These include, former home secretary and defence secretary John Reid (now Baron Reid of Cardowan), former Met police commissioner Lord Condon (who earns £124,600 as a non-executive director of G4S), former prison governor Tom Wheatley and helpfully for G4S’ energy meter monitoring arm, the former energy regulator Claire Spottiswoode is a non-executive director (earning £56,800).
A Virgin Trains East Coast train at King’s Cross station in London [Image: David Parry/PA].
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald has read this right – so of course his comment appears last in the Guardian‘s article, where nobody is likely to see it.
He said passengers are paying higher fares to subsidise the demands of the privatised rail companies’ shareholders, including foreign firms who will put the money into other nations’ rail systems.
This raises the obvious question, in an atmosphere of (false) allegations that foreign citizens have moved to the UK to take services that should go to the people of the UK:
Why are British citizens (actually) being forced to subsidise foreign services and utilities (rail isn’t the only one) through our privatised companies?
The Virgin Trains East Coast rise appears to be motivated by the failure of the Branson-owned firm to increase passenger numbers – possibly because the prices are too high?
As a result, we are told, the firm is struggling to pay premiums it promised to the Treasury in return for the franchise.
So the passengers are being forced to pay more because of privatisation. Weren’t we all promised that prices would fall?
The 2.3% average UK rail fare rises for 2017 are being driven by much higher increases on the reprivatised Virgin Trains East Coast, where ticket prices set by the operator will far outstrip the rate of inflation.
While regulated fares such as season tickets and off-peak returns, which are set by the government, are to increase by 1.9%, fares on Virgin Trains East Coast will increase by 4.9% overall.
The rail firm said that would be hiking the fares it controls by an average of around 5.5%.
The rail firm – a partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin and the transport group Stagecoach – won the franchise in March 2015, when it was controversially reprivatised by the coalition government after more than five years of operation in the public sector.
Passenger numbers have not risen in line with projections from the time of the bid, leaving the operator struggling to meet the £3.3bn in premiums it has promised to pay the Treasury by 2023, with the bulk of that due in the later years of the eight-year franchise.
Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said Labour was committed to returning franchises to public ownership to “put an end to Britain’s rip-off railways”. He added: “Passengers are told that higher fares are necessary to fund investment, but vital projects have been delayed by years. Rail fares have risen by 25% on average in the last six years alone, whilst real wages remain below their 2008 levels.
“Money that could be used to keep fares down or reinvested to improve our services is instead subsidising the profits of private companies and other nations’ railway systems – it’s a scandal.”
For those of you who aren’t in the know, Jack Monroe (she of A Girl Called Jack blog fame) has come under attack from pro-Tory Twitter users after she tweeted, as part of the #CameronMustGo drive, the following:
She really did. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes (Conservative), stated that Jack’s was “the most shameful tweet; you understand nothing about grief.” She then addressed Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, asking if Jack’s tweet, from her personal account, reflected the values of the newspaper.
Fortunately this miserable excuse for a public representative doesn’t need a put-down from me. Here’s Nick Portch, who did it with ease by asking if Dr Wollaston was “A Conservative trying to get somebody sacked for exercising their freedom of speech?”
Nice one, Nick.
As for understanding “nothing about grief”, back to Jack herself: “And because 2 years later, I can’t open my own front door, suffer anxiety attacks, the mental scars of poverty are ruinous, #CameronMustGo.” Okay, “mental scars” might not indicate grief to you but it seems very likely that if you suffered those effects as a result of them, you’d spend a certain amount of time grieving about it.
Other criticisms were less civilised. Vernon Vega’s ran as follows [asterisks mine]: “Re the Cameron tweet…you really are a bit of a c**t aren’t you?” What a charmer. Absolutely no substance whatsoever.
Sarah Vine gave us: “No one is privatising the NHS.” We’ll examine the stupidity of this statement momentarily.
‘Angela’ tweeted: “I have no idea who you are, but you are a truly disgusting specimen. You deserve the biggest karmic kick in the face,” and Daily Referendum continued the theme with: “If Karma does exist, then you should be pretty worried right now.”
It seems likely there were worse, because Ms Monroe subsequently tweeted: “I can express my opinion on it, so can you. We disagree, debate, discuss. But death/rape threats, & threats to my son, are a crime.” If karma does exist, then it seems likely these are the people who should be worrying.
