KEEP CALM & WORK YOURSELF TO DEATH

pension work dwp

by Jonathan Lee

New pension plans to work till you die are no cause for alarmsays arch-Tory overlord Ian Duncan Smith. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Tory think-tank which brought us Universal Credit, has recommended the government raise the retirement age from 65 to 70 by 2028, and to 75 by 2035.

The Tories are not content to simply make workers’ lives as miserable as possible through underfunding schools, unaffordable housing, food poverty, and the greatest devaluation of wages in modern history. They now seek to steal the last golden years of life from the majority of working class people who cannot afford a private pension in order to retire early.Continue Reading

THERE’S MORE TO STUDENT ACTIVISM THAN #PEOPLESVOTE

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By Lewis Martin

Amatey Doku is right: student activism isn’t dead. In a recently published interview with the Guardian, the NUS Vice President of Higher Education proclaimed that students’ response to Brexit and their engagement with the People’s Vote campaign has shown that student activism is thriving anew, after years without a “unifying cause”. But what about the fight for free education that has been active on our campuses since 2012? For many activists in the last few generations of students, it was the issue that brought us together and gave us the skills to take the fight to the powerful. But for Doku, it was too “inward looking” to inspire a “genuine” movement.

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THE GREATEST PRICE OF AUSTERITY? PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE

by Edward Grierson

As a child, I always looked forward to a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. An hour’s journey to Edinburgh was always a small price worth paying if it meant passing a wet weekend or day out from the holiday among dinosaurs, dioramas, steam trains and robots that could spell your name. Since then the museum has undergone countless changes, but whenever I return, I can always be certain to discover something new.

However, those trips to the museum were much more than just a fun day out. I can confidently say that they were a major formative influence for me, particularly in inspiring my love of nature. Without the influence of the National Museum of Scotland, I would not be who I am today. I can also confidently say I’m not the only one. I speak for countless others whose interests, whatever they are, were inspired by visiting trips to a museum.Continue Reading

POST-TRUTH POLITICS AND THE WAR ON INTELLECT

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by Robyn Banks

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer.”- Mikhail Bakunin

There’s a new buzzword in the air. We are now living, it is claimed, in a post-factual or post-truth society, where facts no longer matter to the general public. At face value it seems like a bizarre claim. But while politicians and the media have always lied to the public, if you consider the audacity of the lies of the last decade in contrast to the sheer number of tools available to us to find out the truth, you begin to see the point.Continue Reading

SEVEN WAYS THE TORIES HAVE UNDERMINED OUR DEMOCRACY

by Chris Jarvis

Since coming to power under the coalition in 2010, the Tories have repeatedly paid lip service to the principles of democracy. David Cameron’s concept of the ‘big society’ was outlined in democratic terms, where local communities would be empowered to have control over public services and community projects. ‘Localism’ and rhetoric around extending local democracy were key components of both the 2010 and 2015 Conservative Party General Election platforms.

Ultimately though, the reality is far from the picture Conservative ministers and strategists are painting. Through Cameron to May, the Tories have repeatedly undermined democracy in Britain and we are far worse off as a result. Here are just seven of the many ways they have done this.Continue Reading

‘DEVOLUTION’ AND THE TRIUMPH OF TORY DOUBLESPEAK

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by Olivia Hanks

“Let local people decide!” urged George Osborne in his budget speech last summer, as he announced details of his plans for English devolution. What an excellent idea, as, on the face of it, almost everyone across the political spectrum agreed. Unfortunately, local people did not ask for devolution, had no say in deciding its form or content, were kept entirely in the dark about negotiations, and, in the case of East Anglia, are now to be ‘consulted’ on a deal of whose existence they are probably unaware and which, the Treasury has confirmed, there will be no opportunity to amend.

