Category Archives: Corporate political nexus

Enforce British court ruling on arms exports as fears of the coronavirus spread in Yemen

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WFP/Mohammed Awadh: Conflict-damaged homes on the edge of Aden, Yemen.

Britain has been providing arms with which its allies continue to bomb the people of Yemen for the fifth year, in contravention of a Court of Appeal ruling. This stated that it is unlawful to have licensed the sale of British-made arms to the Saudi regime without assessing whether their use in Yemen breaches international humanitarian law.

The United Nations has described the effect of this five-year air onslaught, leading to many thousands of Yemeni deaths, as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”.

Peter Lazenby reports the words of Andrew Smith (Campaign Against Arms Trade – CAAT): “It is a crisis that has been enabled by the political and military support that the UK and other arms-dealing governments have given the Saudi regime and its coalition partners”.

Yemen’s healthcare system is already in crisis, with many damaged and destroyed hospitals and a weak healthcare system, already struggling with cholera and malnutrition. The Red Cross reports that medical supplies, drinking water and sanitation are scarce.

Ahmed Aidarous, 36, a resident of the southwestern city of Taiz, who survived dengue fever, expresses the general fear to MiddleEastEye: “In Yemen, there are some diseases like dengue fever and cholera but we know their reasons and we can be treated for them. I heard from media that coronavirus spreads through the air and we cannot protect ourselves from it.”

Two days after his 23 March appeal to warring parties across the globe for an immediate ceasefire, UN Secretary-GeneraAntónio Guterres  called on those fighting in Yemen to end hostilities and ramp up efforts to counter a potential outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The FT reports that, in response on Wednesday, the Houthi movement and the exiled Saudi-supported government agreed to an immediate end to hostilities.

 

 

 

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The Great Unravelling: a system in meltdown, Part 1

Part 1: economic ramifications, food security and pandemic bonds

Many of the points highlighted in this article are summarised below. It is published in full here.

Alan Simpson opened: “The delusions of neoliberalism stand at the edge of an implosion just waiting to happen. But, as with the emperor’s new clothes, global leaders are too fearful to say that their economic model has been stripped naked”.

The last week has seen that – following the wild weather – coronavirus and tumbling stock markets are ganging up to form an economic “perfect storm.” It will only get worse.

Initially, the industrial world had only a passing interest in the coronavirus outbreak in China: stupid Chinese, eating the wrong stuff it thought — good job that an authoritarian state could turn a city of millions into a quarantine zone.

Then markets began to panic and central banks are having to intervene

But now Italy has followed suit. In a dramatic, middle of the night statement, the Prime Minister announced the quarantining of a whole region of northern Italy, affecting 16 million people around Milan and Venice. Even this may be too late. The ramifications are massive. Start with China.

  • Its output accounts for around a quarter of global manufacturing,
  • huge quantities of which are currently stored up in containers that cannot get out of Chinese ports.
  • accounts for one quarter of global automotive production
  • provides 8% of global exports of automotive components for other manufacturers, many of whom rely on just-in-time assembly processes.
  • The same applies to steel and plastics, chemicals and high-tech telecoms.
  • Tankers arriving now set off before China went into lockdown. The real shortages will start to kick in this month.

The ripple effect of these logjams is running through the entire industrial economy, including a shortage of available containers themselves.

And when goods don’t flow, nor do payments associated with them. First-world firms struggle to work out how to pay bills (and workers) in the same way that China is having to pay workers to stay at home in quarantined areas.

Food security

The UK Treasury official who has just advised that agriculture is unimportant to the UK economy could barely have been more mistaken. Real alarm bells should be ringing all around Parliament about the amount of crops that will rot in the ground of waterlogged fields around the land. How are we to feed the public throughout the coronavirus crisis?

Weather related problems, including flood, drought and fire will throw food production systems crisis, with no globalised supply lines to step in as the safety net. But food security is an issue Parliament has barely touched on.

Why are political leaders reluctant to call what we are facing “a pandemic”?

(WHO) definition of a pandemic is relatively clear. It is “an epidemic or actively spreading disease that affects two or more regions worldwide.” This clearly describes today’s geographical spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus and its significant clusters of cases far from China; principally in Italy and Iran. Countries closer to China, like South Korea, have also experienced an explosion in novel coronavirus infections. And Europe and the US are rapidly catching up.