She remains unrepentant, as this shows: “Doorstepped by @MailOnline. Short statement, politely delivered, don’t regret pointing out that DC closes down debate on NHS & disability and that his experience of caring for Ivan was not comparable to experiences of others, many of whom are now victims of welfare cuts.”
The Mail subsequently – and gleefully – reported that Sainsbury’s is cutting its ties with Ms Monroe (after using her in advertising campaigns for its Value range of food for people with less money). The headline: “Sainsbury’s axes left-wing blogger for vile PM slur”.
In short, there’s been a lot of fuss over this tweet by Ms Monroe.
For Vox Political, this has been fascinating, because she posted it around 21 hours after Yr Obdt Srvt, the author of this very article, tweeted the following:
Who knows what might have happened if the Tories mentioned above had seen that, instead of Jack’s comparatively mild tweet?
Neither this blog nor its author have received any adverse comments in response to the tweet or the article that preceded it.
What does this tell us?
Perhaps it indicates that Ms Monroe was targeted, not because she suggested anything that was beyond the pale or unforgiveable, but because she is a person from the lower orders who certain people believe has ideas above her station.
Her A Girl Called Jackblog catapulted her into the public eye because it offered ideas about how to make decent meals to people struggling to feed their families on a low budget – in other words, people on benefits. She did it to chronicle her own efforts to feed herself and her son on a food budget of just £10 per week – and she started blogging in response to a local councillor who claimed that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street’. A book of recipes went straight to the top of the charts at the start of the year, and a sequel may do the same before Christmas.
She built herself up from ‘Benefit Street’ and the blogosphere to become a success – and the vested interests don’t like it. It disproves their narrative that everyone on benefits is a scrounger, a skiver and a sponger – and they need working people to think what they tell them to think in the run-up to next year’s general election.
That’s why the Tories and the trolls have gone after her; it was an opportunity to put down a lower-class upstart and stifle the facts she was broadcasting.
This writer hopes Jack Monroe can rise above the noise created by the Tories, those with vested interests, and the trolls. Their messages are meaningless. Let us all hope that for each of them there are at least a dozen of us who know her message has reached people we could not, and therefore can only offer her our gratitude and love.
Unite’s secretary general Len McCluskey would be naive indeed to think David Cameron is ever likely to heed his call for the National Health Service to be kept out of the EU/US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
McCluskey has warned that the NHS could be sued by American healthcare multinationals if a UK government tried to return services to state control; they would argue that such renationalisations interfered with their potential profits, in breach of the trade agreement, as has been discussed on this blog in the past.
His appeal misses the point. The entire thrust of Coalition government policy is to ensure that the NHS becomes vulnerable to just such pressure, in order to ‘lock in’ the privatisations inflicted on us by Andrew Lansley’s horrifying Health and Social Care Act 2012.
One has to look no further than Vince Cable for confirmation of this. The Whig business secretary (you can’t call him a Liberal Democrat any more, and as a commenter pointed out today, the government as a whole behaves more like the old-style Whig Party from the 19th century. If the cap fits…) told The Independent: “There is no suggestion whatever that the TTIP negotiations could be used to undermine the fundamental principles of the NHS or advancing privatisation.”
What he means by this is that – as far as he is concerned, advancing privatisation is a fundamental principle of the NHS since Andrew Lansley’s hateful Act of Parliament. Therefore the TTIP agreement can only contribute to that project.
He said: “Our focus for health is to enable our world-class pharaceutical and medical devices sectors to benefit from improved access to the US market.”
If we have world-class healthcare already, why do we need access to a market-driven system that can only drag us down into mediocrity? Clearly he is not talking about healthcare at all; he is talking about the health service as a source of profit. The “benefit” he describes can only be profit – income for shareholders in private companies that could not be accrued while they were excluded from NHS work.
Everybody involved in this betrayal should be imprisoned as a traitor, with Cable and Lansley first to be sent down.
Mock sympathy: This is the sort of treatment Ed Miliband can expect from David Cameron if he keeps following policies that are created by the Tory media rather than the needs of the British people.
Labour could be heading for defeat next year, after it set out new policies that have the same chance of success as England’s plan for the 2014 World Cup.
The party put its weight behind a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) that left the public cold. If Labour does not change direction, it seems likely the party will not win the votes it needs to get into office next year – unless its rivals make serious mistakes.
