Monday, 18 May 2020

The gammons are incredibly easy to please aren't they?


Tory tax-dodger Michael Ashcroft has gone viral on Twitter posting a quite frankly deranged diatribe combining World War Two nostalgia and hard-right tabloid talking points.

The gammons absolutely lapped it up because WWII fetishism, spewing hate at minorities, and blasting anyone who dares criticise their beloved Tory lords and masters combines three of their absolute favourite things.

In this article I'm going to run through the whole thing, highlighting what a load of historically illiterate and quite frankly bigoted cobblers it is.

Firstly it's always important to establish what the source is. In this case it's the Tory tax-dodger Michael Ashcroft who is safely hiding away from the coronavirus crisis in the tax haven of Belize.

This is a guy who conned his way into the unelected House of Lords with commitments that he would end his non-dom tax status and begin actually paying his fair share of taxes in the UK, which he clearly never did.

Just look at his smug Tory face and ask yourself why the gammons love a Britain-hating tax-dodger like this so much.

Perhaps it's because somewhere deep beneath their faux patriotism, they also hate Britain too?


 
And why is it that the people who fetishise WWII the most egregiously always seem to be the baby boomers who weren't even alive when it happened?
The "Your Country Needs You" slogan was the most famous poster campaign from the First World War, so top marks to Ashcroft for getting his wars jumbled up whilst pretending to be a lover of British history and a patriot.

Probably the most famous Second World War slogan was "Careless talk Costs Lives", which was nice and clear. But imagine if the government had decided to replace this clear and intelligible statement with garbled gibberish like "Stay Alert By Washing Your Hands", which sounds more like the kind of thing a stroke victim would say before collapsing, than a government information campaign.

There would definitely have been complaints.


The thing with this coronavirus/Blitz analogy is that it completely falls to bits when you look at the contrasting government responses.

Back in 1940 the government threw everything it had at defending Britain from the Blitz during the Battle of Britain.

At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis Boris Johnson deluded himself into believing the world would celebrate him as the "Superman of Capitalism" for deliberately allowing the virus to spread, and then he told a confused looking Phillip Scholfield about how he was being advised to let the virus "move through the population".

It's easy to imagine that the British people would have asked questions like "why aren't you doing enough to prevent these air raids?" if the government policy of the day had been to allow the Nazi bombers to move freely through our skies!


In reality the air raid sirens didn't actually apply to everyone.

It was the job of people like Air Raid Wardens, anti-aircraft gunners, police, the fire service, the ambulance service ... to stay above ground and deal with the consequences, while the general public were expected to make their way to air raid shelters.

A similar situation exists now, with NHS and care home workers, the emergency services, retail staff, delivery drivers, bus drivers, utilities engineers and many others expected to work through the crisis.

You'd have to be dangerously mindless and politically illiterate not to have questioned who is affected by the lockdown measures and who isn't, or come to your own conclusions about who the essential workers in our economy really are.
A transparent dig at transgender people to rile up the gammon.

Why is it that the hysterical anti-trans droolers are so utterly obsessed with toilet facilities, to the extent of demanding that trans-women expose themselves to danger by using the male facilities?

And a comparison with the social norms of the 1930s and '40s shows us that all LGBTQ+ people were
subjected to horrific systematic discrimination, imprisoned, sent to mental institutions, and even tortured with barbarism like chemical castration.

Are we really going to accept this maudlin nostalgia for the good old days when queer folk were routinely persecuted by the state?
And now a dig at vegans.

This WWII/Coronavirus analogy has just descended into simple-minded minority bashing hasn't it?

But if we try to actually consider the analogy, the reality is that even eight decades ago, and fighting a desperate war for survival, the British government managed to provide the public with portable gas masks.

The current Tory government failed so badly at providing sufficient ventilators that they ended up sending Covid-19 infected patients back to die in care homes so that their deaths wouldn't be recorded in the daily death stats.

Another dig at vegans!

