Politics & History

Election Reflections

Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Maggie Thatcher, Jim Davidson, General Pinochet, Jimmy Savile… your boys took one hell of a beating. Well, no, not ultimately they didn’t but it was certainly a bloody nose for the reactionary and hateful among us. For two years, the progressive left have had mud and worse slung at it by all corners of power and came out fighting in the election campaign; fighting to the point that just another 3000 more votes in key marginal constituencies would have meant a working parliamentary majority for Jeremy Corbyn. That, frankly, is incredible when you consider where Labour were at the start of the campaign just 8 weeks ago.

There was much bitterness following election night with the spin machine going into overdrive. News presenters and comedy shows were still battering the Labour Party, trying to massage the result into an out-and-out defeat but 318 v 262 seats does not tell a whole story, despite what Ian Hislop and his ilk might think. Jeremy Corbyn’s party achieved the highest increase in votes for the Labour Party since 1945, and the most votes overall since the landslide win of 1997. It’s a peculiarity of our system that Corbyn achieved more votes in 2017 than Tony Blair did in 2005, and yet 2005 was a Labour landslide. Our voting system is broken; when the Green Party can get more than double the vote of the DUP but only have one MP to their 10 something is very wrong.

Some people have been gracious enough to accept they were wrong about Corbyn, people in his own parliamentary party in particular. Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and like-minded MPs were quick to say they were wrong. However, Chris Leslie was stupid enough to say a different leader would have won the election and it is unlikely that the hateful Ian Austin will change his tune, despite the fact that left-Labour MPs, particularly Corbyn supporters, increased their majorities and Austin’s for example slipped from over 4000 to just 22; this has much to do with his own spiteful attacks on progressives, his cowardly attacks and threats on Labour members and his wholly unparliamentary approach being a representative MP. There is clearly some work still to do on the attitude of what out media like to call “Labour moderates”, who are in fact a hard-right faction.

The media too were contrite, even in the so-called liberal papers. John Rentoul, Owen Jones, Nick Cohen, Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee et. al. were all dining out on humble pie after writing such scurrilous diatribes in the last year about the Labour leader. While apologies are welcome and will be no doubt accepted from the magnanimous Mr Corbyn, questions must be asked about these “pundits”; they were wrong at the 2015 election, wrong on the EU referendum, wrong on the American election and wrong again; why do these people (who command huge salaries in a dying industry) continue to be given the paper, not to mention TV breakfast sofas, to tell us about politics when they clearly have little more clue than Barry down the pub, and he has a tattoo on his neck. It’s not good enough; I’m a librarian – if I am shit at being a librarian I’ll be fired. Plenty of librarians have been laid off without being shit at it come to that. They apologise for being wrong and in the same breath tell us what to expect next; my advice would be to expect the opposite of what they say.

Little should be expected of the right-wing press going forward. We expected their virulent attacks in the final week of the election and they duly got stonking great hard-ons for putting pictures of Jeremy Corbyn next to terrorists and other undesirables to try and invent a connection between them. Thankfully much of the public saw through this, now standard Linton Crosby technique of playing the man and not the ball. Whatever happens, they won’t change because their guarantee for subservience to the Tory cause was no doubt a promise to not implement the more regulatory elements of the Leveson recommendations. Certainly younger voters are too savvy now for this level of contemptible bile; the new media age is here and what terrifies the press barons is that they have no power over it – cue the Tories and their surveillance measures. It sometimes feels as though Rupert Murdoch has been the de-facto prime minister since the early 1980s. Communication is changing, faster than the old methods can keep up with and with each passing generation they lose more of their power.

So now what? Currently we have a situation where Theresa May called an election to strengthen her majority in Parliament, she has utterly failed to do so and has in-fact lost seats which makes it a hung parliament. She claimed if the Tories lost just six seats she would no longer be prime minister, but here she is clinging to her crumbling nest like a dying fledgling on Springwatch. Yet more evidence, were it needed, that Theresa May is a liar; and a power hungry one at that. Like her predecessor David Cameron and his love affair with hubris, she thought she could arrogantly go to the country and tell them how to vote, and she, like him, was found out.

The parliament isn’t as hung as the numbers suggest with Sinn Fein not taking their seats and the speaker unable to vote, so we see this squalid, filthy exercise of doing deals behind closed doors with the bat-shit crazy DUP; a party who think women need the state in their vaginas, want to abolish love between the same sex and think beer has no place at a beer festival! The price they will extract from the Conservatives, from our Parliament and from British people can only be guessed at from behind a sofa.

The price the Tories may pay in a party political sense could be much greater. While the Tories are the nasty party, we’ve seen nothing yet, the DUP make UKIP look like Lib Dems. The British people are about to get a lot of exposure to the DUP and they will be horrified with what they see. Already a DUP councillor has put a doctored image on Twitter of number 10 Downing Street with the flag of the Ulster Volunteer Force flying above it – this is a proscribed terrorist group under UK law, but the DUP are staunchly loyal to it. There are many in the Conservative Party that will not tolerate a retrograde step on issues such as LGBT rights, abortion etc. Alan Duncan and Damian Green are proof that the Tories, and many of their voters have moved on; either they are fully accepting of LGBT rights or they understand it is a battle lost – the DUP want to drag us all back decades in this area. It won’t be surprising if they bring back witchfinders – throwing women in lakes to see if they float.

A week on we have already had a long delay for the Queen’s speech which is now scheduled for Wednesday 21st June and that will be the first real test of the robustness of this parliament. If it is in any way controversial it will be rejected by progressive Tories and it won’t take much to tip the balance of power away from their party as I would fully expect the prospective legislative agenda to be voted against by all parties other than the DUP, and Sinn Fein with their permanent abstention. If it fails, Jeremy Corbyn may be invited to form a minority government but it is unlikely there would be wide parliamentary support for radical reform; a general election would be the more likely outcome. Personally I hope Theresa May does survive for the time being, and I will enjoy watching the Conservatives tear themselves apart for maybe 12 months as the demands of the DUP become ever more outlandish and the fiscal woe of Brexit bites us further. We are already seeing wage growth lag far behind inflation and this shows no sign of letting up. This parliament is doomed to a failure out of its own control, let the Tories take ownership of the disaster they begun.

Higher Education since 2010

Since 2010 Universities have undergone some of the largest upheavals of any area of the public sector. The changing nature of funding and fees has seen great uncertainty across HE which has been used to justify restructures, pay cuts against inflation and increasing demands on staff. The squeeze on staff comes from the newly “business orientated” management style which has quickly gained prominence as the way to run Higher Education Institutions in the UK and also from increasingly challenging students who now, rightly, expect top level service for their ever-increasing tuition fees.

To take the first, and to many staff, the most important area of pay, UNISON has calculated that the last time university staff received a pay rise in line with the RPI (retail price index) figure of inflation was 2009-10, during the last Labour Government. Since the Conservative-led coalition and their full administration in 2015 university staff have lost thousands of pounds in real terms due to falling pay settlements.

Had pay rises only kept up with inflation, someone on the lowest pay point of £14,767 p.a. would now be earning £16,194. To some that extra money would be a family holiday, but to many on the lowest level of the pay-ladder it is the difference between eating and heating: it is no coincidence that UNISON is once again this year running a loan scheme for the purchase of school uniforms for members’ kids.

Below is a table of sample wages; what they currently are, and what they would be if those salaries had kept up with inflation. The third column is the difference.

Current Salary Inflation Matched Loss
£14767 £16194 £1427
£17310 £19640 £2330
£20400 £23207 £2807
£23620 £26902 £3282
£28143 £32085 £3942

Of course, matching inflation wouldn’t solve the problem of low pay and would in-fact increase the pay gap between better off and poorer workers. UNISON would like to see a progressive pay deal that recognises the lowest-paid workers in our universities. Matching inflation is no panacea but it would have been a start. In the last seven years all support staff and most academic staff have had to make do with an average of 1% p.a. while the pay of those at the top of the HE disappears over the horizon and heads for Never Never Land.

We should also consider students that are impacted by these unprecedented fees; fees levied by a generation who received their degrees completely free for the most part. The average cost of a single year tuition at a university in England (still free in Scotland for Scottish students) is now $11,534. (the Student Loan Repayment Calculator uses dollars to ascertain fees around the world). This has shown that England is the most costly place to study in the world; ahead of even the USA. Denmark, France, Norway, and Sweden maintain free education while a nominal fee of less than £500 covers Germany, Belgium and France. All of which is an indictment of those running the fifth largest economy in the world and speaks to their unwillingness to accept that education is an investment by a country in its own future.

As things stand, before increased fees come in, and before there is any sell-off of student debt and a change in interest rates, the Intergenerational Foundation has conducted research to suggest the average graduate will still owe £60,000 in tuition fees alone 30 years after leaving university.

In the coming election the Conservatives have pledged to keep the public sector pay cap and raise tuition fees. Labour have pledged to remove the public sector pay cap and make higher education free for those who wish to study.

Student Loan

 

A Personal Political Post

Whenever I write about politics I try and source the things I am saying, and I use statistics a lot to emphasise the points I am trying to make. I don’t pretend that there isn’t a personal slant to it, or a bias involved but I very rarely write about my own feelings concerning politics in any kind of coherent way; I react, shout, get angry etc. but those are hear of the moment responses to an ongoing situation or a developing narrative. I thought I might take some time to document my own experiences with politics and why I feel what I feel about Labour, The Tories, Jeremy Corbyn and so on.

I used to work for the civil service, the Department of Health to be exact, from 2000-2006. Prior to this I wasn’t very politicised, I knew little and read less about politics. My newspaper of choice was The Sun and my favourite journalist was Richard Littlejohn. I knew nothing about immigrants and wouldn’t have considered it a bad thing to “send them all back”, or words to that effect. What I noticed while working for the civil service was that the people around me didn’t think like that, it wasn’t an echo chamber for what I now know to be right-wing views, but rather a place where people exchanged ideas and thought much more deeply about the cause and effect of government policy. I found myself unable to talk to colleagues on nights out after work, because the conversations didn’t revolve around football, cars, tits and immigration; I didn’t like that and I realised that when I tried to contribute I made a fool of myself, despite my colleagues being very inclusive at all times.

I decided to start reading things, I didn’t really know what to read or where to start, I read a variety of books, some with a right-wing feel, some with a left wing feel; I tried the Times, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian while they were still all proper broadsheets – the Financial Times scared me. Eventually I settled down to the Independent and swallowed its comment pages whole; Steve Richards, Johan Hari, Robert Fisk were my favourites, particularly on foreign affairs; by this time we’re in a post-9/11 world and everything is about extremism and the war on terror. I found the Middle East to be much more complicated than “we should just bomb the lot of them”; that sounds stupid but that was my attitude, and the attitude of so many of my (non-work) peers, and it remains the attitude of so many who refuse to grow intellectually and try understand the issues at play in a global context.

Fast forward to the present-day I have read and understood a lot more than I ever thought I was capable of. I was brought up in a school system that taught me I was stupid and my place was in factories, on an assembly line for the rest of my life, building things for the upper classes to buy. My school had the attitude of “if you’re already clever, we’ll help you be cleverer, if you don’t show a natural aptitude for learning, fuck you”. I was inculcated with the message that “higher education isn’t for the likes of you”. Now, when I tell people I left school with no GCSE’s they find it hard to believe.

My experience with the education system shows what the Tories do to working class kids who aren’t exceptional. As soon as a Labour government came in, as I left the school, new buildings shot up, the curriculum changed, the levels of support for children who weren’t succeeding was increased. Still some kids fell through the net, but they weren’t plucked out of it and thrown overboard in to the deep blue as the Tories did. The Tories are terrified of an educated working class; because an uneducated people is much easier to manipulate and cajole through the politics of fear. This is the Tories all over, they protect and help those that need neither protection nor help; it is their policy for children and their policy for everything else; from the sick to security needs, from taxation to wealth distribution.

