Latest Editorial

FASTEST FISCAL DRAWS

IN THE WEST: 'Butch'
Osborne and 'Sundance'
Dan break cover to blast us
with more austerity ammo

UPDATE: 13/12/14

Farage 'Avin' A Larf At Express's Expense

Hardly any surprise that benefits- and immigrant-bashing uber-right-wing red-top tabloid the Daily Express, infamous 'fibber' of Fleet Street, has now come out in support of UKIP for the next general election. Its shady proprietor, Richard Desmond, who graduated from the porn of Penthouse to the red-top poverty-porn of the Express et al at Northern and Shell (whose rather soft-fascist motto, Forti Nihil Difficile -"Nothing is difficult for the strong"- was somewhat surprisingly employed by the more progressive Tory prime minister Benjamin Disraeli).

Desmond has sealed this pledge with a £300,000 donation to Nigel Farage's Purpleshirts -the kind of surplus monies he'd probably not have had floating around by now had his specious 'fib'-happy paper the Express been under the purview of the -in any case pretty spineless- Press Complaints Commission (PCC), and subsequently been brought up by its bootstraps for an abundance of uncorroborated rumour-mongering over the years (the rag demonstrably believes that a 'news' story is no different to any other type of fiction). But of course, the Express remains in 'opt out' from any proper regulation, seemingly permanently, since the Leveson findings and recommendations have been kicked into the long grass of Grub Street.

Today's Guardian (13/12/14) has scooped on this latest spoonful of pop-politik, which also implies that the rest of Desmond's scabrous brood, the Sunday Express, Daily Star and Star on Sunday, will also be backing UKIP's pinstriped xenophobes in 2015. Apparently the Express thinks UKIP is "leading the political agenda". Well, perhaps, and no doubt in no small part due to support from the constant stream of anti-immigrant-and-benefits agendas pumped out on a daily basis by the Express itself!

According to The Guardian:

The Daily Express has hinted at its support of Ukip in recent weeks, using a leader column on 3 December to blast “the EU’s wild extravagance” and side with Farage’s claim that the union was “a racket which looks after its own”.

What a laughable piece of arrant hypocrisy that last quote actually is: does it not perfectly describe the anti-EU, anti-immigrant, Little England xenophobia of UKIP itself!?

Hardly any surprise, either, that, according to another piece in today's Guardian, Nigel Farage once attempted to obtain notorious right-wing Tory MP Enoch "rivers of blood" Powell's support for UKIP -Powell having been, surprise, surprise, Farage's 'political hero'. Celebrity-revolutionary Russell Brand apparently quipped recently that Farage was "a pound shop Enoch Powell" -and The Recusant thinks that's a very apt epithet. Good for Brand, who's increasingly backing up his commendable activism with a nifty line in satirical aphorisms.

As for The Sun's absurd accusation that Brand himself was somehow personally responsible for the tax avoidances of the landlords he pays rent to -rather than focusing on the actual issue of private landlord tax-dodging- as if somehow a tenant has to rein in their landlords as if they're mischievous children who are somehow not wholly responsible for their misbehaviour (which might be partly true)- talk about scraping the barrel! So, according to The Sun, private tenants now have the extra onus of regulating their unregulated landlords, on top of having to cough up the rent (although admittedly in Brand's very wealthy case there is theoretically more freedom of choice and movement as to where and from whom he rents -but even so, The Sun's 'dialectic' is disingenuous and counterintuitive in the extreme, and in no rationally fathomable sense exposes -as was its hope- any 'contradiction' or 'hypocrisy' in Brand's commendable public support for the protest against eviction at the New Era estate in London).

Finally, on the vexed issue of 'freedom of movement', specifically in the EU -where, according to UKIP and the Tories, it's perfectly fine for private companies to freely move about the place to avoid paying their taxes, as the corporate parasites they are, but not for EU workers to freely move about to sell their labour- and the long-trumpeted myth of "benefit tourism" in the UK (seemingly only coined because it sounded quite a catchy phrase), it was revealed in the Morning Star this week that apart from Troika-castrated Portugal, Spain and Greece, the UK currently pays by far the lowest rates in welfare benefits (relative to currencies) of any European nation! The Recusant already knew this, but it's good to have it reiterated in the current 'pull up the ramparts' climate (prime minister Cameron have only today been castigated by EU officials for discriminating against EU immigrants as if implying they're all 'criminals' -but the UKIP boys aren't falling for that display of 'soft touch' chauvinism!).

So the only EU immigrants likely to come and do a spot of "benefit tourism" on our tight-fisted little island are likely to be either pathological masochists or, perhaps more likely, those few foreigners who have somehow stumbled upon the websites of fib-spewing red-tops such as the Daily Express, and wrongly presumed that their notoriously spurious front page 'scoops' properly represent factual realities in the UK today. In that, any potential immigrant "benefit tourists" will be sorely disappointed if and when they alight at Blighty, in more ways than one.

The only contemporary British facts and realities the "scrounger"-mongering, immigrant-baiting Express represent today are that of scapegoating and stigmatisation of any easily-targeted social and ethnic minorities. In these respects, they've very much taken up the mantle once singularly worn by the Daily Mailthusian.

A.M. 13/12/14

UPDATE: 8/12/14

The Problem of the Distressed Areas

There's more detail in The Guardian on Feeding Britain, the cross-party report into the rise in food bank use in the UK since 2010, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is emphatic in his condemnation of the Tories in particular for this parlous state of affairs:

The Conservative party is seeking to avert one of its biggest rifts with the Church of England for decades as an all-party report on food banks warns that Britain is stalked by hunger caused by low pay, growing inequality, a harsh benefits sanctions regime and social breakdown.

The church-funded report says voluntary groups have been courageously fighting “a social Dunkirk” without the assistance of the government, and calls for urgent action to ensure ministers do more to combat hunger, including joining a new coordinating body and asking supermarkets to do more with surplus unsold products.

The initial Conservative reaction to leaks of the report – which is formally published today – was hostile, with one minister claiming the increased use of food banks was due to greater publicity about their existence.

It is also unlikely that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will shift its stance on the administration of benefit sanctions, even though the report says they are the single biggest reason for the poor resorting to food banks. DWP sources said it was very clear at the start of a benefit claim what was required of a claimant and there would be consequences for failing to meet that commitment.

The report said that although some inquiry witnesses blamed “chaotic” parents for children arriving at school hungry, others pointed out that some families could not afford decent food.

Similarly, it noted that while some families lacked basic cookery and food management skills, others were so poor they could not afford to switch on the cooker, or did not have a cooker because the kitchen of their private rented flat contained only a microwave.

The row over the prevalence of food banks and the scale of deep poverty in the UK has simmered for much of the coalition’s time in office, but Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, appears determined to confront the government. He said that despite having seen suffering on a recent trip to Africa, he was more shocked by the plight of a family he met at a food bank in England because it was so unexpected.

He says the report, prepared by an all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger in Britain, paints a “stark picture: hunger stalks large parts of our country”.

The inquiry was jointly led by the Labour MP Frank Field and the bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Tim Thornton, a strong supporter of food banks. Two Tory MPs, a Conservative peer and a Labour MP also sat on the group. Welby played a central role in the six-month study, funded by his Archbishop of Canterbury’s Charitable Trust, which describes food banks as “the new shock absorbers of society”.

