Tag Archives: public spending cuts

Let’s Talk About: Economic Growth

Images like this mean nothing to Dan Hannan. who prefers to deal with fictional characters than real people and their complicated lives.

Economic growth or just ‘growth’ is the holy grail of career politicians, neoliberal economists and their hangers on in the media. We’re often told how important it is to have ‘growth’ in our economy and it is only then that everyone will see the benefit. The trouble with this notion is that those who continually spout this rubbish aren’t the ones who need to worry. They’re already comfortable. The ones for whom these pronouncements mean little, if nothing at all, are the poor and the low waged. They continue to see their income squeezed, while the cost of living continues to rise. But the media and the government will have none of it.

A few weeks ago, the BBC’s economic editor, Robert Peston, was crowing over low oil prices. He told the nation’s viewers that “everyone” would now feel “richer” because of the continued fall in petrol prices. This is not only misleading; it’s also dishonest. The only people who can feel “richer”, by definition, are the rich themselves. If you are poor, you cannot be “rich”, it’s an absurdity. Yet this does not stop the likes of Daniel Hannan repeating this meaningless tosh. In Thursday’s blog for CapX, he repeated Peston’s bogus claim that “The rich are getting richer and the poor are… getting richer”. This is a measure of how out-of-touch our media and politicians are in relation to the people they purport to serve. We can also draw the conclusion that the mainstream media, the Westminster politicians and economic cults like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs are in a cosy conspiratorial relationship with one another. The relationship between these institutions and ordinary people themselves is one of power. They consider themselves to be the voices of authority and we must listen and obey… or so they think. So when they tell us that “things are getting better” we are expected to believe them. But I no more believe them than I believe in the existence of God, the tooth fairy or Father Christmas. I see no improvement and neither do millions of other people.

The problem with those who constantly talk about ‘growth’ is that they can only speak the language of statistics and mathematics, and can only view the world through the lens of their social status. They are incapable of relating their nutty ideas about economics to the average person because what they’re saying bears no relation to everyday life. Trickle down, for example, is one economic fallacy that is repeated ad infinitum by economic cultists and held up as a model for ‘growth’ and economic well-being. But not even right-wingers like George HW Bush believed it and derided trickle down as “voodoo economics”. Yet the Hannans and Osbornes of this world cleave so tightly to it like men at sea clinging to any bit of flotsam that comes their way.

A couple of months ago, the Labour leadership claimed that if the Tories were re-elected, they would take public spending back to the levels of the 1930s. This was enough to get all manner of right-wing economic cultists into a lather. Hannan was one of those. In this blog, he does his best to claim how the 1930s was a “time of growth”. It’s a risible misrepresentation of a decade that’s become synonymous with economic hardship.

Well, here’s a fact that may surprise you. The 1930s saw more economic growth than any other decade in British history. It’s true that there were patches of deprivation. As in all times of economic transition, some industries declined while others rose. The poverty of the Jarrow Marchers was genuine: theirs had been a ship-building town, devastated by the collapse of international orders.

Sophistry, damned sophistry. For the millions of working class people who struggled to survive the decade, this is an insult to their memory. My mum’s family was Liverpool working class and I can remember her telling me what life was like in the Thirties: if you were poor or low-waged, you had no access to affordable or decent healthcare, because there was no National Health Service (the Tories will abolish it if they are re-elected). There was very little work on Merseyside in the 1930s, so people lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

Hannan continues his fantasy tour of his romanticized past:

Yet these were golden years for new industries such as electrical appliances and aviation and cars, the years when Morris, Humber and Austin became household names. The 1930s also saw an unprecedented boom in construction, as the comfortable suburbs of Betjeman’s Metroland spread across England. The Battersea Power Station raised its minarets over the capital, a symbol of self-confidence in architecture.

Here, Hannan waxes floridly about a world that only those with the economic means could take part. The appliances and cars that he talks about were beyond the means of my family and many others. No working class people owned cars, let alone possessed household appliances. My grandmother was still using a boiler and a mangle well into the 1970s. As for Metroland, the houses that were built there were for sale. Only those with nice, middle class incomes could afford a mortgage.

Here, Hannan slaps more gloss onto his fantasy.

