Friday, 20 December 2013

Poverty in 21st Century Britain - A Tory comedy

On the 18th of December 2013 the Tory party showed their true colours in a debate on food poverty.

The Tory bench chatted noisily and giggled their way through the entire debate, for which they were reprimanded by the deputy speaker on several occasions. Had they been listening to the
introductory speech by the Labour shadow DEFRA minister Maria Eagle instead of chattering away noisily they would have heard the following:
  • The number of people visiting foodbanks has risen from 40,000 to 500,000 since the Tories came to power in 2010.
  • 19% of food bank referrals have been as a result of the Government’s changes to welfare payments and more than a third are caused by delays in payments to people who are legitimately entitled and nearly a fifth of people referred to food banks actually have jobs.
  • An official report on the growth in food banks was completed in June 2013 but the government is still refusing to make it public six months later.
  • Since 2010 the UK has suffered the longest period of falling real wage values since records began. The Tory policy of wage repression has resulted in wages rising by less than the rate of inflation for 41 out of the last 42 months.
  • The cost of staple foods (fruit, vegetables, meat, bread & cereals) have risen way above the rate of inflation and poor families are spending significantly more of their limited incomes on food.
  • The costs of energy and water are rising way above the rate of inflation whilst the profits of the privatised energy and water companies are soaring.
  • The cost of nursery places is rising five times faster than pay, there are 35,000 fewer child care places and 576 fewer Sure Start centres.
The minister responsible for welfare Iain Duncan Smith decided not to even bother with the debate, he stuck around for a while to have a good laugh before sneaking out early (perhaps to change his trousers after pissing himself laughing at all the rib ticking tales of poverty and suffering?). The person the Tories put forward instead was the appalling Esther McVey. Her response to this barrage of facts and evidence was to launch yet another feeble and downright dishonest "blame Labour" narrative - here's her risible riposte.
"I welcome this debate to answer honestly the points made in the motion and to clarify all this, but to be honest, a far more realistic debate would have been brought by Government Members and the people of the United Kingdom on how Labour derailed the UK, destroyed its finances"
The first and most obvious point to make is that McVey cites her own honesty twice in a single sentence. The people most likely to talk up their own honesty like this are those that are about to say something dishonest, and McVey did precisely that with the outright lie that the UK had the largest structural deficit in the developed world under Labour. 

In monetary terms the 4.8% of GDP budget deficit run by the USA in 2009 was many times the size of the UK deficit by virtue of the fact that the US economy is many times larger than the UK economy. The statement remains untrue if we consider the data in percentage terms too because in 2009 Greece had a structural deficit almost double the size of the UK (9.8% of GDP). Even if we allow the artificial exclusion of Greece as a developed country, the narrative that the UK finances were in a significantly worse state than other developed nations in 2009-10 is blown out of the water by the spectacular implosion of the Irish economy, which led to an incredible budget deficit of 30.6% GDP in 2011 (which puts the 5.5% of GDP deficit that McVey was blatantly fearmongering about into perspective). Perhaps the fact that Japan had a debt to GDP ratio of 174% in 2010 when the national debt under Labour was 44% of GDP might also put McVey's desperate debt fearmongering into perspective.

It is absolutely clear that the real cause of the global financial sector crisis was the reckless risk taking of financial sector institutions such as Lehman Brothers, AIG, RBS, Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley etc, not solely the maladministration of the Labour government in the UK. Labour can be apportioned some of the blame for their light touch regulation of the City of London and their refusal to deflate the UK property bubble, however at the time the Tories were squealing for even more financial sector deregulation which would undoubtedly have made the financial sector crisis even worse. George Osborne's refusal to re-regulate the City of London and the existence of his barmy multi-billion Help to Buy (Help the Banks) property price inflation subsidies suggest that the Tories haven't even got the most rudimentary understanding of what actually caused the financial crisis.

McVey continued with her strategy of citing her own honesty (she did this four times) as a pathetic attempt to disguise the lies that she was telling. Here's another corking lie:
 
"We are paying back all the debt that we saw under Labour"


The truth is that the Tories have borrowed more in three years that Labour borrowed in their 13 years in office. Since 2010 the UK national debt has risen from 44% of GDP to 76% of GDP. Only a Tory could claim that borrowing an extra £400 billion in just three years represents a "paying back" of debt.

All of this dishonest economic bluster hid the fact that McVey had very little to say about any of the actual points raised by Maria Eagle other than a ludicrous claim that the rise in food bank dependency is a good thing because "
It is positive that people are reaching out to support other people". In fact her refusal to actually engage with the evidence revealed that she saw the debate on food poverty as nothing more than an excuse to suck up to the Tory party leadership by trotting out the same old propaganda narratives the Tories have been leaning on to disguise their own criminal mismanagement of the economy for the last three years.

What is even more sickening that McVey's desperate and feeble efforts to blame Labour for a cost of living crisis that has spiraled out of control since 2010 were the howls of laughter from the government benches at the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK. The Labour MP for Copeland Jamie Reed summed up this sickening Tory gloating by saying "I regret to say that the laughter from some of those on the Government Benches during this debate says more than words ever could".
 
After making her appalling speech McVey didn't even bother to listen to the rest of the debate. The Labour MP for Manchester, Gorton Gerald Kaufman said "It is disgraceful that the junior Minister, having made one of the nastiest Front-Bench speeches I have heard in my 43 years in this House, has now sloped off and not bothered to listen to the views of the House".

In the end the motion to make combating food poverty a government priority was defeated by the Tories and their Lib Dem sidekicks. Amongst the votes to defeat the motion were those of Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey, both of whom ignored the actual debate and then wandered back into the chamber to vote down the motion they couldn't even be bothered to debate. I believe that it is about time that new rules are established that any MP that has not witnessed at least 80% of the parliamentary debate is excluded from voting on the issue. If they can't even be bothered to listen to the debate, they should lose their right to vote on it.

      
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