Posts Tagged ‘Higher Education’

Corbyn – Regenerate High Street by Handing Vacant Shops to Community

August 24, 2019

Last weekend’s I, for Saturday, 17th August 2019, carried a report by Nigel Morris on page 4 about the Labour party’s plans to revive ailing high street. Under the scheme announce by Corbyn, the local authority would take over empty business premises to let them to new businesses or community organisations. The article read

Plans to revitalise “struggling his streets” by reopening thousands of boarded-up shops will be set out today by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Labour would give councils the power to take over retail units which have been vacant for a year and hand them to start-up businesses or community projects.

Town centre vacancy rates are at their highest level for four years, and Labour says an estimated 29,000 shops across the country have been abandoned for at least 12 months.

It has also registered alarm over the preponderance of charity stores, betting shops and fast-food takeaways in areas which previously had a better mixture of businesses.

The plans, applying to high streets in England and Wales, will be set out by Mr Corbyn in a visit to Bolton today. He is expected to say that boarded-up shops are “a symptom of economic decay under the Conservatives and a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.”

Labour revive “struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street.” The proposals are modelled on the system of “empty dwelling management orders” which entitle councils to put unoccupied houses and flats back into use as homes.

Jake Berry, minister for high streets, said the Government had cut small retailers’ business rates, was relaxing high street planning rules and launched a £3.6bn Towns Fund to improve transport links and boost broadband connectivity. 

I think Corbyn’s idea is excellent. One of the problems of struggling high streets is the ‘smashed window syndrome’, as I believe it’s called. Once one shop becomes vacant, and has it’s windows smashed or otherwise vandalised, it has a strange psychological effect on the public. They stop going into that particular area for their shopping, and the other businesses start to close down. This is why it’s important to prevent it. Business rates might be part of the problem, but I’ve also heard that it’s also due to economics of the private landlords. I can remember my barber complaining to me about it back in the 1990s. He was angry at the increase in rents he and the other shops in his rank had had foisted on them by the landlord. He also complained that despite the high rents, there were shop units that were still unlet, because for some reason the landlord found it more profitable to keep them that way than to let an aspiring Arkwright take them over.

I’ve long believed in exactly the same idea as Corbyn’s. It struck me that with the expansion of higher education, we now have an extremely well-educated work force. But the current economics of capitalism prevent them from using their skills. If successive governments really believe that the increase in university education will benefit the economy, then graduates need to be able to put their hard-earned skills and knowledge into practice. They should be allowed to create businesses, even if these are not commercially viable and need community support. Because it’s better than forcing them to starve on the dole, or climb over each other and the less educated trying to grab low-skilled jobs in fast-food restaurants. And if these new businesses don’t make a profit, but keep people coming back to the high streets, but give their aspiring entrepreneurs skills and experience they can use elsewhere, or deliver some small boost to the local economy, then they will have achieved some measure of success.

This is an excellent idea. And if it’s put into practice, I think it’ll demonstrate that Socialists are actually better for business than the Tories.

Vox Political: Tories Lying About Full Employment

August 18, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a very necessary piece critically examining the Tories’ claims that Britain now has ‘full employment’, meaning that the unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent, and three million more people are in work since this time last year. Mike states very clearly that if you’re confused by your inability to get a decent job or a proper, living wage, despite this news, you’re quite right. It’s because the figures are a lie.

He cites the figures included in two critical reports of the Tory claims, one by The Canary and the other by the UK Business Insider. The Canary states that in order to reach this figure of 3 million more in work, the Tories have had to include 10,000 unpaid family workers and 35,000 on temporary training contracts.

As for wages, these have fallen by 0.5 per cent year on year, so that you’re actually £6 worse off now than when the Tories took power.

The Canary article concludes

“Since the Tories came to power in 2010, more people are in precarious self employment; the public sector has been decimated; young people have been abandoned and we’ve all seen our wages plummet. So, far from being “all in this together”, the UK is becoming a dustbin for employment opportunities. ”

And the UK Business Insider states that the official stats are lies, and the true unemployment rate is higher. Much higher. So high, it will shock you.

“The statistical definition of ‘unemployment’ relies on a fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work,” the article states. “The official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate. In reality, about 21.5% of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics.

They also state that this is proved by the fact that wages have not risen. Economics states that if there is low unemployment, then wages should rise as firms compete to attract more workers by offering higher wages, because labour is so scarce.

