Posts Tagged ‘Forests’

Ursula Le Guin Referenced in Radio 3 Programme about Forests

June 14, 2018

Next week, Saturday 16th June 2018 to Friday 22nd June, Radio 3 is broadcasting a series of programmes about forests, in folklore, history, anthropology, witchcraft, music and art. And next Tuesday’s edition of Free Thinking, 19th June 2018 at 10.00 pm discusses forests and the natural world in the work of the Fantasy and SF author Ursula K Le Guin. It takes as its title that of one of her SF novels, The Word for World Is Forest. The blurb for it on page 126 of the Radio Times reads

Humanity’s impact on the natural world is a theme running through the work of American novelist Ursula K. Le Guin. Matthew Sweet discusses Le Guin on forests with British academic and Green Party politician Rupert Read.

More Tory Lies as May Claims that ‘Austerity Is Dead’

June 15, 2017

On Tuesday Mike put up a post commenting on May’s claim that she was going to end the austerity foisted on the country by Cameron, Osborne and Nick Clegg. The trio had claimed that cutting services, privatising the NHS, and dismantling the welfare state even more ruthlessly, were what was needed to pay off the debt Labour had incurred trying to prevent the global economy collapsing due to the bankster’s recklessness. The result has been wages cuts and a massive increase in poverty as the poor, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled were thrown off benefits for the flimsiest of reasons.

Instead of blaming the bankers for the economic crisis, the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers went back to the using refrain of blaming ‘high spending’ Labour for ‘living beyond our means’.

As Mike points out in his post, cutting government investment is the one thing you don’t do during a recession. State investment stimulates the economy, which means that businesses start making money again, which generates more tax revenue.

This one of the arguments in support of welfare provision against unemployment. If unemployed workers have some kind of income during a recession, they can afford to spend some of it, thus generating more income for businesses and the state. It’s basic Keynsianism, and it works. Unlike the grotty free market economics embraced by the Tories. That has only succeeded in increasing the debt.

Now Theresa May has decided that austerity should be ended. Not because she has woken up at last to the fact that it isn’t working, and in fact is damaging the British economy. Or because she’s suddenly grown a conscience, and has realised the immense human cost of the Tories’ austerity policies in terms of tens of thousands of people, who have died in misery. Or the 7 million plus British people now living in ‘food-insecure’ households, who don’t know if they’re next meal is going to be their last.

No, it’s because the Tories lost their overall majority, thanks to a revived Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn. Mike comments

And now, further cuts are being abandoned – not because austerity’s ends have been achieved, but because the Tories have realised they will forfeit votes if they continue.

Everybody in the UK, who isn’t filthy rich, should be furious. We should be marching on Tory MPs’ homes and offices with blazing torches and pitchforks, shouting “Burn the monsters!”

The last thing we should do is tolerate this latest cynical reaction to prevailing trends. Tories represent greed and power. The only reason they abandon their pursuit of greed is when it may harm their hold on power.

Mike isn’t the only one who’s furious at this cynical U-turn and the cavalier fashion in which the Tories have shrugged off their responsibility for destroying so many lives with a brutal, callous and entirely wrong economic and social policy. He concludes

Even now, on the BBC’s Daily Politics, Tories Michael Howard and Dominic Grieve are talking about the need to live within our means. The fact is that it is entirely possible, if Tories are stopped from siphoning off our money into their bank accounts.

The end of austerity is to be welcomed.

The end of the UK’s problems will only come when the Conservatives are banished from Parliament forever.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/13/austerity-is-dead-says-may-because-it-was-never-needed-we-should-be-enraged/

In fact, the I newspaper also reported on the same day that the Tories were revising their manifesto, and dropping the more unpopular policies, such as the ‘Dementia Tax’. This was accompanied with noises about how we lived in a democratic society, and the Tories were a democratic party, so they were responding to the demands of the electorate.

There were also statements designed to reassure Tory supporters that this time, May herself would be performing better in public. They claimed that she was now a more naturalistic speaker, and that ‘the Maybot is gone.’

I find all of this very difficult to believe. The Tories are inveterate liars, who lie constantly without compunction. You only have to look through Mike’s blog for the past week or so to find very long lists of May’s promises, which she has subsequently broken. Such as her promises to put workers on the boards of companies. The campaign of her predecessor, David Cameron, was one long series of lies. He and IDS, the minister for culling the disabled, claimed that they were going to ringfence spending on the NHS, campaigned against hospital closures by Blair’s New Labour, and tried to present the Tories as now being more left-wing and friendly to the poor. He also stuck a windmill on the roof of his house, and claimed that his would be ‘the greenest government ever’.

Once in power, the NHS was being cut and privatised, hospitals closed and given over to private management companies, conditionality for welfare benefits massively increased, and any semblance of environmentalism thrown out completely. The windmill went from his roof, and in came the privatisation of Britain’s forests, the repeal of various pieces of legislation protecting the environment, and the go-ahead given to fracking.

The fact that Howard and Grieve were talking about ‘living within our means’ – which is Tory-speak for not spending anything on the poor and state services, like the NHS and education, means that the Tories really don’t believe it.

And yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Sajid Javid are calling for May’s proposed cap on energy bills to be scrapped and the party should return to its ‘free market roots’.

