Tag: Anti-austerity

Public and Commercial Services Union wins £3 million compensation from the Department for Work and Pensions

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The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has won a major victory over the government. The High Court has ruled that ministers acted illegally by withdrawing check-off, the decades-old practice of collecting members’ union subscriptions directly from their pay packet.

The union has won £3 million from the government because of the illegal moves the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) used to try to ‘crush’ the PCS.

In 2015 the union was at the heart of opposition to the government, fighting against the government’s cuts and closures andchallenging when the Conservatives were robbing members of their redundancy rights. The union were steadfast in opposing austerity.

As a result the then Conservative Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, took a particularly vicious and authoritarian decision to attack members’ terms and conditions, also launching an offensive on union reps and attempting to bankrupt the PCS. Maude announced overnight that he would not allow members to pay their union subscriptions directly from their pay packets. However, this was a system that had been in operation for many decades. A union spokesperson said he did that because he knew that 90% of the union’s  income came from that method.

Magnificent campaign

PCS say: “In a magnificent campaign we signed up over 160,000 members to pay their subs by direct debit in a matter of weeks and months to stop us from going bankrupt and to ensure we could continue to represent members at work. We also took legal action in the High Court to show that the government had acted illegally, and to get compensation. Today that case has been settled and in a humiliating defeat for the government, in its attempt to smash PCS and other unions in the public sector, it has to pay £3 million compensation and all of our legal costs.

“In the DWP, reps and members worked hard together to ensure that PCS didn’t suffer as a result of check-off ending. Fran Heathcote, DWP President said ‘Our members recognised this attack for what it was, and it is pleasing to learn that the courts have recognised that too’.

“We now plan to take legal action against every major government department because of the illegal way they’ve treated us.”

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Today’s announcement tells us we have settled one departmental case on union busting, we have many more to come. That’s good news for all of us, and now we’ll ensure we use that money to benefit our members.

“This goes to show that this union can win. We can win in the courts and we can win through campaigning. We’ve defeated the government on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and we’re waiting for the outcome of a judicial review on the way the government handled pay this year because we believe they did not consult us lawfully. But we’ve got more campaigns to fight. We’ve still got to challenge the government on pay, and ensure that next year we can win above inflation pay rises.

“We will continue to take them to court when we can, but the key to winning is to be a stronger union in every workplace. If you know a colleague who hasn’t joined PCS, please urge them to join. If you’re a member consider becoming a rep. The more of us who are in the union, the more of us who are active means we won’t just beat the government in court we will beat them in our campaigning, too.”

I say well done. A splendid, well fought victory.

 

Related

Why I strongly support Trade Unionism

The link between Trade Unionism and equality

The “Let Lynton Lobby Bill” – Grubby Partisan Politics and a Trojan Horse

 


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The Labour Party is considering a Universal Basic Income policy

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There was some speculation last year about the possibility of the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, lending his support to the idea of basic universal income. Basic income (which is sometimes called “citizen’s income” or “universal income”) is the idea that absolute poverty can be alleviated by providing every member of a society with an unconditional subsistence income. Supporters of basic income argue that it would alleviate absolute poverty and would also motivate people to work because they would always better off, as work-related income would be additional to their subsistence income. 

Jeremy Corbyn had stated during the leadership contest that he was interested in the idea of a “guaranteed social wage” but that he believed there were issues that needed to be worked through.

Richard Murphy is a highly esteemed economist at Tax Research UK and an advocate of basic income. He’s also the co-author of Financing the Social State (pdf), which recommends the implementation of basic income in the U.K. This policy paper was published in 2013 by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies. Grassroots supporters across the left are happy to see Richard Murphy is involved in drafting Corbyn’s economic policy.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has said that the Labour Party will consider universal basic income as a part of its new policy, during a recent talk at the London School of Economics. He said: “It’s an idea we want to look at. Child benefit was a form of basic income so it’s not something that I would rule out.”

At the very least, this indicates the idea of universal provision has regained some credence in the face of a longstanding and seemingly unchallengeable political norm of increasing means-testing and welfare conditionality, established by the Thatcher adminstration, and radically extended by the current government.

McDonnell also said that economists were “close to consensus” that the Conservative Party’s austerity policies had failed, highlighting a largely welcomed and clear opposition to rigid, neoliberal Osbornomics. It’s true that austerity was founded purely on ideology and traditional Conservative prejudices, it was a political decision taken in the context of better alternatives and more humane choices. The poorest citizens have been targeted for the largest proportion of austerity cuts, with disabled people carrying the financial largest burden. It’s worth remembering that after the global recession of 2007, we were in economic recovery by the last quarter of 2009, without any need for austerity.

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Last month, an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the policy, tabled by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, calls on the Government to commission research into the idea of universal basic income’s effects and examine its feasibility to replace the UK’s existing social security system, instead paying all citizens a flat, unconditional income, which would likely come in place of existing social security measures like means-tested benefits.

The motion, which raises the profile of the idea, says the policy “has the potential to offer genuine social security to all while boosting entrepreneurialism.”

