Thursday, 9 September 2021

A black week in September

If ever there is research to determine which was the most dismal week in British political history this first week in September 2021 will be hard to beat.

In it the government has announced it will break its manifesto pledge to raise the state pension by at least the rate of price inflation, wage inflation or 2.5%, whichever is the greater.  The defining  rate of wage inflation is 8%, so out goes the pledge and we're to get 2.5% instead.  

The problem is not so much the breaking of a manifesto pledge: the Doctrine of the Manifesto has always been rather dodgy.  Governments  huff and puff about it when it suites them (and rebel backbenchers and  the House of Lords must not dare to interfere with  this sacred commitment to the sovereign electorate) but are happy to ignore it, as in his case, when it is inconvenient . 

The real problem is that the UK's state pension, £179.60 per week,  is no enough to live on.  it would be interesting to see Jacob Rees Mogg and the like try. It does not bear international scrutiny.  It is only 29% of average UK earnings, compared with 49% in the US, 50% in Germany, 74% in France (Vive la Revolution) and an OECD average of 58%.   

 A caring government, genuinely  interested in "levelling up," would have been happy to use these admittedly freak circumstances to give our state pension a much need boost.

Secondly the Commons approved an Electoral Reform Bill which makes it harder for people to vote by requiring us to produce photographic ID, which apparently about 2 million people,  largely ones less likely to vote Conservative, don't routinely  have, and makes the Electoral Commission which looks into alleged  election irregularities  subject to the whims of the government in power. 

The existing Reform Bills, starting in 1832,  are the jewellery in our limping progress towards greater democracy. This is the first to  reduce rather than increase the quality of our democracy.    

Had a marginaly left-of-centre government  attempted something similar there would be outrage.

But the big news of the week has been the announcement of new provisions to pay for and improve Social Care. 

The means of paying for it are to be an increase in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) by 1.25%  -  incidentally the breaking of yet another manifesto pledge.  

NICs are generally  agreed to be the least fair tax  in the quiver.  They are regressive. Effectively the taxes on the lowest earners  are being increased to enable the well-heeled to bequeath their houses to their (already well-heeled?) offspring.  "Fairness"  is claimed because the increase also applies to capital gains and other forms unearned income.  What is not mentioned is that these are taxed at  between 10% to 28% whereas income for wage earners is taxed at 20%, 40% and 45%.

Taxing  unearned income at the same rate as earned income would have been one possibility to finance Social Care provision.  There are many others (land taxes, wealth taxes, pollution taxes, to name but some).

 Although the Social Care reforms were claimed to be "ready, once and for all" two years ago, there are in fact few details on how they are to be achieved.  For the first three years most of the money is going to the NHS to finance the "unprecedented" backlog created by the pandemic.  That provision could easily become permanent, and then where would we be for Social Care?

Just to clinch the awfulness of the week, permission has been given of the water companies to discharge  inadequately treated sewage into our rivers becasue the supply chain of an essential chemical, ferric sulphate, has been disrupted by Brexit.  And Lord Fox has unilaterally decided to ignore for a further but now unspecified period parts of the Irish Protocol to which he agreed and parliament approved less than a year ago.

So much for the levelling-up government of world beating sovereign Britain. 


PS. Not on this topic, but no-one seems to find any irony in the solemn sermons we are aiming at  the Taliban that they will be judged by their deeds not their words.  Johnson, heal thyself.


  1. My interpretation of Johnsons behaviour in all things is the aim of maintaining power and privilege to those who already have it and to keep the masses down.