Tag Archives: salaries

Priti Patel is refusing to pay police enough to do their job & then demanding power to criticise them for it

Here’s the contradictory nature of Tory policy exposed in all its grubby grimness:

Priti Patel has been challenged to explain whether she could “survive” on the salaries she pays to local police officers – and ran away from answering.

Meanwhile, she is demanding the right to interfere in local policing matters – possibly criticising officers for failing to do work she does not pay them enough to manage.

According to Nation.Cymru,

Detective Constable Vicky Knight, a single mother who had worked in policing for more than two decades, asked Priti Patel if she would be able to “survive” on £1,200 or £1,400 a month.

Describing how she is paid “a couple of hundred pounds a month more than the workers in McDonald’s flipping burgers” and less than her “local manager at Lidl”, Ms Knight told how ahead of her most recent pay day she had to borrow £40 from her mother so she could put fuel in her car and buy food for her son’s school lunches “because I had no money left at the end of the month”.

“I went to see an accountant and the advice was leave the police, work for 22 hours a week and claim benefits and you will be better off. How can that be right?”

Patel did not answer the question; we don’t know whether she thinks she could survive on the pay she tells police officers to accept.

But we do know delegates at the annual conference of the Police Federation of England and Wales groaned when she whined that their organisation had not been “at the table” for pay negotiations; it is currently in dispute with her because she has imposed a pay freeze for officers and there were, therefore, no negotiations to be done.

While she is depriving police of the salaries they need in order to be able to do their jobs, it seems Patel is demanding the right to criticise them for any failures.

In a row with Police and Crime Commissioners, she is planning a unilateral revision of rules that define where policing responsibilities lie, in order to grant herself more power to interfere in local services.

She wants to take back power to demand answers from chief constables on local policing matters – and ability that was given to commissioners a decade ago when their role was created.

Obviously the ability to demand answers also provides an implied ability to criticise police services for failings – even though any failures may be because she has not provided the resources to do the job.

According to The Guardian,

The proposed protocol says: “We propose to lower the threshold for home secretary intervention in appropriate circumstances. This would equip the home secretary to intervene earlier as required, thus reducing the risk of failing to deliver effective policing.”

Apparently this is a reflection of a policy adopted by Patel since she became Home Secretary, called “lean in”. Perhaps it would more accurately be phrased as “lean on“.

Another example of this policy would appear to be her demand that chief constables act “in a politically neutral manner”, which has been added to the previous stricture that they must be impartial.

This would restrict them from commenting on public policy that they believe may affect crime fighting – such as the effects of austerity. Nor would they be allowed to speak out publicly on issues of political dispute like tougher sentences or opposing the decriminalisation of cannabis, which is supported by some frontline politicians.

In their response to Patel’s proposals, commissioners said she would need to seek an Act of Parliament to impose them as they are beyond her statutory powers at the moment – “ultra vires”:

“Creation of new powers of strategic oversight can only be achieved through primary legislation and must be subject to the full scrutiny that is required of primary legislation.”

So we see a hardline Home Secretary, attempting to dictate the behaviour of local police forces while denying them the resources to their job.

How ironic that she is currently being restricted with rules imposed by her own Tory forerunners.

Source: Home Secretary confronted by ‘desperately struggling’ North Wales Constable over low pay

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Bosses have already made more money this year than you will by the end of December

A protester in a fat cat suit stands outside RBS in London in 2012 [Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP].

This is another perennial story, like the annual protest against rail fare increases.

As far as This Writer can tell, it is taking company executives less time to reach the national average every year – and let’s not forget that, if you take the top 10 per cent of salaries out of that average, you get an average of round £12-13,000, which is much closer to what most people are likely to get.

So company executives probably made (we can’t say “earned”) more than you and me by lunchtime on January 3, bearing in mind that January 1 was a bank holiday (and a Sunday).

We know that executive pay is not linked to company performance – bosses have awarded themselves 30 per cent rises while at firms whose profits have increased by only one per cent or thereabouts.

One argument is that they reward themselves according to their company’s share price on the stock market – but of course they never take an equivalent pay cut when those prices fall.

And employees never see such extravagant increases – they only do the work.

