Recent Conservative Party Articles
by Andy Allen
As usual, transport debate around the Budget has been dominated by fuel duty. The decision to leave fuel duty at its pre-Budget level was no surprise, it is important to note that there were no parallel measures to help those who rely on public transport.
Train users will see a continuation of the decade-long policy of above inflation fares rises. Bus users have seen fares rise by a third in the last five years, and things could get worse with financial support from both central and local government under threat.
While fixing fuel duty will garner some positive headlines, when you couple it with rising costs in public transport it begins to look socially and environmentally regressive, locking people into car dependency and punishing anyone with no access to a car.
Elsewhere, the threatened long list of major road schemes which government intends to support was once again absent. But the ducks are being lined up.
revious announcements have drawn the planning system’s teeth where schemes deemed to be of national importance. Local Enterprise Partnership and Local Transport Boards have been put to work drawing up lists on favoured transport project – the majority of them so far announced being roads.
Now we have a £6bn infrastructure spending pot available in 2015-16. The next stage will come in June when more details of spending plans are announced.
Rather than going for big new roads, to makes more sense for road users and job creation if we tackled the £10bn maintenance backlog.
Andy Allen is from the Campaign for Better Transport
Political Scrapbook has revealed this morning that, despite presenting herself as an experienced business woman, Eastleigh Tory candidate Maria Hutchings has never been a director of a limited company.
But there’s more – this is Hutchings’ current Linkedin profile:
Company and Internet searches for ‘Panacea Marketing and Communications’, the ‘business’ for which Hutchings has ostensibly been working for the last nine years have, so far, turned up absolutely nothing.
Not company registration. No website. No email addresses and no references to any such business anywhere on the internet.
Nothing. Nowt, Zip. Nada. Fuck all.
[UPDATE: To clear up one point from comments, I can find nothing to connect either Maria Hutchings or 'Panacea Marketing and Communications' with the similarly named Panacea Marketing Ltd, which is based in Warwickshire and which most certainly is a genuine company with its own company registration, website, etc. Unless documentary to the contrary emerges it sees safe to say that Hutchings does not appear to have any connection with Panacea Marketing Ltd whatsoever.]
[UPDATE 15:00 - Oliver Duggan (Hutchings sandbagged Tony Blair on national TV, as Equazen are/were in the fish oil supplements business. According to Skeptical Voter, Hutchings did get her face into the papers – well, the Daily Mail – way back in 2006, with claims that Fish Oil supplements had improved her son’s autism. This doesn’t appear to have helped Potters Ltd, the company behind the Equazen brand in the UK, very much as both it and Equazen UK Ltd are currently listed as ‘non-trading’ and the registration on the Equazen website, which is still going, is currently held by a German company.]
However, and this is much more interesting, Hutchings’ current ‘employer’, Anglo Scottish Employer Benefits Ltd is a new business, which was only registered in June 2012, so there is as yet no financial information for this company or any details of its trading activity.
Anglo Scottish Employer Benefits Ltd has the same registered office address as another company with a very similar name, Anglo Scottish Employee Benefits Ltd – both operate from Highfield Lodge, Burlesden.
Anglo Scottish Employee Benefits Ltd, was first registered in 2006 but company records show it to be a non-trading company. In fact, those same records show that company has never traded since it was first registered.
Both companies have the same two directors/shareholders – John Alexander Gordon Milne (age 77) and John Milne (age 43) which rather suggests that they’re father and son.
And, by what I am sure is nothing more than a complete and utter coincidence, the name of the Chairman of the Eastleigh Conservative Association, as of this article about Chris Huhne’s speeding ticket problems in May 2011 is…
Writing in Eastleigh News, John Milne – the Conservative Party Chairman for Eastleigh- speculated that Mr Huhne was only waiting for his first anniversary as a secretary of state to pass before resigning as this would enable him to leave with a ministerial pension.
In which case it seems reasonable to ask whether Anglo Scottish Employers Benefits Ltd is actually a trading company, given that Maria Hutchings currently claims on her Linkedin profile that she works for the company as its ‘Commercial Director’.
Well this is getting even more interesting…
As you can clearly see from her LinkedIn profile, Hutchings cites October 2012 as the start of her ‘employment’ with Anglo Scottish Employers Benefits Ltd.
