Mrs May’s suppression of the reports by John Vine, the government’s independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, suggests that she is trying to control the release of stories that criticise the government’s record on immigration in the run-up to the general election next year.
Mr Vine has made it clear that her failure to release the reports in a “timely” manner is reducing their impact and compromising his role as an independent watchdog.
His claim has also supported assertions by former Home Office minister Norman Baker that Mrs May suppressed reports on drug laws that run contrary to the government’s position.
It should be no surprise that the Coalition government is perfectly willing to suppress critical reports of its policies; this is an administration that lied its way into office and has been lying ever since.
The current fiasco is particularly damaging as David Cameron once claimed that his government would reduce net migration to less than 100,000 per year – “no ifs, no buts” – and the latest figures put it at around 260,000. That’s more than two-and-a-half times Cameron’s target, and higher than when the Conservative-led Coalition came into office.
According to The Independent: “Mr Vine says that up until this year he had complete autonomy to decide when his reports, which cover all aspect of Britain’s asylum and immigration system, were published. This was the case under successive Home Secretaries since the post was established in 2008.
“But Mr Vine said that in December last year he received a letter from Ms May saying that from then on, he would have to publish his reports through her department.”
The report continues: “‘I was concerned by these proposals for a number of reasons,’ he wrote. ‘I feared, at the time it was made, that a consequence of her decision might be that reports would not be published promptly, reducing the impact of their findings.'”
“Allowing the Government to control the release date also allows ministers to release them at times when they will get little publicity – potentially burying unwelcome news.”
So Mr Vine is right to accuse the government – and Mrs May in particular – of dirty tricks.
We all know of at least one other government department that has used delaying tactics: The Department for Work and Pensions has not published any statistics on the deaths of Employment and Support Allowance claimants since mid-2012, when it was revealed that 10,600 UK citizens died while claiming the benefit between January and December 2011 – around 220 per week.
The DWP has been claiming – for more than a year now – that it will release the figures on an unspecified date in the future.
“The Nasty Party” is a good description for an organisation that behaves in such a way, and Theresa May was right to label herself as such.
Other adequate descriptions include “underhanded”, “deceitful”… feel free to add your own.
Swivel-eyed loon: And Jeremy Hunt is a member of the government, not a grassroots Conservative association.
The Conservative Party is eating itself from within. It is therefore an odd time for members to go into Labour marginal constituencies, trying to undermine support with a loaded questionnaire.
That, however, is exactly what we have seen this weekend. But then, what did you expect from the Party of Doubletalk? The Nasty Party? The Party that sows Divisive-ness wherever it can, while mouthing platitudes like “We’re all in it together”? The Party that claims it is responsible with the nation’s finances, while threatening to run up greater debts than any of its rivals ever did?
Let’s start on financial responsibility: Sir Mervyn King, who retires as Governor of the Bank of England next month, has warned that the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme for new mortgages must not be allowed to run indefinitely. The scheme has the state guaranteeing up to 15 per cent of a mortgage on homes worth up to £600,000, and is intended to run until 2017. Sir Mervyn’s fear is that the government will expose the taxpayer – that’s you and me – to billions of pounds of private mortgage debt. He said the UK must avoid what happened in the USA, where state-backed mortgage schemes had to be bailed out.
This particular scheme has already run into flak from those who claimed it was a “second-home subsidy” for the very rich. The new criticism raises fears that the Conservatives are actively engineering a situation that will create more unsustainable debt – and we all know what they do to resolve that kind of problem, don’t we?
They cut. Most particularly, they cut parts of the public services that help anyone who doesn’t earn at least £100,000 per year.
And no – before anyone pipes up with it – nobody receives that much on benefits.
For doubletalk, let’s look at Michael Gove. The Education Secretary was heckled and jeered when he appeared before the National Association of Head Teachers’ conference, where members passed a motion of no confidence in his policies.
The BBC quoted Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT: “What I think he’s failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they’re doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.”
Mr Gove said he had been “delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm” that had greeted some of the government’s education policies.
But he went on to say there would be no change of course: “What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it. What I haven’t heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive. Critical yes, but not constructive.”
Doubletalk. At first he was saying one thing when we know he means something else entirely; then he went on to ignore what he had been told – by the experts – because it did not support his policy.
Meanwhile, of course, the Conservative Party is eating itself alive over Europe. There are so many angles to this, it’s hard to know where to begin!
