Thursday, 23 July 2015

We shouldn’t let fear of a coup stop potential progress. Why we should all support Corbyn.

Over the last month or so I and many others on the left of politics have been really considering whether to join the Labour Party as supporters in order to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader. It is easy to see why this would be a serious consideration. Corbyn is anti austerity, anti-fracking, pro investment in renewable energy projects, anti trident and of course favours nationalisation of public services such as the Banks and the Railways.

So what should non-labour member do? Well I have heard different opinions being expressed. One being that as it is an internal Labour election, those of us not members of Labour should just leave them to it and see what happens and just build the anti-austerity movement outside Labour. I have also heard the argument that there isn’t a short term solution to getting progressive policies implemented and it is a ‘certainty’ that Corbyn will get ousted should he be elected leader so there is no point in supporting him anyway. I’ve even seen it suggested that if some of us join Labour to help make Corbyn leader, the inevitable coup from Labour MPs will discredit those of us on the left and keep the agenda of the Tories intact.

And on this potential coup, yes it is true that Corbyn barely scraped enough support by fellow Labour MPs to get on the ballot. Yes it is true that a lot of MPs that nominated him won’t vote for him. And if you believe certain Labour insider’s, there could well be a rebellion by right wing Labour MPs, who only need just over 40 MPs to take down their leader. Corbyn could then be gone in a matter of months and MPs could discredit him in the meantime by voting for some of the government’s policies. If Corbyn did win the leadership election, his role of Leader of the Opposition could be seriously undermined. These are serious issues that have rightly been looked at when deciding whether to throw our support behind Corbyn.

But even if there is a coup, why does that mean the left wing of the Labour Party will be discredited in the media and in the public’s eye? Yes the Murdoch press will gloat bigtime in the split and chaos of Labour and will vilify Corbyn as someone who can’t keep a unified opposition. However it could well be the case that the general public have sympathy with Corbyn and distrust and dislike those that bring him down undemocratically. And actually that could help political parties like the Greens become more popular and get grassroots Labour members, who have been frustrated and ignored for years by the leadership, to join,

Whatever the risks of Corbyn winning the Leadership contest are, you can’t just not do something because of the risks involved. Life is full of risks. At the general election I voted for the Green Party in a Tory/Labour marginal seat and was accused of splitting the vote and letting the Tories in. However, It didn’t happen. Labour won the seat. But if it had happened, I would not have regretted it because I knew that at the time the Green Party were the only party to offer a clear and coherent alternative to the Government. Now a Labour leader candidate is offering that, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to help build the anti-austerity movement. I want to see progressive policies put forward so the poorest and most vulnerable in our society can actually be helped. If that means I back a Labour candidate who advocates those policies, then so be it. There is too much at stake for the left to be tribal and split on this as we are on so many issues. 

He may not even win in the end, but he has certainly opened up the debate and got the anti-austerity message out into the mainstream media. And if he doesn’t win, I WON’T be supporting Labour at all. I’ve made that clear from the start of this. In the meantime, join me and many others in backing the only Labour candidate who is offering that alternative to the Conservatives we really need right now. #Jezwecan

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Osborne’s budget: If you’re young, you’re on your own!

Well it’s been over a week since Osborne’s budget and I know I’m probably repeating what others have said but I wanted to put my thoughts out there for what it’s worth.

So you can see I'm trying to be fair, I'll start with the positives. There are very few but I'll try my best. Raising the tax free allowance £12,000 and putting in law that the minimum wage should always be tax free. Sounds good when you think it about it, but why not raise the minimum wage to a living wage rather than just cut taxes. He also raised the 40% rate of tax to earnings over £43,000 and raised the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million. The problem with being a 'low tax' chancellor  is that even though you may increases peoples disposable incomes, you actually lower the tax revenues coming in, thus less money to spend on public services and therefore they could get worse as a result. Osborne also raised the minimum wage to a new 'national living wage' of £9 an hour by 2020. A step in the right direction but when you look at the fact that the current living wage in London is £9.15 an hour and £7.85 nationally and you take into account the cuts to tax credits , a lot of people are going to be worse off. Also why are under 25s excluded from this?

