Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

Home Forums Discussion Forum Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019 Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

Kim Sanders-Fisher

A quarter pound of tuppenny rice, a quarter pound of treacle, that’s the way the money goes, pop goes the weasel. The ultimate sacrifice, ‘the weasel’ was slang for an old fashioned flat iron. We should oust an evil Tory weasel! In the entitled, “Sunak’s pay cut will speed up civil servant brain drain,” Mike Clancy claims, “It’s hard to run a government if your best people keep leaving because they’re underpaid.” He admits, “Delivering a spending review in the midst of a pandemic, and on the brink of Brexit, is no easy task. The immediate future is uncertain, and that makes planning a challenge. But that uncertainty puts an extra onus on government to provide a level of stability than can form the bedrock of an economic recovery.” Crucially Clancy points out why another Tory Government got it dead wrong yet again, saying, “Key to that is maintaining demand in the economy, especially as the recovery of key sectors such as hospitality, the arts, and tourism will be driven by consumer spending in 2021.”

Clancy explains, “That is why, even setting aside other considerations, the decision to freeze (or pause, in Treasury doublespeak) public sector pay outside the NHS is just a disastrous decision for our economy.” He justifiably maintains that, “We need these workers to be spending in the economy in 2021 and 2022, and they simply won’t if they are worrying about their income falling behind inflation. It is an economically illiterate step that will harm the private sector as well as the public sector.” But he warns, “there is another dimension to this argument, which is to look at it through the prism of fairness. The Chancellor attempted to frame this freeze by comparing public and private sector pay. He said that recent rises in public sector pay had not been matched by private sector wage growth. This is an incredibly disingenuous argument. For a start, public sector wages should be set on the basis of assessments of need, reward for work, and addressing challenges such as recruitment and retention of skilled staff.”

The big mistake Clancy claims is that, “They should not be set because of crude comparisons with averages in the private sector over a limited period of time. If the Chancellor had looked a little further back, he would see that the public sector has just emerged from an unprecedented eight years of pay restraint, including real terms pay cuts that mean the median civil service salary has lost around £6,000 against RPI inflation since 2010. If he had looked beyond the headline figures he would have seen that civil servants in particular have had nothing like the 4% pay rise he claimed this year, with most awards around 2.5%. And if he had read reports from select committees, the National Audit Office, or his own government departments, he would have seen that lack of pay progression is causing a drain of skills to the private sector that is holding back the civil service from achieving their goals in areas as diverse as defence procurement and environmental regulation.” Clearly this was not a smart move.

We should be a lot more vocal in sharing the outrage, but the UK public are easily duped by that classic Government tactic of divide and rule, that pits one group of workers against another while both are treated unfairly. Clancy rants that, “If the Chancellor wants to talk about fairness, he should explain what he means to the thousands of frontline workers who have been going above and beyond the call of duty to help the country through the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, and who will get scant thanks from the government. Like the health and safety inspector who told me: ‘Staff at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been asked to do more this year than ever before, making sure workplaces are Covid secure and workers are kept safe, all of this after staff numbers that have been slashed in recent years. Our reward from the government is a pay cut- I may as well just leave to the private sector now’.” We must direct out utter disgust towards this Government for targeting deserving workers again.

According to Clancy, “It’s not just about fairness either, it is also about resilience in the public sector. If this crisis has taught us anything it is that operating public services with zero slack built in makes it incredibly difficult to cope when things go wrong. Indeed, even without the pandemic resilience in areas such as HSE, Public Health England, the Environment Agency, Natural England and many more is non-existent. They are operating at staffing levels below which they cannot effectively fulfil their functions. This will only get worse in light of the Chancellor’s announcements today.” Sunak has given the first strong indication that this Tory Government has absolutely no intention of ‘levelling up’ as promised in their campaign pitch to the British electorate less than a year ago. Despite still peddling this meaningless sound bite they are getting set to revert to standard Tory tactics of forcing the working poor to suffer the greatest burden caused by their mistakes; the ‘new normal’ will not ditch austerity.

