John: his handwritten sign says he doesn’t abuse drugs or alcohol, but it seems most people don’t read it and simply lump him in with the ‘junkies’.
This is what happens when we elect a Tory government that likes to create false divisions between us.
A homeless man named John was in the middle of an interview with a reporter from the Liverpool Echo when a passerby casually threw coffee over him, drenching his belongings and the place where he was sitting.
It is symptomatic of the state of the UK today – a condition that the Conservatives have been trying to create since 2010.
So they have set the able-bodied against the disabled, the employed against the jobless – and the homeless, sparked Islamophobia and xenophobia (hatred of foreigners).
It is possible they even caused the rift between certain gullible Jews and the Labour Party.
John, 40, had done nothing wrong; he is a trained plasterer with 25 years’ experience. He became unable to work after losing part of a finger in an accident.
The loss of income gave his landlord an opportunity to evict him and his partner and he has spent the last seven months sleeping in a tent on the streets.
He told the reporter the incident was one of many he had experienced since he became homeless.
After the interview, the Echo understands a policeman arrived and moved John on. Yet more attention from the man who threw the coffee?
Thankfully, there is still a little good in this country:
John said a kind Scouser bought him a mobile phone over Christmas, which he uses to keep contact with his 10-year-old son.
A security guard at River Island, on Church Street, charges the phone for him and makes sure he has a cup of coffee to drink in the morning.
And there is advice about how to help people sleeping rough in the source article – see below.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the Tories have normalised unpleasantness and division. They have made it seem acceptable to assault other human beings on the street – for example by throwing coffee over them.
The perpetrators know that if they get a reaction, it is the homeless guy who’ll take the blame. They think they have a licence to abuse these people.
And so does every single person who votes ‘Conservative’.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
This Writer has been a little unwell over the weekend so I wasn’t actually able to watch Theresa May’s car-crash interview on Andrew Marr’s show this morning (January 22). From the responses on Twitter I missed a classic display of attempted evasion.
From what she didn’t say, she appears to have colluded in hiding the failure of a Trident missile test from MPs before they voted on renewing the rubbish nuclear weapons programme for hundreds of billions of pounds:
We've tested 1 Trident Missile in 4 years. We aimed it at Africa but it malfunctioned and headed for USA. Tories concealed this before vote. pic.twitter.com/59cNpdaRkb
Friends in right-wing places: Nigel Farage with (among others) US right-wingers Ron Paul and James Beeland Rogers Jr. [Image swiped from Pride’s Purge.]
LBC radio interviewer James O’Brien’s encounter with Nigel Farage has been gaining attention and approval up and down the UK, after it became clear that the charismatic UKIP leader wasn’t just defeated on many issues – he was routed.
Considering Farage’s own win against Nick Clegg in the televised debates earlier this year, it seems we’ve come to a lamentable situation in this country, where politicians can lose a battle of wits with anyone who has taken the time to do a little research.
That being said, if anyone were to ask who you would prefer to have running the country, it’s unlikely that either profession would figure in the top two.
The interviewer confirmed the findings of many social media bloggers over the past few days, starting with reference to two more UKIP members who had shown their true homophobic and hypocritical colours.
He quoted former UKIP council candidate John Lyndon Sullivan, who tweeted: “I rather often wonder, if we shot one poofter, whether the next 99 would decide on balance that they weren’t after all. We might then conclude that it’s not a matter of genetics but rather more a matter of education.”
And UKIP’s small business spokesman has employed seven illegal immigrants in the last year, said Mr O’Brien.
Farage employed the usual UKIP tactic, which is to demand that the questioner find out “what’s going on in the other parties”. O’Brien put him straight by pointing out that the other parties weren’t the issue at hand.
Later in the interview, he added: “The reason it doesn’t possess the same urgency as the UKIP conversation does is – (a) – the question of quantity; there is simply not the avalanche of bigotry emerging from other parties that emerges from yours, and – (b) – … the opinion polls do not report significant swathes of the country who are fearful that your party represents deeply divisive and racist ideas.”
He was saying it is possible that UKIP is influencing people into adopting those anti-immigrant and racist ideas themselves – and this theory has been borne out by some of the pro-UKIP comments on the Vox Political Facebook page (but you have to catch them quickly, before the perpetrators realise they’ve erred and remove them).
