A member of the Roman emperor Tiberius’ household said of a young Caligula, “Never was there a better slave, or a worse master”, when describing Caligula’s slavish obedience to Tiberius, whilst offering nothing but cruelty to those under him.
The quote could well describe the current Tory government. We’re just discovering the price the Tories charge the wealthy for access to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. With a series of government policies promising to line the pockets of the rich, it seems like a dinner with the PM is a worthwhile investment.
At the same time as featherbedding their wealthy paymasters, the Tories, with their lickspittle Lib Dem accomplices, are dismantling the welfare system and handing over an NHS already wounded by Labour’s marketisation mania, to be stripped bare by the hyenas from the Tory dinner table. The sick and disabled are being demonised and forced to jump ever more difficult hurdles, resulting in even the terminally ill losing their benefits.
As with every Tory government, the poor and the unwell will suffer worst. The poor cannot afford the £250,000 for dinner with Cameron, but if you’re on the kind of income to enjoy Osborne’s tax cut from 50p to 45p in the pound, you can decide the dinner menu at Chez No 10. No better slaves, no worse masters.
If there is a ‘Broken Britain’, then the cracks are largest at the top.
I’ve written another letter to the Shields Gazette, in response to a letter from a Mr Dennis Thompson where he makes the case for the Con-Dem cuts by raising the myth of the debt doom. I don’t know if he’s aware of Keynes’ pet concept of the ‘paradox of thrift’; in these terms during periods of economic uncertainty people spend less which further depresses a nation’s economy. In these cases, a government should step in and invest to increase employment, prosperity and investor confidence. The current economic situation could actually be a great opportunity to invest in the future – infrastructure projects for better transport links, develop new renewable energy sources, countrywide house modernisation to improve domestic energy efficiency and many more. As prosperity returns so does the nation’s ability to reduce its debt.
Here’s the letter:
The deficit panic gripping the nation has manifested itself locally in the form of Mr Thompson salivating over cuts (Have Your Say, April 26th), cuts which are purely ideological in nature, unsupported by economic theory, precedent or evidence.
The deficit doom-mongers are promoting a spectacular myth to shock and subdue the public with fear and uncertainty. In the history of audacious political con jobs, it ranks alongside weapons of mass destruction, ‘we’re all in it together’ and ‘big society’.
Mr Thompson’s letter conjures a bogeyman of unmanageable debt and warns of us ending up like Greece or Ireland. Well, Ireland followed George Osborne’s prescription of cut, cut, cut. Look at them now.
True, the UK deficit seems too big to comprehend. But to put it into perspective, public sector debt in 1946 was 250% of GDP; today it’s 60%. In 1946 we started building the NHS and the modern welfare state. Today, despite being one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, we’re destroying it all.
Deficit ‘shock troopers’ like Mr Thompson are promoting a flawed view of economics to support a cuts programme which won’t do any favours for the economy or ordinary British people.
Time and again it’s been proven that when times are tough, a state can jump-start an economy by spending and investing in infrastructure and services, even if it means debt.
Borrowing may be a problem, but it’s also the cure.
Here’s another letter to the Shields Gazette in response to an article covering Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn’s Early Day Motion (1375) which calls for Religious Education to be included in the English Baccalaureate. It’s not ‘new’ news, as the EDM is several months old and the number of supporting signatories is pathetic. It is concerning that any MPs would support such a stupid motion, and particularly as a supporter of the Green Party, that the only Green MP Caroline Lucas has put her name to another EDM which promotes faith before fact.
Your article, headlined ‘MP fights to keep religion in schools’ (Tuesday 19 April), implies that as Religious Education is not included in the English Baccalaureate, RE is being eliminated from education. However, RE is still available on the curriculum for students to select, which is much-removed from the misleading headline implication that religion is being removed from schools.
The English Baccalaureate reflects the key qualifications that universities, particularly those in the Russell group, are looking for when deciding on student admissions. The Baccalaureate is simply a recognition of the real-world expectations of the universities, realised as a recommended curriculum for students wishing to go on to university education.
It astounds me though, that any MP would want to make ‘RE an educational priority’ when surely reality based subjects like mathematics, science and english, should be the real priorities, not the philosophical ditherings of religions over the ages.
The fact that the campaign Mr Hepburn sponsored along with Caroline Lucas, Peter Bottomley, Tony Cunningham and Jim Dobbin is backed by a Christian evangelical organisation rather than an educational one is indeed worrying.
There’s no harm in learning about religions, but forcing it on students who are busy preparing the groundwork for a future career is not only irrational and an unfair added pressure, but extremely unethical when backed by religious groups intent on recruiting more souls for their supernatural super-being.
And frankly, do they really want to bore students to death with irrelevant myths and mumbo-jumbo?