Theresa May promised to “reform capitalism” with an idea to bring employees onto the remuneration committees of these big firms – but backed down after she became prime minister; she didn’t need to keep her promises now that she had what she wanted.

So the outlook for the rest of us is bleak while the so-called “fat cats” have all the fun.

That’s our medicine for the sickness a quarter of us suffered at the ballot box in May 2015: You vote Conservative, you get shafted.

The UK’s top bosses will have made more money by lunchtime on Wednesday than the typical UK worker will earn all year, according to an analysis that exposes the gulf between executives and the rest of the workforce.

On “Fat Cat Wednesday” campaigners say that public anger with elites will intensify unless action is taken to tackle excess among executives at a time when pressures on household budgets are rising.

The High Pay Centre calculated that the average FTSE 100 boss now earns more than £1,000 an hour, meaning they will pass the UK average salary of £28,200 by around midday on Wednesday. The thinktank said that after enjoying rapid earnings growth in recent years, leading bosses now typically earn 129 times more than their employees.

Source: UK bosses make more in two and a half days than workers earn all year | Money | The Guardian

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Threat to automatic union fee payments is petulant obstruction

Conservative ministers know that the automatic payment of trade union subscriptions from salaries is achieved by a simple keystroke these days – it is absolutely no burden on employers.

Their plan to stop public sector workers from paying in this manner should therefore be seen as what it is – a sulky, ill-tempered attack on the workforce for daring to belong to a workers’ representative organisation.

The process is not outdated – it’s bang-up-to-date.

Ending it would not give workers more control – they have control now, simply by saying that they are union members and they want their subscriptions taken from their salaries.

Ending it would increase the burden on workers’ already-limited personal time – they would have to go through the time-consuming process of creating direct debits from their bank accounts.

This is a waste of time for everybody involved.

The purpose is obvious – reduce union funding, making it more difficult for them to take industrial action, as the Conservative Government’s unnecessary attack on workers intensifies over the next few years.

The philosophy is that workers are lazy, and won’t be bothered to create the direct debits necessary to keep the funds flowing to the unions.

It seems unlikely that the plan will be hard-fought in Parliament. Let’s face it, New Labour was hardly union-friendly, despite receiving a great deal of funding from them.

If this proposal is enacted, then it will be up to the unions to make sure members can make the change quickly and easily – most probably by drawing up the direct debit agreement for them, so all they have to do is check it, sign and deliver it.

Clever union leaders will also use this as a springboard for a membership drive, pointing out that it can only be a prelude to further attacks on the UK’s workforce.

Are you going to fight this erosion of your rights – or are you just going to bend over for the Conservatives and let them do whatever they want to you?

Plans to stop public sector workers automatically paying subscriptions to trade unions through their salaries have been unveiled by the government.

Ministers say the process is “outdated” and ending it would give workers more control and save more than £6m a year by cutting employers’ administration.

But unions could lose funds and say it is a “vindictive political attack” that will “poison industrial relations”.

It follows plans for reforms of union laws, including tighter strike rules.

Civil servants, teachers and nurses are among the union members who will have to arrange for the fees to be collected from their bank accounts by direct debit, under the proposals to update legislation in the Trade Union Bill.

 The government says the so-called check-off system of taking union dues through wages was introduced at a time when many workers did not have bank accounts.

It said it was now a “taxpayer-funded administrative burden” on employers.

Source: Automatic union fee payments ‘to end in public sector’ – BBC News

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Tory economic policy has cost every household at least £4,000 – and aims to take more

Bottom of the class: George Osborne based his 'Long-Term Economic Plan' on a spreadsheet error by American economists. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

Bottom of the class: George Osborne based his ‘Long-Term Economic Plan’ on a spreadsheet error by American economists. [Image: Gaianeconomics]

If you’re thinking, “That headline isn’t news”, you’re right.

It is, however, the main point troubling Professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his latest Mainly Macro blog article. He states that Tory chancellor George Osborne started out in a similar position and with a relatively similar policy to Labour’s Gordon Brown, but caused huge damage to household finances, whereas Brown did not.

