Sunday, 30 November 2014

The pre-election contract the Tories want you to forget


In 2010 David Cameron and the Tories unveiled a 16 point "contract" with the electorate which stated "if we don't deliver our side of the bargain, kick us out in five years".

If you search for this "contract" on the Tory website, all you get is a desperate plea for you to tell them your salary and give them your email list so that they can send you targeted political spam. This suggests that they Tories have realised how badly they have failed to deliver their side of the bargain, but rather than accept that they should now be kicked out by the electorate, they've decided to hide the contract and hope that everyone has completely forgotten about it.

Here's my annotated version of this Tory "contract".




If you want a higher resolution version of this image, I have uploaded a copy to my Flickr account.

In this article I'm going to go through the promises made in this so-called "contract" providing a little more detail than space would allow in the infographic. I'll also provide a number of links to back up the claims I've made in my responses.

   
"Changing Politics"

1. Recall

              
"Give you the right to sack your MP so that you don't have to wait for an election to get rid of politicians who are guilty of misconduct"

The right to recall MPs has still not been delivered, and the current proposals are terribly watered-down, meaning that MPs will have the final say on whether recall proceedings go ahead, because the decision will be made by the Parliamentary Standards Committee which is heavily dominated by current MPs (and other members of the political class). The proposed system has been described as a weak imitation of the Recall systems used in other countries like the US.


2. The Number of MPs, and MPs expenses
        
"Cut the number of MPs by 10%, and cut the subsidies and perks for politicians"

The number of MPs has not been cut by 10% and the amount claimed by MPs in subsidies and expenses is still enormous. In fact the £103 million claimed in expenses by MPs in 2014 is higher than the amount claimed at the peak of the MPs expenses scandal in 2009!

3. Ministers' pay

"Cut ministers pay by 5% and freeze it for five years"


Cameron did cut ministers' pay by 5% but then he outsourced all future decisions on MPs pay to a quasi-independent body which then decided that MPs should get a whopping 11% pay rise while the rest of the country suffers ideological austerity. The justification for this huge pay hike was quite extraordinary and relied on the assertion that if MPs weren't given such a big pay rise, they'd just steal it for themselves by scamming the expenses system even more!

4. Local Communities

"Give local communities the power to take charge of the local planning system and vote on excessive council tax rises"

Local government budgets have been ruthlessly slashed, especially for Labour voting authorities and the Green Party administered Brighton council and the Tories in Brighton colluded with Labour in order to shoot down a proposed referendum on council tax rises (so much for letting people vote!). The Tories are now planning to severely limit judicial reviews, which are one of the only means left for local people to hold their elected representatives to account.

5. Transparency

"Make government transparent ..."

The Tory led government have fought a long legal battle to maintain the veil of secrecy over interference in government by Prince Charles. They've also repeatedly refused Freedom of Information requests over issues like Workfare and disability deaths.

The Tories have also strongly opposed proposals to make private outsourcing companies subject to Freedom of Information legislation requests relating to government contracts.

          
"Changing the economy"


1. Wasteful government spending

"Cut wasteful government spending so we can stop Labour's jobs tax, which would derail the recovery"

Fearmongering about Labour "killing the recovery" was extraordinarily hubristic stuff, since it was George Osborne's ideological austerity experiment that caused the recovering economy to flatline for several years. Ideological cuts in government spending crashed the economic recovery and caused the "double dip recession", which did immeasurable long-term damage to the UK economy. Some of the "wasteful government spending" that was arbitrarily slashed by the Tories included flood defence schemes in places that suffered heavy flooding between 2012 and 2014, one of the prime examples being Kendal in Cumbria.

What is more, the Tories have done a hell of a lot of wasteful government spending of their own.

2. The national debt

"Act now on the national debt so that we can keep mortgage rates lower for longer"

Despite their promises that ideological austerity would have completely wiped out the budget deficit by now, the government is still borrowing £billions a month. In fact Cameron's government has now created more debt than all of the Labour governments in history combined!

