It seems Jeremy Corbyn decided to run for the Labour leadership only after LBC Radio’s Iain Dale suggested it, Vox Political can reveal in the second part of its media roundup of Mr Corbyn’s victory.
The station’s website proclaimed: “Iain suggested he should run, saying: ‘In all seriousness, someone from your side of the party – John McDonnell has done this before.
“‘Someone who is not seen as New Labour or anything like it. I think it would actually enhance the debate.
“‘I don’t know who it would be apart from yourself – we’ll put the thought in your mind, and take full credit if you do decide to run.’
“And speaking a month later, Mr Corbyn gave Iain full credit for putting the idea in his mind.”
But The Independent chose to highlight the abuse thrown at Mr Corbyn, his family and friends, by the media. He alluded to this in his acceptance speech, and the newspaper stated: “He has been accused of being an anti-Semite, a racist and was also accused of failing to act on child abuse allegations in his Islington constituency.
“Those are just some of the allegations that have been levelled against him in the media and even by some of his fellow Labour MPs, who have attempted to persuade people against voting for the far-left MP in a bitter, three-month leadership contest.”
Speaking the day before his historic victory, Mr Corbyn was reported to have said: “As nasty and unpleasant [as] much of the stuff printed is and remains and is deeply hurtful to my wife, family and close friends, we’re not responding in any way; we don’t do that kind of politics.”
In The Guardian, Labour MP John Woodcock said the time had now come for supporters of Labour’s various factions to stop infighting and get behind the new leader.
“If we are to move on from here, then we must recognise how damaging it has been for Labour people, who have all basically wanted the same thing, to have knocked lumps out of each other for 20 years,” he wrote.
Ironically, at the time of writing, those words appear right next to a box declaring: “Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson suggests he’ll oppose Jeremy Corbyn over scrapping Trident.”
Sanity seems to be returning to British politics – if only in a small measure – with the revelation by The Independentthat UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s personal approval rating has lead-ballooned.
According to pollsters Ipsos Mori, he’s now equal in unpopularity with David Cameron – which seems about right, considering their political similarities.
Voter satisfaction with Farage dropped 14 percentage points in the last month after a sex scandal involving UKIP’s now-suspended general secretary and rows over public breastfeeding, expenses and immigration.
Of all voters, 53 per cent said they were “dissatisfied with the way Nigel Farage is doing his job as leader of UKIP”, while 33 per cent were “satisfied”. With “don’t knows” taken into account, Mr Farage now has a similar net approval rating to comedy prime minister David Cameron: -20 and -21 respectively.
Among UKIP’s own supporters, Farage remains highly popular, with 92 per cent saying they were satisfied with what he’s doing.
But then, UKIP supporters are a rum lot. Earlier this week the Vox Political page on Facebook endured an influx of Kippers who were incensed that this blog had promoted a Political Scrapbook story questioning their party’s record on disability.
Not one of them had a reasonable case to present. They turned up, insulted the blog, the page and anybody on it who pointed out that they weren’t making any sense. They spammed the page with endless pointless images promoting UKIP and denigrating the other parties, and with long passages of policy declarations from the party’s website – none of which were relevant to the issues at hand.
Then the page’s administrator decided enough was enough and started banning them, so those who remained declared that they had demonstrated that anyone speaking against them was wrong, deluded or stupid and that Vox Political wasn’t worth the bother – which was enough to get them banned as well.
The general change of heart about Farage is therefore a great relief, as it indicates that people are coming to their sense. The alternative – if he had remained popular while his people have been carrying on like bulls in a china shop – would have been to lament to depths to which British political sensibilities had sunk.
The Independent reported: “At the weekend – as the Ipsos Mori poll was being carried out – UKIP’s candidate in a top target seat, Kerry Smith, was forced to resign after it emerged he had made homophobic and racist remarks and joked about shooting poor people.”
That’s right – and the controversy earned this response when Farage tried to justify his candidate’s behaviour:
“Nigel defends UKIP candidate’s language: ‘If you were going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?’
“I say ‘Chinese’ Nigel.”