“The answer, of course, is that the … contexts were different,” writes the learned professor. “Osborne’s austerity happened when the economy was just starting a recovery from a deep recession, and interest rates were at their then Zero Lower Bound (ZLB) of 0.5%… When interest rates are at the ZLB, monetary policy cannot counteract the negative impact of fiscal austerity on output.”

In other words, with austerity shrinking the economy, nothing else Osborne did would have stopped your wages from shrinking too. It is entirely possible that Osborne was perfectly aware of this.

This is how George Osborne probably looked after the fire in his pants caused by his incessant lying about the EU’s £1.7bn bill burned away the rest of his suit. Note that his briefcase is still empty of policies and all he has to offer us is the carrot of false promises [Image: Kaya Mar www.kayamarart.com].

George Osborne: His briefcase is still empty of policies and all he has to offer us is the carrot of false promises [Image: Kaya Mar www.kayamarart.com].

Yet he is planning an even bigger austerity squeeze on your incomes if the Conservatives form a government after this year’s election.

Professor Wren-Lewis dismisses the possibility that Osborne does not understand what he has been doing: “A much more plausible explanation for his actions were that the macroeconomic risks were understood, but were put to one side for political and ideological reasons.

“First the possibility of hitting Labour with a populist concern about the deficit was too great a temptation to resist for a Chancellor for whom political tactics are everything. Second, austerity was a means of implementing an unpopular policy of reducing the size of the state by the back door.”

He adds: “Now you may cynically say that in a contest between economics and politics/ideology, politicians will always choose the latter. However much that is true or false, when that choice costs each household at least £4,000, it would be very strange if that politician survived the judgement of the electorate.”

Perhaps so – but he and his party are banking on the electorate being too ignorant of the facts to realise this. That’s why I put it in the headline.

Campaigning in the centre of a small Mid Wales town yesterday, This Writer asked one group of young people (in their twenties or thereabouts), who quite clearly had limited means, which way they were going to vote. They ignored the question and walked on for several paces, then one turned around and, raising his fist to the air, yelled, “Conservative all the way!”

George Osborne is relying on people like this for his party’s survival.

We have to foil him by educating them.

It is a task that won’t end after the election; in fact, it is a task that may not end in our lifetimes.

But it is the only way to protect ourselves from continual exploitation by an entitled class of layabouts who expect us to do all the work while they have all the privileges handed to them on a plate.

Please share this article if you agree.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Bedroom tax condemns homes to demolition because they are too expensive for families

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing - not forcing the demolition of what little there is.

The obvious solution: The government should be helping build new social housing – not forcing the demolition of what little there is.

If the government really wants to make larger social accommodation available to overcrowded families, why are housing associations knocking them down?

They have to go because the Bedroom Tax has made them too expensive, according to The Guardian.

The story, published yesterday, is another nail in the coffin of Iain Duncan Smith’s credibility. It doesn’t matter how many polls the Conservatives produce to support their claim that people agree with them; in practice, it simply doesn’t work.

Housing associations are finding three-bedroomed properties impossible to maintain. They cannot let them out, sell them or keep up with the costs of keeping them while they are empty.

All of this has serious implications for the Coalition government that voted the Bedroom Tax onto the statute books as part of Mr ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith’s hugely unpopular – and now proving to be unworkable – Welfare Reform Act last year.

On Tuesday, MPs will debate the future of the Tax, when Labour members are expected to vote for its immediate repeal. Senior Liberal Democrats are also believed to have doubts – The Guardian (again) has quoted Danny Alexander’s father as saying it is “particularly unfair”.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves has overcome a shaky start in her role as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary to get right on-message with this. According to The Guardian report, she said: “This incompetent and out of touch government seems oblivious to the perverse and costly consequences of this unjust and unworkable policy.

“Not only is it hitting 660,000 vulnerable households, including 440,000 disabled people; the costs to the taxpayer are mounting as people are pushed into more expensive private rented accommodation while existing social homes are left vacant.”

Of course, Dear Reader, she’s right. You read it here first – all the way back in October last year.

Surely it makes more sense to have someone living in these properties, rather than losing them altogether? Does the government have an answer for this?