The report says benefit-related problems are the single biggest reason for reference to food banks. “There is a clear moral case to address the shortcomings that exist in our welfare system. Our evidence shows that the current system is cumbersome, complicated and fails to respond effectively to the daily changes in people’s lives. A single error can itself end up being the recruiting sergeant for money lenders,” the report says.

The latest statistics show that since October 2012, 833,628 individuals have received an average of 1.73 benefit sanctions each. From April 2000 to June 2014, a total of 3,063,098 people received an average of 2.04 sanctions each. Almost 60% of sanctioned individuals received only one sanction, but 21.5% received more than two, and 46,000 received 10 or more. A Commons select committee is conducting a fresh inquiry into the sanctions regime.

The report also points to the way in which the cost of food, fuel and rent has increased since 2003, in a trend unprecedented in post-war Britain.

Field said: “These fundamental changes in the relative prices in budgets of food, utilities and rent haveblown sky-high the comfortable post-war assumption that our wages system and our benefit system guarantees a minimum which most of us would regard as tolerable.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, acknowledged problems with the system. “There is some evidence that people who are subject to benefit sanctions end up using food banks for a temporary period of time. I think that while it is, of course, necessary to have sanctions in the benefit system, I think we should introduce a traffic light system so that some of the sanctions are not imposed quite as overnight as they sometimes are.”

The report insists that contrary to government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need. “More recently, rising national income no longer appears to be benefiting those at the bottom of our society,” it finds.

Matt Hancock, the business minister, was reluctant to accept this conclusion, saying one reason for rising food bank use “is because more people know about them. And the amount of people who work in food banks and give up their time, I applaud – I think that’s fantastic. But the central question here is how do you tackle these deep-ingrained problems of poverty, and the single best way through that is undoubtedly work.

“I’m a huge supporter of the food bank movement, but the truth is that poverty is coming down, partly because the number of people in jobs is going up.”

The Tories are more likely to respond positively to proposals to encourage supermarkets to give surplus food to the poor. The food redistribution charity FareShare provides 1m meals a month by connecting food companies and charities, but this represents just 2% of the available usable food lost from the industry’s supply chain.

The report calls for a new publicly funded body, Feeding Britain, involving eight cabinet ministers, to work towards a “hunger-free Britain”; bigger food banks, called Food Banks Plus, to distribute more free food and advise people how to claim benefits and make ends meet; and a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says: “We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

A government spokesperson said: “This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

“As a country we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste. There is a moral argument as well as a sustainability one to ensure we make the best use of resources.”

No surprise to see in the first Tory responses to this incontrovertible report -from silver-spooned public school and Oxbridge educated 36-year-old upstart Matt Hancock- uses the usual counterintuitive Lewis Carroll 'logic' (formerly deployed by, among others, Sith 'Lord' Freud) that more people use food banks because their ubiquity and media coverage is making them much more visible! The typically cynical Tory insinuation here, then, is that people are only using food banks because it's a way of getting free food rather than for necessity due to atomised incomes from benefit sanctions or sub-living wages... It's almost impossible to engage the Tory culprits of mass poverty in a mature debate on the issue of food banks if they keep approach this extremely serious and important issue from the point of view of so many Humpty Dumpties.

This Tory myth is of course also hugely disingenuous, since it is not possible for just any person to walk in off the street and collect a hamper of tins: food bank users normally require written support from GPs, social workers or CAB advisors before being issued with vouchers in order to be able to receive food assistance.

By hurling out such specious quips, the Malthusian Tories simply heap ever more opprobrium on themselves for the moral scandal of government-engineered poverty in an age of plenty. Feeding Britain proves conclusively now that the UK is indeed back in the 1930s with an equally ruthless right-wing government to Stanley Baldwin's National Government, which was particularly notorious for its punitive policies towards the poor and unemployed (such as labour rehabilitation camps or work camps, chillingly echoed today in unpaid DWP-imposed "work placements" and 'mandatory voluntarism'.

In the Thirties we had the excellent polemical works of social documenters such as Wal Hannington (who also led the National Unemployed Movement), most famously perhaps, his superb The Problem of the Distressed Areas (Left Book Club, 1937) -today we have a similar counter-narrative to the received wisdom of austerity cuts, in what there is of the 'progressive' media, such as The Guardian's Breadline Britain series of columns, while the Morning Star daily publishes Graham Stevenson's '80 Years Ago' series of news archives from the Thirties to remind us of the striking parallels between 1934 and 2014. How history always repeats itself under Tory rule -though always, for some reason, the very worst parts of it...

A.M. 8/12/14

UPDATE: 7/12/14

Cassocks and Communards

It has now been proven conclusively in a cross-party report that the Tories' DWP benefits sanction regime is a major contributor to the mushrooming demand in food banks throughout the nation. To the shame of this wretched government of multimillionaires, an estimated 200,000 families -working poor as well as unemployed- are currently partly or entirely dependent on food banks.

Amazingly, closet-fascist Paul Dacre's Mailthusian on Sunday splashed on this story with the headline THE STATE MUST BACK FOODBANKS, words from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who clearly learnt some very different moral and ethical lessons from his days at Eton that our poor-bashing prime minister. This is not the first time that Archbishop Welby has spoken up against this Herodian government -nor will it be the last- and The Recusant commends him for his principled stance.

Here is the story as told by The Observer today (7/12/14):

The archbishop of Canterbury has revealed how he was left more shocked by the plight of Britain’s hunger-stricken poor than by suffering in African refugee camps.

Food is being wasted at “astonishing” levels across the UK but hunger “stalks large parts” of the country, the Most Rev Justin Welby said. Families are being forced to turn to food banks to make ends meet despite holding down jobs, he told the Mail on Sunday.

On Monday a parliamentary report he has backed will set out a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020 and urge ministers and the food industry to act.

In the Mail on Sunday article, he said that although less serious, the plight of a family who turned to a food bank in Britain shocked him more than terrible suffering in Africa because it was so unexpected.

“In one corner of a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a large marquee. Inside were children, all ill. They had been separated from family, friends, those who looked after them. Perhaps, mostly having disabilities, they had been abandoned in the panic of the militia attack that drove them from their homes. Now they were hungry.

“It was deeply shocking but, tragically, expected. A few weeks later in England, I was talking to some people – a mum, dad and one child – in a food bank. They were ashamed to be there. The dad talked miserably. He said they had each been skipping a day’s meals once a week in order to have more for the child, but then they needed new tyres for the car so they could get to work at night, and just could not make ends meet.

“So they had to come to a food bank. They were treated with respect, love even, by the volunteers from local churches. But they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry. I found their plight more shocking. It was less serious, but it was here. And they weren’t careless with what they had, they were just up against it. It shocked me that being up against it at the wrong time brought them to this stage. There are many like them. But we can do something about it.”

The increase in the number of food banks across Britain in recent years has been politically divisive. This year ministers were accused of “taking food from the mouths of children” after blocking millions of pounds of European funding agreed for British food banks.

Cash to help people suffering extreme poverty across the EU was backed in a vote at the European parliament, but the government said food aid was better decided nationally rather than by Brussels.

Welby called for reforms that would allow food companies to pass on goods they could no longer sell. He said: “At least some of the food being sent to the incinerator should be used as a force for good to help [the poor] out of the rut in which they find themselves.

