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• The hate of the hard Right, bigotry-based commentariat was on ugly display again this week – and this time, it was Britain’s disabled people in their sights.
First, Rod Liddle wrote an article in The Sun on the “pretend disabled”. Yes, really
You have to see the bile to believe it, so here are some choice quotes:
“My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to become disabled. Nothing too serious, maybe just a bit of a bad back or one of those newly invented illnesses which make you a bit peaky for decades – fibromyalgia, or M.E.”
“And being disabled is incredibly fashionable. The number of people who claim to be disabled has doubled in the past ten years.”
“I think we should all pretend to be disabled for a month or so, claim benefits and hope this persuades the authorities to sort out the mess.”
“It has become easier to claim those benefits, partly as a consequence of the disablement charities who, out of their own self-interest, insist that an ever-greater proportion of the population is disabled.”
• Decrying “Muslim Savages”;
• Mocking the black British community for merely producing “rap music” and “goat curry”;
• Denying the evidence for Anthropogenic Global Warming theory;
• Writing, in response to Islam4UK: “F*** off back to where you’re from, then, you Muslims.”
As Alex Hern wrote yesterday:
“Rod Liddle is a nasty piece of work, peddling his equal-opportunities bigotry (he’ll be offensive to everyone – provided they’re different to him) to all-comers. This latest column is indeed horrible, but it’s anything but surprising.”
To today’s hate-filled bigot, then; step forward James Delingpole, Thatcherite climate denier extraordinaire, who has blogged his support for Liddle in the Telegraph today, blaming “the fake disabled” for “crippling our economy”. Yes, once again, someone really wrote such poison.
For good measure, Delingpole has a go at “anti-racism; diversity; anti-homophobia; anti sex-discrimination etc.” legislation for the “financial mess we’re in”. Nothing to do with bankers’ greed, nor the savage cuts he salivates over, nor the eurozone crisis then?
No, for Delingpole, our economy is tanking because of anti-discrimination laws. If only it would be possible to discriminate against, and make it easier sack all those pesky efniks and wimmin and gays and disaybled, the economy would be fine.
The jackbooted bigots of modern Britain aren’t just in the EDL and BNP, every now and then they crawl out onto the pages of the Sun and Telegraph, wishing to inflict ever more cruelty on disabled people, and turn back the clock to the ‘good ’ol days’ when you could discriminate against others with impunity.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, it’s clear the battle against extremism is far from won; the hate lives on.
• There has been widespread anger today over RBS chief Stephen Hester’s £963,000 bonus.
“The public won’t understand why, after all his promises, he has decided to sign off a million pound bonus for Stephen Hester.
“He’s spent weeks saying that shareholders should play a more active role in reining in excess where they see it, but at the first chance to act for a bank the public own the Prime Minister has just nodded it through.
“He owns through the British government 83 per cent of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The bonus should have been blocked. People will be appalled that nothing has been done about this.”
George Osborne’s been busy blaming the last Labour government for Hester’s deal – yet he has it in his power, if he has the will, to stop the jackpot, as Left Foot Forward’s Ben Fox revealed:
“We shouldn’t fall for the weasel words of Cameron and Osborne when they claim they are powerless to prevent Stephen Hester’s bonus.
“In fact, EU legislation drafted in 2010 by Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy explicitly gives governments across the EU the power to ban bonuses to banks bailed-out by the state.
“The purpose of the directive was bring the bonus culture of the financial sector back to reality, with limits on cash payments and rules that bonuses should be in shares or contingent capital so that executives would be rewarded for the long-term stability of their institution…
“While City fat-cats may argue that big bonuses are needed to attract the best executives, the concept of a bonus is that it is awarded according to merit. And the coalition, which signed up to the EU law on bank bonuses, has the power to stop the payments for Hester and others.
“It’s time they had the guts to use it.”
Cameron and Osborne clearly don’t have any intention of getting tough on undeserved high pay. They’re the prime minister and chancellor, if they wanted to walk the walk, they could, but they clearly prefer to balance the books on the backs of the poorest, ripping up pay and pensions deals with millions of low paid public servants, yet unwilling to claw back the millions being handed to the highest paid civil servants, and make no mistake, that is what Hester is.
