I haven't written for the last 18 months - illness, then post referendum blues and a real loss of vision about what it means to be a modern Briton. I have even asked 'do I want to be English'.
However, our Supreme Leader May has now called a snap election, despite promising that there would not be one.
And, as a Labour party member I have had an email asking me to say what I would like to see in Labour's Manifesto.
My first question is: Do I want a change of Government? YES, I DO.
We have now had 7 years of austerity.
What has it really been like?
Millions of us who work in the public sector have had annual pay rises of 1%, 1.5% below inflation rates, ensuring the value of our wages have fallen by over 10% in real purchasing terms.
All our costs are rising. I could talk about the cost of having three children at University - but I'll just say this;
Thank God we both have jobs, as £1000 a month leaves our wages and goes directly to ensuring our young adults at University can survive. The loans they get pay tuition fees, but they don't even cover the cost of the most basic student housing, never mind food, travel, books etc. Survival is the name of the game - any drinking and partying money they have to earn themselves, usually in a zero hours minimum wage job.
And then our young adults will leave University with a £55,000 debt, as their older sister has already.
I find myself wondering if I did my children a real disservice by saying that if they worked hard, they could go to Uni and have real choices in their lives. I should have said: real debts in their lives.
Do you remember David Cameron promising to control energy costs.
Our energy bills continue to rise, despite gas and oil at their lowest market cost for 10 years.
Now food bills are rising by 7% each year, because of the post-Brexit foreseeable fall in the value of the pound.
Those of us who have a proper job are Mrs. May's 'just about managing' group, but sometimes it is only 'just'.
What about Wages and YOUR JOB!!!
Millions of workers now have 'improper' jobs in the 'Gig economy' in which they are classed as self-employed. They are without any right to sickness benefits, holiday pay, or controlled hours of work.
For those without a job at all, life is a nightmare. Welfare benefits have not risen at all - in real terms they have fallen by 20% in purchasing value. House prices are beyond most people. If you don't already own a house, you have to wait for your parents to die! All tenancies are now short term and insecure. You work, and pay your rent, but can still be made homeless. The benefits are capped so if your rent goes up, you may find yourself being moved hundreds of miles away. The only housing you are offered is in a town with no jobs at all, (Stoke on Trent)
The WELFARE CRISIS
There are those parts of the country, London primarily, where a minimum wage job cannot be made to work for you. The rent on the tiny room in the shared multi-occupancy house is £600 a month, so after bills are paid, what have you got left to purchase food with - zilch, unless you take on a second job.
Do you remember Cameron's pledges for his big society, and his 'happiness; assessments.
- By 2014, evidence showed that almost 10,000 disabled or ill people have died after being declared 'fit for work' in a workplace assessment; 2,500 have been refused ESA because they were 'fit for work', and 7,500 after being placed in the ‘other work’ related category in the work assessment programme.
- By 2015, we had seen 1000 extra suicides and an additional 30-40,000 suicide attempts.
- By 2017, the Trussell trust [which provides around half of the nation's food banks] gave out 1.2 million emergency 3 day food parcels, with half a million of those going to feed children.
That is 50 times more food parcels than the 25,000 given out in 2008-09, an increase of 5,000% (per cent).
But let's stop for a moment and think about poor Mr Cameron who lost his job when he walked away from no.10 last year. Well he can't be that broke, as he has just spent £25,000 on a garden shed. That is 5 times the annual income a job seeker receives.
But , like his friend '5 jobs Osborne' who earned £700,000 in 2016, Cameron is also raking it in. Cameron earned £1million in his first 6 years in office - nice money if you can get it and I assume he actually saved some of that. Cameron will both now receive a £40,000 annual parliamentary pension despite being only 50, but sadly, unlike his mate George, David only makes £120,000 plus each time he gives a speech - nice money if you can get it.
And then came Brexit, and it WILL only get worse.
Our Supreme Leader May now insists that we vote for her proposed one party state as it is essential for our democratic future. She says she is going to be a strong, and steady hand controlling our departure from the EU - despite the fact that she has known all along that Brexit will be a real economic disaster for the future of ordinary people in Britain.
