Posts Tagged ‘National Insurance’

Is Boris Planning to Force Poor to Take Out Loans instead of Unemployment Benefit?

January 25, 2020

I realise that this may strike some people as a somewhat petty and ill-tempered overreaction to a passing comment someone made, but it’s been annoying me ever since I heard it. And I’m afraid, if it’s true, it could mean further devastating cuts to our already underfunded and dysfunctional welfare state. And it is also a revealing insight into the mean-spirited, jealous mindset of the working class Tory voter.

I was on the bus coming home yesterday when I happened to overhear the conversation from the couple on the seats immediately behind me. From the tone of their voices and their conversation, it seems they were an older couple. The man talked about how families no longer properly looked after their elderly relatives, except in places like Scotland. He said, quite rightly, that retired people also stimulated the economy by going out and having meals or a cup of coffee. That didn’t annoy me at all. What did – and it made so furious I was tempted to turn around and put the old fellow right – was his comment immediately before those. He announced that he agreed with Boris Johnson that workers like brickies – at least, that’s what I think he said – shouldn’t be given benefit when they were unemployed. They should have to take out a loan. He then went on to explain that he’d worked for a certain time without claiming his holidays. Then he was laid off. When he tried to sign on, however, he was told that by the clerk that they had received information about him which meant that he wouldn’t get any money for three weeks. Since then, he said, he always took his holidays.

I don’t know if this remark of Johnson’s is true, or where it was reported. It might be garbled rubbish, or it might be solid fact as reported by the Scum or some other Tory rag. But if it’s true, then it’s dangerous.

It should immediately be apparent how weak the man’s own argument is. Builders, like other workers, contribute to their unemployment benefit through National Insurance and their taxes. They therefore have every right to claim such benefit when they’re unemployed. The fact that the man complaining about it wasn’t is unfortunately, but irrelevant. From the sound of it, when he was laid off he was paid in lieu of the annual leave he didn’t take, and this amounted to three weeks’ worth of money. Or at least, that’s what the Jobcentre was informed or chose to assume.

This country is also suffering under a mountain of debt. The book The Violence of Austerity has an entire chapter devoted to the ‘violence of debtfare’. This debt, from student loans for education, payday loans, mortgages and so on, is not only keeping people poor, in some cases the repayments are actually making them unable to pay for necessities like food and heating. The very last thing this country needs is for more of it. But this is what this gentleman thought Johnson was advocating, and with which he agreed.

I remember the Social Fund and the way it operated in the Benefits Agency in the 1990s. Thatcher’s and Major’s governments decided to replace the system of grants that had been in place to allow claimants to buy certain necessities with a system of loans. It’s not a scheme that worked well. Some long term claimants, I’m sure, would have been better served with grants, not least because the loan system meant that money was deducted from benefit that was already supposed to be the minimum an individual could live on. The current system of loans in the welfare system has exacerbated this, so that with the repayments some people have notoriously been left with only a few pounds to last them the week. But Johnson and this idiot believe that this is acceptable.

I am also disgusted by the attitude behind these comments, though not surprised. When I was at school I remember reading letters in the local paper, The Evening Post as it then was, by people of a certain age supporting Thatcher’s cuts to unemployment and other benefits. The attitude there was that they had never had the benefit of state aid in their youth, and so the younger generation shouldn’t either. And the same attitude and argument crops up again and again whenever the Tories announce yet another round of cuts. I also think that part of the problem is that some of those with this attitude still believe that suitable work is available for everyone, somehow. They’ve benefited from the period between the Second World War and the Thatcher’s election as Prime Minister, when the government was committed to a policy of full employment. And even after that policy was abandoned, there was still the illusion of plenty of employment opportunities. I can remember trying to tell one of my co-workers how difficult I had found it to get a job after graduating university. There didn’t seem to be anything to fit my qualifications. This was also at a time when jobs were so scarce, that there were so many applicants for particular jobs that frequently prospective employers didn’t even inform you if you had been unsuccessful. But nevertheless, my coworkers were sceptical, saying ‘There are plenty of jobs in the paper’. This man clearly assumed that anyone who was laid off would find themselves new work in a relatively short space of time. But that’s no longer guaranteed.

But it’s through such selfishness and the resentment of a certain section of the working class to anyone they feel is getting more state benefits than they are, which the Tories are using to generate support for their welfare cuts.

There is no other justification. The benefit cuts and consequent tax cuts to the rich haven’t boosted the economy. Even right-wing economists now deny that trickledown – the process by which the wealth accrued to the high earners would pass down through society to those at the bottom – works or that it was even a major part of neoliberal economics in the first place. And so they try to justify their cuts with spurious morality.

