Tag Archives: parties

Starmer’s strategy for his party becomes clear – and it is everything Labour should NOT be

You may be wondering about the image above.

Well, I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation during lockdown (don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!) and it seems to me that Keir Starmer is trying to turn the Labour Party into a 21st-century version of the Borg Collective, an alien race from that famous science fiction TV show.

In the show, the Borg travel the universe assimilating other races into their collective, either killing or subduing the leaders and absorbing the population by using cybernetic implants to impose their will.

Among their catchphrases was the line: “You will adapt to service us.”

That is exactly what Keir Starmer and his Parliamentary colleagues seem to be saying to Constituency Labour Parties across the UK with their new initiative to get rank-and-file members using the “Dialogue” phone banking app.

This incentive scheme demands that members call up voters in their constituencies to get as much information about which way people will vote as possible (and get them to vote Labour).

Constituency parties making the most calls will receive rewards – if you can call them that – which mostly involve congratulatory messages from party leader Keir Starmer, deputy leader Angela Rayner or some other shadow cabinet member.

The presentation makes it seem that CLP members should consider such contact a great honour and privilege from celebrities, in comparison with whom the rank-and-file members should consider themselves to be nothing more than functionaries whose only reason for existence is to serve.

Do you see why I am comparing Starmer’s new version of Labour with the Borg now?

The shift in emphasis has not gone unnoticed:

And the contrast with the previous Labour leader could not have been more apparent:

The other aspect of the Borg comparison is the elimination or co-option of leaders who might otherwise oppose the ruling cadre.

Isn’t that what we’ve been seeing since Starmer was elected, in April?

Prominent figures who might otherwise undermine the entitled few have been smeared, accused, suspended and expelled; their names blackened with slanders they find themselves ill-equipped to fight because the party manipulates it own rules to undermine the accused.

In short, while Starmer can’t actually have them killed, these people have been eliminated as any realistic opposition.

So there you have it.

Worse than any comparison with fantasy monsters, though, is the obvious correlation with real-world creatures that no Labour member should want to be seen imitating, even in death.

I refer, of course, to Tories.

In setting himself up as a member of a ruling class within the Labour Party, and demanding that CLP members be reduced to carrying out simple functions for their masters in Parliament (or who have been chosen from a highly-select group of party elites to stand for election), Starmer is re-modelling Labour to resemble the Conservative Party.

Shouldn’t that be the cardinal sin, as far as Labour is concerned?

He certainly isn’t impressing anybody with his choices.

Today he announced that he had co-opted former prime minister – and New Labour stalwart – Gordon Brown to support his plot to restore Labour’s popularity in Scotland (and the other UK nations) by devolving more power outside Westminster.

And when he broadcast a big speech about it, Starmer sank, almost without trace. Fewer than 2,500 people bothered to watch – and many of them were probably members of the press.

Maybe today wasn’t the day for this.

Or maybe the target audience had had enough of Starmer’s arrogance and entitlement.

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Now it seems DWP bosses have abandoned social distancing for boozy parties

Greenock Job Centre Plus: It may not look like a venue for wild, drunken parties but it seems that is just what has been happening there while 1,300 Universal Credit claims piled up and the rest of us endured social distancing rules that DWP bosses flouted.

They just can’t help themselves, can they?

Bosses at the Job Centre in Greenock followed the example of their Tory bosses like Dominic Cummings and decided to hold boozy parties instead of handling the 12 per cent surge in Universal Credit claims.

But their abandonment of lockdown led instead to a dressing-down, and then they were frogmarched out of the office after a whistleblower informed Department for Work and Pensions bosses in London.

It seems the alleged parties took place in offices adjoining the main public ­reception areas of the facility at Greenock Jobcentre Plus while staff had been working from home during the lockdown period when an ­additional 1300 people in the area were forced to apply for Universal Credit from that office.

What a disgrace. But it is what we have come to expect from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Daily Record quotes a ‘source’ as follows:

“The allegation is that managers in Greenock had at least two social gatherings where people were having a drink and abandoning any efforts to apply social distancing. They were effectively accused of using their work office as a place to gather socially and let their hair down, at a time when people from different ­households were banned from doing so.

