The woman in the Question Time audience was quite right and Matthew Hancock’s argument was wrong, along with Conservative Party policy.
The Tories stubbornly refuse to accept the main principle of government borrowing, which is this:
Governments borrow to pay for public services that will continue into the future, therefore it is right that people who benefit from those services at a later time should help pay for them.
It may be that the Tories think this isn’t relevant to them, because they are dismantling public services, meaning there will be nothing for future generations to fund – but that assumes they will be successful in completely asset-stripping the UK, leaving the majority of its citizens with nothing and only a precious few with shares in the privatised companies that remain (along with the People’s Republic of China, of course).
One presumes he expects to put this lady’s son onto such a scheme in the near future.
A mother’s heated exchange with a Tory minister took centre stage during Thursday night’s BBC ‘Question Time’, as she castigated David Cameron’s government for “writing off” those with disabilities.
The audience member lambasted Matthew Hancock after prolonged austerity has seen essential services relied upon by her disabled son withdrawn or threatened.
“I have a son with a learning disability. He has no social worker, no care plan,” she said.
“His transport to and from school is threatened, his college place has just been withdrawn.
“I think the reality on the ground for people like us living everyday lives is that austerity is devastating.
“Certainly for my son and young people like him.
“We feel as though he’s been written off by Cameron’s government.”
Hancock, a Cabinet Office minister, attempted to defend the reduction in public services but was quickly drowned out by furious audience members.
As he struggled to respond amid loud heckles from the audience, Hancock said: “If we can’t have a country that lives within its means,” before being interrupted.
Battling against audience reaction, he continued: “It is not ‘flannel’ to want to reduce the deficit. Hold on, if we don’t have a country that can live within its means then we can’t fund those sorts of public services that people like you rely on.”
At which point the woman interjected: “What? So we pay our taxes but our children can’t go to school?”
Snouts in the trough: Martin Rowson’s Guardian cartoon goes straight to the heart of the matter – fat cats and pigs fouling up the landscape in the name of GREED.
Britain’s treasured national parks could be spoiled by oil and gas companies using them as drilling sites, if our treacherous Coalition government has its way.
People are already angry because the Coalition intends to open up about half the country – presumably those parts not owned or inhabited by members of the Coalition – for fracking by oil and gas companies. The plan is to allow drilling even if it takes place under citizens’ houses.
With less than a year until a general election that they know they are likely to lose, it seems that David Cameron’s Conservatives are determined to strip the whole country to the bone in the name of naked greed.
Perhaps they consider this to be poetic justice after we stopped them selling off publicly-owned parks and common land, back in the early days of the current Parliament; the logic seems to be, “If we can’t sell them, we’ll ruin them so nobody can enjoy them anyway”.
The plan is being handled by business minister Matthew Hancock – who specialises in energy, it seems. What does Ed Davey do, then? Hancock came to the attention of this blog yesterday when it was revealed that he had complained to the UK Statistics Authority about figures that Labour leader Ed Miliband didn’t use in a speech on jobs.
That can only bode ill for his plan to speed up the process of licensing companies to drill, so they can start within six months of making an application. He’ll cut corners and he’ll make even more bad decisions.
He’ll ruin our national parks. These are our designated areas of natural beauty, intended to be there for us to enjoy in perpetuity. Once the drills go in, there will be no way to restore them.
Fracking is an especially destructive form of oil and gas drilling that uses pressurised water to break up rock to get to oil supplies. Ground water can be contaminated by the gases and toxic chemicals used in the fracking process, and it is understood that waste from the fracking process is commonly mishandled.
Not only will our areas of outstanding natural beauty become ugly industrial pits but our health will be put at risk, while the big oil companies take the profits.
The Coalition is defending its decision by saying that people living in or around national parks will be protected by tougher rules for fracking. Hancock was interviewed about this on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week, and it should be no surprise whatsoever that he made a complete twit of himself. He claimed that there was broad support for fracking (in the name of “better energy security”) so the presenter asked him to name a village in the UK that supported fracking. He could not; instead, he changed the subject.
At the same time, the Coalition has removed the ability for millions of homeowners to stop companies from drilling directly under their properties.
The Coalition is touting the potential temporary benefits of a new oil or gas discovery. But is the potential permanent loss of our natural beauty really worth it?
Of course not – and you can tell the government to remove national parks from the list of areas open to fracking operations, simply by signing this petition.
Speeches – especially those made by politicians – are checked by several people, not just the author or the person delivering it (these are not necessarily the same person), and even then, the speaker can decide to omit parts or include new information in the moment.
That’s why the words “Check against delivery” appear at the top of every speech issued by political parties to the press. They protect the organisation and its speaker from exactly the sort of criticism currently directed at Mr Miliband by Andrew Dilnot of the UKSA (who should know better) and business minister Matthew Hancock (who made the complaint and therefore, clearly, does not).
