Accommodation Expenses of Tory MPs who voted for the Bedroom Tax.

November 15, 2013

The Party of duck-houses and moat cleaning expenses voted this week to ensure that the most vulnerable families in the UK struggle to live, with the perpetuation of the hideous Bedroom Tax. So, it’s worth noting exactly how much those same Tory MPs have claimed in their own accommodation expenses.

(For reference, ‘accommodation’ according to IPSA covers
Accommodation, Rent, Home Contents Insurance, Telephone Installation, Approved Security Measures, Internet, Telephone, Usage, Buildings Insurance, Mortgage Interest, Telephone Usage/Rental, Council Tax, Other Fuel, Television Installation/Rental, Electricity, Residential Deposit Loan, Television Licence, Gas, Routine Security Measures, Water, Ground Rent, Service Charges).

Karen Bradley Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, voted against Labour’s motion to repeal the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to cut £16 a week from the budgets of the hardest pressed families. Presumably to help plug the Treasury hole arising from her own accommodation expenses, seen here:

conservatives expenses, karen bradley expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax mps

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. He also once blamed civil servants for the failure of certain government projects, and is particularly interested in investigating the causes of government overspending. Here, he claimed £22,000+ in accommodation expenses for a very short space of time, whilst voting to take away accommodation expenses from the most vulnerable:

richard bacon mp, mps expenses, bedroom tax tories, tories expenses, conservative party expenses

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Morgan once told a room full of students at a debate I was at, that business owners make the best MPs. She got a huge boo from the audience. But I agree with her…. in a Parliament that is dedicated to the very wealthy, those sympathetic to the very wealthy to the detriment of the everyone else make the best Corporate-MPs. That’s true. For the rest of us, they are a nightmare. The Bedroom Tax is testament to that hideous Corporate-MP mentality. Anyway, Morgan, whilst ‘Economic Secretary to the Treasury’ and voting to uphold the misery that has lead to so many tragic incidents like that of Stephanie Bottrill, claimed the following in her accommodation:

nicky morgan mp expenses, nicky morgan mp bedroom tax, bedroom tax mps expenses, mps expenses, conservative party mps expenses

Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire and former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

alistairburtMP, alistair burt mp expenses, mps expenses, mps accommodation expenses, bedroom tax debate

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset and great-great-great Grandson of Queen Victoria (as well as the great grandson of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone) claimed £166,109 in 2007/08. After the rule change in 2010/11, Liddell-Grainger claimed £147,004, making him the 6th most expensive MP in Parliament for that year. His wife and two eldest children are registered as his staff. He also voted No on repealing the Bedroom Tax. Here are his accommodation expenses:

liddell-grainger expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax tories, ian liddell-grainger vote

John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings, was chairman of the All Party group on Disability. Apparently it did nothing to soften what seems to be an inherent desire to strip those with disabilities of much needed help, whilst himself claiming a small fortune in accommodation expenses:

john hayes mp, john hayes mps expenses, mps expenses, bedroom tax, bedroom tax vote

Together, the expenses of these six alone could pay to lessen the horrific burden that austerity – caused by the most affluent – has placed on those who cannot afford it. We have become a country that grotesquely judges its success by how protected those with everything are, rather than those with nothing. The accommodation expenses of almost every Tory and Lib Dem MP who voted against the repeal of Bedroom Tax comes in at hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions. Here is the full list posted on change.org. If your MP voted against the repeal of the Bedroom Tax, thus voting to uphold such a cruel attack on the nation’s most vulnerable, get in contact and ask why they believe themselves justified in claiming thousands upon thousands in accommodation expenses, whilst their constituents struggle to afford to live.


The Liberal Democrats who voted to uphold cruelty.

November 13, 2013

Upon appointment as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given this 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening, to live in for free. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Dhowes9.

Upon appointment as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given this 3,500-acre, 115 roomed estate at Chevening, to live in for free.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Dhowes9.

The growing litany of horror stories from those suffering horrendously as a result of the Bedroom Tax did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. The suicides, the misery felt by those with disabled family members, and caused by the Bedroom Tax did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. The charities that are fighting an uphill battle to protect the most vulnerable from the cruelty of the Bedroom Tax….

“This policy will have a hugely detrimental impact on disabled people and their families. For example, family carers who care full-time, or who juggle work and care, may need to sleep in another room just to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
– Mencap.

“In the six months since the bedroom tax and other welfare cuts became a reality, life has become tougher for thousands of households in Scotland. For those people affected, the bedroom tax lurks like a monster in their home and we need to do something about it.”
– Shelter.

… did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. The grassroots Lib Dem membership that opposes the Bedroom Tax, did not concern Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament today. Through it all, thirty-one Liberal Democrat MPs completely disregarded the most vulnerable, charities up and down the country, and their own Party members, just to side with Conservatives to perpetuate the Bedroom Tax.

