Solidarity is forever, not just Election Day, SNP.

Solidarity is forever, not just for Election Day

One has to question the authenticity of the claims that SNP stands for socialism and anti-austerity. These policies  were attributed to have resulted in the huge numbers of voters in Scotland who gave their vote to the SNP on May 7th this year, resulting in all but three Scottish seats returning an SNP member of parliament.

I am reminded of the huge turn-out for the Liberal Democrats in 2010, many people saw the LibDems as an opposition to the  Conservatives in the wake of disappointment with New Labour. These voters, angry with LibDems joining the  coalition turned their back on LibDems in 2015, many candidates losing their deposits and with the party  gaining only 8 seats, out of the 57 defended.

Over the next few years, will the SNP prove to be the socialist opposition so many anticipate, or will, in 5 years time, the SNP suffer a similar fate? Much will depend on how the SNP act in parliament, and also the direction Labour decides to follow.

Already the cracks are beginning to show in the SNP’s facade. Failure of SNP to stand alongside ferry workers taking industrial action does not indicate solidarity with workers or opposition to austerity.

The SNP sails into choppy waters after ferry strike statement  

RMT calls on SNP members to reject party’s “defeatist” line over austerity action

A row has broken out between the RMT, whose members at Calmac Ferries are today on strike, and the Scottish National Party.

The RMT members are taking action to defend jobs, conditions and pensions, warning the Clyde and Hebrides service is being set up for takeover by the profiteering private company Serco.

Ferry copy

And they have been infuriated by the release of statement from the SNP’s Trade Union Group which, while saying it recognises the union’s right to take strike action, fails to support the strike.

The statement reads: “The SNP Trade Union Group is aware of the ongoing dispute between the RMT and Caledonian MacBrayne – which operates the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry service (CHFS) which our communities rely on – and has resulted in RMT members balloting for strike action.

“The SNP Trade Union Group recognises the democratic right of fellow trade unionists to ballot for strike action and also recognises the concerns of RMT members regarding terms & conditions within the Caledonian MacBrayne workforce.

“In light of this escalation, the SNP Trade Union Group’s representatives, MSP’s and MPs have been invited to talks with the RMT to discuss these issues further.  These discussions will take place early next week and will hopefully help the workforce and the SNP TUG will do all it can to ensure that the concerns of the RMT are heard and heeded.

“Additional meetings have also already been organised by Christina McKelvie MSP – convenor of the SNP Backbench parliamentary trade union group at Holyrood – between the RMT and the transport minister.

“The Scottish Government is required by EU procurement laws to place the contract out to tender, with the process is being carried out in accordance with EU rules on procurement and state aid. This has been the case previously in 2005 where Caledonian MacBrayne was awarded the contract.

“The SNP Trade Union Group takes the unwavering view that terms & conditions should never be eroded in the workplace and that working standards should be raised at every opportunity. We welcome the statement from Transport Minister Derek MacKay pledging that the Scottish Government will ensure that the pensions of the CHFS workforce are protected.

“We believe that the current tendering process must be an opportunity to improve and strengthen the working conditions of all working on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service. Additionally, every effort must be made to ensure that the workforce is at the forefront of decision making while this process is ongoing and continuing on into the future.

“However, while the SNP Trade Union Group is pro-European in its outlook, it believes that the EU laws that have necessitated the current tendering process are inherently flawed and do not take into account vital lifeline services such as the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services that communities depend on.

“The SNP Trade Union Group will ensure that its elected members take this issue to the heart of Europe. We will campaign for a rethink of this regressive procurement policy which is damaging to both the workforce and the communities in Scotland and across Europe which rely on such services to survive.

In response, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This statement from a group claiming to represent trade unionists makes not a single mention of support for fellow trade unionists battling to defend jobs and services and instead hides behind a barrage of EU anti-worker legislation that has no relevance at all to this dispute and which could be challenged anyway with a united campaign.

“RMT would appeal to rank and file SNP members and supporters to reject this defeatist line and stand by a workforce fighting to defend jobs, conditions, safety and lifeline ferry services against this attack. You can’t claim to be anti-austerity, pro working class and pro public services and then duck the issue when jobs and services are under all out attack like on CalMac. The question to the SNP TU Goup is which side are you o‎n?”

Yesterday a cross party motion tabled in Scottish Parliament backed the union’s campaign. Supported by John Mason (SNP), Neil Findlay (Lab), David Stewart (Lab), Elaine Smith (Lab), Anne McTaggart (Lab), Cara Hilton (Lab), John Wilson (Ind) Jean Urquhart (Ind), the motion read:

That the Parliament notes the current dispute between Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry workers and the employer over concerns about future services, staffing levels, job security and pensions, which it understands have arisen from the tendering process of Clyde and Hebrides ferry services currently operated by CalMac; supports CalMac workers and what it considers the excellent job that they do and calls for their concerns to be addressed; notes that the private sector corporation, Serco, is bidding to take over CalMac services, and believes that the interests of islanders, tourism and the Scottish economy would be best served by these lifeline ferry services remaining in the public sector.