So, yes I do want a REALLY NEW Government - and this is what would I really like in the Labour Manifesto:
Labour will Be Bold and offer a Real Alternative for Britain, with an new, dynamic, socialist economic programme for the people.
1. Political parties will be prosecuted under the rules for electoral fraud if during any election or referendum campaign if they promote, or otherwise condone, what they know to be, or should have known to be, lies, falsehoods, fraudulent statements, and untruths.
2. Individual Politicians who promote, or otherwise condone what they know to be, or should have known to be, lies, falsehoods, fraudulent statements, and untruths, when campaigning (for anything) will be prosecuted for fraud with a maximum Level 5 fine and barred from serving in government, and from taking a Public appointment for a minimum of 5 years.
EUROPE and BREXIT
In order to safeguard the wellbeing of the British people, their jobs, the economy, the Union, and UK business:
1. On winning the election, Labour commits the UK to remaining in the EU, or
2. Labour will
- fight Brexit, and commit to returning to Europe as soon as possible,
- vote to stay in Europe if the Brexit deal isn't good enough,
- provide immediate protection to those EU citizens who live/ work or wish to come to the UK to live and work,
- protect the health, pension and welfare rights of British people living in Europe,
- vote to ensure an open border between Eire and Northern Ireland.
THE REFUGEE CRISIS
Labour will have
- a refugee settlement programme, enforceable in the UK courts, for refugees from war, famine and persecution,
- commit the UK, as a country, to taking up to 12,000 refugees in the first year (1 for every 5,000 members of the population), and thereafter, 6,000 per year.
- commit 5% of International Aid to the resettlement of refugees in their home or other country,
- have a separate programme whereby all child refugees under the age of 18 who have family in the UK, will have a right to come here - and quickly,
- raise £1billion by increasing landfill taxation by 5p in the £, so enabling Labour to
- support business to ensure the UK meets its commitments and obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, and
- commit to a 20 year programme of bringing renewable energy to all homes using subsidies and grants to support the introduction of ground heat pumps, home wind turbines, wave and solar power.
HEALTH and SOCIAL CARE
Labour will ring fence £20 billion of NI Payments for Health and Social Care Provision, so enabling Labour to commit to immediately
- fully funding the NHS with an additional £8billion by 2020,
- enforcing minimum waiting times in A & E, for cancer treatments, and for surgery
- extending health beds for emergency admissions by 10%, with an additional 10% of intensive care beds;
- enforcing EU working times for all Junior doctors;
- training an additional 1,000 junior doctors each year for 5 years
- placing nurse and supporting health professionals training back into a combined fully funded ward and university setting, with grant aided studentships.
- bringing social care provision under a new NHS ‘wing’, with ring fenced funded of 1% of National Insurance, 5% of council taxes, and 1% of VAT,
Labour will also
- require at least 4 years commitment to NHS employment from all who have benefitted from UK medical training, or former students will repay any bursary received..
- create a new two year apprenticeship programme for all new social care workers;
THE ECONOMY and BUSINESS
Labour will ensure the full taxation of the transactions of ‘offshore companies’ selling or otherwise trading in the UK, regardless of where a business says it is based, and
Labour will raise the Business Tax levy by 1% every two years, to a maximum of 30% for businesses with profits (before dividends) of £1 million per year, and 35% for businesses with profits of over £3 million per year, so enabling Labour to commit to:
- prioritising business growth, but only where it increases the employment of UK residents and citizens, or benefits ordinary people in Britain, or another economy with similar employment welfare standards.
- Increasing research funding, and bringing business to, the renewable power industry by committing to bringing renewables to all homes in Britain, so allowing the industry to become world leading
Labour will improve employment opportunities by
- creating an additional 100,000 apprenticeships in British businesses;
- allowing low cost visa controlled immigration, which includes, after 4 years, automatic settlement for employees from all industries where appropriately qualified UK based workers cannot be recruited.
Labour will raise £600 million each year by raising taxation
on Share and Insurance Premiums by £10p in the £, so enabling Labour to
National Building standards will require all new homes to be
environmentally and family friendly homes with controlled minimum room
and external garden sizes, and parking provision. 10% will be accessible homes
for people with disabilities.