Miliband took his information – a claim that four-fifths of all new private-sector jobs created since 2010 are in London – from the Centre for Cities thinktank. Both have stated that they believe the claim to be accurate.
That doesn’t have any bearing on the argument, in fact. The version of the speech received by the press makes it perfectly clear that the statistic is independently-sourced, not an official figure from the Office for National Statistics.
So not only did Mr Miliband not mention it, but there is no official figure against which to compare it. Mr Hancock, Mr Dilnot and the whiners in the news media are attacking him for something he hasn’t done – and that is the only unsurprising aspect of this story.
After all, it isn’t the first time Tories have made false accusations about the Labour Party.
They’re still trying to make us believe the financial crisis was caused by Labour, rather than bankers.
Columnist Jill Filipovic hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “I can already hear your objections: ‘But the area under my boobs doesn’t stink!’ or ‘What kind of marketing genius not only came up with the term “swoob,” but actually thought half the world’s population might be dumb enough to buy into it?’ or simply, ‘This is a dumb product aimed at inventing an insecurity and then claiming to cure it.’
“You would be correct on all three points.
“In fact, inventing problems with women’s bodies and then offering a cure – if you pay up – is the primary purpose of the multi-billion dollar beauty industry.”
The simple fact is that you don’t really need to worry about smells down there – a good old soapy flannel will cure any such problems.
That’s not the point, though. The aim is to get you thinking about it and devoting your energy to it, rather than to other matters.
Now let’s translate that to politics.
We already know that all the scaremongering about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants storming the country from January 1 was a crock. That bastion of good statistics, The Now Show, told us last week that the total number of Bulgarian immigrants in the last couple of weeks was “around two dozen so far”, according to their ambassador. In the first three months after our borders were opened to Croatians, 174 turned up.
Yet the government wanted you to believe they would flood our immigration service in their millions, “taking benefits and yet simultaneously also taking all the jobs”.
My use of language such as “storming” and “flood” is not accidental. By far the more serious threat to the UK in the early days of 2014 was the weather – and, guess what, not only was the government unprepared for the ferocity of the storms that swept our islands, the Coalition was in fact in the process of cutting funding for flood defence.
This would have gone unnoticed if the weather had behaved itself, because we would all have been distracted by the single Romanian immigrant who was ensnared by Keith Vaz in a ring of TV cameras at Heathrow Airport.
Now the Tories are telling us that our take-home pay is finally on the rise for all but the top 10 per cent of earners, with the rest of us seeing our wages rise by at least 2.5 per cent.
The government made its claims (up) by taking into account only cuts to income tax and national insurance, using data leading up to April last year, according to the BBC News website.
“The data used … takes no account of the large benefit cuts introduced by the coalition, such as the real-terms cut in child benefit, the uprating of benefits in line with CPI inflation rather than RPI, and the cuts to tax credits,” writes the Statesman‘s George Eaton.”
He also pointed out that other major cuts such as the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, and the 10 per cent cut in council tax support were introduced after April 2013 and were not included in the Coalition figures.
Once all tax and benefit changes are taken into account, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that almost all families are worse off – and the Coalition also appears to have forgotten the five million low-paid workers who don’t earn enough to benefit from the increase in the personal allowance.
Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock compounded the mistake in an exchange on Twitter with Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Asked why his analysis “ignores more than four million people in work (the self-employed)”, Mr Hancock tweeted: “Analysis based on ONS ASHE survey of household earnings data”.
Wrong – as Mr Portes was quick to show: “Don’t you know the difference between household and individual earnings?”
Apparently not. ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) is a survey of employed individuals using their National Insurance numbers – not of households or the self-employed.
So the Coalition – and particularly the Tories – were trying to make us all feel good about the amount we earn.
That’s the distraction. What are we supposed to be ignoring?
Or is it the growing threat of a rise in interest rates, which may be triggered when official unemployment figures – which have been fiddled by increased sanctions on jobseekers, rigged reassessments of benefit claimants, a new scheme to increase the number of people and time spent on Workfare, and the fake economic upturn created by George Osborne’s housing bubble – drop to seven per cent?
It seems possible that the government – especially the Tory part of it – would want to keep people from considering the implications of an interest rate rise that is based on false figures.
As Vox Political commenter Jonathan Wilson wrote yesterday: “If the BOE bases its decisions on incorrect manipulated data that presents a false ‘good news’ analysis then potentially it could do something based on it that would have catastrophic consequences.
