Banbury Constituency Labour Party

Sylvia’s Armchair conference BLOG

armchair BLOGGER

Welcome to the FibDems Fantasy Island. Conference Round-Up.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Vince was on form and said all the right words but his and his party’s actions speak differently. Was this really their belief system or just same old rhetoric? It’s clear that they are seeking to continue to be power brokers in a coalition and with anyone that they can pin there coat tails to. Currently the Tories! Haven’t they learned anything?

 

Vince Cable

Vince Cable

The dialogue has been all about blaming the Tories for all the ills and the comments could be easily identified with by Labour supporters. But it’s been like watching ferrets in a sack, squalling screeching and fighting at close range.

All loyalty to their Tory friends and colleagues has been forgotten for these few days so they can present themselves as different and separate from the Tories. They’ve carried Tories’ bags for so long, and I know their arms must be aching, but all of a sudden they find a voice to articulate what is so wrong about the Tory master plan – that is to dismantle the welfare state by waving the austerity flag. As if they didn’t see it until now? Amazingly they believe we are blind to what they have already exposed the electorate to.

They are trying again to sell a pig in a poke. They have presided over and helped achieve the idea that we can turn inwards as a nation where the clock is stuck in a Britain that would abandon all the best of this society – support for the oppressed, kindness to our communities and neighbours. All gone, replaced by a return to survival of the fittest while the vulnerable go to the wall and we won’t care! But wait, it’s not been their fault. Nothing to do with us. Just those awful Tories. Perhaps they weren’t at the cabinet table when all the nasty stuff was being decided.

To coin a Vince phrase at conference to believe that this government……….

To think otherwise is a fantasy

Looking at the Fib-Dems argument that a coalition government brings more democracy, all it has done in the UK is to enable the most outlandish right wing proposals to be introduced. We only need to look to the countries that are ruled by coalition. What do they actually achieve? Italy is a good example, there, coalition is morphed into providing succour and support to the more powerful ruling elite and corruption becomes endemic.

For all the protestations about their role in saving us from the vagaries of the Tory agenda this has not worked. Nothing can be established as a win for the electorate as a whole. Who has felt better under this government? Coalition only brought more power for vested interests – some minor horse-trading maybe – but on the whole they have been outwitted by the foxes as they have been let into the chicken coop. Privatising the NHS, probation and prison service, adult social care, education – the list goes on.

Now let’s look at triumphant successes that the Fib-Dems have actually achieved

Have they improved the working lives of the poor? No!

Has austerity raised living standards? No – at least apart from the rich.

And guess what, Vince, bless him, has come out and said the B word – that borrowing isn’t bad. Where has he been the last 5 years? Nick really should have listened before his speech today.

Nick Glegg and Danny Alexander

Nick Glegg and Danny Alexander

After the storm that’s coming, it will be interesting to see how the Fibs meet the electoral challenge. They rely on being courted and hope they can hold enough seats for the parties to look to them to form another coalition. But the only coalition they are thinking about is with the Tories! That genie is now out of the bottle. A Fib-Dem strategist admitted that the party risked looking like a harlot willing to jump in bed with anyone to remain in office. About right I would say. Looking to strike another deal with Tories rather than flip to Labour. Polls suggest that coalition politics are not welcome again and the Fibs face meltdown.

In his keynote speech, Clegg clearly came to praise the coalition, not bury it. But really, it felt like his last stand. There is an expectation he will go after May 7th as the results come in and he closet Tory Danny A, Osborne’s bag man, all but confirmed he would like to succeed Clegg.

However, he says that they have been key players in government and says he won’t distance them from their achievements. He claims to be party of values and the strategy is to position himself in the middle ground again. But voters will consider the positioning as a shallow, opportunist move to try and stay in power no matter what. This strategy leaves Fib-Dems without any identity of their own.

Clegg’s big idea was on waiting times for mental health patients as he really cares passionately about this! [As he did about tuition fees?] And another pledge to lower taxes by undercutting the Tory pledge to raise the tax threshold by 2020, by committing to an £11,000 threshold next year. When will he ever learn, raising tax thresholds don’t benefit the poor as much as the rich. But then, he is a millionaire so he probably knows already.

A Vote for Fib- Dems gets a Fib- Dem elected he said. Better education provision, more tax cuts and priority for mental health he believes will go down well and will strike a chord in the country! More like a death knell perhaps? Nothing about low pay, zero hours contracts, inequality, free schools and academies, repealing the Health and Social care Act, privatising the NHS.

Oh! Did he also forget the deficit and economy in his speech? Well he mentioned it once, very briefly and in passing. But of course the media decided it was okay to miss that one!!

He confirms he is not going to repeal the hated bedroom tax. Yesterday, another life lost. That of an elderly Dorset pensioner who, so frightened and worried took her own life during a battle over bedroom tax. Even her FibDem MP felt compelled to speak out in parliament. Her constituent killed herself after being turned down for discretionary housing benefit even though she needed the extra room to store her disabled equipment. ‘This is the human side of it. It’s about someone who battled every day to cope and this was the last straw’ she said. So are you going to repeal it Nick? No, it’s part of a responsible economic strategy! What type of society have we become that we turn away?

Yet Clegg, in his speech today, argued that he is ending the shame surrounding mental health, anxiety, panic attacks, depression self-harm which is the remaining taboos in society that affect 1 in 4 people. Can’t he make the link between welfare policy and mental health? Just how myopic or just plain dim can you get? He recalls meeting mental health workers talking about people’s darkest imaginable thoughts, shame, and despair.

