Tag Archives: student fee

How can we force politicians to do what they say?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?

We need to talk about the culture of deception that is festering at the heart of the British political classes.

Every party is guilty of this to some degree – all of them. They have all made promises to the electorate and then, once in positions of power, they have done exactly whatever else they wanted.

On Tuesday, Patrick Mercer resigned as an MP rather than face suspension from the House of Commons over allegations that, rather than carrying out the will of his constituents, he had corruptly set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to life Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, after having been offered money to do so by undercover reporters.

His resignation came 11 months after he resigned from the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and this decision was made in the knowledge that a TV documentary was about to present the allegations to the country. Would he have taken these actions otherwise? It’s highly doubtful. Nobody resigns when they think they got away with it.

Nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that this allegedly corrupt MP managed to keep his seat in the Commons for 11 months after the allegations came out – that’s nearly one-fifth of a Parliamentary term when he was still drawing his taxpayer-funded salary. Is that reasonable?

Mercer is, of course, just one individual case. In the lifetime of this Parliament we have seen entire Parliamentary political parties turn on their electors in betrayal. It is to be hoped that nobody has forgotten Labour’s betrayal of the unemployed when it failed to oppose the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that retrospectively imposed penalties on people who refuse to take part in state-sponsored ‘slave labour’ schemes.

Labour’s front bench claimed it had negotiated important concessions, including an inquiry into the effectiveness of mandatory work activity – and when is that due to report? Around 30 Labour MPs are still entitled to hold their heads high, because they rebelled and voted against the legislation in any case.

Far worse is the behaviour of the Conservative Party, who promised that the National Health Service would be safe under a Tory government and then set in motion the wholesale upheaval that we have witnessed over the past few years, with funding squandered on reorganisation and privatisation of services that is intended to lead to the abolition of the publicly-funded health service in a few years’ time.

Pensions are going the same way; the Workplace Pension discourages employers from participation, meaning they are trying to push their workforces into taking up private schemes instead. Meanwhile the state pension has been ‘simplified’ in a way that means people have to work longer before receiving it. The intention is, eventually, to privatise pension provision altogether and ensure only those on higher pay can afford them.

And the Tories are busy abolishing the rest of the welfare state as well. The harsh regime of sanctions and slave-labour schemes run by the Department for Work and Pensions is intended to soften up the workforce – and potential workforce – for the introduction of privately-run schemes, into which you will be expected to pay to insure against the possibility of becoming jobless – the policies would provide your income during any such period (as long as you didn’t stay out of work for very long) instead of the government.

The problem with such proposals is that, if they are run along the same lines as certain health insurance schemes, they would be scams – as the conditions would be rigged to ensure that the companies running them never had to pay out. This is what we have learned from the fact that the criminal Unum Corporation has been advising the DWP on its policies.

And then, worst of all, we have the so-called Liberal Democrats, who promised to eradicate student fees in the run-up to the 2010 election and betrayed that pledge two months before the poll took place, in a backroom power-sharing deal with the Conservative Party.

The same organisation has gone on to support the Conservatives every step of the way to dismantling the welfare state and reducing the vast majority of the UK’s workforce to conditions we have not seen since the early 20th century at the latest.

Many of us have been dismayed at this apparent betrayal by an organisation that we all hoped would have put a brake on the more excessive Tory policies, but VP Facebook commenter John Elwyn Kimber has cast illumination on the reasons we were mistaken.

“19th-century Whiggery, ‘Orange’ or ‘Manchester’ Liberalism, call it what you like, was about the unfettered power of new money – hence identical to modern ‘Toryism’,” he wrote.

“Just as Eisenhower was the last civilised Republican president, traditional patrician Downton-Abbey-style Conservatism of the more socially-responsible sort finally departed British politics after the MacMillan government. Even the sitting-on-the-fence Heathites, the ‘Tory Wets’, were gleefully kicked out of the cabinet by Margaret Thatcher after the ‘Falklands election’ in 1983, with the exception of Whitelaw who was retained [though sidelined] as a sort of sop to the traditionalists.

