Archives For nhs

1) Six firms including Facebook and Google, made £14bn last year but paid just 0.3% tax

Image: PA/Reuters

Image: PA/Reuters

An investigation by the Sunday Mirror has revealed that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Ebay, Apple and Starbucks have paid less than 1% tax.

The companies reported revenue of £2.6bn but further income by sister companies have been collected and have avoided tax through havens. The total they are estimated to have made is actually £14.2bn.

“The Sunday Mirror also reported that there was £9bn black hole in corporation tax, helped along by corporate tax cuts brought in by George Osborne.

“These changes include a scheme “so blatantly a tax avoidance arrangement for big business” it is now being reformed after protests from Germany and the EU, said Richard Murphy of campaign group Tax Research.

“Meanwhile, ordinary people were clobbered with a 2.5 per cent VAT hike within weeks of the Tory-led Government taking office in 2010.

“A group of 17 leading charities, including ActionAid, Oxfam and the Equality Trust, are urgently calling on all political parties to support a Tax Dodging Bill.”

Further support for tax avoidance was shown by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson who defended Boots Boss Stefano Pessina’s tax avoidance, insisting that Pessina had a ‘duty’ to avoid tax for his shareholders.

Crucially, in this defence figures like Boris never highlight that this is money owed to the UK, that should be used for social good, public services and resources. Boris is attempting to make this acceptable, but Frankie Boyle put it succinctly enough on Twitter last year:

‘If you’re rich don’t look at it as tax avoidance, look at it as a children’s hospital buying you a pool.’

Read more about this story here.

2) Number of City backers doubles for Tories

The number of City donors has doubled for the Tories since 2010 with figures from the Square Mile, the Financial Times reported last week.

We’re sure this has nothing to do with the lucrative money grabbing policies for the city allowed by the Tories through corporate tax cuts and the free reign and support of loopholes and avoidance as above. But they clearly like something about them.

Image from Financial Times – read the full story here.


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3) 40 MPs on guest list for dinner with arms trade dealers

40 MPs were on the guest list for a dinner organised by trade organisation ADS, at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, according to information passed to The Independent by Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat).

Jeremy Vine gave a speech at the event for a five figure fee, and Business Secretary Vince Cable also attended the event.

Andrew Smith from Caat said: “It’s outrageous that the government actively supports and promotes this deadly trade.

“The fact that arms dealers were swilling champagne with over 40 MPs is a disgrace and shows the extent of the arms trade’s connections and political lobbying.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Costs of Universal Credit plans not to be revealed until after election

The costs of the troubled Universal Credit System will not be revealed until after the May 2015 election, according to information received by Computer Weekly.

The new system has faced trouble from the start, and was estimated to cost £12.85bn in 2012. However, since then problems and costs have mounted and the government has failed to release a new estimate for 2 years.

“The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which leads development of Universal Credit, and the Cabinet Office, which has responsibility for project oversight, have concealed the revised cost estimate since tearing up plans for the computer system in 2013 after two years of development – a process they called a “reset”. “

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has also used taxpayer’s money to fight the release of information in the Courts, appealing several times.

This is a clear manipulation of information, in order to serve the current government’s PR in the run up to the election.

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Read more about this story here.

5) Hinchingbrooke hospital handed back to NHS

Hinchingbrooke hospital, the first hospital to be given to private management will be handed back to the NHS by the end of March.

Steve Melton, head of Circle Health who ran the hospital, was answering questions to the Public Accounts Committee on the hospital’s failures and a Care Quality Commission report that declared Hinchingbrooke as ‘inadequate’ – the first hospital to be declared so by the CQC.

Melton denied that the report gave the full picture of the problems.

Read more about this story here.

6) Number of teachers quitting classroom reaches 10-year high

The number of teachers quitting the profession has reached a 10-year high according to figures released by the Department for Education.

50,000 teachers quit in the year to November 2013 (the latest figures to hand), a 25% increase over 4 years.

Christine Blower of the NUT said falling working conditions and pay were pushing candidates away:

“A combination of unacceptable number of hours worked, a punitive accountability system, the introduction of performance-related pay and being expected to work until 68 for a pension has turned teaching into a less than attractive career choice.”

Read more about this story here.

 

 

 

1) Oxfam reveals 1% own half world’s wealth and increasing

New research released on Monday, by anti-poverty charity Oxfam, reveals that the top 1% own around half the world’s wealth, and if current trends continue, they will own more than the other 99% by next year.

In 2009, the 1% owned 44% of the world’s wealth. By 2014, this had increased to 48%. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% own just 5.5%.

Oxfam released this released their report ahead of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and said they would use their profile at the Forum to put pressure on countries and groups to tackle this increasing inequality.

 

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Read more about this story here.

2) 40% of British families ‘too poor to play a part in society’

Those aiming to keep subjects like the wealth gap, and the increasing power and wealth of the 1%, out of the limelight, often claim that this has no bearing on the poor, and that focus should be on the poor instead of ‘attacking the rich’. They will aim to break the relation between increasing wealth for the rich and increasing poverty for the poor, but that money is being taken out of societies, from public money, public services, and welfare. The same year 1million people needed a food bank in the UK, the rich list increased their wealth by 15%.

Now the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released a report detailing that 4 in 10, or 8.1 million people, live below an income required to play a part in society. This increased by a third from 2008/09 to 2012/13.

The findings show ‘economic growth’ is not happening for those that need it most.

“The definition of minimum income threshold assumes a single person of working age needs an income of £16,284. It suggests in the case of a couple with two children, each needs to reach an income threshold of £20,400. It does not pretend to be a poverty measure, or act as a substitute for the government’s half-abandoned child poverty measure of the numbers earning 60% below median earnings. It is instead a definition of the income required to have not just food, shelter and clothes, but also to be able to be a participant in society.

“The definition, reached in discussion with the public through focus groups, looks at what a household needs to be integrated in society and has been used in the past as a benchmark for the living wage.

“It includes, for instance, the ability to pay for a week’s holiday in the UK, or a second-hand car for families with children. It assumes no cigarettes or visits to the pub.”

