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CommonSpace highlights some key sections of the UN report on UK poverty

 

Richard Murphy of Tax Justice, has drawn attention to some key sections of the report by Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur (below), highlighted by Scottish think tank CommonSpace.

Dickensian Britain

“It might seem to some observers that the Department of Work and Pensions has been tasked with designing a digital and sanitised version of the nineteenth century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens, rather than seeking to respond creatively and compassionately to the real needs of those facing widespread economic insecurity in an age of deep and rapid transformation brought about by automation, zero-hour contracts and rapidly growing inequality.”

Employment is no escape from poverty

“Almost 60 per cent of those in poverty in the United Kingdom are in families where someone works, and a shocking 2.9 million people are in poverty in families where all adults work full-time. According to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, 10 per cent of workers over 16 are in insecure employment. And 10 years after the 2008 financial crisis, employees’ median real earnings are, remarkably, still below pre-crisis levels.”

Eat or heat

“People said they had to choose either to eat or heat their homes. Children are showing up at school with empty stomachs, and schools are collecting food and sending it home because teachers know their students will otherwise go hungry. And 2.5 million people in the United Kingdom survive with incomes no more than 10 per cent above the poverty line –just one crisis away from falling into poverty.”

Homeless Britain

“In England, homelessness rose 60 per cent between 2011 and 2017 and rough sleeping rose 165 per cent from 2010 to 2018. The charity Shelter estimates that 320,000 people in Britain are now homeless, and recent research by Crisis suggests that 24,000 people are sleeping rough or on public transportation –more than twice government estimates. Almost 600 people died homeless in England and Wales in 2017 alone, a 24 per cent increase in the past five years.26There were 1.2 million people on the social housing waiting list in 2017, but less than 6,000 homes were built that year.”

The disappearing safety net

“The Special Rapporteur heard time and again about important public programmes being pared down, the loss of institutions that previously protected vulnerable people, social care services at a breaking point, and local government and devolved administrations stretched far too thin. Considering the significant resources available in the country and the sustained and widespread cuts to social support, which have resulted in significantly worse outcomes, the policies pursued since 2010 amount to retrogressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations.”

Ideological, not economic

“The ideological rather than economic motivation for the cutbacks is demonstrated by the fact that the United Kingdom spends £78 billion per year to reduce or alleviate poverty, quite apart from the cost of benefits; £1 in every £5 spent on public services goes to repair what poverty has done to people’s lives.40Cuts to preventive services mean that needs go unmet and people in crisis are pushed toward services that cannot turn them away but cost far more, like emergency rooms and expensive temporary housing.”

Harm done by Universal Credit

“The Special Rapporteur heard countless stories of severe hardships suffered under UC. These reports are corroborated by an increasing body of research that suggests UC is being implemented in ways that negatively impact claimants’ mental health, finances and work prospects. Where UC has fully rolled out, food bank demand has increased, a link belatedly acknowledged by the Work and Pensions Secretary in February 2019.”

Sanctions regime

“One of the key features of UC involves the imposition of strict conditions enforced by draconian sanctions for even minor infringements. As the system grows older, some penalties will last years. The Special Rapporteur reviewed seemingly endless evidence illustrating the harsh and arbitrary nature of some sanctions, as well as the devastating effects of losing access to benefits for weeks or months at a time.”

Women and poverty

“Given the structural disadvantages faced by women, it is particularly disturbing that so many policy changes since 2010 have taken a greater toll on them. Changes to tax and benefit policies made since May 2010 will by 2021–2022 have reduced support for women far more than for men. Reductions in social care services translate to an increased burden on primary caregivers, who are disproportionately women. Under UC, single payments to an entire household, which are the default arrangement, can entrench problematic and often gendered interpersonal dynamics, including by giving control of payments to a financially or physically abusive partner.”

 

The ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ may be read in full here.

 

 

 

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Will XR’s actions focus politicians’ minds?

Extinction Rebellion‘s spring rally in Bristol

Simon Pawley responds to a letter in the Financial Times, in which Helen Jackson describes the Extinction Rebellion movement as having ‘extra-democratic tendencies’, which deserve to be challenged.

