have to address everything on it, to explain why Remain failed in the first place.

And of course there is the issue of illegal interference in the referendum, that should – in This Writer’s opinion – render that vote null and void.

So, come on. It’s not right to run down Lord Adonis for doing what he could to point out that Brexit is wrong for the United Kingdom – not without having something better to offer instead.

It’s time for Remain to offer something better. Let’s have it, before Brexit becomes irreversible (and no, Brextremists, that hasn’t happened yet).


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#BecauseOfTories your country is a chaotic distopia. See for yourself

#BecauseOfTories

On the last day of 2017, two new terms entered This Writer’s lexicon. The first was the hashtag #BecauseOfTories, which Conservatives introduced into Twitter to boost their failed government’s public image. The second is the term “optics”, which appears to mean “the way in which an event or course of action (predominantly political) is perceived by the public”.

Clearly the first is an attempt to affect the way the public is affected by the second – and of course it has backfired massively because nobody is going to be fooled by a silly line of blind loyalty when the evidence of Tory disasters is all around us.

For example:

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

https://twitter.com/JamesMelville/status/944489155144364033

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

https://twitter.com/ToryFibs/status/946815549111185409

#BecauseOfTories

This comes after Branson sued us because he lost a previous contract. #BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

If the June election was about life and death, as suggested by Dr Lauren Gavaghan in the clip above, then the UK chose death #BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

https://twitter.com/xugla/status/947259298886881280

Yes, economic mismanagement has more than doubled the national debt in a matter of just a few years, #BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

People think it is okay for a government to deliberately engineer the deaths of more than 100,000 people – enough to qualify as genocide – #BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

I like Tom Pride’s response to this:

Back to the plot:

#BecauseOfTories

#BecauseOfTories

All of the above turned up on my Twitter feed, only over the last few days.

To see more, go to Twitter yourself and look up #BecauseOfTories.

And send this article and a link to the Twitter hashtag to someone who needs to learn the facts. You know who they are.


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Universal Credit is not only an all-out attack on the poor – it penalises councils that try to help

Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith discussing poverty in 2011. Hindsight tells us they were looking forward – keenly – to increasing it hugely [Image: Neil Lancefield/PA Images].

What a divided land our once-United Kingdom has become.

We already know that Universal Credit is hugely harmful to those who are unlucky enough to have their lives blighted by it – including people who are looking for work and those who are working part-time or on low pay.

Here’s one account of the harm it does:

“There was a preoccupation with people who were not working, and a belief that many had made a lifestyle choice to live on benefits. Because of this, making life on benefits far more difficult for people and thus driving or ‘incentivising’ them into employment became an overriding aim of welfare reform and UC. The fact that UC is also a benefit for people who are in work, or who cannot work because of ill health, disability, or caring responsibilities appears to be an irrelevance, with ‘making work pay’ and getting people into work still being cited as the justification for UC.

“The suspicion and disrespect for people reliant on benefits even extended to seriously ill and disabled people, who have been treated with such harshness that the United Nations says the government has committed ‘grave and systematic violations’ of their human rights, leading to a ‘human catastrophe’. Almost unbelievably, UC continues this process, with the abolition of both the Severe Disability Premium and the Enhanced Disability Premium, and the slashing of the allowance for a disabled child. So whilst families with a disabled member are more likely than others to be living in poverty, many will be even worse off under UC.

“One of the most remarkable features of UC is the introduction of in-work conditionality. This means low paid workers who may previously have claimed Housing Benefit but now rely on UC to make ends meet can be subject to sanctions which previously only applied to those who were not working. This is a radical (some may say extreme) move which may be unique in the world. The latest evidence suggests that people on UC are much more likely to be sanctioned than those on ‘legacy’ benefits, and the sanctions are more severe.

“Whilst UC is sold to the general public as a simplification of the benefits system, it is sold to employers as giving them ‘access to a more flexible and responsive workforce’. Part-time jobs and zero-hours contracts have proliferated in recent years, because they suited employers, but UC seems designed to keep workers in this casual, insecure employment under constant pressure. They will be required to attend a Jobcentre and demonstrate that they are attempting to work more hours or increase their pay, on pain of sanction. So UC is paid monthly in arrears because it wants claimants to behave as if they have a steady and secure income, pressures them to try to increase their earnings, but enables and encourages employers to turn those same workers on and off like a tap.”