The stuff about keeping mortgage rates lower through fiscal policy is a perfect illustration of the economic illiteracy of the Tories. Low mortgage rates are caused by the Bank of England setting the interest rate at an all-time historic low of 0.5% and keeping it there for six long years. If there was any correlation between increases in the national debt and mortgage rates, we should expect mortgage rates to have skyrocketed in the last four years as a result of George Osborne increasing the national debt from £811 billion to £1,452 billion. Instead they remain extremely low due to the monetary policy of the Bank of England.

The fact that the Tories printed such abject economic gibberish that confuses fiscal policies with monetary outcomes just goes to show how unfit they are to be running the economy.

3. Green economy

"Reduce emissions and build a greener economy, with thousands of jobs in green industries and advanced manufacturing"

After pretending that they were going to be "the greenest government ever" Cameron soon U-turned. He cut spending on green energy infrastructure and research, he began promoting fracking, and he even instructed his aides to "cut out all the green crap".


4. Benefits

"Get Britain working by giving unemployed people support to get to work, creating 400,000 new apprenticeships and training places over two years, and cutting benefits for those who refuse to work"

The Tory led government haven't just cut benefits for "those who refuse to work", they've also slashed the in-work benefits used to top up the poverty wages paid by their corporate chums, and overseen the longest sustained real terms fall in wages since records began.

The bit about apprenticeships is just guff, most of them are on unpaid forced labour schemes, designed to extract the labour of the individual without recompense in order to distribute it to favoured corporations, and paying another bunch of corporate parasites thousands of pounds per victim for administering the scheme.


Like so many Tory pronouncements on the social security system, this statement is soaked in Orwellian language. The Tories have been blatantly exploiting the unemployed as a source of free labour for their corporate chums, whilst telling anyone daft enough to listen that they are "helping" them. Other examples of Tory "help" for the unemployed include the use of sanctions league tables to drive vulnerable people into absolute destitution (unlike the severely uneducated and the mentally unwell the hardcore benefits claimants know exactly what to do to avoid getting sanctioned) and herding them onto corporate schemes where they are treated with such contempt that the people who are supposed to be helping them refer to them as "lying thieving bastards". 

5. Immigration

"Control immigration, reducing it to the levels of the 1990s - meaning tens of thousands a year, not the hundreds of thousands under Labour"

Without reforming EU Freedom of Movement legislation this was always a completely impossible promise. Net immigration rose 39% to 243,000 in 2013-14, despite Cameron's government deliberately discriminating against British families with arbitrary and draconian income requirements that apply only to British citizens with non-EU spouses, whilst citizens of other EU countries with non-EU spouses can come and go as they please with their non-EU partners.

This shocking discrimination against British families has barely been mentioned in the mainstream press, and after introducing these rules designed to deliberately break up thousands of British families (or force them to live in exile) the rate of net migration to the UK has actually risen.


"Changing society"

1. The NHS 


"Increase spending on health every year while cutting waste in the NHS so that more goes to nurses and doctors on the frontline ..."

Despite lots of Tory trickery trying to prove otherwise it is absolutely clear that spending on the NHS has not been increased every year, 4,000 senior nurses have been sacked since 2010 and frontline staff have endured years of below inflation 1% pay increases.

It's also worth noting what they didn't mention about their plans to impose the biggest top-down reorganisation in the history of the NHS designed to carve it open for privatisation.

Since their NHS "reforms" went through, over £1.5 billion worth of NHS contracts have been handed out to Tory party donors.  The former Tory leadership candidate Michael Portillo explained this failure to mention their NHS privatisation plans saying "They did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS".


2. Families

"Support families by giving married couples and civil partners a tax break, giving more people the right to request flexible working and helping young families with more Sure Start health visitors"

The UK continues to have levels of maternity and paternity pay that lag far behind other European countries, we have by far the most expensive childcare in the developed world and since the Tories came to power in 2010 the number of children growing up in poverty has risen by 300,000.

