Paxman Suggests We Cap The Voting Age – And I Am Inclined To Agree

Recently, much has been made of the proposal to lower the voting age to 16, but what would happen if, instead of having a lower barrier to enter, you had a ceiling to cap it instead.

Interestingly, such a suggestion came from the irreplaceable Jeremy Paxman, in an article for the Financial Times in late November.

The article is entitled: “cull the grey vote – it is an affront to democracy” and is a surprising line to take by a man that is openly a Conservative voter.

Continue reading “Paxman Suggests We Cap The Voting Age – And I Am Inclined To Agree”

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The UK General Election’s Red Wedding

The clouds were darker this morning, the sun was less piercing, the shadows of people I passed, and indeed even their faces, were longer. The birds were not singing as sweetly, the air was not as crisp and clear, and the wind seemed particularly cold as it blew against me on my way to work.

The election night of May 2015 will go down as one of the most frustrating, and depressing nights of my life. Somehow, some way, David Cameron not only managed to hold on to his place in Number 10, but he actually managed to strengthen it. After 5 years of austerity measures the UK gave the Conservative party an increased representation in the Commons. As one commentator online stated; “can a country have Stockholm Syndrome?”

I, like many people, was profoundly shocked by the BBC Exit Poll forecast, but in hindsight that would have been a much more preferable result. As it turned out, even the BBC Exit Poll had it wrong. It was far too optimistic a projection.

There are positives to be taken from the election, but they are minor victories. The discovery that your kitchen has survived the bombing despite the rest of your housing having been blown apart. They are the thinnest silver linings on the very darkest of clouds.

Nigel Farage – for the time being at least – has abandoned his pretence as a politician, resigning from the leadership of UKIP after failing to get elected to Parliament. Nick Clegg has also resigned from his post as leader of the Liberal Democrats. In a frank and honest admission – perhaps the first time we have ever seen honesty from Nick – he stated that the results of the election were a “catastrophe” for the party. From the lofty heights of having 57 MPs in Parliament, the Lib Dems now have only eight. It is a massacre worthy of an episode of Game of Thrones.

Speaking of massacres, Labour have also been left licking their substantial wounds. North of the border, in Scotland, the SNP political earthquake has left few survivors. Just three of the 59 available seats have survived the onslaught, one each belonging to Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories. It is a stunning achievement for the SNP and the Left in Scotland, and they have every right to celebrate. Alex Salmond, now an MP himself, said that the “lion has roared.”

As the lion roared in Scotland, England had nothing but a whimper. Progress from the Greens in the constituencies where they stood was perhaps the only positive note to take from the elections. Labour’s shambolic failings have left the country awash of blue and the outlook for the next five years is bleak.

Cuts estimated to be in the region of £12 billion pounds are to occur, fox hunting is likely to be legalised, the Human Rights Act is to be scrapped, TTIP is to proceed, fracking will continue, and there is set to be an in-out referendum on the EU. Worryingly, this is just the tip of a very large, and now unrestrained, Tory iceberg that we are heading towards with reckless abandon. If this is the path the country has chosen to take, I fear for its people and its future.

Such is my dejection and disappointment with the election result and the choices of the UK voters, that there is a very real consideration revolving in my head regarding leaving these shores. A Masters has always appealed to me, and perhaps now I have an excuse to return to academia and escape what is sure to be a hellish five years.

How can this have happened? I am not entirely sure. The polls were wrong, the media was wrong, and the people of the UK have left me with the overwhelming sense that they are wrong also. I simply cannot comprehend how after five years of brutal public sector cuts, the Tories have managed to tighten their grip on power. We are turkeys and every week is set to be thanksgiving.

Labour’s failure can be viewed from many standpoints, but I believe that it shows just how out of touch with their voters they have become. It is no surprise to me that the unashamedly anti-austerity parties all fared well at these elections. Plaid Cymru received their third highest vote share ever, holding their three seats in Wales; the Green Party received over one million votes with their MP Caroline Lucas increasing her majority in Brighton Pavilion; and the SNP now effectively rule Scotland.

Labour, with their controlled immigration stance and their Tory-lite austerity policy, failed to offer anything. If after five years of opposition you actually lose seats as a party then it is time for a very serious re-evaluation. Labour are out of touch, and they have been for years. Former Lib Dems now see the Tories as a better option, disaffected members of the working class feel abandoned and turn to UKIP for support, socialists and left-wing advocates are heading to the Greens and the SNP.

In the coming weeks and months we are set to see the full force of the right-wing Tory agenda. I expect it is to be a dark time for millions of people across the country, but despite my desire to abandon this country to its fate, now is not the time to run. We must organise, and we must fight, because what we have experienced in the last five years is nothing in comparison to what is to come.

We are the resistance. We are the opposition.

Brighton & Hove

 

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This article was originally published on Cultured Vultures on 11/05/15

The Coalition’s War Against The People

Never in the field of human existence have so many been robbed by so few.

It has been well documented how inequality is now at levels that we have never seen before. This time last year, the news broke that 85 people share a combined wealth that is equal to the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet. That is 85 individuals owning as much as 50% of the entire population of this earth.

A year on from such a startling announcement, things have got even better for those at the very top of the pyramid. Recent figures show that if current trends continue, the wealthiest 1% of people will own more than the remaining 99% of the world’s population by the year 2016.

