It was announced only a mere few minutes ago that the former Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, passed away due to a stroke this morning. She was Britain’s longest serving post-war PM and the only woman to ever hold the job.
I will be honest, on a political level, Thatcher symbolised and represented nearly everything I stand against. Her policies as PM have done more untold harm than of any PM since the war. But on a personal level, I do have great respect for her. The thought of a woman PM in the early 1970s was almost unthinkable, even to Thatcher herself at the time. Upon becoming leader she spent the next seven years fighting an uphill battle, effectively fighting those within her party who deemed little would become of her leadership and then Administration. No post-war Prime Minister has so radically shifted the discourse of British politics (with the exception of Attlee). Taken all together she commands at the very least, considerable respect for how radically she changed and shaped Britain for better or worse. I do admire most principled individuals and Thatcher is no exception.
This is how I will remember Thatcher, a skilled, principled and determined supreme heavyweight figure of 20th Century politics, but a political opponent and adversary all the same.
So how much of the Welfare budget do you reckon is spent on unemployed people? 42%? How much do you reckon is claimed fraudulently from the Welfare budget? 27%? Who do you reckon will be hit most by the 1% limit on benefits, the unemployed “scroungers”? And how much do you reckon is given to the skiving “scrounging” b*rstards on Job Seeker’s allowance (2 kids aged 6 and 10) a week? £147?
If you’d given answers close or on the same as the ones suggested, well, then, you’re completely full of sh*t.
This is what was revealed in a YouGov poll where respondents gave answers similar to the ones suggested. Want to know the real answers?
(Don’t believe me, check the link above).
This is of course shadowed by the outright attempt by Conservative HQ’s attempts to divide the nation like never before by turning the working poor on the unemployed poor (most of whom are seeking work).
While instead, this is the poster they should have published.
I’m tired of this, I’m tired of the demonisation and scapegoating of the poor. But hey, why try solve society’s real problems when you can lie and create scapegoats out of the most vulnerable in society?
I’m not naturally a fan of Piers Morgan (who is), but something clicked yesterday (don’t worry, I will get back to this original point). Admittedly I’d spent a very long time at work, (same lifeguard in two days was over half an hour late to relieve me from poolside, not a happy bunny) I was listening to the radio on the way home and I just happened to stumble upon the speech being delivered to a press conference by Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This was then followed by an NRA spokesperson being interviewed live on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Even now, over 24 hours after hearing these two men, I’m still struggling to comprehend and properly articulate a response to the sheer detachment from reality and supreme level of wheedling these two men committed. In case you missed either men, LaPierre advocated that US schools should be guarded by armed guards and that ”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”. The latter blamed gun violence in the US on mental health issues and lack of proper treatment.
At this point I was seething in the car. Now, I’m not saying I have all the answers, but I have a pretty good idea of what the problems are. No Mr LaPierre, giving “good guys” gun to stop “bad guys” is not a good idea. You see Mr LaPierre, I’ve never had crack cocaine for breakfast, one because I never would, but mainly as I don’t keep it in the fridge. I’ve never been butchered by my slave’s in a bloody uprising, primarily by not keeping slaves. Because you know what Mr LaPierre, not having the means to commit crimes is a far better method to preventing gun homicides than simply believing everyone should arm themselves in the name of mutual deterrents.
I’m not advocating outright banning of guns in US right now, as like I said, I don’t have all the answers and there’s a chance there’d be a backlash against such a move. But when you live in a country where there’s no nation-wide policy on firearms this allows dangerous people to easily buy guns from other states without any background checks and then bring them into other neighboring states. The system also has no check for those “good guys” who you so uphold Mr LaPierre who may turn dangerous (and indeed they do, for whatever reason). It gives no account on a federal level for other members of a family who may own firearms (as what happened with the latest Connecticut shootings). And Mr LaPierre, you live in a country where there are roughly 300 millions guns or 89 firearms per 100 civilians and have an average death toll of around 10,000 gun homicides a year (roughly 3.2 deaths from guns per 100,000 people). This is in direct contrast to countries like here in the UK or in Japan, (countries you probably believe have “bad guys” running around unchecked) have roughly 6 and 0.6 guns per 100 civilians respectively yet have a mere 0.1 and <0.01 deaths by firearms per 100,000 people respectively.
I’m sick and tired of hearing such divorced ideas from reality that if you give people more guns there’ll be less gun crime. This is something that really struck me with Piers Morgan, I actually agreed with him on something:
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers, but how many more people are going to have needlessly die before the likes of Mr LaPierre realise that having more guns to solve gun crime is an absurd idea?
For Jack Matthew’s benefit (and yes, Norway is included).
This may be the third or fourth time I’ve posted this, but still good fun.
It turns out the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was due to deliver a speech in support of gay marriage which criticised those who opposed said government proposal as “bigots”. Sadly, it seems Clegg and his aides have quickly removed the “bigot” parts of his speech on the grounds that it was included as a “mistake”. It seems the only “mistake” Clegg had made was removing the term “bigots”, and for incredibly good reasons.
I have long despaired at the remarks by opponents to gay marriage from the Catholic Church, the Church of England and other smaller organisations. This is something we here in the UK have been able to watch, almost smugly, across the Atlantic in the USA for many years now. But no, it turns out the UK has it’s bigots on this issue as well. Yes, that’s right, I’m willing to say what Clegg never could. Given there is no reasonable or legitimate secular reason to oppose gay marriage, what so ever, I am fully inclined to regard those who oppose gay marriage as bigots. This is not said in attempt to silence opponents, it’s not an attempt to close the conversation but it is simply the most logic explanation given the reasons we’ve heard so regularly in the USA and now here. And I’d like to take a moment to address four of the most common I hear:
- So? Your point being? First off, marrying for love is a rather recent idea, until the last 150 years or so marriage was arranged around power relationships between families and often the woman would become property of the husband…but we re-defined that. In fact, the ‘re-defining’ argument fails to provide any reason why this would be a bad thing to do in the first place, but all is given is vague unfounded assertions.
- Well ok, you’re welcome to oppose upon religious grounds. But the thing is that we make laws based on secular reasoning. You can’t force your religious views on another section of society…period.
- Now this is what we call a slippery slope fallacy. Just because one thing is allowed it does not mean we’ll move onto other actions. That’s why when homosexuality was decriminalised under Roy Jenkins in the mid-1960s, bestiality and polygamy have still yet to be legalised by this obscure argument. Hell, while I wouldn’t call it polygamy (polyamory for a better term), I would have absolutely no problem with polyamorious (if that’s how it’s spelt) marriage.
- There’s two problems to this assertion. 1 is that there’s absolutely no evidence that a gay couple would fair any less in raising a child than a straight couple. 2 this argument implies the sole purpose of marriage is to produce children which is just nonsense on so many levels. First off, would you then not bar seniors or infertile straight couples from marrying as apparently the only purpose of marriage is reproduction? It also implies that having children out of wedlock is fundamentally wrong, which of course is complete bull, don’t even go there.
For once, Clegg could’ve made a principled stand on something that really matters to ending LGBTQ discrimination, but it turns out he’s too much of a coward. Thankfully, when I see an individual oppose gay marriage for incredibly poor reasons such as above, I’m happy to make no reservations in pointing out the most logical assessment.
They. Are. Bigots.
Sorry for lack of substantial blog post, we’ve all been a bit busy recently. But here’s a pretty good summation of the solution proposed by conservatives and neo-liberals to every problem they have faced in the last 30 years.
