Ice skaters at the Winter Wonderland experience in London’s Hyde Park [Image: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images].
You could lose a close relative or friend in the near future – particularly if they are elderly or vulnerable due to a health condition. In fact, your Conservative Government has done everything it can to arrange it.
Senior citizens are probably the least vulnerable group, as Tory right-wingers have – so far – failed to convince their leaders to cut cold weather and winter fuel payments. It’s just a matter of time, though.
Working-age people with health problems are a different matter. The Tories have cut benefits to the bone and these people may find it very difficult to cope with the cost of heating their homes while still putting food on the table.
That applies to unemployed people who are sanctioned by the Job Centre, as well.
And what about the homeless – 120,000 of whom, this Christmas, will be children?
Can anybody forget the horrifying fate of the man who was sanctioned, walked out into the street and froze to death?
Expect more – many more. Maybe not this week, but soon. And you know our NHS hospitals cannot cope because Jeremy Hunt has made sure of it.
Heath officials have reminded the public that cold weather can be fatal – hours before a widespread frost hits Britain.
Temperatures could drop to -6C over the coming nights in places, the lowest of the season so far.
Secondly, everybody knows that the Tories’ rubbish neoliberal ideology demands a large number of people have to be unemployed, in order to keep wages down – and Cameron very much wants the UK to remain a low-wage economy.
Thirdly, look at the jobs he has managed to create: zero hours contracts, part-time work, under-employment rife. If that’s his idea of what we need in order to create full employment, then he should be looking forward to his own P45 in May.
[Image: Eoin Clarke 9again).]
Or, as David Schneider put it on Twitter: “Cameron’s promise of full employment to guarantee everyone in the country a job that doesn’t pay enough for them to live off.”
The social media were quick to dismiss this latest nonsense from the PR genius behind “compassionate Conservatism”, “hug a hoodie” and “Green Tories” – remember those flops?
MagsNews on Twitter reported: “Cameron says everything’s wonderful in the jobs market! [Nine out of 10] new jobs are [full-time] jobs. ITV news asks why, if so, tax receipts are so low?!!”
And the Labour Press Team pointed out: “Tory record on jobs: more than 1.3 million people work part-time because they can’t get a full-time job. Tory record on jobs: 3.5 million people in work say they want extra hours. Tory record on jobs: 1.4 million zero-hours contracts in the economy.”
He doesn’t seem to realise what a diabolical mess he has made of the British jobs market – but don’t worry! Here’s a way to clarify matters for him:
Are you stuck in part-time work when you want to be earning full-time wages?
Have you been forced to accept a zero-hours contract, so you don’t know when you’ll be working but can’t claim benefits when you’re not?
Are you on a temporary contract, rather than in permanent work?
Are you earning less than the minimum wage – on a government work programme, for example – or are you earning less than a living wage in a full-time, part-time or zero-hours job?
If so, it’s time to stop calling it a job.
Call it a ‘Cameron’ instead.
“Hello, Bob – how’s it going?”
“Not bad. How about you? Did you get a job yet?”
“Meh. There’s nothing worthwhile to be had. All I got was a ‘Cameron’.”
A new political party has been launched – on International Workers’ Day – to represent the interests of people whose opportunities in life have been restricted because they earn low wages.
The Underpaid People’s Independence Party – UPIP – will campaign for better pay, better rights and a better say on behalf of all those who currently earn less than they need in order to pay their own way.
The new party has announced several policies already:
A living wage for every working person, ensuring that the overburdened benefit system does not subsidise greedy corporations
A guaranteed ‘income floor’ for all British citizens, ensuring that those who do not work because of illness or unemployment are able to live with dignity
The guarantee of employee benefits including sick pay, holiday rights and both lower and upper limits on the number of hours worked
Strengthened – and rigorously-enforced – health and safety regulations for all workplaces, to limit the number of workplace-related illnesses and disabilities
An end to corrupt ‘workfare’, ‘work programme’ or ‘mandatory work activity’ schemes that allow governments to collude with corporations in forcing citizens to work for no payment other than benefits that are subsidised by other working people
Tax incentives to encourage all companies to transform into co-operatives, with responsibilities and profits shared among the entire workforce
UPIP founder Nobby Fulsom, a former mineworker, said Britain’s hardworking poor had suffered for too long under neoliberal profiteers, and the time had come for a party they could all enjoy.
