Tag Archives: progressive

Starmer’s dilemma: where does Labour go after Chesham and Amersham?

The problem, not the solution: Keir Starmer – and all his supporters – are a betrayal of the Labour Party and of Labour voters. We all know it. Labour is unelectable until they have all left the party – and they won’t go. They are the worst of all Boris Johnson’s Tory enablers.

No points to anybody who responds to the headline with “Batley and Spen”.

It would be fair to say that Keir Starmer did not expect to win the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

But the scale of his loss there – and I think it should be understood that it was a failure that Starmer owns – should make it clear to him that he has taken Labour in the wrong direction.

His party’s 622 votes – just 1.6 per cent of turnout and one-sixteenth of the number Jeremy Corbyn managed to raise in 2017 – is fewer than the number of people in that constituency’s Labour Party.

Either party members abstained or they voted for someone else, which is an offence for which they could be expelled.

(Or there could be far fewer members remaining in that constituency than Starmer is willing to admit, after the – alleged – mass exodus of members following his election as leader. If so, even if remaining members did vote for somebody else, he’ll be in a quandary over whether to carry out disciplinary procedures.)

Encouragingly, it seems almost nobody aged less than 70 voted for the Conservatives:

I’m not sure Richard Murphy is right about that, as the number of pensioners in the UK will remain very high, some way into the future (even after the ravages of Covid-19), and the Tories have a knack of duping the gullible into supporting them (or perhaps that should be bribing the gullible). Still, it suggests that the Tories’ time is running out.

That said, the simple fact is that people aged under 70 simply didn’t go for Labour, despite Starmer’s attempts to woo them by changing Labour’s direction sharply to the political right. They voted Liberal Democrat.

I draw two conclusions from that:

Firstly, Starmer’s claim that Boris Johnson’s party has enjoyed a “vaccine bounce” – resurgent popularity because of the perceived success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout – is bunkum. Or at least, any such bounce has now petered out.

Secondly, that people prefer to put their trust in political organisations that have some consistency about them, rather than wandering around all over the political spectrum searching for votes – or very obviously trying to fool people into voting for them – like Labour under Starmer (and Miliband, Brown and Blair before him).

Some commentators are now suggesting that Labour should at least discuss the idea of a “progressive alliance” with other opposition parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, to field just one candidate against the Tories in Tory strongholds, thereby making it easier to force them out. But there are problems with that…

Yes indeed; the Liberal Democrats won because they are the most similar to the Conservatives in Chesham and Amersham, not because they are a radical alternative.

So a “progressive alliance” isn’t going to happen. And dreams of getting the Tories out by using proportional representation will continue to be dreams for the foreseeable future because the Tories are in power and they aren’t going to bring it in because they know it would harm them.

What’s left? Tactical voting?

But that will just result in another hung Parliament that the Tories will probably dominate – with Liberal Democrats joining them for the sake of power if they get enough seats. We’ve already had that from 2010 to 2015.

And all of this theorising neglects one simple fact:

In order to beat the Tories, whichever party you support will need to deserve to win.

And Labour, under Keir Starmer, doesn’t.

How can left-wing voters support a party that deserts them in the way Starmer has? How can they support a party whose Parliamentary representatives no longer come from the working class but represent exactly the kind of middle-class privilege that Labour was originally created to oppose?

How can right-wing voters support a party they know only courts them in order to gain power for its own purposes? They know the Tories are untrustworthy – but only in their promises to people earning less than £100,000 a year; as long as Tory priorities are aligned with their own, they’ll carry on with Johnson’s bandits, even if it means imposing fascist-style dictatorship on the rest of us.

Starmer has been criticised because he hasn’t brought forward a single policy to replace the 10 pledges he scrapped as soon as they had won him the Labour leadership under false pretences. There is a reason for this failure: Starmer is trying to find a magic promise that will fool a majority of voters, just long enough to get himself into Downing Street.

His problem is that we all know that this is what he’s doing. He is probably the most classic example of Tony Benn’s “weathercock” ever to come forward – a career politician who doesn’t have any principles of his own but goes any way the wind blows, chasing votes according to what his focus groups tell him is popular.

