Monday, 23 April 2012

So that just about wraps it Uppal

It's been - he thinks - a good week's media exposure for Paul Uppal MP, known in these parts as The Secretive Millionaire. He had a question at PMQs:
Earlier this week the journalist Mary Ann Sieghart wrote an article in The Independent about the many young south Asian women who feel that traditionally their votes have been hijacked through abuse of the postal vote system. Will my right hon. Friend please look at revisiting the issue of postal votes on demand not only to strengthen our democracy and trust in it, but to ensure that all voters have a vote and, particularly in the case of south Asian young voters, their votes are not stolen?
Now we'll leave aside the impression that his intellectual level is such that he gets his talking points from mediocre newspaper columnists (like the pub bore retailing the latest outrage from the Daily Mail). Instead, let's have a look at the facts.

Does little Paul - not a noted feminist - cite any evidence for his concern about 'many' young South Asian women? No. Has he ever reported any voting fraud abuse to the police? No. Was there any fraud in his constituency? No: despite him telling Parliament that the police and the Electoral Commission were investigating fraud, they both told me that he hadn't complained, and they weren't investigating any cases. The nearest case of electoral fraud was in Walsall… and it was the Tories.

What Paul's really bothered about - alongside most urban MPs on the government benches - is the large number of poor and transient people who when they vote, tend to vote Labour. In particular, Paul's very scared that the students graduating in 2015 might be a little bit annoyed by paying £27,000 fees. They might even think that a millionaire Conservative MP who got his education for free, but voted for fees, deserves to be thrown out on his well-padded bottom. So the Tories have come up with a little wheeze, imported from the United States where making sure poor and black people don't vote is something of an art. They want to make it much harder for those with difficult and busy lives to get themselves on the electoral register. He wants voters to be the rich, settled old people on the west side of the constituency. Sadly for him, they all read the Daily Mail and are a teensy bit annoyed about the Granny Tax and the drop in the plutocrats' tax rate.

Entirely unrelated to this, of course, is Mr Uppal's majority of 691, about the size of a student accommodation block.

OK, Plutocrat Paul also popped up on BBC Breakfast grinding - yet again - his axe about Chuggers: Scourge of Britain's High Street. Again, he thinks it's a vote-winner. As I've said before, they can be a bit annoying, but a polite 'no thank-you' usually suffices. What annoys me about this campaign is that there's a much worse threat to Britain's High Streets. It's Tory economics. The Dark Place's High Street's shops are 30% empty. Those remaining are the mobile phone shops - owned by tax avoiders, Boots - owned by tax avoiders - and the usual cancerous chains. Uppal has nothing to say about any of this… but then he wouldn't because he's a multimillionaire property speculator who couldn't give a shit if there was a branch of Phones4U in your bedroom as long as he made some money from it.

Finally, the Egregious Member had an article on PoliticsHome which made my blood boil. In it, he wept crocodile tears for the poor by pointing out that his family was poor once. Yeah? Wonder where his speculation seed money came from? Perhaps his free education helped? Hi basic argument is that 'the poverty label' holds people back.

I think this is offensive. I'm damn sure there are a few lazy or defeated people who haven't the energy to improve their situations. I'm certain there are lots of people who aren't concerned about material things and have fulfilling lives while remaining poor. But I'm even more convinced that with 2.5 million people unemployed, thanks to a recession caused by Uppal's economics, individual failure of aspiration is not the root cause of poverty in this country. What the Tories are trying to do is individualise what is a structural problem. It's the dark side of the Britain's Got Talent culture: if you succeed, it's because you're special, if you fail, it's totally your fault. Nonsense: BGT stars who get into the charts are the product of a fiendish marketing machine. Those who fail are subject to the whims of the public as well as institutions.

It's just the same in economics. You can look in the mirror and chant 'I'm a winner' a hundred times every morning. You can send out your CV ten times a day, but if you're in the midst of the deepest slump since the 1930s, your chances are of course more limited.

Paul doesn't like labels.
it does people a disservice to make their primary identifier their bank balance (or lack thereof). People are more than how much money they have and people are more than their living conditions.
He would say that, wouldn't he? After all, he got quite angry when I pointed out that he's a millionaire, made from speculation, in stark contrast to his inner-city constituents. Uppal's narrative is that he used his individual genius to achieve business success. Nonsense, of course. Nobody rises alone. Uppal's free education helped. Family connections helped. So, no doubt, did business and political contacts. And what of his business? Has he employed anyone? Has he spread the wealth through a network of local businesses? Has he made anything? Is there anything to which he can point and say 'I made that'? No: his business is property speculation - the very industry at the heart of the recession.

How does Uppal propose to remove the stigma of the 'poverty label'? Simple. He voted for the Welfare Reform Bill, which explicitly makes large swathes of the population poorer by removing tax credits for the working poor (you have to work double the number of hours to qualify than before - despite extra hours not being available with 2.5m unemployed people chasing work). He voted to cut benefits for disabled children.

At the same time, he voted to cut the rate of tax for the rich, including himself. Clearly the poor are incentivised by hunger while he and his friends require further rewards.

Election Day will be May 2015. In the meantime, perhaps you should mention this stuff to him.

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