Sure Start funding has been ruthlessly slashed, resulting in the closure of some 600 Sure Start Centres. The "tax break" for married couples represents a tiny fraction of the financial losses due to the longest real terms decline in wages since records began, which has been going on since the Tories came to power in 2010.

3. Schools

"Raise standards in schools by giving teachers the power to restore discipline, and by giving parents, voluntary groups and charities the power to start new schools"

The opening part about restoring discipline is empty rhetoric about which nothing has been done, the concluding part is just jargon for their giving away £billions worth of public property to unaccountable private sector pseudo-charities (over 3,000 schools have been simply given away since 2010, many of them to businesses run by major Tory party donors).


4. Pensions

"Increase the basic state pension by re-linking it with earnings, protect the winter-fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel and other benefits for older people"

The basic state pension has been re-linked with earnings, however this isn't any kind of victory for pensioners given that this government has overseen the longest real terms decline in wages since records began. The winter fuel allowance was cut in George Osborne's 2011 budget.

When the Tory party cut the link to earnings in 1980 the basic pension was worth over 25% of the average wage, by the time the link to earnings was restored it had slumped to well below 20%. The UK continues to have one of the stingiest basic state pensions in the developed world.


5. Police

"Fight back against crime, cut paperwork to get more police officers on the street, and make sure criminals serve the sentences given to them in court"

Over 34,000 police jobs have been cut since 2010. Slashing the number of police working and imposing huge cuts on police budgets would seem like an extremely odd way to "get more police officers on the streets".
The part about "cutting paperwork" could be considered a success, as long as you consider the police simply not bothering to record some 20% of all reported crimes as an exercise in "cutting paperwork", rather than an exercise in "juking the statistics" so that the Tories can pretend that crime is falling by ignoring all of the reported crimes that the police didn't bother to record.

Sentencing has not been reformed, so sentences handed out in court are very rarely served in full.

       
6. National Service
     
"Create National Citizen Service for every 16 year old, to help bring the country together"

National Service for every 16 year old is a terrible idea, so at least in this litany of broken promises, the last one of the 16 is a broken promise that nobody in their right mind would have wanted fulfilled anyway.

What Cameron has introduced is a voluntary scheme called National Citizen's Service (NCS) for 16 year olds, which is not something that can be described as "national service" (it's voluntary) nor "for every 16 year old" (there were only 30,000 places in 2013).

Aside from the fact what has been promised hasn't been delivered, the scheme itself is extremely dubious too. It costs £1,400 per participant, and in the later weeks of the scheme these kids are expected to work for no wage doing jobs like cleaning streets and underpasses, maintaining parks and restoring old buildings.

In my view there would be two much more useful ways of spending this money.

It could be used to give the kids £1,400 worth of vouchers to help towards their education costs, or to be used to establish a small business.

The money could also be used to create jobs (with wages and labour rights) to do the work that these kids are doing for free. The wages would add to demand in the local economy, and unemployment would be reduced.

The problem with this "lets create real jobs" approach is that the unemployment statistics are so badly doctored nowadays, that all of the kids working for free on these schemes are classed as "in training" and therefore excluded from the unemployment figures in the ONS Labour Market Statistics. Thus if the money was actually spent providing paid jobs, the real level of unemployment would obviously fall, but the government unemployment statistics would go up, because £1,400 pays for far more wageless 16 year olds in "training schemes" than it pays for real people doing real jobs.



Conclusion

Given the shocking failure to deliver on promises in this "contract", is it any surprise that the Tory party have purged this document from their website in the hope that everyone will forget what they were promising back in 2010?

Perhaps the Tories imagine that simply deleting this "contract" from their website will be enough to ensure that everyone forgets the promises they made, and the fact that David Cameron put
"if we don't deliver our side of the bargain, kick us out in five years" into writing.



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