The moral nihilism of the Coalition

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Poster and slogan from Terry Gilliam’s dystopic film “Brazil”. David Cameron evidently has a strong sense of taunting irony.

Narratives of “welfare dependency” have once again become much more common place and increasingly assertive under the coalition Government – embedded in narratives driven by the the so-called Skivers and Strivers dichotomy. Poverty, according to this distinctly Tory perspective, is caused by a culture of deviance, idleness and dependency. The poor are responsible for their poverty. They cannot be trusted to be responsible, or make the right choices for themselves – or society more generally – and so are in need of paternalistic guidelines and cognitive behaviour therapy. Poverty is being re-responsiblised.

But the rich are not getting richer whilst the poor get poorer: the rich are getting richer because the poor getting poorer. There’s a chasmic conflict of interest between the rich persons’ selfish, individual goals and collective societal values.

A simple truth is that poverty happens because some people are very, very rich. That happens ultimately because of Government policies that create, sustain and extend inequalities. The very wealthy are becoming wealthier, the poor are becoming poorer. This is a consequence of vulture capitalism, designed by the sheer opportunism and pathological greed of a few, it is instituted, facilitated and directed by the Tory-led Coalition.  

Welfare provision was paid for by the public, via tax and NI contributions. It is not a handout. It is not the Governments money to cut. That is our provision, paid for by us to support us if and when we need it. It’s the same with the National Health Service. These public services and provisions do not and never did belong to the Government to sell off, exploit to make a profit from, to strip bare, as they have done

For the Tories, the competitive pursuit of economic gain is the only freedom worth having. And only those that have gained substantially have freedoms worth having. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this social Darwinist approach to socio-economics means unbridled private business, insidious systematic indoctrination, gross exploitation of the masses and political extortion.

Public understanding is being purposefully distorted and the reality of society’s organisation is concealed to serve the interests of an elite, through a process of ideological hegemony – whereby existing political arrangements, ways of thinking and social organisation are tacitly accepted as logical and “common sense”. The media serve as ideological state apparatus that transmit this “common sense”. The truth is that poor people are the victims of politically manufactured  inequality and crass exploitation. Our once progressive, civilised society is being savagely dismantled, and the Tories are steadily and clumsily re-assembling it using identikit Victoriana.

The truth is that David Cameron has deliberately and spitefully targeted the poorest and most vulnerable to bear the brunt of the austerity cuts. When we actually look at the relative targeting of the Tory-led cuts of different social groups, then we see that:

  • People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most citizens
  • Disabled people are targeted 9 times more than most citizens
  • People needing social care are targeted 19 times more than most citizens.From: A Fair Society? How the cuts target disabled people 

This is a Government that deliberately creates insecurity and scarcity for many: income, employment opportunities, affordable housing, education opportunities, access to justice, health, energy, for example, whilst private companies make lots of money from these deliberately engineered circumstances, such as by using workfare to boost their profits from the use of free labour (at the expense of the tax payer).

The Governments’ economic decisions, policies and driving, incoherent ideology has created high unemployment and underemployment, job instability, they’ve devalued the worth of labour, excluded those who are vulnerable from the labour market by withdrawing support from them, and then has the vindictive gall to savagely blame the victims of its own crimes, for those crimes, conducting media character assassinations of the poorest, the weakest, demeaning people via the media, stripping them of their dignity and LYING about them.

Our economy is being tailored by the Tories to serve 1% of the population and this has a detrimental effect on everyone else. The Government has removed support and services for the people who need them most, whilst insisting that they must work. To regard the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society as less valuable, and to constantly attack them via the media is quite frankly disgusting conduct for a Government and those that support these despicable and hideous political narratives and policy actions. Such narratives say everything about the authors, and have nothing meaningful at all to say about those left in the situations that this Government have manufactured via policies: those situations which none of them have ever had to experience or face personally.

When they diminish others, they diminish us ALL.

No-one seems to have challenged the idea that working to make someone else very wealthy is somehow virtuous, either. By implication, those that cannot work are regarded as lesser citizens, and that has become tacitly accepted. We have, once again, a Government that makes labouring compulsory, regardless of a persons capability, yet the same Government has devalued labour in terms of wages, rewards, and working conditions, whilst handing out huge amounts of our money to those exploiting the poor unemployed, the sick and disabled. And Tories are always about vicious and divisive rhetoric. Growing social inequality generates a political necessity for prejudices.

Most people who don’t work have no choice about it due to circumstances, such as poor health, disability, caring responsibilities, parenting responsibilities and a lack of reliable, affordable childcare, being frail and elderly. These are reasons that are completely out of a persons control. People forget that ill health doesn’t discriminate: it can happen to anyone. And so can unemployment. No-one is invulnerable, except for the very wealthy: the ones that won’t ever need any state support.

Let’s hear some mention of facts in the media, instead of the usual Tory mouth pieces sanctimoniously preaching at people, “advising” how to manage their loss of lifeline support better, whilst endorsing the sadism of this Government. Let’s hear a loud and civilised call for the halt to the current program of cruel cuts, which are disproportionately targeted at those with the very least, whilst this Government rewards those with the very most with massive tax handouts. Let’s hear the demand for decency, and a new and fair welfare system that is built on a fundamental recognition of the equal worth of all human beings and the guarantee of human rights for all.

It’s time we stood up as a nation on our hind legs.

538861_380839531985581_164896303_n                   Thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant art work.

This was originally written as a part of a longer piece of work: The right-wing moral hobby horse: thrift and self-help, but only for the poor.

The right-wing moral hobby horse: thrift and self-help, but only for the poor.

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What is it with this seemingly never ending queue of very wealthy people and celebrities, without a shred of shame, self-awareness or knowledge of socio-economics, that they nonetheless feel it’s quite okay “
to have dispensed with generosity in order to practice ‘charity'”, to pinch a phrase from Albert Camus.

Jamie Oliver claimed that he couldn’t quite grasp poverty in the UK, where people made choices between “massive TVs” and nutritious food. I can’t help wondering how many poor people Oliver has taken the time and trouble to visit, but I concluded he prefers to deal in hand-me-down, shabby clichés rather than homespun truths. More recently, Michael Gove suggested that the rise in people accessing food banks was a result of poor financial management, rather than it being due to “genuine need” because of  a massive hike in the cost of living and subsequent plummeting living standards, rising unemployment, low wages, savage benefit cuts, and brutal, targeted benefit sanctions.

The very wealthy Lord Freud claimed that families using food banks were simply looking for “free meals”, and this was not “causally connected” to increased poverty due to austerity cuts. Conservative Environment Minister Richard Ponsonby – and hereditary peer – the 7th Baron De Mauley – has advised the poor to reconsider their buying habits and resist the temptation to spend more money on the latest electronic gadgets, clothes and “food that they will not eat” in efforts to recapture the war-time spirit of “make, do and mend”.

So, the poor are being handed cognitive behaviour strategies and instructions from the wealthy, dressed up as common sense, with the emphasis being on self-management – there is an implicit assumption here that poor people require a psychotherapeutic approach to material hardship that is usually reserved for addressing dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviours and cognitive processes. The solution to poverty, according to these socially inept rich people is behaviour modification for the poor, and not coincidently, the philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers. The subtext of this raft of advice for the alienated poor from the aloof wealthy is: endure your pain and penury without a display of feelings and without complaint. Because we really don’t want to hear about it.

However, a central theme in Stoicism is that humans possess a unique capacity to be rational and self-autonomous and this remains a powerful defence of democracy, equality and human rights. The Stoics directed us to think clearly and rationally about the idea of living in harmony with the way the universe is, but they didn’t say anything about accepting social inequalities as a fundamental part of that universe or conflating what is with what ought to be.

The idea of stoic “self-help” is a useful reference point in any discussion of Victorian culture and values. As a moral crusader and proponent of that idea, Samuel Smiles has become something of right wing icon: any mention of him is commonly taken to imply a well-known and easily identified set of values.

In Thrift, which was published in 1875, Samuel Smiles declared: “riches do not constitute any claim to distinction. It is only the vulgar who admire riches as riches”.

I think it’s the rich that admire riches as riches. And being poor is a dismal experience. Regarding those that have all of the wealth as vulgar offers no comfort at all from material hardship, hunger and destitution.

Smiles was a very popular Victoria moralist. He claimed that the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, which punished the poor in order to cure them of their poverty habits, was “one of the most valuable that has been placed on the statute-book in modern times”. In Self-Help, which I read as an apology for Victorian middle class values, he said:

No laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober. Such reforms can only be effected by means of individual action, economy and self-denial; by better habits, rather than by greater rights”.

Thrift  and Self-Help were Victorian bibles, and although Smiles was a  critic of many conventional middle class values, what an irony it is that the man who argued in favour of nationalising the railways in 1868, should get sufficiently warped by history to emerge as the champion and much admired historical figure for the Tories during the 1980s. This said, Smiles did have conservative credentials, with his liking for the Poor Law Reform Act, and his intrusive advice to the poor about how to manage poverty their better and with some “character”, whilst practising self-denial.

Smiles basically argued that individuals could and should improve themselves through hard work, thrift, self-discipline, education, and “moral improvement” and should not seek the help of Government. He was Thatcher’s darling and is Cameron’s formative hero.

The idea of distinguishing between different categories of the poor, dividing them up into discrete and manageable groups, is almost as old as the British state. The paternalistic Elizabethan poor laws were originally designed to keep the poor at home –  to stop them from becoming vagrants. However, the insistent Utilitarians of the day decided that a great deal of poverty was not inevitable as a by-product of socio-economic and political conditions, but rather, it was a product of fecklessness. Thomas Malthus, Herbert Spencer and others argued from a social Darwinist perspective, claiming that the Elizabethan poor law encouraged irresponsibly large families, idleness and personal fecklessness.

This was the “responsibilisation” of poverty that resulted in the introduction of the punitive workhouse, as we know – a place where paupers would be incarcerated and forced to labour. At the core of the Poor Law Reform Act was the notion of less eligibility: reducing the number of people entitled to support, so that only those who could not work (rather than those who “would not” work) would receive support.

It’s here that the distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor became a legal one. Nowadays, savage cuts, sanctions and benefit “conditionality” may be seen as a parallel of the principle of less eligibility. The Poor Law reform also “made work pay”. Those who could not work were deterred from applying for poor law support, as workhouses were made deliberately so unpleasant, often resembling a prison more than a refuge. Many critics of the day condemned them as “the new Bastilles”. As we passed the celebration the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens, we are witnessing a return of precisely the sort of language about the poor that he did so much to expose as cruel and inhuman.

