Tag Archives: Toby Young

The Undignifed Response To The Grenfell Tower Fire From Britain’s Right

The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in Notting Dale last week in which scores, possibly hundreds, of people died, has prompted rather peculiar knee jerk reactions from Britain’s right-wing commentators and their followers. The most popular complaint among them is “the left has politicized this tragedy”. This is an interesting accusation, given the fact housing is a political issue, and for the fact the claim reveals a general ignorance of the word ‘politic(s)’. But the accusation is also indicative of a state of mind that blinds a person to empathy, compassion, sympathy and all the things that make us human; the very things that separate us from the machines. We do not ‘process’ feelings; we reflect, we meditate and we think about them; perhaps we act on them individually and collectively. That’s politics. Individual organs within our bodies (it’s not a ‘wonderful’ machine) may process nutrients but as organisms, we are more than the sum total of our physical processes. A point missed by those, like the Ayn Rand cultists, who would convince us that we are nothing more than robots made of flesh.

Catherine Itzin (1980), in her excellent book about British political theatre, Stages In The Revolution, argued “Everything is political; all life is political”. Second wave feminists always said “The personal is political”. We should also remind ourselves that word ‘politics’ is derived from ‘polis’ the Ancient Greek word for city; a place with a high concentration of citizens . In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used the word politikos to describe the ‘affairs of the citizens’. In this form it can mean anything from an individual’s preferences and judgements, or the discourses that groups of people create or circulate among themselves.  Politics is not limited to the practices of professional politicians and their associates in the press.

Merriam Webster offers these definitions of the word ‘politics’.

  1. 1a :  the art or science of government b :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

  2. 2:  political actions, practices, or policies

  3. 3a :  political affairs or business; especially :  competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)b :  political life especially as a principal activity or profession c :  political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices

  4. 4:  the political opinions or sympathies of a person

  5. 5a :  the total complex of relations between people living in society b :  relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view office politics ethnic politics

Like it or not, housing is a political issue and to accuse a group or a person of “politicizing the tragedy” misses this point – especially when the local authority’s response to the Grenfell blaze was so woeful. This was a preventable tragedy and to voice that fact is political and rightly so.

When Jeremy Corbyn told the media that empty homes in the borough should be requisitioned to temporarily house Glenfell survivors, the howls of outrage were as predictable as they were hysterical.  These self-appointed moral guardians would tell us they are educated, but their comprehension of written and spoken English was noticeably lacking in their discourses.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a requisition is a:

NOUN

  • An official order laying claim to the use of property or materials.

    ‘I had to make various requisitions for staff and accommodation’
    1. 1.1 A formal written demand that something should be performed or put into operation.
      ‘requisitions for an Extraordinary General Meeting must state the business to be transacted’
    2. 1.2 Law A demand to the vendor of a property for the official search relating to the title.
    3. 1.3 mass noun The appropriation of goods for military or public use.
      ‘requisition of grain at the point of a gun proved a novel experience for the peasantr

The word that many right-wingers reached for instead of requisition was confiscation: a completely different word, which is defined as:

NOUN

mass noun

  • The action of taking or seizing someone’s property with authority; seizure.

    ‘a court ordered the confiscation of her property’

There it is. It isn’t that they misheard the word. Oh no. They heard what they wanted to hear: “millionaires’ properties should be confiscated to house displaced [but filthy] working class people from our neighbourhood[that we’d rather not see]”.

According to Helmet Head, the oligarchs who have bought properties in Kensington and Chelsea and left them empty, are entitled to special privileges by dint of their bloated bank accounts and their greed (here, the billionaire is revered as a living god). Property ownership is apparently an inalienable ‘human right’ that trumps the right to life, freedom of expression and so on.

Hysteria and hyperbole. First, legislation would have to be introduced for this to occur and second, homes were requisitioned by the government order during the First and Second World Wars. Requisitioning properties in times of emergency is nothing new and the properties are always returned to their owners. This is an emergency.

The Lyin’ King, in his column for CapX, effectively dodges the question of possible corporate manslaughter or managerial incompetence by adopting a morally high, but ultimately questionable, position of disinterest. He opens in his typically dishonest fashion by linking Grenfell Tower to a hoax call. It’s pretty despicable.