 Britain responded to the 1929 crash by cutting spending drastically and, in consequence, soon saw a return to growth. The United States, by contrast, expanded government activity unprecedentedly under the New Deal, and so prolonged the recession by seven years. Yes, seven years. Here is the conclusion of a major study published in 2004 by two economists at the UCLA, Harold L Cole and Lee A Ohanian:

Cole and Ohanian are comprehensively defenestrated in this blog. Hannan isn’t interested in reality and like all right-wingers of his ilk, he exists in the hermetically-sealed space of privilege. The material of history is bent and twisted to shrink-fit a weak narrative. Like many of his fellow Tea Partiers, he makes the same feeble argument for cuts.

Contrasting the American and British experiences, we are left with an inescapable conclusion. Cuts work, and trying to spend your way out of recession doesn’t.

Let’s put it this way, if a company doesn’t borrow or spend money to invest when it is doing badly, it will go under. Cuts only work for the already wealthy. They are also a means by which the powerful punish the poor for being poor. Hannan makes clear his hatred of FDR and the New Deal. This is the same position held by the economic cultists at the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as his fellow Randists.

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy of all:

Still, if only for the record, let me set down the real lesson of the 1930. The best way to recover from a crash, not least for low earners, is to bring spending back under control. Growth follows, jobs are created, and the people taking those jobs thereby gain the most secure route out of poverty.

It’s easy for those who have never personally experienced poverty to claim that “the most secure route out of  poverty” is work. Low-paid and zero hours contract jobs actually lock people into poverty. Hannan is not only a fool, he’s a dangerous fool. Leaving people to fend for themselves without a safety net will lead to greater social problems. Hannan is unmoved by such concerns. Yet he would be the first to complain that shanty towns are an “eyesore”. This is the man who calls himself a “Whig”.

Talking about economic growth when people are struggling to survive is deeply offensive. Talking about GDP is meaningless because not only is it a poor way of measuring economic performance, it means nothing to ordinary people. For all his claims of how cutting public spending will improve economic performance, Hannan has never had to suffer the privations of working in a low-paid job. Like all of his pals in Westminster and beyond, he is a bully, who talks a good talk but when his words are unpacked, they reveal the true horrors of the current political system.

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Filed under 20th century, Conservative Party, Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, Government & politics, Growth, History, History & Memory, laissez faire capitalism, Let's Talk About, Media, Neoliberalism, propaganda, Spiv capitalism, Tory press

Nightmare on King Street (Part 3)

I never thought that I’d reach Part 3 in this series so quickly. After Hammersmith & Fulham Tories voted through cuts worth £60 million on Tuesday, I found this propaganda video that has been produced by the Council (hat tip Political Scrapbook).  Warning: this is self-congratulation at its worst.

Residents first, my arse.

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My Coalition verdict: What a shower

The title of this blog is borrowed from a series of similar blog titles in yesterday’s  Torygraph.  As you’d expect, all of them heap praise on their Tory brethren and pour scorn on their Lib Dem coalition partners. None of them claim that the coalition is a “shower”, though clearly many of them wish the Tories had an unassailable majority. But we don’t always get what we want in life, do we? The coalition has been in place for one year and in that year, it has waged war on the poor, the unemployed, the low-waged, the disabled, students and anyone who does not fit into their vision of the perfect society. In fact the word “society” has been absent from their minds as they pursue an ideologically-driven agenda of cuts.

The way in which the coalition parties have used the excuse of the structural deficit to push through cuts has been dishonest. In fact, this coalition government finds it difficult to be consistent. First, it talks about the national debt, then it talks about budget and structural deficits and tries to erroneously compare these things – as Thatcher did – with household finances. They tell us that “Britain’s credit card is maxed out” . Rubbish. The country doesn’t have a “credit card” and it can still raise money on the international bond markets. In spite of what the Con-Dem government and their allies tell us, Britain is far from being broke. There is money in this country but it’s all concentrated in the hands of a small number of people.

The sad truth is that the vast majority of the public haven’t got a clue when it comes to deficits and debts and the government use this ignorance to their advantage. This dishonesty is reproduced by the Telegraph’s bloggers, who are all keen to impress upon us the need to accept reductions in public spending, which the government tries to present as either ‘localism’ or ’empowerment’.

If they want to talk about household finances, perhaps they could start dealing with stagnating wages and the ever-rising cost of living. Britain’s household debt is higher than it’s ever been, yet the government seems quite happy for this situation to continue. At the beginning of this year, the rate of VAT was increased from 17.5% to 20%, which has meant that many things have increased in price – including food which, although free of VAT, is subject to VAT through production and distribution costs.