But opponents of the basic income have raised concerns including work disincentives, lack of targeted support for those most in need, and the size of the political spending commitment required.

Lucas says:

“The basic income offers genuine social security to everyone and sweeps away most of the bureaucracy of the current welfare system. Fundamentally it would allow people the freedom and flexibility to do more of what they want to do – as well as supporting them in the caring roles they might need – or choose – to do,” she said.

“A basic income would also protect people from rising insecurity in our increasingly ‘flexible’ labour market and help rebuild our crumbling welfare state. I also know from speaking to people in my own constituency that the stability of a basic income could be a real boost to freelancers and entrepreneurs who need support to experiment, learn and take risks, while keeping their heads above water.”

“It’s crucial that any shift towards this bold new policy protects and increases the income for the poorest and those who aren’t able to work. A universal payment for all must not undermine additional help for those who need it most.”

However, last year, the Citizen’s Income Trust (CIT), which has given advice to the Green Party and often cited by the Greens, has modelled the party’s scheme and discovered a major design flaw. It was revealed that that 35.15% of households would lose money, with many of the biggest losers among the poorest households. At the time, Malcolm Torry, director of the CIT, which is a small charitable research body, said: “I am not sure the Green party has yet taken on our new research or the need to retain a means-tested element. We have only just published the new work.”

The criticisms of the scheme, as well as doubts about costings, led the Greens to make a temporary tactical retreat on the issue, with the party’s leader, Natalie Bennett, saying detailed costings for the policy would not be available in the manifesto last March. The Greens had proposed a citizen’s income of around £72 to every adult in Britain regardless of wealth and existing income, which would cost the Treasury around £280bn.

One longstanding criticism of basic income is that it would provide  payments to citizens that are already very wealthy, perpetuating social inequality, and wasting resources.

The CIT added that if the policy was applied without a means-tested component, then poorer households would end up receiving far less in state benefits than they would under the existing system. 

In 2012, an affordability study done in the Republic of Ireland by Social Justice Ireland found that basic income would be affordable with a 45% income tax rate. This would lead to an improvement in income for the majority of the population.

At a time when the politically planned decline in state provision leaves us questioning how we may prepare for the future, state provision funded by taxation seems by far the most fair way of providing for social support in the long term, and is part of a philosophy that each person, community and society as a whole should care for all. Furthermore, as we have witnessed the biggest and most sustained drop in wages since the 1800s, the government’s assurances that “work is the only route from poverty” no longer carry weight and credibility. For many, work does not “pay.”

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Collectivist values are under threat – the failure of “reformed” social security, which has in reality entailed ideologically-driven cuts to the poorest people’s lifeline income, leaves people marginalised, excluded from society, and increasingly, in absolute poverty, is clear evidence of this loss of the core principles of community cohesion, consensus and the post-war collectivist spirit. Collectivism is founded on the idea that everyone has equal worth, and that equality does not imply a lack of unique individuality, but an equal amount of freedom and equal opportunity to develop one’s own potential. Collectivists also tend to strongly favour inclusion and democratic decision-making.

One valid concern about raising people’s household wealth through citizen’s income is that it would encourage inflation. The price of services may rise. Rents may be hiked by private landlords, for example. After the introduction of child tax credits, many private childcare companies subsquently massively increased their prices, and it wasn’t unusual for some to demand payments for a full year, which included periods when childcare wasn’t required. An introduction of basic income must also, therefore, include a package of anti-inflationary measures (such as rent caps) or the value of the payment will soon be eroded, as basic costs for essentials and services rise.

One of the strongest arguments for basic income is that people would no longer be compelled to work in order to meet their basic needs. This means that employers would find it difficult to exploit workers, and would be pushed to offer decent wages, good terms and employment conditions in order to attract workers. People would have greater freedom to pursue meaningful, suitable and appropriate employment rather than having to take any job to avoid poverty and destitution.

However, opponents claim that the incentive to work would be destroyed because basic income is unconditional. Nonetheless it’s difficult to justify dehumanising policies that keep people financially desperate so that they take any job, regardless of its pay, security, terms and conditions. That ignores the fact that people have potential, skills and talents, and simply reduces working to a way of meeting only basic survival needs, which demotivates people and means that they are not willing participants in their working lives. Very wealthy people that inherited fortunes often continue to work, it’s a nonsense that keeping people close to starvation can “incentivise” them in any way at all, other than to fight for their survival. That reduces and regresses society, uncivilising us.

De-commodifying labor by decoupling work from income liberates people from the “tyranny of wage slaveryand leaves a space for innovation, creativitity and rebalances power relationships between wealthy, profit-motivated employers and employees.

There is little support for basic income from the Conservatives, as a means of redistributing income. Whilst a handful of right-wing advocates of basic income generally favour the minimisation or abolition of the public provision of welfare, some have cited basic income as a viable strategy to reduce the amount of bureaucratic administration that is prevalent in many contemporary welfare systems.

