Tag Archives: spend

Look out! Defence funding boost means Johnson wants to start a war

Boris Johnson: all he wants to do is cause trouble.

Boris Johnson is up to no good.

“What’s new?” I hear you cry in one voice.

Fair point. But whereas recently he has focused his diabolical efforts on harming the population of the UK with an income of less than £80,000 a year, it seems he is now widening that focus.

He has announced plans to increase spending on defence by 10 per cent, even though his government simply doesn’t have the money.

It seems his answer to all the poverty and misery he has caused is “Let them eat bombs”.

His efforts to contain Covid-19 by giving billions of pounds to Tory crony companies that have provided very little in return have swelled the national deficit to the extent that his government has borrowed more even than Labour during the year of the great recession.

At that time, the Conservative Party that Johnson currently leads said that Gordon Brown’s New Labour had bankrupted the UK (a false claim; as a nation with its own currency it is impossible for the UK to be bankrupted), and won an election – in coalition with Nick Clegg’s turncoat Liberal Democrats – that has led to more than a decade of “austerity” cuts to government funding that helps people on low incomes.

(These have been bonanza years for the super-rich, though.)

All of Johnson’s words about the new funding boost are threatening.

A defence spending boost will ensure “the safety of the British people must come first”, Boris Johnson said.

Translation: “I intend to manufacture a crisis. Margaret Thatcher did it – and won an election that ensured the progression of her neoliberal project to increase poverty and uncertainty for working people and help the rich do whatever they want again, while also forcing Labour to become more right-wing and expel socialists.”

It will “end the era of retreat, transform our armed forces and bolster our global influence”, he said.

Translation: “I want to kill Johnny Foreigner.”

Johnson is probably hoping to ingratiate himself with new US President Joe Biden, if that leader decides to launch military expeditions over the four years of the term he has just won.

Such military adventures always lead to attempts at revenge attacks against the UK, and these have caused considerable injury and loss of life over the last 10 years. Johnson may consider this an acceptable risk when balanced against the economic activity created by attempts to prevent it.

Johnson may also be unconcerned at the harm he will do to the UK’s international reputation if he starts throwing his currently-negligible weight around internationally.

He has already ruined the UK’s reputation as a trading nation by announcing his contempt for international law with a Bill that would overthrow the terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

This is what happens when you give the most important job in the United Kingdom to an idler.

Johnson wants to make an impression on history and doesn’t care what it is. He probably hatched this lunacy while self-isolating in the Downing Street flat, thinking it a more profitable use of his time than… I don’t know… releasing the report on whether Priti Patel is a bully or not.

There is a saying that the Devil makes work for idle hands. It seems the Devil is now Boris Johnson’s drinking partner.

Source: Defence funding boost ‘extends British influence’ – BBC News

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Isn’t it his own influence – rather than public opinion – Johnson is spending a fortune on?

Spend, spend, spend: but Boris Johnson is ensuring that your money only pays his friend’s firms to provide polling that supports his activities, it seems.

It is good that someone is asking why Boris Johnson is spending £2 million this year on opinion polling – even if it is only Parliament’s toothless public accounts committee.

Critics have claimed the Tory – and his government – has been trying to understand public opinion in order to follow it, in order to gain our approval by doing so.

But isn’t it more likely that he is trying to use these polls to tell us what to think, rather than for us to tell him what to do?

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said almost as much in an attempt to justify the spend: “During this unprecedented pandemic it has been vital that people follow public health messages to save lives… This work has helped us to deliver communications campaigns to support the UK’s response.”

It’s about what the Tories communicate to us, you see – not what we tell them.

Oh, and it’s also about funnelling even more public money into the hands of the Tories’ friends, such as the research company linked to Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings that received a plum contract that was never offered on open tender (as would normally have been the case).

The excuse – that Downing Street used legally-sound emergency regulations that permit urgent Covid-related services to be quickly commissioned – was paper-thin at the start.

It disintegrated altogether when it was revealed that some of the work for which the euphemistically-titled People First received the £750,000 contract related to Brexit, not the virus.

Source: Spending watchdog to probe Tory contracts with polling companies worth at least £833,000 | The New European

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Tax and spend pledges show neither Johnson nor Hunt can be trusted with our money

Johnson and Hunt: I wanted to use the image someone mocked up of them as ‘Dumb and Dumber’ but I couldn’t find it.

Has the Tory leadership election degenerated into a contest about who can lie the most blatantly and get away with it?

If their tax-and-spend pledges are any yardstick, it has.

