Monday, 30 June 2014

Never Vote Tory! Here`s why.

NEVER VOTE TORY!  An acrostic, with 13 out of hundreds of reasons why people should never vote Tory again.

 National Health Service, constantly being denigrated and criticised by right-wing  press and government, with many of its components being sold off to private concerns, is not safe. Full privatisation is inevitable under a Tory government.
Education of 93% of the country`s children, in the state sector, under constant attack and interference from the education secretary, whose academisation programme is a prelude to the total dismemberment of state schools. Gove succeeded in uniting teacher unions in opposition to all policies. Good teachers are leaving the profession in droves.
Voting changes, such as reducing the voting age, or changing venues of polling stations, all refused by Tories; they do not want present system modified in any way, as they know their chances of election success depend on the older voters.
Ethics before profits! As long as banks mouth such platitudes, Tories will support them, and allow their scams and fraudulent activities to continue, with non-deterrent fines and punishments.
Rents in the private sector allowed by Tory-dominated coalition to soar exponentially, making saving for home ownership impossible. Many of the rented properties are not even checked for safety. Tax avoidance by private landlords is rife, with totally ineffective punishments for the guilty exploiters;  Rachmanism has returned.

Vindictiveness is a Tory trait; notice how the weakest and most vulnerable were the ones suffering most from the austerity measures like the Bedroom Tax. The tax increase favoured by the Tories is always on the unfair tax, the indirect one; rather than increase income tax on the rich, they reduced it and increased VAT!
Osborne`s austerity policies are based on promise to wipe out deficit by 2015. He has not even halved it, and it will still be around £80bn after the election. Real reason is ideological desire to shrink the state, with admitted aim to return to levels last seen in 1948. The chancellor frequently flies to Brussels to defend right of banks to pay bonuses, and to attack the idea of a financial transaction tax.
Taxation policies of the Tories reveal their underlying hypocrisy. Reduction of the top rate tax was achieved at the same time as widespread cuts being made, with the Laffer curve their excuse. Piketty and other economists have shown this as nonsense. The rich have increased their wealth massively with the help of a cabinet dominated by multi-millionaires.
Evasion and avoidance of tax are so widespread a tax gap of at least £35bn, possibly even double this, has been created, with trillions squirrelled away by the rich in British-controlled tax havens. Multi-nationals, celebrities and sports stars are allowed to get away with denying the Treasury billions, whilst HMRC sacks thousands of tax inspectors. Tax avoiders even get to keep their honours!

Trade Unions frighten the Tories, so they are ridiculed as Labour`s paymasters, so that cowardly opposition leaders distance themselves from industrial action, no matter how justifiable. Inequality rockets as the power of unions is weakened and influence on pay declines.
Obfuscation is a key word in understanding Toryism; they cannot admit the real intention or effect of their policies, so they are hidden and made difficult to interpret. They claim unemployment falls because their policies create jobs, when thousands come off the unemployment rolls because their desperation leads them to self-employment, or because their jobseekers` allowance has been sanctioned. Gove`s use of unreliable data to justify his school reforms is becoming legendary.
Railways or any public utility will never be re-nationalised by the Tories, even though public opinion is almost 80% in favour; the example of the state-owned East Coast line, with its lower fares, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and millions of pounds in  profits going to the Treasury is ignored by the Tories whose preference for privatisation leads to the exact opposites.
Young people in general are always given shabby treatment by Tories who know very few will vote, even fewer will vote for them, and their policies reflect this. No attempt has been made to increase social mobility, end the dominance of private education and Oxbridge, or prevent the exploitation of students  and young people in general by profiteering landlords. Student fees and the ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance, allied to Gove`s assessment changes, all speak for themselves!
     The message is very clear, which ever way it is read!


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Letter to Observer criticising its anti-Miliband stance

