Tag Archives: exploit

Concern over exploitation as zero-hours contracts skyrocket

More people in the UK are being exploited by employers using zero-hours contracts, it has been revealed.

Is this an example of cruel employers having a last hurrah before a Labour government is elected to put a stop to it?

Labour has vowed to end zero-hours contracts.

The number of British workers on zero-hours contracts has jumped rapidly – rising to near-record levels in the last three months.

New figures showed unemployment had risen by 31,000 to 1.33 million in the last three months, the highest number since 2017.

And the number of workers in zero-hours contracts increased to 896,000 – up 15% from 791,000 a year ago.

It shows a return to the levels last seen in 2016, when concerns grew over people being exploited by uncertain work.

Source: Zero-hours contracts skyrocket to near record levels in new employment figures – Mirror Online

‘Help to Buy’ is helping the very rich. Did you think the Tories would do anything else?

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing – not forcing up the prices of what little there is.

It is astonishing that we have the Daily Mail to thank for this revelation (although This Writer had a feeling this is what was happening; I couldn’t find the information, though).

Not only is ‘Help to Buy’ pushing up house prices as the supply of homes diminishes, it is also helping the rich buy houses, rather than those who don’t have the funds to buy a first home – the people for whom the scheme was said to be intended.

It was planned this way, of course.

That’s why Philip Hammond is pumping another £10 billion into the scheme. It will push prices up well beyond your ability to buy, making it more accessible by the rich.

The rest of us will be at the mercy of private landlords, facing up to the forthcoming huge increase in social rents, or on the street – as intended.

Wealthy families are exploiting a £7billion government scheme aimed at first-time buyers.

Help to Buy doles out taxpayers’ money so househunters can secure a mortgage.

Almost 135,000 families have taken advantage since its launch in 2013. But four in ten recipients were earning more than £50,000 a year and one in ten was on at least £80,000.

More than 5,000 purchasers had six-figure incomes. Help to Buy has also been highly lucrative for builders and their bosses, accounting for a third of private sales of new homes.

Profits, share prices and executive bonuses have soared at firms including Barratt, Bellway and Taylor Wimpey. Jeff Fairburn, chief executive of Persimmon, where around half of sales are through Help to Buy, is in line for a £130million payout.

Academics said the scheme – given a £10billion further boost by Theresa May this week – was driving up house prices.

Source: Wealthy families exploit £7billion Help to Buy home scheme with 40% of recipients on more than £50k a year


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Burnham’s anti-welfare stance will lose him my vote

Will somebody from the Common Sense wing of the Labour Party please stand for the leadership?

Today The Guardian is reporting that leadership favourite Andy Burnham has decided to pander to big business rather than stand up for the common people.

He said he was prepared to support cuts to social security in order to counter claims that Labour gives scroungers an “easy ride”.

What stupidity!

He would do better to counter the claim that all political parties give an easy ride to lazy business bosses who exploit the working classes and hide their massive profits in tax havens – especially as he was making his speech at the HQ of tax avoidance tzars Ernst and Young.

The company, now branded EY, is one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms that have been helping the Tory Government rewrite tax law to make it possible for big business to use tax havens and avoid paying.

Regarding benefits, the simple fact is that the fraud rate is 0.7 per cent – a miniscule amount. People claiming benefits deserve to have them – especially as they have paid into the relevant fund for their whole lives; the money belongs to those people, not any government – Labour or Tory.

If Burnham really wanted to bring down the amount of benefit claims, he would have been telling businesses to buck up their ideas and start paying the living wage, rather than scrounging the rest of the money their employees need from the government.

He would have been telling landlords to start charging reasonable rents, rather than pushing them up and up and expecting the government to pay what tenants cannot afford in housing benefit.

And he would have been proposing a strategic remodelling of the system to prevent people falling into the kind of difficulties that force them to claim benefits – including a revamp of Health and Safety regulation to ensure that people do not fall prey to long-term illness caused by conditions at work.

Most important of all, he would be pledging to roll back the plan initiated by Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and the rest of them back in the 1970s, to impose poverty and insecurity on the working people.

