Category Archives: Democracy

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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Will the rising tide of youthful voters sweep away selfish politics?

A surge in number of young people registering to vote has been reported as more than 300,000 applications were submitted in two days. There was a big spike on the day the election was announced. 

        • A third were from people under 25.
        • Nearly two-thirds of applications were from people aged 34 and under
        • and 4% came from those aged 65 and over.

Dr James Sloam is co-director of Centre for European Politics at Royal Holloway University, currently leading a project for the Greater London Assembly investigating the key policy issues for young people and questions of civic and political engagement and their relevance to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Sloam argues that there has been a step-change in youth political participation, as young people have been attracted in large numbers to Jeremy Corbyn’s message. In the 2017 general election, turnout amongst 18-24 year olds rose from 43% in 2015 to 54% and polling data showed that most of them voted Labour.

BBC journalist Laura Lea points out that this is the generation that has borne the brunt of the financial crisis with uncertainty, unemployment and wage freezes being a staple of their adult life. Young people have experienced the tightest pay squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis – with real pay falling by 13%, according to the Resolution Foundation.

And – we add – they will have to face the increasing hazards of climate change.

 

 

 

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McVotefarce – precursor of the Brexit farce?

‘Why vote? they’ll just ignore you’, says Steve Beauchampé 

The news that Sir David Attenborough has launched the 10,000-tonne hull of the UK’s newest polar ship – named after him – into the River Mersey, revives memories of the saga of Boaty McBoatface.

A 2016 article in The Atlantic, reported that the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council recently ran a contest to determine the name of the new $300-million research vessel (now launched, above):

“The new ship would explore the remotest waters, its side emblazoned with a name chosen by ‘the people’ of the internet. Or such was the idea . . . The name received three times more votes than the runner-up entry. The people of the Internet had spoken emphatically, and they were deemed to have spoken like a five-year-old”.

However BBC Science now reveals that a less imposing Boaty McBoatface, a small unmanned yellow submarine, “lives on”. These Boaty-class subs will frequently operate from the Attenborough, going into places the ship cannot reach, like the floating ice shelves that surround Antarctica.

Steve Beauchampé in the Birmingham Press gave Attenborough his due, continuing: “According to Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson naming the ship Boaty McBoatface would have been ‘inappropriate’, whilst other critics suggested that doing so would have left Britain open to ridicule”. Alternatively, he suggests, “It might have added further to our reputation as a nation of quirky, eccentrics, the country that gave the world Monty Python, cricket, Prince Charles and a wealth of quirky, much-loved traditions and customs”.

Though this disregard for the result of a public vote might be seen as trivial, Steve pointed out, “It is consistent with a government culture that regards the result of elections, referenda and the architecture of democratic structures as expendable”. He gave some examples:

  • In in 2012, despite overwhelming votes against the creation of such posts, including by voters in Birmingham and Coventry, little more than three years later an even more powerful mayoral post (that of West Midlands Metro Mayor) was effectively forced upon the region, without the electorate being given any say on the issue (this has also happened in other major conurbations).
  • Similarly, Police and Crime Commissioner posts were imposed without a public vote, the government afraid that the creation of such rôles would have been overwhelmingly rejected in any referendum.
  • Whitehall has forced significant changes to our system of local democracy. From 2018 councillor numbers in Birmingham will be reduced from 120 to around 100
  • and the present electoral cycle, whereby a third of council seats are contested in three years out of four (with no elections in the fourth year) will be replaced with all out elections staged every four years.
  • The city council did not seek these changes, the electorate did not ask for them and nor were they given any say in them.
  • Government ministers are increasingly overruling local planning decisions, disregarding the will of communities and traducing the democratic mechanisms campaigners faithfully and honestly employed.
  • Increasingly, major housing developments, road and other infrastructure schemes as well as highly contentious fracking licenses are being granted consent even where a majority of local voters are opposed.

“A disrespectful attitude to democracy is ingrained in our political system”

This is shown, Steve says, by the regularly reappearance of MPs rejected at General Elections in the House of Lords, “negating their own failure and voting in perpetuity on legislation, with seemingly no sense of shame or embarrassment”, by others simply paying their way into the Lords and by political donors being “regularly rewarded with a place in the nation’s legislature”.

The ‘let’s pretend we never had a vote’ mentality also infects elements of the Labour Party. Despite leader Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding victory in the party’s leadership contest, several hardline right wing Labour MPs openly sought a way of running a new leadership contest that denied Corbyn a place on the ballot paper. 

In 2016 Steve Beauchampé asked, 

When the electorate’s wishes can be so flagrantly flouted, it seems reasonable to ask how secure the result of the forthcoming EU referendum will be, or what manoeuvres and machinations might be undertaken to negate the ‘wrong’ result. And I think we all know what result that is”.  