“This will cause a lot of anger because the DWP has been ­sanctioning people left, right and centre in Greenock, which is an unemployment blackspot.

“There are ­undoubtedly going to be busy times ahead for the staff at the centre and the last thing they need is this massive dent in the public ­perception of them.

“You can’t have managers at such a highly charged, public-facing facility thinking it’s one rule for them and one for people who are on benefits

The DWP says an investigation is under way, which is bad news for the office bosses concerned.

They are not high-ranking enough for the Tories to want to save, and the government desperately needs to show that it can get a grip on the rule-breaking that has been rife among its people while the rest of us have been enduring lockdown and social distancing.

Heads will roll.

Source: DWP bosses suspended after allegations of boozy parties during lockdown – Daily Record

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Keith Vaz can only embarrass Labour if he retains Justice Committee membership

Keith Vaz MP [Image: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror].

Keith Vaz MP [Image: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror].

It’s true – if Mr Vaz tries to hold on to any high-profile role within Parliament while he is being investigated by the police, he will be an easy target for Tory snipers and will bring embarrassment down on the Labour Party.

He should withdraw from such roles – including membership of the Justice Committee – for the duration of the inquiry. Obviously, if any matter goes to trial and any guilt is proved, he’ll have long-term questions to answer.

But that doesn’t mean his place on the committee should go empty. Tories who have been demanding the removal of Mr Vaz should also accept the nomination of a Labour Party replacement, to ensure the committee is at full strength at all times.

That probably isn’t what they want, but it is the democratic way.

Pressure is mounting on Keith Vaz to step down from a powerful Commons committee after it emerged he is at the centre of a police investigation over drug allegations .

The police probe was launched after a review into claims the Labour MP discussed cocaine with male escorts at sex parties.

Mr Vaz said he would ‘cooperate with the investigation in any way he can’.

But the Tories said it was ‘not appropriate’ for the disgraced Labour MP to stay on the Justice Committee during the police probe.

Source: MPs tell shamed Keith Vaz to quit powerful Justice Committee amid police drugs probe – Mirror Online

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Cameron’s cowardice should not cancel leader debates

150119leaderdebates

What’s the current situation on the political parties’ ‘leader debates’? Is Cameron still playing chicken and using the Green Party as a human shield?

The last this writer heard was that he was saying he wouldn’t turn up if Ofcom didn’t let the Greens take part, as the Green Party is now the fourth largest in terms of membership (behind Labour, the Conservatives – who could be lying about theirs, and the SNP, having overtaken UKIP and the Liberal Democrats).

Ofcom seems to be saying the Greens don’t qualify because they don’t have enough MPs (which seems strange, as it seems perfectly willing to let UKIP take part and it only has one more MP than the Greens).

Is that about right?

It’s rumoured that Cameron has cold feet about the debates because of what happened in 2010, when ‘Cleggmania’ (briefly) swept the nation and everybody including himself seemed to be saying “I agree with Nick”. His advisors are allegedly telling him that Clegg’s performance in the debates seriously damaged his standing and prevented him from gaining an outright victory in the election.

(This may seem odd, as the Liberal Democrats in fact lost five seats at the election, but we need to remember that – in the First Past The Post system – it seems likely that LD candidates took votes from Conservatives, allowing others to take marginal seats).

It seems likely Cameron is also in fear of Nigel Farage, who is generally accepted to have beaten Clegg in televised debates about the European Union.

The other three leaders who were set to take part in the debates have called for them to go ahead, with Cameron ’empty-chaired’ – a podium should be put out for him but left vacant to show he has opted not to participate.

This would still leave the other parties without a voice in the debates and – considering their popularity – that’s clearly wrong.

Perhaps these debates should go ahead, with only the Labour, LD and UKIP leaders if Ofcom won’t bend.

If so, then the other party leaders should consider alternative strategies.

Is there any reason they should not record their own responses to the questions asked in these debates – and the issues raised by them – and make those responses available to the public, via the media broadcasters, newspaper websites, YouTube and the social media?

