Tag Archives: congress

More working people than ever are struggling to survive

Sinking, not swimming: Under the Conservatives, more and more people are failing to pay their way.

Terrifying new information from the Trade Union Congress has shown that millions of working people are struggling to survive due to poverty.

The TUC poll suggests 20 per cent of working people – one-fifth of the more-than-30-million-strong working population – skip meals because they can’t afford the food.

One in five workers go without heating during cold weather.

One in 10 fall into rent or mortgage arrears because they can’t pay on time.

And one in five have pawned or sold belongings because they needed the money.

Asked how they would deal with an unexpected £500 bill, 30 per cent said they would be unable to pay – up from 24 per cent in 2017. Of those who said they would pay, 24 per cent said they would have to go into debt or sell something.

A quarter said they were out of cash before the end of most months, and 16 per cent said they had to cut back their spending – or stop it altogether – many times a year.

And 41 per cent said one of their biggest concerns at work was the fact that their pay was not keeping up with the cost of living.

This is damning information that knocks the stuffing out of claims that wage rises are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. Is that still true after the top 10 per cent – or even one per cent – of earners are removed from the figures? For some reason, I couldn’t find that information when I looked for it.

I remember having arguments, years ago, with people who claimed heatedly that business bosses in the UK had to keep wages depressed because otherwise they would be forced to stop trading. I wonder how many of them live in luxury mansions while their employees struggle in bed-sits, converted shipping containers or office blocks, or are forced to sleep on the streets?

None of this will change for the better under a Conservative government – especially not under one run by Boris Johnson.

I wonder how many people realise this as they plough through their daily drudgery, their only source of information coming from BBC-approved propaganda that tells them Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable?

Do any of them even realise they are being played for fools?

Source: Millions of working people struggle to put food on the table, poll shows

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Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the TUC New Deal rally

This is just a representative image. If you want to see how Mr Corbyn appeared at the rally, watch the video.

He said all the right things – didn’t he?

Let’s have your opinions.

The sound on the following video is really good until around 10 minutes in – then it drops out, but can still be heard (just about). See how you get on with it.

https://twitter.com/Jezza4_PM/status/995313119252697088


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VIDEO: Thousands (upon thousands) converge on London to demand a new deal for workers

The TUC march gets underway.

Trade unionists and workers from across the UK have converged on London in their thousands to demand a “new deal” for working people.

The TUC (Trade Union Congress) says real wages are still lower than before the crash in 2008; three million workers are stuck on zero hour contracts, in agency work and in low paid self-employment; hard-working public servants haven’t had a proper pay rise for eight years; our NHS is at breaking point; and years of cuts have led to poverty, homelessness and despair for too many.

This Writer agrees with every word.

And so, it seems, do the masses.

News coverage hasn’t been that wonderful, though. As I write this, the BBC News channel is broadcasting something called Royal Wedding Singalong so you can see what the priorities are there!

But there has been some coverage. Here’s Sky News:

Not sure about the link between Brexit and racism that the anchor was discussing? It has to do with an intervention by the UN’s special rapporteur on racism. See:

Back at the march, the BBC has broadcast a few interviews:

The participants certainly know how to make some noise – here’s the PCS Samba Band:

https://twitter.com/StuartBonar/status/995271242604273666

Here’s the GMB’s Paul Maloney on the reasons for the march:

And the TUC itself put out video information on the reasons for the march earlier:

The Conservative government is apparently trying to tell us we’ve never had it so good. Wages are up by £2,000 (a year?), according to people like Iain Duncan Smith. Unfortunately, experts are telling us real-terms wages won’t reach parity with 2008 levels until 2025.

The Tories are also telling us employment is at its highest in 40 years – a meaningless statistic if the amount those people are paid is negligible – and it is.

Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies appeared on BBC News to say that wages are stagnant because productivity is stagnant – we aren’t producing enough to be paid more. Until this changes, the situation is unlikely to improve.

That’s as may be, but executive pay has skyrocketed under corrupt Conservative rule while workers’ pay has stagnated.

Perhaps people might feel less inclined to take part in huge marches against austerity if of these greedy fatcats stopped taking all the cash.


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It looks like the General Strike This Site proposed is well on the way to becoming a reality

Jeremy Corbyn called on trade unions to support the most vulnerable working people when he spoke at their annual congress.