In light of the recent Cabinet re-shuffle Jeremy Hunt has been moved to the portfolio of Health Secretary. It also turns out Hunt endorsed Homeopathy in 2007. Maybe the NHS may end up like this soon:
Good news peeps!:
I’ve always been one for giving credit where credit is due to opposition parties and I make no exceptions here. It seems the SNP Government in Scotland has the good sense to bring forward draft proposals to have Gay Marriage legalised in Scotland (after proposals here in England were put on hold). This is nothing less than a momentousness step in the right direction for LGBTQ rights and the UK as a whole. I’ve become in recent months splutteringly enraged at the pathetic excuses made by those who oppose Gay Marriage, “It’ll redefine marriage” (which isn’t even a reason). I’m incredibly happy the Scottish government has moved beyond such bigotry and I hope the Scottish Labour Party gives this proposal it’s full backing.
When I started University back in the September of 2009 (back in the middle of the previous recession) I always had it in my mind that, ‘Hey, at least the recession will be over once I finish my degree.’. Now ignoring the fact that I’ll be returning to the University of Birmingham (and BULS for that matter) in September to train to be a Primary Teacher. But now I’ve finished my degree I realise that this was a foolish assumption to make as the UK now suffers it’s 3rd consecutive quarter of negative growth at 0.7%. Now of course, we’re going to hear all the usual excuses, oh the Jubilee Celebrations, oh the weather, oh the Eurozone (which is nonsense on the latter given the UK and Italy are the only two major G20 economies back in a double dip recession). This was a recession made in Whitehall and in Downing Street.
It’s about time Cameron, Clegg and Osborne own up to their own mistakes and take responsibility.
Neo-liberalism has had its day.
There are points throughout history where established cultures near a breaking point. Today is one of those days.
£13 trillion ($21tn) is the rough size of the US’s and Japan’s economies combined. That same £13 trillion (and this actually a conservative estimation) has been hoarded and hidden from tax by a mere (estimated) 90,000 individuals.
I don’t think any one individual can truly comprehend what this £13 trillion could have been effectively used for. To find a cure for cancer, to vaccinate millions of vulnerable people in third world countries, to fund an almost infinite supply of scientific research or to provide free education for millions of children worldwide.
This is what has happened under the culture of neo-liberalism. The right has found it fitting to shift the blame onto “benefit scroungers”. What is apparent instead that this has been a mere smokescreen for a far wider problem. We have also been encouraged to not question and even idolise these “wealth creators”.
As Labour members we must accept that our party had helped facilitate such actions, we’re not innocent in all this.
I can only hope that one day soon, the established culture will finally break.
It was a case of life imitating art as Junior Treasury Minister Chloe Smith did her best ‘startled and luckless MP off The Thick of It’ impression to a less-than-impressed Jeremy Paxman and an even less impressed viewing audience.
Regardless of your view on the government’s austerity drive, it is easy to sympathise with the young Ms. Smith, an MP since 2009, she was only 15 when Michael Howard took his mauling from Paxman over the whole ‘did you threaten to overrule him?’ saga. Smith’s boss George Osborne was otherwise engaged, and so it fell to Smith to defend the government’s latest instalment of ‘omnishambles’ over the u-turn on the plans to increase fuel duty.
And so it began: ‘When was this decision taken?’ demanded Paxman, on no less than seven occasions. ‘I can’t tell you the ins and outs’ came the response from the obviously rattled Smith, before adding that she was not going to provide ‘a running commentary’. The need for a running commentary there was none; Paul Mason’s introduction had listed the recent u-turns for those less well versed in the burning issues of pasties, caravans and charity boxes. Mason’s piece to camera even included the dreaded ‘i’ word: ‘incompetent’. Shades of the Charge of the Light Brigade therefore, as Osborne’s miscommunication and responsibility shirking left Smith to bear the brunt of Paxo’s wrath.
Back to the interview, and there appeared no end to the onslaught: ‘Is it hard for you to defend a policy you don’t agree with?’ ‘Nice question’ she snapped back, before offering the profound Aristotle-esque analysis that ‘I don’t think many things are certain in this world’. The gravitas of this statement was undermined slightly however by the spluttering and large gulp of water that followed immediately after. It was clear that Paxman could scent blood: ‘Which department has underspent?’ he enquired on five occasions, to be told that ‘they fall across and in different ways’ (yeah, me neither). That was the final straw, and, risking an enquiry from the League Against Cruel Sports into his conduct against the flailing Minister, Paxman bellowed ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ Not even Howard had had it this rough. Smith was clock-watching by now, counting the seconds until she could return to the relative tranquillity of the Treasury Office. The ‘i’ word raised its ugly head once more; ‘Do you ever think you’re incompetent?’ Smith muttered something about ‘the best interests of her constituents’, and that was that. Phew.
By Dan Harrison, Former BULS Chair
I have touched on the problems of the rail industry on this blog before and the whole area surrounding Privatisation vs. Nationalisation. Well I think to someone in the Labour party may have been listening. We have a policy! And it’s crackin’ good un’ at that. An effective re-nationalise the Rail industry.
To remind you why this is such a cracking idea, here’s some reasons why:
In a nutshell, Privatisation has indeed failed for the rail industry. There’s no real ‘choice’. If I want to get a train from Birmingham New Street to Manchester Picadilly I can only go via CrossCountry and if I want to get a train from Birmingham New Street to London Euston I can only go via Virgin trains.
As a semi-regular train user, this is a brilliant step in the right direction for Labour and the rail industry. Hell extend it to Buses as well!
FYI: I anyone wishes to submit a counter-response to this post please feel free to email it into email@example.com thank you.
I seemed to have developed a particular reputation of disdain for two prominent branches of British society in my final year of University, religion and the institution of the Monarchy. Religion bashing is something I spare for my own personal blog as after all BULS is an entirely secular society. So today my focus will be on the institution of the Monarchy and the case against it.
Unlike some fellow Republicans, I’m not too fussed about the costs it brings. My own personal gripe of the Monarchy is how it undermines our own basic sense of ethics and morality. We can all say as an ideal that we strive to not treat anyone differently or give special privileges or persecute others merely because of their background or the family any individual just happened to be born into. In a nutshell we try not to value an individual’s self-worth on the family they just happened to be born into. This is the very basis of meritocracy and equality (well at least equality of opportunity). Yet, when it comes to the Monarchy we seem to conveniently forget this ideal.
Now personally, I like to have a consistent a world view as possible. If a base ethics works in one area I’m sure as hell it’ll probably apply and work in nearly any other area. And this is what we get from many Royalists, a suspension of such basic ideals and ethics all in the name of making them feel special. This is also an argument I often hear/see “But the majority of people are in favour of the Monarchy.”. So what? Popular support/belief has absolutely no bearing on what is right or wrong, or true or false.
I’d also like to address the famous fallacy from tradition. Last year at my work (Lifeguarding) at around the time of the Royal Wedding where one of the cleaners (a lovely old dear) asked what I’d be doing on the day of the Royal Wedding. I honestly replied, “Oh, I’ll be avoiding the celebrations as much as possible as I don’t think we should have a Monarchy.”. I was met with a disgruntled reply with mutterings of ‘It’s good for tradition.”. I didn’t have the heart to say this at the time as she was an old dear but what I really wanted to say in response was, “So was the bubonic plague for 300 years, and so was persecuting gays and women for hundreds of years and not giving them the vote!”. Like popular support, tradition has no bearing on whether something is right or wrong, or true or false. Tradition is not a reason to keep or get rid of anything.
I realise I’m in a minority here and I realise that my dream of a Republic is far flung dream probably beyond my lifetime. But all changes for the better have to start from some where.
Among the two years of Coalition government that Britain has been subjected to there has been little to smile about. There is no need to list the ‘omnishambles’ here, even those who have better things to do with their time than check the tweetings of the political geekery are well versed in just how inept and backward this government’s policies are. Then, all of a sudden, there appeared a ray of hope, a reason to celebrate, perhaps this Cameron fella ain’t so bad after all – he wants to introduce Equal Marriage.
