And here‘s The Guardian with some of the finer details:
“A Labour government would ban zero-hours contracts, repeal the Trade Union Act, clamp down on bogus self-employment, end private finance initiatives and set up a department for employment to implement the policies, he said. There would be a particular emphasis on workers in the gig economy.
Workers in jobs with flexible hours and short-term contracts could be given similar rights to those in permanent work, including eligibility for sick pay, parental pay and similar benefits, he said.
Government contracts would only be given to firms that allowed collective bargaining and a Labour government would relaunch employee ownership funds, under which staff at larger companies would receive shares in order to give them a stake in the profits and management of their firms.
McDonnell also repeated a promise that Labour would spend £500bn over a decade to fix Britain’s crumbling infrastructure.
This would include road and rail, digital, research and development and alternative energy sources, he said, adding that the £500bn figure was supported by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), with whom Labour was working to develop the proposals.”
That’s fine – but are these plans any good?
Let’s have a poll:
Feel free to use the ‘comment’ column to detail the reasons for your response.
This time last year, we were all buzzing with indignation after 2016 Labour Party Conference chair Paddy Lillis waved through a change to the composition of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee that deprived Jeremy Corbyn of his democratically-achieved left-wing majority.
This Writer pushed a motion through my local Constituency Labour Party (CLP), calling for the vote to be annulled as it was unconstitutional – but the (new) NEC failed to do anything other than note the objection.
This year, party members agreed, by a monstrous proportion of 98.9 per cent in favour to only 1.1 per cent against, to add three extra CLP members to the NEC, along with one extra trade union member.
Usdaw will take the additional union seat, but not until the three new CLP members have been elected.
And that’s not all – conference delegates have also agreed to reduce the percentage of elected MPs and MEPs who must register to support a candidate before they can stand for leadership of the Labour Party.
In line with a recommendation from the NEC, candidates need the support of 10 per cent of their colleagues before they make seek the support of the wider party membership.
It is believed the change will make it easier for left-wing candidates to be nominated for the leadership, among a Parliamentary party that is still dominated by the Right.
Labour Party democracy still seemed far away last year – but the members are firmly in control now.
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When David Cameron woke up this morning (Tuesday), it may have been to the realisation that he said too much in response to a grilling by Jeremy Corbyn over Europe yesterday.
Cameron had been to a meeting of the Council of Europe, the regional intergovernmental organisation with 47 member states best know for its operation of the European Court of Human Rights. One of the subjects he discussed there was the UK’s attempts to renegotiate the conditions of its membership in the European Union. He said:
“On the UK’s renegotiation, I set out the four things that we need to achieve. The first is sovereignty and subsidiarity, where Britain must not be part of an “ever closer union” and where we want a greater role for national Parliaments.
“Secondly, we must ensure that the EU adds to our competitiveness, rather than detracts from it, by signing new trade deals, cutting regulation and completing the single market. We have already made considerable progress. There has been an 80 per cent reduction in new legislative proposals under the new European Commission, and we have reached important agreements on a capital markets union, on liberalising services, and on completing the digital single market. Last week the Commission published a new trade strategy that reflects the agenda that Britain has been championing for years, including vital trade deals with America, China and Japan. But more needs to be done in that area.
“Thirdly, we need to ensure that the EU works for those outside the single currency and protects the integrity of the single market, and that we face neither discrimination nor additional costs from the integration of the Eurozone.
“Fourthly, on social security, free movement and immigration, we need to tackle abuses of the right to free movement, and deliver changes that ensure that our welfare system is not an artificial draw for people to come to Britain.”
Mr Corbyn instantly drew attention to matters that the PR Prime Minister had failed to mention. Noting that full discussion of the UK’s in/out referendum had been deferred to the December European Council meeting, he said:
“I think that all of us across the House and people across the country would echo the words of Chancellor Angela Merkel when she asked the UK to ‘clarify the substance of what it is envisaging’. There have been indications from Government advisers that the Prime Minister is trying to diminish the rights of UK workers through opt-out or dilution of the social chapter and the working time directive. However, other sources say the Prime Minister has retreated on those proposals.