With a leader like that, no wonder the rest of his party are hooligans.
Or because of benefit assessment policies that mean people living with progressive and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and rheumatoid arthritis are being subjected to what a group of charities describes as “upsetting and unnecessary” examinations to see whether they will recover enough to look for work in the future – a pointless exercise because their conditions are flagged up from the start as progressive and degenerative; they’re never going to get better.
Or because, after the Resolution Foundation found that one-in-five employees (4.9 million people) earned less than the living wage, George Osborne is promising that if the Conservative Party wins next year’s general election, then most welfare payments that the working poor rely on – including child benefit, tax credits, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and income support – will be frozen in April 2016 for two years. They are currently rising by 1 per cent a year. He will make the working poor poorer.
Clumsy because they have imposed unpopular decisions on the people in an unfair way. Mr Whittam Smith defines fairness in terms of “the four main elements that go into creating a sense of procedural justice: Those concerned should have been able to play an active part in the process. The rules should be applied with sensitivity to individual situations. Decision-makers should be impartial and fair. And the agents of the system with whom people have to deal should treat them with respect.”
He continues: “There is no evidence that people living with progressive and degenerative conditions or members of the working poor or families struggling to pay care bills for elderly relatives have been consulted. There is no evidence of sensitivity to individual situations or else the bedroom tax legislation would have recognised the special difficulties of disabled tenants who are unable to share a bedroom and would have taken into account where homes have been specially adapted.
“As for the agents of the system with whom people have to deal, outsourcing many of these tasks has not produced happy results. Naturally the outsourced staff work by the book. They cannot be flexible or understanding. They are chiefly concerned with getting the job done as quickly as possible so as to reach the profits targets set by their employers. And then, in the final analysis, claimants are not dealing directly with the state at all but with a sort or mercenary army. Mutual respect cannot exist in these circumstances.”
Let’s expand on the last point for a moment, and connect it with the previous points about benefit assessment, with this snippet of information: An academic report from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Stirling has confirmed that the Tories’ welfare reforms are not helping people to find work.
“The current welfare system is not helping people find work. Those who had moved into employment found work independently and not due to Jobcentre Plus services;
“There was limited support on offer to help recipients of out of work benefits move into work. Those participating in the Work Programme did not report that it was helpful;
“Most people wanted to work but issues such as childcare, illness and training made it difficult for them to do so;
“The current welfare system also does not appear to meet its aim of ‘make work pay’. People who had moved into work felt only slightly better off and continued to find it difficult to make ends meet;
“Benefit freezes or restricted increases have meant falling real-term incomes, with many study participants finding it hard to meet basic needs.
“The report concludes that: ‘Participants with a health condition or a disability, and those who were lone parents, reported that they wanted to be in work but faced considerable barriers to doing so, which were unlikely to be addressed by increasing conditionality.
“’According to the views of participants, stronger conditionality is unlikely to get more people into work, due to a lack of suitable work and barriers in the areas of education, skills, employability, childcare and health.’
“The researchers found that claimants who did not abide by the new conditions faced serious consequences.
“’The impact on benefit recipients who fall foul of new rules – or who are affected by a mistake on the part of a benefits agency that is not their fault – can be severe,’ they said.”
That’s nasty – not only have benefit changes been forced onto people without any regard for them, but they don’t even work.
However, this – moving back to Mr Whittam Smith – may be the Tories’ downfall. He points out: “Nowadays we are no longer a homogenous mass but an agglomeration of minorities. In my own circle of family and friends, for instance, there are people who are disabled and others with serious illnesses. There are those who are single parents, others who are retired. There are middle-aged people with back-breaking mortgages, others who are and young and ambitious. There are regular Church-goers as well as non-believers. There are people in jobs, and people who cannot find work. There are Londoners who can’t conceive of living anywhere else (I am one of these), and people who resent the capital city and all its works.
“Each of these minorities has its own particular concerns and needs, prejudices and resentments, but yet feels sympathy for any group that is badly treated.
“The Coalition led by its Conservative ministers has often gone about its work in an unfeeling, insensitive manner. And for that shortcoming there could be a price to pay at the next general election.”
