Category Archives: BIG SOCIETY

What are the causes of the riots? : An impossible question but one we have to ask

Later today the great and the good in the House of Commons will discuss the riots the country has been subject to for the past 5 days.  In some ways my heart sinks at the thought.  The temptation to sink into the comfort of party politics and ideological prejudices I fear will be too difficult to resist.

That is not to say I have not heard some level headed comments by MP’s, but it does not take long before the ugliness creeps in as it could be seen with Baroness Warsi and Diane Abbott on Newsnight yesterday.  The temptations to blame the Labour Government or to point out that riots seem to happen under the watch of the Conservative Party could not be resisted.

Then we have the likes of David Davies who was blaming the lack of control on the streets of Britain on the criticisms of the Police in the past.  We apparently are not allowed to criticise the Police when they use Kettling, or when police officers accept money for information, or contribute to the deaths of innocent people like Mr Tomlinson.  he obviously perceives this on the agenda of “its the fault of the left”.

What will undoubtedly come out of the commons debate will be the universal condemnation of the violence which I am sure we would all agree with.  The feeling in the country that the people causing the mayhem, violence and looting need to be caught and severely punished.  Law and Order and confidence in the Police needs to be restored.

It is also the case that we should support the Police in the way they have dealt with a situation that was unforeseen and difficult.  I have no criticism in the way the riots were dealt with with the resources they have in a society where they police on the basis of consent and not coercion.

There are clearly 2 issues we need to address. One is to restore Law and Order and severely punish those who have acted in such a disgraceful manner bringing our communities to the brink of anarchy – The Second Issue however is far more complex and that is, what is the cause of the rioting and the fostering of values in a section of society that is abhorent to most people.  However this is actually the wrong question. The real question is

What are the causes

I have already heard people come up with the simplistic “cause” approach – its poverty, or its the family, or its inequality, or most ridiculously its the cuts.  These explanations are as simple as they are stupid.

Lets also be clear – looking for the deep rooted long term causes does NOT excuse the acts of violence and looting, but as Tony Blair eloquently put it, we need to deal with “crime and the causes of crime”. Unfortunately, as with so much Tony Blair said, he was great on rhetoric, and very poor on substance, he never did deal with the causes.

In my view the only way to come to a conclusion in what is happening to our society and why these values pervade a section of our society is for us all to step back and analyse deep seated traits of our society, to speak to people who actually engage with the people engaging in this behaviour and to throw off the shackles of our political prejudices and ideologies.

A full public enquiry needs to be undertaken and nothing should be off the table for discussion, this is the only way to come to a conclusion and to begin to address the causal issues in order to make our society as a whole a better place to live and to prevent this descent into sickening acts of depravity.

I have been racking my brain over the last few days to come up with reasons why people can act in the way they have in the rioting.  Sometimes I can only come up with the questions and not the answers – other times I feel I have an understanding of how we have got to where we are – at others I am simply at a loss.

For what it is worth – these are my thoughts:

1) Looking at society and the way it has developed over the past 35 years, there is no doubt in my mind that we have become a more selfish and materialistic society.  Money and materialism is the mantra of our society, it is our new religion.  As a pithy remark – perhaps we could engage people to vote in the political process if we told them they would get a new pair of Adidas trainers at the polling station!

The instant gratification society we now live in is likely to cause problems in a time of austerity due to the way we encourage the idea that we can all have what we want when we want it.

When I was a child in the 1970’s, I was taught that you saved your money and bought items when you could afford them.  Buying items “on the knock” or what we now refer to as “buying on credit” was frowned upon.  You live within your means.

Our financial system however is built on credit, creating money that does not exist until it is paid back.  We previously trusted financial institutions when they leant us money, but those very same institutions changed the rules and told people they could borrow far more than they could afford; that it was ok to have whatever we want NOW, and to worry about it later.  This aided economic growth for 30 years, but has now thrown us into a stagnating state of austerity that we will probably endure for a decade or more.

This is what happens when you “live for today” and don’t care about tomorrow. Is it any wonder that those who are on the fringes of our society think they are entitled to whatever they want when they want it?

2) Are some of the rioters doing just what other so called “responsible” members of our society have been doing for years.  Do we have any so called role models left?

