Nick Clegg

“Give our public sector workers a pay rise!”

The big news this week in the world of British Politics has been over the 1% pay cap on public sector workers. If you’re wondering what the heck is a 1% pay cap, take a seat while this blog post gives you the lowdown…

What is the 1% pay cap on public sector workers?

The cap, first introduced by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in 2013 replaced a two-year pay freeze as part of a wide-ranging austerity package introduced by the coalition government. What this means is many public sector workers since the introduction of the pay cap have not seen a rise in their wages as the cap permits a 1% per cent annual increase in public sector pay. However the wages of those in the private sector has increased ever so slightly in comparison. Take a look at the diagram below…

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

Graph depicts percentage changes between the private and public sector. Source: Source: ONS – Annual % changes in three month average regular pay

 

So why all the fuss now? 

In line with recent tragedies in Manchester, Westminster, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and the fire at Grenfell Tower, our emergency services have been praised by politicians and civilians alike. Everyday and especially in dire times, our public servants go above and beyond which is why many politicians have called for their hard efforts to be recognised by lifting the 1% pay cap to ensure all public servants receive a pay rise.

Senior MPs such as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary, Michael Gove are amongst many Conservative cabinet ministers and backbench MPs  who are calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to consider lifting the 1% pay cap for public sector workers. Although Johnson and Gove did not out-rightly suggest the cap should be lifted for all 5.1m public sector workers, they have encouraged Theresa May to listen to an upcoming report by pay review bodies, which most likely will recommend the government lift the cap when it is published later this month. In the  Conservative Party manifesto, they had committed to keeping the cap until 2020.

The Labour Party  have also called for the cap to be lifted as they proposed an amendment to the Queen’s speech calling for an end to the pay cap, however it was rejected by 323 MPs in a vote in the House of Commons as the DUP voted in line with the Conservative Party as part of their informal coalition. In response to Labour’s defeated amendment, the leader of the Party, Jeremy Corbyn, commented:

“Tonight, the Conservatives had an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, by ending cuts to our police and fire service and lifting the public sector pay cap.

“Although government ministers said they had learned the lessons of the general election and were listening to voters, it is clear that nothing has changed.

They had the perfect opportunity to walk the walk, but instead they marched through the lobby to show Tory austerity is business as usual.

While the money is there when the Conservatives need it to keep themselves in office, the rest of the country now face more devastating cuts to our emergency and other vital services.

The Conservatives clearly plan to keep working for a privileged few. Only Labour is ready to form a government that will work for the many.”

 

Despite pressures from the two major political parties, No. 10 Downing Street (where Prime Minister Theresa May resides) have confirmed there will be no changes to the pay cap. The Prime Minister’s spokesman has said they are “working through recommendations” from the public sector pay review bodies and would respond to those recommendations “in due course”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that increasing public sector pay in line with the private sector would cost an extra £6.3bn a year. Some might say if Theresa May can find an extra £1.5bn to keep her position as Prime Minister, she could surely offer the same courtesy and allow public sector workers to have some stability through their pay. But hey, it’s not like we don’t have nurses and teachers leaving the profession, seeking employment across the pond and risking the future of our younger generation…

In addition to the 1% annual rise, some NHS staff also get gradual increases in their pay as they progress in their roles.

The public sector employs millions of people both within central government and local government. This includes:

  • NHS workers (domestic staff, porters, administrators, nurses, doctors etc)
  • Teachers and those who work in education
  • Law enforcement and security
  • Social Services
  • Armed Forces
  • Police
  • Fire Service
  • Justice

And many more…

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the pay review bodies should consider a pay rise for public sector workers in line with the rise in average earnings across the economy.

Other things you may have missed…

Along with Brexit negotiations, the UK government has decided to pull out of the London Fisheries Convention which allows foreign countries to fish in British waters. The Convention was signed in 1964, before the UK joined the EU; withdrawal will take two years. Under the convention, vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands are permitted to fish within six and 12 nautical miles off the UK coastline. British vessels will also lose the right to fish in the waters of other nations. Environment Secretary Michael Gove says the withdrawal will let the UK “take back control of our fishing policies”. But Greenpeace UK warned the move alone would not deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry. Looks like the UK really is ‘taking back control’…

 

On the subject of ‘taking back control’…

The government has reportedly dropped its ‘have cake and eat it‘ approach to Brexit, as ongoing negotiations have caused the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) to now accept that Britain must choose between privileged market access and political control in Brexit talks with the European Union. This change of thinking within the government represents a clear departure from the early negotiating position set out by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech in January. May suggested that Britain would be able to negotiate a Brexit deal based on full access to the European single market without concessions over immigration and payments to the EU. Civil servants have reportedly since told government officials they face a choice between a deal based on preferential access to the single market but surrendering demands for independent immigration and leaving the ECJ, or a “taking back control” agreement cutting all ties with the EU but with a less favourable trade deal.