Thanks Nick. You and your conference have taken the credit for the good, as you see it – “designed and delivered by LibDems”; but what about the low wages and falling living standards, zero hours contracts, rapid rise in inequality, hounding of the disabled in their work capability assessments, bedroom tax, caps on benefits, reductions in housing benefits as rents rise, rapidly rising numbers of food banks and the people using them, lower taxes for the rich, rise in VAT for the poor, raiding the education budget to fund free schools where they aren’t needed, top down disaster of the health and Social care Act, rampant privatisation of the health service you proclaim to love and protect? ‘Designed and delivered by FibDems!’

Hypocrisy or what?

They however will not have to struggle to survive and manage on a daily basis? Abandoned by this government and our society. The poor are the people we now blame for pushing down peoples living standards they continue to be target for the cuts in finances and the services they need which are to come. The Fib-Dems? Not us guv! We must have been absent when that happened.

Yet our society is ruled by fear; fear of foreigners, fear of someone (poor) getting something for nothing, fear of putting their heads above the parapet, marginalised and left out. It reminds me of the old saying (freely adapted) I watched and did nothing as they came for the poor, the disabled, those from different religions and beliefs, the unions, anyone who opposed them, by dismantling the welfare state; but when I needed help, nothing was left and no one was there to protect me. If we learn nothing from history, it is that you can’t appease values such as these. The Fibs have clearly airbrushed their role out of their collective memory.

Middle earners beware; the cuts are coming and will impact on you. The dismantling of the welfare state is upon us while this government and its coalition allies protect high earners… as obviously only they deserve it all! This toxic coalition is asking us to pat the partners on the back for making the powerless pay the bill. Time to get out there and protect the sacrifices our predecessors made for future generations.

Well it’s time for, me to vacate my chair and get back to my day job dealing with those vulnerable including the mentally ill and the working poor, which the coalition have decided will need to pay for the bankers mistakes (Clegg’s words). They won’t be returning to expensive lifestyles, but bedroom taxes and empty cupboards. They won’t enjoy perks, expenses (remember the £300/day Lords allowance which wasn’t enough for a Fib-Dem Peer?) and the ministerial cars and salaries. Also let’s not forget the 7% wage increase that only MPs deserve while the country cannot afford to give midwives a 1% rise.

Nicks final remarks today was to say no matter who you are, no matter where you are from, we will do everything in our power to help you shine.

‘Oh yes! Someone else’s silver perhaps? ‘

Fib-Dems Fantasy Conference 5 October 2014 Glasgow  

Sitting here waiting to see a miracle happen this week. Will Clegg be resurrected like Lazarus, from the grave that he has dug for himself and his party?

Here we go Clegg starts off attacking his coalition. Calls Dave the poor man’s Margaret Thatcher and the rich man’s Nigel Farage on the eve of conference!!

Now urging his party to fight tooth and nail to prevent the nightmare vision of a return to a Tory majority rule suggesting that botched EU renegotiations will lead to collapse in market confidence, interest rates rising and a stalled economy.

Nick Clegg Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Nick Clegg
Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Only superman Clegg can save Gotham city!

Clearly he wants to remain as kingmaker in a second coalition. They are the only party that can build a stronger community and a fairer society so everyone can have opportunity in life ‘Rather than a generation thrown back on the scrap heap just when they have reason to be optimistic again!’ He is actually proud of their record!!!!!!

Now he asks us to imagine what life will be like again under Tory rule; workers fearing for their jobs because their bosses can fire them at will, the young and working poor hit time and again by Osborne’s axe to welfare budgets with little regard on impact on people’s lives. Schools will be run for shareholder profit, the Home Office would snoop on emails and social media, while opportunity is reserved for the few at the top.

Have I been in a coma and missed something? Haven’t we already endured much of this under the coalition! No laughing, please.

Clegg states that the austerity measures introduced by the Tories are incompatible with their description of themselves as compassionate conservatives. Does he really believe this? Clegg states Tories have changed out of all recognition since formation of coalition! Is he really saying they changed them for the better? Clegg states that his friend/colleague Osborne is balancing the books on the back of the poor! If it wasn’t so sad and true, I would laugh. I wonder who’s speaking with forked tongue.

Clearly, he is still peeved that the Tories stole his party’s clothes on tax pledges

But funnily enough, he’s saying now that the Tories are NOT expecting the wealthy to pay a penny towards getting the deficit down. So Nick, tell us something we didn’t know already but if you have been so successful in working with the Tories and preventing the worst excesses of Osborne et al, why have you allowed and agreed this to happen in the first place?

LoL He takes the moral high ground again, reminding us that his view is that the Tories have lurched to the right. Um yep, where have the Fib-Dems been since 2010? Now he thinks this will allow his party to occupy this mountainous moral high ground. Ha Ha chuckle chuckle! If it weren’t so tragic it would be really funny.

Then, to cap it all, he suggests that his party has recovered from setbacks in the past! Well would you believe it’s like the Monty Python sketch, he is really trying to sell a dead parrot!

I thought I would be watching a tragedy this week regarding the Fib-Dem demise with the British electorate. With their abandonment of their own liberal history and the values left to them by Beveridge, architect of the welfare state, and Lloyd George, they sold themselves for 30 pieces of silver, or in Fib-Dems, case a seat on the front bench, ministerial salaries and cars! But I’m changing my mind it’s more like a comedy of errors.

They need to examine why they wasted the massive vote of confidence from the young in the lead up to the last election. Unfortunately what Clegg did was to accelerate the disenchantment of future generations of voters towards politics and politicians – hypocrisy and dishonesty.

The double standards of Clegg and his colleagues remain set on a collision course with his own allies and supporters in backing airport expansion for example, reneging again on past commitments, insisting previously that there would be no Airport expansion in the South East. Déjà vu! Where have we seen and heard such pledges before?

