In 2015 #ukip promised Fat Cat Farmers they’d keep subsidies on #BREXIT! In 2018 @Conservatives say subsidies will last for at least five years … #FBPE

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BzS7Tq-CEAAeCrbWhen Matthew Goodwin writes Nigel Farage’s biography, I am sure you will, Matthew, perhaps he ought to call it Farage: The Diary of a Foxhunting Man (who liked a tab and a pint down the Stockbroker’s Arms)?

Farage (heading a party of the working man, women need not apply) has been spending a goodly amount of time cosying up to the Country Land and Business Association (formerly the Countryside Landowners’ Association).  Back on July 19th 2014 at Blenheim, Oxfordshire, Farage, a regular Game Fair visitor and shooter, promised that farming subsidies would continue if Britain were to leave the EU.  You know, the money we pay to the EU now that Farage says that, if we were out of the EU, we would use to give the low paid a tax ‘cut’.  You will note, though, that the panel’s response to the shooter’s anti EU stance was not all favourable.  Nice, however, to see that writer and racehorse trainer, Charlie Brooks, has already managed to find (gainful?) employment!

Now, you may be wondering about what Farage’s appearance at a Game Fair has to do with repealing the Hunting Act 2004?  Well, check out this article in the Sunday Express of 28th September 2014.  Yes, Elizabeth Truss (a member of the party of the working class, its trade union that has a bit of a problem with women) thinks devoting Parliamentary time to repealing the Act, if the Tories form the next Government, is more important than other matters which fall within her portfolio.  I am sure her stance is in no way affected by the thought of losing 500,000 votes to ukip.

So we have an organisation devoted to representing the interests of the landed Establishment (a trades union) lobbying two Right wing parties, dominated at the top by members of the Establishment.  And yet, ukip, in particular are the insurgents, the mould breakers, the party of the ‘left behind’, a peasants’ revolt in the making …  The definition of the ‘left behind’ has become very flexible, if it now includes people like country landowners and their neighbours, the peasantry (in the original sense of the word)?

These landowners hardly need ukip’s help to get their points across.  They sought to infiltrate the National Trust and overturn its hunting policy in 1998.  You will note who they did get elected, whose friend he just happened to be and the use of the term ‘political correctness’.  Now take a look at FONT’s slate in 2001.  A number of them, Clarissa Dickson-Wright in particular, ‘forgot’ to mention the reason why they were seeking election.  Ms Dickson-Wright wanted to put her culinary skills at the disposal of the Trust.  All she had to do was volunteer to work in the kitchen at one of the Trust’s properties not go to the trouble of getting elected to its ruling council.  I took particular pleasure in voting against FONT’s slate.  Incidentally, ukipers, the National Trust is more democratic than ukip and a lot more fun (and British) too!

Labour, Matthew Goodwin particularly says, needs to face up to the challenge of ukip.  In this regard, good advice about 200 or so years ago, but today most of us live in urban areas and we have universal suffrage.  It did, however, take from 1949 to 2004 for the will of the people to prevail and a hunting with dogs ban to be enacted.  Matthew is big on ukip addressing the issues of the ‘left behind’ whose interests he, condescendingly and patronisingly, thinks do not extend to matters such as climate change.  Well, Matthew, care to explain the level of support for the Hunting Act to remain in force?  Looks to me like a lot of us (working class boy made good, me), including ukip supporters support the ban.  Our concerns, Matthew, and those of “metropolitan liberals” quite often overlap.  I do wonder if Matthew was spooked by Polly Toynbee during his formative years.  It would certainly explain a lot!

Finally, lest we forget, we are not just talking about allowing people to hunt foxes again, a Christmas card scene, but Bambi’s mother as well.  Let us also not forget the words on a placard (held by a farmer) in a Steve Bell cartoon marking a Countryside Alliance March against the passing of the Hunting Bill, “Give us yer money and eff off our land!”  Well, ukip, just whose side are you really on?  Him and the ruling, rural elite or the rural poor (and the many who support the Hunting Act)?

Michael Gove forced to plough £10bn into farm grants after Brexit

#ukip Plan #NHS Death By 83 Counties @NigelFarage? And Pensioner Prescription Charges? #ThanetSouth #GE2015

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In his haste to rebut the contents of this video, Nigel Farage revived the County Health Boards proposal as set out in ukip’s last comprehensive health policy.  A policy which I have been told on Twitter by some ukippers, is no longer ukip’s health policy, but, by others, that it is.

In his Independent article of Thursday 13th November Nigel Farage wrote, “We’ll replace the centralised, top-down organisations such as the Care Quality Commission with elected county health boards which will pay more attention to local problems and whistleblowers.”

ukip earlier this year said it would “revert to local Health Boards, also giving some Boards the freedom to impose prescription charges.”  “The majority of health care spending” would be devolved to “elected County Health Boards, making spending decisions directly accountable to the public locally.”  ukip thinks this would reduce costs not increase them.  Hardly the case when one looks at the increased cost of administering free schools.

Once the NHS has been balkanised, broken into 83 parts (not including London), as Farage proposes, then no one can say what that would mean in terms of charging for services etc.  What it does mean is that our public health care system would cease to be a national one.