Three years later such a comment seems rather prescient.

 

Steve’s original article may be read in full here.

 

 

 

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A Scandinavian challenge to the FT’s rejection of Corbyn’s social democracy

Britain needs ‘a more conventional social democratic project’ according to a recent article by the FT editorial board – not Jeremy Corbyn’s radical ‘socialist’ programme.

The board rejects the claim by Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘media outriders’ that his programme aims to bring the country into line with the rest of Europe and is akin to German or Scandinavian social democracy. But Jonas Fossli Gjersø, (left) a Scandinavian who has spent more than a decade living in Britain, writes:

“From his style to his policies Mr Corbyn would, in Norway, be an unremarkably mainstream, run-of-the-mill social-democrat . . . his domestic policies are largely identical with the Norwegian Labour Party manifesto . . . Yet, here in the United Kingdom a politician who makes similar policy-proposals, indeed those that form the very bedrock of the Nordic-model, is brandished as an extremist of the hard-left and a danger to society”.

Modern social democratic thinking

Professor Richard Hoefer, in his essay in “Social Welfare Policy and Politics” 2013, writes: “Modern social democracy is characterised by a commitment to policies aimed at curbing inequality, oppression of underprivileged groups and poverty”.

Jeremy Corbyn would agree with this, and with Thomas Meyer and Lewis Hinchman, who add that social democracy includes support for universally accessible public services like care for the elderly, childcare, education, health care and workers’ compensation. They comment: “Libertarian democracies are “defective” in failing to protect their citizens adequately against social, economic, and environmental risks that only collective action can obviate. Ultimately, social democracy provides both a fairer and a more stable social order.”

Jonas Fossli Gjersø sees the British media’s portrayal of Corbyn as ‘verging on the realm of character assassination (media collage) rather than objective analysis and journalism’.

He suggests that the Nordic model would be a useful benchmark for Britain to move towards and thinks it possible that we are witnessing the social-democratic mirror image of the Thatcherisation process today in Britain, ‘with a prevailing wind from the left rather than the right’.

 

 

 

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Will XR’s actions focus politicians’ minds?

Extinction Rebellion‘s spring rally in Bristol

Simon Pawley responds to a letter in the Financial Times, in which Helen Jackson describes the Extinction Rebellion movement as having ‘extra-democratic tendencies’, which deserve to be challenged.

He points out that one of Extinction Rebellion’s three central demands is for the creation of a deliberative citizens’ assembly to formulate recommendations that can inform debate about policy and enables ordinary citizens to get involved – a fundamentally democratic and constructive proposal.

The power exercised by industry’s lobbying of government – a recurring theme on this website – is highlighted by Pawley

Stressing that any realistic assessment of the battle for political influence must acknowledge industry’s “extra-democratic” force, he makes three points:

  • In private, some energy companies continue to resist regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding their public commitment to renewable energy (BP is a recent example).
  • The energy industry has also distorted public debate by secretly funding climate change denial organisations.
  • Environmentalists cannot fund lobbying efforts on such a scale.

He ends, “Instead, their protests are attracting media attention and promoting discussion of how to address the crisis. This has rapidly begun to highlight the strength of public opinion on this issue; we may hope that this will focus the minds of politicians”.

 

 

 

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Broken Britain 21: our divided society

Aditya Chakrabortty focusses on the ‘vast disconnect between elite authority and lived experience, central to what’s broken in Britain today’ – the ‘gap’ which widened as independent working class self-help initiatives were replaced by the ‘hand of the state’ (Mount) creating ’a new feudalism’ and from two searing analyses of our divided society (Jones).

He asks:

  • “Why is a stalemate among 650 MPs a matter for such concern, yet the slow, grinding extinction of mining communities and light-industrial suburbsis passed over in silence?
  • “Why does May’s wretched career cover the first 16 pages of a Sunday paper while a Torbay woman told by her council that she can “manage being homeless”, and even sleeping rough, is granted a few inches downpage in a few of the worthies?”
  • Is “the death sentence handed to stretches of the country and the vindictive spending cuts imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne, a large part of why Britain voted for Brexit in the first place?”

He continues:

“We have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters . . . Over a decade from the banking crash, the failings of our economic policymaking need little elaboration. the basic language of economic policy makes less and less sense.

“Growth no longer brings prosperity; you can work your socks off and still not earn a living. Yet still councils and governments across the UK will spend billions on rail lines, and use taxpayers’ money to bribe passing billionaire investors, all in the name of growth and jobs.”

A University College London study published last year shows that  the parliamentary Labour party became more “careerist” under Tony Blair – and also grew increasingly fond of slashing welfare. Social security was not something that ‘professionalised MPs’ or their circle had ever had to rely on, so ‘why not attack scroungers and win a few swing voters?’