First: Vegan milk is a good thing. If you haven't tried almond milk before, give it a go. I'm not vegan, but I actually prefer it to ordinary milk these days.

Second: If the UK government could have got away with replacing the milk in some people's rations with manufactured ersatz milk, they would have been absolutely delighted. If some 10% of the population wanted milk alternatives instead of milk, that would have meant less demand on farmers, and more dairy produce to share between the rest. A win-win for everyone, and a boost for the war effort too.

But let's all hate vegans eh? 
 Bloody hell!

He's finished with the LGBTQ+ community and the vegans, so now he's going after 'the blacks'!
He's clearly having a dig at skin tone plasters here, as if they're some kind of assault on decency and common sense.

A white person's reaction to skin-tone plasters tells you all you need to know about their attitudes.

Some will say "oh, that's cool", and easily grasp the fact that it's a good thing that non-white parents will now have the option of using plasters that don't imply that their kids' skin is the wrong colour, and wonder why this simple innovation didn't happen a lot sooner.

Others will adopt a culture war attitude and treat the concept of choice in plaster colours as if it's some kind of barbaric assault on Western Christian culture, even though they'll endlessly point to extravagant (to the point of being confusing) levels of choice elsewhere in the economy as evidence that their beloved capitalism is a good thing!
The fact is that the UK government spent the pre-war years rapidly building up stockpiles of weapons and ammunition because they saw the threat of Nazi expansionism coming.

In contrast the Tory government were repeatedly warned that stockpiles of medical equipment and protective gear were shockingly inadequate in the case of a viral respiratory disease, but they ignored the warnings, because ensuring adequate supplies for an emergency contrasted with their crackpot "let's cut our way to prosperity" austerity agenda.

Yet another astoundingly weak analogy that actually ends up making his beloved Tories look worse, if you know anything about the subject at all, which he apparently doesn't.

The gammons absolutely love this kind of ignorant, history-rewriting, minority-bashing, pro-government drivel don't they?

Conclusion


Digging beneath the inaccuracies, the brazenly inaccurate historical revisionism, and the multiple examples of minority-bashing, the core messages here are don't dare to be different, and don't criticise your government, no matter how badly they screw up.

But this also falls down spectacularly when we remember that widespread public dissatisfaction led to the departure of Britain's first war leader Neville Chamberlain, and his replacement with Winston Churchill.

If Britain was the kind of intolerant, fanatically right-wing, history-rewriting, dissent-crushing, minority-persecuting, leader-worshipping, autocracy that Ashcroft and the gammons so desperately want it to be today, Churchill would never have become Prime Minister, we would probably have lost the Second World War (or negotiated peace with the Nazis), and we'd have been just about as bad as the Nazis were anyway.

Aside from the fact it's almost always baby boomers doing the most egregious WWII fetishism, it also often tends to be people who have far more in common with the ideology of the Nazis than with the Allies doesn't it?

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Friday, 15 May 2020

Thangam Debbonaire's bizarre fallacy-laden and deeply disingenuous 'Landlords above Workers' diatribe


One of the huge problems in modern political discourse is political inertia.

Even though it's obvious that a mistake has been made, people, and especially politicians, are incredibly reluctant to admit their errors. So they just keep on doubling down on shocking errors of judgement and catastrophically ill-considered policies, rather than taking the ego hit and just admitting that they were wrong.

Labour's new shadow housing minister Thangam Debbonaire has provided an absolute masterclass in this kind of political inertia with an absolutely laughable, disingenuous, fallacy-laden, post-hoc, bad faith, straw man jumble of gibberish to defend her widely derided policy proposal of 'Landlords above Workers'.

In this article I'm going to offer a point by point examination of the muddled thinking and fallacious reasoning underpinning her attempted justification.

Here's the original article detailing Debbonaire's lamentable speech if you want to read it in its entirety first: ‘Cancel the rent’ policy would be “un-Labour”, says Debbonaire

Assuming the coronavirus shutdown lasts for six months, a two year rent arrears repayment schedule would require a 25% increase in payments on top of already extortionate rents, for the entire two year period.