Farage said something disturbing about the NHS

Is This The True Face Of #ukip, #MarkReckless, #DouglasCarswell & #NigelFarage? #ThanetSouth

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The discomforts of Douglas Carswell

Labour kiddie fiddlers ukip paedoCredit where it is due that Kamikaze (Douglas) Carswell asked to be removed from the exchange above.

Watch Douglas Carswell gives his victory speech

Douglas Carswell’s Clacton victory speech: ‘Ukip must stand for all Britons’

Douglas Carswell fails to endorse plan by Farage for ban on migrants with HIV

Pinning Down Farage: What is UKIP’s policy on the NHS and health?

I will edit this post if I receive an apology in full from Cheeky Latte that I may ask to be published on a number of websites.

Tally Ho! Unspeakable #Tories & #ukip Pursing Unpopular Repeal of Hunting Act 2004 #StokeByElection

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BzS7TUHCEAAhhc-When Matthew Goodwin writes Nigel Farage’s biography, I am sure you will, Matthew, perhaps he ought to call it Farage: The Diary of a Foxhunting Man (who liked a tab and a pint down the Stockbroker’s Arms)?

Farage (heading a party of the working man, women need not apply) has been spending a goodly amount of time cosying up to the Country Land and Business Association (formerly the Countryside Landowners’ Association).  Back on July 19th 2014 at Blenheim, Oxfordshire, Farage, a regular Game Fair visitor and shooter, promised that farming subsidies would continue if Britain were to leave the EU.  You know, the money we pay to the EU now that Farage says that, if we were out of the EU, we would use to give the low paid a tax ‘cut’.  You will note, though, that the panel’s response to the shooter’s anti EU stance was not all favourable.  Nice, however, to see that writer and racehorse trainer, Charlie Brooks, has already managed to find (gainful?) employment!

Now, you may be wondering about what Farage’s appearance at a Game Fair has to do with repealing the Hunting Act 2004?  Well, check out this article in the Sunday Express of 28th September 2014.  Yes, Elizabeth Truss (a member of the party of the working class, its trade union that has a bit of a problem with women) thinks devoting Parliamentary time to repealing the Act, if the Tories form the next Government, is more important than other matters which fall within her portfolio.  I am sure her stance is in no way affected by the thought of losing 500,000 votes to ukip.

So we have an organisation devoted to representing the interests of the landed Establishment (a trades union) lobbying two Right wing parties, dominated at the top by members of the Establishment.  And yet, ukip, in particular are the insurgents, the mould breakers, the party of the ‘left behind’, a peasants’ revolt in the making …  The definition of the ‘left behind’ has become very flexible, if it now includes people like country landowners and their neighbours, the peasantry (in the original sense of the word)?

These landowners hardly need ukip’s help to get their points across.  They sought to infiltrate the National Trust and overturn its hunting policy in 1998.  You will note who they did get elected, whose friend he just happened to be and the use of the term ‘political correctness’.  Now take a look at FONT’s slate in 2001.  A number of them, Clarissa Dickson-Wright in particular, ‘forgot’ to mention the reason why they were seeking election.  Ms Dickson-Wright wanted to put her culinary skills at the disposal of the Trust.  All she had to do was volunteer to work in the kitchen at one of the Trust’s properties not go to the trouble of getting elected to its ruling council.  I took particular pleasure in voting against FONT’s slate.  Incidentally, ukipers, the National Trust is more democratic than ukip and a lot more fun (and British) too!

Labour, Matthew Goodwin particularly says, needs to face up to the challenge of ukip.  In this regard, good advice about 200 or so years ago, but today most of us live in urban areas and we have universal suffrage.  It did, however, take from 1949 to 2004 for the will of the people to prevail and a hunting with dogs ban to be enacted.  Matthew is big on ukip addressing the issues of the ‘left behind’ whose interests he, condescendingly and patronisingly, thinks do not extend to matters such as climate change.  Well, Matthew, care to explain the level of support for the Hunting Act to remain in force?  Looks to me like a lot of us (working class boy made good, me), including ukip supporters support the ban.  Our concerns, Matthew, and those of “metropolitan liberals” quite often overlap.  I do wonder if Matthew was spooked by Polly Toynbee during his formative years.  It would certainly explain a lot!

Finally, lest we forget, we are not just talking about allowing people to hunt foxes again, a Christmas card scene, but Bambi’s mother as well.  Let us also not forget the words on a placard (held by a farmer) in a Steve Bell cartoon marking a Countryside Alliance March against the passing of the Hunting Bill, “Give us yer money and eff off our land!”  Well, ukip, just whose side are you really on?  Him and the ruling, rural elite or the rural poor (and the many who support the Hunting Act)?

BzS7Tq-CEAAeCrb

ukip Bedroom Tax Stance Clear Evidence Would Prosecute #WOW Like #IDS? #Heywood #Middleton

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ukip intends in September to confirm its “opposition to the Bedroom Tax” (see paragraph 8).  However, all its other policy ideas are definites, we will cut this, set up that and repeal something else. ukip, therefore, is not committing itself to repealing the Bedroom Tax if it were ever in government.

ukip seems to be setting out to be tough on welfare, despite the contention it is pitching for a bigger slice of the working class ‘left behind’ vote.  I guess saying that you will be opposed to the tax suggests otherwise and may provide some comfort to a few ukip voters, who think the tax is not a national government policy.  I have often sat across the desk from someone on Social Security who was unaware of the difference between a civil service department and their local council.  Although how ukip would cope if they were running a council is anyone’s guess.