Narratives of “welfare dependency” have once again become much more common place and increasingly assertive under the coalition Government – embedded in narratives driven by  the the so-called Skivers and Strivers dichotomy. Poverty, according to this distinctly Tory perspective, is caused by a culture of deviance, idleness and dependency. The poor are responsible for their poverty. They cannot be trusted to be responsible, or make the right choices for themselves – or society more generally – and so are in need of “paternalistic guidelines” and cognitive behaviour therapy. Poverty has been “re-responsiblised”.

In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber argued that Puritan ethics and ideas influenced the development of capitalism. Ideas that work is “virtuous” can be traced back to the Reformation, when even the most humble professions were regarded as adding to the common good and thus blessed by God, as much as any “sacred” calling. A common illustration of the time is that of a cobbler, hunched over his work, who devotes his entire effort to the praise of God.

To explain the work ethicWeber shows that certain branches of Protestantism had supported worldly activities dedicated to deferred gratification and economic gain, seeing them as being endowed with moral and spiritual significance.

This recognition was not a goal in itself, but rather a by-product or unintended consequence of other doctrines of faith that encouraged planning, hard work and self-denial in the pursuit of worldly wealth. For the Tories, the competitive pursuit of economic gain is the only freedom worth having. And only those that have gained substantially have freedoms worth having. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this social Darwinist approach to socio-economics means unbridled private business, insidious systematic indoctrination, gross exploitation of the masses and political extortion.

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Ayn Rand
,
another Tory idol, who endorsed minarchism and laissez-faire capitalism and gave her full approval to selfishness, used a moral syntax that has been linked with fascism. She advocated rational and ethical egoism and rejected ethical altruism. She was derisory, and wrong because there is a “moral and political obligation of the individual to sacrifice at least some of his/her own interests for the sake of a greater social good.”

The alternative, as Rand would have it, is most people being regimented into a slave caste to serve a handful of self-seeking, power hungry greedy psychopaths. Alas, for it seems we will always have the despotic wealthy with us – a lofty, discrete and detached class of tyrants, loudly dismissing inconvenient truths, and not just about the poor.

The social, economical and psychological distance between those with great amounts of money, power and a voice would span cosmological distances when compared to the poor. A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to a person who is suffering. We always have the opportunity to help the poorest and most vulnerable. But the rich are not getting richer whilst the poor get poorer: the rich are getting richer by the poor getting poorer. There’s a chasmic conflict of interest between the rich persons’ selfish, individual goals and collective societal values.

There is a clear lack of compassionate thought and action amongst the anti-social wealthy elitist Government, and their policies are dogmatic, brutal and tipped heavily towards supporting the powerful, whilst punishing the poor. Homo economicus is a conservative, self-serving and wretched, mythologising miser.

The UN’s 2013 Human Development Report has also noted that the “gap between rich and poor in UK society has risen sharply” since the Coalition government took power. The UN reports that there is greater inequality in the UK than in other countries in Western Europe. It is also noted that the market has not stepped in where institutions have failed: “Markets are very bad at ensuring the provision of public goods, such as security, stability, health and education”, the report reads. I don’t think we ought to be stoically accepting any of this as simply “the way things are”.

Entire lives, human experiences are being reduced to cheap tabloidisms, nasty political soundbites and wildly disgusting, politically convenient stereotypical generalisations that don’t stand up to very much scrutiny. There isn’t an ounce of genuine philanthropy to be had in these sanctimonious tirades, just frank stereotyping, the frequent mention of plasma screen TVs, (something that the bourgeoisie popularised when they rushed out to buy them when they first hit the market: they were dubbed the new wall mounted “4 wheel drives” of the living room, before they became sufficiently cheap for poorer members of society to buy) and a lot of judgement about the perceived lifestyle choices of the poor.

Benefits were calculated to meet only basic survival needs – food, fuel and shelter. If people manage to buy more than that on benefits, then kudos to themfor their budgeting skills. Osborne could learn a lesson or two from these people. But of course the truth is that people move in and out of work, and it would be unreasonable to expect them to dispose of those goods that they bought when they were employed, simply to satisfy an increasingly spiteful, judgemental class, that seems to think that poor people should have nothing at all, living a life of utter misery.

We are told what to buy, what not to buy, how to eat, and how to mend, make do, and go without.

Go without? Isn’t that what poverty is all about? The poor are experts in “going without”, social exclusion and isolation. Nonetheless, the Government have erected a media platform for the idle rich to moralise about what we should and shouldn’t be spending our meagre finances on. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the new lifestyle police. The Government are telling us how we may and may not live our private lives, and how we ought to “manage” our poverty better.

Dogma.

And lies about poverty, its causes, effects and solutions, infects almost everything Iain Duncan Smith says, as he formulates pseudo-moral justifications for the hardship his Government’s own policies are causing. The media propaganda machine oblige him very well with screaming misinformation about the feckless poor. Poverty, he would have us believe, is down to individual faults and personal deficits. Again.

Only a half-wit would believe that in order to “make work pay”, rather than raise the lowest wages, we remove lifeline benefits from the very poorest. Bearing in mind that those benefits were carefully calculated by previous Governments to meet basic costs for survival needs: food, fuel and shelter: “the amount the law says you need to live on”. Apparently, this protective law no longer applies.

The Tories are constantly lowering public expectations and defending the indefensible.

Propaganda.

And if there is one thing that melds Cameron’s sparse, ever shrinking and handouts-for-the-boys highly privatised nightwatchman state brand of victoriaphile conservatism together, it is the belief that poverty is best left to wealthy individuals to remedy, rather than Government. His Big Society  approach to social provision can perhaps best be summed up with the phrase: “you’re on your own, because we took your money and we don’t care”. On your marks … it’s a race to the very bottom.

It has been too easy for the Tory-led Government to sell the concept of welfare “reforms” (cuts)  based on a simple narrative about of “welfare scroungers” getting “something for nothing” whilst the rest of us have to work hard to pay for it, to an apathetic public. This kind of narrative is deliberately designed to stimulate a strong sense of injustice, cause divisions and generate anger. The fact that benefit fraud in reality represents a tiny fraction of the welfare system and that the vast majority of claimants have pre-paid into the system via taxation before becoming unemployed are carefully omitted in order to create the impression that the “scrounger” problem is much worse than it actually is. 0.6% of all claims were deemed to be “fraudulent”, and many of those were actually errors on the part of the Department of Work and Pensions in dealing with legitimate claims.

The real “culture of entitlement” is not to be found amongst the poor, the unemployed, the sick and disabled, as this Government would have you believe. As a matter of fact, most amongst this politically minoritized social group have paid tax and paid for the provision that they ought to be able to rely on when they/we have need of it, it’s oursafter all. The real culture of entitlement comes from the very wealthy, and is well-fed and sustained by our aristocratic and authoritarian Government.

Every time we have periods of high unemployment, growing inequalities, substantial increases in poverty, and loss of protective rights, there is a Conservative Administration behind this wilful destruction of people’s lives, and the unravelling of many years of essential social progress and civilised development that spans more than one century. And that development was fought for and won.

We never see celebrities in the media questioning the fact that we only ever see the rise of the welfare “scrounger” and a “culture of dependency” when we have a Tory Government. And that it also coincides every time with a significant increase in politically manufactured unemployment, a rise in the cost of living, lower working conditions and wages. There’s a connection there somewhere, isn’t there? It seems the likes of Jamie Oliver and Richard Ponsonsby don’t do joined up thinking. And we know from history that the Tories never have.

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Public understanding is being purposefully distorted and the reality of society’s organisation is concealed to serve the interests of an elite, through a process of ideological hegemony – whereby existing political arrangements, ways of thinking and social organisation are tacitly accepted as logical and “common sense”. The media serve as ideological state apparatus that transmit this “common sense”. The truth is that poor people are the victims of gross inequality and crass exploitation. Our once progressive, civilised society is being savagely dismantled, and the Tories are steadily and clumsily re-assembling it using identikit Victoriana.

We are seeing a generation of our young people silenced at the margins of society, they are being fed a steady drip of subliminal messages about the worthlessness and steady bastardisation of their labour. Unemployment was statistically eradicated among 16- and 17-year-olds in the 1980s when the Tories changed the law so that school leavers could not claim unemployment benefit. Out of sight and out of mind. This is now being mooted for all young people up to the age of 25.

The Prime Minister began discussion of cutting housing benefits for “feckless” under-25s last year. Consequently, following this Tory “logic”, the UK could soon have the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe. If we keep moving in that direction we could have a rate as low as the one in India today, or in Britain in the 1800’s, when there was no such thing as unemployment, because we chose back then to call people with no jobs  “paupers”. And people were paupers because they were idle and feckless, and incapable of helping themselves. It’s common sense, right?

No. It’s propaganda.

If we are prepared to even entertain any finger-pointing distraction and discussion about the “undeserving poor”, let us also point back, and balance the debate with a fair, realistic discussion of the “undeserving rich”, too.

It is the very rich that need to manage their personal fortunes better in order to stop  inflicting poverty on thousands. They need to learn how to go without, make do and mend. They need to stop greedily gathering and hoarding our wealth and frittering tax payers money on extravagant, selfish lifestyles. The wealthy need to pay close attention to the steady destruction of our society, the removal of our civilised and protective services – paid for via our taxes – and the subsequent loss of a dignified future for so many.  

I resent the intrusion of hypocritical, greedy rich “moral” crusaders with no scruples whatsoever, or restraint, when it comes to stigmatising the poor, smugly telling poor people they must endure their poverty better, manage their meagre incomes and lack of resources with resilience and resourcefulness that they themselves lack, basically because rich people want to avoid feeling any social responsibility whatsoever. These indignant, self-legitimising, babbling psychopaths want to keep the wealth which was gained at our expense.

The scrounging rich have had it far too good for far too long. It’s about time these idle takers took some responsibility for the society they have taken so much from. I want to hear about how they will repay their much greater debt. I want to hear about their culture of entitlement, and why they  believe that they can have everything whilst increasingly, so many have nothing. And with poverty and inequality on the increase, I want to hear about how the wealthy intend to do something directly to remedy this. Because we know that poverty is caused through a gross inequality in wealth distribution.

