Wednesday, 15 December 2010


You know when you get that feeling that things are just not adding up? I’ve been feeling that about a few things recently, and today’s announcement on unemployment was the final straw...

1) Higher university fees, higher unemployment

The Government has passed a bill for universities to start charging fees of up to £9,000 per year. The fact some Lib Dems voted for this increase after getting students' votes on exactly the opposite pledge doesn’t add up in itself, but I want to focus on the argument that people won’t start paying back the debt until they earn above £21,000. With today’s announcement that UK unemployment rose by 35,000 to 2.5 million in the three months to October, the task of finding a job, let alone one that will allow you to start paying off your student debt, seems all the more difficult. And let’s make no mistake – the reason for the rise in unemployment is down to the Government’s cuts, because 33,000 of those affected are from the public sector, which has suffered and will continue to suffer spending cuts. So the Government has truly shafted young people by increasing tuition fees, and reducing employment prospects when they graduate.

2) Julian Assange

There are a number of problems with Julian Assange. He’s wanted in Sweden for sex offences, has been granted a £200,000 bail, but remains behind bars after Swedish authorities appealed against the bail. We will have to let the courts decide whether he’s guilty of the alleged crimes, but many people around the world think this is a cover for the fact that Assange is the founder of Wikileaks. The website and Assange have been the focus of widespread criticism (and support) for leaking classified US documents and an ABC News poll claims 6 in 10 people believe Assange should face criminal charges. To top it all off, today, TIME magazine named Facebook founder and CEO Zuckerberg its person of the year, despite Assange winning the reader’s choice (Zuckerberg came 10th in this poll). Today’s announcement is widely conceived as another snub against Assange, and joins the list of other businesses boycotting Wikileaks.

3) New Labour government, Thatcherite opinions

It may come as no surprise to those who felt New Labour largely continued many Conservative policies when they came into power in 1997, but yesterday’s opinion poll by the British Social Attitudes shows we are more Thatcherite than we were in the 1980s! After 13 years of New Labour in power, how is it possible that as a nation we have less sympathy for benefit claimants, less support of redistributing wealth and harsher attitudes towards the poor? There was some good news, with larger support for education and health, but there’s no denying that Labour must take responsibility for the fact that they didn’t try hard enough with redistributive taxation. Must try harder next time...

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