This Writer doesn’t see him doing any of that.

Will somebody step forward who can actually do the job?

Labour leadership favourite Andy Burnham has indicated he would support further welfare cuts, including government plans for a £23,000 cap on benefits if it has adequate safeguards.

At a speech in London, the shadow health secretary said he wanted to counter the perception his party wants to give “an easy ride” to people who do not want to help themselves.

“Labour does need to win back those people who have that feeling about us,” he told business leaders at the headquarters of EY (previously Ernst & Young) on Friday. He added that the party would not be re-elected unless it showed people it was on the side of those who wanted to “get on” and succeed.

Source: Labour’s Andy Burnham suggests he might back further welfare cuts | Politics | The Guardian

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Labour’s answer to immigration – the best of bad choices?

[Image: BBC.]

[Image: BBC.]

Is anybody else in two minds about Labour’s newly-announced plan to increase the period of time before immigrants into the UK can claim benefits – from three months to six months?

Some commentators are bound to see it as Labour leaping on another right-wing bandwagon, restricting access to the country for people who can bring much-needed skills to our shores (more on this in a moment).

But our membership of the EU means people from other member states must be allowed to move into the UK if they wish to do so. Until recently that was not a problem – where was all the fuss about the French and German immigrants in the 1970s? There wasn’t any – because the member states’ economies all functioned at a similar level. That changed when the eastern European states were allowed in; they were not functioning on the same level and this meant migrating to the more developed countries became an attractive option for the impoverished people of those lands.

That’s when people started to think UKIP had a point. Whether rightly or not, they saw eastern Europeans coming here, taking British jobs or sitting on benefits, and even sending some of the money they made back to boost their home country rather than ours.

What’s the solution?

For the Labour Party, leaving the EU is not an option. Membership of the Union brings benefits that are important to this country at this time (at least in the opinion of Labour planners – your mileage may vary). It would be unreasonable to forbid people from moving into the UK after being offered a job here by a UK based employer. That leaves governments with only one lever to pull – one that restricts payment of state benefits to immigrants.

Realistically, that is the only option available in the current circumstances. The sensible solution would have been for the EU to reject countries’ bids for membership until their economies had reached a par with the rest of the union – but that didn’t happen. Now that these countries are in, the sensible option would be for the EU to work on bringing their economies up to scratch, in order to make emigration pointless; poorer members of those societies would be no better-off elsewhere.

On the issue of immigrants bringing skills to our shores – this seems to include very basic manual-labour skills like catering and cleaning, and the criticism has been levelled at the British that they just don’t want to get their hands dirty any more. This seems justifiable. If UK-based employers can’t fill the bottom-level jobs with members of the local population, what are they supposed to do? The jobs have to be done.

It wasn’t always like that; back in the 1980s, school leavers (or students on long holidays) used to pick up pocket money by stacking shelves in supermarkets, working in care homes (which could be extremely unpleasant, depending on the habits of the residents), in fish and chip shops, cleaning offices, in pubs… Yr Obdt Srvt used to work nights at a printing company, getting newspapers ready for distribution.

There seems to have been a failure in education, in socialisation or in remuneration. Do young people not have the skills to take even these entry-level jobs? Are they no longer being told that it is good to get a grounding in the workplace by taking these jobs? Or do they simply not pay enough to motivate people who are relatively comfortable, living with Mummy and Daddy and claiming benefits? The answer to the last issue isn’t to reduce benefits because people who don’t have such comforts would be unfairly penalised; it is to make work pay in fact, instead of only on Tory slogans.

So Labour would increase the delay between arriving in England and receiving benefits from three months to two years; would stop immigrants sending child benefit and child tax credit payments back to their home countries; and would “curb in-work benefits paid to EU migrants”, according to the BBC.

Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Rachel Reeves was quoted as saying: “”Child benefit and child tax credit are for children who live in this country, and we would stop it being sent abroad.” Who could argue with that? In-work benefits are “not supposed to support people from day one in this country” and can encourage employers to undercut wages, she added. Again, anything that discourages employers from pushing wages down is to be applauded.

