One of Michael Meacher’s finest…

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In fondest memory of Michael Meacher who died on Tuesday – he was a ‘good-un’.  And this must have been one of the craziest, most magnificent demonstrations ever.

Michael organised with David Winnick MP and Kelvin Hopkins MP to demonstrate at Chequers against the Bedroom Tax.  Three gents of a certain age, turning up at the PM’s country residence with their home-made posters!  After security had got over their shock and put down their guns, they helped unload the car and offered the three a cup of tea…  a very British protest.

RIP Michael Meacher.  You were highly valued, loved and respected.  You will be much missed.

 

April 5 2013 – reposted from http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2013/04/ive-just-been-to-protest-about-the-bedroom-tax-at-the-pms-10-bedroom-country-house/

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Together with David Winnick MP and Kelvin Hopkins MP, I’ve just been to protest about the government’s Bedroom Tax at the Prime Minister’s official residence at Chequers in Buckinghamshire. We called on Cameron to pay the Bedroom Tax on his 10 spare bedrooms at Chequers – this is what we said in our letter:

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP,

Prime Minister,

Chequers,

Near Ellesborough,

Aylesbury,

Bucks.

5 April 2013.

Dear Prime Minister,

We have come to protest at the unjust and cruelly vindictive bedroom tax which you have imposed on 660,000 households in publicly rented housing across the country, up to two-thirds of which are estimated to include a disabled member.   You have decided to penalise them because you argue that they all have more bedrooms than they need.   As a result these families, amongst the poorest in Britain, will be forced to pay from their own subsistence income extra rent amounting to either about £11 a week or about £20-25 a week or, if they cannot afford this extra rent, will be forced out of their homes to find smaller accommodation which is simply not available currently on anywhere near the scale required.

You, on the other hand, are provided by the State for your family’s use with a second home set in 1,000 acres with 10 bedrooms.   You have also constantly claimed that “we are all in this together”.   In that case we would ask you to show as much compassion towards Britain’s poorest as you have been shown generosity.

We would further ask you, do you not therefore think in these circumstances it would be reasonable, given that most of your 10 bedrooms will remain unoccupied for most of the time, that you make an equally proportionate contribution out of your own income towards the costs of the State in the administration of Chequers?

Yours sincerely,

David Winnick MP       Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher MP      Kelvin Hopkins MP

 

The Landlords’ Game and the Opportunists

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 The Landlord’s Game

And the Opportunists

Most people have heard of the board game Monopoly, a game which like Marmite, children soon learn to love or hate. The playing pieces are a feature of the game, an iron or an old boot are echoes of the poor (the losers?), the top hat representing the wealthy, with wheelbarrows and sport cars to carry home the cash. Perhaps it is significant that pieces representing the poorest are being phased out, the iron to be replaced by a cat.

Today’s game, of wheeling and dealing, auctions and interest rates, is reminiscent of the cut-throat  competition of stock markets, and banking fuelled by greed and ruthlessness. And like those, the game continues until all but one is eliminated, everyone else’s funds exhausted – and if mirrored in the real world, destitute, bankrupt, and left without the means to survive. The winner meanwhile has amassed a massive wealth of cash and real estate. What a dreadful lesson to give to our children!

Landlords_Game_board_based_on_1924_patent

But this was not the original intent of the game, inspired by Elizabeth Magie in the late 1800s and known as “the Landlord’s Game”. In stark contrast to the modern game, this was designed as an example to teach others about social and economic justice. She  had studied the writings of Henry George and eventually became one of many people who took on the task of trying to teach others what she had learned from studying Progress and Poverty and George’s other works.

Collaborating with friends in her Brentwood, Maryland community, Elizabeth Magie created The Landlord’s Game. She applied for a patent, which was granted on January 5th, 1904 (No. 748,626). This was a socialist idea, designed for the benefit of all, stolen by opportunists – and changed into the game of Monopoly. How often do we allow this to happen?

magie-elizabeth-1890Lizzie explained that the game was to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences.” While still a young, single woman, Elizabeth — or “Lizzie” as she came to be called — became a regular visitor to the Single Tax enclave of Arden, Delaware. This was around 1903. Whether on her own or in conjunction with other Single Taxers in Arden, Lizzie continued to work on the design of The Landlord’s Game as a way to explain how Henry George’s system of political economy would work in real life.