I read with despair the comments of those supportive of Equal Marriage and I wanted to shout: ‘Can you not see the mind-forged manacles of institutionalism that Marriage (in any form) brings?!’. The Gay Liberation Front, nurtured on the campus at LSE in the early 70s was very clear in its view, condemning on page 2 in The Gay Manifesto the ‘archaic and irrational teaching [that] support the family and marriage as the only permitted conditions for sex.’ The Gay Liberation Front’s key theme was anti-assimilation. Gay people were equal, sure, but they were different as well, and as such should play no role in conforming to the ‘archaic’ institutions and cultural practises that made up Britain’s history. It was this direct, ‘in-yer-face’ attitude which makes the GLF so important to Gay history in Britain. The concept of Marriage could play no part in their ‘aim at the abolition of the family.’ (p.9)
I for one oppose marriage. I agree with the GLF when they stated that ‘we will not be freed so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the patriarchal family.’ It would have been hypocritical of me, I believed, to oppose marriage, but be in favour of Equal Marriage.
I then looked to see who also opposed Equal Marriage. I could find nobody that shared my opinion on the fundamentally unjust nature of marriage. Instead it was a collection of knee-jerk Tory MPs (the dusty and offensive Peter Bones of this world) and irrelevant Church Minsters, whose quest to preserve ‘traditional family values’ was little more than thinly veiled homophobia and ignorance. These people seem to advocate human rights, as long as this doesn’t stretch to sexuality equality. And I was not prepared to enter this unholy coalition.
It then dawned on me that my argument was flawed. Basically, I was being an academic elitist, pontificating from the comforts of a university on how ‘blinkered’ everyone was apart from me. (I once heard this described as ‘intellectual masturbation’).
So if gay couples wish to show their love to one another and society at large by entering the traditional institution of marriage then there is absolutely no argument, certainly morally, why this shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Sign me up as a convert. Just don’t expect any Queer Radicals to be heading up the aisle any time soon.
By Dan Harrison, former BULS Chair
If you plan to exploit vulnerable people through a shameful confidence trick, it is generally best not to shout about it in the national press. Sadly this ProTip was not passed on to a Mr Carl Cooper of CarSmart in Kent. Mr Cooper’s little scam was to predate on those desperately seeking work, and to pay them at the miserly rate of £50 per week. In case you missed that, that’s for a whole weeks work, it’s not even a daily rate. Its £2.50 an hour, below the legal minimum wage and well below a living wage. Thankfully all his victims had the common sense to tell him where to get off – not one of them turned up.
Mr Cooper is a cruel and selfish individual. He has attempted to take advantage of a high unemployment rate to undermine basic working conditions and to exploit desperate people. You might think it unfair to single him out for criticism; he is just one greedy self-serving individual among many. Maybe I would have dismissed him if it had been just the confidence trick. One obscure tinpot little company out in the sticks barely registers on the global scale of corporate injustice. But because Mr Cooper was outwitted by seven unemployed people he’d so clearly thought beneath him, he decided to launch a smear campaign.
This is why you may have read about Mr Cooper in the gutter press, in the corrupt Murdoch tabloids, in the hate-soaked columns of the Mail, and on the front page of Friday’s Metro (which presumably no unemployed person is expected to read). Bitter at being outwitted by dole scum, he has decided to add to the drip-drip of hateful propaganda against them. I’m going to look specifically at the Sun, that bastion of working class divide-and-rule. Mr Cooper looks bemused around his soulless office, making awkward half eye contact and sporting one of those ‘70s style striped shirts with plain collars that David Steel used to wear. Apparently the hired staff failed to turn up because of rain, not that any evidence or testimony is given to prove this. In all likelihood Mr Cooper plucked it gracefully from his arse. Then the real slurs begin.
The general assumption made by Mr Cooper is that the potential employees were “work-shy”. In fact, throw in all the tired clichés you can think of. Draw an elegant but oh so two-dimensional caricature if you please. It’s so much easier than genuine analysis – you don’t even need evidence. To quote “Stunned Carl”: “I cannot believe that these layabouts can have such a pathetic attitude to a day’s labour”. The measured tones of a decent chap, I’m sure you’ll agree. For the real reason why not one of the seven did not turn up, Mr Cooper need only look at the pay he was offering. Did it ever occur to him that it isn’t work, or even the specific type of work that people object to, it’s the insulting poverty pay?
£50 a week is well below the poverty line for a single person. Subtract travel costs and its questionable as to whether anyone could afford to remain alive on such a sum. “Even the basic pay for fulfilling the minimum requirements of the work would be double what they could get on Jobseekers Allowance” is Mr Cooper’s justification. With such an evidently poor grasp of basic maths, I could fear for the financial future of his business, if I cared. For comparison the JSA rate for under 25’s is £56 a week. From experience I can say that it’s certainly a struggle keeping the Koi carp pond stocked on 56 quid. Alternatively it’s “too generous” if you agree with Mr Cooper, which I don’t. People are indeed better off on the dole, but in the way that the ‘flu is better than the Black Death.
Would I rather pay people to stay on the dole? Well yes actually, yes I would. As a taxpayer, I would much rather pay to support someone in looking for work on their own terms; work that will be suited to their talents, complement their general well-being, and ideally be of a credit to wider society. I would favour this even more so if the alternative is to force the desperate into an exploitative working relationship with the Carl Coopers of this world, encouraging a race to the bottom for wages in a sweatshop economy. I would see the end of parasitical businesses like CarSmart. What a beautiful irony it would be if Mr Cooper found himself unemployed; would his Just World philosophy survive? Would he continue to think of himself as superior to “those people” when he’s stacking shelves for free in the Darwinian future he encourages?
“The benefit system rewards people for doing nothing” says Carl. No mate, it protects them from abusive scumbags like yourself.
I remember posting this video to this blog just over 2 years ago. We all warned of the dangers drastically chanfed, but as we’re now officially back in recession, we hate to say we told you so.
Following careful consideration, BULS has decided to support Michael Chessum’s campaign to be VPHE of NUS and we ask Birmingham delegates and Labour students nationally to do the same. We believe that Michael is the most competent candidate, and will achieve the most for students now, and in the future.
He has been the only candidate to continuously fight against the Tories’ fee regime and its further marketisation of our education system. Michael has been instrumental inthe organising of two national demonstrations, mobilising thousands of students across the country. Such demonstrations proved highly successful, gaining the support of Labour Students, and the general student population, nationally.
As Labour students we should be fighting against the current coalition government’s outrageous, and damaging, policies concerning higher education fees and their on-going commitment to severe austerity measures. Education is a public good and, at Birmingham, we believe that education should be universally accessible and publically funded. Michael Chessum is the only candidate for VPHE who we believe shares our values and will fight to defend them.
Furthermore, Michael is the only candidate committed to opposing Theresa May’s regressive and racist visa changes, which will have a detrimental effect on International Students who contribute so much to our higher education institutions and country as a whole.
Michael’s past record shows that he knows when and how to use direct action tactics, whilst his pivotal role in founding NCAFC proves his dedication to fighting the government’s austerity measures.
We need a VP Higher Education that will offer a robust defence against the coalition’s stark attacks on education. We wholeheartedly believe it is time to put factional divides behind us and unite in our support for Chessum, as the candidate most able to deliver.
