Posts Tagged ‘the Poor’

Private Eye’s Demolition of Fraudulent New Labour Pro-NHS Privatisation Paper

August 5, 2020

This is another piece I found in an old issue of Private Eye, for 15th-28th October 2004. New Labour was as keen as the Tories to privatise the NHS, all in the name of introducing into it the supposedly greater efficiency and management skills of private enterprise. They were heavily influenced by the American private healthcare company, Kaiser Permanente, which was used as a model for their NHS reforms. But the report comparing the supposedly greater performance of Kaiser Permanente to the NHS was biased and fraudulent, as Private Eye’s article ‘NHS Privatisation – Kaiser bill’ revealed in that issue’s ‘In the Back’ section. The article runs

LAST WEEK’s NHS modernisation Agency conference on the much-hyped treatment centre programme – the mix of private and NHS one-stop units springing up around the country to offer quick and relatively easy diagnosis and surgery – struck a self-congratulatory note.

But a study published this summer suggests there is no evidence that bringing private companies into the NHS is increasing efficiency or reducing costs. Quite the opposite in fact.

This news will not please the government, which has always promoted health secretary John Reid’s favourite private US healthcare providers, Kaiser Permanente, citing a seven-page research paper in the British Medical Journal in 2002 which purported to show that Kaiser offered “better performance at roughly the same costs as the NHS”.

This conclusion, extolling the benefits of competition, was manna from heaven for health minister who had been criticised for closing 10,000 NHS beds since Labour came to power. But it seems it was all nonsense.

For a start, two of the report’s three authors,used to work for Kaiser; and their paper triggered a storm of protest in the US and from the medical and scientific community here, highlighting its flawed analysis and conclusions. It emerged that Kaiser’s costs were deflated while NHS costs were inflated; Kaiser patients were the “working well” but NHS patients included the poor, elderly and chronically ill; and individual Kaiser charges for visits and treatment were ignored.

Nevertheless, the protests were ignored and the paper – described by one leading academic as “not worthy of a first year student” – went on to form British government policy, featuring in the 2002 review of NHS funding by Derek Wanless and the subsequent white paper on how to deliver the NHS plan. The department of health even joined forces with Kaiser in “learning from Kaiser Permanente” projects managing chronic conditions and care.

In the summer, however, the scientific record was finally put straight with a paper in the British Journal of General Practice which comprehensively exposed that the Kaiser paper was propaganda masked as science. It detailed the way in which authors used counting tricks including a curious foreign exchange currency conversion which had the effect of almost doubling NHS costs. Despite this evidence the Kaiser paper has still not been officially withdrawn. Instead it is still promoted on health department websites.

Allyson Pollock, professor of health policy at University College London and one of the authors of the critical BJGP paper, said: “There is no evidence that introducing private companies increases efficiency or quality or reduces costs. Indeed all the evidence goes the other way. Markets – even those underwritten by the state – do not deliver comprehensive universal healthcare. Research in the US has shown how private health providers select the profitable patients, treatments and conditions and at a greater cost than public providers.”

Professor Pollock is a very long-time opponent of NHS privatisation. I think I put up another article from Private Eye from nearly 20 years or so ago, in which she led a campaign against the New Labour closure of a hospital in Wyre Forest. She’s also one of the contributors to Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book attacking the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS.

But New Labour continued in their piecemeal privatisation of the NHS, and this has been followed by the Tories. Boris Johnson wants to include it in a trade deal with the US, but has kept it and the rest of the deal secret. Jeremy Corbyn revealed what the Tories were doing, and our mendacious, scumbag media howled that he was lying. But it’s the Tories who were.

Corbyn promised to renationalise and revitalise the NHS. That was one of the reasons the right-wing political and media establishment hated and reviled him and his supporters: he threatened to return the Labour party to its working class, socialist roots, empowering ordinary people and restoring the welfare state. And dismantling the zombie economics of Thatcherism. And that really couldn’t be tolerated. Hence the smears of him as a Communist, Trotskyite and anti-Semite.

Now we have Keir Starmer instead, another Blairite, who seems determined to restore the power of the Thatcherites in the Labour party. And carry on with their failed, destructive policy of NHS privatisation.

