Tag Archives: Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act

How can we force politicians to do what they say?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

We need to talk about the culture of deception that is festering at the heart of the British political classes.

Every party is guilty of this to some degree – all of them. They have all made promises to the electorate and then, once in positions of power, they have done exactly whatever else they wanted.

On Tuesday, Patrick Mercer resigned as an MP rather than face suspension from the House of Commons over allegations that, rather than carrying out the will of his constituents, he had corruptly set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to life Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, after having been offered money to do so by undercover reporters.

His resignation came 11 months after he resigned from the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and this decision was made in the knowledge that a TV documentary was about to present the allegations to the country. Would he have taken these actions otherwise? It’s highly doubtful. Nobody resigns when they think they got away with it.

Nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that this allegedly corrupt MP managed to keep his seat in the Commons for 11 months after the allegations came out – that’s nearly one-fifth of a Parliamentary term when he was still drawing his taxpayer-funded salary. Is that reasonable?

Mercer is, of course, just one individual case. In the lifetime of this Parliament we have seen entire Parliamentary political parties turn on their electors in betrayal. It is to be hoped that nobody has forgotten Labour’s betrayal of the unemployed when it failed to oppose the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that retrospectively imposed penalties on people who refuse to take part in state-sponsored ‘slave labour’ schemes.

Labour’s front bench claimed it had negotiated important concessions, including an inquiry into the effectiveness of mandatory work activity – and when is that due to report? Around 30 Labour MPs are still entitled to hold their heads high, because they rebelled and voted against the legislation in any case.

Far worse is the behaviour of the Conservative Party, who promised that the National Health Service would be safe under a Tory government and then set in motion the wholesale upheaval that we have witnessed over the past few years, with funding squandered on reorganisation and privatisation of services that is intended to lead to the abolition of the publicly-funded health service in a few years’ time.

Pensions are going the same way; the Workplace Pension discourages employers from participation, meaning they are trying to push their workforces into taking up private schemes instead. Meanwhile the state pension has been ‘simplified’ in a way that means people have to work longer before receiving it. The intention is, eventually, to privatise pension provision altogether and ensure only those on higher pay can afford them.

And the Tories are busy abolishing the rest of the welfare state as well. The harsh regime of sanctions and slave-labour schemes run by the Department for Work and Pensions is intended to soften up the workforce – and potential workforce – for the introduction of privately-run schemes, into which you will be expected to pay to insure against the possibility of becoming jobless – the policies would provide your income during any such period (as long as you didn’t stay out of work for very long) instead of the government.

The problem with such proposals is that, if they are run along the same lines as certain health insurance schemes, they would be scams – as the conditions would be rigged to ensure that the companies running them never had to pay out. This is what we have learned from the fact that the criminal Unum Corporation has been advising the DWP on its policies.

And then, worst of all, we have the so-called Liberal Democrats, who promised to eradicate student fees in the run-up to the 2010 election and betrayed that pledge two months before the poll took place, in a backroom power-sharing deal with the Conservative Party.

The same organisation has gone on to support the Conservatives every step of the way to dismantling the welfare state and reducing the vast majority of the UK’s workforce to conditions we have not seen since the early 20th century at the latest.

Many of us have been dismayed at this apparent betrayal by an organisation that we all hoped would have put a brake on the more excessive Tory policies, but VP Facebook commenter John Elwyn Kimber has cast illumination on the reasons we were mistaken.

“19th-century Whiggery, ‘Orange’ or ‘Manchester’ Liberalism, call it what you like, was about the unfettered power of new money – hence identical to modern ‘Toryism’,” he wrote.

“Just as Eisenhower was the last civilised Republican president, traditional patrician Downton-Abbey-style Conservatism of the more socially-responsible sort finally departed British politics after the MacMillan government. Even the sitting-on-the-fence Heathites, the ‘Tory Wets’, were gleefully kicked out of the cabinet by Margaret Thatcher after the ‘Falklands election’ in 1983, with the exception of Whitelaw who was retained [though sidelined] as a sort of sop to the traditionalists.

“Since when, the political consensus has been for whiggery-pokery all the way up till now. So while the understanding of ‘Liberal’ by Lib Dem grass roots voters is a mid-twentieth-century one, all about tolerance and socially-progressive policies, it seems obvious that Clegg’s cabinet are only too happy to be rabid whigs nuzzled up to another lot of rabid whigs – the only difference is in the mood-music provided for the grass roots in each case.”

The message is that we were all deceived – again.

The problem is that there is almost nothing we can do about it that doesn’t take a lot of time – a commodity that is in short supply.

