Author Archives: Mike Sivier

About Mike Sivier

When Mike Sivier started Vox Political, he had no idea that he was creating a monster. Disillusioned with the mainstream media after nearly 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, Mike had given it all up in 2007 to become a carer for his disabled girlfriend (affectionately named Mrs Mike, she features in many of his posts). He took on some freelance work, but this took a back seat from late 2011 onwards, when Mike started Vox Political. Born from his interest in politics - with an emphasis on people rather than the movement of money – the blog grew from humble beginnings to become one of the most well-read in the United Kingdom. Amazingly, Mike still has some free time. He uses it to perform in a band called the Dodgie Jammers, and to write comic strips including Hard-Boiled Hitler, for the small-press comic he created in 1999, entitled 'Violent!'. On Twitter, he is MidWalesMike On Facebook he has a page: ‘Mike Sivier’.

More Tory than the Tories: that’s Labour’s new shadow chancellor

Keir Starmer must be really desperate to divert blame for Labour’s diabolical performance in the English local elections off himself.

He has launched a shadow cabinet reshuffle that has already been dubbed a right-turn so hard it would give you whiplash.

Nowhere is this clearer than in his appointment of Rachel (more Tory than the Tories) Reeves as shadow chancellor.

Ms Reeves is the Labour politician (never forget) who, as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary back in 2013, vowed to be “tougher than the Tories” on benefit claimants.

The former banker said a Labour government with her as Work and Pensions Secretary would be tougher than the Tories on benefit claimants, in order to reduce the national benefits bill – a bill which, by the way, has always been entirely affordable.

Two years later, in 2015, she unilaterally cut millions of UK citizens and voters from Labour’s target electorate by saying the party did not want to represent people who don’t have a job.

“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,” she said.

“Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people.”

So, according to Ms Reeves, nobody currently claiming Universal Credit because of the Covid-19 crisis should expect help from Labour. Have I got that right?

I’ll admit, that’s an extreme conclusion to draw, but it is clear that, as Labour MPs go, Reeves is an extreme right-winger.

Don’t forget that the Tories have modelled themselves as “the party of the workers” in recent years. They love working people because working people generate the profits their donors send to their offshore bank accounts.

In promoting Reeves, Starmer has sent a very clear message to the electorate – that we can all go to hell as far as he cares. He’s in politics for himself and nobody else.

Why do I say this? Simple.

Commentators are going to be so horrified that Reeves is now in one of Labour’s top jobs that they’ll forget about Starmer’s abysmal election. Or at least that’s what he’s hoping, I reckon.

It mustn’t work. Labour’s election campaign was run from Starmer’s office and as leader he is ultimately responsible for it. The buck stops with him and he should not be trying to pass it onto those he has sacked already or will sack in the immediate future.

And Reeves will be a terrible shadow chancellor. Critics may have attacked former shadow chancellor Annaliese Dodds for failing to challenge the Tories adequately – but, again, it is likely that she was hamstrung by Starmer.

Reeves is likely to agree with every single penny-pinching policy the Tories produce for the purposes of garotting us.

Finally, let’s not forget that by promoting Reeves, Starmer is contradicting his own policy on anti-Semitism because – as we all know – Reeves is a supporter of anti-Semites.

She infamously praised Nancy Astor who, besides being the first female MP, was a notorious anti-Semite, Nazi idealogue and supporter of Hitler.

That’s the extent of Rachel Reeves’s right-wing tendencies. Starmer should be expelling, not promoting her.

Source: Labour reshuffle: Anneliese Dodds out in Starmer’s post-election reshuffle – BBC News

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Labour wins historic SIXTH term in succession in Welsh government – and may consider independence vote

Mark Drakeford: Wales’ First Minister has described the Tory government in Westminster as “utterly shambolic”.

Has any UK-based government won six successive terms? That’s what Labour just achieved in Wales.

It shows the advantage that sitting governments can use, when they actually deliver on their promises and do their best to help the population.

The mainstream media have been unforgivably quiet about it. Perhaps the London-based hacks think Wales doesn’t matter. They certainly pay more attention to Scotland, where the SNP has won only its fourth successive term.

That could all change very soon, with both devolved governments likely to support independence referenda if proposals are put before them.

I know Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to make it happen. The surprise here is that Mark Drakeford has said he will support an independence referendum in Wales, if there is a majority in the Senedd for holding one.

