Category Archives: Austerity

What will you say when they ask what you did in the class war?


I seem to have hit a nerve when I said the Tories are waging a class war on anyone who isn’t filthy rich.

In fact, two Vox Political articles touched on this class war – the first implied it, the second made it explicit.

Today I opened Twitter to discover those words all over the place:

I’m not claiming credit for calling a thing by its name – this is “multiple discovery”, “simultaneous invention”, “synchronicity” or, if you like, an expression of the “zeitgeist”. More and more people are simply coming to realise, understand and accept that it is the policy of the UK’s Conservative government to push them down unfairly.

That is what the decision – and it was a decision, deliberately made – to punish ‘A’ level pupils who weren’t from private schools was all about. Yes, Gavin Williamson and the other Tories are saying it was down to a mechanical system, an algorithm – but that algorithm was written by a human being who intended it to give an advantage to the children of very rich people.

In this way, the Tory class war has stolen your children’s futures and given them to the undeserving rich.

It’s what the decision  – and it was a decision, deliberately made – not to fight Covid-19 in any meaningful way was all about. Tens of thousands of people in care homes have died – your relatives, maybe – because Matt Hancock and the other Tories said people with Covid-19 who lived in those homes should be sent back to them – never mind the fact that they did not have isolation facilities and the virus would run through those places like wildfire and be transferred to others by part-time staff who worked in different homes run by the same – private – firm.

The Tories – and their private business collaborators – failed to source personal protective equipment, ventilators, tests and the facilities to carry out tests. The lockdown they imposed was half-hearted and failed to stop the progress of the disease. Now that they have lifted it, albeit with a few measures still in place, more people are contracting the virus again. So they have stopped reporting the daily number of infections.

And the Tories have rewarded their private business collaborators for their failures with hugely expensive contracts to continue failing us – all at the public expense. Serco’s test and trace contract has been renewed, even though we know it won’t stop any second wave (really just a resurgence of the first wave that was suppressed but never went away).

You won’t get justice against the Tories by the normal means available to civil society because the Tories have either corrupted them already or are in the process of doing so. Boris Johnson illegally terminated Parliament’s last session in the autumn of 2019 and what was the result? He called a general election, lied to us until he was purple in the face and was rewarded with an 80-seat Parliamentary majority.

Now he is using that power to ensure that the courts will not be able to stop any more of his corruption by planning a curb on judicial review of government activity. He is imposing a dictatorship – just as he told you he would, if you could have been bothered to read page 48 of his election manifesto.

The police won’t help. Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, Gavin Williamson and the others are all above the law – no matter what they do. Try reporting a cabinet minister for a crime and see how far you get. They’ll tell you they’re treating it seriously, bounce the accusation around a few different departments and then say there’s no evidence. I’ve been there.

Hundreds of thousands of people have died already because it is Tory policy to kill claimants of sickness or disability claimants, who they consider to be “useless eaters”. That’s why the newspapers have been full of reports showing people with long-term illnesses and disabilities starving to death.

They wanted your homes so they imposed the Bedroom Tax and took them away from you.

The list goes on and on.

And still, too many people think they are the best choice to run the UK – even though the economy is in its deepest recession ever, and Brexit means it may never recover. You will suffer – they won’t. They have been stockpiling your cash and will simply use it to sit out any unpleasantness in the future.

But I feel sure a tipping-point will come – a flashpoint. I wonder how much we will all have to lose before that happens. I’m guessing it’ll be pretty much everything.

By then, many people may think there is nothing they can do. I am reminded yet again of Martin Niemoller’s poem about how the Nazis came for different groups who received no help from anybody else until, by the time they come for the author, there was nobody even left for him to ask.

But I am reminded of another group who were put in a similar position. When I visited Bosnia in the 1990s, I was told how – when the tanks from other countries moved in – the people, who were weaponless, left their homes and went up into the hills. They came back at night, when they took weapons – and lives – from the soldiers who had taken everything from them. And slowly, they took back their land from their oppressors.

I can see that happening here in the future.

I would rather it didn’t.

But it will, if people of good conscience don’t wake up, get up and put up a fight.

Keir Starmer won’t do it. He agrees with the Tories. That’s why he’s busy turning the Labour Party into Tory Lite Mk II (New Labour was Mk I) and accusing anybody who disagrees with him of anti-Semitism.

If you don’t want this to fall into violence, then you need to think what else you can do.

