Latest Editorials

STOP PRESS AGAIN: It's all happening! It looks as if the Daily Mail has bitten off more than it can chew from its reprehensible series of smear pieces against Ed Miliband's late -and thus defenceless- father, Marxist academic Ralph Miliband, a man whom The Recusant has no reason to regard as anything other than a highly principled one who had a very healthy scepticism about parliamentary democracy in this country (and a scepticism which in many ways has since been proven quite apposite given the parliamentary scandals of recent years, from expenses, through property flipping, to this Tory-led Government's serial breaching of fundamental human rights via its draconian welfare cuts, bedroom tax, medically illegitimate Atos assessment regime, forced labour through workfare and unconstitutional "retrospective legislation" to prevent exploited claimants from claiming back benefits illegally confiscated from them for their refusal to be complicit in their own slave labour). The question at this time should not be, was Ralph Miliband somehow anti-democracy? (And in any case, even if he were, what exactly has this to do with his -significantly more centrist- son Ed? One only has to listen to the misanthropic and ethically twisted right-wing diatribes of Toby Young -son of the extremely gifted left-wing social scientist Michael Young, author of the classic democratic-socialist treatise, The Rise of Meritocracy- to see how woefully far removed from the influence of one's father it is possible to become!). The question we should all be asking ourselves at this time is: do we actually have a proper democracy in the first place?

Given the heinous misconduct of the Mail and Mail on Sunday (which despatched a reporter to "gate crash" a private memorial service at Guy's Hospital for Ed Miliband's late uncle), and the utter recalcitrance of its editor Paul Dacre (only last night referred to without compunction by Alistair Campbell as a "hypocrite" and a "coward"), it would be very easy to think at the moment that we do not live in a proper democracy, since clearly there are still those shadowy power-brokering groups in our society which think they are above the common moral compass, and above democracy itself. This is the true "culture of entitlement" in our country today, and it is one which acts contrary to democratic values in a manner so outrageously arrogant as to draw very real parallels with the hubris of the Falangists and Francoists of Thirties Spain.

Today (3 October) the Jewish Chronicle proclaimed that it believed the recent smear campaign against the late Ralph Miliband, and the constant Tory and red-top sniping at Labour leader Ed Miliband's voice, manner and appearance, are indicative of a tacit Antisemitism. The Recusant is inclined to agree with this. At this time, it would be educative for those on the extreme right of the Tory Party to refresh their memories as to perhaps their greatest past leader, Benjamin Disraeli, Britain's first and -as yet- only Jewish prime minister, whose particular brand of 'compassionate conservatism', or 'One Nation'-ism, is currently being championed by the part-Jewish leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband. Moreover, such centrist ideological roots are proof enough that Mr Miliband's 'One Nation' Labour is (sadly) far from the full-blooded "radical socialist" party that the Tories and red-top tabloids are currently so keen to convince the public of; nor can Ed Miliband be reasonably described as "Red Ed" simply because he is standing up against the vested interests in our society and standing up for ordinary people -that is certainly more left-leaning than New Labour ever managed, but it's a far cry from full socialism (again, sadly). Renationalisation of the utilities and service industries and the reintroduction of private rent controls would be more indicative of actual socialism (all policies which The Recusant would wholeheartedly support).

During a debate between ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock and the pug-faced right-winger Toby Young on Channel 4 News this evening, Mr Young laughably argued that it was "absurd" to suggest that the Daily Mail is pushing some sort of Antisemitic agenda. Why exactly this should be so "absurd" for one of the most extreme right-wing papers in British history, is really something Mr Young seriously needs to grapple with within himself in the face of the facts of the Mail's own highly controversial reputation and history. One only needs to remind oneself -as we do on the front page of this webzine- of the Mail's open support for Adolf Hitler in Germany, and Oswald Mosley's violent British Union of Fascists at home (re the notorious HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS editorial under Viscount Rothmere), throughout the 1930s, to see that it is in the very DNA of the Daily Mail (still under the dynastic ownership of the Viscount Rothmeres) to flirt with far-right ideas and, that given, it is hardly a leap of the imagination to believe that it might countenance some Antisemitic ideas as well (or at least, 'selected Antisemitism' which picks purely on left-wing Jewish figures).

On a wider scale, given that it is now perceived as entirely 'acceptable' in our Tory-run 'Big Society' for the unemployed, sick and disabled to be regularly vilified, stigmatised and persecuted through the vile "scrounger" rhetoric of such right-wing rags as the Mail and Express, it would seem par for the course today that the leader of the centre-left Opposition should be targeted for smears and mockery on the basis of his part-Jewish ancestry, and his father having personified what to most Tories and right-wingers is no doubt a toxic combination of being both Marxist and Jewish (cue their ultimate anathema, Karl Marx!).

But there is an even deeper subtext at play here which The Recusant detects: while the public, media and mainstream political class's responses to the scandalous conduct of the Daily Mail has been hearteningly ethical and empathetic in its complete condemnation, there is also a monumental stench of hypocrisy about such moral outrage (particularly among the Mail readers themselves), since, this is a society in which the poor, disabled, and unemployed in particular, are 'acceptably' demonised and persecuted through constant Tory and tabloid rhetoric in precisely the same lexicon used by the eugenicists and the Nazis in the 1930s against the Jews: "scrounger", "parasite", "feckless", and "workshy" (Arbitschessu) -common dysphemisms employed by popular British newspapers today, such as the Sun, Express and Mail, towards those singled-out as 'drains on the taxpayer'.

Tragically, then, any nascent Antisemitism surfacing from the Mail's current attitudes would seem to be -albeit with more historical toxicity- in-keeping with this society's contemporary scapegoating culture of Antiwelfarism: the unemployed are, in terms of political, tabloid and public attitudes and rhetoric, the 'new Jews'. So there is a broader lesson to be learnt in all this: if we, the British, quite rightly condemn any hints of Antisemitism as unacceptable in a decent and tolerant democratic society, why, on the other hand, do so many in this country seem perfectly relaxed about the continued and intensifying attudinal, rhetorical and fiscal persecution of another section of society: benefit claimants...?

We all have to ask ourselves at this dark time in our history: what kind of a society are we becoming? The barage of morally reprehensible and heinous policy suggestions announced at the Tory Conference this week demonstrated just how brutal and socially apocalyptic a Tory victory in 2015 would be: this is a party which is now so right-wing (bluntly, bordering on quasi-fascism) it is practically psychopathic: a party which has now essentially pledged to finally dismantle the last vestiges of both the welfare state and our very social democracy itself.

In short, the Tory party is now betraying its deep-seated anti-democratic tendencies which have been suspected by many for decades (indeed, some socialist political historians have argued before now that the Tory party was basically formed to 'keep a check on parliamentary democracy' in order to ensure that the rich and powerful elites they represent never have their monopolies of capital depleted or taken away -hence, also, the Tories' pathological antipathy towards taxation). The Tories, implicitly the party for Two Nations, believe in freedom, democracy, deregulation, libertarianism and laissez faire for the rich and propertied ONLY; for the majority of the population, the ordinary workers, they prescribe a punishing regimen of mortgage- and debt-bondage, exploitation and regulation of rights and entitlements -most punitive of all in effectively enslaving the 'lumpenproletariat' (the unemployed and impoverished) in a fiscal ghetto.

But the party's dualism is most stark of all in its heinously hypocritical defence of a "free press" (we have no such thing: 90% of our press is owned and manipulated by right-wing billionaire media moguls) from "government interference" (cue its resistance to the Leveson recommendations), while oppositely trying to impose restriction of free speech/censorship on civil society through its blatantly anti-democratic 'gagging law' which will effectively proscribe such protest campaigns as 38 Degrees from publicly holding the Government to account and lobbying it through petitions in the run up to the 2015 election; as well as further neutering the already massively depleted influence of the Trades Unions! Once again, Tory double standards: freedom for the right-wing press to conduct smear campaigns under the subterfuge of 'news' against those who represent ideological threats to their monopolies (re the Mail's defamation of Ralph Miliband) and to distort the issues on which the electorate will decide how to vote, while muzzling all public opposition at the same time. To which, The Recusant directs readers to the following petition:

If this country finally falls into the unfettered hands of the Camerons, Osbornes, Smiths, Goves, Crosbys, Farages, Blooms, Demsonds and Dacres of this world, then God help us all, and God help democracy. (Having said 'unfettered', meaning either a majority Tory government or the apocalypse of a UKIP-Tory Coalition, judging by the hard-line right-wing social policies already devastating our society under a so-called 'Coalition', plus the ethically bankrupt final nail in the coffin of any vestige of 'liberal' or 'democratic' traits left in Orange Book Tory and 'vote thief', Nick Clegg, in his voicing today that he supported the Tories' shockingly draconian proposal to strip 'NEET' under-25s of all benefit entitlements - it would appear that to date the Tories have acted pretty much unfettered anyway).

To return briefly to the Mail scandal: readers will see on the front page of The Recusant a link to a petition calling on both the Press Complaints Commission and the Editor's Code of Practice Committee to dismiss Mr Paul Dacre, editor of the offending newspaper, from his now clearly untenable position as Chair of said Editor's Code of Practice Committee. This editor urges all readers to please sign up to this petition as soon as possible, and spread word about it as far and wide as you can. To echo the favourite phrase of politicians today, it is "simply unacceptable" for an editor whose paper has clearly breached the most basic codes of ethical decency to remain as Chair of the very Committee which provides editorial guidelines for the PCC.

3 October 2013

STOP PRESS: Just as this writer thought that was it for the day and posted up his latest editorial, five minutes of the evening news revealed the full sociopathic extent of the Tories' manifesto promises for 2015, with the truly Malthusian announcement from rightward lurching prime minister Cameron that all under-25s -being, let us remember, already among the worst hit of any section of society by the draconian welfare and EMA cuts and trebling of tuition fees- will, in addition to the severe hardship most of them are already suffering, be stripped of their 'automatic entitlements' to BOTH Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit) AND the puny alm of £50-odd a week in JSA, if they fall into the 'NEET' ('Not in Education or Training') category -precisely the category of young people who MOST urgently NEED state assistance in order to survive and avoid homelessness! Cameron is now announcing the wholesale state-abandonment of the poorest and most vulnerable youth, proving once and for all that his 'Big BOOT Society' isn't big enough to accommodate those who do not fit conveniently into Tory tick boxes, while also promising to keep the street homeless numbers increasing for years and years to come. "Not a hand out, but a boot in"!

How much more psychopathic can policies get than this? What the silver-spooned Tories fail to grasp is that not all young people are born into vast inherited wealth and property as most of their own are, nor do they have the option of the "bank of mum and dad" or a spare room at their parents' homes (even less so now thanks to the bedroom tax!) to fall back on when the state kicks them in the teeth with a double-whammy of destitution-inducing benefit confiscations.

So the latest Tory mantra is "Earn or Learn", as if every young person will even have such a choice in future thanks to the trebling of tuition fees, cuts to EMA, and the sheer dearth of employment opportunities! More a case of 'Earn, Learn, or Burn', we'd say. Once again the uber-rich Bullingdon Boys, who've never had to fight for anything in their handed-on-a-plate lives, put the boot into the children of the poor in what has to be one of the most obscenely draconian, vindictive and fascistic pieces of manifesto filth ever put forward by any mainstream British political party (and little better than if Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts had gained power in the Thirties and imposed mandatory National (Front) Service or Blackshirt boot camps on the unemployed youth).

Such is the face of Tory social fascism which is being served up to tempt in the "scrounger"-baiting Right of the electorate in 2015! And it MUST BE STOPPED! All those in voters of even remotely compassionate political and social principles must now FIGHT HARDER THAN EVER BEFORE to make sure these Tory BLUESHIRTS are put out of power once and for all, and hopefully, FOR GOOD! They have today, yet again, demonstrated quite blatantly why they are MORALLY UNFIT to govern! The Tory Party is a MENACE to all social decency in our society. It is much more the instinct of those on the Left of politics to try to find some semblance of good in people, even sometimes in those they oppose: but, tragically, there is now, demonstrably, NO GOODNESS WHATSOEVER to be found in the morally despicable politics of the Tory Party -and we can only conclude at this juncture that the great socialist and Labour MP/Minister Aneurin Bevan was as right in his most notorious trope of all as he was in practically all the policies he proposed, supported and implemented during his time in Clement Attlee's Labour Government: the Tories really are "lower than vermin!"

The ‘Two Nations’ Tories: For Hard-Hearted People

Most of us knew that Tory Conference week would be the occasion of legion rhetorical solecisms and poor-bashing policy announcements, but the party of Two Nations has surpassed itself in 2013 with some of the most ethically bankrupt, morally offensive and plain nasty speeches in political history –quite apart from the latest duplicitous Tory strapline, ‘For Hard-Working People’, which immediately implies an emphatic and mythical distinction in society and serves as a euphemistic insult to, and stigmatisation of, those millions of people unemployed today (mostly through no fault of their own, and many due to the Tories’ administrative blitzkrieg against the public sector by mass-sacking entire sections of its workers!).

So, having now made tens of thousands of public sector workers unemployed for purely ideological purposes, the Tories then come in and kick the boot in by blaming those THEY have made unemployed for their unemployment and poverty, and in addition to the already rigid and intransigent conditions for benefits claimants, are adding two new heinously punitive conditions, as gleefully announced by the egregious George Osborne, his vampiric aristocratic pallor almost glowing with ill-feeling:

1. Those long-term unemployed of up to two years will in future have to attend their local jobcentreplus to sign on every single day, or be stripped of all benefits if they miss so much as one single day!

2. Those long-term unemployed of up to two years will in future be forced to do community service (picking up street litter, working in charity shops or caring for the elderly) FULL-TIME for 30 HOURS A WEEK with no extra payments or seemingly even help with travel expenses; or go on full time “training courses”, or drink/drug-rehabilitation programmes (with the presumption that such ‘vices’ are common reasons for long-term unemployment) –or be stripped of all their benefits!

It was revealed in the Morning Star earlier this week that Osborne had basically ‘cut-and-pasted’ these extreme draconian policy proposals from recommendations made by a corporate fat cat and ex-Tory candidate member of the odiously tight-fisted Tax Payers’ Alliance, who later bragged that his inhumane and anti-democratic proposals had been taken by the Chancellor “hook line and sinker –or should I say, lock, stock and barrel” –certainly the fiscal equivalent of ‘two smoking barrels’, yes; this ethical charlatan (whose name escapes this writer at this moment), a veritable Lynton Crosby apostle, then added impishly: “these are extremely exciting times” –no doubt similar sentiments were expressed by the average Nazi back in Thirties’ Berlin.

The so-called “Help to Work Scheme” is an inappropriate titular echo of Osborne’s new risibly irresponsible “Help to Buy Scheme”: on the latter scheme people are effectively loaned money from government to go towards their first mortgage (or towards property speculators umpteenth Buy-To-Let investment!), whereas, on the former, they are essentially to be ruthlessly exploited for their impoverished predicament for cheap labour, not only in blatant disregard for their fundamental rights to a “a day’s pay for a decent day’s work”, but also in direct contravention of Minimum Wage legislation (those on the pitifully low JSA will effectively be working for the equivalent of about £1.50 an hour!). What is the Yellow Party going to do about this one? Probably about as much as they did with regards to tuition fees, welfare caps, criminalisation of squatting, the bedroom tax and the privatisation of the NHS, one suspects.

So, for the first time in modern British political history, it is being proposed, unequivocally and with no euphemistic polish whatsoever, that in future the unemployed will have to “Work for the Dole”! This is about as Dickensian as things can get –perfect complement to the national scandal of tens of thousands of schoolchildren enduring hunger-pangs and fainting from malnourishment in their classrooms –“Please Sir, can I have some more?” and all that Oliver Twist bit!

The return of the fiscal workhouse, of tenement ghettoes for the poor, of slum-level private landlordism, of prolific food banks, of ‘Magic Breakfasts’ being supplied to starving school kids through the auspices of Church charities (such as Cafod) –all this, in the 21st century, and in the seventh richest country on the planet! All this, under a Tory-led Government! And all, apparently, in the cause of “deficit reduction”, which we are now told, the week after being told our economy had “turned a corner” back into “growth”, won’t be fully paid off until 2020! Surely now, only sociopaths and social fascists will see in this the right recipe for a post-2015 government and vote for this moral abomination of a party? The Tory Party, which has put the ‘F’ of Fascism into “Fairness”!?

Quite simply, any scheme forcing the unemployed to work for their dole, full-time but with no extra remuneration from the state for labour rendered, is essentially the return of economic slavery…? The ancient Greeks used to call such debt-bondage to the state doule –no doubt something to do with the etymology of the modern term ‘dole’? Effectively, by expecting the unemployed to work for free, the Tories are contracting out a new social residuum of ‘taxpayers’ slaves’: the unemployed now expected to work for nothing on behalf of our communities in return for the pittance levied from the “hardworking taxpayer” towards the upkeep of their new slaves through already pauperising benefit payments.

It’s quite ingenius in its calculated, misanthropic way: make tens of thousands unemployed through public sector job cuts; whip up public resentment against claimants whose benefits are funded by their taxes to such a frenzied degree that, in turn, it becomes acceptable to exploit said claimants as an unpaid ‘shadow-workforce’ providing cheap labour for the corporate and big business sector (the Tories’ own funding and lobbying bodies!); and, thereby, undercut other community, local authority and public sector workers so that they will themselves become more ‘expendable’ and be able to either be coerced onto insecure ‘zero contract hours’, or just the ‘zero hours’ of unemployment, their jobs being eventually replaced altogether by the new slave-labourers, whose ranks they themselves will join in due course.

This is a classic capitalist con-trick, charted all the way back by Karl Marx in Das Kapital (1867), and later immortalised in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1914), the very title of which satirises the parlous poverty-trap of industrial working-class employment under unregulated capitalism: that, essentially, all of us who have to work to earn a wage, who have to sell our labour as a commodity in the markets, are masochistic ‘philanthropists’ in ‘ragged trousers’ who devote our lives working to produce the fruits of the rich idle classes’ capacious orchards of exploitation-pilfered wealth. We are all complicit in this to some extent, though mostly through lack of any choice or economic bargaining power; but those who vote Tory are wilfully complicit in their own and/or others’ chronic exploitation, which, in their case, is by choice, via the ballot box.

No small coincidence that the etymological origin of the term ‘Tory’ comes from the Irish tóraidhe (tóraí), meaning ‘outlaw, robber or brigand’, from the Irish word tóir, meaning "pursuit", since outlaws were "pursued men". Today’s Tory Party truly is the party of the Rich Thief –not so much Thieves in the Night as Thieves of the Right– and George Osborne is their aristocratic highwayman, an antithetical Dick Turpin who steals wholesale from the poorest in order keep the coffers of the rich overflowing.

Herr Duncan Schmitt’s Latest ‘Crackdown on the Sick and Disabled’ Is the Signature of the Quasi-Fascist Society the UK Is Now Becoming

Add to all this hortatory misanthropy and erosion of common decency and morality came the latest quasi-fascist soundbite from Herr Duncan Schmitt: ‘Crackdown on the Sick and Disabled’! The sheer lack of irony or nuance of phraseology from the Nicorette-masticating mouth of the head of the Department for Whiphand and Persecutions is truly satire-proof and goes beyond all recognised boundaries of basic human decency. What kind of a country has this become that such a Satanic trope should be bandied about in the newspapers with little more than a chunter of disapproval from sections of the public?

Whatever way you look at it, to announce a ‘Crackdown on the sick and disabled’ is ethically inexcusable. It is fragrantly Malthusian, even eugenics-inflected in tone and phraseology (as is, of course, IDS’s Herodic proposal that unemployed parents’ will have child benefits stripped for every third child born!); it is, in short, a form of hortatory fascism, since which human trait do fascists most deplore and despise than perceived ‘weakness’, whether it be mental or physical…? Clearly the Tories concur with such base fascist prejudices. We can only hope that in time the Tories’ persecution of the mentally and physically incapacitated of this nation will be impeached through the European Court of Human Rights (no wonder the Tories are so eager to repeal the Human Rights Act!) and, as well, the UN council for human rights, which has of course already had a complaint about the inhuman bedroom tax (a social cleansing policy on a mass scale) officially filed by one of its own rapporteurs, Raquel Rolnik, to be heard in early 2014.

In the meantime, we must also have ‘faith’ that Catholic Archbishop Nichols take seriously a recent letter sent to him by an unnamed petitioner requesting the excommunication of Iain Duncan Smith from the Roman Catholic Church for his “crimes against the disabled”; though it might have been idea to send this letter directly to Pope Francis himself, the self-proclaimed “Pope of the Poor” (and The Recusant, as yet, has no reasons to doubt the new Pope’s sincerity in this commendable spontaneous epithet, which promises, hopefully, a much more hands-on and down-to-earth papacy for the coming years).

This writer is heartened then that a poet-associate of his, John O’Donoghue, today posted a Comment Is Free on The Guardian, ‘The Tory vilification of disabled people is sick’, tackling this very issue of contemporary stigmatisation and persecution of the physically and mentally incapacitated, all within the current Tory-spun circus of persecution which serves as their latest dialectic on the issue of even “tougher” ‘welfare conditionality’ across all sections of society, irrespective of circumstances or incapacities.

This is not “tough love”: it is just “tough” –for any kind of ‘love’ to be involved with it would require a modicum rudimentary human empathy, compassion and decency, all of which is completely absent from the Tories’ hate-rhetoric against the defenceless and vulnerable. This is nothing short of mass persecution of the weak in society; the culmination of three remorseless years of scapegoating and stigmatisation of anyone claiming state assistance –the regime of “Scroungerology”; a paper pogrom on the unemployed; and, in terms of the heinous escalation in premature deaths (now over 10,000, not even including the scores on scores of suicides as catalogued at Calum’s List) among those claimants hounded by the reprehensible bounty-hunters Atos, a hidden bureaucratic blitzkrieg –a fiscal holocaust!

After all, there is very little difference in rhetoric between the Tories’ duplicitous mantra MAKE WORK PAY, and the Nazis’ notorious euphemism, WORK MAKES YOU FREE! In the Tories’ case, work only makes one free from constant stigmatisation, but, as increasingly seen today among the growing “working poor”, NOT free from poverty! More to the point, the Tory work ethic for the poor is more to MAKE them WORK FOR FREE! (And this even applies to the disabled, cue the scandalous closure of the Remploy factories -the result of which is that all those formerly employed disabled workers are now being expected in future to "work for their dole", so effectively for NOTHING! So much for the 'dignity of labour'! So much for any shred of human dignity in disability either!).

There is very little doubt left now that the unemployed of this nation constitute a stigmatised social ‘sub-species’ in the warped perceptions of the political right and ruling elites: when one considers the weekly “Scrounger” headlines of the popular red-top press, the prolific discriminations against claimants seeking rental property (‘NO DSS’ now being a ubiquitous trope in flat adverts through most lettings agencies, even in cases of slum-level, hovel-like accommodation offered below the Local Housing Allowance caps, thus strangling off much of the very margins of rental properties affordable for claimants), and the plethora of publicly tolerated stigmas attached to anyone claiming state assistance, the unemployed are, symbolically at least, the new Jews.

Lastly, on this particular matter, it is the ultimate in utter hypocrisy that a party fronted by a Millionaire’s Row of Eton-educated, Bullingdon-forged inherited multi-millionaires who’ve never had to do a proper day’s work in their lives, who have been handed everything on a silver plate since birth (and mostly on the back of paternal tax-evasion!), should claim to be the party for “hard-working people” –what they actually mean is, the party for ensuring there are sufficient numbers of hard-working people off whose labour their own elite class can continue to profit and self-enrich without ever getting their own hands dirty.

But, as ever, this writer can’t put it any better –and certainly not as succinctly– as the Morning Star:

If there is anything worse than multimillionaire ministers constantly looking for new ways to clobber the jobless, it's their nauseating claim to have unemployed people's best interests at heart.

George Osborne described his Help to Work scheme, based on US workfare which links benefits to doing unpaid work, as "a very compassionate approach to people who previous governments just ignored."

