Theresa May addressed the United Nations – and almost nobody bothered to turn up.
This is the result of seven years of Conservative-led government, along with 38 years of neoliberal political ideology: The UK’s international reputation is in tatters and nobody wants to hear what our representatives have to say.
That’s why Theresa May was speaking to a practically-empty hall at the United Nations, when she got to deliver her keynote speech.
What’s the point of telling the UN it needs to reform if hardly any of the UN’s members were listening?
While Mrs May was speaking, This Writer understands that she made a derogatory reference to countries that break international treaties.
It seems she should have checked one such treaty that the UK has signed, before opening her mouth.
Theresa May just slammed countries who break international treaties. She might in that case wish to read the international arms trade treaty pic.twitter.com/l1LkW2SoZV
The report by the Commons’ International Development Committee states that “the Arms Trade Treaty, along with UK national arms export criteria and the EU Common Position on arms exports, which regulate the UK trade in arms, say that licences cannot be granted ‘if there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.’
The UK sells arms to Saudi Arabia, which is at war with Yemen, so the following is important: “We heard powerful evidence from representatives of humanitarian organisatinos who said that they had witnessed bombing and targeting of civilians and civilian objects on the ground in Yemen, which suggests that there is more than a clear risk of IHL violations by the Saudi-led coalition.”
The report goes on to say: “Several States Parties appear in direct violation of legally binding Treaty obligations by continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia where there is a clear risk that they will be used in breach of international law in Yemen.” The UK is among those states.
The fact is well-known so Mrs May was branding herself – and by extension, the whole of the UK – a hypocrite by attacking others for doing exactly what she has been doing: Breaking an international treaty.
Ah, but Mrs May is a Conservative, isn’t she? They don’t think they have to abide by any rules other than those they make up for themselves.
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The UK and other nuclear powers support a non-proliferaton treaty, which prevents the spread of nuclear weapons – but it has been criticised as ineffective [Image: Getty].
You’ve probably already guessed why Theresa May is unlikely to sign any treaty limiting arms sales of any kind.
It’s for this reason:
Her defence secretary, Michael ‘Bomber’ Fallon, is already looking forward to selling them for a huge profit to anybody with the cash, regardless of their credentials.
And, as Billy Connolly once famously said, the brilliant part is that they could fill any so-called nuclear missiles they sell with doughnuts – anybody insane enough to try using them would get their just desserts (literally).
Even in the shadow of the crisis provoked by North Korea, greed will win over human lives every time.
People who voted for this lunatic’s idea of “strong and stable” leadership should have known that.
Pressure is mounting on Theresa May to sign up to a UN treaty calling for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
More than 120 nations endorsed the global treaty at a summit in July, which warns that a complete ban is the only way to prevent the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of the use of nuclear weapons.
Britain and other nuclear nations opposed the move, but critics have called on the Prime Minister to change course this week when the treaty will be opened for signatures at the UN’s annual general assembly.
So much for David Cameron’s boast that he would renegotiate European treaties on immigration and social security.
While he’s been sabre-rattling, Germany and France have already agreed closer political union within the Eurozone (that’s the part of the EU that uses the Euro as currency), without any change to existing treaties.
Cameron knew this was likely to happen but expected it to mean the relevant treaties would be re-written, allowing room for his proposed changes.
Now his plan has been rendered unviable.
Cameron the outsider has, once again, been pushed to the fringes of the EU.
Nobody wants to talk to him. Instead of being a major player in Europe, he has turned the UK into a third-stringer.
He wanted to use ‘Brexit’ from the union as a threat; create a fear that the UK would walk out of Europe.
The new Franco-German agreement would see closer cooperation between the 19 countries without any change to existing EU treaties, according to a leak to France’s Le Monde newspaper.
The agreement would see cooperation in four areas “developed in the framework of the current treaties in the years ahead”.
The British government has previously accepted the need for tighter eurozone integration but has hoped that the rewriting of EU treaties to make way for it could allow Britain to make other demands about welfare and immigration.
The victim: Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations’ expert Special Rapporteur on Housing is once again the victim of a baseless Daily Mail smear piece.
Yet again, the Daily Heil has been using the tactics of its best friend Adolf Hitler – the ‘Big Lie’ – to attack a United Nations official whose job is to point out that Coalition government policies are harming the innocent poor.