It is a situation almost exactly like that of the England football team.
All right, it’s not a perfect parallel. England got into this fix because it was outplayed by teams with ambitious and flamboyant star players – Balotelli for Italy and Suarez for Uruguay. Labour doesn’t have that problem as the closest equivalent in politics is Nigel Farage.
But, like England, Labour seems unable to defend itself against even rudimentary attacks – partly because leaders have painted themselves into a corner (marked ‘pro-austerity’) and partly because they simply refuse to use the logical arguments. Does anybody remember what a relief it was when, after years of silence in response to Tory claims that Labour caused the financial collapse, Peter Hain finally told Owen Paterson, on the BBC’s Any Questions, “It was the banks that destroyed the economy, not the Labour government – it was the international banking system!”
And where is Mr Hain now? He’s retiring at the next election. The only Labour player who was man enough to fend off this blatantly unreasonable Tory attack and he’s being taken off the field.
Meanwhile, Labour’s leaders continue to make schoolboy mistakes that create the opportunity for the other side to score. Ed Miliband’s publicity-seeking pose with The Sun was a spectacular example; yesterday’s IPPR report was a more subtle one.
The lack of ambition is staggering; it seems that, after four years, the Miliband camp still hasn’t understood that copying Tory austerity will scare voters away. Committing to Tory-imposed constraints that require any new idea to be covered by a cut or a tax increase will just increase the exodus – Labour needs to be ambitious.
Everybody knows now that austerity is nonsense. It’s an excuse to drive money into the hands of those who have too much of it already. After four years of it, we are told that this government is on course to put five million British children in poverty by 2020. Food bank use is at its highest ever. The number of people claiming in-work benefits is at its highest ever because employers refuse to pay a living wage and expect the taxpayer to subsidise them instead; by the time of the 2015 election, working families will be around £2,000 per year worse off than they were in 2010.
You are worse-off under the Tory Coalition. You are worse-off under austerity.
Meanwhile, business bosses and shareholders have been having a spectacularly good time, with incomes skyrocketing. There’s no austerity for the One Per Cent!
Indeed, income inequality has increased hugely to place the UK seventh on the international table, behind the USA (fourth) and Chile (first) – and we all know that Tory neoliberals are huge fans of the systems in those two countries.
What are the wealthy doing with all the money they have parasitised from the rest of us?
Well, they’re not using it to pay their taxes, that’s for sure!
One of the main plans put forward in Labour’s IPPR report was to save money by means-testing benefits for 100,000 young people – saving £65 million. That’s a pittance compared to the £600 million in taxes that is being withheld by Google, Amazon and Apple, according to an infographic that’s currently doing the rounds.
Labour is very quiet about that – copying the Tory attitude of diverting people with stories about welfare abuses because Miliband’s know-nothing advisors think being “hard on benefits” is popular with the public, who don’t like “scroungers”.
They’re not intelligent enough to understand that this attitude has been carefully nurtured in the public consciousness by a right-wing, Tory-controlled media. It has nothing to do with reality, in which only a tiny minority of people are in fact defrauding the taxpayer out of benefit money. Lord Fraud – sorry, Freud – was taken to task for this only days ago.
It seems that – like England’s football team – the Labour Party has been off chasing a fantasy. Austerity and the persecution of people on benefits (most of whom are entirely deserving of them, plus massive amounts of compensation for the despicable way they have been treated for the past few years) are Conservative-created blind alleys. In politics, you don’t oppose anybody by copying them.
If Labour concentrated on the real causes of Britain’s problems, the party might have a hope of success.
Otherwise, like the England team, Labour will have to be content with hoping that the Tories make a big mistake.
And, like the England team, they are most likely to learn that this is not good enough.
The result: The Tory who won is so unremarkable that I’ve forgotten his name. More interesting is the chap in the big hat behind him; at first I thought he was the Monster Raving Loony candidate, but it seems more likely he’s one of the voters.
One has to ask what is wrong with the people of a Parliamentary constituency when, after four years of a desperately inept and corrupt Conservative-led government, they decide to elect another Tory as their representative in a by-election.
Which of the government’s policies clinched it for you, Newark? Was it the brutality inflicted on people who are out of work – particularly those with long-term illnesses and disabilities? Does the fact that people are being driven to suicide at an almost-hourly rate turn you on?
