Tag Archives: The Green Benches

Whoever said Labour has no policies: Prepare to be embarrassed!

Michael Meacher MP has proposed that Labour make the end of austerity its flagship policy. Don't get too excited - Labour has to get into office first, and we've no idea how bad the Conservative-led Coalition will wreck the systems of government before May 2015.

The end of austerity should be Labour’s flagship policy, according to Michael Meacher MP. Don’t get too excited – Labour has to get into office first, and we’ve no idea how bad the Conservative-led Coalition will wreck the systems of government before May 2015.

This is turning into a very bad weekend to be a Conservative.

The Nasty Party has lost control of 10 councils, with hundreds of councillors unseated. Its claims about people on benefits are falling flat when faced with the facts. It has fallen foul of UK and EU law with its fake psychometric test, which turned out to have been stolen from the USA. Its claim that Labour has no policies has proved to be utterly unfounded.

… What was that last one again?

Yes, you must have heard at least one Tory on telly, rabidly barking that Labour can’t criticise the Coalition if it doesn’t have any policies of its own. Those people were not telling the truth – even though they probably thought they were (poor deluded fools).

I am indebted to Michael Meacher MP, for posting information on the following in his own blog. He lists Labour promises, as revealed to date – and it’s quite a long list. Much – or indeed all – of it may have also appeared in an article on the Green Benches site, I believe. So let’s see…

Labour has already promised to:

  • Repeal the Health and Social Care Act (otherwise known as the NHS privatisation Act)
  • Build 125,000+ homes
  • Regulate private rents
  • Promote a Living Wage for public sector workers and shame the private sector into following that lead
  • Offer a minimum 33-40 per cent cut in tuition fees
  • Limit rail fare increases to one per cent
  • Reimpose the 50p rate of income tax for the super-rich
  • Impose a mansion tax on the rich
  • Repeat the bankers’ bonus tax
  • Reverse the bedroom tax
  • Scrap Workfare and replace it with a ‘compulsory’ Jobs Guarantee (I’m not too keen on this one but it’s been promised)
  • Offer a VAT cut or a ‘temporary’ VAT holiday
  • Implement the High Pay Commission report in its entirety
  • Scrap Ofgem and bring in proper energy price regulation
  • Break up the banks and set up a National Investment Bank, and
  • Support mining communities and clean coal technology.

In his article, Mr Meacher suggests that Labour needs to go further, with a really strong hook on which to hang all these policies. He suggests the following:

We will end austerity.

Yes, I thought that might stun you. Let’s have it again:

We will end austerity.

Now that you’ve had time to get used to the idea, I hope you’re applauding as much as I was when I read the article. Why not end austerity? The squeeze on public spending and services that David Cameron and his Boy Chancellor imposed in 2010 has not worked at all. There is now no basis for it – I wrote to Mr Osborne, requesting information on the other foundations of the policy after it was revealed that his main justification contained a huge error, and he has not replied, so clearly he has nothing to say. Its loss will be unlamented and can’t come soon enough.

There’s more in the article so I invite you to visit Mr Meacher’s site and read it yourself.

As for Mr Cameron… he’s a survivor but he’s starting to look tired and the number of his own party members who are stabbing him in the back is growing – Lord Tebbit has stuck his own knife in (again) during a BBC interview.

I wouldn’t bet any money that Cameron will still be PM by the end of the year.

Betrayed Nation: the speech, the lies, the threat

One suspects the on-screen caption was more apt than the BBC intended.

David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference may go down in history as the worst drivel ever coughed up over the public by a British national leader.

I was going to write a serious article about it but, on reflection, I have decided to mock and insult him pitilessly, interspersing my disdain with some medicinal doses of cold hard truth – and a few tasty pics from Facebook and Twitter.

Where to begin? Let’s go for the biggest groaner. Yet again with your disabled son, Mr Cameron? “When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair not the boy. Today, more people would see the boy and not the wheelchair – and that’s because of what happened here this summer.” He was referring to the Paralympics but what people saw was an overprivileged toff who took disability benefits for his son when he didn’t need them and is now cravenly using the deceased child’s memory to score points, while depriving the sick and disabled of the money they desperately need in order to survive. Did he really think anyone watching that, with an ounce of sense, would not be sickened to the pit of their stomach by his bare-faced, self-satisfied hypocrisy?

