Liberal Democrats – Clinging onto Power

Nick Clegg has attempted the few Liberal Democrat loyalists left by claiming his party “stands up for the moderate majority” and “If you want a stable government that won’t lurch to the extremes of left or right, then you have to vote for it.” In a rather Machiavellian move Clegg is angling to position himself as Kingmaker after the election on May 7.

How Nick Clegg feels a government propped up by his soon to be resoundingly rejected Lib Dems will confer any legitimacy is a mystery. Current projections put the Lib Dems on course to win as few as 19 seats[i], down from their 2010 result of 57. The party has consistently polled below the incipient Green Party, as well as seeing the Green Party over take his Lib Dems as the third biggest party in England & Wales, yet Clegg still sees his party as fit for government.

Happily the obscenely undemocratic prospect of Nick Clegg the perpetual Deputy Prime Minister is remote, much to his chagrin. 19 seats is unlikely enough to push David Cameron’s Conservatives over the finish line. While the Labour Party would surly turn to a progressive alliance first, only landing on the Liberal Democrats as a last resort and probably with the condition of Nick Clegg’s head. Given Cleggs demand for Gordon Brown to quit during talks over a Rainbow Alliance in 2010 the chance of seeing Nick Clegg’s face in government again seem slim, even if he does manage to hold his Sheffield Hallam seat.  

Nick Clegg wishes you wouldn’t keep taking his stuff, and then when he comes to get it back, throwing it to someone else so he can’t have it back.

[i] http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/ukpr-projection-2

Route to a Better Democracy 2 – Let Parliament Crumble

 Parliament

 

Part two of a series “Route to a Better Democracy” where the DWP examines the case for replacing the Palace of Westminster.

Speaker John Bercow has said parliament will have to be abandoned within twenty years  unless serious renovations are made. £3bn must be spent to make the building safe and inhabitable. Heating, water, draining and electrical systems in the 19th century building are described as “extremely antiquated.” It seems parliamentary procedures and practices are, for some reason, left off this list. Rather than spend £3bn on renovation, the money would be better spent by abandoning the old and embracing the new; in the name of democracy.

Parliament has the appearance and atmosphere of a colonial gentleman’s club. Prime Minister’s Questions resembles a playground slagging match; the only thing missing is cants of “fight, fight, fight!” Women are disproportionately filled with revulsion at parliament, and no wonder considering the arrival of “Blair’s Babes” was met with cries of MELLONS.

The hypocrisy of MPs referring to other members as Honourable or Right Honourable , while obviously despising each other only serves to make people think parliament has nothing to do with them. It creates distance between those who rule and those who govern.

The pomp and ceremony of the Black Rod and the state opening of parliament look ridiculous when compared to the lives of people in the poorest regions of the country. Which brings me to the fact that the rules and regulations of parliament have no bearing on the lives of the people of the UK. This serves to make MPs an insular bunch who have no concept of what life is like outside of the Westminster bubble.

A new Parliament

Let the palace of Westminster turn to rubble, and be left as monument to the folly of the past. With £3bn a new parliament could be built away from London, in a more central position. In one stroke the institution would be more relevant to those outside of Greater London.

The new parliament should be built in a horseshoe shape, a subtle nudge away from adversarial politics and towards compromise. This move could encourage more women to get into politics.

The weekly Prime Minister dodges the question time should be abolished, it’s simply embarrassing. MPs heckling and jeering should be hulled out of parliament and summarily executed suspended without pay.

Voting by physically walking into a room is abhorrent, open to gross abuses of power from the executive. Votes should be conducted electronically, as they are in the European Parliament.

A modern building should be built to foster a new way of doing government. We should not be looking to the past and an institution that only outlawed marital rape in 1991 for governance. We should look to the future and a new parliament that is fit to govern in the modern age.

 

Low Pay – and How The Parties Plan to Deal with It

A look at the cost of living crisis, and the plans the political parties have drawn up to combat it.

The Problem

Supermarket receipt

The spectre of low pay hangs over the heads of the poorest and neediest British citizens. Since 2010 over a million people have been pushed onto poverty wage, meaning that most people in poverty in this country are in employment. The country has experienced the biggest drop in living standards since the Victorian era. While the billions spent on Working Tax Credits end up subsidizing corporations such as Tesco, and Sports Direct.

The living wage foundation says that £7.85 per hour is a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. The minimum wage is  £6.50 p/h.  The six major parties (Including the SNP as they could be the third largest party in parliament after May 7) all have different visions on how to deal with the cost of living crisis.  

The Plans in Brief 

The Conservatives

George Osborne said in 2014 that the country can now afford to raise the minimum wage above inflation but I find no explicit number pledged.

The main thrust of their plans to improve the lot of the low waged is to increase the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500.

The Labour Party

The Labour have pledge to preside over a rise in the minimum wage to £8 p/h by 2020.

They also plan to reintroduce the 10p tax rate, which they claim will lower tax for 24 million people. They also have plans to introduce tax breaks for companies paying the living wage.

The Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat policy appears to focus on removing minimum wage workers from paying income tax; which they will do by raising the income tax personal allowance to £12,500, but not until 2020.

There is little mention of any action on the minimum wage.

The Scottish National Party

The SNP are fighting for the powers to set minimum age to be devolved to Holyrood, where they will increase the minimum wage at least in line with inflation. It is their stated aim to eventually pay a living wage.

UK Independence Party

UKIP’s policy rests entirely on increasing the lower income tax threshold. They are the most generous offering a rise to £13,500.

The Green Party

The Greens are promising the immediate implementation of a Living Wage after May the 7th with a promise that nobody will be paid less than £10 p/h by 2020. The differential in minimum wage based on age will also be abolished.

Income tax plans are in flux until the publication of their manifesto, as they have presumably been rewritten after the dropping of the Citizens Income policy.

The analysis

Increasing the tax threshold at which lower earners start paying income tax, offered by the Conservatives, the LibDems, and UKIP appears to be a sensible idea. No doubt it would have some effect on the finances of millions.

However large sections of people employed on minimum wage are part-time workers; meaning they pay little or no income tax, so for many this policy means nothing. Indeed income tax for the low waged is a relatively small burden when compared to Council Tax and VAT. Meaning their energies might be better spent in Council Tax reform.

Labour’s commitment to an £8 p/h minimum wage by 2020 is questionable. The minimum wage has not yet recovered, in real terms, to pre-crash levels. To beat the pre-crash levels the minimum wage would have need to be around £8.50 p/h by 2020.

The SNP have a slightly fairer offering, at least the minimum wage would keep pace with inflation. However without a commitment to a Living Wage people are still going to struggling to make ends meet.

The Green Party are the only party advocating an immediate change to a living wage, which is a noble and achievable aim. Obviously the vested interests of big businesses and the CBI are lobbying hard against the policy in Westminster, using scare tactics of job losses, but they did the same when the minimum wage was introduced in 1998. There were no job losses then, nor will there be any now.   

min wage

The establishment parties’ policies are at best timid, and at worst harmful. A revolution is needed to crush the cost of living crisis, but it will not come from Westminster.

Originally posted on Quazen.com