Education has been area where the Tories have sought to make their mark.  While paying lip service to the idea of education for all, they’ve been pushing forward their divisive idea for free schools. Free schools, in spite of what their supporters and this government tells us, sucks funding away from existing schools.  In Further and Higher Education, they’ve caused the biggest stink by scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance and imposing swingeing cuts on universities, which has prompted many universities to raise their tuition fees to the higher level of £9,000 per annum. The curriculum is also about to be colonized by ideology.  The subject of history is going to be rewritten to serve the narrow interests of the state. The revisionist historian, Niall Ferguson has been asked to devise a new history syllabus that will focus on such things as the greatness of empire. In many of the post-1992 universities, arts, humanities and social science courses are being cut because they are seen to be ‘soft’. However the real reason for cutting social sciences and humanities courses is because they teach critical thinking. Say hello to “by-rote” learning.

The Tories have also been keen to misrepresent social housing in their efforts to claim that

  1. All social tenants are  ‘scroungers’
  2. Council housing is a drain on the nation’s finances
  3.  Social housing is “state” housing and
  4. It’s a form of welfare.

Their flagship councils, who have been emboldened by having their party in government, have each made attacks on council tenants.  Westminster City Council wants to raise tenants’ rents if their incomes increase. Hammersmith and Fulham Council have threatened West Kensington and the Gibbs Green estates with bulldozers as part of their ‘redevelopment’ plans for the area around the Earl’s Court complex. The Queen Caroline Estate in the Broadway ward has also been targeted. The word that is often used in conjunction with these plans is “vulnerable”. These two councils claim, as the government does, that social housing should be for the “most vulnerable”. So who qualifies as “vulnerable” and what happens to those people once they have ceased to be “vulnerable”? Will they be evicted after a couple of years?

Let’s look at another of the more common misrepresentations.  Early in their administration, the Tories claimed that there were millions lost through “widespread benefit overpayments”. It turned out that the numbers had been vastly inflated and the amount of money was only dwarfed by the amount lost to the exchequer through tax evasion and avoidance. While those of us on lower incomes have no choice but to pay tax, those people who earn the most find ways to wriggle out of paying it.

It’s time for a look at some of those Telegraph blogs. Here’s one from the Great Lord of Darkness that’s titled  “My Coalition verdict: Iain Duncan Smith scores high, Vince Cable scores low”

The once respected Vince Cable, now an object of derision, scores zero, while Ed Miliband gets 2 out of 10 and must work harder.

There’s only one problem: Miliband isn’t in the coalition, so why mention him?

Ed West also has a pop at Cable.

Biggest loser: Either of the two leading rattle-throwers, Vince Cable and Chris Huhne, who are going to destroy their party because they overestimate the size of their political constituency. “Progressives” comprise a fairly small portion of the British public, and even within the Left are outnumbered by Blue Labour social conservatives and Jack Straw-style authoritarians. They could probably all fit inside Chris Huhne’s living rooms.

Super-Catholic, Cristina Odone can’t resist the sitting duck either.

Biggest Loser: Vince Cable. Energy Minister Chris Huhne may resign from government, but no one really liked him much in the first place. Vince, instead, was the nation’s darling for his purported knowledge of the economy (his book The Storm was a best seller), charmingly romantic Desert Island disc performance, and his fancy footwork on Strictly Come Dancing. Then he  blew it, boasting about his importance to the Coalition. He now looks like a foolish, self-important old man who seems as out of touch with his colleagues as with the public that once cherished him. Sad.

I won’t bother quoting the rest because they all plough the same dull furrow.

The coalition started badly. In the space of 15 days it suffered its first ministerial scandal and resignation when crypto-Tory, David Laws was forced to hand his portfolio to the equally worthless, Danny Alexander.  Today, Laws has been suspended from the Commons for breaching parliamentary rules. He won’t be returning to government any time soon.

The Telegraph says,

He is expected to be ordered to apologise to Parliament and pay back tens of thousands of pounds after an investigation that resulted from a Daily Telegraph report last year.

It is the most serious punishment imposed on any parliamentarian by fellow MPs following the expenses scandal and is likely to block any return to government for Mr Laws.

The Prime Minister had hoped that Mr Laws, who was popular among Conservatives as well as Liberal Democrats, would return to the cabinet soon, but this has now been ruled out.

Ironically it was the Telegraph that broke the Laws expenses story. For someone with a great deal of personal wealth, why did he feel the need to cheat the taxpayer out of over £40,000? One word: arrogance.