It’s the sort of line that forces me to agree with the Tweeter who typed: “I’ve got a great ‘Cameron’s speech’ drinking game. As soon as he starts to speak, drink bleach.”

There was a big lie about the NHS: “We made a big decision to protect the NHS from spending cuts.” In fact, in the current financial year, his government cut NHS spending by something like £25 million, and I believe he is also rationing access to treatment. He recently announced £140 million of new funding – but neglected to trumpet to the rooftops the fact that it’s in LOANS, so any organisation taking it would have to pay it back, presumably with interest.

He said the number of doctors, dentists, and midwives has increased – and this is true. But if you factor in the number of nursing staff that have been cut (there are now fewer than in 2010) then the number of full-time equivalent, professionally qualified staff in the NHS has risen by just a fraction of one per cent since the coalition took office. Hardly a ringing endorsement of his policies, is it?

Cameron: “So be in no doubt: this is the party of the NHS and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

Twitter: “There isn’t a god or Cameron would’ve been struck down.”

Even the BBC’s Stephanie Flanders was looking askance at this: “Cameron talks about the NHS but can they tell us how many of the Cabinet have private health insurance?!”

Cameron: “Aspiration is the engine of progress… That’s why the mission for this government is to build an aspiration nation.”

Twitter: “‘Aspiration Nation’ sounds like the title of one of Grant Shapps’ motivational courses!”

Cameron: “Line one, rule one of being a Conservative is that it’s not where you’ve come from that counts, it’s where you’re going.”

How many Conservative Prime Ministers came from Eton, then, ‘Call-Me-Dave’?

Cameron: “We don’t preach about one nation but practise class war…”

Twitter: “…says head of government of private-school-educated millionaires making big cuts to public services for the poor.”

Could this possibly be the conference pass that Andrew Mitchell famously hasn’t used this year?

He said we need businesses investing and taking people on. To do that, they need low interest rates so they can afford to take out a loan, and confidence that it’s worth investing.

Big explanation follows, courtesy of Ramesh Patel in the Huffington Post: “The real reason why our borrowing costs have fallen and remained low since 2008 is because the demand for bonds has risen and there is a an expectation that it will remain high because the markets expect the UK economy will remain stagnant.” That’s STAGNANT. Not “on the rise”, as Cam would have us believe.

“Consumers and businesses are not spending. As result, saving levels have risen, which has increased the demand for bonds [loans made for a fixed period of time at a fixed interest rate] and increased their price. There is an inverse relationship between the price of bonds and their yield-return or interest rates. Hence, if a £1,000, 20-year, bond is at an interest rate of 5 per cent, you would receive a return of £50 per annum. Now suppose the demand for bonds rises because more people are saving. Lets assume it rises from £1,000 to £1,500. With the interest rate remaining the same, the return will also remain the same at £50. Hence, the new effective interest rate falls because £50/£1,500 = 3.33 per cent.” So interest rates have dropped because the price of bonds has risen – but that won’t help anyone take out a business loan – and if you don’t believe me (as Dave repeated several times during his oration), just you go out and try it!

He said it was essential to get the deficit down, and the Tories’ deficit reduction plan is “the very foundation” of their growth plan.

This is nonsense. Back to Ramesh Patel: “A government that attempts to reduce its spending during a recession engages in a self-defeating activity. Rather than increasing its income, it increases its deficit and debt. Quite simply, cutting spending results in increased unemployment, which increases its benefit spending. As a consequence, consumption spending is reduced, which results in lower income or GDP. Austerity has never worked.”

Just so. Austerity has never worked. It isn’t like a household reducing its spending to increase the amount of money it holds; the opposite holds true in national economics. Cameron (and his chancellor, Gideon Gordon George Osborne) knew this before they got anywhere near Downing Street and have been stringing you along for two and a half years.

Do you need more convincing? Here we go – he said “The damage was worse than we thought, and it’s taking longer than we hoped.” It wasn’t. He inherited a growing economy, with falling unemployment. It is his government that dragged the UK back into recession. Borrowing is up by 22 per cent so far, in this year alone, because of his policies. His claim that he has cut the deficit by a quarter in the past two years is nothing more than a lie.

