Tag Archives: Credit Crunch

Esther McVey is a compulsive liar who should be kicked out of government

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government's policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government’s policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Note to Iain Duncan Smith: It is not a good idea to try to inspire confidence in a £multi-billion “money pit” disaster by wheeling out Esther McVey to lie about it.

The woman dubbed “Fester McVile” by some commentators has accumulated a reputation so bad that the only way she can hide the metaphorical stink from the public is by associating with …Smith himself, in whose stench she seems almost fragrant. But not quite.

This is a woman who has lied to the public that it is impossible to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact on the sick and disabled of the Coalition’s ‘final solution’ changes to the benefit system.

This is the woman who, in the face of public unrest about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, announced that Job Centre advisors will now be able to force the unemployed into taking this exploitative work.

She has previously misled Parliament over the loophole in Bedroom Tax legislation that meant the government had removed Housing Benefit from thousands of people who were exempt from the measure – including Stephanie Bottrill, whose suicide has been attributed to the pressure of having to survive on less because of the tax. Asked how many people had been affected by the loophole, McVey played it down by claiming she did not know the answer, while other ministers suggested between 3,000 and 5,000. In fact, from Freedom of Information requests to which just one-third of councils responded, 16,000 cases were revealed.

Mark Hoban stood in for McVey to trot out the lie that independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment had identified areas of improvement on which the government was acting. In fact, out of 25 recommendations in the Year One review alone, almost two-thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

In a debate on food banks, McVey’s lies came thick and fast: She accused the previous Labour government of a “whirl of living beyond our means” that “had to come to a stop” without ever pausing to admit that it was Tory-voting bankers who had been living beyond their means, who caused the crash, and who are still living beyond their means today, because her corporatist (thank you, Zac Goldsmith) Conservative government has protected them.

She accused Labour of trying to keep food banks as “its little secret”, forcing Labour’s Jim Cunningham to remind us all that food banks were set up by churches to help refugees who were waiting for their asylum status to be confirmed – not as a support system for British citizens, as they have become under the Coalition’s failed regime.

She said the Coalition government was brought in to “solve the mess that Labour got us in”, which is not true – it was born from a backroom deal between two of the most unscrupulous party leaders of recent times, in order to ensure they and their friends could get their noses into the money trough (oh yes, there’s plenty of money around – but this government is keeping it away from you).

She said the Coalition had got more people into work than ever before – without commenting on the fact that the jobs are part-time, zero-hours, self-employed contracts that benefit the employers but exploit the workers and in fact propel them towards poverty.

She lied to Parliament, claiming that children are three times more likely to be in poverty if they are in a workless household. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in-work poverty has now outstripped that suffered by those in workless and retired households; children are more likely to be in poverty if their parents have jobs.

She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be on out-of-work benefits, with two million children in workless households – but under her government the number of households suffering in-work poverty has risen to eight million (by 2008 standards), while workless or retired households in poverty have risen to total 6.3 million.

She claimed that 60,000 people were likely to use a food bank this year – but Labour’s Paul Murphy pointed out that 60,000 people will use food banks this year in Wales alone. The actual figure for the whole of the UK is 500,000.

She said the Coalition’s tax cuts had given people an extra £700 per year, without recognising that the real-terms drop in wages and rise in the cost of living means people will be £1,600 a year worse-off when the next general election takes place, tax cuts included. She said stopping fuel price increases meant families were £300 better-off, which is nonsense. Families cannot become better off because something has not happened; it’s like saying I’m better off because the roof of my house hasn’t fallen in and squashed me.

Her talents won exactly the recognition they deserved when her Wikipedia entry was altered to describe her as “the Assistant Grim Reaper for Disabled People since 2012, second only to Iain Duncan Smith. She was previously a television presenter and businesswoman before deciding to branch out into professional lying and helping disabled people into the grave.”

In her food bank speech, she also said the government had brought in Universal Credit to ensure that three million people become better-off. There’s just one problem with that system – it doesn’t work.

This brings us back to the current issue. Last month, in a written answer to Labour’s Rachel Reeves, McVey claimed that – and let’s have a direct quote so there can be no doubt that these were her words: “The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has approved the [Universal Credit] Strategic Outline Business Case.” That would mean the Treasury was willing to continue funding the disaster.

In fact, civil service boss Bob Kerslake admitted yesterday that the Treasury has not signed off the scheme, which the Major Projects Authority classifies as being at serious risk of failure.

Even for a minister in the Coalition government, this woman has lied far too often. She is a danger to the national interest.

So come on, Cameron.

We know you’re a liar but you refuse to go.

