If you’ve seen the video clip in which Richard Murphy explains how money works, you’ll know that people who pay tax are more likely to vote – they feel they have more of an interest in it.
(Of course, tax is about returning money the government has created, in order to avoid catastrophic inflation – and not about giving the government the money it needs in order to provide public services, but let’s not complicate matters by going into that.)
But the Tories have spent the last 11 years raising the earnings threshold at which people pay tax, claiming this as a sign of their generosity.
Oh really? Watch the video and consider the comment by Paul Sweeney.
Just remembered how the nearly half of the working age population in Britain earning less than £13,000 a year was framed by the impartial public service broadcaster 🤦🏻♂️ https://t.co/WPRzVYSmkh
It seems to This Writer that, through no fault of their own, attempts are being made to deny more than 20 million people the right to say which services the government funds. Presumably the next step is to say, if you don’t pay tax, you don’t get to vote.
We’re on a very slippery slope, here.
And a hypocritical one.
You’ll notice that nobody is saying you shouldn’t have a say if you don’t pay all the tax for which you should be liable – for example, because you engage in tax avoidance.
So super-rich tax avoiders will be able to vote/help decide which public services are funded or whether they get funded at all – despite the fact that most of them don’t need the most expensive of those services. Logically, they’ll say those are the ones to get the axe.
Meanwhile, the super-poor – who are now prevented from paying tax, either because they are on benefits or their wages have been pushed into the dirt by Tory employers – may be denied that right.
It should not even be a subject for discussion.
The qualification for voting – and therefore for helping decide how public money is spent – is UK citizenship because we all live here and we are all affected by the decisions the government makes.
Oh, and of course Income Tax is not the only tax that people pay.
So to rule people out of the process because they have been priced out of paying just one of the UK’s many taxes would be unfair in the extreme – and Emma Barnett was talking out of her rear end.
What a shame that’s such a good description of our current Tory government.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Did we just have the worst-ever Budget from Britain’s weakest-ever Chancellor? All the indications suggest it.
George Osborne stole his best ideas from the Labour Party and claimed he was trimming his planned austerity back – raising mockery from those who said he was running like a rabbit from Labour’s “back to the 1930s” attack.
“George Osborne blinked,” said Paul Mason on Channel 4 News. “He looked at the scale of austerity he promised in December and realised it wasn’t going to be that popular.”
Did he, though? An alternative view might be that he has been trying to trick us – setting out a plan that suggests a horrific level of cuts at first, then claiming to relent and suggesting that he will inflict less damage and spend lots at the very end of the next Parliament.
So his promise is hideous suffering for four more years, with the vague possibility of greater spending at the end of it – if all has gone well.
Based on his current record, that’s a promise George Osborne can’t keep. Did he balance the books in this Parliament? No. Did he cut the deficit without cutting frontline services? No. Did he balance austerity fairly between the poor and the rich? No – the poor have taken a hugely disproportionate amount of the pain while the richest in the UK are now twice as rich as they were in 2009; for them, we have been in an economic boom.
What a shame those “naughty Trotskyites” (thank you, Mike Collins) at the Torygraph had to burst Osborne’s balloon by pointing out the huge growth of the national debt on his watch – more than £517 billion so far, which is more than every Labour government in history.
Labour’s bank levy and the changes to pensions that would have funded Labour’s tuition fees cut were stolen by Osborne. This is why Labour has been keeping future policies quiet – to prevent such things from happening. In making these moves, Osborne has helped Labour because critics of Labour’s failure to announce policies in advance will now have to shut up.
He said living standards would be back where they were in 2010 by the end of the current financial year – but using a scale (Real Household Disposable Incomes) that is disputed, and in any case is only a projection. According to the Mean Income scale, we’re nowhere near.
And Osborne’s claim assumes that household incomes will rise by no less than 3.1 per cent this year. Unlikely!
And remember – as Mr Mason put it: “Prices are falling because of oil prices and potential deflation; it’s not because a load of bricklayers and plumbers and taxi drivers are putting down their prices – and wages up.”
He repeated the claim that he has halved the deficit – but this is as a proportion of GDP. What if we have another economic shock (as seems likely) and GDP drops? Suddenly that figure won’t look as good. In money terms, the deficit has come down by around one-third to something like £90 billion a year. This means Osborne hasn’t even achieved what the previous Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling, said was possible in 2010 – and Labour would not have caused anything like the misery George Osborne’s party and the Liberal Democrats created for people on housing benefit, the sick, the disabled, and low-paid workers.