Regarding JL Sullivan, Farage said he wasn’t a councillor but a council candidate, then contradicted himself by saying he had not heard of that gentleman’s name. If that were true, how would Farage know whether he was a councillor or a candidate?
Farage’s assertion that he would face a disciplinary charge on whether he had brought the party into disrepute was punctured by the revelation that his tweet was made in February.
On the illegal immigrants, Farage’s defence was holed by the revelation that his small business spokesman resigned as a company director three days after the immigration raid.
A conversation about Farage’s discomfort, sitting in a train carriage in which nobody else spoke English, was surreal. When I was a student I had the unique pleasure of sharing a carriage with a crowd of French schoolchildren. That was uncomfortable too, but I didn’t attach any unreasonable baggage to it – it wasn’t an indication that French kids were overrunning Britain and it didn’t show that the French were all loud and overexcitable. It was one train carriage and Farage should have more of a sense of proportion.
O’Brien put his finger on the nerve and pressed hard: “The point you’re making is that schools in the East End are filled with children who cannot speak English. .. That’s not true… Children who are typified as speaking English as a second language would include your own daughters… Perhaps [if we checked] we would realise that most bilingual children in this country are children like yours?”
He continued, highlighting accusations of bigotry and hypocrisy: “What the caller asked you was why so many people think you’re racist… and… you talk about children who can’t speak English as a first language without mentioning it includes your own children.”
There was an implication that Farage, who has banned former members of the BNP from joining UKIP in an effort to protect the party from adverse publicity, has himself associated with the far-right organisation; and a question over the far-right parties with which UKIP sits in the European Parliament. Farage said UKIP would not sit with people who didn’t have a reasonable point of view but O’Brien flagged up a member of the group who had said the ideas of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, Islamophobe, Anti-Semite and anti-feminist, were “in defence of Western civilisation”.
Farage’s paper-thin defence was that the European political discourse was very different to the UK, (again) an admission that his party had encountered problems with “one or two members”, and a reference to problems in other parties (the Conservatives, on this occasion)
O’Brien leapt on this: “Your defence so far is that you’re no different from any other political party and yet your unique selling point … is that you are different.” In addition, he pointed out that Farage refers to “members of the political class and their friends in the media”, while writing columns for the Independent and Express newspapers every week and appearing on the BBC’s Question Time more often than anyone apart from David Dimbleby.
Farage should count himself lucky he was not also asked about his connections with American right-wingers, including Ron Paul (Godfather of the Tea Party) and James Beeland Rogers Jr who, together with George Soros, engineered the British economic crash of 1992.
Farage tried to defend his way of equating Romanians with criminality by saying that Roma people in other countries have been forced into a situation where crime is their only option – and then was forced into a corner when O’Brien mentioned UKIP’s fearmongering poster, that claims millions of potential immigrants are after the jobs of British people. Wasn’t he demonising foreigners by saying they will take all the jobs and push crime up?
“I’m not demonising anyone,” said Farage, then contradicted himself: “I’m demonising a political class that has allowed us to have an open door that allowed things like this to happen.”
“So when I say Romanian and you start talking about people traffickers, why don’t you say people are perfectly entitled to feel uncomfortable about living next door to people traffickers, wherever they’re from?” asked Mr O’Brien. “Why do you say ‘Romanians’?”
Get ready for another contradiction: “I didn’t say Romanians; I was asked… if a group of Romanian men moved in next door to you, would you be concerned, and if you lived in London I think you would be.”
It was while Farage was being questioned on his expenses that Patrick O’Flynn, UKIP’s director of communications and former Daily Express political commentator, stepped in (claiming that O’Brien was over-running, 19 minutes into a 20-minute interview). Mr O’Brien’s response: “Is this a friend in the media or a member of the political class?”
Homophobia, racism, hypocrisy, and an incitement for others to display the same characteristics.
Does this country really need that kind of alternative to mainstream politics?
A new political party has been launched – on International Workers’ Day – to represent the interests of people whose opportunities in life have been restricted because they earn low wages.