“I have stayed underground for too long; now is the time for working people to stand tall,” he said.
But he admitted: “It is too late for us to field any candidates in the European election.
“If we could, we would be opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that would push workers on both sides of the Atlantic into ever-worsening conditions of employment.
“Europe should be pushing for an agreement that will guarantee the best possible conditions for all workers. The fact that the EU doesn’t seem interested in supporting its constituents poses questions about its own role, and that is why we support a top-down reorganisation of the European Union, with authority granted to nobody unless they can prove they started their careers at the lowest level and worked their way up, rather than just walking in from a position of privilege.”
Mr Fulsom said it was not true that members of UPIP had been posting anti-corporatist Tweets on the internet, nor had they been targeting members of the aristocracy with derogatory remarks.
“UPIP is an inclusive party,” he said. We believe in uniting people – not in the divisive rhetoric of the Coalition government or certain minority parties with similar initials to our own.
“Any corporate executive who is willing to turn his organisation into a co-operative is welcome to join us, as is anyone from a family of wealth who accepts that the people who made that cash for them are entitled to the opportunities they and their forebears enjoyed.”
He added: “We don’t want much, but what we want is fair – for everybody, not just those with a private education and independent wealth.”
Undoubtedly, UPIP will have a great deal to say about the current election campaign and the future direction of British politics.
The vindictiveness of our Conservative-led government knows no bounds.
Not only has the government cut a man’s state benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, but its supporters then attacked him in the local newspaper’s comment column – even though they knew nothing about his situation.
Rather than sit around, he has spent his time volunteering in the community – for up to 40 hours per week – while also job hunting.
But when his doctors told him he had cancer, DWP officials cut his benefit money by 40 per cent (from £140 per week to £84). This is because attending hospital on both sides of the Humber meant he was unable to attend job clubs and had to claim a sickness benefit instead.
“When a person has cancer the last thing a person needs to worry about is finances but I now have to look after my family, pay bills and finance my trips to hospitals on less than £100 per week,” Mr Woodcock is quoted as saying. “Is this what health and welfare reforms have led to?
“The DWP even told me that if I went back on to jobseekers and gave up my treatment I could go back on to £140 per week to live on – meaning if I decided to die, I could be richer!”
So much for your caring Conservative-led government. Now look at this despicable response from a reader:
“Not much gratitude shown to taxpayers for the hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of free cancer treatment he will receive. I would say that is a pretty substantial benefit myself.”
Disgusting. The whole point of the National Health Service is that everybody pays something towards it, to ensure that it is free at the point of use. One has to question whether this commenter was a government plant, ordered to make this statement as part of the campaign to soften us all up for privatisation.
Here’s another one with his head in the clouds: “I’d look at this man’s situation the other way and suggest that he’s been overpaid (by at least 40 per cent) over the last eight years, whilst he’s been sat at home reaping in the benefits – whilst the rest of us have been going to work. Eight years is a very long time. Why couldn’t he find a job? Not really looking perhaps.”
It happens that a previous commenter had already answered this claim, but clearly these people don’t pay attention to anybody but themselves. The other commenter noted: “He is long-term unemployed (so largely unemployable), he didn’t sit on his behind all day (from what I hear) and smoke pot. The guy has a social conscience and appears to give a toss about where he lives.”
But this person noted that Mr Woodcock’s voluntary work could also harm his benefits: “I have to say he should be careful; the Jobcentre could class that as ‘not actively seeking and being available for work’, mainly due to the amount of time his job-seeking should occupy compared to a full time job.” We’re living in a crazy, upside-down country!