In fact, the long-term unemployed have not been ignored by previous governments.

They have been berated and vilified by a succession of work and pensions secretaries for supposedly choosing a life on benefits rather than finding work even though there are not enough jobs to go round.

That is a failure of the system not of individuals, most of whom would leap at the chance to earn their own living.

They are not assisted by a neoliberal government committed to attacking public-sector jobs and services as part of an ideological programme to reduce the role of the state and lower taxes for big business and the rich.

New research from the GMB union indicates that the Tories and Liberal Democrats have presided over a massacre of 631,000 public-sector jobs in the past three years, with another 400,000 to go in the next two.

All these workers have paid income tax and national insurance, which is what finances the benefits paid to the unemployed.

Osborne's sneers about "something for nothing" do not apply to workers forced onto the dole by a government that could not give a toss for the "hard-working people" it claims to prioritise.

The Tories' main concern has always been reserved for landowners, big business and the tax-dodging rich.

Something for nothing applies more to Osborne's forebears who benefited from the blood-soaked plunder generated by slavery and from state compensation when this crime against humanity was made illegal.

Forcing people to work without pay appears to come easily to this beneficiary of inherited wealth born with a silver slave-driver's whip in his mouth.

Something for nothing is Iain Duncan Smith living rent-free in a £2 million Tudor mansion in its own grounds, courtesy of his well-heeled in-laws - the same Duncan Smith who dreamed up Help to Work.

His vicious scheme will not create a single job for the unemployed. It was not designed to do so.

Its twofold purpose is to cut the amount spent on benefits by stepping up sanctions for failing to meet harsh conditions attached to them and to encourage the public perception that claimants are unemployed through choice.

Most journeys to jobcentre offices involve travel, so making claimants attend five days a week will entail financial hardship, to be further exacerbated by loss of benefit for a month for one failure to attend and for three months for a second.

The "community" work already pencilled in for claimants - clearing litter, cooking meals for the elderly or cleaning graffiti - is already done by local authority workers.

Will they be replaced by coerced claimants, thereby pushing up unemployment still higher?

Apart from unpaid work and compulsory daily reporting to a jobcentre, claimants will have to take action to tackle problems such as alcohol or drugs that prevent them finding employment.

The main problem standing in the way of full employment is a moribund capitalist system based on exploitation and class discrimination.

The sooner this problem is eradicated the better.

So, while the UK continues to be held to ransom by a ruling right-wing elite of whiphands and taskmasters in hoc to the blackmailing markets (and the ‘blackout-blackmailing’ energy corporations which, oddly enough, the day after lambasting Ed Miliband as “Red Ed” for daring to announce a future Labour policy of energy price regulations so that ordinary people can actually afford the luxury of heating their homes through winter, the following day, started to try and cash in on this possible future policy by offering lower tariffs – “Why wait for Ed?” etc. –so much for any pretence of corporate principle!), the US is currently being held to ransom, literally, by another bunch of right-wing fanatics, the red-neck Tea Party wing of the Republicans, who have forced Obama’s Government to “shut down” indefinitely while a game of brinkmanship goes on which, apart from anything else, could induce another global recession and chronic economic world Depression –and all on the Satanic ‘principle’ that “Obamacare”, essentially an NHS-style covenant which would enable those who can’t afford medical insurance to access basic health care, is somehow “unfair”, “immoral” and “anti-democratic”! You really couldn’t make it up could you? It seems that the American ‘evangelical’ Right isn’t so much inspired in its politics by ‘the Good Book’, as by the anti-ethics of Anton LaVey’s 1969 Satanic Bible!

Dacre’s Daily Mailthusian Drags Press Into Depths of Ill-Repute by Defaming the Memory of Ralph Miliband and His Marxist Beliefs in Cheap Pot-Shot At “Red Ed” Miliband

The Recusant hopes that by its gutter-level lapse into personalised slander against the memory of Ed Miliband’s highly principled late father, Marxist academic Ralph, and attempt thereby to somehow ‘tarnish’ the Labour leader with some mythical militant malignancy, the Daily Mail has only demonstrated to the public just how utterly beneath contempt both its pernicious reactionary right-wing politics and spurious rumour-mongering excuse for ‘journalism’ or providing any actual ‘news’ other than rabid right-wing gossip and smear campaigns against a resurgent Labour party. Not only was the offending piece in the Mail wholly inappropriate, wildly hyperbolic, slanderous and specious in the extreme, but the Mailthusian, under the ever-capricious and intellectually recidivist editorship of Paul Dacre (who cut his hacking teeth on, of all reprehensible rags, the Daily Express, which more than competes with the Mail today at the ‘scroungerological’ myth-making and, of course, remains in ‘opt out’ from the purview of the “toothless” Press Complaints Commission –more on which below), but said hatchet-rag also poured further vitriol on the injury done to the Miliband family by juxtaposing the Labour leader’s right to reply piece in the following day’s edition next to an even more outrageous smear-piece reiterating the Mail’s stance and its refusal to apologise for the vile article of the previous day.

The new headline alluded to Ralph Miliband’s ‘evil legacy’!!! This is beyond hyperbolic! Anyone would think Ralph Miliband had been an official in charge of administering the Stalinist gulags in Siberia! Just how right-wing can a paper be to refer to an ideology it disagrees with, Marxism, as ‘evil’? Moreover, where is the remotest hint in such an atavistic diatribe of anything even vaguely recognisable as mature, adult, sane and rational polemic? Also, the implication that just because Ralph Miliband was highly sceptical about parliamentary democracy (and with very good reason, since it has arguably ever retarded true socially democratic progress in our society through endless obfuscation and filibustering of the most progressive social policy proposals), meant he was actually anti-democracy itself, is just plain disingenuous propaganda, wilful distortion of his true political convictions. Many in our still Thatcherite-saturated society may well dislike Marxism –mainly because its true nature has been obscured through generations of capitalist obfuscation and demonisation– but that does not make it an ‘evil’ ideology.

More to the point, of all papers in the UK to accuse anyone or anything else of having an ‘evil legacy’ when it has itself a far from reputable history in terms of moral paradigms. For a truly ‘evil’ legacy, read Hitler’s, and as well, read that of the British newspaper which notoriously openly supported both Hitlerism in Germany and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the Thirties –under the editorship of Viscount Rothermere, the Mail famously ran with the headline (in January 1933): HURRAH FOR THE BLACK SHIRTS! (Hardly surprising, of course, that the Mailthusian should also be highly critical of what it perceives as a 'liberal softness' of Cameron's 'centre-right' government, given its previous form in allegiances -it seems even the Tory Blueshirts aren't quite fascistic enough for the Mailthusian's tastes).

It would seem therefore that the only auspice which truly is guilty of an ‘evil legacy’, or at least, the reprehensible legacy of having openly applauded the world’s most definitively evil legacy of all –Nazism– is the Daily Mail –and to this very day, the nation is still waiting for a proper official apology from said paper for its heinous associations and rhetoric in pre-War Britain! What is more, if any agency has proven ultimately ‘anti-Britain’ (as the Mail accused the late Ralph Miliband of being), what more blatant example could there ever have been than the British newspaper which came out in support of the Nazi regime of the Thirties, which by that decade’s end would prove this nation’s most notorious military enemy in history? Lord Haw-Haw, eat your heart out!

So here we see once again the recidivist tendencies of the extreme right-wing of this nation today: the pathologically hypocritical, shadow-projection of its own moral and ethical vices and failings onto external targets, specifically, those who stand for an opposite ideology, or those who are simply easy to scapegoat because they are poor, unemployed or disabled and have no voice or means to afford the kind of legal armoury required to take such slanders and defamations made by the rich and powerful to task in the law courts. Dacre’s rag resorts to projecting its own ‘evil’ legacy of anti-democratic pro-fascism onto the memory and posthumous reputation of a man who believed in quite the other thing, in true freedom and liberty under the banner of egalitarian participatory democracy –or rather, socialism; and, of course, as with most of the Mail’s victims, Ralph Miliband has no means to defend himself, being long-deceased –hence his beleaguered son Ed Miliband’s understandably robust response to this truly shameful episode in the ever bowl-scraping standards of our so-called “free press”!

Given all this, The Recusant feels that it is not only grotesquely ironic, and beyond the realm of satire, but also wholly unacceptable, that the ‘editor’ of this savagely offensive rag of a paper, Paul Dacre, is also the ‘Chair’ of the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, thus overseeing the very guidelines which the PCC ‘administers’! Is it any wonder then that our press is at such an all-time low in terms of the gutter-depths it will sink to in order to sell newspapers when an ‘editor’ who appears to think it perfectly acceptable to slander and defame the posthumous reputation of the leader of the Opposition’s father on demonstrably spurious grounds, is also ‘Chairing’ the very Committee which decides the Editors’ Code of Practice!? Having Dacre as Chair of the ECP would seem almost tantamount to appointing Nigel Farage as Multiculturalism Tsar!

This is a man whose reputation is so toxic that in the last two days we have had Labour's ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, without compunction, openly referring to Dacre as a "coward" and a "bully" on Channel 4 News, and Alan Sugar tonight alluding to Dacre as a "dog" on the same programme. One can deduce from this that Mr Dacre isn't exactly much respected or well-liked.

The Recusant believes that, on the basis of the Mailthusian’s poisonous smear campaign against Ralph Miliband, Mr Dacre be removed from his position as Chair of the PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice Committee with immediate effect, since, demonstrably, on the basis of his paper, he is not fit to Chair it. And not only on this basis, but also on that of a whole germ of specious scaremongering and persecutory headlines of said rag in the past three years regarding the unemployed whom the Mail has repeatedly mass-defamed as “scroungers”, “parasites” and “feckless” –all, incidentally, classic Thirties eugenics terms for the poor or perceived ‘social problem groups’– and in particular for its monumentally offensive Philpot ‘story’, ‘VILE PRODUCT OF WELFARE UK’, which egregiously implied that the wholly psychopathic act of arson and infanticidal manslaughter of one deeply disturbed and callous individual was somehow the fault of the welfare state, and, by indication, a kind of behaviour potentially latent in all people who are forced by poverty to claim state benefits. Its pro-fascism in the Thirties, “scrounger”-mongering against the unemployed and poor, rhetorical persecution of the Atos-hounded sick and disabled, and defamation of the memory of a deceased person, simply because it doesn’t agree with –or remotely understand– his politics, Dacre’s rag certainly does deserve the mantle of the Daily Mailthusian.

2 October 2013

The Recusant asks all those potential contributors still waiting for responses, as well as those publishers and poets who have sent in review copies of their books, to please be aware that everything will be thoroughly looked at and responded to in the coming couple of months, for potential posting up on TR. Due to commissions and projects which had to be finished to tight deadlines falling in the first days of September, plus another commissioned project for a deadline at the beginning of October, plus a set of other unforseen demands on his time, the editor has been unable as yet to focus as much as he would have liked on TR matters. But, as mentioned, will be doing so as soon as he possibly can. He has however managed to bang out a fairly up-to-date polemical editorial (here below), in spite of his attempts to avoid the news at the moment -but some things just have to be addressed at the time...

Right-Wing Red-Top Mythologising of the Past Sinks to New Depths of Rhetorical Chicanery –Hardly “Red Ed”, But Certainly ‘Redder Ed’

It shows how chronically right-wing our society has become that what was basically a rudimentary social democratic speech made by Ed Miliband yesterday (24 September) is presenting in the frothing-mouthed red-top tabloids of the following day as proof that Labour is “lurching Left” into “radical socialist” territory (if only!) and “back to the bad old days” of… well, of what exactly? Of standing up for exploited workers? Of refusing to drift into the pernicious “scrounger” stigmatisation game against the unemployed? Of suggesting the basic sanity of energy price controls when this country is being royally ripped off –to the cost not only of escalating bills but also actual deaths for the poorer pensioners during cold weather– by six parasitic energy companies?

But the crowning condemnation came from the Daily Mailthusian with the following absolute belter, which betrayed said rag's blatant disregard for values of basic industrial decency and its own deeply misanthropic and reprehensible sense of political principle: 'Fixing energy prices. Grabbing land from property firms. Boosting minimum wage... Red Ed revives '70s Socialism'!!! Shock, horror! How dare any political party in in the Feudal Fiefdom that is the UK today dare to argue for 'Boosting the minimum wage' to something approaching a living one! That's not the way to "Make Work Pay", by actually paying a bit more! The Mail didn't get where it isn't today by going soft on workers and actually letting them earn enough to live on! And as for 'Grabbing land from property firms' -what about those property firms' mass land-grab for private gain at public loss? The Mailthusian has singularly given Ed Miliband and Labour one of the greatest political encomiums in recent history. No need for 'One Nation' Labour to do any self-promotion of its policies: it has the Mail to do it for them!

Any threat of a future Seventies-style ‘lights out’ is not being asserted by Miliband, but by the venal, sociopathic energy companies and their fellow bloodsuckers, “the Markets”, on whose self-enriching and publicly impoverishing whims, demonstrably, all Western so-called ‘democracies’ have to tailor practically most of their policies. Our lords and masters, “the Markets”, stamped their feet today in a share-plummeting tantrum against the proposal for energy price controls by Labour yesterday, which once again illustrates how our ‘democracy’, and all others in the Western world, are being held to ransom by an anti-democratic, unaccountable and invisible species of asset-stripping parasites.

So much for democracy in the kleptocratic age of the Market plutocracy –now at least we know the basic dividing lines between both main parties: the Tories stand for two/three nations and the continued marketisation of democratic sovereignty; while Labour stand for, so we’re told, ‘One Nation’, the re-democratisation of a corrupted, bought-up society, and against the vested interests of the super-rich elites and private sector parasites. The only “bad old days” are already with us, they are what we are currently living through: austerity for the struggling many, and parasitic one-upmanship for the super-rich few, including the very hedge funds and banks that caused the recession in the first place!

But the Mail really ought to be careful when talking about “bad old days”: its own form in this regard is hardly sparkling –if we go back to, say, the Thirties, we have ‘Lords’ Rothmere and Beaverbrook championing Hitler and fascism frequently through the Mail, culminating in the notorious ‘HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS’ headline of January 1933, praising Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Frankly, the Mail’s fundamental politics have changed little since then, as seen in its frequent use of eugenics lexicon when spouting its hate-rhetoric against the “scrounging” unemployed (only out-competed in such gutter-level stigmatisation of claimants by the uber-right-wing Daily Express, which has of course long ‘opted out’ from the toothless remit of the Press Complaints Commission –so is still at full liberty to use such Malthusian terms as “scrounger”, “parasite’, ‘feckless’, ‘moral degenerate’, and so on and so forth). Not that being within the PCC’s purview would make much difference in terms of lexicographic regulation of the porn Baron’s ‘poor man’s Daily Mail’, since said body is demonstrably impotent. (What’s more, and rather ironically to say the least, the ‘Chairman’ of the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, which is an integral guideline to the remit of the PCC, is apparently one Paul Dacre! Yes, the very same who is editor of…drum roll…the Daily Mail! Oh, apparently the PCC’s actual judgements have nothing to do with the Chair and Board, and acts completely independently, so it’s all nothing more than a coincidence and we needn’t think about it any further).

But this certainly doesn’t imply “Red Ed”, unfortunately. More ‘Redder Ed’ –but it’s certainly a welcome move leftwards that much of Labour’s rhetoric this Conference has been in contradistinction to both governing parties (as covered by this writer below). As for today’s unexpected but warmly welcome near-unanimous vote of party members for the renationalisation of both the railways and Royal Mail –policies which The Recusant would wholeheartedly support– it appears, tragically, that the leadership is set dead against any policies of nationalisation. Therefore, the rabid red-tops can pause to catch their breaths and heave shallow sighs of relief that ‘Red Ed’ isn’t really that red after all.

While the rest of us, on the left of the electorate, can gnash our teeth at the usual complacent Blairite realpolitik flashing its red lights at the first hint of socialist/true Labourite policy suggestions; or, the more ‘pint half full’ of us, bite our tongues in recognition that if the right-wing tabloids attacked Miliband for “Stalinism” (!) in daring to call for some modicum of public obligation from private-corporate land owners and price-rigging, OAP-refrigerating, energy companies, Marx knows what they’ll come out with after a party motion to reintroduce nationalisation of railways and mail (Heaven forbid: that our public services should actually work for the public again!!) –while also acknowledging that in order to gain even just a slim majority in 2015, Labour still has to play the old moderate-gradualist card and pay some lip service to the usual neoliberal nullities of ‘enterprise’, ‘business’ and ‘partnership with the private sector’ etc. etc.

The least the Blairite dinosaurs could do is find their own nebulous tropes to attempt justifying a continued New Labour-esque agenda –instead we get the usual Cameronian gnomic nuggets of “do the right thing” (i.e. “-wing”) and “fairness” (a subjective term which depends on individual interpretation and perception, hence, in political terms, a completely vapid phrase; not to say, insidious, since would not Messrs Stalin and Hitler both have claimed that their respective political regimes constituted some sort of “fairness”?).

But maybe Miliband is a bit more ‘Red’ than many of us on the left had previously supposed? The Recusant commends Ed Miliband for having stuck to his guns on regulating energy prices, in spite of the attempts at ‘blackout blackmail’ by the energy companies, and also his courageous reassertion of Labour’s core values of “democratic socialism” during a Channel 4 News interview today –which is quite the boldest ideological utterance of any Labour leader since Neil Kinnock, or, quite possibly, Michael Foot. No doubt Miliband and his Shadow Cabinet are growing increasingly worried by the slow but steady rise in support for the new socialist movement Left Unity, which is currently brushing against Labour’s flanks, alongside the Greens –together, threatening to potentially haemorrhage the Labour vote in 2015 if the Opposition doesn’t get its act together and start publicly standing for a true alternative to Con-Dem austerity cuts.

If this is part of the reason, then Miliband is being as pragmatic as he appears to be ostensibly more principled –the mere mention of “democratic socialism” in this current political climate is bold but quite possibly not as ‘risky’ as one might have predicted; and certainly the public would mostly support Miliband’s calls for price controls to rein in soaring energy prices (effectively private sector profits at the cost of poorer pensioners dying from cold for fear of putting their electricity on), and if he can rhetorically segue such popular policy proposals with democratic socialism, then the ideological fight is quite possibly half-won. For if at any time the values of democratic socialism are direly needed, it is in today’s Tory-choreographed ‘Food Bank Britain’ where the poorest in society are being punished even more severely than during the Thatcherite Eighties, and all for a recession and depression which the banks and the rich created.

But really, the bile of the Tory-supporting tabloids only in the end serves to prove yet again how utterly out-of-touch they are with any common notions of fundamental human decency still held by British people; how unashamedly right-wing their own intolerant and heartless politics; how in hoc to the super-rich elites and their own Blofeld-esque billionaire media moguls. And all of this further illustrates how urgent it still is for the PCC to get its act together and for post-Leveson legislation to be prioritised to properly regulate the agents of anti-democratic Tory-partisan charlatanry and hate-mongering that make the extraordinary claim to be a “free” and “democratic” press.

Otherwise, those of us on the left can only thank these vile rags for their backhanded compliment in attributing all the most admirable traits of human nature, such as compassion, empathy, social tolerance, egalitarianism, altruism and philanthropy to the “loony Left”, and the politics of “the bad old days” of full employment, workers’ rights and protections, empowered trade unions, high levels of social equality, private rent controls, council house building, less punitive welfare benefits, nationalised public services, a fully national and functioning NHS, and all those other ‘terrible’ bastions of the social democratic Seventies –that decade so pathetically and spuriously talked down in recent times by such post-Thatcherite revisionist historians as Dominic Sandbrook.

All one really needs to know about the Seventies is this: by the decade’s end, and after six years of Labour rule, the UK was among the most socially equal societies in Europe (if not the world); by the end of Thatcher’s epic reign, and still today, the UK is among the most socially unequal and divided societies in Europe. So, for this editor’s part, if any of the sane and compassionate policy proposals of ‘One Nation’ Labour announced this week signify some kind of “lurch to the Left” or return to the more ideologically distinct politics of the Seventies, then that can only be a true boon to the political, ethical and social stagnation and stagflation of the past three decades or so –in “Red Ed’s” words, in relation to a possible public debate with Cameron in 2015, “Bring it on!”

For what is certainly clear form this very significant Labour Conference is that the majority of actual party members are shifting a few paces leftwards –culmination of the sheer sense of desperation of a Tory-atrophied nation over the past three years, and a collective expression of outrage against such brutalising and life-destroying policies as the bedroom tax and the Atos WCAs (see, again, below). This will present a more serious quandary now for all voters on the left as to whether we trust ‘One Nation’ Labour to truly deliver on all these policies –and, at the very least, spell them each out unequivocally in its 2015 manifesto– and throw in our votes with them for one last ditch attempt to get in a definitive alternative to ‘selective’ Tory austerity, and kick this egregiously right-wing government out of power for good; or whether we go more with our hearts and vote for the Green Party, which is unequivocally socialist in its policies, thereby hoping for perhaps a couple more Green MPs to help rebalance the current centre-right parliamentary imbalance.

Certainly, if more policy announcements along the lines of those mooted so far at the Labour conference emerge between now and 2015, Miliband’s Labour may just about be ultimately worth taking the gamble with. The Recusant is, as ever, in two minds on all this, since it has long emphasized its allegiance to the Green Party, and even more robustly, since Miliband’s twin solecisms of allowing Iain Duncan Smith to push through his unconstitutional and wholly spiteful “retrospective legislation” in order to stop compensation being paid to the illegally exploited claimants coerced into the Workfare Programme, and for his almost unfathomable public stance against the Unions (which makes one Tory tabloid’s claim today, that some of Labour’s new policy announcements are “a sop to the Unions”, irrational, to say the least).

The Recusant hopes for a Green Labour coalition government in 2015 –this would be the ideal outcome available to those on the left of the electorate, especially if Caroline Lucas were given her due prominence in such an administration. So in a sense, depending on one’s constituency, perhaps a divergence of votes for both the Greens and/or Labour might ultimately manage to dovetail ‘statistically’ to such extent that together the two parties could get a majority, and then Labour would not have to countenance working with the Liberal Democrats, as led by Tory-Lite Turncoat Clegg.

Anyhow, below is this editor’s initial response to what has in general been a highly significant and unexpectedly distinctive Labour conference.

Labour Plans to Abolish Bedroom Tax and “Sack” Atos

The Recusant is pleased to see that ‘One Nation’ Labour has pledged to abolish the despicable bedroom tax if it wins power in 2015 –just how much this has to do with true compassion and principle, however, remains open to conjecture, though of itself this is at least a significant step in the right –or rather ‘left’– direction. Nevertheless, the bedroom tax has to be the most unpopular and universally condemned Tory policy since Thatcher’s Poll Tax, probably because it is a tax which cuts across the board hitting voters of all persuasions, as demonstrated in a recent Guardian feature in which a woman under pressure to leave her home of long-standing in spite of needing her ‘spare’ room for her daughter/part-time carer to come and stay with her, confessed she had always voted Tory, but would not do so again, due to this particular policy.

The Tories’ perennial political tactic is to appeal to the self-interest of certain sections of the electorate (normally just about enough to secure them a majority at the next election); however, in the case of the bedroom tax, the Tories are appealing to the self-interest of many of their own voters, only in a self-defeating sense this time which might well haemorrhage what vote it has among ‘working-class Tories’ (whom Benjamin Disraeli famously termed his “angels in marble”).

The equally shameful and inhumane DWP-driven Atos Work Capability Assessment regime also hits voters of all persuasions –basically, any voter who happens to be unlucky enough to have a disability. Quite apart from the fact that the DWP-Atos Axis is effectively the closest this nation has yet come to a form of ‘paper pogrom’ on some of the most vulnerable citizens in society, it is also, strategically-speaking, as potentially ruinous for Tory electoral chances as the bedroom tax. Both heinous policies –which would have been unthinkably atomistic and callous in any other period than today’s remorseless Tory ‘Austerity Drive’– combined to form a pincer-movement of material attrition against the most defenceless people in this country. Together, they starkly illustrate the absolute moral and ethical nadir of British politics, every bit as destructive and heartless in their ways as the Poor Laws of the 19th century.

