Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Right wingers call the TV licence fee a "stealth tax". Let's examine that.

There are some things we can't do without in order to live the lifestyle the Tories want us to live in capitalist Britain.

I would argue the TV licence is not one of them.

Food and water is obviously needed.

Electricity is needed to cook and keep our food fresh, for lighting so we can work in the hours before/after sunlight and for work (increasing numbers of people are self-employed and work from home) and for looking for work (a computer, charging a phone, ironing clothes for an interview).

Internet access is needed for applying for jobs, for work - especially all those self-employed people - and often, for filling in mandatory forms such as tax returns.

Mobile phones are needed for keeping in touch with clients, employers, prospective employers (Tories would like anyone not currently working to always be "out looking for work" so if we only had a landline, we'd be missing phone calls).

TV licence is for entertainment and if we need to stay informed for work we have the internet. It's not needed, therefore it cannot be a tax.

So if any of these things could be described as a "stealth tax" it certainly isn't the TV licence. Right wing people who come out with this sort of claptrap think we're stupid.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

More humble pie for the 'moderates'

They were wrong and we were right. The same faces, given a platform on the BBC week after week, didn't give Jeremy Corbyn a chance: repeatedly criticising his inability to lead when they refused to follow. Politicians, pundits and columnists were almost all on the same page: socialist policies will kill off the Labour party and he must be stopped at all costs. They came close but they failed, and look what happened.

Corbyn and his small, loyal team had to battle the following:

Most of the PLP
The Conservative Party
The Liberal Democrats
All of the mainstream media (more or less: a couple of Guardian columnists supported him but as a whole, the paper did not)

Word has it that inside Labour Party HQ, those with contacts in the media were either wilfully obstructing the party messages or undermining them at every opportunity. This blog I wrote at the time explains the repeated failures by the self-proclaimed 'moderates' which left the Labour Party looking an utter shambles and therefore, completely unelectable. It is a blessing that this stuff probably evaded the notice of enough of the electorate to stop the Tories getting another majority: imagine what Labour could have achieved with that manifesto and the backing of the majority of the PLP.

Why didn't they back him? Given that he is invariably described as "a good man", "a principled politician" etc, I think the truth is that many of those Labour MPs didn't want policies that would fundamentally tear up Thatcherism; they wanted, broadly, to keep the status quo. This article by Diane Abbott from 2014 came a while after I cancelled my Labour party membership having become sick of Labour failing to challenge the idea that the last Labour government were at fault for the global financial crash and more or less backing the economically illiterate austerity policies of the Coalition government. As a Unite member, I voted for Jeremy Corbyn and when he became leader, I re-joined the party as a full member. You see (and I'm still a little smug), I KNEW that austerity didn't work. I KNEW that Labour needed to support the many and not the few and I KNEW a strong left-wing Labour party could win - and we would have if the PLP hadn't been so desperate to cling to Thatcherism.

A few in the PLP who didn't support Corbyn may have felt that socialist policies would not appeal to the electorate. Either way, they were wrong and should be big enough to say so. Sadly, since the results came in, most have been very quiet indeed.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Labour will still lose because people are deluded and misinformed.

Despite what the polls say, I think the Tories will get another majority - although it won't be the increase they were expecting when they called the election.

Obviously those earning ludicrous sums of money who want to pay less tax support the Tories, as do people whose businesses want to donate thousands of pounds to the Tories rather than pay millions in tax. And there are racists (returned from UKIP) and short-sighted hate-filled people who don't see that they too might need benefits if they fall ill or lose their jobs. But I'm constantly baffled by the misguided others who support the Tories. Take this 18-year-old who managed to get an article published in the Huffington Post yesterday: I sent him a series of tweets challenging areas I thought he didn't have the full picture. He replied to a few and we had a short to-and-fro but in the end, he wasn't able to back up his article against my responses. I'm pleased that people like him are engaging with politics but, like I was at 18, doesn't seem to get that he can't believe what he reads or hears and needs to build up his own understanding with further reading from independent sources and inform his opinion that way.

The same goes for the frankly distressing ideas in this Guardian article. There are people saying "I've voted Labour for 50 years.....but now they're too left-wing." REALLY?! He really needs to look at tax levels, funding of education and the NHS and policies on privatisation vs nationalisation over that period. Another contributor says "I'm left-leaning" but goes on to explain how business should be the focus and not the NHS. Sorry mate but big business has been THE focus of the last 38 years and look where that got us. Another doesn't seem to have read the independently-checked figures in Labour's policies but does believe the Tory manifesto which has one costing: that of the 6.8p child's breakfast.