He points out that one of Extinction Rebellion’s three central demands is for the creation of a deliberative citizens’ assembly to formulate recommendations that can inform debate about policy and enables ordinary citizens to get involved – a fundamentally democratic and constructive proposal.

The power exercised by industry’s lobbying of government – a recurring theme on this website – is highlighted by Pawley

Stressing that any realistic assessment of the battle for political influence must acknowledge industry’s “extra-democratic” force, he makes three points:

  • In private, some energy companies continue to resist regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding their public commitment to renewable energy (BP is a recent example).
  • The energy industry has also distorted public debate by secretly funding climate change denial organisations.
  • Environmentalists cannot fund lobbying efforts on such a scale.

He ends, “Instead, their protests are attracting media attention and promoting discussion of how to address the crisis. This has rapidly begun to highlight the strength of public opinion on this issue; we may hope that this will focus the minds of politicians”.

 

 

 

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FT editorial board and Corbyn agree: the Scunthorpe steel plant should not be abandoned

 

Together with the Port Talbot plant in south Wales, Scunthorpe is one of only two integrated steel producers in the UK. A third large steelworks in Redcar, in north-east England, closed in 2015.

If both of the remaining large blast furnaces close, the country’s workforce will lose essential skills as Britain’s construction and defence industry become dependent on foreign producers or smaller companies that import raw steel.

A wide spectrum of industries rely on stainless steel; for many applications it’s the most effective solution. Read more here. The most common uses of stainless steel include:

  • Architecture and Construction
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Britain is shifting to low-carbon energy and should not have to import steel from less green sources or outsource production to China.

The FT’s editorial believes that the state should not abandon the plant. While recognising that employment cannot always be preserved at all costs, it describes losing 5,000 jobs at the steelworks and another 20,000 supported by it as ‘a hammer blow to the working-class community of Scunthorpe and the broader North Lincolnshire region’.

The Labour Party has called on the government to take a public stake in British Steel if necessary, to protect jobs and support the UK’s infrastructure and renewable energy systems.

Former Scunthorpe steelworker Charlotte Childs said that the impact could be “immeasurable . . . Unemployment in North Lincolnshire at the minute is 4.8 per cent. If the steelworks goes that rises that to 8.4 per cent, which is double the national average. It’s not just the 4,000 workers that work on the steelworks or even the 20,000 people within the supply chain. It’s the ancillary businesses that rely on the steelworkers having a decent income and being able to spend that money within the leisure economy in the area.”

In another report she was quoted as adding: “Why is so little being done to help people? If a bailout is good enough for bankers, why isn’t it good enough for steelworkers?”

 

 

 

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Venezuela: Murdoch press publishes Pompeo’s Corbyn slur while the FT sheds a positive light on events

As other papers headline the US secretary of state’s strictures on China, Iran and UK, the Times reports a remark made by Mike Pompeo about Jeremy Corbyn’s “disgusting” support for the Maduro regime his refusal to denounce the president of Venezuela and his praise of the socialist regime’s “effective and serious” efforts to reduce poverty.

Mainstream media rarely refers to the US’ economic warfare, its imposition of sanctions on this oil-rich country, which are leading to food shortages and civil unrest and still less to the damaging IMF austerity regime.

The US and around 50 other countries say Mr Maduro is clinging to power on the basis of bogus elections – despite the reports of international observers – see Media Lens’ evidence. As Ian MacLeod, in Manufacturing Consent in Venezuela: Media Misreporting of a Country, 1998–2014, published in December, finds:

“The major newspapers in the UK and US reproduce the ideology of Western governments, ignoring strong empirical evidence challenging those positions”’

Alan MacLeod, a member of Glasgow University’s respected Media Group, documented the bias throughout the Chavez era in his book, Bad News from Venezuela: Twenty years of fake news and misreporting.

Fair, an American media bias watch group, published a February article by Mark Cook, Venezuela Coverage Takes Us Back to Golden Age of Lying About Latin America. Mark, writing from his home in Caracas, effectively and entertainingly debunks the allegations of shortages of food and painkillers.