“We need to make it easier for food companies to give edible surplus food to charities and still encourage them to send inedible food for energy production. The big names in the food business have a moral obligation to communities. We need to make sure that the financial incentives in their industry don’t act against their moral instincts.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “This [parliamentary] report is a serious contribution to an important debate, and recognises that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping. As a country we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste.

“While this report outlines important areas for consideration, we should remember that this country has been through the deepest recession in living memory, and sticking to this government’s long-term economic plan is the best way to improve living standards.

“In addition, the UK has a proud tradition of civil society and faith groups providing support for people in need, and it is right that their impressive work is recognised in the report. Under tough circumstances, communities have shown that by pulling together to help each other, we can build a bigger, stronger society.”

Typical of counterintuitive Tory spin to try and argue that the need for mass alleviation of rapidly rising abject poverty in the UK is someone a good thing in being a catalyst for community intervention and 'Big Society'-style behaviours. But if the Tories weren't themselves creating this parlous state of affairs as their (im)moral choice over raising taxes on the super-rich or the banker and speculator culprits of austerity, then there'd be no need for this rapid-response 'alfresco welfare state' in the first place. Only the Tories could argue, straight-faced, that imposing abject poverty on hundreds of thousands of families is somehow progressive and socially invigorating.

On the other hand, the Anglican Church has clearly progressed a long long way from the bad old days of being known as "the Tory party at prayer" (probably because for decades now the Tories have worshipped at a very different type of altar to the Christian one: anarcho-capitalism replete with black candles). This latest intervention follows swiftly from Michael Portillo's pathetic characterisation of the Church of England's modern day distillation of the core Christian message is evidence of its "socialist" politics; this also misses the point that socialism is in almost every sense a secular equivalent to Christianity. Portillo asserted this on Andrew Neil's This Week and as a deliberate jab at guest Richard Coles, one time member of Jimmy Sommerville-fronted pop band The Communards turned left-wing Anglican priest.

The highly articulate Coles had provided a brilliant and incisive short video arguing that in modern British society material wealth and capital are increasingly -and damagingly- perceived as the prime expressions of a common 'moral' dynamic, a kind of ultimate amplification of unreconstructed Calvinism sans any spiritual dimension. Coles questioned this, as well as the type of society we are turning into as a result of this twisted materialistic 'ethic'. He also courageously asked, are "zero-hours contracts" actually "jobs that are worth doing"? -thus flying in the face of received opinion that 'any job is worth doing and better than no job', no matter how poorly paid, insecure and dehumanising (an idiotic notion that was voiced by a right-wing panellist earlier in the evening (Thurs 4) on Question Time, and which received the usual sheep-like applause from the audience).

The Recusant was pleased to see that Portillo's quip about the CofE completely backfired, at least, judging by the sudden glint in Coles' eyes at the assertion that the Church he represented also now represened his own personal politics too (The Communards anyone...? The clue is in the name Mr Portillo). But Tories such as Portillo have yet to wake up to the obvious consanguinity of Christianity and Socialism...

A.M. 8/12/14

UPDATE: 4/12/14

Osborne Snubs Reality as ‘Hyperbolic’

We all wake up the day after the latest tirade of spending cuts by the Austerity Chancellor to find that he has woken up to his own alternative reality and not liked what he’s heard on the BBC in terms of coverage of his Autumn Statement (without naming any names it’s clear he has Robert Peston in his sights, simply because he had the ‘temerity’ to state the fiscal facts). Here’s The Guardian’s coverage of this latest risible outburst from Osborne:

George Osborne has attacked criticisms of his plans for further public spending cuts in the next parliament, accusing the BBC of hyperbolic coverage and conjuring up bogus images of the 1930s depression.

The chancellor voiced his anger during a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview in which he was asked whether he agreed with projections by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that cuts will reduce the state to its lowest size since the 1930s.

He said: “When I woke up this morning and listened to the Today programme it felt like I was listening to a rewind of a tape of 2010 with BBC correspondents saying Britain is returning to a sort of George Orwell world of the Road to Wigan Pier and that is such nonsense. I would have thought the BBC would have learnt from the last four years that its’ totally hyperbolic coverage of spending cuts has not been matched by what has actually happened. What I reject is the totally hyperbolic BBC coverage on spending cuts. I had all that when I was interviewed four years ago and has the world fallen in? No it has not.”

Saying the deficit has been halved since 2010, he added: “I am the first to say difficult decisions are going to be required. Government departments are going to have to make savings. I am not pretending these are easy decisions or that they will have no impact. But the alternative of a return to economic chaos, of not getting on top of your debts, is not a world I want to live in.”

Osborne said projections of the cuts required in non-protected departments in Whitehall made by the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank were wrong because they assume no savings would be made in the welfare budget. The chancellor again set out plans to freeze work tax credits and to lower the welfare cap to £23,000.

He said he had already made £20bn of cuts to the welfare budget, adding: “If we didn’t make those decisions on welfare the alternative was to borrow more, massively raise taxes or cut departmental budgets.” He said he wanted a balanced package.

Osborne continued that he had planned for £13bn of extra savings next year, that crime was down and that the health service doing well despite the cuts.

He added he was holding to his pledge for income tax cuts after the election, saying he had increased the personal allowance further in the autumn statement.

Figures published on Wednesday show the Treasury is about a third of the way towards the welfare cuts Osborne said were required before the autumn statement.

In its report accompanying the chancellor’s statement the OBR said public spending would fall from £5,650 a head in 2009-10 to £3,880 in 2019-20.

Public spending as a proportion of gross domestic product was projected to fall to 12.6% in 2019-20, its lowest level since the 1930s.

The OBR chairman, Robert Chote, described it as a “very sharp squeeze”. About 60% of this reduction is forecast to come in the next parliament.

Osborne accepted on Wednesday that the budget deficit – which is expected to be more than £90bn this year – was not closing as fast as he had hoped.

Let’s just briefly examine Osborne’s words again:

“When I woke up this morning and listened to the Today programme it felt like I was listening to a rewind of a tape of 2010 with BBC correspondents saying Britain is returning to a sort of George Orwell world of The Road to Wigan Pier and that is such nonsense. I would have thought the BBC would have learnt from the last four years that its totally hyperbolic coverage of spending cuts has not been matched by what has actually happened. What I reject is the totally hyperbolic BBC coverage on spending cuts. I had all that when I was interviewed four years ago and has the world fallen in? No it has not.”

Er, well, Mr Osborne, we’re afraid it HAS ‘fallen in’ for approximately 200,000 families throughout the land as a direct consequence of you and your associates’ fiscal impositions of welfare caps, cuts and sanctions, bedroom tax, ‘couple penalties’, cuts to legal aid, axing of the Independent Living Fund, criminalisation of “squatting” –the list goes on and on…

Oddly enough, Mr Osborne, if you impose such a merciless pincer-movement of cuts on the poorest households in the land then, surprise, surprise, you’re going to materially –and in other senses– pauperise a large amount of people. To break down the approximate 150,000 figure: we know 10,000 sick and disabled claimants “died within six weeks of being declared “fit for work”” by Atos between February and November 2011 (FACT!) and, since the DWP promptly decided to ‘stop’ recording this death toll since 2011, we can safely estimate that figures were in the same region for the three subsequent years –hence approximately 40,000+ premature deaths and/or suicides among the sick and disabled in over four years.