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government challenged on benefit figures, as new poll shows British claimants in EU outnumber immigrants here

A new survey, conducted by the Guardian newspaper, shows that the number of Britons claiming benefits across the EU, outnumber immigrants from respective countries claiming here, going against government figures.

For example the report says that 23,011 Britons were on welfare in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, France and Ireland, compared to just 8720 of those nationals claiming here.

The survey was conducted on 23 of the 27 EU countries.

“Thirty thousand people, or 2.5% of all British nationals, in other EU member states means that the overwhelming majority of Brits abroad as well as European citizens in Britain are not an undue burden for the countries in which they live,” said Dr Roxana Barbulescu, researcher on international migration at the University of Sheffield, to the Guardian.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Farage admits he wants to privatise NHS

in 2012, UKIP leader Nigel Farage let slip that he would ‘feel more comfortable’ with a privatised NHS. Spin doctors did their best to say that he had changed his mind, despite Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall also expressing his desire to let privatisation in.

Now Farage says this is a debate he will have to return to, revealing that he is courting the idea of implementing a US style insurance scheme. Bear in mind, the US spends the most on healthcare and has the worst system in the developed world.

Image: Leftfootforward

Image: Leftfootforward

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Hinchingbrooke hospital became the first to be declared ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission, and was accused of putting patient safety at risk, with tactics including skeleton staffing. The hospital was owned by Circle Health, a private healthcare company which won healthcare contracts following donations to the Tory party.

Read more reasons why the NHS does not need privatisation. 

Read more about this story here.

5) There are 10 homes for every homeless family in England

The Mirror revealed that there are 10 homes for every homeless family in England, and yet numbers of homeless people keep rising.

While efforts by Labour to reduce homelessness over five years of government saw figures drop from 100,000 to 48,000, the number of homeless people has been increasing again since 2011.

While some of these empty homes are waiting for renters or sales, many are being held empty by investors.

The Labour government brought in a ‘use it or lose it’ policy that allows councils to seize properties left empty for 6 months. The Tories extended this to two years upon their election and even resisted attempts to multiply council tax on these homes.

Image: The MIrror

Image: The MIrror

Read more about this story here.

6) Steve Emerson laughed off BBC News

American ‘Terrorism expert’ (lol) Steve Emerson, who hit the headlines the other week for saying that Birmingham in the UK is a ‘no-go zone for non-Muslims’ was interviewed on the BBC about his comments and where he got his ‘findings’. It’s quite funny.

 

 

7) Occupy Democracy return to Parliament Square

 

Occupy Democracy enter Parliament Square, Judicial Review, 24th January 2014 from Occupy London on Vimeo.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

The Market Society

kamsandhu —  January 22, 2015 — 3 Comments

Following on from ‘The Success of Inequality’, we delve deeper into the effects of ‘The Market Society’…

‘The more things money can buy, the harder it is to be poor’, argues Michael Sandel in this Guardian, Comment is Free video. When money determines access to basic human necessities such as healthcare, education and political voice, inequality becomes far more important. Sandel claims that we have already made some of these destructive financial moves, becoming a ‘market society’ rather than using a ‘market economy’ as a tool.

We are currently seeing a huge transfer of public money and public services go to private hands, but little is said of the true contradictory effect of these moves.

Outsourcing public services and institutions such as the NHS or prisons, or providing cash incentives for short-term results, generally acts to hollow out the true purpose of the service. The nature of the service will tend to mould itself around the new motivation: profit – a motive hammered down through management from shareholders, CEOs and investors. In the following examples we see how this can destroy the purpose of services:

Healthcare

Putting private healthcare companies, who’s only motivation is profit, into the NHS risks the standards of a universal system, fractures it and creates unaccountability.

The NHS is one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but it is under threat.

Part of the reason the NHS is so effective is because the entire system has been run as a complete public service. This allows cohesion between departments, access to cheaper medication and supplies, as it is one large healthcare provider (which means value for money to the taxpayer), and management sees input from doctors and nurses who can focus on providing the best, effective service and have the best knowledge to do this.

Private healthcare firms looking to profit from NHS contracts exchange the priorities from providing the best care to making the most profit. Virgin Healthcare did not exist before NHS contracts came up to tender, demonstrating the lack of background, expertise and track record required to take on these contracts. In 2011/2 Virgin Care won a £450m NHS contract to take over a practice in Surrey:

Since Virgin took it over from the NHS, patients have had to wait up to three weeks for an appointment instead of three days, three GPs have been reduced to one, and three nurses cut to one part-time nurse. And while the company boasts about the surgery’s opening hours, often there are no clinicians present, just an open empty building. Locals complain that Virgin has “brought Third World medical standards to Kings Heath.

Alex Nunns, Liberal Conspiracy

Earlier this month, Hinchingbrooke Hospital became the first hospital declared ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission in providing care for patients, instead putting patient safety at risk.

The report from the CQC said the hospital was substantially and frequently short-staffed, particularly in the A&E department.

Cutting staff hours is a common trope used by companies to save money. Hinchingbrooke hospital is run by private healthcare company Circle.

RealFare

RealFare

Another reason privatisation of the NHS is ineffective is because it breaks up the system. It causes problems in cohesion and communication with different departments. And perhaps the most telling aspect of privatisation and it’s motives is that companies buy up only the most profitable and easy to run areas of healthcare, leaving the difficult areas to the public purse. So, the taxpayer and the NHS is laden with the difficult and expensive areas of healthcare, whilst seeing all the profitable departments sink rewards into private pockets. The only ones gaining from this transaction are private healthcare investors. The public, the NHS as a whole, staff and public money are all losing out.

In 2013, it was the coalition government’s treatment of the NHS as a business that lead to criticisms from the influential medical journal, The Lancet:

“Reading headlines last week, such as ‘Struggling A&E units to get £500m bailout’ and ‘NHS managers to get price comparison website’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the current coalition government views the NHS as a failing bank or business,” it said.

“This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart.”

