Posts Tagged ‘Coalition’

Lib Dems Now Claiming that Only They Can Stop Tory Majority

November 30, 2019

The Lib Dems have started changing their tactics, I see. According to an article in last Monday’s I, 25th November 2019, Jo Swinson has scaled back her ambitions. She is no longer saying that the Lib Dems are going to form a government. Instead, she’s just claiming that it’s only her party that can stop the Tories forming a majority. The article by Nigel Morris reads

Jo Swinson says the Liberal Democrats are best placed to prevent Boris Johnson securing a majority as her party continues to scale back its election ambitions.

The party no longer portrays its leader as a prime minister in waiting as it struggles to make headway in opinion polls.

Ms Swinson acknowledged the Prime Minister appeared to be ‘on course’ for victory at the moment. And she signalled the Lib Dems were changing tack to argue that Remain supporters should support them to stop Mr Johnson winning a majority for his version of Brexit. Surveys yesterday suggested the party averages around 15 per cent in the polls, which could leave them with fewer than the 21 seats they held when the election was called.

Ms Swinson suggested on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that she could give the go-ahead for Mr Johnson’s Brexit blueprint as long as it was conditional on a second referendum.

This should raise red flags for anyone, who really think the Lib Dems are progressive and are actually the party of Remain. It has always seemed to me that Swinson’s support for the Remain campaign was tactical. Only two per cent more of her party support Remain than the number of Labour supporters who do so. And she is absolutely not a progressive in any sense of the word. She’s an arch-Thatcherite. She consistently voted with the government under the Tories, in fact far more so than many leading Conservatives. And she wants to put up a statue to Thatcher.

This looks to me that she’s trying to imply that she’s willing to form a coalition with Labour when she absolutely isn’t. She’s said that she would prefer a Conservative government to Corbyn, and that’s definitely the way she’ll go. If there is another hung parliament and it’s a choice between the two parties, she’ll do exactly what Nick Clegg did and join Boris in government without a moment’s hesitation. And I think that in negotiations between the parties, her commitment to a second referendum will be jettisoned. Or postponed. Or something, so she doesn’t have to act on it.

Don’t be misled. Swinson is preparing to sell out Lib Dem voters yet again. Just like her party did under Clegg.

 

Vince Cable Spread Anti-Semitism Smears to Boost Support for Lib Dems

April 6, 2018

More lies and smears, though from the Lib Dems this time, rather than the Tories. Vince Cable has declared that anti-Semitism is exceptionally severe in the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. And so his party will definitely not go into coalition with a Labour government.

A Lib Dem leader saying that he won’t go into coalition with a Labour government! Well, colour me surprised! as the late, great Bill Hicks used to exclaim ironically. Like the last time the Lib Dems refused to go into coalition with the Labour party, and instead got into bed – metaphorically – with Dave Cameron and the Tories. Mike states that Cable knows that this is rubbish. In fact, under Corbyn, anti-Semitism has actually decreased in the Labour party, while outside Labour in Britain generally it has actually risen. But like the Tories, the Lib Dems are showing that they see no need to spoil a useful lie with an awkward truth.

And somehow, I really don’t think this is the real reason the Lib Dems don’t want to go into partnership with Labour. After all, they lied about their reason for going into coalition with the Tories. According to them, it was because they didn’t want Gordon Brown to be the head of the Labour party. In reality, they’d already told the Conservatives they were going to go into coalition with them long before they publicly turned Labour’s overtures down, citing Brown’s continued leadership as their excuse.

The Lib Dems have been trying to turn themselves into another far right, Thatcherite party. The Orange Book of the Lib Dem right, which supplants John Stuart Mill’s classic On Liberty, takes its name from the colours of the 19th century Manchester school. The same Manchester school of economics that Mussolini boasted of supporting when he first took power in Italy. In other words, it’s complete laissez faire, free trade liberalism with as little state intervention as possible. The Lib Dem MP for Taunton Dean in Somerset wrote a book just before the last election making pretty much the same arguments as the noxious authors of Britain Unchained. You know the sort of thing: Brits must tighten their belts and work harder, have fewer welfare benefits and lower wages in order to compete with working people in being similarly screwed by neoliberalism in the Developing World. This came from a public schoolboy, who no doubt would have screamed blue murder had someone made the point many economists are now making, that western managers are vastly overpaid.