So you see that the Conservative government’s version of Universal Credit intentionally – and this is a very important point; the plan is quite deliberately to do this – pushes people into poverty.

Firstly, the amount of money available on the benefit has been cut – drastically – in comparison with the benefits that were available before, and it is paid in arrears. The stated intention is to encourage people to manage their own finances responsibly. But it is impossible to make ends meet without any money coming into the household so we may safely conclude that the actual intention is to force people into poverty, because lack of money limits their life choices.

This nudges (those of you who are familiar with ‘nudge’ theory will understand why I use that word) claimants towards any work that is available to them, no matter how low-paid, or how poor the conditions of the job – fulfilling the Tories’ promise to exploitative employers of providing a “flexible and responsive workforce”.

People who have gained employment in this way are then put under even more pressure by the government, to demand more work and higher pay, at pain of losing their benefit, which is still paid if the hours they work don’t add up to the required number. Failure to demonstrate that one is doing this will lead to a sanction, meaning the benefit will be cut for a period of time, plunging the claimant back into poverty (or more likely further into poverty) because they won’t be able to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, employers are being encouraged by the same government to use the same workers as throwaway commodities – so anyone kicking up a fuss about wanting higher pay or more work is a target for removal. And getting the sack for demanding more is a certain route to a sanction, This Writer is sure.

Add it all up, and we may safely ignore the government’s stated intentions and rely on the evidence to reveal the actual intention: Push people into poverty. The fact that UC is paid in arrears, with the first payment usually made more than a month after the claim is made, means that claimants are in danger of eviction by private landlords, and a cause of financial hardship to housing associations and councils, making it likely that they will face a constant battle to avoid being thrown onto the streets, even if they do get work – and full-time employment is no guarantee of safety if it is on low pay.

Now we see a second level to the unfairness of Universal Credit: It is also a postcode lottery.

The extract below shows that local government is stepping in to help UC claimants who are falling into difficulty – but councils are being starved of funds by a Tory regime in Westminster that couldn’t care less. Putting money to this means taking it from other funding streams, and this means spreading the suffering, rather than providing emergency relief.

Meanwhile, other councils – predominantly Tory-run councils – either don’t have a large number of people claiming UC or can’t be bothered to help, meaning they won’t spend the money.

Result: Caring councils run out of cash while Tory councils stay solvent. And the government can then say the caring councils are being run badly.

See how this works?

Cash-strapped councils are being forced to set aside extra resources to cushion the blow of switching to universal credit for vulnerable households, according to analysis by Labour.

Responses to a series of freedom of information requests submitted by the party have revealed many local authorities are allocating significant funds to support tenants with rent arrears and provide advice to help them navigate the new system.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Newcastle city council reported that it was spending £390,000 supporting UC claimants, almost a quarter of which was for additional rent arrears support.

Liverpool city council said it had spent £175,000 from its local welfare provision scheme on UC claimants, while Shropshire council said it had set aside £20,000 to help food banks to “diversify the type of help they are able to give specifically to suit universal credit.”

In London, Tower Hamlets council said it had set aside £5m over three years to help those affected by the shift to UC, while Barking and Dagenham is budgeting £50,000 from January 2018.

In total, 26 councils said they had set aside extra resources or anticipated increased demand for welfare support as the UC rollout reaches their area.

Source: Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants | Society | The Guardian


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Homelessness increases while the fat cats pocket millions they’ll never use

It is almost exactly a year since This Writer stated that our vermin own mansions and stately homes, and we send good people to live in the gutter. And you know what?

In the words of Theresa May: “Nothing has changed.”

Look at the state of this:

The boss of York-based housebuilder Persimmon is under increasing pressure to donate some of his £110m bonus to charity, as calculations reveal that his pay deal could be used to provide a council house for every homeless family in Yorkshire.

Jeff Fairburn, 53, who joined Persimmon as a trainee when he was 17, will on Sunday receive the first instalment of a £110m share bonus which has been criticised by politicians, charities and corporate governance experts as “obscene”.

The company’s chairman, Nicholas Wrigley, is understood to have suggested Fairburn donate some of the bonus – which has been largely fuelled by the taxpayer-backed help-to-buy scheme – to charity. Wrigley quit the company earlier this month, blaming himself for not doing more to cap the amount Fairburn could collect.