The Flail‘s tone was Nurembergian – and almost entirely fact-free – as it denounced ‘Brazil Nut’ Raquel Rolnik for imaginary crimes against Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts – the homicidal, if not genocidal, measures that are driving hundreds of thousands of people into destitution and despair.
You see, the Fail is fine with destitution and despair for the poor – its readers are all rich middle- or upper-class housewives who pass their days spending their husbands’ vast fortunes (this is not entirely true, but is exactly the sort of generalisation you can expect from that paper. If you are a Mail reader, it isn’t such fun when you’re the victim, is it?) and gossiping.
The news story is that a group of United Nations poverty ambassadors has written a 22-page letter pointing out that cuts to social security benefits introduced by Iain Duncan Smith and enforced by his Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Coalition government may constitute a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations to the poor.
The letter states: “The package of austerity measures enacted could amount to retrogressive measures prohibited under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified in 1974.”
Among the benefit changes it highlights are alterations to housing benefit, council tax benefit, working age benefits and the bedroom tax and the benefits cap – which everybody agrees would be a good idea if it had been limited to a reasonable amount, rather than one at which the Conservative-led Coalition could throw people into hardship.
The Mail‘s report pays little attention to the facts, lavishing far more space on Mrs Rolnik herself. It said she had been nicknamed the ‘Brazil Nut’, which she had – by the Daily Mail; and went on to attempt to cast doubt on her authority as special rapporteur on housing and those of fellow UN ambassadors Maria Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, special rapporteur on extreme poverty; and Olivier De Schutter, the special rapporteur on the right to food.
These are experts in their field who have been engaged by the United Nations – a higher-ranking legal authority than the UK – to investigate government policies, but that’s not good enough for the Mail.
It prefers to get its opinions from tupenny-ha’penny Tory thinktanks.
So it casts doubt. The letter is from ‘ambassadors’ and follows an ‘investigation’, according to the Mail, because putting those words in that way casts doubt upon their validity.
Mrs Rolnik was brought up as a Marxist, the Mail states – as if that has anything to do with her findings. And the report claims she should leave the UK alone and concentrate on problems in her own country, where millions of people live in shanty towns – even though the writer, ‘Jason Groves’, should know perfectly well that her job involves just that.
He clearly doesn’t want you to see her comments on housing in Brazil, prior to the football World Cup which is being held there at the moment: “We expected that the champion of many football cups would use this opportunity to show the world it is also a champion of the right to housing, in particular for people living in poverty, but the information I have received shows otherwise.”
She had received allegations of evictions without due process or in breach of international human rights standards, cases in which residents and citizens had not been consulted and were barred from to participation in decisions that had a grave impact on their standard of living. Concerns had also been expressed about very low compensation that might lead to the creation of new “informal settlements” (shanty towns) with inadequate living conditions or greater rates of homelessness.
“Authorities should avoid at all costs any negative impacts on then human rights of the individuals and communities, especially the most vulnerable… [and] should ensure that their actions, and those of third parties involved in the organization of the events, contribute to the creation of a stable housing market and have a long term positive impact in the residents of the cities where events take place.”
So critics who think she has ignored issues in her home country are wrong.
That’s a bit of a blow to the Mail‘s credibility, isn’t it?
The measures criticised by Mrs Rolnik and her colleagues were brought in “to tackle the huge budget deficit left by Labour”, according to the Mail. Again, this is wrong. The Coalition government has made no real effort to tackle the budget deficit which was necessitated when Labour saved our banking system, the threat having been created by Tory-supporting bankers whose greed put their firms into overwhelming debt. Look at the annual deficit for the last financial year; it is still well above £100 billion. If you agree that the cuts were to bring the deficit down, you have swallowed a lie.
Iain Duncan Smith, the man this blog describes as ‘RTU’ (standing for ‘Returned To Unit’ in tribute to his failed Army career) is reportedly furious at this intervention from the United Nations, which has a duty to intervene if governments of member countries descend into criminality, as has happened with the UK (here’s just one example).
According to the Mail, he said: “They talk down our country, criticising the action we’ve taken to get control of the public finances and create a fairer more prosperous Britain. They simply do not have a clue – and we will not be taking lessons from a group of unelected commentators who can’t get their facts straight.”
A blue leaflet landed on the mat yesterday, urging me to vote Conservative and offering no less than 11 highlighted reasons for doing so.
There’s no chance of this happening, because I know far too much about the state of the nation to be fooled by what was said. Other people may not be as lucky, so let’s run through these claims.