“Since when, the political consensus has been for whiggery-pokery all the way up till now. So while the understanding of ‘Liberal’ by Lib Dem grass roots voters is a mid-twentieth-century one, all about tolerance and socially-progressive policies, it seems obvious that Clegg’s cabinet are only too happy to be rabid whigs nuzzled up to another lot of rabid whigs – the only difference is in the mood-music provided for the grass roots in each case.”

The message is that we were all deceived – again.

The problem is that there is almost nothing we can do about it that doesn’t take a lot of time – a commodity that is in short supply.

Historically, the UK does not carry a box on the ballot paper marked “None of the above”. This means there is no direct democratic way of refusing all the candidates for election to a particular constituency and demand better. Nor is there ever likely to be, because our corrupt politicians know that would be equivalent to turkeys voting for Christmas.

Alternatively, we can form new political parties and try to beat the corrupt old parties at their own game. The problem with this is one of traction; it takes new parties many years to gain enough recognition to become a serious force. UKIP is only beginning to gain such recognition now, after more than 20 years – and this is as a protest party against membership of the European Union. If that party’s supporters took a look at its other policies, they’d desert en masse.

Another possibility is similarly time-consuming: You actually join one of the main political parties and try to effect change from within. The problem here is that you would be fighting established members every step of the way. It has been done effectively in the past, though – look at the way Labour was transformed into New Labour by the influence of a few neoliberal infiltrators, and consider the damage that has done to the party’s reputation and effectiveness.

The worst option is the most popular: You do nothing. This is, of course, the wide and easy path to disaster – but so many people are feeling disaffected because of the barriers that the corrupt political classes have put up against democracy, that they honestly can’t see the point of voting.

This of course means our government will be elected by an ever-diminishing group of electors, and makes it all the more possible for our ever-more-elite group of corrupt politicians to argue for those who don’t vote to lose the right to take part in elections. You will be disenfranchised.

Then you really will have no power to change anything at all.

Is that what you want?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Clegg’s pledges – what are they worth?

[Image: The Independent]

[Image: The Independent]

We laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true.

Vox Political reader Simon Kirk pointed out this little gem from comedian Mark Steel, writing in The Independent.

At a time when the Liberal Democrats are desperately trying to claw back some credibility, he make the excellent point that, after the betrayals of the last few years, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to believe anything Nick Clegg and his yellow friends say in the future.

Worse still, there is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement before the May 2010 election – the document mentioned in The Guardian‘s article is dated March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of the agreement.

In other words, Clegg campaigned for two months ahead of the election with a promise that he knew he was going to break. Apparently you can get the full details in a book entitled Five Days To Power by Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading East.

The article states: “George Osborne, who had long feared the Tories would struggle to win an overall parliamentary majority, persuaded David Cameron to allow him to form the Tories’ own secret coalition negotiating team two weeks before the election. The Tory leader demanded total secrecy and asked only to be given the barest details for fear that he would blurt it out ‘unplanned in an interview’.” (Thanks go to Vox Political commenter ‘Florence’ for these details)

With hindsight, we know that Cameron had other matters he needed to keep secret, such as the fact that he was claiming he would protect the public National Health Service, when in fact his colleague Andrew Lansley had been working on a plan to privatise it for many years. Lansley had also been sworn to secrecy.

So both Coalition parties have a proven track record of dishonesty in the run-up to the 2010 election and there is no reason to believe the Liberal Democrats have changed now. In fact, as Mark Steel points out, Clegg has even gone on record, saying “we have to be grown-up” to excuse himself.

In response, Mr Steel asserts: “If the grown-up way is to ignore everything you said to get elected, why bother having an election campaign at all? For the televised debates at the next election, Clegg might as well bring in a guinea-pig, and when he’s asked about his plans for defence, he can ask David Dimbleby, “Would you like to stroke Oscar?”

Other possible campaigning choices listed in the article include “learning to play the piccolo or building a canoe” because “it’s like a junkie telling you how this time the £200 he wants off you really will be paid back on Thursday. The carefully costed details don’t determine your decision so much as how last week he robbed your kids’ teddies and sold them for £12”.