So unpopular and frowned-upon are these two policies that even some of the Tory rank-and-file are openly opposed to them –even if in the main mostly those who have been directly affected by them (again, the ‘self-interest’ factor). But even so, wealthy TV chef and inveterate Tory voter Anthony Worrall-Thompson called Ken Clarke “a hard man” on last week’s Question Time, for arguing that the bedroom tax was “logical” (as no doubt Clarke would also describe his unconscionable removal of private rent controls in the early Nineties –which made Laurie Penny’s impassioned impeachment of Clarke and his government for imposing said tax instead of building more homes and introducing rent controls all the more ironic since she omitted to point her finger directly at Clarke across the table for having singularly removed them in the first place –so not a case of ‘introducing’ rent controls, but of ‘reintroducing’ them). W-T said, “I’ve always been a Tory, but when it comes to this iniquitous tax, I’m not”. This is how unpopular this tax is, that even some hardened Tory voters instantly distance themselves from it if asked about it.

The big question for Labour is, had the bedroom tax proved as popular as the welfare caps have with the public, and so controversial as to draw public condemnation and referral to the United Nations human rights council in Geneva in early 2014 from UN official Raquel Rolnik, would we have heard the two Eds and –shock, horror!– even Liam Byrne, robustly calling for its abolition at this week’s Labour Conference? Possibly not…

Though having said all this, if there was not a germ of genuine strong feeling against the bedroom tax among Labour politicians, then they’d not have bothered announcing this pledge, whether the tax was unpopular or not. Ditto with Byrne’s quite unexpected and –rhetorically, at least, seemingly– passionate denouncement of the Atos regime, call for its abolition and promise that Labour would effectively “sack” Atos from conducting the WCAs it if it got back into power in 2015 (though no explicit promise to abolish the WCAs altogether). Of course, it was New Labour that first put out the WCAs to tender with Atos, so Byrne hardly speaks on behalf of a completely innocent Party –though at least Labour now recognises the true monster it helped unleash, which the Tories have subsequently capitalised on to equally monstrous proportions.

It was however good that Byrne also highlighted the fact that hate crimes against the disabled are at an all-time high –something for which David Cameron in particular, having once had a disabled son, should be particularly ashamed of happening under his premiership (once again, the old Tory ‘self-interest’), only made worse by his unbelievably disingenuous “people now see the child not the wheelchair” Paralympics speech.

Both these two morally reprehensible policies are seemingly a rogue duo in terms of attracting much public opprobrium, while the wider welfare ‘reforms’ and caps remain disturbingly popular. Nonetheless, the Tories have not only morally but also strategically miscalculated with the bedroom tax: it is the one welfare policy to have resonated with the public in quite the opposite direction hoped for and anticipated by the Tories: that the British public –still sadly tainted in attitudes by the long handbagged arm of Thatcherism– are not yet quite so unfeeling towards others’ misfortunes as to wholeheartedly support the Malthusian experiment of forcing hundreds of thousands of families out of their –in many disabled cases, specially adapted– homes into non-existent smaller properties, which is thus resulting in increased child poverty, temporary shelter in B&Bs, or even street homelessness. That there is this growing distaste among the public at the repercussions –and basic inhumanity– of both the bedroom tax and Atos regime, at least gives the rest of us to the left of the electorate some sense of last ditch faith in our fellow countrymen.

And The Recusant has to admit that even it has been pleasantly surprised by most of the countervailing rhetoric of the Labour Conference. Perhaps, being held in Green-held Brighton, some of that party’s true socialist values have psychically brushed the Labour spokespersons. Liam Byrne, indeed, appeared to tub-thump like a man possessed at the podium, and, much to this editor’s happy perplexity –given his past record of often simply echoing his parliamentary opposite’s grotty “scrounger” rhetoric– mainly in contradistinction of principle to Iain Duncan Smith.

Byrne even mentioned Clement Attlee (citing him as his “personal hero”!?), rather than only citing, as he always does, mixed-motivated Liberal social reformer William Beveridge. But most astonishing –and welcome– of all was his absolute condemnation of the Atos regime, its devastating effects on the disabled of this nation, and his attack on the rhetoric of “demonisation” (even if he himself in times past has indulged in such underhand tactics to make Labour seem as “tough” on welfare as the Tories) –is this Byrne’s belated ‘Damascene moment’? Perhaps it is; since he also made a point of lambasting Michael Gove for blaming people using food banks for their own impoverishment, as well as swiping at Lord Freud for his laughable comment that Britain’s young people “lack grit”, with the rejoinder that the working-class youth he provides a surgery for in his constituency in Birmingham “certainly do not lack any grit”. This is precisely the kind of counter-rhetoric in today’s poisonous welfare ‘debate’ that we need to hear from the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister –absurdly belated though it is. And is all this sudden awakening conscience among the front rank of Labour, indeed, a little bit too late in the day?

Well, maybe not. Time will tell. And there is still well over another year until what feels like the most distant general election date since those of 1987, 1992 and 1997 –the difference this time being that we now have fixed-term parliaments, so have known from the outset of this atrocious administration that its attacks against the poorest of our nation would last a full five years. While The Recusant is certainly pleasantly surprised to find Labour finally speaking up with some modicum of passion and outrage against the worst excesses of Tory rule, and announcing a raft of fairly centre-left policies for the 2015 manifesto, we are still ethically unconvinced by mention again of the Jobs Guarantee for all under 25s unemployed for up to two years, since this will entail much coercion and could well end up forcing hundreds of thousands into work to which they are completely unsuited –with no proposed flexibility, or onus on government to match peoples’ skills with appropriate occupations, and the Damocles of removing all benefits from anyone who refuses to take up a job offered for the aforementioned reasons, The Recusant cannot support this particular policy proposal. Labour has always worked in the past on the principle of Full Employment –which is a commendable principle, but only if it entails people being offered jobs to which their skills and abilities are at least partially suited; otherwise, such a policy will only make for a future misplaced and disgruntled section of the workforce. Graduates stacking shelves in Poundland will simply not do.

It remains to be seen what the more robustly left-wing Green Party would propose on the employment front for Britain’s million unemployed youngsters, but The Recusant suspects it will entail a much more organic and humanistic approach to Labour’s still rather utilitarian and industrially pragmatic stratagem. All this said, The Recusant was broadly uplifted by much of the rhetoric in Ed Miliband's extemporised speech (albeit much less enthused by the rather tiresome leitmotif of "Britain can do better than this"), particularly in its attack on the Tories' despicable 'divide-and-rule' tactics of pitting workers against claimants and public against private sectors (etc.), and, most refreshingly of all, an explicit -though not repeated enough- criticism of Tory "scrounger" rhetoric against those "trying their hardest to find work", as well as the implicit opposition to the scourge of Atos on the disabled. Such -albeit belated- redrawing of the dialectical boundaries at this time is as vital to the wittled spirits of those many victims of Tory scapegoat-culture as it is to any perception that the Labour Party stands for the poor and vulnerable and offers a distinctive alternative to Tory Malthusianism. This is a good start and The Recusant will be watching and listening in the months to come to see whether it does indeed signify a new leftward 'Labour Spring'...

Bloomsday –& Incandescent Farage Is the ‘Purple Hulk’

Touching briefly on the Green Party –which The Recusant still feels is the most viable socialist alternative to the austerity mantras of the three main parties– isn’t it curious how its conference received negligible coverage in the media a couple of weeks ago, while UKIP, apparently the “fourth largest party”, yet without one MP or Council (while the Greens have MP Caroline Lucas and a majority on the Brighton Council), did receive extensive coverage last week. Fortunately, and courtesy of Godfrey “Bongo Bongo Land” Bloom hogging all the attention with his latest round of public insults (this time referring to a room full of female UKIP members as “sluts”) and bashing Channel 4 News’s Michael Crick over the head with a UKIP brochure, Nigel “I’m Cheerful and Avuncular But You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry” Farage (who occasionally turns into the ‘Purple Hulk’ when pushed too far) had one of his plum-skinned tantrums at his podium announcing that the entire UKIP Conference had been utterly ruined by Bloom’s behaviour.

Scratch the jocund surface of Farage and the petit cod-dictator clambers out and, in the manner of Bloom, whom he publicly excommunicated from the party faithful, starts accusing everyone else of being “a fascist” but himself (takes one to know one, and all that…). Having stood at his public platform denouncing any kinds of political extremism and reasserting that UKIP is not a racist party (just protectionist and xenophobic!), it has come to light this week that Farage has banned any members of anti-fascist campaign group Hope NOT Hate from also being members of UKIP –which speaks volumes in itself; as ever, the devil is in the detail.

Liberal Democrat Annual ‘Wilful Blindness’ Jamboree

The Liberal Democrat Conference was of course the usual trans-satirical farce one has come to expect from the Yellow Party in recent years –so astronomical is the hypocrisy, duplicity, spinelessness and self-delusion of Nick Clegg and his Orange Book minions that the party’s conferences now resemble more rallies for the chronically un-self-aware, or vanity conventions for the criminally indecisive. The only highlight was a unanimous rejection –apparently purely in principle– of the iniquitous bedroom tax, in spite of the fact that almost all of the leading Lib Dems had helped the Tories get it through Parliament in the first place. As for Clegg’s pathologically selective ‘No’ speech in his attempt to highlight around 16 of the worst Tory proposals that he and his Orange Book chums had mustered the humanity to block, what can one really say which would any sense bore its way through the thick skull of this pathological self-deceiver than to riposte with the heinous list of those 16 Tory evils that the Lib Dems said ‘Yes’ to, in most cases even before any signs of the thumb-screws being rigged up in front of them:

Housing benefit caps without reintroducing rent controls? Yep.

Social cleansing (“gentrification”) of impoverished communities from inner-cities out into jobless “doughnut ghettoes”? Yep.

Cranking up the Atos interrogations of the disabled, leading to stress-accelerated premature deaths and suicides? Yep.

Criminalisation of squatting in empty properties, leading to prosecutions, and avoidable deaths due to exposure to extreme weather conditions? Yep.

Bedroom Tax? Yep.

Privatisation of the NHS? Yep.

Mass sackings of tens of thousands of public sector workers? Yep.

Imposition of unpaid labour through the Workfare Scheme? Yep.

Blocking of compensation for illegal imposition of said scheme via unconstitutional ‘retrospective legislation’? Yep.

Axing of vital EMAs for underprivileged youngsters? Yep.

Trebling of the tuition fees we promised to abolish altogether before the last election? Yep.

Capping of Legal Aid for the poorest? Yep.

Further emasculation of Union powers? Yep.

Cranking up sentences for alleged “benefit fraud” from six months to a maximum of ten years? Yep.

Allowing the eviction-by-tasers of the Dale Farm community? Yep.

Turning a blind eye to the eviction of the democratically legitimate Occupy camp outside St Paul’s? Yep.

Rowling Speaks Out Against “Scrounger” Rhetoric

Finally, though this writer is no fan of the whole hyperbolised Harry Potter phenomenon, The Recusant wishes to extend its admiration for J.K. Rowling speaking out last week –and not for the first time– against the sheer nastiness and simplicity of the Tories’ “skiver/striver” rhetoric against the unemployed, highlighting her own experience as a once unemployed single mum scraping by on benefits as reason for her sense of empathy and compassion towards those millions of similarly afflicted mothers throughout the country whom this abomination of a government constantly stigmatises (and rhetorically sterilises courtesy of IDS’s announcement that child benefits would be withdrawn for “any third child born”). At least Rowling is one contemporary writer who hasn’t forgotten where she came from –nor the almost grotesquely ironic fact that the Harry Potter phenomenon which made her name and millions gestated during her unemployed days, mostly spent scribbling the quixotic narratives into her notebook in cafes– and who has the spine to speak out openly against the shocking cultural phenomenon of mass-scapegoating of the unemployed, or what The Recusant calls ‘Scroungerology’.

No doubt stigmatising rags such as the Daily Express, Sun and Mail will howl out headlines at some point along the lines of ‘ROWLING FOR SCROUNGERS’ or ‘HARRY SPONGER’, such is the gutter-level of right-wing tabloid polemic today. Yes, Rowling has the safety of her vast fortune to protect her from ever being prey again to the seemingly endemic anti-welfare prejudices of this society, but even so, she has no doubt tempted the spleen of the Tory red-tops in her very public and robust intervention, and for that should be praised highly. Would that other contemporary writers could have the cojones to so openly opposed and condemn the Tory “war on welfare” (A.S. Byatt excepted). Here are some excerpts from Rowling’s spirited criticism of current Tory welfare rhetoric (ironically, reported on by Sky News in more telling detail than even The Guardian managed in its own news item on this subject, consciously omitting to mention that Rowling had once been –shock, horror!– unemployed and on benefits!):

JK Rowling has revealed she felt stigmatised as a single mother on benefits when she was writing her first Harry Potter novel.

The multimillionaire author declared she was prouder of her time bringing up her daughter on her own than any of her other achievements as she attacked the "skivers versus strivers" attitude.

She called on the Government to end its focus on austerity and work instead to improve job prospects for single parents.

Rowling argued affordable childcare, better training and pay, and more flexible hours would all help parents back into employment and stop them relying on the state.
The author, now 48, lived off state handouts in the 90s when her first marriage fell apart shortly after the birth of her first child.

She is renowned for writing the bestselling Harry Potter novels in cafes around Edinburgh, reputedly on napkins because she could not afford paper.

Before she became one of the most famous writers in the world, she worked at a local church for £15 a week and survived on state handouts.

Writing for the Gingerbread advice and support group for single mothers , of which she is president, Rowling told how she felt her self-esteem "slowly evaporating".

"It was slowly dawning on me that I was now defined, in the eyes of many, by something I had never chosen. I was a Single Parent and a Single Parent On Benefits to boot," she said.

"Patronage was almost has hard to bear as stigmatisation. I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as The Unmarried Mother."

Rowling, who said the "Single Parent Tag" followed her when she became famous, added that the constant bombardment with words like "scrounger" has a deeply corrosive effect.

"I find the language of ‘skivers versus strivers’ particularly offensive when it comes to single parents, who are already working around the clock to care for their children," she said.

"Such rhetoric drains confidence and self-esteem from those who desperately want, as I did, to get back into the job market."

She continued: "The Government mantra that work is the best route out of poverty is ringing increasingly hollow, with nearly one in three children whose single parent works part-time still growing up in poverty.

"Rather than focusing on ever more 'austerity measures', it’s investment in single parent employment that will allow single parents to work their own way out of poverty and secure real savings from the welfare bill.

"Nothing outlandish: affordable childcare, decent training, employers embracing flexible hours and a long, hard look at low pay."

She called on ministers to act to help parents and children "whose ambition and potential must not be allowed to dissipate in poverty".

Rowling remarried in 2001 and now has three children.

She has amassed an estimated fortune of more than £560m and is currently working on a screen play for a spin-off film based on a minor character from the Harry Potter books.

With a sigh of sheer exasperation at such right-wing terminology as ‘state handouts’, The Recusant is at least impressed that Murdoch’s media empire should deem this a story worth detailing to the extent of including such extensive and explicitly ‘anti-benefits stigmatisation’ quotes from Rowling. The Recusant hopes Rowling’s compassionate intervention will serve as an example to all other contemporary writers of social conscience to do the same. But then of course, broomsticks might fly!

24 September 2013

IDS copy

LATEST: Tory Bedroom Tax will be reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council in in Geneva in early 2014 as an administrative Abuse of Human Rights, in the form of an official report by Dona Raquel Rolnik, the Brazillian UN special rapporteur on housing, who has had this to say today (11 September) on the impact of the Government's intransigent and inhumane welfare caps (to read the full story visit The Guardian:

The system for helping the poor in Britain had been weakened by "a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged homeownership over other forms of tenure", said Rolnik.

She cited the government's "help to buy" scheme and failure to replace homes removed from social housing by two decades of tenants' right to buy their council homes, adding that "housing needs not housing markets" should be at the heart of government decision-making.

"It is possible to stimulate the economy and construction industry if you provide more social housing and affordable housing," Rolnik said, adding that such a recommendation would be made in her final report.

"The right to housing is not about a roof anywhere, at any cost, without any social ties. It is not about reshuffling people according to a snapshot of the number of bedrooms at a given night."

Stopping short of demanding the suspension of benefit caps, Rolnik said the government must "put in place a system of regulation for the private rent sector, including clear criteria about affordability, access to information and security of tenure".

She also warned over increasing stigma being shown toward Gypsies, Travellers and Roma struggling to find accommodation. She had concerns too about provision for refugees and asylum seekers.

Rolnik did say Britain had set an example in the way it had renovated old social housing estates and praised its mixed communities and lack of segregation.

Rolnik recommended the abolition of the bedroom tax – which the government calls the spare room subsidy – after hearing "shocking" accounts of how the policy was affecting vulnerable citizens during a visit to the UK.

Britain's record on housing was also worsening from a human rights perspective, Rolnik said in a Guardian interview after presenting her preliminary findings to the government.

The former urban planning minister in Brazil said Britain's previously good record on housing was being eroded by a failure to provide sufficient quantities of affordable social housing, and by the impact of reforms to the benefits system.

After speaking to dozens of council house tenants in Britain during her visit over the past fortnight, Rolnik said she was particularly concerned by the impact of bedroom tax. The policy, introduced by the government in April, charges tenants extra for under-occupying homes that are supposedly too large for them.

Rolnik said she was disturbed by the extent of unhappiness caused by the bedroom tax, and had been struck by how heavily this policy was affecting "the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life".


"I was very shocked to hear how people really feel abused in their human rights by this decision and [ask] why, being so vulnerable, they should pay for the cost of the economic downturn, which was brought about by the financial crisis. People in testimonies were crying, saying: 'I have nowhere to go,' 'I will commit suicide.'"

During interviews with council officials, she noted that they were struggling to cope with the fallout from the policy's introduction, not least because there was a shortage of single-bedroom properties into which tenants might downsize.

"It's so clear that the government didn't really assess the impact on lives when it took this decision … The mechanism that they have in place to mitigate it – the discretionary payment that they provide the councils with, it doesn't solve anything: it's for just a couple of months, and the councils cannot count on that on a permanent basis. They don't know if it's going to be available next year, so it's useless," she said.

Historically, "the United Kingdom has much to be proud of in the provision of affordable housing", she said, but its reputation was "being eroded from different sides".

The state had an obligation to "put in place safeguards to protect the most vulnerable. And what I am seeing here is quite the opposite: the most vulnerable are having to pay for these cuts." The country was "going backwards in the protection and promotion of the human right to housing".

Rolnik will present a report with her conclusions to the UN human rights council in Geneva early next year.

The bedroom tax could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing in several ways, she said: for example, if the extra payments forced tenants to cut down on their spending on food or heating for their home. She said her conclusions should carry weight in British courts, where a number of legal challenges to the bedroom tax were under way.

"It depends on how much the judiciary here takes into account the international legislation. In principle they should, because the UK has signed and ratified the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights," she said, referring to the document that defines adequate housing as a human right.

Dona Rolnik even said that the consequences of the bedroom tax in the UK were as "urgent" as tackling the slum dwellings of Indonesia!

With his usual weasel words, Cheshire Cat Tory chairman, and Housing Minister, Grant "Caps" Shapps, indulged in some classic Tory 'shadow-projection' by branding Dona Rolnik's press release (issued no doubt so swiftly due to the rapporteur's absolute shock at the sheer heinousness of the British Government's policies on welfare, such as the despicable bedroom tax) as "a disgrace" -without a shadow of irony, the very term which most accurately describes the morally despicable policies he and his fellow Tory Ministers are imposing on the poorest people in our country. The words kettle, black and pot, as ever, spring to mind.

The Recusant is also heartened to note that a recent Social Attitudes Survey for 2012 shows that public attitudes towards the unemployed are currently softening somewhat for the first time in several years, which might just indicate that the terrible tide of anti-welfarism, benefits stigmatisation and general 'Scroungerology' propagated by Government(s) and the right-wing tabloids, most remorselessly since the Tories greased back to power in 2010, may, at last, be starting to turn... But there is still a long way to go yet before this nation can lay any claim to being one of recognisable social tolerance, where those who are out of work through no fault of their own can browse the newspapers in their local newsagent without being accused, in elephantine letters, of being "scroungers".

Finally, The Recusant hopes that via Dona Rolnik's UN report and its presentation to the UN Human Rights Council in the new year, further actions will be taken to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights, and that those Ministerial perpetrators of such pernicious policies as the bedroom tax will eventually be brought to justice. We also hope that the same, in time, will happen with regards to the atomistic Atos/DWP Work Capability Assessments -and The Recusant understands several complaints have already been made in writing to the European Court of Human Rights on said regime, accusing it of full-scale breach of disability rights.


The Road to Damascus: No ‘Damascene’ Moments for Obsorne or Cameron, just more Monumental Hypocrisy

The Recusant’s conviction that only two possible ‘psychological profiles’ are viable for George Osborne, ‘sociopathy’ or’ ‘psychopathy’, or possible a combo of both, were reinforced yet again by perhaps his most self-deluded, hypocritical and opportunistically sanctimonious slabs of rhetoric to date, on the failure of the Government to successfully whip up a parliamentary case for military intervention in Syria.


I think there will be a national soul-searching about our role in the world and whether Britain wants to play a big part in upholding the international system, be that a big open and trading nation that I'd like us to be or whether we turn our back on that… I understand the deep scepticism that my colleagues in parliament and many members of the public have about British involvement in Syria. I hope this doesn't become the moment where we turn our back on the world's problems.

Where does one start on this piece of world-beating moral hypocrisy? Really, the only way is to deconstruct it, clause by clause:

I think there will be a national soul-searching

A very shaky start from a British politician whom, possibly above all others in living memory (Thatcher included!), would appear to have no ‘soul’ to search for in the first place! Or perhaps that’s precisely his point: to the likes of George Osborne, ‘soul-searching’ is a lifetime’s occupation –though emphatically not in the sense of the anchoritic penitent– since first the ‘soul’ has to actually be located before any additional ‘searching’ of its character and content.

I hope this doesn't become the moment where we turn our back on the world's problems.

From a Chancellor who has singularly ‘turned’ his ‘back’ on his own country’s ‘problems’, particularly those of the poorest and most vulnerable, including 1.6 million children he and Iain Duncan Smith together have consigned to chronic poverty and malnutrition, as a recent report by Save the Children UK has recently uncovered (as reported by Channel 4 News only last week!), such a trope really is beyond hypocrisy! But it is not simply a turned back Osborne has shown to the most vulnerable of his own society: he has turned the full artilleries of hate-inciting anti-welfarism, spurious “scrounger” propaganda, and the politics of resentment and division against the unemployed, working poor and sick and disabled of this nation.

Does Mr Osborne perhaps believe that he can make atonement for the fiscal atrocities he has inflicted on this nation’s poorest innocents by championing ‘humanitarian’ (or, in Toryese, ‘oil-chasing’) intervention on behalf of the children annihilated by chemical weapons, or the infants of the Syrian Diaspora? Anyone with a humanitarian bone in their bodies would, in principle, support the notion of swift humanitarian assistance to the fleeing Syrian children –and adults. The Recusant is certainly in favour of significant humanitarian/UN intervention to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees. But it takes more than rhetorical appeals to human interest by Osborne to atone for his heartless, immoral and frankly fascistic fiscal siege against the poorest of our own nation which he has been at the very vanguard of waging these past three or more years. Perhaps Osborne has nothing to lose but to posture on a podium of sudden ‘Damascene’ compassion for the world’s suffering multitudes, since his own domestic political record is already beyond any bounds of moral redemption; plus, of course, in terms of his choice of phrase, ‘soul-searching’, he is the hollow man of the hour with nothing to lose, since he has nothing to there search for.

