Tag Archives: Iain Duncan Smith

Right-wing Cliches (#7) “Benefit Tourism”

The Tories love to bandy about expressions like “benefit tourism” (“health tourism” is another such phrase) to make their spurious points about immigration seem more credible. But let’s be honest: no one comes to this country to claim a measly £74 a week in Jobseeker’s Allowance. “Ah” I hear you cry “what about the other benefits, like Housing Benefit”? What about Housing Benefit? You really think immigrants come to this country to sample the delights of housing benefit and live in decrepit properties owned by our slum landlords? Think on.

If people wanted to sample real benefits, then there are better countries they can go to. Germany is one country and France is another. Benefits in these countries are far more generous than the paltry benefits available in Britain, which are paid at poverty levels set, apparently, by the National Office for Statistics. If the benefit levels are set by the NOS, then they must be working to 1970s figures because no one can live on  £74 a week. Not even the braggart and habitual liar, Iain Duncan Smith, can live on that kind of money – in spite of his unsubstantiated claim that he can live on £1 a day.

So, in reality, no immigrant comes here to live on benefits. They come here to work in the sorts of jobs that are beneath those who complain the most about immigration. Immigrants also pay more in tax than the average British worker. Indeed, they pay more tax than the so-called ‘wealth-creators’ that this government is forever talking about. So when the government complains about the budget deficit, they could always raise taxes on their rich mates but, instead, they would much rather you hate the immigrants who are putting money into the Exchequer’s coffers. How’s that for logic?

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, immigration, Neoliberalism, Society & culture

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'

H&F Tories and the right-wing ‘madrasah’

It’s called the Tory “madrasah” and it resembles an updated version of the long-defunct Federation of Conservative Students. The Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), who are no less right-wing than their recent ancestors, was formed in 2003 as sort of boot camp for young right-wing activists. We’ll return to them in a moment.

The use of the word “madrasah” to describe them is a bit weird. But first let’s have a look the word.  Madrasah, or madarasa, is the Arabic word for school; any school. Some are attached to mosques and exist to provide religious education.  Others, particularly those in Pakistan, have been cited as hothouses for suicide bombers. But this is a new connotation and the word, when it is uttered by a Rightist, tends to take on a universal character. The suggestion is “madrasahs are responsible for the inculcation of Islamist terror”.  Is the use of the word “madrasah” ironic in the context of the YBF? Who knows? It has probably been appropriated in much the same way as the word “Mecca” or perhaps the word, “Kosher”. No doubt these people believe that they are the ideologically pure shock troops of today’s Tory party.

The YBF were in the headlines last year. Before the general election, Cameron was urged to distance himself from them. The Guardian said,

Asked about his links to the group last month, Cameron said: “I don’t know anything about the Young Britons’ Foundation.” But Cameron had already contributed to a YBF-branded guide to essential reading for young Conservatives, according to the YBF’s chief executive, Donal Blaney, a Kent-based solicitor.

Hmmm, “He doesn’t know anything about “Young Britons’ Foundation”. I’m not so sure I believe Disco Dave.  The Guardian

…has also obtained photographs of him meeting the organisation’s director of strategy, vice-president, and then operations director before he denied knowledge of the group. Its director of research, Alex Deane, was formerly Cameron’s chief of staff.

Wow! I want to see these photos. But I can’t. I presume they’re in the Guardian’s image vault underneath Farringdon Station. No matter, we can see this screen grab of Cameron meeting someone called Conor Burns. From the Gaurdian,

Ah, doesn’t that look cosy? Burns is now the MP for Bournemouth West but last year he was the YBF’s vice president.

Back in 2003, when the YBF was formed, Tom Happold of the Guardian wrote this about them

A new right-wing youth organisation – the Young Britons’ Foundation – has been accused of plotting a “Militant-style” take-over of the party’s youth wing, Conservative Future, by senior Tories.Disquiet about the group is such that the Conservative’s chief whip, David Maclean, recently told its chairman, former Tory MP Patrick Nicholls, to rein in its activities, Guardian Unlimited has learned.

The foundation’s website claims it exists to “help develop the talents of the young conservative-inclined political activists”, but senior Tories say it has been infiltrating Conservative Future, and even running a slate in its recent elections.

