Discussion with the progressive Parliamentary candidates

AboveFriday 27th Mar, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

Matthew O’Callaghan – Labour  Matt Sisson – Green Party and Steve Coltman – Lib Dems will answer questions

There is a widespread disillusion with politics based on a perception that it is dominated by Westminster-based career politicians. This is not helped by our first-past-the-post voting system.

We have a government which is determined to sell off as much as possible of what were public assets. In particular, housing is seen as an investment opportunity rather than a public service. Via a secret deal being negotiated known as TTIP, the government are effectively offering our public services, including our beloved NHS, for sale to multinational corporations and companies with a poor service record, owned by Tory donors.

This Government is by the wealthiest 1%  for the benefit of this 1%.

There is a general state of denial about climate change and limits to growth. There could be a decent life for all, but only by moving away from the economics of maximising consumption and inequality.

The above candidates will discuss the alternatives, particularly on issues like Trident (nuclear weapons ), accountability to the electorate, education, the NHS, the environment and climate change, and tactical voting.

(The Friday Room is an independent discussion group with no links to the owners of Unity House and does not support any particular Party)

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What’s happening in March 2015

The next proper meeting is not until 27th March, when we have invited, Labour party candidate, Matthew O’Callahgn and Green Party candidate, Matt Sissons. A detailed announcement will be made nearer the time. Meanwhile here are some other events that Friday Roomers might be interested in:

6 March: Some members are meeting informally at Unity house at 7:15 for 7:30. (Ruth asks: please arrive on time.)

13 March: A performance of the play “United We Stand” about the Shrewsbury 24 at the Quorn Grange Hotel.

20 March: “Education Question Time” at Charnwood College with:

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education and MP for Loughborough,

Matthew O’Callaghan – Labour Party candidate for Loughborough

Matt Sisson – Green Party candidate for Loughborough,

Christine Blower – General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers,
Professor Howard Stevenson – Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Nottingham University,
The event has been organised by the NUT and will be chaired by BBC Radio Leicester presenter, Jonathan Lampon

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Corruption and fat-cats are the enemies of prosperity

ProperityVcorruptionWith the election looming and most people looking for better times, it is instructive to consider what prevents greater prosperity. Comparing different countries, what stands out strongly is that the greater the level of corruption the lower the prosperity, however you define it. That corruption is the enemy of prosperity is hardly a surprise, just ask: in Europe which countries are in financial difficulties?  and which have significantly higher levels of corruption?

We can easily see the mechanism by which corruption reduces prosperity, corrupt practices simply siphon off money from enterprise.  But legal practices can do the same. For example, ticket touts are not illegal but are entirely detrimental to the prosperity of individuals wanting the tickets. Is there really any difference in financial effect between an executive in any business paying themselves an excessive salary and embezzling the same excess?

In common language these are the people we define as “fat-cats”. The effect of a single fat-cat, like the effect of a single corrupt individual, may not be significant, but the widespread existence and tolerance of both fat-cattery and corruption drains away prosperity.

What is the evidence? It seems very likely that the cumulative effect of many fat-cats will tend to increase inequality. Again, comparing different countries, greater levels of inequality correlate with lower prosperity. The degree of correlation is not as strong as with corruption but it is there. We can say that fat-cat induced inequality probably reduces overall prosperity but certainly does not increase it, While it may increase the prosperity of the fat-cats themselves, the prosperity of the majority, the 99%, is significantly reduced.

Corruption and fat-cats are the enemies of prosperity.

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Just Deserts? Attitudes to Fairness, Poverty and Welfare Reform

JustdesertsFriday 27th Feb, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

Discussion to be introduced by Steve Coltman

Just Deserts? examines public attitudes towards fairness, poverty and welfare reform. What do we think “fairness” is? Extensive new research finds British voters believe that fairness is about getting what you deserve, not about equality. British people are strong believers in reciprocity: and want existing rights balanced by new responsibilities. The poll finds strong support for asking the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits, and also support for a cap on child benefit. Reducing unemployment and cutting taxes on low earners are seen as the most important steps to a fairer Britain. Voters want politicians to tackle poverty, but want them to focus on its root causes – drug addiction, poor education and unemployment – rather than ‘papering over the cracks’ with cash transfers.
Just Deserts? is from the think-tank Policy Exchange. See:

To download the this report in pdf format:


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The Future of Work

21947950-robot-replacementFriday 20 Feb, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

To be introduced by John Barton

By way of introduction we will show the 15min. film “Humans Need Not Apply” Which asserts is that almost all unskilled jobs as well as many professional jobs are going to be replaced by computer intelligence.