He didn’t mention the huge budget cuts to come over the next five years (if we get lumbered with more Tory rule) – worse than “anything over the past five years”
As the BBC’s Robert Peston tweeted: “If Tories win, OBR says ‘sharp acceleration’ in pace of cuts to day-to-day spending on public services & admin 2016-17 & 2017-18.” In those two years – under Tory rule – we would get double the amount of austerity cuts that we’ve had at any point in the last four. We don’t even know where those cuts will happen.
It is important to note that we won’t get cuts on anything like this scale under a Labour government, according to shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
In the meantime, Osborne has managed to pull a few rabbits out of his hat:
The tax allowance has been raised again, lifting more low-earners out of paying Income Tax. But those working part-time on low wages, including most apprentices and people who are self-employed, are already unlikely to pay income tax and will miss out entirely on the benefits of this tax change.
Meanwhile the threshold at which people will pay tax at the ‘high’ 40 per cent rate will also rise, meaning people earning up to £42,384 will get a massive tax break.
Beer duty is being cut again.
There will be a new savings tax break, meaning more than 90 per cent of savers won’t pay tax on this money.
And Osborne is launching a new ‘help to buy’ ISA for people trying to get on the property ladder.
All of these remove income from the Treasury, meaning the austerity measures Osborne plans to introduce will be more severe than you may be expecting. Note that the high-earners benefiting from the rise in the tax threshold will profit again – they can’t be hurt by cuts to benefits they don’t receive.
And what about tax dodging? Osborne omitted his failure to tackle this issue from his Budget speech. Perhaps this is because the wounds inflicted by the HSBC scandal are still too raw; perhaps it is because everybody knows Osborne and the Coalition have re-written tax law to make avoidance much easier for the filthy rich and the corporates. 38 Degrees caught the mood in a nutshell:
Regarding the ‘help to buy’ ISA, it’s notable that Osborne didn’t mention the lack of new homes built since 2010.
Osborne did not mention the Coalition government’s disgraceful treatment of the National Health Service at all. There will be no new money for the service. His omission prompted the following – scathing – response:
However, as Mark Ferguson of LabourList pointed out on Twitter: “Cameron again takes credit for more doctors. Now it takes seven years to train a doctor. So those are Labour’s doctors.”
Oh, and there was a sideswipe at the SNP. North Sea oil revenues have taken a vertiginous tumble as a result of the cut in oil prices, meaning investment has also declined markedly. Osborne has cut the supplementary charge and introduced investment incentives to prop up this income stream, in a move that Tom Bradby describes as “trying to shoot SNP foxes”.
On employment, Osborne quoted his claim that there are 1.9 million new jobs and the jobless rate is at 5.3 per cent. He omitted the figures on how many are zero-hours (1.8 million in a snapshot taken last August) or off the dole due to sanctions. The number of people unemployed and not claiming JSA is at its highest level ever, as this graph shows:
[Thanks to @InclusionCESI for this information.]
So, as one commentator put it, the Tories go into the 2015 general election with debt, in-work poverty and net migration higher – and the NHS in crisis compared to 2010.
Labour’s Michael Dugher followed up on this with: “Are the Tories really going to run on ‘You’ve never had it so good’?”
He has offered a few small freebies in a lame bid to influence the vote, hoping all the while that you won’t ask questions about the important economic issues he hasn’t bothered to mention.
Not only are we at the end of a zombie Parliament, but its own chancellor has crippled it in its final lurch to the election.
Swivel-eyed loon: This is the kind of man who listens to George Osborne’s comments about the economy. [Picture: Left Foot Forward]
It must be panto season because the Conservative Party’s very own Ugly Sisters have just wheeled themselves out to deliver another helping of hilarious family fun:
Even more cuts are needed, worth billions of pounds, and there are still huge underlying problems with the economy, said Sister George, even though he knows that cuts are not the answer.
The small upturn he managed to engineer last year came from a natural upswing in the economy and the artificial housing boom that he created by Keynesian means and was nothing to do with austerity cuts. As for the economy, he’s had three and a half years to fix it! It seems clear that if there is an underlying problem, its surname is Osborne.
We may also extract some bitter humour from his words. Only days ago, his cabinet colleague Michael Gove attacked TV comedy Blackadder Goes Forth for claiming that our leaders in World War One never learnt from their mistakes but merely repeated them, over and over again, at huge cost in the lives of the working-class people who had to suffer the consequences of their decisions.
So we will see another £25 billion cut out of the British economy after the next election if the Conservatives win, including £12 billion from social security, he told us, providing everybody with an income lower than £50,000 per year with a perfect reason not to vote Conservative in 2015.
