The Plastic Hippo

October 27, 2015

Where credit`s due

The end of the Peer show

The end of the Peer show

It might seem a little anachronistic that in the 21st century the United Kingdom should have an unelected second parliamentary chamber populated by children born into privilege and by those ennobled due to political and financial patronage. However, the House of Lords is more than an exclusive snoozing club for the elderly and bewildered and can occasionally hold a rotten government to something approaching accountability.

Introducing the term “fatal motion” to the Lords Temporal and Spiritual after a hearty and subsidised lunch is a risky business but some of the more sentient members of the other place have successfully prodded their peers into delaying a nasty, vindictive piece of legislation from a nasty, vindictive government. In so doing, they have probably secured for themselves a one-way ticket to a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Working Tax Credits are something of an anomaly in an advanced and developing economy. Chancellor Gordon Brown introduced them in 2003 in the hope of stemming the increasing numbers of children in working families considered to be living in poverty. Tax credits were intended to top up the income of low paid parents wishing to avoid starving to death and were considerably less expensive than unemployment benefits. Then came the financial crash brought about by sub-prime lending and the greed of a few sharp suited con men; then came a coalition government.

As any economist will realise, the need for Working Tax Credits is an indication of a failing economy and an admission that something is very wrong with the supply and demand cycle of a free market. George Osborne is entirely correct in wishing to eradicate Working Tax Credits but has a bit of a spaced-out approach to getting rid of them. Firstly, he redefined child poverty as “children living in workless households or those with drug-dependent parents”. By that classification, any children residing in Number 11 are, by definition, living in poverty.

The Cameron coalition employed a creature called Iain Duncan Smith to roll out, roll up and roll over the crackpot Universal Credit scheme which having cost millions is even further away from introduction than it was in 2010. Duncan Smith is considered to be a leading expert on scrounging and is a shining example to us all in expressing compassion to the terminally ill.

What Osborne and Cameron fail to grasp is that Working Tax Credits are a symptom and not the cause of increased public spending. A simple single-cell organism living on the floor of a primordial ocean would realise that removing Tax Credits will force working families out of employment and into full-on benefit claims thereby increasing public spending. Here`s an idea; how about a fair days pay for a fair days work? Get rid of zero hours contracts, tax evasion by employers, vicious benefit sanctions and back handers for government contracts before picking on the low-paid. It`s not that difficult George and it`s not as if you have missed every single financial target you have set yourself or have actually increased the debt, deficit and borrowing requirement over the last five years. Perhaps you should stop taking fiscal advice from that giant invisible lobster in a top hat that keeps following you around after a line by line study of the free market economy of Colombia.

So it was an anachronistic and obsolete House of Lords that spiked Osborne over Tax Credits. Bishops and peers spoke of morality, decency and basic humanity and a few brave Tory MPs in marginal seats cried out for compassion but voted for punishment. Other heartless bastards condemned the Lords as undemocratic and irrelevant and conveniently forgot the shameless Lord Freud`s dirty tricks in passing a stinking Welfare Reform Bill through the alimentary canal of the red benches.

An hour after the Lords and Ladies bitch-slapped Osborne, he appeared on television looking tired and emotional. He spoke of a constitutional crisis as the Lords had broken the convention of voting against a government “statutory instrument” preventing them from having an opinion about money. He claimed that he and his government had an electoral mandate to starve people in order to live within our means. Just off camera, a giant lobster in a top hat was waving at George.

Taking time away from his carcinogenic friend, David Cameron called for an urgent review of the responsibilities of the House of Lords. One widely reported solution was to bung in another 100 plus invented Tory peers at 300 quid a day to ensure a voting majority that will take money away from poor people. This is not a fantasy. As with the bullying and threats that went on before the debate and vote, Cameron, without a majority, will move to abolish the Lords. Good thing too, you may cry. But will we have a fully elected second chamber to scrutinise the excesses of a hopelessly elitist government? Err…no.

Cameron`s government has some history with this sort of stuff which suggests that he and his chums are not as stupid as they seem. Consider the endless anti-terrorism legislation that prevents even the mildest of criticism and their intention to do away with the Human Rights Act, legal aid rights, Trade Union rights, employment rights; the right of peaceful assembly, the right to withdraw labour and membership of the European Court of Human Rights. It`s obviously a right-wing government…right? Look also to the orchestrated character assassination of the new leader of the official opposition. Perhaps there is a strategy in place to remove any accountability and replace it with mindless obedience.

Cameron lied days before the General Election when he said on live television that Working Tax Credits would not be cut. With a 23 per cent share of the vote, a slim majority in the Commons and anything other than a clear mandate, the constitutional crisis lies not in the Lords but firmly around the cabinet table at 10 Downing Street.

The House of Lords tried to counter the snake-oil salesmen running down and selling off what was once a fairly sensible nation but too little and too late. At least they tried so we must give credit where credit is due.

It`s certain that the SwissAir cabin crew will be very sympathetic.

1 Comment »

  1. So by your definition, the introduction of Working Tax Credits in 2003 was “an indication of a failing economy and an admission that something is very wrong”.
    I’ll go with that.

    Comment by Rob — October 27, 2015 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

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