And to do this, they play on the worst parts of human nature. They encourage a resentment of those they brand less deserving – Blacks and Asians, the disabled, the unemployed, and the poor in a vicious strategy of ‘divide and rule’. And the logic is used to cut benefits to their supporters. I’m sure this man would have been outraged if someone told him that his pension would now be stopped for short periods, during which he would have to take out loans. Much of the Tories’ voting constituency is over 50, and so they have been reluctant to cut their benefits and pensions. This has happened nonetheless. Austerity has already claimed the lives of thousands of senior citizens.

But this will get worse, so long as the Tories are able to utilise that selfishness, fear and resentment to turn the working class and other marginalised groups against themselves. In the end, under the Tories, they will all lose.

It’s just idiots won’t see it, so long as the Tories are able to distract them by a false claim that the benefits system is treating someone else better.

 

Michael Brooks Applauds Labour’s Election Video

November 22, 2019

Michael Brooks is the titular presenter of an American left-wing internet news and comment show. He’s also a co-presenter with Sam Seder on the latter’s Majority Report. In this video, Brooks looks at and gives his approval to Labour’s election video.

Before going into the video, Brooks says that he thinks the election video is fantastic, that the initial polls look good and that Labour’s Brexit strategy is pretty smart. It’s smart from a tactical perspective of dealing with the competing demands from within their own party. He says of the Liberal Democrats that they are ‘utterly exposed’. They had an opportunity to form a government purely on the basis of making sure there wasn’t a no-deal Brexit. They rejected it because they care infinitely more about corporations and austerity and right-wing economic policies than stopping Brexit.  Brooks then attacks the Tories, stating that Boris Johnson is the UK’s own contribution to the global embarrassment list – Trump, Netanyahu, Duterte and so on. Of Labour’s video, he says that he watched a conversation earlier that day between Alistair Campbell and John McDonnell, Corbyn’s no. 2.  Brooks says that they’re really good politicians, because they’re putting so much on the table from the perspective of healthcare, workers’ cooperatives for a 21st century democracy, ‘that it’s not an opportunity to pass up.’ The video also shows they’re taking the campaign seriously, strategically and ‘presentationally’.  They then show the video.

Labour’s election video begins with Corbyn’s election as head of the Labour party in 2015. It then moves through his career, and shows how he has forced the Tories to backtrack on some of their horrendous policies, while seeing off Prime Ministers David Cameron and Tweezer. In front of the relevant scenes are the following captions, beginning with Corbyn’s election. Corbyn’s shown saying ‘Poverty isn’t inevitable, things can and they will change. And they already have, says another caption. Tweezer is shown walking on, and then walking off backwards with the caption ‘Tories forced to backtrack on’ – dementia tax, winter fuel cuts, fox hunting ban, – ‘and many more’. A list of other policies blocked rolls up the screen too fast to catch, but they include grammar schools, police funding cuts, diesel tax, solar panel tax, tampon tax, Brexit deal vote, National Insurance, Brexit impact reports, Saudi prison contracts, Sunday trading hours,  and triple lock on pensions.

There’s then footage of a reporter stating that polls show the Tories on 48 per cent, and Labour half that. Which is followed by John Snow saying ‘We, the media, the pundits, know nothing’. The captions then states that Labour had the biggest campaign growth since polling began. And that Corbyn bid farewell to two prime ministers, showing Tweezer and Cameron. It says he defeated May’s Brexit deal once, twice and then three times. He blocked Johnson’s disastrous no-deal Brexit. It then shows footage from the Labour conference of Corbyn saying that the party ‘will commit to unleash the biggest people-powered campaign we’ve ever seen in this country and in this movement.’ A caption then appears and says ‘To totally transform our society from grass roots upwards. To radically change our rigged economy so that it works for everyone.’ At this point there’s an image of Johnson meeting various people and Rees Mogg lounging on a Commons’ bench. The caption goes on ‘To urgently respond to the climate crisis with our green industrial revolution. To get Brexit sorted by giving the people the final say.’ It goes back to Corbyn against, who says, ‘We achieve all of these things by being a party and a movement totally and absolutely united to our common cause and purpose.’

The captions then appearing, saying ‘This is our chance, once in a generation  to rebuilt Britain and put wealth and power in the hands of the many not the few. It’s time for real change’. And there it finishes with the Labour Party logo.

Brooks remarks, ‘That’s a good ad. They’re on point. I would really recommend if you’re in the UK you do absolutely everything you can for Labour. I’m incredibly excited to see what they put forward.’ He and the crew then discuss which date the election is on, before concluding that it’s the twelfth December. Brooks ends that section of the video by saying that he thinks it’s fantastic they have such a short election cycle.