The front cover proclaims: “A stronger economy at home” – not true. The resurgence claimed by the Tories has still, after a year, failed to bring Britain back up to its pre-crisis peak, and pay levels have been skewed to put the lowest earners 14 per cent worse-off than they were under the last Labour government.
“Renewed respect abroad” – another howler. Our military adventures mean we are seen as America’s lapdog, while our economic efforts mean we are seen as China’s.
“Real change in Europe” – ridiculous. David Cameron has marginalised Britain in Europe. We’ll come to an example of this in a moment.
Inside the leaflet is a page headed “What we have done”, which attempts to muddy the issues by linking Tory policies within the UK with their strategy in Europe. The effect is similar to a town councillor running for a seat on the county council, saying if he is elected he will ensure that an allotment is available for everybody (allotment land is a town council responsibility and nothing to do with county councils).
So, under the heading “What you have told us”, the leaflet proclaims: “Cut the deficit”. Under “What we did” it states: “So we’ve cut the deficit by a third”. This is nothing to do with Europe and also misrepresents the facts. When the Coalition government sidled into power it said it would eliminate the deficit by 2015. This is not going to happen and claiming success in cutting it by a third (partially by scrapping investment schemes that should have been kept) is an insult.
Next line: “Create more jobs” – “So we’ve helped businesses create more than 1.6 million new jobs”. If the economy was running properly, this number of new jobs would have created a huge boost for the economy – far more than we’ve seen. The problem is that these jobs are too low-paid to make a difference. It is working-class people who lift the economy because they spend more of their income, pushing money through the system. When they don’t have money to spend because they are struggling to cope on pay grades that mock their efforts, less money goes through the system and the economy stutters.
“Cut tax” – “So we’ve given an average income tax cut of £700 to 25 million people, taking 2.7 million people out of tax altogether”. Remove the £100,000-per-year tax cut for those with extremely high incomes and this average drops dramatically. Add in the extra money people are having to spend because of cuts or caps on in-work and unemployment benefits and people like you are £2,000 worse-offper year.
“Cap welfare” – “So we’ve capped welfare – no out-of-work household can now claim more than the average family earns in a week”. The welfare cap is a sensible idea done in a silly way. If it had been set at an average family’s income – just over £31,000 per year – it would be fair, but almost nobody would have been affected, so the Tories set it at £26,000 per year, purely to knock more people off-benefit and show that it worked – and they thought we wouldn’t notice. Silly Tories!
“Control immigration” – at last we come to something that is relevant to the European election! – “So we’ve taken all the action we can under the current EU agreements to fix our immigration system and limited migrants’ access to benefits”. In fact – as noted in this blog previously – very few of the actions taken by the current UK (not European) government are new. The limited access to benefits was enshrined in UK law already, but they don’t want you to know that.
“Cut the cost of Europe” – “So we’ve cut the EU budget, saving British taxpayers £8.15 billion”. Impossible without the co-operation of other EU member states. They are claiming credit for something that would not have happened if other EU countries had not also wanted it.Naughty Tories!
“No to British taxpayers bailing out the Euro” – “So we’ve taken the UK out of Eurozone bailouts”. This is the only measure in the entire flier that anyone in their right mind can support. The UK was never part of the Euro so there was never any reason for us to support it financially. Any other UK political party would have taken the same action so this is no credit to the Tories.
Finally: “Defend Britain’s interests” – “So we vetoed a new EU Fiscal Treaty because it didn’t guarantee a level playing field for British business”. This relates back to the cover boast about “Real change in Europe”. David Cameron made a laughing-stock of both himself and the United Kingdom with his silly veto, because the other 26 countries involved in the treaty simply carried on regardless, leaving us out in the cold. That isn’t “Real change in Europe”; that’s really being shut out of EU decisions.
This Tory leaflet is an insult to your intelligence. It claims success where the Tories have failed, and calls for you to support people who have intentionally inflicted harm upon you.
And you’ll notice there’s no mention of the elephant in the room: The Conservative Party supports the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will push conditions of employment down to a lowest-common-denominator level that will devastate workers’ health and livelihoods while also locking the privatisation of the National Health Service into an agreement that will make it an international criminal offence to reverse the changes. Here in Wales, many of us rely on cross-border treatment and this will hit us hard.