What kind of Labour Party proposes people pay up to 125% rent for two years during the worst economic downturn in centuries?

Just when the economy needs extra economic demand the most, to boost production and keep people in work, Debbonaire wants to introduce a policy to erode away the disposable income of millions of private tenants, and stymie economic demand in the process, purely in order to ensure landlords are practically the only economic demographic in post-Covid Britain not to lose a penny from this crisis!

When she announced it p
eople rightly called this 'Landlords above Workers' policy out as the absolute drivel it is, but she's now doubling down and using some ridiculously duplicitous and fallacious reasoning to defend it.
The other four points on the plan range from good, to OK. Eviction bans are good. Universal Credit is an unsalvageable mess, but an increase in payments in the absence of a complete replacement is a fair enough proposal. Increasing Local Housing Allowance makes sense, but it's hard to account for where the money comes from if the devastating Tory austerity cuts to local government funding aren't reversed.

The big problem people are having is with her 'Landlords over Workers' policy proposal to extract workers' disposable incomes for years after the crisis is over, purely to ensure that landlords are completely insulated from any of the economic consequences.

It's the criticisms of this particular policy that her speech is supposedly aimed at addressing.

To describe this proposal as just "controversial" is somewhat of an understatement.
Within weeks of her appointment she's created such a mess that she's united two of the three main Labour factions (socialist left, and soft left) against her, and landed an open letter with 4,000+ signatures on her new leader's desk!

Fantastic work eh?

At the time of her appointment I asked whether she was up to the task of handling what would obviously be one of the most important briefs in the post-crisis economy, but I had no inkling she'd be spectacularly proving my concerns justified within a matter of mere weeks.

In the early days of its history the Labour Party led the 1915 rent strike. Their major electoral breakthrough came in 1922 on the back of years of campaigning on housing policy. Over the following decades the Labour Party has imposed rent restrictions, championed tenants' rights, cleared slums, and built millions of affordable social housing units.

The idea that it's "surprisingly un-Labour" to defend tenants from impoverishment and exploitation is an extraordinarily ahistorical claim.

It's somewhat of a straw-man position to claim that everyone opposing her 'Landlords over Workers' policy is demanding an across-the-board cancellation of all rents for everyone, and with no compensation whatever for landlords.

Some of her many critics may adopt this more radical position, the majority certainly wouldn't, and the actual "Cancel the Rent" letter proposes no such thing, so it's an incredibly cheap shot to attack the much more radical stance because she thinks it's the easiest to deride, rather than the actual contents of the letter that she's apparently railing against.

But even if we ignore the bad faith, is the fact that some people might get what they don't really need a reasonable argument in favour of literally millions of people suffering a severe economic punishment that they absolutely don't deserve?

Why is a few wealthier people potentially getting what they don't need such a shocking concern that it justifies dumping millions into rent arrears, destitution, and the penury of onerous repayments necessitated by crisis they absolutely didn't cause?

Ah yes! What could be more representative of the kinds of desperate situation ordinary people are facing than ... erm ... an MP on a six figure salary renting a flat in London that's entirely paid for at the public expense anyway?

I'm sure this personal anecdote will really chime with the millions of people thrown into economic turmoil by this crisis, who have been left desperately trying to figure out how to pay the rent, the rip-off utility bills, the food, and all the other expenses.

They turn to Labour for a sign of hope and a promise of support, and the Labour Party housing minister is blethering on about a purely hypothetical scenario involving her grace and favour flat in London in order to elicit sympathy for her landlord!

Then there's that bad faith deceptiveness again. The "Cancel the Rent" letter actually asks that rents and utility bills are cancelled 'at the tenant's request' if they're suffering a coronavirus 'drop in income'.

In order for her rent to be cancelled under such a scheme, she'd have to fraudulently make a claim, knowing that her income hasn't actually dropped, and that the cost of her rent is immaterial to her anyway, paid as it is from public funds!