As we said earlier today:
“As winter’s icy chill blasts millions of Britons up and down the land, with wages frozen, jobs lost and benefits slashed – with even cancer patients and disabled children not spared by the Cabinet of the compassionless – for at least one individual, there’s reason to cheer.
“RBS chief Stephen Hester’s 2011 pay packet could reach £7.38 million. Seven million, three hundred and eighty thousand pounds.
“That’s right, those responsible for the crisis are rolling in the dough once again, as if there’d been no recession, while those that had nothing to do with it are paying the price…
“All in it together?”
• The outrage at Hester’s bonus will have been heightened by this week’s GDP figures, which showed a 0.2 per cent contraction in the final quarter of 2011.
“Growth in 2011 as a whole was 0.9 per cent. Growth over the four quarters ending in 2011 Q4 was 0.8 per cent, though this figure is flattered by comparison with the final quarter of 2010, when output was hit by particularly bad weather. Underlying growth over the last four quarters may have been as low as 0.3 per cent.
“In the final quarter of 2011 output of production industries fell by 1.2 per cent, probably as a result of large-scale destocking (there are very few details available at this point). Output of construction industries was down 0.5 per cent, while output in the service sector was unchanged.
“The recovery from the 2008/09 recession continues to be slow and uneven. Real GDP has increased by 3.5 per cent since the second quarter of 2009. Over comparable periods after the last two recessions, real GDP increased by 7.1 per cent in the 1980s and by 8.8 per cent in the 1990s.”
“In the short term, as I have been warning for some time, things are unlikely to get much better… As the IMF warned only yesterday, when it revised its forecast for growth in the euro zone in 2012 down from +1.1 per cent to -0.5 per cent, the euro zone crisis is an increasing threat to the global economy.
“Meanwhile, the government is sticking stubbornly to its deficit reduction plans, meaning further cuts in public sector jobs and taking more demand out of the economy. With public sector austerity at home and a potential crisis in the euro zone on their doorstep, it seems unlikely the private sector will step up its recruitment or investment plans any time soon.
“Together, these GDP figures and the short term outlook suggest the UK economy has slipped back into recession. The feared ‘double-dip’ began in the final quarter of 2011.”
While on the impact on the deficit, Alex Hern wrote:
“For most people, the downside of going back into recession is obvious; but for George Osborne, he’s got an additional worry on his mind. Having bet the farm on deficit reduction, every quarter the deficit fails to fall as much as he promised looks worse and worse for him.
“As we have reported before, the size of the deficit is almost perfectly correlated with the level of growth…
“The government is now borrowing £168 billion pounds more than Osborne predicted before the election. That difference is almost entirely down to the fact that growth in the last six quarters has been 0.3 per cent, as opposed to the 3.6 per cent that was promised.
“Now we have had another quarter of negative growth – again, against Osborne and the OBR’s predictions. If, like us, you are starting to have doubts about the OBR’s ability to ever get a prediction accurate, George’s Marvellous Deficit Calculator (in our sidebar) is here to help.
“As a worst case scenario, for instance, if the average growth per quarter for next year is -0.2 per cent, leading to an annual contraction of 0.8 per cent, the deficit would be 9.1 per cent. Which is exactly what the deficit was at its peak after the financial crisis.”
And looking at the international picture, data today reveals the US grew nearly twice as fast as the UK in 2011, as Will Straw explains:
“New figures out today show that the US economy grew by 0.7 per cent in the last quarter compared to a contraction of 0.2 per cent in the UK. The final figures for 2011 put to bed Treasury spin from the autumn that the UK was doing as well as the US…
“While the UK economy has contracted in three of the last five quarters and may already be in a double-dip recession, the US economy has not contracted since the second quarter of 2009.
“The US has taken a slower approach to deficit reduction than the UK with cuts only starting to bite in 2013.