Was it the determination to push your wages down in order to inflate bosses’ and shareholders’ salaries, forcing a higher take-up of taxpayer-funded in-work benefits? Do you like paying high taxes to support the very, very rich?
Was it perhaps the ongoing privatisation of the NHS? Do you think that’s healthy for the people of Britain? Perhaps rickets hasn’t yet reappeared in your constituency but it’s just a matter of time. Are you looking forward to getting tuberculosis?
Maybe you are looking forward to the government’s Legal Aid changes that will put innocent people in jail and leave criminals free to roam your streets and victimise you any way they want?
Or do you really want a Conservative majority in Parliament so they can push through their long-cherished dream of taking away your human rights? Is that what you want?
That’s what your votes supported!
Worse still, you put UKIP in second place. UKIP! The party that, besides supporting the destruction of the NHS (you’ve come out very strongly for private healthcare, Newark, I hope you know that) wants to put your taxes up (although they’re trying to hide that now because people found out and didn’t like it), and supports marital rape.
Way to go, Newark.
At least you had the good sense to kick the Liberal Democrats down to sixth place and the loss of their deposit – but that just means you’re schizoid, Newark! You reward the Conservatives for policies that are a hazard to your health, and punish their coalition partners for the same reasons!
Way to go, Newark.
It should be noted that turnout was just 52.67 per cent. Presumably the other 47.33 per cent are the “disenchanted” voters of whom Ed Miliband spoke so eloquently in his response to the Queen’s Speech (did you hear the Queen’s Speech, Newark? She listed 11 more-or-less pointless bills put forward by a zombie Parliament – which you have supported).
Let us hope those 34,779 lost voters can be persuaded to re-engage with democracy in time for next year’s general election, and restore sanity to your constituency.
Now go away, Newark.
You really don’t deserve all this attention.
(The latest Vox Political book collection – Health Warning: Government! – is now available. It is a cracking read and fantastic value for money. Only available via the Internet, it may be purchased here in print and eBook form, along with the previous VP release, Strong Words and Hard Times.
The problem in a nutshell – and this cartoon was drawn in 1972! [Image: Alan Hardman]
It’s terrific when an article makes you think.
Why Capitalism needs unemployment, by Cheltenham & Gloucester Against Cuts, tells us that unemployment is used as a weapon against the workers – with the threat of it used to force pay cuts on employees, while we are told to fear inflation if unemployment falls.
So fatcat company bosses win either way, it seems.
The article commented on Margaret Thatcher’s ideological mentor, Milton Friedman, who “understood that low levels of unemployment give confidence to workers, who can fight for better pay and conditions. When they’re successful, the profit margins of capitalists are reduced, causing them to put their prices up in response“.
We know this happens; we have seen it many times. Some may argue that it is different from cases in which shortages of particular commodities push up their prices and the prices of products that are made from them – but, with fuel prices as the only notable exception, have you ever seen prices drop after these shortages end?
The system is rigged to ensure that working people stay poor, either through pay cuts during high unemployment or inflation in low unemployment; meanwhile the employers and shareholders ensure that they stay rich, by sharing out extra profits gained by keeping pay low or by putting up prices.
What do they do with this money?
The answer, it seems, is nothing. They bank it in offshore tax havens and leave it there. This is why, we are told, Britain’s richest citizens have more than £20 trillion banked offshore at the moment.
That’s more than £20,000,000,000,000! Enough to pay off this country’s national debt 18,000 times over and still have plenty to spare. Enough to solve the problems of the world, forever. It is, in fact, more money than we can comfortably imagine.
It is doing nothing.
Faced with this knowledge, there can only be one logical question: Why?
Why rig the system so that ever-larger sums of money pour into these offshore accounts, if nothing is to be done with it? Where is the sense in that?
The only logical answer appears to relate to its effect on workers: Keeping the profits of their work away from the workforce means they are kept in misery and servitude to the ruling classes – the parasitical board members and shareholders.
There are knock-on effects. Taxpayers are hit twice – not only are they forced to grapple with ever-more-hostile pay offers, but their taxes pay for in-work benefits that subsidise corporate-imposed pay levels; they support people who have been forced into unemployment unnecessarily and the silly make-work schemes that are forced on those people by the Department for Work and Pensions, under threat of sanction.
It’s a protection racket. There should be a law against it. And this begs the next question: Why isn’t there a law against it? How can this corrupt system be dismantled and what should replace it?