Do you remember the tragic story of Jacintha Saldanha? You don’t? It was huge at the time. Jacintha was a nurse at the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her first child. She got a hoax call from two Australian radio presenters pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and put it through to the relevant ward nurse. When the news broke, Jacintha, who had had a history of depression, committed suicide by hanging, leaving two teenage children.

He then links the genuine concerns of the residents and neighbours and the glacially sluggish response from RB Kensington and Chelsea’s leadership to scapegoating  innocent parties. I draw your attention to the final sentence, because it is most revealing.

We are still at that stage in the aftermath of the Grenfell horror. Obviously, we need to find out what went wrong, and assess whether other places are at risk. If there is evidence of criminal negligence, of course that negligence should be punished. But the discussion over the past two days has gone well beyond these things. The country is bellowing for a scapegoat big enough and monstrous enough to bear responsibility for such an outrage. The idea of a tragic accident simply won’t do.

Yes, this is tragic. That’s stating the bleedin’ obvious but an accident? How does Dan, for all his moralizing and expensive education, know this was an “accident”? Moreover, by referring to Grenfell as a “tragic accident”, he is making his own political judgement of the disaster.

But what about the contributing factors?  Has Dan not read the Grenfell Action Group blog?  Does he think that residents shouldn’t have voiced their concerns at the  substandard quality of the £10 million refurbishment, or the mysterious power surges? Does he think that, given their circumstances as renters, they have no right to complain? Those who rent their homes as opposed to those who buy their, are often seen by the property-owning classes, as second class citizens. 

Like our pre-modern ancestors, we have an innate sense that, for such a horrifying event to have happened, there must have been great wickedness at work. Like them, we disagree as to who was responsible for the wickedness. Usually, though, just as they did, we blame whomever we already happened not to like. Glancing at this morning’s newspapers, I see that the Guardian blames inequality, the Mail blames eco-regulations, the Express blames EU rules and the Mirror blames the Tories. Simon Jenkins, that champion of harmonious and well-proportioned architecture, blames tower-blocks. Owen Jones, my favourite radical, blames racketeering landlords. For all I know, one or more of these villains may indeed be at fault; but, for now, it is mainly guesswork.

 A massive point has been missed.

Here, Hannan tells his readers to give money and to sympathize with the victims, while at the same he presumes to speak for the residents and their suffering. Just wow.

The media always follow the same course on these occasions. Having initially blamed their favourite bêtes noires, they will move on to the victims and survivors, asking them what should be done. Which brings me to a very hard thing that needs saying. The victims deserve our utmost sympathy as well as our practical help. Please do give, if you haven’t already, to one of the appeals. But bereaved relatives have no particular authority when it comes to finding the correct prescriptions. We should not expect policy ideas from people in shock, and demanding them is not just a form of journalistic grandstanding; it is also deeply unfair to the victims it purports to elevate.

Emotions are human, and grief and suffering are expressed in individual ways. Money is not the only answer; it is only a sticking plaster. Long term needs must be considered, namely the residents’ right to live in their neighbourhood in safety.

Hannan et al will always deny the central issue of housing provision and potential avoidability of this disaster is political issue, but this view is as absurd as it is dangerous. It smacks of  a wilful disinterest that is wholly based upon class privilege. Their underlying disgust for, not only council tenants, but the working class as a social formation, bobs up from behind the cover of their tiresome and empty platitudes, and is thus visible for all to see. Charity, for them is the answer, not a proposal to deal with the structural inequalities that have blighted this country for generations, but philanthropy and the guiding hand of paternalism is offered to head off any real demands for meaningful social, political, cultural and economic settlement. This is disgust in action.

Disgust figures prominently in the tweets of CapX’s  Iain Martin, who subjects last week’s protests outside Kensington Town Hall, to a volley of sneers, paranoia and misinterpretations. In this tweet, he slyly insinuates the residents – who should be meek; content in their social condition – are being led astray by members of the much depleted Socialist Workers’ Party.

But even if left-wing parties are marching in solidarity with the residents and a few SWP placards (which are on every fucking march and demo, by the way.  It doesn’t mean that everyone is a fucking member) are seen, does this necessarily prove anything? Is this necessarily the SWP in another bandwagon-jumping exercise? Not really.  Any human would have been appalled at what happened to those poor unfortunate people. Would this country’s right-wing have taken up the cause of those who lost their homes at Grenfell Tower by marching in solidarity with them? It’s highly unlikely.  Well, no, actually.  They only protest when their idea of freedom is challenged or when it’s otherwise not being met on their terms. Even then, such events are poorly-attended.