As many countries predict the imminent bankruptcy of the regime, the FT – which notes Washington’s ‘relentless social media campaign against the Maduro government’ – alone in mainstream media presents (rather reluctantly) some evidence challenging the totally negative picture presented.

It reports today that some substantial debts are being paid and that the Venezuelan people are tired of the conflict – no longer responding to Mr Guaidó’s calls to demonstrate.

Venezuela is paying debts

  • State-owned oil company PDVSA, is paying holders of PDVSA’s bonds, due in 2020, the $71m in interest payments owed from late April.
  • In mid-April, Russia’s Finance Minister announced the Maduro government had paid more than $100m to cover an interest payment due in March
  • In the first quarter of this year, ConocoPhillips disclosed that it had received $147m from PDVSA as part of a settlement awarded by an ICC tribunal.

Venezuelans are tired of the conflict and no longer responding to Mr Guaidó’s calls to demonstrate

In another FT article, planning a Saturday march to win over the military, Mr Guaidó urged his followers to march to military installations and hand over copies of a letter in which he urged the armed forces to support a “peaceful transition”. But few people heeded the call and even Mr Guaidó, who had been expected to lead one of the marches, did not turn up.

State of play (FT)

Mr Guaidó has acknowledged that he does not yet command enough support within the military to force regime change.

Mr Maduro has accepted that his administration needs to “rectify mistakes”. To that end, he authorised thousands of popular “assemblies” over the weekend to discuss what needs to be changed.

 

 

 

 

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Greenwash and “incoherent” aid policies have no place in the war against climate change

Tom Whipple, Science editor of the Times, elaborates on a theme aired last October in Global Witness

He reports that a study by parliament’s international development committee, chaired by MP Stephen Twigg (left), concluded that the government needed more joined-up thinking when it came to climate change policy: “MPs have lambasted an “incoherent” aid policy in which Britain allocates billions to tackling climate change abroad while spending the same amount supporting fossil fuel projects”.

UKEF allocates billions to tackling climate change abroad but gives the same amount to fossil fuel projects.

Evidence had been presented that between 2010 and 2016 UK Export Finance (UKEF), which supports trade abroad, spent £4.8 billion on schemes that contributed to carbon emissions. These included financing for offshore oil and gas extraction in Ghana, Colombia and Brazil. A sum, almost identical to the £4.9 billion, was spent by different agencies from 2011-17 on supporting projects to tackle climate change in developing countries.

The committee said: “The only context in which it is acceptable for UK aid to be spent on fossil fuels is if this spend is ultimately in support of a transition away from fossil fuels and as part of a strategy to pursue net zero global emissions by 2050 . . . Currently, the support provided to the fossil fuel economy in developing countries by UK Export Finance is damaging the coherence of the government’s approach to combating climate change and this needs to be urgently rectified.”

UKEF, the much-criticised and renamed Export Credits Guarantee Department, is the UK’s export credit agency which underwrites loans and insurance for risky export deals as part of efforts to boost international trade.

The committee also found that other wings of the UK overseas development sector, including groups such as the Prosperity Fund, which supports economic growth, were backing carbon-intensive projects.

In October one such proposal was announced: the financing of an expansion of an oil refinery in Bahrain which would allow its total output to increase up to a maximum of 380,000 barrels per day

“Given the urgency and scale of the challenge, spending climate finance has to be more than a box-ticking exercise to meet a commitment,” the committee wrote. “Climate finance must be spent strategically, it needs to be spent with urgency and it has to be transformative.”

Representatives from the Grantham Research Institute (LSE) (a site well worth visiting) gave evidence to the committee. They were critical of the latest economic strategy from DFiD in which, they pointed out, climate change “only receives a brief mention under the sector priorities of ‘agriculture’ and ‘infrastructure, energy and urban development’, while ‘extractive industries’ including oil, gas and mining are highlighted as a priority sector for support with no mention of climate change considerations”.

Mr Twigg said that the UK policy of reaching “net zero emissions” should extend to the government’s work abroad, as well as at home. “It is welcome that in recent weeks climate change has taken its rightful place at the top of the news agenda,” he said. “The scale and seriousness of the challenge to be confronted must be reinforced and reflected upon daily if we are to take meaningful steps to combat it.