Report after report, from councils, public sector bodies and journalists, has enthused about the ‘golden opportunity’ to give local people a say in the decisions that affect them. Even those expressing serious reservations have praised the ‘principle’ of devolution — ignoring the glaring fact that when you examine the detail of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, or of individual ‘deals’, this principle is conspicuous by its absence.Continue Reading

IT’S GRIM UP NORTH: HOW THE NORTH OF BRITAIN HAS BEEN LEFT BEHIND

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by Pierce Robinson

The North – South divide in the British Isles is still one of the most controversial topics in contemporary UK politics and society. The economic and political differences between the two ends of the country have been a common characteristic of these islands for decades. If you live anywhere north of Birmingham, the signs that you have entered a different part of the country are clear, even just the fact that you would choose gravy chips over a kebab – but most importantly, the level of poverty increases dramatically. The United Kingdom has the highest level of inequality in Western Europe, yet with a capital city that continues to flourish every day, why are we not seeing the similar signs of fortune increase in the North?Continue Reading

BATMAN, THE PANAMA PAPERS AND THE EVILS OF CORRUPTION

By Faizal Nor Izham

Two weeks ago, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened to mixed reviews from film critics, but nonetheless went on to perform spectacularly at the box office. Just this week, the Panama Papers were also unleashed into the public sphere, from the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca. The 11.5 million document leak featured startling revelations on a web of shady offshore accounting, involving twelve prominent world leaders including David Cameron. Implicating a total of 143 world politicians, their families and close associates, the leaks demonstrated the various ways in which elite rulers have been exploiting secretive offshore tax regimes.

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THE MORALITY OF TAX

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by Olivia Hanks

I’m writing this because I’m unhappy about small businesses not paying tax.

Yes, you read that right.

We all know about the coffee chains and technology giants that are siphoning off society’s wealth and making no contribution; I’m talking about the small, local businesses that are the real lifeblood of every town’s economy.Continue Reading

PROFIT BEFORE PUPILS — SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER

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by Cadi Cliff

Wednesday was Budget Day and George Osborne set out plans for a huge shake-up of the schools system. He announced that schools in England must become academies, independent of local authorities, by 2020. It’s farewell to your old council-run comprehensive and hello to corporate sponsored academies — and no, you don’t get a say in the matter.

Along with junior doctor contracts, the majority of the public have not supported the government’s argument on academies — so the Tories have gone and imposed them anyway. Democracy, right?Continue Reading

THE NEOLIBERAL PROBLEM WITH CHINA

by Will Durant

“In China, such change over the past three decades has been informed by three principles: the lower the level of government, the more democratic the political system; the optimal space for experimentation with new practices and institutions is in between the lowest and highest levels of government; and the higher the level of government, the more meritocratic the political system.”

That was Daniel A. Bell writing in The Atlantic last year about the Chinese ‘model’. This kind of thinking is everything that I loathe about neoliberalism. We’re presented with the idea that economists like Alan Greenspan and Mark Carney are these supreme experts who are just tinkering for the common good. Forget their past careers in multi-national corporations, they’re for the people. You know, like how the ‘Chicago Boys’ were simply working for the people of Chile. Just like the experts in the ol’ PRC right now. It’s not like their advice, enforced by the state, is unreliable or anything. So who needs the popular vote when you can have a few geniuses tinkering the system?

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ZAMBIA: WHERE THE STREETS ARE PAVED WITH COPPER

by Josh Wilson 

The past few weeks have seen a growing debate about the impacts of slowing growth in China on the global economy. But I want to talk about the potential impacts on Zambia specifically.

Zambia — a country most people know exists but are not always 100% sure quite where it is located on a map. For a bit of background, it is a landlocked country the size of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland combined, with a population of just 14.5 million people. It is situated just above Zimbabwe and below the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a British Colony until Independence in 1964; Kenneth Kaunda won the first election after independence and ruled the nation from 1964 until 1991 when a multi-party democracy was resurrected and has continued since. Zambia has some of the most pristine nature reserves in Southern Africa, with one of the most concentrated populations of Leopards on the continent.