But instead, public sector wages are capped at 1 per cent, and wages generally are stagnant.

The article goes on

“More important, wages are not keeping pace with inflation… Workers’ real incomes are actually in decline, which is weird because so-called full employment ought to be spurring wages upward. Overall inflation ought to be driven by wage inflation. Yet wage inflation isn’t happening.

“The answer is that unemployment is not really that low. In reality, about 21.5% of British workers are either officially unemployed, inactive, or employed part time even though they really want full-time work. (The ONS has a chapter on that here.) Some of those people — parents with newborns, university students — may not want jobs right now, but they will want jobs soon.”

Mike concludes

Now, you could argue that nobody is saying that 21.5 per cent of working-age people aren’t out of work – the employment rate is only said to be 75 per cent, after all.

But the unemployment rate is said to be only 4.5 per cent. That’s why we’re being told the UK has full employment and it isn’t true.

That’s why you can’t get a job that pays well – even though the Tories claim there are 768,000 vacancies; there are still so many people out of work that they can continue pushing wages down.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/08/17/still-cant-get-a-job-even-though-weve-reached-full-employment-its-because-the-figures-are-a-lie/

This is important, as these fiddled and highly unreliable figures are being touted by the Tories to show that they’ve been successful in tackling unemployment. And as Mike’s shown, they’re a grotesque falsification.

Mike’s piece has also confirmed what I’ve suspected for a very, very long time: that the official statistics for unemployment have been doctored and adjusted by successive governments to disguise the real rate, that they’re completely unreliable.

I can remember how Margaret Thatcher’s administration altered the official unemployment rate when she came to power way back in 1979. And every government since then has done the same thing.

The latest trick done by the Tories was by making the figures count only those who were signing on as jobseekers. As the whole benefits system is designed to humiliate benefit claimants into either getting a job, or not signing on, with sanctions imposed for even the most trivial reasons, many people don’t sign on for jobseeker’s allowance because of the stress of being harangued and bullied by the jobcentre staff.

Thus the unemployment figures are a conscious lie here, based on a spurious method of counting the unemployed.

Then there’s the actual percentage of people really unemployed in Britain – 21 per cent. This makes a complete lie out of the Tory claim that we’re much better than the other EU states, which may have an unemployment rate of 25 per cent. I’ve read that this is Spain’s unemployment rate, along with some of the other EU countries. The argument is that these nations’ more generous welfare systems and highly regulated economies are causing high unemployment by stifling the free market and the beneficial effects of private enterprise.

This becomes extremely questionable if the true British unemployment rate is only 4 per cent behind that of states like Spain. Moreover, economists such as Ha-Joon Chang have shown that free market economics simply don’t work, and that the older, ‘Keynsian’ system of protectionism and a mixed economy with a welfare state actually works far better in promoting economic growth and prosperity.

My guess is that the drive of successive European government to have 50 per cent of all school leavers enter higher education is also, in part, an attempt to disguise an otherwise high unemployment rate. There probably simply isn’t the jobs for all the school leavers, if only 2 to 20 per cent of young people entered university as they used to before the expansion of higher education back in the 1990s.

In short, the unemployment figures May and her cronies are proudly boasting are complete fabrications, designed to deceive the public into believing the economy and job opportunities are far better than they are.

Don’t be fooled. Get May out before she make the situation worse, and already desperately poor people even poorer.

Vox Political: Vote Leave and UKIP Would Keep 85 Per Cent of Immigration Level

June 23, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political also has another article attacking the claims of UKIP and the ‘Leave’ Campaign that a Brexit would substantially reduced the amount of immigration to this country. It’s a close analysis of the statistics, and follows other, similar articles that Mike’s blogged about, showing that just about half of all immigration to the UK is from foreign students going into Higher Education. This article estimates the proportion of such students as about 47% of all immigrants. As these people contribute £7 billion to our economy, neither Priti Patel, the Kippers and the other Brexit campaigners want to reduce them. A further number are immigrants coming to Britain to take up definite jobs, for which no British workers are available. Again, this is another area which the Brexit campaign has said that they don’t wish to touch. The Kippers and the rest of the Brexit campaign are in favour of an Australian style points system, which is designed to allow immigrants with skills that are needed into the country. It also estimates that after Brexit, there may also be a number of expatriate Brits returning to Blighty in the hope of finding jobs, though this is very speculative.

