Tag Archives: IPPR

Tories should check their own ranks before accusing Labour of infiltrating thinktanks

Double standards: Philippa Stroud, paid to advise Iain Duncan Smith on DWP policy issues, who was also paid by the right-wing thinktank the Centre for Social Justice to lobby him on the same policy issues.

Double standards: Philippa Stroud, paid to advise Iain Duncan Smith on DWP policy issues, who was also paid by the right-wing thinktank the Centre for Social Justice to lobby him on the same policy issues.

Department of Double Standards: According to the Telegraph, the left-wing Institute of Public Policy Research is being investigated by the Charity Commission because of its connections with the last Labour government.

The Torygraph reckons half of Gordon Brown’s special advisers now work for charities or “supposedly neutral” thinktanks, many of which now lobby the Coalition government.

“There is increasing concern among Conservatives that charities and thinktanks are being used as vehicles for a pro-Labour agenda,” the paper crowed.

On the face of it, it may seem reasonable for charities to be investigated for putting forward partisan opinions as they should remain politically neutral.

Thinktanks like the IPPR, on the other hand, are entirely free to put forward any political philosophy they choose; it’s part of their reason for existing.

But what about when a Conservative government minister actually employs, as his special adviser on policy, a person who is not only already an employee of a right-leaning government thinktank – set up by the minister himself – but actually co-founded it with him?

Step forward Philippa Stroud, who co-founded the Centre for Social Justice alongside Iain Duncan Smith in 2004, as a right-wing research and lobby group. When Mr… Smith became a government minister in 2010, he appointed her as his policy special adviser, even though she was still employed by the CSJ as co-chair of its ‘board of advisers’.

The special advisers’ code of conduct stipulates that they “should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their personal judgment or integrity”.

An annex to the code, titled the Seven Principles of Public Life, adds: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

The code also makes clear that ministers making such appointments, in this case Mr… Smith himself, are held responsible for their advisers’ conduct.

So Philippa Stroud, a prominent member of the Conservative Party, took public money on top of her own salary and had a job as a senior member of a pressure group that tries to influence his department, when her role within that department was to give him advice on what to do.

That’s a conflict of interest, right there.

Oh, but the arrangement was cleared by the DWP and the Cabinet Office, both of which are currently headed by members of the Conservative Party, with no mention made of any conflict of interest they might have been enduring at the time.

Chris Grayling, writing in the Telegraph, claimed: “Britain’s professional campaigners are growing in number: sending emails around the country, flocking around Westminster, dominating BBC programmes, and usually articulating a Left-wing vision which is neither affordable nor deliverable – and wholly at odds with the long-term economic plan this Government has worked so hard to put in place.”

Sauce for the goose, Mr Grayling!

If it’s fine for a Conservative Party member and special adviser to Iain Duncan Smith to be employed by a thinktank that foists right-wing policy views on the government, then it should be perfectly acceptable for Labour Party members to be employed by thinktanks too.

In fact it is clear that the Labour members are committing the lesser of the two evils.

The moral: If you’re going to accuse your enemy of cheating, make sure you’re not doing it yourself.

Also: Chris Grayling is a fool.

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Labour is following the same plan as England’s football team – to failure

Mock sympathy: This is the sort of treatment Ed Miliband can expect from David Cameron if he keeps following policies that are created by the Tory media rather than the needs of the British people.

Mock sympathy: This is the sort of treatment Ed Miliband can expect from David Cameron if he keeps following policies that are created by the Tory media rather than the needs of the British people.

Labour could be heading for defeat next year, after it set out new policies that have the same chance of success as England’s plan for the 2014 World Cup.

The party put its weight behind a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) that left the public cold. If Labour does not change direction, it seems likely the party will not win the votes it needs to get into office next year – unless its rivals make serious mistakes.

It is a situation almost exactly like that of the England football team.

All right, it’s not a perfect parallel. England got into this fix because it was outplayed by teams with ambitious and flamboyant star players – Balotelli for Italy and Suarez for Uruguay. Labour doesn’t have that problem as the closest equivalent in politics is Nigel Farage.

But, like England, Labour seems unable to defend itself against even rudimentary attacks – partly because leaders have painted themselves into a corner (marked ‘pro-austerity’) and partly because they simply refuse to use the logical arguments. Does anybody remember what a relief it was when, after years of silence in response to Tory claims that Labour caused the financial collapse, Peter Hain finally told Owen Paterson, on the BBC’s Any Questions, “It was the banks that destroyed the economy, not the Labour government – it was the international banking system!”

And where is Mr Hain now? He’s retiring at the next election. The only Labour player who was man enough to fend off this blatantly unreasonable Tory attack and he’s being taken off the field.

Meanwhile, Labour’s leaders continue to make schoolboy mistakes that create the opportunity for the other side to score. Ed Miliband’s publicity-seeking pose with The Sun was a spectacular example; yesterday’s IPPR report was a more subtle one.

The lack of ambition is staggering; it seems that, after four years, the Miliband camp still hasn’t understood that copying Tory austerity will scare voters away. Committing to Tory-imposed constraints that require any new idea to be covered by a cut or a tax increase will just increase the exodus – Labour needs to be ambitious.