The Guardian has calculated, using government figures, that Fairburn’s £110m bonus could be used to build 1,375 council houses.

A donation of £4.6m – just 1/25th of Fairburn’s bonus – could provide a home for all of the 58 homeless families in York. It would cost £60.8m to build a home for all 760 homeless families in Yorkshire and Humber, leaving behind £49m for Fairburn.

(Source: A fraction of Persimmon boss’s £110m bonus could house all homeless of York | Business | The Guardian)

This Writer cannot understand why anybody would need a bonus – remember, this is on top of his salary – of £110 million. How would they spend it, and on what?

The only possible reason for having that much cash is to keep it out of the hands of other people, it seems to me.

So the man in charge of Persimmon Homes is actually contributing to homelessness, when he could be housing every homeless person in Yorkshire and still have almost half his bonus in hand.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, we see this:

Almost 45,000 18 to 24-year-olds approached their local authority over the past year.

But, with more than 100 local authorities not providing information, the real numbers could well be much higher.

And this:

Businesses across Glasgow are being urged to help heat the homeless following the coldest night of the year.

Campaigners in the city are calling on cafes and restaurants to provide rough sleepers with hot water to keep them warm throughout the day.

Outreach workers from Help the Homeless Glasgow (HtH) have purchased 50 hot water bottles with donations from the public and are looking for help to fill them.

Following the death of 28-year-old Matthew Bloomer, who was sleeping rough outside a Glasgow department store last year, the group are keen to do as much as they can ahead of further cold weather.

The comment I made last year was not in response to the death of Matthew Bloomer, by the way – it referred to the death of a rough sleeper in Chatham, Kent.

The bitterest part of all this is that research suggests it is five times cheaper to house the homeless than it is to provide aid for them while they are living on the street.

This aid is provided at public expense, of course – so privateers like Jeff Fairburn won’t feel the pinch.


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Conservative corruption: Theresa May tries to cement herself in as leader by BRIBING MPs

Cheats prospering: Theresa May and 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady, to whom she has awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours, for no reason at all.

How utterly repellent.

Weakling prime minister Theresa May knows she cannot expect her MPs to support her leadership – because she is a failure – so she is trying to bribe powerful Tories into propping her up.

She has given honours to half the ruling board of the Conservative Party’s 1922 committee – the organisation that represents backbench Tory MPs.

Two of them get knighthoods, while a third is made a dame.

Notably, all three are Brexiters. But then, none of the ruling committee support remaining in the European Union – all have voted against it. Former Treasurer (until he was kicked out of Parliament in June) Stewart Jackson, responding to a tweet criticising the Leave campaign for lying to the public, is famous for writing, “Suck it up”. What a nice chap! And he is now special advisor and chief of staff to David Davis at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

Graham – now Sir Graham – Brady distinctly lacks the necessary qualifications for being a knight of the realm. Take a look at the list of his misbehaviours, courtesy of Vice.com:

“When he’s not influencing the government, you may find Brady leading opposition to the legalisation of weed or taking a £8,600 fact-finding trip to the Cayman Islands. In 2011, it was revealed that Brady still employed his wife, Victoria, as a senior parliamentary assistant on a salary of over £40,000 a year. This is despite the fact that, in 2009, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended banning the practice of employing family members, describing it as “not consistent with modern employment practice designed to ensure fairness in recruitment, management of staff and remuneration”.”

Cheryl Gillan “was also embarrassed during the 2009 expenses scandal. Amongst other things, Gillan charged the taxpayer £4.47 for dog food; claimed more money for her gas bill than it was actually worth; and over-claimed £1,884 on her mortgage.”

Christopher Chope, also knighted, also a Brexiter, and also mentioned in the extract below, is well known to readers of This Site for filibustering private members’ bills. He notably talked out a bill to outlaw “revenge evictions” – because it is not in his interest as a private landlord. He repeatedly blocked a bill that would ban the use of wild animals in circus performances. He also talked out a bill to end hospital parking charges for carers. He refers to House of Commons staff as “servants”.

His knighthood, awarded “for political and public service”, is nothing less than a garish and vulgar insult to the people of the United Kingdom – as are the honours to the other MPs mentioned in this article.

Theresa May might think she is buying support – but she is also providing ammunition to those of us who would be rid of her corrupt, inept and unforgivable dictatorship.

