Category Archives: 2017 General Election

Media 80: election result confirms waning influence of corporate media

Readers from other countries (left) who found the Media 79 article of interest are directed – for a fuller account – to a detailed article in Media Lens discovered after this post was written. As George Monbiot writes:

“The billionaire press threw everything it had at Jeremy Corbyn, and failed to knock him over. In doing so, it broke its own power.

Its wild claims succeeded in destroying not Corbyn’s credibility, but its own. But the problem is by no means confined to the corporate media. The failure also belongs to the liberal media, and it is one from which some platforms might struggle to recover . . .

He adds that broadcasters allow themselves to be led by the newspapers, despite their massive bias, citing the 2015 election campaign, during which opinion polls revealed that the NHS came top of the list of voters’ concerns, while the economy came third – but received four times as much coverage on TV news as the NHS, which was commonly seen as Labour’s strongest suit: “This appeared to reflect the weight given to these issues in the papers, most of which sought a Conservative victory”.

Monbiot records that an analysis by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck College found that, despite the rules on impartiality and balance, when Corbyn’s leadership was being challenged last summer, the BBC’s evening news bulletins gave almost twice as much airtime to his critics as they gave to his supporters. They often ascribed militancy and aggression to him and his supporters, but never to his challengers and quoted one report on the BBC News at 6 which finished with the words,

“This is a fight only one side can win. The others are being carted off to irrelevance. The place for political losers”. The accompanying shot showed a dustbin lorry setting off, painted with the word Corbyn”.

Suzanne Moore also looks at the futile attempts of these tabloids to ‘crush Corbyn’ in the Guardian but in a slightly less crude way the Times and the FT also devoted much space to this end (see the Rachman FT article and cartoon, below) – and signally failed to achieve their objective.

Many ‘ordinary’ people have suspected that social media has been becoming far more influential – Suzanne observing that: “the hope of so many on social media and the tirelessness of those out campaigning contrasted with the stunned, sometimes agonised coverage of the old men who govern the airwaves”.

After detailing the evidence of bias in the Guardian George Monbiot concludes that the liberal media have managed to alienate the most dynamic political force this nation has seen for decades:

“Those who have thrown so much energy into the great political revival, many of whom are young, have been almost unrepresented, their concerns and passion unheeded, misunderstood or reviled. When they have raised complaints, journalists have often reacted angrily, writing off movements that have gathered in hope as a rabble of trots and wreckers. This response has been catastrophic in the age of social media. What many people in this movement now perceive is a solid block of affluent middle-aged journalists instructing young people mired in rent and debt to abandon their hopes of a better world”.

Monbiot asks why it has come to this, even in the media not owned by billionaires – apparently not taking into account that retaining the lucrative corporate advertisements is of crucial importance to    newspapers. He points to the selection of its entrants from a small, highly educated pool of people adding “Whatever their professed beliefs, they tend to be inexorably drawn towards their class interests”.

He ends “We need to interrogate every item of the news agenda and the way in which it is framed” and we enlist his support for Media Lens, which is doing exactly that”. 

 

 

 

 

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As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

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Conservative party chairman advises: “Don’t vote tactically”

Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin has warned that voting for either the Green Party or the Liberal Democrats would lead to votes for Jeremy Corbyn

As the New York Times summarises, tactical voting is a response to a British electoral system in which millions of minority voices can be ‘drowned out’.  

Tactical2017 is a progressive grassroots campaign that encourages the millions of voters who voted for progressive parties in 2015 to put party loyalties to one side, unite with and vote for, the progressive candidate who has the best chance to avoid the consequences of five more years of a Conservative government in Britain.

  • Already we’ve seen £22bn of unnecessary, ideological cuts to the NHS bring our health service to its knees, with 91 GP surgeries being forced to close in 2016 from a lack of funding and resources.
  • 1 in 8 working Britons now live in poverty, with food bank usage in areas where the government’s inhumane welfare reforms have been introduced up by 16.85%.
  • We’ve seen a real-terms wage drop of 10%, an explosion in the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts, and the most unaffordable house prices in history.
  • the while, Britain’s ultra-rich have received £4.4bn of tax breaks, taken from cuts to Personal Independence Payments for the disabled.
  • All this from a party that claims to be the party of economic responsibility, while simultaneously creating more debt than every Labour government in history combined.

It’s not too late to do this in your constituency if you follow this advice: https://www.tactical2017.com/?utm_source=spreadsheet. 

Individual campaign

Claire Wright (independent) announced her intention to stand against sitting MP Hugo Swire in the snap general election on June 8. Tactical 2017 endorsed her as the only candidate who can defeat the Conservatives.

This follows bookmaker’s odds of 9/2 from William Hill, who confirmed that they see Ms Wright as the official opposition in the constituency and makes her the only non-aligned candidate to get support from the organisation.

Read more in Devon Live.

Campaigning organisations

Though many are taking this action for social and humanitarian reasons others, some in organisations such as Open Britain are actively targeting marginal seats with tactical voting campaigns, to block “destructive” hard Brexit proposal.

Gina Miller, the pro-EU campaigner who won a court challenge over article 50, has launched a tactical voting initiative called Best For Britain that supports election candidates opposed to hard Brexit. Ms. Miller said that Best for Britain was also drawing lessons from the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister of Canada, which was helped by tactical voting among supporters of three center and left parties.