It is difficult to view the Bedroom Tax as anything but the nastiest, right winged law in a very long time. A law that was only kept possible today, by thirty-one Liberal Democrat MPs. Here is the list of those Lib Dems who voted against repeal. If you’re in one of their constituencies – or even if you’re not – and you’re suffering tremendously because of the law these people have just forced upon you, their Twitter or Contact pages are included below. Liberal Democrat wall of shame:

David Heath (Somerton & Frome) – Twitter.
Norman Baker (Lewes) – Contact.
Lorely Burt (Solihull) – Twitter.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) – Contact.
Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington) – Twitter.
Jeremy Browne (Taunton Deane) – Contact.
Norman Lamb (Norfolk North) – Twitter.
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) – Twitter.
John Pugh (Southport) – Twitter.
Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East) – Twitter.
Paul Burstow (Sutton & Cheam) – Twitter.
Sir Menzies Campbell (Fife North East) – Contact.
Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland) – Contact.
Edward Davey (Kingston & Surbiton) – Twitter.
Don Foster (Bath) – Contact.
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell & Newquay) – Twitter.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) – Twitter.
Sir Nick Harvey (Devon North) – Contact.
John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley) – Contact.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) – Twitter.
Simon Hughes (Bermondsey & Old Southwark) – Contact.
Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk) – Twitter.
Tessa Munt (Wells) – Twitter.
Dan Rogerson (Cornwall North) – Contact.
Bob Russell (Colchester) – Contact.
Sir Robert Smith (Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine) – Contact.
Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) – Contact.
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) – Contact.
Steve Webb (Thornbury & Yate) – Twitter.
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) – Contact.
Stephen Williams (Bristol West) – Twitter

On a side note, Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams had a lovely day today. Not only did he get to vote to perpetuate a system that lead directly to the suicide of Stephanie Bottrill, and immiserates thousands more…. he got to eat Mulled Wine flavoured chocolate! Hurrah!

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And there can’t be a serious debate that directly affects people’s ability to actually afford to live, without a Tory MP laughing gleefully after hearing horror stories and being told he’s voting to cut the safety net for the most vulnerable. Today, that particular Tory whimsy was brought to us by Stephen Mosley MP (City of Chester):

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History will judge this cruel policy for exactly what it is. A very right winged ideological and senseless attack on the most vulnerable people in Britain, at a time of economic struggle, and disproportionately affecting those with disabilities. We know this is what Conservatives do. They have never and will never register concern for the vulnerable. But for Liberal Democrats to continue to support it, represents what must be the final nail in the coffin of progressivism in the Lib Dem morgue. They no longer get the privilege of referring to themselves as progressives. They no longer get the privilege of moving the “keeping government anchored to the centre” goalposts every time they vote for incredibly right winged market fundamentalist policies that do nothing but harm the poorest. The Liberal Democrats are the Conservative Party, and vice versa. This must be remembered in 2015.

For my article on the human cost of the Bedroom tax, see here.


Planet Clegg

September 22, 2011

I am not sure where Planet Clegg is located in the Universe. It is certainly light years away from Earth. They say the laws of physics are the same anywhere in the Universe; from a little town in Gloucester, to the edge of a black hole. Well, Planet Clegg seems to have physical properties that differ somewhat from the rest of the Universe, because whilst we can choose to talk shit, Clegg seems compelled by nature itself, as if it is a natural instinct, to talk shit. It really is amazing.

His speech at Conference is available everywhere, so I thought i’d take what I consider to be the most significant parts of the speech, and try to dissect them. To sift through the bullshit, and look at the substance:

“Our first big decision was to clear the structural deficit this parliament. To wipe the slate clean by 2015. This has meant painful cuts. Agonisingly difficult decisions. Not easy, but right.”

– As the £12bn black hole in the public finances was revealed earlier this week, it became clear that the “painful cuts” (less painful if you’re as rich as the Cabinet, and not painful enough to consider cancelling the five day boring yet incredibly expensive tax payer funded Conference) have achieved the opposite of what they were intended to do. Borrowing has stayed higher this year, because growth has stalled at 0.2%. According to the Financial Times:

The Financial Times has replicated the model of government borrowing used by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, which suggests the structural deficit in 2011-12 is now £12bn higher than thought, a rise of 25 per cent.

– To fill this black hole, VAT would have to rise again to 22.5% and further, deeper cuts (if we stick to the path of extreme austerity). For Clegg to claim it is “right” to do what he has been doing, to cut the structural deficit by 2015, he is simply deluded and vastly ignorant. A Lib Dem turned Tory.