The World Bank has launched a $12bn fund to help developing nations deal with “the epidemic.” But this is where the politics turns ugly. Behind the scenes, casino spivs stand to lose lots of money if we call this a “pandemic” not an “epidemic.” It all goes back to

“Pandemic Bonds”

In June 2017, the World Bank announced the creation of “specialised bonds” that would fund the previously created Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEFF) in the event of an officially recognised (ie WHO-recognised) pandemic. The high-yield bonds were sold under the premise that those who invested would lose their money if any of six deadly pandemics (including coronavirus) occurred. If a pandemic did not occur before the bonds mature on July 15, 2020, investors would receive what they had originally paid for the bonds along with generous interest and premium payments.

This is why Trump has gone out of his way to pooh-pooh use of the word “pandemic.” If we don’t call it out until after July 15 speculators get paid and it’s the public who then pick up the bills.

The first “pandemic bond” raised $225 million, at an interest rate of around 7%. Payouts are suspended if there is an outbreak of new influenza viruses or coronaviridae (SARS, MERS). The second, riskier bond raised $95 million at an interest rate of more than 11%. This bond keeps investors’ money if there is an outbreak of filovirus, coronavirus, lassa fever, rift valley fever, and/or Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever. The World Bank also issued $105 million in swap derivatives that work in a similar way.

In 2017, $425 million of these “pandemic bonds” were issued, with sales reportedly 200% oversubscribed. For many, they looked more like “a structured derivative time bomb” — one that could upend financial markets if a pandemic was declared by the WHO.

He adds, “And that’s where we are now. Call it a crisis. Call it an emergency. But whatever you do, don’t use the word “pandemic” because it might kill the market”. Concluding that there is no way to magic this crisis away, he says we must manage our way through it as best we can, adding, “But calling a pandemic a pandemic would at least treat countries and communities as human entities, not just chips in casino capitalism”.

 

Alan Simpson

8 March 2020

 

 

 

 

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Step out of line and share Assange’s fate: Prof. Melzer: “And nobody will care. I can promise you that”.

Today, people from several campaigns supporting Julian Assange, including Defend Wikileaks, will be demonstrating against his extradition.

A message has been received from Tracy Worcester (below) who gave a clear and persuasive address outside Belmarsh prison where she visited Assange. Reuters – unlike more right-wing outlets – yesterday gave a straightforward account of the proposed extradition of Julian Assange to the USA, about which a decision is to be made shortly.

Another message, from a Bournville reader, says that extradition would be an injustice crowning all those he has suffered already and a threat to free speech everywhere – with particular implications for whistle-blowers, journalists and bloggers.

He forwarded a long and detailed interview with Professor Nils Melzer, a Swedish academic, professor of international law at the University of Glasgow who is serving as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Some points made by Melzer follow:

Assange reported to the Swedish authorities on several occasions because he wanted to respond to the accusations

After a detailed examination of the rape allegations he pointed out that far from fleeing from the Swedish judiciary in order to avoid being held accountable, Assange reported to the Swedish authorities on several occasions but the authorities stonewalled. He contacted the Swedish judiciary several times to make a statement – but was turned down. Melzer (below) says:

“I speak fluent Swedish and was thus able to read all of the original documents. I could hardly believe my eyes: According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never even taken place at all. And not only that: The woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.

The media and government agencies have painted a completely different picture over the years

Melzer gives a long and detailed account of the charges, opening: “We know that the original statement, according to the chief public prosecutor, apparently did not contain any indication that a crime had been committed. A revised statement was edited without the involvement of the woman in question and wasn’t signed by her. It is a manipulated piece of evidence out of which the Swedish authorities then constructed a story of rape”.

Though the public prosecutor’s office gave him written permission to leave Sweden for short periods of time, on the day that Julian Assange left Sweden a warrant was issued for his arrest.

His lawyer explained that Assange had to go to Berlin for a conference and had asked if he was allowed to leave the country. During the flight, his laptops disappeared from his checked baggage. Existing correspondence proves that after arriving in London, via his Swedish lawyer, Assange offered public prosecutors several possible dates for questioning in Sweden.