It certainly isn’t why interest rates are at record low levels. Mortgages might be low as a result but how many people really benefit from that? Businesses don’t have the confidence to invest – or the wherewithal, since the banks are stubbornly refusing to pay out, no matter what Cam the Sham’s government does. Sadly, more than 33,000 businesses have gone bust since the 2010 general election.

On employment, he said more than a million new jobs have been created in the private sector. What he FAILS to say is that they are mostly part-time. Those people will be topping up their income with government benefits – creating more government borrowing. And what about the unemployment figures – especially among young people? More than a million are out of work. We’ve got 1.49 million men out of work and 1.1 million women unemployed as well. These are atrocious figures – the worst since, well, the last Conservative government.

His attack on Labour was a child’s argument. He called Labour the party of “one notion” (see what he did there, mocking Ed Miliband’s “One Nation” statesmanship?) – borrowing.

But wait. His government is currently borrowing £802 every second. And I repeat: Government borrowing has increased by 22 per cent since the beginning of this financial year alone.

“We’re here because [Labour] spent too much and borrowed too much.” If Labour’s record was so bad (its borrowing record is in fact better than that of the Tories), why was Osborne promising to match Labour’s spending plans, right up until 2007? I think the only conclusion we can form is that Mr Cameron will say anything if he thinks it will appeal to the masses. Truth or fact have nothing to do with it.

The vacuousness of the argument he picked with Ed Miliband, over tax, defies belief! He took issue with Mr Miliband for saying a tax cut was like the government writing people a cheque, saying “If we cut taxes, we’re not giving them money – we’re taking less of it away”. What’s the difference? They’ve still got more of it than they would have had otherwise! Arguing over semantics is not an election-winning strategy.

This was Cameron’s defence of the cut in the top rate of tax, from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. He said: “It’s their money.” Was he saying the super-rich should not pay any tax at all, because it’s “their money”, not the state’s? In that case, what about the rest of us? Is the money we earn “our money” and should we then, also, be exempt from tax?

If so, then good luck paying off that huge deficit you’re building up, Dave – not to mention the benefits bill you’ve been steadily increasing over the past two and a half years!

I sometimes wonder if he knows anything about the real economy at all.

Oh look! I just unintentionally echoed something Mr Cameron said! About Labour?!? Deluded isn’t the word. If it weren’t for the deadpan, funereal seriousness of his delivery, this could be a comedy skit.

He talked about the threat of wealthy businesspeople moving to other countries, which – guess what, Dave? – they never, ever do.

He said the rich will pay a greater share of tax in every year of this Parliament than in any one of the 13 years under Labour – but has never produced any figures to back up this claim. How are we supposed to believe him?

He went on and on about the need to build more homes but declared no new policy.

On welfare, he referred to individual families in receipt of up to £60,000 in housing benefit. Who are these people and where in the country can they possibly live? Has anyone EVER received that much? I want to see Conservative Central Headquarters produce the evidence RIGHT NOW!

He said it’s an outrage, conveniently ignoring the fact that NOBODY RECEIVING HOUSING BENEFIT ACTUALLY SEES A PENNY OF IT. It obviously goes to the landlords. But his plan to cap housing benefit won’t harm landlords – they’ll just evict the tenants for being unable to pay the rent.

Why not cap RENTS instead? That is the real solution. But then, as somebody mentioned on Twitter, this isn’t about helping people in need – it’s about turning central London into a poor-person-free zone.

Oh yes, and somebody should really make it clear to Mr Cameron that 93 per cent – the overwhelming majority – of new housing benefit claimants are in work. What does this say about the kind of work available in Cameron’s Britain? To me, it says that it doesn’t pay enough for people to survive. He should be asking why the government is effectively subsidising these employers when they should be paying a proper living wage! (A living wage? Isn’t that a… Labour idea?)