That’s a very good question, because the other cosh being held over our collective heads is the possibility that firms will move abroad if new laws in this country threaten their massive profits. This is where an international agreement between nations or groups of nations would be very useful, if it was carried out in the right way – a Transatlantic, or Trans-pacific, Trade and Investment Partnership, perhaps.
And what do we see? Plans for such agreements have been put together and they do the exact opposite of what they should – tying the workers into ever-worsening conditions. This is why the TTIP, currently being pushed on the European Union, must be rejected – and why bosses will do anything to ensure it succeeds.
This is the situation. It seems clear that nothing will change it for the better until somebody has the courage to stand up to these manipulators (who were probably schoolyard bullies back in the day) and say enough is enough; change is coming – do what you will.
Tax evasion and avoidance is already a huge issue here in the UK; perhaps we need to make a criminal offence of manipulating the economy – with prison sentences for bosses who put their prices up purely to retain high profit margins when their salaries are already dozens of times higher than those of their workers.
But what else is needed? How can such a mechanism be brought in without scaring off business? Or should we let them go, and put something fairer in their place? Ban them from trading in the UK unless they conform to the new model?
These are ideas that need exploration – by many people, not just a few.
‘For the privileged few’: If you’re earning the average wage of £26,500 per year, or less, then nothing George Osborne says will be relevant to you.
Why are the mainstream media so keen to make you think falling inflation means your wages will rise?
There is absolutely no indication that this will happen.
If you are lucky, and the drop in inflation (to 1.7 per cent) affects things that make a difference to the pound in your pocket, like fuel prices, groceries and utility bills, then their prices are now outstripping your ability to pay for them at a slightly slower rate. Big deal.
The reports all say that private sector wages are on the way up – but this includes the salaries of fatcat company bosses along with the lowest-paid office cleaners.
FTSE-100 bosses all received more pay by January 8 than average workers earn in a year. Their average annual pay rise is 14 per cent. Bankers get 35 per cent. These are all included in the national private sector average of 1.7 per cent, which means you get a lot less than the figures suggest.
Occasional Chancellor George Osborne said: “These latest inflation numbers are welcome news for families.” Why? Because they aren’t sinking into debt quite as fast as they were last month? They’re great news for the fatcats mentioned above, along with MPs, who are in line to get an inflation-busting 11 per cent rise; but as far as families are concerned, rest assured he’s lying again.
“Lower inflation and rising job numbers show our long-term plan is working, and bringing greater economic security,” he had the cheek to add. Employment has risen, although we should probably discount a large proportion of the self-employed statistics as these are most likely people who’ve been encouraged to claim tax credits rather than unemployment benefits and will be hit with a huge overpayment bill once HMRC finds out (as discussed in many previous articles).
The problem is, Britain’s economic performance has not improved in line with the number of extra jobs. If we have more people in work now than ever before in this nation’s history, then the economy should be going gangbusters – surging ahead, meaning higher pay for everybody and a much bigger tax take for the government, solving its debt reduction problem and ensuring it can pay for our public services – right?
We all know that isn’t happening. It isn’t happening because the large employment figures are based on a mixture of lies and low wages. The economy can’t surge forward because ordinary people aren’t being paid enough – and ordinary working people are the ones who fuel national economies; from necessity they spend a far higher percentage of their earnings than the fatcats and it is the circulation of this money that generates profit, and tax revenues.
Osborne compounded his lies by adding: “There is still much more we need to do to build the resilient economy I spoke of at the Budget.” He has no intention of doing any such thing. He never had.
Conservative economic policy is twofold, it seems: Create widescale unemployment in order to depress wages for those who do the actual work and boost profits for bosses and shareholders; and cut the national tax take to ensure that they can tell us the UK cannot afford a welfare state, opening the door for privatised medicine and private health and income insurance firms.
This is why, as has been discussed very recently, leaders of the Margaret Thatcher era including Nicholas Ridley and Keith Joseph determined that the defeat of the workers would require “the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base” (according to ‘The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain’). It is, therefore, impossible for George Osborne to seek to build any “resilient economy” that will improve your lot, unless you are a company boss, banker, or shareholder.
