Category Archives: ConDem Budget 2010

The Bedroom Tax Is A Tax, No Matter What The Tories Say

Like many people, I’ve always thought the Tories were monumentally stupid. Many of them have the most expensive education money can buy and yet they trot out the most absurd and intellectually-enfeebled statements with nary a thought. A couple of years ago, David Cameron appeared on the David Letterman Show and couldn’t even tell his interlocutor what the Magna Carta was.

He went to Eton and Oxford, for chrissakes. But let’s be blunt: the offspring of this country’s wealthy and powerful don’t have to do well at school because they don’t need to. They know that they will land a plum job no matter how brain dead they are. Cameron is but one example. Osborne is another.

The Tories’ solution for dealing with the housing crisis was indicative of, not only their ignorance of the gravity of the situation, but also of their mindless cruelty towards those without the means to fight back. The so-called Spare Room Subsidy, which is more accurately termed “The Bedroom Tax”, is an example of this cruelty. However the term “Spare Room Subsidy” itself is indicative of their ignorance. Since when was a charge for something considered a ‘subsidy’?

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a subsidy as:

A sum of money granted by the state or a public body to help an industry or business keep the price of a commodity or service low.

An example of this would be

a farm subsidy

Does the Bedroom Tax sound like a “subsidy” to you? No, it doesn’t sound like one to me either.

I’ve had Tories seize on a Tweet that I wrote a few months ago in which I provided the dictionary definition of a subsidy. Yesterday, this numpty even linked to his blog in an attempt to prove me wrong. He even tried to support his claim by repeating the lie that council housing is “subsidized”. If they aren’t trotting out wilfully ignorant statements, then they’re peddling myths. Council housing is not “subsidized”. The majority of council housing stock was built decades ago and the rents paid to local authorities have paid for the building of these properties many times over. Council rents bring in millions of pounds for local authorities. This evidence is completely ignored by the Tories who whine and complain that people are paying below the inflated market rents charged by their rentier brethren. They won’t be happy till we’re all (apart from them) living in abject squalor in shanty towns, which they will bulldoze because they’re “an eyesore”.

The person who replied to my Tweet claims, according to his Twitter profile, that he’s socially liberal and economically conservative. Oh, how I laughed. His complaint against the phrase ‘Bedroom Tax’ rests entirely on this weak premise:

Amazingly the left call this system a “tax”, which it definitely isn’t. There can only be two possible reasons that they are doing this. The first is because, as they have proven repeatedly, they don’t understand economics. The second is because they could possibly be lying again and trying to mislead the British public for political reasons, which is strange when it is their idea.

This fool believes himself to be intellectually superior to everyone else, yet he displays a distinct lack of critical thinking and is quite keen to recirculate the Tories’ myths and lies. But he claims the left (whoever they are) “don’t understand economics”. It’s quite clear to me and many others, that the Tories are utterly clueless when it comes to economics. Have a look at Osborne’s Autumn Statement if you don’t believe me.

To top off his arrogance, the numpty tells us:

Abusers will be muted. Tedious fools also.

The word generally used on Twitter is “blocked” and I blocked this idiot.

The first Tory who took issue with my Tweet even quoted part of the definition for the word ‘tax’.

A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’income and businessprofits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions:

But what about protection racketeers who refer to the charges they impose on people as a ‘tax’, are they going to tell them to stop using the word and use the word ‘subsidy’ instead? The word ‘tax’ is not limited to money paid to a state, it is used to describe any kind of deduction or a drain on one’s powers.

The Free Dictionary says:

Tax (tæks)

n

1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a compulsory financial contributionimposed by a government to raise revenue, levied on the income or property ofpersons or organizations, on the production costs or sales prices of goods andservices, etc
2. a heavy demand on something; strain: a tax on our resources.

vb (tr)

3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) to levy a tax on (persons, companies,etc, or their incomes, etc)
4. to make heavy demands on; strain: to tax one’s intellect.
5. to accuse, charge, or blame: he was taxed with the crime.
6. (Law) to determine (the amount legally chargeable or allowable to a party to alegal action), as by examining the solicitor’s bill of costs: to tax costs.
7. to steal
You will notice that I have put point 7 in bold. Britain or, rather, HMP United Kingdom has some of the most regressive taxes in the world and these amount to little more than theft and/or the abuse of power. The Poll Tax or Community Charge was but one example of the kinds of regressive taxes imposed on people by the Tories because they’re seen as ‘fair’.
If Tories and right-wing numpties want to play games with semantics, then they will have to do much better than dispute definitions by using such narrow terms.
The Tories: ignorance is strength.

