As I noted in The Ideology of Workfare, the ultimate goal of the cheap-work conservatives in Westminster is to roll us back to 1834, the year of the workhouse.
But as Cameron says:
Today marks an historic step in the biggest welfare revolution in over 60 years.
What is he talking about is rolling back the welfare state, put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945, founded on the principles outlined by William Beveridge, the British economist who wrote Social Insurance and Allied Services, widely known as the Beveridge Report. Cameron is once again raising the giants of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness – which rightly he describes as a “historic step”.
My government has taken bold action to make work pay, while protecting the vulnerable.
David Cameron’s “bold action” was to institute a system by which high street stores and other commercial organisations can get employees who will work for nothing, Continue reading
At a table somewhere in Hypothetical Stories, there’s Dolly from Tunbridge Wells, who reads the Daily Mail and works 35 hours a week for £7 an hour and an evening job on top of that just to get by. And there’s Molly on ESA who’s been registered with WRAG as fit for work, even though she’s waiting on a heart operation. And there’s Polly from Wirral, who graduated from college last year and still hasn’t been able to find a job. There’s a plate with 12 biscuits on the table. Esther McVey and Chris Grayling sit down at the table. McVey picks up the plate and hands it to Chris, who takes 11 biscuits and gives a couple to Esther. And then Esther says to Dolly, “Watch out for the other two, they both want your biscuit,” and Chris nods and says “They’re SWP members – if they weren’t making such a fuss, there’d be more biscuits for everyone.”
David Cameron held a conference at the House of Commons this past Friday to tell Conservative MPs that from now on they had to prepare for the next General Election:
“Cameron told his colleagues they were in a ‘full-time campaign’ to win over the public. Continue reading
Esther McVey popped up on Twitter today in passionate defense of workfare. She’s been the Conservative MP for Wirral West since May 2010. As their MP, she’s supposed to represent her constituents.
In the constituencies of Wirral South and Wirral West, long-term youth unemployment rose by 100% last year.
Job seeking conditions are equally as dire for the over-50s: in Wirral South, long-term unemployment in this category was double the national average, and in Birkenhead it was nearly three times at 66.7%. (Letter to Wirral Globe, 14th February 2012)
But McVey is also the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chris Grayling as Minister of State for Employment. So while not getting a minister’s salary, she’s bound by the Ministerial Code in some respects.
Sarah Woollaston writes about her decision to refuse a post as PPS:
When I was asked if I would like to become a minister’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS), it sounded like a promotion – until I looked at the job description. It is in fact something of a Faustian pact: in return for the vague illusion of having the minister’s ear, I would have had to resign from the health select committee, agree to never speak on health matters and to always vote with the government. It turns out that about 150 out of 364 coalition MPs are on the so-called “payroll vote”, meaning that because of positions they hold, they have agreed to always vote with the government. Included among those 150 are around 45 who work as a PPS.
How could I justify taking such a role to my constituents in Totnes? How could I have looked them in the eye Continue reading
Chris Grayling makes large claims for his workfare schemes:
There is a work experience scheme, it’s voluntary. If you are a young person looking for work, the Job Centre Plus advisor will talk to you about which area you might be interested in going and working in. Let’s suppose you want to go and work in the care sector, they’ll find you a work experience placement in the care sector, you’ll go and meet the employer, if you’re both happy with that and the employer is willing to take you, then you’ll start the placement. You’ve got a week to change your mind… (Transcript: Grayling on work experience – Today this morning)
This idea of what workfare is like doesn’t seem to be borne out by anyone with actual experience of it. LatentExistence outlines the lies in depth (and it was noticeable that Ed Vaizey on last night’s Question Time appeared to have the government line down pat but to know so little beyond that, that even the Tunbridge Wells audience was amused).
On 9th February, Tesco in East Anglia posted a job on the DirectGov JobCentrePlus website, looking for someone on JSA to work the night shift. On 3rd March, there’s a National Day of Action against workfare.
The basic details (should you wish to apply) are
Job No: BSD/27442; Hours: TBC; Location: EAST ANGLIA IP32 (this is the 24-hour superstore at Bury St Edmunds). Duration: Permanent. Pension details: No details held. Description: Interviews as part of SBWA, dates and times to be arranged by the store. Contact Amanda Evans at Tesco.
Tesco will pay you nothing if you apply, Continue reading
Minimum wage: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.
In the UK, if you are over 21, your employer must pay you a minimum wage of at least £6.08 per hour. If you are aged 18-20, your employer must pay you at least £4.98 per hour. If you are 16 or 17, the legal minimum is £3.68. And apprentice wages were lowered still further in October last year, to £2.60 per hour for all apprentices under 19 and all first-year apprentices regardless of age.
