“Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.”

A Moseley reader draws attention to the thoughts of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today. A summary:

Jenkins asserted that Jeremy Corbyn is perfectly right to relate this week’s Manchester terrorist atrocity to British foreign policy in the Middle East.

He reminded all that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron clearly stated that they were spending soldiers’ lives toppling regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya at enormous expense in order to “to prevent terrorism in the streets of Britain”.

In the Andrew Neil programme this evening Corbyn added that Boris Johnson, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – and MI5 had also expressed these views ‘on record’!

Their aim was to suppress militant Islam but Jenkins points out that when their intervention clearly led to an increase in Islamist terrorism, we are entitled to agree with Corbyn that it has “simply failed”.

We committed armed aggression against sovereign peoples who had not attacked us

Regimes were indeed toppled. Tens of thousands died, many of them civilians every bit as innocent as Manchester’s victims. Terrorism has not stopped.

Militant Islamists are indeed seeking to subvert the west’s sense of security and its liberal values. But the west used the language of “shock and awe” in bombing Baghdad in 2003, giving the current era of Islamist terrorism a cause, a reason, an excuse, however perverted.

Jenkins ends: “Islamist terrorism is related to foreign policy. However hateful it may seem to us, it is a means to a political end. Sometimes it is as well to call a spade a spade”.

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Read his article here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/26/jeremy-corbyn-manchester-british-foreign-policy

 

 

 

Under 20s: registered? Will you use your vote?

Why bother?

Anna Griffiths in Redbrick brings promising news: reports suggesting that from the 9th April-6th May under 25s were the second largest demographic signing up to vote (beaten only by 25-34 year olds), youth registration as an issue is finally beginning to be taken seriously.

Charges of gerrymandering were made as changes in law meant millions were no longer on the electoral register in 2015.

Did 800,000 or so people drop off the electoral register?

Registration by household was scrapped and 18-25s, were required to register themselves. In 2016 it was reported that 1.8% of voters were estimated to have dropped off the register across the population and figures compiled by the Labour party found that was highest in areas with a high population of students, such as Canterbury, which has seen a 13% drop, and Cambridge and Dundee West, both with an 11% fall. The University of Sheffield, however, has taken a lead and seen outstanding results by integrating voter registration into the enrolment process.

Policy favours those that vote regularly

Political parties have not expected or received much interest from young people and so issues and policies which will affect their lives drastically have been given a low priority. Policies are focused towards the elderly, or – a new development – the working class. Anna writes:

”Whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to abolish tuition fees shines a light on us as voters, the majority of political parties have other priorities this cycle

“This isn’t surprising, considering promises over immigration and the economy have been seen statistically to resonate with regular voters. The Conservatives have quietly avoided putting any changes to student loans at the front of their policy centre, whilst quietly adding means for our loan repayments to become more difficult. Meanwhile, front and centre stands the slogan ‘strong and stable’, promising economic stability in Brexit. Something that stands up to scrutiny? Some would argue no. Something key demographics will actually turn out to vote for? Yes”. She asks:

“Why did the Liberal Democrats accept the compromise that trebled student fees?

“Why did Labour feel they could triple them after promising never to do so in 2005?”

 

Anna continues:

“We don’t vote. Political parties know this. The Conservatives especially know this, prioritising policy for the elderly and those on higher incomes; those who consistently come out to vote in a General Election. Yes, you may believe that the June 8th result has already been decided. Despite the gains in the polls, many still believe it’s too little too late to stop Theresa May gaining power for another five years. Even if this is undisputable (which nothing ever really is in 2017), a surge student vote would change things. If we could be relied upon to turn out and express opinion, then politics would have to begin to take us seriously. Our cynicism over voting is self-perpetuated; policy favours those that can be trusted to cast a ballot. By failing to vote, we give political parties further reason to ignore us”.

She ends by urging young people to vote: even a blank or defaced ballot on election day still counts in voter participation figures. It will tell the government that your voices are being heard in a way that directly impacts them. And then, maybe, government will think twice before placing the interests of young people at the bottom of their ‘priority pile’.

 

 

 

 

May: ‘Toys R Us’ rights – for wealthier workers

The Times was being economical with the truth when Oliver Wright, its Policy Editor, exultantly proclaimed last week: “May gives all workers new rights to time off – manifesto targets family illness and mental health”.