The reason why the election cycle is so short, is because all the Tory governments have collapsed ever since Cameron’s wretched decision to call the Brexit referendum.

I think it’s brilliant that Michael Brooks thinks the video is so great, and gives his unqualified support for Labour. Brooks and Seder are both supporters of Bernie Sanders and his campaign to bring about the radical change America needs to empower its ordinary working people, and give them jobs and prosperity instead of more neoliberal lies, poverty and despair from the Republicans and corporatist Democrats. And what America most desperately needs is medicare for all. It’s a disgrace that a massive economic and geopolitical giant like America does not provide properly funded medicine to all of its people. The claims by the Republicans and right-wing Democrats like Hillary Clinton that the country can’t afford to is a flat-out lie. Bernie’s serious about correcting this glaring injustice in American healthcare, just as Corbyn’s determined to revive and regenerate our National Health Service.

We need and deserve Corbyn to win over here, and Bernie to win in America. And then we can make a better world by destroying four decades of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

Weak and Wobby May Does Massive U-Turn over ‘Dementia Tax’

May 22, 2017

This also shows how much pressure and desperate the Tories are feeling from a resurgent Labour. In her manifesto four days ago, ‘strong and stable’ May said that she intended taking the value of people’s houses into consideration when assessing the amount they would be charged for their social care. This would lead to people having to take out ‘equity release’, in which their houses would be sold and the money used to pay for their care, while allowing them to remain as tenants.

Florence, one of the great commenters to this blog, has pointed out just how nasty this policy is in a comment she posted to an earlier piece I did about it. She wrote

Equity release is not the same as insurance. Using equity release to pay for care is already available and has many times been shown to be the worse possible use of a house for the elderly. They are essentially unpaid mortgages where the interest accrues along with the original debt, so any capital increase in value is eaten up by interest and charges. The resident can be forced out of the house at any time. Instead of banning these deals the May cabal want to force us to use them.

Insurance will only be available to the young and fit or through workplace schemes. No one will insure a retired person.

Not surprisingly, large sections of the population did not welcome having the government force them to sell the homes they saved for throughout their lives. With the result that May has now made a U-Turn so fast, that she’s left skidmarks in the road, if not in her underwear.

It’s a very quick U-Turn indeed, as only this morning various Tory talking heads were appearing on breakfast TV defending it, saying that the Tories were showing resolve in coming to grips with Britain’s aging population. Now she’s telling everyone she’s going to put a cap on the amount they will be expected to pay. Even though her ministers, like Jeremy Hunt, have been saying all week. She’s also gone on the offensive – and to me, she’s always been very offensive – and accused Labour of scaremongering.

But, as various people on social media have noticed, it’s May herself who appears scared. Or ‘frit’, as the former Leaderene used to say in her native Grantham patois.

Mike’s posted up two videos of her speaking, stating that her own fear is evident from her body language and tone of voice.

One person has posted a picture of a backbone, with a note beside it saying ‘Wanted for Theresa May’. Marcus Chown also posted a photograph of a jelly, to show how weak and wobbly May is. Chown’s a scientist and science writer, who’s written for New Scientist, and published a book on the Cosmic Background Radiation, The Afterglow of Creation, far back in the 1990s. But you really don’t need the Hubble Space Telescope or Jodrell Bank to see how desperate May and her fellows now are.

She’s now telling everyone that she’s going to keep her new promise to cap charges for social care. And the Daily Mail, like the Tory lapdog it is, has issued an article hailing her as an ‘honest politician’.

No, no she isn’t. Not remotely.

Among the various promises and pledges she’s broken are her support for ‘Remain’, which has now definitely been ditched in favour of Brexit; her promise to raise National Insurance contributions from the self-employed; she claimed she wanted to put workers in the boardroom – that went very quickly; and her stated resolution not to hold a snap election. Along with a pledge to reduce the sugar content in children’s foods.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/22/dementia-tax-u-turn-theresa-may-is-a-weak-and-wobbly-conservative-in-chaos/

As Mike states in his article, it’s not a complete list.

In fact, May’s party lies frequently and shamelessly. Remember when David Cameron, May’s predecessor, was telling everyone that the Tories would ring-fence NHS spending against cuts? How he, IDS and the rest of the Tory faithful claimed they were trying to protect the NHS for New Labour’s closure of hospitals up and down the country? These policies were ditched almost as soon as Cameron got his foot in No. 10. As was his statement that his would be the ‘greenest’ government of all. That was ditched along with the little windmill outside his house, and replaced with a huge support for fracking and other environmentally destructive policies.