And Starmer’s focus groups are disastrously out-of-touch. This means Starmer is continuously trying to tell us what we want, and getting it wrong.

So he drapes himself in the Union Flag because he has seen the Tories do it and he thinks it appeals to our patriotism – but under Boris Johnson’s fascism, we have no reason to feel patriotic at all.

So he blames Jeremy Corbyn for his failures and tries to remind us that Corbyn was accused of letting anti-Semitism into the Labour Party – when we all know that the accusations were (mostly) false (there are always a few racists in any large organisation but the leader cannot be blamed for them). Labour has just been in court defending itself against a group of former members who have brought a hugely damaging case against the party.

In all this squirming, he presents himself as entirely untrustworthy.

So we don’t trust him, and that means we don’t trust Labour:

It won’t change until Starmer is gone. I don’t mean that he should step down as leader of the Labour Party; I mean he should leave the party altogether, along with all the other cuckoos who got in under Kinnock, Blair, Brown and Miliband. You know who they are. Including party staff members who support them rather than traditional (pre-Kinnock) Labour values.

One more note: I could happily tap out a list of policies that Labour should adopt in order to win public support – it isn’t hard to do.

But there is no point while Starmer and his cronies are in charge. They would see such policies as a marketing strategy to win votes – and if it worked, they would then ditch those policies in favour of the right-wing agenda they’ve had all along.

They have to go.

The problem is, they won’t. They know they are unacceptable; unelectable. But they absolutely won’t allow anybody to lead Labour who could possibly break the deadlock.

And in the meantime, Boris Johnson gets worse and worse. Enabled by Starmer.

Oh bloody hell, here’s Tony Blair

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Westminster for a comeback? (With apologies to Yeats.)

Tony Blair praised Theresa May as a ‘very solid, sensible person’. [Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images].

Tony Blair praised Theresa May as a ‘very solid, sensible person’. So much for his left-wing credentials!  [Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images].

It’s Tony Blair. How godawfully depressing.

Here’s a man whose ‘Third Way’ ruined the Labour Party, driving voters away in their millions, turning socialism into a dirty word (by association – there were precious few socialists in a Blair cabinet), and eventually turfing the party out of office for more than six years – so far.

He talks about the Progressive Left but he’s as much a product of the Reactionary Right as, for example, David Cameron, who worked very hard to follow the Blairite model of neoliberal economic policies leavened with social reform.

The philosophy seemed to be, “Give ’em gay marriage and they’ll sell themselves into slavery”, and it seems to have been correct.

Margaret Thatcher, whose project during the 1980s was entirely geared towards the destruction of the UK’s industrial base and erosion of its trade unions, in order to destroy the economic leverage enjoyed by working people in the 1970s, considered Mr Blair’s New Labour to be her greatest achievement.

And now he’s back, claiming that the country needs him because Jeremy Corbyn – the most popular Labour leader, possibly in 50 years – is… not a “nutter”, as Mr Blair insists he has been misquoted as saying, but at least “mistaken”.

He says Labour has been “captured by the far left for the first time in the party’s history”. What utter drivel.

Jeremy Corbyn is a centre-left politician. If he were of the far left, he would be demanding the nationalisation of all industry and the UK’s reduction to single-party state status. He isn’t.

Clem Attlee was more left-wing than Mr Corbyn and his government gave us the National Health Service that everybody claims they love. Wilson and Callaghan were closer to Communism.

But Mr Blair needs to position himself and he wants the “centre left” label that belongs to Mr Corbyn.

Otherwise he would have to admit that he is a right wing politician – and that would play very poorly with his target audience.

But he gives himself away with his admission that he thinks Theresa May is “a very solid, sensible person” – she isn’t. She is a weak leader, from a line of weak Tory leaders, who cannot stand up for a single policy if a business leader opposes it.

Still, her politics is clearly the kind Mr Blair prefers and, after all, Margaret Thatcher liked him and David Cameron copied him. So why doesn’t he clear off and join the Conservative Party instead of haunting Labour?

To sum up, Tony Blair is not a representative of the Progressive Left or Centre-Left. That space is occupied by Jeremy Corbyn. Blair belongs to the reactionary, regressive Right and is trying to hoodwink us all into believing otherwise.

