Category Archives: Society, class and mobility

Bosses seek 30% salary hikes as Osborne £12bn cuts on low-paid

You can always trust Britain’s pampered corporate bosses to express their greed at the most inauspicious moments, but to do so when Osborne is set for the most inequality-expanding budget in living memory at the expense of the poor is insensitive even by their standards.   The heads of Britain’s biggest companies already make more in a day than a worker on the minimum wage in a year.   Yet now they’re demanding 20-30% increases in their basic pay because the EU has placed a cap on bonuses at 200% of the basic salary.   They also object to bonuses being withheld for longer periods (3 or 5 years) as a check that the bonus was properly earned and not just a device for topping up basic pay.
Read more   “Bosses seek 30% salary hikes as Osborne £12bn cuts on low-paid” »

Tories talk of freedom, but authoritarianism is their hallmark

This last week something little-noticed happened which could have very worrying consequences for the future.   All local authorities, NHS trusts, schools, universities, further education colleges, and prisons had a new statutory duty imposed on themto prevent extremist radicalisation taking place within their ambit.   These new duties will be vastly intrusive.   Local authorities will have to make checks on the use of its public buildings, its internet filters, and on any unregulated settings such as school clubs and groups and tuition centres.   In case there is any backsliding, government inspectors will check to make sure all necessary actions are taken.   And most sinister of all, the target for all this isn’t just extremist behaviour (whatever exactly that means), but ‘non-violent extremism’.
Read more   “Tories talk of freedom, but authoritarianism is their hallmark” »

With everyone spouting aspiration, what’s in it for the 20 million in poverty?

According to the official Office of National Statistics’ latest report 19.3 million persons in the UK had an income below 60% of the national median at some point during 2010-13.   That is nearly a third of the entire population, and a higher proportion than for the EU as a whole.   The UK figures are even higher for pensioners (40%) and single-parent households (60%).   These statistics are awful for the sixth largest economy in the world, but there is a deeper hypocrisy behind them.    At the general election the Tory manifesto and Cameron’s speeches resonated with calls for aspiration for everyone.   So what are the aspirational chances for the 20 million people at the bottom of the pile when Osborne’s first act in the new government is to target them?    It has equally to be admitted that among Labour’s leadership contestants the air has been thick with expostulations of aspiration for all.   How is that compatible with continued support for austerity which hits the poorest hardest?   
Read more   “With everyone spouting aspiration, what’s in it for the 20 million in poverty?” »

What should we look for in choosing a new leader?

Some of the reasons put forward in the papers for supporting leadership contenders are just plain daft: ‘he can look the part’ or ‘he’s up to the job’ – not even ranking style over substance can justify such silly comments.   But it’s all part of the digital age that presentation in a 1-minute television clip rates more with the viewers than what you say.   It chimes too with the collapse of political education and the loss of public meetings as a forum for detailed and participative debate on political issues.   It debases politics into a popularity fanfare which has the enormous advantage for the power brokers who really rule Britain that it distracts attention away from the democratic abuses they perpetrate day in day out which hobble the ambitions and prospects of so many millions below them. So, given that the whole purpose of the Labour Party is to transform the power structure so that all sections of society can prosper whilst at the same time dealing with the grotesque inequality and power domination at the very top, the first requirement in choosing a leader is that he or she must be a vigorous proponent of these principles.
Read more   “What should we look for in choosing a new leader?” »

Aspiration is not only a goal for the Right, and they have no intention of making it a reality anyway

The Tory manifesto was artfully targeted at making everyone a weeny bit richer, and some a lot richer.   It offered to raise the income tax threshold to £12,500 (though the rich get more from that than the poor), to lower tax on those on the minimum wage, to raise the higher rate income tax threshold to nearly £50,000 (benefiting largely the top 10%), and raising the threshold for the inheritance tax from £650,000 to £1 million (benefiting only the richest 6% of families).   The Tories showered these goodies around like confetti, freely admitting that these handouts plus the £8bn for the NHS and £6bn for housing association right-to-buy discounts amounted to over £20bn, wholly unfunded, but Labour kept doggedly to austerity and no unfunded handouts in order to prove its fiscal reliability.   So who won?   It’s a no-brainer.