Further down the article we come to this,

The founder of the Young Britons’ Foundation, Donal Blaney, is also a controversial figure in the Tory party – he faced accusations of racism, and a complaint by the Commission for Racial Equality, when he ran a Fulham Homes for Fulham People campaign while a councillor in the borough. But Mr Blaney does have some influential friends; the foundation’s parliamentary counsel contains the former Conservative party chairman, Cecil Parkinson, Tory MP Gerald Howarth and shadow deputy prime minister, and likely future leadership contender, David Davis.

Yes, Donal Blaney was a Hammersmith & Fulham councillor. These days he’s described as a “Kent-based solicitor”.  Here’s some more,

Mr Blaney told Guardian Unlimited that it is compiling a dossier cataloguing examples of “socialist PC” bias on every course on every campus in the country. And he insisted that “all the stuff that gets fed back to us shows that the bias on campus is getting worse”.

The foundation’s website also says: “Leftists and their failed socialist ideology have run riot, in some cases literally, at campuses up and down the land for over 30 years.

“As a result non-political students or students who are conservative in outlook have been discriminated against in their grades and in their treatment by the authorities.”

They get this idea from an American neo-con site called Campus Watch, which claims that it is “monitoring Middle East studies on campus”. Long before it narrowed its remit it was involved in “exposing left-wing bias on campus”. My, how times have changed. The site is connected to the notorious Daniel Pipes, who runs the Middle East Forum.

Back to Blaney. It would seem that even some  Tories don’t like him. This blogger writes,

I guess Donal is the epitomy of all the negative coverage that political blogs have been receiving recently. Rejected by the higher echelons of the Conservative party, this sad time-wasting individual has risen to the delusional ‘heights’ he has by who he knows, not what he knows. ‘Fulham Homes for Fulham People’ is not a message that Cameron wants his conservatives spreading. Then again, perhaps his reluctance to get involved more practically and constructively with the Conservative party  is because Blaney might have certain individuals on his YBF Advisory Panel with an ever so slightly more colourful past that he’d hoped for. Who’s to say though; we wouldn’t want a mere student at the University of York becoming embroiled in a legal battle with blogging’s biggest bumbling bully, Donal Blaney, would we?

He was apparently threatened with legal action by Blaney. Unfortunately for this blogger, the YBF is now firmly entrenched in Hammersmith & Fulham.  More on that later. Blaney had this slogan “Fulham Homes for Fulham People”. His supporters have tried in vain to defend Blaney, but somehow it all looks futile and any attempt to explain it away looks pathetic and feeble.

The comments on Iain Dale’s blog from last February are particularly interesting,

At February 09, 2010 9:29 AM , Blogger DespairingLiberal said…Quite funny that if you Google Donal Blaney, the first image that comes up is him standing in front of a swastika flag.

I can’t help but wonder Iain why you are so drawn to Blaney, who seems to be a sort of neo-BNP’er inside the ranks of the tory party. I thought you yourself were a bit more centrist than that?

Dale replies,

That image of Blaney was photoshopped by a Labour blogger.

Donal is a good friend of mine. There’s nothing BNP about him at all.

Dale is not only a good friend of Blaney, he’s a supporter of the YBF too.

Blaney makes a few comments below.  Here he says,

Despairing Liberal – thanks for putting your head above the parapet. Anonymous abuse on the internet is easy to defeat now thanks to the case of Blaney v Person(s) Unknown in which I obtained a world first order allowing for such cyberbullies to be unmasked and served via Twitter (giving rise to what is known as a Blaney’s Blarney Order). Oh look, another victory.

He’s a card. Isn’t he? A tussle develops between “Despairing Liberal” and Blaney and ends with Blaney threatening legal action. This isn’t the first time that Blaney’s resorted to this tactic. Remember that article that I linked to at the beginning of this blog? Well, it has this at the top of it

The following note was added on Tuesday 9 March 2010

This article is the subject of a legal complaint made on behalf of Donal Blaney.

I guess being a solicitor has its advantages. No?

Blaney divides his time between his practice in Kent and Florida where he is a member of FABB (geddit?), the Florida Association of British Business. He is described as a “British Attorney”.