But, topping the world-beating Hypocrisy Olympics is our ever-duplicitous and opportunistic prime minister, David Cameron. His impulsive extemporisation quoted today (6 September 2013), after the (similarly) stone-hearted, flint-faced pseudo-despot of Russian, Vladimir Putin, flatly refused to shift his strategic ground with regards to agreeing to support military intervention in Syria, is rather like reading Dickens’ Mr Pecksniff duplicitously attempting a similar speech to John of Gaunt’s ‘emerald isle’ and ‘demi-Paradise’ monologue in Shakespeare’s Richard II:

Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the second world war. Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.

We are very proud of everything we do as a small island – a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation.

Again, one has to approach this additional piece of wholly ironic, hollow oratory, from the angle of deconstruction:

Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War…

Now, here Cameron is on extremely shaky ground: there have been voices in recent months in this country that have –with very good reason in this writer’s opinion– opined at how unrecognisably “cruel” our society has become under Tory rule; one such comment was posted on The Guardian not long ago, written by a veteran of the Second World War, who partly implied that modern Britain hadn’t seemed to have learnt the lessons of the very Nazism it helped to destroy in the Forties. He also bemoaned the wholesale destruction of the welfare state and NHS –tonic keys to this nation’s moral rearmament after WWII.

Added to such justifiable opinions are the plethora of protest and campaign groups against the Tory-driven Atos regime, which has so far claimed the lives –whether through accelerated terminal health conditions or suicides– of scores on scores of the sick and disabled. Among these groups is Calum’s List, and the symbolically named Black Triangle Campaign. The black triangle was the badge the Nazis had stitched to the concentration camp rags of the Jews and all other “undesirables” or “useless eaters” as they so cravenly termed them, including gypsies, the homeless and the “workshy” (arbitschau) –i.e. the ‘unemployed’.

Quite apart from the fact that terms such as “workshy”, “scrounger”, “parasite”, “sponger”, “feckless” etc., straight out of the Thirties’ eugenics lexicon, are today prolifically used in Tory-supporting red-tops such as the Express, Sun and Mail on a weekly basis, these are also dysphemisms, or ‘hate monikers’ which have been employed continually by key government Ministers, including Osborne, since the Tories greased their way back into power in 2010.

Since that date, and the notorious Emergency Budget, the phrase "fiscal fascism" has been used increasingly by various opponents of Tory austerity, until it is now a common phrase which is rarely even questioned anymore by those who support the Tories! Which says it all really. Interestingly, only a month after Osborne’s announcement that he was to oversee the destruction of the British welfare state as a fiscal response to the economic collapse caused by bankers and speculators in the City, over in Germany, or Bremen, to be precise, the Daily Mailthusian reported on the following austerity-driven attrition against the German ‘workshy’ (arbeitsscheu –a term once used unsparingly for the unemployed in Nazi Germany):

The Bremen Working Group for Integration and Social Affairs (BAGIS) is targeting long-term unemployed people on the Hartz IV welfare programme that it feels are 'workshy'.

Nothing too surprising that the Mailthusian should report on this story in such unquestioning terms, referring to it as a ‘bold move’ (where others might say, a ‘brutal’ one), given its own history for rhetorically supporting early social incursions of fascism in the pre-war 1930s, cue its notorious "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" leader in January 1934, when the paper praised Oswald Mosley for his 'sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine'. Nevertheless, this was an uncanny description of ‘Mosleyism’ given the future (sadly our present) Tory policies of “social cleansing” of the unemployed and poorest, and IDS’s adoption of the very same punitive and dehumanising methods of modern day Bremen’s BAGIS with regards to his dispensing vouchers to Britain’s out-of-work (though losing out on his proposal for uber-stigmatising payment cards).

As arch-archimandrite of this new British ‘fiscal fascism’ (alongside Osborne), the prime minister is hardly then in any position to spout tributes to his nation’s historical opposition to full-blown fascism, since his own economic policies are themselves fascistic in attitude and application.

Equally, Cameron is on very shaky rhetorical ground to invoke another previous British achievement:

Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery

Under his government, this nation has started to tip back into a social apartheid unseen since the Thirties, and even worse than in the Eighties –where his government’s Hydra-like attack on the securities and rights of the poorest (the mass emasculation of the welfare state, the caps and cuts, the bedroom tax, the axing of ESAs, the trebling of tuition fees etc.) has now ensured that this country is set to become even more chronically unequal in terms of income and life opportunities than at any point since before Second World War!

Added to this, and thanks to IDS, Cameron is also ensuring that Britain returns to a form of ‘slavery’ in all but name, with the mandatory and unpaid ‘work placements’ imposed on tens of thousands of the unemployed, not to mention those claimants bullied into full time volunteering or conned into unpaid exploitative ‘apprenticeships’ and ‘internships’ –more like interring in the new corporate Gulags of the Workfare State!

[That this is a week, too, in which IDS has made a proverbial ‘dog’s breakfast’ of his Universal Credit (or rather, Debit) pilot in Tottenham (surprise, surprise, the key locality of the August 2011 riots sparked after the shooting of Mark Duggan), while, naturally, taking the typically spineless recourse of all Tory Ministers to blame their civil servants (rather similar to Cameron blaming Ed Miliband, Leader of his ‘Opposition’, for scuppering the vote for military intervention in Syria (well, while many of us sadly recognise Miliband’s Labour is increasingly more a ‘Contra-Position’ as opposed to ‘Opposition’ of the Government, this doesn’t mean therefore that its Leader should fall in line with the Tory whips as well!). IDS -as with his other Tory counterparts- is always happy to take the credit when things go well, but dish out the blame elsewhere when, more often than not, they go pear-shaped. So, the big question is, in time, will IDS want to take the credit for Universal Credit, or not? It was his idea after all!].

Anyway, back to Cameron’s latest trans-satirical rhetoric –another world-beating trope was:

…[Britain is] still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.

The same art and literature which is being slashed left, right and centre with swingeing Arts Council cuts imposed by Cameron’s government!

…a small island that has the sixth-largest economy

Yes, thank you Cameron for admitting that we still –in spite of the mythical ‘budget deficit’– have the world’s ‘sixth-largest economy’ which, shamefully, also has one of Europe’s widest wealth divides and most escalating rates of child poverty and street homelessness, with British schoolchildren fainting in classrooms for having had no breakfast, and ‘food clubs’ having to intervene to mop up their malnutrition during school holidays –all thanks to the morally despicable welfare caps and anti-squatting laws. The sixth-largest economy in the world is also, on the flipside, a new ‘Food Bank Britain’! What does that say about the UK’s sense of moral priorities Mr Cameron?

But by far the most heinous coinage of Cameron’s, frankly, given the parlous state of this nation at present in terms of inhuman levels of poverty and inequality, beyond the realms of comprehension, is that “Britain is a small island with a big heart”. For all the reasons aforementioned, The Recusant defies anyone this side of moral objectivity, and sanity, to see such a trope as anything other than a gross insult to the barely endurable realities of hardship millions of families in Britain face today against a seemingly heartless and brutal state that only heaps stigmatisation on the neediest while incrementally peeling away their already inadequate benefits; not to say, one of the most breathtaking pieces of hypocritical political rhetoric ever uttered. Britain, today is, sadly, and to fly in the face of popular delusion, more a case of a 'Big Society with a very small heart', or 'purse', depending one's metaphorical preference.

Teather at the End of Her Tether: Lib Dem MP Whistleblower’s Left Turn to Quit Her Party Due to its Right Turn

At least one contemporary MP, hitherto of the Coalition front benches, where she always seemed uncomfortable, has had her true Damascene moment, and fairly publicly, and that is Sarah Teather, who has just announced that she will be standing down at the next election due to insurmountable disillusion with Orange Liberal Clegg’s spineless capitulation to the Tories throughout the past three or more years on everything from student fees through welfare caps to borderline-xenophobic immigration policy. In other words, Teather is pretty much a genuine, ideal-driven politician, who, contrary to modern parliamentary trends, actually holds political principles and believes it is the politician’s role to shape rather than chase public opinion. In short, she has a political conscience, not to say an all-round moral conscience, and is perhaps one of the very last remaining (Social) Democrats within the broadly yellow- –or rather Orange– -bellied ranks of the Liberal-dominated party.

The Recusant has praised Teather before now for her brave and principled public criticism of and opposition to the worst right-wing excesses of Coalition policy: most of all, the apparently “most popular” policy of them all (which really says very little worth repeating about the overall ‘character’ of post-Thatcherite “Britishness”): the welfare caps. Indeed, Teather has been much more vocal in opposition to the Malthusian dismantling of the safety net of the welfare state than practically any politician in the so-called ‘Opposition’ itself.

Further, it is precisely such compassionate attitude towards social policy, particularly those aimed at the unemployed, that Teather’s kind of ‘Lib Demi-ism’ attracted so many left-wing voters in 2010, disillusioned with the Purnellian-cum-Byrnnian ‘deserving/undeserving poor’ rhetoric of the dying days of New Labour –and it was precisely on such a platform of offering social ‘sanctuary’ to the poorest and the unemployed, who were otherwise the political footballs of the two main parties, that Clegg cynically postured on in order to soak up votes from those on the left of the electorate fed up with Labour’s centre-right neoliberalism.

Hence Clegg’s epithet will ever be “the vote thief”, as well as “the Great Betrayer” of Lib Dem ‘values’ in a similar sense as James Ramsay MacDonald was seen as betrayer of the Labour Party on his forming a National Government with mostly Tories during the last Great Depression. His deputy, Arthur Henderson, broke ranks and took Labour with him into principled Opposition.

Unfortunately for Teather, no other prominent Lib Dem MPs would seem to posses the cojones to follow her in such a move, and so she has been left to stew in the isolation of sole party ‘whistleblower’. That this has led her not only to make a very radical career move by actually announcing she’ll be standing down altogether at the next election, but to admit to the fact she has actually been suffering from genuine depression over the past few months due to her sense of being torn between vestiges of loyalty to her party and leader, and her own personal set of principles (or rather the fact she actually HAS a set of principles, which clearly her leader does not, except for once a year while standing on his podium at the Lib Dem conference), shows that she has a genuine social and political conscience –and, unfortunately for her in terms of career, this is utterly incompatible with current Coalition policy.

The Recusant also does not believe that this is in any way a cynical move on Teather’s part: ironically, she is perhaps one of the few remaining Lib Dem MPs who would almost certainly retain her seat in 2015, simply because of her public criticism of and opposition to the most heinously unethical and destructive of Con-Dem policies (i.e. welfare and immigration), and, moreover, is clearly highly valued for such compassion by her constituents.

Anyhow, The Recusant salutes Sarah Teather for her principled stand against the deeply disingenuous and ethically bankrupt Orange Book ‘Blue Liberalism’ of her party’s leadership. We also quote here some extracts from her resignation interview with The Guardian, highlighting –as said paper curiously didn’t– that perhaps Teather’s chief concern has been and remains on the punishing welfare policies, while it would seem that a combination of more recent scaremongering against immigrants along with Whip pressure to vote for Syrian intervention, proved the proverbial straws that broke the camel’s back:

The official line on immigration has clearly moved a mile from where we were in 2010, miles from where we were when we were arguing for an earned route to citizenship and were clearly and unambiguously a liberal and pro-diversity party. Yes, we wanted a better-managed immigration system with exit checks, but we didn't faff around with our language, pretending that we were something we weren't.

Everyone in the party has to take responsibility for that… I was in the most ridiculous position as a government minister, trying to get a campaign going on the outside in the hope that it would help negotiations happen on the inside.

Each time I went out and said something that was different, against the party, there was an agonising process of reflection before I did it. …If you have fallen out with your party, if you hate your party leader, you can do it, but if you haven't fallen out with your party leader, and you respect him and think he is basically a decent bloke, and you really know you are a Lib Dem, it is terribly difficult. It was making me exhausted. I was spending hours worrying about how to balance fighting for what I believed in and being true to the stuff that took me into politics, while not being disloyal to my colleagues.

I don't want to say it is impossible for other people to do it, but for me, with my resources, with who I am, with my constituency, I personally can't see how I can make this sustainable for the next 10 years and behave like a normal human being that I like.

And from a summation in The Observer this Sunday, starting on the vexed subject of non-EU immigrants having to pay a £1,000 deposit on their visas:

It was an absolutely black moment. I couldn't even move from my seat when I read it. I was so depressed I couldn't even be angry. I was utterly desolate

And on the £26,000 benefit cap, which she believes is a “political stunt”, apart from being ethically bankrupt:

It was the moment of realising that my own party was just as afraid of public opinion as the Labour party… Something did break for me that was never ever repaired.

When I joined the party I had this really strong instinct that it was the party of social justice and liberalism. It was the only party that operated in that space. [But now] It is about the reactive pursuit of the latest poll irrespective of what is right and wrong.

What really gets me is that we remove ourselves from any responsibility for forming public opinion … You achieve change not just through policy but by presenting arguments and having debate and leading debate, and using all the platforms you have in television, parliament, the media. All of those things form and respond to public opinion.

The former charity worker, who served as minister for children in the coalition until 2012, shot to prominence when she won the safe Labour seat of Brent East in September 2003, overturning a 13,047 Labour majority.

And on Whip pressure to vote for military intervention in Syria on the spurious premise of “party loyalty”:

If it was a minor aspect of administrative policy then fine – talk to me about loyalty. But if they are wanting to launch military action on another country you can't tell me I need to give permission on the basis of loyalty…

The Benches Could Always Be Greener

If only there were a handful of other prominent MPs –the couple of dozen left-wing Labour backbenches excepted– with Teather’s sense of compassion, moral scruple and belief that politicians should shape rather than ape –largely tabloid spoon-fed –“public opinion”, then our parliament wouldn’t be the general infestation of pin-striped opportunists it is at present, and there might still have been some hope left for a resurgent British social democracy. Unfortunately, “crossing the floor of the House” isn’t really much an option for Teather either. Tragically, the Labour Party as it currently stands isn’t exactly the most inspiring of alternative affiliations for Teather, given its own ongoing political opportunism and self-immolating idiocies of ‘shadow’ policies.

Chief among these, of course, is the absurd and pointless breaking of the automatic ties with the Trade Unions, which, quite apart from now resulting in a massive reduction in party funding, also now promises to haemorrhage the 2015 Labour vote, since most on the Left of the electorate will now most likely defect from the party, due to both its capitulation to punishing Tory welfare policy, and its aforementioned stand-off with the Unions.

That, in the wake of the wrongly slandered local Labour branch at Falkirk and affiliated union representatives being cleared of any wrongdoing, Ed Miliband hasn’t publicly apologised for his hitherto knee-jerk, Tory-sopping referral to a police investigation into possible shenanigans on the flimsiest of premises; or even at the very least publicly acknowledged that his suspicions were unfounded and that the Falkirk branch is indeed completely innocent of any ‘wrongdoing’ –is, well, typical, but still unacceptable, nonetheless. But this is ‘Blue’-Rinse Labour all over. More a ‘One-and-a-Half Nation’ Labour.

Let it be hoped, then, that the likely Diaspora of the Left vote in 2015 migrates to the Green Party –if it did, on a sufficiently large scale, then there could be a slim chance of those green benches going a bit greener still. On which note, The Recusant also, as ever, salutes Caroline Lucas for having rooted herself on the spot at the anti-Fracking protest in West Sussex recently –to cynics, no doubt, a ‘camera opportunity’, but given it involved her being arrested and prosecuted, it’s certainly one with an element of self-sacrifice attached. Ditto Heather: she has seemingly very little to gain in career terms by, well, announcing the spontaneous truncation of her career! These two female politicians are a moral example to the rest, both female and male: a politician is there to shape not ape so-called ‘public opinion’.

In many senses then, both Teather and Lucas, genuine ideological progressives at sea amid an encircling shiver of unprincipled careerist sharks, are almost like symbols or personifications of the electorate itself, stranded as it is between imperceptibly ‘different’ parties all fundamentally tied to an austerity (Con-Dem) or austerity-lite (Labour) centre-right patch of turf. But those such as Teather and Lucas know full well, as many others do, that there is an alternative to austerity mantra, and, fortunately for all of us, are both courageous enough to stand up and say so.

6-8 September 2013


Bumper Editorial for the Moribund Month

‘Zero Hours’ Recovery/ ‘Buy-To-Let’ Bounce

And so it is written that in the first week of August 2013 it will come to pass that after three interminable years of stagflation and punishing austerity cuts, of mass sacrifices of the poorest and most vulnerable in society under the swingeing Damocles of welfare caps and bedroom taxes, those long-mythologised ‘green shoots’ are starting to finally poke through, apparently signalling a slow but building economic ‘recovery’. If this is to genuinely be the case, then it is a great pity that so many victims of the three-year Conservative-driven evisceration of the welfare state and the public sector will either not be around to see it (at least, those scores of stress-accelerated deaths and suicides among the Atos-hounded), or too preoccupied by their crippling poverty, homelessness or sectioning to even notice.

But it’s not only on the backs of the most vulnerable in society that any alleged ‘recovery’ might be finally underway: this artificial economic ‘bounce’ is explicitly being fuelled by a new property bubble and boom in the parasitic atavism of ‘buy-to-let’ landlordism (the very same venal behaviours which helped trigger the original sub-prime-mortgage crash in 2008), as well as on such neo-Dickensian fiscal tricks as slashed wages, mandatory ‘voluntarism’, unpaid ‘work placements’ and ‘apprenticeships’, slaughtered employment rights and securities, and the newest prolific affliction of industrial enslavement, ‘zero contract hours’.

In short, Chancellor ‘Slasher’ Osborne is the modern day equivalent of an Aztec High Priest, promising us a return to fecundity and a richer harvest in future as a reward for countless human sacrifices, sans anaesthetics, at his altar of Mammon. But not only in the past sense: any ongoing ‘recovery’ will inescapably necessitate a further bloodthirsty cull of the poorest and most financially ill-equipped in society in order to be sustained –at least, sustained up until the 2015 general election so the sociopathic Tories can scrape back into power for a further five years of its Fiscal Fourth Reich.

If the British do indeed vote the Conservatives back into power, even to the possible apocalypse of scraping a small majority, then it truly is curtains for this society and the last vestiges of social democracy –all will be obliterated to make way for the new Malthusian Dawn of Haves and Have-Nots on a scale not seen since Victorian times. That Baron Osborne has resorted, in the end, to artificially stimulate yet another pointless housing boom –at a time when only the super-rich can afford to collect up property-empties to exploit more impoverished tenants for hyperbolic rents, when only those earning salaries far, far above the national average can ever hope to secure mortgages, and via the most behaviourally venal and socially divisive means of ‘buy-to-let’ landlordism, truly beggars belief. All apart from the fact that ‘Buy-to-Let’ helped artificially inflate the housing boom which led to the global credit crisis and recession in the first place –this is barmiest ‘Obsornomics’ with knobs on! But, to paraphrase Marxist polemicist Christopher Caudwell commented in his Illusion and Reality (1937), capitalism only knows how to repeat the same bad behaviours as before as it has no other solutions to economic problems than a pathological ‘faith’ in market forces to adjust themselves and sort everything else out in the process.

The parasitic epidemic which is ‘buy-to-let’ –clearly designed to turn as many people as possible in rapacious property speculators/ portfolio-capitalists while reducing the rest to the social status of rent-slaves, goes even beyond the limited and philistine policies of Thatcher: she started touting the carrots of ‘home ownership’ to millions of working-class council house tenants –a tactic aped by Osborne recently in his ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, only in his case it was actually a ‘Help to Buy-to-Let’ scheme– aspiring apparently to a ‘property-owning democracy’; but ‘buy-to-let’ implicitly architects more a ‘property-letting plutocracy’, where a small percent of the population rake it in as exploitative private landlords/property speculators, while the vast majority are permanently enslaved to ever-escalating private rents out of which most can never hope to escape in their lifetimes. Until the sanity and basic ‘fairness’ of private rent controls are reintroduced into this country, most private rental tenancies will be for life –and in most cases, very miserable lives at that.

Even Danny Kruger, evangelist of “hug a Hoodie” and ‘compassionate Conservatism’, and co-architect of Cameron’s mythical ‘Big Society’ project, has just spoken out against the prime minister, accusing him of a spineless, grey-vote-chasing “lurch to the right”. Kruger’s obvious congenital naivety apart, he at least has the spine to speak out when the man he helped to get into power so brazenly betrays every single so-called ‘value’ he once stood for by replacing his halcyon ‘vision’ for a future society of mutual cooperation and sink estate tearooms with what is effectively a social apartheid of “gentrified” inner-cities for buy-to-let speculators and the super-rich and state-abandoned “doughnut ghettoes” for the poor and unemployed (the latter quite literally “cast into outer darkness”, to use the phrase of a UKIP member in terms of what would be an unfairly extreme thing to do to Godfrey ‘Bong-Bongo Land’ Bloom, while his party’s core policies are all about casting immigrants and refugees into outer darkness!).

“I'd like to know where David Cameron's compassionate Conservatism has gone. I would regret an election campaign that focused on skivers and sending immigrants home”, says Kruger, in a staggeringly humane outburst coming from someone who is still essentially a Tory (though seemingly more a Disraelian throwback/‘One Nation’ Tory). He also rails against “criminals” being talked about as “objects of contempt” –absolutely, and The Recusant very much believes too in a rehabilitative justice system. But what about the even more heinous contemporary meme of rhetorically ‘criminalising’ unemployed claimants, and the literal criminalisation of street-homeless squatters –thanks to “Weatherley’s Law”!? (This writer has the misfortune to have Mike Weatherley as local MP –since his anti-squatting legislation went through parliament, there have been scores of homeless deaths from extreme weather conditions reported in his constituency alone –not so much a ‘Weatherley’s as ‘Leave Them Out in All Weathers’’ Law. But at least Hove is, currently, still under a mostly Green Council).

But good for Kruger for flagging up his sense of disgust at Cameron’s bare-faced “lurch to the right” –even if, as far as The Recusant is concerned, this “lurch” happened practically a few weeks after this godforsaken Faustian Pact of a ‘Coalition’ first came into power in 2010: the (risibly low) standard was raised with Ubermensch Osborne’s “Emergency Budget” and its declaration of fiscal war on the poorest in our society with a proposal to decimate the welfare budget. So perhaps Kruger’s ears should have pricked up back then rather than three years later…?

For once, there appeared to be two socially incisive newspaper commentators on the BBC News paper round-up on Sunday night: one, a woman dressed in red (apologies but The Recusant didn’t catch her name or journalistic affiliation), declared quite appositely that the real scandal of the Daily Oppress’s –sorry, Express’s– latest anti-“scrounger” front-page at a revelation that some police are currently issuing food vouchers to people hauled in for attempting to steal food from shops, as in itself “the real scandal”, in terms of contemporary punitive attitudes towards the poor. She furthered that the other “real scandal”, of course, is that in one of the richest countries in the world, hundreds of thousands of families –both out of work and in-work – are struggling to feed their children during the long summer holidays (a time when, as she compassionately pointed out, children should be enjoying themselves) and are dependent on food banks. Quite right. Yet one suspects that even in a society where the poor were rounded up into concentration camps, the Daily Expunge -sorry, Express - would only be complaining about the injustice of taxpayers having to foot the bill for all the barbed wire!

But, so many people in our society seemingly lap up such unadulterated hate rhetoric from the venal red-tops –it’s the public’s daily vicarious venting of misdirected spleen at shadow-projected “scrounger” scapegoats which are in truth simply the mythical personifications of the callous complacence and repressed misanthropy of their own psyches. It’s the daily “three minute welfare-hate” that succours the very worst aspects of the collective unconscious; a dark catharsis which depends on the continual maintenance of a “scrounger” mythology (or ‘scroungerology’) by which ‘the public’ can purge their most negative thoughts and feelings and externalise them into figurative giro-signatured ‘thought forms’. [In this sense, the recently reported extremes of “trolling” on internet social media is just another example of the exercising of those more primal and brutal impulses of the collective unconscious].