Then he heard that a secret criminal case had been opened against him in the U.S. His lawyer said that his client was prepared to testify in Sweden, but because of Sweden’s record (in one instance they had to pay a million dollars in damages to two men who were extradited to the CIA in Egypt without any legal proceedings) he demanded a diplomatic assurance that Sweden would not extradite him to the U.S. The Swedes declined to provide a guarantee, arguing that the U.S. had not made a formal request for extradition.

Assange said he was willing to be questioned in London or via video link under the cooperation treaty between the United Kingdom and Sweden

Under the terms of the treaty, Swedish officials can travel to the UK, or vice versa, to conduct interrogations or questioning can take place via video link. During the period of time in question, such questioning between Sweden and England took place in 44 other cases.

The Swedish prosecution avoided questioning Assange for five years and eventually his lawyers petitioned Sweden’s Supreme Court to force the public prosecution to press charges or to close the case.

Melzer recalls that when the Swedes told the UK they might be forced to abandon the case, the English Crown Prosecution Service wrote “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!” in a document addressed to the Swedish Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny, a copy of which was obtained by the Italian investigative journalist, Stefania Maurizi, in a five-year long Freedom of Information litigation which is still ongoing. Sweden finally abandoned the case against Assange in November 2019

Why would the Swedish and British authorities act like this?

In July 2010, Wikileaks – in cooperation with the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel – published the Afghan War Diary, one of the largest leaks in the history of the U.S. military. Wikileaks obtained a document in which Stratfor, a security consultancy that works for the U.S. government (analysts@stratfor.com) advised American officials to deluge Assange with all kinds of criminal cases for the next 25 years.

What Wikileaks did is a threat to the political elite in the U.S., Britain, France and Russia. Wikileaks publishes secret state information – they are opposed to classification – and in a world, even in so-called democracies, where secrecy has become rampant, that is seen as a fundamental threat

Was another suppression related to a 2017 allegation by former congressman Dana Rohrabacher that Donald Trump had offered to pardon Julian Assange if he claimed that Russia had nothing to do with a leak of Democratic party emails in 2016? Trump offered to pardon Assange if he said that Russia had nothing to do with WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic Party emails in 2016. accusation.

What awaits Assange if he is extradited?

Melzer feels sure that Assange will not receive a fair trial in part because Assange will be tried in Alexandria, Virginia, the notorious ‘Espionage Court’ where jury members are drawn from a local population, 85% of whom work in the national security community – at the CIA, the NSA, the Defense Department and the State Department. He adds that the cases are always tried in front of the same judge behind closed doors and on the strength of classified evidence. Nobody has ever been acquitted there in a case like that. He continues:

“I am the Special Rapporteur on Torture for the United Nations. I have a mandate to ask clear questions and to demand answers. I visited Assange in his cell in London in May 2019 together with two experienced, widely respected doctors who are specialized in the forensic and psychological examination of torture victims. The diagnosis arrived at by the two doctors was clear: Julian Assange displays the typical symptoms of psychological torture. If he doesn’t receive protection soon, a rapid deterioration of his health is likely, and death could be one outcome”.

Melzer then asks three questions:

  • What is the legal basis for denying someone their fundamental right to defend themselves?
  • Why is a man who is neither dangerous nor violent held in solitary confinement for several months when UN standards legally prohibit solitary confinement for periods extending beyond 15 days?
  • Why have none of these UN member states launched an investigation, answer my questions or even demonstrate an interest in dialogue?

And gives a warning to all:

When countries like Sweden allow themselves to be manipulated like that, then our democracies and our human rights face a fundamental threat. Power corrupts if it is not monitored. A show trial will make an example of Julian Assange. The point is to intimidate other journalists. The message to all is: “This is what will happen to you if you emulate the Wikileaks model”.

Assange has published proof of systematic torture. But instead of those responsible for the torture, it is Assange who is being persecuted. Melzer added: “This could just as easily happen to us or our children. And nobody will care. I can promise you that”.

