Latest Editorial

The Recusant’s Autumn Statement

[UPDATE 30/11/14: While we wait with fateful breath for the 'psychopathic Chancellor' to make his final Autumn Statement prior to next year's General Election, in the next couple of days, The Recusant wishes to briefly pass comment on two vicissitudes of this last week.

The first is David Cameron's trans-satirical "immigration speech" which, among numerous rhetorical and ethical offences, included the Labour-busting and UKIP-appeasing announcement that a future Tory government would impose an absurdly punitive FOUR year moratorium on EU immigrants being able to claim welfare benefits! In addition this doubling of Labour's deplorable proposal for a two year moratorium -which set the ball rolling on this non-issue- Cameron also announced that it even after several years of working and contributing tax in this country, EU immigrants would STILL not be allowed to claim any child benefits for children living abroad.

All this is of course being whipped up by the main parties in order to attempt to staunch the UKIP surge by competing with one another as to who can be most punitive towards Johnny Foreigners -even those who are, like we British, supposedly members of the same European community; and also to appease Tory-UKIP-and tabloid-spoon-fed British voters' disgruntlement at the mythical tide of so-called "benefit tourism" (something which actually doesn't exist, since most immigrants come here to work, and since our current welfare system is among the most punitive and tight-fisted in Europe -contrary to popular red-top/Daily Express-spun belief). Equally disgraceful was the additional proposal to send EU immigrants packing back to their native countries if they fail to find work within six months of moving to the UK. Nothing like kicking the unemployed but abjectly impoverished, benefits-denied immigrant when they're down, eh? What an open-armed, compassionate and welcoming country we've become under four and a half years of Tory rule!

But the second significant event -or rather revelation- of this week, is that ex-Chief Whip and Tory MP Andrew Mitchell has, after all the interminable fuss about the so-called "Plebgate Affair" and allegations of police conspiracies to defame said ex-minister, come out of court and his attempt to "clear his name" and revive his political career, emphatically guilty of having indeed used the pejorative and snobbish term "pleb" to a police officer at the gates of Downing Street!

To those of us well aware of Rugby-and-Cambridge-educated, ex-Tank Commander and Lazard investment banker Mitchell's privilege-dripped background, and of his generally haughty manner, clipped officer-like tone, clenched hair and snooty demeanour, none of this is much of a surprise. He's just the typical public school-produced upper-class Tory snob -nothing new there then! He has now been hit with a 1.5 million bill in legal costs, inclusive of compensation to be paid to the previously defamed police constable -who is now thus exonerated of any formerly presumed 'porkies'- and, well, tough for him. Are we honestly supposed to feel sorry for the multimillionaire ex-minister just because for a nail-biting 24 hours or so he was contemplating having to sell his vastly expensive second home in London?

So there we are, another week in Toryland and more than enough nonsense and nastiness to accommodate in the space of just seven days. Lord only knows what heinous announcements are to come in Osborne's Autumn nutting spree this week, but we can all safely presume none of it will stand up to any ethical -or even factual- scrutiny; and that on the second of his two annual day releases from the caliginous dungeons of the Treasury, Osborne will be making sure he vents some more of his notorious sociopathic spleen on this cuts-eviscerated nation].


Cost of Austerity

According to a recent report by the LSE, it is now statistically proven that the Tories’ austerity cuts have disproportionately hit the very poorest families (the unemployed, disabled, low paid etc.) the hardest since 2010, so Chancellor Osborne’s former claims that we’re “all in this together” has finally and categorically hit the rocks of actual facts, figures and harsh realities for the millions he’s economically crippled and the tens of thousands he’s socially cleansed. Of course, some of us knew this would be the case from the outset (cue the predicatively 99% accurate forecasts of Emergency Verse back in June 2010), and most of us have felt it to be the case since about three or even four years ago.

FACT: contrary to the infamous and specious spin of that notorious ‘Emergency’ Budget, it is actually a case of the “greatest burden” being “put on the narrowest shoulders”, not on the “strongest”, whose parasitically accumulated capital and wealth has increased several times over in the past four years of socially selective ‘belt-tightening’ (in the case of the poor, disabled and unemployed, around their necks rather than waists!) on the back of cuts to said poorest. Not so much Robin Hood but rather more Sheriff of Nottingham, we’d say.

In addition to these objective findings, even the right-wing Institute for Fiscal Studies has also concluded this week that the Tory austerity stratagem has completely failed –though the emphasis is on abject failure in reducing the “deficit”, inclusive of benefits expenditure, which is subsequently rising (particularly housing benefits, in order to keep up with rising private rents; as I argued way back in EV in 2010, and then again in The Robin Hood Book in 2012, the only way to reduce housing benefit expenditure is to reintroduce the sanity and basic fairness of private rent controls! No one listened then, and apparently, no one is listening now either!).