And May’s new pledge about capping the Dementia Tax is, in my opinion, another lie, from a party of liars.

Theresa May Plans to Stop Children Having Free School Meals

May 20, 2017

Along with her other vile policies – like ending her promise not to raise VAT, taxes and national insurance, ending the triple lock on pensions, bringing back fox hunting, opening more grammar schools, May also wants to end free school meals for infants.

Maggie Thatcher tried something similar way back in the 1970s. She wanted to end free school milk as Heath’s education secretary. This earned her the soubriquet ‘Maggie Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher’. Mike in one of his articles on her vile policies has posted a very nice gif from EL4C, which shows a picture of Maggie with that chant, followed by May and the slogan ‘Theresa May takes your lunch away’.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/19/at-last-britons-are-uniting-against-theresa-may/

Historians of the ’70s have argued that Thatcher’s stopping of free school milk was, in itself, a minor issue, which became a political battleground because people were fed up with the Tories generally.

But the stopping of free school meals for infants is a very different story.

We now have a society in which a hundred thousand people or more have been forced through Tory welfare cuts to use food banks. According to statistics, seven million people life in ‘food insecure’ households. Which means that they don’t know if they’re going to have enough to eat tomorrow.

Mothers are starving themselves in order to give food to their children.

This isn’t scaremongering by the ‘cultural Marxist left-wing media’. And people don’t go to food banks, ’cause it’s free food, as spouted by Tory liars like Edwina Currie.

It’s documented fact.

This will make the situation worse. It will mean more children going to school hungry, where they won’t be able to learn because of the hunger pangs. And if they can’t learn, they can’t pass exams, and so won’t get a proper, paying job. If any are still around after they’ve all been either automated away or outsourced.

And so we’ll go back to the 19th century, when there was real famine and malnutrition amongst the Labour poor.

This is what the Tories want. This is what May intends to give the ‘hard working people’ her party claims to be defending.

All to give her friends and paymasters in big business more tax breaks, and a cowed labour force so desperate they’ll work for literal starvation wages.

Don’t put up with it.

Kick and them out.

Vote Labour June 8th.

Ken Surin’s List of Theresa ‘Goody-Two Shoes’ May’s Lies and Attacks on the Poor and the Welfare State

May 9, 2017

More from a contributor to Counterpunch, though this time it isn’t about the lies, smears and bullying of the Israel lobby.

Ken Surin is a British academic, who now lives and teaches in America. He’s written a list of articles attacking Theresa May for her lies, U-turns and her attacks on the poor, working people and the welfare state. And her plans to sell off whatever remains of the NHS to private American healthcare companies as part of a Brexit deal.

He calls her ‘Goody-Two Shoes’, because that’s how May described herself: she says she was a ‘goody-two shoes’ in school.

Her first U-turn affected him personally. He lost his right to vote in 2002 when Blair decided that Brits who had been away for more than 15 years shouldn’t have the right to vote in British elections. May then declared that if she got in, she’d repeal it. Now that she’s in power, she hasn’t. She’s a liar. But then, what do you expect from the Tories?

He also states that he’s not surprised the Tories have got a 17 point lead over Labour. They’ve been undermined by the antics of the Blairites, the Zionist lobby’s maligning him as a anti-Semite, because he’s a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the loss of northern working class voters to UKIP, and, most significantly, the massive right-wing bias of the media.

A study by the LSE showed that on average, only 11 per cent of newspaper articles accurately reflected Labour policies. And in the case of the Daily Heil and Express, that ratio falls to zero.

He states that May is simply an opportunist, as shown by the way she voted Remain in the Brexit referendum, but to stay in power has turned her party into ‘UKIP-lite’.

And then he gives the following list of some her lies and U-turns.

The Tories were fined £70,000 last month by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare more than £275,000 in election-spending in the 2015 election. A dozen police forces have passed files relating to these expenses to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The CPS had intended to decide by the end of May if there were to be prosecutions for these violations, but an election in 2017 would probably take the wind out of attempts to prosecute 20 Tory MPs (or thereabouts) for their fraudulent activity in the 2015 election– “that’s history now”, many are likely to say.

If May called an early election for this reason, it would only demonstrate the flexibility of her principles.

May’s most recent budget dissolved into chaos when an increase in national insurance for the self-employed broke a 2015 election manifesto pledge. The ensuing public outcry panicked May and her colleagues into a U-turn, and the proposed increase was rescinded.