We see MP’s who rip off the country’s tax payers on mass effectively steeling millions of pounds in expenses while telling the country they are subjecting themselves to wage restraint and building property empires while a housing crisis ensues in our communities.

Bankers who have brought the country’s finances to its knees, who are bailed out and effectively nationalised, where the risk is taken away – and yet they award themselves enormous bonuses for taking risks that do not exist.

Journalists and newspapers break the law at will and are not held to account for years even though it is openly admitted – all to obtain more money for their publications.

A celebrity culture that says you can earn money for notoriety and not for achieving something constructive.

Time and again those at the upper echelons of our society do not get what they deserve proving we do not live in a meritocracy but a nepotistic one, awarding failure and cutting off opportunities for others.

3) Family life – It is clear that the behaviour of a section of our society do not know the difference between right and wrong.  Boundaries have been taken away and some families are completely dysfunctional. We need to be brave and ask why? Frank Field investigated this and wrote a paper handed to the government 8 months ago.  It was kicked into the long grass by the government, but we need to investigate this further and not simply give a tax break to married couples which is as useless as handing them a chocolate tea pot.

4) Education – How can we as a society accept that 17% of 15 year olds are affectively illiterate.  How can we not see the correlation between illiteracy and crime when 70% to 80% of those in prison cannot read and write.  How can we accept a post code lottery on whether children go to a good or bad school. Giving people poor education is the equivalent of shutting the door of aspiration in their faces.

Why is it that teachers have their hands tied behind their backs in preparing the boundaries of behaviour for our young people and why are they not backed up by some of the parents?  How can we change this culture?

5) Social mobility – Our society today has not been as unequal as it is today since the 1920’s.  After WWII our society became more integrated, more equal in terms of wealth, wealthier and social mobility increased. In the past 30 years this trend has been reversed, is this a coincidence?

6) Law and Order – Michael Howard said “Prison Works” – 20 years later we have been told by Kenneth Clarke that “prison does not work”.  In truth they are both wrong.  Prison works when it protects the public from dangerous people.  The public would like our justice system to provide sentencing that is equitable with their crimes.

When you have dangerous violent crimes being given light sentences; when you get people convicted of knife crime getting a few months in jail and serving less than a third of their sentence; when you get MP’s like Jim Devine sentenced to 16 months in prison for ripping off the tax payer and abusing the highest office in the land and yet is released after serving only a quarter of the sentence, is it any wonder people do not believe they will be either caught or punished?

I am all for more community sentencing and alternative forms of punishment and a focus on rehabilitation, BUT people need to know that people convicted of serious crimes are severely punished and that there are the prison places available for them.

7) Lack of Community – Our overwhelming pre-occupation with the individual and the lack of “belonging” seems to run throughout our society.  I do not wish to make a political point, just a fact that we need to face up to, and that is that we devastated communities in the 1980’s, most of which have never recovered.  I have lived in various areas of the country and until recently, I had not lived in a real “community” since I was a child in Birmingham.  Political leaders like to give lip service to community, but I doubt if many actually know what it really means.

8)  We accept unemployment is acceptable in our society – I am well aware of the poverty trap and welfare dependency, but we have a systemic problem that unemployment is accepted as a part of our system.  Indeed it is a necessity in order to suppress wages and to encourage people to do the jobs the rest of us do not want to do.  Should we now question this approach?

None of these possible causes on their own is a reason for an anti-culture in our society, but they all need to be investigated and considered.  It is the combination of many factors that creates the society in which we live and if we want to prevent this “underclass” from growing larger in numbers and for this complete disregard for civilised values to stop, we need to have a good look at ourselves and how we can break this cycle.

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ARMAGEDDON DAYS – BRITAIN’S RIOTS: Is there rhyme or reason for this violence?

I have woken this morning in a confused state, my mindset reeling from anger, to shame and despair, I can hardly recognise my country as I scrawl through the news channels taking in the devastation across Britain.

Birmingham, where I grew up has been bombarded by seemingly mindless violence with youths and others on a jolly looting in the city centre and acts of violence in Handsworth. I am thinking of my friends who were on their way from work at the time the rioting started.  People who are neither rich or privileged, who work hard to provide for their families.