The plan to withhold benefits for a longer period is supported by a European Court of Justice ruling that recently allowed similar changes to German laws. It is recognised that there is an abuse problem that must be addressed.

Other parties have their own plans on immigration. UKIP’s are well-known, and David Cameron has tried time and again to find a Conservative-style solution – most of which seemed to hinge on pretending he had made changes when in fact he hadn’t.

It seems likely that Labour’s plan will be lumped among these by the general public – and certainly by commentators with vested interests – as a right-wing bid to restrict people’s freedoms.

That’s a shame, when one considers an aspect of the plan that is unique to Labour – a demand for an “EU Migration Impact Fund”, paid by the European Union from within its existing budget, to help regions where immigration has increased the population by paying for increased school places, medical staff or housing.

You won’t get that with the Tories or UKIP! Why? Because their policies rely on telling you that the EU never gives anything back to the UK. Does anybody remember the flooding at the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year? David Cameron had the right to request EU cash – from a fund specifically set up to help in exactly those circumstances – and he let the deadline pass for political reasons, passing the burden onto the British people instead.

Further information on the thinking behind Labour’s plan may be found in this LabourList article by Karen Buck.

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Tories unleash flagship scheme ahead of conference – to abolish your rights!

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it - but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it – but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.

One has to marvel at the twisted logic of modern Conservatives; right before their last party conference in the run-up to the general election, they can normally be expected to be trying to bribe us all with tax cuts and benefits (maybe they will come later).

Instead they are promising to remove the safety net that keeps us free of exploitation by – what a surprise! – the Conservatives and their friends.

It’s not a new plan – Vox Political reported on the policy back in March last year, when Theresa May announced that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election. They aren’t saying anything different now.

Back then, she claimed it would be “in the national interest”, and now Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling is saying more or less the same thing, dressing it up as an attempt to return power to the UK.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Decisions like ‘do prisoners get the vote?’ or ‘can you send brutal murderers to prison for their whole lives?’ seem to be outside our control. I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.”

He did not mention all the other rights you are likely to lose if the Conservatives are allowed to get away with this.

The European Convention on Human Rights was co-drafted by the UK – in fact by the Conservatives’ greatest Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – just after World War II. It states that nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.

VP commented in March 2013 that “the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power”. Look at the Department for Work and Pensions’ work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, and the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of deaths related to it.

Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour, so removing it would give the Tories free hand to impose their Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes on us – despite the fact that these schemes are worse than useless at getting people into employment. The real reason for them is that they are a money-making scam to ensure the businesses involved support the Conservative Party.

Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, which is something Mr Grayling has been working hard to take away from you for a considerable period of time. It’s where you get the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time (the Coalition’s secret courts have removed this right already), and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is enshrined.

Article 8 provides a right to respect for another person’s “private and family life… home and… correspondence”. This has been violated, of course, by the Tory-led Coalition’s recent Surveillance Act.

Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, so removing it would allow the Tories to censor the Internet and remove blogs such as Vox Political, leaving only their own propaganda.

Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. Obviously the Tories would love to ban the unions, but removing this would allow them the ability to ban anti-government demonstrations and it is probably why Boris Johnson bought his water cannons.

The Human Rights Act 1998 (brought in by the Labour Party) is the UK legislation that makes the European Convention binding on this country, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is only appeals against the decisions of the British courts that go to Europe.

Grayling doesn’t like the idea of impartial foreigners ruling on whether his government’s politically-motivated human rights violations are legal.

That’s why he said; “I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.” He wants absolute power over you.

Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney-General who got the sack during the summer, described the Tory attack on human rights as “incoherent”. It is widely believed to be one of the reasons he got the push.

The Tories are also determined to tie this policy in with anti-European Union rhetoric, even though the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.

The Guardian‘s story on Grayling’s announcement includes a coda in which Savid Javid, our Sontaran* culture secretary, tried to reassure people that Britain could still prosper if it leaves the EU, despite the possible loss of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals (as reported in this blog previously).