Jeremy Hunt wants to spend £20 billion from Brexit “war chest” that will only exist if the UK manages an exit deal with the EU – and that would only be available for a year. That’s not enough for permanent changes.

And Boris Johnson promised public sector pay rises that were coming anyway as the years-long Tory-imposed pay freeze finally comes to an end.

According to Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, both candidates were really saying that they are willing to borrow more money.

This means they are happy to continue racking up the highest national debt in the UK’s history – something for which the Conservatives used to blame Labour at every opportunity.

Labour, meanwhile, is having a great time mocking both candidates’ “reckless spending commitments”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party went to great lengths to disprove claims that its own spending plans were unfunded during the 2017 election campaign, when Theresa May proved unable to do the same.

Now it seems both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are unable to do their maths.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have been accused of misleading the public with “extraordinary” tax-and-spending pledges, as leading economists and senior Tories unite in criticism.

The two Tory leadership candidates came under fire after Mr Hunt unveiled a no-deal Brexit spending splurge worth almost £20bn – while a Johnson ally promised big public sector pay rises if the favourite wins.

The spending race provoked alarm from Conservatives, including Philip Hammond, the chancellor, and the former leadership contender Rory Stewart, who warned that such promises would make it impossible to attack Jeremy Corbyn for his “unfunded” pledges.

The head of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) went further, saying the two candidates were misleading voters in claiming they could dip into a £27bn “war chest”.

Paul Johnson pointed out it was a figure for one year only, so could not be used for permanent tax-and-spending changes – and it would not be available at all if the UK crashes out of the EU.

“There have been some extraordinary pledges – they add up into the tens of billions of pounds,” the IFS director said.

“They claim, somehow, that these will be paid for from this so-called Brexit war chest. Well, they are not going to be.

“First, that is only available in the event of no deal not happening. And, in any case, what they are just saying is they are willing to borrow more.”

Mr Hunt, as he set a new deadline of 30 September for a no deal becoming inevitable, pledged £6bn to compensate some industries from tariffs – claiming £1 trillion had been spent to bail out the banks.

But Mr Johnson said: “It is simply not true that, in any real sense, we spent £1 trillion bailing out the banks in the same way that he’s referring to potentially finding £6bn for the farmers and fishermen.”

And, on public-sector pay, he pointed out the freeze was over anyway – arguing the cash now being spent would be in jeopardy from a no-deal Brexit because “the economy will grow less quickly”.

Source: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt accused of duping the public with ‘extraordinary’ tax-and-spending pledges | The Independent

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Cameron’s global crash warning: He’ll do nothing about it

"Our long-term economic plan is working!" says Cameron - and the debt keeps rising.

“Our long-term economic plan is working!” says Cameron – and the debt keeps rising.

It’s more accurate to say he’ll do nothing right.

David Cameron is warning that another global financial crash is on the way. It’s an accurate warning – others have been forecasting it for a while but, seeing him saying it, didn’t you ask yourself who he’ll be blaming this time?

It can’t be Labour’s fault – Labour has been out of office for a few years and besides, Labour policies were sorting out the fallout left by the last right-wing-precipitated global financial catastrophe until the Tories lied their way into office and then twiddled their thumbs for four long years.

He reckons emerging markets that sustained the recovery (what recovery?) are slowing down but the British economy is growing and needs to be insulated from any crash. He says employment is up massively and new businesses are proliferating – but if you scratch the surface of that claim you’ll see that the number of hours worked is no higher than in 2010 and new businesses are being ‘run’ by people who are claiming tax credits as self-employed because then they won’t be hassled by the DWP while claiming JSA. There are new businesses, of course, but not nearly as many as Cameron wants you to believe.

Cameron’s article in The Guardian, if read properly, is comedy. It certainly isn’t to be taken seriously.

“When we faced similar problems in recent years, too many politicians offered easy answers, thinking we could spend, borrow and tax our way to prosperity,” he writes. Which politicians? Gordon Brown is the only Chancellor in recent history to manage a surplus, rather than a deficit; his policies brought the UK unexpected prosperity (which, unfortunately, led to the EU surcharge that has so badly embarrassed George Osborne); and his successor Alistair Darling introduced policies that knocked £38 billion off the deficit created by the right-wing bankers’ gambling binge.

Cameron must be referring to Conservative politicians in his own government.

Yes, look, here’s a bit where he writes: “It is more important than ever that we send a clear message to the world that Britain is not going to waver on dealing with its debts.” He could have cut that sentence down to read: “Britain is not dealing with its debts.” The national debt has more than doubled since the Conservatives started running the economy – from around £800 billion to £1.8 trillion by 2015, meaning George Osborne’s pitiful attempts to tackle the national deficit by cutting public services and selling off the country’s assets have achieved less than nothing.

