Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ Category

Hunger and Starvation in Tory Britain

January 2, 2020

The Tory governments that came in after David Cameron’s victory in the 2010 election have caused massive poverty up and down Britain. Thanks to austerity, welfare benefits have been cut, wages kept low and workers placed on exploitative contracts, like zero hours contracts, which deny them sick pay, paid holidays and other rights. An ever increasing number of people are unable to pay for food, with the disabled and unemployed forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together after being found fit for work, sanctioned, or simply because they have to wait weeks before their first benefits payment. Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity gives some statistics on rising ‘food poverty’, and they’re horrifying.

In the chapter ‘Hunger and Food Poverty’, Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton state

Emergency food provision has been used as an indicator of the scale of food poverty in the UK. As the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty noted in 2015, the Trussell Trust, the largest emergency food provider, ‘has seen the number of people referred for emergency food rise by 38 per cent in the last year’. Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty calculate that 20,247,042 meals were given to ‘people in food poverty’ in 2013/14.’ While these are shocking statistics, they are likely to underestimate the numbers in food poverty in Britain; not all people who are hungry go to food banks and not all food banks collect data in a systematic way. The Poverty and Social Exclusion UK (PSE UK) 2012 study found that the proportion of households unable to afford two adult meals a day in 2012 stood 3 per cent, ‘back to levels found thirty years earlier having to dropped to negligible levels in the intervening period.’ In addition, well over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to fee them properly, that is, provide at least one of the following three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables every day; or meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least once a day. If many parents were not cutting back on their own food intake to protect their children, the number would be much higher… (pp.94-5).

Analysis by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that falling incomes and rising living costs mean that food is now over 20 per cent less affordable for the poorest 10 per cent of people in the UK compared to 2003. In 2012, when the proportion of the household budget spent on food peaked in the UK, those in the lowest income decile spent 22 per cent more on food than in 2007 and purchased 5.7 per cent less, buying significantly fewer portions of fruit and vegetables than previously. Further, the number of UK adults who have reported being unable to afford meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day (a measure of adequate protein in the diet) has increased between 2004 and 2012, that is, in the context of economic austerity and rising food prices. The PSE UK study noted above found that the proportion of adults going without meat or equivalent every second day  because they could not afford it rose from 2 per cent in 1999 to 5 per cent in 2012. In addition, 3 per cent of children went without adequate protein and the same proportion did not eat fresh fruit or vegetables every day because their families could not afford it. Reduced affordability of food therefore generally leads to a reduction in nutrient quality of food consumed and, in a growing number of cases, to hunger and reliance on emergency food provision. (pp.95-6).

This is a crisis of enormous proportions, and it is going to get worse. Much worse. Boris will continue and expand the policies forcing people into such desperate poverty. But yesterday the wretched Tory press were telling the world that he would bring in a golden age of prosperity. Which he will, for the profiteers at the top of the corporate ladder and the hedge fund managers that contribute so handsomely to Tory coffers.

But to pay for that, the rest of the country will be forced into grinding poverty. While the newspapers lie to them that there’s not alternative and they’re richer than ever before.

Austerity: Making Women Poorer and Removing their Protections from Violence

January 1, 2020

I found this passage explaining how women have been among the worst affected by the Tories’ austerity policies in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. Since the policy was introduced, women have suffered a particularly greater loss of income than other groups, and the Tories have massively cut the funding for their protection. The writers state

Moreover, as political sociologist Daniela Tepe-Belfrage has argued, gender is a key marker in determining:

the largest drop in disposable income since the crisis has been experienced by women. Women are also more likely to be employed in the public sector or be subcontracted to the state via private sector organisations (for example, in the form of cleaners or carers). As the UK’s austerity policy regime has especially targeted public services women have been particularly affected, facing wage drops and job losses. Austerity has also had a ‘double-impact’ on women as, buy virtue of being disproportionally in caring roles, they tend to be more likely to depend on the public provision of social services such as childcare services or care provision.

Research published by the Northern Rock Foundation and Trust for London found that austerity has had a sudden and dramatic impact on services supporting women victims of domestic violence. Between 2009/10 and 2010/11 there was a 31 per cent cut in the Local Authority funding for domestic and sexual violence support. The report stated clearly that: ‘These cuts in service provision are expected to lead to increases in this violence.’ The report noted that 230 women were beinig turned away by the organisation Women’s Aid because of lack of provision in 2011. (p. 14).

Women of colour have been especially affected.

The multiple and intersectional nature of class, gender, disability and race means that, for example, black women will be exposed to austerity policies differently to white women. Social support for black women, already paltry, has been cut to the bone in the austerity period., just as support for refugees and people seeking asylum has been subject to the confluence of a range of policy prejudices. (same page).

Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel discuss the particularly high unemployment rates for BAME women in their chapter, ‘Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism’. They state that women of colour were actually extremely impoverished before the Coalition government started the policy. They write

Well before the 2008 crisis, women of colour, on the whole, were already living in an almost permanent state of austerity. As the All Party Parliamentary Group for Race and Community noted in its inquiry into the Labour market experiences of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Britain: ‘For all groups except for Indian men, ethnic minority unemployment has consistently remained higher than the rate for white people since records began.’ African and Caribbean women have an unemployment rate of 17.7 per cent, for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women it is 20.5 per cent, compared to 6.8 per cent for white women. Women of colour who are employed are more likely to be concentrated in low-skilled, low paid and temporary work – regardless of their educational qualifications. These unequal experiences in the labour market, unsurprisingly, translate into high levels of household poverty with poverty rates for minority groups at 40 per cent – doubtle the rate of the white population in 2007. (p. 118)

They note that these rates of poverty do not feature in either popular or policy discussions about the austerity crisis, and ask ‘whose crisis counts and whose crisis is being named and legitimated?’

They then go on to discuss some of the reasons why Black women are particularly worse off.

Austerity causes further immiseration due to its uneven effects. Because women of colour are more likely to be employed in the public sector in feminised professions such as teaching, nursing and social work, because women of colour and migrant women in particular are more likely to be subcontracted to the state via private sector organisations in low-skilled, low paid and temporary work as carers, cleaners and caterers, and because women of colour are more likely to use public services because they are typically the primary care givers of children and/or older adults, austerity measures clearly increase women of colour’s unemployment while simultaneously reducing the scope, coverage and access to public services. (pp.118-9)

But don’t worry – the Tories and Lib Dems are right behind women, because the Tories have had two women leaders – Margaret Thatcher and Tweezer – and the Lib Dems have had one, Jo Swinson. Labour is obviously full of misogynists, because they don’t have any. Even though Corbyn’s policies would have made women better off and there was a solid commitment to racial equality, which the Tories definitely don’t have.

And under Boris Johnson, is all going to get worse.

Violence and the Conservative Campaign of Hate against the Disabled

December 31, 2019

Mike and the other disability bloggers and campaigners have posted any number of articles about the massive increase in violence towards disabled people. This has its origins in the Conservatives’ vilification of them as welfare cheats or spongers, along with other underprivileged and marginalised groups like asylum seekers, the unemployed and the poor. This connection and the massive rise in hate crimes and violence against both immigrants and the disabled is described by Jon Burnett in his chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity.  While the attacks on immigrants and the disabled are separate issues and are managed separately, they are linked by an underlying ideology. Burnett writes

Such campaigns are organised separately. But they feed off and into each other. And they are replicated day after day to the point where they have become a routine aspect of popular culture. Both are voyeuristically treated in television programmes like Benefits Street and Immigration Street. Those programmes stem from the same ideological enterprise: to reduce their subjects to objects of ridicule and contempt, turning human struggles into a sneering form of entertainment. (p. 217)

He notes that David Cameron, dubbed by Paxo ‘the worst Prime Minister since Lord North’, explicitly linked migration with the British welfare system. He said that we need immigrants to do work that the welfare system encouraged British people not to do, and that therefore the welfare system needed to be reformed.

Migrants are filling gaps in the labour market left wide open by a welfare system that for years has paid British people not to work. That’s where the blame lies – at the door of our woeful welfare system, and the last government who comprehensively failed to reform it… So immigration and welfare reform are two sides of the same coin. Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency. (p. 219).

Burnett states that five years later, this is now Tory orthodoxy. It, and the Tory policies based on it, have reduced immigrants to units of labour denied social rights, while welfare reforms are also reducing British workers into an expendable workforce. Immigration is a separate issue I shall tackle elsewhere. In this piece I’ll just talk about how the Tories’ rhetoric of hate against the disabled has resulted in an horrific increase in violence against them. Burnett writes of this

And when resentment to welfare and free movement is legitimised, hate becomes normalised. As campaign groups, support centres and self-organised networks have repeatedly shown, certain forms of violence have intensified under the rubric of austerity. But they are rarely given official recognition. In a survey published by the Disability Hate Crimes Network in 2015, ‘scrounger rhetoric’ was highlighted in the testimonies of around one in six of 61 disabled people who described themselves being verbally or physically assaulted in disability hate crimes. Six charities in 2012 stated that a narrative of ‘benefit scrounging’ or ‘faking’ was fuelling hostility. Discussing an increase in disability hate crimes coming before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) between 2008/9 and 2013/14, one of the co-founders of the activist group Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) remarked that the figures were ‘no doubt fuelled by the constant media-fuelled campaign against benefit claimants.’ There were around 62,000 disability-related hate crimes each year in 2012/13 and 2013/14, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). In 2014/15 the last year for which figures are available, 2508 offences were recorded by the police – and increase of 15 per cent from two years earlier. (pp. 219-20).

There can be absolutely no doubt about it. The Tories are generating a violent hatred against immigrants and the disabled. And Mike’s also right that they aren’t going to make conditions any better. Because they enjoy causing suffering and misery to the poor and disabled.

