The central issue of this election is a mystery wrapped in an enigma

by Michael Meacher

osborne red facedThe key issue of this election,behind all the superficial flashy giveaways, is paying off the deficit. It still stands this year at £92bn when Osborne pledged in 2010 it would be £37bn or below – a discrepancy of £55bn, not exactly a minor slippage.

So how exactly, after 5 years in which Osborne has tried every trick in the book to try to get the deficit down to near-zero, are we supposed to believe that it will now be squashed down to zero within the next 3 years (Tories) or the next 5 years (Labour)?

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The trial of Greville Janner

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Lord JannerIs it possible to not be surprised yet be shocked at the same time? If it is, that’s what I felt this morning when the news came through that Lord Janner, the former Labour MP for Leicester West would not be charged. Shocked because the testimony and evidence is compelling, not surprised because of the crippled, senile old man Janner has become. The Crown Prosecution Service concluded that it would not be in the public interest to follow through with a prosecution and, as much as I wish it was otherwise, this decision is the right one.

As a Labour Party member he would say that.” Well, no. As someone interested in justice being seen to be done, I am saying that. Anyone following the Janner case will have their opinion about his guilt or otherwise. I certainly have my views, and they’re not a million miles away from the sentiment that’s been gushing like a torrent on Twitter all afternoon. Yet we still – just – have the right to innocence until proven otherwise, and that applies to those accused of the most disgusting crimes. So where the evidence is concerned, let’s just say there is a compelling case to answer. And on this point the CPS agrees. Continue reading →

Dave Ward to replace Billy Hayes as Communications Union leader

by Jon Lansman

Billy-Banner4-1Dave Ward who has been the deputy general secretary (postal) of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) since 2003 was this afternoon declared elected as general secretary to replace Billy Hayes who has held the post since 2001 and was standing for a fourth term. CWU is the biggest trade union in the communications sector with 200,000 members working in companies including BT, Capita, EE, O2, Parcelforce, the Post Office, Royal Mail, Santander and UK Mail. Dave Ward takes over the role of general secretary from 1 June.

It is not yet clear what practical difference this will make to the union or its politics. Dave Ward is also widely regarded as being on the left, and as a member of the Labour Party he has previously served on its national executive. Whilst Billy Hayes has been a critical friend of Labour, Dave Ward who promisesno more something for nothing, blind loyalty to Labour” may be rather more distant. He does, however, promise to “make Labour and politics work for usand recognises that “the general election will be very close and we need to fight against austerity and the divisive ideas of UKIP for a Labour victory.” His stance may become clearer in 10 days time when the CWU conference will discuss several motions which seek to break the link with Labour and, in some cases, consider backing other parties including  the Grens, Plaid Cymru, SNP and TUSC. Continue reading →

No truth and justice as decision on Orgreave investigation stays secret

by Jon Trickett

OrgreaveI have written to the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) requesting an explanation of the continuing delays in determining how they will proceed in the investigation of the events at Orgreave during the miners’ strike, 30 years ago. The miners that were there, their families, campaigners and the local communities are not primarily pushing for compensation for what happened, or even an apology. They simply want the truth.

Last week the Wakefield Express newspaper reported that the IPCC had made a decision as to whether there will be a full investigation into what happened at Orgreave in 1984. However, this decision has been kept secret. Continue reading →

It’s Labour’s costed offers & structural change v Tory flash unfunded ‘giveaways’

by Michael Meacher

David Cameron visits Jaguar Land RoverLabour’s biggest handicap now is that still too few people on the doorstep realise the magnitude of what the party is offering either in terms of specific policy changes that will benefit the great majority of people or the longer-term structural changes that will turn around a broken economy. The immediate controls on the rip-offs of the ‘priced-out generation’ – the minimum wage to rise by a third from £6.50 an hour to more than £8, the freeze on energy bills till 2017 and the cap on rail fares, serious restrictions to zero-hours contracts, a new 10p starting rate of tax at the bottom matched by a rise in the top rate to 50p, etc. – are fairly well understood (though not yet by all). But the more important proposed structural reforms are not. Continue reading →

Tory attacks on Ed are detestable but the practical case against Trident must be made

by Diane Abbott

Bairns not Bombs CND TridentThe constant personal attacks on Ed Miliband by the Tories have rightly been deplored. Last week ,Tory defence spokesman Michael Fallon chose to claim that Ed “had stabbed his own brother in the back to lead Labour and was now willing to stab the UK in the back by doing a deal on Trident with the SNP to become PM.” His remarks were correctly seen as a new low. But just as depressing as the attack on Ed was the fact that nowhere in the resultant political hullabaloo was there any serious discussion of the practical  case against Trident.