“Working people in Britain are losing trust in a Government who attack their trade union rights and cut their tax credits, while giving tax breaks to millionaires.
“Will the Prime Minister confirm that Britain will remain signed up to the European convention on human rights and will not repeal the Human Rights Act 1998? The lack of clarity and openness from the Prime Minister means we do not know on what basis he is negotiating. Too often, we have been guided by anonymous press briefings from his inner court.
“Does he agree with Angela Merkel, as we on the Labour Benches do, that ‘there are achievements of European integration that cannot be haggled over, for example the principle of free movement and the principle of non-discrimination’? Again, clarity from the Prime Minister on that would be welcomed not just, I suspect, by his own backbenchers but by millions of people across the country.
“We believe we need stronger transnational co-operation on environmental and climate change issues, on workers’ rights, on corporate regulation and on tax avoidance.
“We will continue the European reform agenda. Labour is for staying in a Europe that works for the people of the UK and for all the people of Europe. We will not achieve that if all we are doing is shouting from the sidelines.
“On the referendum, will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will now accept votes at 16 for the referendum, as per the amendment in the House of Lords?”
He also told Cameron that Labour will be “on his side” to support the proposed “red card” mechanism to give national Parliaments greater powers of influence over European legislation: “In fact, it is such a good thing that it was in Labour’s manifesto at the general election.”
Now on the back foot, Cameron had to work hard to regain the initiative. He started by claiming that the discussion of the referendum had not been deferred, but that the meeting in October had always been intended as an update, with a full discussion in December.
But he went on to contradict himself on “what we were delivering for working people in Europe”. Cameron said: “We are delivering two million jobs here in Britain for working people, with tax cuts for 29 million working people. I have set out in this statement again the reforms that we are pressing for in Europe.”
But later he added: “We do need to reform free movement; it should not be free movement for criminals or for people who are benefit shopping, for example, and we are already taking steps to ensure that that is not the case.”
So, he has delivered more jobs alongside tax cuts – making the UK a more attractive location for EU residents looking to immigrate in – but he wants to bar the entrance. This looks like a lie, to make it seem that Cameron has achieved something worthwhile.
The facts are that the jobs are low-paid and the tax cuts do not make up for the amount of income that working people have lost over the last five years of Tory rule. With the forthcoming tax credits cuts, millions of working people will no longer have enough money to make ends meet. That is the shame of the Conservatives and it is understandable that Cameron would want to hide it.
His dilemma is that it is his own rhetoric about his (imagined) achievements that is making the UK attractive to EU immigrants. We know the jobs are awful and the tax system has been skewed to benefit the rich, and we also know that the social security system has been sabotaged by Iain Duncan Smith – but that is because we live here. Citizens of other EU states are not so lucky. If Cameron was honest about the mess he has made of this country, his immigration problems would evaporate. His own public relations skills have betrayed him.
And worse was to come: “Our plans for a British Bill of Rights are unchanged. We want to get rid of the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
“We voted in this House of Commons on votes at 16, and we voted against them, so I think we should stick to that position.” This will not please the Scots, where the voting age was lowered for their own referendum on whether to remain in the United Kingdom, and where democracy enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity as a result.
Finally, there’s the elephant in the room. It is unfortunate that Mr Corbyn did not raise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, one of the “vital trade deals” that Cameron mentioned. In its current form, this would mean control of workers’ rights, working conditions and the quality of products would be transferred from elected parliaments to faceless international corporations. It is the biggest threat to democracy facing us.
David Thewlis as the Inspector and Finn Cole as Eric Birling in the BBC’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ [Image: BBC Pictures/Drama Republic].
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen An Inspector Calls, and don’t want to have it ruined for you, it would be a good idea not to read this article just yet.
The BBC took an unexpected – but welcome – turn to the Left for an hour and a half on Sunday evening (September 13), when it screened a new adaptation of An Inspector Calls.