London this morning looks like a war zone. The destruction no longer confined to the “usual” areas of deprivation, but the leafy suburbs of the middle class. Ealing, where little happens than the odd drunk being thrown out of a bar from time to time experienced wanton violence, looting and destruction.  Attacking small businesses regardless of whether there was anything worth steeling.  Shops full of baby clothes, flower shops and jewellery stores.  Setting fires to properties where people live in the flats above.

Again, I have friends living in the area, one had her car windows smashed and couldn’t get any sleep due to the running battles beneath her bedroom windows. Stories of looters entering homes for their pickings.

Then other provincial cities catching the same disease with Liverpool and where I live in Bristol.  Last night we got off lightly in Bristol.  The main violence was contained within St Pauls and Stokes Croft, where gangs were trying to get to the main commercial centre.  The Police actually had it seemingly under control, preventing the spread of the mob.

I am caught in two minds – a part of me in effect wants to string up (metaphorically speaking) the people causing this violence.  It is hard for me to comprehend the mentality of anybody who could commit wanton violence, especially torching buildings where people are situated.  To me this is a case of attempted murder – no one with an ounce of intelligence could surely not understand that people could die.  Many stories already of people escaping burning buildings with their children.

Many sickening videos have appeared on the net, the one below, just shows the mentality of some people in our society, some would say – pure scum to rob an injured bleeding man.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150333636850851

Is it that some people just do not have the base values of a civilised society? Is it that people are simply so badly educated that they cannot see that destroying the very communities within which we live and work actually harms us all?

An interesting article in the Telegraph today comes up with a dispassionate view of what is happening in our society, which will be difficult for those affected by this violence, to step back and think of possible causes.

The premise of the piece is that the there is now a significant underclass in our society, that have no investment or belonging to our wider communities.  That the UK is now more unequal that it has been since the 1920’s.  That after the 1930’s Britain became more equal, yet over the past 30 years this trend has been reversed.

Certainly looking at the attitude of people who have committed these acts it appears that they have no connection with the community around them.  They see no consequences to their actions. How could anybody commit these acts in a society where people have a stake?

Perhaps David Cameron was right, and maybe I have become too middle class, to see it, maybe we do live in Broken Britain.  Maybe though, we have a Broken Britain for different reasons that David Cameron would like to admit.  If the wealth created in our society is largely going to the top 10% and the bottom section of our society continually gets no look in on any wealth creation, can we blame this type of lashing out?

Is our society now so skewed that we are happy for an underclass to be left behind, disenfranchised and producing their own set of values to make sense of the world. I do not believe that this has anything to do with “Cuts”, that some were suggesting yesterday, but something has gone badly wrong.

But is this just a load of excuses for a section of our society, who for whatever reason have grown up with different values and morality, and it is simply “entertainment”, to destroy our communities, destroy shops and jobs, commit violence, rob the injured and torch buildings in which people sleep.

Personally I cannot make sense of it.

300,000 + PROTESTERS MARCH IN LONDON: David Cameron would be a fool to ignore the masses

What a day, Up to half a million people marching through the capital on a sunny spring day.  Men. women and children of all classes, races and backgrounds marching against the cuts but more importantly FOR an alternative.

The day went brilliantly with a carnival atmosphere and far more people than were anticipated either by the unions or the Police.

The numbers as ever are disputed as to exactly how many were marching.  It was initially reported 100,000 were marching, this based on TUC estimated numbers who would turn up.  This went up to around 250,000 by 2pm.  In the evening the BBC reported half a million marching through London, but by the late night news this had returned to the 250,000 + figure and the Police “would not comment”.

So why were they marching?? The following videos give just a brief window on how the cuts will affect our society.

The news coverage was interesting to see.  The Miliband speech was shown for some of the time by the BBC on a split screen showing a balaclava clad group who had split from the main demonstration intent on causing trouble.  Not quite what Mr Miliband would have liked!

The very sad but inevitable consequence of the media coverage was the over emphasis on the break away group some of whom (in their tens) caused trouble trying to commit violence.

I noticed on Twitter the usual suspects pouncing on the sight of people in balaclava’s and trying to smear the entire demonstration, notably the fairly despicable Tim Montgomerie. Last week trying to gain political capital out of the Libyan conflict and today trying to discredit half a million peaceful and concerned protesters fighting for their own communities.