The Tory Attitude to Mass Starvation: Let Them Eat Cake

August 4, 2020

Mike’s put up this evening on his blog a piece wondering if the reason the Tories launched their ‘Help Out To Eat Out’ scheme to encourage people to start going out to restaurants again wasn’t because they wanted to restart the economy, but simply stuff their faces at public expense. He’s put up a couple of pieces about the Tory MPs Nadhim Zahawi and the abomination formerly in charge of the NHS, Jeremy Hunt, both talking about how they used to scheme to get a free lunch. There’s a meme about Zahawi stating just how much he’s raked in on expenses and for working for an oil company, in addition to his generous salary as an MP. But he doesn’t feel that such largesse should be awarded to the disabled, and voted for a £30 cut in their benefits.

Mike’s blogged about this issue before. The scheme was never going to tackle the real problem of starvation, or ‘food poverty’ in this country, because the people afflicted by it can’t afford to go to restaurants. Many of them can’t afford to buy food, which is why there’s been such a massive expansion in food banks.

But the middle classes, and the rich Tories who represent them, can.

This all reminds of the expenses scandal back in 2004, when large sections of parliament were caught claiming as much as they could get their hands on in expenses, far beyond what was being awarded in pay for the rest of us mere mortals. They had also voted to cut the salaries of their staff. That blew up in their faces when it was exposed by the Torygraph, which may well have been the last time that wretched newspaper ever did anything right.

And now they’re doing it again while millions starve.

It all reminds me of the famous reply Marie Antoinette supposedly gave to the news that the French peasantry were starving because they had no bread.

‘Well, let them eat cake’.

That’s come to symbolise the grotesque self-indulgence and absolute complacency of the French aristocracy, an attitude that led to the Revolution, the execution of the monarchy and the mass murder of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety.

This seems to be the modern, Tory British version. People don’t have food on the table, but blow them! Let them go to a restaurant instead, like the Tories and their rich friends from the Bullingdon Club and other centres of the self-indulgent, callous rich.

Was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ really meant to help super-rich Tories get cheap meals at the taxpayer’s expense?

Of Course Voter ID Is Racist: It Was Designed to Be

August 4, 2020

Another article Mike put up a few days ago, which reveals very clearly the Tory contempt for people of colour, is a piece about the massively disproportionate effect the Tories’ demand for Voter identification at polling stations has had on Black people. The Tories declared a year or so ago that they were seriously concerned about voter fraud, and so rolled out schemes demanding that voters should have proof of their identities when casting their votes. There was absolutely no need for it. This kind of voter fraud is absolutely negligible. I think Mike put up the stats for it in another of his articles, and hardly anyone has been caught doing it. I think there have literally only been one or two cases. But nevertheless, the Tories decided that it was a serious problem and a threat to democracy. Critics of the scheme also warned that their plans would actually be anti-democratic, as certain groups are far less likely to possess the necessary documentation to confirm their identities. Blacks would be particularly affected, and would be turned away and prevented from exercising their legal, democratic civil rights.

This was, of course, denied by the Tories. But it’s happened. Despite Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith telling us all in June  that ““the evidence shows there is no impact on any particular demographic group … the evidence of our pilots shows that there is no impact on any particular demographic group from this policy”, the Electoral Commission has found evidence to the contrary. Findings from the 2018 and 2019 findings in Watford and Derby, two of the pilot areas, found that there was a strong correlation between Asians from each of the city’s wards not receiving a ballot paper. The Commission also reported that polling staff were not asked to collect demographic data about the people, who didn’t come back. This was due to the practical challenges of the data collection exercise. There wasn’t enough evidence yet to come to a conclusion about the scheme in any direction, and advised against doing so. But Mike accordingly reached the following :

If the Tories had wanted to know who would be deprived of the vote, and how badly it affected particular groups, they would have carried out the research. They didn’t.

They then went on to tell falsehoods that the research had been carried out when it hadn’t and that it showed no impact on any demographic group.

You don’t lie about something like this unless you are deliberately trying to harm people from ethnic minorities.

We can only conclude that the Tory voter ID plan is intended to stop black people and those from other ethnic minorities from voting:

And includes this tweet from Labour MP Cat Smith

The Government claim plans to require ID to vote doesn’t discriminate, but there’s no data to back this up.

Voter ID requirements come straight from the US-style voter suppression play book, and must be opposed by all who value inclusive democracy.

Smith’s absolutely right. The scheme was taken over from the Republicans in America, who have used to it to suppress the votes of certain groups – those that are most likely to vote Democrat. These are the poor, students and Blacks. There have been a number of videos about this produced by The Young Turks and other left-wing or liberal internet news sites. One particularly repulsive Republican politico actually let the cat out of the bag and admitted that it really was all about preventing Blacks from voting.

