Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Minimum Wage Was 15 recently – Not much of a party atmosphere for Britain’s lowest paid

Sir George Bain, one of the chief architects of the minimum wage has said that the New Labour flagship policy is no longer working – and he has got a point. The minimum wage has lost its value over the years as inflation has outpaced median pay in the UK causing millions to be earning less than the accepted ‘living wage’ needed for a basic standard of living. There are signs of an economic recovery sprouting, which is giving Conservative politicians reason to be cheerful but whilst ‘Plan A’ might be showing signs of ‘working’, the reality for a lot of workers in the UK is that they themselves are still ‘hurting’. Inflation continues to rise, wages are stagnating and living standards are dropping – this is no reason to celebrate.

It is people that are at the bottom of the pay scale that are affected most during times of economic uncertainty and undeniably more should be done to help ensure their financial security. There is a general consensus that the status quo is trapping low wage earners in an unsustainable and unacceptable position, however the current popular solutions from across the political spectrum could not be more disparate and neither offers an effective solution likely to be implemented any time soon.

One oft given resolution to this problem is to enforce businesses to raise the minimum wage to the rate of the ‘Living Wage’ as determined by the Living Wage Foundation – which would mean workers would be paid £7.45/h as opposed to the current £6.19/h. Admirably, there are over 200 UK companies that already pay workers at this rate voluntarily and the idea has cross party support – it has been backed by both Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband.

However, the idea of a living wage is condemned for ‘raising the ladder’ to the jobs market – making it more difficult for low paid or un-skilled workers to get employment. Using basic economic theory it’s easy to conclude that setting a minimum value for someone’s labour drives up the costs of running a business – it makes employers less likely to employ more people thus pricing people out of the market.  Raising the minimum wage would on the one hand be beneficial to workers in employment putting more in to their pockets however it would have wider detrimental implications by adding another barrier to the unemployed. It’s pretty reasonable to lobby large multi-national corporations with booming profits to chuck a couple of extra pennies towards their workers, but when you consider small and medium-sized enterprises account for between 60 and 70 per cent of jobs in the UK economy – demanding these businesses that are already struggling in the current economic climate to cough up more seems pretty counter productive.

Instead of pressuring for a higher minimum wage, the opposite argument is to scrap the minimum wage altogether in order to liberalise the jobs market, encourage businesses to employ more people and make it easier for people to get their first crucial step on to the jobs ladder. It’s a straightforward, simple argument – if employers could pay some workers lower than the artificially high amount set by the minimum wage then they could hire more workers and reduce unemployment. It’s easy to regurgitate a Milton Friedman talk and assume that if the minimum wage was scrapped all our economic woes would go away – it’s good on paper but sketchy in practice.

Numerous reports have refuted the link between the minimum wage and unemployment showing that no conclusive point can be made either way. However, what can be concluded is that scrapping the minimum wage may liberalise the job’s market but it’s almost certainly going to end up with the lowest paid with a lot less in their pocket and will further bloat the welfare bill as government will have to compensate for this. With costs of pretty much everything going up, it makes little sense to hit the most vulnerable in society with another economic gamble when the results are so inconclusive.

The jury is out about what to do with the minimum wage and neither of these proposed solutions are likely to appear in any mainstream political parties manifesto anytime soon. So if the answer is not to raise the minimum wage and it’s not to scrap it, then surely the answer can lie somewhere in the middle?  This interesting report by the Adam Smith Institute recommends an alternative that avoids the pitfalls of the main popular alternatives and exposes the elephant in the room – the post-tax earnings of a worker on the ‘Living Wage’ is painfully close to the pre-tax earnings of a worker on the National Minimum Wage – this fact should not be overlooked and it’s a tragedy that it is. A full time worker earning the national minimum wage currently earns £12,875 a year before tax and the current rate for a full time worker earning the agreed ‘Living wage’ after tax is £13,355. By increasing the tax-free threshold to levels around £13,000 and taking minimum wage earners out of tax altogether, the government would effectively allow low paid workers to earn a living wage without forcing greater costs on businesses. It really is one of the biggest and greatest elephant sitting in the corner of the HM Revenue & Customs Tax office.

It is time the debate over the minimum wage moved on from the simplistic “raise it / scrap it” arguments and considered this alternative. The scale of low pay in Britain is a national scandal but it is an even greater scandal that a living wage can be delivered without hurting businesses and no one in power seems to care.

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These so-called defenders of Britain are in fact one of its greatest threats

A driving component of nationalism is the perpetuation of national myths; one contemporary popular myth is to demonise Islam as an expansionist political ideology that threatens to undermine the foundations of British democracy.

