Tag Archive: parliament


VOAG-Logo-(Ukraine)UK has ‘worst quality of life in Europe’

Survey of 10 developed European countries puts UK at bottom of the pile due to high costs of living, while France takes top spot


The UK has been named the worst place to live in Europe for quality of life, behind countries with damaged economies such as Ireland and Italy, according to the latest uSwitch quality of life index.
The UK emerged as having the second lowest hours of sunshine a year, the fourth highest retirement age, and the third lowest spend on health as a percentage of GDP. Despite above average household income – the fourth highest in Europe – Britons have 5.5 fewer days holiday a year than the European average and endure a below average government spend on education.

UK households also struggle with a high cost of living, with food and diesel prices the highest in Europe, and unleaded petrol, alcohol and cigarettes all costing more than the European average. As a result, more than one in 10 Britons (12%) said they are “seriously considering” emigrating, with “broken society” the biggest concern for 59% of those questioned, followed by the cost of living (49%), and crime and violence (47%). Just 5% of those questioned are happy in the UK.

The study examined 16 factors to determine where the UK sits in relation to nine other major European countries. Variables such as net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods were put under the microscope, as well as lifestyle factors such as hours of sunshine, holiday entitlement, working hours and life expectancy.

France bagged the top spot for the third year running, despite families earning an average £31,767 (compared to the UK’s £38,547) and working longer hours than people in the UK. But the French enjoy 2,124 hours of sunshine, have an average retirement age of 60, and receive 36 days of holiday a year. They also live a year longer than Brits, with an average life expectancy of 81.4 years compared to 80.4 in the UK. People in France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden call all expect to live longer than people in the UK.

Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany rounded out the top five best European countries for quality of life, with Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Ireland also above the UK in the table. Last year, Ireland was joint bottom with the UK.

France and Spain are also where people in the UK would most like to live, with 13% of the 2,036 adults surveyed by uSwitch choosing Spain and 7% opting for France. The Spanish can expect to live just over a year longer than people in the UK, and enjoy the highest number of days holiday in Europe with 39 days. Spain also has the lowest alcohol price of the 10 countries.

Uswitch said it had weighted each category to “nationally representative criteria” using sources such as the OECD, the Met Office, the World Health Organisation and Eurostat. It then calculated a standardised score for each category, defining quality of life as the sum of the standardised scores.

Ann Robinson of uSwitch.com said: “Last year, at least our neighbours in Ireland were worse off, now we can’t even console ourselves with that. We are now officially at the bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means we are living to work.

“When coupled with many of the issues facing households in the UK today it is not surprising that one in 10 of us have contemplated starting a new life abroad. But for those of us who decide to stick it out and ride the storm, there will be no choice but to batten down the hatches. Cutting back where possible to help combat our high living costs will go some way to improving our quality of life.”Revolution Banner

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InjusticeThe Queen and Prince Charles are using their little-known power of veto over  new laws, according to Whitehall documents.

The Telegraph, January 2013.

At least 39 bills have been subject to Royal approval, with the senior royals using their power to consent or block new laws in areas such as higher education, paternity pay and child maintenance.

Internal Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that on one occasion the Queen vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, which aimed to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament. She was also asked to consent to the Civil Partnership Act in 2004.

In the Whitehall document, which was released following a court order, the Parliamentary Counsel warns that if consent is not given by the royals “a major plank of the bill must be removed”.

Legal scholar John Kirkhope, who fought to access the papers following a freedom of information case, said the document revealed senior royals have “real influence and real power”. “There has been an implication that these prerogative powers are quaint and sweet but actually there is real influence and real power, and totally unaccountable,” he said.

The document also contains a warning to civil servants that obtaining consent can cause delays to legislation. Royal approval may even be needed for amendments to laws, it says. Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, which includes land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, said the findings showed the Royals “are playing an active role in the democratic process”. He called for greater transparency in order to evaluate whether the powers were “appropriate.” “This is opening the eyes of those who believe the Queen only has a  ceremonial role,” he said.

