The Conservatives are Anti-Poor!

6 months ago Chad 0

Will it rain in Manchester in January? Did Muhammad Ali talk trash to his opponents in the squared circle? Are the Conservatives anti-poor? The answers to these inquiries are as clear as a cube of solid sunshine: Yes, Yes and Hell yeah!

The Invisible Aliens have always found it curious that a political party claiming to be forward looking, intent on change and creating a progressive future could label itself conservative.

The adjective conservative conjures up images of typewriters in the age of the Internet; shovels in the age of the Caterpillar excavator; rowing boats in the age of steam. Yes we know this is semantics but delve a little deeper and it is so much more than a title. Conservatives are in truth what their name suggests – conservative, backward glancing, and preservatives of the inherently parochial, unequal, illiberal status quo.

Just what is a conservative?

They have, since their founding, been on the wrong side of history. In the 17th Century, its predecessors – the Tories – backed the power of the elitist Crown, believing it to be a check on Parliament and the interests of their political opponents, the Whigs. Until the 1830s, it openly represented the rich landed gentry and in truth, it continues to do so today (in the form of big business and fox hunters), though more covertly.

conservatives In 1828 the nature of British society was changing as a result of the Industrial Revolution. There had been a significant switch from a primarily rural to a primarily urban population. In this situation the old Tory landowners came up against the growing anger of a poor yet sophisticated urban class. Wellington, the Tory Prime Minister, simply would not accept that people in towns and cities sought wider democratic representation. He foresaw chaos as the result of any moves towards widespread democracy to include the poor. It is with a similar contempt that the Conservatives still hold towards the poor in 2017.

They aim to keep things as they are or were. And that only leads to one thing: stagnation and sameness and a defence of the existing state of affairs. And who likes any status quo but those doing well by it?

That is, the rich and the upwardly mobile and those with a mammoth stake in the resource pie. The Conservative Party is anti-poor. The narrative they are currently spinning suggesting otherwise is truly astonishing. That anyone buys this spiel is like we argued here, the good fortune of the conservative elites and politicians that the broader citizenry don’t think.

Pay Freeze For Us, Pay Rise For Them

According to the 2017 Sunday Times Rich List, there are now more billionaires in Britain than ever before. Britain it seems is getting richer (not that you would notice this in the old coal mine towns in the north or in the dilapidated, run down areas of London’s East End yet to be touched by the regeneration money). But how can we measure national success by the presence of billionaires, when there is not a corresponding absence of poverty and inequality: 4 million children live in poverty and more than 120,000 of those do not even have a place to call home – so somewhere in the Conservative’s economic calculations there is a serious flaw, or rather a deliberate mistake. On the other side of the tracks, Britain, it seems is getting poorer. Welcome to the country moulded by the Conservatives and Tony Blair’s aping of their privatisation, big business agenda.

The low pay that some of these billionaires, like BHS boss Philip Green and Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley,  inflict on working people means that most of the 4 million greedchildren in poverty have at least one parent in work. These working people can’t make ends meet because the country’s prosperity isn’t being fairly shared.

Did you see the news item that highlighted how low pay has seen NHS workers, under this Conservative government, quit for shelf-stacking jobs? This is truly appalling and scandalous in the 6th richest country in the world. NHS leaders claim workers have been demoralised by pay rises of only 1% or nothing and say the service is now so understaffed that patient safety is at risk.

Curious George

You can probably remember in July 2015 when George Osborne, the unashamedly privileged son of a millionaire wallpaper magnate and then Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer and chief architect of the Tories’ austerity programme (the programme that attacked and still attacks, the poorest and weakest in society, the working poor, the unemployed, the sick, the elderly, the programme that closed libraries, day centres, youth services – now works hand in glove with the financial institutions whose mismanagement caused the financial crash; the ones he should have been regulating, giving them advice) gave an advisor responsible for promoting his new image (flash haircut and all), a promotion and a 42% pay rise amid public sector pay freeze.

Member of Parliament Osborne earns £76,000 a year
Consultant He pockets £650,000 for working one day a week at the American financial giant, BlackRock
Editor (Evening standard Undisclosed
Academic He took an estimated £120,000 a year academic position as first ever Kissinger Fellow at the Arizona-based McCain institute for International Leadership
Speeches The 45 year old has made in excess of £1 million from mostly banks and financial institutions.

