On this episode we talk about the wave of automation that’s about to take our jobs, Gideon’s spending cuts, immigration, Daesh, and new regular feature ‘Headline or Headlie’, where Brogan reads me headlines from real news and satire and I guess which is which (it’s surprisingly hard).
Unfortunately there was a problem with the recording from about one hour in, so you may want to skip forward by 10 minutes when it gets unbearable. We’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again in future.
“Immigration is economically positive, immigrants from the european economic area to the UK pay more in tax than they take in benefits and social services and are better educated” Link
“The Office for Budget Responsibility suggests higher net migration reduces pressure on government debt over time” Link
“In the uk, the period from 97 to 07 of high migration resulted in a substantial increase in overall employment and the highest growth in gdp per capita in the G7 without any significant negative impacts on the employment prospects of the native-born” Link 1 Link 2
“Open borders could potentially double world GDP, and could be the single best way to reduce poverty” Link openborders.info
Michael Flynn, former head of DIA on the US supporting ISIS
At the time of writing, it has been five and a half months since the nation woke up to a Tory majority in the House of Commons. Since then there have been riots, protests, name calling, egg throwing and Jeremy Corbyn. It’s been a busy summer, but we’ve finally come to rest in our allotted positions: the establishment on the right, the opposition on the left, with clowns and jokers left to fall where they may. It was all becoming so simple, so expected. Corbyn asks his questions, Cameron struggles to make himself heard over the laughter of his baying hyenas, and England finds itself merrily knocked out of another sporting competition. How completely and utterly dull. Until the House of Lords of all things started rearing its antediluvian head and forcing its way onto the front pages by defying the Tory government it is normally in such loyal service to.
For those of us who routinely forget the House of Lords exists, the tax credits vote was a surprising and confusing moment to process. An ancient, traditionally rightward-leaning body, a stalwart desert oasis of the mirage that is British democracy, doing something…good?
There can be no doubt that anything which puts the brakes on Osborne’s plan to skim £4.4 billion off his fabled deficit by stripping some of the country’s poorest working families of their tax credits is a good thing. Not only is his proposition cruel, underhanded and ethically bereft, it makes a mockery of everything the Conservatives claimed to stand for at the general election. Supporting hard workers; getting people back into jobs; the party of working Britain; the Tories who painted themselves as the nation’s security system are now breaking into our homes and robbing us blind while we’re out at the jobs they so badly wanted us in. Thankfully, the scheming has been waylaid for the time being, but as per usual it’s come at a price.
Which news item did you hear about this week – the fact that the NHS has been brought to its knees so severely that a third of UK GPs expect to quit in the next five years, or the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had help writing his Labour conference speech? The fact that the World Economic Forum has placed our ‘big picture’ economy 108th in the world table, below Haiti and Zimbabwe, or the proposal that Corbyn is a threat to what is claimed to be the fastest growing economy in the developed world? The fact that David Cameron’s government has been doing deals with human rights violator Saudi Arabia in secret, or that Corbyn borrowed a tie for Monday’s conference? Most likely, you heard the second story over the first in each case.
It’s obviously no accident: as we’ve highlighted before, the UK press predominantly supports the Conservatives, meaning news that reflects badly on David Cameron’s party isn’t as widely reported as that which affects Jeremy Corbyn’s. Increasingly, people are turning away from the mainstream media to alternative sources for their news, but not quite enough for the public opinion-at-large to change. The Tories wouldn’t have returned to power in 2015 otherwise, and the Labour party wouldn’t now be going through a crisis in search of lost votes. Unfortunately for fans of impartial news coverage, the right-wing control the conversation in this country. On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn made reference to that in his conference speech. Simply pointing out the bias against himself and his party, though, isn’t enough.
The Tories have reached 100 days in full control of HM Government, and it’s been a pretty terrifying time for anyone who cares about the future of this country and our planet. Cameron and co have been implementing policies left, right and centre – many of which were never in the manifesto – and moving at breakneck speed to sell off the last of our public assets and strip us of privacy and democratic power. They’ve dropped any remaining “Green crap”, and handed tax breaks to dirty energy, all the while blaming everything that’s going wrong on the desperate migrants at Calais and people struggling on poverty wages and benefits.
With so much objectively bad policy being implemented, respected individuals and groups are beginning to speak up. While experts and academics are often hesitant to speak out against the government, there comes a point where enough is enough, when the ruling party stands to tear our country apart at the seams. The question now, as Cameron’s Conservatives mark 100 ignominious days in power, is how long this government can even last. Continue reading
“I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride”; so said outgoing Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis yesterday, as he announced his post-referendum resignation with characteristic acerbic wit. Such blunt openness is chiefly why it’s Varoufakis, and not Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who’s been hogging the press attention as the crisis in Greece has unfolded. In just a short time, Varoufakis has made a huge impact in world politics and challenged the shaky status quo in Europe. Now apparent pressure from other European finance ministers and his own party has meant Varoufakis’s ministerial job will go to another.
Varoufakis’s resignation-with-a-push is no doubt in part down to his laissez-faire approach to life – saying what he likes about who he likes, or doesn’t, and pressing on with what he believes in even in the face of staunch opposition. Varoufakis is nothing like our finance minister in the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. In appearance alone they are strikingly dissimilar. Whereas Osborne’s an ill-fitted suit-and-tie man nervously holding a battered red briefcase, Varoufakis prefers leather jacket and t-shirt, looking every bit like the shaven-headed gym instructor to Osborne’s uptight, plastic-haired estate agent.
