Iain Duncan Smith has resigned. The cuts to disability benefits which he approved are to be reversed++.
After 2138 days in office, after being directly implicated in more than 80 suicides, after more than 2380 people had died though Iain Duncan Smith’s system found them “fit for work”, while children go hungry and cold because of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit sanctions on lone parents, after a jump in the death rate for the elderly and infirm unprecedented since World War II, Iain Duncan Smith has finally resigned – claiming at length that he did so because the new disability cuts brought in by Wednesday’s budget were “indefensible”.
On Friday 11th September, David Cameron intended to launch Project Islington: a series of dirty-bomb attacks on Jeremy Corbyn based on weeks of research over the summer as the Tories realised to their horror that the backbench Labour MP from Islington North with all those dreary left-wing ideas might actually win.
Prime Ministerial staff have been trailing Corbyn round the country ever since the YouGov poll revealed on 22nd July that Corbyn had a solid lead over any of the three candidates the Tories would have preferred to be leading Labour today.
Unfortunately, Cameron was caught making a little quip about people from Yorkshire
“We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much.”
when he didn’t realise the mike was live, and what should have been a resounding speech denouncing Jeremy Corbyn became an amused discussion of Cameron’s loose lips.
From 7th April 2017, parents claiming child tax credit will be limited to claiming it for two children only. This is George Osborne’s latest flashy scheme for punishing low-income families in a pretence of “saving money”.
Liz Kendall openly supports this: Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper decline to oppose it (Cooper says she’ll “fight” it but that didn’t extend to voting against it in the Commons). They know that 50% of people who voted Labour in May 2015 support the two-child rule, and Burnham and Cooper aren’t about to try to stick their heads over the parapet and say it’s wrong to do so.
I wrote a few weeks ago why I think this policy is wrong, but this post is about the people who are blithely sure this won’t really affect children of low-income families, and why they haven’t thought it through.
What this policy is really for is to push the idea of the feckless poor, and especially, feckless women who have children without thinking of the consequences. (Iain Duncan Smith and his wife Betsy Fremantle have four children, but that’s OK, because Iain Duncan Smith has a huge salary and Betsy Fremantle is wealthy in her own right.)
One of the basics of civilisation is that children don’t have to suffer for their parents’ mistakes or inadequacies.
Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance,
Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community,
Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,
Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity…
A good welfare state is the culmination of civilisation. Whether a parent is able or willing, unable or unwilling, to earn enough to meet their child’s needs, the needs of all children should be adequately met. Otherwise we are not civilised.
“One clue that the leader of Greece gives no f$$cks about his country defaulting: not wearing a tie as he addresses his government.” Rob Lowe, on Twitter, 29th June 2015.
Rob Lowe is an actor. Sam Seaborn is a character on the West Wing who played a lawyer who was also a Deputy Communications Director in President Bartlett’s White House.
No one expects someone whose education began and ended in a US high school to understand or think or even care very much about the Greek and EU economy. But even so, Rob Lowe’s assertion that it’s all to do with Alexis Tsipras’s failure to wear the correct gentleman’s haberdashery must be in the running for Silliest Comment Made.
“We wear sweaters. It’s a Tommy Hilfiger ad.”
However, Owen Jones’s riposte was … not good.
My wife tried to cheer me up after the election: “But at least it will be interesting!”
Indeed, in the past ten days, it’s been almost too interesting.
No wonder there has been so much social media focus on the Scottish Labour leadership, on the next UK Labour leader, heartsearching and complaint about why Labour lost, exposure of the various amusing and not so amusing problems UKIP and their funders are having – these are small, manageable problems while George Osborne announces that far from the UK economy having improved vastly under Conservative governance, things are so dire that there must be an Emergency Budget and £12bn in cuts and even more unemployment – and refugees from Syria are still drowning in the Mediterranean, all according to Conservative party policy, which finds the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms fundamentally objectionable.