But that’s another fact they’d rather you did not know. Misdirection is the only way forward for modern Conservatives.

Remember “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”?

*It’s a Doctor Who reference. Look up pictures of Javid and a Sontaran and you’ll spot the resemblance.

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Why wouldn’t Britain arm the Kurds? We’ve armed everybody else in the Middle East!

War profiteer: David Cameron loves selling weaponry to foreign countries. Only a couple of years ago he was flogging Typhoon jet fighters to Iraq's neighbours.

War profiteer: David Cameron loves selling weaponry to foreign countries. Only a couple of years ago he was flogging Typhoon jet fighters to Iraq’s neighbours.

It seems the latest Iraq conflict is all about the money.

According to the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, the UK would “consider favourably” any request for arms from the Kurds in their battle with the extremist militant group Islamic State.

How wonderful for them. Last time anyone asked them, it seemed all these people wanted to do was get out.

They didn’t say they wanted weapons – especially not those supplied at inevitably huge cost by British war profiteers. Maybe the UK is saying no decision will be made on whether to give weapons as gifts or sell them, but consider Britain’s own financial situation. Is this an opportunity to put the Kurds in debt to the British government? If so, how would it be paid? By allowing British industry into their country afterwards, to exploit their people?

That might be better than what IS has to offer, but let’s be honest – last time anyone asked them, it seemed all these people wanted to do was get out.

Mr Hammond has also said, “Iraq now needs to have an inclusive government representing all the people of Iraq so that we can get behind it and push back this terrible threat from IS,” so he doesn’t understand the situation at all.

Iraq was an artificial country from the get-go. Its borders were drawn up by Western world leaders who did not understand the political situation between the indigenous peoples (and didn’t care). It is falling apart now and, for the sake of the future, this is probably just as well. While the threat from IS needs to be remedied, let the borders rearrange themselves in a more sympathetic manner once the dust has settled, otherwise other problems will arise soon.

After all, last time anyone asked them, it seemed all the Kurds wanted to do was get out.

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Government’s ‘troubled families’ programme is failing; we knew it would

[Image: historyextra.com]

[Image: historyextra.com]

Remember back in April last year, when Vox Political said the Coalition government’s plan to stop children in ‘troubled’ families from playing truant, while finding work for the adults and stopping both from committing crime, was doomed to failure?

If you don’t, it’s not surprising (our readership back then was around a quarter of its current level) – and you haven’t missed much, because the scheme is back in the news as it is (again, unsurprisingly) failing.

The VP article pointed out that the government had been fiddling the figures in its bid to make it seem that 120,000 such families exist in the UK; in fact, “the number came from Labour research on disadvantaged families with multiple and complex needs, rather than families that caused problems,” according to ‘trouble families tsar’ Louise Casey at the time.

The article pointed out that local councils, offered a £4,000 bonus for each ‘troubled’ family they identified and helped (for want of a better word) were shoehorning families into the scheme – whether they qualified or not – just to make up the numbers.

It was doomed from the start.

So today we have figures obtained by Labour’s Hilary Benn, showing that around 106,500 families have been identified for the scheme (according to averages worked out from councils that responded to a Freedom of Information request). Of these, only around 35,500 were engaged by the scheme, which then failed in three-quarters of cases (around 26,600 families).

That leaves 8,878 families who actually came back to the straight-and-narrow – less than one-thirteenth of the target figure.

A success rate this low could have been achieved if the government had done nothing.

(That seems to be a running theme with the Coalition. What else does it remind us of? Ah, yes… The Work Programme. In this context it is extremely interesting that Mr Benn said the biggest obstruction to the scheme was the Work Programme’s failure “to deliver jobs to the poorest people in society”.)

According to The Guardian, “Data from 133 councils out of the 152 participating in the scheme found that almost one in seven families that had been “turned around” were either still on drugs, had children missing from school or involved in criminal acts.

“Another 60 per cent of households deemed to have been successfully helped by the scheme in March still had adults on unemployment benefits after leaving the programme.”