Yet we have seen an unprecedented increase in a dark, unaccountable  bureacracy this past five years, with private companies such as Atos, Maximus, and the likes of A4E and other private welfare-for-work providers marking the increased conditionality of welfare support – for both out of work support, and soon, for support paid to those in low paid and part-time work. Conservative inclination has been towards substantially raising the (increasingly privatised and for profit) administrative costs of welfare, whilst at the same time radically reducing the lifeline benefits for people needing support for meeting basic needs.

Conservatives may well raise the “something for nothing” objection to basic income, which is founded on the absurd idea that the only way people may contribute to society is through paid labor. Yet non-remunerated activities such as bringing up children, caring for elderly or sick and disabled relatives, supporting vulnerable neighbours, community work, volunteering for charities or investing time and effort in other voluntary endeavours such as contributions to the arts, sharing knowledge, education, writing, are all clearly valuable contributions to society, but these skills and activities have been steadily devalued, whilst providing an increasingly passive, exploitable, disposable (“flexible”) labor force for employers is seen by the Conservatives as somehow fulfiling the best of our potential.

The Conservatives would have us believe that any kind of social security system, which supports the casualties of free-markets, somehow creates those casualties, via vague pet theories of unverified mechanisms such as a “culture of dependency” and a “something for nothing” culture. But we know that the competitive, market choice-driven Tory policies create a few haves and many have-nots.

Even the most ardent neoliberalist would concede that whilst such a free-market system creates clear winners, it also invariably creates casualities – situations of insolvency for others. Inequality is a fundamental element of the meritocracy script that neoliberals so often pull from the top pockets of their bespoke suits. It’s the big contradiction in the smug, vehement meritocrat’s competitive individualism narrative.

This is why the welfare state came into being, after all – because when we allow such competitive economic dogmas to manifest, there are always winners and losers. It’s hardly “fair”, therefore, to leave the casualties of competition facing destitution and starvation, with a hefty, cruel and patronising barrage of calculated psychopolicical scapegoating, politically-directed cultural blamestorming, and a coercive, pathologising and punitive behaviourist approach to the casualities of inbuilt, systemic, inevitable and pre-designated sentences of economic exclusion and poverty.

For me, the most compelling argument for a basic income comes from Abraham Maslow, who was humanist psychologist. He proposed his classical theory of motivation and the hierarchical nature of human needs in 1943. Maslow said basically that the imperative to fulfil basic needs will become stronger the longer the duration that they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food, the more hungry and preoccupied with food they will become.

So, a person must satisfy lower level basic biological needs before progressing on to meet higher level personal growth needs. A pressing need would have to be satisfied before someone would give their attention to the next highest need. If a person has not managed to meet their basic physical needs, it’s highly unlikely that they will be motivated to fulfil higher level psychosocial ones.

Maslow’s theory has certainly been verified by the findings of the Minnesota semi-starvation Experiment, and other studies of the effects of food deprivation. Abraham Maslow’s humanist account of motivation also highlights the same connection between fundamental motives and immediate situational threats.

The experiment highlighted a striking sense of immediacy and fixation that arises when there are barriers to fulfiling basic physical needs – human motivation is frozen to meet survival needs, which take precedence over all other needs. This is observed and reflected in both the researcher’s and the subject’s accounts throughout the study. If a person is starving, the desire to obtain food will trump all other goals and dominate the person’s thought processes. This idea of cognitive priority is also clearly expressed in Maslow’s needs hierarchy. 

In a nutshell, this means that if people can’t meet their basic survival needs, it is extremely unlikely that they will have either the capability or motivation to meet higher level psychosocial needs, including personal aspirations, social obligations and responsibilities, and the capacity to seek employment.

Keeping people in a state of desperation to meet their basic needs damages social cohesion, places limits on both individual’s and society’s developmental and progressive potential: it stifles personal and social growth. A basic income would liberate people from the all-consuming struggle to meet basic survival needs, allowing them to live meaningful lives. A basic income would rebalance citizen’s rights and responsibilities fairly. It would also ensure that the state does not abuse and exploit socially protected groups.

As a very wealthy first-world nation, ensuring that all citizens can meet their basic needs for food, fuel and shelter is the very least we ought to expect from a so-called democratic government.

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Maslow’s classic hierarchy of human needs

 

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Sturgeon’s threats demonstrate the anti-democratic, uncooperative inflexibility of nationalism

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Thanks to Dr Éoin Clarke for the infographic

Nicola Sturgeon threatened that she would be prepared to have her MPs vote down a Labour Budget if Ed Miliband was not prepared to cut a deal with the Nationalists at Westminster. Taking part in a live televised debate in Edinburgh with the leaders of the other three main Scottish parties, Ms Sturgeon said she intended to block Labour’s first Budget before negotiating a series of amendments. The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader’s position, revealed just days ahead of Thursday’s general election, was immediately seized upon by the Conservatives as the tedious stuck record styled electioneering “evidence” yet again that a Labour government supported by Ms Sturgeon’s party would result in “absolute chaos” for the country.