It was a huge tactical gamble and mistake to have entered the coalition. He could have agreed to support specific plans and policies on their merits without entering into a formal relationship. However the thought of power seduced him instead and this has led to the disapproval of the electorate. The Fib-Dems usefulness in government has been as a shield for the Tories ideological Austerity Plans while they bought and sold their liberal soul, sending millions into poverty and leaving them answering for the impact. The Tories again and again left Clegg and his MPs to defend the unpalatable decisions made together, none more than Danny Alexander who became the TV front man for Osborne. They have become Tory lackeys along the way, losing the respect of the electorate.

Clegg says the Tories have morphed into something malevolent and don’t care if we know it, but surely so have the Fib-Dems – guilt by association! They have presided over and allowed this cruel government to achieve their ideological goal to dismantle the welfare state, enabled them to reform and crystallise all those plans under the umbrella of an austerity that he now claims to abhor so much.

What will Cleggs rallying call be to the beleaguered Fib-Dems? My crystal ball says that their defence to all their actions will be in three areas

  1. They will point to their brilliant record in office in preventing Tory excess. However, we should remember the pledges both written and spoken before the 2010 Election to scrap university tuition fees. Then they trebled (he did say sorry!). There were promises about no increase in VAT but then they voted for it when in power, and what about the promise of a fairer tax system but then agreeing to tax cuts for millionaires while the working and poor families are worse off?
  1. They will attack Dave and the Tories. However there is poor old subservient Nick running behind friend Dave. As well as backing Tory measures and plans overseeing the emasculation of the NHS making it harder to see GPs, now we know that £3Billion has been wasted on a top down reorganisation that could have paid off some of the deficit that they seem hell bent on convincing us needs to be cleared.

The Fib/Dems can’t be absolved from blame now as the Tories could not have put us through so much pain if the coalition was not in place to vote down any objections. Energy prices increased and Fib- Dems won’t even back an energy freeze where are their principles? Alongside this Nick has backed his friends in cabinet to damage the infrastructure of the UK. Look at education as an example. He was so impassioned about education at the hustings but allowed Gove to introduce unqualified teachers thereby risking standards for our children. Hypocrisy and double standards win hands down

  1. New Tax promises at the conference. These will need taking with a huge pinch of salt. No one will trust them again with their vote. We will have to wait to see if they can bring a rabbit out of the hat now it’s been stolen by Tories. On taxes so far who’s got the gravy? They wanted a mansion tax then voted against it while voting four times against getting the bedroom tax repealed.

Who’s counting the broken pledges promises he and his party made? Let’s hope the electorate will when they go to the ballot box. Polls are indicating that they will lose up to half their MPs, possibly 56 seats But you have to admire Cleggy’s determination to remain upbeat. Their manifesto could be the second longest suicide note of a party in history.

Let’s see what’s on offer. Clegg says they will give £1Bn more for the NHS in the next two years. Osborne’s bag boy Danny Alexander [who may lose his seat in Scotland in the election] says money will be delivered for this commitment. Oops a pig is flying.

So if they can deliver the money why are we getting all these dire predictions from young Danny about the crucial need for the austerity package? Something doesn’t quite add up here and the electorate aren’t stupid. But what really had me laughing was the statement from unelected Lib Dem Peer Ollie Grender, complaining that she struggles to manage with the £300 per day that she receives in tax allowances for sitting in the Lords. Come on everyone, all say Aaaaah!!! Whinging about her allowances while her party presides over millions of people suffering the effects of the coalition austerity government isn’t funny, it’s vile and an abdication of all those long liberal traditions in working for the poor.

It was refreshing at least, to see speakers from the floor today raising motions and talking about issues that affect real people. Sir Malcolm Bruce spoke on International Aid, arguing for more fairness in taxes in countries receiving our help and went on to confirm that while our National Health Service was the best service in the world, we should have the capacity to help others to build systems and services as a priority.

Aid through trade gives people dignity says a speaker, worthy sentiments which we all would agree with but the hypocrisy of the LibDems position calls their sincerity into question. Why have they presided over the partial dismantling through privatisation of such a magnificent service like the NHS while they urge other countries to emulate the NHS as originally set up?

At the end of today’s proceedings I’m still not sure how this once ethical political party or its leader can rehabilitate themselves in time for next election.

They are talking but no one is listening!!

Last day of the Tory Conference: Wednesday 1st October

Phew! Glad this road show is over as I’m not sure how much more I can take. I must be getting more cynical as I age. Empty Tory promises wrapped around ideology and PR presentation, all smoke and mirrors hiding the real consequences for the working poor. And middle income earners Slick Dave, coiffured hair, strode onto the stage offering jam tomorrow and pain today – and tomorrow.

The instant vox pop after his speech came from Rochester and the response from voters was fascinating – that it had a ‘bumper sticker mentality’ with no substance and no statistical evidence to back up any assertions.

  • A businessman said he was only able to employ his apprentices because they were funded by the EU, not this Government!
  • One woman interviewed said she has to work 80% of her time to make ends meet and yet still, she can barely pay her rent. Said everything is going up and she’ll never be able to afford a deposit to buy a house as all the household income goes on survival.
  • A new mother says her experience with NHS was very good but believes the NHS is still better with Labour.

Of the three voters interviewed, the businessman will vote Labour because Dave’s speech was full of empty promises and it appears he made it up as he went along so he doesn’t believe him. The two mums won’t vote at all as they can’t believe any politician! That’s a challenge for us.

sylvia_-_conference_10

David Cameron’s conference speech

Thunderous applause from the Tory faithful but perhaps not fully understanding what it actually meant for people, or not caring, after all, they believe it’s not for them. The tax commitments will need £7Bn spending cuts – on top of the £37Bn already announced! Not surprisingly, it’s what’s not said that matters. The unanswered question was that the only way this giveaway can be funded and cut the deficit to zero by 2018 means massive cuts on top of projected cuts for the next two years. But he didn’t say where they would come from. Uncosted proposals or what? No wonder they don’t want the OBR costing the parties’ election manifestos.