Quite so – especially as they came into government under the banner of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’. What a terrible joke.
The Tory ‘Free Schools’ vanity project has been a complete disaster, with more than £51 million wasted on new schools that failed to meet inspectors’ standards or proposals for schools that were cancelled or withdrawn.
A report compiled by the Labour Party shows that £50m has been spent on free schools either declared inadequate by the education standards watchdog, Ofsted, or requiring improvement. A further £1.043m was spent on applications that were cancelled or withdrawn.
Of the 79 free schools opened in the first and second waves of the Michael Gove project, no less than one in three have been declared inadequate or requiring improvement by schools watchdog Ofsted. This compares with one in five schools overall – that’s including the institutions that ‘Free Schools’ were expected to outperform.
It is noteworthy that, according to shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, the number of “inadequate” schools is equal to the number employing, as teachers, people with no teaching qualifications – one in three.
Worse still, the government has been caught trying to “massage” the figures. The example provided to us by a report in The Independent shows that the Hartsbrook E-Act Free School in north London, declared inadequate by Ofsted, was given a new name and number. This means the school appears as closed, even though it is now operating under a different name (Brook House Primary School), with the same head teacher and pupils in the same location. The re-designation means it won’t be inspected again until four terms have passed.
That could be disastrous for pupils, who by then will have spent almost another quarter of their primary school career in an environment that has been declared substandard, simply to save the government from embarrassment.
It seems the pupils aren’t the only ones who need to learn how to grow up and act in a mature and responsible manner!
Overall, primary ‘Free Schools’ are underperforming in reading, writing and mathematics, in comparison with the rest of the state sector.
It gets worse: Of those free schools whose 2013 national-curriculum test results were published, all bar one underperformed compared with the rest in their local authority and the national average.
Is this the revolution announced so boldly in the Coalition Agreement?
“We … believe that the state should help parents, community groups and others come together to improve the education system by starting new schools,” it told us in 2010.
“We will promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum; and that all schools are held properly to account.
“We will give parents, teachers, charities and local communities the chance to set up new schools, as part of our plans to allow new providers to enter the state school system in response to parental demand.”
Which parents demanded this?
Free Schools also offered the opportunity to employ unqualified people as teachers. The Tory-run Education Department claimed this was a way of bringing in expertise that would not otherwise be available – now we know the facts.
‘Free Schools’ have been an expensive waste – not only of money, but of time and the potential of the school pupils they have failed.
Painful deformities of the skeleton such as bowed legs: The return of rickets is another sign that the Conservative-led government is regressing Britain to conditions during the primitive Victorian era – or even earlier.
“Poverty is forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.
“The public health professionals’ body will call for a national food policy, including a sugar tax, as concerns rise over malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies in British children. It will also appeal for all political parties to back a living wage to help combat the illnesses.
“Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and the faculty has linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food. Latest figures show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months but experts say this is only the extreme end.”
The shocking aspect of this article is that it has taken reporters at The Observer so long to realise what is going on; Vox Political pointed out the rise of this problem almost two years ago!
In the article The rise of food banks and the fall of the Big Society, published on December 22, 2012, VP stated: “As a consequence of the rise in poverty, overseen and orchestrated by Mr Cameron and his lieutenant Iain Duncan Smith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the classic poverty-related diseases of rickets and tuberculosis are on the increase. In 2012, the Conservatives have achieved their aim to revive the Dickensian Christmas.”
Nearly a year after that – and almost a year ago – in October 2013, The Independentcottoned on to the fact that standards of health were in relapse.
Vox Political‘s article ‘Compassionate’ Conservatism’s three ‘R’s – reading, writing and… rickets? (October 24, 2013) had this to say: “David Cameron’s quest to bring the Victorian era back to life in the 21st century reached a new milestone this week when the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of a disease long thought banished from these shores: Rickets.
“The disease was thought to have been eradicated in the UK but, in a damning indictment of modern political priorities, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has admitted that 40 per cent of our children – that’s two-fifths of all the children in the country – now have some kind of vitamin D deficiency. Current figures for full-blown rickets are not available.”
