Senior Liberal Democrats have been warned they might end up with no MEPs after next month’s European Parliament elections, due to the party’s current electoral unpopularity (according to the Daily Telegraph).
The electorate certainly has plenty of reasons to punish the party that has become known as the ‘Tory Democrats’ due to its adherence to Conservative Party policies in the Coalition government.
But here’s an interesting point: Conservative support has not dropped off in the same way.
Sure, the LDs are Tory enablers who betrayed their own pledges before the first votes were cast in the 2010 election, but the Conservatives betrayed their promises too. And the Conservatives were behind most of the policies that have caused the damage.
The Liberal Democrats voted the Bedroom Tax onto the statute books, but it’s not their policy – it’s a Conservative scheme.
The Liberal Democrats had very little to do with the changes to Employment and Support Allowance that have led to the deaths of so many people with long-term illnesses and disabilities – Conservative ministers pushed them into practise.
The Liberal Democrats had little to do with the increased sanctions regime that has been foisted on the unemployed in order to cook the benefit books – that was a Conservative idea.
The Conservatives are responsible for the plan to cut back access to Legal Aid, so rich criminals can walk free while the innocent poor are told to admit offences they have not committed and go to prison.
The Conservatives introduced mandatory work activity (colloquially known as Workfare) for people on benefits – both unemployment and sickness, meaning companies get free labour and there are fewer paying jobs in the economy.
The Conservatives introduced the Workplace Pension, which has led to employers encouraging their workforce to take out private pensions that they cannot afford, in a bid to avoid paying their own part of the scheme.
The Conservative Party’s answer to the immigration question was to send vans around London encouraging people who were in the UK illegally to “go home”. This scheme led to the victimisation of British citizens because other people thought they looked foreign.
The Conservatives told us all they would protect the National Health Service and then started a process of privatisation that has led to billions of pounds worth of services being ‘outsourced’ to private health firms – who pay handsome donations to the Conservative Party – at huge cost to the taxpayer (because private firms need to make a profit, don’t forget).
The Conservative Party has fed the public one lie after another, using its puppet right-wing press to brainwash people into believing its nonsense. When these falsehoods have been exposed, ministers have tried to bluster their way out of the blame.
The Conservative Party has engineered the feeblest economic recovery in British history, ensuring that only the very rich have been able to benefit while the poorest – who actually made it happen – are set to be thousands of pounds worse-off in 2015 than they were in 2010.
And yet it is the Liberal Democrats who have lost the most support.
Old Labour: Oversaw the longest periods of economic growth in British history and DIDN’T cause the biggest crash (that was neoliberalism, beloved of Conservatives). There is nothing wrong with it.
Dear old Fraser Nelson has been trying to generate some momentum against Ed Miliband’s plans for a Labour government.
But, bless ‘im, not only did he hit the nail on the head when he wrote (in The Spectator), “Tories seem to have lost interest in ideas”, he might just as well have been talking about the Tory press because – other than the parts in which he praises Miliband for his political acumen and perception, Fraser has nothing new to say at all.
“Why, if he is such a joke, has Labour led in the opinion polls for three years solidly? And why has he been the bookmakers’ favourite to win the next general election for even longer?” These are the questions Fraser asks, and then goes on to answer in the most glowing terms possible.
“His agenda is clear, radical, populist and … popular. His speeches are intellectually coherent, and clearly address the new problems of inequality,” writes Fraser.
“His analysis is potent because he correctly identifies the problem. There is [a] major problem with the recovery, he says, in that the spoils are going to the richest, and it’s time to act… George Osborne does not talk about this. He prefers to avoid the wider issue of inequality. This leaves one of the most interesting debates of our times entirely open to Miliband.”
All of the above is a gift to the Labour leadership. Fraser has scored a huge own-goal by admitting the Labour leader – far from being “a joke”, has correctly identified the problem and can say what he likes because the Tories won’t even discuss it!
Worse still (for Fraser), he seems to think that telling us Ed Miliband is mining Labour’s past policies to get future success will put us off.
Hasn’t anybody told Fraser – yet – that it is current neoliberal policies, as practised by both Labour and the Tories, that caused the crash of 2007 onwards? With that as our context, why not go back and resurrect policies that offer a plausible alternative?
As a Conservative, Fraser should appreciate the irony that it is Labour who are now looking at the past to create the future.