Wow – just heard Quentin Letts, doyen of the Tory press argue that today’s speech was for the lower class wage earners. Objective? Surely not. If he examined the impact on working people he would see that spending cuts on this scale will be needed to fund tax cuts, most of which won’t benefit the lower paid. Dave’s offer of tax cuts will absolutely bypass lower income earners and the cuts to achieve this will be unprecedented and hit them the hardest. Quentin confirmed he is no economist – he can’t do basic arithmetic either. And neither can Dave. He complained how it was getting more difficult to help with his kids’ homework. Well, for someone so expensively educated you would think he can get basic arithmetic right! He claims that thanks to raising the tax threshold to £12.5K, workers on the minimum wage working a 30 hour week will not pay any tax – ‘nil, zip zero!’ Here’s news for you Dave, they don’t now! At £6.31 per hour you earn just under £10k pa and would need to work 38 hours a week to benefit, and that’s ignoring the fact that people on low wages can’t get that kind of commitment from employers anyway. 4m low paid workers work part time, most of them are women and don’t pay tax anyway – but they do pay National Insurance!

Let’s unpick this speech. When you examine what it really means it is very worrying for the people who will bear the brunt of the cuts compared to those who get the tax breaks. Not sure how the Tories can square this. Despite Dave’s insistence that these pledges are aimed at hard working households and will benefit 30m people, expert analysis argues that these tax cuts only benefit the rich not the poor or even the squeezed middle. He did confirm that we are in for an awful lot of pain but was unable (or unwilling?) to say where the cuts will take place. These are being hidden but what is clear to see if you look at the graphs is that the poor won’t benefit, nor will the ‘squeezed middle’.sylvia_-_conference_11

The Centre Forum think-tank has previously produced research showing that the top 10% would be most helped by the 40p tax threshold being lifted to £44,000, so Cameron’s proposal to take it to £50,000 would go even further.

 

 

 

sylvia_-_conference_12

Experts argue that far fewer people will actually feel the benefits than Cameron suggests it would need the deficit to be cleared. The Institute of Fiscal Studies confirms that only 15% would go to working families in the lowest-income half of the population.

 

sylvia_-_conference_13

And those on benefits will lose out. Among the 2.2 million families paying income tax and on universal credit or council tax support, their family income would increase by only 0.8%. As the IFS chart shows, more than 40% of those in the second and third poorest deciles would lose some of their extra income through reduced benefits. So while inflation goes on rising, these families get poorer.

 

As for his pledge to spend billions more on the NHS – what he actually said was that spending would be held steady in real terms i.e. in line with inflation. Since demand is rising and NHS Trusts are going into deficit now, that will still mean cuts in service. The whole world knows that health inflation rises faster than RPI or CPI, so his promise is empty at best, mendacious at worst. Dave’s emperor really does have no clothes on this one. Dave and George cut the NHS in real terms in 2012 breaking his last pledge so why would we believe him now? Surely an increasing share will go into the pockets of private health companies as he accelerates privatisation?

In any case, can we really believe Osborne and Cameron when they claim that all this pain is working and the deficit will be eliminated in 3 years when it’s actually been rising in the midst of this so called recovery? We were supposed to be in surplus by now but the deficit is still at record levels. The only pledge Dave knows is the furniture polish he uses to put a gloss on his policies.

If we were only to care about economics, we would ask about today’s news that the RAF spent £420,000 dropping 4 missiles to take out two pickup trucks? On this basis, the cost of deploying 6 Tornadoes by the end of this engagement (as currently estimated – and we know how reliable that is) would pay for the cuts in welfare of £3Bn. But it’s all a question of priorities.

Finally, it’s goodbye to the Human Rights Act and the ECHR – Churchill will be spinning in his grave. Given Theresa May’s performance yesterday do we really believe the Tories will come up with a UK Bill of Rights which is better and more protective of ordinary working people’s human rights/ Answers on a postcard please. (Or the social media equivalent)

What I learned from this conference

  1. The coalition seems to have made the Tories more right wing not less
  2. Conference is solid Thatcherite in direction – welfare cuts, Eurosceptisism and civil libertarianism horror.
  3. The opening was overshadowed by defections to UKIP with most polls clearly suggesting that Tories are haemoraging appeal to UKIP. Alongside this Tories are focussing on the fear that Ed might become PM.
  4. If Dave loses Rochester the panic will cascade through the party and this will be a defining moment for the Tories
  5. What should we all do about EU referendum especially if there is a hung parliament as Tories remain obsessed with in/out referendum?
  6. Tories beginning to look anti-business if you read John Redwood’s speech. I have to highlight that if Len Mclusky said this he would have been demonised and denounced – come on media, get some cojones!
  7. My assessment is that the Tories had the more lift form Scottish referendum than Labour even though its We ‘wot won it’ for them! The Tories were so ecstatic – they couldn’t believe they were on the winning side.
  8. The pollsters especially Lord Ashcroft who presented the latest polls will be something to look out for including more YouGov, two of the biggest pollsters in 2015.
  9. DC is taking up the issues of NHS but research further and you will see that they aren’t offering anymore.
  10. Boris mania! Is it on the wane? He appears not to be such an electoral asset as he thinks.
  11. Gove was supposed to take an important role of defending the party. He’s been pretty much invisible and his appearance today was execrably poor.

I heard today that Danny Alexander was really put out by the tax threshold announcements and accused Tories of stealing/copying Lib Dem Tax policy which they were to highlight at their conference next week. Alas, if you lie with dogs you get fleas. No sympathy as they face meltdown.