Apparently not. A government spokes-robot trotted out the same tired nonsense we’ve all come to despise: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform that will return fairness to housing benefit. We’ve been clear that hardworking people should not be subsidising tenants living in properties that are too large for their requirements.”

Let’s all remember that there never was a spare room subsidy for the government to remove. It never existed. Therefore its removal is not a necessary reform; it can never be vital to remove something that is fictional. Also, the removal of a fictional thing cannot restore fairness anywhere.

Hard-working people probably shouldn’t be subsidising tenants who are under-occupying, but then hard-working people were never the only ones paying for this to happen. Everybody in the UK pays taxes one way or another – even children.

And while we’re on the subject of what hard-working people subsidise, why is it bad for them to help people stay in the social housing that was originally allocated to them, but good for them to help massive corporations keep their payroll costs down by paying tax credits, housing benefit and council tax reduction costs for people earning less than the Living Wage? Why is it good for them to pay the cost of MPs’ energy bills as well as their own?

“Consent from the Homes and Communities Agency is required before any social housing provider can dispose of a site on which social housing stood and will ensure that public investment and the needs of tenants are protected,” the robot continued, but we should all know that this will be no obstacle.

Demolition of social housing means land becomes available for private developers to build new, luxury homes for the very rich.

That’s where the big money is.

Are wages too low, or is the cost of living too high? Or both?


How pleasing it is to see the Archbishop of York agrees with the view, long-held by Vox Political, that British workers should be paid a living wage, and that the taxpayer should not be subsidising big business!

Archbishop John Sentamu is to chair a year-long commission investigating the need for a living wage. In The Observer, he wrote: “The holes in millions of paycheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of £4 billion a year. But why aren’t those who are profiting from their workers paying up? Why is government having to subsidise businesses who don’t pay their employees enough to live on? It is a question we need to answer and act on – fast. The cost of living is rising but wages are not. In the rush for profit, and for high pay at the top, too many companies have forgotten the basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on.”

This is a sentiment that Vox Political wholly supports.

Needless to say, there are also detractors. A commenter known as ‘neilcon’ pointed out: “The high cost of running a small business in this country is one of the main reasons why the hourly rates are so low. If you employ someone at £8 you then have to pay a further 13 per cent to the government in employer’s National Insurance contributions for the privilege of employing someone; you have to supply that person with suitable equipment for their work.” The commenter reeled off a few other business-related expenses before going on to “the issue of the banks utterly refusing to lend to small businesses, the high cost of renting office premises, business rates on your office premises to the government, the high cost of VAT, together with clients trying to squeeze the final price as much as possible and the very late payments by bigger companies.

“The real cost to an employer of an £8 per hour wage is calculated at about £15 to the business.”

I can sympathise with this sentiment. It doesn’t let off the bosses of larger companies, who have huge salaries and no excuse (FT 350 companies, for example) but they might have a reasonable excuse for not raising pay, if smaller companies say they’ll go out of business if the higher cost is forced on them.

But the simple fact is that the cost of living is too high and – if they had to rely on wages alone – millions of working people, up and down the country, would be unable to pay their bills…

… leading us to a recent blog article by our old friend Michael Meacher MP. He points out that our privatised utility companies are forcing every one of us to pay – through the nose – for substandard services.

He wrote: “More than £100 a year of an average household [water] bill, that is about 30 per cent, goes on profit, compared with 9 per cent in the energy sector which is itself known for egregious profiteering.

“In the last 10 years, water bills have risen by a massive 64 per cent, compared with an increase of just 28 per cent in average earnings. In the last three years alone, average earnings have fallen by 7 per cent while water bills have continued to rise remorselessly. There is no competition in the water industry and the only potential constraint is the industry regulator, but he has chosen to succumb to corporate lobbying in allowing water bills to continue to shoot upwards to feed fancy executive bonuses and big dividend handouts.”

The last sentence tellingly brings us back to the huge profits taken by executives. It seems that a few things are going on:

1. The privatisation of the national utilities – water, electricity, gas (and, some would say, telecommunications) – has failed in its stated aims, which were to democratise capitalism by making it possible for everybody to be a shareholder, to keep bills low, and to end government subsidies for these organisations. Instead, shares have been drawn into the hands of a very few rich investors, bills have risen far beyond wages, and government subsidies have either increased massively (rail) or companies have used the tax system to avoid paying the amount due on their profits (Thames Water and its ‘super sewer’).