Mike quoted Labour’s shadow energy minister, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and concluded:

“If correct, this is potentially another stunning U-turn from a weak and wobbly Prime Minister,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“One in ten households are living in fuel poverty and customers are being overcharged a whopping £2 billion every year. Theresa May unequivocally guaranteed a price cap before the general election but now it appears she is preparing to row back on that promise. It now looks like this price cap was simply an election gimmick and that the Conservatives were never serious about taking action to keep energy bills down.

“Britain needs a serious and long term approach in order to bring energy costs down, not cheap gimmicks that may simply be thrown into the bin just a week after the General Election.”

She’s right; Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid are wrong. What do YOU think the Tories will do?

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/14/the-tory-energy-price-cap-pledge-was-a-lie-or-at-least-philip-hammond-wants-to-make-it-one/

I think it’s blatantly obvious what the Tories will do. They’re lying now about ending austerity, but perfectly serious about abandoning the energy bill cap. If they get in again, May will reintroduce all the policies she claimed she abandoned, and the Tories will once again chant the old Thatcherite chorus of TINA – There Is No Alternative.

There is. It’s Jeremy Corbyn. He’s this country’s hope to stop further NHS privatisation, welfare cuts, starvation and deaths.

Does the ‘I’ Really Believe People Hate May Because of her Gender?

June 7, 2017

On the front page of the I, the paper boasted that it had an article by novelist Philippa Gregory on the eight prejudices that have historically been levelled against women rulers.

Is this supposed to imply that opponents of Theresa May are motivated solely by sexism?

It wouldn’t surprise me. After all, the paper gave a lot of support to the various female Blairites, who claimed that voting for Jeremy Corbyn and not for his female rivals in the Labour leadership elections was very, very sexist indeed. Despite the fact that Corbyn had far better policies for women, while the Harriet Harman and Angela Eagle had all been Blairite neoliberals, who had backed the failed economic and social policies that have actively harmed women.

If this is what the newspaper intends, then I have got news for them.

May’s gender is completely irrelevant to me.

I would loathe and despair her, even if she was a bloke called Terry. Just as I despised her male predecessors, the unfunny comedy double act David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

I despise May because she has

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the NHS, running it into the ground.

* Cut and done everything she could to privatise the education system.

* Maintained the current system of tuition fees, which are loading students with mountains of debt.

* Carried on with Cameron and Clegg’s policies of massive welfare cuts, including the Bedroom tax and the humiliating and murderous Work Capability Tests, which have thrown thousands off benefits and into misery and starvation.

* Cut the numbers of police, armed services, border guards and other services back so that Britain was left dangerously vulnerable. A policy that ultimately allowed the Manchester and London terrorists to commit their horrendous crimes.

* Lied about her intention to put British workers in the boardroom, while she’s done just about everything in her power to get rid of workers’ rights.

* Her policies have also resulted in stagnant wages and maintained high levels of unemployment, to the point where most of the people on benefit are those ‘hard-working’ folk she and the Tories have patronised with their condescending rhetoric.

* Shown that she is completely incompetent to negotiate a fair deal for Brexit, which will enable British firms and other organisations contact with the EU and access to their markets.

* Done everything in her power to support the erosion of our precious civil liberties begun by Major, Blair, Cameron and Clegg. This means the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the malignant system of secret courts, in which you may be tried without knowing the crime, the evidence against you, who your accuser is, and behind closed doors. Like Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.

* Cut taxes for the rich, while transferring the burden to the poor. Which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the French Revolution.

* Repealed legislation protecting our environment, so she can sell off Britain’s forests and trash our green and pleasant land with fracking for the profit of her friends in the oil industry.

* Supported Tory policies that have, instead of drawing the peoples of our great island nation together, have instead caused even further division by supporting islamophobia, fear and resentment of immigrants, and general racial intolerance.

* Not that she’s simply worked up racial intolerance. She and the Tory press have also done their utmost to whip up prejudice against the disabled to justify cuts in their benefits. The result has been a massive increase in hate crime against people with disabilities.

* Carried on with policies which will result in the break-up of the United Kingdom after three hundred years in the case of Scotland and England, and two hundred in the case of Britain and Northern Ireland.

The ‘Celtic Fringe’ – Scotland, Wales and Ulster don’t want Brexit. The Welsh and Scots Nationalist leaders want their nations and Ulster to be part of the Brexit negotiations. And all of the Northern Irish parties want to keep the open border with Eire. But all this is in jeopardy through May’s high-handed attitude to the nations, and her determination to promote only ‘Leave’ supporters to manage Britain’s departure from the EU.

And I could probably carry with more. Much more.

This is why I despise Theresa May and want her voted out, along with the party that chose her and has done so much serious harm to this country and its people for seven years.

I therefore urge everyone to vote Labour tomorrow to get her and them thrown out.

