When even the Telegraph, which is the de facto house paper of the Conservatives, starts baying for your blood then you know you’re in trouble. The tock is ticking for Cameron and Osborne, writes glynismillward189.
The European Union warned Britain months ago that it was facing a massive increase in its EU membership fee, according to documents seen by The Telegraph.
A furious David Cameron vowed on Friday that he would not pay an “appalling” and unexpected demand for an extra £1.7 billion in British contributions to the EU budget by the December 1 deadline.
However, The Telegraph can disclose that EU officials warned member states in January that new bills were coming, and produced figures showing that Britain was likely to have to pay higher fees this autumn.
The disclosure cast doubt on Mr Cameron’s claims that he had been ambushed out of the blue by the demand for more money on the eve of the Brussels summit on Thursday.
The development will intensify pressure on the Prime Minister and George Osborne, the Chancellor, over why Britain was apparently so unprepared for the extra surcharge.
There’s more – and you can read it on glynismillward189 or in the Torygraph itself, if you’ve got the stomach for it.
The point, however, is this:
David Cameron’s indignation at this sudden imposition from Europe may be nothing but a show; a gesture at sabre-rattling against “this organisation” to appease Tories who are considering changing their vote to UKIP and to suggest a strength that he simply doesn’t have.
He has been caught lying about the UK’s finances – as has his innumerate Chancellor, George Osborne.
After the NHS, it seems the Tories want us all paying for our social security out of our own pockets. Why pay taxes, then?
In an article headlined “Workers ‘could be forced to pay £5 a week’ to get benefits“, The Independent tells us: “Workers could be forced to pay at least £5 a week into a personal “welfare account” to get higher benefits if they lose their job, under a plan being considered by George Osborne.
“The Policy Exchange think-tank proposes a shake-up of the welfare system to strengthen its original “contributory principle”, under which the amount people receive in benefits is linked to how much people have paid in.”
Writing in The Guardian, he told us: “As taxpayers we have a right to know how much of our taxes go towards healthcare as we enter a particularly intense debate about NHS funding.”
Can you see where this is going?
Firstly, the idea of taxing us separately for the NHS gives us the idea of paying a charge separate from Income Tax, to fund a specific public service. It is still payable by every UK citizen (although as we know, due to the increased involvement of the private sector, some UK citizens will receive the full amount of their tax payment back in shareholder dividends, and non-UK citizens will receive our tax money without having paid anything towards the service at all; this is one of the reasons it is wrong to allow the private sector into the NHS).
Then the idea of people contributing to a personalised account, on which their personal social security payments will depend (should they need to rely on them), provides the notion that the contributory principle isn’t about everybody paying into a national account that is to be accessible to all of us in need. Instead, Policy Exchange wants us to accept that some people should not have to pay into the “welfare account” for the national benefit – people who would not need to draw from it.
Rich people, in other words.
Look further, and you see that the proposed scheme would be run by private sector insurance companies. It is a plan to end public-sector social security altogether and bring in a for-profit insurance scheme to make money for more fat businessmen. This scheme would prey on poor people who are likely to need social security payments at some point in their professional careers, while rich people who could rely on their own fortunes, or Mummy and Daddy, would be relieved of the (very slight, to them) burden of contributing to the nation’s well-being.
The Policy Exchange report’s author, a former Bank of England wonk called Steve Hughes, said: “The current system does not reflect the contributions that people make through their working lives [and] has created a culture of something for nothing, with people becoming reliant on the state.”
He’s right, up to a point – but this is because successive right-wing governments have destroyed the full-employment economy we had before 1979, that made it possible for the system to reflect the contributions made by working-class people. That was the plan. Its aim was to force working-class people into exactly the kind of mass-market, for-profit insurance scheme Mr Hughes is proposing – dishonestly, in this commenter’s opinion.
Who would the government choose to run such a scheme – Unum Provident?