Then there’s the recent finding that approx. 90,000 children live in homeless households (i.e. families evicted from their rental homes currently stuck in B&Bs); and, assuming all of these children are with their parents and other relatives, that means this figure might be safely approximated at significantly more in terms of individuals –say around 270,000+ once parents are statistically included. Then there are the very probably tens of thousands of impoverished unemployed who have been victims of IDS’s ‘sanction/penalty target’ regime at the DWP, and who are currently either near-destitute or even homeless. There’s also the approx. 200,000+ families who have been or are still reliant on food banks (inclusive of the ‘working poor’); during 2014 alone, it is now estimated up to 1 million British households have used food banks. More recent figures also estimate that around 700,000 families are currently existing in poverty in the UK.

If one then tries to add all that up, we reach an approximate figure of 150,000 lives devastated by your cuts, inclusive of premature deaths and suicides. That’s one heck of a death toll as a price for your intransigent refusal to raise taxes on the top 1%. If you don’t like the consequences of your unconscionable fiscal actions, then you shouldn’t have done them, should you?

What you’re objecting to here Mr Osborne is REALITY! FACTS! You can ‘reject’ reality as much as you like but it’s still reality! More to the point, the analogy to the 1930s which has so outraged you came from the mouth of the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), which, if memory serves us correctly, YOU set up in the first place! If you don't like their findings then tough, because a comparison to the 1930s is precisely what they've found. So put up, or shut up! Ditto with your accusation of the BBC -British Bread and Circuses/British Broadcasting Conservatives, come on!- indulging in "hyperbolic coverage" of your budgetary cuts and announcements: if the BBC is 'hyperbolic' these days, it's in sucking up to UKIP and the Royals and continually refusing to provide proper coverage of the devastating effects of your austerity cuts. So just because, for once, they come out with coverage that isn't particularly in your favour or to the Right, you throw a tantrum. Pathetic.

“I am the first to say difficult decisions are going to be required. Government departments are going to have to make savings. I am not pretending these are easy decisions or that they will have no impact. But the alternative of a return to economic chaos, of not getting on top of your debts, is not a world I want to live in.”

Ah! There we have it in a nutshell: it’s "not a world" you ‘want to live in’, not the sort of world you wish your inherited multimillionaire children to grow up in. But why not? With the devastation inflicted on the present younger generation (bar, of course, the likes of Osborne juniors) –topped up by recent sociopathic stopping of housing benefit and JSA eligibilities for the already struggling under-25s– you and your lily-white kind will have a whole vast pool of slaves and servants to attend to your every need, so why complain? Isn’t that what you wanted?

It’s your ‘Downton Abbey’ makebelieve world –don’t you want to be waited on hand and foot as you have been since birth? We suspect you and your heirs can live with that. Indeed, however terrible the enslaved new world you’ve helped create in this country is, it has no effect on you and your kind anyway, since you don't have to 'live in' it: you can construct whatever false reality you wish from your gratuitous inherited fortunes, investments and properties…

“If we didn’t make those decisions on welfare the alternative was to borrow more, massively raise taxes or cut departmental budgets.”

Yes, we know, and the latter is PRECISELY what you should have done! That would have been the fair and moral thing to do! So now you blatantly admit that you completely lied when you said “the biggest burdens on the broadest shoulders”!? You finally admit in black and white that you have done the absolute opposite by heaping the weight of the cuts onto the poor and unemployed, those with the ‘narrowest shoulders’! But then, many of us projected this back in Autumn 2010 after your first Autumn Statement. If you don’t like the echo of rhetoric after your fourth one, then perhaps you should have changed your own rhetoric and fiscal targets in those four-and-a-half-years then…don’t you think?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Morning Star has provided typically incisive and polemical responses to the 'Bullingdon Budget', (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-00bf-Autumn-Statement-Presents-Only-for-his-chums), its editorial (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-a4c7-Fleecing-the-working-class#.VIBLcNKsVdc), and a column by left Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn
(http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-7fb2-Tories-at-their-arrogant-worst#.VIBK6NKsVdd). But Osborne of course won't want to be bothered by even more robust 'hyperbole' (i.e. reality), will he?

A.M. 4/12/14

UPDATE: 3/12/14

Duplicitous ConDems: Complete Hypocrites on Disability Discrimination

The only signs of participatory democracy in the UK today are almost singularly in the online petition sector, which in itself has started up in the past few years in direct citizen response to an increasingly ‘out of touch’, undemocratic and voter-disengaged political class. Such petitions have been of inestimable importance, particularly since the ascendance of this current Tory-led ‘Markets’-imposed ‘Coalition’ of Dunces –demonstrably the most oppressive and anti-democratic British Government since Stanley Baldwin’s National Government of the mid-to-late 1930s, let alone since Thatcher’s; and the 100,000 signature mark, once crossed, has ensured that some of the most vital and urgent issues of the day have achieved parliamentary debating time –even if not as often actual parliamentary action.

However, occasionally, though far from typically, some of these petition groups, such as Sightsavers, for instance, demonstrate an almost self-contradictory naivety:

And now the UK government has published a framework that is an essential part of the broader process needed to transform the lives of people with disabilities across the world by addressing stigma and discrimination; ensuring children with disabilities access a quality education; empowering adults to gain employment; and delivering health services that are accessible to all. Take this email from Sightsavers, for instance, received today, on what is apparently a distinctly un-trumpeted ‘International Day of People with Disabilities’ (!?):

It’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and we’re celebrating! Thanks to you, it’s been a brilliant year for our Put Us in the Picture campaign.

Here’s what’s been achieved since we launched last 3 December:

• More than 20,000 people signed our online petition calling for disability to be prioritised in the fight against global poverty
• Supporters have watched and shared our video summing up what the campaign’s all about
• Nearly 1,300 people have put themselves in our picture of supporters
• We've brought the campaign to a wider audience through Graeme Robertson’s beautiful Guardian photo story.

These achievements have all played a part in bringing about change at a political level. We’ve seen politicians respond to our calls for a global development agenda that includes the world’s most marginalised people.

And now the UK government has published a framework that is an essential part of the broader process needed to transform the lives of people with disabilities across the world by addressing stigma and discrimination; ensuring children with disabilities access a quality education; empowering adults to gain employment; and delivering health services that are accessible to all.

Our campaign called on policymakers to make international development disability-inclusive, and today’s publication answers that call.

2015 will be a crucial year as world leaders decide on global development goals for the next generation. With your help, it can be the year that changes everything. Watch this space…

‘Watch this space indeed…’ Because The Recusant has absolutely no faith whatsoever in an austerity-obsessed Western capitalist political elite to do anything to authentically include those with disabilities in nay global fight against poverty. This cynicism is based on the policy evidence to date, since the financial crash.

Naively, this message cites the ‘UK government’ as having just published proposals (presumably entirely facilitated by the Lib Dems?) to address ‘stigma and discrimination’ against disabled people! Yes, you read that correctly: this UK government, which has done more than any other before to rhetorically and fiscally persecute and stigmatise the sick, disabled and most vulnerable citizens in this country in an unholy pact with the right-wing tabloid press, over a seemingly relentless four-and-half-year material and psychical siege, and entrench in the public consciousness a peaking disability-intolerance (complementing its’ equally peaking poverty- and welfare-intolerance) which verges on attitudinal abuse of basic human rights, not to say disability rights, is suddenly now claiming that it is actually concerned about tackling the very stigma and discrimination that it itself has promulgated!