Surely, it’s the ideology driven by a view that to be rich is virtuous while to be poor is to be shiftless, lazy, and surplus. Austerity is sold to the country as a necessity so what choice do we all have other than to accept this ideology? We need to rebuild for the future generation not destroy what our predecessors achieved otherwise we are consigning millions to perpetual poverty and neglect. We should try to ignore the frenetic media noise and be clear about what we are for! Labour needs big ideas, painted in big colours with a broad brush. We need to be BOLD!

The most depressing presentation to the conference came from bad cop Osborne this week, who just reaffirmed that we, the underclass, deserve to take all the pain. But is this being shared around? NO! His proposals cripple the working poor majority, while the Tory establishment ensure those who have it keep it! Clearly his conscience is at ease. Dave said we are in better shape! Which looking glass is he looking through the bottom of?

Today I listened to Cameron referring to his dead disabled son again as proof of his love for the NHS. Yes he used the NHS and social care programme which supported him and his family very well. That’s great and his family deserves every sympathy for their grief and loss.  If DC had such good service from NHS when his family were in most need then why are his policies impacting on benefits for all disabled children/adults alongside the loathsome bedroom tax? Clearly if he really cared he could do something about it. Sorry, but with sympathy should come action against injustice.

You couldn’t make it up! Or I suppose after today you can!

Philip Hammond (left) & William Hague Picture: The Guardian

Philip Hammond (left) & William Hague
Picture: The Guardian

A UKIP footnote to the conference and another foot in mouth moment from William Hague – Aaron Banks used to donate to the Tories but switched to UKIP and today donated £1m to them after being peeved from comments made by Hague to the effect that he was insignificant. He is standing for parliament I hear, so is this how much a possible seat at Westminster costs these days?

So finally, my view of a speech and conference which says we are on your side and we feel your pain is, go tell that to the millions of working poor, the elderly and the most vulnerable in society while you turn your back as you get into your Bentleys!

All fur and no knickers as my mother would have said!

Tory Conference Tuesday 30 September 2014

I nearly fell off my chair this morning, spluttered and choked on my toast after hearing Dave explain that his cuts in benefits for the working poor were FAIR. He therefore feels strongly that’s why we should give inheritance tax breaks to the better off. Wow! Shows his vision of ‘fair’ is pretty skewed.

His explanation appears to suggest that it’s fair that the poor pay for the recession disproportionately. Those 10m working poor affected by this regressive policy will have to pay so that the few can live better. Where is Dave the compassionate conservative that he proclaimed to be when taking office?

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

His trailed a speech about keeping GP surgeries open 7 days per week, repeated by Jeremy Hunt this afternoon, is superficially attractive but are there enough Doctors to provide the service? GPs are now saying that they are under strain from the introduction of health policies already and can’t meet demand now, let alone a 7 day per week opening. Even the money committed isn’t enough. The Nuffield Trust suggests that £1Bn would be required to meet the commitment but at best only £500m will be committed! More to the point the issue is not opening hours but seeing the same person each time you visit your GP and the need for on-call availability not 7 day opening. So unless they pour more money into the GP service it won’t work anyway. Maybe Dave has something up his sleeve – introducing even more market liberalisation?

Andy Burnham’s Response:

Cameron made an almost identical announcement this time last year but, in the 12 months since, he has made it harder, not easier, to get a GP appointment. After the election, he scrapped Labour’s GP appointment guarantee and cut support for evening and weekend opening. His broken promises on the NHS have caught up with him. Labour has a plan for extra funding for the NHS and commitment to recruit 8000 more GPs.

Under this Govt, it has got harder and harder to get a GP appointment. People are left ringing the surgery early in the morning only to be told nothing is available for days. We guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours or a same-day consultation with a doctor or nurse for those who need it.”

Incidentally, Jeremy Hunt had the cheek to praise all the NHS support staff – cleaners, porters etc – when it’s his government that has accelerated the outsourcing of these services and stood by while low pay and zero hours contracts drive the costs of these services down. Hypocritical or what.

Boris Johnson Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Boris Johnson
Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

It seemed an off day for Boris. Oddly he talked about bricks, camels and aliens fumbling his words even more than usual as he tried hard to explain the Tory’s defining values. His reception from Tory faithful was muted. His speech tried hard to convince the audience that he was still the conference darling but his timing was poor. This could be due to his statements attacking the ‘crazy immigration crackdown’ arguing that the thousands of illegal immigrants living here should become British citizens. This contrasted with Theresa May’s reception regarding her anti-extremist agenda which was the nearest thing to a leader’s speech we heard so far. She spoke about the need to protect the public – her personal duty. What we need to worry about is the impact of her proposals on all our civil liberties – the proposals will be controversial. She argued the urgency meant that any minor worries about free speech should not concern anyone – REALLY! There was a barrage of anti-extremist measures to an adoring audience. This audience didn’t seem to care less about the impact of all these measures on everyone’s civil liberties. Ignoring the fact that these powers will apply to anyone who the Secretary of State believes could cause harm – so any activist, charity or pressure group could be caught by the act.

Chris Grayling’s speech – his view is that the evil EU subverts our sovereignty with left leaning libertarianism. He proposed a bill of rights for England and Wales. Ironically, this minister is never out of court with judicial reviews including his now unlawful legal aid regulations with its impact on domestic violence victims. Many civil defence lawyers argue – he breaks and makes rules and cares little about the consequences. His CV for being Justice Minister is that of TV Producer and management Consultant. We should ask then what expertise does he possess to remove Britain’s respect for the Human Rights Act?