For example, take the fresh-faced political party Liberty GB – according to them the threat of Islamist extremism in the 21st century is comparable to the danger that Nazism posed in the 20th century. In a recent viral video entitled “My name is Paul Weston, and I am a Racist”  Liberty GB’s party leader laments that the political establishment has tagged him as a racist for wishing to preserve his country’s culture and for daring to criticise Islam – a tag he now embraces as an ironic political stunt.

Weston slams Islam as a violent and savage political and religious ideology – one that needs to be ‘called out’ for it’s wicked ways. He cites horrors that have been done in the name of Islam and is convinced they will inevitably occur in Britain. Horrors such as the stoning of adulteresses, the beheading of babies and the hanging of homosexuals, Weston predicts, are soon to be a common sight in Britain.

Juxtaposed with this depiction of Islam as a savage force of evil is the factoid that the Islamic population is growing nine times faster than any other demographic in Britain. From this Weston reaches the logical conclusion that Britain is soon to face a ‘full blown religious civil war’ – to occur around 2040 mind you – and it is his and Liberty GB’s duty to confront Islam to stop this. At no point does Weston mention he is talking about extreme examples of fundamental Islamists – it is clear that he despises Islam as a whole and tars all Muslims as fundamentalists.

What Weston has effectively done is put two and two together to get five; he assumes Muslims are a united body hell bent on spreading the terrors practiced by jihadists and militants in the East to the West.  What he spews is based upon selective evidence, ignorance and unjustified fear. Groups such as Liberty GB instead of serving to protect British society and culture arguably do the exact opposite – they create tension based on selective evidence, spread ignorance to impressionable minds and whip up hatred based on unfounded claims and dubious conclusions.

Weston has proudly embraced the racist tag, twisting it to wear as a badge of honour. To avoid giving him what he wants, he should be labelled as not the defender of British culture and society he styles himself as, but one of the architects of its demise. He wilfully spreads misinformation and fear to demonise a minority the consequence of which will inevitably lead to less social cohesion, greater violence and a less safe society.

Half of Britain’s mosques have been attacked since 9/11 and if voices like Weston’s that tar all Muslims as savages become louder, then inevitably anti-Muslim violence in Britain is likely to grow. Violence begets more violence, instead of defending British culture; Liberty GB’s actions undermine it. You wont see people like Paul Weston tearing up your local town centre like the EDL, but a quick glance at the comments on the “I am a Racist” video and you can see the bile they spread is being picked up and inspiring the wrong sorts. Comments ranging from racist slurs to calls for violence are commonplace and there is no denouncement from Liberty GB for them, that is reserved for anyone that dares criticise them letting their true colours shine through.

It is easy to deconstruct the myths about Islam that Weston and his ilk peddle. Tired of constant smears and myths being propagated about Islam, a group made up of two Muslims and two non-Muslims (including one ex BNP member) decided to go out and conduct their own survey to find out what views the average British Muslim really holds. They did so in Alum Rock Birmingham, an area that contains a large Asian population. Alum Rock gained notoriety for being home to suspected terrorists and has been described as a “no go” area for white people. If anywhere is going to give an accurate poll on what British Muslims think, it is here.

Funnily enough the findings of the poll found Muslims in Britain to be a much more tolerant group than the likes of Liberty GB would have you believe. For example- 99% don’t support terrorist activities, 99% don’t believe the Quran justifies terrorism, 98% said they would support their child if they came out as gay, 95% said men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah and believe that Muslim men and women should mix freely. Less than 1% thinks that homosexuals should be stoned to death and 98% don’t believe that Sharia Law should apply to non-Muslims in the UK. Of course this poll is open to accusations of bias due to the motivation behind it however it offers a refreshingly stark contrast to the disgracefully selective bile spewed by Liberty GB.

As well recent events such as the uprisings in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood are testament that not all Muslims want to enforce Islamist teachings as a political ideology. However Liberty GB like to ignore these truths, as they don’t fit in with their depiction of Islam as the greatest threat to British society and culture. This publication also further dispels widely held myths about Islam that are far too often spread and believed.

Radical Islam has been responsible for atrocities in Britain; the obvious ones that spring to mind are the London bombings in 2005 and the murder of Lee Rigby in May of this year. These events are deplorable yet they are also so sporadic that to argue they are evidence that Islam is threatening the stability of British civil society is farcical. Groups like Liberty GB that are spreading fear and misinformation are far more likely to create a climate of terror in this country rather than the overwhelmingly moderate Muslim population.

There are legitimate concerns and debates to be had concerning radical Islam but if you believe movements like Liberty GB have the answer, then you don’t understand the question.

 

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