Voices on the Left: 5 blogs from the left you need to read this week

A roundup of news from progressive publications...

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1.Exclusive: MPs including Hancock raked in £9.6m from second jobs in a year-openDemocracy

While millions struggle to make ends meet during the cost of living crisis, MPs raked in nearly £10 million from second jobs in a year, openDemocracy reports.

Matt Hancock is among those who raked in money away from Parliament, pocketing £400,000 for appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here!’.

openDemocracy reports: “The figures show 260 MPs between them clocked in 47,325 hours and made an average £37,000 each between 7 October 2021 and 14 November 2022, on top of the £84,144 they now earn annually for being an MP.

“Almost all the extra cash went to Tory MPs: £8.7m, or more than 90% of the total value.”

The highest earners are barrister Geoffrey Cox, the MP for Torridge and West Devon, whose in-demand legal practice has brought him more than £1.4m; and former prime minister Theresa May, who has netted £1.3m, mainly in speaking fees.

2. Homeless Deaths Increase By More Than 50% Since 2013-Byline Times

The number of homeless people dying has increased by 54% since records began in 2013, with two homeless people dying every day in 2021 – or 741 people in total, Byline Times reports.

According to the data published by the Office for National Statistics the number of homeless people dying had risen by 64 compared to 2020. The average age at death was 43 for women and 45 for men.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of the housing charity Shelter, responded to the figures by saying: “A freezing doorway, a bed in an emergency hostel, or a flimsy tent are no substitute for a home. It is utterly awful and unacceptable that two people die every day without anywhere safe to live – and this number is rising”.

3. Wealth taxes are the alternative to Conservative austerity 2.0-LabourList

Labour MP Richard Burgon has set out a clear alternative to the Tory austerity agenda which will cause further devastation to impoverished and disadvantaged communities.

Writing for LabourList, Burgon sets out a case for wealth taxes, taking aim at the empty Tory rhetoric ‘about those with the broadest shoulders paying the most’. Burgon also highlights how the ‘fiscal black hole’ that the Tories have used to justify their push for austerity, shouldn’t be accepted unquestioningly, with a growing number of economists now refuting it too.

He writes: “We must also shift the debate when it comes to taxation. There’s a lot of empty Tory talk about those with the broadest shoulders paying the most. But too often that means focusing narrowly on just income and ignoring wealth. That approach lets the richest, who have done very well over the last decade, off the hook.”

Burgon sets out policy proposals such as introducing a wealth tax. He adds: “Introducing an annual wealth tax: An annual tax of just 1% on all net wealth above £10m would raise nearly £10bn per year, according to the UK Wealth Tax Commission. It would affect just the wealthiest 0.04% of the population. Such a tax would only apply to wealth over £10m and so, for example, someone with £12m in assets would pay £20,000.”

4.Leading ‘Sustainable’ Investment Funds Backing Fossil Fuels, Research Finds-DeSmog

A number of asset managers and investment funds available to UK customers, who pay lip service to ‘green credentials’ are also financing fossil fuel companies, DeSmog reports.

Highlighting yet more evidence of ‘greenwashing’, whereby companies and organisations make unsubstantiated claims to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or have a greater positive environmental impact than they actually do, DeSmog writes about how Blackrock is among the worst offenders.

Edward Lander, the report’s lead author, said: “We are in an absurd situation in which asset managers can label funds as “sustainable” while still investing in the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The lack of regulation makes for a Wild West of sustainable fund management”.

‘Ten percent of the 108 funds examined had holdings in fossil fuel companies and a further 14 percent did not disclose all their holdings, preventing consumers from knowing whether their investments were financing oil, gas, or coal development.”

5. Why Students Should Back the UCU Strike

Zac Larkham, a student, has written a piece for Tribune on why his fellow students should be backing the UCU strike, with staff taking a stand against the growing marketization of higher education, which ‘reduces students to cash cows’.

Last week, 70,000 staff at over 150 universities began their biggest ever strike, with staff living ‘paycheck to paycheck’.

Zac writes: “Pay for academic staff has fallen 20% in real terms over the last twelve years, while on average vice-chancellors enjoy £269,000 salaries, rising to £500,000 at some institutions. For new teaching staff it’s even worse: low paid, insecure, zero-hours contracts are the norm.

“One PhD student on a zero-hours contract lived homeless while teaching at Royal Holloway University. These contracts often discriminate by gender, too—last year it was revealed around 66% of staff on zero-hours contracts at the University of Sheffield are women.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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