The Demands of the Independent Social Democrats during the 1919 German Council Revolution

August 20, 2016

I found this statement of the political demands of the Independent Social Democratic Party in J.W. Hiden’s The Weimar Republic (Harlow: Longman 1974), pp. 78-9. The Independent Social Democratic Party – USPD – were the left-wing of the main German Socialist party, the SPD, which split in 1919 over the issue of the workers’ councils. These had sprung up across Germany following the defeat in the First World War, and were modelled on the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils that had been set up in 1917 during the first phase of the Revolution, which eventually ended in the Bolshevik coup. Hiden in his comments notes that at the time the USPD issued their demands, there was actually no chance of it being implemented. The elections to the National Assembly had already been held, and the Spartacist Uprising, which was intended to establish Germany as a Communist state, had been quelled. Nevertheless, he considers it important as the kind of state that the Revolution could have created.

The immediate demands of the USPD are:

1. Inclusion of the Councils system in the constitutions. Decisive participation of the Councils in legislation, state and municipal government and in industry.

2. Complete dissolution of the old army. Immediate dissolution of the mercenary army made up of volunteer corps (Freikorps). Disarming of the bourgeoisie. The setting up of a people’s army from the ranks of the class conscious working sector. Self-government for the people’s army and election of officers by the ranks. The lifting of military jurisdiction.

3. The nationalist of capitalist undertakings is to begin at once. It is to be executed immediately in the sphere of mining, and of energy production (coal, water-power, electricity), of concentrated iron and steel production as well as insurance. Landed property and great forests are to be transferred to the community at once. Society has the task of bringing the whole economy to its highest degree of efficiency by making available all technical and economic aids as well as promoting co-operative organisations. In the towns all private property is to pass to the municipality and sufficient dwellings are to be made available by the municipality on its own account.

4. Election of authorities and judges by the people. Immediate setting up of a Supreme Court of Judicature which is to bring to account those responsible for the world war and the prevention of a more timely peace.

5. Any growth of wealth achieved during the war is to be removed by taxation. A portion of all larger fort8unes is to be given to the state. In addition, public expenditure is to be covered by a sliding scale of income, wealth and inheritance taxes.

6. Extension of social welfare. Protection for mother and child. War widows, orphans and wounded are to be assured a trouble-free existence. Homeless are to be given the use of the spare rooms of owners. Fundamental reorganisation of public health system.

7. Separation of state and church and of church and school. Public, standardised schools with secular character, to be developed according to socialist educational principles. The right of every child to an education corresponding to his ability and availability of the means necessary for this end…

The programme’s clearly a production of the revolutionary ferment at the end of the First World War. But much of it remains acutely relevant for today. For example, we do need the nationalisation of public utilities – electricity, gas and water – as millions are being overcharged and exploited by these companies. The railways are notoriously expensive and inefficient. Under private management they consume three times more money from subsidies than they did when it was a nationalised industry as British rail. At the same time, Britain’s forests are being privatised, to the public’s disadvantage, by the Tories.

Similarly, there does need to be increased taxation of the super-rich. Under Blair and the Tories the rich have benefited from massive tax cuts, and the tax burden has been unfairly passed to the poor. Inequality has massively increased, so that a vanishingly small minority of people own far more than the rest of us combined. This was shown very clearly last week when the Duke of Westminster died, leaving £9 billion to his son.

Social welfare certainly needs to be extended. Blair and the Conservatives have consistently cut benefits for and demonised the poor, disabled and unemployed as ‘scroungers’. The result is that some 4.7 million are living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands are only kept from starving by food banks. As for the war wounded, and the widows and orphans produced by Blair’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I wonder how much help they are receiving, despite charities like Help For Heroes. Many of the squaddies that fought for their country during Gulf War I were left homeless. I have a strong feeling that many of their comrades in these wars have also been left, discarded by the state, in similar poverty and destitution. We also need a profound reorganisation of the public health services, as these are being privatised by Blair and the Tories.

There’s an irony here in that USPD wanted homeowners to have to take in the homeless. This is the precise opposite of what the Tories have been trying to do to those in council houses with the ‘Bedroom tax’. Millions are being left without homes, not just because they aren’t being built, but because many properties were bought as part of the buy-to-let market. Rents have risen, so that many people can no longer afford them, let alone think of owning their own home. But the Tories are the party of business and property, and something like this measure would fill them with panic. After all, it’s why they have a fit of the vapours every time someone talks about the ‘Bedroom tax’. They definitely don’t want to give the rest of the population the terrible impression that they are going to tax everyone’s bedroom. But doing it to the very poorest is perfectly acceptable.

I went to a church school, and don’t agree with the complete separation of church and state or absolutely secular schools, although I understand the reasons why many do. But I do support their statement that every child has right to the education that corresponds to his ability, and the means necessary for that end. It should be an automatic right. Unfortunately, this is also being undermined by the academies, that were brought in by Blair and which the Tories want to expand. They’d also like to bring back grammar schools, which were abandoned in favour of comprehensives because they did discriminate against working class children achieving a high education. And the introduction of tuition fees by New Labour and then increased by the Tories is leaving students with crippling debts, which are actively leading a quarter of graduates to stick to low paid jobs in order to avoid the extra burden of paying them off.

As for the most radical proposal, the inclusion of workers’ council in the political system – there’s a very, very strong argument for that too. The massive corporate corruption of parliament has shown that it increasingly does not represent the working class or their interests. It represents the power of big business, and their campaign to have a poor, desperate, poverty-stricken working class willing to be exploited through workfare, zero-hours and short-term contracts and the like.

