Tag Archives: all in it together

Three little pigs who are sticking their snouts in the trough to keep out the wolves

Caught out again: Grant Shapps is yet again having to justify his own shady behaviour.

Caught out again: Grant Shapps is yet again having to justify his own shady behaviour.

Here’s a story to get you irritated and annoyed on a hot summer’s day: Your Prime Minister, his Chancellor and the chairman of their political party have all found novel property-based cheats.

According to the Daily Mirror, David Cameron and George Osborne have done a secret deal with the taxman to cut thousands of pounds off the tax they pay while they are living in their famous grace-and-favour homes on Downing Street.

Under the change, which HM Revenue and Customs has buried deep in the small print of its accounts, Cameron is saving a minimum of £1,228 a year, while Osborne’s bill has more than halved, saving him £1,560 a year.

The Mirror points out that this means Osborne is paying just £23 a week and Cameron no more than £35 to live at Britain’s most exclusive address, while the average rent in the UK is £195.

The paper quotes Alex Hilton, director of pressure group Generation Rent, who mocked the top Tories with their election slogan from 2010: “We’re blatantly not all in it together if the residents of Downing Street can wangle themselves a nice bonus while ordinary families are seeing their rent go up by more than wages.”

Meanwhile Grant Shapps, the Tory co-chairman who hid his own shady business deals behind the false names ‘Michael Green’ and ‘Sebastian Fox’ for the first four years of his Parliamentary career, has been receiving campaign funds from a Conservative club that has not submitted a tax return since 2009.

Conservative Club (Hatfield) Ltd has been fined £3,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority for its failure to produce accounts or name its officers. Despite these issues, it seems the club has been entirely able to provide £140,000 to fund Shapps as a candidate in his Welwyn Hatfield constituency.

Shapps has claimed the club is not connected to his local Conservative Association, which is odd – because not only is it based in the same building, paying rent to the association, but its members are all counted as members of the Conservative Party as well.

Was Shapps among the Conservatives who justified last year’s Gagging Act by claiming it was vital that the public had transparency from their MPs?

And didn’t Cameron say his government would be the most transparent ever, in its affairs?

Liars. Pigs with their snouts in the trough, all of them.

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Conservatives: Exploiting hardworking people

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Exploitation: The logo on the cups says, “Conservatives – for the privileged few” – and the intern carrying them isn’t included.

“We’re all in it together” are we, George?

The Conservative Party represents “fairness”, “for hardworking people”, does it, David?

It seems not – if we are to judge the Conservative Party by its actions, rather than its words.

Yesterday a website focusing on graduate careers blew the full-time whistle on these deceptions, exposing how the Tories have been briefing MPs and candidates on ways to avoid paying the minimum wage by exploiting the perceived differences between volunteers, interns and paid employees.

The article on Graduate Fog said a memo circulated to Party members was advising them to start calling their unpaid interns ‘campaign volunteers’, in order to evade “potential hostile questioning” about exploitative business practices.

The Conservative Party has denied doing anything wrong by providing advice on ways its members may avoid paying the minimum wage.

It would have been better for the Party spokesperson to deny that Conservatives have been wrongly recruiting people as employees – under the umbrella title of ‘interns’ (which means nothing in UK law), while treating them – for payment purposes – as volunteers.

But that was impossible because it is exactly what has been happening – as the memo makes clear.

Look – here it is:

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Graduate Fog kindly published it for us all to examine.

The part that blows the gaff is a “suggested template reply” for “hostile questioning” about the issue of “recruiting unpaid interns”.

Clearly, this is what Conservative chiefs want to avoid.

Clearly they would not have gone to the effort of circulating a memo if NOBODY was “recruiting unpaid interns”.

So there is a clear implication that some Conservative Party MPs and prospective Parliamentary candidates, in fact, have been “recruiting unpaid interns” – and illegally exploiting them by demanding that they carry out the duties of employees.