It’s hard to see how this coalition can last another 4 years when the Conservatives are trying to find ways to divorce their partners. The Tories’ allies,  the bloggers and commentators at the Torygraph,  spend a great deal of time sticking pins into their Lib Dem voodoo dolls. With these kinds of tensions, it is only a matter of time before the coalition collapses and in the aftermath of the Lib Dems drubbing in the English local elections and their obliteration in Scotland, this can’t come soon enough.

Paddy Power is offering the following odds on the year of the next general election:

2011                  7/2

2012                  5/2

2013                   10/3

2014                   5/1

2015 or later  6/4

Those look like pretty good odds.  I’m almost tempted to have a punt.

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

We need some of this here

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

Yesterday,  David Cameron said

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

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

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

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

Foreign Secretary, Fizzy Willy Hague chipped in with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is 2011, not 1981.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postcards from the Barricades (Part 7)

Pink stormtrooper has a chat with a protester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police line across Bridge Street

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

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

Protesters on top of container.

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

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

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

RIP Education

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

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

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

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Postcards From the Barricades (Part 3): a look at what the Tory press is saying

Since the national student demo in London on Wednesday, the Tory press has waged a campaign of smears and disinformation.  The issue revolves around the use of the word “violence” and what it means. The BBC have led the way in insisting that there were “violent scenes” at Millbank Tower. Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman and Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine have all tried to claim that the intention of the students was to act in a violent manner.  Paxman’s questioning of Claire Solomon, who seems to have been identified as a sort of ‘ringleader’, took the line of a CPS prosecutor and thus was the interrogatory voice of the state. The attitude of the BBC’s anchors and reporters has been consistent with that of a state broadcaster – yet the bods at the Telegraph still have the gall to claim that the BBC  is “biased” towards  Tories, Europhobes and other right wing lunatics (remember the run up to the Iraq invasion or the Battle of Orgreave Colliery?).

The entire Tory press without exception has made the claim that the protest was violent and was hijacked by ‘outsiders’. Writing in the Telegraph, The Great Lord of Darkness said,

No doubt our Chinese friends had a pretty good laugh at the TV news showing our happy students in democratic Britain express their delight at their lot by trashing buildings and assaulting the police,

Here is the lie that students “assaulted” the police.  I was there, I saw no student assault a policeman/woman. I would demand evidence from Tebbitt but I know that it will not be forthcoming. Here we also have a clue into their thinking: property is more important that people or their needs. The police’s primary role in our capitalist society is to protect property from the masses.

Benedict Brogan, blogging for the same paper repeated the line about “violence”,

Westminster and the police have been caught on the hop by the size and violence of the demonstration currently battering the glass walls of Millbank tower, or specifically 30 Millbank, the lowrise part of the complex where CCHQ is based.

He continues,

Objects are being thrown, and there appears to be a separate confrontation going on inside the lobby. Heads are being cracked, and some of the more excitable demonstrators seem eager to take on the cops. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. Aaron Porter, the leader of the NUS, was on the telly last week using fairly extreme language to warn that students would hound MPs in their constituencies.

Hang on, no heads were cracked. Furthermore, Aaron Porter made some pusillanimous statement about “condemning the actions of a small minority”. I guess our Benny didn’t see that. The truth sort of gets in the way of a good horror story. Brogan uses the occasion of the demonstrations to make a cheap swipe at the opposition,

the NUS and Labour have formed such a tight alliance on the issue: this protest is in effect a Labour protest, and however the NUS and Labour try to disown the riot, it is their show – it wouldn’t have happened without them.

Let me get this straight, this was a “Labour protest”? I saw no one from the Labour Party (though it is possible that some students had voted Labour) on the march yet Brogan has made the suggestion Labour being behind the demonstration and, by extension, the ‘violence’. His last paragraph is very telling and reveals the lies that the right wing press resort to,

UPDATE @10.15pm: Labour chums have chided me for being unfair and tendentious when I suggest that the riot was the NUS and Labour’s show. Of course I don’t mean that they orchestrated it or even willed it. But Labour has lined itself against this reform, it supported the march, Harriet Harman made a big number out of taunting Nick Clegg about tuition fees at PMQs, and the NUS is a Labour subsidiary and forcing house for Labour politicians. So when what was supposed to be a Labour supported demo designed to put political pressure on the Coalition ends up with the mess at Millbank, I reckon it’s fair to say that this is an awkward moment for Labour.

Again, he has no evidence to claim that this was a “Labour supported demo”, so he lies.