Anthony Sampson on the Meanness of the Rich

April 10, 2015

Anthony Sampson in his book Who Runs this Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century has a passage discussing the way 21st century Britain is now far meaner and much less generous than in the 19th century, and America today. The people most willing to give money to charity, however, are the poor. The rich are the least likely and willing to give to charity. He states:

While the rich in Britain have become much richer, they have not given more away. Their incomes relative to the poor have increased, but they feel much less pressed than their predecessors to share their wealth, whether prompted by social obligations or by a religious conscience. The connections between business and philanthropy which were so marked among Quakers and other practising Christians have largely disappeared. ‘As inequality of wealth balloons back to nineteenth-century levels,’ wrote Will Hutton in 2003, ‘there is no sign of nineteenth-century levels of civil of engagement and philanthropy by the rich.’

It is a striking fact that 6 per cent of the British population provide 60 per cent of the money given to charity, but it is more striking that the poor give away proportionately more of their money than the rich. ‘It’s more surprising because the rich can give away without noticing it, while the poor make a sacrifice,’ said one charity chief. ‘But the poor have more empathy with less fortunate people.’

The big corporations have been equally reluctant, and most boardrooms have shown little interest in charities. In 1986 two leading businessmen, Sir Hector Laing, a committed Christian, and Sir Mark Weinberg, and ex-South African, set up the Percent Club to urge companies to devote 1 per cent of their pre-tax profits to charity, but they soon had to reduce the target to 0.5 per cent, and their results were still disappointing: by 2001 the top 400 companies were giving exactly the same percentage, 0.42, as ten years before. A few big corporations stood out above the average. Reuters gave £20 million in 2001, amounting to 13 per cent of its pre-tax profits, which were sharply down. Northern Rock, the mortgage company based in Newcastle, gave away £15 million, or 5 per cent of pre-tax profits. Other big companies provided gifts in kind, rather than money, though they were not always as generous as they looked. (Sainsburys gave away food that was past its sell-by date, which avoided the cost of dumping it in land-fill sites.) Most companies have shown little interest in more giving.

‘Corporate donations … are worth less now than they were in 1991,’ said Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. ‘Clearly it is time for the government to get tough with the business sector.’ But the New Labour government showed little desire to get tough.

By 2000 the two chief overarching bodies for charities – the NCVO and the Charities AID Foundation – were so concerned about the lack of funds that they approached Gordon Brown at the Treasury. His budget provided major tax concessions to donors – which are now as generous as the Americans’ – and he also helped to finance a Giving Campaign, chaired by the former head of Oxfam Lord (Joel) Joffe, an unassuming but persistent South Africdan who worked closely with Weinberg. The campaigners have had some success in giving more prominence to charity, but donors have been slow to exploit the over-complicated system of tax relief; and the charities are still very disappointed by the response, both from corporations and from individuals – whether entrepreneurs, corporate directors or the million-a-year men in the City.

Joffe, like other heads of charities, is struck by the contrast between attitudes in Britain and America where giving is part of the culture. ‘If you’re rich in America and don’t give,’ he said, ‘you’re regarded as an outcast.’ Americans give on average 2 per cent of their income to charity, compared to the British figure of 0.6 per cent. The British have often argued that their governments have take over the roles of philanthropists in health, education and social services, to which Americans devote much of their giving. ‘People still expect the government to pay for the basic social and artistic causes,’ says Hilary Browne-Wilkinson, who runs the Institute for Philanthropy in London. But the expectation is much less realistic since the retreat of the welfare state and the lowering of taxes, while the rich in the United States remain more generous than the British, and more systematic and effective in attaining their objectives. ‘British charity is more reactive, sometimes responding quite generously to television coverage of famines and disasters,’ says Joffe. ‘The Americans have a more strategic sense of what they want to achieve and plan their giving accordingly.

Many of the American mega-rich a century ago, like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford, converted part of their fortunes into foundations which today provide a powerful counterweight to the prevailing profit motive. ‘He who dies rich, dies disgraced, ‘said Andrew Carnegie, who gave away his fortune to finance free libraries and a peace foundation. More recent billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates, have continued this tradition. When Ted Turner, the founder of CNN television, gave a billion dollars to the UN 1997 he quoted Carnegie and mocked his fellow billionaires: ‘What good is wealth sitting in the bank?’ The rich lists, he said, were really lists of shame.

But there are only a few comparable British bequests, like the Wellcome, Sainsbury or Hamlyn foundations, and most of the old rich feel much less need to commemorate their wealth through charity. The British aristocracy have traditionally seen their main responsibility as ensuring the continuity of their estates and families, in which they have succeeded over the centuries, helped by the principle of primogeniture which allows the eldest son to inherit the whole estate. Their argument can appeal to anyone who values the timeless splendours of the countryside, with its landscapes of parkland, forest and downland which owes much to the protection afforded to large landowners. Old money in Britain has been interlocked with the environment as it has never been in most parts of America, where land is less valued, and where the rich have more urban and nomadic habits.

But the argument is less valid today, when much of the responsibility for the environment has been taken over by English Heritage or the National Trust. Many old families with large estates still have incomes which greatly exceed the cost of their upkeep, and they still have responsibilities to contemporary society. Many of the new rich are happy to follow the earlier tradition, but they are still less encumbered. Most people of great wealth in Britain today show a remarkable lack of interest in using their money to improve the lives of others.