 How ironic that your main headline, plus at least two articles in the main section last week, covered Miliband`s apparent "crisis", caused by the "vindictiveness of a hostile media". (Kinnock defends Labour leader against "vindictive agenda" of critics  22/06/14) When the only left-of-centre Sunday newspaper joins in the media onslaught, the Labour leader does not have a chance. One would have thought that unless there is someone better waiting in the wings,which I doubt, the best chance of getting rid of this most obnoxious government since Thatcher`s days,would be for the Observer to be in the vanguard of promoting Labour as the best possible future government. Why not highlight Labour`s 4 point lead in the polls, or the dissatisfaction of many with the austerity programme, destined to get much worse under another five years of Tory rule,and evidenced by the 50,000 strong demonstration in London? The public needs to be made more aware of the coalition`s privatisation of the NHS and the thousands more public sector jobs to be cut. The moderation of Miliband is indeed annoying, but better a too moderate Labour government than a right-wing Conservative one, and the latter becomes more likely with every article doubting "the credibility of the principal messenger".(Ten crucial months remain for Ed Miliband to pass the blink test,22/06/14) 
    Perhaps the press would do well to remember who is frequently voted the best prime-minister in modern times: Attlee would certainly be regarded as "weird", with plenty to "be modest about", as Churchill kindly said, but his policies transformed post-war Britain. By all means give Miliband advice, but adding your weight to the right-wing media`s anti-Labour frenzy does not become a newpaper of the Observer`s stature.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Wonga leniency an opportunity for Labour (Sept `13)

 The work being done to "tackle the burgeoning instant loan industry" in Glasgow raises some obvious questions: why hasn`t the downright evil activities of "Wonga and its lookalikes" been challenged by our elected representatives in Westminster, people we have charged with the protection of the most vulnerable in our society? Why isn`t it a priority for Labour, especially as strong action against these charlatans can only result in greater electoral support, as all decent folk will agree that the obscenely high profits generated by the payday lenders are morally abhorrent, cashing in, as these so-called businesses do, on the poverty and suffering of the weakest in society?
         An obvious start would be to ban these companies from advertising on television and in newspapers, and that would include TV companies being refused permission to broadcast any sport involving the promotion of payday lending, and then look to promising legislation to deal with their dubious practices. Should it be legal to charge interest often in excess of 5000% APR,or to double, treble etc. rates when payments are missed? Could it not be possible to limit by law the interest rates charged by money-lenders, something like the basic rate plus x percent? Couldn`t business rates for such companies, and why not include betting-shops here, be four or five times higher than for decent firms?
         Doesn`t the whole issue illustrate the need for Labour to be promising not just a business bank, but a nationalised one, which can have branches devoted to helping local companies in need of loans, and individuals in need of short-term help? The unions are right, of course, to demand better pay, and there is certainly an urgent need to raise the minimum wage up to the levels at least of the "living wage", but a priority,too, is to get rid of  these  payday parasites!

"Underperforming white pupils" a lesson for politicians, not the teachers!

Headlines concerning  the teaching profession never cover their success, improved results, massive commitment or sixty hour weeks. They are usually about being blamed by politicians for whatever is the current social problem besetting the nation. After hearing "evidence" that pupils from white British backgrounds who are eligible for free school meals have the worst exam results, the Commons education committee naturally thinks "accomplished teachers must help the most disadvantaged kids" in deprived areas, as they did when I started teaching in 1971. Poor teaching is the implied reason, nothing to do with the actual effects of government imposed austerity, just the incompetence of the teachers! It begs the obvious question about the nature of this "evidence", and who supplied it!

     How does Elizabeth Truss have the nerve to say that space for children to do homework is needed, when this government has done nothing about raising the minimum earnings to a living wage, or ending zero-hours contracts, and everything to encourage the closure of libraries and Sure Start programmes, and the removal of spare homework "space" with the spiteful Bedroom Tax. Teachers are having to work an average of sixty hours a week to keep pace with Gove`s incessant and unnecessary changes, and still the education minister claims that schools must become "institutions that work better with modern life". From a parliamentarian, that`s pretty rich!
 The chair of the Commons committee admitted they did not know whether the underperformance of poor white children was because of "poor attitudes to school", or "lack of work ethic or weak parenting". Why not? Did they not spend a week or so in state schools where the "underperformance" exists, talking to the people who know the answers ie the staff and pupils? Until they do so, I suggest they keep their opinions to themselves! Teachers, sadly, cannot expect to be defended by Labour; the shadow education secretary still thinks that only privately-educated pupils develop "character and resilience"! Perhaps he`s forgetting what sort of education his boss had? Clearly Tristram needs a few weeks in state schools too!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Reasons for Labour to drop austerity