The play, first performed in the then-Soviet Union in 1945, is considered to be a scathing critique of the hypocrisies of pre-World War One English society and an expression of Priestley’s Socialist political principles.
It details a visit by an ‘Inspector Goole’ to the stately home of the prosperous Middle Class (some might say Upper Class) Birling family, where he questions each family member about the suicide of a young working-class woman, Eva Smith (also known as Daisy Renton), revealing that they have been responsible for the young woman’s exploitation, abandonment and social ruin, effectively leading to her death.
Having seen Les Miserables only a few weeks ago, it seems likely to This Writer, that Priestley may have taken his inspiration from Victor Hugo, whose character Fantine’s fall begins when she is sacked from her job at a factory – just as Eva Smith’s does when Birling sacks her, after she calls a strike for higher pay to meet ever-increasing rent costs. Both are reduced to prostitution of one kind or another.
Does this seem familiar to anybody, here and now, in the 21st century?
We have ever-increasing rents and a government that is unwilling to do anything about them other than worsen them with its Bedroom Tax – because it forces the poor out of desirable residential areas.
We have employers who won’t raise wages to cover these spiralling costs, and can remove troublesome workers with impunity because the government has compliantly weakened the trade unions to the point of impotence.
We have a benefits system that, despite being the last resort for people who are otherwise without hope, withdraws payments from the neediest people for the flimsiest of reasons, leaving many of them in the belief that suicide is their only escape.
In the 19th century we had Les Miserables. In the 20th century we had An Inspector Calls. Where is the 21st century expression of this exploitation?
The plot is already written for us: This time, the doomed character would be sacked from their job for complaining that conditions there had created health problems that put them in permanent pain. An appeal to their trade union would fall on deaf ears. Forced to resort to benefits, they would face the inhuman work capability assessment – and fail to achieve the number of points needed to gain incapacity payments, meaning they would have to sign onto Jobseekers’ Allowance. But JSA demands that a person must be fit for work, and forces claimants to carry out ridiculous tasks in order to prove that they are doing all they can to find work. An invalid, unable to comply, would be forced off the benefit if their illness was obvious, or sanctioned if it wasn’t. With no money and no health, what is left for them but death – either slowly due to their illness or quickly due to suicide?
All it needs is a 21st century way of bringing this home to the Middle- and Upper-Class vermin who participate in this degradation of their fellow citizens, or support it with their votes.
Conservative ministers know that the automatic payment of trade union subscriptions from salaries is achieved by a simple keystroke these days – it is absolutely no burden on employers.
Their plan to stop public sector workers from paying in this manner should therefore be seen as what it is – a sulky, ill-tempered attack on the workforce for daring to belong to a workers’ representative organisation.
The process is not outdated – it’s bang-up-to-date.
Ending it would not give workers more control – they have control now, simply by saying that they are union members and they want their subscriptions taken from their salaries.
Ending it would increase the burden on workers’ already-limited personal time – they would have to go through the time-consuming process of creating direct debits from their bank accounts.
This is a waste of time for everybody involved.
The purpose is obvious – reduce union funding, making it more difficult for them to take industrial action, as the Conservative Government’s unnecessary attack on workers intensifies over the next few years.
The philosophy is that workers are lazy, and won’t be bothered to create the direct debits necessary to keep the funds flowing to the unions.
It seems unlikely that the plan will be hard-fought in Parliament. Let’s face it, New Labour was hardly union-friendly, despite receiving a great deal of funding from them.
If this proposal is enacted, then it will be up to the unions to make sure members can make the change quickly and easily – most probably by drawing up the direct debit agreement for them, so all they have to do is check it, sign and deliver it.
Clever union leaders will also use this as a springboard for a membership drive, pointing out that it can only be a prelude to further attacks on the UK’s workforce.
Are you going to fight this erosion of your rights – or are you just going to bend over for the Conservatives and let them do whatever they want to you?
Plans to stop public sector workers automatically paying subscriptions to trade unions through their salaries have been unveiled by the government.