[Stop Press, 15/8/13: So seemingly embedded now is the term "scrounger" into everyday parlance on the issue of welfare that apart from its pathologically prolific use in the right-wing red-tops, it can also occasionally seep into the reporting of some of the more objective and considered news outlets. This writer is sorry to say that a case of this occurred on the otherwise normally highly intelligent and socially incisive Channel 4 News on 15 August: during a report on British citizens with non-EU spouses having to earn a minimum of £18k in order to have the 'privilege' of having the mothers or fathers of their children permitted to live with them in the UK, Simon Israel gauchely commented to one such UK citizen that the reason the Government is being so strict on this is due to worries that said non-EU spouses would end becoming "scroungers off the state". This writer was stunned at such an apparent lapse into lazy journalistic 'red-top'-parroting on what he has up until now regarded as by far the most compassionate and truth-seeking TV news programme -a veritable sanctuary of humanity in what is otherwise a wall-to-wall Tabloid Labyrinth of television news coverage. The question is: was Mr Israel trying to be 'ironic' by openly parroting such a 'popular' pejorative term -or was he simply emptily parroting Tory and tabloid propaganda? This was not at all clear.

The trouble with such an offensive and emotive term as "scrounger" is that it immediately kills any adult debate on the issue of welfare stone dead as soon as it uttered -almost as if the word has the power of some sort of hypnotic spell on whoever hears it. The word is implicitly an insult, a pejorative term used to describe someone who 'borrows (a small amount or item) with no intention of repaying or returning it' (free online dictionary). Even having quoted the official definition here, one notices that, significantly, this definition brackets in the caveat of 'small amount or item' -but anyone reading the average weekly red-top "scrounger" headline, or listening to the Government disingenuously gassing on about alleged "Somalians in mansions" receiving £100k a year in housing benefits etc. one would think that all "benefit scroungers" are regularly pilfering enormous sums of monies (so much so, in fact, that apparently this alone caused the financial crisis and subsequent recession! And that IS being ironic!). Of course the truth is that only about 7% of the entire welfare budget goes on the unemployed. Most of it goes on pensions (or those who have "paid in" as Tories constantly frame it -even though most of the unemployed have also prior to becoming unemployed.

During the past three hellish years, there have only been, in this writer's opinion, three news outlets that have consistently challenged the bogus government austerity narratives and stigmatisations of the unemployed and disabled -and those have been Guardian Society, the Morning Star, and Channel 4 News. It would be a sad day indeed if C4 News, the only remotely objective and socially incisive TV news programme was to tip out from that vital triad of humanitarian integrity -and seemingly due purely to sloppy lapses such as Mr Israel's poorly judged phraseology during one report ostensibly unrelated to the broader welfare debate. This writer sincerely hopes this was an aberration on C4 News's part and will prove -the -hopefully only- exception to the rule in future).

So much for greater press regulation; so much for the Leveson. The Oppress -woops! Express - is outside the remit of the toothless Press Complaints Commission, it has always been in ‘opt out’ default from their auspices, and as yet remains so –though the PCC can sometimes apply pusillanimous ‘slaps on the wrist’ by forwarding on complaints by letter to such contemptuous hate rags. This often results in little chits of constipated solicitor-speak winging their way back to the complainer, circumlocutions of culpability or apology in elliptical legalese. That’s democratic accountability for you!

Yet Another Benefits Documentary: Hammering the Unemployed 1949-Style

The latest programme to sate the rapacious appetite of that contemporary British pathology, ‘scroungerthology’ (this writer’s compressed coinage for ‘scrounger mythology’), comes under a new sub-genre of benefits-baiting documentary one might, by extension, call ‘nostalgia-scroungerthology’. Benefits Britain 1949 pitted several contemporary claimants against what the programme presents as an even more sanctimonious, judgemental and punitive welfare system than today’s ultra-draconian ‘Iain Duncan Smith Ltd.'.

According to this “back to basics” Beveridge-centric timeslip documentary, the benefits available to the unemployed and sick and disabled in the pilot year of the welfare state, 1949, would be, if translated into today’s money, substantially lower. However, this is disingenuous, since –unless this writer missed something– the levels of average household bills and private rents in 1949 were likely to have also been considerably lower than the exorbitant rates citizens, whether in work or not, are expected to pay in 2013.

In 1949, private rents would have been regulated by rent controls, kept in place to protect the poorest tenants from being ruthlessly exploited with ever-rising rent rates, in spite of often woefully inadequate accommodation. Further, by 1949, the essentially socialist Attlee administration had already renationalised many core services and utilities, and the price-hiking nightmare that became privatisation had another thirty years to wait before Thatcher summoned in the exploitative, profit-driven auspices of “the markets” to buy up “the family silver” and gradually deplete quality simultaneous to inflating profit; reducing citizens that were once passengers and service-users to the comparatively neutered and powerless status of “customers” and “consumers” (who have no power to hold the private companies accountable for poor services and high prices, since the bureaucracy of privatisation is infinitely more obfuscating and labyrinthine than ever the old state-controlled nationalised services were).

Slightly disingenuous contextualisation in Benefits Britain 1949 aside, the programme failed to articulate any clear dialectical point to justify its torpid duration; except, seemingly, to put a few more stigmatised benefits claimants on camera to be slowly humiliated and attitudinally stripped down by a pair of paint-stripper-faced, flint-hearted lifetime benefits officers in a mock-1949 Public Assistance office, replete with gunmetal filing cabinets, wooden furnishings and automaton administrators dismantling at their typewriters. The setting was almost like a social-realist pseudo-historical Doctor Who episode –and one wonders just how quick the Tories would be to attempt exterminating the apparently unemployed ‘traveller’ and non-contributory Timelord if they ever got him within their eyestalks! Doctor Who and the Department of Work and Pensions! Or DWP for short.

The emphasis of the programme was on the fact that the original benefits system was almost entirely contributory, a kind of insurance system by which an unemployed person might legitimately –and without conspicuous persecution– claim back the amount they had previously paid into the system in National Insurance, when formerly employed. This implied differentiation between the welfare state of 1949 and what is left of it in 2013 was a tad disingenuous, since the majority of contemporary claims are also based on contributions, and under the Tories, contributions-based ESA, for example, is now time-limited to one year, beyond which incapacitated claimants are only eligible for income-based ESA, which is basically calculated at around half of the former amount. With regards younger claimants on the paltry alms of JSA, who might not have yet entered the workplace, swingeing “conditionalities” are in place today as they were back in the halcyon days of the benefits system: university graduates are generally expected to take up unpaid shelf-stacking “placements” at Poundland stores, while school leavers are shoved on so-called “apprenticeships” and “internships” which are basically exactly the same thing: unpaid labour.

Even Labour offers little better to the Tories with its sugar-coated “jobs guarantee”, which basically means anyone unemployed for over a year is forced to take ANY job served up for them by the DWP, or be stripped of all benefits. The only consolation of this proposal is that at least those coerced into unsatisfactory/unsuitable employment will get a minimum wage, rather than the kick-in-the-teeth of having to work full time effectively for nothing simply to keep receiving an inadequate amount of benefit each week –as under the current Tory regimen.

The programme’s slightly bogus framing of a “contributory” benefits system being peculiar to the early days of the welfare state and, by implication, absent from its twilight in 2013 (which it isn’t!), was most baldly symbolised by a young man who had not yet worked due to being confined to a wheelchair with spina bifida, being casually informed by an oily, almost-drooling, benefits advisor that under the 1949 system, since he’d paid in no NI contributions, he was entitled to receive “Nothing”! Almost reduced to tears, the young disabled man was then informed that he could possibly be eligible for some sort of “public assistance” –which in those days carried a particular stigma, so we’re told– but on the “condition” that he agreed to sign up to some “training” to get him into work (though what work, one could only wonder). The young man was clearly keen to be helped into work, if nothing else, just to graduate from this glaring stigmatisation –as if his genetic disability was some sort of “lifestyle choice”– and ‘moral’ deconstruction of his very existence.

Public assistance, the equivalent of today’s rapidly evaporating “hardship payments” (increasingly transubstantiating nowadays into food bank vouchers), was, in 1949, a lightning-conductor of “stigma”, so the programme kept emphasizing –not to say deeply humiliating, as it normally involved a panel of laypeople means-testing claimants through spirit-depleting interrogation (no doubt the type of courtroom-style auspices the Tories would truly like to return the welfare state to, probably with members of the Taxpayers Alliance sat in judgement).

But it is difficult to imagine any stigmatisation circa 1949 being quite as plain nasty and psychically corrosive as today’s average tabloid “scrounger” headlines and almost Nazistic column inches in such persecutory rags as the Daily Express which casually use dysphemisms such as “spongers”, “feckless” and “parasites” on a weekly basis –terms straight out of the eugenics literature of the 1930s. In the absence of any specific examples of the stigmatisations of the time, the viewer was left to conclude that they were probably a bit milder than those of 2013. In addition to this, there was also no Atos in 1949 to bureaucratically persecute the sick, disabled and mentally ill through what is a state-sanctioned, industrial-scale abuse of disability and human rights.

The programme was also disingenuous in its mention only that pensions in 1949 were calculated at slightly below-subsistence levels: the actual truth is that ALL benefits, whether pensions or unemployment assistance, were from the outset calculated at below-subsistence levels, in order to ensure –as the mantra continues today– that “work pays” in comparison to being on the dole, so as to not incentivise claimants to avoid seeking work. This was the Day 1 Directive of the original planner of the welfare system, the ever-revered Saint Beveridge –a man who, although not without obvious sympathies for the poor and unemployed, did flirt intellectually with early eugenics ideas, and also once let slip in private correspondence that one of the intentions of the welfare state was to construct a kind of fiscal ghetto for the poorest in the hope that they would eventually die out altogether. So hardly a patron saint of philanthropy and altruism!

But more to the point, the ultimate ‘argument’ of this tawdry ‘documentary’ seemed to tap into a typical symptom of the universal British “race to the bottom” attitudes of today, the politics of Schadenfreude so revelled in by the Tory Ubermenschen in Cabinet, that things should be made as punishing and miserable as possible for the most amount of people as possible – a Universalism of Impoverishment (though only one which encompasses the unemployed and working poor): because benefits rates were (allegedly) significantly lower in 1949 than in 2013, contemporary rates should be even more punitively tiny than they already are after the Tories’ imposition of practically psychopathic reductions through the benefit caps and bedroom taxes. Once again the national benefits ‘dialectic’ is reduced to the level of kindergarten sweet-distribution (strictly five sweets maximum for a seven day week).

The programme, then, seemed to impart the sadly commonly held parrot-‘opinion’ of the great British red-top-reading public, that even after the biggest welfare cuts in living memory have ensured a new generation of mass child poverty and families dependent on food banks, benefits are STILL “too generous”!!! At least, certainly if compared to the rates of 1949. Certainly the social recidivists of Channel 4 have chucked yet another lump of “scrounger”-rump at a piranha public for another anti-welfare feeding frenzy.

But not simply ONE lump: as it turns out, this disingenuous nostalgia-fest of “scroungerthology” was only a pilot episode for what will apparently be a continuing series of equally dehumanising viewing –whereas this episode focused on the sick and disabled, the others will be milking the same historical conceit with regards to other ‘unemployed’ types, and one inwardly shudders already at what debasing tribulations are in store for those who dare to exist today as members of that mother of all modern taboos: the able-bodied unemployed, or rather, the “fit to work” out of work…

Rather than serving as an informative sociological documentary series, Benefits Britain 1949 is more likely to constitute the equivalent of a laugh-out-loud sit-com for the Champagne-quaffing, cocaine-snorting pinstripes in the City –something they can settle down to after a hard day’s speculation on other peoples’ money. In this sense, Benefits Britain 1949 will undoubtedly provide a similar service of vicarious poverty-titillation as Steptoe & Son once did for the Sixties’ and Seventies’ nouveau riche. So well done C4 for once again rustling up another deeply disingenuous, misinforming and ‘lowest-common-denominator’ piece of gallery-playing, benefits-baiting tabloid-pulp under the wafer-thin subterfuges of historical reconstruction and sociological investigation.

Left Unity Open Letter to The Guardian

The Recusant finds some consolation in the publication of an open letter by prominent members of Ken Loach’s new Left Unity political movement in The Guardian of 12 August, which starts off on precisely the right footing by immediately berating these seemingly directionless (and poll-dipping) Labour ‘Opposition’ for having ‘failed to make the argument that it was not welfare spending that wrecked the British economy, but a crisis of unfettered capitalism. Miliband cannot even promise to reverse the brutally unfair bedroom tax, which has already claimed its first life with Stephanie Bottrill…’.

This is exactly the sort of compassionate socialist counter-rhetoric that people need to hear at a time when to be unemployed, even if entirely through no fault of one’s own, is practically considered a taboo; and to be too incapacitated to work, a massive inconvenience to be ‘readjusted’ through the bureaucratic, “bounty”-chasing, ‘emergency-surgery’ of Atos WCA tick boxes. (Indeed, so apparently adept is this odious French IT company at miraculously ‘curing’ millions of chronically incapacitated claimants, one wonders whether they secretly douse their ‘clients’ in back-office Lourdes lidos!). Left Unity’s open letter can be read in full here: The Recusant/ Poets in Defence of the Welfare State is a signatory of Left Unity.

13 August 2013

The English Get What They Ask For

Increasingly, three years into Tory Divide-and-Rule plutocracy, apparently still being cheered on by a vast section of the British –or rather, English– public (it’s difficult to imagine similar numbers among the more social-democratically inclined Welsh or Scots being particularly pleased about enduring the most right-wing government in living memory), in particular, such self-immolating policies as the dismantlement of the welfare state and public sector, the privatisation-in-all-but-name of the NHS, and the various pincer-movements on the pay and employment protections of the vast majority of workers –one is led to conclude that the English have entered into a new age of incomparable idiocy, credulity and self-flagellating masochism.

It is perhaps unique to the English of all races that as its society is being asset-stripped for all its worth by a bunch of aristocratic Thatcherites in order to ensure their own future inherited dynasties, and privilege-propping capitalism itself, survive intact, the ‘great British public’ is much more exercised by grotty little rumours of “scrounging” among the nation’s most abjectly impoverished. So while the English “working poor” are pointed towards the unemployed poor as the mythical culprits behind their own privations, the capitalist and upper-class elites busy themselves emptying their pockets while they’re venting their frustrations elsewhere. It’s a classic Tory con trick and works every time –at least, on the English anyway.

That –in spite of escalating poverty, homelessness and suicides– the majority of the English public still supports, even applauds, the remorseless social cleansing induced by the benefit cuts, doesn’t exactly show our nationality in a particularly nice light. It shows a country where the single ‘moral’ conviction of the day is “hard work” –frequently proselytised by the very inherited elites of entitlement which wouldn’t know what this meant if it hit them in the face; and that being “hard working” somehow gives a person the right to vent their taxpayer resentments against any one who is out of work or deemed to not be ‘pulling their weight’, often in the most hateful and offensive fashion.

According to Tory dogma, being ‘in work’ seems to imply one can ‘opt out’ from empathising with those less fortunate, and opt in to attitudinally stigmatising them. And this is hardly surprising given that this Government dedicates 99% of its time to rhetorically stigmatising the unemployed, poor, sick and disabled of society: electorates often parrot their governments and red-tops. This is the new Tory Antinomianism: having a job means a person is one of ‘the elect’, above common morality, licensed to verbally stigmatise and persecute the ‘out of work’.

Was the crux of Christ’s teachings, for instance, rooted in the work ethic? No it wasn’t; he rarely discussed the subject; he was, contrary to contemporary English attitudes, more preoccupied with how we treated one another on a more human level, and not in terms of the contracts of employment or material transaction. When he did discuss the historically toxic issue of tax, he simply said that those in work should contribute some of their wage towards the upkeep of society –so the old “Render Unto Caesar” trope, often cited spuriously by Tories to somehow justify capitalism (!!!), was actually more a socialistic message than anything else. Anti-tax Tories mark your biblical texts! “May those who haven’t sinned cast the first stone” was hardly an aphorism conducive to today’s ‘welfare hate’, for instance; Iain Duncan Smith needs to actually start reading the New Testament rather than continually thumbing through the more punitive blood-and-thunder judgmentalism of the Old Testament.

But being “hard working” isn’t everything. What one actually expends one’s energies doing in terms of work is also important. The Nazis were “hard working” in the concentration camps, but we don’t go around praising their sense of industry! Hard work is all well and good, is certainly something to respect, but not to worship as some moral end in and of itself! Some usurers at Wonga, for instance, might argue that they are “hard working”, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the kind of ‘work’ they are doing is ruining people’s lives. What kind of contribution to society is that? Wouldn’t many of us rather subsidise Wonga –or even Atos– workers by contributing tax to their dole money rather than have them preying on the impoverished and vulnerable? Evidently not: we want everyone to be in jobs, no matter what they are, no matter how useless, counter-productive, or even socially damaging they may be. All politicians of all stripes these days want to “get people back into work”, even though there isn’t any work, at least, not any which offers the rudimentary type of financial and contractual security which protects workers from in-work poverty and the constant threat of unemployment.

On the Wonga issue, while The Recusant applauds Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s robust stance against the seedier and more usurious side of modern capitalism by proposing to “compete” Wonga “out of existence” by setting up Church of England loan agencies with much lower rates of interest throughout the land, we do still find it slightly jarring that the head of the Church in this country should propose to effectively set up his own Christian-sponsored ‘money lenders’ in the proverbial ‘temple’, when their namesake made such a point of physically throwing them out of it. The point Welby is making has not been missed by us, even if it is slightly unorthodox in proposed application; but again it does feel a little bit like relying on ‘the markets’ to automatically ‘readjust’ to less punishing methods of usury inflicted on the poor by the injection of more ‘competition’ in the market place. Ditto with regards to constant arguments for “building more homes” as if by doing so this will automatically reduce the extortionate private rents throughout the land, when really only greater –or rather, some– regulation, such as rent controls, will actually sort this terrible problem out, and much more quickly too.

The unfortunate revelation, only a day after Welby’s perfectly commendable speech against unregulated usury, that his own Church had £750,000 worth of shares in Wonga, was of course beyond parody, and one would think Welby’s researchers should have sifted this niggling fact out prior to his public intervention. But nevertheless, this isn’t something which happened on Welby’s own watched, and he subsequently came out and criticised the investment, promising to reverse it. Let’s hope he does. And let’s also hope that the fledgling Pope Francis also –as he appears already to be doing– very much lives up to his rhetorical promises to be the Pope of the poor, at a period in our history when most governments are appointed on behalf of the super-rich, and the majority of our ‘democracies’ are rapidly becoming more phone-in plutocracies than anything that actually representing any of the rights or interests of 99% of their electorates (who are not so much citizens as porters in a global business park).

Robert Tressel wrote at length about this age-old industrial capitalist trap way back in the 1900s in his classic socialist novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. Tressel specifically wrote about the constant threat of being ‘laid off’ as the perpetual carrot which ensured there’d always be a spare pair of hands to take up one’s position if one complained too much about abysmally low wages and lack of employment protections. The Tories are reconstructing this pre-welfare state ‘sweatshop employment’ culture under the English’s red-top-rubbed noses, and yet most seem to neither notice or particularly care about it. At least, not until they come a-cropper up against it themselves, and then they’ll notice perhaps!?

But not yet. At the moment, only the unions themselves and those on the left are openly opposing current Tory plans to further emasculate any power or influence the unions still have left after Thatcher’s decade-long attrition against them –which, according to recent leaks from her time in office, suggest that many of the police clashing with miners in the Eighties were actually soldiers in disguise!– while Ed Miliband, leader of the ‘Co-Opposition’, has leapt happily into the Tory trap and practically cut loose his Praetorian Guard, whose auspices actually created the Labour Party in the first place!

The latest Dickensian scandal of our time is the revelation that over 1 million workers are under “zero hours contracts”, which are effectively slave licences which offer no guaranteed working hours, protections or even pay! Such impecunious sweated bondage is also known by the Tory euphemisms of “casualisation” and “a flexible work force”, which “makes it easier to employ people” –simply replace ‘employ’ with ‘exploit’. Is it something in the English gene pool which makes us so gullible, unintelligent, subservient, to so spinelessly capitulate to our own financial captivity without at least a bit of a fight? There are pockets of admirable dissent and protest –UK Uncut and Occupy among them– which do at least get the loudhailers out as often as possible and stand outside corporate and retail slave traders in various cities shouting out against it. But the majority of the English seem more preoccupied with dribbling over ermined celebrities and royal babies than standing up for their basic rights as citizens of a supposed democracy –as opposed to subjects of a monarchic plutocracy.

So the Tories’ latest trans-satirical capitulation to their ubiquitous trope “Make Work Pay” is to finally and blatantly ensure that work doesn’t pay at all, with the new “zero-contract hours”. Maybe they should go the full hog and just call them “zero-contact hours”, or rather, unemployment, as that is what work without pay or protection really is. Or maybe they’d term it ‘voluntarism’, ‘internships’ or ‘apprenticeship’.

But call it what you will, exploitation and unwaged slavery are exploitation and unwaged slavery. (Indeed, according to statistics released on 5 August, after only 37 months in office, David Cameron is currently residing over the sharpest fall in basic income for ordinary working people of any other prime minister before him, indeed, since records began! Is this the Tories’ idea of “making work pay” then?). But most of the English seem fine to go along with all this. As long as they have plenty more big sports events, royal weddings and jubilees, and other bread and circuses to distract them from their increasing penury. At times like this, one really does have to fight against the temptation to simply conclude that the English are an incurably boneless, bloodless and oblivious race of subservient bovine.

Such a view is only strengthened by the contemporary epidemic of unquestioning Monarchism throughout the country. It is simply pathetic to witness such a surge in popular affection for the nation’s largest unelected and undemocratic state-burden, in a 21st century simultaneously beset by the second Depression. Once again, P.D. Heaton’s Housemartins’ lyric springs to mind: ‘The people who grinned themselves to death/ Smiled so much they failed to take a breath/ And even when their kids were starving/ They all thought the Queen was charming’. How prophetic Heaton’s trope was back in 1988, since it’s even more relevant in 2013!

That the birth of yet another taxpayer-subsidised royal –in keeping with the times, named ‘George’, though probably more as a tribute to the prolific germination of Georges of the Hanoverian line preceding the present House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha (sorry, the ‘Windsors’!) than a compliment to the Chancellor– whose mere existence ensures the succession of the current royal dynasty, and, in keeping too with the resurgence in cultural chauvinism, a guaranteed trio of future Kings, should be celebrated so unthinkingly across the country and in the media, just about says it all about the germ of imbecility that is modern day ‘Englishness’.

It is also highly significant that Scrooge-like gestalts such as the ginger group the Taxpayers’ Alliance only ever moan about having to subsidise “benefit scroungers”, and yet are perfectly happy, apparently, to perpetually subsidise arguably the nation’s least deserving of benefit recipients –a prolific culture of idleness and entitlement which is perpetuated mandatorily at all of our expense, irrespective of whether we are monarchists or not (most frustratingly for republicans) –who might much more justifiably be termed “scroungers” in the true sense of term, since they are also among the richest of families in the nation, and so hardly need the annual “Sovereign Grant” of millions which is increased just as the food is snatched out of the mouth of millions of impoverished children through the benefit caps. But of course, the royals are singularly allowed the divine privilege of receiving taxpayers’ money but without any of the obligations or ‘conditionality’ imposed on the poorest in society: so the Windsors also dodged the bedroom tax, even though their various palaces and mansions are the most “under-occupied” properties in the land!

[The Recusant recommends all readers to view a shockingly still-relevant 1978 BBC Play For Today, The Spongers, which could well have been shot in today’s welfare-hostile climate –here’s the link: We believe this should be made mandatory viewing for everyone at this time, particularly red-top readers. Sooner or later there will have to be a similar docudrama made which is the contemporary equivalent to this exceptionally powerful piece of television –though actually the basic premise of The Spongers could be used as the template, since very little has changed since then in terms of British stigmatisation of unemployment and disability, rather it has got even worse. One could simply replace the title Spongers with the more up-to-date Scroungers, and also add in a sub-plot about Atos hounding the mother’s disabled daughter for her DLA and ESA].

