Tag Archives: one nation

Cameron’s Conservatives welcome increased poverty in the UK


If David Cameron wants to tell us the current definition of child poverty is a bad one, he’s probably right. The problem is, his preferred changes to that definition will probably be worse.

Poverty is currently defined according to whether a household’s income is less than 60 per cent of the national average. So during a recession, when most incomes (apart from those of the very rich) drop, poverty actually appears to decrease.

Now, despite there having been no appreciable rise in incomes across the board, the Institute for Fiscal Studies is forecasting a rise in child poverty from 2.3 million to 2.5 million – that’s 200,000 more children in poverty, as it is currently measured.

For David Cameron, this is a disaster because it shows that – even with the help of the silly sliding-scale definition of poverty, his government is worsening the situation for children across the UK. What an evil man. What an evil government.

His solution, it seems, is to revive plans to change the way child poverty is defined, to ensure that all those children who have fallen on hard times since he came into office (in 2010, not this year – we, at least, can be honest about the effect he is having) may be dismissed from the poverty figures even if they don’t have food to eat or clothes to wear.

The thought of taking action to stop children falling into poverty probably hasn’t even occurred to David Cameron.

It seems he discussed the matter on Tuesday morning with Nicky Morgan, our dunce of an education secretary, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister they keep in a back room in case he frightens children, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary who models his behaviour on the Nazis – any of his solutions are likely to be final.

(In fact, the £12 billion cuts being planned for the Gentleman Ranker’s welfare budget are likely to be fatal to a huge number of people in any case.)

The Guardian‘s report on this points out that “a little-noticed line in the Conservative party’s general election manifesto said the government would “work to eliminate child poverty and introduce better measures to drive real change in children’s lives, by recognising the root causes of poverty: entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, problem debt, and drug and alcohol dependency”.

So the manifesto plan is: Blame the parents.

What are they going to do, then – sanction them (take money away)?

Already popular organisations are starting to line up against the government. Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group took an early shot at Cameron’s claim to be running a ‘One Nation’ government (a slogan he stole back from Labour after the general election).

“You can’t have one nation if children’s lives, opportunities and life chances at every turn are shaped and limited by poverty,” she said. “The government’s child poverty approach is failing but the prime minister’s speech [on Monday] simply missed the point and failed to set out what his government will do to prevent his legacy being the largest rise in child poverty in a generation.

“It is no good pulling bodies out of the river, without going upstream to see who is throwing them in – especially, if turns out the culprit is government policy. The right choices that would reduce poverty include protecting children’s benefits with the same triple-lock protection pensions enjoy, fixing the deep cuts to tax credit help for the low-paid, tackling cripplingly high rents, high childcare costs and expanding free school meals.”

These things will not happen under a Conservative government. There’s no profit in it for them because children – unlike pensioners, for example – don’t vote.

So, in simple terms, this is the situation:

Child poverty is rising.

The Conservative Party intends to pretend that it isn’t happening by fudging a new definition of poverty.

The Conservative Party will do nothing to tackle the real causes.

What conclusion can we reach?

The Conservative Government welcomes increased poverty in the UK.

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UKIP and the Conservatives – more similarities than differences?

No control: Nigel Farage in front of one of his party's anti-immigration posters. He says he doesn't hate foreigners; judge for yourself. [Image: BBC]

No control: Nigel Farage in front of one of his party’s anti-immigration posters. He says he doesn’t hate foreigners; judge for yourself. [Image: BBC]

Isn’t it interesting that the first of the large political organisations to descend into UKIP-style racism is the Conservative Party?

The BBC has reported that both have lost council candidates after they made anti-Islamic comments on the social media.

From UKIP, Harry Perry (candidate in the Offerton Ward, Stockport) was suspended after calling for Pakistan to be “nuked”, saying David Cameron was a “gay-loving nutcase”, Muslims were “devil’s kids” and homosexuality an “abomination before God”.

UKIP’s official line is that it has started disciplinary proceedings against this man and did not condone his “crackpot” views.

Nigel Farage has admitted his party contains “some idiots”, but added that the reporting of such problems within UKIP was “disproportionate”.

Then along came David Bishop (candidate in Brentwood South, Essex) to prove that the Tories have these problems too.