Isn’t it interesting, how Tory promises – such as their claim to be ending the one-per-cent pay cap on public sector workers’ wages – seem worthwhile when first announced and then turn into the verbal equivalent of a steaming pile of horse manure when you get into the detail?

That’s certainly the case here, and prison officers are right to reject the derisory, below-inflation pay offer being flung at them by the minority Conservative government.

It is still – effectively – a pay cut! Why would anybody in their right mind accept that, when the Tories and their donors are funnelling enormous above-inflation pay rises into their offshore bank accounts, or wherever they stash the cash?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned what he called the “epidemic” of low pay in his speech to the TUC Congress.

He said: “This epidemic of low pay, which is closely tied up with insecurity at work, ruins people’s lives, leaving workers and their families locked in poverty. It damages the economy as people have less to spend. It costs us all because it means more paid in tax credits and housing benefit from the public purse and it means less tax being paid to fund public services.”

He praised unions that have tackled low-paying employers, such as Unite with SportsDirect and the Bakers’ Union with McDonald’s, whose boss is paid 1,300 times more than the lowest-paid of his staff.

Mr Corbyn said: “Theresa May could not bring herself to utter one word of condemnation of McDonald’s or SportsDirect. This from the Prime Minister who tried to rebrand the Conservatives as the ‘workers’ party’. No, I didn’t buy it either.”

And neither should the rest of us.

The Tories have a chance to make their promise matter today (September 13), when the Commons will vote on a Labour demand for the one-per-cent pay cap to be lifted and for public sector workers to be properly recompensed for the work they do.

If the organisation that wants to call itself the “Party of the Workers” can’t bring itself to support the motion – or fails to act on it if it is passed – then the UK will come one step closer to the general strike This Writer suggested earlier this week.

It won’t actually be a general strike in the sense of being called by a single person or organisation and all unionised workers striking; Mark Serwotka, leader of the PCS union, explained on the BBC’s Daily Politics yesterday that unions could simply co-ordinate individual strikes to happen on the same dates, to much the same effect.

Of course, some may question the amount of good that may be done by a strike, and it’s a fair point. But then, how much good will be done by Parliament voting us into an effective dictatorship by a minority government, as has already happened this week?

Jeremy Corbyn has backed the prison officers’ union’s decision to reject the government’s ‘pathetic’ pay rise offer.

Number 10 today announced they were to break the 1% pay cap on public sector increases, offering prison officers a 1.7% increase. Police officers will be offered a 1% increase with a further 1% bonus for the year.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) today said any below-inflation pay offer would be rejected because their officers play a “vital role in keeping society safe”.

And TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “this below-inflation pay offer is pathetic”.

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn backs prison officers union’s decision to reject ‘pathetic’ pay offer


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Voting with the Tories on ‘welfare’ will end any credibility Labour has left

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars - one only has to consider the UK's secret bombing of Syria - after Parliament voted against it - to see the truth in that.

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars – one only has to consider the UK’s secret bombing of Syria – after Parliament voted against it – to see the truth in that.

What an amazing piece in The Guardian about George Osborne’s call for “progressive” Labour MPs to support his entirely regressive changes to social security (the only people who call it “welfare” are Tories)!

Will people believe this pack of lies?

The article starts by saying he has urged “progressive” MPs in the Labour party to back his cuts in a major Commons vote today (Monday) on the Tories’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

He wants Labour MPs – but more importantly, the electorate, to think that the plan to cut child tax credits (among other measures) is what the public wants, and also builds on “mainstream Labour thinking”.

This is moonshine.

Labour believes that the profits of all our work should be shared out to ensure a decent standard of living for everybody, including those who cannot work but contribute to society in other ways. For example, if you have children, then you get child tax credits because their contribution to society has yet to be made.

Removing the tax credits and lowering the standard of living – as the Conservative chancellor’s plans would do to many people – is therefore the opposite of “mainstream Labour thinking”.

Osborne also calls on Labour to “stop blaming the public for its defeat”. This is typical Tory gaslighting. As a party, Labour has not blamed the public. The prevailing mood in the party is that Labour needs to draw the correct conclusions from the election result and create policies that acknowledge what the public wants, while fitting Labour values.

