United we stand! This is no time for a split in the Labour movement.

Quote

United we stand! This is no time for a split in the Labour movement.

solidarity

It is time to be united in our attack on the most extreme right wing government in living memory. Tory spin continues to control the media who are set about attacking the Labour movement. The fact is that the electorate’s political view is more to the left than most MPs. Speak up for the NHS, for workers’ rights and pensions. Attack the press, nationalise the Banks. Build policies for nationalisation of Transport, Utilities and Energy. Support tax justice. Build affordable homes and put people back to work. That is how a people’s government, a Labour government will be elected. To leave political power with the Conservative Party and the Banks which feed them would be irresponsible for any left political party or trade unionist. The electorate has more trust in trade unions than Bankers. People are not fools.

Worker solidarity

Worker solidarity (Photo credit: Toban B.)

So, speak loudly, and let’s make those policies heard. Donors to the Tory party are directly profiteering from Coalition policies. This is a parliament under siege. Last year the Daily Mirror wrote on beneficiaries from the carve up of the NHS for profiteers. Yet, we were told pre election that “the NHS was safe in their hands”. It seems they couldn’t get their private hands on the NHS owned by the people quickly enough.

The policies are justified in the press by false statistics – a method even criticised by the Telegraph. Gove pursue’s privatisation of education when there is evidence that the best education systems in the world ban private schools. Yet they pursue policies to benefit their friends.

Private donations to the conservative party (Guardian) include hedge fund bosses such as – Michael Farmer, Lord Stanley Fink and Andrew Law – together contributed £636,300. Fink is the party treasurer

Last year Stanley Fink’s “education company”, Ark Schools, underspent 7.5% of the education budget for the 8 schools he controls and they are investing the money in the Cayman Islands instead (money that was meant to be spent on children’s education) and he’s not alone, as Open Democracy reports.

This Guardian report reveals how two donors to Tory party funds set up a company which has made millions from the Work Programme, which has failed to put people back to work.

Sovereign Capital, formed in 2001 by John Nash and Ryan Robson and three others, has for eight years owned the Employment and Skills Group (ESG), a training company with £73m worth of government contracts. Last Monday, ESG was sold to an investment bank for an undisclosed sum.

ESG has been awarded two lucrative contracts from Iain Duncan Smith‘s Department for Work and Pensions. It won a £69m contract in May 2011 for the work programme, the government’s scheme for unemployed people, in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, which runs until 2016.

The company was also chosen to run a £4m mandatory work programme contract across the West Midlands – paid to find work-for-benefit placements for at least 5,000 unemployed people over four years. The firm will receive an £800 bonus for every unemployed claimant it places in mandatory work.

Nash and his wife, Caroline, have donated £182,500 to the Tories since 2006 and are said to have financed David Davis‘s 2005 leadership bid. Nash was appointed to the Department for Education board in 2010 by the secretary of state, Michael Gove.

Government spin can’t hide the fact the the Work Programme is still not working

Alex Little has analysed the statistics on the Work Programme here, demonstrating the total failure of these policies, which were set up by the Coalition for the benefit of Tory donors

… the best that can be said is that for JSA claimants at least, the Work Programme is marginally better than nothing, but for ESA new customers, it’s still worse than nothing. Just under half of providers (18 out of 40) are meeting their targets for JSA clients (only just). None met their targets for ESA clients.

You’ll hear a lot of spin about how the Working Programme is ‘transforming lives’, but against the DWP’s own benchmark, it is still failing to meet even the minimum levels expected. So DWP are lauding the success of the Work Programme, but all providers are in breach of their contracts. Time to rethink the whole thing?

From alittleecon

This is a time to stand together against Austerity.

We will not let the Tory Press rip us apart.

References and further reading:

  1. Britain under Siege, Think Left
  2. Daily Mirror: Tories rake in donations from fat cats hoping to cash in on NHS privatisation
  3. Firm established by two Tory Donors made millions from work schemes
  4. Alex Little: (alittleecon) Government spin can’t hide the fact the the Work Programme is still not working
  5. Guardian: City’s Influence over Conservatives laid bare by research into Donations
  6. Gove’s Selective Truth, Think Left
  7. Open Democracy: Mammon in the classroom: the men who’ve got their teeth into England’s £35 billion schools pie
  8. Robbing the People: the Ultimate Theft -Think Left
  9. New Statesman: Duncan Smith rebuked by ONS for misuse of benefit statistics
  10. Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor

A Mother’s Work

Quote

A Mother’s Work

First posted on March 24, 2013

This is naturally worded towards the female gender, by virtue of tradition. However, if you are a man with whom any of this resonates, I hope you will consider yourself automatically included where relevant.

