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Jo Coburn announced. “Live in Westminster as the Chancellor gets set to reveal his Spending Review” it was a special Politics Live program to span Prime Minister’s Questions and Rishi Sunak’s presentation with a rebuttal from Labour’s Anneliese Dodds. I was pleasantly shocked to see an unusually well balanced line up of guests that included Tory former Chief Whip Mark Harper, Miatta Fahnbullah, Chief Executive of the left of centre think-tank the New Economic Foundation, Labour MP Richard Burgon and Katie Balls of the Spectator. For once the studio wasn’t heavily stacked in favour of bolstering the Tory hard right with well to the right of centre Labour representatives. Coburn said, “Billions promised to protect jobs and bolster the NHS, but Rishi Sunak is expected to cut International Aid and freeze public sector pay as the true scale of Pandemic fuelled Government borrowing is revealed. The Chancellors statement, live at 12:30 with reaction from across the political spectrum and from our experts here in the studio.”
Coburn said this would be presented “alongside the Forecast for Budget Responsibility they will show the scale and the impact of the pandemic had on our economy and they make for a sobering read. We don’t have the precise figures yet but we will shortly but borrowing figures are said to be at the highest level since the Second World War.” Turning to Tory MP Harper she asked, “Could that have been avoided Mark?” Harper responded, “Well I don’t, I think it’s been very consistent around the world and I don’t think it could be… but I mean it does set a very difficult backdrop for this Spending Review.” He went on to talk up the Chancellor and “his fantastic team at the treasury” who he claimed had “done a really good job setting up the furlough scheme to minimize the impact of Coronavirus…” But hang on a minute; furlough was the result of massive coercion from Labour MPs and the Unions!
Harper continued, “They are going to be facing some incredibly difficult decisions across the piece for frankly many years to come and were all going to have to make some very difficult decisions in Parliament.” Difficult for whom? I doubt the wealthy Tory elite will be impacted. Coburn cited, the “figures talked about 370 perhaps 400 Billion pounds in terms if borrowing, Miatta could that figure have been avoided?” Fahnbullah didn’t think so, “Because the other side of the equation is that we are in an economic crisis where the economy has contracted by 10 or 11%; the biggest contraction for 300 years, so it is unprecedented. The Government had to act to bolster the economy. The key question though is not the size of the overall deficit it’s the cost of financing that deficit which is at historical lows because interest rates are at historical lows. Actually we need to think of the sustainability of the debt rather than the big number because that will really five us a proper picture of what it is the Chancellor will have to contend with.”
Miatta Fahnbullah is a really articulate presenter and she made a extremely important point coming from the perspective of a Left leaning think-tank who have long recognized the error of the swinging Tory cuts. The low cost of borrowing has been the case for quite some time, but the Tories ignored the low interest rates and the golden opportunity to invest in infrastructure and job creation, instead implementing a decade of ideologically driven Tory austerity misery that hollowed out public services and left us brutally ill equipped to deal with this crisis. Any business person worth their salt will tell you that, “you have to spend money to make money,” but when they should have invested in building thousands of desperately needed council homes to provide a guaranteed return on investment in affordable rent, they sold off existing stock to housing market profiteers. Instead of rapidly paying down the deficit the Government saw its revenue decrease as the general public had no spare cash to spend. Now Tories want to repeat that hardship.
Jo Coburn turned to Katie Balls asking, “what’s your view?” Balls reply was going to offer zero relief for the Tory MP who drew the short straw on who would agree to appear on Politics Live. He must have wished he had been told to self-isolate and avoid all electronic devises for health reasons; it was easy to swing that kind of last ditch BS if Johnson was on side, but today he was the sacrificial Tory MP! Balls said that, “I think there’s a sense in the treasury, that when it comes to the Spending Review, one of the bigger stories is actually not going to be anything that Rishi Sunak announces, so much as a snapshot of the dire state the UK economy is in. I think in terms of what Rishi Sunak could have done differently, I think what you are going to hear from opposition politicians is not what is this figure, but has all that money been spent wisely? Has some of that money been badly used? Could it have been used elsewhere and I think that’s the more likely attack we are going to hear in how the treasury acted through this.” Ouch!
So then Coburn asks, “Richard Burgon do you agree with that? What is your view on the figures we are probably going to see today from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility about the state of the public finances?” Burgon replied, “Well with the hardest hit economy in the G7 that wasn’t inevitable. I think one of the reasons is the Government’s disastrous mishandling of the Caronavirus. This has meant that our economy has been hit harder than others.” But his next comment really hit home as he said, “But, when I hear Mark talk about tough choices, that’s a familiar mantra from the Conservatives. That means rich Conservatives like Rishi Sunak, I think one of the richest MPs in Parliament will be calling for a pay freeze for the very same workers that they applauded; it will be tough times ahead for the workers who have kept our society going during this pandemic. It’s similar language from the Conservatives it’s not a tough choice, that’s an easy choice made by the powerful.”