Final word goes to another commenter who pointed out that nothing has changed since the Coalition government first tightened the rules for claiming sickness benefits: “The aim of Govt was to demonise those on benefit by highlighting the worst cases of abuse and unless you are near to terminal there is the idea by the DWP you can do something.”
This is eerily reminiscent of the incident that sparked all the other stories about the victimisation of the sick. Does anybody remember, years ago, when the Coalition government was chastised for putting a patient with terminal cancer into the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance, telling that person he should spend the final six months of his life at work?
Despite the huge backlash and protestations from the government that it has changed the system, it seems there has been no improvement at all.
Meanwhile, perhaps because of the constant right-wing media attacks on the sick as “feckless” “scroungers”, it seems the public have been manipulated into hardening their attitude.
ADDENDUM: You can read another perspective on this, from Scriptonite, here.
One down: Patrick Mercer resigned because the weight of corruption allegations against him was too great. But what are the other 649 MPs hiding?
We need to talk about the culture of deception that is festering at the heart of the British political classes.
Every party is guilty of this to some degree – all of them. They have all made promises to the electorate and then, once in positions of power, they have done exactly whatever else they wanted.
On Tuesday, Patrick Mercer resigned as an MP rather than face suspension from the House of Commons over allegations that, rather than carrying out the will of his constituents, he had corruptly set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group to life Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, after having been offered money to do so by undercover reporters.
His resignation came 11 months after he resigned from the Parliamentary Conservative Party, and this decision was made in the knowledge that a TV documentary was about to present the allegations to the country. Would he have taken these actions otherwise? It’s highly doubtful. Nobody resigns when they think they got away with it.
Nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that this allegedly corrupt MP managed to keep his seat in the Commons for 11 months after the allegations came out – that’s nearly one-fifth of a Parliamentary term when he was still drawing his taxpayer-funded salary. Is that reasonable?
Mercer is, of course, just one individual case. In the lifetime of this Parliament we have seen entire Parliamentary political parties turn on their electors in betrayal. It is to be hoped that nobody has forgotten Labour’s betrayal of the unemployed when it failed to oppose the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act that retrospectively imposed penalties on people who refuse to take part in state-sponsored ‘slave labour’ schemes.
Labour’s front bench claimed it had negotiated important concessions, including an inquiry into the effectiveness of mandatory work activity – and when is that due to report? Around 30 Labour MPs are still entitled to hold their heads high, because they rebelled and voted against the legislation in any case.
Far worse is the behaviour of the Conservative Party, who promised that the National Health Service would be safe under a Tory government and then set in motion the wholesale upheaval that we have witnessed over the past few years, with funding squandered on reorganisation and privatisation of services that is intended to lead to the abolition of the publicly-funded health service in a few years’ time.
Pensions are going the same way; the Workplace Pension discourages employers from participation, meaning they are trying to push their workforces into taking up private schemes instead. Meanwhile the state pension has been ‘simplified’ in a way that means people have to work longer before receiving it. The intention is, eventually, to privatise pension provision altogether and ensure only those on higher pay can afford them.
And the Tories are busy abolishing the rest of the welfare state as well. The harsh regime of sanctions and slave-labour schemes run by the Department for Work and Pensions is intended to soften up the workforce – and potential workforce – for the introduction of privately-run schemes, into which you will be expected to pay to insure against the possibility of becoming jobless – the policies would provide your income during any such period (as long as you didn’t stay out of work for very long) instead of the government.
The problem with such proposals is that, if they are run along the same lines as certain health insurance schemes, they would be scams – as the conditions would be rigged to ensure that the companies running them never had to pay out. This is what we have learned from the fact that the criminal Unum Corporation has been advising the DWP on its policies.
And then, worst of all, we have the so-called Liberal Democrats, who promised to eradicate student fees in the run-up to the 2010 election and betrayed that pledge two months before the poll took place, in a backroom power-sharing deal with the Conservative Party.