A great irony has occurred over the last few decades. Time was that the working mother was frowned upon and her ‘latch-key’ children pitied. Today, societal expectations and governmental policies have instilled a sense of guilt in the woman if she doesn’t want to work while her children are actually children. She is found wanting, accused of not pulling her weight; not showing a good work ethic to her offspring; not contributing to the justification of her monetary worth. Why? Because she makes her children her primary purpose: her occupation – her career? This development is just as insidious and detrimental to the well-being of children, mothers and Community as the spiteful, reverse demonisation of those who worked in the Seventies and Eighties. But for the working mother and particularly the lone parent, her guilt is in the eternal catch-22: that of either spreading herself too thinly, thus feeling inadequate in both spheres of life, or, just as likely, pretty much neglecting one sphere in favour of the pressure from the other.

The accelerating pressures of our lives can have done little to assuage this guilt and yet it has been pushed to one side by the theorists, the Media and consecutive governments who have fallen over themselves to endorse the mythical status of the perfectly accomplished woman: the woman who can do everything and be everything, brilliantly. Really? Isn’t that just crazy talk? I mean: yes, of course women “can have it all” – but surely not all at once? Not successfully?

I’d rather we didn’t insist on mothers being stay-at-home types or force them out to work. One size doesn’t fit all and why would we want it to? That just leads to unhappy, less effective people. And yet this is exactly what our government is achieving. And yet again, it’s the poorest and the least powerful who find themselves without a choice. Yet again the Conservatives, the so-called party of family and strong moral compass, are destroying the very fabric upon which such values are built.

The next generation are the future, the continuum of the human race and your children are your personal legacy. Could there really be any task more worthy or vital? Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to work just because you have children: this isn’t about denigrating working mothers; but neither is it inaccurate to see your parenting as highly valuable work. Wanting to be the default carer and guide for your own children is most certainly notsomething to be ashamed of. After all, they’re not called dependants for nothing. If it doesn’t matter who raises them; if it isn’t healthier to have diversity; if the mother doesn’t know her child best, we might as well just grow them in anonymous incubators, stamp them with a code and send them off to processing plants.

As I’ve written, previously:

Where is the sense in a society that forces single parents out to work for such low wages that they still require top-up benefits so that someone else, who may not be your idea of a suitable surrogate parent and who may not even like the job, can also be paid a pittance to look after your children? The same society which frets about family breakdown, quality time, modern pressures, neglected kids…

[‘Welfare Reform Scapegoats’ http://julijuxtaposed.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/welfare-reform-needs-scapegoats/ ]

I wonder… Wouldn’t that pittance of a wage be better offered directly to the primary care-giver as a modest stipend for not needing all this bitty but generic and expensive childcare? It would give lone parents and low-waged couples, a viable option. It would say that we value not just the child, but the parent too. And the childcare business that survived would probably be of a better, more personal quality. It’s short-sighted to view this as something for nothing. It is not. Society complains constantly about its breakdown; about the poverty that initiates and exacerbates its ills, only to resist the most obvious solution and go for yet another false economy. It’s hang-wringing followed by pettiness, followed by some complicated new policy which is ineffective and always costs more than its budget, followed by more hand-wringing. Well, perhaps some things are worth throwing money at because, at the very least, the alternatives are unthinkable. If it could just be accepted that the Hearth Stone is as essential to Humanity as good planetary stewardship is to Earth’s ecosystem – that would at least be a good start.

Labour Puzzles Potential Voters about their Intent

Quote

Labour Puzzles Potential Voters about their Intent 

People everywhere reject the Bankers’ Politics of neoliberalism and look to a future of People’s Politics and a kinder and fairer society, where people matter not bankers’ vaults and spreadsheets.  People around Britain are looking for a party which really means change, and yet some are puzzled by some in the Labour Party and are hearing mixed messages from the Party. The electorate knows what the government needs to do, so why are Labour holding back? Is it the old chestnut of fear of the Press? Is Labour aiming for Aneurin Bevan’s Socialist Ideal, or will the Party settle for a Cosy Consensus?  Speak up, take courage, Labour  and push  towards a “Courageous State!”