This would give a certain unfair advantage to the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, the National Health Action Party, FUKP and whoever else, because they would have advance warning of the questions before starting, and would know what the other leaders had said – but it does seem fairer thanaltogether  denying them a chance to put their cases forward.

In this scenario the only loser would be David Cameron who, fittingly, would have denied himself the chance to speak while allowing it to everyone else – poetic justice for a man who has tried to gag political debate in the run-up to the election.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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How Labour turned the tables on the Tory Thatcher tribute

In fact she'll get a military funeral, which is just as expensive and unwanted by the majority of Britons. What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government's priorities have become.

In fact she’ll get a military funeral, which is just as expensive and unwanted by the majority of Britons. What this image makes clear is just how badly wrong the current UK government’s priorities have become.

Can anyone imagine the kind of row we would have seen this week if Labour had blocked the recall of Parliament to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher?

It was well within Ed Miliband’s rights to put the mockers on it. Recalling Parliament is a move that has previously been reserved only for national emergencies, and past precedent states that tributes should have come when Parliament returned – as normal – next Monday. That was also the understanding of the Parliamentary officials charged with planning for the former Prime Minister’s death.

Did David Cameron really believe that the demise of his beloved ex-leader was a national emergency? Of course not. This was merely a chance to scrounge some more money off the taxpayer.

He turned the Blue Baroness into a cash cow.

According to the Daily Mirror, every MP returning to Westminster to take part in the debate could claim expenses totalling £3,750 each.

So, if all 650 MPs turned up, the cost to you and me would have been £2,437,500 – for a debate that could have happened next week, at no extra cost.

Was it a bribe, to get more Members to turn up? If so, it didn’t work very well. Sure, the government benches were packed with Tories, climbing over themselves to orate on how great Nanny was – but the Opposition benches were conspicuously empty. It seems 150 Labour MPs had better things to do.

We should all be grateful for that – it took the bill down to £1,875,000.

Should Labour have opposed the recall? The speaker, John Bercow, was reportedly – let’s say – less than enthusiastic about the matter, especially the way it was conducted: The request came in a telephone call from a mid-ranking 10 Downing Street staff member, rather than in writing, according to The Guardian. The Speaker had to remind the Prime Minister that he must follow protocol and it was only then that Cameron formalised his request in writing.

(Cameron seems to have a problem with following the rules. The first time he got up in Parliament as the Prime Minister, he appeared to forget that he must address his comments to the Speaker and put many of them directly to some of the Members opposite – until a few sharp comments from Mr Bercow put him back in his place.)

Bercow then sought a reaction from the Opposition, and it seems the decision not to oppose it was political, in order not to cause a row in which they were bound to be vilified for failing to show due respect.

Given the facts that street parties broke out in several major British cities on the day she died, while ‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ appeared at number 10 in the midweek charts, it seems unlikely that any Parliamentary party needs to lower itself in that way. The British people have spoken.

So Mr Miliband trotted out a speech about how the Blue Baroness was a woman of strong convictions who held to her ideals (even if he didn’t agree with them) or some such.

Then he sat down and listened, for hours, to the other speeches, including this from Glenda Jackson:

“We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism, was in fact a virtue. Greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker… they were the way forward. We have heard much, and will continue to hear over the next week, of the barriers that were broken down by Thatcherism, the Establishment that was destroyed. What we actually saw – the word that has been circling around with stars around it, is that she created an ‘aspirational’ society. It ‘aspired’ for ‘things’… One of the former Prime Ministers, who himself had been elevated to the House of Lords, spoke about selling off the family silver, and people knowing under those years the price of everything and the value of nothing. What concerns me is that I am beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basic, spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side.”

And this, from David Anderson:

“She came to power promising to bring harmony where there was discord. In the mining communities up and down the country, she brought the opposite. She believed we were no longer any use to the nation because we were deemed to be uneconomic… because we insisted on running safe coal mines in this country. One of the great disgraces of this country today is we import over 50 million tonnes of coal a year from countries where men are killed, literally in the thousands, and we closed our industry that was the safest, the most technologically-advanced, in the world.

