Category Archives: Unemployment

Is Anyone Out There Listening?


I do not wish to be parochial or small-minded. But the world, at least my world, is behaving in a most peculiar manner. Take Brexit,  or don’t take it, from my point of view, very large numbers of British people admitted that they might be  worse off if there was a  Brexit – but they voted Leave anyway. ‘What do people like us have to lose ‘ they said. Quite a lot actually: your job, higher shop prices, a collapse in annuity values and cancelling the annual holiday to the Costa Brava or some such place. Such warnings were greeted with a shrug. ‘So what’ and ‘they could hardly get worse’. Are you real don’t these things matter any more?

And take Corbyn – I wish you would -and the Labour leadership contest. Owen Smith has made himself as close to an identikit candidate as he could (excepting devising a way to stay in the EU and renewing Trident, that I admit from my point of view are extremely important). He is well educated, presentable. well-informed, has management experience and  the confidence of the Parliamentary Party .Shouldn’t we Labourites  give him a majority? The reply:’I agree he is very presentable and would make a good Prime Minister.but I intend to stay with Jeremy.’ Why doesn’t he agree with me?

Look at the Corbyn closely, listen to his speech, imagine him representing Britain at an international conference (no placards allowed) or mastering a complex document at No 10?You can imagine him doing these things??? Congratulations for it is quite an achievement.

‘Don’t worry. It will never happen.’ I hear you say. Are you really content with a Conservative Government as far as the eye can see. ‘What will be, will be.’ I hear you say.’I doubt if it will make much difference.’

Wake up, wake up, wake up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coalition: Arbeit macht frei and the Deserving Poor


It is sometimes necessary to shock to reveal an underlying truth. The title of this post is a well-known slogan above the entrance to the Auschwwitz concentration camp which in English means ‘labour makes you free’. In England next week the Coalition government is to give us, in the form of changes to the welfare system, an English version of an underlying truth. To draw the parallel closer I should really use the slogan about the Buchenwald concentration camp: Jadem das Seine( idomatically, everyone gets what they deserve).

Next week several hundreds of the poorest and most vulnerable families in England are to be faced with reductions in their welfare benefits. The Labour Party (admittedly a partisan source) has calculated that these families will lose some £800 over a year. At the same time anumber of members of the Cioalition Government will receice tax cuts worth £100,OOO a year.I am reliably infromed that these unknown members of our government deserve every penny of their tax cut. No dodgers there then.

It is sometimes supposed that the use of the term ‘deserving poor’ was invented in Germany. Not so, it was invented here and brought into law by several Poor Laws in Elizabethan times. I have had the opportunity to study the implementation of these Acts in Colchester, Essex (now represented by a Lib Dem MP.) The poor laws were administered by the local parish churches. Abandoned children and the unemployed on the street corners were brought under the direction of the Parish. Here they were expected to work and at 14 aid ceased although some Parishes provided apprenticeships (ring any bells now?). In some of these parishes the beneficiaries were made to carry a large red letter P on their outer garments to denote that they were recipients of care. Naturally like the Jews in Berlin in the 1930’s with their yellow labels these children were fair game for any spare abuse going on at the time. A sort of badge of shame.

It is said to us by the Coalition that only the deserving poor are worth helping and that there are a lot of scroungers, the undeserving poor, who don’t deserve to receive any benefits whatsoever. For them it is Jadem das Seine or idiomatically, ‘get a job you lousy scrounger). I wonder does the Coalition have any ideas for the introduction of a badge. Let me know dear readers if you know something.

Now of course there are many recipients of welfare who are working but they too are thought undeserving. They will continue to suffer a cut in their wages in real terms because of high inflation and many millions of people are not being paid a living wage but in some mysterious way they remain undeserving. Tough luck, I hear you say plenty of good jobs in the City of London and anyway some of them are Romanian immigrants taking advantage of our low wages.

If you think I am exagerating? I suggest you direct your letter of protest to George Osborne or Nick Clegg. But if as I suspect you are a member of the undeserving poor be careful in the language you use. These public school boys know how to defend each other.

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The Economy Stupid


Elections are won on economics: its the economy stupid. Our numbers are bad but they will become worse. If the Eurozone collapsess they will be disastrous. But party alleigances are static. Hello, out there is any one listening. The reasons for static polls are well-known: mcu blame is attached to Labour’s inheritance of deby and the, seconly, the electorate are dogmatically fair-minded – they give credit for trying. The Coalition is trying – but in more than one meaning of the word. So it is a long and hard road for Labour toi convince the electorate that they could do better. 