We know that Conservative backbenchers tried to amend their own government’s Queen’s speech with a motion regretting the lack of intention to legislate for an in/out referendum on membership of the European Union, and we know that 116 of them voted in favour of that motion. That wasn’t anything like enough for it to pass, so David Cameron didn’t have to worry about resigning (as suggested in previous articles on this blog).
Next thing we knew, the Telegraph‘s political editor, James Kirkup, told us a government figure close to the Prime Minister had said the backbenchers had to vote the way they did because they had been ordered to do so by grassroots Conservative association members, and they were all “mad, swivel-eyed loons”.
Downing Street has denied that anybody said such a thing, but Kirkup has tweeted “I stand by my story” – and anyway, the damage has been done. Conservative association members were already at loggerheads with the Parliamentary party and the government, we’re told, because they believe their views are being ignored.
(One wonders what those views might, in fact, be. This could be one case in which ignoring the will of the people is actually the more sensible thing to do!)
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has said the Conservatives are “united” in their view of Europe – but then, Jeremy Hunt – as Health Secretary – told Parliament that spending on the NHS has risen in real terms since the Coalition came into office, and we know from Andrew Dilnot, head of the independent UK Statistics Authority, that this is not true.
Lord Howe, on the other hand, has accused Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister David Cameron of “running scared” of Eurosceptics and losing control of the party. This is the man whose resignation speech, which memorably included a comment that being sent to deal with the EU was like being in a cricket team whose captain had broken his bat, signalled the end of Margaret – later Baroness – Thatcher’s career as Prime Minister.
Who do we believe, the silly youngster or the boring old guy? That’s right – we believe the old guy who already brought down one Prime Minister. Perhaps he can do the same to another.
Meanwhile, we were told on Sunday that members of Parliament are all set to receive a pay rise of up to £20,000, starting in 2015, the year of the next general election. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been considering an increase of between £10,000 and £20,000, with the lower figure most likely – despite a consultation revealing that some MPs (all Conservative) thought they were worth more than £100,000 per year.
Backbencher pay is around £65,000 per year at the moment. This means the pay rise they are likely to get is 15 per cent, while those Conservatives who wanted £100 grand expected a rise of 54 per cent.
Average pay rises for working people over the last year were less than one per cent.
Do you think this is appropriate remuneration for the political organisation that said “We’re all in it together?” Because I don’t.
And this is the time the Conservative Party decides to float a proposal for a two-tier benefit system, in a survey sent to residents of marginal seats held by Labour.
One question asked whether benefit payments should be the same, regardless of how many years a person has paid National Insurance or income tax. If people answered ‘no’, the next question asked what proportion of benefits should be dependent on a record of contribution.
This is insidious. If benefits become dependent on contribution, that means young people without a job will not qualify for benefits – they won’t have paid anything in, so won’t be able to take anything out. Also, what about the long-term sick and disabled (don’t start about fraud – eliminating the 0.4 per cent of fraudulent claims does not justify what the Conservative-led Coalition is already doing to 87/88 per cent of ESA claimants, or what it has started doing to PIP claimants)? Their claims are likely to continue long after their contributions run out.
This is, I think, a trick to allow rich people to get out of paying higher tax rates. Think about it – rich people pay more, therefore they subsidise public services, including social security benefits, for the poor. Get people to support benefit payments based on the amount of money people pay in and the rich get a nice fat tax cut while the poor get their benefits cut off.
Fair? All in it together?
There’s a lot of doubletalk, so sections are headed “helping with the cost of living” (they tend to make it impossible for people to meet that cost) or “making our welfare and benefits system fair” – Tories have never tried to do this in the entire history of that political party.
And respondents were asked to agree with one of two statements, which were: “If you work hard, it is possible to be very successful in Britain no matter what your background” and “In Britain today, people from some backgrounds will never have a real chance to be successful no matter how hard they work”. The correct answer is to agree with the second statement, of course. And this government of public schoolboys have every intention of pushing that situation to its utmost extreme, so if you are a middle-class social climber and you think there are opportunities for you under a Tory government, forget it.
The whole nightmarish rag is prefaced by a letter from David Cameron. It’s very funny if you accept that it’s full of doubletalk and nonsense. Let’s go through it together:
“I’d like to know what you think about some of the steps we’ve taken so far – and I’d like to know your ideas about what more the Government can do to help families like yours,” he begins. He means: I’d like to know what we can say in order to get you to vote for us in 2015. We’ll have no intention of carrying out any promise that does not advantage ourselves and our extremely rich friends. The correct response is: Your policies are ideologically-motivated twaddle that are causing critical damage to this country and its institutions. Your best action in the future will be to resign.
