Tag Archives: living standard

Theresa May touts phony, crony capitalism. She wouldn’t know a free market if she was put up for sale on it

Reforming the unacceptable face of capitalism: Theresa May and Philip Green by Dave Brown. She said she would reform capitalism after the BHS scandal [Image: @Cartoon4sale on Twitter].

Theresa May’s attempt to lecture us all on the joys of capitalism is another howler in a series of blunders that should only end in her ejection from politics and the (self-)destruction of the political party she has been running into the ground for the last 14 months.

This Writer hastens to add that this is not because she advocates free-market capitalism as the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”. I don’t agree with that sentiment but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with capitalism in itself; pack that system full of good worker-owned co-operatives and I’ll be delighted.

The problem is that Tories preach free-market capitalism while actually practising something very different – neoliberalism: a sort of protectionist socialism-for-the-very-rich.

Neoliberalism demands that the benefits of scientific and cultural progress should only be enjoyed by those who can afford to pay for them using their own money.

That is why, internationally, eight people own as much wealth as half the population of the world. It is why, here in the UK, the richest 1,000 families have nearly tripled their wealth since the financial crisis (“all in it together”? I should bleedin’ cocoa) while half the country has to make do with just 8.7 per cent of the wealth.

It is why, under the neoliberal governments of Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and now May, national industries and utilities have been privatised – to take their profits away from the UK’s government and into private hands (and never mind the fact that some of those “private” hands happen to belong to foreign governments). The intention was to deprive the state of valuable funds, preventing it from investing in projects that would benefit the populace at large.

It is why social housing has been sold off and cruel penalties – like the Bedroom Tax – have been imposed on those living in the housing stock that remains. The aim is to drive the poorest into the gutter, opening up the properties for resale and redevelopment as “gentrified” – read “expensive” – estates.

It is why wages have been pushed down – to increase profits for rich company owners and shareholders who squirrel them away in offshore bank accounts where they do not have to pay tax to the UK government – and trade unions’ ability to oppose this cruelty has been rendered illegal by draconian legislation.

It is why regulations that protect citizens’ rights have been removed, to make it easier for privateers to provide substandard products or skip safety procedures altogether, thereby maximising their profits.

It is why people with long-term illness and/or disabilities, considered to be “useless eaters” in exactly the same way as in Nazi Germany, are persecuted to their deaths by a perverted “benefit” system that in fact strives to remove any help available.

Ultimately, it is the reason the UK has been pushed deeply into debt (sources of funding for the government having been either sold off, scrapped or squirrelled into tax havens) – to turn the country into a so-called “zombie economy” in which the vast majority of the people labour for a pittance, their tax money used not to provide public services but to partially pay off the interest on the national debt. Only partially, mind – the intention is for the debt never to be repaid.

That is what Theresa May calls the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created”. That is the central aim of all Tory economic policy – not an improvement in living standards, not protected jobs, but the exact opposite.

Of course she has been ridiculed:

In fact, the greatest agent of human progress every created was socialism, as enacted by Clement Attlee in his 1945-51 government and maintained in the post-war consensus years from 1945-79. Those were years of unprecedented prosperity that happened in spite of Conservatism and neoliberalism.

Tories and neoliberals hated those years. You can prove Mrs May a liar simply by pointing out that her neoliberalism was not responsible for the most sustained increase in living standards of everyone in the UK – living standards here were at their highest in 1977, under a Labour government in the post-war consensus years.

By then, the neoliberals were well on their way to power. The oil shock, engineered by the very rich, had prepared the way by creating social unrest due to inflation-stoked price rises – for which the Labour government was blamed. Margaret Thatcher had told the Parliamentary Conservative party that they now believed in Hayek-style neoliberalism and was plotting the destruction of the UK’s industrial base, in order to deprive working people of the security they had built up over the previous 30 years. Tory think tanks were filling the pages of newspapers and the time on TV political shows with pro-neoliberal dogma in order to sway public opinion.

Thatcher, and the other prime ministers since her, were all elected on a promise that living standards would improve. Instead, they have worsened.

Theresa May’s lying speech is an opportunity for us all to put an end to this insanity. Let’s denounce her version of capitalism for what it is – socialism for the very rich – and put both it and her on the scrap heap of historic failures.

