Four Lib Dems. Fucking FOUR. Fuck all of you. Really. Just fucking die.
Archive for the ‘politics’
Nick Clegg completed the Lib Dems' sellout today with a despicable speech promising to back the Conservatives' plans for welfare reform. The narrative was set earlier this month by the Chancellor, who justified the government's proposed real-terms benefits cuts with a carefully-prepared line:
"We have to acknowledge that over the last five years those on out of work benefits have seen their incomes rise twice as fast as those in work. With pay restraint in businesses and government, average earnings have risen by around 10% since 2007. Out of work benefits have gone up by around 20%. That's not fair to working people who pay the taxes that fund them."
Terrible, isn't it? Hard workers paying to lose ground to those layabout skivers who watch Jeremy Kyle all day. But let's leave aside for a moment the issue that with an average of 23 applicants per vacancy (and sometimes far more), the huge majority of unemployed people are in fact desperate to find work, not lazy spongers. Let's instead just take a simple look at what those figures mean in real life.
31 years ago, when Alan Grant wrote "Strontium Dog: Portrait Of A Mutant" for 2000AD, the notion that the father of a "mutant" child might become Prime Minister and oversee a programme of astonishing, vindictive persecution of the disabled by tormenting them with "work capability" tests and forcing them out of their homes (supported by "scrounger"-hating newspapers published on thin electronic tablets) was a crazy, dystopian sci-fi fantasy for kids.
Today, David Cameron presides over a government set implacably on slashing £30bn from the welfare budget (to pay for tax cuts for millionaires, obviously) by cutting housing and disability benefits for the profoundly handicapped and the terminally-ill, ingeniously saving more money by driving many of them to suicide as a result of measures even the Daily Mail is forced to decry as inhuman.
Enjoy watching "Dredd" this weekend, viewers. Keep telling yourself it's only a movie.
We're just beginning to see how the future of the UK will look under austerity. The full horror of the cuts may not be due to bite until later in 2013, but already we can see where and how they're likely to affect the UK population. Among the most controversial of these measures (so far) are the proposed regional levels for pay and welfare.
The regional pay proposals would see public workers paid less the further from the south-east of England they work (although devolved services in Scotland would be spared this), while the regional welfare payments would see a person on benefits paid less if they live in a poor area of the UK.
At present, government jobs are split into pay bands, with those on a certain band in one occupation earning roughly the equivalent of another public sector worker on the same band in another occupation. There's room for manoeuvre within the bands, but not much. These banding brackets are agreed through national pay negotiations by unions, ensuring that staff are treated fairly and consistently regardless of where they work. However, the creation of regional pay proposals puts an end to that idea.
For the thousands of readers who slightly startlingly visited yesterday's piece on Bath's retail economy (you never know which are going to be the popular stories in this business), here's the December 2009 WoS feature on Newport referenced in it, which I've unlocked from the WoS subscriber section. (I tried to just copy it over into this blog, but it was a hideous technical nightmare.)
If I can find the time one day next week, I'm going to try to go back to Newport and see how it's getting along two years on. Stand by for upbeat feelgood action!
And so tick follows tock. Alert WoS viewers may recall a subscriber feature from way back in December 2009 in which we chronicled the grim retail decay of the Welsh city of Newport. But two years into the Tories' medieval bloodletting "cure" for Britain's financial woes, the evidence of the country's slow but inexorable economic collapse can no longer be contained in the ghettoes of the working class. Because this is Bath.
This compact city of just 80,000 or so is swelled all year round by swarming hordes of well-heeled tourists (because you have to be well-heeled to come here at all) who troop in in their literally-millions to admire the pretty architecture and spew money into a local economy that's already cherry-pink with high-earning professionals.
I've lived here, lurking unnoticed in one of Britain's wealthiest corners, for over 21 years now. In all that time, it's hard to think back and recall even a single instance of a city-centre shop that's been empty for anything other than a brief transitional period between owners. Not any more.
It's even happening in Bath. Even in one of the richest corners of Britain – a city so posh that it refused a local organic dairy farm permission to open a boutique ice-cream concession in its expensive new showpiece shopping development in case it "lowered the tone" – there's an Occupy protest. A couple of dozen tents huddle together in Queen Square, a small green space in the middle of a busy traffic junction that's more accustomed to hosting farmers' markets and games of boules.
To be honest, I'm surprised there are that many. Bath's housing, parking and public transport are all so cripplingly costly that poor people can barely get into the centre of town even for a visit. But still, like most of the Occupy protests nationwide (those that still survive at all, anyway), the numbers are pretty pitiful. At a time when the government has all but openly declared class war, when everyone from the Socialist Worker to the Daily Mail is furious at the greed of the wealthy, why isn't the whole country out on the streets, rather than a few little pockets camping in the cold?
The answer is obvious, but for some reason is never spoken aloud. Despite the Occupy movement's catchy and evocative slogan, we aren't the 99%. But that's understandable, because "we are the 33%" doesn't carry quite the same moral punch.
A couple of weeks ago, a group of state employees took a man called Troy Davis from his prison cell in Atlanta, Georgia to a small room and strapped him to a gurney. They inserted a needle into one of his veins, hooked up the needle to some tubes connected to a machine and, at a given signal, pressed a button on the machine in the full and clear knowledge that it would cause poisonous chemicals to be pumped into his bloodstream until he died of asphyxiation.
These people – every one of whom doubtless considered themselves an ordinary, decent, caring member of society, living in the most civilised and cultured country on Earth – participated willingly in the killing despite knowing that there was an enormous degree of doubt as to whether Davis was in any way responsible for the death of the man in whose name he was being executed.
Bafflingly, very few people found this behaviour at all odd.
You may have seen David Cameron on the news today, anointing himself head of the "New Moral Army", promising a "fightback" against rioters, and praising (at 0.53) "the million people on Facebook who've signed up to support the police". The group in question was created, and is run, by this lovely chap:
That doesn't seem quite the sort of "morality" the Prime Minister should be getting behind, does it? But there are more rib-ticklers where that came from.
If you're anything like me, you've probably been spending anything up to 0.2% of your spare time recently wondering how (or if) you're going to cast your vote in the AV referendum in a month's time. Because on the face of it, it looks like a lose-lose choice.
"If only there was some way we could improve this country's useless, broken mockery of democracy AND kick Nick Clegg's face off at the same time", is, if you're like me, what you've probably been thinking. But maybe there is.
Just got back from Bath's opulent Guildhall, where the Deputy Prime Minister held a "question and answer session" with 200 voters. For most of it, he was stood no more than 18 inches in front of me, in such a manner that I could easily have kicked him hard in the nuts without even getting out of my chair.
I must report, with dishonour, that I failed you.
As the growing horror that is the coalition government unfolds more hideously every day, the British people could easily be forgiven for harbouring a sense of complete and utter hopelessness.
The choices presented to them in May 2010 already amounted to little more than three slightly different shades of the same colour. But the moment when even any manufactured pretence at significant difference between the policies offered by the three major parties evaporated – the minute Nick Clegg got behind his Deputy Prime Minister desk – it became impossible to maintain the delusion that Britain remains a democracy in any meaningful sense any more.