That’s real Labour values – not George Osborne’s fantasy.

You can tell that Labour isn’t doing as Osborne claims. Nowhere in the Guardian article is any factual evidence provided to show Labour has blamed the electorate for its defeat. Harriet Harman is paraphrased as having said the party needed to recognise that the electorate had sent Labour a message – which is quite the opposite.

Osborne also fails to support his claim that the majority of the electorate support his cuts. The majority of the electorate voted against the Conservative Party on May 7, with the Tories managing to gain only a 24.3 per cent share of the possible vote and a tiny 12-seat advantage in Parliament. That does not indicate majority support for the cuts programme.

The article states: “Osborne sprung a surprise in the budget by proposing cuts to the level of tax credits, but balanced these in part by a rise in the minimum wage to more than £9 an hour by 2020 for those over 25.” Notice that the tax credit cut is immediate, but the minimum wage will only rise to more than £9 per hour in five years’ time. How are people supposed to survive in the years between?

Also, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cut in tax credits, along with the other cuts that ‘Slasher’ Osborne wants to make, will remove £12 billion from the economy – but the minimum wage rise – when it finally happens – will only add £4 billion.

So the Conservatives want Labour to support an £8 billion cut in living standards for the people who can least accommodate it.

Osborne’s argument that the responsibility for ensuring decent living standards should be rebalanced, from the state handing out subsidies towards employers providing decent wages, falls because he has no intention of making employers pay decent wages.

Osborne also writes: “Three in four people – and a majority of Labour voters – think that Britain spends too much on welfare.”

Are these the same people who think 41 per cent of the entire social security budget goes on unemployment benefits, when the actual proportion is just three per cent?

Are these the same people who think 27 per cent of the entire social security budget is claimed fraudulently, when the actual proportion is just 0.7 per cent?

Are these the people who believe George Osborne’s lies, and the lies of the Conservative Government?

In case anybody is wondering, the figures quoted above are from a TUC poll that was carried out a couple of years ago. It seems that, with the help of compliant media (such as The Guardian?) the Conservatives have succeeded in continuing to mislead the general public.

Osborne continued: “For our social contract to work, we need to retain the consent of the taxpayer, not just the welfare recipient.”

People receiving social security payments are also taxpayers; indirect taxation accounts for around three-quarters of the taxes received by the UK Treasury from the 20 per cent of people in the lowest income group.

The lies keep coming: “For those that can work, I believe it is better to earn a higher income from your work than receive a higher income from welfare.” If this was true, then he would have forced the minimum wage up to a point at which people would no longer need to claim tax credits in order to receive the same amount. He didn’t; he lied.

Osborne goes on to praise interim Labour leader Harriet Harman for capitulating to the Conservatives over child tax credits. There is only one reason he would do this – to undermine support for the Labour Party by suggesting that it really is ‘Tory-Lite’. Shame on Ms Harman for allowing this to happen!

His claim, “She recognised that oppositions only advance when they … recognise that some of the arguments made by political opponents should be listened to,” would be reasonable if the argument for cutting tax credits was sound, but it isn’t – people will be worse-off in this instance. If people were to become better-off afterwards, he might have a point. As it is, it is drivel.

His very next point confirms this: “A previous Conservative opposition realised [this] 15 years ago when it accepted the case for a minimum wage.” The Conservative Party only accepted this case in 2008, under David Cameron – a Tory leader who, when campaigning unsuccessfully for the Stafford constituency seat in 1996, had said it would “send unemployment straight back up” (The Chronicle (Stafford), February 21 1996). Even now, many Tory supporters despise the minimum wage.

Osborne ended with an appeal for “moderate” Labour MPs to vote with his party.

That would be the end of any credibility Labour has remaining, as a party of Opposition.

According to The Guardian, Osborne said: “The proposals are part of a common endeavour by Labour and the Conservatives to implement difficult welfare reforms.” Again, he is trying to make the public think Labour and the Tories are the same. Labour MPs would have to be complete idiots to help him.

Some of the complete idiots in Labour who have already helped him are, according to Osborne, “New Labour work and pensions secretaries such as John Hutton, David Blunkett and James Purnell [who] all tried to reform the welfare system… Alistair Darling [who] says tax credits are ‘subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended’ [and] Frank Field… [who] agrees the system as it stands is simply ‘not sustainable’ and the budget represents a ‘game-changer’.”