Bravo, Nicola Sturgeon. She seems determined to allow a Conservatve victory because of her constant and unqualified attacks on the Labour Party, the issuing of threats like this one, and the perpetuation of nationalist myths aimed at undermining the chance of a Labour victory. It’s bad enough with the Tories’ scaremongering in the press about the prospect of a Labour/Scottish National Party coalition, without Sturgeon fueling it.

I have to add that Cameron’s claim, repeated ad nauseum, that a minority Labour government would be held hostage by the SNP is purely propagandarised tosh. The truth is that the SNP will not in reality be able to hold a minority Labour government hostage unless the Tories allow them to do so, because of course, the Tories also get to vote on things like budgets, defence and so forth, in Parliament.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said that Sturgeon had already threatened to block his party’s Queen’s Speech.

It’s worth a reminder at this point that crucially, the Scottish National Party’s spending plans imply deeper cuts than Labour’s plans entail over the next five years, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in a report last month, highlighting a “considerable disconnect” between the nationalists’ rhetoric on austerity and their policies.

“The “anti-austerity rhetoric” of the Scottish National Party is not matched by its detailed spending plans and it would impose deeper cuts than Labour,” said the respected independent fiscal watchdog. The IFS also said that austerity would last longer under the SNP than under the other parties.

Furthermore, the IFS stated: “There is a considerable disconnect between this [SNP] rhetoric and their stated plans for total spending, which imply a lower level of spending by 2019–20 than Labour’s plans.”

This exposes Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to portray Labour as “Tory-lite” on spending cuts for the outright lie that it is. Sturgeon is no longer credible on every claim she has made, parading the SNP as the only alternative to austerity. In plain language, Carl Emmerson, deputy Director of the IFS said: “There would be more spending cuts under the SNP than under Labour or the Liberal Democrats according to the numbers in the SNP manifesto.”

Shadow Scottish Secretary and Scottish Labour Glasgow East candidate Margaret Curran said: “For all the bombast and the bluster of the SNP it has now been conclusively shown that their anti-austerity posturing is nothing more than a front. Their plans would extend austerity and harm Scotland. And as is always the case the cuts would be felt by the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities. We cannot let that happen.”

She added: “The choice is now simple – continued austerity with the SNP, or an end to Tory austerity with Scottish Labour.”

Nicola Sturgeon claimed to have committed her party to kicking the Tories out of Downing Street. It might be a tad tricky for her to explain to her supporters a Commons vote which could, in theory, allow the Tories back in again. That’s why, it’s was a positive move on Miliband’s part to call her bluff.

And let’s look carefully at the details: Milband has not ruled out the possibility of discussions, consultations, or taking into consideration SNP views when framing future legislation. But he has made it clear he will not be manipulated or threatened.

The Conservative plans to eliminate the deficit implied at least £10bn a year of unspecified cuts to child benefit, tax credits, housing benefit, disability benefits and other working age benefits out of a total budget of about £100bn,” the IFS said in their report

Even if these cuts were achieved, the Tories would have to cut unprotected departments’ budgets by another 18 per cent in real terms, about the same amount again as over the past five years. These cuts are also unspecified by the Conservatives, who have chosen, undemocratically, to hide the details from the electorate. We simply cannot risk another term of devastating Tory cuts to our welfare, public services and the NHS. Especially considering that risk would be founded on misinformation and lies.

Sturgeon’s most recent revelation that the party could bring the Budget of a Labour government down came under fire from Kezia Dugdale, Labour’s deputy leader in Scotland.

Ms Dugdale said: “Many people who have trusted Nicola Sturgeon will be shocked to hear her say she will vote down a ­Labour Budget. A Budget which will bring in measures such as the mansion tax and the bankers’ bonus tax.

“This shows that the people of Scotland should not gamble with the SNP.”

Ed Miliband, a principled internationalist, said: “Nationalism never built a school. It never lifted people out of poverty. It never created a welfare state that healed the sick and protected our most vulnerable. Nationalism cannot create the jobs we need.”

“Labour believes in “the principles of sharing and solidarity”, he added, “that underpin the partnerships of four nations in the modern UK.”

He said: “If we set England against Scotland, if we set any part of our country against another, it does not help working people, it harms working people. It undermines the ability to share resources. It drives down wages and conditions in the race to the bottom.”

Mr Miliband hit back at Ms Sturgeon’s claims that if Labour “fails to work with the SNP,” this would see David Cameron win a second term as Prime Minister. He added that if the Scottish Nationalists win dozens of seats from Labour in Scotland, this would increase Tory chances of being the largest party.

Mr Miliband vowed: “I will never put the Tories into government. I have spent my entire political career fighting them.”

However Nicola Sturgeon has spent most of her career fighting the Labour Party and propagating lies about them. (See A crib sheet of responses to the crib sheet of lies about the Labour Party: Part one and Part Two.)

Sturgeon has suggested that though the SNP could be relied upon to help “lock out” the Tories from power, she would “be inclined,” if voting in England, to endorse the Greens.