The Tory machine and Tory faithful appear worried of rumours circulating that another defection during Dave’s speech or before conference ends. A former Conservative deputy mayor of London who has also switched his allegiance to UKIP says Cameron’s plans to renegotiate with Europe were “unrealistic” – Mr Barnes previously deputy to Mayor Boris and Tory leader on the London Assembly. Boris is none too keen on the EU given his lukewarm response to the question whether he would support a yes campaign if his fellow Bullingdon Club member had a ‘successful’ renegotiation, quote “I’ll look at it on its merits”.

On Monday former Conservative cabinet minister John Redwood, a leading Eurosceptic, warned bosses of large companies they would pay a “very dear economic and financial price” if they spoke out in favour of staying in the EU, the Daily Telegraph reported. He told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham: “If they don’t understand that now, they will find those of us organising the ‘get out’ campaign will then make life difficult for them by making sure that their customers, their employees and their shareholders who disagree with them – and there will be a lot who disagree with them – will be expressing their views very forcefully and will be destabilising their corporate governance.” Publicly backing EU membership could be “deeply disruptive to their businesses and maybe even to their own tenure of their jobs”, he added. Could this kind of subversive talk get caught by Theresa May’s new anti-extremism bill?

Ken Clarke Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Ken Clarke
Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke, one of the Conservative Party’s best known Europhiles, compared Mr Redwood’s intervention with those by former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars who, in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, had warned business would face a “day of reckoning” for voicing concern about breaking up the Union. It appears that there is little room in today’s Tory party for the like of Ken Clarke.

This conference so far can be summed up easily – More Pain, More Poverty, More attacks on of Civil Liberties but sadly alongside hard Tory applause.

Tory Conference 29 September 2014

A glass of wine after work!

Listening to the media coverage in today’s news I was mindful about what type of core values we’re being exposed to today at this conference. I felt shame that in the 21th century we revert back to Victorian attitudes to the deserving and undeserving poor. Especially as today I worked with people experiencing this first hand and at the sharp end. Its impact – no food no money! Where do they go – the foodbank? But, disabled and bedbound how do they get there?

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Although I was cheered later and had a laugh when seeing bumbling Boris enter into the fray, purportedly a Tory Leader in the wings. His statesman-like contribution to his party was ‘You need the economy to be going gang busters to pay for the whole she-bang’. What an intellect. This from someone who was educated at the most expensive private school but should have gone to a ‘Kwik Fit’ comprehensive and saved his Ma and Pa some dosh. Articulate he’s not! But lucky him and his rich buddies, they can now have and enjoy the benefit from one of Osborne’s announcements.

The Daily Mail front page proudly proclaimed ‘Osborne to abolish the death tax’ (by abolishing the 55% tax rate on inherited pensions). Then he behaves like the grim reaper for all those others who are unlikely to have any pension pot because they have to keep a roof over their heads, feed their kids, get to work, and try and survive.

While enabling some pensioners to save in tax and pass on money in their pension pots free of charge. But parents are struggling to make ends meet then how can they save to put more in their pension pots to pass on. The only beneficiaries are likely to be what they see as Tory core voters – the moneyed older generation! Why do we think that pensions are exempt from the cuts?

George-Osborne-02

George Osborne

What Osborne did say was that ‘The fairest (sic) way to reduce welfare bills is to make sure that benefits are not rising faster than the wages of the taxpayers who are paying for them’. Well, wages aren’t rising at all for the vast majority of people in work since it’s Tory strategy to create a low wage ‘more competitive’ economy, i.e. it’s the rich what gets the gravy, it’s the poor what gets the blame’.

10million will be affected by Osborne’s pledge to wipe out deficit by end of the next parliament (in 2020 not, as he promised, by the end of this parliament). We are faced with more cuts on top of the cuts we have not yet experienced. But it’s clear the Tories are not worried about the poor they are more concerned (according to Sajid Javid MP Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport) that they can’t tax the rich! So the richest 1% will get a £3Bn tax cut and the working poor will get a £3Bn benefits cut. Has a certain ring about it.

Working families on low wages and zero hours contracts will bear the brunt of these cuts for the foreseeable future but prices and energy/housing costs will be increasing so the squeeze on the working poor’s living standards will be felt by those who can least afford it.

It was also ironic that the Lib Dems came out to condemn Osborne saying ‘it speaks volumes about Tory principles that they seek cuts in benefits for the poor’. This is rich coming from a party that presided over and supported massive cuts for the most vulnerable and public services for the last 4 years, more than 50% of which have still to take place. Crocodile tears is not going to cut it as the polls confirm. As their popularity slumps to 6% and less than the Greens, electoral annihilation beckons. Yes, it will end tears but Danny Alexander helped to design the programme and worked and supported Osborne tirelessly to implement the Tory cuts. The poor paid for the price of this pernicious coalition. Now so will the LibDems.

The election battleground is clear. The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies calculates that Osborne’s cuts will be significant and provide him with £37.5billion. But no one is asking why is this needed? Voodoo economics, the so called cure which kills the patient. Their election war is to eliminate borrowing but that will mean more pain and massive cuts and more austerity for the working poor. Ordinary taxpayers are still paying for the bankers excess.

Ian Duncan Smith

Ian Duncan Smith

IDS told the Tory faithful that prepaid cards will be issued to people who have the most destructive habits so they can’t spend their money on alcohol and drugs. (Cigarettes and TVs next?). This change he said he ‘is most proud of…’ I expect he hopes it works better than his Universal credit fiasco which he still claims he will deliver next year despite the evidence [watch this space £300M down the pan and rising]. The disruption to people’s lives can be seen every day – benefits cut for no apparent reason other than meeting DWP ‘targets’ so that people have nothing to live on until it’s sorted and usually after they are driven to pay day loans. IDS said ‘loud and proudly that I promise you, we are going to finish what we started’. I say be afraid, be very afraid if they do!