Why can’t we see this bold opposition confidence in our Labour Leadership? Why isn’t Keir Starmer ranting in outrage about the gross injustice of yet another hit on the working poor. No, the Captain of Capitulation is too busy trying to tear the Labour Party to shreds to placate the Jewish Lobby and the BoD. Keir Starmer is eager to prove that he’s the man and his “New Leadership” will take the once progressive inspirational Party on a permanent lurch to the right, even if the members desert in droves. If we had only challenged to result of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election a full Investigation might have exposed Tory corruption and Corbyn would be in Number 10 dealing with this crisis in a humane way to protect the most vulnerable. Right now we do not consistently have robust opposition. But Richard Burgon vigorously attacked the Tory stance, “They make it time and time again, you say it’s tough, but it’s not tough for them, it’s tough for the type of people and communities we should be seeking to represent.”
“Mark do you want to…” – I would have said scrape yourself out of the sewer to answer that one, but Coburn was far more polite with her ask. The far right will cry foul; it was so unfair to pit three intelligent left-leaning guests against one truly hapless Tory. The result was a sublimely scathing attack on a rabid Tory; just an unheard of abuse of counter-equality conventions! A pathetic Tory MP finally discovers that it is not so cool when you are on the receiving end of a concerted attack, especially when it turns out to be 100% totally well justified! The discussion focused on what had been trailed as the expected spending announcements. Before the decisions about how the Tories would set about paying down the debt racked up during the Covid crisis there was a well deserved attack on the value for money of public spending so far. With the standard BBC stacking of invited guests to support the Tory cause a lot less evident today, Harper must have felt distinctly uncomfortable as outspoken Labour MP Richard Bergen weighed in.
But tin-eared and indignant Harpon responded, “I think Richards approach to the world was tested with the voters in December with Jeremy Corbyn and the voters said they didn’t want that,” he said “they rumbled him,” he said. No, I thought, you cheated to steal the vote I say in referring to the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. Sure the country really wanted another decade of misery and exploitation under Tory austerity. We were all so thoroughly convinced that your Tory ‘landslide victory’ was legit; now we are just ecstatic dealing with the deadly consequences! Regarding the stolen vote Harpen says that, “They made the decision to put us in power with a significant majority so I think that argument was had. This is about how you deal with going forward,” right as you hastily ditch all of the fake pledges you made pre election. Harper continued the Tory spin, “I think the key thing for the Chancellor is how do we get the economy to grow next year when hopefully we’ve been able to rollout a new vaccine.”
Without the interruption reserved for Labour MPs and the progressive Left, Harper drivelled on, “What policies to we put in place for growth that’s the best way of dealing with this. But I’m afraid I thing we are going to have some difficult choices. I think the public understand that.” Sure they do, we all know under the Tories, who will be forced to pay… “The public understand that you’ve got to balance the budget in the medium term not straight away that’s not the time to do it as Miatta said borrowing costs are very low so at the moment the importance is about dealing with the emergency.” Strange how this NEVER includes a tax on the wealthy! He said, “I think that’s what we will hear from the Chancellor today but I mean there are tougher choices in life everybody knows that and they want a Government that is going to be level with them set the choices out and set out that view so we can grow the economy, protect jobs and give everyone the best chances in life and I think that’s what the Chancellor’s going to set out today.”
While the Tories shamelessly continue their relentless spin about ‘levelling up’ they are getting set to bleed the working poor dry yet again as they continue their ingrained policy of endless exploitation. Strong, outspoken Labour MPs like Richard Bergen must call them out over this blatant lie and change the narrative in the Media to point out the ‘decimating down’ and the continuation of austerity. Coburn didn’t challenge the sheer hypocrisy of Harper’s ridiculous assertions she just moved on. “Well let’s concentrate on the figures just for a moment and what were expecting from Paul Johnson from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Just set out for us Paul what you think and perhaps the difference between what was predicted or forecast earlier in the year and now.” The outlook was grim, but the inevitable looming catastrophe of crash-out Brexit barely got a mention. There is still this totally ludicrous exceptionalist assumption that the EU will finally capitulate to Tory demands at the last ditch, so it is taken as a given.