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Filed under ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, economic illiteracy, Economics

Can we have some of what the Egyptians and Tunisians are having, please?

We need some of this here

First Tunisia and now Egypt, the old corrupt and repressive regimes are under threat. Ben Ali of Tunisia went into exile last week and Hosni Mubarak is clinging on. But these protests tell us something: ordinary people have put up with neoliberalism, corruption and attacks on them for long enough. There is only so much people can take before they snap.

Yesterday,  David Cameron said

“I think what we need is reform in Egypt. We support reform and progress in the greater strengthening of their democracy and civil rights and the rule of law.

“Clearly there are grievances that people have and they need to be met and matched.

“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest that people are being killed on the streets of Egypt as we speak, and so I hope the violence will cease.

“But clearly, when you have people who have grievances and problems that want them responded to, it’s in all our interests that these countries have stronger rule of law, stronger rights, stronger democracy.”

Foreign Secretary, Fizzy Willy Hague chipped in with

“I think it is important to recognise that the people involved have legitimate grievances – economic grievances and political grievances – and it is very important for the authorities to respond positively to that, and to be able to hold out the hope and prospect of reform in the future.

“That is the answer to this situation, rather than repression. It does not help to suppress people’s right to freedom of expression.”

Cameron  also said to the delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Europe had to

‘incentivise the same kind of risk-taking investment culture’

What Cameron can’t wrap his head around is the fact that British people have plenty of  grievances and problems  but his government ignore them and are intent on creating more problems by pursuing their ill-conceived and poorly-formulated social experiments.

Yesterday, one of Cameron’s model councils, Westminster, announced that it has plans to give social housing priority to those people who are employed.   Westminster was infamous in the early 1990’s for the Homes for Votes scandal. The then leader, Dame Shirley Porter, gerrymandered marginal wards to favour the ruling party (her party).

Under the council’s plans, working households will be defined as those where the main applicant or their partner are in work, have a permanent or temporary contract or are self-employed.

People who would be prioritised must have been working for a minimum of two years.

As if to emphasize their intellectually feeble and philosophically bankrupt policies, Hon Gid  and Cameron were spreading the Thatcherite message. Their message files in the face of recently published economic figures which say that Britain’s economy has shrunk while the US economy has grown. The US has spent money to achieve growth, while the British government makes deep cuts to public services and raises the rate of VAT, thus choking off consumer confidence. A PPE degree clearly doesn’t make for a wise politician.

While the likes of Cameron and Hague call for reform in Egypt, they trample over our democratic rights and pursue ideologically-driven policies that will make people poorer and destroy public services. Not only are these people intellectually feeble (it was the snow that caused our economy to shrink) and philosophically bankrupt (social housing is responsible for worklessness), their minds are firmly closed to today’s realities.

This is 2011, not 1981.

But the Great Lord of Darkness is still living in the past.

After nearly a quarter of a century of good industrial relations, the cloth-cap colonels of the TUC are talking about using the strike weapon to overrule a democratically elected Parliament. I can understand their anger and frustration.

I doubt he can understand the anger and frustration. His take on history is faulty too. What does he mean by “a quarter of a century of good industrial relations”? He’s not even honest enough to admit that it was his government passed a series of anti-trade union laws and spent a lot of its time smashing those unions while, ironically, supporting Solidarinosc in Poland.

I won’t bother to quote the rest of his blog. It’s really depressing.

There are demonstrations against the cuts to education in London and Manchester today and there are more planned for the future. There should be daily protests and if a few things are damaged in the process, then so be it. This government has shown that it isn’t interested in what ordinary people think and it is only through the tactics of shock that we can get them to change anything. Though, expecting this shower of shite to leave office and go into exile to Chile is clearly my fantasy and mine alone.

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Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, Cuts, Egypt, Government & politics, Public spending

Postcards from the Barricades (Part 7)

Pink stormtrooper has a chat with a protester

I always manage to set off late to the demos. Before I leave, BBC News are reporting on this afternoon’s vote in the Commons. The overall message that comes from the Beeb is “Students won’t get what they want”. But what the BBC and the other news outlets continues to ignore is that the protests are about more tan just tuition fees, they’re about the cuts to education and the public sector as well as the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).  The news media would do well to report the whole story and not just part of it.

I emerge from Leicester Square tube station into the December sun. It’s a good day for a march. It’s a little milder than it has been in recent days. Charing Cross Road is eerily quiet. I see that Bill Bailey’s show Dandelion Mind is on at Wyndhams Theatre. There are a couple of British Transport police hanging around outside the tube station. I walk towards Trafalgar Square. I can see a few protesters and some confused tourists wandering about in a near-daze.