About the only thing he has said that anyone in Labour could support is that the party “has a historic duty to try to represent people in this country who need our representation desperately”.

But look at the choice of topic with which he has decided to re-enter politics: He has opted to take a view of Brexit that is deliberately antagonistic to the established Labour Party position.

Mr Corbyn has said that the referendum result will bind the Labour Party and its duty now is to work for the best possible parting from the European Union; Mr Blair wants people to think there is still a chance the split could be halted.

But look at what he says and you’ll see it’s all bluster. He doesn’t offer any guidance on how the people are to register their change of heart.

He says: “It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain, cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up… Either you get maximum access to the single market, in which case you’ll end up accepting a significant number of the rules on immigration, on payment into the budget, on the European court’s jurisdiction. People may then say, ‘Well, hang on, why are we leaving then?’

“Or alternatively, you’ll be out of the single market and the economic pain may be very great because, beyond doubt, if you do that you’ll have years, maybe a decade, of economic restructuring,” so even ‘Leave’ voters “would eventually “look at this in a practical way, not an ideological way”.

And what would they do next?

There is no mechanism for the people to register any desire to change their collective mind if the politicians in Westminster choose not to allow it – and Westminster has said there will be no further referendum.

Why should there be?

We know most of the people were cheated, one way or another, by snake-oil salesmen like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove who promised untold riches and are delivering debt.

But plenty of us were saying this at the time and those who voted in ignorance should know that it is no excuse.

Ultimately, Mr Blair has nothing to say that hasn’t been said already – by Conservatives and by Liberal Democrats.

If anybody wants a real alternative, it is offered by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

Source: Tony Blair: Brexit could be stopped if Britons change their minds | Politics | The Guardian

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Scaremonger Leslie still represents the ugly side of neoliberal New Labour

Chris Leslie: Neoliberal, Blairite, behind the times – another closet Tory.

Today The Guardian wants to tell us the mainstream Labour Party thinks Jeremy Corbyn’s “starry-eyed, hard left” policies would keep the Conservatives in power for another 10 years at least. What a shame the paper is relying on the words of closet Tory Chris Leslie to make that point!

Leslie is the politician who, as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, told the Huffington Post last year that a future Labour government would not undo the Coalition’s hugely unpopular cuts but would continue to impose the austerity that has kept our economy in crisis for the last five years.

In that case, as Vox Political argued at the time, why bother voting for Labour? We’ve already got one lot of Conservatives in power; there’s no need for any more.

Particularly galling is Leslie’s claim to represent the concerns of the “progressive left of centre” – a part of the political landscape he cannot ever claim to have inhabited. He’s a regressive member of the Uptight Right.

In the HuffPost interview, Leslie told us: “George Osborne has had his five years to eradicate the deficit. I am determined that we finish that task on which he has failed”. In response, This Blog asked how he proposes to achieve that aim, if his methods are the same?


Chris Leslie’s idea of socialism: Seems a lot like Toryism, doesn’t it?

The man just wasn’t making sense then – and he isn’t making sense now.

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a hard-left politician; Leslie’s problem is that his politics is too far to the right of the political spectrum for him to belong in the same party – he isn’t a Labour politician at all. Austerity is not the answer to the UK’s woes – five years of insane Tory ideological policies have demonstrated that.

The people are crying out for a change – the overwhelming victory of the SNP, with it’s anti-austerity posture, at the general election demonstrates that – and claims that England is not the same as Scotland in this regard are groundless because many English people have been saying they would have voted SNP if they could.

Mr Leslie is wrong – in what he says, in what he has been doing, and in his choice of political party. Like Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and certain other high-profile neoliberals, he should cross the floor and join the party he really represents.

His announcement that he would not work for Mr Corbyn is the best news we are likely to get all day – and he should keep his scaremongering to himself.

The “starry-eyed, hard left” economic strategy of Jeremy Corbyn would hand the Tories at least another decade in power and end up hurting poor people by leading to higher inflation and interest rates as well as cuts in public spending, the shadow chancellor has said.