“It shows the royals are playing an active role in the democratic process   and we need greater transparency in parliament so we can be fully appraised   of whether these powers of influence and veto are really appropriate. At any stage this issue could come up and surprise us and we could find parliament is less powerful than we thought it was.”

The power of veto has been used by Prince Charles on more than 12 government bills since 2005 on issues covering gambling to the Olympics.Voag-Logo-34

 Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

“The £11 million spent on Labour by the Unite union does nothing else than allow them to kick us in the teeth” said Hannah Sell, deputy leader of the Socialist Party as she opened last night’s launch rally for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, ‘TUSC’ is standing in many constituencies across the country to give voters an alternative to Labour in the general election. Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the PCS union said “we are all being told to pay the cost of the bosses’ crisis.” This coalition can “restate the idea that another world is possible.”

Last month’s launch rally was attended by more than 300 delegates and a large media presence. Speakers included Karen Reissman, a mental health nurse who was sacked from her job for ‘whistle blowing’ over patient care. She is standing for the Manchester Gorton constituency.

Brian Caton, leader of the Prison Officers Association spoke from the platform as did Dave Nellist, a Socialist Party Councilor standing in Coventry North East. Some of TUSC’s London candidates delivered strong speeches about their campaigns. Steve Hedley, of the RMT London region announced the breaking news of strike action on the railways.

 We won’t pay for their crisis
A key argument from speakers was that billions have been given to the rich bankers, whilst workers and public services are being made to pay the cost. Chris Bough spoke about the propaganda campaign by the media to enforce this injustice.

To laughter in the audience, and in a snub to the media he joked about the number of hedge-fund managers who have recently appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight programme. He said the media had launched a “torrent of abuse” against trade unions, with the British Airways strike being a good example. But he said, “The public are with the unions. They are way to the left of the politicians. 50 per cent of the public don’t think that cuts are necessary”.

Karen Reissman agreed and continued along this theme. “People say to me: we’re glad you’re standing, representing what we think.” She said, “There are millions of people who don’t think they should be made to pay.” Tottenham candidate Jenny Sutton, a college teacher, said that education was a good example of what is happening to public services everywhere. “We are being absolutely hammered.”

We need a new party
Brian Caton said that working class people need a new political party “by the people, for the people. It’s time for socialism to become real. I supported Labour all my life and got nothing in return.”

Dave Nellist also called for a new workers’ party. He said the difference between Labour and the other parties could be reduced to whether the full extent of public sector cuts are brought through in “six years or seven.” “Indeed, last night, Alasdair Darling told the BBC that Labour would cut deeper than Thatcher.”

Nellist went on to say that success for TUSC won’t just be measured by the number of votes, but will “plant it’s flag in the ground – saying that an alternative is possible.” He said that TUSC could be the start to building an “independent trade union and socialist voice.” Hannah Sell said, “This is the modest beginning of something historic. We hope this will start the development of a mass party.”

Some TUSC candidates should do quite well – at least save their deposit. Karen Reissmann and Jenny Sutton (London regional secretary of UCU), for example. Dave Hill of Socialist Resistance is expected to do well in Brighton– And of course Paul Couchman in the Spelthorne constituency in Surrey. If 5-6 candidates save their deposits or do even better, then the pressure for a new party would be very high.

Paul Couchman is a paragon of what a candidate for a new workers’, anti-capitalist party should be. A Socialist Party branch organiser, he is a Unison branch secretary. He has consistently been involved in the community over many years and takes an active part in many local groups. He is the founder of “Save Surrey Services”, and is the founder and organiser of the campaign to save Surrey’s care homes. Paul is well known and respected throughout West Surrey and is known for his campaigning to keep schools and hospitals from closure. 

For an anti-capitalist party!
When the capitalist parties like Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems are about to launch such a huge assault on working class people, it is important that many TUSC candidates and supporters recognise that we need a new party to defend ourselves.

