Blood. Sport? Not all foxes are ripped to pieces by the hounds that hunt them – but this one was. [Picture: INS News Agency]
It seems that killing badgers is not enough to sate the Conservative Party’s bloodlust and its members are now trying to restore fox hunting with packs of dogs.
According to the Daily Telegraph, The Federation of Welsh Farmers’ Packs (who?) has commissioned a report to assess whether lifting the limit on the number of dogs used to flush out foxes (for farmers to shoot) will improve efficiency.
Unsurprisingly – because these studies always provide the result desired by the people paying for them – it showed that using a full pack of hounds can be almost twice as effective as using just two dogs, as required by the current law. It also claimed that this could improve animal welfare, as the pursuit could be over much sooner, and use of snares – condemned as cruel – could be reduced.
It isn’t a reintroduction of ‘The Hunt’ by the strictest interpretation of the idea, but restoring the right to use a pack of hounds to chase a single fox would be wide open to abuse, especially by the kind of landed Tories who think they should be able to do whatever they want, to whatever they want, and the Hunting Act 2004 was a gross imposition.
The Coalition Agreement of 2010, of course, includes a commitment to a free vote on repealing the Act – but many Conservative MPs now accept that they might not get enough support to secure the reversal. Many see this as the most convenient alternative.
It’s the old ‘bait-and-switch’ trick again, isn’t it? They have transferred it to the countryside but the form is still the same: Find an acceptable pretext that will act as a cover for the real change to the law that will be imposed.
And there’s no mystery about why they want to bring back hunting. It’s a metaphor for the Tory lifestyle, isn’t it?
They say they’re going to “get tough”, or some similar flannel, and then – after they have wheedled their change into law – we all discover that this means siding with very large, or very bloodthirsty animals to bully, hound (in both senses of the word) and possibly even cause the death of a much smaller creature that they have isolated from its fellows.
Oh, how brave. Oh, how sporting!
It will be bloodier than the DWP’s attack on the disabled.
A swivel-eyed loon, earlier today. [Picture: Left Foot Forward]
So Gideon wants the long-term unemployed to go on Workfare indefinitely, does he?
Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but doesn’t this mean the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s big announcement – at this year’s Conservative Party Conference – is a tawdry plan to massage the unemployment figures?
I’m indebted to The Void blog for the following information, which I recalled while reading reports of Osborne’s drone to the swivel-eyed masses. An article from May stated that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been forced to admit a rise in unemployment was down to a fall in the number of people on Workfare.
“According to the Department, the number of people in work fell by over 47,000 over the last three months – which they say ‘reflects’ amongst other things a drop of 16,000 in the numbers on Government employment schemes,” the article states. As far as I know, this is still correct – if a person is put on Workfare, they are removed from unemployment statistics, even though they only receive social security payments for the work they do.
Putting the long-term unemployed on Workfare indefinitely, therefore, will effectively wipe long-term unemployment from the national figures. This will make Osborne’s administration look very good indeed – despite having done nothing to improve anyone’s chances of finding a job. In fact, those prospects will have worsened because every Workfare place removes a paying job from the market.
And what will this do for the Bank of England’s scheme to raise interest rates only if unemployment drops below seven per cent?
Wait – it gets worse. We can also see a now-traditional Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ going on, supported by a justification narrative based on a bit of voodoo polling. This one pushes lots of our favourite buttons!
Osborne’s rationale for imposing the scheme – the justification narrative – is simply that people want it. He’s basing his reasoning for this on a voodoo poll by the right-wing Policy Exchange, as described on The Void today.
“The general public’s opinions on workfare have been grossly distorted by the nature of the questions asked in this survey – of which there were only two,” the article states.
“The first question asked whether people thought ‘The government should require people who are unemployed for 12 months or more to do community work in return for their state benefits.’ The truth is that only just over half agreed at 56%. But the public were not asked if this workfare should be full time. In fact it does not even specify that the work should be unpaid – previous workfare schemes have come with a top up payment to benefits attached. Whilst those engrossed in welfare policy might assume workfare to mean 30 hours a week, every week, without pay, there’s no reason a survey respondent would think that. They might think yes, they should volunteer in an old people’s home for an afternoon a week, or do a couple of days a month helping out in the local park, for reasonable expenses. This 56% in no way gives a mandate for full time unpaid workfare.”