Clancy highlighted what was missing in Chancellor Sunak’s strategy, “This should have been the spending review that funded our recovery from this pandemic rather than building in equality of misery. There should have been support for the millions of self-employed and freelance workers who have been excluded from government income support, and who won’t be able to power the recovery if they are left destitute because of arbitrary exclusions. There should have been new funding for agencies like the HSE who are vital to our ability to reopen businesses, and bespoke support for sectors such as aviation, the creative industries, and heritage that will need extra help to recover. And there should have been real action to match the government’s rhetoric on a green industrial revolution, with a green light for new nuclear projects and investment in environmental jobs in the public and private sectors. Instead we have been left with a review where major decisions have been ducked, delayed, or got disastrously wrong.”

Mike Clancy, who is the General Secretary of the Prospect trade union, reminds us that , “The Chancellor will have a chance to put this right in his Budget in the Spring, we must all hope it is a chance he takes.” It is really important for ordinary working people, Trade Unions, Organizations and Charities up and down the country to vent their outrage right now. We simply cannot afford to be distracted by the minutiae of lockdown restrictions in our area or the gracious privileges of being allowed to relax our guard over a few days at Christmas. These issues will stuff the news media with what I call ‘handyfloss’ so that there is no bandwidth to focus on the perfectly preventable impending self-harm of crash-out Brexit or who will be expected to suffer the consequences of the growing number of catastrophic Tory errors. The 99% are being set up to collectively share the costly financial impact of Tory greed and obsession with maintaining power and wealth in the hands of the privileged one percent. There is another way…

In the Left Foot Forward Article entitled, “How to fill the government’s financial black hole without hitting ordinary people,” Joe Lo asserts that, “You don’t have to cut teachers’ pay or help for the world’s poorest.” Lo says that, “Due to the government’s shambolic handling of coronavirus, the UK has one of the highest death rates in the world and is one of the countries whose economy has struggled the most. As a result, tax income is down, spending is up and we’re spending more than we’re taking in. That’s known as a deficit and we’re borrowing to fill the gap. By 2025, that gap will be between £21 billion and £46 billion. Now, having a deficit isn’t the end of the world. It’s pretty normal. Since 1980, there’s only been five years without a deficit, twice under Thatcher and three times with Blair.”

Lo reminds us that, “having a deficit now isn’t as expensive as normal as borrowing is very cheap at the moment. Nevertheless, Rishi Sunak has said he wants to ‘balance the books’ and Conservative ideology holds that tax rises or spending cuts are the only way to do that. At yesterday’s spending review, he held off on a lot of unpopular decisions he’s likely to make in the next few years. But he did do enough to show whose shoulders the books will be balanced on. Most public sector workers were hit with a pay cut and aid for the world’s poorest was slashed. So here’s a few helpful suggestions of how those who pay for the crisis’s economic impact are those who can most afford it. These measures could bring in around £41.5 billion, enough to comfortably wipe out that deficit.”

Lo lists a few suggestions an topping that list is, “Clamp down on tax avoidance” to potentially raise: “£15bn. According to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, £31bn of tax goes unpaid every year while other models put the figure far higher. This is because of legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion as well as honest mistakes from people failing to work out what they owe. There’s always going to be some tax which goes uncollected but if HMRC was better funded, it could claw more of this back. If it could cut the tax gap in half, that would rake in around £15bn a year. That’s enough to pay for Johnson’s ‘green industrial revolution’ with a few billion left to spare.”

Next on Lo’s list is another crowd pleaser, “Tax the top 2% of earners” raising another, “£5.4 billion.” Lo says, “Currently, the 2% of the population earning over £80,000 pay just 40% on that income up to £150,000. And the less than 1% of the population who earn more than £150,000 pay just 45%. By increasing these figures to 45% and 50% respectively, the last Labour manifesto estimated you could raise £5.4 billion.” Lo suggested levying, “VAT on private school fees” to rake in a cool, “£1.5 billion.” Lo points out that, “The 7% of parents who send their kids to private school currently don’t pay any VAT on those fees. Changing this could raise £1.5 billion, according to analysis from the last Labour manifesto.” Some on the Socialist left believe that private education should be eliminated altogether, but I do not agree. This is the destination for thousands of children who are sent from abroad to be educated in the UK, not just the children of our overseas diplomats, but foreign children too, but either way they are not short of cash and they don’t deserve a special tax break.