 What Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer suggested is that Labour must adopt failed Tory policies of austerity or lose the election! (Labour needs to be candid about painful cuts it will have to make,15/06/14) "The cuts Labour would have to make" will certainly reduce the size of the state, but as the Tories have found, will not get rid of the deficit; as Rawnsley admitted, Osborne "was supposed to have it eliminated " by 2015, but it will still be around £80bn after the election. Why should Labour adopt such ineffective measures, when transformational policies are needed to regain the trust of the disillusioned supporters who voted for Ukip in the recent Euro elections?
      When the austerity measures began in 2010, political commentators of all persuasions were surprised by the ratio of cuts to tax being in the region of 80:20, and Miliband needs to have the courage to say that his party will change it dramatically. Rawnsley mentioned some of the obvious ways a future Labour government would "raise extra revenues from tax rises targeted at the wealthy", but there is intellectual and economic support for more. Piketty has shown the Laffer curve to be economic nonsense, and recommends that high-earners in the United  States should pay 80% tax, so Labour has the ready-made theoretical justification for an all-out attack on inequality. Even the IMF has admitted the rich in Britain can afford to pay more! Labour has already unveiled plans for a 10% starting tax, and could develop this further with a sliding scale for income tax, so that by the time earnings reached between £65K and £150K the rate would be 45%. From £150K to £200K, it would rise to 50%, increasing incrementally, and stopping at 80%. Would that appear unreasonable to the majority of people in this country, where the number of food banks has increased exponentially under this government, and where average earnings are around £26K, an amount earned in two and a half days by the FTSE 100 bosses? Working full time on the current minimum wage yields the disgraceful annual gross income of around £13000. Parties which do not pledge to change drastically this situation, in the 7th richest country in the world, do not deserve anyone`s vote! 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Labour too Tory to win! (letter to Guardian)

It is hardly surprising that, as Rafael Behr says, Miliband "struggles to explain how Britain would be different if he were in charge", when his policies on welfare and immigration look as though they`ve been pinched from the Tory manifesto.(To win in 2015, Labour must confront the "Ed problem",20/06/14) So intent on losing the "tax and spend" label for his party, Miliband has lost sight not only of what could win him the election, but also the reasons so many traditional Labour supporters voted Ukip last month. Making youth unemployment benefit "more conditional on claimants seeking training" looks just another Tory-style "youth-bashing" policy, especially when it is not allied with any.proposals to increase social mobility, and exacerbates the impression, as Rhiannon Lucy Coslett says, that the young "are being sacrificed to placate" older voters. (No wonder we whinge,20/06/14) Don`t young people have a vote in marginal seats? Out-gunning Tories on welfare, like trying to out-Gove Gove on education, will not win Labour the election!
      Unlike Damian McBride, I see nothing wrong with Miliband`s advisers attending "a symposium by the French economist, Thomas Piketty".(Underdog Miliband fends of internal criticism,20/06/14) After all, it is he who has de-bunked the Laffer curve nonsense, and who now advocates an 80% income tax on high-earners.Now that really would make a difference!

 

Effect of World Cup on teachers

Steven Gerrard may have had a point when warning his England team-mates that "there will be no hiding place if they are knocked out" of the World Cup prematurely. There may even be less public willingness to sympathise with some of the players` tax avoidance scams, and, for some, a "difficult summer", but as long as they go down fighting, showing "character and resilience", the only embarrassed. red face will belong to Tristram Hunt. The shadow education secretary still has to be convinced that such qualities emanate from anywhere but private schools.
     However, the lack of "hiding place" will be more relevant for the beleagured state school teachers, especially those responsible for PE. It will be they who will, once the dust has settled, be the ones bearing the majority of blame for the failure, and it will be they whose methods will be examined in the populist media`s attempt to explain the early exit. After all, didn`t the 85% passing accuracy, and Rooney`s expensive miss in the first game, reveal a lack of basic skills which should have been drilled into all boys at an early age? Shouldn`t every primary school employ at least one teacher with the Level three coaching award?  A Commons committee might even not only yet again question the competence of our teachers, but even ask the education department to come up with ideas to "attract accomplished teachers" to the PE departments of our state schools!  In election year, whilst the players escape to a remote island, the teachers will probably face a government enquiry.
     Michael Wilshaw rose to prominence by "turning around" two schools, but he certainly did not do it on his own. He had with him teams of dedicated teachers, "going the extra mile to help" pupils maximise their potential, no matter how difficult the circumstances. How sad it is, then, to read that he now thinks this only happens in independent schools.  Like the Commons education committee and Tristram Hunt, Mr Wilshaw may read lots of Ofsted reports, but he certainly does not spend enough time in state schools! He would see pupils displaying "character and resilience" in abundance, and teachers working very hard, not only to keep up with all the government initiatives, but to ensure their students achieve the best possible results. It`s time for the constant criticism to stop, and for the praise to start! 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Need to clamp down on tax avoidance by sports stars too!