Catie, Ed, Ellis, Areeq, Alex, Sam and Dan
Chris Grayling, in case you didn’t already know, is the Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell, and Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. He is also a lying bastard and has dreadful communication skills. His efforts tackling the worst unemployment among young people in generations have been lacklustre to say the least. He, alongside faux-compassionate conservative Iain Duncan Smith, is the government’s standard bearer for punitive schemes designed to punish and exploit the unemployed. He has used his position of power and privilege to slander and misrepresent the characters and causes of anyone who dares speak against him. When the inequities of his schemes are highlighted, he resorts to spin and bare faced lies. In short, he is an evil, hateful, immoral little man.
The quite excellent Johnny Void documents more fully Grayling and the DWP’s shameful back-story. Today I come to credit Grayling. In between selling our youth as slaves and branding the Archbishop of Canterbury a militant Trotskyite, he has successfully created one new job. Just the one. Here [link].
I know from experience that jobs working for MPs can receive hundreds of applications for a single position. In this case there may be fewer, given what any politically aware unemployed person will know about Grayling. But if Hell itself were looking for part-time bar staff, even Satan might receive CVs from desperate job hunters. When hundreds of people apply for one position, 99% of those are mathematically guaranteed to be unsuccessful. How will Grayling reconcile these masses of doomed applicants with his wider responsibility for policy? Will he realise that his hateful ideology is wrong in blaming individuals for economic circumstances far beyond their control?
Here’s an idea. The deadline for this job is not until Monday (23rd). The essential qualifications and requirements are actually very low. Any young person who has passed a handful of GCSEs could, with a minimal amount of on the job training, perform the advertised role. I’m going to apply. You should to. So should everyone who is currently unemployed, and even those who aren’t but who will need a job in the near future. We’re all qualified. Assuming that the position is filled on a loosely meritocratic basis, we should all have a fair chance of consideration.
If, by Monday morning, Grayling’s office inbox is fit to bursting with job applications (“the standard was very high”) then maybe, just maybe, he’ll start to consider the massive competition that exists for even the most basic of jobs. Maybe he’ll begin to appreciate just how many individuals are trapped in limbo by a lack of opportunities. Maybe (and this is a long shot) he’ll cut us some slack, stop using his departmental jackboot to bully and intimidate, and start creating real jobs, beyond making cups of tea in his constituency office.
It won’t take long. Thirty minutes to draft a covering letter, and any good student/graduate job-hunter should have a CV to hand, one that can be appropriately tweaked. Grayling may endorse lying, but I encourage honesty, these should be genuine applications. I could put an example here, but several hundred individual submissions will carry far more weight than a thousand copy and pastes. Apply. Apply now! If you’re really lucky – and I mean really lucky – you might just end up working for the Right Honourable Member.
The ad in full (courtesy of w4mpjobs):
If you’ve taken a nosy around the BBC Website recently you’ll have noticed a video on the imposition of VAT on constructions and repairs for religious institutions and buildings.
Now for those of you who know me personally as an ‘angry atheist’ may start worrying “Oh no, what’s he going to come out with now, destruction of all religious buildings?”. Fear not, while many of you do see that side of me I’m also an ardent secularists. I recognise the right of religious organisations to play a legitimate part in society but I also am opposed to having the state play any part in religious affairs. So this is why we need to tax religious organisations like any other organisation that has an income.
Some of you may have reeled back from such a suggestion, but hear/read me out. To become a legally recognised religion with a tax-exempt status an organisation has jump through a large variety of hoops set by the state. That’s right, the state sets the criteria and by extension determines which organisations are worthy of having tax-exempt statuses. I’m not proposing we take religious rights away from organisations and individuals, rather to take away the privileges granted by the state a select group of institutions based on no sound secular reason.
If you want to ensure true neutrality from the state in regards to religion (aside from a much needed separation of church and state, but that’s a whole other post) no tax-exempt status should be granted to any religious institution and yes even atheist/humanist/secularist groups that may have won a tax-exempt status. Churches are free to continue with any charity work they so wish and I think we can all agree that area will remain tax-exempt but separate from the organisation.
On a more personal note, with the billions upon billions of pounds that go into religious organisations world-wide only to spent on other churches, missionaries and aid to foreign countries which is too often conditioned upon meeting certain religious criteria. This money could be far better spent on real secular matters like schools, hospitals and roads.
Never let it be said that I am an unquestioning partisan. George Osborne has attracted a lot of criticism in the past few days for his plans to cap tax relief for charitable donations. Tax relief allows wealthy individuals who donate to registered charities to claim back from the treasury. The Chancellor is proposing to cap the amount of tax-free giving at £50,000, or 25% of a person’s income, whichever figure is the greater. I agree with him.
It is an unusual situation where a Tory chancellor can consider myself as an ally (and the Daily Mail as an enemy). The official reason given by Osborne is that this is a means to reduce tax evasion. If you remember back to the budget, Osborne declared such evasion to be “morally reprehensible”. At the time I expressed deep cynicism about what actions if any would follow such fine words. The charity tax relief cut is a welcome start, even if the limit is still too generous.
What have I got against charity? Consider it like this – under normal circumstances an individual who has been fortunate enough to become a high earner will contribute back to society through taxation. A progressive tax system will endure that the tax rate collects most from those who can most afford it. Revenue raised then goes back into services from which we all individually or collectively benefit. An educated, healthy and contented society then feeds into the entrepreneurs and genuine wealth-creators of the future.
Now consider the tax relief route. The rich individual decides to reduce their tax bill by donating to a registered charity. This could be any such charity of their choice, regardless of size or activity. The charity would be run by its directors and trustees entirely by its own rules and priorities, with little oversight, and no accountability to the general public. Because the donor has claimed tax relief, the funds raised for the treasury are reduced – the state has less to spend on health, education, and other public services. The donor themselves, if wealthy, is probably not affected but the general public will suffer as a result.
The charity tax relief system is effectively a system for the subsidy of charities at the expense of public services. Public services face an immense amount of scrutiny, and they are always accountable to us through our elected representatives. Even the largest and best known charities carry out their activities in relative secrecy. Some charities do nominally “good” work, such as running hostels or after-school tuition. Yet what logic can there be in the treasury subsidising a charity to support a public service, when that same public service only needs support due to treasury spending cuts?
Philanthropy is also strongly anti-democratic. A donor decides which causes they believe are worthy. They also decide how much to donate and when. Where a charity has a few large donors it has to dance to their tune, to beg. To quote Toynbee and Walker in Unjust Rewards (2008):
we suggested to a major donor that paying more tax might be a better way for the wealthy to pay their dues than random gift-giving. He answered that the state could never spend his money as well as he could. If he gives he can direct it exactly where he wants and oversee what happens to it. Follow this recipe to its natural conclusion and anarchy and plutocracy result.
Charity tax relief allows the wealthy to take money from the tax system – from all of us – and spend it on their private causes; be they decent state substitutes, the idols of privilege, or just delusional make-believe. I applaud Osborne for cutting it.
Will the relief cut seriously reduce donations? That only depends on the true motives of the donors. From the Independent:
Why are charities so fearful that a limit on how much donors can offset against tax will reduce their income? This will only happen if the tax concessions of the past constituted a major – the major? – motivation to give. No limit is being placed on how much anyone may donate, only on what draws tax relief. If big donors are sufficiently committed to their cause, there is nothing to prevent them giving as before. If they don’t, does that not suggest that the tax break was, if not being abused, at least a persuasive consideration?
I am not against charity in itself, but it must never be a substitute for the consistent and equal provision of essential services. Services that only the state can provide fairly and free at point-of-use to all of its citizens. The welfare state was founded by Liberal and Labour governments precisely because the threadbare safety net of charitable provision was never good enough. Cutting the tax relief threshold could mean an actual spending increase for our public services, and in that I agree with George.