Theresa May has moved to shore up her future as Tory leader by giving top honours to half of the ruling board of the Conservative party’s influential 1922 committee.

Three of the committee’s six-strong board have received senior honours: Graham Brady, the chairman, and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the honorary treasurer, are knighted; while Cheryl Gillan, a vice chairman, is made a dame.

The support of the 1922 committee is vital for Mrs May to deliver on her promise to serve a full five year term as party leader.

Sir Graham is listened to closely by the leadership and would play a crucial role in any future leadership contest, which would be triggered if 15 per cent of the party’s MPs – 48 at present – write to him requesting one.

All three backed Leave in the European Union referendum, as did a fourth Conservative MP to be honoured, veteran former minister Christopher Chope who receives a knighthood.

Source: Theresa May moves to cement her position as Tory leader by giving top honours to half of the ruling board of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs


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Adonis quits as ‘infrastructure tsar’ over Theresa May’s Brexit – in the most damaging way possible

Andrew Adonis said Brexit was ‘a dangerous populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump’ [Image: Martin Godwin for the Guardian].

Let us be clear from the start: This Writer is not a fan of Andrew Adonis. He was a Blairite who was too keen to introduce the private sector into public service.

I’m aware that he regretted introducing tuition fees, but he still went through with the introduction of the policy.

So his appointment as “infrastructure tsar” for a Conservative government did not surprise me in the least.

His resignation – on the prejudicial terms that have come to light – has. Pleasantly!

Put simply, it is hard to see how Lord Adonis could have spoken out more strongly against Mrs May, her government, her legislative strategy and her abilities in general. He’s given her a right old trashing.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at his resignation letter – the actual letter, not the sanitised version put out by Mrs May’s government. She tried a bit of damage control here, but Lord Adonis wasn’t having any of it. Here’s the unredacted version:

“The European Union Withdrawal Bill is the worst legislation of my lifetime.”

He has accused Theresa May of being the worst lawmaker to head the United Kingdom since 1963. That’s quite an achievement!

“Brexit is a populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump.”

This is not meant kindly. He is saying that the voters who gave Brexit its miniscule majority engaged their emotions – not their brains – in doing so, and in so doing, have condemned the United Kingdom to a long period of suffering.

“By allying with UKIP and the Tory hard right to wrench Britain out of the key economic and political institutions of modern Europe, you are pursuing a course fraught with danger.”

He is accusing Mrs May of pushing herself and the Conservative Party to an unacceptably right-wing position politically. There is nothing intelligent about her action or intention, he is saying. She is dismantling the UK’s ability to make its way in the world, with no alternatives lined up to take the place of the current systems.

“If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.”

Hard right-wing and Brextremist commentators have already raised issue with the “if” at the start of this sentence. Lord Adonis is saying that Brexit should not happen; that it is the worst possible course of action for the United Kingdom and that we will waste generations trying to win back the ground that a few hard-line jingoistic nationalists are determined to throw away on behalf of the rest of us. He is right. Brexit will be cripplingly damaging. There is no argument against halting it. Saying “We had a democratic vote” means nothing when you add the required caveat “that makes absolutely no sense at all”.

For those who are determined to force their version of democracy on us, I like to reference Alan Moore’s classic line about democracy. Suppose every animal on Earth had sentience and was able to vote on what we all had for breakfast, with the result as enforceable as Brexit seems to be for the Brextremists. Human beings would vote for bacon and eggs, or porridge, or some accepted breakfast food, right? And then billions upon billions of ants and other insects would vote for excrement. We would all end up eating sh*t in the name of democracy.

That’s a pretty good metaphor for what Brexit will do to the United Kingdom, as everybody with an ounce of sanity knows.

The line about future generations marvelling at Theresa May’s “acts of destruction” may seem pessimistic to some, but Lord Adonis is saying that a certain proportion of the current generation is too blinkered to accept the facts. Future generations won’t have the prejudices of the current age to blind them and will have bitter experience to inform their actions.

All in all, therefore – and this is what Lord Adonis is saying – the only sane policy is to scrap Brexit altogether.

“A responsible government would be leading the British people to stay in Europe while also tackling, with massive vigour, the social and economic problems within Britain which contribute to the Brexit vote. Unfortunately, your policy is the reverse.”

He’s saying the Conservative government under Theresa May is irresponsible. With regard to Brexit, dangerously irresponsible.

