Tag Archives: Free Enterprise Group

No need for Ballsbornism, or: Who’s afraid of the big bad spending review?

Don't be complacent: It may seem as though the Coalition government that has blighted the UK for the past three years is marching willingly to its own demise - but that is by no means certain. We must all be vigilant against the apathy that allows them to spread their poisonous views and convince impressionable people that they are speaking common sense ideas that are held by the majority.

Don’t be complacent: It may seem as though the Coalition government that has blighted the UK for the past three years is marching willingly to its own demise – but that is by no means certain. We must all be vigilant against the apathy that allows them to spread their poisonous views and convince impressionable people that they are speaking common sense ideas that are held by the majority, when we all know that this is a falsehood.

I’m not!

So Gideon George Osborne is announcing £11.5 billion of cuts to be implemented from April 2015 to the end of March 2016 – so what? There will be a general election the following month and he would be delusional if he thinks his party will win.

Ed Balls has said Labour would match the Coalition’s spending totals for that financial year, but we should not be fooled into believing this means Labour would make exactly the same choices as a Conservative or Conservative-led government. It won’t.

For example, Coalition welfare reform policies currently cost us all £19 billion per year. That’s right – it costs us money to knock all those poor, sick and disabled people off-benefit, because we pay private companies to carry out the government’s dirty work. Not only are they doing a very poor job, but they are also charging us a fortune for it.

Ed Balls could cancel the lot and, working with a decent Labour Work and Pensions secretary (not Liam Byrne), install a new system aimed at the causes of unemployment, sickness and disability, and still pay less than the current government.

You see, Tories aren’t really about saving money for the taxpayer. They’re about making poor people pay taxes to support rich people who don’t need them.

That’s just one – extremely oversimplified – example of why I don’t think we have to live in a country dominated by ‘Ballsbornism’, even though I coined the expression earlier today in a response to a comment.

‘Ballsbornism’ implies a consensus economic policy, much like the ‘Butskellism’ of the 1950s that married the ideas of Tory Rab Butler and Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell, and recent announcements by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have stirred up fears that the Labour front bench has capitulated to the Tory economic viewpoint.

This blog has been part of that, and I make no apology for it. Like all political movements, Labour must be made to see that it cannot take the easy way out. People’s lives – no, I’m not making this up – depend on their decisions and those lives will be on their conscience if they cock up the system (as Osborne has been doing) or make lazy decisions.

The Tory-led Coalition likes to say its policies on benefits “encourage” people to sign off (and goes on to suggest that they then get jobs, although the evidence is overwhelmingly that they end up with no form of income at all); if we want better for our future, then the people of this country must similarly “encourage” Labour into policies that will genuinely improve our situation.

I have outlined my opinion of what those policies should be, in a previous article, so need not rehash them here.

And let’s remind ourselves of the absolute lunacy that could be foisted on us if the Conservatives come back into power: Tory backbencher Peter Bone, alongside similar-minded nutters, has compiled an alternative Queen’s Speech (or is it an alternative to the alternative, as Labour already produced one?).

This suggests restoring the death penalty for criminals (we all know this leads to injustice); privatising the BBC (more money for rich Tories who don’t deserve it, along with a diminished and politically-biased national broadcasting service), abolishing human rights legislation (to the huge detriment of all citizens and working people who rely on it, as discussed many times on this blog), and renaming the August Bank Holiday as ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’ (an insult to everybody whose lives were blighted by her policies).

Bone, whose bizarre pronouncements create semi-regular moments of comedy during Prime Minister’s Questions, told the BBC he was “putting forward Conservative policies” that would be “very helpful” to David Cameron.

This is an elected Conservative member of Parliament, remember – one of several who have drafted these proposals. And let’s not forget the Free Enterprise group of Tory right-wingers, whose book Britannia Unchained suggests (wrongly) that British workers are among the laziest in the world, and anyone unemployed for more than six months should do 30 hours’ community service and lose 10 per cent of their benefits, as if being forced out of work by (Tory) employers was a crime!

So let Osborne have his moment, when he announces his review on Wednesday. Then reflect on where you’ll be putting your vote in 2015 and enjoy the prospect that he will have wasted his breath.

Coming soon: criminal sentences for the long-term unemployed?

Jobless criminal: Proposals by the Tory Free Enterprise group would put the clock back to the 16th century, when joblessness was a criminal offence.

According to the Telegraph, that outstanding group of backwards-thinking Tories, the Free Enterprise group, has come up with a new way of turning back time to the Middle Ages.

The group, some of whose luminaries were responsible for the stain on literature known as Britannia Unchained, believe those out of work for more than a year should have their benefits docked by 20 per cent.

Anyone unemployed for more than six months should do 30 hours’ community service and lose 10 per cent of their benefits, they reckon.

Britannia Unchained, you will recall, wrongly suggests that workers in the UK are among the laziest in the world.

