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I await with resignation what I expect will be a sorry lack of support for George Soros from those who claim to stand up against anti-Semitism in the UK.
Our good friends in the Campaign Against Antisemitism, for example, have failed to condemn the Torygraph‘s anti-Semitic article. Apparently co-author Nick Timothy is a friend of the organisation (besides being a former chief advisor to Conservative prime minister Theresa May), by its own admission.
Is that why the lie that Mr Soros is covertly funding pro-EU groups (he declares all such payments) is allowed to go unchallenged? It very clearly presents that classic anti-Semitic trope, of an international conspiracy by rich Jews who are secretly running the world.
And now I wonder if I’ll be accused of the same offence, just for mentioning it. After all, I was accused of it after responding in good faith to a commenter’s query about another version of it. It seems that, for some campaigners, anti-Semitism is in the eye of the beholder.
Mr Soros is on record as a critic of Israel’s government and those of its policies which his Open Society Foundation describes as “racist and undemocratic”. He has funded groups which support the BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement against the Israeli government. And he has warned that Israeli policies may be stoking anti-Semitism indirectly, in that attitudes towards Israel are shaped by the way people perceive the behaviour of a country that is determined to be synonymous with the Jewish people.
And he admits that his own success contributes to that attitude as, he says, the new anti-Semitism holds that Jews rule the world.
This is what the Torygraph article implies – that Mr Soros, a Jew, is using his vast wealth to covertly influence world affairs.
It seems, to This Writer, that he won’t have any help fighting that smear from those who claim to stand against anti-Semitism, or their supporters…
Because they don’t like his politics.
George Soros isn’t a universally-known name in the UK. But in the US, he is the bogeyman of the far right. Trump supporters and right wingers claim the Jewish billionaire is lurking sinisterly behind every liberal campaign and media outlet going.
Now, the antisemitic flu has crossed the Atlantic. Because on Thursday 8 February, The Telegraph newspaper published [the story in the image above].
In reality, Soros has provided financial support to pro-EU groups openly.
So, The Telegraph article is wrong. But what makes it antisemitic? Put simply, it promotes the long-running antisemitic conspiracy theory that rich Jews run the world.
Thomas’s Battersea is considered a feeder school for public schools like Eton, Westminster and Marlborough [Image: BBC].
Days after we learned that his parents are expecting their third child – one more than other benefit claimants are allowed – Prince George, son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has gone to school for the first time.
His education at Thomas’s Battersea will cost us – you and me – £18,000 a year.
That’s nearly 17 times the amount of child benefit available for an older child.
And, of course, nobody is allowed child benefit for a third child unless they can satisfy the so-called ‘rape clause’ in the benefit regulations. The Royals get out of this because they are provided a separate benefit by virtue of being on the Civil List.
This Writer is not a republican; I think the Royals are a valuable part of the UK’s character and good for the economy.
But it isn’t right that they are immune to the ravages of austerity. Why should they have access to apparently-unlimited supplies of money while the rest of us suffer?
What about the future? Thomas’s Battersea is a feeder school for places like Eton, which are more expensive.
And will Prince George have any university education paid for him by the rest of us? Of course he will.
Of course, the British public is having its say:
Great to see Prince George rewriting history, while others die from starvation just round the corner, becoming the 1st child to go to school
Bearing in mind what one of those circumstances is, can you imagine the scandal if any government employee asked the relevant question before handing over the Cambridges’ share of our money?
The only difference between these people and Child Benefit claimants is an accident of birth – the Duke of Cambridge was born into a family that, as Tony Benn once described it, stole lots of land, claimed fancy titles and surrounded themselves with weak-minded followers.
Yet because of that, his wife can hold her hand out for as much of (our) cash as she wants – while other young mums have to suffer the indignity of being asked to satisfy the demands of the rape clause.
“The contrast lays bare the fundamentals of reproductive injustice: the fact that class, wealth and race control which groups are considered worthy of the privilege of reproduction. Underpinning this is the lie that the wealthy are self-sufficient, whereas the poor upon whose work they depend are parasites. We know this is not true.”
