Tag Archives: Europe

A Voter’s Manifesto (part 4 of 5)

Link to part 1

Link to part 2

Link to part 3

Welfare/Social Security

It should be a principle that in this, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, none should starve. So punitive measures that are taken to remove benefits from those in need will be made illegal. With a level of retrospective action, any such measures which may be shown to have had a significant influence on anyone’s death, either by starvation or suicide, will be deemed to bear a portion of responsibility for that death and any person who enacted or directed such measures shall be held criminally liable.

Hate speech that is directed to claimants of benefits, either individually or collectively, should be made a crime, along with other forms of hate speech that are currently recognised as such. Any penalties for such hate speech should be ringfenced and directed into the benefits system. So if person X calls their fellow human being and neighbour, a scrounger, and they get fined £500 then that £500 will be go directly into funding social security, for providing for those who have fallen on rough times.

The bedroom tax must be condemned as the product of a warped and malignant ideology and therefore must be repealed immediately.

This is not the only punitive measure that has been introduced by the current coalition government. One may think especially of their attacks upon the disabled. All such evil measures are to be rolled back to allow for disabled people to live dignified lives, where they get all the help that they need and they shall not be subject to humiliating tests. There will also be a complete overall of the work assessment capabilities, where assessments will no longer be carried out by for-profit companies, but by a person’s own GP, with potential 2nd opinions available made from other local GPs. If an assessment is subject to any appeal then the person should not have their benefits reduced or sanctioned in any way during the time of the appeal.

Any and all targets for welfare sanctions, whether overt or covert, shall be illegal. Any direction given by any minister of the government, any manager in a job centre plus or any other such person of responsibility will be punishable by ensuring that they are in receipt of unemployment benefits and that as soon they are in employment to be subject to a fine not less than the total amount of benefits that they denied to those in need.

The single best way to reduce out of work social security is by creating jobs that pay a living wage. It is an ideologically fuelled folly to believe that the way to increase employment is to cut out of work benefits. Any efforts to reduce the expense of out of work social security should be by investment in jobs.

Europe

Given the increased popularity of Euroscepticism in recent years, it seems that there is sufficient disillusionment with the current relation between the UK and Europe to warrant a referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union. I have written more about that here.

We must reaffirm our commitment to human rights and the treaties governing it. Any organisation that seeks to undermine the implementation or withdrawal from such treaties represents a threat to basic human rights and shall be considered as a potential terrorist organisation.

International Aid

At present, the United Kingdom pays 0.7% of its GDP in international aid, but this is not set in statute. I would propose that this should be legislated for and will be subject to review once every 7 years.

Housing

It cannot evade the notice a reasonable person that at the moment, there is something of a housing crisis in many parts of the country. This is a classic example of excessive demand and insufficient supply. There are a number of measures that can be undertaken.

To address the issue of under-occupation, any house which is owned by left vacant will be subject to an increasing scale of tax to encourage either its sale or a reduction in the asking rent to make it affordable. If a property is left vacant for more than 6 months, then 5% of the property of the value will be levied as a vacant property tax. If the property remains vacant for over a year, then this will increase to 10%. Any property left vacant for 2 years should then be subject to a compulsory purchase order and turned into social housing.

Buy-to-let landlords do provide a valuable commodity, namely a home for someone to temporarily live in. However, in so providing this commodity, this reduces the supply of housing available for purchase and increases the price in the rest of the market. As such, there should be disincentives on landlords unreasonably buying up properties. Such measures could include a flat 45% tax on income from 2nd homes or even a ban on private landlords owning more than 2 homes.

Consecutive governments have failed to build enough new social housing to replace the stocks that were sold off under the Thatcher regime. As such, increased investment must be made to increasing social housing stocks. As these are for those more in need than private home owners, the building of social housing shall be prioritised over and above affordable private housing, though that is not to be neglected.

Economically, this will come at some initial cost, though one notes that this will provide employment for labourers, who, paid at a fair wage will contribute via income tax and that the building firms they work for will be able to reap profits from their work which shall also contribute to the treasury via corporate taxation.

This will also have the effect of increasing supply, reducing demand and so push down house prices, which is a necessary corrective measure to the rampant house price inflation which currently plagues us.