The Telegraph more honestly adds that those who can afford to live when losing a year’s pay are offered a ‘new statutory right’: ‘their jobs are guaranteed while they are caring for their loved ones – although they will not be paid’. Only child bereavement leave will be covered – by two week’s pay. (Left, Eric Johansson advises).

Those who have substantial means will be able to request time off work for training.

As Damian Green the work and pensions secretary said, the carer’s allowance of £62.70 a week is not designed to be lived on.

The burden of funding a series of beneficial measures proposed by government has been placed b on the shoulders of employers – again small and medium businesses will suffer.

Craig Beaumont, head of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said to a Telegraph journalist: “The proposal for a year’s unpaid leave is not cost-free.  “A small business with just two or three employees who are highly-skilled in manufacturing or design will struggle to recruit a temporary employee and then provide intensive training, while any temporary replacement could be hard to source and carry additional costs for the smallest employers.  We must eliminate the risk of discrimination in recruitment; no one should be asked in interviews if they have elderly relatives or others needing care.”

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, added that industry would view the manifesto pledges with caution: “While there is little appetite in the business communities I represent for a roll-back of employment rights as the UK leaves the EU, businesses worry about the prospect of costly or bureaucratic new obligations, no matter how well intentioned”.

A right in name only, for the 99%

Though these moves are described as forming part of a series of manifesto pledges aimed at rebranding the Tories as the party for workers, as Stephen Bush says “the right to unpaid leave to care for the elderly will, for most people, be a right in name only. He adds:

“Putting tanks on Labour’s lawn? Maybe, but the kind you buy from Toys R Us not BAE Systems” .

 

 

 

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Spontaneous popular response to Jeremy Corbyn: Professor Paul Rogers

There is an improvement in Labour’s polling (scroll down for graph) that the FT analysed earlier in the week. This trend shows the party winning back some of their voters from 2015 who previously said they were undecided or who had flirted with switching to the UK Independence party or the Liberal Democrats.

Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, sees in Yorkshire a spontaneous popular response to the Labour leader which hints at an undercurrent in Britain’s election and asks: “Could it yet break through?” 

Extracts, emphases, a few links and pictures added:

In his Open Democracy article, Rogers agrees that the consensus is that Theresa May is heading for a huge victory but adds “There is a niggling sense that something may be developing under the surface that could break through even in the short time left” – though not a single national newspaper outside the Morning Star fully supports the Labour leader”. Rogers continues:

“On Monday morning he spoke at a rapidly arranged meeting at Hebden Bridge, just up the road from Happy Valley territory. Hebden Bridge is a rather laid-back and very independently-minded town but even so the support was surprising, with queues round the block and Corbyn having to repeat his speech to the packed hall to an even larger crowd outside.

“Then, in Leeds (above) in the afternoon (Ed: ITV account) several thousand people turned up, again at short notice. He was given an extraordinary welcome, with streets hastily closed and people climbing trees and onto rooftops to get a view. OK, this is a university city and the student fee issue is popular, but Corbyn attracts people on a smaller scale but no less enthusiastic just about wherever he goes. On Tuesday afternoon it was in Beaumont Park near Huddersfield for yet another crowded meeting again publicised at very short notice”.

“Unlike many political meetings of this nature, Corbyn events have been put together quickly – often at very short notice – and the great majority are open to everyone who wants to come.

“What I found personally more interesting, though, was the launch of the Labour manifesto at Bradford University earlier the same day. I was there the whole time, both before and afterwards, and was able to compare how it was covered on the main TV channels with what I saw. Again, you expect enthusiasm from a largely student audience, but Bradford does not have a notably radical student body even though it has one of the most multicultural, multi-confessional and low-income student populations of any UK university.

“The media reported on a very enthusiastic reception given to Corbyn and his team but implied that they were selected Labour supporters as would be the case with the Conservative launch.

“What was not picked up was that no more than 150 of the thousand or so who crowded the Atrium came from the Labour Party – all the rest were students and staff who had only been notified about the event the previous afternoon. more than 150 of the thousand or so who crammed into the Atrium came from the Labour Party – all the rest were students.

“What surprised me was the overall level of support, right through to pledges on pensions and social care. Observing it all from one of the balconies overlooking the Atrium I got a sense of genuine warmth towards Corbyn and what he stands for.