In this tweet to Owen Jones, Martin insists that the residents, whom he describes as a “mob”, aren’t capable of spontaneous collective agency but are being led astray by the darkest of forces. Yes, it’s the SWP again, cast here as “tin pot revolutionaries”.

Beneath Martin’s sneers burns a fierce class hatred that is bolstered by his sense of class entitlement, which is common to all free market cultists.  Indeed, it speaks volumes when I say that I have yet to meet a working class right-wing libertarian. I don’t think they exist. Anarchists, yes. Libertarians, no.

Brendan O’Neill claims to be a man of the left, a Marxist even, but this claim has always been empty. He’s a right-wing libertarian-contrarian, who spends his days shouting about the ‘middle class left’ and views the working class as a homogeneous mass that is ignorant, easily led and certainly not left-wing. In his article for Spiked Online, he demands that Labour, the left or whoever, stop “exploiting the dead of Grenfell Tower”. His article ploughs roughly the same furrow as the Lyin’ King’s effort but is no less wilfully ignorant in its tone and manner. We get to his ideological spin at the bottom of the piece:

‘But the Grenfell disaster is political’, the people exploiting it cry, somewhat defensively. And they’re right. It is. Social housing and gentrification and the eco-approved application of cladding to tower blocks are political issues, or at least public issues, and we should talk about them. But these people aren’t treating Grenfell as political; they’re treating it as party political. They’re using it to demean Toryism as evil, and big up Corbyn as the leader Britain needs right now. He cares, you see, unlike them. He is Good, they are Bad. This isn’t politics – this is a culture war, where the horrors experienced by the working classes of North Kensington are used to underpin the binary moralism of a Corbynista worldview of the right as wicked and the left as decent. They are building their political movement on the corpses of the poor, and no amount of radical-sounding lingo can cover up just how cynical, opportunistic and depraved that is.

O’Neill uses the Grenfell Disaster to attack Corbyn. It’s intellectually dishonest and it’s shabby. His screed reveals his rather slippery view of his politics: the right is “wicked” and the left is “decent” he moans. But this is no more than a warped perception of Corbyn’s very human response to the disaster. I don’t recall Bruvver Bren making any demands on behalf of the residents or, indeed, meeting them face-to-face. Can you? O’Neill takes Murdoch’s shilling, so his job is to produce unimaginative crap like this.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Brendan O’Neill.

For the likes of Toby Young, Dan Hannan, and Iain Martin, the working class should simply put up with their condition because, so the neoliberal argument goes, they made ‘poor life choices’. If they burn to death in a ‘tragic accident’ then one must remain calm and accept the fact that politics is something that is practised by, and reserved for, professionals like Hannan, a man who takes a salary from the European Union, but who has worked to destroy the very institution from which he has benefited enormously.

Since the days of Thatcher, right-leaning middle class types have always believed in the notion that the working class can simply ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and be like them. The trouble is, the working class cannot be like them because, unlike them, they weren’t born into privilege. They literally cannot afford to be right-wing libertarians or Tories.

Reference/further reading

Bourdieu, P. (2003). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

De Certeau, M (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California Press.

Fanon, F. (1986). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press.

Harvey, D. (2007). “Neoliberalism as creative destruction”. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 610(1), pp 21-44.

Itzin, C. (1980). Stages in the revolution: political theatre in Britain since 1968. London: Eyre Metheun.

Rowe, C. J., & Broadie, S. (2002). Nicomachean ethics. Oxford University Press.

 

 

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United In Loathing

The Labour right is in a spin (in more ways than one) and can’t for the life of them fathom Jeremy Corbyn’s growing popularity. In the eyes of these Blairite fossils and their allies in the Simulated Thatcher Government, Corbyn is a “dinosaur” ; a “relic from the past”. These tropes are based entirely on the arrogant assumption that the political positions espoused by the Tories and Blairite ‘modernizers’ are modern and fresh. They’re not. These people manage the circulation and recirculation of stale ideas. That is all they do.

