Category Archives: Social Policy

The Commons Education Select Committee  and the libel of the white working-class

Robert Henderson

The Commons Select Committee (CSC) on Education has  produced a report on the underachievement of white British working-class children.  This  ostensibly  highlights the poor educational performance of white British children who are eligible for free meals (FSM)  compared to those in receipt of FSM from ethnic minority groups such as those of Indian and Chinese ancestry.  I say ostensibly because there are severe flaws in methodology.  These are:

  1. The definition of white British is far from simple. The report distinguishes between Irish,  traveller of Irish heritage,  Gypsy/Roma and Any other white background (see CSC table 2 page 13).  The Any other white background is the largest.  It is not clear from the report how the white British were defined, for example , a child of white immigrants might well consider his or herself white British.  Who would whether they were or were not British?
  2. The numbers of  some of the ethnic minority groups cited are small, for example, at the end of Key Stage 4 (the end of GCSE courses) in 2013 there were only  168 Chinese in the country who pupils who qualified for FSM. (see CSC table 2 page 13).

3. The use of FSM  as a proxy for working-class  means that  white British apples are being compared with variously coloured ethnic minority  oranges. Most importantly the use of FSM means that the British white working-class as a whole is not represented , but only the poorest  section of it. Hence, the general treatment in the media of the report, that it shows the white working-class to be falling behind ethnic minorities, is grossly misleading. The report recognises this:

…measuring working class performance in education through FSM data can be misleading. The Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE) drew our attention to a mismatch between the proportion of children who were eligible for free school meals and the proportion of adults who would self-define as working class:17 in 2012/13, 15% of pupils at the end of key stage 4 were known to be eligible for free school meals,18 compared with 57% of British adults who defined themselves as ‘working class’ as part of a survey by the National Centre for Social Research.The CRRE warned that projecting the educational performance of a small group of economically deprived pupils onto what could otherwise be understood to be a much larger proportion of the population had “damaging consequences” on public understanding of the issue. The logical result of equating FSM with working class was that 85% of children were being characterised as middle class or above.

The  white British group  will be overwhelmingly drawn from the most deprived part of that  group’s population, while many of the ethnic minority groups  held up as superior to the white British children , will have a large  component of people who are not drawn from the lower social reaches of their society, but are poor simply because they are either  first generation immigrants or the children of first generation immigrants and  have not established themselves in well paid work – think of all the tales the mainstream media and politicians regale the British with about immigrant graduates doing menial jobs.  These  parents  will both have more aspiration for their children and a greater  ability to assist their children with their schoolwork.

The range  of  those qualifying for FSM is extensive and there is  considerable  complexity resulting from pupils  going in and out of the qualifying criteria, viz:

(Para 12 of the report) . Of the  Children are eligible for free school meals if their parents receive any of the following payments:

Income Support

• Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

• Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

• the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit

• Child Tax Credit (provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and

have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)

• Working Tax Credit run-on—paid for 4 weeks after they stop qualifying for

Working Tax Credit

• Universal Credit

13. A report for the Children’s Society noted that the criteria for FSM mean that parents working 16 or more hours per week (24 hours for couples from April 2012) lose their entitlement to FSM since they are eligible for working tax credit; as a result there are around 700,000 children living in poverty who are not entitled to receive free school meals. In addition, not all those who may be eligible for FSM register for it; a recent report for the Department for Education estimated under-registration to be 11% in 2013. This figure varies across the country: in the North East under-registration is estimated to  be 1%, compared to 18% in the East of England and 19% in the South East. 

4. Greater resources, both material  advantages and better quality staff,  are being put into schools which have a  very large ethnic  minority component  than schools which are predominantly filled with white British children.  This is occurring both as a matter of deliberate government policy and through not-for-profit corporations such as charities.

Government policies are things such as the  pupil premium . This is paid to schools for each pupil  who qualifies under these criteria:

In the 2014 to 2015 financial year, schools will receive the following funding for each child registered as eligible for free school meals at any point in the last 6 years:

£1,300 for primary-aged pupils

£935 for secondary-aged pupils

Schools will also receive £1,900 for each looked-after pupil who:

has been looked after for 1 day or more

was adopted from care on or after 30 December 2005, or left care under:

a special guardianship order

a residence order

The amounts involved for a school can  be considerable. Suppose that a secondary school with 1,000 children  has 40% of its pupils qualifying for  FSM. That would bring an additional  £374,000 to the school in this financial year.   At present £2.5 billion is being spent on the pupil premium.

According to a Dept of Education (DoE) investigation published in 2013, Evaluation of Pupil Premium Research Report ,  a  good deal of this money is being spent on ethnic minorities and those without English as a first language     (see tables 2.1 and 2.2, pages27 and 30) . The pupil premium can be used to provide extra staff, better staff, improved equipment after school activities and so on.

Schools can allocate the Pupil Premium money  at their discretion and often make the identification of where money has gone next to impossible because they do things such as merging the Pupil Premium money with money from other budgets and joining forces with other schools in the area to provide provision (see pages 14/15 in the DoE report).  It is probable that the Pupil Premium money brought into schools by white British working-class FSM children  is being used,  at least in part,  to benefit ethnic minorities. The converse is wildly improbable.

Ethnic minorities are concentrated in particular areas and particular schools. This makes it more  likely that ethnic children will go to schools with a higher  proportion of  free school meal pupils than schools dominated by  white pupils.  That will provide significantly greater funding for an ethnic  minority majority school than for one dominated by white Britons, most of whom will not qualify for the Pupil Premium. .

Because ethnic minority families, and especially those of first generation immigrants, are substantially larger on average than those of  white Britons, the likelihood of ethnic minority children qualifying for FSM will be greater than it is for white Britons because  the larger the family the more likely a child is to qualify for FSM.   This will boost the additional money from the pupils premium going to ethnic  minority dominated schools.

An example of not-for-profit intervention is  the charity Teach First.  The select committee report (para  116) describes their work:

 The Government’s response to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s first annual report noted that Teach First will be training 1,500 graduates in 2014 to 2015 and placing them in the most challenging schools, and that as of 2014/15 Teach First will be placing teachers in every region of England.

The Teach First  website states:  “Applicants to our Leadership Development Programme are taken through a rigorous assessment process. We select only those who demonstrate leadership potential, a passion to change children’s lives and the other skills and attributes needed to become an excellent teacher and leader. These participants teach and lead in our partner primary and secondary schools in low-income communities across England and Wales for a minimum of two years, ensuring every child has access to an excellent education.”

Apart from specific programmes such as the Pupil Premium and special training for teachers to prepare them what are euphemistically called “challenging schools” which end up disproportionately  favouring ethnic minority pupils,  there is also scope within  the normal funding of state schools to favour ethnic minorities because head teachers have a good deal of discretion in how funds are spent. That applies with knobs on to Academies and Free Schools.

There is also a considerable difference in funding between the funding of areas with large ethic minority populations, especially black and Asian groups,  and areas with largely white populations,  for example,   between East Anglia and London: “ The government has announced plans to raise per-pupil funding 3.7pc in Norfolk to £4,494, 7pc in Cambridgeshire to £4,225 and 2.5pc in Suffolk to £4,347 next year following a campaign by MPs.

“But councillors have called for a long term overhaul of the funding system, which will still see each student in the county receive around half of the allocation in the City of London, which will get £8,594.55 for each pupil.”

5. The effect of political correctness. With good reason any teacher,  and  especially white teachers,   will be fearful of not seeming to be devoutly political correct.  They know they are at the mercy of other teachers , parents and pupils and know that an accusation of racism from any  source could well end their teaching career at worst and at best seriously disrupt their lives while a complaint is being investigated. In addition, many  teachers will be emotionally attached to political correctness generally and to multiculturalism in particular.

In such circumstances it is reasonable to suspect that teachers in schools with a mix of ethnic minority and white British children  will devote more time and patience to ethnic minority pupils than   to white children.  They may do this without conscious intent, with either  fear or the ideological commitment making such a choice seem the natural one.

Such preferential treatment for ethnic minority children is facilitated by the large amount of continuous assessment  involved in GCSE.  (This is supposedly being reduced but the results of the change has not yet worked through to the end of a GCSE cycle.  Teachers routinely help children to re-write work which does not come up to par, in some cases re-doing the work themselves . Teachers have also been caught helping pupils  to cheat during exams . The opportunity and the temptation to help ethnic minority children is there and the pressure of political correctness may cause opportunity to become actuality.

6. The disruptive effect on schools of a large number of pupils from different backgrounds with English as a second language, the type of schools where the headmaster boasts “We have 100 languages spoken here”.   The most likely white British children to be in such schools are those from the poorest homes which means they qualify as FSM pupils.  They will be lost in these Towers of Babel not only because often they will be in the minority,  but also because, unlike children with English as a second language or  ethnic minority English speakers  who will have a good chance of enhanced tuition, the white British FSM pupils  will not enjoy  such a privilege and may be actually ignored to a large extent because of the desire of the staff to assist ethnic minority children.

7 . The downplaying of British culture. The school curriculum in Britain and  especially in England (where the vast majority of the British live)   is shaped to reflect the politically correct worldview.  This means that ethnic minority culture and history  are frequently  pushed ahead of British culture and history.   The larger the percentage of ethnic minorities in a school, the greater will be the tendency to marginalise the white British pupils, who will almost certainly be drawn largely from those qualifying for FSM. They will be deracinated and become culturally disorientated.

To this school propaganda is added the politically correct and anti-British, anti-white  propaganda which is pumped out  ceaselessly by mainstream politicians and the media. This  will reinforce the idea that being white and British is  somehow at best  inferior to that of ethnic minority cultures and at worst something to be ashamed of, something  to be despised, something which is a  danger  to its possessor.

Conclusion

As far as the general public is concerned, the Select Committee report is saying the white working-class children – all of them not just those receiving FSM  – are doing less well than ethnic minority children.   The reason for this is simple, the mainstream media have reported the story in a way which would promote such a belief, both in their  headlines and the stories themselves.

A comparison between  the  white British population as a whole and the ethnic minority populations as a whole would be nearer to reality, but it would still be comparing apples and oranges for the reasons given above. The ethnic minority children would still be likely to have on average parents who would not be representative of the ancestral populations they came from, political correctness would still drive teachers to favour ethnic minority pupils,  continuous assessment would still allow teachers to illegally aid ethnic minorities, heads could still decide to divert more funds towards ethnic minorities and the promotion of ethnic minority cultures and history would still exist.

What could be done to remedy matters? Continuous assessment should stop  and end of  course synoptic exams substituted . Ethnic minority children should not have more spent on them than white British children.  School funding in different areas should be broadly similar per capita.  British culture and history should be the dominant teaching driver.  Political correctness should be removed from the curriculum generally.

As for future studies, these should be controlled in a much more subtle manner than simply using FSM  as a criterion.  Any study of all or any part of group should control for parents’ education,  income, the amount of money spent on each pupil, the teacher pupil ratio,  the quality of the teachers and the general facilities of the school.

Those suggestions would not entirely cure the problem,  but it would be good start to both getting at the truth and ending the demonization of the white working-class  which has gathered pace ever since the Labour Party decided to drop the white working-class as their client base and substitute for them the politically correct groups of gays, feminists and most potently ethnic minorities.

See also

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-english-white-working-class-and-the-british-elite-from-the-salt-of-the-earth-to-the-scum-of-the-earth/

 

The reckless mass medication of Britain

Robert Henderson

The reckless and even the enforced medication of the population grows apace.  State bodies are pressing for widespread or universal medication. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)  recommends the universal  use of statins by men over 50 and women over 60, ministers are considering  making compulsory  the addition of folic acid to flour  and  councils are being encouraged by Public Health England  to put fluoride in the water supply .

That is direct government action. But there are many drugs with potent side effects which are being given out wholesale without any government interference. Potentially the greatest risk comes from  antibiotics to which resistance is being built up all the time. The World Health Organisation warned this year that  overuse was potentially creating a crisis more serious than Aids . Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, claimed : “A post-antibiotic era — in which common infections and minor injuries can kill — far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

Antidepressants are being prescribed in record numbers and the side effects, which often make people feel as though they are going around in a mental fog,  can make people feel the cure is worse than the disease. Moreover, they can be prescribed for people who either are not seriously depressed but suffering from a physical illness  or people whose severe depression is the consequence of a physical illness.

There is also the problem of addiction to such drugs with severe withdrawal symptoms experienced by some people, symptoms such as these suffered by a patient identified only as Henry“It was torture. I thought I was going to die, and I didn’t care. For two years, I was in severe physical pain and so weak I lay all day on the sofa. My cognition was severely affected, I was dizzy, with blurred vision, I couldn’t read a bedtime story to my son and couldn’t remember things that had happened just a few seconds previously.”

But even where there is no psychological problems or unpleasant but not immediately obvious damaging physical effects,  drugs can have dramatic consequences. For example, aspirin  is routinely prescribed to thin the blood, especially to those who have suffered heart attacks, but  recent research found that aspirin’s daily use  “ leads to 37 per cent increased risk of internal bleeding and 38 per cent increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke,”  while the  long term use of the contraceptive pill doubles the risk of glaucoma..

Probably the most controversial widely used medication in Britain  at present are statins. Side effects can be extreme.  Statins (which are used to reduce cholesterol)  have been the subject of much complaint by patients. There are studies which claim that statins have little or no side effects,  but the  catalogue of complaints against them is so huge that it is difficult to see how they could have come to such conclusions.

I have taken statins  for many since suffering   a heart attack,  I can I can vouch for the fact that they have powerfully obnoxious side effects. Luckily I did not  suffer psychotic episodes  such as those  which afflicted the unfortunate Dr Allan Woolley before his suicide,  which was attributed to the side effects of statins . However,  I  have experienced severe  disabling symptoms such as intense aching, especially in the hands, a permanent fatigue and a diminution of mental function, especially of memory and concentration (I had  to consciously concentrate on what I was doing rather than simply doing it without thinking, while my power of immediate recall, previously very good, became unreliable.

I only realised statins were responsible for such symptoms in 2007  – for years I attributed them to the  process of ageing and the after effects of the heart attack – after I read several articles by Dr James Le Fanu who both questioned the general value of  statins and described the side effects:  ” Statins are useless for 95 per cent of those taking them, while exposing all to the hazard of serious side-effects and  detailed the side effects….they seriously interfere with the functioning of the nerve cells, affecting mental function, and muscles.” (Sunday  Telegraph  17 3 2007).  He concluded that only those with a personal or family  history of heart trouble should take them.

But even that advice is debatable. Eating an apple-a-day is as effective as taking statins according to a recent piece of research, viz:

“Prescribing either an apple a day or a statin a day to everyone over 50 years old is likely to have a similar effect on population vascular mortality. Choosing apples rather than statins may avoid more than a thousand excess cases of myopathy and more than 12 000 excess diabetes diagnoses. The basic costs of apples are likely to be greater than those of statins; however, NHS prescription prices and convenience may drive people to purchase their apples from a store rather than through a pharmacy, thereby reducing direct NHS costs, or the NHS may be able to negotiate apple price freezes (although defrosted apples may not be so palatable).23”

There are also doubts about whether cholesterol levels have anything to do with heart attacks and strokes, so the concentration on bringing  down cholesterol levels may be pointless.