(from How Henry George’s principles were corrupted into a game called Monopoly)

Now Britain is suffering a massive housing crisis. There simply aren’t enough decent, affordable homes ( Shelter)  More than two million people find their rent or mortgage a constant struggle or are falling behind with payments. The UK is now more polarised by housing wealth than at any time since the Victorian era. Today’s Housing Crisis has its roots in Margaret Thatcher’s Right-to-Buy Council House Scheme, offering tenants the chance to own their own homes, but not allowing councils to rebuild the stock.  Like Lizzie’s Landlords’ Game, opportunists stole public housing stock, to make a killing, many now in the hands of MP’s lobbyists. In short, like Lizzie’s Landlords’ game, opportunists profit, while others do the work. As Owen Jones, reports in the Guardian today Right-to-Buy has been a definitive disaster.

Those council homes, sold off and not replaced found their way into the hands of private landlords – almost forty per cent, and it’s rising. One ex- council flat in Central London has been sold for £1.2 Million (Guardian) Meanwhile, homelessness soars.

The Independent reports, 14th August 2015

Almost 40 per cent of former council homes sold on the cheap under the Government’s Right to Buy scheme are now being let out on the hugely expensive private rental market, enriching a new generation of landlords.

The first national study of its kind, carried out by Inside Housing magazine, comes as the government prepares to extend full Right to Buy discounts – of more than £100,000 per property in London and £70,000 elsewhere – to a further 1.3 million housing association tenants.

Figures released by 91 councils in England under the Freedom of Information act show 37.6 per cent of flats sold to tenants under the controversial policy are being sublet at up to seven times the cost of average social rents.

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Everyone needs a decent home – people should not be paying astronomical prices and working longer and longer hours for a basic human need, while others can profit, while never doing a “proper job” at all. It is scandalous that people can gain advantage from buy-to-let-mortgages, putting the dream of a home well out of reach.  Now hard working people are finding their pay is not enough to pay a rent or a mortgage, and it is predominantly working people who need Housing Benefit to get by – and that Benefit is going straight into the landlords’ pockets.  It is siphoning off public assets directly into the private sector. This is a madness, why are wages inadequate for paying for a home? In order to access rented accommodation, massive deposits first have to be secured, plunging tenants into debt before they have even moved in. House prices have risen again recently, giving an illusion of wealth to some, but an unrealistic dream for young people.  And then, let us not forget the hated Bedroom Tax, that unkindest cut of all. Monopoly is an appropriate word for the housing crisis and it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to pay for a decent home.

The last Labour government should have addressed the housing crisis. The next Labour government must. It must be a priority for Labour.  Jeremy Corbyn is promising a “radical reboot” of council house building to tackle the housing crisis.  A link to Jeremy Corbyn’s Housing  Manifeso is here  Please take time to read.

Extracts

  • Evidence suggests that we need to be building at least 240,000 homes per year(the coalition government averaged 145,000). We should be meeting and building in excess of that target, with at least half comprising of council homes.
  • A National Investment Bank could support new build housing projects with low interest rates, both by councils and developers as long as tough new conditions were met on the proportion of genuinely affordable housing built. For every £1 spent on housing construction an extra £2.09 is generated in the economy.
  • We need to bring (private) rents down to make sure they take up a lower proportion of people’s income, and given that many people are likely to renting for longer and longer, we need to make sure tenants have the right to a longer tenancy. A survey by Survation in January this year showed fewer than 10% of British people are against mandatory legal limits on housing rents.
  •  Regulation of private rents should be linked to what determines whether something isaffordable. We should consider average earnings and in particular their rate of increase, not the market rate for housing. JC HOUSING MANIFESTO