On his state-sponsored slavery Work Programme, he said, “Work isn’t slavery; it’s poverty that is slavery.” Firstly, when it’s compulsory, unpaid work, I think Mr Cameron will find it IS slavery. Especially when it’s the kind of work that helps the firm but not the worker, who can be slung back on the dole after a few weeks, and another slave – sorry, worker – pulled out of the line to do the same ‘training’. Secondly, the Child Poverty Action Group tells us that, thanks to Mr Cameron’s policies, child poverty in the UK is set to rise by 800,000 by 2020; this is the biggest increase in generations and Cameron’s comment on that was “it’s us, the modern compassionate Conservative party, who are the real champions of fighting poverty in Britain today.”

There was more – much more – of this tosh but I can’t be bothered any more. You get the idea. If you want to see what someone from Eton has to say about the state education system, go to the Tory website and read it yourself – if you can stomach it. Let’s just say the point at which Cameron started attacking teachers who choose to work in the toughest schools was the moment when one man, whose girlfriend is a teacher, gave up all attempt at calmness and started screaming swearwords in response.

There was no mention of the police at all. We know he’s cutting the force nationally by 15,000, though – let’s face it, the billboard with his face on it made his intentions perfectly clear!

The verdict? One Tweeter typed: “What an absolutely vacuous, empty tokenist deluded speech riddled with lies, mistruths and divisive barrel-scraping spin.”

My favourite is this. It’s short, pithy, and to the point: “One of the worst dictator speeches since 1945.”

But I’ll leave the last word to Ed Miliband, who delivered his critique of Mr Cameron and his party in advance, during last week’s Labour conference:

Liberal Democrat disability policy: arse-backwards

I doubt many people who aren’t Liberal Democrats will have read the agenda for their conference, currently taking place in Brighton. That’s probably for the best because it includes a policy motion on disability that would leave you dizzy. They really don’t know which way they’re facing on this one.

But no worries, eh? It’s only the public who’ll suffer because of it!

The motion starts by noting that the Welfare Reform Act has been passed, including changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA); the introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – and the plan to use this to cut the benefit by 20 per cent by 2015-16 (therefore stopping people from receiving it); the feeling of exclusion from the welfare reform policy development process amongst the disabled community (hang on – the Lib Dems supported the Act; isn’t it a bit late to be moaning about how it excluded the people it was supposed to be working for?); and the conclusions of the report Reversing Recovery on the impact of the Act.

It also notes the rise in disability hate crime “as reported in a survey conducted by the disability charity Scope”, but makes no mention of the fact that this has been fuelled by inflammatory reports of so-called “scroungers” in the right-wing press.

So already they don’t know which way they’re going with this.

It goes on to welcome – welcome! – the introduction of Universal Credit. This is the benefit that will cap the amount households receive, ensuring that even people in the Support Group of ESA claimants will lose benefit if the total they get is more than an arbitrary prescribed amount. They are welcoming a change that will put more people in poverty and misery.

And it welcomes the Government’s decision to allocate an extra £15 million to the Access to Work budget, on the recommendation of Liz Sayce in her review of specialist disability employment programmes. This is the woman who had all those Remploy factories closed. She is no friend to disabled people.

Now we get really confused.

The motion asks the LD conference to state its belief that “society and government have a duty of care towards sick and disabled people and that the goals of government policy must be the empowerment of sick and disabled people in order to tackle and reduce their dependency on others and, fundamentally, to enable them to enjoy full and equal citizenship.” Empowerment? Full and equal citizenship? Read it again and boggle at the hypocrisy in the words from a party that has helped reduce the disabled to a hated and ridiculed underclass.

“Current welfare policy is failing sick and disabled people and […] the Welfare Reform Act does not do enough to remedy this situation.” Because it is the Welfare Reform Act that has created the situation! “Sick and disabled people unable to work or unable to find employment should be supported by the welfare system for as long as they are unable to work or find employment and […] mechanisms such as the current method of time limiting […] contributory ESA are counterproductive and harmful.” Nearly half of all people found “fit for work” by Atos, the company running the WCA regime for the DWP, now have NOTHING to live on. That’s no money at all. And the Lib Dems voted in favour of that.