The plan to starve the public sector, as has been repeated many times on this blog, has been named ‘Starving the Beast’ and involves ensuring that the tax take cannot sustain public services by keeping working wages so low that hardly any tax comes in (the Tory Democrat determination to raise the threshold at which takes is paid plays right into this scheme) and cutting taxes for the extremely well-paid (and we have seen this take place, from 50 per cent to 45. Corporation tax has also been cut by 25 per cent).
This is why Ed Balls is right to say that average earnings are £1,600 per year less than in May 2010, why Labour is right to point out that the economy is still performing well below its height under Labour…
… and why the government and the mainstream media are lying to you yet again.
He was right to say it was “profoundly shaming and offensive” for Conservative voters – especially those who are not super-rich – when George Osborne lowered the top rate to 45p, two years ago.
He was right when he wrote that “to make the rich richer at the same time as making the poor poorer – what George Osborne has been doing – is simply squalid, immoral and disgusting.
“Any decent human being must surely feel sick in the stomach that he is taking this action at the same time as cutting the amount of tax paid by people earning more than £150,000.”
To that, let’s add a point about the kind of people who are benefiting from the lower tax rate – the kind of people who take home around £1 million a year in basic pay, who are promised bonuses of up to twice those yearly salaries, and who caused the financial crisis that has allowed Osborne to pursue his policy of impoverishing the poor.
That’s right: George Osborne’s 45p tax rate is a £100,000 extra bonus, every year – in gratitude for all their help, one must presume – for bankers.
Oborne is also right to say that Labour’s decision in the 1970s, to impose a top tax rate of 83p in the pound, was a huge mistake – for whatever reasons. It genuinely drove people out of the country, whereas at 50p they just grumble and threaten to go.
All of the above being said, Oborne continues to espouse some utterly wrong-headed nonsense. He claims that “the Conservative Party is not an interest group which represents only the very rich” when all of its actions since getting into office in 2010 demonstrate ample proof that a minority group representing only the very rich is exactly what it is.
Oborne actually puts in print: “The Coalition government has devoted a great deal of effort to lowering the living standards of the poor. I support this project.”
It’s great to see a Tory voter actually admitting this, but imbecilic behaviour for a columnist who (one presumes) wants people to respect his point of view.
He goes on: “I believe that Gordon Brown’s welfare state forced some people into a life of dependency… There have been many people on welfare who need much more of an incentive to return to work.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The reason many people are without jobs and claiming benefit is, there are almost five jobseekers for every job. This is a situation created by the Tory-led government in order to keep wages low; with so many people clamouring for jobs, people who do have work but are on the bottom rung of the employment ladder can’t ask for a raise – they would be jettisoned and replaced by a jobseeker (most likely on lower basic pay than the original holder of the job).
Nobody was forced into a life of dependency by Gordon Brown; the vast majority of unemployed people genuinely want to improve their situation with a job that allows them to avoid claiming benefits – and it is good that the Labour Party, if returned to office next year, will work hard to bring the Living Wage into force for all working people.
You see, Mr Oborne and his ilk conveniently forget that the vast majority of people whose living standards have been hit by the Tory war on the poor are in work. They are so poorly-paid by George Osborne’s corporate friends that they have to claim tax credits – or, as I like to call them, Employer Subsidy – and housing benefit – otherwise known as Landlord Subsidy.
That’s improper use of our tax money. We should not be subsidising fat corporates with our hard-earned taxes, so they can deliver ever more swollen dividends to their shareholders; and we should not be subsidising greedy landlords who charge multiples of what their properties are worth to tenants who have nowhere else to go if they want to keep their pittance-paying job.
It is valid to criticise Gordon Brown for allowing this to happen, but who knows? Maybe this figurehead of neoliberal New Labour was using tax credits as a stop-gap, intending to persuade corporate bosses round to the Living Wage in good time. We’ll never know for sure.
There remains a strong argument that government schemes to get people into work should have checks and balances. As underwriters of these schemes, we taxpayers need assurances that the firms taking part will not abuse their position of power, using jobseekers until the government subsidy runs out and then ditching good workers for more of the unemployed in order to keep the cash coming. That is not a worthwhile use of our cash.
We also need assurances that participants won’t drop out, just because life on the dole is easier. I was the victim of several personal attacks last week when I came out in support of Labour’s compulsory job guarantee, because they hated its use of sanctions. I think those sanctions are necessary; there should be a penalty for dropping out without a good reason.
In a properly-run scheme, those sanctions should never be put into effect, though. That means that any government job scheme needs to be driven, not by targets but by results.