Bearing in mind the £4,000 ‘carrot’ that was waved in front of councils as encouragement for them to take part, you’ll enjoy the revelation that each local authority claimed to have found an average of 812 troubled families – 20 per cent more than central government had estimated.

Again, this is hardly surprising. Government-imposed council tax freezes have starved local authorities of money and £4,000, multiplied by 812, brings an average of £3,250,000 into each local authority that they would not, otherwise, have had.

So much for David Cameron’s plan to “heal the scars of the broken society”.

The Guardian also tells us that the ‘troubled families’ programme was launched by Cameron as a Big Society (remember that?) response to the riots of summer 2011.

In fact it doesn’t matter what the Coalition government does – or, indeed, what Labour plans to do if that party comes into office in 2015; schemes that are imposed on people from above will never succeed.

The problem is that the United Kingdom has become an increasingly unequal society, with money and privilege bled out of the majority of the population (who do most of the work for it) and into the hands of a very small number who have power and – it seems – no responsibility at all.

The vast majority of us are seen as disposable commodities by these exploiters – whose number includes a large proportion of MPs with interests in private business; they use us to make their huge profits and then throw us into unemployment.

Is it any wonder that such betrayal breeds families that turn away from the system and take to crime instead?

When David Cameron slithered into Downing Street he said he wanted to “re-balance” society. In fact, he over-balanced it even more in favour of privilege and wealth.

Now we need a proper re-balancing of society. The only way to solve the problem of ‘troubled families’ – a problem said to cost us £9 billion every year, by the way – is for people to be born into a society where everybody is valued and receives a fair (in the dictionary sense of the term, rather than the Conservative Party definition) reward for their contribution.

That will mean a fundamental shift in attitudes that should be taught to everybody from the cradle upwards.

You won’t get it under the Conservatives or any other right-wing government because they are exploiters by definition.

Will you get it under Labour?

Possibly. But a lot of right-wing Blairite dead wood will have to be cleared out first, and Hilary Benn is not the man his father was.

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Tory policy on ‘zero hours’: Beggars can’t be choosers

140507choice

Isn’t it nice to see some clear blue water emerge between the main political parties on an important issue?

Less than two weeks after Ed Miliband announced that he would tackle the “epidemic” of zero-hours contracts if Labour wins the next general election, the Conservatives have confirmed that Universal Credit – if they can ever get it working – will force jobseekers into those very contracts.

Labour said workers on zero-hours contracts should not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours; be free to work for other employers; have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice; have ‘clarity’ from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions; have the right to request a contract with a ‘minimum amount of work’ after six months, that could only be refused if employers could prove their business could not operate any other way; and have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with the same employer.

At the time, the Tories said the number of zero-hours contracts had increased under the last Labour government, which had done nothing about it.

This tired excuse has been trotted out far too many times to be taken seriously any more, but it may have led some members of the public to believe that the Tories were distancing themselves from zero-hours contracts as well. They are, after all, supposed to be The Party of More Choice. Perhaps they are, themselves, less than keen on this kind of exploitation.

Not a bit of it!

The Guardian revealed yesterday that conditions will be imposed on the receipt of Universal Credit, meaning that – for the first time ever – jobseekers could lose their benefits if they refuse to take zero-hour jobs – for three months or longer.

Currently, people on Jobseekers’ Allowance are able to refuse such jobs without facing penalties.

The policy change was revealed in a letter from employment minister Esther McVey to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore. She said Job Centre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts” – basically forcing them to accept this kind of exploitation by employers.

The DWP has also stated: “We expect claimants to do all they reasonably can to look for and move into paid work. If a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied.”

The message from the Conservatives – the Party of More Choice – is clear: Beggars can’t be choosers.

Their chums on the boards of big businesses want more profits, and know the way to get it – employ people on low pay and with no employee benefits. Zero-hours contracts mean you can be made to work fewer hours than you need in order for employers to have to pay National Insurance credits for you. You don’t get sick pay; holiday pay; or a pension. And you’ll probably still be on benefits, meaning the work that you do is subsidised by other hardworking taxpayers, most of whom earn only a little more than you do.

