Category Archives: Cuts

Open Letter to the Public (from a firefighter)

I had to reblog this open letter from an anonymous firefighter. As regular readers may be aware, this government is making ordinary people pay for the bankster’s greed and incompetence. When it took office in 2010, the Tory-led government scapegoated public sector workers as well as the unemployed and the disabled for the economic crisis. Not content with that it started attacking firefighters and anyone else who wasn’t a so-called ‘wealth-creator’.

Here is part of the letter.

Dear Citizen of the United Kingdom,

It is with a heavy heart that I feel I have to write to you. I am a Firefighter and I feel it’s my duty to explain to you why I have chosen to take Industrial Action. This I’m afraid is the only option I have left. I have spent my working life serving you. I have seen and done things that nobody should ever have to, but I do it and live with the scars because I am Firefighter, it’s what I do. I am there when you need me the most, willing to lay my life on the line to help you and your family in your darkest hour.  I am not a hero, in fact I resent that title. I am a human being just like you, only a human who has dedicated their life to train and train and train again for any situation. Who has fought through heat and smoke to be there when you need me the most. Who has studied for hours numerous cars to know the best way to cut you free. Who has swum in icy lakes to save you from drowning.  This is to name but a few.  I don’t do it for thanks, I don’t do it for praise, I don’t do it for money,  I do it because I am a Firefighter. It’s what I do. The only thing I ask, which I never thought I’d have to, is to be treated fairly and with respect.

The current Government have decided that since the financial crisis, people like me will have to pay for it. People who are easy targets.  This not only includes nurses, teachers, police, ambulance staff and other essential  services, but people who rely on benefits through no fault of their own to survive. We continue to be penalised while the real crooks get away with it. The Government have decided my future and I must accept whatever decision they seem fit.  No negotiation, no looking at any evidence provided, just dictating what I must concede to.  This I can not do.  It is not in my nature to lie down and accept what is unfair and unjust.  I am a Firefighter, the clue is in my title, I will fight for what I feel is right just as much as I would fight for you or your family’s life.

You can read the rest of this letter by clicking on this link.

Please support our firefighters in their struggle.

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The ‘Deficit’? Which deficit are they talking about?

Let’s get something straight: there is no such thing as “The Deficit” there are deficits, and the politicians of the three main parties are all guilty of presenting an image of a single monolithic deficit that must be “brought down” at all costs. This is to support their cock-eyed view that cuts, particularly to social security benefits are necessary, while tax cuts for the rich will somehow stimulate the sluggish (some would say moribund) economy because the “wealth” will miraculously “trickle down” to those below. Not even the very right-wing George H W Bush believed that and derisively referred to trickle down (or supply side) economics as “voodoo economics”.

Our imperial masters will confuse, sometimes deliberately, “The Deficit” with “The Debt”. Again, there is a debt and it’s called The National Debt, which is accumulated through government spending on wars, for example.  The current national debt has been around since the end of the First World War. Politicians, many of whom are not economists, will often claim that “The Debt” also needs to “paid off” and will again cite government spending on social security as the main culprit of increased borrowing. This is economically illiterate bunkum. Yet, we are now in a situation where, once again, the level of the nationals debt is set to be increased by a new war in the Middle East. Yet, the government can’t find money for the NHS? Please, pull the other one.

When politicians talk about The Deficit, most of the public haven’t a clue what it means and this suits our imperial masters well, for they can use this magic phrase to rebut any criticism of austerity, privatizations and cuts to public services. I have lost count of the numbers of vox pop interviews where some member of the public has quite literally repeated verbatim the spiel of some government minister or other. “The country is broke and we need to pay our debts” some ignoramus will opine, while another will claim “There’s no money, we need to cut something”. The United Kingdom is the seventh richest country in the world and there’s no money? Come off it.

There are five kinds of deficits. Let’s deal with each one in turn.