2. Company bosses, keen to drive up their share prices in order to create larger dividends for their shareholders and higher salaries for themselves, have successfully held wages down in order to achieve this. As ‘neilcon’ pointed out, lower wages mean less spending on National Insurance, meaning that keeping the employee payout down by pennies per person leads to many pounds in increased revenue.

3. The government is unwilling to do anything about this because it wants to keep wages depressed as much as possible. This is the reason it has cracked down so hard on benefit payments – not because of fraud (which is minimal) but in order to create an urgent need among the unemployed to find work, and terror in those who have jobs that they could be replaced if they complain about the increasingly meagre pittance on which they are being told to survive.

There are many subtle sub-consequences as well. You may wish to raise some of them in the ‘comments’ column.

What’s the answer?

This may come as a surprise, but the best place to start might be with the private utility companies. An ultimatum to put their houses in order and charge a reasonable amount, rather than extorting money out of a captive clientele, might produce results – especially if the alternative is re-nationalisation.

This might take the pressure off the smaller private companies by actually reducing the amount calculated as the living wage; with lower utility bills, the amount of money needed for a working person’s survival will also drop.

If the government and the utility companies got their sums right, this could mean the need to subsidise working people’s pay would be wiped out, meaning a large saving on the tax bill. Feed this through to working people in the form of a tax cut and, again, smaller private companies would benefit (along with everybody else, of course). An alternative of using the money to help pay off the deficit would be unhelpful – we need more, and healthier, businesses in this country, employing more people. Get that sorted and the deficit will come down in any case.

On a completely different tack, what about Landlord Subsidy (otherwise known as Housing Benefit)? Why not put a cap on rents, thereby ensuring that the government is not subsidising the rapidly-increasing pace of (some) landlords’ greed?

Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen under the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government – and it seems the Parliamentary Labour Party is to keen to become the Plastic Tory Party to take a stand; it will be up to its backbenchers and the party’s grassroots members to force a policy change.

At the end of the day, wages might still have to rise, due to matters unforeseen in this article.

But a plan that acknowledges the mistakes of the past and aims to redress the shocking way that the supply of money has overbalanced to favour a tiny minority – to the detriment of the vast majority – would constitute the first steps on the way to a nation that can not only provide Archbishop Sentamu’s living wage, but also help our struggling small businesses.

(The first Vox Political collection, Strong Words and Hard Times, is now available and may be ordered from this website)

Mitchell resigns, Osborne in trouble… Fit to rule?

On the day Andrew Mitchell finally resigned as Chief Whip after the now-notorious ‘Gate-gate’ incident, George Osborne (the Chancer of the Exchequer) has been found fare-dodging on a train (he was sitting in First Class but had only a standard ticket).

Meanwhile, the man who disrupted the Oxford/Cambridge boat race by swimming in the Thames while it was taking place has received a six-month prison sentence, raising questions about the disparity between punishments for MPs and those for other UK citizens.

Perhaps it really is time for MPs to have some of their own medicine. We’ve had “We’re all in it together” thrust down our throats for two years, now – isn’t it time members of the government took an Atos-style assessment to see whether they’re fit to govern?

Personally, I think the demarcation point suggested by the cartoon is unfair and that they should all be placed in the “sub-normal” category (when I was typing this, my fingers automatically tried to type “sub-moral”. Draw your own conclusion). However, this is an Atos assessment regime, so fairness has nothing to do with it!

New benefit plan has no heroes – only zeroes

Shall we play a game? This one’s called join-the-dots. I didn’t really like it when I was younger and I doubt that you will, after you see the picture we’ll be creating.

We’ll start here: The government wants to cut another £10 billion from the welfare budget – that’s the bit of public spending that keeps millions of people off the streets, if only on the breadline. The government could, alternatively, try stimulating the economy to make that money in taxes, but policy seems to be pushing hard the other way, as we’ll see shortly.

So: cuts are coming. How to perform them? Draw a line to where the government announces it wants to break the link between benefits and inflation, and link them to average earnings instead.