At Trafalgar Square, I notice that the convenience store on the corner near Whitehall is boarded up. The Pret a Manger next door is not. I wonder what’s going on? A bit of an overreaction on the part of the shopkeepers perhaps? I can also see that Whitehall is blocked by a line of police. In fact, they surround the square except for Admiralty Arch. What’s going on? I do some circulating. I walk past some cops who  are talking about “protecting Cowley Square”. Cowley Square, soon to be renamed Cowardly Square is home to the Lib Dems. A big cheer goes up as a banner from the RMT appears on the Strand. I make my way towards there. As I do so, I spot a former work colleague, His mate has a sound system on a bike that’s blaring out loud dub music. Yeah, this is just like Carnival!

As we walk down The Strand, the TSG  move quickly along our right flank. They’re up for a ruck. I can see it in their body language.  There’s a line of cops blocking the Strand. We head back around the corner and back towards Trafalgar Square and regroup.

Suddenly all of us move towards Admiralty Arch and down the Mall. The TSG are in hot pursuit but they’ve been caught on the hop. Further down the Mall, another line of police. Ah, so that’s where they are. The TSG try desperately to outflank us. They don’t look very fit. The speed of the march moves at an incredible pace down Horseguards Road. The TSG look puffed and confused. I move around them. Sirens.  I can see small convoy of police vans full of reinforcements. This is going to be interesting. I climb over the barrier and down Great George Street.  I can see Big Ben in the distance. I’ve cycled down here many times and although it is an official cycle route, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Parliament Square. There are loads of police. The square itself is totally screened off. That won’t last long. From behind me, I can hear someone shout “mind your backs”! A line of TSG moves past somewhat aggressively. I shout back to them “no need to be aggressive”. They ignore me. These guys are spoiling for a fight. I can see one of those police ‘medics’. Surely an oxymoron?

I wander around the square. I can see tabloid news types on hair-trigger. I walk down into the subway, Westminster tube station is closed. “Station’s closed” says the cop. I walk up to the south side of Parliament Street, where Portcullis House squats. More police in full riot gear. No baseball caps this time. No pretence.

Police line across Bridge Street

Party aides and researchers are gawping out the windows of Portcullis House. Some are taking photos. There’s a Sky News reporter trying to do a live news feed. It isn’t working for him. He’s picked a bad spot. The sheer numbers are overwhelming. Never mind, there’s probably another Sky scumbag around the other side of Parliament Square filling in a few gaps for the viewers.

There are loads of photo-journalists swarming about, looking for a good

Protesters on top of container.

‘story’.  A small group of protesters who have climbed on top of a roadworks container are setting fire to some placards. They now have a story.  I tell them this.

There’s a bit of noise. The screens have gone down. I head back towards Parliament Square and brush past Kurt Barling of BBC London News. It’s like a carnival here. There are drummers. A group of people have shown up with a tea urn. Good thinking!  At the other side of square opposite Westminster Abbey, a man handing out flyers compliments me on my headgear. We have a quick chat. He’s an engineering student from Reading University. He’s also a member of the National Shop Stewards Network. He tells me that his uni is building luxury student accommodation at a staggering cost.   He says that only rich students will be able to afford the rents. I agree. What is Reading Uni thinking? I take a flyer and he goes off. There are fires burning. There’s a particularly large one to the north of the square.

I listen to a couple of speeches from Socialist Party members. One speaker, an

RIP Education

Irishman who came here in 1968, tells us how he marched against the Vietnam War and has been on every march ever since. I move back towards the square where I see the coffin from UEL. I hang around with Marija from my PhD course who is with a few others from the Docklands campus. A Star Wars stormtrooper in pink moves across my field of vision. I excuse myself and rush off to take some pictures. As I finish snapping, I turn around and notice a surge is taking place on Victoria Street. The cops look completely overhwhelmed, then the surge subsides. I see Kurt Barling again. We exchange smiles. Maybe he thinks I’m a reporter. I have a journalist’s notebook after all. I even have a pen jammed into my hat. I sort of look the part. My hands are getting cold, it’s difficult trying to write in gloves but it’s even harder to write with cold hands.