This suggests that there will never be enough conventional jobs for a significant and increasing proportion of the population who will need to be supported somehow. Added to this an ageing population will make increasing demands on the NHS and on pensions.

With an aging population and shrinking overall economy, almost everyone in employment might be employed looking after other people, and most of those will be in the public sector: Nurses and doctors, plus of course teachers, police, fire and rescue….

Does the private sector really pay for ‘the public sector? Traditionally, public spending is paid for by taxation on the private sector. Government spending (Total Managed Expenditure) is currently running at almost 50% of total GDP in the UK but might have to rise much higher.

On top of all this, we must not forget climate change and the need to stop emitting greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular. The carbon intensity of the economy is reducing, but perhaps not fast enough. Is the growth model of the economy broken, as many environmentalists maintain? Does the private sector of the economy have to shrink as, regrettably, clean energy is more expensive than fossil energy.

Will a large number of people be permanently unemployed and unemployable through no fault of their own? What happens to taxation when most things that society does are essential necessities and luxuries are few? Does the income tax rate have to rise to 80% on top of other high taxes, which will be made less avoidable such as inheritance tax and a wealth tax?

Will living to an old age be seen as a luxury? Or will we be looked after by robots?

Will the new sturdy beggars face a life of being bullied by the state to seek non-existent employment, while governments are blamed for not providing jobs for everyone?

Humans Need Not Apply: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU

An analysis of employment trends, via the BBC and speculation about the future. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10557724

Trends in society including the aging population are described in:


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No meeting this Friday

The meeting planned for 13th Feb did not work out and so, as time was too short to arrange an alternative, there will be no formal meeting.

However some of us will be meeting in the Swan in the Rushes, all Friday Roomers are welcome to join us.

We propose to meet on 20th, 27th Feb and 27th March. We may sort out details this Friday!




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What next for a Citizens’ Income?

I am disappointed that the Green Party has dropped a Citizens’ Income from its manifesto, but on reflection not surprised. I have been a big fan of CI for ages. It has widespread support for more than a century and from varied political viewpoints.

The problem is that the introduction at the proposed rate, £3744 pa, would be a huge upheaval to the whole financial system, almost certainly with unforeseen economic and cultural side effects. I think there was the intention to fix the worst unfairnesses with “sticking plaster” money but the amounts involved would probably make this unfeasible.

There is also the big sticking point in selling the idea to voters: Many individuals baulk at the idea of their taxes being just “given away”. Others have an objection to some of their taxes going to the wealthy and would want to means test the CI.

I suggest way round this is firstly to start small, get the underlying machinery up and running, and only then gradually increase the amount. Secondly to make a point of paying the CI only from indirect taxes and make it clear that these payments do go only to the CI and are separate from general taxation which goes to one big pot at the Treasury.

For example we could start off by taking fuel duty entirely out of the tax system and putting it into this initial partial CI. I think it would amount to a bit over £400 per person per year. Initially would replace the same amount of existing benefits/child allowance/state pension. The idea is to set up the system without making significant changes to the overall money distribution, and with a low requirement for “sticking plaster” funding.

Once up and running things get interesting. An increase in fuel duty would result in a simultaneous increase of the CI, demonstrating how it works and giving voters confidence in the underlying fairness. I estimate that, for the average car owner, who does about 7900  miles pa, an increase in fuel cost would be about the same as the increase of CI. The majority of people who will be doing lower milages, will be better off.

Once people have accepted the new system  and seen how it works, other levies can be added to build up to a sensible CI. In particular a carbon levy in which the money raised could go entirely to the CI, providing a simple means of achieveing revenue neutrality.

Ultimately the CI system would replace the bulk of welfare and state pensions,  the NHS  could be treated as part of the CI, funded from levies and not income tax (currently it costs £1800 per person pa). All this would result in a big reduction in the role of the state.

Currently indirect taxes are regressive but, when contributed to a CI,  would be strongly progressive. It may be possible to make income tax less progressive!

We need to work out a long term plan for the introduction of a CI in a way that is cautious and acceptable across the political spectrum and to seek the necessary cross party support.

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