I was watching question time last Thursday (yes I know this might be a bit late) and was pained to see none other than Vince Cable (the only Liberal Democrat I have a great degree of respect for) being effectively made to eat his own words from the general election campaign. It was quite clear that he hated every moment on the show and half of what he said he obviously did not personally believe.
Now the coalition was the best option open for the Liberal Democrats after the election, better to influence events on the inside than shout from the sidelines. But, one of their major failings is that they have for the time being, failed to give the coalition a distinct progressive edge. They failed to shift the burden of the Tory cuts onto the rich but rather onto the poor as argued by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)
and humiliatingly had to u-turn over a rise of VAT which topped the Tories era of austerity.
These failures are being noticed by the electorate, with support in a YouGov poll on the 5th May at a high 28%, while on the 25th June it was shown to have been decimated to a mere 16%. Another poll showed that 48% of people who voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last election are less inclined to do so again, primarily over the rise in VAT.
The future doesn’t look bright for Vince and his fellow Liberal Democrats, if the coalition does succeed the Tories will gain credit, being the dominant partner and if it fails, the Liberal Democrats will never again be able to regard themselves as a progressive force.
Today saw George Osborne’s first ever budget as Chancellor in which Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats showed how much they had sold themselves out. Despite accusing Cameron of threatening to raise VAT with a re-run of the famous Tory poster of “Labour’s tax bombshell” have now agreed with their coalition partners to indeed raise VAT to 20% in which the house was in uproar! The thing with the VAT is that it is generic, it targets no specific group, so in other words, rather than taxing higher earners, it is those on middle to lower incomes who will suffer from this “tax bombshell”. Here is a rundown of the main aspects of the budget:
- VAT will rise from 17.5% to 20% from January 4, 2011 (already touched upon but still rather ironic)
- Councils which propose low council tax increases will be offered extra funds to allow them to freeze the tax for one year from April 2011 (would be great if we had the money)
- Capital Gains Tax remains at 18% for low and middle-income savers but from midnight, higher rate taxpayers will pay 28% (now that I can agree with)
- The capital gains tax “entrepreneurs relief” rate of 10% on the first £2m of gains will be extended to the first £5m (frankly if they earn that much they deserve a level of taxation, especially now)
- No raise to alcohol, cigarettes and fuel (pity it wasn’t raised on cigarettes)
- Low income families will get more Child Tax Credit – the amount per child will rise by £150 above the rate of inflation next year (again, I can agree with that)
- Sure Start maternity grant will be restricted to the first child (kind of stupid, better have it the other way around as you will have more mouths to feed)
- Corporation Tax will be cut next year to 27%, and by 1% annually for the next three years, until it reaches 24% (should be raised for bigger businesses in my eyes)
- Average real terms budget cuts of 25% over four years – except for health and international aid (there goes my local bobby and half of the state sector teachers
- Personal income tax allowance to be increased by £1,000 in April to £7,475 – worth £170 a year to basic rate taxpayers (the sole thing in this budget I would commend, obviously the Lib Dems managed to get A concession out).
VAT rise which will hit the poorest hardest and corporation tax cuts…….in the words of J. K. Rowling, “I’ve never voted Tory before, and they keep reminding me why.”
After a very long final session of Guild Council, in the immortal words of Fabian, I’ll try to keep this brief…
Each of the officers made a leaving speech looking back on the year and offering advice to the new team. These are some of the highlights.
VPSAD Emma “pacman” Packham has effectively showcased student groups to the Uni administration (the Vice Chancellor’s dad nows wants to join BUDS dance soc) and worked hard to make herself known and approachable. She said that despite the Guild’s under resourcing, few staff and erstwhile joke status among the students it achieves incredible things. She made the point that professional relationships are crucial; and gratitude and banter are useful to grease the cogs.
VPEA Brigid “remarkable” Jones: widely regarded as a model representative of students due to her commitment and dedication she was yesterday awarded honorary life membership of the Guild. Fabian asserted that this “girl, sorry, woman” has been patronised by the bigwigs up at the Uni during her massive campaign against the closure of the sociology department.
VPHC Ed “the smallest man that I look up to” Sparkes has worked hard to calm the housing terrors among first years by making everyone feel included in halls and pushing back the housing rush til after Christmas. He thinks that fun is the most important element in life, and that we should all change something if we’re not having enough of it, and to that end he’s run for nearly every position possible within the Guild.
VPW Johnny “idiotic but popular” Davis is the first ever re-elected officer, he’s determined, innovative to the point of requesting a condom cannon and a penis-shaped bucking bronco for AIDS awareness, and wants to encourage anyone who doesn’t think they’re “political” enough to get involved anyway, because all you really need is the desire to make things better. He’s proud of U of B’s record of supporting student parents, the “hidden gems” of our community, and is excited about carrying on next year, reminding us all to protect our welfare with a Johnny.
VPS Katie “fordy fail” Ford had a hard time splitting commitments and was initially a guild outsider, but has managed to conquer the laddish element of the Sports teams with tact and skill and embed the Guild in the minds of our sportspeople. The Lion sports pull-out in RedBrick, a successful healthy living campaign, a brilliant Sports Ball, increased involvement in Sports Forums and inclusion of Sports RAs are just some of her many achievements.