What will change things are events. Anyone looking back in 2011 knows how difficult it is to predict them. If they are external events there is a breathless pause while the country rallies round. What woul be the public reaction to a forced opening of the Straits of Hormouz if petrol prices doubled. How would the public react to yet another war? Would it really come to that? It might. Would things look bad for the Coalition if unemployment topped three million. Mrs Thatcher recovered from that but then she needed a successful invasion of the Falklands.

Sometimes Government’s implode. What would make the Coalition implode.  European policy might if Cameron was foolhardy. Surely he won’t be tempted but you never know. Perhaps not. The Coalition might split. Not much chance of that. It is in the Lib Dem interest to soldier on rather than than be decimated by the electorate. 

Once I would have been bold and would make a prediction. Should we settle for a quiet life with more of what we have got. I hope not. Perhaps if I predict it we shall get something more exhilarating. OK nothing will happen in 2012.

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Riots: Always an Economic Cause


The recent riots are not capable of a simplistic explanation and I do not intend to add to any of them. What is lacking in media comment, however, is the absence of any historical perspective and what we are offered is the perpetuation of myths. Britain over the past two  weeks has been far from the nation of dreaming spires, cricket on the green , the clink of teacups and photographs of the Queen in post offices. But it always was at some distance form the idyll. The truth  is also  a long way shorty of the the Tory dream fashioned in the shire counties of everything in its place and a place for everything. If we roam back for the last three hundred years we see evidence of a turbulent Britain colonising approaching forty percent of the world in a misguided desire to further our trade by conquest and -to the pointhe –  a whole series of rebellions and revolts. When closely examined all these revolts have been activated by economics: the price of corn, the loss of earnings, unemployment, social injustice and the corruption and profiteerng of Britains ruling elites.

There is a pervisity in this. The French revolution of 1789 occurred in a country with the highest standard of living among the peasantry in Europe.  Frenc peasants revolted because after basking in the sunlight of a series of good harvests they suddenly experienced a couple of bad one’s. Throw in a little  aristocratic preening and arrogance and you have a Rebellion.

Labour attempted to reform social welfare and largely failed. The Tories have set about it in earnest. Suddenly you have a toxic recipe. High and growing unemployment in many areas, few jobs – and now an attack on benefits. Throw into the mix police corruption, MPs fiddling their expenses and banker’s bonuses, a phony re-launch of the Royal Family and -surprise, surprise – beneath the the sugary confection show so appealing in leafy Oxfordshire and Berksbire you have – revolt, anger, disrespect and  ugly violence. And we are surpised, and taken aback

The aftermath of riots and civil disturnance is always the same: punishment, more discrimination more toffs visiting the riot scenes, and a reluctance to face the obvious. Unless something more is done to tackle youth unemployment and to widen and deepen opportunities in areas discriminated against, there will be more disturbances. The chances of this happening are slim. As we settle into long-term economic depression the inequalites will widen.

We live in an era of tele violence. Seemingly all over the world by the use of social media and a mobile telephone you can get a crowd out on any street anywhere with a minimum of fuss and bother. You don’t need a trade union, you will not find Labour politicians at the head of a procession, and you don’t need to rent a mob. This is the age of the street politican and get youself on the telly. Yes, you – apparently – and almost anyone and anywhere.

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The Obama Doctrine: A Signpost to Disaster


President Obama is an eloquent exponent of the American Dream and gave we European’s a version of this on his visit to Europe last week. Dreams are important to us all but they rarely survive long in the harsh glare of light and to seek to fulfill them can lead to disaster. In the current version the extension of universal rights to democracy, representative government , equality, and the rule of law should become a foreign  policy objective for the West. Its immediate focus is on extending democracy to Africa and the Middle East. In the pursuit of this objective all means, economic, financial and the use of force as a last resort are in order. It has become unanswerable in this docrine that democracy is best not only for human happiness but for the trade and economic development on which the economic stability of Western countries is so dependant.

The Obama doctrine finds an enthusiastic audience in Britain and the European Union. Scarce resources are being provided for the funding of aid and active assistance in nation building and the UN itself is enthusiastic about nation building wherever its sway can be achieved. No one is more enthusiastic than David Cameron and, judging from his recent public appearances and pronouncements,   Ed Milliband.

