Tag Archives: recovery

Senior Tories including ‘Brexit Steve’ Baker demand continuation of Covid death spiral

The image above may not be the most sophisticated graphic This Site has ever published, but it is accurate all the same.

The Tory rabble who have been pushing for more deaths in a bid to keep the economy going and their paymasters in big business happy have been pressuring Boris Johnson for another early end to the restrictions he has (laughably) encouraged us all to call a lockdown.

The infection and death rates are back at pre-‘lockdown’ levels, they say, so he she start easing us all back into work at the beginning of March.

Shockingly, arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker, clearly believing he hasn’t done enough to wreck the nation, has been traipsing around the broadcast media today, claiming that we need to give Covid-19 a chance at a third wave, for the sake of the poorest in society.

“Think of the poor!” How disgusting.

As the infographic above points out, he couldn’t care less when he voted against letting the poor keep the Universal Credit uplift they need to get by.

In this light, he seems clearly revealed as the kind of opportunist who says whatever he thinks will get him what he wants.

And he isn’t the only one:

Lockdown-sceptic Tories have piled pressure on Boris Johnson, calling on him to commit to a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions with a complete end to controls by the end of April.

In a letter to the prime minister, the leaders of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) said the “tremendous pace” of the vaccination rollout meant restrictions should begin easing from early March.

They said ministers must produce a cost-benefit analysis to justify any controls that remain in place after that date, with a “roadmap” stating when they would be removed.

The letter was organised by the CRG chair and deputy chair, Mark Harper and Steve Baker, and was said to have the backing of 63 Conservative MPs in all. However, scientists advising the government are warning that lifting restrictions too quickly risks another wave of the disease as big as the current one.

Of course, 63 Tory MPs in rebellion isn’t enough to bother Johnson – the Tory majority in Parliament is 80 – but it might be enough to rattle his cage, reminding him that he needs to keep his members happy.

He has already said he hopes to map out a “cautious” route out of lockdown on February 22 – next Monday.

The CRG people, led by Baker and Mark Harper, reckon they can dictate its pace – demanding that schools reopen by March 8 and hospitality businesses by Easter.

So we’ll be well on the way to another surge by Whitsun, then.

Source: Tory MPs tell Johnson to commit to lifting Covid restrictions by end of April | World news | The Guardian

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£831m ‘recovery fund’ for 72 high streets. But what will they do with £11.5m each?

Lip-chewing Sunak: if I kept wasting money on projects that won’t actually help the economy, I’d be nervous too.

I don’t get it. If high street businesses across the UK have gone to the wall because of the government’s lacklustre response to the economic effects of locking us all away from Covid-19 – how will this cash be spent?

The Tory government has announced that 72 high streets will get a share of £831 million – that’s around £11.5 million each.

Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is bitching because Boris Johnson had offered £1 billion previously, but that’s not the point.

The question is: how is it going to help?

Many people – not just conspiracy theorists! – reckon the hardship forced on small-to-medium-sized business people may have been deliberate, in order to concentrate shoppers’ money in the hands of a few very large consumer chains.

I see little actual support for high street businesses in the projects mentioned by the Guardian article:

Among the projects selected for the funding were £17.9m for the renovation of the Scala Theatre and Corn Exchange in Worcester, a scheme to build 186 homes in Birkenhead and a plan to convert empty retail units in Tamworth, Staffordshire, into community spaces.

But according to Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, the money is supposed to be for

projects that level up opportunities and create jobs right across the country.

I don’t see how the latter will be achieved by the former. It’s just throwing cash away.

It should be injected into businesses to ensure they continue to be going concerns.

But then, of course, Sunak’s government is now best-known for spaffing £11 billion on companies owned by Tory cronies, for Covid-19-related supplies that they had no idea how to provide, while experts who had applied for the work were ignored.

That should tell you everything you need to know.

If I had a pound for every time Sunak has messed up someone’s finances, I would be richer than his wife.