At a time when fresh ideas are called for, the ‘modernizers’ are indulging themselves in a great deal of self-flagellation and name-calling. Having lost the election in May, the party’s ‘modernizers’ are incapable of understanding why they lost so heavily in Scotland and continue to blame the SNP for their failure to win seats that they’d once taken for granted. Entitlement, eh? It’s a bitch. But nothing compares to the nastiness dished out to Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party for having the temerity to be more popular than the three ‘modernizers’.

Today, one of those ‘modernizers’, Tristram Hunt, claimed that Corbyn was “politically and economically bankrupt”. This coming from a man who willingly crossed a picket line to give a lecture on Karl Marx! This is a measure of how far to the Right the Labour Party has moved over the last 30 years. Constantly in denial, they complain bitterly that they’re described by their critics as “Tory-lite”. Here’s a tip, Labour: change your ways.

A big deal was made of Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s interview with Corbyn on Channel 4 News on Monday, which was described by the doom-mongers as a “meltdown”. KGM demanded to know what he meant when he used the word “friends” when he referred to Hamas and Hizb’ullah, who had been invited by Corbyn to a meeting at the Palace of Westminster. The Cat thinks KGM’s “do you still beat your wife” style of questioning was tediously sensationalistic but Corbyn asserted himself. He’s not media trained like some PR bloke. He’s human. How would Cameron respond? Well, he’d lie of course.

Nonetheless this interview prompted the inevitable yelps and squeals from Corbyn’s detractors. “He’s an anti-Semite” screamed Nick Cohen. Others harked further back to the 1980s, “Look, I told you, he supports terrorists! Did you hear  he invited Sinn Fein to the House of Parliament”? Sinn Fein are now in a power-sharing government at Stormont. I suppose Corbyn should have referred to these elected representatives as “enemies” and “scum” instead just to please BICOM or the Tory-supporting press? Unsurprisingly, nothing was mentioned of Labour Friends of Israel’s continued and unqualified support for the current Israeli government, which includes racists like  Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Hypocrisy much?

Speaking of Labour Friends of Israel, Luke Akehurst, the little big wheel in Labour First, a Blairite ‘pressure’ group (party within a party, actually), yesterday urged party members to give their second and third preference votes to anyone but Corbyn. This article on the BBC website says:

Group secretary Luke Akehurst said: “We clearly do not share Jeremy Corbyn’s politics and believe these would destroy Labour’s chances of electability.

“We would therefore encourage supporters of Andy, Yvette and Liz to transfer votes to each other at CLP nomination meetings so that as few CLPs as possible make supporting nominations for Jeremy.”

As well as being a former  local councillor and an unreconstructed Blairite, Akehurst also works, rather unsurprisingly, for BICOM, whose website tells us:

Luke, who has just stood down after 12 years as a Labour councillor in Hackney, spent 11 years as a lobbyist for a PR company and worked with Weber Shandwick, largely for the defence industry, as well as for property companies and local authorities.

Akehurst (or Lukehurst) is another reason why people have been turning their back on the Labour Party. Here’s a Powerbase article on Weber Shandwick.

The attacks on Corbyn from the Labour Right are practically indistinguishable from those coming from the Tories and other right-wingers. First, the Tories considered registering as Labour supporters to vote for Corbyn, then they realized that wasn’t working and have now decided to join the Nu Labourites in a chorus of condemnation of the man whom they describe as an “extreme left-winger”. Pish and vinegar.

At the New Statesman (don’t get excited, it’s pretty right-wing these days), Stephen Bush cites a recently conducted private poll of rank and file Labour members, which has Corbyn apparently leading the race, much to the chagrin of the naysayers and doom-mongers in the Westminster bubble. Commenting on the poll, CapX editor , Iain Martin, advises his readers:

Now, private polling must be treated with some scepticism but there is no doubt that sensible Labour types are deeply worried.

What? Just private polling? He closes the paragraph with this by now familiar claim:

If Corbyn wins it will be the equivalent for the Tories of winning the Wold (sic) Cup three times. They will get to keep Downing Street for ever

Martin continues:

Splendid, say the Tories, who seem to be joining Labour in huge numbers just to vote for the fanatical Corbyn.