“I think helping people through tough economic times means making sure our welfare and benefits is [sic] fair. That means ensuring the system helps those who do the right thing and want to get on. That’s helping rich people through tough economic times. We’ll make welfare and benefits as unfair to the poor as we can. That means ensuring the system helps those who support us and are rich enough for us to want to help them.Your changes to welfare and benefits have led to thousands of deaths. That is not fair. You are breaking the system.
“That’s why we’ve capped the amount an out-of-work household can receive in benefits, so this can’t be more than an average working family earns. Again I’d like to know what you think about the actions we’ve taken so far, and your ideas to the future.” It’s nothing near what an average working family earns, because they would be on benefits that top up their earnings to more than £31,000 – but you couldn’t cap at that level because almost nobody would have been knocked off the benefit books (all your talk about people taking more than £100,000 in benefits was nonsense). Resign, join a monastery and vow never to enter public life again.
There is no doubt about it – the cracks are beginning to show. Last summer, the Olympic Games gave us spectacular firework displays. As public unrest mounts, it seems likely that we’ll see even more spectacular fireworks this year – unplanned.
But then, that is why the Conservatives bought the water cannons that are being tested at Petersfield. When they go into use, we’ll all know what they really think of the general public.
Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith (Vox‘s Monster of 2012, let’s not forget) delivered woeful performances on radio and TV respectively, during the weekend – discussing the Bedroom Tax.
That’s right – the Bedroom Tax. Not the “spare-rooms subsidy”, not the “under-occupation subsidy” – the Bedroom Tax. The tax on bedrooms that is being levied on some of the poorest people in the land, who cannot move to smaller premises because a previous Conservative administration stopped them from being built.
Tweedle-Shapps and Tweedle-Smith clearly need a lesson in what taxation actually is. The sad part is that they probably think they delivered good performances.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Shapps said: “Labour have very cleverly deemed this to be a tax; of course it’s exactly the opposite to a tax. It’s a spare-rooms subsidy, that’s being paid through the benefits system, on a million empty bedrooms in this country, which makes no sense.
“We’re not using the housing we have in this country in a proper way… What we can’t continue to do, and we can’t afford to do, is pay for a million empty rooms whilst we’ve got a waiting list that doubled under the previous administration and with so many people in desperate need of a house at all.”
Mr Smith, on The Andrew Marr Show said: “We have in social sector housing a very large number of people in houses where they have many more bedrooms than they actually need… Meanwhile we have over a quarter of a million people in overcrowding and a million people on the waiting list, trying to get into housing.
“The last government let house building fall to the lowest level since the 1920s… What we want is those that are under-occupying their properties, we need to help them to be able to move to property that they would occupy-”
Eddie Mair, standing in for Andrew Marr, interjected: “You mean force them?”
Smith plunged on: “What we’re saying is, ‘Look – you can stay where you are, but if you do, you have to pay more.'” (In other words, yes, he means “force them out”).
Mr Mair again: “But cough up. We know you’re very poor, but pay more.”
Smith was determined: “People… who rent in the private sector under housing benefit – they’re not allowed to have extra bedrooms. They’ve never been. So they are only paid, in the private sector, for the number of bedrooms they occupy.”
Mr Mair, an astonished inflection in his voice, spluttered: “But the point of social housing is to help-”
Now Smith fell back on the real reason for the change: Money. “Look, the taxpayer is paying about £900 per household to help people stay in social housing.”
Put these things together and we get a clear picture of what’s going on. First, a bit of history:
Back in the sunlit days before Margaret Thatcher first won an election, local councils were permitted to build and maintain social housing stock. I know this seems an alien concept now, but they were actually allowed to build houses in which poor people could live, for a rent that they could meet.
Then the Thatcher government came into office and she decided to sell off council houses at discounts of up to 70 per cent. Of course, take-up was huge. People believed they would be able to sell the properties on at a later date – for a profit – and go further up the housing ladder, and this appears to be what happened. The houses that were sold on again tended to go to professional private landlords, who then rented them at a higher price than the councils who originally owned them.