A new economy where the lowest-paid get to keep the money they earn. That’s why a Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury has put two hundred pounds into the pocket of every basic rate taxpayer and taken almost a million workers – most of them women – out of income tax altogether.

– The Bank of England warned that inflation was set to rise to over 5% by the end of the year. Average wages rose 2.8% in 2010. So actually, average wages, when taking inflation into account, fell. People are not better off now. Inflation, caused by strangling demand out of the economy is what keeps investment out of poor areas, and a few small changes to the tax system, regardless of how Clegg sugarcoats it, means nothing.
Do the lowest paid get to keep the money they earn? Or is it going to be spent on extortionately high energy bills?

And within one city, two nations: In Hammersmith and Fulham in West London, more than half the children leaving state schools head to a good university. Just thirty minutes east – down the district line to Tower Hamlets – and just 4 percent do. Odds stacked against too many of our children. A deep injustice, when birth is destiny. That’s why I’ve been leading the charge for social mobility – for fairer chances, for real freedom.

– One City, two Nations is a nice little tag line. The suggestion that the Lib Dems are dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest kids through education, is overwhelmingly delusional. According the Institute for Fiscal Studies, for each year up until the end of the report (2014), child poverty is set to rise. 90% of children on free school meals then go on to receive EMA to the tune of around £1,170. This is what I received, otherwise I certainly would not have been able to afford to go to college, and then onto University. Due to the cut in EMA and the replacement with the new bursary scheme, those who would have received the full £1,170 EMA, now stand to receive just £370.
The IFS stated of EMA:

“The EMA significantly increased participation rates in post-16 education among young adults who were eligible to receive it. In particular, it increased the proportion of eligible 16-year-olds staying in education from 65% to 69%, and increased the proportion of eligible 17-year-olds in education from 54% to 61%. The simple cost-benefit analysis mentioned above suggests that even taking into account the level of deadweight that was found, the costs of EMA are completely offset.”

– Getting rid of EMA is an ideological attack on social mobility. As stated above, overwhemingly delusional for the Lib Dem leader to suggest he has been ‘leading the charge’ on social mobility. Education is the key to social mobility. Taking away EMA, whilst at the same time back tracking entirely on Tuition Fees to the point where he agreed to triple the debt of the Nation’s 18 year olds, does not represent ‘leading the charge’ on social mobility. Does he really believe cutting EMA for the poorest, offering them a piss poor replacement bursary, whilst inflation continues to spiral out of control effectively cancelling out any perceived benefit, whilst benefits are slashed, and whilst wages stagnate and poverty rates rise – is a good thing for the cause of social mobility?

After being hit hard, we picked ourselves up and we came out fighting. Fighting to keep the NHS safe. Fighting to protect human rights. Fighting to create jobs. Fighting for every family. Not doing the easy thing, but doing the right thing. Not easy, but right.

– I think by ‘right’ he means right winged. How can one of the men responsible for the destruction of over 100,000 jobs in less than a year, a man partly responsible for a working NHS considered to be one of the best in the World succumbing to the terror of the private sector; a private sector that certainly did not provide improvements to the railways or the utilities, a man partly responsible as shown above, for poverty rates set to rise and families set to lose more and more due to high inflation and stagnating wages; how can this man claim he is fighting to create jobs and fighting for every family?
From April 2011, to July 2011, those three months alone saw unemployment rise a further 80,000 to 2.51 million. A huge amount of job losses in just three months. It was the largest increase in unemployment since 2009 – the midst of a recession. What about disability? Lib Dem Steve Webb said that the £12.3bn for DLA at the beginning of this Parliament, would be exactly the same by the end of the Parliament with the Personal Indepedent Payment. Clearly Webb doesn’t understand inflation over a five year period. Wheelchairs, travel, care will cost over 20% more in 2015 due to inflation. So, that £12.3bn is worth far less than Webb would have you believe. 20% of those claiming DLA will lose it, not because it is better targeted, but because it has been cut by 22%. Clegg started the house fire, the fire is still raging, and he claims he’s brilliantly putting it out, as more of the house burns.

Labour says: the Government is going too far, too fast. I say, Labour would have offered too little, too late. Imagine if Ed Miliband and Ed Balls had still been in power. Gordon Brown’s backroom boys when Labour was failing to balance the books, failing to regulate the financial markets, and failing to take on the banks. The two Eds, behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming, never taking responsibility. At this time of crisis what Britain needs is real leadership. This is no time for the back room boys

– What a waste of a paragraph. The charge of plotting and scheming from a man who signed a pledge, and gained much support and votes from the student movement in 2010, only to piss all over that pledge when he came to power and use “Well, you have to compromise in Coalition” as an excuse, is unbelievably hypocritical. In their 2010 manifesto, in bold font, on the first page, the letter from the leader, we see:

Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises; be more demanding.