Above all they feel much less need than their predecessors to account for their wealth, whether to society, to governments or to God. Their attitudes and values are not seriously challenged by politicians, by academia, or by the media, who have become more dependent on them. The respect now shown for wealth and money-making, rather than for professional conduct and moral values, has been the most fundamental change in Britain over four decades.
(pp. 346-8).

So the rich have become much meaner, while the poor are the most generous section of the population. Charitable giving has declined along with notions of Christian morality and an awareness of need. People still expect the government to provide, despite the attack on the welfare state. The aristocracy don’t give, because they’re still concerned with preserving their lands and titles. While the new rich are feted by the media and society, simply for being rich, without any concern for morals or charity. And because universities and the media are dependent on them, they are reluctant to criticise them for their lack of charitable giving.

This was inevitable. Modern Conservative ideology was all about greed, shown most acutely in the Yuppies of the late 1980s and 1990s. And because the Tory attacks on the welfare state concentrate on attacking the poor as scroungers, there’s no incentives for people to give to them either. If someone’s labelled a scrounger or malingerer, giving to charities to support them is just as bad as government tax money.

This marks another, massive failure of Thatcherism. She thought that if the welfare state was rolled back, charitable giving would increase. It hasn’t.

Thatcherism has made the rich meaner, and the Tories continue with the same attitudes and visceral hatred of the poor.

Your Unrepresentative Representative: Filibustering Jacob Rees-Mogg

April 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has added Jacob Rees-Mogg to the other Tories he has profiled in marginal seats. These have extreme right-wing views, which may not be shared, and very probably aren’t, by many of their constituents. Rees-Mogg is currently the MP for part of Bath And North-East Somerset. He is another true-blue, old Etonian toff, the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former Times and Independent columnist. I’ve posted a little piece on Rees-Mogg jnr’s extreme right-wing views when I put up Private Eye’s review of his father’s book, Picnics on Vesuvius: steps towards the New Millennium.

And his views are extreme. He attended one of the black tie gala dinners of the Traditional Britain Group, a far right outfit who stand for the destruction of the welfare state, privatisation of the NHS, restoration of the old feudal social hierarchy, and ban on immigration, particularly of Muslims. They got into Hope Not Hate’s news when it was revealed that UKIP’s vice president in Wales, Gillibrand, was a member. Among its other antics, the Group has made racist sneers and condemnations against Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, murdered by White youths in a vicious, racial attack, the MPs Nadhim Zahawi and Chuka Umunna. They have also put up films by and hosted speakers from the Front National in France and the British Democratic Party, a splinter group of the British National Front. One of the founders of that organisation is Andrew Brons, who, like others in the NF, used to goosestep in Nazi costume in the 1970s. Both Gillibrand and Rees-Mogg have distanced themselves from and denounced the racist comments made by the Traditional Britain Group.

Rees-Mogg himself strikes a curiously archaic figure, more at home in the high culture of Glyndebourne than in the more plebeian environs of much of contemporary British culture. Hence the title of Mike’s piece: Will North-East Somerset consign Jacob Rees-Mogg to the history he clearly represents? MIke’s piece begins

What on earth is Jacob Rees-Mogg doing in Parliament during the 21st century? He belongs in the 19th.

It’s hard to know where to start, when discussing this particular wet-wipe. Perhaps the best way to do so would be to point out that a new constituency had to be created before he could actually win a Parliamentary seat – and even that is only a Tory marginal, perhaps because The Guardian‘s criticism that this candidate’s highly privileged life ran against the Tories’ then-current narrative of social inclusion rang true with the electorate.

In 1997, Rees-Mogg attracted ridicule after canvassing a working-class neighbourhood of the Labour seat of Central Fife with his nanny. Rumours he had gone around the constituency in a Bentley were dismissed by Rees-Mogg as “scurrilous” – he insisted it had been a Mercedes.

In 2001, he stood for The Wrekin in Shropshire – and lost again, this time to Labour’s Peter Bradley, who managed a 0.95 per cent swing to Labour against the national trend of a 3.5 per cent swing to the Conservatives.

He finally achieved his ambition of a Parliamentary seat in 2010, in the newly-created North East Somerset constituency, with a majority of just 4,914. It seems he was not above a few dirty tricks to achieve this, however: In December 2009, a pamphlet which purported to show him talking to a local constituent and calling on the Government to “show more honesty” was criticised after it emerged that the “constituent” was a London-based employee of his investment firm.

Mike points out that his voting record shows that he is intent on following his own extreme right-wing views, even going against his own party whip in order to do so. He defied the whips when voting in the fixed-term parliaments bill, the 2011 motion on the referendum on the European Union, and the 2012 House of Lords reform bill.

He has also been responsible for filibustering several bills. This is deliberately talking out a private members bill to make sure that it does not get passed or discussed further. He did this to the Daylight Savings Bill of 2010-12 and the Sustainable Livestock Bill for those same years. Mike describes the rubbish he talked in order to block them. As an example of his archaic chauvinism, he declared that local authority figures with the power to issue on-the-spot fines should have to wear bowler hats. He also supports Zero Hours contracts. He has also been reported to the parliamentary standards commissioner for talking about tobacco, mining, and the oil and gas industries in parliament, without mentioning that he has significant personal interests in those industries through his partnership in a venture capital firm.