Historically, the UK does not carry a box on the ballot paper marked “None of the above”. This means there is no direct democratic way of refusing all the candidates for election to a particular constituency and demand better. Nor is there ever likely to be, because our corrupt politicians know that would be equivalent to turkeys voting for Christmas.

Alternatively, we can form new political parties and try to beat the corrupt old parties at their own game. The problem with this is one of traction; it takes new parties many years to gain enough recognition to become a serious force. UKIP is only beginning to gain such recognition now, after more than 20 years – and this is as a protest party against membership of the European Union. If that party’s supporters took a look at its other policies, they’d desert en masse.

Another possibility is similarly time-consuming: You actually join one of the main political parties and try to effect change from within. The problem here is that you would be fighting established members every step of the way. It has been done effectively in the past, though – look at the way Labour was transformed into New Labour by the influence of a few neoliberal infiltrators, and consider the damage that has done to the party’s reputation and effectiveness.

The worst option is the most popular: You do nothing. This is, of course, the wide and easy path to disaster – but so many people are feeling disaffected because of the barriers that the corrupt political classes have put up against democracy, that they honestly can’t see the point of voting.

This of course means our government will be elected by an ever-diminishing group of electors, and makes it all the more possible for our ever-more-elite group of corrupt politicians to argue for those who don’t vote to lose the right to take part in elections. You will be disenfranchised.

Then you really will have no power to change anything at all.

Is that what you want?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Conference vote leaves Lib Dems facing both ways on Bedroom Tax

130918libdembedroomtax

“So what’s new?” you’re probably thinking.

Well, the passing of the motion to condemn the Bedroom Tax as official Liberal Democrat policy indicates that there is a huge rift between the way grassroots Lib Dems think and what the Parliamentary Party is doing.

But is it enough to force a split in the Coa-lamity – sorry, Coalition – before the next election, as Vince Cable has hinted?

Who knows? It’s the Lib Dems.

It could indicate that time is running out for the ‘Orange Book’ Liberal Democrats, who include Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander among their number – despite claims by the Daily Telegraph that they have become more influential.

My brother, the blogger beastrabban, told me of a recent conversation between a friend of his and a former Liberal Democrat MP, in which the ex-Hon Gentleman made his opinion of the Orange Bookers – the party’s right-wingers – perfectly clear: “They’re not Liberal”.

This certainly seems to be the feeling of the party’s rank-and-file. Julie Porksen, the Northumbrian member who tabled the Bedroom Tax motion, said: “We are Liberal Democrats and we do not kick people when they are down.”

This may have come as quite a shock to Messrs Clegg, Alexander, David Laws (editor of the Orange Book) and their nearly-Tory buddies, who have been merrily kicking people when they were down ever since they decided they weren’t going to abolish student fees after all, but would help the Tories increase them instead.

Since then, Parliamentary Liberal Democrats have helped force some of the worst injustices of modern times onto the British people, including the Health and Social Care Act, the Welfare Reform Act, the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act, the Localism Act and, yes, the Bedroom Tax.

Nick Clegg is clearly a long, long way out of touch with his members. All he could say about it at conference was that “you would have to be made of granite” not to have feelings on the issue.

Would he commit to changing it? No.

So it seems the Liberal Democrat leader is refusing to carry out the will of his party. I wonder what they’re going to do about it?

One way Clegg could save his career might be to bring the Coalition to an early end, as suggested by Vince Cable at a fringe event arranged by the Independent.

But it seems likely Cable was just causing mischief. “It is obviously a very sensitive one. It has got to be led by the leader,” he said.

Again, this would put Clegg in a very awkward position. Splitting the Coalition means giving up the only power or influence he is ever likely to have.

At the end of the day, it’s not going to make much real difference. After the 2015 election his party will probably have fewer MPs than the DUP, if local election results are any indication. He must take responsibility for that – his leadership is bringing his party to the brink of oblivion.

Nick Robinson’s speculation that Clegg could jump from coalition with Cameron to an alliance with Ed Miliband is, therefore, premature.

But there’s another Liberal Democrat conference to come before the general election. Maybe, by then, Nick Clegg will have grasped that he needs to put his party’s best interests before his own ambitions.

Cameron would enslave you – that is his ‘compassionate Conservatism’

This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter's charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you're stupid enough to vote for it.

This dribbling liar wants to abolish your human rights and replace them with an exploiter’s charter, designed to make it easy for his friends in business to work you until you drop and pay you a pittance for it. He thinks you’re stupid enough to vote for it. Are you?

It seems certain people are starting to think in some extremely self-defeating ways – opening themselves up to exploitation by our government of millionaires.

Look at this, from a Facebook thread started by a person asking when it became normal for working people to be asked to do 14-hour shifts. He said it seemed that companies were cutting down on staff and doubling everyone’s hours up, because it is cheaper, and voiced the opinion that making anyone work that long is barbaric.

