Tag Archives: students

Why have UK university students had to waste £1 BILLION on digs they couldn’t use?

Rent strike: students are permanently penniless. When you see how much this year’s alumni have had to pay – for NOTHING – you’ll understand why they’re raging.

Those Tories really are selective about who they help with the costs of Covid-19, aren’t they?

I remember being a student. Most of the time, I hardly had two pennies to rub together. The rented accommodation available to us was – mostly – diabolical. And expensive.

One place was damp. It gave me bronchitis.

But at least I got to live in it!

Since the Covid crisis started, according to a survey, the

average student has so far paid £1,621 in rent for unrefunded empty rooms.

In total, according to advice website Save the Student,

university students have wasted nearly £1bn on empty rooms in flat shares and halls of residence that they have been unable to use because of coronavirus restrictions this academic year.

The website estimates rents are so high that they take up three-quarters of their maintenance loans at an average of £146 per week, so it’s no wonder that

Students’ anger with high rents… boiled over on UK campuses this term as students launched the largest rent strike in 40 years.

There has been a patchy response from universities, private halls of residence and landlords, with some refusing discounts while others have offered full rebates.

I have a lot of sympathy for the universities, and for the landlords – as well as for the students themselves.

It is unfair for the accommodation providers to foot the bill for thousands of empty rooms when the situation was thrust on them by the government – albeit admittedly in response to a nationwide pandemic.

It just happens to be even more unfair for them to demand that students pay the bill, rather than the government. This is loaned money, remember – they have to pay it back, plus interest, over a period of decades to come.

Businesses – especially the bigger ones – have received huge subsidies, and employees have had 80 per cent of their wages paid by a government “furlough” scheme. Why weren’t students added to that, at the very least?

The Guardian story tells us the government has provided students with £70 million in hardship funding, which seems to fall quite a long way short of what they’ve had to shell out.

Considering the billions given to Tory cronies and their – let’s be honest – fake firms for nonexistent or inadequate Covid-related services, this is an insult to the next generation of the UK’s movers and shakers.

Let’s hope they remember it.

Source: UK university students wasted £1bn in a year on empty accommodation | Student housing | The Guardian

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Toby Young is now a Tory crisis. Here’s how he became one

Toby Young’s appointment to the board of the Office for Students has been criticised by … well, by everybody who knows about it, really – apart from highly blinkered Tories [Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA].

If you haven’t seen my video blog on the crises afflicting the UK – thanks to our Conservative government – you should probably have a gander before you come back to this.

All done? Good.

So: How did Toby Young become a major issue for the Conservative government?

Well, perhaps it was because of this:

The Tories today appointed writer Toby Young, who complained about the ‘ghastly inclusivity’ of wheelchair ramps in schools, to the board of their new higher education watchdog.

The Office for Students (OfS) legally come into force today with a remit to hold regulate university vice chancellors’ pay and enforce ‘free speech’ on campus.

The appointment of Young, an outspoken right-wing writer, to the board of the regulator has sparked criticism.

In a column for the Spectator in 2012, Young wrote: “Inclusive. It’s one of those ghastly, politically correct words that has survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be “inclusive” these days.

“That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”

He went on to call on then-Education Secretary Michael Gove to bring back O-levels and repeal the Equality Act, because “any exam that isn’t “accessible” to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be “elitist” and therefore forbidden by [Harriet] Harman’s Law.”

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “If this organisation was to have any credibility it needed a robust board looking out for students’ interests.

“Instead we have this announcement sneaked out at New Year with Tory cheerleader Toby Young dressed up as the voice of teachers and no proper representation from staff or students.”

Oh dear.

Then again, there’s this:

Fresh questions have been raised over the suitability of Toby Young to sit on the board of the new universities regulator after it emerged that the government exaggerated his qualifications.

Young acknowledged on Tuesday that the Department for Education’s (DfE) claim that he had held teaching posts at two of the world’s most illustrious institutions, Harvard and Cambridge, were not accurate.

“I taught undergrads at Harvard and Cambridge and was paid to do so but these weren’t academic ‘posts’ and I’ve never made that claim,” he told the Guardian.

Defending Young’s appointment to the newly set-up Office for Students (OfS) on Monday, the department told the Guardian that his “diverse experience includes posts” at the institutions.