The simple reason is that Cable is another wretched Thatcherite neoliberal, who doesn’t want to go into coalition with a Labour party under Corbyn, because Corbyn wants to undo the Thatcherite consensus and return Britain to the social democratic arrangement which gave Britain jobs, a welfare state and prosperity from the end of the War to Thatcher’s election.

I also wonder how this will affect some of the members of his own party. A little while ago I came across a book promoting the anti-Semitism smears against Labour by Dave Rich, and leading member of the Israel lobby. This claimed that the left’s anti-Semitism began in the late ’60s with criticism of Israel, including by the left-wing of the Liberals. Which begs the question: is Cable now going to lead a purge of Lib Dems, who criticise Israel and its murderous ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, just like the Blairites have done in Labour?

And if we’re talking about racist violence, Cable himself was an economist with Shell, I believe, when that western oil company was hiring mercenary squads to murder and beat tribespeople in the Niger delta in Nigeria, who were protesting about the company’s pollution of their water supplies. Cable wasn’t responsible for the policy, but he clearly didn’t let it get in the way of working for them.

And I also recall reading in a Fabian pamphlet in the 1980s how one of the brutal South American Fascist regimes was also apparently a member of the international Liberal group of parties. In Germany in the same decade there was a massive scandal when it came out that the German Liberal party, the Freie Demokraten, or Free Democrats, were absolutely nothing of the sort, and had been heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis. Alongside Liberalism’s veneration of John Stuart Mill and democracy, there’s a side that is every bit as nasty as the Tories. And this side seems to be dominant under Cable.

The founders of the Labour party were convinced that both the Liberals and Conservatives should be treated equally as enemies of the working class. The Liberals stood for the middle classes and business, while the Tories originally stood for the Anglican Church and the aristocracy. Neither of them represented the 95 per cent of the population, who in the 19th century constituted the working class. And it was the Liberals, not the Tories, who set up the workhouses under the New Poor Law. Lloyd George and the Liberals laid the foundations of the welfare state, which the Tories have been trying since Thatcher to destroy. And under Vince Cable, it seems the Lib Dems are trying to join them.

Cable clearly is quite happy with the continuing privatisation of the NHS, and a privatised electricity grid and railways, which offer substandard service at inflated prices for the benefit of their mostly foreign company directors. At the same time, he also wants to cut wages and state benefits, to make Britain’s working people even poorer. And I’ve seen no evidence that he wants to do anything about the welfare to work tests, which have seen tens of thousands of disabled people starve to death after being wrongly judged ‘fit for work’. He hasn’t condemned benefit sanctions, which do the same to unemployed generally. And he certainly hasn’t made any noises at all at reducing the debt burden on students. Labour brought in tuition fees, but they were increased immensely by Nick Clegg. He then claimed it was Cameron’s idea, when it was the opposite. Cameron apparently was prepared to concede their removals to the Liberals. But they were advocated by Clegg.

In the 1920s and ’30s, the Liberal party began to position itself as the centre ground between the Tories and Labour, and could thus appeal to both depending on circumstances. During the Lib-Lab pact in the mid-70s, they helped shore up a minority Labour government.

But those days are long gone, it seems. Now they’re doing their best to be indestinguishable from the Tories, just like New Labour tried to continue Thatcher’s policies.

There’s no reason for any working person in Britain to vote for them.
A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories.
Ignore the lies and smears, and vote for Corbyn instead.

Cartoon of Iain Duncan Smith as ‘Leatherface’ Serial Killer

June 22, 2017

This week I’ve been putting up cartoons I drew a few years ago, expressing my absolute hatred of the Tory party, the right-wing press and their vile policies. This one is of Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the Tory party before David Cameron, and subsequently the head of the DWP under the Coalition between the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers, headed by Nick Clegg.

It was Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP that massively expanded the sanctions system already brought in by Tony Blair, for the benefit of New Labour’s corporate donors, such as the American private health insurance company and insurance fraudster, Unum. The result has been tens of thousands of people thrown off benefit for the most trivial of reasons, many of whom have died in misery and despair as a result.

Stilloaks, Johnny Void, Vox Political, DPAC and many other bloggers have carried articles and lists of the victims, putting the names and brief biographies of these tragic souls. They have also formed the basis for pieces by socially engaged – and outraged – artists. A few years ago Johnny Void showed one of these on his blog, an image made out the faces of some of those, who have been killed in this way.