I hear raised voices at this point. What is wrong about that then? Hold on, my revolutionary friends, say I. Rember the Mensheviks. Do you have a monopoly of vision and prophecy? Can you at this moment of history tell us what will be the outcome of the Arab Spring? Do you expect reason to prevail in Israeli- Palestinian relations? Can you predict the political develpment of Iran?  What will be the nature of successor regimes in the Arab world? Is there more to this world than is dreamt of in your philosophy? Much derided as it is it is now, there is logic in the foreign policy objective of seeking stability in the world and not adding to political turbulence. Perhaps we should be a friend in need to emerging nations and not a friend in your face.

Can I point out to you dear British reader that you live in a country constantly at war in ‘far-away countries’ for the ideals that we share with President Obama. More so than any European country we have been alongside our American friends in worthy (but impractible?) causes around the world. Let’s have more of that then, I hear you say. We Brits have an appetite for it. Does not the call to arms and economic and financial sanctions on  recalcitrant states weary you a little? Are we to have a further two decades of armed struggle with all the division among ourselves this brings?

Well, yes, if need be may be your reply BUT I doubt it. I suggest to you that it is wholly absurd to commit ourselves to the Obama docrine at a time of great austerity, economic stagnation and public expenditure cuts, not least to the armed forces; that to be ‘playing soldiers in Libya’ and perhaps elsewhere is an unsupportable nonsense. For the cost of an intervention in Libya, soon to run beyond a billion pounds and ever upwards we could, for example, ensure the financial viability of care services fior the elderly, boost low cost housing or extend aid to the unemployed. No one would receive a tin medal for it but it could do good. The best way to build respect in the world is to earn it ourselves for our love and attention to our nearest and dearest.

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Barnsley: Worse to Come


The Barnsley Parliamentary By Election humiliation for the Coalition parties does not come as a surprise. There is worse to come. A North-South divide  with Labour dominating the vote in Scotland, Wales and Northern England and the Tories, and to a certain extent the Lib Dems, in the South, South East and South West of England has been evident for decades. New Labour and the growth of Lib Dem support in the South has muddied this picture but the rift remains.

Even if an optimistic view is taken on economic recovery, the scale of Government cuts in expenditure and a lowering of household disposable incomes for years ahead is bound to alienate whole communities across Britain but especially in Labour areas of the country. The Lib Dems, in particular, will pay a heavy electoral price: Council and Assembly votes in May are likely to result in the virtual elimination of the Lib Dems in working class communities in huge swathes of the country. Both Coalition parties are likely to huddle together in what until recently has been the Tory south. Paradoxically, the Lib Dem vote in Council By Elections  in the South has held up and the party has gained some Tory seats. This is an historic pattern of Colaitions of the right and centre over more than 100 years of their temporary emergence and is likely to make more probable the eventual merger of them. While I do not wish to exagerate the similarities between the platforms of the Coalition partners, I do believe it to be true that there a few real differences between the radical economic liberals on  right of the Lib Dems and the social liberals of the Tories: they are cut from the same cloth.

Absurd comparisons between the political and social revolutions underway in the Middle East and Africa and the future we face  together in Britain are best avoided. However, there is a relevant question for we Britons. Are British people going to accept, will ordinary people up and down the country stomach, the destruction of the welfare state, a dramatic lowering of household disposable income and the loss of many jobs, Will the public go quietly when the NHS fails to hold on to many advances, in particular shorter waiting lists for hospital appointments, and the middle classes joining the dole queues?  Of course, of course, I hear you mutter. There will always be a stolid majority for social pain – so long as it doesn’t affect us and  others like us. But will this be true this time?

Well, the Coalition has been busy fixing the Constitutional rules so that it is more difficult to get rid of them. Five years of it and not a drop less has been their resolution. Political memories are short is their belief. But is there not a valid political question? What do people do when it becomes more difficult to throw out one Parliament and elect another. Do people up and down our orderly and responsible society take to the streets? If denied the one sure constitutional method will many people choose another? Surely not. But hold on.  After all we have seen the television pictures of peoples demanding change. This is the tele/internet age. If it works for them why not us? Don’t shoot we’re British is our shout. Of course, our needs are obvious.  Oblivion is what we need now, the bottle and the pills that is what happens in the TV soaps. Oh and throwing something as well. Come off it!