This man has resigned from the party after passing messages including one that said Islam was “the religion of… rape” and another that read “How CAN a gay guy keep a straight face?”

In a statement, he said, “I recognise that someone standing for public office should show leadership and seek to unite communities, not divide them.”

Isn’t dividing communities what both the Conservatives and UKIP are best at?

Self-preservation society: The Tory "all in it together" attitude, clarified here by Conservative poster-boy Michael Caine.

Self-preservation society: The Tory “all in it together” attitude, clarified here by Conservative poster-boy Michael Caine.

The Conservatives want you to believe that “We are all in this together”, but it seems clear that some of us are more “in this” than others – are we all “in this” with the “scroungers”, or “skivers” (the Tory label for people their policies have forced out of work and onto the state benefits for which they have paid all their lives)? Are we all “in this” with our fellow citizens who were unfortunate enough not to “sound British” (like those who were stop-checked during Theresa May’s ‘Go Home’ van campaign last summer)? They were encouraging people to accuse their neighbours; how divisive can they get?

What about the changes to pensions? Are the MPs who have “transitional” protection that will allow them to draw their extremely large, taxpayer-funded pensions at the same time as they always expected “in this” with those of us who are now having to work six years longer than we planned?

Of course not.

As for UKIP, try this comment from a UKIP supporter on the Vox Political Facebook page: “Britain is now full of multiregional people from other countries, by winning their vote he can sort out the rubbish later & give Britain back to the English!”

(English? I wonder how the Welsh, Northern Irish, and particularly the referendum-bound Scottish react to that.)

This person continued: “Not racist, just plain common sense!!!! The British want their Britain back.”

I asked then – and I ask now: “Does that include the Afro-Caribbean British, the Indian-British, the Pakistani-British, the southeast-Asian-British, the Polish-British (including both recent arrivals and those who stayed after World War II), British people whose racial origins are from any other part of the former British Empire or current Commonwealth – or just white Anglo-Saxon Britons like you and me, who are in fact descended from people of French and German origin?”

(Even this omits another foreign-descended group – those with Viking blood.)

I could never use my vote to support anyone who put forward such vile opinions; they are not “common sense” and the people spouting them are those who have no place here.

It doesn’t matter where our ancestors were born – we are all One Nation now.

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Wythenshawe by-election: LD now stands for Lost Deposit

Desperation stations: Liberal Democrats scramble to keep their deposit at the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election. [Image: LabourList]

Desperation stations: Liberal Democrats scramble to keep their deposit at the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election. [Image: LabourList]

Congratulations to Mike Kane, the new Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, who gained around 55 per cent of the vote in yesterday’s by-election.

The poll, necessitated by the untimely death of the previous Labour MP, Paul Goggins, clarified several developments in UK electoral habits:

UKIP is now a major force, coming in second place and knocking the Conservatives into third.

The Liberal Democrats may as well change their name to ‘Lost Deposit’, after they failed to collect even five per cent of the vote (in 2010 they managed 22 per cent). It is the eighth time they have lost their deposit since 2010.

This is what happens when a British political party sells its soul for five years of (extremely) limited influence.

LabourList reported scenes of “desperation” at the count, with Liberal Democrats demanding a recount in a desperate bid to save their £500. But Mark Ferguson, reporting with his eyes held open by matchsticks, had it right when he wrote: “If they have a recount and still lose their deposit, their crushing embarrassment and humiliation will be doubled.”

Mr Kane, in his victory speech, touched on several of the themes that have dominated the current Parliamentary term, and they are worth repeating here.

He said the result “emphatically demonstrates that people here know the NHS is not safe in David Cameron’s hands, and that we’ve had enough of his utterly out-of-touch government”.

He said: “I will be an MP speaking out on the issues that matter to you:

“Fighting for a fair deal for Wythenshawe A&E.

“Exposing the cost-of-living crisis felt by families and pensioners across our area and beyond.

“And on the unfair and disproportionate cuts to local services, Wythenshawe and Sale has said tonight: Enough is enough.”

And he told listeners: “Almost 200 years ago Benjamin Disraeli stood on a spot across the road from here and spoke of One Nation – and he said ‘What Manchester does today, the world does tomorrow’.

“Well, Manchester has rejected David Cameron today – and the rest of Britain will tomorrow.”

Let’s hope so.