The result of all this is that, when the numbers are finally crunched, a Brexit would only reduce immigration to Britain by about 15%. Which is quite definitely not what Priti Patel, Gove, Farage and BoJo are trying to tell us. They want us to believe that if Britain leaves Europe, somehow the number of immigrants will massively collapse back to something much lower. This shows that it won’t.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/22/euref-if-youre-planning-to-vote-leave-because-of-immigration-read-this/

Hope Not Hate on the Disgusting Views of Kipper Lee Harris

June 21, 2016

As Britain tries to come to turns with the assassination of Jo Cox by a committed, Nazi, Lee Harris, the Kipper candidate for Shotton and South Hefton in the council elections last year, abandoned any attempt at maintaining a tactful silence. While expressing his own disgust at Cox’s murder, Harris posted on social media a strongly worded condemnation of everything Jo Cox stood for. He wrote on social media

Let us not forget that it is cultural Marxist, PC, Europhilic MPs like her we have to thank for the sorry state this nation is in.

Her ideology was cancerous to this nation, and now her comrades shamelessly milk her death in a desperate attempt to shame us into staying in a corporatist dictatorship.

I’m sure some will be offended by this post, and those who are, I know will be the virtue signalling SJW [Social Justice Warriors] that are milking her death in a last ditch attempt at shaming us into staying in the EU.

See: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/ukip-continue-their-overbearing-sensitivity-4925

This is pretty much typical of some of the verbiage and jargon coming from the extreme Right. Anti-racist activists and those on the genuine Left are attacked as ‘Social Justice Warriors’ and ‘cultural Marxists’. Right-wingers like Harris think that ‘cultural Marxism’ means the Frankfurt school and the tactics formulated by the Italian Communist, Antonia Gramsci, of attempting to change the nature of European and American capitalist society by attacking its culture. It isn’t. ‘Cultural Marxism’ was the term coined by British Marxists when Maggie Thatcher passed a law purging them from teaching in Higher Education. They got round this by making the fine distinction that they weren’t ‘Marxist’, but ‘Marxian’ – that is, they were Marxists by culture, not politics. It’s a very tenuous distinction, but it did manage to allow them to keep their jobs.

As for being called a ‘Social Justice Warrior’, while it is a term of contempt, the fact is that since that social justice – anti-racism, anti-sexism and attitudes to combat poverty and improve the circumstances of the working class, disabled and unemployed, are still under threat. There have been enormous strides made since the 1970s in tacking racism and sexism, but these are still extremely powerful issues where discrimination is very much present. As shown by the fact that Harris and many of the Brexiters haven’t been able to reconcile themselves to the fact that Cox was murdered by someone with a very long commitment to the Nazi Right.

Harris himself has a particular hatred of the Labour party. Hope Not Hate a few piccies of election pamphlets in the above article, in which he promises ‘to continue the failings of the Labour Party. It has let our communities down for too long!’ He also says, ‘Labour once stood for the working class, defending our way of life, defending our jobs, but now all they care about is pandering to big donors and big business. They are the party that started to privatise the NHS after all’.

This is a fair description of the greed and neoliberal economic policies at the heart of Blairite ‘New Labour’, but it doesn’t represent either Ed Miliband or the party’s new leadership under Jeremy Corbyn. As for the EU being a ‘corporatist dictatorship’, there’s a reasonable point mixed in with a gross lie. I’ve put up material discussing the massive power the EU constitution does give to corporations, and there are indeed several points in European commercial law that strongly protect and promote neoliberal economics. However, the EU is not a dictatorship, and it is a gross distortion to say that it is. This line seems to come from the old Eurosceptic idea that the EU is merely Napoleon’s Empire or Adolf Hitler’s Nazi-dominated Europe resurrected and marketed to Europe’s peoples in a more palatable form. It isn’t. It was set up by European statesmen, including Winston Churchill, after the War in the hope that by promoting European unity, such extreme nationalist movements and the drive by individual countries to conquer and dominate the country would be successfully combated. I don’t think it’s been entirely successful. Unfortunately, EU policy does represent too much the interest of the big EU nations, like France and Germany, at the expense of the smaller nations. But I do think that it has done much to promote international peace and reconciliation after the War, and so has done much to calm international tension, even if it has not succeeded in altogether eradicating it.

