Category Archives: Cost of living

#LabourLies: its offer to help with #Energy bills is what you neither want nor need

Here’s the problem with the binary choice that both the Conservatives and Keir Starmer’s Tepid Tories insist that voters in the UK have: it asks you to choose between options you don’t want.

The example here is energy bills. The Tories say the cost of energy is rising and you have to pay it. Labour has countered by saying they would impose measures to make that cost lower than the Tories would.

But Labour – under Starmer – is trying to deceive you with a tactic known as “Relative Privation”.

Here’s The Agitator to explain:

A tax on oil and gas producers would only induce them to increase our bills even more so that we cover the cost and their shareholders don’t take a hit; this is a natural consequence of handing control of a monopoly over to private companies.

And improving homes with insulation or by using better building methods – both of which are measures for which Insulate Britain has been campaigning and which are therefore anathema to the Tory government – would make those dwellings more expensive to future buyers, pushing home ownership even further beyond the reach of most people (which is not to say that Insulate Britain are wrong; the issue is about providing these features affordably).

The answer to the problem of our energy bills is, of course, re-nationalisation.

With the energy companies back under state control, the government could dictate the price we pay to heat our homes and subsidise the difference between that and the cost of the fuel until such time as it reduced – or until the government was able to provide energy using a different fuel source.

And perhaps it would be worth reminding you that people like This Writer’s parents, who installed solar power collectors on the roof of their home many years ago, haven’t paid a penny for their energy in years; the National Grid pays them for the power they supply into it.

So, if successive governments had supported a national campaign for domestic homes to install solar power, the UK would not be facing this problem now.

They didn’t because they were all neoliberal twits who wanted poor people to enrich the shareholders of the privatised energy firms (one-third of which are owned by foreign governments, if I recall correctly).

Why should we accept two bad choices? Why aren’t you demanding re-nationalisation of energy and a mass project to generate cheap, clean energy?

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#BorisJohnson’s lies: he says your income has rocketed, so why can’t you afford to live?

This was perhaps the most offensive lie Boris Johnson told in Prime Minister’s Questions on January 5, 2022.

He said income inequality in the UK has fallen.

In a country where poverty is “steadily increasing”, according to the Office for National Statistics, while billionaires have boosted their own income massively, this is an insult to the millions of us who are struggling to make ends meet.

When one adds in the fact that he lied about child poverty – it is increasing, not decreasing – the insult is overwhelming.

Here’s the video evidence:

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This lie shows that both #BorisJohnson AND #KeirStarmer are toxic to the public

Among the litany of lies that Boris Johnson paraded before MPs – and the general public – at Prime Minister’s Questions on January 5 was that Labour would re-nationalise the privatised energy firms if it could.

When Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader, this would have been an accurate claim – and as a result the public would have been much better-off if he had become prime minister.

The existence of the energy firms as private organisations means not only that the public must shoulder the burden of skyrocketing prices, caused by Johnson’s incompetence as a national leader, but also that we must contributed to their shareholders’ annual increase in profits, no matter what other costs face us.

It’s a form of daylight robbery, you see. We all need energy – I’m using it to write this article on my computer and you’re using it to read the piece, for just one example. That’s why it should rightly be run by the state as a national asset, rather than by profit-grubbers as a get-rich-quick scheme.

The Tories – and the energy bosses, and their shareholders – know we have to have what they’re selling, so they know that we have to pay the hugely-inflated prices they demand. We simply have no choice.

And that’s ironic, considering the way a previous Tory government forced privatisation on us by saying it would give us more choice.

The fact that Johnson’s PMQs claim is a lie therefore reflects just as poorly on Labour – now – as it does on him, because current Labour leader Keir Starmer has u-turned on the re-nationalisation policy and announced at the party conference last autumn that a Labour government would not, now, return the energy firms to public ownership.

Here’s the video clip:

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Energy prices have quadrupled and Kwarteng is lying about the government response

Kwasi Kwarteng: you can’t trust a word he says.

This is refreshing! The BBC is actually doing its job and checking government ministers’ claims against the facts!

Here’s the evidence:

In fact, the rebuttal from the Treasury was far harsher than the BBC misled us to believe, if you take Sam Coates’s word for it (and I’m inclined to):

Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. The fact that the BBC has actually checked a minister’s claim is a huge step forward for the quality of journalism at the Corporation.

Maybe they have. This Writer went on the course before embarking on a career in professional journalism. But then, I’m not related to anybody at the BBC, which is allegedly how most of their staff are recruited these days.