It might be thought with the ever increasing range of medications available that overall  life expectancy would be increasing and go on increasing . Not so.  In  recent years in the UK the trend towards greater life expectancy after the age of 65 has flat-lined for men and actually declined for women. “Life expectancy at age 65 in 2012 has been projected as 18.3 years for men and 20.6 years for women on average….In 2008 life expectancy post 65 was 19 years for men on average and 21.3 years for women on average. In 2010 it was 18.7 for men and 21.1 for women.”

This suggests that medication of the elderly is at best ineffective in extending lives on average and  may even be a  cause of the stagnation of increases in life expectancy amongst the old.

There is also a  moral question, namely,  how much medication should be given to a patient   regardless of the quality of life  they can experience?  The idea that living is desirable regardless of the nature of the life is difficult to sustain morally.  That is particularly true of the old. I have never encountered anyone over the age of 85 whose life I have known in some detail who has been averagely happy or physically comfortable.   Almost invariably by that age the body has developed some serious malady whether physical or mental.  That is not to say such elderly people generally  want to die.  Rather, it is simply that the life being led is normally miserable at worst and unfulfilling at best.  If they are loaded down with  medications, many or all of which will have obnoxious side effects,  this may extend their lives by a few  months or years,  but the patient  may well feel that there is a case for saying let nature take its course if those few extra months and years will be suffered rather than enjoyed because of the side effects of medication.

Why do patients submit to drug regimes regardless of the ill consequences? Patients generally trust their doctors and are inclined to accept advice in the vast majority of cases. But even if they do not want to carry on with a drug because of the side effects – and many commonly prescribed drugs have effects which make the enjoyment of life seriously difficult – they find it difficult to refuse a doctor’s advice. Often it is not a simple matter of refusing a single treatment, because many patients, and especially elderly ones, will have a range of ailments and  will fear that refusing to take one medication may ruin their relationship with their GP or a hospital consultant, with a consequent diminution in the quality and scope of their  future  medical care. Even if unfounded , such fears will drive patients to carry on with medication which is causing them serious discomfort.

Things could be improved if doctors were required to discuss the side effects of drugs with patients. The only warning I have ever been given voluntarily by a doctor – and I have spent a great deal of the past twenty years with chronic complaints – about side effects is drowsiness, yet most drugs which seriously interfere with the natural workings of the body will have a list of serious side effects.  For example, diuretics, a very commonly prescribed drug to increase fluid removal from the body has these side effects according to  the BUPA guidance :

Side-effects of diuretics include:

mild gastro-intestinal problems, such as feeling sick

a fall in blood pressure that is related to posture (postural hypotension), which causes you to feel faint or dizzy when you stand up

altered levels of salts in your body, such as low levels of potassium (hypokalaemia) and sodium (hyponatraemia)

Less common side-effects of diuretics include:

gout (a condition that causes pain and swelling in your joints)

impotence in men (the inability to achieve or sustain an erection during sex)

skin rashes

headaches

certain blood disorders, which can make you more likely to get infections

What can be done to reduce overmedication? First, if doctors explained the side effects to patients that in itself would probably reduce too ready prescription of medicines because the patient would be put off taking those with serious side effects simple by their recital by the doctor  and doctors would be much less likely to prescribe such drugs  unless they honestly believed a patient desperately needed them if they had to explain the side effects and overcome the resistance of patients who did not really need the medication.

Second, non-medical directions and incentives to doctors to prescribe certain medications widely, whether that be government authored or supported schemes such as folic acid in bread or drug companies peddling medicines to doctors, especially GPs, which materially benefit doctors  should be banned.

 

 

If there had been no post-1945 mass immigration into Britain …

Robert Henderson

Without mass immigration we would not have ….

1.. A rapidly rising population. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/06/uk-population-rise-ons

2. Ethnic minority ghettoes. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100047117/britains-ethnic-ghettos-mean-liberals-can-wave-goodbye-to-their-dream-of-scandinavian-social-democracy/

3. Race relations legislation, most notably the Race Relations Act of 1976. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1976/74

4. Gross interferences with free speech such as those in the 1976  Race Relations Act  and 1986 Public Order Act arising from the British elite’s determination and need (from their point of view) to suppress dissent about immigration and its consequences.

5. Native Britons being  charged with criminal offences and,  in increasing numbers of cases,  finding themselves in  prison  for expressing their opposition to mass immigration  or  for being non-PC about immigrants and British born ethnic and racial minorities.  http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/the-oppression-of-emma-west-the-politically-correct-end-game-plays-out/

6. Native Britons losing their jobs simply for beings non-pc  about  immigration and ethnic and racial minorities. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1239765/Park-ranger-sacked-racist-joke-wins-40k-compensation-tribunal-tells-council-skin-colour-fact-life.html

7. Such a virulent political correctness,  because the central plank of the creed  – race – would have been removed or at least made insignificant. Without large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities to either act as the clients of the politically correct or to offer a threat of serious civil unrest to provide the politically correct with a reason to enact authoritarian laws banning free discussion about the effects of immigration, “antiracism” would have little traction.   Moreover, without the massive political  leverage race has provided,  political correctness in its other  areas,  most notably homosexuality and feminism,   would have been much more difficult to inject   into British society.  But   even  if  political correctness  had been  robbed of its dominant racial aspect  whilst leaving  the rest of the ideology  as potent as  it is now,    it would be a trivial thing compared to the ideology with its dominant  racial aspect intact.   Changes to the status of homosexuals and women do not fundamentally alter the nature of a society by destroying  its natural  homogeneity. Moreover, customs and laws can always be altered peacefully. A  country with  large unassimilable minorities  cannot be altered peacefully.

8. State sponsored  multiculturalism, which is now institutionalised within  British public service and the state  educational system. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12371994

9. Islamic terrorism. https://www.mi5.gov.uk/home/mi5-history/mi5-today/the-rise-of-the-islamist-terrorist-threat.html

10. The creeping introduction of Sharia Law through such things as the toleration of sharia courts to settle disputes between Muslims provided both parties agree. The idea that such agreement is voluntary is highly suspect because of the  pressure from within the Muslim population for Muslims to conform to Sharia law and to settle disputes within the Muslim population.  But even if it was always entirely voluntary, it would be wrong in principle to have an alien system of law accepted as a rival to the law of the land because inevitably it would undermine the idea of the rule of law and  further  isolate Muslims from the mainstream. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10778554/The-feisty-baroness-defending-voiceless-Muslim-women.html

11. Muslims Schools which fail to conform to the national curriculum at best and at worst are vehicles for the promotion of Islamic supremacist ideas. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10777054/Ofsted-chief-to-take-charge-of-probe-into-Islamic-school-plot.html

12.  A calamitous housing shortage. http://www.jrf.org.uk/media-centre/shortage-homes-over-next-20-years-threatens-deepening-housing-crisis

13. Housing Associations which cater solely for ethnic and racial minority  groups. http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/the-truth-about-social-housing-and-ethnic-minorities/

14. A serious and growing shortage of school places, especially primary school places . http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23931974

  1. Health tourism on a huge scale http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8880071/international-health-service/

16  Benefit tourism on a massive scale. http://www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk/pdfs/BP1_37.pdf

17 . Such crowded roads and public transport. http://www.london.gov.uk/media/assembly-press-releases/2013/10/fears-of-future-overcrowding-due-to-167-million-more-london-bus

18. Such a low wage economy.  http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/jan/17/eastern-european-immigration-hits-wages

19. Such high unemployment and underemployment. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/11/13/uk-employment-figures_n_4265134.html

20. Such a  need for the taxpayer to subsidise those in work because of the under cutting of wages  by immigrants.  http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/majority-of-new-housing-benefit-claimants-in-work/6521183.article

21. Areas of work effectively off limits to white Britons because either an area of work is controlled by foreigners or British born ethnic minorities, both of whom only employ those of their own nationality and/or ethnicity, or unscrupulous British employers who use foreigners and ethnic minorities because they are cheap and easier to control. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/800000-uk-jobs-advertised-across-europe–and-foreign-jobseekers-even-get-travelling-costs-8734731.html

22 As much crime (and particularly violent crime) because foreigners and British born blacks and Asians commit a disproportionately large proportion of UK crime, for example see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2522270/Foreign-prisoner-total-11-000.html

and

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/269399/Race-and-cjs-2012.pdf

and

http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/the-black-instigated-and-dominated-2011-riots-and-the-great-elite-lie/

23.  Double standards in applying the law to the white native population and immigrants, with the white native population being  frequently treated more harshly  than blacks, Asians and white first generation immigrants. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/07/female-gang-who-attacked-woman-spared-jail_n_1133734.html

24. Female genital mutilation. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/15/fgm-first-suspects-charged-court

25. “Honour” killings. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/honourcrimes/crimesofhonour_1.shtml#h2

26. Forced marriages. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/honourcrimes/crimesofhonour_1.shtml#h2

27. Widespread electoral fraud. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10557364/Election-watchdog-demands-action-amid-fears-of-Asian-voter-fraud.html

 

We would have ……

1. A very homogenous country,  as it used to be.

2. No fear of speaking our minds about race and  immigration.

3. No fear of speaking our minds about foreigners.

4. No fear of being proud of our country and Western culture generally.

5. No people being sent to prison for simply saying what they thought about race and ethnicity.

6. Much less political correctness.

7. Equality before the law in as far as that is humanly possible.

8. A stable population.

9. Plentiful housing, both rented and for purchase, at a price the ordinary working man or woman can afford.

10. Abundant  school places.

11. An NHS with much shorter waiting lists  and staffed overwhelmingly with native Britons. Those who claim that the NHS would collapse with foreign staff should ask themselves one question: if that is  the case,  how do areas of the UK with few racial or ethnic minority people manage to recruit native born Britons  to do the work?

12. A higher wage economy .

13. Far more native Britons in employment.

14. No areas of work effectively off limits to white Britons because either an area of work is controlled by foreigners or British born ethnic minorities, both of whom only employ those of their own nationality and/or ethnicity, or unscrupulous British employers who use foreigners and ethnic minorities because they are cheap and easier to control.

15. A much lower benefit bill for those of working age.

16. Substantially less crime.

17. An honest electoral system.

What the British people want from their politicians… and what they get

Robert Henderson

What do our politicians think of the electorate: precious little. All the major mainstream parties either ignore or cynically  misrepresent  the issues  which are most important to the British – immigration, our relationship with the EU, the English democratic deficit,  foreign adventures , the suppression of free speech and the precarious state of the economy. . These issues are  not addressed honestly because they either clash with the prevailing internationalist agenda or because to address them honestly would mean admitting how much sovereignty had been given away to the EU and through other treaties.

This antidemocratic failure to engage in honest politics is an established trait. The wilful removal from mainstream politics of vitally important issues has been developing for more than half a century. The upshot is that the British want their politics to be about something which is not currently on offer from any party with a chance of forming a government. The British public broadly seek what these days counts as rightist action when it comes to matters such as preserving nationhood, immigration, race and political correctness, but traditional leftist policies on items such as social welfare, the NHS and the economy (has anyone ever met someone in favour of free markets and free trade who has actually lost his job because of them?).

The electorate’s difficulty is not simply their inability to find a single party to fulfil all or even most of their political desires. Even on a single issue basis, the electorate frequently cannot find a party offering what they want because all the mainstream parties now carol from the same internationalist, globalist, supranational, pro-EU, pc songsheet. The electorate finds they may have any economic programme provided it is laissez faire globalism, any relationship with the EU provided it is membership, any foreign policy provided it is internationalist and continuing public services only if they increasingly include private capital and provision. The only difference between the major parties is one of nuance.

Nowhere is this political uniformity seen more obviously than in the Labour and Tory approaches to immigration. Labour has adopted a literally mad policy of “no obvious limit to immigration”. The Tories claim to be “tough” on immigration, but then agree to accept as legal immigrants more than 100,000 incomers a year from outside the EU plus any number of migrants from within the EU (350 million have the right to settle here). There is a difference, but it is simply less or more of the same. Worse, in practice there would probably be no meaningful difference to the numbers coming whoever is in power. The truth is that while we remain part of the EU and tied by international treaties on asylum and human rights, nothing meaningful can be done for purely practical reasons. But even if something could be done, for which serious party could the person who wants no further mass immigration vote? None.

A manifesto to satisfy the public

All of this set me thinking: what manifesto would appeal to most electors? I suggest this political agenda for the What the People Want Party:

We promise:

1. To always put Britain’s interests first. This will entail the adoption of an unaggressive nationalist ethic in place of the currently dominant internationalist ideology.

2. The reinstatement of British sovereignty by withdrawal from the EU and the repudiation of all treaties which circumscribe the primacy of Parliament.

3. That future treaties will only come into force when voted for by a majority in both Houses of Parliament and   accepted in a referendum . Any  treaty should be subject to repudiation following  Parliament passing a motion that repudiation should take place and that motion being ratified by a referendum.  Treaties could also be repudiated by a citizen initiated referendum (see 29).

4. A reduction in the power of the government in general and the Prime Minister in particular and an increase in the power of Parliament. This will be achieved by abolishing the Royal Prerogative, outlawing the party whip and removing the vast powers of patronage available to a government.

5. That the country will only go to war on a vote in both Houses of Parliament.

6. An end to mass immigration by any means, including asylum, work permits and family reunion.

7. An end to all officially-sponsored political correctness.

8. The promotion of British history and culture in our schools and by all publicly-funded bodies.

9. The repeal of all laws which give by intent or practice a privileged position to any group which is less than the entire population of the country, for example the Race Relations Act..

10. The repeal of all laws which attempt to interfere with the personal life and responsibility of the individual. Citizens will not be instructed what to eat, how to exercise, not to smoke or drink or be banned from pursuits such as fox-hunting which harm no one else.

11. A formal recognition that a British citizen has rights and obligations not available to the foreigner, for example, the benefits of the welfare state will be made available only to born and bred Britons.

12. Policing which is directed towards three ends: maintaining order, catching criminals and providing support and aid to the public in moments of threat or distress. The police will leave their cars and helicopters and return to the beat and there will be an assumption that the interests and safety of the public come before the interests and safety of police officers.

13. A justice system which guards the interests of the accused by protecting essential rights of the defendant such as jury trial and the right to silence, whilst preventing cases collapsing through technical procedural errors.

14. Prison sentences that are served in full, that is,  the end of remission and other forms of early release. Misbehaviour in prison will be punished by extending the sentence.

15. An absolute right to self-defence when attacked. The public will be encouraged to defend themselves and their property.

16. A general economic policy which steers a middle way between protectionism and free trade, with protection given to vital and strategically important industries such as agriculture, energy, and steel and free trade only in those things which are not necessities.

17. A repudiation of further privatisation for its own sake and a commitment to the direct public provision of all essential services such as medical treatment. We recognise that the electorate overwhelmingly want the NHS, decent state pensions, good state funded education for their children and state intervention where necessary to ensure the necessities of life. This promise is made to both reassure the public of continued future provision and to ensure that the extent of any public spending is unambiguous, something which is not the case where indirect funding channels such as PFI are used.

18. The re-nationalisation of  the railways, the energy companies, the water companies and any  exercise  of the state’s authority such as privately run prisons which have been placed in  private hands.

19. An  education system which ensures that every child leaves school with at least a firm grasp of the three Rs and a school exam system which is based solely on a final exam. This will remove the opportunity to cheat by pupils and teachers. The standards of the exams will be based on those of the 1960s which is the last time British school exams were uncontaminated by continuous assessment, multiple choice questions and science exams included practicals as a matter of course. .