And yet only this week, with news that we may well be hurtling towards yet another global economic crash (allegedly due to problems in the Eurozone, according to the Tories), Prime Minister David ‘Counterintuitive’ Cameron has announced this week that there will have to be a new austerity drive post-2015. Or, to translate: more cuts for the already fiscally decimated poorest citizens in order to fund more tax breaks for the fiscally inflated rich. So in essence Cameron and Osborne are embodying the fiscal sado-masochism and ‘bad habits’ of anarcho-capitalism: to repeat the same failed fiscal policies again and again in hope of an eventually different result (other than abject failure, social cleansing and mass administrative-manslaughter, that is). Capitalism is the repeat offender of economies, the perpetual tantrum-throwing child of industrial societies everywhere which, so we’re always told, is the only option.

Meanwhile, outside of Tory La La Land, it is has been revealed (or leaked, or whistle- blown) this week that the DWP is currently ‘investigating’ approximately “60 deaths” in dubious circumstances among the tens of thousands of sanction-incapacitated, Atos-hounded unemployed claimants. The Recusant smells a fermenting, damage-limiting ‘cover up’ on the wind in a last ditch attempt by the sociopathic Secretary to the Department of War on the Poor, Iain Duncan Smith, to futilely ‘justify’ the rising death toll of administrative atrocities perpetrated under his vile and vindictive watch.

Maximus or Bust

On the thorny subject of IDS, the Secretary of State for the Department for Whiphands and Punishments (DWP) and perpetrator of administrative and fiscal crimes against the sick and disabled was accused today (26 Nov) of a “glacial pace” with regards to his ever-arrested Universal Credit reforms (now likely not to be complete until the end of the decade) in a Commons debate. This accusation might have held more weight, however, had it not been levelled at him by the equally ‘glacial’ Rachel Reeves, IDS’s opposite number on the Shadow bench who, let us not forget, is hellbent on being even “tougher” on the unemployed than the Saruman of Work and Pension himself.

One might also, of course, use IDS’s initials to denote ‘Incapacity and Disability Scourge’, since he has overseen the very worst and most remorselessly draconian epoch of wholesale governmental persecution of the nation’s sick and disabled (in addition to its unemployed) via the DWP-Atos Work Capability Axis, which has been directly responsible for the premature deaths of tens of thousands of sick and disabled claimants (approximately 10,000 such claimants are recorded as having died six weeks after being declared “fit for work” by Atos, inclusive of suicides! –see Calum’s List).

And on the subject of the atomistic Atos, there was an excellent polemic in the Morning Star yesterday (25 Nov) by Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled Peoples Against the Cuts, reminding us that while the axing of Atos was indeed a moral victory in the fight against the disability victimisation, as we all know and have anticipated, the vicious IT firm will simply be supplanted by an equally ruthless private outfit –and now we have an appropriately Roman-sounding name to ruminate on in our future satirical protest: Maximus. Burnip instructively lets us into the ‘previous’ of said private racket, and hence its’ likely continuation –in all but name– of the various administrative ‘Atrosities’ of its’ predecessor:

Food Bank Film

Among the many iniquitous repercussions of Tory austerity has been the unacceptable necessity of food banks for the poorest and hardest hit. With this in mind, it is heartening to see that there is a new satirical ‘micro play’ on food banks and the Tory and tabloid-spun mythologies that surround their massing “feckless” dependents, written and produced by a quartet of well-meaning Primrosian ‘micro socialists’/ Guardianista types, Carrie Cracknell, Amelia Gentleman, Laura Wade and Jack Monroe, called Britain Isn’t Eating, starring IT Crowd actress Katherine Parkinson, shot from the Royal Court.

This is the latest in a series of increasingly politicised ‘pop up’ plays emerging from the theatrical Left in response to the epidemic polarising of vast sections of the British populace under Tory divide-and-rule (the recent homage to conscientious objectors of the First World War, England, Arise!, is another example). Though for The Recusant, we have yet to witness the definitive dramatic statement against the Tory-led Coalition and its Malthusian policies (many of which are a re-tread of the equally vindictive policies of Stanley Baldwin’s Tory-led National Government of the mid to late Depression-hit 1930s), and one suspects such a work will eventually emerge in the fullness of time. When it does, it will need to be even bolder in its polemical message and tone –and one suspects such a work will take as its main theme the tabloid “benefit scrounger” rhetoric and Atos regime as its main focus.

Pseudologia Fantastica Liberal Democratica

Even in the ‘spirit of open and democratic debate’, and even given that, inexplicably, The Guardian has maintained its ‘liberal’ –as opposed to ‘centre-left’– ‘principles’ and served as an occasional apologist for the Liberal Democrats over the past four and half years, it is deeply puzzling how its Primrosian editor can possibly justify such a delusional and insulting column as Danny Alexander’s near-criminal claim: ‘‘The coalition has helped, not hurt the poor’, published today (Sun 23 Nov) in The Observer.

This comment piece, or response to the paper’s recent reporting (and support?) of the objective LSE report which confirmed statistically that the Coalition has achieved the complete opposite to its original claims to “share the burden” of austerity, “put the biggest burden on the broadest shoulders” and demonstrate that “we are all in this together”, is tricky to categorise, since it reads more like a first person case study in delusional thinking and reality-denial than anything resembling a sane and rational justification of policy, since practically nothing in it stands up to any even remotely objective, reality-based scrutiny. And the less said about its ethical credibility the better.