Another attempt is being made to break through the police line, There’s a stand-off.  It’s starting to get dark. I decide to try and find a way through the lines of police. I notice what looks like a couple of tourists, maybe they’re workers. I pretend to be with them. I follow them up Great George Street. The cops aren’t letting them through. I walk back around the corner to the gap between the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre and Methodist Central Hall. Again, they won’t let us through. I decide that the best course of action is to really lay on the American accent. I go to the line of riot cops on Parliament Street and tell them that I need to get out because I “have a doctor’s appointment”. The cop asks “Are you on the protest”? I tell him “no” and he believes me. I head up Whitehall and pop into the Wetherspoon’s pub to use the loo. There are quite a few protesters there drinking and chatting. A little while later, I’m walking past the Prince of Wales pub on Villiers Street and look through the window. The punters are watching Murdoch News. The scrolling bar says that a policeman has been “seriously injured”. This is just what the right wing media wants to see.  Though it is unclear how this policeman was injured. One tweet says that this is the inspector who punched a protester in the face at the second demo. It’s hard to know.

Sitting at home the live news feed from the Beeb is pretty predictable. Ben Brown talks about the “dangerous” Whitechapel Anarchists Group. Oh, please. Sky News is even worse.  A retweet that I receive from Brian Moylan to markthomasinfo reads “Kay Burley describes students as ‘insurgents’ but still not quite as outrageous as describing herself as a ‘journalist'”.  Yeah, Kay Burley.  She’s pretty shit.

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Filed under ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, Education, Government & politics, Liberal Democrats, London, Student protests

Postcards From The Barricades (Part 1)

Millbank Tower under occupation

Who says the spirit of 1968 is dead? I am on the joint NUS/UCU demo against the cuts today. I get off at Westminster Tube Station, walk past Peter Hitchens who is wheeling his bike towards the platforms. That was weird. I give him a punky sneer. I am in now in protest mode. I emerge into the daylight and  join what looks  like the head of the march on Whitehall. I take my camera out and proceed to take some pictures of placards. I then notice that the battery is dead. Typical. I haven’t used the bloody thing for months and the battery is dead. What is that all about? Now I have to use the mobile phone. Groan.

We head past Westminster Palace. I stop at College Green to see if there are any telly crews. There was no one that I recognized.How odd.  On past Thames House and MI5. Next, Millbank Tower. A really ugly building that was once home to Nu Labour is now the home of the Tories. Is that a coincidence? This looks interesting. There are loads of banners and placards and lots of noise. Then I notice that a fire has been started. People are heaping placards onto the fire. Yeah, this is beginning to look really good.

I squeeze myself as close to the entrance of Millbank Tower as I possibly can. It’s hard work. The large plate glass window to the left of the entrance is beginning to move. Suddenly objects ranging from eggs to placard sticks to stones being thrown at the window. A large crack appears. This is a laminated window. I move back a bit and notice that some cobbles on the driveway have been ripped up. The mood is angry. I move back a little more and spot some anarchists moving towards the building. They move like commandos.  This looks interesting.  I follow them but they melt into the crowd. Something is going to happen really soon.

I move around to the other side of the building. I can see Mike Sergeant filing a report by mobile phone to the BBC. I wonder if anyone has spotted him? I can already imagine how the BBC News Channel is reporting this. But no sign of Sky…yet. I peer through the side window and look into the foyer. I can see that an advance guard has occupied the foyer. There’s a woman student dancing about with a police cap on. It’s quite a funny sight. It’s almost like 1968 again. I can’t believe how unprepared the cops and the Tories are for this.

Millbank Tower is now completely under siege. I can see Tory party workers looking down on us. No change there then. Suddenly the crowd cheers. I look up to see the band of anarchists on the roof of the building. Their red and black flags fluttering in the chilly November breeze. There’s more pushing. More objects are being thrown. Finally, the sound of breaking glass. The window is finally smashed open. Protesters pour in.

I move back on to Millbank and study the scene. Then from my right, a column of riot police appear. They form a line across the driveway to prevent any more of us from surging forward. But it’s too little too late. I notice that one of the riot cops has a first aid cross on his helmet. Oh, the irony. I suspect that the police have a plan to ‘kettle’ the driveway. I walk towards the Tate and see even more protesters on their way to Millbank Tower.  I take the right past the Tate and the Chelsea School of Art and notice that they have a barbecue going. What style.

I’m home now. Watching the reports on the BBC News Channel. They’re trying to make the claim that a group of “hardcore activists hijacked the demonstration”. It’s as if to suggest that anarchists can’t be students and vice versa. Nonsense. Mike Sergeant is saying that “most of the students condemned the ‘violence'” and “they’re anarchists, they don’t reflect out views”. What tripe.  There was no violence. The media speaks with the master’s voice.