This blogger calls herself “CyberBoris”...guess who she supports? She chides those horrid lefty students and suggests to them that they  should have adopted Gandhi’s tactics,

Twitter is awash with students foaming at the mouth, in their illogical and ill-judged attempts to insist that peaceful protest does not work.  “Can anyone” squeaked @noldorstu “name a peaceful protest that achieved something?”  “Yes!” I tweeted back enthusiastically.  “Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March and his policy of peaceful protest that changed the history of India!”  I didn’t even go to uni, so possibly David Cameron might consider raising tuition fees to £18K.  These students are clearly ill informed and any investment in such a volatile risk is money down the pan!

Er, wait a minute, someone hasn’t actually read their history here and has plucked out a single event (probably from Dickie Attenborough’s film, Gandhi). Besides, peaceful protesters usually end up dead. She’s completely ignored the fact that Gandhi was assassinated (or that he was a raving anti-Semite). Here is my first comment,

Yes, the whole of India was transformed by partition and the violence that ensued in the aftermath. Nice bit of propaganda there. Of course, you wouldn’t find it ironic that ex-Bullingdon Club members condemn a group of students who smashed a couple of windows.

And hers,

The truth is not propoganda. It was the peaceful protest that made the difference, the violence was something else.

This argument about the Bullingdon Club is absolutely pathetic. There was no violence even remotely resembling the violence yesterday. They all just got pissed and chucked a few flower pots. You are utterly ridiculous to bring this up.

Even when they are confronted with the truth, they lie. The Bullingdon Club’s antics are legendary and have even been the subject of a Channel 4 film written by the Honourable Tobes. What I find so amusing about her reply is the way she says “The truth is not propoganda”.  She quite clearly understands neither. She refuses to acknowledge the antics of the Bullingdon Club nor does she want to do her own work.

Just not any good to produce unsubstantiated accusations against the Bullingdon Club. Where is your evidence that what they did was any more serious than a few smashed glasses, the odd window and some flower pots, caused by heavy drinking? “Accounts are legion?” That’s not evidence. Produce some evidence or withdraw your daft statement.

Pathetic. This is a classic example of Tory denial that goes well with their sense of entitlement.

Back to the Torygraph, Today’s edition says that a “Lawyer’s son was behind the student protests”. Fuck’s sake, what is it with these right wingers? The article says that,

History student Karl Sielman-Parry, who uses the alias “WorkersDreadnought”, said a “workers and students’ bloc” should band together rather than go along with the official National Union of Students’ march.

He distributed a leaflet stamped with the anarchist “A” symbol calling for “Direct Action!, Occupation!, Strike”.

I wonder where they get this information from? Well, it turns out that the Telegraph and the other Tory papers have been trawling Britain’s student population for snitches. This article tries to tell us that students aren’t in charge of their own thoughts and actions and have to rely on a group of outsiders to stir up trouble,

The Radical Workers’ and Students’ Bloc, identified by red and black flags flown from the roof of Millbank Tower, was organised by the Anarchist Federation, along with the London Solidarity Federation. The Leeds Class War group and the Whitechapel Anarchist Group also confirmed yesterday that they were involved in the trouble

The suggestion here is that students aren’t anarchists and anarchists aren’t students.

The right wing press have also tried to claim that lecturers from Goldmiths College condoned and supported violent behaviour. The Torygraph again,

But the lecturers from Goldsmiths made no reference to the injuries suffered by police and some students as they gave the protest a glowing report.

“Yesterday was a really good natured but equally angry demonstration against the damage that the coalition is doing to higher education,” their statement said.

“Yes, that got out of hand, but yes, it also got media attention across the world.”

With reportage like this,  you can understand why Andrew Gilligan writes for The Telegraph.

This Daily Mail article tells us that the student demonstrators were all privileged. They even have a ‘story’ from Tory Party chair, Saveeda Warsi who tells us,

What I find truly baffling is the number of Labour MPs who used Twitter to support those protesters committing criminal damage and endangering lives. Former Labour leadership candidate John McDonnell MP tweeted: ‘Just shows what can be done when people get angry. We must build on this.’ And Labour MP Alex Cunningham wrote: ‘Well done our students – thousands outside the office getting stuck into the Lib Dem/Tory government over tuition fees.’

Warsi repeats the lie that Labour were behind the occupation of Millbank Tower. Ah, nothing like a bit of black propaganda. She adds,

There is nothing fair about attacking innocent people or property. Political violence must never prevail over rational debate. So it’s high time we restored reason to the debate on student finance and fairness.