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Words, Words and the Economy


Nick Clegg has emerged as the Coalition champion of the economy since Vince Cable’s well- publicised setbacks. Nick uses a great many words all spoken at a great rate of knots with an intonation that defies interruption. To be fair to him, I understand from my children that this is the way children speak in the playing fields these days. The words he uses are very fine and well-meaning and will convince some people – but not me – that he and his Tory colleagues have fine plans for the future of the British economy. It seems churlish of me to express the opinion that his words are either misleading or disingenuous. My main objection to them is that they do not rest on any firm and defensible theory of what works and doesn’t work in the British economy. Take the jargon on re-balancing the British economy. You know the sort of thing:  shift the British economy away from services, in particular financial services, to manufacturing, and shift economic activity away from London and the South East with a resulting shift in population and jobs. This is pie in the sky.  It is not a new narrative for it has been a constant theme of the last fifty years. I have no no wish to be boring but to be prief capitalism does not work like this in a capitalist economy.  Industry location, population and investment follows the laws of comparative costs. It will be located in London and the South East so long as these comparisons favour these locations. There are advantages in mass. London has become the leading financial services centre in Europe accounting fot 9 percent of British GDP compared with 12 percent for manufacturing. Why is it so obvious that you should constrain financial services growth in London when it is a world leader?  

Successive Governments have recognised the problems of the North by shifting public services to  there with incentives for industry to follow. Their pump priming has been partially successful Now the Coalition is busy destroying these jobs. No wonder they need to mollify electors with meaningless promises of other jobs being created.

It used to be the case that these arguments were encapsulated in the simple division betwees monetarists and advocates of supply side reforms and Keynesians with their concentration on the demand side of the debate. At present those on the supply side of the argument are having a hard time of it. Money aggregates are weak with all that flows from it. The demand side is precarious and faltering. Those of us who observe these matters from the sidelines might well despair. It is a long way to Rotherham from Central London, Cleggie boy. Is your journey strictly necessary for a display of groping in the dark?

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A Very English Revolution


In England we do not do Revolutions. They are for foreign countries denied freedom of expression and parliamentary government. Is that right? It seems so but the belief in social cohesion and solidarity of purpose is about to be tested. Our beliefs may turn out to be illusory. In 2011/2 real incomes are likely to fall at a faster pace than at any time since the 1920’s a decade followed by slow growth and high unemployment. At that time we took it all very meekly. Then, as now, some thirty percent of the population was doing very nicely. They were in employment and enjoying steady increases in real wages. Unemployment and poverty was concentrated in foreign places: Scotland, Wales and the frozen North. Of course, the unemployed protested, but in a orderly fashion: hunger marches, dole queues and long lines of working people not at all like us. Men, and families, to be pitied, consciences to be stirred,  but largely to be forgotten on golf courses and at bridge parties.

Over the last two years citizens, you know the ordinary folk who pay the wages of the political elites, have wondered whether ‘that lot’ at Westminster are really representing us at all. While hardly anyone wishes to resurrect class war, many people must wonder whether these Old Etonians with their posh accents and monied interests really ‘get us’ the people. Do we wish to pass back to a Victorian condition of poor public sevices and a Samuel Smiles concept of self help and charity to all (sorry some, the deserving poor). 

Well, what can we do about it? Those who object We could start by admitting to ourselves that we are responsible. We allowed this lot to gang up against us, cobble together an agreement that no one voted for, and are busy changing the rules so that it is extremely difficult to get rid of a government in the short term.

I can hear some of my readers objections at this point. Come on now, they say, this is a parody of the truth. Every citizen knows that the huge public deficit must be reduced and the sooner the better. Personally I agree: drastic problems require drastic remedies. But just suppose that the economic strategy being imposed upon us is wrong. It doesn’t work. What if we are destroying a valued social structure and welfare state for nothing? What then? Why, you say, in all reasonableness . if we are proceeding for the rocks we can change course Can we? Boy George and our Dave say. ‘Not on your Nellie’, or words to that effect, Like the Blessed Margaret before them these Old Etonians warming themselves in the last rays of an   August sunset across their playing fields are not for turning.