Nevertheless, the majority of the coverage was on the good natured aspect of the demonstration.

The right wing and coalition commentators in the media were trying to portray this as a fringe extreme movement of unions.  The stereotypical way in which the coalition sees our society is quite bizare. Unions who are democratic organisations, representing ordinary (hard working) individuals who would be classed as the ever talked about hard working families in political speak.

Of course far fewer of them will be “hard working”, when they have been made unemployed.  Many of course were anything but union members.  Whole families of people from students to pensioners marched to show their discontent with the status quo of politics and the lack of fairness in our society.

The whole of our “Big” society is being attacked by the short term interests of a few while being cloaked in the faltering BIG SOCIETY by FLASHMAN DAVE.

Ed Miliband finally decided to speak at the demonstration.  Sadly, he does not represent the “alternative”.  As yet the Labour party does not have a coherent alternative to the failures of the past, clinging on to the old economic orthodoxy that got us into this mess.

The real message from today’s overwhelming showing of support for an alternative is that any government who simply dismisses the concerns of the public will be dealt a dramatic blow at the ballot box.

This is one alternative put forward:

The Blair administration did not realise what happens if you ignore the masses.  The 1 million that turned out against the Iraq war were resoundingly ignored not by one party but by Parliament. The coalition risk major political fallout if they ignore another mass show of discontent with a path taken by the government.

Labour lost 4 million votes on the back of the disaster that was Iraq.  This coalition cannot afford to lose even half that.

To ignore the masses would be folly but I believe that is exactly what the coalition will do.  They have chosen a course, both LibDems and Conservatives, together the CONDEMS will pursue an agenda with the overriding objective to get to the next general election in tact and hope for an economic recovery.  At the expense of the many while the few get away with tax avoidance, squireling away money to UK encouraged tax havens and Banks carry on business as usual.

I heard a Tory commentator today stating that this is an unusual situation and they have “no choice” but to enact the cuts as described so that in future we do not have to cut public services again in the future.  The strange thing is that every time the conservative party get into power they always do the same thing.

In the early 80’s they blamed Labour, in the 1990’s they did it again while still talking about the “winter of discontent”!, which is why they so resoundingly wiped out at bthe election in 1997.  They couldn’t blame Labour that time.

Now they are doing it again.  The agenda is always the same, mass privatisations and public service cuts while demonising sectors of society.  Is this a trend or am I just believing this evil deficit denying lefty rhetoric??

The course is set and it is one we have seen many times before over the past 30 years.  Lets hope that communities that exist today still do so after the next 4 years, unlike in the 1980’s.

MARCH FOR THE ALTERNATIVE: March 26 London 2011

The time has come for an alternative to be put forward.  Labour has failed to make the case, impotent Balls and Miliband have left it to the rest of us to shout loudest and make a case.

Sadly I cannot be with the marching thousands today in London, I feel very guilty about this, however I am certainly there in spirit and thinking of the ways we can oppose the devastating cuts we are about to endure and how we can challenge the economic orthodoxy we have endured for the last 30 years which marches on in all the political parties.

The Virtual Protest site gives an opportunity to be involved which is an excellent idea.  have a look if you have not seen it.  The images are very creative.

I sincerely hope that there will be a big following at the march so that the government realises what it is up against.  This will probably be the only time society can show just how against the course this government has taken we are, and how the lies it has espoused and the lack of mandate it has, de-legitimises it’s actions.

A big turn out today, without violence will show the coalition it has tough times ahead.

May the 5th will also be a key date in the diary.  But with such few alternatives to vote for, it will be difficult other than a protest vote to make a dent in the arrogance of the coalition.

Good luck with the March.

THE NANNY STATE IS ALIVE AND WELL: A case for constitutional reform

I hate pithy political slogans, slogan -ISM with this government rises in intensity it seems every week that goes by.  I truly thought that this may come to an end following the demise of the New labour project, how wrong I was.

Well I’m reviving a frequently used slogan from the Labour era, foisted upon us by the right of the political spectrum – THE NANNY STATE

Now I never believed in a “nanny state”, a philosophical discussion on the role of the state would be nice to have, but is virtually impossible in the popularism of today’s politics.  So what does it mean?