Since 2010 the Tories have promised to increase spending on the National Health Service every year, and that funding for schools would increase per student. In its report card after the most recent budget, The Independent said:

The public sector has been another loser. The NHS, which was in the black in 2010, faced a £1.85 billion deficit in 2016, the largest deficit in its history. As a result, waiting times are up, and the NHS is facing, what the British Red Cross have described as a ‘humanitarian crisis.’ Conditions in the NHS have led to an exodus of doctors. A third of Accident and Emergency doctors left the UK to work abroad between 2010 and 2015. There is a similar pattern in education, where 10,000 teachers left the profession in Cameron’s first term. In both sectors, real terms cuts in spending has increased workloads to a point where many professionals are no longer willing to continue.

Running down public services has hit some groups much harder than others. Austerity has hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men’s. Cuts to lone parent benefits since 2010, for example, have fallen disproportionality on women, for the simple reason that women make up 90 per cent of lone parents. At the same time, as women tend to be low earners they have benefited far less from tax cuts than men.

This is followed by a list of motions she has voted for, in which she has consistently supported the rich, and attacked the poor.

As home secretary, May introduced laws forcing internet service providers to help the UK’s spy agencies hack into computers.

Despite moving her party to the right so it can campaign as UKIP lite, May’s record on immigration when she was home secretary prior to becoming prime minister would certainly not please UKIP voters. May vowed to cut net immigration down to the “tens of thousands”, only to have it increase to a record high of 330,000.

May voted for the notorious “bedroom tax”, which reduced housing benefit for social-housing tenants deemed to have unoccupied bedrooms.

She voted against raising welfare benefits so they remained in line with inflation.

She voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability.

She voted for making local councils reduce the amount spent on helping those in financial need pay their council taxes.

She voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

She voted against smoking bans and the hunting ban.

She voted for increasing the rate of the highly regressive Value Added Tax (VAT)

She voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000.

She voted against a banker’s bonus tax.

While she voted for the bedroom tax to be imposed on people in social housing, May voted against the mansion tax, i.e. the annual tax on the value of expensive homes.

She voted for more restrictions on trade union activity.

May voted against restricting the provision of services to private patients by the NHS.

She voted for raising England’s undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 per year.

She has always voted for academy (i.e. private) schools.

While all the above has been transpiring, a massive upwards transfer of wealth from lower-tiered income earners to the top has been occurring. According to the Social Market Foundation, in the UK:

… the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families rose by 64 per cent between 2005 and 2012-13.

However, the SMF found the poorest 20 per cent are less financially secure than they were in 2005, with their net wealth falling by 57 per cent and levels of debt and use of overdrafts increasing. Homeowners have raced ahead of people in rented accommodation….

The Equality Trust, citing 2014 data from the Office for National Statistics, said the majority of the UK population (66%) hold no positive financial assets at all, while the remaining 34% hold £9trillion in such assets.

He also cites a report that May wishes to sell off the NHS by the Independent.

The Independent has just reported that May, who is desperate for trade deals to replace those made under the auspices of the EU, which will of course no longer exist after Brexit, is willing, as part of a deal with Trump, to sell-off the NHS to those most villainous of business enterprises, the American “healthcare” corporations.

Surin states that ‘this is class war by another name’, a sentiment expressed by Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class.

Surin says about May herself

Going solely by the immense distance between what she professes in public and how she votes, Theresa May is an absolutely bare-faced phony. Her voting record, displayed above, confirms her fundamental and vital support for Tory austerity policy.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/08/with-theresa-goody-two-shoes-may-what-you-see-on-tv-wont-be-what-you-get/

Don’t be deceived by the media and the Tories. May will kill off the welfare state and the NHS, just as Margaret Thatcher wanted and the Tories and Blairites have been conspiring to do over the past forty years.

Vote Labour, and vote for Corbyn.

Vox Political’s Long List of Tory Lies

May 2, 2017

On Saturday, Mike posted a piece asking why anyone should believe the Tories about Jeremy Corbyn considering their long record of lying. He then gave a few examples, such as May’s promise that she wouldn’t call a snap election, her promise that she would seek an agreement with three other nations in Britain – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland before triggering Article 50 for Brexit; David Cameron’s pledge not to cut Child Tax Credits; the Tories’ promise that they wouldn’t increase NI contributions, and that they would reduce the deficit.

And those are all just starters. They come from a video about the Tories’ broken promises and flagrant lying, that is included in Mike’s article.

He also gives a few more example of Conservative mendacity, beginning with their lies to the rozzers about their election spending. They have also lied about not cutting the NHS, about helping people with disabilities – in fact, their lies, as repeated in the press, have helped fuel a 213 per cent rise in hate crime against disabled people, about the Trident missile test, their denials that their policies are actually causing a fall in British life expectancy.

The list just goes on and on.

And Mike also reblogs Eoin Clarke’s list of 30 U-turns the Tories have made since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party.