The Underpaid People’s Independence Party – UPIP – will campaign for better pay, better rights and a better say on behalf of all those who currently earn less than they need in order to pay their own way.
The new party has announced several policies already:
A living wage for every working person, ensuring that the overburdened benefit system does not subsidise greedy corporations
A guaranteed ‘income floor’ for all British citizens, ensuring that those who do not work because of illness or unemployment are able to live with dignity
The guarantee of employee benefits including sick pay, holiday rights and both lower and upper limits on the number of hours worked
Strengthened – and rigorously-enforced – health and safety regulations for all workplaces, to limit the number of workplace-related illnesses and disabilities
An end to corrupt ‘workfare’, ‘work programme’ or ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes that allow governments to collude with corporations in forcing citizens to work for no payment other than benefits that are subsidised by other working people
Tax incentives to encourage all companies to transform into co-operatives, with responsibilities and profits shared among the entire workforce
UPIP founder Nobby Fulsom, a former mineworker, said Britain’s hardworking poor had suffered for too long under neoliberal profiteers, and the time had come for a party they could all enjoy.
“I have stayed underground for too long; now is the time for working people to stand tall,” he said.
But he admitted: “It is too late for us to field any candidates in the European election.
“If we could, we would be opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that would push workers on both sides of the Atlantic into ever-worsening conditions of employment.
“Europe should be pushing for an agreement that will guarantee the best possible conditions for all workers. The fact that the EU doesn’t seem interested in supporting its constituents poses questions about its own role, and that is why we support a top-down reorganisation of the European Union, with authority granted to nobody unless they can prove they started their careers at the lowest level and worked their way up, rather than just walking in from a position of privilege.”
Mr Fulsom said it was not true that members of UPIP had been posting anti-corporatist Tweets on the internet, nor had they been targeting members of the aristocracy with derogatory remarks.
“UPIP is an inclusive party,” he said. We believe in uniting people – not in the divisive rhetoric of the Coalition government or certain minority parties with similar initials to our own.
“Any corporate executive who is willing to turn his organisation into a co-operative is welcome to join us, as is anyone from a family of wealth who accepts that the people who made that cash for them are entitled to the opportunities they and their forebears enjoyed.”
He added: “We don’t want much, but what we want is fair – for everybody, not just those with a private education and independent wealth.”
Undoubtedly, UPIP will have a great deal to say about the current election campaign and the future direction of British politics.
No control: Nigel Farage in front of one of his party’s anti-immigration posters. He says he doesn’t hate foreigners; judge for yourself. [Image: BBC]
Isn’t it interesting that the first of the large political organisations to descend into UKIP-style racism is the Conservative Party?
The BBC has reported that both have lost council candidates after they made anti-Islamic comments on the social media.
From UKIP, Harry Perry (candidate in the Offerton Ward, Stockport) was suspended after calling for Pakistan to be “nuked”, saying David Cameron was a “gay-loving nutcase”, Muslims were “devil’s kids” and homosexuality an “abomination before God”.
UKIP’s official line is that it has started disciplinary proceedings against this man and did not condone his “crackpot” views.
Nigel Farage has admitted his party contains “some idiots”, but added that the reporting of such problems within UKIP was “disproportionate”.
Then along came David Bishop (candidate in Brentwood South, Essex) to prove that the Tories have these problems too.
This man has resigned from the party after passing messages including one that said Islam was “the religion of… rape” and another that read “How CAN a gay guy keep a straight face?”
In a statement, he said, “I recognise that someone standing for public office should show leadership and seek to unite communities, not divide them.”
Isn’t dividing communities what both the Conservatives and UKIP are best at?
Self-preservation society: The Tory “all in it together” attitude, clarified here by Conservative poster-boy Michael Caine.
The Conservatives want you to believe that “We are all in this together”, but it seems clear that some of us are more “in this” than others – are we all “in this” with the “scroungers”, or “skivers” (the Tory label for people their policies have forced out of work and onto the state benefits for which they have paid all their lives)? Are we all “in this” with our fellow citizens who were unfortunate enough not to “sound British” (like those who were stop-checked during Theresa May’s ‘Go Home’ van campaign last summer)? They were encouraging people to accuse their neighbours; how divisive can they get?
