Weekly Parliament review – 6th -13th November 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron will still attend the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka despite India and Canada boycotting the event. There have been calls for the PM to boycott the event, especially from Labour members who proposed that they would strongly support the Prime Minister if reversed his decision to attend. On the other hand, Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that if the Prime Minister decided not to attend the summit, it would damage the commonwealth without making any positive change in Sri Lanka. The summit will concern the country’s Human Rights records and Cameron has pledged to put ‘serious questions’ to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa about his regime’s widely condemned Human Rights records and allegations of war crimes against the Tamil minority.
Concerns over rise in personal debt in the UK
The Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee Mark Garnier has raised concerns over the level of personal debt in the UK. He recently stated on The World This Weekend on BBC Radio 4 over the issue:
“I think we’ve, as a society have got ourselves into a pretty terrible mess quite frankly. If you look at household debt as a percentage of household income, then you cast your mind back to the 1980s during the Lawson-boom; we saw household debt as a percentage of household income go from 70% to 80%, and that fuelled what was quite an exciting time for people, such as myself, who were starting their careers.
There are some real pressures on households, and certainly with energy prices. Obviously we’re having this huge debate at the moment in the House of Commons about energy prices, and we’ve got to come up with a proper answer to this, that households are under a certain pressure. But having said that, we have seen in the economy an extra one and a quarter million people in jobs, we’ve got more people in jobs than ever before. So actually what that has meant is that there’s more money collectively around.”
Help to buy scheme
It’s been a month since the Help to buy scheme has been introduced and on 11th November, Cameron will talk to the individuals who have already benefited from the scheme and make a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. There have been various criticisms from the opposition in regards to the type of people who are applying, but the scheme seems to be getting off to a good start as recent polls this week has shown that over 2,000 people have put forward offers to enter into the scheme. Additionally, recent polls also show that the majority of those who are placing offers for the scheme are in their early thirties and are also first time buyers-these are the type of individuals which The Tories would like to attract for the next General Elections.
Ed Miliband and Cost of living argument
Ed Miliband has pledged to ban payday lenders to stop advertising on children’s TV channels . On Tuesday 12th November, Miliband took part in an apposition debate where he pledged for the bedroom tax of what the ministers call the ‘spare room subsidy’. The cost of living has been an issue which Miliband has been determined to highlight in Parliament. 54% of people agree that if people are living in a house that is subsidised by the tax payer and they have a spare room, they should receive less housing benefits.
Overall, the week in Parliament heavily consisted of talks about whether or not the Prime Minister should boycott the Commonwealth conference and the benefits and progress of the Rights to buy scheme. Ed Miliband’s “cost of living crisis” campaign which was raised 12th November in the opposition debate has left Nick Clegg wanting to “fightback”, says the Independent. In next week’s review, we will look more closely and in full about this week’s Geneva Conference and William Hague’s proposals regarding the Iraq Nuclear programme.
Pick of the Papers (4/11/13-10/11/13)
Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus.
Source: The Guardian
Politics topic: Elections
Summary: Labour is frustrated by Conservative stalling over agreeing to the general election TV debates between the leaders, Miliband has a “boost in ratings” and “most people, including Mr Miliband, mainly attribute this to the impact of his pledge to freeze energy bills”. 80% of voters “favour the energy price freeze but only half as many think he could actually deliver it”.
ALevelPolitics help: Read the energy bill crisis article on Cameron’s dilemma
Source: The Independent
Politics topic: Democracy and Participation
Summary: Parties will change their economic decisions and policies to people who actually vote, not people who do not vote. Turnout has fallen among the young and the least affluent and ”The cuts have disproportionately affected the young and the poor – precisely those groups that vote with least frequency,” says the report. “More worryingly, unequal turnout unleashes a vicious cycle of disaffection and under-representation among those groups. This downward spiral risks permanently excluding these citizens from electoral life… and thus threatens a central claim of democracy: that every citizen’s preference, no matter their status, should count equally.”
ALevelPolitics help: Read the Russell Brand Vs Jeremy Paxman article on the comedian/actor’s view on voting, apathy and indifference
Source: The Independent
Politics topic: Party policies and ideas/Elections
Summary: UKIP, considered one of the smaller parties are on the “cusp of a national breakthrough” and are edging ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the polls. Farage’s main problems are the “squabbling” that is occurring within the party and the response to his policy on immigration.
ALevelPolitics help: Read the UKIP article on policies and elections
Source: The Daily Mail
Politics topic: Party policies and ideas/Judges and Civil Liberties
Summary: The mess in the Unite vote-rigging scandal puts more pressure on the Labour leader to start an inquiry into it. Conservative MP Priti Patel said the tactics of the union were unacceptable and asked detectives in Hampshire and Scotland to investigate whether they had been in breach of the law.
Source: The Telegraph
Politics topic: Party policies and ideas
Summary: Philip Hammond says the legislation of the same-sex message was “damaging” for the Conservative party because ”it created a perception that the leadership was in a different place to the core of the party’s active supporters”. Hammond also believes that it was “pushed through too quickly” and that on a separate matter the party needs to continue in reforming its agenda (Education and Welfare state).