Doing the latter, it should be observed, makes achieving the former rather less likely. The more Green MPs there are the fewer Labour MPs there are and the fewer Labour MPs there are the more probable it is that David Cameron somehow stumbles his way into a second term. Sturgeon has some strange logic.

Given that the IFS have said that the true scale of the gap between Labour and the Tories has been further revealed – director Paul Johnson said at the post-Budget briefing: “Our latest estimates suggest that Labour would be able to meet its fiscal targets with no cuts at all after 2015-16,” Sturgeon’s ridiculously unevidenced, pure electioneering claim that Labour are “Tory-lite” – so easily refuted – is just one of the many lies she has told, and gives us good reason not to trust her.

If the SNP remain so aggressively uncompromising, divisive, chancing manipulation instead of cooperation, they will usher in another Tory government at Westminster, and in that event, they will certainly face paying a heavy political price among their supporters – as happened in 1979. Unfortunately, the rest of the UK will also pay a heavy price.

Despite Sturgeon’s undoubted rhetoric skill, Scottish nationalism continues to be what all nationalism always has been: parochial, vicious, ugly, divisive and insular. It’s evident that this has fostered a narrow tribalism, an inability to negotiate, or to build cooperation, and an inability to understand and comprehend the rational, logic and legitimacy of differing opinions, which is very evident in the non-democratic threats that Sturgeon has issued. It’s a pity she doesn’t oppose the Conservatives, rather than attacking the only viable progressive party for the UK. Sturgeon presents a superficial progressive rhetoric with no integrity, and no grounding in reality. The SNP’s self-claimed progressive credentials don’t stand up to scrutiny. When Sturgeon was asked at her manifesto launch to name a redistributive policy enacted by the SNP in Holyrood, she was unable to cite a single example.

Sturgeon simply chats about progressive ideas to advance the regressive goal of separatism. It’s all style, with no real substance at all. Other than a clan SNP nationalist agenda.

For people living in England, NOTHING is more important than getting the Tories out. I suspect that is true for many in Scotland, too.  So please make sure that your vote is a considered, informed and responsible one. If the Tories get another term, we will lose all of the gains of our post-war settlement. We will see our Human Rights Act repealed, (Labour’s legislation, and Cameron has also pledged to leave the European Convention.) That is why we MUST ensure that the Tories don’t get the opportunity, preferably ever again.

The only sure way of defeating the Tories is with a Labour majority.

Related

The real progressive in the leader’s debate is Ed Miliband

SNP appeal to Tory voters: We are just like you

If you think the SNP are a left-wing force, think again – David Clark


 Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes

You’d have to be Green to believe the Green Party: two more lies exposed.

PANews+BT_N0321471377269205233A_I1“David Cameron and George Osborne believe the only way to persuade millionaires to work harder is to give them more money. But they also seem to believe that the only way to make you (ordinary people) work harder is to take money away.” Ed Miliband. Source: Hansard, 12 December, 2012

The Tories have trashed the economy, damaged the very structure of our society and destroyed people’s lives. We have seen the return of absolute poverty, malnutrition and illnesses not seen since Victorian times. People have died as a consequence of Tory policies. What do the Green Party do? Lie about the Labour Party.

The Green Party are not opposing Tory austerity: they are opposing what is currently the only credible alternative instead. They prefer to undermine those that ARE challenging the Coalition regarding policies that are having devastating consequences on the poorest and most vulnerable citizens. That’s very telling. I fully support some Green policies, and wish that the Left generally would work in a much more collaborative way. Really that’s the only way of effectively challenging the current neoliberal conservative dominant paradigm.

Given an opportunity to engage in genuine political conversation and to cooperate in opposing the Tory-led draconian policies, those parties claiming to be “further left” than Labour have instead behaved exactly like the Tories. They chose to undermine Labour. These are parties that prioritise grandstanding and electioneering above the needs of the public. That has entailed lying and smearing campaigns. Yet we all share many of the same aims and objectives, values and principles. The infighting simply weakens a broader and more important progressive Movement.

Here are two examples of lies that are currently being circulated on Facebook and elsewhere by the Green Party and the Scottish National Party (SNP), amongst others:

Lie number 1: “Rachel Reeves said she would be tougher on welfare.”

Rachel Reeves has NEVER said she will be “tougher on welfare.” Those saying that she did are lying. She issued a statement shortly after being misquoted. It was Natalie Bennett who perpetuated that misquote too, originally from the Observer. (See Bennett’s article: Rachel Reeves is clear: Labour would set the struggling against the poorest.)

What Rachel actually said was she would be “tougher on the CAUSES of high welfare spending – such as low wages, unemployment, high private sector rents, private company contracts and outsourcing – especially that of Iain Duncan Smith: his vanity projects have cost us millions because contracted private companies have failed to deliver services, the policies are ill-conceived, creating higher costs, ultimately, rather than making any savings as the Tories claimed – the bedroom tax being an example.

The fact that Rachel Reeves was misquoted was clarified to Caroline Lucas too, so the Green Party have no excuse for shamefully lying about the Labour Party’s policy intentions.