To be fair to ukip in one way, they may have inadvertently repeated, without amendment, a pledge made in their Local Authority Elections Manifesto 2014 (see page 9, Environment, Planning and Housing), but failing to amend this policy for its policy launch hardly suggests that they are getting better organised at presenting their policies.  However, the LA Manifesto contains references to policies that would require Parliamentary legislation for local authorities to implement.  And those policies are mostly clear cut, too.

If ukip is attracting a goodly number of the ‘left behind’ then some of them must be paying the Bedroom Tax so why not say you will cut it?  Could it be because of ukip’s Libertarian, small government, everyone should stand on their own feet wing?  Oh and the 50% of its vote who are ex Tories?  Keeping hold of their votes and attracting more implies that ukip will be hard on ‘benefit scroungers’, despite some of them currently being its voters and supporters.

There are three references  to benefits in the LA Manifesto:

Up to 29 million more people are, therefore, entitled to come here, to take advantage of our benefits, social housing, primary school places and free health care, having contributed nothing to them. (Page 3)

We must end benefit and health tourism and give priority to local people for housing, education, health and social services. In planning, the local people’s opinions should be respected and not overruled. (Page 8)

Our membership of the EU costs £55m a day – and another £23m a day goes out in foreign aid – while jobs, services and benefits are being cut at home. UKIP believes that we should save that money to help rebuild our debtridden economy. (Page 9)

Now £55 million and £23 million per day might sound like a lot to most people, especially ukip supporters, but, believe me it is a drop in the ocean of government expenditure.  Our total annual EU subscription amounts to (using Farage’s figures) £20 billion and our Overseas Development Aid to £8.4 billion per year. Now Farage has recently conceded that we get back £7 for every £10 we pay into the EU and that he wants to reduce, but not end ODA. He proposes to reduce it from 0.7% of GDP to 0.2%.

ukipers have assured me on Twitter that the 70% of our EU subscription we get back will be spent in a similar way as now, but instead of on the advice of chaps like me in the Regions (hence European Regional Development Fund), the decisions will be made in Whitehall.  I am sure we are confident, particularly everywhere outside of London and South East, especially in the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, that this centrally directed money will still go where it is most needed.  I will talk more about that topic in a later post.

£8.3 billion divided by 7 and multiplied by 5 equals £6 billion and 30% of £20 billion equals £6 billion. After an expensive referendum and making a decision that will reduce the UK’s standing in the world we will have an extra £12 billion, ceteris paribus, per year to spend on ukip’s policy proposals.  The proposal to cut Income Tax for those on the National Minimum Wage has been estimated, if implemented, to result in a loss of tax revenue to the Exchequer of £13 billion.  ukip cannot contend that BREXIT and reducing ODA will make any immediate financial difference to those receiving Social Security.

I think it is not unreasonable to assume, given that reference to “debtridden (sic)” above, that ukip may well be considering slicing a further £73 billion from annual government expenditure and some of the policy ideas listed in Goodwin’s article would seem to support that contention. There is also no evidence to support the theory that cutting the top rate of Income Tax from 45% to 40% will, as Farage asserts, raise more revenue than before the reduction and as ukip wants to make sure the 40% starting point is not subject to fiscal drag then something has got to be cut.  I leave you to ponder where the axe would fall, but do not forget that the Hard Right of the Tory Party not only likes the cut of ukip’s jib, but has openly talked about getting into bed with them.

#ukip Would Scrap #ChildrensCentres & #SureStart! #CopelandByElection #StokeByElection #LabourDoorstep

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Well, well, well …  Who knew it?  ukip’s latest policy on welfare was out there all the time!  Basically, they aim to be tough on those in poverty and well to the right of IDS when it comes to social policy.

How do I know this?  I was chatting with someone the other day about ukip’s all things to all men (women know your place!) Bedroom Tax policy and I mused about where they stood on other Social Security issues.  My friend sent me this link to their last set of policies.  One of which alone kills dead the idea that ukip would really stand up for the left behind, the axing of Sure Start.

Yes, I know, we must await the much anticipated Manifesto, whose unveiling has become like a particularly arthritic Dance of the Seven Veils.  First, it was to appear early this year; next Friday 23rd May, conveniently a day after the European Elections; then later in the summer; then later this month, but the last I read was that only a few key policies would be unveiled in Doncaster.  Would they be those of which Farage has already spoken?  For example, the National Minimum Wage and tax ‘cuts’ policy and the ones listed in this article?  Until they repudiate their previous anti-poverty proposals then we may assume that they are still current or, at the very least still being considered for their Manifesto.

