Zero-hour contracts, the NHS, immigration… There’s strong answers to most questions, provided you don’t have to deal with the distorting prism of the multi-millionaires’ mainstream media. By STEVEN DOWNES
This is the first Twitter General Election. Twitter was around in 2010, but was not yet the social media driving force that we understand, and use, today. The Establishment and conventional media don’t quite know what to make of it. They can’t control it. And evidently, they’re afraid of it.
The excitement at that prospect was palpable when Steve Coogan attended a Labour “rally” in Croydon yesterday.
We say “rally”, because Coogan and Tom Watson, the senior Labour politician who was also attending, spent three or four times longer posing for selfies than they did talking about the “issues” or policies. Such is the nature of the 2015 General Election. Not everything about the Twitter election has an up-side.
Coogan, having been one of the victims of the tabloids to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, is clearly enjoying the prospect of multi-millionaires Murdoch, Rothermere and Desmond no longer having their previous near-total control of the news agenda.
“What we’re seeing is the break-up of that cartel,” Coogan said. “This election is showing how important social media is, through Twitter and blogs. Of course, they’re trying to say that Russell Brand is a joke – but he’s got 8 million followers on Twitter. They’d kill to have that kind of support.” We don’t think Coogan was speaking literally.
Tony Benn always used to say that there was no such thing as the “Free Press”, unless you had a spare £20 million to spend on setting up a newspaper, hire staff, rent an office, buy the newsprint and contract the print and distribution. Look at how The Independent, founded in 1986, has always struggled to take on the “big boys” like the Torygraph, the Mail and The Sun. Now it is owned by a Russian oligarch, and so The Independent is no longer independent…
Some people in Croydon still don’t get what “independent” means when referring to this website. It means we do not receive any funding from any body, organisation, party or interest group. There is no filter on whose interests we might be representing – they are just the thoughts, comments and opinions of people, including some who may hold political office. We have carried articles and interviews with politicos from UKIP to anarchists, and every hue in between.
One particularly ranty correspondent who, incapable of posting his comments for himself, has emailed us accusing us of bias. Which is true to a point: we’re biased against cant, hypocrisy and incompetence, and the sort of self-serving politicians who have been letting down this corner of south London, and its people, for far too long. The expenses claimers, the second-homers, the sort of people who increase their allowances in secret, the people who employ their spouse or their mates at public expense.
Because these were the things which were usually going unreported by the mainstream media, both broadcast and in print, locally and regionally. Can’t think why…
“Bet you won’t ask Sarah Jones these questions,” our ranting correspondent challenged.
So we did.
In case you don’t know, Sarah Jones is Labour’s candidate in Croydon Central, where Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, is seeking to hoodwink enough people into re-electing him to continue to serve the interests of millionaire property speculators, land-owners, exiled oligarchs and the people who want to flog off the NHS.
Here are the questions that our ranting correspondent wanted Sarah Jones to answer…
Q Labour claims to be the party to rescue the NHS. But Labour’s performance in running the Welsh NHS is truly dreadful – where only 51 per cent of Welsh people are satisfied with Labour’s performance compared to 65 per cent in England under the Conservatives where the NHS is nearly 20 times larger. Labour the party to rescue the English NHS – when they can’t even run the much smaller Welsh NHS now?
Sarah Jones: The Tories are attacking Wales to run away from their record in England, where they’ve caused a crisis in A&E and wasted £3 billion on a top-down reorganisation. More patients are waiting longer, and it’s harder to get the care you need.
The reality is that the NHS in Wales has improved dramatically over the last decade thanks to Labour investment and reform – though of course there is still further to go. In fact, the independent Nuffield Trust found last year that the NHS in Wales has been making more progress than in England in recent years.
Labour has a better plan for the NHS with time to care. We will invest £2.5 billion a year to recruit 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 new home care workers and 3,000 more midwives, funded by a tax on properties worth over £2 million, cracking down on tax avoidance, and a levy on tobacco companies. We will also introduce binding waiting-time guarantees of GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week, and join up services from home to hospital.
The truth is that the Tories’ plan for extreme cuts in the next Parliament means that they can’t protect the NHS. And let’s not forget that when the Tories were last in charge in Wales, people were waiting two years for operations – that’s why people in Wales don’t trust the Tories with the NHS.
Q Challenge Sarah on the fact that the top rate of income tax for all but a few weeks of Labour’s 13 years in office was 40 per cent – a full 5 per cent less than under the Tories. So were they the party of the millionaires then? Total hypocrisy.
Sarah Jones: Labour increased the top rate of tax to 50p after the global financial crisis because we believed that those with the broadest shoulders should play their part in getting the deficit down. It was the right thing to do. But the Tories chose to cut taxes for millionaires while raising them for everyone else, even as they were failing on their own deficit reduction targets.
Labour will reverse the Tories’ tax break for millionaires, and give a tax cut to 24 million people through a lower, 10p starting rate of tax.
Q Labour has apologised for the uncontrolled immigration of their 13 years in power. Blunket admitted he did not know the numbers. In fact 800,000 unplanned immigrants came in, putting horrendous problems on the NHS and housing. Immigration is a good thing – but it must be banned.
[Editor’s note: that final sentence is as it was written by our ranting correspondent. Seriously]
Sarah Jones: Let me be clear – the problems we are now facing with the NHS and housing are not the fault of immigration. Labour is proud of Britain’s diversity, where people have come from abroad over many generations to build our businesses, work in our public services and contribute to our nation’s growth. We also understand immigration needs to be properly controlled and the rules fairly enforced.
Labour has changed. We got things wrong in the past on immigration – on transitional controls for eastern Europe, and in not talking about the unequal impact of immigration.
David Cameron promised “no ifs, no buts”, he would get net migration down to the “tens of thousands”. Yet net migration is over 50,000 higher than when he came to office. Under the Tories, illegal immigration is also a growing problem.
Ed Miliband has set out Labour’s new approach, controlling immigration with fair rules and controlling its impact on local communities.
Q Labour try to claim that all the new 2 million jobs are zero hours. Zero hours or more accurately Flexible Hours are only 2 per cent of the jobs market and of those two-thirds are very happy with the hours that they work.
Sarah Jones: Labour has never tried to claim that all jobs created under the Tories are zero hours contracts.
But too many workers are facing insecurity at work. Under the Tories there are now 1.8million zero hours contracts in the UK, while more than 1 million people are working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job.
Labour will tackle the causes of insecurity at work, by banning exploitative zero hours contracts to ensure workers who work regular hours get a regular contract – anyone working regular hours for 12 weeks will be legally entitled to a regular contract, not a zero hours contract.
Any attempts by the Tories to try to rename exploitative zero hours contracts just shows how out of touch they are with the lives of working people. For too many people zero hours contracts leave people without a regular income, and not knowing from one day to the next how much work they will get. It’s just insecurity dressed up as flexibility.
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- Bogus Barwell shows his true colours as the millionaires’ mate
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