In the middle of crucial debate about the Work Capability Assessment and the plight of disabled people because of Coalition policies, initiated by the WOW campaign, Lucas lost all of my respect when she chose political point scoring instead of constructive debate and said this:

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I was disappointed that Rachel Reeves, on taking up her post as shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, used the opportunity of her first interview to say that she would be tougher than the Tories on people on benefits.

Kate Green (Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions); Stretford and Urmston, Labour); My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West did not say that. She said that she would be tougher on welfare spending, not on people on benefits.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East, Labour); Does the hon. Lady agree that there are some forms of welfare spending that we should bring down? In my view, one of those is the excessive amount that is paid to private landlords through housing benefit. I am certainly in favour of reducing that form of welfare spending. Is she not?

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I am very much in favour of that if the hon. Lady wants to put it under the heading of welfare spending... Source: Hansard which is the parliamentary record. (See: 27 Feb 2014 : Column 457  at 1.29 pm, on the 2nd page.)

Nonetheless the Green Party has continued to misquote Reeves, to my disgust, using negative campaigning and smear tactics akin to the Tories to promote their own party. It’s time that some people distinguished between welfare spending and benefits, to conflate the two purely for political gain is deplorable, dishonest and not in the best interests of the electorate.

Lie number 2: “Labour voted for austerity.”

This is such a blatant lie. The vote, clearly stated on the Hansard record (see 13 Jan 2015: Column 738, Charter for Budget Responsibility), was pertaining strictly to the motion: “That the Charter for Budget Responsibility : Autumn Statement 2014 update, which was laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.”  That isn’t about austerity.

The charter sets out that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) will continue to monitor our fiscal rules. As we know, the  OBR has written extremely critical economic forecasts and analysis of austerity and the Tory spending cuts, clearly expressing the risks that the Chancellor is running and the scale of the damage his strategy will inflict on what remains of our public services.

It’s worth noting that whilst Ed Balls challenged Osborne, there was a curious silence from the  SNP and the Green Party. It was Ed Balls that challenged Osborne’s outrageous claims regarding “halving the deficit”- such a blatant lie, upon which even the exceedingly Conservative Spectator spluttered contempt. Or any of the other lies, some of which have already earned the Conservatives official rebukes from the Office for National Statistics. (See “bankruptcy lie” for example, on the hyperlinked article)

Furthermore, it’s about time that some MP’s, including Caroline Lucas, amongst others, recognised that there is a fundamental difference between the meaning of the word budget and the word austerity. Conflating the two for the purpose of politicking is unprincipled and dishonest.

It’s also worth noting from the same debate on the Hansard record:

13 Jan 2015 : Column 746

Caroline Lucas: Does the Chancellor agree with me that with the feeble and inconsistent opposition coming from the Labour Front Bench, there is a very good reason for seeing the SNP, the Greens and Plaid as the real opposition on this issue because we are clear and consistent about the fact that austerity is not working?

Mr Osborne: That shows why we want the hon. Lady’s party in the TV debates.

Yes, I just bet they do, to collaborate with the Tories in attacking and undermining the Labour Party, not the Coalition, who are, after all, the ones responsible for introducing austerity measures. I don’t imagine for a moment that Osborne values further challenges to his outrageous claims of efficacy regarding austerity measures. What is very evident when you read through this debate, is that Ed Balls and a couple of other Labour MPs presented the ONLY challenges to Osborne on this matter, just to reiterate this important point.

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It’s also worth bearing in mind that Ed Miliband established the International ANTI-austerity Alliance. Back in 2012, Miliband said: “There is a grip of centre-right leadership on Europe which has said there’s only one way forward and that’s austerity, and you’ve got to have a decisive move away from that.(See also: Labour leader Ed Miliband’s anti-austerity alliance will fight for the European dream.)

And why would Miliband be attending ANTI-austerity protests if he supported austerity?

Labour leader Ed Miliband speaks on stage at Hyde Park, during the TUC organised protest against austerity measures in London

 Labour leader Ed Miliband speaks on stage to over 150,000 at Hyde Park, during the TUC organised protest against austerity measures in London

It’s interesting to see the Chicago Tribune’s article: Ed Balls, UK’s anti-austerity finance chief in waiting.  Balls dismissed Osborne as a “downgraded chancellor”after Britain lost its triple-A credit rating.One of his main charges has been that the government is unfairly spreading the economic pain it deems necessary to fix the economy. Austerity cuts are the burden of the poorest.

Balls says that a decision to cut the top tax rate amounts to an unjustified “tax cut for millionaires”, whilst his party has been scathing of reform of the welfare system. A point echoed many times by Ed Miliband, too. Accusing the government of making lower or no income groups pay for the recovery while shielding the rich is a claim which strikes a chord with some voters who view Cameron and his government – many of whom were educated at the same top fee-paying school – as out of touch.