A campaign of stigmatisation which has led to many physically disabled people being threatened and even attacked by able-bodied citizens, and to it now being perfectly ‘acceptable’ for sick and disabled claimants to be hounded to early graves by medically illegitimate Atos assessments and the notorious black spots of “fit for work”, and have their state assistance cut, capped or stripped from them altogether –or to take their own lives; that has seen the nefarious bedroom tax penalise people for needing ‘spare rooms’ (i.e. broom cupboards) to keep their disability equipment in and thus force countless tenants out of their often specially adapted homes and into poorer cramped accommodation, B&Bs or onto the streets, and/or reliance on charity food banks to get insufficient vitamin-lacking nourishment...

...Oh, and the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund which has hitherto enabled tens of thousands of disabled people to have some modicum of a ‘normal’ and ‘dignified’ life, which has now meant that countless such citizens are being forced into care homes as a result (which costs the previous taxpayer far more than if they’d just been left alone in the first place).

The best and most effective way that this moral cancer of a UK Government can take to tackle disability stigma and discrimination is the following:

1. Reverse the disability benefit cuts
2. Scrap PIP and reinstate DLA
3. Scrap the bedroom tax
4. Reinstate the ILF

But no: the Tories know best: the answer to the miseries of the physically and mentally incapacitated isn’t to support them with human-standard state allowances, easy access and equipment, but, instead, to bully them and hound them into non-existent ‘jobs’ which will almost all be short-term part time zero hours contracts at barely the minimum wage (or, if Sith Lord Freud has his way, at a newly set Malthusian-inspired ‘cripples’ wage’ of around £2 an hour!) on pain of losing state support and basically either tipping into destitution, early graves, or suicide.

And if this moral abomination of a government was really serious at all about genuinely ‘helping’ the disabled ‘into employment’, then why in Heaven’s name did it scrap the Remploy factories almost as soon as it greased its way into power? Nevertheless, the Tories still seem to believe that they and their private sector minions, Atos, A4e, Maximus and the like have exclusively discovered the elixir to incapacity: WORK. Not properly paid work with proper contracts, but just slave labour paid at an insulting pittance. Basically, DISABILITY SLAVERY.

The disabled should today be grateful for any employment opportunities, even those which exploit them and denigrate their basic human rights with poor disability access and/or clause which precludes any ‘market-rate’ reimbursement for their labours on the grounds that they are, by dint of their disabilities and perceived inhibited productivities, ‘sub-humans’ (cue Freud again -if any public figure was seriously in need of a psychiatrist's couch -other than Osborne and IDS- it's surely this great grandson of the great Sigmund?).

But ‘sub-humans’ still ripe for exploitation on poverty pays. Meanwhile, I think many of us who exercise modicums of objectivity and compassion, we all know who the true ‘sub-humans’ of the issue are: those chocking up the front bench in Parliament –and prime among them, the vindictive, delusional and sociopathic Iain Duncan Smith, whose acronym, ‘IDS’ should more accurately stand for: ‘Incapacity and Disability Scourge’.

Teather’s Stand for Renters

No surprise that in a Parliament full of property-flippers and private landlord MPs Sarah Teather’s proposed Tenancy (Reform) Bill to bring in new powers to prevent “revenge evictions” of private tenants (that is, threatened or enacted evictions taken by private landlords against those tenants who dare to speak up about the slum-level conditions of their poorly maintained properties) was defeated yesterday in the Commons. But good for Sarah Teather, who is undoubtedly one of the very very few moral and compassionate Lib Dems left in Parliament, having last year resigned from her ministerial post in protest against the Coalition’s wholesale victimisation and persecution of the unemployed, sick and disabled. The principled Teather is however wasting her time –not to say political career– remaining in the ranks of the vote-kleptomaniac Fib Dems and would, The Recusant believes, feel much more at home if she was to join the Green Party, the only parliamentary party which speaks up for the poor and unemployed, and for private renters.

However, there remains a small window of opportunity yet for some of Teather’s proposals to still see the light of day via the third reading of the upcoming Consumer Rights Bill in Parliament on 8th December. To which, you can contact your MP to encourage them to turn up to it by going to Generation Rent’s website: http://act.generationrent.org/lobby/revengeeviction

The Autumn Hate

From ‘Giving Tuesday’ to ‘Swingeing Wednesday’ with George Osborne’s latest public confession of insatiable psychopathy at the despatch box in the guise of an ‘Autumn Statement’.

There is something perversely retributive about the fact that ‘Chancer of the Hedgebetter’ –I mean, Chancellor of the Exchequer– George Osborne had to admit to the Commons today during his Autumn Statement that his four-and-half-year infliction of “austerity” on the nation has utterly failed to reach its core objective of “wiping out the deficit” by 2015, having barely halved it - all basically due to the fact that the ‘have his cake and eat it’ Chancellor has tried to ‘mend’ the economy ‘on the cheap’ by forcing tens of thousands of the unemployed into short-term, part time, insecure, barely minimum-waged, zero-hours contracts, which they can only afford to do if provided some state support to plug their income gaps, in a pathetic attempt to make it look like unemployment has fallen. But in reality, and with the assistance of IDS at the Department for War on the Poor (DWP), he’s not so much reduced unemployment as just reduced the unemployed themselves.

Forgetting pecuniary factors for a moment, the human price paid for this abject fiscal failure has been approximately 40,000 Atos-hounded sick and disabled claimants prematurely deceased; hundreds of thousands of families impoverished and dependent on food banks; mushrooming street homelessness; escalating suicides; and 90,000 families with children evicted from their homes due to the impositions of housing benefit caps and the bedroom tax, and effectively rendered homeless, who will be trapped in ‘temporary’ accommodation (B&Bs and hostels) this Christmas.

And the Chancellor’s response to this? More of the same, except even bigger and deeper cuts than have already gone before, AND for an even longer period of time: about another five years, in Tory La La Land, should just about do it for wiping entire sections of the poorest communities across the country completely off the map. Paupers to pay, once again, for the sins of the rich, for the crimes of the bankers, property speculators, and tax-dodging corporations. For the fourth year running, the heartless and mean-spirited Chancellor has casually announced further swingeing cuts to the already vestigial welfare budget in the years ahead. So nothing new there then.

The Chancellor’s now habit-forming Autumn Statements should actually be more accurately termed Autumn Hates, because much of their content simply consists of rhetorical and attitudinal dumping on the unemployed. And even after all the above iniquities inflicted remorselessly on the unemployed and the poor since 2010, it seems the UK still has plenty of appetite left for further intensified welfare-slashing and claimant-bashing –such a voracious appetite, in fact, that even the ‘season of good will’ is no hindrance to further Tory-tabloid-and-media seasonal “scroungerology” being promulgated.

Anyone would think it was an “oversized” welfare state that tipped this nation over the pecuniary precipice and into near-bankruptcy back in 2008. How quickly the British forget the untouchable culprits of all our miseries –just when are we going to see prosecutions of bankers, speculators and hedge betters? The word ‘never’ springs to mind at this point. Instead, this collective thug of a government is turning to the unemployed, those failed the most by capitalism and hit the hardest by the austerity cuts, to settle the tab with their last paltry scraps of benefits. Despicable in the extreme, yes, and now a national pathology to boot. No alleviation of poverty, just further heaping of misery on misery onto the “narrowest shoulders” of the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled.

