The s-word

Guts of a Beggar


Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was perfectly respectable to call oneself a socialist. It was a badge that one might wear with pride alongside the likes of Albert Einstein, George Orwell and Bertrand Russell. Nowadays, for reasons we’ll come to in a moment, to call oneself a socialist is to risk being perceived as some sort of cartoon amalgam of Arthur Scargill, Wolfie Smith, Derek Hatton, and Rik from The Young Ones. I have a neighbour who thinks it hilarious to tell people as a matter of routine that I am a fan of Joseph Stalin. Happily, I know that you’re not that stupid, so here goes.

I am a socialist. By that I mean that I believe in the socialism of Bevan and Beveridge, the socialism that gave us nationalised utilities, the NHS and the welfare state. Over the past couple of decades, since…

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The Corbyn Effect

The Disorder Of Things

Moderate Militant-Free Labour Conservative Poster

In the last days, the Labour mainstream has not so much fallen as fully leapt into a fit of apoplexy. The cause an opinion poll – by no means solid, by no means a guarantee of future stock value – placing Jeremy Corbyn as the likely winner of the party’s leadership contest. Labour MPs, some now publicly flagellating themselves, nominated Corbyn for a ‘balanced debate’, but apparently couldn’t countenance that it might actually lead anyone to, you know, debate. Corbyn’s moment of popularity is thus sketched as, among other things, “the emotional spasm…an apocalyptic tendency”. John McTernan – a prime mover in the utter implosion of Labour in Scotland – was invited to hold forth on national TV as an oracle nevertheless, where he showed off his great talent in persuasion by calling Labour supporters “morons”. John Rentoul, that other great passé hack, thought recognising the left-wing appeal of the SNP as a factor in Labour’s…

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What’s in the Welfare Bill that Labour just failed to oppose?

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill is making its passage through Parliament at the moment. After much hand wringing, Labour instructed its MPs to abstain. Only 48 defied the whip to vote against. Media Commentators including those at the supposedly left-wing Guardian agreed this was smart politics. For others though – including me – it begs the question once again, what is the Labour Party for?

But what is in this Bill that Labour found so difficult to oppose? The explanatory notes to the Bill can be found here. Here are some of the measures Labour felt they could not vote against:

  • Reducing the benefit cap to £20,000, except for £23,000 in Greater London
  • Freezing certain social security benefits and certain tax credit amounts for four tax years
  • Limitation in the amount of support provided by the child tax credit for families who become responsible for a child born on or after 6 April 2017
  • Limiting the child element of universal credit to a maximum of two children and removing the distinction between the first and subsequent children in the rate of the child element
  • Removing the work-related activity component in employment and support allowance and the limited capability for work element in universal credit
  • Changes to conditionality for responsible carers in universal credit
  • Replacing current support for mortgage interest payments for benefit claimants with the offer of a recoverable interest-bearing loan secured as a second charge on claimants’ properties

The one on mortgage interest payments was new to me and appears particularly nasty. If you are unfortunate enough to lose your job, the government will loan you the money to pay the mortgage interest, but if you can’t repay it whilst in work, they will take your house. Not sure that really falls within the definition of social security.

If Labour can’t oppose real terms cuts (for 4 years!) to working-age benefits, replacing support for mortgage interest with interest-bearing loans secured against the property and a 30% cut in social security payments to many who are sick or disabled, then seriously, what is the point of them?

United In Loathing

Guy Debord's Cat

The Labour right is in a spin (in more ways than one) and can’t for the life of them fathom Jeremy Corbyn’s growing popularity. In the eyes of these Blairite fossils and their allies in the Simulated Thatcher Government, Corbyn is a “dinosaur” ; a “relic from the past”. These tropes are based entirely on the arrogant assumption that the political positions espoused by the Tories and Blairite ‘modernizers’ are modern and fresh. They’re not. These people manage the circulation and recirculation of stale ideas. That is all they do.

At a time when fresh ideas are called for, the ‘modernizers’ are indulging themselves in a great deal of self-flagellation and name-calling. Having lost the election in May, the party’s ‘modernizers’ are incapable of understanding why they lost so heavily in Scotland and continue to blame the SNP for their failure to win seats that they’d once taken for granted…

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TheCritique Archives

by Martin Odoni

Beware a politician saying… well, basically anything.

It has been noted by minds far greater than mine and since long, long before I first drew breath that political language – sometimes nicknamed ‘spin’ (a political bit of language in itself, as it makes the phenomenon sound relatively harmless and even somewhat quaint) – is often the inverse of any other form of language, in that what words mean in most modes of speech will usually be the opposite of what is meant in political discourse. When politicians speak, their meaning can be anything other than itself, but seldom just itself.

The late Douglas Adams once coined the word ‘Recipriversexcluson‘ – see his novel Life, The Universe & Everything – as the mathematical label for a number that can only ever be anything other than itself e.g. the time at which everyone has agreed they should…

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Government #Disablism Discrimination in Action


This week a woman not known for her timidity, admitted how a non-disabled man had used his presence and the environment to disempower her; I’m referring to Dame Anne Begg and the she interview gave to the BBC. In the Daily Record Dame Anne is quoted as saying “Iain Duncan Smith took to standing behind me during Prime Minister’s Questions. He stood at what’s called the Bar of the House and occasionally he would lean on my wheelchair…Our working relationship was slightly fraught anyway because I’d been critical of him a lot. I wanted to keep that criticism a professional criticism, not a criticism of him as a person so I never quite built up the courage to actually say: ‘Please don’t do that.’” Dame Anne also was recorded as having explaining how “she would normally reproach people who invaded her personal space but she let him off“.

This is…

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Work hard, do the right thing – and get screwed

Jules Birch

How has George Osborne got away with a Budget that will hurt the very people he claims it will help most: hardworking families.

The headlines are all about One Nation, National Living Wage and tax cuts but, as the dust settles, the calculations that have emerged so far make clear that the poorest households are going to suffer significant cuts in income. While a series of cuts such as the lower benefit cap will hit out-of-work households hard, people in work face a series of technical changes to tax credits and benefits that will make many of them substantially worse off.

To give some idea, here are the three main cuts:

  • A four-year freeze in working age benefits saving £4 billion by 2020/21. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that this alone means that 13 million families will lose an average of £260 a year. Of those, 7.4 million are in…

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