We know …Smith is a liar but you refuse to sack him.

Here’s Esther McVey. Her lies have made her utterly worthless to you. She is a liability.

Kick her in the backbenches.

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The Tories have run out of momentum, ideas and even arguments

Old Labour: Oversaw the longest periods of economic growth in British history and DIDN'T cause the biggest crash (that was neoliberalism, beloved of Conservatives). There is nothing wrong with it.

Old Labour: Oversaw the longest periods of economic growth in British history and DIDN’T cause the biggest crash (that was neoliberalism, beloved of Conservatives). There is nothing wrong with it.

Dear old Fraser Nelson has been trying to generate some momentum against Ed Miliband’s plans for a Labour government.

But, bless ‘im, not only did he hit the nail on the head when he wrote (in The Spectator), “Tories seem to have lost interest in ideas”, he might just as well have been talking about the Tory press because – other than the parts in which he praises Miliband for his political acumen and perception, Fraser has nothing new to say at all.

“Why, if he is such a joke, has Labour led in the opinion polls for three years solidly? And why has he been the bookmakers’ favourite to win the next general election for even longer?” These are the questions Fraser asks, and then goes on to answer in the most glowing terms possible.

“His agenda is clear, radical, populist and … popular. His speeches are intellectually coherent, and clearly address the new problems of inequality,” writes Fraser.

“His analysis is potent because he correctly identifies the problem. There is [a] major problem with the recovery, he says, in that the spoils are going to the richest, and it’s time to act… George Osborne does not talk about this. He prefers to avoid the wider issue of inequality. This leaves one of the most interesting debates of our times entirely open to Miliband.”

All of the above is a gift to the Labour leadership. Fraser has scored a huge own-goal by admitting the Labour leader – far from being “a joke”, has correctly identified the problem and can say what he likes because the Tories won’t even discuss it!

Worse still (for Fraser), he seems to think that telling us Ed Miliband is mining Labour’s past policies to get future success will put us off.

Hasn’t anybody told Fraser – yet – that it is current neoliberal policies, as practised by both Labour and the Tories, that caused the crash of 2007 onwards? With that as our context, why not go back and resurrect policies that offer a plausible alternative?

As a Conservative, Fraser should appreciate the irony that it is Labour who are now looking at the past to create the future.

“The philosophical underpinning is rehabilitated: that the free enterprise system does not work, and should be put under greater government control,” writes Fraser. “That companies, bankers and markets have buggered up Britain — and it’s time for people, through Big Government, to fight back.” Who could argue with that?

Then Fraser goes into some of those policies, like the plan to revive the 50 per cent tax rate. “But Miliband isn’t taxing for revenue. He’s taxing for the applause of the electorate and he calculates that the more he beats up on bankers and the rich, the louder the masses will cheer.” The answer to that is yes! What’s wrong with that? The Coalition came into office on a ticket that said bankers would pay for the damage they caused, and yet bankers have been among the principal beneficiaries of the ongoing raid on the public finances that the Coalition calls its “long-term economic plan”. In the face of dishonesty on that scale, Fraser should be more surprised that the North hasn’t invaded the Square Mile and strung anybody in a suit up on a lamppost – yet.

Next up, Fraser tries to attack Miliband’s proposed revival of a Kinnock plan for a state-run ‘British Investment Bank’ and two new high street bank chains. To this writer, the prospect of two new, state-run and regulated, banks is a brilliant idea! No more rip-off charges for services that should be free! Investment in growth, rather than short-term profit! And all run the way banks should be run – prudently and with the interests of the customer – rather than the shareholder – at heart. How can Fraser (bless ‘im) argue with that?

Argue he does. He writes: “As Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, put it: ‘The last time the government told a bank what to do, Lloyds was ordered to sell branches to the Co-op’s Reverend Flowers. And we all know how that ended.’ Wrong. European regulators ordered the government (then principle shareholder in Lloyds) to sell the branches, and it happened on the Coalition government’s watch. In fact, George Osborne welcomed the deal. That’s an argument against Conservative mismanagement.

Fraser goes on to claim that Miliband doesn’t care how his bank project will work out – he just wants it done. He’s on an ideological crusade. Again, this provokes comparisons with the Tories that are (for the Tories) extremely uncomfortable. The Tories (and their little yellow Tory Democrat friends) have spent the last four years on an ideological crusade that has robbed the poorest people in the UK of almost everything they have, and are now starting to attack people who are better off (but still not posh enough) – they can hardly criticise Labour for having an ideology of its own.

The line about green policies which cost nine jobs for every four created – in Spain – is risible. Fraser has chosen a country where green policies have not worked well. How are they managing in Scandinavia?