It continued: “Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?
“The Tory wage-crushing policy has been ignorant in the extreme, according to Dame Sally’s report, as it has created an extra burden on the NHS. Preventative measures ‘could save the economy billions’.
“The neglect created in our health system by more than three decades of neoliberal political rule has had a devastating effect on the nation’s children. According to Dame Sally, while our mortality rate for 0-14 year olds was among the best in Europe during the 1980s, it is now among the worst, with five more children dying every day than in the best-performing country, Sweden.
“The highest death rates are in deprived areas – in the northwest, northern cities and some of London’s poorer boroughs, with 21.1 deaths per 100,000 people under 17.
“Dame Sally said: ‘I think this is something, as a country, we should feel profoundly ashamed about – I do.'”
The most damning aspect of the Observer article was the comment from Carmel McConnell, founder of the Magic Breakfast charity, which provides a free breakfast to 8,500 British schoolchildren in need each morning.
She said teachers in the schools where she worked expected to see a dramatic decline in the health of their pupils as they return after the holidays: “Teachers tell us they know even with free school meals it will take two to three weeks to get their kids back up to the weight they were at the end of the last school term because their families cannot afford the food during the holidays.”
Dr John Middleton of the Faculty of Public Health placed the blame squarely on the Coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. He said in the Observer article: “Food prices up 12 per cent, fuel prices up double-figure percentages and wages down is a toxic combination, forcing more people to eat unhealthily.”
The Vox Political article of October last year ended with a re-worked Biblical quotation, changed to fit the modern philosophy of David Cameron and his Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Considering the latest findings, it is even more appropriate today: “Suffer, little children – for you have a Conservative government.”
Reality check: All you need to know about this issue is wrapped up in the fact that Vox Political had to add the words “NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!” to an image that should – obviously – be treated as satirical.
What a paradox: While the Jewish state of Israel is criticised for treating Palestinian Muslims the way Hitler’s Germany treated them, history is repeating itself for British Jews who are being targeted for exactly the same treatment.
Gaza means Jews across the world may now be perceived as both perpetrators and victims.
Antisemitic attacks in the UK were up 42 per cent on the previous six months in July, because idiots can’t tell the difference between citizens of Israel and British Jews.
Attacks on Jewish people in the UK between January and June had already risen by 36 per cent.
Undoubtedly the increase in hate crime, described by Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust (in The Guardian) as a “wave of racist intimidation and violence”, has been fuelled by media coverage of the Israeli military action in Gaza that began in early July.
It is easy to understand why, when one examines the casualty figures: Almost 2,000 Palestinians have died, while the Jewish casualties number less than 100. Tens of thousands of people attended a rally in condemnation of these deaths in London yesterday (Saturday).
What has gone unnoticed – especially by the antisemitic thugs – is that Jewish communities in the UK are also “filled with grief for the people of Gaza”. As Rabbi Miriam Berger states in The Independent, “No Jew in Britain could possibly relish this loss of life.”
British Jews are citizens of the UK, not Israel. They have nothing to do with the political process in that – foreign – country and it is clear that many of them disapprove of actions that have led to such a marked loss of life.
It is to all our shame that they have fallen foul of the kind of people who cannot distinguish fantasy from reality. These thugs would probably attack a soap actor in the street if a storyline made a villain of their character.
Demonising people who have done nothing wrong will only make a horrifying situation even worse.
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”.
Another fool who doesn’t think before speaking: David Gauke, pictured here with jaws clamped shut in a desperate attempt to prevent his foot from leaping into his mouth. It would serve him right if his ill-judged attack on a Labour MP brings the entire party and all its supporters together for a concerted attack on the Conservative-led coalition’s silly and baseless policies.
Tory Treasury tax-avoidance fan and whistleblower-basher David Gauke’s attack on the Labour Party is yet another shot in the foot for the Government That Can Do Nothing Right.
His ill-judged, ill-timed remark that Labour MPs were “turning on each other” is more likely to galvanise Her Majesty’s Opposition into more co-ordinated and powerful attacks on Coalition ideology and incompetence – especially after we learned the Tory claim that they inherited an economic mess from the last Labour government was nothing more than a blatant lie.
