Forgive me if I’m underwhelmed by the pay rise that has been announced for people in the public sector.
Their pay was frozen for two years in 2010, and capped at a one per cent increase every year since. That’s well below inflation.
How much would this rise need to have been, to make up all the increases these people have lost, just to be paid in line with inflation?
It seems to me that the Tories are trying to look generous in giving this increase now.
In fact, it should highlight their cruelty.
In the nine years since they imposed their ridiculous austerity, shrinking the state by starving it of cash, while giving huge tax cuts to the very rich, the 100 richest people in the UK have become £55 billion richer, we’re told.
And what has happened to MPs’ pay in the same period?
The rest of us have suffered – and will continue to do so. Remember that.
Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are reportedly set to get a pay rise.
The Treasury will unveil the biggest public sector pay rise in six years as one of Theresa May’s final acts as prime minister, The Times reported.
Soldiers are set to get a 2.9% rise, teachers and school staff 2.75%, police officers, dentists and consultants 2.5% and senior civil servants 2%.
It is thought the money will come from existing budgets.
Incidentally, this is a pay rise for police and soldiers, among others.
Considering current developments over Brexit, are the Tories planning to face widespread public unrest – possibly even violence?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
This is a media-led scandal; if the Tory-dominated mass media had not spent the last four years demonising Jeremy Corbyn, members of our armed forces would not have used an image of him as target practice.
And supporters of the armed forces would not have voiced their own hatred of Mr Corbyn. Consider the comments of Trevor Coult, founder of ‘For Our Veterans’ – and the organisation’s own comments in support of him:
It does say much about both the organisation and the man.
But with 13,000 veterans homeless thanks to Conservative government policies, and Jeremy Corbyn the only political leader likely to change that…
To the soldiers shorting at an image of Jeremy Corbyn. When the army have finished with you and you find yourselves having to claim Universal Credit, or you join 13,000 other veterans without a home, Mr Corbyn will be there to help you.
… these servicepeople are going to feel like a proper bunch of patsies if they actively oppose him becoming the UK’s democratically-elected leader – as some are predicting:
Here's a report of the comments made by that unnamed general. Identifying him, I would suggest, should be an even higher priority than investigating the soldiers who have deeply imbibed the anti-democratic culture that dominates British army life https://t.co/mDdABhBVHZ
Meanwhile, members of the public have been making up their own minds – and they’re not impressed:
The Ministry of Defence have confirmed this is real. Following on from recent threats & attacks made on Jeremy, it really is a matter of urgency that the press reconsider the merits of doorstepping Jeremy at his family home address pic.twitter.com/rvvUhZGLGM
Less than 3 years ago an MP was murdered. Yesterday we learned how close we came to another MP’s murder. The footage of soldiers using images of @jeremycorbyn for so-called “target practice” are disgusting, shocking and utterly unacceptable. MOD must investigate and act urgently
(Robert Peston, below, is one of those best-placed to answer his own question, as a member of the mass-media representatives who have been so instrumental in demonising Mr Corbyn, in accordance with the wishes of the Conservatives.)
The media must change. Corbyn and LAB have been demonised by the media since 2015. The media must own this. #BrokenMedia
Back in 2015, an unnamed general called for a de facto military coup against a hypothetical Corbyn government, and another general publicly spoke out against Corbyn, which I debated at the time here https://t.co/ZfBT9LSfwa
Obviously the Army must investigate this shocking video and the soliders involved. But if this is how they view the British leader of the opposition, there are wider concerns for how they view and, more importantly, treat, local Afghan people https://t.co/r9SdftMvkA
Sad to see ordinary, likely working class UK troops so seemingly brainwashed by UK media into hating someone who, perhaps more than any other politician, risked his political career by trying to stop UK troops being killed and maimed in unnecessary UK warshttps://t.co/KE6eETlKMb
Not only is the act abhorrent in itself; so are the words of the soldiers taking part:
Here's your most moral army: Leaked footage from Gaza border of Israeli sniper shooting a Palestinian in the head, then joyfully screaming afterwards: "Wow, what a clip! YES! Son of a bitch" https://t.co/n5pfYU6BVc
The current situation is that the IDF has said it will “investigate”:
An IDF soldier filmed himself shooting at unarmed Palestinian protesters on Gaza border this last Friday and then celebrating with his friends saying "Take that sons of bitches." The IDF has responded that it will investigate https://t.co/J3gGuYxf7j
Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Work and Pensions committee.