First, there is the structural or budget deficit. This is when the government is spending more money than it receives. Usually, governments receive money through taxation. If a government is cutting taxes for billionaires and faceless corporations, then it isn’t making any money. It’s simple logic. The other way a government can raise money is to print the stuff but quantitative easing, as it’s referred to, has only benefited the same people who got us into this mess: the bankers. The government could remedy this by taxing the rich more. Whenever this idea is proposed, our imperial masters respond by telling us this will hurt the “wealth creators”. These people only create wealth for themselves. They don’t even work for it. They get other people to do the work.

Work is over-rated. Hard work more so.

The cyclical deficit refers to, as its name suggests, the economic cycle and is caused by downturns in output. Low levels of business activity and high levels of unemployment are the manifestations of this kind of deficit. Some economists disagree over the terms ‘cyclical’ and ‘structural’ and claim that there’s no difference between the two.

A balance of trade deficit occurs when imports outstrip exports. If you’re not making and selling enough stuff to other countries but are buying in loads of stuff from overseas, then this is what happens. Every outgoing Tory government since 1964 has racked up a massive balance of trade deficit for the incoming Labour administration to deal with.

Finally, there’s the balance of payments deficit. This is related to the balance of trade. A balance of payments deficit is created when the imports of goods, services and investment income exceeds the exports of the same things. In 1974, this led to the Sterling Crisis of 1976.

So what is the national debt? Well, this is when governments borrow money from the central bank (In the case of England, this is The Bank of England), which is a private concern and not owned, in spite of its name, by the state. Governments borrow by issuing bonds, securities and bills.  In the United States the level of debt to GDP is 73.60%. In the UK, it’s 88.7%. Does this make a difference to you or I? Well, not really, since the government can borrow money at preferential rates of interest. The Tory-led government claims that it’s “reducing borrowing” but it hasn’t. It’s actually borrowed more money  than the previous government. Furthermore, all governments borrow money. It’s a fact of life.  The Tories’ continual claim that they’re borrowing less (sic) is a lie. In fact, most people don’t even know how much the national debt is, yet Westminster politicians will usually pretend to know when they’re busy conflating the national debt with ‘The Deficit’.

I realize that I have simplified these terms without going into heavy economic theory, but this is how deficits need to be explained to the public.

Do I expect our imperial masters to come clean on government finances any time soon? I doubt it. These people can’t even lie in bed straight.

Here are more blogs about the government’s deficit lies.

Finally! Exposed! The Deficit Myth! So, David Cameron When Are You Going To Apologise?

The Great Debt Lie and the Myth of the Structural Deficit

Another Cameron myth: the coalition hasn’t reduced the deficit by “a quarter”

 

 

 

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Housing, the 1968 Rent Strike and What We Face Today

Can’t pay your rent? Then we’ll come for your children.

When the Tory-led government announced that social rents should rise to market levels, there was anger but nothing happened. That anger wasn’t channelled; forged into a weapon to attack the government and the local authorities and greedy Housing Associations. Instead, people just rolled over and took it.

When the same thing was proposed by Wilson’s Labour government (a LABOUR GOVERNMENT) in 1968, there was righteous indignation.  But instead of sitting and fuming, people actually did something about it. They organized rent strikes. So far, few people have advocated rent strikes and, as far as I know, I am one of those few.

In London, the Greater London Council (GLC), which was controlled by the Tories (hard to believe but the Tories only liked the GLC when it was run by their fellow travellers), was particularly zealous in implementing the rent increases. I found this article by Ian Macdonald on marxists.org in which he says:

The Greater London Council is Britain’s biggest landlord. There are about 242,000 tenants involved. On 7 December last year, the chairman of the GLC Housing Committee announced the Tories’ new rent scheme. Under the scheme, GLC tenants can expect their rents to increase by 5s in the £ in October 1968, a further 5s in the £ in October 1969, and an extra 4s in 1970. A tenant now paying £4 per week, will be paying £6 16s in 1970, and tenants in some of the newer flats will be paying as much as £10 per week. In addition, lodger charges are to rise, and central heating and car parking will be more expensive.

That is not all. In future, less money is to be spent on repairs, and tenants will have to do their own interior decorating. In this way, the Council hopes to save £850,000 on repairs, and £500,000 on decorating. It also means the sack for some of the Council’s 6,000 electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and other maintenance men.