So far the list of disabled people, as compiled by the above bloggers and organisations, is somewhere upwards of 500-600 +.

And the true figure is worse. Much worse. Mike and several other disability rights bloggers, and the Independent newspaper, tried to get the numbers of people, who have died after being thrown off their benefits, from IDS’ Department of Work and Pensions. The department did everything it could not to answer Mike’s and the others’ request. They were turned down on the specious grounds that the request was ‘vexatious’. When the Information Commissioner finally upheld their request, the DWP withheld the information until the very last day it could, and then launched an appeal. Eventually Mike and his colleagues won. But the DWP deliberately misinterpreted the request, so that they released a slightly different set of figures than Mike was asking for.

But those figures were still shocking. With in the period for the figures Mike requested, 13,000-14,000 people had died, if I remember correctly.

And researchers at Oxford University have reported that in 2015, austerity killed 30,000 people.

Mike and other bloggers are calling this what it is: murder. It is, as Jeffrey Davies and others describe it, the genocide of the disabled, although it also includes just the ordinary unemployed poor.

So I drew the following cartoon.

It’s of Iain Duncan Smith as a serial killer, wearing a mask made of the skin of one of his victims, like the villain ‘Leatherface’ in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Behind him is a skull, representing death. Behind him on the left is my attempt to copy the mummified remains of one of the bog bodies found in Denmark as another symbol of death.

I am not saying that Iain Duncan Smith is personally a murderer. I’m sure that he hasn’t personally killed anyone. But his department and the party he headed and serves, has. So as far as I’m concerned, he deserves to be portrayed as such.

IDS left office a few years ago, moaning about how people were blaming him for policies which Labour started. Well, New Labour did, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility, as he didn’t have to continue them. And neither does Theresa May now. But the sanctions, and the deaths, are continuing. Only yesterday Mike put up a piece about a single mother of nine, Jodie Whiting, who committed suicide after being sanctioned for missing an appointment.

The time is long past when all this was stopped.
No more sanctions. No more deaths. And benefits and wages paid at a level people can actually live on.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to end this vicious sanctions system in the DWP. We need new elections, to vote May out, and him in.

A Puppet of Theresa May to Fill in While the Real One Runs and Hides

April 25, 2017

Thanks to everyone who liked the cardboard puppets I made of Ian Duncan Smith and David Cameron to satirise them. It’s great to be appreciated. As I said in an earlier post on Saturday, I was going to have to make a similar cardboard puppet of Theresa May, as the real one seemed to be doing her best to run and hide from the media and the general public. She announced that she wasn’t going to appear on the leader debates. The Beeb decided instead that they’d simply keep an open seat for her. She also made it clear that she would not be talking to the press, or the public except in very carefully stage managed conditions.

Just how far and how fast she runs away from the public is shown in a piece Mike has put up this morning over at Vox Political. Graham Mills, a senior citizen in Dudley, said he was very disappointed with her when he met her campaigning in his street. He’d been cutting his lawn, but she wanted to cut across it to talk to him. He didn’t allow her, because he’d only just cut it. Talking to her, he found her nervous and evasive. She did not give him a clear answer why she was avoiding debating with the other party leaders. She also didn’t answer him properly when he asked her why she was still repeating the lie that Labour would go into coalition with the SNP, when this had been shown to be false. Again, no proper answer. When she did answer, it was simply to give stock Tory answers.

Just how pathetic she is at campaigning publicly is shown in a list produced by Scott Nelson on Twitter. Corbyn has spoken publicly in eleven cities, including my own fair town of Bristol. May has only spoken in four, and these were all private premises. There were two factories, a golf club and a private club.

Needless to say, Laura Kuenssberg, the extremely biased reporter for the Beeb, has been trying to give this some positive spin. She said that May was being content to let Labour stew in its own juice.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/25/theresa-may-is-warned-get-off-my-lawn-while-labour-fires-up-the-grassroots/

Mike’s also posted up some very funny memes of people looking for May, and doctor’s looking for her brain once they’ve found her.

Actually, her reaction shows precisely why the media, the Tories and the Blairites are so afraid of Corbyn. Richard Seymour in his book on the Labour leader, Corbyn: The strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, says that they fear and despise him because he uses old-fashioned methods of campaigning. He does not use focus groups, but puts himself through the gruelling process of actually going to places, standing in front of crowds and speaking to them. And he does actually speak to them. He uses their language, and uses a fully formed argument. He doesn’t use soundbites.

