Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Backflip! British Labour party now claims it will crack down on Britain's giant welfare bill
Labour will be tougher than the Tories on the long-term unemployed in a bid to slash Britain's giant welfare bill, the new shadow work and pensions secretary has said.
Rachel Reeves, who replaced Liam Byrne last week following Ed Miliband's frontbench reshuffle, said under a Labour government those who have been out of work for long periods of time would have to take a guaranteed job offer or face losing their benefits.
The guaranteed job scheme proposed by Labour would offer under-25s work if they have been unemployed for one year. Over-25s would have to take a job after two years of unemployment.
The scheme would be paid for by reintroducing a tax on bankers' bonuses.
The former Bank of England economist claims the scheme would take 230,000 people off benefits.
In her new role, the 34-year-old also said she has three main priorities - to show people Labour is on the side of the 'ordinary people'; to force work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to admit his introduction of a new benefit system was a failure and to promote a new Labour vision of 'responsibility, decency and fairness'.
According to Miss Reeves, the government is spending £9billion more now on social security yet more people are unemployed, on housing benefit and 4.8million are being paid less than the living wage.
She told The Observer: 'If you can work you should be working and under our compulsory jobs guarantee if you refuse that job you forgo your benefits.
'We have got some really good great policies - particularly around the jobs guarantee and cancelling the bedroom tax - that show we are tough and will not allow people to linger on the benefits, but also that we are fair.'
Last week all three party leaders wielded the axe as they fired key figures from their frontbench to promote the team that will take them into the general election.
Ed Miliband lurched to the left, demoting Blairites including Jim Murphy and Liam Byrne but kept Andy Burnham as shadow health secretary.
Pressure mounts to ease ban on hunting to hounds
A full pack of hounds would be allowed to help kill foxes in England and Wales under a relaxation of the Hunting Act being considered by ministers
Under the proposals the law banning farmers from using more than two dogs to flush out foxes and shoot them would be scrapped allowing them to use a full pack.
The move, which is backed by a cross-party alliance of MPs, would be the first change to one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in modern times.
It is certain to reopen the furious debate between supporters of fox hunting and its opponents, who are bound to see any relaxation of the rules as reintroducing hunting “by the back door”.
Farmers say attacks on lambs have been on the increase, signalling that limited pest control measures allowed under the Act are not working. Hill farmers, who suffered devastating losses last spring as a result of the late snow, say a change in the law is desperately needed to fend off a growing threat to their livelihood.
Rules already in place allow farmers to flush foxes out of their dens and shoot them in order to protect flocks but it is a criminal offence to use more than two dogs.
However MPs from the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Plaid Cymru parties, are joining farmers groups in pressing the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to scrap the limit.
The change, which is likely to require a vote in Parliament but not a fresh bill, would bring the law in England and Wales into line with that in Scotland.
It comes after a study demonstrated for the first time that deploying a full pack of hounds to flush foxes from cover can be almost twice as effective as using a pair of dogs.
The study also concluded that it could even improve animal welfare, because using a full pack of hounds can draw foxes out of their dens to be shot much more quickly rather than enduring a lengthy pursuit. More effective shooting could also reduce the use of snares, which have been condemned as cruel.
Last night the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs confirmed that it had been receiving evidence of an apparent growing threat to flocks from foxes and would study the research “with interest”.
Although Mr Paterson, a long term supporter of lifting the hunting ban, has made no commitment to the change, a spokeswoman said he was “aware” of the calls from farmers.
The Coalition Agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats contains a commitment to giving MPs a free vote on repealing the Act which was introduced by Tony Blair in 2004 after a gruelling stand-off between Commons and Lords.
But many Conservatives accept that they might not have enough support to secure a repeal and see amending the pest control provision as a way of helping farmers. It could also help firm up Conservative support in rural areas affected by the HS2 rail plans.
But it comes at a time when Defra is already facing anger from animal rights protesters over the badger cull.
