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The Bedroom Tax Explained

In April 2013 the Conservatives introduced a change in the housing benefit rules for local social housing residents called the under-occupancy penalty. Critics like Labour dubbed it the bedroom tax. Since it has been introduced, families who are regarded to have too much living space by their local authority have received a reduced payment. Families are assessed to as how many bedrooms they actually need. The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple. Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender, and those under 10 are expected to share whatever their gender

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ukip

Why I am Voting UKIP

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

It’s not popular to be a young person voting for UKIP. According to polls they barely pick up 3% of the people of my age-group, and my age group are far more likely to be in favor of membership of the EU. A lot of them will be affiliated with the National Union of Students, an organization that has spent more time condemning UKIP than ISIS, partly inspired in this by the toxic ideology of “political correctness”.

Well I guess I must be the one who looks at the emperor’s new clothes critically (a beautiful metaphor before Russell Brand used it). The new clothes do not deal with many of the problems the main political parties won’t talk about- because they aren’t listening. That the size of the state and its debt is unsustainably large and cannot be continued- and we’ll be the ones paying the bill. That punitive taxes and EU regulations are killing the economy far quicker than any “austerity” the Tories may be implementing. And more importantly- who you vote for this election doesn’t matter nearly as much as the main three parties pretend it does, because the EU is making far too many of our big decisions. One may claim that last year’s European Parliament elections were important, but the chamber you see Nigel Farage yell in so much is merely a rubber-stamping organization for the wishes of the Commission. Since UKIP will never be taken seriously in an organization that puts EU integration before common sense, I do not blame UKIP MEPs for abandoning that rotten chamber, and refusing to vote for any resolution that will increase the power of the EU. They have far more important things to do with their time.

UKIP, to me, isn’t really about left or right- it’s about change. A move away from big government but in a way that helps the most vulnerable in society- not the richest. A reassertion of National Sovereignty and the right of the people to be ruled only by elected representatives- something that used to appeal to all from Enoch Powell to Tony Benn. An appeal for global trade, not just trade with a narrow group of nations with a similar cultures to ours.

Is UKIP perfect? Of course not. Do I agree with all the policies they want to implement? Not really. But if I do not use my vote, I’m simply letting someone else speak up for the establishment on my behalf, and so I do not feel I have the luxury of being an ideological purist in this life-changing election of all elections. So I know it won’t make me many friends. And I’ll get called a lot of names for it. But I’m voting for UKIP in these mock elections, and in all future elections I can after that.

The Chief Press Officer of Woodhouse Mock Election UKIP branch.

Liberal democrat

Why I am Voting for the Liberal Democrats

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

British Liberalism is rather in trouble. A force that gave us prosperity, social democracy and human rights are under systematic attacks from both left and right. It was Tony Blair who introduced the ID Cards Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (amongst others) which undermined our civil liberties given to us since Magna Carta. The Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act, leave the European Convention of Human rights and scapegoat immigrants for everything, taking us back to the 1930’s on every which way possible it would seem. UKIP are stirring up fears about immigrants and homosexuals, as can be displayed by their leader’s comments on the debate recently. The supposedly libertarian Greens say “there are difficulties with the liberal approach… it has failed”.

No Liberal Democrats are not perfect. Yes ISIS and Putin both pose legitimate threats to world Security, and yes, and there are those within our borders who wish to do us harm. But it is liberalism that they hate and our liberal values we must never abandon to appease them.

 

It is far more productive to emphasis our achievements within the coalition rather than decry our failures. The Liberal Democrats achieved a lot while in government- we legislated the EU powers act which means no longer will democratic farces like the Lisbon Treaty happen. We got the best deal for students we could against a party that wanted to put tuition fees even higher and cut student living allowances (something the Liberal Democrats increased). While the Tories cut taxes for millionaires, we also increased the tax free allowance to £10,000, reducing the tax bill for millions of working class families.

