Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Are there Green red lines? - You bet, its time to fight the bedroom tax!

Since the general election in 2010 the Coalition government has been waging class war against the people of the UK. In his 'emergency' budget in 2010 Chancellor George Osborne inflicted £81 billion of austerity cuts on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country, including the low paid, the unemployed and disabled people. Women have been disproportionately hit by these cuts and 700,000 public sector workers have lost or will lose their jobs as a result. And all this after those very people helped to bail out the banks and financial capitalism with their hard earned taxes.

We are told that the purpose of the austerity cuts is to 'reduce the deficit' and save the economy. But that is a lie, and austerity hasn't reduced the deficit. The real aim of austerity is to use the economic crisis to destroy the welfare state, and privatize the NHS and public services for the benefit of capitalists and their corporations. Austerity is working, and working very well for the richest, who are gaining wealth whilst living standards for the rest of us have fallen. Austerity is class war. Those who have read the book 'The Shock Doctrine', by Naomi Klein, will know that, in times of crisis, capitalists and their tame politicians use the crisis to roll back the social and economic gains made by the 99% by imposing 'free' market 'policies' such as welfare cuts, privatisation and deregulation.

In the UK, the Coalition government has tried to deflect blame for the cuts by making councils impose them at a local level. Councils have already had to impose cuts but we are now at a stage where some of the most savage cuts in benefits are being introduced, including changes to council tax and the so-called 'bedroom tax', affecting the disabled, unemployed and low paid. I have always opposed all of the government's austerity cuts but now, as more and more people are becoming aware of the brutal nature of the cuts, we have reached a stage where it is possible to launch a real fightback and make the 'bedroom tax' into this government's poll tax

As far as the Green Party is concerned we have opposed the cuts from day one, and we showed in our 2010 manifesto how the crisis could be resolved without privatization or cutting public services. Our Green council in Brighton and Hove has worked hard to do its best for the local people in very difficult circumstances and has been supported by the Party. The question is - are there any red lines for our councillors? When do we reach a point where we can no longer impose austerity cuts on the poorest? The answer to that has to be now, with the advent of the 'bedroom tax' in a months time.

We need to resist the bedroom tax with all the peaceful democratic means at our disposal. We need to learn from the successes of UKUncut, by using protest action and direct action, including supporting victims of these benefit changes whom councils try to evict. We also need to look at all the measures that councils can use to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax, including the re-classification of rooms in social housing. Its heartening to see that a recent meeting of B&H Green Party passed a motion on the bedroom tax, supported by our MP Caroline Lucas, which stated:

"The Green Party of Brighton and Hove therefore resolves to:

   1. Publicly condemn the 'Bedroom Tax' as an ideologically-driven attack
   on the least well-off in our society.
   2. Request that the Convenor of the Green Group makes a clear public
   statement that no household will be evicted from a Brighton and Hove   City Council owned home as a result of rent arrears accrued solely as a result of this cut to Housing Benefit
   3. Request that the Chair of the council's Housing Committee instructs
   officers accordingly.
   4. Publicise this position, externally and in our own publications and

Its time for our councillors to grasp the nettle and lead the fight against this pernicious bedroom tax. If they fail to do so we will lose credibility as a Party nationally. Parties which support austerity get rightly punished by the electorate as recent elections in Europe have shown. As a Party, we have to make a breakthrough to make a real difference in UK politics. We can only do this by leading the resistance to further cuts and providing people in England and Wales with hope for the future with our positive alternatives to austerity.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The good news is that the Tories are making themselves unelectable

Have you been following the Eastleigh byelection? No, neither have I. Its hard to get exited about a straight fight between the Tories and their Coalition partners, the Lib Dems, even though it could have implications for the future of the current government. What eventually brought the contest to my attention was the antics of the Tory candidate Maria Hutchings. I live in the North of England but you can hear her knuckles scraping from up here.

Hutchings is a typical Tory candidate, someone who sounds and looks like she was buried in the 1950's and has just been dug up for the occasion. Like most Tories, fifty years and more of social progress has passed her by. She's anti-abortion, doesn't like gay marriage and thinks her son is too intelligent to go to a mere state school. She says that her son wants to be a surgeon, and if he succeeds, after the high-powered private education she has planned for him, he would be well advised to operate on his mother and remove the small particle of brain lodged in her skull.

I'm not a psephologist, and I don't look at opinion polls, but what I do know is that the Tories last won a general election in 1992. Cameron failed to win a majority in 2010, much to the ire of his backbenchers, but Cameron himself is far more popular than the Tory Party. Cameron didn't fail. What he did do was to give the Tories a chance of power by de-toxifying the brand of the nasty party sufficiently to enable them to win more seats than any other party. As I've said before, Cameron is a complete charlatan, a deeply reactionary Thatcherite toff, who manages somehow to con people that he is the bloke next door, rather than a fully paid-up member of the ruling class. 