Anyone supporting the Conservatives on the basis of this flier would have to be ignorant or insane.
One last thing: Minutes after the Tory flier arrived, I went out to my car and found a plastic bag filled with what appeared to be excrement had been left on the windscreen. I can’t blame this on the leafleters (although local Tories certainly know who I am and what my car looks like) but it did make me question the quality of their local campaign.
David Cameron should be very happy that UKIP is around to make him look acceptable.
We can’t ever say he’ll look good, but in contrast to the ‘Farage wave’, the spectacle of UKIP being thrown out of the venue where it was supposed to be launching its European election campaign, and the never-ending queue of candidates who are desperate to embarrass themselves publicly – what’s the latest one? “Women should be made to wear skirts because they’re a turn-on for men”? Ye gods… – it’s easy to think that the Conservatives are mild, or at least rational.
But Cameron was keen to project an image of competence at the Conservatives’ campaign launch for the local council elections. This is strange because, with his record of achievement, the things he was saying seem more like stand-up comedy than serious statements of ability.
Try this, about the European Union: “I have a track record of delivery – and believe me, whatever it takes, I will deliver this in-out referendum.” A track record of delivery? Well, yes. He delivered a top-down reorganisation of the NHS that nobody wanted, leading to an inrush of private health companies into the NHS – that nobody wanted. He has delivered the lowest amount of house-building, per year, since records began. He has delivered a withered economic ‘recovery’ that arrived three years later than if he had continued with the plan of the previous, Labour, government. He has delivered all the benefits of that ‘recovery’ to the extremely rich, rather than sharing it equally with the people responsible for it. And he has delivered a new high in employment, with no economic benefit to the country, that has left workers on wages that are so low they are going into debt.
He delivered the bedroom tax.
He delivered a massive increase in the National Debt.
He delivered millions of people into poverty and food bank dependence.
Ha ha ha. Very funny, Mr Cameron.
He told us, “People said I would never veto a European treaty. In 2011 that’s exactly what I did.” Well, yes. But the rest of Europe just went right ahead and carried on without you. You marginalised Britain as a member of the EU and made us a laughing-stock in the eyes of the world.
Ha ha ha. Very funny, Mr Cameron.
“We came through the great recession together; we are building the great British revival together,” he said. But he can’t say that to the many thousands of people who used to be claiming sickness and disability benefits but aren’t anymore because they are all dead. They didn’t come through the great recession. Cameron cut off their means of survival, forcing them into situations in which their health was allowed to worsen until their conditions overwhelmed them, or their situation induced such huge bouts of depression that they took their own lives.
Ha h- no. That’s not funny, Mr Cameron.
“The job is not done. If you want to finish the job we have started, back the party with a plan,” he said. Well, no. The Conservative plan (such as it is) will destroy your employment rights, scrap the welfare state, maintain a huge underclass of unemployed people to use as fodder for work-for-your-benefit schemes (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) to circumvent the minimum wage, and to claim credit for successes that aren’t theirs.
There is only one reason to support the Conservative Party in this – or any other election.
That is if there is only one other political party on the ballot paper – and that party is UKIP.
“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.
They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.
The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.
The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation that could affect the well-being of many millions of people.
But Council officials say national courts refer to these international standards when deciding on relevant cases, meaning benefit claimants could try to use the Council’s ruling to boost their case for a higher award.
In response, our ever-more-right-wing government could decide to withdraw from its dealings with the Council altogether, meaning our citizens would no longer have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. Many Tories – like Philip Davies – have long held this desire!
The Daily Mail, of all rags, appears to have done its homework on this, stating: “JSA, ESA (both £67 a week) and pension (about £102) all fall well below the £138 a week, or £596 a month, that the Eurocrats have set as the benchmark.
“Because all three are below a second threshold of £110 a week, they are rated ‘manifestly inadequate’.”
The UK has signed treaties in which it has promised to adhere to the provisions of the European Social Charter, so the Council’s claim that its conclusions are legally binding are accurate.
But the Coalition government has never been one to accept rules made by anybody else, and the DWP – one of the worst offenders (see previous articles on Workfare, work capability assessments for people with mental health problems, and the Bedroom Tax) is trying to claim that the findings must only be “taken into account” (meaning they would be noted, but ignored).
In his own response, Iain Duncan Smith appears to have completely misunderstood the meaning of the judgement, providing yet another example of why he is rightly considered one of the Coalition government’s leading dunderheads.
