Labour needs a shadow Minister specifically to tackle inequality

by Michael Meacher

class inequalityThe gravy train rolls on reaching ever more sickening heights of greed, selfish gratification and disregard for the ever deeper miasma of poverty that disfigures our country. The latest figures show that the richest 10% of the UK population, who already owned 52% of UK wealth just before the 2008 crash, have become significantly richer since the crash because of the rise in value of financial assets, during a time when averages income have fallen 8% in real terms. Britain now has 2 million dollar millionaires, if the value of equity in houses is included, up by almost a third since last year. There are also now 44 billionaires in Britain, up from 8 in 2000.

The individual excesses continue apace, only getting ever more outrageous. British Gas has just appointed a new chief executive, Helge Lund, previous boss of Norway’s Statoil company, with a £15m ‘golden hello’ and potential earnings of an additional £14m a year. At the other end of the scale are 70 former NHS care workers for the disabled in Doncaster who have taken so far 85 days’ strike action resisting the further crushing of wages and terms and conditions for the lowest paid. Their jobs were outsourced, holidays cut, and take-home pay cut by a third. Care UK which won the contract and ousted them is owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital and its chairman John Nash was recently made a peer after donating a quarter of a million pounds to the Tory party. Continue reading →

Tenants excluded as social housing flogged off in billionaire investor bazaars

by Michael Meacher

mipimuk-2014MIPIM is the name of the sales fair to flog off Britain. This is the latest extravaganza of market fundamentalism which is now sweeping Britain. It is being pitched at this moment is a huge hall in London which brings together property developers, billionaire investors from all over the world and, incongruously, local council officials from over Britain. Their common interest, though from very different concerns, is public housing. The property developers want to make a mint from knocking it down and putting up luxury flats in its place. The investors are motivated by a juicy return on capital if they invest in a must-win bonanza.

And the local councils – and here’s the rub – are there because they are broke and have no other means of raising serious money. The only people who aren’t there are the tenants of the public housing which is about to be demolished before their eyes. Their homes, which many have lived in for 30-40 years, are about to be turned into someone else’s speculative asset without their even being consulted, let alone given a chance to impose a veto on a process which literally destroys their livelihood. Continue reading →

Why Britain needs a pay rise

by Mike Hedges

payriselogoTomorrow the TUC demonstration will be highlighting why Britain needs a pay rise. The extent to which people’s living standards have dropped is greater than ever before.

I was shocked when a Unite bus driver told me how every month his wife’s parents have to give them £200 to be able to pay their rent and it is common practise for bus drivers to be on benefits. Paul and his members are not shirkers or skivers and yet these are the people under attack from cuts and austerity.

Recently I have been to many Unite sector committees talking about the need to vote Labour at the General Election. What comes up time and time again is that although they won’t vote Tory there is no enthusiasm to vote Labour. Everyone is being affected by lower wages, attacks on working conditions, job insecurity, housing costs, and a higher cost of living. And yet they do not believe that Labour is the answer to the cost of living crisis. Continue reading →

What Tories really think of the minimum wage

by Grahame Morris

David Cameron’s welfare minister has advocated treating those most in need differently by paying them below the national minimum wage. Lord David Freud, talking amongst friends at Conservative Party Conference, said he thought there was “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage”. Lord Freud is not the only Conservative seeking to undermine the minimum wage:

In 2012, Andrea Leadsom said that businesses with three employees and fewer should be exempt from minimum wage, as well as regulation like maternity and paternity rights. Leadsom said:

I genuinely think we do need to do more for growth . . . above all we have to focus on deregulation.” She continued: “No minimum wage; no unfair dismissal; no maternity or paternity rights; no national insurance or employer pension contributions; a flat rate of tax; no red tape.”

Continue reading →

‘Secular stagnation’ is the outcome of deliberate policy — it can (still) be reversed

by Ann Pettifor

19604915_sMartin Wolf in the FT today strikes a  different direction from those secular stagnaters shepherded by Larry Summers towards the cliff-edge of endless doom. Larry Summers devised and popularised the term, “secular stagnation”. He has a lot to answer for. His misjudgements, poor advice to the Obama administration, and flawed analysis have been catastrophic for the global economy. Given his record, he should be silenced or ignored, and barred from shepherding anyone, including economists and other naifs, in any direction (for more on his grave weaknesses see this Forbes article).