That’s called lying. Government departments aren’t supposed to do that.

But what about the new regulator’s personality? Surely he must have admirable features, to have been appointed to the new organisation for students?

Apparently not. What do you make of this?

In a 2010 message Mr Young branded George Clooney “queer as a coot”, while he responded to a male user on another occasion with the retort, “F**k you, penis breath”

On another occasion, referring to a picture of himself with a woman, he quipped: “Actually, mate, I had my dick up her arse”.

Mr Young appears to have since deleted the messages along with other profane comments.

But an article that Mr Young published to his blog in 2004 remains online.

The piece, which Mr Young told PinkNews was “a humour piece written for a New York men’s magazine”, recalls an occasion on which Mr Young dressed up as a woman in a bid to get into bed with lesbians.

That’s pretty appalling. No wonder Mr Young’s appointment has been met with outrage.

Oh, but according to him, the issue is the fact that he is a Conservative! Check this out:

Writer Toby Young says his appointment to the board of a new higher education watchdog is being criticised largely because he is an “outspoken Tory”.

Mr Young, who co-founded the West London Free School in 2011 and runs the New School Network, is one of six new appointments to the regulator’s board.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “If this organisation was to have any credibility it needed a robust board looking out for students’ interests.

“Instead we have this announcement sneaked out at new year with Tory cheerleader Toby Young dressed up as the voice of teachers and no actual representation from staff or students.”

Labour MP David Lammy said on social media on Monday: “Is that Toby Young who said I was wrong to criticise Oxbridge for failing to improve access?

“The Toby Young who only got into Oxford University because his Dad rang the tutor up?

So what can we say about Toby Young? Owen Jones puts it in a nutshell in the following clip – and he’s right that it speaks volumes about the Conservative Party:

We’ll come to some of those objectionable tweets in a moment. Before we do, I wanted to remind you all of an important point: The Conservative government has recently endured humiliation because of the sexually inappropriate behaviour of some of its members – and not all of the people who have been named have yet accounted for the activities of which they have been accused. I’ll hand over to Rachael Swindon now:

Okay. In light of this, let’s look at the behaviour of the Conservative Government’s newest representative. First, there’s this:

Then there’s the following:

This tweet contains some we’ve seen already, but the reference to Danny Boyle’s daughter – who was not an adult at the time, is particularly grim:

The following tweeter started a thread on the subject of Toby’s tweets. Feel free to click on the tweet and read the lot:

https://twitter.com/SKZCartoons/status/948633691395383301

It was all looking rough for Mr Young – but then Boris Johnson, of all people, threw the weight of his questionable judgement behind the man who calls himself Toadmeister on Twitter. The man whose genius encouraged the Iranian legal system to add five years to the wrongful prison sentence of a British citizen, and who failed to secure her release after visiting the country, likewise failed to impress the home audience:

But does any of this have a bearing on Mr Young’s appointment to the Office for Students? Let’s see:

It seems that Mr Young does feel some responsibility for his behaviour; he has deleted around 50,000 of his tweets.

https://twitter.com/MattTurner4L/status/948602700865949696

Unfortunately for him, members of the tweeting public have saved the worst of his work, and want the Tory government to explain why a man who would make such statements deserves a government job.

For that matter, perhaps the government should be considering action against him?

If the government does nothing, the public will. Consider the following – will you add your name?

And I haven’t even mentioned Mr Young’s belief in eugenics – a stance last supported by the Nazis in German, if The Writer isn’t mistaken.


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Ruth Davidson is right to demand removal of students from Tory immigration target

Ruth Davidson: ‘We have to ask whether the target continues to be the right one’ [Image: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images].

No, I’m not turning into a Tory – and Ruth Davidson would not be among my favourites even if I was.

But she is right to question Theresa May’s immigration target, because its inclusion of students skews the numbers out of proportion.

These are not people who have moved to the UK to start a new life. In fact, they don’t intend to stay here longer than it takes to get their qualification. Some may wish to stay, but most won’t.

So it is pointless to include them in immigration statistics – unless the aim is to inflate those statistics artificially in order to create a false sense of alarm in the indigenous population, thereby boosting support for Brexit.

Now, who could possibly want to do that?