Perhaps the parasites who were the centre of media attention today should think carefully about contraception in the future.
Oh. By the way, I’m not a republican. I simply think the Royal Family have a duty to understand the harsh conditions under which most of us are living and behave in a responsible way – rather than rubbing our noses in the difference between their style of benefit conditionality and ours.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child, Kensington Palace has announced.
The Queen and both families are said to be “delighted with the news”.
What hope would the UK have if THIS man continues as Chancellor of the Exchequer after the general election?
George Osborne will deliver his final budget of the current Parliament on Wednesday and – if it proves to be the last he ever gives – it won’t be a moment too soon.
Ever since his ’emergency’ budget of 2010, which ended the economic growth created by Labour’s Alistair Darling and ushered in three years of economic flatlining, we have had to endure an unending stream of nonsense from this chancer-among-chancellors, this most mini-among-ministers, this least-treasured Treasurer.
Today we heard that he is again attempting to bribe pensioners into voting Conservative, with a plan that encourages them to take out their defined contribution pension annuities for a lump sum – which, it seems likely, will then be used up in short order, leaving the pensioner to fall on the mercy of the state.
It seems to be more short-termism – getting senior citizens to spend, in order to create a minor boost to economic activity now, while storing up problems for the future.
Osborne says no, and told the BBC that it was “patronising” to suggest people might blow the money on an expensive sports car, then come back for more when they ran out of cash.
This is from the Chancellor who, prior to the financial crash, told Gordon Brown repeatedly that bankers could be trusted to run their businesses unregulated; and who, once in government, based his entire economic strategy on a theory that has since been comprehensively trashed.
The Guardian has listed a few more claims that Osborne might make in his Budget speech, along with the counter-arguments. We shan’t bother with the arguments in support of him here – let’s skip to the good parts. Here are the claims – and their debunkings:
The Government’s plan is working – Deficit reduction has been much slower than Osborne forecast five years ago. In his first budget, in June 2010, the chancellor predicted that he would need to borrow £37bn in 2014-5 and that tax receipts would cover day-to-day government spending. The actual figure will be almost three times that, and, when adjusted for the state of the economy, the 2015 budget deficit is expected to be higher than any other EU country barring Croatia, according to Investec.
Britain has the fastest-growing economy in the G7 – Osborne’s account of his stewardship is partial and misleading. It ignores the first two years, in each of which austerity measures knocked one percentage point off growth, resulting in a flatlining economy. Britain’s recovery from the 2008-09 slump has been the weakest of any in the past 100 years, slower even than the bounce back from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Real wages have at last started to rise as a result of falling inflation, but incomes per head are on average the same now as they were in 2006, before the financial crisis. Business investment has fallen for the past two quarters, and the current account deficit is higher than ever, at 6% of GDP.
We are helping hard- working people by raising tax allowances – Raising the personal allowance is not a well-targeted way of helping the low paid because it helps earners further up the income scale as well. Britain’s low-pay culture means millions of workers don’t earn anything like £10,600 a year. As a result, Osborne is thought to be toying with the idea of raising the threshold for employee national insurance contributions, which is effectively another form of income tax but kicks in at a lower level.
We will ease back on austerity while sticking to our deficit-cutting target – Even after a trim, Osborne’s cuts programme will still look drastic. Labour will argue that he is taking too much of a risk with economic growth and jeopardising essential public services.
We will launch a new crackdown on tax evasion – This is too little, too late, and many of the perks that help the super-rich avoid tax – including non-domiciled tax status – remain in place. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are under fire for appointing former HSBC chairman Stephen Green as a trade minister, apparently without checking his possible involvement.
Feel free to copy out the above and check it against Osborne’s speech on Wednesday.
One thing is certain – it will contain nothing that should persuade you to vote Conservative in May.
Lord Carey: He may be demonstrating the amount of thought he has given to what unscrupulous people will do with his “change of heart”.