The GLC have made much of their intended rebate scheme. But the only way to get a rebate will be to go through a means test; no tenant, say the GLC, need disclose his income to the Council unless he is applying for a rebate. In fact, very few of the 240,000 GLC tenants will benefit. Here is an example of a family which will not benefit. The tenant earns £12 per week, and his wife £5. They have a child and a lodger, both over 21, and now pay a rent of £2 16s 8d per week. In 1970, they will pay £4 16s 4d and get no rebate.

You can see this happening right now. All Housing Associations have increased their rents above the rate of inflation and, furthermore, they have duly bowed to the government’s diktats and are letting out properties for market rents. Local authorities, too, have increased their rents. One of those councils is Hammersmith and Fulham – Cameron and Pickles’s favourite council – which has palmed off the management of its stock to Pinnacle and placed income restrictions on those people applying for or living in one of their properties.

Last year Hammersmith & Fulham announced:

Trailblazing Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council is to be the first local authority in the country to simultaneously introduce fixed term social housing tenancies and a maximum income cap for people wishing to access the housing register.

The flagship council will be ripping up the social housing rule book from April 2013 when it will introduce a number of radical policies which seek to increase low-cost homeownership, tackle the social and economic divide in the borough and give a far greater priority for council housing to people who are making a community contribution.

H&F, has the fourth highest property prices in the UK and one of the highest proportions of social housing in London as a proportion of total housing, with around 34 per cent social rented.

That compares to a London average of 25 per cent and a West London average of 21.5 per cent. Just over two per cent of the borough’s housing is intermediate.

H&F is also one of the first councils in the country to get back into building homes, after a 30 year absence. These properties are sold at a discounted market rate to those on low to middle incomes who live or work in the borough and might struggle otherwise to get onto the property ladder.

Notice how this article tells us that the council is “trailblazing”. As for its claim that it’s “building homes”, it is building homes but not for those on low incomes.  Last year the council announced  that it would be building 25 new (yes, 25) homes for those foolish enough to buy them. But there’s worse to come in this article:

Those households earning above £40,200 will generally not be eligible to access the housing register. Instead, they will be offered advice on other housing options including joining the Council’s HomeBuy Register.

This new way of working will replace an antiquated and inefficient system that created false hopes and expectations.

The council and the government’s solution to the housing crisis (and let’s face, it is a crisis) is to stimulate a potentially disastrous property bubble. The HomeBuy scheme aims to achieve this, in spite of the council’s denial. Ian Macdonald:

Instead of directly attacking this problem, the GLC and the Government talk rubbish about ‘well-off Council tenants’ being subsidised. In fact, every penny that is contributed to housing out of rates or from the Government goes straight into the pockets of the money lenders, landowners and builders. If this element were removed, Council rents would be cut to less than a quarter of their present levels without anything coming from the ratepayers or the Government.

Who says history doesn’t repeat itself? H&F Council wants to go further and bases its approach on the widely-discredited and evidence free report produced by its former leader, Stephen Greenhalgh and his partner John Moss:

Currently most social housing tenants have the right to stay for life unless the tenancy is brought to an end because of a breach. Once the tenant passes away, the right of succession passes onto a family member even if the housing need of the individual is less than other potential applicants.

The council believes that this does not promote personal aspiration or provide tenants with any incentive to try to move into home-ownership and fails to take into account the fact that a household’s need for social housing may be temporary.

From next year, the council will issue fixed-term tenancies of five years for new social housing lettings. This would be reduced to two years in certain cases.

Existing tenants will be unaffected by the new proposals. New tenancies in sheltered accommodation and for those with special housing or health needs will still be on a secure basis.

Two year tenancies will be issued for those with a history of antisocial behaviour and for those between the ages of 18 to 25.

So what Wilson’s Labour government failed to achieve in 1968 has now been enthusiastically adopted by the Tories. The only real difference between then and now is that the classism is turbo-charged and more blatant than ever.

