Starmer offers more austerity pain for Britain

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Keir Starmer sucking up to the rich and powerful at World Economic Forum, Davos.
Keir Starmer sucking up to the rich and powerful at World Economic Forum, Davos.

Labour ‘won’t turn on spending taps’ leader says in speech to woo big business 

AUSTERITY is Labour’s economic agenda, … Keir Starmer announced today in a further lurch to the right.

A Labour government will not “turn on the spending taps,” the Labour leader said in remarks aimed at appeasing the City and the Treasury.

He acknowledged that public services are “on their knees” but offered little prospect of getting them back on their feet again.

… Keir has prioritised bringing down debt and has vowed not to increase taxes on business or the wealthy, leaving himself no room to repair the damage wrought by 15 years of capitalist crisis.

This latest dilution of Labour’s plans for government came just a day after Sir Keir went out of his way to praise former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher for shaking Britain out of its “stupor.”

A Momentum spokesperson said today that “these are deeply worrying remarks from Keir Starmer.

“Instead of laying out a popular alternative based on public ownership and public investment, the Labour leadership is adopting the Tories’ failed economic approach.

“Starmer’s stance isn’t just out of touch with Labour members and voters — but with the public too.”

Image of Keir Starmer and a poor child.
Zionist Keir ‘Kid Starver’ Starmer. Image thanks to The Skwawkbox.
Continue ReadingStarmer offers more austerity pain for Britain

Liverpool Independents launch fundraiser to fight Eagle in next general election

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Original article republished from the Skwawkbox.

The Liverpool Community Independents (LCI) group announced last week that it will stand a candidate to challenge Labour incumbent MP Maria Eagle in the Liverpool Garston constituency at the next general election, because – as a last straw – her decision to abstain on a Commons vote earlier this month calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s slaughter of civilians in Gaza.

Labour has cause to worry – in May, the working-class south Liverpool community threw out Labour, which heavily lost both its council seats heavily to LCI’s Lucy Williams and Sam Gorst, despite a disgusting Labour smear campaign in the election. But the group will need an even greater influx of resources and volunteers to win the parliamentary seat.

LCI leader Alan Gibbons – who trounced Labour in May in Orrell Park in the north of the city – has said that the decision to fight Eagle for the seat is a ‘historical necessity’ after the abstention.

As a first step, the group has launched a crowdfunder with a target of £15,000 to create a campaign fund for the seat. Readers who would like to contribute toward the effort can do so here.

Original article republished from the Skwawkbox.

Continue ReadingLiverpool Independents launch fundraiser to fight Eagle in next general election

Jeremy Hunt’s benefit crackdown will worsen an already terrible system

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Original article by Mikey Erhardt republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has threatened to cut benefits for people with disabilities and long-term illnesses who do not get a remote job
 | Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

The long-term effects of a dangerously mismanaged pandemic and cuts to health and social care are kicking in, with a record 2.5 million working-age people in the UK having disabilities or long-term health conditions that prevent or restrict their ability to work.

This should be the time to reform our punitive welfare system, which fewer Britons than ever believe offers enough support to those who need it. Instead, chancellor Jeremy Hunt has used his autumn statement to inflict yet more pain.

Hunt announced plans to stop people who are unemployed but not actively looking for work due to long-term sickness or disability from claiming free prescriptions and discounted bus travel, as well as to tell people they must find remote jobs or risk losing their benefits.

The news is hardly surprising – the government has long tried to paint Disabled people as ‘scroungers’. Yesterday, Laura Trott, chief secretary to the Treasury, callously told interviewers that Disabled or ill people have “a duty” to work. And just last month, Hunt promised to review benefit sanctions, telling the Conservative Party conference that “around 100,000 people are leaving the labour market every year for a life on benefits”.

What Hunt omitted, though, is that the UK already has one of the least generous welfare systems in Western Europe. Disabled people have lost an average of £1,200 a year between 2008 and 2019 due to a series of cuts and reforms, including the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance, the Work Capability Assessment, Personal Independence Payment, the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, the two-child limit, and Universal Credit.