“They don’t really have anything to say and they’re now turning on each other and I think their own backbenchers are beginning to realise that the Labour leadership haven’t really got a voice,” Gauke told the BBC in response to a piece by Labour’s Swansea West MP, Geraint Davies, in The Independent.
In doing so, it seems Gauke was trying to distract attention from what Mr Davies was actually saying – which is worth repeating here, because it is likely he speaks for a huge majority of Labour members who are becoming increasingly frustrated by the contradictory and self-defeating behaviour of their leaders.
So what does Mr Davies say?
First: “The electorate doesn’t yet see a clear choice between the parties on cuts vs growth.” This is because Labour has promised not to reverse Conservative-led ideological cuts and to keep spending at Tory-set levels for 2015-16, if returned to office at the general election – even though the Conservatives have decisively lost the argument on austerity. It simply isn’t necessary.
Second: “The Tories have been relentless in asserting that Labour messed up the economy. Not rebutting this charge makes us look like a shamefaced schoolboy admitting responsibility by omission.” Mr Davies makes a second good point here – more so because, as William Keegan reported in Sunday’s Observer, the spring issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy exonerates the last Labour government of any economic wrong-doing. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling did the right thing – and it is worth reminding everybody that the Conservatives, at the time, supported their actions. That was when the Tories were led by – who’d have thought it? – David Cameron and George Osborne, just as they are now!
The Observer article went on to note that US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has also endorsed the Labour government’s actions in his recognition that demand in our economies must be stimulated. Conservative-led Coalition policy has drained demand away. This is why the smart commentators are pointing out that the unforeseen upturn in the UK economy in recent months has nothing to do with government policy; it’s just that things had to get better, sooner or later.
Third: He puts up his opinion – that a Labour government should boost the UK’s productive capacity “by linking industry, universities and councils. We need a sharper focus on the growing export opportunities to China, India, Brazil and Russia. We must invest in homes and transport, use public procurement as an engine to grow small and medium-sized firms…. We need to continue a journey towards jobs and growth, not to be diverted into a cul-de-sac of more cuts.”
The last comment dovetails perfectly with the attack launched by Labour this week on the Coalition’s record – which claims the average worker will have lost £6,600 in real terms between the 2010 election and that due to take place in 2015.
Paraphrasing former Tory PM Harold Macmillan, Labour said many workers had “never had it so bad”, pointing out that David Cameron has presided over a more sustained period of falling real wages since 2010 than any other prime minister in the past 50 years.
The Tories’ only response has been to repeat the lie that the Coalition was clearing up a “mess” that we all now know for certain Labour neither created nor left.
Conservative business minister Matthew Hancock was the one voicing it this time, so voters in his West Suffolk constituency please note: This man is a liar. You must not trust him.
And of course David Gauke weighed in as well. He’s the minister in charge of tax – who was revealed to have worked for a firm specialising in tax avoidance. Do you trust him? He’s also the minister who reportedly green-lit a plan to discredit Osita Mba, a solicitor with HM Revenue and Customs, after he blew the whistle on the notorious Goldman Sachs “sweetheart” deal that wrote off millions of pounds in interest charges on tax owed to the UK Treasury by the multinational corporation. A trustworthy man?
David Gauke is the MP for South West Hertfordshire. Voters there may wish to reconsider their opinion of him.
What these chuckleheads are missing is the fact that Mr Davies is not a lone voice in the wilderness; his article expressed the opinions of a wide majority of Labour members and voters.
“Will the Labour party declare it is opposed to zero hours contracts and will end them?” he wrote (perhaps after reading the Vox Political article on that subject).
“Will it show it is opposed to blacklisting by making it an imprisonable offence, prosecuting the 44 companies who indulged in it if convicted, and making it sure that all the 3,213 building workers secretly subject to blacklisting are informed of the cause of their up to 20 years’ joblessness and fully compensated? Will it say loud and clear that a decade of pay cuts for those on the lowest incomes is flagrantly unjust when the 0.01 per cent richest have not only not paid any price, but have seen their wealth continue to grow untouched?”