As for those who doubt the effectiveness of rent strikes, Macdonald writes:

It is true that badly organised or isolated rent strikes are usually defeated. But where the tenants are properly organised and show determination, they have in the past succeeded. In Glasgow in 1915, the strike was completely successful. In 1938-9, there were over 30 strikes in the East End of London demanding cuts in rents. All were successful. In 1939, 50,000 Birmingham municipal tenants defeated a differential rent scheme similar to the present GLC scheme after a 10-week strike. In the 1950s, Luton tenants managed to defeat a similar scheme. The GLC tenants can do the same, but there is no doubt that the battle will be tougher than anything in the past, since the Government’s whole prices and incomes policy is at stake.

The key, as always, is organization. These days, organizing rent strikes may be harder because of Housing Benefit. Yet, these payments have been replaced by something called the ‘Local Housing Allowance’. The Tories also want people on low incomes to pay Council Tax. This is nothing less than a form of economic feudalism, in which the poor, the vulnerable and those earning less than £40,000 are forced into a 21st century version of serfdom.

John Grayson, writing for Inside Housing says:

The campaigning of tenants between 1968 and 1973 had an effect. Many councils began negotiating with tenants’ organisations for the first time. The Association of London Housing Estates drafted the first tenants’ charter in 1970. Three years later Dick Leonard, a Labour MP, introduced (unsuccessfully) the Council Housing (Tenants’ Representation) Bill.

Unfortunately the proto-neoliberal Labour government of Wilson and Callaghan decided to have another stab at crushing council tenants:

Between 1974 and 1979 the Labour government continued a policy of cuts in housing. There were often confrontations with councils and the National Co-ordinating Committee Against Housing Cuts organised a national campaign in 1975. In Liverpool the Tenants’ Co-ordinating Committee emerged as a federation for tenants and rent strikes were organised in protest at the council’s policies. The tenants were excluded from all council meetings.

Rents are increased, people are threatened with having their children taken from them and there’s the Bedroom Tax, another half-baked government idea to ‘solve’ the housing crisis. Yet there is no evidence to suggest that such a draconian measure will do anything other than hammer those who are already being squeezed by a high cost of living and stagnating incomes.

We want homes, not property ladders.

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Filed under 20th century, Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, History, History & Memory, Housing crisis, Labour, Local government, London

Gidiot and the Spending Review

Have you noticed the way the mainstream media has dropped the word “cuts” from its vocabulary and has begun to use words like “efficiency” instead? In this light, perhaps today’s government spending review should also be renamed. Maybe “list of forthcoming cuts” would be more appropriate. If you can think of an appropriate euphemism, feel free to drop me a line.

This morning as I’m listening the Today programme on Radio 4 (it’s enough to make you want to throw the radio out of the window sometimes), Justin Webb was telling us how Osborne (Gidiot to you and me) was preparing to spend more money on intelligence. Not his intelligence, though Lord knows he needs it, but the intelligence services or, more specifically, the secret state with it agents provocateurs and spies. Apparently, money for schools and hospitals will not be affected. Really? Somehow, given the rush to privatize the NHS and roll out more freak free schools, I find that hard to believe.

So rather than announce really meaningful spending plans, this government plans to spend more money on the instrument of repression than on the nation’s health and well-being. Morons like Osborne would defend these plans claiming “it’s necessary to keep the nation safe”. The thing is, we aren’t safe with this government and never will be. Nor would we be safe under a Labour government headed by Mr Ed, who’s pledged to remain loyal and true to the Tory regime of cuts and privatizations.

Whatever Gidiot announces today at the dispatch box, you can be certain that he will use the worn-out phrase “hard-working families”. Gidiot… it’s a great name for him.

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Save Our Hospitals!

Ealing-20130427-00023

Yesterday, I went on the march and rally to save hospitals in West London. For those of you living outside of West London, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Westminster and Ealing Hospitals, are to have their Accident and Emergency departments closed under the government’s plans to destroy streamline the NHS.  All emergency treatment will then be provided by Northwick Park, West Middlesex and Chelsea and Westminster hospitals. For those of us who live in Hammersmith and Fulham or Ealing, these A&E units are too far away and anyone needing emergency care could find themselves dying en route to one of these hospitals.

