Tag Archives: cruelty

The Council Tax Liability Order

Is there anything more pointless than the Council Tax Liability Order? If you’ve failed to pay your Council Tax for whatever reason, your local authority will threaten to apply to the court for a Liability Order. The reason, they claim, is to ascertain liability for the tax. Well, duh, so I’m liable to pay Council Tax but liability and the ability to pay are two separate things and, as far as local authorities are concerned, if you can’t pay, that’s just tough. In fact, local authorities don’t care if you starve. They just want their money, so they will either demand payment in full or lock you into an arrangement that you cannot possibly meet.  So that takes you back to square one.

The Liability Order is simply another way to dump more debt onto those people who are least likely to be able to pay full Council Tax in the first place. It’s well past time to abolish Council Tax, but government ministers are simply too lazy to implement a much fairer system of local taxation. We need an Axe the Tax campaign like we had with the Poll Tax. In fact, I would argue that there is very little difference between the Council Tax and the Poll Tax. Both are based on the notion that everyone’s circumstances are the same. Theoretically, if someone on an income of £16, 000 pa is living next door to someone on £60,000 and they are in similar banded properties; they pay the same in Council Tax. Is that fair? No. But then, the Tories’ idea of fairness can be seen everywhere from the homeless that sleep on our streets to the working poor, who have their benefits cut and are forced to go to foodbanks.

Welcome to Cruel Britannia. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

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They’re Spitting In Our Faces

No sooner than the new Tory government came to power with 24% of the electorate voting for them, they almost immediately signalled their intention to curtail civil liberties and construct new enemies to convince people of the need to sign away their hard fought freedoms. Within hours of the election results, the Tories and their allies in the right-wing press began recycling more language from the 1980s. Dark mutterings of ‘extreme left-wingers’ emanated from the lips of government ministers, and papers like the Daily Mail have warned of “left-wing thuggery” this summer. The government is trying to rush through new anti-terrorism laws (as if there aren’t enough of these already), new anti-union legislation, the abolition of the Human Rights Act and the failed ‘snooper’s charter’ in its first 100 days.

Extremism: a label devised to silence opposition and curb dissent

Today, Cameron announced his “anti-extremism bill“, which seems to me to be indiscriminate and designed to curtail civil liberties under the rubric of national security. But what is an “extremist”?  The bill ostensibly targets what are broadly described as “Islamists” but could also cover anyone or any group that, in the government’s eyes, is an ‘extremist’. This could include the Scottish National Party, protesters and even civil liberties advocacy groups like Liberty.

A revitalized police state

The so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’ or the Communications Data Bill, to give it its full name, has been revived after it was blocked by the Lib Dems. For a party that claims to “love” freedom and liberty, the Tories always reveal their true colours by proposing authoritarian measures that limit the freedoms of ordinary citizens. Carly Nyst, legal director for Privacy International told The Guardian,

“Theresa May’s comments confirm that widespread public concern about the threats posed to online privacy and expression by internet monitoring powers has been completely ignored by the new government.

“Communications data legislation has been repeatedly criticised by experts and politicians from all reaches of the political spectrum, and has been beaten back by the public and civil society time and time again.

“Reviving it as a policy priority is a clear sign both of an insatiable appetite for spying powers, and intentions to continue to sacrifice the civil liberties of Britons everywhere on the altar of national security.

In coalition, the Tories wanted to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with an ersatz version of their own. Now free of the beastly Lib Dems, they have resurrected the policy. However, the government could run into trouble if it attempts to scrap the HRA because it violates the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The SNP is also planning to challenge any attempt to abolish the HRA in the Scottish Parliament.

The task of repealing the HRA was given to the new Justice Minister, Michael Gove, a man with a limited intellectual capacity, but whose appetite for destruction knows no bounds. No one, not even Tory ministers, know what this British Bill of Rights will look like, but if Gove is steering it through then it’s bound to look like a dog’s breakfast.

Removing the right to strike

The Tories have always been implacably opposed to worker’s rights since the days of the Combination Acts. In the last Parliament they even tried to claim they were the ‘worker’s party’. Very funny. Sajid Javid appeared on Channel 4 News last night to promote the new anti-union bill. He claimed that other countries have similar laws, but he wouldn’t say which countries. The Cat suspects he’s talking about places like Equatorial Guinea (and possibly Pinochet’s Chile), where strikes are illegal and workers are beaten up and imprisoned. The government wants to impose a 50% turnout on strike ballots of those eligible to vote for a strike to be ‘legal’. Yet the Tories only won 24% of the vote themselves and that’s hardly a mandate in anyone’s vocabulary. Furthermore, Police and Crime Commissioners won elections on turnouts of around 16% and the new leader of Oxford City Council is in office on the back of an 8% turnout.