Fraser says Labour’s energy price freeze “magically” makes good a 1983 pledge for everyone to afford adequate heat and light at home – without commenting on the fact that energy companies have been ripping us all off for many years and failing to invest in the future of power generation; they are an example of the worst kind of industrial privatisation.

Fraser says Labour has revived a 1983 demand for “a supply of appropriately qualified teachers” as though that is a bad idea (it isn’t. Bringing in unqualified people to act as teachers in Michael Gove’s silly ‘free schools’ sandpit was the bad idea). Note he says Labour wants “union-approved” qualified teachers – depending on mention of the unions to get a knee-jerk reaction from his readers, no doubt.

Fraser says Miliband attacks “predator” companies – moneylenders who offer short-term loans; people who make fixed-odds betting machines; landowners who stand accused of hoarding and thwarting housebuilding. “When Miliband talks about the future, he says very little about what he’d do with government. He talks about what he’d do to British business. All this amounts to a blitz of regulation, edicts and interference,” he writes.

This is to suggest that “regulation” is a dirty word – a synonym for “interference”. Let’s help Fraser out by suggesting a word he can use instead of “regulation” or “interference”.

That word is “help” – and it exemplifies what regulation is, in fact, about – helping companies to provide the best service possible, with the least possible corruption or profiteering, to ensure that customers get what they want and are happy to come back – boosting prosperity for everybody.

Substitute that word for the others and Fraser’s remaining rhetoric looks very different:

“All this amounts to a blitz of help” evokes the response, about time too!

“[Tristram] Hunt does not pretend that help at this level is being attempted in any free country” begs the question, why not?

While Fraser may have set out to write an assassination piece on Ed Miliband’s Labour, there can be no doubt that he ended up doing the exact opposite. It wasn’t his intention – look at his final few lines: “Miliband is bold enough to think that, in a country midway through the worst recovery in history, there may be a market for all this now. And most terrifyingly of all, he might be right.”

This botched attempt at scaremongering only exposes right-wing ideology for what it is: Out-argued, outclassed and badly out-of-step with the thoughts of the British people.

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Why are you complaining? The economy is running exactly according to plan!

Celebrating Britain's ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos - David 'Flashman' Cameron (centre, facing us), George 'Slasher' Osborne (left, back to us), Boris 'Zipwire' Johnson (right, back to us)

Celebrating Britain’s ruin: The Bullingdon boys rave it up in Davos – David ‘Flashman’ Cameron (centre, facing us), George ‘Slasher’ Osborne (left, back to us), Boris ‘Zipwire’ Johnson (right, back to us)

Confirmation has come through from the Office for National Statistics that the UK economy shrank in the last months of 2012.

It’s no surprise – you only had to look at the shop sales figures for December to know that something was going wrong.

The poor performance has negated the effects of the growth bump in the previous quarter, when the economy improved by 0.9 per cent, boosted by the London Olympics.

The official Treasury line is: “While the economy is healing, it is a difficult road.” Healing? Total growth for the whole of 2012 has flatlined. Again. If the economy was a hospital patient it would need a sharp electric shock to get it going again (but we’ll come back to that)!

The total economic growth since the Conservative-led Coalition government came into power is 0.4 per cent; less than that recorded during the first quarter of the Parliament when the government was still working under Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling’s spending rules.

“Today’s GDP figures are extremely disappointing, but not surprising. We warned the UK Govt their cuts were too deep, too fast,” said Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Government’s First Minister.

“UK Government cuts to capital investment in major infrastructure projects is causing damage to our economy. A new plan for growth and jobs should now be a major priority for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

Economist Danny Blanchflower tweeted: “-0.3% lack of growth comes as no surprise but is appalling this was made in #11 Downing Street. The question is what is Slasher going to do?

“Given that the coalition in June 10 predicted growth would be +6 per cent and we now have +0.3 per cent we are entitled to know what went wrong. One-twentieth won’t do.”

Sky News ran with this: “Osborne says Britain faces a difficult economic situation and that he will confront problems to create jobs.”

Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron received early warning of the figures, and responded by having a slap-up meal with his Bullingdon chums Gideon George Osborne (the man responsible for the mess) and London’s comedy mayor Boris ‘zipwire’ Johnson.

Osborne later responded: “We can either run away from these problems or confront them, and I am determined to confront them so that we go on creating jobs for the people of this country.” What jobs?

In fact, this is the very predictable result of the Conservatives’ ideology-led dogma, that put a project to shrink the state ahead of prosperity.

The Tories have always wanted to pin the blame for our debt woes on the state. They suggest that we are in crisis because public spending got out of control, and that this is what happens when the state gets too big.

