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.


London’s burning

December 9, 2010

I’m all for violent direct action; but I draw the line when those damn students made the future King of England ejaculate out of his eye. That’s too far.

London is burning again. The protesters have spoken. I genuinely hope this is a sign of things to come. I hope the Unions get a backbone too. The middle classes certainly wont. They need to watch Coronation Street’s live episode and complain about students. I am a strong supporter of violent direct action, when Government’s quite clearly piss on the very people who elected them. It gets the message across. Always has. Shock Capitalism has been tried on Countries in the past, with shocking consequences. We should not allow it to happen here, we don’t want it here. We will not be peaceful about it either.

So the Tuition Fee debate lasted five hours. The biggest decision on higher education in decades, was decided in less time than it takes to drive from Manchester to Devon. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable didn’t stay for the debate.

The Government won by 323 votes to 302. Their majority of 86, swiftly cut to 21. A number of Lib Dems showed the had to courage to vote against the rise, and surprisingly, a few Tories voted against it too.

Still, here is the list of Lib Dem MPs who voted for the rise in tuition fees, despite pledging to vote against any such proposal.

Let’s make sure this is the last Parliament they ever sit through.

Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
Norman Baker (Lewes)
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley)
Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington)
Jeremy Browne (Taunton Deane)
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
Paul Burstow (Sutton & Cheam)
Vince Cable (Twickenham)
Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland)
Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam)
Edward Davey (Kingston & Surbiton)
Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green)
Don Foster (Bath)
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay)
Duncan Hames (Chippenham)
Nick Harvey (Devon North)
David Heath (Somerton & Frome)
John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley)
Norman Lamb (Norfolk North)
David Laws (Yeovil)
Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk)
Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)
Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East)
Sarah Teather (Brent Central)
David Ward (Bradford East)
Steve Webb (Thornbury and Yate).

If any of these are your MP, and you voted partly due to their stance on tuition fees; email them. Let them know that they are a disgrace. Let them know that they have absolutely forfeited their right to be known as Progressives. Let them know that they are Tories.


The sleight of hand

December 3, 2010

There is a bit of a sleight of hand employed by the Conservative/Liberal Coalition on the whole issue of Tuition Fees. It is a little untouched, and quiet, and isn’t really being spoken about, but it needs to be.

I went to a Question Time style event at University tonight. It included Labour MP for Leicester South Sir Peter Soulsby, Conservative MP for Loughborough Nicky Morgan, and our Student Union President. The Liberal Democrat dropped out, spinelessly. No Liberal Democrat contacted in the area would take up the spot. The rats are in hiding it seems.

I got a couple of questions in, and especially focused on the Tory’s claims that her Party do not dislike the public sector or funding higher education because her boss David Willetts, the Universities Minister often speaks highly of both. I pointed out to her that 9 months ago Willetts referred to students as a ‘burden on the taxpayer’, yet amusingly he claimed thousands of pounds in Parliamentary expenses to do up his home, public money that could have been used to fund any one of us students in that room, or not in the room who are likely to be put off going to university due to the Coalition’s horrific attack on higher education. So I asked her given that information, who does she consider to be the real burden on the taxpayer? The student, or the insufferable hypocrite David Willetts.
She didn’t answer. She went on a rant about how much the Tories love the NHS. I wanted to say to her “sshhh, you’re talking bollocks“. I refrained.

On the subject of Tuition Fees, Nicky Morgan, the Tory made the point to say:

“The important thing here, is that you don’t have to pay anything in upfront fees under our system.”

We don’t pay upfront fees now. Never have. Nor does anyone actually think that under this new Tory/Lib system, students are expected to turn up on their first day with £9,000,000 in a briefcase ready to hand to the University. That has never been the argument against the rise in tuition fees. It is purely a nice thing for Tories and Lib Dems to say, in order to sound like they’re doing us a favour. They aren’t.