The same organisation has gone on to support the Conservatives every step of the way to dismantling the welfare state and reducing the vast majority of the UK’s workforce to conditions we have not seen since the early 20th century at the latest.
Many of us have been dismayed at this apparent betrayal by an organisation that we all hoped would have put a brake on the more excessive Tory policies, but VPFacebook commenter John Elwyn Kimber has cast illumination on the reasons we were mistaken.
“19th-century Whiggery, ‘Orange’ or ‘Manchester’ Liberalism, call it what you like, was about the unfettered power of new money – hence identical to modern ‘Toryism’,” he wrote.
“Just as Eisenhower was the last civilised Republican president, traditional patrician Downton-Abbey-style Conservatism of the more socially-responsible sort finally departed British politics after the MacMillan government. Even the sitting-on-the-fence Heathites, the ‘Tory Wets’, were gleefully kicked out of the cabinet by Margaret Thatcher after the ‘Falklands election’ in 1983, with the exception of Whitelaw who was retained [though sidelined] as a sort of sop to the traditionalists.
“Since when, the political consensus has been for whiggery-pokery all the way up till now. So while the understanding of ‘Liberal’ by Lib Dem grass roots voters is a mid-twentieth-century one, all about tolerance and socially-progressive policies, it seems obvious that Clegg’s cabinet are only too happy to be rabid whigs nuzzled up to another lot of rabid whigs – the only difference is in the mood-music provided for the grass roots in each case.”
The message is that we were all deceived – again.
The problem is that there is almost nothing we can do about it that doesn’t take a lot of time – a commodity that is in short supply.
Historically, the UK does not carry a box on the ballot paper marked “None of the above”. This means there is no direct democratic way of refusing all the candidates for election to a particular constituency and demand better. Nor is there ever likely to be, because our corrupt politicians know that would be equivalent to turkeys voting for Christmas.
Alternatively, we can form new political parties and try to beat the corrupt old parties at their own game. The problem with this is one of traction; it takes new parties many years to gain enough recognition to become a serious force. UKIP is only beginning to gain such recognition now, after more than 20 years – and this is as a protest party against membership of the European Union. If that party’s supporters took a look at its other policies, they’d desert en masse.
Another possibility is similarly time-consuming: You actually join one of the main political parties and try to effect change from within. The problem here is that you would be fighting established members every step of the way. It has been done effectively in the past, though – look at the way Labour was transformed into New Labour by the influence of a few neoliberal infiltrators, and consider the damage that has done to the party’s reputation and effectiveness.
The worst option is the most popular: You do nothing. This is, of course, the wide and easy path to disaster – but so many people are feeling disaffected because of the barriers that the corrupt political classes have put up against democracy, that they honestly can’t see the point of voting.
This of course means our government will be elected by an ever-diminishing group of electors, and makes it all the more possible for our ever-more-elite group of corrupt politicians to argue for those who don’t vote to lose the right to take part in elections. You will be disenfranchised.
Then you really will have no power to change anything at all.
What follows is intelligent, adroit and not mine. It was written by Bernadette Meaden on the Ekklesia website and passed on to me by a mutual friend.
It constitutes what I think may be a complete answer and refutation of ‘accusations’ that the Labour Party is the so-called ‘party of welfare’. Tories love to bandy this about as though it is an insult. What they don’t tell you is that their alternative is abject poverty for all but an elite few.
I’m jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Bernadette had to say:
“Conservative MPs frequently say that the Conservatives are the party of ‘hardworking people’, and the Labour Party is ‘the party of welfare’. It’s said as an accusation, an insult, and many Labour MPs take it as such, attempting to deny the charge as if it’s something to be ashamed of.
I would like to see Labour MPs acting as an Opposition, and to meet this ‘accusation’ head on, with conviction and pride. Here is what I’d like to hear a Labour MP say.
“Yes, we are the party of welfare, and we’re proud to be so. Let me tell you why.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that, if you have a stroke tonight, you should have poverty added to your misfortune.