I hear people, usually older people (sorry but it’s true), complain about Labour and generally regurgitate what they have read in the Express or that other proto-fascist rag they read on a day to day basis. I hear them and I struggle not to turn my nose up at them. I know I understand the arguments better than they do, I know I have read more about it, I know that they are turkeys voting for Christmas in most cases, particularly the working class elderly. I have no doubt that comes across as arrogance, it isn’t meant to, if all you read are editorials in the Daily Mail on immigration, then I’m sorry but you don’t understand immigration enough to make an informed comment on it. You wouldn’t let someone replace the exhaust on your car just because they subscribe to Top Gear magazine, but you’re happy to let people vote in a government who open their eyes to the tiniest, narrowest corner of the national debate. And those of us that take the time to understand things are considered “the liberal elite”; there is nothing elite about me, or my friends; just a desire to understand things, learn and make things better – the smarter people are, the more likely they are to be left wing.

Going back to working for the civil service, it is where I met my partner, now my wife. She stayed there until very recently (laid off and now there is no one to do the job she left, but it still needs doing) and while the type of work was never her cup of tea; the bureaucracy and red tape really is a problem, since 2010 when the Tories got in I watched her really struggle. Week after week she would cry herself to sleep on Sunday nights knowing that the next day she had to go in, and give her all towards implementing a government policy she knew was wrecking the NHS, there were other factors too but I witnessed what the Tory machine does to workers first hand – of all my ex-colleagues that remained at the Department of Health, I don’t think there was one that didn’t suffer some kind of mental anguish about what the Tories were doing; and yet none of them can speak out because of the apparent independence of the civil service.

I look at people such as Theresa May, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson; any of them, and think; would I want you to be my boss, could I go to you with a problem, would you understand if I am struggling mentally, financially? I don’t think they would get it, I think they would ignore it or tell me to pull myself together. I look at their opposite numbers in the Labour Party, Corbyn, Thornberry et al. and I know they would be sympathetic; capable of understanding what I was saying and empathising. Most of the time choosing who to vote for is based on who has the best ideas, but it is also about the people themselves and I see no warmth at all in 90% of Tories; that figure is almost exactly reversed when I think of Labour MPs.

It is only because of progressive governments and indeed oppositions that the Conservatives have moved anywhere at all politically. If it wasn’t for the expansion of the vote, the creation of trade unions and their Labour Party, we would still have a Tory government arguing for the retention of child workers in cotton factories, for denying the franchise to women, for marginalising Jews, black people and all other faiths and races, for continuous Empire and colonialism, for the differentiation between deserving and undeserving poor, for the disabled and unmarried to be locked away. It comes down to this; conservatives enter politics to see what they can get out of it for themselves, progressives go in to politics to see what they can give of themselves for others. I’ll forever be with the latter, under whichever party banner or leader it may be; to be anything else would be as foolish as it is immoral.

On Prevent

In 2015 a tranche of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy known as Prevent came in to force. It claims to respond to and grapple with the ideological challenge our society faces from terrorism, and seeks to prevent (hence the name) vulnerable people falling in to bad ways; it is supposed to stop those who have negative thoughts against the state turning them in to negative actions. What it also does is demand of anyone in a public service provision role to be a judge of whether someone seems “dodgy” and to report that person to the police. The requirement covers a wide range of sectors; schools, the NHS, job centres, universities etc and it is this part of it where the problem arises. No one has the skills to be able to tell who is an extremist and who is not. Terrorism experts study for years to try and work out the mind of a potential terrorist, their motivations and drivers, and even they get it wrong much of the time; so how can an hour’s training spent with a (private sector) government course provider possibly get the results the government wants?

Here is a for instance; I am a university librarian, I see a young Asian man, long beard and robes reading a book called Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam – that man is potentially someone who should be reported according to the Prevent agenda. However, that is a real book and it is on real academic reading lists that are teaching real counter-terrorism methods. The man is more than likely reading it as part of his coursework for one of these modules; with a view to perhaps moving into the field of counter-terrorism after his studies have concluded; but I am told I have to assume he is up to no good “to be on the safe side” and “for the greater good”.

Perhaps that sounds far-fetched to you, but I’m afraid it is happening. In February 2015 in Portsmouth, a GCSE student (not even an adult) was reading a school library book on terrorism that was part of the curriculum. The librarian informed the school principle and the principle in turn called the police who then visited the student and his family to question why their son was reading said book. If my experience of school was anything to go by the librarian should have been grateful he/she had a customer at all rather than assuming that customer was engaging in nefarious activities, and plotting some kind of “event”.

It isn’t only teenagers that are at risk of base assumptions too. A refugee child was at a nursery after fleeing his home country with his family from Syria; one of the few lucky ones we allowed in I suppose. The child spoke almost no English at all and was drawing pictures quietly on his own.  The keen-eyed -nursery staff spotted that these drawings were of planes dropping bombs; rather than alerting a medical professional to what was clearly some kind of post-traumatic stress, the staff phoned the police, who subsequently questioned members of the family and children independently, raising their voices because the family couldn’t understand what they were being asked; the police officers in question coming from the ‘Allo ‘Allo division I’m thinking. Presumably the authorities believe ISIS has opened some kind of half-arsed YTS scheme aimed at the under 5’s.

Presently an average 60 children a week are referred to the police through the Prevent agenda, of those in the most recent year, out of 2311 child referrals, 352 were aged nine or under. I went to an Irish Catholic school in the 80s; the police never came and asked me my opinions on Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness; teachers we’re expected to work out whether I held deeply sectarian views and threw darts at a picture of William of Orange of a night. It was never assumed I might have been harbouring industrial quantities of Semtex or C4 or that my sketches of soldiers were paramilitaries instead of the poor attempt at a Battle of the Somme artwork we were drawing in art class.

Criminalising children because of nothing more than their racial or religious origins is abhorrent and worse, with regards to the government’s goals, counter-productive. If you target people from a young age they will know nothing other than to mistrust the security services. You will breed in them a level of hatred for authority that can only manifest itself negatively in the years to come; whether that anger is externalised is another matter but by criminalising the banal we are ghettoising the thought process leading to anger and a deep-seated loathing of traditional power structures. Black people still inherently mistrust the police for the years of institutionalised racism; we are creating now an Asian/British mix of people who are slowly being taught to despise all our public services, and view them as areas of society in which they are not welcome. This is exactly how you create terrorists, not how build a culture where they cannot thrive.

As a nation we expect people to look at themselves and be better; but we are unwilling to turn that mirror on ourselves, afraid of what that reflection might show. Our own domestic and foreign policy for decades now has shown people of other races or creeds that they are not welcomed or permitted to be different. We believe our actions in Palestine, Egypt, Iraq etc. have had no effect on the people who trace their origins to these countries; indeed one of the things to look out for explicitly according to Prevent is a pro-Palestinian bias on the subject of the Middle East peace process. A perfunctory reading of one of our tabloids on any given day will show a nation with a deep unease of religious difference, particularly of Muslims; these are the type of stories that used to be told about Jews pre-1940s but still they are written and read as though they were gospel. Do we think people don’t notice these things; and then they are told they don’t integrate; would you want to integrate with people who have shown you time and again you are about as welcome as a vegan at a barbecue?

We must move past this fetish for trying to pre-empt the criminal mind and finding ways of halting its progress that are inclusive as opposed to divisive, that are no longer reductive and see a much wider picture. There will always be crack-pots who utilise something they don’t understand, or a cause they feel narrow affiliation to, to justify their own murderous intent. These people are criminally insane first and foremost, anything else they claim are just the ravings of a lunacy wedded to its own victimhood. But if this is about preventing ideology then why do we keep adding fuel to their dogmatic fire through our own actions both at home and abroad? It is only through accepting and treating people equally from day one that we will defeat terrorism. Terror is man-made through political and societal intolerance, and the solution can only be found in its antonym.

Bullet Point list of pledges in the Labour Manifesto 2017

I don’t pretend this to be a comprehensive list or an all encompassing one. These are the things I pulled out as significant on a first skim read of the 128 page document. Personally, I am very excited.