Predictably, in dealing with a politician slightly off-centre, the world’s media has presented Varoufakis as some kind of rock star, a motorcycle-riding rebel with a wife who inspires hit Pulp songs. It’s a distraction – Varoufakis may appear outwardly meme-worthy, but he’s been the real deal for Greece, negotiating tirelessly with a ruthless Europe over whether or not the country deserves a paddle whilst they’re up shit creek. George Osborne, in contrast, is the personification of cronyism in British politics, a long-time friend of the PM who found his way into the Conservative Party through an Oxford contact. One sweats over crucial meetings in Europe, the other can’t even stay tuned in for PMQs. If one appears to care too much, the other sometimes doesn’t appear to care at all.
Don’t you just hate it when you condemn a group of people for doing something you do yourself? The Tories certainly do. Last week we had not one but two such contradictions from senior Tory ministers.
Iain Duncan Smith – in the press recently for his hand in redefining child poverty in the face of rising figures and the upcoming £12bn cuts to welfare – has had his expenses credit card suspended for failing to prove the expenses were legitimate. Smith had his card blocked when he failed to repay the £1,057.28 of spending which he had not proved was genuine. This comes from a work and pensions secretary who previously backed giving benefits claimants prepaid cards to control what they can spend their money on. As usual with the Tories, one rule for them, and another for their constituents.
Meanwhile, the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, on Tuesday warned that children with homophobic views are more likely to become extremists. (Confusingly, when asked for traits that might indicate extreme views, Morgan replied, “Sadly, Isis are extremely intolerant of homosexuality.”) Perhaps opposing gay marriage would be a sure sign of homophobic views – however, this is exactly the position of Morgan herself, having voted against gay marriage in 2013.
With a party so full of hypocrites, seemingly contradicting itself on an almost daily basis, it’s sometimes difficult to understand what the government believes in and is trying to achieve. Whatever it is, you can be pretty sure it’s not something we need.
Featured Image: UK In Spain (via Flickr)
There have been some huge progressive successes around the world this past month – none of them, unfortunately, happened in the United Kingdom. Just this week it emerged that David Cameron planned to lower the threshold for what constitutes child poverty in Great Britain, while a US treasury official revealed that the UK had actually been hampering progress on tackling global tax avoidance. Such flagrant opposition to progress has not been uncommon of late; in the worldwide race to the future, Britain appears – following a brief pause on May 7th – to have begun actively running backwards.
Since the surprise Conservative majority win at last month’s election, proposals for radical change have come thick and fast. Just as the results of Portugal’s drugs programme show what a wild success decriminalisation can be, the UK bans legal highs (a characteristically ill-thought-out Cameron government policy that also technically makes tea illegal). As the United States opts to forego extending the NSA’s spying powers, the UK elects to expand its own. As Finland revolutionises education and embarks on a basic income experiment, the UK embraces ‘academisation’ and cuts welfare to the bone.
Back in February, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith sent a message out to subscribers of the Conservative party email, subject: ‘Benefits’. In it, Smith passionately reiterated one of this coalition government’s key aims; he wrote, “At the heart of our welfare reforms is a simple goal: to tackle the culture of welfare dependency that Labour allowed to develop. So we’re creating a system that helps people stand on their own two feet – restoring the incentive to work and ensuring that work always pays.”
This system Smith speaks of has proven to be a controversial one. There’ll be talk of economic recovery and a drop in unemployment in the run-up to next month’s general election, but one thing PM David Cameron and his Liberal deputy Nick Clegg won’t be telling you about is how the sick and disabled have fared under ConDem rule. Benefits have been sanctioned for near-comical reasons; firms under-qualified to assess whether the sick and disabled are fit for work have had their government contracts terminated early due to “significant quality failures”; and doctors have been pressured to change reports on claimants in order to meet targets.
The effects have been catastrophic – claimants have committed suicide, starved to death and died from health complications as a direct result of their benefits being sanctioned. Some of the most severely ill have even died as a result of being made to go to assessments they were physically unfit to attend. A 2011 report revealed 10,600 sick and disabled people died within six weeks of being declared ‘fit for work’ between January 2010 and January 2011. All this, even though the experts argue hardline measures actually make it harder for people to get into work. Consequently, last year, the UK became the first country to ever be investigated by the UN over disability rights violations.
I’m currently reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, a really enlightening read which stresses the urgency of the global warming problem, the reasons for the political stagnation we are experiencing and the potential solutions and opportunites. In part of the book Klein spells out what a bad idea hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is. Coupled with the news that a recent report on fracking has been censored, I felt the need to write to my MP Jane Ellison, the Conservative MP for Battersea, to express my concerns. Here’s the letter I wrote in full. If you want to write to your own MP, WriteToThem makes it easy.
There are certain politicians that make it really easy to make fun of modern politics. UKIP, for instance, on the whole continues to make UK politics seem like some absurd comedy; see, for example, the UKIP candidate that recently blamed painkillers for turning him into a horrible racist and homophobe, or the fact that the party is currently looking to take £1.5 million in EU funding to form a new pan-European political party that opposes the EU.
Today, though, we’re going to be focusing on the recent actions of Splash superstar and occasional Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt, and that’s for two reasons. First of all, as Mordaunt has publicly admitted that she approaches politics as some giggling schoolgirl that says “cock” in front of the headmaster for a bet, we feel it’s acceptable to write about her with the same kind of reverence she gives to her profession. Second of all and most importantly, despite being responsible for fire and emergencies, Mordaunt seems to have very little understanding of what it takes to be a firefighter.