Last year, James Delingpole penned this tribute to Blaney and the YBF,

I’ve noticed this same technique much in use in the student-rag left-liberal blogosphere, of late, over the small matter of the Young Britons Foundation. Because  the YBF’s splendid, funny and ideologically sound chairman Donal Blaney has called his organisation a “madrassa” for young conservatives,

He misspelled “madrasah”. It was actually Dale who described the YBF as a “madrassa” by the way. More drivel from Delingtroll,

I addressed the YBF in the Commons last week, and extremist is the very last word I’d use to describe them. “Not nearly extremist enough” would be my preferred definition of these pallid young politicos. These kids have been so effectively brainwashed by the propaganda of socialists like Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn, Ken Clarke, Dave Cameron et al, they actually think “progressive” means something worthwhile and that “investment” is what you do when you squander money you haven’t got on the least efficient healthcare system in the known universe.

I’m rolling my eyes here.

Here is the “About Us” page of the YBF’s website,

The Young Britons’ Foundation was co-founded in July 2003 by Donal Blaney, Greg Smith and Ben Pickering

Is that the same Greg Smith who’s a H&F councillor? It certainly is. Smith is the “Cabinet Member for Residents Services”. Cllr Smith is also the YBF’s “Director of Campaigns”. The blurb also tells us that he’s on the executive of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward. Though the site doesn’t list him as a member of the executive. Confused? So am I.

On the Advisory Board’s page we find Cllr. Mark Loveday,

Mark Loveday is a barrister specialising in property, local government and professional negligence law in London. A graduate of the University of Kent at Canterbury, Mark is a former intern at the Leadership Institute and a former White House staffer. He is a member of the Cabinet in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham – where he has helped oversee two successive cuts in council tax since the Conservatives regained control of the Town Hall in 2006.

He’s “former White House staffer”. Fine. He’s also the “Chief Whip and Cabinet Member for Strategy” for the Tory group on the council. Like some of the others, I suspect he has his eye on a safe seat. He’s in good company. If you look down the list, you can see many other well-connected names like Matthew Elliot of the “non-partisan” Taxpayers Alliance and Thatcherite economist, Patrick Minford.

Not only is Hammersmith & Fulham a test bed for awful ideas, it is also a training ground for kamikaze Tories.

Back to the Staff page and we see that our old friend, Dan Hannan is the President.  It says,

Daniel Hannan is the President of the Young Britons’ Foundation and has recently been ranked tenth by The Daily Telegraph in its annual poll of most influential centre-right figures in Britain.

Like all those other members of the YBF that we’ve encountered, Hannan does not qualify as a youth. He’s is no spring chicken. In fact, he’s pushing 40. He’s more of a middle-aged man trying to relive his youth.

Here’s the YBF’s Speakers Panel. Do you  recognize any names? I do. Author, old duffer and ardent Europhobe, Frederick Forsyth is a keynote speaker. Previous speakers have included new peer and former MP, Howard Flight, who infamously claimed that the government’s benefit cuts would “encourage poor people to breed more”.  Douglas Carswell and Andrew Rosindell, who was once a member of the notorious Monday Club before IDS forced him  to resign, are also speakers. Carswell is a notorious Randist, like his friend Dan Hannan.Others on the speakers panel include the ever-shrill Douglas Murray and Anthony Worrall-Thompson. Nowhere Towers is baffled by the latter’s inclusion. We knew he was a Tory but is he a policy-former? No.

I expect the YBF to be at the Rally Against Debt next month along with the usual suspects.

For a more complete list of who is involved in the YBF, look at this page.


Filed under Extreme right, Government & politics, Young Britons' Foundation

The people of Merthyr give IDS a reality check

The Quiet Man (aka Iain Duncan Smith) thinks that there are jobs available but people are too lazy to take them or that they need to “get on their bikes”. He’s wrong. Have a look at this video made by a couple of young women from Merthyr.

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Filed under Big Society, Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics

Workfare: it’s just plain wrong

Intersting article on IDS’s chain gang proposals for the unemployed in today’s Scotsman,

There are also fears that controversial welfare reforms could see some public sector workers replaced by people doing their old jobs for a fraction of the pay.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will this week unveil plans for four-week programmes of compulsory community work, doing jobs such as litter-picking or gardening, for unemployed people deemed to have lost the work ethic.

I see they picked up on my point about low-paid public sector workers being replaced by the free labour of the unemployed.

But it is also unfair to workers who find themselves competing against people paid much less than themselves and to any businesses in competition with the organisations that have got this subsidised workforce.

Quite. I think we understand the class-based thinking behind this now. Millionaires who have been born into privilege impose a form of economic slavery on those who are on the lowest economic rung of the ladder. Where’s the fairness in that?

