Tag Archives: cuts

It’s going to bite

I really love this winding down before the end of the year. On the one hand, no different to any other day except for the significance we’ve accorded it in our calendar. On the other, an enforced period of reflection that does a world of good.

So, what of next year? Many good things to come, no doubt but also: it’s going to hurt as cuts start to really bite.

A few things to bear in mind as we traverse 2016 and people (including Tory voters, the odd minister and a lot of the media) act at turns surprised and occasionally angry.

  1. Local government cuts are savage and will start (continue) to hit basic services. Apparently we all agree we shouldn’t really pay taxes, and government shouldn’t really do anything, but we also really like bin collections and councils ensuring that we have enough services when we need them. Well, grab your popcorn.
  2. Women’s support services are hard-presssed and BAME women’s support services have issued an emergency call – a report by Imkaan reveals that a number will be forced to close unless something is done. And while we’re all pleased (read: confused and conflicted) to use our periods to pay for women’s services with the tampon tax (because women’s problems are women’s problems), the fact remains that it’s not enough. If we take the welfare of women seriously then the government needs to put money behind these vital lifesaving services. Or…men need to get periods too.
  3. Inequality is a problem. And it’s only getting worse. Even John Major said so – and look at the nifty charts that back up his assertion)
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Lies and Diversity

Damn Lies

Considering that we’re in the fact-free immigration summer (albeit somewhat off the agenda at the moment given Gaza, Iraq and other foreign crises), you’d think more lies on top of the heap of mendacious government spin wouldn’t make a difference. But then, there’s Iain Duncan Smith. Every time he speaks out I am horrified afresh. Despite the overbudget, overdue computer system, despite welfare sanctions harming the most vulnerable and disabled, despite the fact that his project is more ideology than reality-based – he has survived a reshuffle and sails resolutely on, the wind of self-righteousness swelling his sails.

Most recently, he doubled down on the welfare reforms, praising the “recovery” that has more jobs but lower pay, and more insecure work bolstered by zero hours contracts, some of which actually prevent people from taking on other work but offer them no guarantees for the week, so you could make money to pay the bills – or not. Who knows? Scarily, the government will make even more cuts in the next parliament.

But what drives me crazy is the fact that Duncan Smith is rarely challenged on his fantastical statistics. Thank goodness, then for Polly Toynbee (read the whole article, it’s worth it, but here’s an extract)

“Politicians may deal in terminological inexactitudes, but I can’t think of many black-is-white, war-is-peace practitioners as downright deceptive as Iain Duncan Smith. Originally, the question was whether to put it down to simple stupidity, as he didn’t understand that the numbers he promised were impossible. Yesterday, poring over his big speech on welfare reform, a few of the more polite experts spoke of his “magical thinking”. But his motives and state of mind hardly matter to the millions affected by his evidence-free, faith-based policy-making.”

Diversity Hire

As always, Hugh Muir can be relied upon to excavate the Sayeeda Warsi resignation and tease out the nub of the issue of diversity in the workplace – it’s not enough to get brown faces at the table if you don’t listen to them. Of course, that doesn’t mean you do everything they say, but if you don’t get a decent hearing, get taken seriously, or if your views are dismissed out of turn, then of course, after a while, you give up.

And that’s not just a personal loss, the organisation loses out too. The point of getting more varied voices around the table is to have a better conversation and to effect change. And for political parties it’s not just electorally expedient to do so (Janan Ganesh makes this point brilliantly in the FT), it’s morally right to better reflect the country you may govern, with all its different constituencies.

“She brought diversity to government, not just because she is brown-skinned, northern and Muslim, but because her background and experiences gave her a different worldview. Diversity has to mean something other than different hues and genders around the board or cabinet table. It is also about the infusion of different perspectives from which new options and thinking might emerge.”

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What Kind of Country do we want to be?

In the week when John McDonnell MP hosts a discussion in parliament to brief MPs on the impact of the immigration bill, this sane intervention in the immigration debate from Pat McFadden MP. (Yay for great MPs doing good work!)

“Opinion polls show high levels of public concern about immigration and some politicians have mirrored the concerns. But leadership is not just about mirroring fears or joining the rush to resist change – it is also about explaining change and arguing for the opportunities the future holds.”

His argument is simple, clear and honest.  He’s honest about the opportunities and pitfalls of change, but quite rightly asks: “What kind of country do we want to be?”

I would add that this goes beyond immigration. When it comes to the (ideological, let’s face it) cuts being visited on the poor, the disabled and the more vulnerable in society, the lack of investment in housing, the fact that so many are underemployed, the scapegoating of immigrants, the poor, people on benefits and the trashing of those who try to speak up for them, like the Trussell Trust, concerned with the growing numbers of people using foodbanks in this country, then the question is even more salient. Why is it only on immigration that politicians scramble to “get it”? What kind of country do we want to be? And who belongs in it?

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Taking a Stand

On 6 January, for the first time in 800 years, barristers staged a half day walkout in protest against government cuts in legal aid.

If you haven’t already, read Dexter Dias QC’s excellent article on why they did so. He explains why cuts to legal aid will mean unequal access to justice. And like so many of the measures taken by the coalition, the brunt of the cuts fall on the poor and will create a two-tier system. As always, and as with healthcare, or visas or pretty much anything else, if you’re rich, you can sidestep the hammer blow.

This and so many other decisions boil down to an essential argument: what sort of society do we want? Who will we protect? The government has successfully pit old against young, set communities at odds with one another, migrant from citizen, and while we tear ourselves apart, a certain elite is consolidating their power. (for more: see the lobbying bill).

To quote from Dias:

“Administrations that damage those whose job it is to challenge malicious or misguided state action are not stupid. Governments that destroy defence lawyers are not dim. They are dangerous. And like an unreliable witness trapped in the witness-box, Grayling gave the game away when he gave evidence to the Parliamentary Justice Committee. There he admitted that rather than simply being an inevitable consequence of the financial situation, the cuts were also ‘ideological’. We have seen all too clearly the ideology he subscribes to in welfare and immigration policies; in the proliferation of food poverty and food banks. We’ve seen how reduced rights and increased inequality are acceptable collateral damage to this Government’s ideological bent.

Thus we must not view these public justice cuts in isolation. They form part of a pattern. They are the next scene in a landscape of barren social provision and battered social safety nets. Is this what we want? For the sake of our community’s weak and vulnerable, the marginalised and the maligned – in fact the groups the government has already systematically attacked – we must not let them prevail.”

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