Tag Archives: compassionate

If the economy is in recovery, why does it still feel like recession?

Path to prosperity? If the economy has been growing for the last nine months, why has food bank use tripled during the last year?

Path to prosperity? If the economy has been growing for the last nine months, why has food bank use almost tripled during the last year?

No doubt Gideon George Osborne will spend the next few days (if not weeks and months) crowing about the figures from the Office for National Statistics that say the British economy has grown for a third successive quarter.

He has already tweeted, “This shows that Britain’s hard work is paying off & the country is on the path to prosperity.”

The construction industry has grown by 2.5 per cent on the previous quarter, with house builders buoyed up by Gideon’s Help to Buy scheme, which offers (unsupported) mortgage guarantees to buyers and lenders. He has promised to divert £12 million to this, but has not said where he will find the money.

Critics have warned that this is simply creating another housing-fuelled debt bubble that will burst in a couple of years’ time, leaving even more people in debt than after the financial crisis hit us all.

Has this growth generated work for electricians, plumbers, plasterers, roofers? If so, are they being paid fairly? These are the people who will take their disposable income back into the wider economy, for the benefit of other businesses.

Production (including manufacturing) and services are both on the up as well. The BBC report says nothing about retail. But if this good news is true, why is the Department for Work and Pensions determined to expand its Workfare scheme, as laid out in a Conservative conference announcement and by an article reblogged here.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls welcomed the signs of growth in the ONS report but warned: “For millions of people across the country still seeing prices rising faster than their wages, this is no recovery at all.”

He is right, of course. Look at the rise and rise of food banks, which have seen a massive rise in attendances from even working people – whose wages simply don’t cover the cost of living. Benefits are, of course, being cut back by our “compassionate” Conservative-led government.

They say there’s no money for it but – if the economy is surging back into growth – where are all the tax receipts from the big corporates that are profiting?

Oh yes – they’re safely closeted in the tax havens that Mr Osborne kindly opened up for them. Ordinary, working, and poor people have to use their own limited funds to pay off a Conservative-run national deficit, presumably because Tories think the rich, who caused the problem, shouldn’t have to pay for services they don’t use.

And the Institute of Directors’ chief economist, Graeme Leach, warned that there are “strong headwinds” restricting the possibility of further growth, including “debt and inflation” which are “rising faster than earnings”.

That’s right. Only yesterday, Yr Obdt Srvt was talking with a gentleman who – despite having a full-time job – has fallen so severely into debt that he has had to cut his expenditure down to nothing but taxes, the vital utility bills (water but not heating), and rent. He has no budget for food and faces the possibility of having his belongings, such as his car, repossessed – and even eviction.

Is he on the path to prosperity, Mr Osborne? Of course not. This report is merely further proof that you were lying when you said, “We’re all in it together” – as you did (again) at the Conservative conference.

It’s prosperity for the greedy few, and austerity for the rest of us.

Maybe you have a different opinion, but ask any average worker on the street and they will tell you that continued wage depression and price inflation, the expansion of the Workfare regime that gives free employment to firms that don’t need it while the workers themselves have to survive on benefits, massive growth in food bank use, and the threat faced by thousands of eviction and the repossession of their belongings are not milestones on the path to prosperity.

‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets?

Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era - or even earlier.

Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era – or even earlier.

David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.

The announcement brings to fruition a prediction made by Vox Political almost a year ago, when we said: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase.”

According to the NHS Choices website, rickets “is a condition that affects bone development in children. It causes the bones to become soft and malformed, which can lead to bone deformities.

“The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D comes from foods such as oily fish and eggs, and from sunlight on our skin. Vitamin D is essential for a child to form strong and healthy bones.

“Rickets causes the bones to become painful, soft and weak. This leads to deformities of the skeleton, such as bowed legs, curvature of the spine and thickening of the ankles, wrists and knees.”

The disease was thought to have been eradicated in the UK but, in a damning indictment of modern political priorities, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has admitted that 40 per cent of our children – that’s two-fifths of all the children in the countrynow have some kind of vitamin D deficiency. Current figures for full-blown rickets are not available.