Steven Walker`s article, in the Morning Star, on the tax avoidance by England`s footballers highlights again the need for a government with determination to tackle the country`s problems of "massive inequalities between rich and poor".(Morning Star,14/06/14) The coalition may "talk a good match" but have no intention of playing! Will a Labour government be any more energetic in this area which is costing the country billions every year, or will they also be too worried about offending their friends in the city? Margaret Hodge and her committee do well to expose much of the cheating, but lacks the power to change laws or make arrests. What better time could there be to remind everyone what being a British citizen entails, and what "Britishness" involves? Why should tax avoiders, who do their utmost to avoid making their proper fiscal contributions, maintain their right to participate in the democratic process? Why should sports people be allowed to represent us if they contribute next to nothing towards the costs of running their country, or if they declare their residency to be Monaco or some other low-tax regime? They may have Olympic golds, or grand prix victories, but they do not pay their fair share. Why should these footballers, whose tax avoidance is common knowledge, get away with it, when their pay resembles weekly lottery wins? "No representation without taxation" sounds a good slogan!
Similarly should MPs, judges, councillors and such like be allowed to hold public office if they avoid paying their fair share? Should the taxpayers` funded BBC employ "celebrities" who have formed their own companies simply to enable the lower corporation  tax to be paid instead of income tax? Tax avoiders on the Honours list? Knighthoods returned? So much could be done, or pledged, by a political party intent on ending the current culture of avoidance, with even some useful examples from America`s New Deal in utilising consumers in supporting only those companies actually supporting the country`s attempts to escape the Depression.
     Some political commentators have suggested we wage war against tax avoidance and evasion, but in WW II did the government allow businesses to exist which gave advice to German prisoners of war on how to escape from Britain? Yet, Deloitte, KPMG and the others which make millions by advising firms and individuals on how to avoid paying their fair share of tax, have representatives on Treasury committees drawing up new tax rules, and are rewarded with government contracts! The conspiracy of silence surrounding the role of tax payment, both in British society and British citizenship, is deafening!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Laffer curve dead in the water!

With the news that Farage is including the reduction of the top tax rate to 40% in the Ukip omnishambles that some call a manifesto, and the ever-present possibility that Cameron will suggest the same for his party, Labour`s determination to increase taxes on the rich should be greater than ever. The reasons are obvious, from the need for funding the NHS to helping the least privileged, from house-building to infrastructure improvements, not to mention the disgraceful fact, not mentioned by our right-wing media, that in the OECD league table of equality, covering 34 developed countries,  Britain is positioned 28. There will be, nevertheless, the usual complaints from the defenders of the rich, that increasing income tax to higher levels than the present, and derisory, 45% will lead to less funds for the Treasury. Why? The answer they will quote will be, as always, the Laffer Curve.
  Arthur Laffer was a Republican, who stood unsuccessfully for the American Senate in 1986, but he is more famous for a drawing of a graph on a paper napkin in an afternoon meeting, during the administration of the Republican president, Gerald Ford, in 1974, in the company of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. On the graph was a curve which he drew to show how  increasing tax rates beyond a certain point would be counter-productive for raising further tax revenue. It was the Reagan administration which used the Curve as the excuse it needed to reduce the higher rate of personal income tax in stages from 70% to 28%. Cameron and Osborne used it, too, when attempting to justify their reduction of the top rate from 50% to 45%. When Reagan cut the higher rates, the deficit doubled to $155 billion and government debt tripled to more than $2trillion. His successor, Bush senior, was forced to raise taxes!
 Reason dictates that there will be a point when high earners, profiteers and capitalists will say enough is enough, but that figure is nowhere near the Tory figure of 50%; for example, the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics reports that estimates of revenue-maximizing tax rates have varied widely, with an average of around 70%. Indeed, the economist-of-the-moment, Thomas Piketty, co-authored an article in 2011 which disputed the "claim that low taxes on the rich raise productivity and economic growth". It said, in fact, that the "optimal top tax rate could be over 80% and no-one but the mega rich would lose out". (Taxing the 1%: why the top tax rate could be over 80%, published by VoxEU.org,08/12/11) Since then, Piketty has risen to world-wide prominence with his book,"Capital in the 21st Century", in which he has argued that the present capitalist system is taking the developed world back to Dickensian levels of inequality, and that all incomes in the US over $500,000 should be taxed at 80%.
Now we hear that Labour is considering an increase in National Insurance contributions to fund the NHS, banking on the assumption that the party determined to keep the NHS out of the hands of the private sector will win the election. Admittedly, defence of the NHS is essential , but its funding has to be on a fairer basis. The working people are too poor already, with many incomes so low they have to be subsidised by the taxpayer, and the average earnings around £26,000, a figure based on the inclusion in the calculation of the earnings of the obscenely rich. The solution is to increase income tax rates, with a sliding scale, so that the well-off earning over £65K pay 45%, over £150K pay 50% and so on, with  those earning over £500K  paying 80%.
As for the Laffer Curve? It was devised by an American conservative to justify low taxes for the rich; Labour should discard it! It has been discredited, and Labour should have the bottle to say so.