 

It is clear that neither Conservative or Labour will win this election. So who do you want with access to ministerial keys propping them up? Farage the xenophobe who will drive the Tories to the right? Bennet the lunatic who will drag Labour into even more borrowing? Salmond the seperetatist who will drag this union apart? Or the Liberal Democrats, whom, like it or not, have proved they can do it, and will put country before party, ensuring that we get a moderate government for the full five years that can ensure good quality government. With your help- we can be the 3rd largest party in British politics- to ensure a balanced budget and a fair society.

green party

Why I am voting for the Green Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

I’ve always been on the left wing libertarian side of the political spectrum, but that gives you a decision – Labour or Green? For me, the overwhelming reason that lead to my eventual membership of the Green Party in January 2015, was a question a friend who was already a Green Party member asked me – ‘How many planets do we have?’. And this got me thinking, because we do only have one planet, and even quick research on climate change can bring up indisputable and terrifying facts, which none of the mainstream parties seem to care about. Before the 2010 election, Cameron promised to be environmentally conscious, but since his appointment at Prime Minister, not one of his speeches has mentioned the environment. Arguably, Blair’s attitude was equally as PR motivated as Cameron’s, with promises that haven’t been fulfilled. My generation hasn’t been the people to affect the environment like it has been, but we are the generation who will have to live with the effects of climate change, and the Green Party seem to be the only party in Westminster who care.

But my support of the Greens, despite originally being due to their environmental policies, has expanded into other regions. The Green Party is anti-privatization, against university tuition fees, believes in a living wage rather than a minimum wage and wants to create jobs for the millions unemployed in Britain, among others. In short, the Green Party are investing in Generation Y’s future, instead of searching for the grey vote like the Tories and Labour. I believe strongly that to invest in the youth is to invest in the future, but there’s not really much point investing in a future if we don’t have a planet to live it out on. Luckily, people seem to be coming to this conclusion with me. The Green surge, of January 2015, where 13000 members signed up in a week, shows this. If people voted Green, I’m certain that our country would be in a better place.

By Lola May- Green Party Candidate for the Woodhouse Mock Elections

Tory

Why I am voting for the Conservative Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

When the Conservative Party took power in 2010, Britain had the highest deficit in Europe. It was expected that Britain would be worst hit by the financial crisis because, after all, our key export is financial services. After 5 years of competent planning on the part of Cameron and Osborne, we’re now the fastest growing economy in the G8, we’ve created more jobs than every other Eurozone country combined, and the deficit has been cut by 1/3. Inflation, running rampant under Brown, is now down to 0% and this means the “Cost of living” may very well fall for millions of working class families Labour claim to care about.

A lot of what we’re criticized for is simple fairness. Raising the tuition fees to £9,000 a year has allowed standards for universities to increase. For people who do not wish to go to university- we have created alternative careers such as the significant expansion of apprenticeships The misnamed “Bedroom Tax” was merely applying the same rules to public housing assistance to those already applied in the public sector under New Labour. Cutting welfare fairly has also encouraged more people to get a job- removing them from the squalor and poverty that arises from dependence on the government.

Let us be optimistic. Things do get better. The current government has worked very well, and it is all very well voting for more middle class parties such as the Greens, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats. But only two people can be Prime Minister come May 7th- David Cameron or Ed Miliband. I sincerely hope it is the former.

By Anonymous

labour

Why I am Voting for the Labour Party

This article is one of a series about why Lower 6th students are voting for a particular party in this Thursdays Mock elections. Please find the “Parties” section of the website for other articles in the series.

A lot of people are disillusioned with Politics because there is a perception that the two parties are exactly the same. Perhaps this was true before 2010, but since Ed Miliband has been elected leader he has taken Labour significantly to the left away from the failures of New Labour. Likewise, Cameron has taken it to the right under the influence of UKIP, and consequently there are now clear differences between the two parties.

For example, how our parties will balance the budget and deal with our skyrocketing debt is different, and significant for the future of the country. The Tories have done so by making cuts which hit the poorest in society, and they fail on their own terms by hardly making a dent in the welfare budget. The bedroom tax is the best example of this. When accounting for the emergencies and bureaucracy enforcing it costs, the sanction barely saves any money at all. The cuts to frontline services have reduced economic growth, and the lax labour market regulations have resulted in several low-paid jobs, chiefly 0 hour contracts with more in-work benefits needing to be claimed, and less money going to the Treasury in Income Tax. This coalition, formed to remove the deficit entirely, has barely cut it below £100 billion.