And his voting record shows that he has pretty much the same right-wing views as the others Mike has profiled. He’s in favour of cutting taxes for the rich, while making sure that the poor are hit by VAT. He supports the creeping privatisation of the NHS, the Bedroom Tax, cuts to welfare payments and the benefits cap. He also supported making local authorities responsible for making sure people could afford the council tax, and then cut that.

He also supported the various private free schools and academies, the increase in tuition fees and removal of state support for ‘A’ Level and Further Education students. He is also for further military involvement overseas, culling badgers, selling off Britain’s forests, secret courts, the expansion of state surveillance, and the police and crime commissioners. He also wants to replace trident with further nuclear weapons, opposes further EU integration, localism and the devolution of power to local authorities. He also disapproves and voted against same-sex marriage, and removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

This last should come as no surprise. He made it the central platform of his election campaign in central Fife. My guess is that it probably didn’t appeal much to his prospective constituents. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Nationalist vote actually went up after he did.

Mike’s article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/30/will-north-east-somerset-consign-jacob-rees-mogg-to-the-history-he-clearly-represents/

Your Unrepresentative Representative: Esther McVie in Wirral West

March 25, 2015

Mike in his series exposing the lies, hypocrisy and sheer malignancy of Tories in marginal constituencies has also turned his attention to Esther McVey. McVey’s views and the policies she embraces are so unpleasant, that she has been dubbed ‘Fester McVile’. It seems, however, that from the number of falsehoods she has spun to justify herself and her continuing punitive attitude towards the poor and less fortunate, that she should equally be called ‘Festering Lie’. And Mike goes on to list the lies she has told.

She said it was impossible to hold a cumulative impact assessment into the effect of government welfare reforms. Untrue.

She also lied, and denied the existence of a loophole in the bedroom tax legislation that meant the government removed housing benefit from people, who were actually exempt. At least one person, Stephanie Bottrill, committed suicide because she feared she could no longer support herself because of the reduction in her benefit. She also denied she knew anything about how many people were affect by the loophole. Mike cites FoI requests that show that at least 16,000 people have been affected.

It was Mark Hoban, rather than Lie, who came out with the next whopper. He claimed that independent reviews of the work capability assessment showed that the government was working to improve it. Studies instead showed that almost 2/3 were either incompletely or inadequately put into practice.

It’s on the subject of foodbanks that she really begins to lie. She claimed that the government’s austerity programme was due to uncontrolled spending under Labour, and not from the greed and venality of out-of-control bankers. She then declared that foodbanks were Labour’s ‘nasty little secret’, until Jim Cunningham set the record straight by pointing out that under Labour they were set up to support asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their cases, and not poor citizens.

She’s repeated the lie that the Coalition came about to solve ‘the mess we’re in’, rather than as the result of a cynical political deal by two parties desperate for power. She claimed that 60,000 people would go to a foodbank in 2014. Jim Murphy pointed out that that was an underestimate. It’s the number of people in Wales, who would be forced to go to them. In 2013-14 the minimum number across Britain was 913,138.

She attacked Labour for allowing five million people to be supported on benefits for being out of work, with two million children living in families without jobs, and claimed that children were three times more likely to be in poverty if they lived in households where the parents were unemployed. Another lie. The Joseph Roundtree Foundation found the number of working households in poverty has risen to 8 million, while unemployed households in poverty is now 6.3 million.

She boasts that the Coalition has got more people into work than ever before, but doesn’t mention that this is nearly all zero-hours, part-time or self-employed contracts that deprive workers of certain basic rights and pay low wages. She claimed that the tax cuts meant families were better off by £700 per year, but in fact low wages and the cost of living means that people or £1,600 worse off.

And when you examine her voting record, it’s pretty much the same tale that emerged with Anne Soubry, Nick de Bois and Kris Hopkins: she supported the cuts to all the welfare benefits, including benefit uprating cap, and legislation making councils responsible for their citizens ability to pay council tax, while depriving them of the funds to do so. She also strongly supported the Bedroom Tax.

She’s against tax increases for the rich, wants to see corporation tax cut, and also supports increasing VAT. She is also in favour of further military action overseas, but against strengthening the military covenant. In education she support the privately run academies and free schools, voted to raise tuition fees, and end state support for 16-19 year olds in education. She also supported the privatisation of the Royal Mail and Britain’s forests, and is against localism and the devolution of further powers to local authorities. She is also in favour of deregulating gambling and allowing rail fares to rise without government restrictions. And she’s also a supporter of the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS.

She was also one of those in favour of the police and crime commissioners, the secret courts, restrictions on legal aid, and the expansion of government surveillance. She doesn’t support equal rights for gays and same-sex marriages. She’s also voted both for and against a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Mike’s article begins:

There is little that this blog can add to the litany of outrage against the woman who has been dubbed ‘Fester McVile’ by commentators who are feeling kind towards her.