Which is just more evidence of how institutionally racist the Tories are, despite ostentatiously giving cabinet seats to BAME politicians like Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak. They’re really don’t want a less racist, more inclusive or simply more democratic society.

They are actively trying to increase discrimination all while keeping it carefully hidden through specious verbiage about protecting democracy. And that’s a threat to everyone’s right to vote.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/07/29/tories-love-being-racist-they-lied-about-voter-id-demand-stopping-bame-people-from-voting/

19 Years Ago Private Eye Revealed New Labour Plans to Privatise NHS and Education

July 24, 2020

One of the good aspects of Private Eye that has kept me reading it – just about – is the way it has covered the deep and pernicious connections between the political parties and big business. And in their issue for 15th-28 June 2001, right at the beginning of Blair’s second term in government, the Eye revealed his plans to privatise the NHS and the education system in the article ‘How the New Government Will Work’. This ran

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are in two minds: should they privatise the entire delivery of public services or just some of it? To help them decide they are consulting the best minds money can buy.

For a start, Downing Street has a report from the Blairite Institute for Public Policy Research. It recommends that private firms deliver health and education on the widest possible scale. The report, a final paper from IPPR’s “Commission on Public Private Partnerships”, claims that “the crucial ingredient that the private sector possesses and the public sector needs is management.”

The report was paid for by the Serco “institute”, a front for the firm which privately runs a slew of Britain’s prisons and immigration detention centres, including the grim “Doncatraz” Doncaster gaol. Serco failed to win the air traffic control privatisation precisely because of worries about its management.

The report was also supported by Nomura, Japanese bank with a big interest in private finance initiative-style (PFI) deals: Nomura’s management of army housing under PFI has been lamentable. KPMG chipped in to support the report as well. It is not a disinterested party either. KPMG advised on 29 hospital PFI schemes, and many other deals outside health.

The giant accountant’s role in these hospital sell-offs has only come under indepdent scrutiny once: at Dartford and Gravesham hospital. The national audit office (NAO) found that, despite KPMG’s “healthcare” advice, the new hospital probably made no financial saving but did cut beds drastically. KPMG’s own fees were originally tendered at £152,000. It finally billed the NHS for £960,000. For good measure, the Norwich Union, which also put millions in PFI, invested in the IPPR report too.

Martin Taylor, chancellor Brown’s friend who used to run Barclays Bank, acted as “commissioner” in drawing up the IPPR’s advice. He is perfectly suited to the job: as an adviser to Goldman Sachs he is in the pay of a multinational bank which wants to make a profit out of Britain’s poor. Goldman Sachs is involved in PFI: it originally funded the PFI buy-out of all Britain’s dole offices.

As the “honorary secretary” of the Bilderberg group, Taylor is also involved in the secretive corporate schmoozing of big name politicians (he signed up for Bilderberg originally alongside Peter Mandelson). And when he ran Barclays, he showed his “secret ingredient” was disastrous management. Under his stewardship the bank lost £250m gambling in Russian financial markets, and had to stump up £300m to bail out the absurd American “hedge fund”, Long Term Capital Markets.

Eventually Taylor was ousted by a boardroom battle in November 1998 before he could cause more damage. Now he’s decided to help the public sector.

The treasury meanwhile wants to take a second look at IPPR’s prediction about the efficiency of privatisation. In particular chancellor Brown wants to test the idea that the private sector gets greater productivity out of employers through “reskilling”, “efficient shift systems and better motivation” – rather than low pay, poor conditions, long hours and casualisation.

To test the theory he will commission a study by the Office of Government Commerce. This office in turn also has a private manager: Peter Gershon, Britain’s highest paid civil servant on £180,000 a year, plus performance benefits and a three-year contract.

He was formerly chief operating officer at British Aerospace. But far from being expert in efficiency, BAe is best at massive cost overruns, project failures and non-competitive tendering. The managers in charge of the Tornado, Bowman Radio and Type 45 destroyer programmes – all plagued with late delivery and technical problems – reported directly to Gershon.

Since then, Serco have become notorious for their massive inefficiency and the inhuman conditions at the prisons and detention centres they run. One of the most notorious of the latter was Yarl’s Wood, which was so atrocious the asylum seekers rioted. And I don’t think that was only one either. I also remember the outrage that the government’s sale of the army barracks to Nomura caused.