Wouldn’t social security be a little more sustainable if George Osborne spent less time obsessing about wringing more money from those who can least afford to lose it, and more time getting his extremely rich corporate friend to pay up more of the £120 billion a year they are believed to owe in unpaid taxes?

Why isn’t Labour making this point, whenever Tories like Osborne start bleating that anything is “unsustainable”?

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Gagging and blacklisting bill overcomes first Parliamentary hurdle

Public opinion on lobbyists: Note the proximity of the words "corrupt", "cheats" and "influential".

Public opinion on lobbyists: Note the proximity of the words “corrupt”, “cheats” and “influential”. [Picture stolen from PR Week]

A Parliamentary Bill designed to prevent free speech by gagging political commentators, and to enable the ‘blacklisting’ of trade union members by having their names registered, has won the favour of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs this evening.

They voted to allow the inappropriately-titled ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’ to proceed to its committee stage after a debate today (Tuesday).

That stage will last for only a few days, during which it will be examined by a ‘committee of the whole House’ – in other words, the Bill is being guillotined; hurried through Parliament in order to get it onto the statute books after the least possible scrutiny. It seems that the government has something to hide.

Could it be the fact that the Electoral Commission, the organisation that would enforce the Bill’s provisions if it is passed into law, has made it perfectly clear that it is an attempt to stifle political commentary from organisations and individuals: “The Bill creates significant regulatory uncertainty for large and small organisations that campaign on, or even discuss, public policy issues in the year before the…general election, and imposes significant new burdens on such organisations”?

Could it be the fact that new regulations for trade unions mean members could be blacklisted – denied jobs simply because of their membership?

Could it be the fact that the measures against lobbyists – the Bill’s apparent reason for existing – are expected to do nothing to hinder Big Money’s access to politicians, and in fact is likely to accelerate the process, turning Parliamentarians into corporate poodles?

If so, then the attempt has failed, because all of these, and more, were discussed in today’s debate.

But don’t worry – we have the assurances of Andrew Lansley, Leader of the House of Commons, to keep us from losing sleep over it. The man who asked us to believe his so-called reform of the National Health Service would not lead to wholesale privatisation – and look at it now – took a telling question from Glenda Jackson, early in his opening speech.

She said the Bill “has created almost a fire-storm in my constituency. My constituents are appalled at what they regard as a gagging Bill. They wish to see a list of lobbyists that is transparent to ensure that Government cannot be bought — even though that is a debatable issue. They know that the Bill as it stands would prevent democratic voices from being heard.”

Mr Lansley’s response: “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity after today’s debate to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”

Let’s hold him to that, shall we? Bear in mind that lying to Parliament is an expulsion offence, even if this particular government does not enforce it. David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have already defied Parliamentary convention by telling appalling untruths to their fellow MPs and walking back to their jobs; now it seems likely Mr Lansley may have done the same.

High on the list of opposition MPs’ concerns was the fact that the Bill does nothing to prevent lobbyists working directly for commercial concerns from approaching government ministers and trying to influence them.

“Recent freedom of information requests reveal that Treasury officials met fracking industry representatives 19 times in the last 10 months about their generous tax breaks, yet the public are denied any further details of that lobbying on the grounds that it could prejudice commercial interests,” said Green MP Caroline Lucas. “Is the Leader of the House not ashamed that this Bill will drastically curtail the ability of charities to campaign in the public interest on issues such as fuel poverty and energy but do nothing to curb such secretive corporate influencing?”

And Labour’s Chris Bryant had a query of his own: “Every single member of the public affairs team in-house at BSkyB will be able to visit as many Ministers as they want and every single lawyer employed by BSkyB to advance its case will be able to do so without any need to register. The only person who would have to register would be an independent consultant in a company that solely lobbies. How does that possibly afford greater transparency?”

Mr Lansley’s response: “It promotes transparency because if a representative of Sky visits a Minister in order to discuss that business, it is transparent that they are doing so in order to represent the interests of Sky. However, if somebody from ‘XYZ Corporation’, a consultant lobbying firm, visits a Minister in order to discuss somebody else’s business but it is not transparent through the ministerial diary publication who they are representing, that is not transparent. We propose to remedy that by making it transparent.”