Look at the Welsh Ambulance Service. Targets imposed by the Welsh Government mean that ambulances are supposed to arrive at the scene of an emergency within eight minutes – even if they are 20 minutes’ fast drive away, on the wrong side of a busy city like Cardiff, when they get the call. This means the Welsh Ambulance Service faces constant attack for failure to meet targets.
But what kind of results does the service achieve? Are huge numbers of Welsh patients dying, or failing to receive timely treatment because an ambulance arrives a minute or so after its target time? No. There will, of course, be some such occasions but those will most likely be the result of many contributory factors.
So: Results-driven schemes will put people into jobs and improve the economy; there is no need to impoverish the poor; the very rich never deserved their tax cut; and Ed Balls is right to want to re-impose the 50p rate.
The Conservatives are wrong to attack poor people; there is no need to impose further cuts on social security as part of Osborne’s failed austerity policy; and these things show very clearly that the Tories are a minority-interest party supporting only the extremely rich.
In the end, I find myself agreeing with one more comment by Mr Oborne; Ed Balls really has “given ordinary, decent people a serious reason for voting Labour at the coming election”.
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It’s not what you know – it’s who: This is the only ticket to upward social mobility in David Cameron’s Britain – an Eton tie.
Congratulations to Alan Milburn for completely destroying the Coalition government’s ‘Making work Pay’ policy.
It was always critically flawed, of course – how could it not be? It was based on the idea of reducing the money available to people on benefits, in order to make the amount taken home by working people seem like more.
Meanwhile, the real winners were company bosses and shareholders for whom the line ‘Making Work Pay’ is a complete misnomer. A shareholder takes home dividends after investing in a company. Such a person doesn’t do any work for that money at all!
Mr Milburn’s study focuses on working parents, according to the BBC’s report. This makes sense because social mobility is historically based on a child managing to achieve more than a parent.
For decades, Britons have been able to say, proudly, that each generation has been better-off than the last; now, the Conservative-led Coalition has reversed that trend. Working parents simply don’t earn enough to escape poverty and two-thirds of poor children are now from families in which at least one adult has a job.
Falling earnings and rising prices mean the situation is likely to worsen – and what the report doesn’t say (but we can infer), is that this is an intended consequence of government policy. David Cameron will not be thanking Mr Milburn for pointing this out.
Mr Milburn has recommended diverting money currently used to provide universal benefits to pensioners, so that the richest senior citizens would lose their free TV licences and winter fuel allowances, in order to relieve the burden on the poorest families.
But Mr Cameron, who knows that pensioners are more likely to vote than younger people (including working parents), won’t accept that. A spokesman told the BBC those benefits will be safeguarded until after the 2015 general election – in order, we can infer, to ensure that pensioners will vote Conservative.
At least this admission makes Cameron’s reasoning clear!
Some have chosen to lay the blame on Education. That’s right – with a capital ‘E’. Apparently, although Tony Blair was right to put the emphasis on education back in 1997, people just haven’t been interested in taking it up, along with the massive opportunities it offers to attain a comfortable life.
That just doesn’t ring true. Look at Yr Obdt Srvt. I left school with nine GCE ‘O’ Levels and three ‘A’ levels, went on to get a degree and then went beyond that to get a post-graduate qualification in Journalism (making me one of the few news reporters, these days, to have one).
I have never received more than poverty wages – even when I was editing a newspaper. But the effect I have on my surroundings is completely disproportionate to the money I have received – I recently wrote that when I left my last full-time newspaper job, that paper lost £300,000 per year as a result (according to my sources). This very site is currently rated 16th most influential political blog in the UK.
Yet I am as poor as a church mouse!
So Education is not the culprit – and putting teachers on performance-related pay is to chase Education up a blind alley. How would Special Needs teachers benefit from such a system? All pupils have a range of abilities and no two are the same, so how can performance-related pay ever be judged fairly? Suppose a teacher correctly realises that some pupils will never achieve academic excellence but that their talents lie in practical pursuits – should that teacher lose pay for trying to get the best result possible for those pupils? Of course not.
Once again we see government policy following the ‘divide and conquer’ pattern. ‘Take from the needy and give to the greedy’, as the slogan states.
And the flag of the conquering elite is the ‘Old School Tie’.
You’re on very shaky ground in Cameron’s Britain – if you weren’t at Eton.
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