 

If you want examples of private healthcare systems to compare, look no further than America. A country which spends the most on healthcare, and yet has the worst standards and results among wealthy countries.

Image: Leftfootforward

Image: Leftfootforward

 

Clive Peedell, National Health Action Party: “The American Medical Profession lost public support faster than any other group during the rapid commercialisation of their healthcare system in the 70’s and 80’s. They lost huge public support because they were putting money before patients.
“When the patient comes in, they say ‘well you need this procedure’. They make money. So if there’s a borderline decision whether someone actually needs a procedure or doesn’t, [for] all those borderline decisions, they’ll give that treatment.
“Now prostate cancer, I manage prostate cancer. If you go and see a prostate surgeon in America, you get a prostatectomy. If you see a radiation oncologist, you’ll get radiotherapy. So it depends who you see and what treatement. In the UK we have careful discussion in our meetings. We all do what’s best for the patient, we give the patient a choice in terms of what treatment they want to have.”
Max Keiser : “So if I go to Kings Cross station and I accidentally get on the wrong train, the conductor doesn’t bother whether I’m on the wrong train or not. They’re gonna stamp my ticket. Similarly, you’re saying in the healthcare system, if I happen to wander into the wrong department in the hospital, they’ll just give me whatever procedure they’re doing over there in the hospital. They don’t really care what the situation is at all. They’ve got money to make, they’ve got quotas to meet…”
Clive Peedell: “If you’ve got the money in the United States, you can get very good care. It’s a system that’s got islands of excellence in a sea of misery because for 50 million uninsured people, it’s a disaster.”

Outsourcing work programmes

As part of coalition welfare reforms, A4E, a for-profit welfare-to-work company were contracted in at taxpayer’s expense to help jobseekers into work. Cameron promised a revolution in welfare to work programmes and quickly made A4E chairwoman, Emma Harrison, the family tsar. Cameron promised that those stuck in long term unemployment would see the greatest support and results.

However, one year into the Work Programme and the initial results from A4E were grim reading. Over 94,000 people were attached to A4E work programmes. Of these, 3,400 had successful outcomes with employment lasting longer than three months. The cost to the taxpayer for these 3,400 outcomes was £46m. That’s around £13,500 per person in work.

The success rate for A4E amounted to 3.5%, below the government’s minimum levels of 5.5%.The government said they expected “that providers will significantly exceed these minimum levels”.

“Effectively, the department was saying that if firms failed to hit these targets, they would actually be making the situation worse than it would have been if they had done nothing.

“So the government wanted to see 5.5 per cent of 18-24-year-olds claiming jobseekers’ allowance in sustained work after the first year. They got 3.4 per cent.

“DWP also wanted long-term jobs for 5.5 per cent of over-25s on jobseekers’ allowance. The actual result was 3.4 per cent.

“And they wanted the same percentage for new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) – the payment for some sick and disabled people that replaced incapacity benefit. Only 1.5 per cent of people from this group found sustained work.

“This last figure is especially poor and that is important, because getting people off ESA could be one of the keys to beating long-term unemployment.”

FactCheck, Why the Work Programme isn’t Working – Yet

It wasn’t long before whistleblowers and ‘customers’ (as they are called when being sent to A4E, rather than jobseekers) were speaking out about the problems with the provider. Staff were plied with hundreds of cases, leading them to deal with their ‘Top 10’ that month to hit targets and secure income, leaving those harder to help without support and at the bottom of the pile. When the focus is on income rather than providing the best support, ‘easier’ cases were quicker to deal with. Claimants who found work on their own were also cashed in on by providers. This is a subject touched upon by the jobcentre advisor we interviewed last year:

“I am unable to emphasise enough what a massive con and waste of taxpayer’s money this is. Daily, I speak to those poor souls on this mad scheme and many who have returned after a 2 year stint. How journalists have not scooped this, I do not know.  The payment by results contract is an incentive to do nothing. Look at it like this; you are a private company paid to get people into work. You have a financial investment. Who do you invest that money in? Mr Jones who is highly educated and has only recently been made redundant? Or Mr Simpson who has been out of work for years and needs everything from numeracy and literacy training to PC skills? Mr Jones may only need a £50 interview suit or most likely no intervention at all – he will find work on his own. Bingo! The Government will pay you £2,500 if he starts work and stays there for 6 months. You could invest a hell of a lot of your staff resources and profits in getting Mr Simpson to a job ready state, but it’s a huge gamble. You get a higher reward but your losses are higher if he doesn’t find work. Private companies do not like this kind of risk. This is why it is now without question that Work Programme providers ‘park’ the harder to help customers. I have seen this relentlessly for the past couple of years and I do not think anyone could deny this is what happens. I ask customers what the WP is doing for them and they tell me they are lucky if they get a phone call every few months. But, if this person finds a job on his own (which does happen) the WP provider could get £12,000+.”

Interview with a Jobcentre Advisor , RealFare

Other claimant cases cited being forced to apply for jobs they were not qualified for or could not get under threat of sanction. We were paying for a company to force unemployed people on poverty benefits to write meaningless applications under threat. Who is benefitting here?

The situation has not got any better in the years since with statistics released in 2014 revealing that the Work Programme had seen a 3% success rate for the 1.5million people referred. Additionally, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found work. Again, a result that is worse than doing nothing at all. Yet, the entire work programme is projected to cost the public purse between £3 – 5bn in the five years from 2011.

Those that this work programme revolution was meant to help, the long-term unemployed, are undesirable and risky ‘investments’, and thus are neglected in the system purported to serve them. Arguably, the work programme is pushing them further away from work and support, whilst those able to find work on their own are cynically cashed in on by a company.

Simply adding a cash incentive for private companies to provide a service that requires support and long term goals, does not solve the problem. It merely moulds the shape of the service to the area that provides quickest, highest return because the goal of a profit driven company is profit. Under pressure, the bottom line comes first.

Political Voice

Who does our government represent? Who do they work for?