“This stability is vital in attracting the business and international investment that delivers growth and jobs, and which keeps long-term interest rates low.” You couldn’t make this up. Interest rates are low because lenders know the UK has its own sovereign currency and will always be able to pay its debts, one way or another, even if it means printing more money (quantitative easing, anyone?) – remember when the UK’s triple-A credit rating went downriver despite all Osborne’s efforts to keep it? He claimed this meant the cost of borrowing would leap, but the effect has gone unnoticed.

There’s a lot more waffle and you can read it on The Guardian‘s site. It’s amazing a paper of its standing bothered to publish it.

For a more informed opinion, let’s go to Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK, pausing for a moment to wish him well in his recovery from recent surgery.

“His focus is instead on highlighting problems in Europe and on signing TTIP – the trade treaty that will require the privatisation of the NHS whatever he says now,” writes Mr Murphy – possibly from the recovery ward.

“This is a man who can see a crisis coming and who must know that his austerity programme can only make it worse (anyone but a fool can see taking money out of a failing economy, as he plans to do,  is bound to make it worse) but who is resolutely refusing to recognise the issues that will cause this next wave of economic collapse.

The wrong people have the money… The people who spend least of their incomes have had the biggest pay rises and are the only ones to enjoy effective tax decreases over the last few years. These people are the highest income earners in the UK.

“At the same time, cutting benefits for the poorest and increasing VAT (which together with deliberately enforced wage cuts have reduced the net disposable income of most people) and cutting taxes for the wealthiest, this has been the inevitable outcome. And we know this outcome has not happened by chance: this is deliberate.

“When there’s a shortage of spending in the economy to let the wealthiest get wealthier, [it] simply means that the imbalances within it get worse. And it’s imbalances that cause crises.

“Corporation tax cuts and reforms to our corporation tax system that means that multinational corporations based in the UK can, since 2010, find it much easier to make effective use of tax havens to cut their UK tax bills have also made the problem worse. I reckon these cuts are costing at least £10 billion a year. What these cuts do is transfer money that would have belonged to the state to companies in the hope that they will be encouraged to invest it as a result. But they aren’t doing any such thing.

“Companies are taking the tax cuts and banking them. They aren’t even giving them back to their owners. They’re just hoarding it. Like the wealthy (perhaps, unsurprisingly) large companies are simply sitting on their cash.

The tax gap is another indication of this. What really belongs to the government is in the hands of crooks and cheats, with massive economic consequences.

“What can be done? I’ve always pointed out that there are only four drivers of the economy: consumer spending, investment, net foreign flows and government spending.

  • “Investment is not happening; business will not do it: that’s why they havecash.
  • “Net foreign flows are broadly neutral: the trade deficit is dire but hot money still comes to the UK, although we cannot rely on that.
  • “Consumer spending is poor and may get worse: most people do not have the money.
  • “And that leaves the government to put matters right. It has to generate new economic activity.”

Mr Murphy proposes more quantitative easing – printing money and then investing it in a new, sustainable infrastructive (not the kind that Cameron is pushing); rebalancing tax by increasing taxes for those who can pay; and closing the tax gap.

You won’t see any of those under a Conservative government!

Get ready to batten down the hatches for another round of financial catastrophe, and this time, be prepared to put the blame where it really belongs – on Conservative politicians whose supposed reputation for financial competence is a myth and who should never have been allowed near the national economy.

And remember where the blame lies when you vote next May.

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BBC propagandists are busted again over NHS claims

The BBC is sticking to its guns over a report that falsely claimed the Coalition government has increased spending on the NHS during each year it has been in office.

In its article on Harry Leslie Smith’s extraordinary speech to the Labour Party conference, the BBC News website desecrated his words by claiming: “The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties are committed to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.”

Fellow blogger Tom Pride leapt to the attack, pointing out that the BBC had copied comments made by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and presented them as facts –

bbc-hunt-quotes1

– when in fact they weren’t.

Vox Political then stepped into the fray, and Yr Obdt Srvt wrote a sternly-worded complaint to the Corporation, together with an article about the issue which appeared on this site.

The BBC has now responded and is trying to wheedle its way out of trouble. Here’s the email:

Thank you for getting in touch about our report.

We stated that:

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties are committed to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

This is an accurate reflection of events as both parties did commit in the 2010 coalition agreement to pursue the original goals of the NHS.