Nevertheless, one supposes, as a kind of ‘right to reply’ to the cold light of factual reality, Secretary to the Treasury Danny ‘Thunderface’ Alexander has managed to induce mass spittings of tea and coffee over Observers up and down the country with the ultimate in Lib Dem hypocrisy and wilful blindness yet published, which serves almost as a written confession of his own evident pathological self-delusion and pseudologia fantastica (pathological lying –including to oneself– or compulsie ‘fibbing’, as one might term it).

The Recusant, reluctantly, reproduces this column from a parallel world below and offers its own interpolations:

Last week’s Observer asserted that the coalition’s economic recovery plan was placing a disproportionate burden on the poorest in our society. I absolutely reject this assertion. Nick Clegg and I led the Liberal Democrats into coalition not just to rescue the British economy from the aftermath of the 2008 crash, but to do so fairly.

Recusant: By voting for and supporting through Parliament the following Tory-driven policies: the welfare caps, housing benefit cuts, bedroom tax, benefits freeze, scrapping of the independent living fund, scrapping of EMA, trebling of tuition fees, legal aid cuts, anti-squatting law and criminalisation of street begging, and so on… Alexander can ‘absolutely reject’ the FACTS as much as he likes but it doesn’t change them.

As the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, I insisted that the government produced distributional analysis at each autumn statement and budget, so we could make sure our policies were protecting the most vulnerable.

R: A pity that they demonstrably took absolutely no notice of these whatsoever then isn’t it?

Our analysis shows that we are indeed rebuilding and rewiring the economy as fairly as possible. And, crucially, it is more complete and comprehensive than the LSE analysis quoted by the Observer.

R: Shorthand for, “The LSE have banged us to rights: PANIC! Let’s try and discredit them by implying their partisan Trotskyites who don’t go enough into detail –or, in truth, go into too much detail. Try to argue our duplicitous spin and specious Newspeak somehow evidences greater ‘comprehensiveness’, even if with greater incomprehensibleness.

For instance, the LSE analysis does not take into account the full range of changes to indirect tax, or measures on tax avoidance, or the distributional impact of changes to spending on public services. And it looks at static, immediate costs, rather than also considering whether those costs really represent how the effects of policies are felt in the real world.

R: He means the LSE quite correctly ignore the Lib Dems’ much-trumpeted sop to the poorest wage earners by having raised the income tax threshold to £10k, because all the other cuts and caps completely undermine any net gain that policy might otherwise have enabled.

Dealing with the deficit is the defining economic issue of our time. I am proud that we have cut it by over a third and that by 2017/18 the structural deficit will be eliminated. We’re ensuring the better-off do their bit. The top 1% of taxpayers now pay more than 28% of income tax revenue, more than at any point under the previous government.

R: Alexander is “proud” of having supported the most vindictive and right-wing Chancellor in living memory to permanently pauperise whole sections of our society through the pincer-movement of welfare cuts, caps and the bedroom tax, while also cutting off their access to legal aid when unjustly sanctioned and docked of benefits for no reason whatsoever. The top 1% have gained several times over through the raising of the top rate of income tax and other legion ‘goodies’ from the red suitcase dished out by one of their number, George Osborne, sufficient to cancel out any alleged increase in their income tax contributions.

In every single budget we have raised revenues from the wealthiest. In 2010, we increased higher-rate capital gains tax. In 2012, we raised stamp duty on high-value homes and introduced a limit on income-tax reliefs that can be claimed on pensions. And in 2013 we took measures against offshore tax evasion.

R: What, by increasing the top rate of income tax threshold? Fuzzy logic! What measures against ‘offshore tax evasion’? They’re clearly not very effective are they? And what’s this about certain private ‘agreements’ between the HMRC and offshore private companies? And what about clamping down on tax AVOIDANCE? Of course, you’ve been far too busy with George clamping down on benefits for the poorest in society to think about that…

Before 2010, the richest 20% in society contributed around three-and-a half times as much in tax as they received from public spending. Now it is around four times as much. Independent analysis also shows that the tax and benefit reforms we have implemented since the fiscal consolidation began have hit the richest hardest.

R: How on earth could the ‘benefit reforms’ have ‘hit the richest the hardest’? Alexander really is ‘Captain Counterintuitive’ isn’t he? Even if they’ve meant some small tinkering with non-means-tested fringe top-up benefits like child allowances, this is hardly to say that in any sense the rich have been ‘hit’ for anything seeing as they didn’t need that top-up in the first place. What about how much the poor have been hit? To the point of mass-destitution, homelessness and suicides, for instance…? And has anything yet been done about the scandal of winter fuel allowances being paid to rich blue-rinse Darby and Jones in their sunny villas in the South of Spain?