And so the Tories, Blairites and their lackeys, like Laura ‘What’s Impartiality?’ Kuenssberg are desperate to smear the Labour leader. Or simply not report anything substantial he says.

Well, to make up for May’s appearance in public, I have indeed produced a cardboard puppet of her. Here it is.

I’ve put a tab in it, so that the mouth can be worked. Here it is with its mouth closed.

So I’ll be putting this in various posts to fill in for the real Prime Minister, as this ‘strong, confident leader’ does her level best to run away from the public she’s to whom she lies, and which her party is determined to impoverish and exploit.

Tim Farron Planning Another Coalition Deal between Lib Dems and Tories

April 24, 2017

Last week I put up a post expressing my extreme scepticism about Tim Farron’s claim that his party will offer ‘strong opposition’ to the Tories. They didn’t when the Tories won the 2010 election. In fact, they went into coalition with them almost immediately. They spun stories about how they had tried to make a pact with Labour previously, but this had fallen through. In fact, this was shown to be lies. They Lib Dems had already decided two months previously that they would join the Tories. And despite claiming in opposition that they would oppose tuition fees, the Lib Dems under Clegg then betrayed millions of university students by raising them, even though the Tories were prepared to concede keeping tuition fees lower to them.

Now it seems they’re getting ready to do the same again. Farron has claimed he won’t go into coalition with either Labour or the Tories. But Mike put up a post on Saturday showing that while Farron is sincere about not wanting to join a coalition with Labour, despite his promises he seems ready to join the Tories in government again. The Independent reported he was refusing to rule out any coalition deal with them. As for Brexit, Farron has changed his rhetoric from ‘opposing Brexit’ to ‘opposing a hard Brexit’. Which suggests that he has profoundly altered his party’s pro-EU stance there, ready to join the Tories in coalition.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/22/lib-dem-support-for-remaining-in-the-eu-fades-as-the-party-seeks-another-tory-coalition/

Also worth reading are the comments to this post. One of Mike’s many excellent commenters, Casalealex, wrote:

In 2002, a secret Liberal Democrat document came to light – produced by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors – in which local activists were urged to “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly” in order to win elections.

In fact, ask anyone who’s been involved in local politics and they’ll tell you Liberal Democrat activists are the most infamous for playing dirty, using underhand methods and being utterly ruthless.

Exactly as they turned out to be nationally in their coalition with the Tories.

I’ve heard Tories complain and describe the underhanded tactics employed by the Lib Dems, and how they fight dirtier – in their opinion – than the other parties, so Casalealex’s words ring true. And as their actions in the government before last has shown, they couldn’t be trusted then, and they can’t be trusted now.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 1

August 8, 2016

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

They are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities.

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections. Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed.

Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 3

August 8, 2016

In addition to demolishing the government’s arguments in favour of workfare, Standing also provides a series of further arguments against it. These are that the jobs created through workfare aren’t real jobs; workfare is unjust in its treatment of the unemployed; it stops the unemployed actually looking for jobs for themselves; it lowers their income over their lifetime; it also acts to keep wages down; it keeps the people, who should be working at those jobs out of work; it’s a dangerous extension of the power of the state; and finally, it’s a gigantic scam which only benefits the welfare-to-work firms.

Workfare and Real Jobs

According to the ideas of the market economy developed by the pioneer of free trade, the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, workfare jobs don’t actually constitute real jobs. Smith believed that the market would actually produce higher wages to entice people into performing unpleasant jobs. On this reasoning, if workfare jobs were real jobs, then they would have a definite economic value. They would be created through the operation of the market, and the workers in them would also be paid proper wages for performing them.

There are also moral problems in the definition of what constitutes a ‘real job’ that someone on workfare should have to perform. If it is defined as one paying the minimum wage, then workfare is immoral as it puts downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the people already performing those jobs, forcing them into poverty. If those ‘real jobs’ are defined as those which are dirty, dangerous, undignified or stigmatizing, and so unpopular, they would have the opposite effect of what the advocates of workfare claim – that they are encouraging people to find work.