The ‘A’ level fiasco creates opportunities. Already some further education institutions have said they will take students who were downgraded, on the basis of their predicted results. Some haven’t. Clearly we should take note of the side that each University, each college, takes. Those who do the right thing should be rewarded in whatever ways we can. Those who do not should be shunned – meaning not only that we should not even try to send our children there, but that we should reject their graduates when they seek employment with our businesses. We know they won’t be any damn good anyway.

And employers who turn down applicants on the basis of the Tory algorithm’s discredited results should also be named, so we can stop buying their products.

That’s the best – non-violent – response I can conceive on the spur of the moment, and these things need to start happening now.

We’d better get to it, if we don’t want to roll over and die. And yes, that means you.

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UN poverty expert condemns UK coronavirus response as ‘utterly hypocritical’

Philip Alston: he warned us all about the Tories before but they were voted back in because people didn’t listen.

How else would you describe the way the UK’s Tory government threw away austerity the instant the well-being of the rich was threatened?

Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, made a good point when he pointed out that the harm caused by austerity policies of the last 10 years cannot be undone – but the policy itself was reversed the instant it seemed likely to harm the rich.

He told The Guardian:

“My thoughts of course hark back to the sense of how utterly hypocritical it is now to abandon ‘austerity’ with such alacrity, after all the harm and misery caused to individuals and the fatal weakening of the community’s capacity to cope and respond over the past 10 years.

“And of course, many of the worst and most damaging aspects of ‘austerity’ cannot and will not be undone. The damage caused to community cohesion and to the social infrastructure are likely to prove permanent.

He said that globally “the most vulnerable have been short-changed or excluded” by official responses to the disease:

“The policies of many states reflect a social Darwinism philosophy that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves.

“Governments have shut down entire countries without making even minimal efforts to ensure people can get by.”

The Tories would undoubtedly argue that they have indeed made efforts to ensure people can get by… but some would argue that those efforts have indeed been minimal.

Across the UK, people who claimed Universal Credit because their income dried up in the lockdown have found their five-week wait for benefit cash has culminated in a cheque for no money at all.

Others have been unable to claim the benefit because they don’t meet the government’s criteria.

And of course Boris Johnson won’t agree to a Universal Basic Income that will help everybody – and will be cheaper to administer than UC. Why? Because he likes to keep people poor and – if possible – push them into debt.

Look at the other coronavirus-related policies and you’ll find that most of them aren’t working – at least, not the way we were led to expect.

And now there’s huge pressure to sway public opinion in favour of lifting the lockdown so we can all go back to work, making profits for the rich again – before their income is harmed as that of the poor has been.

Put it altogether and it seems Mr Alston has a very good point.

Source: UK coronavirus response utterly hypocritical, says UN poverty expert | Politics | The Guardian

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Coronavirus lies: the government’s plan is falling apart – and Johnson only has himself to blame


So much for the big lockdown.

It transpires that, when Boris Johnson told us all to stay in our homes, huge numbers of us were being told by our employers that they couldn’t.

Construction companies are telling their workers to work because they have contracts to honour and Johnson hasn’t said a single word that would release them of their obligations.

A commenter to This Site told me about an electrical goods manufacturer – making non-essential products – that has told employees they must continue working.

That means many will be using public transport, possibly mixing with people who are infected – all for the sake of some shareholder’s profits.

The government is, in fact, saying people should go to work if they can’t work from home – but that’s just causing confusion, apparently.

Oh, incidentally, you know the government promised to pay 80 per cent of people’s wages if they stayed at home?

It turns out that’s only if employers agree to it. If they decide to lay you off instead, there’s nothing Johnson can do about it.

And we’re seeing that many of the problems with the Tory lockdown are due to their own austerity policies of the last 10 years.

So, for example, after depleting constabularies across the country of more than 20,000 beat bobbies, they now expect the 120,000 or so who remain to enforce a curfew on more than 65 million people – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the foreseeable future.

They can’t be everywhere. And we’ve established that the people of the UK are completely incapable of following a simple instruction, so wherever the police aren’t around to make sure we’re all behaving, we probably won’t be. And that’s creating a risk of contagion.

Perhaps Johnson should have given us instructions we could trust from the start.

Today (March 24), Matt Hancock has appealed for a quarter of a million people to volunteer to help out a National Health Service that was failing to cope with everyday demands on it before the coronavirus crisis hit it.

Notice that these will be volunteers – in other words: unpaid. This is now the land of Do-It-Yourself healthcare.