However, because some readers were misinterpreting this to suggest the word “committed” represented an assertion by the BBC, the wording has been changed to say:

The Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government has increased NHS spending each year during the current Parliament and both parties committed in 2010 to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

Not good enough, BBC!

This response makes no reference at all to the most glaring error in the article – the claim that the Coalition has increased spending on the NHS.

Look at this table, from the UK Statistics Authority’s monitoring review paper, Real Terms Estimates for Health Expenditure in England over the Spending Review Period, 2010-11 to 2014-15. It shows known spending, according to the most up-to-date statistics available at the time (June 19 last year), along with estimates for the remainder of the current Parliament.

nhsspending

Did you notice the rows relating to changes in spending are all minus figures – meaning spending was less than intended? In those years when spending was known, it was less than for the 2009-10 financial year (when Labour was in office) meaning it is impossible for the BBC to claim that “the Coalition government has increased spending each year during the current Parliament” without revealing itself as a Coalition government propaganda organisation.

Claims that these spending figures relate only to England cannot invalidate them as the Coalition has limited the amount it provides to other countries in the UK. Funding for Wales, for example, has fallen by an average of 2.5 per cent per year, in real terms, between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The BBC News website has even run a story on this subject.

As for “both parties committed in 2010 to the founding values of the NHS that no-one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care“, take a look at this Daily Mail article, detailing the predicament of a gentleman who has been forced to pay £450 per month because his local Clinical Commissioning Group (brought into being by the Coalition government) would not provide him with a drug that is available free on the NHS elsewhere in England. Ironically, the cash-starved NHS in Wales is reported to have agreed to provide the drug.

Admittedly, the Daily Mail is always going to be a dodgy source of material, what with its long and well-deserved record of inaccuracy, but there are plenty of similar stories in the mainstream media.

So now we have a situation in which the BBC has lied to the public and, after the lies were pointed out, has tried to duck responsibility with more lies and evasion.

Faced with this kind of behaviour, there’s only one thing to do – publicise the transgression and demand a full public apology and correction.

Rest assured, you will read the next chapter of this story just as soon as the BBC responds. In the meantime, please share this article.

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Who will (unofficially) sponsor David Cameron’s next Prime Ministerial statements?

130819lobbying

Tobacco, fracking or private health companies seem the most likely choices.

The Conservative-led Coalition has become an excellent practitioner of bait-and-switch fraud, it seems. First it ‘baits’ the general public by promising a new law, reforming part of society that is seen to have fallen below the standards expected here in the UK. Then it ‘switches’ the legislation into something else entirely.

So it is with plans for a new law to end lobbying scandals. It won’t do anything of the sort. In fact, it is likely to lessen the legal burdens on lobbyists.

However, it will impose onerous new burdens on trade unions and charities, in what the Trade Union Congress has described as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”.

(This is not to say that the TUC believes the UK government is similar to an authoritarian dictatorship. View it instead as the TUC saying this is what the UK government has become under the Coalition)

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill apparently features a new, looser definition of ‘campaigning’ that risks including all activities that could be seen as critical of the government of the day – and if any government was likely to crack down on such activities, on any day, it’s this one!

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said this was not the aim, and that the plan was to ensure lobbyists’ allegiances are known, ascertain how much money is spent on third-party political campaigning and ensure trade unions know who their members are. His words may have been sponsored by CTF Partners (look them up).

The proposals are likely to introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, but only firms which say it is their main business need register, only firms which meet ministers and senior civil servants need declare whom they represent, and in-house lobbyists are also exempt – so, from 988 meetings between the Department for Business and lobbyists in 2012, only two were with consultant lobbyists who would have had to declare the meetings under the new law.

An Independent article stated that the plans lack credibility and are regarded as “a bad joke” inside the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry – so much so that the chairman of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recalled its members before the end of the summer recess, to hold evidence sessions on what he has described as a “dog’s breakfast”.

Graham Allen MP (Labour) told the paper, “This flawed legislation will mean we’ll all be back in a year facing another scandal.”

And lobbyists themselves said the industry could gain nothing from flawed legislation. Iain Anderson, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and director of the lobbying company Cicero, said: “This law will only undermine public confidence.”

The planned legislation would also set a cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend during elections, and would end self-certification of union membership numbers for all but the smallest unions, with records checked by an independent officer.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the BBC article that “this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. Instead it is a crude and politically partisan attack on trade unions, particularly those who affiliate to the Labour Party”. Bait-and-switch, see?

But she said the plan was much worse than that: “Its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election. No organisation that criticises a government policy will be able to overdraw their limited ration of dissent without fearing a visit from the police.”