Labour Manifesto Pledges

  • 95 per cent of taxpayers will be guaranteed no increase in their income tax contributions
  • Lower small profits rate of corporation tax on small businesses
  • Corporation tax generally to remain low among comparable nations, but higher than current
  • More resources for HM Revenue and Customs to chase tax-avoiders/evaders
  • Truly independent Office for Budget Responsibility
  • Fiscal credibility based on investment and NOT borrowing
  • Create a National Transformation Fund investing £250bn over ten years upgrading the economy.
  • Commitment to complete HS2 on current route and into Scotland
  • Build a new Brighton Mainline for the South East
  • Commitment to build CrossRail 2 in London
  • Deliver rail electrification across the whole country
  • Invest in new low-carbon gas and renewable energy production
  • Universal super-fast broadband by 2022, improve mobile coverage and free wi-fi in city centres and on public transport
  • Ensure 60% of UK energy comes from zero-carbon / renewable sources by 2030
  • Meet OECD target of 3% GDP spend on research and innovation
  • Create a National Education Service for England
  • Support UK supply chains where there are gaps
  • Requirement of the best standards in government contracts, not just the cheapest
  • Capping energy costs and investing in publicly owned energy provision
  • Firms that gain public contracts must recognise trade unions
  • Those suppliers must also be moving to a 20:1 ratio pay gap between the best and least paid workers
  • Appoint a digital ambassador to promote investment
  • Establish a National Investment Bank with £250bn lending power for small businesses
  • Break up current publicly owned banks to match customer needs
  • Change the law so banks can’t close branches where there is a clear local need
  • Amend takeover law so that jobs and pensions are protected in a company take-over
  • Reduce pay-inequality by introducing an excessive pay levy on companies with staff on very high pay
  • Linking small business rates to the lower CPI than the higher RPI, exempting new investment in machinery.
  • Scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with turnover of under £85,000
  • Anyone bidding for a government contract pays its own suppliers within 30 days
  • Persistent late-payers will face fines and arbitration
  • Aim to double the size of the co-operative sector
  • Give employees first refusal when a company is put up for sale – called “right to own” and turn businesses into co-operatives
  • Bring rail companies back into public ownership
  • Regain control of energy supply networks
  • Replace water ownership with a network of regional publicly owned companies
  • Scrap the Conservative Brexit Whitepaper
  • Retain the benefits of the single market and customs union
  • Immediately guarantee existing rights for all current EU citizens living in the UK
  • Stay part of Horizon 2020 and its successor programmes for research
  • Remain part of the Erasmus scheme
  • Secure continued EU market access for British farmers
  • Replace the Great Repeal Bill with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure no detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights or environmental protections
  • Protect the sovereignty of Gibraltar
  • Improve dialogue with devolved nations and address specific concerns in the final Brexit deal
  • Parliament will have a truly meaningful vote on final Brexit deal
  • Freedom of movement will end when we exit the EU
  • Migration management systems to identify skills shortages in the economy
  • Stop overseas-only recruitment from unscrupulous employers
  • Increase prosecutions of companies and individuals paying below the minimum wage
  • Reinstate the migrant impact fund and boost it with a contributory element from the investments required for High Net Worth Individual Visas
  • Restore rights for migrant domestic workers
  • Commitment to take our fair share of refugees and review arrangements for their housing and dispersal
  • Will not include students in migration figures but will crack down on bogus colleges
  • Introduce a new International Trade White Paper
  • Build human rights and social justice into international trade deals
  • Reverse conservative cuts to school budgets
  • Reduce class sizes to below 30 for all 5, 6, and 7 year olds and extend that as resources allow
  • Move towards continuous assessment for pupils as opposed to over-testing
  • End public sector pay cap.
  • Introduce teacher sabbaticals and placements in industry
  • Reintroduce schools staff negotiating body for national pay settlements for teachers
  • Scrap conservative plans for schools to pay an apprenticeship levy
  • Extend schools based counselling for pupils to improve child mental health
  • Introduce free lifelong learning through FE colleges enabling everyone to upskill and retrain
  • Restore EMA for college students from poorer backgrounds
  • Reverse cuts to UnionLearn
  • Reintroduce maintenance grants for poorer university students
  • Abolish tuition fees!
  • Give all workers equal rights from day one of their employment
  • Ban zero hours contracts
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act in full
  • Guarantee trade union access to workplaces
  • Four new public/bank holidays
  • Increase minimum wage to £10 per hour for all workers aged 18+
  • Ban unpaid internships
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees
  • Double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase statutory paternity pay
  • Hold public enquiries into blacklisting and Orgreave
  • Resinstate protection from third party harassment
  • Replace existing TUPE regs to protect workers caught within a take-over.
  • Consult on statutory bereavement leave
  • Permit secure online and workplace balloting for industrial action votes
  • Introduce a debt arrangement scheme to enable easier paying back of credit
  • Shift burden of proof for self-employment from the employee to the employer
  • Create a new Ministry of Labour
  • Ban payroll companies which are used to create false structures and limit company tax liabilities
  • Guarantee the pension triple lock through the next parliament
  • Winter fuel allowance and free bus passes guaranteed
  • No raise to the pension age above 66
  • Scrap disability benefit sanctions, bereavement support and the bedroom tax
  • Reinstate housing benefit for over 21s
  • Incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in to UK Law
  • Increase Employment Support Allowance by £30
  • Increase Carer’s Allowance to bring it in line with Jobseekers
  • Commitment to 100,000 new housing units at affordable prices or rents
  • Create a new Department for Housing
  • Make three-year rent tenancies the norm to stop rising rents
  • National Plan to end rough sleeping by the end of the parliament
  • Guarantee access to NHS treatment within 18 weeks
  • End mixed sex wards in hospitals
  • Deliver the Cancer Strategy for England by 2020 helping 2.5m people who live with cancer
  • Fund ambulance and GP services better and end postcode lottery
  • Pledge to make the country “autism friendly”
  • Give free parking to patients, visitors and staff at hospitals through a tax increase on private medical insurance premiums
  • Publish childhood obesity strategy within the first 100 days of government and introduce a sugar tax
  • Scrap the NHS pay cap
  • Reintroduce bursaries and funding for health related degrees
  • Commit to £30bn extra NHS spending over the next parliament through income tax increase for the top 5% of the population
  • Repeal the Health and Social Care Act and reinstate responsibility for the NHS to the Secretary of State for Health
  • Lay foundations for a National Care Service for England
  • Increase social care budgets by £8bn over the life of the parliament
  • 10,000 more police officers to work community beats
  • Ensure appropriate victim support through minimum standard entitlements from criminal justice agencies
  • Appoint a commissioner to tackle domestic and sexual violence against women
  • Ban the use of community resolutions as a response to domestic violence
  • Review the Prevent strategy
  • Recruit 500 more border guards to add to existing safeguards
  • Recruit 3000 new firefighters and carry out a review in to overall staffing levels
  • Retain the Human Rights Act
  • Re-establish early advice settlements in family courts, ending the need for domestic violence victims to pay a doctor for certification of their injuries
  • Review legal aid means testing
  • Introduce a no-fault divorce procedure
  • Recruit 3000 more prison officers
  • Publish prisoner to prison officer ratio numbers for all prisons
  • Insist on personal rehabilitation plans for all prisoners
  • Use prisons as a last resort and not as a substitute for a lack of mental health provision or drug treatment centres
  • No new private prisons or privatising of existing public prisons
  • Give local government extra funding
  • Consider land value tax to ensure sustainable long term funding
  • End cuts to youth services
  • End closures of post offices around the country
  • Ensure libraries are preserved
  • Commission to establish a Post Bank owned by the Post Office with a full range of banking services
  • National review of local pubs to examine causes for their demise
  • Reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2
  • Reform governance of taxi and private hire vehicles guaranteeing safety and accessibility
  • Upgrade highways, particularly A1North and A30 and scrap Severn Bridge tolls
  • Upgrade the National Cycle Network and Walking Investment Strategy
  • Additional airport for the south-east
  • Cease the badger cull and maintain hunting bans on foxes, hares and deer
  • Prohibit third party sale of puppies
  • Introduce a £1bn Cultural Capital Fund to upgrade current cultural and creative infrastructure
  • Maintain free entry to museums
  • Introduce an arts pupil premium for schools to invest in cultural activites
  • Improvements in diversity levels in film and media industries
  • Implement part one of Leveson recommendations and commence part two
  • Ensure Premier League invests 5% of its television rights income into grass roots football
  • Enforce anti-bot legislation on ticket websites
  • Seek to end hereditary element in the House of Lords and move towards a democratically elected second chamber
  • Extend FOI Act to cover private companies delivering public services
  • Reduce voting age to 18
  • Repeal the Lobbying Act which has gagged charities and trade unions, and will introduce tougher legislation on parliamentary lobbyists
  • Opposes the second Scottish Independence referendum
  • Promise to have a 50% female presence in Cabinet at all times
  • Gender audit all proposed legislation prior to implementation
  • Stable funding for women’s refuges and rape crisis centres
  • Introduce equal pay audits on large employers
  • Give sign-language full recognition as a recognised language
  • Creation of a minister for peace and disarmament to work with international partners on conflict and the protection of civilians in conflict areas
  • Demand a UN Led inquiry in to possible war crimes by Saudi Arabia in Yemen
  • Introduce a cyber-security charter
  • Commitment to spend 2% of GDP on our armed forces
  • Keep the Trident system of a nuclear deterrent
  • Roll out Homes Fit For Heroes programme to insulate military veterans houses for free
  • Continue the 0.7% commitment to foreign aid spending

An Analysis of Conservative Government Failure 2010-2017

By the time the election comes around in June this country will have had seven years of Tory government; seven years of misery, seven years of austerity and seven years of abject failure by any reasonable analysis of available data, and by any moral code. Below is a list I have put together on how this government, and the coalition before it has failed the people of this country; not only the working class, though it is true they have suffered more than anyone; but everyone excepting the super-rich and multi-national corporations who hold the Conservative Party firmly in their back pocket.

Finances:

The one area that the Tories are seen as competent, somehow, is in the realm of the public purse. The truth, outside of the Westminster bubble is that here lies their biggest failure. George Osborne and later Philip Hammond have said they should be judged on their records. The debt in the UK currently stands at an enormous £1.73trillion[1] – double what it was under the last full Labour Parliament. This is while public spending has dropped by 5% since 2010[2]. Somehow despite cutting spending and increasing the debt, George Osborne borrowed more in his first three years as Chancellor than Labour did in 13 years of government[3]. As it stands, the Tories have borrowed more since 2010 than every Labour government combined[4]. This of course creates the conditions for extreme austerity targeted at the many, while we have seen massive tax cuts for millionaires – in 2013 George Osborne cut the top rate of tax giving the UKs 13,000 millionaires a minimum of a £100,000 tax cut each[5]. Individual tax shortfalls should be made up in taxes elsewhere, but instead of creating a progressive corporation tax model the Tories have effectively turned the UK into a modern day tax haven by having the lowest rates of any of the 20 leading global economies – just 17% by 2020, meaning massive companies such as Tesco or McDonalds will pay less tax proportionally than their employees[6] – in fact the only taxes that have risen under this government are the regressive ones that hit the poorest the hardest such as VAT and the hated Bedroom Tax. Is it any surprise when we see the deals done by HMRC with multi-national companies, behind closed doors[7]? Who can forget, also, the attempt to increase tax on the self-employed too which the government only U-turned on after massive public and Labour opposition.

Meanwhile, tax rises and austerity for the many have not been matched by any rise in income. The decline in the value of wages in this country from the global economic crash to the present is over 10%, on a par only with Greece in the developed world[8]. The earnings decline of UK workers is currently the worst for 163 years[9] when the 4th Earl of Aberdeen was Prime Minister, another Tory, and we were on the verge of a war in the Crimea. In 2016 UK productivity fell by its greatest margin since the 2008 recession, putting the workforce at 14% less productivity than pre-crisis levels[10] – Tory management of the economy and job security have led to this state. One group though, have done extremely well in the past seven years, and they are of course the already wealthy, among whom many Tory MPs are counted. The richest 1000 people in the country have seen their wealth rise by a massive £112% since 2009 (that is not a misprint – one hundred and twelve percent) – they now share a fortune of £547billion between them[11]. This is in a nation where over 1,000,000 people visited food banks last year. Even their living wage is far less than what a living wage should be – and doesn’t apply to young people. Income and wealth inequality has never been greater, and that is a deliberate policy.

The Home Office:

Perhaps the best place to look at what the psyche of our unelected leader Theresa May is would be the Home Office, the department she held for several years under David Cameron’s Premiership. One of her great policy ideas was the Snooper’s Charter, which has only been blocked at the final hurdle by the EU’s highest court (more on the EU later). The Investigatory Powers Act to give the law its proper title, would require details of every email we send, every website we visit and every social media log to be recorded by spooks[12]. Were the internet in existence in 1950s Germany this would have been the desired tool of monitoring for the Stasi. It is the equivalent to having a civil servant in your home inspecting your behaviour and should chill any decent person to the bone. While on this theme, she was also the Home Secretary that authorised the detention of David Miranda who assisted Edward Snowden in his Whistleblowing concerning what the great western powers were doing behind closed doors. She allowed the police to smash Guardian property and ignored basic rights to privacy and habeus corpus[13].

She oversaw the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners being elected – a laughable non-entity of a policy that brought out just 15.1% of the electorate, so underwhelming were they[14]. Aside from creating a new tranche of bureaucracy in the police force, what else has she done? Well, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have said the cuts to police budgets in excess of 20% are “dangerous” and “disturbing”[15]. If you want to know how much the police have been cut in your area, here is a handy calculator to find out. They have been cut to the point that volunteers are now being used at crime scenes. She remains one of the few Tories ever to be jeered and booed by the Police[16]. Her policy on drugs remains in the “hang ‘em and flog ‘em” camp despite evidence from Portugal that liberalisation of drug laws aids all aspects of recovery, both individually and societal[17].

The Tories consistently bang the drum on immigration and rarely if ever point out the benefits. They know the necessity behind closed doors and personally I am in favour of immigration, but let’s judge the Tories by their own narrow view and state clearly that the government saw immigration numbers rise by 78,000 in 2014 to 260,000 overall despite a campaign promise to reduce migrant numbers to below 100,000[18]. According to one of the Tories’ favourite pressure groups, the figure stood at 273,000 for the year ending 2016[19]. Brexit is unlikely to have any significant impact on overall numbers while the much vaunted points-based system in Australia could be the worst possible option[20].

Theresa May was of course replaced by Amber Rudd when the former became Prime Minister without anyone voting for her. Amber Rudd is the director of two companies, both of which are registered in the Bahamas for reasons I’m sure you can work out[21]. One of her key policy ideas was for companies to publicly announce how many foreign workers they had on their books – she didn’t go so far as to say these workers had to wear coloured stars to identify them thankfully, but the speech in which she made the remarks has been recorded as a Hate Crime[22]. When visiting a Holocaust Memorial Museum she signed the book with the words “we must never forget” and then proceeded to remove the Dubs Amendment from UK law, which granted refugee families the right to stay together. Lord Alf Dubs was a child refugee himself, escaping the Nazis during World War II, the UK gave him somewhere safe to live as his people were being exterminated; he says the government have gone back on their word concerning refugees and he is right – we took 350 child refugees, not 3000 as the Dubs Amendment would have guaranteed[23]. On the subject of refugees, the government have continued the shameful legacy of Tony Blair’s Labour and kept privately run detention centres in operation, and continued to deport people to countries where they face torture or worse for their relationships or political beliefs. Each person held in detention (none have committed crimes remember) costs the taxpayer £30,000 a year. Amber Rudd’s previous claim to fame before politics was as the “aristocracy co-ordinator” for the film, Four Weddings and a Funeral[24]. In an astonishing move she refused to hold an independent inquiry in to the actions of Police during the year-long Miners’ strike, despite overwhelming evidence from this and other cases of the dirty tricks used by particularly Sheffield Police, most notably the Hillsborough Disaster[25].