Lord Ponsonby is very rich because other people are poor. Yet he and others like him had no problems accepting £107,000 per year via a tax break from this Countries’ treasury, and he irresponsibly endorses a Government who take money from the poor to give handouts to the rich. And tax break from what, exactly? It wasn’t anything to do with social responsibility, that’s for sure.

No-one has the right to preach about responsible behaviour after irresponsibly taking that amount of money from the poor, nor do they have any right to intrude into the private lives of poor people. Lord Freud has got nothing meaningful to say about living in poverty because he doesn’t and never has. Our private lives and personal choices are not public property to be prodded, scrutinised, criticised or discussed by people like him.

The feckless, something-for-nothing rich should be rejecting handouts in the form of tax breaks, and they need to pay their taxes – they need to put something back – contribute to the society from which they have insolently taken so much, not least a hugely disproportionate amount of wealth, leaving so many with nothing.

The last budget saw 25 billion pounds of our money handed out to big private companies already worth millions via a tax cut – that’s FIVE times the amount this Country spends on jobseekers allowance. Job centres no longer support people to find work: the main purpose now is to remove state support from people any way they can. Just like Atos – re-contracted by this government to cut lifeline benefits from the disabled and ill. How is this grotesque imbalance in how rich and poor, vulnerable people are treated by our Government acceptable?

Government minsters and the complicit media discuss the poor, and present articles which vilify the poor and disabled in the same way that serial killers do to objectify their victims. David Cameron has used his own disabled son in an attempt to humanise himself in public, whilst his own policies and ministers’ rhetoric have systematically dehumanised and objectified sick and disabled people in this country. That’s the psychopathic manipulation one would expect to see of a mass murderer, not a prime minister of the UK.

David Cameron has deliberately and spitefully targeted the poorest and most vulnerable to bear the brunt of the austerity cuts. When we actually look at the relative targeting of the Tory-led cuts of different social groups, then we see that:

  • People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most citizens
  • Disabled people are targeted 9 times more than most citizens
  • People needing social care are targeted 19 times more than most citizens. From: A Fair Society? How the cuts target disabled people

Under the bedroom tax rules, which violate basic human rights, more than 600,000 social tenants with spare rooms must either move or pay an average of £14 a week penalty. However, members of parliament with a spare room in their London homes can claim an additional allowance from the tax payer if a child or children routinely resides with them. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has ruled that MPs will remain eligible for the additional allowance if the child visits just once a month. 29 hypocritical MPs have claimed an additional £64,000 and a further 20 who claimed £37,000, whilst at the same time endorsing and supporting the bedroom tax.

Meanwhile, homelessness  rose 21% in the last year, while rough sleepers (those not eligible for Local Authority support) rose 31% in England and 62% in London. The Bedroom Tax has negatively impacted on many people receiving Housing Benefit and their payments have been cut for having “spare bedrooms”. Many cannot escape the growing rent debts they are accumulating due to the cruel cut to their housing costs, because there are no [Government defined] appropriate housing alternatives in existence. So many will be evicted from homes, due to rent arrears, to find themselves homeless, with no suitable accommodation available. But wealthy private landlords are free to charge whatever they want to, there are no rent controls or a decent social housing policy in place.

This is a Government that deliberately creates insecurity and scarcity for many: income, employment opportunities, affordable housing, education opportunities, access to justice, health, energy, for example, whilst private companies make lots of money from these deliberately engineered circumstances, such as by using workfare to boost their profits from the use of free labour (at the expense of the tax payer).

The Governments’ economic decisions, policies and driving, incoherent ideology has created high unemployment, devalued the worth of labour, excluded those who are vulnerable from the labour market by withdrawing support from them, and then has the vindictive gall to savagely blame the victims of its own crimes, for those crimes, conducting character assassinations of the weakest, demeaning people, stripping them of their dignity and LYING about them.

Our economy is being tailored by the Tories to serve 1% of the population and this has a detrimental effect on everyone else.

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The cumulative effects of the range of savage social security cuts designed by the Tories, which have hit the working poor, the jobless, the elderly and disabled people has been a massive rise in reliance on food banks.  The number of people relying on food charity rose by 300% between in the year between April 2012 and 2013. This was once a first world country. Once the rest of the welfare “reforms” came into effect in April this year, the numbers relying on food aid have shot up 200% in the three months following. That means  150,000 more people have joined the queues at food banks, in addition to the half a million people already needing aid since 2010.

As Clement Attlee pointed out half a century ago:“Charity is a cold, grey, loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim”.

No-one seems to have challenged the idea that working to make someone else very wealthy is somehow virtuous, either. By implication, those that cannot work are regarded as lesser citizens, and that has become tacitly accepted. We have, once again, a Government that makes labouring compulsory, regardless of a persons capability, yet the same Government has devalued labour in terms of wages, rewards, and working conditions, whilst handing out huge amounts of our money to those exploiting the poor unemployed, the sick and disabled.

And Tories are always about vicious and divisive rhetoric. I’d recommend Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, only I know as a social work practitioner that the success rate is very, very low, especially when we are dealing with such entrenched and irrational systems of belief. And manipulative, amoral individuals with severe antisocial personality disorders.

Most who don’t work have no choice about it due to circumstances, such as poor health, disability, caring responsibilities, parenting responsibilities and a lack of reliable, affordable childcare, being frail and elderly. These are reasons that are completely out of a persons control. People forget that ill health doesn’t discriminate: it can happen to anyone. And so can unemployment. No-one is invulnerable, except for the very wealthy: the ones that won’t ever need any state support.

The Government has removed support and services for the people who need them most, whilst insisting that they must work. To regard the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society as less valuable, and to constantly attack them via the media is quite frankly disgusting conduct for a Government and those that support these despicable and hideous political narratives and policy actions. Such narratives say everything about the authors, and have nothing meaningful at all to say  about those left in the situations this Government have contributed to manufacturing: those situations which none of them have ever had to experience or face personally. When they diminish others, they diminish us ALL.

Let’s hear some mention of facts in the media, instead of the usual Tory mouth pieces sanctimoniously preaching at people, “advising” how to manage their loss of lifeline support better, whilst endorsing the sadism of this Government. Let’s hear a loud call for the halt to the current programme of cruel and vicious cuts, which are disproportionately targeted at those with the very least, whilst this Government rewards those with the very most with massive tax handouts. Let’s hear the demand for decency, and a new and fair welfare system that is built on a fundamental recognition of the equal worth of all human beings and the guarantee of human rights for all. A social security that fulfils its intended purpose – to actually support people, rather than punishing them.

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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent anti-indoctrination art work

Some further reading:

MPs’ expenses: Tory frontbencher Mike Penning claimed for dog bowl
The Truth About Jobseeker’s Allowance
(a powerpoint presentation by jobseeker Benjamin Barton)
Red Cross officials called on European governments to try and find new ways to address to the crisis, as austerity programmes plunge millions into poverty and hunger.
How the cuts are targeted
The Poverty of  Responsibility and the Politics of Blame 
Quantitative Data on Poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

 

Why we are sorry to see Anne McGuire leave Labour’s front bench

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Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people has told us that she is resigning from the party’s front bench. She also leaves her role in the Labour Task force, led by Sir Bert Massie, former chair of the Disability Rights Commission, which is currently investigating effective and legislative ways to break the established link between disability and poverty.

Anne McGuire has been shadow minister since October 2011, and has been a highly respected minister for disabled people for three years in the last Labour Government.

Anne – who herself has a long-term health condition – has insisted that it was her own decision to leave the role, and she has stated: “I just thought it was the time for me to go”.  She added: “I have been both the minister for disabled people and the shadow minister for over five years taken together and I think it is time I allowed someone else the opportunity to take the work forward”.

She had told the Labour leader Ed Miliband in July that she wanted to leave her post at his next Cabinet re-shuffle, which is expected within the next few weeks.

Anne worked with Liam Byrne last year on the consultation with disabled people across the country, entitled Making Rights a Reality, and she said that this experience has allowed her to hear from people about their experiences, and how the “reforms” have negatively impacted on so many of us. The consultation was also used to raise awareness of human rights amongst disabled people.

I met with Anne last November, together with Gail Ward and Susan Archibald, to discuss the diabolical Work Capability Assessment, amongst many other things. We found a staunch ally in Anne, and she has been a Minister with integrity.

Here’s an account of the meeting with Anne last year – Welfare Wrongs and Human Rights: a dialogue with Anne McGuire.

Here is the discussion summary.

Anne will always be remembered by our community for her very articulate attacks on the media’s [mis]representation of disabled people and on the Government’s welfare reforms, in parliamentary debate. I remember her account of private debate, too, on the same topic with Iain Duncan Smith, and such was her ferocity and anger at the profound unfairness of the media’s sustained persecution of sick and disabled people, fanned by Iain Duncan Smith, as we know, that she pinned him against a wall on one occasion.

Two years ago, after taking up the new post, she directly accused the Government of “talking up” the issue of disability benefit fraud, and attacked the coalition for not doing more to address offensive and inaccurate stories in the media about “cheats”, “frauds” and “scroungers”.

Of course we know this is not just about an ideologically motivated economic theft from the people with the least, and a redistribution of wealth to those that need it least (the already very wealthy), it’s an existential attack too: a psychic war that is being waged on us every bit as much as am economic one, with the media on the enemy frontline, attacking us on a linguistic and psychological level every day. We have been redefined, semantically reduced, dehumanised, and demarcated from the rest of the population and turned into the “others”, and this divisive strategy has paid off for the Government, because we are now regularly attacked by our own side: by those people who are also with us on this increasingly sparsely resourced, economically excavated side of the growing inequality divide. Tory divide and rule tactics: fostering a politics of hatred.

Imagine what that does to faith and hope. For those of you that are not sick and/or disabled, I can tell you that it is often a very isolating and lonely experience. That is made so much more unbearable by prejudice and hate from other people. To be excluded further from everyday life and experience, both materially and existentially, brings about a terrible, bleak, desolating sense of social abandonment and a very real imprisonment. We are living in a Government-directed culture of hatred.  It’s no coincidence that hate crime against disabled people has risen quite steeply over this past two years. Most of us have experienced some verbal abuse from members of the wider public, at the very least. It’s become such a common experience that it may be regarded as almost normalised behaviour.

Anne McGuire told us that she and Anne Begg, amongst others, have repeatedly challenged the Tory-led stigmatising and dehumanising language, and the shameful invention of statistics in the media. Publicly and privately. Anne has repeatedly expressed her anger and disgust at the “serial offenders” – especially Iain Duncan Smith.

