Gulf between UK rich and poor and does anyone speak for the poor anymore?

The generally widening gap between the rich and the poor (the haves and the have nothings) in the UK has been a worrying issue for many years now, but just take a moment to read the document accessible via the link below from the Institute for Fiscal Studies:-

www.ifs.org.uk/publications/9539

I think you’ll agree that this is a matter which is deeply worrying and one that is seemingly out of control; its a gulf between the richest and poorest in our society not a gap. And no amount of comforting ourselves by be being mid-range in the international comparators of such matters is any good either as we complacently slip further down the league.

Soon after I read the IFS report (and actually by coincidence) I also became aware of a very recent report from the Rowntree Trust which raises concerns about the poorest in our society increasingly feeling that no political party speaks for them any more. This has been an issue on my mind for a long time now.

Yes, of course Labour traditionally spoke for the poor but I bet I’m not the only one who has gained the impression in recent years that this is something it would rather not do any longer. Under Miliband we started to hear his people saying things along the lines of ‘we represent working people’, whilst they joined in the Tory attack on those needing to rely on welfare/benefits. And the line has not really changed much under Corbyn as significantly Labour did not pledge to reverse many of the working-age Conservative welfare cuts at the last election. What’s more Labour is fully behind Brexit and it’s the poor who will suffer the most from that act of national madness.

Of course the reason politicians don’t really want to represent the poorest in our society is that often the poor don’t actually vote. The cynical political managers and strategists, who of course run our political parties, simply point this out to those seeking high office and the effect is clear. The politicians then either ignore the poor or even attack them for relying on welfare because that’s a message the tax paying people who do vote have been trained to want to hear.

My own party has a preamble to its constitution which says this:-

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Unsurprisingly as a Liberal I agree with the statement but can the Lib Dems hand on heart really say that campaigning to improve the lot of people being ‘enslaved by poverty’ has been a top priority in recent times? Having said that Tim Farron the last Lib Dem Leader clearly did get it to give him his due.

Yes we went into the last election pledging to address poverty and the causes of it and our pledges probably went further than Labour’s, but should we not have gone further again? The Lib Dems said they would reverse cuts to child tax credit and the plan to freeze most benefit rates for example but despite railing against Tory welfare cuts over the years, Labour did not plan to reverse most planned cuts to working-age benefits.

But, few of the poor voted for what the Lib Dems were proposing, even though to have done so may have been to their advantage from what was on offer across the political parties. Then again they probably didn’t vote for any of the main political parties, if indeed they even voted at all.

Yes I know this latter argument virtually justifies the positioning of the political managers but it is still a sad reflection on our broken society in my view.

So we have a society where the rich have become bloated whilst the poor have to keep tightening their belts. What’s more we have an underclass of poor people whom the major political parties have all but abandoned. Could you think of a greater reason for us to be concerned about civil unrest never mind that we should be utterly ashamed of the state we are in.

By the way the objective of many politicians is to keep those in the middle on side because if they get upset politicians lose seats. So if our economy is being run to keep those in the middle and above happy you also have to feed that large group propaganda to ensure they resent welfare payments to the poor and the press step in to provide that propaganda of course.

Oh and as a slight aside, with talk of a rise in interest rates just think who will benefit from that. It certainly will not be the poor so take a look at this piece in the Guardian from Polly

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/31/taxes-interest-rates-mark-carney

With thanks to Roy Connell for his contribution to this posting.

Proportional Representation? Well Electoral reform of some kind seems to be on more people’s cards than before

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cross-party-alliance-draws-up-plan-to-secure-proportional-representation-by-2021-a6853811.html

The Independent has the story – see link above

I must admit that I felt that electoral reform had been killed off for at least a generation when in the 2011 referendum British voters voted 2 to 1 to keep our wholly unrepresentative first past the post voting system. Indeed, I thought the referendum itself was a bad move as the result, at that time, was always a forgone conclusion. Sadly, this was another misjudgement from Nick Clegg who could not get his head around the fact that once he U-turned over Tuition Fees nothing else he headed up (in this case electoral reform) stood a chance of ever being approved by UK electors.

But then the 2015 election threw up one of the most unrepresentative results in living memory with a Tory Government that over 63% of the electorate voted against. All of a sudden other parties found the electoral system was rather unrepresentative! I wonder how many of their members voted against electoral reform or ignored the referendum in 2011 but now want to see it happen?

Labour have always been against electoral reform although to give him his due their last leader, Ed Miliband, does support it. Labour’s problem is that in inner city seats our warped first past the post system always gets Labour MP’s elected just like it helps get Tories elected in the leafy suburbs and countryside seats. However, Labour can’t now win a majority of seats without taking many of those areas where the Tories usually win; even more so now the Tories are gerrymandered the system in their favour for the 2020 election and beyond. So what will Labour do? Oppose electoral reform and settle back to be an opposition party for at least 2 generations or smell the coffee and embrace fair votes?

Vested interests in the Tory and Labour parties will oppose electoral reform until their last breath so it’s a tough ask indeed. Or look at it this way can you imagine the Bootle Labour Party backing electoral reform before hell freezes over?

