Tag Archives: david cameron

Coalition whacks the poor in the wallet

Last night with his merry majority of 56, Iain Duncan Smith won his vote to cap benefits to a 1% (one percent) rise per year. The Tory logic is that “it’s not fair” on hard-working people (read: “deserving poor”) who haven’t had an wage rise for years.

Very well, but if you look at the list of welfare benefits that this change will effect, most are received by those in work on low incomes – for example, tax credits and income support. Even the Department for Work and Pensions, admitted the poorest would suffer most. That includes those in work, as well as those stuck on Jobseekers Allowance because the recession kicked them out of work.

So what is the point of these changes, if rather than help the poor, they actually push them closer to poverty. IDS referenced the answer in the debate yesterday when he said that Labour spent

“like drunks on a Friday night”.

Meaning that this is not so much about benefit reform as deficit reduction. Then the question is, why do you expect the poor to pay off the deficit? What do you expect to get out of someone on a very low income, apart from beans and crumbs? It seems that by targeting a section of the poor perceived to be scroungers, (and Labour are just as guilty of using this inflammatory language) public attention is diverted away from the real scroungers and cheats – the large corporations and mega-rich individuals who exploit every loophole going to avoid paying the correct amount of tax. That’s you, Vodafone, Amazon, Starbucks and Lord Ashcroft! If the public realised that the financial problems aren’t caused by a single mother struggling to feed her kids on a tiny wage and tax credits, then the Tories may just be worried.

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The Paralympics and Atos

(It’s a slightly black joke, but all good satire is slightly dark)

As we all watch the Paralympics and smile patronisingly at the disabled people competing, a good number of the population sense the irony in one of LOCOG’s choice of sponsors. Atos – also the government’s choice of stick to beat the disabled into work. Are they standing in the changing rooms with clip boards assessing the athletes? “Right. You’ve just wheeled 100m in twenty seconds, you’re fit for work.”

That may not be accurate, but it’s a good illustration of what the company is doing to disabled people across the country. From people in wheelchairs to cancer patients to the visually impaired. People with a range of disabilities have been given less than the 15 points required for Employment and Support Allowance, and are declared fit for work.

To most people this would seem illogical. How can you force people who are not in the physical shape to work? A cancer patient is too sick to have to add work to the schedule of chemo and radiotherapy. A visually impaired person cannot be expected to see dangers, and would be a danger to themselves and others a workplace. How can Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions decide that a wheelchair-bound person is able to work, when many areas of public transport are not open to them? Then there’s an issue of throwing more people into the job cattle market, when there are no jobs to apply for.

See the irony? A stage for people with disabilities (and good at sport) to shine, being sponsored by a company that is contracted to make their lives as horrible as possible. No matter how much the coalition say, “oh we’ve got to cut public spending”, “the previous government left the country’s finances in a mess” – it does not justify picking on those less able or disadvantaged.

So, while you watch the Paralympic coverage and marvel at those disabled people who excel at sport – remember that many people like them (without the “good at sport” bit) are having to fight a dirty war for something they are entitled to.

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Robin of Andalucia

In a town in Andalucia, southern Spain, the mayor is staging robberies of supermarkets (all proceeds go to the poor) and marching across the desert trying to convince other local government officials to ignore central government demands for austerity. The Guardian paints him as a slightly eccentric folk hero and Spanish newspaper El Pais seems to be filing him in the “Dangerous Revolutionary” drawer.

So far, so heart-warming. It’s a guy angry at the way [insert country here]’s government have been punishing the poor for the greed of the rich, and thinking stealing on their behalf is the best way to prove a point. A modern day Robin Hood to cheer us up amid the rain, post-Olympic blues and recession. The end.

If it were that simple, then the media could portray him as a criminal and move along. However, look a little closer and you will find out that rather than a random act of criminality inspired by righteous anger – Mayor Juan Sanchez Gordillo actually has a working economic plan.

The New York Times reported on the low unemployment and low cost of living in Marinaleda about three years ago. No one is out of work for long, as the local farming co-operative will find work for them. This idea is so attractive, that people are moving from as far as Barcelona in search of work there. High employment, low and comfortable cost of living mean more disposable income floating around.

Imagine that – government creating work for people so they don’t starve during a recession! Why didn’t you think of that, Cameron and Osborne?

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Is the UK’s democracy in decline?

Interesting – and slightly worrying – piece in The Guardian this evening about the sorry state of democracy in the UK. It’s illustrated with a photograph of Boris Johnson, but I’m sure that is nothing to do with the actual story!

Anyway a group called Democratic Audit has shared the findings of its report with the Guardian, and the conclusions paint a bleak picture. While devolution and Parliamentary select committees were welcomed (because the latter does a good job at holding the likes of Rupert Murdoch to account), it’s concerns were over how much parliament really represents us and how much power corporations hold over us.