Source: Government names 72 high streets in England to share £831m recovery fund | Business | The Guardian

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Vox Political vindicated on the economy

The Conservatives' latest negative campaign advert: The Tories seem to think they are the only party who should be allowed to steal the cash from poor people.

The Conservatives’ latest negative campaign advert: The Tories seem to think they are the only party who should be allowed to steal the cash from poor people.

Twice, in a matter of days, Vox Political‘s findings on political issues have been supported by the evidence of a scholar.

Today, the Mainly Macro blog written by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, who teaches Economics at Oxford University, supports This Writer’s argument that the so-called economic recovery, that began in 2013, had little or nothing positive to do with the Coalition Government or George Osborne’s policies.

“The idea that austerity during the first two years of the coalition government was vindicated by the 2013 recovery is so ludicrous that it is almost embarrassing to have to explain why,” he writes.

“Imagine that a government on a whim decided to close down half the economy for a year. That would be a crazy thing to do, and with only half as much produced everyone would be a lot poorer. However a year later when that half of the economy started up again, economic growth would be around 100%. The government could claim that this miraculous recovery vindicated its decision to close half the economy down the year before. That would be absurd, but it is a pretty good analogy with claiming that the 2013 recovery vindicated 2010 austerity.”

That’s right. George Osborne did huge harm to the economy when he imposed austerity in 2010, choking off Labour’s recovery. It is senseless for him to claim that easing off on that policy has created an economic miracle. As this blog has repeatedly stated, any economic recovery enjoyed by the UK has had nothing to do with the actions of the Coalition Government.

It is important to remember that the Tories intend to impose even deeper austerity if they win the election next month, causing catastrophic harm to anyone who isn’t in the richest 10 per cent of the population.

But why do this at all? What was the point of it?

A commenter to this blog’s Facebook page put it very well only today. Tracey Wilkinson Clarke wrote: “Corporations and capitalism [were]crashing…the banking crisis was created … as a reason to bring in austerity measures to feed the money back up to the few.” This opinion is supported by an article on this blog at the time.

It is also supported by the Conservative Party’s most recent anti-SNP campaign advert. Following on from David Cameron’s overheard comment on television last week, that Alex Salmond was a pickpocket, the advert has an image of the SNP candidate reaching towards a member of the public’s pocket, with the tagline, “Don’t let the SNP grab your cash.”

It is Conservative Party policy to do exactly that – and hand it over to the very rich in the form of tax breaks (both personal and business-orientated), tax avoidance, lucrative public ‘service’ contracts, and shares in privatised utilities.

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Ignorance could lumber us with another Tory government

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Why do people still believe the Conservatives are more likely to raise their living standards than Labour, even though they understand that they have become worse off over the last five years?

Why do political commentators brand Ed Miliband a “useless” leader, when even former Torygraph stalwart Peter Oborne has admitted he has been responsible for extraordinary successes and has challenged the underlying structures which govern Westminster conduct?

Let’s look at the first claim, courtesy of the latest Mainly Macro article by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis. He makes it clear from the start that people are being denied the facts; otherwise the economy would be the Conservative Party’s weakest point in the election campaign.

Look at the evidence: Since 2010 we have endured the weakest economic recovery for at least 200 years, with a steady fall in real wages (masked in average figures by the huge pay rises awarded by fatcat bosses to themselves). “The government’s actions are partly responsible for that, and the only debate is how much,” writes the Prof. “Living standards have taken a big hit.”

He continues: “There is no factual basis for the view that the Conservatives are better at managing the economy, and plenty to suggest the opposite. However this belief is not too hard to explain. The Labour government ended with the Great Recession which in turn produced a huge increase in the government’s budget deficit. With the help of mediamacro, that has become ‘a mess’ that Labour are responsible for and which the Conservatives have had to clean up.

“The beauty of this story is that it pins the blame for the weak recovery on the previous government, in a way that every individual can understand. Spend too much, and you will have a hard time paying back the debt.”

It’s a myth; the facts disprove it easily – so the Tories avoid the facts at all costs.