Labour are going to go about it a different way. Labour would raise the tax rate to 50p on the wealthiest, so that the rich are paying for the crisis they caused, not the poor. Additionally they will remove non-domicile status, so if you live in this country, you pay tax in this country. The Labour Party will ban most 0 hour contracts and will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and this will result in a decrease in the welfare budget as more people get decent paying jobs. This will also increase the tax bill to the Treasury and check the rampant inequality growing under the present government. Strict Labour market regulations and high taxes on the rich paid back large amounts of British debt between 1945 and 1979 at paying off debts, why would it not work now? It’s better than Cameron’s austerity which clearly is not working.
A lot of personal attacks have been made on Miliband, and yes, he isn’t the most photogenic leader in the world. But is that really what we judge politics on? He’s more than capable of leadership; he’s shown that by standing up to David Cameron and Barack Obama over foreign policy, Rupert Murdoch over illegal phone tapping and wealthy hedge fund managers who fund the Tories so they can dodge taxes.

Unlike smaller left wing parties such as the Greens, Labours policies are actually practical, achievable and good for the economy. Ideological politics nearly destroyed this country in the 1980’s, when Thatcher pursued Monetarism against all the evidence it did not work, and I doubt a left-wing ideologue such as George Galloway or Natalie Bennett would fare much better. Ed Miliband is a problem solver, not an ideologue, and that’s why I hope he becomes Prime Minister.

horse

How effective an electoral system is FPTP

An electoral system is a system in which voters transfer their votes into seats or positions. There are five main electoral systems which are used in the United Kingdom; first past the post (FPTP); supplementary vote (SV); single transferable vote (STV); additional member system (AMS) and closed party list. It is the First Past the Post system which is employed to elect MPs to the House of Commons and is used for local elections in England and Wales. Under first-past-the-post, the UK or local authority is divided into numerous voting areas, i.e. constituencies or wards. At a general or local election, voters put a cross (X) next to their preferred candidate on a ballot paper. The ballot papers are then counted and the candidate that has received the most votes is elected to represent the constituency or ward.

Evaluating the FPTP system in terms of proportionality, one of its main criticisms is that individuals can be elected and parties can achieve a governing majority of parliamentary seats in Westminster or their local authority even though they have not received the majority of the votes, and -in fact- most members of Parliament are elected with less than 50% of the total votes cast in their constituency. Or take for example the 2005 general election, in which Labour won its third consecutive victory under Tony Blair, but with a popular vote of 32.5%, the lowest of any majority government in British history.

The problem of proportionality links in with the choice which voters have. Another problem with the FPTP system is that it works to the advantage of political parties whose support is concentrated in certain areas, and favours the main two parties. The Labour vote is concentrated in inner cities and industrial regions, with the Conservative vote being across the south-east and rural England. Constituencies in these areas usually develop into ‘safe seats’ over time, and there are three-hundred-and-eighty-two of these in the United Kingdom (more than ½ of the 650 seats up for grabs this election!). Safe seats can lead to laziness from political parties, who feel they no longer have to campaign strongly in an area, and can also lead to people feeling that their voice no longer counts for much in politics, thus, leading to discouragement and potentially voter apathy. There may be low voter turnout in safe seats if people know that their party of preference will never win in that seat. Many feel for such reasons that the FPTP system is outdated, and allows only for a ‘two horse race’, robbing the electorate of much choice.

It is a system which heavily discriminates against the Liberal Democrats (hence the Liberal Democrats’ calling for electoral change in 2010 for AV, a system which favours third parties) and smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Green Party who struggle to obtain seats. The only way small parties can get around this is if they heavily concentrate on one constituency, something which the Green Party did to obtain their seat of Brighton Pavilion in 2010. It is due to this that FPTP can lead to tactical voting, so people end up voting not for the candidate and party who they feel represents them the best (if the candidate is from a smaller party) but rather for the ‘next best’ option or the “lesser of two evils”.

However there are positive aspects to the First Past the Post electoral system. Due to it favouring larger parties, it excludes extremist parties from representation in the legislature (though this can be seen as undemocratic). It is also very simple and easy to understand, so does not deter or confuse potential voters. Prior to 2010 it usually promoted strong, stable governments that could last the full 5 years and pass legislation due to working majorities.

The system also promotes a link between constituents and their representatives because  the outcome is a parliament made up of representatives of geographical area. The elected members therefore represent not only the concerns of their political party but also the sometimes unique concerns of their local constituents, be them in rural or urban areas.

Overall, the electoral system of First Past the Post is a good one, though it has many flaws. While it does lead to strong, stable governments, the 2010 general election proved that even this system can lead to a coalition (due to the rise of the third party), and it is expected that another coalition will be formed in the 2015 general election due to the rise of 4 other parties (UKIP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP). It is not proportional or democratic enough, and the contributor of this article feels it is outdated for the multi-party politics of today.

 

By Mia Sapla