Rory Stewart, the international development secretary (left), said that the report “makes for sobering reading . . . Although we have done much already to tackle climate change, I feel strongly we can do more. I am going to make tackling climate change increasingly central to DFID’s work. As international development secretary I want to put climate and the environment at the heart of what this government does to protect our planet for future generations. As climate extremes worsen it is the world’s poorest countries and communities which will be most affected, but this is a global issue.”

Adam McGibbon, Climate Change Campaigner at Global Witness, said: “As the world reels from the news that we have twelve years to prevent catastrophic climate breakdown, today’s announcement by the government is staggering. The UK claims to be a climate leader, but it continues to spend billions pumping fossil fuels out of the ground abroad.

And in the Western Daily Press, 6 May 2019, Paul Halas from Stroud describes government policy-making as being, “hobbled by its vested interests and metaphorical flat-Earthers”. He ended:

“In times of war, research, development and manufacture increase exponentially. What faces us now is no less than a war against Climate Change, which will take an unprecedented effort and unanimity of purpose to win. It’s not one we can afford to lose”.

 

 

 

 

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Murdoch Times warns of a ‘revolution’ – so always keep ahold of nurse for fear of finding something worse

Today in the Sunday Times leader, the un-named author/s summarised the results of the local elections before moving on to what they called “The real story of these elections . . . the journey towards self-destruction of a once-great political party, the Tories” – opening the way for a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The Momentum myth

They described the ‘hard-left takeover’ of what until four years ago was a moderate, centre-left party continuing. “Should it succeed in taking Mr Corbyn and John McDonnell into Downing Street, the revolution would be complete”. Pictured, so-called ‘hard-left’ revolutionaries in our second city: stable, thoughtful, courteous, concerned.

The so-called progress that has enriched Britain’s 1% since the 1980s – they forecast – would be destroyed in several ways:

  • plans to renationalise the water industry without anything like full compensation for shareholders,
  • which could easily be the template for other parts of the economy,
  • the return of state control
  • and the re-unionisation of the workforce

It could easily happen:

“The Tories and Labour were tied on 31% each in Thursday’s elections. This would be enough, in our first-past-the-post system, to give the Tories 279 Commons seats and Labour 268. Mr Corbyn, under these circumstances, could form an alliance with the Scottish National Party to govern, a prospect that would not only guarantee a swathe of left-wing policies but would also bring the break-up of the United Kingdom much closer”.

And once the Brexit Party is added to the mix, with its capacity to damage the Tories in a general election as well as the forthcoming European elections, Labour’s chances would improve immeasurably. It might just win with a low share of the vote. The Tories would have brought this about, but the whole country would be the loser:

“Mr Corbyn can still win . . . Italy may be the ‘sick man of Europe’ for now, but under Labour that title would be up for grabs again”.

Ed: The 1% might well feel sick, but the 99% would benefit enormously from having a uniquely caring, corporate-free, incorruptible prime minister.

 

 

 

 

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My Death, My Decision is ‘punching above its weight’ – new campaign

 

EXTRACT from MDMD website

MDMD is launching a new campaign to clarify the law to allow compassionate accompaniment abroad. This will help family members who accompany a loved one abroad for medical assistance to die. As the number of those going to Switzerland continues to grow, some of those who have helped a loved one to travel to Switzerland will share their story to help our politicians to understand why the law needs to change.

People who agree that action must be taken are invited to sign this on-line petition.

 

 

 

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2. ‘Absurd’: Corbyn ‘hetze’ boomerangs on the ill-prepared

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A Bradford reader thinks that there is definitely a Hetze’  against Jeremy Corbyn, of which the furore about his praise for Hobson’s book is only the most recent example.

He points out that the book has been widely acknowledged as a key historical text. Routledge describes its 1902 publication, Imperialism: A Study, by English economist John Hobson (right), as “an epoch-making study of the politics and economics of imperialism that shook imperialist beliefs to their core”.