What about the changes to pensions? Are the MPs who have “transitional” protection that will allow them to draw their extremely large, taxpayer-funded pensions at the same time as they always expected “in this” with those of us who are now having to work six years longer than we planned?
Of course not.
As for UKIP, try this comment from a UKIP supporter on the Vox Political Facebook page: “Britain is now full of multiregional people from other countries, by winning their vote he can sort out the rubbish later & give Britain back to the English!”
(English? I wonder how the Welsh, Northern Irish, and particularly the referendum-bound Scottish react to that.)
This person continued: “Not racist, just plain common sense!!!! The British want their Britain back.”
I asked then – and I ask now: “Does that include the Afro-Caribbean British, the Indian-British, the Pakistani-British, the southeast-Asian-British, the Polish-British (including both recent arrivals and those who stayed after World War II), British people whose racial origins are from any other part of the former British Empire or current Commonwealth – or just white Anglo-Saxon Britons like you and me, who are in fact descended from people of French and German origin?”
(Even this omits another foreign-descended group – those with Viking blood.)
I could never use my vote to support anyone who put forward such vile opinions; they are not “common sense” and the people spouting them are those who have no place here.
It doesn’t matter where our ancestors were born – we are all One Nation now.
After the barrage of new policy plans from the Labour Party last week, David Cameron’s big revelation, at the end of the most disappointing Conservative conference since – well – the last one, is a hint that the Tories want to take benefits away from anyone under 25 who isn’t in work or education, if they win in 2015?
More repression, then. In a speech that we’re asked to believe is about making the UK a land of opportunity, of aspiration? A “land of hope and Tory”?
Land of hopeless Tories, more like!
Let’s look at those options. Put someone aged between 16 and 25 back into education and you put them into debt (unless they have very rich parents) – we have the Liberal Democrats to thank for that, after they betrayed their own manifesto promise and supported a massive increase in student fees.
Force them into work and its an employer’s market, isn’t it? They can hire or fire under any conditions they like – and the minimum wage will be no problem. You don’t like zero-hours contracts? Too bad – it’s a choice between being listed as employed but unlikely to get any paying work, or losing the pittance you live on anyway. Part-time wages putting you into debt? You’ll be homeless a lot faster without any benefits!
Whatever happens, of course, the benefit bill comes down and fewer people are classed as unemployed.
Just like George Osborne’s plan to put the long-term jobless on indefinite Workfare, this will falsify the employment figures to make it seem the Conservatives have improved the economy when in fact they are making matters worse.
The rest of it was a web of lies and waffle. It has been suggested that Cameron wanted to re-use his speech from last year, rewriting it minimally in the hope that nobody would notice, and that it would be worth finding out if this is true – but that would not get to the heart of the matter, which is that the Conservative Party has completely run out of momentum.
They’re at a dead stop and all they have to support them is falsehood.
Cameron’s speech started with a claim that the Tories are on the side of “hardworking” (it’s hard-working, David – learn some English) people. While he waffled, I had a look at some of the Tory slogans and tried to match some facts to the claims. So we have:
“A tax cut for 25m people” – but they put the cost of living up and wages down so “hardworking” people are worse-off.
“The deficit down by a third” – two years ago. It has been years since they made any notable progress.
“More private sector jobs” – that don’t pay “hardworking” people a bean because they’re part-time or zero-hours. They have also cut the public sector – and given those jobs to people on Workfare.
“Welfare capped” – so poor people are forced towards destitution or suicide
“Crime down” – because police are discouraged from recording crimes against “hardworking” people?
“Immigration down” – because the UK isn’t attractive to “hardworking” foreign people any more.
To these, Cameron added:
“Helping young people buy their own home” – by creating a debt bubble and asking the taxpayer to foot the bill.
“Getting the long-term unemployed back to work” – in order to falsify employment statistics.
“Freezing fuel duty” – and doing nothing about the huge, unjustified, price increases demanded by energy companies.
“Backing marriage” – with less than 20p a day for the poor.
“Creating wealth” – for whom?
“We are clearing up the mess that Labour left” – Labour didn’t leave a mess. Bankers left the mess. Why have the bankers not been cleaned up? Why has Mr Cameron thrown money at them instead?