Unfortunately, we cannot take our politicians' words as truth. And we cannot trust the press and the media to adequately and fairly analyse their policies. Sadly it seems too many people are still going to vote without first checking that what they believe isn't total bollocks.

Friday, 12 May 2017

'Back to the 1970s' comments are utter BS

First, let's pretend this idea that Labour's policies will take us back to the 1970s is accurate.

1) In the 70s, the Tories broadly agreed with nationalised rail, energy and postal services, free higher education, higher taxes on the rich (way higher than Labour are proposing now) and on corporations etc.
2) The 70s actually were a pretty ok time for most of the population with fewer unemployed, many fewer underemployed, many more in secure work, affordable homes*, low homelessness, no need for foodbanks etc etc
3) And this is the big one: the politicians and media goons who are saying this want us to be out of the EU, they're small-state, fox-blood-hungry, want low tax and are anti-immigration. I mean, is getting dressed up in smart red jackets and hats with expensive horses and dogs, tooting horns and chasing foxes their idea of how to behave in the 21st century?! They want take us back to the 1800s if not earlier.

*Example: my Dad worked in a long-gone UK commercial vehicle factory and with two kids and as the sole bread-winner he could afford a mortgage on a 3-bedroom house with a garden, take us on holiday every year and buy us Christmas and birthday presents.

Labour's policies for this election are a response to the mess created by Thatcherite policies which have brought huge income inequality, completely unaffordable housing, increased homelessness and class sizes, weakened the NHS, increased transport and energy costs, brought us insecure jobs with the longest wage stagnation since the Napoleonic wars, taken away UK industry...I could go on. And what's more, they are at least as carefully-costed as Tory policies - although don't expect anyone in the media to push the Tories on how they'll pay for more tax cuts for their mates because their mates in the media will be those benefiting.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Baffling anti-Corbyn sentiment will leave us with another Tory government

Whatever you think about Jeremy Corbyn as a 'leader', or as a communicator, literally doesn't matter in the context of what we are up against in this country at the moment.

The first question is: What are people afraid of?

Governments are made up of many cabinet ministers, junior ministers and MPs and they are all supported by large numbers of advisors and other civil servants, so even if you believe that Jeremy Corbyn is not tough enough or not a good enough communicator to be Prime Minister, does it really matter? The people around him will do much of the work they feel he is not so strong at. Look at John Major: was he tough? Is Theresa May a good communicator? But apparently they are both acceptable Prime Ministers, whereas Corbyn is not.

The second question is: What about the policies?

So let's pretend that none of the anti-Corbyn sentiment is down to the media (as we know, 80% of UK media is owned by 5 billionaires) being fearful of a socialist government who might force them to pay their share of tax. Let's pretend he really is a weak leader and a poor communicator, and anything else he's been accused of being. Is that still worse that the alternatives? I cannot fathom why anyone other than the very rich, or the racist and stupid, would believe it is.

Let's look our options:

Bless the Greens, with their solid socialist policies and caring for the environment - but they're just not in contention. And bless UKIP, with their racism, xenophobia, homophobia and all sorts of other horrid characteristics but a) they got what they wanted, so are a one-policy party whose sole policy is no longer an issue, and b) the Tories have stolen their racism, xenophobia and quote possibly other horrid characteristics too.

So UK-wide, we just have the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.

Tory policies:
A hard brexit and quite possibly - once their hard-bargaining fails - the UK as a tax haven
Tearing up our human rights
Less money for and more private profit from the NHS
Fewer accident and emergency centres
Fewer maternity units
Less money for state schools
More grammar schools to help wealthier children get further ahead
More free schools to waste money where some overly-confident person feels they can do better than than the local authority
Continued austerity for local councils (particularly in poorer areas)  despite their claims the economy is recovering
Lower taxes for the rich
Higher taxes on the poor (VAT, income tax and national insurance could all rise)
Less money for the sick and disabled
No affordable housing
Crushing the Trade Unions who fight for workers' rights
No controls on low pay and insecure work
Ever-increasing homelessness*
More foodbanks*
Increasing pressure on charities*
Electoral fraud*

*I know these aren't actual policies but they are all the result of Tory election campaigns.

Having listed these things, of course, we might get completely different policies because their manifestos aren't worth the paper they're written on.