Alack! Alas! why will nobody think of the sanctity of contracts? is the kind of drivel you'd expect from the opaquely funded hard-right think tank wonks who are on perpetual rotation on the BBC politics circuit, not a Labour Party shadow minister!

The idea that the sanctity of contracts over-rules the public good isn't just 'un-Labour', it's positively Tory.

Just think about the assertion that "even if it's a rubbish contract, with a rubbish landlord who is charging far too much, it's still legally binding" and consider how awful that must sound to potential Labour voters.

And the bit about "no such thing as cancelling contracts" is just legally illiterate gibberish (which is sure to impress her new boss Keir Starmer QC!).

From the Tory government's retroactive redrawing of student loan conditions, through their cancelled contracts for Chris Grayling's imaginary ferries, to their emergency renationalisation of the railways just a few weeks ago, there are countless precedents for governments amending or tearing up contracts.

Once again, a "general waiver" is simply not what the "Cancel the Rent" letter is actually calling for.
"You have to think about who you are going to target" - if only the authors of the "Cancel the Rent" letter had thought of that eh?

And as for compensation, there are several potential solutions. The most obvious is to just give landlords a mortgage holiday for the duration of the rent cancellation.

For landlords who own properties outright, they should surely be declaring their rental income to the tax man anyway, so it would be fairly simple to create some kind of compensation scheme similar to the measures for self-employed people, so that losses up to a certain limit are covered.

It's quite frankly bizarre that she's so sympathetic to the idea of landlords suing their impoverished tenants, and suing the government, in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, rather than incandescent with rage at the very idea of it.

Once again, it's shockingly disingenuous to claim that the "Cancel the Rent" letter is talking about an across the board rent cancellation, however it is fascinating to learn that wealth extraction out of the legitimately productive economy via landlordism has soared to the incredible sum of £7.2 billion per month!
Here it is in black and white. Don't expect anything even remotely radical from a Labour government to deal with the UK's ridiculously dire housing crisis.

Their housing minister is profoundly reluctant to help struggling tenants even in the midst of an unprecedented economic meltdown, and she's busy salting the policy garden and deliberately lowering expectations of what any future Labour government would offer in terms of housing policy.

Well yes, in an ideal world we'd like to ensure everyone has enough money upfront to pay the rent, but we're not in an ideal world, the government is not ensuring this, and the proposal people are criticising Debbonaire for involves extracting tenants' disposable income, over the course of years, to cover their coronavirus rent arrears.

It's beyond obvious that these arrears simply wouldn't accrue at all in this ideal-world scenario she's just conjured out of nowhere, so the policy she's attempting to defend with this ludicrously disingenuous diatribe wouldn't even be necessary!

Once again, more disingenuous drivel. The proposal she's railing against isn't an across the board rent cancellation, and nobody has suggested leaving social housing landlords high and dry with no compensation.

But even if they had suggested this, the houses don't simply disappear if the housing association goes bust. Take the homes back into public ownership, turn them back into the Council Houses most of them were built as in the beginning, and pop, her imaginary problem is solved!

"It's the private rented sector where we've got a problem" - the first accurate thing she's said in this entire diatribe isn't it? 
God-damn it! We're back to this again!

If the proposals to "deal with it upfront" are competently administered, then there is simply no need for the two year arrears extraction programme at all - You know, the issue that huge numbers of people got upset at her about in the first place! The bloody reason she's giving this speech at all!
Well "evil" is a bit strong, but there's basically no way you can argue that landlordism isn't "exploitative" unless you position yourself significantly to the right of figures like Winston Churchill and Adam Smith, who both railed against the exploitative practice of landlordism.

And if you're so far to the political right that Churchill and Smith are reduced to mere distant specks over your left shoulder, what the absolute hell are you doing as a Labour Party housing minister?
OK, for the sake of argument let's say there's absolutely no scheme to compensate landlords, and the most recklessly over-extended ones (who didn't even keep a few months worth of rent in reserve in case of emergencies) end up deservedly going bust.