The rest of the public sector had to deal with three and four year pay freezes and 1% annual rises despite rising inflation.

This is the same George Osborne who is now a well-paid editor of a London newspaper; the same multitalented George who has charged just over a million meagre pounds for his speeches (speeches delivered to HSBC, Nomura Holdings, a Japanese financial Company, and Price Waterhouse coopers, an accounting firm, particularly well known to the tax dodging elite of this country.);

Yes the same privileged George who thought poor people should be penalised for having an extra bedroom in their council houses;

The same silly George who refused to commission the building of a single old-style council home.

Government of the Rich, By the Rich for the Rich

Saved some for the poorNonetheless, the cuts in welfare spending have been wide and deep. In their attack on the dole, whilst simultaneously handing out tax breaks to wealthy elites, the Conservatives have made it abundantly clear that the poor of the UK are no friends of theirs. This is the party that proposed cutting spending on people with disabilities whilst keeping taxes relatively low for the super-rich. They only climbed down after a huge public outcry.

In 2016 research from the Women’s Budget Group and the Runnymede Trust indicated that women, people of colour and in particular women of colour have been affected most by austerity, and that they will continue to be affected disproportionately until 2020. This is due to the fact that black and Asian women are more likely to be employed in the public sector, be in low-paid jobs and insecure work, and experience higher levels of unemployment than other groups.

Researchers have linked budget cuts and sanctions against benefit claimants to the increasing use of food banks. Despite the repetitive, nauseating media narrative of ‘Strong and Stable Leadership,’ it is clear the Conservatives hold the poor in contempt and treat us with disdain. To cast a vote for them is quite simply personal and class betrayal.

Theresa Maybe?

They are currently being led by Theresa May, a woman who became leader by ‘playing the game well.’ During last year’s referendum, the most important British political event in a generation, the then Home Secretary went mute. Was she for it or against it? Ostensibly, she argued for Britain remaining in the EU, but she tactically decided to remain on the side lines and pick up the bones of the defenestrated Union. History will show that on the issue of the day, the Prime Minister went mute. The Economist branded her Theresa Maybe and we couldn’t agree more. Indecisive and sinister, all at once.

Then after claiming for months that she would not call an early election because it would cause further Teresa May“instability”, Britons are facing their third national poll in two years. Mrs May claim that the election is necessary to protect the Brexit process from mischievous opposition parties is absolute nonsense. Despite most MPs campaigning to remain, they have dutifully upheld the referendum result in parliament. What we have here instead is a cynical ploy to increase the conservative majority in parliament after polls reveal them to be 20% ahead of the opposition Labour Party. Such is self-serving democratic politics.

But more importantly, this is a party that has betrayed the poor of this country, which at least is pretty consistent on their part. Whether you are a poor woman, poor black folk, poor white folk, poor Asian folk, poor purple folk, poor gay folk or poor immigrant folk, the Conservatives cannot be your party of choice.

Poor Little Women

Embarrassed and humiliated when a still photo showed the Tory front bench of David Cameron’s conservative party filled with aging white men, the conservatives sprinkled the front bench the following week with a few white women. But this cosmetic gesture could not hide the anti-woman strain running through the party. Research by the House of Commons library has shown that women bear 86% of the conservative austerity burden since 2010. Things are as bad as ever for women under this Tory government.

The analysis is based on tax and benefit changes since 2010 which shows that the cuts have cost women £79bn since 2010, against £13bn for men. It shows that, by 2020, men will have borne just 14% of the total burden of welfare cuts, compared with 86% for women. This is truly scandalous, particularly in the aftermath of Theresa May’s constant, repetitive, disingenuous chant about working for those ‘just about managing.’ Because of course it’s the poor women that lose out.

Poor womenAdding insult to injury, women under this Conservative government earn on average 18% less than men, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The gap is closest among 20- to 30-year-olds, but balloons after women have children as mothers miss out on pay rises and promotions.

The cross-party women and equalities committee made recommendations to end this ‘pay penalty’ but most of them were rejected by the Conservative government. The MPs had called for measures including three months’ paid paternity leave and devising industrial strategies for low-paid jobs carried out by women in industries such care, cleaning and retail. If one assesses their policies and not their glib, increasingly false rhetoric, then it becomes abundantly clear that the Conservative party is anti-poor.