The review continues: “A committed liberal, Hobson was deeply sceptical about the aims and claims of imperialistic thought at a time when Britain’s empire held sway over a vast portion of the globe”.

Our reader draws attention to Hobson’s reference to the “ignominious passion of Judenhetze” – a total vindication of the man

Martin Ceadel, in Semi-detached idealists: The British peace movement and international relations, 1854-1945 (Oxford University. Press, 2000, p.155), writes: ‘J.A. Hobson, an Oxford-educated economist who had been denied academic preferment on account of his heterodox opinions, reported on South Africa for the Manchester Guardian and published three books on the conflict. The first … was a survey of the local origins of the war. It emphasized the role of “a small confederacy of international financiers working through a kept press”. Although Hobson was embarrassed by the fact that many of these were Jewish, noting the difficulty of stating “the truth about our doings in South Africa without seeming to appeal to the ignominious passion of Judenhetze”,(30) some other opponents of the war, including the budding writers G.K. Chesteron and Hilaire Belloc, welcomed the chance the war offered to indulge in anti-Semitism.’ (31*).

In addition to the response of Bradford peace historian,  Hon. General Coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace  and others, Donald Sassoon, Emeritus professor of comparative European history, Queen Mary University of London, quotes more extreme expressions used at the time by Virginia Woolf and even Theodor Herzl, the “father” of Zionism. He concludes:

“The campaign about antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour party is getting absurd. Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study has been taught for years in universities up and down the country (I taught it myself). No one has ever felt the need to highlight the 10 lines or so, in a book of 400 pages, which are antisemitic, but Corbyn was expected to do so”.

The book has been widely acknowledged as a key historical text

In a 1995 pamphlet for the Fabians (page 11), Tony Blair described Hobson as “probably the most famous Liberal convert to what was then literally ‘new Labour’.”

In his 2005 Chatham House speech on liberty and the role of the state, Gordon Brown cited Hobson with approval.

The cover of the 2011 edition published by Spokesman Books (left), to which Jeremy Corbyn wrote the foreword, carries a Guardian review which said Hobson’s Imperialism belongs to the small group of books in the years from 1900 to the outbreak of war that have definitely changed the contours of social thought.’

In 2015 the Guardian’s former political editor Michael White wrote: “At his Nottingham rally someone thrust into my hand a copy of JA Hobson’s influential classic, Imperialism (1902) whose 2011 edition contains Jeremy’s own perfectly decent introductory essay. Its analysis will impress many”.

Yesterday, Phil Miller, journalist, researcher and film producer quoted Glyn Secker, secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour: “Daniel Finkelstein, in his scurrilous piece for the Times (April 30th), ingeniously cobbles together quotes from two different books by Hobson . . . (he) does in one passage make a reference to the Jewish element in international finance and to the Rothschilds as did many others at that time. But he also referred to JP Morgan and Cecil Rhodes — neither of them Jewish — as examples of financiers backing imperialism”.

On May 1st and 2nd, Henry Zeffman produced two similar articles for the Times on the subject. In one, he added that Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Hobson was a key figure in intellectual history and that the book was a seminal work on imperialism. “He is a historical figure who was an intellectual who understand the transition from imperialism into a new society. Insofar as that book is an important book, does it contain the antisemitism of its period? Yes it does. Do we expunge a book like that from the historical record and say nobody should read it? No. Of course they should.”

And Jeremy Corbyn’s record vindicates him; MP Chris Williamson has pointed out that the Labour party, and in particular the leader, has done more, recently, to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party.

The unconvinced may read forty reasons listed by Anna Boyle illustrating the truth of his statement.

 

*Footnote 30 refers to Hobson’s The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Effects (1900), 189, 229.

*Footnote 31: C. Hirschfield, ‘The Anglo-Boer War and the Issue of Jewish Culpability’, Journal of Contemporary History, 15 (1980), 19-31.

 

Amended: 6th May 2019

 

 

 

 

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1. Driven by ‘desperation & weakness’? Murdoch Times’ latest attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn has stumbled on to a battlefield, little prepared for the heavy historic burden he shoulders

 

Award-winning journalist Jonathan Cook  points out that, despite Corbyn’s years spent as an anti-racism activist, the corporate elite have ‘weaponised’ anti-semitism not because they care about the safety of Jews, or because they really believe that Corbyn is anti-semitic – witness his support for the Palestinian people who are also semitic.