“The disease was common in Victorian England, but largely disappeared from the Western world in the latter half of the 20th century thanks to vitamin D being added to everyday foods such as margarine and cereal,” stated a report in The Independent. “There has been an observed rise in cases in recent years.”

Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?

The Tory wage-crushing policy has been ignorant in the extreme, according to Dame Sally’s report, as it has created an extra burden on the NHS. Preventative measures “could save the economy billions”.

Dame Sally’s report is entitled ‘Our Children Deserve Better’ – echoing Ed Miliband’s Labour conference mantra, “Britain can do better than this” – and sets out recommendations to tackle urgent problems, such as a universal handout of vitamin supplements to all children under five for vitamin deficiencies, and measures to handle rising child obesity and a lack of effective mental health services.

The neglect created in our health system by more than three decades of neoliberal political rule has had a devastating effect on the nation’s children. According to Dame Sally, while our mortality rate for 0-14 year olds was among the best in Europe during the 1980s, it is now among the worst, with five more children dying every day than in the best-performing country, Sweden.

The highest death rates are in deprived areas – in the northwest, northern cities and some of London’s poorer boroughs, with 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people under 17.

Dame Sally said: “I think this is something, as a country, we should feel profoundly ashamed about – I do.”

Do you think Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt feels ashamed, as he cuts NHS budgets and hives off huge care contracts to profit-making private companies?

No?

Nor should you.

The Vox Political article from December last year also claimed tuberculosis would return, and our report this week on the government’s plan to tackle the phantom problem of “health tourism” seems to demonstrate that it is hell-bent on ensuring that this comes true as well.

Our report earlier this week quoted the chair of the Royal College of GPs, Claire Gerada, who has warned that the cost of administrating the new system could outweigh the savings, while also increasing public health problems such as TB by deterring temporary migrants from seeking treatment when they first fall ill.

In the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” – meaning he did not want his disciples to stop youngsters from hearing his teachings.

That saying may now be re-worked to fit the philosophy of David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt to read: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”

Cameron would enslave you – that is his ‘compassionate Conservatism’

This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter's charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you're stupid enough to vote for it.

This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter’s charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you’re stupid enough to vote for it. Are you?

It seems certain people are starting to think in some extremely self-defeating ways – opening themselves up to exploitation by our government of millionaires.

Look at this, from a Facebook thread started by a person asking when it became normal for working people to be asked to do 14-hour shifts. He said it seemed that companies were cutting down on staff and doubling everyone’s hours up, because it is cheaper, and voiced the opinion that making anyone work that long is barbaric.

In response, another person wrote: “A job is a job. I’d do anything to get one. Even if it was 14 hours a day… No one wants to hire complainers. There’s plenty of people who would work for pennies.” Worst of all (because it shows a lack of awareness that is staggering: “I’d rather keep my family fed, clothed and warm than worry about me.”

This person clearly did not understand that they were buying into a situation in which employers can reduce pay and increase hours as they please, exploiting workers to the limits of their endurance, because “there’s plenty of people who would work for pennies”. Not only is were they accepting the conditioned helplessness against which this blog warned in early 2012 (Stand up, you slaves! – published in Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times, available now in print and as an ebook), but this is exactly the sort of treatment the Human Rights Act, the minimum wage and the European Working Time Directive were set up to prevent.

The Conservative Party would abolish all of them. Only today, David Cameron said Britain needs to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Just think about that. The Prime Minister of the UK wants to remove the human rights of its citizens. If ever there was a reason not to vote Conservative, it’s that.

He’s arguing that abolition is necessary to make it impossible for “people who are a threat to our national security, or who come to Britain and commit serious crimes” to “cite their human rights when they are clearly wholly unconcerned for the human rights of others”.

This is a legitimate concern but it does not require the scrapping of a law that protects people from exploitation in many, many other ways. Besides, concern over this single issue may be addressed by amending the legislation (admittedly not a simple matter as it would involve negotiations with Europe, and this is unpalatable for Conservatives as it suits their purposes for the EU to appear unreasonable).