“This government has made great strides in fixing the welfare system so that spending is brought under control. It’s lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204 billion in benefits and pensions last year alone.”
He simply does not understand that talking about the whole amount paid by the government is irrelevant when it is the amount paid on a regular basis to individuals that is at issue.
The Council of Europe states that 40 per cent of the Eurostat median equivalised income is the level at which the benefits should be paid and, as a treaty signatory, the UK has agreed to meet this requirement. RTU’s opinion is of no consequence at all. He is in breach of an international treaty.
The ruling also undermines his claim that many people have made a lifestyle choice to live in comfort on the dole, and his party’s claim that foreign nationals have been immigrating to Britain for purposes of benefit tourism – income levels are too low for anyone in their right mind to consider it.
What nobody is telling you is that this report does not even take account of the changes to the UK’s social security system that were ushered in by RTU’s (we call him that in honour of his ignominious army career – it stands for Returned To Unit, the fate of officer candidates who didn’t make the grade) hopelessly ignorant and hideously draconian Welfare Reform Act.
These are conclusions based on the system before the Bedroom Tax, before the benefit cap, before the flat-rate state pension, and before the one per cent limit on benefit uprating.
The report states: “The Committee notes that these legislative developments (the Welfare Reform Act and the State Pension Reform) are outside the reference period. Therefore, it asks the next report to indicate how these have affected the personal coverage of social security risks – ie the percentage of the covered persons out of the total active population as well as the minimum levels of income-replacement benefits (unemployment, sickness, maternity and old-age).”
In particular, it singles out Employment and Support Allowance: “The Committee of Ministers observed that there was a toughening of the qualifying conditions for the entitlement to ESA on the one hand and a drastic reduction of its duration on the other, which could result in an outright reduction of protection offered by the sickness benefit.
“The Committee of Ministers invited the Government to show in its next report … that the obligations and sanctions under the work-related activity regime are of such a nature as not to unduly limit the protection afforded … to sick persons after the 13th week of sickness.”
That’s going to be tricky for RTU – the last figures his department deigned to release showed that an average of 73 people a week were dying after going through his ideologically-motivated work capability assessment.
As stated at the start of this article, “manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.
They describe the performance of his department in looking after the needs of British taxpayers who have fallen on hard times due to unemployment or illness – and also its treatment of pensioners.
They also describe, in the opinion of objective outsiders, his own performance as a British government minister.
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Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.
Anyone with an ounce of brain in their head knew the Home Office was going to be banned from using its advertising vans again – the ones telling illegal immigrants to “go home”, in the language of “knuckle-dragging racists”, as Owen Jones so memorably phrased it.
That is, anyone except everyone working at the Home Office, including the Secretary of State – Theresa May.
The authority also said the posters on the vans referred to inaccurate arrest statistics, claiming there had been 106 arrests in the area in the past week. The ASA said this was misleading as it did not relate to accurate arrest statistics for the specific areas where people would have seen the vans.
They were out in Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow – areas the Home Office believe many illegal immigrants live and work.
The report stated: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Home Office to ensure that in future they held adequate substantiation for their advertising claims and that qualifications were presented clearly.”
The ASA had received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey, who is from Vox Political‘s home constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, we’re proud to say.
But in an impressive display of tightrope-walking the ASA said the van campaign was not offensive or irresponsible. While the “Go home” slogan had been used in the past to attack immigrants, its report said, the Home Office was now using it in a different context.
Oh! Well, that makes it perfectly acceptable, doesn’t it? Never mind the possibility that nobody seeing those vans in the street was ever likely to consider such a nuance, it was “unlikely to incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multi-cultural communities” because the intention was different!
What about the message implied by these vans – a message that was clearly pointed out by commentators at the time – that Conservative-leaning voters should treat with hatred, suspicion and contempt anybody who is not a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant?
What about the way they encouraged suspicion that another person may be an illegal immigrant?
What about the way the Home Office Twitter account spent the week-long pilot period in which the vans were traipsing round London tweeting messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wanted us to believe had been detected or turned themselves in? Can we believe those figures, if the number on the vans themselves was fake?
What about the photographs transmitted by the same Twitter account, of suspects who had been arrested, before they had been charged? Does anybody remember if any of these people were the white Anglo Saxons mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago?