Everyone needs a society where children can grow up in homes, attend good schools, have health care and look to full employment.

Capitalism isnt working - Reuters

Ed Miliband and the party must show the voters that they reject the austerity which is bringing poverty to people, and that they will be strong in opposing the parasitic, cancerous invasion of a very rich, very tiny minority of profiteers who care nothing for people’s welfare, equality or human rights.

2015 will be the biggest opportunity in seventy years for Labour, and the clock is ticking. People will come out and vote for Labour, but the electorate need convincing and it is up to Labour to speak loudly and clearly – and to present polices that will bring about real change. Many ex-Labour voters will remember how we cheered in 1997 as eighteen years of a callous,  vicious, destructive Conservative government came to an end. Many also remember how the cheering went chillingly quiet as they witnessed  a betrayal by the “New Labour”  government which continued to support a free-for-all smash-and-grab neoliberalism which Thatcher had deceptively introduced, and along with the US and Tory support led to war in Iraq. Their Party had been kidnapped.

Ed Miliband has attacked the previous Labour government and said they did not do enough for ordinary people.

He said that New Labour was “too timid in enforcing rights and responsibilities, especially at the top, and it was too sanguine about the consequences of the rampant free markets”.

He said: “By the time we left office too many of people of Britain didn’t feel as if the Labour party was open to their influence, or listening to them,” Miliband said.

“For me, the most obvious example is immigration. I bow to nobody in my celebration of the multi-ethnic, diverse nature of Britain. But high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain – and too often those in power seemed not to accept this.

“The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.

“We have to move on from New Labour, as well as from this Government.”

Miliband told the event in central London that if Labour wins the next general election it would have to find ways of achieving change while tackling a lingering deficit.

“One Nation Labour has learnt the lessons of the financial crisis. It begins from the truth that New Labour did not do enough to bring about structural change in our economy to make it work for the many, not just the few. It did not do enough to change the rules of the game that were holding our economy back.”

He said,” “We cannot have two nations divided between those who own their own homes and those who rent,” Miliband said.

“Most people who rent have responsible landlords and rental agencies. But there are too many rogue landlords and agencies either providing accommodation which is unfit or ripping off their tenants. And too many families face the doubt of a two-month notice period before being evicted.” This is very  good to hear, and is a start. It gives hope to many.

It’s not as if the country supports this government, its austerity, or ever did. The Tories knew this which is why they pushed through their first legislation for a fixed term parliament  ensuring the success of the hatchet-plan of total destruction of  the welfare state in one single term of office. In 2010, the Tories failed in their attempt to gain a majority, and many left-leaning-liberal-voters, many of them ex-Labour voters, felt doubly-betrayed as an opportunist Liberal Democrat Party propped up a government  which turned out to be even more right-wing and reactionary than Thatcher’s.

It’s not what the electorate voted for or wanted at all, so unsurprisingly  we have seen angry protests  and “Occupy”  Movements, unions taking industrial action and anger from people who have never been politically active before. Labour must stand firm against this government, and speak loudly and clearly.

The electorate also needs to believe that a future Labour government will be strong, not timid, and not buckle to the press. The electorate needs to know that Labour will bring about economic changes which will bring about a real redistribution of wealth, by tackling tax law and injustice. The electorate needs to know that it can depend on Labour bringing energy, water and transport back into democratic ownership and control.

The electorate needs to know Labour means what it says and says what it means.  Why are we receiving mixed messages from the Labour party? Why, this week have some ( exclusions here) supported the government’s Workfare programme? Quite rightly, potential voters remain puzzled about what and who Labour represents, and they will withhold their trust and confidence in a party where Blairite vestiges still remain. Stronger, clearer messages from Labour is what the electorate is hungry for. If Labour can’t do that, the voters will look elsewhere and the greatest opportunity for socialism in seventy years will be lost to theorists.  That would be a betrayal which will never, ever, be forgiven.

  • LABOUR – First and foremost, Labour must be honest about the deficit –  and  expose the lies!  Of all the lies, none is bigger than the suggestion that the national debt is the highest ever. 
  • Debt DataDeliberate confusion is created regarding the difference between national debt and deficit. Lies about privatization of the services such as NHS, education and even the police. Lies that cuts are necessary, that we are all in it together, while the rich accrue obscene wealth while trampling on the death and decay they have created. Democracy around the world is held in hostage. US lobbyists are even infiltrating the elections of police commissioners (Telegraph report)  , and many MPs hold contacts with financiers (Britain Under Siege, Think Left) . Power snatched from the people is held by the very rich and echoes the Middle Ages, a neofeudalism . The corporations control think-tanks  which decide policy, and hide their identities. Was this the intention of those who fought for the vote, for workers’ rights, and for equality?