Caroline Lucas was born in Malvern to Conservative parents and attended Malvern Girls’ College (which became Malvern St James in 2006), a fee-paying private school. Ed Miliband, on the other hand, went to a comprehensive school. Polls also show that many voters approve of the government’s drive to rein in welfare costs and the government has demanded Labour spell out what it would do to fix the economy. They have, but with understandable caution.

Labour’s careful, costed and evidence-based policies include: a Bankers’ Bonus Tax; a Mansion Tax; repeal of the Bedroom Tax; a reversal of the Pension Tax relief that the Tories gifted to millionaires; a reversal of the Tory Tax cut for Hedge Funds; freezing gas and electricity bills for every home a the UK for at least 20 months; the big energy firms will be split up and governed by a new tougher regulator to end overcharging; banning exploitative zero hour contracts; introduction of a living wage (already introduced by some Labour councils); a reversal of the £107,000 tax break that the Tories have given to the millionaires; reintroduction of the 50p tax; scrapping George Osborne’s “Shares for Rights” scheme that has opened up a tax loophole of £1 billion; ensuring Water Companies place the poorest households on a Social Tariff that makes it easier for them to pay their Water Bills; breaking up the banks and separating retail banking from investment banking; introduction of measures to prevent corporate tax avoidance, scrapping the Profit Tax Cut (Corporation Tax) that George Osborne has already announced for 2015 and many more.

These are not austerity measures. They are strongly redistributive policies.

It’s difficult enough opposing the manipulative, lying authoritarian Conservative-led government, without having to constantly counter lies and smears from parties claiming to be on the left, too. Shame on the Green Party and the SNP.

As I have said elsewhere, there’s a clear gap between professed principles and their application amongst the parties that claim to be “real socialists”.  How can it be principled or moral (or “socialist” for that matter) to collaborate with the Tories in attempting to damage, smear and discredit the only viable option of removing the Tories from Office in May? Bearing in mind that many people are suffering profoundly, some have died as a consequence of Conservative-led policies, we can see what the Green Party’s priorities actually are, here.

They don’t include the best interests of citizens and consideration of their well-being, that’s for sure.

403898_365377090198492_976131366_nThanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes.

Public perceptions of party positions on the political spectrum: Labour’s leftward shift under Ed Miliband, the Conservatives’ rightward swing since 2010.

Good to see the public generally don’t swallow the “allthesame” myth.

Ed Miliband’s speech on the deficit and economy: George Osborne’s cuts are extreme and ideological

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Ed Miliband will today (Thursday) deliver a major speech on how the next Labour government will build a strong economic foundation by dealing with the deficit and balancing the books – but never going down the Tory road to take Britain back to 1930s spending levels which existed before the NHS.

In his speech, Mr Miliband will attack the Tories for pursuing an extreme project, motivated by ideology rather than necessity, which will put vital public services at risk:

“My speech today is about the deficit. Its place in our priorities, how a Labour government would deal with it, and how we would do so consistent with our values.

“The Tory plan is to return spending on public services to a share last seen in the 1930s: a time before there was a National Health Service and when young people left school at 14. There is only one 35 per cent strategy in British politics today: the Tory plan for cutting back the state and spending on services to little more than a third of national income.

“And they have finally been exposed by the Autumn Statement for what they really are: not modern compassionate Conservatives at all – but extreme and ideological, committed to a dramatic shrinking of the state and public services, no matter what the consequences.

“They are doing it, not because they have to do it, but because they want to. That is not our programme, that will never be our programme, and I do not believe it is the programme the British people want.

“This is a recipe for public services that will disintegrate and for a permanent cost of living crisis because we won’t be investing in the skills and education people need for good quality jobs, and indeed for sufficient tax revenues. And we know what the result will be: the Tories might be able to deliver the cuts they have promised, but they won’t be able to cut the deficit as they promised.”

Mr Miliband will set out a tough and balanced One Nation Labour approach to dealing with the deficit based on five principles:

1.      Setting a credible and sensible goal to balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible within the next Parliament.

Not having a fiscal plan which sets a target of a 35 percent state, putting public services and productive investment at risk.

2.      Recognising that Britain will only be able to deal with the deficit by tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

Not allowing welfare spending to rise and tax revenues to fall because of low wages, insecure jobs, housing shortages and social failure.

3.      Making common sense spending reductions with departmental spending falling and using money better by devolving power, breaking down old bureaucracies, and rebuilding public services around early intervention.

Not cutting spending to 35 percent of national income that will lead to disintegrating public services and a permanent cost-of-living crisis because we won’t be investing in the skills needed for good jobs and healthy revenues.

4.      Protect everyday working people by ensuring those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden.

Not cutting taxes for the wealthiest while asking everyday working people to pay more.

5.      Promising new policies only when they are fully funded, like Labour’s £2.5 billion time to Care Fund for the NHS, so that they do not require any additional borrowing

Not making commitments that depend on borrowing or promising unfunded tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest that will eventually be paid for by bigger cuts to public services or increases in VAT.