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Miliband`s advisers and the Sun

The Morning Star`s editorial was absolutely correct to say that Miliband`s half-hearted apology for posing with a copy of the Sun newspaper could not "disguise the stupidity of the stunt".(Star comment,14/06/14) It does beg two questions, however. Does the Labour leader not discuss his day`s itinerary with his advisers, and if he does, why does he bother, as either the advice can only be described as appalling, or he doesn`t listen. Why no sackings after all the recent blunders?
     The second question is more serious: why is Labour still pandering to the Sun , a right-wing journal steeped in sexist and anti-immigrant bigotry? Miliband has been hemorrhaging votes to Ukip because his policies have been so moderate and too similar to those of the coalition. He cle├árly needs to adopt more radical policies, like re-nationalisation of railways, a progressive income tax, a living wage for all, and strict regulation of the banks to regain the trust of the working people. The Sun will brand him "red Ed" and such nonsense, no matter what, so the cosying-up to the Murdoch parasites needs to stop forthwith, and the radicalisation of the policies of the Labour party begin. The Sun likes to brand itself as the paper of the people. Miliband should put everyone straight about that!

need to change university entrance requirements

The Guardian tells us of yet another report indicating how students from comprehensive schools "outperform their more expensively  educated peers at university". (State school pupils outperform private peers at university,07/06/14) It stands to reason, therefore, that the so-called top universities should "lower their entry requirements" for pupils from most state schools, as clearly, many talented pupils are not being given the opportunity to maximise their potential. As the editorial  rightly says, this is a "practical suggestion" for an education secretary who "has talked about social mobility" and "raising university standards".Sadly, Mr Gove`s examination reforms, his ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance, trebling of tuition fees and failure to interfere in university recruitment all suggest an increase in social mobility is not on his agenda. If it was, Oxbridge and the other Russell group universities would only be allowed to take 7% of their students from the private sector, in line with national figures.
    The report`s conclusion also de-bunks the notion held by Gove and also, sadly, by the shadow education secretary, that state educated pupils have no "character and resilience". As if they would know! Do they actually believe that that these successful, hard-working university students, during their time at state secondaries, did not have to cope with setbacks and problems, many actually caused by government policies and cuts? How much "character and resilience" do they have to show to convince privately educated politicians? Raheem Sterling by the way, reacting to his sending-off with an "electric" and "unstoppable" performance in the following training session, must have been privately-educated, and all records stating otherwise must simply be mistaken! 
 

 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tories` brass neck and Labour`s malaise

Well done, Dennis Skinner, but what was less amusing about the "Coalition`s last stand" was what was omitted from the Queen`s speech.How Cameron and his 5p bagman, Clegg, have the nerve to say that "countries rise when their people rise" and that the speech was "unashamedly pro-work" beggars belief. The coalition policies have ensured, with income tax reductions and the continuance of tax avoidance, that the only people to "rise" are the top one per cent; the majority have seen no rise in their standard of living. As for being "pro-work", they must mean zero-hours contracts! Nothing in the speech about the NHS, reducing inequality, or increasing regulation in the City. Doesn`t the country urgently require reform of the private rental sector and millions of new homes?
 Cameron and Clegg have the brass neck to say that "no one can deny the progress we have made". Do they want a bet on that? But would Labour argue the point?
        John Harris in the Guardian, is worryingly correct about so many of Labour`s  problems, particularly those related to "normal English". (Sounding strange is a sign of Labour`s terminal malaise,03/06/14) He is absolutely correct, too, in his description of the Tories, who are  "confident enough to voice their ideas with that bit more clarity and oomph". Nowhere is that more clearly shown in the reaction to the EU`s criticism of the government regarding the housing boom.With the EU`s executive body urging them to reform the council tax system, build more houses, change the Help to Buy scheme, and to bring more people into paying tax, what was the response? "The European commission continues to support the UK`s government strategy"! No embarrassment, just extreme arrogance and disingenuity. Are you watching, Labour?

Friday, 6 June 2014

Obama`s forgetting his history!