A commenter on yesterday’s article about the death of a claimant at Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre raised an important point.
The comment was intended to harshly criticise the piece by misrepresenting it as saying Job Centre staff are responsible for forming government policies. Of course they aren’t – but as human beings with responsibility for their own actions, they may certainly choose whether to carry out those policies. They have personal responsibility for what they do. This means they must also take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
The response to the commenter was that there is an advisor at Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre Plus whose decision led to the death of a claimant and that person must live with the fact for the rest of their life. It is possible they may have to pay a penalty for it (along with those who gave the orders), if some of us get what we want from a future government. If and when that happens, resigning may seem like a much better option.
But that won’t happen at all, if nobody investigates what happens.
Here’s a letter to Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, asking for that investigation. Perhaps readers of this article may wish to write to their own MP, asking them to support the request. The letter runs as follows:
A blog article of mine about the death of a claimant at Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre is gaining widespread attention. The person concerned – who happened to be homeless and to have mental health issues – had his benefits sanctioned by a Job Centre adviser. He then went out onto the streets where he died of hypothermia.
It seems unlikely that this person would have died if his benefits had not been removed. According to the originating article, Job Centre staff used the famous ‘Nuremberg Defence’ that they were “only following orders”.
Personally, I don’t think this is good enough. There is a Job Centre adviser at Ashton-Under-Lyne who is responsible for the death of a claimant – a person over whom they, together with the rest of the DWP and the Coalition Government, had a duty of care.
I think the situation needs to be investigated and the relevant people made to pay a penalty. Do you agree and will you be able to use your position on the Work and Pensions Committee to make this happen?
If DWP staff think they can get away with this, it will happen again and again. Who knows how often it has happened already?
Ashton-Under-Lyne Job Centre Plus: Yes, an image of David Cameron looking like a Nazi might have been more striking but the fact is that the evil work carried out in modern Britain takes place behind the most inconspicuous facades – like this.
I was stopped by a homeless chap who wanted to congratulate us on our hard work. He said that he hated this Job Centre. His friend who lived on the streets with him had been sanctioned after being taken off the sickness benefits that he was on and was put on Job seekers Allowance. He had severe mental health and addiction problems. He was sanctioned, and without warm clothes and very little food he fell asleep on the streets and never woke up. He died of hypothermia. People had passed him and thought that he was asleep. He didn’t stand a chance. And what do the Job Centre staff say? “We are only following orders.” Most don’t feel any guilt or remorse. And we know that this government doesn’t either.
Disrespectful: The laminated messages that were attached to the wreaths. David Cameron was the only political leader allowed to write a personal message by the Conservative-run Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
This is a new low for the Conservative Party.
Leaders of British political organisations laid wreaths at Glasgow’s cenotaph to mark 100 years since the beginning of the First World War – but only David Cameron was allowed to write a personal message.
Former Tory MP Louise Mensch showed exactly why she deserves to be out of Parliament by tweeting: “Really we need to ask where we are as a society, when politicians are so casual as ‘hand me the wreath’ without asking to write on it.”
And Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges brought his paper into disrepute by tweeting, without checking the facts: “Just seen the wreath. Ed Miliband is becoming a parody of Ed Miliband.”
Asked to explain Mr Miliband’s actions, a Labour spokesman told the BBC that his wreath – with a card stating only “From the Leader of the Opposition” – was handed to him by a representative of organisers the Department of Culture, Media and Sport only seconds before it was laid.