The solution for progressive is to make the labour market act like it is supposed to act, rather than it actually does in practice. Adam Smith was quite wrong about wages adjusting upwards for unpopular jobs in a market economy. The wages provided for work should match both supply and demand, and people should not be made into commodities as workers. They should have enough economic support to be able to refuse jobs they don’t want. Instead of assuming that people need to be forced to work, there should be the presumption instead that most people actually do. It is arbitrary and ultimately demeaning for all concerned to try to identify people who are somehow ‘undeserving’. Genuine supporters of equality should want the wages in unpleasant jobs to rise, until there is a genuine supply of willing labour.

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased person development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

The Lying Farewells for David Cameron

June 25, 2016

One of the aspects of the immediate aftermath of the ‘Leave’ vote I found particularly nauseating was the praise the Tories heaped on their leader as he announced his resignation. Well, sort of. He’s going to go, but not for another couple of months. He says he’ll finally pack up and leave in November. So despite Cameron’s promises that he would depart the moment he lost the vote, in practice he’s in no hurry. There, and I can remember Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, getting very animated on Have I Got News For You about how Broon tried to hang to power by cutting a deal with Clegg and the Lib Dems. He would agree to a coalition, but only if he was allowed to remain in No. 10. Clegg disagreed, and the deal fell through.

Well actually, it didn’t, as Clegg had already made a deal with the Tories to enter the coalition with them. His negotiations with Broon were simply lies and verbiage. Nevertheless, it got Hislop very excited, who described as ‘Mr Limpet’ because of his way he was trying to hang on to power like a limpet sticks to rocks.

Now Cameron is doing exactly the same. It seems that there are a lot of limpets in British politics. Though it has to be said, No 10 is a very nice rock for such shellfish.

In his resignation speech – if you can call it that, when he hasn’t actually gone – Cameron of course declared that he had been determined to try to create a fair society, with success and opportunities for all. Well, he’s a PR spin merchant, and his entire political career has been based on telling the voting public these lies, while doing the exact opposite. And after he had finished trying to paint a positive picture of himself and his policies, it was left to his party colleagues to join in.

John Major turned up on the Six O’clock news to declare that Cameron had indeed been a ‘One Nation Conservative’, concerned to provide jobs, opportunities and prosperity for all. ‘One Nation Tories’ are how Conservatives describe themselves, who want to make you think that they’re in favour of the welfare state. It comes from Disraeli’s description of Britain as divided into two nations – the rich and poor, and how this decision needed to be healed. In all fairness, this did have some validity at certain points in the 19th century. Disraeli himself extended the franchise to the whole of middle class and the richer sections of the working class in the 1870s as an attempt to ‘dish the Whigs’. Much of the earliest 19th century legislation regulating factories and mine work came from the paternalist section of the Tory party.

But when this is applied to David Cameron, it’s pure rubbish. Cameron’s reforms have led to Britain becoming more divided than ever before. Social mobility had just about ceased under Blair, and this has continued under Cameron. If, in fact, he hasn’t actually made it worse. The majority of people forced to claim benefits are the working poor, whose wages no longer cover the cost of living. Rising house prices and a lack of affordable housing, and the sale of council houses have meant that there is now a generation that can never look forward to owning their own homes. Or indeed, in many cases, moving out of their parents’. Cameron and his cronies raised tuition fees, saddling even more students with massive debt, all the while proclaiming that they were keen to see more people enter higher education. Nick Robinson, one of Cameron’s cheerleaders in BBC News, went off enthusiastically about how you didn’t need to pay the debt back until you earned a certain amount, so that it was all ‘free money’. Well, as the SF writer Robert Heinlein used to lecture people in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, TANSTAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch. A debt is still a debt.

And it’s when you get to the really poor – the long term sick, unemployed and disabled that the Tories’ policies have become positively lethal. Cameron, Osborne and his crew took over the welfare-to-work ideas of Blair’s New Labour, including the system of sanctions and fitness-to-work tests. As a result, people who have been literally dying have been declared fit for work and have had their benefit stopped. About 500 people have starved to death. Over a quarter of a million more have had their mental health impaired, sometimes seriously. Depression and anxiety has increased massively.

But all this is swept under the carpet, as Cameron and John Major have claimed that Major is a ‘One Nation’ Tory concerned with working peoples’ welfare. He isn’t, and never was. Just like he’s in no hurry to leave his rock.