Republicans and the arms industry in America will, no doubt, be pleased that Obama has decided to commit up to $1bn in new US funding for European defence, but for the more peace-loving amongst us, the news is less than encouraging. Whilst saying that he is "concerned about the security of allies in central and eastern Europe", the president appears to show little understanding of the effect of his actions in Russia, and would do well to remember some relevant history. For example,it would have been better if Obama had actually admitted that NATO is not always blameless, and that some of the blame for the Ukraine problem lies with the west. It was the west who reneged on the promise made to Gorbachev in the various talks which preceded German unity. With West Germany being a member of NATO, and the east a member of the Warsaw Pact, the need for Russian agreement was imperative, and only when Baker, President Bush`s Secretary of State, said that there "would be no extension of NATO`s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east" was Gorbachev persuaded.
    Further history studies would also tell the president that an increase in the deployment of US "planners and advisers" by both Eisenhower and Kennedy, led to the inevitable escalation of war in Vietnam in the 1960s, so similar action now in eastern Europe is not necessarily the most prudent.

     The duplicity of politicians in foreign policy is something the general public is becoming increasingly aware of, but there can be no excuse for ignoring past mistakes. One of the reasons politicians study history is to learn from it, but the examples of Vietnam and the Cold War seem to be fading from the memory of many Americans; for them and their president it appears remembering history is a thing of the past!  

Farage on TV could help Labour

Whilst having huge sympathy with the thousands who have complained about the huge publicity given by the BBC to Ukip, especially with the frequent appearances of Farage on Question Time and the Marr Show, I am beginning to perceive some possible benefits. With every appearance, more details emerge of Ukip policies, and the announcements of tax cuts for the rich and the widespread return of grammar schools not only reveal yet more right-wing tendencies of Ukip, but offer massive opportunities for Labour to deal with its "Ukip defectors" problem. 
    By stressing that "Ukip wants to progress social mobility" with selective education, which apparently gives "bright kids from poor backgrounds a real opportunity", Farage has provided Labour with the excuse, for it seems it needs one, to defend the wonderful work being done in our comprehensive schools. These schools provide all pupils opportunities to show their abilities throughout their school lives, not just in a written test at the age of eleven, and do not write off eighty per cent of children by giving them different curricula, and little or no academic education. Selina Todd, in her excellent Guardian article last week, wrote about her ex-comprehensive students at St Hilda`s, Oxford, who, having "received excellent teaching", revealed "moral character" in abundance. This, of course, is contrary to what the shadow secretary for education believes, and therein lies a problem. How can Ukip`s education policies, and for that matter, those of Gove too, be refuted by Labour when its spokesperson on the subject was privately-educated, thinks state-school pupils lack "character and resilience", and who, when asked about the school destination of his own children, refuses to commit to the state sector, preferring,"never rule out what takes place"! Farage may provide the opportunities for Labour to regain the trust of disillusioned voters, but, sadly, that does not mean they will be taken.

10 ways for Labour to regain support of Ukip defectors

Recent by-elections have shown that the Labour party has been haemorrhaging votes to Ukip, and that there is a real danger seats will be lost to Farage`s cronies. Here are ten ways for Labour to win them back:

  1. There is no way Labour should attempt to compete with the Tories and Ukip on immigration; it would be like Tristram Hunt`s disastrous attempts to out-Gove Gove on right-wing education policies. Jobs, housing, health and school places are the issues Labour should focus on, whilst stressing the benefits immigration has brought to this country, and countering the inaccurate propaganda of the right about "benefit tourism" and such like.
  2. Europe is a problem area for Labour: by denying the right to a referendum on Europe, Labour will appear to be of the opinion that politicians at Westminster know best, and that the people cannot be trusted on such fundamental political issues. This is something Farage has played on with some effect, so Labour should not be so adamantly against a referendum at this stage.
  3.Focus on Ukip`s right-wing policies and their many similarities with those of the Tories. Expose their support for further cuts, further privatisation, including of the NHS, and less regulation. Do they still support the ridiculous idea of a flat rate tax or has that been ditched with most of their last manifesto? Flat rates mean the rich pay much, much less!   Recent speeches indicate them favouring a 40% top rate tax and a grammar school in every town. so if Labour cannot make electoral hay with these, it probably does not deserve to be elected!
  4. No need to attack "shrinking man" Clegg and the Lib Dems, but the same sort of video could be devised to show how the privately-educated ex-City profiteer Farage is a fake, and guilty of not only "conning" the British public, but of stirring up racist tension. Employ expert satirists to use their artistic skills to reveal the real Ukip behind the mask. How many people know that their meetings are frequently provided, albeit voluntarily, with "security" by the mosque attacking organisation,"Britain First"? The public need to be told repeatedly the truth about Ukip, especially as much of their success can be attributed to the easy ride Farage has received from the media, especially the BBC, and the other parties.
  5. Give Farage no reason to capitalise on people`s fears of immigrants taking jobs, houses, school places and health care, by offering the British public:
              an end to zero-hours contracts
              an increased minimum wage on a par with the living wage, with massive fines for firms refusing to pay it. Increase role of trade unions in wage negotiations, and move towards the German example of Co-determination. Support the TUC`s call  for a ban on the "Swedish" derogation" clause which is being used by employers to pay agency staff, often recruited abroad, far less than permanent employees.The TUC claims it has evidence from UK workplaces where agency staff are paid up to £135 a week less than permanent staff, despite working in the same place and doing the same job. It also found that Swedish derogation contracts are used regularly in UK call centres, food production and logistics firms, while the number of agency workers with these contracts has grown by 15 per cent since the recession, with as many as one in six agency workers on them.
              the provision of increased social housing, and strict regulation of rents and private landlords: ensure that the young, students and Generation Rent will no longer be exploited by profiteering landlords
              ending Gove`s idiotic policies on free schools and enforced academisation, and repealing his examination reforms which have decreased social mobility so much.
              guarantee the future of the NHS and repeal all "reforms" which have led to its partial privatisation.
  6. Many ex-Labour supporters will have defected to Ukip because of their belief that Labour leaders are too closely connected to the city, and out of touch with the real world. To remedy that, pledges are needed on:
              a refusal to allow the privatisation of RBS, developing it under a Labour government, into a People`s Bank, with reduced profit margins, "ethics" really coming before profits, and no bonuses, with profits funding the NHS. It could attract millions of new customers.
              support for a Robin Hood tax on all financial transactions
              bankers guilty of scams,like Libor fixing, including the ones responsible for the bank (CEOs), to be disgraced and charged with criminal offence.
              restore corporation tax to a sensible rate, which does not invite "tax inversion take-overs" of British firms by foreign businesses
  7. Taxes must be set at fairer rates, which tackle the problem of growing inequality. Labour should know anyway that increased inequality inevitably means little or no economic growth. Even the IMF has acknowledged that the rich need to pay much more, so a sliding scale of income tax is needed, Do the vast majority of voters object to the return of the 50% rate for earnings over £150K? Of course not, so why would they not support 45% being paid by those earning over £100K, or 43% over £75K, not to mention 60% over £200K, 75% over £500 K,and 90% over £1m? When the average earnings are around £26K, such measures, perhaps temporary, will attract  the support of most voters.
 8. Develop policies which will actually reduce tax avoidance and evasion:
        give awards, for use in advertising, to firms paying the proper amount
        individuals involved in tax avoidance/evasion to be forced to return all honours previously received
        individuals involved in any tax avoiding/evading scams not to be allowed to represent GB, including sports stars who change main place of residence from GB
        increase number of tax inspectors
       go for total transparency on all tax details of Labour MPs and candidates, and challenge the Tories to do the same.
 9. Pledge "fiscal responsibility", which does not mean continuing with coalition austerity policies. How can voters be expected to believe the government cannot afford decent public services, when there is money available for unwinnable wars, unnecessary runways,high speed railways, Trident renewal, cheap sell-offs of state owned assets like Royal Mail,and tax reductions for the rich?
 10. Deliver the message effectively. Use social media and a variety of "cool messengers"including ordinary MPs, taking the onus off the leader, to give the appearance of unity. Get rid of the awful slogan, " Hard working Britain better off". What does it mean and what confused message does it send?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Time to reduce inequality

The news in the Independent that the "coalition`s efforts to crack down on the worst excesses of boardroom pay" are having little impact, and that pay for a FTSE CEO is now, on average, "160 times that of an average worker", is hardly surprising. (Pay packets of top bosses soar as wage reform flops,02/06/14) The truth is, of course, that this government, whilst purporting to be concerned about the increasing inequality in this country, has actually encouraged it. How else can the reduced taxation for the rich be explained, or its reluctance to ensure all workers have, at least, a living wage?
         The time has clearly come for improved and effective regulations to be introduced. If a minimum wage can be imposed, with fines for companies and bosses not paying it, why not a maximum wage/salary, or better, and easier still, an increase in income tax based on a sliding scale, which reaches 100% at any earnings over £1m a year? As Deborah Hargreaves of the High Pay Centre  rightly said, "All workers should share in a company`s success". Who but the most selfish in our society could disagree with that?
     Having a Low Pay Commission is self-defeating; the sooner someone at Westminster comes up with the idea of changing its name to the Fair Pay Commission the better! Rocket-science it is not! 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Labour should ditch austerity