Health:

To discuss this government’s attitude to the NHS is not unlike discussing the attitude of the KKK to black people. They hate the NHS, hate everything from its foundation to its position of almost faithlike worship among the people. It is a solid block of socialism that proves socialism, in-fact and practice, works. In their 2010 manifesto they promised “no top-down reorganisation of the NHS” and proved this to be their first of many, many lies over the next seven years as Andrew Lansley set about dismantling and selling off the profitable bits of the NHS. The most execrable changes the Tories made were making 50% of NHS beds available for private use[26] and the removal of the Secretary of State’s responsibility for NHS provision[27] – the latter being the single key point that opens wide the competition gates – that translated into £30billion of NHS contracts being put out to tender[28] across pharmacies, patient transport, diagnostics, GPs, community care and mental health services. The groups buying up massive chunks of the NHS are Virgin, Serco, CareUK, Ramsay, Circle, HCA, The Practice, Spire, GHG/BMI, Inhealth, Alliance Boots, Capita and Interserve[29] – see footnote for details on each one.

Alongside mass privatisation are the waiting times that have begun an upward trend under this government which shows no sign of being reversed. In the past year 193,406 people did not get the operation they needed within 18 weeks of being referred[30]. It took leaked data to show us that A&E departments are so overstretched and underfunded that 60,000 seriously ill people had to wait over four hours in December 2016 alone. The target for being seen within four hours in A&E is 95% (down from 98% consistently hit by Labour) and the government still haven’t hit this since Q1 2012/13 – recently it dropped as low as 81.8%[31]. Just as worrying are the 25 thousand people who waited longer than is safe to see a cancer specialist after being diagnosed last year[32].

One thing this country consistently fails with is mental health support, but the situation is getting worse rather than improving. Forty per cent of mental health trusts saw budgets cut in 2015/16 despite a pledge to fund them on a par with physical health care[33]; given that physical healthcare is also being cut perhaps this, in a twisted way, is a promise kept, as funding for both is shredded. Beds are in such short supply for people in a crisis that police cells are being used to substitute for people who are a danger to themselves, people who need care, not punishment for their condition[34].

One of the first things the Tories did in 2010 was stop the target of seeing a GP within 48 hours in 2010, now some people are having to wait four weeks to see a GP[35] and the average wait is two weeks[36]. Fifteen thousand beds have been cut since the Tories came to power[37], nurses have been cut and seen their terms and conditions fundamentally attacked meaning one in six nursing posts remains vacant[38]; most heinously the government have cut back student bursary scheme for nurses which will exacerbate the fall in nursing staff numbers, and mean numbers of people pursuing this noble profession from disadvantaged backgrounds will plummet[39]. Too few paramedic staff has led to ambulance response times dropping. One in ten posts remains empty while the workload for existing staff has doubled[40]. No wonder NHS staff are the most stressed in the public sector, 61% of healthcare professionals who took part in the research reported feeling stressed all or most of the time[41].  All of this is before we look at the way the government has tried to force Junior Doctors in to a contract that no one wants, and that everyone realises (except the Tories) is bad for patient safety and brought about the first doctors’ strike since the 1970s[42]. All of this proves the old mantra, you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

The Welfare State

While the NHS may provoke “under the radar” hatred from Tories, the welfare state receives no such etiquette. A piñata from day one, the area of our society relied upon by the unemployed, the disabled, pensioners etc. has been attacked, dismantled, maligned and undermined in the search for scapegoats for a failing government. In terms of work, the government always announce the monthly figure of numbers of people in work with great fanfare; almost two million since 2010 apparently. What this statistic doesn’t show is that the 1.8 million extra people in work is correlative to the number of people entering the labour market as our population grows and the amount of people on zero hours contracts – at the latest count just under one million people, but probably above this now[43]. What is less shouted about in the world of work is the amount of people who are underemployed; the UK is at the bottom of the European league for people desiring more work; it is a growing figure but as of 2014 this 26% of part time workers, or 1.8 million – what a familiar number[44].

On to the emotive issue of the disabled in our allegedly modern day Britain. Disability hate crime in 2015/16 increased in a single year by 40%[45]; a staggering figure and one must ask why? One then must look no further than government policy which has demonised disabled people more than any other group, save perhaps Muslims, in an attempt to smear them as feckless layabouts who “sleep off a life on benefits” while the rest of us work, to coin a George Osborne phrase. The first attacks disabled people were subject to were in the form of “fit for work” programme ATOS enacted on the government’s behalf. The Work Capability Assessment, now governed by Maximus has seen thousands of people declared fit for work who have subsequently died; we don’t know exactly how many as the government refuse to publish the figures, but they have finally admitted the tests spend more money than they save[46]. Many more have had their declarations overturned on appeal, but have suffered great stress and discomfort in the meantime. General declines in benefits matching other areas were coupled with the £30 Employment and Support Allowance cuts, supposedly to “incentivise” disabled people in to work. Of course a large number of disabled people had work until the government closed Remploy factories[47]. In addition we found out this year that 50,000 disabled people have had their adapted or mobility vehicles taken away, despite their clear necessity[48]. Is it any wonder people are seeing ready-made victims for their hatred in disabled people when the government are happy to use them as a punch-bag for their anti-welfare mania.

Other benefits for jobseekers and such have also not kept pace with inflation. A general smearing of the unemployed has taken place, despite the difficulty in finding a job that is not based around zero-hours or through an exploitative agency. In work benefits have been drastically cut too with the amount of hours worked to qualify for child tax credits being raised to 24 from 16[49]. The benefit cap has come in which hurts single people and people married without kids, but also detrimentally affects families with three or more children, and 74% of those hit are children[50]. Income support has been abolished for those whose youngest child is over five years old[51]. All this together equals vastly reduced support for those most in need and leads to the aforementioned shameful figure of foodbank use and the horrendous UK poverty levels, even for those in work. The number of people in-work but also in poverty stands at 7.4 million, including 2.6 million children – 55% of those in poverty are from working households[52].

Education

Anyone who was previously in doubt about the Tory attitude to social mobility should now have become aware that “knowing your place” is a Victorian attitude very much in vogue among the wealthy elite that reside in the Cabinet. The latest proposal to bring back grammar schools is another way of separating out the children of the working class from little Tarquin and Clara who shouldn’t be mixing with that sort. They are divisive, elitist and downright wrong. But we should not be surprised. The pet project of Michael Gove, Free Schools, has been an expensive folly at best, and have syphoned money away from regular state schools to the detriment of students everywhere. The money of course is being spent in every increasingly silly ways, leading to Free Schools failing Ofsted inspections at three times the rate for state schools[53]. I’m no expert but perhaps that has something to do with the curriculum in Free Schools not having to follow any kind of national standards, but rather can be set by the governors who may advocate teaching religious texts as science among other things. The NUT thankfully, are experts and what they say on Free Schools is damning and can be found here. Since all this money has been given to a vanity project it should shock nobody that the number of children being taught in oversized classrooms (36 or more pupils) has trebled since the Tories took over[54].

Adult education fares no better, and possibly worse amazingly since adult further education suffered a massive 24% cut in funding – that translates to 190,000 fewer adult education places available, while the adult skills budget has been cut by an eye-watering 40%[55]. Return to Learn, trade union diplomas, FE colleges are all affected; at a time when our economy is supposed to be proving its flexibility, we are removing people’s chance to retrain. For those staying on after school in education the Education Maintenance Allowance is now something only previous generations can remember; a vital lifeline for poorer students cut away in 2010 by the Tories. At the same time the government drew up plans to cut hundreds of youth centres[56].

There are some people considering once again voting Lib Dem this year, and they clearly have short memories or are not ex-students now crippled with debt since they allowed the Tories to increase student fees to £9000 a year, breaking a solemn promise they made in their 2010 election manifesto. What this has done is put many people from poorer backgrounds off going on to do a degree – leaving with a minimum of £27,000 debt before rent, books and spending money has even been considered is not a huge draw for council estate kids to follow their dreams of a university education. The Tories have ever been afraid of educated masses – once educated, working people ask questions and demand rights.

Even pre-schoolers don’t escape the education bonfires with the much loved Labour initiative of Sure Start being crippled by government policy. Sure Start was one of the best policies of the Blair years, and once again was socialism in action. That cannot be tolerated so out came the knives despite a cast iron promise not to cut or defund them in the build up to the 2010 election from David Cameron. It turns out that as of this year, since 2010 350 Sure Start centres have been closed by the government[57] – that’s 350 broken promises to British families.

Justice:

The Ministry of Justice was separated out from the Home Office to deal with criminal rehabilitation and punishment. What is borderline criminal is the way this department has been run over the last seven years. Despite the fact that we lock up more people than France and Germany combined, our thirst for the use of prisons is yet to be slaked, as in March 2017 it was announced that another 5000 prison places are to be built[58]. Fifteen per cent of our prisons are now run privately, for profit in the hands of Sodexo, Serco and G4S who share contracts worth £4billion. Private prisons hire less well trained staff and have wages averaging out at 23% less than the public sector[59]. In these jails prisoners work 40-hour weeks on mind-numbing jobs and are paid as little as £2 a day[60]. State run prisons are still backward places too, focusing more on punishment than rehabilitation. In 2016 a record number of 119 inmates took their own lives, 29 more than the previous year alongside over 37 thousand incidents of self-harm and over 25 thousand assaults; 6430 of these were against staff; a rise of 40% on 2015[61]. Overcrowded prisons are the worst managed, and more and more prisons are reporting over-crowding issues to this is a vicious cycle of punishment and violence.

Access to justice is becoming rarer and rarer depending on your income. Legal Aid has been cut and the government have created what Amnesty International has called a “two-tier justice system” in our country[62]. Legal Aid claims dropped in the year the cuts came in from 925,000 cases to just 497,000 – almost 50%. Legal Aid has been cut for family cases, divorce courts, immigration and asylum; essentially the people at the bottom of the legal pile. The government even attempted to deny legal aid to victims of domestic abuse but this was quashed on appeal[63]. The legal aid fiasco led to solicitors and barristers going on strike against the cuts; the Tories managing to radicalise the least naturally radical profession there is. Government attitudes to domestic violence in general can be ascertained by the fact that 17% of women’s refuges have had to close in 2010 and further cuts could lose two in three centres. In a typical day 103 children and 155 women are turned away from over-pressured refuge centres, due to government policy[64].

A further arena in which justice has been curtailed for the many is in the realm of employment tribunals. Fees for tribunals were introduced in 2013 and start at around £160 to issue a type A claim (e.g. wage claims, breach of contract etc), and £250 for a type B claim (e.g. unfair dismissal, discrimination etc). There’s also a further hearing fee of £230 for Type A and £950 for Type B claims. Appeals at the employment appeal tribunals also attract a £400 lodging and £1,200 hearing fee. If you have lost wages unfairly, or worse, your job, the one thing you are unlikely to have is spare cash on the hip to seek legal advice. A drop in tribunal claims of 70% was the result and this isn’t because Britain’s bosses have got 70% better overnight; it is because the government is hell-bent on denying working people access to fairness in the workplace[65].

Culture and Media:

William Morris said “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few”. Sadly the present government do not share this philosophy as their policies around art and culture all too sadly demonstrate. The cornerstone of any civilised society is surely the library; an institution from the earliest civilisations that have shown the value of not only storing, but sharing knowledge. Between 2010 and 2016, 8000 library jobs were lost in the UK and 343 libraries have closed as well as countless others cutting back their hours and services – a further 111 libraries were set to close 12 months after these figures were disclosed a year ago and 224 additional libraries have been transferred to community groups or essentially privatised[66]. If you want to know what has happened to library services in your area you can find out here.