See if you can guess when the domain name for Hutchings’ campaign website was registered before you scroll any further…?
According to Iain Duncan Smith there are a group of people in our society who consider themselves “too good” for stacking shelves in Poundland.
Yes, that’s a Tory minister trying to point the finger at someone else over snobbery and elitism. Try not to spit your coffee over your computer screen. Yet.
In response Cait Reilly, the woman at the heart of the court case on the issue explained that she now works part time in a supermarket, adding “It is just that I expect to get paid for working”. Of course Reilly didn’t expect to get paid when she willingly did voluntary work in a local museum. And here’s the real problem with what IDS is saying.
Poundland is a corporation. I don’t agree with a lot of its business practices but it gets away with them because as long as it remains on the right side of the law it is allowed to compete with other corporations for business. I think we should regulate these businesses more carefully, but I don’t have a problem with the fundamental capitalist idea of grocery stores competing to attract custom.
However fair competition goes out the window when a store is offered free (or as IDS would have it, taxpayer-funded) labour. Without Reilly’s support Poundland would either pay someone to do that job, or close down, leaving an opportunity for a butchers, a florists, a different grocers or a ninety-nine pence shop to fill the space.
I don’t think people should be required to work for their benefits but if this really is “my” taxpayers money being spent – I don’t want it spent boosting the profits at Poundland.
On the other hand, a museum is a part of our economy where capitalism isn’t very useful. It almost never makes economic sense to preserve historic artifacts or build places where the public can learn about science and nature. But I think we should do it anyway. As Cameron slashed funding to galleries and museums around the UK he glibly informed us that the gap would be plugged by long lost Sesame Street character Big Society.
If “my” taxpayer money (and PS since it’s mine can I please have back my cut of the money spent on the Iraq war and all the duck islands?) is supporting well-qualified people who are unemployed and they are putting their time and skills voluntarily into the museum sector, that’s brilliant.
That’s what I want. More museums, less Poundlands.
So yes, I want more for our country than the products of our universities, or as they’re now known nine-thousand-pound-lands, stacking shelves while our museums rot. So does Cait Reilly. So should Iain Duncan Smith.
Kate Smurthwaite is a stand-up comedian and an activist. She blogs from here.
Something that I haven’t seen much covered since this week’s vote on the Equal Marriage bill is just how much it tells us about the social conservatism of the 2010 Tory MP intake.
Using the data on the vote from the Guardian Data Blog I have sorted those Tory MPs who voted for the bill into four categories. Those first elected before 1990, those first elected during the 1990s, those elected during the 2000s and those first elected in 2010.
I think the results tell an interesting story:
We all know that fewer Conservative MPs voted for the bill than voted against or abstained. But the trend here is very noteworthy. There is a steady increase in the percentages voting for the change as the first elected range increases through the decades.
But suddenly for those elected in 2010 this goes into reverse. A lower percentage of the 2010 cohort voted for change than their 2000s colleagues (and that is already from a pretty low starting base).
This is very strange. Most of the MPs elected in 2010 will have been born and raised during a time when homosexuality has been legal. They will have seen things like the equalisation of the age of consent, the scrapping of Clause 28 and the introduction of civil partnerships all from outside of the House of Commons.
They have literally grown up during a time of social progression and enlightenment on LGBT+ issues. And yet the majority of them were not willing to vote for the equalisation of marriage rights.
Whatever the arguments (and I have yet to see a really good principled argument against equalisation that doesn’t appeal to the authority of some religious text or relies on slippery slope nonsense) David Cameron who took a clear lead on this issue has a big problem.
The MPs that were elected in the general election where he led his party are more socially conservative than his contemporaries from the 2000s intakes. They seem to be getting more out of touch, not less.
If Cameron and other senior Tories ever want their party to reflect the open tolerant and socially liberal nation they wish to lead they are going to have to do some serious thinking about how to persuade those that make up the parliamentary party (and those who seek entry) their views are antediluvian and completely out of place in modern Britain.
cross posted from Mark Reckons.
The main way that the Tories justified their rancid Welfare Uprating Bill is by claiming that ‘benefits shouldn’t rise faster than earnings’. They obviously think it is the most powerful part of their argument. So what if there were a simple, progressive way of disarming this argument?
