Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Sympathetic Noose: Gideon shows his colours

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The ConDem government claims to be ‘progressive’. It is nothing of the kind. Led by no less than three public school boys in Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, this is rule by bankers and the rich in the interests of bankers and the rich. Gideon Osborne, the 18th baronet of Ballentaylor (old Anglo-Irish aristocracy), has unveiled an ‘emergency budget’ that strangles the poor while delivering handouts to the rich.

Sympathetic
This budget is sprinkled with minor measures that seem to help the poorest. State pensions are to be linked to earnings or rise by 2.5%. This is welcome but goes nowhere near addressing the poverty that pensioners are in after more than 20 years of pensions getting smaller. Those earning under £7,475 per year will now be exempt from income tax.

The only way that these can be considered ‘progressive’ is by reference to the appalling record of New Labour in tackling poverty while in government.

The noose
The reality of this budget for working people is that we will be expected to pay for the bailout of the banks. VAT is to rise to 20% - this is regressive taxation as it will affect everyone regardless of income so hits the poor hardest. It is the taxation model of the poll tax. This rise alone will wipe out any gains in state pensions.

Public sector workers are to suffer a pay freeze for two years, when most are already underpaid. For those earning under £21,000, there will be a flat £250 pay rise (again this does not cover the rise in VAT alone). There will be 25% cuts in most government departments, which signal more job losses, so raising the welfare needs in society.

While we suffer a housing crisis, the ConDems will not help. Instead, Gideon the aristocrat will put a cap on housing benefit with no recognition that the lack of council houses is the factor pushing private sector rents up and raising the cost of housing benefit. Child benefit is to be frozen for three years in a country with the highest level of child poverty in Europe. The general linking of benefits to the Consumer Prices Index is designed to stop benefit rises so contributing the extending poverty in Britain.

Paying the hangman
While there are cuts for the poor, the rich are given even more tax breaks. Capital Gains Tax is an instrument for taxing wealth which is created when selling stocks, bonds or property. It taxes speculators. Yet the ConDems have decided to increase the loophole that allows the rich to only pay 10% on the first £5 million. Before 1998, it was normal to pay 40%, the same rate as income tax for the rich at the time.

Corporation Tax is a tax on profits, which have risen for the richest in the recession. The banks were recording multi billion pound profits even as they demanded bailouts. New Labour started cutting this tax for the rich and the ConDems have gone further reducing it to 24% over the next four years.

The Chancellor has proposed a banking levy from January 2011 but this will only be £2 billion and it is unclear whether it will be a ‘one-off’ levy. When set against the banking bailout, it is ridiculously small and ineffectual. The National Audit Office puts the actual cost at £850 billion, including £76billion given to Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds to buy their worthless shares, £200 billion to increase credit (a measure that failed), £250 billion to guarantee bank borrowing, £40 billion in loans to failing banks and £280 billion to insure banking debt (which could be as high as £2 trillion).

This is a budget that cuts the services, jobs and pay of the poorest while handing out tax breaks and handshakes to the rich.

Respect’s alternative
The public debt is £903 billion. Most of this is a result of the banking bailout and the increased cost of unemployment to the state. There need to be more jobs not less. Respect would start a programme to convert Britain to environmentally friendly power with the aim of creating 1 million jobs. It rejects the idea of cutting public sector jobs.

Respect would launch a council house building and renovation programme which would create jobs, homes and relieve the rent burden on housing benefit.

The banks and energy companies are getting away with huge rip-offs. Respect would raise Corporation Tax back to 30% (which would bring in £130 billion per year) and introduce the Robin Hood tax of 0.5% on financial dealings in the City. This would bring in an estimated £250 billion. Respect would also clamp down on tax evasion by the richest, which cost the UK more than £100 billion per year.

There is no need to cut public services or benefits. There is no need to tax the poor.   

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

RELEASE THESE HEROES NOW

The Respect Party is calling on the British government to act urgently to secure the release of 28 British nationals who are confirmed missing after the Israeli assault on the Gaza aid flotilla. These were members and supporters of Viva Palestina, the Free Gaza movement and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. So far, the Foreign Office has failed to reply to urgent requests for information regarding the fate of these heroic volunteers.

All were aboard ships taking 10,000 tonnes of construction materials and human assistance to Gaza in defiance of the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade. The flotilla was attacked in international waters and so far 19 aid volunteers are known to have died. This was an act of piracy and murder.

All five ships were boarded, commandeered and towed to Ashdod port in Israel . The aid was confiscated and all the aid volunteers were arrested. The Israeli government has failed to release any information on their whereabouts or health so they are missing at this time. The full list of those who we know are missing is below.

Among them is Kevin Ovenden, the international coordinator and leading force in the creation and development of Viva Palestina. He has led three aid convoys to break the siege of Gaza since March 2009 and is the epitome of tireless heroism and sacrifice in support of Palestine .

Kevin is a hugely influential and cherished comrade in the Respect Party. He is a member of the Executive Committee, the National Council and a leading figure in Tower Hamlets Respect. He led the Viva Palestina group that joined the Gaza aid flotilla this week and carries the pride and passion of our entire party and movement with dignity and intelligence in this daring mission.

We demand the immediate release of Kevin Ovenden. The Respect Party has firm information that Kevin was unharmed in the assault on the flotilla and we expect his unharmed release from detention forthwith.

We demand the release of all those detained in this murderous attack. These people are heroes who have risked everything to help Palestine . They will be honoured upon return. In particular, we draw attention to Ahsan Shamruk, who travelled with Viva Palestina and was injured in the attack. He is reported to be in a stable condition and we send our thoughts and wishes for his safe return home. 

The full list of British nationals (provisional) is as follows:
Laura Macdonald Stuart
Ebrahim Musaji
Jamal Sayed
Parveen Yaqub
Baboo Adem Zanghar
Ahsan Shamruk
Mustafa Cengiz Ahmet
Tauqir Sharif
Boudejma Bounoua
Mohammad Bounoua
Sakir Yildirim
Kenneth O'Keefe
Ali El-Awaisi
Mohammed Bhaiyat
Lort Phillips Alexandra Mary
Sarah Nancy Colborne
Ismail Adam Patel
Nader Daher
Mahi Mohammed Abid
Nur-E-Azom Choudhury
Kevin Ovenden
Peter Venner
Clifford Gardner Hanley
Muzzammil Layth Chogley
Jamaluddin Mohammad Farid Elshayyal
Hassan Al Banna Ghani
Lazrag Salah
Ali Altan