This is the sort of fire Labour members and voters want to see from the leaders. There is nothing to fear from tissue paper-thin Tory arguments and outright lies. It is time to stand up for Labour principles, damn the Tories for their evil, damn the Liberal Democrats as fools and dupes, and set out a plan to get the ship of state off the rocks and into calmer waters.
If Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, and the rest of the Labour front bench have any sense, they’ll realise that continuing with the course they have set will put them in a tiny minority that cannot possibly hope to win the next election. Alignment with Geraint Davies, Michael Meacher and the millions like them should ensure an overwhelming victory.
Not evil: We have reason to believe that Iain Duncan Smith’s policies have led to the deaths of dozens – if not hundreds – of sick and disabled people every single week. We have reason to believe he is suppressing evidence of the number of deaths caused, which in turn leads us to believe that it is a greater number than we have imagined so far. And we have reason to believe he has done so, in order to avoid the inevitable public outcry that would follow such a revelation. Do YOU believe that these actions are not evil?
Following on from the previous article in this series, let’s look at the consequences of hiring organisations that have no moral compass, to carry out vital public work – and the implications about the governments that take them on.
It has long been the attitude of this blog that the leaders of the Conservative Party are evil creatures, and this conclusion is borne out by their actions. Today this contrasts starkly with the opinion of fellow leftie Owen Jones, writing in The Independent, who has claimed it is wrong to label them in that way.
He cites some of the best-known examples used by people to prove the evil of the Tories: “It is projected that over a million children will be driven into poverty by this Government’s policies[wage depression, cuts to benefits, cuts to landlord subsidy].Half a million people, unable to properly feed themselves in one of the most prosperous countries, have been driven to food banks, particularly because of cuts to benefits or delays in payments. Sick and disabled people are being stripped of support[work capability assessments carried out by Atos].The bedroom tax is punishing hundreds of thousands for the failure of successive governments to build council housing[and landlords including social landlords will evict them]. Cuts to in-work and out-of-work benefits have been imposed as a cynical ploy, to paint Labour as the party of welfarism: the cost of such political manoeuvring [being] more people having to choose between heating and food[in fact the Conservatives are the party of welfarism. They talk about the social security bill rising 60 per cent under Labour, but under the Conservatives is rose by as much as 80 per cent in a single year (1982-3, if memory serves)].
But he says these wicked, immoral acts, enacted by the most privileged in British society upon those who have no defence against them, are not evil. “‘Evil’ is a comforting, but worrying concept,” he writes. “Its connotations are so extreme that, by applying it to someone, you at a stroke strip them of their humanity; you cease in any way to be able to imagine their rationales or thought processes; they simply become a cartoon villain, for whom the ultimate thrill is the inflicting of misery. As soon as you fail to understand your enemy, they have already defeated you. It would be easy to imagine the Tories as a cabal of upper-class sadomasochists, spending their evenings plotting ever more devious ways to hunt children on council estates like rural foxes. But it misses the point.”
Sorry, Owen, but on this one I think you’ve missed the point.
Look at the most commonly-cited example of evil we have: Hitler. Sorry to drop the H-bomb but this is relevant: He was genuinely evil. But he was not a “cartoon villain”. Those who fought him did not see him as an inhuman or alien creature. They certainly did not believe his only aim was to inflict misery (although he did, and in similar ways to the current UK administration – look at the way both have treated their sick and disabled). Hitler’s opponents did not see their enemy as a creature they could not possibly understand; instead they spent huge amounts of time and effort trying to get into his mind – even bizarrely decorating their offices with Nazi paraphernalia, dressing like him and trying to look like him in the scramble to comprehend what made him who he was.
They would have agreed with Mr Jones – as I do – that it is necessary to understand an enemy in order to defeat them. But by this yardstick, Owen would be saying Hitler wasn’t one of the most evil men to blight the 20th century – and he clearly was.