Ultimately, this all relates back to the damn-fool notion that universal benefits “should only be for people who need it“, which allows ‘Old Tories’ (as Alex Little describes them) to say that only the people who need them should be paying for them: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”
Means testing would take place if social security was handed over to private insurance firms. It’s just as complex and costly as it was in the alittleecon article that Vox Political paraphrased (above), and the system proposed – especially if Unum does get its hands on it – would mean people who need the benefit won’t claim it because the process will be (intentionally) too difficult for them to manage.
At risk of repeating ourselves – because this message is too important not to get through: We must question the motives of rich people who say they don’t need a particular benefit and don’t want to pay for it.
Provision for some depends on provision for all and nobody – no matter how wealthy – should be allowed to pick and choose how they contribute to British society.
You’re either in or out – and if you choose to be left out then you must go all the way out.
This one is quite hard to get your head around – doesn’t it seem that benefit issues and National Insurance are needlessly complicated in order to confuse ordinary people? – but worth reading. John D Turner begins:
When Rachel Reeves talked earlier this year about extending the period for qualifying for Contribution Jobseeker’s Allowance, many (mostly genuinely concerned) knees jerked and the Daily Mail went into raptures. Every time this happens, I become more and more convinced that most of those reacting to such proposals know little or nothing about the reality of today’s Social Security system.
He then goes into the conditions required to qualify at the moment before commenting on Labour’s proposed change:
Labour is talking about extending the RTYs [relevant tax years] from two to five. And therein lies the rub. The number of people who currently meet the … conditions is steadily falling. Consequently, very few will be affected by this change and their numbers are dwindling any way. Many who would be affected will claim Income Based JSA instead (as they do now under the current rules).
As for the Daily Mail, well, if anyone is going to lose out from this change then it is their readers who are more than likely to have savings in excess of £16,000 so if they try to claim Income Based JSA they will be nilled out. They may continue to sign on (and be required to seek work etc) in order to receive NI Credits towards their State Pension. I lost track of how many in this group took umbrage at being expected to seek work. They were, after all, not benefiting from signing on. They got a bit testy when I pointed out (at today’s prices) they would either have to purchase Class 3 NI Credits, if they were not working or earn more than £153.00 per week (the current Primary Threshold) to obtain the equivalent benefit. Oh and they had to be available and actively seeking work just like everyone else signing on.
He concludes: I remain unconvinced that Rachel Reeves’ proposals in this area will strengthen the contributory principle in the minds of those of working age. It is a declining issue for many and, to my mind Labour, if it implemented this proposal would finally put it out of its misery and actually cause grief to the average Daily Mail reader, particularly those who think they will never need to claim Social Security. However, Labour’s proposal will, if implemented, reduce the amount of JSA paid out each year and unemployment as measured by the JSA claimant count, but probably not as measured by the Labour Force Survey.
There is much more to this article. If the thought of dealing with the subject puts you into paroxysms of fear, then you are not alone – and you probably need to read it. There are implications for pensions and, in today’s UK, you need to know what’s going on with your pension.
Picket line: FBU members on strike in June this year.
You know the government is on a sticky wicket when its only response to strike action over pensions is that its position is “fair”.
The Fire Brigades Union will be on strike for three hours every day up to and including August 16 after the new fire minister, Penny Mordaunt, cancelled a meeting.
The Conservative-led Coalition government is hitting firefighters with a double-barrelled attack:
Firstly, it is raising the level of contributions firefighters must make to their pensions, meaning they will have less pay in their pockets;
And it is also raising the age of retirement from 55 to 60, meaning fewer firefighters are likely ever to receive a pension as many members may fail the fitness test required to remain on active duty, and would have to leave the service – without qualifying for a pension – as a result.
If firefighters opted to retire early, the resulting reduction in their pension payments would be “unacceptably high” to the union.
“Government proposals as they stand include a number of unacceptable elements including firefighters being forced to work until 60 – an age at which the enormous physical demands of the job are beyond most of us. Both sides have identified that there are possible solutions to these issues but the Government is unwilling to amends its proposals,” said FBU Assistant General Secretary Andy Dark yesterday (Friday).