Tied in to this is funding and policies for the arts more generally; privatisations of key areas in provision at the National Gallery lead to the first strike action at the NG for a generation. This stems from the Arts Council reporting a decline in funding to the tune of £230million since 2010, with more cuts on the way[67]. This directly led to the Arts Council in turn cutting funding to 200 other organisations, many in regions not renowned for their arts leadership in the past[68]. On that note the government have been keen to pull everything back towards London and away from the provinces – the wealthy South East must have art, but no one else. This is proven by the decision to move the fabulous Royal Photography Society collection from Bradford’s excellent National Media Museum to London’s V&A despite overwhelming evidence that it was better off where it was[69].

Contributions to the poor management of this sector which includes charities have been the high turnover of ministers responsible. Jeremy Hunt, Maria Miller, Sajid Javid, John Whittingdale and now Karen Bradley have all held the position. Maria Miller was a remarkable minister who was so deeply entwined with the MPs expenses scandal that it caused Betty Boothroyd to claim she had brought parliament into disrepute[70]. Having threatened the Telegraph with her role in implementing the results of The Leveson Inquiry, her resignation letter was conspicuous due to the absence of the word “sorry”[71].

Jeremy Hunt, before he was given the task of finishing Andrew Lansley’s dismantling of the Health Service was Culture Secretary at the time of the previous BskyB takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch. This was around the same time he was responsible for the G4S security fiasco at the London Olympics where 5000 troops had to step in to fill the shortfall in supplied staff[72]. It turned out Hunt was in regular, private correspondence with James Murdoch prior to overseeing the BskyB bid[73]. While Leveson ultimately clearer Hunt of any wrongdoing (very difficult to prove a conflict of interest after all), Hunt’s judgement must seriously be called into question; though given disgraced former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was advising David Cameron at this time, poor judgement ran through the government like blood in an arterial wound.

John Whittingdale suffered the scandal of his relationship with a professional dominatrix and escort being discovered[74], but the real scandal was his handling of the BBC. He has serially attacked the BBC’s independence and influence, backed the Treasury’s assault on BBC finances, unilaterally blocked legislation recommended in Leveson and given personal support to the non-Leveson recommended Independent Press Standards Organisation, which until recently was headed, laughably, by the editor of the Daily Mail about who’s paper most complaints are made[75]. His predecessor Sajid Javid was employed by Deutsche Bank when they were committing a tax dodge worth £135million[76] – perhaps this is what earned him the promotion to Business and Skills; tax dodging skills being highly valued in the corridors of power.

Defence:

Like the treasury, the arena of defence is one in which the Tories are traditionally seen as a safe pair of hands. The officer class in the military and the MPs in parliament on Conservative benches share common interests and backgrounds and there has always been a type of quid pro quo relationship between the two. In austerity Britain though, the British army has received no such protections as it may have expected from its lords and masters. In 2012 the government decided to implement a plan to cut 20,000 soldiers from the army after Christmas of that year, bringing overall numbers down to just over 80,000 men/women – it’s lowest number since the 18th Century; some actually received their P45s while on active duty[77]. In addition to this some historic regiments have been abolished including 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh and 3rd Battalion Mercian Regiment; the aforementioned Yorkshire Regiment, formerly the Green Howards survived Crimea, The Boer War and both World Wars but couldn’t fight off the Tories. Plans remain in the pipeline to cut all three areas of the military even further in the years to come under a Tory government[78].

Military actions under this government have created power vacuums across the Middle East through a ludicrous misunderstanding of facts on the ground. Libya has been made unstable through intervention from the UK and our allies while the spread of ISIS across the Levant has been helped rather than hindered by the UK not knowing which sides to bomb and when. Rather than working with President Assad of Syria to remove the larger threat, we chose to team up with warlords and barbarians who are little better than the power-hungry zealots they oppose. We continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia (whose leaders share an extreme Wahabi ideology with ISIS), in the full knowledge that these weapons are being used against civilians in Yemen. We stay silent as Israel continues to expand illegals settlements in to The West Bank and are happy to turn a blind eye to the largest open prison in the world, and military testing ground that is the Gaza Strip.

Communities

As stated above, this country is more widely divided now than ever, but that isn’t just true of wealth and finance; we are more divided now on social, religious, racial and class lines than any time in my memory. Again, I feel this is an active policy decision by the government; divided people are able to be controlled more easily, less likely to unite against a common threat or enemy. I have already shown above how some of the most vulnerable people in our society have been alienated from it, made scapegoats for bad government decisions and being victimised for their own conditions. The government have made a conscious decision to set neighbour against neighbour; the employed vs. the unemployed, the able vs. the disabled, Muslim vs. Christian and so on. Margaret Thatcher once said there is no such thing as society, and the Tories are creating the conditions for the destruction of society before our very eyes. The only tool we have against the power of divisiveness is the counter-attack of unity and organisation. Recently when Britain First, the EDL and their ilk showed up in one of our most diverse cities, Birmingham, to exploit the fear caused by one maniac in London they were met with the most British of protests; a tea party, held by local Muslims in a Mosque where all were welcome. That is my Britain, not the hate filled bile that leaks out of the Daily Mail and The Sun on a regular basis endorsed by this government whose actions speak louder than words; e.g. While demanding new arrivals to this country speak English, the government under David Cameron cut ESOL courses by £1.5million affecting 16,000 learners[79].

Can there be a more loved public service after the NHS than the Fire Service? Men and women who run in to burning buildings, risking not just their health but their very lives to save others is the most gallant of roles in our society. The Tories, in reward for the hard work of firefighters, have cut 10,000 posts since 2010 and have plans to cut a further 20% of posts by 2020[80]. The Fire Service is a bit of an incorrect term these days given that the teams around the country respond to flooding, road accidents, industrial matters, civil contingencies and terrorist attacks in addition to their more regular objective of battling raging inferno’s and saving people from them. I am given to understand they rescue the odd cat from a tree as well, if Ladybird books are to be believed.

Local services aimed at communities and wellbeing have also been hit since 2010. Almost £60million has been cut from the parks budget. Young people are playing more sport than ever thanks to our successes at an international level, but they are not being helped by Leisure Centres losing £71million since 2010, leading some centres to replace lifeguards at swimming pools with camera systems. Eighty per cent of amateur football is played on council maintained pitches but these are in an “abhorrent state”, while hiring fees have gone up by 300% in some cases[81]. Despite the level of young people playing sport, we still have a child obesity crisis with almost 20% of 11-12 year olds declared obese[82]; cutting access to leisure centres and other sports services is hardly likely to help, especially given the government’s lacklustre approach to progressive taxation on sugary drinks and their advertising.

The targeting of local government cuts has been particularly telling; in some Labour governed areas, cuts have been five times what councils face in traditional Tory-voting areas[83]. The cherry atop that cake is that it is the poorer areas, i.e. Labour controlled ones, that need better access to services. Councils in areas in the constituencies of Cabinet Ministers were least hit, in a remarkable show of arrogance from the front bench[84]. And we all know now about the “sweetheart” deals the government has done with Surrey Council[85] – is this just the tip of a huge iceberg? The first Tory Communities and Local Government minister was Eric Pickles; Bradford Council could have told us what to expect after his time as a councillor in the Town Hall there: £50million in cuts, a third reduction in all staff and mass privatisations of services[86]; and this was during a time of national growth and balanced budgets.

Transport:

Absolute, unswerving ideological commitment to competitive, free-market economics is most visible in Tory attitudes to national transport policy. The prime example was the re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline which had to be taken under public ownership in 2009, after the privateer, National Express, pulled out of running the service. Between 2009 and 2015 the nationalised service brought £1billion in to treasury coffers, had record high satisfaction ratings and increased profits which were then spent on improving services instead of going to managers and shareholders[87]. Virgin/Stagecoach took over the route despite massive opposition and joined in the subsidy free for all that replaced British Rail. Since rail privatisation in 1995 rail tickets have gone up by 117%, they are slower than our European counterparts’ nationalised services, the cost to the public of running the railways has more than doubled and over 90% of rail profits are paid straight to Shareholders without any thought given to the passenger, or the taxpayer[88]. Our government has nothing against public ownership, as long it isn’t the British state that owns the service. Our rail network is owned by a mixture of state-owned enterprises from France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong and Italy[89], it is nothing more than a slavish subservience to “the market” that stops us taking back control of our transport infrastructure in to public hands; British public hands.

Our bus network is also privatised, but again heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. Since 2010 funding for buses has been slashed by 15% with 2000 national routes being reduces or withdrawn completely[90]. Meanwhile rural bus services in England and Wales face being wiped out altogether by government cuts[91]; services young people rely on to get to school, or old people rely on to get to the shops. There has been talk of cutting the free bus pass for the elderly too, making it doubly difficult to get about in some areas[92].

Environment:

What was billed as “the greenest blue government of all time” has turned out to be quite the opposite. Last year parliament was warned that the government was likely to miss its 2020 renewable energy target[93], meaning we had a commitment to meet 15% of our energy needs supplied by renewables by the year 2020; living on a windy island, with high tidal fluctuations that gets plenty of daylight meant this should have been easy but government mismanagement and lack of any real belief or concern in climate change has meant this has been thrown on the back-burner (pun most definitely intended). A day after cutting subsidies for solar and onshore wind farms, funding was also pulled for the Green Deal scheme, and the home improvement scheme to make houses more energy efficient[94], a further £1billion carbon capture tender was also cancelled costing potentially thousands of jobs[95]. It would be wrong to suggest Saudi Arabia continue to buy our weapons in return for us buying their oil and cancelling renewable energy subsidies of course, so I won’t suggest that.

Non-renewable energy schemes are all the rage however, with government giving the green light to fracking in Lancashire, ignoring mass-local opposition and environmental concerns around local wildlife habitats, subsidence, water quality and long-term causal effects of fracking in geological terms. There is also no evidence that bills would come down as a result of fracking, and on that note, since 2010 energy bills have risen by an average of 10% above inflation since 2010[96]. For some customers they have risen as high as 28% and the “big 6” energy companies have warned of bigger rises to come[97].

Those who remember the early days of the Coalition will remember the ludicrous idea to privatise British forests; it was laughed out of sight by the media and by the public more importantly. Now however, small-scale privatisations are happening as chunks of land get sold off for energy exploration or for luxury holiday cabins[98]. Proof that where there is a public amenity, a Tory wanting to sell it is never far away. Staying in woodland areas, the badger cull seems a cruel and unnecessary technique to limit numbers on shaky evidence. The largest ever study of badger to bovine TB concluded “badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain”[99]. The cost of the culls have come in at £16.8million for the two years to 2014, with more culls having happened since; is this a good use of public money? It seems that whether it is foxes or badgers, the upper-classes just can’t help themselves in their desire to kill small, furry, woodland creatures.

Other things the wealthy like to hunt are grouse; it’s a long tradition and while brutal for the grouse doesn’t cause real problems in and of itself. However land clearances to create paths for grouse shoots does affect a lot of things, principally natural flood defences. Boxing Day 2015 saw huge swathes of land flooded by torrential downpours; homes wrecked, businesses closed and lives ruined; it’s impossible to know exactly how much but a contributory factor was the clearance of land for grouse shooting in the upper-Calder Valley for example[100]. Flooding costs an average of £1billion every year so you would think flood defences would be vital, but in 2014 it was revealed that flood defence money was cut by £250million[101] and in 2016 the Environment Agency stated that coming government policy would lead twice as many households at significant risk of flooding within 20 years[102] – in fact it will be more because the government still advocates building housing on flood plains[103].

Housing:

That seems like a nice segue in to housing policy. I grew up in a council house, many of my family still live in them and I would if I could but there are none in the area I choose to live. Local authority housing provision, the term du jour, has dropped significantly since 2010 with over 100,000 less council houses; we have to go back to 2003 to find parity between units of private rentals and council houses. There has been a 23% decline in social housing built since 2011/12[104] – a million people linger on council house waiting lists[105].