When Harper came under fire over the Tories reckless squandering of public money, shovelling money out the door to Tory chums with zero accountability, it was fiercely defended as efficiency in an emergency, spending “at pace” to meet the immediate needs. Never mind how ill prepared the UK was despite ample warning before things escalated here. Harper tossed in that favourite Tory phrase. “in the round” meaning occasionally they got things right purely by chance. Coburn asked SNP Alison Thewliss MP what she expected to hear from the Chancellor today? She said, “where’re hoping to see continued investment in the economy…”
Tory MP Mark Harper, was keen to offer weasel words and lame excuses for callously cruel and downright mean Tory policy, past and present, when under attack as a guest on Politics Live earlier today. When questioned about his response to the EHRC criticism of the Tories ongoing immigration catastrophe over the Windrush scandal, he repeatedly tried to justify what he referred to as ‘mistakes’ by citing the need to remove illegal immigrants. His unjustified comments reinforced the vile Tory policy of treating as many of the Windrush generation as possible as criminally illegal and subject to deportation. This placed an onerous burden on many people who had lived in the UK, worked hard and paid taxes for decades; if they failed to produce massive quantities of continuous documentation, they were forced into destitution or shipped out. Harper was heavily implicated due to his role at the time, but he was unfazed by the racist ‘go home vans’ which he appeared to defend in a disgraceful display of Tory inhumanity.
“The suffering of the Windrush generation the Equalities and Human Rights Commission says it was a shameful stain on British history.” Jo Coburn said quoting a section from the just published EHRC Review which accuses the Tory Government at the time of “acting unlawfully.” It said that the Government had “ignored warnings that those changes to immigration laws would create serious injustices” so she asked Mark Harper, who was a former Immigration Minister back then, “Did you behave unlawfully?” In denial as he claimed a convenient case of amnesia he replied, “I can’t recall any warnings about the specific group of individuals and I wasn’t interviewed by Wendy Williams, she didn’t want to interview me for her report,” he said. In a sickeningly dismissive way he added, “but clearly things didn’t work as well as they should have done… and I think all of us…” Stunned, Coburn cut in with, “Well it was more than that!” Hundreds of people suffered due to Tory cruelty, but most have yet to be compensated.
As always Coburn couldn’t mention EHRC without zeroing in on Labour MP Richard Burgan over the fantisemitism ‘typhoon in a teaspoon.’ She demanded to know why Corbyn was refusing to grovel, but Burgan did not give in to her badgering to admit any necessity for a Corbyn climb down: I was relieved as Coburn quit trying and it proved appeasement is so unnecessary. Speculation ahead of Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review, fuelled an Independent Article entitled, “Matt Hancock refuses to say whether he will take MPs’ £3,000 salary rise during public sector pay freeze,” but answer came their none. They say that the, “Health Secretary asked six times, Matt Hancock has refused to say whether he will accept a planned pay rise for MPs while the government freezes pay for other public sector workers. Asked six times on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme, the health secretary said MPs’ pay was ‘set independently’ and that he would not try to influence it, even to stop it going up.”
The Independent reports that, “It comes ahead of an announcement by the chancellor that all workers in the public sector outside the NHS will have their pay frozen, among other austerity measures like a cut to the international aid budget. “The chancellor is going to set out the policy on Wednesday, the independent body on MPs’ pay will then set out its final policy, I’m sure that it will take into account all these things,” Mr Hancock told the programme. “The reason I’m not answering the question, tempting as it is, is because I think these things should be done the proper way – and I have never set my pay, even to say it should be frozen.” Sure MPs can’t help it if an independent body want to force them to take higher pay than the need of deserve. This is a truly ridiculous argument, because if the Government chose to suspend that independent body for the next three years, while allowing the UK economy to make a full recovery, that would be entirely feasible; they just choose not to do so.
The Independent say, “Pressed again and again on the issue, Mr Hancock said: ‘I’ll promise to come back onto this programme immediately after this decision comes through and I’ll let you know.’ The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which sets MPs’ pay, is expected to recommend a £3,360 pay rise for all MPs, to £85,291. The body is independent of MPs and its rises are technically automatic, though some politicians simply give pay rises they consider unfair to charity. Despite MPs’ claims that they have no influence over IPSA, the body could be disestablished by parliament, which set it up and is sovereign over the UK. Ministerial salaries, which government ministers get on top of their MP salary, are expected to be frozen in the coming year, as they have been since 2010. However ministers would still get the 4.1 per cent hike to their MPs’ salary, which is separate.”
Early on in the Pandemic MPs received a similar above inflation pay rise. Then they awarded themselves an extra £10,000 just to help cover the extra hardship of… functioning as an MP during Covid; although I am not quite sure how this money was justified. The Queen took an unexpected hit to her property revenue, but the Government decided to cover the shortfall as, well we couldn’t have the monarch going short of a few million just because the country is in a crisis. But on the other end of the scale, it took the highly publicized rant of a popular footballer begging on behalf of the poorest children in the country to secure meals so they didn’t starve. Now the UK has decided to reduce its commitment to Foreign Aid; that might mean the difference between life and death for the poorest citizens of the world. But the tiniest tax increase for the wealthy elite is out of the question; I don’t know how they can live with their obscenely selfish greed. Today was a day when I felt deeply ashamed to be British; we need the toxic Tories out ASAP! DO NOT MOVE ON!