As Corbyn outlines plans to end “the years of political and economic austerity” to help create a high-skilled workforce in Britain, Chris Leslie has become one of the most senior Labour figures to say he would decline to serve under the veteran leftwinger.

In a sign of the deep unease at senior levels of the Labour party that Corbyn could be on the verge of a historic breakthrough by the left to win the party’s leadership, Leslie told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “This is a fork in the road for the Labour party. On 12 September we will know what the fate is of the progressive left of centre. There are millions of people whose living standards and working conditions depend on making sure we get this decision right, otherwise we face a decade or more of Conservative government.”

Source: Corbyn’s economic strategy would keep Tories in power, top Labour figure says | Politics | The Guardian

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

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

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

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

Will people believe this pack of lies?

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

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

This is moonshine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is the Coalition progressive or are the spin doctors out again?

Spin doctor? Gove is more like a washing machine on 'slow rinse'.

Spin doctor? Gove is more like a washing machine on ‘slow rinse’.

“In these days it is hard to differentiate between reality and the work of spin doctors, and no more so evident in these days with 6 months to go before we go to the polls to elect a new government,” according to a blog new to Vox Political called Through a Carer’s Eyes.

“Especially evident is the fact that a spin doctor or Public Relations Specialist is in residence at 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.

“A spin doctor is defined as: ‘a spokesperson employed to give a favorable interpretation of events to the media, esp. on behalf of a political party.’ It doesn’t say truthful interpretation.”

Absolutely correct, but it isn’t just Cameron putting a spin on events. Here’s – of all people – Michael Gove!

On the BBC’s Newsnight yesterday, Gove asked viewers to believe that the Conservative Party hadn’t spent the previous week saying it was pulling out all the stops to achieve victory against former Tory – now UKIP – MP Mark Reckless; instead he told us the prediction had been a 15 per cent lead for UKIP that he wanted us to think the Tories had prevented.

Bravo, Michael. You must believe you are single-handedly changing reality. And why not? In his mind, he single-handedly changed the facts about World War One a few months ago; many people believe he has ambitions to be the next Tory leader and single-handedly turn the clock back 90 years.

As we’ve mentioned the office of the prime minister, let’s see what Gove had to say about the incumbent, David Cameron: “People are all-too-well aware of the difference between a prime minister who has led this country through tough times and whose stature has been augmented during that period, and a leader of the Opposition who, during his tenure, has actually… you know… found the public moving away from him, just at the point when he should be rallying their support.”

Seriously? David Cameron? The most useless excuse for a national leader since Neville Chamberlain? The man whose standing amongst other national leaders, as evidenced by his performance at international summits, would have been improved if he had stayed at home? The man whose ‘reforms’ have corrupted Parliament to make it legal for money to be taken away from the poorest and given to rich businesspeople instead, so that they will donate some of that cash to the Conservative Party? The man who is such a weak leader he cannot even sack his worst-performing minister, Iain Duncan Smith?

If he had the stature of a gnome to start with, then now he has the stature of a dung beetle.

Here’s the icing on the cake. According to Gove: “I think that this government has been, er… one of the most, er… successfully progressive governments in our lifetime.”

He was referring to the legalisation of gay marriage (for example), but that doesn’t make the Coalition progressive. It means Tory leaders have realised that throwing a bone or two at the masses will make them think they are achieving real societal gain, while all it is really doing is hiding the massive destruction of our society’s structure that has been taking place alongside it.

In fact, this has been the most REgressive government Britons have had to suffer for the last century, at least.

How sad for Gove that the British people are far too perceptive to accept these absurd claims. This evening (Saturday, November 22) for example, his opponents will take to Twitter with infographics and comments explaining why they say #CameronMustGo.

Vox Political has several such tweets planned. If you want to see them, you’ll have to be on Twitter from 6pm – that’s 1800 GMT.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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The Conservative Party – nasty, stupid and clumsy

Is this the face of a 'Caring' Conservative? Or is he nasty and clumsy? And if he is, does that mean the supporters behind him are stupid?

Is this the face of a ‘Caring’ Conservative? Or is he nasty and clumsy? And if he is, does that mean the supporters behind him are stupid?