A split at the top of the Conservatives on immigration policy has emerged after the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, called on the government to consider scrapping its target of reducing the number of new arrivals to tens of thousands a year.

Davidson, who is on the liberal wing of the party, has previously defended the “tens of thousands” target pledged by David Cameron before the 2010 election, which has never been hit.

But writing in the Telegraph, she said: “By 2010, pollsters reported that immigration was consistently a top concern to voters. Since then, of course, the British government has failed to hit its self-imposed ‘tens of thousands’ target in any year.

“Brexit is a big reset button and should – in theory – make that much easier to do so. But we have to ask whether the target continues to be the right one.”

Davidson also called for No 10 to think about taking students out of the official immigration statistics.

Source: Ruth Davidson calls for government to review immigration target | Politics | The Guardian


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Death of a great man marred by the hypocrisy of a weasel

Hypocrite: We can't prove Cameron was behind the 'Hang Mandela' campaign of the 1980s, but we do know he opposed Mandela's politics and supported apartheid in South Africa. He did not think Mandela was a "great light" or a "hero" - he's just saying what he thinks you want to hear.

Hypocrite: We can’t prove Cameron was behind the ‘Hang Mandela’ campaign of the 1980s, but we do know he opposed Mandela’s politics and supported apartheid in South Africa. He did not think Mandela was a “great light” or a “hero” – he’s just saying what he thinks you want to hear.

I hope everyone in the UK is as saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela as they are disgusted by David Cameron’s two-faced tribute.

According to Wikipedia, Mr Mandela rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife.

After his release, he served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

While he was in prison, David Cameron was involved in some extremely shady anti-Mandela activities.

According to a statement that was put out across the social media in the summer, “When he [Mr Mandela] does die, and David Cameron jumps on the Mandela bandwagon, remember that in 1985 he was a top member of the Federation of Conservative Students, which produced the “Hang Mandela” posters.

“In 1989, Cameron worked in the Tory Policy Unit at Central Office and went on an anti-sanctions fact-finding mission to South Africa with a pro-apartheid lobby firm sponsored by PW Botha. Remember this when he tells the world he was inspired by Mandela.”

Cameron’s membership of the Federation of Conservative Students is questionable, as is his participation in the “Hang Mandela” campaign. His participation in the fact-finding mission is well-documented, though.

As for his party – well, let’s look at the words of Conservative talisman Margaret Thatcher: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation.” Tories revere the Blue Baroness; if that was her opinion, no doubt it belonged to many of them as well.

If you still need to be convinced, see the following:

“Nelson Mandela should be shot.” – Tory MP Teddy Taylor

“This hero worship is very much misplaced.”- Tory MP John Carlisle

“How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?” – Tory MP Terry Dicks

(All the above are taken from Tom Pride’s article on the subject earlier this year)

Conservatives hated Mandela; Cameron was a Conservative then and is Conservative leader now.

When you see him saying things like, “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time,” remember that.

What a two-faced, hypocritical slug.

 

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Boris please note: We don’t need violence to demonstrate against Thatcherism

It seems police confiscated an effigy of the Blue Baroness after protesters set fire to it in Glasgow. It is doubtful that the scene looked anything like the above image. Without an effigy to burn the protesters did NOT become violent. They DID do a conga, while chanting, "Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead".

It seems police confiscated an effigy of the Blue Baroness after protesters set fire to it in Glasgow. It is doubtful that the scene looked anything like the above image. Without an effigy to burn, the protesters did NOT become violent. No – they did a conga, while chanting, “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead”.

Why on earth does Boris Johnson think it’s necessary to put the fear of violence into our heads, just because people are coming to London to demonstrate in favour of common sense?

The London Mayor said hundreds of Metropolitan police officers would be “kitted up” and ready to be deployed rapidly, in case of outbreaks of disorder.

The trouble with that, of course, is that he has made everybody involved – protesters and police – paranoid that unpleasantness of some kind will happen, and that it will be the other side that starts it!

How utterly ridiculous. By all means, keep your political tools (the police) ready, Boris, but keep them in the background. Otherwise, you’re the one inciting trouble.

