Category Archives: Admirable politician

COVID-19 bulletin 24: though death toll rises in Yemen, BAE-assisted airstrikes continue

Flooding struck Aden in April, leaving several areas submerged in sewage and water for weeks and this month over 600 people have died in Yemen’s capital.

In a detailed account, the World Health Organisation says there is no way of assessing how many other deaths there have been in this war ravaged country.

Andrew Smith (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) said that UK-made Typhoon Eurofighter jets (above) have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen and despite the humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of Covid-19, the war is still raging. He ended:

“We are in unprecedented times and this should not be happening”.

British arms manufacturer BAE is also responsible for the maintenance and support of the kingdom’s 72 jets and has continued to supply military equipment, including spare parts, to Saudi Arabia throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

New Labour MP Sam Tarry (right) asked the Secretary of State for Defence two questions:

  • why have weekly flights continued from a BAE Systems factory in Warton to a military base in Saudi Arabia from where air strikes on Yemen are launched
  • and why those flights have been assessed as essential during the covid-19 lockdown.

Though a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states announced a ceasefire in April, the Yemen Data Project reports that the bombing has continued, with three civilians injured by an air strike as recently as May 2nd.

But as its AGM had to be cancelled, BAE has been spared angry questions about its trade in weapons – an annual ordeal.

Industry editor Alan Tovey notes that there is one bonus to the lockdown: BAE’s annual meeting, scheduled for May 7, is normally a testing time for the board, with proceedings routinely disrupted by anti-arms activists who gatecrash and forcefully question BAE’s trade in weapons.

He adds that BAE’s “sleepless enemies” see opportunities in the dispersed working.

BAE’s Systems’ chief executive Charles Woodburn (left) wouldn’t give details to Tovey, but confirms that BAE has seen a spike in attempted cyber intrusions since the pandemic hit.

Sadly, Woodburn describes higher military spending as a way of stimulating the economy once the current crisis passes.  No going back? Or business as usual?

 

 

 

 

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Presenting today: cross-party UK Future Generations Act to transform hearts, minds and policy-making

Today, the FT reports that MP Caroline Lucas – a powerful, long-term advocate for reducing trade ‘swaps’, just defence, a Green New Deal and a healthy environment – will present a cross-party case for a UK Future Generations Act to transform how we think, plan and budget by embedding sustainability at the heart of policymaking.

This follows and complements Lord Bird’s Future Generations Bill, which offers “the UK’s opportunity to systematically address these issues”. It passed its second reading in the Lords on 13 March and now moves to the committee stage

SUMMARY: A Bill to make provision for requiring public bodies to act in pursuit of the environmental, social, economic and cultural well-being of the United Kingdom in a way that accords with the Future Generations principle; to require public bodies to establish and meet well-being objectives and report on these and their actions; to require public bodies to publish Future Generations impact assessments and account for preventative spending; to establish a Commissioner for Future Generations for the United Kingdom to advise, assist and oversee public bodies in doing things in accordance with this Act; to provide for the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Future Generations; and for connected purposes

The FT also reproduces a letter written by the cross-bench peer, (below, the founder of the Big Issue) and signed by many others from all parties: The complete list may be read here.

The following text was reproduced in the FT and on the Big issue’s website.

Yuval Harari is right to ask us to plan for the long-term as we think about what kind of planet we will inhabit after COVID-19 (The world after coronavirus, Life & Arts, FT Weekend, 21 March). The pandemic requires immediate global action, and governments are now responding with emergency measures to cope during this escalating crisis.

Crucial though these measures are, we must not lose sight of addressing the longer-term risks – the climate emergency, unchecked technological change and future pandemics – which Toby Ord, in his new book The Precipice, tells us add up to a one in six chance that human life won’t see the century out.

Above: snapshot of the final paragraphs.