VPDR Tom “comrade” Guise has come a long way but never forgotten his BULS roots, wearing a rose on his lanyard at all times. He’s delivered Joe’s Bar, not on time but on budget, and been a supportive friend to the rest of the team. He also had a serious message of support for everyone involved in student politics and a warning for the naysayers who ignore the historic importance of our institutions.
President Fabian “that geeky Austrian guy” Neuner has managed to develop from an inexperienced cynical outsider into a positive, passionate, diplomatic, reliable and genuine leader. Following a jibe from Lynne Jones he’s been spending a lot of time convincing outsiders that students do care about politics, has been active in the Vote4Students campaign and wishes to further reform the Guild Council procedure to improve transparency. Among his many other achievements he recently won a game of Lash of the Titans, wearing Johnny Davis’ underwear on his head in victory.
The motion to express GC support for wheelchair ramps in the law library was passed unanimously, which is apparently a first!
Everyone decried the lack of recognition given to the non-sabb team and then carried on ignoring them…shout outs and praise were given to the guild staff, housemates and girlfriends, Carnival Rag, RedBrick, the notorious Ed Bauer, Tom Marley and Wes Streeting as well as all of the new officers…there used to be an official bar crawl called “Chamberlain Chunderfest”… that once you’ve been elected you have to do your best both for those who elected you but also for your rivals…the library WILL be open longer next year…Ed Sparkes is the best person to bring you tea when you’ve fallen asleep on your desk…
First of all can I say that sorry for the lack of blogs lately, exams have been a pain in the rear backside and then last few days been working all day, but anyways as Lawsgate had already been tackled I thought it’d be good to tackle the Gaza flotilla incident.
I can easily understand and to a degree, sympathise with Israel’s position, quite evidently if you are attacked with knives and chairs you would naturally defend yourself, though killing around 10 activists kind of shows that the soldiers acted disproportionately to the situation. There are also numerous eye witness accounts from the activists that many were shot with non-lethal rubber bullets or physically assaulted if they were slow to follow Israeli orders. Israel also stormed the ship in international waters which in my view is down-right piracy in itself.
It is also important to note that some activists did indeed assault Israeli soldiers but frankly if you are confronted with a potentially dangerous situation, humans usually choose one of two options. Either, hide in a corner in fear (probably what I would do) or fight back and in this case some did. In some eye witness accounts the activists were the violent aggressors which certainly cannot be condoned.
I can understand the reasoning behind Israel’s blockade of Gaza, a militant regime is dangerous thing to have on your border, but whether you are a friend of Israel or Palestine it is clear that the blockade is clearly strengthening Hamas’ grip. The blockade also prevents fertiliser from being imported, which when basic commodities as mentioned are unavailable it is no doubt that Gaza’s economy is in ruins leaving many to a life of destitute, or the alternative of joining Hamas to throw off the “hated Israelis”. It is hugely aggravating to the world community who wish to see an end to the conflict when Israel rejects an international inquiry into the incident despite it taking place in international waters and the flotilla having a multi-national ship, does Israel have something to hide?
However, while Israel’s actions are disproportionate, I can very easily understand their intent, surrounded by hostile nations they have been at war on and off for the past 50 years it is clear the Israelis are a little jittery. A movement that wishes to eradicate Israel, such as Hamas, is obviously going incite more fear in Israel, but, it does not excuse their actions.
Paraphrased from a facebook conversation between Sean Woodcock and Oliver Jackson:
SW: Whilst I can sympathise with him having issues regarding his Catholic family it does not justify using taxpayers money to hide his sexuality. I don’t think he did it out of greed (he is already a millionaire) and I don’t think it necessarily makes him a bad person. But what he did was wrong and he absolutely deserved to go. Not to mention that he was naive to assume that he would not be found out for it.
OJ: He was one of the best men for the job, and his transgression was not by any stretch of the imagination the most serious offence in the whole sorry episode of the expenses scandal. “Had he been just another MP, his position would surely have been secure. Sympathy for the awkwardness he clearly felt about his sexuality would have overridden anger at the breach of the rules.” However, he had an exceptionally important position in the new government, a government wishing to at least be seen to be breaking away from the “old politics” in a position that would necessitate him having to explain harsh and deeply divisive austerity measures where not a shade of scandal can be had.
When you stand for power, you do not lose a right to privacy, but you at the same time must expect that you will be under public scrutiny. In assuming that he would not be, he was at best naive. His defence, also confuses me – ‘My motive throughout has not been to maximise profit but to protect our privacy”
If he had followed procedure, he would not have been outed in the way he has been by the Telegraph. It is as simple as that. At the end of the day, you can’t avoid the conclusion that without the fraudulent claim, there would have been no story.
Recently elected to the new constituency of South Luxton and Wetfield, Jim Garner is the latest candidate to join the Labour leadership race.
He’s running a hi-tech grass-roots campaign, with a website, twitter and facebook groups already up and running.
Jim brushes aside those who question his maturity and experience, saying that he is “Secretary of State for Understanding Normal People in the Cabinet of Life”.
Without criticising the others who are running he declares himself to be the “choice candidate”, on friendly terms with Ed Balls but disagreeing with David Miliband over favourite snacks.
Thanks to Jim the contest should be getting a whole lot more interesting.
As I realised I haven’t done a blog in nearly 2 weeks but am still revising for my last 2 exams, I thought it’d be good to point out (with little time spent) that the BULS website has seen its highest number of views since February 2009, a 16 month high! I’ll be properly back into blogging over the summer from about the 6th!