The Herald Scotland is equally critical of the proposals. John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group said,

“These punitive proposals are a distraction from the real barriers people face trying to get back into work – lack of jobs, lack of childcare and discrimination in the labour market. People need real jobs that pay real wages.

“Expecting people to work for 30 hours for no extra money is insulting. If the Government wants to provide employment for the unemployed to help them back into work, it should do so with genuine jobs that comply with minimum-wage legislation.”

This government is making the unemployed pay for the recession. Fairness? These people don’t know the meaning of the word.

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Filed under Big Society, Government & politics, Public spending, Welfare, Workfare

IDS: workfare will set you free or else!

First it was proposed by the last government, now it’s being proposed by our dear friend, IDS. Workfare is back on the menu. Free labour for grubby capitalists.  The unemployed are to be told to do something called unpaid ‘community work’ or face having their benefits cut.  The Guardian reports,

The proposals, in a white paper on welfare reform to be unveiled this week, are part of a radical government agenda aimed at cutting the £190bn-a-year welfare bill and breaking what the coalition now calls the “habit of worklessness”.

The “habit of worklessness”. Now there’s an interesting phrase. We can add that phrase to “inter-generational worklessness” and “deserving and undeserving poor”.

Predictably, The Daily Mail is behind the whole idea. They even have a picture of – what looks like- a trio of idle youths outside a McDonald’s somewhere in Britain The youths are tucking in to their Big Macs and fries to sort of  reinforce the ‘point’. “Look! Idle youths eating junk food on your taxes! How dare they”? Thing is, those youths could have been paid by a Mail journo to pose for the photo. Payment in Big Mac and fries. Standards must be slipping. The opening paragraph of the article says all one needs to know,

The feckless unemployed will be forced to take part in a punishing U.S.-style ‘workfare’ scheme involving gardening, clearing litter and other menial tasks for just £1 an hour in a new crackdown on scroungers.

“£1 an hour”? Why not force them into chain gangs while you’re at it?

You can see what’s happening here and it has little to do with communities. This is an exercise in exploitation. This reserve army of labour – as Marx referred to the unemployed – is to be mobilized for what purpose? To prove to the readers of the Mail and the Telegraph that the unemployed are working for their ‘keep’? Or is it the case that someone, or some company somewhere is set to make some form of profit off the back of this? What is a “community” in this particular sense anyway? What happens to the street cleaners and so on who are already on ultra-low wages? Will they be made redundant? Is this menial work meant to lift the spirits?

IDS once made the unfortunate but somewhat telling remark that “work will set you free”.  Says it all really.

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Filed under Big Society, Comprehensive Spending Review, Government & politics, Welfare

Two examples of Orwellian thinking

When George Orwell wrote 1984, he’d intended it to be read as a satire. Many years later, doublethink and doublespeak have become the norm in our political system. What I find with these politicians and their parties is that there is no trace of irony in their selection of names. They actually believe in their lies to the extent that they see them as universal truths.

I have identified two think tanks that have both adopted Orwellian names. The first is the Centre for Social Justice, a think tank that was set up shortly after Iain Duncan Smith resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. The CSJ claims to be ‘independent’ but as we all know, no think tank is free of ideology; it simply isn’t possible and it is dishonest to make the claim that it is so. The CSJ’s remit is, as you might expect, social justice. But this notion of social justice comes from a Conservative perspective. Ergo, one needs to take a tonne of salt when approaching the work of the CSJ.

The CSJ rightly identifies housing as an issue but it stops well short of offering real solutions. This is perhaps the most revealing passage in their section on housing

The law should be changed so that local authorities are free to use new social housing, and existing social housing as it becomes vacant, as they see fit.

So if a property becomes vacant, then a local authority can sell it off if it “sees fit”.  That solves nothing. In fact, it contradicts the paragraphs that appear below it, such as

The current homelessness obligation must be changed so that authorities are required to assess the housing and other social needs of people who present as homeless, focusing on the underlying causes of their homelessness. Their emphasis must be to agree an appropriate package of support to meet those needs in a holistic way.

I think this happens already. So nothing new or exciting here. The inclusion of the word “holistic” is there to suggest a ‘touchy-feely’ approach – this is caring Conservatism, which is, in itself, an oxymoron.

There should be a requirement that new working age tenants and their landlords sign commitment contracts under which the tenant agrees actively to seek work and the landlord agrees to provide or access support such as training or childcare to help them do so.

Which “landlords” are we talking about here? Private or social? IDS has already made it plain what he thinks of social housing.