I heard Labour was weeding out suspicious applications, Iain. Didn’t you get the memo? Your mate,Tobes, recently got rumbled and threatened legal action because Labour refused to return his three quid.

Daft git… and I’m being unusually generous today.

This article in the Dictator Spectator claims:

By contrast, the Tories are trying to win over new voters. They have moved to the political centre, as the announcement of the national living wage made clear, and this week David Cameron announced a campaign to close the gender pay gap. The Tory plan is clear: occupy the centre ground and force Labour to the political extremes.

Delusional tripe. The Tories do not, and have not, occupied the mythical centre ground since the days of Heath. And the much fussed about “national living wage”? It’s just the national minimum wage rebranded. But that’s what postmodern politics is all about: image, branding, straplines and the right amount of lighting. It’s a former PR man’s dream career should they ever fancy a change of job.

But voters are sick and tired of politicians who behave like sloganizing PR types (cabinet) and salespeople (junior ministers) selling knock-off designer labels in a dodgy pub. Voters have responded well to Jeremy  Corbyn and the 56 SNP MPs because they look and sound like real politicians who believe in something. The same cannot be said of Tristram Hunt or Chuka Umunna.

Regular readers will know The Cat is not a member of the Labour Party and has no intention of registering to become a supporter just because he prefers Corbyn to the three automatons.  He wishes him luck because he’ll need it. Should he win, then the Akehursts, Hunts, Perkinses and Kendalls will demand a recount.  They’ll complain that the Tories and Trotskyists had formed an unholy alliance to “destroy” the Labour Party, when it was their own members and their new electoral system that worked against them.

The Tories, on the other hand, may tell you that Corbyn will make Labour unelectable and how they “fear” a Kendall leadership. But this is entry level reverse psychology. It’s the basic stuff of PR campaigns and black propaganda. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being manipulated? Secretly, the Tories and the Labour ‘modernizers’ don’t want popular discussions of economic policies and political transformation. The very idea of a politically conscious electorate frightens the ever lovin’ shit out of them.

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Telegraph Comment of the Week (#20)

This week’s comment was found on Toby Young’s blog, which pleads for a “First Amendment” (sic) to protect verbal bullies and the orally incontinent. Free speech in Tobes’s mind is where people say anything they like regardless of how nasty and mean-spirited the words may be.  It’s ‘free speech’, right?

Tobes claims that Katie Hopkins is the subject of “visceral hatred” after a successful campaign to sack her from This Morning where she had been appearing as a reactionary rent-a-gob. A tad dramatic. No? Here’s how Tobes opens his article:

There are lots of good arguments for a British equivalent of the First Amendment, not least that it would prevent Parliament passing any law that abridged the freedom of the press, and I hope the next Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights.

What Tobes doesn’t realize is that a “First Amendment” or to be more precise, a right to free speech enshrined in law, would not actually apply to a campaign to remove her from our screens. La Hopkins hasn’t been arrested nor has she been charged with any offence. A “First Amendment” has to be part of an existing document and no such document exists, thus the use of the phrase is a little silly.

Nonetheless the Honourable Tobes whines on:

I made a film about JS Mill recently for the Daily Politics and he identifies this form of censorship, which he calls “the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling”, as a far greater threat to freedom of thought and emotion than any laws a tyrannical government might pass. Orwell wrote about the same danger in his essay on ‘The Freedom of the Press’:

In Tobesworld, the right to insult people is more important than making sense and advancing rational arguments. Therefore, challenging crazy ideas or offensive speech is indicative, in his mind at least, of “tyranny”.

Now to the Comment of the Week. This is from “Kentucky Straight”, who doesn’t think the Hon Tobes goes far enough.

Kentucky Warped

This guy is confused: Scousers come from Liverpool, while “Man Utd fans” are fans of guess who? In fact, you don’t need to be a Mancunian to support Man  United. Anyone can be one.  “Kentucky” moans that an unnamed MP (Labour’s Jack Dromey, in fact) used the word “pikey” to refer to a postal worker.  “Pikey” is a derogatory word that is used to refer to Romanis and Irish Travellers and since 2007  it has been an offence to use the word. “Kentucky Fried” then complains that “another councillor” (likely to be UKIP), who is being investigated for “racism” for his remarks about an unnamed council ward in an unnamed city.  You see, this isn’t about “free speech” at all: it’s about the right to be nasty and intolerant as well as offensive.

