Apr 17th, 2015by Michael Meacher
The 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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Apr 16th, 2015by Jon Lansman
Dave 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 promises “no more something for nothing, blind loyalty to Labour” may be rather more distant. He does, however, promise to “make Labour and politics work for us” and 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 →
Apr 15th, 2015by Michael Meacher
Labour’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 →
Apr 15th, 2015by Diane Abbott
The 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 →
Apr 15th, 2015by Phil Burton-Cartledge
If 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 →
Apr 14th, 2015by Michael Burke
The 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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