Over the years, our housing system has ghettoised poverty, creating broken estates where worklessness, dependency, family breakdown and addiction are endemic

So rather than attack the underlying conditions, he attacks the homes that people live in. The word ‘causality’ cuts no ice with these Tories!

The CSJ’s remit covers the entire gamut of social issues which are viewed through the lens of privilege. Those who form their committees and lead their working groups come from upper middle class backgrounds. The criminal, Jonathan Aitken has been welcomed as the chairman of the Prison Reform Working Group. He was given this role presumably because of his previous experience of doing time for perjury. He was also involved in the arms trade.

The second and perhaps the most disturbing of the two Orwellian think tanks is the Centre for Social Cohesion, The director of the CSC is Douglas Murray, arch-Zionist; opponent of common sense; distributor of paranoid conspiracies and fan of Leo Strauss. The site claims that

The Centre for Social Cohesion is a non-partisan think-tank that studies issues related to community cohesion in the UK. Committed to the promotion of human rights, it is the first think-tank in the UK to specialise in studying radicalisation and extremism within Britain.

I like the way these people think we will be hoodwinked into accepting their word that they are ‘non-partisan’ or ‘impartial’.  The CSC also claims to be “committed to the promotion of human rights”,  but it is selective about who is entitled to such rights. If the first paragraph didn’t do the trick, the CSC ram the point home again in the final paragraph,

NON-PARTISANSHIP: The CSC is an independent think tank with no party-political affiliations.

They can say it as much as they like but I know this isn’t true: Douglas Murray is a Conservative who describes himself as a ‘neo-conservative’ and that should set off some alarm bells. While the neo-cons are in retreat in the US, Murray hopes that by repeating the ‘message’ that Europe is being Islamicized, people will rush to burn down their local mosque and embrace neo-condom. He worries that he may see minarets on every street corner instead of pubs – which are now closing by their hundreds every month – and witness to implementation of Sharia Law in our lifetimes. Never mind that Halakha or Jewish Law has been used in civil cases for years without certains popping up and warning of a creeping’ Judaification’ of Europe. Murray’s got his sights set on Islam and there is no way to convince him that he’s wrong.

In January, Murray published a blog in the Daily Telegraph in defence of the racist Geert Wilders. The title of the blog was “Geert Wilders: on trial for telling the truth”. “On trial”? “Telling the truth”? If that is your truth, let me tell you mine: you’re stirring up hatred and you barely conceal your dislike of anything that doesn’t conform to your paranoid thinking. I will take no lessons on ‘social cohesion’ from you or your crackpot organization.

I can only wonder what other names they will devise for their think-tanks. Perhaps the Centre for Social Responsibility will be next. This think-tank will be charged with making private companies more socially responsible by permitting them to pollute as much as they like.

UPDATE: 6/3/12 @ 2140

The Centre for Social Cohesion was absorbed into the equally vile Henry Jackson Society last April.  Below is a screengrab of the CSC’s homepage

Here’s a link to the people who run the Henry Jackson Society.  Dougie has been installed as an “Associate Director”. Is that like an “Executive Vice-President” or something? Just below that in “Communications”, we find Michael Weiss. He leaves his blogs on the Telegraph. Weiss’s recent blogs tend to be focussed on Syria. Do you smell a rat? So do I.


Filed under Language, Society & culture

The two sides to welfare

There are two kinds of welfare: one for those who are unemployed or disabled and another for private interests. Today, Iain Duncan Smith announced his plans for a shake up of the welfare system. Some of what he has said about those on benefits appears to be based entirely on popular myth and denial.

“After years of piecemeal reform the current welfare system is complex and unfair. For many people taking a job leaves them no better off than a life on benefits, and this has trapped significant parts of our society in inter generational worklessness and entrenched poverty.

Let’s have a look at “intergenerational worklessness” and what this means. Prima facie it appears that people simply refuse to take work because they can live on benefits. On the other hand, many people are reluctant to take work – including part-time work – because they would be worse off; this is something that IDS acknowledges. Anyone who has been forced to live on benefits will tell you that it isn’t easy and benefits don’t cover the rising costs of living. Few people choose to live a life of penury. But what about living wages? Many employers, particularly in the current climate are telling their workers that they must take a pay cut. Furthermore, many employers are keen to pay their workers as little as they possibly can in order to keep down costs (but will pay themselves performance bonuses). No one can survive on the minimum wage.