The trend continues: Channel 4 News found that over half of the MPs elected in 2017 had come from backgrounds in politics, law, or business and finance and more came from finance alone than from social work, the military, engineering and farming put together.

This narrowing has a direct influence on our law-making and political class and Chakrabortty comments: “We now have economic policymakers who can’t grasp how the economy has changed, elected politicians who share hardly anything in common with their own voters”.

He concludes that this is what a real democratic crisis looks like: failed policies forced down the throats of a public. Institution after institution failing to legislate, reflect or report on the very people who pay for them to exist. And until it is acknowledged, Britain will be stuck, seething with resentment, in a political quagmire.

 

 

 

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August Goff: Birmingham students unite against climate change: 15th March 2019

August, who lives in Moseley, sends a first-hand account of Birmingham students’ march against climate change. 

He writes:

More than five hundred Birmingham students bunked off school today to march against climate change.

All Birmingham-based photographs reproduced with permission: copyright August Goff

Youth Strike 4 Climate coordinated young people from various educational establishments across the city who met up in the city centre.

They marched from Victoria Square, down New Street, through Pigeon Park and back to Victoria Square to protest against the inaction of governments to tackle climate change.

The march was organised by Katie Riley, a Birmingham student. She spoke at the rally, saying:

“Educate the youth of tomorrow and the parliament of today because people who don’t know what climate change is about don’t know how dangerous it is. Some people think the topic is dull and boring because the curriculum makes it like that. So, we need to change how people view climate change in order to get the change we deserve.”

Councillors from local political parties attended, as did Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley.

Similar events have taken place in 100 British towns and other cities including London, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Oxford and Cambridge, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change, cut emissions and switch to renewable energy.

A few hours later a message was received from Irish colleagues, sending a podcast with messages from two 11-year-olds, Eve O’Connor and Beth Malone, who are involved in the schools climate strikes movementThousands turned out in Dublin and demonstrations were held in many towns.

 

 

 

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MSM fails to mention the crowds who turn out to hear Jeremy Corbyn

Below in Broxstowe last weekend


 

And young supporters are also not swayed by media, career-minded ‘independents’ and deputy leader

 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:

“I’ve had a very interesting week in politics. I’m obviously very sad at some of the things that have happened and very sad at some of the things that have been said. Walking away from our movement achieves nothing. Not understanding where we have come from is a bad mistake.

“Because when people come together in a grouping, in a community like the Labour Party, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together for everybody . . .

“Labour, for me, is my life – and I’m very sad at people who have left our party. I really am. I say this to them: in June 2017, I was elected on a manifesto, Emily was elected on a manifesto, Richard was elected on a manifesto, Gloria was elected on a manifesto – it was the same manifesto . . . the Labour Party believes in equality and justice, that is what was the centre of our manifesto, and that will be at the centre of our next manifesto . . .

“When the media talk about the bravery of those who walked away, Anna Soubry voted for austerity and said it was a good thing. Almost immediately after leaving Chris Leslie tells us that we should not be ending university fees … and we should be cutting corporation tax and increasing the burden on others.

Mr Corbyn also addressed the anti-Semitism issues within the party, which MPs Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan both cited as they quit Labour this week:

“When people are racist to each other, then we oppose it in any way whatsoever. If anyone is racist towards anyone else in our party – wrong. Out of court, out of order, totally and absolutely unacceptable. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any form and in any way whatsoever, and anywhere in our society.”

He added: “I’m proud to lead a party that was the first ever to introduce race relations legislation and also to pass the equality act and the human rights act into the statute book.”

 

 

 

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The Financial Times offers two perspectives on the shadow chancellor’s economic proposals

Earlier this month the FT warmed to the shadow chancellor. Following Jim Pickard’s first respectful report on any aspect of Labour policy, an article, by Jim O’Neill, chair of the Chatham House think-tank and former Treasury minister, had the headline, “The UK opposition steps into an economic void left by a government grappling with Brexit”.

 

Following a couple of caveats, O’Neill writes: “In at least six policy areas, which Mr Corbyn and his shadow chancellor John McDonnell are treating as priorities, businesses and the government need to catch up (detail here)”.

  • The first area on which Labour sees clearly is Britain’s productivity crisis.
  • Second is the orthodox belief that lower corporation tax will magically boost investment spending.
  • Third, risking large amounts of money on fixed investment no longer appears attractive.
  • Fourth, businesses need to rediscover profit with purpose.
  • Finally, there is the housing crisis.

But today there was a decided change of direction – had the editorial board been leant on?