STRAIGHT-TALKING LABOUR NEEDS TO:

Confident, courageous and compassionate, Labour must seek to pursue the policies which will change our world.

We call upon Labour to:

  1. BE TRUTHFUL ABOUT THE STRUCTURAL DEFICIT AND NATONAL DEBT.a) Structural deficit & Libor . bThe Fundamental deceit of ‘”There’s no money left.” 
  2. CONFRONT THE PARASITIC BANKING COMMUNITY Monetise or rip up the £375bn debt they’ve bought back by QE and reduce the national debt of the UK with the stroke of a key. a) Simon says: QE is the biggest confidence trick of all time  b) What is George Osborne playing at?  c) The IMF and Taking the Red Pill, Think Left 
  3. SPLIT RETAIL AND INVESTMENT BANKS PROPERLY
  4. REGAIN SOVEREIGN CONTROL OVER MONEY SUPPLY How debt leads to financial servitude 
  5. TACKLE TAX JUSTICE ONCE AND FOR ALL.
  6. WORK FOR FULL EMPLOYMENT for those that can work, maintaining a safety net for those who cannot.
  7. ENSURE A LIVING WAGE FOR ALL WORKERS
  8. FORMULATE A NEW GREEN DEAL, and EXPANSION OF RENEWABLES
  9. STOP SUBSIDIES OF FOSSIL FUELS AND NUCLEAR POWER
  10. REVERSE PRIVATISATION OF THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE
  11. NATIONALISE UTILITIES, (including ENERGY  and WATER.  )
  12. NATIONALISE RAILWAYS  and REVOLUTIONISE PUBLIC TRANSPORT.
  13. BUILD HOMES FOR ALL
  14. PROVIDE AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE  – and reinstate SURESTART
  15. INTRODUCE A TRULY COMPREHENSIVE National Education Service  , and LIFELONG LEARNING
  16. PROTECT the WORK LIFE BALANCE, and ENSURE FLEXIBLE WORKING
  17. PROVIDE DIGNIFIED CARE FOR THE ELDERLY
  18. REVERSE THE CUTS ON THE VULNERABLE, SICK AND DISABLED
  19. REBUILD OUR COMMUNITIES, libraries, youth services, sports facilities, high streets and local co-ops.
  20. MAKE THE COURAGEOUS STATE  A REALITY.
  1. Aneurin Bevan’s Socialist Ideal, or the Cosy Consensus? 
  2. Richard Murphy: The Cowardly State is in Disarray, we need a Courageous Alternative
  3. Osborne and Cameron’s Big Deficit Myth
  4. Huffington Post Ed Miliband attacks New Labour – 
  5. The Fundamental Deceit of “there’s no money left”
  6. Parliament of the People
  7. Straight Talking Labour
  8. Owen Jones: Independent: Workfare Why did so many Labour MPs accept this brutal, unforgivable attack on vulnerable people?
  9. Left Futures: What was Liam Byrne playing at?

IDS explodes again over Workfare

Quote

Iain Duncan-Smith’s Row With James O’Brien.

James O’Brien deserves a collective cheer for telling IDS that the only reason there are the greatest number of people in work since records began, is because there are the greatest number of people alive since records began!

lbc973@LBC 97.3

Iain Duncan-Smith was involved in an explosive bust-up with James O’Brien live on LBC 97.3.
The Work and Pensions Secretary has welcomed a fall in unemployment, which now stands at 362,000 in the capital and 2.5million across the UK.

Hat-tip Jase-deb Cridland
http://www.dorseteye.com/south/articles/iain-duncan-smith-s-explosive-argument-about-unemployment-and-workfare

The Work Programme Part 3 – Payment by Results and Unpaid Work Experience

Quote

The Work Programme Part 3 – Payment by Results and Unpaid Work Experience

First posted on December 10, 2012 by 

 

“Payment by results”. It sounds good. Firms only get paid if they do well, so there is a powerful incentive for them to act in the best interests of the individual. Something is going very wrong though. About £4 in every £5 paid out to Work Programme providers is not being paid because a ‘result’ has been achieved. It is being paid for an ‘attachment’ to the Work Programme i.e. when an unemployed person starts the programme. Only £1 in £5 constitutes ‘payment by results’, and even then as we have seen, the value of these results is somewhat dubious.