Goldman Sachs and Lehmann’s Bank caused the 2008 world banking crash, ushering over two decades of cuts and austerity, which has made conditions for the poor even more worse. For those who are managing to survive the low pay, monstrous levels of debt, and the almost non-existent welfare state. This has forced millions of people onto food banks to keep body and soul together, and hundreds of thousands are suffering from starvation, or ‘food poverty’ as the media now delicately put it. And I forget what the death toll from this is, it’s so high.

As for low pay, poor conditions and job insecurity – that all increased under Gordon Brown, and has increased even more so under the Tories, as it all keeps the working woman and man down, cowed and fearful, in her and his place.

And the Bilderbergers will be familiar to anyone interested in conspiracy theories. They were some of the ‘Secret Rulers of the World’ covered by Jon Ronson in his documentary series on Channel 4 of the same name.

I dare say some of the names involved in the privatisation agenda has changed, but you can bet it’s all going to come in with Starmer, despite his retention of Corbyn’s election manifesto. ‘Cause that was popular. Now it looks like he’ll undermine it by starting to ignore it.

And we’re back to Blairite misery, despair, poverty and starvation again. Except for the multinationals and their utterly talentless managers. It all looks pretty good for them.

Revealed! Torygraph Readers Really Do Think the Aristocracy Are Biologically Superior

July 24, 2020

I’ve blogged several times about the Social Darwinism that underlies much of Conservatism. They share the Nazis’ belief that the upper classes are biologically superior to the rest of us, and so deserve their dominance in society, the economy and politics. Going through an old copy of Private Eye from 22 years ago, Friday 11th December 1998, I found a very revealing quote in their article ‘Readerwatch – The Daily Telegraph’ opposite the ‘Street of Shame’ column.

This was about 2/3 of a page of quotations from the Torygraph’s readers complaining about the state of the world. Much of this consisted of attacks on the decline in modern sexual morality, the EU and the Speaker wearing a white mackintosh to the Cenotaph at Remembrance Sunday. Oh yes, and Prince Charles showing ‘deplorable bad taste’ in inviting Peter Mandelson to his fiftieth birthday party. Which I think is fair comment.

But some of the most revealing comments are about Blair’s proposal to reform the House of Lords, which at the time included the abolition of the hereditary peerage. One of those outraged by this was Professor Richard Porter of Doncaster, whom the Eye quoted as follows

Professor Richard Porter of Doncaster attacks the Blairite fascist junta from a scientific angle. “Hereditary peers are most deserving of a vote in the Upper House. They embody the best of both nature and nurture. The extraordinary genes of some long forgotten ancestor may now be diluted, but those that remain must give them a slight edge over the rest of us.”

I’ve been haunted by that quote for years, and wondered where it was. It explains so much, like how the vile Toby Young could turn up at a eugenics conference at one of the London universities, rubbing shoulders with real Nazis and anti-Semites. It explains Dominic Cummings and the herd immunity, which simply regards the mass death of the elderly from Covid-19 as merely a cull. Or the same attitude towards the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those at the bottom of the economic and social pile. They’re ‘useless eaters’, as Mike reminds us the Nazis called them, ‘lebensunwertigen leben’ – ‘life unworthy of life’.

Unfortunately, the most visible counterargument to this pernicious, destructive, murderous entitlement is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for the 18th century, who just about embodies every defect that comes from such privilege. But for some reason the Tory right loves him, which proves just how warped this country has become.

From 1996: Downsizing Guru Realises It Doesn’t Work

July 23, 2020

Remember the downsizing craze of the 1980s and 1990s, when Thatcherite economists all demanded that big firms should slim down through mass lay-offs and sackings? Firms were overstaffed, and it was all flab that needed to be cut out to make them ‘lean and mean’ in the marketplace.

Looking back through my scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, I found this article by the Daily Mail’s industrial correspondent, David Norris, ‘Guru of the job cutters admits downsizing has its down side’ in that paper’s edition for Monday, May 13, 1996. The article runs

‘An international economic guru who advocated massive job-shedding to make big business lean and fit has admitted he got it all wrong.

American Stephen S. Roach coined the word ‘downsizing’ in the early Eighties to sum up his philosophy that ruthless workforce pruning was needed to boost profits and productivity.

It was seized on around the world – not least in Britain, where hundreds of thousands of full-time jobs have disappeared over the last ten years.

His astonishing turnaround is certain to provoke more outrage against ‘fat-cat’ bosses, who have often used huge payroll savings to justify big salary rises for themselves.