Labour policies:
A Brexit deal that works for the majority, not just the richest few
A £10 living wage for over 18s
Repeal of nasty policies including:
The Trade Union legislation
The bedroom tax
The NHS white paper
Halt the NHS private tendering
Stop the building of free schools
Add VAT to private school fees
A ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts
Reversing the corporation tax cut
Increasing income tax on the highest earners
An increase in the carers' allowance
Renationalising the railways
Building 200,000 homes per year
4 new national bank holidays
Closing deals between HMRC and huge corporations to make sure they pay their tax
Eradicate gender pay gap

Lib Dem policies:
Ignore the result of the referendum and hold it again.

So, come on, even if you hate Jeremy Corbyn (and I don't know why anyone would: he seems like a decent, principled guy), surely unless you're very rich or very stupid, you must vote Labour?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Examining the Lib Dems' role in bringing Brexit to Britain.

The Lib Dems have been touting themselves as the only party to properly oppose Brexit ever since the referendum. Labour meanwhile have seen their so-called heartlands vote for Brexit in huge numbers and, rather than accelerate the speed at which their vote share is falling in those areas, they have broadly supported the public decision, albeit with some notable caveats.

But let's go back a little bit to examine whether the Lib Dems have a right to be so proud of their position.

Back in 2010, we had a hung parliament: the Tories failed to win a majority at a time when most of the media were backing their claim that Labour's spending had crashed the economy (and most of the media still does, even though Tory austerity has made our economy worse). The heroic Lib Dems stepped in and joined forces with the Tories, bringing us a mostly Tory government with decidedly Tory policies. As the anti-immigration voices from the right (UKIP and a few swivel-eyed loons on the Tory backbenches) got louder, the Coalition government chose to tag along, with plenty of anti-immigration rhetoric, vans telling people to go home etc. They did not oppose the lie that immigration was having a negative effect on the economy; it suited them to allow people to believe it was that rather than their woeful management of the the country's finances. The Tories, desperate to appease the far-right and take the blinkered flag-wavers' votes for themselves, pledged to hold the EU referendum. Right up until the election, Lib Dem junior ministers continued to act as a shield, regularly taking the flak for failing Tory policies and in the general election in 2015, they were completely trounced, losing the vast majority of their seats to the SNP in Scotland and the Conservatives in England. The Tories secured a majority and despite UKIP's expected surge failing to materialise and reneging on a lot of their other promises, the referendum went ahead.

So you see, without the Lib Dems, we wouldn't have had the referendum at all.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Tories are haggling with us to see how much they can take.

First they took money from the poorest.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they came out as racists.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they gave tax breaks to the richest in society.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they took money from the disabled.
They won a majority in the 2015 general election.
Then they took money from working parents.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they took money from Junior Doctors.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they went for a hard brexit.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they backed Trump.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they took money from Schools.
Their poll ratings weren't affected.
Then they took money from pensioners.

With the media working harder than ever to support them and/or crush their opponents, they obviously feel untouchable. Who will they go for next?

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Infuriating slant on all political stories

I'm so tired of the way Jeremy Corbyn and the current Labour cabinet is talked about in the media. Robert Peston tweeted that it's ridiculous that a Labour win in areas which have always been Labour would be seen as a victory. But he needs to realise how much times have changed. The Mail and the Sun constantly tell readers to hate anyone who's not British. The BBC constantly present Nigel Farage as the popular voice. Labour's inclusive, hopeful, nuanced arguments gain no traction in the face of this onslaught so although I do agree that Corbyn has not made the best job of battling back against, this, with opponents from all sides, he hasn't stood a chance.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Brexit wasn't my choice but we have to live with it

I can only think of a couple of good reasons for leaving the EU but I can think of many for staying in. But it's happened, so much of the talk in the media has been on whether we can overturn it, so let's focus on reasons I think the vote isn't an accurate reflection of public opinion:

1) At least some of the people who voted for it did so because they believed one or more of the following:

  • That we would 'take back control' from unelected bureaucrats (MEPs are elected, unlike Theresa May who has chosen a bunch of Brexiters to oversee proceedings) but in fact, we will be left desperately trying to sell ourselves to other countries - and this has already started with the PM's desperate early meeting with Trump shows
  • That we would remain in the single market but on our own terms and would save on our EU membership cost whilst making more money than before (playing hardball with the EU is not paying off and we look like being out of the single market and unable to trade freely with EU nations)
  • That we would give £350m per week to the NHS (not sure where they got that idea)
2) At least some of the people who voted to leave will be dead by the time we actually do and be replaced in the electorate by young people who would more likely have voted to remain

3) 16-18 year olds (whilst old enough to marry and have children) were denied a vote on their future. They would most likely have voted to remain.