 

Outrage as Iain Duncan Smith Given Knighthood

December 29, 2019

This is a really sick joke, and shows the absolute contempt the Tories have for the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of the Tories welfare reforms, has been given a knighthood in the New Year’s honours. Smith is the pompous nonentity who was briefly the leader of the Tory party at the beginning of this century before David Cameron took over. It was a period of failure, in which the party utterly failed to challenge Blair’s Labour Party. He was, however, a close ally of his successor, and has also served Boris. He tried to stand up for Johnson when our farcical Prime Minister was denied the lectern in Luxembourg, claiming that the Luxembourgers should be grateful to us because we’d liberated them during the War. But we hadn’t. The Americans had. And under Tweezer he’d also peddled the line that there would be no legal divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But what Smith is most notorious for is mass murder. As head of the Department of Work and Pensions, he was responsible for the welfare reforms, including the Work Capability Assessments and the system of benefit sanctions, that have seen hundreds of thousands denied the welfare payments they need and deserve. He is also responsible for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments. UC is supposed to combine all the welfare payment into a single system. It has proven catastrophically flawed, with people waiting weeks or months for their payments, which have been significantly lower than the previous system. Mike in his article about it quotes statistics that some of those on UC are £1,000 a year worse off. But this jumped-up, odious little man boasted that Universal Credit would be as significant in lifting people out of poverty as the ending of slavery in the British Empire in 1837.

The result of IDS’ reforms is that at least 130,000 people have died. The true figures may well be higher, as the DWP has been extremely reluctant to release the true figures, as Mike and other disability campaigners have found. His attempts to get the Department to release them under the Freedom of Information Act were refused, then stonewalled. Finally Smith’s Department released some figures, but interpreted his requested so that they weren’t quite the figures Mike had requested.

As well as the financial hardship there is the feelings of despair and humiliation that his reforms have also inflicted on the poor. Doctors and mental health professionals have reported a rise in depression and suicide. The Tories, naturally, have repeatedly denied that their policies have any connection to people taking their own lives, even when the person left a note explicitly stating that this was why they were.

Some sense of the despair IDS’ wretched reforms has produced in young people is given by the quotes from them in Emma Bond and Simon Hallworth’s chapter, ‘The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People’ in Vickie Cooper’s and David Whyte’s The Violence of Austerity. ‘Julie’ said

The way that it feels walking into the JobCentre is that you are there to do what you are told to do and that’s it and then you leave. They are not there to actually help you it is just like, you have to do this and if you don’t do this or you won’t get no money. (p. 79).

And ‘Bridget’ described how she felt so low at one point she contemplated suicide.

I am ashamed to admit it but I did feel suicidal at one point. I felt so down after I was made redundant that I felt that there was no point. I had worked really hard at school and I got good grades but for what? I was happy when I got my job, it wasn’t that well paid but it had prospects and a career path – or so the recruitment agency told me – I had my flat and that and I thought I was OK. But when it [the redundancy] happened I felt like I had been hit by a brick wall. I got really down especially when I went to the JobCentre and they would not help me. I felt so depressed. I could not afford my rent. I lost my flat and the few things I had saved up for. I did not know where to turn. I took drugs for the first time in my life – I felt so wretched. I wanted to die. I was too ashamed to tell my parents that I had lost my job. (p. 80).

But IDS, as Zelo Street reminds us, is the man who laughed at a woman talking about her poverty in parliament. He’s also blubbed on television, describing how he met a young woman, who didn’t believe she’d ever have a job. ‘She could have been my daughter!’ he wailed. But this is just crocodile tears. He, like the rest of the Tory party, have no love whatsoever for their victims as the guffaws with Dodgy Dave Cameron in Parliament showed.

Mike in his piece about the wretched man’s ennoblement has put up a large number of Tweets by ordinary people expressing their outrage. One woman, Samanthab, states how rotten the honours system is when it rewards not just IDS, but other creeps and lowlifes, like the sex abusers Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris.

The outrage is so great that one NHS psychiatrist, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmad, has launched an online petition at Change.Org calling for the scumbag’s knighthood to be withdrawn. She describes him as responsible for some of the cruellest welfare reforms this country has ever seen and notes that Britain is the first country the United Nations has investigated for human rights abuses against the disabled. She states clearly that the suffering and impoverishment in Britain today is a direct result of Smith’s welfare reforms.

30,000 people, including myself, have already signed it. If you want to too, go to Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/28/will-you-sign-nhs-doctors-petition-to-stop-iain-duncan-smith-receiving-knighthood/ and follow the links.

See also: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/27/chorus-of-derision-greets-announcement-that-iain-duncan-smith-is-to-be-knighted/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/12/arise-sir-duncan-cough.html

The History Book on the TUC from Its Beginnings to 1968

December 26, 2019

The History of the T.U.C. 1868-1968: A Pictorial Survey of a Social Revolution – Illustrated with Contemporary Prints and Documents (London: General Council of the Trades Union Congress 1968).