“The Government is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European co-operation, all the while ignoring – beyond soundbites and inadequate programmes – the crises of housing, education, the NHS, and social and regional inequality which are undermining the fabric of our nation and feeding a populist surge.”

Okay, this part is quite involved. In a nutshell, Lord Adonis is saying that the narrow vote in favour of Brexit was informed by the crises mentioned here – in housing, education, the NHS, social and regional inequality. These are all products of almost 40 years of useless neoliberal policies that have dismantled the perfectly capable state system we had before in favour of an anarchic private-enterprise hell in which the rich exploit the poor to their death while telling them immigrants and foreigners are to blame for their predicament.

“I would have been obliged to resign from the Commission… because of the Transport Secretary’s indefensible decision to bail out the Stagecoach/Virgin East Coast rail franchise. The bailout will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, possibly billions if other loss-making rail companies demand equal treatment. It benefits only the billionaire owners of these companies and their shareholders, while pushing rail fares still higher and threatening national infrastructure investment. It is even more inexcusable given the Brexit squeeze on public spending.”

This is a reference to the government’s decision to spend public money bailing out a private company that has tried to run a privatised railway line and failed. The Conservative government is committed to the neoliberal ideology that privatisation produces more efficient and profitable services, but the East Coast rail franchise proves that it doesn’t. This is not acceptable to the Tories so they are determined to sink millions (or perhaps billions) of pounds of your money and mine into keeping it in private hands, rather than simply re-nationalising it, for the good of the country.

Note also that Brexit is forcing a reduction in public spending. The Leave campaign swore to us – promised us fervently, day in, day out – that Brexit would provide more money for public services, from the moment the decision was made. Clearly that was a lie. It seems idiotic, therefore, to expect the floodgates to open and money to come pouring into the UK, the moment our departure from the EU takes place.

We are going to be poorer – significantly so – after Brexit. Unless you are a company director, you may be driven to extreme poverty. If you voted in favour of that, ask yourself why.

“Astonishingly, Stagecoach has not only been bailed out: it remains on the shortlist for the next three rail franchises.”

If anyone can explain this, please do. It makes no commercial sense whatsoever.

“Brexit is causing a nervous breakdown across Whitehall and conduct unworthy of Her Majesty’s Government. I am told, by those of longer experience, that it resembles Suez and the bitter industrial strife of the 1970s, both of which endangered not only national integrity but the authority of the state itself.”

A “nervous breakdown”? Yes, that seems accurate.

“Conduct unworthy of Her Majesty’s Government”? Yes – David Davis alone bears out that claim.

A danger to “the authority of the state itself”? Certainly.

Nobody This Writer knows has anything but contempt for Theresa May, her government, and its conduct – and Lord Adonis, having made exactly the right points, will only deepen that contempt across the UK.

Andrew Adonis, the former Labour minister, has resigned as chair of the government-backed National Infrastructure Commission in protest at Theresa May’s management of Brexit, describing the process as “a dangerous populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump”.

The former transport secretary headed the body that makes recommendations to the government on projects such as the high-speed rail link HS2. Most recently he recommended that 1m new homes be built in the “brain belt” spanning Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes.

He resigned with a strongly worded letter accusing the prime minister of becoming the “voice of Ukip” and pursuing policies that he said would leave Britain in “splendid isolation”.

Adonis said he would be “duty bound” to oppose the government’s EU withdrawal bill, which will reach the House of Lords in the new year. He described the bill – the government’s flagship piece of Brexit legislation – as “the worst legislation of my lifetime”.

He said Britain could have left the EU, abiding by the result of the 2016 referendum, “without rupturing our essential European trade and political relations”. Instead, the prime minister had “become the voice of Ukip and the extreme nationalist rightwing of your party”.

Source: Andrew Adonis quits as Theresa May’s infrastructure tsar over Brexit | Politics | The Guardian


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UK wages are hitting rock bottom as Tory economic failure bites home

TUC says real wages are still lower than they were when the financial crisis hit in 2008 [Image: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images].

The economy is failing, Brexit will make it worse, and employers are hogging their takings because Tory government employment policy allows it.

Inflation is increasing and wages aren’t. The exploiters in government and in industry are squeezing you hard.

There is no justification for it. Don’t believe the mealy-mouthed mumblings of the men and women in suits. They have been saying the same nonsense for years and it was never true in the first place.