– I voted Lib Dem in 2010. I want my vote back. That is me being more demanding. I want a vote on a joint Lib/Tory manifesto that includes a VAT rise, the dismantling of the NHS, closures to youth centres, and libraries and the loss of 100,000 jobs VS a Labour manifesto. If he is going to use “have to compromise in coalition government” I want to vote on that coalition compromise, rather than having to deal with the outcome of behind the scenes, lurking in the shadows, always plotting, always scheming Lib Dem politicians trying to worm their way out of their commitments that allowed them this taste of power in the first place.

On the first point, that Labour say the government is cutting too far, too fast; The IMF this week pointed out that with growth having to be downgraded for (i’ve lost count) yet another time, the government may have to slow down its austerity measures. At the beginning of 2011, the IMF, fully supportive of austerity joyfully claimed the UK economy would grow by 2% this year. That was downgraded to 1.7%. That was downgraded to 1.5%. That was downgraded to just 1.1%. We’ll be lucky to hit that mark. So, the IMF’s support for austerity, and the fact that they may be coming to the conclusion that deep, fast cuts do not work appears to echo not only Labour’s stance, but also pre-election Clegg’s stance. Clegg in 2010 of the Tory plans for fast and far cuts:


“Self evidently I think, we think, that merrily slashing now is an act of economic masochism.”

– It isn’t just Labour who say the Coalition is cutting too far, too fast. It was also pre-2010 Clegg.

I don’t think the unions should be able to buy themselves a political party. Ed Miliband says he wants to loosen the ties between Labour and the union barons who helped him beat his brother. Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is. Let’s see if he’ll support radical reform of party funding. Every previous attempt has been blocked by the vested interests in the other two parties.

– Perhaps he should convey the same message to his master in Downing Street. Islington Council severed their links with John Nash’s Care UK because the private health provider has an awful track record, and racks up mountains of complaints. John Nash of Care UK donated £21,000 to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley’s private office. Unsurprisingly, at the beginning of the year, a £53,000,000 contract to provide health services to prisons went to Care UK, even though the NHS was deemed to be:

better than the successful bidder on quality, delivery and risk.

– I ask, being the pockets of unions – that represent thousands, if not millions of year, is now considered worse for ‘centre-left’ Clegg, than being the pockets of one businessman and his desire for profit at the behest of patient care. The policies that he will ensure his backbenchers vote for, are drawn up by a Party in the pockets of big business. He is therefore complicit. Brilliant.

Probably the most important lesson I have learned is this: No matter how hard you work on the details of a policy, it’s no good if the perception is wrong. We can say until we’re blue in the face that no one will have to pay any fees as a student, but still people don’t believe it. That once you’ve left university you’ll pay less, week in week out, than under the current system, but still people don’t believe it. That the support given to students from poorer families will increase dramatically, but still people don’t believe it.

– It isn’t that we don’t understand. Or that we don’t believe it. It is simply that we don’t believe education should be open to market forces. Education is the right of everyone. For families who are struggling to pay increasingly inflated gas and electricity bills, whose benefits are slashed, the prospect of their 18 year old being charged £9000 a year is a step too far. With this policy also came the policy of pay-nothing-back until you earn over £21,000 a year, compared to the £15,000 limit in place now. Most Universities will rise tuition fees to above £6000, and many to the £9000 limit. The £21,000 is meaningless. I don’t care if i’m paying back £1 a year, the fact that I would leave university with well over £40,000 of debt, when you include living costs, before i’d even reached my 21st birthday, is ludicrous. If I have three children, and they want to go to University, that is going to amount £110,000+ worth of debt that my children end up with. Couple this, with the fact that England’s University budget has been cut by £449m, the teaching budget cut by £215mn, and Educational Maintenence Allowance (which I relied on to get me through college) scrapped, this does not represent a progressive plan for students. If the unique selling point is pay nothing back until you earn over £21,000, why have a top £9000 limit at all? Why not £50,000 a year? Or more? The universities can speculate that they will be richer than ever, and the debt, which Clegg seems to think is not a deterrent at all, will be irrelevant. Their policy is a disaster.

My main issue with the tuition fee debacle, is the principle. Saddling the Nation’s 18 year olds with the burden of the National debt, whilst not one banker has been prosecuted, and big businesses receiving Corporate tax cuts, and whilst the Government has allowed Vodaphone to get away with not paying the £4.8bn they allegedly avoided paying in tax, is shameful. It is certainly not progressive.

The Clegg speech at the end of the Lib Dem Conference had eroded any last glimpse of hope I had in a Liberal Democrat Party. They are, and will forever be, in the eyes of we on the Progressive Left; Tory-lite. Even Clegg’s tie, is slowly turning blue.

