Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Turncoat Theresa

Do you trust her? With the Brexit negotiations?

Imagine; negotiate with 27 countries, each with their own cultures, beliefs, politics, priorities and pressure groups. Deal with thousands of issues from the big ones like fishing and energy down to the tiny details like animal vaccination (the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has warned that Brexit will mean a shortage of trained vets).

Meanwhile hold back the hostile hordes at home; the UKIPpers, the City lobbyists, the unions and the warring factions of the Tory party. Och yes, and construct Empire 2.0 too. And create the low-tax, no welfare Singapore of the North Atlantic while you are at it.

All of this would be a lifetime challenge for a Prime Minister with a clear vision and the charisma to lead the people of the British Isles into this bright new future. 

But Theresa May?

Theresa May of the policy wobbles? Theresa May who has – this from the Financial Times – made nine (yes, 9) significant policy U-turns since she came into power? Theresa May of the double speak; Turncoat Theresa who said she would help the ‘Just About Managing’ JAMS and then introduced the Rape Clause, which means that if a poor working woman has a third child she will have to ‘manage’ with £2,500 less.

I don’t trust her. And she is asking me to trust her with my life – my life as an EU immigrant here in Catalonia. (Actually, she is not, because the Tories broke another election pledge and did not give Britons living in the EU the right to vote. So I can go hang, as far as Turncoat Theresa is concerned.)

But you, who can vote. Do you really want to give your vote to Turncoat Theresa?

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Poor Evidence

When Mrs Thatcher came into power in 1979 she, with Sir Keith Joseph, introduced a set of policies which are now known as ‘neoliberal’. The core idea was to cut back on government and reduce tax for the wealthy to encourage them to invest more in business. The wealth would ‘trickle down’ to the poor.

Westminster governments since then have all followed the same policy. Whether they were Tory or Labour, they continued to believe that government should be cut back – and that tax on income was bad for the country (they meant, bad for votes…)

So by now, 38 years of neoliberal policies later, you’d expect to see some pretty good results. You know, evidence that wealth had in fact trickled down.

The data on wealth and income inequality from the Office of National Statistics goes back to 1978. The key measure is the ‘Gini coefficient’

The Gini coefficient is a measure of the way in which different groups of households receive differing shares of total household income. A higher Gini coefficient means greater inequality of household incomes, a lower Gini means more equality.

In 1979, when Mrs Thatcher came into power, the Gini coefficient for non-retired households in the UK was 24.5. Since then it has risen steadily, and in 2014-15, the last full year of data, it was 33.2. That is more than one third (35.5%) more inequality than at the start of the neoliberal experiment.

Failure. The neoliberal experiment failed. Wealth did not trickle down. It floated up. (You don’t need statistics to tell you this. Spend an afternoon at one of Scotland’s busy foodbanks and you’ll see the real human suffering behind the Gini data.)

You would think that decent, honest politicians would admit the failure. Confess that Tory and Labour neoliberalism has not worked, and admit that they are looking for an alternative.

Wrong. Brexit Britain is built on neoliberal policies. The ‘Singapore’ model is low tax, little government and little welfare. And a ‘Hard Brexit’ means more austerity because (a) Scotland will lose its currently relatively generous EU grants and (b) the UK will lose businesses, and thus tax income, to the EU.

In heading for Hard Brexit, the Tories are not only condemning people in Scotland to more and deeper poverty. 

They are also fighting the failure of their 38-year experiment.

Brexit and the Bomb

The Tories may or may not be the Nasty Party, but they certainly cost a bomb.

The Financial Times analysis today suggests that the Brexit bill will be €100 billion. This is the beginning of negotiations, so you can expect that figure to drop, a bit. But it is now up there with Trident, the real bomb, whose replacement (another costly Tory promise) is £100bn.

The Trident estimate is at the start of the process, so we can expect it to rise. Overall, on these two items alone the Tories will spend £200 billion.

No wonder the Tories are making no promises about taxes (expect them to go up) or pensions (expect them to fall.)

The Tories are the Costly Party. Only vote for them if you are feeling rich. Very, very rich.