He reckons more than 11,000 former NHS workers have volunteered to go back and help out, which he says is fantastic. I say: Is that all?

Who else does he expect to come forward and what possible reason could unskilled people have for putting themselves in danger?

And has he yet realised that we needed all the immigrant workers who have been discouraged from coming to the UK by the “hostile atmosphere” (of racism) that his party has nurtured, and by Brexit?

We have every right to be disgusted by this.

The Tories have spent a decade stripping the country of the ability to cope with an emergency like Covid-19 and – now that it has arrived – they want us to sort it out for them – for free.

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‘Welfare Persecution’ secretary reduced to sneaking into her own home town

Not smiling: and with her record, Therese Coffey has nothing to smile about.

Therese Coffee really is a piece of… work, isn’t she?

On March 6, she made a visit to Liverpool, dropping in on the Job Centres at Bootle and Toxteth (recently the subject of a BBC documentary).

It’s her home town; she went to school there – but she had to sneak in like a burglar because her views make her hated.

She claims to be a Liverpool FC supporter but considers Margaret Thatcher – who blamed Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster – to be a personal hero.

She voted for the Bedroom Tax.

She voted to cut Universal Credit – and refused to support ending the cruel five-week wait for the first payment of that benefit.

She voted to cut disability benefits – and has failed even to sign up for Disability Confident, a scheme that encourages employers like her (she pays for staff in her Parliamentary office) to take on disabled workers.

This last is particularly hypocritical as last November she appealed to employers to “take a look at their record on disability employment and think about what they can do to help create a more equal Britain”.

Clearly Ms Coffey considers herself to be above that.

Still, it seems there’s a precedent. Of all the previous Tory Work and Pensions secretaries, only Stephen Crabbe is actually listed as having signed up to Disability Confident (although Damian Green says he has, and that he has a disabled staff member).

Iain Duncan Smith, who introduced the scheme in 2013, isn’t on it.

Nor were Esther McVey, David Gauke and Amber Rudd ever part of it.

What a shower.

No wonder Ms Coffey doesn’t want to announce it when she comes to visit.

I’m surprised that she was allowed in by staff at the job centres.

Source: DWP Chief Thérèse Coffey tried to sneak into Liverpool but we found her and asked about her views – Liverpool Echo

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Untrustworthy: DWP backtracks over savings created by cut to long-term sickness benefit

Justin Tomlinson: There’s no reason to believe a word he says if the DWP can withdraw it and say something different once it is found to be embarrassing.

Why is the DWP trying to hide the figures on the cut it inflicted on Employment and Support Allowance claimants, years ago?

The government department has backtracked over an answer to a written Parliamentary question by the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson.

SNP MP Marion Fallon asked: “What savings have accrued to the public purse under the £30 reduction for claimants of… [ESA WRAG] in each month since that reduction was implemented?”

She was referring to the highly-controversal cut, announced in 2015 and implemented from April 2017, that took £29.05 per week from ESA payments to people in the Work-Related Activity Group.

This aligned it with the amount paid to people on Jobseekers’ Allowance. The announced intention was to remove a financial incentive “that could otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work”.

Apparently no account was taking of the physical (and mental) discouragements inherent in the long-term illnesses and conditions that cause people to claim a sickness benefit in the first place.

The stated intention was to save £640 million by 2020-21. But in 2015 it was also forecast that the cut would save £1.365 billion over four years. The cut was predicted to affect half a million people once it was rolled out fully.

But in his – initial – response, Mr Tomlinson said: “There are no savings from the removal of the… [WRAG rate] for new claims from April 2017.

“This change enabled the Department to recycle money into providing practical support… We have invested £330m over four years with £100m available in 2020/21 and will support those with limited capability for work to move towards and into suitable employment.”

The DWP has now amended Mr Tomlinson’s response – apparently due to embarrassment after his figures were questioned.

The official response now states:

“The information requested on the savings accrued from the removal of the Work Related Activity Component (WRAC) is not available. It would incur disproportionate cost to calculate any actual net savings from the removal of the WRAC.

“When the WRAC was removed we made a clear commitment to instead provide practical support that will make a significant difference to the life chances of those in the Work-Related Activity Group. We have been investing an additional £330m over four years to support those with limited capability for work to move towards and into suitable employment.”

It seems to This Writer that, if the latest statement is accurate, then the £330 million investment need not be subtracted from any savings that were predicted back in 2015; it was part of the calculation.