What about the spot-checks at railway stations, where anybody who was not clearly white could be stopped by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally? How galling was it for British citizens – people who were born and raised in this country – to be faced by a flak-jacketed fiend who (it is claimed) became unreasonably aggressive when challenged over their right to behave in this manner without direct cause for suspicion?
What about the fact that the Home Office undermined its own arguments by being unable to reveal the different ethnicities of the people who were stopped – information that was vital in determining whether they had been breaking the law?
What about the fact that all of this effort was hugely out of proportion when considering the number of illegal immigrants it was likely to net? Forget forced labourers who are brought into the country but kept hidden by criminal organisations – these are not responsible for what happened to them and their cases are likely to be part of criminal investigations into the people holding them captive. Who does that leave?
And what about the possibility that this was not about illegal immigrants at all, but a sop to all those people – many of them Daily Mail readers, we expect – who believe that immigration of any kind is out of control? These are people who need to get to grips with the facts.As reported by this blog and others back in August, the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation; they are assessed via a points-based system, only seven per cent are asylum-seekers and only a third of asylum claims are accepted. They do not have access to most of the benefits available to UK citizens and what they do receive are nowhere near the same value. They are one-third less likely to claim those benefits, meagre as they are, than UK citizens.
The Unite union has been seeking legal advice over this matter, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has also been investigating this. It will be interesting to see what they say.
But a rap on the knuckles over bad information is a good start. Naughty, naughty, Theresa May!
On the same day, the Home Secretary – along with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – faced questions from two Lords committees on the UK’s 2014 opt-out from EU police and criminal justice measures, as part of a reopened inquiry.
If this opt-out is exercised, the Coalition government has listed 35 measures that it would seek to rejoin, and it is these that prompted the Lords to reopen their inquiries.
Parliament’s own website said they were likely to face questions on how they defined the national interest in selecting the 35 measures the UK would seek to rejoin, and whether the changes will break the UK’s obligations to European arrest treaties.
And there were questions to be answered on whether non-participation on measures dealing with xenophobia and racism (the issues at the heart of the matter with the advertising vans) sent an “unfortunate” signal to other EU member states that the UK, under a Conservative-led government, no longer regards those issues as important.
Fortunately for Theresa May, these proceedings do not appear to have been made public.
We never knew: Perhaps Michael Gove is more familiar with the reading matter behind him, but it seems he may even be acquainted with this blog!
Whoever would have suspected that Michael Gove reads Vox Political?
We come to this conclusion from the reaction of the Education Secretary and Gollum impressionist to Theresa May’s ConservativeHome speech, in which she outlined her belief that the plebs’ human rights should be for the chop, as outlined in our article on Sunday. We may deduce he gets help with some of the longer words.
It seems that, in a meeting of Conservative cabinet members, Gove made it clear that prominent Tories’ efforts to promote themselves as possible leaders (precious) were playing into the hands of the party’s opponents (gollum, gollum).
The article itself has been read by fewer than 10,000 people at the time of writing, but Gove may have enjoyed a rare moment of intelligence and realised that the viral reach has been something in the order of two or three million (and it does this columnist a world of good just to type that).
Of course, other blogs exist as well, and it’s possible that even the mainstream press may have enjoyed some frivolity with the Home Secretary’s attempt to be a social climber (in the face of her own government’s elimination of social mobility of any kind).
The cumulative effect on the public consciousness has been huge.
Gollum’s – sorry, Gove’s – warning presaged a sterner telling-off by the Tory Party’s new general election guru, Lynton Crosby, who warned them all to decide whether they want to be “commentators” or “participants” in the 2015 election.
This gentleman then stuffed his own foot very firmly into his mouth and shot himself in it, such was the enormity of the gaffe that followed.
At his urging, comedy Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled what we are being asked to believe will be the bedrock of the party’s campaigning over the next two years.
Try not to laugh.
It’s worse even than the Liberal Democrats’ silly ‘message script’ that they brought out last December.
A 10-point checklist of Tory achievements since they came into office in 2010!
Already, I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking, “How in Heaven’s name have they managed to come up with as many as 10 achievements?”
Don’t get your hopes up!
It really provides a strong insight into the Tory mind, that they consider some of these disasters to be achievements.