We aren’t going to go away. Get used to it.

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Super councils and localism: a load of hot air?

The news that three London councils are to merge their services has set off a few alarm bells. The three: Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea are not only three of the smaller London boroughs, they are also Tory-controlled. Hammersmith & Fulham went over to the Tories about 5 years ago. When they took power, the new leader said how much he wanted to see rich people move into the borough. Greenhalgh’s Hammersmith & Fulham soon became the model Tory borough in the same way that Chile provided the model for Thatcher’s economic policies. Greenhalgh’s aim was to demolish council homes and replace them with homes to buy.

Greenhalgh outlined his plans for “radical reforms” as he told Eric Pickles, Tory party chairman, and Grant Shapps, the shadow minister for housing, that he wanted to see social rents rise to market levels, and housing welfare payments to households “based on need, rather than rent paid”. This would mean placing individual adults in a room in a shared house, for example.

Now you know where the government’s housing policy comes from. It should come as no surprise that  Greenhalgh also heads up the Tory’s Council’s Innovation Unit.

As far as I know, the political merger of local authorities can only take place if an Act of Parliament is passed that permits a merger. In this case, the 3 councils have sidestepped this issue by merging only their services. This raises the question of accountability given that the serivces that have been merged such as refuse collection are carried out by private contractors.

Susanna Rustin of The Guardian writes,

For all the phoney language of compassion that drips from their statements, the crocodile tears about services cut, these councils are hellbent on cutting back on public sector provision, and in some of the areas that need it most. There are wards in north Westminster – a constituency held by Labour’s Karen Buck in May to the outrage of her big-spending Conservative challenger Joanne Cash— that are among the poorest in the country. There is some terrible housing and not enough primary schools, but still the financial crisis and impending cuts did not move the Conservative council to cancel its £23,000 banquet in a fancy hotel in March.Nor do the central London Tories seem inclined to follow the advice of communities secretary Eric Pickles to oblige highly paid council staff to take a pay cut.

Meanwhile on the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative site, they claim that local MP Andy Slaughter is out of touch with his voters,

In opposing a cap on Housing Benefit the Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter is out of touch with his own supporters. An ICM poll in June asked: “Do you support or oppose imposing a maximum weekly limit of £400 on Housing Benefit.” Support was 68% with 23% opposed. Even among Labour voters there was strong support – by 57% to 35%.

I suspect that the findings have been cherry-picked or that the interview questions were phrased in such a way as to favour a particular outcome. Of course I have no real way of knowing this for sure but having worked in social and market research in a previous life, I can honestly say that some surveys are badly flawed.

But the proposal that these 3 councils merge is also badly flawed as Phil Cooper interviewed in the Fulham Chronicle points out,

“Merging three councils will inevitably mean fewer council officers administering reduced services over a much larger area. There will be much greater reliance on the voluntary services to fill gaps just at the time when council funding to the voluntary sector is also being slashed.”

Greenhalgh has already closed some community centres and homeless hostels. Sands  End Centre, just west of well-heeled Chelsea has been facing threat of closure since the Tories took power here in 2006.

I’ve heard many Tories talk about such things as localism but what do they actually mean when they use this word? How do they reconcile their idea of localism with the erosion of public services?

Finally this open letter to The Guardian from the three opposition leaders in the respective boroughs says,

The Conservatives are not ruling out using this merger as a mechanism for even more frontline service cuts, stealth taxes and loss of jobs, or as an excuse to undermine local democracy or sell off more community buildings. Nor have they explained how local residents will keep their ability to hold their council to account. They have not explained how any newly elected administration would be able to secede from any part of this if political control changes. They have also failed to explain why these particular local authorities should merge services.

Big society? Localism? It’s just a load of hot air.

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Filed under Big Society, Comprehensive Spending Review, ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Hammersmith & Fulham, London

Boris Johnson: the fallout

Yesterday Boris Johnson claimed that he was against any “Kosovo style” social cleansing of London. His words immediately found their way to their intended target: David Cameron who was out of the country on business. His choice of words was also seized upon by Nick Clegg who described them as “outrageous” while Vince Cable, the pre-election hero, accused him of  being “ludicrously inflammatory”. Yet the government has failed to present a decent counter-argument to the charge that their proposed cap on housing benefit won’t force many people out of London to the periphery. The Housng Minister, Grant Shapps was in denial,

“Just because you are on housing benefit, that shouldn’t give you the ability to live somewhere, where if you are working and not on benefit you can’t. We’d all love to live in different areas, but I can’t afford to live on x street in y location. The housing benefit system has almost created an expectation that you could almost live anywhere, and that’s what has to stop.”