Mike’s conclusion is the obvious one: Despite all the ranting, the Tories are weak and liars.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/29/tories-lie-about-so-many-things-why-should-we-believe-them-about-jeremy-corbyn/

A few years ago I suggested that Ian Duncan Smith should really be called ‘Matilda’, after the lying heroine of the famous cautionary poem by Hilaire Bellocq, ‘Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes’. Etc. But this shows that the whole party should be called ‘Matilda’, given their own contempt for truth.

Dennis Skinner’s Personal Recommendations for Improving Britain

May 31, 2016

The veteran Labour MP and trade unionist, Dennis Skinner, also makes some political recommendations of his own in his autobiographical Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences, published two years ago in 2014. He summarises his plans, saying

So I’m fighting for a new Labour government to axe the bedroom tax, save the NHS, cut fuel bills, created jobs for the young and raise living standards. My personal manifesto will be to the left of that of the party but I’m committed 100 per cent to the election of Labour candidates across Britain. (p.313).

As for the proposals themselves, he writes (headlines in bold are mine)

I’ve a few suggestions of my own to boost Labour’s popularity and beat the Tories.

End Privatisation

To start the ball rolling we should end expensive privatisation instead of paying a fortune to contractors such as G4S, Serco and Capita that make a mess of services in the process. It’s time we got back to publicly run, publicly owned services provided in the public interest.

Nationalise the Railways

On the railways, the £900m surplus on East Coast trains, operated publicly after the private sector crashed twice, shows us the way ahead. Instead of boosting Richard Branson’s profits, a nationalised railway could make a profit and generate the cash to improve every station in Britain.

A ‘Robin Hood’ Tax on City Speculators

If we want extra money for the National Health Service and social care, we should levy a Robin Hood tax on speculators in the city. Directing the funds raised directly to health and care, including help for the mentally handicapped, rather than to the Treasury, would be immensely popular. We could start with a low rate and increase it when the tax proves to be popular, as I’m sure it will be, by emulating the one per cent National Insurance rise for the NHS when Gordon Brown was Chancellor.

Scrap Trident

Scrapping Trident would free up billions of pounds for a massive house building programme so everybody has a roof over their head and nobody is homeless. The position on council house sales has to change or local authorities won’t build houses if they know they must sell them cheaply after a few years.

End Nuclear Weapons, Restore Local Democracy

The savings from defusing nuclear weapons can also help save local democracy. Councils are being swamped by central government. Powers are either grabbed by Whitehall or transferred to unelected quangos. Ever since the Clay Cross rent rebellion, Whitehall has dictated to communities. We need to reverse the trend.

Nationalise the Utilities

On the question of the utilities – gas, electricity, water – this is the moment to start taking them back into public ownership. We took control after 1945 and right up to Wilson’s final government, when he nationalised aerospace with a majority of only three, public ownership was advanced. To cap energy bills is a good idea but a better plan is to control utilities by restoring public ownership in Britain of firms that are currently owned in France, Germany and almost every country on the globe.

Spend More on Education; End Privatised Schooling

Spending on education more than doubled under the last Labour government, which was impressive. let’s stop the growth of faith schools and misnamed free schools – tax payers fund them so they’re not free – by enhancing the powers of local authorities to champion the education of every single child.

Raise Minimum Wage

We need to end the pay freezes. The people that are carrying the burden of the bankers’ ramp are mainly workers at the bottom of the scale. The Living Wage shouldn’t be optional. Everybody should get it. But let’s not stop at £7.65 an hour outside London and £8.80 in the capital. The trade union campaign for 10 an hour should be Labour policy. A decent day’s work deserves a decent day’s pay.

Ban Zero Hours Contracts

We should introduce legislation to outlaw zero hours contracts and private employment agencies. Playing off worker against worker, ferrying into Britain cheap labour to undercut employees, is poisoning community relations. Sticking 10, 12 or 15 eastern Europeans into a house then deducting large sums form their earnings is in nobody’s interests except cowboy employers. Reasserting the role of Jobcentres as local labour exchanges will improve wages and conditions.

Increase Trade Union Rights

Trade union rights must be strengthened significantly, including the abolition of sequestration. Industrial action requires two sides to be involved in a dispute, yet it is union funds that are seized. Rebalancing employment rights in favour of workers and unions is essential if we are to build a fairer economy.

Abandon Tory Obsession with Fiscal Restraint

And we must escape the dumb economic mantra about balancing the books. There would have been no Spirit of ’45 if Clement Attlee’s goal was to balance the books. There would have been no NHS, new Welfare State, new council houses and unemployment wouldn’t have dropped to 440,000 in 1950, after only five years of the finest Labour government ever. In fact the finest government ever.