However, I don't think the vote should be overturned. Whilst I think this is the worst episode in post-war British political history (created by the worst Prime Minister in post-war British political history), lies in the media and from politicians is nothing new. Virtually every government is elected on promises they either had no intention of carrying out, or fail miserably to do so. It's all words and Brexit is no different.

What is different is that, for the first time in a very long time, the forgotten millions from Berwick to Bexhill and Solway to Sennen have had their voices heard. Yes, maybe many of them did so because they were misinformed about what it would mean. In some cases because they're a bit racist. But a lot of those who voted to leave the EU did so because they have been forgotten by successive (Conservative, Labour, Coalition and Conservative again) governments, left to fend for themselves in areas with decreasing opportunities and devoid of meaningful or worthwhile investment and support.  Meanwhile the capitalist classes reap the benefits new infrastructure projects, lower corporation taxes, tax cuts for the highest earners and our senior politicians going to the EU to argue on behalf of special treatment for their industries. As the invisible majority saw it, the establishment wanted them to vote remain, so they told them to shove it.

Leaving the EU will fall hardest on the areas which voted strongly for Brexit but if those in power and those with influence were to even try to ignore their vote, it would only further their belief that the political classes hold absolutely no value in them whatsoever. Millions of people would be even more separate from political decisions made in this country. They would be less likely to vote in elections than they are now and as a result, would be less likely to get a government who might actually do something to help them, and so the situation would snowball.

The difference between the affluent and the rest is already too wide and it is widening quickly and overturning Brexit would only make that worse. Instead, let's listen to what the public voted for and most importantly, make sure they are part of what happens next.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Words fail

My ramblings on here are becoming increasingly rare. Part of that is because I'm more busy than I used to be (I didn't think it was possible to cram much more in but I was wrong) but it's also partly because I just don't know what to say.

We have politicians who no longer seem to care that we know they're liars, or care that we know what they say bears no relation to what they think or what they plan to do. We have a hard brexit where we're apparently playing hard-ball with Europe when they hold all the cards: our government and a lot of the people who are in their circles seem to think that our financial sector is crucial to the single market when actually, it will just move to Frankfurt or somewhere else on the continent. We have a situation where parliament voted to renew trident for eye-watering sums of money at a time when that could be spent on areas we really need it - only to find out now that the government hid details of an enormous fault which saw a test missile heading off to the wrong CONTINENT. We have a National Health Service completely on its knees which pretty much everyone in the country - including all medical experts - feels is vital and a government who seem intent on letting it fall apart so the heroic private health vultures can step in and make massive profits from our misfortune. The US has a lying, misogynistic, sexist, racist, needy, narcissistic moron for president and our PM is cosying up to him, pimping out our NHS and whatever else she feels the UK could sell to preserve our 'special relationship' that most of the UK public would rather turn their backs on. We have a government who want to turn the UK into a tax haven - a sort of off-shore Luxembourg - in order to keep their paymasters happy once their profits take a dive post-brexit. We have homelessness rising rapidly, GPs, teachers and prison wardens quitting their jobs.

The 1980s were a dark, depressing time for anyone other than the wealthy and well-connected but this is so much worse.

But hey, we've got Facebook and Netflix these days so we're all better off. Right?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

I want to criticise Teresa May more...

But what if people think I'm only doing it because she's a woman? There will definitely be men out there (possibly some women too) who are more critical of the Prime Minister because she's a woman. For me, this is not an issue, in fact I'm delighted that we have a female Prime Minister. Of course, I can't possibly support a Tory PM because they want a very different UK to the one I want but it's worse than that: Teresa May is proving to be completely incompetent.

David Cameron was a useless Prime Minister too: he failed on his own terms (he said he would sort out our economy and it's now in a worse state than 2010), he brought us Brexit and he's probably caused the perfect conditions for a second Scottish independence referendum which this time will result in the break-up of the UK. But at least he managed to sort things out for himself by leaving at the right time. Teresa May has come into office with Brexit to deal with, the largest national debt we've ever had (and by some margin), a divided party and no idea about how to deal with any of it.

It's a shambles. She's very lucky that all of the mainstream media is focusing on Jeremy Corbyn.