Commentary and analysis on recent UK politics news.
- Con-Dems continue attack on benefits and Osborne’s autumn statement
- Discussion of the invention of terrorism and the demonization of Islam and Muslims
The principles of “earn or learn” have been hotly debated within the coalition, after David Cameron used his conference speech in October to float the idea of taking away housing benefit and jobseeker’s allowance from under-25s who were not in work or training.
The Liberal Democrats have not agreed to all those ideas but appear to have relented on some elements of “earn or learn”, as Osborne announced that 18 to 21-year-olds without basic skills would only get their benefit if they undergo 16 hours of training a week.
On top of this, all 18 to 21-year-olds who are unemployed for more than six months will have to undertake compulsory work experience, a traineeship or a full-time community work placement.
The measures appear to be an extension of the government’s controversial “workfare” schemes – or mandatory work activity – where jobseekers are forced to go on a month of work experience in order to qualify for their benefits.
Missing from the autumn statement were figures on welfare benefits, tax credits and child benefit. Under the Welfare Benefits Uprating Act passed earlier this year, rises in most benefits no longer go up by the rate of inflation but are capped at an increase of 1% until 2016. So Jobseekers Allowance, currently £71.70 for the over 25s who have a record of paying National Insurance, should on that basis rise to £72.42 – an increase of 72p, or enough to buy a tin of Heinz baked beans at Tesco and still have 4p left over.
In the 2010 budget, Osborne said child benefit rates would be frozen for three years, taking effect from April 2011. Since then, the rate has been £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 for the second or more. Nothing was mentioned about child benefit in the autumn statement, but assuming the provisions of the Uprating bill are applied to child benefit from April next year, expect another 20p for the first child and 15p for the second.
The basic state pension, currently £110.15 a week, will rise by 2.7% – the rate of inflation – to £113.10. George Osborne also confirmed that the state pension age will rise to 68 nearly 15 years earlier than originally planned, starting for people retiring in the mid-2030s, rather than 2046. It will then rise again to 60 by the late 2040s, and 70 in the decades after that, saving £500bn from pension expenditure over the next 50 years. “We have to guarantee that the basic state pension is affordable in the future, even as people live longer and our society grows older. The only way to do that is to ensure the pension age keeps track with life expectancy,” said Osborne.
Communist Party of Britain general secretary Robert Griffiths responded as follows to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement today (December 5)
‘The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement is good news for the super-rich, City speculators and the corporate fat cats. It hands yet more lavish subsidies to big business on top of the tax cuts on high incomes and monopoly profits. There will be extra state finance for exports to China together with tax relief for City speculation in Exchange Traded Funds and for shale gas fracking, business rates and employers’ National Insurance contributions.
But there will be no windfall taxes on energy and retail monopoly profits and no moves to end tax haven status in British overseas territories. Instead, the extra state pension of £2.95 a week from April will be swallowed up in rising household fuel costs while almost one-third of men and more than one quarter of women today will not live long enough to draw their pensions in the mid-2030s at the age of 68′.
- ‘Terrorism’ and the ‘war on terror’ are poorly defined
- ‘Terrorists’ and freedom fighters are not clearly distinguished
- States sanction the use of the ‘terrorist’ label to stigmatise individuals and small groups e.g. the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
- Many protest issues are labelled as being of a ‘terrorist’ nature e.g. animal rights activism, anti-capitalism and anti-abortion campaigning
- States’ use of drones and torture can be regarded as terrorism
- “[T]he media have vilified and demonised Islam, making it comparable to terrorism”
- The terrorism label is far less likely to be applied to right-wing terrorism
‘Terrorism’ is a wonderfully useful tool for governments engaged in oppression: the huge scale of the surveillance by NSA and partners is justified through the so-called threat of terrorism despite the fact that the fact that the so-called threat cannot justify such oppressive measures. Terrorism permitted the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Terrorism is so important to these oppressive regimes that they have to ensure it’s continuing existence through drone strikes, renditions, the use of torture in prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and by [later edit: the]demonizing of Islam and Muslims.
If terrorism didn’t exist these governments would have to invent it. Actually, they did invent it: Glenn Grenwald reports on research by Remi Brulin that it was invented “… by Israel in the 1960s and early 1970s as a means of universalizing its conflicts (this isn’t our fight against our enemies over land; it’s the Entire World’s Fight against The Terrorists!). The term was then picked up by the neocons in the Reagan administration to justify their covert wars in Central America (in a test run for what they did after 9/11, they continuously exclaimed: we’re fighting against The Terrorists in Central America, even as they themselves armed and funded classic Terror groups in El Salvador and Nicaragua). From the start, the central challenge was how to define the term so as to include the violence used by the enemies of the U.S. and Israel, while excluding the violence the U.S., Israel and their allies used, both historically and presently. That still has not been figured out, which is why there is no fixed, accepted definition of the term, and certainly no consistent application.”
Terrorism is bullshit ideology invented, used, nurtured and maintained by USUK and it’s allies to rule the world.