Sure Start, established under Labour; a major issue at the last General Election and broadly supported by the mainstream parties is practically the quintessential policy for helping the left behind within a few years of their leaving their cradles.  It is a lot less controversial and judgmental than the current government’s Troubled Families Programme.  Troubled Families expects almost overnight easily measurable outputs and outcomes.  We will not know the full impact, good and/or bad of Sure Start until the first cohort of beneficiaries reaches the age of 18.  Anyone who thinks Sure Start to be a waste of money is either ignorant, stupid and/or cares nothing for those who start their lives at the rear of the convoy and who steadily fall behind as the voyage progresses.  No wonder Nigel Farage studiously avoids discussing ukip’s social policies in any open forum.

Sure Start, based on Head Start in the United States of America, aims to prevent poor children, often from very deprived areas, from experiencing an opportunity gap opening up between them and the children of those in higher income groups.  Put simply, if the poorest children do not get a hand up before the age of 5 then in most cases they will never improve on the position at which they started.  Truly, these children are the left behind.

I am in no way criticising the parents of these disadvantaged children.  Many were themselves disadvantaged and could not break out of the poverty trap.  Unlike so many of the Commentariat and the likes of Matthew Goodwin, I have grown up alongside them, met them and those working with them (and supported both during my career).  I have not, Gradgrind like, sat at my computer and written reports, recommendations and so forth after just reading the latest statistics, opinion polls and the comment pieces of others.  I suspect many of you reading this now have done the same as me and share my respect and awe for the efforts to which these parents (and families) go to try and give their children a better start in life than they had.  Sometimes it is heartbreaking to think what the future may hold for these children.  Sure Start is all about giving the poorest children a more than even chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.  Crucially, it also helps their parents to help themselves to improve their lot and thus the lot of their children.

Poverty is about more than just money, as important as that is to getting out of it, it also denies people the chance to experience new things and different cultures.  It denies them the opportunity to go to art galleries, the theatre, the cinema, in fact to enjoy the rich and varied culture of our society and other societies that many, not in poverty, take for granted.  I must confess I am a Bevanite snob, if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for us!  You might even call me a Champagne Socialist.  I have tried it, do not like it, but like a glass or two of port after a good dinner.  And yet I sprang from the working class in what still is one of the poorest parts of Birmingham.  And although Children’s Centres, a key component of Sure Start, do not I assume promote the drinking of port, they do in part aim to broaden the horizons of children.

There is something else about Children’s Centres.  They are non means tested.  Consequently, there was at least a hope that children across social groups and income levels would mingle and learn a bit about each other, thereby, promoting community cohesion and understanding.  Who knows, they might just develop the friendships, networks and connections for which some parents send their children to private schools, public schools and Oxbridge.  More than a touch of social engineering there?  I am not sure if that has come to pass.

Locally, Labour rolled out the centres in three tranches, starting with the hardest to help areas.  The Tories, on coming to power in Birmingham scaled back the third phase, but then the deprived children of Falcon Lodge might have met and played with the well off children of the rest of Andrew Mitchell’s Constituency of Sutton Coldfield, one of the most affluent areas outside of London and South East.  We cannot have the kids off the estate learning that only money separates them from their ‘betters’, can we?

Story Wood Children’s Centre (previously Brambles/Sure Start Kingstanding) is one of the Children’s Centres I had the pleasure to visit in my time as a Civil Servant.  Story Wood is at the heart of the community it serves and is on the site of Story Wood School.  Some of the detail of what the Children’s Centre does is here.  For me, Children’s Centres are my kind of Socialism and something of which to be unashamedly proud.  I visited one a couple of times at a Junior and Infant School that I used to attend.  And that was a very deprived area (in terms of money) when Mom, Dad, my brother and me lived there.  Thankfully, things have improved somewhat and I helped a little with some of that improvement in recent years.

Whilst talking about ukip policies more generally, I would observe that Children’s Centres operate under the auspices of local authorities, but not all are run by them.  Lakeside was set up by Enta, a widely respected Voluntary and Community Sector organisation and like a lot of Children’s Centres engages in a variety of ways with the parents who use the Centre’s services.  Jargon like empowerment springs to mind, but not ukip’s ‘Power to the People’ ideas.  Helping to run a Children’s Centre your children attend is power to the people.  Closing it is not.

Were ukip to have its way then closing Children’s Centres would leave the left behind, both children and parents further behind; put trained professionals in a variety of child related disciplines out of work; remove community centres from communities with few or no other community facilities; waste a lot of money in a variety of ways and I suspect leave more than a few children heartbroken.  Thankfully those who use and have used the centres are not easily fooled (which is a sign they are working).  They made the survival of their centres an issue in the last General Election.  David Cameron said none would be closed on his watch.  Somewhere in the region of 250 have gone, but a network remains, even where authorities are Tory run.  The equivalent of the NHS of the First Age has developed deep roots, thankfully.

Replacing Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested Nursery Voucher to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place is no answer to the challenges facing the children of the left behind.  The bulk of the funding being replaced by the voucher currently goes on the left behind.  Under ukip, the likes of David (I claimed Disability Living Allowance) Cameron would get some of the money if he used a voucher.  ukip proposes a simplistic answer to a complex set of problems and moves money away from where it is most needed.  Could they be seeking the votes of Tories with a non means tested voucher?

