Category Archives: 2017 General Election

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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General Election 2017: poll watch

Corbyn well-wishers will have noted his increasingly effective performance on Prime Minister’s Questions and the enthusiastic crowds continuing to attend meetings held in different parts of the country.

Standing ovation at head teachers’ conference

“Enjoying life in the political trenches” (O’Grady)

A reader whose name I carelessly forgot to record, draws attention to an article by Sean O’Grady in the Independent. Amongst different poll results we read O’Grady’s reference to an earlier article recording Jeremy Corbyn’s party as rising by four points in the last week to 30% support (Opinium below).

A YouGov poll (below) between 27 and 28 April found that Labour was up two points to 31%; last week a YouGov poll gave the Tories a 23-point lead, showing that the Conservatives dropped by 10 points in the polls in the first week of the election campaign.

O’Grady believes that Mrs May is underestimating Jeremy Corbyn and “digging up old stuff” doesn’t matter much to the voters of 2017: “They already know he’s an old leftie. All it does is show he sticks to his guns and, in the case of talking to the IRA, he got there a decade before John Major and the Conservatives did. Man of Principle and all that”.

He says that the more exposure Corbyn and Farron have on TV, the more the voters will see that they are not the idiots the press tells them they are and adds that the Labour vote may well be more resilient in the North and London than May and her advisers thought: “London is firmly pro-EU and vast swaths of the North are still not convinced the Conservatives are for them. Across the country, poorer pensioners – still certain to vote – will not like what the Tories are telling them, or hinting, about the triple lock on the state pension . . . They need a responsive NHS too”.

May’s repetition of the “strong and stable leadership” phrase is also attracting derision, he notes – “a pretty silly soundbite” – and moves on to the subject of tactical voting:

“There are small signs of it now, especially among EU Remainers, and in the Green Party which is even standing down in some areas for Lib Dems or Labour. Ukippers are doing the same for the Tories, though some of their protest vote may just stay home next time. The net effect of all this is highly unpredictable, but tactical voting by Labour and Lib Dem supporters was one of things that punished the Tories so badly in 1997”. O’Grady thinks that “under first past the post it could leave the Conservatives at a net disadvantage. It will see Sir Vince Cable back in the Commons at any rate, and push the Tories’ hoped-for landslide back . . . The country doesn’t want one-party rule that doesn’t reflect or heal its divisions. May’s rhetoric goes against that grain and is alienating potential support”. O’Grady ends:

“(T)he Conservatives’ simplistic messages do not match the greater sophistication of the voters and the new media landscape. May and her shadowy PR advisers are just not as good at politics or as modern as Thatcher and Saatchi were back then. Maggie ran a Blitzkrieg campaign, her fast-moving tactics and policy arguments leaving her underprepared enemies foundering: Theresa is trying to do the same through an interminably dull trench war of attrition, lobbing the same old slogans across no mans land into the electoral mud, missing targets and doing little damage after the first bombardment. Her enemies have been given all the time they need to match her organisation and regroup, and they enjoy life in the political trenches”.

Nigel Nelson’s understated reaction to the polls: “If a week is a long time in politics then six weeks until the General Election is an eternity. And there is plenty of time to be surprised by the outcome”.

 

 

 

 

 

General Election 2017 – The No Policies Policy

‘Aside from a couple taken from other parties, do the Conservatives have any policies?’ asks Steve Beauchampé? (Edited extracts, for full text click here)

Has the Prime Minister turned into a parrot? I only ask because despite leading the country that gave to the world the rich and eloquent language of Shakespeare, Dickens, Betjeman and Ted Hughes, Theresa Mays vocabulary seems to consist of two phrases totalling just seven words (and we all know by now what they are so I wont repeat them). To be fair though thats two more than your average parrot, who struggles to get beyond Whos A Pretty Boy Then?

Despite refusing to participate in television debates because she would be busy travelling around the country talking to ordinary voters, May has remained in a hermetically sealed bubble, helicoptered in to stand before placard-brandishing Conservative Party members, robotically mouth those seven words, many times over, add a few other vacuous remarks, before flying back to Westminster, job done, no questions asked…literally!

Credit to Labour for taking this election business seriously and treating the voters like adults (ditto each of the larger of the smallerparties). Labours policy issues continue to be raised and debated, interviews continue to be given. Their manifesto should be quite a hefty document

Labour could perhaps do with a memorable slogan of their own, though its campaign has been surprisingly good so far . . . and the continual, relentless use of the same slogan and soundbite can quickly undermine its effectiveness, with signs over the weekend that Theresa May’s favourite phrases might just be becoming more mocked than listened to.

Perhaps the party should ask Boris for help, showing that a public school education trumps the state system, at least in terms of a varied and colourful vocabulary . . . As is his wont, Corbyn did not respond (when they go low, you go high JC) and credit to him for that.

Rumour has it that the Conservative manifesto is to be issued as a single tweet 

Still, if you don’t offer any policies then I suppose you can’t subsequently be accused of breaking any policy pledges. And given the enormity and complexity of extracting Britain from the EU, this most scrutiny-averse of Prime Ministers probably won’t have much time to introduce large tracts of legislation, especially if her opponents’ claim that she’ll be revoking swathes of current employment, environmental and consumer law prove correct.

On Brexit, Labour finds itself appealing fully to no-one, caught in a perfect political snooker somewhere between the attempts of the Lib Dems, SNP and Blair/Mandelson to reverse or otherwise negate the referendum result, and the Tory/UKIP rush to enact a complete break from the EU, its structures, laws and institutions. 

Given that Labour’s core voters were split between Leave and Remain, its position may in essence be reasonable – respect the EU referendum result but fight to achieve the best outcome for the future, prioritising the economy, environment, employment rights and consumer protection legislation over immigration.

And finally, lest you missed it, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon appeared briefly early last week to warn yet again that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security, with his opposition to spending up to £41bn on renewing Trident at a time of ongoing austerity and swingeing cuts to vital public services. 

Fallon added that both he and Theresa May would be prepared to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike (I dont think they meant against Jeremy Corbyn but Im not entirely certain).  

Odd sort of a country where those willing to vaporise countless numbers of civilians are defined as moderate, whilst someone who prefers the de-escalation of military tension through dialogue over unleashing weapons of planet-changing destruction is viewed as extreme.

First published in The BirminghamPress.com