Come to think of it, why do working-class people ever vote for clowns like him?
He’ll cut departmental budgets by £13 billion, starving already wafer-thin public services and paving the way for their takeover by the private sector – on the long-disproved premise that profit-making businesses can do a better job for less money.
He’ll cut housing benefit for young people (under-25) who are just trying to get started in work – but he won’t force under-paying firms to boost their wages in order to offer a decent standard of living!
He also said – no, wait, that’s all he had to offer.
George justified his plan by trotting out the now-classic justification line of this Parliament – that the deficit was down by a third since 2010. He has been saying this for the last two years, and in all that time, the deficit hasn’t dropped at all! Last year the difference was a fraction of one per cent.
This is because the drop was achieved by cutting capital projects and there aren’t any more to cut. Taking billions out of the economy with benefit cuts and investment cuts actually harms the economy – there is less money moving through the system and therefore less opportunity for the fiscal multiplier effect to take place, for profit to be made and for taxes to be taken.
George has always had a bit of a blind spot there.
Sister George said he supported universal benefits for the elderly as they will only save around £10 million – but Sister David has suggested cutting free TV licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowances. Pensions are also taking a battering – never mind what they’re saying about the triple-lock.
David also said he wanted to cut taxes for the poor before the wealthy – but planned to do so by raising the threshold at which they begin to pay tax. This means they will not pay National Insurance either, and will have to find a higher-paying job before they can expect to contribute to their own pension fund. This means some people may never qualify for the state pension.
So they’re starting 2014 by promising austerity cuts that will harm the economy, cuts in benefits for the elderly that will save a comparatively negligible amount but will cause misery, and cuts in government budgets that will open the way to further privatisation and corporatisation of the state.
Those are the real hard truths – but you won’t hear these two characters admitting them.
You can’t trust the mainstream media to debunk politicians’ lies; that’s why you need Vox Political! But this site needs YOUR support to continue. Every penny will be used wisely. You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times in either print or eBook format here:
Flinging around the bling: Someone should have told David Cameron that he shouldn’t surround himself with gold when he’s rubbing the proles’ noses in unlimited austerity. The horse impression may also have been ill-judged.
David Cameron must think we are a nation of fools.
He came into office by the back door after failing to convince a majority of British citizens that his pal Gideon’s George’s plan to starve the economy of money would magically refill the Treasury’s empty coffers. Three and a half years of relentless pro-Tory propaganda from the tabloids later, and he tells us – at an opulent banquet, no less! – that austerity is here to stay.
Isn’t that because his policies have been a disaster, then?
Yes. But a disaster for us, not him or his bankster/financier/corporate masters.
As this blog stated more than a year ago, “people need to understand that the Coalition government’s fiscal strategy isn’t about reducing the national deficit at all. If it was, we would not have had a big tax break for the richest in society as part of the last budget. It’s a strategy to axe public services, selling off to rich corporations any that might be capable of yielding a profit. George W Bush followed this policy in the United States a few years ago; it’s called ‘starving the beast’.”
Look this up on Wikipedia and you will find that it involves cutting taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force reduced spending. In the USA, we are told, “the short- and medium-term effect of the strategy has dramatically increased the United States’ public debt rather than reduce spending”.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s tax-cutting plan was expected to be funded by lower government spending on social security and healthcare – and it is important that people here in the UK should see the similarities between that and the Coalition government’s privatisation of the National Health Service (we’re told the NHS is a registered company now), along with its many attacks on people who claim social security benefits.
We’ve had tax cuts for the very rich – the so-called “millionaire’s tax cut” that brought the top rate of Income Tax down from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. Corporation Tax is coming down from 28 per cent to 21 per cent while the corporations that write UK tax policy are using it to facilitate tax avoidance schemes. And the poorest workers in the country are being fooled into believing they are getting a good deal out of the policy of raising the tax threshold to £10,000 per year.
Let’s look at that. Nick Clegg wants to raise it still further, so that nobody is taxed on earnings below £10,500 per year, but this means the Treasury will be starved of £1 billion. That’s a lot of money. Meanwhile, the deficit – and the debt – keeps rising.
We’ve had almost no change in the national deficit, year on year. Michael Meacher’s latest blog entry tells us, “the UK debt overhang is growing, not reducing… the budget deficit is not going down appreciably either. In 2011 it was £118bn and in 2012 this had hardly fallen at all at £115bn. The 40% cut in public spending budgets and the £18bn cut in benefits and hence in consumer demand, plus the £40bn further intended cuts after 2015, has produced searing pain, yet next to [no] improvement in the national accounts which was supposed to be the whole aim of the exercise.”