This article reproduced by Creative Commons Licence previously published by Unity Solidarity International

Bedroom Tax Song: You Cannae Have A Spare Room in a Pokey Cooncil Flat

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Bedroom Tax Song: You Cannae Have A Spare Room in a Pokey Cooncil Flat

Published on Mar 27, 2013

LYRICS AND INFO
A song about the Bedroom Tax, written for the demos all over the UK on Saturday 30th March, 2013, the Glasgow one in particular. Set to the tune of 1960’s folk song “The Jeely Piece Song”, by Scottish singer-songwriter Adam McNaugton.

LYRICS

I’m a welfare state wean, we live on the bottom flair
But we’re no allowed to even live there any mair.
They say we’ve got too many rooms, in our social rented flat
We’ve an eight by ten foot boxroom where you cannae swing a cat

Chorus:
Oh ye canna have a spare room in a pokey cooncil flat
Ian Duncan Smith and Co have put an end tae that
They say “live in a smaller house”, they say that is their plan
When the odds against you finding one are ninety-nine to one

Noo ma auntie’s in a wheelchair, but these Tories dinna care
They say they have a deficit, she got to pay her share
£60 a month they’ll take, then leave her tae her fate
Whilst gieing millionaires a tax cut, cause they say they’re due a break

Noo that Buckingham Palace looks a pretty roomy gaff
And the ludger there gets benefits at rates that make me laugh
A civil list, plus tax perks, near ninety million pounds
With her other dozen mansions lying empty a’ year round

Noo those MPs doon in Westminster must think that we’re ‘a dense
Wi their second home apartments, where the public pays their rent
They’re even get a food allowance, two hundred quid a week
But they’re claiming we’re the scroungers, is their arse up in their cheeks?

So we’ve formed a Federation and we’re gonna have our say
The Bedroom Tax it has to go, and we ain’t gonna pay
We’re gonna march on London tae demand our civil rights
Like nae mair Tories and their Liberal shite

Is George Osborne failing … or succeeding brilliantly?

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Is George Osborne failing … or succeeding brilliantly?

Obviously the answer depends entirely on what are George Osborne’s actual intentions?

We are led to believe by government and commentators in the mainstream media that George is trying to ‘re-balance’ the economy, eliminate the deficit by 2017 (sorry 2018!) and create the conditions for the private sector to grow and export the UK out of recession/depression. He and David Cameron tell us that fiscal austerity or expansionary fiscal contraction, is showing signs of working and anyway, there is no alternative (TINA).

However Martin Wolf, the distinguished FT journalist, describes Cameron’s arguments for sticking to the government’s programme of fiscal austerity as ‘overwhelmingly wrong-headed’. (1)

Duncan Weldon quotes the FT leader ahead of the Budget and writes:

FT leader ahead of the Budget opens by stating:

More than halfway through the UK coalition’s term of office, the British economy is becalmed. Output is flat and confidence is perilously weak. The UK is experiencing its slowest recovery since the 19th century. Nearly half a decade has passed since the crisis erupted and the economy remains no bigger than it was in 2006 – more than 3 per cent below its 2008 peak. It is no longer fanciful to talk about a lost decade.

As we approach the Chancellor’s fourth Budget, we can already guess that much of the content will feel eerily familiar – growth revised down, borrowing revised up, an insistence that his policy is working and delivering low interest rates, some additional austerity measures to be announced for the future and some ‘more of the same’ policy in the short-term (corporation tax, the personal allowance and generic ‘deregulation’ being likely candidates). (2)

 

I could find dozens of quotes in the same vein.  So in terms of mending the UK economy, George Osborne has signally failed!

Furthermore, it is not just that he has failed on economic indicators.  His ‘austerity’ cuts have or will have severe consequences for the social fabric.  For example, more than a million more families will be living in poverty by 2015. (3)

Picture 39

Research published by the TUC earlier today shows that the decisions being made by the government will cost middle-income households £1,200 a year. By the time of the next election, nine in ten households will be worse off, and half of all children in the UK will live in families below the breadline. (4)

However, this aspect of George Osborne’s strategy is, in his own terms, a success .. a real success.

Such impacts were implicit in the CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review October 2010) which if implemented in full would result in less spending on public services in the UK than that of the US by 2014/15  (5)

However, it has to be said that not everybody accepts George Osborne’s stated agenda as being his real purpose.