He referred to the fact that Theresa May (finally managed to have Abu Qatada deported. She wants to get rid of the Human Rights Act, claiming it is necessary if the government is to be able to – among other things – deport suspected terrorists, right? So her action has proved that repealing an Act that protects the rights of British citizens isn’t necessary.
“Who protected spending on the NHS? Not Labour – us.” Wrong. At last count, spending on the NHS under the Conservative-led coalition was down. The plan was to spend £12.7 billion more by May 2015, but by December last year this meant the government needed to find more than £13 billion for this purpose.
He referred to the Mid Staffs hospital scandal as a Labour disaster – look to the Skwawkbox blog for the facts (hint: it’s not as clear-cut as Cameron pretended).
“When the world wanted rights, who wrote Magna Carta?” he said in all hypocrisy. Is he telling us the British people – who demanded those rights in the first place – are now demanding that he divest us of those same rights by repealing the Human Rights Act?
“When they looked for compassion, who led the abolition of slavery?” Fine words from a man whose lieutenant, Iain Duncan Smith, has been working hard to restore slavery for the unemployed, sick and disabled – even going to the lengths of pushing through a retrospective law, after his rules were found to be illegal.
“Whose example of tolerance – of people living together from every nation, every religion, young and old, straight and gay – whose example do they aspire to?” Perhaps someone should point him to his Home Secretary’s advertising vans, which preached intolerance of anyone who wasn’t demonstrably white and British by encourage people on the street to tell anyone else to “go home” in what Owen Jones called the language of knuckle-dragging racists.
His plea for Scotland to remain in the UK must have seemed particularly hypocritical, as the man who has passed more divisive policies than any other Prime Minister, possibly in British history, called for “Our Kingdom – United”.
The newest right-wing party: This Gary Baker cartoon appeared after Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech last year, but let’s adopt it to illustrate the fact that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until, with Miliband’s speech this week, it has become a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK’s population with nobody to speak for them.
Yesterday I wrote that Ed Miliband’s speech on social security reform was the beginning of the Conservative victory in 2015 – and picked up a little criticism for it in some areas. I stand by my words.
Ed’s speech proved he is not a leader but a follower. He has agreed to follow Conservative spending cuts and not reverse them. He has agreed to follow Tory spending plans for the first year after a Labour government takes office (if it does) in 2015. He has said he would cap social security spending, formally adopting as policy an idea the Tories floated during the March budget. He has agreed to give up the principle of universal benefits.
He has done this when the Conservatives have no argument whatsoever that can possibly justify what they are doing.
All the Tory claims about austerity have blown away in the wind – hot air to disguise their real aim of shrinking the state and selling off the family silver to their rich friends.
Iain Duncan Smith is to face a grilling by Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee over his – and his colleagues – persistent misrepresentation of the facts about unemployment, sickness and disability and the people claiming benefits on these grounds.
As for the benefit cap, Miliband said an independent body should advise government on how best to design it. Great! Can I sit on this body? I could do with the cash!
Or is it another example of fake jobs for the boys to get their snouts in the trough?
The system needs to change, because the Conservatives/Coalition have cocked it up. Miliband offered up more of the same, with a little bit of tinkering around the edges. Red Conservative.
For a party that’s supposed to be the official Opposition to the government, there was a hell of a lot of Tory talk in Miliband’s speech, like this: “It is only by reforming social security with the right values that we’ll be able to control costs.” Tory values?
“We have always been against the denial of opportunity that comes from not having work. And against the denial of responsibility by those who could work and don’t do so,” he accused, in one of those confusing single-sentences-split-into-two that make his speeches so utterly unreadable. But he needs to get his facts right. The number of people who could work but don’t do so is around 2.5 million – but that’s because there isn’t any work available for them. One job for every five people, although we have witnessed moments when adverts for a handful of places at a single shop have attracted thousands of applications. These people aren’t denying responsibility, Ed – they’re desperate for a chance.