Far be it for the Tories to focus all their bile and misanthropy purely on the poor and unemployed, the Home Secretary Theresa May has also recently made incursions into the sphere of so-called “illegal immigration” by piloting a circuit of mobile billboards telling any ‘illegal immigrants’ in no uncertain terms to either “Go Home” or “Go to Jail”. Clearly Ms May has been indulging too many protectionist and xenophobic fantasies over her regular turn on the Monopoly board. Ms May has managed to out-UKIP UKIP by sending out a message, very visibly and noisily through the most ethnically mixed areas of London, which even Nigel ‘We’ll Fight Them On The Borders’ Farage referred to as “disturbing”.

Indeed, May’s clunking rhetoric and deployment of ‘immigration officers’ to do a spot of pavement ‘racial profiling’ by performing stop-and-searches-for-passports on anyone with a remotely foreign tincture to their skin (almost like rolling out a national policy based on the old Not the Nine ‘O’ Clock News sketch of the racist policeman pulling people into the station simply for having “curly black hair”), is more in the doctrinaire line of Enoch Powell, or even Oswald Mosley. The trope chosen also shockingly echoes the age-old proverbial line of the average racist: “Go back to where you came from”.

But apparently, according to the average spokespersons of the English Intelligentsia (such as they are), we are an “open-minded” and “liberal nation” –as if to say that our current Tory-cultivated national character of –and increasing global reputation for– anti-immigrationism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-Europeanism, anti-welfarism, anti-unionism, disablism, police corruption, institutionalised nepotism, classism and monarchism are simply peccadilloes or eccentricities which are to be expected of such fundamentally “tolerant” and “inclusive” societies! And Pickles might fly…

6 August 2013

Malthusian Dawn: 15th July 2013: The Cap Has Landed!

The cuts-happy, poverty-punishing Tory-led government officially rolled out its Malthusian universal welfare cap (at £26k per family, no matter the area they live) accompanied by Iain ‘Dunk ’Em’ Smith’s egregious mug and officer-class nasal sneer of a voice enunciating that he “believes” he “is right” and that there is no evidence apparently that the rise of abject poverty, food banks, street homelessness, general destitution and even suicides in the ‘Big’ Society has any correlation with the most draconian and brutal attack on the poorest of this nation since the Thirties. At best this is “wilful blindness”; at worst, social fascism bordering on the psychopathic (or perhaps, more specifically, the sociopathic). In this sense, then, IDS has much in common with the Chancellor.

Claimer to a ‘Damascene moment’ in his vindictive little career as to somehow solving chronic poverty and deprivation in the UK by simply blitzing the benefits system, thereby emancipating the poor from the burden of having to worry about keeping food in their stomachs or roofs over their heads, because they’ll likely end with neither thanks to his despicable policies, IDS can more accurately lay claim to being the epitome of an ‘anti-Damescene’ mutant strain of genealogical ethical regressives; descendants or distant relations of former historic figures who themselves did indeed ‘convert’ to superior moral truths through epiphanies one might term ‘Damascene moments’.

Notable ‘anti-Damascenes’ include the inscrutably right-wing deviser of the Malthusian bedroom-tax, ‘Lord’ David Anthony (‘Darth’ for short) Freud, great grandson of psychoanalysis founder and Marxist Sigmund Freud; right-wing journalist and educational elitist Toby Young, son of left-wing sociologist and Labour Peer Michael Young who coined the term “meritocracy” in his exceptional polemic The Rise of Meritocracy, 1958); and, of course, John Richard ‘3rd Earl’ Attlee, Tory Government Whip in the House of Lords, grandson of the great Clement Attlee, Labour prime minister 1945-51 and overseer of the construction of the NHS and welfare state –how ironic an Attlee is now helping to facilitate the dismantling of the Attlee Settlement itself!

IDS’s own ‘anti-Damascene’ moral recidivism is in evidence when one discovers that he is actually a distant cousin of the writer George Bernard Shaw (d. 1950): Fabian Socialism ignited Shaw’s ‘awakening conscience’, whereas his distant cousin (several principles removed) has found his ‘spiritual calling’ in the pursuit of right-wing Tory social fascism –quite a contrast, then, to his more famous and principled forebear.

The only remote similarity between the two is a tendency towards Malthusianism –with which GBS flirted, theoretically, during the Thirties, along with many of the literati and intelligentsia, both left and right; unfortunately however, even in this regard, IDS’s Malthusian leanings are that bit much more edging towards basic eugenics theory, as both his policies of benefit caps and restricting future state assistance to only two children of unemployed mothers, amply demonstrate.

IDS and the DWP’s latest whiz is suggesting that perhaps unemployed single mothers themselves should no longer receive housing benefits for their own places but be forced to share accommodation with other single unemployed mothers, in some sort of vaguely-sketched ‘kibbutz’ for ‘out of work women’. In fact, taking it a step further, why not go the full hog and paint Stars of David and JUDE on the front doors of all such proposed communes for the ‘undesirables’, just so the “hardworking taxpayers” of the community can see where they live and stalk their doorsteps every day asking them what they’re doing to find work…?

No doubt next the young unemployed will received new DWP-patented condoms and diaphragms with their JSA starter packs –their spiel might go: ‘There’s no benefit cap as foolproof as a Dutch cap! Specially lubricated with a spermicidal gel formulated to repel the most ‘scrounger’-prone of sperms!’

Oh, and Labour’s response to the mass social culling of the unemployed and poor? Well, according to Liam ‘I think I came to the wrong party’ Byrne, the Tories’ benefits caps aren’t going far enough! Apparently Byrne, and the Blairite Re-Entryist Brigade currently bending Ed Miliband’s ear as to yet another rightward shift of the party (not so much ‘One Nation’ as ‘1.2 Nation(s)’ Labour), think that the Tories are letting larger unemployed families off the hook. This is what Byrne had to say:

The benefit cap is a good idea in principle but it’s already fallen apart in practice. Ministers have bodged the rules so the cap won’t affect Britain’s 4,000 largest families and it does nothing to stop people living a life on welfare. The government needs to go back to the drawing board, design a cap without holes and put a two-year limit on the time you can spend on the dole, like Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee.

So, Labour are trying to out-Tory the Tories on welfare, in order to chase after the popular vote –the one which apparently shows over 70% of the British public support the welfare caps but also, in addition, don’t think they go far enough! These days, it seems, nothing is enough for the British until they see the unemployed literally brought to their knees on the streets to polish taxpayers’ shoes. But for Labour, the so-called ‘Opposition’, to so spinelessly and opportunistically support such vicious policies is beyond belief. And that the Tories try to tar Labour as "the welfare party" is truly beyond the realms of recognised satire: Labour is the party that started the vicious Atos Work Capability Assessment regime (which the Tories have now accelerated to the extremes of corporate manslaughter and mass abuse of disability rights), and that rhetorically revived the "deserving/undeserving poor" paradigm under James Purnell -so hardly, one would think, champions of welfare!

Moreover, Labour is being put to shame by the far more compassionate, empathic and socially just interventions of ex-minister Sarah Teather, almost uniquely out-of-kilter with the despicable rhetoric that the rest of the Lib Dem accomplices to Tory rule are guilty of capitulating to. In this sense, she currently stands on her own against the extremes of Tory-driven anti-welfarism - a definitive 'Teather in the Cap' of policy and "public opinion", which she is rightly countervailing, as any principled politician should do if they believe a public perception and parliamentary consensus to be morally wrong! If only Labour would show such moral courage as this one rogue Lib Dem.

Union leader Bob Crow was quite right last week to openly call for all unions to disband from the Labour Party and join together to form a new true left-wing party to represent the “the working people and the unemployed, who have no party to represent them”. Absolutely, if Byrne the Benefit Basher has anything to do with it. And all Labour has achieved by such vacillating 'tough love' on the issue of welfare is for the Tories to suddenly break even with them in a recent poll, which is potentially disastrous for the party, not to say for the country.

As always, the Morning Star has uniquely spoken up in defence of the unemployed against the neoliberal anti-welfare din of the rest of the media, headlining today (16 July) with 'Benefit basher IDS caught out yet again' by Rory MacKinnon:

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was caught lying yet again today after he claimed that homeless figures had "hardly moved" under the Con-Dem coalition. The millionaire minister tossed out the claim in a huff over harsh criticisms on the launch of his new household benefit cap. The £500 per family per week limit, which is lowered to £350 for a single person, has been criticised for its "one-size-hits-all" approach. More than half of the households affected include four or more children, according to the government's own research. The resulting cut will see those families pushed £10.88 a week below the poverty line set by Mr Duncan Smith's own department.

Meanwhile housing campaigners say the inclusion of housing benefit in the cap will sting households for rents that they have no control over. A leaked letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles's office warned the cap would leave 20,000 households homeless, on top of another 20,000 made homeless by the bedroom tax.

But Mr Duncan Smith brazenly told a BBC news anchor today that he did not "believe" the Con-Dems' policies had forced people out of their homes. "The great talk about thousands being made homeless has not come true - the homeless figures hardly moved at all," he claimed. But figures from Mr Duncan Smith's own department show a 10 per cent rise in statutory homelessness in the last year alone. More than 55,300 households were in temporary accommodation care of their local authority at the end of March. The homeless figure in England has risen by around 27 per cent since the Con-Dems came to power in 2010, according to reports by the House of Commons Library, although campaigners say the real number is far higher as many claimants are turned away.

Mr Duncan Smith has a history of misinformation. In April he bragged that "8,000 people who would have been affected by the (benefit) cap" had since got jobs. But the UK Statistics Authority said that claim was "unsupported by official evidence." The arch-Tory bristled at the rebuke - but when questioned again today still could not stump up the figures. "The reality is, I believe that to be right," he fumed.

Meanwhile Child Poverty Action Group's Tim Nicholls told the Morning Star the real problem with housing benefit was taxpayer cash "going to the landlord, not the claimant." Years of politicians' pandering to property speculators meant that in most cases it would be state help for a family's rent that activates the cap. "We need politicians to start taking the tough decisions to bring down sky-high rents instead of punishing the victims of the housing crisis," he said.

What IDS means by "The reality is" is 'My delusional version of reality is' -he being a hermitic inhabitant of La La Land. The MS's editorial 'A shameless bid to divide our class' is equally robust:

Iain Duncan Smith's benefit cap will save only an infinitesimal portion of the annual social security bill, but its importance lies elsewhere. It is a political divide-and-rule weapon designed to put working-class people at each other's throats and assist the Tory Party in its electoral fortunes by portraying Labour as the claimants' party. As Liam Byrne has shown, this is untrue, as though there is nothing Labour would like less than to be described as compassionate towards people denied the right to work. Duncan Smith claims that 12,000 people have taken up work since the benefit cap was on the way.

However, no-one can believe the figures that he bandies around, especially since the UK Statistics Authority hauled him over the coals for declaring that 8,000 people had taken up paid labour because of the benefit cap. This shameless chancer has now adopted the Tony Blair method of argumentation, declaring that he "sincerely believes" what he is saying as though self-delusion somehow equates to fact-based conclusions.

On one issue the Work and Pensions Secretary is correct - his assertion that the "greatest effect" of the benefits cap will be in London and south-east England. That's because of the cost of housing in this region, where housing benefit has proven a subsidy to private landlords who have been able to raise rents through the roof because of a shortage of council housing.

As the government's benefit cap bites, low-paid workers and the unemployed will be gradually forced out of affluent areas. None of this will inconvenience Duncan Smith, whose comfortable situation derives more from marrying well than any professional efforts on his own behalf. Nor will it particularly bother him since he has seen that opinion polls show 72 per cent public support for this calculated attack on people forced to exist on state benefits.

The Work and Pensions Secretary in common with many ministers constantly uses the term "welfare," as though to confuse the system in Britain, based on taxation and national insurance, with the various "handouts" payable in the US. Our state benefits are not handouts. They are not charity. They form part of a comprehensive framework of provisions to help people cope with periods out of work.

The benefits system always coped well with the calls upon it until Margaret Thatcher's government 30 years ago attacked working-class living standards by trebling the jobless rate to three million and brought about a systematic transfer of wealth from poor to rich.

That process has continued unabated since then, with working people feeling their quality of life worsen while the cosseted rich minority see the value of their assets appreciate still further and the wealth gap yawn ever wider.

When Duncan Smith pretends to speak out for workers, blaming claimants for taking home more in benefits than they do for a week's work, he ignores the real problem. Pay levels are too low, as is the national minimum wage, which was supposed to raise low-paid workers from poverty. No-one in the labour movement can accept the assumptions of Duncan Smith and his ilk on social justice and supposed fairness.

A radical new approach, including a wealth tax and higher taxation of big business and the rich, is essential to promote economic growth and more jobs rather than workers squabbling among themselves over redistribution of poverty.

With the most right-wing government in living memory, a boneless ‘Opposition’ who are actually more just a ‘Complement’ to the Tories, and the temperature of stigmatisation and punishment of the unemployed and poor only soaring higher by the month and defining the electoral battleground for 2015, how can things get any more despairing?

Well, if one switches on the TV, quite easily. Just as this writer was wondering how nastier and more hysterical the ‘welfare dialectic’ could become in the UK, he was as ever satirically neutralised on the very night of the introduction of the benefit caps when greeted with an ever so prompt two-part BBC ‘documentary’ entitled Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits! Here is the synopsis:

First of a two-part special in which former Apprentice colleagues Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford try to find out how much unemployment benefit is enough to survive on – and whether having a job is actually worth it. Travelling to Ipswich, a town with typical out-of-work figures, they bring four claimants and four taxpayers together to compare one another's lives, examine their values and speak their minds. First up are the workers, who explore the claimants' spending habits to see where their own taxes are going.

Now, this is a slightly disingenuous synopsis, since these Ipswich claimants are not so much ‘teamed up’ with the ‘taxpayers’ as pounced on by them, interrogated at length as to how hard they’re trying to find work, judged by them, and in one case of a young man with a degree –quite admirably in this writer’s view– choosing to volunteer full time as a voluntary youth worker rather than take a dead-end job in a local Poundland is at one point frogmarched round his local high street by a sanctimonious ‘taxpayer’ handing out his CV to clearly completely disinterested shop proprietors.

What really stuck in the craw for this writer here was the self-aggrandizing, morally posturing judgmentalism of the ‘taxpayer’ protesting that the young man should “take a proper job” rather than “a voluntary one” and should be “putting something back into the community physically” (whatever that actually means!!!), when many might argue that working as a youth worker, whether voluntarily or not (and indeed voluntarily, for this writer, is deserving of even greater respect), is a far greater ‘contribution’ to the community than standing at a till in a local Londis, for instance.

The very fact that by dint of volunteering this young man is giving up his full time each week for direct contribution to his local community in return for which he receives a measly £56 JSA a week (so way below the minimum wage) should surely be applauded, not castigated?! So what if a few pennies of this ‘hardworking taxpayer’ goes towards that paltry amount of weekly benefit for him? This writer would say that is a very good investment on her part, since she effectively gets a local youth worker ‘contributing’ to the wellbeing of his and her local community for pretty much nothing!

In fact, this writer would argue that it might be in the ‘taxpayers’’ own interests, as well as the wider community’s, to actually agree to contribute a bit more in their tax in order to sustain this young man in his valuable community role. He wants to keep volunteering in order to gain work experience towards developing a community-oriented career; taking up an insecure, poorly paid job in a local mini-market “and then working up from the shop floor” (as the ‘taxpayer’ put it) hardly has anything remotely to do with this young man’s career aspirations: what good a trainee community youth worker going into local food retail? To work his way up to what? To a mini-market manager? How, exactly, is that to segue into a blossoming future career as a youth worker?

Once again, this is an example of classic British ‘patch it up’/‘just put a cloth to it’ short-termism and obsessive fixation with everyone doing some sort of “job” no matter what it is, how abysmally paid, how insecure, how temporary it is, or how completely unrelated to the talents and skills of the employee, how incompatible with their personality and abilities, and how obdurate it is to them ever getting onto the career path they are suited to. “Work” is the Calvinistic macro-ethic of Tory Britain, the monthly wage slip is the new ticket to antinomian impunity from all other recognised types of rudimentary social morality: as long as you “work” (and “pay”, or “legally avoid”, your “taxes”), then government is quite happy for you to behave attitudinally however you like towards your fellow citizens; in fact, it even actively encourages you to set yourself up as judge and jury to your unemployed neighbours, to freely interrogate them if you think they’re not making enough effort to find work; even to engage in petit espionage by sifting through their bins for any paper trails indicating that they might be “benefit cheats”.

Perhaps one small positive thing which has come from this latest populist docu-soap on the taxpayer-subsidised (though now less so than ever before due to the caps) unemployed, was the fact that one of the ‘taxpayers’ came out of the experience actually more sympathetic towards the claimant he was ‘matched up with’, a struggling middle-aged father desperately trying to find work while on the financial insult that is JSA, who at one point was brought to tears simply discussing his situation; while the co-presenter, Margaret Mountford, displayed much empathy towards the claimants’ side of the story than to what she clearly saw as the mean-spirited judgementalism of some of the ‘taxpayers’, and showed particular moral outrage at the fact that so many people are reliant on food banks “in the 21st century!”.

Less empathic was her co-presenter Nick Hewer but who was drawn up short as he craned himself over some shelves of tins in a food bank by the highly compassionate and principled woman in charge of the Trussell Trust depot, who drove home to him just how utterly destitute most of her ‘clients’ are: “Some don’t even have the money to buy toilet paper to wipe their bums!” she intoned with a livid glare, while Hewer’s eyes waxed ever so slightly through his designer lenses to a response of “Rea-lly?”

Both presenters were erstwhile colleagues to Alan Sugar on The Apprentice; while Hewer comes across more as ‘New’ Labourish than full-on right-wing, Mountford’s demonstrable sense of compassion and empathy towards the unemployed and her visible disdain for how contemporary ‘benefits’ fall far short of providing the level of subsistence people need in order to “live normally” as she put it, with a reference to Beveridge’s original template or rates (although that in itself was deliberately set slightly below subsistence level in order not been seen as too generous), has both the tone and laterally-thinking dialectical approach of a socialist (certainly, her arguments seemed broadly left-wing, and it’s difficult to see how she fitted into the entrepreneurial soap opera of grasping yuppies that is The Apprentice).

So there it is: Britain in the 21st century: starving tens of thousands of unemployed families into penal-like submission and penniless penance and the indignity of having to beg for tins of processed mush from food banks. Of course, morally twisted Tories hail this new ‘alfresco welfare state’ as a positive thing, a progression of civil society, a sign that the ‘Big’ Society is in action and is growing all the time (to keep up with the demand of mass under-consumption and abject poverty!). Say what you like about Cameron’s ‘Big’ Society, but it certainly does do what it says on the tin!

15-16 July 2013

The Recusant Salutes Sarah Teather/ 'Born Again' Labour/ Our Psychopathic Chancellor

A Teather in the 'Cap': The Recusant Salutes Sarah Teather: Whistleblower on Tories’ ‘Hostile Environment Working Group’ and neo-Fascist Rhetoric

Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, who was curiously “sacked” from the Cabinet in the last reshuffle, coincidentally, after he abstaining from the vote on the universal welfare cap, continues to speak out about the dark arts of the Tory-led Coalition in terms of its ever more divisive and pernicious use of neo-fascist rhetoric in its remorseless pursuit of ‘populist’ policies, such as those on welfare and immigration. Teather revealed in a Guardian interview today (13 July) that had she remained in ministerial office she would have been sitting on an ‘internal working group’ focused on actively repelling future immigrants from attempting to settle in this country, which was originally called –"on the explicit instructions of the prime minister" (Teather) – the ‘Hostile Environment Working Group’, since such was its specific purpose. The Recusant challenges any reading this not to see quite clearly that such a moniker as this is quite nakedly fascistic, not only in terms of rhetorical implication but also intent. Following Lib Dem objections to this terminology, the Tories then relented and went for the marginally more euphemistic ‘Inter Ministerial Group on Migrants' Access to Benefits and Public Services’.

Teather quite justifiably objects to the almost criminalising semantics used towards immigrants, particularly in the floated policy of immigrants having to pay “bonds” in order to have a steak in British society, comparing it to “bail” for ex-prisoners. With an admirable sensitivity not only to the human dimensions of such matters, but also, crucially, the semantics and rhetoric of them, Teather said:

I wonder whether colleagues have any understanding about language and the implications of language. Language is one of the powerful things you have as a politician, and we need to consider that. People's attitudes to their neighbours is formed partly by the things we say on television, and the way in which they are reported. Silence in the face of language that others are using is not enough.

Teather also lambasted the Tory proposal that only those earning a certain amount of income per year (originally to be set at £40,000 but finally lowered to £18,000) will be permitted to have their non-EEA spouse living with them in the UK. If not fascism, such policies are clearly fiscally fascist, and certainly protectionist bordering on xenophobic –no doubt more attempts by the Tories to ‘out-UKIP UKIP’.

Teather has been a critic for some time now of the Tory-led Coalition’s constant rhetoric of divide-and-rule and stigmatisation against vulnerable minorities in the country, particularly immigrants and the unemployed, which is why she admirably abstained from the vote on the universal benefit cap, her hands to some extent tied in terms of voting against it by dint of her then being in a ministerial post (thus threatened with the sack; she was however sacked in any in the subsequent Cabinet reshuffle). Most crucially of all, on the issue of benefits, Teather has recently countered Tory announcements with highly ethical and courageous criticisms –pretty much identical to those which The Recusant and its anthologies have been arguing for the last couple of years now– prompted in the first part by the Chancellor’s new extension of the three day wait before new claimants can sign on by a further four days, which constitute the most robust moral intervention against the anti-welfare regime by any member of the ruling parties to date:

...there was a general idea that people would have their redundancy payments to get them through… I'm not sure that my constituents coming out of short-term, low-paid work are getting big redundancy packages… I think it's more nakedly political than that. It's about short-term tactics – and I'm deeply uncomfortable with a type of politics that is deliberately using people who are already relatively vulnerable, as outsiders, as a tool to demonstrate how tough we are. I don't like that type of politics.

What alarms me is that the immigration proposals feel as if they're hewn from the same rock as welfare earlier in the year, where a lot of that again was about setting up political dividing lines, and trying to create and define an enemy. It's got to a stage where it's almost unacceptable to say anything else, and it bothers me that there is a consensus among the three party leaders that they are all making, well not quite the same speech – there are differences, significant differences – but there's a consensus. It's stifling the rest of the debate, making people afraid to speak. If you get to a stage where there is no alternative voice, eventually democracy's just going to break down.

Note that very loaded last phrase there, something we have been warning our readers of for three years now: of our nation’s slide into ‘democratically’-tolerated social fascism. Teather continued:

It's populist. It's a headline. Just look at the evidence. You've got first the overall universal benefit cap, then you've got a 1% welfare cap, and then you've got the big macro welfare cap. So they've found something, a message that works in polling, it's called a benefit cap. And then they've invented policy around it three times.

Teather rightly continued to emphasize the prime importance of language in terms of forming ‘public opinion’, oft-cited by politicians as some sort of ‘proof’ of the ‘popularity’ of their policies when, of course, all they are citing is a large section of the public simply parroting the ‘opinions’ they are relentlessly spoon-fed through political propaganda via ministers and tabloids:

Public opinion does not exist in a vacuum, and I wonder whether colleagues have any understanding about language and the implications of language. Language is one of the powerful things you have as a politician, and we need to consider that. We forget that language actually forms society – we're integral to it – so people's attitude to their neighbours is formed partly by the things we say on television, and the way in which they are reported. Silence in the face of language that others are using is not enough.

In this criticism, there is also quite clearly a swipe at general Lib Dem quietism and quiescence in the face of such brutalising rhetoric from their Coalition partners. Teather is also the only prominent politician for some time now to talk of the purpose of principled politics being to “mobilise debate” rather than wipe it out through anti-dialectical hate-rhetoric –rhetoric which Teather is clearly particularly adapt at deconstructing from a humanistic perspective:

I want to mobilise debate. If we step back from the things that are core to our values, we will allow public debate to move away from us, and the centre of gravity has moved somewhere else, and then the lack of our distinctive public voice making that argument makes it very difficult for other people who share our view to stand up and be counted.