It continues: “The second question is even more dubious. The Policy Exchange are attempting to use the answers to this question to claim that only 22% of the public support disabled people being exempt from workfare. That incidentally is disabled people “who are capable of working” – another devious phrase as who is and isn’t capable of working is clearly open to debate as the Atos scandal has shown. The obvious inference from the from this figure is that 78% of the public support workfare for disabled people. Yet in question 1 only 56% of people support workfare for anyone at all. There must be something in the going on to explain this bizarre discrepancy.
“Question 2 asks respondents to imagine that compulsory workfare exists and then questions who should be exempt. Now a disabled person completing this survey may think well if I have to do workfare then why shouldn’t a lone parent, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean they support workfare, it means they support equality, of a sort.
“There is no option available for those who think that everyone should be exempt from workfare, although it is possible to answer that every group of claimants given should undertake unpaid work.”
So: Extremely dubious findings, used to support a dubious claim that the public supports increasing Workfare and this is why the Coalition is doing so. In fact, this is a thinly-veiled attempt to falsify unemployment statistics and trigger an interest rate rise.
The swivel-eyed loons must have lapped it up.
Now, why wasn’t Vox Political‘s best friend, Iain Duncan Smith, making this announcement?
What Britain Wants: Delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester were outnumbered three-to-one by the 50,000 demonstrators against the party’s austerity policies, who chanted “Out, Tory scum!”
Do rank-and-file Tories really believe their party’s “achievements” in taxation will propel it to victory in the next election?
To recap: The Coalition government has cut taxes to allow 13,000 income-millionaires an extra £100,000 each, but at the other end of the income scale, raising the tax threshold nominally gave the poorest in society an extra £600 per year – which has been completely wiped out by the rising cost of living and cuts in social security benefits. Most people in the UK earn less than the average wage so it is easy to conclude that many more people will be affected.
It might be a mouth-watering policy for the ‘have-yachts’ who now appear to comprise the majority of party membership after the mass defections and membership card-burning displays of recent months, but party leaders know that they need to keep that sort of thing quiet and woo the masses with a more attractive proposition.
They’re not stupid. They have learned a trick or two from David Cameron’s short-lived “detoxification” before they came back into public office, and they believe their “bait and switch” tactic is serving them well. They need a user-friendly “bait” to get the average citizens’ votes, after which they can “switch” back to the terrifying policies of oppression that we have tasted – yes, only tasted – over the last three years.
So Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardiantells us: “The high-speed rail link is to be rebranded ‘the north-south railway’ in an attempt to convince voters that the Tories want an economic recovery for all regions of the country.”
And Andrew Gimson on ConservativeHomestates: “There is a bit of window-dressing about cautions, which is meant to show that the Tories are tough on crime. And there is an irresponsible scheme to help people buy over-priced houses, which is meant to show that the party is on the side of people who do not have rich parents.
“If I were a floating voter, I think I would find these attempts to gain my support rather patronising,” he adds – and we can all agree with that.
Then he has to ruin it with: “Why can the party not rely on the substantial reforms being made in such fields as taxation, welfare, education and health?”
Simple answer: Because nobody wanted them.
We have already covered taxation in part. To the regressive changes in income tax that have helped the rich and attacked the poor, we should add the non-attempt to handle tax avoidance, which amounts to a few weasel words spoken for the benefit of the public while the ‘Big Four’ accountancy (and tax avoidance) firms continue to write the law on the subject, ensuring that their schemes – together with the people and firms on them – continue to avoid the attention of HM Revenue and Customs.
Is that fair? Do you think it will appeal to the poverty-stricken voter-on-the-street?
Welfare: George Osborne was set to unveil a new intensification of Workfare today (Monday), in which everyone who has been unemployed for more than two years will have to go on work placements in order to receive their benefits. This is, of course, utterly pointless. Such schemes ensure that fewer real jobs are available (why should an employer pay anyone a living wage when the government is supplying a steady stream of workers for free?) and have proved worse than useless at getting anyone into the few positions that remain. The announcement may cheer the Tory faithful but Andrew Gimson’s article suggests that these people are further out of touch than their MPs!
It is interesting that the new plan is not being unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, but by his rival. It seems that Smith really has been ‘Returned To Unit’ for the time being – perhaps because he has done more to re-toxify the Tory brand than most of the party’s other front-benchers put together!
It is, however, a sad example of the power of media censorship that people are more stirred up by his bedroom tax than they are about the fact that his Unum-inspired and Atos-driven work capability assessments for Employment and Support Allowance claimants have led to so many thousands of deaths – yes, deaths – that the government is refusing to release the fatality statistics.
