Thursday, January 05, 2012

British Labour Party lurches to the right on welfare payments: Senior left-wing MP admits for first time system HAS to change

The welfare state has drifted too far from its founding principles and must be overhauled, a senior Labour MP has said.

Work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne said the benefits system has 'skewed social behaviour' and provides too much 'unearned' support.

Byrne argues that William Beveridge’s 70-year-old system was not designed to accommodate extended mass unemployment. He writes: ‘Beveridge would have wanted reform that was tough-minded and asked everyone to work hard to find a job.

‘He would have worried about the ways his system had skewed social behaviour because he intended benefits to help people who had their earning power interrupted because of illness, industrial injury or the capriciousness of the trade cycle. He never foresaw unearned support as desirable.’

Mr Byrne hints at being keen on a requirement for the unemployed to work after a fixed period. He points out that Beveridge himself wrote: ‘Unemployment benefit after a certain period should be conditional upon attendance at a work or training centre.’

His view is a significant redrawing of Labour's current position on the provision of welfare. Party leader Ed Miliband has been reluctant to engage in anti-welfare rhetoric, despite it being seen by many as a key policy area that could help win back votes.

But over the next few months Mr Byrne will seek to reposition Labour. He claims that to win back support the party must recast the welfare state to meet the original intentions of its founder. He admits the choices are 'difficult' but that they are necessary for Labour to be taken seriously on the issue.

In an article for the Guardian, marking the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge report, Mr Byrne suggests the ever-increasing housing benefit budget and benefits for long-term unemployment are major flaws in the system.

He also highlights the lack of proper incentives to reward responsible long-term savers as helping fuel the benefit culture. He writes: 'Beveridge would scarcely believe that housing benefit alone is costing the country over £20billion a year. That is simply too high.’ ‘One more heave behind our old agenda won’t do.’

He would like to see the contributory principle once again restored so there is a more defined link between what people put in and what they in turn receive from the system.

Mr Byrne believes the centre ground of politics has shifted to the Left on issues such as bankers and equality, but that many voters – even traditional Labour supporters – believe there needs to be a tough line on welfare.

Labour believes that as the Tory cuts bite through 2012 people will look at how the pain is distributed through society and Labour must not be seen to be protecting what Mr Byrne describes as the appalling benefits bill.

And he suggests the time is right as the Government is 'simultaneously presiding over an exploding welfare bill while cutting back on contributory benefits and services like childcare - vital if we are to ensure that the rhetoric on making work pay becomes a reality for all'.


Chorus of support from MPs and campaigners for top judge planning a pro-marriage crusade

MPs and campaigners yesterday lined up to back a High Court judge and his plans for a pro-marriage pressure group. Sir Paul Coleridge, one of the country’s most senior divorce judges, said his campaign would be aimed at promoting marriage and discouraging divorce.

He said marriage was better for children than cohabitation and condemned divorce and its effects. Sir Paul told couples contemplating divorce: ‘My message is, mend it, don’t end it.’

The initiative, made at a time when David Cameron’s pledge to give tax breaks to married couples remains a promise rather than a reality, was praised by campaigners who say politicians and the state have spent the past 20 years trying to reduce marriage to a lifestyle choice.

Julian Brazier, Tory MP and a longstanding advocate of greater public support for marriage, said: ‘This can only help make the political and legal establishment aware of the importance of marriage.

‘Too much family law has been driven by judges for the past two generations – the courts brought in no-fault divorce, marginalising the rights and wrongs of the behaviour of husbands and wives, well before Parliament considered it.’

Author and researcher Jill Kirby said: ‘It is very good news that an eminent family judge can make such a stand on the importance of marriage and family structure. He has seen many of the victims of family breakdown going through his court. He is one of the best people to make the point.

‘It is a change after years in which we have seen so many judges and lawyers try to undermine the status of marriage.’

Sir Paul, who sits in the High Court Family Division as Mr Justice Coleridge, will launch The Marriage Foundation in the spring.