20. To restore credibility to our university system. The taxpayer will fund scholarships for 20 per cent of school-leavers. These will pay for all fees and provide a grant sufficient to live on during term time. Any one not in receipt of a scholarship will have to pay the full fees and support themselves or take a degree in their spare time. The scholarships will be concentrated on the best universities. The other universities will be closed. This will ensure that the cost is no more than the current funding and the remaining universities can be adequately funded.

21. A clear distinction in our policies between the functions of the state and the functions of private business, charities and other non-governmental bodies. The state will provide necessary public services, business will be allowed to concentrate on their trade and not be asked to be an arm of government and charities will be entirely independent bodies which will no longer receive public money.

22. A commitment to putting the family first. This will include policies which recognise that the best childcare is that given by the parents and that parents must be allowed to exercise discipline over their children. These will be given force by a law making clear that parents have an absolute right to the custody of and authority over their children, unless the parents can be shown to be engaging in serious criminal acts against their children.

23. Marriage to be encouraged by generous tax breaks and enhanced  child allowances for children born in wedlock.

24. Defence forces designed solely to defend Britain and not the New World Order.

25. A Parliament for England to square the Devolution circle. The English comprise around 80 per cent of the population of the UK, yet they alone of all the historic peoples are Britain are denied the right to govern themselves. This is both unreasonable and politically unsustainable in the long-run.

26. A reduction to the English level of Treasury funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will save approximately £17 billion pa because the Celts receive overall approximately £1,600 per head per annum more than the English.

27. An end to Foreign Aid. This will save approximately £11  billion.

28. A written constitution to ensure that future governments cannot abuse their power. This will be predicated on (1) the fact that we are a free people, (2) the belief that in a free and democratic society the individual can be trusted to take responsibility for his or her actions and to behave responsibly and (3) that politicians are the servants not the masters of those who elect them. It will guarantee those things necessary to a free society, including an absolute right to free expression, jury trial for any offence carrying a sentence of more than one year, place citizens in a privileged position over foreigners and set the interests and safety of the country and its citizens above the interests and safety of any other country or people.

29. Citizen initiated referenda shall be held when ten per cent of the population have signed a petition asking for a referendum.

Those are the things which I think most of the electorate could embrace, at least in large part. There are also other issues which the public might well be brought to  support if there was proper public debate and a serious political party supporting them such as the ownership and bearing of weapons and the legalisation of drugs.

The positive thing about such an agenda is that either Labour or the Tories could comfortably support it within the context of their history.

Until Blair perverted its purpose, the Labour Party had been in practice (and often in theory – think Ernie Bevin), staunchly nationalist, not least because the unions were staunchly protective of their members’ interests and resistant to both mass immigration (because it reduced wages) and free trade (because it exported jobs and reduced wages).

For the Tories, the Thatcherite philosophy is as much an aberration as the Blairite de-socialisation of Labour. The true Tory creed in a representative democracy is that of the one nation nationalist. It cannot be repeated too often that the free market internationalist creed is the antithesis of conservatism.

The manifesto described above would not appeal in every respect to ever member of the “disenfranchised majority”. But its general political slant would be palatable to that majority and there would be sufficient within the detail to allow any individual who is currently disenchanted with politics to feel that there were a decent number of important policies for which he or she could happily vote. That is the best any voter can expect in a representative democracy. People could again believe that voting might actually change things.

One nation Labour: work, family and place – a taste of Labour’s next election propaganda

Civitas meeting at 55 Tuftn Street Westminster SW1P3QL

14 October 2013

One nation Labour: work, family and place

Speaker: John Cruddas MP

The speech was  howlingly vacuous, full of trite phrasemaking and statements of the blindingly obvious added to a rich menu of vague aspirations. Here are a few examples:

“Families come in all different shapes and sizes”.

“Some of our families trace their English roots back  generations, and for some their children are the first  born in England.“

“We will improve our schools so they can help children develop good character, and learn the values of respect, honesty, compassion, trust and integrity.”

The only surprise is that Cruddas did not tell  the audience that  he believed in motherhood and apple pie.

But empty as it was of hard policy, this speech is important because Cruddas was laying out the general propaganda strategy of the Labour Party for the coming General Election.  The strategy was noteworthy for  its unmitigated cynicism, it being a shameless attempt to cloak the true intent of Labour with words which until very recently the Party would have treated as beyond the politically correct Pale.

Cruddas’  engaged in dog-whistle politics. For Labour’s  historically  core vote, the unalloyed white working class,  he used words and phrases such as patriotism  and national renewal, but  in a way that would have met with the firm approval of  Lewis Carol’s Humpty Dumpty. They meant whatever Cruddas meant them to mean rather than what any normal person or a dictionary would take them to mean. Nation did not mean a natural nation but a bogus one centred around civic ideals. Patriotism did not mean wanting to express a sense of nation but pride in the civic ideals.  Being English did not mean being English in the cultural or historic sense,  but English as simply a coverall term for those living in England. (In passing, I could not help wryly wondering  if Cruddas was unaware of the fascist echoes in his language: One Nation; National Renewal,  the new England…. )

Cruddas had other electoral wares to peddle. To entice Tories alienated by Cameron’s NuTory social liberalism and the aspirational working-class vote,   Cruddas put forward what might politely be called the NuLabour version of that risible Tory phrase The Big Society.  This consisted of a condemnation of centralisation and a devolution of power and responsibility to the local level in general and the individual in particular. Here is a flavour of Cruddas’  general thrust:

“One Nation begins in local places. It is in our neighbourhoods that we express our cultures and identities and the new England taking shape is happening where people meet and greet one another, neighbours help one another and watch and learn from each others different lives and so build up trust and in the process make a home together. “

“They are the people who tend to think of themselves as both English and British. They care about their families and work hard for a  better life.  The ethic of work is deeply held because it is about  self-respect and self reliance.  They are responsible and look after their  neighbourhoods. But they don’t feel they get back what they deserve. “

“They are powerfully aspirational but they are struggling to make ends meet.  The better life they have worked for, and their hopes for their children are under threat due to the cost of living crisis.  Labour should be their natural home.” 

Despite the Thatcherite tone, this was The  Big Society NuLabour style. Consequently,  it also contained a good deal of political correctness, including a seeming acceptance of male employment  providing less than enough money to support a family as a permanent fixture in the British economy. Indeed, there was even an undertone of this being a good thing because  it furthers the cause of gender equality, viz:

“Millions of men no longer earn enough to follow their fathers in the role of family breadwinner. More and more women are taking on the role of breadwinner. Families thrive when there is a partnership and teamwork amongst adult relations We need a new conversation about families and their  relationships that is jointly owned by women and  men. “

“We need to value father’s family role as highly as his working role, and women’s working role as highly as her domestic one. And we need to have high expectations of fathers because otherwise we collude with those men who don’t step up to the mark.”

“We will look at where we can make greater use of a ‘whole family’ approach to public services which assumes, where it is safe and appropriate, that a child  needs a relationship with both parents.

 “That means:

- exploring changes to maternity services to engage the whole family and include fathers.

- looking at paid leave for prospective fathers to attend antenatal sessions and hospital appointments during pregnancy.

- developing services that facilitate mutual support between families.

- helping family self help initiatives in the community and letting finance follow.

Helping children take responsibility for their own actions, also means improving sex and relationship education for boys and girls with zero tolerance of violence at its core.  “

The third prong of Cruddas’ propaganda method was to speak of England not Britain:  

“It is a sentiment that is shared by a large part of the electorate today, particularly in England. Patriotic, love of family; live and let live. Committed to the virtues of responsibility and duty; fiercely democratic and individual. “

“We are a country of many roots looking for an identity. Some of our families trace their English roots back  generations, and for some their children are the first  born in England.“

“One Nation begins in local places. It is in our neighbourhoods that we express our cultures and identities and the new England taking shape is happening where people meet and greet one another, neighbours help one another and watch and learn from each others different lives and so build up trust and in the process make a home together.”

This is not Englishness at all but a substitute for the increasingly meaningless use of British, a term  which has become a semantic umbrella to obviate the need to call immigrants and their descendants English. There  is to be a new Englishness, not one born of the organic formation and shaping of a nation across a millennium and a half, as has been the genesis of England and the English,  but  a cosmopolitan multicultural politically correct mess which no English man or woman would recognise as English.

In true Labour fashion his speech was also packed with uncosted spending commitments  such as paid antenatal paternity leave, guaranteed work for the long-term unemployed, increased childcare payments, cutting and then freezing business rates for small and medium sized firms and  putting more money into vocational training. Incredibly, Cruddas claimed that  these new costly policies will be made whilst government spending reduces overall, viz:: “We will govern with less money.”

There was a strong hint to what the devolution of power  would really be about in Cruddas’  housing proposals, viz:

“Local people need local homes and we will devolve power to local authorities to negotiate with private landlords reductions in rent and use the savings to build new homes.”

The device is transparent: the responsibility is moved from national politicians and any failure rests with local politicians.  And so it will be with anything else devolved under a Labour government if one is elected in 2015.  As for the housing proposal, If there were no legal power to force private landlords to reduce rents, and there was no suggestion from Cruddas that there would be, it is  the purest pie-in-the-sky.

On the subject which most exercises the native English, immigration, all Cruddas had to offer was first this:

 “Change brings both a sense of loss as well as hope; across the country there is a powerful sense of grievance and dispossession. A loss of culture and a way of life.  We have to engage with the visceral politics it creates. “

With this as the risibly inadequate solution:

“On immigration, Ed Miliband has set out a new approach which combines tougher controls on people coming in from new EU countries with measures to help stop low skilled migration undercutting the wages of workers already here.” 

Cruddas also had the effrontery to claim The Conservatives are dividing Britain  when of course the greatest cause of division is mass immigration which increased hugely under Blair and Brow with a net inflow of more than three  million to the UK.

It would also be interesting to know how Cruddas could square his wish for Britain to be “fiercely democratic” with the  mass immigration which has been the prime policy exercising the British electorate for a long time when they have been denied any say on  it because neither of the major parties has any real intention of preventing it, not least because both major parties are committed to Britain’s membership of the EU.

There was also a feeble apology for the mess created by the Blair and Brown governments. Reflecting on the 2010 election defeat Cruddas mused “did we spend too much attention treating problems in society rather than preventing them? We moved thousands more people into work, but did we pay sufficient attention to the type of work performed and the rewards received? Were we attuned to the scale of low skilled immigration and across its impact in communities?  “ before concluding baldly “We got things wrong.”

Needless to say,  Cruddas’  conclusion that serious mistakes were made did not lead him to suggest that he , and all the other Labour MPs who served in the Blair and Brown governments who are still in the Commons should resign in  disgrace because of the mess Labour left on leaving office. An admission of fault without proportionate or indeed any penalty suffered by the wrongdoers is meaningless, a taunting of the public.

The full text of Cruddas’ speech is at http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/earningandbelonging.pdf

Come question time I managed to get the first question. I launched it with a decent preamble during  which I pointed out the three to four million net immigration under the last Labour government; the reckless spending with government spending deficits totalling more than £200 billion before the crash of 2008 and  the millions in full-time work who could not earn enough to support themselves and were heavily dependent  on benefits. I ended by asking the question “In view of the mess the last Labour Government left behind them in 2010 why should anyone trust the Labour Party enough to re-elect them at the next election?  Had there been time, I would have added in the perpetual warmongering of Blair, the handing to the EU of ever more power without the British public being consulted in a referendum, the disastrous neglect of the UK’s energy supplies, the vast expansion of the  racket that is PFI and the institutionalisation of political correctness within the British public sector.

Cruddas gave me a non-answer,  being reduced to saying that I had not given a nuanced  view of the last Labour government, followed by a claim that all had seemed going well until the crash of 2008, with an implied shrug of the shoulders that the crash could not have  been foreseen.  Contemptibly, he tried to hide behind the Tories by saying they had supported the economic policies of the Blair government.  The latter was of course true, but being wrong with along with your political opponents is no excuse. The reality is that the crash was about as obvious as Christmas coming at the end of December if one looked at the economic indicators.  (I publicly predicted the crash  in July 2007. By then house prices had risen so high that in the large majority of English council areas it was impossible for someone earning the average wage to buy their first house, despite the ease with which mortgages could be obtained with loans of up to 125% of the property’s value being offered.  It was clear that the housing market, which underpinned the gerrymandered NuLabour boom, would collapse and cause a severe recession).

The rest of the questions were curiously bloodless. Depressingly, no one else at the meeting seemed to be angry about what had happened to Britain under Blair and Brown.

The one thing of interest which came from these  questions was Cruddas’ definition of what constituted a sense of nation and patriotism. It was the “civic patriotism” so beloved of the left at the moment, the ludicrous idea that a nation can be formed around nothing more than a set of self-consciously arrived at values such as a belief in representative government and the rule of law.  Any sense of belonging arises organically from the natural human traits which create “tribal feeling”  not from governments telling people what to believe.

The “values” which Cruddas was speaking about were in reality  those of political correctness. This  meant  he  was purveying not one nonsense but another one on top of  it –  nonsense on stilts – because political correctness is in itself an exercise in denying reality.

After the meeting I email Cruddas this without receiving a reply:

Dear Mr Cruddas,

I was the person who asked the first question at the Civitas meeting tonight. Apart from the points I made in the preamble to my question, I would say that your  emphasis on localism and community  self-help sounded remarkably like a NuLabour version of the Tories’ Big Society. Both ideas are non-starters because you cannot create  social networks and community spirit self-consciously. It can only develop organically. For the same reason a civic citizenship cannot be created to stand in the stead of Man’s innate tribal feeling.

What the Labour Party needs is a return to a firm and clear understanding of what things should be private and what public and to defend public ownership and intervention where it is appropriate.  The long essay below (http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/public-and-private-confusion-and-yes-there-is-an-alternative/) examines that proposition in detail

At present all your party is trying to do is patch a few social and economic grazes when what is needed is major surgery.

In your answer to my question you said the picture I painted was not nuanced. To that I would reply how exactly does one nuance over 3 million net immigrants under Blair and Brown or massive debt they ran up from 2002 onwards? The detailed debt figures are

Labour ran a surplus for each of their  first four years of government:

1998       £    703 millions

1999      £11,976 millions

2000       £16,697 millions

2001       £ 8,426 millions

Total  1998 – 2001  surplus of £37,802 millions

 

Labour ran a deficit for  the rest of their time in government:

2002    £19,046  millions

2003    £34,004  millions

2004     £36,797  millions

2005     £41,355  millions

2006     £30,755  millions

2007     £33,718  millions

2008     £68,003  millions

Total 2002 – 2008   Deficit of £263,678  millions

 

2009   £152,289 millions

2010   £148,774  millions

Total  2009 -2010   Deficit of £301,063 millions

 

Net total debt accumulated  in the period 1998 – 2008 £225,876

Net total debt  accumulated in the period 1998-2010 £526,339 millions

Figures taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/oct/18/deficit-debt-government-borrowing-data.

These figures understate the true increase in public debt because of the Enron-style accounting which kept most the PPI and PFI debt incurred under Blair and Brown off the books.