Lo believes we should, “Reform Capital Gains Tax” because this could rake in a whopping, “£14 billion.” Explaining the Tax Lo says that, “Capital Gains Tax is a tax on the profit made when an asset you own increases in value. It does not include your main home but does include any other properties you own. Only around 250,000 people in the UK pay it. According to the Office for Tax Simplification, if Capital Gains Tax rates were aligned with income tax rates, the government could make £14 billion a year more. However, they do warn this figure could be reduced by taxpayers finding ways round the rules.” Well we all know that the ultra wealthy will always manage to find loopholes in the system to avoid paying their share of the tax burden; that shouldn’t prevent our Government trying to rejig taxation rules to stop them. When so many families in the UK are either homeless or spending years in cramped temporary accommodation it is obscene that the elite aren’t even paying tax on the luxury of owning additional properties.

Lo suggests another tax increase that would only burden those with the most money to spend, putting “More VAT on luxury goods,” to raise another: “£1.6 billion.” Lo points out that, “The VAT on luxury goods is currently the same as on standard goods – 20%. Increasing this to 30% could bring in £1.6bn a year. Of course, there would be debate and lobbying on what a ‘luxury good’ is but the line would have to be drawn somewhere.” Remember the horrendous battle it took to eliminate the scourge of a 20% tax on Tampons? I used to deliver sailing yachts on long passages to far flung destinations, but the owners of those vessels were not strapped for cash, despite haggling over the cost of paying crew to transport their boat. I am surprised that the estimated tax take is so modest considering the high cost of luxury yachts and private jets, not to mention precious ‘bling’ and unethical fur coats. Why were such luxury goods taxed on the exact same rate as everyday basics while the Tories resist paying tor free school meals?

Last on the list is a bit more complicated, but trust Lo on this one, “Scrap entrepreneurs tax relief” to raise, “£4 billion.” Lo explains, “Entrepreneurs Relief was introduced by Gordon Brown and expanded by George Osborne. It means that people selling their stake in a business often pay less Capital Gains Tax than they would otherwise. The government claims this incentivises people to start businesses but, according to the Association of Accounting Technicians, most business-owners haven’t heard of the scheme until they’ve already decided to sell their stake. The Resolution Foundation has called it the ‘worst tax break’ as they say it helps just a few wealthy individuals. It costs around £4bn a year.” Although it might sound counterintuitive to stop a tax break designed to incentivise enterprise, the experts who fully understand these quirks in our taxation system have given it the thumbs down and we should respect their input: it is refreshing to read an alternative set of viable measures from Joe Lo, co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

Despite rising unemployment with millions sinking into poverty, relying on savings or growing their credit card debt as they subsist on a fraction of their wages on furlough the public are being encouraged to spend like there is no tomorrow. The Canary Article entitled, “Black Friday saw flash sales in fashion, beauty, technology, and beyond, in which corporations encouraged consumers to buy products at heavily reduced prices,” encapsulates our distracted priorities and rampant inequality. They report that, “While many took part in the nationwide spending spree, others highlighted the social and environmental costs of the mass consumption these dramatic sales encouraged. Some took to social media to share their concerns; the GMB Union staged a protest outside Amazon’s London HQ highlighting ‘dehumanising’ working conditions at the company’s warehouses. This year’s Black Friday highlighted the extent of exploitative corporate behaviour.”

We are clearly being conditioned to disregard those who are paying the price in workforce exploitation. Reporting on ‘Black Friday’ sales the Canary say that, “‘Fast fashion’ giant PrettyLittleThing attracted a great deal of attention for promoting discounts of up to 99% off thousands of items. The most shocking reductions included a 5p dress and a 25p pair of heels, as advertised on their website on Black Friday. Boohoo Group PLC owns PrettyLittleThing and other fast fashion brands such as Boohoo, Nasty Gal and Karen Millen. On 27 November, Boohoo boasted ‘up to 90% off absolutely everything’, selling dresses for as little as £1.50 and shoes for £3. One Twitter user celebrated their purchase of 56 garments from PrettyLittleThing for £28, calling it ‘the best deal ever’. Others bemoaned missing out on sales Disturbed by the brand’s sale of clothes at extremely cheap prices, other users took to Twitter to highlight the ethical costs of overproduction and fast fashion.”