Theresa May defended the free markets after Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism of capitalism by saying … that it is the “greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.”

Speaking on Thursday, May told the Bank of England’s 20th anniversary of independence conference that capitalism “is unquestionably the best, and indeed the only sustainable, means of increasing the living standards of everyone in a country. And we should never forget that raising the living standards, and protecting the jobs of ordinary working people is the central aim of all economic policy.”

The prime minister said it was free-market economics that “led societies out of darkness and stagnation and into the light of the modern age.”

Source: Theresa May defends free market capitalism after Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism

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Voting with the Tories on ‘welfare’ will end any credibility Labour has left

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars - one only has to consider the UK's secret bombing of Syria - after Parliament voted against it - to see the truth in that.

George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars – one only has to consider the UK’s secret bombing of Syria – after Parliament voted against it – to see the truth in that.

What an amazing piece in The Guardian about George Osborne’s call for “progressive” Labour MPs to support his entirely regressive changes to social security (the only people who call it “welfare” are Tories)!

Will people believe this pack of lies?

The article starts by saying he has urged “progressive” MPs in the Labour party to back his cuts in a major Commons vote today (Monday) on the Tories’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

He wants Labour MPs – but more importantly, the electorate, to think that the plan to cut child tax credits (among other measures) is what the public wants, and also builds on “mainstream Labour thinking”.

This is moonshine.

Labour believes that the profits of all our work should be shared out to ensure a decent standard of living for everybody, including those who cannot work but contribute to society in other ways. For example, if you have children, then you get child tax credits because their contribution to society has yet to be made.

Removing the tax credits and lowering the standard of living – as the Conservative chancellor’s plans would do to many people – is therefore the opposite of “mainstream Labour thinking”.

Osborne also calls on Labour to “stop blaming the public for its defeat”. This is typical Tory gaslighting. As a party, Labour has not blamed the public. The prevailing mood in the party is that Labour needs to draw the correct conclusions from the election result and create policies that acknowledge what the public wants, while fitting Labour values.

That’s real Labour values – not George Osborne’s fantasy.

You can tell that Labour isn’t doing as Osborne claims. Nowhere in the Guardian article is any factual evidence provided to show Labour has blamed the electorate for its defeat. Harriet Harman is paraphrased as having said the party needed to recognise that the electorate had sent Labour a message – which is quite the opposite.

Osborne also fails to support his claim that the majority of the electorate support his cuts. The majority of the electorate voted against the Conservative Party on May 7, with the Tories managing to gain only a 24.3 per cent share of the possible vote and a tiny 12-seat advantage in Parliament. That does not indicate majority support for the cuts programme.

The article states: “Osborne sprung a surprise in the budget by proposing cuts to the level of tax credits, but balanced these in part by a rise in the minimum wage to more than £9 an hour by 2020 for those over 25.” Notice that the tax credit cut is immediate, but the minimum wage will only rise to more than £9 per hour in five years’ time. How are people supposed to survive in the years between?

Also, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cut in tax credits, along with the other cuts that ‘Slasher’ Osborne wants to make, will remove £12 billion from the economy – but the minimum wage rise – when it finally happens – will only add £4 billion.

So the Conservatives want Labour to support an £8 billion cut in living standards for the people who can least accommodate it.

Osborne’s argument that the responsibility for ensuring decent living standards should be rebalanced, from the state handing out subsidies towards employers providing decent wages, falls because he has no intention of making employers pay decent wages.

Osborne also writes: “Three in four people – and a majority of Labour voters – think that Britain spends too much on welfare.”

Are these the same people who think 41 per cent of the entire social security budget goes on unemployment benefits, when the actual proportion is just three per cent?

Are these the same people who think 27 per cent of the entire social security budget is claimed fraudulently, when the actual proportion is just 0.7 per cent?

Are these the people who believe George Osborne’s lies, and the lies of the Conservative Government?

In case anybody is wondering, the figures quoted above are from a TUC poll that was carried out a couple of years ago. It seems that, with the help of compliant media (such as The Guardian?) the Conservatives have succeeded in continuing to mislead the general public.

Osborne continued: “For our social contract to work, we need to retain the consent of the taxpayer, not just the welfare recipient.”