Those on low and medium incomes, by contrast, have benefited. Our flagship Liberal Democrat policy has increased the tax-free personal allowance from £6,475 in 2010 to £10,000 now, with a further rise scheduled in April next year to £10,500. That’s a saving of £805 for a typical basic-rate taxpayer – and more take-home money for more than 25 million working people. More than 3.2 million low-income individuals will be taken out of tax altogether by the end of this parliament.

R: Here we go again: the old ‘£10k tax-free personal allowance’ chestnut trumpeted yet again! The very fact it is the ONLY policy the Lib Dems can legitimately trumpet in terms of their contribution to “fairness” in the cuts reminds us once again that they’ve contributed precious little else –and in any case, as we’ve seen, it is completely undermined, if not cancelled out, by the impact of the benefit caps and cuts imposed elsewhere, and the continual rise in rents and VAT.

We’ve helped in other ways too.

R: You haven’t helped in any ways at all! Let alone in any others.

Because of this government’s actions, a litre of petrol will be 20p cheaper now than it would have been had we continued with Labour’s fuel-duty hikes. Our reforms to childcare, meanwhile, will give working families government funding of up to £2,000 per child per year to cover costs, while we’re covering 85% of childcare costs for families on Universal Credit.

R: Talk about cherry-picking policies whilst ignoring the plethora of socially regressive/destructive ones that typify the past four and half years. In any case, why is a reduction in petrol necessarily a good thing? Petrol emissions are, let us not forget, polluting our planet and putting it on a path to ultimate human un-inhabitability –yet we’re supposed to applaud further financial encouragement to use one’s car more and continue poisoning it? So much for the “greenest government ever” eh?

There is still no better route to opportunity and success than being able to get a job. And with record numbers in work, our country is in the fast lane of job creation, the envy of our European neighbours. We created the financial climate that has enabled UK businesses to create more than two million more private sector jobs, more than in the rest of the EU combined.

R: Disingenuous Alexander must be referring here to the creation of a new virus of short-term, mostly part time “zero hours contracts”, thus putting millions into insecure and poorly paid ‘employment’ with little if no contractual rights, along with those tens of thousands of long-term unemployed bullied on pain of sanction into sub-minimum-waged labour-bondage via such DWP rackets as “community” and “work placements” and mandatory volunteering. There are lies, damned lies, and then there are Lib Dem lies.

We’ve made sure the 1% benefit uprating cap does not apply to people on disability benefits.

R: Here we stumble on an assertion which we can safely and legally say is an out-and-out LIE: scrapping the independent living fund and imposing the bedroom tax both directly and explicitly impact precisely and abjectly on ‘people on disability’; as has the Work Capability Assessment regime which has seen over 40,000 sick and disabled claimants harassed off their legitimate disability benefits and ESA only to DIE WITHIN SIX WEEKS of being declared “fit for work” by the medically illegitimate and unaccountable Atos. That’s not to mention the scores on scores of unreported suicides as a result of benefits sanctions and WCAs (see Calum’s List).

We’ve introduced a triple lock on the state pension – making pensioners £440 per year better off than they would have been had the state pension only been increased by average earnings since 2011. And our pupil premium is giving schools extra funding of £1,300 per pupil to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

R: While around 80,000 British children are currently living in temporary accommodation due to their parents’ having been evicted for rent arrears subsequent to the housing benefit caps and bedroom tax, thus reliant on food banks, skipping meals to try and feed said children, many of whom, in any case, go to school without breakfast and faint in their classrooms due to malnutrition, thus necessitating the charitable “breakfast clubs” in today’s neo-Dickensian schools.

Our support for families with children, and people with disabilities, means these policies don’t actually show up in our published analysis as targeting the poorest households in society, but I have no doubt that it is right they are priorities.

R: They ‘don’t show up’ in your ‘published analysis’ because you’ve simply scrubbed them out for political and ethical convenience! That doesn’t mean they don’t exist!

It was inevitable that living standards would suffer after a crash as severe as that of 2008. But regaining that lost ground can only be done on the back of a growing economy underpinned by sound public finances and strong business investment. Encouragingly, the most recent monthly ONS figures showed wage growth outstripping inflation.

R: Certainly ‘inevitable’ under a Tory-led Government, yes; but it’s only the ‘living standards’ of those who are already poor that have suffered, it appears. Oh, but Alexander appears to have missed that core component.

The recovery we are beginning to see is only happening because the Liberal Democrats are in government. It is our values and our policies that have placed a sense of fairness at the heart of the recovery plan.

R: Which ‘recovery’ is this then? No one but the top 1% is seeing any ‘recovery’! The dismantlement of our welfare state and creeping privatisation of our NHS is ‘only happening’ because the Lib Dems went into Coalition with the Tories to given them a working majority sufficient to get such heinous social policies through. Had the Lib Dems remained on the opposite benches, a minority Tory government couldn’t have got most of them through Parliament. That is the legacy of Clegg’s Orange Book Brigade. The Lib Dems have no ‘values’ except those ascribed to “vote thieves” who will do anything to grub their way into some small scrap of ‘power’; like betraying the young, the sick and disabled, the working poor and unemployed, the homeless, the dispossessed, the mentally ill, students, and the Left of the electorate, for instance for thirty pieces of silver-plate.