As for Harris’ comments about the Labour – if Harris was serious about them from a left-wing perspective, he could have joined a number of alternative Socialist groups and organisations. Buddy Hell, over at Guy Debord’s Cat, was so disillusioned with the Blairite takeover the Labour party that he joined Left Unity, if I recall correctly. I think one of the small, alternative Socialist parties was formed from all the trade unionists and Labour party members, who were thrown out of the Labour party because they did not back Bliar and Broon’s austerity campaigns.

But Harris hasn’t done that. Instead he’s moved to the Right, and shown how he despises much of the ideology of the Left with his attacks on ‘social justice warriors’. If you look through many of the classic statements of Socialism, several of them make the point that Socialists champion the working class in order to bring about a classless society, and as part of a general campaign to establish greater social equality. Marx, Engels and the early Fabians had some vile attitudes to what they considered to be less developed, backward nations, but as early as the 1920s the Labour party adopted a policy of granting the colonies their independence at the earliest possibility. Even when they were committed to the British Empire, such as in the book Empire, Your Empire, published by the Left Book club, they were critical of the way Britain’s imperial possessions around the world were being exploited. The author of that book wanted these countries developed, but in the interest of their indigenous peoples. As indeed did the veteran Socialist thinker and writer, G.D.H. Cole.

As for Labour privatising the health service, unfortunately, much of this was done by Bliar and Broon. But they were following policies established in the 1980s by Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe had looked at ways of abolishing the NHS and replacing it with a private medical service such as that in America. They didn’t, because they knew that it would lose them the next election. Also, Patrick Jenkin, the Health Secretary, reported just how awful American medical care was after he went on a fact-finding mission to the US. Nevertheless, she wanted more private medical care in and outside the NHS, including tax relief for people with private medical insurance. She also introduced further charges for hitherto free medical treatments in the NHS. One of these was eye tests at opticians. She stopped that, and then had one of her cabinet ‘vegetables’ try to con the nation into believing that after charges had been introduced, demand had actually gone up. It was Thatcher, who removed compulsory state funding for the elderly in nursing homes, with the result that many people now have to mortgage or sell their elderly relatives’ houses to pay for the tens of thousands of pounds it costs a year to keep them in such homes. She also picked a fight with the dentists, so that the majority left the NHS. And then Peter ‘I’ve got a little list’ Lilley introduced the Private Finance Initiative specifically as a way for big business to make money out of the health service under John Major. Bliar and Broon expanded this cruddy system, but they didn’t invent it.

Despite appealing to working constituents, Harris is, like the Kipper leadership, a Tory. He wants to capitalise on many people’s genuine disaffection from the Labour party due to neoliberal leadership of the Blairites. But he himself is very much a man of the right, and his stance is shown by the fact that he is not concerned with defending the NHS from its privatisation by Cameron and the Lib Dems. This has been going on for over half a decade now. Even last year he could not plead ignorance of it, not if he was serious about defending the NHS or his constituents against austerity and the cuts.

The Robbins Report and the Expansion of University Education

March 16, 2016

The expansion of higher education and its extension to students from working class backgrounds was a policy that had its origins in a Conservative government. This was the Robbins Committee formed by Harold MacMillan’s government, which produced a report in 1963. This argued that higher education should be made available to everyone, who had the ability. They were assisted in this by the massive growth in secondary education, and the growing need for an educated class of technicians and workers for industry. The Labour party under Harold Wilson was also planning to found 40 new universities.

Sullivan, in his The Development of the British Welfare State, writes of this

Into this maelstrom of political activity, emerged the Robbins Report in October 1963. Its most important recommendation was that ‘courses in higher education should be available to all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.’ In effect, this was to mean two things. First, that all candidates with good enough A-level passes would be eligible (thus satisfying the ability criteria). Second, however, it meant that local authorities would be committed to funding all candidates accepted by higher education institutions. For the recommendations of the Anderson Committee that all students in higher education should be grant-aided had been implemented while the Robbins Committee was sitting.

The implications of the Robbins proposals were momentous. First, the report assumed a 50 per cent increase in the number of higher education students by 1967, turning into a 250 per cent rise by 1980. As the bulk of these were to be in universities, new universities would need to be built. As the need for technological development was recognised by the committee, the Colleges of Advanced Technology, (CATs) were to be translated into universities. (p. 148).