The term has been attributed to people as varied as Karl Marx, Iain Macleod (Conservative MP in 1965), Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s and Bernard Levin. It describes the emotional feeling that “the state”, or government is interfering too much in peoples lives.  It does however, have a varying number of applications depending on whoever views the term as politically advantageous to use.

So it can be used within the sphere of economics and trade, to argue against protectionism in the market place; or a government that simply makes too many laws as Lord Hailsham argued in his book “Dilemma of Democracy”; or it is attributed to the interference in individuals lives, prescribing how people should live.

If we look at a brief history of modern governance in the UK it can be seen that actually the nanny state could be used against the left or right, and can be used to attack the values of the majority or the minority.

In 1945, our country was profoundly changed by the introduction of the NHS; Free Education to children up to 16 years old; and the introduction of the welfare state and pension provision.  This was brought in on a popular mandate due to the mass poverty experienced in the 1930’s.

Indeed there has never been a more popular government in terms of share of the vote in post war Britain, even when the Labour Party lost the election in 1951 they garnered more votes than the Conservative party.   It was considered no longer “civilised” for children to not be educated to a basic standard; or to die due to not being able to afford health care; or indeed to remain in absolute poverty in an essentially rich country.

The conservative party in the 1980’s and 1990’s professed to know what the country needed by embarking on a privatisation programme that was not mentioned in the original 1979 manifesto (sound familiar?).  We were told that what mattered was not “society”, but individuals and family.  We were given a back to basics policy by John Major, a moralising of such hypocrisy it cost a good number of politicians their jobs.

With New Labour we had both sides of the coin, with far too many laws passed, top down targets, yet liberal economic policies believing in deregulation of financial markets and the freedom of movement of immigrant labour.  The latter hardly being a manifesto commitment of the “nanny state”.

The Coalition

So now we have David Cameron and Nick Clegg, sharing the rhetoric between them.  We have the dishonesty of manifesto commitments cast aside and the rhetoric of decentralisation while at the same time lecturing the nation on the way we “should” behave. Is there really any difference?

Whether we believe there is a nanny state or not, the question should not lead us to whether it is the fault of the left or the right, but rather a danger of something else altogether. The philosophy of the state itself.

The “state”, whoever controls it, likes to use it’s power in order to achieve what it regards as it’s “agenda”. The rhetoric rarely matches its deeds, and the slogan of the nanny state can be used against virtually any government of the past 65 years.

The coalition has announced its wish to redistribute wealth on the basis of moral values with tax breaks for married couples.  It proposes to ban displays of cigarettes and advertising on its packets.

Andrew Landsley proposes plain packets on cigarettes

It talks of bringing power closer to the people, yet tries to cap council tax, effectively abandoning local accountability.  They tell us constantly that we live in a “Broken Britain”, and that they are here to fix it.  They say they have a mandate from the people, yet many of their policies were either not in the manifesto of either party or diametrically opposed to what was in them.

We are told something needs to be done about our “binge” drinking and that every town and city is a war zone and that more laws are needed to reduce the choice to drink in establishments past traditional closing times.

Is any of this any different to what has gone before?

Is the attack on the European Court of Human Rights a matter of reducing the nanny state of “Europe”, (bearing in mind it has nothing to do with the EU) or simply the fact that the executive of the UK always dislikes checks and balances and any limitations on power?

If the “nanny state” ever existed (which I do not believe it did), then it is alive and well with the current government and will get significantly worse over the coming years as they cling on to power.

How do we confront the power of the state

The question for those that talk of the nanny state is how do we curtail the power of the state not which government wields it.

In my view this can only be done with fundamental constitutional change.  This is the kind of change that sadly most politicians would not entertain in this country, largely because they see the power they can get in our system (which is almost absolute with a large majority).  But this opportunity for power is not for the people of this country, but simply for egotistical politicians.

The challenges to attempt constitutional change are enormous. If we look at the struggle at the moment for the AV referendum, this is the smallest of small changes to the electoral system, yet we get some of the most ridiculous arguments put forward against it. The very idea that any electoral system is legitimate when only £460,000 people decided the last election is plainly ridiculous.