Adding financial leeway and incentives through donations (as above with Paul Ruddock and the NHS) is seeing parts of our society being sold to those who are not providing the greatest social good or service but whoever rubs shoulders with and stuffs the pockets of our politicians. Indeed, sometimes those who participate in the very ‘cancer eating our democracy’ (Richard Murphy’s view of tax evasion and avoidance), are held in the highest regard. Gary Barlow made a donation to the Conservative Party and was then put forward for an OBE by David Cameron. Barlow also took part in a tax avoidance scheme with bandmates. Tax avoidance and evasion is estimated to cost the economy over £100bn and rising. Enough to pay off the deficit. But Gary Barlow is rewarded, defended even, by our PM.

Companies also gain access to politicians through lobbying, a manipulative trick costing millions, seen as an investment by companies in exchange for political sway and favourable concern in policy. Further still, these lobbying meetings are a secret.

‘Whoever you vote for, big business gets in’ 

Pleasing business interests seems high on the list of all the main political parties. And while the language of profit and business infiltrates all aspects of our political sphere, we neglect to realise or debate the problems with this design. As Sandel notes, this sees us becoming a ‘market society’ as opposed to using a ‘market economy’ as a tool. This is why we have a housing crisis which is intent on building more luxury housing, likely to stay empty for months at a time, whilst our social housing waiting list continues to grow into the millions. A market society does not seek the route to creating a better society for all, but a more profitable climate for itself, and therefore the very nature of this as a basis for a political system is severely flawed.

We need a political sphere that acknowledges this.

Our current politics does not. Instead, we are witnessing the metamorphosis that seeks to empty our creative and social systems of their value and replace them with business jargon and the financialisation of every human and their needs. A case in point being the appointment of Sajid Javid; a man who was vice-chairman of a bank at 25 and has a history of financial employment has become, you guessed it, Minister for Culture.

Our political system has come to reflect the image of those it serves. Two thirds of the cabinet are millionaires and most of our MPs come from private schools which are attended by 7% of the population. As the gap between rich and poor increases, politicians become more removed from the realities of the lives of the 99%, and their diaries reflect their interests as such.

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) #FatCatTuesday demonstrates income inequality continues to grow

On Tuesday of last week, most Top CEOs already earned more than the average worker will earn over the whole year in the UK.

Image: High Pay Centre

Image: High Pay Centre

 

The High Pay Centre who coined the phrase #FatCatTuesday, say that figures demonstrate the inadequacy of government to deal with the pay gap and the excesses of the super rich which are ‘unfair, disproportionate’ and don’t make ‘economic sense’:

“FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72 million. The High Pay Centre found that even if CEOs are assumed to work long hours with very few holidays, this is equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200

“When the High Pay Centre made the same calculation last year, the think-tank estimated that top bosses would have to wait until the first working Wednesday of 2014 to surpass the earnings of the average worker. But while pay realised by FTSE 100 Chief Executives has risen by nearly £500,000 since last year, the annual pay of the average UK worker has increased by just £200, from £27,000 to £27,200.

“The figures will raise doubts about the effectiveness of Government efforts to curb top pay by giving shareholders the power to veto excessive pay packages. The High Pay Centre has argued that further measures are necessary, such as representation for ordinary workers on the company ‘remuneration committees’ that set executive pay and compulsory publication of the pay gap between the highest and lowest earner within a company.”

Read more about this story here.

2) Iain Duncan Smith urged to suspend sanction regime

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has been urged to suspend sanctions on benefit claimants until an investigation into their impact has been carried out. Concerns have been raised from many groups, individuals and professionals on their effect, particularly on mental health and the disabled.

“Experts, ranging from academics, food bank administrators, disabled groups and employment service professionals, told MPs on the work and pensions select committee on Wednesday how sanctions were “more likely” to hinder their target’s journey into work, rather than help them.

“A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union told the Huffington Post UK: “There’s no evidence that sanctions spur people into finding sustainable work, All they do is poison the relationship between jobcentre staff and claimants, which makes it much more difficult to build the kind of relationship that is required.

“A jobcentre should be a place that supports people into finding a job, not a place of conflict and suspicion.”

A DWP-commissioned review, carried out by welfare expert Matthew Oakley, who has worked for the Treasury and the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange, revealed that the most vulnerable were often left punished by a system that they barely understand.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Hinchingbrooke hospital declared ‘inadequate’  by Care Quality Commission

Hinchingbrooke hospital has had to be put into special measures following a ‘scathing’ report by the Care Quality Commission which revealed serious failings, putting patients in danger.

Circle, a private health firm which has won £1.36bn of NHS contracts, told the London Stock Exchange that the CQC report was one of the reasons they were pulling out of running the hospital.

RealFare

RealFare

“The report said some children arriving at the A&E department were left “potentially unsafe” at times because of a lack of specially trained paediatric nurses both there and in some operating theatres.

“Patients told inspectors that the response of nurses to them ringing a bell for assistance was poor, especially at night. Drinks were found to have been left out of reach of patients, even after inspectors had pointed that out.”

The report also noted that the hospital was substantially and frequently short staffed.

This is the first time the watchdog has declared a hospital to be ‘inadequate’ in how it cares for patients.

Allowing private firms, who’s top interest is profit, is a danger to the NHS and the patients it serves. It is not done in the interests of the public but the private interests of a few.

Read more about this story here.

4) ‘Liam Fox wants to kick half a million Indians and Pakistanis off the electoral register’

The Times recently reported that the Conservatives wanted an emergency change to a well-established law allowing those in the UK from the Commonwealth and Ireland to vote in elections. Interestingly, The Times referred to the law as ‘obscure’. The piece read:

“Senior Tories called for an emergency change in the law last night as official figures revealed the scale of foreigners who will be free to cast a vote in May.

“This could result in them being able to decide the outcome of what is set to be the closest and most unpredictable election result in decades. Under an obscure law that has never been reformed, people from Ireland and the Commonwealth who live in the UK are given voting rights. Irish, Indian and Pakistani citizens top the list of those allowed to cast a vote…

“Some Conservatives believe that the number of voters from ethnic minorities included in the list will provide a boost to Labour. The previous election showed that Labour was far more successful in winning the votes of those from ethnic minorities…

“Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, said: “It is ridiculous that the government of a country like ours could be decided by those who are not British citizens. It is high time we brought this law up to date.”