We need to take heart some good news which is that Tories two pronged election strategy seems to be failing. First was to win a majority by picking up Lib Dem seats after their expected collapse, second, to target a further 40 seats they had failed to take in 2010. Given Labour have established a convincing lead of 11% in marginal seats over Tories, this strategy looks fragile. In the 40 key marginals Labour is on 41% (up 5pts since June) Tories on 30%, UKIP unchanged on 17%, LibDems 6% – meltdown territory. This new poll implies a swing of 5.5% to Labour currently. Tory support has dropped more than Labour and indicates that UKIP will damage Tories in the marginals.

If it wasn’t late I’d have a glass of bubbly to celebrate.

Just caught Cameron on Newsnight – it’s ok for gays to kiss in public (the diversity Dave), but wants the UK to return to pounds and ounces (the anti-EU Dave).

Who is the real PR Dave?

Then I suppose this is the question that his disenchanted Tory Rank and file are asking all the time!

Conservative Conference Snippets 28 September 2014

In the armchair holding my brand new labour mug full of tea, watching Tory unity unravel. Brilliant!

Clearly a late night for the Tory PR machine, trying to limit the damage of the resignation of Minister Brooks Newmark as a result of the release of some (ahem) inappropriate text photos. On TV his colleague Nadine Dorries called it stupid and disgusting and doesn’t know what the outcome would be if it had been a female MP sending those texts. That says a lot about the Tories attitude to women (see Hague’s speech below)

The defection of Mr Reckless, who jumped ship to UKIP on the eve of their conference is setting the media agenda for the Tories’ conference hopes today. He said that he has lost faith in his party and the Tory leadership. UKIP are saying that more Tories will join him and transfer their supposedly long term Tory loyalty to them. The Tory machine appears very worried that the UKIP bandwagon might gather momentum in their heartlands. 33% of Tory Councillors polled would like a pact with UKIP before 2015 [but who would stand aside?]

Grant Shapps came out aggressively when opening conference today condemning Reckless for his about face regarding his Tory values and leanings and calling him a liar. (This from a man who called himself Michael Green when building an internet marketing advice business some of whose glowing testimonials appear to be figments of his imagination)1. Dave C admitted it’s not the ideal way to start a conference insisting that Mr Reckless’s defection is counterproductive and senseless. Like his policies I would argue.

Out of the starting block, the much trailed attack by Osborne on young people. Stopping housing benefits for most of the under 21s, while reducing the cap on all benefits from £26,000 to £23,000. The impact will hit those living on low wages and zero hours contracts the most. Surely a vote loser from young people’s point of view!

Osborne’s and Cameron’s previous claims that families were receiving £100,000 in housing benefits have been rubbished by well-respected organisations. When this Tory claim was examined it emerged that possibly only 70 out of 4.5m people may be receiving such amounts in housing benefit. His own DWP said the facts confirm only about 5 may receive this amount of benefit and that these are the exceptions not the rule.

Rachel Reeves, Shadow Minister of Work and Pensions, confirms that Osborne’s Government is set to overspend on Social Security by £13billion. The trend is that Housing Benefit will double and will cost every household £488 per week. So much for being more efficient! Jobseekers and personal independence payments are in chaos with the introduction of (or rather failure to introduce) the Universal Benefit scheme by IDS. Can’t wait for his speech. So much for the claim to cut the welfare bill.

A report confirms that Osborne’s benefit rules will push 280,000 people into a financial black hole. A property expert in the south east, and I guess not a labour sympathiser, slammed Osborne for his proposed housing benefit caps, arguing that it will send private tenants into arrears while damaging landlords not layabouts with a large negative impact on local economies.

We know that a million working families are missing meals to ensure they can pay their rents and mortgages, and it is also known that self-harm and suicide attempts soar on NHS wards. The majority of benefit cuts hit working families disproportionately, not the feckless as Tories would have us believe.

On TV, Hague argued that previous promises to cut net immigration to below 100,000 have backfired a bit, as it now stands at 230,000. He admitted they could do little about EU freedom of movement and blames the influx partly on students! (I thought we welcomed them). At conference for the last time (oops rat jumping ship) we had a video of his speeches from the past and then in he walks congratulating the party. So nothing worthwhile to report.

A keynote commitment trailed today – building 100,000 new homes for 1st time buyers under 40. That’s an average of 20,000 per year over a 5 yr Parliament. It’s a flea bite. Labour confirm we will build 200,000 per year even though this may not be enough to meet demand. This will be just another ‘Help to Buy’ gimmick which doesn’t address the housing crisis.

On Devolution, it appears that, at least this week, Scottish devolution is not dependent on English votes for English laws. If no commitment from all parties by January on their ideas for England they will publish something in their manifesto. Someone called Ruth Davidson, leader of Scottish Tories was promoted today as the saviour of the Scottish vote. My question was who is she? Her invisibility during the Scottish campaign alongside Cameron was laughable, she claimed credit for the victory for the NO vote. Did I miss something!! Didn’t the Labour party save Dave’s job and the Union? Can we be sure she wasn’t morphed into Alistair Darling? Or Gordon Brown?

Hague said ‘we now have a long term plan to cut the deficit rather than their commitment to eliminate the deficit by May next year. Thought that was why we needed to endure the austerity package imposed on us. Question is why, as it clearly hasn’t worked?

Fact: The Labour Govt cut the deficit while in power from 2008-11 by £40billion. And David Davis MP confirmed today that actually, the national debt has increased more in the last 5 years than in the whole of Labour’s 13 years in power.

Hague’s speech was highly predictable – self congratulatory on a grand scale. He ignored the impact of their economic strategy on the vast majority of people in the UK – poverty wages, zero hour contracts, food banks. He even claimed credit for not joining the Euro – isn’t that another of Gordon Brown’s achievements? The Tory party is for everyone apparently. Oh yes, and Tories are definitely at the forefront of promoting women’s rights and diversity. Really? How many female Tory MPs are there?