In the last few months, I’ve used Charing Cross A&E department: once for a badly burned hand and last week, for chest pains…. which turned out to be a muscular-skeletal problem. If that A&E department were to close, I would have to spend an hour getting from my home to the nearest hospital.

Here in Hammersmith and Fulham, the ruling Tory group supported the resident’s campaign and cross-party opposition to the closures. As was reported on this blog and Stephen Cowan’s blog, the Tories later back-peddled and signed off the government’s proposed closure of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals.

Cllr Cowan says,

It turned out that there has been a considerable amount of disquiet amongst local Conservatives about attacking their own government’s policy of hospital cuts. Many had never wanted to join the residents-led campaign in the first place. When the government offered them a cop out they took it and figured they could use council funds to blanket the Borough with propaganda spinning what they had done.

They have so far spent over £20,000.00 of tax payers’ money telling residents that they have “Saved Charing Cross Hospital.” Nobody who has studied the facts or heard their explanations believes that’s true. In fact, in the panic of trying to explain themselves last week, one Conservative councillor admitted nothing had been finalised and nothing yet agreed – underlining how the Conservatives have undermined their negotiating position.

Hammersmith & Fulham Tories have shot themselves in the foot over this issue and have exposed themselves as hypocrites.

The Hammersmith and Fulham side of the march started at Acton Park. I took my bike with me since it is quicker to get to the park by cycling than to take the 266 bus. I arrived in time to hear Andy Slaughter speak.

Ealing-20130427-00019 There are at least 300 people assembled here. The march starts and we walk down Uxbridge Road towards Acton. I’ve put my bike in the lowest gear and I’m riding very, very slowly at the sort of speed that is alien to London’s legion of bad cyclists. One of the march stewards even compliments me on my control skills. Loads of motorists beep their horns in solidarity as they pass us on the other side of the road.

We arrive at Ealing Common. There’s a funfair.  It’s not a great day for fun fairs. The chilly, damp weather has done its best to dampen our spirits but it hasn’t succeeded. We’re here to let our voices be heard. There are more people here than at the dismal Rally Against Debt a couple of years ago. And you know what? You never see anyone from UKIP or any other so-called libertarians at these rallies and do you know why? They don’t care.

I look towards north-westwards and I can see a the Ealing contingent making its way towards us, there must be around 1,000 of them. I can see the banners of the local Labour, Green and Socialist Party branches. The Socialist Workers Party, Left Unity and even the Workers Revolutionary Party are here too. There’s even someone selling the WRP’s paper, Newsline. I haven’t seen that for awhile.

Bob Marley’s song Get Up, Stand Up is blaring from the speakers. It’s an inspired choice. “Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up. Don’t give up the fight”!

This woman’s placard (below) says it all.

Ealing-20130427-00024

One of the leading campaigners from Ealing, Dr Onkar Sahota, who is also an AM for the Greater London Authority, has the task of being MC for the afternoon. Ealing, unlike Hammersmith and Fulham, is a Labour-controlled council and has resisted the government’s plans. Sahota tells us that many people from neighbouring boroughs of Hillingdon, Harrow and Brent are here making their voices heard.  Indeed, this is a good turn-out. I can see Ealing’s MP Stephen Pound waiting in the wings, when he does come up to the mike, he comes across as something of a showman (he used to be a boxer). The crowd loves it.

Pound is followed by Tory MP, Angie Bray, who is greeted with a mix of boos and applause. She leaves to the same mix of boos and applause. A woman standing next to me complains and tells those who are heckling Bray to shut up. They’re not listening to her remonstrations and she walks off in a huff.

One speaker from the GMB union reminds us that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt authored a book in which he calls for the NHS  to be denationalised, but erroneously attributes the words “60 year old mistake” to him. These were, in fact, the words of Lyin’ King when he appeared on Fox News five years ago to lambast the NHS and argue for his coveted small state. Nonetheless the sentiment is the same. In spite of his warm words and vacant expression, Hunt does not like the NHS and like many of his fellow Tories, he wants to cut it to pieces and sell-off the profitable parts to his vulture capitalist friends. Andy Slaughter reminds the rally that under the council’s proposals, 60% of Charing Cross Hospital site will be sold off to private developers. The Tories, despite what they’ve said about ‘saving’ the hospital, have done nothing of the sort.