George Osborne thinks this is a good idea because inflation hit 5.2 per cent last September, much higher than rises in earnings – remember, the man who won’t do what his initials demand (GO) has kept public sector wages frozen for the last few years and private sector wages are also stagnant. As a result, Gideon has been paying out more than he thinks he should to people who, honestly, deserve a break from his miserly administration.

Now draw a line to the results of the NatCen survey that came out earlier this week, stating that people do not want to see more money being spent on welfare than is being spent already. This is the excuse that Mr Osborne wants to use – he can say there is polling evidence that puts significant numbers in support of an end to so-called benefits uprating. Never mind that only 3,000 people were asked or that none of the main parties ever intended to increase the proportion of government spending that goes on welfare; this is his justification and he’s sticking to it.

I wonder what will happen if wages start to rise faster than inflation? Will the Nasty Party write a new clause into the contract, that benefits should rise along with inflation or wages, depending on which is lower? Officials have already stated that they do not want a huge increase in benefits if wages start to climb sharply, so they are already working on ways to ‘fix’ the linking mechanism. Evil, isn’t it?

Never mind; the current plan uses wages, so now draw a line to this: The government still wants to introduce regional pay settlements for the public sector. The Tories – sorry, the Coalition – believe that national pay settlements inflate public sector wages in certain parts of the country far beyond what their private sector counterparts can manage. They also believe that forcing regional settlements on us will save them a fortune in salaries.

Think what this will achieve: The ghettoisation of much of the UK. With regional pay deals, people will have less money available for things other than necessities, meaning fewer trips to the shops (which have already suffered thanks to the idiotic VAT increase to 20 per cent, which cut a large chunk of growth out of the economy). What happens then? The shops shut and their suppliers go out of business too. More people end up on benefits and looking for work.

You see, this right-wing government does not accept the simple fact that welfare benefits help keep the economy stable. Yes, government spending increases as payments are made, but businesses keep their customers, the economy stays afloat and the country as a whole avoids a terminal spiral of decline.

Cutting welfare, thereby reducing the incomes of society’s poorest, creates fiscal hindrance. As billions of pounds (£10 billion in this case) are taken from the active economy, businesses lose customers and lay off staff.

In a recession, increased welfare spending benefits national income so that each pound is worth £1.60 when it has worked its way through shop tills and paycheques. When welfare is cut, this works in reverse, so cutting £10 billion from benefits will increase the UK’s recession by more than one per cent.

This means a longer recession, a larger deficit and more debt. (The above information courtesy of the False Economy website, which has produced a handy factsheet for you to download, keep, and show to anyone spouting Tory propoganda)

Now draw a line to: The government wants to cut more money from the welfare budget.

Look at what you’ve drawn. A big, fat zero.

This is what the government’s plan will achieve for the people, and economy, of Britain.

Britain’s worst idlers – the MPs who wrote Britannia Unchained

I have been saddened to learn of two events that will take place in the near future: The death of The Dandy, and the publication of Britannia Unchained.

The first needs little introduction to British readers; it’s the UK’s longest-running children’s humour comic, which will cease publication (in print form) towards the end of this year, on its 75th anniversary. The second appears to be an odious political tract scribbled by a cabal of ambitious right-wing Tory MPs, desperate to make a name for themselves by tarring British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

The connection? Even at the end of its life, there is better and more useful information in The Dandy than there will be in Britannia Unchained.

The book’s authors, Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs, argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”.

They say the UK needs to reward a culture of “graft, risk and effort” and “stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk and rewarding laziness”.

Strong words – undermined completely by the authors’ own record of attendance at their place of work.

Chris Skidmore’s Parliamentary attendance record is just 88.1 per cent – and he’s the most diligent of the five. Kwasi Kwarteng weighs in at 87.6 per cent; Elizabeth Truss at 85.3 per cent; and Priti Patel at 81.8 per cent. Dominic Raab is the laziest of the lot, with Parliamentary attendance of just 79.1 per cent.

To put that in perspective, if I took more than a week’s sick leave per year from my last workplace, I would have been hauled up before the boss and serious questions asked about my future at the company. That’s a 97.9 per cent minimum requirement. Who are these slackers to tell me, or anyone else who does real work, that we are lazy?