So my tea got really cold while waiting for some good honest debate from the floor but disappointed because there weren’t any. Oh dear more self-congratulatory speeches expected.

Bless. I suppose someone needs to be nice about them. I would sum up today as the platform speakers really appearing to be having a conversation with themselves.

Help I hope that’s not all I can look forward to tomorrow. Can I cope as I might begin to suffer a brain freeze !!!

See “Grant Shapps and the mysterious testimonials” Channel4 News (blog) 8th October 2012

 

Saturday 27 September 2014 –  last day of UKIP conference

Smoke out the Kippers the local Thanet South CLP exclaims. UKIP have pots of cash as they have shown in Thanet, they have paid for their leaflets to be delivered and provided money to bus people from outside to support Farage. The important news is, if Nige loses then its ‘game over’ for the kippers. The local CLP are requesting volunteers to make sure this becomes reality and Nige et al are stopped in their tracks.CLP will organise accommodation if anyone is interested. Help to make history and consign UKIP to the scrap heap.

nigel farage & mark recklessObviously Tory meltdown is happening as we see again today; many MPs are standing down at the next election – nine so far. Rats leaving the sinking ship one might argue. Clearly they see no future with David Cameron as he waits with baited breath to see if more of his chums follow Carswell to UKIP and now today, Mark Reckless, who shouted only last week that if you want to change the EU you need to vote Tory not UKIP. Now he feels the Tory leadership was part of the problem and holding the people back. He – ‘says Tories would not keep their promises to cut immigration I cannot keep that promise as a Conservative. I can keep it as UKIP’ – oh yes!

What a disaster. His defection in Rochester is to trigger a by-election soon .Having had a majority of 9,953 votes over Labour’s Teresa Murray, we might just do it if the vote splits.

Mr Reckless says the Tory policy he followed and voted for is now wrong. He knew yesterday he was defecting while only 24hrs ago leading a coachload of his then party workers to conference in Birmingham to rally the Tory troops. After ruling out a move a very angry Tory MP confirmed that he had looked them in the eye and said he was not defecting. So frustrated and angry are the Tories arguing how he had contradicted himself in continuing to adopt the Party line. Grant Shapps chairmen of Tories says his previous friend and colleague is now reckless and untrustworthy.

Whether reckless by name or reckless by nature, previously he had to apologise for being drunk in the House of Commons and missing a vote on a Tory budget arguing he made a mistake he said and I’m sorry. Which mistake he is sorry for, being a Tory or jumping ship will need to be determined at the next election.

Ha Ha – Tories are devouring themselves from within maybe a sympathy card is in order? This must rancour as Dave has tried so hard to sound like a leading member of UKIP himself. As one wit suggested, he can’t out kip the kippers. But now Tory Office response is that a vote for UKIP means a vote for Ed Miliband. If that’s the case bring it on!

Poor old Tories, having to go to their conference next week as their confidence in their party and leader diminishes oh dear oh dear. It’s now confirmed that Conservatives are to announce a plan to scrap the Human Rights Act, no doubt a precursor for what we will face.

Friday 26 September 2014

nigel farage 01Today we have had the dubious pleasure (?) of seeing UKIP at the races. No doubt Nigel Forage’s advert for Paddy Power betting has paid off! As an ex-stockbroker, he’s in the right place. I’ve listened to UKIP’s wish list as they lay out their tax proposals and it appears they are promising to raise personal allowances from £10,000 to £13000. Apparently the basic rate of 20p will be paid on additional earnings up to £44,000 and then 35p on earnings up to £55,000 after which the 40p rate will kick in on all additional income. So under the guise of helping the poor, the big beneficiaries will be the millionaires who benefitted from abolition of the 50p top rate. Oh yes, and he isn’t going to reinstate that either.

And he hasn’t said anything about zero hours contracts (yet). The vast majority of workers on the minimum wage wont earn anywhere near £13,000, and since the median wage in the UK is just over £21,000, the poor won’t benefit at all.

Maybe the bean counters could tell us how much the millionaires will actually benefit from Ukips latest attempt to present its policy on tax. So much for them caring about working people rather than the rich, who get subsidised by everyone else again.

UKIP’s confirms their whole philosophy is Thatcherite. Again the people who pay the price for these perks will be the poor as their public services are cut and watch out for the real push towards privatisation of the NHS

In their 2010 manifesto, UKIP argued for key NHS services to be put out to tender, from long term care to local hospitals and GP surgeries. This was to be done by franchising key services – bringing in so-called private sector efficiency and innovation. Well that’s been tried by the Coalition and been none too successful or popular! , We know where they stand on NHS dear old Paul Nutter MEP argues for accelerating privatisation into NHS and charging patients to see their GP.

Back to the future before 1948.

A brain teaser

Does anyone know what or if anything separates Oswald Mosley and Nigel Farage? Except 80 years

They both come from wealthy families

They are both part of the establishment

They both have risen because of recession caused by bankers

They both form a Nationalist authoritarian political party

They both claim to speak for the man on the street

And they both blame minorities at the bottom for the problems caused by the people at the top

We are today offering a prize for the best quote of the week about UKIP.

Why UKIP are given any intellectual airtime is beyond me as they are made up of the mad the bad and the stupid. Currently they have no MPs but the media continues to give them so much coverage, even though the Greens and Plaid Cymru actually have parliamentary responsibilities. But we do have an unbiased but drooling media out there after all!

But here is some good news. Mr Farage has gone on record as saying that he will leave politics if Ed wins, now that should galvanise us all to win the next election.

Thanks Mr Farage that’s clearly the best pledge you’ve made yet.

More from Sylvia – her Labour Party Conference BLOG