As for the “intergenerational” part of that phrase, what IDS seems to be saying is that worklessness is cultural; it is deeply entrenched ‘way of life’.  But was this situation created by the State or by claimants? What IDS and his supporters continue to ignore is that the manufacturing industries in which these claimants might have worked were all closed by the Thatcher government along with the mines. We have been told by this government that the numbers of private sector jobs will increase. But how will these jobs be created when the country’s manufacturing base has been destroyed? Not everyone can work in financial services!

IDS also claims that “dramatic amounts” of money [was] being wasted in overpayments. I need to see evidence of this. When I have been unfortunate enough to have to claim dole, I have never once been overpaid any form of benefit nor has anyone else that I know. Yet IDS seems to be saying that this is a frequent occurrence.

What the Tories really want to do is to scrap benefits altogether and force people to go cap-in-hand to charities (who will also face funding cuts). For them, benefits claimants represent a massive drain on the economy. By attacking people on benefits, they have found a people without a voice; without power. Meanwhile Lord Ashcroft, Zac Goldsmith et al can salt away their cash in offshore bank accounts and pay no taxes. Train Operating Companies (TOC’s) can still receive huge government subsidies and continue to offer a third rate service at a premium price. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the biggest recipients of state handouts are private companies; the TOC’s are among them.

This Times article from last year tells us that,

Last year, the eight largest franchises received a total of more than £800 million from the taxpayer. By 2012, they are due not only to receive no subsidy but pay a combined premium to the Government of more than £300million.

While the TOC’s pay the government back some money, they still make profits for their shareholders.  This Guardian article tells how last year the TOC’s were to receive £400m. For companies that are not making enough money, there is a state benefit called Revenue Support that they can claim.

National Express East Anglia, Virgin Trains and Northern Rail also qualified for revenue support last year. National Express East Coast, which agreed to pay the government a record £1.4bn but will relinquish the contract this year after admitting it could not afford it, did not qualify for support until the end of 2011.

The supported franchises could be joined by the remaining major routes over the next two-and-a-half years. Stagecoach’s South West Trains(SWT), which owes the government £1.2bn, will qualify for revenue support from next year if it wins a legal battle with the DfT. By the end of 2011 the list could include: East Midland Trains, also owned by Stagecoach; Arriva’s CrossCountry; Northern Rail; and Southeastern and London Midland, which are both owned by Go-Ahead.

Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper in the long term to nationalize the railways instead? The old private railway companies like the iconic GWR and LNER never received a penny in public money…but they also failed to make profits!

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

No one likes a bully.

Before the General Election the Tories were upset. They were upset because of suggestions made about them by the Labour Party that they were a party of the privileged; all toffs to a man. Labour and others pointed to their front bench and saw a team led by old Etonians and other überprivileged types. Such a scene had not been witnessed since the last MacMillan government of the early 60’s.  The Cons claimed that the spectre of class war had been raised by Labour  and moaned about how ‘unfair’ it was. Bless. Life’s tough when you’re a Tory.

Since the Tories have been in power, they have embarked on a series of measures which reflect the relationship of their class to the working class and those who are unemployed. The claims that Labour was embarking on a class war now ring hollow given the Tories’ fondness for targeting those who do not share the same level of social, economic and political capital as them. Make no mistake, this is a class war and it is being waged on the working class by the upper middle classes. This is Thatcherism without Thatcher – a sort of Thatcherism: The Empire Strike Back, produced by Policy Exchange and the Adam Smith Institute; directed by David Cameron and edited by the Lib Dems, it has been shot entirely in black and white.

This Spectator blog sums up the Tory zeal in pursuing the weak while handing out favours to the rich. The article typically ignores how unemployment comes about and how certain regions of Britain had their industries systematically destroyed by the party’s ideologues in the 1980’s. For them, it is the fault of the poor and, more importantly, the housing that they live in. We can’t all be derivatives traders living in £1,000,000 homes in Surrey,  you know. The blog title is also instructive, “Smashing the welfare ghettoes”. The words ‘smashing’ and ‘ghetto’ suggests two things: the word “smashing” suggests a symbolic will to violence with which the anti-working class policies will be pursued. While the word “ghetto” is conjured to suggest a kind of social housing hell which is allegedly at the ‘root’ of the ‘problem’. Just ask Hammersmith & Fulham’s Stephen Greenhalgh what he thinks of council housing.  He has gone on record as saying that he wants more rich people to move into the borough and he wants those in social housing to move out.