 

 

 

 

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‘Break the grip of the hard left’ (FT) or ‘Resist and Rebuild’, (Monbiot)

The editorial board says that the author of Labour’s defeat, above all, is Mr Corbyn:

ft editorial 

Resist and Rebuild is George Monbiot’s challenging title for his latest article – replaced as usual, with a blander headline, by the Guardian editor

He sees a future, darker, arguably, than at any point since the Second World War. His verdict:

“This government has no vision for the country, only a vision for the oligarchs to whom it is bound, onshore and offshore . . . We should seek, wherever possible, to put loyalty to party and faction aside, and work on common resolutions to a crisis afflicting everyone who wants a kinder, fairer, greener nation.

“All the progressive manifestos I’ve read – Labour, Green, SNP, LibDem, Plaid – contain some excellent proposals. Let’s extract the best of them, and ideas from many other sources, and build an alliance around them. There will be differences, of course. But there will also be positions that almost everyone who believes in justice can accept”.

Monbiot believes that we need to knit these proposals into a powerful new narrative – the vehicle for all political transformations.

Ignorance makes us vulnerable to every charlatan who stands for election, and every lie they amplify through the billionaire press and on social media

Knowledge is the most powerful tool in politics.

  • We must expose every lie, every trick this government will play, using social media as effectively as possible.
  • We must use every available tool to investigate its financial relationships, interests and strategies.
  • We should use the courts to sue and prosecute malfeasance whenever we can.

Create, to the greatest extent possible, a resistance economy with local cooperative networks of mutual support, that circulate social and material wealth within the community (Ed: see Relocalising Britain)

The work of Participatory City, with the Barking and Dagenham Council, shows us one way of doing this through volunteering which provides the most powerful known defence against loneliness and alienation, helps to support the people this government will abandon and can defend and rebuild the living world.

We will throw everything we have into defending our public services – especially the NHS – because the long-standing strategy of governments like this is to degrade these services until we become exasperated with them, whereupon, lacking public support, they can be broken up and privatised. Don’t fall for it. Defend the overworked heroes who keep them afloat.

He ends “No one person should attempt all these things. . . We will divide up the tasks, working together, with mutual support through the darkest of times. Love and courage to you all”.

 

 

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Media 104: pro-Corbyn text from major Israeli newspaper suppressed by BBC & MSM, ‘as it does not fit their agenda’

Prem Sikka sent the Haaretz link with the comment:I doubt that BBC or any of the UK press would refer to it as it does not fit their agenda”.

In Haaretz, a major Israeli newspaper, two days ago: ‘The Jews and Israel’s true friends should hope that Corbyn is elected . . . Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. His real sin is to fight against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates’ – the words of Gideon Levy (right), award-winning journalist, in Haaretz. His article follows.

Opinion: The Contract on Corbyn

The Jewish establishment in Britain and the Israeli propaganda machine have taken out a contract on the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The contract was taken out a long time ago, and it was clear that the closer Corbyn came to being elected prime minister, the harsher the conflict would get.

On Tuesday it reached its climax in an article by the chief rabbi of Britain, Ephraim Mirvis, in an article in The Times. Mirvis has decided that the anxiety of British Jews over Corbyn is justified and he is not fit to be prime minister. He called on Jews not to vote for Labour in the election on December 12.

Born in South Africa and a graduate of Har Etzion Yeshiva in the settlement of Alon Shvut, Mirvis is the voice of British Jewry. In Capetown, Johannesburg and Har Etzion, he should have learned what apartheid was and why one should fight it. His parents did so, but one doubts that he learned the moral lesson from the regions of disenfranchisement in which he lived in South Africa and the West Bank.

As opposed to the horrid Corbyn, Mirvis (below left) sees nothing wrong with the continued occupation; he does not identify with the struggle for Palestinian freedom, and he doesn’t sense the similarity between the South Africa of his childhood, Har Etzion of his youth and Israel of 2019. That is the real reason that he rejects Corbyn. The Jews of Britain also want a prime minister who supports Israel – that is, supports the occupation. A prime minister who is critical of Israel is to them an exemplar of the new anti-Semitism.

Corbyn’s real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates.

Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. He never was. His real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates. Today this is anti-Semitism. The Hungarian Viktor Orban, the Austrian Freedom Party and the extreme right in Europe are not the danger to Jews. Corbyn is the enemy. The new and efficient strategy of Israel and the Zionist establishment brands every seeker of justice as an anti-Semite, and any criticism of Israel as hatred of Jews. Corbyn is a victim of this strategy, which threatens to paralyze and silence Europe with regard to Israel.

British Jewry might not be faking its anxiety, but it is certainly magnifying the danger. There is anti-Semitism, though less that what is presented, certainly on the left. About half of British Jews are considering fleeing if Corbyn is elected. Let them flee. The survey that showed this could actually encourage anti-Semitism: Are the Jews of Britain conditionally British? To whom is their loyalty?

The future of all British Jews is much more secure than the future of any Palestinian living under the occupation

The future of all British Jews is much more secure than the future of any Palestinian living under the occupation, and even more secure than that of any Arab living in Israel. Jews are persecuted and are victims of discrimination and racism less so than the Palestinians in the Israel they hold dear.

Moreover, Islamophobia in Europe is more common than anti-Semitism, but people talk about it less.

Mirvis presents no evidence of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism. It sufficed for him to note the fact that Corbyn described as “friends” those who “endorse the murder of Jews” – a reference to Corbyn’s comments on Hezbollah and Hamas. Corbyn (left) is indeed a very harsh critic of the occupation, supports the boycott and compares the closure of Gaza with the siege of Stalingrad and Leningrad. These are anti-Israeli positions, but not necessarily anti-Semitic. The Jews of Britain are blurring this difference as are many Jews throughout the world, intentionally. One can (and should) be a harsh critic of Israel without being anti-Semitic.

If the Jews of Britain and their chief rabbi were more honest and courageous, they would ask themselves: Isn’t Israel’s brutal occupation policy the strongest motive for anti-Semitism today? There is anti-Semitism, it must be fought, but it must also be recognized that Israel supplies it with an abundance of excuses and motives.

The Jews and Israel’s true friends should hope that Corbyn is elected. He is a statesman who can change international discourse about the occupation and the struggle against it. He is a ray of hope for a different world and a different Israel – and what more could we want.

 

 

 

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Britain’s prospective leaders: truth versus expediency

The Financial Times reported that during the TV leaders’ debate on November 19th, the Conservative party was accused of duping the public after rebranding one of its official Twitter accounts – @CCHQPress – into what appeared to be an independent fact checking service like those developed by independent organisations and media groups such as the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4.

A Moseley reader draws attention to Peter Oborne’s perception of ‘a systemic dishonesty within Johnson’s campaigning machine

Oborne cites another attempt to dupe the public: “(Johnson’s) party deliberately doctored footage of the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, to make it look as if he was at a loss for words when asked about Labour’s Brexit position. In fact, Starmer had answered confidently and fluently. The video was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. And when Piers Morgan tackled the Tory chairman, James Cleverly, on the issue, he refused to accept he’d done anything wrong, let alone apologise”.

Oborne: “As someone who has voted Conservative pretty well all my life, this upsets me. As the philosopher Sissela Bok has explained, political lying is a form of theft. It means that voters make democratic judgments on the basis of falsehoods. Their rights are stripped away”.

He has also charged many of the British media with ‘letting Johnson get away unchallenged with lies, falsehoods and fabrication’. His examination of Boris Johnson’s claims, published on November 18th, includes these instances:

  • Some of the lies are tiny. During a visit to a hospital he tells doctors that he’s given up drink, when only the previous day he’d been filmed sipping whisky on a visit to a distillery. And sips beer on film the day after in a pub.
  • But many are big. Johnson repeatedly claims that Britain’s continued membership of the EU costs an extra £1bn a month. False.
  • He claims he is building 40 new hospitals. Sounds good. But it’s a lie that has already been exposed by fact-checkers, including the website Full Fact.
  • Another misleading statement: “20,000 more police are operating on our streets to fight crime and bring crime down”. Recruitment will take place over three years and do no more than replace the drop in officer numbers  seen since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
  • Jeremy Corbyn has “plans to wreck the economy with a £1.2 trillion spending plan”. Labour’s manifesto hasn’t been published, let alone fully costed. Johnson’s £1.2tn is a palpable fabrication.
  • The Labour leader “thinks home ownership is a bad idea and is opposed to it”. I have been unable to find any evidence of Corbyn expressing this view.
  • On his potential conflict of interest over his friend Jennifer Arcuri, who received £11,500 from an organisation he was responsible for as London mayor, Johnson said: “Everything was done with complete propriety and in the normal way.” We now know he failed to declare this friendship, and is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
  • Johnson then told his TV audience that Corbyn “wouldn’t even stick up for this country when it came to the Salisbury poisonings” and that he sided with Russia. In the aftermath of the poisonings, Corbyn wrote in the Guardian: “Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise.” The Labour leader also stated that the Russian authorities must be held to account.

A friend said gloomily that he learnt nothing new from yesterday’s leaders’ debates. I agreed with that – apart from the production of the redacted NHS dossier, which has been overlooked in many media accounts.

Though I learnt nothing new the debate reinforced my view that one of the two participants is stable, honest, caring and visionary – and that the other is quite different.

 

 

 

 

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Will the next general election be the last under First Past the Post?

On Saturday, as the campaign for proportional representation gathers strength in Britain, Richard House draws attention to a statement by his MP, David Drew (right):

I’ve long supported electoral reform, which is why I’m backing the Make Votes Matter campaign for proportional representation.

I’m one of 20 or so Labour parliamentary candidates, along with Polly Toynbee, Billy Bragg and others, who’ve signed this letter published in The Guardian today.

We must now commit to reviewing the voting system, especially as the Brexit crisis has tested our constitution to near destruction and left millions feeling unrepresented at Westminster.

We must lead the way to a democratic rebirth – transforming the current political paralysis and creating a democracy that works for the many, not the few.  We call on Labour to pledge that the constitutional convention will review the voting system in the forthcoming manifesto.

The following day Reuters reported that about 20,000 people campaigning for proportional representation rallied in the centre of the Georgian capital Tbilisi

They are demanding an early general election because the parliament had failed to pass a planned electoral reform, an immediate move to full proportional representation, scheduled to happen in 2024.

The main opposition parties joined forces to demand an earlier vote to be held by proportional system, the resignation of the government and the creation of an interim government. Activists put locks on parliament’s gates in a symbolic gesture and pitched tents around the building.

A search reveals that of the 43 countries within Europe, 40 use some form of proportional representation to elect their MPs and according to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, some form of proportional representation is used for national lower house elections in 94 countries.

Why doesn’t ‘democratic’ Britain already have proportional representation?

  Time for change

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s politically unique offer: truth, compassion, justice, peace and a sufficiency for all

Many years ago, around the time when Jeremy Corbyn challenged Margaret Thatcher about the plight of people living in London’s ‘cardboard city(see video), I sat next to him at some peace-related gathering in London.

We were supposed to discuss one of the issues on the agenda, but after one glance at his rather surly, sulky face I decided to cross the room and there had the good fortune to meet the genial Professor John Roberts, an exceptionally caring and thoughtful historian who was a World Federalist.

Over the years however I did note and credit JC’s consistent stand for peace, justice and the less fortunate and his much maligned mediation with warring parties, hoping to bring about peace by diplomacy.

Many working for good can bear witness to his steadfast support

One of these is Richard Gifford, who for many years has freely given legal services on behalf of the Chagos Islanders, unjustly displaced from their homeland, now used as an American military base (above, centre). To their discredit, the USA and UK governments, despite an overwhelming vote in the UN assembly, have disobeyed the order of the International Court of Justice at the Hague in May to hand back the islands as soon as possible.

In Corbyn the Spirit of ’45 survives

That spirit led to the setting up of the welfare state and the national health service – dreamed about by the soldiers planning a better future in their trenches. After corresponding with leading writers, artists and politicians, they helped to form the Common Wealth Party, many later transferring to Labour, Green or regionalist parties as founder members died or retired.