“”To repeat, the great majority of those present were not handpicked party members, but they demonstrated once again the support Jeremy Corbyn receives just about wherever he goes. Does this mean that something’s happening?

I am really not sure and for now veer between optimism and pessimism. All I would say is that there is an undercurrent which is not reflected in the broadcast media coverage and most certainly not in the national press. Neither is it yet reflected in the polling, even if Labour’s share is starting to creep up. At the very least, though, it is reasonable to conclude that things are fluid and could still change a lot. We are in uncertain times, but with Theresa May having called an election on the back of a working majority, anything less than a fifty-seat majority will look a poor result for her”.

Despite most of the MSM relying on feeble references to an Islington mafia, set straight by Carole Cadwalladr, as Rogers ended his article – and last September’s column – “Jeremy Corbyn may be with us for a quite a long time yet”.

 

 

 

 

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Pen pals

The Plastic Hippo

d B.O.L.T.O.P.

In an age of brutally instant electronic communication, how pleasant and delightful it is to receive an actual letter through the post that is not a final demand, court summons or an invitation to the home owner or occupier to wave goodbye to varying amounts of money as part of a criminal scheme designed to separate the foolish from hard earned savings. It`s not every day that a real letter arrives and it is even rarer to find that the incoming missive has been signed by the actual Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

It is astonishing to think that a busy Prime Minister in the middle of an election campaign can find the time and make the effort to write to someone as unimportant and as insignificant as me. The Prime Minister has kissed the hand of the Queen, held hands with President Trump, shaken hands with…

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Incinerators 6: FOI reveals the surprising truth about the Javelin Park incinerator contract

News of the long campaign against the proposed Javelin Park incinerator was read by many visitors to this site in 2013 and 2015.

This year, campaigners obtained a copy of the contract, after using freedom of Information rules, and the monitoring officer at Gloucestershire County Council has now been asked to investigate whether the leader and his deputy exaggerated the cost of backing out of a plan to commission a £500m waste incinerator.

A resident of the county was contacted and replied that she had read about the discovery in the Gloucester Citizen, which republished an account from Gloucestershire Live, but neither account may now be found online. A search reveals no mainstream media reference to the subject.

Public Sector Blogs drew on an account by Tim Davies, co-founder of Open Data Services Co-operative, co-director of Practical Participation, affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society:

“The claim made to council on 18th Feb 2015 that it could cost £60m – £100m to cancel the contract appears to be based on calculations from officers, and/or Ernst and Young which have not been published by the authority (perhaps another EIR or FOIA request will be needed here…). The Tribunal ruling refers in Paragraph 27 to a document from Ernst and Young presented to Cabinet in November 2015. However campaigners reading the unredacted contract cannot find the substantiation for the cancellation costs being so high before the facility is operational. It appears breakage before the plant is in operation could cost substantially less than the break-points once it is up and running – and possibly even lower than the £30m the Council has subsequently committed from reserves to cover shortfalls in the project”.

Community R4C, a community-led project promoting a circular economy in Gloucestershire, which published local media accounts of the recent discovery here, has now gone to the council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton. With the help of the Environmental Law Foundation, a case has been put together which, it believes, shows the Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) contract is not value-for-money. It has also approached the Competition and Markets Authority, claiming that Gloucestershire’s contract breaks competition law.

A contributor to Private Eye magazine reports that environmental law expert Raymond Purdy, a senior fellow at Oxford University, has complained about the way Gloucestershire council leader Mark Hawthorne and deputy Ray Theodoulou presented financial details to a crucial meeting. As Tim Davies noted above, it was claimed that to opt out of the contract already signed with UBB would potentially cost £100m.

ELF elaborates: “The contract, originally signed in 2013 and then renegotiated in 2015, for the £500 million incinerator was awarded to Urbaser Balfour Beatty although details on pricing and information on termination were only made public following an Information Tribunal ruling in March this year (2017). In light of this information, and after seeking assistance from Counsel through ELF member, Duncan Sinclair of 39 Essex Chambers, R4C lodged a complaint with the CMA on 21st March that the Javelin Park contract breaches the Competition Act 1998. R4C believe that the exclusive contract is anti-competitive and prevents technological innovation, imposing a huge financial burden for years to come. They state that:

  • the price paid by GCC for waste disposal for a minimum amount is 10 times the next tranche, thereby creating ‘de facto’ exclusivity and foreclosing the market for waste treatment (including eliminating incentives to recycle/move higher up the waste hierarchy);
  • there are excessive termination costs thereby enforcing the ‘lock-in’; and
  • the 25-year contract prevents newer, cheaper and more efficient/environmentally friendly alternatives developing to the detriment of consumers in terms of not only price but also their interest in the environment (both local and more broadly).