So we are left with the question of the savings. Why was it entirely possible for the Tories to make grand predictions about the amount of money they would stop paying to sick people back in 2015, and why is it now impossible for them to tell us how much they actually didn’t pay?

And in the meantime, the proportion of people who have died while claiming ESA in the Work-Related Activity Group has been rising steadily.

How many of those are due to Tory cuts making it impossible for them to make ends meet?

Source: The DWP either just lied or is clueless about a cut to disability benefits | The Canary

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Tories to cut £70 a week from 11,000 state pensions

Short-changing the elderly: the Tories love taking money from people who depend on it.

Statistics show older people constitute the majority of Conservative voters – I bet they never knew the Tories would stab them in the back so soon!

It’s even worse because the allowance for adult dependents is being phased out in any case – the Tories are simply cutting it earlier than it would have ended.

It turns out 11,000 pensioners are still receiving the allowance. From April, those people will lose £3,500 per year.

The DWP is claiming that current recipients of the allowance will be able to claim a means-tested benefit like Universal Credit or Pension Credit. Good luck with that, folks!

The simple fact is that Tories love to take state money away from people who depend on it.

And they don’t even care that they’re attacking people who helped put them in office; they think you’re so stupid you’ll vote for them again. Are they right?

Source: Government to cut £70 a week from thousands of state pensions – Mirror Online

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If Tory policies are so great, why are so many more of us forced to visit food banks?

A food bank.

Boris Johnson tells us the UK’s economy is fundamentally sound, and only “small improvements” are needed, such as “addressing transport bottlenecks, improving rural bus services and broadband connections”.

None of that is true, though.

If it were, the Trussell Trust would not be telling us – on the same day – that more people are being forced to resort to food banks than ever before.

The charity has said problems with the benefit system run by the Tory-controlled Department for Work and Pensions have created a 23 per cent increase in the number of food parcels it has handed out, compared with the same period last year. It is the steepest rise since the organisation’s network of food banks was fully established.

That is not an indication of a “fundamentally sound” economy.

It is a sign that millions of UK citizens are on the brink of starvation, destitution, and collapse.

That is what nine years of unremittingly cruel Tory austerity has done to people like you and me.

The figures make nightmarish reading:

The trust distributed a record 823,145 food parcels between April and September, including 301,653 that went to children.

The DWP was responsible for all of the top three reasons cited by people needing emergency food: insufficient benefit income (36 per cent), delays in benefit payments (18 per cent), and changes to benefit (16 per cent).

It supports the findings of the Trust’s own State of Hunger report, that said benefit changes such as the imposition of Universal Credit and the Bedroom Tax were driving the increased use of food banks.

Of course, the link between benefit policies and extreme poverty is hotly contested by Tory ministers – despite the fact that it is clear to anybody capable of reason.

People only started going to food banks after the Conservatives cut tens of billions of pounds from the benefit budget. No other explanation presents itself and even if it did, this would be the simplest. Occam’s razor tells us that the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is most likely correct.

Labour has accused the government of pushing people into destitution, and promised to lift them out of it:

The Trussell Trust has called for politicians of all parties to protect people from hunger – but you’ll notice that the Tories don’t even acknowledge that as being an issue to be addressed.

And when the government of the day refuses to admit the existence of a very clear and obvious danger to its citizens, it is time for the electorate to remove it.

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Fiction battles reality as Tory NHS cuts leave elderly woman with dementia on A&E trolley for hours

Jill Woolley: This former NHS worker, who has dementia, was forced to wait six hours for treatment on a trolley inches away from overworked NHS staff. That is what Tory cuts have done to the UK’s once-proud health service.

The fiction:

The reality:

A dementia-sufferer taken by ambulance to A&E at an over-stretched hospital endured six hours on a trolley as Tory austerity continues to wreck the NHS.

Photos show 88-year-old Jill Woolley – who worked for the health service as a doctor’s secretary – with other frail and elderly patients waiting side-by-side on trolleys crammed into the department.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth described Jill’s visit to A&E as “heartbreaking”. He added: “She should never have been treated like this. Boris Johnson should be utterly ashamed.

“Sadly, this is not a one-off case. This is happening to thousands of patients all the time. This is what happens from cutting 15,000 hospital beds, starving the NHS of cash and failing to recruit doctors, nurses and staff.

“This is not a winter crisis, it is a Tory-made crisis.”