If you look through a particularly powerful telescope, you may be able to see Planet Clegg. I hear it was formed by the coming together of the concepts of dishonesty, u-turns, and delusion.


The Liberal Democrat Delusion

September 20, 2011

The Liberal Democrat annual conference in Birmingham this year appears to be nothing more than a showcase of the deluded. The streaks of yellow in the crowd, drowned by the sea of blue on stage. “In Government, on your side” is the tagline. One wonders whose side? The student movement that pre-election Liberals managed to win over? The 80,000 who have lost their public sector job since the Coalition came to power? The pensioners who lost their winter fuel allowance? The kids from low socio-economic areas whose youth club is now closed? Whose side are they on exactly?

A lovely big Corporate tax cut, from 28% to 25% by 2013, suggests the ‘side‘ the Liberals are on, is not ‘our side‘ at all. If Corporate Tax cuts ever led to high growth, growing wages, a happy and fulfilled population, we’d all fully support it. But it never does. It leads to higher CEO pay, dodgy stock market gambles, stagnating wages, and Corporate politicians. A report by accoutant Richard Murphy, of Corporate tax rates and job creation, of OECD countries between 1997 and 2010, found that:

Analysis of the correlation between tax rates and growth in OECD countries (excluding the top and bottom outliers) finds that, at best, the relationship between the two variables is weak.

– This contradicts the Government, who said:


“The reductions in the rate of corporation tax and healthy financial position of UK companies in aggregate should help support further investment growth.”

– My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that we need to get away from this odd idea that companies and the rich are “job creators“. It is a concept imported from the US. Demand creates jobs, not the rich. Investors do not look at that extra 5% and decide to keep their money in their pocket. If the demand is there for a product, then the potential profit far outweighs that extra 5%.

This obsession with cutting the deficit fast, which is clearly causing my damage than good, places the Liberal Democrats firmly in the category of deluded Neoliberal dogma adherents. The downgrading of growth this year, by the IMF, from 1.7% to 1.1% along with rising inflation, high unemployment, and the failure of the private sector to take up the jobs the Government promised it was more than capable of doing, would force right minded people to rethink their policy, to be a little bit humble, admit you might have got it wrong, and try another way. But no. They insist there will be no Plan B. This is the Liberal Democrats greatest failure.

One particular Liberal Democrat delegate to the conference suggested that Internet Access was now a human right. As far as I was aware, ‘human right‘ is an absolute term. There are no shades of human right. Something cannot be a ‘bit of‘ a human right. So, that being said, certain Liberal Democrats now consider providing internet access, just as important as providing water to famine stricken third World countries. But clearly more important than education, health and housing, if recent policy decisions are anything to go by. Interesting.

I’d suggest first sorting out the Coalition’s policies that actually do have human rights implications, before trying to introduce new human rights concepts. Firstly, health care is a human right. I believe the entire World (other than right winged America, who appear to be under the impression that State funded life saving is wrong, but State funded execution is perfectly acceptable) considers healthcare to be a human right. And yet the Coalition’s policy of dismantling the NHS for, what I can only see to be the sake of Care UK, whilst not a new concept, seems to put that particular human right at risk. I blogged earlier last week on the gulf between the god-awful state of the American private system compared to our Nationalised system, and one has to wonder why we’d import any of the US model into our own. It is absolutely not about consulting with the experts on how to improve the NHS. If we look back to the previous Tory Government, Thatcher’s ‘NHS Community Care Act‘ was the first time in history that the BMA were excluded from policy discussions, the end result being a purchaser-provider split – an NHS market. Similarly, whilst Cameron is walking a very thin line between twisted logic, and outright lying to Parliament, the very Health professional groups he insists support his plans for the NHS, actually do not support him at all.
On September 7th, Cameron said:

“He may not like the truth but that is the truth and I have to say to him that is why you now see the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nurses all supporting our health reforms.”

– The Royal College of GPs then issued a statement, saying:

“As a College we are extremely worried that these reforms, if implemented in their current format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and to massively increased costs in implementing this new system.

“As independent research demonstrates, the NHS is one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world and we must keep it that way. “‬

Similarly, the Royal College of Nurses, which Cameron insisted supported his reform proposals issued this statement:


“The Bill being placed before parliament next week has enormous ramifications for patients and for our members. While we acknowledge that the Government have listened to our members in a number of areas, we still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge.”

– When does propaganda, evolve to ‘misleading Parliament’?