Dr Thomas Sissons, writing in The Independent in February says,

Hammersmith and Fulham council is the only council out of 11 in London affected by the hospital closures to have supported them, and this is a damning reflection of their interest in what those they govern think. They are stitching up their own constituents, metaphorically but certainly not literally, so that they can play nice with central government. Their decision to release these plans before the official date may have given us some unwitting help though by allowing us some time to organise. What we need to do now is campaign against this ham-fisted reorganisation.

A Lib Dem councillor comes on to speak and at that point, I decide to leave. The Lib Dems have done much to support this Conservative-led government in achieving its ambitions, none of which appeared in their manifesto and for which they have no mandate. A man next to me says, “I don’t want to listen to the Lib Dem, they helped the Tories to do this”. I agree with him, get on my bike and ride home.

The next Save our Hospitals event is a rally at Jubilee Gardens (where I once lamented the passing of the GLC) on 18 May at 1200. If you care about hospital provision in London, you’ll be there. I know I will.

You can find out more about the campaign here.

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Smells like government desperation…

In the days since my last blog, I’ve noticed a proliferation of articles and blogs in the Tory press defending The Gidiot and that Daily Mail article. The sheer number of these articles is not an indication of the government’s confidence but of its desperation.

Suffering from a debilitating mix of fear, anxiety (over UKIP) and anger (at being found out), the collective (yes) mass of Tory hatchet-men have squeezed out blog after blog defending The Mail’s colander-like thesis that the Philpott children died because of their thuggish father’s ‘addiction’ to state benefits. “We need to have a debate”, the Right cried. The words they left out were “on terms controlled by us”. The only people who fall for this trick are the gullible readers of the Mail and the parliamentary Labour party, which has a history of losing its nerve at the wrong time.

However this rash of anti-welfare blogs and articles from the Tory press tells us something: the government is desperate. While some trot out the usual stuff and nonsense about affordability and the myth of a “crowded Britain”, others use this tragic event as an opportunity to mount their hobby horses. Take this one from The Lyin’ King:

It wasn’t the 1945 Labour Government that created the welfare state, that Saturn which now devours its children. The real power-grab came in 1940.

With Britain’s manpower and economy commandeered for the war effort, it seemed only natural that ministers should extend their control over healthcare, education and social security. Hayek chronicled the process at first hand: his Road to Serfdom was published when Winston Churchill was still in Downing Street.

Churchill had become prime minister because he was the Conservative politician most acceptable to Labour. In essence, the wartime coalition involved a grand bargain. Churchill was allowed to prosecute the war with all the nation’s resources while Labour was given a free hand to run domestic policy.

The social-democratic dispensation which was to last, ruinously, for the next four decades – and chunks of which are rusting away even today – was created in an era of ration-books, conscription, expropriations and unprecedented spending. The state education system, the NHS, the Beveridge settlement – all were conceived at a time when it was thought unpatriotic to question an official, and when almost any complaint against the state bureaucracy could be answered with “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

The welfare state is seen here as evil; a monster created by the Labour party, then in a wartime coalition with Churchill’s Tories. But what’s worse is that Hannan dishonestly connects the welfare state to wartime rationing. How did he do this? It’s magic, I tells ya! Magic! It’s also desperate.

Meanwhile Hatchet-job Hodges tells us that “Labour is panicking over welfare”. The Blairite cuckoo in the nest Born Again Tory tells us,

But then Philpott was convicted, the Daily Mail made the welfare state an accessory to the fact, and Shameless George Osborne moved in for the kill. Labour’s initial response was to downplay the whole issue. Then they lost their heads, and dispatched Ed Balls to launch an hysterical attack on Osborne, driving the Chancellor’s comments to the top of the news bulletins, and making the Labour Party look like they had been employed as Mick Philpott’s defence attorneys.