‘Downsizing’ became a boardroom buzzword, with directors proudly telling shareholders that they were able to  pay higher dividends through redundancy-related cost-savings. The slick  term was more acceptable than talking of throwing people out of work.

Middle England has been worst hit, with thousands of white-collar jobs axed. High street banks have between them got rid of 90,000 staff since 1989. Downsizing has created a climate of insecurity which many blame for the still sluggish economic recovery. And the Government has lost millions of pounds in tax from workers axed from previously labour-intensive industries.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Roach, chief economist at the investment bank Morgan Stanley on Wall Street, announced his conversion in a memo to his firm’s clients.

He confessed he had now concluded that relentless cost-cutting was bad for business. ‘If you compete by building, you have a future. If you compete by cutting, you don’t’,’ the contrite guru said.

‘For years I have extolled the virtues of America’s productivity-led recovery. While I think it’s safe to say that such a scenario has become the new mantra for U.S. businesses in the 1990s, I must confess that I’m now having second thoughts.”

And he warned of a worker backlash ‘not on the shopfloor, but in the polling booths’.

That forecast was echoed by TUC boss John Monks yesterday.

He said: ‘Downsizing has done more than any other single business strategy to create the deep insecurity felt in Britain.

‘I hope this will herald a re-think in Britain’s boardrooms. Long-term success comes from steady investment and skilled, motivated staff.”

Around 38 per cent of Britain’s workforce – nearly ten million people – are now not in full-time permanent jobs. They are either in part-time or temporary work, or self-employed.

The main full-time job creation thrust has come from small firms, employing 20 staff or fewer. They have taken on 2.5 million extra workers in ten years.

Big retail chains have also taken on more workers. Tesco recently announced it was recruiting 4,500 to pack bags and generally assist shoppers. Last month it revealed record profits.

Late payment is still a problem for 45 percent of small and medium businesses.

The average time taken to be paid has risen from 52.8 days in 1994 to 53.2 this year, according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry and accountancy firm Coopers & Lybrand.’

Ha-Joon Chang describes in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, how downsizing has literally driven firms bankrupt. They cut back their staff and plant so much in order to boost management pay and shareholder dividends beyond the point where they were economically viable. He argues that the most durable firms tend to be those where the state also has a stake in the firm, and so in maintaining it, or where the workers are also strongly involved in its management. Chang’s not anti-capitalist, but he states that shareholders are fickle – the moment they think a firm is no longer as profitable as another company, or is in trouble, they’ll sell their shares and go elsewhere.

Despite this attack on downsizing’s credibility and the loss of government revenue it has created, job insecurity has increased massively to the point where it is normal. Blair and Gordon Brown are as responsible for this as the Tories, as they accepted the neoliberal, Thatcherite dogma that the labour market had to be fluid and flexible. Which means that firms should find it easy to lay off staff and their should always be a supply of cheap workers waiting to be taken on.

Thatcherism has been a disaster. This clipping from a quarter of a century ago shows one of its central doctrines was recognised as such by the man who invented it even them. But it’s kept the rich richer, and the poor poorer, and so despite articles like this, it’s still being pushed.

And the result is a Britain of despair and poverty where working families, never mind the unemployed and disabled, are dying of starvation or forced to use food banks.

 

‘I’ Newspaper: England Could Run Out Of Water in 20 Years

July 11, 2020

Yesterday’s I for 10th July 2020 carried an article by Madeleine Cuff, ‘England ‘at risk of running out of water’, which reported that MPs had criticized the water authorities for the state of the country’s water supply. The article ran

MPs have issued a stinging rebuke to England’s water authorities, warning the country is at “serious risk” of running out water within 20 years unless “urgent action” is taken to shore up supplies.

“It is very hard to imagine, in this country, turning the tap and not having enough clean, drinkable water come out – but that is exactly what we now face,” said Public Accounts Committee chair Mog Hillier.

In a report published today, it accused the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, and the water regulator Ofwat of having “taken their eyes off the ball” in the race to secure a sustainable long-term supply of fresh water. It follows similarly stark warnings from the national Audit Office in March.

England is already extracting groundwater at unsustainable rates, and as climate change brings hotter, drier weather, water supply will come under more intense pressure.

Yet every day more than three billion litres of fresh drinking water is lost through leakages, a fifth of the total volume used. Urgent action must be taken to reduce this “wholly unacceptable” level of leakages.