These are desperate lengths to control election results. It is not ‘obscure’ for people who live here to have the right to vote.

Mark Pack, Liberal Democrat commentator added in his post:

“Who would such a change kick off the electoral register?

  • 345,000 Irish
  • 306,000 Indians
  • 180,000 Pakistani
  • 73,000 Australians
  • 52,000 Zimbabweans
  • Other countries in the top ten are Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Canada and Bangladesh.”

As Mike Sivier of Vox Political commented:

“Let’s hope those of minority ethnic backgrounds, living in the UK, get the message:

“Conservatives don’t want your vote.

“Like UKIP, they want to deport you.

“They’ll say it’s “fair” that you don’t get a say in who governs the country where you live.

“In that case, would you say it’s “fair” that you’ve been paying taxes for the last five years of Conservative-led rule?”

5) Shelter is here to help – Pass It On

January is infamous for being a tough money month, and as housing prices and rents continue to rise, if you are struggling, you can seek help from Shelter, who are offering advice and assistance in the Pass It On initiative.

1 in 5 rent or mortgage payers have borrowed money to cover housing costs and 1 in 4 would feel too ashamed to ask for help if they couldn’t pay the rent or mortgage. If you’re in this situation, make sure you get advice on managing your rent or mortgage worries.

“Getting advice from Shelter could make all the difference.

“Please share our advice and pass it on!”

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Find out more about Shelter here.

 6) Real Media 

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Real Media – a coalition of independent bloggers, journalists and media organisations for independent journalism and against mass media misinformation – now has a temporary site so you can find out more and stay ahead of events and announcements ahead of the launch in March.

We have new organisations joining us all the time and so far include Bristol Cable, Bella Caledonia, Salford Star, Transition Free Press, Counterfire, Media Reform Coalition and more.

We also have a gathering in February in Manchester supported by John Pilger, Red Pepper, Open Democracy and more…

Go to http://www.realmedia.press and show your support by joining the below…

Like Real Media on Facebook here.

Follow Real Media on Twitter here.

Please join our Thunderclap here

And find out more about the gathering in Manchester in `February.

 

1) 71 Coalition MPs named and shamed for profiting from NHS sell-off

Unite the Union has published a list of 64 Tories and 7 Liberal Democrats who all profited from reform and plans to sell off our NHS.

“Named on the list of 71 Coalition MPs…are David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, along with former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – proving that corruption played a huge part in the introduction of private firms into NHS work.”

How many of them declared this clear conflict of interest while voting for the Health and Social Care Act in 2012? None seems the most likely answer.

According to the Daily Mirror, “All 71 MPs named in the dossier voted in favour of the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Act in 2012, which opened up the NHS to more private firms.”

Mike Sivier, Vox Political

Read more about this story here.

2) 10,000 students march against fees and cuts

Around 10,000 students marched on 19th November in a protest for free education.

This was the largest mobilisation since the student demos of 2010 and it largely passed peacefully.

Paint was daubed on the NUS building after a withdrawal of support for the action:

‘We did not organise what happened at the NUS but we do know students are very angry about being let down by the NUS,’ said Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which was one of the groups that organised today’s demonstration. ‘When you see the numbers here today they are in danger of becoming an irrelevance.’

There were some scuffles with police, when at one point several hundred protestors pulled down metal fences to take over the space at Parliament Square.

ALL arrestees were released without charge.

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“Aaron Kiely, from the Student Assembly Against Austerity and a member of the NUS national executive, said their message was very simple: a return to free education and an alternative to tuition fees.

“Students are really angry because we go to university and then at the end of it we get an average of £40,000-worth of debt. That puts you in a hell of a difficult position when you start to think about a mortgage and a family. We need an alternative.”

Organisers say this is the start of a wave of action before the General Election.

Read more about this story here.

3) Cameron warns of ‘looming crash’

David Cameron warned that the eurozone was facing a third recession during closing speeches at G20, as unemployment and staggered growth continue to halt economic improvements. Austerity has failed to measures the PM can no longer hide, it is not working and therefore further cuts would be propagating a lie –  we can take this as the confession.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

“The eurozone is teetering on the brink of a possible third recession, with high unemployment, falling growth and the real risk of falling prices too,” Cameron writes. “Emerging market economies which were the driver of growth in the early stages of the recovery are now slowing down. Despite the progress in Bali [trade talks in 2013], global trade talks have stalled while the epidemic of Ebola, conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine are all adding a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Iain Duncan Smith laughs during panic room woman’s challenge against bedroom tax

An unnamed woman challenged the government on Wednesday after being hit by the bedroom tax on her ‘spare room’.

“The “spare room” that the government want to penalise her for having is a specially adapted “Panic Room”. It’s there to provide a safe space for her and her child if her abusive ex-partner – who has raped and assaulted her – tries to cause her further harm.”

Incredibly, IDS argued the case FOR the government and the tax to a hearing in June where he unsuccessfully asked for the case to be dismissed.

While the case was read out in detail by Ed Miliband, according to MP Fiona O’Donnell, IDS just laughed at the story.

Read more about this story here and here.

5) Occupy Democracy returns to Parliament Square

Protestors from Occupy Democracy returned to Parliament Square over the weekend to again demand democracy and more representative and participatory Parliament.

Image: Commondreams.org

Image: Commondreams.org

The website reads:

“Last month, we occupied Parliament Square peacefully for nine days. The Establishment responded with a strategy designed to have a chilling effect – over-policing and media silence. We remained peaceful and resolute in our determination to make our point, and to demand our right to protest and assemble. Our numbers grew and we kept on with our solutions-focused programme of debates, talks and entertainment. On the final night we agreed a provisional set of demands.”

Read more about this story here.

 

Ranjan Kumaran  – @financialeyes 

The ongoing marketisation of the NHS made further progress in the Deregulation Bill at the House of Lords on Tuesday. 