“Ed Miliband was not given the opportunity to write a personal message on the wreath,” he said.
Perhaps an even worse indignity was that into which Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was forced. His read “From the Deputy Prime Minister” and a Liberal Democrat source said the gap between Mr Clegg being handed the wreath and laying it had been “a 10-second thing”.
The BBC checked with the manufacturers of the wreaths – Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh, and was passed on to Poppy Scotland, whose spokeswoman said: “We were asked to send [the cards] to the DCMS and the wreaths were sent through to Glasgow in advance, but the blank cards to London.”
So what happened, in fact, was that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – which is run by the Conservative Sajid Javid – decided that the Conservative Prime Minister should be the only person allowed to write a personalised tribute. Every other political leader – including those of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland – had to lay wreaths with a laminated description of their job, so they could not even scribble something quickly in the few seconds available to them.
The tell-tale was the fact that all messages other than Cameron’s were written in the same handwriting.
Worse still is the fact that Cameron’s message wasn’t even appropriate. He had written “Your most enduring legacy is our liberty. We must never forget.” Very stirring, but it would be more appropriate to attribute that to those who died in the Second World War, rather than the First.
It was a silly tactic, easily exposed. David Cameron’s only logical move was to apologise for what happened, for the insult to his fellow political leaders and for the upset it has undoubtedly caused to all those who lost loved ones in the war and wanted them commemorated respectfully.
True to form, he showed he had a yellow streak instead. Our gutless Prime Minister had nothing to say.
Battlefield: Independence Square in Kiev after clashes on February 20. [Image: AFP]
It isn’t often that Vox Political discusses foreign affairs; this would usually involve mentioning that national disaster, William Hague. But we’ll make an exception in the case of Ukraine.
If you don’t know that thinly-disguised Russian soldiers have occupied the Crimea, which is currently Ukrainian, you’d probably have to be living in a hole in the desert.
Russia says this is entirely justified, but the position is not clear-cut.
It seems this crisis started after a pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, decided to abandon plans for co-operation with Europe in favour of allying his country more closely with Russia.
At the time, Ukraine was deeply in debt and facing bankruptcy, with £21 billion needed to get through the current financial year and 2015. The country cannot call on the same financial levers as the UK, meaning this is a serious issue. How fortunate, then, that Russia was on hand to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and reduce the price of Russian gas supplies by around one-third.
Gas. Ukraine produces around a quarter of its own supply and imports the rest from Russia and Asia, through pipelines that Russia controls. These pipelines continue into Europe, providing supplies to Western countries as well.
The alignment with Russia sparked huge popular protests which quickly escalated into violence. Even though Yanukovych gain office through an election that was judged free and fair by observers, it seems clear his pro-Russian policies do not have the support of the people. But Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, and most of its population are Russians.
Then on February 22, Yanukovych did a runner to Russia, from where – surprisingly – he has claimed he is still President of Ukraine. Politicians in Kiev thought differently and have named their own interim president until elections can take place in May. It is this action that sparked rival protests in Crimea, where people appear to support the previous, pro-Russian policies.
Troops, apparently in Russian uniforms, have appeared across the Crimea, besieging Ukrainian forces and effectively taking control. It has been suggested that Russian President Putin sent them in response to a request from Yanukovych, but Putin denies this. Crimea’s parliament has asked to join Russia.
There is also the matter of the Russian naval base on the Crimean Black Sea coast. This seems uncontroversial, though, as Ukraine had agreed to allow Russia to keep it.
To sum up:
It seems that most of Ukraine wants to keep Russia at arms’ length; but it must still find a way to pay back its debts.
It seems that most of Crimea wants to rejoin Russia. This will be tested in a referendum on March 16.