A “change of heart” by a former Archbishop of Canterbury over ‘assisted dying’ has dismayed at least one campaigner for the rights of people with disabilities.
Mo Stewart has been researching and reporting what she describes as the “atrocities” against the chronically sick and disabled in the UK for the last four years. She said Lord Carey’s decision to support legislation that would make it legal for people in England and Wales to receive help to end their lives would “play right into the hands of this very, very dangerous government”.
Justifying his change of position, Lord Carey said: “Today we face a central paradox. In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.
“The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”
The Assisted Dying Bill, tabled by Labour’s Lord Falconer, would apply to people with less than six months to live. Two doctors would have to independently confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached their own, informed decision to die.
But Mo Stewart warned that the proposed legislation, to be debated in the House of Lords on Friday, would be subject to ‘function creep’, with unscrupulous authorities taking advantage of people with depression in order to relieve themselves of the financial burden of paying for their care.
“If this law is granted, what will be deemed a possibility for the few will, very quickly I fear, become the expected for the many,” she wrote in a letter to Lord Carey which she has kindly provided to Vox Political.
“It’s cheaper to help people to die rather than support them to live.
“There is a catalogue of evidence demonstrating that, in those countries where assisted dying is permitted, very often those taking their own lives are suffering from a clinical depression and leave our world to resist the perception that they are a burden to loved ones.
“I am stunned that you would use your voice to try to permit this to happen in the UK.”
She pointed out that medicine is an inexact science and policy changes such as this could have an enormous detrimental impact: “My own webmaster, who is now desperately ill with possibly only weeks to live, was advised he had less than six months to live over four years ago.
“Until very recently, he still enjoyed a high quality of life with his wife, family and friends; a life that could have been removed four years ago” had the Assisted Dying Bill been law at that time.
“What this debate is demonstrating is the failure of guaranteed high quality palliative care in the UK, that makes those with a life-limiting diagnosis feel that self termination is a reasonable solution,” she warned.
“If palliative care was at the peak of quality and access then there would be no need to ever consider such a Bill for this country, as those who wish to access self termination are usually living in fear of the possible physical suffering they may need to endure. This is a highway to clinical depression when quality of life is deemed to have disappeared with diagnosis.”
He said: “This is not scaremongering. I know of health professionals who are already concerned by the ways in which their clients have suggestions ‘to go to Switzerland’ whispered in their ears by relatives weary of caring for them and exasperated by seeing their inheritances dwindle through care costs.
“I have received letters from both disabled individuals and their carers, deeply concerned by the pressure that Lord Falconer’s bill could put them under if it became law.”
Mo Stewart’s letter concludes: “In the real world, this Bill – if passed – would, I have no doubt, lead to abuses where some were actively persuaded to self terminate for the convenience, and possibly the inheritance, of others.
“It’s really not a very long way away from an assisted dying bill to an assisted suicide bill.”
Cart crash: In line with the theme explored in this article, not only is it likely that George Osborne won’t even have the right vehicle to carry his budget – he’ll probably crash it, too.
Part-time Chancellor Gideon George Osborne will be having another go at delivering a budget next week; while we can all hope he does better than the last four wrecks, experience – and a voodoo poll on the ConservativeHome website – suggests the opposite.
The poll asks readers to prioritise possible policies on a scale of one to 10, where one is “low” and 10 is “high”. The policies themselves?
“Cut spending further, so that the deficit can be reduced faster”. Clearly this is nonsense. Osborne’s massive spending cuts have, so far, delivered tiny reduction in the national deficit of only £7 billion – from £118 billion to £111 billion. In four years. Clearly, he needs to change his ways.
Other possibilities include cutting the higher rates of tax (or raising the threshold for them) – helping the very rich; extending National Insurance cuts for employers taking on young workers – helping employers; cutting business rates – helping businesspeople; and privatising more state assets, such as roads – helping rich investors and penalising the poor.
Other ideas intended to harm the poor include regionalising public sector pay, extending the freeze on public sector pay rises or cutting public sector pay, lowering the benefit cap to less than the current £26,000 per family and lowering a cap on broader social security spending that is yet to be introduced (it is scheduled for 2015).
