Category Archives: 2017 General Election

“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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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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Admirable politician 10: Andrew Gwynne competently addresses aggressive Today presenter 

Despite constant interruptions or simultaneous talking which have become a recent feature of John Humphrys’ technique when interviewing Corbynieres, Andrew Gwynne met all criticisms and challenges perfectly today and this moved the writer to learn more about this politician

In February 2017, Gwynne was promoted to Elections and Campaign Chair whilst retaining some of his Cabinet Office duties and spokesperson role. Two admirable features of his work noted here are the campaign for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal and his introduction of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act.

He became one of the leading voices in the campaign for justice for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal, reaffirming his commitment to the cause on World AIDS Day 2016. He said in 2016 “This scandal saw thousands of people die, and thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public bodies”.

In 2010, Gwynne introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to restrict the activities of vulture funds which buy the debts of poor countries, usually at a significant discount, and sue for the full debt – plus costs and interest – in courts around the world. The UK government estimates the Act will save £145 million over six years. Similar legislation has now been passed in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Comments on BBC Radio 4 Today‏ Verified account @BBCr4today added:

  • On rail nationalisation, Andrew Gwynne says the way the East Coast line was publicly-run for a time in recent years shows it can be done.
  • .@GwynneMP says manifesto “is not about government knows best, it’s about actually empowering people”.
  • Labour manifesto leak is “not ideal” but at least people are talking about the party’s vision, says elections chair @GwynneMP

An admirable politician.

 

Numbers 1-9:

Admirable politicians 8 & 9:  Barry Gardiner and Angela Rayner

An admirable MEP (Molly Scott Cato)

An admirable MP (John Hemming)

MP Margaret Hodge – admirable politician

Admirable politician’s work recognised at the Westminster meeting of the Family Farmers’ Association (Andrew George)

In Ireland’s Parliament: Senator David Norris, incandescent on Israeli government action

Another admirable politician – Tony Benn

An admirable politician – Salma Yaqoob

One superb politician inadvertently omitted – perhaps because universally recognised as such –  Caroline Lucas, No 11?

 

 

 

 

 

Crystal ball: if Theresa May wins in June will it be ‘goodbye to the NHS and hello to Kaiser Permanente’?

Online diagnosis a speciality

Kaiser Permanente members annually have more than 100 million encounters with company physicians, 52% of which are now virtual visits, according to Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson. The transition from physical to virtual visits has been enabled by Kaiser Permanente’s ‘aggressive spending’ on information technology – cheaper to provide, profits rise?

Tom Pride explains that Kaiser Permanente is an American private healthcare organisation based in California. McKinsey extols this company’s work in the US, because it provides a complete model of integrated pre-paid insurance along with healthcare which is supposedly free at the point of need but is:

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and other ministers have visited the company at its California headquarters several times.

And Kaiser’s website lists other recent visitors from the UK, including many representing NHS hospitals and NHS trusts as well as HM Treasury and the Ministry of Health itself (click on link above to find and enlarge):

In January the Prime Minister faced repeated questions about how much she was prepared to give away, ahead of her face-to-face talks with President Trump. Jeremy Corbyn urged her to rule out any deal that would give US healthcare giants a toehold in the NHS – after similar concerns over an aborted EU-US agreement – but Theresa May specifically refused to guarantee she would not open up the NHS to US firms in a post-Brexit trade deal across the Atlantic.

Is the lack of action to resolve the worsening NHS crisis likely to make the public support changes to a system that is being deliberately run down?

Will a Conservative government replace NHS England with private US healthcare system Kaiser Permanente aka The Center for Total Health?

 

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