Now we have the spectacle of  Labour trying to recast itself as the party of welfare reform. Suddenly it’s Labour that wants to “make work pay”, is talking of responsibility at the bottom and threatening to remove people’s benefits. And good for Liam Byrne, because this is where Labour should be.

But it’s too late. Much too late. The welfare debate is over. And Labour has lost it.

Hmmm,  smells like government desperation to me. The Cat thinks Balls was right to attack Osborne for his drawing of a hazy line between a tragic event and a poisoned debate on welfare. That doesn’t make me a fan of Balls or the parliamentary Labour Party, by the way. Hodges, the son of Labour MP Glenda Jackson, goes on to note his agreement with millionaire Liam Byrne’s ideas for welfare ‘reform’ , which is no better than what this government is pursuing. The fact that Byrne has started aping the speech of the government’s  mouthpieces indicates weakness on Labour’s part, not panic.

The Tories, impatient for the arrival of the next General Election, have started their campaign early and, with over two years to go, this is a desperate manoeuvre. A lot can happen in two years.  For instance, there may well be scandals involving government ministers.  After all, this government saw its first ministerial casualty within two months of being elected. There’s also the little matter of the suppressed French prosecutor’s report into the misconduct of the Nazi-fetishist, Aidan Burley. It’s all to play for.

To be honest I’m glad the Tories have done this, now we can sit back and watch as the Tory juggernaut crashes and burns in glorious slow motion. My only concern is this:  should Labour win in 2015, they will fail to repeal all the brutal and muddleheaded legislation enacted by this government.

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Right-wing clichés (Part 4): There is no poverty in Britain

This is a new cliché.  The Right cannot understand how anyone in Britain can be impoverished – they are in denial.  Whenever I hear some chinless wonder tell us that the real poor reside on the other side of the globe on less than $2 a day, the words that spring to mind are “dishonest”, “blind” and “ignorant”.

Here are some facts from the Child Poverty Action Group  that the Right wishes would go away. We’ll take the top four points.

  • There are 3.6 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four.1
  • There are even more serious concentrations of child poverty at a local level: in 100 local wards, for example, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.2
  • Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one member works.3
  • People are poor for many reasons. But explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts.4

I would like to draw the Right’s attention to the last bullet point. I know they don’t want to see this and would like to dismiss these figures as “Leftist claptrap”, but that would show them up for what they are: liars.  It’s all too easy for the Right to make baseless allegations that the poor of this country fritters their money away on Sky TV and cheap booze and fags, but these people simply cannot afford these luxuries. But if people on low incomes own even the most basic television set, the Right will demand “How dare the poor desire luxuries”? We live in a consumer society where those things that were once considered luxuries are now sold as necessities (Bourdieu, 1986). Whose fault is that? It isn’t the fault of the poor. Besides, everyone – regardless of income and social class – needs some kind of diversion or amusement to make the hell of living under this Tory regime more bearable. Though in the case of the rich, life is always bearable because they have a financial cushion to protect them.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the UK has “proportionally more children living in poverty than most rich countries”.

Rising fuel costs have forced many people to make the difficult choice between food and heating.

Next month, the government’s welfare reforms will begin to kick in. Council Tax Benefit will go and the Bedroom Tax will be implemented, which both have the potential of forcing many more people into homelessness and/or destitution.  Again, the Right deny that anyone will be worse off by the changes. This is a kick in the face with a hob-nailed boot  for Britain’s poor as well as barefaced political mendacity.

Daniel Hannan, the Conservative Eurosceptic MEP, has never experienced poverty and uses an image of Wayne and Waynetta Slob from The Harry Enfield Show to make his point (I have a screengrab of the article in case he takes it down).

Hannan thinks this is a true representation of Britain’s poor.