“And while George Osborne has blamed the eurozone for the latest downturn, research by the House of Commons library has shown that it was only trade that ensured the economy was growing at all in 2011. Surely now it’s time for Osborne to accept the need for a Plan B.”
Progressive of the week:
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, who this week published a new report, “Delivering on the promise, building opportunity: the case for a Global Fund for Education” (pdf), that offers a blueprint for the reform of key international institutions so they deliver more effective support for education in developing countries.
As Left Foot Forward reported today:
“The flagship recommendation is the creation of a new, independent Global Fund for Education. While the current major education fund, housed within the World Bank, has presided over an impressive fall in out-of-school numbers of 40 million over the past decade, progress has now stagnated or even gone into reverse.
“This fund, recently renamed the Global Partnership for Education, has been unable to attract significant support from donors and has been criticised in some quarters for being slow and inflexible – and what is more, many countries with the largest numbers of out-of-school kids, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, are not eligible for grants.
“A new Global Fund for Education would attract funding from non-traditional sources, make grants to NGOs and private companies working in remote areas (and not only governments or international agencies), and finally deliver resources commensurate with the size of the global education challenge…
“This report sees Brown at his best: forensically focused on policy detail and driven by a deep passion for improving the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
Regressive of the week:
Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, who is so hell bent on breaking up the Union he is not only delaying the independence referendum until 2014 – the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn – but is proposing a leading question in the plebiscite.
As Left Foot Forward reported today:
“The question may be “simple, straightforward and clear”, but it’s not quite as fair as Salmond suggests it is. By phrasing the question as “do you agree…” rather than the more neutral options of “do you agree or disagree…” or simply using “should”, there is likely to be a small but significant increase in the amount of people voting yes.
“Time and time again, textbooks on survey construction warn against phrasing questions the way the SNP have, because it will lead to biased responses.”
With Political Scrapbook adding:
“Technical literature on survey design is clear that questions phrased in this way result in a “small but significant increase in the amount of people voting yes”. And it has now emerged that even students as young as 14 are taught that these types of questions are wrong.
The question could scarcely have been more biased if it was one of these…
Evidence of the week:
“The third wave of globalisation” report (pdf) from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which calls for a rethink in international governance and a more ‘personcentric’ view of globalisation, arguing the world is facing the third wave of globalisation, one characterised by the lack of a single leading nation or foundational project.
It analyses the underlying and resulting global economic and social trends, including growth and inequality, and also presents evidence from globalisation experts and participants in China, India, Brazil and other leading nations.
In the report, Lord Mandelson voices support for a National Investment Bank – echoing Will Straw’s pitch to the Fabians earlier this month.
As Left Foot Forward reported today, the report concludes:
“The vision and scope of the nascent Green Investment Bank needs to be more ambitious.
“First, it should become a National Investment Bank with green characteristics, rather than an institution purely focused on green investments.
“The energy and transport sectors are two critical areas where Britain already has some comparative advantages, but it makes little sense to restrict such an important branch of industrial policy to these sectors in isolation.
“Second, this bank should be able to utilise the historically low yields on government borrowing with immediate effect. The chart below shows the interest rate on 10-year government bonds. Any investments with a rate of return greater than the current yield of around 2 per cent will generate a positive net impact on the government’s balance sheet.
“Investing in marketable services of this kind would turn the government’s private finance initiative on its head by allowing the public sector to borrow and then sell or lease back the service to the private sector, rather than the other way around.”
This weekend on Left Foot Forward:
• A look at the social care crisis.
• More on the racism allegations enveloping English football.
• The Week Outside Westminster – sign up to receive it by email here.
• A look ahead to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
• The World Outside Westminster – sign up to receive it by email here.
This week’s most read:
1. Exposed: The six myths of IDS’s benefits cap – Shamik Das
2. MPs call for Romney’s tax haven to be closed – Shamik Das
3. Why child benefit must be removed from the benefit cap – Dr Sam Royston, Children’s Society
4. What’s right for Aberdeen isn’t for York; unemployment needs city-specific solutions – Paul Swinney, Centre for Cities
5. Where is Labour on welfare? – Vincenzo Rampulla