Mr Cameron, now revealed as a corporate mouthpiece after his U-turn on plans for plain packaging on cigarettes (his election strategist Lynton Crosby also works for a major tobacco corporation), his support for fracking (several leading Tories stand to benefit if the process becomes widespread) and his government’s privatisation of the National Health Service, amazingly promised to crack down on lobbying in the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats after he, himself, described it as the “next big political scandal”.

If fears are borne out, the new law would have a direct effect on Vox Political and blogs like it. Rest assured that VP will continue criticising government policy and demanding better from the opposition.

They can’t say we overspend – we don’t have any budget at all.

My e-petition calling for MPs to be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest is here, and is nearly at the point where a reply will be required from the relevant government department. Please support it with your signature, if you haven’t already done so.

Sad to see this Tory candidate has not learnt from the last letter I wrote about him

Tory Parliamentary candidate Chris Davies: In his letter he accuses local Labour members of "acting as disciples of their London hierarchy" - and then regurgitates as much of the drivel handed down to him by his own Westminster masters as he can manage.

Remember Chris Davies? The Tory candidate I shot down in the letters page of the local press because he was parroting the lies of Iain Duncan Smith and Grant Shapps at the population of my constituency as though they were the Gospels and he was God’s Own Messenger?

Well, he came back for more.

“Please allow me the opportunity to respond to the letter from the Labour Party’s Llandrindod branch chairman, Mike Sivier,” he writes. I’m not the branch chairman – just the secretary. Believe me, this is not the biggest mistake he makes!

“He obviously exists in the deluded fantasy world of the Labour Party, a party that has failed to learn the lesson from the last period in government and still actively promotes state dependency over individual responsibility and work.” He’ll contradict himself a few paragraphs down, but I wondered what he meant by that – “still actively promotes state dependency over individual responsibility and work”. I can’t say I do that. I actively promote work that benefits all those who carry it out – look at my article about the Liberal Democrat employee-ownership idea. I campaign against zero-hours contracts, Workfare/the Work Programme, and other practices that exploit the worker in order to make a big profit for bosses while they sit back and do nothing (the lazy scroungers!). I campaign against forcing people into work that is inequitable, and recalling that Cllr Davies’ original letter was about benefits, I include forcing the sick and disabled to seek work in that category. So if he is criticising me for actively promoting fairness and equitable employment practices over his party’s exploitation, then I stand guilty as charged. But I believe this reveals something about himself he would rather keep hidden.

“This is the same Labour Party which, despite bringing this country to the brink of bankruptcy,” – this is impossible – “still has the audacity to deny spending too much whilst they were in government,” – Labour didn’t – “and is still calling for even more borrowing and spending.” Labour isn’t.

“The last Labour government allowed the welfare budget to soar by 60 per cent in a decade.” It’s more like 40 per cent, and if you think that doesn’t excuse Labour, wait until you see my proof that social security spending has never been under control for any sustained period since the modern welfare state began, with the exception being between 2001-7, during the last Labour government! “They allowed housing benefit alone to increase by 100 per cent to £21 billion! The cynical among us say they did this to simply buy the votes of benefit claimants. Whatever the reason, the benefit system inherited by the Conservative-led coalition government was horrendously bloated, disgracefully unfair and heavily defrauded.” Wrong again. Welfare reforms since 1996 have unpicked around 30 per cent of the dependency that built up during previous Conservative governments, and the long-term pattern of social security spending relative to GDP had been falling since the year 2000. It was only the recession engineered by the Tories’ friends, the bankers, that pushed spending upwards – and Cllr Davies won’t blame Labour for a problem created by bankers, surely? (I’m being sarcastic. Of course he will. Every other Tory seems to).

“Benefit fraud totals £1.2 billion a year. You could build a lot of hospitals for £1.2 billion.” This is something that another Tory councillor wrote in a letter to a different paper. My response was: The claim that money saved will be used on hospitals and schools is fantasy. The aim of the cuts is to shrink the state – reducing the amount provided for vital public services. It was never the intention to redistribute savings to hospitals. In fact, David Cameron himself has been rebuked for lying when he said the Coalition was putting extra money into the NHS – funding dropped by nearly £1 billion between 2010 and 2012.

“Yet despite these facts,” WHAT FACTS? “Mr Sivier and his socialist comrades in the Labour Party are still opposing reform of the welfare system.” Absolutely untrue! The system now needs reform more than ever before – to eradicate forever the changes made by Iain Duncan Smith and his Tory-boy friends, and remove the bloodstains from its character, caused by the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent people whose only crime was to have fallen ill or become disabled.