But if David Cameron was “rejected”, Nick Clegg was utterly humiliated.

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Iain Duncan Smith owes us all an apology – but do we owe one to Rachel Reeves?

Iain Duncan Smith: He opens his mouth - and the world screams. [Image: Steve Bell]

Iain Duncan Smith: He opens his mouth – and the world screams. [Image: Steve Bell]

It seems redundant to start an article by saying Iain Duncan Smith is a filthy liar, because it is a fact that we all know too well already.

The latest offence – and the word is used very deliberately – took place during Work and Pensions Questions in Parliament yesterday (October 14) and means that he has lied to Parliament – not for the first time, either!

It is interesting that he phrased his words in a particular way. Responding to Andy Sawford’s call for clarity on whether, under the new claimant commitment, benefits officers will sanction jobseekers for refusing zero-hours work, he said this referred to “people’s obligations under the existing terms… Once they are offered a job they must take it… Right now, zero-hours contracts are legal.”

You will note, Dear Reader, that he did not simply say, “Under the claimant commitment, they must take zero-hours work or be sanctioned,” even though that is clearly the meaning of his words. It seems likely he was looking for leeway if questioned about it afterwards.

Well, he shouldn’t get any. A reasonable person, looking at the statement, will draw the obvious – intended – conclusion.

It is a conclusion – and a statement – that runs against current DWP policy.

The DWP responded to a Freedom of Information request in July this year, which also called for clarity on zero-hours contracts. The response contains the very clear statement: “Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero hours contract vacancies and they will not face sanctions for turning down the offer of a zero hours contract.”

So Iain Duncan Smith was lying to Parliament yesterday – a very grave offence for a Secretary of State to commit.

Smith said, responding to Mr Sawford: “People will lose benefits for three months for a first offence, six months for a second offence and three years for a third offence.” When it comes to Parliamentary lies, he has committed multiple offences, and yet he gets away with it every time.


Another person who seems to have had trouble saying what they mean is Rachel Reeves. This blog – and many other people – took her to task last weekend, after The Observer published an interview in which she reportedly made many ill-advised comments, giving the impression that Labour policy on social security was lurching to the right yet again.

Yesterday a statement appeared on the Labour Party website in which the new Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary put forward a much more reasonable plan for social security reform under a Labour government. Particularly attractive are the parts where she says Labour will work with the disabled to design services and benefits that will help them play their part, and where she promises to repeal the Bedroom Tax, which has penalised vulnerable people, many of them disabled.

It is a much better statement of intent and indicates that Ms Reeves has been from one end to the other of a very steep learning curve with extreme rapidity.

Does it mean she was misquoted in the Observer article, and should she receive an apology from those of us who leapt down her throat? No.

There has been no suggestion that the article was inaccurate or unfair. The logical conclusion is that she said those words, and it is also logical to deduce that, had we not reacted so strongly, she might not have released the new statement.

It is unfortunate that, for many, the damage has been done. The Observer article was the first chance we had to see what the new Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary was thinking – and first impressions last. Her new statement seems like to go largely unreported. It should be noted that Tristram Hunt also made a fool of himself by supporting Michael Gove’s wasteful and elitist ‘Free Schools’ scheme. Hopefully Ed Miliband has accepted the need to make sure all of his Shadow Cabinet stay on-message from now until the next election. Reeves and Hunt should count themselves lucky to still have their new jobs.

But let’s not dwell on that. The new statement by Rachel Reeves has much to commend it, and is reproduced in full below. Your responses are invited.

Leading the debate on employment, poverty and social security.

Families facing a cost of living crisis want to know we have a social security system that is fair and sustainable, with costs kept under control but there for them when they need it.

The Tories seek to use every opportunity to divide this country and set one group of people against another. But their approach is failing – with the result that people are left out of work for year after year and costs to the country continue to rise. The Work Programme isn’t working, the roll-out of Universal Credit is in disarray, the Youth Contract has been a flop and there is mounting anger at the degrading and disgraceful treatment of disabled people by ATOS.

The complacent Tories are congratulating themselves about a long-delayed recovery. But almost a million young people are out of work. For those in work, increasing numbers of them aren’t being paid a living wage, are stuck on zero hours contracts or working part time when they want to work full time, and are being hit by soaring rents because levels of house building are so low – all of which drive up the benefits bill.