The Government has actually taken these poor results and tried to spin it into a story about value for money for the taxpayer. Responding to the dire figures published in November, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:

“I think we are on track. Payment by results is about saying the taxpayers need not foot the risk.”

In other words, he’s saying that even if the Work Programme providers performance is abysmal, it’s OK because the taxpayer only pays for results. Leaving aside the fact that that is just not true, as we’ve already seen, the idea that all that matters is value for money for the taxpayer is frankly bonkers.

We have an unemployment crisis in this country and every day we are forgoing millions of pounds in lost income because we have millions of people unable to find work. We are not making use of all these people’s skills and experience while they languish on benefits through no fault of their own. The idea that it’s OK that we are not finding work for these people because the taxpayer is not on the hook is crazy.

The Future Jobs Fund was scrapped by the Government because it cost too much. A cost of over £7,000 per job is widely cited, but a recently completed evaluation of the programme came up with somewhat different numbers. The programme was found to have a net cost to the Exchequer of £3,100, but provided a netbenefit to society of £7,800 per participant.

The idea that the only thing government’s should be concerned about is value for money, that cheaper means better is just illogical. It’s what society gains from spending by the government that really matters. The Work Programme may be cheaper than previous schemes (debatable I think), but the return on the government’s investment in the Work Programme looks like being very low (and maybe even negative) at this point. That makes no sense at all. Far better to spend more on a programme that will generate a greater return for society.

Payment by results is supposed to incentivise excellence, but achieving excellence is hard, even more so in an economy where there is a shortage of jobs. So instead of promoting excellence among Work Programme providers, payment by results seems to be promoting cheating or corner cutting (read part 2 for more on this). The result of this is that, far from creating an effective, unemployment reducing programme, it has created one which is barely (if at all) better than nothing.

Knock-on effects

Going hand-in-hand with the Work Programme appears to be the beginnings of a worrying trend in the labour market –  a growing casualisation of the workforce and – even more worrying – the rise of the unpaid work placement.

Casualisation

Casualisation, manifesting itself in the form of temporary, zero-hour or self-employment has exploded to such an extent that 3 million people now say they are underemployed, up by 1 million since the economic downturn began in 2008. So while Coalition ministers crow about falling unemployment, and 1 million new private sector jobs, it’s right to question just what sort of jobs they are, and what sort of precedent does this set for the future?

That’s not to say there is no place for zero hour contracts and temporary work. The key though is that there is a strong backstop in place to catch those who fall out of the system. Temporary work or zero-hour contracts are not so bad if there is a strong welfare state to fall back on (or a guaranteed state-funded job as I would like to see), but at the same time as the labour market remains weak, the Government are also weakening the welfare state at the same time by cutting working age benefits in real terms. Done in the name of deficit reduction, it’s the ultimate false economy. Cutting the incomes of those who spend most of their incomes mean less sales for businesses and less income overall. As Paul Krugman says:

“Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income. So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone’s income falls — my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better.”

Unpaid Work Experience (Or Workfare)

Wrapped up with the Work Programme has been the rise of mandatory unpaid work experience. Work experience has gained a lot of negative coverage in the media in recent years. A lot of this has focused on schemes outside of the Work Programme, but it is less known that it is very common for Work Programme participants to be mandated to do unpaid work experience.

The Work Programme uses the ethos of the ‘black box’ approach. This means providers have the freedom to do whatever they feel necessary to help a Work Programme participant get back to work. Often, it seems, this takes the form of unpaid work experience. This is mandatory. If participants refuse to take part, they can have their benefits sanctioned.

This practise of sending benefit claimants is growing in scope. It was recently announced that ESA claimants (those deemed unfit for work, but placed in the work-related activity group) can be mandated to do unpaid work experience for a time period without limit.