This beautiful country also has an awful lot of copper.Continue Reading

A NARRATIVE OF SOLIDARITY: THE WORK PENALTY, JUNIOR DOCTORS AND BRITISH STEEL

by Josh Wilson

Politics is about narratives. The problem is that these narratives have a real impact on people’s lives. We are likely to have a decade of Tory rule, a decade of the systematic destruction of our welfare state and all modes of the redistribution of wealth. Corporation tax rates have reduced significantly under this government, as well as the tax rate for the richest in society. We have seen significant cuts to public spending across the board including local governments, arts and higher education. But the Tories are good at narratives. They have weaved a myth of austerity despite it going against the economic consensus. We are still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 and yet people seem to barely talk about this and be more concerned by spending levels than an out-of-control banking system.

On a majority of just 17 seats in the House of Commons the Conservatives seem confident, but I believe this confidence can be knocked using a few counter-narratives. A narrative of solidarity, one that illuminates the Tories as a party that is anti-poor, anti-worker and only on the side of the richest in our society. The three policies that are key to this narrative are the work penalty, junior doctors’ contracts and the British steel industry.

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THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A LIBERAL CONSERVATIVE PARTY

by Natasha Senior

When George Osborne took to the stage at the Conservative party conference, he had an air of confidence that spoke volumes. He tapped into a sense that has been palpable for a while now, the widely held belief that he is the saviour of the British economy. Soaked with ambition, he painted for us his bold and vibrant vision for Britain, creating a northern powerhouse and putting the working, taxpaying people at the heart of his plans. He decreed his party the builders of Britain and the only true party of labour whilst unapologetically championing his more liberal politics. Then as the applause rolled in, showering him with reverence and adoration, the next five years unfolded in front of me and I could see this man winning the 2020 general election. The thought of it made me feel sick to my stomach.Continue Reading

STUDENT FINANCE – COUNTING THE COST OF BASIC UNFAIRNESS

by Rowan Van Tromp

This summer George Osborne announced that the current system of non-repayable, means-tested maintenance grants would be scrapped and replaced by additional maintenance loans. He deemed it “basic unfairness” to ask taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them.

Perhaps then it’s his experiences of the tax affairs of Tory party benefactors, such as Michael Ashcroft (also known as Lord Ashcroft to those who adhere to the moronic social phenomenon of ‘peerage’), that blinds the Chancellor from the logical conclusion that earning more justifiably means paying higher taxes, to, for instance, provide an equal means by which people can access higher education.Continue Reading

POLITICIANS: NO TRUST, NO VALUE

by Gunnar Eigener

“Members of the public would be forgiven for thinking that it is MPs who are lazy and that it is parliament that is failing to provide good value for money.” – Margaret Hodge

We have become desensitised to any wrong-doings of those in the political establishment. We’re used to it, we almost expect it and we certainly aren’t surprised anymore when these revelations hit the papers. Only this time it has reached the top, in former Prime Minister Edward Heath. There is no evidence and nothing to back up these claims so far but when someone in the highest and most powerful position in the land, dead or not, is being ‘looked’ into, it’s hard to feel positive about those who are entrusted with the well-being and future of ourselves and the land.

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MANUFACTURED BIAS

by Jake Fisher

If you were to ask any baby boomer what they feel about the BBC they would almost certainly tell you one thing: it ain’t what it used to be. Long gone are the Reith days of ‘to inform, educate, and entertain,’ they would say, while bemoaning the politicisation of the Corporation, and the falling quality of its programming. It shouldn’t come as any shock then that once again there’s likely to be a huge shift in the BBC’s functions and operations; in the space of two weeks two announcements have been made that almost certainly guarantee that whatever the BBC structure may be now is not what it’ll resemble in 48 months’ time.

The first came roughly a fortnight ago when it was revealed that 1,000 Beeb employees would lose their jobs as the Corporation seeks to make up a £150m shortfall in its budget. Cutting a thousand jobs will only save the BBC an estimated third of that shortfall, as opposed to, say, increasing the Licence Fee by a few pounds per licence, but since that would equate to raising taxes, we know the current government would never dream of doing that.

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