The defamatory Tory-led rhetoric must surely constitute hate crime and we know that the rising statistics of disability hate crime is certainly linked to this hateful propaganda campaign on the part of the Coalition to justify removing support and lifeline benefits from the sick and disabled, and from those in low paid work.

Anne said: “The last three years have seen an unprecedented attack on disabled people, with a sustained misrepresentation of their lives in some sections of the media, and a series of welfare changes on which the Government is too ashamed to carry out a cumulative impact assessment”.

Yes, the Coalition already know that their cuts hit the same group over and over again: sick and disabled people. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely to be an “unintended consequence” of policy, given the telling persistent refusal to undertake a cumulative impact assessment.

Anne’s comments came as McVey defended her failure to carry out an assessment in an interview at her party conference in Manchester.

Anne said she would continue to challenge the Government from the backbenches and as co-chair of the all party parliamentary disability group.

She added: “I will continue to work with other parliamentary colleagues to ensure that the issues that affect disabled people are pushed higher up the agenda of all political parties”.

We are very pleased to hear that Anne.

And remember Anne, whilst we may be prevented from calling a liar a liar by parliamentary protocols, norms and rules, there are other ways of saying the same thing …


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 Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for brilliant art work.

The New New Poor Law

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A society with inequalities is and always has been the rational product of Conservative Governments. History shows this to be true. Tory ideology is built upon a very traditional feudal vision of a “grand scheme of things”, a “natural order”, which is extremely hierarchical.

The New Poor Law of 1834 was based on the “principle of less eligibility,” which stipulated that the condition of the “able-bodied pauper” on relief be less “eligible” – that is, less desirable, less favourable – than the condition of the very poorest independent labourer. “Less-eligibility” meant not only that the pauper receive less by way of relief than the labourer did from his wages but also that he receive it in such a way (in the workhouse, for example) that made pauperism less respectable than work – to stigmatise it. Thus the labourer would be discouraged from lapsing into a state of “dependency” and the pauper would be encouraged to work.

The Poor Law “made work pay”, in other words.

The Poor Law Commission report, presented in March 1834, was largely the work of two of the Commissioners, Nassau Senior and Edwin Chadwick. The report took the outline that poverty was essentially caused by the indigence of individuals rather than economic and social conditions. Paupers claimed relief regardless of his merits: large families got most, which encouraged improvident marriages; women claimed relief for bastards, which encouraged immorality; labourers had no incentive to work; employers kept wages artificially low as workers were subsidised from the poor rate.

I am sure that the commissioners have descendants that now write for the Daily Mail.

The Victorian era has made a deep impact upon Tory thinking, which had always tended towards nostalgia and tradition. Margaret Thatcher said that during the 1800s, “not only did our country become great internationally, also so much advance was made in this country … As our people prospered so they used their independence and initiative to prosper others, not compulsion by the state”.

There she makes an inference to the twin peaks of callous laissez-faire and the mythical and largely implied  “trickle down” effect. Yet history taught us only too well that both ideas were inextricably linked with an unforgivable and catastrophic increase in destitution, poverty and suffering for so many, for the purpose of extending profit for a few.

Writing in the 1840s, Engels observed that Manchester was a source of immense profit for a few capitalists. Yet none of this significantly improved the lives of those who created this wealth. Engels documents the medical and scientific reports that show how human life was stunted and deformed by the repetitive, back breaking work in The Condition Of The Working Class In England. Constantly in his text, we find Engels raging at those responsible for the wretched lives of the workers. He observed the horror of death by starvation, mass alienation, gross exploitation and unbearable, unremitting poverty.

The great Victorian empire was built whilst the completely unconscientious, harsh and punitive attitude of the Government further impoverished and caused so much distress to a great many. It was a Government that created poverty and also made it somehow dishonourable to be poor. Whilst Britain became great, much of the population lived in squalid, disease-ridden and overcrowded slums, and endured the most appalling living conditions. Many poor families lived crammed in single-room accommodations without sanitation and proper ventilation. That’s unless they were unlucky enough to become absolutely destitute and face the horrors of the workhouse. It was a country of startling contrasts. New building and affluent development went hand in hand with so many people living in the worst conditions imaginable.

Michael Gove has written: For some of us Victorian costume dramas are not merely agreeable ways to while away Sunday evening but enactments of our inner fantasies … I don’t think there has been a better time in our history”  in “Alas, I was born far too late for my inner era”.

A better time for what, precisely? Child labour, desperation? Prostitution? Low life expectancy, disease, illiteracy, workhouses? Or was it the deferential protestant work ethic reserved only for the poor, the pre-destiny of the aristocracy, and “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate”?

In a speech to the Confederarion of British Industry, (CBI) George Osborne argued that both parties in the coalition had revitalised themselves by revisiting their 19th-century roots.

When Liberal Democrat David Laws gave his first speech to the Commons as the secretary to the Treasury, Tory MP Edward Leigh said: “I welcome the return to the Treasury of stern, unbending Gladstonian Liberalism”, and  Laws recognised the comparison to the Liberal prime minister, and said: “I hope that this is not only Gladstonian Liberalism, but liberalism tinged with the social liberalism about which my party is so passionate”.

The Coalition may certainly be described as “stern and unbending”, if one is feeling mild and generous. I usually prefer to describe them as “retro-authoritarian”.

We know that the 19th-century Conservative party would have lost the election had it not been rescued by Benjamin Disraeli, a “one nation” Tory who won working-class votes only because he recognised the need and demand for essential social reform. Laissez-faire, competitive individualism and social Darwinism gave way to an interventionist, collectivist and more redistributive, egalitarian paradigm. And there’s something that this Government have completely missed: the welfare state arose precisely because of the social problems and dire living conditions created in the 19th century. The 19th century also saw the beginnings of the Labour Party. By pushing against the oppressions of the Conservative Victorian period, and by demanding reform, they built the welfare state and the public services that the current Government is now so intent on dismantling.

The UK Government’s welfare “reform” programme represents the greatest changes to welfare since its inception. These changes will impact on the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society. It will further alienate already marginalised social groups. In particular, women rely on state support to a greater extent than men and will be disproportionately and adversely affected by benefit cuts.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith (who didn’t manage to lead his party to an election due to losing a motion of no confidence) is largely responsible for this blitzkreig of apparent moral rigour, a right wing permutation of “social justice” rhetoric and harsh Victorian orthodoxy.

The Government asserts that its welfare “reform” strategy is aimed at breaking the cycle of “worklessness” and dependency on the welfare system in the UK’s poorest families. Poor Law rhetoric. There’s no such thing as “worklessness”, it’s simply a blame apportioning word, made up by the Tories to hide the fact that they have destroyed the employment market, as they always do. It’s happened under every Tory government. At least Thatcher’s adminsitration were honest about it.

The “reforms” (cuts) consist of 39 individual changes to welfare payments, eligibility, sanctions and timescales for payment and are intended to save the exchequer around £18 billion. How remarkable that the Department of Work and Pensions claim that such cuts to welfare spending will reduce poverty.

There’s nothing quite so diabolical as the shock of the abysmally expected: the brisk and brazen Tory lie, grotesquely untrue. Such reckless and Orwellian rhetoric permeates Government placations for the “reforms”.

The “reforms” were hammered through despite widespread protest, and when the House of Lords said “no“, the Tories deployed a rarely used and ancient parliamentary device, claimed “financial privilege” asserting that only the Commons had the right to make decisions on bills that have large financial implications. Determined to get their own way, despite the fact no-one welcomed their policy, the Tories took the rare jackbooted, authoritarian step to direct peers they have no constitutional right to challenge the Commons’ decisions further. Under these circumstances, what could possibly go right?

That marks the start of a very antidemocratic slippery slope.

The punitive approach to poverty didn’t work during the last century, it simply stripped the unfortunate of their dignity, and diverted people, for a while, from recognising the real cause of poverty. It isn’t about individual inadequacies: the poor do not cause poverty, but rather, conservative Governments do via their policy and economic decision-making.

Conservative by name and retrogressive by nature.

This was taken from a larger piece of work: welfare reforms and the language of flowers: the Tory gender agenda

Related posts:

Largest study of UK poverty shows full-time work is no safeguard against deprivation

The link between Trade Unionism and equality

Follow the Money: Tory Ideology is all about handouts to the wealthy that are funded by the poor

The Poverty of Responsibility and the Politics of Blame

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone

Osborne’s real aim is not budget surplus, but attack on Welfare State & public sector

By Michael Meacher, MP.
Originally published here, on October 1st

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Osborne’s proposed goal of a budget surplus in the next parliament is absurd on several counts. First, the politics of austerity for a full decade 2010-20 is surely untenable. The unrest after just 3 years is already clearly mounting, and the idea that the lid could be held down for another 7 years is fanciful, especially since any further additional departmental or welfare cuts earmarked to be made during 2015-20 will be much harder to implement once the earlier reductions have been pocketed. Second, the plan is utterly dependent not only on securing those cuts, but also on achieving a long period of high growth. But where is that growth engine to come from, when investment has crashed and is shockingly low, wages are still falling, exports are stymied, and the eurozone is deeply troubled?

Gathering hopes that a hesitant recovery will endure are pinned on a growth model that has been proven not to work, based largely on consumer borrowing and housing mortgages. Osborne’s bringing forward stage 2 of Help to Buy from the middle of next year to next week will only exacerbate the the housing bubble that has already unmistakeably begun to develop.

Then there are the figures that Osborne rolls out. They don’t match reality at all. He predicts the budget deficit to fall to £43bn by 2017-8. But this is pie in the sky based on his present record. Despite his first 3 years of austerity the deficit has been stuck at £120bn and has not fallen at all, so what is the evidence for believing it will fall by two-thirds in the next 4 years? In fact every forecast made by Osborne on deficit reduction has been missed by a mile.

In June 2010, a month after the election, he forecast cumulative net borrowing of £322bn between 2011-15; this year that was hiked up to £564bn, an enormous increase of 60%. In June 2010 the ratio of public sector net debt to GDP was forecast to start falling in 2014; earlier this year that was postponed a further 3 years into the future, and it now looks as though that may be extended to 4-5 years. In June 2010 the peak level of net debt had been predicted at 70% of GDP; earlier this year that was ratcheted up to 86%. On that record, would you buy a second-hand car from this man?

Even more troubling is the collapse in investment which has dropped to just 13% of GDP compared with the global average of 24%. Indeed in terms of global ranking in the investment-to-GDP league, Britain is now 159th lowest in the world, just behind Mali, Paraguay and Guatemala. So, come on George, you may not have produced much of a recovery, but surely under your leadership we can try to catch up with Mali.