Meanwhile, industry action to persuade the public to use less water has “failed”, the MPs added.

The water crisis has been going on a long time, and doesn’t only affect England. It’s all over the world. Viewers of Stacy Dooley’s documentary a few months ago into the massive environmental impact of the ‘fast fashion’ industry will remember the scenes of the dried-up wastes of what used to be the Caspian Sea, caused by Uzbekistan diverting the water to irrigate the fields for its cotton industry. Way back in the 1990s the Financial Times covered the emerging water crisis in arid countries in Africa and the Middle East, and predicted that in this century conflict over water would become the major cause of war.

The I and other papers also published reports years ago about the declining state of Britain’s own water supply. Even at the time water extraction, including that for industrial purposes, was exceeding the supply. And when I was at Bristol University studying for the archaeology doctorate nearly a decade ago, we had a visiting archaeologist tell us in a seminar about the effects of climate change on civilizations across the world down through time that we needed to save water.

It is not, however, just the water authorities’ fault. The real responsibility lies with the water companies and their privatisation. They were sold to mostly foreign companies with the promise that this would bring extra investment. It hasn’t. The foreigners who own our water supply simply regard it as a profit-stream, rather than a vital utility. The profits have gone out of the country, while they themselves have done precious little to maintain the water supply to an acceptable standard.

And if the water authorities haven’t done much about this, it’s because they were deliberately prevented from doing so by the Tories when the water industry was privatized. There were a series of reports in Private Eye about how the Tories had cut back the scope and regulatory powers of Defra, Ofwat and their predecessors, so that their ability to interfere in the running of the new, privatized companies was severely limited.

The crisis has been going on for a long time. And it is partly due to Margaret Thatcher and her insistence on the primacy of private industry. But private industry has shown itself incompetent to run the water supply. It’s one of the reasons its renationalisation was in the 2019 Labour manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn.

But Corbyn was massively smeared and reviled by the establishment right and their poodle media. Which is why we now have a parliament, who will do nothing about this, adding drought and thirst to the misery they are inflicting on the poor.

 

Rishi Sunak Goes Social Credit

July 6, 2020

Zelo Street put up another piece yesterday showing the glaring hypocrisy of the Tory party and their lapdog press. According to the Absurder, the Resolution Foundation had been in talks with chancellor Rishi Sunak to give everyone in Britain vouchers to spend in shops and businesses. Adults would receive vouchers worth £500, while children would get half the amount, £250. Sunak was being urged to accept the scheme as it would stimulate the economy, which has been badly hit by the lockdown. The Tory papers the Heil and the Scum also reported this, and thought it was a great idea.

This contrasts very strongly with their attitude last May, when Jeremy Corbyn also floated the idea of giving the British people free money in UBI – Universal Basic Income. The Scum claimed that if everyone was given £70 a week, then this would raise the welfare bill from £188 billion to £288 billion a year. The Heil reported that when the scheme was tried out in Finland, it made people happier but didn’t improve employment levels and would prove ‘unsustainable’.

But it isn’t just Finland that is experimenting with UBI. It was introduced in Spain a few weeks ago as Mike reported on his blog. Spain is a poorer country than Britain, but their willingness to try it contradicts the government’s excuse for not doing so, which is that Britain can’t afford it.

But now Rishi Sunak is considering it, and the Tory papers are praising him for it, whereas they vilified Corbyn. Zelo Street commented

‘Clearly, since May last year, a “free money” handout has stopped being a ghastly socialist aberration, and is now an excellent wheeze. Cos Rishi will be doing it.

The press will do anything to flog more papers. Including a little socialism.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/government-handouts-yeah-but-no-but.html

Of course, the reason the right-wing press are supporting Sunak whereas they condemned Corbyn, is because the two men have very different reasons for recommending it. In Corbyn’s case it was a desire to help empower ordinary people and stop the poverty the Tories have inflicted on them through low wages, job insecurity and the murderous system of benefit cuts and sanctions. The Tories, by contrast, heartily despise the poor. In the interest of maintaining healthy profits, they have always pursued low wages and punishing the poor, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed with minimal state welfare provision. This is now for many people below the amount needed to keep body and soul together. Where it is available at all, that is. That’s if people are able to get it after waiting five weeks for their first payment, and not getting sanctioned for the flimsiest excuse. This is all done to reduce the tax bill for the 1 per cent. Those able to work must be kept poor and desperate so that they will accept any job and won’t be able to demand higher wages. As for the long-term unemployed and the disabled, they are biologically inferior ‘useless eaters’, exactly as the Nazis viewed them, who should be allowed to starve to death.