And now we’re told there’s still more to come! Osborne et al better be careful at this point, since if they continue in their rapacious cause of fiscal Malthusianism and administrative manslaughter, there will eventually not be enough poor and unemployed people left to persecute and blame for the nation’s economic failure anymore. They don’t want to bite the heads off the very people whose easy targeting feeds the lies of their social fascism, surely? Better to have them as labour slaves instead, as the tens of thousands forced into unpaid “work placements”, “internships”, “community work” and mandatory voluntarism.

Osborne should know well, being an arch-Thatcherite (though of a distinctly aristocratic timbre), that the Tories’ best political companion and punch-bag is unemployment: without it at a significantly high level, it’s much more difficult for them to keep wages down. However, lest we forget, they’ve already hit upon the perfect cocktail to do this without having significantly high ‘official’ unemployment figures: by simply capping and cutting out-of-work benefits so that it seems as if, on paper, those working are earning more than they actually are, simply by bottom-racing comparison to their pauperised unemployed compatriots.

The Tories call this “Making work pay”, but the actual translation, in real terms, is “Make benefits NOT pay”. But more and more today it is becoming steadily apparent to many that rather than work paying, it’s increasingly more a case of people practically having to ‘pay to work’.

Whatever way one looks at it, and however Bullingdon bullies like Osborne try to frame it, the fact is this Tory-led Government is corporate con artist, and all it offers this beleaguered and broken society is one big con trick of “austerity” to be played out repeatedly until, eventually, a different result comes up –which of course will never be the case.

All the Tories can offer the electorate in May 2015 is more of the same merciless and miserablist fiscal sadism; and to vote for that is to simply to be a mug and a masochist. If the country votes the Tories in for a second term next May, it will surely go down as the biggest act of national self-harm in British political history (the 1983, 1987 and 1992 elections all coming in as close join-second, of course).

We’re also told that by the time the Tories have completed their violation of the nation, assuming they scrape back into power next year, the UK state and public spending will be the smallest they have been “in 80 years”, since the equally heinous and draconian right-wing administration of Stanley Baldwin’s Tory-led (and Liberal-propped) National Government of the mid- to late 1930s (in so many ways, the blatant blueprint for this current government’s entire fiscal agenda).

So now we know for an absolute fact that the Tories have indeed deliberately engineered a societal retrenchment back to a pre-welfare state Britain. Many of us knew this, but today we heard it more explicitly than before: the state will be at its smallest “for 80 years”! This is how BBC economics correspondent Robert Peston phrased it in his fiscal autopsy on the news this evening.

So as we hurtle back full tilt to the Thirties, we also have the deeply uncomfortable knowledge that Ukip’s xenophobic Purpleshirts are stomping towards possible large-scale electoral successes next May, and may well end up the ‘powerbrokers’ of the next ‘Coalition’ government. God help us all if that is to turn out to be the case!

A.M. 3/12/14

Black Friday/ Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday/ Taking Wednesday

A society’s cultural nomenclature tells us so much about its ethical and moral health, or lack of, as the case may be. In terms of contemporary Tory UK Plc. it tells us just how abjectly polarised in terms of class divide, wealth gap and jostling national priorities this ‘three nation’ nation currently is.

We of course see this continually these days through the broadcasting media in terms of ‘reality’ programming: only last night on one TV channel there was the unapologetically un-ironically titled Posh People, while on another channel, at the same time, the ‘poverty porn’ favourite Skint; in the space of seconds one could switch from the sight of grotesquely rich individuals shopping in impossibly expensive boutiques to that of a dishevelled and dentally challenged individual comprehending the Armageddon of his bank card being inexplicably swallowed by an intransigent cash machine.

But the last few days have now seen the inaugurations of actual national ‘days’ signposting the grotesque polarities of contemporary Tory Britain.

Last week saw the debut of “Black Friday” –an American monster invention– which appears to be a mass pitched battle of deranged and aggressive commodity-fetishists piling into one another as they lay siege to their local shops and supermarkets in an insatiable hunt for half-price flat screen TVs, crushing fellow bargain-hunters in the process. Karl Marx must be rotating in his grave like a Sainsbury’s chicken-on-a-spit at this ultimate grotesque expression of animalistic acquisitiveness. Watching rugby scrums of shoppers on TV anyone would think the protagonists were grasping after limited edition elixirs of life –so irrational and delusional is the consumer pull of modern anarcho-capitalism.

As if this wasn’t enough, we then had something of a reprise only two days later with the newly installed “Cyber Monday”, which would be more appropriately and alliteratively titled ‘Manic Monday’. Further bruises and bloodshed over capitalist ephemera ensued.

With our psychopathic Chancellor’s austerity-protracting Autumn Statement coming up tomorrow (3 Dec) we will no doubt continue this nominal trend by pre-christening it ‘Taking Wednesday' (yes, also in this postmodern trend of counter-alliterative nomenclature).

Juxtaposed against these latest capitalist national farces have been some very pertinent and symbolic headlines in the minority progressive press by way of cultural illustration of our society’s abject polarities –such as the following Guardian story: ‘New Era estate protest: ‘We are asking for the moral thing – leave our homes’, with the preamble: ‘Young, old and politically charged – residents of east London housing estate take their growing campaign against eviction to American landlord’s headquarters in Mayfair’ (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/01/new-era-housing-estate-protest-mayfair).

On ‘Manic Monday’ itself, there was also an incisive column by Ally Fogg, ‘Poverty is at its most deadly when it becomes normal’, which argues rightly that under the swingeing welfare cuts and accompanying Tory-and-tabloid stigmatisation of the poor, unemployed and disabled (basically, any citizens who through no faults of their own need some state assistance), our modern UK has become indifferent and even contemptuous towards the suffering of the poor and vulnerable, seemingly comfortable with the abject social divide and Dickensian wealth gap, a national attitude which might be described as ‘social fascism’ (this writer’s phrase), and which is ubiquitously symbolised today by food banks, poor doors, pigeon-spikes for rough sleepers, and escalating street homelessness. Here’s Fogg’s piece in full:

When is poverty at its most dangerous? It is not, as you might think, when we begin to notice the frequency with which we step over rough sleepers on our way to the shops. It is not when we hear of children going to school hungry. It is not even when people begin to die from hunger, from cold or in desperation, at their own hands.

On the contrary, poverty is at its most deadly when we no longer notice, we no longer care, we no longer even question it. This is the point at which poverty ceases to be a temporary crisis, a challenge to overcome or a tragedy to be mourned, and becomes a permanent state of affairs, embedded into the very systems and structures of our society, not an obscenity, but normality. It is a grim hypothesis, but I would suggest this is a point we have already passed.

Allow me to summarise a few of the stories that have passed under the radar in the UK over the past week or so. In Nottingham, a food bank has closed its doors – not through lack of demand, but because it alleges that the city council was referring desperate and vulnerable people to its service as a first port of call, thereby allowing the council to deny residents statutory hardship payments and other services. The news came a few days after a report into food banks was published by a consortium of charities, including Child Poverty Action Group, Trussell Trust and Oxfam, which found that the number of people accessing three days’ worth of emergency provisions had risen from 128,000 in 2011-12 to 913,000 in 2013-14.

In Sheffield, academic researchers published an analysis of the impact of welfare reforms on residents in the city. Among other findings, they calculate that households with dependent children are estimated to lose £1,690 a year. Lone parents with dependent children can expect to lose an average of just over £2,000 a year. Men and women with health problems or disabilities are also losing out. Residents of the worst-hit wards are likely to lose five times as much as those of the least affected.