All of the measures mentioned in the above two paragraphs will harm the British economy, rather than helping it. If Osborne includes any of them, he will deserve censure (if not prosecution, although it might be hard to find an offence on which to charge him after five years of Tory/Tory Democrat tinkering with the legal system).
By now, dear readers, some of you will be sitting with your blood boiling at this insolent blogger who’s telling you your prized policy ideas won’t work. You’re probably itching to demand what I would do to address the challenge.
I would have examined the economy from a different angle. Let’s look at it metaphorically.
Imagine the British economy is a haulage lorry or, better yet, a horse and cart. Tories are pushing us back towards pre-industrialism so we might as well get used to the idea. Either way, the job in hand is to take provisions to different parts of the locality that will allow the people there to prosper – and return with a share of that prosperity, to be distributed equally for the benefit of everyone.
Firstly, you need fuel. This is where we can prove that Osborne’s austerity is completely useless. How far can a lorry travel with an empty fuel tank? How far will a horse pull a cart if you don’t feed it? Not very far at all.
Then you need to make sure you’re providing the right kind of fuel. A diesel lorry won’t go far on petrol or vegetable oil before it starts to complain; give a horse the wrong kind of food and it will develop who-knows-what kind of digestion-related illness and keel over. This is what happens to an economy that is over-reliant on – for example – a single economy sector such as finance, or an economic ‘bubble’ like the housing growth triggered by Help to Buy (although this scheme could work well with the correct controls, in the same way you can probably keep a horse working with the correct medicine).
The result in both cases – no fuel or wrong fuel – is the same: Your supplies don’t get out to your people and they suffer as a result. The last four years of Tory/Tory Democrat rule has proved this.
In non-metaphorical terms: There must be investment, and it must be the right kind.
Then, of course, there is the question of what you have in the back of your lorry (or on the cart). You must be providing your people with what they need, otherwise there’s no point in making the journey and the fuel/food in which you have invested – in fact, the whole journey – will have been wasted (like Osborne’s last four budget attempts). Your choice of supplies will depend on what your people are doing – what crops they are growing or products they are making – and on whether these can be traded with your neighbours. If they have been misled into producing wares that can’t be traded, what good is that?
Get it right and you’ll be able to make a return trip laden with goods and supplies that will – with a bit of wise distribution and trade – help build up your society, meaning that the load might not be so great on the next trip. This means less fuel/horse feed will be needed and there won’t be as large a load in goods to be redistributed on the return journey (although an expanding economy means there might be farther to travel, so this must be recognised in the amount of fuel to be used).
That’s about as simple a metaphor as I can devise at the moment.
If I had to predict what will happen on Wednesday, though, I would probably expect Osborne to be demanding that we leave the lorry in the garage (or the horse in the yard), and struggle out on foot with all our burdens on our own back.
Not so much “all in it together” as “everyone for themselves” – and that’s how we’ll all be ruined.
How long has it been since Labour was deemed the party with no policies and no direction? Now it seems the Conservatives have taken up this undesirable label and applied it to themselves (excuse the choice of words) liberally.
Labour’s stand on energy prices sent the Tories scurrying away to find an answer, after they finally realised that baldly claiming nothing could be done was not going to cut any ice.
When they finally came up with something, their answer was to “Cut the green crap” and reduce the environmental levy on energy firms – a u-turn within a u-turn for the party that once proclaimed to the nation, “Vote Blue – Go Green”.
This week they have also u-turned on cigarette packaging – for a second time within a matter of months. Before the summer, the Conservative vision was to safeguard children from smoking by removing packaging for cigarette packets. Then – after coincidentally hiring fag-company lobbyist Lynton Crosby to run their campaigns for them – they decided that the packaging could stay. Now – in the face of a possibly Lords rebellion – they are reversing their position yet again.
This is the context in which Boy Chancellor George Osborne will make his Autumn Statement – and he has already put himself on a sticky wicket before going in to bat.
