A winter of civil disobedience/unrest?

Without a significant change in government direction, my feeling is that civil disobedience/unrest is all but inevitable this autumn and winter over fuel prices, rampant inflation and the consequent poverty many are being forced into.

In an odd way, civil disobedience has already become a common thing on our roads since the first Covid lockdown. I refer of course to red light jumping and excessive speeding which has become all but the norm for too many drivers. So we’ve already got a section of our society who frankly have taken the view that the rules of the road are just not for them and that’s a simple choice they’ve made with no pressure upon them to do it.

The next stage in the breakdown of our social order will be by folk with nothing, who probably can’t even afford to run a car, who can’t pay their fuel bills and may not even be able to eat regularly due to the cost of living. Our governments have been growing this section of our society for quite a while now as the ever-expanding use of food banks attests to. Now, however, the numbers being pushed into poverty are growing hugely due to inflation and fuel costs. This winter could prove to be a breaking point and it may well start with large numbers of people simply refusing to pay their fuel bills, indeed campaigns to organise such civil resistance are building right now.

But will refuse to pay stop there? How about folks stopping paying their council tax bills, their water bills, TV License bills etc. etc. Surely, those will follow and pretty soon our whole civil society will be breaking up. The wealthy will, of course, weather the storm or will they? Depending on how things develop we could see the rebalancing of wealth within our society although our politicians will fight hard against such a move. What I’m saying is that this process could well put our unbalanced capital-based society/economy under threat and many would be happy for that to happen. You never know Universal Basic Income (UBI) may well be a positive outcome from the chaos.

Politicians in power can of course put in place mitigating measures to stop the worst from happening but can you see our weak government and ineffective opposition pulling significant levers and putting the interests of those with little or nothing first? That goes against pretty much everything our governments have stood for as long as we can remember. And the small levers they’ve pulled so far? They’ll hardly make a dent in the economic hardship many will face.

Just look at Sri Lanka to see how a reasonably well-ordered society can collapse due to shortages of pretty much everything and rampant inflation. We are nowhere near that sort of collapse but we are in the foothills of such an economic catastrophe.

If I had a God I’d probably now say, as Dave Allen always did, ‘may your God go with you’ because if you’ve got little of nothing the outlook looks bleak indeed. I hope I’m wrong and that we can find leaders who will make poverty and its causes a major priority, but I’ll not be holding my breath.

Those in poverty & councils left in Sunak’s £150 lurch

The link below to a Northern Agenda page is both revealing and informative:-

e.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/interface/external_view_email.php?RJ71505719661254712zzzzz64ab6bfc1951a9ec9ce22b275a3623a2dbd1922a018ed047c176281f5d378977b6&varId=

It shows how, with a government made up of the wealthy, a ‘system’ to get a £150 fuel bill relief help scheme is actually aimed at those who pay their council tax bills by direct debit. The poor don’t use/can’t use direct debit so they and the councils who need to get the money to them are left in a bureaucratic mess.

I’ve seen this at first hand via talking to a Sefton Borough resident who is trying to get a payment process set up but who, due to being in poverty, is left to negotiate a methodology with the Council who seem unsure what to do. A number of telephone calls by the resident to the Council have yet to resolve the matter.

Basing a process on what the middle and upper classes do is crass and insensitive and it makes you realise how little the powers that be understand about poverty and the consequences of it.

And as an aside could this payment be seen as a one-off UBI?

Ignoring desperate poverty by focusing on working poor

The Guardian Oct 2013 – ‘Labour will be tougher than Tories on benefits, promises new welfare chief’ – The article (see link below) was commenting on the views of Rachel Reeves MP; she’s now Labour’s Shadow Chancellor –

www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare

I must admit I’ve had a big downer on Reeves ever since October 2013 because, in my view, desperate poverty, which neither Labour nor Tories are willing to address, is actually just as much if not more so within the ignored part of our population, the non-working poor.

The reason Labour and Tories ignore the non-working poor is that they’re significantly less likely to vote. Yes I know that’s an appalling situation but it is how our antiquated political system works. Presently, pretty much the only focus of both our main parties is on the working-class right-wingers as they’re seen as key to who wins swing/marginal constituencies. If you don’t live in a swing/marginal seat where that section of the electorate holds sway then the politicians of Labour and the Tories really aren’t bothered what you think.