 

 

Our Bournville informant ended: “Evil triumphs when good people do nothing”:

 

 

 

 

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Abolish political parties – 2: Voices from Canada, America and Namibia

And a cartoon from Britain

In his Modest Proposal: abolish political parties, Robert Zaretsky Professor of Humanities at the Honors College, University of Houston, refers to Simone Weil’s writing:

“All political parties share three essential traits. They are created to generate collective passions, designed to exert collective pressure upon the minds of its members and motivated to seek their own growth at the expense not just of other parties, but the nation itself”

Andrew Nikiforuk, an award-winning journalist and a contributing editor to The Tye, in Party’s Over: Why We Need to Abolish Political Parties, refers to Simone Weil’s radical essay, published in 1950.

She called for the abolition of political parties, condemning the political parties that in 1940 helped to prepare the ground for France’s military defeat.

Nikiforuk reflects that when she observes that “nearly everywhere, instead of thinking, one merely takes sides: for or against,” we recognize she is describing not just France 75 years ago, but the politicians who seem to be steering our own country to social and economic disaster in the United States today.

Computer scientist Eric (Rick) Hehner, emeritus professor at the University of Toronto writes: “A party controls its members by blackmail. If you ever want to advance within the party, to become a minister, or even just be a candidate in the next election, you must toe the party line.

“The people who advance are not those who have their own ideas and integrity; MPs are reduced to cardboard cutouts. Power is concentrated in the hands of a handful of people: the rulers of the ruling party. This is not democracy.

“Without political parties, elections and parliament and government all work perfectly well. In an election, every candidate is an independent, and is free to speak their mind. Voters choose the candidate they feel best represents them. In each new parliament, the first order of business is for MPs to elect the ministers of a government from among themselves. Those ministers then serve parliament. If the ministers (including prime minister) lose the confidence of parliament, then parliament can replace them, without triggering a general election. On each issue, an MP is free to vote as they think their constituents want them to vote, or to vote according to their conscience”.

He cites as working models Nebraska, in the Northwest Territories, in Nunavut, and most city and regional governments.

A search revealed that Nebraska hasa nonpartisan legislative body’; there are no formal party alignments or groups within the Legislature. Coalitions tend to form issue by issue based on a member’s philosophy of government, geographic background and constituency (Wikipedia).

In a recent letter to the Bradenton Herald, Anna Yoakum, who is ‘affiliated with the No Party Affiliation’, writes:

“We have always been The United States of America but have now become the Divided States. This is not what or who we are.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to abolish our party system. Politics has become more divisive than rooting for our favorite sports team. We are wallowing in a mentality of us against them. Our Congress gets little done as they’re too busy opposing one another, blocking bills, instigating endless filibusters and campaigning party against party.

“Court justices would be unbiased politically, as there would be no party to be beholden to; there would be no gerrymandering; nor voter suppression nor voter intimidation nor voter fraud. Big money wouldn’t be able to buy a party, most importantly we would just be voters voting for who we feel is best.

“Without the divide of parties Congress would work together, actually accomplishing something. The House of Representatives, Senate and presidency would work as our founding fathers envisioned: “Together for the Good of America”.

Nyasha Francis Nyaungw reports in Namibia’s Observer that Angelina Immanuel (left) from Namibia, who is running as an independent candidate in the Ondangwa Urban by-election scheduled for June 15 has made a case for the abolition of the country’s political party system which she says has not worked in the last 29 years.

In her promise to the residents of Ondangwa, Immanuel argues that the current political party system has brought about corruption, maladministration, incompetence, weak leadership and sluggish development patterns.

She says the system has led to a situation where individual weaknesses, failures and capabilities are not assessed by the electorate who are told to vote for candidates just because they belong to a certain political party;

“The candidates that come from these political parties and eventually win are thus not loyal to the residents and only listen to the instructions and wishes of those running political parties in Windhoek. The residents and citizens’ concerns, no matter the amount of protests or complaints they make, are not listened to unless people in Windhoek say so.”

 

Time for change?

 

 

 

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Outsourcing 8: apprenticeship training 2017-2020

In 2018, the Times (paywall) reported the verdict of MP Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee: “The apprenticeship levy is not working. It was meant to incentivise large employers to invest more in apprenticeships by requiring them to pay into a central fund from which they can claim back some or all of their training costs.

Instead it has led employers to recoup the cost of existing in-house training schemes by relabelling them as apprenticeships. 