And for any ukiper who has read this far, rather than posting a comment accusing me of a smear and/or being a paedophile, Children’s Centres provide childcare, support for lone parents and employ a lot of women.  Is your blood boiling now?  If you closed Children’s Centres you would reduce the amount of childcare, possibly pushing up the price of that remaining.  We know you do not like lone parents, women in the workplace and seemingly women in general.  However, let me cause you some more grief, men are lone parents too and men work in childcare.  One of the latter I met had worked on the track at Rover before being made redundant.  Oh, and around 8% of HGV drivers are women!

If Labour (and to a great extent) the other mainstream parties have left people behind through Sure Start then we are guilty as charged.  Perhaps this policy is further proof that ukip is seeking to attract and retain the support and votes of the poorly educated, uncultured and those seemingly lacking in empathy?  Why does one need to have a reading age of more than seven, because with it you can comprehend The Sun?  Why do you need to know the difference between a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh?  They are all ‘foreigners’, are they not?  And, if you start developing emotional intelligence then you might just realise that the Muslim family down the road or the lone parent around the corner has a harder life than you.  Why is this starting to sound familiar?  These are the tunes played by the Hard Right since time immemorial.  Divide and conquer, divide and rule.

What Would House of Commons Look Like #JC4PM If Reflecting Make Up of UK Workforce by Industry?

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Just a bit of fun, just a bit of fun, as Peter Snow used to say at election time.  I am using March 2014 (workforce jobs by industry (SIC 2007) and sex – unadjusted) UK figures and a House of Commons of 650 Members:

Total number in work: 32,992,000 (650 MPs)

Total number of males in full time work: 14,223,000 (280 MPs)
Total number of females in full time work: 7,957,000 (158 MPs)

Total number of males in part time work: 3,113,000 (61 MPs)
Total number of females in part time work: 7,699,000 (151 MPs)

We have heard a lot lately of the House of Commons not reflecting the make up of the workforce of the UK, well this is how it would look if that were that not the case:

A : Agriculture, forestry and fishing: 1.4% or 9 MPs.
B : Mining and quarrying: 0.2% or 1 MP.
C : Manufacturing: 7.8% or 51 MPs.
D : Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply: 0.4% or 3 MPs.
E : Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities: 0.6% or 4 MPs.
F : Construction: 6.4% or 42 MPs.
G : Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles: 14.7% or 96 MPs.
H : Transportation and storage: 4.6% or 30 MPs.
I : Accommodation and food service activities: 6.1% or 40 MPs.
J : Information and communication: 3.9% or 25 MPs.
K : Financial and insurance activities: 3.4% or 22 MPs.
L : Real estate activities: 1.8% or 12 MPs.
M : Professional, scientific and technical activities: 8.4% or 55 MPs.
N : Administrative and support service activities: 8.3% or 54 MPs.
O : Public administration and defence; compulsory social security: 4.7% or 31 MPs.
P : Education: 8.8% or 57 MPs.
Q : Human health and social work activities: 12.9% or 84 MPs.
R : Arts, entertainment and recreation: 2.9% or 19 MPs.
S : Other service activities: 2.5% or 16 MPs.
T : Activities of households as employers;undifferentiated goods-and services-producing activities of households for own use: 0.3% or 2 MPs.

Food for thought, eh?  Particularly, because I have yet to hear many of the Commentariat talking about cleaners, social workers, local government officers, civil servants, scientists, nurses, teachers et al taking their rightful place in the House of Commons.

Yes, those who have worked in manufacturing are under-represented, but these figures are by industry so there would be clerical workers amongst the 51.  And the military?  Well, given the number of those with a military background even in today’s House of Commons then one may well claim they are over-represented.  They would only earn, under this method of calculation, 4 MPs.  I challenged a (ex army) ukipper a while ago on Twitter about his assertion that, having been in uniform then his views should carry more weight than most of the rest of the electorate.  He snapped back, what are you, a shelf stacker?  Well, I have news for him, the shelf stackers have it!

#ukip Would Scrap #ChildrensCentres & #SureStart! #ThanetSouth

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Well, well, well …  Who knew it?  ukip’s latest policy on welfare was out there all the time!  Basically, they aim to be tough on those in poverty and well to the right of IDS when it comes to social policy.

How do I know this?  I was chatting with someone the other day about ukip’s all things to all men (women know your place!) Bedroom Tax policy and I mused about where they stood on other Social Security issues.  My friend sent me this link to their last set of policies.  One of which alone kills dead the idea that ukip would really stand up for the left behind, the axing of Sure Start.

Yes, I know, we must await the much anticipated Manifesto, whose unveiling has become like a particularly arthritic Dance of the Seven Veils.  First, it was to appear early this year; next Friday 23rd May, conveniently a day after the European Elections; then later in the summer; then later this month, but the last I read was that only a few key policies would be unveiled in Doncaster.  Would they be those of which Farage has already spoken?  For example, the National Minimum Wage and tax ‘cuts’ policy and the ones listed in this article?  Until they repudiate their previous anti-poverty proposals then we may assume that they are still current or, at the very least still being considered for their Manifesto.