Poster for the Spirit of 45, filmed by Ken Loach

That intense young man has now matured into a ‘statesmanlike party leader’, resembling Professor Roberts in appearance and mindset.

He is valued by many European ministers and heads of states; Politico’s headline was ‘Brussels rolls out a red carpet for Jeremy Corbyn‘ but the Daily Mail hastily withdrew its original paragraph, “Corbyn appeared to be the statesmanlike party leader holding all the cars. He was greeted by “all the European press” like a “Prime Minister in waiting”, one aide told me” (see video).

World Federalism, which once seemed rather ‘way out’, now seems to be a really sensible way of addressing the towering threats posed by climate related instability.

And Jeremy Corbyn is the only British leader credibly offering to address the plight of the 10% on low incomes with no secure housing or employment, to cease the harassment of the disabled and to save young lives – and huge sums of money – from being wasted in aiding and abetting unjust military interventions.

 

 

 

 

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Corbyn – “a different kind of leader . . . the kind I want for our country”

Richard House draws attention to a letter from Mark Trotman in the Western Daily Press, 11 October 2019, p. 23 

Unaccustomed as I am to praising your political columnist Chris Moncrieff, I almost choked on my Rice Krispies this morning on reading his (albeit somewhat grudging) praise for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (WDP, October 8). I’ll give Chris the benefit of the doubt and assume his praise is genuine – and that there isn’t a mischievous tongue lurking in his ample cheek. And I’d like to add to it.

There are three common criticisms made of Corbyn by the mainstream commentariat: i.e. that he’s “not a leader”; that “he’s weak”; and that he “sits on the fence” (e.g. in relation to Brexit).

Corbyn is a different kind of leader – one who’s a co-operative team player rather than a narcissistic individualist, and who prefers to listen thoughtfully, rather than hearing the sound of his own voice fuelled by a puffed-up ego.

Now that’s the kind of leader I want for our country.

On strength – I’d like to know if there is any political leader in living memory who could have withstood the most vicious character-assassination campaign on record, and this over a period of four years.

In spite of this unremitting tirade of propaganda assaults, many of which must have been deeply hurtful (e.g. the outrageous slurs and smears about racism), Corbyn is not only still standing, but is touring the land speaking to many hundreds of his admirers and supporters.

As for sitting on the fence, Corbyn has the maturity to realise that infantile polarisation is emphatically not what the nation needs right now.

Only Corbyn can heal the deep divisions

Rather, our country desperately needs healing and bringing together – and of all current and recent political leaders, Corbyn alone possesses the emotional intelligence and magnanimity to achieve it.

Corbyn is a shy and unassuming man who is refreshingly free of ego-driven self-centredness and personal ambition, but one with a deep strength, reliability and consistency of vision that a modern age filled with division, fake news and hate-filled rhetoric so desperately needs.

I seem to remember that in 1945, another shy, unassuming Labour leader beat a bombastic Winston Churchill at the general election, despite the latter’s determination to paint Attlee as some kind of proto-Communist stooge.

Corbyn “is touring the land speaking to many hundreds of his admirers and supporters”

Mark Trotman ends: “In the forthcoming election, I think this particular history might be about to repeat itself”.

 

 

 

 

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FT in the dock: charged by a resident of Winchester and a host of economists

An earlier post – the first in a series ‘The Corbyn Revolution: How Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s economic agenda would impact Britain’s economy’ – was a fairly dispassionate overview of the proposed policies ‘breathtaking in scope’, but the other titles in the series indicated that they would fall well below the standards of ‘fairness and impartiality’ which the FT’s new owners had undertaken to maintain.

The writer cravenly decided to avoid them, but Judith Martin (below, right) had more spirit and took the FT – ‘One of the business world’s most-respected platforms’ – to task for its article, UK’s Labour would seize £300bn of company shares.

Though the FT edited or removed many sentences and gave it an anodyne and misleading title: Rewarding your workers makes sound economic sense, we can now present the full text, sent by the writer.

“Raid”, “stealth tax”, “expropriation” – I don’t recall the FT using these inflammatory terms when discussing the John Lewis Partnership, which has always given annual bonuses to the staff instead of to shareholders.  