With storm clouds gathering again in other parts of the world, holding our nerve and sticking to this strategy has never been more important.

R: Ah yes, those ‘storm clouds gathering’ as a direct result of FAILED AUSTERITY and fiscal atomisation of entire European nations and the mass social cleansing of whole swathes of the most vulnerable people in their populations. Capitalist fiscal retrenchment and austerity cuts have comprehensively and universally failed since 2008 and have also driven up support for the Far Right across the Continent, as impoverished of whole sections of societies historically produces ripe pickings for reactionary and brutish political extremism (as witnessed once before, for instance, in post-Weimar Republic Germany!?). It’s time for a Keynesian approach; or, moreover, a new wave of Green Socialism to rescue not only our societies and democracies, but also our very planet!

Danny Alexander MP is chief secretary to the Treasury

And there it is, in italics: Alexander has signed his own certification of political and ethical pseudologia fantastica.

Danny Alexander can ‘reject’ whatever he likes, but by rejecting ‘reality’ itself, he simply shows himself up as yet another self-deluding Lib Dem Tory-puppet. If his party is to survive next year’s General Election, the strings need to be snipped in the bud now: Clegg the eggman needs to resign as Leader, Alexander himself to resign and begin his long penance and rehabilitation into Lib Dem ‘values’ again, Tim Farron elected as new Leader and the highly principled Sarah Teather installed as Deputy Leader. That’s the only escape route for the Lib Dems from electoral oblivion in 2015. But for The Recusant it matters little what the Lib Dems do, since we support the Green Party –the only anti-austerity left-wing party currently sitting in Parliament (Plaid Cymru and to some extent the SNP accepted).

The Radical Times

But at least we can take some consolation in the fact that contemporary British theatre is starting to gradually respond to the heinous social policies of the day, and concurrently to the still ongoing ‘failed’ narrative of “austerity”, since television only serves up a plethora of tabloid and Tory-biased agitprop in the guise of the despicable, disingenuous and gutter-level anti-welfare, anti-immigrant and anti-poor ‘posh porn’ of the likes of Benefits Street, Immigrant Street and Skint (whose ‘side dish’ is the contrary and punning Posh Pawn –our Us and Them society has never been more graphically illustrated than by such polar opposite programming). This writer has noticed that recent times the once perceptibly ‘establishment’ Radio Times should perhaps nowadays, and infinitely to its credit, be called the Radical Times.

Not only was there a very casually placed column by a TV presenter about to embark on a televised debate on the unacceptable class gap in contemporary Britain under the Tories and, believe it or not, the proposal for some form of (‘peaceful’?) political revolution in order to stop the current Victorianisation of our society; but in next week’s RT, we get a belated though brilliant polemical column by Labour MP Austin Mitchell lambasting the aforementioned televisual virus (or should we say germ?) of ‘poverty porn’ benefits-scapegoating ‘reality’ TV programmes. Mitchell pulls no punches in this superb polemical column, singling out the heinous Benefits Street and its ilk for particular impeachment. And that RT’s subs have not tinkered with the robustness of Mitchell’s scalpel-sharp dissection of contemporary ‘scroungerological’ broadcasting is a tribute in itself to the apparent political courage of what is essentially a TV and Radio listings magazine which refuses not to address the rhetorical and attitudinal iniquities of our time. A big thumbs up for the Radio Times from The Recusant –how refreshing to have one mainstream magazine which tells it like it is! (New Statesman, take note!).

UK caught Ukipping/ ‘Red’/‘Pink’/‘Slightly Purple’ Ed

Back in La La Land, not the economy, but immigration, appears to be the favourite ‘dish’ of the day, a veritable red herring of an issue served up piping hot purple by the Ukippers, and indulged no end by a besotted BBC and other mainstream broadcasting media outlets. Hence continued media-buoyed support for the hate-minted sons of Oswald Mosley and Enoch Powell as they scour the coastal fortifications and ramparts of the ineluctably NIMBYish South-East of England picking up as many council and constituency seats as possible prior to the hustings of 2015.

Contrary to those on the Left who seem to think this can only be a good thing in terms of sapping support for the Tories, The Recusant has been deeply concerned for some time now that one very likely outcome of next year’s general election will be a new Coalition Pact between the Tories and Ukip, which would, in our opinion, be truly apocalyptic for our country, not only in terms of any hope for a more progressive politics to come into play again after five years of uber-right wing government, but also in terms of the very future stability of our ‘democratic’ system. In short, following a Blue and Purple Pact, we predict a plurality of ‘riot’; not least, a long haul of quarterly –if not monthly– mass protests, strikes, and ultimately, we predict, an almost ungovernable country hurtling towards social and political shutdown.