Corbyn – A Liberal writes

It’s time to welcome the Labour Party back to what it should be, a socialist party. For far too many years it has looked and felt like a Tory Party MK11 otherwise known as the Red Tories.

I am not a socialist and am certainly not in any way a supporter of the Labour Party yet I am strangely pleased that it has seemingly gone back to its roots. In recent years I have seen Labour at a local level opposing every measure of austerity yet at a national level doing the exact opposite as the likes of Rachel Reeves attacked the welfare system in ways I found appalling. So here is an opportunity to make Labour honest as opposed to off to the left locally and off to the right nationally.

The election was an odd affair where Labour seemed hell bent on doing itself as much damage as possible. 3 candidates from Labour’s right wing – all far to far to the right for me – and one of the socialist tradition.

Burnham was the worst of the lot for me as he seemed to put himself forward as a person who stood for whatever voters wanted of him. Would it be unkind to say he looked every inch a popularist? Oddly, I represented Aintree, where Burnham hails from, on Sefton Council for a dozen years.

For all Corbyn’s faults and I suspect there are many he came over as the best available candidate despite Labour’s big guns doing all they could to hole him below the waterline. But the more they attacked him from the right the stronger his support grew from the left.

Of course he is an unlikely Prime Minister but so was Miliband. Will Labour win in 2020? Very, very unlikely but that was always going to be the case no matter who became their Leader. Trouble is Labour’s right wing are seeking to blame Corbyn already for his not winning in 2020 in the hope they can destabelise his leadership sooner rather later.

The big challenge for Labour now though is electoral reform which they have in the many always resisted as it was not in their narrow political interests. Yes, Labour has to embrace PR but that’s a big ask for the old Labour war horses; yet even that old prize fighter John Prescot seems up for it.

We now have a obviously Liberal Lib Dem Party under Tim (a bit of a leftie) Farron as opposed to a party of the middle ground as it had become since Charles Kennedy stepped down as leader. And it seems we have what could turn out to be socialist party in Labour under Corbyn. Yet the Tories remain an odd conundrum. Cameron is firmly a prisoner of the right and UKIP and looks a poor leader these days constantly being blown by the wind. Will the Tories go further right under Osborne or popularist under Boris when Cameron hangs up his hat or is advised to sling his hook?

I have the feeling that Farron and Corbyn may well shape a new way forward for the left but of course we on the left will never agree – we never have – and that’s why the Tories do so well.

Labour – Looks like they will train crash the economy again if they get back in the driving seat!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/general-election-2015-steve-rotheram-9034382

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

The big problem with Labour’s manifesto launch is that it reminds me of New Labour’s days under Blair and Brown – spending up but how’s it going to be paid for with all the guarantees of no tax rises? If people like Rachel Reeves and Harriet Harman are to be listened to could it be on the backs of the poor via huge welfare cuts? Both seem to me to be advocating bigger welfare cuts than the Tories have made so far.

And what about the NHS? Labour have still not guaranteed the £8b that it needs and which the Lib Dems and even, somewhat belatedly, the Tories have put on the table. Having said that the Tories pledge is uncosted so only the Lib Dems have a genuine response to the NHS needs.

Sadly, Labour are looking like the masters of spin that they were when last in government; little substance but a lot of spin. Trouble is they could well crash the economy with uncosted spending and they have already had a go at that hence the mess that we are in now.

Tuition Fees – It’s Labour that’s now in the dock

google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwkI2coBI

A touchy subject this, which certainly tripped up the Lib Dems, but now a firm Labour supporter adds his concerns to those of an independent stance in slamming Ed Miliband’s ill-thought out policy that will suit richer students but at the expense of poorer ones. The link above to the New Statesman’s blog refers.

A LABOUR GOVERNMENT WOULD MEAN EVEN MORE COUNCIL SPENDING CUTS WARN LIB DEMS

In advance of this evening’s Sefton Council budget meeting at Bootle Town Hall, Lib Dem leader councillor Iain Brodie Browne has given a warning that even bigger cuts in council spending could be in store if Labour were to win May’s General Election.

Just before Christmas, Ed Miliband announced that a Labour government would impose extra cuts of £2,000 million in central government funding to local councils.

Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne

“We’ve seen many example of Labour politicians on Sefton Council saying it’s all the Coalition Government’s fault that they are having to make cuts in local services,” commented Cllr Brodie Browne.

“Now we learn that Labour would cut even more if they were in power. It’s their hypocrisy that really gets me.”

In a little-reported speech delivered on 11 December, Ed Miliband set out his plans for balancing the books if he makes it into government. One key announcement was the result of the Labour Party’s so-called “Zero-Based Review”, a study by his shadow Treasury team into every single line of government spending. Part of the proposals, from the second year of a Labour government, would be to cut a further £500m annually in funding to local councils on account of so-called ‘efficiency savings’.

“Labour call them ‘efficiency savings’, but that’s just a way of dressing up real-terms additional cuts,” continued Cllr Brodie Browne.

“The problem is that councils are already starting to make efficiency savings through sharing back office services and similar, so you can’t make the same savings twice. That can only mean further cuts in local services under Labour.”