But why be concerned, if Ed Miliband is such an awful excuse for a Labour Party leader. Didn’t David Cameron describe him as “weak” and “spineless” to Scottish Conservatives only a fortnight ago?

Not according to Peter Oborne. Writing in The Spectator, he has praised Miliband because he “has been his own person, forged his own course and actually been consistent”.

Oborne praises Miliband for “four brave interventions, each one taking on powerful establishment interests: the Murdoch newspaper empire, the corporate elite, the foreign policy establishment and pro-Israel lobby… There is no doubting Mr Miliband’s integrity or his courage.

“Opposition is an essential part of British public life. Oppositions have a duty to challenge government and to give the electorate a clear choice. Ed Miliband has done precisely this and yet he has been written off. Does this mean that no opposition dare offend the big vested interests that govern Britain? Is this really the politics we want?”

It’s the politics the Conservative Party wants.

Professor Wren-Lewis notes that Miliband’s opinion poll ratings are low “because most people just see unglamorous pictures of him and note that he does not have that Blair appeal.

“That could be changed if they saw him in a one on one debate with Cameron, so there was never any chance that the Conservatives would let this happen. The debates last time had huge audiences, so no one can dispute that democracy has been dealt a huge blow as a result of what the FT rightly calls Cameron’s cowardice.”

He goes on to say that Cameron’s refusal to debate one-on-one with Miliband is “a key test” for the media, with Cameron counting on them letting his spin doctors dictate what people are allowed to see.

If that is true, then it seems Cameron has miscalculated.

Broadcasters have said the three TV general election debates planned for April will go ahead, despite Cameron saying he will take part in only one.

“It means Mr Cameron – who has rejected a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband – could be ’empty-chaired’,” according to the BBC. Perhaps they really will put a blue chicken on the podium, as was suggested on this blog yesterday!

John Prescott has suggested that if David Cameron does not turn up for the TV debates, this should be placed on the empty podium.

John Prescott has suggested that if David Cameron does not turn up for the TV debates, this should be placed on the empty podium.

Perhaps the broadcasters were provoked by Cameron’s claim that they were the ones responsible for what he called the “chaos” surrounding the TV debates, when it is clear that he has been responsible for delays and indecision.

The end result is the same. Cameron has denied himself the chance to stand up and defend his record against an Opposition leader who is increasingly starting to come through as The Better Man.

Will the debates be enough to change the mind of the general public and mitigate against the mass ignorance nurtured by the Tory Press?

That will be up to Mr Miliband. If his performances in recent Prime Minister’s Questions are any indication, it should be a walkover for him.

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‘Budget responsibility’ debate makes even Taxpayers’ Alliance look cleverer than Tories and Greens

George Osborne's plan to put you into debt: He wants you to be spending nearly two times more than you earn, so he can balance his books. What a (insert your own expletive here)!

George Osborne’s plan to put you into debt: He wants you to be spending nearly two times more than you earn, so he can balance his books. What a (insert your own expletive here)! [Image: Huffington Post.]

They were lining up to make fools of themselves after last night’s debate on the ‘Charter for Budget Responsibility’.

The Tories, of course, didn’t have to wait until after the debate – the fact that it took place at all made George Osborne look like an idiot. He had dismissed plans for a Labour-sponsored fiscal responsibility act as a “completely feeble stunt” back in 2010, but last night laid himself wide open to accusations that he was doing exactly the same thing.

In fact, it seems, he was trying to lay a “deficit trap” for Labour, in trying to get the Opposition party to explain how quickly it intends to balance the books.

No dice. Labour was quite comfortable with the charter, pointing out that it sets no date for the elimination of the national deficit but merely puts it in the third year of an undefined ‘five-year cycle’. The strongest words on the subject in the charter are that the books should be balanced “as soon as possible” which, Labour pointed out, is entirely consistent with the party’s own strategy.