This is another book on working class history. It’s a profusely illustrated history of the Trades Union Congress from its origins in 1868 to 1968, and was undoubtedly published to celebrate its centenary.

Among the book’s first pages is this photograph show the TUC’s medal, below, which reads: Workingmen of Every Country Unite to Defend Your Rights.

There’s also these two illustrations on facing pages intended to show the TUC as it was then and now.

After the foreword by the-then head of the TUC, George Woodcock, and the list of General Council in 1967-8, the book is divided into four sections on the following periods

1868-1900, on the first Trades Union Congress and the men who brought it to birth.

1900-1928, in which the TUC was consulted by Ministers and began to take part in public administration.

1928-1940, which are described as the TUC’s formative years and the fight for the right to be heard.

and 1928-1940, in which wartime consultation set the pattern for peacetime planning.

These are followed by lists of trade unions affiliated to the TUC circa 1968 and the members of the parliamentary committee from 1868 and the General Council from 1921.

The text includes articles and illustrations on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into trade unions, including a photograph of Queen Victoria’s letter; from the beehive of 1867 to the TUC of 1967; the early leaders of the TUC and the political causes at home and abroad, for which they rallied trade union support; some of the events that led to the TUC’s foundation and the Royal Commission on Trade Unions; the TUC and the Criminal Law Amendment Act; working men voting during the dinner hour; working hours and conditions which the TUC wanted to reform, particularly of women and children; Punch cartoon of the sweated workers exploited for the products displayed at the Great Exhibition; Alexander McDonald, the man behind the miners’ unions; campaigns for compensation for industrial injury and safeguards for sailors; farm labourers’ unions, the public and the church; the advent of state education and the birth of white collar unions; mass unemployment and demonstrations in the Great Depression of the 1880; the trade union leaders of the unemployed and their political allies; squalor and misery in London; forging the first link with American unions; the TUC on the brink of the 20th century; the ‘new unionism’ and the matchgirls’ strike; the dockers’ strike of 1889; the birth of the Labour Party in 1906; passage into law of the TUC’s own trade union charter; the trade unions and the beginnings of the foundation of the welfare state by the Liberals; Women trade unionists, the Osborne Judgement; the introduction into Britain of French and American syndicalism; the great dock strike of 1911, and the great transport strike of 1912; the Daily Herald; Will Dyson’s cartoons; the TUC on the eve of World War I; the War; the wartime revolution in trade unions; the TUC’s contribution to the war effort; rise of shop stewards; the impact of the Russian Revolution on the British Labour movement; peace time defeat; the appearance of Ernest Bevin; the replacement of the Parliamentary Committee by the General Council in the TUC in 1921; the first proposal for the nationalisation of the coal mines; 1924, when Labour was in office but the trade unions were left out in the cold; the gold standard and the General Strike; the Strike’s defeat and punitive Tory legislation; the TUC’s examination of union structure after the Strike; TUC ballots the miners to defeat company unionism; Transport House in 1928; the Mond-Turner talks and consultations between workers’ and employers’ organisations; Walter Citrine and the IFTU; the 1929 Labour government; opposition to McDonald-Snowden economies; McDonald’s 1931 election victory; propaganda posters for the National Government; the 1930s; the state of industry and TUC plans for its control; union growth in the young industries; young workers fighting for a fair chance; the TUC and the British Commonwealth; the Nazi attack on the German unions; the TUC and the international general strike against the outbreak of war; the waning of pacifism inside the TUC; the Labour Movement and the Spanish Civil War; Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace in our Time’; summer, 1939, and the outbreak of World War II; Churchill’s enlistment of the TUC and Labour Party in government; the coalition government and the unions; TUC organises aid to Russia after the Nazi invasion; plans for post-War reconstruction; the TUC, godfather to the Welfare State; the Cold War; the bleak beginning of public industries in 1947; David Low’s cartoons of the TUC; the drive for productivity; the Tories and the Korean War; TUC aid to Hungary and condemnation of Suez; the official opening of Congress House; TUC intervention in industrial disputes; trade union structure; from pay pause to planning; trade unionists given a role in industry; government pressure for a prices and incomes policy; TUC overseas contacts; and recent changes to the TUC.

The book’s an important popular document of the rise of the TUC from a time when unions were much more powerful than they were. They were given a role in government and industrial movement. Unfortunately, the continuing industrial discontent of the post-War years have been played on by nearly every government since Thatcher’s victory in 1979. The result is stagnant and falling wages, increasingly poor and exploitative conditions and mass poverty and misery. All justified through Zombie laissez-faire economics. Corbyn offered to reverse this completely, and give working people back prosperity and dignity. But 14 million people were gulled and frightened by the Tories and the mass media into rejecting this.

Strong trade unions are working people’s best method for expressing their economic and political demands along with a strong Labour party, one that works for working people, rather than solely in the interest of the employers and the financial sector. Which is why the Tories want to destroy them and are keen that books like these should be forgotten.

