Archive for the ‘anti-cuts resistance’ Category

How

I’ve recently joined a trade union. It wasn’t something I ever thought I would do, nor was it something I thought I’d ever need to do, but I’m working in the British public sector and am facing redundancy. The new catchword it seems is ‘restructuring’, which of course means restructuring in favour of one ideology at the expense of another – business comes first and staff development counts for nothing at all. Instead of training and developing staff to be able to do what you need, the new British management ethic is just to get rid and replace. I’m not going to take it lying down, although there’s no doubt my boss and the institution I work for will get away with it.

It’s symptomatic of the direction in which this society is being led politically – ridding ourselves of job protections, attacking the rights of people living with disabilities and other nonsense, instead of blaming the banking individuals who have instead been allowed to get away with crashing the economy without any comeback, and who are still allowed to dodge paying their fair share of taxation, when people who need our social safety net are routinely denied it (often being compelled to work for nothing at all). Got that? Good. What comes next is a great speech by outgoing General Secretary of the TUC Brendan Barber:

You can’t pick winners. Tell that to Bradley, Jessica or Mo, all supported by targeted funding.

Markets always trump planning, they say. Well look at the Olympic Park, the result of years of careful planning and public investment.

Private is always better than public, they argue. Not true, as we saw all too clearly when it came to Olympic security.

Those summer weeks were a time when we really were all in it together. Not because we were told to be. But because we wanted to be. Athletes, workers, volunteers, spectators, residents, communities – all pulling together.

He’s referring of course to the London Olympics and Paralympics, which have now come to a close, and he’s right in the conclusions he’s drawn from them. There’s a prevailing set of attitudes in the UK which the Tories exploited in the 80’s and are just (with our complicit right wing media) getting away with exploiting now. There are myths about mass numbers of work shy, that greed is good, the super rich are the wealth creators, and that there are benefits cheats lurking around every street corner. Yet London 2012 disproved most of this nonsense, with people from every walk of life cheerfully working together for the greater good without a murmur and (in my experience of them) displaying resolutely good humour.

Now drawing these lessons into politics is a difficult, and possibly an impossible thing. Because people chose to behave the way they did over the last 6 weeks they and most others would be enormously resistant to politicians reaching for quick conclusions. George Eaton’s article goes on to suggest that Ed Miliband follows Bill Clinton’s lead at the recent Democratic National Convention, in trying to paint the Tories as ‘everyone for themselves’ at the cost of ‘we’re all in this together’, but I can’t help but wonder if that could succeed in trumping entrenched attitudes and the British public’s lazy reliance on victim-based myths. The Labour Party of course has its own victims – ‘failed’ asylum seekers, protesters, students, sex ‘offenders’ and others (any plans for social housing, Ed?), which would make a sudden swing to piety look pretty false.

What we need is much more. If Miliband is to be supported he’ll have to break entirely from his New Labour past, eschewing UK Border Agency extremism for a programme of social housing construction, reining in police extremism once more, regaining comfort in the right to protest and re-enabling access to higher education, whilst undoing the recent Tory attempt to destroy the NHS. If he’s really eager to make anything change, and win power in his own right, he’ll have to turn his back on Blair, be prepared to stand up to these so-called ‘wealth creators’ with their ‘restructuring’ crap and ‘business case’ bullshit, and acknowledge how national wealth is generated. It’s enabling people who want us really ‘all to be in this together’ simply to get on with doing so, rather than face constant attack by the super privileged work shy. That would be the greatest legacy anyone could put together from the hugely positive summer that’s just come to a close.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been trailing his new ‘big idea’ of throwing young people off housing benefit entirely. What an ingenious move, to suggest that the economy is being ruined by workshy benefits claimants, rather than the bankers who caused the economic crash in the first place. Polly Toynbee makes short shrift of his ‘idea’:

He sounded plausible, and his sweeping tour of benefits seeming common sense to many. Every system since the Poor Law faces the same dilemma – how to help the needy without weakening work incentives, how to tell a “sturdy beggar” from a hard-luck case and give them enough to live but less than a low-paid job. There are no satisfactory answers – but Cameron’s “ideas” are the harshest ever proposed. How knowingly he misled in almost every example he gave, as he pitted “those who work hard and do the right thing” against those on benefits, deliberately disguising that these are mainly the same people. Most of the poor drawing benefits are cleaners, carers, caterers – the 62% living below the poverty line, working hard yet needing benefits to survive.