In response, another person wrote: “A job is a job. I’d do anything to get one. Even if it was 14 hours a day… No one wants to hire complainers. There’s plenty of people who would work for pennies.” Worst of all (because it shows a lack of awareness that is staggering: “I’d rather keep my family fed, clothed and warm than worry about me.”

This person clearly did not understand that they were buying into a situation in which employers can reduce pay and increase hours as they please, exploiting workers to the limits of their endurance, because “there’s plenty of people who would work for pennies”. Not only is were they accepting the conditioned helplessness against which this blog warned in early 2012 (Stand up, you slaves! – published in Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times, available now in print and as an ebook), but this is exactly the sort of treatment the Human Rights Act, the minimum wage and the European Working Time Directive were set up to prevent.

The Conservative Party would abolish all of them. Only today, David Cameron said Britain needs to scrap the Human Rights Act.

Just think about that. The Prime Minister of the UK wants to remove the human rights of its citizens. If ever there was a reason not to vote Conservative, it’s that.

He’s arguing that abolition is necessary to make it impossible for “people who are a threat to our national security, or who come to Britain and commit serious crimes” to “cite their human rights when they are clearly wholly unconcerned for the human rights of others”.

This is a legitimate concern but it does not require the scrapping of a law that protects people from exploitation in many, many other ways. Besides, concern over this single issue may be addressed by amending the legislation (admittedly not a simple matter as it would involve negotiations with Europe, and this is unpalatable for Conservatives as it suits their purposes for the EU to appear unreasonable).

Do you want the Human Rights Act scrapped?

This would legalise “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (although not torture itself, which would still rank as an assault offence against a person), including poor working conditions.

It would legalise servitude and forced labour – which would be handy for Conservatives who have been forcing jobseekers into such situations for several years, contrary to article 4 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights (which the UK Human Rights Act ratifies in British law).

You would lose the right to a fair trial. Coalition plans, under inJustice Minister Chris Grayling, mean you are likely to lose this right anyway, but the UK would be in contravention of the HRA and the European Convention if it puts these plans through and the Act is not repealed.

There is an article regarding retroactivity – nobody may be punished for an act that was not a criminal offence at the time it took place. It is a matter of debate whether this could be used to combat the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that was brought in so hastily in March, to retroactively legalise the government’s Workfare/Work Programme schemes (the kind of forced labour that the Act also seeks to prevent). Thousands of people were owed millions of pounds in illegally-removed benefit before the Act was passed. It meant that this money would not have to be paid. Isn’t that punishing somebody for an act that was not criminal when it took place?

You would lose your right to privacy in your family life, home and correspondence. Again, this would be useful for a government that wants to poke around your emails, as Theresa May wants with her snooper’s charter.

You – and I – would lose the right to freedom of expression. We would no longer be allowed to hold opinions, receive and transmit information and ideas, that run against the wishes of the government of the day. This blog would be banned.

(Actually, some of you may think this is a good idea – but do you really want the government to tell you what to think? Do you want people to be imprisoned, or heavily fined, for holding a different opinion?)

You would lose the right to free assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. So any congregation of a large group of people would be illegal, and groups of workers would lose any legal right to have their collective interests represented in an organised way to management. This opens the door to exploitation in a big way.

The prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status would be lost – meaning, for example, that nobody could object to the so-called ‘racist vans’ that were patrolling London recently, telling Conservative voters that the government was being tough on illegal immigrants.

There are others. It is worth looking up the Act, and the Convention, just to see exactly what protections they provide – and what the Conservatives want to take away from you.

They say they would produce a ‘Bill of Rights’ protecting the freedoms they want to keep. These would naturally include only those rights they believe would not interfere with their plans to render you powerless, with no right of redress against their exploitation of you.

Think about it hard.

Are you really so stupid that you’ll let a proven liar distract you, just because he has honey on his forked tongue (as a far better writer once put it)?

I don’t think you are.

Democracy in the UK – or What is your MP doing in your name?

They Work For Themselves.com: Michael Gove may well have told IPSA to "stick" its pay rise but you can be sure that this is a publicity stunt. And how long will this principled stand last when his colleagues all take the money?

They Work For Themselves Not You.com: Michael Gove may well have told IPSA to “stick” its pay rise but you can be sure that this is a publicity stunt. And how long will this principled stand last when his colleagues all take the money?

There’s a strong smell of arrogance coming from Westminster at the moment – an attitude of “What are you going to do about it?” to everything. Am I wrong?