As can be seen, the present Labour claims that the financial mess is all due to the post-Lehman global crash is embarrassingly  untrue.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Robert Henderson

Royal Mail and ideology

Robert Henderson

The starting gun for the privatisation of the Royal Mail has been fired t(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-mail/10303689/Royal-Mail-privatisation-Government-confirms-flotation-within-weeks.html).

As with the banks,  the taxpayer takes the losses  and private business gets the profits. To prepare Royal Mail for privatisation the taxpayer has taken sole responsibility for the Royal Mail’s pension fund . They have done this  because its liabilities are huge and no private investor or business would take Royal Mail  on with the pension fund attached.

The pension scheme is closed to new members, which means that over time the liabilities will decline as pensioners die. However, that will take a long time and the liabilities are huge and uncertain.

The pension fund had estimated liabilities £33bn in the 2012/13 accounts (http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1314/hc01/0149/0149.pdf).  This figure had risen by nearly £3bn in a year:  “The total pension scheme liability increased, from the date of transfer on 1 April 2012, from £30.547 billion to £33.378 billion at 31 March 2013.”

The scheme is “an unfunded defined benefit scheme providing pension and lump sum benefits on retirement and  death to members and former members of the Royal Mail Pension Plan (RMPP), and their dependants, in respect of their service up to 31 March 2012. The scheme is closed and has only pensioner and deferred members. As this is a closed scheme, there are no employer or employee contributions, the on-going pension payments and other payments are funded from the consolidated fund”  (Ibid)

The key words here are “unfunded” and “funded from the consolidated fund.  That means it is like the  Old Age Pension, namely, funded out of taxation.

The Pension Fund was supposedly made shipshape and Bristol fashion by the government  pumping in £2.2 billion in 2012.  However, after the first year of operation after the taxpayer bailout the “Royal Mail Group is facing an extra £300m annual bill from its pensions, one year on from a multi-billion-pound deal that was supposed to have solved its pension issues once and for all ahead of a public listing.” (http://www.efinancialnews.com/story/2013-05-31/pensions-talks-return-to-haunt-royal-mail?ea9c8a2de0ee111045601ab04d673622)

What can be expected from a privatised postal service

The experience of every other large privatisation apart from BT is of rising prices and decreased service.  Even in the case of BT the comparative success of the privatisation – the landline connections for phones and broadband are still dependent on BT’s  control of the network – would probably not have occurred if the mobile phone revolution had not taken place and  introduced genuine competition into the telecoms market.

There are a number of reasons why a privatised Royal Mail will go the same way as the likes of British Rail and the utilities.  To begin with there is the VAT exemption which is bound to vanish. As   it is a public organisation Royal Mail  does not pay VAT on most of its products: a privatised Royal Mail will almost certainly pay VAT on all of its products. The present position with VAT  is this:

“Royal Mail products that remain exempt from VAT, in addition to free products

UK

1st and 2nd Class (stamps, online, franking, account*)

Special Delivery™ Next Day (stamps and franking)

Standard Parcels

Recorded Signed For™ (if purchased with a VAT exempt service)

Keepsafe™ (personal and business)

*1st and 2nd class account is a new product that was launched in April 2012. This is a Universal Service which does not qualify for volume related discounts. Royal Mail also offers a 1st and 2nd class service called Business Mail which is available on account. Volume related discounts are available on this service for larger postings and VAT is liable

International

Airmail

Surface Mail

International Signed For

All HM Forces Mail (BFPO)

Inbound Mail

Redirections within UK (personal and business) “

(http://www.royalmail.com/information-vat-and-postal-services)

All those exemptions will  be under threat with privatisation,  not least because  EU competition commissioner is likely to  be after them like a shot as the exemptions would be viewed as illegitimate state aid ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2305592/Price-class-stamp-soar-1-just-years-Royal-Mail-privatised-campaign-group-warns.html) . There will also be challenges by private postal companies and TNT Post UK has already said they will try to get the courts to rule that “ the exemption should be removed from all Royal Mail services apart from stamps and services directly connected to the obligation it has to provide a universal service six days a week”. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/steve-hawkes/10309856/Legal-fight-threatens-Royal-Mail.html).  If successful that would put 20% VAT on bulk mail deliveries.  In time, it is reasonable to expect even more dramatic challenges to any VAT exemption.

Then there is the question of raising capital. The official line is this: “ To help protect the future of the universal postal service, we aim to end Royal Mail’s dependence on unpredictable funding from the taxpayer and allow them future access to private capital. We will do this by selling shares in Royal Mail. “ (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/ensuring-the-future-of-the-universal-postal-service-and-post-office-network-services)

On the face of it this is a nonsense statement.  As a matter of simple fact the British government can raise money by way of borrowing far more cheaply than a private company, no matter how large, can do (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/21/royal-mail-public-sector-privatise).

The claim becomes less odd if the real reason why capital cannot be raised by Royal Mail is the EU competition commission’s resistance to  state aid. The commission  is especially keen on stamping on state aid  in relation to EU postal services, which it desperately wants to see in private hands or at least with a mixture of private and public providers competing on the same basis, as it seeks to have a uniform postal service throughout the EU ((http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/postal_services/cases.html).  It is probable that a publicly owned  Royal Mail would not be allowed to raise cheap money through the offices of the government because the assistance  would not be available to other private postal competitors and, hence,  would be judged as unfair competition by the EU competition commissioner.

But not all state aid is bad in the EU commission’s eyes.  They  were willing to collude  with the  UK government to prepare Royal Mail for privatisation by allowing what amounts to massive state aid through the removal of the deficit laden Royal Mail pension fund from Royal Mail , viz:

“The European Commission approved UK plans to relieve the Royal Mail Group (RMG) from excessive pension costs relating to its past monopoly position and to provide RMG with restructuring aid consisting of a debt reduction of GBP 1089 million (around EUR 1311 million). The Commission concluded that RMG’s revised restructuring plan would ensure a sustainable future for the group in its twofold function of providing universal postal services and of granting access to its delivery network to other providers in the UK. Moreover, the plan negotiated with the Commission included appropriate measures to minimise distortions of competition induced by the aid (IP/12/260).” (Ibid)

The sale is also ostensibly  odd in that it comes at a time when  Royal Mail is making a solid profit  (£400 million in the past year). However, the strangeness of the decision vanishes when it is realised that  the Royal Mail has been deliberately fattened up for privatisation  by the massive price increase in the cost of postage stamps in 2012 (First class stamps rising from 46p to 60p and second class from 36p to 50p.  Parcel charges have also risen substantially http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17859782. Incidentally, iIt is a moot point how much of the £400million profit arose from people buying huge numbers of stamps at the pre-rise prices, but nonetheless the increase in profitability is too large to be  ascribed to that one off event alone ).

The obligation to maintain the universal  postal service (UPS )  – the obligation to deliver  post anywhere in the UK at the same price six days a week –  is protected by the Postal Services Act 2011 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/5/introduction) and the  EU Postal Services Directives (http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/post/legislation/index_en.htm). However, once Royal Mail has private shareholders  this could change, especially if a majority private shareholder emerges. This could easily occur  if much more than 50% of shares are sold  to the private sector . The intention of  the government is for a  majority of shares  to be in private hands  with the rest held by the government. The  percentage to be retained by the government might be very small  and this is suggested strongly because ministers  has been very coy on the matter of the size of government’s holding .  It could be as low 10% for all we know.

If a majority shareholder does emerge,  they  will inevitably argue that they cannot compete with other private operators who are not bound by the UPS. Their complaint could well be upheld either by the UK or the EU competition authorities on the grounds of practicality, that is, the impossibility of running Royal Mail as a private business when it has the  UPS obligation which its competitors do not have to honour.  If the VAT exemption is lessened or even abandoned altogether, that would  add to the argument to dilute or even remove entirely the UPS obligation. It is worth  remembering that the so-called “golden share” held by the government in Jaguar cars was limply given up by the government  not that many years after being introduced (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1989/dec/06/golden-shares).

The UPS is under attack already from retailers who rely on posting goods to customers. They are under no obligation to use Royal Mail. This means they can charge whatever they like for postage within the UK and there are claims that some online retailers are charging multiples of the postage cost  which Royal Mail would charge for deliveries to out of the way addresses. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24069354).  This will be happening because  the contracts the retailers  have agreed with postal providers other than Royal Mail will stipulate that this must be done.  If Royal Mail had retained its monopoly of small parcel deliveries (or even had the size of parcels in its monopoly increased) this would not be able to happen with anything like the same frequency.

The privatisation of Royal Mail also threatens the Post Office network, which is now an entirely separate organisation, Post Office Ltd.  Governments have been cynically undermining the Post Office for decades with a gradual removal government services which bulked out the postal services. The threat is not immediate because “We have committed £1.34 billion of funding for the network from financial year 2011 to 2012 to financial year 2014 to 2015. This will enable the Post Office to maintain and modernise its network to help safeguard its future.” (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/ensuring-the-future-of-the-universal-postal-service-and-post-office-network-services). However,   looking ten years or so ahead it is probable that the cry will go up from politicians that the Post Office is a white state-owned elephant because there is every chance that a privatised Royal Mail will refuse to continue the contracts with the Post Office which currently exist on the grounds of cost and convenience.  

Why the privatisation is happening

Royal Mail would be perfectly viable as a public service if the old monopoly of letter post and small parcel post was maintained. It is true that email and other forms of digital messaging have reduced considerably the number of letters sent. But this drop has been offset by the considerable increase in parcel post arising from e-commerce, an increase which is likely to continue for quite some time.    Indeed, with the monopoly restored and modern sorting machinery being introduced, Royal Mail would almost certainly be able to make enough for necessary  future investment  whilst keeping postal rates moderate.   A cheap postal system would be a considerable boost to the economy generally.  The Post Office network could also be underpinned by the use of the offices as collection points for goods ordered through the Internet.

If that is so why is privatisation being driven through so ruthlessly  for transparently false reasons? The answer is ideology. The globalist, laissez faire ideology has infected to a lesser or greater degree all of Britain’s major political parties.  That  ideology dovetails with the supranational mentality engendered by the EU , commitment to  which is at the British political elite’s political core. It is doubtful if any senior British politician  not firmly committed to either laissez faire  globalism or the EU; most are committed to both. That is the simple truth.

How much public money is being stolen and wasted because of the privatisation of public services?

Robert Henderson

In June this year I attended a talk given by Michael Heseltine. It was embarrassingly limp re-hashed Heseltinian fare from the 1980s,with Heseltine airily advocating localism in place of centralised government with precious little idea of how  to engineer his envisaged  utopia of local politicians free from the Westminster party embrace mixing with banks,  Chambers of Commerce and other trade bodies to bring about a Nirvana of self-help and self-determination. (http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/michael-heseltine-rebalancing-the-british-economy/).  Thankfully,  the Coalition thought so little of Heseltine’s proposals in his Government commissioned report No Stone Unturned that only the derisory sum of £2 billion (Heseletine had asked for £49 billion) was allocated to his recommendations for devolved power and expenditure  to promote growth (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/spending-review/10144584/Spending-Review-2bn-to-boost-regional-growth.html). It would have been less insulting if the Coalition had allocated nothing.

When the opportunity came for questions I raised  the matter of  increasing corruption in the spending of public money.  This is a consequence of taxpayers’ money going to private contractors at an ever more alarming rate as the mania for putting out public services to private companies and not-for-profit organisations such as charities  continues  unabated,  despite the ample evidence that contracting-out is generally very poor value for the taxpayer.  My argument was simple: the greater the number of public contracts being put out to tender by commercial businesses and not-for-profit organisations, the greater the opportunities for corruption by either public employees and contractors colluding or contractors fixing things amongst themselves.  Human nature being what it is, greater opportunities for fraud inevitably means greater instances of  fraud.

Heseltine reacted with considerable vehemence to my suggestion that serious corruption might exist in public service saying that he “took great exception” to the idea.  His denial rang hollow because sadly there is a constant flow  of publicly reported frauds by those receiving public money.   Here are a few recent examples of  alleged frauds:

1. Pharmacists and drug companies colluding to overcharge the NHS for drugs http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10133557/Pharmaceutical-scandal-The-NHS-the-drug-firms-and-the-price-racket.html.    The amounts in this case are potentially very large: “The Daily Telegraph’s investigation has found that companies are privately offering discounts of up to 70 per cent on drug tariff items to high-street chemists, with the pharmacist keeping the difference. For example, the NHS would agree to pay £100 for a drug that would be supplied to a chemist for only £30.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10135897/Pharmaceutical-scandal-firms-boast-of-profits-on-drugs-that-cost-pennies.html).

2. Former government education adviser Tim Royle  arrested on suspicion of fraud when he was a headmaster ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10130632/Former-government-education-adviser-arrested-on-suspicion-of-fraud.html).

Sometimes  misbehaviour  is judged to have fallen short of the criminal, but it still costs the taxpayer money.  A good example is that of  one-time award-winning  head teacher Jo Shuter  who  left herself open to suspicion and criticism by  inappropriate spending  and the employment of  relatives. She resigned but not before   being given a final warning  for “financial and human resource mismanagement”  (http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/jo-shuter-there-was-a-blurring-of-my-personal-and-professional-worlds-it-was-incredibly-stupid-8664781.html)

I can give two examples of questionable public contracts involving a great deal of money  which I personally tried unsuccessfully to bring to public notice. Both involved Camden Council, the London borough in which I live. The first occurred in 2003 when the Council announced that they were to replace 14,000 kitchens and bathrooms in their council housing stock.  In response to a question I put to him at a public meeting  Neil Litherland, the then director  of Housing in Camden , quoted me £6,000 for each room (£12,000 for a kitchen and bathroom combined).  The bathroom and kitchen units Camden  proposed to fit were pretty basic. The total cost at that price was £168 million (at 2003 prices).  This struck me as outlandishly expensive, so   I went to a local high street fitted furniture retailer to get a  quote.

At the retailer  I  selected units of the same quality as those proposed by the Council and  was quoted £1,500 for each room, including the installation of the kitchen and bathroom units.   That was for a single retail sale. A contract for 14,000 properties should  result in a very substantial discount below a retail sale, but even at the retail price quoted the contract would have been a quarter of the Camden quoted figure.

When I made my complaint to Camden,  I doubled the £1,500 quoted by the retailer because Camden were doing other renovation work such as re-wiring and laying new vinyl on the floors in the kitchens and bathrooms as well as fitting the new kitchen units and bathroom suites.  The extra  £1,500 per room for this  renovation work was almost certainly far too much,  but even  at £3,000 per room  Camden  would have been halved their actual bill saving £84 million.

A  disinterested person reading that account might think the local politicians and the MP for area would have been biting my hand off to take up the case and stop the grossly overpriced contract going through. I could not find a single politician to take up the matter. Nor could I get even the local papers to investigate the matter.

The second case involved what is now known as the Francis Crick Institute. (http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/links-to-all-ukcrmi-blog-posts/).  This is a gigantic medical  research laboratory currently being constructed on land behind the British Library. The site is  a road’s width from the Eurostar terminus.  There are excellent grounds for opposing the building of such a laboratory because it will be dealing with level 4 (the highest biohazard level) toxins.  This poses a risk of dangerous materials being released  (through a terrorist attack or carelessness)  into an area which is both heavily residential and arguably the busiest transport hub in London.  However, that is not the important thing in the context of corruption.