From the Mirror: Jeremy Corbyn would ‘reboot’ council house building and cap soaring private sector rents to combat the housing crisis if he was elected Prime Minister. The Labour leadership front-runner says councils should be allowed to commission and build houses themselves, instead of being forced to put construction out to tender for private companies. In his housing manifesto, he proposes regulated rents for private tenants, which would be linked to local average earnings. He also pledges licensing of private landlords, and giving tenants the right to longer tenancies. Daily Mirror

On the Monopoly story, Lizzie made very little money from her innovative idea; meanwhile the big corporations cashed in. Her teachings were censored, and as today, only the views of the rich and powerful were heard. Undoubtedly, she held firm to her convictions, and showed integrity which many of our modern politicians it seems lack. There is wisdom in Lizzie’s words from which we can all learn. An essay written by Elizabeth appeared in the September-October 1940 issue of Land and Freedom, under the title “A Word to the Wise.” 

Like Lizzie, there are many intelligent, inspired and creative people with great ideas to share for the good of society. Some of these are in the Labour Party, some in our schools, universeities, factories and offices. Working people. That is where ideas grow, and where wealth grows, We should not allow opportunists to steal what is rightly there for us all. That is what socialism is all about.

The Great Housing and Welfare Swindle is discussed at length here Parts 1 ( and 2).

References and Further Reading

Hand in Hand

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Hand in Hand

hand in hand

When I was growing up my Mom often spoke of the memories of her mother’s face and tears following the announcement of WW2. Nan remembered WW1 and all it meant. My unhappiness, and tearful face in 1992 having returned from the count was so evident, that my daughter, then aged 10, can remember it clearly even now. Now my daughters weep for their children. Why is the world doing this to the mothers? Or the fathers, the brothers and the sisters? Time people started supporting each other is now. No more listening to the lies about money, deficits, and banks. People matter.

Stand together, hand in hand.

Related

Is Time up for “The Big Lie”?

Is Time up for ‘The Big Lie’?

Jim Grundy
Big Lie
The ‘Big Lie’ theory is best summed up by the well-known phrase that if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big one, repeat it often enough and you’ll be believed. It works and, ironically, it relies upon the basic honesty of most people to make it work.
Everybody lies. Of course we do but those lies are the small things that make life easier. You do like the meal that’s been cooked for you; yes, that new shirt, suit looks great, etc., etc. Lying is normally a harmless social lubricant, with no malice involved. And so most people think others operate on basically the same level.
But they don’t.

Over the past five years the Tories and their Lib Dem supporters have lied on an epic scale. Orwellian double-think and newspeak has nothing on them. They damn Labour for borrowing, whilst borrowing more than Labour has done, not only during the previous Labour administration but in history; boast of growth whilst overseeing the slowest economic recovery since the South Sea Bubble 300 years ago; and a rate of growth that still doesn’t match the one they inherited – and let no-one mention that the national debt Labour was bequeathed in 1997 (as a % of GDP) was larger than was passed on to the Tories in 2010.

The Tories know this perfectly well. But the credit crunch was a Tory wet dream, offering undreamed-of opportunities to implement a huge shift of wealth away from the public to a tiny ruling elite. It is no coincidence that the U.K. now has the largest number of billionaires per head of population than any other country. When the Tories ask where the money has gone – referencing ‘that’ note – the answer is clear.

From the privatisation of the Royal Mail for £1bn less than its market value – at a conservative estimate – to the handing out of NHS contracts to the private sector, the evidence of how this asset-stripping is playing out is there for all to see.

But what is in plain sight is not always what is most visible.

I give you, for your distraction, the ever-changing galaxy of scapegoats presented by our friends in the media and their Tory chums: foreigners; gay men and women; black people; asylum-seekers; refugees; gypsies; benefit scroungers; and, the current favourite – Muslims. There are many, many more, of course.

