Sunday, 28 June 2015

Letter to Observer on Tories and tax avoidance

Let`s get it straight - this Tory government has no intention of ending tax avoidance. There will, no doubt, be the usual "morally repugnant-smell the coffee" type of rhetoric, plus of course the usual window-dressing popping up in various budgets, like last year`s so-called "google tax" which was predicted to collect a relatively measly £570m by 2019, but efforts "to rein in a poisonous tax avoidance culture", as your Business Leader reported last week, will not be made (Tax laws for big business are badly broken. Britain wants to ensure they stay that way,21/06/15). A government determined to collect in all the revenues due to it does not refuse to participate in the "European commission`s harmonising tax proposals", let alone sack 20,000 staff from its tax collecting agency, HMRC.
         Cameron and Osborne can hardly complain about the "aggressive tax planning among the corporate top flight", advised by the "tax advisers from big accountancy firms" when their government uses advice from those same firms for tax policy. Such advice led to the adoption of the "patent box" device to lure in firms to invest in Britain, as opposed to other EU countries with higher corporation tax, another example of the UK going it alone, when "tax harmonisation" is seen as crucial to reducing the vast amounts of tax being avoided.  
      Judging by the large number of "sweetheart deals" HMRC has made, approved presumably by government, with tax avoiding businesses like Vodaphone and Starbucks, Cameron and Osborne agree with the CEO of advertising group, WPP, that "payment of corporate tax is a  question of judgement"; they have done next to nothing about tax havens where trillions are squirreled away; the British Overseas Territories, according to "War on Want" together "rank as the most significant tax haven in the world".
    The failure of Miliband`s Labour party was not that it was insufficiently pro-business or pro-aspiration, but that it failed miserably to expose the Tories` hypocrisy, and their preference for making £12bn welfare cuts to closing the £40bn tax gap. The fact that Osborne`s "true colours are beginning to show on the international stage", but not realised here, says everything ,really, but is especially informative about the relative effectiveness of Tory and Labour propaganda machines.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Morning Star letter on migrant crisis

Although it`s good to see that the EU foreign ministers have at last "launched a naval operation aimed at stopping human-traffickers" transporting desperate people from Libya to Europe, the fact that the operation has no UN endorsement, means that it is destined to fail (Morning Star,23/06/15). Not only is it too late, it will focus on gathering and pooling "information" about the gangs and networks organising the "migration".
      Why wasn`t this done months ago? The UK Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon has even talked about "encouraging a policy of return", presumably by aid budgets being used to encourage long-term economic development.

   This arrogant Tory government, and presumably all the members of the EU, are still clinging to the ridiculous notion that it is the "pull factor" which is responsible for the crisis, and that encouragement is all that is required to send the people back. Surely there is someone in government who read the report on Eritrea by the UN Human Rights council, which concluded that the Afwerki regime was committing  such "gross human-rights violations" that they constituted "crimes against humanity"? Is it surprising, then, that hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are resorting to using these deadly escape routes? How disgraceful it is that the international conscience is only pricked when their suffering happens to occur in European waters!
     Instead of devoting so much time and energy on scoring political points by the imposition of yet more austerity on a bankrupt Greece, European politicians, backed by the UN and the IMF, would be better advised to focus on an examination of the "push factors", and to stop kidding themselves. The idea of sending people back to countries where executions and torture are rife should never be on the table; "information gathering" on people-traffickers is yet another example of governments "kicking the can down the road"! By all means "dismantle the business model" of the traffickers, but don`t pretend to be solving the real problem!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Guardian letter on "longest suicide note"