“For example if its unemployment rate test is reached, and wages were going up by X per cent against a Y per cent inflation rate which predicted that an interest rate rise of Z per cent would have no general effect and not impact on house prices nor significantly increase repossessions (when X per cent is over-inflated by the top 1 per cent of earners, Y per cent is unrealistically low due to, say, the 50 quid green reduction and/or shops massively discounting to inflate purchases/turnover and not profit) and when it does, instead of tapping on the breaks lightly it slams the gears into reverse while still traveling forward… repossessions go up hugely, house prices suffer a major downward re-evaluation (due to tens of thousands of repossessions hitting the auction rooms) debt rates hit the roof, people stop buying white goods and make do with last year’s iPad/phone/tv/sofa, major retail goes tits up, Amazon goes to the wall, the delivery market and post collapses… etc etc.
“And all because the government fiddled the figures.”
Perhaps Mr Cameron doesn’t want us thinking about that when we could be deodorising our breasts instead.
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Labour doesn’t need to justify scrapping the bedroom tax beyond stating the fact that it is an unjust measure designed to inflict misery upon the lowest-earning citizens of the UK while conferring no discernible benefit on the state.
Therefore Ed Miliband’s insistence on pandering to the Coa-lamity government’s narrative by trying to say where he would find the money to make the move possible may be seen as a mistake; there is no evidence that the bedroom tax has saved a single penny and every reason to believe that it will be a greater burden on the taxpayer in the long run.
Labour failed to attack the claim that the bedroom tax was saving money and we should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail.
He should have pointed out that the Coalition government’s claim – that the tax negates differences between social rented accommodation and the private sector – is nonsense and we should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail.
And he should have pointed out that the Coalition’s claim – that the bedroom tax and other changes would cut the cost of Housing Benefit by £2 billion – is also nonsense; that bill was £20.8 billion in 2010 when the claim was made so, with the current cost at more than £23 billion, the bill is now £5 billion above the Coalition’s target without showing any signs of coming down. We should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail, also.
Or rather, he should question their wisdom.
There will be a time for that, but this isn’t it.
Those arguments don’t matter right now.
The fact is that he said the bedroom tax is unfair and a Labour government would end it – and he said it after a United Nations investigator made exactly the same claim. Labour has brought itself in line with UN findings and now the Coalition has been cast as a rogue government, acting against legally-binding international agreements which Labour would uphold.
But let’s just have a look at that mistake again. Labour said it would be able to axe the bedroom tax because it would save money by other means – ending a tax break for hedge funds and cutting short the new shares-for-rights scheme currently being thrust at company employees by the Treasury.
These are things that Labour would do anyway. The bedroom tax is just an excuse – in the same way that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats put up an excuse for inflicting it on the poor, the sick and the disabled in the first place. It’s basically Miliband and the rest of the Labour Party offering the Conservatives and their little yellow friends a taste of their own medicine.
That gives them credibility.
And, if these measures really can boost public funds by £2 billion, then Labour will have found a way to do what the Coalition could not, because the bedroom tax was always likely to cost more money than it saved, for reasons well-discussed in the past.
Hedge funds are a rich seam of cash, ripe for mining by politicians because they aim to make money whether the market is moving up or down. The means by which they do this are extremely questionable and can artificially engineer collapses in company share prices, so it is right that a punitive tax regime should be imposed upon them.
That means that Labour’s plan really has been costed in a reasonable way. Costed and credible – just as Miliband claimed.
And the Treasury knows it. Look at its response – an unfounded, nonsense claim that Labour would tax pensions and borrow more money to fund the change.
Sajid Javid came out with this rubbish on the BBC’s news website. His credibility is already shaky and his claim has done nothing to improve that situation for him.
Business minister Matthew Hancock also got in the ring, but flailed wildly around with another nonsense claim that ending the bedroom tax would lead to higher taxes and higher mortgage rates.
He doesn’t matter. Javid doesn’t matter. A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said something as well, but that doesn’t matter either because nobody believes a single word those people say.
The Guardian is currently running a poll asking members of the public to vote on whether the bedroom tax should be scrapped. A massive 91 per cent of voters want rid of it.
Another fool who doesn’t think before speaking: David Gauke, pictured here with jaws clamped shut in a desperate attempt to prevent his foot from leaping into his mouth. It would serve him right if his ill-judged attack on a Labour MP brings the entire party and all its supporters together for a concerted attack on the Conservative-led coalition’s silly and baseless policies.
Tory Treasury tax-avoidance fan and whistleblower-basher David Gauke’s attack on the Labour Party is yet another shot in the foot for the Government That Can Do Nothing Right.
His ill-judged, ill-timed remark that Labour MPs were “turning on each other” is more likely to galvanise Her Majesty’s Opposition into more co-ordinated and powerful attacks on Coalition ideology and incompetence – especially after we learned the Tory claim that they inherited an economic mess from the last Labour government was nothing more than a blatant lie.