The rationale for this new legislation is to outlaw strikes or create conditions that make it difficult for trade unions to take industrial action. The Tories are especially keen to ban strikes on the London Underground, which it claims, somewhat melodramatically, is an ‘essential service’. I have never seen a tube train ferry injured and ill people to hospital, nor have I witnessed tube trains rushing to put out a house fire. The Tube is not an essential service, no matter how many times the Tories or their friends in the press repeat that ridiculous claim. The Tube is a form of public transport. Nothing more, nothing less.

Constructing ‘enemies within’

The Tories cannot exist without enemies and if they don’t exist, then they will construct them from opposition groups and oppressed minorities. Those of you who remember the Thatcher years will know that trade unionists, the especially the miners, the Labour Party (under Michael Foot) and CND were seen as the ‘enemy within’. This label was extended to cover LGBT people, ethnic minorities and left-wing local authorities. During the coalition years, the enemies were, in no particular order, public sector workers, the disabled and benefits claimants. It seems to me that anyone who opposes the Tory government’s anti-human and anti-democratic legislation will be regarded as a “left-wing extremist” even though the group or persons in question may not necessarily be left-wing at all.

Reliving the Thatcher Years

This government, rather than living in the present, only seems capable of living in the past. The Cat has a theory: the majority of these Tories weren’t old enough when Thatcher destroyed communities, smashed the unions and sold off our housing stock. They now want to relive the years they missed out on. We can see this in the Free Enterprise Group (FEG), whose members include 100% Evil, Dominic Raabid, Chris Skidmark, Liz (You Can’t) Truss (It) and Kwasi Kwarteng. Their book Britannia Unchained, claimed that British workers were inherently lazy. Nothing was said about the incompetence of British management.

Most of the Tories are incapable of living or dealing with the present. They have no new ideas and continually have to recycle old ones. Hence the rush to smash the unions, which are already being subjected to the most draconian anti-union legislation in Europe that was enacted during the Thatcher years. Alexei Sayle once described the current Tories as “a really bad Thatcherite tribute band”. He’s not wrong.

The Cat wonders how long it will be till we hear the same lines uttered by Thatcher 30 years ago about “permissiveness” and “lifestyle choices”?

Left-baiting/red-baiting and other bullshit

The Tory-dominated media outlets have, without exception, begun to produce a new series of left-baiting articles. This happened after the 2010 election too. This article by Bryony Gordon in the Daily Telegraph has the title “Stop your whingeing: why the left are such sore losers” and comes with the subtitle:

Labour voters should be ashamed of all the boohooing – and I speak as one

However, if you have a look at her Wikipedia entry, Gordon’s spent most of her working life writing for right-wing newspapers. Furthermore, the words “Labour” and “left-wing” are not contiguous. Gordon may have voted for Labour once in her life but that doesn’t make her “left-wing”, it makes her a hack.

The not-so-subtle discourse being conveyed by Gordon is “The Tories won. You should just let them fuck you over. It’s for your own good “. But this kind of discourse is what one would expect from an authoritarian regime, not defenders of ‘freedom’, surely?

Gordon writes:

Of course, proportional representation would still have given us a Tory government – just one in coalition with Ukip. Is that what the people marching on Westminster want?

And do they not remember the referendum for an alternative vote system four years ago, the one that the British public rejected out of hand? Have they forgotten the Labour victory of 2005, when the party only got 36 per cent of the vote? Where were the angry placards then? Where were the marches and protests and furious online campaigns for electoral reform? I’m guessing they were all buried under a massive pile of self-righteousness.

The alternative vote (AV) system was not proportional and many people could see that. Thus it was rejected. But Gordon doesn’t bother to mention this. AV was nothing but a sop; it was not a step on the road to PR, it was a cynical effort to kick the matter into touch. I have had arguments over this issue with people, who delude themselves with the notion that AV would have meant real PR somewhere down the line. How long down the line is anyone’s guess. I would say that if AV had prevailed, real PR would have been off the table forever. It is therefore right and proper that people should protest for a fair electoral system.

Over at the Daily Mail, self-styled historian Dominic Sandbrook repeats the old Thatcherite line about “hectoring left-wing politicians are telling people how to run their lives”. Yet, today, Cameron claimed that “Britain is too tolerant and should interfere in people’s lives more” (my bold). This actually contradicts the Tories’ and Sandbrook’s claims that it is only the Left that tells people “how to run their lives”. Hypocrisy much, Dominic? Cameron was speaking in defence of his ‘anti-extremism’ measures, which means the very right-wing government would stick its nose into everything.

Democratic deficit

There is a real democratic deficit in this country and it’s being made worse by a brutal Tory regime. They now want to redraw the electoral boundaries without proportional representation. This amounts to little more than blatant gerrymandering, since the boundaries would be drawn to suit the Tories, meaning that they would remain in power forever.