In truth, the whole battle over state power, has nothing to do with party politics, but with those hungry for absolute power, and the public who need to hold them to account.

Next time we hear the call against the “nanny state”, perhaps we should ask them what their view is of constitutional change, I think we would get an interesting but predictable answer.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE UK DEFICIT PART II

Over the past few days economic news has filtered through which puts further doubt on the way the Coalition, George Osborne and David Cameron are portraying the deficit problem.

What choices should we take to deal with the deficit?

As explained in a previous post “The Truth About The Deficit” available at https://extranea.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/the-truth-about-the-uk-deficit/ the deficit has not occurred due to enormous out of control public spending by the previous Labour government.  Rather it has occurred due to the credit crunch and resultant recession reducing the tax revenue.

This has been caused by a variety of factors including the deregulation of the US banking system in 1999;  economic orthodoxy over the past 30 years;  light touch regulation; irresponsible banking operations;  banks lending to people that could not afford to repay their loans and the spread of risk through the market in derivatives.

News has now filtered through that the taxman has been able to collect an extra £3.6 billion in tax than expected n the month of January.  This means that there is a likely hood now that the chancellor will have an extra £8 billion tax revenue at the time of his budget in March.

This does not mean that we are not still borrowing large amounts of money above the amount the chancellor is collecting in taxes, but that the amount of the overspend will be less, meaning the deficit is reducing.

Some commentators on the right wing of the political argument are getting very nervous about this.  Those like Fraser Nelson (see http://bit.ly/fgpz7a) are worried that the chancellor may “give” away this money by not cutting public expenditure so quickly, or spending this extra revenue to save projects like the Big Society.

The reason why Fraser Nelson and others on the right are so worried is because they should be.  What this example of the increase in tax collected shows is just how the deficit in the end will be dealt with. It will be dealt with by increasing the tax take, and the growth of the economy.  As soon as the tax take increases the complexion of the deficit looks very different.

The right wishes to massively reduce the role of the state and public spending as an ideological course of action, as their right to pursue now they have what they regard as a Conservative government.

However, we need to look  at the argument for the steep cuts in public expenditure.  The argument is put forward that public spending is out of control and that is why there is the deficit and therefore we should reduce this to control the deficit and “save” the economy.  In truth however, although it will certainly help to reduce public spending and the deficit in this way, the only way that the deficit will really be dealt with is through growth.

Our whole economic ethos in a capitalist society, whether we believe in  a social democratic capitalist tradition like in Europe or a liberal economic position as in the USA,  we rely on the growth model in order to provide for our nation.  Without growth in our economic model we cannot increase our standard of living and become wealthier as an economy or society.

If we are to continue this tradition (and there is no sign in mainstream economic and political thought that this will not be the case)  then the only way the deficit will be dealt with is to encourage growth.  Growth in the economy will increase the amount of tax the chancellor will collect.  This will allow the chancellor to reduce the amount borrowed by the nation and finally balance the books and reduce the deficit to zero over time.

In addition, as the economy grows, inflationary pressure will begin to build which will also aid in reducing the relative impact of the deficit providing the inflation does not begin to spiral out of control.

What these recent taxation figures show is that, a small monthly increase in the tax take can rapidly increase the affordability of public services and make the chancellor’s job a lot easier.

The right wing are scared that this will reduce the ideological zeal for cuts and the wholesale privatisation of public services.  The truth is that the extent and depth of the cuts is a matter of political choice.  Some cuts are required, and it is sensible to have a re-balancing of public finances when money has been easier to come by.  Some inefficiencies will have been built into procedures and there is no doubt some in the public services are paid too much.  But this comes down to efficiencies and not necessarily  deep cuts in services.  This is what the nation was told would happen before the election, yet in reality we see few efficiency savings, and a lot of cuts to front line services.

We have also heard today that not only did the UK’s economy shrink in the final quarter of 2010, but that it shrank further than we originally thought.  So even taking into account George Osborne’s bad weather excuse, the economy did not just flat line but shrink. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12577154, GDP reduced by 0.6%)

This makes the danger of deep cuts in public services even more dangerous.  If deep cuts and the reduction of employment opportunities persist it will suck money out of the economy in a deflationary effect, limiting growth still further.