The contrast with Labour’s performance in England could not be more extreme – as social media commenters have merrily pointed out:

The lesson was very clearly put by Simon de Jever: “Drakeford is a left wing Corbyn supporting leader. Starmer is a Corbyn bashing centrist. Drakeford has had a spectacular win even in Brexit areas and Starmer has reduced the Labour vote to 29%.”

And Andrew Feinstein added: “Makes you think Starmer’s purge of the left and massive shift to the right might have been a mistake!”

 

 

Ya think?

The victory creates huge problems for Keir Starmer because his failure will be measured against Drakeford’s success. Some are already laying bets that Drakeford’s suspension from the Labour Party is already in the mail.

But if Drakeford is serious about permitting an independence referendum, it could create a monumental problem for Boris Johnson.

He can’t refuse permission for such a poll on the basis that we’ve had one recently (as in Scotland) because we haven’t.

He can’t rely on Wales rejecting independence because he knows his government has been so appallingly useless that many Welsh people may consider going it alone to be preferable – even if it means a few lean years in the immediate future. We’ll have hardship under the Tories indefinitely.

And it means he could be in line for a double dose of shame as the prime minister who presided over the end of the United Kingdom.

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Thousands of renters who just voted Tory could be evicted next month – because of Tories

Stop evictions: this was a protest in 2016 – before Covid, furloughs, and eviction bans. The question is: will the Tories do anything to stop evictions in 2021? My guess is they won’t.

The short-sightedness of the voting public can be astonishing.

As a result of the Covid-19 furlough scheme that asked people to live on 80 per cent of their normal income, families – that’s right, families – are facing eviction from their private-sector rented homes when the eviction ban ends at the end of this month.

According to Citizens Advice, half a million private renters were behind with their rent in January. That figure is only likely to have increased.

Average debt is £730, but the total amount of arrears is said to be £370 million, and around 150,000 people are likely to face eviction after the end of the month.

More than 2,000 possession orders were made between October and December last year – and those tenants are likely to be forced out of their homes in June.

They had a stay of execution (of those orders) because of the eviction ban that stops landlords from sending in the bailiffs and obliges them to give six months’ notice of court action.

Of course, all that ends on May 31, meaning hundreds of thousands of people could be homeless by June 2.

They are typically in insecure jobs, often on zero-hours contracts, and in industries that have suffered disproportionately over the past year.

Strange, isn’t it? Back in, say, the 1970s, an entire family could afford to mortgage a house, cover their living expenses and enjoy a decent holiday, all on the earnings of just one parent.

Now, most people can’t afford to rent a home, even with both parents and all the children (who can legally do so) working.

That’s 40 years of Tory – or fake-Tory – government for you.

And last week, I’m willing to bet, a significant proportion of those facing eviction voted for the party that put them in danger of it – the Tories.

Source: Rent arrears put thousands at risk as end of eviction ban in England looms | Renting property | The Guardian

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#Starmergeddon as panicking Labour leader lashes out in night of swivel-eyed lunacy

Now you see her…: Keir Starmer seems to have been taking notes from the Tories again – he has kept a scapegoat handy to take the blame for his failures. But it isn’t working.

Keir Starmer has thrown the Labour Party into a pit of bitter recriminations after its local election disaster, sacking soft-left MPs from the shadow cabinet rather than taking responsibility for his decisions.

The principle scapegoat appears to be Angela Rayner – who is certainly no angel, but is unlikely to have been responsible for the catastrophe in Hartlepool, which was apparently run from Starmer’s own office by his personal private secretary Jenny Chapman. She is not in the firing-line, it seems, despite having chosen the candidate and the date of the by-election. She was also the person who communicated all decisions about the campaign to other party members and MPs.

Other victims of Starmer’s reshuffle appear to be Annaliese Dodds and Lisa Nandy, prompting questions about the Labour leader’s misogyny against women from northern England.

I spent Saturday (May 8) watching this farce unfold on Twitter as a panicking Labour leader deliberately set his party on self-destruct in order to divert blame from himself.

Let’s start here, with a couple of comments about the broad effect of Starmer’s decisions:

Rayner’s sacking fooled nobody. It was taken as an attempt by Starmer to deflect blame from himself and avoid taking responsibility. Most considered it a desperate attempt to avoid calls for his own resignation and/or a vote of “no confidence” in his leadership.

There is an upside to this, as some were quick to notice. Rayner’s sacking could be an opportunity for long-suppressed information to come out:

But I don’t think it will. Rayner may have backstabbed Jeremy Corbyn as soon as it suited her but he was no longer in a position of power at the time. Starmer is, and she is still an ambitious politician.