So it’s all about “property”? Who are these “innocent people” of whom she speaks? Her staff?

Over at The Spectator, Rod Liddle couldn’t resist making up a couple of porkies,

If you fancy a laugh, and have the time to spare, check out the websitefor REVOLUTION, aka Permanent Revolution, the Trot group some of whose members smashed up Conservative Central Office this week.

First, it’s anarchists who smashed the windows, now it’s a “Trot group”. Can’t these liars make up their minds? Evidently not.

Another national demonstration is being planned. I expect the police to be better prepared and I also expect more smears, lies and yellow journalism.


Filed under Big Society, Education, Government & politics

The Spending Review: a glimpse of an alien world

I’ve just had a quick trawl of today’s blogs over at the Torygraph and the response to the spending review is, for the most part, unsurprising. The Great Lord of Darkness says,

I have taken a little time before commenting on yesterday’s statement by the Chancellor. It is all to easy to become fixated on one aspect or another of his plan to get us out of the ruinous situation created by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and their friends.

“Their friends” happen to be the same people who are friends with the Tory party: the bankers and Ye Wizards of ye Cittie of London. But The Chingford Skinhead refuses to lie down.

Setting aside for a moment the question of fairness, what we can all see is that it has not been, for example, defence spending which has been responsible for the explosion of spending over the lifetime of the Labour Government.

Crumbs! It’s that word again!  Since when did Tebbit ever do ‘fair’? So tell us O Great Lord of Darkness what is responsible for the awful mess we’re in?

It has been welfare, the NHS and education. The first two are the real big spenders. The schools budget costs less than debt interest. Defence costs less than schools. For some good, and some less good, reasons the Government was committed to increase spending on the NHS. That made it inevitable that welfare spending would be squeezed, with its growth being curtailed.

Hey, I know, maybe we could get the military to run the schools or just privatize education like they’ve done in Chile. Oh hang on, they’re already doing that with ‘free schools’.

David Hughes, their chief leader writer had his sights on the RMT’s Bob Crow. In a blog titled “Comrade Crow orders his call to arms but who is listening’? He says,

The RMT boss was trying to whip up the brothers into a frenzy – or at least into a glimmer of interest – by extolling the example of their comrades in arms in France.

Scary huh? But it gets better,

There’s just one problem for Comrade Bob – he’s whistling in the wind. We don’t do mob activity, we do stoicism verging on apathy.

Is that so? What about The Poll Tax Riots? Maybe Britain has changed, Mr Hughes and you’re still living in 1957 when “we never had it so good”.

New boy, Daniel Knowles who has “just graduated in history and economics from Pembroke College, Oxford” (yeah, I’m really impressed) declares that “The Left got what it wanted – they just haven’t realised it yet”. He opens with a dig at the anti-cuts demo last night at Downing Street that attracted around 1,000 demonstrators,

It could almost have been a parody of current Leftist thinking. “Stuff your cuts, we will pay (much higher taxes for decades)” would be a coherent protest. “We won’t pay” makes no sense – government money is taxpayer’s money, so someone has to pay one way or another. The Government looks strong at the moment because of that Leftist confusion. It even has a name – “Deficit Denial”. But perhaps the Coalition should be worried. In the longer run, they may be losing the argument.

The “Deficit Denial” tag is supposed to be some kind of discourse killer by the way. It’s a little like labelling someone a Holocaust denier for donating money to a Palestinian relief fund. It’s easy. It’s lazy. He finishes with this,

This Government has ambitions in that direction – higher university tuition fees, the “free schools” plan and more freedom for local government are all very welcome innovations – but it could be doing an awful lot more, not least with the NHS. At the moment, the Left is disorientated; all they know is that they don’t want cuts. Given time, however, they will regain some composure. If, by then, all austerity has achieved is less effective public services, the Left will probably win the argument, and soon enough we will find ourselves back in ruinous debt.

So young and yet so predictable. You give those Reds what for, yah? Meanwhile Jeremy Warner puts the boot into the Institute for Fiscal Studies report that the spending review will hit the poor and vulnerable the hardest,

To be honest, I’m not sure where all this analysis takes us. One of the Government’s primary aims is to reduce welfare dependency. The benefit cuts are therefore not just about saving money. Now as the IFS argues, some of the reforms announced yesterday further complicate the benefits system, and may perversely further disincentivise work, but overall it must be the case that if you want to reduce the attractions of welfare as a lifestyle choice, you have to cut benefit.