In an attempt to stop the building of the laboratory I used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gain details of the sale of the land on which the laboratory is being built. The land belonged to the taxpayer and was under the stewardship of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The site   was put out to competitive tender and a good deal of interest was shown (27 bids, including the likes of Barratt Homes and   Oracle Group  – http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/the-full-list-of-bidders/).  The decision was solely in the hands of the Secretary of State for the DCMS who was exercising a quasi-judicial role in the matter.  Despite this, documents I obtained using the FOIA unambiguously show Gordon Brown when PM illegally interfering with the bidding process  from before the closing date for bids and carrying on interfering until the sale was complete (http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/gordon-browns-involvement-in-the-sale-of-the-land-to-ukcrmi/).   Here is an example extract from a Treasury document  dated 1 August 2007:

The PM is also most recently stated that he is very keen to make sure that Government departments are properly coordinated on this project [the laboratory] and that if there is a consensus that this is indeed an exciting project then we do what we can to make it happen. This is extremely helpful from a DIUS and MRC perspective, but, formally a NIMR relocation project in London has yet to receive Lyons approval from Treasury (for either the first planned NTH site or the possible BL site).

This was before the initial bidding process was closed.  The process was a sham, the other bidders having bid with no prospect of success. Brown should not have interfered at all,  even to say whether he thought X or Y was or was not  a promising project, but here he is  issuing a direct instruction to favour the laboratory consortium by getting all the government departments with some future or immediate interest in the laboratory to put their weight behind it. (When a Prime Minister says he is “very keen” on something that is an order to move heaven and earth to achieve it).

As with the Camden contract for kitchens and bathrooms I was unable to get any politician, local or national, to take up the matter. Every Camden councillor and the local Labour MP Frank Dobson  had the information but refused to act. Camden granted planning permission in principle, but this had to be agreed by Boris Johnson in his role of Mayor of London because the Institute building  is over the height which can  be sanctioned by a London council. Johnson  granted permission despite having the details of the corrupted bidding process (http://ukcmri.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/notification-of-planning-irregularities-to-boris-johnson/) and refused to comment on Brown’s illegal involvement in the decision.  Equally telling in this case was the failure of the national media to take up the story despite Gordon  Brown’s involvement.  The nearest I came to getting the story up and running in the media was a single  short piece in the London Evening Standard (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/no-10-interfered-to-push-through-600m-plan-for-virus-superlab-6557759.html).

The nature of public  fraud

Much, probably the large majority,  of the fraud consists of inflating contracts. This can be done with or without the collusion of public servants and politicians. Collusion between  contractors, public servants and politicians  speaks for itself.  Fraud without public servants or politicians being involved is more complicated. It requires a conspiracy by a number of contractors to fix a bidding process.  The larger the contract  or the more specialised the  work to be done, the more likely a bidding process can be fixed, because often there are only a handful of bidders  capable of taking the contract on. This leads to corrupt agreements between the companies to share out public contracts between themselves at inflated prices. This is done by the bidders  putting in bids to a supposedly competitive bidding process structured so that the company who is to take the contract puts in the lowest priced bid. However, this lowest bid is much higher than it  should be if it was pitched simply at a level to  guarantee a level of quality and provide a reasonable profit for the successful bidder.

The practice is probably very widespread. The Office of Fair Trading concluded an investigation in 2009 which showed widespread fixing of prices: “The OFT has imposed fines totalling £129.2 million on 103 construction firms in England which it has found had colluded with competitors on building contracts.” (see   http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/reports/Evaluating-OFTs-work/oft1240.pdf and http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/table-of-infringements.pdf).

Where public servants and/or politicians agree to accept an overpriced contract they may be  bribed either directly or indirectly. A favourite indirect method  is not to pay the politician or public servant at  the time of the fraud but later with lucrative sinecures after they have left office .

The current rules regarding ministers and public servants taking posts in private industry are so lax as to be next to meaningless – they can take up posts after a year or two, regardless of how closely the private sector job is linked to their previous post.  A recent eye-catching example was that of Dave Hartnett who has just taken up a post with the accountants Deloittes. . The Telegraph Daily telegraph  recently reported “Until last year, Mr Hartnett headed operations at HM Revenue and Customs. His new role will involve him working one day a week at Deloitte, which acts as auditor for companies – including Starbucks – which have been accused of using legal loopholes to avoid paying tax.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10083254/Former-Revenue-boss-lands-tax-advice-job-at-Deloitte.html). I am not  suggesting there is corruption  in this case,  but is it really acceptable to have such a senior and important public servant turning from  gamekeeper  to poacher so rapidly?  Like Caesar’s wife, politicians and public servants should be above suspicion.

Waste through incompetence and lack of alternatives

Some of the fraud will be accomplished because the public servant or politicians involved in making contract decisions are simply not up to the job of judging what is a reasonable price for the work being put out to contract.  This is a common enough state of affairs because public servants often find themselves asked to negotiate contracts  even though they  have no experience of  doing so because work which has always been done by direct public labour is suddenly subcontracted to the private sector.   To cover their ignorance the public servant  will often judge bids not on their objective merits, but on who is the cheapest within the criteria set for a contract.  Whether the bid is a reasonable price  for the work done is ignored. This has a knock on effect, not least because  of the widespread lack of honest competition in bidding.  Those accepting bids will justify their acceptance by referring to other contracts for similar work.  Because of this inflated prices become the norm. The politicians who have to make the final decisions on the contracts are as ignorant as the  public servants who negotiate the contracts and simply take what is put before them in the vast majority of cases.

But even where politicians or public servants do realise a price is too high, they can be in a very difficult position which makes them  accept the price quoted.  The problem is that if they refuse all the bidders for a contract on the grounds of cost , then how is the work to be done?  They cannot go elsewhere often enough because there is no public organisation which could do the job rather than a private company or not-for-profit  institution. This is a particular danger with really large or specialised contracts which can only be undertaken by a few companies.  An inflated price may have to be paid by the taxpayer because there is no longer a  public sector alternative.

How much money is being lost?

Total UK Government expenditure for 2014 is £715.3 billion (http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/total_spending_2014UKbn). However, that does not include all of the Public Private Initiative (PFI)  liabilities because  Governments want to keep the full  PFI/PPP indebtedness off  the official national debt.  A report by the Office for Budget Responsibility in August 2011 notes that many PFI deals are not recognised in the National Accounts.:

“ As well as lacking transparency, this has fuelled a perception that PFI has been used as a way to hold down official estimates of public sector indebtedness for a given amount of overall capital spending, rather than to achieve value for money.[27]

The report details the scale of the problem noting that “at March 2010, PSND [Public Sector Net Debt] included about £5.1 billion (0.4 percent of GDP) in respect of PFI deals that were recorded as on balance sheet in the National Accounts.” However the OBR considered that “the total capital liability of on and off balance sheet PFI contracts was closer to £40 billion (2.9 per cent of GDP).”[28] They estimate therefore that if PFI contracts were all recognised as debt in the National Accounts this would increase the level of debt by around 2.5% of GDP.[29]” (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmtreasy/1146/114605.htm)

In 2012 The Guardian using ONS figures put total PFI liabilities at £301,343,154,097 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/05/pfi-contracts-list).

It is clear that  a substantial figure should be added to  the headline £715.3 billion to account for the full PFI liability for 2014.

In the nature of things it is impossible to say exactly how much of taxpayers’ money will have been spent on overpriced contracts. However, the examples which are public knowledge suggest that it must be very considerable, because so much of what used to be done in-house by the British state, at both national and local level, is now put out to contract.

Take the NHS as an example.  If you spend time as an in-patient in the present day NHS you are likely to find that the cleaning, laundry, catering and provision of multimedia installations are  contracted out. The NHS will also spend immense amounts on equipment which will be supplied by a private contractor. Staff will often be recruited by a private agency for a hospital.  If they need temporary doctors and nurses they will pay a private agency.   The hospital may well have a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee instead of an in-house café for visitors. There is fair chance  that  hospital car park will  be run by a private company. Most expensively, if the hospital is recently built it will almost certainly be the  subject  of a PFI contract which stretches way into the future (twenty years or more). This,  and apart from costing the hospital a good deal of money  to pay for the building,   will almost certainly entail a costly management contract to run and maintain the building. This means in practice no one will be in definite overall charge,  because if something goes wrong with the building the contractor has to be left to undertake the maintenance as they see fit

The NHS is one of the most comprehensive examples of contracting out. But most government departments and much of local government displays the same tendency.  Schools and universities are within the contracting out net.  Defence procurement is  depends  very largely on  private contractors, foreign and British.  Police forces around the country  have either privatised much of their administration or are thinking of doing so.  Even the translation service used by the courts has been put out to a private contractor (with disastrous consequences).  Local government services such as waste  collection and disposal and street cleaning are frequently in the hands of contractors. The most disturbing and absurd example I have come across is the privatising of the quasi-judicial  District Auditor post which oversees local government and deals with complaints about their financial probity(“ Following the outsourcing of the Commission’s in-house Audit Practice, all auditor appointments are of private firms “ http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/audit-regime/appointing-auditors/).

If only ten per cent  official Government expenditure is creamed off by fraud, that would mean £71 billion  of taxpayers’ money will be lost this financial year.  That is more than half the current government deficit.  But the figure  could well be much more because of the omitted PFI costs and the incentive of contractors to be as greedy as they can get away with.  Putting on twenty or thirty per cent to charges for supplying goods and services to central and local government might seem reasonable if you are the supplier and have good reason to believe  prices are likely to be accepted even if they are high. If the Telegraph reports of the grossly inflated prices charged  through collusion by pharmacists and drug companies are to be believed, the sky is the limit in the right circumstances for ramping up prices.

 Why do politicians do nothing?

It is little wonder that politicians in Britain are so willing to tolerate corruption because so many of them are happy to have their snouts in the public trough themselves in illegitimate ways. The information published by the Daily Telegraph on MPs expenses in 2009 was sufficient to show that the majority of MPs were engaging in expense claims which should never have been counted as legitimate expenses by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in normal circumstances . This was because they did not meet the HMRC test of being  expenses “ wholly, exclusively and necessarily “ incurred in the performance of a job.   Very few MPs faced criminal charges even though quite a few repaid money they had claimed. Nor does the public know how many of the MPs faced fresh assessments  by HMRC or the penalties if any HMRC imposed.

Two criminal offences are committed by those who evade tax by illegitimately describing expenditure they have incurred as tax deductible expenses. That  counts as a false declaration. They are effectively claiming money by false pretences. A second criminal offence arises if the bogus expense claim is made without an employer knowing that it is bogus (effectively theft from the employer) or a business which  is paying a sub-contractor expenses as part of the contractual arrangement  and the business does not know the claim is bogus (effectively theft from the employing business).

Depressingly, MPs appear to have learned little if anything from the Telegraph’s 2009 exposure of their shameful behaviour  because they are still thrashing their expenses (15 May 2013  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/10059243/Have-MPs-learnt-a-thing-since-2009-Their-greed-suggests-not.html).

There is also the widespread  practice of politicians being employed on lucrative contracts by organisations whose interests they have either surreptitiously  promoted as a backbencher or , in the case of ministers,  had an area of responsibility which coincided with that of the organisation giving them the job  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1387791/Corruption-risk-ex-ministers-walking-straight-private-sector-jobs.html)

Finally there is  the scandal of still active politicians openly acting as paid lobbyists,   including providing ready access to Parliament  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/10/lobbying-professionals-parliamentary-passes).

How things used to be

Until fairly recently the British Civil Service was remarkably free from corruption (local government is a different matter), a fact made all the more surprising because of the truly colossal amount of money Government  disposes of each year . There were two reasons for this. The first was the hard-won tradition of public service which in which the Civil Service is an apolitical institution and as such serves no political ideology or party but provides politicians of all stamps with disinterested advice and executes their policies. This tradition has been underpinned by the lifelong working careers which public servants, especially senior ones, have commonly had. Of course, that was merely the ideal and, as with any human institution, the reality fell some way short of the ideal. Nonetheless, such sentiments and conventions have in the past affected the behaviour of public servants for the better, especially in the area of honesty. Sadly, the public service ethos has been largely lost because of the constant upheaval in terms of employment, the loss of  career security  and thirty years of politicians and much of the mainstream media reciting the false mantra that private is good, public is bad.

The second reason for a lack of corruption was  the direct provision of most the services provided by central government. This meant that the number of large central government contracts offered to private business  was  small in relation to the money spent on the direct provision of public service in all its aspects. In such circumstances serious fraud becomes difficult going on impossible for most civil servants because they do not have access to large amounts of taxpayers’ money. (Where they do have access, for example in the Inland Revenue, in most instances there are strict accounting procedures which make the embezzlement of large amounts of cash extremely difficult). Moreover, where there are few government  contracts, most civil servants are not in a position where someone  would find it fruitful to bribe them because they have nothing to sell.  Unsurprisingly, where serious corruption amongst public servants employed by central government has occurred in the past, it has been overwhelmingly in those areas where large government contracts exist, most notably in Defence Procurement and building contracts. It is a reasonable assumption that the more public contracts offered to private companies, the greater the corruption will be simply because the opportunity for corruption increases.

It would be impossible to reinstate the public service ethos quickly, but taking work back into the  public  service fold  would have an effect on fraud and waste through incompetence.  It would  definitely reduce fraud and should allow costs to be controlled because it would be the public sector setting the prices for the work.

Here is a question for the supporters of privatisation in it various forms to puzzle over. Ever since Thatcher began the privatisation of public services governments have insisted that this was saving the public money.  Yet  government expenditure since 1980 has risen substantially  in real  terms.  In 1980 total public spending was £104 billion (http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/total_spending_1980UKbn). Using the Bank of England inflation calculator, £104 billion at 2012 values would be only £377 billion. (http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/education/Pages/inflation/calculator/flash/default.aspx).

The cruel truth is that the £715 billion of  government expenditure  in the present financial year is almost double what it would be if the UK had maintained public expenditure at 1980 levels in terms of the real value of the Pound.  If the true PFI/PPP figure for 2014 was included it might be double. The huge increase since 1980  is very interesting because in 1980 the UK  not only had a serious unemployment problem,  but owned vast swathes of British industry, everything from British Leyland and coal mining to the public utilities and , believe it or not younger readers, a national bus network which meant that to live in the country did not mean you had to run a car.  1980s  UK also had armed forces which were considerably larger  than they are now and the putting out to private contractors of public sector work in  national government and council services was rare except in areas such as road building and defence procurement.  For example, local councils only routinely  employed direct labour on items such as road maintenance and cleaning.    In addition much of  private business then was, we were constantly told,  supposedly hideously uncompetitive . Yet despite  these alleged  crippling disadvantages, the British government in 1980  was able to maintain a level of public services  better and more comprehensive than that we have today whilst spending, in real terms,  little more than half of what government spends today.

Why has British government spending rocketed?  It is reasonable to put forward as the primary culprit the mania for privatising everything  because of the near doubling of government expenditure since 1980, the high cost of privatised services  and the many individual examples of public contracts, especially the PFI contracts, which seem outlandishly expensive.

 

These things have not been understood by the privatisers:

1. The public service ethos did exist and was most valuable in maintaining standards, continuity and honesty within public provision.

2. Multiplying the opportunities for fraud results inevitably results in more fraud.

3.  That public services cannot be run on commercial lines  because public provision is normally universal provision.  Unlike a private company losing business, a public service provider such as the NHS cannot turn round and say we will not treat these patients because we need to cut costs.