Aspiration is unquestionably important, but for the Tories it’s a code for something else – the system’s fine, you’ve just got to try harder to pull yourself up and get ahead.   For the Blairite Right now seeking to regain the Labour leadership, it means as Lord Mandelson so deftly put it: ‘New Labour is intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich’.   For the Left it means recognising that everyone must be given a real chance to get on, but if that is to be taken seriously, it requires fundamental changes to the structure of opportunity in our society.
Read more   “Aspiration is not only a goal for the Right, and they have no intention of making it a reality anyway” »

Even the Tories’ naked bribery has now gone pear-shaped

There is a very noticeable difference between the way that the Tories and Labour have conducted this election.   The Tories have used the twin-prong approach: personal vilification which has proved counter-productive and now blatant giveaways (of other people’s money) to try to produce a false feel-good factor, but no serious policy proposals for the country’s increasingly dire social and economic problems (especially the triple deficit problem of a budget deficit of nearly £100bn, a balance of payments deficit of over £100bn, and a productivity deficit that means living standards can’t rise).   Labour on the other hand has, rightly, refrained from vilification (however tempting it might be!) and has confined itself to a widening series of positive policy proposals which do connect with people’s understanding with what’s badly wrong – on energy bills, rent levels, housing supply, low pay, zero hours contracts, bedroom tax, NHS privatisation, mansion tax and non-doms, industrial scale tax avoidance, and so on.   But even when the Tories in increasing desperation are selling off not only the family silver but the kitchen sink, it’s still coming out as ill-thought-through, impractical and unjust.
Read more   “Even the Tories’ naked bribery has now gone pear-shaped” »

The alienated untouchables

As the Labour campaign continues to make good progress whilst the Tories lurch from one failed artifice after another, and in particular Ed Miliband is increasingly taking command with growing confidence, the election has nevertheless drawn attention to a disturbing penumbra of alienation from the whole process.   In poor white working class areas the number of households who say they never vote/haven’t made up their minds/believe there’s no point in voting because nothing changes or they’re all the same anyway, is alarmingly high.   Of course there has always been a substratum of the population who felt and talked like that, but it has grown uncomfortably over the last 5 years.   In a sense these patches of territory in England begin to resemble what has happened on a broader scale in Scotland.   They feel they have regularly voted for Labour in the past, but it seems to make no difference because nothing changes (however unfair this judgement might be).   This is not something that Labour can or should neglect: why has this happened and what needs to be done to regain these voters from their sense of abandonment?
Read more   “The alienated untouchables” »

Why isn’t inequality a central issue in this election?

Inequality ought to figure much more sharply in this election than it has done so far.   The reasons are obvious – the grotesque injustice in the widening gap between the top 1% (and more particularly the top 0.1% and most of all the top 0.01%) and the rest of us, the way that austerity has been manipulated to hit the poorest far harder than the rich, the brazen myth that markets generate a trickle-down that enriches all when in fact they have driven a flooding-up of wealth to the top, the scandal of massive tax avoidance by the super-rich as one of them once declared that “only little people pay taxes”, and the unfairness of remuneration systems guaranteeing huge bonuses and lucrative long-term incentive plans to many of the miscreants who caused the crash and numerous financial scandals in the first place.    But there’s another reason why inequality should now be centre-stage in this election: it causes slower, not faster, growth.
Read more   “Why isn’t inequality a central issue in this election?” »

Every Labour parliamentary selection conference should contain at least 3 working class candidates out of 5

Why hasn’t Labour’s social team raised a huge hue and cry against Osborne’s openly declared intention to introduce a cap next year on total welfare spending covering about £100bn of benefits, irrespective of the massive increase in destitution brought about by his very own policies?   Why hasn’t Labour’s economic team raised an equal cry of anger against Osborne’s plans for a £180bn deficit reduction by 2018, which would bring public spending to its lowest ebb as a share of GDP since 1948?   Partly it reflects Labour’s extraordinary caution and timidity which only encourages the Tories to go even faster and further in marauding all over Labour’s territory.   But partly it exposes the lack of political will in some sections of the Labour leadership which has now reached frightening levels: if they won’t baulk at the massive shrinking of the State and the steady elimination of the public sector, when will they ever turn and fight?   And the real problem is that this is a view not just held by insiders, but very widely across the country, by friends and foes alike.   But there is another reason too.
Read more   “Every Labour parliamentary selection conference should contain at least 3 working class candidates out of 5” »