Here’s a letter published in tonight’s Shields Gazette:
It’s amusing to see South Tyneside Labour Party councillors toeing the party line when it comes to the Alternative Vote; amusing because they’re toeing David Cameron’s line and promoting the ‘No to AV’ campaign, instead of following their own party leader Ed Miliband. They even display the same scaremongering and dishonesty, and tellingly, the same low opinion of voters’ intelligence; features which permeate No to AV campaign.
There’s no doubt that the No to AV campaign is a Tory party machine. The campaign’s leaders are mostly from Tory backgrounds and much of the funding comes from wealthy party donors, who must consider the Labour and union puppets on-board as particularly ‘useful idiots’.
Many politicians are doing all they can to derail a fairer electoral system, to protect their own feather-bedded privilege and keep power safely away from the people. Is it any wonder that citizens are losing faith in politics?
Such a cynical attitude is poisonous to democracy.
The British voter deserves better: AV, which could give a voice to people whose vote in safe seats are currently ignored.
David Cameron says his ‘gut instinct’ tells him that AV is wrong. I prefer to use my brain, but if I had to, my gut instinct would tell me that if the Tories and their wealthy backers are against AV, then AV must be the right move for the rest of us.
If you want a better, fairer electoral system, vote YES to AV.
A letter published in tonight’s Shields Gazette, in response to a letter on 8th February where correspondent ‘Mr Goldsmith’ of South Shields described the Auschwitz concentration camp as a ‘theme park’.
Here it is:
After recognising that we should not forget the Holocaust, Mr Goldsmith in his letter of 8th February then refers to Auschwitz as a ‘theme park’. Was he trying to be funny? This is probably one of the most idiotic comments I’ve ever read in the Gazette, and reminds me of the arguments usually brandished by the Holocaust denialists of the neo-Nazis, the British National Party, or the English Defence League.
After rightly criticising the cynical use of Holocaust Memorial Day to score political points, Goldsmith then committed the same abuse of the day of remembrance by demonstrating a brand of ignorance which Holocaust Memorial Day is meant to help eradicate.
Clearly we have a long way to go as a society if people like Mr Goldsmith have learned nothing from some of the darkest episodes of our history.
The Gazette’s front page splash on South Tyneside Council’s plans to commit us to a 25 year contract for waste incineration (16th September) is a clear example of PR before fact.
The project is heralded by the Gazette as an ‘eco-friendly revolution’. There’s nothing eco-friendly about incineration. Despite the claim that the incinerator will ‘save’ 64,000 tons of CO2 every year, this is only in comparison to landfilling without methane reclamation. If South Tyneside Council and it’s partners Sunderland and Gateshead had chosen sustainable reclamation instead of burning, the CO2 saving could have been considerably more, and kilowatt for kilowatt incinerators produce more CO2 than traditional gas-fired power stations.
Full reclamation and recycling also saves valuable materials which can be reused, saving more energy than is created by burning the waste and reducing the need to make products from virgin material. This in turn helps to protect fragile ecosystems around the world from pollution, deforestation and habitat loss.
Councillor Jim Perry claims that incineration helps to “increase recycling and protect the environment”, but he’s wrong. Incinerators need a minimum and consistent stream of waste to function profitably. Incineration contracts like the one our council’s signed up to locks us into to supplying waste to burn for decades, which means there’s little incentive to increase recycling if you’re financially committed to feed an incinerator.
South Tyneside Council had an opportunity to usher in a cleaner sustainable future without the ecological burden of incineration.
It was an opportunity wasted.
Tory candidate Karen Allen misses the real concerns many people have over the Conservative Party funding, courtesy of multi-millionaire Michael Ashcroft (Have Your Say, March 15). The secrecy behind which the Tories sought to shroud the issue; why it took ten years for the tax abroad Lord to come clean over his tax status, especially as both William Hague and David Cameron had been dodging answering the questions. Is it more than coincidence that Ashcroft spilled the beans only just before the information was going to be made public anyway?
Any ambiguity could have been cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction if Ashcroft and other senior Tories had agreed to be interviewed in person by the Electoral Commission. Instead they refused to comply with the Electoral Commission’s requests and stayed away, much to the Commission’s frustration.
Indeed, rather than the ‘clean bill of health’ that Karen Allen claims, the conclusions of the Electoral Commission’s report read more like the Scottish law verdict of ‘not proven’ than a resounding not guilty.
The suspicion that the Tories find the whole episode an embarrassment and want the story to go away was further strengthened when Tory MPs boycotted the standards inquiry into the Ashcroft peerage.
From the saddle of her moral high horse Karen Allen points to Labour’s non-dom peers, but the ‘they did it so can we’ defence sounds like the politics of the trough, not a party with a ‘clean bill of health’ laying claim to electoral propriety.
Published in the Shields Gazette today. With some editing.