This phenomenon of unpaid work experience has now become so prevalent that private firms, with the collaboration of Jobcentre Plus and the DWP are now advertising ‘job vacancies’ that are actually unpaid placements. Here’s 2 examples:

WORK EXPERIENCE PLACEMENT WITH A POTENTIAL JOB-ARGOS- Speak to an adviser about YLY/37795

A tweet by  says ‘We advertise paid employment through Universal Jobmatch ‘ hmm what is this then? :jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/GetJob.aspx?Jo… 😀

There is a real danger I feel that this can become so normalised, that it becomes standard practise for certain employers to only hire on a ‘try before you buy basis’. This is just wrong in my view, but it just seems to have almost passed unnoticed in the press. It just shows how bad things have got when things most people would usually balk at just become the new normal. All decent people should oppose this in the strongest terms.

This post has strayed somewhat from its original theme, but just to try to draw the 3 parts of this series together. Here are the key points:

  • The Work Programme is an expensive failure. If we didn’t have a Work Programme, we would have expected more long term unemployed to have found work.
  • Work Programme providers are providing very little of value for the millions they are being paid. Instead, they are using a number of techniques to extract additional cash from the public purse.
  • Payment by results just doesn’t work
  • The Work Programme is giving rise to all sorts worrying trends, notably unpaid work experience.
  • It seems to be becoming normal for employers to expect jobseekers to work for them for free for a period before offering them a paid role. This can only displace paid employees. It needs to stop.
  • Real terms benefit cut and benefit sanctions are pure false economies. They will ensure unemployment rises, not falls and will bequeath a smaller economy than would otherwise be the case. It will end up costing us all more.

Why do the Lib Dems stay in the coalition?

Quote

Why the LDs are not desperate (regardless of electoral prospects) to get out of the Coalition mystifies me … that is, it mystifies me for all those who are not Orange bookers and/or not the chosen few who enjoy a ministerial car. Apart from any other consideration, why do they want to stay and be tarred by association with George Osborne’s misguided destructive policies? Osborne’s economic strategy has even been criticized by the IMF!

Liberal Democrat Voice (1) does little to tell me ‘why’, although there are ‘voices’ there, which acknowledge, following the failures of AV and House of Lords reform, that being in government has not given them a ‘sufficient legacy’.  (That word ‘legacy’ has such a contemptuous ring…   reinforcing the conclusion that those activists and politicians are playing the ‘getting elected’ game rather than being passionate about improving the world.)

However, I was finally moved to write after reading John Kampfner’s extraordinary piece in the Guardian The Lib Dems are in a stronger position than the Tories – but hide it well – Cameron needs Clegg more than Clegg needs Cameron – so why won’t the Lib Dem leader show some muscle?’ (2)

John Kampfner writes:

Clegg trades on the fact that he is the first peacetime Liberal in a century to preside over government. That is no mean feat and, by the nature of coalition, requires compromise. The public appears to appreciate, better than the Westminster village, that give and take is a sign of a mature political system.

In what sense is it ‘no mean feat’ to happen to be the leader of a political party when another party fails to secure a majority, and to be prepared to accept the offer to form a coalition?

And given the LDs crashed-standing in the opinion polls, where does he observe the public appreciating that LD ‘give and take is a sign of a mature political system’.  Maturity?  Exactly what is immature about vehement opposition when faced with the disastrous policies that are being imposed on the UK populace?  Why is it ‘grown-up’ politics to stay ‘stumm’ as Kampfner suggests?

In fact, what ‘give and take’? On what, in particular, have the Tories compromised?  Yes, they organized (and sabotaged) a referendum on AV, and went through the motions of supporting (and sabotaged) House of Lords Reform.

The much vaunted Pupil premium was supposed to be ‘the reddest of the Liberal Democrats’ red lines’ with an additional £2.5 bn for the education of disadvantaged children.  But, in fact, the pupil premium was ‘robbing Peter, to pay Paul’… the majority being recycled from within the education department’s budget’ – largely from the abolishing of EMA

In June, ‘David Cameron promised to “take money from outside the education budget to ensure that the pupil premium is well funded”. ….  Cathy Newman’s verdict,
on Factcheck, was that ‘so far from bringing “real social justice and opportunity to Britain’s children”, as Nick Clegg claimed before the election, the pupil premium was just filling a hole in the budget’. (3)

Another LD ‘achievement’ was to raise the personal allowance, ‘taking the poorest out of taxation’, but Patrick Collinson in the Guardian dismissed it as an ’empty gesture’

As income goes up benefits will go down, and a million more basic-rate taxpayers are set to move into 40% tax band (4)

Shamik Das of Left Foot Forward made this clear (5):

As Chart B2 of the Budget 2012 Red book (pdf) shows, the cumulative effect of this budget and previous announcements is regressive for the bottom eight deciles. The ninth decile pay less proportionally than the poorest half of people. But the budget is progressive when looking at the richest 10 per cent versus the rest.

