Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The contradictory world of Universal Credit

In order that we don't all become deranged at everything, or indeed anything, that emanates from the DWP we should bear this in mind. Iain Duncan-Smith is ideologically driven, as are his cohorts in the Conservative Party. Common sense, human empathy, common decency and basic humanity are to all intents and purposes terra incognita to this crew. Duncan-Smith has created a parallel universe within the DWP where good is bad, day is night, right is wrong and light is dark. A world more suited to a Kafka novel.

The actions of the DWP over the past few years have had little or nothing to do with deficit reduction, despite the vicious cuts. Indeed ESA figures are on the rise while JSA figures are on the decline. Employment may be on the increase. Yet the number of people in work needing to claim housing benefit has increased – it has actually doubled since 2010.

By forcing people into non-jobs and increasing benefits’ sanctioning it is easy to show an increase in employment and a drop in unemployment. Yet when these figures are closely scrutinised it is discovered that many of the ‘jobs’ created are on zero hours contracts; that disabled people are being driven into bogus self-employment as this is said to be the only way we’ll work; and then there are the millions of workers who cannot find enough work to properly live, the underemployed.

This final group could also fall foul of Duncan-Smith’s new policy of in-work benefits’ recipients being sanctioned for not finding more hours work. The fact that they are strenuously seeking more employment is irrelevant. That they actually want to work more hours but cannot find work that isn’t there is beside the point.

Our punitive benefits system, and there will be none more so that universal credit when it is fully implemented, serves only to punish. There is no leeway, no slack offered within this miserly credit that would take into account the various, often conflicting, factors involved in job seeking.

Monday, 30 March 2015

John McDonnell: Miliband will have to backtrack on spending cuts


If, come May 8th, Labour does form the next government it will not be with the runaway majorities it enjoyed in 1997 and 2001. No if we do form the next government it will be in coalition with the SNP, in my view. Add 40+ SNP MPs to the 40 Left-wing Labour MPs and this adds up to a sizable rump.

John McDonnell: Miliband will have to backtrack on spending cuts
John McDonnell, that rare thing in today's Labour Party, a Socialist MP, is of the view that given a win Miliband will be forced to backtrack on spending cuts. On this I tend to agree. 

I’m hoping a coalition with the SNP will mean we are pushed further to the left (how bizarre it is that it could take the party which until relatively recently was dubbed the Tartan Tories to compel Labour to do what it should be doing anyway). If it means we have to abandon some of the anti-worker and working class policies such as zero hours contracts, the WCA, PIP assessments for indefinite awardees, benefits sanctioning, scrapping of the ILF, etc, then so be it.

Labour has lost its political direction, and is in danger of losing its political soul. Somehow or other it must reposition itself to the Left and regain its place as the party of progressive politics; and at the same time regain its credibility amongst its natural core voters who are working people (past and present), disabled who can’t work, and the disenfranchised abandoned on sink estates with little hope for decent education or employment prospects – the second and third generations of Thatcher’s reckless neo-lib policies.   

Ireland should ratify the UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities


Of course the Irish should ratify the UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities. In this day and age it is the only action for a modern and progressive country to take. 

The UK ratified in July 2009. No slouching there. The UK cannot be accused of shirking its responsibilities to equality. Oh no. 

Sadly last year the UK became the first country to be investigated under this convention; and they are facing a high-level inquiry by the United Nations committee responsible for oversight of disability rights into charges of “grave or systemic violations” of disabled people’s rights.