Among its conclusions, the Report stated ‘But we believe that it is highly misleading to suppose that one can determine an upper limit to the number of people who could benefit from higher education, given favourable circumstances.’

‘[J]ust as since the war more children have stayed on at school for a full secondary education, so in turn more of their children will come to demand higher education during the 1970s…’

‘This in itself is … no guarantee that the quality of students will be maintained if there is an increased entry. There is, however, impressive evidence that large numbers of able young people do not at present reach higher education….

‘The desire for education, leading to better performance at school, appears to be affecting the children of all classes and all abilities alike, and it is reasonable to suppose that this trend will continue…

Finally, it should be observed that fears that expansion would lead to a lowering of the average ability of students in higher education have proved unfounded. Recent increases in numbers have not been accompanied by an increase in wastage and the measured ability of students appears to be as high as ever.’

(From Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty years of Britain’s Welfare State, 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 125).

It’s to SuperMac’s credit that his government did open up university to people from the working classes. Since Margaret Thatcher’s time, the Tories have increasingly wanted to shut it off to students from poorer backgrounds. Higher education has been privatised, funding cut, and student grants abolished. Instead they’ve been replaced with loans, which have escalated to exorbitant levels beyond the ability of many students to pay as free education has been abolished. Bliar’s government took the step of introducing tuition fees nearly a decade ago now, but it was Cameron’s coalition government that raised them to £9,000 a year. And many universities have been pressing for further increases.

What this means is that graduates and former students now live with considerable debts, to the point that they may never be able to afford a mortgage. This is despite Nick Robinson, one of the Beeb’s newscasters, leaping about the TV studio trying to convince everyone that student loans were going to be free money, because you didn’t have to pay them back if you didn’t earn a certain amount. Robinson’s enthusiasm for student loans is only to be expected. He was, after all, the head of the Federation of Conservative Students at Manchester University, and another link between the Tories and the BBC. When Bliar was discussing introducing student fees in the 1990s, there was considerable concern that this would make university too expensive for poorer students. The result would, in the view of one university spokesman, be that universities became a kind of finishing school for wealthy former public school pupils.

I don’t know if that’s quite happened yet. There are still many thousands of pupils willing and eager to go to university. However, with tuition fees rising to the tens of thousands and no funding available for those from lower or middle class backgrounds, it does seem to me that the Tories are aiming at taking us back to the situation before 1963. Four decades of Thatcherism is undoing SuperMac’s work, and higher education is being increasingly selective on the basis, not of talent, but of wealth.

Which is what you’d expect from a government led by toffs.

Financial Expert Martin Lewis to Challenge Osborne on Student Loans

December 16, 2015

This is interesting. There’s a piece in today’s I newspaper reporting that the financial expert Martin Lewis is preparing to issue a legal challenge to the government over the age at which former students must begin repaying their student loans. The I reports

Money saving expert Martin Lewis has hired lawyers to challenge student loan repayment rules. George Osborne froze the salary at which graduates must start repaying at £21,000 until 2021 despite promises it would be increased in line with earnings from 2017. Mr Lewis will try to overturn this.

I think Lewis has his own show on ITV. Ideally, the whole rotten system of student fees and loans ought to be scrapped, but I can’t see any government actually having the guts to do this. Not after Bliar and Cameron have done their level best to make higher education a fully fee-paying industry, with all the advantages that brings to the financial sector. But it’s a start.

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.

Neil Kinnock in 1987 on Tory Cuts to Apprenticeships and Vocational Training

June 1, 2014

Kinnock Book

I found Neil Kinnock’s book, Making Our Way (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1986) in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday. It was written by the former leader of the Labour party, now an EU commissioner in Brussels, to make the case for the Labour party and genuinely socialist policies against the Thatcher administration. Unfortunately, after losing the election the following year, in 1987, Kinnock and the party’s leadership gradually rejected these, and turned from promoting manufacturing industry to courting and promoting the financial sector instead. This was done by Mo Mowlam and Gordon Brown in the party’s ‘prawn cocktail’ offensive, which eventually produced Blair and New Labour. The book’s arguments are still sound, however, and in many ways similar to those in Socialist Enterprise: Reclaiming the Economy by Diana Gilhespy, Ken Jones, Tony Manwaring, Henry Neuburger and Adam Sharples (Nottingham: Spokesman 1986).