“The philosophical underpinning is rehabilitated: that the free enterprise system does not work, and should be put under greater government control,” writes Fraser. “That companies, bankers and markets have buggered up Britain — and it’s time for people, through Big Government, to fight back.” Who could argue with that?
Then Fraser goes into some of those policies, like the plan to revive the 50 per cent tax rate. “But Miliband isn’t taxing for revenue. He’s taxing for the applause of the electorate and he calculates that the more he beats up on bankers and the rich, the louder the masses will cheer.” The answer to that is yes! What’s wrong with that? The Coalition came into office on a ticket that said bankers would pay for the damage they caused, and yet bankers have been among the principal beneficiaries of the ongoing raid on the public finances that the Coalition calls its “long-term economic plan”. In the face of dishonesty on that scale, Fraser should be more surprised that the North hasn’t invaded the Square Mile and strung anybody in a suit up on a lamppost – yet.
Next up, Fraser tries to attack Miliband’s proposed revival of a Kinnock plan for a state-run ‘British Investment Bank’ and two new high street bank chains. To this writer, the prospect of two new, state-run and regulated, banks is a brilliant idea! No more rip-off charges for services that should be free! Investment in growth, rather than short-term profit! And all run the way banks should be run – prudently and with the interests of the customer – rather than the shareholder – at heart. How can Fraser (bless ‘im) argue with that?
Argue he does. He writes: “As Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, put it: ‘The last time the government told a bank what to do, Lloyds was ordered to sell branches to the Co-op’s Reverend Flowers. And we all know how that ended.’ Wrong. European regulators ordered the government (then principle shareholder in Lloyds) to sell the branches, and it happened on the Coalition government’s watch. In fact, George Osborne welcomed the deal. That’s an argument against Conservative mismanagement.
Fraser goes on to claim that Miliband doesn’t care how his bank project will work out – he just wants it done. He’s on an ideological crusade. Again, this provokes comparisons with the Tories that are (for the Tories) extremely uncomfortable. The Tories (and their little yellow Tory Democrat friends) have spent the last four years on an ideological crusade that has robbed the poorest people in the UK of almost everything they have, and are now starting to attack people who are better off (but still not posh enough) – they can hardly criticise Labour for having an ideology of its own.
The line about green policies which cost nine jobs for every four created – in Spain – is risible. Fraser has chosen a country where green policies have not worked well. How are they managing in Scandinavia?
Fraser says Labour’s energy price freeze “magically” makes good a 1983 pledge for everyone to afford adequate heat and light at home – without commenting on the fact that energy companies have been ripping us all off for many years and failing to invest in the future of power generation; they are an example of the worst kind of industrial privatisation.
Fraser says Labour has revived a 1983 demand for “a supply of appropriately qualified teachers” as though that is a bad idea (it isn’t. Bringing in unqualified people to act as teachers in Michael Gove’s silly ‘free schools’ sandpit was the bad idea). Note he says Labour wants “union-approved” qualified teachers – depending on mention of the unions to get a knee-jerk reaction from his readers, no doubt.
Fraser says Miliband attacks “predator” companies – moneylenders who offer short-term loans; people who make fixed-odds betting machines; landowners who stand accused of hoarding and thwarting housebuilding. “When Miliband talks about the future, he says very little about what he’d do with government. He talks about what he’d do to British business. All this amounts to a blitz of regulation, edicts and interference,” he writes.
This is to suggest that “regulation” is a dirty word – a synonym for “interference”. Let’s help Fraser out by suggesting a word he can use instead of “regulation” or “interference”.
That word is “help” – and it exemplifies what regulation is, in fact, about – helping companies to provide the best service possible, with the least possible corruption or profiteering, to ensure that customers get what they want and are happy to come back – boosting prosperity for everybody.
Substitute that word for the others and Fraser’s remaining rhetoric looks very different:
“All this amounts to a blitz of help” evokes the response, about time too!
“[Tristram] Hunt does not pretend that help at this level is being attempted in any free country” begs the question, why not?
While Fraser may have set out to write an assassination piece on Ed Miliband’s Labour, there can be no doubt that he ended up doing the exact opposite. It wasn’t his intention – look at his final few lines: “Miliband is bold enough to think that, in a country midway through the worst recovery in history, there may be a market for all this now. And most terrifyingly of all, he might be right.”