Disease should not have a market value. Healthcare is a necessity, not a commodity. It isn’t simply Socialist reasoning that brings me to that conclusion, it is simple Market logic. A Market is based on demand. If demand falls, prices will fall, businesses that fail to adjust will go bust. Demand is based on an individual’s informed choice. An individual has no choice if he or she suddenly gets cancer. He or she is not in control all of a sudden. He or she may have a choice which provider to go to, but they don’t have a choice on the ‘commodity’ for sale. Buy or die. So, a healthcare company has no reason to drop their prices, because demand will absolutely never fall. This gives a great advantage to private health companies and insurers. There will always be profit to be made. Markets respond best to peoples desires rather than their life needs. So, the commodity might be a drug to treat cancer, it will never be the cure, because the cure is worthless to shareholders. This is evident with the privatising of the utilities sector in the UK.

Privatising that particular sector, a necessary part of life (heat, electricity, gas) will always result in demand that will never die. And so unsurprisingly, we’re now in a situation where there are six energy providers, charging extortionate rates and an energy secretary who continuously blames the consumer for not switching provider. Huhne (the energy secretary) took to the Lib Dem conference stage today and blasted energy companies for offering cheap deals to new customers whilst pushing the prices up for existing customers. In June he said:

“Consumers don’t have to take price increases lying down. If an energy company hits you with a price increase, you can hit them back where it hurts – by shopping around and voting with your feet.”

And yet today, he says:

“It’s not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers, who do not switch, while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market.

– Isn’t this simply asking the consumer to perpetuate a system where new customers will be offered lower prices and then face huge hikes after a period of time? The first quote, seems to say “switch, you’ll find better cut throat deals, if you switch!” whilst the second quote seems to say “It’s not fair that you’ll get a better deal if you switch“.
– The question has to be, who do you switch too? None of the big six like to undercut each other by much at all. It is not the consumer’s fault that 18% of all households in 2009 were classed as ‘in fuel poverty’. These are households in which 10% of annual income HAS to be spent on fuel bills. From 2007-2009 35% of single pensioners were living in fuel poverty. The biggest pensioner group, the National Pensioners Convention warned in 2009 that due to the cost of heating their homes, in a cold snap during the winter; 12 pensioners could potentially die every hour. As people struggle even more to pay their energy bills due to this latest round of price hikes, we must assume the ‘big 6’ are having trouble staying in business? Well….no.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, posted pre-tax profits from Dec 2009 – Dec 2010, of £1.92bn. Its highest ever. 18% higher than the previous year. What Centrica tends to do, is rise prices very quickly when wholesale prices rise, but then refuse to lower prices, as wholesale prices drop. Profits from all six big energy companies far exceed £2bn, whilst prices for consumers have risen from an average of £572 p/a in 2003 to over £1000 in 2010. There is no excuse. Privatisation failed. Energy companies have proven that they find it impossible work in the interests of both investors and consumers. I cannot imagine anyone is deluded enough to argue that privatisation has benefited consumers.

British Gas, whose tag line is:

British Gas is the nation’s favourite Cheap Gas and Electricity Supplier

– Put up its price at the end of 2010, by 7%. In July this year, it then shocked everyone by putting up its price gas price by 18% and its electricity price by 16%. The other 5 followed suit, and now the average household will have to fork out around £200 extra for the annual fuel bill. Huhne, has done nothing. Whilst his party is partly responsible for kicking thousands out of work, stalling growth, stagnating wages, and rising inflation, the ‘energy minister’ has done nothing, but complain about consumers, and say ‘naughty gas companies’. And worst of all, he is part of a government that, in March, cut the Winter Fuel Allowance for households in fuel poverty. It isn’t like he was unaware that further rises in the fuel market might be on the cards. Even back in March, there were warnings. Helen Knapman writing for Money Saving Experts back on March 11th, wrote:

Energy prices are predicted to rise this year, prompting some experts to suggest you consider fixing gas and electricity costs.

– The Coalition Budget was made public on March 23rd. The Government had at least twelve days to reconsider cutting the Winter Fuel Allowance. They chose to cut it anyway. Unsurprisingly characteristic of the cowards in the Coalition, they kept the cut to Winter Fuel Allowance out of the Budget document. If Huhne wants to gain some sort of respectability back, for his beleaguered and battered Party, he should be arguing for a Nationalised Utility option.

Talk of ‘human rights’ is laughable, when you look at the record of the Coalition government. The right to education – which I’d consider a Human Right, has been tirelessly dismantled with the appalling Free Schools idea, and the cuts to EMA along with the trebling of Tuition Fees. To suggest, in a key note speech, cutting the benefits of the parents of kids who misbehave is a hideous indictment on the thought processes of Tories. Immediately, Cameron linked bad behaviour with low socio-economic regions. What ‘punishment’ do we give to rich parents of misbehaving kids? How do we punish the Bullingdon Club? Is it REALLY ethical, to make life even more difficult for struggling families, if their kids misbehave? Kids from towns where funding to youth clubs is drastically cut, where their jobs are never secure and where schools teach about five subjects, badly. If you take money away from the poorest and most underdeveloped areas, you force unemployment up, and you struggle to control inflation, whilst offering massive Corporate Tax cuts; expecting low-socio economic areas to respectfully suffer in silence, is economic warfare, and will always be matched with social unrest; be it in the classroom, or on the streets.