This is not true of Scotland of course. Two week-ends ago five thousand people gathered in Glasgow to protest against Trident and carrying banners saying “Bairns not Bombs” and “Scrap Trident“. But, back in the Westminster bubble, the Labour party’s response to Fallon’s unpleasant remarks didn’t even contain the hint of a willingness to look at the costs of Trident, or of whether Trident was even any use against the threats we currently face including international terrorism. Continue reading →

Why a vote for the Tories is a vote for Communism

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

BRITAIN-UAE-DIPLOMACYIf you’re the tiny section of this blog’s readership contemplating voting Conservative, be aware that you’re voting for communism! Yes, we’ve had the £8bn NHS pledge, the policy of freezing rail fares, the promise of 30 hours a week childcare, and now the Tories are threatening to expropriate housing associations and pass them on at a huge discount to tenants. Yes, just when the election couldn’t get more Fortean it takes yet another weird turn.

Step back and consider the scene for a moment. On Monday Ed Miliband took to the podium and gave an authoritative presentation setting out Labour’s priorities, with full costings. Prudence and sound finance, which includes the requisite deficit pledges, are to be the bedrock of a policy agenda significantly to the left of any government since Jim Callaghan left office. By way of contrast, the Tories have contracted a bout of fiscal incontinence. £25bn worth of unfunded pledges? No problem! We’ll just say the money will be found as and when it’s needed. Verily, their policy slate is the unwholesome offspring of Milton Friedman and Labour’s 1983 manifesto. Bonkers. Continue reading →

Tories make tenants and homeless pay for social housing give away as election bribe

by Michael Meacher

Money-on-a-plateThe desperate search for shrinking votes has pushed Iain Duncan Smith into yet another spectacular own goal. His latest pet idea is to extend the Right to Buy to Britain’s 2.5m housing association tenants. However, whilst social homes are owned by Councils, this latest Tory brainwave means selling off housing association assets which are private property because housing associations are independent charities so that their £65bn in borrowing is securely off the public accounts. But as Osborne must know only too well, compelling housing associations to sell to tenants using the same Right to Buy discounts enjoyed by Council tenants (up to £102,000 in London and £77,000 elsewhere) would cost serious amounts of taxpayer money and bankrupt some housing associations. This is yet another unfunded Tory commitment. Continue reading →

On George Osborne’s sorry pathetic car crash interview

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

If a confrontation with Paxo or Brillo is like going ten rounds with a grizzly bear, spending time on Andrew Marr’s sofa is the political equivalent of a smooch by a pound puppy. Yet this giver of the most gentle of interviews had George Osborne on the ropes in seconds. Of course, if you ask Dan Hodges, this is all part of a master plan. We’re told there’s a genius essence at work beneath the appearance of dogmatism and rank incompetence. Continue reading →

The Tory “Right to Buy” plan will deepen the housing crisis

by Michael Burke

Green plastic monopoly houses, by 123rf.comThe Tory manifesto election pledge to make housing associations sell their homes at a discount and force local authorities to sell off some of their best stock has been widely condemned by the associations themselves and by housing experts. The government has set aside £1 billion to fund the discount available to the new ‘right-to-buy’ owners and will demand that the housing associations build replacement homes, which do not have to meet affordability criteria. The net new money available for homebuilding is therefore just £1 billion.

Using average construction cost estimates from the National Association of Home Builders of £150,000 per home, this equates to just 6,600 homes. Very few or none may be affordable. The idea of bribing a tiny number of housing association tenants (and some of the few remaining local authority ones) with public money to become owner-occupiers is part of the policy of privilege to bolster the Tory election campaign. But since the majority of these homes tend rapidly to become part of the private rented sector it will also exacerbate the growing inequality and unaffordability of housing.

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