If only he was able to step back and look at the situation dispassionately. Consider what the protests are about:

The main event is a demonstration against the current lionisation of Margaret Thatcher that has already cost the taxpayer nearly £2 million in expenses payments for MPs who were recalled to Parliament during their Easter recess for no good reason, when tributes could have been paid to the Blue Baroness upon MPs’ scheduled return, on Monday. Add to that a further £10 million for a state-funded funeral with military honours that a huge proportion of the population believes is undeserved – especially when the late champion of privatisation had more than enough cash in her estate to pay for as much pomp and ceremony as she could ever have wanted – and anyone can see there is a valid justification for the event.

Attendees will include former miners, and members of mining communities that were devastated by the Thatcher government’s decision to force a confrontation with the unions – the real reason the pits were closed in the mid-1980s. They will be joined by travellers – whose kind were attacked by police, in their role as a political tool of the Thatcher government rather than as guardians of lawful behaviour, most notably in the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’. Students whose grants were transformed into loans during her period of office will also be represented, along with those who are politically opposed to her policies and their legacy.

History tells us that violence involving those groups has always been instigated by those arrayed against them – the forces of the government; remember, the BBC was forced into a (grudging) apology after it was proved that footage of a police charge had been doctored to make it seem the miners had attacked first, when in fact the police provoked the unpleasantness.

So let’s hope that nothing of the kind happens today – either at the main event, the UKUncut demo against the Bedroom Tax and benefit cap, or the Taxpayers Against Poverty march.

But if it does, let’s all take a good hard look at whoever kicks it off – particularly their voting history. I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone causing trouble today will have a prediliction for supporting the Conservative Party.

Rules of engagement

What do you consider acceptable political campaigning techniques? I’ve been reading a few political histories lately and, as someone who is interested in that sort of thing, I’m fascinated. Here are a few from one such book – and to get some interactivity going, can you guess whose opinions they are? Is this person right?

1. Say enough – but not too much – about what you’ll do.

An outline programme of enough substance to be credible, but lacking the details that would allow opponents to damn it, should be sufficient. The Liberal Democrats should perhaps have considered this before saying they would not raise student fees, or that they would abolish control orders (these were replaced with TPIMs, otherwise known as control orders).

2. Attack your opponents in a strong, but believeable, way.

Personal attacks won’t do – calling your opponent a liar, cheat or fraud. Is George Osborne a liar because he said cutting the public sector would allow private enterprise in to fill the gaps, and this hasn’t happened? No, he isn’t. He was mistaken. The nation is paying for that mistake, but he wasn’t lying about it. In my opinion.
However, if a leader is weak (David Cameron) and the party divided (Conservatives on Europe), these are good political weapons to be exploited.

3. Fight complacency.

Huge opinion poll leads can be lost overnight (as Labour has discovered in recent weeks); political opponents should never be underestimated; campaigners should ensure they are in touch with the modern voter in the modern world. Behave as though you’re on a knife-edge from start to finish.

4. Make sure your team doesn’t screw up.

If one of your campaigners has to resign, gets caught in a scandal, or says something stupid (as Gordon Brown knows too well), it’s electoral suicide.

5. Do not be opportunistic.

You might think you’re saying the right thing now, but your own words might come back to bite you in the future, with consequences that can put your position at risk (Eds Miliband and Balls saying they won’t be able to reduce Coalition cuts, for example?).

Feel free to add some of your own.

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Stand up, you slaves!

I’ve been accosted by several people in the 24 hours or so since I wrote ‘No forced labour please, we’re British’ – all of them determined to make me believe that any stand against government injustice is doomed to failure and I shouldn’t try to support it.

What a bunch of craven cowards.

If these people had their way, everyone in the UK would be a slave. If the religion they preach was true, all of our ancestors would have been slaves as well – to the biggest bullies with the nastiest weapons, all the way back down through time.

None of the great changes, emancipations, freedoms that were ever gained in history would have taken place.

Well, I’m here to tell you that we are not slaves; those changes did take place, and they happened because people like you and I made them happen.

The writer J Michael Straczynski, creator of the cult SF TV show Babylon 5, put it very well a few years ago, so I’ll hand the rest of this article over to him:

“Let me tell you about a little psychological trick called conditioned helplessness.

“When our world and our choices are restricted over a sufficiently long period of time, we come to believe that we cannot snap our bonds, cannot choose anything other than what we have, even though those bonds are often as sheer as gossamer.