The policy raised more than £20 billion for the Conservative government, but it never allowed that money to be ploughed back into council house-building. That money has disappeared; we don’t know what was done with it (in fact, if anybody does know where it is, please write in and let us know)!
My understanding is that councils had expected to be able to use the receipts for a new house-building programme but then, by one of those “coincidences” – and I put that word in quotation marks for a very good reason; I don’t think they are coincidences at all – for which the Tory Party should be infamous, another policy was introduced – the Rate Cap.
Local taxation at the time was done by a method known as the Rates. We’ve had Poll Tax and Council Tax since then (and will soon have the Poll Tax back, thanks to Eric Pickles and his evil, misnamed little ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme’) so many readers may not remember them.
The idea was to stop councils from spending more than the Tory government thought they should, by limiting the amount of money they could spend every year, and creating a blacklist of councils that transgressed, with associated penalties.
Result: any new council house-building was stopped dead.
It’s a situation that has continued to this day. During the New Labour years, there was a push for new social housing with a condition on planning permission for new estates, that a certain proportion of the new build had to be “affordable” housing.
Result: We now have a huge amount of land with planning permission for estates that have never been built, as developers are reluctant to create housing for which they won’t be able to screw maximum profit from the buyers.
So, successive governments have created a situation where the queue for social housing is very large. Even though the plan during New Labour’s time had the best intentions, my opinion is that it was scuppered by the greed of developers.
Now we have the Nasty Party in office again, and of course they want to screw as much money out of the poor as possible.
They don’t want to build any new social housing; they want people to rent from the private sector, who will try to screw the highest amount out of them.
In order to push them out, they have invented this new term, “spare-rooms subsidy”, or “under-occupation subsidy” – that never existed before. They have declared that people – who are only occupying the houses that were available to them when they went into social occupancy – are now receiving that subsidy for any spare bedrooms they may have (no matter whether there was a reason for having those rooms in the past, or may be one in the future). And in April they will remove an arbitrary amount – nobody knows how they arrived at the figure – from tenants’ housing benefit.
Result: As Eddie Mair said, these people will be forced out – into the arms of private landlords, who will charge more while they will receive less help from the government.
The money saved will, we’re told, be used to help balance the national finances, which is a policy of this government.
So, getting back to the point – the removal of this recently-dreamed-up “subsidy” istaxation, because the money removed from UK citizens will be used to finance government expenditure. That is the definition of tax.
A couple of days ago, at the end of my article ‘Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles’, I wrote ‘Coming soon: Borishambles!’. It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously; I was just acknowledging the Blond Buffoon’s popularity with Tory diehards.
But in a week when Tory backbench rebels handed the government a major Commons defeat over the EU budget, Boris gave me an early Christmas present. Watch this:
I know he was being followed by hecklers who were provoking him by calling him ‘Tory scum’ – but, while it’s impossible to say I approve of such language, considering the Conservative Party’s record since it came into government with the Liberal Democrats, that probably counts as merely mild criticism.
Boris didn’t see it that way. He snapped. The only remaining – even remotely – acceptable face of the Nasty Party showed its fangs. There’s no going back from that.
If you don’t like what the Coalition is doing in government, and you want to exercise your right to free speech about it, then in Boris Johnson’s mind you are a “Lefty tosser”.
Nice one, Boris. It’ll take a few more like that to completely ruin your chances of taking the Tory leadership, but there’s plenty of time.
Dangerously right-wing policies wrapped in a fuzzy exterior – but can Boris Johnson pull the wool over our eyes?
After David Cameron’s calamitously poor speech at the Conservative Party Conference, everyone seems to be touting Boris Johnson as the new Great Blue Hope for the Nasty Party.
He seems plausible, after all – a bear-like, genial-looking, slightly buffoonish, overgrown child who seems to fumble his way through his commitments, presumably on his way to a social get-together or a recording of Have I Got News For You. A friendly figure who should be taken to the public heart.
In fact, he’s nothing of the sort. His policies are more right-wing and dangerous to the poor than Cameron’s.
Let’s take law and order as an example. As London’s mayor, Boris has relieved more than 1,700 police officers of their duties, along with 1,800 community support officers. He then claimed that crime had dropped by 12 per cent. Recorded crime has indeed dropped, but only by 5.6 per cent. So he’s a liar.
Last year, he spent £50 million making Metropolitan Police civilian staff redundant.