Myths and tropes.

The Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Colin Barrow, claimed on the BBC that people from lower incomes deliberately target his borough because of its stylish properties. Oddly enough he provided no evidence for this assertion. Remember this is the same council that sold off loads of council homes in order to gerrymander certain wards. It also sold off 3 cemeteries for 5p each.

But has Bojo gone all One Nation on the Tory Party? When someone like Johnson comes out with a statement like the one he did yesterday, you have to spend time looking for the reasons behind it. First, the mayoral elections take place in 2 years time.  He has Ken Livingstone snapping at his heels and he wants to try and steal as much thunder from his as he can. Secondly, he is well aware that London relies on a lot of cheap labour and he wants to ensure that there is a massive pool of cheap labour for London’s businesses to draw from. He isn’t doing this for altruistic reasons; his reasons are the same as any other capitalist exploiter of labour.

The press have taken up differing positions: much of the right wing press is reporting how Johnson has been slapped down by Downing Street. Others tell of how Cameron and Johnson are on a collision course over benefits. Kennite claims that his hero has recanted his words. He says “I confess, however, to less sympathy for the capital’s unemployed”.  Alors, quelle surprise! He then goes on to repeat every single right wing cliché in order to bolster his case, like this one,

Of course, everyone has the right to live where they choose. But nobody has the right to require the rest of us to pay for their choice. And on the whole, the real losers will be not the poor, but the private landlords who have bought up council houses and made fortunes from the taxpayer. As the state is by far the biggest customer in their market, they’ll have to cut their rents, helping every tenant – subsidised or not – and further reducing the number who lose their homes.

Maybe he didn’t see the Panorama programme about the dodgy landlords who make a fortune out of Housing Benefit? When have private landlords ever reduced their rents? Someone is being a little naïve here.

Meanwhile the Hon Tobes and The Independent point to the rivalry between Cameron and Johnson that dates back to their time at Eton and Oxford.

One final word: to say that the government’s proposals don’t represent a form of social cleansing would be dishonest. But for the government and its apologists to deny that the effect of the Housing Benefit cap will not force those on low incomes to move elsewhere is equally dishonest.

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Filed under Big Society, Comprehensive Spending Review, ConDem Budget 2010, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Public spending

In the Tory mind, poverty is an abstraction

Today the Honourable Gideon announced that Child Benefit was to be cut to those earning £44,000 or more. This is to assume that a family with this kind of income can weather the ever-increasing cost of living. Let’s face it, Britain is an expensive country to live in and one literally pays for the privilege to live here.  Earlier on the Daily Politics, IDS was talking to Brillo about his proposed changes to the welfare system. His new Universal Credit would replace a whole raft of benefits but those receiving this ‘credit’ would be forced into accepting crap jobs which they would be forced to remain in till they die (presumably). Again, the government have no a priori of unemployment; surviving on low wages or  living in poverty; for them the idea of poverty is an abstraction. These people rake in loads of money through their jobs as MPs, ministers and directors of businesses.

Osborne and his gang love to tell us how ‘we’ must all ‘share’ the burden of the public debt that was forced upon us by their friends in the banking sector. Given their track record on issues of equality, how dare they lecture us on the nature of collective responsibility?

Just to demonstrate how out of touch these people are, I found this in The Guardian,

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, on Thursday urged her blog readers to report to the Department of Work and Pensions people who tweet more than 50 times a day and claim benefits. She had apparently being told of a tweeter who has posted 34,500 times in a few months. This tweeter is Humphrey Cushion, who is disabled through arthritis, yet does not qualify for disability living allowance. She had to give up work as a home carer, as she is currently on a waiting list for two foot operations. If someone tweeted so frequently, Dorries wrote, then clearly they had nothing wrong with their hands or mind and should therefore be fit for work.

Remember Nadine Dorries is the one who cheated in Tower Block of Commons on Channel 4 earlier this year.

But Liverpudlian Mrs Dorries – nicknamed Mad Nad by fellow Tories – outraged the women when she whipped out £50 from her top, hours after turning up.

Mum-of-five Rena, 40, told her: “You hid money in your bra. Do you think when our benefits are gone we can just go into our bra and pull out 50 quid? It’s cheating. I feel none of you MPs are being 100 per cent honest with us.”