In addition, as the Institute for Economic Affairs thinktank pointed out in the Huffington Post, no government can bind its successor (force it to continue a policy run by the previous administration). This means that Labour has supported a bill that conforms with Labour plans, and remains free to carry out those plans in whatever way it chooses, post-May 7, if it wins the election.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls was so sure of his ground, he quoted an assessment of Osborne’s debate by the right-wing, reactionary Taxpayers’ Alliance, whose chief executive Jonathan Isaby labelled it a “meaningless political gimmick of the most transparent kind…that serves only to remind taxpayers how dramatically the Chancellor has missed his own original target”.

It isn’t often the Taxpayers’ Alliance turns out to be more intelligent than the rest, so let’s give it its due in this instance.

Claims are already circulating that Labour’s plans, which allow for borrowing to continue on infrastructure projects – investing in the economy, could add an extra £170 billion (in today’s terms) to the deficit during the 2020s. This assumes that such investment will yield no positive benefits to the economy, and there is no evidence that this would be the case. In fact, experience suggests the exact opposite.

An extra £170 billion of spending won’t matter one jot if tax receipts increase by more than that amount.

Ed Balls knows this – and said as much in the debate: “Three factors can bring the deficit down: spending cuts, decisions to raise taxes, and what happens to the underlying growth of the economy and the tax revenues which flow from that. The Chancellor did not talk about the third factor, for understandable reasons.

“Ultimately, the only way of reversing the problem is yes, to cut spending, and yes, to raise taxes… but also to get the economy growing in a stronger way which will bring in tax revenues.”

You see, while the economy is (technically) growing again, the jobs that have been created are in low-paid, often insecure work and there is lower productivity. As a result, income tax receipts are a cumulative £68 billion lower than Osborne’s 2010 forecast, and national insurance contributions are a cumulative £27 billion lower than he planned. But this was always going to happen with a Tory chancellor.

Tories always try to depress wages, in order to maximise profits for business owners and shareholders who vote for them. This means that income tax must fall, yet – bizarrely – they always seem surprised when it happens.

The fact that Osborne’s low-wage economy means more working people receive benefits is another cost burden for the Treasury. Labour, of course, plans to eliminate this by getting workers onto a living wage.

Osborne’s own plans would cut government spending – mostly on the kind of wealth redistribution that allows the poorest and the working-class to enjoy a reasonable standard of living – by around 26 per cent, totalling a massive 41 per cent since 2010, if a Conservative government is returned in May.

In addition, he is relying on a £360 billion borrowing spree by UK citizens, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility – which will leave households with an amount of debt 180 per cent larger than their income (see the image at the top of this article).

Just think about that. Back in 2010, he was comparing the national debt to households having ‘maxed out’ all their credit cards. That was when the debt totalled 78.4 per cent of GDP (the amount of income the nation generates every year). Why is he now saying that households should take on a burden that is proportionally more than twice as large?

Of course the comparison between national and household budgets is pointless because they do not correspond with each other, as Green MP Caroline Lucas pointed out in yesterday’s debate. Unfortunately she then went on to make a fool of herself by claiming, on Twitter, that the 18 MPs (including herself) who voted against the charter are the only MPs who are against austerity. If she knows enough to point out the difference between national and household budgets, she should know that this is inaccurate – therefore this was a direct lie to the electorate.

The effect of all this bluster – especially on Twitter last night – must be similar to the proverbial turkeys queuing up for Christmas. If anybody still wishes to tell us all that Labour’s plan for economic growth means the party avidly supports austerity, let us look forward to their detailed and clear explanation.

Based on current experience, we may be waiting a long time.

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Anti-Labour campaigners, get real; supporting the OBR charter isn’t supporting austerity

150113milibandalternative

It’s amazing, the lengths to which some people will go in order to discredit someone else.

As this is being written, Twitter seems abuzz with claims that Labour has finally admitted its full support for austerity because it has supported the latest updates to the Charter for Budget Responsibility.

The charter commits the government to a goal of balancing the structural deficit by 2017-18, and to ensuring that debt is falling as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2016-17.

According to the BBC, “The Treasury says that to meet these targets a new government would have to make additional tax rises or spending cuts of around £30bn – more than Labour plans.”

But Labour has supported the targets, saying they match its plans to eradicate the current deficit “as soon as possible” in the next parliament.