Labour will control the costs of social security by getting more people into work, rewarding work and tackling low pay, investing in the future, and recognising contribution. We’ll strive to make the right to work a reality for people with disabilities, working with them to design services and benefits that enable them to play their part.

A One Nation social security system will be one with responsibility at its heart – people receiving benefits who can work have a responsibility to look for work, prepare for work and take jobs that are available to them, but government has a responsibility to treat benefit recipients fairly and decently, help and support them and work with employers to ensure there are real job opportunities available.

Our compulsory jobs guarantees for young people and the long term unemployed, funded by repeating the tax on bank bonuses and limiting pensions tax relief for those on more than £150,000, would ensure there is work for under 25s out of work for more than a year and adults out of work for more than two years. These would be proper paid jobs – and people would be expected to take them or face losing benefits.

And unlike the Tories, we’ll put an effective cap on structural social security spending by getting tough on the causes of unemployment and rising benefit bills: low pay, lack of economic opportunity, shortage of affordable housing.

We would repeal cruel and counterproductive measures like David Cameron’s Bedroom Tax. I see constituents week in and week out with heart-breaking stories about how this policy is hitting them and their families. Around the country hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, many of them disabled, are being penalised by this perverse policy which could end up costing more than it saves because of the distress and disruption it’s causing.

And we’ll keep up the campaign for the living wage, and for the economic reforms we need to ensure that prosperity is fairly shared and welfare is not a substitute for good employment and decent jobs.

Tory talk and support for backdoor genocide will ruin any chance of defeating the Blue Meanies

The newest right-wing party: This Gary Baker cartoon appeared after Ed Miliband's 'One Nation' speech last year, but let's adopt it to illustrate the fact that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until, with Miliband's speech this week, it has become a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK's population with nobody to speak for them.

The newest right-wing party: This Gary Baker cartoon appeared after Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech last year, but let’s adopt it to illustrate the fact that successive Labour leaders, from Blair to Brown to Miliband, have steered the party ever-further away from its support base until, with Miliband’s speech this week, it has become a pale shadow of the Conservative Party it claims to oppose, leaving the majority of the UK’s population with nobody to speak for them.

Yesterday I wrote that Ed Miliband’s speech on social security reform was the beginning of the Conservative victory in 2015 – and picked up a little criticism for it in some areas. I stand by my words.

Ed’s speech proved he is not a leader but a follower. He has agreed to follow Conservative spending cuts and not reverse them. He has agreed to follow Tory spending plans for the first year after a Labour government takes office (if it does) in 2015. He has said he would cap social security spending, formally adopting as policy an idea the Tories floated during the March budget. He has agreed to give up the principle of universal benefits.

He has done this when the Conservatives have no argument whatsoever that can possibly justify what they are doing.

All the Tory claims about austerity have blown away in the wind – hot air to disguise their real aim of shrinking the state and selling off the family silver to their rich friends.

Iain Duncan Smith is to face a grilling by Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee over his – and his colleagues – persistent misrepresentation of the facts about unemployment, sickness and disability and the people claiming benefits on these grounds.

As for the benefit cap, Miliband said an independent body should advise government on how best to design it. Great! Can I sit on this body? I could do with the cash!

Or is it another example of fake jobs for the boys to get their snouts in the trough?

The system needs to change, because the Conservatives/Coalition have cocked it up. Miliband offered up more of the same, with a little bit of tinkering around the edges. Red Conservative.

For a party that’s supposed to be the official Opposition to the government, there was a hell of a lot of Tory talk in Miliband’s speech, like this: “It is only by reforming social security with the right values that we’ll be able to control costs.” Tory values?

“We have always been against the denial of opportunity that comes from not having work. And against the denial of responsibility by those who could work and don’t do so,” he accused, in one of those confusing single-sentences-split-into-two that make his speeches so utterly unreadable. But he needs to get his facts right. The number of people who could work but don’t do so is around 2.5 million – but that’s because there isn’t any work available for them. One job for every five people, although we have witnessed moments when adverts for a handful of places at a single shop have attracted thousands of applications. These people aren’t denying responsibility, Ed – they’re desperate for a chance.