We need spending to get people to work and the economy growing. You don’t need a crystal ball to see where we should be going. We can find the way ahead by reading the history books. (pp. 309-12).

He states that they’re not just his ideas, but have been discussed for the last 10 or 20 years in the Bolsover constituency.

I have some caveats. I don’t like the attack on faith schools, having been to an Anglican faith school myself, and I don’t share his euroscepticism. But other than that, I think he’s absolutely right. Thatcherism has done immense damage to this country. Now, after thirty years of it, it is long past the time it should have been discarded.

William Blackley’s 19th Century Plan for ‘National Insurance’

March 14, 2016

Looking through Pauline Gregg’s book, The Welfare State, I found this very interesting passage discussing William Blackley’s scheme in 1878 for setting up something very much like the National Insurance that forms part of the Social Security system set up as part of the welfare State. She writes

It [the 19th century movement for social reform] included the suggestions of a Church of England clergyman, the Reverend William Lewery Blackley, who, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, advanced the notion of basing social security upon an insurance principle. His scheme was startlingly simple. There would be a compulsory levy on all wage- or income-earners from the age of about seventeen, the total amount payable by each person to be assessed according to his earnings by a National Friendly Society or Club. But though the total payment was fixed, the time taken to pay it was at the payer’s discretion, with an outside age limit of twenty-one, and there might be a reducation for rapid payment. It is remarkable how much of the scheme later adopted by the Government was anticipated by Blackley. Arguing that the instrument of the National Friendly Club would need to be present in every parish, he seized upon the Post Office as the executor of his plan. Going to the source of income, as the National Insurance Acts to, he put the onus on employers to deduct the instalments of the national tax from wages, and he made proof of payment depend upon stamps stuck upon a card. The amount paid was thus readily ascertainable, and when a card was fully stamped the holder was exempt from further payments. In return for the sum of £10, which Blackley tentatively suggested as an average amount of levy, claims of something like 8s. a week for sickness and 4s a week as pension over the age of seventy were proposed. Not only would his scheme take away the stigma of Poor Law relief from the old and the sick, but, since the rich would be paying higher contributions and would not claim benefits, funds would accumulate and the National Friendly Club remain permanently solvent. In anticipating the actual words ‘National Insurance’ in the title of one of his articles in the Nineteenth Century Review in 1878 Blackley was in some doubt. “I have long hesitated”, he wrote, “before fixing on such a title as I have chosen for the present writing, from a knowledge that its very sound may induce most readers to pass it over as a matter so extravagant, impracticable, and Utopian, as to be unworthy of serious consideration.”

(Pp. 8-9).

Unfortunately, few people did consider his scheme worth considering. It’s a pity, because if the plan had been put into action, much of the squalor and suffering of the Victorian age could have been alleviated, and the foundation of the welfare state put in place forty years early.

Tory MP David Willetts’ Defence of the Welfare State

February 13, 2016

The Tory MP, David Willetts, a member of the ‘One Nation’ group within the party, which had been set up to reconcile the Conservatives with the NHS, wrote a defence of the welfare state in his 1992 book, Modern Conservatism. This is surprising, not only because Willetts was a Tory, but also because he was Thatcher’s former adviser on social security. He wrote

Nobody is very clear why a Conservative should support a welfare state. It seems to fit in with the highmindedness of the Liberals and the egalitarianism of the Labour party. But what is conservative about it? If Conservatives do support it, is this mere political expediency? …

Why have a welfare state: efficiency and community
The are two types of argument for a welfare state. Neither is exclusively conservative, but they both tie in closely with two crucial elements of conservative philosophy – the belief in markets and the commitment to community.

The market argument for welfare state is that it contributes to the successful working of a capitalist economy … [for instance] the development of unemployment benefit and retirement pensions contributes to economic efficiency by making it easier for firms to shed labour and to recruit new workers from a pool. Health care and education both raise the quality of a nation’s ‘human capital’ …

We may have explained the need for some of the fundamental services of a welfare state, but we still need to show why the state has such a big role in financing and organising them. This is where the next stage of the efficiency argument comes in. If there are voluntary, private schemes they encounter the problem of adverse selection – the tendency to get the bad risks … Commercial insurers are trying to do the very opposite and only accept what they would regard as the good risks. The logic of this drives the government to intervene and require everyone to take out insurance at the same premium. At this point we … have, in effect, invented state-run national insurance…

The efficiency argument [can] be stated in an even more rarefied form: it is difficult for a homeless family to be fit, or for a homeless child to do well at school, and this, in the long run, is an economic cost – which makes it rational for us to step in.