People receiving social security payments are also taxpayers; indirect taxation accounts for around three-quarters of the taxes received by the UK Treasury from the 20 per cent of people in the lowest income group.

The lies keep coming: “For those that can work, I believe it is better to earn a higher income from your work than receive a higher income from welfare.” If this was true, then he would have forced the minimum wage up to a point at which people would no longer need to claim tax credits in order to receive the same amount. He didn’t; he lied.

Osborne goes on to praise interim Labour leader Harriet Harman for capitulating to the Conservatives over child tax credits. There is only one reason he would do this – to undermine support for the Labour Party by suggesting that it really is ‘Tory-Lite’. Shame on Ms Harman for allowing this to happen!

His claim, “She recognised that oppositions only advance when they … recognise that some of the arguments made by political opponents should be listened to,” would be reasonable if the argument for cutting tax credits was sound, but it isn’t – people will be worse-off in this instance. If people were to become better-off afterwards, he might have a point. As it is, it is drivel.

His very next point confirms this: “A previous Conservative opposition realised [this] 15 years ago when it accepted the case for a minimum wage.” The Conservative Party only accepted this case in 2008, under David Cameron – a Tory leader who, when campaigning unsuccessfully for the Stafford constituency seat in 1996, had said it would “send unemployment straight back up” (The Chronicle (Stafford), February 21 1996). Even now, many Tory supporters despise the minimum wage.

Osborne ended with an appeal for “moderate” Labour MPs to vote with his party.

That would be the end of any credibility Labour has remaining, as a party of Opposition.

According to The Guardian, Osborne said: “The proposals are part of a common endeavour by Labour and the Conservatives to implement difficult welfare reforms.” Again, he is trying to make the public think Labour and the Tories are the same. Labour MPs would have to be complete idiots to help him.

Some of the complete idiots in Labour who have already helped him are, according to Osborne, “New Labour work and pensions secretaries such as John Hutton, David Blunkett and James Purnell [who] all tried to reform the welfare system… Alistair Darling [who] says tax credits are ‘subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended’ [and] Frank Field… [who] agrees the system as it stands is simply ‘not sustainable’ and the budget represents a ‘game-changer’.”

Wouldn’t social security be a little more sustainable if George Osborne spent less time obsessing about wringing more money from those who can least afford to lose it, and more time getting his extremely rich corporate friend to pay up more of the £120 billion a year they are believed to owe in unpaid taxes?

Why isn’t Labour making this point, whenever Tories like Osborne start bleating that anything is “unsustainable”?

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Miliband’s pledge on minimum wages is a slap in the face for ‘trickle-down’ Tories

Boosting living standards and the economy: Ed Miliband announces his plan to increase the minimum wage at the Labour Women's Conference [Image: Reuters].

Boosting living standards and the economy: Ed Miliband announces his plan to increase the minimum wage at the Labour Women’s Conference [Image: Reuters].

Ed Miliband has the right idea: Increase the minimum amount working people are paid and the economy will grow faster and more sustainably than under any measure of the failed Coalition government.

His plan, announced at the Labour Women’s Conference yesterday, also lays down the gauntlet to the Conservatives: Will they match the pledge, or whine that it is unsupportable while their executive donors slither away to enjoy their inflation-busting salary increases (FTSE-100 bosses: 14 per cent per year; bankers 35 per cent; MPs will soon get an 11 per cent rise).

Boosting the minimum wage to £8 per hour during the next Parliament, providing a pay increase of about £60 per week to Britain’s lowest-paid, is a headline-grabbing scheme but once again it is the percentages that matter.

Mr Miliband wants minimum wages to reach 58 per cent of the average (from 54 per cent now) by 2020 – and then 60 per cent in the next Parliament. If you think that’s a pipe dream just remember that, if wages had remained proportionate to the situation in 1986, the minimum would currently be £18.89.

The policy is entwined with a commitment to promote the Living Wage that has recently seen Powys County Council, local authority to Yr Obdt Srvt, announce that its lowest-paid workers are to receive it, starting in the near future. The policy was put forward by the council’s Labour group and has been approved by the ruling independents.