Sadly there seem to be millions of people who are willing to believe it, though.

Can you afford to let them continue with this mistake?

Britain is set to have the worst wage growth of any wealthy nation next year, ranking behind Italy, Greece and Hungary, according to analysis by the TUC.

The UK is forecast to come bottom from 32 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development wealthy nations for wage performance in 2018, according to the study of OECD figures by the unions’ umbrella group.

British workers are expected to see their earnings decrease by 0.7% in 2018 when taking account of inflation, which has surged in the past year as a result of the pound’s weakness since the EU referendum, pushing up the cost of importing food and fuel.

Only two other OECD nations – Spain and Italy – are expected to record negative wage growth, although both still outperform the UK.

In contrast, Hungary is expected to come top for real wage growth next year, with pay set to accelerate by 4.9%. The eurozone is forecast to see growth in earnings of 0.6%.

Source: UK to sink to the bottom of OECD wage growth index in 2018 | Money | The Guardian


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Will PFI campaign be derailed by MP’s spat with blogger?

Stella Creasy [Image: Nicola Tree/ Getty Images].

This is all a little silly.

Labour MP Stella Creasy has launched a campaign to stop companies that have signed Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals with the government from benefiting from falls in the rate of Corporation Tax.

Ms Creasy says it is important because, when these deals are signed, the rate of tax companies will pay is directly part of deciding if they represent value for money.

On her Facebook page, she explained: “If I buy a toaster and then its on offer a week later I don’t get the difference back so why should these companies get such a windfall – either they come to the table to renegotiate these contracts and the cost of them to the public sector or we should be willing to legislate. Help us secure support from more MPs for this.”

She linked to a Guardian article which elaborated:

Companies that built and run NHS hospitals under private finance initiative (PFI) contracts will have made about £190m in unexpected windfall profits by 2020 because of George Osborne and Philip Hammond’s cuts to corporation tax, research suggests.

Analysis by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest found that more than 100 PFI operators in the NHS collectively saved an estimated £84m between 2008 and 2015 and are due to gain another £106m between 2016 and 2020 because of the falling corporate tax rate.

The PFI companies are making bonus profits because the corporation tax rate has fallen from 30% when the majority of their contracts were negotiated to 19% now and is due to drop as low as 17% by 2020. Some companies may be deferring their tax liabilities to later in their contracts when the rates will be lower.

She also discusses the matter in a Twitter thread:

For many of us – especially those who never like the idea of PFI in the first place – this is a worthwhile cause. These companies are already making a fortune at the taxpayer’s long-term expense; why should they receive millions more – apparently in breach of their contracts – because of Tory tax changes?

But there’s a snag.

Ms Creasy’s campaign seems to have been overshadowed by her inability to answer a simple question: Whether she thinks it is acceptable for Labour MPs to be friends with – and socialise with – Conservative MPs.

Our fellow leftie blog, the Skwawkbox, raised this issue a couple of days ago after discovering that Ms Creasy had attended a gig with Tory MP Therese Coffey on December 16.

In light of Ms Creasy’s fellow Labour MP Laura Pidcock’s well-publicised belief that Labour MPs should not “hang out with Tory women” who are “no friends of mine” and “an enemy to lots of women”, Skwawkbox blogger Steve Walker asked for Ms Creasy to comment.

In response, he received a torrent of evasion – and, to be honest, abuse. See for yourself, here and here.

Her bizarre attitude has been bolstered by an article in the Huffington Post that supports her attitude of indignation that a blogger should call her out on this matter.

Isn’t this hypocritical of the HuffPost, which was quite happy to quote the Skwawkbox interview with Ms Pidcock, where she first made her comments about Labour MPs fraternising with the Tories? This Writer thinks so.

It seems the aim is to divert attention. Ms Creasy seems so desperate to avoid telling us whether she thinks it’s okay to hang out with her political enemies, she’ll try to point us at anything else.

So she has claimed Skwawkbox was attacking her taste in music, then that the blog is misogynist, and finally that the blog was trying to undermine her PFI campaign.

I’m sorry, but it seems Ms Creasy has managed that, all by herself.

And it seems she has succeeded in hoodwinking people. Look at the following tweet, from another respected blogger, Tom Pride:

The issue isn’t musical taste, Tom.

It’s whether this particular person on the Left actually has any interest in opposing the Tories.

From my point of view, there is a simple way out, of course.