A reduction in financial support can be difficult for anyone. But for Disabled people, it’s devastating. A household with at least one Disabled adult or child needs an additional £975 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households, according to Scope disability rights charity.

The government is well aware of the mental anguish our threadbare welfare system causes. Just this week, a coroner warned work and pensions secretary Mel Stride that the system can worsen symptoms of mental illness, after a man whose “anxiety was exacerbated by his application for Universal Credit” died by suicide. The number of secret reviews into the deaths of benefit claimants carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also more than doubled over the past three years.

Emma, a freelance benefits adviser in Greater London who requested that their surname not be published, knows better than most how to navigate the welfare system – they spend their working life helping others to do so.

Yet even Emma was told last year that their Hypermobile-Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome didn’t classify them for an enhanced Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is designed to help a person with an illness, disability or mental health condition with everyday life. This money would have been a lifeline for Emma, who, despite being in work, was struggling to cover the extra costs that many Disabled people face, including, in their case, the purchase of two wheelchairs and an E-bike to help them get around.

“As a benefits adviser myself, I was able to give examples of how I met the enhanced rate mobility descriptors,” she said, referring to the criteria that must be met to be eligible for the enhanced mobility element of PIP, which is worth £71 a week. “But the caseworker [at the DWP] still refused and eventually offered me the standard rate [of £26.90 a week].”

“The whole process was incredibly stressful… He told me I had to decide there and then whether to accept his offer and that there would be no point in taking the appeal further as it would be unsuccessful.”

Pushing Disabled people towards work with threats often results in them becoming more unwell and further from the labour marketTom Pollard, head of social policy at the New Economics Foundation

Emma eventually worked with Citizens Advice to lodge a new appeal, which was successful, but it took them months to eventually receive PIP, making dealing with the additional costs associated with disability very difficult.

Having witnessed firsthand the difficulties of the current welfare system, Emma branded “current conversations” about sanctions and “getting people back to work” as “scary”.

They said: “Sanctions are an easy way [for the government] to save some money, at a time when finances are under pressure and scrutiny and they don’t know of a better way. And because they don’t understand the ramifications that sanctions will have on Disabled people”.

Emma’s sentiment was echoed by Tom Pollard, head of social policy at the New Economics Foundation. He told openDemocracy that Hunt’s threats to sanction people who do not find work will backfire and fail to achieve their stated aims.

“Any attempt to push [Disabled people] towards work by applying pressure and threats often simply results in people becoming more unwell and further from the labour market,” Pollard explained.

Labour’s position, should it take power next year, is not much better than the Tories’. In January, the then shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, announced that there would be “conditionality” – which requires people to behave a certain way to access benefits – in any welfare system the party oversees. This line appears unchanged, despite claims on the fringes of the Labour conference that the party would “co-produce” its benefits system with Disabled people.

That both of the biggest parties are resorting to threats of further sanctions or more conditionality is indicative of a system in desperate need of repair, said Geoff Fimister, policy co-chair at the Disability Benefits Consortium. “Ministers have so little confidence in what is on offer,” he explained, “that they feel they need to resort to threats to promote uptake.”

Linda Burnip from Disabled People Against Cuts, agreed, saying: “[Politicians] aren’t interested in how a good system works.” She added: “Ideologically, their only interest is in removing state aid to those who need it.”

The social security system should be an essential public service – a piece of social infrastructure that ensures we all have access to the right support when we need it. But after years of dire cuts and reforms, it has been torn apart. Hunt’s crackdown will only serve to worsen it, with disastrous consequences for those who are reliant on it.

This should be our moment for creating a system built on respect, dignity and support, that enables us to live the lives we deserve – not imprison us. We should be introducing a Guaranteed Decent Income – based on 50% of the minimum wage – and doing away with punitive sanctions, benefit caps, bedroom tax, conditionality, five-week wait for the first payment, and the two-child limit.

These are must-haves to create a system where everyone has chances and is valued and treated as equal citizens. One that pushes through the barriers of this cross-party consensus on inflicting suffering, which is completely out of line with the general public’s views.

