Tag: Caroline Lucas

Two EDMs have been tabled to stop Tory cuts to disability support, with cross-party endorsement

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I reported last week that the Liberal Democrats were planning an Early Day Motion (EDM) to halt the government’s authoritarian Personal Independence Payment (PIP) regulations. The new regulations are designed by the government to disregard the rulings of two upper tribunals regarding the scope of eligibility criteria for disabled people claiming PIP. However, upper tribunals are part of a body of administrative law that governs the activities of the administrative agencies of government. It is designed to independently review the decisions of governments, and as such, it provides protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms for citizens.

The Upper Tribunal is a superior court of record, giving it equivalent status to the High Court and it can both set precedents and can enforce its decisions (and those of the First-tier Tribunal) without the need to ask the High Court or the Court of Session to intervene. It is also the first (and only) tribunal to have the power of judicial review. (The Conservatives have a historical dislike of judicial review. See for example: The real “constitutional crisis” is Chris Grayling’s despotic tendencies and his undermining of the Rule of Law.)

The first EDM has already gained excellent cross-party support. It’s primary sponsor is Tim Farron. Signatories include Jeremy Corbyn, Debbie Abrahams and a number of other Labour Party MPs, Caroline Lucas (Green Party), Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cymru) and Scottish National Party MPs.  

It says: “That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (S.I., 2017, No. 194), dated 22 February 2017, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23 February, be annulled.”

From 1 April 2017, further cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are to be introduced, again via statutory instrument (which are usually reserved for non-controversial policy amendments only). The new regulations mean that claimants who are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) will lose around £30 a week, receiving the same rate of payment as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and the equivalent in Universal Credit.

Another EDM was tabled by the Labour Party, with the primary sponsor being Jeremy Corbyn, which says: “That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (Miscellaneous Amendments and Transitional and Savings Provisions) Regulations (S.I., 2017, No. 204), dated 23 February 2017, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27 February, be annulled.”

Disabled people have already carried a disproportionately large burden of austerity cuts.

 

 

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The cuts to disability support have been widely opposed, yet the government apparently pays little heed to the need for democratic accountability. 

You can support disabled people who are being targeted by ever-increasingly punitive Conservative policies that are having an extremely damaging impacon us by emailing your MP and asking them to sign both EDMs. (Contact details here).

 

Related

A black day for disabled people – disability benefit cuts enforced by government despite widespread opposition

House of Lords debate: ESA – Monday 07 March 2016 (From 3.06pm)

MP attacks cuts hitting disabled people – Debbie Abrahams

Leading the debate against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill – 3rd reading – Debbie Abrahams

My speech at the Changes to Funding of Support for Disabled People Westminster Hall Debate – Debbie Abrahams

Man leaves coroner letter as he fears Work Capability Assessment will kill him

The government need to learn about the link between correlation and causality. Denial of culpability is not good enough.

The new Work and Health Programme: government plan social experiments to “nudge” sick and disabled people into work

Stephen Crabb’s obscurantist approach to cuts in disabled people’s support

A Critique of Conservative notions of “Social Research”

The DWP mortality statistics: facts, values and Conservative concept control


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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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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:

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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.