It is entirely possible, though, that the BBC’s sudden zeal for facts is merely a bid to hide the extremity of the disaster that the Tories have created over the 40 years since Margaret Thatcher started privatising energy suppliers:

And Kwarteng? He’s not bothered. He went off to Sky (presumably avoiding Mr Coates) and had good fun chatting with Islamophobe Trevor Philips about how sick and old people can eliminate the choice between heating and eating by putting on a few extra layers of clothes…

… so they end up doing neither:

The whole situation is reminiscent of the early-1970s oil crisis that led to power cuts across the UK.

That was during a Conservative government, too – Edward Heath’s.

He introduced a three-day working week in order to conserve electricity – and it seems Boris Johnson’s government has brought us back to that.

This has been a long time coming – and some of us have been warning about it, every step of the way.

The Tories privatised the energy suppliers on the promise that prices would stay low and systems would improve, in order to stay competitive. Instead, prices quadrupled and control of the new companies was bought by foreign firms, many of them wholly-owned by the governments of EU nations.

And then the UK left the EU, annoying those governments.

And now we are facing the threat of being deprived of our power supply.

It would not be possible if the UK had retained control of its own energy supply. But that’s another truth you won’t hear from Kwasi Kwarteng.

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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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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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Council services to get best boost under Labour, says leading think tank

Labour is the only main political party that has allocated more than enough money to councils to meet rising costs and demands.

That is the verdict of leading think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Its briefing shows that the Conservative claim to be a low-tax party is a lie – at least in relation to public services.

The money allocated by the Tories would not be enough to meet rising costs and demands over the next Parliament even if council tax were increased by four per cent every year, the briefing said.

This means either more service cuts or unfunded top-ups would be needed.

So the Tories are planning to make council services a postcode lottery, dependent on the amount of council tax that can be collected. Logically, only the richest areas would received the best services.

In contrast, Labour would provide more than enough to cover increasing costs and demands – even if council tax was frozen (although this is not being planned).

Funding would not be restored to 2010 levels – but Labour would also be providing more to councils via funding increases elsewhere in the system.

The Liberal Democrats are offering enough to fund services if council taxes rise by around two per cent a year across the board – but only if some of the money they are promising to bus services, youth services and the relief of homelessness is put to this purpose.

In This Writer’s home county of Powys, council tax increased by a massive 9.5 per cent in April, while the amount and quality of services in offer decreased. The council is run by an Independent-Conservative coalition, with a Conservative councillor responsible for finance.

Average wages here historically stand at around only 3/4 of the national average, meaning that the abnormally large increase in council tax set by the Conservatives has put many families under considerable stress.

So, in terms of council services, Labour is the logical choice in the general election.

Isn’t it interesting, then, that Labour is nowhere in the polls in either Brecon and Radnorshire or Montgomeryshire, the county’s Parliamentary constituencies?

Both are considered to be Tory/Lib Dem marginals.

So people here regularly vote for huge tax increases that provide few services.

Are they simply misinformed?

And what would they do, if they had the right information?

Source: General election: Council tax more likely to go up under Tories than Labour, IFS suggests – live news | Politics | The Guardian

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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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Long Brexit delay means May could turn to those ‘burning injustices’ – but will she? NO!

NOT YOU: This image was created for International Women’s Day, to show how little we all think of Theresa May.

Let’s not be daft.

Theresa May could soon be offered the “flextension” (if you like that sort of word) that European Council president Donald Tusk has been suggesting – of up to a year before the UK has to leave the EU, unless a deal can be arranged earlier.

It certainly seems possible that she will have until the end of 2019, at the very least.

Will she use the reprieve to address the “burning injustices” she has ignored so fastidiously since the day she first mentioned them on the steps of 10 Downing Street, back in 2016? Of course not!

She’ll be too busy trying to stop her party from self-destructing further than it has already; if there’s no Brexit until the end of the year, it means her own party will have an opportunity to oust her with a vote of “no confidence”, and then it might splinter as backbench MPs scurry to get behind one (or more) of the front-runners – and pray that they’ve chosen the right one.

Among those candidates will be Boris Johnson – despite the fact that he’s a grade-A, first class arsehead with no more regard for the rule of law than for an insect.

Only two days ago, at the time of writing, I was reporting his latest breach of House of Commons rules, which came after serial racism and sexism.

Now he has been revealed as one of 170 MPs who have bought homes using taxpayers’ money – claiming that they are second homes which they require to carry out their duties – only to enjoy a huge boost to their personal wealth because the buildings’ value has skyrocketed.

It seems 160 MPs have made £42 million profit by selling on their taxpayer-funded homes, including another possible Tory leadership candidate, Michael Gove.