Cameron’s focus on the ever-rising housing benefit bill omitted key facts. The Smith Institute reports that 95% of the £1bn rise in housing benefitthis year is paid to people in work. Only one in eight people drawing the benefit is out of work; the rest are low earners. The cost is not about feckless people but the housing crisis, the failure to build social, rented or private housing over the last three decades. Shortage makes rents rise faster than earnings, and faster than price inflation. Cameron’s plan to peg housing benefit to prices, not to inflation, will be devastating. Shelter reports that if prices rose as fast as rents since 1971, a chicken would now cost £47.51. Nor is there any sign housing benefit cuts will cause rents to fall: rents are still rising as landlords turn away benefit tenants, easily finding others in this starved market.

In a familiar litany of charges against the workless, single mothers, drug addicts (only 4%), he summons up a familiar portrait of the multi-child household, beloved of television documentaries, seeking worst cases to be entertainingly put right by Ann Widdecombe. Every society will always have enough of those to keep the cameras happy. But the dull lives of cleaners juggling childcare and jobs make bad TV, as do dull statistics that give the lie to the idea that moral turpitude drives the escalating benefits bill.

Low wages and lack of housing are the root cause. A living wage would lift the burden off taxpayers and put it on to employers. Regulated rents and a great housebuilding programme are the way to cut the housing benefit bill. The government prefers mass removal of the workless to low-rent areas with no jobs.

Owen Jones was right when he argued yesterday  that Labour should be arguing for more social housing, rent caps and a living wage, but don’t expect that bunch of neoliberal zealots to spout anything other than the Tories’ lies. Meanwhile the rhetoric will continue to spead that the workshy are the root of all our problems, when the truth is that if you look, for example, at housing benefit, you’ll see just how fraudulent Cameron’s being:

Of course the government and the media don’t like to admit – or is it doesn’t know – that Housing Benefit is an in-work benefit.  I mean who would know that since the coalition took office that 232,340 of the 263,120 new HB claimants since the election are in work – just a mere 88% of them.   So 88% of the indolent workshy bar stewards claiming HB are also paying taxes – Not quite the same story is it Mr Cameron.

Even fewer would know or realise that the nearly £2bn per year of savings this coalition promised its Housing Benefit reforms would deliver currently see the HB bill £4.78bn OVER this target!  Yes I am talking about those HB caps that the public lapped up and had 76% support until the public realised their direct impact in the attempted movement of homeless families from Newham to Stoke last month.

Meanwhile the public are expected to forget about the ‘culture of entitlement’ in Westminster, not to mention in the cabinet. These Tories are getting more detestable by the day. Labour may be 5 points ahead of them in the opinion polls, but they’re largely singing the same tune as this rabble, and as long as they don’t provide any genuine opposition will remain part of the problem. Owen Jones suggested on Twitter that we put pressure on Liam Byrne, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to commit to the solution he and Polly Toynbee point to. I’m not holding out much hope.

George Eaton in the New Statesman starts the reflection over the Tories’ electoral disaster last night:

Already, Tory MPs have rushed to offer their own idiosyncratic explanations for the party’s defeat. Gerald Howarth, a defence minister, has blamed David Cameron’s support for gay marriage, Bernard Jenkin has said House of Lords reform needs to go, Martin Vickers has cited the decision to cut the 50p tax rate (rather than fuel duty), while Gary Streeter, a noted moderate, has said Cameron needs to be tougher on crime to halt the Ukip surge. Expect the blame game to continue across the weekend.