“What is so sad is Labour’s inability to see how their reign over the welfare system proved so disastrous for hardworking families, the most financially disadvantaged and the most vulnerable members of our society.” I don’t see that – but then, this is because it didn’t happen.

“We now have a generation of people trapped in welfare dependency.” That’s an Iain Duncan Smith lie. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation stated that this claim has no basis in fact. “We have widespread abuse of the benefits system.” IDS lies again. Benefit fraud stands at 0.7 per cent of the total number of claims. Widespread. HA ha-ha! “We have people travelling from the other side of the world to exploit the UK’s ‘generous’ benefits.” Yet another Iain Duncan Smith lie! Channel 4 News Factcheck looked for the figures, but when they asked HM Revenue and Customs for them, the response was that the tax credit system does not record nationalities of claimants, and HMRC doesn’t have the figures! No basis, therefore, in fact. “Who picks up the bill for all this?” All what? “As always it is the UK’s hardworking families who have to pay for Labour’s incompetence.” Except they’re not. They’re paying for the BANKERS‘ incompetence (see my reference to the bank crisis, earlier).

“I am more than happy to discuss our welfare reforms every week for the next two years if Labour really wants to.” That’s good because it’s exactly what’s going to happen! “They are on the wrong side of the argument on this issue and on the wrong side of public opinion.” If he has to tell newspaper readers that Labour is on the wrong side, he’s already lost the argument. As for public opinion, we know the national media are owned by right-wing press barons who push the Tory side of the stories.

“I might just add that in the last fortnight, it seems that Labour has started to realise the electoral folly of their opposition to welfare reform and is beginning to perform some screeching u-turns. Despite months of howling protests from Labour, their party leader has now said that should they get into government, they will NOT reverse any of the coalition’s spending cuts, including those on welfare!

“It would seem that Labour high command failed to inform Mr Sivier of that policy change.”

Readers of this blog will know that I’m well aware of that issue – and will also know exactly what I think of it!

Here’s my response – going out to the paper today:

Chris Davies seems to have his ideas back to front. At first he tells us I’m the epitome of current Labour thinking, but by the end of his latest missive, I’m out of touch with Labour’s “high command”, whatever that is. The truth is that I am lucky enough to be a member of a party that does not require its members to be mindless drones, parroting the latest approved message from above – like the nonsense that has been handed down to Cllr Davies from Tory Party head office.

There are so many lies in his letter that it is hard to know where to start, so I’ll concentrate on the heart of the matter: Social security reforms and Labour’s record. I have already quoted some figures to Mr Davies but he clearly doesn’t want to take my word for it. Perhaps he’ll accept that of Bristol University Professor Paul Gregg instead (I have no idea what Prof Gregg’s political leanings are).

In his 2010 paper, ‘Radical Welfare Reform’ http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/publications/bulletin/winter10/gregg.pdf he stated: “The number of welfare claims has actually declined, given the state of the economic cycle… welfare reforms since 1996 [under Labour] have unpicked about 30 per cent of the build-up of excessive welfare dependence after 1979 [under the Conservatives].”

Professor Gregg continues: “In terms of worklessness leading to reliance on welfare, the picture is not of a broken system. Rather it is of a system that has been steadily improving since 1995 but masked by the current recession… Welfare growth has never been under control for any sustained period since the modern welfare state began, with the exception only of the six years from 2001-2 to 2007-8 [under Labour]”.

He is saying that the last Labour government is in fact the ONLY government to have got social security spending under control since the Welfare State was introduced. The graph accompanying his paper shows this to devastating effect, with spending under the Conservative governments of Thatcher and Major increasing by up to 80 per cent in a single year!

In short Professor Gregg finds Labour’s record good – and the Tories’ record appalling. As for Cllr Davies’ other assertions, may I direct readers to my article on the Internet, where they should find responses to most, if not all, of them. In brief: The UK, as a sovereign country with its own currency, cannot be brought to bankruptcy. It didn’t spend too much in government until the Tories’ friends, the bankers, engineered the crisis and recession that caused all our current woes. It is not calling for more borrowing and spending. The benefit system was neither bloated nor unfair, and certainly was not heavily defrauded – unless you consider a 0.7 per cent total fraud rate to be excessive. No hospitals will ever be built from benefit savings under a Conservative government and the suggestion that they could is nothing but a lie. We do not have intergenerational welfare dependency. We do not have widespread abuse of the benefit system. We do not have foreigners travelling here for so-called ‘benefit tourism’.