Let’s fight against them, and make sure that books like this continue to inspire and inform working class people in the future.

 

The Labour, Pro-Working Class Arguments for Brexit

December 22, 2019

The decisive factor which swung 14 million people to vote Tory in the general election two weeks was Brexit. Labour’s programme of reforms was popular, despite the predictable Tory attacks on it as impractical, costly, too radical, Marxist and so on. 60 to 70 per cent of the public in polls supported the manifesto, and the party received a slight boost in popularity in the polls after its public. The areas in Labour’s heartlands in the midlands and north that turned Tory were those which voted ‘Leave’. Craig Gent in his article for Novara Media on the lessons Labour must learn from this defeat lamented this. By backing Remain, Labour had ceded Brexit to the Conservatives, allowing them to shape the terms of the debate and the assumptions underlying it. But Gent also argued that it could easily have gone the other way.

Indeed it could. Labour’s policy, before the right-wing put pressure on Corbyn to back a second referendum, was that Labour would respect the Leave vote, and try for a deal with the EU that would serve Britain the best. Only if that failed would Labour consider a general election or second referendum. This is eminently sensible. The referendum was purely on whether Britain would leave the European Union. It was not on the terms under which Britain would leave. Despite Johnson’s promise to ‘get Brexit done’, he will have no more success than his predecessor, Tweezer. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has stated that the negotiations are going to take far long than the eleven months Johnson claimed. The people who voted for him are going to be sorely disappointed.

The right-wing campaign for leaving the EU heavily exploited racism and xenophobia. Not only had Britain lost her sovereignty to Brussels, but it was because of the EU that Britain was being flooded with immigrants taking jobs and placing a burden on the social and economic infrastructure. In fact, the Black and Asian immigrants entering Britain were permitted, as Mike showed on his blog, through UN agreements covering asylum seekers. Moreover immigrants and foreign workers were a net benefit to Britain. They contributed more in taxes and took less in benefits. But with this was drowned out, along with other, vital Remain arguments in the Tory rhetoric of hate.

But there was always a part of the Labour movement that also distrusted the European Union for democratic, socialist reasons. The late Tony Benn devoted an entire chapter to it in his 1979 book, Arguments for Socialism. One of his primary objections to it, as he outlined in a 1963 article for Encounter magazine, was

that the Treaty of Rome which entrenches laissez-faire as its philosophy and chooses its bureaucracy as its administrative method will stultify effective national economic planning without creating the necessary supranational planning mechanisms for growth and social justice.

Like right-wing Eurosceptics, Benn also objected to Britain joining the EU because of loss of national sovereignty and democracy through inclusion into a European superstate. He was also worried about the threat from Brussels to British industry. The European Union hated Britain’s nationalised industries, and Benn said that he was told by Brussels bureaucrats that investment, mergers and prices in the former British steel industry would have to be controlled by them. Every issue of state aid to British manufacturing industry would have to be subject to the European commission. He was very much afraid that British manufacturing would be unable to compete against the better financed and equipped European firms, and so close. And he also argued that membership in the European Union would create higher unemployment through the EU’s economic policy, which was exactly the same as that tried by Conservative premier Ted Heath’s first government. He believed that EU membership would leave British workers with a choice of either being unemployed at home, or moving to Europe to seek work. Only the directors and shareholders in European companies would profit. He then gives the statistics showing how much Britain was paying to the EU for policies like the Common Agricultural Policy, that penalised Britain’s highly efficient farming system in favour of that of the continent, and the disastrous effect EU membership had had on British industry and jobs. The devastation caused to some sectors of British industry and agriculture also formed part of Conservative attacks on the EU. The former Mail, now Times journo, Quentin Letts, bitterly criticises the EU in his book, Bog Standard Britain, for the way the common fisheries policy drastically cut back our fishing fleet to a fraction of its former size.

It also seems that Ted Heath also used some very underhand, dirty tricks to rig the initial referendum to give the result he wanted: that the British people agreed with him and wanted to join Europe. This was the subject of an article in the parapolitical/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster some years ago.

I’m a Remainer. I was as shocked by the Tories’ victory as everyone else on the Left. I expected that they would win because of the vast propaganda and media resources they had poured in to attacking Labour and Corbyn personally. But I was astonished by how large the victory was. I believed that the continuing failure to secure a deal with Europe would have made Brexit less popular, not more. The result of the original referendum was so narrow that I believed a second would reverse the decision. How wrong I was.

Some of the Eurosceptic arguments against Europe are overstated or simply wrong. The EU was a threat to our nationalised industries, but it seemed nothing prevented the French, Germans and Dutch from retaining theirs and buying up ours, as the Dutch firm, Abellio, was awarded the contract for some of our rail services. Britain’s entry into the EU did not result in us losing our sovereignty. We retained it, and all law passed in Brussels had to become British law as well. And I believe very strongly that leaving Europe, especially under a no-deal Brexit, will badly damage our trade and economy.