Ivan Horrocks, commenting on Tax Research UK as long ago as September 2011, wrote:

 I do wonder if part of the issue you and many other commentators have with Osborne and co is that you/we are ascribing to them a primary economic policy aim which is in fact not their primary aim. We assume that Osborne and co’s primary concern (aim) is to get the economy growing again. And to be fair, this is the impression that Osborne and co promote.

But what if their primary aim is in fact to (try to) fundamentally restructure economic (and social) relations in this country (and beyond if they can) and that their belief is that to do that “austerity” is an essential tool. It can be argued that this is similar to the approach Thatcher employed between 1979-83. For example, under the cover of “austerity” we are witnessing a massive fire sale of public assets, planning laws are being relaxed, the NHS is being “restructured”, and so on and on, all to the considerable benefit not to the “big society” but to big business and big finance.

My conclusion would be that the “austerity” approach – and the narrative that’s been developed to support it – will not be dropped, regardless of any arguments put by the IMF, UN, you, Martin Wolf or anyone else – or the production of data that shows how dire the economic situation of this country is – until Osborne and his supporters are confident that their primary policy aim is sufficiently entrenched to withstand efforts to stop or undo it. Again, we see this approach reflected in the behaviour of Thatcher’s first government. And, furthermore, it resonates with the reported view of senior/influential Tory thinkers, that the first Blair government wasted their first two years in power. In summary then, we could argue that Osborne and co have simply been very good at learning from history. (6)

The passage of time has certainly vindicated Ivan Horrocks assessment. The ‘austerity’ approach and accompanying narrative (“its all Gordon Brown’s fault”) have not been dropped.  And regardless of the economic data, the arguments of the IMF, UN, Richard Murphy and Martin Wolf, we continue to witness the fire sale of public assets, planning laws are being relaxed, the NHS is being “restructured” and so on… to the benefit of big business and big finance

 

Richard Murphy is also in firm agreement that George Osborne’s real agenda is a Tory revolution  ‘aimed at creating a managed, corporately controlled, and deeply unequal ‘democracy’.(7)  (Note the quotation marks around ‘democracy)

He quotes Ivan Horrocks who is unsurprisingly, not surprised at all:

… It’s the inevitable conclusion of a strategy and process that was undoubtedly conceived while the Tories were in opposition and in concert with many of those who stand to benefit.… Now the Tories are aware they’ll only be in power for one term completing the demolition of the state, the fire sale of public assests and services, and the engineering of the corporate control of as many regulatory and governmental institutions as is possible will gain pace drastically. As will the tempo and harshness of the attack on the poor and less fortunate in our society. (7)

(edited)

Michael Hoexter makes a similar argument in New Economics Perspectives:

After the initial panic surrounding the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 subsided, an opportunistic brand of neoliberalism emerged, that continued neoliberalism’s attack on government as a stabilizing, moderating force in society.  This re-energized brand of neoliberalism advocates fiscal austerity and balanced government budgets, “worrying” that public bond issues floated during the economic stabilization process were “unsustainable” debts….

(T)hat the prime drivers of fiscal austerity were representatives of the financial industry, which had just been bailed out by government and had gotten themselves into trouble via high levels of private “leverage,” has, so far, escaped the notice of most sectors of the press in Europe and the United States and, therefore, the consciousness of the public.  Furthermore, the potential future advantages to that same industry of austerity’s selective shackling of government’s ability to create and control the liquidity of the economy have also, so far, escaped the notice of a gullible press and, by extension, a good portion of the public. (8)

So is George Osborne failing or is he succeeding brilliantly?  And does he know which agenda he is following?  Does he actually believe in the failed neoclassical nostrums?  Is he being ‘manipulated’ in some way by those vested interests who stand to benefit?  Or was it always his intention to keep the crisis going to provide the ‘shock doctrine’ which justifies asset-stripping and re-structuring the economic/social relations of the UK ?

In writing about the imperative for a macroethics, Michael Hoexter makes the observation:

… fundamental moral confusion may be mere pretense in the sociopaths and Machiavellian political operatives who are, no doubt, crucial to the success of the austerity campaign.  Yet, their (fallacious) ethical argumentation has swept along more gullible political leaders who have not paused long enough to consider the uniqueness of their role as leaders of governments.  These leaders, with the exception of the Euro-Zone countries, can move their governments to issue currency to bail their nations out of any real or imagined financial bind (though finances do not necessarily solve real economic difficulties).  Either, believing the fiscal reality of currency-issuing governments was identical to that of a business or a household or fearing their constituents would view them as immoral if they did not treat the national budget as that of a household, politicians have, so far, acted as if they do not recognize their distinct macroethical duties as regards the national budget. (8)

A similar point made by the Guardian’s Zoe Williams when she speculated about … the true division of the Conservative party – the ones who are mistaken versus those who are wrong deliberately… Some of them are simply out of their depth, do not understand the benefits system or a government’s realistic prospects of controlling the economy…Others take the Fox News approach: if you can just get enough misinformation out there, enough people who were only half-listening might half-believe you. Competing claims don’t need to relate to facts, their validity will be judged on the manner in which they’re delivered. You may have to retract later, but what does that matter? (9) 