Peter Kenway and Tom MacInnes have, for many years, written the annual report on Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion, and suggest that the principle about how benefits are uprated is one that both the Labour Party and anti-poverty campaigners should want to revisit.
Osborne’s underlying principle is the correct one: out-of-work benefits and in-work tax credits should move in line with some suitable measure of earnings not prices. Technically, this is the right principle because it is the only one that over the long term – and benefit uprating is very much something that should be judged over the long term – preserves the necessary proportions, both between earnings and benefits, but also between the money available (from taxes on earnings) and the total value of those benefits which need to be funded.
Agreeing with George Osborne’s underlying principle?!? Surely, by definition, a grotesque attack on the poor?
Except that linking benefits to earnings, rather than inflation, would have actually been better for people on lower incomes over the past ten years (or any other long term measure that you care to consider). As MacInnes and Kenway put it, ‘Taking the last decade as a whole, rather than the five year horizon the Chancellor prefers, earnings rose by 36% while prices rose by 30% (CPI). Frankly, if earnings continue to rise more slowly than inflation then we have bigger problems than benefit uprating to worry about.’
They conclude that ‘a favourable principle, stated by a Conservative Chancellor, is an opportunity not to be missed. Instead of mere outright opposition, the principle of linking benefits to earnings should be extolled at every opportunity, with an eye to the years beyond 2014 and 2015 about which something could still be done’.
With the current link to inflation which we’ve all been trying to defend, during times of growth benefits fall further and further behind earnings, increasing inequality. Then during hard times, benefits are meant to grow faster than earnings, providing an opportunity for the Right to pit people on low incomes against each other and pass populist attacks as they did this week.
I think that the level of benefits need to be revisited anyway to enable people to live with dignity (as MacInnes and Kenway point out, the short term consequences of linking to earnings are very tough for people on low incomes). But as a long term principle, uprating benefits with earnings rather than inflation would be more redistributive and take away one of the Tories’ biggest sticks.
The comedians at Conservative Home recently described Iain Duncan Smith as ‘a latter-day Wilberforce’, comparing his work on welfare reform to the abolition of slavery.
This got me thinking – what if Wilberforce had adopted the approach to tackling slavery which this current government has adopted to tackling poverty?
Here is the story of Iain Duncan Wilberforce, the man who tried to end slavery:
Iain Duncan Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and founder of the Centre for Slavery Justice (CSJ). A native of Essex, he began his political career in 1780, eventually becoming the independent Member of Parliament for Chingford (1784–1812). In 1780, he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, which resulted in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform.
Wilberforce was convinced of the importance of religion, morality and education. His underlying conservatism led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation, and resulted in criticism that he was ignoring injustices at home while campaigning for the enslaved abroad.
In 1781, Wilberforce founded the Centre for Slavery Justice (CSJ). Through his work with the CSJ, he became convinced that traditional anti-slavery campaigning had an excessively narrow focus on ending the slave trade and making slavery illegal, an approach which Wilberforce dubbed ‘freedom plus a shilling’.
Instead, Wilberforce and the CSJ identified five Pathways to Slavery – Family Breakdown, Economic Dependency, Educational Failure, Addiction and Debt. He argued that slavery could not be addressed without a greater focus on the moral character of the slaves, as opposed to what he and his supporters dubbed the ‘politically correct, liberal elitist’ focus on slave owners.
In December 1783, William Pitt the Younger appointed Wilberforce as Secretary of State in his Coalition government, in order to put his ideas into action. Wilberforce published reports which claimed that slavery had increased by ‘three hundred billion drillion’ under the previous government (though independent fact checkers struggled to find the evidence on which these figures were based), and broadened the official government definition of slavery to reflect his concern with family breakdown and the dependency culture.
In a speech at a workhouse in South East London, Wilberforce argued that, “Across the Empire, there are children living in circumstances that simply cannot be captured by assessing whether their parents are slaves or free. There are many factors that impact on a child’s wellbeing and ability to succeed in life… and measuring slavery alone does little to represent the experience of those in pauperism”.
Asserting that ‘work is the best route out of slavery’, Wilberforce set out ambitious plans to ‘make slavery pay’, as well as Work Capability Assessments and Mandatory Work Activities to require paupers and the sick to undertake unpaid work in exchange for receiving the services provided by the workhouses. Wilberforce’s greatest achievement was the Welfare Reform Act of 1791, dubbed the ‘Strivers not Slaves or Skivers’ Act in the popular press.