Even more interestingly, another Lib Dem ‘whistleblower’, this time a current pensions minister, Steve Webb, has separately criticised all parties’ use of scapegoating rhetoric and stigmatising language in relation to immigrants and the unemployed, which creates ‘artificial divides in society’ (Guardian). Webb will be telling the Social Liberal Forum conference:

What kind of society do we want to have created? One where disabled people are jeered at in the streets and treated as scroungers? Or one where we all know that if things had turned out differently that person on benefit could have been us. Political leadership means not taking the easy route of offering 'red meat to the red tops'.

Answer: the kind of society the Lib Dems such as Webb himself have enabled by joining in Coalition with the Tories! Webb has emphasized he is not explicitly criticising Iain Duncan Smith, but more the Chancellor, for use of such divisive language towards the most marginalised in society –yet The Recusant feels this is highly disingenuous and even perhaps naïve of Webb, spirited and utterly right though his intervention is: but the tragedy here is that Webb talks of a society which stigmatises the poor, unemployed, disabled, homeless, traveller and immigrant as if it is as yet only in existence in theory, but potentially there, and still possible to pre-empt and prevent through political intervention. The Recusant however has to remind Mr Webb that such a society is already firmly in place and deeply entrenched, thanks to three years of remorseless Tory and red-top rhetoric of stigmatisation, and policies to match. The society Webb warns of coming into being has already come into being, and so the only principled thing he himself can now do is resign his ministerial post and return to the backbenches where he can more freely object to front bench policies.

The same must also be said for the ever-beleaguered and seemingly disoriented Vince Cable. In the same week that he shamefully capitulated to Tory pressure to announce the latest attempt to privatise the Royal Mail, the Business Secretary apparently has this to say to the Social Liberal Forum:

At present we are in danger of the worst of all; a revival of house prices fed by easier credit and housing shortage, making them still less affordable to the ordinary first time buyer; a growing private rented sector sucking in housing benefit which is in turn being reduced, cutting off low income tenants, and growing pressure on the remaining social housing stock which has been declining irredeemably in recent decades.

There is a more positive way forward: a surge of housebuilding of the kind that lifted Britain out of the inter war slump.

And yet, where is Cable’s argument for a reintroduction of private rent controls? More to the point, did Cable himself vote for the housing benefit caps? The Recusant suspects as a Secretary of State he must have done, otherwise he would have gone the same way as Teather. So in Cable’s case, it’s more a case of ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’; such ‘appeasement’ tendencies in Cable and his other Lib Dem front-benchers in waving pieces of blank paper at the fiscal fascism of Osborne’s pincer-movement against the poorest in society simply makes him look like Neville Chamberlain against another notorious ‘Chancellor’ of history –it simply doesn’t sit well for Cable to rail against policies which he is nevertheless supporting and upholding by dint of his remaining in his position as a Secretary of State. One can’t have it both ways: the Lib Dems think they can, but they can’t, and sadly for them the electorate, no matter their political stripes, can clearly see this.

So is all of this simply the latest ‘hot air’ from the Lib Dems, speaking out against the disgraceful injustices of Tory-driven policies they are themselves supporting in practise, even if not in principle, at a liberal talking shop, only to then revert to their ministerial briefs afterwards…? We do hear much of this gnashing of liberal teeth against Tory dogma at the annual Lib Dem conferences, largely orchestrated to appeal to dissenting grassroots in the party, but then this often peters out afterwards when we then have to hear the same Lib Dem politicians use weasel words to justify unjustifiable policies according to their ministerial briefs. So far it seems only Sarah Teather has had the moral courage to sacrifice her ministerial career for the sake of speaking out from principle rather than pressure from the party whip.

'Born Again' Labour

Under Ed Miliband’s chameleon leadership of the ‘Opposition’, we have seen the party alternate tones and colours periodically: first we have Maurice Glassman’s nebulous sobriquet of ‘Blue’ Labour; and then the new official moniker of ‘One Nation’ Labour (a tacit linking of Miliband’s Anglo-Jewish heritage and gradualist politics to Britain’s first Jewish prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli and his notion of “one nation” Toryism, which for its time was every bit as progressive as the best that, say, the neoliberal ‘New’ Labour had to offer. By some enormous irony, Disraeli, himself one of the Young England set of more compassionate Tories of his times, themselves a forerunner of the 'One Nation' Toryism of the mid-20th century, is also credited with having prefigured the notion of welfare itself, again, as with his allusion to 'two nations: rich and poor', in the same social novel of his, Sybil: or the Two Nations (1845): '"the only duty of power, the social welfare of the PEOPLE').

But it’s just as easy to interpret ‘One Nation’ as harking back more recently to the more compassionate, ‘soft’ Toryism of Harold Macmillan, thus indicating Miliband’s Labour as another attempt to position the party in a mythical ‘centre ground’ of British politics, neither left nor right, but something in-between (another throw at the ‘Third Way’…?) –a space traditionally occupied by the Liberal Party, although, having said that, the Herbert Asquith Liberal Government of 1908-14 –which, among other things, introduced rent controls and a proto-welfare state via Lloyd George’s Unemployment Insurance Act 1911– was, of its time, of a calibre of progressive radicalism arguably only ever seen again in British politics during the 1945-51 Clement Attlee Labour Government (in many ways, not least implementing the recommendations of Liberal William Beveridge’s eponymous ‘Report’ in the construction of the welfare state and NHS, the natural inheritor of the Asquith-Lloyd George triangulation of egalitarian values.

But following the much-hyperbolised ‘storm in a shop steward’s tea cup’ that is the “Falkirk scandal”, where apparently the Unite union was illicitly signing up its new members to Labour Party affiliation without them actually knowing (somehow, it is alleged by the largely right-wing media, in order to influence the selection of Labour candidates for the vacated seat of Falkirk), Miliband has seemingly panicked and capitulated to parliamentary picking and poking from plum-faced puppet-prime minister David ‘Flashman’ Cameron and announced the (re-)birth of what can only now be described as ‘Born Again’ Labour: in an apparent fit of sudden evangelical fervour –though one suspects more just opportunistic repositioning of his leadership according to much-trumpeted “public opinion”/pandering to Blairites and their cousin Tories– Miliband has announced that he wants to “mend” the links of his party to the Trades Unions by ending their “automatic affiliation” to Labour. In other words, for the first time in Labour’s history, Miliband is offering “individual union members” the personal ‘choice’ of whether or not to sign up to membership of the Labour Party donations of £3 per head, as was automatically levied up until now.

In theory, this sounds like a highly idealistic (if misguided) gesture from the Labour leader; a veritable individuation of personal conscience per each and every union member in the land; in this sense then, a kind of ‘Protestantisation’ of the hitherto ‘Catholic-style community’ of the Labour Movement –shifting affiliation from a former ‘automatic induction’ of political allegiance to a more Lutheran (i.e. personal ‘witness’ and direct communication with a body politic instead of through a priestly intermediary, in this case, being, analogously, the union hierarchy), voluntary, conscience-based ‘baptism’ into the ‘Labour faith’. So far, so ‘faithfully’ reformative.

Ostensibly this seems quite noble of Miliband, not to say very brave in the sense that, according to GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny, a union critic of the proposed ‘reforms’, they could very well result in, for instance, a possible fall in party donations from his own union of 90% -from the current £1.5m to a paltry £200,000 per year. And this is because, ‘idealistic’ though Miliband’s gesture might be, it comes at a time when, bluntly, the constantly vacillating, unfocused and more opportunistic than principled politics of his party is far from inspiring to the common working person, the wage-restrained blue collar –and offers very little future respite from punishing Tory welfare ‘reforms’ to the besieged unemployed population (not that their wellbeing, rights or interests are even considered as constituting any ‘political capital’ in the minds of any of the three main parliamentary parties).

So, it may well be that by halting the ‘automatic baptism’ of new ‘baby’ members of unions into the ‘Labour faith’, Miliband –excuse the pun– could well be throwing those ‘babies’ out with the ‘bathwater’ of party affiliation: because any union member with eyes to see what is happening to labour rights today under the Coalition’s uber-capitalistic axis to return society to a kind of pre-welfare state social apartheid of employers and employees, of workers and whiphands, will immediately also see that there is virtually no real alternative being articulated by Miliband’s ‘Opposition’, and will thus, in theory, be more inclined to opt out of association to the Labour Party than opt in. Moreover, any union members who are on ‘the Left’ in their politics will also balk at the patronage egregiously extended by former ‘New’ Labour PM Tony “Cheshire Cat” Blair to his belatedly emerging ‘heir apparent’, the once, sadly inaccurately, nicknamed ‘Red Ed’.

The Recusant puzzles as to whether this volte-face of a Labour leader from automatic and implicit allegiance to the very unions whose votes carried him over the threshold to beat his brother David to the top of his party is driven by real reformative conviction, blind panic after Falkirk, staggering bravery, Blairite-appeasing/Tory-capitulating cowardice, or plain idiocy. Whatever the real motive here, on purely pragmatic grounds, it is historically evident that it’s never really a particularly good idea to estrange one’s own ‘Praetorian Guard’ –particularly if it was largely on their backs that, like doddery old Claudius, one was lifted into office in the first place. We might also be cautious as to the apparent praise for Miliband’s “visionary” speech on reforming the automatic union links to the party by Unite leader Len McCluskey, so recently berated at length for defending “shabby” practices by his young leader: McCluskey is a canny and tactical man, also, at root, we believe, highly principled in terms of his socialist politics, and we suspect that his upbeat response to Miliband’s speech has been choreographed in such a way as to instantly emasculate any Tory attempts to depict a party and movement in meltdown. McCluskey is –as he makes no bones about– still seething at what he sees as a “hysterical”, Tory-provoked knee-jerk reaction of the Labour leadership to the Falkirk issue, more one of PR posturing than principle, and so he is certainly not about to morph into some sort of party ‘poodle’.

So, Labour is to be ‘born again’ as a sort of ‘Bourgeois’ Labour, now not only literally but also symbolically dissociated from the interests and struggles of the working and non-working poor, the unemployed and dispossessed; this seems a new stripe of ‘gentrification’ of the party, a continuation, at least promotionally, of Blairian ‘centrist’-positioning. It is, too, most ironic that Ed Miliband talked so pejoratively of “shabby” union practices allegedly conducted by Unite, which somehow betrayed the “values” of the party –ironic, since Labour has so few discernible “values” or principles left, bar, seemingly, to position itself constantly in line with so-called “public opinion”, irrespective of how far Right this tugs them, simply to secure power again in 2015 apparently just for the sake of it. Where are the “values” of a ‘Labour’ Party that is openly considering Chancellor Osborne’s despicable proposal that new JSA claimants have to wait an extra four days with no income at all before being allowed to sign on? Where, indeed, are the “values” of a ‘Labour’ party that disgracefully capitulated to Iain Duncan Smith’s “retrospective legislation” which halted tens of thousands of unemployed claimants unlawfully exploited for unpaid labour on the Tory Work Programme by mass-abstaining from voting against it in Parliament –all on direct orders from the leadership?

Maybe Mr Miliband should consider another new sobriquet for his party: ‘Unpaid’ Labour? All in all, The Recusant fails to see any particularly admirable “values” that Labour currently upholds which could have in any way been compromised by alleged union shenanigans. More to the point, we admire Tom Watson’s aim of trying to get more working-class candidates to stand for Parliament in Labour’s name. It was, after all, originally, a party standing up for the working class and the poor, and most of its greatest spokesmen were drawn from truly challenging backgrounds: both Keir Hardie –first Labour MP and Leader– and Aneurin Bevan, for example, were born into impoverished mining villages and rose from the coal-pits to their pivotal party positions. The party desperately needs more MPs of that kind of character and calibre if it is again to be anything more than the bloodless party of the “squeezed middle” and ‘petit bourgeoisie’ that it currently seems to be.

The Recusant predicts that this final symbolic severing of ties between Labour and the unions could well spell a haemorrhaging of the party’s left-of-centre support base, and a likely migration of many union members, not to say unions themselves, to a party which actually does represent their principles and interests, a true party of the Left, such as the Greens, or the galvanising of a new one, such as Left Unity for instance, towards putting up parliamentary candidates in 2015. This indeed could be a very different kind of haemorrhaging of the Labour movement to the ones the Tories have been attempting to pre-empt. It could mean a massive split in the ‘centre-left’ vote of this country in 2015 and thereby an opportunity for the Tories to scrape back into power. In social terms, a return of the Tories to office, particularly if on their own with a small minority, would not simply be disastrous for our society, but truly apocalyptic. Labour would then have one simple choice left to them: return to a more radical centre-left politics, or gradually become completely irrelevant as a party and doomed to the same wilderness inhabited by the old Liberal Party since their place on the political map was superseded by a then still-young new party representing the working classes (yes, the then-socialist Labour Party).

Should left-wing voters play the pragmatic ‘better the devil you know’ card in 2015 and vote Labour purely to keep the atrocious Tories from getting back into power, or should we play the long game and pool our resources towards the formation of a new 21st ‘true’ Labour-style movement and party to properly represent the millions of working poor, unemployed and dispossessed of our country? Principle and compassion demands the latter option, while sheer dread at the thought of another five years of Tory rule seems to urge the former. Even while writing this editorial and being openly critical of the current Labour pseudo-‘Opposition’, this writer still feels torn himself as to the best –or rather right– thing to do, and no doubt all of us on the left are at this time searching our consciences and wrestling with our fears for the future of our society. Ed Miliband truly is the prime ‘chameleon’ of Labour leaders, seemingly vacillating from week to week, month to month, between his right and his left, and very often falling awkwardly into some sort of ‘middle-ground’, which comes across as indecisive and unfocused in convictions.

Only this week at PMQs he suddenly launched into a much more progressively-toned, almost socialistic attack against Cameron’s Tories being the party of “the privileged” as opposed to Labour being the party of “the people” –okay, some of us would have preferred to hear him say party of “the poor”, but in today’s uber-right-wing national consensus on issues such as welfare, this is simply never going to be said by a leader of a major party (only Caroline Lucas of the Greens would be so bold as to employ such phraseology on behalf of her personified party). Of course, “the people” very much plays into Miliband’s new party moniker of “One Nation”, meaning “all the people”, and so can be interpreted in much broader terms by many of varying political colours. Nevertheless, to make such emphatic political rhetoric out of what is fairly explicitly a universal ‘Us and Them’ paradigm, between the top super-rich 1% and the 99% rest of us paradigm, is certainly something to be applauded by those on the left of the electorate by an Opposition leader, even if such a laudable principle isn’t fully backed up by the party’s actual future policy proposals; more specifically, the ‘carrot and stick’ policies of Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam ‘Blairite’ Byrne, which differ only marginally from the ultra-vindictive and plain nasty policies of current WP Secretary Inane Duncan Smith.

Byrne is a bane in the body politic of the Labour Party: he is in most respects almost indistinguishable from most Tories in terms of his “tough” approach to welfare and unfathomable ‘faith’ in the capitalist labour market being able to adjust itself in time to better meet the needs of the workers and the currently unemployed. His attempt to pounce on one of IDS’s ministerial minions on C4 News this evening over the pernicious effects on poor and disabled families of the brutal and immoral bedroom tax by saying he believes it should be scrapped with immediate effect, and yet in the same breath refusing to confirm whether or not a future Labour Government would automatically scrap the toxic policy itself, since this would depend on whether they could show the public that they could find a way to pay for its abolition, was at once dialectically self-defeating and polemically pathetic. Since part of Byrne’s argument was that the bedroom tax will actually cost much more in the long-run in terms of State and Council resources used to ‘damage-limit’ the epidemic social fallout it will directly engender, there was absolutely no reason, either logically or ethically as to why he couldn’t have then said that a future Labour Government would scrap it. yet again Labour comes across as afraid of its own shadow, but more particularly, that of a near-mythical entity frequently referred to as “the public” (shorthand for tabloid-readers).

Labour has to get ahead of the momentum of the times and recognise that absolute capitalism –the ‘feral’ acquisitive variety we have lived under since Thatcher deregulated the markets in the Eighties, privatised our assets, resources and services and atomised our industries and working classes– is demonstrably in its final death throes. Westminster might delude itself that after another few years of gruelling austerity for the masses and innumerable human sacrifices of the poorest and weakest in society, capitalism as we knew it before will kick-start itself back into full tilt and provide another generation of “growth” and “wealth creation”. But this is simply ‘wishful thinking’ on behalf of Parliament’s KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Club: one only has to look at the C4 News expose this evening, that as many as 50 million US citizens (one sixth of the American population), both the unemployed and many of those in work, are now reliant on Government subsidised “food stamps” (in the guise of ‘gold’-coloured debit cards of $287 a month, which is the equivalent of a mere £180 a month) to afford enough food to keep them going for four weeks at a time (though frequently falling short by the fourth week) –and that, in the richest capitalist country on the planet!

This is certainly a Depression now, there’s can be no denial of that, and the situation in the US is only mirrored in the UK where increasing numbers in society of both unemployed and working people are also becoming ever more reliant on the use of food banks to survive each month. But seemingly such destitution is not enough for the anti-tax brigades of the great tabloid-reading sections of the British public: now that charities are warning that food banks are effectively turning into part of the welfare state itself (what this writer has long termed the ‘alfresco welfare state’), and unable to keep up with rising demand for their provisions, there are also concerns that once this is more widely recognised, many people who up until now have made donations of tinned foods and so forth to such auspices may begin to start resenting their contributions basically subsidising the very welfare cuts they have so thoughtlessly and antipathetically supported to date.

You really couldn’t make it up could you? Seemingly, there is no end to British spitefulness and idiocy when it comes to the poor, unemployed and dispossessed. One can easily imagine many right-wing voters starting to complain that by donating to food banks they are effectively being ‘indirectly taxed’, by appeal to their compassion, to subsidise the poor and unemployed through donation rather than automatic tax contribution. The difference here is of course the old Tory mantra of ‘choice’ that people have the option of either donating or not donating to food banks, and so it’s not the same as the state making the choice for them. But we will soon see just how narrow-minded, self-centred and ‘small’ Cameron’s ‘Big’ Society really is once the further proliferation of food banks, themselves a direct result of the fallout from the despicable benefit caps, and evermore assertive pleas for donations to them from charity volunteers outside supermarkets (as is already happening, and, given the dire times, rightly so, though not as a replacement for the welfare state), brings a new culture of stigmatisation: it’s not a massive leap of the imagination from specious and pernicious tropes as “benefits scroungers” to a future charge of “food bank scroungers”. In short, it seems the Tories, their cheerleaders in the right-wing media, and all those unfathomable people whose parroting ‘opinions’ and attitudes answer to their appeals to self-interest, will never cease until not poverty but the poor themselves are effectively wiped out.

But once the unemployed and the poor have all been swept aside for good, who will the powers that be come for next? Because capitalism is a parasitic mechanism: it can only continue to exist by feeding off the labour and depleting the wellbeing of large numbers of people in order to cream off profits; there is no end to this vicious cycle: capitalism needs the poor and the unemployed in order to ensure a minority remain enriched. This has always been the case: unemployment, for instance, is vital to the survival of capitalism, since it gives it the leverage to keep wages down, thus increasing profits for employers and big business. It’s a simple equation: no unemployment = no wage restraint = no profits. It’s the same cavalier logic with regards to benefits and the phoney “Make Work Pay”, of course, and for this matter, we will use a positive equation: lower benefits = perceptually better wages by comparison = less benefits expenditure for Government + leverage to freeze wages = win, win, win for capitalists and employers. Yet it still pays dividends for Tory governments to sustain a ‘manageably’ high level of unemployed, and for them to be seen to suffer extremely in terms of impoverishment, in order to make the employed, including the vast numbers of “working poor”, feel comparatively much better off. The fact that the Tories, the most evangelical capitalist party of them all, is currently targeting the unemployed left, right and centre in a pincer-movement of remorseless cuts and caps, is in part indicative of the fact that even by its own internal rationale, current capitalism isn’t functioning properly, and is now unsustainable, no matter whether unemployment is high or low.

When is capitalism clearly not working? Answer: when it can no longer camouflage or gloss over the grotty, rotting little cogs of its poorly maintained machinery grinding away ever more cumbersomely and unstably. Sooner or later those cogs are going to spin off into obsolescence, and it will be then that the capitalist status quo of all Western countries resorts to even more obviously fascistic means to keep itself alive, no matter how synthetically and destructively. Spain, Greece and particularly Cyprus have already seen the true character of capitalist ‘fiscal fascism’ in action in recent years, in the shape of kleptocratic theft of democratic sovereignty and rights, water canons and rubber bullets as a response to public protest, and the effective financial enslavement of their bankrupted societies by the anti-democratic Troika.

In the UK, the poorest and most vulnerable have already experienced the jackboot of Tory fiscal fascism stamping down on their basic social and human rights; but it will only be a matter of time before the middle classes –Miliband’s “squeezed middle”– begin to be enclosed in the Tories’ pincer-movement around our society and public sector, until, ultimately, England will only be a land fit for the filthy rich to survive in, cushioned in their first class compartments, while the rest of us partitioned off into second or third class, and a pre-Attleean Thirties-style class-fragmented and segregated society is fully reconsolidated.

Our Psychopathic Chancellor

A return to the Thirties is clearly the trajectory of our current cuts-crazed, psychopathic Chancellor: only on Thursday (11 July) when the Daily Mirror splashed a front page headline that the richest pay 1% less tax in this country at this time than the poorest (35% to 36%), Baronet Osborne gleefully announces that in spite of a still flat-lining economy, in spite of having reduced the top 1% tax rate, and in spite of an already bluntly fascistic cut to the welfare budget of £18 billion, if the Tories secure power again in 2015, there will be no tax rises whatsoever, no sane and rational balancing of cuts between what is anyway an unfair 20% tax hikes/ 80% public expenditure cuts paradigm (of the kind that even Thatcher would have implemented), but instead an utterly brutal and morally despicable 100% onus on further public spending cuts (mostly welfare of course), in order to “plug” the deficit “black hole” of £6 billion!

Of course, Osborne is an arch exponent of “I don’t accept that” governmental reality-denial (for the common trotted-out retort of “I don’t accept that” read “I don’t accept reality”), as demonstrated effortlessly again when he refused to “accept” that the devastating welfare cuts have anything to do with the sudden surge in demand for food banks throughout the nation –and all in spite of this having been proven to be factually true according to figures released by the Trussell Trust (chief provider of food banks) on the same day, as well as findings from other independent surveys. When asked by the Treasury Select Committee on Thursday if he’d ever visited a food bank Osborne simply replied “No, I have not visited a food bank”. And then this from an article on the matter in Thursday’s Guardian:

He denied their use would increase as a result of his plan to delay unemployment benefit for seven days. He said food banks were increasing because of greater public awareness of their existence.

"I think one of the reasons there has been increased use of food banks is because people have been made aware of the food bank service through local jobcentres. I don't see that's a bad thing. It's a good thing that those services are advertised in jobcentres."

So there we have it: Osborne believes it is “a good thing” that in the 21st century, in the sixth richest economy in the world, the use of food banks has increased! One imagines he will be even happier after 2015 if and when he inflicts a further £6 billion cuts on the already £18 billion-slashed welfare budget, which will no doubt see so many more food banks mushrooming throughout the nation that they will begin to become as ubiquitous as post boxes and recycling banks. Now the Chancellor has finally broken his thinly disguised cover with regards to supporting any “moral” principle behind the welfare reforms: cuts to benefits expenditure are now, from the proverbial horse’s mouth, purely to do with bowl-scraping sufficient funds to “plug a black hole” in the Government’s coffers –in essence, then, when Osborne talks of “getting rid of the deficit”, what he actually means is ‘getting rid of the poor’! Again, the only reasonable diagnosis of this Chancellor’s personality can be one of ‘political psychopathy’.