Do you want the Human Rights Act scrapped?

This would legalise “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (although not torture itself, which would still rank as an assault offence against a person), including poor working conditions.

It would legalise servitude and forced labour – which would be handy for Conservatives who have been forcing jobseekers into such situations for several years, contrary to article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (which the UK Human Rights Act ratifies in British law).

You would lose the right to a fair trial. Coalition plans, under inJustice Minister Chris Grayling, mean you are likely to lose this right anyway, but the UK would be in contravention of the HRA and the European Convention if it puts these plans through and the Act is not repealed.

There is an article regarding retroactivity – nobody may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time it took place. It is a matter of debate whether this could be used to combat the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that was brought in so hastily in March, to retroactively legalise the government’s Workfare/Work Programme schemes (the kind of forced labour that the Act also seeks to prevent). Thousands of people were owed millions of pounds in illegally-removed benefit before the Act was passed. It meant that this money would not have to be paid. Isn’t that punishing somebody for an act that was not criminal when it took place?

You would lose your right to privacy in your family life, home and correspondence. Again, this would be useful for a government that wants to poke around your emails, as Theresa May wants with her snooper’s charter.

You – and I – would lose the right to freedom of expression. We would no longer be allowed to hold opinions, receive and transmit information and ideas, that run against the wishes of the government of the day. This blog would be banned.

(Actually, some of you may think this is a good idea – but do you really want the government to tell you what to think? Do you want people to be imprisoned, or heavily fined, for holding a different opinion?)

You would lose the right to free assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. So any congregation of a large group of people would be illegal, and groups of workers would lose any legal right to have their collective interests represented in an organised way to management. This opens the door to exploitation in a big way.

The prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status would be lost – meaning, for example, that nobody could object to the so-called ‘racist vans’ that were patrolling London recently, telling Conservative voters that the government was being tough on illegal immigrants.

There are others. It is worth looking up the Act, and the Convention, just to see exactly what protections they provide – and what the Conservatives want to take away from you.

They say they would produce a ‘Bill of Rights’ protecting the freedoms they want to keep. These would naturally include only those rights they believe would not interfere with their plans to render you powerless, with no right of redress against their exploitation of you.

Think about it hard.

Are you really so stupid that you’ll let a proven liar distract you, just because he has honey on his forked tongue (as a far better writer once put it)?

I don’t think you are.

Iain Duncan Smith’s shirkers and scroungers: Soldiers, teachers and nurses

 

David Cameron, pictured in the Telegraph article: "I want to go on," he says, neglecting to add, "harming the honest, the hard-working, the strivers and the tryers of the UK. I want to go on rewarding the tax-dodgers, the bankers, the exploiters and Parliamentary scroungers. I want to go on deceiving the easily-led into believing that my way is the only way, and duping my Coalition partners into supporting my extreme right-wing policies until I can sling them into the gutter in 2015". Does that seem about right to you?

David Cameron, pictured in the Telegraph article: “I want to go on,” he says, neglecting to add, “harming the honest, the hard-working, the strivers and the tryers of the UK. I want to go on rewarding the tax-dodgers, the bankers, the exploiters and Parliamentary scroungers. I want to go on deceiving the easily-led into believing that my way is the only way, and duping my Coalition partners into supporting my extreme right-wing policies until I can sling them into the gutter in 2015”. Does that seem about right to you?

Apparently ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ doesn’t extend to people in certain professions.

According to a new analysis by The Children’s Society published in The Observer, almost half a million soldiers, teachers and nurses will lose hundreds of pounds every year when the Coalition’s latest benefit cut comes into force.

The cap of one per cent on benefit and tax credits upratings over the next three years means up to 40,000 soldiers will be worse-off: A second lieutenant in the army with three children, earning £470 a week and whose wife does not work will lose £552 per year.

Around 150,000 primary and nursery school teachers will lose out: A couple with two children where the sole earner is a primary school teacher earning £600 per week will lose £424.

But the majority of losers in the professions will be nurses – 300,000 of them. A lone-parent nurse with two children, earning the profession’s average of £530 per week, will lose £424 per year.