Neither are suitable to lead a political party, let alone a nation. It is clear that they have regard only for themselves and are happy to elevate themselves by exploiting the people they are meant to serve.

Their popularity among the Conservatives is ample demonstration of that party’s unsuitability for government office.

But they are in office and we are where we are – in the middle of the enormous mess that they created.

Mrs May will have her hands full finding a solution to Brexit that the various factions in Parliament can support (or a majority of them, at least); and finding a successor to herself who will not drag the UK further into disaster (but will pretend that she was a better leader than she turned out to be).

She won’t do anything about the fact that, by the admission of her own Department for Work and Pensions, the number of disabled people in absolute poverty rose by 200,000 in a single year.

Nor will she do anything about the fact that Universal Credit has increased homelessness in two-thirds of local authority areas, according to homelessness charity CRISIS.

She is sure to be positively rejoicing in the fact that more and more families are being pulled into poverty by the ongoing benefits freeze:

Labour’s former shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, demanded an end to the benefits freeze yesterday – and got a weak answer from the tepid Liz Truss, yet again using the pathetic lie that work is the best way out of poverty (it isn’t – having wealthy Tory relatives is). She for yourself if you have the stomach for it:

And she won’t address the catastrophic funding gap facing our schools:

The above isn’t even an exhaustive list of Mrs May’s failures – I haven’t even mentioned her utter inadequacy on knife crime or the Windrush racism scandal. They are merely the most recent stories I found on Twitter.

Mrs May wants us to think of her as a good prime minister. But she’ll be remembered as good for nothing.


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DWP’s letter to doctors means MORE people have been wrongly denied benefits

Sarah Newton: The Conservative minister for disabled people once said there was no “hostile environment” for benefit claimants. Her capacity for inaccuracy, thus demonstrated, seems to be proved again with this case.

The duplicity in the latest attack on the sick and disabled by the Conservatives is enough to make anybody ill – including the doctors it targeted.

People claiming Employment and Support Allowance because they are too unwell to work, but who have their claim turned down by assessors from the private company hired by the Department for Work and Pensions, are entitled to receive the benefit while they await their appeal hearing.

But they need ‘fit’ notes from their doctors, to prove they are too ill to work – and it has emerged that “ministers” (we don’t know which) have ordered changes to the standard letter sent to GPs, in order to make them think these notes are not necessary.

It’s clearly a scam to undermine the law; sick people can’t receive the benefit if they don’t have a note from their GP, so the government has told GPs to stop providing these notes.

Amazingly, the DWP has claimed that the removal of references that made it clear to GPs they may have to issue a medical statement if their patient wished to appeal against a WCA decision was not intended to dissuade GPs from issuing fit notes.

In that case, why change the letter at all?

And why are we told that the wording was changed by agreement with the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners (although it is significant that there appear to be no formal minutes of the meeting at which this agreement was made)?

According to The Guardian:

The standard letter, called an ESA65B, is sent automatically to the GPs of all claimants who fail a WCA and are declared fit enough to work. Until 2017 the letter advised GPs that if their patient appealed against the WCA decision they must continue to provide fit notes.

However, on ministers’ orders, the letter now states that GPs “do not need to provide any more fit notes for ESA purposes”. It does not mention the possibility that the patient may appeal, or that a fit note is needed for the patient to obtain ESA payments until the appeal is heard.

And what has been the result? Back to the Graun:

Advice charity Z2K said the effect of the revised letter could be devastating. “We have seen how our clients, who are seriously ill, suddenly have zero income, become reliant on food bank vouchers and loans, and face a very real threat of homelessness.”

There was national outrage over the case of Stephen Smith, 64, who was deemed fit for work despite suffering from multiple debilitating illnesses, having his weight plummet to 38kg (6 stone) and being barely able to walk. Smith won his appeal after waiting 12 months for a hearing.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said the lack of clarity over when GPs should issue fit notes could put patients’ finances and health at risk.

The reason for the change is obvious – it is well-known that 72% of claimants who appeal against their Work Capability Assessment decision are successful.

As readers of This Site know, the Conservatives like to persecute people with long-term illnesses and disabilities to their deaths. So they are trying to make it impossible for claimants to survive long enough to win their appeals.

It seems former minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton (ah, so that’s her name! I had forgotten it already) may have ordered the change. She certainly protested to the Work and Pensions select committee that the change had been to make the letter “simpler and clearer”.

Committee chair Frank Field’s acid reply was that the wording was “not having its desired effect”.

Do you think the DWP will change it back?

Source: ‘Misleading’ DWP letter causing ill and disabled people to lose benefits | Society | The Guardian


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