It will be backed by influential legal figures and aims to provide information on the strengths of marriage, commission research and organise conferences. It will eventually lobby for pro-marriage policies. Sir Paul, who has made a series of outspoken speeches on the reasons for family break-up, said: ‘You are four times more likely to break up before your child is five years old if you are not married.

‘Over 40 years of working in the family justice system, I have seen the fallout from these broken relationships. There are an estimated 3.8million children currently caught up in the family justice system. That is a complete scandal. My focus is on the children. I am unashamedly advocating marriage as the gold standard for couples where children are involved. I desperately want to avoid a moral crusade.

‘And this is not a cosy club for people who are happily married and can say, “look how well I have done”. It will, I hope, appeal to people of every background, including those who are divorced.’

His move comes at a time when leading politicians are at odds over the legal status of marriage. Mr Cameron remains pledged to encourage the institution by giving tax breaks to married couples, but Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have derided the idea.

The view that ‘stable relationships’ and cohabitation are just as good as marriage has taken root across much of Whitehall, to the point where the effects of marriage are being dropped from official statistics.

Sir Paul said: ‘Governments cannot legislate stronger relationships into existence. ‘Ultimately, more and stronger marriages will result from individual choices, behaviour and culture. We will seek to influence those choices.’

Among figures said to be backing his plans are Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former chief family law judge, Baroness Deech, a family lawyer and academic who has given a series of lectures calling for more support for marriage, and Baroness Shackleton, the divorce lawyer who acted for Prince Charles and Sir Paul McCartney.


The worst 10 assaults on freedom in Britain during 2011

From bans on songs and leafleting to war against gossipy tabloids, 2011 was a bad year for free speech

If one had to pick an image to sum up the British attitude towards free speech in 2011, it would have to be the three monkeys in the Japanese proverb who ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’. This year, we were treated like a nation of chimps, who had to be protected from certain words and images - for our own good, of course. Here are the Top 10 most annoying erosions of free speech in the UK this year.

No.10: Twitch Hunts
Far from being, as Twitter CEO Dick Costolo likes to put it, ‘the free-speech wing of the free-speech party’, Twitter has proven to be an intolerant and conformist sphere, often used to mobilise followers to grass people up to the authorities for committing ‘speech crimes’. Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson felt the self-righteous wrath of Twitterers more than most this year. When he made a bad joke about striking workers in November, trade-union leaders went from campaigning to save jobs to joining with the Twitterati to demand that Clarkson lose his.

No.9: Leafleting bans
In many towns and cities across the UK, it’s becoming a criminal offence to hand out leaflets without first getting them vetted and authorised by local councils. Councils such as Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Leeds have introduced ‘leafleting zones’ where anyone wanting to hand out leaflets must first fork out cash to the council and wear a special badge. It’s a sad day for free speech when such a long-standing, primary form of public communication is curtailed in this way.

No.8: Superinjunctions
The war against gossip intensified in 2011 with the rise of gagging orders – aka superinjunctions. When an injunction is taken out, usually by the rich and famous, it becomes a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment, for anyone to publish the offending claims. So-called hyperinjunctions went further, preventing people even from discussing the subject of an injunction with their MP. As Brendan O’Neill observed, this represents a ‘flashback to the feudal era, when badmouthing the upper classes was a risky endeavour for mere plebs and peasants’.

No.7: Criminal ASBOs
Since New Labour introduced them in 1999, anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) have been used to regulate individuals’ behaviour. Now they’re being used to clamp down on the freedom to protest. In March, English Defence League (EDL) member Shane Overton received a Criminal ASBO banning him from attending or helping to organise any demonstration, meeting or gathering held by the EDL, and even from visiting its website for 10 years. Later in 2011, police tried to slap an ASBO on EDL leader Stephen Lennon that would have prevented him from having any involvement with his own organisation. This was rejected by a judge as being a bit OTT.