Despite official government statistics claiming that these measures reduced the extent of slavery by ‘six hundred billion million drillion quadrillion’ over the following three years, the slave trade continued to flourish throughout Wilberforce’s time in office, much to the bemusement of Wilberforce and his key adviser Lord Freud. In later years, Wilberforce also came under criticism from some younger Conservatives, who campaigned for the official government definition of slavery to be extended to those who had to pay the new income tax.
In 1834, the House of Lords passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire from August 1834. This marked a rejection of the gradualist application favoured by Wilberforce, Freud and the CSJ, but proved to be far more effective than Wilberforce’s reforms had been.
The story of Iain Duncan Wilberforce and his role in the anti-slavery movement has mostly been forgotten today. But it is an important reminder of what can be achieved by a conservative politician who combines personal commitment to a cause with a determination to set aside or make up the evidence to support his own prejudices and priorities.
by Karl Davis
I may be guilty of being unkind towards David Cameron, but I take his comments on emulating Germanic industry under the suspicion that he is being his usual ‘selective’ self.
I spoke at length with members of the German and Austrian railway workers union during a conference I attended on behalf of ASLEF a few years ago.
I was impressed at the greater freedoms afforded to unions within those companies, with statutory requirements for full time officials at locations employing over 250 workers, and a collective approach to pay and conditions bargaining that has successfully transcended privatisation and neo-liberal goverments.
It is commonplace for large German corporations to have trade union representatives on their boards, and the longevity in success that German companies have enjoyed can only be, at least in part, due to their willingness to embrace the opinions, skills, and aspirations of the shop floor, and staff representatives.
Whilst Germany and Austria are by no means perfect in their approach to trade union engagement, they are definitely examples of how outdated, dogmatic, and introspective our own industry is in the UK.
Historically when in power, the Tories have chosen their policies from the wish lists of the rich and powerful, cementing class divides and entrenching the poor deeper into poverty with almost every legislative act, and diluting the rights of British workers with undisguised glee.
Cameron praises German innovation, yet seems not to realise that we have innovative engineers and designers who are the envy of the world. We don’t need to copy the German work-ethic, we do after all, have the longest working hours, and least public holidays in Europe.
What we need to do is embrace the men and women who produce the goods that create wealth. If you took ideas from the Germans, but ignored their approach to industrial relations, you would be left with a demotivated and under-performing workforce that is bullied, stressed and resentful of their employer.
Spend a shift working in the average British factory, or an afternoon participating in pay negotiations, and you would find that description depressingly familiar.
What we need from our government is a clear commitment to abandoning austerity, promoting growth through progressive infrastructure investment and social housing, and an acceptance that the representatives of organised Labour are very much part of the solution.
Karl Davis is a train driver and trade union activist, having held a number of elected positions within the train driver’s union, ASLEF and the TUC. Karl lives in Hull, East Yorkshire, and is married with a young son. He blogs at www.karl-davis.blogspot.com
The Government is introducing a change to the NHS that seeks to turn hospital patients into customers by asking them to take a loyalty test from April next year. It is one of many new NHS schemes intended to groom patients to think of hospitals as businesses.
We are used to being asked for feedback after shopping, going to a restaurant, or using a call centre. From next April, if you attend an A&E department, or have an overnight stay in hospital this will also be your experience. Before you leave, you will find yourself shepherded to an electronic device such as a kiosk, or tablet to tap out your experience.
You might be given a questionnaire or feedback card to complete before signing out. Or shortly after leaving hospital, you will get a text message, telephone call at home, or receive a postcard or questionnaire at home asking you to register your opinion.
Everyone knows that things can go seriously wrong in hospital care of patients, and patients have to be given ways of making their experience known. It is right to keep an eye on what patients are experiencing. That can be achieved without introducing a system that will ask patients to demonstrate their loyalty to a particular hospital by recommending it to others.
This is quite different from recommending a restaurant. Hospitals will be forced to ask discharged patients whether they would recommend a particular ward or A&E department to friends or family, if they needed similar care or treatment.
Called the Friends and Family Test, it will be part of the NHS Contract which provides hospitals with their income so they could face financial penalties if they do not comply. Results of the test will be published nationally for all hospitals.
