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Friday, 21 May 2010

UK Child poverty rises for first time in 10 years

The number of children living in poverty in my home country of Scotland has risen for the first time in over a decade, official statistics have revealed. The findings showed that there were 210,000 youngsters in Scotland who were classed as being in relative poverty in 2008-9 - a rise of 10,000 on the previous year.

Twenty-one per cent of children are now affected by the problem. The increase comes despite a commitment - backed by the SNP led Scottish government - to halve child poverty by 2010 and to eradicate it all together by 2020.
The last time there was a rise in the number of youngsters in relative poverty was in 1996-97, just before the UK Labour Government & before the Scottish Parliament came into being.

The numbers jumped to 340,000 from 300,000 the previous year.
The small rise in child poverty in Scotland for the first time in 10 years is a matter of serious concern. These figures represent real children whose lives are being cut short, damaged and diminished because their families are being denied the resources they need to give them a decent start in life.

If the new government is serious about its commitment to eradicating child poverty, we need to see further increases to child benefit and tax credits, not cuts.
The statistics are a major wake-up call. There are now a further 10,000 children in Scotland whose parents struggle to get by - that's a figure equivalent to almost every child that lives in Paisley.

Many of the parents are struggling on state benefits others with benefit sanctions and no benefit payments for months upon months causing real hardship.
There can be no excuses from governments. The new UK government and Holyrood now have a choice - either to end child poverty or to face the prospect of a lost generation.

The statistics show that the poorest parents are having to provide for their children on less than £33 a day - to cover absolutely everything from housing to food, clothing, heating and transport. Parents on benefits are spending around £5 to £10 a day to cover absolutely everything from housing to food, clothing, heating and transport.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Spectre of High Unemployment and the Tory "Con-Dem" Coalition !

UK unemployment increases
12th May 2010

The number of people unemployed in the UK rose by 53,000 to 2.51 million during the three months to March, official figures have shown.

The unemployment total is now at its highest level since December 1994.

However, the total number of people claiming unemployment benefit fell in April by 27,100 to 1.52 million - a sharper fall than expected.

The rate of unemployment remained at 8%, the Office for National Statistics said.

There was also a rise in the number of people classed as economically inactive - those out of work and not seeking work. They rose by almost 100,000 to a record total of just under 8.2 million.

The ONS figures showed youth unemployment rising, with 941,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work in the January to March period - a rise of 18,000 on the previous three months. The number of over-50s out of work for more than a year climbed 12,000 on the quarter to 146,000.

And 1,066,000 people said they were working part-time because they could not find a full-time job - up by 25,000.

Those who had predicted that the worst of unemployment was over were wrong, with the new Conservative / Liberal Democrat government, I predict unemployment to soar within the next year. The previous thatcherite tory government said "unemployment is a price worth paying", it's clear the Conservative / Lib Dems will adopt the phrase "unemployment is a price worth paying" I fear UK inflation will soar as a result.

If it were not bad enough already, it is inevitable that public sector jobs will be lost as the new government sets about cutting spending immediately in order to reduce the deficit.

With private sector collapses and public sector cuts, it is obvious that unemployment will continue to rise during the remainder of 2010 and well into 2011/12.

* Yorks/Humber: Up 18,000 to 258,000
* Wales: Up 11,000 to 133,000
* Scotland: Up 10,000 to 216,000
* North West: Up 8,000 to 297,000
* South East: Up 7,000 to 283,000
* Northern Ireland: Up 6,000 to 55,000
* North East: Up 4,000 to 121,000
* East: Up 1,000 to 194,000
* East Midlands: Down 1,000 to 166,000
* London: Down 2,000 to 372,000
* West Midlands: Down 4,000 to 249,000
* South West: Down 6,000 to 166,000

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Don't let bankers blackmail Britain - Time to stand up for democracy

The Tories may very well rue the day that they won the most seats in the general election but failed to convince the vast majority of the electorate of their fitness to govern.

Because, should they enter into a shady coalition with the Lib Dems and proceed with their agenda of horrendous cuts across the public sector, slashing jobs and services with wild abandon, the inevitable result would be to provoke a massive recession.

The Lib Dems are not likely to be able to moderate the Tories' obsession with destroying the public sector because, in large part, they agree with the Conservative approach.