Ministers say the process is “outdated” and ending it would give workers more control and save more than £6m a year by cutting employers’ administration.
But unions could lose funds and say it is a “vindictive political attack” that will “poison industrial relations”.
Civil servants, teachers and nurses are among the union members who will have to arrange for the fees to be collected from their bank accounts by direct debit, under the proposals to update legislation in the Trade Union Bill.
The government says the so-called check-off system of taking union dues through wages was introduced at a time when many workers did not have bank accounts.
It said it was now a “taxpayer-funded administrative burden” on employers.
This cartoon by David Simonds, from The Guardian, illustrates the problem – fat-cat businesses back Cameron while the working-class poor can only watch while they starve.
Looking at the headline, one might thing that is a bold claim – but it is what David Cameron’s party supported with their votes yesterday.
The Tories fended off a Labour Opposition Day motion for Parliament to ban MPs from having directorships or consultancies with private business interests with a vote of 287 against the motion, compared with 219 for – a majority of 68.
Shadow Commons Leader Angela Eagle said the public deserved to be “safe in the knowledge” that every MP was working and acting in their interests – and not for somebody paying them.
But her Tory counterpart, William Hague, pretended that unions were a far greater influence on MPs.
In that case, perhaps he should have explained the amount of influence that unions have held over the Coalition Government during the last five years, relative to big business – to illustrate his point.
No such demonstration was forthcoming – because unions have no influence on Tories while businesses dictate the Conservative Party’s every move.
This is what the last five years of Conservative-led Coalition Government have been about, you see – changing the system to make it easier for big business to make a profit – and to pass some of it on to the Tories in donations to party funds.
You won’t see any change in that while Tories are in office.
Labour has already changed its rules to ensure none of its MPs can hold business consultancies or directorships after this year’s general election.
That sends out a clear message about who voters can trust to make the right decisions.
David Cameron, meanwhile, just can’t get anything right.
Triumph: Ed Miliband had David Cameron on the ropes in Prime Minister’s Questions.
That’ll be another win for Ed Miliband this week, then.
Obviously, the topic of the leader exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions (or Wednesday Shouty Time, for political realists) was always going to be MPs’ second jobs and ‘cash for access’.
Both Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Labour MP Jack Straw were implicated in a ‘hidden camera’ operation to show they were selling their services as MPs for money.
Ed Miliband acted immediately with a plan to stop MPs taking high-paying consultancies and directorships, saying they cannot serve two masters. David Cameron, on the other hand, did nothing – putting him in a weak position before today’s battle began.
It started in civilised fashion: Ed Miliband said the reputation of all members of the House had been “damaged” by the recent revelations, and Cameron responded by saying they were “extremely serious” and it is right they are investigated.
Cameron went on to explain that he is not ruling out further changes on second jobs – but the existing rules should be “properly applied”. Meaning they’re not already? Whose responsibility is that?
Having built up a slight head of steam, Cameron then ruined it by suggesting the government has tightened up the rules on lobbying and introduced a right of recall. We all know that both of these measures pay lip-services to their stated aim, while in fact protecting lobbyists’ access to ministers and helping MPs keep their seats.
Miliband capitalised on this by pointing out that Cameron said – in a 2009 speech before he became Prime Minister – that he would end the practice of “double-jobbing” as he called it then. We all know nothing happened about it after he took office so this was clearly yet another pre-2010 election lie.
Cameron tried to parry by saying Labour’s proposals to ban outside directorships are “not thought through”, repeating a claim made earlier this week that they would allow someone to be a trade union official but not run a family business or shop.
He worsened his position by adding that he believes Parliament is “stronger” if MPs have outside interests. So he’s in favour of the kind of corruption exhibited by Rifkind and Straw?
Clearly, Cameron thought his line on “paid trade union officials” would hammer Miliband down – but the Labour leader batted it away without batting an eyelid. He said he was prepared to add trade union officials to the list of extra jobs that should be banned, in Labour’s motion on the subject to be debated later.