Secular stagnation within a deflationary context, let us be clear, is the outcome of deliberate policy choices. It has not come about by accident. It has not come about for lack of economic understanding, learning or analysis. It has not come about for lack of economic tools – both fiscal and monetary, or indeed for lack of human agency. Instead secular stagnation is the deliberate outcome of policy choices made by those dominant in the world’s most powerful policy-making institutions, including the IMF. Continue reading →

Osborne’s own policies shrink tax revenues, yet he cuts more to compensate

by Michael Meacher

recovery faltersThere are now unmistakeable signs that Osborne’s so-called economic recovery is fading, despite all the right-wing think tanks and pro-Tory media to talk it up. A survey of 7,000 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce has just found that manufacturers have suffered a sharp slowdown in export orders, and even more significantly domestic sales and orders – the part of manufacturing that has been faring better due to household expenditure based on rising debt – are now also reported to be slowing. The third quarter growth figures also show the UK economy losing steam, down from ).9% in the second quarter to 0.7%.

The TUC has just reported that not since 1865-7 has there been a comparable squeeze on earnings for British workers, with an 8% fall in real earnings between 2007-14, and the fall is still continuing with the latest figures this year showing annual wage growth of 0.7% against inflation at 1.5%, i.e. a further real wage fall of 0.8%. There is then a serious knock-on adverse effect in a reduced tax take for the government which is actually this year increasing the deficit (from the current £100bn to around £105bn) when Osborne’s whole object is ostensibly above all else to cut the deficit. His austerity programme is now beginning to eat itself. Continue reading →

UKIP, image & reality: brash, loud and uncompromising – naff but canny

by Phil Burton-Cartledge

UKIP+RosetteThis tweet (shown below) by Ellie Mae O’Hagan planted a seed. Strip away the populist politics for a moment, what is it that UKIP’s chosen symbol – the pound sign – says about their party? Or, to be more accurate, what is it about the logo that resonates. What about Nigel Farage. Is his appeal solely down to his cigarette quaffing, pint-smoking persona? Let’s play with the signs that feature prominently in kipper material and prise them apart like so much mouldy pulled pork. What does it say about message and audience? Continue reading →

Is UKIP taking some progressive stances that Labour is afraid of taking?

by Guest

carswellUKIP is stealing important weapons in the progressive armoury, and Labour seems powerless to respond, almost losing a safe seat in a by-election, says Damien Hockney, former UKIP member of the London Assembly and Deputy Leader of Roberty Kilroy-Silk’s breakaway party, Veritas. Since then, UKIP has apparently been in discussion with a sitting Labour MP who is considering defecting.

We do not endorse the views expressed here but believe it is a piece well worthy of attention and we invite comments on the extent to which plausible, relatively “progressive” elements within UKIP (though Hockney himself is not currently a member) may attract support not only from disillusioned former Labour voters but from some party and union activists and even MPs.

The astonishing progress of UKIP in two recent Westminster by-elections is the most serious warning so far that the political elite has lost its touch and appears to simply not care about the voters. The landslide victory in the Tory seat of Clacton was expected from the day the by-election was called (we should all be asking why, not just accepting its inevitability). But more important was the party’s near victory in a supposedly safe Labour seat on the same day against opinion polls which predicted a big majority for Labour, and the discussions between UKIP and a sitting Labour MP about possible defection: this is the eleventh hour reminder to the left and progressive politics – that UKIP is being allowed to steal some of the most important weapons in the progressive armoury, and Labour seem powerless, unwilling and inactive in response. Continue reading →

Consumer inflation may be low, but asset inflation is high and real wages keep falling

by Jeremy Smith

a man pushing over the word "crisis"The latest UK annual CPI inflation statistics, for August 2014, were published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.  They show annual inflation down to 1.2%. The last time the annual rate was below this was in September 2009, in the depth of the recession, when it fell to 1.1%.  Assuming that the present lower CPI inflation trend is continued in coming months, as seems probable, we will be back to levels last seen in the late 1990s and up to 2004.  The lowest levels this century were in May 2000 (0.5%) and June 2002 (0.6%).

But there is a very big difference between then and now.  Today, wages are running at an annual increase rate of around 0.7%, still well below CPI inflation.  In the period 2001 to 2008, when the ONS wages dataset begins, total wages were mainly rising annually at around 3-5% – and till the 2008 crisis, never fell below the inflation rate.

The chart below shows the picture clearly for the period 2001 to 2014.  Till 2008, total pay (which includes bonuses etc.) was always above inflation in annual % terms, usually well above. Since then, it has almost constantly been below inflation.  N.b. we have estimated that total wage increases remain at 0.7% (the last figure published by ONS, for July) for the months of August and September 2014. Continue reading →

Self-employed to be removed from Health & Safety at Work protection

by Michael Meacher

11191305_sNext week the government is intending to push through legislation which will remove the cover which self-employed people have always received over the last 40 years since the passing of the Health & Safety at Work Act. Section 3 of this act currently places a duty on all employers and self-employed people to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of others. The government is now proposing to change this to:

It shall be the duty of every self-employed person who conducts an undertaking of a prescribed description to conduct the undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety”.

Continue reading →

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