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Wings Over Scotland

A familiar ring 35

Posted on September 28, 2012 by

This week, Johann Lamont called for an end to the “something for nothing culture” with regard to the provision of universal benefits in Scotland. We found the phrase oddly familiar. But where had we heard it before, and from whom?

“This is our contract with the British people – to bring an end to the something for nothing culture”
– Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative minister, October 2011

“We are repairing the damage of an age of irresponsibility. Ending the something for nothing society that flourished during it”
– George Osborne, Conservative Chancellor Of The Exchequer, October 2011

“The hard working people of Britain want their government to bring an end to Labour’s something for nothing culture”
– Baroness Warsi, Conservative peer and former chairman, December 2011

“[The welfare state] has sent out some incredibly damaging signals. That it pays not to work. That you are owed something for nothing”
– David Cameron, Conservative Prime Minister, June 2012

“There are some who really are sitting at home and putting little effort into moving on in life… A something for nothing culture does no one any favours”
– Chris Grayling, Conservative minister, August 2012

“Jobless young adults will soon be forced to do three months’ full-time work or have their benefits cut under a scheme being piloted in Croydon to tackle its “something for nothing culture””
– Boris Johnson, Conservative mayor of London, September 2012

Oh yeah. Now we remember.

The great betrayal 127

Posted on September 26, 2012 by

So, who saw that coming? Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour, just abandoned over a century of Labour values in a single speech. More so even than Tony Blair did when he set light to Clause 4 in the name of “New Labour”,  Lamont made a bonfire of pretty much the entire set of founding principles of social democracy. Because, as George Eaton succinctly put it in today’s New Statesman:

“universal public services, to which all contribute and from which all benefit, are the essence of social democracy. Once this principle is abandoned, greater cuts will inevitably follow as the rich, no longer receiving, have less incentive to give (you could call it “nothing for something”). For this reason, as Richard Titmuss sagely observed, “services for the poor will always be poor services””

And let’s make no mistake: what Johann Lamont did yesterday was consign the entire notion of universal services to the dustbin of history. Because if you accept her argument that universal services mean “the poorest pay for the tax breaks for the rich”, then you inescapably also accept that they’re a fundamentally, inherently bad thing whether a country can afford them or not.

Is it EVER good to have the poor subsidise the rich? You’d have a job finding even the most extreme right-wing Tory prepared to say such a thing out loud, so Johann certainly isn’t going to, and that means that all universal services must go, because every one of them is subject to the same “unfairness”. (In the perverted modern sense of the word.) Every service provided free to a person who could afford to pay for it themselves must by definition rob the poor to do so.

Read the rest of this entry →

Seeing no ships 24

Posted on September 26, 2012 by

This is what our dear old pal, the arch-loyal true-believer Scottish Labour activist Duncan Hothersall, appears to believe happened (or rather, didn’t happen) yesterday:

This is what actually did happen:

“Alex Salmond is quick to point to the high levels of welfare in Scandinavia but those universal benefits are paid for by high levels of taxation. Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world. And I will not tolerate a country where the poorest pay for the tax breaks for the rich.”
– Johann Lamont, 25 September 2012

We’re trying really hard, but for the life of us we can’t formulate an interpretation of those words that ISN’T saying universal benefits in Scotland are “something for nothing”, and that DOESN’T attack them on the grounds that they represent a subsidy of the rich by the poor. Can any keen students of doublethink help us out?

Odd one out 22

Posted on September 26, 2012 by

We hardly know where to start on Johann Lamont’s grand act of madness yesterday, and we have SO many real-life crises to deal with this morning that we have to go out for a couple of hours now to address some of the most pressing of them. So here’s just a quickie to get the ball rolling. See if you can spot which of these three statements doesn’t belong with the others. (Our emphasis in all cases.)

Ed Miliband said yesterday that even millionaires should get child benefit as he attacked the Government’s welfare cuts. The new Labour leader said his party would defend the principle of universal benefits – even for the best off.

Asked if he thinks that ‘if you’re a millionaire, you keep it’, Mr Miliband said: ‘I’m in favour of that, yes, and I’m in favour of it because it’s a cornerstone of our system to have universal benefits. Frankly, there aren’t that many millionaires in this country. Families on £45,000 need child benefit and it’s a way that society recognises the costs of having kids.’
(Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader, 11 October 2010)

That’s the UK/England (we’re not sure which) spoken for. How about Wales?

“Free prescriptions and free school breakfasts will be protected from spending cuts, vows First Minister Carwyn Jones – who marks his 100th day in the job today. Mr Jones said ministers were going through departmental spending “line by line” to prepare for next year’s budget, due to be published in the autumn. Asked about free prescriptions, introduced in 2007, the Welsh Labour leader said yesterday:

“We are not going to touch free prescriptions. If you look at what people have found most beneficial to them they will talk about free bus passes, they will talk about free school breakfasts, they will talk about free prescriptions. Those are the areas that I think members of the public will expect us to protect.”
(Carwyn Jones, Welsh Labour leader & First Minister of Wales, 19 March 2010)

Wales seems pretty clear too. How about Scotland?

“What is progressive about a chief executive on more than 100,000 a year not paying for his prescriptions, while a pensioner needing care has their care help cut? What is progressive about judges and lawyers earning more than 100,000 a year, not paying tuition fees for their child to follow in their footsteps at university, while one in four unemployed young people can’t get a job or a place at college?”

“I believe our resources must go to those in greatest need. But if the devil’s greatest trick was to convince the world he didn’t exist, [Alex] Salmond’s most cynical trick was to make people believe that more was free, when the poorest are paying for the tax breaks for the rich.”
(Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour leader, yesterday)

We must admit, we’re not aware of a TV reality show called Britain’s Toriest Labour Parties. Perhaps that’s because until yesterday, even the craziest TV executives wouldn’t have dared to imagine a reality as insane as this.

More to come.

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