The tone is clear from the get-go: The Conservative Party is running scared.

Members are told that people working in an unpaid capacity are no longer to be described as ‘interns’ – they are ‘campaign volunteers’ from now on because, that way, there is no obligation to pay them.

Conservatives are advised not to pay anything at all to these ‘volunteers’ – even expenses – as this could lead to them being classed as ‘workers’ and establishing ‘mutuality of obligation’. This would be equivalent to payment for services rendered – and the ‘volunteer’ would therefore be classed as a ‘worker’, requiring payment for services rendered, at the minimum wage or higher.

From now on, the memo states, recruitment adverts should be “appropriately worded” – meaning there must be nothing resembling a “formal job description”. This means references to “work”, “worker”, “hours” of work, “tasks” the ‘Volunteer’ will be “expected” to perform, and “expenses” are all out.

Instead, Party members are advised to use words like “volunteering”, “volunteer”, “campaigning administration”, and “help” – and to describe functions carried out by the “volunteer” as “the kind of activities it would be great to get some help with”.

This advice would not be necessary if Conservative Party MPs and prospective Parliamentary candidates had not been illegally “recruiting unpaid interns”.

For the interns themselves, this should be terrific news: There can be no requirement for them to turn up to work, and no disciplinary measures may be taken against them if they don’t. They may come and go as they please and do not have to conform to any set working hours. Nor may they be expected to perform any specified duties.

If the Tories want people to do that kind of work, they can pay for it like everybody else.

… although the minimum wage probably won’t be enough.

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Has the Coalition set Labour an impossible task – to rescue politics from corruption?

Not a good egg: Ed Miliband was hit by an egg on his first campaign visit after returning from holiday abroad. The thrower, Dean Porter, said: "They do nothing. The government do nothing. The shadow government do nothing. I don't believe him at all. If you are poor, you are considered a burden."

Not a good egg: Ed Miliband was hit by an egg on his first campaign visit after returning from holiday abroad. The thrower, Dean Porter, said: “They do nothing. The government do nothing. The shadow government do nothing. I don’t believe him at all. If you are poor, you are considered a burden.”

Yesterday’s article, DWP denials: They would kill you and call it ‘help’ received an unprecedented reaction – considering it was only intended to prepare the way for a larger discussion.

In less than 12 hours the article went viral and galvanised many of you into vocal support, sharing your stories of government (and particularly DWP) ill-treatment and urging others to follow this blog – for which much gratitude is in order. Thanks to all concerned.

The aim was to show how low politics and politicians have fallen in public estimation. The general consensus is that our politicians aren’t interested in us. They make promise after promise before elections – and the party (or parties) in office often set up tax breaks for sections of society their focus groups have told them are needed to secure a win. After they’ve got what they want, they don’t give a damn.

Look at the Coalition. The consensus is that this is a failed government. That it has broken one promise after another. That its ministers are liars and its Prime Minister is the worst charlatan of the lot.

That its rallying-call, “We’re all in it together”, refers only to Conservative and Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament and their close friends in the most lucrative (and therefore richest) industries, along with the bankers (of course), and that they have all dug their noses deep into the trough and are (to mix metaphors) sucking us dry. Look at the way Mark Hoban employed his former employers to rubber-stamp the DWP’s new plans for the Work Capability Assessment.

In short: That the Coalition government is the most incompetent and corrupt administration to blight the United Kingdom in living memory, and possibly the worst that this land has ever endured.

We fear that these tin-pot tyrants are carrying out a eugenics programme to kill off people who have become sick or disabled; we fear that their economic policies are designed to put anyone less than upper-middle-class into the kind of debt that current wages will never permit them to pay off – a debt that can then be sold between fat-cat corporations who will hold the masses in actual – if not admitted – slavery; that they will dismantle this country’s institutions, handing over everything that is worth anything to their buddies in business, who will make us pay through the nose for services that our taxes ought to cover.