So where is the hope in all this? Not, unfortunately, in Labour, it seems, the official ‘Opposition’ party which is more of a ‘Supposition’, and whose beleaguered leader, Ed Miliband, is increasingly besieged to his right by a stubborn bunch of New Labourites who want to pin him and the party firmly back on centre-right, and his left, growingly disillusioned with the leadership’s sporadic sops to said neoliberal hangers-on in its unhelpful tabloid-singed rhetoric on immigration and ‘toughness’ on welfare. Most iniquitously, Labour attempted this week to out-nasty the Nasty Party by announcing that a future Labour Government would impose the simply ridiculous and definitively unfair rule that future EU immigrants will have to wait TWO YEARS before being eligible for British benefits!

On Question Time of 20th November, an uncomfortable-looking Andy Burnham implausibly referred to this proposed policy as according to the “common sense” of ‘most people’, which was shorthand for ‘according to Ukip and its supporters’, and shame-facedly accepted the wrap for his party’s spineless capitulation to the anti-immigration bandwagon; a bandwagon driven by Ukip, a party which, almost contradictorily, Burnham then later accused of reducing the immigration issue to lowest common denominator right-wing politics! And yet he and his party have this week proposed a new benefits sanction on future EU immigrants which even Ken Clarke (on the same edition of QT) criticised for being too extreme a moratorium!

The fact that in some respects Ken Clarke comes across as more liberal and progressive than the Labour shadow health secretary really does show the ‘Opposition’ Shadow frontbench up as a waste of parliamentary space. Indeed, on the often trumpeted popular myth of “benefit tourism” (why would immigrants come to the UK, which pays some of the lowest benefits rate in the Continent, in order to claim its paltry scraps of sanction-stalked welfare assistance, unless they were masochists?), it took Tory Ken Clarke –and not Labour’s Burnham– to rightly point out that the overwhelming majority of foreign immigrants to this country are employed and thus have emphatically not come here to claim benefits.

Not only was Burnham’s stance nothing short of pathetic, it was also dialectically contradictory and a clear symptom of his party’s patent populist opportunism in a last ditch attempt to out-Tory the Tories and pander to purple-rinse Ukippers. Burnham also blurted out at one point that Labour believe in “free movement of labour” but not “free movement of benefits”, which is essentially to say, people are ‘free’ to ‘move’ their ‘labour’ around Europe, but when they cannot get secure employment for it, for whatever reasons, the welfare states of certain countries –including the UK– will not offer the very basic level of assistance in benefits to keep them afloat until they do find further employment.

In other words, Labour is supporting –and indeed, intensifying– the Tory anti-welfare regime by effectively creating a state of affairs whereby any EU citizens who take the risk to move to emigrate to other European nation-states to supply them with their skills do so without any recourse to expecting any of that country’s financial support should their plans go awry due to ill health, economic conditions or other unexpected circumstances. This is nothing short of double standards and is completely unacceptable for Labour to support, let alone hyperbolise. No attempt by the so-called ‘Opposition’ to construct a counterargument to the Ukip immigration red herring, just as they’ve not bothered in over four years of Tory-and-tabloid anti-welfare propaganda to defend the very social insurance system they themselves created back in the mid to late Forties, and defend the ruthlessly scapegoated and demonised unemployed and disabled population against remorseless sanctions, cuts, caps and Atos assessments.

Why? Because, apart from the fact that few if any current Shadow ministers are even remotely left-wing, or even left-of-centre –and so, in effect, simply Pink Tories– but also because opinion polls show that immigration and welfare are the two big political punchbags which the nation at this time most enjoys punching and which will, apparently, set the tone for the next election. The only reason Labour very belatedly spoke out to condemn the iniquitous bedroom tax is because they realised this was a universally unpopular policy, even among some on the right of politics, Ukip included (if we’re to believe their current manifesto –probably written in invisible ink!). So Labour’s punitive policy proposal of this week is yet another spineless, pathetic and cowardly capitulation to Ukip and tabloid-whipped Little Englandism and xenophobia. It was painful to witness Burnham as apologist for such dreadful proposals, as up until now The Recusant had regarded him as one of the more left-of-centre Shadow ministers and even a potential future centre-left leader. Not so anymore, judging by this desultory performance.

The proposal to penalise EU immigrants is deeply offensive to all Europeans, not simply to those it aims to penalise. It is also the politics of double standards, which we might have come to expect from the pathologically discriminatory and counterintuitive Tories –but for Labour to not only join this NIMBYish bandwagon, but to actively promulgate its own even more punitive (i.e. right-wing) dogma on the subject, is simply unforgivable. So what has happened to the shared rights accorded to European citizenship? Rights which, oddly enough, no British right-wingers would willingly forsake when lording it in Spain, Portugal or the South of France in their buy-to-bet villas/ second or third homes.