I am disappointed that Polly Toynbee appears to swallow fully the Blairite agenda with her description of Jeremy Corbyn as a "relic of the 1983 election", when Labour was destroyed by its "re-nationalise everything suicide note" (Labour`s debate is leaden, but the next leader is emerging,23/06/15). This description of Labour`s manifesto by the New Labourite, Gerald Kaufman, is totally misleading, as it ignores the "hatchet job" done on Labour`s then leader, Michael Foot, by the right-wing media, and also the facts that the anti-Tory vote was almost evenly split between the SDP/Liberal alliance and Labour, and that the Tory vote fell by 700,000.  Toynbee is wrong to dismiss Corbyn as the "outsider, not playing by the usual political rules"; look where following such rules has got Labour!
       If such rules, as Toynbee says, forbid Labour to "argue against Trident", they presumably also prevent support for any form of re-nationalisation, despite its popularity in the polls, or of wealth tax, or of strict regulation of the banks; anything, in fact, which copies or resembles proposals from the 1983 manifesto. That same "suicide note" included pledges to raise living standards by a minimum wage, to introduce a National Investment Bank, and a Keynesian £11bn "programme of action". Many of the 1983 pledges were enacted, such as the Freedom of Information Act, a ban on foxhunting,and devolution to Scotland and Wales, but, of course, most were not, and the opportunity to prevent the disastrous neoliberalism taking hold, and with it the inevitable rise in inequality, was lost. Were the months prior to the 1983 election really, as the likes of Toby Young suggest, the "days of delusion" for Labour?
     Why should "monstrous £12bn benefit cuts" be forgotten by 2020, especially by the 63% which did not vote Tory last May? A Labour party misled into mimicking the Tories by its own right-wing, because it fails to understand its own history, could well be writing its own "suicide note", but this time, for real.

Indy letter on Russia

Thank goodness for Mary Dejevsky! She can always be relied upon for a commonsense approach to dealing with Russia, something that is clearly essential in these days of "nuclear sabre-rattling" (Putin`s Russia is a danger, but a new cold war is not the answer,23/06/15). Whereas the US commander in charge of most of America`s nuclear weapons ridiculously claims that never has there "been so much power put in one person in Russia", revealing complete ignorance of over three hundred years of Romanov Tsarist rule, and indeed of Stalin`s despotism, Dejevsky sensibly asserts that current western "policies do not, and will not, work" (I don`t think we`ve ever seen so much power given to one person in Russia,23/06/15).
      Americans comparing Putin`s Russia to Hitler`s Germany are simply aggravating an admittedly difficult situation by ignoring the need to respect, in Dejevsky`s words, both "Russian national pride and national security". Sadly, the historical lessons of "squeezing until the pips squeak" have not been learned, as is made obvious with the approval by EU foreign ministers of "the extension of existing sanctions for another six months". How can compromise solutions be made over, not only the future of Ukraine, but also the expansion of Nato, when economic uncertainty in Russia is being purposely exacerbated by the west? At a time when diplomatic talks are urgently needed, and when there are opportunities for east-west deals over energy provision, what can be achieved by the permanent exclusion of Russia from the G7? 

    If Dejevsky is right about the west`s recognition that Putin will be "duty bound to defend what he sees as national interest", American action like storing nuclear weapons in Poland is bound to heighten tension, as will remarks by Defence secretary, Ashton Carter, about Russia attempting to "re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence". Two things, however, are clear: American military chiefs need to be taught some unbiased history, and politicians worldwide require lessons in diplomacy.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Why "humiliate" Greece and Russia?

Much is being written in the mainstream press denying that there ever was an intention to actually "humiliate" Greece and Russia, and that it is up to Russians and Greeks to find a way of addressing their own domestic faults. At least the Star Comment is clear on the treatment of Greece, and that "austerity is a medicine which enriches those who dispense it" (Morning Star,20/06/15). Well said!
     Of course there is a desire in the EU to "humiliate" the Greeks and their democratically elected left-wing government; economically it makes no sense to force Greece into bankruptcy, especially as the rest of the Eurozone is already benefiting from the European Central Bank`s 60billion euros a month quantitative easing programme. However, politically, illustrating to the people of Europe that there is no alternative to austerity, so they can forget all their radical, socialist and Keynesian ideas, there are obvious advantages. Sadly, the historical lessons of "squeezing until the pips squeak" have not been learned, as is made obvious, also, with the repeated imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. How can compromise solutions be made over, not only the future of Ukraine, but also the expansion of Nato, when economic uncertainty in Russia is being purposely exacerbated by the west? At a time when diplomatic talks are urgently needed, and when there are opportunities for east-west deals over energy provision, what can be achieved by the permanent exclusion of Russia from the G7? As Alan Mackinnon wrote, the world appears to be "rushing headlong" into the next cold war (Morning Star,20/06/15)
     A Greek-Russian alliance is indeed the most likely outcome of such short-sightedness by our politicians, with financial aid in return for a Russian pipeline through Greece. Those same politicians will, no doubt, express moral outrage at such a deal, whilst at the same time denying desperate people fleeing oppression access to their countries, unlike Greece, and refusing the return of the Parthenon marbles to their rightful owners, an act which could benefit the Greek tourist industry enormously.


"too left-wing" nonsense!