So very Tory, to have an electoral disaster and come up with the conclusion they weren’t nasty enough! This is about student fees skyrocketing to £9,000. This is about killing off the EMA. This is about ATOS and A4E and their abuse of people living with disabilities. This is about a recession brought about by Gideon. This is about the destruction of the NHS. It’s outrageous to suggest it had anything to do with Camoron’s support for marriage equality, moronic to suggest the electorate was even paying attention to the Westminster natter about electoral reform. This is about the electorate realising that a very nasty party is allied with a bunch of yellow frauds, and together they’re doing their level best to destroy the country.

In many ways, however, the real story of the night was the disastrously low turnout. At just 32 per cent, it was the lowest figure since 2000, confirming the alienation many voters feel from the entire political class. The anti-politics mood is one explanation for the resounding rejection of directly-elected city mayors. The voters simply don’t want more politicians. Manchester, Nottingham and Coventry have all voted against having a mayor, while Birmingham appears to have done the same. Cameron’s call for “a Boris in every city” has fallen on deaf ears.

Ultimately of course this is the lesson underpinning all others. Blair screwed us all over when he ignored the country’s demand not to go to war in Iraq. Camoron and Clegg screwed the youth vote over permanently when they ignored their opposition to higher education ‘reform’, but they all did far worse in the expenses scandal. Let’s not forget either the lessons of Leveson: they were all in bed with Murdoch together too. These abuses of power were universal, have been noticed and haven’t been forgiven. So by all means Tories please tack further to the right. You’ll be wiped out as a political entity in 2015 and I’ll be there dancing on your political graves.

It's all connected

And we’re constantly told this isn’t ideological. Fuck the Tories.

It couldn’t have happened to a bigger Tory moron. Of course now they’ve decided that one element of workfare will no longer be compulsory. It’s a start, but bravo to Channel 4 News for kicking these lying bastards where it hurts. If you’re still not convinced it really is workfare, check out the superb blog post on Latent Existence.

From MacMillan Cancer Support:

This woman is being treated with docetaxel for...

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Macmillan Cancer Support has strongly criticised a Department of Work and Pensions decision to propose changes to the benefits system which could have devastating consequences for many thousands of cancer patients[1]. Under the plans being consulted on, seriously ill cancer patients in the middle of gruelling intravenous chemotherapy treatment will be forced to prove they are too sick to work. Some patients will have to face back-to-work interviews or be denied a crucial benefit – Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

This is despite unambiguous recommendations from cancer experts and 30 cancer charities[2] who have clearly stated that patients going through debilitating cancer treatment – and who have to leave work – should be automatically eligible for ESA.

Until now, cancer patients receiving non-oral chemotherapy have been exempt from work-focused interviews and medical assessments to determine whether they may be fit for work, while oral chemotherapy or radiotherapy patients have not been given this protection. Cancer charities, representing the views of patients, have asked the DWP to end this discrepancy as the side-effects of oral chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be just as physically debilitating as non oral chemotherapy. However, instead of extending exemptions to particularly vulnerable cancer patients, the DWP is proposing to remove these from all.

This announcement also comes despite the Government’s repeated assurances that they had no interest in making it harder for cancer patients to access benefits while they are undergoing debilitating treatment[3] and would reverse changes introduced only months ago to extend protection to patients awaiting chemotherapy.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“Cancer patients in the middle of treatment are, in many cases, fighting for their lives. Yet the Government is proposing to change the rules so all cancer patients will have to undergo a stressful assessment to prove they are unable to work. This shows a clear disregard and misunderstanding of what it’s like to undergo punishing treatment. Patients who previously had peace of mind would face the stress and practical difficulties of getting assessed for work they are too poorly to do.

“To make matters worse, the Government is pressing ahead with proposed changes in the Welfare Reform Bill that will make 7,000 cancer patients lose ESA after 12 months simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.

“We hope Ministers will rethink these proposals and listen to the clear views of the cancer community. Cancer is the toughest fight many people will have to face, the Government should not be making it tougher for them.”

Macmillan has launched a petition to call on the Government to make changes to the Welfare Reform Bill: www.macmillan.org.uk/welfarepetition

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You should by all means sign the petition but you should also stick with it and make sure you hold the Tories to account for such a disgusting policy! People on chemotherapy will actually have to prove they’re too sick to work? I don’t think there’s anything in that which merits any further comment, do you?

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