Sure Start, established under Labour; a major issue at the last General Election and broadly supported by the mainstream parties is practically the quintessential policy for helping the left behind within a few years of their leaving their cradles.  It is a lot less controversial and judgmental than the current government’s Troubled Families Programme.  Troubled Families expects almost overnight easily measurable outputs and outcomes.  We will not know the full impact, good and/or bad of Sure Start until the first cohort of beneficiaries reaches the age of 18.  Anyone who thinks Sure Start to be a waste of money is either ignorant, stupid and/or cares nothing for those who start their lives at the rear of the convoy and who steadily fall behind as the voyage progresses.  No wonder Nigel Farage studiously avoids discussing ukip’s social policies in any open forum.

Sure Start, based on Head Start in the United States of America, aims to prevent poor children, often from very deprived areas, from experiencing an opportunity gap opening up between them and the children of those in higher income groups.  Put simply, if the poorest children do not get a hand up before the age of 5 then in most cases they will never improve on the position at which they started.  Truly, these children are the left behind.

I am in no way criticising the parents of these disadvantaged children.  Many were themselves disadvantaged and could not break out of the poverty trap.  Unlike so many of the Commentariat and the likes of Matthew Goodwin, I have grown up alongside them, met them and those working with them (and supported both during my career).  I have not, Gradgrind like, sat at my computer and written reports, recommendations and so forth after just reading the latest statistics, opinion polls and the comment pieces of others.  I suspect many of you reading this now have done the same as me and share my respect and awe for the efforts to which these parents (and families) go to try and give their children a better start in life than they had.  Sometimes it is heartbreaking to think what the future may hold for these children.  Sure Start is all about giving the poorest children a more than even chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.  Crucially, it also helps their parents to help themselves to improve their lot and thus the lot of their children.

Poverty is about more than just money, as important as that is to getting out of it, it also denies people the chance to experience new things and different cultures.  It denies them the opportunity to go to art galleries, the theatre, the cinema, in fact to enjoy the rich and varied culture of our society and other societies that many, not in poverty, take for granted.  I must confess I am a Bevanite snob, if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for us!  You might even call me a Champagne Socialist.  I have tried it, do not like it, but like a glass or two of port after a good dinner.  And yet I sprang from the working class in what still is one of the poorest parts of Birmingham.  And although Children’s Centres, a key component of Sure Start, do not I assume promote the drinking of port, they do in part aim to broaden the horizons of children.

There is something else about Children’s Centres.  They are non means tested.  Consequently, there was at least a hope that children across social groups and income levels would mingle and learn a bit about each other, thereby, promoting community cohesion and understanding.  Who knows, they might just develop the friendships, networks and connections for which some parents send their children to private schools, public schools and Oxbridge.  More than a touch of social engineering there?  I am not sure if that has come to pass.

Locally, Labour rolled out the centres in three tranches, starting with the hardest to help areas.  The Tories, on coming to power in Birmingham scaled back the third phase, but then the deprived children of Falcon Lodge might have met and played with the well off children of the rest of Andrew Mitchell’s Constituency of Sutton Coldfield, one of the most affluent areas outside of London and South East.  We cannot have the kids off the estate learning that only money separates them from their ‘betters’, can we?

Story Wood Children’s Centre (previously Brambles/Sure Start Kingstanding) is one of the Children’s Centres I had the pleasure to visit in my time as a Civil Servant.  Story Wood is at the heart of the community it serves and is on the site of Story Wood School.  Some of the detail of what the Children’s Centre does is here.  For me, Children’s Centres are my kind of Socialism and something of which to be unashamedly proud.  I visited one a couple of times at a Junior and Infant School that I used to attend.  And that was a very deprived area (in terms of money) when Mom, Dad, my brother and me lived there.  Thankfully, things have improved somewhat and I helped a little with some of that improvement in recent years.

Whilst talking about ukip policies more generally, I would observe that Children’s Centres operate under the auspices of local authorities, but not all are run by them.  Lakeside was set up by Enta, a widely respected Voluntary and Community Sector organisation and like a lot of Children’s Centres engages in a variety of ways with the parents who use the Centre’s services.  Jargon like empowerment springs to mind, but not ukip’s ‘Power to the People’ ideas.  Helping to run a Children’s Centre your children attend is power to the people.  Closing it is not.

Were ukip to have its way then closing Children’s Centres would leave the left behind, both children and parents further behind; put trained professionals in a variety of child related disciplines out of work; remove community centres from communities with few or no other community facilities; waste a lot of money in a variety of ways and I suspect leave more than a few children heartbroken.  Thankfully those who use and have used the centres are not easily fooled (which is a sign they are working).  They made the survival of their centres an issue in the last General Election.  David Cameron said none would be closed on his watch.  Somewhere in the region of 250 have gone, but a network remains, even where authorities are Tory run.  The equivalent of the NHS of the First Age has developed deep roots, thankfully.

Replacing Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested Nursery Voucher to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place is no answer to the challenges facing the children of the left behind.  The bulk of the funding being replaced by the voucher currently goes on the left behind.  Under ukip, the likes of David (I claimed Disability Living Allowance) Cameron would get some of the money if he used a voucher.  ukip proposes a simplistic answer to a complex set of problems and moves money away from where it is most needed.  Could they be seeking the votes of Tories with a non means tested voucher?