Conservative councillors have reportedly ‘called in’ the decision, claiming that the authority has neither the funds nor the right to make such a decision. They are wrong about both, and will make fools of themselves by fighting the inevitable.

What about the national situation? Mr Miliband agrees with Vox Political that the Conservative-led Coalition’s much-mentioned ‘Long-Term Plan’ is a nightmare for the poorly-paid. George Osborne’s first decision as Chancellor was to stall economic growth for three long years; now he is telling us that the economy is picking up but all we see is the longest fall in living standards created by any government in the last 100 years, with wage rises intentionally pegged lower than inflation to provide increasingly less purchasing power for the poor.

Miliband says he wants government to set out a long-term policy on wages that gives businesses time to plan and adapt to boost productivity and support higher wages – with a safeguard built in, allowing the Low Pay Commission to advise if the goal cannot be met without risking jobs and growth in the fact of economic shocks.

Minimum wage hotspots across the country

The Tories appear to have no opposition to the plan, other than a weak appeal to an old narrative that nobody believes any more: “Labour left our… economy on its knees – and would do it all over again.”

The BBC quoted Tory Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who claimed people – presumably he meant Tories – would not take “lectures” from Labour on helping people on low pay.

“By crashing the economy, Labour made everyone poorer and they haven’t learnt their lesson,” he said, mouthing the old lie yet again. “Ed Miliband would make people worse off with the same failed policies that got us into a mess in the first place” – policies that were rebuilding the economy in early 2010, before Javid’s former boss George Osborne turned up and trashed it.

No. The Conservatives have put the UK on its back and are carving up the body and selling it off to private-industry cannibals. This piecemeal parcelling-off of our industry and services will leave us with nothing – as has been the intention ever since Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979.

It seems the Liberal Democrats want to “help” lower-paid workers with tax cuts, continuing the work they have done over the last four years to undermine the UK’s ability to pay its debts. Nice one, yellow perils!

Oh, and some goon called Mark Littlewood, from the free-market (read: neoliberal) thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs reckons the move will be “dangerous” for the economy. Thanks for that, Mark. Shame you didn’t put any flesh on the skeleton of your argument.

It is Day One of the Labour Conference and already David Cameron is on his back foot. Three more days of this and he’ll simply be on his back.

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Labour has lost its ideals – now the Party of the People needs to find them again


Isn’t it desperately disappointing that, after the British people showed Ed Miliband in no uncertain terms that Labour is still going in the wrong direction, his first response was an appeal for us all to rally in support of his values, whatever they are.

No, Ed, no. It’s time the Labour Party gave up trying to force us to accept something we don’t want. It’s time you gave up being Tory Lite. It’s time – for crying out loud, this isn’t rocket science! – it’s time you gave us all a chance to believe you share our values!

Can you do that – you and your pseudo-socialist friends Ed Balls, and Yvette Cooper, and Tristram Hunt (and the rest)? If not, you need to make way for people who can – before it is too late.

The people’s response to Labour’s offer was written very clearly across ballot papers all over the country on Thursday: Too similar to the Conservatives! We won’t have either! In fact, we’ll support a party that is even more madly right-wing than either of you, just to show that we don’t want you.

And that’s just the response of those who voted. Those who didn’t were making an even plainer message: Why bother, when there isn’t a cigarette paper that can slide between any of you?

Look at this response from Terry Cook on the Vox Political Facebook page: “It [Labour] needs to prove it doesn’t share UKIP or Tory values; simple.”

Now look at the graph at the top of this article, showing that the public has lost faith in Labour every time it has supported reactionary, right-wing, Conservative, neoliberal policies – while announcements of policies that actually help people have restored support to the party.

The people don’t believe Labour should be having anything to do with anti-Socialist schemes. Here’s Alan Weir: “Labour lost my vote. They are no longer a socialist party and do not represent my views.”

He’s one of millions of potential Labour supporters, Ed! Why are you slinging them out wholesale in order to gain a handful of Daily Mail readers (a forlorn hope anyway)?

The evidence suggests increasing numbers of people are rebelling against Conservative control – but the lack of any credible alternative from Labour has left them with nowhere to go. In that sense, Labour may be said to be driving people away from democracy and into slavery in a complete U-turn – away from the principles on which the party was created.