It seems that Western European countries like the UK are desperate to condemn Russia for interfering in Ukraine. Concerns were raised on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday that the referendum will be rigged, but we have no evidence to suggest that will happen – independent observers have reported that previous exercises of democracy have been free and fair.
It seems hypocritical of us to condemn Russia’s intervention in a place where that country’s citizens are threatened by violence. What did we do when the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982 – and have we not stood firm against threats to those islands ever since? Nor can we criticise Russia for invading a country on a flimsy pretext – Iraq springs to mind.
So what’s it all about?
It seems most likely that, because most of Western Europe’s supply of Russian gas comes through Ukraine, we are far more concerned about our energy supply than about local democracy in an eastern European country. The UK, along with France and Germany and no doubt many others, wants to ensure that this supply is not interrupted as this could seriously jeopardise our ability to generate power.
… And if that isn’t a powerful reason for this country to invest massively in renewable energy generation, it’s hard to find one. What possible advantage is there in putting ourselves at the mercy of another country – especially one that has been less than friendly to us in the past?
It seems the only reason the UK has for outrage is the possibility of violence. We know that military intervention in the affairs of another country doesn’t work; nobody can parachute in, effect regime change, and leave a stable democracy running smoothly behind them. We should have learned our lessons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Unfortunately, it seems that only a minority are willing to speak up and admit this – headed most visibly by Russia Today presenter Abby Martin, who delivered an impassioned denouncement of Russia’s involvement. “I will not sit here and apologise for or defend military action,” she said.
How does one mark the passing of Peter O’Toole, if not by watching Lawrence of Arabia? It was his first film role and, some say, his greatest.
I’m sure I cannot be the only one to have drawn comparisons between T.E. Lawrence, as played by the great O’Toole on the silver screen, and David Cameron – who behaved like a tool when he said of British forces in Afghanistan, “Misson accomplished”.
In the film, Lawrence is shunned by his colleagues in the British military because of his unconventional ways, but accepted by the Arabs – firstly because he is able to quote the Koran to them, secondly because he goes out of his way to accomplish feats that seem impossible (like rescuing one of his Arab friends from The Sun’s Anvil) in order to give them hope of military success, and thirdly because he achieves these things for their good, not his own.
David Cameron is a different matter. Unlike Lawrence, he is not an original thinker – or indeed any other kind of leader. He is a follower. British military policy in Afghanistan was not his policy, and he made no effort to take control of it. He has made no effort to understand the admittedly-complicated history and culture of a country that has rightly been described as “troubled”, although few people bother to remember that much of that trouble has been caused by invaders including the British. And if he has gone out of his way, it was to avoid actions of distinction. But he’s happy to take the credit for everything that has been done.
This is why, when Cameron said the mission in Afghanistan will have been accomplished by the time the last British troops leave in 2014, so many commentators jeered.
Cameron is currently saying that the mission was to build up security in Afghanistan, to ensure it cannot become a haven for terrorists again, after our forces leave. This might seem reasonable if it were not merely the latest in a long list of mission statements provided for Afghanistan over the incredible 12 years since we arrived there in 2001.
Others, according to The Guardian, include “removing Al Qaida’s bases, eradicating poppy cultivation, educating girls and helping forge a form of democracy”. While we cannot comment on the first of these, the others either failed abjectly or have become the subjects of fierce controversy. The government of Hamid Karzai has long been criticised as corrupt.
Cameron’s choice of words also creates an unhealthy comparison with Iraq, which fell into chaos for a considerable period after then-US President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” there.
Even the comedy Prime Minister’s attempt to put the soundbite across to the media seemed hesitant. “The purpose of our mission was always to build an Afghanistan and Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a basic level of security so this country never again became a haven for terrorist training camps,” he said.
“That has been the most important part of the mission… The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission and I think we will have accomplished that mission,” he added, unravelling completely by the end. He mentioned security three times, “haven for terror” twice, and the mission no less than six times!