He made sure to lay the blame exactly where it belonged: “Firefighters hate striking. We believe that Winston Churchill was right to say ’Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.’ That is why we are astounded by the cancellation of the last-minute talks by Ms Mordaunt on Thursday.
“It is a bitter disappointment that she cancelled them and made this series of strikes inevitable.”
The government’s only response has been a claim that its irresponsible demands are “fair”.
No doubt there will be many government stooges who are keen to say firefighters are placing people in danger by taking this action. They are silly, silly people.
It is the government that is endangering us all, by putting firefighters in an impossible position.
These Tories are telling firefighters to contribute more to a fund from which they may never benefit.
They are saying that, if they want their pension but their fitness is failing, they’ll have to fake it for the extra years – putting untold numbers of future fire victims and people in need of rescue in extra danger. This would also bring the service into disrepute.
And they are telling people who want to be firefighters not to bother – that they will be putting their lives at risk for an ever-diminishing reward.
By doing so, the Tories and their little yellow friends the Tory Democrats are putting all of our lives at risk.
The BBC has reported findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, showing that the Coalition government will be less than halfway through its planned spending cuts by the end of the current financial year (March 31).
The organisation said 60 per cent of the cuts were still to come.
This raises a few urgent questions. Firstly: This government was formed on the promise that it would balance the books by 2015, which presupposes that its entire plan for doing so would be in place long before then. We know that this ambitious claim was dismissed after years of failure, but part of the reason for this failure was that George Osborne stopped a recovery that was already taking place, and which would have led to economic growth of 20 per cent by now, if it had been allowed to continue (according to Michael Meacher MP). My question, therefore, is: Have the Conservatives been working to ensure that they would have an excuse to make more cuts, rather than to restore the economy and balance the deficit?
Secondly: We may presume that these further cuts will be inflicted over a period of years (as even the Tories know it is important to enact change gradually, rather than inflict sudden shocks on the economy that could create entirely unforeseen consequences). Are the Coalition parties assuming that they will be re-elected next year, and is it not supremely arrogant of them to believe this, considering the harm they have caused so far?
Thirdly: If the Coalition parties do want to be re-elected, it is clear that they will need to try to bring a majority of voters back on-side. Therefore we may reasonably expect to see all sorts of gifts coming our way over the next year – tax breaks or whatever else they can devise – aimed at increasing the amount of money in our pockets. However, knowing that 60 per cent of the Tory/Lib Dem cuts process is still to come, this means they will want to make even more cuts if they are returned to office. Why would we want to give them our vote, in return for presents they’ll grab back as soon as they’ve got what they want?
Fourthly: Iain Duncan Smith has inflicted £28 billion of cuts on people receiving benefits from his Department for Work and Pensions. If the IFS statement is accurate, then the total amount he’ll want to cut is a staggering £70 billion. If we consider that the amount spent on pensions (more than £100 billion) is safe, this leaves only tiny amounts for all the other benefits supplied by the DWP. Are people currently on Jobseekers’ Allowance to get nothing in the future? What about disabled people getting DLA or PIP? How about all the many, many people on Employment and Support Allowance, including those currently going through the appeal process because of wrong decisions? Mr… Smith might claim that all these benefits are being rolled into Universal Credit, but that won’t happen until 2016 or 2017 according to his own estimates, and the rest of us know that it’s not going to happen at all. Will we have any benefit system left if these cuts continue – or will the Tories try to trick us into buying duff health and employment insurance policies from their friends at Unum instead?
The BBC report said George Osborne wants a budget surplus by 2018-19, but “additional spending, population growth and extra demands on the NHS meant more cuts were needed”. This statement is not supported by any source material and we may take it this is a further sign of BBC right-wing bias.
