The Labours of the Labour Party

“Last time we had spin doctors desperately igniting applause for a flailing leader was at the Tory conference days before Iain Duncan Smith was dumped. Oh dear. It is a measure of how pea-soupy, how hum-drum and adolescent Ed Miliband’s speech was yesterday that three of his claque stood at the side of the hall and tried to get the crowd clapping…Within five minutes it was apparent the speech was fast going phutt. Mr. Miliband, having again opted for a memorized performance, was uncertain of his words. Gaps appeared between sentences. The rhetorical energy was so faint, it could have done with a snort of smelling salts.”
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail on September 24, 2014.

Last week I was in London and my trip coincided with the annual Labor Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday 23rd September, where the Labor Party leader, Ed Miliband, made a less than spectacular memorized speech that was ripped to shreds by mainstream media. Firstly, I have to get this off my chest: there were no attacks on the “tribe” of the media commentators. Political leaders are not immune to the invariable scathing criticism from the media without their sycophantic followers necessarily “catching feelings” to use Kenyan parlance. Phew, that was a relief. Now to my observations: the hard working and tax paying resident of the United Kingdom pays a lot of attention to the seemingly nonsensical rhetoric of the political class. Why? This is because the ruling party will have an enormous impact on the quality of life of the average resident simply because tax revenue is a big driver of the government’s budget and different political parties have varying views on which sections of the economy to tax and which economic policies to enforce.

A good example comes out of Ed Miliband’s speech on the direction he expects his government to take in the event of his win in the 2015 general election. Quoting James Chapman in the Daily Mail: “The Labor leader said that if elected he would seek to fashion an interventionist state based on something he called ‘the principle of together’. He said he would tax tobacco companies, owners of valuable properties and hedge funds to raise £2.5 billion (Kshs 342 billion) to pay for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs (doctors), 5,000 more care workers and 3,000 midwives. A ‘mansion tax’ would be introduced on more than 100,000 homes worth more than £2million (Kshs 290 million). Developers will no longer be allowed to ‘sit on land’, which will be released for house building and ‘cruel and vindictive’ cuts to housing benefits will be reversed.” Miliband is purported to have used the word ‘together’ 47 times.

As I sat with some old friends having some spiritual nourishment of the liquid kind at a pub in Leicester square last week, a beggar of Caucasian extraction stopped at our table (we were seated on the pavement) and asked us for some coins. I reached into my purse and removed a few coins that I had much to my friend Patricia’s disgust. ‘Don’t give him anything, he is entitled to council housing and food which are financed by my taxes,’ she said. Patricia, who works for one of the big four audit firms was rightfully pained. She pays 40% of her salary in taxes, which are partly used in the welfare system that the United Kingdom provides for its citizens. By the end of the evening, a total of nine beggars had passed by our table, each with a more soppy story than the last, but by which time I had become inured to the pathetic, dirty faces after Patricia had walked me through the fairly generous welfare system that has led to generations of families living on the “dole” which celebrates indolent lifestyles. With annual welfare payments of up to £60,000 per year (Kshs 8.7 million per annum or Kshs 725,000 per month) some of these folks live in council flats in central London where apartments in neighboring buildings are charging £1,500 per month in rent. Some of the “cruel and vindictive housing cuts” that Miliband is referring to happened when the government realized that the welfare recipients living in apartments in central London enjoyed a lavish lifestyle financed by the state. The cuts therefore introduced a “market rate” where the council housing rent was given a market value and deducted from the total benefits received by the recipient. The aim then was to push the residents out of central London to a place more affordable where they could use less of their welfare money on housing. Eventually, the council housing should be converted into real estate that is generating true market value returns.

The trick that many of the welfare recipients have cottoned on to is to have many children, as one’s benefits are increased consequent to the number of dependents one has. For a true capitalist like me, it is nothing short of abhorrent that there would be someone waiting for me to work my backside off every day and pay my taxes so that they could live off of my sweat. But I digress. One key point that 3rd world countries should note in Miliband’s speech is the need for more health care workers. Over 60% of the National Health Service is now staffed by nursing immigrants from Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Phillipines and India to name a few countries. It has caused a significant drain on the medical resources of some of these countries and is a cause for worry as local governments cannot compete with the salary scales offered in the United Kingdom nor the promise of residency and potential citizenship after a few years of good service.

So we are all in Miliband’s bus ‘together’. The good news is that polls show Miliband’s approval rating is at minus 23 per cent 12 months ahead of an election. Perhaps there is hope for all mansion owners, tobacco companies and owners of undeveloped land then!

Carol.musyoka@gmail.com
Twitter: @carolmusyoka