Oh, well that’s all right then.

No it isn’t! It’s the complete opposite of all right! Where the public wanted a curb on corporations corruptly influencing the government, it is instead offering to rub that influence in our faces!

“This is one of the worst Bills that I have seen any Government produce in a very long time,” said Lansley’s shadow, Angela Eagle. The last Bill this bad might even have been the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the Leader of the House of Commons had his fingerprints all over that one, too… This Bill is hurried, badly drafted and an agglomeration of the inadequate, the sinister and the partisan. From a Government who solemnly promised that they would fix our broken politics, the Bill will do the complete opposite.

“The Bill can best be summed up as furious displacement activity by a Government who hope that the public will not notice their problems with lobbying… they are trying to ram through their gag on charities and campaigners… so that they are silenced in time for the next general election, and they are trying to avoid the scrutiny that will show the public what a disgrace the Bill is.”

She said: “Three and a half years ago the Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, told us that lobbying was the next big scandal waiting to happen. He did not tell us then that he was going to do nothing about it for over three years but survive a series of lobbying scandals and then produce a Bill so flawed that it would actually make things worse.

“Under the Government’s definition, someone will count as a lobbyist only if they lobby, directly, Ministers or permanent secretaries and if their business is mainly for the purposes of lobbying. It is estimated that that will cover less than one-fifth of those people currently working in the £2 billion lobbying industry, and the Association of Professional Political Consultants estimates that only one per cent of ministerial meetings organised by lobbyists would be covered.

“It would be extremely easy to rearrange how such lobbying is conducted to evade the need to appear on the new register at all. The Bill is so narrow that it would fail to cover not only the lobbyist currently barnacle-scraping at the heart of Number 10 [Lynton Crosby], but any of the lobbying scandals that have beset the Prime Minister in this Parliament.

“There is a real risk that the proposals will make lobbying less transparent than it is now. The Government’s proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing, voluntary, register run by the UK Public Affairs Council.

Moving on to part two of the Bill, she said, “In one of the most sinister bits of legislation that I have seen in some time, this Bill twists the rules on third-party campaigning to scare charities and campaigners away from speaking out. It is an assault on the Big Society that the Prime Minister once claimed to revere… It is clear that these changes will have wide-ranging implications for many hundreds of charities and campaigners, local and national, large and small.

“Some of them have told us that they will have to pull back from almost all engagement in debates on public policy in the year before the election. These changes have created massive uncertainty for those who may fall within the regulations in a way that the Electoral Commission has deplored.

“The changes will mean that third-party campaigning will be restricted even if it was not intended to affect the outcome of an election — for example, engaging in public policy debate. Staff costs and overheads will also have to be included in what has to be declared — something that does not apply in this way to political parties. The Electoral Commission has said that these changes could have a ‘dampening effect’ on public debate. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said that the changes will ‘have the result of muting charities and groups of all sorts and sizes on the issues that matter most to them and the people that they support’.”

And on part three, which centres on trade union membership records, she said, “There appears to be no policy motive for the introduction of this new law other than as a vehicle for cheap, partisan attacks on the trade unions, of which only a minority are actually affiliated to the Labour party.

“Officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been totally unable to explain the problem that this part of the Bill is designed to solve. During a belated consultation meeting with the TUC — it took place after the Bill had been published — BIS officials could cast no light on why part three exists at all. Nor were they able to explain the origin of these proposals beyond their oft-repeated mantra that the provisions contained in part three ‘came out of a high level meeting between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister’. I think that revelation tells us all we need to know about the grubby, partisan nature of the measures.

“These proposals seem deliberately designed to burden trade unions with additional cost and bureaucracy from a Government who claim they are against red tape. This is despite the fact that unions already have a statutory duty to maintain registers of members. I understand from the TUC that neither the certification officer nor ACAS has made any representations to suggest that that was not already sufficient. The Government have to date failed to provide any evidence or rationale for these changes, so I can only conclude that this is a deliberate attempt to hamper unions with red tape because a minority of them have the temerity to support the Labour party.”