It is also important to note that the effect of raising the tax threshold for poorer people has been completely negated by other changes in government benefits for people on low incomes, unemployment or incapacity support; in fact they are worse off.
It is against that background – tax cuts for the very rich and the corporates, “searing” pain for the poor and worsening national debt – that David Cameron announced, at the gold-trimmed Lord Mayor’s Banquet, “We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending… it means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
At last he has admitted the point of the last three and a half pointless years. He has been starving the Treasury of the cash it needs to balance the books, and now he feels able to tell us that it isn’t going to happen unless public services are cut drastically.
He must be so happy.
Presumably he hasn’t realised that he has just told the British public that his policies, those of his political party and the Coalition of which it is a part, have been an abject disaster for the people of the United Kingdom.
He promised that he would get the deficit down; he failed.
He promised that the measures he took would be applied equally to everyone, from the highest-earners to the lowest; they weren’t.
Now he has promised to build a leaner, more efficient state, using examples from education and health, whose funding has been ring-fenced throughout his period in office; he is lying.
It is time, now, for serious-minded people to draw a line below the selfish policies of the last 30 years and start thinking about government for all the people once again.
When governments talk about making cuts, they’re not talking about help for the rich. Social or economic programmes, supported by taxes, are only ever put in place to level a playing field that would otherwise be tilted against the poor or disadvantaged. Removing such programmes means a less equal society; one that is more UNfair.
Remember that when Cameron and his cronies – especially people like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey – talk about making Britain a fairer place to live and work.
Their words carry about as much weight as their leader’s 2010 election promises.
Demonstrating for justice: Campaigners against the Bedroom Tax gathered outside Parliament while MPs debated it inside.
“I’m amazed Labour have chosen to spend their allotted day in Parliament arguing for more unfunded spending on housing benefit.” That’s what Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Sussex, had to say about the Opposition Day debate on the Bedroom Tax in the House of Commons on November 12.
Hancock is, it seems, author of a book entitled Masters of Nothing, which sums up his understanding of the situation rather well. He clearly has not mastered the fact that the State Under-Occupation Charge will not save money. He has not mastered the fact that emptying dwellings of their current owners will not make them available to new familes as these people are afraid they will themselves be tipped onto the street when their circumstances change – instead the premises will be left empty, at huge cost to social landlords; and he has not mastered the fact that anyone evicted because of the tax will become a burden on local authorities, who have a duty to rehouse them in bed and breakfast accommodation, even though the money provided to them for this purpose by the government is ludicrously inadequate to the task.
Hancock is not alone in having misconceptions about the Bedroom Tax. Most, if not all, of the Conservatives who spoke during the debate uttered howlers – and the purpose of this article is to name them and explain why they should be ashamed of their words.
Please take the opportunity, Dear Reader, to look for your own MP in the catalogue of calamity that follows, then use it to attack them in their own consituency. Let’s make them realise that actions have consequences.
If you don’t have a Tory MP, feel free to use what follows in order to make sure you never have to put up with one.
We begin with Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) who asked of Rachel Reeves: “What does she say to the almost 400,000 families who are living in overcrowded situations when they look over their shoulders at the almost one million spare bedrooms in Britain?”
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary responded without hesitation: “I say that instead of presiding over the lowest rate of house building since the 1920s, this Government should get on and build some houses.”
The Minister of State, Steve Webb, came back to this point later, saying: “Who was doing the house building for 13 years?” Well, we all know who hasn’t been doing it for the last three.
Mr Ellwood said the Tax was brought in because the cost of housing benefit was rising alarmingly: “After 13 years of Labour the cost of housing benefit doubled to £21 billion. That is unacceptable. The cost to taxpayers was £900 per household. The system was getting out of control.” His failure is that he refused to accept the explanation offered by Labour’s Katy Clark – that this was due to the rising cost of rent in the private sector (private rents have indeed been rising massively and the government refuses to take action because this would interfere with the market. Bizarrely, the Conservative-led Coalition seems to believe it is acceptable to pay huge gobs of housing benefit to private landlords – who make unreasonable demands – and then blame social renting tenants for it). He also, by inference, rejected the evidence that the Bedroom Tax will not save any money.
Mr Ellwood also referred to the deficit run by the Labour government of 1997-2010. He said: “Labour lived beyond its means. In 2002-03, it spent £26 billion beyond its means. Four years later that rose to £33 billion. In its final year of office, the deficit rose to £156 billion. That always accumulates.”