Independent luminary Andreas Whittam Smith reckons the Conservative Party in its current form is both nasty and stupid – and also clumsy, if his latest article is to be believed.

Nasty because of its aggressive behaviour – such as the decision to withdraw support for rescue operations that save thousands of migrants from drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Or because of benefit assessment policies that mean people living with progressive and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and rheumatoid arthritis are being subjected to what a group of charities describes as “upsetting and unnecessary” examinations to see whether they will recover enough to look for work in the future – a pointless exercise because their conditions are flagged up from the start as progressive and degenerative; they’re never going to get better.

Or because, after the Resolution Foundation found that one-in-five employees (4.9 million people) earned less than the living wage, George Osborne is promising that if the Conservative Party wins next year’s general election, then most welfare payments that the working poor rely on – including child benefit, tax credits, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and income support – will be frozen in April 2016 for two years. They are currently rising by 1 per cent a year. He will make the working poor poorer.


Clumsy because they have imposed unpopular decisions on the people in an unfair way. Mr Whittam Smith defines fairness in terms of “the four main elements that go into creating a sense of procedural justice: Those concerned should have been able to play an active part in the process. The rules should be applied with sensitivity to individual situations. Decision-makers should be impartial and fair. And the agents of the system with whom people have to deal should treat them with respect.”

He continues: “There is no evidence that people living with progressive and degenerative conditions or members of the working poor or families struggling to pay care bills for elderly relatives have been consulted. There is no evidence of sensitivity to individual situations or else the bedroom tax legislation would have recognised the special difficulties of disabled tenants who are unable to share a bedroom and would have taken into account where homes have been specially adapted.

“As for the agents of the system with whom people have to deal, outsourcing many of these tasks has not produced happy results. Naturally the outsourced staff work by the book. They cannot be flexible or understanding. They are chiefly concerned with getting the job done as quickly as possible so as to reach the profits targets set by their employers. And then, in the final analysis, claimants are not dealing directly with the state at all but with a sort or mercenary army. Mutual respect cannot exist in these circumstances.”

Let’s expand on the last point for a moment, and connect it with the previous points about benefit assessment, with this snippet of information: An academic report from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Stirling has confirmed that the Tories’ welfare reforms are not helping people to find work.

According to Alan Wyllie on the A Working Class Man blog, the report showed:

  • “The current welfare system is not helping people find work. Those who had moved into employment found work independently and not due to Jobcentre Plus services;
  • “There was limited support on offer to help recipients of out of work benefits move into work. Those participating in the Work Programme did not report that it was helpful;
  • “Most people wanted to work but issues such as childcare, illness and training made it difficult for them to do so;
  • “The current welfare system also does not appear to meet its aim of ‘make work pay’. People who had moved into work felt only slightly better off and continued to find it difficult to make ends meet;
  • “Benefit freezes or restricted increases have meant falling real-term incomes, with many study participants finding it hard to meet basic needs.

“The report concludes that: ‘Participants with a health condition or a disability, and those who were lone parents, reported that they wanted to be in work but faced considerable barriers to doing so, which were unlikely to be addressed by increasing conditionality.

“’According to the views of participants, stronger conditionality is unlikely to get more people into work, due to a lack of suitable work and barriers in the areas of education, skills, employability, childcare and health.’

“The researchers found that claimants who did not abide by the new conditions faced serious consequences.

“’The impact on benefit recipients who fall foul of new rules – or who are affected by a mistake on the part of a benefits agency that is not their fault – can be severe,’ they said.”

That’s nasty – not only have benefit changes been forced onto people without any regard for them, but they don’t even work.

However, this – moving back to Mr Whittam Smith – may be the Tories’ downfall. He points out: “Nowadays we are no longer a homogenous mass but an agglomeration of minorities. In my own circle of family and friends, for instance, there are people who are disabled and others with serious illnesses. There are those who are single parents, others who are retired. There are middle-aged people with back-breaking mortgages, others who are and young and ambitious. There are regular Church-goers as well as non-believers. There are people in jobs, and people who cannot find work. There are Londoners who can’t conceive of living anywhere else (I am one of these), and people who resent the capital city and all its works.