“The other area where the so-called economic justification falls down was the failure of Margaret Thatcher and her government to take into account the social cost… where no alternative employment was put forward for those people who were losing their jobs – and particularly for their children. The village where I lived had seen coal mining for almost two centuries. In a matter of months after closure, we were gripped by a wave of petty crime, burglary, car crime – mostly related to drugs. We have never recovered from it.

“We’ve seen the reaction of people whose frustration is heartfelt because they’ve lost their sense of place in society; they’ve been made to feel worthless; they’ve been cast aside like a pair of worn-out pit boots. They’ve seen their community fall apart. They’ve seen their children’s opportunities disappear. And they’ve not been listened to.

“Mrs Thatcher’s lack of empathy, her intransigence, her failure to see the other side, her refusal to even look at the other side, has left them bitter, and resentful, and hitting out in a way that is uncharacteristic of the miners in our community. Her accusation that the “enemy within” was in the mining areas of this country still rankles people. I wasn’t the “enemy within”… All we wanted was the right to work. We didn’t just want it for ourselves; we wanted it for our kids, and that was taken away.”

David Cameron wanted to pay his MPs huge amounts of money to come back and spend seven and a half hours – and remember, Winston Churchill only got 45 minutes after his death – singing the praises of the Blue Baroness – to the high heavens. He got what he wanted, and it is fair to say his Party members enjoyed telling their little stories.

But the contributions of Labour members like Glenda Jackson and David Anderson are the ones that will be remembered.

Goodbye, Baroness Thatcher – perhaps now we can put ThatcherISM to rest as well

The Iron Lady: This is probably the most iconic image of Margaret Thatcher from her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. "The lady's not for turning," she warned. Unfortunately for Britain, she kept her word.

The Iron Lady: This is probably the most iconic image of Margaret Thatcher from her tenure as Prime Minister of the UK. “The lady’s not for turning,” she warned. Unfortunately for Britain, she kept her word.

It isn’t every day that a former Prime Minister dies – and even rarer that we witness the death of one who affected the UK in such a fundamental way as Baroness Thatcher.

As I write this, the outpouring of tributes and discussion of her achievements in the mass media are in full swing – mostly concentrating on what their editors would define as the ‘good’ she did for our country. Most of the TV channels and papers are run by right-wingers, of course – so you can expect them to be dripping with adulation.

However, as I commented on Facebook yesterday evening, street parties broke out in Brixton and Glasgow, celebrating her demise (I understand celebrations took place in Leeds and Liverpool, and possibly many other cities, towns and villages across the UK). They had bands, they have people handing out milk (remember, she was the ‘Milk Snatcher’ before she was PM), they were chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – dead, dead, dead” and popping champagne.

There was a humour – a sense of wit – about it, not only in what was going on (the milk, for example) but also the locations (there were riots in Brixton during her tenure, and Scotland was where the hated Poll Tax was piloted).

But I said it is also tragic “that a person should do so much harm in her life, and be so hated by the people she was elected to represent – more than 20 years after she left office – that her death is marked by spontaneous celebration and, literally, dancing in the streets”.

That comment thread has now been read by more than 15,000 people (usually I get one or two thousand through my Facebook door). A question I posted has received more than four times as many votes saying she harmed the country as say she improved it (47 – 11).

What DID she achieve?

According to Paul Krugman’s blog, it’s debatable whether she achieved anything, in terms of the economy.

“Thatcher came to power in 1979, and imposed a radical change in policy almost immediately,” he wrote. “But the big improvement in British performance doesn’t really show in the data until the mid-1990s. Does she get credit for a reward so long delayed?”

Good question. In fact, her two-and-a-half terms in office constituted an extremely rocky road for those of us who had to live through them (and I was one)! My opinion is that this is because she was not interested in improving Britain’s NATIONAL prosperity.

No – the Thatcher crusade was ideological. She wanted to thrust her form of Conservatism so far down everybody’s throat that it would take decades for any other way to be accepted – and she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

Let’s look at the policies that most clearly demonstrate this ideology.