Labour will release 2000 acres of grey and brownfield
land at no cost, for 10,000 self builders of eco-homes, each year of our
Labour will introduce a National Standards Building force,
of current and prospective house builders, committed to meet the above
standards, to be controlled through local Building standards committees.
Labour will facilitate the introduction of minimum housing
standards for ALL rental property, enforced by fines, and ultimately,
prosecution of a criminal offence.
Labour will ‘tax to end’ the scandal of ‘buying to let’
former social housing.
Labour commits to:
an annual building programme of 50,000 affordable homes and 50,000 social
rental homes, to be built on grey and brownfield sites, with
a maximum of 10% will be 1 bedroomed homes, 20% two bedroom homes,
with the remaining 70% being 3 bedroom homes,
affordability of such homes to be based on a maximum purchase price for a
3 bedroom home of four times the regional average wage, and
all new builds, whether homes, commercial or industrial being
environmentally sustainable buildings, with solar panels and heat
exchangers or ground heat pumps.
Labour will introduce Assured Guaranteed Tenancies (AGT’s)
of at least 5 years, with 6 months’ notice before eviction can be sought.
- a 5
years programme of repurchasing former social housing from buy to
let landlords at current market value minus the cost of renovating the
property to meet the new national building standards.
ending the Bedroom Tax.
a local Rent Tribunal & Rent control system for the Private sector
based on the living wage and the property condition.
of properties will be able to request an assessment to fix the rental rate
for 3 years.
will be able to request a Rent assessment and be protected from eviction
during the period of any such tribunal and assessment, and at least 12
months after the completion of an assessment, provided the assessment was
not requested solely with the intention of protecting the tenancy.
will introduce legislation to make all buildings to which employees or the
public have access, fully accessible including a commitment to accessible
bathrooms by 2025. This requirement to be enforced through building standards.
Assured Shorthold tenancies (AST’s) to be withdrawn immediately, and
automatically converted to an AGT, unless the landlord was living in the
property prior to and at the date of the withdrawal of AST’s.
owners of exceptional ancient or historic buildings will be able to seek
exemption. If successful, notification of lack of access is to be
advertised outside of the building.
Labour is committed to fair work, at a fair pay, for all,
and Labour will:
zero hour contracts,
the minimum wage to the Living wage rate, and will include a living wage
for all young workers from the age of 18
employment rights within the ‘gig’ economy, including maximum hours,
minimum wage, holidays, compulsory employers and employees national
insurance, and pensions.
businesses from burdening the social security budget by offering only part
time work, when full time work could be made available e.g. retailers
offering employment only of less than 16 hours at minimum wage rate,
employers offering posts of less than full time, employers only offering
falsely described ‘self employment’.
a minimum and maximum working hours agreement for all employees.
full employment by removing from businesses their ability to supplement
minimum wages through overtime or tax credits, by banning the use of
‘normal’ overtime and enforcing the living wage for all.
Labour will raise £1 billion per annum, by raising VAT by 1p in the £, so enabling Labour to
- bring all funded schools back under the control of the Local Education Authority,
- introduce a schools renovation programme, to ensure all schools meet new buildings standards, and education provision standards,
- revisit the national curriculum, bringing in compulsory education in European Language, Civil Society, Personal sex education (from the age of 10), and critical and transferable skills based learning into the education of all children from junior school age
- end the scandal of the national baccalaureate, reintroducing variety into GCSE ad A’Level courses
- revisit primary education, creating a new ‘kindergarten education’ for children from the age of three, allowing for entry into primary education between the ages of 4 and 8 depending upon the child’s physical and mental development;
- build upon the expertise and experience from countries such as Finland and Germany, and recognising variable age literacy and numeracy education, the kindergarten system will ensure that all children will leave primary education, being able to read and having basic numeracy.