This is disingenuous. As he must know, not only did Labour run a lower deficit than the Conservative governments of both Thatcher and Major (average 41 per cent of gross domestic product) from 1997 to 2007, it also made a surplus in the 2000-2001 financial year – something that the previous Conservative governments never did. This means Labour actually paid off some of the debts that had been accumulating. With that pedigree, even the 43 per cent deficit of 2008 looks respectable. The higher deficits of 2009 and 2010 were entirely caused by the bankster-instigated financial crisis, when the actions taken by Labour were entirely supported by the Conservative Party.
He went on to condemn Labour for voting against £83 billion of welfare savings; if the reasoning for them was as shaky as that for the Bedroom Tax (and it was; see previous VP articles) then Labour was quite right to do so!
It should be noted that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, was not present at the debate. RTU (as we like to call him) was woofing it up in Paris, rather than accounting for his misbehaviour to the taxpayer.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) echoed a comment by Mr Webb, but did it in such an inept way that we’ll look at her words rather than his. Following Labour’s Stephen Twigg, she referred to the too-low allocation of Discretionary Housing Payment to families having to cope with the Bedroom Tax: “Perhaps he would like to speak to his Labour-run Liverpool council and ask why, when it received £892,000 in discretionary housing payments last year, it actually sent back £337,000.”
Mr Twigg put her straight: “Does she accept that the figures that she has given are from before the bedroom tax was introduced? This year, Liverpool city council will certainly spend the entire discretionary housing pot.”
His words echoed fellow Labour MP Lucy Powell, who had previously berated Mr Webb: “The Minister incorrectly gave figures for last year—the bedroom tax was introduced only in April. I was talking about money that will come back this year. I can guarantee that the Minister will not be getting any money back from Manchester this year — the year of the bedroom tax.”
Referring to the 400,000 disabled people affected by the Bedroom Tax, Mrs Reeves said 100,000 disabled people live in properties specially adapted for their disability, but the average grant issued by local authorities for adaptations to homes [when they are forced to move out by the Bedroom Tax] stands at £6,000. The total cost of doing the adaptations all over again could run into tens of millions of pounds.
At this moment, Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire), said while seated: “They’re exempt.”
The response: “The hon. Lady said from a sedentary position that disabled people are exempt, but she would not say it when she was on her feet because she knows it is not true.” In Vox Political‘s home constituency, at least one disabled person has already been evicted because of the Bedroom Tax.
Philip Davies (also known as ‘Stupid of Shipley’) weighed in with a shocking error, in an attempt to attack his local housing association and its director, a Labour MP: “Does the Minister agree that the spare room subsidy is one reason why we do not have the right mix of housing? Social housing providers could build houses as big as they wanted, knowing that the Government would cover the full bill irrespectively. In that respect, does he deplore the social housing provider in my area, of which a Labour MP is a director? It complains on the one hand that it has too many three-bedroom houses—”
That’s as far as he got, and just as well. Let’s go through this one more time: The ‘spare room subsidy’ is a fiction. It never existed and therefore could never have been abolished by the Conservative-led Coalition government. Being entirely make-believe, it could never have affected the decisions of social housing providers. This is just one of the many reasons why Mr Davies is rightly considered to be one of the biggest twits in the Tory Party (among hefty competition). Another might be his claim that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage.
David TC Davies (Monmouth) complained: “Opposition Members… do not want to talk about the fact that they introduced a measure like this for the private sector.”
He was among many Tories who complained about this apparent double-standard. Labour members reminded them that the Bedroom Tax is retrospective (affecting people currently in social housing) while the private-sector measure was for new tenants only. One may also ask why, if these Conservatives were so disturbed by the apparent discrepancy, they were not calling for this earlier measure to be scrapped as well.
George Hollingbery (Meon Valley) said: “We need to pose ourselves a question: what is dealing with the spare room subsidy about? Is it about reducing the housing benefit bill? Yes, of course it is. The Government propose a £500 million saving, which is important.”
It is important, because Conservatives seemed confused throughout the debate about whether they were trying to sort out overcrowding by putting people into appropriate accommodation, or trying to save money. The two are mutually exclusive. The only way to make money on the policy is for people to remain locked in housing that, thanks to the Bedroom Tax, is now too expensive for them – but this cannot last because they will soon be evicted for non-payment of rent. Moving people around, so that nobody is under-occupying, will result in a higher housing benefit bill because more people will be claiming – the original tenants in their new properties (which, if they are run by private landlords, will be more expensive) and the new tenants who will be occupying to the limit of a property’s capability and therefore may claim the full amount of housing benefit. Either way, Mr Hollingberry’s claim of a £500 million saving is pie-in-the-sky.