The additional spending was made necessary because of unintended consequences of the cuts – the Tories got their sums wrong. Population growth, if due to the EU immigration that everyone complains about, will have led to a net growth in the economy as it has been proved that migrant workers from the European Union contribute more to the Treasury than they ever take out – so this is not a cause of increased spending. If the indigenous British population has been growing faster than expected, let us remember that Child Benefit is to be restricted to the first two children in a family (Cameron has denied it so it must be true) and therefore any further growth in individual families will have no bearing on the government’s bank balance. Extra demands on the NHS are a thorny subject as the Coalition promised to inject billions of pounds into the health service but no evidence has yet appeared to show that it has. Since this money was promised many years ago, it should have been included in national budgets and should not be a burden now.
The IFS also reports that there is no evidence of a housing bubble in the UK, as a result of Osborne’s ‘Help To Buy’ scheme. This was introduced last year, when Osborne realised that his austerity programme had failed and resorted to a Keynesian ‘pump-priming’ scheme to boost the housing market. Fears that this would lead to a debt-fuelled ‘bubble’ made commenters like myself cautious about the plan.
However, if there are no signs of a debt-fuelled bubble, then we should consider this to be proof that Keynesian economics was always the way forward and austerity has led us up an economic dead-end for the past four years.
This means none of Osborne’s ridiculous cuts were necessary (barring a few to eliminate waste and corruption – but under a Conservative-led regime we have no evidence that these took place and every reason to believe the opposite to be true. Look at the current ‘cronyism’ row over the appointment of Conservative ‘yes’-people to senior quango posts).
It also means the government and the right-wing media have been lying to you for four long years – and will continue doing so in self-justifying stridence for another 14 months to come.
Let them talk.
But don’t ever let them convince you their cuts are necessary.
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Prove who you are: Theresa May and David Cameron check the credentials of two police officers, to ensure they aren’t illegal immigrants. No, not really – but don’t be surprised if police checkpoints start appearing everywhere with people in peaked caps demanding your papers, just like in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s!
Experts say this will require a system of identity checks for everyone, requiring British citizens or those with permanent residence to prove that their own presence in the UK is legal.
In a move that seems designed to appease the Daily Mail and its readers, she wants banks to check the immigration status of people applying to open accounts, and private landlords to make similar checks on their tenants.
You will notice that this means the government wants other people to carry out its responsibilities.
The Home Secretary also intends to “streamline” the appeals process in immigration cases. Under the current government, this word generally means “make less fair”, and this is borne out by a passage stating the measures aim to “deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeal later”. In such circumstances, how can we be sure they really are criminals?
There will also be a requirement for temporary migrants like overseas students to contribute towards NHS costs. This is not necessarily a bad thing – although it would be unfair if this money found its way to the private companies now infesting the NHS, rather than the public service itself.
But there will be no tightening of border controls, no “streamline” for bureaucratic deportation procedures, and no measures to tackle forced labour or lack of enforcement of the minimum wage.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper was quoted on the BBC website, saying: “The law must be on the side of people who respect it, not those who break it.” Fine words from the man who was unable to say whether flak-jacketed immigration officers had discriminated against people of ethnic minorities when they carried out their spot-checks at railway stations in August.
The BBC article also quotes Don Flynn of Migrants’ Rights Network, who reiterated that evidence contradicts the view that immigrants are attracted to the UK by benefits and free services; and Dr Richard Vautrey of the BMA, who said a system is already in place for hospitals to recover the cost of treating patients who are not eligible for NHS care – and introducing a system for GPs could be a “bureaucratic nightmare”.
The Guardian tells us the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) has warned Theresa May her plan, for millions of private landlords to face “proportionate” fines of up to £3,000 if they fail to conduct checks on the immigration status of new tenants and other adults living in their properties, is unworkable.
“British citizens, European economic area nationals and third country nationals alike would be required to produce identity documents at many turns in a scheme that would be intrusive, bullying, ineffective and expensive and likely racist and unlawful to boot,” said the ILPA response.
And the Residential Landlords Association said landlords would need to know about a potential 404 types of European ID documents, in order to operate the scheme – saying some landlords would refuse to house migrants, for fear of falling foul of the new rules – and isn’t that the point of the exercise?
The Guardian quotes Habib Rahman, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, who predicted that “these measures will divide society, creating a two-tier Britain, a return to the days of ‘No dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ and of ill people with no access to healthcare walking the streets of Britain. This bill is a travesty and must be stopped,” he said.
BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani tells us the ultimate goal is increased public confidence in the system.
But if we are doing all the work ourselves, why should this add up to increased confidence in the government?
Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.
The Conservative Party is eating itself from within. It is therefore an odd time for members to go into Labour marginal constituencies, trying to undermine support with a loaded questionnaire.
That, however, is exactly what we have seen this weekend. But then, what did you expect from the Party of Doubletalk? The Nasty Party? The Party that sows Divisive-ness wherever it can, while mouthing platitudes like “We’re all in it together”? The Party that claims it is responsible with the nation’s finances, while threatening to run up greater debts than any of its rivals ever did?
Let’s start on financial responsibility: Sir Mervyn King, who retires as Governor of the Bank of England next month, has warned that the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for new mortgages must not be allowed to run indefinitely. The scheme has the state guaranteeing up to 15 per cent of a mortgage on homes worth up to £600,000, and is intended to run until 2017. Sir Mervyn’s fear is that the government will expose the taxpayer – that’s you and me – to billions of pounds of private mortgage debt. He said the UK must avoid what happened in the USA, where state-backed mortgage schemes had to be bailed out.
This particular scheme has already run into flak from those who claimed it was a “second-home subsidy” for the very rich. The new criticism raises fears that the Conservatives are actively engineering a situation that will create more unsustainable debt – and we all know what they do to resolve that kind of problem, don’t we?
They cut. Most particularly, they cut parts of the public services that help anyone who doesn’t earn at least £100,000 per year.
And no – before anyone pipes up with it – nobody receives that much on benefits.
For doubletalk, let’s look at Michael Gove. The Education Secretary was heckled and jeered when he appeared before the National Association of Head Teachers’ conference, where members passed a motion of no confidence in his policies.
The BBC quoted Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT: “What I think he’s failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they’re doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.”
Mr Gove said he had been “delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm” that had greeted some of the government’s education policies.
But he went on to say there would be no change of course: “What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it. What I haven’t heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive. Critical yes, but not constructive.”
Doubletalk. At first he was saying one thing when we know he means something else entirely; then he went on to ignore what he had been told – by the experts – because it did not support his policy.
Meanwhile, of course, the Conservative Party is eating itself alive over Europe. There are so many angles to this, it’s hard to know where to begin!
We know that Conservative backbenchers tried to amend their own government’s Queen’s speech with a motion regretting the lack of intention to legislate for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union, and we know that 116 of them voted in favour of that motion. That wasn’t anything like enough for it to pass, so David Cameron didn’t have to worry about resigning (as suggested in previous articles on this blog).
Next thing we knew, the Telegraph‘s political editor, James Kirkup, told us a government figure close to the Prime Minister had said the backbenchers had to vote the way they did because they had been ordered to do so by grassroots Conservative association members, and they were all “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.
Downing Street has denied that anybody said such a thing, but Kirkup has tweeted “I stand by my story” – and anyway, the damage has been done. Conservative association members were already at loggerheads with the Parliamentary party and the government, we’re told, because they believe their views are being ignored.
(One wonders what those views might, in fact, be. This could be one case in which ignoring the will of the people is actually the more sensible thing to do!)
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has said the Conservatives are “united” in their view of Europe – but then, Jeremy Hunt – as Health Secretary – told Parliament that spending on the NHS has risen in real terms since the Coalition came into office, and we know from Andrew Dilnot, head of the independent UK Statistics Authority, that this is not true.
Lord Howe, on the other hand, has accused Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister David Cameron of “running scared” of Eurosceptics and losing control of the party. This is the man whose resignation speech, which memorably included a comment that being sent to deal with the EU was like being in a cricket team whose captain had broken his bat, signalled the end of Margaret – later Baroness – Thatcher’s career as Prime Minister.
Who do we believe, the silly youngster or the boring old guy? That’s right – we believe the old guy who already brought down one Prime Minister. Perhaps he can do the same to another.