Labour does not oppose reform to the welfare system – it simply opposes Conservative changes that are intended to cause harm.

If Cllr Davies is determined to continue making a fool of himself, every few weeks for the next two years, I’m quite happy to take him up on it. Perhaps he should bear in mind that, with the Internet, we are all perfectly able to check his so-called “facts” for ourselves.

And where is his apology for repeating IDS’ and Grant Shapps’ statistical claims about DWP benefits? Those claims have now been proved, beyond any doubt, false.

Elections: Labour discusses how to help Britain while other parties fight among themselves

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Say what you like about Ed Miliband, at least he hasn’t descended into the morass of smears, accusations and counter-accusations that typify the Tory and Liberal Democrat election campaigns.

Labour’s approach seems to be focused on the national situation, rather than local areas – perhaps Mr Miliband is leaving local campaigning to local representatives, who know exactly what they’re talking about. Good policy.

By concentrating on the overarching issues – especially ahead of next week’s launch of the Coalition’s future legislative programme – he’s telling the country what Labour stands for, right now: Action on jobs, tax, housing and training, and cutting household bills.

I don’t know about you but I’m in favour of all of that.

Labour would provide a jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed. People out of work would be obliged to take up those jobs (which might seem draconian, but remember, these people have been out of work for a long time and their pay would be more than the benefits they receive) and the £1 billion costs would be funded by reversing the government’s decision to stop tax relief on pension contributions for people earning over £150,000 being limited to 20 per cent.

Labour would re-introduce the 10p tax band and cut VAT temporarily, freeing up the money supply to pump much-needed life into the national economy. Mr Miliband said the Coalition’s attempt at trickle-down economics was failing badly, and he was right – trickle-down is a proven falsehood.

And Labour would cut energy bills and crack down on rogue landlords, putting more cash in the wallets of the people who actually spend their money.

Of course, the Conservatives reacted predictably by complaining that the plans mean more spending, borrowing and debt – completely overlooking the fact that their own policies have increased borrowing by £245 billion since 2010.

The World At One’s Martha Kearney tried to tackle Mr Miliband about this, but ended up making herself look a little foolish. While Miliband patiently tried to explain that investment now would bring growth in the medium term, cutting future borrowing, she seem to expect him to wave a magic wand – a Mili-wand, if you like – and fix the borrowing issue immediately.

Of course that isn’t possible – but it’s a far better alternative to the failed austerity programme. The statistics in the image (above) indicate clearly how disastrous austerity can be for a country, and of course Gideon Osborne’s main evidence to support this course was disproved a couple of weeks ago (I’m still waiting for you to bring forward other documentary evidence in favour of austerity, by the way, George).

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have climbed onto the Tory ‘negative campaigning’ bandwagon and decided that their best hope of winning votes is to attack the other parties. It’s a common Lib Dem ploy.

So the Conservatives have abandoned compassion, and Labour is now a party of protest, according to Nick Clegg (who was clearly taking notes when Mr Miliband met former Labour leader Tony Blair).

What a shame he didn’t pay attention to what Mr Miliband was saying. It’s ridiculous to suggest Labour is “offering anger rather than hope” when Labour has been telling everyone exactly how it would return hope to Britain’s blighted economy.

Mr Clegg claimed that both Labour and the Conservatives were retreating to political extremes, and urged voters to vote for his party instead – conveniently forgetting that the Liberal Democrats in Parliament are currently an enthusiastic part of the most extreme right-wing government the UK has had in generations.

What’s even more amazing is that he followed up this character assassination of his political rivals by saying that, in the event of another hung Parliament in 2015, he would gladly go into coalition with either of the other parties.

He said the Lib Dems would “do our duty to the country”.

Considering your track record to date, Nick, it seems unlikely that ‘duty’ has ever been your motivation.

Have the Tories stuck their heads in the sand – or somewhere else the sun doesn’t shine?

Get your coat, Gideon! If only this photo was showing Mr Osborne departing from politics forever. If he did that, not only do I think the credit ratings agencies would drop any plans to slash the UK's triple-A rating, we might see an immediate economic upturn as confidence starts to return to British industry!

Get your coat, Gideon! If only this photo was showing Mr Osborne departing from politics forever. If he did that, not only do I think the credit ratings agencies would drop any plans to slash the UK’s triple-A rating, we might see an immediate economic upturn as confidence starts to return to British industry!

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you can always count on Tories to come up with an idea so hare-brained it makes you wonder whether they belong to the same species as the rest of us, or to some bizarre, inbred offshoot of humanity where evolution gave up on them after realising their logic runs backwards in comparison to everybody else.