Margot James (Stourbridge) made a proper fool of herself. She said: “The Opposition… want to position the end of the subsidy and the creation of a level playing field between all recipients of social housing support as a modern day poll tax.” This is the least of her mistakes as some Labour members may have suggested such a thing; in fact it is Eric Pickles’ Council Tax Reduction Scheme that is the modern-day Poll Tax, because every household must now towards it.
Margot James went on to deny that the Bedroom Tax is a tax, saying: “A tax is a government levy on somebody’s income, whereas we are clearly talking about reducing a subsidy.” This is wrong on two counts. Firstly, there has been no subsidy to reduce – unless she was referring to housing benefit in its entirety. The spare room subsidy is, as already mentioned, as mythical as the “unicorns and fairies” to which Anne Main referred when she tried to dismiss the existence of the under-occupation charge as a tax on bedrooms. Both ladies are wrong, because a tax may also be defined as a government levy on property owned or used by a citizen (such as, say, a bedroom). So – not quite as mythical as unicorns and fairies. One has to wonder why Mrs Main mentioned these, as she has clearly been away with the fairies herself.
Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) breezed in from another committee to provide the benefit of his own ignorance. He asked: “Is it fair that someone on a low income who is in privately rented accommodation should pay taxes in order to subsidise someone else’s spare room? Is it fair to raise taxation from low-paid workers to subsidise other people’s accommodation?”
The answer, of course, is yes. It is fair. In fact, it is a principle of our system of taxation. Everybody pays into the national treasury, in order to allow the state to provide services – such as housing – for those in need. This may be a detail that current Tories have missed, considering the government’s vigorous attempts to write the highest earners out of taxation altogether. If he wanted to help low-waged people in private rented housing, the answer to that is also simple: cap their rents.
And doesn’t he know that the very low-paid have been lifted out of taxation by his own government, as the Coalition has been raising the threshold for payment of income tax every year, aiming to reach a target of £10,000 income per annum by 2015.
At the end of the day, the motion to scrap the Bedroom Tax was lost by 26 votes. Some have already said that Labour could have won it if all members had been present, but that was never really on the cards; the government has the numbers, even if some Liberal Democrats (like VP‘s own MP, Roger Williams) abstained.
So what are we to make of it all? Simply this: The Conservatives do not have a credible narrative to describe what the Bedroom Tax is about. It doesn’t save money; it won’t put people into appropriate accommodation; and it certainly won’t cut homelessness!
Work out what it’s really about, and you will understand why they are so desperate to keep it.
What Britain Wants: Delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester were outnumbered three-to-one by the 50,000 demonstrators against the party’s austerity policies, who chanted “Out, Tory scum!”
Do rank-and-file Tories really believe their party’s “achievements” in taxation will propel it to victory in the next election?
To recap: The Coalition government has cut taxes to allow 13,000 income-millionaires an extra £100,000 each, but at the other end of the income scale, raising the tax threshold nominally gave the poorest in society an extra £600 per year – which has been completely wiped out by the rising cost of living and cuts in social security benefits. Most people in the UK earn less than the average wage so it is easy to conclude that many more people will be affected.
It might be a mouth-watering policy for the ‘have-yachts’ who now appear to comprise the majority of party membership after the mass defections and membership card-burning displays of recent months, but party leaders know that they need to keep that sort of thing quiet and woo the masses with a more attractive proposition.
They’re not stupid. They have learned a trick or two from David Cameron’s short-lived “detoxification” before they came back into public office, and they believe their “bait and switch” tactic is serving them well. They need a user-friendly “bait” to get the average citizens’ votes, after which they can “switch” back to the terrifying policies of oppression that we have tasted – yes, only tasted – over the last three years.
So Andrew Rawnsley in The Guardiantells us: “The high-speed rail link is to be rebranded ‘the north-south railway’ in an attempt to convince voters that the Tories want an economic recovery for all regions of the country.”
And Andrew Gimson on ConservativeHomestates: “There is a bit of window-dressing about cautions, which is meant to show that the Tories are tough on crime. And there is an irresponsible scheme to help people buy over-priced houses, which is meant to show that the party is on the side of people who do not have rich parents.
“If I were a floating voter, I think I would find these attempts to gain my support rather patronising,” he adds – and we can all agree with that.
Then he has to ruin it with: “Why can the party not rely on the substantial reforms being made in such fields as taxation, welfare, education and health?”