That’s why, at the vote, only 18 MPs opposed the changes. Anti-Labour campaigners on Twitter hastened to flag these people up as the only anti-austerity MPs in the House – possibly because they included Green MP Caroline Lucas, and the Green campaign seems to hinge on painting Labour as a party of right-wing neoliberals.

Silly, silly people.

You see, tax rises or spending cuts are not the only options available. They never were.

What about economic expansion? Ed Balls has been trying to tell the world that Labour intends to create an expanding economy in which the UK can pay its way. Martha Kearney might have cut him off on November 10, but that didn’t stop him saying it.

Remember, this is how Labour set the UK on the road to recovery – real recovery – after World War II. We had 30 years of expansion before Margaret Thatcher and her stupid, selfish neoliberals messed it up for 30 pieces of silver.

It cannot be by chance that Ed Miliband referred to that success in his New Year message.

Link this expansionary economic strategy with other plans, such as those for progressive taxation – ensuring that those who can pay, do pay – and suddenly we’re not looking at austerity at all.

Labour will stick to spending plans for 2015-16 because it would take a while to release the UK government from existing contracts. But that isn’t proof of a commitment to austerity either.

The difference is huge. In the BBC article, Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson said “Under the Autumn Statement plans, Conservatives could be cutting unprotected budgets by 26% after 2015-16 – or an extraordinary 41% over the period from 2010.

“Labour would need to implement cuts of just three per cent.” And that’s without the benefit of an expanding economy.

The cynics and manipulators have their own agenda – and it’s not about helping you.

So let’s not rush, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, to believe them.

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Auschwitz image: Did Tom go too far?

150107auschwitz1

It’s a matter of judgement, isn’t it?

The image above is the parody of the Conservative Party’s infamous ‘Road to Recovery’ poster showing the railway line leading to the World War II extermination camp at Auschwitz, as tweeted by fellow blogger Tom Pride with the words, “The new Tory campaign poster featuring a German road’s a bit controversial”.

The tweet worked on several different levels: It referenced the fact that all three claims made on the original poster were inaccurate – in effect, the Conservative Party lied to the public with its very first piece of campaign material; it also acknowledged the fact that the road in the original picture was not British, as had been claimed by George Osborne on Channel 4 News (and this blog has covered reporter Cathy Newman’s surprise on finding out this was not true), but was a road near Weimar in Germany – another Tory lie; and it also made a strong point about the future the UK might face if voters allow themselves to be persuaded into supporting the Tories, based on this lying campaign.

It is also worth drawing attention to Vox Political commenter (and The Critique Archives blogger) Martin Odoni’s reaction to the revelation about the origins of the Tory poster’s image: “I’m no believer in omens or sympathetic magic, but, after all the economic hardship of the last seven years, that is really bad symbolism. I mean, don’t we remember what economic chaos and an evil, fanatical Chancellor did to the Weimar Republic?”

This writer received several versions of the Auschwitz railway image after publishing an article on the Conservative campaign poster.

Tony Dean commented with a simple reference to this one:

150107auschwitz2

And commenter marcf28 sent the following image, with the words “Interesting choice of image – with a striking similarity to this one”.

150107auschwitz3

Neither picture has appeared on Vox Political before because this writer considered them a step too far. The comments were published and readers were free to click on the links if they so desired.

I exercised my judgement and that was my decision.

It seems that Nottingham Labour councillor Rosemary Healy has been suspended because she neglected to make a similar judgement call.

As a follower of Tom Pride on Twitter (and there’s nothing wrong with that; Tom’s articles and tweets often provide an oasis of amusement for those of us who are struggling against the harm being caused every day by the Coalition Government) it is entirely possible that she retweeted his picture automatically, in the belief that her own followers would enjoy some sharp humour.

Alas, the humour was too sharp for some, and crossed the line of good taste in their opinion.

Was Cllr Healy wrong to retweet this image? On balance, she probably was. As a councillor representing the Labour Party, it could be argued that she should not be re-transmitting messages that could be interpreted as making light of a very dark period in human history.