Last year in a blog titled “Rising welfare budgets have failed to cure poverty; it’s time to try something different”, Hannan wrote:

Iain Duncan Smith is the first occupant of his office to recognise that increasing the budget has failed. Since the Second World War, benefits and welfare bills have ballooned, yet there has been no commensurate impact on either poverty or inequality. This is because of something which, when stated, is obvious, but which contradicts the old orthodoxy:poverty is not simply an absence of money. Rather, it is bound up with other factors, including low educational attainments, unemployment, substance abuse, family breakdown and paucity of ambition. It follows that you don’t reduce poverty by giving money to the poor. To take an extreme case, giving £1000 to a heroin addict will not improve his prospects. IDS grasps that, to tackle indigence, you need to address its root causes; and that part of the answer lies in so structuring the incentives that people are determined to find work. As JFK observed more than 50 years ago, the surest way out of poverty is a secure job.

Did you notice how Hannan brought heroin addiction into his ‘argument’? He then closes this paragraph by offering us a quote from John F Kennedy that suggests that the disease of poverty is magically cured by work. But he does not bother to ask two important questions: 1) What if there are no jobs and 2) Shouldn’t people be paid a living wage that allows them to live with dignity? Low paid work actually keeps people in poverty.

For Hannan and his Tory chums, poverty in Britain is created by addicts who have a lack of an education and no ambition. Those who are poor, in the eyes of the Right, do not deserve help of any kind and you will notice the way he says “…you don’t reduce poverty by giving money to the poor”. Translated, this means “If you’re poor, tough shit. Become our slaves or die”.

Dismal Janet Daley claims there is a “poverty lobby”. She tells us, “The poverty lobby – as opposed to those who actually want to put an end to poverty – uses the “poor” as a political weapon in its ideological war against the market economy”.  What this amounts to is a smear on those institutions that work towards alleviating poverty. But what Daley also does is to invite us to avert our gaze from the real causes of poverty: low or no wages (of which poor diet is a symptom), poor housing and a lack of opportunities. Indeed, one’s relationship to capital is what defines poverty.

Daley denies that the market or neoliberal economy does nothing to alleviate poverty. Instead she relies on the notion that the “Invisible Hand of the Market” and “trickle down” will provide. She supports this notion by citing an article written by Philip Booth of the very right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs.

This paragraph is the centrepiece of her article:

In spite of the fact that being in work has been shown repeatedly to be the best (and most permanent) antidote to poverty, the public relations arms of the Child Poverty Action Group and the Rowntree Trust (among many others) have been notably disinclined to support the government’s welfare reform programme even though it is designed precisely to free the poor from the benefits trap. Nor can I recall them campaigning for tax cuts on the low paid: instead of allowing people to keep more of their earnings which would relieve their hardship and give them more independence, they clamour for the continuation of tax credits which subsidise (and perpetuate) low wages, and foster dependence on the state.

But Janet, if people have no work, they cannot benefit from tax cuts. Where is your logic? Furthermore, tax cuts will not make up for the pathetic wages being paid to people.  The fact remains that if people were paid proper living wages instead of peanuts, there would be no need for in-work benefits. Moreover, the structural deficit – that is often conflated by the Right with the national debt – will never go away if the Treasury isn’t making money through taxation. The Right’s calls for welfare cuts is predicated, not only on their ignorance of the lives of the poor, but also on their inbuilt social Darwinian prejudices and their deep-rooted class disgust.

Rather than see things as they really are, the Right would rather view the lives of the poor through the distorted lens of the fictional characters of Wayne and Waynetta Slob.  For them, the poor and the low-waged are pizza-eating, beer-swilling schlubs with no ambitions other than to own loads of bling and watch aspirational crap on their flat-screen tellies, and who also neglect their children as a lifestyle choice. For me, their use of televisually-mediated images and apocrypha to support their morally indefensible arguments perfectly illustrates the Right’s inability to comprehend the causes and definitions of poverty and the solutions to it.  Evidently, they would much rather deal with fantasy than the reality of everyday life. No wonder they’re so fond of nostalgia!

Obsessed with a nostalgic image (I could suggest spectacular image) of the Victorian age, the Tories are currently resurrecting the old Poor Laws. It’s only a matter of time before someone like Hannan demands the reintroduction of the workhouses.

Reference

Bourdieu, P. (1986) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

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