Indeed, it is possible that her prior, unscrupulous, behaviour was intended by Starmer to mitigate in his favour; a backstabbing schemer having her comeuppance after failing to deliver an expected election victory.

But that is to assume that Labour members and supporters are stupid, which is (again) not a good look for a leader. Commenters pointed out that it is entirely possible for Rayner to be an opportunist who sold out the Left – and for her sacking to be an act of cowardice and diversion:

The verdict: Rayner deserved to be ditched – but for something she did herself, rather than a defeat that was not her fault.

Bizarrely, after the party leadership realised sacking Rayner had only undermined Starmer further, attempts were made to backtrack. I’ll say more about that later, but what’s remarkable here is that these efforts only made matters worse. Here’s how, in two short tweets:

And what about the woman who’s alleged to have been genuinely responsible for the loss of Hartlepool? Tim Shipman, political editor of The Sunday Times, tweeted a very odd snippet of information and immediately deleted it – but it’s out there and we need to know what to make of it:

If Starmer was having an affair with his secretary then events would have turned really grisly (if cliched). The tweet raises questions about why a Labour apparatchik who is apparently responsible for the failed Hartlepool campaign is avoiding the axe when there is a strong suggestion of animosity against her. What leverage does she have?

In the wider Parliamentary Labour Party, it is being reported that the sacking of Rayner has been met with shock:

The New Statesman was quick to follow up on this with an article featuring comments from some of these MPs, as follows:

“It is wrong on every level,” said one Labour shadow cabinet minister. “Keir Starmer said he would take ‘full responsibility’. I don’t see how sacking Angela does that. You can’t be sacking Angela Rayner, who is a working-class northern woman who’s been working her arse off. It’s madness.”

(She’s not working-class, in fact. She might have been, once, but if you’re deputy leader of the largest political party in the UK, then by definition you cannot be working-class.)

“The PLP is absolutely gobsmacked,” another frontbencher said. “We know Angela had nothing to do with the defeat in Hartlepool.” Rayner was officially the Campaign Coordinator of these elections, but MPs are adamant she was not the decision-maker in relation to the Hartlepool by-election. “Everything has been decided by the leader’s office,” one shadow cabinet member said.

“This is utter madness. Angela Rayner is not the problem. The PLP is up in arms and even my local party is outraged. At the advice of Ben Nunn [director of communications] and Chris Ward [another aide in the leader’s office], Keir is doubling down and making a deliberate shift rightwards,” one MP from the party’s left said.

So now we have a few more names to watch. If Starmer is being influenced by unelected suits, then he is certainly not fit for his job. The leader should form policy, not his flunkies.

Many Labour MPs have yet to provide their opinions. Simon Vessey, below, suggests a reason for that – and Mary-Ellen provides good advice:

But one Labour source, quoted by the ever-reliable (ha ha) Gabriel Pogrund of The Sunday Times, suggested that Rayner’s sacking could split Labour apart:

Many have been saying that this was Starmer’s objective all along.

If so, then his possible choice to replace Rayner – and other colleagues likely to feel the axe – should finish the job. What madness could possibly influence him into thinking Wes Streeting might be a reasonable choice to chair the Labour Party?

Rayner was not the only ShadCab member in line for a sacking – although at the time of writing she is the only one on whom the axe has already fallen.

Other names facing banishment to the backbenches include Lisa Nandy…

Nick Brown (who?)…

Annaliese Dodds and Jon Ashworth…

And others…

Did you spot some of the names touted as replacements?

They are the aforementioned Wes Streeting, along with Rachel Reeves, Jess Phillips, and Steve Reed – all members of what you might call Labour’s hard-right.

Also mooted for a comeback are New Labour hardliners Yvette Cooper and Hilary “my father is spinning in his grave” Benn.

Commenter Simon Maginn described these possibilities as “a right-turn so hard it’d give you whiplash”.

Others have met the suggestions with sarcasm:

None of the above makes Starmer look any better after Thursday’s election shocks. It all makes him look much worse.

So, guess what? It seems he has spotted the backlash on the social media – and is now backpedalling furiously. Announcements about who is to be sacked have stopped being leaked to favoured mainstream media stenographers and it seems he has run away to hide think:

It won’t help him. It is now too late. I’ll let these others explain the reasons:

If Andrew Adonis is right, it is only a matter of time until Starmer has to go. If Andrew Feinstein and Rachel Shabi are right, he’ll delay doing so until the moment that will do the most crippling harm to the party’s future election hopes.