“We’re the party of welfare because, if you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease tomorrow, we don’t believe that you should worry about eviction as you wait six months for an assessment, only to be denied the support you so obviously need.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that when 1,700 people apply for eight jobs at Costa, or when 1,500 people queue for hours to apply for 40 jobs at Aldi, there is a big problem with people being ‘workshy’. We don’t believe unemployed people are to blame for unemployment.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe ordinary workers need to be motivated by the threat of hunger, whilst bankers need huge bonuses to motivate them.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that if a person loses their job, they need to have their distress exacerbated with the threat of benefit sanctions if they are late for a Jobcentre appointment.
“We’re the party of welfare because we don’t believe that ‘hardworking people’ and people in receipt of benefits are somehow two different species. We know that in an unfair economy, many hardworking people rely on benefits to keep a roof over their head and their children fed. And until such time as the economy is fair, and those people’s wages are sufficient, we will not begrudge them the support they need.
“So yes, we are the party of welfare, because we’re the party of humanity, compassion, and fairness, and we do not view people who are poor or in difficulty with thinly disguised suspicion and contempt.”
That is what I would like to hear a Labour MP say, the next time they are ‘accused’ of being the party of welfare.”
Vox Political is the blog of hardworking people AND those on benefits
… but we do not have a wage and we can’t rely on the state.
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Iain Duncan Smith and everybody else associated with this scam should be facing charges and the possibility of imprisonment, rather than re-election next year.
Let’s be honest about this: The government hasn’t messed up by omitting Universal Credit claimants from the official unemployment benefit claimant count – the Department for Work and Pensions messed up by admitting this had happened.
It means we may be looking at a long-term attempt to defraud the electorate. The plan seems clear: When the general election finally takes place next year, Iain Duncan Smith would have claimed that his policies have been a brilliant success in creating jobs and cutting down the number of people claiming benefits.
If people are convinced that the DWP has succeeded in cutting the amount of money being paid out in benefits – the burden on the taxpayer – then they are more likely to vote for the Conservatives. Electoral victory means more money for everybody involved – what’s known as a pecuniary advantage.
But the claim has been made by deception. Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception is the dictionary definition of criminal fraud.
There can be no doubt that the omission was deliberate. When it comes to fiddling the official figures, the DWP has ‘form’ going back for years. Look at the lies about the benefit cap pushing people into work; the way people on ESA were encouraged to say they were self-employed and claim tax credits – even though this is not permitted and they were racking up a huge overpayment.
Look at the abuses of the sanction system; look at the abuses of the IB/ESA work capability assessment; look at the number of successful appeals against the DWP that have been kept out of official figures.
The claimant count, which provides the headline unemployment figure, is the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance every month – and has been for many years.
But Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship (if the ship was the Titanic) Universal Credit is up and running – on an extremely limited basis – in certain pilot areas of the country, and people without a job in those areas should be included in the claimant count.
This has not happened. It is possible that this is yet another oversight by Mr Duncan Smith, the government’s top bungler (indeed, he was recently voted favourite cabinet minister by ConservativeHome, so he must be doing something right, and the thing he does most often is make mistakes).
Mr Duncan Smith himself would disagree, however. He has claimed repeatedly and vehemently that his department does not make mistakes with statistics; that everything done on his watch has been justified and that everybody at the DWP is entirely competent.
So we must accept that there was a decision to keep Universal Credit claimants out of the claimant count, meaning that there was a decision to make it seem there are fewer people unemployed than is actually the case.
This seems to be supported by the complaint from the Office for National Statistics, which publishes unemployment figures. The wording runs as follows: “The DWP have not been able to supply ONS with this information in a way that has allowed its inclusion within the Claimant Count [italics mine], resulting in the exclusion of UC claims from this measure.”
This implies that the DWP is perfectly capable of supplying the figures in a manageable way but has deliberately done otherwise.