“Corbyn has become a lightning rod for the wider machinations of the ruling elite. They want him destroyed, like blowing up a bridge to stop an advancing army . . . It is a sign both of their desperation & their weakness that they have had to resort to the nuclear option, smearing him as an anti-semite.

“They chose it because it is the most destructive weapon – short of sex-crime smears & assassination – they have in their armoury . . . (they) are exploiting British Jews & fuelling their fears as part of a much larger power game in which all of us – the 99% – are expendable. Other, lesser smears were tried first:

  • that he was not presidential enough to lead Britain;
  • that he was anti-establishment;
  • that he was unpatriotic;
  • that he might be a traitor.

“None worked. If anything, they made him more popular”.

And so a “more incendiary charge was primed”

In 2011, Jeremy Corbyn wrote a foreword for a revised edition of Imperialism: A Study, written by John A Hobson in 1902. In his commentary, FT journalist Jim Pickard shows no interest in Corbyn’s most serious charges – that NATO had been responsible for a “military reoccupation” of Europe after the second world war and that the US had been trying “to create an empire of the mind” through weaponry, the CIA and the use of culture and the media.

Instead, the Times and the Financial Times have focussed on Hobson’s statement that “the very heart of the business capital of every state, (is) controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience, they are in a unique position to control the policy of nations.”

*The fact that control of the press, banking and economic monopolies at the time rested mainly in Jewish hands is not disputed and they confine themselves to criticising as anti-Semitic the expression of these truths, in an early 20th century form of ‘political correctness’ – branding the Labour Party leader as being guilty by association.

 

*For further reading about the extent of Jewish economic power in Victorian times see the Jewish academic Vadim Rossman: ‘Russian Intellectual Antisemitism in the Post-Communist Era’: pp105-7

Next post:  2. ‘Absurd’: Corbyn ‘hetze’ boomerangs on the ill-prepared

 

 

 

 

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Conservative, Labour & Greens to serve on EJC

On Tuesday, the Institute for Public Policy Research launches its Environmental Justice Commission (EJC) and people are coming together across Conservative, Labour and Green parties to serve on it – leading figures from business, academia, civil society, trade unions, youth and climate activism.

Ed Miliband, Labour MP for Doncaster North and a former leader of the Labour party; Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion and Laura Sandys, a former Conservative MP for South Thanet, have written about this and many readers’ comments are well worth reading. Important points made are summarised below

Too often the issue of climate change seems marginal to the public’s concerns, when it is in fact central.

The task is to ally the issue of climate change with the economic and social transformation that our country needs.

This will be done by committing to a Green New Deal (GND), with an unprecedented mobilisation and deployment of resources to tackle the accelerating climate crisis and transform our economy and society for all. Read more on the Green New Deal website.

Its aims are to:

  • mobilise a carbon army of workers to retrofit and insulate homes, cutting bills, reducing emissions and making people’s lives better
  • move to sustainable forms of transport and zero-carbon vehicles as quickly as possible, saving thousands of lives from air pollution
  • end the opposition to onshore wind power and position ourselves as a global centre of excellence for renewable manufacturing
  • protect and restore threatened habitats and
  • secure major transitions in agriculture and diets that are essential if we are to meet our obligations.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpM9gRDr26I

People have been asking how we can revive communities that have been left out of prosperity. They ask whether they and their children will be able to get work and also what the quality of that work will be and what skills will be needed. ECJ believes GND has the potential to do this.

The areas of policy mentioned above answer the immediate economic concerns of people for jobs and hope. Green jobs must be secure and decently paid, with a central role for trade unions in a just transition for all workers and communities affected.

The commission will aim to help the UK to take a lead, believing that there is economic and societal advantage in doing so. An increasing number of people, young and old, see that the way we run our economy is damaging our climate, our environment and our society, but that, crucially, it is within our power to change it for the better. And change it we must.

 

 

 

 

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