Yet shortly before this latest capitulation to mealy-mouthed, double-standard, tight-fisted right-wing rhetoric, Ed Miliband made perhaps his most rousing and powerful statement to date attacking the virulent industrial germ of “zero hours contracts” and the heinous fiscal assault on the younger generation under Tory rule, in his genuinely progressive “zero zero economy” speech. This was not just socially progressive rhetoric; it was even verging on ‘bespoke’ socialism. Hence, no doubt, the reason Miliband announced his party’s despicable support for the Tories’ newly announced EU immigrant time-levy regards benefits eligibility.

The Reckless Moment

A second sop of the week happened in Ed Miliband’s unfathomably irate response to Labour Shadow attorney-general Emily Thornberry’s seemingly inoffensive tweet of the image of a house in Rochester with St. George flags draped over its front and a white van parked outside. Apparently this was instantly interpreted virally and universally as some sort of “sneer” at working-class voters in the constituency which was, lest we be permitted forget, the second seat to be ‘won’ by Ukip due to another sitting Tory MP deciding to switch from the Blueshirts to the Purpleshirts. So over the top was the response to Miss Thornberry’s rather pointless tweet that it almost stole the thunder from the story of the Ukip win itself (probably not an altogether bad thing).

The Sun, surprise, surprise, decided to turn this minor and frankly completely uninteresting incident into a major story and even encouraged the occupant of the patriotic house to go and pose outside both Miss Thornberry’s and even Ed Miliband’s houses in order to ‘make some point’ about it all (though what point is anyone’s guess). The rag also made a big point about this non-point on its front page of the following day, replete with free mini-St George flag. As if Thornberry’s ridiculously swift resignation Shadow attorney-general (for a fairly harmless tweet?! obviously jumping before being ‘pushed’ by Miliband), we had the absurd spectacle of Ed Miliband, Labour Leader, fulminating at Thornberry’s tweet and all its supposed implications and emphasizing how he and all MPs should respect every single citizen in this country and that such ‘attitudes’ are not what Labour is about –begging the question, okay, but what exactly is Labour about then, because most voters don’t know anymore, not least those on the Left…?!

On this occasion, it seems Labour is currently ‘about’ being on yet another bandwagon of populist opinion and asserting its undying ‘respect’ for shaven-headed, Ukip-supporting, Sun-reading Little Englanders…! What next? Labour’s ‘Hug a Tory’ week…? But clearly Labour is –like all three main parties– extremely disturbed by the ‘purple surge’ of late, with UKIP now sneakily –via second sitting Tory MP’s defection to its ranks– picking up its second MP, the appropriately named Mark Reckless, in a matter of a couple months, thus demonstrating that tragically –but typically of periods of mass-pauperisation and out-of-touch political classes– it is indeed proving a ‘force to be reckoned with’ in time for next May’s big showdown at the hustings (and with athletic support from the tabloids, the BBC and other broadcasting media).

And Reckless’s gambit and the deeply disquieting support he accomplished from the voters of Rochester, is indeed the key aspect to this ‘reckless moment’ in British politics, and far more of a national and moral scandal than any vague and ambiguous juxtaposing of an image of a house draped in St George flags with a white van parked outside that a sundry Primrosian Labour MP might impulsively post up on her Twitter page.

The Recusant believes that the reason why Miliband and Labour are dragging their heels in the polls, barely leading them, and occasionally even tripping slightly behind the Tories, isn’t really to do with Ed Miliband’s image or leadership, but simply the fact that the Labour Party, or ‘One Nation’ Labour as they’re now re-branded, don’t seem to know what it is they stand for anymore, except really pretty much ‘more of the same’ austerity, except from a slightly less punitive standpoint, with, admittedly, some –but nowhere near enough– concessions to low paid working poor (though mostly to the legendary “squeezed middle”).

At a time of mushrooming food banks, skyrocketing street homelessness (up a THIRD in four years under the Tories!), parking of long-term unemployed into temporary or part time zero hours jobs with no security, escalation of private rents and subsequent evictions of whole communities (social cleansing”), tens of thousands of disabled and mentally afflicted claimants’ premature sanctions and Atos-accelerated deaths, and a sharp rise in the suicide rate, making a handful of meagre gestures towards the working poor frankly isn’t good enough.

The Recusant believes that the only mainstream political party which offers any true alternative to the austerity narrative of the three main parties is the Green Party, which also has in Nathalie Bennett the most socially compassionate and incisive leader. We need to get her into Parliament in 2015, urgently –as well as, ideally, a good handful of her fellow Greens. In spite of the apparent –seemingly hypnotic– popularity of UKIP, we predict that this Emperor’s New Clothes of a right-wing ginger group-cum-tin-pot party will in time deflate once voters realise the full antediluvian extent of its domestic social policies (cue Nigel Farage’s slip up recently when caught on camera blatantly encouraging a “debate” on looking into privatising the NHS in order to get more of a “return” on investment than is possible as taxpayers!), and that the Greens will be the unexpected new political force to be reckoned with in British politics in the coming years. But in order for that to happen, we must ensure that as many on the Left of the electorate as possible vote for them next year. If you want a true alternative to the centre-right neoliberal austerity narrative of the Tories, Lib Dems, Labour and Ukip, then you have a fifth option: VOTE GREEN.