But this is a fantasy, unsupported by any sound economic analysis and designed to pursue a reckless plan that puts the economy and long-term recovery at risk.

The image of a bloated state getting fatter on taxpayers’ money while crowding out a budding private sector is nothing but propaganda, and here’s why: Before the credit crunch, public sector debt was less than 40 per cent of national income – it was the private corporate sector that was out of control, with debt at almost 300 per cent of national income.

The Tories wanted to say the private sector was being crowded out by the public sector, but in fact, it was being propped up by it.

Those of us who listened to the experts knew that cutting would make things worse, rather than better, but we heard yesterday that Osborne is now ignoring the advice of his former bosom-buddies at the IMF and intends to keep chopping away at the carcass, presumably until there’s nothing left at all.

The same experts, last year, were warning of a double-dip recession – or what legendary economist John Maynard Keynes called the “death spiral”. Now we’re facing a TRIPLE-dip. We haven’t just entered the death spiral; we’re well into it!

Osborne’s solution is to cut benefits and wages so that people have less money to spend on the UK economy. With less money in circulation, shops will close and businesses will go to the wall. Foreign investors will turn away from a nation where they will see there is no profit to be gained. Creditors will start to worry and our credit rating will suffer. By the next election in 2015, there may not be any life in UK business worth mentioning.

Does anyone remember when David Cameron said, “The good news will keep on coming”?

He’s a public relations man, you see. His skill is in saying the opposite of what he means, in order to make a message palatable to the public. You could say he’s not very good at it, because his greatest feat was to persuade the British public to reject his Conservatism a little less harshly than that if all the other Tory leaders since John Major – which is what made it possible for him and Osborne to put us all in this mess by forming a dirty backroom deal with the Liberal Democrats.

I’d like to talk to some of the people he persuaded to vote for his squalid little gang of cutthroats. What would they have done, if they had know what would happen?

Osborne or the IMF – who do you believe?

tripledipWhat a day. The International Monetary Fund has politely suggested that Gideon George Osborne should slow the pace of his austerity measures; in response, Osborne has politely suggested that the IMF should go and spin on it.

You are watching ‘A Family At War’.

The IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, told the BBC: “We said that if things look bad at the beginning of 2013 – which they do – then there should be a reassessment of fiscal policy… We think this would be a good time to take stock and see whether some adjustments should now be made.”

He suggested the March budget would be a good time to change tack, adding: “Slower fiscal consolidation in some form may well be appropriate.”

In response, Osborne said: “We have a credible and flexible debt reduction plan. That credibility is very hard-won and easily lost.

He said pension, education and welfare reform was making the UK economy more competitive, and cuts to corporation tax and higher-rate income tax were making the country more attractive to business. “We do have to carry on with the cuts. We’re not about to bring that programme to an end. [It] will go on until 2017. We are walking a difficult road but we are going in the right direction.”

My problem with the IMF is that it is the very organisation that told us our economy had a completely clean bill of health, immediately before the credit crunch, the banking crisis and the first of our recessions. How can we ever trust anything that comes out of it again?

Mr problem with Osborne is that he’s, well, Osborne. Look at what he said – it’s a load of hogwash. We don’t have a credible debt reduction plan – that’s why the credit agencies are poised to strip the UK of the triple-A rating that Mr 0 prizes so much.

Even The Spectator magazine – a Tory rag – has slapped Osborne’s chum David Cameron for lying about the debt. Cameron said his government was “paying down Britain’s debts” – in fact, on his watch, it has risen from £811.3 billion to £1.11 trillion (for those of you who like percentages, that’s from 55.3 per cent of GDP to 70.7 per cent). In other words, both as a percentage of GDP and in real terms, debt has risen by nearly a fifth under this government. And Osborne is the one who was supposed to turn that situation around.

Welfare reform isn’t making the UK economy more competitive, it’s pushing wages down. If the impoverishment of British workers is what Osborne thinks it will take to bring business into the UK, then he isn’t fit to be Chancellor. But then, we knew that anyway.

Cuts to taxes might make us more attractive to businesses, but only because they don’t have to pay as much to the government in order to operate here. That doesn’t help the UK; it helps those private businesses.

So once again, we see how Osborne views his own role – as a kind of corporate vampire, sucking money out of the state and feeding it to private businesses – from abroad, to judge from his statement today. The money he siphons out of the Treasury means a shrivelled, shrunken public spending system – again, something Osborne desperately wants, as he will use it to improperly justify further cuts to services which the British public desperately need and deserve.

Back in 2010, the IMF was recommending austerity and Osborne was shoulder to shoulder with its spokespeople. Now he’s showing his true colours.