Now “Kentucky Fried” may deny that he’s a racist but he’d have a hard time convincing me. Today’s racists are more likely to use euphemisms in an attempt to avoid confrontation or, indeed, detection. “Kentucky” is quite clearly either a member of a far-right party or he sympathizes with one. How do I know? It’s the way he claims that “We are becoming a Marxist police state”.

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Helmet-head to stand in Hammersmith for Tories in 2015?

The self-styled classical liberal catches flies between meals

This self-styled classical liberal catches flies between meals

I’ve just seen this on Shepherds Bush blog.

In a Telegraph Q&A, Hon. Tobes told his followers (few of whom live in the borough) that:

The Hammersmith Conservative Association will shortly be advertising for a candidate to stand in 2015 and I am thinking of applying.

That’s just great. First, he sets up a free school in Hammersmith & Fulham with the full support of the ruling Tory group and now he’s considering standing as a candidate in the 2015 election.

The Tory ruling group would love Hon Tobes to win. In fact, they’ve been working hard to ensure that as many Labour supporters as possible are moved from the borough. This article from the Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh from 2009 tells us that:

Hammersmith and Fulham council is plotting a Dame Shirley Porter-style programme to move out the poor and replace them with private homes and retail developments, critics claim.

Residents hit out as secret documents, obtained by the Standard, revealed how the borough’s leader and officials worked on a radical policy to end “homes for life” and turn council housing into a safety net service for just the old and disabled.

Under the plans, new homes will be built to attract residents with higher incomes and areas that have traditionally voted Labour will be broken up as more than 3,500 flats and houses are demolished. Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh, who also heads Mr Cameron’s Conservative Councils Innovation Unit, believes council housing is “warehousing poverty” and entrenches welfare dependency.

Last October, the Council crowed on its website:

Council rips up the social housing rule book

It added:

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

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

Further down, they tell us:

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

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

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

One rule for the rich, eh?

The West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates are about to be bulldozed and new developments like this one are springing up everywhere. I guarantee you that none of these building projects will have homes for rent.

The Tories, in spite of their libertarian-sounding rhetoric, are not only deeply reactionary and authoritarian; they also want to create a one-party state. In Hammersmith and Fulham, they have pretty much achieved that, albeit on a smaller scale. After all, this is the borough that is seen by the government as its social laboratory.

Knowing the Tories of this constituency, I’d say Helmet-head’s candidature is in the proverbial bag. These people would move heaven and earth for him. Remember how they served eviction notices on 22 charities in Palingswick House to make way for Tobes’s free school? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, baby!

Of course becoming candidate is only half the battle. Convincing voters of his integrity is another matter.

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Council Tax Benefit cuts spell further hardship for the low-waged, poor and vulnerable

Are we about to see a repeat of this?

Just when you think this venal government couldn’t get any crueller, I read today that the Con Dems are to scrap Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and leave it to local councils to make their own arrangements. This is what they describe as “localism”, which in an earlier blog, I described as a “marketing gimmick to sell council cuts”. It would appear that my initial fears have been proven correct. The definition of the word, “empowerment” in the Tory lexicon, is to grant local authorities the power to screw the poor.

This article from today’s Guardian tells us that Lord Snooty faces a rebellion in his own constituency over this issue.

David Cameron is facing a revolt in his own Oxfordshire “backyard” as local Tories join a national outcry over council tax reforms that they say will cost people on low earnings more than £420 a year from next April.

Tory-run West Oxfordshire district council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency, has decided to go it alone and keep the existing system throughout next year, effectively snubbing Cameron’s government.

Council Tax, like the hated Poll tax before it, is not based on an individual’s ability to pay but on local property prices, which are themselves, inaccurate. In some areas, Council Tax is high and in other areas, it is lower. Often, in those areas where Council Tax is low, services have been slashed. Take Hammersmith and Fulham, for example, a council controlled for the last 6 years by the Tories, who have cut local services and forced out community groups out of Palingswick House to make way for Toby Young’s free school. This is evidence enough of how H&F council views those who are not materially wealthy. Here the Council Tax is apparently low but only because of the cuts and the stealth taxes imposed on the local population. These stealth taxes include, ramping up parking charges and charging to cart away bulky items of rubbish, a service that was once offered for free. The borough discount leisure card was scrapped almost as soon as they took power.