And for any ukiper who has read this far, rather than posting a comment accusing me of a smear and/or being a paedophile, Children’s Centres provide childcare, support for lone parents and employ a lot of women.  Is your blood boiling now?  If you closed Children’s Centres you would reduce the amount of childcare, possibly pushing up the price of that remaining.  We know you do not like lone parents, women in the workplace and seemingly women in general.  However, let me cause you some more grief, men are lone parents too and men work in childcare.  One of the latter I met had worked on the track at Rover before being made redundant.  Oh, and around 8% of HGV drivers are women!

If Labour (and to a great extent) the other mainstream parties have left people behind through Sure Start then we are guilty as charged.  Perhaps this policy is further proof that ukip is seeking to attract and retain the support and votes of the poorly educated, uncultured and those seemingly lacking in empathy?  Why does one need to have a reading age of more than seven, because with it you can comprehend The Sun?  Why do you need to know the difference between a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh?  They are all ‘foreigners’, are they not?  And, if you start developing emotional intelligence then you might just realise that the Muslim family down the road or the lone parent around the corner has a harder life than you.  Why is this starting to sound familiar?  These are the tunes played by the Hard Right since time immemorial.  Divide and conquer, divide and rule.

#ukip, @MarkReckless, #NigelFarage, #NMW & Tax ‘Cuts’ #RochesterandStrood #RochesterStrood

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Nigel Farage recently announced that he would take all those on the National Minimum Wage out of Income Tax. On the surface that sounds like a bold move. On the surface.

From 1st October this year, the hourly rate for someone on the NMW will be £6.50 per hour.  If that someone works 40 hours per week, 52 weeks of the year then that works out at £13,520 per year.  Their personal tax allowance will be £10,000 so they only pay Income Tax at 20% on £3,520.  The amount paid works out at £704 or £13.54 per week.  Certainly not to be sniffed at, but hardly the largesse that one might first think.

However, Value Added Tax is levied at 20% and, if those benefiting from Farage’s tax cut spend all or most of that £13.54 per week then they are receiving with one hand and paying most, if not all back to the Treasury with the other.  VAT, being a regressive tax, bears down most on those with the lowest incomes, because, more likely than not, they will spend every extra pound that they receive, unlike those higher up the income scale.

It would also seem that some ukippers (on Twitter at least) think that VAT is levied purely to pay our annual EU subscription and so it too may be scrapped.  True, it is a requirement of membership, but the money raised by it in the United Kingdom is well in excess of that needed to pay our sub.  As a consequence, we will not be scrapping VAT any time soon, if ever, given Farage’s proposed (costed?) spending plans to date. Moreover, Farage recognises that we get £7 back from every £10 we pay into the EU and plans to continue (at the moment) with maintaining that 70% of EU spend, but not via Brussels.

The hourly rate for the NMW that I have quoted above is for those aged 21 and over.  The rate for those aged between 18 and 20, inclusive, is £5.13 per hour or £10,670.40 per year.  The amount of Income Tax paid being is £134.08.  If Farage makes good on his promise the cut amounts to a pay increase of £2.58 per week for 18 to 20 year olds.

The NMW hourly rate for those aged under 18 is £3.79 (or £7,883.20 per year) and for apprentices is £2.73 per hour (or £5,678.40 per year).  Neither group would, of course, benefit from Farage’s tax change.  The rate for apprentices is for those aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year of their apprenticeship.  All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age.

I am not holding my breath as to whether Farage would raise the NMW for those not benefiting from his taking those on the hourly higher rates out of the range of Income Tax.  Elsewhere in the ukip forest, influential members of ukip want to see the NMW scrapped.  One assumes this is not so employers may pay more per hour.  There are some benighted individuals who think the NMW keeps wages low.  Perhaps it does, but do they seriously want to go back to the days before its introduction?

Also, you will have noticed that if you work 29 and a half hours per week, at £6.50 per hour for 52 weeks, then you already pay no Income Tax and, if you work 37 and a half hours per week, at £5.13 per hour for 52 weeks, then you too already pay no Income Tax. Who is more likely than not to work less than 40 hours per week for 52 weeks per year? Women, often in part time jobs; Black and Ethnic Minorities; People With Disabilities; anyone in part time work; people with casual contracts and those on zero hours contracts. Oh, and those white working class (left behind) males flocking to ukip to be shorn like sheep whose fleeces are more than ready for the clippers.

It has been estimated that taking all those out of the NMW out of tax will cost £13 billion per year.  We have no idea where that money will come from, although as mentioned above, it may well be partly, if not almost completely recouped through VAT. And I have not added in the revenue accruing from purchases on which other imposts are levied, for example alcohol and tobacco.

Look at in another way, though.  Farage would lose £13 billion of tax revenue per year were his proposal implemented and yet the resulting benefits per person on NMW would be modest, to say the least.  There are, therefore, a lot of low paid people in the United Kingdom.  If Farage really wanted to make a real difference to their lives, he would be lecturing his mates in the City, ukip’s big business backers and its members who are business people, like many of its MEPs, on the need for business to raise the pay of their workers.  Instead, he is once more revealed as all style and no substance.

May be not, though. Join up the dots.  You have taken everyone on the NMW out of paying Income Tax so why do you need the NMW and big government?  You may scrap the NMW and promise to increase the 20% starting rate and the 40% starting rate every year by the Cost Price Index.  I assume you will not wish to be overly generous by increasing it by the Retail Price Index?