Listen to the BBC’s Today In Parliament and you wouldn’t know. They chose to devote the full half hour to discussing various other aspects of the Deregulation Bill such as pub licensing and the sale of alcoholic ice cream to children.

Lady Williams, who spoke in favour of alcoholic chocolate consumption, is one of the peers who got the Health and Social Care Bill through the Lords for the Lib Dems.

There are other Lib Dem links to lobbying for private health – though few as prominent as that of Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (Miriam Clegg) and Tim Clement Jones.

According to Tuesday’s Hansard Transcript, the NHS was indeed debated as part of the Deregulation Bill.

Journalist and TTIP observer @glynmoody describes the Deregulation Bill as being like a mini-TTIP for the UK.

It’s scope to get rid of existing regulations seems unlimited. At a recent meeting on TTIP and the Deregulation Bill organised by the Stop TTIP campaign, Health Campaigner Lucy Reynolds of NHA party says, all known UK law is “up for grabs”.

Topics on Tuesday included the Transfer of Criminal and Financial Liability when NHS Trusts or Foundation Trusts are merged or transferred.

I can’t think why Sean Curran and the BBC thought this wouldn’t warrant a mention. Corporate capture by the City Lobby? Government Dictat, self censorship?

Who knows. I’d love to FOI the BBC about this but you can’t get any sense out of an unregulated regime broadcaster whose incomplete and therefore erroneous reporting is constantly defended as ‘editorial independence’.

Today, the Efford Bill gets it’s second reading and MPs will choose whether to back it.

Image: castrust.org

Clive Efford Image: castrust.org

You might think the Privatisation of the NHS, as a Neo-Liberal Project, would merit sensible discussion somewhere in the press. And you’d be right.  There was some coverage of the Efford Bill in the Guardian the other day.  However the comment section seems much closer to the mark than the article.

The Guardian seem pretty comfortable with this Efford Bill.

Today they promoted a 38 Degrees advert backing the Bill.

Not all campaigners agree with the Guardian’s position.

Given their support for War, Austerity, TTIP, Deregulation and PFI, many find it hard to see the Labour Party as anything other than a False Friend.

For anyone genuinely interested in this issue, I recommend reading this response. And this. These rebuttals points out the failings and inconsistencies in the Efford Bill.

A quick glance at the kinds of conversations taking place in the House of Lords this week makes for uncomfortable reading. I am disappointed at the lack of coverage the Bills are getting in the Mass Media. Even though this article only superficially points at the laws the UK government is currently passing, for some reason it seems to be one of only a few articles making any criticism of the Deregulation Bill at all.

State and Billionaire owned Media are preventing healthy discussion of politics in this country.

Please Share. Bring on the Real Media.

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1) NHS staff strike today – show your support

Following a block to pay of 1%, NHS staff and union representatives will strike today against pay freezes. The strike is underway.

Find out more about this story here. 

Follow the strike here.

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2) UN to investigate ‘grave concern’ over abuses of disability rights in UK

The United Nations may begin an investigation into ‘grave’ and ‘systemic’ violations of disability rights in the UK. The investigation would make Britain the first to face such a high level of inquiry into this area.

“The UN committee that would investigate Britain would have the power to launch the inquiry if it had sufficient and “reliable” information that such violations had been committed by a country under the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNRPD).”

The government has been repeatedly criticised and questioned over policy and treatment of the disabled by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. The UK Stats Authority has also reprimanded Work and Pensions Minister, Iain Duncan Smith several times for mis-use of statistics to push through and justify cuts in welfare. Disabled people made up two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax, and there has been a rise in disability hate crime as a result of damaging rhetoric.

“Of the £63.4bn of public expenditure cuts by 2015, 29% affect disabled people who make up only 8% of the population”

Ian Mearns MP, WOW debate Feb 27 2014

Yet, this has not deterred IDS from continuing with plan, as he recently announced new plans to tax disability welfare payments.

In June, PAC described the welfare reforms and introductions of new payment schemes ‘a fiasco’

“This resulted in significant delays, a backlog of claims and unnecessary distress for claimants who have been unable to access the support they need to live, and in some cases work, independently,” said PAC chair Margaret Hodge.

“The personal stories we heard were shocking. We heard evidence of a claimant requiring hospital intervention as a result of the stress caused by the delays suffered, and another claimant who was unable to afford the specific diet required for diabetes and gastric problems while waiting for a decision.”

Government has declined to comment on the UN investigation.

Read more about this story here.

3) Sun newspaper applauds the removal of Human Rights laws, only to use them four days later to protect journalists

The Sun newspaper applauded Conservative leader, David Cameron for ‘adopting’ it’s manifesto, which included axing the Human Rights bill. But the Sun was to walk with it’s tail between it’s legs as four days later, the newspaper, owned by News UK, used the bill to defend it’s own journalists.

“Next to the headline, “Here Cams The Sun,” the paper applauded a list of Mr Cameron’s party promises, which included the intention to axe the “hated Human Rights Act,” it said.”

However, the Metropolitan police used new snooping powers under the Regulation for Investigatory Powers Act to investigate who leaked the pleb-gate story, accessing telephone records of journalists at the paper.

Image: The Huffington Post

Image: The Huffington Post

“The Sun has since called for a public hearing at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal into the way the Met accessed its journalists’ records, and has confirmed that it will use the HRA in its case.”

Still, this confused and ridiculous paper insists they remain for the abolishment of the Human Rights Act.

Read more about this story here.

4) Benefit pre-payment card trial cancelled in North Tyneside

An attempt to trial pre-paid benefit cards in North Tyneside has been cancelled after only two people volunteered for the scheme.

A great outcome for a trial of the latest attack on welfare claimants, though North Tyneside council claim that the low sign-up was due to ‘inaccurate accusations’ that the cards would be used to target those with drug and alcohol problems.

Bruce Pickard, Deputy Councillor Bruce Pickard, said the council had used pre-paid cards successfully for some residents, and said the cards could help those who struggle to access better prices online as they do not have a full bank account.