Tory Fascist Lie Machine The Daily Mail Has Met Its Match

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In the 1930s, Theodor Adorno offered cogent criticism of the mass media, stating that it gave rise to ideology by standardising and stereotyping cultural “goods”, and it weakened people’s capacity to think in an autonomous and critical manner. Everyday life becomes  the ideology of “its own [notable] absence”. Put another way, the “news” constitutes a reification of an extremely narrow range of our human experience.

Adorno and the Frankfurt Institute of [Critical] Social Studies generally proposed that this had rendered the public more susceptible to the ideology of Nazism and fascism. The media is simply a way of transmitting ideology, and is a mechanism by which dominant and powerful social groups are able to diffuse ideas which promote their own interests. Louis Althusser regarded the media as an integral part of the ideological state apparatus.

So I had wondered when the right-wing media bullying, character assassinations and lie campaigns against Ed Miliband would begin. Miliband  has previously boldly demanded the breakup of Rupert Murdoch‘s media empire over the phone-hacking scandal. Today Ed Miliband has stood up to Paul Dacre, the most corrosive Fleet Street editor. This is a bold and direct challenge from Miliband to the propaganda of an established status quo, of course.

After the Mail  attempted to claim that Miliband’s late father “loathed Britain” on the basis of one adolescent diary entry, Miliband points to his immaculate record of service in the Royal Navy, mentioned only in passing by the paper:

He arrived, separated from his mother and sister,  knowing no English but found a single room to share with my grandfather. He was determined to better himself and survive. He worked as a removal man,  passed exams at Acton Technical College and was accepted to University. Then he joined the Royal Navy”.

In a thoroughly decent, balanced response in the Daily Mail,  Miliband takes a steady aim at the paper for running a loathsome virulent gutter attack on his father, Ralph, under the despicable headline “The man who hated Britain”. Miliband writes:

It’s part of our job description as politicians to be criticised and attacked by newspapers, including the Daily Mail. It comes with the territory. The British people have great wisdom to sort the fair from the unfair. And I have other ways of answering back.

But my Dad is a different matter. He died in 1994. I loved him and he loved Britain. And there is no credible argument in the article or evidence from his life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would “disturb everyone who loves this country”.

Many politicians have seen members of their families traduced by the Mail  but few, if any, have responded as Miliband has. He has taken a decisive and brave path; yet another defining moment of his leadership, and a verification of his integrity and skill in handling malicious right -wing media rhetoric. He says:

When I was growing up, he didn’t talk much about the Holocaust years because it was a deep trauma for both sides of my family. But he did talk about his naval service. The Daily Mail’s article on Saturday used just a few words to brush over the years my father spent fighting for his adopted country in the Second World War. But it played a bigger part in his life than that”.

But whilst defending his father against the Mail’s  alleged charges, he also uses his article to open a wider debate about much needed press standards and ethics. Here are the important closing paragraphs:

Britain has always benefited from a free press. Those freedoms should be treasured. They are vital for our democracy. Journalists need to hold politicians like me to account – none of us should be given an easy ride – and I look forward to a robust 19 months between now and the General Election.

But what appeared in the Daily Mail on Saturday was of a different order all together. I know they say ‘you can’t libel the dead’ but you can smear them.

Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War, or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a ‘grave socialist’.

The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency. But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician – any politician – in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.

There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse. I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run.

With this clear and well-measured response, Miliband has set a standard, drawn a line in the sand, signalling that unlike previous leaders, he will not tolerate press abuses for fear of political retribution. I say bravo.

In the particularly notable section on “leadership and character” in his conference speech last week, Miliband declared:

The real test of leadership is not whether you stand up to the weak, that’s easy; it’s whether you stand up to the strong and know who to fight for”.

Today, Miliband has certainly demonstrated that he is prepared practice what he preaches. It’s remarkable that a newspaper which has previously condemned commentators for “speaking ill of the dead” when Baroness Thatcher died suddenly sees fit to put aside it’s faux scruples for this all out attack on the deceased Ralph Miliband, with the sole intention to discredit his articulate, decent and honest son, who has truly become a big thorn in the side of all things conservative.

And regardless of whether readers share his politics (and the comments section of the Mail’s  website suggests many readers take a more favourable view of Miliband’s proposed energy price freeze than their paper), Mail readers will respect the decency of a son defending his father. Milband’s article is yet another plain indication of what a powerful and open kind of leader he is. That’s a shot in the foot to you, there, Dacre.

A Labour spokesman said: “Ed Miliband wrote his right to reply article because he wanted to state clearly that his father loved Britain. He wanted the Daily Mail to treat his late father’s reputation fairly. Rather than acknowledge it has smeared his father, tonight the newspaper has repeated its original claim. This simply diminishes and exposes the Daily Mail further”.

It will be for people to judge whether this newspaper’s treatment of a World War Two veteran, Jewish refugee from the Nazis and distinguished academic reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate”.

This comes at a sensitive time as the privy council decides this month whether to accept a royal charter proposed by leading newspaper groups or by the three main political parties.

So the Daily Mail is opening up opportunity to discuss, not to mention, re-write history. Let’s explore this further. I seem to recall that the Mail has notably disseminated fascist ideology on many previous occasions.

On 6th February, during his first cross-examination in the Leveson Enquiry, Dacre openly admitted that the Mail  had used the private detective Steve Whittamore, who was jailed in 2005 for illegally accessing information, but Dacre claimed that the rest of the British press had done so too. Oh, right, let you off then.

Peter Wright, now a former editor of the Mail on Sunday, had said in his Leveson examination that the paper continued using Whittamore for 18 months after his conviction, which Dacre effectively confirmed.

Dacre’s many hate-filled and nationally divisive headlines following the imposition of the Tory-led barbaric benefit cuts that promote an ideological pre-Victorian regressive separation of our fellow citizens into the categories of deserving and undeserving poor, demonstrates plainly that this is a person without morals, compassion or the capacity for critical evaluation and telling the truth.

Here are some critically evaluative, truthful citations from the Mail during the 1930s, and they may explain why the Mail  has been so strangely and uncharacteristically silent when it comes to championing its own “glorious” past. Never mind, I shall speak to fill the notable absence of comment on the matter.

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Some history: Viscount Rothermere, of Hemsted in Kent, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1919 for the press Lord Harold Harmsworth, 1st Baron Harmsworth. He had already been created a baronet, of Horsey in the County of Norfolk, on 14 July 1910, and Baron Rothermere, of Hemsted in the County of Kent, in 1914. Every holder of the titles has served as Chairman of Daily Mail and General Trust plc. As of 2009, the titles are held by the first Viscount’s great-grandson, the fourth Viscount, Jonathon Harmsworth, who succeeded his father in 1998 (see above.)

Current Mail Corporate directors are:

  • Lord Rothermere
  • Peter Williams
  • Paul Dacre
  • Padraic Fallon
  • Charles Dunstone
  • Nicholas Berry

Lord Rothermere and the Mail were editorially sympathetic to the [then] Tory Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Rothermere wrote an article entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in January 1934, praising Mosley for his “sound, common sense, Conservative doctrine”. This support ended only after violence at a BUF rally in Kensington Olympia, which rather forced the issue later that year.

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This headline appeared on the front page of the 8th July 1934 edition, and accompanied a piece on Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists that read, in part:

If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley’s huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it”.

Subsequent articles emphasised the paper’s unwavering support, and on 15th January 1934, the BUF was described as: “a well-organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed”.

This parallels the Mail’s similar enthusiasm for Fascist parties elsewhere in Europe, especially Adolf Hitler’s burgeoning Nazi movement: “The sturdy young Nazis are Europe’s guardians against the Communist danger”.

On 24th September, 1930 Lord Rothermere, wrote:

These young Germans have discovered, as I am glad to note the young men and women of England are discovering, that it is no good trusting to the old politicians. Accordingly they have formed, as I would like to see our British youth form, a Parliamentary party of their own. […] The older generation of Germans were our enemies. Must we make enemies of this younger generation too?”

On 10th July 1933, Rothermere continued:

I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia. They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call “Nazi atrocities” which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny”.

On 7th December 1933, Hitler wrote to Rothermere in person:

I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict”.

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Hitler and the Viscount Rothermere

Lord Rothermere had friendships with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the 1930s. Rothermere’s 1933 leader “Youth Triumphant” praised the new Nazi regime’s accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them. In it, Rothermere predicted that:

The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany”.

Stan Cohen’s “Folk Devils and Moral Panics” outlines a clear explanation of the way in which the media and those in a position of political power define a social group as a threat to societal values and interests. Fanned by screaming media headlines, Cohen demonstrates how this leads to such groups being marginalised and vilified in the popular press and public imagination, inhibiting rational debate about solutions to social problems that those marginalised groups are being scapegoated and blamed for creating.

Furthermore, he argued that moral panics serve to identify and expose the very fault lines of power in society. There is no consensus, only a constant attempt to superficially justify and maintain a corrupt system of gross power imbalances and crass politically created inequalities.

Conservative by name, and regressive by nature. We must continue to challenge and dismantle the Tory-directed media monologues.

And if you have any doubts about the right-wing stranglehold on the media, just go ask the Guardian editor-in-chief what happened to the hard drives that held Edward Snowden’s very informative disclosures.

Yes, that’s the unmistakable sound of jackboots approaching.

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With many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his continued and valuable efforts to expose this Government via his brilliant pictures.

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 Speak up for decency in British politics

Update from Mike Sivier, 11th March, 2014: Naughty, naughty Daily Mail! Miliband story creates torrent of complaints


14 new policies in just 72 hours from Labour.

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1. Labour pledge to build a million new homes

2. Labour pledged to create a State-Owned Rail Company that would compete and win back Rail Franchises.

3. Labour vow to cut business rates for small firms

4. Labour vowed to introduce an increased Bankers’ Bonus Tax if they win in 2015.

5. Labour promised Free Childcare worth £5,000 a year for working parents who had kids aged 3+4.

6. Labour committed to Sacking ATOS and scrapping WCA assessments if they win the election.

7. Ed Miliband promised to repeal the Bedroom Tax.

8. Ed Balls pledged to reverse the Pension Tax relief that the Tories gifted to millionaires.

9. Labour promised to reverse the Tory Tax cut for Hedge Funds.

10. Labour said they would create 200,000 Apprenticeships and tie it to immigration.

11. Ed Miliband vowed to increase the fine levied on firms not paying the Minimum Wage by 1000% to £50,000.

12. Labour are to introduce a new Disability Hate Crime Prevention Law.

13. Labour would freeze gas and electricity bills for every home and business in the UK for at least 20 months,the big energy firms would be split up and governed by a new tougher regulator to end overcharging.