But speakers also made clear that there are many obstacles we will have to overcome to form such a new party. Onay Kasab, a Unison branch organiser standing for Greenwich & Woolwich spoke about how he had been witch-hunted by the Unison leadership. The union is currently victimizing left-wing activists. He told us that a memo had gone round to branch secretaries telling them that to lobby for non-Labour candidates in the general election would result in expulsion from the union. He told a disgusted audience that the Unison orders were “gobs shut for Labour.”  This is a declaration of war by the Unison leadership – vote Labour or else!

Steve Hedley said that the RMT union would only be supporting left-wing Labour candidates, although he admitted that these candidates were standing for the wrong party. He said that we urge left MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to break from Labour.

In doing this, RMT leaders are stepping back from the kind of fight that is necessary for a new party. Some candidates, including the Workers Power candidate in Vauxhall, Jeremy Drinkall, were barred from standing for TUSC because they were standing against ‘left’ Labour MPs (in Vaxhall this is Kate Hoey). PCS leaders have been similar in their procrastinating, whilst the Labour government have been laying the way for civil service job cuts by attacking redundancy pay.

Despite the potential of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, its weakness is that left-wing trade union leaders ultimately have a veto over all the decisions that are made. The launch meeting was very weak on the question of socialism with almost no mention of a goal for the coalition how to achieve it.

The PCS, RMT and other unions outside Labour – along with groups like the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party should have organised a mass conference to decide on the politics and policies of this coalition. They could have used it to galvanise support from workers and youth all over the country who are in struggle against the economic crisis with the explicit aim of forming a new political party to destroy capitalism for good.

This new formation should be federated and it’s members free to belong to other political organisations which support the new party. The branches of such a formation should act as pluralistic campaigning groups, and encompass anarchists, radical environmentalists and syndicalists as well as trades unionists and socialists. In-fact, all those who appreciate that capitalism is not working and that we need to fight for a better future, free from the rule of profit, the threat of war, fascism and global warming.

This has not been done. TUSC drafted its manifesto in secret meetings behind closed doors, asking workers to ‘like it or lump it’. As a result there are major weaknesses with the TUSC programme reducing it to an ‘old Labour’ manifesto seeking to reform capitalism, rather than abolish the rotten system for good.

Such a conference should still be called, to start preparing the ground for a new party. The next few weeks are due to see a huge number of strikes – highly unusual in the run-up to the general election. Why not call for such a conference now and bring in the BA, RMT and British Gas workers, civil servants and teachers who are all taking industrial action to save their jobs? Then socialists could start having the arguments around the kind of action and international solidarity needed to protect the class as a whole. -And begin to build an alternative society with an alternative economy – where workers and communities are the ones who control it.

Bolton Town Hall Lobbys Home Secretary To Ban

EDL Rally Later This Month.

TOWN hall chiefs
have this week sent an appeal to Home Secretary Alan Johnson asking him to ban the proposed English Defence League rally later this month.The two-page letter, signed by political, civic and faith leaders on Bolton Vision letter-headed paper, was sent to the Home Office on Monday.Bolton Council’s legal department has spent a fortnight putting the proposal together.

Copies of the council motion — which was unanimously passed last week — and a statement signed by the Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Rev Chris Edmondon, on behalf of the Bolton Faith Leaders Forum were included in the appeal, as was a copy of the One Bolton Pledge, which was launched on Saturday and promotes community cohesion.

Mr Johnson, as Home Secretary, is the only person with the power to stop static demonstrations such as that planned by the EDL for Bolton on Saturday, March 20.

The signatories of the letter state they do not want to prevent freedom of speech or freedom of assembly by asking for the rally to be banned.

They say past EDL events, such as those in Manchester and Stoke, have led to outbreaks of violence and disorder and that they want to prevent that happening in Bolton.

Sean Harriss, Bolton Council chief executive, said: “This has the full support of all the party and faith leaders and we are hoping for a positive response from the Home Secretary.

“We will also be seeking a meeting with Alan Johnson, or his representatives, so that we can put forward our case in person.”

Bolton Against Racism has already announced it plans to hold a “celebration of unity” event on the same day.

According to a number of websites, protesters against the rally, plan to arrive in numbers from as far away as Aberdeen and Dover, as part of a counter-demonstration.