The next five years are going to be turbulent. We must be prepared to use what means we can to fight back. If that means civil disobedience, then so be it.

See you at the barricades!

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So That’s It?

There’s an appalling stench to the election result and it’s one of scaremongering and dirty tricks, but there’s also a faint odour of Labour’s weakness, complacency and drift. Scottish Labour, especially, ran an abysmal catch-up campaign in which they adopted Tory scare tactics to try to frighten voters into returning to them. Labour also made a huge mistake in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories and the Orangemen in the Scottish independence referendum. This, as well as their reluctance to offer a clear alternative vision to voters, cost them dearly not only in Scotland but south of the border too.

The turnout for this election was 66% nationwide.  That’s nothing to crow about.  In French presidential elections, the vote often exceeds 80%. According to the Daily Mirror, in Lucy Powell’s constituency, only 18% bothered to vote in the 2012 by-election.  Yesterday the turnout was 44%. It isn’t great.  That tells us that some voters who would have voted Labour didn’t bother to vote. Then there were the million plus voters who were simply scrubbed from the electoral registers. The Tories were counting on this to carry them over the line. The Greens had around a million voters but only held onto a single seat. Even UKIP’s numbers only gave them one seat.  The Lib Dems apparently got more votes than the Greens. How the hell is this possible? The real issue with this election was the antiquated First Past The Post voting system that favours a two-party system. Times have changed and this is not the 18th century when the only parties in Westminster were the Tories and the Whigs.

Already the BBC’s presenters are doing their best to restrain their joy at the Tory win. Andrew Marr has indicated, in not so many words, that Labour’s salvation depends on a move further to the right. This tells us something else: the range of political and economic discourses permitted in the British media is worryingly narrow. If you have an opposing point of view, it will not get aired either on the BBC or the other channels. If you are allowed on, let’s say, The Daily Politics, you’ll get shouted down, talked over and patronized by the hosts and their right-wing studio guests. You must not question the orthodoxy, for to question it (in the minds of the right) is to spit in the face of God Himself.

For over 30 years, we have lived with a neoliberal consensus that says spending is bad and taxation is evil, yet governments that fail to collect enough tax revenues create huge economic problems for themselves. Governments that refuse to spend money will also run into trouble as the nation’s infrastructure crumbles and public services are driven into the ground. We know the rich don’t rely on public services, so they don’t care and they will even say as much. In the early coalition years, many Tories were practically celebrating the closure of public libraries. “If you can’t afford to buy books, that’s tough. Why should we pay for public libraries” was one such comment I’d read on Telegraph blogs.

So that’s five more years of cuts, cruelty, bullying and lies. Or is it? It’s up to you if you want to roll over and let these bastards trample us into the ground. But that isn’t me and I hope that isn’t you. We need to start our fightback by agitating for a fair voting system.

It’s time to take to the streets. See you at the barricades!

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Filed under General Election 2015

Some Thoughts About The Future of Esther McVey

To be honest, I try not to think about Esther McVey, the television host turned Tory minister-cum-tormentor of the poor and disabled. It’s enough to give me nightmares. However, things aren’t going her way in West Wirral and if the polls can be trusted, she’ll be out on her ear next week.

So what lies ahead for McVey if the voters kick her out? Well, for starters, she could be ‘kicked upstairs’ and become ‘Baroness McVey of Somewhere Or Other’. On the other hand, she may do what IDS did when he lost his job as Tory leader and don sackcloth and ashes, and claim she’s doing her penance (like IDS, she’s a Catholic). Readers may recall IDS visited housing estates during his penitent period. He claimed to ‘understand’ the poor,  while posing for photographers outside a block of flats before quickly scuttling off in his limo. He also set up a think-tank, the ironically-named, Centre for Social Justice. Could McVey also set up a think-tank? I doubt it. She likes the cameras too much.

McVey could return to television as a talking head, appearing as a guest on programmes like Countdown  and The One Show as Gyles Brandreth has done. I can see her taking over from Dominic ‘Man of the People’ Littlewood as the host of Saints and Scroungers. Then again, she may opt for a daytime confessional show. Think of the Jeremy Kyle Show but with less sympathy. If that’s possible.

Unlike the millions she punished for being poor and disabled, at least McVey has a future. It’s just a shame that future isn’t in prison.

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What a dreary little campaign you have there!

Hands up, who’s heard of the Campaign Against Political Correctness? I came across this group a couple of years ago. It’s part of an agenda to roll back the gains made by those of us who have struggled for equality over the decades. For these people, equality and tolerance are seen as bad things; signs of animalistic weakness,  anathema to bullies, misogynists and self-described libertarians everywhere.