In a previous column, this blog stated that the employment minister, who works under Iain Duncan Smith, “has accumulated a reputation so bad that the only way she can hide the metaphorical stink from the public is by associating with …Smith himself, in whose stench she seems almost fragrant. But not quite”. How accurate those words are.

This is a woman who has lied to the public that it is impossible to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact on the sick and disabled of the Coalition’s ‘final solution’ changes to the benefit system.

This is the woman who, in the face of public unrest about the prevalence of zero-hours contracts, announced that Job Centre advisors will now be able to force the unemployed into taking this exploitative work.

She has previously misled Parliament over the loophole in Bedroom Tax legislation that meant the government had removed Housing Benefit from thousands of people who were exempt from the measure – including Stephanie Bottrill, whose suicide has been attributed to the pressure of having to survive on less because of the tax. Asked how many people had been affected by the loophole, McVey played it down by claiming she did not know the answer, while other ministers suggested between 3,000 and 5,000. In fact, from Freedom of Information requests to which just one-third of councils responded, 16,000 cases were revealed. Esther McVey is a very strong supporter of the Bedroom Tax.

Mark Hoban stood in for McVey to trot out the lie that independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment had identified areas of improvement on which the government was acting. In fact, out of 25 recommendations in the Year One review alone, almost two-thirds were not fully and successfully implemented.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/24/will-wirral-west-divest-itself-of-esther-mcvey/

Read it and decide for yourself if this is a woman, who should be anyway near power and public authority.

Kris Hopkins, the ‘Slimy, Nasty’, Unrepresentative Representative for Keighley

March 24, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political continues his exposes of the nastier Tory MPs now occupying marginal constituencies. In his post, Keighley’s chance to end the hypocritical claims of Kris Hopkins, he attacks Kris Hopkins’ lies and hypocrisy, particularly about the current state of housing in Britain. Hopkins is housing minister, and has boasted of the numbers of new homes the Tories have built, without also mentioning that this is the lowest since before the Coalition took power. Mike also notes the way he claimed the government had helped hardworking people, despite the fact that this Christmas, 80,000 children were homeless. His reaction to that was simply to shrug it off, stating that the government had given a billion to local councils to tackle the problem, and he was confident that they had met their statutory obligations. Or some such verbiage.

Mike’s article begins

Even one of his own Tory colleagues has described Kris Hopkins as one of Parliament’s “slimiest, nastiest MPs”, so voters in his marginal Keighley constituency should relish the chance to kick him out in May. Right?
Before becoming the Coalition’s housing minister, Hopkins’ only previous claims to fame were allegations that “gangs of Muslim men were going around raping white kids” (thanks to Johnny Void for that one) and a Twitter spat with the equally-odious Philip Davies.

Hopkins called for Conservatives to unite behind David Cameron in 2013 – to which Nadine Dorries (who was responsible for the “slimiest, nastiest” comment) responded, “pass the sick bag”.

As housing minister, he has claimed that more than a third of a million new homes were built between 2010-13, including 150,000 affordable homes – but neglected to mention that this is the lowest level than in any period prior to the Coalition Government. Vox Political reported it as “not an achievement. It is a disaster”.

“Our policies on housing are working,” said Hopkins in a press release. “Housebuilding is growing at its fastest rate for 10 years, and the tough decisions we’ve taken to tackle the deficit have kept interest rates low and are now delivering real help to hardworking people.”

Oh really? And what was his response to the revelation that 80,000 children were homeless due to Coalition Government policies on Christmas Day, 2013, mere months after he had taken up his post?

He couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed. “I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

When his voting record is examined, he is a fanatically pro-rich and with same bitter, punitive spitefulness towards the poor and less well off as Nick de Bois and Anne Soubry.

He opposes increased taxation for the rich, including the mansion tax, doesn’t want corporation tax increase, but does support increasing VAT.

He also supports the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS and the bedroom tax. Mike also points out that he is an opponent of localism, and actually voted to reduce funding to local authorities. He also supported cuts to all the welfare benefits, the benefits upratings cap, and like Soubry and de Bois he wanted to make sure councils had the responsibility for making sure their residents could pay the council tax, and reduced the amount of money paid to council to ensure they could.

He is also massively in favour of further privatisation, supporting the privatisation of the Royal Mail, the sale of the forests, and private free schools and academies. He also voted in favour of raising tuition fees and ending financial support to 16 -19 year olds in education.

And like much of his grotty party, he support further military action overseas and nuclear weapons.

He was another supporter of the government’s plan to extend injustice further by restricting legal aid, and setting up secret courts, as well as the snooper’s charter that allows the government and security services to tap our telecommunications without warrant.

And he’s also in favour of the badger cull, unregulated gambling and allowing the rail fares to rise unchecked. Clearly he’s unconcerned about the poor quality of the service on the railways, which came in with privatisation, and couldn’t care two hoots about the dangers of gambling addiction.

Nadine Dorries was right to refer to him as one of the ‘slimiest and nastiest’ politicians.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/23/keighleys-chance-to-end-the-hypocritical-claims-of-kris-hopkins/

Read it and make your own decision.

Another Unrepresentative Tory: Enfield’s Nick de Bois

March 23, 2015

NickDeBois

Nick de Bois pretending to care about the closure of Chase Farm’s A&E.

