Detoxifying the Liberal Democrats

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

toxic Lib DemsWhat are we to make of the LibDem’s about-turn on the bedroom tax? Whole-hearted penance or are more cynical motives at work? I’m sure readers won’t be shocked if the truth lies closer to the latter pole than the former, but it begs the question. With up to two-thirds of the Parliamentary party looking to have an abrupt career change after May next year, what kind of strategy should the LibDems pursue to avoid outright catastrophe?

If there is one thing they can take from the coming disaster, next year’s results are likely to be “trough LibDem”. It cannot get much worse. The problem is that the brick wall is coming, the collision is inevitable – but there are things that can be done to ease off on the accelerator. And signalling opposition to the hated bedroom tax is just one of those late-in-the-day things. To detoxify they need to put clear water between themselves and a Tory party whose nastiness is matched only by their determination to drag Britain down the plug hole. Continue reading →

Private tenants caught in a rent trap – and sinking

by Michael Meacher

There are so many repositories of destitution and hopelessness in Britain today that adding another does not evoke the horror it should:

  • There the million or more persons who have been ‘sanctioned’ – deprived of all their benefit income by DWP for 4 weeks for some trivial (or invented) infringement of the benefit rules, then for 3 months for a second breach, and 3 years (!) for a third, without in many cases being told why.
  • Then there is a large proportion of the 1.6 million moderately or severely disabled persons on Incapacity Benefit who are being told after a cursory interview that they are fit for work even there is no work available in the local area that they could possibly do, even if they had the right skills, and even when their mental or physical handicaps ruled them out in competition in the local labour market – yet their benefit is still cut drastically.
  • There are the million or more frail elderly, often with Alzheimer’s, who are now deprived of essential care they need because of the £2.7bn reduction in the social care budget.
  • And there the helpless and vulnerable mentally ill who are desperately in need of greater support to survive, but who are bullied,intimidated and tricked by DWP into giving up the benefits they’re entitled to.
  • But there is still another group who are fast growing in number and caught up in a rent trap from which they cannot escape.

Continue reading →

A Tory minister’s revenge operation?

by Mike Phipps

In the UK illegally?Mark Harper, the Immigration minister notorious for the racist “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest” vans who left the Government in February, is back in office. After just six months on the back benches, he returns to the Coalition as Minister of State at the DWP.

He resigned from the government earlier this year after it emerged that a cleaner he had employed since 2007 did not have permission to work in the UK. The minister, responsible for a draconian anti-immigration measure which would increase sanctions on employers who did not check the immigration papers of their employees, re-checked the immigration status of Isabella Acevedo, who had an unblemished work record, and then shopped her to immigration enforcement officials. Continue reading →

Why does Labour stick to Tory austerity plans the stats show can’t be achieved?

by Michael Meacher

socialism and austerity signs, original pic by 123rf.comOsborne’s boast that he would shrink the welfare state to its small scale in 1948 has been definitively scuppered by a report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). These official figures reveal that there are at least 6 major areas of public expenditure which are currently escalating rapidly and make it impossible to reconcile with his proposed 35% cuts in all non-protected departments and a further £25bn cuts in benefits in the next parliament.

This is reinforced by the latest news that the deficit (public sector net borrowing), the reduction of which is the ostensibly central objective of Osborne’s economic strategic, actually increased last year by £13bn despite a year of economic growth, whilst in the first quarter alone of the new fiscal year ONS figures now reveal a big increase in Tory government borrowing to £36bn, a worrying 7.3% increase over the same quarter in 2013. This major reversal, if it continues as it shows every sign of doing so, leaves Osborne’s counter-productive deficit-reduction plan in tatters. Continue reading →

Why most people are getting poorer

by Michael Burke

cashMost people in Britain are getting poorer. For obvious reasons, the government and supporters of austerity would prefer not to discuss this fact.