And, since electoral pacts of this nature are notoriously transitory and hard to hold together, the likelihood is that there would be another election in short order.

The Tories would then be faced with having to fight an election on the basis of having caused job losses in the tens of thousands and a financial crisis which would dwarf all the previous problems in its intensity.

Because the bankers and speculators would cut and run from the prospect of an economy in crisis, increasing the scale of the problem immensely with a united move against the pound, any joint government of losers would become rapidly encircled from without and would face the dubious prospect of a crisis of confidence of almost Greek dimensions.

And that's without even beginning to consider the effects within the country, a growing unity in resistance to a gigantic government assault on living standards and public services that would undoubtedly appear in the working-class movement.

The role of the City in using its financial clout to pressure the government of the day into cutbacks and butchery of the public sector is also coming into sharper relief and will, quite rightly, be a focus for resentment among the working people of this country.

The profoundly anti-democratic power of finance capital has hitherto been exercised out of the public view and with a minimum of publicity.

But the role of investment decisions on government bonds and the pressure exerted by the City in manipulating borrowing charges is emerging into the light of day and trade unions are becoming angrier and more resentful at the undemocratic nature of such behaviour.

In short, capitalism is being unmasked by the current situation as the dictatorship that it has always been, but has succeeded thus far in masking and camouflaging under a veil of secrecy.

It is up to all of us as socialists and as trade unionists to both draw the lessons of this naked abuse of power and to make sure that people everywhere become more aware of just how far into our so-called democracy the tentacles of capital reach.

It will also be up to us, in the event of the unholy alliance of Tories and Lib Dems coming to fruition, to mount an attack on the cutters and slash-and-burn wreckers of the right.

During the election, all the parties ducked the issue of exactly how they proposed to cut the £169 billion deficit, probably because they were too frightened to tell voters precisely which public services would be squeezed. But, in a subsequent election - which is unlikely to be too far away in the circumstances - that debate is going to be unavoidable.

So it's going to be the task of the labour movement to transform Labour's weak-kneed defence of public services on the grounds that "it's too soon to cut" into a full-blooded defence of the sector, warning that Labour won't tolerate attacks on working people to pay for capitalism's crisis.

That's the only position that is even remotely tenable in the event of another election and, if Labour won't accept that, it will only bring on a defeat that won't be just damaging, but could well be terminal for the party as the electoral voice of an abused and deceived working class.

Left Labour MP John McDonnell has warned that the public would not stand for brutal cuts by any Tory-Lib Dem alliance as the two parties sought to seal a deal.

"The speculators are currently governing our country - who elected them?" he asked, insisting that City fat cats should not choose Britain's economic policies.

Tory media pundits have urged a speedy stitch-up of a Tory-Lib Dem coalition, threatening that world markets would otherwise inflict severe punishment on British financial stocks and the pound.

Persistent TV performer and faded Tory Michael Portillo warned that "the markets" would "dictate" the scale of public spending cuts if they were not quickly implemented by British politicians, adding that "the investors will not wait."

But Mr McDonnell hit back, demanding: "Are we going to control our economy or are we going to let the markets control it?"

And he urged the "largest mobilisation" of trade unions and the left "not just in Britain but across Europe" against cuts and neoliberal policies.

Rail union leader Bob Crow added his voice to the call for resistance, urging workers to "fight back on a massive scale" against a coalition of politicians trying to force through spending cuts.

"Whatever deals are stitched together, the budget cuts will top the agenda of whoever grabs the levers of power," he said, predicting "a tidal wave of strikes and public protests that will mirror the growing resistance on the streets of Athens."

Mr Crow said this would happen "when the British people realise just how seriously they have been misled by the political elite."

He issued his rallying call as Tory and Lib Dem leaders failed to hammer out a quick deal for a cuts coalition to assuage the capitalist wolves - the bankers, financiers and speculators.

Over six hours of talks were held in Whitehall yesterday between top Tories and Lib Dems, following a 70-minute meeting between party leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg on Saturday.

Lead Tory negotiator and shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the two parties would meet again over the next 24 hours, following discussions over key policy areas, including "political reform" and "reduction of the deficit."

Mr Cameron will report to a meeting of Tory MPs this evening. He declared yesterday that he was looking for a "constructive approach" from the Lib Dems on "tackling the deficit."