So much for the Liberal Democrats. If you ever feel close to being persuaded by their arguments, just have another look at Mark Steel’s article to refresh your memory.

Nowadays, a laugh is the only thing they’re good for.

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Death of democracy is confirmed as Cameron ignores the will of Parliament

The not-so-great dictator: It seems David Cameron's government is now ignoring all attempts to hold it to account.

The not-so-great dictator: It seems David Cameron’s government is now ignoring all attempts to hold it to account.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United Kingdom, your plight is worsening: The government now no longer pays any attention to the decisions of your Parliamentarians.

You’ll remember that a debate was held on Monday, in which MPs called for an inquiry into the effect of changes to the benefit system – introduced by the Conservative-led Coalition government – on the incidence of poverty in this country; the question was whether poverty was increasing as a result of the so-called reforms.

Parliament voted massively in favour of the inquiry (125 votes for; two against), as reported here.

We considered it a great victory at the time, and looked forward to the commissioning of the inquiry and its eventual report.

Now that dream is in tatters as Michael Meacher, the MP who brought the motion to Parliament, has reported that nothing is to happen and the government is ignoring the vote.

It seems he is blaming this partly on the media because “it wasn’t reported” – and he has a point; only 2,500 people have so far read the article on Vox Political, and that’s not nearly enough interest to worry David Cameron and his unelected cadre.

This turn of events raises serious questions about the role of Parliament in holding the government of the day to account, influencing legislation and taking effective initiative of its own.

Perhaps we should be glad that this has happened, because the illusion that we have any kind of democracy at all has been, finally, stripped away.

(On a personal note, this saddens me greatly as it confirms the belief of a very rude Twitter user who accosted me on that site earlier the week to inform me that democracy died many years ago, and I was deluded in trying to save it now. What a shame that such a person has been proved correct.)

Here are the facts, according to Mr Meacher – and they make bitter reading: “The chances of influencing … legislation are negligible because the government commands a whipped majority at every stage of a bill’s passage through the commons.

“Parliament can make its voice heard, but it can hardly change anything that the government has decided to do.

“The only rare exception is when there is a revolt on the government benches which is backed by the opposition, and even then when the government lost a vote on that basis last year on the EU budget, it still ostentatiously dismissed the vote as merely ‘advisory’.

“Nor, it seems from Monday’s vote, can parliament take any effective initiative of its own either.”

He said newly-instituted systems that followed the expenses scandal are already disappearing:

  • “The backbench business committee, which for the first time gives parliamentarians some control over what is debated in the house, is being sidelined and decisions on its motions ignored.
  • “The promised house business committee, which would share negotiations between government and parliament over the passage of all business put before the house, has been quietly dropped.
  • “Only the election of members of select committees by the house, not by the whips, has so far survived, but one cannot help wondering if that too will be taken back by the party establishments over time.”

This is, as Mr Meacher states, a major constitutional issue – especially as our current government was not elected by the people but created in a dirty backroom deal, and its actions have no democratic mandate at all; nobody voted for the programme of legislation that we have had forced – forced – upon us.

Did you vote for the privatisation of the National Health Service? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the privatisation of the Royal Mail? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the increase in student fees? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the Bedroom Tax? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal? I didn’t.

Did you vote for the Gagging law? I didn’t.

Did you vote to protect the bankers who caused the financial crisis from having to deliver compensation to us? I didn’t.

Did you vote to protect tax avoidance schemes? I didn’t.

There are many more examples I could list.

Mr Meacher suggests possible ways to reassert the authority of Parliament, but none of them will have any immediate effect – or possibly any effect at all.

He ends his piece by saying “the most effective way of making progress is greater awareness among the electorate of how Parliament actually performs, or fails to perform. If the public understood more transparently how the corrupting influence of patronage actually works, how the power system turns everything to its own advantage, and how the genuine objectives of democratic elections are so readily thwarted, a lot of these unedifying practices would have to be curbed.”

Considering Cameron’s attitude to the will of the people so far, this seems unlikely.

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