She sold off Britain’s council houses. The cheap, rented social housing that accommodated those of us who earned the least were sold wholesale during her premiership – and not replaced. Mrs Thatcher is said to have had a dream to create a Britain full of homeowners. Sadly, this is not what happened. Instead, the majority of council houses were sold off to private landlords who then rented them out again – at higher cost. The lack of replacement council houses meant that the country’s poor had no alternative but to rent at the higher level, meaning they had less disposable income than before the sell-off. The rise of housing associations to fill the social housing gap has meant an extra layer of bureaucracy between the tenant and their elected representatives, who can now claim that any abuse of power by landlords is nothing to do with them.

She broke the unions. Some say this was vitally important, as the unions had become too powerful and were able to bring the country to its knees whenever they felt like it, calling strikes on a whim – and there is mileage in this. But it’s also possible to say that business bosses and members of the Thatcher government provoked confrontation in order to justify the erosion of union power – this is certainly true in the case of the mineworkers’ strike of 1984-5. There is an argument that National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor was paid millions of pounds to engineer the confrontation. The result was that the unions were stripped of many of their rights, meaning working people had nobody left to stand up for them in wage negotiations. It is a direct result of this that workers’ wages have risen by just 27 per cent over the last 30 years, while bosses’ salaries have multiplied by 800 per cent, and the gap between the country’s richest and poorest has grown, massively.

She stripped the UK of its manufacturing industries. What can be said about this? Thatcher saw much of Britain’s private industry as uneconomical, unprofitable. She oversaw a switch to service industries and finance – boosting this with bank deregulation. It is this move, which took place in the USA at around the same time, that led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the austerity measures which the current Coalition government is using to hammer the poorest in the modern UK.

She privatised national utilities. The share sell-offs were, on the face of it, intended to make it possible for every British citizen to buy shares in the companies that provided power, telecommunications, water and so on. In practice, the poorest couldn’t afford it, and those on middle incomes saw the shares as a short-term investment, believing they would be able to sell their shares on for many times the amount they paid, a few months later. This has led to the vast majority of shares in the privatised utilities falling into the hands of – you guessed it – the very, very rich. Another publicised intention of the sell-off was that, as private companies, these organisations would deliver a better service at a lower price. This was a fantasy; it never materialised. Look at British Rail (which I admit was privatised after Mrs Thatcher left office, but is a great example of the trend): Not only do users pay much more for their tickets now than when it was publicly-owned, but the subsidy paid to the private rail companies by the government has multiplied massively as well. Result: Rich shareholders become very much richer. Poor users struggle to cope with rising prices.

Can you spot the trend here?

She changed taxation to make the poor pay more. I refer, of course, to the infamous Poll Tax. Mrs Thatcher claimed in 1989 that a flat-rate tax for local services – with everybody, rich or poor, paying the same amount – was fairer. The public – who had already been fooled by the council housing sell-off, the public utility sell-off and the breaking of the unions, and were therefore sick of being hoodwinked – claimed otherwise and refused to pay. The public won and Mrs Thatcher was consigned to the waste basket of politics soon after. The current Coalition government is working hard to ensure that this policy is carried out, with the so-called ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – the council tax support scheme that ensures everybody pays council tax. Meanwhile, efforts to ensure the rich pay less are going ahead, with Corporation Tax cut by a quarter during the lifetime of this Parliament, and the ‘Millionaires’ Tax Break’ cutting the top rate of Income Tax from 50p in the pound to 45p.

She kept Britain out of the Euro (or more accurately, European Monetary Union). This was her one sensible policy, history has proved. There is much to be said in favour of a free-trading zone where countries can trade amongst themselves at favourable rates – but monetary union cannot be a workable part of that, when the countries involved are at hugely varying stages of development. Mrs Thatcher was right to oppose it and the fact that the UK is not mired in the current Eurozone crisis, except as a member of the EU with trading interests to protect, is to her credit.

By now, dear reader, you are probably wondering how Mrs Thatcher lasted so long, if her policies were all so divisive, and so clearly trained on impoverishing the lower classes. The answer is simple: She was excellent at public relations. The fact that she was the UK’s first-ever female Prime Minister was a huge publicity boost for her, and she built on it by nurturing an image of herself as ‘The Iron Lady’ – a Prime Minister of firm convictions who knew that what she was doing was absolutely right for Britain (“Right for the goolies of Britain,” as Graeme Garden joked on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue at the time). The PR-reliance was clear from the start – the Conservative Party hired the Saatchi & Saatchi agency to run its 1979, 1983 and 1987 election campaigns. It is notable that this partnership dissolved during the 87 campaign and Thatcher’s premiership ran out of steam shortly afterwards.