Education: Michael Gove is working hard to dismantle state education, so schools may be run for profit, rather than to educate our children. He has distorted international statistics to make it seem that our performance had worsened when in fact it had improved – and got an official warning about it from the UK Statistics Authority. He lied about the advantages of schools becoming academies – all schools already control the length of the school day, teachers’ pay and the curriculum. His claim that autonomy would improve performance remains entirely unfounded – non-academy schools outperform them. His expensive Free Schools experiment is pointless if intended to improve education – in Sweden a similar experiment increased racial and social divisions while education standards dropped. American ‘Charter’ schools were also held up as examples of “extraordinary” change, but almost half showed no improvement and more than one-third worsened. Gove’s next stop, following the ‘Charter’ schools’ example, will be privatisation – schools-for-profit. Meanwhile, he intends to worsen academic achievement by promoting an outdated, learn-by-rote, system of teaching that is scorned by the other countries he says he admires, in favour of creativity. And he has undermined not only teacher morale and conditions, but also the morale of his own civil servants. Our children don’t even have the right to a qualified teacher any more. Now he wants performance-related-pay, rather than national pay awards – further undermining teachers and teaching standards.
And Tory policy on health has been the biggest betrayal of the lot: If David Cameron had any support at all in 2010, it was because he had promised to support the National Health Service in the then-upcoming time of austerity. He promised no top-down reorganisations of the NHS, even though he knew his then-health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, had been working on exactly that for many years. After worming his way into Number 10, they immediately embarked on the piecemeal privatisation of this country’s greatest asset, and this is now well under way, with contracts worth billions of pounds awarded to private companies for work that was previously carried out by the nationalised service, and a quarter of the commissioning groups – that we were told would be run by GPs and other health specialists – now run by the private accounting firm (also one of the Big Four and a subsidiary of Atos) KPMG.
Even their performance on the economy – which both Cameron and Osborne made the yardstick for determining this Parliament’s success – has been poor. The current upturn has nothing to do with Osborne’s policies and everything to do with the UK’s current position in the economic cycle – in short, things had to get better eventually.
This is why the Tories are gathering under the false slogan “For Hard-Working People”, rather than the more appropriate “For The Idle Rich” that Andrew Rawnsley suggests. The party’s leaders understand what their dwindling support base does not – that they need the masses to believe the Conservatives are on their side.
This is why they can only wheel out watered-down or repackaged policies that they hope will please the crowds – the party’s leaders understand that anything more solid will turn us away.
If you get the chance, have a good look at the speakers in this year’s conference. Every one of them will be terrified that their message isn’t strong enough or that the public will see through it – and remove their snouts from the trough in 2015.
The fact is, they had already blown it – long before they got anywhere near Manchester.
You know, dear reader, that this Bill is about ensuring that David Cameron’s corporate masters continue to have access to him whenever they want to open their chequebooks and give him an order. This blog – and others, we’re sure – has made that very clear.
You also know that it is about attacking the unions, rendering it almost impossible for them to carry out their business without being in breach of the new law.
The third section of the Bill – the part about “non-party campaigning” – was bolted on to provide a distraction, raising concerns across the country that free speech would be, effectively, outlawed in the UK. It seems clear now that this was included purely to provide a focal point for public outrage, away from the main purposes of the legislation.
Now, Andrew Lansley has come forward with amendments to the Bill – aimed at addressing “misunderstandings”. Misunderstandings on what?
Remove the additional test of “otherwise enhancing the standing of a party or candidates” from clause 26. This is to provide further reassurance to campaigners as to the test they have to meet in order to incur controlled expenditure. A third party will only be subject to regulation where its campaign can reasonably be regarded as intended to “promote or procure the electoral success” of a party of candidate,
Replace the separate listings for advertising, unsolicited material and manifesto/policy documents with election “material”; this is the language used in the current legislation that non-party campaigners and the Electoral Commission are already familiar with, and on which the Electoral Commission have existing guidance,
Make clear that it is public rallies and events that are being regulated; meetings or events just for an organisation’s members or supporters will not be captured by the bill. “We will also provide an exemption for annual events – such as an organisation’s annual conference”,
Ensure that non–party campaigners who respond to ad hoc media questions on specific policy issues are not captured by the bill, whilst still capturing press conferences and other organised media events, and
Ensure that all “market research or canvassing” which promotes electoral success is regulated.