But every cloud has a silver lining, and despite the fact that Cameron Osborne and co. are screwing our economy and waging class war against all but their own kind, what they are doing in the process is making the Tories even more unelectable than they were in 2010. They are in a very similar predicament to the Republicans in the USA. Making predictions in politics is a dangerous game but here we go; I predict that the Tories already have no chance of winning outright in 2015, and will not be the largest party; furthermore, they will never win another election in their own right unless they stop serving their own narrow class interests and wise-up to that fact that they are completely out of touch with the majority of the British people. The former being impossible of course. Nothing could be better for Britain than the demise of the Tory Party, a Party which has caused immense damage to this island and its people. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Bevan was right - it is essential we maintain universal benefits

Why on earth should we pay a winter fuel allowance of £250 to wealthy pensioners? At a time when we can barely afford to pay for benefits, if you believe the Coalition government, it just doesn't make any sense. Well the Coalition has got it wrong because it really does make perfect sense for the following reasons; if we want to maintain a decent system of social security, it must apply to all; furthermore the fact that universal benefits apply to all strengthens social solidarity, something which it is essential to maintain; then there is the cost of means testing, which is not only an expensive waste of money, but also deters people, particularly elderly people, from claiming the benefits they are entitled to.

In his recent Guardian article John Harris made the case for universal benefits, and he is absolutely right. As he said;
"Once again, we have to wearily go back to first principles. As the child benefit fiasco proves, means-testing and selectivity cost huge amounts of money and governmental effort. In stigmatising help and demanding engagement with a labyrinthine machine, selective benefits often fail to reach the people they are meant for (which is why over 25% of kids entitled to free school meals don't get them, and the means-testing of winter fuel payment would be dangerous)."
Some benefits, such as unemployment benefit - now stigmatised as 'Jobseekers Allowance' - which deliberately makes it sound like a hand out - will only ever apply to certain members of society for obvious reasons. But others such as child benefit must remain universal if they are going to be maintained at reasonable levels.

Of course conservatives would love to see the end of universal benefits. This is because they know that it would be so much easier then to further reduce the levels of benefits for the poorest in our society to pay for more tax cuts for the better off. Aneurin Bevan, the great Labour Party socialist, undertsood this very well and said;
"If benefits are restricted to the poor, they will end up being poor benefits."

Aneurin Bevan

Finally, one of the commenters on Jon Harris's article also summed it it up beautifully;
"The welfare state is a national insurance. You don't exclude some because they're too rich. It goes against the principle. Just as you don't exclude rich car drivers from claiming on their car insurance "because, Sir, you don't need it".'

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Why conservatives are the real enemies of freedom

Have you noticed how conservatives, both with a big and a small 'c', are always on about freedom and the importance of living in a 'free society'. Not only that but they are always sounding off about the enemies of freedom, and its not difficult to guess who those enemies are - socialists and trade unionists usually come top of the list. So it was with interest that I read Charles Moore's latest diatribe in the Telegraph. Tory cheerleader Moore has identified another one of the great enemies of freedom - equality! Not only is the promotion of equality for all a threat to 'freedom' but apparently the desire for more equality is a form of madness as this revealing quote shows:
"The doctrine of Equality is mad. Like extreme post-Reformation Protestantism, it perverts a good inclination and turns it into a lunatic theocracy." 
I'm sure that even on a good day Moore would be deeply perturbed by the idea of equality but what seems to have particularly upset him is David Cameron's attempt to bring in gay marriage. Apparently if gay people can get married that is a threat to the 'institution of marriage', which as every good person knows is a union between a man and a woman - only. But why so much angst? I could quote more from Moore's article including some pretty tortuous, cringe-worthy stuff about marriage being about procreation - something gays can't do! - but I'll spare you that.

Moore suffers from the same problem that all conservatives have - a morbid psychology in which it is essential to feel superior to other people at the expense of their freedom. In this case the freedom of all people to get married. That is why so many conservatives are racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that is why they loathe political correctness so much. For example, you see that white working class conservatives, even though they are shat upon by the likes of Moore and his class, can still feel good because they can sleep soundly at night knowing that, downtrodden as they are, they are still superior to gays, women and blacks. That is why the more extreme of them support the likes of the BNP. Take that away from them and what have they got - nothing! And that is also why so many 'middle class' conservative Americans hate Obama.

Equality is a terrifying concept for conservatives because they will no longer be better than others. No wonder Moore thinks the desire for equality is a form of madness. But there is one more important form of equality I need to mention. The one, that along with equality for people of all races, women, and gays, that socialists and trade unionists are fighting for - economic equality. This is the equality that conservatives fear most. That is why socialist and trade unionists are the enemy. Cameron and Osborne may be able to accept gay marriage, but economic equality, with workers obtaining the real value of the wealth they create, will never be acceptable to them. Economic equality would undermine the most important inequality in our class-ridden capitalist economy. That is the final frontier without which the ruling class would have nothing. They would then merely be the same as the rest of us.

The reality is that equality represents a huge threat to conservatives. Its something they really fear. It not only threatens their superiority to gays, but more fundamentally their self-serving class superiority. Its the grouse moors and London clubs, the yachts and apartments in Manhattan that are under threat from economic equality. That is what really scares them, the freedom that they have to inherit wealth and to be kept in the style to which they are accustomed, by the labours' of others. That is why they really mean when they talk about freedom, because its their freedom that counts, and they must hang on to that freedom at all costs, at the expense of freedom for the rest of us.