Labour can do all the in-party arguing and handwringing over the Ukip threat it likes, but if it continues with its policies of apeing the current austerity policies, and refuses "to undo the coalition`s cuts in the next government", election victory can be little more than a pipe-dream! (Labour cannot afford to reverse coalition`s cuts,says finance spokesman,Guardian,30/05/14) After so much ideologically inspired austerity, where the Tory-led coalition has used the excuse of having to repay debt to carry out its wish to shrink the state, it`s time to buck the trend. Does Labour intend to take government interference back to 1948 levels, like the Tories have admitted? According to tax expert Richard Murphy, a more sensible approach is to "run a deficit equivalent to GDP multiplied by the rate of inflation and effectively stand still in budget terms". By all means Labour should "emphasise commitment to fiscal responsibility", but unless there is an end to this enforcement of poverty on the most vulnerable in our society, there can be little point in voting Labour. Even the IMF has suggested that the rich should be paying more tax, and that there is more economic growth in countries where a reduction in inequality is a priority.
 Many recent studies, like the one by Godwin and Ford, have revealed, if the election results weren`t clear enough, that many of Farage`s supporters are ex-Labour voters, white, working-class and "dispossessed". Does the Labour leadership really believe that the policies listed in the article, like rent caps and GP appointments within 48 hours, are radical, fundamental and different enough to win them the next election? How many people, who have seen their real incomes reduced significantly by this government, believe austerity is essential, when billions can be spent on an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, the unnecessary Trident renewal, HS2 railway, and third runway, billions wasted in cheap sell-offs of our taxpayer-owned assets and tax reductions for the very wealthy, billions more in subsidies to private companies to run public services, and yet billions more not going to the Treasury because of the government`s feeble efforts to rein in tax avoidance and evasion? For all of us to be told that there will be little change if Labour is elected is probably not the best slogan for 2015!  In fact, it smacks of cowardice. 

 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Clegg should go

An editorial in the Independent says that, under Clegg`s leadership, the Lib Dems "rightly threw in their lot with the Conservatives for the benefit of the country in need of stable government", but it chooses to ignore the huge list of cruel and blatantly unfair additions to the Statute Book which the coalition then produced. (Under their leader Lib Dems have been effective in power. Sacking him now would be immature,27/05/14) Cameron and Osborne have  frequently resorted to U-turns, exemplified by Osborne`s sudden support recently for an increase in the minimum wage to £7 an hour, when they know they face a possibility of election defeat,but they can`t hold a candle to Clegg in his efforts to stave off electoral humiliation. Not content in digging a hole for himself with his attempts, last year, to defend the honour of politicians in the wake of criticism from Paxman, he then had  the temerity to front the coalition`s attack on Boris Johnson for his "greed is good" speech last November, Cameron`s patsy to the last. He attacked Johnson for suggesting "we should give up on a whole swath of fellow citizens", without seeming to realise that is exactly what he and his coalition colleagues did by giving their support to Gove`s examination changes, which in the long term will lead to a two-tier system of education! It`s hard to believe the Deputy Prime Minister seems unaware of the hurt his government`s austerity policies have caused, but this is the same man who, after three years of being in  government, declared it was time to "hardwire fairness" into policies! He continues to talk as if the inequality this government has increased and encouraged has nothing to do with him; supporting the living wage is all very well but has he instigated any policy to make it compulsory, and why not two years ago? "Greed", he says, "brought a banking collapse and misery and hardship", yet for three and a half years he`s joined in with the Tory propaganda blaming the Labour government`s spending and borrowing for causing the problems. 
     Under his leadership, there is little chance of the party regaining the trust of young people after "their notorious tripling of tuition fees", and he has done nothing to suggest this can be remedied. How anyone could even think of voting for the Lib Dems, with him at the helm, beggars belief; their only chance of avoiding electoral humiliation is for him to resign with immediate effect. The editorial argues that the appointment of a new leader would "sacrifice whatever credibility the party has been able to win during these past four painful years", but much of the pain has been deliberately inflicted by a government relying totally on Clegg`s complicity. As for "credibility" won by the Lib Dems, now that really is taking things too far!

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