Everybody knows now that austerity is nonsense. It’s an excuse to drive money into the hands of those who have too much of it already. After four years of it, we are told that this government is on course to put five million British children in poverty by 2020. Food bank use is at its highest ever. The number of people claiming in-work benefits is at its highest ever because employers refuse to pay a living wage and expect the taxpayer to subsidise them instead; by the time of the 2015 election, working families will be around £2,000 per year worse off than they were in 2010.

You are worse-off under the Tory Coalition. You are worse-off under austerity.

Meanwhile, business bosses and shareholders have been having a spectacularly good time, with incomes skyrocketing. There’s no austerity for the One Per Cent!

Indeed, income inequality has increased hugely to place the UK seventh on the international table, behind the USA (fourth) and Chile (first) – and we all know that Tory neoliberals are huge fans of the systems in those two countries.

incomeinequality

What are the wealthy doing with all the money they have parasitised from the rest of us?

Well, they’re not using it to pay their taxes, that’s for sure!

One of the main plans put forward in Labour’s IPPR report was to save money by means-testing benefits for 100,000 young people – saving £65 million. That’s a pittance compared to the £600 million in taxes that is being withheld by Google, Amazon and Apple, according to an infographic that’s currently doing the rounds.

140620taxcheatinfographic#

Labour is very quiet about that – copying the Tory attitude of diverting people with stories about welfare abuses because Miliband’s know-nothing advisors think being “hard on benefits” is popular with the public, who don’t like “scroungers”.

They’re not intelligent enough to understand that this attitude has been carefully nurtured in the public consciousness by a right-wing, Tory-controlled media. It has nothing to do with reality, in which only a tiny minority of people are in fact defrauding the taxpayer out of benefit money. Lord Fraud – sorry, Freud – was taken to task for this only days ago.

It seems that – like England’s football team – the Labour Party has been off chasing a fantasy. Austerity and the persecution of people on benefits (most of whom are entirely deserving of them, plus massive amounts of compensation for the despicable way they have been treated for the past few years) are Conservative-created blind alleys. In politics, you don’t oppose anybody by copying them.

If Labour concentrated on the real causes of Britain’s problems, the party might have a hope of success.

Otherwise, like the England team, Labour will have to be content with hoping that the Tories make a big mistake.

And, like the England team, they are most likely to learn that this is not good enough.

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Workplace battleground: Labour and Tories at war over employment

cameronmaths

Labour is forging forward with new plans to improve work prospects and the skills of those seeking employment, while the Conservatives are plunging backward with proposals to penalise people who lack the ability to speak basic English.

Already right-wingers in the media have been trying to undermine the policies announced by Rachel Reeves in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research. They say Labour is planning to strip people of their benefits if they don’t take classes to improve their English and Maths skills, if necessary.

This talk of punishment for people who need help is completely wrong-headed. If someone can’t get a job because they can’t read, write or do their sums, then they should get help. Of course they should.

One has to wonder what has gone wrong in our schools, to lead to this situation. Perhaps Michael Gove would like to take responsibility? No, didn’t think so.

In fact, the plans announced by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary are perfectly reasonable – especially in contrast with the latest Tory madness, but we’ll come to that soon enough.

We already know that the centrepiece of Labour’s economic plan is a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.

This means anyone over 25 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more, and anyone under that age who has been receiving the same benefit for one year or more would get a guaranteed job, paying at least the minimum wage, for 25 hours a week – coupled with training for at least a further 10 hours a week.

This is perfectly reasonable. If you have been looking for work for more than a year, and couldn’t get it yourself, then the extra income provided by such a placement (especially coming in line with Labour’s plan to increase wages, in order to really make work pay, rather than depressing benefits and putting everyone in poverty, which is Conservative policy) will be welcome.

It doesn’t mean that people will have to put their own ambitions on hold. The best advice I ever received was to get a paying job during the day, in order to put food on the table and clothes on my back, and work on what I really wanted to do in the evenings. Eventually, with perseverance, it should be possible to replace the day job with what you really want to do.

Most of the jobs are likely to be in small firms where, once a company has invested six months in a new recruit, the chances are they will want to keep them on after the subsidy has ended.

The jobs guarantee would be fully funded by repeating the tax on bankers bonuses – they were in the news recently, when it was announced that these people would be receiving unearned bonuses worth twice as much as their salary so they’ve definitely got the cash to spare – and a restriction on pension tax relief for those on the very highest incomes.

But – of course – putting people into a job isn’t much good if they don’t have the knowledge of English and Maths that most of us use without thinking in our everyday lives.

In her speech, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “The shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work, and trapping them in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits.

“Nearly one in 10 people claiming JSA don’t have basic English skills, and over one in ten don’t have basic maths. IT skills among jobseekers are even worse; nearly half don’t have the basic email skills which are now essential for almost any job application.

“And we know that this keeps people out of jobs: those out of work are twice as likely than those in work to lack basic English and Maths,” she said, proving that her own lack in that area hasn’t held her back. Twice as likely as those in work, Rachel.