This left Cameron with nowhere to go. He tried to raise the outside earnings of current and former Labour ministers like Tristram Hunt and David Miliband, but the Labour leader said Cameron “talked big” while in opposition and should now “vote for one job – not two”.
Cameron’s final claim, that Labour is “owned lock stock and barrel” by the unions, fell flat following Miliband’s concession on union jobs, while Mr Miliband scored a final hit by pointing out that the Conservatives are controlled by wealthy hedge funds.
Now Cameron is in a corner.
He won’t want to let Labour score a victory by conceding this afternoon’s vote on consultancies and directorships (and now, it seems, trade union officialdom) because it would allow Labour to say it has again changed government policy – and also the rules of Parliament.
But if he opposes the move, then the electorate will see a Conservative Party that works for big business rather than the electorate, and supports corruption.
The hunt is on (possibly): Nigel Farage shaking hands with Surrey hunter Mark Bycroft, who had freely admitted punching a protester in the face, with no warning or provocation, at a hunt meet on December 14, 2013.*
It seems UKIP is again pushing the Conservative Party further into the right-wing of politics.
This time, the subject of fox-hunting is rearing its bloodstained head once again. The first Yr Obdt Srvt heard of it was in an email from Vox Political‘s alleged masters in the Labour Party.
It begins: “Did you hear what Liz Truss – the Tory Environment Secretary – announced was top of her priority list last week?”
“Bringing back fox hunting. That’s right – instead of sorting out the mess they’ve made of our country, the Tories are fixating yet again on overturning the decade-old ban on this brutal bloodsport.
“Let’s make so much noise that the Tories have to leave fox hunting in the dustbin of history. There is so much that the Tories should be doing right now that would make life better for millions of people in our county. Doesn’t it just speak volumes that they’re choosing to obsess over this instead?
“Labour consigned fox hunting to the history books – and that’s where it belongs. Help us keep it there.”
This is followed by a link to a petition against the proposal which also asks the reader to make a donation to Labour. It is a particularly annoying practice of the party at the moment; admittedly, Labour needs cash to campaign, but tricking people into connecting to a donation site by telling them they’re doing something else… that’s not the way forward.
So if anybody has a link to a petition page that doesn’t want your money as well, please get in touch.
That was the story, and it all seemed cut-and-dried, right? Wrong.
Several hours later, a blog article by the ever-engaging John D Turner provided invaluable information about UKIP’s part in this affair.
It seems the Country Land and Business Association (described here as a sort of trade union for the landed establishment – a description that is both apposite and insulting at the same time because these people wouldn’t want to be seen dead in a union) has been lobbying both UKIP and the Tories for the return of foxhunting.
It was later reported that UKIP could benefit from half a million extra votes if the Tories refuse to commit themselves to repealing the Hunting Act, implying that UKIP supports this move already.
That was in August; Elizabeth Truss came out with her announcement a little more than a month later.
This tells us several things:
Firstly, UKIP may be many things but it absolutely is not the party of the “people’s crusade”, or whatever nonsense its representatives were spouting during the European election campaign. It’s pretty much a ‘given’ that Nigel Farage’s hope for the blue collar vote started to evaporate when he revealed UKIP’s tax plan was to give all the money to the extremely rich, and disappeared altogether when the Conservatives announced an even more regressive policy in response.
Secondly, UKIP is quite happy to be the pawn of rich landowners.
Thirdly, the Conservatives are terrified that UKIP may be able to steal away their support, and this means they will copy any UKIP policy in a desperate attempt to be more like UKIP than UKIP. Anyone in the Labour Party who finds this funny should look at the economic policy currently being promoted by Ed Balls, and remember Rachel Reeves’ ‘tougher than the Tories on welfare’ speech, before trying to make political headway on it.
The practical upshot of all this?
In this renewed right-wing attempt to bring back fox-hunting, it seems UKIP have been cast in the role of fat, red-coated, “Tally ho!”-screaming hunters…
… and the Conservatives – how unusual for them! – in the role of the fearful fox.
* Here’s the story. Scroll down the page to the entry for December 27, 2013 (it has the same image as at the top of this article).