On Tuition Fees, Grant-Thornton (an international Tax and Advisory service) reported that contrary to the Coalition’s claims that the highest earners would be hardest hit by the hike in tuition fees, actually the richest kids will pay back the least given that they will be able to pay back the quickest, thus avoiding large interest rates. The middle earners, will pay back the most. A lawyer, in a scenario set out by the report, with a £40,000 debt, will pay back £68,00 overall. The middle earner, with a debt also of £40,000 will pay back £98,00 altogether, despite earning 34% less than the lawyer. The report points out that if rich parents pay the debt immediately, the rich kids pay no interest. So the middle earner is effectively subsidising the education of the rich. The Lib Dems tend to keep this quiet during Conference season.

It also contradicts the government, who claimed that Universities charging above £6000 tuition would be the exception rather than the rule. Grant-Thornton say:

Most universities have declared that they will be charging the £9,000 maximum or an amount close to it.

These levels have been struck as there seems to be a consensus of opinion that to charge less than the maximum would send the wrong signals about quality, and that the easier decision (or the decision that is likely to be ‘less wrong’) would be to charge the full amount.

If the Lib Dems unique selling point for 2015, is simply “You think this is bad, it’d be worse if the Tories were in power alone” is not going to endear mountains of voters to their cause. Voters look at results. We know that anything the Lib Dems claim they are doing to financially support the poorest, is offset almost entirely by rising inflation; which they helped cause with their dogmatic obsession with cutting everything, including the one thing that pulls Nations out of stagnating growth; demand.

Whatever they say, there were not just two options; Coalition, or Tories. The Conservatives in a minority government could not be doing what they are now doing. The divisive nature of Free Schools, the dismantling of the NHS, and the horrific speed of deficit reduction, that even the IMF is now a little bit worried (downgrading our growth forecast…..yet again) about the speed of deficit reduction, despite referring to fast deficit reduction as “essential” in 2010, the weak position on the banks, and cuts to winter fuel allowance would not have happened, had Lib Dems been allowed to vote freely as opposed to cowardly abstaining in order to preserve ‘strong government‘. More voters voted for centre-left parties, more voters voted for slower deficit reduction, than voted Tory and fast deficit reduction. There were other choices for government. Both Liberals and Tories put their money on fast deficit reduction and public sector cuts leading to growth and the resilience of the private sector in taking up lost jobs. Both have failed to materialise and that will be the legacy of Tory/Liberal Neoliberal economics. For me, the Liberal Democrats will always be associated with right winged economic vandalism.

There is absolutely no substance to anything the Liberals say, that rhetorically keeps them on the centre-left.

To finish, I am sick of hearing Liberal Democrats defend their ditching of the Student Tuition Fee abolition pledge, with “Well, you have to compromise in Government.“. If that’s the case, if it is the case that you can’t stick to your pledges due to hung Parliaments, then the Coalition should have presented a new, joint manifesto, which included NHS reforms, which included the Lib Dems u-turn on the speed of deficit reduction, which included cuts to Winter Fuel Allowances, which included disability cuts, which included VAT rise, and put it to the electorate in a second general election against Labour. What they shouldn’t have done, is presumed they now have a mandate to do whatever they like.


Pig Society Part III

February 19, 2011

David
Cameron took a break today from trying to convince a very very
unconvinced public that the Big Society idea is such a wondrous
agenda, to work for a No vote for AV. So whilst he’s doing that, I
thought i’d continue my series of blogs on the Big Society, by
going one by one through the Tory/Lib Cabinet, and letting you all
know what it is each is doing for the Big Society; what they
volunteer for. Which ones run their public libraries, which ones
have found the time, like the rest of us must do, to run their
local school. I’m almost certain they practice what they preach. It
would be terribly pathetic if they didn’t.

  • Prime Minister David Cameron, Tory: No
    voluntary work declared.

  • Deputy Prime
    Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat:
    No voluntary
    work declared.

  • Secretary of State for
    Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague,
    Tory:
    No voluntary work declared.

  • Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne,
    Tory:
    No voluntary work declared

  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander,
    Liberal Democrat
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for the Home
    Department; and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May,
    Tory:
    No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and
    Skills, and President of the Board of Trade Vince Cable, Liberal
    Democrat:
    No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan
    Smith, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
    Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat
    : No voluntary work
    declared.