One of the areas of government policy criticised by Kinnock is the attack and cuts to vocational training and education. The red-headed leader points to the fact that Britain’s industrial competitors, such as German and Japan, placed a very high emphasis on creating a skilled workforce that could serve their manufacturing economy. This was reflected in their school systems, which also included vocational, technical education. Science and engineering were also much more respected and promoted, so that these countries had many more of these to work in industry. Advocates of greater support and promotion of engineering in British education, for example, have for a long time pointed out that while in Britain the term ‘engineer’ may refer simply to metal-worker – a skilled or semi-skilled worker, for example, in Germany it’s status is much higher, and will denote professors of engineering and highly skilled technicians on a level with scientists. Kinnock also points out that Germany also has a far higher number of apprenticeships, designed to provide young workers with the skills they need. Yet in England, the number of apprenticeships was not only smaller, but actually declining. Kinnock describes this, and criticises the Youth Training Scheme, the government scheme that was introduced to combat unemployment by teaching young workers industrial skills. He writes

When the impact of government policies on training is examined an equally alarming picture emerges. The traditional method of vocational education and training for the 16-19 age group – or, at least, boys in that age group – has been the apprenticeship. But during the last few years the numbers of apprentices starting in British industry has declined drastically, from 120,000 in 1979 to 40,000 in 1983, while in the latter year in GErmany 620,000 young people were beginning high-quality apprenticeships. The decline in the number of apprenticeships has been due partly to the massive contraction of manufacturing industry and partly to cuts in government support for local government. Little of the reduction has come as a result of the modernization or reform of initial training. And while government economic policies were wiping out apprenticeship opportunities, the government was also closing Skillcentres, abolishing 16 Industry Training Boards and withdrawing Exchequer support for industrial training and retraining. Apologists for the government insist, of course, that the operations of the Manpower Services Commission and the Youth Training Scheme in particular are more than making up for these losses. It is true that the efforts of people in the MSC, the YTS and the associated activities can produce training of high quality. But the scale of that standard of provision is simply not great enough to compensate for the losses, let alone meet modern training and retraining needs in a country where mass unemployment adds to the crises causes by a history of undertraining.

The apprenticeship system, the Training Boards, the Skill-centres all fell short of perfection. But they have not been replaced by a superior system meeting the comprehensive training skill supply of the nation. They have been replaced by forms of mass provision which beautify the unemployment figures but too frequently fail to enhance either the employment prospects of individuals or the strength of the economy.

The YTS has the advantage that it is universal and, at long last, is being extended to two-year duration. But that extension, the facility for qualification, the opportunities for continuing education and the resources for instruction and for payment to trainees have been grudgingly granted. As a result, Tory politicians have not met the requirements identified by those experienced in education and training. The arguments of the latter should be heeded. They are not empire-building and they do not make the case for greater quality or quantity of support and improved programme content and opportunity out of selfishness. Rather, they recognise that half-hearted provision means downhearted trainees, incomplete and devalued training and, in many cases, a cynicism which overwhelms youthful and parental hopes.

Given the history of deficiency in British training and the division in attitudes and therefore expectations between ‘education’ and ‘training’ in our country, it was not surprising that the approach to change should be faltering, cautious and prone to the errors of snobbery, conservatism and complacency. In many ways, change on the scale that has been needed for decades would amount to a cultural, educational and industrial revolution against ignorance, short-sightedness, convention and vested interests. The decades have certainly passed; and some of the change has come – but slowly, and circumstances now require urgency. That urgency is simply not manifested by the government, and industry, with a few honourable exceptions, has neither the will nor the feeling of obligation to meet large-scale additional provision spontaneously.

Trained and educated human abilities, the incomparable requirement of resilient economic recovery and advance for the Britain of the 1990s and beyond are not being developed to anything like the extent necessary to meet national needs. The seed corn is either being devoured, as education and training are cut or constrained, or not even being planted. The consequences for the harvest are clear and awful. (pp. 140-2).