“And it’s when we are in that state of conditioned helplessness that we are truly at our most dangerous, to ourselves as we fall into despair or poor decisions, and to others when the weight of the perceived chain becomes too much, and like enraged elephants we go mad… and make those around us pay the price for our confinement.

“It is in the vested interests of any society, any form of government, any hierarchical system to make you believe that you have no power, that you have no choices, that you cannot fight City Hall or Parliament or the Party or the Committee. We are told to play nice, to behave, to get along, that the human being singular can’t really change anything, can’t affect anything. Leave it to the rest, to the authorities, to those qualified to deal with the problem. They want you to go to sleep, to believe that there is nothing you can do.

“They are, of course, quite wrong. And when they tell you you cannot do anything, that you do not have a choice, they are lying to you. Nothing more, nothing less.

“History was changed by one assassin in Sarajevo, whose bullet set off a chain reaction that led to World War I and by default to World War II and much of the Cold War history thereafter.

“One man with a bullet can change the world. We’ve seen it. We know it’s true.

“How much more can one man or one woman with one idea change the world? Ask Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, John Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Aquinas.

“And while you’re at it… ask yourself.”

JMS is appealing to us to see “hope, and optimism, and our capacity to build a better world if we are willing to fight for the future, to seize it for ourselves and make of it what we want, because if we don’t then someone else will make it for us, and it may not be the best possible future, or the one we most desire. It is about the nobler aspects of our humanity, those elements which call us together in a common cause, not the differences that pull us apart… In the final analysis, whatever we may have been taught to the contrary, we are more alike than we are different.”

There is something we can do. And we should praise those who do it.

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No forced labour please, we’re British!

Here’s a story to chill the heart.

Unemployed Geology graduate Cait Reilly, aged 22, was forced to give up volunteering at the Pen Room museum in Birmingham (she was hoping it would lead to a curatorship further down the line) in order to work for nothing at Poundland, sweeping the floors on a government scheme.

She was told she would lose her £53-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance if she did not submit to the “forced labour” of stacking shelves for the discount retailer, which did not have to pay her.

Let’s put this into context: Poundland’s annual profit in 2010 was £21,500,000. Split among its 390-odd stores, that’s more than £54,000 – or enough to pay three extra employees, per store, on minimum wage, with cash to spare. That’s up from the previous year, when it could have paid two extra employees on minimum wage, with cash to spare.

Ms Reilly said in a Telegraph article: “There were five of us sent there. I was the only graduate. We were doing exactly the same work as the paid staff. It makes no sense.

“If the Government subsidises high street chains with free labour, they don’t have to recruit. It causes unemployment rather than solves it.”

Absolutely correct.

Ms Reilly has employed a lawyer to sue the government for contravening article 4(2) of the Human Rights Act, which states: ‘No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour,’ and I think many people around the UK will be waiting impatiently for the result of that action.

The Daily Mail appears to have reverted to its usual form (after the moment last week when one of its columnists actually stood up for disabled people, who are also being victimised by the current government).

That hideous harpy, attack columnist Jan Moir scribbled: “Cait, I really want to say this to you. Two weeks stacking shelves in Poundland — a breach of your human rights? Grow up.

“You might think that a student with barely an NI payment to her name would be happy to put something back into the pot, would be very grateful to be in receipt of taxpayer-funded benefits in the first place.”

Catherine Bennett in The Guardian leapt to pour acid on this attitude: “Many Daily Mail columnists, you gathered, would not have reached the ethical heights they occupy today if they had not, once upon a time, been willing to wash down the Tesco aisles with their own tongues – and, yes, to pay Tesco for the privilege. Forgive them, but what exactly is wrong with no pay for a decent day’s work?

“Annoyingly, for this school of thought, Reilly’s story requires a little finessing before she can be depicted as a total princess. Prior to Poundland, she was regularly volunteering – for no pay – in a Birmingham museum, hoping this would help her find a job in curating.”

The whole saga is the result of a scheme in which Job Centre staff have the power to force anyone claiming unemployment benefits to take part in “mandatory work activity” designed to get them used to working from nine to five.

The pilot scheme found that one in five who were ordered to take part in a four-week community project stopped claiming immediately. Another 30 per cent never turned up and had their benefits axed.