Hitler did what he did because he thought it was the right thing to do. He believed – passionately, just as Iain Duncan Smith believes – that his policies were the best, not just for Germany but for the world. He believed that the German people – the Aryan race – were the inheritors of the Earth and he had a duty to bring them into their inheritance. He believed that other races – particularly the Jews, but also the Romany, and undoubtedly others as well – were inferior and that it was all right to use them as slaves in order to achieve the aims of his master race, while expending as few resources feeding and clothing them as possible. And he was surrounded by people who believed the same. Alternative ideas were suppressed.
Isn’t this exactly the same as Owen’s own rationale for the way Conservatives behave? “Most of us like to believe we’re ‘doing the right thing’,” he writes. “A politician introducing a policy that any independent observer will find drives people into poverty will privately justify it to themselves as necessary or unavoidable or for the long-term good of those affected. It allows people – on the right as well as left – to stubbornly believe things in spite of all the facts.” Like Hitler in the final months of World War Two? Like David “There Is No Alternative” Cameron?
“As is well known, the Tory front-bench is drawn from the most privileged sections of society. Such a background can – though not inevitably – lead to a failure to understand why people may struggle to get by,” Owen writes. Hitler’s background led to a failure to understand that he did not have a right to persecute sections of society he didn’t like – and Iain Duncan Smith’s background has led to the same failure. “It means mixing with other prosperous people, who they may see as the real drivers of prosperity who just need to be left to their own devices, freed from meddling governments and unions.” In Hitler’s case, he believed that the government and businesspeople needed to work together to bring about prosperity for the people – whose duty was to follow these leaders and service their needs blindly. “Easy, then, to justify policies that benefit the rich (who you see as noble wealth-creators) and punish the poor (who you see as those too feckless to climb the social ladder without prodding).” Easy, then, to justify policies that benefit the Nazi (who you see as a noble wealth-creator) and punish the Jew (who you see as a parasite, sucking money out of the state).
Conservatives are not a large section of the population. Those who are politically active are a tiny minority – the Tory Party is in fact a minority-interest organisation, promoting the interests of the very, very rich – so branding the Tories as evil is not casting a large section of the population in that light. Most of the people who support the Tories are misguided, rather than evil – they believe too much of what they read in the right-wing newspapers.
But Iain Duncan Smith’s determination to wipe out a whole section of the population just because their bodies don’t function the same way his does? That’s evil. George Osborne’s determination to stick to his austerity policies, even though he now knows there is no justification for them whatsoever? That’s evil. The Tory privatisation schedule that is intended, for example, to put decent healthcare out of the reach of the poor for generations to come, leaving them vulnerable to the revival of some of the least pleasant diseases and health conditions this country has ever seen? That’s extremely evil.
The way privatisation was presented as a way of democratising ownership of the national utility companies, when in fact the long-term plan was for the shares to be sold out of the hands of the working- and middle-classes who were ignorant of how to handle them properly, leading to huge dividends for people who were already rich, higher prices for the poor (to pay for those dividends, and the executive salaries they justified), and continued support from successive governments when the privatised companies failed to plough their profits back into their industry in investment? That was very evil too.
“Manipulating fears over, say, immigration or crime”?Evil.
“Exploiting existing divisions in working-class communities”?Evil.
Manipulating the press to present them as helping the poor, when in fact those who have the least are being hit harder than they have been for generations – while alternative opinions (with some honourable exceptions, Owen) are suppressed? Evil.
I like Owen Jones, but he’s wrong on this one. The Conservatives must be made to accept responsibility for the evil they are doing. He should not be giving these creatures of evil a way out.
Schizoid report: José Ángel Gurría, secretary general of the OECD. He’d probably object to the way we’ve defaced his sign, but it now provides a more accurate description of his organisation’s opinions.
How can the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tell George Osborne that he should invest in infrastructure projects but continue with his policy of cutting public spending, when the first public spending he cut was infrastructure projects?
Is this a sign of the delirium into which the western economies are sinking, partly through slavish adherence to neoliberal nonsense – in the face of all the facts – and party through a lack of raw intelligence?
The OECD, according to The Guardian, has revised down its economic growth forecast for the UK. What a surprise; they haven’t revised our growth upwards since before Osborne became Chancellor – and that alone indicates where the problem lies.