Simple answer: Because nobody wanted them.
We have already covered taxation in part. To the regressive changes in income tax that have helped the rich and attacked the poor, we should add the non-attempt to handle tax avoidance, which amounts to a few weasel words spoken for the benefit of the public while the ‘Big Four’ accountancy (and tax avoidance) firms continue to write the law on the subject, ensuring that their schemes – together with the people and firms on them – continue to avoid the attention of HM Revenue and Customs.
Is that fair? Do you think it will appeal to the poverty-stricken voter-on-the-street?
Welfare: George Osborne was set to unveil a new intensification of Workfare today (Monday), in which everyone who has been unemployed for more than two years will have to go on work placements in order to receive their benefits. This is, of course, utterly pointless. Such schemes ensure that fewer real jobs are available (why should an employer pay anyone a living wage when the government is supplying a steady stream of workers for free?) and have proved worse than useless at getting anyone into the few positions that remain. The announcement may cheer the Tory faithful but Andrew Gimson’s article suggests that these people are further out of touch than their MPs!
It is interesting that the new plan is not being unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, but by his rival. It seems that Smith really has been ‘Returned To Unit’ for the time being – perhaps because he has done more to re-toxify the Tory brand than most of the party’s other front-benchers put together!
It is, however, a sad example of the power of media censorship that people are more stirred up by his bedroom tax than they are about the fact that his Unum-inspired and Atos-driven work capability assessments for Employment and Support Allowance claimants have led to so many thousands of deaths – yes, deaths – that the government is refusing to release the fatality statistics.
Education: Michael Gove is working hard to dismantle state education, so schools may be run for profit, rather than to educate our children. He has distorted international statistics to make it seem that our performance had worsened when in fact it had improved – and got an official warning about it from the UK Statistics Authority. He lied about the advantages of schools becoming academies – all schools already control the length of the school day, teachers’ pay and the curriculum. His claim that autonomy would improve performance remains entirely unfounded – non-academy schools outperform them. His expensive Free Schools experiment is pointless if intended to improve education – in Sweden a similar experiment increased racial and social divisions while education standards dropped. American ‘Charter’ schools were also held up as examples of “extraordinary” change, but almost half showed no improvement and more than one-third worsened. Gove’s next stop, following the ‘Charter’ schools’ example, will be privatisation – schools-for-profit. Meanwhile, he intends to worsen academic achievement by promoting an outdated, learn-by-rote, system of teaching that is scorned by the other countries he says he admires, in favour of creativity. And he has undermined not only teacher morale and conditions, but also the morale of his own civil servants. Our children don’t even have the right to a qualified teacher any more. Now he wants performance-related-pay, rather than national pay awards – further undermining teachers and teaching standards.
And Tory policy on health has been the biggest betrayal of the lot: If David Cameron had any support at all in 2010, it was because he had promised to support the National Health Service in the then-upcoming time of austerity. He promised no top-down reorganisations of the NHS, even though he knew his then-health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, had been working on exactly that for many years. After worming his way into Number 10, they immediately embarked on the piecemeal privatisation of this country’s greatest asset, and this is now well under way, with contracts worth billions of pounds awarded to private companies for work that was previously carried out by the nationalised service, and a quarter of the commissioning groups – that we were told would be run by GPs and other health specialists – now run by the private accounting firm (also one of the Big Four and a subsidiary of Atos) KPMG.
Even their performance on the economy – which both Cameron and Osborne made the yardstick for determining this Parliament’s success – has been poor. The current upturn has nothing to do with Osborne’s policies and everything to do with the UK’s current position in the economic cycle – in short, things had to get better eventually.
This is why the Tories are gathering under the false slogan “For Hard-Working People”, rather than the more appropriate “For The Idle Rich” that Andrew Rawnsley suggests. The party’s leaders understand what their dwindling support base does not – that they need the masses to believe the Conservatives are on their side.
This is why they can only wheel out watered-down or repackaged policies that they hope will please the crowds – the party’s leaders understand that anything more solid will turn us away.
If you get the chance, have a good look at the speakers in this year’s conference. Every one of them will be terrified that their message isn’t strong enough or that the public will see through it – and remove their snouts from the trough in 2015.
The fact is, they had already blown it – long before they got anywhere near Manchester.
A head up his own behind: David Freud doesn’t want to make work pay – he just wants you to think he does.
Here’s another Tory who should go boil his head: David Freud.
This former Labour advisor on social security – who had previously worked in the city, setting up company share flotations (and if that isn’t a deeply worrying connection, what is?) – crossed the floor to the Conservative Party when he realised Labour wasn’t going to keep power in 2010, and was rewarded with an utterly undeserved peerage.