It’s a racket – as bad as workfare/mandatory work activity/the work programme/whatever-they’re-calling-it-today, in which taxpayers subsidise work carried out by jobseekers for participating employers, hugely boosting those firms’ profits while ensuring that the number of people without proper, paid jobs remains high.

Their attitude is that, if you don’t have a job, you are a beggar.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

So they’ll choose what you do, and they – or their boardroom chums – will benefit from it.

If you are a working taxpayer, think about this before casting your vote later this month – and especially before you do so in May 2015: A vote for the Conservative Party means more of your fellow citizens will be prevented from getting proper jobs and becoming contributing members of society by the greedy – and idle – rich.

A vote for the Conservative Party means more of your tax money going to subsidise fat business board members who already have more money than they can ever use.

A vote for the Conservative Party means a better life for them and their friends – and a poorer life for you.

You’d have to be mad to choose that.

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Marcus Brigstocke v the Government – has he been reading Vox Political?

This is the first pic I could find of Marcus Brigstocke, as he might have looked while delivering the piece quoted below. He's a known beardie so he probably had face-fuzz as well.

This is the first pic I could find of Marcus Brigstocke, as he might have looked while delivering the piece quoted below. He’s a known beardie so he probably had face-fuzz as well.

What a rare and pleasant thing we’ve enjoyed for the last few days – a Bank Holiday weekend with good weather! And isn’t it a shame that this means most of you will have been out, and therefore missed Marcus Brigstocke’s turn on The Now Show.

Here’s a guy who knows how to take the government apart; it seemed as though he’d been reading Vox Political for the last few months because he touched on some of our favourite subjects:

1. The economy

He led with the 0.8 per cent increase in economic growth, mocking the government’s celebratory tone with impressions of how ordinary people took the news, up and down the country (some of the accents were beyond belief).

“Well done, George Osborne,” said Marcus, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You have proved your theory right, using the Grand Theft Auto model. You have successfully shown that the poor really are like video game prostitutes – if you kick them hard enough, eventually money will come flying out of them.”

Doesn’t this fit nicely with what this blog has been saying about the economy being dependent entirely on the movement of poor people’s money? Those with less spend all – or almost all – of their income and it is this money, being pushed around the system, that boosts profits and keeps Britain going.

He continued: “I know that the state of the economy matters but for the vast majority of people it is as mysterious and cryptic as the shipping forecast… What makes a difference to people is not zero-point-eight-per-cent growth; it’s actual wages and the cost of living.

“The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) showed this week that the average worker is £2,000 worse-off since the financial crisis hit,” another common theme here on VP, except in fact it’s £2K per year worse-off. Let’s do a quick shout-out to Jonathan Portes, NIESR’s director, whose Tweets are well worth a read: @jdportes

“I say, ‘hit’. That makes it sound like the crisis swerved towards us. The reality is, the average worker is £2,000 worse-off since the financial sector arrogantly, and with galactic, hubristic stupidity, drove the economy off a cliff, yelling, ‘Does this mean I still get my bonus?’ Of course you’ll still get your bonus. Otherwise you’d leave the country and [chuckling] nobody wants that.” [Laughter from the audience – we’re all in on that joke.]

2. Employment

“More people are in work now; good. But why do employers talk like they deserve a sainthood when they have people working for them? Your company does a thing; you need workers to facilitate the doing of that thing. The workers work, and the thing is done – am I missing something here? Do you feel you need a medal?”

2a. Zero-hours contracts

“One-point-four million British workers are having to scrape a living together from cynical, ruthless, exploitative employers using zero-hours contracts. Value your employees – they are not battery workers; they are people… One in five UK workers earns less than the Living Wage.”

At this point the narrative switches to a spoof advert: “At GreatBigFacelessBastardCorp we care so little about what we do, we pay our workers the minimum wage allowed under the law! That way we can pass on their listlessness and overwhelming sense of defeated apathy to you, the customer! GreatBigFacelessBastardCorp – crushing dreams so you don’t have to!”