She noted that more companies are setting themselves up as training providers and that Ofsted says that it will struggle to keep tabs on these. The following year her report pointed out that too many apprentices were still being trained by sub-standard providers.

Around a third of apprentices covered by Ofsted inspections in 2017/18 were being trained by providers rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’. The poor quality of some contributed to a situation where over 30% of apprentices fail to complete their apprenticeship successfully each year.

A letter to the Times editor added: “The Learndirect scandal serves as a stark case: an organisation was allowed to take on more and more learners (reaching 75,000) when warning signs of inadequate training and poor financial management were already being issued”.

The Financial Times reminded readers that Learndirect was privatised and sold to the private equity arm of Lloyds Bank in 2011 but is still reliant on government funding. When the Public Accounts Committee questioned Learndirect and Ofsted, Ofsted revealed the findings of Learndirect’s “inadequate” performance and the ‘legal shenanigans’ used to prevent earlier revelations. The findings included:

The National Audit office’s 2019 report focussed on the cost of apprenticeships and the low rate of uptake. In its first full year of operation, the apprenticeship levy raised £2.7 billion and this is expected to rise to £3.4 billion by 2023-24. However, there have been repeated warnings in recent months that the funding pot generated by the levy is about to run out

Earlier this month the Financial Times reported on an Education and Skills (EDSK) report, based on official data, which has investigated what is happening with the apprenticeship levy and the apprenticeship system in England more broadly. 

It found that 50% of apprenticeships funded by the levy are ‘fake’, citing figures which relate closely to those reported by the Public Accounts Committee, recorded in the FT box above:

  • Some £1.2bn of the £2.4bn money raised since the levy was introduced in April 2017 had been spent on “fake” apprenticeships, rebadged MBA courses and low-skilled jobs training,
  • £550m of levy funding had been spent on management training courses for experienced employees, which previously would have been funded from professional development budgets.
  • Highly qualified academics, many of whom already have PhDs, had been relabelled as apprentices in order to put them through levy-funded professional development courses.
  • And £235m had been used to teach people in low-skilled jobs, including working at a shop checkout or serving in a bar, often requiring minimal training, which pay low wages and do not meet any established definition of an apprentice.

Last July Boris Johnson said that, while he will always “defend and extol the advantages of having a degree, there are far too many young people who leave university with huge debts, and no clear sense of how their academic qualification has helped their career.” He has pledged to “elevate practical and technical qualifications” to “recognise their immense value to society and to the individual” and to raise funding for apprenticeships.

As – regrettably – Learndirect has re-emerged in the apprenticeship sector under a new name: Learndirect Apprenticeships Ltd., EDSK reflects that government pays private providers taxpayers’ money to deliver public services but can fail to monitor the results or truly penalise those that do not deliver. It recommends the Department for Education to tighten rules to stop financing of rebadged MBAs and low-skilled training and introduce a new definition of apprenticeship, benchmarked against the world’s best technical education systems.

 

 

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Baron McNicol in the FT: ‘Corbynism must end with Corbyn’

On Saturday, Iain McNicol’s article ‘Corbynism must end with Corbyn’ was published in the Financial Times

As a post Corbyn entrant to the Labour Party I had only dimly heard of McNicol, so read around and discovered that he had been general secretary of the Labour party from 2011 to 2018 and now sits in the House of Lords. Then came a disturbing account of his wrecking tactics in his Wikipedia entry, condensed in The Jacobin by Daniel Finn:

“The party leadership has put a lot of effort into revamping Labour’s disciplinary processes so that real cases of antisemitism can be dealt with more quickly. Much of this work has been done since Jennie Formby took over as Labour’s general secretary in April 2018, replacing Iain McNicol, who was bitterly hostile to Corbyn. Some of the party officials who departed with McNicol had been slowing down the handling of cases, whether through incompetence or malice, knowing that Corbyn’s team would get the blame from the British media”.

No physiognomist needed

Finn described MacNicol as being one of the influential political players from Labour’s right-wing, anti-Corbyn faction which has a negligible organisational base in the party and unions but is closely linked to supportive media outlets. This faction is composed of Blairites and some MPs from the 2010 intake who believed themselves to be contenders for the party leadership once the Corbyn project collapsed.