4. For public services to run properly need to be focused not on the bottom line but the provision of the service.

5. Once a public service has been contracted out to a private provider,  the private provider has the government over a barrel because there is no alternative to a private provider once the public service option has been done away with.

6. That public employment gave those so employed secure lives and indirectly increased the sense of  security in those employed by outside of  public service  because  having a substantial proportion in secure jobs in itself made society more stable and certain.

7. That public money is a recycling of money and however it is recycled it has a value because its spending supports local economies.

8.   That public expenditure has increased steadily during the privatising of public service activities.

Robert Henderson 30 6 2013

Ethnic Conflicts (review)

Tatu Vanhanen
ISBN 978-0-9573913-1-4Ulster Institute for Public ResearchUK £23 hard cover, £18 paperback

By Robert Henderson

This is not a book designed for easy bedtime reading. It is an academic’s work  written first and foremost for academics with a fair amount of statistics in it.   Having said that, if a prospective reader managed to get to grips with, say, The Bell Curve they should be able to absorb the important messages of Prof Vanhanen’s book and understand how he arrives at them.   It is worth making the effort because  he deals with the most fundamental sociological aspect of being human: how do we manage the challenges produced by heterogeneous societies?

The Profesor’s   first  aim was  to measure the relationship  between the ethnic heterogeneity of a society and ethnic conflict..  There are  considerable difficulties in doing this not least  because what may be thought of as ethnic conflict by one person may be seem  by another as conflict based on something else such as class.  For example, an ethnic group which is black and poor and rebels against the better off  in society who are white (a not uncommon state in Latin America) could be represented as being either ethnically motivated or class motivated.

 There is also the  general problem of what constitutes ethnicity.  Prof Vanhanen’s  definition is  very broad and includes racial type, nation, tribe,  language and  religion. While these are undoubtedly all distinctions which cause people to exhibit what might be loosely called tribal behaviour, its breadth  does raise the question of whether   racial type, nation, tribe,  language and  religion are really comparable in terms of how people respond to those inside and outside the group .  For example, it may be that where the ethnic division is one of religion between those of the same racial type and general culture representative government will mitigate ethnic tensions,  while if the division is racial,  representative government may do nothing to stop discord.

There is a further  cause for confusion in that more than one of Prof Vanhanen’s  ethnic  criteria is frequently shared by an ethnic group or even more confusingly by two conflicting ethnic groups.  Muslims are  a good example. In theory there is meant to be no distinctions made between Muslims on the grounds of sectarian allegiance, racial type, tribe  or  nationality. In the real world  there are marked divisions within  the theology  of Islam and tribal and national allegiances which often override the supposed unity of Muslims.  The danger with the very broad definition the Professor uses  is that the process of defining  reduces the world to so many different ethnicities that it becomes difficult to distinguish between ethnic conflict and  non-ethnic violence which he ascribes to the  “endless struggle for permanently scarce resources”.

Having made those qualifications, of which Prof Vanhanen is  well  aware, the project does not utterly founder on them. It is a mistake to imagine that nothing valuable can be gleaned from using  criteria  which have a fuzziness about them.   That is especially so if the sample is large enough because a large sample in social science projects digests anomalies.  As there are few societies now which do not have some basis for significant ethnic conflict the professor is able to cast his net very widely amongst 176 countries, around nine tenths of those currently existing.

But the Professor  wants not only to test whether ethnic heterogeneity  is correlated with ethnic conflict;  he also wishes to see if  ethnic nepotism  is a driver of ethnic conflict: “My argument is that ethnic cleavages divide the population into groups  that are, to some extent,  genetically different.”  (p7).  The concept of ethnic nepotism which  is based on the idea that it is an extension of family nepotism, that those belong to the same ethnic group favour those within  the group  over outsiders. (It is important to bear in mind that  Prof Vanhanen does not claim that ethnic nepotism is the cause of all group based   conflict, merely that it explains why  conflict in many societies is so often based on ethnic divisions).

To test this hypothesis   Prof Vanhanen  devised his own scales of ethnic heterogeneity and ethnic conflict and compares them with non-ethnic measures devised by others  such as the Human Development Index and The Index of Democratisation”.  He found only weak correlations between the non-ethnic measures but  a strong correlation between ethnic heterogeneity and ethnic conflict (p214). In other words his research suggests that  the greater the ethnic diversity in a society the greater the ethnic strife, although there are significant variations between the various traits which he includes in his definition of ethnicity.

I have something of a problem with the concept of ethnic nepotism in the context of  Prof Vanhanen’s definition of ethnicity because it includes non-genetic differences such as language and  religion.  It is true that those who are racially similar will be genetically closer than those who are racially different.  It is also true that those who form a large tribe or a nation in the cultural sense will in practice be genetically closer than those outside the group.   The possession of a particular language  by a group  is also a strong pointer  to close genetic  links unless there is some obvious difference such as race or the language spoken not as a native would speak it.   Religion is more problematic because  that is something that can be  simply acquired. If a man says he is a Catholic or Muslim it does not  necessarily say anything about his genetic connection with other Catholics or Muslims. Nonetheless,  if the Catholic or Muslim comes from the same country or even supranational  area, there is a decent chance that he will have a closer  genetic  relationship with other Catholics and Muslims from the area than would be expected purely from chance.

The difficulty is that although a significant genetic linkage will commonly exist because of the way human beings live in groups,  whether that is a small band or a modern nation,  it does not automatically follow that the genetic similarity is what causes the ethnic nepotism. It could be that the simple fact of growing  up with people creates a tribal feeling rather than genetic closeness.  Moreover, what are we to make of the “imagined community” of any group where the numbers are too great to allow personal knowledge of all those in the group?  I do not doubt that differences of religion, nation, tribe, language  and  race do act as triggers for the separation of groups in competing entities, but  with the exception of race I cannot see that  genetic  influence is proven to be other than accidental.  Where there are divisions in a society based on clear racial lines that is a different matter because there is self-evidently a genetic cause for the preference for one class of person in a society over another class of person.

The book ignores what I would describe as the most basic ethnic conflict, that is,  the behaviour of individuals to disadvantage someone of a different ethnicity without there being any deliberate group decision or action. A good example is the grossly disproportionate number of  black rapes and murders of whites in the USA.   That situation is clearly driven by racial feelings with blacks either harbouring a general resentment of whites or simply seeing whites as outside their group and thus not of consequence. However, the latter explanation does not hold much water because blacks do not attack Asians  with the same frequency.

Are there remedies for ethnic strife? Prof Vanhanen suggests four: biological mixing, institutional reforms, democratic compromises and partition.  Of these only partition even in theory offers a complete  solution to ethnic strife with the prospect of a completely ethnically homogeneous society or at least one in which the minorities are so small as to barely matter.  The problem with partition is that it is probably never possible to simply divide a territory because mixed populations are generally not neatly parcelled up in convenient parts  of the territory.

By institutional reforms he means most particularly the legal and democratic structures which ostensibly protect the interests of each ethnic group and by democratic compromises the satisfying of each ethnic group’s  aspirations to at least a point where violence is avoided.  The Professor finds   some evidence that democratic institutions  can reduce  the amount of ethnic violence, although he allows that “the willingness of competing ethnic groups to solve their interest conflicts by democratic compromises and power-sharing is limited” (p227).

The fourth of his remedies – biological mixing – is the one I have the most difficulty with.  He  claims (p222)  that  biological mixing would reduce ethnic violence  because it would “undermine the  basis and importance of ethnic nepotism”.     He further  observes “ My argument is that the relatively low level of ethnic violence in most Latin American countries is causally related to the fact that racially mixed people constitute a significant part of the population in these countries”. (P221).

I think most people would be surprised  at his judgement that there is a “relatively low level of ethnic violence in Latin American countries”.  I am very dubious indeed about the idea that many of the conflicts which arise in the region are often not ethnic in origin using the Professor’s own definitions. To take just one example:  amongst those with black ancestry, whether that is wholly black or black mixed with other races especially the white, there is in Latin America and Caribbean a customary  hierarchy of  colour with the lightest  skin signifying   standing at the top of the social status ladder and the darkest at the bottom.  Look at Brazil as an example. This country  is beloved by white liberals as a prime example of  a colour-blind country.  The reality is that the reins of power and privilege are still held overwhelmingly by whites. The great Brazilian footballer Pele complained publicly about this some years ago.

The likely outcome of biological mixing on any scale would be for those of mixed parentage to find their natural group amongst those from who most resemble themselves.  This is actually what happens in practice. In Britain the children of one black and one white parent almost invariably represent themselves as black.  It would at best simply change the balance of races within a society and at worst add to ethnic conflict with  those of mixed parentage added to the groups competing within the same territory.

Professor Vanhanen’s overall conclusion is a gloomy one: “The central message of this study is that ethnic conflict and violence, empowered by ethnic nepotism and the inevitable struggle for scarce resources, will not disappear from the world. It is more probable that the incidence of ethnic violence will increase in the more and more crowded world” (p230).

The moral of this book is beautifully simple: ethnically/racially heterogeneous societies are a recipe for discord and violence.   That should give the propagandists of mass immigration pause for thought.

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Published orignially in the Quarterly Review http://www.quarterly-review.org/?p=1610
NB The Quarterly Review is now an online journal only. RH


Margaret Thatcher and the cult of personality

Robert Henderson

Two Cults

Margaret Thatcher was the subject of a cult of personality. This was not the result of calculated  propaganda, but simply the creation of her extraordinary personality. Because the cult of personality developed not in a totalitarian state but a country where public opposition was possible, there were two cults of personality attached to her in a relationship which mimicked the matter/antimatter duality. These were the Thatcherite religious believers fulfilling the role of matter and the Thatcher-hating Left  acting as the antimatter.

Both the matter and the antimatter Thatcher cults were  potent.  The religious believers  bowed down before the great god MARKET (and Thatcher was his prophet) and, when things  went wrong,  did what all religious believers do until they lose their faith, denied reality by simply pretending something had not happened or by giving a calamity some  absurd spin to ”prove” the god had not failed.

For the Thatcher-hating Left she was the personification of the Devil and consequently credited with all manner of evil,  but, as is the way with personifications of the Devil, never portrayed as anything but powerful, a being possessed of a political juju (doubtless ensconced in her handbag) which could wreak any degree of havoc  with all that the Left held dear is if she so chose.   Like all those who believe in evil spirits the Thatcher-hating Left ascribed every act of ill fortune to her.

The attitude of both bands of cult followers was essentially superstitious, attributing powers to the woman which she did not, and often could not,  have.  The religious Thatcherites imagined she could  speak the spells which would miraculously convert Britain from a  country making silly old fashioned things such as steel, ships and cars and mining coal to a country stuffed to the gunnels with entrepreneurs creating new non-unionised service industries; the Left saw her as a witch practising black magic to contaminate and transmogrify the world they knew.

Because the Thatcherite religious believers  and her leftist haters  could not and still cannot see past the woman’s   gigantic political personality,  they made and continue to make the same mistake, namely, seeing the two cult figures as the reality while ignoring  her actual policies and their outcomes.

The reality of Thatcher

The reality of Thatcher is that objectively she achieved little if any of her wishes. It is a bitter irony for the woman (and Thatcherites generally)  that her policies were of a nature which  undermined the  ends  she espoused.  Perhaps the prime example is Thatcher’s  avowed wish to see a strong and wealthy Britain  whilst creating through her  commitment to laissez faire economics the very circumstances that would weaken the country. Under her economic regimen and its lingering aftermath ever since Britain  has become ever less self-sufficient in strategically important economic activity such as the production of  food and energy  and vast swathes of British business were  either bought up by foreigners or ceased to operate from Britain because of offshoring and the absence of government action to protect our own economy.   She simply did not understand that you could not have laissez  faire in both the domestic and international economic sphere and have a strong nation state.   Had Thatcher  known any economic history she would have realised that, but even without such knowledge  common prudence should have told her that a country which is dependent on others for necessary goods and services is a weak country.  Moreover, one of her claimed tutelary heroes Adam Smith readily understood there are things which are either strategically important such as armaments or social goods which are  never going to be supplied universally by private enterprise such as roads.  Thatcher never gave any indication of realising that Smith was not the unrelenting free marketer of her imagination.

Thatcher’s  failures in making policy to  achieve her ends were legion. She  destroyed much of British heavy industry in the belief that those made unemployed would rapidly be re-employed in private sector jobs. The new jobs did not materialise and she was reduced to presiding over massive and long lasting unemployment  which she funded with North Sea oil and gas tax revenue and the receipts from privatisation, whilst fiddling the unemployment figures shamelessly. She sold off state owned  services  (which belonged to the community as a whole not to the government)  in the belief that service would  be improved . It was  not. Instead vital services such as the railways and the provision of energy and water became ever more expensive whilst providing poorer service and less employment. She introduced so-called private business methods into the NHS and higher education in the belief that they would become more efficient. The result was massive increases in  bureaucracy and an ever climbing  cost of  both the  NHS and higher education and a substitution of the pursuit of  money for the public service ethos because money was attached to individual patients and students. She introduced the Community Charge or “Poll Tax” in the belief that it would be fairer than the old domestic rates. The result was widespread unfairness because it took no account of an individual’s means  and  provoked the nearest thing to a national movement dedicated to the non-payment of taxes known in modern times.  She raged against  EU interference in British affairs but signed up Britain to the Single European Act (SEA)  in the belief that it would create a genuine single market within the EEC.  It  did not create such a market and merely presented the EEC with an open goal for ever more audacious sovereignty grabs.  A supposed opponent of further mass immigration, her signing of the SEA also opened the door to free movement within the EU, a situation worsened by her strategy of dramatically widening the EEC.  She signed Britain up to the  She embraced “Care in the Community” for the mentally ill or disabled on the grounds that it was more humane than keeping  such people in long-stay institutions. The result was thousands of people left to largely fend for themselves in the outside world who were quite incapable of doing so. She sold off great swathes of social housing (which belonged to the community as a whole not to government) to tenants in the belief that this would result in a “property owning democracy” whilst more or less ending the building of new  social housing.  The eventual result was the growing housing emergency we have today. She instigated the disastrous “light touch”  regulation of the financial services  industry by abolishing credit controls and  failing to meaningfully regulate the  industry meaningfully after “Big Bang”  in 1986  which  effectively de-regulated the London Stock Exchange to bring in a brave new world of free trading (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8850654/Was-the-Big-Bang-good-for-the-City-of-London-and-Britain.html)  with the dire results with which we are now living.

Even in the few areas where she was ultimately successful such as the Falkland’s War she was at best negligent in ignoring warnings from the Foreign Office of a growing threat to the Falklands  in the months leading up to the invasion and even after the expeditionary force had been dispatched  she agreed to a US organised plan which would have not offered the Islanders either self determination of or any meaningful security (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/10008116/Margaret-Thatcher-how-she-took-on-the-men-and-won.html).

There were also acts of omission and collusion with policies with which she supposedly fundamentally  disagreed.  Most importantly, Thatcher failed utterly to carry her strong views against further mass immigration into her period in office. Not only that but, as already mentioned,  she made things much worse on that front by signing up to the Single European Act. She agreed to the institutionalisation of political correctness in public life, especially in the Civil Service, schools and universities. In addition, she allowed the “progressive” educational establishment to destroy a first rate  school examination system  by swopping the certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) and O(rdinary) Levels  for the dangerous absurdity of the General Certificate of Education (GCSE), an exam   supposedly for all 16 year olds but which was in reality two exams masquerading as one.  Despite the fact that Tory support rested heavily on the countryside  she allowed the de-regulation of rural bus services to occur  which reduced them so  severely that to live in countryside meant owning and driving a vehicle or at least having access to someone who did.  To make matter worse, this was done in tandem with a wilful neglect of the then nationalised railways.