THE EDITORIAL BOARD: Labour’s economic plans have serious flaws: shadow chancellor John McDonnell is ignoring the realities of modern business. The following – mainly speculative – points fail to convince:

  1. Mr McDonnell’s most eye-catching announcement was a compulsory share ownership scheme. Employee ownership and other profit-sharing schemes are by no means outlandish. Many businesses already choose to run them in order to recruit and motivate their workforce. There are also sound political reasons to give employees a greater share of ownership and a bigger voice on boards after a decade in which wages have remained stagnant in real terms. But companies should not be coerced into taking such action.
  2. Mr McDonnell claims these proposals are designed to tackle Britain’s productivity crisis – the evidence for this is sketchy and outdated.
  3. It could increase the cost of capital and deter investment.
  4. As the scheme would bear only on employers with more than 250 workers, it could also disincentivise growing businesses.
  5. There is a real danger that Labour’s prescriptions may end up only harming the patient.
  6. Businesses (and many voters) are concerned that the proposals on the table may only be the tip of Labour’s interventionist ambitions.
  7. With Brexit representing a step into the unknown, however, the UK needs to preserve business and economic stability, not further radical experimentation

Then a reversion to something approaching approval

“Nationalisation, dilution of shareholdings, workers on boards, sweeping trade union powers — John McDonnell’s economic prospectus for Britain is the Labour party’s most radical in several decades. The shadow chancellor further developed the party’s socialist credentials in his address to its conference in Liverpool on Monday. He senses that the appetite for change is great enough to take Labour into office on a hard-left ticket at the next election”. And: “Labour’s policies do speak to the mood of many voters. Many Britons believe inequality is growing, public services are collapsing and the excesses of capitalism need taming”.

Though not as wholehearted as the conclusion of former Treasury minister O’Neill:Dealing with the UK’s deep-seated economic problems requires sustained thinking and attention, not just occasional lip service. The Labour Party has stepped into the vacuum left by the government and appears to be offering the radical change that people seek.

End note: email from Moseley hit harder than the editorial board: 

  • Looking forward to a rise in the number of companies with 249 employees, if any stay in the UK, should the nightmare come about at the next election ( Ed: as share ownership proposals apply only to companies with over 250 employees).
  • The shadow Treasury team admits that private, unlisted companies could not be compelled to hand out dividends to workers. In theory that could incentivise public companies to delist from the stock market.
  • The next problem is that foreign-listed companies will not be obliged to hand equity to their UK workforces. Again, that could provide an incentive for London-listed companies to switch their listings to an alternative financial centre such as New York or Frankfurt.
  • Nor is it clear how the British government could force an overseas company with a London listing to comply with the scheme if most of its workers are abroad.
  • One group of workers who could feel aggrieved by the proposals are those in the privatised utilities such as rail and water. Labour is determined to nationalise the utilities, and admits that — as state workers — staff would no longer be eligible for the share scheme. At present a third of employees in United Utilities participate in their employee share scheme, as do two thirds of South West Water employees and 70 per cent of Severn Trent’s UK employees.
  • Another complication is that some companies could find alternative routes to rewarding shareholders, for example by carrying out share buybacks instead of dividends.

 

 

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Agents who portray Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable: Plastic Hippo

Via the Brummie, Political Concern has discovered the Plastic Hippo’s list of agents who wish the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn to be seen as unelectable:

  • the five right-wing billionaires who own the printed press,
  • the small group of anonymous Tory strategists running the country,
  • the state broadcaster flirting dangerously close to charter compliance
  • and about 170 Labour MPs worried about future employment

plastic-hippoHippo presents evidence from two separate academic reports which have concluded that UK news outlets are blatantly biased against Jeremy Corbyn. A study by the London School of Economics found that three quarters of newspapers either ignore or distort Corbyn`s views and comments and act as an aggressive “attack dog” rather than a critical “watchdog”.

A second study by Birkbeck University and the Media Reform Coalition found “clear and consistent bias” against Corbyn in both broadcast and online news feeds with his opponents being allowed double the coverage than his supporters.

corbyn-eu-socialist-leaders

 Welcomed by socialist leaders in Brussels

The study described a “strong tendency” within the BBC for its reporters to use pejorative language to describe Corbyn and his chums with words such as hostile, hard core, left-wing, radical, revolutionary and Marxist.

Hippo adds: “With my very own ears I heard a senior BBC radio correspondent describe the Labour leadership election as “a battle between Marxists and moderates”. And the strange conclusion is:

“After a year of astonishing negativity, utterly preposterous smears, brutal personal attacks, nasty digs, front bench resignations and a vote of no confidence from Labour MPs who accuse unelectable Corbyn of disloyalty and fracturing the party, the bloke was re-elected as party leader increasing his share of the vote to 61.6 %.

“Unelectable? maybe not if the electorate actually has a full rather than half a brain”.

Read the Plastic Hippo’s article here: http://www.thebrummie.net/strong-message-here/

 

 

 

 

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