This relates to an argument that Vox Political has been having with Tory-supporting businesspeople for years, going back to the earliest days of the blog. Back in January 2012, I wrote False economies that leave the business books unbalanced in which I stated:

It seems to me that many employees are finding life extremely difficult now, because the amount they are paid does not cover all their outgoings and they are having to work out what they can do without. The cost of living has risen more sharply than their pay, so they are out of pocket.

This creates stress, which can create illness, which could take them out of work and turn them into a liability to the economy – as they would then be claiming benefits.

That’s bad – not only for the country but also for their company, because demoralised employees produce poor work and the company’s turnover will decrease; having to bring in and train up new workers to replace those who are leaving through ill health is time-consuming and unproductive.

Therefore, in taking the money for themselves, rather than sharing it with employees, bosses are clearly harming their own companies and the economy.

In fact, it seems to me that this is a microcosm of the larger, national economy. In order to keep more money, bosses (and the government) pay less (in the government’s case, to pay off the national deficit). This means less work gets done, and is of poorer quality (in both cases). So orders fall off and firms have to make more cutbacks (or, revenue decreases so the government makes more cutbacks in order to keep up its debt payments).

[This seems to have been borne out by subsequent events. More people are employed than ever before, according to the government, yet GDP has improved by only a fraction of one per cent in the last quarter. By rights, it should be about 20 percentage points higher than the pre-crisis peak by now, according to some analysts.]

The message to bosses – and the government – is clear: Cutting back investment in people to keep money for yourselves will cripple your earning ability. Cutting even more to make up for what you lose will put you into a death spiral. You are trying to dig your way out of your own graves.

But there is an alternative.

A reasonable pay increase to employees would ensure they can pay their bills, and would also keep them happy.

Happy workers produce better results.

Better results keep businesses afloat and earn extra work for them.

That in turn creates more revenue, making it possible for bosses not only to increase their own pay but employ more people as well.

Wouldn’t that be better for everybody?

Well, wouldn’t it?

3. Welfare lies

“Young workers are amongst the hardest-hit by the downturn, with pay falling by 14 per cent between 2008 and 2013. Well done, everybody! We pay far more from the welfare budget supporting incomes for people in work than we do for those out of a job.

“The government keep on crowing about the number of people they have in work … most of them are not so much in work as near some work, if only they were allowed to do any.

“If you’re on the minimum wage, kept on a zero-hours contract between 7am and 7pm so you can’t work for anyone else but rack up a grand total of – ooh! – just enough hours so your employer doesn’t have to pay your National Insurance [another VP theme], you get no training, no employee benefits, no hope of any promotion and you hear ‘IDS’ banging on about how he’s ‘the saviour of benefits street’, well, if you can still afford a shoe then please throw it at the radio or through the telly or at his actual face.” This is a reference to sabotage, in which workers threw their crude shoes – or ‘sabots’ into machinery to stop it working, in protest against their working conditions and developments that were endangering their jobs.

“Low pay means higher staff turnover, high absenteeism, poor morale and lower productivity.” That’s exactly as I stated in the VP article from 2012.

4. In conclusion

“I don’t know when money started making money faster than people but… It’s not helping,” said Marcus, truthfully. “So instead of running about with your shirt over your head doing ‘airplane arms’, shouting ‘Nought-point-eight-per-cent’… do something to get the people who actually work to be rewarded, recognised and remunerated for what they do.

“It’s not rocket science and, frankly, if it is, I sincerely hope they’re not on minimum wage.”

When I heard that piece, I very nearly stood up to applaud. If you want to hear it yourself (and I’ve left out enough of it to make it worthwhile, I promise you), it’s available for download here, and starts around eight and a half minutes in.

Actually, it would be better if Marcus hasn’t been reading this blog, because then he would have drawn the same conclusions, from the same evidence, thereby reinforcing my own reasoning.

Now, let’s have your opinions, please. I’ll be very interested to hear from supporters of the current “pay-’em-the-bare-minimum” policy as they almost invariably say things like “We can’t pay them any more” – it’s never “They have good reasons that mean they can’t pay us more”.

Interesting, that.