None of this now applies to people who are 16-24 and claiming JSA. They can now be made to provide 30 hours work a week for a month at a time, for what amounts to a wage of £1.76 per hour. This wage is not paid by their employers: it is provided by the government. The employers get paid by the government to “accept” this free labour.
I joined the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union in 1999, after some discussion with an adviser at the STUC about which union was more appropriate for my line of work. MSF got folded into Amicus and Amicus into UNITE, so I’m now a UNITE member. But I could easily have decided to join the Communication Workers Union in 1999. And it appalls me that any union would, on any justification, agree to endorse a policy of bringing in unpaid labour for weeks at a time.
Yet that’s just what CWU have done, adopting the corporate line that workfare is a “work experience programme”.
Bear Stearns was founded in 1923, but although Paula Daly’s Mouse to Minx sells vintage fashion of that era, quite probably when the 85-year-old bank went under on 6th March 2008, Paula Daly didn’t notice – between running her own small business and being a successful self-employed communications and marketing consultant, she says “Life was exhausting, and not without its stresses, but good.”
But in the US the collapse of Bear Stearns is seen as the beginning of the financial crisis of 2008, while in the UK, we date it from the collapse of Northern Rock, three weeks earlier. Both Northern Rock and Bear Stearns had become heavily involved in the sub-prime mortgages: Northern Rock’s business plan was to borrow heavily, extend mortgages based on the loans, and then re-sell these mortgages on international capital markets. This is known as “securitisation”.
Who got the idea for this risky business? In the UK, John Ritblat, former British Land chairman (described as “a charming old rogue, a bit of an old-fashioned spiv” by someone who likes him)
takes much of the credit for the revolution in property financing that has occurred over the past two decades. The industry used to be financed with fixed-rate borrowings secured on the property portfolio, but he pioneered techniques like securitisation of assets which, he believes, has transformed the industry into one financed by long-term, unsecured, borrowings. (The Observer, Sunday 16 July 2006)
Ritblat retired just over a year before August 2007, when Northern Rock first began to feel the chill. A self-confessed workaholic, he evidently knew the right time to retire from the “securitisation” business he pioneered – with an estimated net worth of £100m.
Once the fifth-largest investment bank in the United States, Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008 under the weight of toxic hedge fund accounts backed heavily by subprime mortgages. The company was quickly sold to J.P. MorganChase (another financial giant and OpenSecrets.org Heavy Hitter) but the bank’s spectacular fall — and the federal government’s failure to stop it — is now seen as the first wave of the epic financial meltdown that created the global recession of 2008 and 2009. (Open Secrets)
I used to vote Labour consistently. I’ve never voted SNP. I believe in devolution, not independence.
I wrote a detailed takedown of one particular Labour MP, Douglas Alexander, who quite evidently has more loyalty to his party than to any left-wing principles, but this is a general complaint: where are the Labour MPs who are willing to show they stand for something other than just the status of being an MP?
Sixty-four years earlier Aneurin Bevan said:
Referring to Mr. Churchill’s “set-the-people-free” speech, Mr. Bevan said that the result of the free-for-all preferred by Churchill would have been cinemas, mansions, hotels, and theatres going up, but no houses for the poor. “in 1945 and 1946,” he said, “we were attacked on our housing policy by every spiv in the country – for what is Toryism, except organized spivery? They wanted to let the spivs loose.” As a result of controls, the well-to-do had not been able to build houses, but ordinary men and women were moving into their own homes. Progress could not be made without pain, and the important thing was to make the right people suffer the pain.
MPs need to be able to do their jobs.
They get paid a very substantial salary – even if the MP is the only employed adult in the household, even if they have four children under 13 and a huge council tax bill, £64K still puts them into the top 20%. They can well afford to pay for their own meals: subsistence allowance should not be payable.
Have some experience of something other than political work. All parties should have a basic guideline: to pass for selection, a prospective candidate has to have spent a minimum of five years since they left full-time education doing something that has no direct connection with party political work.
Not that this will necessarily save us from the likes of Iain Duncan Smith or Chris Grayling. But right now the most direct way for someone who wants to become an MP someday to get there is to head into party politics as soon after leaving Oxbridge as they can. Oh yeah, and getting to go to Oxbridge also helps.
So herewith my seven-point plan for fixing the gravy train that is MP expenses… by the same means used for years to ensure that a person receiving an unemployment benefit or a work perk in a normal job doesn’t use it as a gravy train.
Iain Duncan Smith, today:
“The question I’d ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford? It’s not a kindness. I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this. Where is the bishops’ concern for them?”
The Welfare Reform Bill will cap the total benefit – including child benefit – any family can receive in any one year to £26,000.
Iain Duncan Smith says (BBC, 18th January) that those who have savings of more than £16,000 would be expected to “dip into” their own money to support themselves after a year, as taxpayers needed to know that state support for those with a certain level of income was not “open-ended”. Iain Duncan Smith’s personal fortune is estimated at £1m.