- require grammar and other secondary schools based upon selection to either join the funded comprehensive education system, or become privately funded schools;
- ensure real social mobility in business, and public appointments, by requiring the privately funded secondary schools to provide 50% of all places through a newly created subsidised direct grant system available to local children who meet the public school’s entry requirements. Fees to be met by Government at normal schools rates and subsidised to full fee cost by the private schools’ charitable endowments,
Labour will raise £10 billion by scrapping Trident, and all other nuclear armaments, and £1 billion by encouraging overseas students for UK Universities by ending the high cost student visa fee, so enabling it to:
- reintroduce national University funding and individual living grants, and end university fees, including all fees owing. There will be repayment of fees paid through beneficial taxation.
- ensure research council funding of £1.5billion per annum, whether through re-entry into the EU, or otherwise,
Labour will increase vehicle tax by 1p in the £, so raising £300 million, enabling Labour to:
- remove annual car mileage from the roads, by supporting Local, Regional and City authorities to bring back subsidised local transport via environmentally friendly schemes, for all
- support, and subsidise the construction, and purchase, of UK electric cars and other vehicles
- plant a publicly accessible forest of carbon reducing trees, at the rate of one for each vehicle on the roads.
- Labour will make road safety a priority and will
- increase maximum penalties for causing death by dangerous driving an offence up to imprisonment for life.
- increase penalties for driving without insurance, a licence, or a properly registered and taxed vehicle
Labour will raise £3billion for the NHS by increasing higher rate taxes:
- for the super-rich (over £150,000 per annum) to 50%,
- for the rich (over £70,000 per annum) to 44%,
- for the better off (currently over £45,000) to 42%
- for those on their regional living wage, basic rate tax will rise by 1p in the £ to 21%
During its government, Labour will not raise the current personal allowance, so facilitating the move of more workers into direct and personal investment in the country, and thus encouraging public participation in civil and political society
Labour will end our participation in the nuclear arms race, this will enable the UK to
- meet the costs of ending student fees and loans for Higher education
- meet the 2% of GDP investment in ground, sea and air forces committed to NATO
- create a new peace centre, in Bradford, providing national and international expertise, and a permanent home for international conferences and debates relating to peace requirements anywhere in the world,
- create a research and practice based legal unit, to directly engage in talks with the parties threatening the stability of ordinary lives in any region of the world
Labour will bringing into effect clause 2 of the Equality Act 2010, and provide a further £20 million for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, whose duties will then include enforcing new equality targets including
- All public transport being made full accessible, including toilet facilities for train journeys of over 60 minutes, and bus journeys of over 3 hours.
- Introducing Caste as a protected category in the Act
- Minimum targets of 12% for employment rates of people with disabilities in all businesses and other types of employment, where there are more than 20 employees,
- All workers and employees investing in a pension scheme so as to ensure a better old age for all
- Introducing into the national curriculum of primary, junior and high school, compulsory education which includes an understanding of equality, anti-discrimination law, to support all children of difference
- Removing court fees for the unemployed in the Employment Tribunals and for those on welfare benefits in the Divorce Courts.
- Introducing standard national quotas for disabled, BME, LGBT and female court judges at all levels of the UK courts
Labour will enhance the non-pension related social welfare budget by £400 million by adding 2p in the £ to alcoholic drink taxation. This will allow Labour to immediately:
- reintroduce ESA for the disabled
- retain the triple cap on pensions,
- ensure that no family on social welfare benefits ever has to seek support via a foodbank – one of this country’s national scandals
- remove the Benefits cap of £23,000 for households in London, and just £20,000 for those
- reintroduce housing benefit payments to those aged under 21
Labour will add £40 million to the annual Legal Aid budget, £20 million by raising £100 million over the life time of the Government through extending the system for obtaining control of assets gained through criminal activity, and £20 million by raising Capital Gains Tax by 5p in the £. This will allow Labour to
- maximise social justice funding by increasing access to Legal Aid
- Reintroduce the publicly funded lawyer for all defendants in criminal cases.
- Labour will further extend social justice by introduce a system whereby non-practicing Barristers, solicitors, or academic lawyers, can be employed at all levels of the Court system.
I doubt I will see much of this in Labour's manifesto, but I truly believe we need to see something really different this time, something that could truly enhance the wellbeing of all in the country. Only then could we actually contribute to solving the problems of the rest of the world. If we do not act, then one day those problems WILL become our problems.