This result – people coming off benefits rather than submitting to being treated as slave labour – was treated as a huge success by Employment Minister Chris ‘Goebbels’ Grayling and his cronies.

A ‘source’ told the Telegraph: “What this demonstrates is that there is really a hardcore of claimants who have absolutely no intention of working come what may.”

I say: The people who refused to do unpaid work were absolutely right to do so and should never have been penalised for it.

If commercial work is available and needs to be done, then companies should be employing people to do it.

This scheme is nothing but another scurrilous attack on the people who are least able to defend themselves, by the most privileged and least deserving government in the recent history of the UK.

To describe this scheme as a success because it has deprived people of the income they need to survive, is sickening.

To those responsible, I say: Shame on you. May you suffer poverty and homelessness for the rest of your days and may good people shun you.

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A few more notes on my ‘Tory days of Christmas’

Day 6: Raised VAT

This one speaks for itself, I hope. VAT was raised from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, in a regressive tax move that hits the lowest earners far harder than the wealthiest. There are fairer ways of bringing £12bn per year into the Treasury and, by the way, doesn’t the amount accrued depend on the amount that people spend? With their spending power reduced, that amount must diminish. I wonder if the Coalition ever considered that.

Day 5: Five Days Of Riots!

Lots of reasons have been given for the now-infamous ‘Five Days in August’. The spark was the alleged shooting, by the police, of a young man in Tottenham who they claimed was carrying a gun. However, many believe that deprivation and a lack of hope had much to do with the way the rioting that followed spread like wildfire through London and then into other towns and cities across the UK. Government supporters have claimed that much of the rioting was carried out by opportunists who wanted to, for example, nick a new pair of trainers from Foot Locker, but this argument skims over the fact that the riots had to be going on in the first place, in order for this opportunism to break out.

Here’s some further reading:

The competing arguments used to explain the riots

Public lacks confidence in Tory leaders following disturbances

Rioting is the choice of young people with nothing to lose

Day 4: Tax-havens for their wealth

There is a theory that the current UK government is carrying out a policy known as ‘Starving the Beast’. In this instance, ‘The Beast’ is government spending and the aim is to diminish the amount spent on public services as much as possible, as quickly as possible. The rise of the current national deficit – which, let’s remember, is not as high as it has been for most of the last 200 years – provided a good excuse to claim that austerity is the way forward (it isn’t; more on that later), and that spending needed to be reined in.

Alongside this, as practised in the USA by that genius and rocket-scientist George W. Bush, come efforts to ensure that the wealthiest in society – who should, by rights, contribute the most in terms of tax, which should then be spent on public services – get to keep just as much of their wealth as possible. To this end, governments engaged in ‘Starving the Beast’ ensure that their wealthiest supporters can squirrel their cash away in tax havens, and that loopholes in tax law allow them to do this, avoiding the necessity of payment. We have already seen that HMRC has been engaging in ‘sweetheart’ deals with large firms such as Goldman Sachs, allowing them to write off large amounts that are owed to the Treasury (and therefore, by proxy, to you and me). Here’s some further reading on the subject of tax havens:

To us, it’s an obscure shift of tax law. To the city, it’s the heist of the century

Fury over UK-Swiss tax evasion deal

The tax haven firms running our public services

Tax haven responses underline need for government action

Day 3: Privatised health

I’ve got more material about this than everything else on the list. It seems that the Coalition’s plan to privatise the health service has become the main issue of this Parliament – and rightly so. I call it a plan to privatise because that’s what it is, never mind the rhetoric and spin that they give it. They want to allow private companies in to run NHS services – that’s privatisation. It means that some of our tax money will be used to provide profit for these firms, rather than paying for much-needed healthcare. And this in turn means that some of our money will go into tax havens, as many of these firms operate from locations with tax haven status. It means those amounts, paid by the citizens of the UK in good faith, will do nothing other than fill the foreign bank accounts of already-wealthy businesspeople. Do you consider that a responsible thing to do with our money? Because I don’t.