Then there’s,

in November the Sunday Mirror revealed how she handed just-graduated daughter Jennifer, 22, a £28,000-a-year taxpayer-funded job in her Commons ­office. Eldest daughter Philippa, 24, has also worked for her.

Like the rest of the shower in power, Dorries is a vacuous careerist who has never had to face poverty. She claims to have grown up on a council estate in Liverpool where she says in an interview with Totalpolitics,

I am more than ever convinced that Britain is broken because on my estate growing up we had dads and there were no guns, knives, drugs and the police had authority. However on the estate I spent time in the opposite was the case in each instance.

I don’t know what part of Liverpool you lived in but on some of the estates that I visited, there were knives and possibly even guns and this was the 1960’s. Are you sure you come from Liverpool, Nad?

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Filed under ConDem Budget 2010, Government & politics, Public spending, Tory Party conference, Tory Party conference

Equality, fairness, public sector cuts and ideology

One of my first blogs was about the cutting of quangos and how some quangos actually perform an important function. This article from The Independent says,

Quangos are inevitably in the firing line in the search for apparently easy savings. The acronym – short for quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation – has become a byword among politicians for profligacy. However, critics warn that axing some of the bodies will remove the independent system for monitoring the work of government.

But the quangos that are to be cut are being abolished for purely ideological reasons and the government will lack accountability in certain areas. In the 1970’s when the Commission for Racial Equality was set up by the Callaghan government, the Tories complained bitterly. The Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1976 were also opposed by the Tories. Why? Well, it would be easy to speculate but given the party’s track record for providing sanctuary to racists and other bigots, one could suggest that Tory opposition to human rights is based on this essential bigotry.

Last year, Hannan was praying for a Tory victory. He screamed “Will the Conservative scrap the Equality Commission”? His argument hinges on this flawed premise,

More to the point, the notion that minorities are best served by a state bureaucracy dedicated to their class interests ought to have been discredited when the USSR broke apart.

Ah, more lazy thinking – using the USSR to er, ‘bolster’ the ‘argument’. So if the state acts to protect people from bigotry in the workplace it is what? Soviet? This notion that only the ‘true goodness’ of people will shine through and trump any form of racism if such quangos and legislation are abolished is touchingly naive. The reality is that people can be discriminated against in the workplace and in public places if protections are removed.

Mad Dan continues,

All of us, regardless of caste or creed, sex or race, do best in a free society in which decision-makers are answerable through the ballot box, regulation is light but evenly enforced, the citizen is free from coercion, private settlement is preferred to state enforcement, and the government is anchored to public opinion. The EHRC violates all of these principles. That’s why it should go.

Oh? How did you work that one out? How will the ballot box protect those who are routinely discriminated against? It is interesting to note that those who call for the scrapping of the EHRC and its predecessor are white, male, wealthy and Conservative. Hannan wants to scrap what he and his party sees as red tape and bureaucracy  but this hatred of regulation is rooted in the profit motive: if someone is being protect from harm, that impacts on profit and we can’t have that – right?

UPDATE: I suspect that the Tories are hoping that all Race Relations legislation will be heaped onto their ‘bonfire’.

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Lib Dems: are the cracks finally beginning to show?

Yesterday as the Hon Gid announced welfare cuts, Lib Dem backbencher, Bob Russell laid into him. Russell accused Gid of blaming those on benefits for the state of the  economy.

On Monday, Lib Dem backbencher Bob Russell told Chancellor George Osborn in an exchange in the Commons it was unethical to blame benefit cheats for economic problems.

Russell had earlier tabled a question which forced Gid to come to the Commons to explain his  proposed changes to state benefits.

We have been saying for some time here at Nowhere Towers that this Tory-led government is using the unemployed as scapegoats for the economic mismanagement of the country’s finances. Apparently Gid conceded that tax avoidance loopholes needed to be closed but he was forced into that position by his opponents.

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The Tory response to the IFS report: shoot the messenger and then kill his extended family

There’s an old saying, “if you don’t like the message then shoot the messenger”. And so it is with this coalition. When the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)  report on the Honorable Gid’s emergency budget was presented, it didn’t take long for the usual suspects to start complaining of some sort of ‘left wing conspiracy’. One commenter on this blog described it as “Daily Mail headline-grabbing”.  This is ironic, given that the Daily Mail is a Tory-supporting paper.