The protests after her death were unsurprising

Just based on her economic disasters the uproar surrounding her death is unsurprising.  In the space of a few years she raised the unemployment  pay claimant count from 1.4 million when she took office in 1979 to 3.2 million by 1986 (http://www.economicshelp.org/macroeconomics/unemployment/measuring_unemployment.html) That bald figure is startling enough but the reality  is ten times worse. She  must have known her policies would result in mass unemployment,  at least in the short term, when she removed the financial support of taxpayers from nationalised industries or sold them off in the belief that private business would be able to do the job more efficiently with  much smaller workforces.   Further, as these industries were concentrated in areas where they were by far the dominant employer she should  have realised that structural unemployment would be created  in many parts of the country.  To imagine, as she did, that new jobs would rapidly sprout in the areas showed  a  shocking lack of understanding of economic history which has no example of such a thing happening on the scale required in 1980s Britain.

What is certain is the fact that she had no doubt about the destructive possibilities of laissez faire economics, viz:

“Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ is not above sudden, disturbing, movements. Since its inception, capitalism has known slumps and recessions, bubble and froth; no one has yet dis-invented the business cycle, and probably no one will; and what Schumpeter famously called the ‘gales of creative destruction’ still roar mightily from time to time. To lament these things is ultimately to lament the bracing blast of freedom itself.” — Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft P. 462

A politician of conviction?

The idea that merely having convictions is praiseworthy is a rum one. Hitler, Stalin and Mao had convictions. But even  if the  quality of a person’s convictions is ignored, this is one of the most mystifying of myths attached to Thatcher.  The reality was she frequently changed her position on the most important issues she faced or adopted methods which went against her avowed policies when she had created a mess, most notably with the massive rise in unemployment resulting from her slash and burn approach to the British economy which greatly  increased the benefits bill for many years and left people unemployed for years, in many cases for decades.

The most significant publicly  admitted changes of policy  were on immigration, the Europe and global warming.  Before the 1979 election she had spoken of the need to control immigration  because the country was in danger of being “swamped”:

‘If we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.’

She went on to say, ‘The British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.’

 ‘If you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples’ fears on numbers. […] We do have to hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration…’ (http://www.runnymedetrust.org/histories/race-equality/59/margaret-thatcher-claims-britons-fear-being-swamped.html)

Once in office she did nothing despite still feeling strongly about the subject in private  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/6906503/Margaret-Thatcher-complained-about-Asian-immigration-to-Britain.html).

On Europe she went through the following metamorphosis:

-          1975 she campaigned and voted for Britain to remain within the European Economic Community (EEC – the EU was only formed  by  the Maastricht Treaty in 1993).

-          By 1980 she was convinced that the EEC was not  acting in Britain interests.

-          By 1986 she had  signed the Single European Act giving the EEC immense powers to interfere  with Britain’s sovereignty.

-          In the late 1980s she adopted the policy of enlarging the EEC which meant that a vast new swathe of workers from poor countries would be allowed free movement within the  EEC.  The effects of this also allowed the federalists to press for things such as Qualified Majority Voting on the grounds that the EEC/EU had become too unwieldy to operate under the original  rules and to generally press forward with the creation of a United States of Europe.

-          In 1990  she took the UK into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)  despite being opposed to a single currency to which the ERM was a stepping stone with the pound effectively shadowing the Deutschmark.

The idea that Thatcher only realised what the EEC was after taking office in 1979 is simple nonsense. Thatcher’s speech to the  Conservative Group for Europe at the start of the Wilson referendum on the EEC clearly shows her viewing the EEC as far more than a  simple free trading area, viz:

That vision of Europe took a leap into reality on the 1st of January 1972 when, [ Edward Heath] Mr. Chairman, due to your endeavours, enthusiasm and dedication Britain joined the European Community.

 * The Community gives us peace and security in a free society, a peace and security denied to the past two generations.

 * The Community gives us access to secure sources of food supplies. This is vital to us, a country which has to import half of what we need.

* The Community does more trade and gives more aid than any group in the world.

* The Community gives us the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth in Europe. The Commonwealth want us to stay in and has said so. The Community wants us.

 Conservatives must give a clear lead and play a vigorous part in the campaign to keep Britain in Europe to honour the treaties which you, sir, signed in Britain’s name.

 We must do this, even though we dislike referenda. We must support the [ Harold Wilson] Prime Minister in this, even though we fight the Government on other issues.

 We must play our full part in ensuring that Conservative supporters say “Yes to Europe”. (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/102675).

In any case, the Treaty of Rome left no room to believe it was merely a free trade organisation.  No one could read that and be in any doubt  that the intention was to create a United State of Europe. Thatcher, the supposed obsessive  who was a stickler  mastering a subject,   should have read it before the referendum.

As for global warming, she started the ball rolling whilst in office and then reversed her position in her autobiography published in 2003. Here she is speaking to the  UN general assembly, in November 1989:

“What we are now doing to the world … is new in the experience of the Earth. It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. Change to the sea around us, change to the atmosphere above, leading in turn to change in the world’s climate, which could alter the way we live in the most fundamental way of all.

“The environmental challenge that confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world. Every country will be affected and no one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-green-hero)

By  the time she had published her political work Statecraft in 2003 she was thinking along these lines:

“The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else.

“Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.” (http://www.masterresource.org/2013/04/thatcher-alarmist-to-skeptic/).

There were other issues where her public position was at odds with her actions, for example, the troubles in Northern Ireland and the rule of law. Thatcher claimed that there would never be a surrender to  IRA terrorism.  Yet after she narrowly escaped death in the Brighton Grand Hotel bombing in 1984 (12 October)  the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed little over a year later in November 1985 giving the Republic of Ireland government  a say in what happened in Northern Ireland and committing the British Government to accepting the principle of a united Ireland if a majority were in favour. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/15/newsid_2539000/2539849.stm). There was no obvious reason for such a change of heart beyond the fear generated in Thatcher by the bombing of the Grand Hotel.

As for the rule of law, far from respecting it as she claimed, she laid the basis for the ever increasing authoritarianism of the British state by permitting the police to act unlawfully during the miners’ strike by stopping miners and their supporters from travelling across the country and turning a blind eye to any police excesses as they clashed with the miners and their supporters.

A politician of conviction? Only if you define  someone as such who runs from one position to another while vigorously embracing each  successive position regardless of its  contradiction of a previous  advocated policy or set of ideas.

Nor was she someone who would take responsibility for her actions. When she found her policies were a disaster she either claimed she had been badly advised or cheated (for example, the Single Market, global warming) or attempted to ignore the mess she had created  (for example, enduring mass employment and ) by misrepresenting it, or in the case of unemployment, using North Sea oil  tax revenues,  the privatisation receipts and blatant manipulation of the unemployment statistics to paper over the unemployment cracks.

Why did Thatcher get things so horribly wrong? 

Why did Thatcher get things so horribly wrong?  Her behaviour  strongly suggested that she was seriously lacking  psychological and sociological insight. This meant she constantly made horrendous mistakes such as trusting the EU over the single market and imagining in truly infantile fashion that millions of jobs shed from heavy industry and coal mining would be rapidly replaced by “modern” jobs in the service and light industry sectors.  Her record in choosing people to support or employ was also dismal.

Far from being a free thinker her cast of mind  made her the ready captive of an ideology:

“…as Leader of the Opposition MT once cut short a presentation by a leftish member of the Conservative Research Department by fetching out a copy of The Constitution of Liberty from her bag and slamming it down on the table, declaring “this is what we believe”. (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/archive/Hayek.asp).

It is dangerous to trust anyone who is  susceptible to ideological capture for the simple reason that all ideologies, whether sacred or profane, are inadequate descriptions of and guides to reality.    This means that ideologues constantly have to try to fit reality within the ideology rather than having  reality driving their choices.  Those which include economics are particularly dangerous because their reach is so vast.

Ideologies are the prime example of Richard Dawkins’ memes, mental viruses which capture the individual and direct their thought and behaviour.  Those who are captured by them by them give up their mental autonomy.  That speaks either of a character trait such as that of requiring a source of authority for choices or a  weakness of intellect which seeks ideological  algorithms  developed by others to answer political  questions because the person’s capacity to answer the questions by rational pragmatic examination based on their own knowledge and intelligence  is inadequate.

How good was  Thatcher’s mind? She  is frequently  represented by her adherents as ferociously intelligent.  This view  will not stand up to examination.  She read chemistry at Oxford but only achieved a second class honours degree (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/thatchermargaret/a/Margaret-Thatcher.htm).  Oxford at the time did not divide the second class degree into  upper and lower second classes  and had a fourth class honours division instead.  The old Oxford second  is generally taken to be the rough equivalent of an upper second.  That raises questions over her intellect.  Chemistry at degree level in the 1940s had not become heavily mathematized  as it now is.  Diligence would get a student a long way. This   quality Thatcher  reputedly  had in spades. If she did, the fact that she only took a second suggests that she was not very intellectually gifted. That is particularly the case when it is remembered that she went up to Oxford during wartime when competition for places was severely reduced because so many of the potential male students went into the forces rather than to university. A beta plus mind at best.

What people probably mistook for intelligence was her avid seeking and retention of data. But it is one thing to learn facts or arguments parrot fashion, quite another to mould them into a coherent intellectual whole.  Based on her frequent renunciation of previous positions, it is reasonable to assume that she simply did not have the intellectual wherewithal to put the data she took on board to any useful purpose. She certainly never  gave no indication that she ever saw the bigger picture.

There were also the question of her how fitted she was by experience to fill the role she played, that of the hard-core economic libertarian forever seeking ways of making people take responsibility for their lives both socially and in their work.  When I look at the present Tory front bench I have a similar feeling to that  which I experience when thinking of the Nazi leadership.  The Nazis had a rather noticeable lack of Aryan types amongst them: the present Tory front bench is remarkably short on people who have been entrepreneurs or indeed of people who have any great  experience of work outside the narrow confines of politics.

Margaret Thatcher was a forerunner  in this respect. She graduated from Oxford in 1947.  For the next four years she worked for various private companies as a research chemist. At the age of 26 she married a millionaire. He funded Thatcher’s career change from chemist to barrister. She took the bar exams in 1953 and practised (specialising in taxation) until 1961, the last two years of the period occurring after she was elected to the Commons in 1959.  After that it was all politics.

Thatcher’s experience of the real world of work is at best four years as a research chemist and eight years as a barrister.  However,  being married to a millionaire at the age of 26 rather dulls the idea of her living a normal working life.  The truth is she made her way not as a self-made woman but by the traditional route  for female advancement of marrying a rich man.

There was no need for Thatcherism

The really angering thing about Thatcher’s time in No 10 is that she could have done what she was elected to do, tame the unions, without engaging in the deliberate wholesale destruction and alienation of much of Britain’s heavy and extractive industry and the placing in private hands of the public utilities, especially those of gas, electricity and water.   This was because Thatcher had the great good fortune to arrive as Prime Minister just as North Sea oil and gas was coming on-stream in large quantities.  Those revenues alone would have provided any government with a very large safety net to finance temporary difficulties caused by serious confrontations with the larger trade unions.   She also enjoyed  the very large receipts from the big privatisations such as gas, electricity and BT.  No British government has ever had such a sustained revenue windfall as hers.

There was absolutely no economic need to destroy so much of British industry or place much of the state-owned  organisations  into private hands.  Continental countries such as Germany and Italy retained their shipbuilding; France,  Germany and Italy retained a native mass production car industry.  Germany still has a substantial coal mining industry. Privatisation proceeded at very different speeds throughout Europe.  That no other large industrialised  country followed Thatcherite policies  with anything like the speed or fervour of Britain  yet  survived and frequently out competed Britain economically  demonstrates that Thatcher’s policies were not a necessity but simply an ideological choice.

Her government could have spent the 1980s taming the unions sufficiently to prevent the excesses of the 1970s.  It is true that the very high level of unemployment  of the 1980s was an aid to this, but it was probably not the main rod which largely broke the Trade Unions’ back.  Home ownership had been rising steadily throughout the twentieth century and by the time Thatcher came to power in 1979 not far short of 60%. The highest it reached even after Right To Buy was only 69% – the idea that it was Thatcher who made it possible for the working man and woman to own their homes for the first time is another myth about her(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/houseprices/10005586/Home-ownership-falls-for-first-time-in-a-century.html).  .

The fact that so many people were owner occupiers with mortgages  meant that they were much less willing than they had been to strike at the drop of a hat because they feared losing their home.  Even those who were not owner occupiers had much more to lose in terms of general comfort, security and prospects of greater opportunity for their children than had been the case before, say, 1939.  To take just one example, children from poor families had a greater opportunity than ever to enter  higher education. This growing reluctance to come  out whenever the union called for  strike  was why the National Union of Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill was not willing to hold a ballot of all  his members before calling a strike. He feared such a ballot would be lost.

The combination of this increasing  reluctance to strike amongst union members together with the legal restrictions on unions such as no secondary picketing and severe penalties for strikes called with a formal ballot would have been enough to end the anarchy which prevailed in the 1970s.

Apart from the social and economic upheaval of the Thatcher years, she can also be blamed for a continuation of the damage she caused both in the long term structural unemployment but also in the fact that she subverted  the Labour Party so that it adopted most of what was damaging from the Thatcher period, most particularly in the adoption of her devotion to laissez faire economics and in Labour’s all too ready acceptance of the EU  elite’s desire for comprehensive political and economic union.

The 1980s could have been so very different.  The revenue from North Sea Oil could have been put into a sovereign wealth fund which  by now would be worth hundreds of billions.  If  the Single European Act had not been signed the movement towards a  federal EU would have been halted in its tracks  (national vetoes applied to this area of decision making  at the time). If Thatcher had not argued for an ever wider EEC the poorer nations from the East would not have joined and the immigration threat they carry would not exist.  Indeed,   Britain could have left the EU entirely because the Tory Eurosceptics could have allied with Labour under Michael Foot or even Neal Kinnock. New social housing could have been built with the proceeds of Right to Buy thus obviating to a large degree the shortage of housing now.  If the nationalised industries had been sustained there would have been no serious structural unemployment.  Had proper attention been paid to the strategic importance of  essential economic areas such a food and energy self-sufficiency we should not be so dangerously reliant on foreigners for such things today.  Most importantly, if  that had been the general thrust of politics in the 1980s it is doubtful in the extreme that Blair and NuLabour would ever have arisen.

The tragedy of Margaret Thatcher is that she had a sense of patriotism and probably genuinely thought she was doing the best for her country at the time she implemented or advocated policies (her honesty when policies went wrong was  another matter).  The problem was that her judgement  and understanding was all too often hideously wrong or defective. She so often provided comforting rhetoric, especially on Europe and immigration,  but she never delivered the goods. The fact that she was such an overpowering political figure made things worse because it meant she could steamroller her cabinet on most issues at most times. It is difficult to think of another politician  in the past three centuries who wrought so much damage on Britain.