“Each of these minorities has its own particular concerns and needs, prejudices and resentments, but yet feels sympathy for any group that is badly treated.

“The Coalition led by its Conservative ministers has often gone about its work in an unfeeling, insensitive manner. And for that shortcoming there could be a price to pay at the next general election.”

Quite so – especially as they came into government under the banner of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’. What a terrible joke.

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Why NHS charging is a zombie policy


Several political organisations (including, to Yr Obdt Srvt’s regret, Labour) have been talking up the possibility of imposing charges on the public for NHS services. Possibilities under discussion have included direct charging at the point of use or a new ‘NHS tax’. Nobody wants to mention that this means paying for the NHS twice (we already fund it with our taxes/NI contributions).

BBC Radio 4 recently ran a debate on NHS charging, on which one of the speakers was Dr Clive Peedell. This gentleman is a stalwart of the National Health Action Party, the political group founded to end the Coalition’s privatisation of healthcare by defeating the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at election time.

He made many solid points – information that the public needed to hear. We know this because the presenter tried to shout him down while he was in full flow, and in the Tory-dominated BBC this is always a sure sign that a speaker is on the right track.

The YouTube clip (above) whittles down the debate to cover only Dr Peedell’s words, in which he states that:

  • It is a myth that charges can reduce demand for healthcare; this is a zombie policy.
  • If people start paying they expect more from the service, so you get people with wants, rather than needs.
  • The NHS has been chronically under-funded for decades – by £267 billion over 25 years.
  • It is become a fantastically efficient system and all the evidence suggests that progressive taxation is the fairest way to pay for healthcare.
  • Even so, there are efficiencies that can be made – the market system costs £10 billion per year in administration costs, and 10 per cent of the budget pays off venture capitalists who invested in costly PFI schemes.
  • Austerity increases demand on the healthcare system and reduces supply.
  • And healthcare spending stimulates economic growth so we should increase healthcare expenditure with money reclaimed from tax avoiders.

The clip is well worth playing.

After all, it isn’t often you hear anybody talking sensibly about the health service for nearly six minutes!

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The questions that Sunday Politics WON’T ask Iain Duncan Smith


Like it or not, politics in the UK is far more nuanced today than it has been at any time in the last 100 years. How can it be anything else? All the main political parties are trying to occupy the same, narrow, centre-right ground.

Even so, one man has emerged as the pantomime villain of British politics: Iain Duncan Smith.

ConservativeHome readers regularly vote him into the top slot as the most popular cabinet minister – but it seems that anyone who has ever had dealings with his Department for Work and Pensions has the exact opposite opinion of him. He has been nicknamed IDS, but this blog calls him RTU instead – it stands for ‘Returned To Unit’, a military term for serving soldiers who have failed in officer training and have been returned in disgrace to their original unit (the implication being that his claim of a glittering military career is about as accurate as his claims to have been educated at the University of Perugia and Dunchurch College of Management).

Here at Vox Political, we believe that this man’s tenure at the DWP will go down in history as one of the greatest disasters of British political history – not just recent history, but for all time. It is our opinion that his benefit-cutting policies have done more to accelerate the impoverishment of hard-working British people than the worst recession in the last century could ever have done by itself.

We believe the assessment regime for sickness and disability benefits, over which he has presided, has resulted in so many deaths that it could be considered the worst genocide this country has faced since the Harrowing of the North, almost 1,000 years ago.

That will be his legacy.

On Sunday, he will appear on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show to answer your questions about his work. The show’s Facebook page has invited readers to submit their own questions and this seems an appropriate moment to highlight some of those that have been submitted – but are never likely to be aired; RTU is far too vain to allow hyper-critical questioning to burst his bubble.

Here is our choice of just some questions he won’t be answering:

“Why [has he] decided to cover up the number of suicides due to [his] benefit cuts?” “Why is he killing the elderly and the disabled?” “Does he have a figure (number of deaths) before he accepts a policy might not be working?”

“Universal Jobmatch, Universal Credit, WCA reforms, PIP; are there any policies and projects he has tried to implement that haven’t been a massive shambolic waste of money, causing distress and sanctions to so many people?”