Martin Williams: “He is totally ignoring the electorate because these people only do democracy when it suits them!”

Ros Jesson: “Some Labour people… on BBC’s coverage… their frustration with the leadership was almost palpable.”

Ed’s message highlighted his values of “hard work, fairness and opportunity”. What did people think of that?

“I am sick to death of ‘hard work’ being touted as a value, as if those desperate to find a job were of no value,” commented Pauline Vernon. “The Labour Party is still so determined to occupy the middle ground they are becoming indistinguishable from the Conservatives.”

Paula Wilcock: “Half hearted promises, no believable policies. I want to hear a realistic plan of what they are going to do to get voters like me… to go back to the Labour Party.”

Baz Poulton (who supplied the image), had this to say: “Why not actually stand up for Labour values and ideals instead of just subscribing to the same as the Tories? Labour’s support has been dwindling as they have become more and more right wing… Standing more in line with Labour’s original values sees an obvious climb in support, while their desperation to be more Tory than the Tories is seeing their support suffer.

“It’s obvious why that happens, and what they need to do to get the support of their traditional voters who are turning elsewhere now. Labour’s manifesto reads like the Tory one.”

The worst of it is that, looking at the historical context, this is what Labour wanted – from the New Labour days onward. Look at Owen Jones’ recent Guardian article: “For years the political elite has pursued policies that have left large swaths of Britain gripped by insecurity: five million people trapped on social housing waiting lists; middle-income skilled jobs stripped from the economy; the longest fall in living standards since the Victorian era, in a country where most people in poverty are also in work.”

That was exactly what Margaret Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley planned back in the 1970s, as revealed in The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain: “Their view was that defeat of the movement that had forced Heath’s U-turn would require, not simply the disengagement of the state from industry, but the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base. The full employment that had been sustained across most of the post-war period was seen, together with the broader security offered by the welfare state, to be at the root of an unprecedented self-confidence among working-class communities.

“Very large-scale unemployment would end the ‘cycle of rising expectations,’ [and] permit the historic defeat of the trade union movement.”

This is exactly what Owen Jones wrote about on Monday. Nicholas Ridley put these ideas forward in (for example) the Final Report of the Policy Group on the Nationalised Industries in – prepare to be shocked – 1977.

And Labour – in office – did nothing about it. This is part of the reason people don’t trust Labour now.

Let’s go back to Mr Jones: “For years Labour has pursued a strategy of professionalising its politicians: its upper ranks are dominated by privileged technocrats who have spent most of their lives in the Westminster bubble.

“The weakening of trade unions and local government has purged working-class voices from a party founded as the political wing of organised labour: just four per cent of all MPs come from a manual background.

“Special advisers are parachuted into constituencies they have never heard of.

“Policies are decided by focus groups; a language is spoken that is alien to the average punter, full of buzzwords and jargon such as ‘predistribution’ and ‘hard-working people better off’.”

All of these things are wrong. There’s no point in even going into the reasons; any right-thinking person will agree that an MP who has never had a proper job (working as a researcher for another MP doesn’t count) is infinitely less use than one who has had to work for a living.

What is Labour’s reaction to UKIP’s Euro win? “The likes of Ed Balls want to respond to the high tide of Farageism with a firmer immigration-bashing message.” In other words, following UKIP’s right-wing lead.

Owen is correct to say: “This is political suicide”. In fact, for Ed Balls, it should be a sacking offence. He’s got no business coming out with it and has embarrassed Labour and its supporters by doing so.

He is also right to say that Labour must be more strident about its policies. Not only that, these policies must address the problems that have been created by neoliberal Conservatism and reverse the trends. That doesn’t mean using the same tools, as New Labour tried – because when the electorate gets tired of Labour again, the Tories would be able to change everything back and hammer the poor like never before.

No – it means removing those tools altogether. A fresh approach to clean out the rot – and the vigilance required to ensure it does not return.

If Ed Miliband really wants to win next year’s election – and this is by no means certain at the moment – then Labour needs to rediscover the values of the British people.

And that means paying attention when we say what those values are.

