Jun 30th, 2015by Michael Meacher
The Tories’ relief that the child poverty figures just published in the official Households Below Average Income (HBAI) statistics didn’t show an increase was palpable. But that conceals the real story. The Tories have form on this issue. Child poverty tripled under Thatcher from 1 in 9 children to 1 in 3, but then fell by 800,000 under Labour after 1997. Unexpectedly this trend continued initially under Cameron with a fall to 2.3 million in 2010-11 because middle class earnings declined (so that the threshold of 60% of average earnings dipped a bit) while benefits protected the poorest. However that easing of the child poverty stigma has now come firmly to an end as a result of the housing benefit cap, the bedroom tax and the 1% cap on benefit increases. Indeed it is now forecast, particularly if the new round of £12bn cuts is launched in the budget, that child poverty will have increased by one-third to 1 in 4 children by 2020.
Even that is not the full story. In Opposition Cameron pledged to end the ‘moral disgrace’ of poverty. He went further in 2006: “the Conservative party recognises, will measure and will act on relative poverty……Even if we are not destitute, we still experience poverty if we cannot afford things that society regards as essential”. Contrast that with the Tory reaction when they believed just before the HBAI statistics were published that the child poverty figures had increased. Were they going to ‘act on relative poverty’ to deal with a worsening situation? No, they were going to move the goal-posts so that nothing need be done. They were going to change the definition of poverty to take account of entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, problem debt, and alcohol and drug dependency – anything except a lack of money. Continue reading →
Jun 29th, 2015by James Elliott
From the moment he got on the ballot paper, Jeremy Corbyn was swiftly pigeonholed as ‘the Left candidate’ incapable of attracting the broad support necessary to win the Party leadership. In an act of remarkable short-sightedness all the other major contenders from Kendall to Burnham have acted as if we still inhabit a pre-Collins party, and their approach has been similar to their diagnosis of Labour’s defeat in May: triangulate enough to win over the nebulous and non-existent ‘Middle England’ and victory is assured.
On the face of this, Corbyn’s victory would seem implausible. Those of us supporting Jeremy are asking a Labour Party where David Miliband, the continuity Blairite candidate in 2010, won the membership vote and Diane Abbott of the Socialist Campaign Group came a very firm last, to now vote in one of its most leftwing MPs to become leader after a General Election many (wrongly) perceive the party as losing because we shifted too far to the left. Continue reading →
Jun 29th, 2015by Rhea Wolfson
This week I felt an immense wave of joy and solidarity with our American comrades and the judgment they have just been handed by the US Supreme Court to recognise all marriages as having equal value. It is a beautiful and poignant moment for so many reasons but the one that sticks out for me is the recognition of such a long, hard fought fight. A fight fought and won on the streets and in the courts. And as Obama speaks the line that shifts of hearts and minds is possible I am reminded of the power of people and civil society.
Last weekend we saw, in the UK, our own fight in the streets. A quarter of a million people came to London to march against austerity; to call out the UK Government and say to them loudly and clearly: you might have ‘won’ an election, but your legitimacy can and will be questioned; we will not let you destroy our country and the people in it.
Continue reading →
Jun 29th, 2015by Michael Meacher
Osborne’s 8 July budget will be forced through in the teeth of all economic experience. The history of the last 70 years demonstrates one conclusion irrefutably: austerity is the wrong way to cut deficits. After the second world war had dramatically drained Britain’s wealth and left the country with colossal debts amounting to 260% of GDP, these huge deficits were easily tamed by fast economic growth in the post-war years.
President Clinton achieved a similar turnaround in the US after he inherited an enormous deficit in 1992 and ended his 8-year presidency with none, largely due to rapid economic growth. Again, the Swedish high budget deficit was successfully brought down during 1994-8 by a policy of fairly fast economic growth. Even in the US in recent years, despite the political deadlock and a largely non-functional Congress, the US has achieved a far bigger and faster recovery from recession than Europe, again as a result of the priority given to growth by Obama. Continue reading →
Jun 28th, 2015by Michael Burke
The IMF has placed a road-block in the way of a deal with the Greek government and it remains unclear whether any agreement can be reached. The prior agreement which the IMF rejected was itself already very onerous. But the IMF wants to shift the burden of paying for the crisis away from taxes on business and the better-paid towards more cuts in social protection. This is an insupportable burden as net median household incomes are already below €8,000 a year. Many multi-member households without work subsist solely on state and public sector pensions. Continue reading →
Jun 28th, 2015by Diane Abbott
Last weekend I attended the huge anti-austerity march and rally organised by the People’s Assembly against Austerity in London. Estimates of the size of the rally varied between 70,000 and more than 150,000. But demonstrators poured into London from all over the country, the march was self-evidently huge and it was definitely a great deal bigger than last year’s event. Several thousand more protestors gathered in Glasgow’s George Square and there were other smaller demonstrations in cities like Liverpool and Bristol.
I was there in London speaking at the beginning of the march and walked the whole route. It was an exhilarating event, purposeful but disciplined. I left it much more hopeful about the future than i have been since the General Election. And I was definitely proud to be there. Continue reading →
Jun 27th, 2015by Calum Sherwood
As the Labour leadership election picks up pace, and some of the dividing lines between the candidates are beginning to emerge, I feel that it is becoming increasingly necessary for the some of the so-called frontrunners to revisit the career of Barbara Castle.
One of the most esteemed figures from Labour’s history, Castle proved that power is not incompatible with principle and providing a real opposition to Tory policy. Her politics in government and opposition always drew the red line of championing the cause of ordinary people. What would she have made of some of the triangulations over fundamentals, like welfare and immigration, on display today? I imagine she would have had stern words for those entertaining the idea of supporting a welfare cap or playing dog-whistle politics about “factories where no one speaks English”. Continue reading →
Jun 26th, 2015by Bryan Gould
Martin Kettle, in today’s Guardian, joins the ranks of those no doubt well-intentioned observers whose advice to the Labour party, as it chooses a new leader, seems to be based on a curiously limited and one-dimensional view of the political landscape.
In this view, there are only two possible directions of travel and therefore just one issue to be resolved. The Labour party, in this tightly constrained, imagined environment, must choose to go either forwards or backwards (or, perhaps, to use slightly different terminology to describe the same choice) rightwards or leftwards. Continue reading →