Rather than develop even more ingenious economic arguments for the welfare state, there comes a point when we really have to confront a simple moral obligation towards fellow members of our community. Regardless of whether people in need have been reckless or feckless or unlucky and unfortunate there comes a point when the exact explanation of how they became destitute ceases to matter. They have a claim on us simply by virtue of being compatriots. The welfare state is an expression of solidarity with our fellow citizens.

The market and community arguments together explain the remarkable consensus in most advanced Western nations that some sort of welfare state is both necessary and desirable. They explain why a Conservative can support the welfare state and also provide grounds for criticising particular institutional arrangements if they are not living up to those principles…

Mutual Insurance
It is when one turns to the role of the welfare state in redistributing resources that political differences emerge. For socialists the welfare state is perhaps the most powerful tool available to achieve their objective of equality … And because many people think this must be the rationale for the welfare state, they assume that anti-egalitarian conservatives must also be anti-welfare state.

There is a different view of the working of a welfare state. For the conservative it is an enormous mutual insurance scheme, covering us against ill-health, unemployment and loss of earning power in old age… We think of the welfare state as redistributing resources to others. But if, instead, we think of our own relationship to the welfare state during our lives, it is clear that what it really does is to reallocate those resources through the different stages of the life cycle. In this way resources are taken from us when we are working, and we are given command over resources when we are being educated, or unemployed, or sick or retired.

In 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).

Willetts is right about one of the best arguments for the welfare state being the moral duty towards one’s fellow citizens. It’s one of the major distinctions between British and Continental Socialism, and particularly between the Labour and Communist parties. Lenin and the Soviet Communists tended to sneer at the moral arguments for socialism and their adherents. Economic and sociological arguments, such as those marshalled by Fabians like Sidney and Beatrice Webb, are important but ultimately not as persuasive the moral imperative to make sure the poorest and weakest in society are properly protected and receive their due share.

Willett’s statement that the welfare state allows firms to get rid of staff easier, and frees up the labour market, is to my mind repulsive, but it might convince some businesspeople of the value of the welfare state as a worthwhile social investment.

Willetts wrote this nearly a quarter of century ago, however, and despite his arguments successive right-wing administrations are busy destroying the welfare state. This was certainly the case under Thatcher, and it’s continued under Major, Bliar and New Labour, and the current Tory administration. Jeremy Hunt and the other Tories wish to privatise the NHS by stealth, and thanks to aIDS nearly 590 disabled people have died of starvation or by their own hand, and 239,000 suffered severe mental illness.

Yet the Tories continue to maintain the sham illusion that somehow they are the party of the poor, and support the welfare state.

This is a lie. And any decent people in the Tories, who genuinely believe in the welfare state have two options. They should either stand up to Cameron and force him and his vile crew of old Etonian bruisers and butchers out, and instead elect a leadership that would have horrified Maggie by being wringing ‘wet’ in mould of Harold MacMillan and Rab Butler; or they should leave. Preferably they should also either join or vote for one of the opposition parties.

If they are genuinely supporters of the welfare state, then they must realise that they have absolutely no place in Cameron’s Tory party. Cameron’s a bog-standard Neoliberal with Hayek’s contempt for the poor. And anyone genuinely on the side of the poor, the sick and disabled should want to get rid of him and his clique.

Tories Withholding £30 Billion from the NHS and the Benefits System

December 8, 2014

According to the article in yesterday’s Welfare Weekly, Opinion: £30 Billion National Insurance Surplus A Kick In The Teeth For Starving Families. John Prescott writing in the Daily Mirror revealed that George Osborne had held back about £30 billion in National Insurance contributions from the NHS or the benefits system. The article states that money from NI contributions can only be spent in these areas. It cannot be spent anywhere else. The former deputy Prime Minister recommends that it should be spent on the NHS. The article in Welfare Weekly suggests that it should also be spent on benefits for people forced to rely on food banks due to delays in processing their claims, or sanctions.

Welfare Weekly’s article can be read here at http://www.welfareweekly.com/opinion-30-billion-national-insurance-surplus-kick-teeth-starving-families/.

One question the article does not address, which is extremely pertinent is: Why was this money not spent? Clearly, the existence of such funds gives the lie to the Tories’ claim that the funding is simply not there. Nor can they reasonably claim that they are using the money to pay off the deficit. And please see the many pieces by the Angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice, Mike on Vox Political, Alittleecon, to name but a few, who can explain why this part of the government’s aims is voodoo economics anyway.

The real reason for withholding the money, it seems to me, is simply for the government to force more people into poverty, destitution and despair. A starving populace is a compliant populace, which they feel will accept any treatment they and the big businesses they represent care to mete out.