MacNicol’s theme: “Clause One of the Labour party rule book states that the party’s purpose is to ‘promote the election of Labour party representatives at all levels of the democratic process’. It does not state that its function is to be a radical protest party. The fight is now on for Labour’s soul and the future”.

After taking credit for 2017’s ‘professionally-run campaign with strategic goals, a cutting edge social media campaign’ he refers to ‘a freshness that appealed to a broad coalition, including many hard-to-reach voters’.

This freshness was actually due to the surprise appearance of an honest and caring politician, the first in many decades.

Corbyn’s spectacular insurgent campaigns stand as vivid demonstrations that, as he said upon taking leadership of the Labour Party in September 2015, “things can, and they will, change.” Corbyn’s ease on the campaign trail and assured performances on TV transformed perceptions. He became Labour’s great asset (Alex Nunns)

MacNicol continued: “What did Labour offer? Everything to everyone and that was the problem . . . Corbynism has been an abject failure. We need a strong leader to reignite the party and connect with voters”.

Quickly disposing of Rebecca Long-Bailey: “If elected, she would kill any chance of Labour improving its electoral prospects” he moved on to focus on Keir Starmer, attracting the bulk of the support from MPs, the backing of Unison, the largest trade union and appointing a campaign team drawn from both left and right of the party

Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips – ‘capable of driving the transition Labour needs- – are likely to gain the necessary support to have their names on the ballot paper.

He ends, “A renewed Labour party, with a strong leader, could win the 123 seats needed to secure a majority . . . on April 4 take steps honour the promise of Clause One and move back to bidding for power or remain a party of protest.

So must the party resurrect New Labour? Will Corbynism and the bid for truth, peace and justice, end with Corbyn?

 

 

 

 

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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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Outsourcing 7: bring privatised services and PFI deals back into public ownership

As Paul Halas writes (Western Daily Press, 7 December 2019, p. 30):

“Over the past few decades privatisations have included Royal Mail, British Gas, electricity, water and sewage treatment, the 999 calls service, much of the ambulance service, the NHS appointments service, British Steel, large parts of the education service, the Coal Board (as was), the probation service, many prisons and detention centres, large chunks of the care services, British Airways, British Rail… ad infinitum”).

Martin Rudland draws attention to the ‘we own it’ website which focusses on privatisation of public services which wastes billions each year on shareholder dividends and high borrowing costs, giving links to research into costs in several sectors including water, energy, transport, broadband, Royal Mail and NHS.

Transnational Engie is on the list of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital’s suppliers of domestic, catering and cleaning services. Unison and GMB are calling for these services to be brought back in-house once Engie’s contract ends next year.

UNISON, the union representing workers at Luton & Dunstable Hospital, points out that staff who were transferred from the NHS in 2015 are being paid NHS rates of £9.02 an hour but anyone who started since is paid the legal minimum of £8.21 an hour.

New starters are paid at least £1,400 less than colleagues who were at the hospital before cleaning services were sold off. Engie employees have also told UNISON that they are being denied leave and being made to take the blame when the contractor is pulled up by the Trust for any shortcomings in service.

UNISON’s Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett said, “Engie has confused and demoralised its staff further with a third set of pay and conditions brought in last year to squeeze a bit more cash out of the taxpayer. This firm is making its profits off the backs of some of the lowest-paid workers in our NHS”.

GMB regional organiser Hilda Tavolara agrees that the workers “deserve to be treated fairly by their employer” and points out that last year, housekeepers’ working hours and wages were cut, yet they were still expected to do the same amount of work. This has had a knock-on effect on the patients, their families and visitors.

Hospital chiefs are offering Engie a new 10-year contract to provide the services, proposing to outsource a number or employees currently working for the NHS but UNISON is calling on the Trust not to renew Engie’s contract next year and bring cleaning, catering and housekeeping back in-house.

This week an IPPR study revealed the cost of private finance initiatives (PFI) contracts in the NHS.

These contracts brought £13 billion of initial investment capital into the health system but by the time they have ended the NHS will have spent £80 billion on them.

This is money which could have been spent on doctors’ and nurses’ salaries, on improving treatments, or on making sure young mental health inpatients don’t have to stay in hospitals hundreds of miles away from their family and friends.