Some have already suggested that these evil-minded hypocrites are just taking cheap shots at others, to make themselves look good for promotion in an autumn reshuffle. Maybe this is true, although David Cameron would be very unwise to do anything but distance himself from them and their dangerous ideas.

I think this is an attempt to deflect attention away from the way the Tory-led government has mismanaged the economy, and from its murderous treatment of the sick and disabled. As one commentator put it: “They get a token Asian, a token African, a token Jew, mix in the middle class/grammar school rubbish propaganda, and suddenly they are just ordinary people? No they are not; they are stooges for the ruling elite.”

Britain doesn’t reward laziness among its working class. What it rewards is failure by managers, directors of industry, financiers. These people continually increase their salaries and other remuneration while their share prices fall, their dividend payments are lacklustre and shareholder value is destroyed. What have they given shareholders over the past 10 years? How many industrial or commercial leaders have walked off with millions, leaving behind companies that were struggling, if not collapsing? Does the criticism in Britannia Unchained apply to senior executives and bankers?

Our MPs are as much to blame as big business. They vote themselves generous pay, pensions and extended vacations (five months per year). They never start work before 11am, never work weekends (or most Fridays, when they are supposed to be in their constituencies, if I recall correctly). They enjoy fringe benefits including subsidised bars, restaurants and gyms. They take part-time directorships in large companies which take up time they should be using to serve the public. Only a few years ago we discovered that large numbers of them were cheating on their expense claims. They take more than £32,000 in “Resettlement Grant” if we kick them out after one term – which, in my opinion, means all five authors of Britannia Unchained should be applying for it in 2015.

These are the people who most strongly represent the ‘something-for-nothing’ sense of entitlement the book decries.

Have any of them ever worked in a factory or carried out manual labour? I’ll answer that for you: With the exception of Elizabeth Truss, who did a few years as a management accountant at Shell/Cable and Wireless, none of them have ever done anything that could be called real work.

In fact, the people they accuse work very long hours – especially the self-employed. When I ran my own news website, I was busy for 12-14 hours a day (much to the distress of my girlfriend). Employees also work long hours, get less annual leave, earn less and pay more – in prices for consumer goods, taxes and hidden taxes – than most of Europe. Average monthly pay rates have now dropped so low that they are failing to cover workers’ costs, leading to borrowing and debt.

Are British workers really among the laziest in the world? Accurate information is hard to find but it seems likely we’re around 24th on the world league table. On a planet with more than 200 sovereign nations (204 attended the London Olympics), that’s not too shabby at all.

Interestingly, the European workers clocking on for the fewest hours are German. Those lazy Teutons! How dare they work so little and still have the powerhouse economy of the continent?

If so many are reluctant to get up in the morning, why are the morning commuter trains standing room only? Or have the Britannia Unchained crowd never used this form of travel?

It seems to me that Britannia Unchained is just another attempt by the Tory right to make us work harder for less pay. The Coalition is currently cutting the public sector and benefits to the bone, while failing to introduce policies that create useful employment, and trying to boost private sector jobs. The private sector has cut wages and pensions. The result is higher unemployment and benefits that cannot sustain living costs, creating a working-age population desperate for any kind of employment at all (even at the too-low wages already discussed).

And let’s remember that Conservatives want to remove employment laws to make it easier to dismiss employees. In other words, they want a workforce that will toil for a pittance, under threat of swift dismissal and the loss of what little they have.

Why do they think this will improve the UK’s performance?

We already work longer hours and have less protective legislation than in Europe (such as the European Time Directive). But we are less productive in terms of GDP than their French and German counterparts, who work fewer hours and are protected by the likes of the ETD.

France is more unionised than we are, yet its production per employee is higher.

The problem is poor management and bad leadership. Poor productivity is almost always due to poor investment and poor training. Workers are abused when they should be treated as an investment. They lose motivation and when managers get their decisions wrong, they blame the workers.

Working class people are sick of grafting for low pay and in poor working conditions, to be exploited by the types of people represented by the authors of Britannia Unchained.

Is it any wonder we feel de-motivated?