“They don’t really have anything to say and they’re now turning on each other and I think their own backbenchers are beginning to realise that the Labour leadership haven’t really got a voice,” Gauke told the BBC in response to a piece by Labour’s Swansea West MP, Geraint Davies, in The Independent.
In doing so, it seems Gauke was trying to distract attention from what Mr Davies was actually saying – which is worth repeating here, because it is likely he speaks for a huge majority of Labour members who are becoming increasingly frustrated by the contradictory and self-defeating behaviour of their leaders.
So what does Mr Davies say?
First: “The electorate doesn’t yet see a clear choice between the parties on cuts vs growth.” This is because Labour has promised not to reverse Conservative-led ideological cuts and to keep spending at Tory-set levels for 2015-16, if returned to office at the general election – even though the Conservatives have decisively lost the argument on austerity. It simply isn’t necessary.
Second: “The Tories have been relentless in asserting that Labour messed up the economy. Not rebutting this charge makes us look like a shamefaced schoolboy admitting responsibility by omission.” Mr Davies makes a second good point here – more so because, as William Keegan reported in Sunday’s Observer, the spring issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy exonerates the last Labour government of any economic wrong-doing. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling did the right thing – and it is worth reminding everybody that the Conservatives, at the time, supported their actions. That was when the Tories were led by – who’d have thought it? – David Cameron and George Osborne, just as they are now!
The Observer article went on to note that US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has also endorsed the Labour government’s actions in his recognition that demand in our economies must be stimulated. Conservative-led Coalition policy has drained demand away. This is why the smart commentators are pointing out that the unforeseen upturn in the UK economy in recent months has nothing to do with government policy; it’s just that things had to get better, sooner or later.
Third: He puts up his opinion – that a Labour government should boost the UK’s productive capacity “by linking industry, universities and councils. We need a sharper focus on the growing export opportunities to China, India, Brazil and Russia. We must invest in homes and transport, use public procurement as an engine to grow small and medium-sized firms…. We need to continue a journey towards jobs and growth, not to be diverted into a cul-de-sac of more cuts.”
The last comment dovetails perfectly with the attack launched by Labour this week on the Coalition’s record – which claims the average worker will have lost £6,600 in real terms between the 2010 election and that due to take place in 2015.
Paraphrasing former Tory PM Harold Macmillan, Labour said many workers had “never had it so bad”, pointing out that David Cameron has presided over a more sustained period of falling real wages since 2010 than any other prime minister in the past 50 years.
The Tories’ only response has been to repeat the lie that the Coalition was clearing up a “mess” that we all now know for certain Labour neither created nor left.
Conservative business minister Matthew Hancock was the one voicing it this time, so voters in his West Suffolk constituency please note: This man is a liar. You must not trust him.
And of course David Gauke weighed in as well. He’s the minister in charge of tax – who was revealed to have worked for a firm specialising in tax avoidance. Do you trust him? He’s also the minister who reportedly green-lit a plan to discredit Osita Mba, a solicitor with HM Revenue and Customs, after he blew the whistle on the notorious Goldman Sachs “sweetheart” deal that wrote off millions of pounds in interest charges on tax owed to the UK Treasury by the multinational corporation. A trustworthy man?
David Gauke is the MP for South West Hertfordshire. Voters there may wish to reconsider their opinion of him.
What these chuckleheads are missing is the fact that Mr Davies is not a lone voice in the wilderness; his article expressed the opinions of a wide majority of Labour members and voters.
“Will the Labour party declare it is opposed to zero hours contracts and will end them?” he wrote (perhaps after reading the Vox Political article on that subject).
“Will it show it is opposed to blacklisting by making it an imprisonable offence, prosecuting the 44 companies who indulged in it if convicted, and making it sure that all the 3,213 building workers secretly subject to blacklisting are informed of the cause of their up to 20 years’ joblessness and fully compensated? Will it say loud and clear that a decade of pay cuts for those on the lowest incomes is flagrantly unjust when the 0.01 per cent richest have not only not paid any price, but have seen their wealth continue to grow untouched?”
This is the sort of fire Labour members and voters want to see from the leaders. There is nothing to fear from tissue paper-thin Tory arguments and outright lies. It is time to stand up for Labour principles, damn the Tories for their evil, damn the Liberal Democrats as fools and dupes, and set out a plan to get the ship of state off the rocks and into calmer waters.
If Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, and the rest of the Labour front bench have any sense, they’ll realise that continuing with the course they have set will put them in a tiny minority that cannot possibly hope to win the next election. Alignment with Geraint Davies, Michael Meacher and the millions like them should ensure an overwhelming victory.
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