The IPPR report reveals that £55 billion of this debt is still outstanding – representing a huge burden on tight NHS resources if the government does not take action. It recommends that bad deals be brought back into public ownership.

After wondering whether what’s left of the NHS is really going to remain in the public domain under the Tories, Paul Halas adds: “What they (private companies) all have in common is poorer service, higher prices, worse wages and conditions for employees, and a haemorrhaging of money to highly paid executives and shareholders, many of them based overseas and avoiding tax in this country”, ending:

“The Tories’ long-term goal has always been to shrink the public sector to the size of a walnut and until the NHS, the last of the public service dominoes, is toppled it’ll remain a thorn in their ideological flesh”. 

 

 

 

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Will turkeys vote for austerity, exploitation, climate disaster and profits for the few?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The revolving door between government & big business

Yesterday’s headlines review of ONS report: 2008-2019, richest 10% enjoy biggest gains in household wealth

 

 

 

 

 

 

THEIR CHOICE

 

 

 

 

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Former BBC Political Editor Harangues Britain’s Right-wing Media Bias

It’s fashionable for people on the progressive left to call out and highlight the anti-left and anti-Corbyn bias of the BBC, but this claim needs some careful unpacking.

Academic research (e.g. LSE: Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press: From Watchdog to Attackdog) certainly seems to support this view; but assuming it to be true for a moment, it by no means follows that all, or even most, journalists working for the BBC are themselves politically right-wing. 

Parallels can be drawn here with the right-wing press. I’ve been reliably informed by a former Daily Telegraph journalist, for example, that at that newspaper, many of the journalists working there are well left of centre.

At the institutional level however, everyone knows what’s required by the paper’s owners and so a culture of right-wing and right-oriented commentary is created, which becomes an accepted norm to which all journalists employed by that title conform. In such organisations, moreover, the management are likely to be right-wing in orientation.

Something similar to this seems to be happening at the BBC, as political commentator Owen Jones pointed out at length on Radio 5 Live last Saturday evening (Saturday 30 November).

So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to see a former very senior BBC journalist and editor ‘coming out’ on the political left. I remember Nick Jones (right) very well from the miners’ strike in the early 1980s when he was chief political editor at the BBC, and when he was clearly doing his best as the time to be as even-handed and neutral as possible. Jones left the BBC in 2002 (aged 60), and I’ve heard nothing of him since. So I was mildly amazed to read in a recent issue of the Morning Star a feature article by him on media bias. Titled ‘Boris Johnson’s shock troops in the commentariat’ we read about how, ‘when the PM runs into trouble, he’s not short of obliging media pundits to rush to his rescue and deliver a hatchet job on Corbyn’.

Jones evocatively writes of what he calls ‘attack journalism’, their ‘character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn’, and their ‘conjuring up yet another hatchet job on Corbyn to help bolster the brilliance of Johnson’.

Listing a number of obnoxious headlines from an array of Tory propaganda comics, Jones then points out the sobering fact that Conservative-supporting newspapers account for 80% of UK newspaper sales.

But it’s far worse than even this, as the likes of the BBC pick up on and report the right-wing editorial lines of these papers, ‘feeding through to the commentary on television and radio programmes’. And the right-wing press commentariat also ‘command a far higher proportion of broadcast interviews and invitations to newspapers reviews on radio and television’, with press headlines commonly treated as news.

Jones concludes his article with a chilling observation: ‘Media coverage in 2017 was the vilest of any general election of my 60 years as a reporter’.

I fear 2019 might be even worse.’ From what I’ve seen to date, I think his worst fears have already come to pass, with the Cummings-driven Tory Dirty Tricks Department leaving all previous Tory attempts to propagandise the electorate trailing in his wake.

When a widely respected journalist of Nick Jones’s seniority and professional stature speaks so scathingly about the flagrant bias of the right-wing press, we really have to take it seriously. But just what we can do to neutralise the propaganda impact of this outrage to democracy is something that the left urgently needs to address – and preferably well before 12 December 2019.

Guest-blogged by Richard House Ph.D., former senior university lecturer in psychology, psychotherapy and early childhood studies, and now a full-time Labour Party and environmental campaigner-activist.

 

 

 

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