There’s the old canard of “welfare as a lifestyle choice”. I wondered when someone would mention it. I can’t think of one single reason why anyone would willingly choose to live a life on benefits. There are those who are long-term unemployed but have they all necessarily made a “lifestyle choice” to spend their lives on the dole”?

Going for the royal angle, Andrew M Brown tells us  that,

it should not surprise us that the Queen has readily gone along with the plan. Only a week ago she indicated her wish to show restraint in this age of austerity by cancelling the Royal Household’s Christmas party.

Ah, good old Betty, I knew she’d come good! She remembers the Blitz!  He continues,

Partly, the Royal Family wants to show patriotic solidarity with a suffering nation. More than that, though, Queen Elizabeth belongs to a class and a generation to whom frugality comes, if not naturally, then quite easily – and without a squeak of complaint. She represents the old-fashioned upper class, the ones who remember the second world war.

Gawd bless ’em! We really are all in this together!  But you know what?  I’ve never come across a single royal who wasn’t patriotic, it sort of goes with the territory so to speak. But all that belt-tightening means it’s caviare on weekends only from now on.

My old prep school headmaster conformed to this model. He drove an old Peugeot 504 estate, the one that had three rows of seats, and was instinctively parsimonious

Oh, do shut up.

Finally, away from the cuts. Ed West, who can always be relied on for a laugh, bemoaned a blog by Laurie Penny in the New Statesman. In “The glee with which people talk about Thatcher’s death reminds me of the inherent nastiness of socialism” he says,

Even in wartime respect for the dead is considered one of the last vestiges of common humanity when all around decency collapses (near where my parents live in Kent there are the graves of three German airmen who were respectfully given a Christian burial in 1940 by the people they were trying to kill), and yet there are thousands who openly gloat about the failing health of an elderly woman.

She’s not just any elderly woman, Ed,

Mrs Thatcher is a Conservative, therefore she is evil.

Well, that’s a somewhat simplistic analysis but you Tories like things pretty simple, so I’ll just say this: she set in train the neoliberal course of this country that created a climate that fostered and nurtured a culture of greed which ultimately led to the financial crisis and the recession that followed. Sorry, that’s about as simple as I could get.

Which reminds me, when Thatcher finally pops her clogs, I’m going on a week long bender. I may even try and organize a street party somewhere.


After cherry-picking the IFS’s finding before the election, Nick Clegg has today chosen to attack their report on the Spending Review and this time it’s personal,

Clegg said the work by the IFS took no proper account of public spending inputs, or the potential for some spending, such as the pupil premium, to improve social mobility.

I’d say that the coalition government has taken no proper account of the effect this review will have on the poor, the unemployed, children, the vulnerable and the low-waged.

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Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Media

Fairness? I don’t see that in the Spending Review

I remember reading something on a pro-free market website a few years ago where a neoliberal apologist  claimed that “capitalism is a moral system” and that it was “the greatest system ever invented”. I am not quite sure what he meant by the word “moral” nor am I certain if capitalism is the “greatest system ever invented”. In terms of its apparent ‘morals’, this is something of a chimera: morality is subjective: the legendary libertinous activities of the Marquis de Sade, for example, would be described as immoral, possibly amoral by many. That would be a majoritarian position. Others would describe de Sade as an extreme libertarian; a libertine in every sense of the word. They may argue that de Sade had his own morality but it was not a morality that any of us would understand but it was a morality nonetheless.

Today the Hon Gid announced the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review. There were no surprises: we knew that the Tory-led coalition was going to punish the poor. We also knew that they had laid, at least partial blame for the recession (and by extension the banking crisis that led to the recession), at the door of those on benefits, who have all been tacitly accused of ‘dragging the country down’. The Guardian said this,

To gasps from the Labour benches, the chancellor announced “tough but fair” reforms that will lead to extra changes for housing benefit and on the rules for the mobility and care arrangements for disability living allowance.