He was referring to benefit fraud, though, wasn’t he? Benefit fraud is the bogeyman that haunts much of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy, even though it is, as the facts show, a ghost. In fact, 99.3 per cent of all benefit claims are genuine and are made out of real need – according to government figures – and that figure rises to 99.6 per cent in sickness and disability cases. It’s not a perfect situation but any system will have its abusers, and that’s why we have fraud detection built into it. Benefit fraud is not a huge problem, and Miliband does himself and his party enormous harm by adopting the Tory line and alienating the genuinely sick and disabled people who have been fighting the unjust removal of their benefits by a system he seems unlikely to reform, for all his weasel words.

He returns to this theme later: “Just as there is a minority who should be working and don’t want to, there is a majority who are desperate for work and can’t find it.” Evil, divisive, Tory rhetoric. Isn’t this the man who wants a ‘One Nation’ government? Why is he trying to split us up and set us against each other? That’s Tory policy.

Have some more of the same: “I want to teach my kids that it is wrong to be idle on benefits, when you can work” – implying that people – many people – are in just that position. Tory divisiveness from a Labour leader.

Here’s another: “It appears that some people get something for nothing and other people get nothing for something – no reward for the years of contribution they make.” This one really got my goat because it turns the principle of the Welfare State on their head.

For goodness’ sake, it isn’t about paying in money in order to get exactly the same amount back another time. It’s about contributing to the welfare of the state as a whole, including everyone in it. A Labour leader should be making the argument that this is not about selfishness; if you’re a part of this nation, you contribute to its well-being. “From each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] needs,” as Marx put it. His philosophy may be out of fashion with the ‘Me, me, me’ generation but that doesn’t make those words any less relevant to the funding of a national economy.

I wonder whether quoting Bob Crow from last night’s This Week programme will actually make the message any easier to hear, but I’ll give it a go. He said: “It’s the strong helping the weak – that’s what the whole welfare benefits system is based on.”

“We have to tackle this too,” bleated Miliband. Yes, we do – by correcting the wrong attitude, whenever we hear someone spouting it. So get a clue, Ed.

There are dire portents for the future “laser-focusing” of a Labour government’s spending, as well.

Look at his ideas about attempts to get people into work. He said: “This government’s work programme can leave people… unemployed year after year after year,” leading one to believe that he’ll ditch the work programme and its useless money-grubbing private, for-profit ‘provider’ firms that have been leeching millions from us for years. Official figures have proved they are worse than useless.

Alas no. He went on to voice his support for the grievously damaging Atos-run assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance, claiming that this backdoor genocide policy “was the right thing to do. We continue to support tests” that kill 73 people per week, on average, according to official figures last year.

His problem with the Atos test was that it should be focused on helping to identify “the real skills of each disabled person and the opportunities they could take up” – completely missing the point about disability. Of course people who are off work with illness have skills, but they cannot use those skills because they are ill! It doesn’t take a genius to work out the sticking-point so he must be intentionally avoiding it.

And then, the killing blow: “So these tests should be connected to a work programme that itself is tested on its ability to get disabled people jobs that work for them.” He would re-employ the useless and wasteful ‘work programme provider’ firms, putting the final seal of hopelessness on the lives of people who thought they could rely on him for help.

Perhaps the worst betrayal in this whole sorry mess – and I’ve only scratched the surface here – is the fact that Miliband and Labour had the front to claim they were making tough decisions. There’s nothing tough about copying the hated policies of a hated and failed administration. There’s nothing tough about allowing their private-interest friends to continue bleeding the state of its cash, and there’s nothing tough about opening up more opportunities for them to strip us of whatever we have left.

Miliband and his team have proved they cannot take the tough decisions; that they are followers and not leaders. If they can’t – or won’t – step up and meet the challenge of our times – starting with a retraction and apology for yesterday’s speech –  then they should make way for somebody who will.

And they should do it now, while there is still time to mount a credible opposition to David Cameron’s government of failures.

Postscript: One aspect of the speech I haven’t explored in detail relates to housing benefit, and the pledge to build more houses. Be warned: It seems this heralds another expensive and wasteful private finance initiative (PFI) adventure: “We would let [councils] keep some of the savings they make, on the condition that they invested that money in helping build new homes.” I have a feeling that those homes would fall into private hands at some point in the future – at huge cost to the taxpayer. Again.