How governments created the present welfare mess

Robert Henderson

The current attempt by the British Coalition Government to radically alter the welfare state by severely restricting benefits is an exercise in gross  hypocrisy.  Why? Because the  increasingly shrill and uncouth portrayal of those in receipt of benefits as scroungers by Tories’ (and some on the left like Labour MP Frank Field) overlooks one very inconvenient fact: it is the actions of governments of all political hues over the past 35 years which created  the  welfare mess  we have today.    Between them these governments have produced a situation where millions of Britons  cannot either get a job at all  or can only obtain a  job which does not  pay enough to support them and their families  even meagrely.  This has produced the truly mad situation where substantial  benefits are out of necessity  paid to  not only the unemployed but to millions who are  in work, mainly  through tax credits and  housing benefit, because the wages on offer are too  low to allow someone to live an independent life.

Mass unemployment

How did this dire situation come about? Let us begin with the shrinkage of jobs.  Sustained large-scale unemployment did not begin with Thatcher in 1979 but she greatly increased it.  Unemployment was officially 1.4 million in 1979 and rose to over three million  (even by the dole claimant count) by the mid-1980s ( http://econ.economicshelp.org/2007/03/uk-economy-under-mrs-thatcher-1979-1984.html ).

Shocking as the 1979 figure of 1.4 million was at the time, it was primarily  the consequence of the  oil price quadrupling after in 1973, something over which the Labour governments  from 1974-79 had no control over because  North Sea oil was not yet flowing in commercial quantities.   Conversely, the remarkably rapid rise of unemployment in the 1980s was caused by the wilful economic vandalism of the Thatcher government which publicity celebrated (yes, I did say celebrated) destroying much of the UK’s heavy and extractive industries.

Privatisation

Privatisation   was the platform which placed large swathes of the public services into private hands,  including the strategically important providers of  gas, electricity, telecommunications, railways and water.  This alone removed several million well paid and secure jobs from the UK.  It also created areas with structural unemployment. Many of those made redundant in such areas never again obtained anything other than a low paid job or, worse, never obtained a new job.

The early big privatisations , such as those of gas and telecommunications,   were unashamed; other privatisations  proceeded piecemeal through the contracting out of public services to  private business.  Later  from the 1990s onwards came the Private Public Partnership and Private Finance Initiative which involved either joint financing between government and private business or private business providing the money for a project up-front with the taxpayer repaying the debt on generally extortionate terms  over periods of time as long as thirty years. As well as reducing employment and service standards  built up massive amounts of public debt whilst keeping most of it from being added to the official National Debt.  Bizarrely, the supposedly Labour governments headed by Blair and Brown  were  even more enthusiastic than the Thatcher and Major governments about using private contractors for public works. The effect of all these various forms of privatisation was to reduce manpower and conditions of work radically.

Outsourcing

Privatisation was followed and after the 1980s accompanied by outsourcing. The Thatcher  years broke the back of mainstream political resistance to laissez faire in both the domestic and foreign markets.  British companies exported jobs to the Third World incontinently squeezing the available jobs further both in terms of numbers and pay and conditions. This trait was propelled to a significant degree by the willingness of British governments of any political colour to allow British companies to be purchased by foreign countries. These had even less reason to retain jobs in Britain than British owned businesses.

The European Union

When the Single European Act  (SEA) was signed in 1986 the UK effectively  lost control of its borders and  its commerce and industry because the SEA required member states to allow the free movement of “goods, persons, services and capital”. (http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/institutional_affairs/treaties/treaties_singleact_en.htm).  Later treaties whittled away the UK’s sovereignty a good deal further.

The signing up the SEA  fitted the laissez faire economics of the Thatcher government in one sense – a single market within the EU – but  not in another because it restricted UK trade with the rest of the world.  The Thatcherites also found the remnants of state economic control in the EU  such as the Common Agricultural Policy  unpalatable. As time passed they also had a growing concern about  the growing extent of EU  ambitions to remove sovereignty.

For all these reasons the Thatcher government developed a policy of enlarging the EU.  This policy was eventually adopted by all British governments up to  this day – David Cameron is  even now pushing for  Turkey’s admission  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/seealso/2010/07/daily_view_camerons_turkey.html).  The policy of enlargement was to have  profound consequences for immigration as  the EU expanded as workers from poor EU states, especially the new entrants from the old Soviet Bloc such as Poland flooded to the UK from 2004 onwards ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/17/eastern-european-uk-migrants).

Immigration

On top of all this came immigration from outside the EU.  This really took off from the advent of Blair as Prime Minister  in 1997.  The combined net immigration from both the EU and the rest of the world (RoW) was  50,000  in the year before Blair took office . This rose to 250,000 in 2010, the year Labour lost power  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9713954/Interactive-graphic-how-UK-migration-has-changed-1964-2011.html).   The British population has officially  increased by a net 3 million from immigration  since 1997 (http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/).   How far these figures are accurate is debatable, but they certainly do not overstate the numbers which rest on the 2010 UK census.  It is probable that they substantially understate it as illegal immigrants  will not appear in a census for obvious reasons and foreigners generally may be cautious about registering for a census because they come from countries where the state is not trusted in any way.

Massive immigration  produced severe competition for jobs, most of them low-skill or unskilled, but also for skilled workers especially in the building trade.  The immigrants not only took jobs from native Britons but did so by accepting much lower wages.  The huge influx of immigrants also had the adverse effect of helping to raise housing costs, both for buying and renting.

Housing: the poison in the UK economy

House prices were inflated by the failure of all governments to continue to build enough new social housing from the mid-eighties onwards,by the introduction of Right-to-Buy (RTB)  which greatly reduced the existing stock of social housing by giving tenants the opportunity to buy the properties they rented at huge discounts and the lunatic absence of controls over the  provision of mortgages,  which at the height of their absurdity were being offered at 125% of the value of a property.   Come the crash of 2008 no deposit mortgages vanished and lenders began to demand deposits of 20-30%. The result was property prices too high for most first time buyers because they could not raise the deposit  and a general weakening of the housing market  as those with mortgages found that they could not re-mortgage on affordable terms when short term deals came to an end or obtain mortgages for a new property.  The freezing of the property market  meant that more and more needed to rent. Most could not find social housing and  were left at the mercy of  private landlords  who relentlessly raised rents to unaffordable levels for large sections of  even the employed.

To understand exactly how inflated property have become  compare the prices today with what they were in 1955.  Then the average residential property price was around £2,000. Uprated for inflation the average price of properties today would be around £40,000.  It is housing costs which are  the primary poison in the British economy. If there was sufficient housing to both rent and buy at the sort of  prices to wages ratio  which existed even  20 years ago, much of the general problem of rising benefit costs would not exist.

The manipulation of the UK’s unemployment statistics

Today the official unemployment figure for those drawing unemployment  benefit (the claimant count) is 1.54 million, which is the nearest to the way the 1979 figure is calculated. The 2013  Independent Labour Organisation measure of those seeking work has unemployment at 2.52 million. (http://www.hrmguide.co.uk/jobmarket/unemployment.htm) However,  the contrast between  the 1979  unemployment figure  (1.4 million) and the one now  is a false one because the figures are not really comparable.   This is because there has been a massaging of the unemployment figures, many  more pupils staying on a at school after the age of sixteen and a dramatic rise in those going into higher education.

Thatcher began the government’s  habit of fudging the employment figures by cynically shifting people from the unemployment registers to long-term sick benefit. By 2011 2.6 million were claiming such benefit. (http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=statistical_summaries).  In 1979 around 600,000 were doing so (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/19/lax-benefit-rules-not-responsible-more-disability).

To this distortion was added the constant changing of the rules for eligibility for claiming benefits, the definition of who was unemployed and the exclusion from the unemployment claimant figures of those engaged in government training schemes receiving what was to all intents and purposes unemployment benefit .  To put the cherry on the massaging of the statistics those in training were counted as employed in the total workforce  statistics. This suppressed the unemployment figure as expressed as a percentage of the total workforce.  There were also issues with students. Between November 1986 to September 1990 they could claim some unemployment benefits in the summer vacation. They were excluded from the unemployment count.  ((http://www.radstats.org.uk/no072/article4.htm).

These changes to and exclusions  from the unemployment statistics had considerable repercussions. The Bank of  England wrote in 1991 “…although unemployment is falling because there are more jobs, it is also true that much of the decline in the claimant count which has occurred since mid-1986 has been due to a shift in the unemployment/employment relationship resulting from changes in the Government’s range of Special Employment Measures – especially the introduction of more rigorous availability for work tests and the rapid growth of the Restart programme (quoted in SSAC, 1991, p. 59). Ibid.

On top of all this came the vast increases in the numbers in post-16  education. The 1980s saw the beginning of the governmental drive to have much larger numbers of  schoolchildren staying at school  until they were eighteen . By 2011 they had almost doubled from the rate of those staying at school after the age of  sixteen  from what it was in in 1980  (see p10 www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn04252.pdf).  From 2015 all those under the age of 18  will, in theory at least, have to be either in education or training – http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/news/warning-over-raising-of-school-leaving-age-to-18).

The expansion of  higher education   was even more dramatic. In 1980 only 13% of young Britons went to  into higher education (page F152 – http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/nmg/1468-0297.00102.pdf).  More than forty per cent of British school-leavers are now going on to start degree courses.  (The last Labour government had a target of 50% of school-leavers entering higher education  and in 2010/11 47% of those between the ages of 17-30 were in higher education  -http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/419496.article)

The false classification of people as long-term sick rather than unemployed, the rise in children saying on at school and the increase in students taking degrees means the official statistics  considerably understate  the true level of unemployment.    The wrongful classification speaks for itself,  while the extended schooling and increased university participation is important because it  delayed the point at which millions entered the employment market.

Exactly how distorting these interferences with the unemployment statistics are compared with those before 1980 is debatable, but its effects must be very substantial.  Those between the age of 16-64 deemed economically inactive  were 9.04 million according to the  official figures issued in October  2012  (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/october-2012/statistical-bulletin.html.  This  gives an indication of the huge numbers who should really be listed as  unemployed.  Even if  the schoolchildren above the age of 16, the students and the sick and disabled were discounted, there would be several million left. Add that to the official unemployment rate of around 2.5 million and the true unemployment rate could be in the region of 5 million or even more.

But the picture is even bleaker than that because  large numbers of those now counted as employed are on short time. Many of those and the full time employed are on short contracts and have no security of employment.

Working tax credits

All of this – the destruction and export of jobs,  mass immigration,  and the government driven housing market  –  produced a  Britain which had become both a low-wage economy and an extremely expensive place to live. Many people in full time employment  could not afford to live on their pay.  As rents soared housing benefit was increasingly taken up by even those who ordinarily would not have been thought of as being at the bottom of the income pile. Eye-watering amounts of housing benefit  were paid for those with large families (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/5663014/Family-claims-147000-a-year-in-housing-benefit-for-seven-bedroom-home.html) ,  especially to those  in London where by 2013 families  in private rented accommodation were paying 59% of their household income according to the housing charity Shelter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-20943576).

In April 2003, the Blair government tacitly acknowledged that wages for many were simply inadequate  to support life by introducing working tax credits. (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcredits/start/who-qualifies/workingtaxcredit/work.htm).  This had several pernicious effects. It acted as a subsidy for employers which allowed them to offer ever lower wages secure in the knowledge that the taxpayer would subsidize business by making up their inadequate wages with working tax credits.  The regulations for working tax credits also allowed people to claim them when they were working part-time.  This provided an incentive for employees to work the minimum hours,  which were as little as 16 hours for a single parent. The employer also had an incentive to employ a number of part-timers rather than full time employees because the wages of the part timers could be kept below the level  at which national insurance had to be paid .  It thus became cheaper to employ two or three part-timers rather than one full timer.

The effects of working tax credits were made worse by the Blair and Brown governments ideologically driven desire to have every woman of working age out at work. This resulted in childcare tax credits (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/calcs/ccin.htm#1) whereby mothers were paid to leave their children in the hands of other women while they went out to work.

The benefits situation  needs fixing but the way the Coalition is going about it is unreasonable. They are not starting from where we are now and taking regard of the effects of their changes in policy on people who are already encased in the circumstances of high unemployment, low paid and often insecure jobs and ever rising rents. Instead they are using the blunt instrument of cutting benefit suddenly and seriously disrupting the lives of millions.

Housing is the main bugbear.  it makes no sense to say housing benefit will be capped if this makes continued residency in an area impossible because of rental costs way beyond their means or the £26,000 cap on benefits. The policy may well drive many people in employment out of the area in which they not only live but work causing them to become unemployed.  Even if people are unemployed forcing them to move any real  distance will have effects on those with children at school and take away the informal support mechanisms of family and friends.

Similarly, the attempt to move those in social housing out of their properties if they are deemed to be too large for those now resident there (the “bedroom tax”)  is absurd unless there is smaller social housing accommodation they can move into. If this forces social housing tenants to move a long way from where they live they will suffer the same problems that those who move because they cannot afford private rented accommodation.  If social housing tenants have to rent from private landlords that will cost more than the social housing. Such tenants on housing benefit would be more expensive for the taxpayer to support.

What should be done?

What should be done? The answer is to change the general circumstances which cause the welfare bill to be so high. This can be done by creating an economy  in which any  full time wage will at least support a person and ideally will maintain a family. This can be done by adopting these policies although Britain would need to leave the EU or get the EU to agree to change the rules governing free movement of labour, goods, capital and  services to impose  many of them):

1. Cease all further mass immigration.

2. Address the housing shortage by introducing rent controls and much stronger legal backing for secure tenure  in  private rental properties, engaging in a massive programme of social house building, restricting all future social house tenancies to those born British citizens, abolishing  Right-to-Buy, banning  buy-to-let mortgages,  banning  foreigners from buying residential properties and giving private builders an incentive to build by taxing the land they hold until they build.

3.  Place a tax on employers for every foreign worker already here they employ to discourage their employment.

4. . Remove benefits from all foreigners to encourage those already here to return home.

These policies would have short term and longer term effects. For example, rent controls  and strong tenure conditions could  be brought in very rapidly giving tenants in private property both an assurance that they could continue in their rented  property for a long time with a rent that did not suddenly rise beyond their means. Building large numbers of new properties would take several years to gain momentum but there should be a considerable increase in the housing stock within five years.

Policies such as stopping further mass immigration and  incentives  for foreign labour already here  to leave like placing a tax on  employers if they employ foreigners and removing all benefits from foreigners should tighten the labour market . This will raise wages and make employers use labour more efficiently.

A tighter labour market will produce higher wages which added to much cheaper housing will lessen the need for people to draw benefits whilst in work and the cost of housing benefit generally should reduce substantially.  That will draw most of the poison from the benefit debate.

Even as things stand, the current hysteria about benefits is unjustified in its own terms. Most of the public say that it is right that the old and the ill or disabled are looked after by state action. That is very interesting because most of the benefit bill is spent on the old, the sick, the disabled and, this is the real  tragedy, on those in employment who simply cannot live on their wages.  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/jan/08/uk-benefit-welfare-spending#zoomed-picture). The British elite are very successfully pursuing a policy of divide and rule by setting the less well-off members of society at each other’s throats. It is both highly distasteful and unjustified. The real culprits for the mess we have now are all the politicians who have produced the situation we have now and their all too compliant media supporters, especially over the past 25 years.

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