Meanwhile, we were told on Sunday that members of Parliament are all set to receive a pay rise of up to £20,000, starting in 2015, the year of the next general election. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been considering an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000, with the lower figure most likely – despite a consultation revealing that some MPs (all Conservative) thought they were worth more than £100,000 per year.
Backbencher pay is around £65,000 per year at the moment. This means the pay rise they are likely to get is 15 per cent, while those Conservatives who wanted £100 grand expected a rise of 54 per cent.
Average pay rises for working people over the last year were less than one per cent.
Do you think this is appropriate remuneration for the political organisation that said “We’re all in it together?” Because I don’t.
And this is the time the Conservative Party decides to float a proposal for a two-tier benefit system, in a survey sent to residents of marginal seats held by Labour.
One question asked whether benefit payments should be the same, regardless of how many years a person has paid National Insurance or income tax. If people answered ‘no’, the next question asked what proportion of benefits should be dependent on a record of contribution.
This is insidious. If benefits become dependent on contribution, that means young people without a job will not qualify for benefits – they won’t have paid anything in, so won’t be able to take anything out. Also, what about the long-term sick and disabled (don’t start about fraud – eliminating the 0.4 per cent of fraudulent claims does not justify what the Conservative-led Coalition is already doing to 87/88 per cent of ESA claimants, or what it has started doing to PIP claimants)? Their claims are likely to continue long after their contributions run out.
This is, I think, a trick to allow rich people to get out of paying higher tax rates. Think about it – rich people pay more, therefore they subsidise public services, including social security benefits, for the poor. Get people to support benefit payments based on the amount of money people pay in and the rich get a nice fat tax cut while the poor get their benefits cut off.
Fair? All in it together?
There’s a lot of doubletalk, so sections are headed “helping with the cost of living” (they tend to make it impossible for people to meet that cost) or “making our welfare and benefits system fair” – Tories have never tried to do this in the entire history of that political party.
And respondents were asked to agree with one of two statements, which were: “If you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Britain no matter what your background” and “In Britain today, people from some backgrounds will never have a real chance to be successful no matter how hard they work”. The correct answer is to agree with the second statement, of course. And this government of public schoolboys have every intention of pushing that situation to its utmost extreme, so if you are a middle-class social climber and you think there are opportunities for you under a Tory government, forget it.
The whole nightmarish rag is prefaced by a letter from David Cameron. It’s very funny if you accept that it’s full of doubletalk and nonsense. Let’s go through it together:
“I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours,” he begins. He means: I’d like to know what we can say in order to get you to vote for us in 2015. We’ll have no intention of carrying out any promise that does not advantage ourselves and our extremely rich friends. The correct response is: Your policies are ideologically-motivated twaddle that are causing critical damage to this country and its institutions. Your best action in the future will be to resign.
“I think helping people through tough economic times means making sure our welfare and benefits is [sic] fair. That means ensuring the system helps those who do the right thing and want to get on. That’s helping rich people through tough economic times. We’ll make welfare and benefits as unfair to the poor as we can. That means ensuring the system helps those who support us and are rich enough for us to want to help them.Your changes to welfare and benefits have led to thousands of deaths. That is not fair. You are breaking the system.
“That’s why we’ve capped the amount an out-of-work household can receive in benefits, so this can’t be more than an average working family earns. Again I’d like to know what you think about the actions we’ve taken so far, and your ideas to the future.” It’s nothing near what an average working family earns, because they would be on benefits that top up their earnings to more than £31,000 – but you couldn’t cap at that level because almost nobody would have been knocked off the benefit books (all your talk about people taking more than £100,000 in benefits was nonsense). Resign, join a monastery and vow never to enter public life again.
There is no doubt about it – the cracks are beginning to show. Last summer, the Olympic Games gave us spectacular firework displays. As public unrest mounts, it seems likely that we’ll see even more spectacular fireworks this year – unplanned.
But then, that is why the Conservatives bought the water cannons that are being tested at Petersfield. When they go into use, we’ll all know what they really think of the general public.
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