And then there is the real sleight of hand.
There has been much praise amongst Lib Dems and Tories for them raising the amount you need to be earning before you start paying back your tuition fee loan, from £15,000 to £21,000. This is their flagship policy, because they claim it’s more progressive than the current system. I have a couple of issues that make this a sleight of hand. The idea is those earning less will not have to start paying back.
Firstly, raising the bar to £21,000 is great, if your loan amounts to what it does at the moment. If I leave University with a £20,000 debt, a £21,000 threshold is workable. But it is highly ineffective if i’m leaving with a debt of £40,000. That is a huge difference. Also, the interest rate is set to rise from 1.5% to anywhere up to 3% for those earning over £40,000 a year. So that’s more money we’re going to be paying back overall. Whilst at the same time the University budget is to be slashed beyond recognition. Yet they insist on calling it a fair deal and progressive. It is like a barman saying “Hey, why don’t you pay for a pint, and i’ll give you half a pint? That’s a fair deal for all of us!” Paying a lot more, for a lot less, has never in the history of the World been considered fair and progressive; unless you’re Nick Clegg living in a fantasy World.
And secondly, and most importantly; The plans are based on 2012 prices, which the Government has been quick to point out don’t matter because no one pays up front in 2012. So, the plans should be based on the first lot that leave under the new system; 2016. This means that adjusted for an expected 2.2% rise in inflation by 2016, the threshold is not £21,000 but is actually closer to £17,000. That represents a massive sleight of hand that will save the treasury a lot of money, and cost graduates a hell of a lot more in monthly repayments than the previous system, a hell of a lot more than the Government has lead the public and the Institute of Fiscal Studies to believe.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies pointed out that whilst 20% of graduates will indeed benefit from the plans; 8 out of 10 graduates will pay a lot more than they would do under the current system.

Vince Cable stated:

“Almost one in three graduates will pay less than they do at the moment under the scheme that the Labour Government introduced.”

Almost? Not quite one in three. So, that means more than two in three will pay more than they do at the moment. How is he still insisting that this is a fair and progressive system? It’s fucking awful. The plans by some Lib Dems to abstain, is absolutely useless. If they signed the pledge, they should vote no next week. If they abstain or vote yes, they do not deserve to call themselves elected representatives.


The fight back begins

November 12, 2010

A letter of congratulations to the students and the EVIL ANARCHIST RIOTERS (who I happen to fully support, and whom were not Anarchists at all) has emerged, signed by some of the Nation’s most intellectual researchers and Professors.

Here is the letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,
We the undersigned wish to congratulate staff and students on the magnificent anti-cuts demonstration on Wednesday (‘Riot marks end of era of consensus’, Independent, 11 November). At least 50,000 people took to the streets to oppose the coalition government’s devastating proposals for education.

We also wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by the UCU and NUS leadership concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ. The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation that will follow if tuition fees are increased and if massive reductions in HE funding are
implemented.

Wednesday’s events demonstrate the deep hostility in the UK towards the cuts proposed in the Comprehensive Spending Review. We hope that this marks the beginning of a sustained defence of public services and welfare provision as well as higher education.