See their gallery of sixteen Champions (six pictured below): the first set of parliamentary candidates the campaign has endorsed in the general election. “If tactical voting is successful in electing MPs with strong principles who are willing to hold the government to account, hard or extreme Brexit has more chance of being averted.” These people are ready to fight extreme Brexit, are fighting a winnable seat and have an immaculate track record.

Compass also argues that “only a Progressive Alliance can stop the Tories and cocreate the new politics,” while More United — a movement set up after the killing last year of the Labour lawmaker Jo Cox — aims to increase the number of lawmakers “elected to fight for a more united, less divided Britain.”

Dr. Kathryn Simpson, lecturer in politics and public services at Manchester Metropolitan University, thinks that 48 percenters of Remain may be geared towards tactical voting and adds that if the 18 to 24-year-old group – who are largely opposed to Brexit – come out to vote, this may help to sway the success of tactical voting.

And Colin Hines, a Progressive Alliance supporter, calls in the Guardian for a voice like that of Lynton Crosby, “hectoring our side to repeat endlessly that the weak and wobbly Tories’ pro-austerity, coalition of cruelty must be constrained, and most importantly, keep it simple”. He ends:

 

Vote ABC – Anything But Conservative.

 

 

 

 

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General Election 2017 – Peace Policies and Foreign Follies

People in Iraq, Libya and Yemen are desperate for strong and stable government. Theresa May is partly why they don’t have it, says Steve Beauchampé.

The General Election campaign has returned after last week’s brief hiatus and with it a volley of unedifying Conservative attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s historic support for a united Ireland and the Palestinian people, highlighting the most tenuous of links and associations.

Yet serious examination of Jeremy Corbyn’s activism shows him to have been on the right side of history and ahead of mainstream public opinion time and again, standing up for anti-racist and anti-apartheid causes, refugees and asylum seekers, gender equality, the LGBT community, environmental issues, animal rights and the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and self-expression long before such things gained widespread acceptance. Perhaps not surprising then that when you campaign in support of so many marginalised groups and outsider causes that you will from time to time encounter those whose frustrations and sense of powerlessness has led them to step outside of the law.

As regards Irish republicanism Corbyn’s attempts to achieve conflict resolution through dialogue may at times have been naive, but were his actions so dissimilar to the approach adopted around the same time by MI5 and later by John Major, both of whom ultimately realised that a decades-old conflict, whose death toll was inexorably rising, could not be won solely by military means?

But whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s peripheral rôle in the republican cause has been (and continues to be) pored over and examined by his opponents half a lifetime later, the record and judgement of Theresa May with regard to much more recent UK military interventions requires equally forensic scrutiny given her claims to be a fit and proper person to lead Britain.

And frankly, history’s judgement on this aspect of Theresa May is unlikely to be generous. After first being elected an MP in 1997, she voted in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (having already supported the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the frenzied post-9/11 atmosphere). Like so many of her colleagues on the opposition Conservative benches at the time, May failed to hold the Blair government to account despite the widely expressed caution of many experts over both the reasons for going to war and the lack of a post-conflict plan to stabilise Iraq. Instead, May limply and dutifully gave her support.

What followed for Iraqis has been almost fifteen years of societal breakdown throughout large parts of this once architectural, cultural and scholastic gem of a nation, with swathes of land occupied until recently by Islamic State and a fracturing of the country along religious, sectarian and tribal lines in a way that will be hard, if not impossible, to heal.

By 2011, and as the then Home Secretary in the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government, Theresa May backed the Anglo/Franco-led military action in Libya, which despite its billing as merely creating a no-fly zone to protect civilians and rebel fighters, mainly located in the east of the country, quickly escalated into regime change, culminating in the overthrow and lynching of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Again, as a senior government minister Theresa May ignored warnings that historic tribal divisions, the absence of a strong and stable government or a long-term strategic plan would quickly fracture the country.

Six years on and Libya exists in little more than name only. There is no central government, armed militias and feudal warlords hold considerable power, whilst every international Islamist terror group of substance now boasts a flourishing branch office in the country from where they increasingly export their murderous ideologies. And every month, if not every week, scores of desperate migrants, people who long ago lost all control of their lives, drown off the Libyan coast whilst seeking something better than the hell that their lives have spiralled into.

Learning nothing from history and the consequences of her own actions, in August 2013 Theresa May supported Prime Minster David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade MPs to back UK air strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The absence yet again of a coherent post-conflict strategy was sufficient for Labour leader Ed Miliband to refuse his party’s support to Cameron, who narrowly lost a House of Commons vote on the issue. The main beneficiaries of such an intervention, with its intention to downgrade Assad’s military capabilities (if not to remove him from power), would likely have been the plethora of extremist groups engaged in the Syrian civil war, principal amongst them the then nascent Islamic State.

Since becoming Prime Minister Theresa May has continued the supply of British made weapons and military expertise to Saudi Arabia for use in its war crime-strewn bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign which has killed countless numbers of civilians and is fast creating yet another failed state in the region.

Iraq, Libya and increasingly Yemen: countries where British military interventions have created power vacuums swiftly filled by a combination of anarchy, lawlessness, violence and economic depravation, with catastrophic consequences and relentless, unending misery for millions of civilians.

Theresa May supported each and every one of these military interventions. Jeremy Corbyn opposed all of them. So whose judgement would you trust?   

May 29th 2017

Written for The BirminghamPress.com

 

 

 

 

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“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.