The situation has changes since then. Higher education has been massively expanded to the point where about 45 per cent of school leavers go on to university and there was an attempt, back in the 1990s, to reintroduce apprenticeships. The main argument, however, is as true as ever. Britain’s industrial base was deliberately decimated by Thatcher to break the back of the unions and produce a prostrate, servile workforce ready for exploitation. The various workfare and WRAG schemes are the result of this. This is intended to give the impression that the government is actively trying to give new skills to the workforce and maintain the illusion that there are still jobs out there, for anyone willing to make an effort. The reality is that simply the opposite. There are few jobs, with a vast number of candidates competing for them. And this is precisely what is demanded by the Chicago school of economists, like von Hayek and Milton Friedman, who inspired Thatcher. Their theories demand an unemployment rate of 6 per cent to keep wages down. All the while, of course, giving cheap, publicly subsidised labour to business, including big firms like Tesco’s that definitely don’t need it.

And so what Kinnock said about the YTS applies in spades to them. Workfare is indeed a form of mass provision which beautifies the unemployment figures but too frequently fails to enhance either the employment prospects of individuals or the strength of the economy. They are a ‘half-hearted provision’ which has produced downhearted trainees, incomplete and devalued training and, in many cases, a cynicism which overwhelms youthful and parental hopes.

It’s time workfare, and the whole benighted Tory approach to manufacturing industry and a genuinely skilled workforce was thrown out with them and the other Thatcherite ideological rubbish, before another thirty years goes past.

The Tories’ Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance: Chriswaynepoetry’s Story

May 23, 2014

A few days’ ago I reblogged a piece from Mike over at Vox Political reporting the government’s proposed cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance, which helps support disabled people study at university. The government is proposing to reform this, so that only the most severely disabled students would be eligible for the grant. Those with milder disabilities, such as dyslexia, are to be excluded under the proposed new rules. This is another, alarming example of the government’s attacks on the poorest and vulnerable in society, particularly as the amount saved will be virtually negligible. It’s simply another example of Tory spite. Many of Mike’s readers expressed their extremely strong disapproval.

One of those was Sasson Hann, who gave their account of how the grant allowed them to study for and gain a very good degree in music, despite suffering from a severe handicap that later required them to leave work altogether. I took the liberty of posting their account up here, as it was an example of the way the government’s reforms would punish hardworking, creative people like them for absolutely no reason other than that their disability is perceived as making them a financial burden to the state.

Chriswaynepoetry, one of the commenters to this blog, also commented on this post, describing how he had also been helped through uni by the grant. He wrote

I have experience of this as without the grant, I would not have the necessary equipment I need to help me through lectures. Indeed without this allowance I would have had to pay for the test which diagnosed me as dyslexic (which would have cost me £400).

One caveat I would like to add onto that is that while I think the removal of this grant is plainly not right, there is a wider issue with regards to disabled students getting the best education within the school system. This may have changed, but when I was going to school, teachers always used to say to me that though they thought of me as a critical thinker, my written assignments did not articulate what I used to say in class. There may have been teachers who considered me dyslexic then (I was not diagnosed until I was thirty). The problem is, teachers could not tell me if they thought that this was the case, as if I took the test and it shown signs of dyslexia, any assistance would have had to come out of the school’s own fund, not from a specialised grant system for students that the school could apply for.

I am not sure if this is still the case, but if it is, then surely this needs to change.

He’s not alone. I know a number of extremely bright, creative people, who suffered from some form of disability, from dyslexia to very severe handicaps that left them almost totally paralysed. The cuts to their education, which will leave all but the rich unable to afford higher education are a false economy. Despite their handicaps, the disabled people I know were intelligent and talented, and very able to contribute to society. In the case of the physically disabled, the emergence of the ‘knowledge economy’ of IT and related industries has meant that they have been able to excel in careers, which simply did not exist earlier in the last century, where physical strength and performance is not required. Society will most definitely not benefit – indeed will actually be impoverished – by the exclusion of the disabled and their talents from higher education and the opportunities it provides.

Chriswaynepoetry second point is an extremely good one, and probably would not occur to most people, myself included. The government’s policy of making schools individually responsible for their limited budgets in his experience has led to children like himself with dyslexia going undiagnosed because of the extra cost this would place on them. As a result, children’s education is suffering. This clearly needs to be addressed, so that all Britain’s pupils and students can achieve their true potential and have lives enriched by learning.

Education should most definitely not be for the privileged. We are all the poorer when it is.
Which is another example of the effects of the Tory and Tory Democrats’ austerity programme. It’s leaving us poorer both physically and morally, to go with their own moral bankruptcy.