As soon as Jeremy Corbyn "secured his place on the ballot paper at the eleventh hour" what were we immediately told? (Morning Star,16/06/15) A left-wing Labour party can never win a general election; it "shows the party`s desire never to win again",said one scare-mongering Labour MP, whilst another insisted that with Corbyn at the helm, the Tories "would win a majority of a 100, possibly more". Such Blairite propagandawill not wash, and should be rejected. Blair may well have guessed correctly after the election defeats of Foot and Kinnock, but the country has changed hugely since then, and instantly placing the blame for the recent defeat on a manifesto insufficiently pro-business and aspiration-deficient is lazy politics.
      The Tories won with 37% of the vote, meaning 63% not only disliked or distrusted Tory policies but are now open to Labour persuasion. When a government is promising the most right-wing agenda of modern times, with spending cut to 1930s levels, inequality rising, wages so low in-work benefits are essential, and deficit reduction taking precedence over investment, it is political suicide not to offer real alternatives. The Tories, also, have little intention of ending tax avoidance and evasion, and none whatsoever of increasing social mobility, with  70% of top job offers guaranteed still to be going in 2020 to products of selective or fee-paying institutions, and "working class candidates" still likely to be "systematically locked out of top legal and accountancy companies" as they are now (Morning Star,16/06/15). Voters will remember the asset-stripping, and sell-offs at low prices to friends in the City, so why would they be happy in the next election to vote for a Labour party that offers more of the same, only with a "human face"? Let the Tories make the mistake of assuming the electorate will take ten years of austerity passively! 

     Didn`t Miliband`s popularity soar in the polls when he announced his radical policies on "predatory capitalism" and energy price freezes? The election of Corbyn as leader might lead to a split in the party, with those on the "centre-right" breaking away, or even joining with the Tories, but a left-wing Labour party could well provide our politics with a much-needed impetus, and prove the Blairites wrong.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Selling RBS a wasted opportunity

For a Chancellor ostensibly so intent on saving every penny, with reducing the deficit his overriding priority,and willing to resort to cutting even further benefits for the disabled, it is strange that George Osborne is apparently now willing to launch "a fire sale of the UK government`s 80% share in RBS bank", at a huge loss "to the public purse of £13bn" (Morning Star,11/06/15)  The question which is crying out to be asked is, why sell now at approximately 350p when he didn`t at 404p in February?
  As it doesn`t make any economic sense, the answer has to be political, and selling these shares to private investors, when prices are almost certainly set to rise, seems a very effective way of bribing yourself back into favour with the financial sector.
What a shame the much vaunted "long-term economic plan" allows for such short-term thinking! With the OECD announcing that investment in British business is too slow, what a wonderful opportunity Osborne is wasting. Returning the bank to the private sector at a time when it could be providing the funds for businesses to grow, and provide the machinery and technology essential to raise productivity, is simply economic "incompetence". Hopes that the electorate will have forgotten such generosity with their assets by 2020 appear to take precedence!

     Furthermore, a state-owned RBS could set an example in management to the other high street banks; that would mean some immediate sackings, both of all those employed in the investment arm of RBS culpable for the foreign exchange rigging, the illegal selling of mortgage-backed securities in the US, and all the other scams, and of those at the top responsible for the profit-at-all costs culture, and the obscenely high bonuses. It would also mean absolute compliance with all taxation laws, ensuring the Treasury received its fair share, to be invested in infrastructure, health and education. A bank like this could even attract employees willing to put the needs of the customer first, rather than personal enrichment, and millions of customers preferring to see the huge profits amassed by their bank benefiting the nation as a whole, not just its already rich shareholders.