And she said: “I have serious concerns about the implications of these changes for the security of membership data. We all know that the blacklisting of trade union members may well still exist in our country. Blacklisting has ruined many lives and these changes could have some very dangerous implications, especially in the construction industry, where many are afraid to declare their membership of a trade union openly for fear of the repercussions.”

And Graham Allen, Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, lambasted the Bill. He said: “If someone wanted to do O-level politics on how to produce or not to produce a Bill, I am sorry, but this Bill would be an F — a fail, big time.

“Read the evidence from the Electoral Commission when I publish it in 48 hours’ time. It is damning evidence from people who should really all be on the same side to ensure this provision will happen.

“We should listen to people. Let us have some consultation; let Parliament do its job, smoke out some of the issues and attempt to resolve them. I have a fantastic all-party committee and we could do that job for Parliament, yet those things have been resolutely held at arm’s length.

“Perversely, we are trying to make a Bill that divides rather than keeps people together.”

It isn’t perverse at all. That is precisely the point of it.

Free speech is under threat as our unelected back-door government bids to rig future elections

130902freespeech1

You can tell the priorities of any administration by its programme for government.

Look at the Coalition: Practically the first thing on its agenda is an attempt to ‘fix’ the next election by ensuring that anyone supporting opposing parties (or attacking the parties in power) is gagged.

The ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’, if passed, would end free speech in the United Kingdom and usher in an era of propaganda-led “do as we say, not as we do” totalitarianism.

It will not stop corporate control of the political agenda – the threat to consultant lobbyists means Big Money will take them in-house, where they won’t have to be registered, and then it will be business as usual. This government works hand-in-glove with big business; that’s one reason it has been so easy to compare the Coalition’s UK with Nazi Germany.

(I make no apologies to Michael Gove for repeating this terrible accusation. If he wants to come and thump me, let him. Then we’ll find out how well he can work from a hospital bed.)

It will, as Owen Jones put it in his Independent column, “stifle the voices of charities, campaigners, trade unions and even blogs [yes, Vox Political would be under threat, despite the fact that it has no budget]; … shut down rallies and demonstrations; … prevent groups such as Hope Not Hate from taking on the poison of organised racism.

“Trustees of charities will fear anything that invites criminal investigation, shutting down scrutiny of government or campaigns for changes in policy. It will entangle organisations in a bureaucratic nightmare, forcing them to account for all of their spending… The TUC suggests that it could make organising its 2014 annual congress a criminal offence, as well as prevent it from holding a national demonstration in election year.

“Political blogs… could be included too, since they are campaigning entities that attempt to impact the outcome of an election.”

He went on to quote the TUC’s assessment that this is “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”, which this writer has taken as implying that an “authoritarian dictatorship” is exactly what we have now.

The campaigning organisation 38Degrees is also threatened by this proposed legislation. The government would consider its loss to be an enormous victory, as it has been a thorn in the sides of Cameron and his cronies (both in government and big business) ever since the Coalition came into office by the back door in 2010.

An email to members states: “From May 2014, draconian new rules would prevent non-politicians from speaking up on the big issues of the day. A huge range of campaign groups and charities – everyone from The Royal British Legion, to Oxfam, to the RSPB – are warning about the threat this poses.

“It’s telling that so many groups who wouldn’t normally agree with each other have united to oppose the gagging law. Groups that speak out in favour of hunting, windfarms, HS2 or building more houses are joining together with groups who say exactly the opposite.

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“That’s because there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: in a healthy democracy, everyone should able to express their views. And everyone should be allowed to get organised to highlight what politicians are saying and doing on the issues that matter to them.”

The email contains a link to a form letter that you can send to your MP, to make sure your feelings are known before they go into the debate. Then they won’t have an excuse to support the government and, if they do, you’ll have a reason (probably another reason, in the case of Tory MPs) to vote them out, come May 2015.

The link is https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-bill-MPs

“There is no question that British democracy is at the mercy of wealth and corporate interests,” wrote Mr Jones [Nazism again].

But 38Degrees tells us that more than 55,000 people have already emailed their MP, and every new email adds pressure.

Again, the link is https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-bill-MPs

Make your voice count – while you still can.

Another Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ scam – shares-for-rights scheme is employers’ tax dodge

shares-rights-tax

“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).”

Who will (unofficially) sponsor David Cameron’s next Prime Ministerial statements?