The house doesn't just disappear does it? It ends up with the reckless bank that recklessly lent the money to the reckless buy-to-let speculator in the first place.

The government could just step in, compensate the reckless bank for a proportion of their losses, and transfer the property to the local council or a local housing association (which, by the way, should be the policy whenever a private landlord goes bust, shouldn't it?).

She's catastrophising about "even greedier landlords" rather than proposing a humane solution to the traumatic busted landlord situation that significant numbers of people face each year, through no fault of their own (coronavirus crisis or no coronavirus crisis).

This "it could be worse" rather than "here's a proposal to make it better" stance just goes to illustrate how dreadfully unfit this woman is for her position.
This is just a very crude reworking of the "just think of poor old Granny" Tory argument against Mansion Tax isn't it?

Forget about the primary problem of millions of exploitative buy-to-let landlords greedily hoarding all the affordable housing in their local areas so that they can then get the poor saps they just priced out of the housing market to pay off their speculative property loans for them, let's humanise landlordism by invoking the much rarer and less problematic scenario of poor Terry and Jean who rent out frail old Marjorie's house to supplement their meagre salaries.

Instead of dishonestly pretending that "Cancel the Rent" is a proposal to just expropriate this house on behalf of the tenants, with no compensation, why not go the whole hog and pretend the nasty lefties want to shove poor old Terry and Jean and Marjorie into a pit and burn them alive?

Wouldn't that be even easier to argue against?

The oddness of this Tory-style 'pity the poor old landlords who are just scraping by' tactic makes it seem as if her speech was just written for her by some die-hard Tory from the Landlords Association. I wonder who did actually write it, and where they got this weird Tory-style persuasion tactic from.

Once again (and thankfully for the last time) the proposal in the letter she has been railing against is not a "general waiver", and it's staggeringly disingenuous of her to have pretended that it was for her entire speech.

The ideal-world scenario she invokes is lovely, but it simply doesn't explain the need for a punishing two year arrears extraction programme (which is what this speech was supposedly intended to defend).

And even though a "general waiver" clearly isn't the policy proposal in the letter she was railing against, it's still alarming for her to keep screeching "regressive" at the concept just because some wealthier people might benefit from the hypothetical scenario she's invented.

The reason it's alarming is that anyone who thinks like this would surely be howling "regressive" at the creation of a "free at the point of need" NHS if it were proposed today, on the absolutely appalling basis that richer people should never be allowed to benefit from public policy.

There's absolutely no way Labour adopts anything like the policies this country needs if Debbonaire's shockingly disingenuous, anti-universalism, sanctity of contracts, screw the economy, save the landlords diatribe is representative of the rest of the shadow cabinet.


Conclusion


It's not like workers chose not to work, they were compelled not to work by the government, so it's about as blatantly 'un-Labour' as you can get for Debbonaire to propose a policy of forcing people into penury in order to ensure that landlords are amongst the only economic demographics who end up not suffering any Covid-19 losses at all.

Yet she derides her critics with ludicrously fallacious and downright disingenuous arguments, and then accuses them of being the ones who don't understand Labour values!

It's enough to make you wonder what on earth is this woman doing in the Labour Party, let alone on their front bench.

Her rant is one of the most profoundly disingenuous diatribes I've ever waded through, and it's deeply concerning that it's not one of the usual suspects like a Tory liar, or a Brextremist, or an far-right hatemonger, or one of those viral lie copy n' paste social media propaganda campaigns ... it's a speech by a Labour Party shadow minister!

She was either too lazy to even read the "Cancel the Rent" letter from 4,000+ of her Labour Party colleagues and just formed this entire attempted rebuttal based on the title alone, or she did read it and decided to create a ridiculous straw-man interpretation because she figured it would be easier to attack that (incredibly ineptly as it turned out) than addressing what people actually said.

Either explanation is utterly contemptuous towards her fellow party members, and towards anyone who believes in basic competence or good faith political discourse.

She's clearly rendered herself unfit for the important responsibilities she's been tasked with, but it would simply be too embarrassingly soon for Starmer to sack her (rather understandable political inertia on his part), so we're stuck with her for the foreseeable future.