For a government that likes to state “We love the NHS”, the Coalition seems to really enjoy attacking nurses and trying to cover it up. By December 13 last year, 7,134 nursing posts had been lost since the Coalition came into power, 943 in the previous month alone. But when the issue was raised in Parliamentary debate, Health Secretary and gynaecological slang-term Jeremy Hunt did his level best to avoid giving a straight response. “The nurse to bed ratio has gone up. The average bed is getting an extra two hours of nursing care, per week, than under Labour.” That didn’t tell us how many nurses had lost their jobs. So we got: “The number of clinical staff in the NHS has gone up and not down. I don’t want to micro-manage every hospital in the country and tell them how many doctors and how many nurses.”

Perhaps there’s some deep-seated childhood trauma affected all the members of the Coalition government, that makes them want to persecute nurses and then try to cover it up? Whatever the case, I’m sure the facts would form the skeleton of a terrific little crime thriller.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the government will be debating an increase of one per cent in benefits this year. With inflation at 2.7 or 3.2 per cent, depending on which system you use, that’s a real-terms cut of two per cent every year for the next three years.

I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that these figures were compiled by The Children’s Society, meaning they relate only to working parents. The one per cent cap on benefit rises will hit single working people as well – we just don’t have the figures for them yet.

The figures make a nonsense of Iain Duncan Smith’s increasingly desperate claims that his policy of cuts and persecution to achieve lower take-up of welfare benefits is fair.

The Tories have now alienated working people and those on benefits. Who’s next, do you think? I reckon pensioners had better prepare for the worst!

Remember last week, when he trotted out a roll of fabricated figures to make it seem that the tax credit system had run out of control under Labour (tax credits are among the benefits to be capped at one per cent)? It turns out that all his figures were wrong, with his claims about fraud – which stands at less than one per cent of total claims – spectacularly inaccurate.

How about the very next day, when he was dribbling about the relative percentage rises in Jobseekers’ Allowance and private sector salaries, claiming that the unemployed were getting a far better deal than workers – only to be rebuffed when we all checked how much this was in real money, found out that workers were still making far more (although not enough – remember many employers pay so little that people working full-time still have to claim state benefits, so that’s a subsidy for private companies, being paid out of our taxes). The amount paid in benefits as a proportion of average wages has stayed the same, as it should. The Work and Pensions Secretary is hell-bent on breaking that link in order to inflict real harm on Britain’s poorest.

Does anybody remember the Tory slogan “Broken Britain”? What they didn’t tell us was that they were the ones who wanted to break us!

And now David Cameron has told the Telegraph he wants to be Prime Minister for another full term, from 2015 to 2020. If he manages that feat, he will no doubt face pressure from some of his own cabinet members to inflict further harm on those receiving benefits.

For example, a group of 70 Tory MPs including Michael Gove and David Willetts have published an agenda of policies that one minister has already – according to the Torygraph – described as a “blueprint” for the party’s next general election manifesto.

It includes plans to lengthen the school day “to help working parents” – how do you like that, all you teachers who are losing benefits this year? You can rest assured that your pay won’t increase to cover the extra hours!

And it calls for benefits to be cut for people who live in the North, and other parts of the country where the cost of living is lower. They love regional pay, don’t they? And they WILL drive it through, no matter how much of the population oppose it!

For a representative selection of citizens’ opinions about this, I suggest you visit the MSN news site’s version of this story where (when I looked last night) the Comment column was unanimously opposed to Cameron continuing. That’s something like 20-odd pages of people demanding that he be ousted at the first opportunity.

It did my heart good to see that.

The sad truth is that none of the above will change the result of the debate and vote on benefits uprating, due to take place in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

As long as the Tories have the support of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, they have a majority and can vote through any ludicrous and harmful policies they please.

The only thing I can suggest is that you all email your MPs in advance of the debate and put pressure on them to do the right thing – or account for their decision if they vote with the government – especially if you live in the North, or in rural areas!

As ever, you can find your MP’s contact details here: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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