Under Boris, social housing starts in London have fallen to their lowest level for a decade, with only 25 affordable properties being started in each of London’s 32 boroughs in the three months from April to June. That’s half the number for the same period last year. Local authority waiting lists show 366,613 households waiting for homes.
For those on middle-to-higher incomes, home ownership is an increasingly distant dream, with Shelter estimating that the average first-time buyer must now rent for 31 years before they can buy their own home – at a cost of £300,000 in private sector rent.
In this sector, rents soared by 12 per cent last year, but more than 33 per cent of homes do not meet Decent Homes standards, and tenants are often exposed to a lack of stability caused by rogue landlords and short-term tenancies.
In his conference speech, Boris announced a new “Housing Covenant”, with £100 million to help 10,000 “modest income” households become home owners – but this doesn’t event claw back the amount the Coalition government cut from London’s affordable house building budget in 2010. In 2009-10, £310 million was spent on housing for first-time buyers.
He has cut the London police force and reduced housing, despite rapidly rising demand.
What do you think he would do if he was allowed to play with the whole of the UK?
Shall we play a game? This one’s called join-the-dots. I didn’t really like it when I was younger and I doubt that you will, after you see the picture we’ll be creating.
We’ll start here: The government wants to cut another £10 billion from the welfare budget – that’s the bit of public spending that keeps millions of people off the streets, if only on the breadline. The government could, alternatively, try stimulating the economy to make that money in taxes, but policy seems to be pushing hard the other way, as we’ll see shortly.
So: cuts are coming. How to perform them? Draw a line to where the government announces it wants to break the link between benefits and inflation, and link them to average earnings instead.
George Osborne thinks this is a good idea because inflation hit 5.2 per cent last September, much higher than rises in earnings – remember, the man who won’t do what his initials demand (GO) has kept public sector wages frozen for the last few years and private sector wages are also stagnant. As a result, Gideon has been paying out more than he thinks he should to people who, honestly, deserve a break from his miserly administration.
Now draw a line to the results of the NatCen survey that came out earlier this week, stating that people do not want to see more money being spent on welfare than is being spent already. This is the excuse that Mr Osborne wants to use – he can say there is polling evidence that puts significant numbers in support of an end to so-called benefits uprating. Never mind that only 3,000 people were asked or that none of the main parties ever intended to increase the proportion of government spending that goes on welfare; this is his justification and he’s sticking to it.
I wonder what will happen if wages start to rise faster than inflation? Will the Nasty Party write a new clause into the contract, that benefits should rise along with inflation or wages, depending on which is lower? Officials have already stated that they do not want a huge increase in benefits if wages start to climb sharply, so they are already working on ways to ‘fix’ the linking mechanism. Evil, isn’t it?
Never mind; the current plan uses wages, so now draw a line to this: The government still wants to introduce regional pay settlements for the public sector. The Tories – sorry, the Coalition – believe that national pay settlements inflate public sector wages in certain parts of the country far beyond what their private sector counterparts can manage. They also believe that forcing regional settlements on us will save them a fortune in salaries.
Think what this will achieve: The ghettoisation of much of the UK. With regional pay deals, people will have less money available for things other than necessities, meaning fewer trips to the shops (which have already suffered thanks to the idiotic VAT increase to 20 per cent, which cut a large chunk of growth out of the economy). What happens then? The shops shut and their suppliers go out of business too. More people end up on benefits and looking for work.
You see, this right-wing government does not accept the simple fact that welfare benefits help keep the economy stable. Yes, government spending increases as payments are made, but businesses keep their customers, the economy stays afloat and the country as a whole avoids a terminal spiral of decline.
Cutting welfare, thereby reducing the incomes of society’s poorest, creates fiscal hindrance. As billions of pounds (£10 billion in this case) are taken from the active economy, businesses lose customers and lay off staff.
In a recession, increased welfare spending benefits national income so that each pound is worth £1.60 when it has worked its way through shop tills and paycheques. When welfare is cut, this works in reverse, so cutting £10 billion from benefits will increase the UK’s recession by more than one per cent.
This means a longer recession, a larger deficit and more debt. (The above information courtesy of the False Economy website, which has produced a handy factsheet for you to download, keep, and show to anyone spouting Tory propoganda)
Now draw a line to: The government wants to cut more money from the welfare budget.
Look at what you’ve drawn. A big, fat zero.
This is what the government’s plan will achieve for the people, and economy, of Britain.
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