She said research has shown that, when people who lack these skills do get jobs, they too often find themselves in short term or temporary work, with a swift return to benefits. Nearly one in five of those who have made multiple claims for unemployment benefits have problems with reading or numeracy.

The response: “A new requirement [will be] for jobseekers to take training if they do not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch, or lose their benefits.

“[We] will ensure that people’s skills needs are assessed, and basic skills gaps addressed, from the start of a Jobseeker’s Allowance Claim, not after months and years of neglect.”

Contrast this with the Conservative Party’s latest plan to hammer immigrants and people on benefits – announcing a new policy of repression every week ahead of the election in 2015, according to politics.co.uk

It seems right-wing Australian election chief, and tobacco lobbyist, Lynton Crosby thinks this kind of bully-boy behaviour will make the Tories more popular! Don’t laugh.

This comes after satirical radio comedy The Now Show featured a sketch in which people tried to justify xenophobic attitudes without saying the words “I’m not racist, but…”

Let’s try the reverse – putting those words into the new policies announced on politics.co.uk:

“I’m not racist, but we should strip benefits from anyone who can’t speak English!” (Does this include the English people who can’t speak their own language properly, who Labour plan to help?)

“I’m not racist, but we should axe the service telling people about benefits in foreign languages!”

“I’m not racist, but we should end translation services in benefits offices!” (According to politics.co.uk, David Cameron is very keen on that one).

The site said “Iain Duncan Smith is understood to already be working on them”. (He’s not racist, but…)

Tory backbencher and former scandal Liam Fox tried to justify this lunacy by saying: “The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it.” By cutting off their income? How does that work?

Plans to focus on the government’s increasingly racist tough anti-immigrant message come despite warnings that a reduction in immigration would make it harder for Britain to pay back its national debt.

The site said that, last week, a long-awaited report into benefit tourism had to be shelved in secret, after failing to find any evidence of it.

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Another Cameron lie: Energy companies’ profits are unaffected by his changes – and we still pay

Cost shock: Even the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph has been complaining about high energy prices - as demonstrated by this cartoon from 2012.

Cost shock: Even the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph has been complaining about high energy prices – as demonstrated by this cartoon from 2012.

To borrow a favourite David Cameron phrase: Let us be clear on this – any savings on your fuel bills as a result of the Coalition government’s policy change will be added to general taxation in another way and you will still pay.

Energy firms’ profits, which have tripled since 2010, will be unaffected. Cameron’s plan is akin to shifting deckchairs on the Titanic (to borrow another well-known saying).

Why on Earth does he think anybody is going to be deceived by this silliness?

Even with the changes in place, prices will still rise by an average of around £70, at a time when people were already being forced to choose between (let’s have yet another now-tired phrase) heating and eating. Average household incomes have dropped by nine per cent since David Cameron made himself Prime Minister by the back door three years ago.

Average pay for bosses of FTSE-100 companies has risen by 20 times the rate of pay growth for most workers, just in the last year. And let’s not forget that they were getting much higher than average pay already!

It should surprise nobody that all of the ‘Big Six’ energy firms are part of the FTSE-100 – or were, before foreign takeovers.

This means average pay for these companies’ bosses should be around £2,321,700, while profits have risen to £2 billion – up 75 per cent on last year (according to the Independent reports).

None of this will be changed by David Cameron’s measures, which were hastily cobbled together in a bungled bid to regain the initiative from Labour, whose plan to freeze energy prices and re-order the energy market has captured the public imagination.

Instead Cameron – who once campaigned under the slogan ‘Vote Blue – Go Green’ – will postpone green policy targets to a later date, cutting the so-called ‘green levy’ on the energy firms accordingly. This means the UK will be forced to rely on greenhouse gas-producing carbon fuels for longer.

Subsidies for people in fuel poverty will be moved into general taxation, meaning we pay for them rather than the energy firms who should.

“Even after these changes to levies, energy bills are still rising and the average household will still be paying £70 more for their energy than last winter,” said Labour’s Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Caroline Flint. “Any help is better than none, but you can judge this Government by who they’re asking to pick up the tab – the taxpayer. The energy companies have got off scot-free.

“This shows why nothing less than a price freeze and action to reset the market to stop the energy companies overcharging again in the future will do.”

She was expected to tell the IPPR thinktank today: “If David Cameron and Nick Clegg think just doing what the energy companies ask of them is the answer to bills being too high, they are wrong.

“Energy bills have gone up by £120 this winter alone, so even with a £50 cut in levies, people’s bills will still be higher this winter than last year. The real reason bills are rising year on year without justification is because the energy market is broken.

“Instead of bailing out the energy companies, David Cameron should stand up to them and stop them overcharging people.”

But we all know that David Cameron never stands up to his corporate masters, don’t we?

(Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier will be talking about the energy scandal, along with the continuing cover-up of DWP-related deaths on Sonia Poulton Live today. You can see it by visiting www.thepeoplesvoice.tv, starting at 5pm.)

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