If the complaint is upheld there would be serious consequences for Gloucestershire County Council and the residents they are elected to represent.

 

 

 

 

Accountants’ verdict: Labour manifesto ‘good for the UK’. . . UKIP/Tory verdict: a black hole

Richard Murphy writes “As I have predicted the questionhow will you pay for it?” is being asked of Labour”. He refers readers to his earlier explanations of how current spending commitments can be paid for from tax revenues: the spend creates the capacity to pay – made here and here. He continues: “The only real question is how Labour will pay for nationalisation” and cites precedents:

  • How were the banks were bailed out?
  • How was £435 billion was found for QE?

Answer: “Neither, directly, cost the taxpayer a penny. The money was created to achieve both out of thin air”. Murphy advises that renationalisation could also be done in the same way: “Issue bonds for fair value. Make them redeemable in not less than thirty years, and maybe longer. Make the interest rate the very low ones on offer now. In net terms these are likely to be negative throughout that thirty year period.  And what is the net cost of renationalisation? Next to nothing. Or less. Problem solved”.

Mike Parr comments on the same website – as others have pointed out – that there is no need to pay anything for the train operating companies, merely do not renew the /operating licences as they lapse, but no doubt there will be other expenses and a need for investment.

Prem Sikka reports on the Labour Party’s proposals for reinvigorating the economy set out in its manifesto launched today creating the conditions for economic growth.

This manifesto:

  • redistributes,
  • invests
  • and provides help for the disadvantaged.

“The necessary condition for building a successful economy is that people must have sufficient purchasing power as without that they cannot buy goods and services”.

Sikka notes that due to wage freezes, low national minimum wage, never-ending austerity programmes and zero-hours contracts, people’s purchasing power has been severely eroded. Between 2007 and 2015, the real wages of UK employees fell by over 10 per cent, almost the largest fall among major industrialised nations.

In a comparatively rich country, 40% of the working-age population has less than £100 in savings. Millions rely on food banks to secure their next meal. The poor become victims of the payday loan industry and end up paying exorbitant interest rates. Personal debt now stands at record £1.529 trillion and ordinary person’s ability to stimulate economic demand and investment is severely eroded. Under successive government wealth has percolated up, leaving a few crumbs for many

In recent years, Sikka points out, public investment has been sidelined, adding that the Labour Party is now making a decisive break and offering the key to rebuilding: redistribution of income/wealth, decent wages and state intervention in the economy.

The Labour manifesto promises:

  • an annual stimulus of £48.6 billion, current expenditure: investment in education, the NHS, social care, the police, firefighters and border guards
  • to abolish all tuition fees and relieve the debt burden on many young people
  • to protect the real value of state pensions
  • to restore Housing Benefit for under 21s
  • to abolish bedroom tax and employment tribunal fees
  • to lift the one per cent cap on the wages of public sector workers.

Expenditure will be matched by revenues of £48.6 billion – not achieved by a rise in VAT, income tax or National Insurance contributions for 95% cent of workers. Measures include:

Reversal of recent corporation tax cuts, raising £19.4 billion.

£6.4 billion from increases in income tax for the top 5% of taxpayers, lowering the threshold for the 45p additional rate to £80,000 of income and reintroducing the 50p rate on earnings above £123,000.

£.13 billion raised from a levy on companies (not individuals) paying out megabucks to few.

A 2.5% levy on earnings above £330,000 and 5% on those above £500,000.

A Robin Hood tax on speculative transactions, raising £5.6 billion and another £6.5 billion will be raised from various measures to eliminate tax avoidance opportunities.

VAT on private school fees will raise £1.6 billion.

A novel feature of the manifesto is unprecedented transparency. Each pledge of expenditure and revenue-raising is carefully costed and shown line by line in the manifesto. Each line is then supported by further background papers.