“The council said it had no plans to restrict how the card could be used and would not have shared information with the DWP on individual spending. The council needed 250 volunteers to make the project viable.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Website releases information for claimants to combat harassment from DWP

The Sanctioned Jobseeker has released an excellent article detailing how to legally combat harassment and mistreatment by jobcentre advisers and managers.

The Sanctioned Jobseeker the article featuring helpful tips for those who have felt threatened or distressed by their experiences with the organisations, under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997. According to the government legislation, “A person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another, and which knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other”. If a person is found guilty of such acts, they can be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment, a fine, or both.

“Darren Harper, a writer at the Sanctioned Jobseeker, details examples of such acts including: “Jobcentre Plus advisers behaving in a manner which causes you to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened” whether it is the way you are spoken to, specific actions or threatening to stop benefits without reason; “being forced to attend a Work Programme”; and repeatedly called for interviews or even having false accusations made against you.

“In order to file a complaint under the law, evidence must be presented showing that two incidents occurred by the same individual or group, that the offence was conducted against an individual (i.e. yourself) and that the offences were intended to cause distress, oppression and were unreasonable.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Largest property fair to take place in London this week – Let’s Block Boris

Radical Housing Network are staging some protests and demonstrations against the property fair MIPIM where much needed property and land will be sold off to rich investors as more are forced out of their home or face eviction in the UK.

“The world’s largest property fair, known as MIPIM, is coming to London for the first time in its 25-year history. Hundreds of property developers, financiers and politicians – will be welcomed by the Mayor of London – when they converge on Olympia to do deals that allow them to profit from our land and our neighbourhoods.

Join us in our action to Block Boris and other events.

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Find out more at the event page.

 

1) IDS outlines plans for benefit pre-payment cards

Image: celebpictu

Image: celebpictu

Pre-paid benefit cards form the latest assault on benefit claimant freedoms as plans for cards loaded with benefit allowances, but with restrictions on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling are released.

Benefit claimants have not committed a crime, yet these cards seem to propagate the idea that claimants must not access the same things as other citizens. This is following cuts and increases in bureaucracy facing claimants.

“Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it would help those “on the margins break the cycle of poverty”.”

The greatest thing to ‘break the cycle of poverty’ is to not cut allowances to rates way below poverty. To not create an environment of insecure, low and temporary work, to better supply a system that transfers claimants from welfare to work that does not punish them in the short term. To support claimants if they are unwell so that they are able to return to health and find work, rather than create further barriers and suspicion. Indeed, it is IDS’ policies that trap people in poverty, yet the Minister for Work and Pensions remains committed to the undoing of those who have the least.

We do support a pre-paid card for MPs expenses however, as they have demonstrated their inability to handle taxpayer’s money correctly.

Sign the petition to re-think benefit pre-payment cards here.

Read more about this story here.

2) Tory plans to scrap human rights greeted by tabloids

The Express and the Daily Mail (ever the protectors of public interest with stories of scandal and tit-bit gossip often overriding social issues) welcomed Tory plans to scrap the Human Rights Bill, with the Express’ front page decrying “Human Rights Madness To End.”

Image: Huffington Post

Image: Huffington Post

For those that would entertain the idea that the party whom reneged on almost every election promise, have failed to meet their deficit reduction targets and sold £1.5m NHS worth of contracts to acquaintances, should be the ones to preside over the recreation of our basic human rights, we suggest you read the stories linked to below.

“Cameron does not care that a hard-fought and hard-won campaign to keep Scotland in the union finished only last month. The Human Rights Act is written into the Scottish devolution settlement. Mess with it and nationalists would have every right to reopen the argument for independence, just as they would if the Conservatives take us out of the European Union. It is also written into the Good Friday agreement, which ended 30 years of war in Northern Ireland. This is not a document that any person with an understanding of modern history would think of changing for a moment. Cameron is happy to meddle.”

Further, Cameron’s comments that anyone who questions 9/11 or 7/7 or indeed any terrorist attack is a terrorist themselves is the perfect demonstration of the kind of Orwellian control the party are aiming for. Thankfully, several people have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate the absurdity of these comments by handing themselves in to local police, only to be turned away.

Still, this is an important note to remember as Teresa May announces new vetting systems supposedly aimed at ‘extremists’ granting new powers of surveillance on and offline “if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy” – if the questioning of events such as 9/11 brand you a terrorist in the eyes of Cameron, how easy can it be to grant the surveillance and interception of all our communications. This is an assault on our freedoms under the veil of fear and terrorism.

To be honest, the fact that we even have to have a conversation about what Human Rights have done for us, demonstrates the success of the destructions of freedoms thus far. We need to change the direction of this issue. Now.

Read more about this story here.

What have Human Rights ever done for us.

3) Tory party conference

Cassette boy summed it up for us:

4) Midwives to strike after Hunt blocks 1% pay rise

MIdwives will strike following blocks to a 1% pay rise by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The Royal College of Midwives will strike for the first time in it’s 133 year history, with a four hour walkout on 13th October between 7am and 11am, supported by union members representing other NHS staff.

The strike was voted in by a count of four to one.

“This is a resounding yes from our members. It could not send a clearer signal about the level of discontent on this issue to those denying them a very modest 1% pay increase,” said the RCM chief executive, Cathy Warwick.”

The RCM maintains that mothers should not be worried as they will be looked after throughout the strike.

Read more about this story here.

5) Wonga to strike off £220m debt

Pay day lender Wonga will write off £220m in loans following the introduction of new affordability checks.

Wonga has come under fire for practices and lending and will now write off loans that would not have been made under new rules.

A further 45,000 people will not have to pay interest on loans made by Wonga.

Read more about this story here.

6) Employers unable to understand qualifications

Four out of ten employers say they have thrown away CVs because they do not understand qualifications, new research has revealed.

Acronyms and ‘flowery language’ is putting off potential employers. Many cannot tell which qualifications are higher or lower, and some believe that qualifications do not ready candidates for work.