I started this article by linking The Dandy to Britannia Unchained, noting that one was coming to the end of its life in print while the other was about to be published for the first time. I’ll end by pointing out a quality they have in common.

The Dandy is closing because it represents ideas that are now tired and out-of-date. Britannia Unchained should never see publication – for the same reason.

Benefits v bonuses – everybody’s a loser!

As I type these words, this has been a day of defeat for the government. Its bid to cap benefits at £26,000 – forcing some families to face the prospect of losing their homes – has been defeated by the Lords, while in the Commons, MPs totally failed to cap the spectacularly high amounts paid to (for example) bankers.

The link between the two is the average amount of pay earned by workers in the UK today. The government says this is £26,000, which Tory MP Margot James seems to think is a large amount of money. I wonder how she describes the current average salary for an MP like herself, which is £65,738, two-and-a-half times as much. In addition, MPs receive allowances to cover the costs of running an office and employing staff, having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency – and we all know that no MP has ever – ever – abused those allowances, don’t we?

The fact is that on a day when the Royal Bank of Scotland has been asking the government to allow it to pay bonuses worth £500 million to staff who have put that firm into the red by £750 million in the last six months, £26,000 is not a high figure. It is a derisory figure. A pittance.

People on benefits, and those speaking for them, have argued that this figure will not be enough to keep many of them in their homes. That is why the Lords voted to exempt Child Benefit from those included in the cap – in order to offer children a stable environment in which to grow up.

The question arises: If it isn’t enough to keep families on benefits in their homes, how do working people who are earning less than this amount manage to make ends meet?

My own experience colours my answer to that: Very badly. When I was last in a full-time job, the salary did not cover all my outgoings and I had to give it up for that reason. Simple as that. Fortunately my partner finally succeeded in a years-long battle to claim Disability Living Allowance shortly afterwards and I became a carer – and we’re better off that way. That’s not an indictment of the welfare and benefits system; it’s an indictment of the way wages have been depressed below the rate of inflation for the last 30 years or so.

I’m told the firm lost business after I left. To me, that indicates a lapse of judgement in allowing me to go, and that bosses might have been better off if they had offered me a sum that would have allowed me to go on living comfortably, rather than worrying about a long, slow slide into debt (to the bank! where the bonuses happen).

I would rather be in a paying job than a carer. I don’t believe I’m betraying my partner, who needs the care, by saying that. But I don’t believe I can earn the amount we would need, in order to get a better quality of life, for her or both of us.

What’s the solution? Obvious, really: pay working people the living wage they deserve!

If the average wage was a reasonable amount (and I feel no need to bind anyone’s thinking here, so I won’t suggest one) then, firstly, the poor working man or woman would not feel so hard-done-by, with people on benefits pulling down as much as them or more yet having done no work for it, and bosses taking home obscene amounts generated by the efforts of other people.

Those on benefits would have less reason to feel victimised because the average amount at which their benefits will be pegged would be high enough for them to survive, and possibly even enough for them to think about how to get back into work and earn more money for themselves and their families (if they have them), rather than focusing solely on survival.

All this hinges on the bosses who, as we know, are extremely reluctant to share out the profits they haven’t earned for themselves. I have no sympathy for those on obscenely large salaries and bonus schemes – those in FT350 companies whose salaries have multiplied seven times in the last 20 years, while the firms’ performance has improved by only 23 per cent and the wages they pay their workers has risen by just 27 per cent (less than the rate of inflation). They can take a smaller slice of the cake and put up with it.

But what about the bosses of smaller firms who might be struggling to keep their heads above water? They might not be taking very much more than their workforce. What’s the solution for them?

To my way of thinking, they need to be competitive, and a demoralised workforce does not make a business competitive. Also, they need the tools to do their job properly and I can foresee a time when the economic situation will mean their equipment will be out of date.

Perhaps this is a time for the government – either local or national – to come forward with a match-funding scheme of some kind to keep these firms on their feet; but with one major condition. The companies should re-form into co-operatives, in which every worker has a stake in the profits. This would re-fire their enthusiasm and, hopefully, improve performance, leading to a knock-on increase in wages and bonuses that are not unearned drains on resources but based on real profit.

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