It is possible that he has done at least as much harm to the unemployed as Unum and Atos, along with an equal amount of harm to those on low wages.
He has written a worthless screed in the Huffington Post, no doubt part of an attempt to soften us all up for a new assault on the workless. We’ll get to his words in a moment. First, let’s look at the current situation, as created by the David Cameron government that Freud serves.
Under the current government, real wages have fallen in 36 out of 37 months – the only month when they didn’t fall was April 2013, when millionaires had their tax cut and bank bonuses rocketed. You can be assured that ordinary wages continued to plummet.
This has been led, of course, by the social insecurity policies adopted by Freud. The plan has always been to make life extremely difficult for the unemployed, ensuring they will chase work wherever they can find it – no matter how poorly-paid. This is why zero-hours contracts have gained the prevalence they have, which would be unacceptable in a civilised society.
It also means that company bosses can push wages down, even if prices are rising and people are facing a cost of living crisis – because they can always say there are plenty of unemployed people willing to take a complaining worker’s place.
And prices are rising. Inflation has been above the current two per cent target throughout Cameron’s administration, meaning that, in 2011, 70 per cent of people saw their real wages fall as pay packets failed to keep up with inflation. Families were an average of £891 worse-off in the current financial year because of tax rises and cuts to tax credits and benefits introduced since 2010 – negating the much-touted £600 that was given back when the Coalition raised the threshold for tax payment.
The government has blamed high inflation on “rising global prices” but this is nonsense – inflation in other G7 countries has been lower than in the UK, disproving the claim.
Wages after inflation are forecast to be £1,520 lower in 2015 than in 2010, meaning that working people, on average, will have lost a total of £6,660 in real terms under the Coalition government of David Cameron.
It is against this background that David Freud has written, in the Huffington Post, about what he seems to think are his government’s successes in forcing unemployed people to chase your jobs, thereby keeping your wages low. They can’t go after other jobs, you see – this government hasn’t lifted a finger to create any!
“The benefit cap is now in place across the country,” he began. “This means that benefit claims are limited to a fair level, a maximum of the average working household earnings of £500 a week.” Instantly, he is distorting the truth. The income of an average household earning that much would be topped-up with benefits totalling a further £105 or thereabouts. The benefit cap is, therefore, intrinsically unfair.
“The taxpayer who funds the welfare state has the assurance that someone in receipt of benefits no longer has an income that’s beyond the reach of the average working family.” A flat-out lie. The average benefit recipient never received more than an average working family. As a rule, benefits totalled one-sixth of wages and the one per cent limit on benefit uprating over the next three years – no matter what inflation does – means a huge drop in real terms during that period.
“The benefit cap has removed the barrier some people faced getting into work.” Another lie. The barrier that was stopping people getting into work was a lack of jobs that paid enough for people to cover their costs. Freud and his government want you to compete for jobs that put you into debt at a s-l-I-g-h-t-l-y slower rate than if you were unemployed.
“I must be clear, the old system failed people. If benefits provide an income well above wages, sticking to receiving state support over going out to work is too easy a decision to make.” A false premise. Benefits never provided an income well above wages – except for people in extraordinary circumstances (and those people had stopped receiving such income before the benefit cap was imposed). It’s lie after lie with this man.
“Our reforms put getting into work at the top of the agenda.” No – they set working class people against each other, scrabbling for jobs that pay marginally more than benefits while employers compete in a race to the bottom, to see who can get away with paying the least.
“Universal Credit will make sure it pays to work and the benefit cap ensures a lifestyle on benefits is not a lifestyle beyond the reach of the average household.” Universal Credit is, as we all now know, a money pit into which Iain Duncan Smith has poured hundreds of millions of pounds and received nothing in return. The average household will soon endure a lifestyle – in work – that is almost indistinguishable from one on benefits, as wages continue to fall.
“That is why alongside putting the cap in place, we made sure that people who get a job and are eligible for working tax credits are exempt.” But hasn’t this government made working tax credits harder to claim?
“We have ensured that households who should be exempt, such as people claiming disability benefits as well as war widows and widowers, have not been affected.” What about sick and disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, which is not classed as a disability benefit even though it is paid to people with disabilities? They have been dying in their thousands as a result of Freud’s policies.
Yes, this man’s ideas kill.
David Freud’s middle initial is ‘A’. Someone recently pointed out that initialising ‘David A Freud, Tory’ gives you the acronym ‘DAFT’.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.