Mr Clegg came under pressure from Lib Dem party members to stick by his demand for electoral reform. He was also seeking agreement on tax policies and education.

Over 1,000 banner-waving demonstrators for proportional representation gathered outside party HQ at the weekend.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sat tight awaiting the outcome of the Tory-Lib Dem talks, following his own offer of coalition talks with Mr Clegg.

Mr Brown sent an email to party members promising that his resolve "will not change" in his "fight for a future fair for all."

Labour MPs John Mann and Kate Hoey urged Mr Brown to resign. Mr Mann complained that Labour had lost votes because the Prime Minister appeared "aloof and out of touch."

Veteran Labour MP Michael Meacher was among those who urged a "progressive rainbow alliance" of Labour, Lib Dems, nationalists, Irish SDLP and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The next government of Britain ?

Whichever party or coalition forms the next government of Britain, the ruling class will be in power.

A Labour-led government based on progressive policies would be the best outcome in current circumstances. But big battles lie ahead to defend public services, jobs, wages, pensions and benefits - and to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan.

Enormous pressure is being exerted by the bankers, speculators and City spivs to force the new government - whatever its composition - to slash public spending or face savage attacks on sterling and that government's ability to borrow money.

A Tory government would enthusiastically collaborate with the ruling class offensive against the working class and peoples of Britain.

That is why we need a government based on the anti-Tory majority.

For the LibDems to support the installation of a minority Tory regime would indicate how shallow and insincere their proclamations in favour of progressive policies really are.

For New Labourites to yield to LibDem and City pressure to support some kind of 'national consensus' for massive cuts would be the final betrayal of millions of working class Labour voters.

A Tory-LibDem government would not represent the broadly progressive majority which still exists among the peoples of Britain.

Yet it is tempting to contemplate such a development with some relish.

Let the Tories provide the butt of mass popular opposition to reactionary policies. Turf them out at the first opportunity and force another General Election.

The problem is that a Tory-LibDem coalition could inflict massive damage in a very short space of time, backed by most of the mass media.

The danger is that many Labour voters would become demoralised rather than reinvigorated, while a fresh General Election could be engineered to consolidate the Tory and LibDem vote against a near-bankrupt Labour Party.

Only a Labour-led government supported by the LibDems, Plaid Cymru, SNP and progressive MPs - and under pressure from the trade union, pensioners and peace movements - would be remotely likely to resist any aspect of the ruling class offensive.

But it would have to tax the rich and big business rather than slash public services. A Windfall Tax on energy, banking, retail, armaments and pharmaceutical monopoly profits would raise billions of pounds immediately.

The government budget deficit would be reduced still further by abandoning ID cards, withdrawing from Afghanistan, terminating PFI schemes, taking the subsidised railways back into public ownership and scrapping plans for new weapons systems.

Together with a genuine commitment to introducing proportional representation - preferably the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies - this kind of progressive programme would win majority support inside and outside Parliament.

Whoever would head such a Labour-led government is far less important than its policies.

It is clear, however, that the New Labourites have brought the Labour Party to the brink of disaster, losing millions of voters, two important trade union affiliations and half the party's individual members.

The remaining affiliated trade unions must take the earliest opportunity to impose progressive policies on the Labour Party and clear these wreckers out of Labour's ranks.

What is even clearer is that Britain's bourgeois political system - designed to ensure that the interests of the majority of the people are not expressed, represented or acted upon - is creaking at the joints.

The power of the monopoly-controlled mass media has limited, distorted and, on some issues, poisoned much of the campaign and debate. The corrupting influence of big business in the three main political parties is seen at their conferences, among their MPs and in their policies. When allowed to become a full-time 'profession', politics attracts some of the worst kind of corruptible careerists who know nothing - and care even less - about many of the people they profess to represent.

And to top it all, we have a voting system which favours the biggest and wealthiest parties, while utterly failing to represent the views or the votes of millions of electors.

Advantage must be taken of the current crisis in Britain's political system to put forward alternatives that embody the real essence of democracy - namely, rule by the people.

However this governmental crisis is resolved, the labour movement will have to focus on mobilising the widest alliance of popular, anti-monopoly forces against reactionary policies from any quarter.

Projecting the People's Charter as the positive alternative will be an essential weapon in the huge battles to come.