There’s that word “fair” again; this time tied to the word “tough”. Changes to Housing Benefit will result in more homelessness. Many families will not be able to afford to live in places like London and will be forced to leave their communities behind.  Yesterday the the media announced that the government was going to end “council house tenancies for life”. What I’ve read so far doesn’t suggest that this is going to happen…yet…they’re just going to make more difficult to afford. However, because of the 60% cut in the social housing budget,

…new tenants will be offered intermediate rents at around 80% of the market rent. The age at which people are allowed to claim housing benefit for a flat, rather than only a room in a shared house, will rise from 25 to 35, “so that housing benefit rules reflect the housing expectations of people of a similar age not on benefits”, said Osborne

So that’s more people out on the street then? Who is going to be able to afford 80% of a market rent in a place like the Tories’ model Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham? This article from Inside Housing tells us that social landlords will be able to increase their rents in line with local market rents,

The CSR document is less explicit, stating: ‘Social landlords will be able to offer a growing proportion of new social tenants new intermediate rental contracts that are more flexible, at rent levels between current market and social rents.’

It adds: ‘The government wants to make social housing more responsive, flexible and fair so that more people can access social housing in ways that better reflect their needs.’

This means that a social landlord like Peabody (they dropped the word “Trust” from their name some time ago to reflect their new neoliberal direction) will now be able to force out tenants in the more well-heeled boroughs -like Hammersmith & Fulham –  by increasing their rents. This is ironic given that the Peabody Trust was originally created to house London’s poor.

Also announced was the predicted loss of 500,000 public sector jobs. Hon Gid and the Hole-in-the Wall Gang tell us that jobs will be created in the private sector but where will these jobs actually come from?

The Marquis de Sade lent his name to the practice of sadism and is with a sadistic pleasure that this government has announced these swingeing cuts. We have been told on an almost daily basis that ‘”we are all in this together” but it is clear from what has been announced that rich are not standing shoulder to shoulder in a Spirit-of-the-Blitz fashion. The neoliberalism that began in Pinochet’s Chile was imported to Britain in the 1980’s by Margaret Thatcher. Privatizations, cuts and a reduction in the size of the state (its repressive apparatuses were left intact, of course) were all part of the drive for ‘greater efficiency’. Under this new regime, working class Chileans suffered terribly and the anti-working class policies of the Pinochet regime continue to this day. The Latin American Herald Tribune says that today, 80,000 public sector employees went on a one day strike,

President Sebastian Piñera’s right-wing government has dismissed more than 2,500 public sector workers since taking office in March, Raul de la Puente said.

The ANEF protest enjoys support from Chile’s biggest labor organization, the CUT, as well as from teachers and associations representing high school and college students.

Contrary to what the government says, the layoffs have affected not just positions traditionally filled by political appointees, but people at all levels, including “clerks, messengers, drivers, technicians and professionals,” De la Puente said.

Sebastian Piñera visited Britain this week to take tea with Lord Snooty. He brought with him a few lumps of rock from the San Jose mine as gifts. He was also here to give a speech to the London School of Economics on “The Chilean Way of Development”.

There is no question that this government is using the budget deficit as an excuse to further socially engineer Britain. The sadism of its anti-working class policies are designed to destroy communities and associations under the guise of fiscal prudence.


I remember who said “capitalism is a moral system”. It was Ayn Rand. In fact, she said it was “the only moral system”.  She also took a lot of amphetamines.

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In the Tory mind, poverty is an abstraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there’s,

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

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

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

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

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

Blame it on the quangos!

We all know that the  government wants to cut public spending by abolishing some quangos, even though the Honourable Gid created a quango within his first days of office to oversee the activities of other quangos.  Today, Mad Dan asks his readers which quangos would they like to see abolished. He proposes the following: National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the Health and Safety Executive, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Standards Board.

Ah yes, we all know why Tories want to abolish the Equality and Human Rights Commission and it has nothing whatsoever to do with public spending cuts. For a party that likes to portray itself as the ‘defenders of freedom’ they spend a lot of time trying to find ways to make people less free. As for equality, I’ll let you decide how committed the Tories are to that.

Interestingly enough, the Health and Safety Executive is also suggested. Why? Because Mad Dan and his pals all believe that this country is bound up in ‘red tape’ caused by concerns for ‘health and safety’. But it isn’t actually Heath and Safety that is to blame; it is the concern with litigation that drives people to become over-concerned with even the smallest risks. As a consequence we are fast becoming a risk-averse society because of the fear of being sued in a court of law for negligence.

Perhaps we should be thinking of repealing the Health & Safety at Work Act too? Remove safety protection from the workers and let them maim and kill themselves by operating faulty equipment in dangerous situations. That’s really clever. We cannot expect companies to regulate themselves vis a vis their workerssafety; they are more concerned with making profits and safety gets in the way of making profits.

Some quangos do important jobs but such is the Tory zeal for slashing and burning that they would even cut the noses off their faces if they thought it would save them money.

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