Farmers backing the calls said the losses last spring were the “last straw” and a spur for action. In addition to the thousands of newborn lambs which became stranded and froze to death amid the late snow, some farmers lost up to 50 to foxes, which were themselves short of food because of the deep drifts.
The Federation of Welsh Farmers’ Packs – a group representing huntsmen who shoot foxes under the current law – commissioned the study to assess whether lifting the limit on dogs would make a difference.
A team led by Dr Jeremy Naylor, a vet and racehorse trainer, spent four months comparing the effects of pairs of hounds and full pack at 80 sites in Scotland.
David Thomas, the federation’s secretary, said that while many still hoped for a full repeal, the amendment could ease pressure. “We feel that this is something that could be very easily done,” he said.
“It is necessary for sheep farmers, it is not going to cost the Government or the country any money at all, it is just a win-win situation.”
Roger Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said: “This is a debate that must be had. “I hope that they take it seriously … I have received letters from constituents and across Wales about this.”
Glyn Davis, the Tory MP for Montgomeryshire, and himself a former farmer, said: “Whether you are in favour of a ban on hunting or not, if you accept that you can have dogs to flush foxes out, to limit it to two has no logic.”
Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall in London, said: “I think what this deserves is a very sensible and dispassionate look at the research and for some way of being able to allow the extra number of hounds to be used.
“Unless you are someone who does not believe that a fox should ever be killed I cannot understand why in terms of welfare this is not something that could be supported by a broad range of opinion.”
Jonathan Edwards, of Plaid Cymru, said: “I am very much on the left of the political spectrum, I don’t see this as a left-right fight. “We have a duty as politicians to have laws that work. “It seems common sense to me that we would use best practice. “We need a reasonable debate rather than reacting gung-ho.”
Derek Morgan, chairman of the Farmers’ Union of Wales’s hill farming committee, added: “The hunting ban was aimed at what Labour saw as posh people on horses, but the people who have suffered most are working class hill farmers whose incomes are already well below the UK average.
“If Government increased the number of hounds we are allowed to use it would significantly reduce the number of lambs we lose.
“It’s a small step the Government can take to show they really support hill farmers and it would not change the basic principles of the hunting act.”
A spokeswoman for Defra said: “We have been receiving reports on increased predation of lambs by foxes and the burden this has placed on hillfarmers in what has already been a tough year. “We will look at all research into this with interest.”
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said that while it would continue to campaign for a repeal, it understood the “urgent need for the only effective method of fox control in many upland areas to be reinstated.”
A spokeswoman for the League Against Cruel Sports said: “The Hunting Act is a successful piece of legislation and it works – ultimately we do not want to see it weakened. “If the Farmers’ Union of Wales are supporting this do they not have anything better to do with their time? “This would ultimately be changing the legislation quite considerably.”
France's Le Pen hails victory for anti-immigration party in key by-election
Marine Le Pen has hailed a victory for France’s National Front after it won a bellwether local by-election that the far-Right party believes will help springboard it towards the political mainstream.
National Front party candidate, Laurent Lopez (L), waves to supporters as he arrives with French National Front party deputy Marion Marechal-Le Pen (R) after winning the second round of the local by-election in Brignoles. Marion is the niece of Marine
Laurent Lopez, the clean-cut 48-year-old candidate for the Provence town of Brignoles, scored 54 per cent, beating the conservative UMP’s 46 per cent in the second round run-off.
Miss Le Pen, who took over the leadership from her father, the party’s founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, said it was a “beautiful victory” that showed “when united, the French are invincible”.
“It shows a willingness for change among the French,” she said.
Until last week, Brinoles was best known for its dried prunes. But it sparked national interest when Mr Lopez knocked out left-wing rivals in the first round vote and took twice as many votes as the UMP, the party of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Vincent Peillon, the country's education minister, said the FN victory was "bad news for democracy and for the republic".