A myth in need of de-bunking

 Since Labour`s defeat in the election, the view that the party was insufficiently pro-business to be electable, seems to have taken hold. The candidates for Labour leadership, Corbyn excepted, have exacerbated the situation with their acceptance of this opinion; they all swallow the nonsense that Labour failed to win over what they embarrassingly call "wealth creators", with one cringingly calling them "heroes", and that this cost them the election. Mary Creagh dropped out of the race with an article in which she stated that Miliband`s division of business "into producers or predators" actually "alienated business".
       The time is ripe to de-bunk this myth before it becomes the accepted norm, and before Labour spends the next five years sucking up to big-business and the City fat cats, and haemorrhaging even more votes in the next election. The more "pro-business" Labour gets, the more Tory policies it adopts, and the more votes it loses from traditional supporters and ordinary people. How many votes would Miliband`s Labour have gained had they promised to lower corporate tax levels further, or to go easy on business`s tax avoidance? The whole idea is crazy, dreamed up by the Blairites, with Mandelson at the helm, to divert the party to the right.
        Let`s get things straight: it is their own behaviour which divides businesses "into producers or predators", not politicians` imaginations, and Miliband was merely pointing out that the ones which fail to pay employees sufficient wages so that billions of in-work benefits are needed, but simultaneously manage obscene levels of renumeration and bonuses for those at the top, or which do everything possible to deny the Treasury the taxes due due it, despite Britain having the lowest corporate tax level of all G7 countries, need to change their behaviour. When Miliband stressed the need for banks to change their culture of profit-at-all-costs and to end the scams and ripping-off their customers he was only saying what the majority of us think. If this "alienated business", then so be it, but it did not account for the election defeat, despite what the Blairite "old guard" might think.
         Creagh  failed to mention that when Miliband did admonish "irresponsible capitalism" in conference speeches and in the election campaign, and that when he pledged to freeze energy bills until 2017 and pass on wholesale price cuts to customers, his, and the Labour party`s, approval ratings soared in the opinion polls. The more he attacked business for its greed, and in the case of the banks, the scams, the more the voters liked it, so it doesn`t make sense to say that Labour was not pro-business enough. Perhaps not anti-business`s bad behaviour enough is nearer the truth?
        Anyway, if Labour wasn`t sufficiently pro-business, why did Balls and Miliband promise smaller firms that they would have been the first to benefit under a Labour government, with a cut to business rates on 1.5 million small business premises?
         Was it the tone in which Miliband addressed business which offended them? Hardly! Blairites would do well to remember how he announced himself at the CBI`s annual conference last November, saying that it was "great" to be there, "celebrating the work" that business does "day-in,day-out for the people of this country"? He added that he would never "risk" their businesses by "playing political games with membership of the EU", and added that change was necessary for the economy so that it met "the basic aspirations of the British people.
         Despite what the right wing of the Labour party says, there is evidence to suggest that, had the party adopted a bolder approach to business, including gradual re-nationalisation of the railways, the transformation of RBS into a People`s Bank fully owned by the taxpayers, and re-employing the thousands who have lost their jobs at HMRC, the election result would have been somewhat different.
     Whatever happens in the coming months, Labour must stop apologising for Miliband`s supposedly anti-business stance, and saying it cost them the election; it`s a myth in serious need of de-bunking!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Tristram Hunt`s scapegoating is disgusting

Tristram Hunt may well opine that a Labour education secretary would not "ban To Kill  Mocking Bird", but judging by his pre-election announcements Labour would not reverse the academisation programme either, nor repeal Gove`s unnecessary assessment reforms, nor do anything about the 60 hour week many of our teachers endure, nor even promise the return of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the removal of which ended the aspiration of thousands of would-be sixth formers at a stroke ("We should have been more radical",09/06/15)
    Putting the blame on Miliband for allowing himself "to be perceived as uninterested in schools` policy" is a little rich when one remembers Hunt`s own lack of focus on the subject, and instead, his concentration on introducing teachers` oaths, a new re-licensing scheme, Performance Related Pay, and the lack of "character and resilience" amongst state educated pupils. With Gove-like predictability, Hunt wrote in the Guardian about "the long tail of underachievement", a view based on Pisa tests where students from a range of nations are given different questions to answer, and results somehow compared (Labour could abandon GCSEs within a decade, Hunt reveals,23/04.15). No mention whatsoever was made of the fantastic work and results being achieved in the state sector, despite constant curriculum and examination changes.
      Did Hunt ever see the need to consult with experienced teachers before introducing his policy initiatives? Of course, as he said, the country needs to "make the most of the talents of all our young people", but how would that be achieved by identifying a small proportion, the so-called "gifted and talented", and giving them special treatment? (Labour must do more to cater for gifted children, says Tristram Hunt, 02/02/15) All children deserve an education system which will stretch them to the limit, so designating some as worthy of preferential treatment is clearly unfair.
   Education, as Hunt says, "must be our vehicle for a bigger story of Britain", but few will be convinced, especially with this scapegoating, that he should be driving it! Did he ever commit Labour to a review of teachers` pay and conditions, or even to meet with teachers` union leaders? And he has the nerve to criticise Miliband!