The next bit criticises the last Labour government for relying on advice from private companies with a potential financial interest in affecting policies about the sick and disabled. It reminds me of a Biblical extract in which Jesus says that, before you can remove a mote from another person’s eye, you need to take the plank out of your own. Isn’t the current government – of which the Coalition is a part – welcoming the wholesale introduction of the private sector into all manner of public services – with open arms? Look at the privatisation of NHS services, which is kicking up a gear with the arrival of Jeremy Hunt’s red and blue lists. Look at David Cameron’s declared intent to privatise everything but the security services and the judiciary. And the Lib Dems are blaming Labour for relying on private sector advice? Get the plank out of your eyes, boys and girls. Or better still, get out of government and take the Tories with you.

The next part states: “Policies which force sick and disabled people to be dependent on others may prevent them from being able to enjoy equal citizenship and leads to exclusion from society,” – which begs the question: Why do you support such policies?

“Further action by government is required to prevent victimisation of and discrimination against sick and disabled people by employers.” This will never happen under a Conservative-led government.

Let’s move on to what they want. Some of these are in fact good ideas but the hypocrisy in the Liberal Democrats calling for them is staggering. The motion asks the LD conference to seek:

“An independent review of the impact of the Welfare Reform Act.” Isn’t it a bit late for that? Wasn’t the impact checked before the Act was passed? Are they saying the Tories lied to them about what would happen? Are they admitting they were reckless as to the effect on disabled people?

“A review of WCA assessment centres to ensure they have adequate disabled access andeasy access by public transport or that mechanisms are in place to provide home visits oralternative assessment venues.” What, because access to assessments is the main problem? It’s a practical idea, and I understand access has been an issue – unnecessarily – but again, this is something the Liberal Democrats should have considered before they allowed the stupid and vindictive legislation through. Did they actually read the Welfare Reform Bill before it became an Act of Parliament?

“The establishment of a public consultation on the assessment mechanisms for DLA, ESA and PIPs, with special emphasis on eligibility for support for those with time variant conditions.” Again, this is a good idea but its time was before the Act was passed. Even if the majority of Liberal Democrats go back on their original support for the Act, the Conservatives will never allow it to be changed. They want the disabled to live in poverty and misery.

“The results of this consultation to be used by the DWP to reform its sickness and disability policies.” This will never happen with Conservatives in charge.

“Additional support and effort to be targeted at enabling sick and disabled people to remain in work and at removing barriers of access to work through expansion of schemes such as the Access to Work Fund.” Again – this will never happen with Conservatives in charge. They want to cut another £10 billion from the benefits bill, on top of the £18 billion that is already being hacked away.

“The Government to ensure that it continues to take a balanced approach to the advice it receives, and that it prioritises the advice of organisations representing sick and disabled people.” Continues? This Coalition government has never taken a balanced approach to advice, and will never prioritise the advice of representative organisations above that of private business and its own hatchet-people. This is dangerous idealism.

“The Citizen’s Advice and non-profit-making advice services to receive increased government funding during the transitional periods for any future substantial changes to the welfare system.” As a CAB trustee, I’d like to see this happen. As a realist I know it won’t.

“The Government to examine the impact of means-testing and income-related support elements of disability welfare policy and, when funds allow, to reform policy to reduce the number of cases where sick and disabled people are made dependent on partners and carers and to ensure that, where this does happen, this does not lead to exclusion from society.” The operative phrase here is “when funds allow”. A Conservative-led government will ensure that funds are never available to allow the reforms suggested here. The programme, in case the Liberal Democrats weren’t paying attention, is about shrinking the state down to almost nothing. This is being done by ensuring that the national debt stays high, providing an excuse for cut after cut.

“A public awareness campaign to tackle prejudice and other attitudes detrimental to the well-being of sick and disabled people.” This is against Conservative Party policy and will not see the light of day in this Parliament, unless done in a half-hearted and cack-handed manner that will do more harm than good.

So what do YOU make of all that?

I think it will win loud applause in the conference chamber. The Liberal Democrat leadership will enjoy that, hoping that the media will report it as an attempt to moderate the excesses of the right-wing Tories.

But they know that it won’t achieve anything in real terms.

Like so much Liberal Democrat posturing – as part of the Coalition – it’s nothing more than words on paper and hot air.