Original article by Mikey Erhardt republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Continue ReadingJeremy Hunt’s benefit crackdown will worsen an already terrible system

Caroline Lucas on 13 years as the Green Party’s only MP

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Left Foot Forward has an exclusive with Caroline Lucas. She is set to resign as an MP at the next general election.

Caroline Lucas Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion. Official image by David Woolfall Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Caroline Lucas Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion. Official image by David Woolfall Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

While she is unsurprisingly damning about the prime ministers who have been in office over her 13 years in the House of Commons, Lucas has had to work closely with MPs from other parties. By virtue of being the only MP for her party, working cross-party has been central to much of her work. As a result, she offers strong praise for MPs on the opposition benches who she has worked with over the years.

She tells Left Foot Forward: “I work really closely with people like Nadia Whittome and Clive Lewis on the Green New Deal, and we have an all party group on the Green New Deal and we work very closely together on that. I enjoy working with Barry Gardiner actually on the Environmental Audit Committee just because he’s such a terrier when it comes to cross-questioning ministers. From the Liberal Democrats I work very closely with Wera Hobhouse on environmental issues, green issues. Plaid [Cymru] are very good on social issues and I’m probably closest to them of all the parties in Westminster.”

However, such praise is definitely absent from her assessment of the likely next prime minister – the Labour leader Keir Starmer. She starts by acknowledging that she and the Green Party would “prefer to see a Labour government than a Tory government”, but goes on to ask “what kind of Labour government” we are likely to get.

“I think there are real concerns over the U-turns that Keir Starmer has been performing – whether that is on what was originally a £28 billion commitment for green investment, he was going to scrap tuition fees, things like the two child benefit cap which is a really, really obscene policy and his own frontbench have said its obscene yet he has now said that he is not going to reverse that.

“He’s better on oil and gas to the extent that he’s said he won’t give licenses to new oil and gas. But then there’s a totally incoherent position of saying that he will allow Rosebank to go ahead. Whereas if he had said were he to get into government he would have tried to roll back that decision it would never have been taken in the first place, because the signal that would have given to Equinor, the Norwegian investor who is going to go ahead with Rosebank would have thought twice. So on oil and gas, there’s a problem there.”

Lucas says that on the economy and other issues, Starmer is operating with a “lack of ambition” which is “so desperately disappointing because he seems to think that if he just plays it incredibly safe, then he can tip-toe into Downing Street”, before going on to say “I think he needs to worry as well about the number of people he simply won’t be inspiring to get off their chairs and down to the polling station at all – and right now it is incredibly hard to say what Keir Starmer stands for”.

Given that Lucas spoke to Left Foot Forward the day after the major vote in parliament on whether the government should call for a ceasefire in Gaza, she also criticises Labour for failing to vote to support a ceasefire. “I think it was incredibly disappointing that Labour is on the wrong side of history on this”, she says.

Continue ReadingCaroline Lucas on 13 years as the Green Party’s only MP

Starmer backs the wrong climate policies

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Keir Starmer sucking up to the rich and powerful at World Economic Forum, Davos.
Keir Starmer sucking up to the rich and powerful at World Economic Forum, Davos.

A Guardian article is saying that Labour Party leader Keith Starmer and shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband are promoting “carbon capture to support industries that still need oil and gas to pipe their waste CO2 into depleted North Sea oilfields; building floating windfarms for deep-water sites; and in green hydrogen – a zero carbon fuel needed for energy-intensive industries such as steelmaking, railways and chemicals production.”

Carbon capture is a scam to benefit the fossil-fuel industry, I don’t know if windfarms are needed for deep-water sites and green hydrogen is far from ideal. What’s needed really is a move from or transform these industries so that they don’t need vast amounts of energy. Green hydrogen needs vast amounts of energy in it’s production. Starmer can’t get away from sucking up to the fossil-fuel industry, it’s not going to be any different with him.

11.30 I’ve worked out how to secure deep-water windfarms assuming that securing them is the problem.

Continue ReadingStarmer backs the wrong climate policies