Indy`s editorial on HSBC nonsense

What a ludicrous idea! Your editorial`s suggestion that the tax levy and ringfencing will cause HSBC to become a "weak bank" which, in turn, "will not make for a strong economy", ignores much empirical evidence (A bitter pill,10/06/15). You do admit to HSBC`s various scams like "having its share of PPI mis-selling", and the small matter of "money laundering" gets a mention too, but nowhere is it acknowledged that had it done anything to change the banking culture of profit-at-all-cost, and obscene bonuses to those who could make the most money for the bank, regardless of method or ethics, they would have avoided being fined far more than the amount paid because of the tax levy. No mention, either, of the £32000 a week paid to non-dom CEO, Stuart Gulliver, on top of his £1.2m salary, to get round EU bonus caps, nor of the bank`s role in rigging the foreign exchange markets, nor even of HSBC`s Swiss banking arm helping wealthy customers avoid tax. They have claimed that the bank levy prevents them paying a 5% rise on last year`s £6.3bn dividend to their shareholders, as if that should excuse their decision to sack 8000 workers who almost certainly had nothing to do with the misdemeanours.
  Quantitative easing provided £375bn to the banks after the crash, which was meant to kickstart the beginning of a "strong economy", with the banks lending to British businesses; it didn`t happen, but nevertheless,"bank-bashing", according to you, "has probably run its course"! How dare any bank complain about regulation, bank levies and a corporation tax which is around 18 percentage points below the rate paid by companies in America? How often have we heard the similar threat that, if bankers aren`t allowed their annual bonuses, they will leave the country? If our politicians had any bottle at all, they would call HSBC`s bluff ; most of the electorate would be in favour of an 80% bonus tax, and of our participation in the EU`s financial transaction tax due in January 2016, so, in fact, the bank is treated far too leniently in the eyes of most people. Didn`t Mark Carney say last year that the issues facing banks were not the result of a few bad apples, but evidence of a rotten barrel? 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Morning Star letter on academies

The decision by the Tory government to force through the academisation of  apparently struggling local authority schools in England is worrying on so many accounts (Morning Star, 0406/15) As you reported, 46% of academies have been branded as "requires improvement" or "inadequate", and the Commons Education Committee found no evidence to show that academic standards are better in academies than other state schools. This decision, therefore, has to be political rather than educational, with the eventual objective being "full school privatisation", as stated by Christine Blower of the NUT.
 Also of concern is that there appear to be no plans to deal with, or even acknowledge the existence of, "struggling" academies, whose employment of unqualified teachers on low pay is clearly part of the government plan for education on the cheap. No mention, either, of how this might affect students` aspirations!
    What is disturbing, too, is that the future of these state schools will be based on what can justly be described as random judgements made by Ofsted inspectors, whose accuracy in assessing schools is increasingly being questioned by experienced educationalists. Then there are the problems of exacerbating both the pressure on teaching staff, with many experiencing 60 hour weeks already, and on retaining and recruitment in the profession.
 The timing of the announcement, of course, is deliberate: the feeble opposition, provided to Gove`s unnecessary upheaval of examinations and curricula, by Labour`s spokespersons on education will undoubtedly be continued, with the party`s leadership candidates more concerned with bickering over their pro-business credentials. Burnham says he supports comprehensive education, but will he come out in favour of industrial action by teachers to save it?

Clearly we can expect a rush of contentious announcements from this duplicitous government, whilst Labour lacks cohesion and direction; forcing through unpopular legislation, which failed to appear in election manifestos, appears to be a habit the Tories have no intention of breaking.

Another Tory trap for Labour

The clever trap Osborne and the Tories have designed for the Labour leadership candidates to jump into must be ignored (Osborne turns to "Micawber" economics,10/06/15). The obvious response from them is to point out that the Tories` desire to shrink the state back to levels last seen when laissez-faire principles dominated political thinking, and when inequality flourished, does not coincide with Labour values. Also, emphasising that having "tax revenues covering spending on both infrastructure and day-to-day running of the government" makes no sense whatsoever, and amounts to a dereliction of government`s duty. When the housing shortage needs urgent government attention, when the NHS and care are facing financial crises, when cities, as Owen Jones points out, need investment if they are to be made "fit for people", (We must fight to make our cities healthier places,10/06/15) and when borrowing, at what in real terms amounts to almost zero interest rates, makes economic sense, the suggestion that improving the quality of people`s lives can only be attempted when the books are balanced is nothing other than negligence.
 Failure to challenge Osborne now will again leave the Labour party open to attack from the Tory propaganda machine; this "new settlement" rhetoric is simply the continuation of Osborne`s preparation for the next election, which began with his "northern powerhouse" nonsense. It was announced earlier this week that work on the electrification of the Manchester to Leeds railway, announced by the Tories in 2011, still has not started, and no-one is prepared to suggest a completion date! Says everything really.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Labour "got it wrong on business". Really?