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‘The Budget that confirms Britain is worse-off under the Tories’

Mr Os-bean: As Ed Miliband gave his response to the Budget, George Osborne had a gormless smile on his face that made him look like Mr Bean.  This is not him - but it's the closest image I could find at short notice. [Image as credited]

Mr Os-bean: As Ed Miliband gave his response to the Budget, George Osborne had a gormless smile on his face that made him look like Mr Bean. This is not him – but it’s the closest image I could find at short notice. [Image as credited]

If a Conservative government is returned to office after the 2015 election, there will be yet more spending cuts and service cuts afflicting hard-working, low-paid families.

That was the message for most people in George Osborne’s latest attempt at a Budget speech today.

There were plenty of groan-worthy moments as the part-time chancellor trotted out the Coalition’s catchphrases: “We will fix the roof while the sun is shining” (groan. The job is taking so long, one has to question whether the contractor is Con-ning the client). “We are all in this together” (groan). Oh really?

Benefit spending is to be capped at £119 billion per year, albeit rising with inflation; public sector pay “restraint” will continue for the foreseeable future. This is from the government whose Prime Minister was confirmed, only minutes previously, as having approved 40 per cent pay rises for his special advisors!

Most significant is the fact that Osborne avoided mentioning ordinary working people for most of his speech; this was a budget for businesses, with the benefits reserved for fatcat bosses.

No major advanced economy in the World is growing faster than the UK, said Mr Osborne; more people are in work. This appears to be borne out by current employment figures (although it should be noted that this is due to a vast and questionable boom in self-employment – the number of employees has dropped by 60,000).

Where is the benefit to the British economy? Why has the deficit not been eliminated? Osborne said it stood at £157 billion in the year he came to office, and would be £108 billion this year, but in fact £39 billion was removed due to measures brought in by the previous Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling. He has cut government spending by something like £80 billion so far, but the deficit has dropped by – possibly – £10 billion. Not a good start to his speech.

There will be further investment in high-speed rail, even though there is no way of predicting whether this hugely costly investment in making train journeys 20 minutes faster will create any economic improvement.

There will be money to fund new centres for medical research – but will these be absorbed by private health firms after the public purse has paid for them?

There will be investment in faster extraction of oil from the North Sea – aiming to get as much as possible out before the Scottish referendum, in order to impoverish the Scots if they decide to go for independence?

And there will be investment in low-cost energy (finally killing the highly questionable green agenda) – meaning money for shale gas companies, and to hell with the environmental cost.

All this investment will go into businesses whose main contribution to the Treasury – Corporation Tax – has already dropped by a quarter (from 28 per cent to 21 per cent) and will go down to 20 per cent this year. This is less than the lowest level of Income Tax.

Up go the profits – down go the tax payments. Who benefits?

Council tax in England remains frozen, meaning fewer public services.

The personal tax allowance is to rise, so people may earn £10,500 before paying tax. This is nowhere near enough to offset the massive drop in living standards that has been caused by the Tory-led Coalition. The cost of living has risen for 44 out of the 45 months of this Parliament – for the whole period, if the earnings of high-paid bankers are removed from the calculation.

The threshold for payment of the 40p tax rate is to rise, so fewer people will pay the higher rate.

Savers are to be helped but – again – this is not a boost for the poor. Most working and unemployed families don’t have any spare money to put into the banks. How does it help them to know they would not pay any tax on savings up to £15,000 in an ISA, when they cannot afford to open one?

And there is a new Pensioner Bond for rich senior citizens (poorer pensioners don’t live long enough to benefit).

As Ed Miliband said in his scathing response, the Coalition can afford to give a tax cut of £200,000 per year to bankers who earn £5 million – but can’t afford £250 per year extra for nurses.

Mr Miliband said the Budget speech was more significant in what it hid than in what it actually said.

Working people are suffering under the Bedroom Tax, under cuts to their tax credits, and they are having to visit food banks if they want to eat.

This is a government that gives with one hand, but takes back much more with the other.

And the Conservatives have the bare-faced cheek to call themselves “The Workers’ Party”.

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Peter Oborne is right to support the 50p tax rate


… but wrong about many, many other matters.

The Torygraph‘s chief political commentator was right to come out as a supporter of Ed Balls’s pledge to raise the top tax rate back to 50p in the pound.

He was right to say it was “profoundly shaming and offensive” for Conservative voters – especially those who are not super-rich – when George Osborne lowered the top rate to 45p, two years ago.