Magistrates regularly dish out community service orders to people who have been convicted of criminal offences that may be punishable by imprisonment. These orders are for work totalling not less than 40 hours. I suppose the Free Enterprise zealots think they have cleverly avoided comparisons by limiting their suggestion to 30 hours, but if a person is unemployed for more than a year, under their proposal, they would have to do 60 hours’ unpaid work in the community – well within the amount for criminal offences.

Taking away 20 per cent of a person’s income has never been within a magistrate’s – or a judge’s – powers as fines have always been specific amounts. I would imagine that a judge would consider such a sentence to be an overly cruel and unusual punishment.

The whole proposal is reminiscent of the days – perhaps the Free Enterprisers consider them ‘good old days’ – when unemployment was considered a crime, along with vagrancy. Perhaps we should be happy they don’t want to reintroduce the death penalty for it!

That is exactly what unemployment used to attract. From 1536, the law allowed vagabonds and the jobless to be whipped and hanged. In 1547, a bill was passed that subjected vagrants to some of the more extreme provisions of the criminal law, namely two years servitude and branding with a “V” as the penalty for the first offense and death for the second. During the reign of Henry VIII, as many as 72,000 people are estimated to have been executed.

He was on the throne for a fair amount of time, so he’d probably be impressed by the death toll already racked up by this government among the sick and disabled.

Chris Skidmore, Conservative MP for Kingswood, who part-wrote the report, tried to make it look respectable by saying, “Now is the time for the Conservative party to be brave. We need bold thinking and ideas that reflect the fact that we are the party that believes people should have the freedom to make the decisions about the things that affect them.”

Which people? Not unemployed people, I take it. People like you, Chris?

We know the welfare budget is going to be hit again by the Coalition government – these idiots simply don’t have any other ideas. Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron told Andrew Marr his party would “level” with the public about the need for another £16 billion of spending cuts in 2015-16.

“We have to find these spending reductions and if we want to avoid cuts in things like hospitals and schools, services that we all rely on, we have to look at things like the welfare budget,” he said.

So the Free Enterprise group’s foolishness might soon become government policy.

And don’t be fooled by Cameron’s comments about hospitals and schools. When he says these are services “we all rely on”, he means that he and his cronies are relying on turning them into cash cows from which they can all profit. The hospitals are already being sold off piecemeal to private firms that Tory ministers partly own.

The REAL reason Cameron won’t sack Mitchell

“If you get 100 points for shooting one policewoman and 200 points for shooting two policewomen, how many do you get for shooting a lawyer?”

With these words, Derbyshire Conservative councillor David Stephenson signed his political career’s death warrant.

It was clear that he was referring to the deaths of PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Tameside, and for Stephenson it was a sick joke too far.

But he would have got away with it if it had not been heard by the wife of serving police sergeant Jason Farrar, who telephoned the councillor to complain and was told to “go away, you silly man”.

In response, the officer contacted Derbyshire police federation, MP Jessica Lee and Erewash Borough Council leader Chris Corbett, who immediately removed Stephenson from the council executive and from the list of approved Conservative candidates, so he will not be allowed to stand for re-election as a Conservative.

That’s a bit different from what happened with Andrew Mitchell, isn’t it?

But just take a look at the Conservative Party’s record, and you’ll see that Stephenson is the exception that proves the rule.

We all know about Mitchell’s comments now – in fact, thanks to some of our renowned national newspapers, we can all read the police officer’s report. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he told the constable to “learn your place” and called him a “pleb”.

But he was only continuing a tradition of insulting the common citizenry of this nation that has been alive and well throughout this Parliament.

Only last month we heard about the new book Britannia Unchained, by right-wingers Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs. In it, they argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”. Britannia Unchained? It seems more likely that they want to chain us to our work-stations!

And what about Philip Davies, the Tory MP who said the disabled should be “allowed” to work for half the minimum wage?

Compassionate Conservatism!

Too many voters were misled by that lie in the run-up to the 2010 election, but then, it’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled (according to Mark Twain). It’s time for us all to admit that there’s no such thing as compassionate Conservatism.

We all need to accept that Mr Mitchell’s remarks to the Downing Street policeman are representative of the way the majority of Conservatives see the British population.

David Cameron cannot sack Andrew Mitchell because, if he does, he’ll have to sack half his party membership.

Britain’s worst idlers – the MPs who wrote Britannia Unchained

I have been saddened to learn of two events that will take place in the near future: The death of The Dandy, and the publication of Britannia Unchained.

The first needs little introduction to British readers; it’s the UK’s longest-running children’s humour comic, which will cease publication (in print form) towards the end of this year, on its 75th anniversary. The second appears to be an odious political tract scribbled by a cabal of ambitious right-wing Tory MPs, desperate to make a name for themselves by tarring British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

The connection? Even at the end of its life, there is better and more useful information in The Dandy than there will be in Britannia Unchained.

The book’s authors, Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs, argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

They say the UK needs to reward a culture of “graft, risk and effort” and “stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness”.

Strong words – undermined completely by the authors’ own record of attendance at their place of work.