Meanwhile the charity Homeless Link reports that while homelessness across all ages is rising, youth homelessness in particular is soaring. Homelessness caused by financial problems due to benefit reductions has increased sixfold (from 1.7% of cases in 2013 to 10% in 2014). Over 90% of 200 charity and council homeless agencies surveyed said that benefit sanctions had affected the ability of young people to access accommodation. They found that 58% of under-25s seeking help from councils and charities with homelessness had one or more other problems such as mental illness, a learning disability or other complex social needs.

In its annual poverty monitoring report published last week, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) laid out the extent to which poverty is not just a consequence of unemployment, finding that two-thirds of people who found work in the past year had taken jobs for less than the living wage.

Last month the education and equalities minister, Nicky Morgan, wrote for the Guardian that the coalition government had reduced the gender pay gap to its narrowest ever level. The JRF report illustrated how this had happened: among the lowest-paid quarter of the population, women’s wages have reduced by 40p an hour since 2008; over the same period in the same sector, men’s wages have reduced by 70p an hour.

As far as I can tell, not one of these stories made national broadcast news; few troubled even the inside pages of the broadsheets. The media, however, are not entirely to blame. Scouring the press releases sent out by the Labour party in the past week, it is all but impossible to find mention of poverty, inequality, homelessness or hunger. Instead, there are countless volleys in the race to the bottom over immigration and benefit claims. Notwithstanding the efforts of the Green party, mainstream political debate refuses to countenance such issues as a living wage.

It seems we have drifted to being a nation of coarse indifference – or perhaps defeatism – to the bleak reality of poverty. Like the state of poverty itself, it becomes difficult to envision an alternative, a route of escape. We are not the first generation to face austerity. But we do risk becoming the first generation to declare itself indifferent to its horrors.

And earlier, on 25 November, there was another incisive and shocking polemical intervention in The Guardian titled: ‘Starving, disabled children are symbol of a cuts agenda with no conscience’, which is worth excerpting in full below:

Lorna Jamison is selling things from her home in Haverhill, Suffolk to buy her two sons winter coats. Family photo frames, ornaments and toys; whatever she can get her hands on and will get some money quickly. She’s full-time carer to Ellis, who is six and has Asperger syndrome, and the benefits the family gets aren’t enough to pay for basics like food and gas.

The bedroom tax took £20 a week (Lorna appealed to the council owing to Ellis’s disability and won but still hasn’t been given back what was overpaid). Lorna has taken out three payday loans and two further high-interest loans in the past year. She’s stopped using electricity when the boys aren’t home.
If this story is starting to sound familiar, it’s because it is. A sort of everyday poverty that has taken hold in this country over the course of this government. This is life after austerity, when a winter coat for your disabled child is luxury and debt and sold toys is old news.

A third of families with disabled children can’t afford heating now,research from the charity, Contact A Family found this week. The number going without food has nearly doubled in the past two years from 16% to 31%. Is this a national crisis yet? I am not sure what more it takes.

Hungry and cold disabled kids get weaker. It does not take an expert to grasp that. Can’t afford the heating? Pneumonia. Can’t afford petrol? Hospital appointments are cancelled. This is the reality of two years of council tax cuts, tax credit changes, and the bedroom tax when life costs more. Of parents going without and in debt, almost a quarter say their disabled child’s health has deteriorated because of a lack of money. What did anyone expect?

Chantal Chaervey from Woodbridge in Suffolk has watched her 12-year-old son Harry, who has severe brain damage and poor immunity, catch 13 lung infections over the past year. Harry is incontinent and gets cold at night when he gets wet from his urine and Chantal can’t afford the extra heating.

That is not a palatable image but then, poverty is not pretty. Neither is disability, at least when the state takes someone’s help – physical and financial – from under them. Talk to carers and charities and the words are “exhausted” and “at breaking point”.

In a separate survey this year by the charity Scope, nearly half of parents of disabled children said they had seen their GP owing to stress and anxiety, as getting regular hot meals became yet another daily battle, next to fighting for shrinking services. Short breaks and overnight care for parents to grab a few hours sleep are becoming a distant memory.

Still, mental health is expendable. Usually women’s. Three-quarters of mothers with disabled children have to give up a career and an income. Isolation and poverty like to come together. There is no money coming in and no one is listening.

Karen Jones, in Flint, Wales, is now stretching £30 for two week’s family shop. She has chronic depression and is full time carer to her 10-year-old son, Aaron, who has severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His medication means he has extreme weight loss and Karen skips meals to make sure she can afford to feed Aaron. Some days she exists on a piece of toast.

“These are families who are suffering due to no fault of their own,” Terry Wogan notably clarified during this month’s Children In Need appeal, when disabled children were wheeled out for the camera. Tax and government now seems to work on this principle of the deserving and undeserving poor with councils checking claimant’s booze and fag receipts before giving emergency help, as if we now need to establish a person is deserving before their suffering means something. Disabled children are at least perfect for this new narrative. Innocent and in need. The poster child for austerity.

In the rankings of human misery, few things sit worse than a hungry, cold disabled child. Perhaps they are the tear-jerking victims of the cuts anyone hoping to prod an impenetrable Tory heart has been waiting for. This is welfare as a contest. Disabled children the deserving claimants at the front of the queue, Jobseekers the scum pushed to the back. Exactly the ranking and division rampant individualism dreams of, where some people’s struggle matters more than others and the new underclass are set against each other.

Yet disabled children are not “good poor” because there is no such thing as “bad poor”. There are people in poverty, with names and lives, who are being dehumanised because they dare to need something. Starving, disabled children are the ultimate symbol of a cuts agenda that has no limits or conscience. If a sick child does not mark the end of the austerity experiment, there is no hope for any of us.

Some names have been changed

[The Recusant had also picked up on Terry Wogan's very marked emphasis on "families ...suffering due to no fault of their own” during Children In Need (never more needed than in Tory Britain 2014!)].

Then, by complete contrast –and, again, emphasis on the polarised ‘split personality’ of our society and its priorities– comes the newly inaugurated and far more justified “Giving Tuesday”, which sees the last line of defence against abject poverty in the UK in the wake of the dismantlement of our welfare state, namely the charitable sector, pitching in to highlight the plights of the nation’s mushrooming poor in time for Christmas, in hope of some emptying of pockets in the cause of domestic poverty relief during the “season of goodwill”.

In The Recusant’s inbox today, email appeals from the likes of Christian Aid and Shelter –both causes well worth responding to, if those receiving them aren’t among the nation’s tens of thousands of working poor, unemployed or sick and disabled households, that is. Shelter’s campaign is particularly poignant –and shocking– when reads its’ introductory bumph:

Join in this #GivingTuesday, Alan, and help Britain's 90,000 homeless children.

Across the world today people are giving their money away. Because hot on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it's #GivingTuesday – a global day of giving.

Have yourself a Very Merry Dickensian Christmas!

As ever, the Morning Star (or Daily Miracle) leads the way in polemic against Tory Two Nations Britain, with an incisive and robust piece today (2 Dec) by Labour's Michael Meacher titled 'IDS Policy: Starve The Poor Into Crime':

THE papers are full-on when members or ex-members of the government behave badly when they can't get their way - witness Andrew Mitchell bad-mouthing a policeman, with the toxic "plebs" allegedly added in, because he couldn't ride his bike through the Downing Street gates, and David Mellor ranting at a black cab driver over the best route home to his £8 million pad near Tower Bridge.
But what really matters about members of the government is not their silly misbehaviour, it's the way they're crucifying millions of people even to the point where they're denying them food and shelter.