“This party is the trade union for children from the poorest estates and the most chaotic homes; this party is the union for the young woman who wants an apprenticeship; teenagers who want to make something of their lives – this is who we resent.”
Still, I’m sure Freudian analysis would make much of his slip of the tongue.
Alternatively, it illustrates very clearly the distinction between breeding and class.
Tom’s ‘nutshell’ summation of the speech is also well worth remembering – so why not cut it out and paste it wherever you think it’ll be useful? Here it is:
Those readers who are determined to paint Vox Political as a Labour Party apologist site may be surprised to see this blog publicising an article by alittleecon which lambasts the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer for his apparent capitulation to the Coalition’s economic viewpoints.
In it, Alex Little compares words spoken by Ed Balls at the Labour Party conference last week with those he spoke in what has become known as his ‘Bloomberg’ speech of 2010 – unfavourably.
You can visit the site to compare the speech excerpts yourself, but Mr Little’s conclusions bear quoting here. He writes: “It seems he thinks he haslost the argument and far from standing outside the consensus, he’s now lining up alongside George Osborne to see who can outbid each other on the consensus (but bogus) concept of fiscal responsibility.
“He has totally given up on trying to win the argument and is now quite prepared to pretend the earth is flat, believing that enough voters actually do think the earth is flat to benefit him politically. It’s an incredibly cowardly and cynical point of view, and one that takes us all for fools. Whether he is right about the electorate being fools remains to be seen.”
The consensus concept of fiscal responsibility is that the government needs to “balance the books”, as Mr Balls described it last week – using policies of austerity, which means cuts in government spending and services.
We know from the last four and a half years that this policy is absolute and utter rubbish; it is a tool of neoliberals, intended to create a sense of emergency in the general public in order to make people more likely to accept the strictures being placed on them – for a lie.
Fiscal austerity can never “balance the books”.
Fiscal austerity removes money from the national economy, meaning the government takes less tax every year. This means it becomes increasingly difficult to fund public services – the government must either borrow more money or reduce its spending still further by cutting services or selling them off to the private sector.
The process has been accelerated in some countries (including the UK) by the practice of cutting income taxes for the obscenely rich and corporation tax charged to large and international firms, diminishing the tax take even further.
Fiscal austerity is not about being able to “balance the books” – it is about grossly enriching those who already have too much via the further impoverishment of those who are already poor.
We have Michael Meacher’s letter in The Guardian, republished here, to remind us of the failure of fiscal austerity to do what George Osborne said it would do. There is no reason to believe that Ed Balls will be more successful in pursuing what we all now know to be a pointless cover story for what the police describe as a distraction theft.
It is the latest development in a crime that has been inflicted on the British people since the late 1970s, when Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberals devised their plan to reverse the progress of the years since Labour’s historic 1945 election victory. They believed, according to The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain that undermining the working classes “would require, not simply the disengagement of the state from industry, but the substantial destruction of Britain’s remaining industrial base. The full employment that had been sustained across most of the post-war period was seen, together with the broader security offered by the welfare state, to be at the root of an unprecedented self-confidence among working-class communities. Very large-scale unemployment would end the ‘cycle of rising expectations,’ [and] permit the historic defeat of the trade union movement.”
What we need, then, is a reversal of the neoliberalism that has allowed David Cameron to sell the UK off to anybody with a penny in their pocket. Perhaps economists reading this will correct the following if it goes astray, but it seems that, more than anything, we need:
Expansionary budgets that will put money in the hands of people who actually spend it, building up the national economy towards full employment and boosting the tax take.
Tight re-regulation of our industries – particularly finance – to ensure that the money goes where it is needed, and not into the pockets of tax cheats.
Investment in our manufacturing, service and new industries, to repair the damage caused by right-wing neoliberals – including the possible renationalisation of those that have been most seriously mismanaged.
That will do as a start. If Ed Balls can’t commit to any of it, then he needs to make way for somebody who can. This is a job for someone willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty – not some namby-pamby neoliberal apologist.
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