And yet a recent poll suggests that we would prefer this corrupt gang of asset-stripping bandits to run the economy of the country (into the ground) rather than give Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Labour Party, an opportunity to restore the country’s fortunes.

Are we all going schizoid? Are we really saying that, while we don’t believe the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats could organise a binge in a brewery without stealing the booze from us while we’re drinking it, we do believe them when they say the current economic nightmare was because Labour mismanaged the economy?

(In case anyone hasn’t really thought it through, the current lie is that the international credit crunch that has cost the world trillions of pounds was caused, not by bankers (who have never been punished for it) but by the UK Labour Party giving too much money away to scrounging benefit cheats. In fact, only 0.7 per cent of benefit claims are fraudulent and, while they cost the taxpayer £1.2 billion a year, that does not justify the £19 billion the Coalition has given to its private, for-profit friends to make a pretence of dealing with it.)

Are we really saying that even though we all now know that George Osborne’s economic policy is nonsense, based on a theory that has been comprehensively rubbished, we’re all happy to give him and his miserable boss David Cameron the credit for the slight improvement in the UK’s economic fortunes that we have seen in recent months? It was always going to improve at some point, and the current upturn is more likely to be part of that kind of cycle than anything Osborne has done.

If we really are saying that, then we all need to put in claims for Employment and Support Allowance, on grounds of mental instability!

That’s not what’s going on, though.

It seems far more likely that the general public is having a crisis of confidence. As a nation, we know what we’ve got is bad; we just don’t have confidence that we’ll get better if we put our support behind the Opposition.

This is the Coalition’s one great success: It has damaged the reputation of politics and politicians so badly that nobody involved in that occupation can escape being labelled as corrupt, or liars, or worse.

And Labour is doing far too little to fight that.

A BBC article on the problems facing Labour states that the Coalition has sharpened up its messages on, among other things, welfare and immigration. The message is still the usual hogwash; the problem is that Labour has made no meaningful response. Her Majesty’s Opposition appears to have given up Opposing.

Is this because the main political parties are now so similar that Labour is now supporting Coalition policies? That would make sense in the context of statements made before the summer recess by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, in which Labour appeared to capitulate over welfare and the economy, even though the Coalition had lost all the major arguments.

When they did that damned stupid thing in that damned stupid way, Vox Political was the first to say “watch their poll lead disappear” – and it has more than halved from 11 percentage points to five, according to The Guardian.

This lackadaisical attitude from the Labour leadership has not gone unnoticed among the backbenchers and the grass roots, and the last few weeks has been notable for the rising chorus of dissent against Ed Miliband’s leadership. Some have described the Labour front bench as “Plastic Tories”.

Even Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham took a pop, saying Labour needed to “shout louder” and produce attention-grabbing policies by next spring – or lose any chance of winning the 2015 election.

Miliband’s response to that was to claim that Burnham was really saying the Labour Party was “setting out how we would change the country”. This is nonsense. He was saying that was what Labour needed to do, and Miliband rendered himself untrustworthy by suggesting otherwise.

It is very hard to put your support – and your vote – behind somebody you don’t trust, who seems completely unable (or unwilling) to fight your oppressor on your behalf; in short, someone who seems just as corrupt as the government in power. At the moment, Ed Miliband doesn’t stand for anything – so there’s no reason you should stand up for him.

What, then, should Labour do?

Easy. The party needs a clear, simple message that everybody can understand and get behind; one that members can support because it reflects Labour beliefs rather than whatever Coalition policy currently seems popular, and above all, one that comes from verifiable truth.

He could take a leaf from Paul O’Grady’s book. In a clip on YouTube, the entertainer says: “We should be vocal in our fight against oppression. We should let them know that we are not taking these draconian cuts lightly!

“We should fight for the rights of the elderly! Of the poor! Of the sick! And of the children!”

Rapturous applause.

Labour needs more than that – but a commitment to protect those who have been most harmed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat doomsday spree would at least be a start.