As centre-left economist Will Hutton expressed on the BBC News this evening, this would mean the biggest and most draconian cut to public expenditure in over a century; more severe than the austerity measures imposed in Spain, Ireland and Iceland, and even more fiscally brutal than the seismic state devastation wreaked across Greece and Cyprus, which has basically paralysed those nations and reduced them to the status of sub-nation states/democratically neutered kleptocracies. For any thinking this writer’s use of the term ‘psychopathic’ to describe the evident mind-state of the Chancellor is a touch hyperbolic, he is left with no other conclusion given the rapacious and unapologetically vicious extremes Osborne is prepared to go to in order to pursue his ultra-Thatcherite ‘ideology’: this ultra-privileged individual displays absolutely no sense of contrition, empathy or compassion for the millions his policies are poised to make chronically destitute, and in that sense, clearly shows the classic hallmarks of a psychopathic personality –in addition to this, by giving the poorest in society absolutely no room for manoeuvre under his swingeing guillotine at the Exchequer, and so effectively ‘socially cleansing’ entire sections of our populace, Osborne is also demonstrably of a fascist mindset, as well as a psychopathic mentality (the two almost always going together of course).

As this writer predicted way back in June 2010 in his polemic to EV, Osborne et al have one primary political aim, the destruction of the welfare state; and this is now within their grasps because their relentless campaign of stigmatisation against the unemployed as uniform “scroungers” –even at a time of high unemployment and economic paralysis– has, with the assistance of the right-wing tabloid press, been efficacious in finally obliterating any vestiges of pro-welfare consensus left in this country (another reason why the common pro-universalism argument made from various political factions from the centre-right all the way through to the Far Left is now obviously void, since maintaining universalism has done absolutely nothing to promote public support for benefits –on the contrary, it has reigned over a period in our political history during which the welfare state has never been more vilified and demonised, and is now so unpopular that the ‘benefits’ it provides are now taboos, effectively dockets to stigmatisation and below subsistence level poverty).

Phase One: Destruction of what remained of the ‘Welfare Consensus’ completed, the Tories can now move on to Phase Two: the Destruction of the Welfare State itself. And, seemingly, much of the public are likely to continue applauding this onslaught on the apparatus from which they themselves may eventually be driven to seek support –but the support will no longer be there, at least, little more than nominally. To coin the old clichéd trope, the British public are currently so many turkeys clapping at the rapid approach of Christmas, with all the trimmings. Make no mistake: Osborne’s announcement on Thursday signals the very final death-knell of the welfare state, the public sector and all the vital services and safety nets both singularly provide for all of us, particularly at times of direst need. In short, a Tory victory in 2015 will not only mark the likely extinction of any last aspects of social democracy in this country, but also quite possibly the end even of a less-than-satisfactory or equitable ‘liberal’ democracy. What we will end up with in ‘Toryland’ is pure plutocracy, disgracefully enabled and facilitated by decaying ‘democratic’ framework presently entering its death throes; we will find ourselves living, effectively, in capitalist apartheid wherein the poorest and most vulnerable will have no significant state-provided support and will be left to destitution, and, in many cases, to simply die out.

The question for all of us on the left of the electorate, as conscientious objectors, or rather, projectors, at this time, is to consider how exactly such an unthinkable and unacceptable future for this nation can be averted, through democratic means, before it is too late. This is the quandary that we all have to wrestle with for the next two years and whether or not we return to Labour, our only viable parliamentary option to the Con-Dems, is very much dependent on Labour itself: Left or Right, Mr Miliband, that is the question, and its answer will determine, either way, not only the election result in 2015, but also quite possibly the future of the Labour Party itself. If we had secured AV, then The Recusant would be in no doubt at all that all those on the left should switch their votes to the Green Party.

In principle, The Recusant still believes the Greens are the only parliamentary option for the Left at this juncture, whilst also recognising it would take a truly enormous sea-change in voters to ensure that they would be able to gain any more actual MPs in two years’ time. So, logically, in terms of simply preventing a further five years of Tory-led tyranny, one is minded still to hedge one’s bets on a possible last ditch vote for Labour in 2015, out of sheer desperation to rid our society of the most cruel right-wing government in living memory. But, for this writer at least, the option of voting for a party which believes in being pretty much as “tough” on the unemployed as the Tories, except with a couple of miniscule pinches more of empathy and compassion, would be against his personal conscience, and so, in that, Labour’s ‘One Point Two Nation’ is not an option at all.

For The Recusant to support Labour in the future, the party would need to both withdraw and apologise for its spineless capitulation to some of the most heinous aspects of IDS’s ‘war on welfare’; it would need to pledge a reintroduction of private rent controls, a repealing of the anti-squatting legislation, a repealing of the NHS ‘reforms’ in their entirety and repealing of the bedroom tax and housing benefit caps; it would need to abolish both the Work Programme and the Atos-facilitated WCA regimen against the disabled; it would also need to significantly adjust its proposed ‘jobs guarantee’ scheme so that no one would be forced or coerced into an inappropriate and insecure occupation on pain of losing benefits; and would need to promise both a Mansion Tax and Robin Hood Tax. A tall order for the tail-curling Milibandians and Blairites no doubt, but there it is: The Recusant’s ‘To Do List’ for the Labour Party. The ball is now in its court –and let’s all hope it doesn’t hit the net.

13 July 2013

News from Sweden

This writer was in Norrköping, Sweden during the past week to launch his Sweden-themed collection The Tall Skies/ De Höga Himlarna (Waterloo Press), supported by Wigan-based poet Peter Street reading from his latest collection Listening To The Dark (The Penniless Press). Reporters from two local newspapers, the left-leaning Folkbladet and the centre (-right)/ ‘moderate’ Norrköpings Tidningar (‘NT’) turned up to conduct interviews, and this writer made a point to both papers of expressing his current concern that the ‘neoliberal experiment’ presently in its second term under the Moderate-led Swedish coalition government –which are essentially the equivalent of Blairite ‘New’ Labour in a country whose political paradigm is (still) significantly further to the left than in woefully right-wing England– has the potential to irreparably destabilise and undermine the great and, for the most part, hugely successful Swedish Social Demokratisk hegemony of the previous seven decades.

The historically left-wing (though towards the end of its epic tenure in government, slightly more liberalised) Social Democrats introduced the impeccable Swedish Welfare State, known as folkhemmet (“the people’s home”) almost simultaneously to Clement Attlee’s Settlement, in the late Forties, and rooted in the Swedish psyche the enviably humanitarian principle of samforstånd (“mutual understanding”).

This Swedish Settlement is what has essentially made Sweden the most admired social democracy in Europe, and although very much more than its mere vestiges are in evidence still in 2013, in spite of the centrist Moderate party near the end of its second term in office, even this frequent English visitor to said progressive country has noticed some tectonic shifts rumbling to the surface in the past couple of years in particular. Most notably, a visible rise in street homelessness, something he did not witness in Sweden (not even in its capital Stockholm) on his earlier visits to the country between 2007-09; and yet again he is reminded that wherever neoliberalism and laissez faire start to penetrate, while some see their private wealth increasing, all see, or choose to ignore, a simultaneous rise in others’ poverty.

So this writer made a particular point of emphasizing to the reporter from the Moderate-supporting local newspaper that if Sweden goes the way of Thatcherism, as the UK did in the Eighties, it will quite possibly lose everything good and socially cohesive that it has built up over half a century, and quite likely, irreversibly; he added to the reporter that “in England we have a saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”! He elaborated that Swedish social democracy had clearly worked for the majority, if not for all the people of Sweden, for seventy-odd years – so why start tinkering with it now and needlessly start heading down the socially divisive, atomistic route of privatisation of services and utilities route…?

Thatcherites will still argue that by 1979 the UK had little choice, as the so-called “sick man of Europe” (though a “sick man” which sported one of the most economically and socially equal countries in Europe, so it couldn’t have been that “sick”!), but to start de-nationalising industries and “selling off” its “silver” –though we on the left would argue that this was facilitated at the cost of destroying entire communities, particularly in the North, and socially and psychically scarring our nation irreparably; but when Sweden, in its pure social democratic form, has been the envy of Europe for decades on decades of almost uninterrupted social progressiveness and economic levelling, what on earth do the Moderates think they’re doing so needlessly undermining it all now? Because that is what they are doing: almost in parallel to the UK government at this time –though by no means to the same fiscally savage and rhetorically brutalising way– the Moderates are attempting to play divide-and-rule with the Swedish electorate by incrementally undermining the principle of folkhemmet, “making work pay” by offering those in work tax cuts on the back of cutting benefits for the unemployed.

The result: the steady rise in street homelessness which this writer has been noticing in the last couple of years, and which has reminded him –though to a less epidemic degree– of the same familiar pattern that developed under Thatcher in the Eighties, resulting in the international disgrace that was “Cardboard City” (a legacy which is now of course resurgent under the “Thatcher’s Children” of the current Tory-led coalition thanks to the disgraceful attack on the welfare state, the social cleansing of the poorest in society through “gentrification” of inner-cities, and the resultant rise in food banks throughout the UK almost in duplication of the similar rise in soup kitchens in the Eighties and Nineties).

Unfortunately, the Moderates in Sweden have managed to secure two terms in office on the back of benefit cuts, literally funding an extra 1000 kronor (£100) per month to each working person’s pay packet via reductions in income for the unemployed. So far, so laissez faire. But the one hope for the Sweden is the simple fact that theirs is a closer-knit society than the UK; and the hope for the Swedes themselves is that their national mentality is far less individualistic than the British. For instance, one ancestral meme of the Swedes is the concept of lagom, an old Viking term which basically means “moderation”, that “enough is sufficient”, so is very much the antithesis to the capitalist/Thatcherite mantras of being ‘on the make’ and wanting “to get on” (which implies some sort of Faustian acquisitiveness for greater wealth and power rather than anything as wholesome and simple as wanting to provide one’s family) –lagom emphasizes the importance of sharing, of taking only what one needs and no more, for the common good of the ‘tribe’.

As an admirer of Swedish social democratic society, this writer sincerely hopes that Sweden will weather what will hopefully turn out to be, in the end, a temporary political aberration on the map of Swedish progressivism, and is heartened by the fact that apparently many Swedes at this time are beginning to get a bit fed up with some of the more aggressive experiments of the Moderate-led government, such as accelerated privatisations where they are quite clearly neither desirable nor required. Again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, because by doing so that will only break what is working perfectly well and replace it with something that will only work for a self-enriching minority, as in the UK. Thankfully the Swedish trades unions have not yet been emasculated of their industrial powers as they have been over decades in the UK, and the bus and tram drivers were holding a midsummer strike over working hours and conditions –always, in this writer’s view, a healthy sign of a true democracy, when workers have sufficient muscle to flex in response to neoliberal/capitalist meddling.

The People’s Assembly/ Cuts-Happy Chancellor’s June Cleansing Review

This writer was honoured to be commissioned to write a piece on the Poets in Defence of the Welfare State campaign and anthologies for the bumper People’s Assembly edition of the Morning Star –penning it just in time before he had to leave for Sweden. Reports of a 4,000-strong event at Westminster Hall in the name of a sane and compassionate alternative to brutalising Tory austerity was heartening to read about. But, of course, ‘Baron’ Osborne’s Spending Review only a couple of days later was yet another bitter-tasting antidote to any brief respite of collective optimism of opposition, and reading about in Sweden only reminded this writer of just how much more morally primitive and fiscally barbaric his benighted homeland is compared to the infinitely more civilised and compassionate country he was sojourning in (and that even under what the Swedes categorise as a ‘centre-right’ government).

What word better sums up Chancellor Osborne’s latest fiscal kick in the guts of the poorest in society but ‘despicable’…?! As ever, the spineless Lib Dems’ recent claims that they had ensured there would be no more nasty lashes to the scarred and bloodied backs of Britain’s attitudinally stigmatised and fiscally crippled unemployed, that any further welfare cuts would solely hit the lion’s share of the benefits budget, universal pensions and winter fuel allowances, turned out to be yet more prevarications from said invertebrate party, as sadistic second-in-command of HMS Con-Dem announced with visceral glee, a Satanic sense of ‘ethic’ and Faustian take on “fairness”, that by 2015, he will be adding yet further abject misery to those millions of victims of his failed economic policies who are forced to claim oh so “generous” benefits that sustain them presently in a constant tug-of-war between “heating or eating”, with the unprecedented move to extend the time period between losing one’s job and claiming state assistance from three to seven days!

Yes, you read that correctly –this isn’t a morbid dystopian fantasy, it is actually going to happen, as announced by the wax-faced Chancellor only this week. Yes, there is the promised cap on winter fuel allowances for the better off elderly, but it seems that part of the ‘bargain’ here to get Osborne to aim his guillotine on those with the capital and resources to withstand a trimming of their benefits was brokered, yet again, on the condition that the Chancellor be able to inflict some further pain on the most impoverished benefit recipients of all, i.e. those on JSA, seemingly as a way of indulging his psychopathic addiction to fiscal cuts on the most defenceless.

Interestingly, Osborne also announced in tandem to this that a further 140,000 public sector workers –whose pay is already capped for the next few years– will be losing their jobs between 2015-16! But mass-sacking 140,000 people isn’t sufficient bloodsport for the likes of Osborne, he also has to send in the hounds to gore the foxes thoroughly by adding the further punishment of delaying the benefits legitimately owed to those made unemployed by his own policies by way of basic compensation for losing their jobs, by a further four days! So, first the punishment of losing their jobs, followed by the punishment of a further four days without any income whatsoever. And this for people who have been working for years and thus paying into the benefits system through tax!

(That Labour is apparently considering supporting this latest despicable kick in the guts of the already capped unemployed is – in combination with its backing of IDS’s unconscionable and unconstitutional “retrospective legislation” in order to stop legally owed compensation for thousands of claimants illegally exploited through the Workfare Programme – the potential final nail in the coffin of the party as standing for anything significantly different or more compassionate to the current malicious ‘austericians’ in government).

This is not only hugely vindictive, it is also governmental theft! Any benefits, such as JSA, which those newly unemployed public sector workers will be claiming is simply a reimbursement of their own taxes! But in future they will be losing four days’ worth of their own money! Funny how the Tax Payers’ Alliance is silent at this time, is it not? They only get ruffled by tax rises on their self-interested super-rich constituency –are far less exercised by the short-changing of those unlucky enough to have to claim back previous tax contributions through unemployment benefits.

So, in future, new JSA claimants will have to wait a further four days, on top of the average three week time period between signing on and receiving one’s first benefit payment –from the already punitive 23 day wait to a now even longer 27 days. And what does inherited multimillionaire Osborne think the unemployed will now have to resort to for those extra four days without any money coming in whatsoever? Well, in Cameron’s ‘big’ society, of course, there is now the ubiquitous redoubt of food banks –apparently a sign of a charitable society, as opposed to a socially fascist one, which it actually, in truth, indicates far more– or loan sharks like Wonga (so more profits for the unregulated cash loan parasites of the private sector then!). That the vampiric Osborne, sickly pale with his own heart-devouring moral decadence, seemingly inbred, venal greed, and pathological antipathy towards the poor, had the sheer gall to crane over the dispatch box in the Commons and claim that such policies symbolised a “compassionate society” just goes to show, yet again, how utterly twisted and ethically illiterate he really is.

Osborne’s fiscal policies represent the grotesque apogee of Conservative recidivism, and he is a quite simply a moral disgrace not only to the office of Chancellor, but to this nation’s international reputation as a civilised and humane democracy. But then, this is, after all, the man who was seen shedding a tear at Thatcher’s funeral –like all the most heartless, narcissistic, icy souls of history, Osborne’s emotional permafrost only ever thaws a little when mourning the passing of an equally unpleasant and despotic predecessor.

That the Tories are still claiming that somehow the mass social devastation they are inflicting on this nation through their scabrous bottom-down cuts to the very poorest and most defenceless is somehow steering a “middle” course in “fiscal consolidation”, some sort of ‘brown shirt liberalism’, and that they are cutting and capping and dismantling the entire welfare state and public sector in a careful way which ensues that the UK’s “social fabric” is fundamentally left intact, is nothing short of grandiose self-delusion –or, probably more likely, sheer disingenuousness spin and, well, lies, or at least, self-deception/”wilful blindness” to the point of almost psychopathic malfeasance. This Tory-led government is, quite simply, a moral abomination, and a serial abuser of human rights, and all its most prominent decision-makers will, The Recusant predicts, in time, have their comeuppance, most probably before the European Court of Human Rights.

If one is to believe current social attitudes statistics, the so-called “Generation Y”, the under-30s, having been brought up thoroughly tabloid-brainwashed into believing that unemployment is some sort of moral failing or sin and that all claimant, irrespective of circumstance or background, are uniformly “scroungers” are rejecting the fundamental principle of the welfare state; are increasingly seeing “WORK”, that inalienable shibboleth of modern British society, as something to choose over any options of state subsistence (such as it remains!), even if it means working for no pay at all! So if these statistics are to be believed, the upcoming “Generated Rent”, or the Evicted Generation as this writer terms them, are mostly anchoritic masochists who expect absolutely nothing whatsoever from the state (such as it now is!) for the entirety of their future adult lives, even if this means ending up destitute on the streets…?!

Are we to truly believe this? Time will tell, but The Recusant is highly sceptical of this latest statistical trophy of the Thatcheritic Right –not necessarily sceptical of the indoctrinated ‘attitudes’ towards welfare among Osborne’s brainwashed ‘Baby Cap’ generation, but sceptical of how far such ‘attitudes’ will endure, given that eventually most of these young people will find themselves accruing perfectly understandable resentments through probable years ahead of remorseless demoralisation under the sub-minimum-wage-slavery of Tory workfare or the barely preferable chronic insecurity of underemployment or endless temping. Give it another few years and then see how “Generation Y” begins to regret its impetuous and self-immolating anti-welfarism when reality bites ever more brutally into the nuts and bolts of basic material endurance. The tide will turn, eventually.

But in the meantime, it seems that the only recognised form of social morality in our increasingly secularised and monetarised Thatcherite society, is that of “hard work” and “wanting to get on” (precepts that of course only apply to the ‘great unwashed’ majority who haven’t bypassed all obligations to societal contribution by dint of inherited wealth and status). Apparently, as long as one sticks to these two basic and arguably largely self-centred ‘ethics’, the way one treats –or mistreats– others less fortunate than themselves, in material and attitudinal terms, does not even come into the moral paradigm at all.

In the UK of today, is deemed completely acceptable, even laudable, to attitudinally stigmatise and demonise the poor, unemployed and even many of the sick and disabled, simply because they are in receipt of tax-funded state benefits, as long as oneself ‘works hard’ in a job and asks little if nothing of the state. It’s almost as if simply to be employed, “self-sufficient” and ‘personally responsible’, is, in Osborne and the Tories’ eyes, a licence for one to otherwise attitudinally stigmatise those less fortunate who have fallen on hard times and been forced to claim benefits, mostly as a result of failed government economic and fiscal policies. Those who are employed are the antinomian ‘elect’, the new Ubermensch; those who are unemployed, or the “scroungers”, are the new ‘Judes’. This modern day re-mythologising of a ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving poor’ is fiscal Calvinism at its nastiest and most brutalising; a sort of passive-aggressive financial fascism.

But a society without a proper welfare state will not be a proper society. So much for a "land fit for heroes" that our grandparents and great grandparents fought for: today it is rapidly becoming more 'a land fit for Neros' (and not just the coffee chain!).

Time to Guillotine the “Sovereign Grant”

What makes this newest bitter pill for the unemployed and poorest in our society all the more unacceptably sour is the fact that at the same time as ‘kicking the beggar’ (see Monty Python’s ‘Upper Class Twit of the Year’ sketch), Osborne is RAISING what is disingenuously termed the “Sovereign Grant”: the amount the nation contributes in tax to the gratuitous largesse of the most prolific ‘benefit scrounging’ family of them all, the Windsors.

So Her Maj is about to receive a 5% increase in her annual indulgences –a rise from £36.1m to £37.9m per year! Interestingly, those figures are uncannily similar to the amount the Government claims it will be “saving” by making the Queen’s most impoverished ‘subjects’ wait an extra four days, on top of the 24 they already have to wait, until they can eat properly with their first paltry payment of JSA, which can work out as low as £56.80 a week! What kind of morally bankrupt country is it that thinks, at a time of austerity and increasing abject poverty for millions, the 19th richest woman in the world, along with her brood of minor royals, simply by dint of her genes, should have her already shamefully vast wealth and estates topped up by 5% when practically everything else is being capped and cut? Well, it would seem, the UK does.

Spokespersons for the Royal estates apparently said that they could “weather a couple of days of negative headlines” after the Tsarist farce of tactlessly accepting a 5% annual increase to its largesse while hundreds of thousands of ‘subjects’ lose their livelihoods and homes for the malfeasances of a banking elite untouched by the austerity their criminal behaviour ‘necessitated’. Well, The Recusant is quite sure the Royalty can do that –after all, how many times does two or three go into 38,000,000…?

But the real question is, how much longer can any remotely sane bankrupt country on its knees and yoked into a period of ceaseless social meltdown and economic decline with no obvious end in sight ‘weather’ the Ruritanian grotesquery of an unelected, anti-democratic and gratuitously rich royal family lording over it as millions of their own children grow up in scandalous poverty, in a 21st century which is rapidly becoming more of a repeat of the 18th or 19th centuries?

Again, only time and the seemingly indefatigable British capacity for chronic self-deception, masochism and, bluntly, complete idiocy, will tell. But once again this writer is reminded of a trope from the title song of The Housemartins’ 1988 album title song, The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death: ‘The people who grinned themselves to death/ Smiled so much they hardly took a breath/ And even when their kids were starving/ They all thought the queen was charming’… So it was in the Eighties, so it is once again in the ‘retrospective’ Twenty-Teens.

In the Seventies the UK was called “the sick man of Europe” (in spite of record social equality) –in the Twenty-Teens, we can now safely be described as the “Sick Society” of Europe. Kick the “scroungers” in the guts again but inflate the unmerited millions of the royal spongers to just under £38m. Of course, £1m of that increase will go towards the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge “refurbishing” their new palatial ‘apartment’ at Kensington Palace (once nicknamed “the aunt heap” by Edward VIII for being utilised as a living space for the ‘poorer relations’ of the royal family) –they have a child on the way remember, the future monarch, and naturally need at least 21 rooms to ensure that he/she has a comfortable and roomy upbringing. And of course, while millions of families are having to move from their “under-occupied” council and social houses under the “spare room subsidy” (“bedroom tax”), it is only right and “fair” in the good old British notion of those terms that the richest family in the country should be permitted to have several hundred unoccupied rooms in their various palaces and castles throughout the land.

The Recusant, which supports the principle of a British Republic and the abolition of the monarchy, on moral and egalitarian grounds –the aristocracy, and the class system itself, can only be got rid of by a symbolic decapitation of its genealogical figureheads– would suggest that instead of thieving a further four days’ worth of claimant eligibility to direly needed benefits, the Government should instead abolish the “Sovereign Grant” and let the royals fund their own refurbishments from their Crown Estate which, as was also announced this week, has made profits this year of £253m. But better still, The Recusant calls for the abolition of the monarchy altogether; at the very least, for a National Referendum on its future –call it a “Sling-Out Referendum”...?

WOW Petition

The Recusant would like to bring readers' attention to a new campaign and petition against the Government's attack on the welfare state, called War on Welfare (WOW) Petition Campaign. This website campaign is currently seeking signatures in a petition against the highly controversial and unethical Atos Work Capability Assessments. They are looking to tot up the 40,000-odd signatures to the 100,000 mark required to force a debate in Parliament. Please go here to add your signature to the petition or click on the WOW link on the front page of this site. WOW is yet another much-needed intervention -alongside Black Triangle, Diabled People Against the Cuts, Calum's List, Poets Against Atos and Caparison's own polemics and anthologies- against the medically illegitimate DWP-Atos WCA regime which adds to what is rapidly becoming a very vibrant and robust movement on this most vital and urgent of issues.

29 June 2013