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Britain’s starvation crisis won’t bother our new millionaires at all

Britain's shame: The front page of yesterday's Daily Mirror.

Britain’s shame: The front page of yesterday’s Daily Mirror.

So the United Kingdom now houses more millionaires than ever before – but at the huge cost of forcing hundreds of thousands of people to seek help from food banks or starve.

This is David Cameron’s gamble: That enough people will profit from the misery of the huge underclass he has created to vote him back into office in 2015, to continue his attack on anybody who takes home less than £100,000 pay per year.

Are you really that selfish?

Do you think this is any way for a civilised, First-World society to order itself?

No – it’s more like the description of the Third World that became prevalent towards the end of the 1960s: A country with low economic development, low life expectancy, high rates of poverty, and rampant disease. They are also countries where a wealthy ruling class is free to exploit the population at large who, without money or force of arms, are powerless to stop them.

Let’s see now… The UK definitely has low economic development. Neoliberal governments since 1979 have decimated our industrial base and the so-called recovery we are currently enjoying has yet to show any worthwhile results, despite the dubious rises in employment and wages that are making headlines this week.

Low life expectancy? Yes, we have that. People in lower-class residential areas are expected to live only a few years into their retirement, if they make it that far, while those in rich areas may continue into their late eighties. Sharp readers will recognise that, although we all pay the same amount into the state pension, the rich get more from it as they live long enough to receive larger amounts.

High rates of poverty? According to the Trussell Trust, the number of food parcels it handed out per year tripled from 346,992 in 2012 to 913,138 last year, with 330,205 going to children. Another 182,000 were provided by 45 independent food banks. The government says poverty is falling but bases its figures on a proportion of the median wage, which has been dropping for the last six years. This means government claims that worker wages are rising must also be lies.

Rampant disease? Perhaps we should not go as far as to suggest this is happening – but the British Isles have witnessed the return of diseases long-thought banished from these shores, like Rickets and Scarlet Fever, along with an increase in Tuberculosis. These are all poverty-related, as they are caused by malnourishment. You can thank your Tory government for forcing so many people out of work and diverting so much NHS funding into privatisation.

As for a wealthy working class exploiting the population – the evidence is all around us.

Look at the reasons people are being driven to food banks, according to the Daily Mirror article from which I quoted the food bank figures: “Benefits cuts and delays, the rising cost of living and pay freezes are forcing more and more people into food banks, experts have long warned.” All of these are the result of Tory government policy.

The government is, of course, unrepentant. I had the misfortune to see Treasury minister David Gauke – who found infamy when he signed off on huge “sweetheart deals” letting multinational firms off paying billions of pounds of income tax they owed us – saying he was not ashamed of the huge food bank uptake. He said they were doing a valuable job and he was glad that the government was signposting people to them. Nobody seemed to want to ask him: In the country with the world’s sixth-largest economy, why are food banks needed at all?

Of course, I’m not likely to persuade anyone to change their political allegiance over this. You all know where I stand and, besides, this blog is simply not big enough to make a difference.

So I’ll leave you with the words of someone who is far more popular: Eddie Izzard, writing in (again) the Mirror:

“A million food parcels. How did our Britain get to be so hungry? Our country, where even after the Second World War, we still had the ambition to feed our poorest people and build a better country.

“This government said it wanted to reform the British welfare system. Instead, it has broken it. The proof is here in the desperate families who have had to turn to their GP, not for medicine, but for vouchers to be able to eat.

“Instead of supporting the most vulnerable people in Britain during the recession this government has hit them with a wave of cruel cuts and punishments – sanctions, Bedroom Tax, welfare cuts.

“The zero hours economy it champions is not enough to put food on tables. It’s done nothing to tackle food and fuel costs.

“No wonder that today, 600 faith leaders, dozens of charities and 40 bishops are telling David Cameron he is failing the country’s poorest people.”

Perhaps you are not affected, like all those new millionaires on whom the Tories are relying. Do you think that makes it all right for this to be happening here?

You can use your vote to share your opinion.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Vox Political deplores poverty because we live in its shadow.
T
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