Utility Costs

As has been noted in recent years, the privatisation of the utility companies has transformed the energy market from a monopoly to an oligopoly. This has not yielded any great improvement in customer service and the aim of competition to reduce prices has proved to be a complete failure, with energy prices going up at the first hint of increases in the supply market and failing to come down when the supply market reduces its prices.

As a result of this failure of the private sector, the energy suppliers should be taken back into national ownership and price rises limited by statute to no more than 2% above inflation. This has the added benefit that any profits made the renationalised service will go straight back into the provision of utility services and not being siphoned off to shareholders.

Would I like a referendum on Europe? Yes

Last week, David Cameron announced that the next Conservative manifesto will contain a pledge to have a referendum on whether Britain ought to remain in Europe or to withdraw. His intention is that the Conservatives will win an outright majority at the next general election, thus giving them a proper mandate to govern; something they lack at the moment.

I’ll give Cameron some credit, given how much of the current government’s actions were in neither manifesto of the two coalition parties, he has had the decency to delay any European referendum until after the next general election. Though I do wonder if Cameron’s promises are worth any more than Nick Clegg’s promise was when he vowed not to vote for an increase in university tuition fees.

Those who know me, and other regular readers, will be aware that I am no friend of the Conservatives or the values they stand for. I value fairness, equality and community above prejudice, capitalism and individualism. So it is through slightly gritted teeth that I say I would favour having a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. I’ll explain why:

When the first referendum was held in 1975 my parents were younger than I am now. All 4 of my grandparents were eligible to vote. My generation was just in the process of being planned, conceived, born, etc. So firstly, the population has largely changed since then. Anyone who voted in 1975 (if they were 18) will be 60 by the time of the next referendum. My grandparents’ generation have largely gone, my parents’ generation has aged and my generation has been born, grown up and become fully fledged members of a British society that, as far as our living memory goes, has always been part of the EU.

Though that last sentence is not quite true, is it? The 1975 vote was on membership of the EEC, not the EU. A small difference in the acronym, maybe, but it is indicative that what we have now is not what was envisioned back in 1975. The very nature of what is referred to as ‘Europe’ (meaning the politics of the union thereof, not just the geographical nature) has evolved in time, with more member states now than at the beginning and a sense of government that is stronger than economic friendliness between near neighbours.

Given that politics, parties and economies change so quickly, it is right that we get to vote for a new government at least once every 5 years. I might even argue for a 4 year term, though not here. Given how different Europe is now from what it was in the mid-1970s, it seems only reasonable to offer the British people a choice.

On top of this, anyone aged 18-59 (allowing some flexibility for months of the year, depending on when precisely such a referendum may take place) would be having their first say. Although ‘Britain’ may sometimes be personified, the question isn’t really being asked to the same group of people. Those that have the opportunity to vote in both referenda will be a small minority indeed.

The odd thing about last week’s politics was the position of the Labour party. I cannot help but think that Ed Milliband has painted himself into a corner by saying that he would not support holding a referendum. Had he done so, he would surely have taken some flak from the Conservatives for not bringing about a referendum during Labour’s time in office. But any such accusations wouldn’t have stuck, given that Milliband wasn’t leader of the party then. Nor would it likely still be an issue by the time of the next general election. As it is, however, the next Conservative manifesto will contain one attractive promise that the Labour manifesto will not.

It may be reasonably argued that those who wish for a referendum are those who are wanting to withdraw. In that case, I am in the minority who would want a referendum for the sake of following through on principles of democracy, but who would likely vote to remain in Europe.

Though I do wonder, given the current governments deplorable attacks on the poor, disabled and unemployed and their total and utter lack of credibility on the economy (not that Labour’s reputation, if not their actual record, is all that better in this last respect) whether or not the referendum is going to be the Conservative’s biggest selling point at the next general election. Are they just going to be the Referendum Party in the emperor’s new clothes? I would be fearful if they are, as they may well campaign on a referendum and then claim they have a mandate to inflict much more harm than they have done so in the last 3 years. That is, if they win. I shall be voting strategically to do my best to ensure they don’t.