Friday, 12 October 2012

Some things never change

There are few things in life that don’t change. We all get older, our children grow up, we move house, we change jobs and careers, but throughout the ever-changing landscape of our lives, the Conservative & Unionist Party remains nasty.

You can rely on the Tories to advance policies geared towards making the rich even richer, usually by grinding the poor ever further into the dirt.

At the Tory conference over the past week, we have seen and heard Government Ministers roll-out a raft of new initiatives designed to appeal to the out-of-touch, right-wing party faithful, such as the plan to slash the welfare budget by a further £10bn (on top of already-announced cuts totalling £18bn). In addition, under-25s are to be stripped of their entitlement to Housing Benefit.

To excited applause, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne repeated the lie that we are all in this together, only to then rule out forcing the rich to pay their fair share. According to the Chancellor, “It's an economic delusion to think you can balance the budget only on the wallets of the rich”. So, instead, the poor are to continue paying for the economic crisis caused by super-rich spivs and speculators in the City of London.

Slipped-out under the radar while the Tories were meeting in Birmingham was a change to sanctions that can be applied to an unemployed person who fails to meet the requirements placed on them by their Jobseekers agreement. A breach of the agreement includes: failing to take part in a mandatory work activity programme, failing to take a ‘suitable’ employment opportunity, and refusing or failing to apply for a job notified to them by an employment advisor. From October 22, failure to comply with any of these ‘requirements’ could see someone having their Jobseekers Allowance removed for 3 months, 6 months or 3 years.

Of course, supporters of the Nasty Party believe that everyone who is unemployed is a work-shy freeloader, so, to them, leaving someone without an income for 3 years will sound like a fair sanction if the Jobseeker refuses a position. The reality, though, is that because of the crippled economy created by the collapse of the corrupt capitalist system, more and more people are finding themselves without work, a situation exploited by unscrupulous employers who advertise vacancies offering no wages.

Have a look at the Jobcentreplus website and you’ll find hundreds of ‘commission only’ jobs where the employers get round minimum wage legislation by stating that it is possible to make its equivalent, but there is no guarantee. There is even at least one vacancy paying commission only but where a monthly ‘administration fee’ of £125 has to be paid to the employer, so a worker could end up owing money to the company. If a Jobseeker declines such a position, is it fair they would then have their benefit stopped for anything up to 3 years? Members of the Tory Party think it is perfectly fair.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland, Ruth Davidson MSP, took the opportunity of her address to the mainly English audience in Birmingham to attack her fellow Scots. Pandering to Tory prejudices, Ms Davidson announced that only 12% of Scots contribute to the nation’s wealth. The rest, apparently, are spongers, receiving more from the state than they contribute.

The idea of the Scots ‘subsidy junkies’ was debunked in the 1980s – official House of Commons figures showed Scotland contributes more to the Westminster exchequer than we receive back through public expenditure – but Ruth Davidson was prepared to tarnish the name of Scotland in order to ingratiate herself with her London-based party bosses.

To reach the conclusion that 88% of Scots are dependent on the state, Ms Davidson included everyone who actually works for the public sector. According to the Tories, these workers are nothing more than state-spongers: that includes civil servants, council staff, police officers, nurses, doctors, ambulance crew, fire-fighters, teachers and members of the armed services. Also included in the Tory list of spongers are pensioners, most of whom paid taxes throughout their working lives.

In reality, Scots more than pay their way. Ruth Davidson also chose to ignore corporation tax and business rates raised in Scotland, not to mention the two biggest annual contributors to the Westminster exchequer – revenue from North Sea oil and from the Scotch Whisky industry.

Ms Davidson is relatively new to politics: she was only elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2011 and, because of the extreme lack of talent in the Tory Party, found herself leader of the North British sub-section just six-months later. However, she has been quick to show that while she may present a new, young face, the party she leads has not changed.

The Tories are still the Nasty Party, and with the willful connivance of their ‘tame Jocks’ they remain an entirely anti-Scottish party.

We should bear in mind it is with these people that the Labour Party is standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the campaign to prevent Scotland from re-taking the status of a normal, independent nation.

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