“Would he like to comment on the huge amount of people wrongly sanctioned, and would he like to explain why whistleblowers from the JCP have admitted there are sanction targets?”

“Ask him if he believes a comparison can be drawn between the government’s persecution of the sick, disabled and mentally ill and the ‘Action T4’ instigated by the Nazis in 1939. I am sure the tow-the-line BBC will give him sight of the questions before he gets on the show so he will have time to look it up.”

“People are now waiting months for their appeals to be heard and the meantime their benefits are stopped. What does he expect them to live on? Why [are] he and his Department pursuing this deliberate war against some of our most poor and vulnerable people?”

“Could he comment on the massive amount of money written off due to failures with the Universal Credit?”

“Why are we paying private companies to test disabled and sick people when one phone call to their consultant or GP would provide all relevant details they need?”

“[Does] he have any intention of putting his money where his mouth is, [living] on £53/week, and how does he square that with the £39 on expenses he claimed for breakfast? Half a million people signed the call for him to do so.”

“Why are full time carers who look after loved ones only paid £59.75 a week? Less than JSA, indeed less than any other benefit! they save the tax payers millions, and yet have still been hammered by the changes in housing benefit, council tax benefit and of course the hated bedroom tax.”

“Ask him about the Universal Jobsearch website and the fake jobs on the site. As a jobseeker, this site need[s] better monitoring.”

“Ask him if the bedroom tax was really just a deceitful way to remove all social housing and force people into private rentals for the rich to claim housing benefits paid to claimants.”

“Does he think that paying subsidies to supermarkets and other private companies via welfare benefits because they do not pay well enough is what government should be doing?”

Some of the questioners address Mr… Smith directly:

“Why do you keep testing people with incurable progressive illnesses? Once found unfit to work, [they] never will get any better so to retest is stressful, cruel, and not needed.”

“Why are you telling Jobcentre Plus staff to get ESA claimants and JSA claimants to declare themselves self-employed, then reeling them in with the promise of an extra £20 per week? Is this why the unemployment rate fell last quarter?”

“You say you want the sick off what you call the scrap heap but with few jobs out there, do you mean off the scrap heap into the destitute gutter?”

“Do you feel remotely guilty for the lives you’ve ruined? the lies you’ve told? The dead people on your hands? Do you feel any shame at all that you’ve done all this and more? Do you sleep well at night knowing there are people who can’t feed their children because of you?”

“As a committed Roman Catholic, how does your conscience deal with you supporting and advantaging privileged millionaires while you personally and systematically further impoverish the poor and disadvantaged?”

“Does he feel ashamed to have caused so much suffering, because he flipping well should!”

There were many more questions that were not appropriate for repetition.

To see what he does have to say for himself, tune in to Sunday Politics on BBC1, starting at 11am on March 9 (which is, as you might have guessed, Sunday).

Just don’t get your hopes up.

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The Coalition is hoodwinking us towards totalitarianism. Will the ‘People’s Assembly’ halt this?

Wise words: The 'People's Assembly' hopes to stir people out of their apathy and encourage them to oppose the right-wing, ideologically-driven and austerity-led destruction of British society. Are you interested, or is it too much like hard work?

Wise words: The ‘People’s Assembly’ hopes to stir people out of their apathy and encourage them to oppose the unelected and unmandated right-wing, ideologically-driven and austerity-led destruction of British society. Are you interested, or is it too much like hard work?

“The people are not ready to embrace Socialism and may never be ready.”

“What, a cobbled together bunch of leftie socialists?”

“It will take more than a few breakfast TV celebrity socialists turning up in community centres to shake people awake, and armchair socialism – like conservatism, capitalism, fascism, communism and any other political ism that involves a minority seeking to impose its will on the masses down at their local community hall – is the last thing that anyone needs.”

“It would just be a talking shop of unelected and ‘celebrity’ allegedly left-wingers, who like to hear the sound of their own voices. It does not have any democratic structure, and would just be a sort of an admiring glee club, that would allow its supporters to have the illusion that something is being done.”

“Even if you got five million people to march through London protesting over the austerity program, the Palace of Westminster wouldn’t hear it.”