He was right when he wrote that “to make the rich richer at the same time as making the poor poorer – what George Osborne has been doing – is simply squalid, immoral and disgusting.

“Any decent human being must surely feel sick in the stomach that he is taking this action at the same time as cutting the amount of tax paid by people earning more than £150,000.”

To that, let’s add a point about the kind of people who are benefiting from the lower tax rate – the kind of people who take home around £1 million a year in basic pay, who are promised bonuses of up to twice those yearly salaries, and who caused the financial crisis that has allowed Osborne to pursue his policy of impoverishing the poor.

That’s right: George Osborne’s 45p tax rate is a £100,000 extra bonus, every year – in gratitude for all their help, one must presume – for bankers.

Oborne is also right to say that Labour’s decision in the 1970s, to impose a top tax rate of 83p in the pound, was a huge mistake – for whatever reasons. It genuinely drove people out of the country, whereas at 50p they just grumble and threaten to go.

All of the above being said, Oborne continues to espouse some utterly wrong-headed nonsense. He claims that “the Conservative Party is not an interest group which represents only the very rich” when all of its actions since getting into office in 2010 demonstrate ample proof that a minority group representing only the very rich is exactly what it is.

Oborne actually puts in print: “The Coalition government has devoted a great deal of effort to lowering the living standards of the poor. I support this project.”

It’s great to see a Tory voter actually admitting this, but imbecilic behaviour for a columnist who (one presumes) wants people to respect his point of view.

He goes on: “I believe that Gordon Brown’s welfare state forced some people into a life of dependency… There have been many people on welfare who need much more of an incentive to return to work.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The reason many people are without jobs and claiming benefit is, there are almost five jobseekers for every job. This is a situation created by the Tory-led government in order to keep wages low; with so many people clamouring for jobs, people who do have work but are on the bottom rung of the employment ladder can’t ask for a raise – they would be jettisoned and replaced by a jobseeker (most likely on lower basic pay than the original holder of the job).

Nobody was forced into a life of dependency by Gordon Brown; the vast majority of unemployed people genuinely want to improve their situation with a job that allows them to avoid claiming benefits – and it is good that the Labour Party, if returned to office next year, will work hard to bring the Living Wage into force for all working people.

You see, Mr Oborne and his ilk conveniently forget that the vast majority of people whose living standards have been hit by the Tory war on the poor are in work. They are so poorly-paid by George Osborne’s corporate friends that they have to claim tax credits – or, as I like to call them, Employer Subsidy – and housing benefit – otherwise known as Landlord Subsidy.

That’s improper use of our tax money. We should not be subsidising fat corporates with our hard-earned taxes, so they can deliver ever more swollen dividends to their shareholders; and we should not be subsidising greedy landlords who charge multiples of what their properties are worth to tenants who have nowhere else to go if they want to keep their pittance-paying job.

It is valid to criticise Gordon Brown for allowing this to happen, but who knows? Maybe this figurehead of neoliberal New Labour was using tax credits as a stop-gap, intending to persuade corporate bosses round to the Living Wage in good time. We’ll never know for sure.

There remains a strong argument that government schemes to get people into work should have checks and balances. As underwriters of these schemes, we taxpayers need assurances that the firms taking part will not abuse their position of power, using jobseekers until the government subsidy runs out and then ditching good workers for more of the unemployed in order to keep the cash coming. That is not a worthwhile use of our cash.

We also need assurances that participants won’t drop out, just because life on the dole is easier. I was the victim of several personal attacks last week when I came out in support of Labour’s compulsory job guarantee, because they hated its use of sanctions. I think those sanctions are necessary; there should be a penalty for dropping out without a good reason.

In a properly-run scheme, those sanctions should never be put into effect, though. That means that any government job scheme needs to be driven, not by targets but by results.

Look at the Welsh Ambulance Service. Targets imposed by the Welsh Government mean that ambulances are supposed to arrive at the scene of an emergency within eight minutes – even if they are 20 minutes’ fast drive away, on the wrong side of a busy city like Cardiff, when they get the call. This means the Welsh Ambulance Service faces constant attack for failure to meet targets.