We now have a policy that will be music to the ears of libertarians, like Douglas Carswell; business people with no sense of corporate social responsibility and the Hard Right of the Tory Party.  Without the NMW there will be nothing to stop paying new recruits less than now as well as freezing pay for current staff and possibly even reducing it.  And, increasing the 20% and 40% starting rates benefits those paying Income Tax at the highest rate the most.  And there you were thinking a tax cut for the low paid was born out of pure altruism.  Think again?

ukip, the party of the left behind? ukip, the party of the low paid working man (and sometimes working woman)? ukip, the party that cares for the plight of the young?

No! Not when Farage wants to cut the top rate of tax from 45% to 40%.

Now you know who will benefit from Farage’s tax cuts.  People nothing like you, me and most of the electorate. Certainly not those whose pay is currently guaranteed by the NMW.

Can We Make #ClactonByElection About #BedroomTax and #WOW For @DouglasCarswell? #Clacton

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The political circus and the media are about to descend on Clacton.  The story?  Will ukip manage to get its first Member of Parliament elected.  The issue?  Europe or at least that is what ukip wants it to be and what the likes of Nick Robinson will want to talk about.

However, Douglas Carswell brought up the Bedroom Tax just after his defection.  Despite voting strongly in favour of the Bedroom Tax (and the rest of IDS’s welfare ‘reforms’) in the House of Commons, Carswell says he is now minded to switch his position that of ukip:

“I used to be staunchly in favour of the bedroom tax and then I met a man who was living quite near here. He suffers from mental health issues, his partner died and now he is being forced to move out of a place he calls home. My heart actually was telling me about the bedroom tax: ‘Hang on a second,’ and now I discover that Ukip is against it as well.”

Carsewll was deaf to the many similar cases, anticipated by MPs and debated during the passing of the Bedroom Tax legislation.  Carswell was all for it then and he has still not shifted to backing repeal, because ukip only says it will oppose the Bedroom Tax, even in Government.  Like a lot of ukip policy, it is a case of trying to be all things to all men (and sometimes women).  In other words, Carswell proposes to switch his position to a middle of the road one.  A position that would, even if ukip came into Government, leave the legislation in place and still causing misery and death.  Is this a sign to the Tory Party that their opposition to the Bedroom Tax policy is one policy that ukip would be happy to negotiate away in any post May 7th negotiations about coalition with the Tories?

Apart from possibly sending a signal, Carswell may have revealed a concern about a possible campaign issue.  An issue that might well help to reduce his chances of being returned to Parliament.  An issue, that if brought up at every opportunity during the by election campaign, would smoke out ukip’s stance on Social Security once and for all.  In the process, ukip might find its position driving away supporters.  Will it be seen as weak on welfare or a party wanting to go further than IDS.  Either way ukip jumps, it stands to lose support

Why might the Bedroom Tax be an issue in Clacton out on the stump?  Unemployment, using the monthly JSA count figures is relatively low.  Clacton is ranked 173 of the 651 Parliamentary seats.  The higher up the charts you are, the higher the proportion of the working age population, using the JSA figures, who are out of work.  However, the total number of people of working age on Social Security (scroll down the page) such as ESA propels Clacton much higher up the charts.

Until now there was not an opportunity to send a clear and direct message to Parliament about the Bedroom Tax.  However, Rachel Reeves, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions intends to put down a motion in the House of Commons that would repeal the Bedroom Tax legislation.  Nick Clegg’s wobble over the Tax earlier in the year means that repeal is much more likely than at any time since the introduction of the Bedroom Tax.  Therefore, a vote for Labour in Clacton that returns a Labour MP into Parlament might well further improve the chances of repeal before next May.

Ah John, you say, Labour are not to be trusted on matters like the Bedroom Tax.  Well now is a chance to see if Labour will do its best before next May to do what is says it would do after May 7th next year.  If it does not, then voting for Labour in Clacton will only return a Labour MP for a few months and the voters of Clacton may hold that person to account on May 7th next year.

I say to the cynics and the apathetic, voting for Labour in Clacton in the upcoming by election is surely a small price to pay for possibly bringing the end of the Bedroom Tax a bit closer?  And, in stopping ukip in their tracks then you send a clear signal to ukip that they cannot ignore your votes and that they should think again about the negative attitudes they so often display towards People With Disabilities, the LGBT and BEM communities, women and quite a few elderly people too.

There is plenty that people may do to put the Bedroom Tax front and centre in this by election campaign.  For example, pester ukip at every turn out on the campaign trail; get involved in radio phone in programmes; write to your local newspapers and Carswell; e-mail Carswell; approach him on Facebook; Tweet him; petition him; stand behind him at every turn with placards, particularly during interviews with the media and gatecrash his press conferences.  In short, make the issue of the Bedroom Tax a nightmare for him, both day and night, throughout the campaign!  Who knows, if he is returned to Parliament, he might undergo a Damascene conversion and abstain on a vote about the Bedroom Tax and possibly, just possibly vote against it.

Help send a message to Farage, Carswell (and Clegg) that, as Aneuran Bevan observed, people who stand in the middle of the road get run down!