130819lobbying

Tobacco, fracking or private health companies seem the most likely choices.

The Conservative-led Coalition has become an excellent practitioner of bait-and-switch fraud, it seems. First it ‘baits’ the general public by promising a new law, reforming part of society that is seen to have fallen below the standards expected here in the UK. Then it ‘switches’ the legislation into something else entirely.

So it is with plans for a new law to end lobbying scandals. It won’t do anything of the sort. In fact, it is likely to lessen the legal burdens on lobbyists.

However, it will impose onerous new burdens on trade unions and charities, in what the Trade Union Congress has described as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”.

(This is not to say that the TUC believes the UK government is similar to an authoritarian dictatorship. View it instead as the TUC saying this is what the UK government has become under the Coalition)

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill apparently features a new, looser definition of ‘campaigning’ that risks including all activities that could be seen as critical of the government of the day – and if any government was likely to crack down on such activities, on any day, it’s this one!

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said this was not the aim, and that the plan was to ensure lobbyists’ allegiances are known, ascertain how much money is spent on third-party political campaigning and ensure trade unions know who their members are. His words may have been sponsored by CTF Partners (look them up).

The proposals are likely to introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, but only firms which say it is their main business need register, only firms which meet ministers and senior civil servants need declare whom they represent, and in-house lobbyists are also exempt – so, from 988 meetings between the Department for Business and lobbyists in 2012, only two were with consultant lobbyists who would have had to declare the meetings under the new law.

An Independent article stated that the plans lack credibility and are regarded as “a bad joke” inside the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry – so much so that the chairman of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recalled its members before the end of the summer recess, to hold evidence sessions on what he has described as a “dog’s breakfast”.

Graham Allen MP (Labour) told the paper, “This flawed legislation will mean we’ll all be back in a year facing another scandal.”

And lobbyists themselves said the industry could gain nothing from flawed legislation. Iain Anderson, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and director of the lobbying company Cicero, said: “This law will only undermine public confidence.”

The planned legislation would also set a cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend during elections, and would end self-certification of union membership numbers for all but the smallest unions, with records checked by an independent officer.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the BBC article that “this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. Instead it is a crude and politically partisan attack on trade unions, particularly those who affiliate to the Labour Party”. Bait-and-switch, see?

But she said the plan was much worse than that: “Its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election. No organisation that criticises a government policy will be able to overdraw their limited ration of dissent without fearing a visit from the police.”

Mr Cameron, now revealed as a corporate mouthpiece after his U-turn on plans for plain packaging on cigarettes (his election strategist Lynton Crosby also works for a major tobacco corporation), his support for fracking (several leading Tories stand to benefit if the process becomes widespread) and his government’s privatisation of the National Health Service, amazingly promised to crack down on lobbying in the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats after he, himself, described it as the “next big political scandal”.

If fears are borne out, the new law would have a direct effect on Vox Political and blogs like it. Rest assured that VP will continue criticising government policy and demanding better from the opposition.

They can’t say we overspend – we don’t have any budget at all.

My e-petition calling for MPs to be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest is here, and is nearly at the point where a reply will be required from the relevant government department. Please support it with your signature, if you haven’t already done so.

Iain Duncan Smith’s most shocking statistical lie yet: Child poverty

Still poor despite the statistics: IDS and his DWP spin-doctors need to get something clear - children haven't stopped becoming poor, just because of a skewed set of statistics. Incomes have dropped - meaning MORE children are in poverty than before.

Still poor despite the statistics: IDS and his DWP spin-doctors need to get something clear – children haven’t stopped becoming poor, just because of a skewed set of statistics. Incomes have dropped – meaning MORE children are in poverty than before.

According to a TUC report, average wages have dropped by 7.5 per cent since the Coalition came into office. This has a direct impact on child poverty statistics, which the government has conveniently ignored in its latest, Iain Duncan Smith-endorsed, child poverty figures.

Child poverty is calculated in relation to median incomes – the average income earned by people in the UK. If incomes drop, so does the number of children deemed to be in poverty, even though – in fact – more families are struggling to make ends meet with less money to do so.