14. Voting age to be lowered to 16

Miliband has also declared a commitment to socialism.

Watch this space  ♥


 

Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference: full text

It’s great to be in Brighton. And I want to start by thanking somebody from the bottom of my heart for the kindest of words. Not Justine …oh, I would like to thank her, a round of applause for Justine please, ladies and gentlemen. Not my mum … but a woman called Ella Philips. It was local election day, Ella rode past me on her bike, she fell off …it’s not funny! I helped her up and afterwards she called me something I had never been called before: she said I was an “action hero”. Why are you laughing? She said I was an action hero “who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere”. And she said, “What added to all the confusion was that Ed was actually attractive and not geeky at all”. I promise you, she did say that. She said, “Even the way he appeared was suave”. I don’t know why you find this so funny, friends. “He was dressed casually, but he had style”. Sounds quite me, doesn’t it? Now I was pretty pleased with this, as you can tell, until something dawned on me: Ella was concussed. She was badly concussed. In fact, she herself said, “I was seeing things because I was still in quite a daze”. Well, Ella, you are not kidding. But let me say, Ella, if you are watching today, thank you, you have made my year.

I want to start today with the simplest of thoughts. An idea that has inspired change for generations. The belief that helped drive us out of the Second World War and into that great reforming government of 1945. An ambition that is more important now than it has been for decades. An emotion that is felt across our country at kitchen tables every night. A feeling that is so threatening to those who want to keep things as they are. Words that are so basic and yet so powerful, so modest and yet so hard to believe. Six simple words that say: Britain can do better than this. Britain can do better than this; we are Britain, we are better than this.

Are you satisfied with a country where people are working for longer for less, year after year? Are you satisfied with a country divided losing touch with the things we value the most? Are you satisfied with a country that shuts out the voices of millions of ordinary people and listens only to the powerful? Are you satisfied with a country standing apart as two nations? Well I am not satisfied. We are Britain, we are better than this. And we have to rebuild anew One Nation. An economy built on your success, a society based on your values, a politics that hears your voice – rich and poor alike – accepting their responsibilities top each other. One Nation, we are going to make it happen, and today I am going to tell you how.

I want to start with leadership. Leadership is about risks and difficult decisions. It is about those lonely moments when you have to peer deep into your soul. I ran for the leadership of this party, it was really hard for my family, but I believed that Labour needed to turn the page and I was the best person to do it. I when I became leader I faced a decision about whether we should stand up to Rupert Murdoch. It wasn’t the way things had been done in the past, but it was the right thing to do so I did it. And together we faced them down. And then the other week I faced an even bigger decision about whether the country should go to war. The biggest decision any leader faces, the biggest decision any Parliament faces, the biggest decision any party faces. All of us were horrified by the appalling chemical weapons attacks in Syria, but when I stood on the stage three years ago, when I became your leader, I said we would learn the lessons of Iraq. It would have been a rush to war, it wasn’t the right thing for our country. So I said no. It was the right thing to do. You see, the real test of leadership is not whether you stand up to the weak, that’s easy; it’s whether you stand up to the strong and know who to fight for. And you know I am reminded of a story back when I was starting out, standing to be an MP in Doncaster, with a woman called Molly Roberts. Molly was in her seventies, and there I was candidly trying to get her vote, sitting in her front from sipping a mug of tea. And she said to me, “How can you, who weren’t brought up in this area, possibly understand the lives of people here, their hopes and their struggles?”

It was the right question, and here is the answer. For me it lies in the values I was brought up with. You see in my house it was my mum that taught me these values. About the importance of reaching out a listening to people, of understanding their hopes and their struggles. She is the most patient, generous person I have met in my whole life. And she taught me never to be contemptuous of others, never to be dismissive of their struggle. Now she was teaching me a lesson of life. And some people will say, ah yeah but you have to leave decency behind when it comes to politics. Well I say they are wrong, because only if you reach out and listen can you do the most important thing a leader can do, the most important qualification in my view for being Prime Minister. Only then will you have the ability to walk in the shoes of others and know who to fight for, whoever your opponent, however powerful they are, guided by the only thing that matters: your sense of what is right. This is what I believe, this is where I stand, this is the leadership Britain needs.

And when I think about who we need to fight for I think about all the people I have met over the last year. I think of the people Britain and their enormous and extraordinary spirit. I think of our troops, serving so bravely all around the world. Let us pay tribute to them today. You know I have seen in Afghanistan those young men and women, young men and women who are young enough to be my son or daughter serving our country, and it is a truly humbling experience. And the events of the last few days in Kenya remind us of the importance of being ever-vigilant against terrorism at home and around the world. I think of the brave men and women of our police force, who serve with so little credit each and every day for our country.

Let us thank them for what they do. And then I think of all the people I have met over the last year. During the local election campaign I did something unusual. I went to town centres, market squares and high streets and I stood on a pallet – not a soapbox, but a pallet. And I talked to people about their lives. I remember this town meeting I had in Cleverly. It was just coming to the end of the meeting and this bloke wandered up. He was incredibly angry. It’s a family show so I won’t exactly repeat what he said. He was so angry he wouldn’t give me his name, but he did tell me his story about how he spent the last ten years looking after his disabled wife, and then another four years looking for a job and not finding one. He was angry about immigration and some people in the crowd booed him. But actually he wasn’t prejudiced, he just felt the economy didn’t work for him. And then I think about the two market traders I met in Chesterfield, standing by their stalls, out in all weathers, working all hours, and they said look this country just doesn’t seem to be rewarding our hard work and effort. There seem to be some people getting something for nothing. This society is losing touch with our values. And then I think about this beautiful sunny spring day I spent in Lincoln. And the face in the crowd, this young woman who said she was an ambulance controller. So proud to be working for our National Health Service. And so proud too of her young son.

Because she was a single parent, nineteen years old, and what she said to me was, “Why does everybody portray me as a burden on the system? I am not a burden on the system, I am going out, I am doing the right thing for the country, why doesn’t anyone listen to my voice?” And then I think about this scaffolder I met just around the corner from where I live. I was just coming back from a local café I’d been at. He stopped in me the street, he said to me, “Where’s your bodyguard?” I said I don’t have one, but that’s another story. He told me his story. And what he said to me was “look, I go out, I do the work, I go all around the country, again out in all weathers, I earn a decent wage, but I still can’t make ends meet”. And he said to me, “Is anyone ever going to do anything about those gas and electric bills that just go up and up, faster than I can earn a living?” He wanted someone to fight for him. Now if you listen to these stories – four of millions of the stories of our country – and you have your own, and your friends and family, what do you learn? All of these people love Britain, they embody its great spirit, but they all believe that Britain can do better than this. Today I say to them and millions of others you’re right, Britain can do better than this, Britain must do better than this, Britain will do better than this with a government that fights for you.

But for Britain to do better than this we’ve got to understand why we got here, why things are so tough at the moment even while they tell you there is a recovery and why unless we put things right it will only be a recovery for the few. Now what I’m about to tell you is the most important thing I’m going to say today about what needs to change about our country. For generations in Britain when the economy grew the majority got better off. And then somewhere along the way that vital link between the growing wealth of the country and your family finances was broken. This is, this goes beyond one party or one government. It is more important to you than which party is in power, even more important than that.

You see, when I was growing up in the 1980s, I saw the benefits of growing prosperity, people able to buy a house, a car, even a second car, go on a foreign holiday their grandparents would never have dreamed of. Not spend all their hours at work, able to spend time with kids, not working all the hours that god sends, have a secure pension in retirement and also believe that their kids would have a better life than them. That feels a long way away from where Britain is today doesn’t it and that is because it is. You see, somewhere along the way that link got broken. They used to say a rising tide lifts all boats, now the rising tide just seems to lift the yachts. Now I say this to the people of Britain. If I were you I wouldn’t even take a second look at a political party unless they make this their central defining purpose because your future depends on it. Your children’s future depends on it. Britain’s future depends on it. I say we are Britain we can do better than this.

Now I have got a question for you ladies and gentlemen, do the Tories get it?

[Audience: No]

Oh come on, I didn’t hear you, do the Tories get it?

[Audience: No]

Ok that is better. They don’t get it do they. I want to say this. I understand why three and a half years ago some people might have thought that David Cameron did get it and that is why people voted for him at the last general election. But they voted for change and I don’t believe they got the change that they were voting for. Let me just explain it this way: next week we are going to see David Cameron resuming his lap of honour for how brilliantly he’s done as Prime Minister. Claiming credit for his enormous achievements, how he has saved the economy as they put it.

No doubt he’ll even be taking off his shirt and flinging it into the crowd expecting adoration from the British people like he did recently on holiday and maybe I should make this promise while I’m about it, if I become Prime Minister I won’t take my shirt off in public, I mean it is just not necessary is it. I’ll try and keep the promise. Anyway, back to David Cameron, so he is going on this lap of honour, everything is brilliant, he’s saved the economy, George Osborne, he deserves the garlands as well, you know, aren’t they brilliant. Come on. The slowest recovery in one hundred years. One million young people looking for work. More people on record working part-time who want full time work. More people than for a generation out of work for longer. The longest fall in living standards since 1870. That is not worthy of a lap of honour. That is worthy of a lap of shame and that is the record of this government.

He does have one record though but I don’t think it credits a lap of honour. He has been Prime Minister for 39 months and in 38 of those months wages have risen more slowly than prices. That means your living standards falling year, after year, after year. So in 2015 you’ll be asking am I better off now than I was five years ago? And we already know the answer for millions of families will be no. You’ve made the sacrifices, but you haven’t got the rewards. You were the first into the recession but you are the last one out. Now of course it would have taken time to recover from the global financial crisis whoever was in power. But when these Tories tell you that the pain will be worth the gain, don’t believe them. They can’t solve the cost of living crisis and here is why. The cost of living crisis isn’t an accident of David Cameron’s economic policy it is in his economic policy.