The American science-fiction writer C.J. Cherryh said, in “Strong Characters versus Weak Characters”
Villains can also be ‘morally weak’ characters, meaning retiring, retreating, immoral, refusing to engage and committing their heinous acts by neglect or sloth or stupidity or greed. ‘Well-drawn,’ but ‘morally weak.’ The author’s literary dilemma is that it is difficult to show how such a retiring person ever got into a position to be a threat. Real life shows us, however, that it isn’t at all unlikely for such ‘morally weak’ persons to get into positions of authority.
In fact, real life shows us that ‘morally weak’ villains may be more common than ‘morally strong’ ones, and that they’re numerous enough to deal the death of a thousand cuts in say, the procedures of an uncaring bureaucracy. But in a book, to challenge a ‘morally strong’ hero using only ‘morally weak’ villains means that there has to be some natural advantage handed the villains at the outset and that the source of the advantage has to be accounted for in order to ‘play fair’ in dramatic terms.
Five more years of morally weak villains. Five years of “interesting times”. My goal was never more than to write one blog a day: it seems almost both too much and too little.
Let us go forward together in kindness and honesty: we’ll get little enough of either from our government.
I know that sounds like a silly question.
Back a couple of years ago, one of the ideas being proposed about the referendum was that it should include a third option – devo-max or devo-plus. In July 2012 I noted the multiple reasons why – though undecided on the Yes/No question – I was against these options, and moved on: there seemed no reason to dwell on what was not going to be voted on.
Tom Gordon outlined the difference between the two, and who was supporting them, in the Herald:
Devo-plus was supported by LibDem Tavish Scott, Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson and Labour’s Duncan McNeil plus Reform Scotland, a think-tank based in Edinburgh that is, it says, independent of its parent think-tank Reform based in London:
devo plus could be a credible alternative to independence, if that option was rejected in the referendum.
Devo-max was floated as “full fiscal autonomy” and was supported primarily by the SNP:
Devo Max is intended to make Scotland more accountable for its spending. At present, Holyrood is responsible for 60% of all public spending in Scotland but has a say in setting and raising just 6% of it, through business rates and council tax.
Under Devo Max, Edinburgh would be responsible for raising, collecting, and administering the vast majority of taxes and benefits, and would receive a geographic share of North Sea oil revenue. EU rules mean VAT would stay the same across the UK, and financial regulation, employment, and competition law would also remain reserved.”
When the SNP transited smoothly from “we’ll use to the Euro” to “we’ll use the pound” that was a campaign tactic.
When the Tories, LibDems, and Labour all bounced to their feet and said ha ha, we won’t let you use the pound, that was a campaign tactic.
I do not believe either the Yes Scotland or the Better Together campaigns have really thought this through: or at least, they are certainly not making a fact-based argument based on having thought this through.
Ian Bell writes in the Herald:
“Hardball” is the macho cliche being applied to the Chancellor’s fiat towards a currency union. Despite its protestations, Mr Darling’s team pursues the kind of negative campaigning that never goes out of style in Westminster. No compunction is involved. The referendum must be won at all costs. But what might that cost be, exactly, if the prize is a united kingdom in the aftermath?
George Osborne says the Treasury won’t permit Scotland to use the UK pound, supposing Scotland votes for independence. In May 2015 – regardless of how Scotland votes in September – Osborne’s reign as least-qualified British Chancellor since the one who forgot his budget speech in 1869 comes to an end, so his pronouncements are necessarily limited to campaigning for a Yes vote.
(What? There was another reason for his coming up to Scotland? Seriously, does anyone think a very posh, very English Tory Minister telling Scots what they can and cannot do is likely to be anything but a drawback for the Better Together campaign?)
Quite possibly the worst result for 18th September would be for fewer than 50% of the electorate to vote, but for Yes to win by a narrow margin. The more Conservative Ministers moved to join the debate the better in that regard.
The currency debate is a pure waste of time.
The SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.
So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.
To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.