While Labour supports working people, the Tories prioritise the privileged few

Cameron and Osborne are more concerned with defending bumper bonuses for bankers than measures to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Over the last 24 hours we've seen the priorities of David Cameron's government exposed once again. While Labour has been setting out concrete policies to tackle the cost of living crisis facing ordinary families, George Osborne has decided to become the champion of bankers' bonuses.
 
At our conference in Brighton, Labour unveiled a number of policies, including measures to tackle low pay, expanding free childcare to support working parents, and a pledge to cut business rates for small businesses, all with the aim of helping struggling families and businesses in these tough times.
 
And, as Ed Miliband announced on Tuesday, the next Labour government will reset our energy market so it works for Britain’s families and businesses, with a new tough regulator to stop overcharging. While we put that in place, the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. This will save a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800.
 
But David Cameron and the Tories have different priorities. They are determined to stand up for the privileged few. Earlier this year, they cut the top rate of income tax – giving 13,000 millionaires an average tax cut of £100,000. Bonuses soared by 82% in April as bankers deferred their payments to take advantage of the tax cut.
 
And this week they’ve outdone themselves again. Yesterday, George Osborne launched a legal challenge to defend bankers’ bonuses from an EU cap, which would limit the size of their bonus to one year's salary - or two years' with shareholder approval.
 
This move tells you everything you need to know about the priorities of David Cameron and George Osborne. Since they took office, prices have risen faster than wages in all but one month. Yet they have prioritised defending bumper bonuses for bankers over measures to tackle the cost of living crisis facing ordinary families. By contrast, Labour would tax bank bonuses to fund a compulsory jobs guarantee get young people back to work. With youth unemployment at almost a million, this should be the government’s priority.
 
The lesson for the public this week is clear. Labour will stand up for what working people need to deal with the cost of living crisis. David Cameron and George Osborne will stand up for bankers’ bonuses.
 
Chris Leslie is shadow financial secretary to the Treasury 
 

Chris Leslie is chair of Labour's backbench Treasury committee.

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war