Unfortunate rumours come via the Guardian of further plans for central Labour Party meddling in the potential mayoral elections this autumn. It has been suggested that sitting Labour MPs should be barred from seeking a mayoral nomination, even if they resign their seat.
It is bad enough that the NEC has imposed a shortlist system for the nomination, cutting down the choice that will actually go to party members from at least four candidates to only two. It is also underhand that they have suggested sitting MPs should resign if they become a nominee, before they even win a mayoralty. The whole idea behind these various restrictions is to prevent unnecessary by-elections, especially in the wake of Bradford West. It is probably also to ensure that the “right” candidate (from the central party’s perspective) gets the nomination. To me the whole thing stinks of heavy handedness.
The whole point of elected mayors (and police commissioners to an extent) is greater local democracy. Two key words their, “local”, and “democracy”. Arbitrary decisions and rules being handed down by the NEC are neither local or democratic. The field for the nomination should be as open as possible, and that field should be presented to the membership. That is the democratic way. It cannot be right for someone in London to ultimately decide who we in Birmingham have as our mayor for the next 4 years.
The danger here is that, by being heavy handed and trying to force nominations, the NEC risk seriously alienating sitting MPs and CLPs. The NEC and the Labour Party as a whole does not actually have the power to remove sitting MPs – all it can do is expel them from the party, most likely if they persist to run against the “official” candidate. For an MP set on becoming mayor, this offers a simply choice; give up ambitions or leave the party. I can’t imagine a Labour MP actually running as an Independent, yet were it to happen and were a city to find itself with an “Independent Labour” Mayor, then this whole affair would have backfired horribly on the central party. Not only would Labour still face the by-elections it had hoped to avoid, but under the unfavourable circumstances of having just lost a mayoral election to and Independent and having a hostile outgoing MP.
Instead the selections should be made as open as possible, to all Labour candidates who wish two stand. Any further elimination can come when the party membership in a given city fill in their ballot papers. The eventual nominee will be the genuine choice of that city, and not just the preferred placeman of the party machine. Is there a risk that some cities will end up with maverick Labour mayors, who don’t tow the line, who do things their own way, and who embarrass the party leadership in London? Possibly. Should the decision as to whether this happens be entirely down the party membership and the electors in that city? Absolutely.
Every so often there is a news story absurd enough to make cliched people ask: “Is it April 1st?” This week there was one, it was April 1st, but the story is depressingly real. I refer to government plans to extend the surveillance of our online lives.
While I believe in a strong state, and I certainly trust a democratic state more so that any private company, this represents another unnecessary intrusion into the private lives of us all. I believe that the internet must be totally free; that is as a true anarchy. A “crime” can only exist on the internet where is co-exists in reality (e.g. fraud). It must be a totally free place where ideas can be exchanged and where speech must be entirely free. While this naturally carries risks, I believe these can be better averted through user education rather than through cumbersome regulation. The internet can never be policed to protect the naïve or the over-sensitive from the troll, nor should it be. I realise that this probably sounds a little woolly or idealistic, but I will always favour the optimism of hope in humanity’s better instincts over the pessimistic urge to control and restrict us.
This isn’t just about our ability the watch daft videos of cats, to pointlessly argue the toss in comment sections, or to create weakly satirical memes. Consider how online communication is used to build campaigning and enable activism. Most organised protests will have Facebook events, with wildly optimistic “attending” lists. Debates over the injustices or otherwise of government policies will rage on page walls, or in twitter feeds. Last year saw the (perhaps over-hyped) power of online protest in deposing dictators. Fear those in positions of power who wish to curtail our online freedoms – they are a threat to democracy itself.
I am not talking only of the specific implications of these more recent proposals. They build gradually on the already extensive powers of our police and security forces. If implemented I imagine they will ultimately be another notch on the ratchet towards an authoritarian state. A future Prime Minister, trying to reduce these powers, would no doubt have their ear bent by senior security figures. They would supposedly be so useful in catching the genuine terrorists (who may in any case have been caught though traditional methods). Never mind the “inconvenience” to the ordinary citizen who by now has normalised having their online activity watched. I argue for a free internet, and against all efforts to regulate it, from a point of principle.
Remember ID cards. New Labour was at its worst in its authoritarian spasms. Remember the Tory manifesto of 2010: “Labour have subjectedBritain’s historic freedoms to unprecedented attack. They have trampled on liberties.” Now see that opportunism exposed as another incumbent government threatens the sacred privacy of the individual. To quote inhuman oxygen thief Chris Grayling in 2009 “Too many parts [of the government] have too many powers to snoop on innocent people and that’s really got to change.” This same creature is now involved in the DWP’s outsourcing of databases to India, with the privacy of millions of innocent people being dependent on the integrity of the lowest bidder.
If the Tories believe in freedom it is merely the freedom for the powerful to enslave the rest of us. Labour have barely shed the worst of our authoritarian Blairite heritage. The Liberal Democrats are making very promising noises, but I don’t fancy placing too much faith in them any time soon. Who then will stand up for our online freedoms?
I joined the Labour Party in 2008. This was before I was prepared to accept my sexuality. I have now come to realise that it was joining the Labour Party, and learning of all of Labour’s achievements in Government in striving for sexual equality that helped me on my way in accepting myself. Being proudly gay and proudly a member of the Labour Party can and should be mutually reinforcing. I will always be thankful to Labour for this.
Whilst we can look back proudly on all Labour achieved in equality – and there is no need to list these here – ending legislative homophobia is not the same as ending homophobia engrained in society. Top-down measures can only work so far. Greater acceptance of homosexuality as being ‘equal but different’ to heterosexuality can only be achieved through increased exposure of what it is to be gay, i.e., being capable of loving someone of the same sex. At its most basic this can include couples walking down the street holding hands. Unfortunately, we are not yet at a stage where this simple statement of homosexuality is uncontroversial. There is still a need for gay couples to act as pioneers. I can speak from experience that some members of society are not ready to witness such sights.
Labour is at its best when fighting for the rights of minorities within society, championing the fundamental need for equality. However, whilst I am well aware that homophobia remains an issue, the greatest issue of inequality relates to income. The lack of equal opportunity in the world of work adversely affects women, the BME community and disabled people more than it does the LGBT community. With this in mind, the LGBT Labour needs to rally round and support those who also fall under the umbrella term ‘minority’. Liberation Campaigns and caucuses are vital in recognising and celebrating our differences (note the very discourse of the word ‘Pride’ in our annual Pride Marches, and the rightful presence of Labour at these marches), but our shared difficulties and experiences need to be at the forefront of our campaigns.
This is, I believe, should be the next step of LGBT Labour in Britain, standing up for the voiceless in society, speaking for those adversely affected by the Government’s draconian and ill-balanced cuts. Even if we do not self-define as members of a particular caucus, Labour needs to unite and continue the fight for equal opportunity for all.
By Dan Harrison, Outgoing BULS Chair
In light of Chris Huhne’s resignation yesterday as Energy and Climate Change Secretary BULS would like to submit this tribute all in good humour:
Andrew Lansley recently showed a prime example of how not win your case by describing the ever growing opposition to his NHS reforms as being motivated by “political” reasons.
I’m sorry but “political” reasons? The British Medical Association (BMA), Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Nurses, the Conservative dominated Commons Health Select Committee and Norman frigging Tebbit all oppose the reforms, which will open up the NHS to EU competition law, for “political” reasons? These are not organisations (with the exception of the latter obviously) that sit from the outside and attempt to vaguely analyse the inner workings of the NHS. No, these are organisations that deal with the inner workings of the NHS every single day. They know how it works. They know what will be detrimental. And they are the ones that will know that these reforms will fundamentally destroy the NHS.