  What a shame Labour "got it wrong on business" and "didn`t celebrate the spirit of enterprise", as all the candidates for Labour`s leadership, bar Corbyn, claim. The least Miliband and his loyal band could have done was to praise those enterprising businessmen for their role in increasing inequality by generally refusing to pay a living wage to their employees, but ensuring obscenely huge renumeration for themselves. By paying wages so low, business chiefs ensured more of taxpayers` money was spent on in-work benefits and therefore less on hospitals and schools, but their "spirit of enterprise" means tax avoided now totals at least £40bn annually.
     Then there`s their clever trick of threatening to leave the country if they don`t get their own way, like bankers always do if their bonuses are threatened, or banks do, if they are to be regulated or taxed more. Almost as enterprising as their scams, fixing Libor and forex rates, mis-selling insurance to their customers, and laundering drug money. So many examples, so much to be celebrated! Like the financial institutions who get themselves represented on Treasury tax committees so that they can advise their customers on the best way to avoid paying their fair share, or the way they get their fees, by taking a percentage of the tax avoided. Really enterprising!
   What about those clever hotel owners who charge on average something like £130 for a room, but pay the room-attendants less than £3 a room? Or the CBI boss who threatens that, if rules on zero-hours contract are changed, wealth-creators will resort to hiring workers on a daily basis?
 So much to celebrate, Andy!

  I am sure there are decent employers in this country, who treat their workers fairly, but there are clearly far too many who don`t; until they all do, Labour should be far more careful about giving them its support! 

2 letters on joke that is "one-nation" Toryism

David Cameron is correct in thinking that his belief that it`s "not just the left who care about the poor" is not a sentiment "widely shared outside Planet Tory" (Cameron`s goal is to suggest that it`s not just the left who care about the poor,30/05/15). The empirical evidence, something the Tories are noted for ignoring, is there for all to study. That`s why Anne McElvoy is wide of the mark when stating that "scepticism... is not the whole story when it comes to Dave`s one-nation claim". Disraeli`s plan was to woo the working class voters, in his 1874-80 administration, with reforms designed to improve the quality of their lives, after Gladstone`s election defeat due largely to him basing the government on laissez-faire principles which had the effect of increasing inequality. Strange how Cameron`s aim to shrink the state, and take government spending back to 1930s levels, is so much more Gladstonian, in principle, than Disraelian conservatism.
 Indeed, similarities with Disraeli`s one-nation conservatism are rare: whilst Cameron aims to curb trade unionism and make it more difficult to strike, Disraeli passed the Conspiracy and Protection Act, which increased unions` right to picket. Whereas Disraeli wanted to improve the homes of the working people with his Artisans Dwellings Act, present-day Tories allow huge tax concessions for profiteering landlords, and "reduce  the country`s stock of affordable housing" (Extending right to buy makes no sense and creates divisions,31/05/15). Disraeli`s School Attendance Committees were designed to encourage as many children as possible to take advantage of educational opportunities, unlike Cameron`s government which scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance within weeks of taking office in 2010. That same government cut staffing at its Food Standards Agency, leading to less inspection and more risk for consumers, but Disraeli`s Sale of Food and Drugs Act laid down stringent regulations on food preparation. Even Cameron`s policy towards the health of the nation, with more privatisation of the NHS, compares unfavourably with Disraeli`s Public Health Act, which laid down the compulsory duties of local authorities, and his Factory Act which enabled workers to participate in sports on Saturday afternoons.
     "One-nation" Toryism requires "compassionate conservatism", which seems more a product of the Tories` propaganda machine than a plausible concept, or even a realistic prospect.