And the experts disagreed. The British ambassador to Kabul from 2010-12, William Paytey, said: “Afghanistan has got a long way to go and it could be many decades before we see real peace there.”
A photofit picture of the real villain in Skyfall. Clearly my photo-manipulation skills are poor, but it gets the point across: Is this how the UK’s Prime Monster sees himself?
Sitting in the cafe yesterday, one of my companions turned to me and said, “You’ve seen Skyfall, haven’t you?”
“The latest Bond movie?”
“That’s the one. You know the sequence where Javier Bardem’s living like a feudal lord on an island that’s been cleared of everyone else, apart from him and his servants?”
“What about it?”
“Did you ever think, that could be a metaphor for what our government wants to do to this country?”
That couldn’t be right, could it?
It sounds crazy. But…
Just crazy enough to have a hint of possibility about it.
Consider this: The UK is currently being run by a gang of Eton posh boys who come from a social class that was known in Ireland as the Ascendancy. In fact, Gideon is a fully-fledged member of that exact group.
The Ascendancy was a minority of landowners, protestant clergy, and members of the professions – all of which are well-represented in the current UK Parliament – who dominated Ireland in political, economic and social terms between the 17th and 20th centuries.
It seems that clashes with the English meant that a large amount of Irish land had been confiscated by the Crown, then sold to people who were thought to be loyal, so English soldiers and traders became the new ruling class, whose richer members were elevated to the House of Lords and eventually controlled the Irish House of Commons.
Now look at what’s happening over here. Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts mean people are going to be forced out of their homes, particularly in the more expensive parts of our cities – and apparently there is a plan now to force the rest of us into using our homes as security to ensure we continue paying our taxes, in a move to extend homelessness into the middle classes.
Those homes wouldn’t go empty for long – they’d be bought up by anyone rich enough to afford it, in an estate-building programme.
Poor people, deprived of their benefits, homes, and ability to support themselves, might be left to survive as best they can in ghettoes filled with squalor and disease, until they are ready to do anything for an improvement in their living conditions. Then they’ll be hired to work on the new estates, servicing their new masters’ needs.
In other words, the UK would split into several ‘islands’, similar to the one occupied by Javier Bardem’s character in Skyfall. There would be a single ‘Lord of the Manor’ with all the power, his family, and their servants – and that’s all. Technological advancements would mean they would not need to support many of those servants – just enough to work the land and maintain the technology that would ensure their continued ‘Ascendancy’.
To my way of thinking, this would weaken the country to the point where it would be ripe for invasion by any foreign nutter with a gun – but then, this government is renewing Trident, isn’t it? And they’re definitely crazy enough to turn anywhere else into a glowing crater, just to keep themselves comfortable.
David Cameron, pictured in the Telegraph article: “I want to go on,” he says, neglecting to add, “harming the honest, the hard-working, the strivers and the tryers of the UK. I want to go on rewarding the tax-dodgers, the bankers, the exploiters and Parliamentary scroungers. I want to go on deceiving the easily-led into believing that my way is the only way, and duping my Coalition partners into supporting my extreme right-wing policies until I can sling them into the gutter in 2015”. Does that seem about right to you?
Apparently ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ doesn’t extend to people in certain professions.
According to a new analysis by The Children’s Society published in The Observer, almost half a million soldiers, teachers and nurses will lose hundreds of pounds every year when the Coalition’s latest benefit cut comes into force.
The cap of one per cent on benefit and tax credits upratings over the next three years means up to 40,000 soldiers will be worse-off: A second lieutenant in the army with three children, earning £470 a week and whose wife does not work will lose £552 per year.
Around 150,000 primary and nursery school teachers will lose out: A couple with two children where the sole earner is a primary school teacher earning £600 per week will lose £424.
But the majority of losers in the professions will be nurses – 300,000 of them. A lone-parent nurse with two children, earning the profession’s average of £530 per week, will lose £424 per year.