Cameron said it himself, no top down reorganisations of the NHS. Now drop this bill!
Sorry for the break in blogging, we’re trying to up the ante this year
Probably the most pressing of all news items is the recent dismal growth figures. Over a year ago when Cameron and Osborne claimed we were “Out of the woods” and “Out of the danger zone”. How very wrong they were. With the final quarter of 2011 seeing a contraction of 0.2% this then means that in the last 15 months since Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October 2010, we’ve had a massive 0.3% of growth. Cameron then has the audacity to blame the recent growth figures on the Euro crisis. Well I’m sorry, the UK economy has been stagnating long before the crisis began to effect.
Cameron you said it yourself, “I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the economy.” then take responsibility and change course!
As I approach my role as Vice-Chair of Birmingham University Labour Students (BULS) by keeping religion and my position in BULS totally separate. So, this post you’ll be reading from BULS member and atheist Max Ramsay, rather than BULS Vice-Chair Max Ramsay.
Today David Cameron declared “Britain is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so” and “that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.”.
Now, I’d like to point out that I respect everyone’s right to have whatever faith they so wish. But, to be quite honest, Cameron really hasn’t read much of the King James’ Bible if he believes this is the case.
Now the first point is something seemingly imported from the USA. Given that a poll in 2004 conducted by the BBC showed that 39% of the UK population did not believe in God. That’s right, today we’re anything but a Christian nation, we’re a secular nation.
You may say, “Oh, but we were founded upon Christian ideals and it has played a such a vital part in history in the last few centuries.”. Really?! If we did derive our morals and values from the bible we’d still find acceptable;
Now can Cameron really claim that we were founded upon these values? That we derive our morals and values from the bible? And that we’re still a Christian nation? Again, while I respect people’s right to believe this, it is quite clear that what binds us and gives us true sense of values is secular enlightened thinking.
That’s right, four by-election victories on the trot. Yes, all these were in Labour held seats, but it’s important how every single one has seen a significant swing towards Labour each time. The results were as follows:
Labour – 12,639 (54.42% up by 10.79%)
Conservative – 6,436 (27.71% down by 6.32%)
Liberal Democrats – 1,364 (5.87 down by 7.87%)
UKIP – 1,276 (5.49& up by 3.45%)
This has seen a 8.6% swing from Tory to Labour, when compared to the last general election which saw a mere 4.8% swing from Labour to Tory. Yes, the turnout was very low, but what do you expect at this time of year?
Either way, great result!
Today we saw Gideon (George Osborne) unveil his first ever Autumn Statement (last year it was a Comprehensive Spending Review) which used to be Brown and then Darling’s Pre-Budget Report, although it’s still the same thing more or less.
What we saw today was a Chancellor willing to blame everyone except himself for his own failures. Gideon may claim as much as he likes that the growing crisis in the Eurozone may have put a dent in its works, but that would just be disingenuous as it’s not at that stage to truly have an impact on a non-Eurozone country such as the UK.
But in a nutshell what we had is:
So essentially, we have growth being revised down for the fourth time in 18 months and borrowing expected to be £111 billion higher in 2015.
So when Gideon said “we are out of the danger zone.” around a year ago I didn’t think we’d get around to us saying “we told you so” so soon.
An interesting video from Unite upon the upcoming day of strikes set for tomorrow.
#godisgove and #torybible are to hashtags on twitter which have both appeared in recent days in the wake of Michael Gove’s decision to issue a King James edition of the bible to every state school in England. Now I’m not going to get into the whole inappropriateness of this act (If you know me well enough you’d remember I’m a massive atheist, but, I like to keep my role as BULS’s Vice-Chair totally separate from religion). But here according to LabourList are the top 10 best tweets featuring those hashtags.
@4harrisons - And Cameron said “let there be growth” but lo! There was no growth
@mattedbrooke – And God said, “why have you eaten from the forbidden tree?” And Adam said, “we inherited this fruit from the labour government”
@ChrisBryantMP – Faith, hope and charity – have now been abolished as they were unproductive
@politic_animal – And on the seventh day he would have liked to have rested, but the government had opted out of the Working Time Directive
@lethandrel – And the lame were made to walk and the blind to see – well, according to the new assessments ….
@johnprescott – Blessed are the coalition for they shall inherit from and blame the last government
@cllr_robbins – Blessed are the freeschoolmakers: for they shall be called the children of Gove
@MatofKilburnia – And Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, which Gove did putteth in school dinners & lo Jamie Oliver was displeased
@GoodmotherMobbs – And the lepers were ‘cured’; as ATOS found them fit for work
@evilflea – And then He createth all of the beasts and the animals, excepteth the cat, which he did not make up.
For some reason, going back into the mists of time, the British people have an obsession with private home ownership, even though most of us should technically never be able to afford one without borrowing. In Continental Europe, people are far more satisfied to rent, either from private landlords or more ‘trustworthy’ institutions – maybe there is some correlation between these statistics and the lower levels of stress and dissatisfaction there compared to the UK.
Nevertheless, we are where we are, and there is no going back on the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1981 however much we might want to reverse it (indeed, many of us may actually agree with it, being as it was extremely popular with the low paid, who for the first time had a stake in their council homes and some sense of freedom, however delusional). What we have now is a housing crisis coming at the worst possible time, during a dire economic climate caused by sub-prime mortgages themselves.
Tensions over housing and its’ availability have an effect on many areas of life, including levels of antagonism towards immigrants, the environment, growth, inequality in our cities, personal debt, and of course the Daily Mail and Daily Express front pages. We need to deal with this timebomb if we are to stem a rise in far-right politics and avoid a lost generation of young people. However, worryingly this government is going about it completely the wrong way.
Not only has it made squatting illegal when there are more empty properties than there are homeless people in this country, but it has appallingly placed a cap on housing benefit, effectively pricing the poor out of our capital city and entire swathes of the country – those parts of the country which have job vacancies. The government is slashing the public sector and saddling young people who go to university with ever higher debt, meaning their chances of even being able to look forward to putting down a deposit are negligible.
What our housing market needs is a Keynesian-style investment in house building and construction; not only would this lower house prices for first-time buyers, but it would also ease tensions in the community and increase demand in the economy generally, leading to growth and the beginning of the end of the deficit that the ConDems love to remind us about so much. As a bonus, it would even lead to a return of Location Location Location to our TV screens. Gordon Brown’s plan before the proverbial shit hit the fan in 2007 was to build 3 million new homes – we need this sort of commitment now, coupled with a healthy proliferation of 1940s-inspired New Towns (hopefully better designed than the likes of Milton Keynes) and more social housing. Today’s announcement from Cameron and Clegg about guaranteeing 95% mortgages may look like a repetition of exactly what went wrong in the first place, but should not be dismissed entirely, as it is the taxpayer, not the banks, helping first-time buyers, and there is real potential for an increase in demand as a result.
However it goes nowhere near far enough. If we can’t get people to fall out of love with the owner-occupier dream, then we need to build, build, build, spending more money in the short term to get us out of the mess in the long term.
Yesterday we saw a good sign in the economy that inflation had fallen from 5.2% to 5%. We welcome it but it’s still not good enough, especially when Eurozone inflation has remained at a reasonable 3%. It seems however, this is rather irrelevant with the news released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) where unemployment has risen to 2.62 million from July to September.
That’s right, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer who over a year ago claimed “we were out of the woods” now had the audacity to have one of their Ministers for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, claim that ”What we’ve seen over the last quarter has been the real impact of the crisis in the eurozone”. That’s right, they’re blaming their old punch bag, Europe. Don’t get me wrong, the crisis in the Eurozone is severe, but it in now way at a stage to make a real impact on unemployment figures, especially in a non-Euro state.