The FN, which took 6.4 million votes in last year’s presidential vote, has traditionally been a magnet for protest votes. Miss Le Pen however has tried to ditch the party’s image as a movement of racists and anti-Semites, increasingly reaching out to disgruntled mainstream voters with tough talk on crime and immigration, as well as capitalising on the state of the French economy.
The FN’s triumph comes just days after an opinion poll said one in four voters said they would vote for the party in next May’s European parliament elections, pulling ahead of the two mainstream parties for the first time. Miss Le Pen was also recently placed joint third in a table of politicians the French want to see more of in the future.
The unpopular Socialist government and the deeply divided UMP are alarmed by the rise of the FN, whose next major political test will be municipal elections in March in which Miss Le Pen says she wants the party to build up a strong local base by winning control of hundreds of seats in local councils.
Church beatifies 522 'martyrs' of Spanish Civil War
And the Left is furious. What do a few dead priests matter to them? They cheerfully murder millions when they can
Spain's Catholic Church has beatified 522 "martyrs", mostly clerics killed during the Spanish Civil War, prompting fury from Franco-era victims' groups who say the honour "legitimised" his dictatorship.
The mass kicked off with a pre-recorded video greeting by Pope Francis, rebuffing an umbrella association of groups who said the beatification would be a "political act of pro-Franco affirmation" by the Church.
"I join all the participants in the celebration with all my heart," the pope said to long applause from the thousands attending the beatification mass in the eastern coastal city of Tarragona.
Spanish media described the event as "the biggest ever beatification in the history of the Church".
Historians have estimated that about 500,000 people from both sides were killed in the 1936-1939 war. After Francisco Franco's victory, Nationalist forces executed some 50,000 Republicans. Franco's dictatorship lasted until his death in 1975.
Several thousand priests, monks and nuns were thought to have died at the hands of the Spanish republic's mainly left-wing defenders, among whom anti-Church sentiment was strong.
The Spanish Catholic Church apparently sought to sidestep the controversy by referring to the 522 to be beatified as "martyrs of the 20th century in Spain".
But Pope Francis on Sunday was more explicit, saying at the Vatican that they were "martyrs killed for their faith during the Spanish Civil War."
The umbrella association of dozens of groups supporting Franco-era victims had written to him, saying: "Under the guise of a religious act, the (Catholic) hierarchy is committing a political act of pro-Franco affirmation."
The Platform for a Truth Commission added: "You should know that the Catholic Church backed Franco's military uprising against the Spanish Republic in 1936."
The Church "considered the war 'a crusade' by backing the generals who revolted, (and) legitimised the fascist dictatorship and the fierce repression that it afflicted on the Spanish," said the letter published Friday.
It has "forgotten the victims of Francoist repression", the letter said.
Some more progressive sections of the Spanish Catholic Church, a minority in Spain, also opposed the beatification, saying it would reopen the wounds of the past.
In addition to 515 Spaniards, three French, and a citizen each from Cuba, Colombia, the Philippines and Portugal were among those beatified, which is the last formal step before possible sainthood.
Spain's conservative government was represented at Sunday's beatification mass by the justice and interior ministers, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon and Jorge Fernandez Diaz.
Nearly 4,000 family members or descendants attended the mass at an education complex, along with some 2,700 clerics, according to organisers.
The youngest of the "martyrs", Jose Sanchez Rodriguez, "was killed at age 18 against the wall of a cemetery" in Madrid at dawn on August 18, 1936, along with seven other clerics, by a group of militiamen, according to the Madrid diocese.
The oldest, Sister Aurora Lopez Gonzalez, had fled her convent near Madrid in July 1936 when it was "taken over by revolutionaries". She was executed some five months later aged 86.
The Vatican has regularly beatified Spanish Civil War victims.
In 2007, Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI staged the Vatican's largest previous beatification ceremony, involving 498 victims of religious persecution during the war.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.