On one side we see Labour, trying to divest itself of union influence – and therefore its last link to its working-class background. Ed Miliband thinks the middle class is where the votes are, and he’s absolutely determined to ruin his entire organisation in a vain attempt to prove it. He’ll turn Labour into a plastic copy of the Conservative Party (in the course of which, of course, he’ll also have to change its name. You can’t be the Labour Party if you don’t represent people who work. I understand the word ‘Tory’ is going spare). Trouble is, there is already a Conservative Party. If your politics leans to the right anyway, why support the copy when you can have the original?

The Tories know this. They reckon Labour will self-destruct in fairly short order, leaving the way open for them to continue doing exactly anything they like – as they have been for the past three years and more, despite never having been voted into power by the British people, because they have support from the Liberal Democrats – who are enjoying their very last taste of any national political power.

Both the main parties are sneering at you. They think they know that you will stick to your traditional choices when election time rolls around again: Labour or Conservative. And they know that this means they will be allowed to continue doing whatever they want, against the wishes of the nation in most cases.

That’s how our version of democracy works. You get one chance to vote for the organisation that will rule over you for the next five years. Your decision is nominally based on the promises they make in their various manifestos (many of which will be broken. These documents are rarely worth the paper on which they’re printed), but most likely to be based on habit and an impression of what each party stands for – one that is no longer likely to bear any relationship to reality. Your influence is diminished by the fact that most Parliamentary seats are ‘safe’. The voting population is locked into a particular pattern and each political party can ‘parachute’ its own favoured candidates – people who will support the leaders’ policies, no matter what the wishes of their constituents – into those seats and be assured of support from these drones over the next five years. This is why Labour and the union Unite have been at loggerheads recently – Unite wants candidates who genuinely represent the people of their constituencies; Blairite Labour wants neoliberal, party-propping drones. It looks like Blairite Labour has won the battle, meaning the Labour Party will lose the war; how are they doing in the polls?

So elections are determined on the basis of a tiny number of marginal or ‘swing’ seats. Do you live in a marginal constituency? No? Then your vote probably doesn’t count.

It seems to me that, if we ever want to see democracy in the UK, we need to make it possible for EVERY seat to become a ‘swing’ seat – make it a much harder job for the large parties to ‘parachute’ in their party faithfuls and open up the field to candidates from smaller parties (not just UKIP). But how?

The answer’s obvious, isn’t it? You make sure everyone in your constituency knows exactly what their MP has been doing in their name. Only an informed electorate can make useful decisions, after all – and government of the uninformed is not legitimate government at all.

For example: My MP is a Liberal Democrat backbench drone called Roger Williams. I’ve known him for years and thought he was a nice enough fellow. In fact I voted for him at the last election. It was a tactical vote to keep the Tories out (foolish, in hindsight) – but he has let me down on many major votes, and I’m about to give you two examples.

My constituency is Brecon and Radnorshire – the most rural in England and Wales. It relies on agriculture for much of its income. Therefore it was a shock to our economy when the Westminster government voted to dissolve the Agricultural Wages Board. I cannot currently find any information about how Mr Williams voted on this issue of major importance to his constituency.

I can, however, report his fellow Liberal Democrats’ response to the Welsh Government’s plan for a replacement body covering Wales – they oppose it.

The AWB ensured consistent wages among agricultural workers, and prevented disputes over pay and conditions. Abolishing the board removes recognition of workers’ unique skills, bringing with it a significant pay cut. It is also a mark of disrespect.

In Brecon and Radnorshire, cuts to state benefits will take an average of £433 from working-age people’s incomes – more than a week’s take-home pay where wages are only around 76 per cent of the national average. The loss of the AWB means a significant extra cut to the local economy.

According to Lib Dem AM Bill Powell, his party doesn’t want the Welsh Government to “ram through” this emergency legislation “without allowing Assembly members and committees to scrutinise their proposals fully”.

Perhaps he is forgetting that Mr Williams voted in March to help the Conservative Party “ram through” emergency legislation on the Work Programme in a much quicker and undignified way, in order to prevent jobseekers from claiming back the £130 million that had been stolen from them in illegal sanctions by the Department for Work and Pensions?

So we see that my MP’s party supports the abolition of the AWB, and my MP supported the retroactive law. Both were acts of repression; both were pieces of legislation I oppose. Did he act according to my wishes? Most assuredly not. But he acts in my name.

Oh yes… He also voted against a cumulative impact assessment on the effects of benefit cuts on people with disabilities.

Should he – or any Liberal Democrat – represent Brecon and Radnorshire after 2015? Absolutely not – it would not be in the best interests of the constituency.

But we shouldn’t tolerate anyone from the other parties who preaches freedom for us but practises similar policies of repression.

That’s the message that needs to go out:

“Not in my name.”