If Starmer was going to be decisive and nip this absolute nonsense in the bud, I'd suggest replacing her with Richard Burgon, but showing her the door within weeks of her appointment is obviously going to be far too much of an embarrassment for the party, so it definitely won't happen any time soon.



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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Why you should absolutely detest landlordism


Let's start off with a caveat: Not all landlords are equally bad.

The one who brought you Christmas chocolates for the kids that year is vastly superior to the one who revenge evicted you for complaining to the estate agent about their regular unannounced visits.

The one who promptly fixed the broken boiler in the dead of winter is infinitely preferable to the one who repeatedly refused to listen when you told you about the water leak and growing mould problem, then took the cost of all the damage out of your deposit at the end of the rental.

Some people do things in a decent way, and some people are absolute scum. That's just a fact of life.

This article isn't about that, it's about the economic principle of landlordism itself.

From an economic standpoint landlordism is the pinnacle of exploitation, to such an extent that it even beats capitalism.

After all, at least the output of capitalism is economically productive activity.

Under capitalist business models the materials and labour get combined to form the product, with the capitalist taking a big slice of profit for themselves based purely on their ownership of the factory and the machines.

But the landlord takes a cut for themselves without even producing anything! They just derive unearned income from property ownership, without any economically productive activity whatever to justify their cut.

Whenever the parasitical nature of landlordism gets pointed out, the landlords come out in droves to defend themselves and their exploitative economic behaviour.

Some justifications are far better than others of course. If you moved away for a couple of years for work, with the intention of coming back, it clearly makes sense to rent the house out in the short-term.

Taking out huge loans on the other hand, to buy up all the affordable property you can get your hands on in the local area, in order to extract loan repayments from all the people who you've priced out of the housing market is absolutely despicable stuff.

The most irritating Landlordism justification of all are the plaintive cries of "it's my pension".

So instead of investing in the moderate-but-safe returns of a private pension, or the higher-but-riskier returns of playing the stock market, or actually doing something economically productive like building their own business, they decided to take out a load of unsecured property loans and get some other poor saps to pay them off?

They ignored the simple economic principle that the higher the returns, the higher the risks, and now that the coronavirus crisis means the people they're exploiting might not be able to pay rent for a while, they're crying victim and demanding to be bailed out with public funds, or through even higher rates of rent extraction to pay back the rent arrears!

The absolute entitlement of it!

This "it's my pension" mob, who view homes as wealth extraction opportunities, rather than places to live, are responsible for the absolute devastation of the UK housing market.

Not only have they bought up almost all of the affordable housing for their economic parasitism schemes, they've also managed to get their filthy hands on a third of all the council houses that got flogged off on the cheap too.

this parasitical rent-seeking behaviour extends beyond housing too.

Just think of the privatised utility companies that were handed £billions worth of public infrastructure on the cheap, and now extract £billions in unearned profits in shareholder dividends and bloated executive salaries, purely because they happen to be the owners of the infrastructure that was all built at the public expense.

Our public funds built the infrastructure, their Tory mates in politics flogged it off to them on the cheap, and now we have to pay them a load of unearned rent on top of the cost of actually providing these utilities and services.

The Financial Times reported that the privatised water companies alone are responsible for the unearned extraction of £2.3 billion per year in economic rent.

The parasitical rent-seeker is an absolute blight on the real economy, because the wealth they extract is wealth that could otherwise have been spent on genuinely productive economic activities like business formation or consumption.

And don't dare try to write this critique of landlordism off as some kind of far-left analysis, here's a quote from the notoriously anti-socialist Winston Churchill:

"Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains — all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is affected by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of these improvements does the land monopolist contribute, and yet, by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived…The unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done."

Landlordism is so ridiculously parasitical from an economic standpoint that it even makes capitalism look good in comparison, and it doesn't matter how many soothing fairy stories landlords might tell themselves about them being the good and responsible ones, not the nasty exploitative slumlord ones, the fact is that what they're doing is still economic parasitism.