Source: The Telegraph
Politics Topic: Party policies and ideas
Summary: Clegg has been tailoring his speeches to the most loyal of his voters and “pressure is growing for the Deputy PM to show that he believes in more than just stopping other parties doing things”. Clegg states he would not allow the Coalition to take its “foot off the pedal now” on cutting carbon emissions and The Lib Dem party are trying to be seen as capable of improving any government but one that shouldn’t be taken alone, therefore, supporting a future coalition.
UKIP, the UK Independence Party is a right-wing political party that was established in 1993. Their views are often seen as being more radical than the other political parties, like their immigration policies and proposed EU referendum.
There is constant controversy surrounding UKIP due to its proposal of radical changes to immigration, such as implementing a five year freeze on immigration for permanent settlement and disallowing immigrants to apply for public housing and benefits until they have paid tax for five years. Some argue they are racist, as they are exploiting immigrants’ rights. UKIP deny that, claiming they are not against race but against an ‘open-door’ policy.
Nigel Farage stated that in the past 10 years, there has been more migration into Britain than between 1066 and 1950. Anna Soubry, the defence minister, said that Nigel Farage was ‘scaremongering’ and putting ‘fear in people’s hearts’ with his anti-immigration rhetoric and ‘prejudice’. Farage hit back at Soubry’s remarks by calling them ‘abusive’ and it showed how the Conservatives were ‘terrified’ about the rise of UKIP. Its policy to end ‘mass uncontrolled immigration’ certainly seems like a popular policy at the time of recession, it seems inevitable that UKIP’s electoral power will begin to grow.
UKIP are most known for their belief in withdrawing from the EU, this view is not held by any other mainstream political party, who have all adopted a more centrist position towards the EU. Farage wants an ‘amicable divorce’ from the European Union, and Britain will only maintain trading links with its neighbouring countries and end its membership. The policy seems to have wide support amongst British voters and crucially amongst leading Conservative MP’s and members.
So, how many votes have UKIP secured? At local elections, they have made steady and significant ground with 227 UKIP councillors. However this is more symbolic, the Conservatives have 8,550 and Labour have 8,151 councillors respectively. But it is at the EU Parliamentary elections that they have made the most significant progress, with 11 out of 73 UK seats, and not far behind with 13 seats are Labour and with 12 seats are the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives still have the largest share. UKIP can be seen in many ways as a pressure group, attempting to use elections to pressure political parties and in particular the Conservatives into a more anti-Eu position.
However, UKIP have not actually won any seats in the Houses of Commons, yet. With the existing electoral system: first past the post, it looks improbable that they will, as they would have to damage a large majority largely from Conservative constituencies. Moreover, they would need a large concentration of voters in a particular constituency in order to win at least one seat. Although they have 30,000 members, many view the party to have incorporated racists and fascists. Former UKIP member Chris Pain was found to have posted alleged racist comments on Facebook and was expelled from the party in September. In the same month of Pain’s expulsion, UKIP leader Nigel Farage defended claims about his schooldays after Channel 4 claimed to have a letter from his teachers from 1981, describing him as a ‘fascist’ and a ‘bully’. In August, MEP Godfrey Bloom was filmed on camera saying British aid shouldn’t be sent to ‘Bongo, Bongo Land’, referring to third-world countries, however later regretted his remarks. All these examples may show that members of UKIP have closet racist views.
In the next general election, Nigel Farage claims that by 2015, UKIP membership will be the third highest in the country. He also says: UKIP is still ‘on course’ to be a significant political force in the 2015 general election despite a shambolic conference, overshadowed by Godfrey Bloom’s comments about women.
UKIP will continue to attract support due to the present economic climate, public opposition towards immigration and anti-EU sentiments. With their sights on next years EU parliament elections and the 2015 general election UKIP may still ‘cause an earthquake in British politics’.
Energy Bills – Is Cameron ‘panicking‘ yet?
Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed politicians persistently speaking of energy prices rocketing and of the ‘Big Six’ making huge profits from the bills of their overcharged customer’s, of whom are without any knowledge of they came to be so high in price. Many individuals who are unable to afford these high prices are left confused and deceived by their energy supplier and blame PM David Cameron for not taking action against this ever increasing issue. Recently, the problem has been addressed by Cameron in parliament and of who has even been in discussion with Neck Clegg in order to find a way to get household bills down and made sustainable. The “big” questions are; how soon and how will he make changes to the British taxpayer’s energy bill?
According to research by uSwitch, energy bill suppliers such as the likes of British Gas have a current bill at around £1,340 and the new bill is said to raise to a staggering £1,465 – an increase of £125 which will make lives extremely hard for customers struggling to survive financially. Shockingly, The British Gas Boss has currently seen a pay rise of 40% in line with bills. This alone should be enough to persuade Cameron to revisit his Social Conservative ideologies and not only do something to prevent the energy suppliers from unfairly profiting from these bills but to also prevent them from stealing from the people’s pockets, the same British people he highly values and encourages to work hard for their country.