But understanding Brexit and the arguments against EU membership from the Left from people like Tony Benn, may also provide a way of winning back some at least of the support Labour lost at the election. Labour can show that it understands the fear some people in those communities have about the loss of sovereignty, and the effect EU membership has had on trade, manufacturing and employment. But we can also point out that the Tories are using the same set of economic principles as the EU, and that this won’t change so long as Boris is Prime Minister. And any trade agreement he makes with the Orange Generalissimo will be worse than staying in the EU. It won’t secure British jobs or support British industry, manufacturing or otherwise. Indeed, it will cause further damage by placing them at a disadvantage against the Americans.

A proper Brexit, that respected British workers and created a fairer, better society, could only be brought in by Labour. But the Thursday before last, 14 million people were duped into rejecting that. But Labour is learning its lesson, and people are getting ready to fight back.

Labour can and will win again, on this and other issues. Brexit may have got Johnson in, but it may also be the issue that flings him out. 

Book on Austerity as State Violence

December 21, 2019

The Violence of Austerity, Vickie Cooper and David Whyte, eds. (London: Pluto Press 2017).

Okay, I realise that this isn’t the kind of book most of us would choose to read at Christmas. We’d rather have something a bit more full of seasonal good cheer. I also realise that as it published nearly three years ago in 2017, it’s somewhat dated. But it, and books like it, are needed and still extremely topical now than 14 million people have been duped into electing Old Etonian Tory Boris Johnson.

I found the book in one of the many excellent secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. I was particularly drawn to it because of its title, and the titles of the chapters it contains. It’s a collection of papers describing the Tories’ attack on the poor, the disabled, the marginalised, the unemployed, homeless and BAME communities, and particularly women of colour, as forms of violence. This isn’t mere hyperbole. The book discusses real instances of violence by the state and its officials, as well as landlords and private corporations and individuals. Mike in his articles on the Tories’ wretched benefits sanctions has argued time and again that this is a form of state violence against the disabled, and that it constitutes genocide through the sheer scale of the deaths it has caused: 130,000 at a conservative estimate. It’s therefore extremely interesting that others attacking and campaigning against austerity share the same view. The blurb for the book runs

Austerity, the government’s response to the aftermath of the financial crisis, continues to devastate contemporary Britain. Thius books brings together campaigners and writers including Danny Dorling, Mary O’Hara and Rizwaan Sabir to show that austerity is a form of systematic violence.

Covering notorious cases of institutional violence, including workfare, fracking and mental health scandals, the book argues that police attacks on the homeless, violent evictions in the rented sector, community violence and cuts to the regulation of the social protection are all being driven by reductions in public sector funding. The result is a shocking exposes of the ways in which austerity policies harm people in Britain.

One of the editors, Vickie Cooper, is a lecturer in Social Policy and Criminology at the Open University, while the other, David Whyte, is professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also the editor of How Corrupt Is Britain, another scathing look at the UK under the Tories.

The book’s introduction by the editors is on the violence of austerity. After that it is divided into four sections, each on different aspects of austerity and its maltreatment of the poor.

Part 1, ‘Deadly Welfare’, contains the following chapters

  1. Mental Health and Suicide, by Mary O’Hara
  2. Austerity and Mortality, by Danny Dorling
  3. Welfare Reforms and the Attack on Disabled People, by John Pring
  4. The Violence of Workfare by Jon Burnett and David Whyte
  5. The Multiple Forms of Violence in the Asylum System by Victoria Canning
  6. The Degradation and Humiliation of Young People, by Emma Bond and Simon Hallsworth.

Part II, ‘Poverty Amplification’, has these

7. Child Maltreatment and Child Mortality, by Joanna Mack
8. Hunger and Food Poverty, by Rebecca O’Connell and Laura Hamilton
9. The Deadly Impact of Fuel Poverty, by Ruth London
10. The Violence of the Debtfare State, by David Ellis
11. Women of Colour’s Anti-Austerity Activism, by Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
12. Dismantling the Irish Peace Process, by Daniel Holder

Part III, ‘State Regulation’, includes

13. Undoing State Protection, by Steve Tombs
14. Health and Safety at the Frontline of Austerity, by Hilda Palmer and David Whyte
15. Environmental Degradation, by Charlotte Burns and Paul Tobin
16. Fracking and State Violence, by Will Jackson, Helen Monk and Joanna Gilmore
17. Domicide, Eviction and Repossession, by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper
18. Austerity’s Impact on Rough Sleeping and Violence, by Daniel McCulloch.

Part IV, ‘State Control’, has these chapters

19. Legalising the Violence of Austerity, by Robert Knox
20. The Failure to Protect Women in the Criminal Justice System, by Maureen Mansfield and Vickie Cooper
21. Austerity, Violence and Prisons, by Joe Sim
22. Evicting Manchester’s Street Homeless, by Steven Speed
23. Policing Anti-Austerity through the ‘War on Terror’ by Rizwaan Sabir
24. Austerity and the Production of Hate, by Jon Burnett.