Mike over at Vox Political has started turning his ire on hard-line Tories in marginal constituencies, whose voters may not be quite aware of how exploitative and nasty their candidates’ views and voting records are. He started off with Anne Soubry in Broxtowe in his piece Broxtowe: Do you really want Anna Soubry as your MP? Now he turns his jaundiced gaze to Nick de Bois, the Tory MP for Enfield in Nick de Bois: Enfield’s unrepresentative representative.

He starts by pointing out de Bois’ hypocrisy in his campaigning against the closure of his local hospital’s, Chase Farm’s, A&E department after he voted for the very government measures that have led to its closure. He is also, like 91 other Tory MPs, a senior employee of the private healthcare firms hoping to profit from Cameron’s piecemeal privatisation of the NHS. Mike’s article begins

Here’s a fork-tongued MP who deserves to see voters turn their backs on him: Nick de Bois.

Before becoming an MP, he was the majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, an events management company heavily involved with the private medical and pharmaceutical industries. As an MP, he strongly supported the privatisation of NHS services that has drained money from the system and imperilled the future of Accident & Emergency services in hospitals across the UK.

That did not stop him from attacking the decision to downgrade Chase Farm Hospital in his own constituency of Enfield North. Describing it as “the wrong decision” he claimed that “Chase Farm needs 24-hour A&E, end of story”. In that case, why did he vote for the very measures that led to it being downgraded?

He took Enfield North in 2010, after the seat had been held for 13 years by Labour’s Joan Ryan with majorities in the thousands. His is just 1,692.

How would residents vote if they knew Mr de Bois’s voting record? Let’s find out.

It’s pretty much to be expected that he is as strongly pro-rich, and has the same contempt and spite towards the poor as Anne Soubry.

He’s against increasing the tax burden on the rich, wants to cut corporation tax, and is favour of increasing VAT. He also supports the privatisation of the NHS, cutting welfare benefit across the board, and capping benefits below the rate of inflation. He also voted in favour of making sure that local councils should ensure people could afford council tax, and then voted to cut that support.

He is like his colleague Soubry in that he support further British military actions overseas and nuclear weapons. Like her, he supports private Free Schools and Academies, and also raising university tuition fees to £9,000, as well as ending financial support to sixth form students.

He’s also against localism, but for police and crime commissioners. And yes, he was in favour of the privatisation of the Royal Mail and Britain’s forests.

As for injustice, he was very strongly for it. That’s injustice, note, not ‘justice’. He doesn’t like the plebs having access to the courts, nor for your right to open, public trial. He voted for the restrictions on legal aid, and for the Coalition’s Kafkaesque secret courts.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/22/nick-de-bois-enfields-unrepresentative-representative/. Like Anne Soubry’s constituents, his need to see his voting record, and judge if they want to return him to parliament.

Vox Political Asks the People of Broxtowe If They Really Want Their Tory Candidate

March 21, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has post this piece, whose very title asks a very, very good question Broxtowe: Do you really want Anna Soubry as your MP?. Soubry is a right-wing, true-blue Tory reactionary, who now occupies the seat. It had been Labour since 1997, and although now Tory, is a marginal.

He points out just how right-wing and nasty her views and voting record are. She has voted for the punitive welfare cuts that have sent hundreds of thousands into poverty, including the bedroom tax. Against this, she supports tax cuts for the rich, and the transfer of the tax burden to the poor through raising VAT. She also supports the privatisation of the NHS, the forests, Royal Mail, and Britain’s schools. She doesn’t, however, seem to believe that further and higher education should be free, as she voted for raising tuition fees and ending the support for ‘A’ level students. She also support further military actions overseas and purchasing Trident. As for justice, she supported the ending of legal aid, secret courts, and the further expansion of the powers of the security services to spy on citizens’ private emails and telephone conversations without warrants. She is also an opponent of devolving further powers to local authorities, as well as a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Given this record, it’s to be expected that she also hates green energy and supports the badger cull.

The article begins

Anna Soubry has been among the more vocal Conservatives in the Coalition government – which is interesting as she represents the extremely marginal seat of Broxtowe.

The seat had been Labour-held since 1997, and it seems likely that the Tory victory here in 2010 was a sign of dissatisfaction with the then-current Labour government, rather than interest in anything the Tories had to offer.

How would residents vote if they knew Ms Soubry’s voting record? Let’s find out.

She is against increasing income tax paid by the extremely rich; against a bankers’ bonus tax; supports cutting Corporation Tax (even though this does not make companies more likely to invest in the UK or its workforce); and supported the increase in VAT. Clearly she believes in taxing the poor to pay for the rich.

She is strongly in favour of the current government’s creeping privatisation of the NHS.

She strongly supported the Bedroom Tax.
She strongly supported cuts to social security benefits including Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payment and so on.
She strongly supported the benefit uprating cap, ensuring that benefits do not rise in line with prices.
She voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping people afford council tax – and for reducing the amount available for such support.

She is thus a typical member of Cameron’s Tories, who believes in grinding the poor into desperate poverty and rolling back the frontiers of the state in order to make life even better and more profitable for the rich.

Mike states that people of Broxtowe need to know this information.
They do. Then they can judge if they really want this woman to represent them.