But what kind of results does the service achieve? Are huge numbers of Welsh patients dying, or failing to receive timely treatment because an ambulance arrives a minute or so after its target time? No. There will, of course, be some such occasions but those will most likely be the result of many contributory factors.

So: Results-driven schemes will put people into jobs and improve the economy; there is no need to impoverish the poor; the very rich never deserved their tax cut; and Ed Balls is right to want to re-impose the 50p rate.

The Conservatives are wrong to attack poor people; there is no need to impose further cuts on social security as part of Osborne’s failed austerity policy; and these things show very clearly that the Tories are a minority-interest party supporting only the extremely rich.

In the end, I find myself agreeing with one more comment by Mr Oborne; Ed Balls really has “given ordinary, decent people a serious reason for voting Labour at the coming election”.

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Sunny summer was good for the economy – shock! All YOU get is a tan


At risk of seeming to be ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’: Why, oh why, oh why is everybody making such a big fuss about the fact that the economy bounced back a little bit over the summer?

Did nobody think that, perhaps, the fact that it was more sunny than in recent years meant our tourism industry might get a much-needed shot in the arm – not least from run-down British people, desperate for relief from the constant, grinding monotony of the Conservative/Lib Dem Coa-lamity government’s austerity agenda?

Did they not recall that the holiday season is a traditional ‘lull’ period and that, therefore – unless unusual situations apply (as they have in previous years) – government spending should be less? What’s the relief to the public purse from not having any Olympic Games to stage this year? What’s the benefit of having no riots?

And, finally, for the vast majority of the British people, these figures are no reason to celebrate because they make no difference. The cost of living is going up while average real-terms earnings have plummetted. If we are seeing a recovery, it is a recovery for the rich alone.

As was always intended.

For the record, public sector borrowing for August was £13.2 billion – £1.2 billion lower than the amount recorded in August 2012. This puts the UK’s net national debt at £1.19 trillion – 74.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

GDP itself grew by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2013 (April-June), and tax revenues have been 2.8 per cent higher than in the same period of 2012. Total government spending has fallen by 2.2 per cent, led by a sharp drop in spending by individual departments.

You can read all this on the BBC News website and might find it pleasant enough, but then David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce had to ruin it by saying “Our ability to generate tax revenues will struggle to return to pre-recession levels, even when the pace of growth picks up. As a result, the government must continue to make cuts in current spending in order to reduce the deficit further.”

So he wants the madness to continue. I wonder… If his business was in trouble, would he cut investment in – say – advertising and then expect profits to improve? That would be madness. Every pound cut from public investment by the government results in a loss to the economy of £1.70-£2.20. It is the government’s own demand for austerity that is slowing the recovery!

And what does this mean for ordinary people?

It means that, after adjusting for inflation, average earnings are £1,350 per year lower than they were at the time of the 2010 General Election. The UK has suffered the biggest fall in income and living standards of any country in the G7. You are worse-off under the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats!

By 2015, average wages are forecast to be £1,520 lower than in 2010 (based on figures from the House of Commons Library). This means working people will have lost an average of £6,660 in real terms while David Cameron has been Prime Minister – enough to support the average family’s weekly shop for one and a half years, at 2012 prices!

Inflation has been higher than in other G7 countries throughout David Cameron’s period in office, meaning that George Osborne’s claim that “rising global prices” have forced the cost-of-living increase is nonsense.

Claims like that of then-Treasury Minister Chloe Smith at the start of 2012 that lower inflation meant “the cost of living is coming down a little for families” were also rubbish – it was still increasing; just not quite as fast.

In fact, price rises have outstripped wage growth in every single month of the Coalition government – except April this year, when David Cameron cut taxes for millionaires and bank bonuses skyrocketed. Who benefited? The rich. Who lost out? The middle classes, workers, and the poor.

A YouGov survey of ordinary people has shown that 70 per cent do not believe the much-touted recent improvements in the economy have helped middle- and lower-income families. Only 10 per cent thought they had.

And 81 per cent had seen prices grow faster than household incomes, with just three per cent (and only one per cent of women) seeing income grow faster than prices.

It doesn’t matter what they say the economy is doing. You will continue to lose money as long as you have a government of millionaires, ruling in their own interests rather than the interests of the country.

It’s as simple as that.