This botched attempt at scaremongering only exposes right-wing ideology for what it is: Out-argued, outclassed and badly out-of-step with the thoughts of the British people.
Leading Conservatives must be delighted with the success of their benefit cap in getting single mothers and people with large families out of London – as depicted in the BBC Panorama special, Don’t Cap My Benefits, yesterday evening. (Thursday)
The change means that nobody in the UK is allowed to receive more than £26,000 in benefits per year. The government has claimed this is the same as the average family income, but readers of Vox Political will know that this is a flimsy lie and average family income is in fact more than £5,000 per year higher, at £31K+. The reason benefits weren’t pegged at that level is that far fewer people would be affected by it. Make no mistake – this measure was enacted to shift people from the capital.
The film shows the effects of the change on a number of families in Brent, one of London’s worst-hit boroughs, during a period of just six months. Some of them were forced to move away from their lifelong homes to other cities, with one person being threatened with deportation to Manchester. Even people with jobs were forced to go, by council workers whose attitude bordered on the offensively hostile.
Partway through, Vox Political received this comment: “I am watching Panorama, about the benefit cap. It is heart-breaking, mothers are being split up from small children, a single mother who is volunteering at a children’s centre – a good tenant, according to her landlord – is evicted, she has gone from a house to a B&B and the council woman said, ”At least you’re not on the street”. What hope is there?”
Very little, it seems.
The strongest message the documentary gave was that the benefit cap targets minorities and drives them out of London to areas, most commonly in the Midlands or the North, where people are already suffering similar social deprivation. Perhaps the Tories who dreamed up this idea believe the axiom that ‘Misery loves company’.
Of the families or individuals featured in the film, only one was of British ethnic origin – and she was painted as a troublemaker by her landlord. Some were people who had immigrated into the UK (many years ago – so let’s not have any anti-immigration propaganda levelled at them); some were black. All had children – including some who had many more than the average (there were seven in one family). Some were single mothers. Some were in work, but were told that the amount they were earning could not keep them housed in London and they had to go. Some said they were in work but were doubted by housing officers who forced them out anyway (only to discover later that they were telling the truth, and move them back into Brent, possibly at great expense to the taxpayer).
Perhaps we were supposed to look down on these individuals. Were we supposed to believe they had brought these troubles on themselves because they had too many children without considering the cost, or because they had split up from the fathers of their children, or because their jobs paid too little or their rent was too high?
That’s not what this documentary showed at all.
It showed the intentionally vicious effects of a government policy specifically designed to inflict suffering, in order to remove these unwanted social dregs (as Cabinet ministers no doubt see them) and make London more available as a playground for the rich. It is a policy that goes back (as many do) to Thatcherism.
Thatcherism relied on a massive increase in unemployment, the lowering of wages and the increase of housing prices to undermine the self-confidence of working-class communities – and succeeded on a massive scale. But these were the economics of “planned misery”, in the phrase of Rodolfo Walsh, according to The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain, a new report – strongly recommended.
The article states: “As the relative value of benefits fell, and as wage rates for increasingly insecure and feminised, unskilled work were held down, the poorest were becoming poorer and increasingly ‘socially excluded’, blamed, and stigmatised for policy outcomes that the government had in fact fully anticipated.”
It continues: “All of this generated – and was designed to generate – sharply increased inequalities of income and wealth across Britain and a dramatic increase in poverty… Thatcher’s governments wilfully engineered an economic catastrophe across large parts of Britain and sowed the seeds… of a subsequent collapse – which ironically has provided the highly spurious legitimation for a new generation of ‘uber-Thatcherites’ in the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to go where Thatcher herself had hesitated to tread – a complete dismantling of the welfare state.”
In other words, this government’s answer to poverty is to remove the safety net – and that is what we saw in the Panorama film.
The answer to the problems it depicted isn’t to ship poor people off to the deprived North! The answer is a cap on rents, so they don’t become so high that people can’t pay them. It’s a living wage, to ensure that working people don’t need to claim state benefits – as someone else recently said, how can any industry consider itself ‘private’ if its employees need funding from the state to survive?
Otherwise, as a commenter on the BBC’s Question Time said, a little later in the evening, there will be nobody left in London to provide services such as education, for all the rich kids the Tories and Tory Democrats are no doubt already inviting in.
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