But don’t take our word for it. We’ll take them one at a time so you can have a look for yourself:
1. They have cut the fiscal deficit by a quarter. Nobody actually believes this, though. Any “achievement” on the deficit that is reached via one-off events like the Royal Mail pensions raid is unsustainable. It makes for good PR in the right-wing press but anybody with an ounce of sense will see right through it. Also, most of the savings have been carried out by cutting support for the poorest people in the country while the richest are getting – as the Labour Party has hammered into us with such tedious regularity since last year’s budget statement – a tax cut. And in the background, the national debt continues to rise, as Tory policy dictates it must if they are to justify their continued attack on State structures.
2. They have reduced immigration by a third. That’s right; talented people from foreign countries no longer wish to live and work in the UK because the Conservatives and their policies have made it such an unattractive place.
3. There are one million new private sector jobs. There is also so much wrong with this that it is hard to know where to start. Firstly, 200,000 of those jobs were formerly in the public sector but were re-defined by the Conservatives in order to make up the numbers. Secondly, anyone on Workfare, Mandatory Work Activity or whatever they’re calling it today is automatically defined as being in work, despite the fact that the only pay they receive is their state benefit. Thirdly, the government is, by definition, a public sector organisation and should not, therefore, be trying to claim the credit for the creation of private sector employment; only private sector employers can legitimately do that.
4. They vetoed an EU treaty for the first time. Clearly the Conservatives are hoping enough time has passed for us to forget that David Cameron made the UK and everyone in it look like a bunch of fools in front of the other 26 EU states when he did this, because their reaction was simply to bump us off the negotiating table and sign an accord between themselves. All he did was sideline the UK and harm British interests in Europe.
5. They have cut the EU budget for the first time. Not strictly true as it was Angela Merkel’s influence that led to the budget cut. We may also reasonably ask why this is being hailed as an achievement when the British contribution to that budget is still on the rise and has not been cut.
6. They have promised an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU (if they win the next general election). That’s right – rather than achieve anything useful, like negotiating a new structure for the European Union that benefits all of us, the Conservatives intend to stand at the sidelines, make unreasonable demands, and then pander to their own Euro-sceptics by offering the people only one choice – stay or go. The simple fact is that the UK needs to be a part of the European trading community to survive; the run-up to the referendum means the press will be able to feed a mountain of claptrap to the people in order to influence them into a ‘go’ vote, even though it will put us at a huge disadvantage. But the Tories will have seen off UKIP, which is something they are desperate to do after the Eastleigh by-election. Oh yes, and the referendum is conditional on the Conservatives winning the 2015 election outright. It’s electoral blackmail.
7. They are enacting new laws to place householders on the lowest energy tariff. The problem with this is that energy companies can only provide the low tariffs that are currently available because more people pay the higher, average prices. If they are required by law to put everyone on the lowest possible payment scheme, the price of that scheme will rise. It is economically-illiterate nonsense but it looks good to the uninformed.
8. They have created a single-tier pension scheme. This is the Tory compulsion to make things simpler at work again – because simplifying money matters means the poor will be worse-off. In simple language, then, the vast majority of people who become eligible for their pensions after 2060 will lose out. This is an attack on the young.
9. They are introducing a £75,000 cap on the costs of long-term care. On the face of it, this is good, because 16 per cent of over-65s will benefit. However, the recommendation was for a cap of between £25-50,000 – which would have benefited 37 per cent of over-65s, more than double the number the Tories are actually going to help. Around 120,000 pensioners will lose out every year.
10. They are taking two million people out of tax, with an average £600 cut in bills for 24 million people. This is, of course, before the impact of the Tories’ benefit cuts is factored in. For example, look at Iain Duncan Smith’s decision to freeze benefit increases at one per cent for the next three years, no matter how high inflation rises. This will plunge 200,000 children into poverty. The Children’s Society calculates that a single parent with two children, working on an average wage as a nurse would lose £424 a year by 2015. A couple with three children and one earner, on an average wage as a corporal in the British Army, would lose £552 a year by 2015. Now add in the effect of the benefit cap that will be introduced next month, the bedroom tax, the council tax reduction scheme in England; many people will be refused the Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit under their new rules, just as many are being refused Employment and Support Allowance now (wrongly). If a cumulative impact assessment was carried out, the effect on those two million people who no longer have to pay Income Tax – not indirect taxes like VAT, road tax, and so on – will be unequivocally negative.
This is not a list of achievements.
It is a list of staggering failures.
Ed Miliband was right to ask, in today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, whether they could organise anything in a brewery.
Instead of a show of pride, the Conservatives should be ashamed.
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