For buyers meanwhile it is harder and harder to get a foot on the rung of the property ladder; the average price of a house in 2016 was £214,000[106]. Since 1971 if wages had risen in line with the amount house prices had risen, the average salary would be £87,720[107]. At the same time, five families an hour are made homeless in modern day Britain; in 2016 over 40,000 families were accepted as homeless by the DCLG[108] and yet according to the charity, Shelter, there are over 200,000 empty houses in our country[109].

Additional:

The above are all related to government policy in the suggested areas. What follows are further bad ideas, legislation and initiatives exemplify the Conservative’s approach to governance, that don’t necessarily fit in to a single government department.

When David Cameron stepped down in 2016, despite assuring the national he would not in an answer at PMQs to Richard Burgon’s question on the 9th March, he left a divided nation in tatters. His replacement won not a single vote to become Prime Minister or Conservative Party Leader. We are governed by a Prime Minister with no mandate from the people; an election should have been called there and then, not nearly a year down the line when the opinion polls look rosy to her think-tank acolytes. Opinion polls are used to shape the public mood, not reflect it by the way! It is worth briefly remembering what took place to bring these events about.

David Cameron, borrowing the clothes of UKIP, promised a referendum on UK membership of the EU as a manifesto commitment in 2015, that vote took place in 2016 and we are all aware of the outcome. In his Faustian pact with UKIP supporters, and with no little hubris, David Cameron was made to look a complete fool; believing he could play Machiavellian games with democracy and win. He must have known at the time that large chunks of his own party were anti-EU in the extreme and that the newspapers, so often in his corner, would be opposed on this particular issue. Yet onwards he trudged into the breach, Mail’s to the left of him, Expresses to the right and was blasted to pieces by his own arrogance. Theresa May has stepped in saying Brexit means Brexit; she’s given them colours and boiled statuses and is now pursuing our removal from the single market, the end to free movement of people and a severing of any residual ties through court or regulatory systems. That is not what people voted for, but it is the reason for this opportunistic election. She believes not in a stronger mandate for Brexit, but for more power to do what the Tories want after Brexit is done and dusted; and that means removal of employment protections, destruction of the human rights act, health and safety legislation torn up and a hundred other things that will be awful for working people, but great for slavedrivers and gangmasters up and down the country. And to call an election while a significant number of sitting Tory MPs may be being charged any day with electoral fraud is an absolute slap in the face to democracy[110].

Where do people go when they have bad bosses making their lives miserable or unsafe, or who find themselves in exploitative situations? They go to trade unions but we have already seen our unions crippled by the Trade Union Act. We already had the most draconian anti-union legislation in the developed world (outside the USA) and now it is even worse. Trade union legislation is the only area where Theresa May wants to see red tape expanding. Financially and administratively trade unions are tied in knots; it will be almost impossible to withdraw labour or picket for better terms and conditions, antediluvian voting practices remain intact, facility time is monitored and reported on, sequestration of funds is easier and all this equals a worse deal for the worker. There are six million trade union members in this country and they have been hit by this backward looking law, furthermore the removal of EU regulations will mean even bigger attacks on trade union members will be on their way. Ironically one of the strongest defences of trade unions came from the unelected second chamber, The House of Lords, of which the Tories have blocked reform since the year dot. To have drifted to the right of the landed gentry and noble peers of the realm is quite an achievement indeed.

The Conservatives have continued with their gerrymandering agenda too, making it easier for Tory MPs to be elected all around the country. They have blocked any reform of our anachronistic first past the post system, as it benefits them the most. In 2015 the Tories won a seat for every 34,244 voters who opted for the Conservatives, it took an average of 40,290 to win a Labour seat; that ratio is set to become more unfair after the boundary changes take effect[111]. Meanwhile the Green Party lodged 1.157million votes in 2015 but returned just one MP, Caroline Lucas[112]. She along with many other female MPs on opposition benches were outraged by the Tampon Tax; but it’s OK we are told, the money raised from it will go to women’s charities. Am I the only person who finds it appalling that a regressive tax on women’s essential medical needs are being used to pay for care after sexual violence that should be 100% government funded from the start? But again, why am I surprised when such vital services such as rape crisis centres are being cut back by this government so that 10,000 women waited over a year for specialist counselling, and thousands more could not access any support at all[113].

There are individual scandals such as Plebgate and “extra-curricular” relationships of ministers. Barring a few swipes at particularly egregious offenders I have tried to stay away from mocking the way Liz Truss says “pork markets” or any other such base satire. I must say though, I am frankly amazed this all didn’t come crashing down when we found out David Cameron may have stuck his walloper in a dead pig; that would have finished any Labour politician’s career and just goes to show it’s not only the Tories we are fighting, it is their buddies in the media, the judiciary and forces of law enforcement that we are up against. I hope this fully referenced piece of work goes some way to redressing the balance and I make no apologies for pointing out only the policy failures of the last seven years; the successes would make for a much shorter piece of work. All that remains to say is, vote Labour on June 8th.

[1] http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_national_debt_chart.html

[2] http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_national_spending_analysis

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/11/21/uk-borrowing-_n_4316084.html

[4] http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/01/conservatives-have-created-more-debt-than-all-labour-governments-combined-corbyn-tells-the-world/

[5] https://fullfact.org/economy/are-13000-millionaires-getting-100000-tax-cut/

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/21/theresa-may-to-offer-business-an-olive-branch-with-hint-of-futur/

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/apr/29/sweetheart-tax-deals

[8] http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2016/07/uk-real-wages-decline-10-severe-oecd-equal-greece/

[9] http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2016/11/no-bones-worst-real-earnings-decline-least-162-years/

[10] https://www.ft.com/content/e8b0639c-fcaa-11e5-b5f5-070dca6d0a0d

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/26/recession-rich-britains-wealthiest-double-net-worth-since-crisis

[12] http://www.computerworlduk.com/security/draft-investigatory-powers-bill-what-you-need-know-3629116/

[13] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/19/the-guardian-view-on-the-david-miranda-verdict-a-counterpunch-for-freedom

[14] http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/154353/PCC-Elections-Report.pdf

[15] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/02/inspectorate-police-engaging-dangerous-practices-austerity-cuts-diane-abbott

[16] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/may/16/theresa-may-heckled-police-conference

[17] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/portugal-decriminalised-drugs-14-years-ago-and-now-hardly-anyone-dies-from-overdosing-10301780.html

[18] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/27/uk-net-migration-rises-above-2010-level

[19] https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/statistics-net-migration-statistics

[20] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-eu-free-movement-not-reduce-immigration-house-of-lords-eu-home-affairs-sub-committee-a7612796.html

[21] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/sep/21/bahamas-leaks-reveal-amber-rudd-involvement-offshore-firms

[22] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/12/amber-rudd-speech-on-foreign-workers-recorded-as-hate-incident

[23] http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/38932500

[24] https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/03/amber-rudd-i-was-aristocracy-coordinator-on-four-weddings-and-a-funeral

[25] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/home-secretary-rules-out-inquiry-into-1984-battle-of-orgreave-between-miners-and-police-a7389151.html

[26] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16337904

[27] http://www.nhsforsale.info/database/impact-database/is-the-nhs-less-accountable/Sec-of-State-for-Health.html

[28] http://nhsforsale.info/uploads/images/contract_alert_feb_2016.pdf

[29] http://nhsforsale.info/private-providers.html

[30] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/13/193000-nhs-patients-a-month-waiting-beyond-target-for-surgery

[31] http://www.qualitywatch.org.uk/indicator/ae-waiting-times

[32] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/18/revealed-100000-wait-more-than-two-weeks-to-see-cancer-specialist

[33] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37657954

[34] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/25/police-britain-mental-health-cuts-crisis

[35] http://news.sky.com/story/extended-gp-waiting-times-pose-serious-risk-to-patients-10710722

[36] http://www.nowgp.com/blog/average-gp-waiting-times-two-weeks/

[37] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/20/nhs-breaking-point-now-norm-says-bma-bed-reductions-revealed/

[38] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/12/nursing-cuts-putting-nhs-patients-at-risk

[39] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36336830

[40] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/05/paramedics-save-lives-nhs-cuts-breaking-point

[41] https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2015/jun/12/nhs-staff-most-stressed-public-sector-workers-survey-finds

[42] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/doctors-strike-information-you-affected-7157038

[43] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/08/uk-workers-zero-hours-contracts-rise-tuc

[44] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/6800423/3-27042015-AP-EN.pdf/08a0ac51-c63d-44d0-ad29-248127fd01c3

[45] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/13/prosecutions-for-hate-crimes-against-disabled-people-surge-by-mo/

[46] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-fit-to-work-assessments-cost-more-than-they-save-report-reveals-a6801636.html

[47] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/oct/30/remploy-factories-close-disabled-workers

[48] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefit-cuts-disability-welfare-pip-adapted-vehicles-a7678926.html

[49] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/budget-2015-50-cuts-tory-led-5354805

[50] Ibid

[51] Ibid

[52] https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/work-poverty-hits-record-high-housing-crisis-fuels-insecurity

[53] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/apr/29/free-schools-ofsted-failure-rate-higher-state

[54] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38506305

[55] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/26/adult-education-funding-cuts

[56] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cuts-to-youth-services-will-lead-to-poverty-and-crime-say-unions-9659504.html

[57] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/02/sure-start-centres-300-closed-since-2010

[58] http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/PressPolicy/News/vw/1/ItemID/419

[59] https://weownit.org.uk/public-ownership/prisons

[60] Ibid

[61] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38756409

[62] https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur45/4936/2016/en/

[63] https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/feb/18/changes-to-legal-aid-for-domestic-violence-victims-ruled-invalid

[64] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigning-and-influencing/campaign-with-us/sos/

[65] https://www.unison.org.uk/news/press-release/2017/01/the-government-should-admit-employment-tribunal-fees-were-a-mistake-and-scrap-them-says-unison/

[66] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956

[67] http://www.artlyst.com/news/arts-council-england-reports-230m-decline-in-arts-funding-since-2010/

[68] https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/arts-council-cuts-funding-to-more-than-200-organisations.html

[69] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/01/bradford-museum-london-royal-photography-society-national-media-museum

[70] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/maria-miller-expenses-scandal-tory-3390892

[71] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/conservative-mps-expenses/10744703/Senior-David-Cameron-aide-threatened-Daily-Telegraph-over-Maria-Miller-expenses.html

[72] http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/so-did-london-2012-pass-the-olympic-test-8037290.html

[73] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/jeremy-hunt-health-secretary-junior-doctors-strike-most-controversial-moments-a7001471.html

[74] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/12/minister-john-whittingdale-admits-relationship-with-sex-worker/

[75] https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/james-cusick/real-whittingdale-scandal-cover-up-by-press

[76] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3486895/Come-clean-bank-bonus-scheme-Javid-told-Labour-Business-Secretary-accused-showing-contempt-taxpayers-deal-dodge-tax.html

[77] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jake-warren/remembrance-sunday_b_6146000.html

[78] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/27/forces-braced-cuts-defence-cash-squeeze/

[79] https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/if-cameron-wants-female-migrants-to-learn-english-why-did-he-cut-esol-funding/#

[80] https://www.fbu.org.uk/SOFS

[81] https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/local-government/key-issues/cuts-to-local-services/

[82] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/03/child-obesity-rising-again-nhs-report-reveals

[83] http://labourlist.org/2016/04/cuts-to-labour-councils-five-times-higher-new-research-finds/

[84] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/23/cabinet-ministers-councils-least-hit-budget-cuts

[85] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-39198308

[86] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Pickles

[87] http://www.rmt.org.uk/news/rmt-protests-on-last-day-of-east-coast-main-line/

[88] http://actionforrail.org/the-four-big-myths-of-uk-rail-privatisation/

[89] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/01/british-rail-franchises-foreign-owners-subsidy

[90] http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/new-research-half-local-authorities-withdrawing-buses-after-budgets-are-slashed-15-cent

[91] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35489514

[92] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/sep/06/free-bus-passes-under-threat-pensioners

[93] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/09/uk-will-miss-its-2020-renewable-energy-targets-warn-mps