Sunak’s motive for embracing UBI is so that the proles can spend it, thus keeping businesses afloat and maintaining or boosting profits. It’s socialism for the rich, as modern corporatism has been described. Just as welfare benefits are cut or completely removed for working people and the poor, so corporatism rewards business, and particularly big business, through a system of subsidies and tax breaks. It’s why one book attacking this system was titled Take the Rich Off Welfare.

Sunak’s version of UBI also harks back to a similar scheme founded in the 1920s by the British officer, Major C.H. Douglas. Aware of the widespread poverty of his day, Douglas argued that it was ‘poverty in the midst of plenty’. The goods were available to satisfy people’s needs, but they were unable to afford them. He therefore recommended that the government should issue vouchers to solve this problem and enable people to buy the goods they desperately needed.

The idea has never really taken off. It was included among the policies Oswald Mosley adopted for his New Party after it split from Labour in the late ’20s and early ’30s. There was also a Social Credit party in British Columbia in Canada, though I believe that’s an extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant party for Anglophone Whites which doesn’t actually support the Social Credit economic policy.

I’ve also seen something extremely similar to Social Credit used as the basis for an SF story. In Frederick Pohl 1950’s novella, ‘The Midas Plague’, the poor are bombarded with expensive goods and services which they must use and consume. They are punished if they don’t. As a result, in terms of material conditions the position of rich and poor is reversed: the poor live opulent lives, while the rich, who have to own their own possessions, live much more austerely. The whole point of this is to keep the economy booming and industry expanding.

We haven’t yet got to that point, and I don’t we ever will, if only because the wealthy ruling class, on whose behalf the Tories govern, are so against letting the poor get anything for free. Even when they need and deserve it. But unemployment is set to increase due to automation in the workplace. It’s been forecast that over the next 20 years about a 1/3 of jobs will be lost. 21st century Britain, and indeed much of the rest of the Developed World, could look like Judge Dredd’s MegaCity 1, where over 95 per cent of the population is unemployed and lives on welfare.

If that ever happens, then the government will need to implement something like Social Credit in order to give people both enough to live on and support business and industry.

Not that Sunak need go that far just yet. One of the reasons F.D. Roosevelt introduced state unemployment insurance for Americans as part of his New Deal was also to support industry. He, and liberal and socialist economists in Britain realized that if you give people money to support themselves during a recession, they will spend their way out of it. Both the poor, the unemployed and industry benefits. We could do the same now, by giving people a genuine living wage, raising unemployment and other benefits up to a level so that people can actually live on them and abolish the five-week waiting period and the sanctions system so that people don’t have to rely on food banks to save them from starvation.

But this would contradict the Tories’ favoured policies of keeping working people and the poor hungry and desperate.

Radio 4 Programme Next Week Claiming Universal Credit during Lockdown

June 25, 2020

According to next week’s Radio Times, for 27th June – 3rd July 2020, Radio 4 is broadcasting a programme next Monday, 29th June 2020, on Universal Credit claimants and their experience of having to wait five weeks for their first payment during lockdown. The programme’s title is Your Call Is Important to Us, and the blurb for it simply says

The personal stories of people claiming Universal Credit for the first time during lockdown, waiting in isolation for up to five weeks for their first payment to arrive. (p. 119).

The addition piece on it by Tom Goulding on the previous page, 118, runs

In times of prosperity, it is easy to feel detached from the conversation surrounding benefits. But with around three million applying for Universal Credit since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, more people are finding themselves at the sharp end of the process, made all the more torturous by weeks of isolation. This programme delves into some of these individual stories, including a warehouse manager who has been forced to shield and saxophonist who has moved back in with his parents. For balance, we also hear from staff of the Works and Pensions department on how they have coped in the crisis.

I think part of Tory policy towards the poor, the disabled and the unemployed was always about keeping the numbers below a certain level so that they voting base wouldn’t become too alarmed and start to wonder if it would happen to them. If it did, then some of them might actually catch on to the fact that they really aren’t doing anything to help people, just punishing and victimising them for being poor and daring to be a burden on society, or rather, the super-rich. This strategy is obviously threatened when a significant part of the workforce is suddenly thrown out of work, or furloughed, as has happened during lockdown.