The Government has rushed to implement this under researched methodology, based on the Net Promoter Score developed by Frederick F. Reicheld (Harvard Business Review, 2003) as a technique to boost company growth by creating customer loyalty in business.
Simply, those customers who give high scores are ‘promoters’ who are likely to shop with the company again, and speak well about it to others. Those who give low scores are ‘detractors’ who will speak badly of the company to others, and are unlikely to return.
Then there are those in the middle, the ‘passives’ or ‘neutrals’ who are fairly satisfied with the service, but will probably go elsewhere if they find something better.
A pilot at NHS Midlands and East has been operating this year, and publishes the results on their website, listing providers in order of performance.
Do we really use hospital services in the same way as we choose mobile phones? Or is it as it looks, and the Government is taking another step in creating greater market awareness in patients, pushing us further along the road to treating the NHS as a business. Let us hope NHS loyalty cards are not looming.
Claudia Tomlinson is a London based public sector worker, researcher and writer, specialising in politics of health, inequalities, and internationalism. Views are her own
The Autumn Statement was heavily trailed as a splurge of new infrastructure spending, with roads featuring high on the shopping list.
But the reality is far more complex. Four major road schemes costing £1bn have been given the go-ahead with funding from central Government. These will be paid for by cuts to other departments.
The Chancellor has found himself unable to announce the reams of projects that some expected. But this does not mean the threat of wasteful spending on unnecessary road schemes has gone away.
Instead, what the Chancellor has done is potentially lay the foundations for future projects chosen by business interests, paid for by PFI money, and underwritten by taxpayers at great long-term expense.
The high profile role given to Local Enterprise Partnerships in delivering infrastructure could lead to schemes going forward on the basis of which business is best connected rather than what is most needed.
The decision to cancel the road fuel duty increase due in January will help some hard pushed people. But there is so much else in transport which threatens to hit the poorest hardest.
Anyone who uses the trains will in January see season ticket prices go up above inflation for the 10th straight year. Buses didn’t warrant a mention in the Autumn Statement at all, but new research we launch next week shows the impact of two years of major cuts to national government support for services.
The announcement of a further 2% cut in local authority budgets in 2014/15 will ensure pressure on budgets remains painfully tight.
All in all, the transport picture looks less than rosy. The business community is set to choose which damaging road schemes the country pays for via unfavourable hire-purchase terms.
Train fares continue to spiral upward while bus services are axed back. The Chancellor’s claim that ‘we are not taking the road to ruin’ sounds very hollow.
Richard Hebditch is Campaigns Director at Campaign for Better Transport
New research published by the government has found that the Future Jobs Fund, which David Cameron described as ‘one of the most ineffective jobs schemes ever seen’ was in fact, erm, one of the most effective jobs schemes ever seen.
‘Under the baseline assumptions the FJF programme is estimated to result in:
- a net benefit to participants of approximately £4,000 per participant;
- a net benefit to employers of approximately £6,850 per participant;
- a net cost to the Exchequer of approximately £3,100 per participant;
- a net benefit to society of approximately £7,750 per participant.
The report also found that ‘the full estimated impact of FJF would be to reduce time on welfare support by 59 days and increase unsubsidised employment by 90 days over the four years after starting a job’.
The Department of Work and Pensions deserves credit for commissioning and publishing this research, but shame on the Tories and Lib Dems who voted, as one of their first acts in government, to cut this programme without waiting for the evidence about whether it worked or not.
Next time you hear a government minister talking about ‘welfare dependency’ or the need to get people into work and off benefits, remember that for the last two years, they could have kept this programme, worked to improve it and made a real difference to reducing youth unemployment.
Instead, they cut it and introduced the new and untested Work Programme, which has helped fewer than 1 in 20 people into jobs lasting at least six months.
This is what happens when welfare policy is run by a group of very privileged people who are more concerned about what sounds good than what works.
According to their own research and advisors, policies like the benefits cap which they claim will save money risk in fact end up costing more in increased homelessness than it saves.
And the policies which they scrap to save money, like the Future Jobs Fund, end up being the ones which benefit participants, employers and society, at a net cost to the taxpayer of around half as much as predicted.
NEWS ARTICLES ARCHIVE