Let me explain why. You see he believes in this thing called the global race, but what he doesn’t tell you is that he thinks for Britain to win the global race you have to lose, lower wages, worse terms and conditions, fewer rights at work. But Britain can’t win a race for the lowest wages against countries where wages rates are pennies an hour and the more we try the worse things will get for you. Britain can’t win a race for the fewest rights at work against the sweat shops of the world and the more we try the worse things will get for you. And Britain can’t win a race for the lowest skilled jobs against countries where kids leave school at the age of 11. And the more we try the worse things will get for you. It is a race to the bottom. Britain cannot and should not win that race.

You see it is not the low achievements of these Tories that really gets me. That is bad enough. It is their low aspirations; it is their low aspirations for you. It is their low aspirations for Britain but their high hopes for those at the top. The City bonuses are back. Up 82% in April alone thanks to the millionaire’s tax cut. So when they tell you the economy is healing, that everything is fixed, just remember, they are not talking about your life, they are talking about their friends at the top. That is who they are talking about; it is high hopes for them. And every so often you know the mask slips doesn’t it.

The other day a man they call Lord Howell, he was I think their advisor on fracking at one point… There is nothing funny about that. He said it was wrong to frack in some areas but it was ok in others, it was ok in the North East of England because he said, and I quote ‘it was full of desolate and uninhabited areas.’ In one casual aside dismissing one whole region of the country. Let’s tell these Tories about the North East of England and every other part of Britain. People go out to work. They love their kids. They bring up their families. They care for their neighbours. They look out for each other. They are proud of their communities. They are proud of their communities. They hope for the future. The Tories call them inhabitants of desolate areas. We call them our friends, our neighbours, the heroes of our country. They are fed up of a government that doesn’t understand their lives and a Prime Minister who cannot walk in their shoes. We are Britain, we are better than this.

Now, to make Britain better we have got to win a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. A race to the top which means that other countries will buy our goods the companies will come and invest here and that will create the wealth and jobs we need for the future but we are not going to be able to do it easily. It is going to be tough and let me just say this friends. You think opposition is tough, you should try government. It is going to be tough; it is not going to be easy. And I’m not going to stand here today and pretend to you it is.

We are going to have to stick to strict spending limits to get the deficit down. We are not going to be able to spend money we don’t have and frankly if I told you we were going to you wouldn’t believe me, the country wouldn’t believe me and they would be right not to believe me. But we can make a difference. We can win the race to the top and let me tell you how. It is about the jobs we create, it is about the businesses we support, it is about the talents we nurture, it is about the wages we earn and it is about the vested interests that we take on. Let me start with the jobs of the future. The environment is a passion of mine because when I think about my two kids who are 2 and 4 at the moment and not talking that much about the environment, more interested in The Octonauts. There’s a plug. In 20 years’ time they’ll say to me ‘were you the last generation not to get climate change or the first generation to get it?’ That is the question they’ll be asking.

But it is not just about environmental care. It is also about the jobs we create in the future. You see some people say, including George Osborne, that we can’t afford to have environmental at a time like this. He is dead wrong. We can’t afford not to have an environmental commitment at a time like this. That is why Labour will have a world leading commitment in government to take all of the carbon out of our energy by 2030. A route map to one million new green jobs in our country. That is how we win the race to the top.

And to win that race to the top we have also got to do something else, we’ve got to support the businesses of the future. Now many of the new jobs in the future will come from a large number of small businesses not a small number of large businesses. And this is really important. If you think 15 years ahead, the rate of change and dynamism is so great that most of the new jobs that will be being done will be by companies that don’t yet exist. Now that changes the priorities for government. When this government came to office, since they came to office they cut taxes for large business by £6 bn but raised taxes on small businesses. Now I don’t think that is the right priority. Yes we need a competitive tax regime for large businesses but frankly they’ve short-changed small business and I’m going to put it right. If Labour wins power in 2015 we will use the money that this government would use to cut taxes for 80,000 large businesses to cut business rates for 1.5 million businesses across our country.

That is the way we win the race to the top. One Nation Labour. The party of small business. Cutting small business rates when we come to office in 2015 and freezing them the next year benefitting businesses by at least £450 a year. That is how we win the race for the top friends, and to win that race to the top we’ve also got to nurture the talents of the next generation. The skills of people. There are so many brilliant businesses in our country who provide amazing training for the workforce, but look, we have got to face facts, leading businesses say this to me too which is there aren’t enough of them and we have got to work to change that so we will say if you want a major government contract you must provide apprenticeships for the next generation. And we’ll also say to companies doing the right thing, training their workforce that they will have the power to call time on free-riding by competitors who refuse to do the same. That’s how we win the race to the top friends.

It’s not just business that has to accept responsibility though, it’s young people. We have a tragedy in this country. Hundreds of thousands of young people who leave school and end up on the dole. We’ve got this word for it haven’t we? NEET: Not in education employment or training. Behind that short word is a tragedy of hundreds of thousands of wasted lives. If the school system fails our young people they shouldn’t be ending up on benefits. They should be ending up in education or training so they can get back on the road to a proper career. That requires them to accept responsibility but it requires government too to accept our responsibilities for the next generation in Britain, and that’s what we’ll do.

But to win the race to the top we’ve also got to take advantage of the talents of Britain’s 12 million parents. Justine and I had one of the great privileges in any parent’s life this year, which was taking our son Daniel to his first day at school. He was nervous at first, but actually pretty soon he started having fun; it’s a bit like being leader of the Labour Party really. Well it’s not exactly like being leader of the Labour Party. But look, for so many parents in this country the demands of the daily school run, combined with their job are like their very own daily assault course and we’ve got to understand that. Because we can’t win the race to the top with stressed out parents and family life under strain – we’ve got to change that.

In the last century, schools stayed open till mid-afternoon and that was okay back then because one parent usually stayed at home. But it’s not okay now: that’s why we want every primary school in Britain to have the breakfast clubs and after school care that parents need and that’s what the next Labour government will do.

To win the race to the top we’ve also got to deal with the issue of low pay. The National Minimum Wage, one of the last Labour government’s proudest achievements, friends. But we have to face facts: there are millions of people in this country going out to work, coming home at night, unable to afford to bring up their families. I just think that’s wrong in one of the richest countries in the world. The next Labour government must write the next chapter in dealing with the scourge of low pay in this country. And to do that though, we’ve got to learn lessons from the way the minimum wage came in, because it was about business and working people, business and unions working together in the right way so we set the minimum wage at the right level and we’ve got to do the same again. The minimum wage has been falling in value and we’ve got to do something about it.

There are some sectors, and I don’t often say anything nice about the banks but I will today, there are some sectors which actually can afford to pay higher wages, and some of them are – a living wage in some of the banks. So we’ve got to look at whether there are some sectors where we can afford a higher minimum but we’ve got to do it on the right basis – business and working people working together. That’s what we will do: the next Labour government will strengthen the minimum wage to make work pay for millions in our country. That’s how we win the race to the top.

And to win that race to the top we’ve got to call a halt to the race to the bottom, between workers already here and workers coming here. I’m the son of two immigrant parents. I’m proud of the welcome Britain gave me and my family, and we’ve always welcomed people who work, contribute and are part of our community. Let me say this, if people want a party that will cut itself off from the rest of the world, then let me say squarely: Labour is not your party. But if people want a party that will set the right rules for working people then Labour is your party, the only party that will do it. Employers not paying the minimum wage and government turning a blind eye – it’s a race to the bottom; not under my government.

Recruitment agencies hiring only from overseas – it’s a race to the bottom; not under my government. Shady gang masters exploiting people in industries from constructing to food processing – it’s a race to the bottom; not under my government. Rogue landlords, putting 15 people in tied housing – it’s a race to the bottom; not under my government. And our country, sending out a message to the world that if you need to engage in shady employment practices, then Britain is open for businesses? It’s a race to the bottom; not under my government. And in case anyone asks whether this is pandering to prejudice, let’s tell them, it isn’t. It’s where Labour has always stood – countering exploitation, whoever it affects, wherever they come from. We’ve never believed in a race to the bottom, we’ve always believed in a race to the top, that is our party.

And to win the race to the top we’ve also got to take on the vested interests that hold our economy back. In the 1990s we committed to a dynamic market economy. Think of those words: ‘dynamic, ‘market’, ‘economy’. And then think about this, what happens when competition fails? What happens when it just fails again and again and again? Then government has to act. Train companies that put the daily commute out of reach. Payday lenders who force people into unpayable debt. Gas and electric companies that put prices up and up and up. It’s not good for an economy. It’s not a dynamic market economy when one section of society does so well at the expense of others. It’s bad for families, it’s bad for business and it’s bad for Britain too.

Now some people will just blame the companies but actually I don’t think that’s where the blame lies. I think it lies with government. I think it lies with government for not having had the strength to take this on. Not having stood up to the powerful interests. Not having the strength to stand up to the strong.

Take the gas and electricity companies. We need successful energy companies, in Britain. We need them to invest for the future. But you need to get a fair deal and frankly, there will never be public consent for that investment unless you do get a fair deal. And the system is broken and we are going to fix it.

If we win the election 2015 the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. Your bills will not rise. It will benefit millions of families and millions of businesses. That’s what I mean by a government that fights for you. That’s what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.

Now the companies aren’t going to like this because it will cost them more but they have been overcharging people for too long because of a market that doesn’t work. It’s time to reset the market. So we will pass legislation in our first year in office to do that, and have a regulator that will genuinely be on the customers’ side but also enable the investment we need. That’s how Britain will do better than this.

So, making Britain better than this starts with our economy – your economic success as a foundation for Britain’s economic success. But it doesn’t just stop there it goes to our society as well. I told you earlier on about those market traders in Chesterfield and how they felt that society had lost touch with their values. I think what they were really saying was this: that they put in huge hard work and effort, they bring up their kids in the right way and they just feel that their kids are going to have a worse life than them. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to renting or buying a home.

There are 9 million people in this country renting a home, many of whom who would want to buy. 9 million people – we don’t just have a cost of living crisis, we have a housing crisis too. In 2010 when we left office there was a problem. There were one million too few homes in Britain. If we carry on as we are, by 2020 there will be two million too few homes in Britain. That is the equivalent of two cities the size of Birmingham. Wave got to do something about it and the next Labour government will. So we’ll say to private developers, you can’t just sit on land and refuse to build. We will give them a very clear message – either use the land or lose the land, that is what the next Labour government will do.

We’ll say to local authorities that they have a right to grow, and neighbouring authorities can’t just stop them. We’ll identify new towns and garden cities and we’ll have a clear aim that by the end of the parliament Britain will be building 200,000 homes a year, more than at any time in a generation. That’s how we make Britain better than this.