Now, in the last few years Parliament has had enough scandal to turn most of the country away from politics. The expenses saga showed us that a lot of our so-called representatives are more concerned about lining their own pockets than their constituents. The state of the economy and the worries over cuts to services mean that the public see a government full of wealthy young men, out of touch with the majority of the population, who never have to worry about Workfare or the closure of their local libraries. The Phone Hacking scandal and the subsequent Leveson Inquiry showed us just how close big business, government and parts of the state really are. The question the report’s author asks is,

Britons could soon have to ask themselves “whether it’s really representative democracy any more?”

Is the government representative of the whole country, or just the interests of Murdoch and Eton Old Boys?

That said, there is a strong civil society opposition to the public spending cuts, like the local opposition to the closure of Friern Barnet Library and the UK Uncut group which plans sit-ins against corporations known to be guilty of tax evasion. The internet and twitter are full of active bloggers and politicos – though these might be the kind of people who aren’t ever going to be disillusioned by politics, no matter how many Eton Old Boys are thrown into government. Indeed, politics is becoming an interest for the minority, while most people look from the outside and see back-stabbers, expenses-fiddlers, careerists and out of touch rich boys arguing amongst themselves, whilst making sure they steer well clear.

The sad thing is, if we don’t reach out to the people alienated and fed up of politics, then the democratic deficit is only going to get bigger.

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Why Cameron can’t sack Hunt

Baroness Warsi: Takes family member on official trip, and fails to disclose business interest.
Jeremy Hunt: Responsible for overseeing the BskyB takeover (which would have required impartial judgement). Sends texts and makes phone calls to James Murdoch, congratulating him whenever the bid made some progress.

Now, who did David Cameron refer to the Ministerial Code Advisor? Only Baroness Warsi. Hunt, who was clearly too close to The Murdochs to judge the BskyB bid impartially – something that we all knew then, and was confirmed with his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry – survives for now. Both have done wrong but the Prime Minister protects one of them, and it’s very obvious why.

1. Andy Coulson – Ex News of the Screws editor, Ex communications chief at Number 10 and just this week charged with Perjury by a Scottish court for lying under oath during the perjury trial of Tommy Sheridan. Coulson resigned from NOTW, remarkably claims to know nothing about phone-hacking and later resigned from his job at Number 10. Cameron refused to send Coulson away with his P45. You could argue that Coulson might not have known about phone hacking, but that would just make him an incompetent boss. Incompetent or criminal – neither justify keeping him at Number 10 for so long.

2. Rebekah and Charlie Brooks – Close friends of David Cameron who were recently charged with perverting the course of justice. Rebekah Brooks was the editor of another Murdoch tabloid The Sun, has been described as like a daughter to Murdoch and last year resigned from her News International position as the Phone Hacking story really blew up.

So, you might say. Cameron’s surrounded by ex-Murdoch employees, doesn’t mean he’s close to Murdoch. Well, a quick Google search for “Cameron and Murdoch” reveals,

The PM met a News Corp board member secretly in November 2009. If there was nothing untoward in this meeting, why did he not disclose it sooner?

Rebekah Brooks mentioned in her evidence to the Leveson Inquiry that Cameron had met her and the Murdochs at social occasions. Also, James Murdoch discussed the BskyB deal with Cameron over dinner.

It’s worth remembering that Hunt was handed the responsibility for judging the BskyB deal after Vince Cable had been recorded saying he had “declared war on Murdoch”, and was deemed to be too partisan. Interesting then that they should choose someone partisan towards Murdoch. They couldn’t have Murdoch’s bid for domination of the sky halted by some old man who hated Murdoch.

So it’s obvious that Cameron is so deeply involved in the Murdoch family, that he can’t possibly refer Hunt to Ministerial Codeman or remove him from the cabinet. In this case, they really are all in it together.

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François Hollande: A rejection of Austerity?

It was interesting reading the twitter reaction to François Hollande’s victory in the French Presidential Election yesterday evening.  Those on the Right complained about the high tax rate that he might impose on the rich (fairness is a concept lost on the Right), while Lefties cheered and welcomed M. Hollande as a rejection of the austerity projects being carried out by many European governments at the moment.

Now, I’m not in the position at the moment to determine the exact factors surrounding Nicholas Sarkozy’s ejection from the Elysée Palace, but if you look at the reaction of people across Europe you get the impression that austerity isn’t popular.  From here in the UK were the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took a battering in the local elections, to Greece where the radical, anti-austerity parties received a lot of support, to France with Hollande’s victorious, pro-growth campaign.

Surely this spells out to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne that people do not like losing their public services to pay for the mistakes of the financial sector. People are a little angry that their local library has been closed down, while the likes of Vodafone and Goldman Sachs are avoiding paying their multi-million pound tax bills. The Right might say “the people have voted for financial irresponsibility”, but the reality is people are fed up of governments supporting the rich and squeezing the poor.

Is François Hollande’s victory a rejection of Austerity? I hope so.

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