This is why the Department for Work and Pensions has been able to trumpet an announcement that child poverty in workless families has dropped, even though we can all see that this is nonsense. As average incomes drop, the amount received by workless families – taken as an average of what’s left – appears to rise, even though, as we know, the increase is not even keeping up with inflation any more.

The problem lies in proving it.

Let’s do a rough calculation. In 2007-8, Jobseekers’ Allowance for a couple with at least one person over 18 was £92.80 per week (£4,839 per year). It is now £111.45 per week (5,811 per year) – an increase of 20 per cent in real money (not inflation-adjusted). In the same period, average earnings for those in employment rose from £26,020 per year (according to the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)) to £26,500 – the figure we all know from the government’s calculation of its benefit cap). That’s an increase of just 1.8 per cent.

This doesn’t mean unemployed people are receiving too much – it means wages are being pushed down, as the TUC report shows. They are only ‘scratch’ figures – accurate data was impossible to find on the Internet this morning – but they show that JSA as a percentage of average wages has risen from 18.6 per cent to 21.9 per cent (roughly).

So workless income has risen in relation to the national average, meaning that child poverty in this sector appears to have dropped.

Alternatively, you could just use your common sense: People on benefit are not well-off, especially under a Conservative or Tory-led government.

The government’s figures don’t take 2007-8 – the year incomes began to drop – as their baseline figure. “To keep the absolute measure more in line with contemporary living standards” they use 2010-11 as the baseline. Incomes had already begun to drop by then, meaning the figures are misleading. In fairness, the press release does state that “you cannot compare this year’s published figure with last year’s” because of that change.

What this means is that the DWP’s press release about child poverty is utterly worthless. Let’s look at it anyway. It says:

“New annual poverty statistics (households below average income) out today, show how the number of children in workless poor families has reduced by 100,000 children over the past year (a two percentage point reduction).” While correct within its frame of reference, in comparison with previous income averages, this must be wrong.

“The statistics for relative poverty – the most commonly used poverty line – also show that the most vulnerable groups have been protected as pensioner poverty fell by 100,000, disability poverty by 100,000 and child poverty stayed the same.” Wrong.

“The number of children in absolute child poverty has increased by 300,000.” Wrong.

“Work remains the best route out poverty – these statistics show how children in workless households are around three times more likely to be in poverty than those in working families.” Absolutely wrong!

How can the last claim be correct? If the number of children in workless poor families has dropped by 100,000 but the total in poverty has risen by 300,000, that’s an extra 400,000 children belonging to working families who have fallen into poverty – by this government’s own figures!

Out comes Iain Duncan Smith with his latest lie: “We have successfully protected the poorest from falling behind and seen a reduction of 100,000 children in workless poor families.” Shockingly wrong!

Let’s get some sanity from the Huffington Post and Metro: “Some 2.3 million children were recorded as living in relative poverty between 2011 and 2012, in official government statistics,” the HuffPost reported. Interestingly, this compares with a Metro report claiming 3.8 million were in ‘absolute’ poverty (which is a statistical measurement, not a statement about how poor they actually are). Metro goes on to say this means more than one in six children are in relative poverty.

“Two out of three children living in poverty, 66 per cent, are now from working families. This has risen from 43 per cent in 1996-1997 and and amounts to 1.5 million children, according to analysis of the figures by the Resolution Foundation,” says the HuffPost.

“The proportion of children in poverty from working families has risen sharply since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.” In other words, Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP have lied again.

“Poverty is calculated by households living with less than 60 per cent of median average disposable income, compiled by the Department for Work and Pensions. But statistics have been skewed because of the fall in wages. If the number was calculated using average household income from the previous year, the number of children in poverty rises by 300,000.” This confirms the argument I am putting forward.

Oxfam and Barnardo’s have both criticised the government over the figures.

And Fiona Weir, chief executive of single-parent charity Gingerbread, said in the HuffPost: “Government claims that work is the best route out of poverty are simply not ringing true.”

The Government has a legal responsibility, under the Child Poverty Act of 2010 (passed by Gordon Brown’s Labour government), to reduce relative child poverty to below 10 per cent by 2020.

While Iain Duncan Smith has expressed frustration with the current method of defining poverty, it seems his government is determined to achieve that target by reducing incomes so much that nobody will be in ‘relative’ poverty…

… but across the nation’s working people, real poverty will be absolute.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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