This process of the Tories ‘sort of supporting’ (and then sabotaging) is acknowledged by Kampfner, when he writes:

The Protection of Freedoms Act, which received royal assent in May, was a small but important step forward in limiting the authorities’ use of individual data. This is in danger of being more than offset by the hideous “snoopers’ charter” and plans to introduce secret courts for intelligence-related criminal cases, such as the use of torture. (2)

 

According to John Kampfner, Nick Clegg has a more coherent vision for social justice and social mobility, with which he advises Nick Clegg to stick….  However, I simply cannot see that Nick Clegg has ever advanced anything like a coherent vision.

A belief in social justice for the disabled, the unemployed, the low waged, is totally incompatible with voting through of the Welfare Reform bill and supporting the Legal Aid bill, let alone reducing the highest tax rate to 45% for the very wealthiest people.

And as for social mobility…  Has John Kampfner seen the fallen rate of applications to University after the introduction of £27K student tuition fees, and the impact of removal of EMA?

He must also know that there are over 1m unemployed 16 to 24y olds.  Does he realise that new official figures covering the academic year to April 2012 reveal the number of 16 to 18-year-olds starting on-the-job training schemes increased by just 1.4pc, to 104,500 (6)Whilst in the North East, North West and South West, apprenticeship starts have dropped.

Furthermore, the quality of those apprenticeships is highly questionable.

A BBC investigation has found that Morrisons supermarket employed more than 1 in 10 of all apprentices across England last year (7).

In addition, where is the social justice in the government rolling out workfare on a massive scale?

Tens of thousands of forced unpaid work placements have already taken place.

The government intends 250,000 workfare placements on the Work Experience scheme alone. If each placement is 8 weeks of 30 hours work, this is 60 million hours of forced unpaid work.

850,000 people are expected to be referred to the Work Programme by the end of this year. However, due to the “black box” approach the government uses with the private providers, it has so far refused to publish how many of those are being forced to work without pay.

The Mandatory Work Activity scheme has recently been expanded to a capacity of 70,000 places a year. (8)

This all sounds less like social justice or mobility, and more like increased profitability for businesses like Morrisons.

We were told that the LDs went into Coalition with the Tories because the UK was on the verge of becoming like Greece.  That the Labour government had irresponsibly overspent on public services, and it was effectively a national emergency.  It was said that Vince Cable u-turned his pre-election economic assessment on seeing the figures, and then agreed with Osborne’s plan for expansionary fiscal contraction (more like inherently contradictory  … expansionary and contraction).

Not only was the national debt inflated by the ‘socialisation’ of banking losses rather than by public spending (9), but there was absolutely no possibility of the UK being like Greece, a country without its own currency and no central bank (Will Hutton called the suggestion risible).

There was no national emergency, on the scale suggested, as the graph below shows (10).  The UK has had much worse national debt and was in a much better position than many other countries.

In any event, expansionary fiscal contraction was an improbable solution to a banking crisis and a global lack of demand. (I struggle to believe that Vince Cable does not know all this.  Just as I struggle to understand the legitimacy of his u-turn on economic strategy.)

Unfortunately for the UK population, but as predicted (11), it has not turned out well.  As Polly Toynbee notes:

Mervyn King has just delivered a more dire judgment than any before, of zero growth this year – far lower than expected over the next two years. Bank lending has seized up, exports are down, the balance of payments is the worst for 15 years. Meanwhile the Trussle Trust is opening four new food banks a week. (12)

Nevertheless, John Kampfner, faint but pursuing, concludes:

‘The Lib Dems have taken the blows, over tuition fees and more. They have lost the opportunity to modernise our moribund constitution. They have kept stumm for the sake of stability, and been accused by the left of treachery and by the right of petulance. Clegg has two and a half years to put a strongly liberal stamp on government as it seeks a path out of the economic mire.

That is a desperately tall order but, as the past two weeks have shown, success comes to those who show muscle and no little guile.’