To sum up, I’ll leave you with the comment I placed on the New York Times website, in response to that paper’s piece about Mrs Thatcher’s death:

“Having lived through the Thatcher years and the changes her government perpetrated on British society, allow me to assure you that there is little reason to heap praise upon her.

“The entire thrust of her thinking was to ensure that the rich and powerful became richer and more powerful, and the poor – especially those with intelligence and/or ability – would be denied any chance of prosperity or success.

“What’s the American Dream all about? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? Everybody created equal, with opportunity for each according to their ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth?  The Thatcher government is a rejection of all those aspirations, as is the current Cameron government, which is its natural successor.

“The Thatcher government deprived people of their liberty by creating a large underclass of unemployed people and using the threat of unemployment to depress workers’ wages.

“As a result, they did not have the disposable funds to take advantage of the sell-offs of national utilities such as British Gas and British Telecom.

“She sold social housing but did not build any to replace it.

“She used the police as a tool of political repression, rather than as guardians of the law.

“She used taxation in a similar manner, crippling the poor with punitive measures such as the hated Poll Tax – a flat-rate charge, effectively a tax cut for the rich, but a huge tax hike for the poor.

“That was her fatal error, of course.”

Goodbye, Baroness Thatcher. Hopefully your passing will trigger a reassessment of your career, so that we can all move on from the political nightmare your policies created for the vast majority of middle- and working-class people whose only political mistake lay in entrusting their future to you.

‘Compassion bypass’ as Coalition puts the squeeze on benefits and wages

compassionbypassThe Nasty Parties’ (I include the Liberal Democrats now – let them all be tarred with the same brush) have voted to squeeze benefit increases to just one per cent for the next three years, after the third reading of the Benefits Uprating Bill in the House of Commons.

That Bill will now go to the House of Lords, where I sincerely hope it will receive a more intelligent examination than many Conservatives and Liberal Democrats gave it in the other place. To help them with that work, I wanted to highlight some of the issues raised by opponents to the Bill, during yesterday’s debate.

Firstly, the government is punishing people who are already hard-up for the failure of its own economic policy. As Stephen Timms said, we were promised that the policy would lead to steady growth and falling unemployment, but we got a double-dip recession, perhaps set to become triple-dip, depending on figures due this week. Unemployment is officially forecast to go up next year, so spending on unemployment benefits will go up, and borrowing will go up too.

The government’s response is to force down the incomes of those who already receive the least in order to cover the cost of its mistakes; the saving made by the Bill’s measures will be about the same as the increase in social security spending.

In April, the government will give a tax cut to everybody earning more than £150,000 per year, and for 8,000 people who earn over £1 million a year, that means a cut of around £2,000 a week. At the same time, someone receiving the adult rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance will get an extra 71p a week.

The change in the personal tax allowance will not help people in work on low incomes. Citizens Advice has pointed out that “any rise in net earnings leads to a reduction in housing benefit and council tax benefit.” In fact the improvement for people in low-income work was recorded by Helen Goodman: 13 pence per week.

Meanwhile, the average price of weekly grocery shopping has risen by 17 per cent and the energy companies have hiked up their prices by around 11 per cent.

The government lied when it said people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance are protected – they are not. A lone parent with three children who is in the support group will lose £600 in 2015-16 because of the exponential way in which the Bill will grind down the incomes of people who are already hard-up. [CAB]

In fact the impact assessment tells us disabled households are more likely than others to be hit by the changes in the Bill.

Child poverty is set to skyrocket, thanks to the measures of the Nasty Government. The Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us that, taking account of everything that the Government announced before the autumn statement, child poverty was already set to increase by 400,000 by 2015 and 800,000 by 2020.

Although it was not mentioned in the autumn statement or the impact statement, and a question to the Minister has gone unanswered, the government has let it slip – in a statement by a different minister – that the three years of one-per-cent uprating will increase child poverty by 200,000 – on top of the increase that is already due.