Chris Skidmore’s Parliamentary attendance record is just 88.1 per cent – and he’s the most diligent of the five. Kwasi Kwarteng weighs in at 87.6 per cent; Elizabeth Truss at 85.3 per cent; and Priti Patel at 81.8 per cent. Dominic Raab is the laziest of the lot, with Parliamentary attendance of just 79.1 per cent.

To put that in perspective, if I took more than a week’s sick leave per year from my last workplace, I would have been hauled up before the boss and serious questions asked about my future at the company. That’s a 97.9 per cent minimum requirement. Who are these slackers to tell me, or anyone else who does real work, that we are lazy?

Some have already suggested that these evil-minded hypocrites are just taking cheap shots at others, to make themselves look good for promotion in an autumn reshuffle. Maybe this is true, although David Cameron would be very unwise to do anything but distance himself from them and their dangerous ideas.

I think this is an attempt to deflect attention away from the way the Tory-led government has mismanaged the economy, and from its murderous treatment of the sick and disabled. As one commentator put it: “They get a token Asian, a token African, a token Jew, mix in the middle class/grammar school rubbish propaganda, and suddenly they are just ordinary people? No they are not; they are stooges for the ruling elite.”

Britain doesn’t reward laziness among its working class. What it rewards is failure by managers, directors of industry, financiers. These people continually increase their salaries and other remuneration while their share prices fall, their dividend payments are lacklustre and shareholder value is destroyed. What have they given shareholders over the past 10 years? How many industrial or commercial leaders have walked off with millions, leaving behind companies that were struggling, if not collapsing? Does the criticism in Britannia Unchained apply to senior executives and bankers?

Our MPs are as much to blame as big business. They vote themselves generous pay, pensions and extended vacations (five months per year). They never start work before 11am, never work weekends (or most Fridays, when they are supposed to be in their constituencies, if I recall correctly). They enjoy fringe benefits including subsidised bars, restaurants and gyms. They take part-time directorships in large companies which take up time they should be using to serve the public. Only a few years ago we discovered that large numbers of them were cheating on their expense claims. They take more than £32,000 in “Resettlement Grant” if we kick them out after one term – which, in my opinion, means all five authors of Britannia Unchained should be applying for it in 2015.

These are the people who most strongly represent the ‘something-for-nothing’ sense of entitlement the book decries.

Have any of them ever worked in a factory or carried out manual labour? I’ll answer that for you: With the exception of Elizabeth Truss, who did a few years as a management accountant at Shell/Cable and Wireless, none of them have ever done anything that could be called real work.

In fact, the people they accuse work very long hours – especially the self-employed. When I ran my own news website, I was busy for 12-14 hours a day (much to the distress of my girlfriend). Employees also work long hours, get less annual leave, earn less and pay more – in prices for consumer goods, taxes and hidden taxes – than most of Europe. Average monthly pay rates have now dropped so low that they are failing to cover workers’ costs, leading to borrowing and debt.

Are British workers really among the laziest in the world? Accurate information is hard to find but it seems likely we’re around 24th on the world league table. On a planet with more than 200 sovereign nations (204 attended the London Olympics), that’s not too shabby at all.

Interestingly, the European workers clocking on for the fewest hours are German. Those lazy Teutons! How dare they work so little and still have the powerhouse economy of the continent?

If so many are reluctant to get up in the morning, why are the morning commuter trains standing room only? Or have the Britannia Unchained crowd never used this form of travel?

It seems to me that Britannia Unchained is just another attempt by the Tory right to make us work harder for less pay. The Coalition is currently cutting the public sector and benefits to the bone, while failing to introduce policies that create useful employment, and trying to boost private sector jobs. The private sector has cut wages and pensions. The result is higher unemployment and benefits that cannot sustain living costs, creating a working-age population desperate for any kind of employment at all (even at the too-low wages already discussed).

And let’s remember that Conservatives want to remove employment laws to make it easier to dismiss employees. In other words, they want a workforce that will toil for a pittance, under threat of swift dismissal and the loss of what little they have.

Why do they think this will improve the UK’s performance?

We already work longer hours and have less protective legislation than in Europe (such as the European Time Directive). But we are less productive in terms of GDP than their French and German counterparts, who work fewer hours and are protected by the likes of the ETD.

France is more unionised than we are, yet its production per employee is higher.

The problem is poor management and bad leadership. Poor productivity is almost always due to poor investment and poor training. Workers are abused when they should be treated as an investment. They lose motivation and when managers get their decisions wrong, they blame the workers.

Working class people are sick of grafting for low pay and in poor working conditions, to be exploited by the types of people represented by the authors of Britannia Unchained.

Is it any wonder we feel de-motivated?

I started this article by linking The Dandy to Britannia Unchained, noting that one was coming to the end of its life in print while the other was about to be published for the first time. I’ll end by pointing out a quality they have in common.

The Dandy is closing because it represents ideas that are now tired and out-of-date. Britannia Unchained should never see publication – for the same reason.