And nowhere do we need to put the values of the British people back at the heart of our country more than in our National Health Service, the greatest institution of our country. You know I had a letter a couple of months back from a 17 year old girl. She was suffering from depression and anxiety and she told me a heart-breaking story about how she had ended up in hospital for 10 weeks. Mental health is a truly one nation problem. It covers rich and poor, North and South, young and old alike and let’s be frank friends, in the privacy of this room; we’ve swept it under the carpet for too long. It’s a bit of a British thing isn’t it; we don’t like to talk about it. If you’ve got a bad back or if you’re suffering from cancer you can talk abbot it but if you’ve got depression or anxiety you don’t want to talk about it because somehow it doesn’t seem right – we’ve got to change that. It’s an afterthought in our National Health Service.

And here’s a really interesting thing – so you might say, it’s going to be really tough times Ed, you told us that before. You said there would be really difficult decisions in government, and that’s true, so how are you going to make it work? Well here’s the thing, the 17-year-old said in that letter, look if someone had actually identified the problem when it started three years earlier I wouldn’t have ended up in hospital. I wouldn’t have ended up costing the state thousands of pounds and the anguish that I had. So it’s about that early identification and talking about this issue.

And if it’s true of mental health, it’s true in an even bigger way about care for the elderly. There’s so much more our country could be doing for our grandmas and granddads, mum and dads, nuclease and aunts. And it’s the same story. Just putting a £50 grab rail in the home stops somebody falling over, prevents them ending up in hospital with the needless agony, and all of the money that it costs. The 1945 Labour government, in really tough times, raised its sights and created the National Health Service. I want the next Labour government to do the same, even in tough times, to raise our sights about what the health service can achieve, bringing together physical health, mental health, and the care needs of the elderly: a true integrated National Health Service. That’s the business of the future.

But we don’t just need to improve the health service, friends; we’ve got to rescue it from these Tories. And the Liberals too. Now look, before the election, I remember the speeches by David Cameron. I remember one where he said the three most important letters to him were NHS. Well he has got a funny way of showing it, hasn’t he?

And when they came to office, they were still saying how brilliant was in the health service, how the health service was doing great things and the doctors and nurses and so on. Now have you noticed they have changed their tune recently? Suddenly they are saying how bad everything is in the NHS. Now the vast majority of doctors and nurses do a fantastic job. Sometimes things go wrong. And when they do, we should be the first people to say so. But hear me on this. The reason David Cameron is running down the NHS is not because the doctors and nurses aren’t doing as good a job as they were before. It is because they have come to a realisation that the health service is getting worse on their watch and they are desperately thrashing around trying to find someone else to blame. Blame the doctors, blame the nurses, blame the last Labour government.

That is what they are doing. Well let me tell you about the record of the last Labour government. When we came to office there were waiting time targets of 18 months that were not being met, when we left office there were waiting time targets of 18 weeks that were being met. When we came to office there was an annual winter A&E crisis, when we left office the people had A&E services they could rely on. When we came to office there were fewer doctors and nurses, we when left office more doctors and nurses than ever before. And when we came to office people said well the health service, it was a good idea in previous generations but I don’t really believe it will be there in the next, and we left office with the highest public satisfaction in the history of the health services. Yes friends, we did rescue the National Health Service. So when you hear David Cameron casting around for someone to blame for what is happening in the NHS just remember it is not complicated, it’s simple, it’s as simple as ABC: when it comes to blame, it is Anyone But Cameron.

We know who is responsible, the top-down reorganisation that nobody voted for and nobody wanted, the abolition of NHS Direct, the cuts to social care, the fragmentation of services. We know who is responsible for thousands of fewer nurses, we know who is responsible not just for an annual A&E crisis, but an A&E crisis for all seasons. It is this Prime Minister who is responsible. So friends it is the same old story, we rescue the NHS, they wreck the NHS and we have to rescue it all over again. And that is what the next Labour government will do.

Right, I have explained to you how we can make Britain better by changing our economy and changing our society, and now I want to talk about how we change our politics. And here is the bit you have all been looking forward to: party reform. Now look let me say to you, change is difficult, change is uncomfortable. And I understand why people are uncomfortable about some of the changes, but I just want to explain to you why I think it is so important.

With all of the forces ranged against us, we can’t just be a party of 200,000 people. We have got to be a party of 500,000, 600,000, or many more. And I am optimistic enough – some might say idealistic enough – to believe that is possible. And the reason it is possible in our party is the unique link we have with the trade unions. The unique link. I don’t want to end that link, I want to mend that link. And I want to hear the voices of individual working people in our party, louder than before. Because you see, think about our history. It is many of you who have been telling us that actually we haven’t been rooted enough in the workplaces of our country. And that is what I want to change. And that is the point of my reforms. See my reforms are about hearing the voices of people from call centre workers to construction workers, from people with small businesses to people working in supermarkets at the heart of our party. Because you see it is about my view of politics. Leaders matter, of course they do, leadership matters, but in the end political change happens because people make it happen. And you can’t be a party that properly fights for working people unless you have working people at the core of your party, up and down this country. That is the point of my reforms. And I want to work with you to make them happen so that we can make ourselves a mass-membership party. Friends, let’s make ourselves truly the people’s party once again.

But to change our politics we have got to a lot more than that. We have got to hear the voices of people that haven’t been heard for a long time. I think about our young people, their talent, their energy, their voices. The voices of young people demanding a job, the voices of young people who demand that we shoulder and don’t shirk our responsibilities to the environment. The voices of gay and lesbian young people who led the fight and won the battle for equal marriage in Britain. And the voices of young people, particularly young women, who say in 2013 the battle for equality is not won. You see they are not satisfied that 33% of Labour MPs are women, they want it to be 50% and they are right. They are not satisfied that 40 years after the Equal Pay Act, we still do not have equal pay for work of equal value in this country. They are not satisfied and they are right. And they are not satisfied that in Britain in 2013, women are still subject to violence, harassment, and everyday sexism. They are not satisfied and they are right. Friends, let’s give a voice to these young people in our party. And let’s give a voice to these young people in our democracy, let’s give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds and make them part of our democracy.

But you know we have got to win the battle for perhaps the most important institution of all, our United Kingdom. Friends, devolution works. Carwyn Jones, our brilliant First Minister of Wales, he is showing devolution works. And let’s praise the leadership of our Scottish Joanne Lamont for the brilliant job she is doing against Alex Salmond. Now that referendum on September the 18th 2014, it is going to be conducted on the basis of fact and figures and arguments and counterarguments, but I have a story I want to tell you which I think says even more. It’s the story of Cathy Murphy. Cathy Murphy lives in Glasgow, she worked in the local supermarket. In 2010, Cathy was diagnosed with a serious heart problem, but she came to Labour conference nonetheless in 2011 as a delegate. She fell seriously ill. Her family were called down from Glasgow.

The doctors said to her that to save her life they’d have to give her a very long and very risky operation. She had that operation a few weeks later at the world-leading Liverpool Broadgreen hospital. Cathy pulled through. She went back to Glasgow some weeks later. She comes back down to Liverpool every six months for her check-up. Now she said to me the nurses and doctors don’t ask whether she is English or Scottish, the hospital doesn’t care where she lives. They care about her because she is Scottish and British, a citizen of our United Kingdom. Friends, Cathy is with us today, back as a delegate. Where is she? Cathy’s here. Friends, I don’t want Cathy to become a foreigner. Let’s win the battle for the United Kingdom.

So I have talked to you today about policy and what a Labour government would do, how it would make Britain better and win a race to the top in our economy, put our society back in touch with people’s values and change our politics so it lets new voices in. But the next election isn’t just going to be about policy. It is going to be about how we lead and the character we show. I have got a message for the Tories today: if they want to have a debate about leadership and character, be my guest. And if you want to know the difference between me and David Cameron, here’s an easy way to remember it. When it was Murdoch versus the McCanns, he took the side of Murdoch. When it was the tobacco lobby versus the cancer charities, he took the side of the tobacco lobby. When it was the millionaires who wanted a tax cut versus people paying the bedroom tax, he took the side of the millionaires. Come to think of it, here is an even easier way to remember it: David Cameron was the Prime Minister who introduced the bedroom tax, I’ll be the Prime Minister who repeals the bedroom tax.

You see here is the thing about David Cameron. He may be strong at standing up to the weak, but he is always weak when it comes to standing up against the strong. That is the difference between me and David Cameron, so let’s have that debate about leadership and character, and I relish that debate. And we know what we are going to see from these Tories between now and the general election, it is the lowest form of politics, it is divide and rule. People on benefits versus those in work. People in unions against those outside union. People in the private sector versus those in the public sector. People in the north against those in the south. It is the worst form of politics. Like sending vans into areas of Britain where people’s mums and granddads have lived for years, generations, and telling people to go home. I say we are Britain, we are better than this. Telling anyone who’s looking for a job that they are a scrounger. However hard they are looking, even if the work is not available. I say we are Britain we are better than this. So come on. So David Cameron I have got a message for you. You can tell your Lynton Crosby, it might work elsewhere, it won’t work here. We’re Britain, we’re better than this.

Friends, the easy path for politics is to divide, that’s the easy part. You need to know this about me, I believe in seeing the best in people, not the worst. That’s what I am about. That’s how we create One Nation. That’s how we make Britain better than this. That’s how we have a government that fights for you.

Now, it is going to be a big fight between now and the general election. Prepare yourself for that fight. But when you think about that fight, don’t think about our party, think about our country. I don’t want to win this fight for Labour; I want to win it for Britain. And just remember this, throughout our history, when the voices of hope have been ranged against the voices of fear, the voices of hope have won through. Those who said at the dawn of the industrial revolution that working people needed the vote and they wouldn’t wait – they knew Britain could be better than this, and we were.

Those that said, at the birth of a new century, those who said at the birth of a new century that working people needed a party to fight for them and the old order wouldn’t do – they knew Britain could be better than this, and we were. Those who said at our darkest hour in the Second World War that Britain needed to rebuild after the war and said ‘never again’, they knew Britain could be better than this, and we did. Those who said, as the 20th Century grew old, that the battle for equality was still young; they knew Britain could do better than this, and we did.

And so now it falls to us, to build One Nation, a country for all, a Britain we rebuild together. Britain’s best days lie ahead. Britain can do better than this.

We’re Britain, we’re better than this. I’ll lead a government that fights for you.

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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent pictures