Rant: Who is showing a contempt for democracy?

On Friday, for the opening of the Liberal Democrat conference, student acitivists from the University of Birmingham did a banner drop from the bridge connecting the Hyatt Hotel to the ICC conference centre.

For this heinous crime they were arrested, and held in police cells over the weekend having been charged with road traffic offenses, with the police alleging that the banner drop caused debris to fall on the road – I witnessed the whole action, and did not see anything fall from the bridge. The police said at the bail hearing that no damage was done and no-one was hurt.

At the bail hearing on Monday, Ed Bauer, a sabbatical officer elected to office at the University of Birmingham on the basis that he would campaign for students, was held on remand, and will be imprisoned without trial for at least 10 days. I’ve already posted some thoughts about that disgraceful decision.

Today, the guild’s student paper, Redbrick, reported on the story, which included this quote from Will Mieville-Hawkins (sorry, I can’t work out how to do the accented e):

“The University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats respect the right to free assembly, speech and protest. However Mr. Bauer’s actions this weekend show his contempt for democracy and free association and bring the Guild into disrepute.”

This from the mouth of a man representing a party who before the last election pledged to “vote against a rise in tuition fees and push for a fairer alternative”, and then mostly voted for tuition fees.  Surely this is the real contempt for democracy – asking people to vote for you on the basis of a set of promises pertaining as to how you will behave if you are in power, or what you will seek to do if you are not. (Just to re-iterate, Ed’s promises in his election were about campaigning for students, so this action does actually show he is doing as he promised – exactly what democracy is about)

The tuition fee rise was not contained in the coalition agreement, so any claims about things being different because you are in a coaltion should be laughed at.

In any case, lots of students voted for the Liberal Democrats on the basis of that pledge, and to have such a clear promise broken is the absolute height of contempt for democracy.

More broadly it is clear from the huge drop in support for the Liberal Democrats in polls – which are now running at between 8% and 10% – and at the by-elections held since the general election, which have seen Liberal Democrats get less votes than UKIP and independent canidates, and in some cases lose their deposits – that the Liberal Democrats have entered into a government which is not doing what people voted for.

A democracy is about people having governance over themselves.  We have a representative democracy, which means we vote for people to rule over us, on the basis of promises as to what they will do.  Many people voted for the Liberal Democrats believing them to be a left-liberal party, even thinking they were to the left of Labour.  What they have got is a centre-right party, aiding and abbetting the Tories in their austerity and neo-liberal agendas.

Contempt for democracy? look in the fucking mirror Will.


rant: VAT on food!

the Insitute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has reccomended that VAT be extended to nearly all products – including food.. http://www.accountancyage.com/aa/news/2109049/vat-extended-nearly-spending-ifs

Apparently, they see VAT as a poor way to redistribute money because “the rich buy food too”

This is just stupid.. the same argument could be applied to personal tax allowances – the rich get the first 7k of income without income tax, just the same, but it’s clearly still redistributive, just like VAT, as the rich will not just consume more in absolute terms but will consume more VATable stuff as a proportion of this.

For those who don’t know, those things that are considered “essential” do not have VAT on them (or getting technical, attract a VAT rate of 0%). Gas/Leccy is charged at 5% and all “luxuries” are at 20%. There are some oddities in the decisions about what is considered essential, so that chocolate covered biscuits are luxuries, and rated at 20%, whilst chocolate covered cakes are essentials and zero rated.. this distinction even led to a legal definition of cakes and biscuits, after McVitees went to court to prove that Jaffa Cakes are indeed cakes, and not biscuits. (The distinction: biscuits go soft when they are stale, cakes go hard). There’s also the long running argument over tampons being VATable, and that womens razors are VATable, whilst mens are not.

The point of this essential/luxury distinction is clear though – it has the same effect as the personal allowance on income tax. If you earn less money, then you will spend more of that (as a proportion) on essentials. The principle is right (if you agree in principle on the idea of consumption tax). The decision about what to charge VAT on is often confused (why aren’t adults shoes considered essentials?).

The thought of putting VAT on all food though is utterly crazy – adding 20% to the cost of basic foodstuffs would hugely increase the cost of one of the most important things for any person – and would clearly hit poorer people harder than richer people. Already food prices are rising, and around the world we’ve seen food prices leading to unrest around the world.

The IFS are loony.. yes VAT on everything would make the system simpler, but it would also hit lower and average earners heavily, whilst the wealthy would see little effect. With food prices rising anyway, and fuel prices rocketing, we are facing a hard winter. To add 20% onto food prices would be sheer madness. A society is only three meals away from collapse, and as much as I want a revolution, I’m not overly keen on it being produced through the deliberate increase of food prices.
The only hope is that the idealogues in the tory party can’t be that stupid, can they?

Rant: removing benefits & evicting convicted rioters

Many people are calling for benefits to be removed from rioters and for them to be evicted from their houses.. How do these people think? What do they reckon is going to happen?
I mean lets just leave aside the assumption that rioters are going to be on benefits (and actually I think many of them will – if we’re going to draw a connection between deprivation and poverty we need to accept that also means that many will be on benefits), and also the question of why people in council or social housing (whose rent payments *subisdise* everyone elses council tax – yep, councils make a profit on social housing, so get off your fucking high horse if you think you, the noble taxpayer, are paying for their houses, cos you’re not) should be punished more than someone who rents privately or owns their own home.
Lets leave aside the fact that many defendants will be too young to receive benefits, except possibly EMA – and we’ve already taken that away.
Lets also make the rather far-fetched assumption that the wheels of justice have turned smoothly and that everyone who is convicted actually did commit a crime.

So the people we have are people we know who are happy to loot and riot (although since some have been jailed for swearing, or for picking up shorts that a housemate had robbed, that’s also an assumption being made).  And you want to make them homeless, and deny them access to benefits?
Just stop and think.
What is going to happen? A load of homeless people, with no access to benefits. Who are happy to loot and rob.  Remember that it’s extremely difficult to get a job if you are homeless – bank accounts and HR departments pretty much require addresses.  Perhaps you can use a friends, or families, but perhaps not.  So no home, no money, no way to get benefits, no way to get a job.  What is going to happen?