These are all subjects that left-wing blogs like Vox Political, Another Angry Voice, Pride’s Purge have all covered and discussed. The last chapter, ‘Austerity and the Production of Hate’, is on a subject that Mike’s discussed several times in Vox Political: the way the Tory press and media justifies the savage attacks on the poor and disabled through stirring up hatred against them. Mike has published several articles on the way Tory propaganda has resulted in vicious attacks on the poor, particularly the homeless.

This violence and campaign of hatred isn’t going to stop after Boris’ victory, and his appeal for healing after the election is just rhetoric. He doesn’t want healing, he wants compliance and complacency. He doesn’t deserve them, and should not be given any, because from now on he and his party will only step up the attacks.

Don’t be taken in by establishment lies. Keep working to get him out!

Why Do People Ignore the Suffering of the Disabled and Unemployed?

December 19, 2019

It’s just a few days into the new reign of Boris Johnson, and already he’s hitting those on the benefit, including and particularly the poor and unemployed. Mike put up a piece a few days ago listing all the reforms Labour would have brought in, which would have ended this. And it began with a heartfelt cry of despair by Mrs. Mike.

“Basically now we are all buggered.

“No hope left for me as I’m disabled and they’ve messed me about so much already.

“I don’t see any compassion for people like myself and all the others like me out there – and to all the ones who have already taken their lives because of cuts cuts cuts cuts n more cuts.

“I’m so disappointed in people in general because of all the hatred towards different groups of people.

“And it’s now going to get worse. Thanks a bunch.”

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/17/faced-with-five-more-years-of-tory-persecution-disabled-people-are-losing-hope/

Mrs. Mike is not alone. I know some readers on this blog with health issues were afraid that the Tories would win before the election result, and what it would mean for them. And this feeling is likely to be shared by the disabled, long-term sick and unemployed generally. So why have people ignored them, and voted for a government which actively persecuted them?

I don’t quite have all the answers, but here’s some ideas I have. Firstly, I think most people are unaware of the problems those hit by New Labour’s and the Tory’s welfare reforms have in making ends meet. And they almost certainly don’t know how biased and humiliating the ‘fitness for work’ tests and the Jobcentre can be.  Unless they’ve actually been in an interview with a disabled person, and see it all happen for themselves, or personally experienced it, it has no meaning for them. The newspaper reports are just that. Something that’s in the paper. And it’s out of their minds as soon as they turn the page.

And the Tories and Tory press have been very good at framing the narrative in Orwellian terms to hide and distort the truth. Left-wing bloggers and advocacy groups have pointed out that, thanks to papers like the Heil, the general public now believes that 27 per cent of welfare claims are fraudulent. The reality is that it’s only 0.7 per cent.  And if you talk to people, there’s always someone they know, who’s managed to work the system. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s just an individual or group of people they’ve seen on TV, particularly in ‘poverty porn’ shows like Benefits Street. This is used to maintain the attitude that the state really is supporting people and giving cheats more than enough money, and to dismiss the genuine suffering of others.

Older people may also be more inclined to dismiss or ignore stories of rising poverty because of conditions they endured when they were younger. I remember that even in the 1970s, when the affluent society supposedly was just beginning, it could be a real struggle for working/ lower middle class people. This was ameliorated in many cases through the greater sense of community, where neighbours and relatives helped each other out. That sense of community seems to have vanished as society has in general become more affluent and individualistic. And so some older people ask how the younger generation can really be poor and need to use food banks when they can afford luxury items like satellite & cable television, computers, mobile phones and so on. In fact, computers now aren’t a luxury item. I don’t know about primary schools, but some universities at least expect their students to write their assignments on computer. Computers are used to search out information for homework, and so for many school pupils and students, they’re a necessity. But nevertheless, the attitude among some people is that if people are poor, it’s because they’re ‘feckless’, to use Gordon Brown’s notorious term. They’re profligate with their money, frittering it away of luxuries which they never had in their youth. Being poor, to them, means being dirt poor and definitely not being able to afford the goods and services which are now taken as part of normal, everyday life.

This is reinforced by the Tory press, which seeks to divide those in work but struggling from those on welfare. The line pushed here is that the virtuous, thrifty but insecure are being penalised through high taxes to support scroungers.

The Tories and the compliant press are also devious in the way they present their reforms. Mike and others have posted pieces pointing out exactly what it means for the disabled when the Tories abolish the need for doctor’s note for decisions on whether a disabled person is fit for work. This means that the assessor can arbitrarily decide that a person is able to work based on their own prejudices or pressure from those higher in the administrative chain without needing to consult their doctor, who obviously may have a far better understanding of that person’s needs and disabilities than they do. It leaves disabled people vulnerable to being considered ‘fit for work’ and thrown off benefits when they are in no such state. But as Mike has shown, the headlines about it in the Tory press present it positively. The sick and disabled, it proclaims, are freed from the burden of having to make a doctor’s appointment. Less bureaucracy! Less hassle! I doubt many people like having to make medical appointments like that, but they have to be done. But the Tory spin is that it saves people from unnecessary trouble without mentioning how vulnerable this makes them.