Signed:
Emma Dowling, Queen Mary, University of London,
Dr. Matteo Mandarini, Queen Mary, University of London,
Liam Campling, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr. Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. John Wadworth, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Nina Power, Roehampton University
Clare Solomon, President University of London Union
Dr. Peter Thomas, Brunel University
Dr. Alex Anievas, University of Cambridge
Matilda Woulfe, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr. Victoria Sentas, King’s College London
Toni Prug, Queen Mary, University of London
Prof David Miller, Strathclyde University
Matthew Woodcraft, Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Iveson, Goldsmiths, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Carrie Hamilton, Roehampton University
Dr. Nicole Wolf, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Gavin Butt, Goldsmiths, University of London
Marsha Bradfield, University of the Arts London
Manuela Zechner, Queen Mary University of London
Dr. Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof. John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Luciana Parisi, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Maud Anne Bracke, University of Glasgow
Janna Graham, Goldsmiths, University of London
Heidi Hasbrouck, Goldsmiths, University of London
Gordon Asher, University of Glasgow
Dr. Goetz Bachmann, Goldsmiths, University of London
Gerry Mooney, Open University
Dr. Catherine Eschle, University of Strathclyde
Dr. Filippo Del Lucchese, Brunel University
Dr David Lowe, Liverpool John Moores University
Tom Bunyard, Goldsmiths, University of London
Danai Konstanta, Goldsmiths, University of London
Bue Ruebner Hanssen, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Alana Lentin, University of Sussex
Dr. Armin Beverungen, University of the West of England
Bipasha Ahmed, University of East London
Dr T L Akehurst, University of Sussex and Open University
Alex Anievas, University of Cambridge
Gordon Asher, University of Glasgow
Dr Maurizio Atzeni, Loughborough University
Camille Barbagallo, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Armin Beverungen, University of the West of England
Dr. Maud Anne Bracke, University of Glasgow
Liam Campling, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Svetlana Cicmil, University of the West of England
Dr Caroline Clarke, University of the West of England
Dr Chris Cocking, London Metropolitan University
Katherine Corbett, Middlesex University
Dr. Michael P. Craven, University of Nottingham
Dr John Cromby, Loughborough University
Dr Dimitrios Dalakoglou, University of Sussex
Prof Massimo De Angelis, University of East London
Filippo Del Lucchese, Brunel University
Prof Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, University of Sussex
Dr John Drury, University of Sussex
Benoit Dutilleul, University of the West of England
Leigh French, Glasgow, editor Varient magazine
Dr Fabian Frenzel, University of the West of England
Dr Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Rachel Fyson, University of Nottingham
Dr Sara Gonzalez, University of Leeds
Hugo Gorringe, University of Edinburgh
Janna Graham, Goldsmiths University of London
Prof Peter Hallward, Kingston University,
Dr Kate Hardy, University of Leeds
Dr. Carrie Hamilton, Roehampton University
Georgia Harrison, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Kaveri Harriss, University of Sussex
Prof Stefano Harney, Queen Mary University of London
Dr David Harvie, University of Leicester
Dr Stuart Hodkinson, University of Leeds
Dr John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths, University of London
Daniel Jewesbury, Belfast, editor, Variant magazine
Dr. Daniel Kane, University of Sussex
Jeanne Kay, Goldsmiths, University of London
Koehler-Ridley, Coventry University
Danai Konstanta, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Les Levidow, Open University
Dr Simon Lewis, University of Leeds
Gwyneth Lonergan, University of Manchester
Dr Rob Lutton, University of Nottingham
Luke Martell, University of Sussex
Conal McStravick, Artist, Glasgow, member of Scottish Artists Union
Dr Shamira Meghani, University of Sussex
Dr Eugene Michail, University of Sussex
Keir Milburn, University of Leeds
Dr. Filippo Osella, University of Sussex
Dr Dimitris Papadopoulos, University of Leicester
Dr Luciana Parisi, Goldsmiths, University of London
Kathleen Poley, Goldsmiths University of London
Dr. Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, University of Leicester
Andre Pusey, University of Leeds
Prof Susannah Radstone, University of East London
Dr Olivier Ratle, University of the West of England
Dr Gavin Reid, University of Leeds & Vice-President Leeds University UCU
Bue Rübner Hansen, Queen Mary, University of London
Bert Russell, University of Leeds
Dr Lee Salter, University of the West of England
Jordan Savage, University of Essex
Dr Laura Schwatz, St Hugh’s College Oxford University
Jon K. Shaw, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Stevphen Shukaitis, University of Essex
Dr Anna Stavriasnakis, University of Sussex.
Stephanie Tan, Glasgow School of Art
Dr Claire Taylor, University of Nottingham
Dr Amal Treacher Kabesh, University of Nottingham
Jeroen Veldman, University of Leicester
Dr Paul Waley, University of Leeds
Dr Kenneth Weir, University of Leicester
Matthew Woodcraft, Goldsmiths, University of London
Hélène Samanci, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Clément Mouhot, University of Cambridge

The picture on the left, is Nick Clegg holding a pledge which read “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees“. He has just voted to increase fees from £3,300 to £9000.
I hope more names can be added to that list of Professors any time soon.
Support for direct action, when it is in the face of the needless and harshest shock capitalism thrown at us in years, is what we need. To sit back and take it, is a waste of time, and my generation will regret refusing to act, or acting ‘peacefully’, as we watch homeless rates shoot up and misery ensue. Tuition fees is the start. When the cuts hits, when there are no jobs and yet the Government start making people work for the £1 an hour benefit; there will be mass rioting; it is inevitable. The young people are not the apathetic lifeless drones, the older generation like to suggest.

Students at Manchester University kept the momentum going, and took over a main room at their University, refusing to move. They issued the following statement:

“Students at Manchester University have peacefully occupied the John Owens building and are lobbying the finance board over the coalition attack on higher education.
We are demanding that the university opens its books so that we know where the cuts will fall, how many voluntary redundancies have already been made and to highlight the fact that the vice chancellor is paid 20 times the average salary. The financial director has denied any cuts are planned despite the fact that voluntary redundancies have been announced and the combined studies department has already been cut.
We are here to support lecturers and administrative staff who will be losing there jobs. To oppose the rise in tuition fees that will price out most working class students. And to oppose the privatisation of our universities.”

The more grey haired fat businessmen and politicians who masturbate furiously over them complain about direct action, the more I support it. The more Tories tell me it is entirely “unacceptable” the more I will promote it. The more Nick Clegg insists that raising tuition fees to £9000 a year, is in some way “progressive” and a “good deal for students”, the more I will protest, and demand my vote back.

I look forward to the many protests I will take part in over the coming years.