If you’re wondering what has provoked this rare torrent of invective from my normally mild-mannered keyboard, I’ll tell you:

I was wandering through internet news coverage of yesterday’s events, partly in search of something to write about, partly out of interest in what other commentators had to say about the latest economic downturn (the latest? Have we become so casual about it, so quickly?), but mostly out of a desperate need to find an observation about the situation that hadn’t already been thrashed out in front of Joe and Jane Public a thousand times already.

It was disappointing work and I was starting to give up hope. Mostly I was reading that Gideon was “under pressure” to change his cuts agenda (heard it before!); that he told everyone to get stuffed (again!); that he wants further spending cuts to come into play during 2015-16 (boring! But also psychotic!); that Nick (We’re Sorry) Clegg has admitted cuts in capital spending early in this Parliament were a mistake – but he isn’t going to do anything about it (windbag!); that Boris (Zipwire) Johnson (windbag! Oh– sorry, I got carried away there; forgot I hadn’t actually mentioned what he’d done) has tried to show what a man of the people he is by saying there’s huge potential in the UK, if people are given a feeling of confidence – and then blew it all by talking about a “hair-shirt, Stafford Cripps agenda”. Cripps was a Labour chancellor under Clement Attlee, who tried to use taxes and rationing to control economic growth. I’m a Labour Party member and I didn’t know that, so what chance anybody else has, I don’t know. I do know that, by using that reference, Boris stuck his foot right in his mouth (windbag! No – wind-zeppelin!); and that David (Flashman) Cameron wants to be the Prime Minister who secured Britain’s place in a newly-democratic European Union, or some such nonsense, showing yet again that he is completely divorced from the reality faced by you and me every day.

Then I read this, in a Guardian article:

“Osborne is also under pressure from rightwing thinktanks which want him to offer tax cuts to boost consumer spending, with money taken from departmental efficiency savings and deeper welfare cuts.”

Interesting!

– but only because it’s so whacko-Jacko that it could only come from a right-wing think-tank.

Tax cuts to boost consumer spending? Firstly, if you’re thinking that means a cut to the base rate of income tax, please get a grip. They mean more tax cuts for the richest in society – the people who actually have all the money.

(There’s loads of it around, by the way. Oodles and boodles of the stuff. It’s sitting in banks, in tax havens all around the world and also in the Channel Islands. It has to go somewhere, and it’s been going to the rich. That’s what Conservative policy does, whether the Liberal Democrats are hanging on the coat-tails or not.)

The most obvious problem with that is, the richest in society don’t actually need tax cuts to put more money into society. They can pay their way perfectly well as matters stand. Consumer spending won’t budge if they get another fat rebate (remember, the top rate of Income Tax is already dropping by a fat five per cent, and Corporation Tax has plummeted by a quarter since the Tory rabble got into the Treasury).

Behind that is a worse problem – that it implies less money will go into the Treasury, to be spent on public services. As a result, those services will suffer. Starve something and it will wither and die. You can check the truth of that by depriving a plant of water. Before you know it, you’ll have a dried-up stem where your beloved dahlia used to be, and nobody to blame but yourself.

If idiots like George 0sborne do that to public spending, we’ll only have ourselves to blame, because we’re the ones who gave the Tories enough of the vote to allow them to Con their way back into power (collectively, I mean. I didn’t vote for them and I don’t think I know anybody who’ll admit that they did). What will we end up with? A withered economy; shrivelled-up and useless.

But no! They say the tax cuts should be funded with money taken from departmental efficiency savings and deeper welfare (I prefer “social security”) cuts.

Clearly it has skipped their notice that 0sborne has been having a hard time finding efficiency savings within government departments – they were, in fact, pretty much down to the bone when he turned up at Number 11 (if we’re to believe certain commentators, anyway) – so the bulk of the bill will end up being paid from the social security budget.

In other words, it’s yet another attack on the poor.

They clearly haven’t realised – even yet! – that it’s the poor who have been paying for their good times, ever since the Coalition got into power back in 2010. They’ve been propping up their useless economic model with money taken from the most vulnerable of us – in fact, particularly targeting the most vulnerable, presumably in the hope that they will die off before anyone important wakes up enough to realise what’s going on and stand up for them. Sadly, it’s a policy that has worked, so far, thanks to copious support from the right-wing media, who’ve managed to persuade many of the poorer sectors of society that turkeys should, in fact, vote to support Christmas.

It’s mad.

Almost as mad as having a slap-up meal in a swish place like Davos, the day before figures are published showing that the economy you’ve designed has tanked. Again.