This was a genuine fringe first: a play from Gaza in the heart of Edinburgh despite all of the obstacles in the way.
It’s been quite a week to finish the first term of the new parliament. On Monday the Tories’ welfare bill passed its second reading by 308 votes to 124, the majority exactly equal to the number of Labour MPs who didn’t vote against it. This is an odious package of measures. Choice highlights include reducing the work allowance people on benefit can claim so that their payments are reduced, removing housing benefit for anyone under 25, and the two child policy which will deny benefits to larger families
The bill also reduces the benefits cap which any one household can claim to £380 a week. Not many people get this level of benefits and where they do you can bet most of it will be to cover the cost of high private rents. The effect of the cap will be to force people to move into poorer areas where rents are lower, cleansing nice middle class Tory areas of claimants and creating ghettos of poverty where the chances of getting a decent job are even more remote than before. This is a restructuring of welfare to achieve social engineering on a grand scale.
I can’t be the only one who finds the Conservatives attempts to portray themselves as the workers’ party risible and ridiculous. I’ve sat opposite them in the House of Commons for the last two months and I can safely say I’ve never seen so much wealth and privilege in the one place. The only working people many of the Tories know are the ones who work for them.
It’s all a PR exercise and like any other brand you can’t sell it if it’s crap. So let’s take a look at what the workers’ party has planned. This week’s budget is nothing other than an all-out attack on working people. Millions of police officers, nurses, teachers and local government workers throughout the UK will have their pay pegged to a one percent increase for the next four years. On top of wage freezes and paltry rises over the past five years, this will drive down the standard of living for many, many people.
We are finally getting down to business at Westminster. Two major bills are now in Committee stage and we have been putting down multiple amendments for each.The EU referendum
The SNP were the only party to vote against having a referendum on the EU. We said in our manifesto that we didn’t see any need for one and, as Alex Salmond pointed out in the debate usually (with PR, independence, etc) you only have a referendum when asking people to agree to a change. More than 80% of Scotland voted for parties opposed to having a referendum and polls consistently show that Sots as quite content with being part of Europe. In spite of our opposition the bill passed its second reading with the support of the Labour "opposition" and so we now move on to look at the detail.