I realise that measuring poverty is often difficult but my own test of it growing across the UK is the need for foodbanks. Launched in the year 2000, Salisbury Foodbank was the first Trussell Trust foodbank in the UK. I think there are around 1,200 of their food banks these days. So to my mind poverty is growing and our two major political parties pay lip service to tackling it.

The solution is pretty clear to me, it’s Universal Basic Income (UBI). I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it. The only good news on this front is that the Welsh Government has said it will conduct pilots to try to develop a formula – payments and taxation – to find a workable form of UBI. We’ll see, it could be a kicking the can down the road exercise but at least they’ve listened.

Poverty – Our governments only manage it, with no intention of seriously tackling it

What has the UK become, how have we sunk so low? Poverty and food banks are now an everyday part of many communities.

I’m not religious in any way but the recent high profile BBC News story about what a Pastor and Priest have been doing to help the utterly desperate in Burnley disturbed me profoundly.

The fact that in one of the richest counties on earth they have to do it should shame us all. We’ve had government after government which are for the middle incomed and wealthy with the poor getting litte more than crumbs off their table. In recent times footballer Marcus Rashford has stepped up to call for change particularly with regard to feeding children but more benefits/increased benefits will only be yet another sticking plaster, it won’t deal with the core problem of poverty.

After 40 years in politics I am convinced that Universal Basic Income is the only real solution to poverty. Politicians, who oppose UBI whilst hiding behind a lack of willingness to find a way to fund it, are actually saying we will not be doing anything useful about poverty and are leaving those who can’t survive via our mean spirited benefits system for charities, volunteers and churches to look after.

Sadly, the Burnley story is being replicated across the UK whilst the well off and our leaders in Westminster spend time picking ridiculous trade fights with the EU over Brexit. But when we get all the independence, prosperity and opportunities promised by those who promoted and voted for Brexit how much of it will filter down to those most in need? If it’s little or nothing then what have we been fighting for; just to make the rich richer and poor poorer? Developing a society based on a significant percentage of that society having to live in abject poverty is hardly something we should be aspiring to yet it seems to be where we have arrived.

I am profoundly depressed by how we expect those with nothing to live off almost nothing. Growing an ever greater number of people who are destitute has been the result of political decisions and political indecision but we’ve been voting (or at least a significant number of us have) for politicians who have been in charge of this growing poverty crisis for many years now. Is it not time to chuck out those politicians who simply want to manage, ignore or even punish those in our society who are the most in need? Oh and please don’t assume that all the problem politicians are Tories because poverty is an issue that many politicians want to ignore and they get away with it bacause the poor often don’t or can’t vote.

Rashford, feeding children & UBI

That Marcus Rashford has highlighted the fact that even in 2020 too many children live in such poverty that they don’t have sufficient nutritional food to eat is a given. His well known solution is to try to get government to provide free school meals in school holidays, a battle he won for the last summer holidays but is presently losing for the next Christmas holidays. The BBC has the latest on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/54550587

I support his campaign but is it really a long term solution to fix child poverty? Is it not just another sticking plaster for our failed welfare system?

My view is that we need to be looking towards a solution that does not require high profile campaigners to launch a renewed fight before every school holiday to ensure children eat well. In short we need to revolutionise the way our society runs so that we really do tackle poverty properly. Form me there’s only one way to do that and it’s a rather obvious solution which has been talked about for many years – Universal Basic Income or UBI.

Yes I know that those on the right of UK politics will straight away will say things like ‘how on earth will we pay for it?’ or even ‘I’m not paying for it through my taxes’. Yes UBI will be expensive but at it’s core it’s about trying to say goodbye to poverty once and for all. And yes I also know that many on the left oppose UBI (Kier Starmer for one) but it is gathering ground amongst politicians who see themselves as being progressives, including many liberals and some socialists.

That UBI has gained such significant traction in recent times amongst liberals has even surprised me as a radical social Liberal of the left because often liberals, particularly those with a middle class background, can be fearful of promoting a social policy that has taxation implications. Maybe it’s a sign that liberals and progressives across the political spectrum are finally realising that fighting poverty by chucking crumbs off the table to the poor has never solved and indeed never will solve the poverty that’s so endemic in our broken UK society.

Good luck to Rashford, a wealthy man from a poor background who really does want to do some good for those with nothing. However, if we back what he’s doing let’s do it in a way that brings about a more permanent solution to poverty rather than engaging in a regular battle with government about whether children will eat in the next school holiday. As I say the solution is rather obvious – UBI.

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.