But then, what can we expect from a man with such poor morals he even used the Parliamentary expenses system to make a cool £1 million at the taxpayers’ expense?

I wonder what he’ll say tomorrow, if the figures put us into triple-dip recession.

USA – another great depression or greatly depressing?

Now that the Olympics are over and everybody’s having a rest from medal-counting (don’t forget the Paralympics will be starting soon, though, providing the opportunity to do it all over again), may I just take this opportunity to ask readers in the USA, just what the blazes is going on with your Presidential candidates?

A few years ago, your economy was devastated by comedy president George W Bush, with a policy known as ‘starving the beast’. For those with short memories, this involved tax breaks for the very rich, creating a deficit in the US Treasury, which made it possible for him to claim public services were costing too much – and then cut public services.

Bush left the White House in 2009 to pursue his career in stand-up comedy (and sank without a trace) but his ideas were taken up on my side of the Atlantic by one David Cameron and his bestie, George Osborne.

They realised that, after the credit crunch of 2008, there wasn’t enough money coming into the British Treasury to pay for public services and launched their policy of fiscal austerity on the UK’s already-depressed economy. The tax breaks for the very rich arrived a few years later.

Now, back in the States, you have a new Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who – and please, correct me if I’m wrong – wants to starve the beast all over again.

Mr Romney wants to impose tax cuts for the very rich, but has no plan to offset the effect of these cuts by closing other tax loopholes or the like.

As one influential commentator has it: “Romney is just intending to blow up the deficit to lavish favours on the wealthy, then use it as an excuse to savage Social Security and Medicare.”

He claims there will be fabulous growth effects.

Well.

Seeing as Mr Romney’s policy seems so similar to Mr Osborne’s, lets look at what’s happened here in Blighty since fiscal austerity started biting, shall we?

It tanked.

From the moment Osborne’s first spending review (a mini-budget in late 2010) took effect, the economy flatlined. Since the beginning of 2012 it went back into recession in a big way, knocking a whole one per cent off GDP.

Meanwhile, the Coalition (Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties) has cut taxes for the very rich but also raised the amount people can earn without being taxed. This inevitably means less revenue for the Treasury. Services are already being cut and they’re discussing ways to cut further than previously planned.

Does anybody really think those poor people who’ve been lifted out of tax are going to be better off for the loss of the public services they need?

Do any US citizens reading this seriously think that lower and middle-class people in your country are going to benefit from the loss of public services that will be required to make your ultra-rich even richer?

And what’s the incumbent, President Obama, going to do? Are his budget plans any better?

‘Lies, damned lies’, the IMF and government borrowing

We interrupt our series on how to get the UK back to work for a few words about the economy: Out of the frying pan, into the fire!

The IMF has downgraded its growth expectations for the UK economy this year by a whole one per cent, from 1.6 per cent to 0.6 per cent.

In other words, the downward spiral that’s been going on – ever since David Cameron and George Osborne decided to halt the promising recovery we were enjoying before they came to office in 2010 – continues unabated.

So austerity doesn’t work, right?

My problem with this is that the information comes from the International Monetary Fund – the very organisation that told us our economy had a completely clean bill of health, immediately before the Credit Crunch. How can we ever trust anything that comes out of it again?

On the ‘plus’ side, every downgrade of the UK’s predicted economic performance since the Coalition came to power has come true, as near as you like, so I think we can rely on this one.

On the ‘minus’ side, this means the UK economy – our industry, our commerce, our way of life – is in one heck of a lot of doodoo. If you think we’re at rock bottom now, imagine our situation at the end of the year, with 12 months of bat guano beneath rock bottom, and us beneath that.

On the very same day that this announcement came out, the government announced that it is on course to meet its borrowing target for the current financial year.

As I understand it, this is the target that was revised upwards in the Chancellor’s autumn statement, and the bank levy, last January’s VAT increase and debt control measures are helping the government reach it.

So austerity does work, right? The BBC even produced a Germanic-sounding pundit to underline the finding, sort of like: “Ja ja, austerity ist vorkink!” (Thank you, ‘Cultural Stereotypes R Us’, for that one).

But… This is the same government that said a majority of disabled people supported its proposed ‘reforms’ of their benefits (they didn’t) and doctors and nurses approved of its plans to change the NHS (they don’t).

Unemployment recently rose to a high point, in recent years, of 2.68 million – nearly 10 per cent of the workforce. How much is the government spending on benefits for these people?

I feel certain that one of the above-mentioned institutions will be making an apologetic climbdown again soon.

And I doubt it’ll be the IMF.

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