The CAPC operates as a flak machine and perhaps one of the most interesting developments in the way in which flak machines operate is how they’ve adopted the language of their ideological ‘enemies’. The Campaign Against Political Correctness  is a group of ‘ like-minded people’ who believe political correctness is destroying British society. On their home page they have appropriated the anti-war slogan ‘Not in my name’ and conscripted it to serve a different and opposing ideological agenda. This extract from their website sets out their ‘principles’:

We strongly believe that political correctness is wrong because:

  • It is causing tension between communities where there need not be any.
  • It is encouraging racism and sexism – especially in the job market – encouraging people to be given jobs based on the colour of their skin or their sex and not on their merit.
  • It tries to protect those identified as “minorities” (also including women!) despite the fact that they very rarely consult these people before they speak on their behalf and more often than not thoroughly insult them by assuming that they are not perfectly capable of defending themselves or asking for help if they want it (see our “Latest News” and “Your Stories” sections for examples of this).
  • Although it is supposed to be around to prevent offence it deems it acceptable to offend the majority of people on a regular basis.

What is noticeable about this set of ‘principles’ is the way it swats away the real issues like some annoying insect. The second and third points are revealing because they tend to make the claim that others are speaking on behalf of minorities and not the minorities themselves. This objection appears to be rooted in the notion that anything that is done in relation to minorities is a form of ‘extreme liberalism’ and that any effort to achieve parity in the workplace or office is indicative of the further erosion of the fabric of society and calls into question of the British idea of ‘fair play’. Ironic, isn’t it?

What is interesting about groups such as CAPC is the way in which they propagate and sustain the myth that anything that does not operate within its ideological contours is foreign or alien to the British ‘way of life’. Sometimes, to hear these people talk, you’d think we were still living in the 1980s.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the CAPC’s spokesman in the Commons is Conservative MP, Philip Davies, who recently failed to declare an interest during a Commons debate on gambling and is to be investigated by the House.

Funnily enough, the CAPC site doesn’t look as though it’s been updated since 2011. It still carries a story about Davies coming under fire for suggesting that disabled people be paid less than the minimum wage for their labour. The reason he gives for this is as specious as his  concern for the disabled. The Guardian also has the story. Here’s what he said:

‘The people who are most disadvantaged by the national minimum wage are the most vulnerable in society.  My concern about it is it prevents those people from being given the opportunity to get the first rung on the employment ladder.  

Naturally, Davies complained that anyone who criticized his ‘ideas’ were spreading “leftwing hysteria”.

Horrible little man. Horrible little group. Horrible little site.

Here’s a taste of the kind of comments people leave on the site.

Political correctness is not free living, its people interfering in things where they’re not wanted!!!

What does “free living” mean? Here’s another.

Political Correctness and Human Rights laws are ruining this once great nation. A stand must be made and something must be done!

Yeah, damn and blast those human rights! Let’s bring back the rack and the ducking stool!

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All hail the New Victorians

I heard that Gid has told government departments to implement more cuts, so the government can fund more infrastructure projects (sic). I also heard that some of that money would be used to fund more free schools. In other words, the state schools that currently exist will have to struggle without funding, while this government’s cherished free schools will get all the money they need.

From next April there will be no more Housing and Council Tax Benefit. Local authorities are being asked to implement a contemporary version of the 1834 Poor Laws. You can see what will happen: people will be forced to move out of their homes and away from their family and friends. Others will be made homeless.

IDS’s Universal Credit will force more people into poverty, which is quite the reverse of what he said it will do. Economic slavery is the order of the day. Plus ça change.

And yet, Gid will rise to his feet in the Commons and spend about an hour or so and dole out largesse to his ideological chums and, at the same time, he will crush the poor, who are being made to pay for the failure of the system.

This government’s obsession with the 19th century will not only kill the poor, it will kill country.

Here’s the Dead Kennedys,

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Public spending, Welfare 'reform'

Great blog from Johnny Void. (Lord) Freud’s proposals are simply cruel and barbaric. His solution for those on the Universal Credit (just the name says it all) who can’t manage their money is to burden them with more debt in the form of “financial products” or “loans/debts” as they’re better known. To say this government’s moral compass is faulty would be untrue. They never had a moral compass to start with.

the void

lord-fraud-freudBenefit claimants who struggle to manage their budgets when Universal Credit is introduced are to be charged to use the new ‘financial products’ that Lord Freud and the DWP are implementing.

Up to 2.5 million claimants are estimated to need some support when the new welfare and Tax Credit system is introduced next year,  which will make benefit payments monthly for the first time.  Claimants will also no longer have the option to have rent payments sent direct to landlords.

The DWP has invited banks, mobile phone companies, smart card companies (ominously) and any other private sector shark who’d like a slice of the benefit bill,to bid for a whopping £145 million worth of contracts to design budgeting support.  Despite this huge sum claimants are expected to be charged for any continuing support once they have been on the new benefit over 12 months.  The contract specifications say:

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Welfare 'reform'