With the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rising to 1.6 million by 5,300. The highest number of women out of work since February 1988 at 1.09 million rising by 43,000. Youth unemployment breaking the 1 million mark at 1.02 million with a rising by 67,000 and the unemployment rate of 8.3% being the highest since 1996 and the total number of unemployed people the highest since 1994, it’s about time Cameron and Gideon took another look at their plan.
With inflation around 5%, consumer confidence falling for four months on the trot, business confidence falling to a two year low, growth flat-lining in the past 9 months and growth expectations themselves being cut, you would have thought Gideon (George) Osborne would think things could not get any worse.
Well apparently they can. It seems 100 leading economists have written into the Observer to tell Gideon to adopt a plan B. Now while letters like this have been done in the past, the difference being that this time it has an alternative outline. It’s an alternative Miliband and Balls should take head to:
I think most of us can agree that sex education has an important role to play in public schools. But to what level of importance would you say it is?
To Conservative MP, Andrea Leadsom, it seems not very. Let’s put this into context. In England and Wales sex education is not a compulsory subject for public schools (I know for one that I personally received nothing at my High School) and that parents are allowed to “opt out” their child if the school does teach it. And you wonder why we have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe.
Anyway, back to Andrea Leadsom. It seems she believes that parents should have to “opt in” their children to sex education classes and that current sex education books are “inappropriate”. This is while a report published by Ofsted last year pointed out that a quarter of schools in England are not providing good enough lessons about sex, relationships and health. At the same time new research in the last couple of weeks provided information that “81% of 14 to 18-year-olds said their information came from the internet, the television and their friends.” and “one in four pupils do not have any sexual and relationship education in school.“.
Now some may say that abstinence only sex education is the only sound and “moral” way forward. But when we analyse this claim, it’s quite apparent that this argument is not grounded in research and facts. The Council of Scientific Affairs states that ”Current research findings do not support the position that the abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is effective in delaying the onset of intercourse.”.
I have already done a similar post on sex education before. But the point still stands, we need more not less sex education. If we truly want to tackle STDs, teenage pregnancies and yes, even abortions (again look to my previous post and subsequent comments regarding abortions) we need sound and effective sex education with no “opt-outs” for pushy and insecure parents.
So please Leadson, could the education system have some more.
David Cameron has a nerve. Not only has he U-turned over his pledge in opposition to hold a referendum over the UK’s terms of membership of the European Union, but today he had the temerity to force Nicolas Sarkozy to back down and accept his presence at key Eurozone talks to try to deal with the Greek debt crisis on Wednesday.
Once again, only one year into the new government, a Conservative prime minister is becoming about as stable on Europe as Edwina Currie is on her feet. We all know deep down he is a staunch Euro-sceptic, so why doesn’t he have the guts to come out and be frank with the British people, and say that he would love us to turn our backs on our continental partners, but that he also loves us to lecture and patronise them on economic policy, despite the fact that UK growth is anaemic at best, and backwards at worst, thanks to his policies.
A referendum on EU membership now would of course be absurd, but having called for one in opposition, the PM should stick to his guns and create a disunited and discredited government, and do us all a favour by breaking up the coalition and triggering a general election. You can’t have your bun and eat it, and you can’t be half in, half out, of the EU – leaving the Eurozone (or more accurately, Germany) to do all the hard work and then turning up to talks this week to act as one of the key players while facing a referendum proposal at home from your own backbenchers is hypocritical and downright embarrassing for Britain.
It was Ed Miliband, incidentally, who called on Cameron to give up his trip Down Under and attend the meeting, therefore whether or not you agree that Cameron has a right to be there, it is clear that the Labour leader is ahead of the curve on this one, as he was on phone hacking and as he was at PMQs this week.
It might sound like a cheap shot from the comforts of opposition – and we all know Blair and Brown disagreed over the Euro – however it is clear that yet again the Tories are divided over Europe. Europhile or Europhobe, this is one of the few reliable constants of the European project.
In light of the NHS reform bill being pushed through the House of Lords, I’d like to draw attention to what many Tories may be thinking now because of it.
Going to use a bit of the Brigid Jones BULS blog formula this morning.
It turns out there’s going to be the biggest drop in middle-income families incomes since the 1970s and so pushing 600,000 more children into poverty according to the IFS. This is while Gideon (George) Osborne has announced a £840 million tax break for multinationals using tax heavens while it turns out the amount of tax money lost in the FTSE 100 by tax avoidance is estimated to be £18bn. So much for the cuts being “progressive”.
To insult to misery, it turns out public sector job losses will 50% higher than originally predicted. So much for Cameron’s pre-election claim that any Minister who came to him with front-line public sector cuts would be told to go back and have a rethink.
After Gideon’s (Osborne’s) low-key and rather dull speech at the Tory Conference today where he claimed his economic plan to be working and even, dare I say it, “flexible”. I’d like to draw attention to the only aspect of Gideon’s plan that has so far proved to be “flexible”, the growth expectations by the IMF over the last 6 months or so, curtsey of LabourList:
The fact is, the CBI, the IMF and now even some Tory backbenchers and Chairs of Treasury select committees have called for a plan for growth or at least attempts to stimulate it. Like we said a few weeks ago, a temporary cut in VAT would be a huge stimulus as pointed out by the IFS.
It seems Gideon was only really to parade the the low interest rates in his speech, but with the abysmal growth over the last year or so, it seems we may have a rise in interest rates regardless if growth doesn’t pick up.
So please Gideon, think again.
It was announced yesterday (I think) that the UK has rejected a call by the EU to implement a financial tax of a mere 0.01% on bank transactions which could raise £50 billion a year.
I’d like to draw your attention to a video posted on this blog before about the absurdity of the Coalition decision to oppose the so-called ‘robin-tax hood’.
Yesterday Nick Clegg made a speech to the Liberal Democrat conference which was steadfast and robust in defence of the coalition’s economic policy, despite the depressing evidence this week that the economy isn’t changing course either from its current trajectory of nowhere. He promised there would be no turning back on the cuts and auterity, however many jobs are lost and however many people struggle to make ends meet thanks to the VAT rise and inflation.
Does this sound familar? It should. For although it is right that things never completely run in parallel, it is indeed the case that history may never repeat itself, but it rhymes. It was around this stage in the political and economic cycle – at a party conference – that Margaret Thatcher made the infamous ‘Lady’s not for turning’ speech. Then the UK witnessed riots on the streets, rampant unemployment, a royal wedding, a foreign intervention and a belligerent government hell-bent on destroying the fabric of our society. I barely exaggerate. Even shoulder pads are making something of a comeback in 2011.
However, maybe now is more like 1931, with a prolonged slump looming, a currency mechanism collapsing at the same time as the US economy, a rise in far right extremism and little help for the poor and jobless.We seem to be heading for continued gloom because of the Con Dems’ obsession with cutting the deficit too far and too fast, stifling growth and productivity and making the situation worse for all of us. Although they have won welcome concessions from the Tories on some issues, on the fundamentals Nick Clegg needs to wake up and pull out of this marriage of convenience for the sake of his party in future but also for the country. Just as in 1981 and 1931, ordinary people feel that overall Britain is going in the wrong direction or is in the doldrums - the only thing that would change that elusive yet crucial feeling of a lack of confidence is investment on Keynesian terms to jump-start the economy, a fall in VAT and a slower trimming of the excess we built up saving the banks from collapse. Unfortunately though it seems the Cleggy’s not for turning.
We won’t be able to post a full blog for a few nights given most of us are preparing for the Societies fare tomorrow and Friday. So we’d like to quickly share National Labour Students new campaign for a Living Wage. Like the minimum wage, it’s such a small act that can achieve so so much. I’m sure most in BULS can and will support this brilliant new campaign.