Fine, fighting words (although I suspect NC is pretty comfortable with Cameron’s world view) but Polly Toynbee offers the opposite advice that the LDs should get out before its too late:

With David Cameron and George Osborne lashed to a failed Plan A and no sign of shifting, lashed to a failed Plan A, the one credible reason for the Lib Dems to break the coalition is to save the country from yet worse damage. Given what Clegg has led his party to vote for – benefit cuts for the poor, tax cuts for the rich – it is almost too late. But for each recession month that they stay on, tolerating all this, the Lib Dems lose credible reasons for ever making the break.

Personally, I have to admit to a fair degree of sympathy for the ordinary grassroots LD whose cognitive dissonance levels must currently be topping even those of grassroots Blair/New Labour believers.  They are having to justify the dismantling of the NHS, the dismantling of local democracy in education, replacement of Trident, dissing of the green agenda, nuclear power, a new runway at Heathrow, taking benefits away from disabled children and so on… for what?  To prove that coalition works?

I have always respected John Kampfner as a journalist, then Editor, at the New Statesman. For the man, who so comprehensively exposed Blair’s failings, to be turning himself inside out trying to justify the LD leadership’s current position seems so very sad.  The upper echelons of the LD leadership do not deserve it.

Related post:  https://think-left.org/2012/02/16/the-nhs-and-tina-mrs-thatchers-ideological-anti-democratic-political-legacy/

(1) http://www.libdemvoice.org/

(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/09/libe-dems-stronger-cameron-needs-clegg

(3) http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/spending-review-the-price-of-the-pupil-premium/4555

(4) http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/mar/21/budget-personal-allowance-rise

(5) http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/03/budget-2012-impact-per-decile/

(6)  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/9470715/British-apprenticeship-figures-suggest-drive-has-stalled.html

(7)  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17584151

(8) http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=663

(9)  https://think-left.org/2011/12/21/gordon-brown-did-not-spend-all-the-money-the-banks-did/

(10)  http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/334/uk-economy/uk-national-debt/

(11)  https://think-left.org/2012/04/25/dont-say-you-werent-warned-george/

(12)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/13/coalition-olympic-cheer-will-subside

TOMORROW’S PEOPLE

Quote

By Liam Carr First posted at liam carr.blogspot

Students completing their training and being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety were given the job of stewarding the Jubilee river pageant. They were told by their training provider, a company called Close Protection UK, to sleep rough in London on the night before the Jubilee1. They had no access to toilets or changing facilities.
Tomorrow’s People Logo

This is not how any training provider should should treat students. For the duration of that Jubilee weekend (while the majority of the country had a weekend off) these students were, in effect, working without pay for a security firm. No distinction should be made between them and any other student on a course, they should therefore expect their working environment to be a safe one. Training providers should also treat their staff in a dignified way – clearly this has not been the case with both male and female students forced to change into their uniforms
in the street.

Tory Tree

If these were students at a college there would be an outrage. They have failed to in their duty of care. If an employer was to treat workers like this there would be repercussions, and maybe a tribunal. Will the reaction be any different because some of these students have been unemployed for some time? The answer is yes. Public opinion of the long-term unemployed is that they are some how different from working people. This is a deep seated form of mild prejudice which I think may be a hangover from a time when there was a job for anyone willing to work. In Consett and the surrounding area, before the steelworks and the mines closed, there was no good reason to be unemployed. The statement that “There is work for them that want it” was true.

This has not really been the case at any time since the Thatcher Government. Unemployment did fall after 1997. Under this Coaltion government unemployment is back to Thatcherite levels. There is now a food bank in the Salvation army hall in Consett; the last time that there was a food bank there, there were striking Miners collecting food; now it is young families desperately trying to find a job when there are too few jobs to go around.

A not so tenuous link can be traced from the scandalous treatment of the Jubilee Stewards to the door of David Cameron in No. 10: The charity Tomorrow’s People set up the training, they are given Government funding in order to provide work experience for the work program, the same scheme on which unpaid workers found themselves stacking shelves in supermarkets. The CEO of Tomorrow’s People is a Tory donor and is also a Conservative Peer.  Even the Tomorrow’s People logo is scarily similar to the Tory tree.

The work program is a flagship policy of the Coalition. Shoddy treatment of students means that this flagship is not exactly floating like the Royal barge. The Government are rudderless; inadequate training combined with a stubborn refusal to address the issues around job creation, mean that the 1 million young people who are out of work are being left to sink.

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/04/jubilee-pageant-unemployed?fb=native