No.6: The censorship of Human Centipede 2
Horror movie Human Centipede 2, with its gruesome scenes of people having their mouths stitched to other people’s anuses, probably isn’t to everyone’s taste. But for a time in 2011, people in the UK were denied the right to decide for themselves whether or not it was to their liking. The British Board of Film Classification denied the film a certificate, effectively meaning it was banned, on the basis that it might ‘corrupt’ audiences. Director Tom Six rightly asked: ‘How can it be that adults are not allowed to choose whether or not to see a film? This kind of censorship is ridiculous.’

No.5: The banning of sectarian songs in Scotland
The mere act of singing certain songs in Scotland will soon be enough to have you locked up for up to five years. The SNP’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Bill was passed in December, criminalising ‘offensive’ songs and chants by football fans – especially fans of the two Glasgow clubs that dominate Scottish football, Celtic and Rangers. As Kevin Rooney argued on spiked, ‘In Scotland, the idea that football fans are a thick-skinned bunch who can put up with abuse from rivals for 90 minutes every Saturday has been replaced by the assumption that the majority of fans are potential victims at permanent risk of suffering offence or psychological damage’.

No.4 The Advertising Standards Authority’s antics
From its censure of an allegedly racist chocolate advert to its ban on airbrushed make-up ads for being ‘misleading’ to its chastising of a lighthearted Phones 4 U advert which featured a winking Jesus, the officious, censorious quasi-government group the ASA was working overtime in 2011. It also expanded its mandate to cover online ads, meaning there is now even more material the British public is prevented from seeing just because a small board of unelected officials has deemed it ‘offensive’.

No.3 The banning of protest marches
Lib-Con home secretary Theresa May casually banned protesters from marching this year. Responding to campaigns by certain illiberal left-wing groups who wanted the EDL banned from marching in Tower Hamlets in London, May decided to outlaw all marches in six London boroughs for a period of one month. You might think this would have encouraged left-wing activists to question their tactic of placing faith in the state to decide which groups should be allowed to protest. But no, and sadly their liberty-related naivety looks set to continue in 2012.

No.2: The jailing of ‘Facebook rioters’
During the English August riots, 20-year-old Jordan Blackshaw set up a Facebook ‘event’ entitled ‘Smash Down in Northwich Town’. It was an event only he showed up to (he was promptly arrested) and yet he received a four-year jail sentence for his FB antics. The judge justified the jailing on the basis that this ‘happened at a time when collective insanity gripped the nation’. Other youngsters were also imprisoned for Facebook speech crimes. It seems this ‘collective insanity’ extended to the judges, who evidently didn’t realise they were eroding a fundamental democratic freedom by jailing people for doing nothing more than publishing words online.

No.1: The Leveson Inquiry
The post-hacking scandal closure of the News of the World, a paper of 168 years standing, was a dark day for press freedom. As Karl Marx warned, ‘you cannot enjoy the advantages of a free press without putting up with its inconveniences. You cannot pluck the rose without its thorns!’ The subsequent Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of tabloid press, cheered on by celebs and broadsheet journalists, could well lead to the establishment of an authority ‘with teeth’ designed to tame the feral tabloids. Some anti-tabloid types have even proposed a system of licensing journalists, who could then be struck off if they do something bad. It seems clear that the tabloids have already been found guilty, and in 2012 we, the British public, will be further instructed on what we should and shouldn’t read.


Aunty's leftish drift still needs to be corrected by its deeds

The ABC is Australia's version of the BBC. It is sometimes called "Aunty" because of its preachy Leftist ways

When minding grandchildren at the beach in shallow water, there is not much to do except listen to the radio. And so it came to pass that on Christmas Day, with earpiece attached, I switched on the ABC Radio National Artworks program.

There was a discussion about the latest inner-city fashion of yarnbombing, whereby a certain sect of radical feminists engage in adorning public places with graffiti of the knitted genre. Artworks' sympathetic coverage concluded with a certain Casey Jenkins telling the program how she recently travelled to Vatican City and attached her home-knitted "lesbian fling-up" to the Basilica. The ABC reporter and presenter appeared to approve of such action.