He was referring to benefit fraud, though, wasn’t he? Benefit fraud is the bogeyman that haunts much of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy, even though it is, as the facts show, a ghost. In fact, 99.3 per cent of all benefit claims are genuine and are made out of real need – according to government figures – and that figure rises to 99.6 per cent in sickness and disability cases. It’s not a perfect situation but any system will have its abusers, and that’s why we have fraud detection built into it. Benefit fraud is not a huge problem, and Miliband does himself and his party enormous harm by adopting the Tory line and alienating the genuinely sick and disabled people who have been fighting the unjust removal of their benefits by a system he seems unlikely to reform, for all his weasel words.
He returns to this theme later: “Just as there is a minority who should be working and don’t want to, there is a majority who are desperate for work and can’t find it.” Evil, divisive, Tory rhetoric. Isn’t this the man who wants a ‘One Nation’ government? Why is he trying to split us up and set us against each other? That’s Tory policy.
Have some more of the same: “I want to teach my kids that it is wrong to be idle on benefits, when you can work” – implying that people – many people – are in just that position. Tory divisiveness from a Labour leader.
Here’s another: “It appears that some people get something for nothing and other people get nothing for something – no reward for the years of contribution they make.” This one really got my goat because it turns the principle of the Welfare State on their head.
For goodness’ sake, it isn’t about paying in money in order to get exactly the same amount back another time. It’s about contributing to the welfare of the state as a whole, including everyone in it. A Labour leader should be making the argument that this is not about selfishness; if you’re a part of this nation, you contribute to its well-being. “From each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] needs,” as Marx put it. His philosophy may be out of fashion with the ‘Me, me, me’ generation but that doesn’t make those words any less relevant to the funding of a national economy.
I wonder whether quoting Bob Crow from last night’s This Week programme will actually make the message any easier to hear, but I’ll give it a go. He said: “It’s the strong helping the weak – that’s what the whole welfare benefits system is based on.”
“We have to tackle this too,” bleated Miliband. Yes, we do – by correcting the wrong attitude, whenever we hear someone spouting it. So get a clue, Ed.
There are dire portents for the future “laser-focusing” of a Labour government’s spending, as well.
Look at his ideas about attempts to get people into work. He said: “This government’s work programme can leave people… unemployed year after year after year,” leading one to believe that he’ll ditch the work programme and its useless money-grubbing private, for-profit ‘provider’ firms that have been leeching millions from us for years. Official figures have proved they are worse than useless.
Alas no. He went on to voice his support for the grievously damaging Atos-run assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance, claiming that this backdoor genocide policy “was the right thing to do. We continue to support tests” that kill 73 people per week, on average, according to official figures last year.
His problem with the Atos test was that it should be focused on helping to identify “the real skills of each disabled person and the opportunities they could take up” – completely missing the point about disability. Of course people who are off work with illness have skills, but they cannot use those skills because they are ill! It doesn’t take a genius to work out the sticking-point so he must be intentionally avoiding it.
And then, the killing blow: “So these tests should be connected to a work programme that itself is tested on its ability to get disabled people jobs that work for them.” He would re-employ the useless and wasteful ‘work programme provider’ firms, putting the final seal of hopelessness on the lives of people who thought they could rely on him for help.
Perhaps the worst betrayal in this whole sorry mess – and I’ve only scratched the surface here – is the fact that Miliband and Labour had the front to claim they were making tough decisions. There’s nothing tough about copying the hated policies of a hated and failed administration. There’s nothing tough about allowing their private-interest friends to continue bleeding the state of its cash, and there’s nothing tough about opening up more opportunities for them to strip us of whatever we have left.
Miliband and his team have proved they cannot take the tough decisions; that they are followers and not leaders. If they can’t – or won’t – step up and meet the challenge of our times – starting with a retraction and apology for yesterday’s speech – then they should make way for somebody who will.
And they should do it now, while there is still time to mount a credible opposition to David Cameron’s government of failures.
Postscript: One aspect of the speech I haven’t explored in detail relates to housing benefit, and the pledge to build more houses. Be warned: It seems this heralds another expensive and wasteful private finance initiative (PFI) adventure: “We would let [councils] keep some of the savings they make, on the condition that they invested that money in helping build new homes.” I have a feeling that those homes would fall into private hands at some point in the future – at huge cost to the taxpayer. Again.
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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