[94] https://www.ft.com/content/50b05956-315f-11e5-91ac-a5e17d9b4cff

[95] https://www.ft.com/content/f031a582-e07f-11e5-8d9b-e88a2a889797

[96] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3200741/3200741/

[97] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/feb/22/energy-prices-energy-uk-bills

[98] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2015/feb/17/privatisation-uk-woodlands-happening-by-backdoor

[99] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130402151656/http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/isg/report/final_report.pdf

[100] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/green-party/12102239/Over-managed-grouse-moors-made-floods-worse-says-Green-party-leader-Natalie-Bennett.html

[101] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10661814/Flood-defence-cash-cut-by-250m-despite-PMs-claim.html

[102] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/02/tory-cuts-wrecking-uk-flood-defences

[103] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/27/homes-and-companies-should-be-built-on-flood-plains-despite-risks-says-panel

[104] http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_/why_we_campaign/housing_facts_and_figures/subsection?section=housing_supply

[105] https://fullfact.org/economy/brief-introduction-housing-issues/

[106] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/house-prices/the-state-of-the-uk-housing-market-in-five-charts/

[107] http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-2462753/How-items-cost-risen-line-house-prices.html

[108] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/homeless-rough-sleeping-figures-increase-rise-conservatives-housing-shelter-vertical-rush-a7550251.html

[109] http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_/why_we_campaign/housing_facts_and_figures/subsection?section=housing_supply

[110] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-election-fraud-prosecutions-cps-election-campaign-result-overturn-battle-bus-a7689801.html

[111] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/boundary-changes-tories-ruthless-gerrymandering

[112] https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/liam-anderson/voters-per-mp-why-first-past-post-failed

[113] http://www.sistersuncut.org/2016/02/04/sexual-violence-services-are-being-cut-itsnotok/

Trade Union Facility Time

Last week the Taxpayers’ Alliance published another withering attack on trade unions, on this occasion their ire was directed at the concept of facility time; this is the time off during work that a trade union rep or officer can take to complete their duties. The amount of time needed to complete those duties really depends on whether the employer in question is any good or not, since duties usually include representing members in some way. If an employer was perfect, in some imaginary world, facility time would be a thing of the past.

The Taxpayers Alliance, which is certainly an alliance, but not made up of taxpayers, often has a pop at trade unions when they’ve run out of other areas of workers’ protections at which to direct their anger. Facility time crops up ad infinitum in their documents, alongside publishing the wages of union officials (which is authorised by the membership), lobbying for the Trade Union Act to become law long before it was in its formative phase, which areas trade unions are strongest (and thus dangerous) etc. etc. – I want to use this blog post to explain why facility time is not only necessary but a force for good in the workplace but first I’d like to mention something about the Taxpayers Alliance and its structure.

The TA is the most perniciously named body in public life. It makes sure it operates just inside the “small company” tranche of employment law so it is exempt from… tax audits. Its funders are a mixture of Tory donors and shady businessmen including construction magnates (aka blacklisters) McAlpine and Bamford. We only know this because those people themselves have come forward – The “Who Funds You” project which aims to promote transparency in the funding of think tanks have labelled the TA less transparent than most other think tanks. Whoever it is that does fund the alliance, they have the cheek to claim TAX RELIEF on their own donations to the right-wing group. But then, that should no surprise given their non-executive director, Alexander Heath, has not paid any British taxes for years since he is self-exiled to the Loire Valley.

The TA show everything that is wrong with our current “churnalism” style of media – get the story out, and fact check it later when the damage is done and people have moved on to another scandal. TA Press Releases are treated as statements of fact; there is never any caveat about what the group is, for whom they work and the ulterior motives for their “research”; which is a smaller state, lower corporate taxes and less regulation on business. They are not an independent body and they represent a small clique of ideologues who lack the grace to even tell us who they are. The TUC on the other hand, which represents over 6 million paid-up individual British workers, is rarely given the platform to respond, and when they are it is with obvious contempt by the broadcaster in question, whoever it is, from BBC to Sky to Talk radio.

Now, on Facility Time, the TA often insinuate that trade unionists are given paid time off for all sorts of things, this is nonsense. There are very specific parameters to FT and they have to be covered with what are termed trade union “duties”, as opposed to trade union “activities”. Generally the difference can be summed up as duties being dealing directly with members and the employer on things such as pay, terms and conditions or grievance and discipline while activities are internal union matters such as branch meetings, union policy making, recruitment and campaigning. Some individual workplaces may have an agreement with the recognised union(s) that includes some activities in to their paid facility time, but this is a local issue and time off for duties only is the legal responsibility. A full list of what duties means can be found in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

Just as a quick aside to this as well; when the TA and other Tory related groups talk of “paid time off” they allude to trade unionists being paid to take time off; they are not paid anything. Being a trade unionist is a completely voluntary role (unless you are a paid officer and that money comes from union members), often involving high-stress situations and use of negotiating and mediating skills that will often be way above the pay grade the trade unionist is on. All it means is that the trade unionist isn’t losing what they would normally be earning while away on trade union duties – usually this is for a quick meeting with a member or HR representative, not for days or weeks at a time. While the trade unionist is away someone else is supposed to cover their work; this is rarely if ever done, so the work still needs to be done by that individual later on.

In 2007 a rare, but full, cost-benefit analysis of trade union facility time was done by what is now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The report stated that “the overall benefits from the funded provision of trade union facility time in the public sector will be a proportion of those – when updated – from the BERR report because this included both the public and private sectors. The working assumption used to divide the calculated accrued benefit is that of 60% – this being related to the proportion of union members to be found in the public sector…. In using this working assumption, it should also be borne in mind that the accrued benefits for the taxpayer relate to the entire workforce in the public sector and not just union members because of coverage of collective bargaining. Any ‘benefits’ of union representation are spread across the whole workforce, not just those in membership.”

The report also goes on to mention the following facts:

  • Dismissal rates were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps– this resulted in savings related to recruitment costs of £107m-£213m per annum
  • Voluntary exit rates were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps, which again resulted in savings related to recruitment costs of £72m-143m per annum
  • Employment tribunal cases are lower in unionised workplaces with union reps resulting in savings to government of £22m-43m per annum
  • Workplace-related injuries were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps so resulting in savings to employers of £126m-371m per annum
  • Workplace-related illnesses were lower in unionised workplaces with union reps so resulting in savings to employers of £45m-207m per annum

Essentially this equates to every £1 spent on facility time by employers (using even the dodgy analysis from the Taxpayers’ Alliance) equates to between £2 and £5 gained by the same employers. It is worth remembering also, that this report is 10 years old now so inflation dictates that these benefits have only increased over time. Also, benefits that cannot be quantified in areas such as increased productivity and working confidence are bound to have increased alongside the fiscal gains in unionised workplaces, both in the private and public spheres. Not to mention the amount of discipline and grievance cases that are dealt with early on thanks to efficient union representation, meaning less endless “he said, she said” cases for HR to deal with.

More recently the University of Leeds carried out research to point out the amount of work trade union reps do for which they are paid nothing amounts to over 250,000 hours, or £3.84m a week. Proper paid Facility time covers just 0.1% of weekly hours worked and the money spent on this by employers nationally equals just 0.07% of the national wage bill. Meanwhile workers education through the Union Learning Fund benefits employers with increased skills sets and creates an additional £895 million to employees in the form of enhanced life time earnings – this means higher tax returns for the Chancellor and a lower unemployment benefit bill as those unlucky enough to find themselves out of work, won’t be for long.

What groups like the Taxpayers Alliance’ really want, when you read between the lines of any of their output, is the destruction of the last bastion of defence for workers and their rights. Were it around 150 years ago the Taxpayers Alliance would have been publishing reports on the benefits of child labour, the 14 hour day, why days off were for the workshy, why workplace accidents were useful in keeping people on their toes and why deaths at work kept poor relief down – this is what work was like before trade unions. They don’t have workers’ interests at heart, and they certainly don’t have taxpayers at heart when you look at the contempt with which they hold the philosophy of taxation. Trade unions are a force for good; join one, before it’s too late, because we are only as strong as our members allow us to be.

The Left Must Change If It Is To Change The World

Those of us on the left have had real cause to do serious soul searching in recent months, and the past week in particular. The election of Donald Trump, although in a distant, and some might say crazy, land, reverberates across the Atlantic and on to our sceptred shores. I have been trying to think about what is happening in the world and why those of us who call ourselves progressives, are losing the battle for hearts and minds. Clearly it’s not an easy thing to work out and my own thoughts will barely scrape the surface, but for those interested; here they are.

Emotive messages

The left are terrible at emotive political messages. We think everyone will be of the mind to fact-check everything they read, listen to reasoned argument and come to a logical and critical conclusion. Most people don’t have the time, or the will to do this. I’ve read Phillippe Legrain’s book “Immigrants: Why Your Country Needs Them” – it sets out in great detail, empirically detailed as to why immigrants are on overwhelmingly good thing for every nation that accepts them, historically, presently and in the future if trends are to be trusted. It is a brilliant and perceptive piece of writing and incredibly hard to refute. So what do the political right do? They don’t refute it, they just don’t mention it at all. Instead they point at an area of high immigration and say that public services in this area are under strain – they don’t tell you how under strain they are in relation to neighbouring areas, they don’t tell you what level of strain was on them prior to recent immigration, they don’t tell you how local levels of funding have dropped despite an increase in users, they just explicitly say that there are more people here and not enough school places, correlation equals causation in their book – this is emotive, it works; people buy in to fear much more than they buy in to unity thanks to millennia of evolutionary protectionism. I’m not saying man is inherently selfish, but nor are we inherently self-less either and we will look to protect our own quicker than newer people we know less about. The facts of it are neither here nor there, it’s a gut reaction not a coherent one and the gut will win 99 times out of 100.

On the left we are too fact-based; pragmatic research, theory, statistics, peer-review, tables, graphs; it’s great and someone needs to do it to back up what should be, first and foremost an emotive response to hate. Every now and then we will hear a heart-warming story about how a community has got together to support an immigrant in their area who is facing an unjust deportation by the home office. His or her supporters aren’t natural left-wingers or progressives, not even political animals at all half the time, but they are moved to action by a story of common humanity. They didn’t look at how many people the home office sends back to war-torn or unsafe countries for the people in question, they just know the person they are trying to help is a nice person whom they respect and have to come to know. We need to be more like this when discussing mental health services, the NHS break-up and sale, immigration generally, benefits and welfare, our public services etc. etc. We can back up our argument with statistics but statistics in and of themselves never won an argument.

We need to be less shy about taking pages from the right-wing play-book, including attacking those who oppose us with vehemence. The right seem to have ownership of playing the man and not the ball; it’s unpleasant but plays well with the public. David Cameron was allowed to get away scot-free when he left his daughter in a pub, when he pretended to support two separate football teams and even when he was accused of shoving his tally-whacker in a dead pig. The left find it unsavoury to utilise such personal flaws, but do you think, if Jeremy Corbyn had made any one of these errors we would have been allowed to forget it so quickly? If a left-wing figure fails to wear a poppy in early November they are cast as enemy of the state right through to January – I’m afraid we must start using these sorts of tactics if we are to combat them in the longer term. Jeremy Corbyn may want a kinder, gentler politics but frankly he is clearly the only one who does.

In-fighting

I remember being in a bar in Leeds and listening to two people have a discussion about a seminar we’d all been on regarding the “future of the left”. The event was positive, filled with lots of messages of solidarity and unity; the two chaps stood at the bar in the Fenton pub were having a right old natter, until one of them hypothesised that Leon Trotsky in fact was not a true revolutionary, at which point his interlocutor slammed his glass down and stormed off; up until this point they had agreed on everything! It illustrated perfectly to me the problem with many people who are considered left wing that we would often prefer to fight potential friends than confirmed enemies, and usually over some random esoteric and marginal element of Marxist theory.