Remember David Cameron’s massive error of judgement at the Lord Mayor’s banquet a few weeks ago, when he stood behind a gold-plated lectern that could easily be sold off or melted down to help pay of the interest on his government’s ever-increasing borrowing burden, and said austerity was here to stay?
It seems Gideon was eager to follow in his master’s footsteps, stumping up £10.2 MILLION (including VAT at the 20 per cent level that he imposed on us all in 2010) on new furnishings for his Whitehall HQ, from exclusive designers Panik, Ferrious and Senator. One Treasury insider, according to the Daily Mirror, wondered “why we couldn’t have just bought new furniture from Ikea”.
Good question! It is also one that is especially pertinent after it was revealed that Osborne has been calling for last-minute spending cuts from the Home Office and the departments of Justice, Defence, Business and Work and Pensions (yet again), because he will not be able to fund the £2 billion of giveaways announced during the conference season without them.
These include scrapping a rise in petrol duty of almost 2p per litre, free school meals for pupils aged five-to-seven and rewarding marriage in the tax system.
It seems clear that these measures were all unfunded when they were announced, putting the lie to Conservative claims that they have any kind of plan – and ruining their claim that Osborne’s schoolboy-economist austerity idiocy has done anything to improve the UK economy.
Hutton went on to state that Osborne decided to “borrow from the Keynesian economic locker… never admitting the scale of the philosophic shift, and then claimed victory”. In other words, Osborne is the biggest hypocrite in Westminster (and that’s a huge achievement, considering the state of them all)!
Result: “The public is misinformed – told that austerity worked and, as importantly, the philosophy behind it works too… Thus the Conservative party can be protected from the awful truth that Thatcherism fails.”
Labour MP Michael Meacher is much more scathing (if such a thing is possible). In a Parliamentary debate, quoted in his blog, he told us: “We do have a recovery of sorts, but one that has been generated in exactly the wrong way. It has been generated by consumer borrowing and an incipient bubble, and it is not — I repeat, not — a real, sustainable recovery.”
In other words, the – as Hutton describes it – “eclectic and spatchcocked Keynesianism” employed by Osborne, while superficially useful in the short-term, will cause immense damage over a longer period because he doesn’t understand it and only used it in desperation.
Both Hutton and Meacher agree that a sustainable recovery can only come from what Meacher describes as “rising investment, increasing productivity, growing wages and healthy exports”, none of which are supported by Osborne’s current behaviour.
And yet, according to the Daily Telegraph, Osborne will fulfil another of this blog’s long-standing prophecies on Thursday by telling us all that “Britain can no longer afford the welfare state”.
From a member of the most profligate snout-in-trough overspenders ever to worm their way into public office and then inflict a harm-the-defenceless agenda on the nation, that will be the biggest lie of all.
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Household debt in the UK has reached a record £1.43 trillion, according to the BBC. What a marvellous achievement for Gideon George Osborne to put next to his already-record public net debt of £1.212 trillion (excluding interventions) or £2.184 trillion (including them).
If you’re surprised at that, don’t be – he needs to pretend that there isn’t any money so he can cut any services that are still left in the public domain after the fire sale of the last few years.
The Tory plan was always to increase private debt. Of course it was – if you cut public spending for people on the breadline, then they go into debt. Why do you think Wonga.com’s owner Dawn Capital is such a prolific contributor to Tory Party funds, with £537,000 in known donations this time last year?
The rich are shielded from debt problems in the same way they are shielded from taxation, thanks to the way our tax laws have been rewritten in their favour – all their money is safely tucked away in tax havens and can’t be touched.
On average, each adult in the UK owes £28,489. Some owe much more than that, though. Yr obdt srvt doesn’t owe a bean to anyone, despite being very poor, so that’s already £28,489 to be spread among everyone else. Mrs Mike isn’t in debt either.
The BBC report cautiously suggests that the record debt level “might increase concerns that the UK’s economic recovery [you know, the one they keep talking about on the news and in Parliament as if it actually exists] is based on increased borrowing, rather than growth sustained by rising incomes” – which of course is correct.