And it is a crisis that will continue as long as we have a Conservative government.

But you can make a difference.

Vote for care. Vote for the NHS. Vote Labour.

Source: Ex-NHS worker with dementia, 88, left on A&E trolley for 6 hours due to Tory cuts – Mirror Online

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Tory wage and benefit cuts mean millions are struggling to pay essential bills

Money: Boris Johnson is rolling in it but his policies have starved the UK of the cash that is the lifeblood of the economy.

Nearly 2.2 million people in the UK are struggling to pay council tax, rent and utility bills because they aren’t paid enough, according to research by two universities.

The reason is Conservative restrictions on pay rises since 2010.

So much for the “trickle-down” economics of neoliberalism, beloved by Boris Johnson and his cronies.

The research by the University of Birmingham and the University of Lincoln shows that nearly 1.6 million people have fallen behind with council tax payments.

Nearly a million people are behind with their rent and more than a million are in arrears over their water bills.

Nearly 2.2 million people have been contacted by bailiffs over failure to pay (which suggests that many have multiple bill-related problems), and nearly one million have said bailiffs have broken the rules.

These findings make a nonsense of claims that average wages are rising.

Perhaps those figures have been skewed by huge increases in the amounts paid to top earners, while those of us who do the work are left to struggle?

Experience shows that higher pay for workers results in increased productivity and market dominance – as Henry Ford learned when he doubled the wages of employees at his motor company in the early 20th century.

He called it the best cost-cutting measure he ever made.

Conversely, as workers struggle to survive real-terms wage cut after wage cut, productivity in the UK has suffered its worst drop in five years.

We have nearly a million people struggling to cope with zero-hours contracts in which they don’t know whether they’ll be working (and therefore earning) from one week to the next.

Average weekly real-terms earnings are not as high as they were before the 2008 financial crash, while bills have increased.

Poverty is particularly high in accommodation and food services; agriculture, forestry and fishing; administrative and support services; and wholesale and retail.

Few households have any savings worth mentioning – the rate is lower than the EU average and far lower than many of our largest and closest European neighbours.

Oh, and Boris Johnson is determined to force us into a “no deal” Brexit, creating even harsher economic conditions.

Considering the situation now, it seems this would be a huge mistake.

He would literally run the entire country into the gutter.

Source: Millions struggling to pay council tax and other essential bills, finds study

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London NHS patients to have essential care rationed under new Tory plan to save cash

Not for sale: That’s unless you live in North West London, it seems.

More than two million Londoners are set to have their NHS services rationed in a scheme to save cash that may do little for their health.

The Tories are using North West London as a testing ground for the scheme that will deprive patients of essential NHS services in order to save £60 million.

That’s right – unlike previous schemes that targeted elective treatments, this round of cuts will take away services that patients need.

I recall reporting on the rationing of hip operations in 2017. At the time I stated that I foresaw huge extra costs: “Either you spend a fortune having your hip operation done by a private company, or you cost the NHS a fortune in unnecessary further costs from delayed treatment and pain management.”

I think many Londoners may be induced into forking out to have their care provided by a private company – and/or having to rely on the NHS for help to manage complications caused by the rationing.

The programme of cuts was announced on the same day Boris Johnson reinforced a commitment to NHS spending. But then, what are his promises worth?

Apparently the NHS in that part of London has racked up debts of more than £120 million. I wonder how much of that has been caused by spending on unnecessary profit-driven health “care” companies?

Services to be hit include:

 Patients currently receiving treatment from more than one consultant may no longer be able to access treatment from both or all of the specialists.

 “Repatriation” of some acute treatment from various specialist hospitals to local ones.

 New scrutiny – described as “demand management” – of GPs who refer patients for acute treatment, with GPs being asked to look at “alternative ways” of dealing with patients’ needs.

 Reduction in intravenous feeds through “better prescribing”.

According to The Guardian,

North-west London has previously been the testing ground for major NHS blueprints across the country, such as Shaping A Healthier Future, a failed hospital closure programme which wasted £76m on management consultants alone.

Health campaigners fear that the cuts to essential NHS acute services contained in the list could be rolled out nationwide to deal with budget shortfalls.

I wonder how the Tories plan to hide the adverse effect of their changes on NHS patients?

Will they pretend the problems they create have “many causes”, as they do with the deaths of benefit claimants?

Source: London GPs told to restrict specialist referrals under new NHS ‘rationing’ plan | Society | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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