 

Pensions minister, Guy Opperman, has been criticised for his suggestion that millions of women under the age of 60 who face cuts to their state pension should take up apprenticeships in order to re-enter employment. His comments were made at a debate in Westminster Hall to discuss the changes to the law which will mean the state pension age will rise from 60 to 66 by 2020, delaying access to pensions for women born in the 1950s. SNP minister, Mhairi Black has campaigned frequently against the change in law and had told MPs if the Conservatives could find £1bn to strike a deal with the DUP, they could afford to give women the pensions they are due. Despite many ministers across the political parties arguing the changes are unfair, Mr Opperman says the government is committed to “life-long learning” and will make no concessions.

 

The German Green party, which had pushed for LGBT rights for decades, finally got their victory after the German parliament voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage by 393 votes to 226 with four abstentions. As it was a free vote, lawmakers were permitted to vote according to their conscience rather than obeying party lines. The vote which permits LGBT people to marry and adopt was called by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition allies the Social Democrats (SDP). However, Merkel voted against the move. Congrats Germany! 🇧🇪🌈

Who says this blog only comments on British Politics eh! 😉

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Reflection on the General Election

So since my last post, Britain (well 24% of the electorate) voted for a Conservative government, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband both resigned as party leaders and Nigel Farage didn’t win Thanet (Oh and he stepped down as leader too, but only for 3 days). With all that happened, many questions emerged like why did Labour lose the election? Why were the opinion polls so wrong? Many politicians and observers have given their opinions since the election results were announced but its fair to say, there are things which need to be investigated, particularly within the Labour Party. Did they lose their sense of direction? Is socialism dead?

It’s worth reading this commentary on Labour’s defeat.

To be fair, the campaigning Labour did throughout the course of the election was overwhelming, but as the results have shown, it didn’t extend beyond London. The party most importantly failed to defend their role in the 2008 financial crisis and allowed Cameron and crew to spit all over them. That is important because Labour is traditionally seen as economically incompetent. However, the message that Labour failed to deliver was that the financial crisis occurred on a global scale, and most probably would have happened if there had been a Conservative government in office at the time.

After the party’s defeat, many turned to Ed Miliband as the cause of the party’s failure, but that may have been a but too harsh. The thing is, everyone (including Labour party supporters and politicians) were quick to come up with the reasons why the party failed to win a majority, but if we all noticed these issues, why weren’t they addressed sooner rather than later? Whether it’s Miliband’s lack of persona or the awkward #Edstone, the party’s failure, it seems, lay at their inability to emulate their predecessor, Tony Blair. Now, i know many do not like to talk about Blair because he led us into the Iraq war and all, but you cannot question his leadership style. It was under Blair that the Conservatives had to go through three leaders (William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith & Michael Howard) before it found David Cameron who tried and succeeded in emulating Blair’s style, politically and charismatically. Let’s also not forget Blair’s ability to get Murdoch eating at the palm of his hand. But seriously, Blair is the only modern political leader in Britain who had been able to resonate with everyone, irrespective of social class. Miliband on the other hand created a campaign based on an ‘us vs them’ which could have worked, but there is the small issue of people wanting to appear better off than they actually are. In short, in order for Labour to be a successful opposition party, it now needs to learn how to emulate the Conservatives (not by being an upper class snobbish party) but by recognising why the electorate seem to stick to the devil they know, and how they would create change for everyone, not just the working man.

We’ve all voted. We know who’s in government, but what now? What does a Conservative government mean for all of us? Well, for starters we no longer have Nick Clegg and the liberals to halt the passing of legislature that would be detrimental to ordinary folk like the axing of the Human Rights Act which would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights according to the party’s manifesto. If this specific mandate were to become law, it would mean that citizens would no longer be able to go to the European Court of Human Rights to appeal a court decision made by the UK Supreme Courts, giving legal sovereignty to UK courts. The idea of the UK Supreme Court having the final word has also evoked fear of corruption between politicians and judges.

Other Conservative Party policies that are likely to go ahead include:

  • Referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU
  • More devolved powers to Scotland – ‘The Scotland Bill’
  • Reducing the annual benefits cap by £3,000 to £23,000 and removing housing benefit from under-21s on jobseeker’s allowance
  • Taking out of income tax anyone working 30 hours a week on minimum wage by linking the personal allowance to the national minimum wage
  • New education bill to “force coasting schools to accept new leadership”
  • A housing bill to extend the right to buy to 1.3 million housing association tenants
  • A bill to double free childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

One thing’s for sure, Labour and other anti-Tory individuals and groups have to become more united than ever over the next five years as more cuts and austerity measures are expected to be rolled out. It will also be interesting to see how the Labour leadership contest plays out. It is disappointing that Chuka Ummuna pulled out of the contest as i think he would of been a great candidate, but what Labour now needs is someone who can shake things up a bit like Tony Blair. The leader of the Labour Party needs to be able to know what direction the party is going in, defend its economic history and fight for the people – the working and middle classes. Does it need to be centrist? Possibly, considering the left stance Miliband had clearly didn’t resonate. In short, Labour needs to redefine its political position in terms of what and who it stands for. And fast.