 Martin Kettle urges us to "look at the whole picture" of the Tories in power, and "take an objective view", yet fails to take his own advice, and instead ignores the empirical evidence (A reality check - the Tories aren`t all wicked and wrong,05/06/15). A brief study of the cruel and callous actions of the Tory-dominated coalition, 2010-15, makes a mockery of Cameron`s claims to want "the economy to work for everyone" and "bring people together". Within weeks of that government`s creation, Gove had destroyed the aspirations of thousands with his ending of the Education Maintenance Allowance, Osborne had raised VAT, and the imposition of austerity policies especially hurt the weakest and most vulnerable; the bedroom tax, cuts to disability allowances and the sanctioning of thousands of benefit claimants, whilst simultaneously cutting tax rates for the very wealthy and doing next to nothing about £35bn annually of tax avoidance, except reducing staff at HMRC by 20,000, all suggest “compassionate Toryism” is a figment of imagination, produced by the Tory party`s propaganda machine. According to Cameron himself, there is even worse to come, with £12bn welfare cuts, and government spending reduced to 1930s` levels. He may claim to emulate Disraeli with his "one-nation" rhetoric, but his preference for retrenchment and laissez-faire is far more Gladstonian! 
     Kettle wants us to believe that there is more to Cameron than "soundbites and wickedness", so he has clearly forgotten all about "making work pay", lobbying being "the next big scandal", and of course, "all in this together"!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Letter to Guardian on Labour`s defeat

"Distracted" ten times? (The undoing of Ed Miliband,04/06/15)  The fact that the decision for "Labour`s six election pledges" to be carved into an "8ft 6in slab of limestone" only "got through 10 planning meetings" because the advisers "were all distracted" by the Tories` tactics, beggars belief. How many last-minute voting decisions were made, how many Tory seats saved, on account of their failure to pay attention? Presumably, they were also "all distracted" when they agreed to patronise half the electorate with their pink mini-bus, or when they failed to cope with Crosby`s "trademark black cat strategy"? That some of them "confessed a lingering admiration" for such an obvious Tory response to Labour`s "non-dom proposal", says it all.
    Sadly, Labour leaders do not appear to have learned their lesson; with so many Tory "distractions", like "a recovery running out of steam", and warnings from the OECD about "public spending being slashed back too fast", the Labour leadership candidates prefer to concentrate on bickering about their pro-business credentials and their "southern middle-class aspiration and northern working-class solidarity(George Osborne is free at last - free to indulge his ideological zeal and his political cunning; The age of machine politics is over.But it thrives in the Labour party,05/06/15). They seem oblivious to the devastating damage done to the party`s election prospects by the last leadership campaign. How ironic, then, that the challenge to the nonsense about "compassionate conservatism" and "one-nation" Toryism is being led, not by them, but by Miliband, the ex-leader they are so keen to disparage (Miliband` questions Cameron`s one-nation stance,05/06/15) He, at least, realises that, with Osborne free to unleash his political vandalism on the welfare state, it is essential that Labour does not allow him to get away with it unscathed, particularly as the Tory propaganda machine is already preparing for 2020.

Labour leadership candidates

Steve Richards is only partly right when he says that the gullible Labour leadership candidates have fallen into a "trap" with their apologies "for their government being responsible for the global economic crash", and that Tory leaders would never resort to "saying sorry" for previous administrations` failings (Labour`s next leader should look to Cameron, not Blair,01/06/15) For a start, Tories never face such hostility from a media, 85% overtly pro-Conservative, but what Richards also fails to mention is that these would--be leaders of the Labour party are also "apologising" for ever having appeared to support Miliband`s election proposals. With the mansion tax being accepted by all as the "politics of envy", and the Blairite propaganda about failure to meet the demands of both the so-called "aspirational middle" and of business being seen as the real reasons for the defeat, we can expect yet more examples of candidates in Miliband-denial mode.
     At least Cooper has said that she "would keep Labour`s 50p top rate" which is something, though rather than follow Richards`s suggestion of copying Cameron, perhaps the candidates should, in this respect, be emulating Margaret Thatcher? (Stop obsessing over aspiration, Sadiq Khan tells Labour hopefuls,01/06/15). Under her leadership, the top rate of income tax, between 1979 and 1988, was kept at 60%!  We clearly need not only a candidate, who, as Richards says, refuses to apologise for the past, but who also has the bottle to say that there was little wrong with Miliband`s policies, and that business, with its unfair pay policies, its zero-hours contracts and propensity to pay as little tax as possible, will get support from Labour when it deserves it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Compassionate conservatism? Oh please!

