Socialist Worker

Lib Dem conference in land of political make-believe

Issue No. 2322


Imagine for a moment being a Liberal Democrat. No wait, come back—you can scrub yourself later.

Just think yourself into their yellow shoes for a few passing milliseconds.

Your party has spent two and a half years snuggling up to the Tories. In that time you’ve forced through a string of vicious cuts and made a bonfire of the NHS.

Your party leader Nick Clegg is making desperate apologies—not for breaking his promise over student fees, but for making the promise in the first place.

So what do you discuss at your conference down in sunny Brighton? Well, none of that, of course.

Because this is a land of political make-believe, where “standing up to the Tories” means gently sighing as you do their dirty work.

“The fact is that Nick sees it completely differently,” one friend of Clegg told the Financial Times.

“He thinks the coalition is working well, tackling Labour’s economic legacy. He believes he is delivering on issues like social mobility or reforming tax, welfare or education.”

So you hear fine words spoken about “mansion taxes” that the Tories will never let happen. You take pride in policies like the school “pupil premium”, even though the cuts have made them even more irrelevant than they were to begin with.

But the headline debates you attend aren’t about the NHS, or student fees. Instead they focus on getting people to switch energy company and “the taxation of heavily sugared drinks”.

“I am on a journey—the party’s on a journey,” said Clegg. But it’s a journey into such oblivion that he risks losing his own Sheffield seat.

At the conference centre, poor Clegg had to pull a curtain across and move the stage forward to disguise how few delegates even showed up. Still—at least Ed Miliband is rushing to answer his text messages.


Clock off, Cameron

David Cameron visited a steel plant in Corby recently—and the steelworkers had a message for him. Cameron was in town ahead of a November byelection caused by Tory MP Louise Mensch’s decision to quit. The Tata Steel workers rearranged their clocking-in board, added a little picture of Cameron, and there you have it—“Cameron Out”.


New College flops

The New College of Humanities has finally opened its doors—but only 60 students have signed up for the ultra-elitist private university.

The college is run as a for-profit business and promised to outsnob even Oxford and Cambridge. But perhaps it over­estimated how many toffs actually wanted to pay its sky-high fees of £18,000 a year.


Will fat cat Tory get his comeuppance?

You might remember Brian Coleman. Once the highest paid councillor in Britain, this Barnet Tory angered anyone who crossed his path.

As a former London Assembly member and chair of the fire authority he attacked firefighters and other workers. And as a cabinet member in Barnet he was responsible for its “easyCouncil” privatisation plan.

But at the last election he was routed from both these positions. Now he has been arrested after allegedly assaulting a parking campaigner who helped get him kicked out. Could it finally be the end of the road for Coleman?


Shapps doesn’t know he’s born

More confusion over the identity of Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman with a strange alter ego named Michael Green. He seems to be unsure exactly where he was born. When Shapps stood for parliament in London, his leaflets said he was “a Londoner by birth”.

But now he is MP for Welwyn Hatfield, they tell a different story. “Born in Hertfordshire in 1968” his profile now reads. Best not ask where exactly Michael Green hails from.


City still pockets the most bonuses

City fat cats took home 36 percent of all bonuses paid out across the economy last year, new figures show. That’s despite financial employees only making up around 4 percent of the workforce.

The Office for National Statistics said the average City bonus is £12,000. But that figure is skewed by also including lower-level workers. Top bankers continue to pocket multi-million pound bonanzas.

The latest Forbes Rich List also confirms that times are as good as ever for the super-rich. The US list, which includes many of the world’s wealthiest, shows they saw a 13 percent increase in their wealth last year.

The question is, what to do with it all? You could buy the 65 acre private island that’s just come up for sale. It features an array of luxury homes, a croquet lawn and even a helipad. Yours for the bargain price of £2.85 million.


Toff of the week

Damian Collins, Tory MP for Folkestone & Hythe, suggested young people could busk “to raise the train fare” to go find work in London. Collins himself walked straight out of Oxford university into an ad job at M&C Saatchi.


Capita hired to ‘bounty hunt’ immigrants

The government has spent £40 million hiring private firm Capita as a “bounty hunter” to hunt down and deport immigrants. Its contract with the UK Border Agency includes a “payment by results” clause. This will see them paid only for migrants who are successfully “removed”.

Capita will be looking to track down 170,000 immigrants that the government cannot locate. The firm admits that many of these people may have already left Britain.


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The Troublemaker
Tue 25 Sep 2012, 18:30 BST
Issue No. 2322
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