Let’s Tell TTIP to TTIP Off!

Finally, The Recusant urges readers to please sign the following 38 Degrees petition to stop the anti-democratic and underhand attempts of the Tory-led Government to effectively put out all our vital services, including the NHS, out to ‘tender’ with private, democratically unaccountable US companies who will gain the ability to actually sue our future governments if they object to any attempts at regulation of their parasitical malpractices. This is the unacceptable purpose of the proposed Transatlanic Trade and Investment Partnership or ‘TTIP’: the wholesale undercutting of democratic public services, the swift infestation and gutting of our public services and the hostage-taking of so-called ‘democratic’ elected governments in terms of any attempts by them to regulate the private sector on pain of suing. This is like giving the keys to the handcuffs on repeat offenders.

Unsurprisingly, the Morning Star scooped this week on the revelation that around a third of sitting government MPs, mostly Tories –but also including one Mr N. Clegg– have personal undeclared investment connections to various private healthcare companies and already had so prior to voting on the notorious and universally despised Social Care Act passed in 2012. What a bunch of self-serving, anti-democratic, scheming, avaricious and voter-contemptuous Judases those sitting on the government benches truly are! Sign the petition here:

Poppies Purple and Blue

Whilst acknowledging as we did on the centenary of the First World War the courageous and selfless sacrifices of the millions of young men (and women) who died during that catastrophic conflict, those millions who ‘survived’ it only to endure the horrors of shell shock, PTSD and trench fever, and those equally brave young men who refused to fight in the conflict due to their pacifist convictions and thus endured the iniquities heaped on conscientious objectors for perceived “cowardice”, we note the arrant hypocrisy of our political leaders and party spokespersons.

Those who, being in the main almost uniformly “Euro-sceptic” and, like those such as Nigel Farage and Ukip, and the Tory Right, nothing short of openly hostile towards the Continent in general, at the same time as crying crocodile tears over the great sacrifice of a past generation, are busy arguing and campaigning, with deep irresponsibility, for Britain’s future –and potentially catastrophic– tantrum-stomp out of the European Union via a woefully misinformed and obfuscated “EU Referendum”; and, further, rhetorically dismantling said Union whose very existence has precluded such desperate political circumstances which led up to catastrophes such as the First World War.

Not to mention the deplorable manner in which so many traumatised Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been treated these past few years almost as a punishment for being incapacitated by their war experiences; who, unable to work due to injury, disablement, amputation or PTSD (for which there is precious little mental health support post-demobbing), or combinations of these, have been thrown on the Atos ‘miracle cure’ conveyor-belt and bullied off their meagre state benefits under the specious banner of “fit for work”; and subsequently either ended up losing their incomes, accommodation, becoming street homeless or even committing suicide.

But the core hypocrisy lies in the political will of the Right to exit the EU, which was formed after the Second World War in part precisely to stand as a safeguard against any potential future European hostilities; the very type of hostilities which provoked the first such European War which said blimpish right-wingers have been gushing over with synthetic sentiment for the best part of November. But the irony, hypocrisy and lack of respect to the essential verities pervading this centenary as vividly as the 888,246 red ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower of London, seems to have been completely lost on its perpetrators who remain unthinkingly adamant on an oncoming Balkanisation of Europe at a most fractious and unstable period in our world history. (Dare we imagine, for instance, what the continental repercussions of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict would have been during the mid to late Nineties had we had the European Union in long up and running?

Perhaps many such anti-EU sabre-rattlers are presumptuously rubbing their hands in glee at the profits to be made from the arms trade in preparation for future continental hostilities? A pity it is that while such persons may do well at remembering the past traumas and sacrifices of war, they seem simply incapable of actually learning anything from them.

New Era of Gentrification

Finally, The Recusant wishes draw readers attention to yet another urgent petition posted at, which relates to the ironically named ‘New Era’ estate in Hoxton, London, an area which is already undergoing various ‘gentrification’ initiatives by property developers.

New Era was originally built during the Thirties to house the area’s less well-off residents in blocks of affordable flats. The estate has recently been bought up by Westbrook Partners, an offshore US property company which has reneged from a former commitment not to raise its rents on the ‘affordable housing’ component –i.e. New Era estate– of its portfolio until 2016, recently announcing that following UK Benyon Properties (partly owned by a sitting Tory MP of the same surname) pulling out of its contract to take it over, it will be raising them in line with “market value” from £600 to £1,800 per month, doubling them prior to this Christmas!

This effectively means that 90 families currently renting in the New Era estate will likely be evicted and made homeless just in time for Crimbo. In order to help these vulnerable tenants avoid eviction and remain sheltered through Christmas and beyond, please sign the petition here:

Signing petitions to force debates in Parliament appears to be the only way for ordinary people to exercise their right to democratically effect change in what is in most other respects simply a ‘demockracy’ which serves the vested interests of a tiny propertied elite; we are currently living not only in a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy) but also a timocracy (rule by the propertied).

A.M. 23-26/11/14