Apparently Jenkins is on a campaign to advocate the use of what she terms "the C word" and to proclaim the "loveliness of non-reproductive sex". Which is all well and good, provided that she was more catholic (in the universal sense of the word) in her targeting. Artworks' favourite yarnbomber took her campaign to the Vatican and the Pope. She did not protest at the Haj in Saudi Arabia or outside Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office in Tehran. Catholicism is an easy target. Islam is not. The program was so terribly twee. And so predictably Radio National.

On Christmas Day, Radio National also re-ran Julie Rigg's MovieTime review of The Iron Lady, which is directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Rigg described Margaret Thatcher, the subject of the film, as "a tyrant". Rigg also expressed her disgust that, during the Falklands War, a British submarine sank an Argentine ship, the Belgrano. But she expressed no concern about the British sailors who had died when the Argentine air force, controlled by the military dictators in Buenos Aires, sank Royal Navy ships.

When reviewing The Iron Lady on ABC 1's At the Movies earlier in December, Margaret Pomeranz also felt the need to declare that "most of us" thought that Thatcher's decision, when prime minister, to change Britain "wasn't a good idea at the time". David Stratton, the co-presenter of At the Movies, concurred. It was another example of an ABC program in which everyone agreed with everyone else, in a fashionable leftist sort of way.

The likes of Jenkins and Pomeranz and Stratton have a right to be heard. It's just the overwhelming voice of the public broadcaster is left-of-centre, or leftist, and so few right-of-centre, or conservative, voices are heard.

Maurice Newman, who was the best ABC chairman in recent memory, stepped down at the end of 2011 after the Gillard government declined to extend his term. When ABC chairman, Newman drew attention to what he described as a "group-think" within the public broadcaster. Not surprisingly, Newman's critique was criticised by ABC types, led by ABC's Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes. However, any sample of ABC programs will reveal an over-representation of left-of-centre views and a gross under-representation of conservative positions.

The ABC managing director, Mark Scott, is a distinct improvement on his predecessor. However, as one of Australia's highest paid public sector employees, who earns significantly more than the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, his performance should be critically assessed.

In October 2006, shortly after he took up his position, Scott addressed the Sydney Institute. While defending the public broadcaster, he did concede that there was "a sense that the organisation has issues with balance and fairness". Most importantly, Scott acknowledged that "there needs to be a plurality of opinion" on the ABC. In 2006, the ABC did not have one conservative presenter or executive producer on any of its key TV or radio programs - although many on the left held such positions. Five years later, nothing has changed.

In 2006 Scott called for "further diversity of voices" on the ABC. Recently the public broadcaster announced a range of new talent as presenters for its TV and radio programs in 2012. The list includes academic Waleed Aly, The Chaser's Julian Morrow, journalist Andrew West and comedian Josh Thomas. All are talented. Not one is a conservative.

There is no conspiracy here. It's just that in the ABC, as in universities, politically like appoints like. Mike Carlton, who is not a critic of the public broadcaster, last August depicted ABC functions as events "where almost everyone seems to be married to, living with or divorced from somebody else in the room".

Nor is it a case of the ABC being pro-Labor. In fact, as K.S. Inglis documents in his 2006 book Whose ABC?, the prime minister who was most critical of the ABC's lack of political balance was Labor's Bob Hawke - not the Coalition's John Howard. At issue was the public broadcaster's coverage of the first Gulf War.

Scott's view that the ABC should engage in "soft power", and represent Australia's international interests through broadcasting, has been sanctioned by the Gillard government. It awarded the Australia Network contract to the ABC in perpetuity without competitive tendering. The problem with the existing service is not merely that it is boring. It also reflects the ABC house culture of criticising both Labor and the Coalition from the left.

Regular ABC viewers/listeners know that the predominant position heard on the public broadcaster is to criticise Labor or the Coalition on human rights matters (asylum seekers, same sex marriage, anti-terrorism legislation), on foreign policy (the Australian-American alliance, Israel) and on economic reform (labour market deregulation).

The appointment of even one prominent conservative as a presenter of even one significant ABC program would not resolve this long-standing imbalance. But it might indicate that Scott's promise was about to be implemented, albeit half a decade after it was made.



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, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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