For a government that likes to state “We love the NHS”, the Coalition seems to really enjoy attacking nurses and trying to cover it up. By December 13 last year, 7,134 nursing posts had been lost since the Coalition came into power, 943 in the previous month alone. But when the issue was raised in Parliamentary debate, Health Secretary and gynaecological slang-term Jeremy Hunt did his level best to avoid giving a straight response. “The nurse to bed ratio has gone up. The average bed is getting an extra two hours of nursing care, per week, than under Labour.” That didn’t tell us how many nurses had lost their jobs. So we got: “The number of clinical staff in the NHS has gone up and not down. I don’t want to micro-manage every hospital in the country and tell them how many doctors and how many nurses.”
Perhaps there’s some deep-seated childhood trauma affected all the members of the Coalition government, that makes them want to persecute nurses and then try to cover it up? Whatever the case, I’m sure the facts would form the skeleton of a terrific little crime thriller.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that the government will be debating an increase of one per cent in benefits this year. With inflation at 2.7 or 3.2 per cent, depending on which system you use, that’s a real-terms cut of two per cent every year for the next three years.
I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that these figures were compiled by The Children’s Society, meaning they relate only to working parents. The one per cent cap on benefit rises will hit single working people as well – we just don’t have the figures for them yet.
The figures make a nonsense of Iain Duncan Smith’s increasingly desperate claims that his policy of cuts and persecution to achieve lower take-up of welfare benefits is fair.
The Tories have now alienated working people and those on benefits. Who’s next, do you think? I reckon pensioners had better prepare for the worst!
Remember last week, when he trotted out a roll of fabricated figures to make it seem that the tax credit system had run out of control under Labour (tax credits are among the benefits to be capped at one per cent)? It turns out that all his figures were wrong, with his claims about fraud – which stands at less than one per cent of total claims – spectacularly inaccurate.
How about the very next day, when he was dribbling about the relative percentage rises in Jobseekers’ Allowance and private sector salaries, claiming that the unemployed were getting a far better deal than workers – only to be rebuffed when we all checked how much this was in real money, found out that workers were still making far more (although not enough – remember many employers pay so little that people working full-time still have to claim state benefits, so that’s a subsidy for private companies, being paid out of our taxes). The amount paid in benefits as a proportion of average wages has stayed the same, as it should. The Work and Pensions Secretary is hell-bent on breaking that link in order to inflict real harm on Britain’s poorest.
Does anybody remember the Tory slogan “Broken Britain”? What they didn’t tell us was that they were the ones who wanted to break us!
And now David Cameron has told the Telegraph he wants to be Prime Minister for another full term, from 2015 to 2020. If he manages that feat, he will no doubt face pressure from some of his own cabinet members to inflict further harm on those receiving benefits.
For example, a group of 70 Tory MPs including Michael Gove and David Willetts have published an agenda of policies that one minister has already – according to the Torygraph – described as a “blueprint” for the party’s next general election manifesto.
It includes plans to lengthen the school day “to help working parents” – how do you like that, all you teachers who are losing benefits this year? You can rest assured that your pay won’t increase to cover the extra hours!
And it calls for benefits to be cut for people who live in the North, and other parts of the country where the cost of living is lower. They love regional pay, don’t they? And they WILL drive it through, no matter how much of the population oppose it!
For a representative selection of citizens’ opinions about this, I suggest you visit the MSN news site’s version of this story where (when I looked last night) the Comment column was unanimously opposed to Cameron continuing. That’s something like 20-odd pages of people demanding that he be ousted at the first opportunity.
It did my heart good to see that.
The sad truth is that none of the above will change the result of the debate and vote on benefits uprating, due to take place in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
As long as the Tories have the support of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, they have a majority and can vote through any ludicrous and harmful policies they please.
The only thing I can suggest is that you all email your MPs in advance of the debate and put pressure on them to do the right thing – or account for their decision if they vote with the government – especially if you live in the North, or in rural areas!
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