The real answer to the housing problem, and the one that has been misidentified by the Conservatives, is the way social housing has been built: much of it is high density and designed to maximise income without considering the aesthetic needs of the residents. Let’s face it, no one likes ugliness so why subject the working classes to the cruel architecture of blind urban planners? The new brutalism of post-war urban architecture has been replaced by a class-based ideological brutalism to deny and de-skill the working classes. Attack the people and attack the homes that they live in. This is the Big Society.

IDS talks of jobs but what sort of jobs does he have in mind for this reserve army of labour that he plans to attract to the southern shires? For Tories like IDS most people who are unemployed choose it as a way of life. This is a slur: many people have no choice but to be jobless because the opportunities; those jobs for life that their grandparents enjoyed, aren’t there anymore – the Milk Snatcher turned Job Snatcher and stole them all away. For me, it’s a clear indication that the Tories have found an easy scapegoat and are working tirelessly to project at least part of the blame for the country’s economic problems onto them. This is a sign of philosophical bankruptcy. No wonder Ayn Rand has become popular with Tories. It’s all black and white.

IDS proposes that the government would provide incentives for people to move from areas where there is no work to areas where there are ‘jobs’. This all sounds remarkably like the ‘research’ done by Cameron’s favourite think-tank, Policy Exchange, which claimed that people in the North should simply abandon their homes and move to places like Oxford to take up phantom jobs. The thinking here may be described by many Conservatives as ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘independent’ but from where I stand, it looks nonsensical and plumbs the very depths of the worst of bad thinking. I laughed when Policy Exchange came out with this,  little did I know that it would find its way into government discourse. What other wacky ideas have these guys got?

So, if we were to take Policy Exchange’s proposals to their logical conclusion, there are questions that need to be answered: what will happen to those parts of the country that have been abandoned? Will they be placed under martial law or razed to the ground? Or will they be converted into massive theme parks that remind people of  ‘the way we used to live’, complete with cap-tipping, clog-wearing, pigeon-fancying Northern types who keep whippets and bash people over the head with black puddings? Who says there isn’t a north/south divide?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no one likes a bully.

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The Quiet Man is back and he’s talking a lot of rubbish

Iain Duncan-Smith has forever saddled himself with the soubriquet, “Quiet Man”. How he must rue the day he uttered those words. David Cameron has recycled all the former failed leaders of the Tory party from 1997 to 2007 with the exception of Michael Howard, who retired and is presumably now waiting to be ‘kicked upstairs’…but his chance will come, of this I am certain.

Tories have always been out of touch with what is happening in the world outside the Westminster ‘bubble’ and the shires.  None of the Tory MPs have ever been unemployed, most of them have worked for the City or in financial houses. Some of them have never had to work: living off inheritances or daddy’s generous allowance. Therefore the ignominy of the dole queue has eluded them.  But every now and again, Tory politicians pretend they know how the unemployed feel when they live on benefits for a week. A week is never long enough to form a judgement on the situation many unemployed find themselves in.

For too long, those on benefits have been a soft target for politicians wanting to make their mark. IDS, now newly installed as the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, has never been unemployed; he doesn’t know anyone who is unemployed and can only regard them from the safe distance of his ivory tower. Now he’s talking about welfare to work and forcing invalids and the long-term sick into work. This is odd for someone who claims to be a Christian but then the director of his think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (yes, I still find that name hard to swallow), Philippa Stroud is a self-confessed Christian who claims that she can ‘cure’ gays and lesbians by “driving out their demons” (sic). Stroud got a the consolation prize of being named as IDS’s special advisor for losing in her bid to take a seat from the Lib Dems in Sutton and Cheam.

So what has IDS and his team of hatchet men got in store for benefit claimants? Will he make them work in chain gangs? Or will he get Philippa Stroud to exorcise their ‘demons’? How can he create jobs in regions that are virtual work deserts? You can’t make people take jobs that don’t exist, or maybe that’s where Stroud comes in…maybe she can conjure up a few thousand jobs by just praying for them.

I wonder if The Quiet Man is prepared to accept the fact that the biggest recipients of state handouts are private interests like major corporations? Probably not because they’re all batting for the same side. It’s much easier to engage in class war against those who have nothing than against those who supply your party with funds.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Society & culture, Welfare 'reform'