That means that we are on track for one million more children below the poverty line by 2020 – reversing all the progress made during the 15 years since Labour came to power in 1997.

And that is only the figure the government has been prepared to acknowledge in relation to relative income. It has said nothing about the impact on absolute poverty, material deprivation or persistent poverty — measures to which it committed itself in the Child Poverty Act 2010.

The Children’s Society estimates that the following professions are also affected: 300,000 nurses and midwives in the NHS; 150,000 staff in primary and nursery schools; 1.14 million admin workers, secretaries and secretarial assistants; 44,000 electricians and electrical fitters; 510,000 sales assistants and cashiers; and 42,000 armed forces personnel.

We certainly want it to be more worthwhile for people to be in work, but forcing down the incomes of those who are out of work is not the way to do it,” said Mr Timms. I have been saying that, here, for many months, and it did my heart good to see that it had been said in the House of Commons.

He said uprating should indeed be in line with inflation, as it always was in the past.

He continued: “The Bill was designed by the Chancellor to promote his party’s narrow interest.” Yes – the Conservatives are a minority-interest party. This Bill, and the tax cut for those earning more than £150,000 per year, prove it. They support the super-rich; you and I don’t get a look-in.

And he pointed out that the government did not need an Act of Parliament to restrict benefits upratings. “The Chancellor thought he could boost his party’s standing if he introduced a Bill, so we have one,” he said. Absolutely correct. The plan was to make the Labour Party, in opposing the plan, look like the party of scroungers and slobs. Instead, the Conservatives have confirmed themselves as the ‘Nasty Party’, oppressors of those who most need government help.

“Ministers still say that they are committed to eradicating child poverty,” said Mr Timms. “It says so in the coalition agreement. That commitment is clearly now fictitious. Ministers should stop pretending. They have given up on reducing child poverty. Now they are implementing policies that will force child poverty up.”

Let me draw your attention to the words of Toby Perkins, who tried to put the debate into proper context: “There is a particular irony in the Chancellor, who was a millionaire the day he was born, railing against the extravagance of those on £71 a week.”

I think I can sum up the government’s argument with the words of Charlie Elphicke, who said around five million people in the UK could work, but don’t. He said they need more of an incentive, including an economic incentive, and quoted the Chancellor, Gideon – sorry, George – Osborne: “Over the last five years, those on out-of-work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as those in work. With pay restraint in businesses and Government, average earnings have risen by about 10 per cent since 2007. Out-of-work benefits have gone up by about 20 per cent. That is not fair to working people who pay the taxes that fund them.”

In other words, he wants to shrink the state (the government’s own actions have created a hole in its finances; it wants to cut public spending to fill that hole) and he can’t do his maths. He compounded his foolishness with a well-repeated lie: “Money is tight in this country today. The reason for that is that [Labour] drove our economy off a cliff, overspending for years and displaying fiscal incontinence that was unparalleled in this country in the last century.”

That is absolutely untrue. Labour ran a lower deficit than the Conservatives throughout its years in power. The increases in the deficit and the national debt were caused by the banking crisis. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are on record as having supported what the then-Labour government did to solve the mess that was created by high-earning bankers (about whom the current government has done nothing worth discussing). They would have done the same thing and created the same debt.

Fortunately, Ian Mearns was on hand to put Mr Elphicke right: “The hon. Member… forgot to mention that, while those on benefits have had their benefits uprated at twice the rate of those in work in percentage terms over the past five years, the actual increase in financial terms has been on average about £49 for those in work and about £12 for those on benefits.

“Percentages are meaningless; 50 per cent or 100 per cent of very little is still very little. Making comparisons in the way that he did demeans the debate.”

He added: “I think it is the ultimate insult to ordinary people’s intelligence to say that in order to incentivise those at the top end of the economy we have to pay them more, while incentivising people at the bottom end by paying them less. ‘We are all in this together’ — I don’t think.”

Lords, please take note. If any of you uses the argument about percentage increases, I sincerely hope to see others ask that person whether they will be supporting the government on the basis of something that has been proven – and is now known to the public at large – to be utter, meaningless nonsense.