That is the global context of the situation we find ourselves in. Quite literally the 99% are in a fight for their future, and in some cases, their very survival.

In the UK we have political leaders who seem content to see things this way. In fact, content would be the wrong word to use. A more appropriate word may be excited. Our political leaders feel excitement due to the current state of the world, because judging on where things are heading, it is about to get even better for them, and even worse for us. Just this week the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, stated that Boots – one of the UK’s largest tax avoiding companies – has a duty to its shareholders to pay as little tax as it can. His exact words: “These guys, I’m afraid, have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to minimise their obligations.”

Ever since the Liberal Democrats supplied the lubrication to get them in to office, the Conservatives have been waging a war against those less fortunate than themselves. Their weapons are sanctions, tax loopholes, and zero hour contracts. Their allies are bankers, big business, and the mainstream media. They are the oligarchs who run the UK, utterly out of touch with the average person and looking to put even more distance between us and them.

Now you may think my words are a little exaggerated, and that this is all hyperbole in order to get people on side, but that is where you are wrong. To say that the Tories have been waging a war on the poor is less fiction and more fact than they would dare to admit.

On the third of July the Guardian ran an article entitled “Coalition’s austerity policies are hitting the poor hardest…” 18 months later this fact was reaffirmed by the BBC when they reported that “Families and poor hit hardest by tax and spend changes.” This is proof that despite knowing their policies were hitting the poor the hardest, the government continued anyway. These were deliberate policy actions that followed a well-thought-out strategic plan. A continuation of the war they had started when they first came to power.

An A-Level history student can tell you that not all wars are fought with guns and tanks. There are cold wars, proxy wars, economic wars, propaganda wars, and there are wars that are waged by governments against their own people under the guise of policy. When government policy is directly responsible for the deaths of its nations citizens, and when the campaign is continued regardless of these deaths, we are left with no option but to call it a war.

David Clapson, 59, was found dead two weeks after his benefits were cut. Elaine Lowe, 53, committed suicide fearing her benefits would be cut. Mark Wood, 44, starved to death after his benefits were stopped. Paul Reekie, 48, committed suicide after his benefits were stopped. Karen Sherlock, 44, was found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. She died a month later. Tim Salter, 53, was declared fit to work by Atos despite being almost blind and a desperate agoraphobe. He hung himself when he was denied benefits and was facing eviction. Tragically, the list goes on, and on, and on.

These are just a handful of the victims of the war waged by the Coalition.

Figures from the 21st of February 2014, state that 104,200 disabled people had their benefits sanctioned in just 12 months. The total figure for the Coalition’s time in office far exceeds half a million. In 2013, in England alone, 112,070 people were declared homeless. A 26% increase from the figure four years previously. “In May 2013, a month after the “bedroom tax” was introduced, the Department for Work and Pensions(DWP) estimated that 660,000 people” would be affected by the policy. David Orr, of the National Housing Federation, said that it heaped “misery and hardship on already struggling families.”

Hundreds of thousands of unemployed jobseekers have to participate in workfare schemes, where as “work experience” you are forced, under threat of sanctions, to work for 30 hours a week in order to receive your meagre amount of benefits. Following the rise in university tuition fees, 24,000 less students enrolled on courses as they were priced out of education. Those that did decide to go to university are now saddled with a lifetime of debt, which means that the overwhelming majority will still owe as much as £30,000 when they reach the age of 50.

From April 2013 to April of the following year, The Trussel Trust, a food bank charity, said that it handed out 913,000 food parcels to people who could not afford to eat. This was a 51% increase from the 12 months previously. Child Action Poverty Group now believe that due to government policy the number of children living in poverty is on the rise. According to their figures, 3.5 million children live in poverty at present, and this number is set to increase by a further 600,000 in the next 12 months.

In stark contrast to this misery and suffering, the already privileged minority have been gradually improving their already vulgar fortunes. This is Money, the financial website of the year, reported in May 2014 that: “The fortunes of the 1,000 richest men and women in the UK rose by 15.4 per cent compared to last year.” Since 2009 the wealth of the top 1,000 people in the UK has doubled.

This means that whilst government policies are driving people to foodbanks, to the streets, or even to suicide, the elite members of society, the 1%, have had their most prosperous period in recent memory. Added to their rise in wealth was also the fact that the government lowered the amount of tax they had to pay on their earnings, meaning that even more money was retained at the very top of the pyramid.

The bleak society that we have come to reside in is no accident, the conditions for such poverty and desperation have been created by the Coalition as part of a planned and coherent political strategy. This war against the people has been raging for four years, and what is most troubling is that given the chance, the current government would intensify the conflict.

Even with my pacifist tendencies, this is one war I shall certainly be fighting in. A counter-offensive is essential and long overdue.

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Should Governmental Policy Be Based On Ideology or Evidence?

Ideology –
“A system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic
or political theory and policy”

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Continue reading “Should Governmental Policy Be Based On Ideology or Evidence?”

2014: A Broken Britain

Society heads to ruin, and those that lead us there,
Take us forth on promises of making things more fair,
Our benefits cut, our bedrooms taxed, we’re squeezed for every coin,
Ever since Clegg’s yellow and Cameron’s blue did join,
The rich are getting richer, at the expense of the poor,
They may use the front, but we’re shown the back door,
UKIP is persistent, it’s the foreigner we must fear,
Despite the twenty billion pounds they’ve added living here,
Continue reading “2014: A Broken Britain”