Nor do I recall whether you used them when in 2016 Theresa May pledged to put worker representatives on company boards – although it was that sort of reaction that ensured it didn’t happen.

Your front page headline “Labour would cost UK companies £300bn by shifting shares to staff” (2nd September 2019) is one of the most partisan I have ever seen in the FT, and more like something I would expect from the tabloid press that I don’t choose to buy.

Only later does it become clear that the suggestion is for a gradual transfer of a mere 10%.  The fact that the top 20% of income earners received 6 times the disposable household income of the bottom 20% (according to the government’s own figures (Income inequality in the UK, House of Commons Library, May 2019)) doesn’t get a look-in.

Henry Ford understood that it made sound economic sense to pay workers enough to allow them to buy the company’s products. Impoverishing your workers – even if, like Deliveroo, Uber and the rest of the gig economy crew, you claim they’re not actually employees – is not good for society, as numerous FT articles have noted in recent years. Most of our current worker protection has come from the EU.

As for the rights of tenants, I am agnostic on whether or not they should be given the right to buy but they certainly need a fair rent structure and decent protection.   Not long ago there were headlines saying that a new generation of middle-aged renters was likely to face extreme poverty in old age, with resulting stresses on the health service and elsewhere.   Compare this country’s attitudes to housing and landlords with Germany, where Berlin has just acquired nearly 700 flats from a private landlord, with plans for more.   In March this year the FT noted approvingly that the start-up culture in Berlin was thriving.   A city that protects its residents frees up initiative.

Is this really a good time to put the boot in to any policy that might suggest that capitalism was capable of improvement? The FT has spent the last three years insisting that the EU gives a better deal than the economic isolation that faces the country in November.

When Jeremy Corbyn (left, FT) has finally been dragged into co-operation with other anti-brexiters, and Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is looking increasingly unstable, is this really a good time to put the boot in to any policy that might suggest that capitalism was capable of improvement just because it comes from the Labour party?   Do you really want more of Johnson and his stated approach of “fuck business?”

 

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to “drive big money out of democracy”

In Bolton on Sunday (18.8.19) Mr Corbyn announced a new policy to ban donations or loans to parties from non-doms and those not registered for tax in Britain. He said:

“People are right to feel that politics doesn’t work for them. It doesn’t. Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party are captured by big donors, who are corrupting democracy. If you have the money you can get access to ministers. Look at the fracking industry. But if you wish to protest against the frackers because it will damage the environment, you can’t get a hearing”.

Lamiat Sabin (right) reports that Cabinet Office shadow minister Jon Trickett is working on a comprehensive plan to stop big money “buying up our democracy” before outlining further plans in the autumn and that Mr Corbyn revealed details of donations to PM Boris Johnson – nearly a million pounds – from hedge funds and bankers.

In all: £953,056.47 came from hedge funds and bankers in donations and income over the last 15 years, (Labour’s analysis of Electoral Commission data and register of members’ interests entries) and contributions of up £730,000 to him or Conservative Associations in his Henley and Uxbridge seats. Some detail:

  • speeches to banks in Europe and the US: £233,056;
  • £100,000 received in June from Ipex Capital chairman Jonathan Moynihan, who also chaired the Vote Leave finance committee;
  • £10,000 in June from hedge fund manager Robin Crispin Odey, who is short-selling the sterling in expectation of a slide in the value of the pound in the event of Mr Johnson’s no-deal Brexit — according to Labour;
  • Johnson flown to New York and paid £94,507.85 for a two-hour speech at the multibillion-dollar hedge fund company Golden Tree Asset Management and
  • £88,000 from hedge fund boss Johan Christofferson from direct donations or contributions to Uxbridge Conservative Association.

He said: “We have to stop the influx of big money into politics. Politics should work for the millions, not the millionaires. Labour is the party of the many, not the few and we do things very differently. We are funded by workers through their trade unions and small donations, averaging just £22 in the last general election. That’s why we will be able to drive big money out of our democracy.”

 

 

 

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