Book Review: NHS SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Talls

June 4, 2016

(London: OneWorld 2013)

NHS SOS pic

This isn’t quite a book review, as I haven’t read it yet on the grounds I’ve been too afraid that the contents will upset and infuriate me too much. So I can only give you a superficial review of the contents. Nevertheless, I bought it because it’s an important book on an absolutely vital issue to our national health, moral and spiritual, as well as mental.

The book is a collection of articles on the creeping privatisation of the NHS, most notably by the current Tory administration that began with the ConDem coaltion, but it also discusses the way that the privatisation of the NHS began with other administrations, including that of Blair. The blurb for it on the back cover runs

The Coalition government passed into law an unprecedented assault on the NHS. Doctors, unions, the media, even politicians who claimed to be stalwart defenders failed to protect it. Now the effects of those devastating reforms are beginning to be felt by patients – but we can still save our country’s most valued institution if we take lessons from this terrible betrayal and act on them.

It also states that proceeds from the book’s profits will go to keeping the NHS public. There is also a website, WWW.KEEPOURNHSPUBLIC.COM.

It has an introduction by the noted neurologist, neurosurgeon and philosophical writer, Raymond Tallis, followed by the above chapters:

1. Breaking the Public Trust by John Lister;
2. Ready for Market by Steward Player
3. Parliamentary Bombshell by David Wrigley
4. The Silence of the Lambs by Jacky Davis and David Wrigley
5. A Failure of Politics by Charles West
6. Hidden in Plain Sight by Oliver Huitson
7. From Cradle to Grave by Allyson M. Pollock and David Price.
8. Stop Press: The Final Betrayal by David Wrigley and Jacky Davis
Afterward: What You Can Do to Save the NHS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis

There’s also a section on Further Resources, as well as two appendices.

Along with this book, there are at least two others on the same subject. One is by David Owen, the former Labour MP and founder of the SDP. Owen is a qualified a medical doctor, and to his credit he has tried to do something to block the NHS’ privatisation. I also found another book on the same subject by an NHS doctor with a very Arabic name, published by Zero books.

I bought the book after I found out from talking to friends just how many don’t realise that the Tories are privatising the NHS, and look at you completely amazed and incredulous when you tell them. I also wanted further information, as I’ve plans to produce a desktop pamphlet of no more than about 20 pages on it to get the message across beyond what I’m writing here on the Net. I want to create something in hardcopy I can take to protests, put in shop windows, newsagents, and mail out to people, who otherwise wouldn’t be aware of it. This has got to be fought all the way to preserve Britain’s health, not just physical, but moral and spiritual.

Dennis Skinner on Cameron and Osborne

May 30, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published pieces on the number of Tories now demanding a no-confidence vote in David Cameron. These include ‘Mad’ Nad Nadine Dorries and Bill Cash, while other opponents and Tory MPs questioning his ability include Andrew Bridgen, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Which is somewhat ironic, considering that all of them are either incompetent or frankly dangerous, and should be kept well away from political office themselves.

See Mike’s articles http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/29/will-the-eu-referendum-be-camerons-waterloo/

Conservative civil war: Clarke bashes Boris, Cash lays into Cameron

Mike in the last piece reports that 72 per cent of voters in Telegraph poll, as of 4 O’clock today, May 30th, wanted Cameron out of office.

So let’s add a bit more fuel to the flames, shall we?

Dennis Skinner in his book, Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences has a few things to say about Cameron and Osborne – about their vacuity, short-tempers and marked lack of intelligence, and his personal tussles with them in the House. Here’s his description of them, and one of his stories about how he engaged them in a struggle of wits.

David Cameron and George Osborne are a couple of posh boys who get angry when you don’t show them the deference they think they are entitled to by birth. You could see Cameron was ambitious the moment you clapped eyes on him. the friendly smile is deceptive. Everything about how he dresses, carries himself and opens his mouth speaks of ambition. Dodgy Dave was a new MP and had only been in the Commons a couple of years when Iain Duncan Smith, enduring a torrid time as leader of the Tories after 2001, appointed Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House.

On Cameron’s second week in the post Eric Forth, his line manager as shadow leader of the House, was away, so the new boy was pun charge at Business Questions. the beauty of Business Questions is we may ask for a statement or debate on any topic under the sun. I uttered a few words of mock greeting as Cameron stood there terrified, his hands gripping the despatch box, looking for all the world a lost young gentleman. Cameron tried to explain the Shadow Leader of the House was away but mixed up his words and said the Shadow Deputy Leader was absent. You’ve a split second to heckle. ‘he wants the top job already,’ I shouted and we laughed to take him down a notch. Cameron appeared embarrassed. You always remember a debut, it’s a big moment no matter what you do. He won’t forget he stumbled.