Yet in the strained language of the Labour right, there has also been a clamour for Ed Miliband to ‘change the narrative’ on the economy by no longer talking about the cost of living crisis. This is based on the completely false notion that that the economic recovery under way will inevitably produce higher living standards. This fails to understand the content and purpose of current economic policy. It is also based on a refusal to face facts. Continue reading →

The economic contradictions of Mr Miliband

by Ann Pettifor and Jeremy Smith

Two faces of MilibandThere is much to welcome in Ed Miliband’s address last Saturday to the Labour Party’s national policy forum. For example, his argument that Britain suffers from a low-pay economy. While the number of those in employment has grown, real pay has fallen dramatically over the lifetime of the present government.

At PRIME, we calculated the fall in real pay from May 2010 to May 2014 as 6.1%, using the CPI inflation and total pay stats from the Office for National Statistics. In his weekend column in The Independent on Sunday, David Blanchflower estimates the fall in real pay as 8% over the identical period, using the somewhat higher (but now less “official”) RPI inflation numbers. Continue reading →

On the “Obsession” with Israel and Palestine

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Israel-Palestine-e1297092190649I think James Bloodsworth has been unfair locating the opposition to Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza in the matrix of revolutionary identity politics. Yes, in the fractured universe of British radicalism the Israel/Palestine conflict is an occasion for position-taking, and, as with nearly all positions assumed, be it war in the Middle East, the attitude to Labour, or whether capitalism has been restored in China, they are a locus for identity work. However, it is a mistake to say this determinesopposition to Israel. Their “obsession” derives neither from freaks of character nor unacknowledged anti-semitism: it’s because mainstream politics recognises, treats and privileges the Israel/Palestine conflict as a strategic priority in ways other persistent conflicts are not. It matters to the left because official society says it matters. Continue reading →

The mentally ill are neglected in the NHS, but tormented by the DWP

by Michael Meacher

jcp-signAs happens in all authoritarian organisations, the truth is so dreadful that it begins to seep out through leaks, secret briefings, off-the-record briefings that turn out to be recorded, and by other risky but well-intentioned means. It has long happened in the case of disabled resisters determined to fight back against grotesque misjudgements by Atos over work capability assessments. It is now just beginning to happen in the case of the mentally ill who are often even less able to protect their rights. What is now being exposed is even worse than people’s wildest suspicions, exacerbated by the revelation that such bullying and aggressive treatment is deliberate DWP policy.

A secret briefing by a DWP jobcentre manager, recently reported, highlights the sheer cruelty with which mentally ill persons are hounded by the Department in order to push them off benefits. A great number of those on employment and support allowance (ESA) are suffering from mental illness or learning difficulties. Despite the DWP always insisting they never used targets, the jobcentre manager produced a printed sheet called ‘spinning plates’ marked by red for missed, green for hit. Continue reading →

There’s a smell of roses at Labour headquarters

by Jon Lansman

red rosesNever let it be said that Left Futures never has a good word for Labour headquarters and staff in the Leader’s office. Today, we have particular reason to praise their judgement.

At today’s meeting of Labour’s national executive committee, two rule changes proposed by CLPs having been promoted by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, have been endorsed by the executive based on officers recommendations. That’s not unprecedented – for a very short period in the early 1980s it was almost common – but it is not a frequent occurrence. The amendments recommended for approval by party conference are: Continue reading →

Gaza genocide will only stop if the political & military cost to Israel is too high

by Michael Meacher

Free GazaAt least 425 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli blitzkrieg on Gaza, including 80 in the last day alone, and nearly 80% of the dead are civilians, 20% of them children. This is the result of launching the world’s fourth military power against 1.8 million Palestinians already blockaded in the largest open-air prison on Earth.

What is really sickening about this is the attitude of Obama (and Cameron) in blaming the victims for resisting aggression whilst backing Israel with impunity whatever the scale of their utterly unjustified civilian killings. US and UK leaders point the finger at Hamas’ firing rockets into Israel as the trigger for the Israeli attack, without which all this appalling bloodshed would never have happened. That is a concoction of fantasy. Continue reading →

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