Further indication that DWP officials knew exactly what they were doing comes from a spokeswoman’s response to this affair, published in the Daily Mirror: “We have been fully transparent in publishing the number of people claiming Universal Credit.
“To ensure consistency the Department released these figures alongside the employment statistics. Universal Credit is both an in- and out-of-work benefit so some claimants may be working.”
In that case, the DWP cannot have been “fully transparent”, can it? Transparency would have required the department to separate UC into “in-work” and “out-of-work” claims, and we have no evidence that this has happened. Until it does, neither the ONS nor the rest of us have any way of knowing how many people are unemployed in the UK.
This has been going on for nearly a year, as Universal Credit was rolled out in its first pilot area in April last year. This means that all unemployment statistics since then have been falsified by the DWP and unemployment figures have been higher than claimed.
The Labour Party has tried to paint this as incompetence, but it is wrong to do so.
This was deliberate, premeditated disinformation.
Now the deception has been uncovered, they are unrepentant.
Perhaps someone should remind them that fraud is still a crime.
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Labour is forging forward with new plans to improve work prospects and the skills of those seeking employment, while the Conservatives are plunging backward with proposals to penalise people who lack the ability to speak basic English.
Already right-wingers in the media have been trying to undermine the policies announced by Rachel Reeves in a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research. They say Labour is planning to strip people of their benefits if they don’t take classes to improve their English and Maths skills, if necessary.
This talk of punishment for people who need help is completely wrong-headed. If someone can’t get a job because they can’t read, write or do their sums, then they should get help. Of course they should.
One has to wonder what has gone wrong in our schools, to lead to this situation. Perhaps Michael Gove would like to take responsibility? No, didn’t think so.
In fact, the plans announced by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary are perfectly reasonable – especially in contrast with the latest Tory madness, but we’ll come to that soon enough.
We already know that the centrepiece of Labour’s economic plan is a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed.
This means anyone over 25 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more, and anyone under that age who has been receiving the same benefit for one year or more would get a guaranteed job, paying at least the minimum wage, for 25 hours a week – coupled with training for at least a further 10 hours a week.
This is perfectly reasonable. If you have been looking for work for more than a year, and couldn’t get it yourself, then the extra income provided by such a placement (especially coming in line with Labour’s plan to increase wages, in order to really make work pay, rather than depressing benefits and putting everyone in poverty, which is Conservative policy) will be welcome.
It doesn’t mean that people will have to put their own ambitions on hold. The best advice I ever received was to get a paying job during the day, in order to put food on the table and clothes on my back, and work on what I really wanted to do in the evenings. Eventually, with perseverance, it should be possible to replace the day job with what you really want to do.
Most of the jobs are likely to be in small firms where, once a company has invested six months in a new recruit, the chances are they will want to keep them on after the subsidy has ended.
The jobs guarantee would be fully funded by repeating the tax on bankers bonuses – they were in the news recently, when it was announced that these people would be receiving unearned bonuses worth twice as much as their salary so they’ve definitely got the cash to spare – and a restriction on pension tax relief for those on the very highest incomes.
But – of course – putting people into a job isn’t much good if they don’t have the knowledge of English and Maths that most of us use without thinking in our everyday lives.
In her speech, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “The shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work, and trapping them in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits.
“Nearly one in 10 people claiming JSA don’t have basic English skills, and over one in ten don’t have basic maths. IT skills among jobseekers are even worse; nearly half don’t have the basic email skills which are now essential for almost any job application.
“And we know that this keeps people out of jobs: those out of work are twice as likely than those in work to lack basic English and Maths,” she said, proving that her own lack in that area hasn’t held her back. Twice as likely as those in work, Rachel.
She said research has shown that, when people who lack these skills do get jobs, they too often find themselves in short term or temporary work, with a swift return to benefits. Nearly one in five of those who have made multiple claims for unemployment benefits have problems with reading or numeracy.
The response: “A new requirement [will be] for jobseekers to take training if they do not meet basic standards of maths, English and IT – training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch, or lose their benefits.