And it’s through lies and spin like this that the British public is gulled into believing that the Tories aren’t destroying the welfare state, just making it more efficient. Giving more to honest claimants while weeding out the fraudsters. 

But there are very few real fraudsters, and the Tories are destroying the welfare state. Just like the Blairites also wanted. Fighting back means directly tackling and refuting the lies and poisonous attitudes.

130,000 people have already been killed by Tory welfare reforms. And if the Tories carry on, there’ll be at least a hundred thousand more. All denied by the Tories and their collaborators in the press, and justified by smooth lies and evil smears.

Nationalised, State Healthcare Gives the Poor More Money and More Power

December 16, 2019

One of the arguments Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have been pushing to attack state healthcare is that, as it’s funded through public taxes, it somehow leaves people worse off. I came across a recent right-wing video on YouTube that seemed to be pushing that line. It proclaimed that American university students were all in favour of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All – until they were told what it would cost them. I didn’t watch it, because I knew it would annoy me. Similarly, over here the Tories and Blairites have been telling people that the inclusion of the private sector will bring costs down, thus allowing government to make savings and cut taxes. In fact, private healthcare is wastefully bureaucratic, far more so than state healthcare. But the Tories just want to cut taxes for the rich without making the lives of the poor any better. Indeed, they are determined to make them worse through savage welfare cuts, wage freezes, and further attacks on workers’ rights and employment conditions. And by encouraging more people to take out private health insurance in order to avoid their manufactured problems in state healthcare, the costs are transferred to the consumer. For the rich this is no problem. For middle income groups, it means having to pay thousands for operations and procedures that should be routine and free. They are worse off.

The book Health Reform: Public Success – Private Failure, Daniel Drache and Terry Sullivan, eds., (London: Routledge 1999) makes the point that Lord Beveridge, the architect of the modern welfare state, believed the contrary. State welfare provision which actually leave the poor and working people better off. Without doctors’ and hospital bills to pay for their illness, they would have more disposable income. The book states

It is not sufficiently recognised that by removing the financial burden of catastrophic illness from their wage packets, their disposable incomes would rise. No longer would they have to pay doctors from their pockets when their children were born or they fell sick and when they went to hospital; lack of money did not constitute a barrier to good care. These reforms, along with the spread of collective bargaining in advanced industrial economies, enabled people to enjoy the benefits of an expanded notion of social citizenship. Healthcare and full employment thus constituted a forward-looking framework for social health and not simply clinically provided health care. 

(p. 10).

Which means that the prosperity given to working people through free medical care, full employment and strong trade unions can act as proper citizens, able to make political and economic choices that will affect government.

Which is why the Tories and the Republicans in America have attacked trade unions and scrapped the idea of full employment, because they give working people too much power. And what’s the odds that similar thinking also isn’t one of the factors in their attacks on state healthcare. Oh, they do honestly believe that private enterprise is always better than state provision, but the threat of medical bills in a private healthcare system as well as general poverty is a good way of keeping the workforce cowed and fearful.

NHS privatisation will not make healthcare cheaper and more efficient. It will just make working people poorer and allow more bullying and exploitation from their employers.

Rapper Professor Green on Why the Tories Aren’t Getting his Vote

December 11, 2019

Mike put up this meme on his post about ordinary people’s reactions to BoJob’s comments on Sunday. It’s a quotation from the rapper Professor Green, and it succinctly states what the Tories have done for the ordinary people of this great country: zilch.

Absolutely. They’ve done nothing at all for the ordinary working man and woman, except push them further into poverty and despair. And their policy of austerity is responsible for the deaths of a minimum of 130,000 disabled and unemployed people. Professor Green was widely praised for one of his songs about mental illness as it affects men. There’s a real crisis here, as mental illness hasn’t received the attention it requires. And men especially try to repress their emotions when suffering from depression and try to carry on even they’re unable to cope. The Tories have made a great show of supporting the mentally ill, promising more funding and medical resources. But mental health is still critically underfunded and the provision of resources inadequate. And I don’t see that situation getting better under the Tories, no matter what lies Johnson makes about improving the NHS.

The Tories will continue cutting the NHS and privatising it, opening it up to American private healthcare companies just as Johnson, Fox and Hannam demanded last year when they set up the Institute for Free Trade in 2017. And so long as they are in power, people will be, as Professor Green says, ‘disengaged, disaffected, angry, upset, unhappy and hopeless’.

Which is why the Tories and their collaborators in the media hate Corbyn. He’s given people hope – genuine hope for change that can only come from the election of a properly socialist Labour party and the scrapping of Thatcher’s legacy of neoliberal economics, poverty and despair.

So please vote Labour tomorrow. 

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/08/see-the-way-people-stop-supporting-boris-johnson-when-they-realise-what-hes-like/