Lansley added: “We have listened and acted, as I said we would do. I am confident that these changes will ensure that the concerns raised about the effect of the Bill on campaigning activities of charities have now been met.
“In doing so, the bill will continue to meet the necessary objective of giving transparency and proper regulation wherever third parties seek to have an influence directly on the outcome of elections.”
Anybody who believes that is all that’s wrong with this Bill is as gullible as Lansley wants them to be.
If you have contacted your MP about this Bill before, you may be surprised to hear that – unless you contact them again – they’re likely to believe that your fears about this Bill have been put to rest.
If they haven’t – and trust us on this, they shouldn’t – then it’s time to email them again.
Otherwise this government of millionaire marionettes will have fooled you again – and the corporate bosses pulling the strings will have good reason to be well pleased.
Listening on lobbying: Andrew Lansley proved exactly how trustworthy he is with the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Now he stands ready to hear concerns over the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.
It seems we have all been victims of a Parliamentary stitch-up.
Everyone who was getting hot under the collar last week, because the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill seemed to be attacking the fair and proper work of charities and other organisations, probably breathed a sigh of relief when the government announced it would scrap plans to change the way campaign spending is defined.
The Bill would have restricted any charitable campaigning which “enhances the standing of parties or candidates”, in the full year before an election, to £390,000. That’s a 70 per cent cut – plus it would now include staff costs.
The BBC reported that Andrew Lansley has tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to the wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”.
What the BBC does not say, but is clarified in the government press release, is that “the Bill will still bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences“.
In other words, this is a very minor change. Spending is still restricted during election years (and almost every year is an election year); the work of trade unions will be savaged – in a country that already has the most savage anti-union laws in Europe; and all organisations will still have to watch what they say about anything which might be considered an election issue.
Want to campaign to protect the NHS, introduce fair taxation, fight poverty, improve public health or education, reform the financial sector or civil liberties, or fight the privatisation agenda? Then your budget will be scrutinised and you may not go over. And don’t forget there will be limits on spending within constituencies.
This still means that smaller organisations will enjoy greater influence than larger ones and – perhaps most telling of all – it does not clarify the position with regard to the corporate media. Will the mainstream press be curtailed? Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK and the Daily Mail Group spend far more than £390,000 every day, and on material that absolutely is “intended to promote or procure electoral success” – for the Conservative Party. Does anybody seriously believe the Tories will enforce action against their supporters?
One tangential element that this does clarify is the BBC’s political stance. Its story makes no mention of the more-than-100 other amendments that have been proposed for the Bill – possibly because they were put forward by MPs who aren’t in the government. Nor does it mention any of the technicalities that water down yesterday’s announcement. Instead, the BBC presents it as a victory for charities, who are getting everything they want. They aren’t.
It’s another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ trick.
Doubly so, in fact, because this little circus has diverted attention away from the other aspects of the Bill – its clampdown on trade unions and the fact that it does almost nothing to address lobbying, which was supposed to be its reason for existing in the first place!
Joint co-operation between various trade unions will be made more difficult – to such an extent that the Trade Union Congress will effectively be banned in election years (meaning almost every year).
All unions with more than 10,000 members will have to submit an annual ‘Membership Audit Certificate’ to the Certification Officer in addition to the annual return which they already make. The Certification Officer will have the power to require production of ‘relevant’ documents, including membership records and even private correspondence. What is the rationale for these draconian provisions when not a single complaint has been made to the Certification Officer about these matters?
Is the real motive behind this section of the bill to help employers mount injunction proceedings when union members have voted for industrial action, by seizing on minor if not minuscule flaws which the Court of Appeal would previously have considered ‘de minimis’ or ‘accidental’? Isn’t this about inserting yet further minute technical or bureaucratic obstacles or hurdles in the path of trade unions carrying out their perfectly proper and legitimate activities?
And what about the potentional for ‘blacklisting’? If union membership records are to be made publicly available, as seems the case, then it will be possible for businesses to single out job applicants who are union members and refuse them work.
And then we come to the matter of lobbying itself.
This Bill still does not do what it is supposed to do. A register of consultant lobbyists is not adequate to the task and would not have prevented any of the major lobbying scandals in which David Cameron has been embroiled.
Practically all forms of lobbying, including direct donations to political parties by corporate and private interests, will remain totally unaffected by the legislation and corporations could sidestep it easily, simply by bringing their lobbying operations “in house”.