Could be argued. Could be interpreted. It’s a matter of judgement.

It could also be argued that the tweet, and the image, make a deadly serious point about the reality of Conservative government. Many parallels have been drawn – accurately (before anyone starts wrongly invoking Godwin’s Law) – between Conservative-led Coalition policy and the actions of the Nazis (who came to power after the failure of the German republic identified with a town called Weimar, let’s not forget).

Remember Vox Political‘s articles about chequebook euthanasia? That information has been sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office in support of the bid to have the Freedom of Information request on ESA claimant fatalities since November 2011 honoured at last; and it has been sent to the Commons Work and Pensions committee, whose investigation into the effects of withdrawing benefit from claimants began in earnest this morning (January 7).

There is a deadly serious (and the word ‘deadly’ is used advisedly) side to Tom Pride’s tweet; there usually is.

However, UKIP supporter ‘Guy Ropes’ sent this blog the following comment today: “Is it correct that a Labour councillor in the Midlands has tweeted an alteration to a Conservative poster that is so insensitive I’d be disappointed if you even tried to talk about it much less defend it. Thankfully his branch have suspended him. I’m not sure – even if they tried really, really hard – that the BNP could conceive of something so tasteless. So how about calling a truce – instead of slagging people and parties off, let’s stick to discussion of policies.”

The problem here is misinformation. The councillor is accused of creating the tweet (and gets a sex change in the process). The tweet is described as tasteless, indicating the commenter has not considered the serious points on which this article has elaborated. And there will be no truce because no hostilities have been declared. It seems Mr ‘Ropes’ has an issue with this blog’s policy of debunking false claims – such as those in his comment.

So, yes – Cllr Healy showed an error of judgement and should not have RT’d the tweet, given her position; and no – the tweet itself is not “insensitive” or “tasteless” in itself – in the judgement of this writer.

We need bloggers like Tom Pride to bring these connections to our attention.

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The next election is a race that both main parties seem anxious to lose – Michael Meacher

While Michael Meacher’s comments on the Tories are well worth reading, it is his criticism of his own party’s economic policy that attracts the attention of Yr Obdt Srvt today.

“Despite being ahead of the Tories on every policy area bar one- the economy, where the Tories now lead by a full 25% – Labour now seems transfixed by trying to outdo them in promises of austerity, a bigger turn-off for voters than it’s possible to imagine,” writes Mr Meacher, echoing words published in this blog only days ago.

“Labour has allowed itself to be outflanked by Tory claims that

  • It was responsible for the financial crash (as though the bankers had nothing to do with it),
  • Osborne’s recovery has repaired the damage (as though the ‘recovery’ isn’t fragile and unsustainable, with no demand to promote growth), and
  • Austerity is the only way forward (when it has failed on every count, including the crucial one of rapidly reducing the deficit, which is now actually rising).

“Why should disillusioned electors vote for Labour when it insists it’s going to be at least as tough as Osborne in enforcing austerity for another five years?”

Why indeed. Any answers, Mr Balls? Mr Miliband?

“Voters need hope: why doesn’t Labour get behind a policy of public investment to expand the economy, create jobs, raise incomes and government revenues, and thus pay down the deficit far more quickly and effectively than endless spending cuts?”

Vox Political has been saying this since the blog was founded back in 2011.

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It’s official – Britain’s top jobs are a ‘closed shop’ and ‘equal opportunity’ is a myth

A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don't know any better.

A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don’t know any better.

If you have ever wondered why you couldn’t get on in life, despite all the talent anyone should ever need… now you know the truth. It’s because you didn’t go to a private school and you didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge University.

According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of top civil servants, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and 36 per cent of the Cabinet are members of a deeply elitist “cosy club” who were educated at private schools (Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, commented: “It is quite something when the ‘cabinet of millionaires’ is one of the less unrepresentative pillars of power”).

Also privately-educated were 45 per cent of chairmen/women of public bodies, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, and 26 per cent of BBC executives. Where are the naysayers who claim the BBC is a Leftie haven now?