That was literally the most positive I could be about his budget. Now onto the really negative stuff. The threshold at which you can claim working tax credits has been reduced to yearlyearnings of £3850. Considering the chancellor is raising the minimum wage to £7.20 an hour and you have to work 16 hours a week to claim, he is essentially abolishing Working Tax Credits. You might think but he is raising the minimum wage to £7.20 an hour, why would they need them? Well unless people get a wage they can live on, i.e. an actual living wage, then they have to claim them. Some will argue that businesses won't be able to afford a living wage. Well big businesses absolutely can afford it. If small businesses can't afford it, you can either cut their taxes or you top up people's income with working tax credits so they have a wage they can live on. You don't cut tax credits and replace it with a paltry minimum wage.Not only are they cutting child and working tax credits, they are literally freezing the rate of all benefits barring disability benefits so essentially, given inflation, a lot of the poorest will be worse off. Some families could actually end up over a £1000 worse off a year as a result in the cuts to benefits.

Furthermore, the benefit cap is being lowered to £23,000 in London and £20,000 everywhere else. Despite what papers like the Daily Mail say, these benefits don’t go on flat screen TVs and lots of booze and fags. A lot of the Housing benefit bill in particular goes straight to private landlords that charge high rents. One of the ways you can get the Housing Benefit bill down fairly isn’t by punishing the claimant but by capping the rate of rents. It is so obvious.By the way just as a personal anecdote, when I was first started claiming JSA and Housing Benefit, even though I declared my rent to be £300 a month, as a result of the benefit cap, my housing benefit only reached £260 a month. It was only because of my JSA and the minimal earnings from my Saturday Job that I managed to scrape by every month. So imagine what it would be like if I needed that now?

Speaking of Housing Benefit, one of the cruellest, yet most expected measure in the budget was scrapping of Housing Benefit eligibility for 18-21 year olds. Apparently if you are that age you have to “earn or learn” and live at home with your parents. Now what if you can’t get a job or a place to study? Even if you can find a job, it is likely to be low paid. I mentioned earlier that under 25s aren’t entitled to the new national living wage and actually for years they haven’t been able to claim Working Tax Credits. So how will you afford to live on your own if you’re parents (if you have any) can’t afford to support you? The likely result is, that young people will made homeless or have to consistently move between different B&Bs. It shows how out of touch the chancellor is if he thinks that every adult between the ages of 18-21 can all afford to just live with their parents.

Another way the chancellor is screwing young people over is by removing maintenancegrants from poor students going to university from 2017 and basically saying they can only get loans out. There is no guarantee that what they would of got in a grant, they’ll get in a loan. All it will do is add to the burden of debt along with the tuition fees and basically make the debt they accrue at university unpayable, thus costing the taxpayer more in write-offs. So not only is it just harsh but it is also economically illiterate as well.

Going back to housing, apparently households with an income of more than £40,000 living in social or council housing will now have their rents upped to the “market rate”. So this could then force people to move out of their affordable housing and have to rent in the private sector where the rents remain uncapped. Of course social housing should only be for the poorest. Never mind having a more cohesive society that has the well off and the poorest living along side each other. No let’s just segregate people from different social classes even more. What could possibly go wrong? Take this with the selling off of “high value” Housing Association properties, you begin to wonder if the government has any plans to deal with the shortage of affordable housing at all? I’ll let you be the judge of that. 

There is much more in the budget to go over but I can’t go on forever and I’ve probably bored you by now but I’ll just quickly sum up. £37bn of cuts. £12bn in Welfare cuts and an extra £20bn in departmental budget cuts. Oh and only £5bn invested to deal with tax avoidance and evasion which will raise only £7.5bn over the course of the parliament despite Britain losing over £100bn in tax avoidance and evasionSo basically there are going to be more cuts in welfare than money raised from rich individuals or corporations not paying tax. Says it all really.

To lighten the mood after this rather angry rant, on next week’s blog there’ll be exclusive pictures of Greek Prime Minister Alex Tspiras literally bending and taking some good old 'financial discipline' from Angela Merkel. ;)