The last leader of the council, Stephen ‘Dear Leader’ Greenhalgh made it clear that he wanted more rich people to move into the borough. When in power, he approved the sale of council homes and he has leant on Housing Associations to sell any properties that become void. Property prices have increased dramatically  over the last 5 to 6 years with some properties in the borough selling for as much as £1m. It is unlikely that a council, like Hammersmith and Fulham, which is wholly committed to making life easier for their rich chums, would have its own version of CTB because it despises anyone who is poor or on a low income. Instead, those on low incomes will be forced to move out of the borough.

Polly Toynbee tells us that,

300 councils must each devise their own criteria. Each becomes a mini DWP, establishing its own means test without having access to people’s earnings. Each must divide its benefit pot between varying numbers of claimants each year. Miserly authorities can keep much of it for other purposes. Each decides who is “vulnerable” or whether to include disability living allowance, child benefit or personal savings in declaring who is eligible for how much.

Hammersmith and Fulham is one of those “miserly authorities” and I can expect someone like Foghorn Phibbs or Peter Graham to trot out social Darwinian clichés in defence of the council’s niggardly attitude to those who are on low or no incomes.

I found this interesting site that was set up by the students on the MA Investigative Journalism course at City University.

Hammersmith and Fulham is the fourth most expensive borough in the country, both to rent and to buy property. New developments will not include any more council housing, but will instead provide a large number of properties for rent at the 80 per cent level. That offers little opportunity for current residents on lower incomes to afford to live in the borough independently. Coupled with the Government’s benefit cap, large numbers of people may be forced out of the area.

The scrapping of CTB is the latest in a long line of poorly-conceived ideas to have come from this government, which in spite of its protestations, remains firmly committed to supporting and extending the powers of the rich at the expense of those who can least afford it.

The Worksop Guardian reports that 5,000 families could be at risk in Bassetlaw.

The Salford Star tells us that the mayor could be forced to implement cuts that may affect 20,000 people.

Before the Liberal Democrats accepted the poison chalice of governmental power, they told us that they wanted to scrap Council Tax and replace it with a fairer system of local income taxation. This idea was quietly dropped when Nick Clegg walked through the door of 10 Downing Street.

This government’s justification for CTB cuts is best illustrated by the intellectually-challenged Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, who claims that the cuts will “make work pay and promote local enterprise”. With wages stagnant,  prices increasing week on week, banks reluctant to lend businesses money and living standards falling, how does he see this happening?

This latest wheeze from the government will force even more people into poverty and debt and may even force people out onto the streets. Indeed, this could be another Poll Tax moment for the Tories with people taking to the streets to protest and much else besides.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Government & politics, Local government

Taking another look at TURC

The Trade Union Reform Campaign has been mentioned a few times on this blog, mainly for the fact that its chairman, Adrian Burley, has a Nazi fetish and some rather questionable attitudes to difference. The Nazis, need I remind anyone, were no friends of the trade unions or the working class.  Here at Nowhere Towers, we believe that not only is Burley a Nazi fetishist, he’s more than likely a racist too.

TURC was founded towards the tail-end of last year. It has the approval of Lord Snooty, who sent them a letter giving them the big ‘thumbs up’ in their quest to smash what’s left of the trade union movement.

But they’re operating in an already crowded market with rivals like the Taxpayers Alliance and The Freedom Association working to achieve the same ends.

One thing that I’ve noticed about TURC is that its parliamentary council (not a coven then?) is mainly drawn from the 2010 intake but with one exception: Liam ‘I did nothing wrong’ Fox is also part of this gang of thugs. No doubt he’s there to lend a sheen of gravitas to this inexperienced collection of young and not-so-young bloodsuckers.

TURC’s beef is with paid union facility time, which is, like it or not, essential to workplace relations. Such work cannot be done outside of work hours. TURC thinks that it can. Like TPA and TFA, TURC refers to union members who are paid for facility time “Pilgrims”.  The only problem is that this word is entirely unrelated to pilgrims and pilgrimages but to a woman called Jane Pilgrim, a full-time organizer with UNISON. TURC likes broad brush strokes. But it’s guilt by association. Nothing more, nothing less.