“More than half (57 per cent) of employers questioned by City & Guilds said they found acronyms on CVs confusing, and almost two-thirds said they had to look them up on the internet, while the same percentage said they believed candidates who use jargon on their CVs do it to cover up a lack of skills or qualifications.”

Read more about this story here.

7) Workfare Week of Action gets underway

The Workfare Week of Action is underway. Click here to see what actions you can join – the government is fearing it’s collapse, so let’s make it happen. And if you were confused as to what the action is against, this letter sums it up.

Image: Boycott Workfare

Image: Boycott Workfare

 

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Image: Corporateeurope.org

   

    1.   WHAT IT IS

TTIP is the largest trade deal ever to be done on the history of the planet, between the world’s two largest economies and is the biggest change to happen to the UK since the formation of the EU

    2.   HOW IT IS BEING DONE

Large corporations are meeting with European bureaucrats behind closed doors, agreeing on each piece of a treaty separately.  No one has access to the entire document.  We only know this is occurring thanks to Wikileaks

    3.   WHAT POWER IT WILL GIVE AND TAKE AWAY

In it’s current form the treaty will give corporations the power to sue national governments – like our lot – if they get in the way of making profit

    4.   THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR PAID HOLIDAY!

This means workers’ rights that we have in the UK, like paid holiday, and collective bargaining, could be got rid of as they don’t have them in the US

    5.   AND EVERYTHING ELSE THAT ISN’T NAILED DOWN

Internet freedom, national parks, price controls, food and water regulation, mining and fracking rights, drug production, childcare, the NHS, and pretty much everything else is now on the table

    6.   THIS IS ALREADY HAPPENING

The Australian, Uruguayan, Canadian, El Salvadorean and many other governments have been sued using similar treaties, to fight everything like rights to clean drinking water, to banning fracking, to packaging cigarettes

    7.   BUT IT IS NOWHERE NEAR DONE FOR THIS TREATY

The treaty is nowhere near finished.  It can be scrapped or changed with massive public support – check our longer article for more details

Read What You Need To Know About TTIP here

Thomas Barlow

1) Tories defeated in bedroom tax bill amendment vote

Labour and Lib Dem MPs united to press forward with the Affordable Homes Bill in a vote that went against the Tory agenda on benefits.

The Affordable Homes Bill will amend the bedroom tax policy, making those unable to find a smaller home exempt from the levy.

Image: capita Software

Image: capita Software

Within a few months of the bedroom tax coming in, research showed that up to 96% of families hit by the tax had nowhere to move to, with a fall in building rates, social housing and scarcity of 1-2 bedroom housing.

The idiots that came up with this policy also put in a caveat that those affected would be unable to move until arrears are paid. And so a family that can and would move into a smaller house to avoid the charge and do as the government wants, can’t move if they are in arrears from the bedroom tax and so a cycle of debt ensues that benefits no one.

And while it is incredible that a policy this dedicated to causing debt and stress to the worst off ever made it through the gate, it caused far less furore in Parliament that those complaining about a mansion tax that would help pay for the NHS shortfall. Double standards, indeed.

Read more about this story here.

2) JRF call for independent body to hold government to account for record on poverty

 Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

A new report released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation entitled ‘A UK without poverty’ recommends that the Office for Budget Responsibility monitors and forecasts poverty rates in the UK.

“The publication says successive government’s attempts to tackle poverty have not been good enough, with overall levels of poverty similar now to what they were 25 years ago.

“This is a waste of human potential, a strain on the public purse, and it means the UK economy does not function as well as it could – child poverty alone costs the country £29 billion a year.”

See the report here.

3) Osborne set to miss deficit reduction target again as UK borrowing rises

An increase in UK borrowing thought to be fuelled by weak tax receipts may see the chancellor bring in even heavier cuts to meet targets before 2015 election.

“Weak tax receipts pushed borrowing to £11.6bn in August excluding bank bailouts, £700m more than a year earlier according to the Office for National Statistics. Borrowing in the fiscal year so far, from April to August, was £45.5bn, £2.6bn higher than the same period last year.

“Economists said the poor start to the year had put at risk the Treasury’s official target of reducing borrowing to £95.5bn in 2014-15 from £105.8bn in 2013-14. Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said Osborne had “a mighty tough job” on his hands to meet the target.”

Somehow we’re not surprised, but this may mean that Osbourne will push deep and quick before the election to implement damaging and destructive cuts to the worst off to pay for his failures.

Read more about this story here.

3) Cameron to cut public funds from Scotland

Promises made to Scottish voters in the final hours before polling stations opened for the referendum on independence, are being hacked away at by Cameron who now says he will cut funding to Scotland.

Cameron claimed he would use the Barnett formula as a way of spreading funding in order to convince Scottish voters to stay in the union. However since then, Tory MPs and backbenchers  have voiced their anger with the policy which would grant an extra £1600 per head in Scotland more than England.

Read more about this story here.

4) Focus E15 mothers garner national support

A group of mothers who were threatened with eviction from their hostel without help or promise of a suitable home are due in court this week and asking for help, whilst staging an occupation against their eviction in a campaign for more social housing and suitable, affordable homes.

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See what they’re up to and how you could help at their Facebook page here.

5) Farage pulls ‘wag tax’ days after announcement

UKIP plans to introduce a tax on luxury goods such as shoes and handbags, dropped plans soon after their announcement claiming they were only a ‘discussion point.’ UKIP subsequently went back to imitating and hardening Tory ideals.
 
“However, the major event of the conference was the defection to Ukip of Tory rightwinger Mark Reckless, and the main policy announcements appeared to be aimed at the right, including scrapping inheritance tax and lowering income tax rates in a way that would mainly benefit wealthier voters. The £12bn of proposed cuts would be paid for by slashing foreign aid and leaving the European Union.”
Image: Wear Red

Image: Wear Red

6) Harry Leslie Smith brings Labour conference to tears as he recounts life before the NHS

One of the most touching and truthful speeches you will ever see on the reasons why our NHS is so important and needs protecting, from a 91-year old Second World War veteran.