Do you know how much it costs to get from Selly Oak train station while I’m down in Birmingham for University to get back home to Chorley train station (a journey of around two and a half hours either way)? £29.25. Now this is of course bought (advance fares and all that) about a month in advance and with a student railcard which grants a third off fairs.
To cut to the chase, the UK has the most expensive rail fares in Europe with an additional 8% rise expected for next year. The UK is the only country in Europe to have a privatised rail industry. We subsidise the rail industry far more now in real terms than we did when it was nationalised. And we subsidise Virgin Rail alone £1.4 billion. Now in regards to the last point, I fail to see why Richard Branson should receive a penny of British tax payers money (not trying to sound too populistic).
Now for those who say, oh, but the quality of service is far superior to our European counterparts. Really?! For a start only yesterday Network Rail was warned on punctuality by the Office of Rail Regulation. And I have spent too many over-crowded train journeys on a Friday lunch time on a train from Birmingham New Street to Manchester Picadilly or Preston to say that the capacity is sorted.
Solution? Re-nationalise. We’ve been tampering with the system for around two decades. If it doesn’t work, move on and try something different. And I can assure you, this isn’t working.
It’s not often I agree with a Tory Minister, but Phillip Hammond is right when he says trains are now a rich man’s toy.
9/11 – A Warning from Recent History
For someone of the age of the current crop of Labour Students, it is particularly difficult to believe that it is ten years tomorrow since the lives of millions were changed forever on September 11th, 2001. Most of us were still in primary school at the time, and it is perhaps apt that our generation – one that was constantly told we were growing up too fast – had our innocence of the world around us robbed so suddenly on that bright Tuesday morning. Hearing and seeing the images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center still transfixes all of us, and as much as we might want to look away having seen enough, we can’t quite bring ourselves to stop watching.
However it is our generation – the 9/11 generation – who will be the politicians and headline-makers of the coming years, and if anything good can come of the last decade, it is surely the lesson that those in power have a responsibility not to overreact when faced with such onslaughts. Our party’s most successful leader (in electoral terms) no doubt had good intentions, but made the grave error of marching the troops gung-ho into an unplanned and illegal war, probably creating a whole new generation of terrorists in the process, while at home him and those around him were complicit in eroding many of the freedoms we were meant to be protecting, including detention without charge and freedom from torture. If the horror of terrorism reaches us again, we must pause and assess the causes before acting. The same rule should apply for other crises, like the riots this summer.
Backbench Tories Have Nothing To Worry About
Today is the final day of the Plaid Cymru autumn conference in Llandudno, north Wales. The outgoing leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, made his final conference speech yesterday after an electoral drubbing for the nationalist party in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Unlike in Scotland, where the SNP have been successful, he argued that coalition government in Cardiff Bay (of which Plaid was the junior party) meant Plaid’s achievements in government were smothered by Labour, and that the party was punished by voters for not claiming credit for them.
Aside from the fact that Plaid achieved very little in government in a time of economic turmoil other than a referendum with poor turnout which managed to bore even political anoraks, their experience in coalition should serve as a lesson to Westminster politics. This week Tory backbenchers, angry over law and order, Europe and abortion, moaned that the Lib Dem ‘tail’ was wagging the Tory ‘dog’ and that Nick Clegg was being given too many concessions by the Prime Minister. However come the election in 2015, the Tories will have nothing to worry about, as the voters are likely to give them sole credit for any successes – particularly if the economy picks up (not a given considering Osborne’s slash-and-burn approach) – and they will certainly not be looking to make some sort of permanent alliance with the Lib Dems, contrary to what some commentators are predicting. The coalition dog will probably have his tail docked when the voters are next given a choice.
About Bloody Time
This week the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood for life in Britain was finally overturned (although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the leap forward because the BBC thought Strictly Come Dancing was more important on the news bulletins that night). This is a triumph that equality campaigners have been working tirelessly for for years, and at last gay men will be able to save lives and help tackle the urgent need for more donors. No more will the official policy imply that gay men cannot be trusted to practice safe sex and ‘probably have HIV’.
Although the ban was only replaced with a one-year time lag since a donor’s last encounter, it is still progress, and puts us more in line with the situation in similar countries.
Our opposites in BUCF have today signalled the call for an idea which has been floating around for a few years now. Scrapping the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000 a year. Now this is all very well, I think everyone can agree that governments ought to do their best to keep taxation as low as they can depending on the expenditure, but to say “Getting rid of the 50p tax is not a tax break for the rich, but a common sense policy to stimulate growth and encourage positivity in investment.” is something I’m going to have disagree with BUCF’s former-President.
Keeping interests rates low and cutting taxes for “entrepreneurs” may be all very well, but it counts for nothing if there’s no expenditure from the general population. This is what’s happening now, with the greatest squeeze on household finances for two years due to rising inflation, benefit cuts and of course the regressive rise in VAT (which heavily contributed to the rise in inflation), it is no wonder retail sales, construction and growth expectations are down.
Now of course, this post is completely leaving aside the fact that the 50% tax band will raise an additional £12.6 billion over five years according to Treasury figures . The real point of this post is why not cut VAT again instead? The IFS itself said that this was an effective stimulus for consumer spending (the real power of growth) when VAT was briefly cut to 15% in 2009.
And also, on a more simplistic note, to cut taxes for the rich, and yes millionaires as well, at a time when household incomes are being squeezed is nothing less than insulting for those struggling to pay the bills.
In the light of Nadine Dorries’ plans to require “independent” organisation to consult with pregnant women, I’d like to point out the true facts of abortion and sex education in the UK and across the world. These are facts that the religious “independent” organisations seem to ignore and the same for many in the so-called Conservative Christian Fellowship.
Here are some facts about abortion and sex education.
This is a table taken from the LabourList website. Just lets you appreciate the good work Gideon Osborne has done for this country so far.
GDP Growth over the last three quarters
Ireland and Greece’s figures haven’t been released yet, but either way, it’s not looking good.
Yesterday a young man in his prime died needlessly following an incident with the police where a Taser gun was allegedly used by officers. The case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It would be premature for me to claim that police had been unreasonable in this case or to cast aspersions on Dale Burns, however the case has led to calls for a rethink over the use of Tasers by Amnesty International, and I echo their sentiments.
This is not the first time someone has died suspiciously not long after being subject to a Taser ‘shock’, yet still this and the previous government have both ordered their wider usage to please the ‘hang-em-and-flog-em’ brigade – no doubt they will be used more extensively as a method of crowd control following the riots. If police leaders can question politicians’ orders to use water cannon and rubber bullets where needed, citing Britain’s century-and-a-half long tradition of unarmed community policing, then why have they not criticised the authorisation of these brutal weapons? Anyone who has seen a video clip on Youtube where someone has volunteered to receive the shock treatment will tell you that it does not look pleasant.
Police officers are only human beings who can overreact like ordinary citizens, and in many public order situations can fear for their lives. However these weapons have not only been used against armed assailants but also when carrying out routine arrests on the most unthreatening of suspects, and in the US it has even been reported that sick and bored police have been ‘testing out’ their device on farm animals to pass the time. These weapons are lethal and do not discriminate between those bent on harming others and innocent bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; they do not ask questions. There are millions of people walking along Britain’s streets with heart problems – what if one of these went on a legitimate peaceful protest which turned violent and were Tasered trying to restore calm or quickly leave the scene?
Since the tragic cases of John Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, the tuition fees protests and following the riots of this month, police are in an unenviable position where they don’t know whether they are being too harsh or too soft in the heat of the moment. Despite this, however, the monstrous Taser should have no place on our streets.