Why is Rafael Behr being so lenient in his criticism of the Tory government (Wanted: Tory moderates brave enough to halt their party`s lurch to the right,27/05/15)? Cutting £12bn out of welfare spending, "with a disproportionate impact on the low-paid and disabled", will not "look vindictive", it will be vindictive! This nonsense about "one-nation conservatism" is simply the product of the Tory propaganda machine, as is Osborne`s harping on about "northern powerhouses"; after five years of reducing grants to Labour-held cities and towns north of Watford, and developing plans for high-speed railways and another runway for London, both designed to increase the wealth of the capital and its hinterland, can anyone realistically expect "compassionate conservatism" to suddenly emerge, especially when the "hard right is calling the shots"?
    Just because Michael Gove last March, obviously in a panic over supposed impending election meltdown, called on fellow Conservatives to "stand as warriors of the dispossessed", doesn`t mean anyone will forget his own lack of "true compassion". Within weeks of becoming Education Secretary in 2010, for example, he curtailed the aspirations of thousands of would-be sixth form students with his ending of the Educational Maintenance Allowance.

     Tory confidence after the last election, with a cobbled-together coalition, led them to impose savage cuts whilst reducing taxes for the very rich; if, with a majority government, their "hubris is now through the roof", heaven help us after the "emergency" budget in July!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Labour candidates on wrong track

In a letter to the Guardian this week, Michael Meacher, the Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, reminded readers of a few pertinent facts about what he called "Tory yarns":
Osborne promised in 2010 to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015, but it now stands at £92bn;
he reduced the £97.3bn deficit of 2013-14 by £7.1bn in 2014-15, but expects us to believe he will eliminate it completely by 2017-18, reducing it by £15bn this year, £36bn next year, then £27bn , then a further £17bn.
Since Darling`s reduction of the deficit, "Osborne`s austerity budgets have reduced the deficit by £26bn in three years".
 If he pushes through futher cuts, the economy, now only growing at 0.3%,will cease to grow at all.
  Shouldn`t facts like these be the ones being emphasised by the candidates for the leadership, rather than bickering between themselved about which one of them can meet the demands of both the "aspirational middle" and of business? The point is that Labour needs to be opposing the Tories constantly. They failed to challenge them back in 2010 and the result was that most voters believed the Tory propaganda about the economic crash being the result of Labour`s mismanagement. If they fail to challenge myths about the Tories` "long-term economic plan" now, blatant untruths about Labour`s policies will again become the key element underlying the Tories` attempts to win again in 2020. The more the Labour government`s overspending, despite the fact that it built schools and hospitals, is seen as an example of Labour`s incompetence by the candidates, the more it will be remembered by voters, especially with the full weight of the Tory party`s propaganda machine behind it. Imagine what the moderate idea, originally proposed by those lefty revolutionaries, the Lib Dems, of a "mansion tax" will become, after a few weeks of Tory spin! They won`t even have to think of a slogan, as Burnham and the others stress how it`s indicative of the "politics of envy". For goodness sakes, it`s merely a sensible extension of council tax, and would cost the owners of these homes, most of them in London, around £3-5,000 annually, an amount almost certainly exceeded by the increase every year in the house`s price! The candidates are providing the fodder for the Tory propaganda instead of exposing the Tory leadership as hypocrits, and standing up for a fair society.
 How many of the would-be leaders of the Labour party are focussing their message on the need to expose the Tories for what they are? Is there not an urgent need to challenge their nonsense about "compassionate" and "one-nation" Toryism? The latest report of the Office of National Statistics shows that at some point between 2010 and 2013, 19.3 million persons had an income below 60% of the national median! The party of "aspiration" for all, as Tories  now are ludicrously claiming? Within weeks of becoming Education Secretary in 2010, Michael Gove scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance! How many thousands of young peoples` aspirations were ended at a stroke? Labour needs to challenge the Tory party`s hypocrisy now, before it is too late.
 Labour must never stop accepting that this country`s population believes in social justice; that means fairness for all, that the UK`s position of 28th out of 34 in the OECD`s equality league table is a disgrace, that tax avoidance costing up to £40bn annually needs more employees at HMRC, not 20,000 job cuts which the Tories have imposed.
  There is a real danger that, given the policies proposed by the candidates, Labour will lose yet more of its core support; it is the party of the "wealth creators" as long as it never forgets who the real creators of wealth are, the workers who currently enable many bosses to be renumerated to the tune of 150 times the pay of their average workers.
  With all respect to Michael Meacher, hopes for Labour`s future should not lie in his letters to the media, but at the moment he, at least, is showing what is needed. Shame the same cannot be said for the candidates!