No less than 80 per cent of lobbying activity will not be covered by the bill – and it must be amended to cover this percentage. The only lobbyists that will be affected are registered lobbying agencies, who will presumably suffer large losses as their clients leave. Perhaps the real aim of this part of the bill is to stop lobbying from organisations that don’t have enough money to make it worth the government’s while?
How does this bill prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from buying political influence through party political donations – direct donations to MPs who then coincidentally vote in ways beneficial to their donors – or directly to political parties, such as David Cameron’s “The Leaders Group”?
How will it stop paid lobbyists like David Cameron’s election adviser Lynton Crosby from having influential roles in politics?
How will it stop people with significant lobbying interests, like George Osborne’s father-in-law David Howell, being appointed as advisers and ministers in areas where they have blatant conflicts of interests with their lobbying activities?
How will it increase transparency when it comes to which organisations have been lobbying which politicians on particular issues?
Nor will it stop lobbyists targeting ministers’ political advisers (SPADs), as was witnessed in the Jeremy Hunt Sky TV affair.
Or prevent corporate interests being invited to actually write government legislation on their behalf – for example the ‘big four’ accountancy firms, who run many tax avoidance schemes, actually write UK law on tax avoidance.
An adequate register would cover all of the above, including details of all non-Parliamentary representatives seeking to influence members of the government, how much they paid for the privilege, and what they expected to get for their money.
“This government is taking action domestically on [tax] avoidance and evasion,” wrote George Osborne in an article for The Observer, back in February. How right he was.
The Tory-led Coalition has done everything in its power to facilitate tax avoidance and ignore evasion, it seems, including the latest wheeze, which is to link it with a feeble attempt to get working people to throw away their rights in exchange for a few shares.
The BBC has reported that the new status of “employee shareholder” has come into force, allowing working people to claim shares in the company that employs them, if they give up the rights to claim unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay, the right to request flexible working (except in the case of two weeks’ parental leave), and some rights to request time off for training.
Nobody in their right mind would do this and expert opinion is that take-up will be small. So why do it?
Well, it’s not about the workers at all. It’s about helping company bosses avoid paying their taxes. Even the right-wing-leaning BBC was unable to cover up the facts (although it left them until the end of the article):
“Companies can also claim some corporation tax deductions on the issuance of shares to employees.”
Yes – it’s a tax dodge!
Here’s how it works, according to the Mirror: “New analysis show[s] it could also allow executives to avoid paying revenue on company shares. Tax experts commissioned by the TUC believe ruthless bosses could classify themselves as ’employee owners’ to escape Capital Gains Tax. And the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates the scheme could cost up to £1 billion, mainly due to tax avoidance.”
This will, of course, involve a drop in tax income to the Treasury, meaning increases in the national debt and deficit, which the Tories will no doubt use to justify further cuts to public service budgets as part of their ‘Starve The Beast’ agenda. Remember, this country has a chancellor who, for ideological purposes, actually wants to harm the British economy.
Meanwhile, as our friend at Another Angry Voice has put it: “If you’re thick enough to cash in your labour rights for a few grand worth of shares in the company you work for, then in a couple of years time when people are calling you ‘feckless’ for being unemployed, you’ll be one of the minority that actually deserve it (and your shares might well be worth only pennies in the pound compared to the value they had when you scrapped your labour rights to get them).”
A strong hand: Ed Miliband has plenty of ammunition with which to hammer the Conservative-led Coalition this autumn – but using it would mean a break from his recent policy direction. Does he have the stomach for it or will he continue to ignore the majority of Labour supporters and favour an inner circle of advisers who have, so far, served him poorly?
Vox Political reblogged a post on the Skwawkbox blog yesterday, identifying a commonplace tactic used by members and supporters of the Coalition government.
It works like this: You make an assertion in the media that will harm your opponents, even though you have no evidence to back it up. You argue your case vehemently, refusing to accept any alternatives to what you are saying. And when the evidence comes in and it’s against you, you say it is a stitch-up and continue claiming both the moral and factual victory.
This is what the Conservative Party has been doing, loudly and continually. Look at its record on the NHS and on social security reforms and you’ll see that this assertion is supported by fact. Now, more factual evidence has arrived to undermine other Tory claims.