Ed Miliband will say:

“Labour will make fairer choices to help protect vital services and balance the books with measures including a Mansion Tax on properties worth more than £2 million, cracking down on tax avoidance, and reversing the millionaires’ tax cut to restore the 50p rate on incomes over £150,000 a year.

“In these hard times, we are determined to do everything we can to protect everyday taxpayers from bearing an increased burden and to do all we can to protect public services. And those who have done best, under this government and indeed under the last, must pay their fair share. 

We want successful entrepreneurs and those who do well to be rewarded. But we must pull together as a society not drift apart and we cannot do that if deficit reduction is simply on the backs of ordinary people.”

He will say that Labour will only make new commitments that are credible, costed and funded without additional borrowing – unlike the Conservatives who are promising unfunded tax cuts that would put public services at risk.

“This is an essential test of credibility. There is huge uncertainty about the deficit because of economic circumstances and on the basis of recent experience. That makes it all the more important that parties do not spray around unfunded commitments they cannot keep.

“It is why we will only make commitments in our manifesto that are properly funded – not commitments that depend on borrowing. That’s why we’ve explained how we will pay for every policy that we’ve put forward: costed, credible and funded.

“In contrast, the Conservative Party has pledged to make tax cuts when they have absolutely no idea how they will fund them: tax cuts that will cost over £7 billion a year at the end of the Parliament and even more, billions more, if they happen earlier in the Parliament.

“The Tories cannot say how they would fund their tax cuts skewed to help the wealthiest. This is not responsible and it is not right: the British people should be in no doubt what the Tory promise means: they will pay the price for tax cuts in higher VAT or even bigger cuts to public services. The Tories’ priority is unfunded tax cuts, Labour’s priority is to save our National Health Service.”

Labour’s costed and evidenced key policy pledges to date.

To underline Labour’s determination to deal with the deficit fairly and balance the books as soon as possible in the next parliament, Ed Balls has written to members of the Shadow Cabinet. He says:

“It’s now clear the Tories have abandoned any pretence of being in the centre-ground with an increasingly extreme and unbalanced plan. They have made an ideological choice to pencil in deeper spending cuts for the next Parliament because they are refusing to ask those with the broadest shoulders to make a greater contribution and, crucially, are ignoring the need for a plan to deliver the rising living standards and more good jobs that are vital to getting the deficit down.10001887913_f8b7888cbe_o

In contrast, Labour will take a tough but balanced approach to getting the deficit down. Our economic plan will deliver the rising living standards, more good jobs and stronger and more balanced growth which are a vital part of any fair and balanced plan to get the deficit down.

We will make different and fairer choices from the Tories, including reversing this government’s £3 billion a year tax cut for people earning over £150,000 and taking action to close tax loopholes and introducing a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million in order to help save and transform our National Health Service.

And unlike George Osborne, we will not make any spending or tax commitments without saying where the money is coming from.”

Ed Balls intends to raise state spending rather than complying with Mr Osborne’s austerity plans of further drastic cuts, and he said his party will ring-fence more Whitehall budgets. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found what most of us already knew: that income inequality actually stifles economic growth in some of the world’s wealthiest countries, whilst the redistribution of wealth via taxes and benefits encourages growth. Osborne’s economic policy is damaging the economy. Miliband has consistently put equality high on the list of Labour’s priorities, and quite rightly so.

Labour have proposed progressive taxation, they have pledged to save the NHS, safeguard benefits and repeal the Bedroom Tax, which affects the poorest people: those on low wages and those on benefits, costing them money that was calculated to meet only the basic living costs of food and fuel, originally. Benefit was calculated on the assumption that full housing costs and rates/council tax were also paid by Local Authorities. That is no longer the case. The Tory welfare cuts and rising cost of living have meant a return of absolute poverty, not seen in this country since before the establishment of the welfare state.

At the moment, health, foreign aid and schools are protected from spending cuts, but in his letter, Mr Balls told members of the shadow cabinet that “our manifesto will spell out other limited areas which will have spending protected.”

The Tories’ stated plan to continue cutting even once the deficit has been eliminated has given Labour the opening needed to point out the damaging ideological drive to shrink the state, and to dismiss austerity once and for all. Given that the Conservatives have rigidly set the terms of economic debate and have established a dominant frame of reference since taking office,  I think the response to the Autumn statement from Labour is deft, careful and the proposals are costed, fair and viable.

Reducing the deficit can only happen once we have genuine (and widely shared) economic growth.

The alternative is the Conservative’s extreme, ideological never-ending austerity – all pain with no gain whatsosever for most people. For better or worse, deficit reduction is the political reality against which Labour’s economic credibility is now being defined. Cut the deficit Labour must; but they have taken reassuring steps to do it in a genuinely more comfortable, fair and intelligent way than the Tories.

The full text and more details of Ed Miliband’s speech about the deficit can be found here.

Related 

One of the most destructive Tory ideological myths has been officially debunked

Osborne’s Autumn statement reflects the Tory ambition to reduce State provision to rubble

Follow the Money: Tory Ideology is all about handouts to the wealthy that are funded by the poor

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone@LivingstonePics