In the run up to the 2015 elections, Labour looks like they’re one step ahead of Cameron on energy issues as Ed Miliband promised in the recent Labour conference to put a 20 month freeze on the energy bills if he wins the next election. In fact, Cameron’s inability to put energy cut action plans on paper has given the Labour party an opportunity to criticise his priorities and responsibility to the public. During the conference, Caroline Flint,the shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary ,said consumers were ‘’sick and tired of being left out of pocket because of David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies’’.
Despite criticisms, it is clear that Cameron is ready to take a stand against the ‘Big Six’ by proposing to cut the energy bill prices. However, it is still uncertain as to how and when he is going to do this. He has already begun to focus on the green aspect of the average household fuel bill which currently stands at £112. The Liberal Democrats have insisted that only £50 of the bill really subsidies the issues e.g wind and solar power, and they suggest that £62 is help for householder and it should subsidies for greener boilers and insulation. Focusing on greener energy such as these will aid the government in helping to keep the bills down.
Hopefully, these plans in discussion will be Cameron’s stepping stones into helping him put a stop to the rising energy bills for once and for all.
Recent figures have shown the UK unemployment rate dropped to 7.7% between May and June from 7.8% in the previous three months. The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in July fell by 32,600 to 1.4 million, its lowest level since February 1992. In recent weeks, David Cameron and George Osborne have boasted about the UK economy “turning a corner”. It seems this statement holds some validity.
When discussing unemployment, we must consider that this is a recovering economy and even the Prime Minister admits this government has “still a long way to go”. The economy is at least moving in the right direction which is good news for the unemployed.
Mark Carney, The governor of the Bank of England has set a target rate of 7% before interests rates are likely to be raised. This is one of the main reasons why the unemployment rate has been brought to everyone’s attention lately. Mr Carney expects this target to be reached within the next three years.
These figures suggest that the jobs market is recovering and we are on track to come down to the target rate of 7%. What they don’t tell us is the worrying stats for youth unemployment and the increase of part-time work which is definitely not the solution.
Youth unemployment (16-24) increased by 15,000 to reach 973,000. The number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job rose to 1.45 million.
Labour often criticise the Coalitions failure to address rising youth unemployment. The Youth Contract was the flagship coalition scheme to get young people back into work however it has missed its target by more than 92% and the amount of benefits being given to young people has risen. Labour has proposed a ‘real jobs guarantee’ which would see all under 25s unemployed for one year offered six months of work. Sound familiar? Critics of Blair and Brown say that job creation lay largely in the public sector and created ‘pointless’ jobs. Youth unemployment according to Clegg rose 40% under Labour. Where Miliband plans to find these placements is unclear, if he plans on working with private companies then it seems awfully similar to the highly criticised work programme which saw claimants having to work at Poundland and Tesco to ensure benefits. If he plans on finding these places in the public sector then he may just be repeating the mistakes of the previous Labour government.
It has become an unspoken known that the 2015 general election would rely purely on which party had the strongest economic policy. However, Labour at its party conference in Brighton has tried to turn the tables and turn the clamour for power into a debate on childcare and living standards. De ja vu perhaps? Reminiscent of Blair’s plans to eliminate poverty and introduce a system of tax credits? Lest we forget measures such as the minimum wage, sure start and the new deal.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has announced that Labour will offer parents of primary school children guaranteed access to childcare from 8am to 6pm. As part of proving Labours commitment to those struggling with falling living standards, Miliband also gave a firm commitment that a future Labour government would abolish the controversial bedroom tax. Latest evidence of a growing economic divide came as figures showed that UK living standards had dropped to their lowest in a decade after average real incomes fell a further 3% last year. The IFS has said the median income for people in their twenties had not grown in the years between 2001-2008 whereas pensions had grown faster than any other income group (but that’s another article in itself). Labour is trying to regain ground in social policy where most people blame Labour for the fall in living standards in recent years.
As always the economic sense of these Labour policies has been questioned. Labour’s bedroom tax pledge will cost as much as £470m year, but the party said the costs can be met closing tax scams in the construction industry, abandoning the government’s shares-for-rights scheme and reversing George Osborne’s £150m tax cut for hedge funds announced in the budget in 2013. The £470m estimated savings in construction comes from a clampdown on the disguised workers scheme, whereby workers pretend to be self-employed to reduce tax.
Unsurprisingly the Lib Dems at their conference in Glasgow voted overwhelmingly to condemn the bedroom tax. Nick Clegg however, continued to defend the tax. The Coalition have already introduced changes to the way childcare and early year services will operate in the UK including tax free childcare vouchers and tax relief on childcare costs. There have also been proposed reforms to the ratio of nursery staff to students and to the level of qualifications nursery staff need.
The Chancellor George Osborne has told the BBC that “concrete steps” to change tax rules would be seen at the G8 summit.
Speaking from Enniskillen, he said leaders could “rewrite the international rules” that allow companies to shift profits away from UK and other territories to minimise tax payments.
In what ways does globalisation affect policy making in the UK ?
Ed Balls today laid out Labour’s economic policy, in effect shelving the cut in VAT as part of the 5-point plan for growth in favour of capital spending.
Measured in two ways :
Claimant Count (CC) – those claiming unemployment benefit.
Labour Force Survey (LFS)– those who report that they are unemployed.