But the worst thing of all is the absolute entitlement of these exploiters when it comes to economic hard times.

They simply won't accept the inherent risks in borrowing cash to make unsecured property investments, and then expecting to indefinitely live off other people's backs to pay off what they borrowed.

The whole economy is taking an enormous economic hit, the second mega-crisis in the space of twelve years, and these idle exploiters expect to be bailed out at the expense of the genuinely productive economy, so that they're the only ones not to take a hit.

The worst thing of course is that our political and media class are absolutely riddled with landlordism. The liberal media outlets are just as full of landlords as the hard-right propaganda rags, and even the Labour Party front bench is stuffed with landlords.

It's difficult to see how we ever begin to move away from this economy-sapping model of parasitical landlordism when the establishment class is absolutely riddled with the idle beneficiaries of it.

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Sunday, 10 May 2020

Is it too much to ask that Labour sides with tenants and workers, not the idle and exploitative landlord class?


The UK economy has been thrown into the worst crisis since 1709, following hot on the heels of the 2008 financial sector insolvency meltdown, and the decade of wanton economy-stagnating Tory austerity ruination that followed it.

Under these circumstances it's the responsibility of the opposition to come up with bold progressive solutions to aid the economic recovery and to protect the most vulnerable and exploited people in society for being lumbered with the costs.

But instead, Labour's new shadow housing minister Thangam Debbonaire has come up with a truly awful proposal.

Instead of demanding radical action to cancel rent arrears and clamp down on the exploitative private rental market, Labour have actually proposed a policy of forcing private renters to pay back their coronavirus rent arrears over two years.

If the coronavirus crisis lasts for six months, a two year repayment schedule would mean an additional 25% on top of private rents that are already inflated to absolutely ludicrous levels, during a period of mass unemployment to boot!

One of the very few potential benefits of an economic crisis for ordinary people is the prospect of deflation in housing costs, but Labour insist on siding with the landlords to ensure that they get their rent arrears by lumbering the full cost onto their tenants.

Let's not forget that people haven't just stopped going to work because they wanted to, they were forced to by the government. A government that then implemented an absolute bodge-job of workers' support measures full of holes and arbitrary cut-offs, purely because of their ideological opposition to implementing emergency Basic Income measures.

Thus millions of the most vulnerable workers have been left without income for a significant period, through no fault of their own, but instead of siding with them, Labour is insisting that they must pay the entire cost of their rent arrears themselves. And to top it off they're pretending that this policy of prioritising landlords' profits above ordinary people's living standards constitutes "help"!

Even if we ignore the plight of individuals who face being loaded down with housing debts that they simply can't afford to pay, there's quite clearly a macroeconomic cost to making the poor pay for the crisis in this way.

In order to find an extra 25% in rent over a two year period, huge numbers of people would have to pay off these debts by spending all of what would have been their disposable income (which is what people have left after essentials like rent, utility bills, childcare, and food).

This means no trips to bars, restaurants, theatres, pool halls, cinemas ... no days out, no saving towards setting up their own businesses, because the exploitative landlord class must have their extra monthly pint of blood to ensure that the coronavirus crisis costs them absolutely nothing.

The workers must pay so that the idle retain their privileges is an economic policy that will lead to reduced demand in the economy, a slower recovery, and fewer jobs.

In the depths of an economic downturn the last thing needed by people who run real businesses (those who do real economic activity rather than just rentier parasitism) is even fewer customers, because their potential customers are spending their entire disposable income servicing debts to the idle rentier class, rather than spending it on real economic activity.

Instead of facing the issue head on and saying that it's completely unfair to force people to repay debts that were accrued through no fault of their own, that it's awful for social welfare to enforce these debts, and extremely bad for the economy too - Labour has somehow decided to revert to the worst kind of 'centrist' slop, positioning themselves a couple of millimetres to the left of whatever horror show they expected the Tories would come up with.