In spite of this, the Labour Party presents the appearance of an organisation torn by inner disagreement, after several high-profile figures broke ranks to criticise the leadership for failing to go on the attack during the summer, when the Conservative-led Coalition was vulnerable on any number of levels.
The BBC ran a story in which Labour’s Tessa Jowell warned that public criticism of Labour leader Ed Miliband by party colleagues creates an “unappealing sense of toxic disunity”.
We’ll come back to the BBC shortly, but for now it is enough to say the story quoted an article by Dame Tessa in the Observer, claiming that “disloyalty” of this kind risked handing the next election to the Tories.
She wrote: “There is… nothing constructive in publicly delivering ‘helpful advice’ that could be much better delivered quietly in private,” but for all we know, Mr Miliband’s critics had already done this, only for him to turn a deaf ear.
She is wrong, of course. Those people spoke up because they believed that their leader has been ignoring the mountain of evidence piling up against the Coalition – evidence that he could use to pummel David Cameron and Nick Clegg into the dust long before the next election; that Mr Miliband is unaccountably trying to avoid criticism from the likes of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, in an attempt to court the right-wing readership of those papers; and that he would get more respect from those people – and win back disenchanted Labour voters – if he acknowledged and supported the evidence against the Coalition’s policies and set out opposing plans that mapped out a different course for the UK, one that might actually have a chance of success.
There are so many ways to strike against the web of so-called ‘myths’ (in fact outright lies) spread by the Conservatives since they came into office with the Liberal Democrats that it is hard to know where to start.
Let’s begin with the report by the international doctors’ organisation Medecins Du Monde (Doctors of the World), stating very clearly that the claim, by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, that health tourism is rife in the UK, is nonsense.
In a policy briefing, the organisation stated: “Seven years of data… shows that service users had, on average, been living in the UK for three years before they tried to access healthcare. Only 1.6 per cent of people using the service had left their country of origin for personal health reasons.”
Concentrating on one particular illness, “Research carried out by Terrence Higgins Trust and George House Trust found that people living with HIV using their services had been resident in England for between 12-18 months before testing positive for HIV. If access to HIV drugs had been their motivation for coming to England, they would have been unlikely to wait so long to become eligible for life-saving treatments.”
Therefore, “Research by Doctors of the World’s European network indicates no correlation between accessibility of healthcare to migrants and migration patterns.”
The government has made health tourism a major part of its anti-immigration campaign, claiming that it costs the taxpayer a fortune, but even this was rubbished by the professionals: “Current estimates vary greatly, although last year the NHS estimates it spent £33 million treating foreign nationals and wrote off £12 million of this sum. This represents about 0.01 per cent of the £107 billion NHS budget. These sums are considerably less than the net contribution made to the UK by migrants of 1.02 per cent of GDP, or £16.3 billion, according to the OECD.”
Just 0.01 per cent of the NHS budget is lost treating foreign nationals who do not pay – even less than the 0.7 per cent of the social security budget that is lost to fraud, according to DWP figures. But the government talks up these comparatively tiny amounts as though they will topple us all into bankruptcy (impossible).
One might almost believe there was an intention to distract us from something else. Remember, the Conservatives are well-practised at ‘bait-and-switch’ fraud, as mentioned in an earlier article. Perhaps they don’t want us examining their lackadaisical attempts at pretending to counter corporate tax avoidance that costs up to £120 billion per year? Or maybe they don’t want us thinking about what could have been done to restore respectability to our bankers after the financial crisis they caused.
The Mirror reported that this is because more than 40,000 more people have claimed HB since this time last year, with the biggest pressure coming from working people who need help with housing costs because their wages no longer cover them, especially since private landlords have increased rents by an inflation-busting three per cent over the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, councils have been forced to rehouse victims of the Bedroom Tax from cheaper social housing into more expensive private rented properties, creating more unwanted extra costs.
It was previously reported that larger social housing is going empty because people do not want to move in and then fall foul of the Bedroom Tax. I can’t currently find the reference for that, but if anyone can help out, please send in a comment with the link.
The government has claimed that the redundancies will save £1.5 billion per year, which will be reinvested in patient care – but this will only bring annual spending back up to just above where it was when Labour left office, as it was revealed at the end of 2012 that annual spending on the NHS has dropped by nearly £1 billion. The government has stated that spending will have increased by £12.7 billion by 2014-15 which, in financial terms, is next year.