“[We] will ensure that people’s skills needs are assessed, and basic skills gaps addressed, from the start of a Jobseeker’s Allowance Claim, not after months and years of neglect.”
Contrast this with the Conservative Party’s latest plan to hammer immigrants and people on benefits – announcing a new policy of repression every week ahead of the election in 2015, according to politics.co.uk
It seems right-wing Australian election chief, and tobacco lobbyist, Lynton Crosby thinks this kind of bully-boy behaviour will make the Tories more popular! Don’t laugh.
This comes after satirical radio comedy The Now Show featured a sketch in which people tried to justify xenophobic attitudes without saying the words “I’m not racist, but…”
Let’s try the reverse – putting those words into the new policies announced on politics.co.uk:
“I’m not racist, but we should strip benefits from anyone who can’t speak English!” (Does this include the English people who can’t speak their own language properly, who Labour plan to help?)
“I’m not racist, but we should axe the service telling people about benefits in foreign languages!”
“I’m not racist, but we should end translation services in benefits offices!” (According to politics.co.uk, David Cameron is very keen on that one).
The site said “Iain Duncan Smith is understood to already be working on them”. (He’s not racist, but…)
Tory backbencher and former scandal Liam Fox tried to justify this lunacy by saying: “The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it.” By cutting off their income? How does that work?
Plans to focus on the government’s increasingly racist tough anti-immigrant message come despite warnings that a reduction in immigration would make it harder for Britain to pay back its national debt.
The site said that, last week, a long-awaited report into benefit tourism had to be shelved in secret, after failing to find any evidence of it.
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A Freedom of Information Request (FOI) by Plaid Cymru has discovered that jobseekers could face benefit sanctions if bad weather (including snow) prevents them from attending a Jobcentre appointment.
Plaid Cymru asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whether exemptions would apply to the policy of applying benefit sanctions against unemployed people who fail to attend Jobcentre appointments due to poor weather conditions (such as snow), or other unforeseen circumstances.
Don’t look so smug, George – we know what you’re trying to do.
It is surprising that they don’t seem to think we can make the connections.
Two articles have leapt from the national media to trouble us this week. The first, in the Telegraph, states that the economic recovery that has made George Osborne so proud is built on mounting consumer debt and a housing bubble.
(This is something that has been known to us for several months, in fact. Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme is the principle cause of the bubble, and it was recently revealed that there is no way to slow it down. Let’s not forget that the taxpayer is underwriting the scheme – so when the bubble bursts we will have to pay both as individuals and as a nation!)
The second article is on the BBC News website, which tells us that up to 1.4 million extra households could face “perilous” levels of debt when interest rates begin to rise – in addition to the 600,000 families already in that situation.
(It adds that mortgages are the largest source of household debt.)
Vox Political has long held the belief that the Conservatives have been trying to increase personal debt. Whether the plan was to decrease the national debt in this way is debatable as the deficit has plateaued at around £120 billion for the last few years.
When Mark Carney became governor of the Bank of England, he said he would not raise interest rates until unemployment falls below seven per cent – which might provide a bit of breathing-room for those having to deal with mounting debt.
If a person is put on Workfare, they are removed from unemployment statistics, even though they only receive social security payments for the work they do.
We already know that figures show a larger fall in unemployment than commentators had anticipated, so it now stands at 7.4 per cent, according to official statistics. Putting hundreds of thousands more people on Workfare should cut that figure below Mr Carney’s benchmark.
Meanwhile, household debt is due to rise to 160 per cent of income by 2018, partly because wages are dropping in comparison with inflation. The number of households using half their disposable income to repay debt could rise from 600,000 to 1.1 million if interest rates rise to three per cent (according to the Resolution Foundation, as quoted in the BBC piece) – and to two million if rates hit five per cent.
In the light of this information we must ask ourselves: Is this a Tory trap? Are they trying to create conditions in which more people on low or middle incomes become indebted to the rich, just by fiddling interest rates?
What do you think?
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