At the very end of 2011 it was announced that 49 per cent of NHS hospital space is to be given over to private patients, in an attempt to help the NHS pay its bills. This may tie in with a narrative that Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, was trying to put out last year – that Labour initiatives had left hospitals in dire need of funds. That didn’t work at the time because the hospitals themselves complained that his figures were inaccurate. More importantly, though, it points towards a future in which the Health and Social Care Bill has become law, in which hospitals will be unable to limit the number of private cases they have to take on. This will mean that NHS patients must join an ever-lengthening queue for care, if they can’t afford to pay for it. In a previous blog, I suggested that William Beveridge must be spinning in his grave. I have a feeling that, because of the above, Aneurin Bevan’s body may have also become a whirling dervish. Here are just some of the many references relating to this:

Andrew Lansley bankrolled by private healthcare provider

Revealed: the pamphlet underpinning Tory plans to privatise the NHS

Department of Health guidelines falsely inflate NHS costs

What MPs must know before they vote to wreck the NHS

The end of the NHS as we know it

Lansley’s unhealthy double whammy: what you won’t know or find out about the NHS

NHS private income cap to be lifted

Hospitals furious at Lansley’s debt claim

Health Secretary must reveal DOH assessment of restructuring costs (Despite the fact that the government has been ordered to reveal the extent of the risks that his shake-up of the NHS poses for the service, the government is still, at time of writing, refusing to publish the risk assessment – illegally)

Andy Burnham: These health reforms are an affront to democracy

NHS executives told to resign under plan to cut trusts

Day 2: Sky-high student fees

This was the move that brought shame upon the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat partners, who had campaigned during the 2010 general election against raising fees for college and university students. The top end of student fees was raised to £9,000 per year. The Tories promised us that only a very few universities would charge that much – and the majority duly announced that they would be charging the maximum. Students protested, organised marches against the change, and got ‘kettled’ by the police – who have, once again, become political pawns of a Conservative-led government, after a pleasant break under Labour when they were allowed to actually do police work. Here’s some further reading:

Why aren’t we supporting the students? Maybe we’ve been psychically kettled

What really happened in Trafalgar Square

Day 1: And a broken economy!

So much has been spoken and written about the economy – how it got into its current condition, who’s to blame, and what’s to be done, that it almost seems pointless to mention it here. But I’m going to, anyway!

Some say that responsibility lies with Gordon Brown, who failed to regulate the banks strictly enough, allowing them to behave irresponsibly, providing unsecured loans to people who could never afford to pay them back, and that this led to the credit crunch of 2008 and the subsequent actions that led to the growth of the national deficit – Mr Brown bailed out the banks to stop them all collapsing in a domino-effect sequence. This seems completely wrong-headed to me. Mr Brown was persuaded by leading bankers of the time that they did not need heavy regulation and were perfectly capable of running their own businesses in a responsible manner – and this is what he expected them to do. Therefore, it is with those bankers that the blame lies, and it is a sad fact that both the previous Labour government and the current Conservative-led government have let those people get away with it. Labour could be excused, as there was very little time to go chasing the bankers before the election of 2010. I wonder what excuse the Coalition has?

The Conservatives, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, got into power on a platform of austerity. I have already mentioned the ‘Starving the Beast’ policy that, in my opinion, lies behind this. Any Liberal Democrat who dismisses the possibility out of hand is, also in my opinon, a fool and a Tory dupe. In the meantime, the figures speak for themselves. In the 20 months since Mr Osborne took over at the Treasury, growth figures have been revised down time and again, and now we are being told we will go back into recession this year. Austerity has failed. Mr Osborne – and his leader, Mr Cameron – has lost the argument.

Do they admit it? Do they accept that they need to invest in jobs and growth? Not a bit of it. They are adamant that if they carry on, the economy will turn around and parts of the private sector (that don’t actually exist) will inject the necessary cash (that also doesn’t exist) to get the country on its feet again.

My opinion is that, when the economy does finally turn the corner (and it will, eventually), it won’t have anything to do with Mr Osborne or the Conservative Party (and less to do with the Liberal Democrats). In fact, I think they’ll probably be the last to know. Sadly, I’m sure they will still trumpet it to the rooftops as their achievement. Here’s the further reading:

Osborne given stark warning on cuts’ impact

Now the cuts are biting and the figures are terrible

The case against austerity

For every £4 spending is cut, it only cuts borrowing by 75p

All pain, no gain: forecasts predict longer dole queues and higher deficit

Keynes was right

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