I described Cameron as a media creation on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster in late 2005 when he was running for the top job, and nothing I’ve seen or heard since has made me change my mind. He was elevated on the back of a puff of wind and lacked the substance of David Davis, the Tory he beat. The figure the Conservative Party could’ve picked and overlooked in successive contests was ken Clarke, who was easily the best candidate.

I’d watched Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House and at local government and education, and he never sparkled. When it suited him, he posed as the heir to Blair. He’s dropped the act now and come out as the child of Thatcher he always was. Cameron never had Blair’s ability or temperament, let alone the Labour politics. Blair never lost his temper at the despatch box. Unlike Cameron, who struggles to his under control.

The Cameron mask slipped when he called me a dinosaur. I’m no shrinking violet and if you dish it out some will come back your way. We used to sing as kids that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us. the trigger was relatively innocuous. I’d asked if Cameron would appear before Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media standards, given he’d once employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as press adviser. Cameron replied he’d be delighted, then Flashman lost control of his short fuse and added:

‘It’s good to see the honourable gentleman on such good form. I often say to my children “No need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur, come to the House of Commons at about half past twelve”.

I held up my hands and shrugged my shoulders, trying to look bemused rather than triumphant. Our side protested angrily. I could see most of the Tories were horrified, although there were a few laughing. Blair knew how to appear prime ministerial. Cameron is petulant. Paul Flynn, a Labour MP only a few years younger than me, raised a point of order immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions to ask if it was appropriate to criticise each other on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, disability or vintage. Another Labour MP, Brian Donohoe, proposed that the PM ‘should come back to this place and apologise to Dennis Skinner.’

I wasn’t the first MP to be looked at down Cameron’s nose. Dave the Sexist displayed a misogynist side in telling Angela Eagle, a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, to ‘Calm down, dear’ and later played the innocent when the Michael Winner slogan was wrapped around his neck. I must be the only dinosaur to ride a bike 12 miles on a Sunday. Once again the postbag ballooned with letters and emails flowed into the inbox on my computer. there must have been 150 of them. Cameron’s rudeness had gone down poorly. One of the notes was from a vicar in Cornwall who accused the PM of lying to God!

I was evidently under Cameron’s skin because, a few months after the dinosaur jibe in January 2012, he snapped once more in the Commons. In answer to a question about whether Jeremy Hunt should keep his job as culture secretary over close links to Rupert Murdoch, the PM jumped off the deep end. He stupidly whined I had a right to take my pension and added: ‘I advise him to do so.’ History was repeating itself. The remark was widely condemned as graceless, the insult boomeranging on a haple4ss Cameron. It was more water off a duck’s back and Cameron could carry on undermining himself for all I cared. In fact it was best that he did. The penny must have dropped with him, however, and at the next Prime Minister’s Questions he apologised.

‘I deeply regret my last intervention, it was a bit sharper than it should have been. I hope he will accept my apology for that,’ Cameron said, before smirking a smarmy ‘He is a tremendous ornament of this House and always remains the case.’

It’s not an apology for calling me a dinosaur or giving me pension advice that I seek, but a resignation letter apologising for the pain and damage he has caused to millions of people with the austerity imposed by the ConDem coalition. The Tories imitate the extreme Tea Party in the US. What the Conservatives are doing to the disabled, unemployed, working poor and homeless is unforgivable. the destruction of the NHS, carved into bite-sized pieces ready for privatisation, is criminal.

George Osborne is Cameron’s partner in crime. Another of the Bullingdon snobs, Osborne is educated beyond his intelligence. I applied the description to Paul Channon, a millionaire minister in Thatcher’s time. it is even more apt for a chancellor of the exchequer clueless of life outside his gilded circle. His skin is as thin as Cameron’s, as I saw when he resented the reminder that he’d appeared in a newspaper photograph with a line of white powder and the dominatrix who sold sex and pain. These posh boys don’t like it up ’em, as Corporal Jones would shout. (Pp. 276-8).

Let’s hope it isn’t too long before we get that resignation letter from Cameron.