Labour don't want to instantly evict tenants (hooray), but they want to financially cripple them for years, purely for the benefit of private landlords, and they're trying to dress this pathetically weak sauce up as some kind of wonderful favour they're doing too!

If the government says you mustn't work, the idea of loading the full cost of this enforced layoff onto low-income workers and private tenants is absolutely abhorrent.

If the government is going to force people not to work, it has a moral responsibility to ensure that they're not driven into debt, especially when the servicing of these debts will obviously have negative macroeconomic consequences for the post-crisis recovery.

This policy is so incredibly bad it transcends the usual left-right conflict between what's best for society and what's best for capitalism, because it elevates landlordism above both!

Screw what's fair, and screw what's best for the capitalist economy too, because our primary objective is ensuring the idle landlord class get their pint of blood!

What an extraordinary position for Labour to be taking.

And who is this policy meant to appeal to other than private landlords? Would it be enough to convince any private landlords switch allegiance from Tory to Labour? And how many dozens of natural Labour voters will it end up chasing away per "soft Tory" it attracts?

I don't want to blame Keir Starmer for this, but he can't have not foreseen how important the shadow housing brief was going to be, because the coronavirus crisis was well underway when he made these appointments, and yet he still handed it to Thangam Debbonaire anyway.

Just when we needed radical principled proposals from the opposition, we're back to the kind of flaccid, directionless, and shockingly unappealing weak sauce politics that marred the Miliband era, and handed the 2015 General Election to the Tory austerity wreckers.

If Labour can't even bring itself to stand up for ordinary workers who were ordered not to work by the government, because they're too busy prioritising the financial interests of the landlord class, then what the hell is the point of Labour at all?


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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Friday, 8 May 2020

Marvel at the openness!



The Tory government has continually resorted to the manta that they were simply "following the science" to explain away their decision to ignore the established global pandemic protocol of Test - Trace - Quarantine in favour of letting the virus spread like wildfire through the population for weeks, and abjectly failing to provide proper protective gear to NHS and care home staff, and other essential workers.

However when asked about the scientific advice they've supposedly been relying on to develop this consensus-defying strategy, they've desperately tried to maintain a shroud of secrecy.

They wanted to keep the identities of the scientific advisory group secret, and we found out why when the attendees were leaked. They'd deliberately politicised the science by letting Johnson's henchman Dominic Cummings sit in and influence the meetings, as well as the brother of the dodgy Vote Leave linked data company that's been gobbling up lucrative government contracts ever since Johnson and Cummings got their hands on the nation's public finances.

And now the government has released a heavily redacted version of the SAGE advice.

Scientists at the meeting say that the redacted text is where the experts criticised government policy, with one saying "the impression I'm getting is this government doesn't want any criticism" and another saying "You want trust? You need to be open with people. This isn't open. It is reminiscent of Stalinist Russia".

But the Tories and their minions in the corporate media will keep on saying "following the science" because it is another easily memorable little sound bite like "get Brexit done" for the mindless and the gullible to rote learn and repeat.

It takes a lot more cognitive work to understand that the Tories were actually ignoring the science in favour of corrupted behaviourist pseudo-scientific junk driven by Johnson and Cummings' insistence that protecting capital was more important than saving lives.

And it takes a decent awareness of reality to understand that the concept of just "get Brexit done" was always utterly misleading, especially given that the Withdrawal Agreement was just the first stage in the process, and the fact that Brexit ramifications will echo down the ages, meaning people will never stop talking about it.

But we live in a facts don't matter society, where huge numbers of people simply believe what they want to believe, without any critical thought or fact checking.  So if they find glib pro-government sound bites soothing and easily understandable, that's what they'll believe, despite the very clear evidence that the Tories are literally desperate for the public not to know what the scientific advice actually was.

So even when the actual scientists who the Tories claim to have been listening to say that they think the government is behaving like Stalinist Russia, the Boris Bots and unthinking Tory propaganda drones will continue parroting the lie that they were "following the science" because it's what they want to believe to be true.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.




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