Michael Hoexter provides a disturbing rationale for neoliberal behaviour:

Conventional neoclassical economics has normalized sociopathy in economic life by assuming the “utility maximizing individual” at every turn, which aids sociopaths in gaining positions of power and influence in our contemporary society.  In the political science derivative of neoclassical economics, James Buchanan’s “public choice theory,” politicians are assumed to be as fundamentally amoral as neoclassical economics’ model of the person, which has the effect of excusing or making invisible political corruption…. (8)

Disturbingly, I conclude with the (edited) view of Andrew Dickie, another regular commentator, on Tax research UK whose opinion is respected by Richard Murphy:

Ivan and I have been in agreement on this before – this will be a Neo-feudal state, in which we subjects in the oligarcho-democratic state we now enjoy are transformed into serfs,without rights, in a feudal state where the land-basis of mediaeval fedualism will be replaced by a “territorial” carve-up on the basis of income streams from taxation = Prince HMRC and Duke NHS and Marquess Tertiary Education, and Earl Secondary Education – somewhat reminiscent of Prohibition Chicago!…. These new “garagiste/card-sharping/rent-seeking” baronage know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and their only skills are those of rip-off and plunder, and are a universe away from the real economy and real wealth creation, which will be the task of the serfs – as it always was….. (10)

Andrew Dickie ends with the advice that “ Labour should be putting down a marker – a future Labour Government will bring all these illicitly disposed of mutually created assets back under democratic control, without compensation where possible, which, given that it is highly likely that their new “owners” will already have made more than they have paid for the assets, will be easy to justify.” 

I’ll more than second that… but in the meantime, there’s another Osborne budget….

Related Think Left Posts:

Capitalism – Neoliberalism, Plutonomy, and Neo-feudalism.

Soylent Green, George Osborne and Plutonomy.

Plutonomy – Invasion of the Political Body Snatchers.

What is George Osborne playing at?

(1)  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1670a3d2-880f-11e2-8e3c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2NQUQ6WUO

(2)  http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/03/through-the-looking-glass-economics/

(3)   http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/03/a-million-more-families-below-the-breadline-by-2015/

(4) http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2013/03/next-wednesday-george-osborne-should-admit-hes-got-it-wrong/

(5)  http:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2011.02169.x/ful l 

(6)  http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/09/06/maybe-osbornes-quite-happy-a-double-dip-that-provides-cover-for-all-he-wants-to-do/#comments

(7)  http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/03/14/the-tory-revolution-is-aimed-at-creating-a-managed-corporately-controlled-and-deeply-unequal-democracy/

(8)  http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/03/without-an-effective-macroethics-our-civilization-is-doomed.html#more-5010

 (9)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/02/iain-duncan-smith-polemic-politics-cynical

(10) http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/03/14/that-tory-revolution-and-the-rise-of-neofeudalism/

Life under Cameron… sorry Thatcher!

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Poorest households will be hit hardest by benefit changes, Whitehall admits

Work and Pensions department’s assessment released before key Commons debate as welfare bill passed by majority of 56 – Britain’s poorest households will be hit hardest by government plans to limit rises in working-age benefits to 1% in a bid to save £3.1bn by 2016.

This Tory attack on the poorest should come as no surprise.  Neil Kinnock could just as well have been speaking in 2010 instead of 1983.

Neil Kinnock giving his Election speech about life under Thatcher

But even in 1983, the behaviour of the nasty party was not new:

Picture 27

Seumas Milne writes: “As the depression-era cartoonist highlighted, the idea that there can be any equivalence in belt-tightening for rich and poor is a nonsense. Even if the different income groups were paying proportionate shares, or the wealthy were actually shouldering a heavier burden, as Osborne claimed, the impact would obviously be far greater for those struggling on benefits than for beneficiaries of the boardroom bonanza.

“… the bare-faced deceit at the heart of the government’s claims has become brutally evident. Far from being a fair shares package that shelters the vulnerable, it’s now clear that the net effect of [the] announcements will be to hammer the poorest the hardest.”

That pre-war cartoonist was JF Horrabin and his image was first used on a poster by the Labour Party during the 1929 general election and, later, by PLEBS, an organisation connected to the National Labour College.

http://www.independentlabour.org.uk/main/2010/07/12/equality-of-sacrifice/

And even in 1895, they knew what the ConDems were like …

Picture 39

Neil Kinnock’s Election speech in 1983 about life under Thatcher…

” I warn you. I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend upon payment. I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right. I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay. I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.
I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies. I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light. I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding. I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up. I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.
………. I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.