It is for Ms Creasy to swallow her pride, apologise for making a mountain out of a molehill, answer the question she was askedand clarify exactly whose side she’s on.

Then, perhaps we can all get behind her worthwhile campaign.


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Sign the petition to end the hospital car parking tax on the sick

Car park charges at Royal Surrey County Hospital Guildford [Image: North Downs Picture Agency].


This Writer lives in Wales, where the only hospital that charges for car parking is in Cardiff – and has been pilloried for the practice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have to pay for hospital parking – my nearest hospital is in Hereford (England) and Mrs Mike has treatment at a hospital in Gobowen, near Oswestry (also in England). Both charge a small fortune for parking.

Now we discover – well, see for yourself:

Here’s the information as relayed by the Daily Mirror:

Patients, NHS staff, visitors and politicians from across the divide last night joined forces to demand the end of crippling hospital car parking charges.

The hated fees … last year raked in a record £175million for NHS trusts and private contractors.

The sick, disabled, relatives and workers were being charged £500,000 a day to use hospital car parks at up to £4 an hour. It comes as it was revealed only 0.001% of income from the fees is spent on health.

The Mirror is calling for the charges – described as a “tax on the sick” to be dropped, nationwide. Notably, disabled Tory MP Robert Halfon has joined the call. Labour is, of course, in support of the campaign:

There is a petition, calling for the charges to be cut. This Writer has signed, and I urge you to do the same.

Sign the petition calling for cruel hospital car parking charges to be scrapped.


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Conservatives run up other people’s bills – unlike socialists, who always pay theirs

Voting for Theresa May’s minimum-wage Tories is like trying to dig your way out of a hole; they will only put you deeper into debt.

Yes – the headline paraphrases the late, unlamented Margaret Thatcher, but reverses her claim in the name of accuracy.

Here’s her original comment, in an infographic from Twitter – but pay attention to the weblink attached to it:

Read the article and the reason I edited the late Blue Baroness’s claim should be clear:

Companies in the UK are paying their workers so little that the taxpayer has to top up wages to the tune of £11bn a year. The four big supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons) alone are costing just under £1bn a year in tax credits and extra benefits payments.

This is a direct transfer from the rest of society to some of the largest businesses in the country. To put the figure in perspective, the total cost of benefit fraud last year was just £1bn. Corporate scrounging costs 11 times that.

Worse, this is a direct subsidy for poverty pay. If supermarkets and other low-paying employers know they can secure work even at derisory wages, since pay will be topped up by the state, they have no incentive to offer higher wages.

None of this makes sense. We are all, in effect, paying a huge sum of money so that we can continue to underpay the 22% of workers who are earning below the Living Wage – the level at which it is possible to live without government subsidies. The only possible beneficiaries are business owners.

So you can see very clearly that big businesses – which are predominantly run by people who vote Conservative, are members of the Conservative Party or are donors to the Conservative Party – are clearly refusing to pay their bills. As employers they have a duty to pay a reasonable amount to their workers.

Libertarians will undoubtedly be heading for the ‘Comment’ box to claim that all contracts are valid as employees have freely entered into them – but this of course ignores the fact that people are effectively coerced into accepting unfair wage offers because government policy on unemployment benefits forces them to accept any offers given to them, and this provides an incentive for businesses to keep those offers low.

So there is an argument that none of these contracts are valid as they are not entered into by people in equal positions. Hmm…

Socialists of course expect people to fully fund everything that benefits them. So, for example, the NHS was founded on the principle that everybody pays a little towards the health service, to ensure that all those who need its care will benefit from it. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. It’s an insurance policy – but, strangely, capitalists approve of private insurance but criticise the system that funds public services. Odd people.

Consider also their willingness to use systems and services that are publicly-funded, while taking advantage of tax avoidance schemes to ensure that they don’t have to pay for them. That’s fraud and theft, isn’t it?

We may conclude that Mrs Thatcher was lying – and so is anybody who echoes her words or their meaning.

Also that the Conservative government is acting against contract law by forcing people into unfair employment conditions.

And that businesses are unfairly profiting from these harmful contracts.

I could go on to explain how this damages the UK economy by reducing the flow of cash through it, but you should be aware of this fact already – in practice.

It won’t change under a Conservative government because Conservatives are greedy and do not understand economics. So we need to end Conservative government.

Spread the word.


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