When it comes to Oxbridge graduates, the situation worsens – they have a “stranglehold” on top jobs, according to The Guardian, which adds: “They comprise less than one per cent of the public as a whole, but 75 per cent of senior judges, 59 per cent of cabinet ministers, 57 per cent of permanent secretaries, 50 per cent of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of shadow cabinet ministers, 24 per cent of MPs and 12 per cent of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.

My personal belief is that this should be no surprise to anybody – I’ve known it ever since the then-headteacher at my high school proudly announced that the only sixth-former on their way to Oxford, one year back in the 1980s, was his own daughter. Even then it wasn’t about what you knew but who Daddy was.

At least it is official now.

The person who should be least surprised by these findings is Commission chairman and Labour turncoat Alan Milburn. He does not come from a nobby background but has been absorbed into the group – possibly in gratitude for a series of betrayals of his own kind that began when he entered government.

Milburn was one of the Labour MPs who embraced neoliberalism in the 1990s. His reward was a place in the Cabinet as Minister of State for Health, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then Health Secretary. He was also honorary president of the neoliberal thinktank Progress, which works hard to foist right-wing ideas onto the Labour Party.

It is no wonder, then, that Milburn subsequently became the darling of David Cameron’s Coalition government, being offered a role as ‘social mobility tsar’. It is in this role that he has delivered the current report on elitism.

According to that great source of knowledge Wikipedia, Milburn’s role was about “advising the government on how to break down social barriers for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help[ing] people who feel they are barred from top jobs on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability”.

Nearly four-and-a-half years into a five-year Parliament, Milburn came out with this report, and I’m willing to bet that, if a similar document had been compiled before Labour left office, evidence would show that the situation has worsened, not improved.

Even now, David Cameron is probably congratulating Milburn on what a great job he has done – achieving nothing.

In fairness, even a man like Milburn could not ignore such clear findings and the report describes the situation as “elitism so stark that it could be called social engineering“.

What is more interesting about the situation is the fact that it has been described as a ‘closed shop’, a term more readily-associated with those bitter opponents of privilege – the trade unions.

A closed shop is an agreement under which an employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed. That is definitely what the report is demonstrating and, considering the elite’s antipathy to the unions, it is further demonstration of the high-handed and corrupt attitude of these types – their belief that they should be a law unto themselves.

This in fact provides us with the only positive element to come out of this report. It gives jobseekers a decent reason for being unable to secure work – all the best jobs are being hogged by overprivileged twits!

Owen Jones’s Guardian article suggests of the situation: “In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented.”

That is not my experience.

I did my post-graduate journalism course with help from a training scheme run by the Tory government of the time – the Department of Social Security paid for my education in that respect. My recollection is that I was one of the highest-achievers on that course; considering my future career, this indicates that there is truth behind the ‘closed shop’ claim of the new report.

My experience on local newspapers is that they are more likely to offer a way in for aspiring “non-gilded” reporters now than when I entered. While I was fully-qualified when I was hired by my first employer in Bristol, here in Mid Wales the papers have seemed happy to hire people with no qualifications at all, and train them up. There are no unpaid internships here, to my knowledge.

That being said, management practices in the press are so bad that I am constantly amazed anybody bothers trying to work for these idiots at all.

My first paper was passed from one company to another in a “gentleman’s agreement” on a golf course. It meant that I took an effective pay cut, being forced to travel 30 miles further to work and receiving a lower-than-normal pay rise when I became a senior reporter.

Another paper was doing quite well when I joined, offering healthy bonuses for all employees at Christmas. I never got to benefit from this, though, because bosses foolishly took on at great cost a ‘general manager’ who managed all our profits away and then persuaded them to sell up to a much larger firm that stripped the operation to the bone and hoovered up all the profits. Quality plummeted and (after I left) so did sales.

A third paper’s solution to declining sales was a plan to cut back the number of reporters while keeping the management structure intact. That’s right – they reduced the number of people writing the stories that sold the papers. Then they attacked the remaining reporters for the continued drop in sales and absolutely refused to entertain any notion that they might have got the situation arse-backward.