According to The Money Charity, total net lending by UK banks and building societies rose by £1.9 billion in September 2013 – that’s just in one month.
Over the four quarters to Q2 2013, they wrote off £3.67 billion of loans to individuals. In Q2 2013, the daily write-off was £7.61 million.
Based on the latest available data, every day in the UK 285 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt – that’s one every five minutes; 84 properties are repossessed; 1,447 people lost their jobs and eight people became unemployed for more than 12 months; 141 mortgage possession claims are issued and 113 mortgage possession orders are made; and 431 landlord possession claims are issued and 319 landlord possession orders are made.
The benefit system helps nobody. It has been redesigned specifically to push people further into debt – the cap on benefit rate increases to one per cent per year means people are two per cent worse-off for every year it continues, while inflation remains at current levels.
“High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.
“And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?
Leading us down the garden path: Cameron wants us to believe the economy is growing but, like a bad gardener, he hasn’t fertilised it, and has allowed it to be overrun with weeds. [Image: Andy Davey www.andydavey.com]
“The week before the autumn statement, and the right honourable gentleman [Ed Miliband] cannot ask about the economy because it is growing. He cannot ask about the deficit because it is falling. He cannot ask about the numbers in work because they are rising. People can see that we have a long-term plan to turn our country around.”
What a shame he chose to give Parliament bluster instead of facts.
Does he think that the economy is growing because of the housing price bubble engineered by his deranged Chancellor via his ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? It is massively increasing the cost of housing in London but will inevitably lead to a crash and the loss of serious amounts of money for both buyers and the government (as mortgage underwriter). The Bank of England has revealed that it has no power of veto and can only advise on whether the scheme should continue – it is for the Conservative-led government to decide how long it will last.
Gideon’s ‘Help to Buy’ offers unsupported mortgage guarantees to buyers and lenders. He has not said where he will find the money for it. Critics have warned that this is simply creating another housing-fuelled debt bubble that will burst in a couple of years’ time, leaving even more people in debt than after the financial crisis hit us all.
Michael Meacher has read the £130 billion scheme right – as we can see from his blog: “Where does that sort of money come from when the public accounts are under extreme pressure to make enormous cuts? State-subsidised mortgages for the well-off (houses valued at up to £600,000) seems, even for Osborne, a strange decision when some of the poorest tenants in the country are at the same time being expelled from their homes by the bedroom tax.
“It can only be explained by Osborne panicking at the time of the March budget this year that the economy showed no sign of recovery in time for the 2015 election, made worse by his mistaken increase in VAT and big cuts in capital spending. He chose a big artificial stimulus of the mortgage market to kick-start the moribund economy, repeating the mistake of every previous boom triggered by consumer borrowing and a pumped-up housing market, an inevitable forerunner eventually of yet another round of boom and bust.”
Does Cameron really think the deficit is falling fast enough to revitalise the nation’s economy? In October, borrowing (excluding the cost of interventions like bank bailouts, so we’re already in the realm of made-up figures) fell by two one-hundred-and-thirds, from £8.24 billion in the same month last year to £8.08 billion.
We are told the aim is to keep borrowing for 2013-14 at £120 billion or below. In his ‘Emergency Budget’ of 2010, Osborne predicted that borrowing this year would be down to half that – at £60 billion, and estimates have been rising ever since.
The 2011 budget had the 2013-14 deficit at £70 billion; in 2012 it was expected to be £98 billion; and now £120 billion – double Osborne’s prediction when he became Chancellor.
As for the numbers of people in work, let’s ask Cameron: If more people are working, why has productivity fallen back to the level it reached in 2005? Is it because employers are taking on workers in part-time, zero-hours or self-employed contracts, rather than full-time, in order to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of their holiday pay, sick pay and National Insurance obligations? This seems most likely.
Average wages have been cut by nine per cent since 2010, in real terms, and are still falling. Should Cameron really be boasting about this?
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