Clegg was the first to slam it, complaining that it was “partial”. The usual suspects have  entered the fray to both praisesong Osborne and complain how ‘fairness is ruining Britain’. The first is this article from Policy Exchange bod, Neil O’Brien who also writes for the Daily Telegraph (quelle surprise!). He presents a series of bar graphs (yeah, bar graphs) which he then uses to justify how the poorest in Britain will be ‘better off’. Then he says,

I don’t really want to get into the ins and outs of who is right in these arguments here, which are pretty complicated. Even the IFS admit their claim is fair less clear cut if you look at expenditure rather than income. And everyone knows that the statistics at the bottom end are dodgy and hard to measure. If you believed the stats, lots of households in Britain would appear to be surviving on no income of any kind, benefits or otherwise.

So you admit that you haven’t got a clue then? What makes the statistics at the bottom ‘dodgy’? Is it because those stats undo your argument?

Then he says,

The third problem is even more profound. Free societies like ours are complicated, and difficult to understand or steer. It’s often difficult to predict the effects of any given policy change. Brilliant government wheezes can have disastrous effects, and ideas which were seen as hopeless can end up saving the day.

So there is a possiblity that these changes could have disastrous effects?Policy Exchange man in two-face shocker! But Hannan leaps on this and makes the bold claim,

Neil O’Brien has already done a superb job of demolishing the claim that the last Budget was unfair to the poor. (The BBC, like The Guardian, told us that these claims came from a report by the “respected” Institute for Fiscal Studies, neglecting to mention that the report had been commissioned by a Left-wing pressure group).

Oh yeah? Which “left wing pressure group” is this? The left wing pressure group in question  is  End Child Poverty.  What’s the matter Dan, don’t you want an end to child poverty or do you see child poverty as a ‘price worth paying’? It shouldn’t surprise any of us  that Hannan is against such things. He is a self-confessed fan of Ayn Rand, after all. Yet if this report had been commissioned by say, The Freedom Association (of which Mad Dan is a member), there would be no issue? Not that the Freedom Association would be interested in such an issue. Their raison d’être is, er, something rather vaguely called ‘freedom’.

The ‘rationally self-interested’ Hannan ends his blog by saying,

Wouldn’t a truly “fair” society be one in which welfare budgetsfell, as former recipients were lifted out of dependency?

And how do you propose to “lift people” out of what you call “dependency” when there are no jobs and the gap between rich and poor is getting wider? Are you going to employ them on your estate or maybe your parents will give them job on the family chicken ranch? Hannan’s solution is, in common with so many of his colleagues, to create as Thatcher once said a “nation of entrepreneurs”. Though how everyone in the country could be an ‘entrepreneur’ was never elucidated by Thatcher or any of her acolytes. Of course the other option is to rely on ‘trickle down economics’ to produce non-results. Even Capitalism Magazine says that,

[…] there has never been any school of economists who believed in a trickle down theory. No such theory can be found in even the most voluminous and learned books on the history of economics. It is a straw man.

While that may be the case, it hasn’t stopped the likes of the Tories from claiming that it will produce ‘wealth’ further down the income scale.

This part of the IFS’s report is pretty crucial

The report also questioned the government’s decision to use the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) when calculating certain benefits.

It’s like using GDP to measure a country’s economic performance. GDP does not take into account factors such as unemployment, the black economy and waste. Yet both Tory and Labour governments use it.

This blog from Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home is laughable only for its suggestion that the Tories take a leaf out of Orwell’s 1984. First of all he says, “We should say that we want to help people overcome poverty and not make it more comfortable”. Since when has poverty ever been “comfortable”? Friends, this is the warped mindset that we are dealing with. The whole idea here is to redefine the word ‘fairness’ in the same way that Hannan and his zombie army have attempted to redefine ‘left wing’.

Meanwhile The Independent says that the Budget may have breached equality laws. The mere mention of a word like ‘equality’ will have Dan and his pals foaming at the mouth.

It is looking into complaints that a Treasury website asking the public to suggest where cuts should be made has attracted racist comments. It is also considering the wider impact on women of the proposed cuts. Under the Act, the Commission has power to take “enforcement action”, which could range from encouraging a change of practice to starting a formal inquiry – a move which could delay some of the proposed cuts.

This is the most revealing part of the article,

Justin Webb, the presenter, asked Mr Hoban whether the Treasury had conducted an assessment of how the Budget would affect specific groups, as required under the Act.

The Treasury minister appeared not to know the answer. Mr Hoban stuck rigidly to his brief, insisting: “We went through a very detailed distributional analysis at the time of the Budget, it was the most extensive piece of work anyone has done.

Oops! It looks like someone has messed up.  Have a look at the rest of the ambush interview and decide for yourselves.

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Filed under Big Society, ConDem Budget 2010, Government & politics, Public spending