Well Boys, then we must get rid of you by the means at our disposal. They know it, you can see it in their faces. and the panic measures they advance. Can we the people do it? Can we the people save ourselves? I don’t know. But I do pose the question

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Welfare Compassion


The pathway to universal social benefits for those who need them has never appealed to the Right in politics. Their message has alway been, ‘very nice but the nation cannot afford it’. In their time the country could not afford a state pension, or the NHS, unemployment benefit, a minimum wage, or a guaranteed income for the disabled and the destitute. This conviction runs  in parallel with a value judgement: these benefits should only go to the deserving poor, and to its associate idea, that not many are deserving. It was once the case that poverty was considered not to be a sin but a misfortune. It was  the Victorians who branded it otherwise.

Social democrats have always considered welfare as a safety net through which the unfortunate should not fall. Human nature being infaillable it was accepted that there would always be some who abused the system but that no device of man could prevent some abuse. Taxpayers were the fortunate: after all they had income and their taxes helped the unfortunate.

Is it possible to select the deserving and weed out the spongers? One can try, it is right to attempt it, but the pathway leads to poverty, discrimination and, yes, a lack of compassion. There are a thousand reasons for some not working: mental or physical problems, looking after children or incapacitated adults – and a lack of work. Now all these people and they run to hundreds of thousands are for the high jump. If they try and fail to get a job any payment being made to them and their families will stop.  ‘Work will make you free’. Hold on, are they not the words above the entrance to the Auchwitz concentration camp? Some of these people, staring at the tellie with instant coffee to hand, know at the start they will fail. And what about the children? We shall look after them say the Coalition at the same time denying this family financial help. How will this be done? If they are shunted to a boarding house in Hastings, homeless, penniless, away from school and friends, are they being helped? Surely it is better and more compassionate to help keep this family together in its own home. It is usually better to have a home than not.

Well it is objected, I exagerate. It will not come to that. But it will for some family near to you, perhaps many near to you. What about your neighbour or your neighbour’s friend?  Let us consider the 8,500 London families whose  Housing Benefit is to be cut, some of these will lose their home and fail to find another. Not all of them you mutter, and serve them right, they, this family, should get on their bikes, assuming that they have them, and find something else. Some will, but some cannot. Perhaps no more than half, you retort, will lose out.  Oh that’s good not more than a  half, being 5,000 families in southern coast boarding houses. No problem. One would be too many, ten a mishap, but thousands of avoidable family disasters? Surely,  a shame on us all!

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The Use and Abuse of Statistics


There are maxims worth following whenever a politician makes use of statistics. In particular, in whose interest are the statistics prepared and published and are they being interpreted acurately and fairly. Let us consider the thorny issue of the effect on families in Greater London of ceilings and cuts in Housing Benefit. According to Government statistics,  and let us say they are right, there are 17,500 families and some 82,000 people. The London Boroughs speaking collectively are preparing plans for what to do if all these people could not pay higher rents, could not make other provision and were therefore forced to move.

Ask some questions:

1. Would all these tenants be forced to move? No, but no one has bothered to find out. Come on Government,  survey them first and give us the answer. 2. What proportion of these tenants are short stay anyway with agreements running up to 3 years.? Up to 40 percent of landlords, according to the Landlords Association but they would say this wouldn’t they. 3. Up to 30 percent of landlords according to the Landlord’s Association  They don’t tell us by how much. There are other estimates ranging fr0m 30-50 percent some of which come from Tory Councils. They would say this wouldn’t they. 3. Some of these tenants might be given social housing by their Councils. Source Tory Westminster Council. What is the current waiting list? Not given. It must be lengthy, say up to ten years. No chance. 5. Not to worry anyway the Government has put aside £130 million to mitigate hardship. Sounds a lot. Let’s say every family affected was a hardship case. If this was true 17,500 familes  would each get £742 pounds. Enough to pay 2 weeks rent. Whacko.  Lets be fair. Reduce the number forced to move by 20 percent as a result of lower rents that they could afford, and a further 20 percent for their own ingenuity, and ten percent for short term rentals and a willingness to move on. (Statistical point. These percentages are not additive) and we might say that 50 percent of families, 8,750,   will have to leave their homes  and most will go into boarding accommodation on the South Coast. 5.. At what cost? Not known.  Leaving this aside the Government could give the families concerned and the Councils bearing the cost £130 miillion towards the cost of this, that is £1,484. How long would this last? Are there jobs for them in places like Hastings with very high rates of unemployment? I have not seen any figures. Come on you Council’s, tell us.

You might say that the Coalition Government, in the interest of transparent administration should tell us. If Labour MPs were smart enough they could ask the Parliamentary questions that would give us all the answers. Come on you Labour MPs and Labour C0uncillors. Do your job.

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