Unequal In The Eyes Of The Law

If you are poor, you will probably be denied access to justice under the conservatives. The justice system under the conservatives has become unaffordable. Since 2010, the Conservatives – initially aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats – have implemented unprecedented cuts to legal aid. In 2012, they passed legislation, which did away with legal aid for social welfare cases – community, care, debt, employment, housing and welfare benefits.

This meant vast numbers of people would no longer be able to get legal advice and assistance if they could not afford representation.  As the new Statesman, observes, the numbers don’t lie.

Oh, You Believed In Fairness…

The anti-poor Conservatives have made it harder for the poor to seek justice at work. The qualifying service period for employees to gain many basic rights was doubled to 2 years. The introduction of Employment Tribunal fees has seen an 80% reduction in cases. That is not a figure that can be honestly explained away as a reduction in meritless claims. Following evidence of a 91% drop in sex discrimination claims, and an overall drop in claims of 80%, the introduction of fees has clearly affected the likelihood of those being discriminated against at work to challenge such discrimination in a tribunal.

It is important to note that the median award for unfair dismissal claims is only £5,016 and that the value of most claims lies in the £3000 to £8000 range. These relatively modest sums demonstrate that the tribunal system is in the main dealing with solid cases and is not making millionaires out of disgruntled employees.

Minor claims for unlawful deductions from wages or breach of contracts, typically brought by people who have been underpaid by two or three hundred pounds are disappearing from the tribunal, given that the cost often outweighs the potential award. The Conservative Party really couldn’t care less about the poor. This should be obvious but aided and abetted by a pliant media, it isn’t.

Poor Students Get It In The Neck From This Government

First the fees were hiked to £9000. Now the Conservatives want the best universities to charge even more. In fact, universities that show they are providing high-quality teaching will be allowed to raise fees every year in line with inflation – with no upper limit. Critics pointed out this would saddle students with more debts and would make it harder for students from poor backgrounds to go to college.

The Invisible Aliens know that many universities in the UK are failing their students. Their graduates are unable to find good jobs, the teaching their students receive is poor, and the best ones still prefer the privileged in their admission processes.

That is certainly the case; the statistics bear it out. But the cure that the Conservatives propose for these ailments – the free market – amounts to a misdiagnosis of the illness. The idea that market forces can be relied upon to promote social mobility through education is a dangerous myth.

The Conservatives Teaching Excellence Framework starves poorly performing colleges and universities of much-needed investment through research funding. Rather than offering a helping hand to failing institutions, the Government will kick them to the curb. Conversely, and at the same time, institutions that already meet the highest standards of academic research on the global stage – the top performing academic institutions like Oxford and Cambridge – will be able to raise their fees. Whichever way you look at this, the poorest are hit the hardest.

A recent Sutton Trust report shows that students unable to rely on the ‘bank of mum and dad’ to fund the cost of their studies are put off the idea of university. They are also more likely to attend a local institution, even if they have the entry grades to gain a place at a higher-performing university that happens to be located further from the family home.

Given that financial worries drive poor students away from university, a reduction in fees at some establishments may see a rush of interest. This is especially the case if the university is local, as research undertaken by the National Education Opportunities Network last May showed that poorer students’ choices were being limited by financial concerns. This is just another example where the Conservatives fail to live up to their rhetoric claiming support for aspiration.

 

We Inhabit a Twilight Zone

Despite all the above and the innumerable instances of Conservative policy being anti-poor, the mainstream media has decided to occupy an alternate universe, a sort of twilight zone. This is maddening for the invisible aliens who can see right through the fraudulent smoke screen they seek to erect. The Conservatives and their allies are happy to keep us invisible. But no more is our battle cry.

No More! Screams the poor nurses and students who will never erase their debt;

No More! Screams the graduates who will forever be underpaid and underemployed in baristas and as teaching assistants in crumbling inner city schools;

No More! Screams the sexually harassed woman and racially abused worker who won’t access justice because the Conservatives have moved it beyond their pay grade.

The Conservatives are anti-poor and no amount of clever, manipulated statistics or muddled, cunning talk will change that. Backward looking, elitist and promoters of stasis. Whisper it softly but the secret is in their name: Conservative.