Let the General Election commence!

The first official day of campaigning began this week, and of course began the torrents of confusion, insults and misinformation.

On Monday, Cameron handed in his notice to the Queen to begin 38 days of campaigning ahead of May’s general election. With polls suggesting another hung Parliament, which party will lead the way?

Here’s a quick explanation of who the main contenders are in the upcoming election:

Let’s start with current Prime Minister,  David Cameron’s party, the Conservatives. Known for their love of tradition and pragmatism, will they jeopardise the future of the NHS and continue to target families on low incomes with more cuts? Or are they going to finally do something about those controversial tax avoidance loopholes at the expense of the rich 1%? Will the recent news of economic growth work in their favour? There is no doubt when people feel worse off, and wages fail to meet the increased rate of food prices, a lot of questions become unanswered. It also doesn’t help their ‘favouring the rich’ image when George Osborne fails to rule out a tax cut for Britain’s highest earners.

Then we have the Labour Party, a party traditionally for working people, but historically associated with their economic incompetence. Could Ed be the one to transform the party’s stereotypical image? Let’s not forget his promise to lower tuition fees to £6,000; we all know how that turned out for Nick Clegg…

Is this issue of tuition fees a subject which shouldn’t be promised in election manifestos and only delivered when a leader is in office?

Talking of tuition fees, Nick Clegg’s party, The Liberal Democrats, are set to lose most of their seats in London, with Vince Cable (Business Secretary) as the sole MP.

Credit: ITV News

Are the Liberal Democrats a party that can no longer resonate with people? There is no doubt many past Lib Dem supporters felt betrayed after Clegg and Cameron created a coalition government, so it’ll be interesting to see what alliances are made in May…

What about the ‘rise of UKIP’? Farage already has a growing team of 2 MPs who defected from the Conservative Party. But, is this a real threat to the majority two party system here in the UK? Probably.

There’s no doubt that the upcoming election is hard to call, with minority parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru also getting involved in the TV debates and conspiracy over who might do deals with who.

On Thursday, there was also that all-important leaders’ debate in which all leaders of the seven political parties got the opportunity to scrutinise each other as well as answering questions from audience members. If you missed it, sit back, relax and enjoy 🙂

So now you’ve watched the showdown, who do you think won? More importantly, who has a better vision for Britain? I shall refrain from being biased of course…

But if you are unsure of what each party is exactly promising to deliver on May 7, here is a detailed manifesto brief courtesy of BBC News – Manifesto watch: where parties stand on key issues

Whatever your political views, this is sure to be an election you don’t want to miss. So make sure you get involved and if you haven’t done so yet, register to vote before 20th April 2015!

Clegg changed his mind like a girl changes clothes

This week, Deputy PM Nick Clegg changed his position on the Bedroom Tax, stating on his #CallClegg LBC radio show that “when something isn’t working the way we hoped, we should fix it”. A bit late aren’t you Clegg? However, this is no surprise as back in 2010, one of Mr Clegg’s election promises was to decrease tuition fees but as soon as the coalition was formed, he signed the agreement to increase them. I must say, he does make a habit of going back on his word. Hypocrisy some may call it… despite his apology *cringe*

But what exactly is the Bedroom Tax and what’s the fuss? Bedroom Tax is part of the government’s welfare reform which cuts the amount of benefit people can get if they have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.  Since the reform was passed in April last year, it has affected many households – an internal government review found that 60% of households affected by the tax found themselves in increasing debt, cutting back on essential household items and borrowing money from pay day loans to make up the difference.

There has also been recent news coverage of disabled tenants who have had no choice but to downsize as a result of the tax, despite needing the spare room for the carers that assist in their day-to-day living. Those affected also include parents whose children visit but are not part of the household and separated parents who share the care of their children. To find out more, click here.

Indecisive Clegg: The Deputy Prime Minister announced the Liberal Democrats’ change of heart to the Bedroom Tax

Now the fuss.. It was Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat’s support of the Bedroom Tax that allowed it to be enforced, which of course means if the party had opposed the reform in the first place, it would not have been passed and many families would not have been affected by it. So what now? Well Labour has always opposed the reform, with Ed Miliband promising to repeal the tax if the Labour party win the next general election. For the Liberal Democrats, this u-turn only further proves that they are an indecisive party, losing supporters in their numbers. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for the conservatives to run rings around Clegg? Either way, with the general election next May, Clegg needs to up his game and be consistent about it.

Alright the Lib Dems don’t have a chance, but hey, let’s not kick a man when he’s down.