The crowding around the political centre ground left many working class people feeling abandoned, disenfranchised, bemused by what has happened and angry at the impact the undermining of their lives, homes and jobs has had upon them. UKIP, the ultra-Tories, have simply taken the next step, exploiting those fears to argue, for example, that raising the Minimum Wage would attract more lazy foreigners to the country, to take our jobs whilst living on benefits – let’s not dwell on that contradiction too long. The lie remains, only it’s even larger and even more dangerous.

Yes, only an idiot would argue that strategy hasn’t worked to an extent. A bigger idiot, though, would argue that everyone attracted by UKIP’s rhetoric is, therefore, racist, a hopeless, mindless bigot to be dismissed. Of course they’re not.

In their private lives when people go through the ups and downs of life they often grasp at small, almost insignificant issues and obsess about them. An argument about a partner not remembering to do the shopping, to put the bin out, to sort the gas bill, all these become mountainous problems because they feel themselves to still have an element of control over them – the ‘small stuff’. The underlying problems are too big, too difficult to face and are put to one side but forgetting to hang out the washing, now that sums up what’s wrong with your life…..

As in private, so it follows that the big public issues of the day can seem unfathomable, so far beyond their control that they don’t bear thinking about, let alone understanding, because there is no point. An earnest discussion of globalisation, the free movement of capital but not labour or the operation of City trading houses will leave many people completely cold. So, back to the ‘small stuff’: now, that bloke at no. 26 who’s never done a day’s work in his life, who claims benefits…., he’s the one. He is what is wrong with society. And those they read about in the press, now if we sort them….

And, returning to the theme, why would anyone tell such blatant lies about Romanians, Muslims, etc.? There must be some truth in it because they wouldn’t print such stuff if it wasn’t basically true, give or take the odd exaggeration…. Surely. Surely, people don’t tell such outrageous lies….

The last General Election saw an unpopular Labour Government, dealing with the biggest financial crisis in modern times, still suffering from the hangover of ‘New Labour’ – just how toxic that had become – and it hit rock bottom. But the Tories didn’t win. Despite everything, they had to be propped up by the Lib Dems (when ‘propping up’ was fine – it’s a crime now, it seems.). Was this the first sign of the weakening of the ‘Big Lie’? People were clearly fed up with Labour but not enough bought into the Tory message.

Cameron and Osborne have perfected their straight faces whilst telling the biggest lies possible but still not enough people have fallen for them. And as the election has approached, the lies have gotten larger and, abandoning all pretence of reporting news, their allies in the traditional media have joined in making a huge noise about how a man eats a bacon sarnie. There can never have been a worse, more negative, down-right vicious campaign in modern British political history.

But the louder they shout, the clearer it is becoming that not enough people are listening to them. Today’s headlines [6th May 2015] go beyond hysterical. The plebs, it seems, aren’t paying enough attention.

Younger people have tended to vote differently to the older sections in society but is that gap widening? Some of the polls suggest there is a growing and significant difference between the levels of support for UKIP by age-group. Society has changed and UKIP focuses upon older people, relying on a twisted version of nostalgia to spread its appeal, so that’s understandable. But what else is going on? At the same time the amount of time spent by people reading print news media is seemingly in terminal decline, likewise the time spent watching network TV news is suffering too. By contrast, the numbers accessing their information from the internet, and social media, has grown and grown. And internet polls are now beginning to highlight different outcomes to those carried out by telephone. (But that’s all Russell Brand’s fault, isn’t it?)

There is always the issue of causation against correlation but is the increasing use of the internet with the access it provides to a bewildering array of information (yes, not all good), information that is not controlled by peddlers of the ‘Big Lie’ changing how people think? If the messages given to people by the Tories can’t rely upon their massive reinforcement by the Murdochs and Mails of this world, is it the beginning of the end for the very tool that has been so useful to them up to now?

Well, probably not. Not yet. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill – a man who knew the power of words if nothing else – whilst this isn’t the end; it isn’t even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning for the growing challenge to the ‘Big Lie’.

And aren’t they terrified of that?