For all its hot air and bluster, Nowhere Towers thinks TURC has arrived late to Thatcher’s red-bashing party.  The punch has all been drunk and what remains of the drink is a lonely bottle of vermouth. The TURCs are envious that they weren’t there to put the boot into trade unions and working class communities in the name of ‘freedom’.

The language of the 1980s has also been resurrected. Phrases like “loony left” are routinely trotted out about by the likes of Toby Young.

TURC’s website doesn’t seem to have been updated much. The last post on the home page occurred on 13 July, 2012. Some spammers have also left comments, which I find particularly amusing. No quality control but then what did you expect?

Here’s a glimpse of their Twitter page

I’ve thought of starting a Tory Reform Campaign but the Tory Reform Group already exists. They don’t seem to do much either. How about The Campaign to Reform the Tory Party? It’s needed, that’s for sure.

I found this on the Cabinet Office’s website.

Facility time is paid time off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out trade union duties and time off for representatives and members to undertake trade union activities.

The Government recognises that unions can play a constructive role in a modern workplace contributing to the effective and efficient operation of public services.

Many union representatives give their own time in addition to any facility time, to support their colleagues both individually and collectively through the industrial relations machinery. Where this operates well it serves the interest both of the union members and the employer well.

We are seeking to find a balance between supporting constructive engagement with employee representatives for the good of public services and providing better value for the taxpayer.

Formal consultation is between the Civil Service and its trade unions, however if you are a civil servant and would like to comment, please send us your thoughts to facilitytimeconsultation@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk or post to Civil Service Workforce Reform Team, Cabinet Office, 4th Floor – Red Zone – Bank 20, 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ. 

“Consultation” is one of those words that says the opposite of what it means whenever politicians use it. This government is taking the ideas of Burley and his  chums seriously. But then, this government is also arriving late to the party because there’s barely anything left of the unions to smash. Maybe, the Toxics will turn one each other. I’m not a fan of bloodsports, by the way, but I can always make an exception as far as the Tories’ are concerned.

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Tobes’ free school gets free publicity courtesy of the BBC

Yesterday evening I was watching BBC London News and couldn’t quite believe what I was watching. The West London Free School, Toby Young’s vanity project in Hammersmith, was given plenty of airtime in what amounted to nothing more than free publicity at the expense of the license payer.

Not only was the segment a bit of free publicity, it also contained some factual inaccuracies.  When the report was first aired at 1325, the reporter said that the school had support from various people but neglected to mention the council. This was put right after I tweeted the BBC to remind them that Hammersmith and Fulham Council supported the project. The reporter also claimed that Young had set up the school to “respond to the shortage of places in the borough [of Hammersmith & Fulham]”. Hon Tobes actually wanted to site his school in Acton in the neighbouring borough of Ealing. When he couldn’t find a suitable location, Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham council duly obliged and gave notice to the 21 or so tenants of Palingswick House.

The West London Free School is being touted as the template for future free schools.  While schools like this will receive funding from central government,  I fear that those schools that are part of the state comprehensive system will see their funding dry up unless they adopt the government’s model.

Here’s what Foghorn Phibbs said about Palingswick House last year.

It is a splendid building what is much better suited as a school rather than as office accommodation to voluntary organisation which is its use at present. Many of the groups do excellent work. For instance I was impressed  by a course the Afghan Council held Portcullis House last month teaching young Afghans about the workings of our Parliament – several of  them bravely plan to work in Afghanistan to use that knowledge to help develop their own Parliament. I am pictured helping the Afghan Ambassador hand out  their certificates.

Really? So why boot them out? He won’t say, instead he tells us that,

[…] alternative office accommodation for these organisations would be more cost effective. Selling the building helps us reduce our debt mountain and thus our interest bill – that leaves us with more money for the voluntary sector than we could otherwise afford.

Excuses, excuses. What the dissembling Phibbs failed to mention was the unsuitability of the new accommodation. He also neglected to mention that his wife/life partner was a councillor and used her influence to smooth the way for Hon Tobe’s school.

Here’s the link to BBC London News. The report is at 09.57. it’s only available for the next 7 hours.

It would appear that Hon Tobes’ ambitions don’t end with the West London Free School, he wants to start a chain of such schools.

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Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London