One only needs to look at the recent machinations within the labour party, which now seems to have more segments than a chocolate orange. Instead of uniting around a common goal, the party backbenchers appear to prefer attacking their party leader, front benchers and paty lay-members interchangeably. If not they turn their ire towards minor left wing groups such as the Socialist Worker Party. Similarly, trade unionists often reserve their strongest hatred not for bosses or HR managers, but members and reps of other unions, when the unifying goal of all unions should be the emancipation of the toiling classes. We must challenge this factionalism that has gone on for far too long on the left; there is far more that unites than divides us; in the US many Bernie Sanders supporters said they would vote for Trump because they felt Hillary Clinton stole the Primaries vote from their candidate – this is akin to being in a pub and asking for salt and vinegar crisps, the barman then hands you ready salted and instead of eating them anyway you set your face on fire.

Shutting down debate

The left have lost the art of debating. We no longer know how to win an argument without shouting down the person holding the opposing view. I hold my hands up here and admit that I have dismissed those who have disagreed with me in the past as either stupid or racists because I didn’t like what they were saying. It’s a short step from this to the “re-education” of high Maoism. How many of us have blocked a family member on social media, or given up a friendship because they have said something abhorrent on Facebook or Twitter? This is tragic and entirely the wrong response. If you don’t listen to their arguments, how can you expect to convince others that their way is something to be opposed, and if you don’t challenge hatred, how to expect to rid society of it? There are racists out there; bigots, fascists even, but even they will have their argument heard one way or another. Ignoring it, or no-platforming won’t make it go away.

There is a legitimate argument to say public service broadcasters shouldn’t be fuelling hate, and should be stronger in challenging the pedlars of spiteful stereotypes and lies, but dismissing anyone who disagrees with you is wrong on so many levels; and as we have seen with Trump does not work. We need to re-engage with oratory and push back the boundaries of acceptable discourse. If someone is telling lies about a particular minority to further their political career, don’t shout “arsehole” and walk away thinking you’ve told them what’s what; challenge it calmly and try to work out why they are saying what they are saying; talk to the people listening and tell them why you believe something different. MPs will tell you often that they encounter difficult viewpoints on the doorstep when they are campaigning, or in their surgeries. Once you get down to it, the person complaining about “Polish people coming over here” are really complaining about a lack of investment in their local services and a paucity of job opportunities for their kids. At face value it can sound unpleasant but there is usually a legitimate and burning concern that pushes people towards the politics of division.

Political correctness

When political correctness first reared its head it was a healthy, positive thing, and if nothing else it was funny watching the Conservatives being forced into articulating their inherent racism in to a more acceptable form of expression. However, it has now got to the stage where people are scared to say what they feel. Words such as “nigger” or “puff” remain unpleasant and broadly unacceptable outside of the realms of societal reclamation, however we have enabled those who would otherwise use such words to escape opprobrium via their skilled use of dialectic obfuscation. As a result the truly nefarious elements in our politics such as Nigel Farage can eschew the disdain of the many by hiding their true feelings. Prior to the age of political correctness the Farages and Le Pens would have had minority support from fellow racists because it would be clear from the beginning who their constituency was. Now instead of talking of black people they talk of “gangland thugs”; we all know what this means, but they didn’t use a bad word so it’s OK. Instead of Jews they talk of “global financial elite” – they can still get away with being directly derogatory about Muslims since every age has to have its go-to scapegoat. Lack of morals is usually far-right parlance for a critique of gay people. Political correctness only aids the agendas of the unpleasant – let everyone come out and say what they think, then we’ll see who has the public’s support.

Self congratulation

I go on demonstrations and marches from time to time about causes I feel strongly about. I write things such as this and watch other self-organised groups from a friendly distance who are protesting one such thing or other. The atmosphere after these things is a heady mix of adrenaline and confidence. It’s great to be surrounded by like-minded people and know that you’re not alone when protesting disability cuts or foreign policy for example. However we all go away then and think “we really showed them today, bloody government”, and we convince ourselves we’ve done something amazing. We didn’t begin a revolution, we didn’t bring down a corrupt leader, we just shouted, blew whistles and repeated some inane rhyming couplet behind a man with green hair because he happens to have brought a megaphone.

We have to stop this intellectual onanism and accept that such things don’t change anything in the short term, only continuous, concerted, inventive and wide-ranging pressure can change things. Every little victory – The Sun being removed from sale by a national news outlet, the government been found guilty of discriminatory practices are small, small beer. If you have one goal, you can win that specifically but don’t win and think society’s shitty edifice has suddenly been scrubbed clean. We will still wake up in the morning surrounded by the same little Englanders as before, they just might have to go somewhere else for their daily newspaper. Don’t spin our own victories like New Labour spun theirs; spin is the enemy of change and makes you search for success among the losses, makes you accept the intolerable and makes you blind to the achievements you could reach if you accepted defeat with more grace, and more determination.

On Labour, The Left and Anti-Semitism

The Conservatives, their press-pack satraps and the increasingly pathetic Blairite wing of the Labour Party are in the process of building and encouraging passengers aboard another bandwagon to try and discredit the Labour Party and its leadership. This time it centres around completely fabricated accusations of anti-Semitism insinuating that it comes from the leadership of the party and stretches down to affiliated groups and grass roots members. The latest in a string of attempts to label “the left” as anti-Semitic are the observations around Naz Shah’s no doubt ill-judged comments on “moving” Israel to the United States. Obviously such a proposal is unworkable, not least because when the USA had the opportunity to take extra European Jewish refugees prior to the Holocaust, they refused, despite evidence of increasing anti-Semitic policies being enacted by the Nazi party in Germany. If they didn’t want more Jewish people in their country at such an awful period, then the USA is hardly likely to take them now.

What is evidenced by the accusatory nature of the political right is that they, yet again, conflate Judaism with Israel, which does a disservice to both. Jewish people historically have benefited any society in which they entered. They have been generally and falsely mistrusted and yet have, again generally, remained a liberal and tolerant people associated with what is usually termed “the left”. Adolf Hitler equated Judaism with Bolshevism; certainly progressive thought has never been far from Jewish circles; see Red Vienna as an example. Israel however, has become a reactionary state governed on racial and xenophobic lines which is anti-something before it is pro-anything. The state discriminates against the displaced Palestinian refugees, and the Palestinian population within its own border. It refuses entry to people involved in the Palestinian struggle and is even now turning on Jewish people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. It is a nuclear state, which lied about its WMD programme while supporting, through business links and diplomatic ties,  Apartheid South Africa. Indeed, Desmond Tutu who knows a thing or two about discrimination labelled Israel as worse than South Africa was at the height of its Apartheid system.

If any Labour MP or member has said anything to insinuate that all Jews are typical of certain characteristics or responsible for the plight of a group of people or claims the Holocaust didn’t happen, they should absolutely be thrown out of the Party and frankly I would be in favour of prosecution for hate crimes. We remain one of the few European countries where it is still legal to claim the Holocaust was a hoax. If any Labour MP or member criticises Israel then it is a legitimate criticism of a nation state and its foreign and domestic policy. The whole point of being politically engaged is that you can be critical in your thinking and in your comments. Israel attracts criticism from across the political spectrum and particularly the left because progressive people naturally empathise with the disenfranchised, the destitute and downtrodden; namely the Palestinian people in this case.

Israel and its supporters have made hay in recent decades now with labelling anybody who disagrees with them as anti-Semitic. That accusation should retain real authority, it should be something that strikes fear in to the hearts of those who receive it. Instead, through overuse and misuse it has become a blunted barb that results in nothing more than a shrug. As Norman Finkelstein has identified it is Israel’s way of shutting down debate on its own behaviours. Disagree with someone’s comments – call them anti-Semitic and watch the press do the rest while you crack on with continuing illegal land-grabs and mass murder of civilians on an industrial scale.

There is a macabre humour to see who is first out of the blocks with any accusations of anti-Semitism of Labour Party figures. The Daily Mail never miss an opportunity; that’s the Daily Mail whose historic owners openly consorted with and supported Hitler and even published a front page declaring “Hurrah for the blackshirts”; Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists’ footsoldiers. The Tory Party obviously get in there, never mind that Zach Goldsmith is currently running an openly racist campaign to be London mayor, turning lifelong Tory Peter Oborne against him (but it’s racist against Muslims so that’s OK apparently) or that half of their MPs were fond of Hitler prior to World War II. Anti-Semitism is a right wing ideology, as are all ideologies related to nationalism via racism are. The Palestinian cause has and does attract people who have an ulterior motive, this much is true. They will join any cause they see as giving their hatred a legitimacy and these people should be rooted out.

However, we know the real reason this is now being focused on so vehemently by the press and the Tories; it’s about Jeremy Corbyn. It’s about the fear of a genuine socialist in opposition who has the common touch and asks the right questions for the majority of British people. It’s about stopping a new working class spirit that has come to dominate Labour politics over the last year that has the ruling classes running for their shields. It is standard right-wing operating procedure, they can’t play the ball so they play the man. Jeremy Corbyn’s arguments are coherent, rational and most crucially connect with voters; this is why he must be stopped, at any cost. Jeremy Corbyn has spent his entire life battling racism in all its heinous forms. It is a joke, a sick one, to try and tie him and any of the Labour Shadow-Cabinet to anti-Semitism. Collating Judaism with Israel is just plain wrong; there are many, many Jewish people who disagree with the policies of Israel, and the increasingly theocratic nature of the state it has become.

This madness must end, because one day someone will come along who is genuinely anti-Semitic and we won’t be able to separate it from the slur and slander that has gone before.

Why Politics Needs a New Romanticism

In 1798, in the first issue of Athenaeum, Friedrich Schlegel used a term for the first time to describe a movement that would go on to revolutionise literature, art, sculpture, music and the very cultural boundaries in which people lived. The term was Romanticism and was employed to describe the rejection of neo-classicism in the arts, which harked back to a Greco-Roman view of the world as factual, empiricist and formulaic, governed by rules enforced rigidly in the academic sphere and maintained by official patronage. Romanticism by contrast became associated with the senses, with emotions, the freedom of the imagination and expression, it valued the ugly and challenging on a par with the beautiful and serene. Delacroix, Constable, Turner, Shelley, Blake, Wordsworth and many more were able to invest themselves in their work, interpret their very being and project it on to canvas or page, to the general marvel of the viewer.

Today we live in an overwhelming political domain, assailed constantly by the thrum of current affairs, so keenly monitored that everything is codified and classified, focus grouped in microcosm and researched, peer reviewed and collected with an eye on future policy formulation. The empirical a posteriori way of thinking, so beloved of enlightenment thinkers such as Locke and Hume has been suffused into the body politic itself to the extent that there is no room for nuance and variety, no room for genuine radicalism and progressive intent. Regardless political parties at differing ends of the spectrum may sign up to different policies; the midwifery of their parturition are the same drawn out systemised techniques of governance that stultify emotive invention and deny a policy built firstly on empathy and understanding.

Politics needs a Romantic awakening to fully embrace the senses in creating policy that concern above all, people. We must remove the obsession with enumeration and see the lives that lay behind this or that strategy to compliment the more robust architecture of classical governance. Our political leaders can quote statistical anomalies constantly but are lost when it comes to connecting with people; little wonder so many of them look so uncomfortable and out-of-touch when placed in an “ordinary” situation such as a factory, a building site or dare I say it, eating a bacon sandwich.

Romanticism provides a framework for human identification and understanding, it gives the user the tools to interpret the world around them and apply what they have learned accordingly. It gives access to heroism and invention – surely Nye Bevan in his creation of the NHS, without perhaps realising it, was envisaging a Romantic ideal of government than championed the public above the wellbeing of the short-term State. The best creations come from those who can imagine, who can see the necessity of planning for multiple identities, who carry their souls with them in to the boardroom or Cabinet meeting and can invest their very selves in to what they say, and what they believe. Utilise the tools the information age can give, yes! But, in conjunction with the authenticity, integrity and inner truth of a forgotten cultural phenomenon. A revival of Romanticism in the political sphere could just be the political movement of the 21st century.