The Canary report that, “On its website, Boohoo Group PLC states: We want to operate a business that is fair to all and kind to the environment and we are working hard to live up to these big ambitions. We know that there is a lot to fix in the fashion industry and we are keen, willing and actively taking part in finding and implementing solutions.” However, the Canary say that, “it is difficult to fathom how the company, which generates in excess of £1bn, can make a profit or pursue these ambitions while selling clothes at such low price points. While Boohoo co-founder Mahmud Kamani enjoys a net worth of over $1bn, several Boohoo factories failed to prove minimum wage pay, with reports of wages as low as £3.50 per hour in August.” Thankfully, this abuse was exposed in a rare attack on Corporate responsibility; sadly, too many shady operators get away with exactly the same exploitation without being caught out. All it takes is basic logic to realize that you cannot make millions on such sales without workers having to suffer.

The Canary report that, “An overwhelming number of large corporations encouraged the annual spending frenzy, including ASOS which advertised up to 70% off everything on 27 November, and tech giants promising huge savings. The deals are set to continue, and in some cases accelerate, over the weekend through to ‘Cyber Monday’.” The Canary advocate, “Taking the giants to task.” They say, “On Black Friday, while Amazon customers enjoyed mammoth reductions sitewide, GMB Union projected a banner reading ‘Make Amazon Pay’ outside the company’s London HQ. GMB is part of a global coalition aiming to curb Amazon’s ‘monstrous power’. Coalition members include Amnesty International and Oxfam. This follows a GMB investigation revealing that ambulances were called to Amazon warehouses 600 times in three years, and reports of ‘602 serious injuries and near misses’.” The scary thing is that these abuses are occurring despite strong EU protections for workers rights that will soon be stripped away.

The Canary report that, “Amazon factory workers shared experiences of ‘working in constant agony, not having time to go to the toilet and a heavily pregnant woman being forced to work standing’. One GMB member said: I told them I could not walk so many miles and I could not pick from low locations. I had a meeting with a safety manager and was also told: ‘It’s not what you want, it is what we decide’. My manager told me that most women are working on picking until their maternity leave. I know this is true because I saw ladies with huge bumps picking. Another reported: It is an awful place to work, can’t breath [sic] or voice an opinion, feel like a trapped animal with lack of support and respect. Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: Amazon is well known for unsafe, dehumanising work practices which see our members break bones, fall unconscious and have to be taken away in ambulances.”

The Canary report that Rix, “added: Now, during a pandemic which has made the world’s richest man even more money, they’ve been packing workers into warehouses like sardines in a tin. Enough is enough. It’s time to curb the power of this monstrous company. It is high time this Government heeded the growing chorus and held a parliamentary enquiry into Amazon’s activities. A spokesperson for Amazon told The Canary: This is a series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon’s profile to further their individual causes. Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our employees, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions, competitive wages and great benefits, leading on climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, and paying billions of pounds in taxes globally. The Canary approached Boohoo Group PLC for comment but it didn’t respond by the time of publication.”

The Canary warns that there is, “A long way to go” saying that, “While there is a growing appetite for sustainable fashion and alternatives to corporate giants such as Amazon, this year’s Black Friday sales demonstrate how much more needs to change before big companies are held to account for profiting from the exploitation of people and the planet.” Sadly, due to the logistical practicalities imposed by the Pandemic many people who might otherwise willingly join a boycott, feel trapped by their own vulnerability into ordering online. We rely on our Government to set appropriate rules and regulations for working environments in the UK, but under the Tories the evisceration of so called ‘red tape’ and the massive depletion in the number of inspectors in all sectors has given powerful Corporations a free ride. Things will get an awful lot worse after crash-out Brexit with the main sticking point in negotiations focused on maintaining the ‘level playing field;’ the primary Tory goal is to strip away all workers rights!

We are perilously close to seeing this corrupt Tory Government achieve their ultimate goal: using crash-out Brexit to break the vital power of Unions by eliminating the few remaining rights of the workers poor in the UK as we lose the protections of the EU. It is impossible that so many former Labour voters did not see this coming and voted for a serial liar to take charge of negotiations that are doomed to failure by Tory design. We have precious little time to derail the Tory Dictatorship juggernaut, but we must take aggressive action immediately. We must challenge the obvious return of austerity signalled by the pay freeze, we must demand fair taxation of those best placed to pay for the obscene Tory squandering of public funds and challenge the result of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election and demand a full Investigation to expose the truth and remove this rabid Tory Government from power.DO NOT MOVE ON!