Growth of the economy will lead to a larger tax take and smaller deficit, negative growth or sluggish growth will lead to a smaller tax take and higher welfare costs making the deficit worse.

Taxation Changes and Avoidance

In addition to the growth question,  there is also other political choices that have been made.  It is now calculated that at least £13bn of tax is avoided by corporations and big business using tax loopholes and tax havens to avoid paying corporation tax.

George Osborne is now trying to make this easier with tax changes that have almost gone under the radar, so few people know about it.  See George Monbiot’s article http://www.monbiot.com/2011/02/07/a-corporate-coup-detat/ and a discussion on Newsnight see below

In this way the chancellor could collect even less tax and it will be ordinary tax payers and small/medium sized businesses that will share the extra burden.

The official corporation tax rate is constantly being reduced by British chancellors and George Osborne is no exception, trying to reduce it to 24% by the end of the Parliament.  This will mean the UK has the 3rd lowest corporation tax of the G20 countries.  Yet the biggest and 3rd biggest economies in the world have the highest corporation tax in the G20, namely the USA and Japan.

So should the reduction of corporation tax be a political priority anyway?  Is it more important to give tax breaks and lower tax rates to large companies when large cuts are being asked for?

Is it also right to encourage tax havens when they are a known source of illegal money? Is this the right course to take when We Are All In This Together, or is the accepted wisdom now, Some Of Us Are In It More Than Others!

Conclusion

There is a choice to be made, it is not being a deficit denier to point these things out, but the realisation that we have a real choice to be made, and not all cuts are inevitable or desirable both for the economy or society.

Lets repudiate the ideology, and have pragmatism in the face of difficult economic times.  There is a choice to be made, and I fear our government is making the wrong choices for the wrong reasons.

COALITION GOVERNMENT: Is this the most dishonest UK government since 1945?

Does The Picture Say It All?

The 2010 general election was the most dishonest election in my lifetime.  An amazing situation where all 3 main political parties were stating there would be massive cuts in public services, but would not tell the electorate how they would do it.  The public had to chose between 3 candidates who would not say who would be affected or how.

As a result the electorate couldn’t chose and we now have a coalition government.

Who lied the most?   Well we could argue it was the Labour party as they had all the figures, and deliberately and cynically delayed the comprehensive spending review so they did not have to tell anyone where the cuts would be before the election.  Or we could say it was the Conservative Party who stated they wanted to employ cuts much deeper but wouldn’t tell us how.

The Coalition

So we ended with a coalition, and many are saying that the lies and u-turns is that the two political parties have to compromise .  But if we take a look more closely,  we can see that this is not really the case.  If we look at the stated policies and promises below we can see how they have been affected by the coalition.

Promises and Policies

  1. David Cameron stated that he would not cancel the EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance)
  2. David Cameron stated that family allowance would not be affected and it was safe under a Conservative administration
  3. George Osborne and David Cameron both denied that they had any plans to raise VAT and that the Labour party was trying to “scare” the electorate (Evening Standard, 2010)
  4. The Conservative party said there would be no major top down reforms of the NHS in this parliament (Lansley, 2009)
  5. Nick Clegg stated unequivocally that he and all 57 MP’s would vote against ANY increase in tuition fees (Libdem manifesto, 2010)
  6. The Conservative party policy stated that failures in the penal system and law and order was due to Labour’s failed policies and anyone convicted of a knife crime would go to prison and more prison places would be made available (Conservative Manifesto, p57)
  7. George Osborne stated that Labour had not regulated the banks enough and no one working in a Bank that had been saved by the state should get more than a £2,000 cash bonus (Conservative Party website, 2009)
  8. Bonfire of the quangos.  To get rid of quangos to make them more efficient, accountable and more cost effective (Cameron, 2009)