That is why I agree with the UK Commission for Education and Skills, which said that “poor management hinders UK competitiveness”, and with the comment on that report in Flip Chart Fairy Tales, that “poorly managed firms drag a country’s score down and Britain has more than its fair share of them”.

The Milburn report puts the seal on the problem: Firms are poorly-managed because the people at the top are over-privileged fools who got into their position thanks to Daddy’s money rather than any talent of their own.

As the banking crisis – caused by these very people – and the subsequent, slowest economic recovery in UK history demonstrate starkly for all to see, these private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses are worse than useless when it comes to managing an economy.

There is nothing you can do about it while a Conservative-led government is in power because that is exactly how David Cameron and his cronies like it.

(What am I saying? Of course they like it – they and their friends are the private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses who are cocking up the system!)

You only need to read the ‘Revolving Doors’ column in Private Eye to see how these goons lurch from one failure to another – always finding a new job after each disaster because of the Old School Tie.

It is long past time we saw a few highly-prejudicial sackings but our sad, fat ‘captains of industry’ just don’t have the guts.

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Cameron’s comedy turn won’t make anybody happy

140117democracy

David Cameron should be very happy that UKIP is around to make him look acceptable.

We can’t ever say he’ll look good, but in contrast to the ‘Farage wave’, the spectacle of UKIP being thrown out of the venue where it was supposed to be launching its European election campaign, and the never-ending queue of candidates who are desperate to embarrass themselves publicly – what’s the latest one? “Women should be made to wear skirts because they’re a turn-on for men”? Ye gods… – it’s easy to think that the Conservatives are mild, or at least rational.

They’re not.

But Cameron was keen to project an image of competence at the Conservatives’ campaign launch for the local council elections. This is strange because, with his record of achievement, the things he was saying seem more like stand-up comedy than serious statements of ability.

Try this, about the European Union: “I have a track record of delivery – and believe me, whatever it takes, I will deliver this in-out referendum.” A track record of delivery? Well, yes. He delivered a top-down reorganisation of the NHS that nobody wanted, leading to an inrush of private health companies into the NHS – that nobody wanted. He has delivered the lowest amount of house-building, per year, since records began. He has delivered a withered economic ‘recovery’ that arrived three years later than if he had continued with the plan of the previous, Labour, government. He has delivered all the benefits of that ‘recovery’ to the extremely rich, rather than sharing it equally with the people responsible for it. And he has delivered a new high in employment, with no economic benefit to the country, that has left workers on wages that are so low they are going into debt.

He delivered the bedroom tax.

He delivered a massive increase in the National Debt.

He delivered millions of people into poverty and food bank dependence.

Ha ha ha. Very funny, Mr Cameron.

He told us, “People said I would never veto a European treaty. In 2011 that’s exactly what I did.” Well, yes. But the rest of Europe just went right ahead and carried on without you. You marginalised Britain as a member of the EU and made us a laughing-stock in the eyes of the world.

Ha ha ha. Very funny, Mr Cameron.

“We came through the great recession together; we are building the great British revival together,” he said. But he can’t say that to the many thousands of people who used to be claiming sickness and disability benefits but aren’t anymore because they are all dead. They didn’t come through the great recession. Cameron cut off their means of survival, forcing them into situations in which their health was allowed to worsen until their conditions overwhelmed them, or their situation induced such huge bouts of depression that they took their own lives.

Ha h- no. That’s not funny, Mr Cameron.

“The job is not done. If you want to finish the job we have started, back the party with a plan,” he said. Well, no. The Conservative plan (such as it is) will destroy your employment rights, scrap the welfare state, maintain a huge underclass of unemployed people to use as fodder for work-for-your-benefit schemes (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) to circumvent the minimum wage, and to claim credit for successes that aren’t theirs.

There is only one reason to support the Conservative Party in this – or any other election.

That is if there is only one other political party on the ballot paper – and that party is UKIP.

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