In addition to the above, Labour has a programme of investment in social infrastructure and nationalisation of key industries, such as railways, gas, water, electricity and Royal Mail. This will be over a period of time. Contrary to the propaganda, some of this has little cost – see earlier comments and Sikka’s article: Corbyn promises a Britain ‘for the many, not the few’ at manifesto launch.

Richard Murphy, yesterday: “I have had my differences with Jeremy Corbyn, but this is a good manifesto for the UK . . .

In summary these increases make complete sense. Labour proposes to increase GDP by Government spending on health, education, social care, education and the result will be growth, creating the capacity to pay the tax that funds the growth

The downside? None at all for most people, Murphy suggests – only for those in the top 3 or 4% of income earners or are a large company or bank: “And let’s be clear, these groups have the capacity to pay”.

The one massive underlying theme is that of bringing to an end the neoliberal era. And that – Murphy says – is good enough.

 

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Did the young Michael Fallon, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa Brasier play SimCity?

Having seen the beneficial effect of this computer game on a six-year old, a teacher advocates placing it on the national curriculum.

In every different edition of SimCity, the player is given the task of founding and developing a city from a patch of green land, defining what buildings are constructed via development zones – residential zones for Sims to live in; commercial zones for Sims to shop and have offices within; industrial zones to provide work through factories, laboratories and farms – as well as ensuring their citizens are kept happy through establishing various services and amenities, all while keeping a stable budget.

People report problems and the mayor addresses them – his objective: to keep as many people happy as possible.

SimCity 3000: (the environment and localisation now come into the equation); by allowing certain structures to be built within the city, the player could receive a substantial amount of funds from them. The four business deal structures are the maximum security prison, casino, toxic waste conversion plant, and the Gigamall (a large shopping center). Business deal structures however have serious negative effects on a city. The toxic waste dump lowers both the land value and residential desirability in the area surrounding it and produces massive pollution. The prison dramatically decreases land value. The casino increases citywide crime and the Gigamall weakens demand for local commerce.

Too late now – but if the young Michael Fallon, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa Brasier had been educated by the SimCity ’game’ (now used in urban planning offices!), Michael might well have grown up less willing to play real-life war-games, Jeremy could be ensuring good care for all the sick and frail and Theresa might be putting into practice her rhetorical concern for the less fortunate in our society.

 

 

 

 

 

A win for the Conservatives is a loss for foxes and many human animals

Theresa May has announced that the Conservatives will renew a pledge to hold a free vote on overturning 2004 ban on the blood sport. During a visit to a factory in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against. As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote”.

Is anyone surprised? What are the lives of a few foxes and the welfare of our least fortunate citizens to a person prepared to press the nuclear button?

Nicola Stavrinou writes about this repeal in Redbrick* (accessed via the Brummie aggregator):

She asks why: as 84% of British people are opposed to fox-hunting, would the Conservative Party back such an unpopular repeal?

Her answer: “Theresa May is using this repeal to gain back the hardliner Tories who wish to see the ban lifted once and for all. She is going for an electoral majority which could potentially remove Labour and SNP from the equation. The anti-hunting Labour and SNP MPs who voted to ban fox-hunting could potentially be replaced with Conservative MPs who are pro-hunting. May knows that she has the power to pass unfavourable laws because of the Conservative’s recent surge in popularity, most recently seen in the Mayoral elections from the beginning of the month”.

Wryly she concludes: “I have no doubt that if there is a potentially high Conservative majority win in the snap election, this ban will be lifted. Not that it has actually stopped anyone from hunting since then anyway”.

*Redbrick is the student publication of the University of Birmingham, established in 1936 under the original title Guild News

It has evolved to include eleven sections covering wide areas of student life, and expanded into the world of digital journalism. All content is produced by student journalists, including reporters, commentators, photographers and editors. As a student society, any student of the University of Birmingham can join and contribute to the publication.

The hard copy is published fortnightly and its website is updated continuously with regular content, videos, audio clips and photography. Events are covered through live blogging, providing a platform for readers to get directly involved with the debates. The website currently receives approximately 40,000 unique views per month.

Other recent articles:

The One Show: It May Never Get Cringier Than This

Labour Party Broadcast: A New Peake?

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If the young who flock to greet Corbyn also vote for his leadership, he will be ‘home and dry’

 

A small section of the crowd listening to Jeremy Corbyn in York on Wednesday: pic.twitter.com/AqNfRwC02y: Rachael Maskell

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