The result

  1. David Cameron now says EMA’s don’t work and is scrapping them, always quoting one survey supporting this view that 9 out of 10 students would still do the course even if the EMA was withdrawn, ignoring other evidence and a larger body of evidence that suggests EMA significantly increases the chances of students starting and finishing the courses in higher education
  2. Family allowance is cut for a section of the population
  3. VAT increased to 20% and no statement to state if this is permanent or not, although Greorge Osborne has stated he considers the 50% higher rate of tax to be a temporary measure.
  4. The largest most far reaching reforms of the NHS have been announced since 1945, costing several billions of pounds at a time the government is strapped for cash. Causing uncertainty in the service and without a consensus or rolling the changes out giving evidence the changes are working – THIS FAR REACHING REFORM WAS NOT IN THE MANIFESTO
  5. Tuition fees increased by up to 300%, although with some progressive safeguards, these could easily be over turned at any time by future administrations
  6. Kenneth Clarke has announced the biggest turn around in prison and law and order policy known in the UK. People voted for the Conservative Party to be strong on law and order and to build more prisons.  They have announced a closure of 3,000 prison places.  fewer people to be sent to prison and declaring that prison does not work
  7. George Osborne we now know in recent negotiations tried to water down EU recommendations for regulating the banks.  There will be no limitations on bonuses (Monbiot, 2011)
  8. The bonfire of the quangos was more like a child’s sparkler.  They failed to understand that many of the quangos actually do something and there is no one else to do it.  The restructuring was announced without any research into who will carry out the functions after the restructuring or how much it will cost.  It could well cost more than it did before the reforms.      The House of Lords, the biggest quango in our country has been bolstered by the Conservative party with a massive new intake to increase support for the coalition.  There is no timetable for reform of the upper house.

I know what the government would say, oh we are in a coalition and we have to make compromises or there was a black hole in the finances and we have to make tough decisions.  Both of these explanations do not explain what has gone on here.

First of all, none of the policy U-turns listed above are as a result of there being a coalition, except for the tuition fees.  However, this is also dishonest as we now know that the leadership of the Liberal-Democrats did not believe in the policy before the election and wanted to change it. Surely dishonesty to the last. (Watt, 2010)

So what about the black hole?? As the cuts are in line with those projected by the Tory party before the election and that the debt was lower than expected when they came to office, this argument is quite ridiculous.

It is not about whether I agree or disagree with some of the U-turns or changes of policy, but that the electorate voted for parties on the basis of a set of policies which have now been torn up in the faces of that electorate not due to coalition politics but due to dishonesty and cynicism.

The argument expressed by the Conservative leadership before the 2010 election was that a new election would relieve us of a corrupt parliament following the expenses scandal.  Actually, this is far from the truth and we now have dishonesty ingrained into our Parliament and Government.

This is not so much an example of a NEW POLITICS but a reflection of an OLD CORRUPT POLITICS GONE MAD

BBC website, (2011), Quango reduction plan botched, say MP’s, [online], BBC website, available at                                                                http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12132341

Cameron, D. (2009), David Cameron: People Power-Reforming Quangos, [online], Conservative Party website, accessed 29/01/20011, available at  http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/07/David_Cameron_People_Power_-_Reforming_Quangos.aspx

Conservative website, (2009), No Bank Bonuses over £2,000, [online], conservative Party website, accessed 29/01/2011, available at  http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2009/02/No_bank_bonuses_over_2
000.aspx

Conservate Party Manifesto, (2010), Invitation to join the government of Britain, [online], Coservative Party website, available at  http://media.conservatives.s3.amazonaws.com/manifesto/cpmanifesto2010_lowres.pdf

Evening Standard, (2010) Tories will raise VAT says Balls, [online], Evening Standard website, available at       http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23821469-tories-will-raise-vat-says-balls.do

Lansley, A. (2009), Andre Lansley: Alan Johnson is a roadblock to NHS reform, [online], Conservative Party website, accessed 29/01/2011, available at  http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/05/Andrew_Lansley
_Alan_Johnson_is_a_roadblock_to_NHS_reform.aspx

Libdem website, (2010), Liberal Democrat: policies for students and young people, [online], Liberal Democrat website, available at  http://network.libdems.org.uk/manifesto2010/mini/libdem_2010_studen
ts.pdf

Monbiot, G. (2011), How the treasury deceived us, [online], George Monbiot website, accessed 29/01/2011, available at http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2011/01/24/how-the-treasury-deceived-us/

Watt, N. (2010), Revealed: Libdems planned before election to abandon tuition fees pledge, [online], Guardian website, available at  http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/12/lib-dems-tuition-fees-clegg