The Coalition lied when it said changes to the planning system would protect the Green Belt. This land, “intended to provide countryside access for urban dwellers and ensure conservation of nature, as well as maintaining agriculture and forestry” according to a BBC website article, is being eroded away with the help of new rules introduced by the Coalition, with planning applications on Green Belt land in England almost doubling from 81,000 homes in 2012 to 150,000 this year.
The government said protection was being maintained but the Council for the Protection of Rural England said the Green Belt was under threat. Who do you believe?
The announcement that the UK economy grew by 0.7 per cent, rather than 0.6, has been greeted rapturously by the Coalition, whose representatives have claimed that it shows the economy has moved “from rescue to recovery”. This is, of course, utterly ludicrous. There is no way an improvement of this kind – after years of economic flatlining thanks to Coalition policies – can be claimed as either evidence of a sustained recovery or evidence that Coalition policies are responsible for the improvement. The weakness of the upturn suggests the change brought on by conditions that would have arisen, whether the Coalition had tinkered with the economy or not.
Thankfully Michael Meacher has returned, after a brief holiday from blogging, to give us chapter and verse. “Today’s announcement by the ONS that its initial 0.6 per cent growth estimate for the second quarter of this year has now been upgraded to 0.7 per cent is insignificant when put into perspective against the recoveries of the five other UK recessions in the previous 100 years,” he writes.
“This time the economy still remains 3.3 per cent below its pre-crash level in 2008, while at the same stage of cycle (ie five years on from the crash) it was nearly FIVE per cent above the pre-crash level in the early 1980s, SIX per cent above pre-crash in the 1920s, SIX per cent above pre-crash again in the early 1930s, SEVEN per cent above pre-crash in the early 1970s, and nearly 10 PER CENT above pre-crash in the 1990s.” (Caps and italics mine)
“Come on, at this stage 0.7 per cent is to be apologised for – both historically and in comparison with other other economies emerging from recession this time round – Britain still three per cent down, but France one per cent down, Germany two per cent up, the US four per cent up and Canada six per cent up.”
The above stories emerged over the past couple of days. Look back over the rest of August and we have:
The revelation that the upcoming Lobbying Bill will do nothing to prevent professional lobbyists from influencing Parliament unduly, but will attack your right to campaign politically in “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech”.
The revelation that a ‘top ten’ list of benefit fraudsters, reported by right-wing newspapers, does not exist.
Information that the government may be corruptly supporting fracking because several of its members have stakes in fracking firms.
Home Office vans stirring up racism in London.
Conservative plans to abolish the human rights of everybody in the UK, in order to inflict a dangerous and exploitative regime on working people that will amount to slavery.
The revelation that recent attacks on the NHS for causing needless deaths have been blown out of proportion in order to make public opinion more receptive to further privatisation.
The revelation that the DWP is spending £1.3 million on extra staff who have been calculating the government’s flagship benefits cap – perhaps its only popular policy – because the computer system needed to do the job has not yet been built. Ministers had no intention of admitting this and the information only became public after it was discovered by somebody else.
And then there’s the fact that the fundamental claim of the Coalition government – that the financial crisis of five years ago happened because Labour overspent massively and mishandled the economy – was absolute and total groundless fabrication. Labour in fact handled the economy responsibly, even when the financial crisis hit.
That has to total more than 10 ways in which Labour could undermine the Coalition. All Mr Miliband has to do is open his mouth and tell people about them in ways that will be reported by the media.
And on that subject: If and when he does, and it is reported by the BBC, we can all be certain that right-wing commentators will claim that this is because the BBC is full of pinko left-wingers who support Labour. Let’s put that myth to rest as well.
A lecturer at Cardiff University has checked the facts and found that the BBC has a broadly right-wing bias. The study showed that the government of the day generally gets more airtime than anyone else (natural considering it is making policy and actually carrying out the business of government) but in reporting of immigration, the EU and religion, in 2007 Gordon Brown’s appearances on the BBC outnumbered David Cameron’s by less than two to one, while in 2012, Cameron’s outnumbered Ed Miliband’s by around four to one. The same ratios occurred for other prominent members of each party. When reporting of all topics is taken into account, Conservative politicians were featured more than 50 per cent more often than those from Labour in both 2007 AND 2012.
Going into the autumn Parliamentary session, Ed Miliband has a strong hand to play – if he has the stomach for it. And if any of the media try to suppress his arguments, he can just point to the evidence of right-wing bias and tell them they need to clean up their act just as much as the Coalition.
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