On this, with a few honourable exceptions, the media are largely silent on the grounds presumably that they don't matter because they're not famous.

A million people have been sanctioned by government ministers over this last year, which means that they are deprived of all their benefit for often petty infringements - such as being five minutes late for a job interview - and hence have no money for at least four weeks and sometimes three months, forcing them to steal to survive.

If they're caught, the penalty for stealing some meat from a supermarket might be a fine of some £200, which of course they cannot conceivably pay, or it might be six weeks in prison.

Iain Duncan Smith supervises the sanctioning - though it's outsourced to a privatised firm doing his dirty work for him - while Chris Grayling takes care of the imprisonment.

This is the treadmill of impoverishment to which this government is now sentencing hundreds of thousands of people every year, a crescendo of wanton harshness out of all proportion to the treatment meted out to other miscreants.

During and after the Napoleonic wars there were up to 200 offences for which a person could be hanged, usually for stealing to keep their family alive.

The people of this country sitting on the juries finally got round this draconian repression imposed by the ruling class by refusing to convict.

That is what juries and magistrates should do now when faced by the stark injustice of the criminal justice system.

MPs who five years ago stole big ticket expenses to which they were not entitled, including many on both front benches, suffered no penalty worse than being named and shamed in the newspapers, with no more than half a dozen fall guys, not the main offenders, sent to prison for a few weeks.

Not a single banker has been prosecuted for presiding over the wrecking of the financial and economic system by the most brazen arrogance, recklessness and incompetence, even though it has ravaged the lives of millions of innocent people.

None of the super-rich who have been avoiding due payment of taxes by the most artificial forms of contrivance have ever been personally brought to book and sent down.

We are now seeing one law for the rich and another for the poor in its most vicious and nasty form.

New Era scandal shows the twisting of Victorian philanthropy

THE New Era housing estate scandal in Dalston, east London, tells a poignant and tragic story about how Victorian philanthropic ideals have been transformed into commercial assets in the international market with not a shred of concern about the human consequences.

Arthur Barsht, the man who built this 93-flat estate, must be turning in his grave.

It was preserved for more than 80 years by the Lever family, who ran the estate as a place where low-income workers in teaching, health and construction could live near where they worked.

Now the grandson of the founder, who lives in a five-bedroom detached house in Northwood, Middlesex, has announced that the family is to sell up to a US private equity company which intends to quadruple the £600-a-month rents for a two-bed flat to £2,400.

The US company was assisted in the takeover of the estate by Richard Benyon, the Tory MP whose multimillion-pound family estate in extensive parkland near London was a partner to the deal.

None of the tenants will remotely be able to afford the new sky-high rents and they will all be evicted before Christmas. Welcome to Cameronian capitalism.

The whole Tory aim of squeezing public services, ostensibly to pay down the deficit - which is actually rising this year - is to restructure a public welfare state as a fully privatised market system.

The New Era estate is just one of thousands of initiatives designed to achieve this end, though a strongly redolent one.

The callousness of this nakedly monetary transaction is shown by the fact that nobody from the London office of the US private equity firm Westbrook has even deigned to visit the estate and talk to the residents, all of whom will be abruptly made homeless within the next three weeks.

It is purely a financialised arrangement transforming a tight-knit community into a global investment.

So why wasn't this outrage stopped? Because the families will have been evicted from private properties on private land, Hackney Council will have no responsibility to rehouse them.

They will be forced to leave London, but wherever they end up the public taxpayer, not Westbrook, will have to pay the cost of their accommodation.

It is ironic that Westbrook invests money from US public and private pension funds, endowments and foundations, including investments from many lower-paid workers similar to those now about to be evicted.

It is also resonant that Westbrook Partners has been taken to court for its shabby, vermin-ridden, unrepaired housing complexes in New York and been forced to carry out basic repairs and compensate their tenants.

In the light of this revelation of the new Tory Britain - which former Tory housing minister Grant Shapps hailed as a model for private landlords who are "the unsung heroes of the housing market" - Labour should bring in legislation to require local authorities to be offered first rights to take over all such estates being sold, with reserve rights of compulsory purchase where necessary to protect tenants.

While in anticipation of the Chancellor's Austerity ('Autumn') Statement tomorrow is Will Stone's piece, 'Austerity: It's Got To Go':

Anti-austerity activists will descend on Downing Street this evening sporting George Osborne masks to demand the “failed Chancellor” be sacked on the eve of his Autumn Statement.

Hundreds of People’s Assembly activists will rally outside the gates of Downing Street where they will quaff champagne and gorge on turkey around a make-shift banquet table.

Activists feasting around the table will throw scraps to passers-by.

“We all know that Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement will be more of the same old austerity,” People’s Assembly national secretary Sam Fairbairn told the Star.

“Osborne and his ilk will reap the benefits while the rest of us will be thrown tokenistic scraps.”
He predicted that Mr Osborne will hide behind his £2 billion NHS funding announcement but argued the investment is just “a drop in the ocean” for what the health service needs.

The Chancellor will deliver the statement amid dwindling Treasury coffers as official figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility are expected to reveal a further deterioration in public finances with sluggish earnings growth denting tax revenues.

And the right-wing Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned of a new round of austerity after next year’s general election with some Whitehall departments set to lose a third of their budgets as a result of Tory plans for £7bn tax cuts.

Mr Osborne has already signalled that he plans to hit Britain’s most vulnerable with a further squeeze on their benefits if the Tories win the next general election.

He announced Conservatives would freeze working-age benefits for two years at the party’s annual conference in September.

Speakers at the People’s Assembly rally will shine a light on austerity, busting the myths that the coalition spin as facts and highlighting all that has been stolen from the nation through public-sector cuts.

They will show that austerity has failed in its alleged aim of reducing public debt, with the deficit having grown 10 per cent in the last year to over £100bn.

Meanwhile real-terms pay has fallen every year for six years, seeing the worst decline in living standards since records began in 1856 — busting the myth that decreasing unemployment is leading to recovery.

Mr Fairbairn added: “It is incredible that Osborne claims we have a strong recovery. It is officially the weakest on record, with the longest fall in real pay since Victorian times. Only a tiny minority believes there is a recovery. The policy of austerity has to go.”

This evening’s rally will begin at 5.30pm.

And NHS workers will also push Mr Osborne to give them the miserly 1 per cent pay rise recommended by an independent review.

Unite members will rally outside the Treasury from 10.30am.

But we can all safely assume that the Chancellor Ebenezer Osborne’s, or, George Scrooge’s little red box won’t be rattling the taxpayer for any additional proceeds to go towards those tens of thousands of families pauperised for the ‘crimes’ of being either unemployed, disabled or both, under his morally abhorrent four-and-a-half-year fiscal tyranny and siege; conversely, we will be listening to the reedy-voiced public-school-and-Bullingdon Baronet-in-waiting upstart announcing still more years of punitive austerity cuts (to the tune of a further £48bn! mostly to be ransacked from the now vestigial welfare budget, of course) to the most vulnerable people in our society this ‘Taking Wednesday’.

Let’s all join in the protests with the People’s Assembly tomorrow and tell this sociopath of a Chancellor where he can stick his Autumn Statement!

In solidarity

A.M. 2/12/14