It says spending cuts and a lack of consumer and business confidence are restricting what we should all call “the recovery” only in mocking terms.
But, as the newspaper reports, “it [the OECD] backed George Osborne’s plans for further spending cuts, saying: ‘With a high budget deficit and gross government debt rising to 90 per cent of GDP in 2012, further fiscal consolidation is necessary to restore the sustainability of public finances.'”
What? It’s still supporting the discredited view that when public debt hits 90 per cent of GDP, growth is slowed? Hasn’t that idea been comprehensively rubbished – not only on paper but in the fact that UK growth hit standstill point the instant Osborne came in as Chancellor and inflicted his policies on us all?
It isn’t the amount of debt that’s the problem – its the stupid things that blinkered upper-class idiots do in response!
The OECD said the Labour market was “resilient”, so it obviously has been paying too much attention to DWP press releases when it should have looked up the facts. According to the Resolution Foundation (yes, another thinktank), as reported in The Independent, “The jobs market remains weak and is likely to continue to struggle well into the second half of the decade, making this a more severe downturn for employment levels than the two previous recessions”.
The article states: “The Resolution Foundation has performed an analysis of the total adult employment rate – which reflects the increase in the size of the population and the growth of the available workforce – and found that there remains a “jobs gap” of 930,000. This is the number of new jobs that would be required to restore the employment rate from its present level of 58.5 per cent to the 60.3 per cent recorded in 2008. This jobs gap has actually grown from 830,000 in the final quarter of last year.”
Once again, we see the facts do not support Coalition government press releases.
The OECD’s claim that average real earnings are “weak”, on the other hand, is realistic and gives the necessary perspective to a report from the Office for National Statistics that the total number of weekly hours worked across the economy hit a new record high of 950.3 million in the first quarter of the year.
If everybody’s working so much, why haven’t we got any money? Answer: Because the Tory-led government has been pushing wages downwards, ever since it came into power. Average earnings for bosses of FT350 companies have rocketed upwards, but the worker on the street had a pay rise of just 0.8 per cent last year. Look at the way benefit increases have been pushed below the rate of inflation (the DWP again!) in order to make the unemployed desperate to take whatever work they can get – no matter how poorly-paid – and to put those who have jobs in fear of losing them, so that they won’t be demanding pay rises anytime soon.
Back to the OECD: It wants a house-building programme to spur jobs growth. Without this, it warned that house values could overheat, sparking another price bubble. Isn’t that what George Osborne wants? Look at the so-called “second-home subsidy” he announced in the March budget, when he said the government would underwrite a percentage of new house purchases. Already we have seen warnings (from Sir Mervyn King in this Vox article) that it will create a price bubble.
So not only is Osborne right; he’s also wrong. Growth is down because of his policy of cuts, but he should continue making them. Unemployment is down – but the jobs gap has grown.
Also, not only is Osborne wrong; he’s very wrong. Low wages mean economy-boosting demand is also low – but the government is pushing wages down still further. House-building is needed to spur jobs growth and prevent a price bubble – but he isn’t building houses and he is actively pursuing the creation of a price bubble.
That’s what the OECD report says. There’s no way Osborne should be using it to support his policies but I bet he will.
If I were the secretary of state in one of the government departments he’s trying to squeeze for more cuts, I would be phoning the local mental hospital, saying a dangerous madman was loose in Whitehall and demanding that he should be sectioned.
But it seems that, instead of this, the ministers who’ve dragged their feet will be subjected to a grilling by the all-new ‘Star Chamber’, which is the name for the public expenditure committee Osborne has set up. Apparently ‘Star Chamber’ has a “mystique” about it (according to The Guardian); in fact it will consist of Osborne, Danny Alexander and those ministers who’ve given in and agreed cuts, haranguing the dissenters until they fold up like cheap thugs who’ve been punched in the kidneys once too often.
The fact that they will all eventually capitulate means we can laugh at them next time they’re on television trying to act tough, but the whole sorry story leaves us with one immutable fact:
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