We will judge him – and his advisers – by his decisions.

The clock is ticking.

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Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds rent out £1.2m home – because the funding stream from Tory donors is drying up?

“Can I hide in your fridge”? At the rate he’s going, Boris Johnson (who once, infamously, did hide in a fridge to avoid scrutiny) will soon be living in one.

It’s a valid question.

In the midst of a huge controversy over the way Boris Johnson has funded changes to the Downing Street flat, he suddenly announces this:

Boris Johnson is preparing to rent out his £1.2 million townhouse to raise cash following his second divorce and the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, it is reported.

Property experts told the Times that Mr Johnson, 56, and Ms Symonds, 33, could let the house for up to £4,000 a month.

The Prime Minister recently put his £1.2 million house near Thame in Oxfordshire up for rent. It was listed at £4,250 a month in April, and a lease was agreed this week, it was reported.

Johnson insists that he paid for the Downing Street renovations himself – but won’t say whether the money was given to him by one or more donors before.

The Electoral Commission has launched an inquiry into whether any loans or donations made in connection with the refurbishment work had been properly declared.

And it is with officials examining his finances that Johnson has started renting out not one but two buildings he owns.

I think it’s reasonable to conclude that he has suddenly run into cashflow problems – and we may reasonably question the reasons for them.

Source: Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds rent out £1.2m home – and they could make £4,000 a month – Mirror Online

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Why would anyone believe Tory home-building promises when they’ve failed so badly?

Construction site: enjoy the photograph because you won’t be seeing many of these under Tory rule!

More than 1.1 million houses for which planning permission was granted since the Tories retook power in 2010 have not been built.

They just can’t get developers to put these houses up, despite promise after promise that they would.

The Local Government Association says only by building more council homes can the housing crisis be tackled and the government’s housebuilding target be met.

It is calling for councils to be given the powers to kickstart a social housebuilding programme of 100,000 homes a year.

Polling by the association has found that 80 per cent of MPs and 88 per cent of peers think councils should have more financial freedoms and powers to build new homes.

Here in Wales, one of the Tory local election promises was to build 100,000 houses over the next decade, including 40,000 social homes – and somebody must have believed them because they won 16 seats – five more than last time.

But if they haven’t built a million homes in the last 11 years across the whole of the UK, why should we believe they’ll build 100,000, just in Wales, in the next 10?

We shouldn’t.

It’s just another Tory con. It’s past time we stopped believing them.

Source: Over 1m homes in England with planning permission not built | Housing | The Guardian

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This casual disablist abuse is what the Tory electorate voted for

This didn’t happen: But you can bet the Tories would have wanted it.

Ever since the Tories sneaked themselves back into office in 2010, they have been tacitly encouraging us all to think of disabled people as scroungers, skivers, liars and a burden on society.

Consequently, disablist abuse has increased year-on-year since then, despite being mentioned many times by the national news media (who, although Tory-controlled, find it easy to divorce the symptom of this disease from its cause).

Here, the incident was relatively low-key – an able-bodied woman behind behind a disabled woman who walks with a stick complaining that she had a place to be and the disabled woman was walking too slowly.

On being informed that the woman she was criticising was disabled and could not walk any faster, this … lady… approached her again and said she had no business being out of her house and should stay at home.

It’s still a disablist hate crime.

It demonstrates the way we are being taught to think disabled people should be hidden away, out of sight, where prejudiced Tory “benefit” policies can quietly kill them off – as has happened to hundreds of people whose stories have been highlighted in the news, and probably tens or hundreds of thousands of others who haven’t.

In Scotland, the SNP is phasing in a new disability benefit that aims to treat claimants with dignity and sympathy.

But in England, it seems clear that the 40 per cent who vote Tory and thereby hold the rest of us hostage are determined to put the boot in.

Source: Disabled woman verbally abused by shopper in Middlebrook Retail Park carpark | The Bolton News

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Why are Israeli troops shooting Muslims in the Al Aqsa Mosque?

Would the Israel apologists – preferably those who scream “anti-Semitism” at every criticism of that country’s appalling government – please explain this shocking act of brutality in one of Islam’s most holy places of worship?

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Starmer in denial as Labour take local election pummelling. HE is the problem

The excuses man: but no amount of references to Jeremy Corbyn can save Keir Starmer from the condemnation of traditional Labour supporters who have been forced to walk away from the party by him.