These are just a few of the negative responses to a recent article by Owen Jones, on the forthcoming meeting of the ‘People’s Assembly’, organised by the new socialist organisation Left Unity. None of them are saying anything we haven’t heard before. It seems the constant refrain, to which the British people sing along, is “Don’t bother trying to change it; there’s nothing you can do”.

This is, of course, lazy nonsense. You hear it from people who genuinely can’t be bothered and, more perniciously, from supporters of the status quo (in this case, the Coalition or UKIP) who know that a discouraging word at the right moment can nip a potential rival organisation in the bud. It’s called conditioned helplessness, and I’ve discussed it before.

Remember, the ‘People’s Assembly’ has not had its first meeting yet. Already people are trying to tell us it is a failure, a “talking shop” for “armchair socialism” that would not be heard in the corridors of power.

I wish I could attend, but geographical issues and other responsibilities mean this is impossible (I live in Wales and have responsibilities as a carer).

One thing we should all remember is that this is a socialist movement, not the creation of a political party. We already have a democratic socialist political party, although our Labour members of Parliament seem to have forgotten that (here’s a clue, folks: Read the top line on the back of your membership cards). They appear to be taking the soft option and following the Coalition narrative. But that’s no reason to let them get on with it.

It seems to me that the ‘People’s Assembly’, like the Left Unity organisation that is staging the event, will work best putting pressure on systems that are already in place. Labour presents the best chance we have for ousting the Tories and their little yellow helpers, without putting something equally right-wing in their place. People of good faith just need to encourage the Party to do the right thing.

And that is: Ditch all the idiotic follow-my-Tory-leader austerity-driven policies announced in recent weeks. Austerity has failed as a way of balancing the books; it was never intended to do so in the first place. Ditch the divisive Tory-soundalike rhetoric that shows Labour also wants to blame the poor for problems that they never created. Clear private sector ‘advisors’ out of Labour Party meetings and thinktanks – corporate influence will only benefit corporations and their shareholders; they have the Conservatives for that.

Adopt the line taken by Michael Meacher MP: “We will end austerity”.

Devise new policies for health, workplace safety and social security that will aim to prevent not only workplace-related sickness and disability, but also congenital conditions that blight lives. That will bring down the bills for health and social security far more than misplaced attempts to punish those whose ill-health is already an unjust punishment, as they have not committed any crime.

Reconsider policies relating to business. Labour has long since admitted that nationalisation of all industry does not work, and it doesn’t. But there are some services that should be run – as a business, perhaps, but under the authority of the state – in the national interest. These are the public utilities – water, electricity, gas. Possibly rail transport as well, because the current privatised situation is costing the taxpayer far more than when the service was nationalised.

Encourage self-employment where practical. People can only be assured of the ability to sustain themselves if they own the means of production. The best way to do that is to work for themselves. For businesses involving more than a single trader, encourage mutualism or co-operatives. This is the best way to ensure that all workers get the most benefit from the products of their labours. With employees encouraged to put more effort into their trade by the promise of getting more out of it, progress towards meeting and exceeding the Living Wage seems more likely.

And support new technologies, especially those that are environmentally-friendly. This is where many of the new jobs will be generated and the UK has delayed its support of these advances for far too long.

I don’t think these are impossible ambitions.

They can be achieved if the progressive members of British society get their act together and stand up for them. And let’s all admit it, they would be much healthier than the cuts that have spawned a continuing storm of protest ever since the Coalition first inflicted them upon us, just because most of us are poorer than they are.

I can see a willingness to take part in this activity, all around. I recently commented on attempts to silence progressive thinking in the letters page of my local newspaper – that has only happened because people (not just me) were willing to put pen to paper and say they think the Coalition has got it wrong.

People are realising that they can’t expect their political representatives to do the right thing without being told what it is. What’s holding them back is the concern that this is a minority view. That is why they may welcome an umbrella organisation like Left Unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’, to show them they’re not alone.

I would like to say that in Central Hall, Westminster, on Saturday but I can’t be there.

Would anybody like to say it for me – or something better?

Or shall we all just sit back in our armchairs and mutter, while the country goes to hell in a handbasket?