  • Secretary of State for Health
    Andrew Lansley, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.
    Far too busy selling the NHS to American Private health firms.

  • Secretary of State for Education Michael
    Gove, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Communities and Local
    Government Eric Pickles
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Environment, Food
    and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman Tory:
    “I have
    been chair of two local charities MABL and Welcome although in my
    new role as a cabinet minister I have had to step back to be a
    patron but the first of these has hit a very difficult patch
    financially so I have had to spend a lot of time trying to help
    secure sustainable funding for MABL which helps the victims of
    domestic violence. We are not out of the woods yet and I have yet
    more meetings planned this week to try and save it. I have to be in
    the department in Whitehall even when parliament is not sitting so
    it is not easy to schedule the time but I come home every Friday
    and help also at the weekend.” – I fully salute Spelman for this.
    Not so much for trying to privatise trees.

  • Secretary of State for Transport Phillip Hammond,
    Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for International Development
    Andrew Mitchell, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics,
    Media and Sport Jeremy C….Hunt, Tory
    : No voluntary
    work declared.

  • Secretary of State for
    Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, Tory
    : No voluntary
    work declared

  • Secretary of State for
    Scotland Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat
    : No
    voluntary work declared.

  • Secretary of
    State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, Tory
    : No voluntary
    work declared.

  • Leader of the House of
    Commons, Lord Privy Seal Francis Maude, Tory
    : No
    voluntary work declared.

  • Attorney General
    Dominic Grieve, Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Solicitor General Edward Garnier,
    Tory
    : No voluntary work declared.

  • Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin, Tory:
    No voluntary work declared. So that’s one out of 23. I’m not too
    good at maths, never have been, but I believe that’s about 4%. Just
    saying…..


  • Student protest

    October 18, 2010

    Demo 2010 – Fund Our FutureI will hopefully be attending the Student march on London on November 10th, as a reaction the the news that the Coalition intends to increase tuition fees from a cap of £3,290, to £7,000. The Liberal Democrats, and Nick Clegg and Vince Cable specifically pledged to never support a tuition fee rise, and in fact wanted tuition fees scrapped entirely. They secured a mass of Student votes because of this one policy. Last week, both went back on that promise and decided to support the raising of tuition fees to a cap of £7,000 a year, whilst some courses could cost £12,000 a year.

    Obviously, the Lib Dems pathetic excuse for absolutely pissing all over their votes, is that the situation left by Labour is worse than previously though. Except it isn’t. They had the same information back in May as they do now. In fact, the economy has improved over those past few months.

    If tuition fees were as high as £7,000 when I started university last year, I would not have gone. I would have gotten a job I disliked, had a mediocre eduction, and whilst it would please Tories because employment numbers suit their cause, it actually would do absolutely nothing for me and my aspirations. But a few rich people would be fine with the cost rise, so it’s okay.

    What strikes me as ridiculous, is that we have just come out of an horrendous economic crises, based entirely on debt. Wages of workers across the board have stagnated for years, whilst wages in the boardroom have increased beyond recognition. Which in turn, meant that ordinary workers were struggling, and were very insecure. So an easy credit market shot into life, offering the chance to borrow huge amounts quickly and easily. We soon racked up debts, the housing market collapsed, and banks suddenly struggled to pull back the huge amounts they’d wrecklessly loaned out. Debt caused it. Now, to get out of the problems, the Coalition is suggesting we get ourselves; the next generation – into a huge amount of debt if we want a half decent chance at life. The very same politicians, who went to university, when it was entirely free. How ironic.

    Do know what is more annoying than the quite obvious elite-ism that runs through the veins of Tories and now Lib Dems? The fact that the man they have put in charge of finding instances of what a man worth £4bn and has never had to worry about struggling to pay for food, thinks is ‘wasteful spending’, actually owes billions in elaborate tax avoidance schemes whilst he himself told his employees they’d have to work longer if they want a decent pension pay off, than first thought. Oh and he’s often been criticised for using sweatshops abroad, in which workers are paid less than £4 a day, to work up to 22 hours six days a week, whilst he lazes his life on a beach in Monaco. What a lovely man. So students have to get ourselves into greater debt, because people like Sir Philip Green (Sir? Really?) need to save some money for a new yacht.

    So I will be going on the march, not just in protest of the planned Student Tuition fee rise and the obvious lack of balls the Lib Dems have; but also because the appointment of Philip Green and the love affair with businessmen who actively tax avoid is one of the main issues I see in the UK at the moment. Plus, political cynicism and apathy is far too wide spread. I don’t want my entire life controlled by business, and its bitches in Westminster. It isn’t the height of human freedom. It is the opposite. That is why I will be marching.

    I hope to see as many students there as possible.