Labour should have been protecting these people and holding Johnson and his gang of thugs and profiteers responsible for their continuing persecution of the unemployed and the disabled. Despite everything, the Tories have continued with their dreadful, murderous policy of austerity. But Starmer has said zip about all of this.

As for the DWP and its staff, I dare say some are genuinely conscientious people, who care about their clients. But those are not the qualities desired or encouraged by the Department’s chiefs, like the odious Iain Duncan Smith. Their concern is simply to get people off benefit. If they can’t find them work, then they invent utterly fake, spurious reasons to sanction them, all to provide the tax breaks the Tories give to the 1 per cent. When questioned about their policies, the Tories simply lie, and I have no doubt that is exactly what many of the staff interviewed on the programme will do in order to justify what is frankly unjustifiable.

The programme’s on at 11.00 am, if you want to listen to it.

After Slavery, the West Indies Had Black Politicians

June 19, 2020

Following the Black Lives Matter protests in Britain has come the debate about the teaching of Black history in schools. There was an item about this on BBC news earlier this week. Some schools already teach it, including the Black British experience but also the Black kingdoms in Africa, which is taught before going on to slavery. There were comments from Black students, who said that it had boosted their self-esteem. However, not all schools teach it and there have been calls from Black politicos to make it compulsory.

But Caribbean history may also provide useful role models and inspiration for Black Britons. What isn’t really appreciated is that shortly after the abolition of slavery in 1837, Black West Indians elected Black and biracial ‘coloured’ politicians to protect them from the planters’ attempts to force them back into servitude. Gad Heuvelmans mentions this development in The Caribbean: A Brief History, 2nd edition (London: Bloomsbury 2014). He writes

Strikes and riots were one form of response of the ex-slaves to emancipation; another was challenging the political domination of the planters. This took the form of electing black and brown representatives to the local Assemblies. Although not forming a single political bloc, black and brown Assemblymen generally supported government policies. Moreover, they could be significant: in Dominica, for example, coloured representatives formed a majority in the Assembly. Their presence prevented the passage of harsh legislation against the ex-slaves which characterized many other West Indian colonies.

In Jamaica, the coloured and black members of the Assembly united to form the Town Party, a faction which opposed the predominately planters’ Country Party. The coloureds favoured funds being spent on education, resisted expensive immigration schemes, and sought to counter planter attempts to restrict the franchise. Moreover, the coloureds also voted against measures to shift the burden of taxation almost entirely onto small settlers. Brown and black representatives did remain a minority in the Jamaican House of Assembly, but as tehir numbers increased, the planters became increasingly alarmed about the possibility of being outnumbered. (p.113).

I’ve known Black educators and historians get frustrated about the lack of awareness of this aspect of West Indian history. One of the experts, who also worked at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was a Black historian from the West Indies. He used to give talks regularly to Bristol’s Black community was active in several Black improvement programmes. I remember him telling me how exasperated he got when he was talking to a young man, who blamed the problems of the Black community on slavery. He told the young man that that was no explanation as they had Black politicians immediately after slavery.

I think this is right. You can’t put all of the problems of the western Black communities down to slavery. Some of it is also due general racism, and the oppressive measures the planter elites imposed to try and force Black West Indians back onto the plantation under their control. But just as they had strongly resisted slavery, so the newly emancipated Black population turned to politics and got themselves and their representatives elected to resist attempts to disenfranchise them. No small achievement! I don’t want to be accused of telling Black people what they should or shouldn’t do to improve their condition, but perhaps it would give more Black Britons hope and inspiration if they knew more about this.

Another nation that might also provide useful role models might be Ghana. As the former Gold Coast, in the 1920s this had a remarkably enlightened governor for the time. It was the first British colony to appoint indigenous people as members of its governing council. I think its governor also wrote a book on racism in the 1940s, with the title of ‘Colour Prejudice’ or ‘Colour Issue’ or something like it. This included not only examples of White racism, but also Blacks against Whites. He quotes the 14th century Arab traveler ibn Battuta on the racism towards Whites of the people of the Black African kingdom of Mali.  This was something like ‘They would be great Muslims, if they didn’t treat Whites with such contempt’.

And regardless of skin colour, I wish there was more of the spirit of the Town Party today. We need more spent on education, just as we need more spent on welfare and the NHS. We need to stop the Tories shifting the tax burden onto the poor instead of the rich.

And the Tories are doing what they can to disenfranchise and force into servitude Britain’s working people, all while trying to preserve a facade of freedom.