Before I start, let’s be clear about one thing:

That being said…

Keir Starmer has vowed to lead Labour’s fightback after having led it to a bitter local election pummelling and the loss of one of the party’s Parliamentary strongholds.

The denial is strong in this one.

It is clear to even the most disinterested observer that the party’s losses are all Starmer’s fault; that his direction for the Labour Party is deeply unpopular with the British people and that the best way he can help Labour fight back is to resign.

But he won’t do that. Instead, he’ll be announcing a “bold vision” for the party in the next few days.

That will be – what? His third “bold vision”? His fourth? – since he deceived party members into making him leader last year.

By the time of writing, StarmerLabour has lost 192 council seats, with the bulk going to the Conservatives.

The Green Party has picked up 51 seats, indicating that left-wing voters have migrated to that party in protest against Starmer’s betrayal of traditional Labour values. And the Liberal Democrats have also lost seats – 24 of them – indicating that the public has still – and rightly – not forgiven them for propping up the Tories for five years, from 2010 to 2015. These are about the only things the English voting public has got right.

In terms of council control, the Conservatives have taken Pendle, Maidstone, Cornwall, Nottinghamshire, Basildon, Northumberland, Dudley, and Nuneaton and Bedworth councils from no overall control. They also took control of of Harlow council, in Essex, from Labour.

Labour has lost Sheffield, Plymouth and Rossendale to no overall control.

And in another former Labour stronghold, the Tees Valley, Conservative Ben Houchen was re-elected mayor with 73 per cent of the vote – a massive swing of 23 per cent away from Starmer’s Labour.

Meanwhile, here in Wales, Mark Drakeford’s version of Labour – which many have said is a genuine continuation of Corbynism – has won 30 seats in the Senedd, securing another working majority. Labour will rule in Wales for another five years.

The contrast with StarmerLabour could not be more plain.

For This Writer, the most surprising aspect of StarmerLabour’s implosion is the way his critics are pussyfooting around him, playing down the scale of the disaster.

Look at left Labour MP Richard Burgon’s comment, quoted in the following tweet – and the response by Jen Wood:

Let’s not bother with the ‘soft’ critics. Starmer doesn’t need to hear people saying “Never mind, Keir. You stay put and next time you’ll do better.” At this point, such a possibility seems unlikely in the extreme; Labour is more likely to run out of votes altogether and be extinguished as a political movement.

He needs to hear the hard criticism – like this, from Peston:

And this, from near-legendary Canary columnist Steve Topple:

Even this is charitable; voters didn’t abandon Labour because they don’t care – they walked away because they do, and because Starmer wasn’t offering them anything they could support.

You want proof?

So that’s that. These people aren’t going to come back to Labour while Starmer remains in charge of what was once their party.

The message of the 2021 local elections is clear, then. For those who are still having trouble grasping it, it is this:

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Hated disability ‘benefit’ to be replaced in Scotland – with no dreaded face-to-face assessments

Meanwhile, in England and Wales: it’s not quite this bad but the death toll suggests it might as well be.

It’s easy to understand why the Scottish National Party is so popular north of the border – it actually fulfils its promises.

For example: it is replacing the hated Tory Personal Independence Payment for people living with disabilities.

The new Adult Disability Payment will be phased in next year, providing financial support to cover the extra costs faced by people with disabilities.

The SNP-run Scottish government has announced that the benefit will take a new approach, to ensure dignity, fairness and respect.

According to the Daily Record:

Social Security Scotland will make decisions about entitlement for ADP using the applicant’s account of their circumstances and existing supporting information, where possible.

The number of face-to-face assessments will be significantly reduced and will only be necessary when it is the only practicable way to make a decision.

Most consultations will be carried out over the phone, but can be face-to-face in a GP surgery or even at home – whatever works best for the person applying.

And claimants will no longer be asked to carry out tasks to demonstrate how their disability, long-term illness or mental health condition affects them as part of the application process.

This promises to be a huge improvement. Also helpful will be the provision of supporting material which may include a social care needs assessment, a report from a Community Psychiatric Nurse, and information from a carer.

As a carer myself, This Writer would have loved to be able to submit information to support Mrs Mike’s PIP (and ESA) claims.

But anything can seem good before it has actually been tested.

I would like to hear from claimants of the new benefit, once it starts coming in. Let’s hope they say good things about it.

Source: PIP to be replaced by new disability payment which includes no face-to-face assessments – Daily Record

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