Politics and Economics, Uncategorized

It’s my Pension!

I was talking with a friend recently about his buy to let in the South West and got the not uncommon repsonse that it was his pension. He had nothing to look forward to other than the state pension and so, to improve his situation, had bought a modest house to let in order to give him some income. There is a lot to be read into that situation, not least that he didn’t expect the state pension to suffice, despite him being a relatively modest and frugally living person. That, however, is for another day. The issue that I found interesting that day was that, my friend, a decent person, was happy to consider living off of someone else’s hard work.

In the UK today, the average renter pays 50% of their take home pay on rent (considerably more if they live in the south east). So all day monday, all day tuesday and half of wednesday the tenant is working for their landlord. That, you may think,is fair enough; they have to stay somewhere. But is 50% of their income really fair? What, after all, is the landlord giving them in return? Not very much really; the house or flat remains the property of the landlord, who can, and usually does, dictate the decor; they often insist that their furnishings remain and that nothing can be hung on the walls thereby keeping it just a roof over their head and preventing the tenant from making it their home. Despite paying an average of £900 per month, many tenants will attest that landlords grumble and complain when they have to spend money on maintenance or repairs to their property. For the most part, it would seem, they want to take and take and give nothing. On top of all this, of course, they have, in the property, a growing asset.

The tenant on the contrary gets little in return for devoting half of their working life to the landlord, usually on Short Assured Tenancies, they have no little or no security. They have all sorts of restrictive clauses foisted on them, at the landlord’s will, forbidding pets, children, smoking or whatever the landlord fancies really. They live in fear of losing their jobs because housing benefit is rarely enough to cover these excessive rents. It doesn’t appear to be what one might call a win win situation; there is only one winner in these transactions. It really doesn’t seem fair.

And things are becoming less fair. Home ownership is falling in the UK. More and more people are being priced out by the buy to letters and with no low cost or social housing to speak of, they have no option but to rent from a private landlord, someone who just happens to be lucky enough to have the capital or the creditworthiness behind them to buy the property. Can it be fair that the tenant has no option but to hand over at least half of their hard earned wages to ensure that someone already better off than them has a very comfortable retirement indeed?

My friend, that day, was quick to tell me that he hadn’t really thought of it in these terms and I’m sure he hadn’t. He had just thought that he was charging a “market” rent so that must be fair and, of course, “lots of other people are doing it”. I doubt that he will give up being a landlord but I do hope that he has come to understand that the property is not funding his retirement, his tenant’s labour is.






I am old enough to remember when the Labour Party was the party of the workers. I, back then, was a NUPE branch secretary and, it so happens, Jeremy Corbyn was our organiser. Unfortunately, those days have most certainly gone and union membership has plummeted but Jeremy has changed little.

I am ashamed to say that my generation became the most selfish and greediest generation in history. We have sold off the public utilities, the building societies and social housing; we have pushed the price of property out of the reach of the next generation, and so, we rent it to them and make ourselves, wealthier in both cash and assets in the process. We also want to give less of our wealth to the needy; basic income tax rates have halved in my lifetime. Furthermore, we have amassed both personal and national debts at levels which would have been inconceivable to my parents generation. On the back of all of this avarice, the Labour Party has slewed to the right and has adopted the tailored suited, media savvy posturing that has been dictated by right wing press. Fail to look the part or to measure up to the media model and you are right royally ridiculed.

When Jeremy Corbyn, the complete antithesis of that model, stood for the leadership, I, like most, assumed he had little chance of winning. I was delighted to be proven wrong and more delighted that it was the younger generation that secured his victory. The young know that we need change, we need to pull this country back from the neo-liberalist agenda that my generation, aided by New Labour, has been instumental in pushing forward. It may be an uphill struggle, we may be facing a hostile media but that should not mean that we give up. Don’t take hope away from the new, young left by sliding back towards the right and leaving them disenfranchised once more just in order to appease the media bosses. It may take a while, Rome, as they say, was not built in a day but what we must do is to persevere. We have to make it clear that we are not going anywhere and not only that but also that we are a growing voice calling for a more compassionate, kinder and tolerant politic. We have to stop the rich enriching themselves even more at the cost of the less well off.

It was notable that, in what I witnessed, of the little media coverage that Jeremy was afforded over the referendum, he talked almost exclusively about jobs and workers rights and conditions. That is exactly where the labour party should be. Let the parasitic marketeers and currency traders look out for themselves. The Labour Party was and can be again the party of the workers and those who don’t think it can or don’t want to be part of it should just go. The rest of us need to keep shouting the message loud and clear that there is an alternative and more will join us.



I had a meal with some friends last night. The discussion, of course covered the EU, brexit, and Boris. But when the topic eventually arrived at Corbyn, almost in unison, the cry was “he has to go!” Why? Because “he is unelectable”. This, of course, is the message now being broadcast far and wide by the media. Odd, as it may seem, on the very day following such a momentous vote, when most people, even those who voted leave, were concerned with the what, the when and the wherefore of the United Kingdom detatching itself from the EU, the British media, almost as one voice, were rounding on Jeremy Corbyn. It may indeed have seemed a little odd shift of focus but it is not altogether surprising because it had also become apparent that there was an early election in the offing and there is always the potential that we could witness yet another surprise result.

So the media behaved exactly as we would expect, attacking the Labour Party because, post Blair, it has had the impertinence to move leftwards, away from the dominant political ideology of neoliberalism. The acceptable political spectrum is now very narrow. Step outside of it and you will be belittled, castigated and ridiculed. The consequence of the media onslaught, peppered coincidentally with the phrases “he has to go” and “he is unelectable”, is that there becomes a correlation in people’s minds between the name Corbyn and those phrases. Even those on the left blurt it out, almost unthinkingly. I would suggest that, if Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable, that is the reason why and it has little or nothing to do with personality, charisma or even policy.

We have witnessed a surge of support, particularly among younger voters, for the left as personified by Corbyn and that is something that should be celebrated. The youth of today, faced with a world of unemployment, austerity, growing inequality and environmental destruction, are saying “enough”. It seems that they may be less corrupted by the media because they are very adept at sharing ideas outwith the traditional means controlled by media moguls. So, this is not the time for shifting the Labour Party to the right until the media deem it acceptable. Even if the arguments have not yet been won, the left of Labour Party need to carry on until they are, they need to stand their ground, hold on to their principles, because it is principles that matter not, power at any cost. If Labour are unelectable this time around, they need to work hard to make sure that they are next time and, of course, more and more of the younger generation are becoming eligible to vote day on day on day; Labour must not alienate them.